Posts Tagged ‘Good Movie’

Zombeavers

October 3, 2015

I don’t know what I expected when I added Zombeavers to my list on Netflix. I think I was expecting a Sharknado type experience which seems fair since SyFy movies and psuedo-SyFy movies are big again. For some reason I was dreading something akin to Eli Roth’s lazy movie making, like a low-budget muppet Cabin Fever. Mixing funny and scary is a difficul proposition. Once again, I point to Evil Bong and Cabin Fever. The first failed because it had bad acting and was lazily written. Cabin Fever failed because it had too much gross out humor and used non sequitirs instead of actual humor. It’s a delicate balance and I’ve seen a lot of movies fail at being scary, being funny or both.

The movie follows three 24 year old girls who journey out to a cabin (cliche alert) because one of them was cheated on and they’re trying to help her get over it. The trip is quickly crashed by their three significant others and then it is crashed again by zombeavers. The six people try to survive and escape the woods. It’s the usual scenario but there are a few twists.

Zombeavers mostly succeeds where a lot of horror movies fail. There’s plenty of suspense as most of the movie is spent the way most zombie movies are spent. You get a lot of footage of the main characters trapped in one place and having to deal with each other. Thankfully the movie moves faster than most zombie movies because honestly, I don’t want to hear these people talk too much. There’s an offbeat humor throughout but within two minutes I decided that I would not mind if these characters died. As the action and gore overtook the suspense I found myself actually being afraid for the characters. I respect that a lot. Sure it was kind of cheesy but alot of the good horror films are cheesy.

Overall, the movie succceeded in being an over-the-top horror/monster movie. It felt like a 70’s horror film blended with a more modern feel. Like Evil Dead mixed with Ghost Shark, maybe. It avoided a lot of the obvious jokes that I was expecting. That’s not to say it didn’t hit certain jokes and cliches hard to get them out of the way. Honestly, the movie goes right along basically as I expected it to go and then just drives hard into left field. It goes from zombie muppets to full horror including quite a bit of body horror that tied my stomach into knots. At 77 minutes it’s also very short and fast-paced. It’s not a perfect horror movie but it’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood.

Media Update 6/18/15

June 18, 2015


Into the Woods (2014)

So I finally saw Into the Woods, the big budget Disney adaptation of a stage musical that’s been around for a dog’s age. I’ve always heard a lot about the musical from a lot of different friends and colleagues. When I was a theater major in college I heard a lot about it and more recently I befriended some people who are huge fans. I have never seen any stage version but I definitely want to see it now.

I was somewhat wary of seeing this movie because it was another musical headlined by Meryl Streep and I still have shell shock from her performance Mamma Mia. I was worried for nothing. The movie was actually really, really good. The characters are really interesting and actually fairly complex for fairytale characters. The music alone could earn it a spot in a redone Top 11 Musicals list (actually Agony alone could). The child actors they chose knocked it out of the park which is not common for child actors. There were also excellent performances from James Corden, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and (shocker) Meryl Streep.

Go out and snag a copy while I start looking for opportunities to see the stage version. I hear they changed a lot of stuff and I want to check it out.

 

Reality Television

I’ve been thinking lately about reality television programming. When it first emerged I was definitely on the front lines in the fight against it. There are a lot of shows that people love that I roll my eyes at and I will probably never respect. I am a diehard fan of fiction and reality television is often the enemy of the more creative people who create fiction. It elevates more or less talentless people to celbrity and generally wastes our time.

However, maybe I formed that opinion a little too hastily. There are exceptions to every rule and, while mileage may vary, I have come up with a list of reality shows that I like and hold above the others.

 


Kitchen Nightmares

Gordon Ramsay was introduced to the American public and almost immediately became a cartoon exaggeration. I think he cashed in on that in a lot of ways but it is still very clearly an exaggeration. The episodes I’ve seen of Kitchen Nightmares have actually featured a fairly earnest and low key Gordon Ramsay who dishes out thoughtful advice. He gets forceful when he feels he’s not getting through but otherwise seems like a nice guy. Also, one episode was filmed within walking distance of my apartment.

 


Heroes of Cosplay

I really like this show. I like cosplay as an artform and as an expression of fandom. It’s one of my favorite things about walking around a convention. There are a few insincere, unlikeable people on the show but part of that is probably in the editing. Through the show I did become a fan of Chloe Dykstra, Holly Conrad and Jessica Merizan who all seemed excited, creative and friendly. Besides those three, what sold me on the show was the fact that the main cast often didn’t win the real costume contests they entered in and we got to see a lot of awesome homemade costumes. So this one always seemed a little less rigged to me.

 


Guild Grumps

Alright, so this only had five one hour episodes but I enjoyed it immensely. It may have been a little too ambitious as it attempted to be a reality show while parodying reality shows. It also tried to showcase the pros and cons of the World of Warcraft and MMORPGs in general. It may have crashed and burned but it was entertaining while it failed. It may be a little more entertaining if you’re more familiar with the people involved but I thought it was interesting on its own. It also featured a last minute addition of Holly Conrad since she is married to show creator and host Ross O’Donovan.

Underworld (2004)

April 24, 2015

I’m honestly embarassed that I hadn’t seen this movie until now. I’m a huge fan of urban fantasy. I’ve read dozens of books and seen lots of movies and television series. When I was a kid, I always used to imagine something just beyond the veil. It was so close to our world that one wrong turn could put me in contact with something that goes bump in the night. Vampires and werewolves are probably the two biggest creepy crawlies around. Both deal with possibly losing one’s humanity to a beast inside. Of course, the movie doesn’t really deal with that aspect but that’s alright.

So how is the movie? Surprisingly good. I was expecting “Goth Matrix” but I got a far more subtle movie than I thought I would. I was expecting a popcorn flick and while I got one, it was not nearly as dumb as I thought it was. I don’t expect much from big budget movies between 1998 and 2005. This was a period where Godzilla (1998), The Matrix (1999) and Swordfish (2001) where blockbusters were enjoyable but not really substantive. I love all three of those movies but they were kind of half-assing it in the writing department. I would put Underworld on the angel side of good writing but it’s not too far from that line.

The movie is basically torn from the pages of White Wolf Publishing, a company that produces a lot of cool tabletop RPGs about werewolves, vampires, faeries and so on. There was even a lawsuit settled out of court by the makers of Underworld if you don’t believe me. There’s a war between vampires and werewolves that has gone on for centuries and supposedly werewolves are on the brink of extinction. Normally you would expect the hero to be a werewolf but we’re given vampire heroine Selene (Kate Beckinsale). She is tasked with figuring out a centuries old secret conspiracy that will change the war forever while she tries to protect her Dude in Distress. (By the way this was a refreshing reversal that was actually done right)

The acting was surprisingly good. I thought at first that Kate Beckinsale was wooden but I felt that she was instead reserved as you might expect an old vampire to be. There were moments where that resolve slipped and you could see splashes of raw emotion shine through. There were some good character actors throughout. Her Dude in Distress was not so great but served his purpose. However, Bill Nighy did an excellent job as an elder vampire and although he was corny in some places, he was very convincing in others. I also want to give a shout out to Michael Sheen and Shane Brolly who did a great job as the movie’s villains. Shane Brolly in particular was very easy to hate.

The art direction and cinematography was pretty awesome as the movie was very pretty but also very dark. It seemed to take place in what looked like eternal night or the same world that the first 5 minutes of XXX took place in. Len Wiseman directed this one and it seems he pretty much created the franchise. It makes sense that it would be pretty good as he is responsible for the Sleepy Hollow tv show and the underrated fourth Die Hard movie. I kind of wish he had toned down some of the exposition but, as a world-building fan, I have to respect what he created. I don’t think I’ll be watching the prequel anytime soon though. I feel like I’ve already seen it from the stories the characters told.

Overall, it was a pretty good movie. I would suggest seeing it.

Top 11 “Iconic” Movies of My Childhood

April 23, 2015

Top 11

Here is a list of the some of the movies that guided my childhood and informed my preferences later in life even to this day.  I was born in December of 1982 so do the math where I haven’t and realize that I was probably irrevocably altered by Tim Burton for better or worse.

Top 11 “Iconic” Films of My Childhood

11 The Goonies (1985)

This one is thick with so much eighties nostalgia that if you sliced it, it would bleed such radical blood. The movie is an adventure movie where a bunch of kids and some teenagers search for pirate treasure which is pretty awesome. It was even more awesome when I was a kid. The kids stuck together no matter what and they struggled to keep the faith of their mission. Forget Mikey, I always liked Data as the awkward inventor type. That’s mostly how I felt as a kid. I even liked to wear a long jacket a lot like he did. Even back then the movie felt kind of wistful and slow in places. While it is inspiring, the “our time” speech feels kind of sad as well.

10 Star Trek IV (1986)

I remember being a Star Trek fan long before I was a Star Wars fan. I don’t remember who introduced me to the series but by third grade my friends and I were poring over technical drawings. I never really cared too much about how the ships were put together. I cared more about what the plans said about what life on the ship was like. In my opinion, Star Trek IV is the most enjoyable out of the original six. Sure the crew had aged quite a bit by this point but it’s so interesting to see a future society interact with a more contemporary society. It’s also the funniest Star Trek movie (Generations is actually a close second). I often hear or read about this movie being demaned as the “Dumb Whale Movie” but it’s way more memorable than most of the other movies.

9 Clueless (1995)

This was a surprise hit in my family about the time when I was thirteen. The movie is so good at being a parody of nineties culture that it’s easy to miss that there’s actually a pretty introspective message to it all. Besides, it’s the closest I’ll probably ever get to reading Emma. I think this movie is the first time that I felt safe watching and enjoying a “girl” movie, a distinction that is getting harder and harder to make. It was rare that I watched and enjoyed a movie with so little explosions but Clueless is funny and the characters are relateable. Well, they’re not as relateable now but they were when I was a young teenager.

8 Crybaby (1990)

Any list of movies I enjoyed in my childhood has to include a movie from my hometown of Baltimore. I’m Baltimore through and through and wherever I’ve been, I have always had the city deep in my heart. Not only that but John Waters has always spoken to the weird, geeky and sometimes dark side of me that is fun to explore. The first exposure I had to his movies were a few glimpsed scenes of Serial Mom before it was shut off. Crybaby is the story of a love story amidst the battle between the Squares and the Drapes, a local motorcycle gang. All of this takes place in the suburbs and rural areas ouside of Baltimore. This movie helped prepare me for how cliquish school would get. It’s also way, way better than Grease.

7 Back to the Future II (1989)

The Back to the Future series is awesome. The team up of Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox made for screen chemistry that was off the charts. The first movie was good but I actually prefer the sequels as they up the stakes considerably without dilluting the product. I struggled to decide whether I should put 2 or 3 in this spot but I opted for 2 for several reasons. 1) Where else are you going to find a movie where Michael J. Fox plays three different characters while somebody does a Crispin Glover impression? 2) The future sequence is great because it’s completely optimistic and not a crumbling, post-apocalyptic mess. 3) It is the most science fiction heavy of the series and introduced alternate universe theories to mainstream pop culture. On top of all of that, it’s a great mix of funny and dark and inspiring.

6 Jurassic Park (1993)

I was pretty sure as a young boy that liking dinosaurs was just a fact of life for young boys. I mean, all of the television, toys and theme parks seemed to tell me so. Jurrasic Park was a no-brainer and I’m sure that’s what Amblin and Universal were thinking. Of course, that movie could have ended up being a cash grab but they chose some good source material and injected a lot of heart into it. I remember watching the movie for the dinosaurs but loving it for the people. The cast is amazing and the special effects hold up so much better than some of the cgi monstrosities that showed up just a few years later. Even Jeff Goldblum looked good in this one even though he’s usually kind of a cartoon character.

5 Beetlejuice (1988)

Tim Burton was always pretty much the patron saint of all of the somewhat gothy, geeky and misunderstood kids of the world. For everyone else he was probably an entertaining director who had some hits and some misses but was financially successful. I was always in the first group and Tim Burton’s style of weirdness definitely resonated with me in ways that I felt my friends couldn’t understand. Now, Beetlejuice isn’t exactly a brilliant film but it’s a whole lot of fun. It was the first time where I saw horror movie material used for comedy instead. At this point, Tim Burton’s art direction was still very new and exciting and it feels like there were more hits than misses. It didn’t hurt that Delia Dietz was one of my dream girls.

4 Ghostbusters (1984)

Again, a supernatural comedy/adventure movie that took what should have been scary and made it hilarious. The movie took Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis at the height of their careers. Bill Murray is especially on point as a snarky asshole with a heart of gold. Of course, the three hapless scientists (and later also the awesome Winston) are up against a world of ghost trouble and an elder god. The comedy, effects and story still hold up even when a lot of other eighties movies look completely dated (like The Goonies). The movie actually has some tense and scary moments but most of it is really fun. I was two when this came out so I definitely saw it a little later on VHS but in my late teens I finally got to see it in a movie theater.

3 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

I worshipped Indiana Jones when I was a kid. I even got my folks to buy me an official Indiana Jones leather jacket and fedora. Thankfully for everyone involved, they did not buy me a whip because I would probably still be wearing an eyepatch. Indiana Jones was the ultimate hero for me. I was a smart kid but I disliked team sports but I loved being physically active. I could imagine myself swinging through temples and dealing with bad guys while using my brains to sort out ancient mysteries. I also never liked snakes either. I chose the third movie for this list because it is my favorite of the series. To me the movie is immensely helped by the addition of River Phoenix as young Indy and Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr. The first movie feels like it drags a little in places and the second one has an insufferable female lead.

2 The Addams Family (1991)

Just like my early exposure to Tim Burton movies, this movie spoke to not only how different I felt but my desire to be different. It made it ok to “wave my freak flag high” which is what any geeky kid interested in the darker side of fiction probably wanted at the time. I was most taken at the time with young Wednesday Addams (another fictional character I had a crush on). She seems bored with what other people were interested in and had her own passions that she embraced. That’s exactly how I felt. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate one of the best casts any movie has ever had. Raul Julia and Angelica Huston in particular are captivating. It all makes me nostalgic for a television show that I never watched in the first place.

1 Batman (1989)

This was the alpha and omega of my childhood. This is the movie that spawned my interest in comic books which in turn led me to walking several miles to blow my allowance at the local comic book shop. Of course, it didn’t do that right away. Before this, the only Batman I had seen was Adam West who was goofy and looked like he’d have trouble fighting a plastic bag. I didn’t understand that the Batman television show was intentionally awful and that finally somebody had convinced Hollywood to do Batman somewhat seriously. All I understood was that Batman was kicking butt and his costume looked awesome and this was so awesome. I still love the tone, the dialogue, the pacing and the cast on this one. This is the best of the original four Batman movies and set the bar high for Joker portrayals on film. It’s also the only movie on this list that I actually saw in theaters, most of the others I saw on VHS months or years after their release. For that reason and many others, this movie will always be magical to me.

I, Frankenstein

April 10, 2015

I have been a fan of the Frankenstein story since I read it as young kid one summer because it was a classic and all I had ever seen was Young Frankenstein. I wanted the story straight from the horse’s mouth. I was also a big fan of Greek and Roman mythology so the title Prometheus Unbound also grabbed my attention. Frankenstein is a rich tale full of complex thoughts on ethics, morality and the nature and compostion of a man. I expected that I, Frankenstein would be none of these things. I was shockingly wrong.

I went into this movie thinking that it was just going to be an action romp that I would forget almost as soon as it was over. Instead, it was an action romp that followed through with a lot of the themes and thoughts from the original book. Adam Frankenstein is now trying to find a place in a world that fears and despises him and he also gets caught up in a war between good and evil. The character acts believably when confronted with obstacles that you would expect would be thrown at him.

The characters are all written pretty well and with a surprising degree of subtlety given what I thought I was getting myself into. The villains are charming and intelligent which makes sense as they are demons. The female protagonist is a fairly rounded and strong character without being action girl. I wish she had a little more screentime so that we could get a little more insight into her character but this was an action fantasy and they weren’t going to do that. The gargoyles are actually a pretty mercenary lot and make surprising choices. Actually, there were a lot of surprises in this film. Places where the movie turned right when I expected them to go left.

Here’s a few thoughts I had during the movie.

“Wait, this is an almost sequel to the book? Wow.”

Yeah, I was not expecting them to actually recount some of the story from the book. Of course, they change the ending so that Frankenstein’s Creature lives but movies have been doing that for a long time. The ending to Prometheus Unbound was poetic and beautiful in a way but I often wonder what would have happened if the creature lived. What if the creature clung to humanity instead of allowing his creator to debase him into being the expected monster?

“Ok I laughed at the cheap ‘It’s alive!’ callback. Sue me.”

It’s a line that’s been attached to every single depiction of Frankenstein since the book. It kind of had to be thrown in there. It actually comes about pretty naturally and therefore kind of funny.

“He’s fallen in with a militant sect of supermodels.”

The gargoyles are all ridiculously pretty and slathered in baby oil so that everyone has a sheen to their skin. It actually got a little better as the film progressed but  I found it kind of funny in the moment.

“Why is everyone else British?”

Yeah. I know it takes place in England (I guess) but why are all of the supernatural creatures speaking with a British accent? I guess you could explain away the demons who interract with human locals on a day to day basis. The gargoyles tend to have a sort of no contact rule like the Prime Directive in Star Trek so there’s no need to have a local accent. Whatever.

“Microwaving a dead rat isn’t going to bring it back to life. Oh wait, Frankenstein is fantasy not sci-fi.”

I’ve always classified Frankenstein as fantasy even though the word science is all over it like white on rice. However, there’s next to no technobabble and nobody is ever able to explain how he did what he did. It’s more or less treated like magic in countless adaptations and I approve. I’m definitely more a fan of Fantasy than I am of Science Fiction.

I would definitely suggest people see this movie if you’re into urban fantasy and action.

American Sniper

February 4, 2015

I recently saw American Sniper and I have *opinions*.  I have waited half a week to write this down because I did not want to offend.  Let me get this disclaimer out of the way.  I respect our soldiers for laying down their lives to defend our country.  I respect the sacrifice that families of soldiers make and the sacrifices of the soldiers themselves.  In no way will I be trying to offend anyone you know or anyone you don’t know personally but respect and admire.  This is a statement about a Clint Eastwood movie so please stand down.

Chris Kyle was kind of a dick, huh?  At least, that’s how he is portrayed throughout most of the movie.  He answered questions with one or two word answers in a non-committal tone.  He seemed to think violence was the best answer for most situations and he was cocky as hell.   That cockiness leads to irresponsibility in battle and encourages it in his fellow soldiers.  He was a heavily flawed human being whose legend inspired those around him.

I was especially disconcerted when his squad started to appropriate the Punisher logo and plastered it all over their vehicles and body armor.  I’m a huge comic book fan but using the logo of a character who is morally questionable at best for your banner is a huge mistake.  The idea they kind of implied was that they were trying to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.  Well, bullets and drones do that just fine.  Meanwhile, the people they are trying to help (Iraqis mostly) see men riding down the streets armed to the teeth wearing a heavy metal skull painted everywhere.  No wonder they hated us.

Speaking of the natives, Kyle and his cowboy patrol were absolute assholes to Iraqi civilians.  Sure they were walking around with justified paranoia in life threatening situations but they were still assholes and were never corrected or reprimanded.  They roughed unarmed people up and acted like bullies, forgetting that they were the foreign invaders.  They called the locals “Savages” which was horribly offensive and demeaning.  If this movie is to be believed it takes a special “Bro” mentality to be in the armed forces.  They were racist jerks wielding guns around people they openly despised.  It was disconcerting.

They took a real story and invented an evil sniper so that Kyle had somebody to fight and defeat so he could be a hero.  They did not realize that they already had a villain in the movie even if they took out Mustafa.  The real villain in the movie is post traumatic stress disorder.  The old cliche says that war is hell and it holds true in this movie (and most likely in real life as well).  There is a very realistic portrayal of PTSD in the film and I hope that it is a real eye opener for people.  That this alpha male “bro” could be reduced to tears by trauma is a powerful statement.  Coming back from the brink Chris Kyle is able to become a much better person.  It’s really touching to watch.

Overall the movie is interesting to watch although I hesitate to call it fun.  The humor is not really funny nor do I think it is intended to be funny.  A lot of the people are unlikeable but a few of them are redeemed by the end which is a central theme in Clint Eastwood’s work.  I mean, just look at Gran Torino.  I would classify the movie as uncomfortable.  The action in the movie is adrenaline filled and really got my heart pumping and the resolution was touching and thought provoking.  Bradley Cooper also turned in an amazing performance that I didn’t think he had in him with all of the comedy he does.  I would suggest seeing it.

Now, enough with the thoughtful stuff. Bring on the fake baby.  That was hilariously bad in what should have been a very powerful scene.  Unfortunately it brought me right out of the movie for a few minutes and I had to fight not to laugh.

A Blade Restrospective

January 22, 2015

Hello and welcome to the Blade retrospective where I talk about the Blade movies since I got the whole set cheap at Walmart.  I love buying cheap DVDs from Walmart and Target to add to my geeky movie collection.  I think that overall the Blade movies are good but don’t hold up to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

All of the films are written by David S. Goyer who is very hit and miss as a writer.   He is responsible for good stuff like all three Nolanverse Batman movies, Dark City, the Constantine tv series and Jumper.  However he also is responsible for the awful FlashForward series, Nick Fury tv movie and Man of Steel.  He definitely has his faults but is just as capable of putting out decent stuff as he is of putting out crap.  There is no consistent director so all three films have different tones and visuals.

Let’s start reviewing the Blade movies.


Blade

The first movie is pretty good.  Wesley Snipes is absolutely the best casting choice anybody could have made.  He has the ability to be stoic while having the charisma to deliver a one-liner or two.  He actually does a decent job with a few emotional moments as well.  Kris Kristofferson is amazing as the gruff but loveable Whistler.  Stephen Dorff is Stephen Dorff, a villain you want to punch in the face forever which is actually a good thing here.  Rounding out the main cast is Donal Logue who I am actually a huge fan of.

The fight sequences are the highlight throughout which makes a lot of sense when you consider that Snipes knows martial arts.  The rest of the movie is pretty formulaic but that’s just fine with me.  There are plenty of cliches and corny bits but I found them fun and not yet tired.  Overall I recommend the movie if you like action and cool effects.


Blade II

The best Blade movie ever and not only because it was directed by Guillermo del Toro.  This time around they actually saw fit to develop the characters more.  They also went for a much creepier mood which fits a story about a vampire hunter teaming up with vampires to fight the next stage of evolution.  We get Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson returning and turning in even better performances.  Leading a cast of relative unknowns is awesome character actor Ron Perlman who is awesome.

As with any del Toro venture, this one is loaded with awesome visuals and dark storytelling.  However, the a lot of the cool fighting is still there as well.  This movie has more substance but it does have a few third act problems.  Since the movie was del Toro experimenting and proving that he could helm a Hellboy movie that makes some sense.  It still holds together better than the first one which was a bare bones action/horror/comic book film. Again, I recommend this film.


Blade Trinity

A lot of people did not seem to like this movie and, to be fair, I can see why.  After Blade II, Trinity is way too light with a change in cinematography and more jokes.  There is a distinct absence of Kris Kristofferson but we get Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds instead.  Then you add in four named villains.  One of them is played by Hunter Hearst Helmsley of WWE fame.  With all of this going on you could accuse the movie of having too big a cast but it’s only slightly bigger than Blade II.  Snipes seems to be barely trying which makes sense as he was upset and feuding with the screenwriter during production.

There seem to be less fight scenes due to the limitations of Biel and Reynolds and spreading the attention between the three leads.  Instead of fight scenes we get more action sequences and more ranged weapons.  I don’t see this as a huge problem but it does kind of stray from the meat of the first two movies.  Overall I would say that Trinity is not as bad as people think.  I think it follows the spirit of the first movie.  Reynolds is actually pretty funny and there’s plenty of vampire killing action.  While the movie feels lighter there are definitely some darker moments that seem edgier than the first movie. You know what?  I recommend this one too.

So that’s the Blade movies…  Wait, what?  A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES!?

3 out of 4 ain't bad
Blade IV: House of Chthon

Yes there was technically a fourth blade movie.  I was intrigued when I first bought the DVD and wondered why I never knew about this.  I usually keep abreast of comic book news.  I knew about the Blade anime series (which is decent) but I didn’t know about this.  It turns out this was the pilot for a Blade series that went 12 episodes.  It was on Spike TV which is the first nail in its coffin being on what is basically the Cops network.  I struggled through this movie because I apparently hate myself.  It was poorly paced and passionless throughout most of it.

The series includes Blade who is now played by a man named Sticky Fingaz who acts like LL Cool J doing his best Wesley Snipes impression.  Though, for a series supposedly about Blade, there is a distinct lack of Blade actually doing anything.  Instead we spend most of the “movie” following the female protagonist, Krista, trying to investigate the death of her brother and stumbling upon the existence of vampires.  Blade pops up now and then to kill a few vampires but is otherwise laughably ineffectual.  Eventually stuff actually happens and Krista gets captured and transformed into a vampire.  In the end, Blade and Krista seem to make an agreement to use Krista as an undercover agent inside the House of Chthon.  I yawn and I am grateful that the movie is over.

I have two words for you as advice concerning this movie:  Stay away.  It probably had potential considering the relative success of Dusk Till Dawn: The TV Series and Fargo: The TV series.  The pacing and acting are horrible and they probably decided to save all of the exposition for a later episode.  The writing is muddled and they save a good concept for the last twenty minutes after boring you for over an hour and 10 minutes.  All I know is that I don’t want to hear anybody badmouth Blade Trinity after watching that.

The Woman in Black (2012)

October 21, 2014


I recently watched The Woman in Black.  I actually started my usual method of riffing comments as they pop into my head but that plan died about three minutes in.  I’m not saying that this movie is unriffable but it just seemed wrong after a while.  This movie was too well done to really make fun of.  I was actually really looking forward to seeing this movie because way back in the day I actually designed lights, sound and helped build the set for a stage production of The Woman in Black.  (Most long time readers won’t remember this)

I realized that I never really talked about the rest of that experience.  Like any writer/artist I shudder when I look back at my old stuff and that was a full six years ago.  I was having a lot of fun playing with a new digital camera and I was genuinely impressed with what we were doing.  I continued to work on the show and it was an amazing production even if I was usually pretty frazzled back when I worked at Tri-State Actors Theater.

The show was very intense work and I fell into my usual ten to thirteen hour work days followed by sleeping late.   I built sets and hung and pointed lights in the late morning until the evenings.  The set was pretty much just a giant false proscenium with a black scrim stretched across it.  The structure was mammoth and it took three people to rig it to the ceiling with the cable and fittings we had picked.   The lighting was dark and subtle and a great fit for a dark, gloomy horror story.  I was really proud of all of that work because I had never done any work in horror before.

These long days originally left me doing all of the sound work in the middle of the night in my tiny, cold room that I rented in the back of a framing shop.  In retrospect, I probably should have seen a lot of parallels between my late night, solitary work and the work Arthur Kipps was doing.  Eventually, doing this work at night started to take its toll.  Finding horrible recordings and building sound cues like “Horse and Child Drowning in Swamp” in the middle of the night started to make me a little crazy.  I had to switch to doing the sound work in the morning and do the lighting work late at night instead.  My psyche thanked me for it.  Eventually we built a rich soundscape and true horror includes plenty of sound cues.

So after all of that, how did the movie stack up?  I really liked it.  Daniel Radcliffe plays a complex version of Arthur Kipps and gets a lot of mileage with very little dialogue.  He has come leaps and bounds from his time in Dumbledore’s Army and has really grown up.   The rest of the cast is spot on with a special nod to Ciaran Hinds who gives an especially moving performance.  The voice overs for the title character were well done and held the right amount of grief to the point of insanity.

The story is a rough one to get through and I forgot how much it terrified me.  I would warn those who are parents that any version of this story is going to be especially rough on you.  The terror is mixed so much with tragedy, sympathy and deep, dark emotions related to being a parent.  Themes include untimely death, revenge, grief, guilt, isolation and depression which are all incredibly heavy.  The story is told in a straight forward manner in the movie with very little actual dialogue.  The stage version has a framing device which actually adds a terrifying little twist but the story can do without it.

A little ways into the film I thought there was going to be too many jump scares and not enough real horror.  Jump scares are nice for startling the audience and jangling their nerves but it is startling, not terrifying.  The jump scares in this film are far more psychological and logical and pretty much none of them are the standard “Cat Scare” which have become so overdone in horror.  The movie can actually be really relentless and my heart was pounding pretty hard in parts.  The filmmakers obviously took a lot of care to go for a more literary horror than we’ve seen in bad horror movies in the past.  Hooking us like fish, ratcheting up the tension and letting us go and then reeling us back into terror until finally we realize there’s no escape.

One of the things that I liked so much about the movie was the attention to detail.  The production design was very intricate and most of the effects seemed to be practical instead of digital.  I am not putting down CGI effects because a bad practical special effect can look just as hokey as a bad CGI one.  This movie blended everything together pretty seamlessly but, as I well know, it can be easier to cover up flaws in the dark.

I would freely recommend this movie to anyone and everyone who enjoys horror movies and does not have a heart condition.   I don’t know what I want to review next but it probably won’t be Victorian Horror.  Probably.

Skyfall

August 19, 2014

I finally sat down and watched Skyfall.  I wrote thoughts down as I watched the movie and I’ll share them with you.  Fair warning: I am probably going to spoil a lot.  Maybe.  Wait a second, I’m reading ahead.  Yep.  Sufficiently spoiled.  You have been warned but this is why I tend to review movies that have been out for a few years.  That and I’m often behind on seeing things since I always have a long list of things I want to watch.

First, a few words on James Bond.  I grew up with James Bond movies.  I  haven’t seen them all but there’s twenty of them so I think I can be forgiven.  Octopussy came out when I was one but the first Bond film I saw was From Russia With Love.  I loved it and I loved all of the older Bond films that I saw.  When Golden Eye came out, I embraced Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond.  Golden Eye is really fun and brought Bond into the Information Age.  Unfortunately his other three films got progressively worse.  It felt like the same decline from Burton’s Batman to Schumacher’s Batman.  I think Casino Royale can be seen as equivalent to Batman Begins.  They rebuilt the franchise from the ground up and fixed a lot of what had gone wrong in tone.

Anyway, let’s get to my random comments.

“Three minutes in and… Holy Shit that’s an awesome gun.  A little silly but hell, I want to shoot one.”

The henchman that Bond was chasing had a full automatic handgun.  Like Elliott Spencer, I hate the existence of guns but unlike Elliott I kind of love to shoot them in a shooting range.  It’s hard to explain how a person sworn to non-violence could come to love shooting a gun.  I guess it goes back to riflery classes in summer camp.  It’s also the same visceral feeling I get from shooting my bow.  Besides, an inanimate target doesn’t count.

“… Roll end credits.”

Having the main character get shot by a sniper before the opening title is pretty startling.  Everybody immediately writes him off even though he has survived horrible torture and danger in two previous movies.  It makes sense but it ends up being ridiculous later.

“Oh shit, I forgot Adele sings the theme. Mute.”

It should be clear here that I do not like Adele’s music.  I generally don’t like slow ballads at all and she does poppy ballads that were overplayed on the radio.  My patience got worn out pretty quickly.  I did mute the title sequence but I did enjoy the imagery.  It’s always a fun, trippy sequence that leaves lasting symbols usually in my sub-conscious since my conscious mind seems to forget it as soon as it’s done.

“Why are all movie hackers prone to creating goofy animations and/or video packages?”

I’m not a computer expert by far.  I’m above average for the people I know but definitely below my IT expert friends.  However, I am an animation aficionado and an artist.  Movie hackers always seem to attach some flash animation to taunt their target.  It seems kind of petty actually but I suppose that’s the point.  For reference see Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Hackers

“Wow drinking games just got Nintendo hard.”

The scorpion drinking game was impressive.  At least, I hope it was a drinking game.  It shows how bad-ass Bond is but also shows how far down the hole he has gone.  It’s a pretty simple way of showing us in a few seconds how unstable the man has become.  Of course, justifiably feeling betrayed by the country you gave your life to can shake your worldview and mental health as well.  ‘Nintendo Hard’ is a term referring to how impossibly difficult old NES games were.  See games like Ghosts and Goblins and Contra and broken TV sets across the country.

“I love you Judi Dench. You earn that paycheck.”

She really does.  She’s been excellent in these three Bond films. I’m also paraphrasing a joke made regularly by Cinema Sins.  I am a horrible thief sometimes.  I blame my training at Rutgers.

“Um. Why is he briefing Bond as he’s taking his tests?  What if he fails the last one? Then they have to kill him?”

This struck me as weird.  Sure they all expect Bond to pass his tests and this to save time but what if he doesn’t?  Also, he doesn’t pass the tests.  He only gets reinstated because he’s Bond.  It becomes clear pretty quickly that he is not passing the tests.  Shut up about national secrets until he’s reinstated already.

“Don’t cock it up is probably what all new directors of James Bond movies are told.  You cocked it up Lee Tamahori.”

I could not resist an admittedly cheap shot at the director of Die Another Day.  Pierce Brosnan started off as a good Bond but they cheesed up the whole thing.  The movies kind of ran together for me.  As somebody who prides himself as being able to remember plots and characters with high accuracy this is troubling to me.  It means something when I can’t sort out the Bond films between Golden Eye and Casino Royale.  A few scenes later and Q basically explains why the Craig bond films are better than the Brosnan ones.

“Sexy mood lighting is go.”

The lighting and cinematography in this movie are really good.  You can see everything when you need to see it  and there are a lot of very pretty yet understated shots.  The scene in question in particular was incredibly intimate with darkness punctuated by neon signs.  It was just confusing enough to convey how confusing the room was for Bond.

“Wait, go back.  Why are we in floating lantern world? Oh for gambling.  OK I’m caught up.  Spy shit going on with the casino chip. Cool.”

I legitimately got lost here for a minute or two because Craig’s Bond doesn’t have a lot of dialogue to explain things.  I’m fine with it, it just took me a bit to catch up.  I probably got distracted too.

“Hi, I go around announcing my real name to everyone.  I’m the best secret agent ever.”

I always thought it was kind of weird that James Bond casually tosses his name everywhere he goes.  Even if it’s not his real name, he uses the same alias everywhere he goes.  He almost never uses a fake name when introducing himself.  It seems a little overconfident.

“I kind of like intense Raccoon Lady.”

The quasi-villainess, ‘Bond Girl’ whose name passed me by was really quite good.  I called her Raccoon Lady because of the heavy eye-makeup she wore.  She was intense and confident and fairly well-rounded for a Bond Girl.  She doesn’t stick around too long but she was fun while she lasted.

“Surprise, I’m in your shower and that’s not my gun poking you.”

If anybody besides Bond slipped into a lady’s shower fully naked, they would be kneed in the crotch and in handcuffs so fast.  Of course, here she could have had him shot in international waters.

“Hello, Javier Bardem, I forgot you were in this.  It’s weird to hear you speak but you seem cool.”

He really makes this movie.  I refer to his silent and brilliant role in No Country for Old Men which is the only other movie I’ve seen him in.  According to IMDB he was in Collateral but he wasn’t memorable.  He is funny, creepy and almost so intelligent that you find yourself agreeing with him during his first few scenes.  He reminded me of Ricardo Montalban in Wrath of Khan.   He was an epic, intelligent and batshit insane villain.

“Nope. Nope.  This whole thing has a Phillip Seymour Hoffman in MI:3 vibe to it.”

I was right.

“Hopefully Q will get smarter.”

He would probably be the first to agree that he makes a boneheaded play here.  At least for somebody who’s supposed to be as brilliant as he is supposed to be.

“Oh did I forget to comment for awhile?  This movie must be really good.”

At some point I got completely sucked into the film.  Journeying to the Bond estate in Scotland was excellent.  I want to learn more about their family but we know how much that is a whole set of scars for Bond.  He might not be talking about it anytime soon.  The movie just continues to be great and ends perfectly.  This might not have been one of my favorite movies but this was one of the better Bond films.

In Defense of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

July 31, 2014

The first 20 minutes or so of this movie are pure gold.  I don’t even have to defend that part but I will trumpet them because I love low-hanging fruit.  Besides, at the beginning is usually the best place to start.  We begin with the origin story of young James Howlett and Victor Creed.  We learn that Victor and James are brothers which is an interesting twist on what we have seen in the comic books.  It definitely sets up complication within their later adversarial relationship.

Anyway, the first scene is followed by a great title sequence where we see James and Victor fighting in several wars through history in the United States Army (and earlier incarnations of it).  I liked the idea of the two of them being warriors because they’re the best at what they do and what they do is fighting.  It clearly and quickly paints a picture of the two of them as a brothers and teammates.  With no dialogue and brilliant facial expressions and editing, we get the entire big picture between these two characters.

This is followed by meeting Team X, a team pretty much comprised of characters ripped from the comic books.

They threw in Fred Dukes but he really works especially the way that Kevin Durand plays him in a more military setting.  He comes off as a meat and potatoes kind of guy who lacks fear due to having indestructible skin.  When he reappears he is fat, hard to move, hard to hurt and operates on a more mercenary mentality.

Zero is played by Daniel Henney and does a great job.  Not much to say here as he is a loyal government soldier who seems emotionless at first but it turns out their are subtle touches here and there that betray him as an actual human being.

Will.i.am plays John Wraith which I didn’t even realize until I looked it up just now.  He does a good job for somebody who probably has fifteen lines in the whole movie.  He especially does a good job considering that rappers are notoriously bad actors.

Dominic Monaghan plays Chris Bradley and is actually really a fun character.  He’s a little sad and a little mischievous and he comes off great in the movie.  Unfortunately he is so under utilized that he either needed a bigger part or needed to be taken out.  I love his first scene in the carnival.  It’s one of the highlights of the movie.

Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson is very much how I imagine a proto-Deadpool on film.  He constantly ran his mouth in an amusing fashion and believably kicked ass.   My problems come later when he gets his mouth sewn shut and gains everybody’s superpower.  I’m all for throwing out an original idea and taking a left turn from the comics sometimes.  What they did was take a character who has “talkative wise-ass” as a main trait and then turned him into a cold and unfeeling character.  They definitely would have done better to put the wackier Deadpool onscreen and just trick him into being the bad guy somehow.  I’m looking forward to them giving this a second chance in the rumored Ryan Reynolds Deadpool movie.

Danny Huston’s William Stryker is a great take on the character.  Obviously Brian Cox was too old to play a young William Stryker.  Huston plays Stryker with ambition while Cox plays him with smoldering hatred.  Both are valid and the events of this movie show a lot of how the character makes that change.

Liev Shreiber is awesome as Sabertooth.  He really captures the dangerous arrogance that I always saw in the character.  He is really fun to watch in the role, especially in confrontations with Wolverine.  It’s unfortunate that they cast Tyler Mane as Sabertooth in X-Men.  He had the basic look of the comic book version but either did not have the acting chops or simply was not written as knowing Wolverine from before.  I love pro-wrestlers but he should never have been cast in the role.  Shreiber brings more fun and more depth to the character.

Lynn Collins is good as Kayla and I loved the back and forth between her and Wolvie.  This is pretty much straight out of the comics and they couldn’t have done better with her.  It did not hurt that Hugh Jackman seemed to bring out the best in her portrayal.

Which brings us to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.  He was excellent but he is always excellent as Wolverine.  There is a reason they keep building the X-Franchise around the guy.  I don’t care that he’s too tall or whatever because he is entertaining.  He’s funny, believable as an action star and has the acting chops to pull off drama.  Period.

There’s a lot of little cameos and supporting roles in the movie.  None of them are awful.  They could have trimmed it down a little because we don’t get to spend much time with people who look interesting.  That goes for the main cast as well (minus Wolvie and Sabertooth).  They could have taken a breath now and then or just cut the cast down a bit to give each more screen time.  I’m especially talking about Gambit because he’s a real fan-favorite and there was a lot there to like but it was very brief especially considering he only shows up at the end of the second act and the end of the third.

Now that this is entirely too long, I will talk about what I don’t like.  Weapon XI is interesting but not as interesting as following the comic more closely.  Deadpool sells a lot of comics and they should have trusted that.  The plot meanders a lot in the third act.  I’m especially troubled about the movie being unclear about which side Victor is on constantly.  We lose a lot of momentum in the third act which makes me want to get up and grab something to eat.  And lastly they kill too many characters that could have been fun to use later.  The good news?  They have hand waved a lot of this movie’s plot away already so we can conceivably see some characters again.

I still give this movie a higher grade than most reviewers gave it.  It’s still fun and still has a decent story to tell.


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