Sunday, January 31, 2010
A stylish little anti-romantic comedy written and directed by Wallace Wolordarsky. The man who made the fun low key hit man black comedy COLD BLOODED and was a show runner on The Simpsons back in its glory days.
Starring THAT GUY YOU KNOW BUT DON'T REALLY KNOW (You know - Jay Morh) and THAT GIRL FROM TV (Julianne Nicholson), it's the story of a justabouttobe married couple that decide to try sleeping with other people before they settle down. It won't be a problem because it's meaningless naked play!
Obviously, it leads to all manners of dryly funny complex emotional conundrums. The running time coasts on the actor's charisma and a fun supporting cast (I LOVE YOU ANDY RICHTER!). The script poses a lot of questions about fidelity and commitment, but doesn't even try to deliver any answers. It's complicated. Leave it at that and enjoy the episodic chuckle worthy ride.
I don't know if I'm willing to watch Wolordarsky's opus SORORITY BOYS yet. Do I hate myself that much yet?
I finally got my goofy city-set man munching fun.
I hope no one takes that out of context.
Anyway, clap your hands and say ARGH!, because you're free of that "The film start in NEW YORK for five unrelated minutes before setting the rest of the bore trip in the jungles of someone's backyard."bullshit.
It's all about eating people out in public places.
Shit. I did it again.
The always reliable John Saxon (Enter The Dragon) stars as a troubled Vietnam vet suffering a little post war shake up. He was bitten by a P.O.W back in the jungle and now he can't shake off the uncontrollable hunger pangs for a little raw red meat. Saxon not only has to fight off the meat munching urges, but his two former army buddies are released from the loony bins and are on the move for a snack.
Bite! Bite! Bite!
Director Antonio Margheretti has forced out quite a few turd (Yor!) but he shows here that even with the flimsiest material he knows where to place the camera to make it feel like a proper film. No Jess Franco shoot where the camera lands work here folks. The actual carnage is bloody, but rather subdued and infrequent, it's the kind of picture that's front and back loaded with the groovy gore. The middle portion is all talk with a few chomping scenes thrown in at infrequent intervals. Thankfully, it never drags and the proceedings jog along at a brisk pace. The ending should ramp up to a fierce Cannibal packed climax, but it slowly unravels till it sputters to a "THE END?" final shot telegraphed miles away. The zombie-ish transferrable Cannibal Curse is potent material that's played here on much to small a scale.
Fun stuff old school stuff that misses the mark from a pure exploitative content standpoint. It's perfectly content to give it's stoopid try. I want more modern day set Cannibal On The Run films!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Contamination is a slow paced Alien rip-off that has a few impressive slow motion chest bursting scenes and...Yea....Moving on.
It has something to do with some astronauts bringing killer eggs that spit explosively violent liquid - that you know - causes you to explode. The cast lipsynch woodenly as they stare at the clock and count the cans of bean they'll be able to buy with their shame money. There's no ALIEN to speak of until the final reel (and even then it remains motionless). If you really want to see this, as it's considered an Italian Horror Classic (Really?) than watch the first fifteen minutes and skip to the last ten. Trust me. You won't have missed anything.
It's a rip-off of a rip-off!
A bunch of brain dead Italian folk hang around at aVilla and wait to be munched on by the undead. "Hey Guys! Lets shoot at my uncles place this weekend!" the director said. Our gang of lunkheads face off against a bunch of incredibly slow movie zombies wearing dime store Halloween masks. The zombies must have some kind of hypnotic freeze ray because our 'heroes' stand stock still for a solid five minutes as they face the shambling horde that are two guys in hobo sacks. We know to be scared because there's lots of crash zooms on terrified eyes, open mouths and...well...more terrified eyes. When the zombies finally do get their hands on the humans they proceed to strangle, nail hands and cut off heads with really sharp scythe. These maggot bags mean business! They just do it very slowly. Just like this movie!
There's some kind of theme at play here.
The creepiest thing of the entire picture is supposedly a young man played by a middle aged midget that looks like Dario Argento!
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Originally editors (Infernal Affairs), the brotherly directorial duo crashed on the screen with THE EYE and BANKOK DANGEROUS and have continued to create empty style over substance since. Sometimes they are decent (Oxyde's THE DETECTIVE) and sometimes terrible (Forest of Death, Nic Cage's Bankok Dangerous, The Messengers)
Yet, still, I stay optimistic.
The styalistic hook of SEVEN 2 ONE is that we're going to see a robbery from seven points of view. We're introduced a character and we get the back story of how they got to this point. What dark secrets will be reveled? Is everyone who they seem? Is there any point? Well, not really. It all looks nice and shiny, but there's no point to any of it. You'll have guessed any 'twist' (and there really isn't one) within the first twenty minutes. All the characters are wildly unlikable so I didn't care a bit what happened to any of them. the entire thing ends with a SCRUBS style montage of everyone's fate as a canto-pop star struggles on the soundtrack with an expurging English song.
LISTEN TO THE MAGIC HERE:
Adam "RIOT" Thorn and Justin Decloux (He's too good for a middle name) record full commentaries for films they have NOTHING TO DO WITH! They don't even particularly like most of them, but in their humble opinion they NEEDED COMMENTARY!
Check back every Monday for a new commentary track by two battled hardened pros that will share the most in-depth technical info, behind the scenes wonders and savy street smart advice to their loving listening audience.
Oh, to be honest, they usually do zero research, eat potato chips right in the mike and spend the rest of the time arguing about what's going to happen next.
Play the sound file and watch the movie at the same time. It's like we were right there with you! PLEASE! Make sure your have a plate of nachos ready! Otherwise, Justin can get violent.
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Starting off RIGHT where Black Caesar left off, Hell up in Harlem brings all our favorite crime riddled characters back to the screen and switches from the dramatic tone of it's predecessor to that of a comic-book beat-em up action picture. Williamson brings the physicality once more, but he's forced to waddled through some clunky set-pieces and deliver some terrible lines as he sets up a roaring path of revenge . It's a straight up exploitation picture (That feels padded) bereft of real involving conflict that feels more like an epilogue than it's own entity. Watchable, but disappointing.
One of the greatest blaxploitation films of all time.
Fred Williamson stars as a slightly moral gangster (No drugs) who crawls up from the gutter to put himself on top - where he finds that he may not be as different as the jive turkeys before him. Williamson brings a lot to the role, actual emoting at times, instead of only relying on the gruff 'take no shit attitude' he usually wears as a suit. Plus, he kicks a lot of ass. He ain't no a saint (There's an uncomfortable pseudo-rape scene) but he tries.
The rest of the cast do their grind house best, with only Williamson's on-screen wife stinking up the screen every time she's forced to wine and cry. Director Larry Cohen knocks it out of the park with a gritty hand held style, ultra violence (Especially for an early 70's corker) and a clever editing scheme that rockets the picture along without ever losing sight of its center. It all builds to an ending that will have even the meekest audience member standing up to cheer. Cracking stuff.
NOTE/SPOILER: The original downer ending of BLACK CAESER was trimmed from all theatrical print at the director's behest. It was only re-inserted in the DVD version because they went straight to the negative for the transfer. It makes the first few moments of the follow up mighty confusing.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The tendencies for lazy, on the spot screenwriting, plotless meandering, non-characters and crazy bits of unexplainable action are alive and well in the extra glossy bid budget form.
You decide if that's a good thing.
Pop Idol Jay Chou (looking like a young version of Shaw Brothers star David Chiang) stars as an Indiana Jones adventurer that - uh - protects treasures? It starts off pretty straight, but before you know it sand warriors, martial arts mummies and flying skull-masked villains are all after one particular piece of treasure. It's all pretty convoluted stuff and Director Chu Yen Ping does his hacky best. The drama appears out of nowhere and lands with a thud. Lots of flashbacks to pad out the running time. Everyone looks on plasticly and Chou is given little to do. The scenery is pretty. Action director Ching Siu Tung phones it in with some nice looking but unmemorable slow-motion-fast-motion-slow-motion choreography.
Waste of time.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
It never makes it.
In the Shopper's Drugmart entrance, two extremely overweight elderly women sit in tiny electric wheelchairs that are facing each other. They look like they just finished playing a game of chicken. One of them is asleep (or dead, maybe the shock of impact killed her on the spot) and the other is reading from a tiny childrens book. I pick up a package at 1:00 PM. Three hours later I return and they're still in the same position. Perhaps they're wax figures. Ulp. No. The reader turns the page.
On the bus there's a middle eastern man in a nice suit and a giant frizzy beard. Every two seconds he complains loudly about the speed the bus is going "Fucking dammit I can't believe this shit!". His complaints peter off after a while and he turns to the girl beside him: "Can't believe its two o'clock eh! Eh?". She doesn't respond. He sits up and stands by the door. Awkward.
Monday, January 25, 2010
For some reason it's listed under the underwhelming TOWN CREEK title on IMDB.
On the positive side - It does look really cool in part. Kind of.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
It's a solid slice of commercial entertainment that's tailormade for the widest audience possible. Director Teddy Chen (Who helmed the great hollywood-esque action film PURPLE STORM) takes his sweet time introducing the huge array of characters and than proceeds to put them all through the action film grinder one by one in the film's frantic real time spanning hour long finale. It's dramatically manipulative stuff, but if you let your preconceptions take a break you'll find yourself enjoying the slow motion deaths and expected over-dramatics.
None of the action is ground-breaking, but in the context of the story it proves to be tense and involving (even if it follows an obvious template once it gets going - hero fights, fails, and has one final heroic moment) My major gripe is that it builds and builds to a final battle that never materializes. Once you realize that all the fighters are down for the count and wonder "What are they going to throw at me yet?" don't hurt yourself figuring it out. They go for the dramatic angle instead of the throw down. It makes sense from a film-making perspective, but I was kind of left wanting. An overall solid crowd pleaser.
Friday, January 22, 2010
POLICE STORY 2 has three amazing action scenes that will sear themselves in your memory forever.
PROJECT A 2 has two great action scenes and one decent one that could have been better.
It's the rest of his films running time that's a problem.
When Jackie directs, he somehow finds a way of making an hour and forty minutes feel like three exhausting hours. He fills the frame with uninteresting conflict. The middle section of his arguably plot less proceedings drags on endlessly and the audience is forced to trudge along behind it. It's especially noticeable in PROJECT A 2 which had an amazing first entry and suffers from the unavoidable comparison. I've heard some people say they like POLICE STORY 2 over the first and to that I have to say: YOU ARE CRAZY. Police Story is still rather plot less, but is paced immensely better with incredibly intense stunt work. It's Jackie doing his all while PART II is Jackie floating through. When you have two out of three action scenes completely superfluous to the plot (not that it REALLY matters) something is wrong.
If you're an action fan, you should owe it to yourselves to see both films. There's enough here to warrant a watch. Just set your expectations low an you'll be fine.
I hear Jackie is going back to directing his next film. Please Jackie, let someone else do it. Your old friend Sammo Hung isn't doing anything these days. Why don't you give him a shot to give you gold again?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Don't get me started on deep theoretical readings of the sub-conscious mind of the director as an auteur when it comes to something someone they made for a quick buck.
Please, just, don't.
I picked up PROFOUDNLY DISTURBING with trepidation. Written by Texan extraordinaire Joe Bob Briggs (Arguably the man that popularized Exploitation cinema in the mainstream) it promised to chronicle the history of some of the most culturally important cult films to ever grace our green earth. Obviously, a lot of the flicks under discussion have been documented a million times before (The first gore film BLOOD FEAST, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, RESERVOIR DOGS) bu there were still some interesting choices (AND GOD CREATED WOMAN, ISLA - SHE WOLF OF THE SS, THE WILD BUNCH). It's an odd mix that reads more like Joe Bob's favorite films of all time as opposed to the most culturally significant (CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON....Really?).
None the less, the book is a fantastic read. It's well written, mixes in a healthy of interesting historical nuggets side to side with honest criticism and dosen't spend page after page giving a blow by blow of the film's plot. Hurrah! I'm not always a big fan of books that dedicate a whole two page spread to one picture, but heads up to the book's designer for whipping up a visualizing attractive package. Joe Bob even finds some refreshing perspective on the old chestnuts. This is the perfect tome for someone who wants to know about all that "weird cinema" you keep watching but you don't want to scare off with books written for fans by fans without any thought for the newbies. It's a rare feat to find a perfect book that works for the new kid on the block and the old curmudgeon. Cowboy hat salute of Joe Bob!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
This chronicling of the horrifying shooting spree that took place at Quebec college in 1989 is very well made, but is calculated within an inch of its life. The shocks are only so shocking, the drama faint and the characters thinly sketched. The filmmakers don't seem to have any other lofty goals than being a straight ahead commercial art film. I wish they had reached a little higher, digged a little deeper and asked tougher questions. It's a film that seems to be terrified to wake the beast, so it only pokes it gently.
The film was shot in FRENCH and ENGLISH. I viewed the French version.
WOMEN ON THE RUN (1996)
Director Cory Yuen is one hell of an action director. I'd even say he's arguably one of the most consistently energetic "realistic" martial arts director alive today. He can direct films like this CATEGORY III (Mostly for some doubled nudity) snoozer in his sleep - so he does. It's bottom of the barrel stuff with a few barely decent action scenes. The rating promises some uncessary cruelty, like a scene where some punks use a tiny dog as a soccer ball that leads into a completely out of nowhere rape scene, and it's strictly uncomfortable stuff. Completists apply only. Or if you've always wanted to see a woman only be able to fight if she smokes some heroin.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Yea. That's right. I'm lazy.
I just haven't found anything interesting to say about the films that I've been watching. When coupled with the fact that I've been listening to a lot of commentary tracks lately (Mostly by HK cinemaphile BEY LOGAN) it results in me having zilch to say.
44 INCH CHEST - Quirky little dramady that doesn't succeed at resonating emotionally (It's much too obtuse for that) but does feature a great bunch of old British actors churning up a storm of charisma. I'd love to see more films featuring this gang of characters. You can tell there's hundreds of stories brimming under the surface.
CACHE - Good film, but I can't help but feel the slavish amount of praise its' received has sullied it for me. It's emotionally vacant and sterile (Like most Hanake) and it's WAY too long. Then again, I'm speaking from the position of a film-goer and not that of a suave intellectual that wants to discuss the intricacies of a 10 minute static shot. It's a good thriller marred by preposterous artistic expression.
ARMOR OF GOD - Jackie Chan tries push away from his kung-fu image so hard the result is a hodge-podge action film that has a lot of scenes I like, but feels more like a collection of unused ideas than a proper classic. There's stuff to love here, like Jackie fighting the four amazons, but it's not enough to make it a favorite. The problem is a lack of narrative inertia: there's simply too much dead space where things slow to a painful crawl. Do we really need more Jackie bedroom shenanigans? In the end, I will always prefer the young fresh faced Jackie to his glossy post 90's counterpart.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
I caught a newly remastered print. The colors popped as if they wanted to rip out my eyes. Wow.
I had never seen the film before, but had heard raves about it after it had played at BUTT NUMB A THON this year in Austin. It's a beautiful film that suffers from a slow start (I say that a lot don't I?) and a the slightly off-putting theatrical performances from its cast (As was the rage back then). Michael Powell pulls off out all the stops for an epic ballet performance in the middle that drops any realistic pretense and goes into completely fantasy land: Tons of mad matte shots, apocalyptic backdrops and reverse motion magic. Things really start to gel after that performance as the plot threads connect together for its tragically romantic conclusion.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Fantastic indie film executed with skill and talent that falters badly in the acting department.
As the light fades and the city goes to sleep, two forces emerge. They are invisible except for the power they exert over us in our sleep, battling for our souls through dreams. One force delivers hope and strength through good dreams; the other infuses the subconscious with desperation through nightmares. John (Chris Kelly) and Emma (Quinn Hunchar), Father and Daughter are wrenched into this fantastical dream world battle, forced to fight for John's soul and to save Emma from an eternal nightmare. Separate in their journey, they encounter unusual characters that exist only in their subconscious. Or do they?
The ideas behind INK are of the highest caliber. The direction/writing/editing/sound design by the crew go above and beyond any indie film I've seen all year. It's so good, that even with the community theater theatrics from the cast, the drama is STILL successfully conveyed by everything else. There's a few action scenes that are competently choreographed, but not structured to be awe inspiring, only to convey the emotion of the scenario. It's not about showing off, which means we get a lot of shaky cam to make things look EXTREME!
On the negative side of things, the decision to blow out the whites seems to be like a needless stylistic tick. It makes things look overproduced and cheap. It takes a long time for things to make sense (About forty minutes) and a lot of people I talked too actually gave up on the film because of it's confusing structure. Even when everything does line out, there's a lot left unexplained an just a little feels lazy.
Given the budget, I have no doubt that Director Jamin Winans will deliver a classic. He doesn't quite make it here, but he does a damn good job.
Friday, January 15, 2010
I came to the conclusion of "Nope."
Today, I realized I was wrong. I had watched WHATEVER WORKS.
Take this story as a review in itself.
Larry David stars and complains a lot. There's some clever dialogue. The story about him marrying a young woman is light weight and gets wrapped up perfectly. There's no real drama. Everyone (And I mean EVERYONE) gets a happy ending.
It's not a failure for Woody "I make a film a year" Allen, but it's not the knock out it out of the park it could have been with such a strong lead.
Does anything else need to be said?
The only feature length film Directed/Written by Bob Gale, one of the mind's behind BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, INTERSTATE 60 plays like the pilot of a really great TV show. James Marsden (Cyclops from Wolverine) has to deliver a package along the fictional INTERSTATE 60 and runs into numerous different weird situations along the way. It's episodic and is filled with heavy handed moral lessons (Don't do drugs, respect yourself, don't judge a book by its cover) but a slightly dark tone and an exuberant imagination make it a fun ride. Great to spot all the tiny little cameos along the ways from the likes of Michael Jay Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Kurt Russel, and Chris Cooper.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
No one questioned me. I'm always right. That's why I'm the king.
I was wrong.
CLOUDY is filled with a great voice cast makes good use of a fresh visual style. It is a charming comedy that isn't peppered with past due date pop culture references. It's a genuinely fun movie that doesn't require you to burn braincells as you watch it. It's not weighty like a PIXAR classic (1) but it does have a surprising undercurrent of emotion thanks to a father/son subplot anchored by the a performance by the great James Caan.
The story of a scientist (Bill Hader) inventing a machine that makes food out of moisture isn't pressing stuff, but it does translate to tons of hilarious visuals. Thank the writing/directing duo of of the two fellows that wrote/directed every episode of the much loved CLONE HIGH. They bring a cinematic panache that you wouldn't expect in a project like this. It does a better job at being a disaster film than 2012.
Also, when's the last time you saw Mr.T, Bruce Cambell, and Neil Patrick Harris (as a monkey) in the same cast?
* Then again, what is? I start to tear up just listening to the score of UP
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I checked out FISH STORY after seeing someone place it #1 on their top of the year list. All I knew about it was that it was supposed to be about a band "Saving the World". The trailer didn't give me much (No subs)
I wandered into its the cinematic world upreared.
We open in a record shop as a clerk explains to a customer the magic of the album "FISH STORY". An old man in the store reminds them that an asteroid is about to destroy the earth in a few hours. Out of nowhere, we're off to a a seemingly unrelated story in the past. After that one ends (rather abruptly) we're back in the record store for some seemingly unrelated dialogue. Before you know it, it's another seemingly unrelated vignette with random characters.
Take note of the word 'seemingly' in all this.
Patience is a virtue. The film starts slow. Real slow. I was worried that I had signed up for another mild-mannered Japanese drama. I wasn't sure if one character was supposed to be a younger version of another, the time-line is all over the place (at first) and I kept waiting for the rock band to finally make an appearance (Aren't they supposed to save the world after all?) The film takes a while to ramp up, but once all the pieces fall together it's a beautiful thing to see.
FISH STORY is not instantly involving, nor is it particularly exciting (Except for an perfectly performed out of left field action scene in the middle). It's a little puzzle picture that begs to be re-watched. The performances, characters and story mean so much on a second viewing that is only slowly revealed on the first. It may prove frustrating at first, but stick with it, and your patience shall be rewarded.
It's all here for your reading...uh...enjoyment?
Written by famed satirist Terry Southern (Candy, The Magic Christian)BLUE MOVIE seems to have no interest in being a real novel. It's merely a a collection of skits involving unlikable one-note characters trying to shock the audience as much as possible. All of the deeds listed are above are described in a slyly funny way that never lets on that it's raunchy at all. The novel works great in the set-up, but once they start filming in meanders and spins in circles, throwing shock after shock that rebounds dully on the reader. You can tell that Terry had the concept but no idea how to play it out. The ending wraps things and gives the prior proceedings absolutely no point. Southern is a good writer, but without a direction the book flounders.
Diana Keaton is completely miscast as a militant terrorist that gets in way over her head. Based on the novel by John La Caree. The movie is overstuffed with characters and events that fly by so quickly they don't leave a mark. Keaton's whiny actress is despicable and unlikable. The terrorists are thinly caricatured bad-guys who's motivation is vague. It's all rather confusing as we get double crosses, triple crosses and quadruple crosses. It feels like they rushed through the material, but still found a way to make a dull film. It was part of the decline and final disappearance of Oscar winning director George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
Klaus Kinski shows up as a sadly subdued Terrorist leader. If you aren't going to have the Klaus scream and bug out, what's the point in hiring him in the first place?
Where Little Drummr Girl was unnecessarily complex, HEAVEN is simple. Directed with a detached visual sense by Tom Tyker (Run Lola Run) the movie has a story to tell with all the frills surgically removed. Cate Blanchett's character sets off a bomb to take out a drug dealer and accidentally kills a family in the process. Giovanni Ribisi, her translator, falls in love with her and decides to help her make an escape. The poster touts it as a 'thriller' but it really doesn't move fast enough for that, it's a revenge tale told with a cold unwavering gaze. Forget the stylish excess in LOLA and allow yourself to be immersed.
Originally conceived as the first part of a trilogy.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Of note are some awkwardly inserted bits of 'Twee' animation that feel completely out of place. Do films really need to go to this length to feel 'indie' now?
Don't trust my judgment. Two women behind me cackled like the Cryptkeeper every time Cera appeared on screen. They seemed to GREATLY amused at seeing him in a bathrobe.
If the material is inherently stupid does it excuse a stupid adaptation?
It's all about context.
The original animated Scooby Doo cartoon was formula. Every episode you would get the same running animation, the same ghost to be revealed to be "Old Man Henderson", and Scooby would receive a Scooby snack. It didn't particularly insult your intelligence nor did it stimulate the mind. It was enjoyable for what it was.
The film version knows that it's dumb. It's a calculated gamble that flat out doesn't work. Instead of simply doing what Scooby Doo did best, it tries pokes holes in the material and place itself above it. Shaggy is a pothead! Velma is always in distress! Fred is stupid! We know these things and pointing them out to the audience makes the filmmakers look like the annoying kid in the class that points out the obvious (I should know. I was that kid.)
You get actors who resemble the characters, dress the film in millions of dollars of computer effects and production design it into the ground. It still doesn't mean you'll get a good film. You'll get a shiny film with lots of colors, but not a good one.
WHO CARES!? It's a kids film...Right?
Scooby and Shaggy participating in a farting contest isn't funny. It's lazy. Scooby and Shaggy eating hot peppers isn't funny. It's lazy. There's so many quality kids film (Anything by Pixar and Miyazaki) that have PROVEN you don't have to talk down to an audience for them to enjoy it. Scooby dresses in drag as "She's a brick house play" isn't funny. It's lazy.
This is coming from someone that has defends DUMB AND DUMBER as an example of stupid comedy done smart.
TAG LINE: I sat through the entire running time blank faced trying to recall joy and laughter.
I know it's a cartoon film, but can we get a little bit of internal logic? The gang is constantly denying the existence of real supernatural elements and when they finally do run into actual, tangible beasts...None of them are really surprised. No big deal? YOU JUST GOT ATTACKED BY REAL FREAKING MONSTERS!?
Move along to the next nostalgic 80's cartoon adaptation. Nothing to see here.
I'm sure the director did a better job with BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA. The screenwriter James Gunn (of fun cult films SLITHER, TROMEO AND JULIET and THE SPECIALS fame) must be swimming in his pool of money Scrooge Mcduck style.
NOTE: At least it doesn't pretend that the SCOOBY gang are characters in a TV show that escape to the real world and get super-powers. I'm looking at you FAT ALBERT: THE MOVIE. Well, they did kill FAT ALBERT in it.
Scooby VS real ghosts AND Vincent Price!
It was fun. Lots of fun.
Chuck puts his powers to good use (including a MUCH better fight scene than the season two ender) and barely uses them at all in Episode 2 (the better of the two episodes). I can see the graphic swoosh effect when he "Flashes" getting annoying, but I'm sure they'll ease up as the season goes along. It's a little distressing that they've returned EVERYTHING back to the way it was, but that's the way it's got to go. They even get rid of a character that had long ago worn out his welcome.
Annoyingly the 'Will they/won't they" romance between Chuck and Sarah (his handler) continue. End it. Please, just end it now. No one cares.
It's breezy television with a hint of action and a pinch of drama. It has its flaws (The villains have found Chuck AGAIN?) but it succeeds more than it fails. Viva la Chuck!
Sunday, January 10, 2010
A bad Bill Zane film? HOW CAN THAT BE?
What do we have here? Oh...Oh...God.
Maybe that isn't such a tough thing to pull off.
All kidding aside, Zane can be an enthusiastic and funny performer (See DEMON KNIGHT) when used correctly. Other times, he's a blandy mcbland, especially when he's surrounded by a film as lame as this one. It's a big budget re-imagining of the 50's comic strip hero THE PHANTOM. The big budget production by the guy that made FREE WILLY seems to lazily try to re-live the serial thrills of the 40's and confuses it with being dull. The super heoroics are slow and calculated as every stuntman anticipates every punch with a second pause. The Phantom, who's supposed to be an daring acrobat, moves as if he's terrified of ripping his suit. It's nice to see Treat Williams hamming it up as a bad guy, but he's given so very little to do. There's some funny ideas peppered around in the end (Shark moat, man hit by cannonball, The Phatom uses guns to disarm a dozen people) but it comes to little too late. Forget it.
Not even Bruce Campbell could have saved this.
The man that can make your head explode with a punch!
Ultra violent violence that is content to be nothing but violent. Classic 80's style anime where all the male characters are built the same, the kids are completely out of place and the villains only shows up to have their heads explode. It's a classic film where every minute something horrifyingly (and creatively!) gory happens with such flair that your retinas get permanently scarred. Forget any kind of choreographed action scenes because it's all about the WAY you show the the gore. It's a case of quality and quantity! A flat out anime classic (if this kind of subject matter floats your boat). Show your Pokemon loving friends!
FILM VERSION (1994)
Gary Daniels looks perfect as the Fist of the North Star. He even has the martial arts prowess the role requires! It's the other stuff that poses a problem...you know...like acting...emoting...and having to say lines. The look on his face when he's being tortured is a mix of explosive diarrhea and anal penetration. It's a good thing he's surrounded by such a crappy film. It looks like it was shot completely on one back lot. The director has NO IDEA how to shoot an action scene ("So, they'll come at him one at a time!") and commits the worst sin of all - there isn't one decent head explosion. At least you can play "Spot the z-level character actor!" Look there's Chris Penn! Clint Howard! Mario Van Peebles!
Check out the ultra fun "RICKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY" for a true alternative to a live action exploding punch.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
It feels weird to watch good films. Not “Did you see how his head got ripped off by the tentacle?” or “This is horrifyingly funny bad!” films. Actually, well-made, properly produced motion pictures that emotionally involve me.
I'm unsure how to approach these mystical beasts.
Maybe I should start with broad generalized statements.:
Everyone who's ever had a twinge of romantic inclination will enjoy Before and After Sunset.
Before Sunrise is infatuation. It's about falling in love in a heartbeat. The characters live in the moment. The future is so very far away.
Before Sunset is looking back. I's dealing with the choices you've made and meditating about the future. The characters live in the in-between that makes up the past and the now. Not certain of the present but terrified of the future.
Both films are about two people in conversation. That's it. Simple.
Before Sunset takes place over an entire night. It's full of life. The location changes constantly and everything floats on under the influence of two young people having the time of their life.
Before Sunset is shot in seemingly real time. It's filled with tension and the hope for the joy to return. It takes place in very few locations and makes no attempt to keep things fresh by moving about. The days of seeking enjoyment for the sake of joy are gone now for these characters. All that remains are the conversation that could re-ignite past loves.
It's almost impossible for me to imagine both film separate from each other. They are two pieces of the same puzzle. The sweet and the bittersweet brought together to make a complete whole.
Summarized statement: I like them. A lot.
Un-insulting follow up to the underwhelming original. It looks cheaper (“Lets set it all in one set!”) and it doesn't add up to much, but it's a breezy violent ride for a lazy afternoon that doesn't cause your eyes to explode out of your skull (DTV syndrome) There's a convoluted story with lots of useless style coupled with some forgettable character actors appearing on screen only to get blown up moments later in a rain of computer generated gore (Urgh!) Will people ever learn it's a sin to introduce a bad-ass and then kill them straight off without them doing anything cool? The best part was the laugh out loud final shot that performs what I always wanted to see when those bloody “Twist Endings” pop up. It's the best thing the director of "LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE" and "FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3" has ever done!
Vinnie Jones quota for the month - FILLED
On the surface, this film stinks of flat out pro-separatist propaganda. It's public knowledge that the director/screenwriter was a separatist and he was good friends with one of the men that participated in the murder. If you forget all the heavy handed “Ra-Ra-Go-Quebec” on display there's still a worthwhile film about what drives men to kill. The film is a slow march through the kidnapping and eventual murder of the political figure that sticks strictly within the time confinements of the event forces all the actors to play off what's happening RIGHT NOW: No flashbacks, no back story, only the pressing concerns of what to do. Performances are fine across the board, the direction is there to present the events and nothing more and the only sore-point was an overbearingly dramatic score. It's a film that tightens it's screws very slowly, but when it locks in place the audience is completely caught in witnessing the horrifying insatiable.
NOTE: The director went on to make the ULTRA POPULAR and ULTRA DETESTED (By me) retard comedies ELVIS GRATON II and 3.
A CHERRY TALE (Short that played before the feature)
When I heard the short was directed by THE GREATEST CANADINA FILMMAKER OF A LLLLLLLLLL TIIIIIIIIMMMMMMMME - Claude Jutra - I readied myself for twelve pretentious minutes of dullness. Instead, I got a hilarious story of a man's attempt to woo a chair. It was a blast of cartoonish slapstick and clever stop motion trickery that brought quite a lot of life to an inanimate object.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Hilarious awkward comedy! The closest point of comparison for Rob Thomas' new show (Creator of Veronica Mars) would be to describe it as a slightly more uncomfortable version of the American Office (But nowhere near as cirnge worthy as the British original). Ken Marino stars as Ron, the straight laced idiot manager for the PARTY DOWN catering company. Every episode follows him and his motley gang of employees as one of their jobs goes HORRIBLY WRONG! The idea of keeping every episode contained within a job (Sweet sixteen, Acquittal Party, Team Team Building) works wonders for the dynamic of the cast. They play off each other brillantly and the chemistry is incredibly natural. Other than the screwup Marino we've got Martin Starr (Of Freaks and Geeks) as the sci-fi nerd, Ryan Hansen (Veronic Mars) as the ditsy blond actor, Adam Scott (That guy who usually plays a douchebag) and Lizzy Caplin as the audience's anchors to reality. Last,but not least, is Jane Lynch who knocks it out of the park as an actress that's lived the dream but is still willing to give absolutely worthless advice.
With all the comedy going on (Usually of the "My god. I can't believe they did that. " variety) there's some good understated drama work. No matter how wacky the characters get, you actually get a feel for them as people and hope they don't screw up TO badly.
The only thing this show needs is more Paul Rudd. He has a writing credit on ALL ten episodes. Why won't he grace us with his luminous presence?
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Now I remember why I stopped reviewing things on my previous blog HERE.
Eventually, it sounds like I'm playing the same note over...and over...and over....
To be truthful, I think I have a pretty good imagination, but only a limited vocabulary when it comes to the critical appreciation. In conversation, I can easily articulate if I like or hate something, and build an argument on why I have those beliefs. In writing, everything gets limited and my thoughts fall into a few basic templates (which I won't get explain here, sheesh, I'm not giving my tricks away). I know for a fact there's tons of my reviews out there that are nearly identical to each other. All you have to do is fill in a few blanks and TA-DA - instant mad libs critical work-sheet.
This isn't an "I quit" letter. It's just my weekly dose of self-reflective moaning.
If anyone has a better brain and wants to share, I'm taking donations.
I've been mulling over MAKERS for a few days now trying to formulate my thoughts. I know that I like it. Quite a lot in fact. It's just...well...
First off, it's a fantastic book of ideas. It's the kind of read that makes me want to jump up and create my own electronic pieces of art (with my skill-set of nil). I want to gather together a bunch of like minded individuals and create giant maker communities. Cory Doctorow know how to stir the mind AND turn a phrase like nobodies business. His science fiction concepts are so solid, so believable, that it wouldn't be difficult to get me to believe he has a time machine. He dodges cliche, provides us with real individuals doing things that could believably happen tomorrow and makes it laugh out loud to boot.
Except the story didn't grab me. Neither did the unlikable characters.
Yes, you can make humanize someone by highlighting trivial faults, but it reached points in Makers where the protagonist were so selfish that I wanted to throw the book against the wall. I've read numerous novels with loathsome protagonist (all of the work by Bret Easton Ellis) but nothing turns me the wrong way like people positioned as selfish heroic figures. It was mostly Suzanne's character (which we follow for 125 pages and visit every now and then from that point on) that drove me up the wall.
The story seems to hold the Cory's interest only in spurts. At one moment it looks like we'll be digging straight into it and then it'll be dropped entirely as another thread will be picked up. Romances, double crosses and big reveals are hinted at endlessly but never delivered on. Is this another reflection of real life and it's disappointments? Perhaps, but it reads as half baked storytelling. For example, the lengthy epilogue illustrates some incredibly important points, but stumbles in its ponderous execution.
As an author, Cory has been hit and miss for me. His debut novel DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGICAL KINGDOM was an above average read, while EASTERN STANDARD TRIBE started strong but dropped the ball at the end, and his third novel SOMEONE COMES TO TOWN, SOMEONE LEAVES TOWN did the same (but it is one I'd like to revisit). His fourth novel LITTLE BROTHER is a classic. It successfully blends basic technological based creativity with engaging characters in interesting predicamenst. MAKERS has a lot of the LITTLE BROTHER CHARM, but it's missing some key ingredients to really make it something that I'd want to revisit.
It's a good read, one of the best I've had in a while, but not the classic I was hoping for.
Expectation are a bitch, uh?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Being able to see how much time is left while watching a film makes you incredibly aware of a film's pacing. Audiences were never supposed to know that there's five minutes left. We're supposed to be so enthralled with the picture that time becomes irreverent as opposed to a crutch.
I think I'm going to have to start watching films completely unaware of the minutes ticking a way. Without the scrolling numbers, I won't be able to break it down from a straight up technical standpoint anymore....Oh no...The horror! The horrifying horror! How else will I be able to review shit?
A elite team of commandos seek revenge over the people that double crossed them. Even if means they have to take down the United States government in the process.
Over thirty two issues writer Andy Diggle crafts the greatest big budget summer blockbuster never filmed*. It's a sprawling tale filled with covert ops mumbo jumbo, one liner quipping bad-ass heroes and fantastically violent action set pieces. The art (Mostly done by Jock) is so vibrant you can almost feel the camera swooshing in sync with the gunfire. You'll never see a cooler drawing of people pointing guns.
The first arc is the strongest by far. Kick butt introductions to the main team, solid action movie storytelling and enough twists to keep you going . After such a brilliant start (coupled with critical raves) Diggle did his best to live up to expectation. Don't get me wrong, it's still above average work, but it doesn't feel nearly as organic as those first seven issues. The story moves in spurts without a real direction. We get lots of great moment that don't add up to the greater whole. Still, the same characters are all along for the ride and they're personalities never falter. Only an underwhelming ending does.
It's worth a read. Just keep your expectations in check after the brilliant first few issues.
*Scratch that. The film version will be hitting this summer with a fantastic cast directed by the guy who's last film was...Stomp the Yard.
John Krasinski (One of the mild mannered stars of The Office) picked one hell of a project for his directorial debut. He adapts a series of meta-ish short stories by the late David Foster Wallace (Author of Infinite Jest) that are nothing more than a series of anonymous men telling misogynist stories in a fractured style.
Krasinski, pulling double duties as screenwriter and director, links all the interviews through the eyes of a female graduate (Julliane Nicholson) writing a paper on the men in question. Even with her addition, the film is still essentially a series of straight on interviews - Most of them shot in the same bare room. Krasinksi shakes things up with a few cinematic tricks, like jump cuts, time rejiggering and the narrator telling the story as it unfolds on camera, but it's still an actors showcase here. They all deliver stellar performance that never rings a false note. Some of the stories are funny, others are disgusting and some strike surprising moments of emotional resonance. The only major misstep is a final five minute performance by Kransinski that comes off like a enthusiastic audition for a high-school play.
It's a small film that has a lot on it's mind. The subject matter will strike a cord with anyone that's been a miserable relationship and has asked themselves "Why did it turn out like this?"
Blizzard should be selling this as a PLUS to gamers. SEE! Even a sixteen year old dork can score!
Read the touching story that ended in horrifying violence (not really)
Oh, and video game addiction is a decease. You should not laugh at things like this: "In 2008, 15-year-old Brandon Crisp ran away from his Barrie home afterhaving his XBox confiscated. He died after falling out of a tree and was found three weeks later by hunters."
Phew. I really dug deep in the internet archives for that old chestnut of a picture.
Stop you damn mind readers!
Press Copy:"..founded on the belief that everything in life would be better with a little more Nic Cage, the most unique and versatile actor of his generation.""
SEE THE BLOG HERE
If I could only get my Nicholas Cage LOOK-ALIKE blog going...