Monday, November 11, 2013

Carrie (2013) - Posted to Horrorcentric

Carrie - 100min – R

This is my review post on Horrorcentric Carrie (2013) Movie review. A nice modernization of this classic move.  The best part of this movie is the YouTube adds.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Last White Knight - Posted on Movie Review World

The Last White Knight  - 78 min - Not Rated

This documentary is a good snapshot of the American town of Greenwood Mississippi during the 60's and of today.  Read my review of it on Movie Review World

Great film. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Safety Not Guaranteed DVD Review - Posted on Movie Review World

Safety Not Guaranteed – 86min – R

I took some time to re watch this movie, I posted a different review of it on Movie Review World  I original saw it in the theater. Here is my original review on What is Showing Next 

Enjoyed this movie. You should too.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The World's End

The World's End - 109Min – R

The final installment of the Cornetto Trilogy does not disappoint. Admittedly I am a huge Simon Pegg fan and I have been since Spaced. I am looking at this as a separate movie from the previous ones because they aren’t tied together except for the wonderfully delightful Cornetto cameo in every movie. So setting down my copy of Nerd Do Well I am going to try and be as objective as I can. I LOVED IT!!

This movie surrounds the life Gary King (Simon Pegg) who is stuck in the past trying to hold on to the glory days of his youth. While all of his friends have moved on in their lives, Gary has not. While in group therapy he realizes they never got a chance to finish an epic pub crawl known as The Golden Mile. He gathers his friends together to try and complete what he failed to do in their youth: a pint in all twelve pubs in one night ending at the pub known as The Worlds End.

Gary talks his old friends, Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) into going back to Newton Haven to finally complete The Golden Mile, Going home is hard. Nothing is ever quite the same, especially as almost everyone you knew has been replaced with an identical-looking robot.

By the by on our trip to London we were actually in the town of Welwyn Garden City where they shot this film. We did not know it at the time but once the group got back to their home town my wife recognized it immediately. I said all small London suburbs look the same. She was right. POINT wife.

Edgar Write co-wrote this with Simon Pegg and he does an excellent job of mixing in emotional connections with the characters and humor at the absurdity of the fact they have to fight killer robots. You can pick out people in your life from the types of characters they are portraying. They are so identifiable you have the person who is pining for a love they passed up, or the over-achiever or the Bluetooth guy. Everyone has one friend who is still trapped in the high school glory days. If your circle of friends doesn't have one, then it might be you.

Edgar Write makes a well-balanced film, the action scenes are spot on. It has the pace of an Asian action movie with sci-fi elements and a great mixture of humor and seriousness. The fights have attack and counter-attack pacing that is on par with a few Jackie Chan fight scenes but no death-defying feats. Plus, it gets quite bloody, but not bloody as the robots all use a blue coolant-like substance for blood.

This level of work is nothing new to writer and crew. It’s like his previous work, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The truly good story-telling is when you allow the audience to feel for the characters. Through the story we learn more and more about Gary King and realize how lost in his youth he is.

Another good thing about this crew is they can be used as an example for movie studios, if you have a good cast and crew and you want to do another movie please don’t do a sequel just to do a sequel. Here is a perfect example of working with people you like but doing a different movie every time. I could watch more from this group of performers. Ok, so fine! I am letting my fanboy self write this review. So what? I love this film, so sue me.

If you excuse me I am going to go re-watch Spaced and plan my movie marathon when this comes out on 
DVD. I wonder if I could order Cornettos from London to Denver.

What movie have you been looking forward to seeing and completely enjoyed once you saw it?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2 - 103min – R 

I was a fan of the original Kick-Ass film. This is one where Roger Ebert and I differed. He did not like the original at all. I enjoy it because it was a fun movie, even with the horrific level of violence and vulgarity in the story. Instead of repeating the same elements from the first film, this one gives us new things to think about and advances the overall story. Things escalate in this movie and if they go further with this franchise it’s going to have to escalate to epic levels of carnage. I give Kick-Ass 2 a cautionary green light, as it’s well-done, but may not be for everyone.

Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has put away his costume and is trying to live a normal life, but it is empty and he is denying his true self by not going out and patrolling as Kick-Ass. Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is also trying to make it as a high school student because she has made a promise to her guardian, Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut). They start out by doing what they can to keep living the civilian life. Kick-Ass, like a drug addict, can’t stay away from the life and gets Hit-Girl to teach him how to fight and improve his skill.

On the last movie Chris D’Amico’s (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) father was killed by Kick-Ass. He now wants to take revenge and become the world’s first supervillian. He makes his bodyguard, Javier (John Leguizamo), gather together a team of hitmen to become his league of evil.

Kick-Ass joins up with Colonel Stars and Stripes (JimCarrey) and his team of good guys to parole the streets. They are obviously going to have a standoff, blood will be shed. The climax of the movie was way too predictable but still a fun ride.

For this one, Matthew Vaughn moved from director to producer and gave the director’s chair to Jeff Wadlow. Wadlow’s resume is short, but impressive. Mark Millar is still involved in the writing on the project so I expected a consistent feel to the story. Big thanks to the team for moving forward with the story and not trying to rehash the original films success.

The main draw for me is how the characters are evolving, and time passes with consequences. The actions by the heroes and the villains all have a cost and this movie doesn’t let them off the hook. Do they need to make a sequel? No. But they did leave room for one if the script is right. Another installment would have to be off the charts in the violence department. You can only go higher with this kind of story. Anything smaller could threaten the franchise.

On that note Jim Carrey plays a character, who doesn’t use any guns. He uses an axe handle and a German Shepherd. They started filming before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Mr. Carrey has taken a strong position on gun violence in movies and because he has already completed this move was unable to pull out of the project. He decided to do no promotion for this move. He was reported as tweeting:

First tweet “I did Kickass a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to e”

Second Tweet “I meant to say my apologies to others involved with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”

I think he has every right to take a stand and his comments were respectful and he is standing by his convictions. He said that he was initially drawn to the role because of the way that his character didn’t use any guns, however bludgeoning someone with a half inch of their life is just as violent and a damn sight more brutal.  A lack of gun doesn’t limit how violent this movie gets.

In my opinion, violence in movies doesn’t translate to violence in real life. As I write this I am just finishing listening to a report about the shooting at the Navy Yard. We have a problem in the country and it’s deeper than who feels whose rights are being trampled on. If everyone lived by this one simple policy things would go a lot smoother. Don’t be adick. Thank you Will Wheaton for providing us with a simple way of taking a look at ourselves and make sure that we are playing nice.

If you don’t stop and give in a little on an argument, you’re being a dick. If you feel that your belief is the only way that peace can be achieved, you’re being a dick. If you are too busy fear-mongering to listen to reason, you’re being a dick. If you think that all the problems can be solved by other industries changing their product but you leave yours untouched, you’re being a dick. Don’t be a dick.

If you decide that you can’t be a part of a project that you worked on so you decide not to help promote it and explain your reasons in a respectful way, you are not a dick you are Jim Carry.

How can you avoid being a dick this week?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Butter - Posted on WebWombat

Butter - 90min - R

I am now contributing to WebWombat the best site for information from down under. Here is my review of Butter for them I watched it on Netflix watch it now. Please...Do.. watch it now.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Profile of a Killer

Profile of a Killer - 108 min – Unrated

The producers of this movie asked me to screen this film. It was one of those movies that come at you from left field. It’s a shame that people don’t know about this film because it has some brilliant performances. I did some homework while I waited for my copy to arrive. It’s interesting that writer/director Caspian Tredwell-Owen also wrote The Island. When I saw The Island, I thought the story had potential but the heavy handed action of Michael Bay kind of ruined the nuances.

Profile of a Killer was directed by Tredwell-Owena and the story takes center stage -- not explosions. This is a movie about a profiler, Saul (Gabe Angieri), who is captured by the killer and forced into a game of wits. There have been other movies about profilers but not one that takes this kind of twist with the story. This movie has two sides, one from the point of view of the profiler and one from the special agent, Rachel (Emily Fradenburgh) who is trying to find Saul and catch the killer.

I think that in some cases the writer who directs their own stuff can really do the story justice. They can construct the film to match how it was first envisioned. However if they have too much power over the story from idea to conception it could limit your production. George Lucas is an excellent example of this. He had ultimate control but there were times where he needed to have that strong voice saying “George, this would work better if…” This doesn’t seem to be the case with Profile of a Killer. I think that Caspian Tredwell-Owen did a wonderful job imagining this movie and bringing it to life on screen.

Gabe Angieri as Saul 
Gabe Angieri is outstanding in this movie. He has a fairly short résumé but he is very talented. In this role he does a wonderful job of bringing a kindness to what is usually a very technical character profession. Usually profilers in movies have no personality of their own they are muted and try and take on the identity of the killer or get inside their heads. Saul does this without losing his identity as a character. Saul had this fatherly presence that showed concern for the Killer instead of being that neutral non-judgmental entity there to talk someone down. There was an emotional investment in resolving the problem, and not just because the killer has a gun. Saul seemed to be trying to connect with the killer.

Where Saul was the compassion, Rachel was completely frigid. I think she was meant to be, but that limited the connection to her. She was focused on the job and nothing else. She is the type of FBI agent who has had a tragic past and that has pushed her to excel at her job. As a loner she lets very few people into her private life. She is methodical and driven.

Emily Fradenburgh as Rachel
The down side is she is such a talented performer this role really does not show off her depth of character. I think Fradenburgh and this character would be good as a lead in a separate film. The length of time we have with her on screen is enough to pique our interest, but not enough to truly satisfy. Because of that, I had a hard time getting emotionally involved with Rachel. She was more of a device than an involved member of the story.

I think in the hands of a less talented actor, the killer, David (Joey Pollari) could have been disastrous, however, with the unique approach taken, it became the linchpin to the story. There was a lot of complicity to the character. The subtext was an interesting commentary on society and how we are easily lost in the noise of today’s world. Pollari had his work cut out for him. You could tell at times the role was pushing his limits, but did a great job with this incredibly complex character. He has to engage the viewer as a puzzle, not give too much away and still maintain the emotional connection to Saul and the viewer.

Joey Pollari as David
The overall movie was well paced and as an independent film they did masterfully. This is a police cat-and-mouse thriller told in a completely new way. What I loved about it is that we get to see the killer right off and the real battle of wills is done face to face. Typically the killer and profiler finally meet in the climax of the movie. In this movie they are eye to eye fairly quickly. That adds an element of danger to the profiler character who usually directs things from a safe distance.

Take a look at this movie. You can see it on Amazon for rental. It is not rated by the MPAA so you need to know this type of film is in my opinion not kid friendly for language and graphic violence and gory scenes (duh… it’s about a killer). This is a great thriller for adults who are in the mood for a good police story.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


R.I.P.D – 96min – PG-13
I want to start by apologizing to the filmmakers. When I saw the trailer, I was completely convinced that it was rip off of Men in Black. It is not. It does, however, borrow heavily from the buddy cop movie archetype and when you add an urban fantasy setting it does look a lot like the same movie only with a different cast. There were enough differences in this story from MIB that I retract my earlier assumption and apologize.

I did not have high expectations for this film and it did not disappoint. It also did not impress. I didn’t have a big problem with this movie just a pile of little ones. I was told that if you give feedback make sure you sandwich them, have 2 good things with every bad thing. I am going to have a hard time doing that so I am just going to give you my thoughts as is.
I guess even great directors have bad movies. RobertSchwentke did an outstanding job with Red but his momentum could not carry this movie. It’s another comic book movie and unfortunately those are hit and miss. What works with aliens does not fly with the dead.

The performances were fine but Ryan Reynolds still has not hit his stride. He really is talented but has not found his vehicle. I think his performance in Green Lantern was again a miss. He needs to stick to romantic comedies. That’s where he performs the best.
Jeff Bridges really likes his cowboy voice. His voice is a distraction in this film. It was fine in True Grit but completely overused here. I can see where he had fun with this movie and the character but it kind of grates on you after a while.

The other problem I had with this was how little they did with the effects. The ghosts… err “Deados” were sketchy and poorly done CGI effects. When a movie has very little to say it needs to have strength someplace like good effects. These effects help distract from the poor writing. When both are weak it’s a disappointment and hard to watch.

So we have newly dead Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is teamed up with Roy (Jeff Bridges). Their boss is Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) who has a thing for Roy. She needs to stop getting these roles where she is falling or old guys. She is way too attractive for that relationship. Their onscreen chemistry does not feel right, forced almost. She should stick to Bruce Willis, they look good together. On a side note the whisker chewing… (erp) I just threw up in my mouth a little.

It seems the dead are allergic to cumin because Indian food makes them bust of the living façade they put on. They look normal until they are confronted with a curry. I have no idea what that says about the creators and whether they love or hate Indian food, but it’s an extremely silly test to include as the main way to root out dead people.
The big dead bad guy seem to have a plan to open up the afterlife’s waiting room and have all of the dead people reside on earth after they gather and assemble all the incredibly hard and complicated parts of an artifact. They have obviously been working on this for a while, if only the script had so much attention.
Dead headquarters, like the MIB head office, has a typical a police station feel with the alien..err dead walking around for color. We have the grizzled older cop showing the new recruit the ropes and life as we know it is just a veneer over the real world that is happing around us.
I never read the comic book but it seems to be a mix of styles that really lend this story to be kind of a humorous story. It was either too comic like and then it tried to be more like real life. It could not make up its mind what it was going for. I found the completing styles just a bit distracting and too silly.

The plot was also very predictable. Perhaps I have seen too many movies. I am beginning to spot the foreshadowing or the formula way before the reveal. It’s kind of ruining my movie going experiences. I know I am not supposed to look for the plot twist or points just enjoy the movie and let it happen. Well I can’t, when its subtlety applied with a sledge hammer.

Peter Suderman wrote an article about that the formula studios use as a Mad Lib template instead of a guide. Blake Snyder and his book Save The Cat! is the blueprint for writing and every big budget blockbuster uses it like scripture. This is why I am not getting the same enjoyment I used to get form movies. After reading that I finally understood why I was getting a feeling of Déjà vu.

I really hope this one does not get three movies like MIB. With MID, they did well on the first one poorly on the second and pulled it back out on the third one. If they decide to do something more with this they need to skip the second movie go on to the third and end there. Really they should have ended before doing this one but the genie is out of the bottle -- nothing you can do for it now.

What other movie failed like this and turned out to be a comic book movie?
Here is the Trailer for MIB...Err R.I.P.D (sorry)

RED 2 - Posted on Movie Review World

Red 2 – 116min – PG-13

Please read this review on Movie Review World  a wonderful website you need to consult daily to be well informed about movies. 

What other Sequel could stand by its self and was not a rehash of the original?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013) – 131 Min – R

What we have here is a failure to let things be. The original Evil Dead was perfect. It may not be as horrifying as the producers wanted but it was beloved because of its campiness. The update strips away anything from the original that might give the slightest hint of humor. Writer/director Fade Alvarez replaces all the fun with some over the top gore and mutilation. If you fell in love with the original you will probably be sucked into see this one but don’t. It’s a disappointment. Same cabin and book different victims. The only thing terrifying about this movie is how bad it is.

Bruce Campbell is my hero and a cult icon because of this franchise. He stepped in as a co-producer of this movie so with his blessing, I gave it a shot. I have to admit I was saddened. This is a simple formula; even first year film students understand the premise. The problem here is a newish director has a classic product to work with and he overcomplicates it by trying to showing off.

They spent way too much time trying to explain some of the history of the cabin and the evil that roams the forest. You don’t need to go deep here. It’s a cursed book and you have some person who is too smart for their own good read it and unleash hell on earth: simple to the point. We don’t need a long backstory on the victims. We know that all of them are going to die except one, so we are going to place bets of who is going to last the longest.

I have to give them credit for creatively and creepily incorporating a sacrifice scenario for each victim but they should have cut to that sooner. After we finally get to the gooey parts the amount of violence and gore change this from a boring teens-in-the-woods story to a boring splatter-porn-in-the-woods story. I think that it wastes some of its over-the-top gore for no other purpose than to say ooooo! Look what we just did! Did you see that? Let me show you again. Look how gross!!!

I have often criticized Michael Bay for only focusing on the explosions in his film and not focusing on the characters enough. Well, Alvarez does focus on the characters and then the gore, but he needs to work on blending the stories instead of putting us into a coma though the boring parts to get to the payoff. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at building suspense. He did that by giving the viewers information but didn’t tell the characters. Alvarez needs to try some of this because he could be really good -- he just needs to work on the pacing and tone of his style.

Alvarez is talented but lacks refinement. This is only his third major film so he has some time to develop his craft but I am really sad that he had to take one of my favorite old horror movies as a stepping stone to greatness. Maybe it would have been better for him to get a few more projects under his belt before taking on something that is so beloved by the fans… Or at least this fan.

The next generations of moviegoers are probably going to see this movie before seeing the original and that is unfortunate. People should watch the original to understand where this franchise came from and then move on to the new ones, or skip it altogether, so that they can appreciate the source material. If you do it in reverse order the movies that started it all seem really way to tame.

Maybe that’s what they wanted. Forget the originals. We are going to start fresh at a new depth. This movie made me uncomfortable, but not the way that the producers intended. Problems plagued every aspect of this film and the ending is the cherry on top of this skink burger. I am going to spoiler talk so avert your eyes if you are squeamish.

The overly complicated death and rebirth of Mia (Jane Levy) was really a stretch. She was possessed by a demon and needed to die to get “cleansed”. Her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), buries her alive and digs her up and then uses an improvised defibrillator to revive her. Really? Defibrillator? Have you been watching too many Wile E. Coyote cartons?

She is brought back only to see her brother die and “The Abomination” rise from the earth because all of the victims needed to die to release her are now dead. Mia, after being beaten through this entire movie, finds the strength to wield a chain saw like a giant penis and jams it into the evil spirit’s mouth and splits it in two.

Let’s take score here. I know that women are always the victims of moves like this but I thought we were progressing beyond this. The trees are still raping women and all of the females died first. We get a long shot of the abomination on her knees in front of Mia while she gives a few hip thrusts. I am pretty sure it’s still considered victimization of women if a woman is doing the abuse and the one receiving it is really just a demon in a woman’s body? Was I the only one who was uncomfortable at that scene? When am I going to see a good horror movie that can scare me? Not by its atrocious abuse of women or tainting the good name of a beloved franchise but by the power of its story?

What movie would you suggest I see that might fill my scare needs?

Now You See Me

Now You See Me – 115min – PG-13

Now You See Me is a great reimagination on the heist movie genre. Instead of taking you through the plan and build the tension as the night of crime draws near, you are given a front row seat to the heist and experiences along with the dumbfounded FBI agents who are assigned to the case. The pace and tension of this film make excellent entertainment. Even when you are given the answer you are still unsure of you knew the right question.

I might have a skewed view of this movie as it was the first movie that I saw while I was in London. We went to the VUE Theater. As a movie buff I make it a point to go to as many movies in as many different theaters as I can, just to see what the experience is like. This will be my first movie in a different country. HUZZAH LONDON!!

I recommend if you are ever in Westfield Mall and you are looking to go to a movie, go to the Vue and at least once splurge on the VIP seats. They are comfortable and in the sweet spot of the theater (seven rows up and eight across) and you can reserve them. I will have to do an IMHO on my global movie going experiences.

What I like about this movie is how it blends traditional magic and a wee bit of mysticism. You get an answer to some of the tricks but you are still just not quite sure if they are witches that need to have their hearts boiled.

My advice on movies with a hook is to never look for it. Looking just removes the splendor of what you are watching. The same holds true for magic tricks: don’t think, just enjoy. If you are working so hard trying to out think the spectacular illusion you are going to miss the magic. This movie is well written and a prime example of missing the point if you are too busy trying to leap ahead of the story. Just hang on and enjoy the ride.

The movie starts off introducing us to different magicians coming from different back grounds and different disciplines. They are all called together by a mysterious figure who presents them with a tarot card and a date and a location. J Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young performer playing smallish shows making a name for himself like a David Copperfield young flashy magician. He has a high opinion of himself with an “its not bragging if you can pull it off” mentality and he can. Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), is a mentalist and hypnotist working at resorts. His character uses hypnosis to present his marks with a choice, expose their secrets to their loved ones or give a large tip. Kind of harsh but he is exposing the letchy guy, so it’s all good. Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), a woman escape artist holding her own in the magic field. She is tough and can perform just as hard at the men in her field. She’s had a past relationship with Atlas, but nobody is perfect. Rounding out the pack is Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a street performer in the vein of David Blane before Blane had his stints as a sideshow in a box .

They are sponsored by Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and are now named The Four Horseman. They pull off a bank robbery halfway around the world. FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) tries to catch them with the help of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a magic expert.

Louis Leterrier has a great understanding of how to balance all the complicated elements of this story. I have enjoyed his work from the start. Leterrier’s Unleashed is one of my favorite movies. He understands that an action movie is about the characters more than the explosions. We have to feel a part of what is going on. If we can’t get behind your characters we are just watching empty images. Most action movies seem like a long string of death and destruction. Now don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy that but it’s empty without the emotional connection.

Another person worth mentioning is the actress Mélanie Laurent who plays a member of Interpol assisting with the case. The last time I saw her, she was running from Nazis and burning down theaters. Her performance in this movie is like the beautiful girl assistants in a magic trick. You are looking at her and not the trick. She is beautiful and talented but keep your eyes on the things going on around her.

There’s a slight technical gaff in the scene where The Horsemen are switching out the money. They pop out of the bottom of the truck like nothing is on them -- except a few million Euros. Large bundles of money have to weigh about as much as a pallet of paper and that’s heavy. They would not be popping out of anywhere except the hospital. Oh wait I know, I know…it’s Magic.

Oh and I saw the bridge they were at in France. Very cool.

What is your favorite Leterrier Film and why?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pacific Rim - *New Format*

Pacific Rim – 131 min – PG-13

As a kid I loved the Godzilla movies, they were the one thing that I can look back on with fond memories. They would show a monster movie every Saturday at noon I never missed a one. Pacific Rim brings me back to those same moments with its spectacular visuals. This is what Ishirô Honda imagined when he made some actor dress in a rubber monster suit and trample on a model of Tokyo. Our technology has finally caught up with the scope of his imagination. I wonder what he could have done with the story if he had this technology at his disposal. I am giving this a green light because of the stunning beauty of this film and not the depth of its story. Great looking film about as deep as a teaspoon. But I am not going to let the grown up in my head ruin this movies experience.

Let me get a few things out of the way. One bit of gossipy news that caught my eye before this movie released was the feud between Michael Bay and Guillermo del Toro. As it turns out Michael Bay said something at a speech he was giving that was along the lines of these “Rip- off” robot movies not standing up to his real robot movies. He was referring to the Transformers Franchise and as a point of personal privilege, Mr. Bay, your movies peaked at the first one. So far your sequels have fallen far short of the standard you set with the original film. The first one was a balanced blend of action, comedy, drama. It was perfect. BUT just because you had that perfect formula on the first one does not give you the right to lay clam over the “robot” genre.

Guillermo del Toro’s response to Michael Bay’s comment was classic:

“We are far, far, far away from that in a very willing fashion. For good or bad, this is my movie. This is my universe and my creation, and I do not create through comparison.”

In Martial arts we call this a block and now comes the counterstrike… he continued:

“The fights don’t occur in well-lit, supercool, car commercial-looking environments. They occur in the middle of a raging sea storm or in a savage snowstorm. They happen in a universe that is incredibly saturated.”

POINT-Del Toro

As it turned out, Michael Bay says he was not talking about Pacific Rim when he made the comment but as it was the only movie in the hopper, you can see where we could make that mistake. He and Guillermo del Toro spoke on the phone and they have assured one another that they are still friends and offences were unintentional on both parts.

Visually, this film was great to watch, not just from a very cool action and spectacular effects but in the craftsmanship that Guillermo del Toro has with shot composition. He can blend several elements in a shot that make it wonderful to look at. He knows what people are looking for and can deliver the goods but does not make the over the top explosions the central aspect of the film.

The kid in me completely loves this movie but there were issues with the story over all. I am going to talk about some spoilers so you need to stop off here. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

A movie that is based on this much visual stimuli could be weighed down by too much plot. It’s a good thing it did not have any of that extra baggage. If you took every hot-shot pilot movie and blended them in with a Godzilla movie and added just a hint of environmental message you have an exact blueprint for this film.

Even if you can read the plot points way before they show up, it does not take away from the enjoyment. Giant Monsters called Kaiju have attacked and the world has set aside all of its petty squabbles to put all of our resources into building giant robots called Jaegers. The robots are so big that one pilot can’t handle the mental load of running it. It takes two pilots that synchronize mentally, called drifting. Each person pilots one half of the robot and because of the drift they act as one.

During the previews, I was wondering what the deal was with two people in a robot doing synchronized piloting. They did a great job of explaining it. With two people who are mental linked they are inside each other’s heads while drifting so they are actually one person…it made better sense in the movie.

The hot-shot misunderstood ragtag pilots for this movie are Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). They are the unlikely pair who have just enough loss in their lives to make them the perfect match. The down side is Mako is the adoptive daughter of Jaeger base commander, Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba) He does not want his little girl to get hurt, but changes his mind in the end -- all very rote. It was not a distraction from the very cool scenes where the two pilots were testing each other out in the sparing ring. They play well off one another and look great.

Idris Elba completely dominates the screen and he seems to fit the role of Stacker Pentecost like it was written for him. Stacker is no end of bad-ass. His performance is spot on with this air of calm power. The typical motivational speech at the end of the movie is packed with enough emphasis to rally human kind in the final last ditch effort.

I only had a few minor problem with this movie. One is why did they not bring out the sword in the weapons arsenal right off the bat. Seems like a no-brainer but what do I know? I am not a Jaeger pilot. “ I am going to beat you to death because slicing your head off just doesn’t seem to be fair. It’s over too quickly and I don’t get the enjoyment of bludgeoning you with a tanker ship”.

The second point that I really had an issue with is when Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) discover that the big plan won’t work after they drift with a monster. They have no way of contacting the Jaeger control other than hoofing it and catching a helicopter. You go through all the trouble of brining a crap load of equipment to hook into a Kaiju brain but no one thinks to bring a cell phone? Weak!

My wife and I have this thing where we raise our hands when we watch a movie that has a science problem in its story. We like to point out when something doesn’t ring true. She wanted to point out the bad science fact dribbled out by Dr. Newton Geiszler that the Kaiju have two brains because of their large size just like the dinosaurs did. Now from a story point I can see why you need to tie in the other gigantic monsters that roamed the earth, but they did not have two brains….I pointed out to her that the point is invalid because I am watching gigantic robots fight gigantic monsters. DO NOT CLOUD MY EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR “FACTS”. Actually her point is valid after I have calmed down because they did not have two brains.

POINT - wife

What movie have you enjoyed so much you overlooked the bad science in it?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger – 149m – Pg-13

This movie is the personification of a red light film. This is another churn and burn action movie that has potential as a story but instead of actually doing anything with it, they took Pirates of the Caribbean and moved it to the desert. This movie was poorly constructed, insulting and miles away from what the Disney brand name represents as a standard in family entertainment.

I have so many problems with this movie the spoiler section is going to encompass most of this review so I am going to not do a spoiler section for this review. I am going to talk about spoilers throughout this review. You have been warned!!!!!

This movie is told from Tonto’s (Johnny Depp) point of view to a young man (Mason Cook) who has paid to see a Wild West exhibit. Tonto explains the events that lead John Reid (Armie Hammer) to become a masked ranger to protect his loved ones and bring justice to a wild and unruly west.

This movie is an excellent example of what is wrong with our copyright system. It seems to me that the rights to the Lone Ranger were almost up so Disney had push anything out to keep control over this property. I have no problem with using the properties if you have an actual use for it, but I disapprove of putting something out just to keep it yours. Let someone who loves this story and might be able to tell a better story take it from there OR get those people involved in the project from the beginning and keep the copyright alive with a quality product.

I am a Native American. I am a member of the Hoopa tribe by blood. I sometimes joke about being offended at some things that are misrepresenting Native Americans in pop culture and entertainment. This time I AM offended.

When I heard that Tonto was going to be a major part in the movie I thought “alright. Hollywood is expanding the character and making some changes to recognize some of the wrongs that it has done to the Native Americans in the past.” Mmm not so much. To play this newly envisioned role they cast Johnny Depp -- who is an excellent actor, and might even have some Native American ancestry in his family tree. However, there are many actual Native American actors who could have done just as well. Off the top of my head some of them are Adam Beach, Rodney A. Grant, and Eddie Spears.

I could see all of them filling the shoes of Jay Silverheels who defined the role in the television series. The only real natives in the film are again resigned to set dressing and stereotypical roles.

Poor casting choices were only a small portion of the problems with Tonto. Our first images of him are as a stuffed Indian in an exhibit called The Noble Savage in his Natural Habitat. He is not stuffed he is just a really old man standing around waiting for people to look at him. I felt bad they brought the character down to a side show oddity.

I know that Native Americans joined traveling wild west shows but it would have been better to have Tonto sitting at the door inside the exhibit hall like an employee of the establishment or a tour guide. It would have been more respectful to the character to have the kid and Tonto travel down memory lane in that context.

At least that’s as bad as it… No, wait it gets worse. Tonto is a severely damaged character because of a tragedy in his past that resulted in the loss of his village. He showed some white men a big vein of silver and they repayed him by giving him a watch for the journey and killing his village to keep the find secret. He returns to see everyone including his pet raven dead. He has vowed to find the people who did this and kill them. On the surface, this is not that bad but on this crazy journey he wears the dead bird on his head and talks and feeds it constantly throughout the film. It becomes a running joke about him feeding this dead bird on his head.

The revenge portions of his character or making him tortured are fine but why make him barking moonbat crazy? He came off as an escaped cast member of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. If the director (Gore Verbinski) was using this to give Tonto an edge so that people would not pay attention to him, he wasted his time. Tonto was already invisible. He was an Indian -- people of that time underestimated them and counted them just above dumb animals.

The end of the movie has Tonto walking into the desert mural almost a “Being There” moment where we are supposed to be dumbfounded at what we just saw. Then we get the credits rolling as we watch Johnny Depp doing his 1000 year old man impression off into the sunset. I get that they were trying to make Tonto a spiritual figure one that embodied the west but that idea flew about as well as the dead bird on his head.

To the filmmakers credit they did at least get an actual member of the Comanche tribe to come in and consult on the props, costumes and even helped coach Johnny Depp with the language. He should have been asked to look at the script.

The rest of the cast did well with the roles and there was nothing outstanding about them, they fit the bill for this type of film.

I do have a problem with the level of viciousness of bad guy. If this were a movie with a different production company name I would have no problem with the level of violence perpetrated by the bad guy. This however was a Disney brand movie. The Disney brand is synonymous with Family Entertainment, and having a character cut out a person’s heart and eat it on screen is anything but family entertainment.

This level of violence isn't uncalled for by this character. Disney movies have always had brutal content, but we have never seen it happen on screen. We don’t actual see him eat the heart it but we do see it from behind and in the reflection of John’s eye. I am wondering if there are plans for a Lone Ranger ride at the parks now. Do we get to see an animatronic Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) eating harts and covered in blood as kids ride by?

The Brothel scene was stretching it a bit. It’s perfect for the setting and it needs to be a part of a movie that is set in this timeframe but again the Disney brand implies certain standard of what you can expect to see. I look back at the other pirates movies and see where the standards have slipped ever so slowly down to the point where the production company doesn’t even blink an eye at this. Walt Disney is rolling over in his Cryo Tube.

They should make a separate production company for these kind of films to preserve the image of family entertainment associated with Disney. I just have a problem with the Disney name being directly associated with this film.

Did you see it and how do you feel? Am I off the mark? Should we get together and tell Disney we want our childhoods back?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

World War Z

World War Z – 116M – PG-13

This movie has the following things in common with the book of the same name; zombies annnd The title annnnnnnd that’s it. There are almost no other carryovers that make this a good representation of the book. Once you get past the huge differences and just grade this on its own zombie merits, at best it only gets a yellow light from me.

I was a fan of zombies from the first time I watched the 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead. Maybe I am harder on this type of movie and hold it to a higher standard because I love the genre. The movie was fine from your run of the mill modern zombie that is crazy fast and completely unstoppable. But I am finding myself missing the psychological horror of the original movies.

Brad Pitt is Gerry Lane, a UN troubleshooter that has a way of getting things done in some very politically tight spots. He has a reputation of being relentless and letting nothing get in his way. He has just retired and is spending more time at home with his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), and his two daughters, Constance and Rachel (Sterling Jerins, Abigail Hargrove). He is on a day out with the fam when the world explodes with an unstoppable wave of zombies.

There are very few relief points in the action. You get a never-ending ride of ups and downs while you are forced fed clues that are used in the end to come up with a solution of how to combat the zombies. I am guessing they are heavy handed because Brad Pitt needs to be able to see them.

I’m sorry about that last line, it was offsides, Brad Pitt is a very talented actor and a great person. That cheap shot was petty and uncalled for. I retract it. I was aiming more at the filmmakers. He was collateral damage in that jibe. I get cranky when I have to write about a movie that did not have enough good or bad in it to make me feel one way or the other.

I did like many of the small things they did to enhance the tension and imminent danger in this version of the zombie mythos. But adding cool small nuances to the overall tired big blockbuster story machine is not enough to keep me interested.

A missing element to the movie was how humanity changed and evolved overall in response to the crisis. We never get to see this in the film because instead of being a story about all of us, it’s just one man’s story. The book was told from several points of view. Maybe they should have thought of doing a Contagion approach in telling this story.

The CGI zeds were good at times and at times they were a bit grainy. Perhaps the director (Marc Forster) was going for that look, they wanted to give that effect to be like the shaky camera shots and bring you into the story, but it was distracting. I am a fan of his other films but this one I think is going to the bottom of my favorites from him.

I have issue with the ultra fast and super human zombie. Simon Pegg wrote an article about this very subject he said:

       “the fast zombie is bereft of poetic subtlety. As monsters from the id, zombies win out over vampires and werewolves when it comes to the title of Most Potent Metaphorical Monster. Where their pointy-toothed cousins are all about sex and bestial savagery, the zombie trumps all by personifying our deepest fear: death. Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable.“

The rest of the article is here. This is said much more elegant than I could but it is exactly how I feel.

Warning Spoilers !!!!! Only the Uninfected beyond this point. !!!!!!!!!!!

Ok. Right off the bat I thought the world’s smartest and best hope for humanity shooting his face off as soon as he gets face to face with danger (pun intended) was priceless. My exact words were “Wellllllllll, poop. We’re Stewed” I am cleaning this up for some of our younger readers but you get the idea.

From there few minutes of conversation on the plane we are supposed to believe that Brad Pitt’s character can piece together a plan about a vaccine that can make us invisible to them? Again this is hard for me to get behind.

The solution they came up with of making us not a compatible host seems a bit sketchy when they were pretty clearly killing everything that moved in the opening scenes I know I am watching a zombie movie so my suspension of disbelief should be pretty high, but it was hard to take in with such a farfetched premise.

Also the level of contagion seemed disproportionate. There is a news report of someplace incanting martial law but the news report makes the outbreak seem miles away. When the action kicks off it’s just in your face waves of sprinting zombies.

I loved the little touches of zombie prep, wrapping the arm in magazines and duct tape. Stand on the edge of the building as a safety measure if he turned. Walking back through the zombies and taking a soda when he created the distraction was a nice touch.

I was a bit disappointed by the fact that the sound of people singing were enough to bring the zombies to scale the wall but the other noise of helicopters and trucks and security gates and other conversations and yelling orders did nothing to inspire them to attack.

Ok enough about this blah zombie movie I am going to attack digital zombies as I go play State of Decay. I can show you how a real survivor is supposed to act.

What is your favorite zombie and why? Shamblers or rage machines?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Man of Steel

Man of Steel - 143min - PG13

I am doing this on my iPad as I am on holiday in London so bear with me if this looks odd. Memo to me: pack laptop for out of town trips. My first impression with this movie is how well they did an origin story without having us go through a long rehash of how Superman became Superman. The fresh start was needed after the last love letter of a movie - Superman Returns - that tried to recapture the magic of what the original move had while trying to update the character for a modern audience. This move gets a green light from me but it does have a few missed opportunities that I think they could have capitalized on.

This version of the story has Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) going from one job to another helping people as an anonymous drifter. He is trying to figure out who he is in our world. We see his childhood in flashback and most of the history we already know. This gives the director (Zack Snyder) the ability to only show us the pivotal moments in Clak's life without us having to trudge through all of his childhood. The way he mixed the timelines gives us what we need to continue to the good bits of the story.

Kevin Costner plays Jonathan Kent perfectly. He brings an honest concern for his adoptive son that I don't think was captured in previous versions. His fear of how the world will react to finding out his son is from a different planet is genuine and you can see how his lessons of character and responsibility shaped Clark's life. Ma Kent (Diane Lane) was wonderful and helped bring the emotional connection to the screen. She was not a frail motherly woman. She was a more modern country strong woman and seemed younger or maybe I am getting older and she just seems younger. She brought a life to the character that was more than set dressing of the mother figure.

Lois Lane (Amy Adams) seems more on the ball than previous actresses that have had the role. Her strength was seen in this movie as she was actually fighting opposed to just being a damsel in distress. That was a refreshing twist. Her journalistic curiosity brought her to a story and the scope of it brought the danger. She has captured the embedded journalist spirit that understands the danger but still pushes to get to the story. I never liked the "I am going to break the law to get a good story and oops I get caught" aspect of her character in previous versions.

The choice to cast Laurence Fishburn as Perry White was excellent. I remember people on the Internet up in arms as to why are we crossing race here in the comic book he is white. It made absolutely no difference and having a strong actor play a supporting cast member brought new depth to this character. His performance made me want to see more from his character. This team again elevating Perry from set dressing to interesting character.

The pacing was excellent, the action was extreme and the carnage was on a massive scale. The aftermath of gods playing in a sandbox reminded me of pictures of Hiroshima after the blast. It will take years for Metropolis to rebuild. I must be getting old because I was horrified by the extreme loss of life. The death toll after the fight has to be in the millions. But they only showed glimpses of death, this is still only a small consolation when you see bodies being tossed in the air and brought down with a huge wave of gravity crushing everything in its path.

I think this is a great kick off to a Justice League movie. I know that project is up in the air but I think that if they keep Christopher Nolan and his team doing the same quality storytelling it would be a great world to set that film in. It's darker and more visceral than the polished settings in the past. But they need to just do a Justice League movie and then go back to individual films later. But what do I know? I am just a fan boy blogger.

Spoiler warning !!!! Only sons and daughters of Krypton beyond this point!!!!

I think the first missed opportunity was not using Clark's mind or his experience on the farm shine through in the fight with General Zod (Michael Shannon) we see Clark reading a book when he was picked on by the jocks, so he is smart or at least it was implied that he was. Let’s see how brains win over brawn even if he has superpowers it should be the way he uses it to overcome that mattered.

The second place was not using Zod's death to shape Superman more, something in the scenes that explained that because he had to kill Zod with his bare hands he was no longer going to use lethal force. A conversation with his mom or with Lois. Something. Anything to give more meaning to his taking a life.

My wife pointed out that this, like most other movies gets the basic reality of the planet wrong. It’s not daylight on both sides of the world at once. You can't have a daylight shot of Metropolis and of its polar opposite on the other side of the globe.

What superhero should this team take on next?

Friday, June 14, 2013

After Earth

After Earth - 89min – PG-13

This is the latest film from M. Night Shyamalan. I know, I know, many of you groan when you hear he is making more movies. I am a fan and I have not been quiet about my appreciation for him as a filmmaker. I truly enjoy the stories that he tells and his eye for shot composure is wonderful. I even like his signature movie of filming a character in reflection. He has a reputation of providing a hook with the movies but I have learned to not look for the hook just watch and enjoy the ride. It’s a bit like when you watching a magic trick and trying to figure out how the trick was done, you miss out on the show. He has seemed to be out of the hook phase and is now focusing on just telling straight forward stories. This movie is a green light from me, and no, not just because it was from Mr. Shyamalan…ok, maybe a little bit.

Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and his son, Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), crash land on planet Earth, but the Earth has been evacuated for a millennium. The planet has become a very hostile place. Kitai has to traverse the landscape and get to a distress beacon located a few days journey through this harsh environment alone to save himself and his injured father.

This was a good adventure story with an undercurrent of relationship dynamics that play well in the development of the characters. The father and son are not close as Cypher is a typical military father who is distant and shows almost no emotion. I think this was a good stretch for Will Smith as he usually plays very passionate and animated characters. I like it when an actor breaks out of type and takes risks with different characters.

Jaden is growing as an actor, this role has a lot more emotional baggage to deal with than his previous roles but I think he did well. A friend of mine once said he has talent but needs more craft. This was primarily Jaden’s movie. His father was an important role but all eyes are on Jaden to carry this film.

As I understand it Will Smith wanted to do a movie about a father and son stranded in the forest and brought it to Gary Whitta and they transformed it into a stranded on Earth in the far future. Gary Whitta has my attention because I have enjoyed almost all of his work. He also wrote the Book of Eli and an episode of the video game version of The Walking Dead. I am going to have to look at Prey -- the other game he worked on.

Warning Spoilers !!!!! Only Rangers beyond this point!!!!!

Kitai’s internal conflict stems from his attempts at impressing his father. He tries to become a ranger but has personal emotional demons that hold him back. His sister, Senshi (Zoe Kravitz), was a ranger and died saving his life from the hostile alien life form known as Ursa who can smell fear. Her performance was short but very well done. Her connection to her father was very present in the few scenes she was in.

I thought the movie was a bit heavy-handed in its environmental message. You can set the same stage by saying something as simple as The Earth was used up and unable to support human life. I know this is a rip off of Firefly but it is an excellent example of how you can express something without being preachy.

As preachy as the message was, they did follow through on the making that fact a big part of how the technology was made, it seems very organic and it blended well between the leather look of the uniform and the how technology blended in with it. I liked how it changed colors to fit the need of the wearer, white for illness of physical problem, and black when danger was near. Ooh wait! It was peril sensitive overalls.

Do you think the movie was overly complicated in its concept or were you ok with how it was presented?

-By the by
I am back to regular writing I might catch up on the ones I missed but I am going to focus on movies I see going forward.