Best Show You Don't Know About

Best Show You Don't Know About
Leverage

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Movies numbers 123- 105

Although this list does rank the films that I saw this year, and I critique them, I want everyone to know that I still enjoyed every single movie that I saw this year on some level. If it is a movie and I am watching it, I am enjoying it.

In making this list, I have created 7 categories in which I placed the films. To try to ensure that my placement in the categories was correct, I went through and made sure that, as I rose through the levels, I would generally rather watch a film from level 3 before I watched one from Level 4, and so on. Then, in each level, I ranked them again, so that, generally speaking, I would rather watch number 105 than 1-8 and so on.

The only time that I did not follow this ranking is in my section of 'Pure Entertainment'. These are generally action films and these are ranked in chronological order. Since my dad was a cop, I grew up watching cop shows and they are generally like "comfort food" to me and I can watch them at any time and I am almost always much more lenient on these types of films than I should be- that's why they get their own section.

It was 13 years ago, while watching 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' that I realized that, in order to consider something really good and solid that I had to care or that it had to really touch me in some way. The films which are lower on my list are there, more often than not, because, at the end of the film, I didn't really care about the characters or the story told, and I was able to walk out of the theater and not really think much more about the story and the characters and it was only the technical maiking of the film that kept going through my head.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, I am starting to realize that the films that make the top of my list are ones where I do honestly care about the story or characters, where I am transported into the film and forget everything for 2 hours, or films that have deep connective ties to me.
I will admit, right now, that the films that are at the very top of my list this year are ones that, even though I see flaws in them, they touched me and struck a deep chord somewhere in me. These chords include cancer, family, fathers, and creatvity.
In fact, to give a bit of a tease, my favorite film of the year is actually one that had no real storytelling surprises at all, but it featured 4 actors at the top of their craft making a heartfelt film that had me laughing or crying the entire 90 minute running time the first time I saw it and, while I did not quite do the same the second time that I saw it, I still laughed a lot and got very teary.

Anyway, that is for a different post. Here, to start off the list are my least favorite films that I saw this year.

Bottom of the Barrel-

123- The Host- I am not a Stephanie Meyers hater who automatically hates it just because she is behind it. While I do think the Twilight films were bad, they had certain actors and moments that stopped them from being the absolute worst and, conceptually, I have heard of storylines that are much worse (a high school cheerleader who is also a vampire slayer). The Host, however, even though it has a great cast and a concept that is not necessarily a bad concept, should have stayed on the page. The actors do what they can, but they can’t save it. Having a voice over done by the voices in the main girl’s head doesn’t work, a love quadrangle with 2 minds in one female body and 2 separate boys is laughable, sets look chintzy…the list goes on. It ended up just being a very very bad film and not working on any level.


Good moments, good cast, but large disappointments

122- Diana- Naomi Watts does a great job in playing “The People’s Princess” in this film look at the last 3 years of Diana’s life, but, had I not lived through the actual events, I wouldn’t have cared at all about anything that happens. It is boring, plotless, and gives nothing more than a glance behind the fa├žade. Very, very disappointing.

121- Book Thief- While I know that many people are loving this film, both of an older generation and younger, I found this film very boring and pointless. Whena main plotline is about the hiding of a Jew in a basement in Nazi Germany and absolutely nothing comes of it either plotwise or characterwise, it is a very misguided film. Story points are brought up and dropped, never to be heard from again, characters make random decisions that do not have any point, things happen for no reason, and again, the list goes on and on. Only the acting by Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and the main character played by Sophie Nelisse and the mjusic score by John Willliams make this even worth watching.

120- Last Exorcism 2- I really enjoyed the first film and found it both fascinating and terrifying. There is almost none of that here. Only Ashley Bell’s lead performance keeps this one on the tracks. I like the darkness of where they were trying to go, but it just didn’t work.

119- To Do List- While the cast is amazing, absolutely nothing of any interest really happens in this film. It feels like a generic 80’s sex comedy that was barely released and only Clark Gregg and Connie Britton as Aubrey Plaza’s parents make any impact. No laughs cripple a comedy.

118- Counsellor- While I love the darkness and bleakness of this film, I just didn’t care. I liked some of the monologues, but at the end of the day, I did not feel any of the stakes for any of the characters, some of the acting was bland, other acting was flat-out bad, some scenes were ridiculous in a bad way- this is showing up on Top 10 and Bottom 10 lists this year and for me, it is on the bottom.

117- RIPD- Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, mary Louise Parker and Kevin Bacon are all game, but this film is a pale imitation of Men in Black. Only a few silly quips keep it from the bottom.

116- Dead Man Down- Dripping with mood and good acting, but with a pace that is plodding and a plot that is uninteresting, this Colin Farrell-starrer was easily forgotten upon leaving the theater.

115- Rapture-Palooza- A few random laughs and a great comedic cast with impeccable timing (Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Ana Gasteyer, Thomas Lennon, John Francis Daley) does not save this misfire about a woman who, after the rapture, is coerced into getting intimate with the Anti-Christ so that she can trick him and imprison him for a thousand years. Too much emphasis on the crude jokes while the actually funny bits are few and far between. Oh, and Anna Kendrick looks great in the white dress.

114- Hangover 3- I really admire the fact that the filmmakers took this film in a different direction (as opposed to Hangover 2) and make 3 more of an action film. Unfortunately, very little of it works. Bradley Cooper having to climb down the outside of Caesar’s Palace and Chow’s parachuting down the strip are highlights, as is a quick reunion with Heather Graham’s hooker from the first film adds a touching couple of scenes, but otherwise, again, why bother (?) and very forgettable.

113- Machete Kills- I knew that I was going into a complete piece of trash filmmaking- which I got- however, as opposed to the original film, it isn’t much fun. Until the last 30 minutes or so of the 2 hour running time. Then the film springs to life with all the gloriously bad, cheesy plotpoints connect and it almost redeems itself. Almost. By that point, though, the film has overstayed its welcome (see: The Lone Ranger) I am srtill excited to see Machete Kills Again…. In Space.

112- Pulling Strings- In what is basically an extended Three’s Company setup, a mariachi band member helps a Consulate worker who just denied him his US Visa find a computer that she thinks was lost but is actually safely at his apartment in exchange for receiving a Visa. I laughed only once in this two hour long romantic “comedy” and while definitely not a chore to sit through, the script meanders way too much and the chemistry between the leads is non-existent.

111- Hobbit- Desolation of Smaug- I have not really been a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, nor the previous Hobbit film. However, the more that I thought about this film, the more I disliked it. Other than Evangeline Lilly, the barrel/ river chase, and the Dolby Atmos sound, I disliked this movie. The Hobbit was barely in it except for the last 40 minutes or so, it belabored plot points and… Every. Single Thing. That. Each. Character. Says. Is. Of. The. Utmost. Importance. The action was not fun nor was it exciting, the characters were boring, Gandalf is off on his own adventure through most of the running time watching the menace of Sauron buld (which is absolutely non-essential to this story),and Smaug was not menacing. Also, apparently in a world that has Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs, cats and pigs are alive and well. It feels as though the film is struggling to give the audience more of what it loved in the original trilogy and this time, you see the film’s own flop sweat. CGI still looks like CGI. The best thing of this film? I only have about 3 more hours to spend in middle earth.

110- Jobs- Steve Jobs is a fascinating individual. He pushed technology further than anyone expected it could go. He was a perfectionist. And a world class jerk. That is basically what I got out of this film about Steve Jobs. I have not read his biography nor do I know everything about him and his associates. This film introduces names that I know but does not give me much reason to care. It jumps back and forth in time for the opening 20 minutes. His wife is only onscreen when he can yell at her. Characters are introduced and then forgotten until it is time for Jobs to betray them or for them to betray Jobs. While the acting is the only thing going for this film, it makes it worth it, but it never really scratches anything more than the surface and gives us anything other than: Jobs was a genius, Jobs was a jerk sequences.

109- Beautiful Creatures- While not unwatchable, there is also nothing really noteworthy about this adaptation of the first in a series of young adult novels trying to be the next Twilight. The production is competent, the acting is good, but again, nothing connected with me in the story or the characters. Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons are always welcome to watch, but even they can’t save this film.

108- Paranoia- Paranoia is actually only a plotpoint for about 5 minutes of this film. This is one of the most bland films made this year. Characters aren’t really characters in this film, they are chess pieces and they make moves and decisions only to get them to certain places in the plot- nothing seems natural or plausible. Gary Oldman chews the scenery and ignites his scenes. Harrison Ford doesn’t even appear until about the 40 minute mark and only has a few scenes. The real killer of this film is the non-relationship between its leads Liam hemsworth and Amber Heard, both of whom I have liked in other films, but do nothing but recite dialogue here. Even though the plot is silly now ( a phone which has lots of capabilities) it could have been overshadowed by gutsy directorial decisions and a tighter script. This is a real disappointment.

107- Butler- Forest Whitaker is amazing. Let me repeat that- Forest Whittaker is amazing. Otherwise, this is a horrible white-guilt crowd pleaser meant to make white people feel good about themselves because now we have a black President. This takes a fascinating true story and morphs it into a horrible Forrest Gump like film where the titular butler’s son is involved in every single important piece of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s. because the Presidents speak to The Butler, they make decisions leading to the laws giving Civil Rights across the board. Oprah Winfrey is along for the ride and co-stars as The Butler’s wife who hates him for the first half of the film and admires him for the second half with no turning point other than it was written in the script. Some of the cameos are great but for every good moment in this film, there is an awful, cringe-inducing moment. I hope that this wons no Academy Awards, especially for Oprah, and that, if any black film wins awards, it should be 12 Years a Slave, a much, much more well-made film.

106- Man of Steel- Another film that makes a really awful choice for every awesome choice. I like a lot of man of Steel. Cavill is great, Amy Adams is an actual Lois Lane that I believe is an award winning journalist, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner bring the heart to Clark’s yearning for home and family and Michael Shannon is an evil bad guy with motives I understand and sympathize with. I like the “hero who disappears” angle along with the parts of the military not knowing if Superman is a threat or not. Unfortunately, I realized that I just don’t care about Superman’s backstory and Krypton. I never have. Thus, seeing it again and continuing to discuss it bored me out of my mind. Also, the last 45 minutes or so can be summed up like this- IHOP- punch, punch, punch, punch punch, punch, Sears, I throw you through a building, you throw me through a building, bad CGI, bad CGI, punch, punch, punch, punch, punch, punch. Way too long, drawn out and boring. I am more excited for the sequel than I am in ever watching this again.

105- Bullet to the Head- Sylvester Stallone returns as a mobster who has to work with a cop to find who killed their respective partners, all helped out by Sarah Shahi as Stallone’s tattoo artist daughter. This is a very non-descript action film with a fun, exciting climax. I have become a Shahi fan this year after watching the TV show ‘Life’ and she adds some much needed spark, but nowhere near enough. Otherwise, nothing here.

Total List of everything watched in 2013

Here is a list of everything that I have watched for the first time during 2013. I have decided to keep it to first time watches because, if I have seen something before, I may watch it while I fold laundry and only watch a specific 20 minutes or so. I figured this was just the easiest way to do it as, if I have not seen it before, I will push through and finish it as opposed to the half-watche or clips or listing Raiders of the Lost Ark 13 more times. I have notated if I watched a specific film more than once this year as well.

This list includes a total of 178 films watched this year- 155 individual new films watched- along with 5 seasons of half hour long tv shows and 23 seasons of hour long TV shows.

Here it is, my list of everyhing new watched in 2013:

Previous Years’ films


Big Red One
Code of Silence
Extract
Goon- 2x
Green Berets
Harper
Just Go With It- 2x
Rocky Balboa
To Catch a Thief
Trick or Treat- 1986
Visiting Hours
Warning Shot


Watching Currently




TV Series

Big Bang Theory Ssn 5
Body of Proof Ssn 2
Body of Proof Ssn 3
Castle Ssn 4
Community Ssn 4
Covert Affairs Ssn 2
CSI Miami Ssn 10
CSI NY Ssn 8
CSI NY Ssn 9
CSI Vegas Ssn 12
CSI Vegas Ssn 13
Dollhouse Ssn 1
Fairly Legal Ssn 1
Fairly Legal Ssn 2
Good Wife Ssn 2
Hart to Hart Ssn 1
House of Lies Ssn 1
Law & Order LA Complete series
Life Ssn 1
Life Ssn 2
Mentalist Ssn 2
Mentalist Ssn 3
Mentalist Ssn 4
Newsroom Ssn 1
Party Down Ssn 1
Rizzoli & Isles Ssn 3
Psych Ssn 6
Suburgatory Ssn 1


2012 films

Les Miserables- 2x
Jack Reacher
Life of Pi
Lay the favorite
The Hobbit
Zero Dark Thirty
The Impossible
Django unchained
Wreck It ralph- 2x
Hitchcock
VHS
Beasts of Southern Wild
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Seven Psychopaths
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Collection
Fun Size
Hit & Run
Man with the Iron Fists
Dredd


2013 Films


1-Texas Chainsaw 3D
2- Hansel & Gretel Witch hunters
3- Warm Bodies
4- Good day to Die Hard
5- Snitch
6- Dark Skies- 2x
7- Jack the Giant Slayer
8- Last Exorcism Part 2
9- Oz- Great & Powerful
10- Dead Man Down
11- Incredible Burt Wonderstone
12- The Call
13- Croods
14- Gi Joe- Retaliation- 2x
15- Olympus Has Fallen
16- The Host
17- Jurassic Park 3D- 2x
18- 42
19- Spring Breakers
20- Trance
21- Evil Dead
22- Oblivion
23- Iron Man 3
24. Star Trek Into Darkness- 3x
25- The Last Stand- 2x
26- Hangover Part 3
27- Now You See Me- 3x
28- Fast & Furious 6
29- Gangster Squad
30- Man of Steel
31- World War Z- 2x
32- Monsters University
33- This is the End
34- The Heat- 2x
35- Bling Ring
36- White House Down- 2x
37- Lone Ranger
38- Kevin Hart- Let Me Explain
39- Pacific Rim
40- RED 2
41- RIPD
42- Way, Way Back- 3x
43- To-Do List
44- Unfinished Song- 2x
45- Conjuring- 2x
46- Wolverine
47- 2 Guns
48- Percy Jackson- Sea of Monsters
49- We’re the Millers
50- Kick Ass 2
51- Paranoia
52- Elysium
53- Mortal Instruments- City of Bones
54- The World’s End- 3x
55- Closed Circuit
56- Jobs
57- Getaway
58- Spectacular Now
59- Riddick
60- You’re Next
61- Despicable Me 2
62- Butler
63- The Family
64- Instructions Not Included
65- Room 237
66- Bullet to the Head
67- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
68- Baggage Claim
69- Thanks for Sharing
70- Prisoners
71- Rush
72- Runner Runner
73- Don Jon
74- Insidious Chapter 2
75- Gravity
76- Saratov Approach
77- Pulling Strings
78- Crystal Lake Memories
79- Captain Phillips
80- Machete Kills
81- Enough Said
82- Hatchet 3
83- Carrie
84- Escape Plan
85- Last Vegas
86- Ender’s Game
87- All is Lost
88- Counselor
89- Thor Dark World
90- About Time
91- Diana
92- 12 Years a Slave
93- Dallas Buyers Club
94- Delivery Man
95- Hunger Games: Catching Fire
96- Frozen- 2x
97- Homefront
98- Philomena- 2x
99- Out of the Furnace
100- Drew- the Man Behind the Poster
101- Book Thief
102- Black Nativity
103- Rapture-Palooza
104- Company You Keep
105- Drinking Buddies
106- Anchorman 2
107- Hobbit- Desolation of Smaug
108- American Hustle
109- Saving Mr. Banks
110- Pain & Gain
111- Parker
112- Secret Life of Walter Mitty
113- Wolf of Wall Street
114- Epic
115- 47 Ronin
116- Mama
117- Byzantium
118- Behind the Candelabra
119- Grudge Match
120- Broken City
121- Great Gatsby
122- Beautiful Creatures
123- Mud

Friday, November 22, 2013

A few hints as you go to the movie theater

I have now been working at the box office of a movie theater for a little over a year. During that time, I have weathered all of the holidays once and the opening weekends (and usually the Thursday night premieres) of films such as Skyfall, Breaking Dawn Part 2, Life of Pi, Hobbit, Les Miserables, Iron man 3, Despicable me 2, Fast & the Furious 6, Instructions Not Included (a huge film for my theater) and many more. Here are just a few tips as you go to the theater this weekend, next weekend, during the holiday season, whenever, to make it easier for both you and the person who is helping you at the register.
The movie theater should be a place of enjoyment for all of those people involved. While I understand that sometimes there are issues that are beyond the control of the customer, more often than not, if mutual respect is shown for the employees of the theater and for the other guests as well (an this goes for both sides of the counter), a theatrical experience can be mostly stress free for all involved.

What this all boils down to is: please use common sense.


1- Please do not come up and yell at us that "our website said such and such". I check our website every day that I am working so that I know exactly what it says and what it doesn't say. With very few exceptions, the problems are almost always user error.
1a-Last night, for example, we had a 5 pm showing of the original Hunger Games and then our showings of Catching Fire started at 8pm. We had about 20 people buy tickets to the original, thinking that they were seeing the sequel earlier than anyone else. It was far from a packed showing, but, after the movie started, they came out and wanted a refund and every single one said, "Your website did not say it was the original". While it is true that it did not specifically say "The original Hunger Games", our website only had the one showtime for it, showed the poster of the original and, next to the poster and the one showtime had the listing- Hunger Games- 2012. If you are still confused, it is your own fault.
1b- Many times, people say that it is "our website" and when we ask them what website they used, they will say Flixster, Fandango, Movietickets.com, or many other websites. While we do send our showtimes to these sites, more times than not, they get them wrong or do not list them as specifically as we do and seperate them into IMAX, 2D, 3D, etc.
1c- Even if it is the website of my company, they will often be looking at a different theater in my chain and they will tell us that the website showed that we had a showtime at 1030 in IMAX. I ask them to show it to me, and the top of the page clearly shows that it is for the different theater.


2- For a very busy movie, please make sure you have your ticket and do not throw it away. I had about 10 people last night come up to me and tell me they threw their ticket away and I needed to print them another one. Guess what? Once you buy a ticket and it is handed to you, it is your responsibility to keep it and hand it to the guy at the podium as you enter the theater. Please do not yell at me and tell me that you are going to be late for your show because you threw your ticket away. I will do my best to help you, but please do not try to make me responsible for your mistake. Luckily, in each case last night, the customer came back to me almost immediately after having purchased the tickets and the seats that they had chosen were in easy spots to remember where they were sitting, but this is not always the case.


3- Do not make up a version of events to hide your error. When you tell me that you purchased 13 tickets and you know that you purchased 13 tickets because you just did it at our automatic ticket machines and the machine only gave you 10 tickets and that I need to find some way to make sure that you get all 13 of your tickets, please try to remember that you actually only bought 10 of them and your friend purchased 3 at the machine next to you. We have ways to check to see if the card has ever been used and if it was declined or if it went through and how much the transaction was for so we know how many tickets were purchased.

4- Please do not have an argument with your moviegoing partner in front of the cashier and hold up the line. It is very uncomfortable for us to stand there with a smile on our face attempting to help you while you are throwing a fit that you have already seen that movie, or you don't want to see this movie, or you paid for dinner and you sure aren't going to pay for the movie as well, or any of the number of other arguments that I have witnessed.

5. If you are going with a bunch of friends to the same film and you want to sit together but you are paying seperately and the theater has reserved seating, you can all come to the same cashier so that you are not blocking every single cashier while you are all running back and forth from station to station trying to decide where to sit. At my theater, we can seperate out the payments. Even if this is not the case, you may go to the same cashier who can make each transaction very quickly since that cashier knows where you have all chosen to sit.
5a- If you are going to the same movie, and you are paying seperately, and you all have exact change, just give one person all of the money and have them pay for all of the seats all at once.

6- If you are standing in line to buy tickets for a moment, and you know what you want to see, and you know that you have a rewards card and you know how you want to pay for it, please have the rewards card and your payment method out and ready to hand to me. It makes it go faster for everybody else and gets you out of the line faster as well.

7- Please make decisions quickly and voice your opinions. If you do not know what movie you want to see, please do not clog up the cashier station while trying to decide. We are more than happy to answer questions, but, just as when a couple is having an argument in front of me and all I can do is stand and smile and watch as the people in line get more and more impatient, the same thing happens here. If you have an opinion on where you want to sit or what movie you want to see, please voice it to your moviegoing partner. Do not say "I don't care where we sit" or "I'll see whatever you want to to see" and then complain as your moviegoing partner makes the decisions and say, "But I don't like to sit there" or "I don't want to see that."

8- Please do not complain to us if you have a specific seat that you like to sit in and that seat is already taken. If it has been purchased, it is no longer available. Please do not ask me if the previous customer could move down one seat. You may ask them once you enter the theater, but the other person got their seats first, so they have the right to say no. Also, if the seat is no longer available, all that I can do is recommend a different showtime that has that seat available in it. The early bird gets the worm. This is especially troublesome if it is already 15 or 20 minutes after the movie has started.

9- If you have a large group and want to ensure that you can sit together, it is best to get your seats early. And no, 10 minutes before showtime of the big new release is not what I would consider early. Last year, on Christmas Day, I had a family of 37 people who wanted to see a 7 pm showing of Les Miserables (a very popular movie on Christmas day last year) and wanted to be able to take 2 entire rows in the exact middle of the theater to sit together. They were shocked, appalled and told me that I had ruined their entire Christmas Day by not allowing them to do so. Now, it wasn't that I was not "allowing" them to do so. It was that the showtime was sold out and they had arrived at 730- half an hour past the start of the showtime that they wanted to see. This probably would have been an impossible request for most any film on most any day.

10- Please do not try to make it sothat there will be no one sitting next to you, in front of you, or behind you- especially on an opening weekend. If seats are going fast, do not try to leave a seat between you and another guest. If this is done, that single seat will usually not sell. I have a great way to almost guarantee that I have no one anywhere around me- I sit on the front row center seat. If you do not like this option, you will more than likely have people around you.

11- The Golden Rule- Treat Others as You Wish to Be Treated. If it annoys you when people talk during a movie, do not talk during the movie. If you don't like it when people kick the back of your seat, please do not kick the backs of chairs in front of you. Again, please use common courtesy and it will be a better experience for all of us.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Commentary tracks

On Facebook, a friend of mine asked how often I listen to commentary tracks. Instead of clogging up her other post discussion (which involved the music of How To Train Your Dragon by john Powell, which I LLOVE), I decided to write a post.

In general, I would say that I listen to about half of the commentary tracks that I have on disc. Yes, I watch a lot of movies and have a lot of discs, but I still find time to have them going in the background quite a bit.

There are several different types of commentary tracks and each one can have its merits. But, here is how I gauge what I llisten to:

Who is on the track? If there is someone of whom I am a huge fan of their work, I will listen to the track, no matter what, with one exception. I love the work of Tim Burton, but he cannot do commentary tracks alone. If he has someone with him, he is better, but alone, he gives amazing nuggets like this actual quote from the Sleepy Hollow Commentary track: "In this scene, I decided to have Johnny wear black." WoW!
I have listened to tracks by sound designers like Ben Burtt who explains that he made this sound by dropping strawberry Jello through fishnet stockings into kitty litter while he was standing exactly 7 1/2 feet up. I love geeks no matter what department they are in!
Danny Elfman on the Pee Wees Big Adventure track states that one particular piece that he had written for a harmonica was tested by many different professionals and told that it was too fast, too many notes and could not be done. Then, a guy came in and did it in one take. Great stuff! Elfman is usually good for the first hour of his tracks, but he usually runs out of things to say near the end.
Ben Affleck- say what you will about the guy, but he is hysterical! His commentary tracks on Pearl harbor, Armageddon, and Mallrats are some of the funniest things that I have ever heard and proves that he does not take himself too seriously.
Kevin Smith- the Mallrats comentary is one of the best around since it is a party atmosphere and is very funny all the way through. In fact, one of the jokes on the track makes it into the Jay and Silent bob Strike Back feature film. Kevin usually has a bunch of different commetaries on his films- one is usually more technical where he is very honest about filmmaking, and the other is like a fun party track.
Weird Al Yankovic does a great track on UHF where he gives actual addresses of the locations used and tells a lot of funny stories as well as how difficult is was to get the film made.
John carpenter and Kurt Russell- these guys have no delusions as to what it is they do for a living. Their Big trouble in Little China commentary is a lot like watching it with your best buds who in the middle of the film take a 3 or 4 minute detour into talking about their kids playing hockey.
Joel Schumacher, on the track for Batman & Robin, actually apologizes for the film he made explaining that the script was written around toys that had already been made to sell that Christmas.

If I know that there is a lot of behind the scenes trouble in making the film, I will listen and see how much is brought up of the troubles. Sometimes, the speakers stay far away from discussing it and other times it will devolve into mudslinging. You ever wonder why those disclaimers are there before the movie begins/ This is the example of why it is there.

Writers tracks- If the main actors or director are not on the track, many times I will just "sample it" and see if the speakers are interesting. If they are, I will listen to it from the beginning. but, if the writer is on there, I will usually listen and try to gain as much as I can when they discuss how they make their decisions on where the plot and characters go. This can be especially intriguin if its an adaptation and they discuss why they left in what they did and took out what they did.

It has happened where I have lost a llot of respect for certain people, or at least been made to remember that they are just human as well and not to be held up as a paragon of intelligence. Jennifer Connelly is pretty to look at but quite a ditz when it comes to discussing films, her craft, and even just random storytelling. Vanessa Hudgens, on the Bandslam commentary, reminded me that she was only 19 or so when she made the film. It was a lot of giggling and "he's so cute" type comments. While I can't say I have ever been a fan of Michael Bay as a person, his tracks are fascinating, but just go to prove that he is a pretentious dick. On Armageddon, he starts out by saying, "Making a movie is like a war." and continues to discuss how important his job is and how no one can do what he can do. I listen to Michael Bay's tracks and just giggle all the way through with the ridiculous things he says.

Sometimes I watch the commentary ttracks of films that are complete misfires or just dont quite add up and you hear the makers discuss what they wanted to make and what they thought thy made and give their good intentions and they can make you almost want to like the film just for the good intentions involved.

But, if the film touched me on any level and especially if it is one of my top films of the year, I will listen to it just for the magical quality that creative people have in discussing how they brought their work to the screen.

On the weekend that How to Train Your Dragon came out on BluRay, I bought it that morning and watched it all weekend. My wife did not see it in the theaters, so I forced her to sit down and watch it with me (forced because she doesn't really like animation). She loved it and was crying at the end. I then watched it 3 more times (just the film) and did all of the extras that were included on the disc- the featurettes, the commentaries, the whole thing. I made it a How to Train Your Dragon weekend. On the commentary track, the directors talk about how the "learning to trust each other" scene grew from a planned one minute scene to almost 5 because they knew that the whole film hinged on that scene and if it didnt work, the whole film would not work. They also discussed that, originally, Hiccup was alone in his room when he woke up at the end and discovered he lost a leg. It was Steven Spielberg, who saw the first cut at Dreamworks SKG, who told them that Toothless needed to be there and to help his friend out. Of course, Spielberg turned out to be right.
How to Train Your Dragon was a special film to me.
It was the last film that I saw with my dad in the theaters. We saw it as I was driving him back home from San Antonio to Hurricane Utah when he was diagnosed with cancer. He died 11 weeks later.


Commentary tracks can be like film school in a box, a drunken good time while you are still sober, a memory of what makes a film so special to you, an apology, an affirmation, or just a peek behind the curtain at the magic that can come out of creative people.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

List of things about me

On facebook right now, there is a 'game' where you list facts about yourself. I decided to blog mine.

1- I was born 9 weeks premature in 1972.

2- I taught myself how to read when I was 2 because my parents would not read the TV and movie listings to me everyday. I was also very annoyed when my grandma could not read the cards while playing games with me.

3- I have, as of this writing, seen Raiders of the Lost Ark 626 times.

4- I have been to all 50 states as well as Canada, mexico, England, France, Netherlands, belgium, Spain, Austria, Germany, Italy, and Monaco.

5- When I was 15, my team won the Trivial Pursuit Championship for the Utah Department of Public safety.

6- I worked at Blockbuster for a total of 13 years altogether.

7- I have always been a'nightowl'. I prefeer to drive long distances at night and I rarely go to bed before Midnight, more often than not, it's more like 1 or 130 in the morning.

8-I would take a lot of books to school in my backpack so that I could loan them to friends if they didn't have any reading material. This continued as I grew up and I loaned a lot of movies to people from the neighborhood and am still a go-to friend for movie borrowing.

9-Before I left on my mission, I saw every single film that came out in theaters from April 1, 1991 until October 5, 1991. This led to me seeing The Commitments- a film that has since become one of my all-time favorites.

10- I co-host a podcast called The Geek Agenda (www.thegeekagenda.com ) in which we discuss films, and the ultra fan inside all of us.

11- I came to love films because my parents realized that, when I was a very sick kid and very fussy, I would quiet down when in a theater, but not necessarily in a car.

12- I became a human IMDB before there was an IMDB. I once won a Blockbuster contest by linking 320 people together. My next closest competition only had 87.

13- I met a friend in college (the head of The geek Agenda) and it was only about6 months later that we discovered we were actually second cousins!

14- I went to the State Drama competition 3 years in a row with pieces that I wrote myself based on favorite films of the time (Good Morning Vietnam, Rain man, Talk Radio).

15- I went on a mission to Paris France. I was originally called to the Port-au-Prince Haiti mission, but the missionaries were pulled out due ti a civil war while we were in the MTC so my call was changed.

16- To help learn the language, I read, in their original French versions, Les Miserables, Hunchback of Notre Dame, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, Three Musketeers, man in the Iron mask, and the whole series of Asterix comics. I also read, in French translations, Bright Lights Big City, Fletch, Silence of the Lambs, Dark Half, and Carrie.

17- I was companions with one of Mitt Romney's sons, matt.

18- I helped write the Utah State Core Curiculum for Social Studies in 2001.

19- My favorite jobs at Blockbuster was making room on the New release Wall for all of the week's new films, and receiving so that I could be the first one to handle the new films as well.

20- In Vegas, I have been lucky enough to see 2 Cirque de Soleil shows, O and Mystere, and I have also seen David Copperfield, Huey Lewis & the News, Drew Carrey, NiCole robinson, Wayne Brady, Penn & teller, Charles Fleischer,and had front row seats for George Carlin, my stand up comedy idol.

21- I donated a kidney to my mom in 2003. It was a very tough year, but we both came out well and my mom is still doing extremely well!

22- I got to watch my cousin argue a case in front of the US Supreme Court. Wow! That was absolutely amazing!

23- Both carole Mikita and Attorney general of Utah at the time, jan Graham, pulled the "Do you know who I am?" card to try to get a very popular movie on a very busy weekend at Blockbuster and to get late fees taken off of their account.

24- I was the first person hired for the retention Department when it began at Pinnacle Security.

25- While working at Blockbuster, I had 2 cars drive into the building.

26- I got to meet Bill Conti (composer for Rocky), larry Linville (Frank Burns of M*A*S*H) and Rob Paulsen and Jess harnell (Animaniacs) and Paulson did a live version of the Nations of the World song.

27- Did the motel room scene from 'Planes, Trains, and Automobiles' with Eric Taylor as my final project in drama in high school.

28- Kate Beckinsale and Gemma Arterton are my female celebrity crushes. I will watch anything they are in.

29- My favorite actors are Harrison Ford and Michael J Fox.

and, finally

30- I finished a novel consisting of 119,000 words in October of 2012 and am currently looking for an agent to sell it to get it published.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween Options Part 2

For this post, I am only goning to talk about 2 films, but they are both reviled as being "awful films" but my first experience with each of them are truly memorable.

Blair Witch Project- I dont remember the exact circumstances, but my friend Eric and I, who were both married, had a bachelor weekend. I think my wife was on a trip with her sisters and his wife was at a Girls Camp or something. Anyway, it was the weekend that The Blair Witch Project was going to come out. For the initial roll out, it was only playing at one theater in our area, The Tower. We decided to catch the first showing at Midnight, so we went early to get tickets.
It was sold out.
But, the ticket seller asked, would we like to get tickets for the 2 am showing they were going to have since it ws selling so well.
We thought , sure, so we bought the tickets.
I will be honest, I dont remember what we did that evening. I dont remember if we each went home and took a nap, knowing that we would be up very late, or if we hung out and ate and chatted and watched something else on video. I dont know.
I just know that when we showed up at the Tower at about 1 am, there was already a line for the 2am showing. Most of the audience was dressed in black and most of them were females. Redheaded females (or maroon as Eric remembers it. Probably, truth be told, mostly fake redheads which leads to the maroon color.) . I still to this day do not understand why all the black clad red headed female witches showed up to the showing that night, but there they were.
The Tower was undergoing some renovation and there were folding chairs along with the regular chairs. I think we got a folding chair, but I may be mistaken on that memory. All that I know is that when the lights went down, the audience was with the film. Maybe it was the sleep dep, maybe it was the weird feeling of the redhead witch vibe, all I know is that I was on the ride with the film and the last shot is still more bone chilling than anything in any of the Friday the 13th films.
We got out of the film about 3:45 am. Since neither of us could sleep, we both went straight to work. Since we were both pretty much the only ones there at that early hour in our own respective workplaces, we both jumped at every light flicker, slight sound or anything. On my end, it was a very bad day to be making room on the New Release Wall at Blockbuster at 4 am.
While the sequel was nowhere near as good, it is a very interesting time capsule. The star is Jeffrey Donovan, who would later go on to be the star of the TV show 'Burn Notice'.


Paranormal Activity- This came out in October 2009. I kept wanting to see it but never got around to it. I bought a used dvd copy and carried it with me a lot along with my computer so that, if I ever got to it, I could watch it. I started it 4 or 5 times, but seriously only got in 3 or so minutes each time because I kept getting interruped.
When my dad got sick in Spring 2010. It was one of the films that I had with me along with my computer. I had, maybe 10 films with me. My dad died June 12, 2010. After he died, I had insomnia and could not sleep. At all. I have always been a night owl and generally, if I dont have to be up early the next day, I stay up until at least 1 every morning, maybe 2.
So, I was in Southern Utah, Hurricane, to be with my mom after my dad died. My wife was with me for a lot of it, but bounced back and forth to take care of various things in Salt Lake and to give my mom and I some space to take care of the paperwork involving the death of a father and a husband.
Because of my night owl-ness, I would not realize that it was going to be an insomnia night until 3 or so in the morning. With my wife not there to gauge me on this particular night, I knew that there was no way I was going to sleep until at least 6 am or so. So, I went to my stack of movies to watch.
The only one I had not seen was Paranormal Activity.
There is a reason that the small town is called Hurricane. There is a very heavy wind that rips through the town most nights and it was roaring that night.
I plugged in my laptop, laid down in bed and placed the computer on my chest.I put headphones in, and settled in to watch the film.

Watching Paranormal Activity for the first time about a week after your father dies, with actual wind howling outside, at 3 am on a laptop computer screen inches from your face with headphones pumping the sounds directly into your brain is the best (worst? creepiest?) way to watch this film. It freaked me out and had me looking over my shoulder the next 24 hours.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Halloween Options Part 1

Over the next week and a half, I am going to list, in no particular order, a bunch of Halloween-type movies and a little blurb about each one and why I am listing it. Some of them are just memorable because of how I saw them, some are my all-time favorites, some are unforgettable ( to me) for a scene or two- there is going to be no rhyme or reason, just a list and anectdotes and hopefully those who read it will find something that interests them

The Conjuring- It came out this summer and is released on DVD and BluRay on october 22, 2013. The makers felt that the script was PG-13, they felt they filmed a PG-13 film, they edited it into a PG-13 film, but, when given over to the MPAA to rate it, it was rated R. As is normal, they went to the MPAA and asked what they could cut from it to make it PG-13 and the MPAA reportedly said, "Nothing. It is just too damn scary." The Conjuring is definitely intense and it does it solely through the creation of dread. The film is very well acted with 2 amazing female lead performances from Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor.

Insidious- While this is rated PG-13, it is made by the same team that made Conjuring. I saw this only because I went to the theater to see a movie and the one that I wanted to see was sold out. This was the only film that had not yet started, so I went. As the end credits rolled, the sold out crowd and I just sat there for a minute not sure of what we had just seen.

Slither- a very good horror comedy starring Nathan Fillion (Castle) and Elizabeth banks. An alien slug crash lands near a small town and starts taking over the population slowly leaving the Sherrif and just a few townspeople able to fight back. Also features Jenna Fischer (The Office) in a small role.

The Mist- As one of my friends put it, "the most "soul sucking" ending ever put on film. This is based on a Stephen King short story about creatures that come out of a strange mist to kill residents of a small town.

Last Exorcism- Ashley Bell was hired to play Nell, the girl who is possessed, and who is set to be the "last exorcism" of a priest who is filming how he does an exorcism to expose that it is all a scam, is the reason to see this film. Although Patrick Fabian is great as the priest, Bell does most of her own contortions which makes it escpecially freaky when she counts to 10. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about.

What Lies beneath- Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer play a marriwed couple who start having strange things happen to them by a ghost who may or may not be an ex-student of Ford's. Twists and turns abound. I saw this with my wife and another couple in the theater. As it was over, our wives started saying how stupid it was and my friend and I mocked them because we had seen them scrunching further and further into their seats as the film progressed. Also- written by Clark Gregg!!!! (Agent Coulson from the Avengers)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Current Coming Soon to Video List- 10/ 15

Here is the updated list for all the movies announced to be coming to video by the end of the year. A couple more may sneak into the lineup (there is a rumor going that Warner may sneak Gravity into the marketplace for sale before Christmas) but, for the most part, this is complete. At least it is as of the time I am popsting this.

COMING SOON


OCTOBER 22

AS COOL AS I AM
BEFORE MIDNIGHT
CONJURING
DEAD IN TOMBSTONE
HAPPY ENDINGS SSN 3
I GIVE IT A YEAR
INTERNSHIP
JUST LIKE A WOMAN
NIKITA SSN 3
ONLY GOD FORGIVES
WAITING ROOM
WAY, WAY BACK

OCTOBER 29

BYZANTIUM
DON’T TRUST THE BITCH IN APT 23 COMPLETE SERIES
FAMILY TREE SSN 1
GATCHAMAN COMPLETE SERIES
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
RIPD


NOVEMBER 5


AS I LAY DYING
ATTACK
BROKEN
CLEAR HISTORY
DEXTER SSN 8
FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS
GIRL MOST LIKELY
GROWN UPS 2
HOBBIT EXTENDED EDITION
LAW & ORDER SSN 13
LOVELACE
MAD MEN SSN 6
MAGIC CITY SSN 2
PARKLAND
PASSION
RIGHT STUFF BLU
SCROOGED SE BLU
SYRUP
TWILIGHT COMPLETE SAGA
UNDER THE DOME SSN 1
WHITE HOUSE DOWN

NOVEMBER 12

AMBUSHED
AND WHILE WE WERE HERE
THE ATTACK
BLACKFISH
BURNING LOVE SSN 1
DEALIN WITH IDIOTS
FRANCES HA
I DECLARE WAR
IP MAN- FINAL FIGHT
MAN OF STEEL
PARADISE
PRINCE AVALANCHE
TURBO

NOVEMBER 19

2 GUNS
ACT OF KILLING
ALL IS BRIGHT
BREAKING THE GIRLS
C.O.G.
CRYSTAL FAIRY
DREW- THE MAN BEHIND THE POSTER
EVE OF DESTRUCTION BLU
HANNAH ARENDT
PARANOIA
PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG BLU
PLANES
THERESE DESQUEYROUX
TO-DO LIST
TOUS LES MATINS DU MONDE BLU
TREME SSN 3
VIOLET AND DAISY
WE’RE THE MILLERS
THE WORLD’S END

NOVEMBER 26

BREAKING BAD SSN 7
CANYONS
GETAWAY
GRANDMASTER
JOBS
RED 2


DECEMBER 3

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE
ANCHORMAN SE BLU
ARGO- EXTENDED EDITION
DRINKING BUDDIES
GOOD OL’ FREDA
HOT IN CLEVELAND SSN 4
MORTAL INSTRUMENTS- CITY OF BONES
NASHVILLE CRITERION SE
SIMPSONS SSN 16
SMURFS 2
WOLVERINE

DECEMBER 10

ADORE
BATTLE OF THE YEAR
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO
BIG 25TH ANNIVERSARY BLU
DESPICABLE ME 2
FAST & THE FURIOUS 6
FUTURAMA VOL 8
HUNT
JAYNE MANSFIELD’S CAR
MUPPETS- GREAT MUPPET CAPER & TREASURE ISLAND BLU
SEASONING HOUSE
SIGHTSEERS
SOME GIRL
TOUCHY FEELY
ULTIMATE LIFE
ZOMBIE NIGHT

DECEMBER 17

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS
BURN NOTICE SSN 7
CONTEST
DEVIL’S PASS
ELYSIUM
FORCE OF EXECUTION
KICK ASS 2
LONE RANGER
ONE DIRECTION- THIS IS US
PERCY JACKSON- SEA OF MONSTERS
PSYCH- THE MUSICAL
RIDDICK
SHAMELESS SSN 3

DECEMBER 24

MORE THAN HONEY


DECEMBER 31

ADORE
CALIFORNICATION SSN 6
CBGB
HELL BABY
HOUSE OF LIES SSN 2
INAPPROPRIATE COMEDY
SANITARIUM
SWEETWATER


JANUARY 7

FOLLOWING SSN 1
TEQUILA SUNRISE BLU

JANUARY 14

BLUE CAPRICE
IM IN LOVE WITH A CHURCH GIRL
OUR NIXON
SHORT TERM 12
SINGLE SHOT

JANUARY 21

BAD MILO
CAT PEOPLE- SE

JANUARY 28

AFTERNOON DELIGHT

FEBRUARY 4

MILLION DOLLAR BABY 10TH ANNIVERSARY
STOP LOSS BLU

FEBRUARY 11

ON THE JOB

FEBRUARY 18

FEBRUARY 25

BULLET

APRIL 14

SORCERER BLU

Update

It has been almost 3 months since I updated thios blog, so I figured it was time to give everyone an update. I am going to get back to regular updates but I knew that I had to just "word vomit" first so that I could clear my head for the next real post.

In theatrical films, I have seen 80 films that have been released to theaters in 2013. Of these, 87 have been in the theater.

I continue to record a semi-regular podcast (hopefully life will calm a tad so it can be much more regular) with my friend/ cousin Thom Bowers at the Geek Agenda where we dicuss mainly films when I am on the show (since that is obviously my forte) but also random facts and figures and other geekiness (such as the TV show Marvel's Agents of SHIELD on the last podcast recorded last night- episode 101 which should be up very soon). Go to www.thegeekagenda.com to listen to the archives.

I am writing an author bio, a book synopsis, and a career CV so that we can start looking for agents for my book.

My mom had emergency surgery at the end of September. She went to the hospital by ambulance 3 hours after I pulled out of her driveway after visiting her for the weekend. That was a weird phone call to receive. She did well but needed help when she first got out of the hospital so Aleisha and I took a 6 day break to head down and help out. I spoke with her 2 nights ago and she is continuing to get stronger and healthier, although she still has a way to go before she gets back into "fighting" shape.


Since I posted the box office for the first half of the summer, let's finish that nagging bit of info, huh?For the box office grosees for the summer of 2013- here is the final tally- from smallest to biggest. These are the numbers ending September 5th, 2013. In order to be counted in this list, it had to make at least 1 million dollars:

1. In a World- 1.31
2. Im So Excited- 1.31
3. Girl Most Likely- 1.38
4. Attack-1.58
5. Stories We Tell- 1.59
6. Love is All You Need- 1.61
7. Unfinished Song- 1.63
8. Fill the Void- 1.75
9. Blackfish- 1.85
10. Grandmasters- 3.38
11. Closed Circuit- 3.63
12. Spectacular Now- 3.82
13. Frances Ha- 4.05
14. Much Ado- 4.27
15. 20 Feet From Stardom- 4.41
16. Getaway- 5.61
17. Bling Ring- 5.83
18. Paranoia-7.09
19. Before Midnight- 8.02
20. Instructions Not Included- 10.38
21. You’re Next- 14.41
22. Jobs- 14.81
23. Fruitvale Station- 15.59
24. One Direction- This is Us- 18.47
25. World’s End- 18.32
26. Way Way Back- 19.81
27. Mud- 21.59
28. Blue Jasmine- 21.78
29. Mortal Instruments- 24.52
30. Kick Ass 2- 27.00
31. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain- 32.24
32. RIPD- 33.08
33. Internship- 44.65
34. Red 2- 52.21
35. Percy Jackson- 56.73
36. After earth- 60.52
37. Purge- 64.45
38. Smurfs 2- 66.99
39. 2 Guns- 70.10
40. White House Down- 72.83
41. Planes- 73.97
42. Butler- 79.47
43. Turbo- 80.09
44. Elysium- 80.52
45. Lone Ranger- 88.56
46. This is the End- 96.92
47. Pacific Rim- 100.37
48. Epic- 107.45
49. Hangover 3- 112.20
50. We’re the Millers- 113.24
51. Now You See Me- 117.10
52. Wolverine- 128.32
53. Grown Ups 2- 130.19
54. Conjuring- 134.18
55. Great Gatsby- 144.83
56. Heat- 157.43
57. World War Z- 200.67
58. Star Trek- 228.50
59. Fast 6- 238.67
60. Monsters University- 264.29
61. Man of Steel 290.75
62. Despicable Me 2- 355.74
63. Iron Man 3- 408.88

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Box Office Grosses Pt 1

We are more than half-way through the summer movie season. Most of the huge, anticipated blockbusters have been released. While there are always a few films that come out after this time that sweep up major cash from the box office, nothing will likely touch the top film on this list.
This weekend, Turbo, RIPD, RED 2, Girl Most Likely, & the Conjuring all come out. We still have Smurfs 2, which will likely make a tidy sum, Wolverine (should get about 160) along with a few other action films and such which will more than likely make 70-100 million dollars before they get swept out of the theaters.
Remeber, that Grown Ups 2 & Pacific Rim just barely came out, so those will climb higher in the next few weeks, and Despicable Me 2 is still doing very well, but will be knocked down a bit by Turbo this week.

Here is how the Summer 2013 Box Office stands at the moment for the major releases of the summer, with Tuesday's grosses factored in (all in millions):

21- Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain- 27.15
20- Internship- 43.29
19- Pacific Rim- 45.76
18- Grown Ups 2- 51.54
17- After earth- 59. 47
16- Purge- 63.89
15- White House Down- 64.65
14- Lone Ranger- 74.53
13- This is the End- 92.55
12- Epic- 105.04
11- Hangover 3- 111.71
10- Now You See Me- 113.72
9- Heat- 116.31
8- Great gatsby- 143.28
7- World War Z- 179.62
6- Star Trek- 224.57
5- Fast 6- 236.68
4- Despicable Me 2- 240.87
3- Monsters University- 241.22
2- Man of Steel 282.19
1- Iron Man 3- 406.85

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Movie Review- Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim- When I first heard about the idea of giant robots fighting giant monsters, I was concerned. In the world of Transformers, Michael Bay, and Megashark vs Giant Octopus, how good could it really be? Then, I heard the name that would give me hope- Guillermo Del Toro. While there have been films of his (and films that he’s produced) that haven’t been my cup of tea, I can never say that they were poorly made. So, then, my hopes went up for this film.
Luckily, they did not come crashing down.
The human storyline is, let’s face it, basically Top Gun. Our hero suffers a crushing loss of someone about whom he cares deeply, he loses his faith in his world, and then is brought in to battle the bad guys one last time but now, must learn to trust again and work together with a team. The big difference is that in this film, the one he must trust is a female pilot, and they’re battling giant monsters, not Russians. But, otherwise, it’s not too different. Luckily, the actors make it work and they are not just the purely good-looking stereotypes found in most horror or action films.
By far the best part of this film is the fact that it creates its own world and history right out of the gate. The first 10 minutes are densely packed with information and could have been their own film, setting up sequels that may or may not come. Instead, that’s just the pre-opening sequence teaser.
But, Del Toro creates a world and tells a story, all at once, something that Hollywood rarely does anymore. Most times, they will try to set up a sequel for franchise possibilities. Luckily, that is not done here and I think the film is stronger for it.
Even though this film takes place on Earth, the civilization it creates is something out of Star Wars or Blade Runner. There is plenty of story to keep you interested and to connect the dots, but also, a lot of shading around the sides- events that are never directly discussed but mentioned in passing, a whole group that has started to idolize the monsters and worshipped them is mentioned but never discussed, and other characters backstories are skimmed over because they are not crucial to this specific plot. This seems like a perfect film for fanboys to latch onto and from which, create fan fiction. There are plenty of ‘Boba Fett’ type characters who are intriguing in their own right.
Not only that, but the action is amazingly fun to watch as well! Each new monster that appears is a new threat to our team and they must find a new way to defeat it. Each battle causes more distress and wear on the characters. Each battle ratchets the tension up exponentially and they warn of a massive event, which is obviously going to be the “Big Bad” at then end., and the final battle lives up to the hype. I am surprised that I did not break my wife’s hand because I was squeezing so tight in spots.
The action is well choreographed so that, even in the dark and in the water, you never lose sight of who is winning or losing and what is happening. The effects are stunning and I actually believed in the giant robots fighting the giant monsters.
The music is perfect and appropriate for this film. In just the few days since I have seen the film, I have had it playing whenever possible and have discovered that even while discussing grocery lists or reading spiritual books, it ups the ante. This is definitely a score soundtrack to buy!
The only tiny, miniscule issue that I had with this film is that it could have used a bit more humor. While there are humorous moments, it does lose sight of that one area of the story/characters. However, it is so much FUN, the humor isn’t missed too much.
Somehow, as I write this, moviegoers aren't going in droves to see this film and I have no idea why! Instead, Grown Ups 2 is making more money than pacific Rim. Really???? How is this happening?
As far as I am concerned, Del Toro has done it again and created the best original movie of the summer! Please go see it!

Film rating- 9
Movie rating- 9

Movie Review- Kevin Hart- Let Me Explain

KEVIN HART: LET ME EXPLAIN- I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy. My parents got me into it by taking me to the Comedy Store at the Sands in Vegas when I was about 15. I had been introduced to the concept on the Dr. Demento Radio show a few years earlier and my favorite was George Carlin (even with all of the bleeps). My first live show was Jimmy JJ Walker. I have since been lucky enough to see George Carlin on the front row during his last tour, Drew Carrey NiCole Robinson (Margaret from the West Wing), Charles Fleischer (who gave the best slap down to a heckler ever), Wayne Brady, Harry Basil, Finis Henderson, my high school friend Dean Evans, and many many others. Usually, my birthday weekend in Vegas includes at least one stand up comedy show.
So, when a stand up comedy film was released into theaters, I just had to see it. I had seen Kevin hart as an actor, but had never seen any of his stand-up. So, the first chance that I got in an extremely busy work week, I went to see Let Me Explain.
Now, let me explain something- the film is only 75 minutes long- and that is with the credits! I was in and out of the theater in 90 minutes exactly- and that was including the previews!
The film starts with a sketch about a party that Kevin is hosting and, while trying to talk to his guests, he is accosted by them demanding to know why he got a divorce and why he hates black women, and how he is nothing but a local celebrity, so, he decides to go to Madison Square Gardens and explain himself.
As he is in his car going to the show, he thinks back to the many places he has toured and, with the help of an animated airplane showing us the next stop on the tour, we are treated to about 15 minutes of seeing him on the road, hearing his fans talk about how funny he is, and doing everything, but showing us his stand up.
Let me remind you, that the film is only one hour and fifteen minutes long, and he spends 20 minutes or so doing a skit and showing us testimonnials from his fans and a travelogue of sorts. While interesting, I was chomping at the bit and wanting to see what we were talking about.
And I was very disappointed…for a while.
Kevin Hart starts his stand up by having fire come up and he says that he is the first stand-up comedian to have fire and pyrotechnics at Madison Square Gardens. He then uses the fire whenever he wants to throughout the show. He then begins his set talking about why he got divorced and discussing a lot of the “differences between men and women”. And he brings nothing new to the table. This is an old fallback with stand up comedians since Henny Youngman did the “Take my wife…please.” Joke.
Once he starts talking about what happens after the break up, he gets very honest and starts telling stories- more like Bill Cosby, but with a very R-rated vocabulary- and then he becomes funny.
He discusses trying to get back together with his wi0fe by taking ecstasy- and becoming a living, breathing version of Al Pacino in ‘Scarface’. He discusses his kid’s imaginations and how they think that the things they do while playing with dad will actually help them in schoolyard fights, and he ends his set by telling a story about taking his kids out for a horse ride. All very funny stories.
He then ends by getting choked up by thanking his audience for supporting him and allowing him to sell out Madison Square Gardens. This is where I came to be on his side. He seems very sincere and appreciative of his fans and does not take for granted where he is and how lucky he is.
And, Fire!!!
During the end credits, we see more fun stuff that he does while on the road and we even get to see a waitress start crying because she is so excited to be serving him and he gives her free tickets to the show that night. A very nice end to the film.
The filmmaking is par for the course. How much can you really do with a stand up comedy concert? They do the minimum, but they don’t reinvent the wheel. I do wonder if it was the director or Kevin himself who kept the opening so long and the relative length so short.
While I enjoyed this for the fun stuff, I wish we could have had more actual stand up instead of the sketch and travelogue. I would recommend this for fans of stand up, with those reservations. Being a fan, I look forward to seeing more of Kevin hart’s performances and see if he falls back on the easy stuff or if he does keep up on his storytelling abilities.
For those who are not fans of stand-up comedy, this will not convert you, I would say to stay away.

Film rating- 3
Movie rating- 4

Movie reviews- Hangover 3 & Fast and the Furious 6

Over Memorial Day weekend, 2 sequels battled it out at the box office. One had a huge opening weekend and pleased fans, one had a much, much smaller than expected weekend and displeased fans. This time, I tend to 100 percent agree with the audience and box office returns.

Fast & Furious 6- Is this a good film? I will say no. Is this a fun, all out action movie? A giant YES to that!
The Fast & The Furious series is strange to me. I actually greatly disliked the first film because it was silly, Most of the fans love it for the car racing, but the car racing was almost all CGI, so what made that so fun and cool? I didn’t get it.
2 Fast, while being a bit better filmmaking-wise was still dumb, bubblegum filmmaking and I couldn’t buy into the plot.
Tokyo Drift was a nice change of pace where the stunts got to be done more live and it helped set up the film better.
Fast ^ Furious brought the live car stuynts together with the original cast (who, while not being able to act their way out of a paper bag) at least brought the team back together with an iuntriguing enough storyline, real stunts, and made for a fun time at the movies.
Fast 5 was an amazingly over-the-top piece of filmmaking that turned the Fast movies into a globe trotting heist thriller with a lot of car chases, stunts, fighting between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, and it just clicked.
While Furious 6 (its onscreen title) does not live up to 5 as a whole, it is a very worthy sequel which again takes a few twists and turns, bringing back a character we thought was dead, bringing in a new villain in the closing seconds for the inevitable Fast 7 (to be released in summer 2014), and has not one but 2 amazing girl fights!
The car action is ramped up with tank chases and battles on airplanes and around London with speed ramps, and any other over the top sequence that the filmmakers could come up with.
And it works.
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker (while not really believable) have a nice macho chemistry together, the supporting cast which includes Ludacris, Tyrese, also exude an on-screen breeziness which makes this whole thing go down easy.
Special mention must be made of Gina Carano who joins the cast as an associate of Johnson’s. It must be noted that she also adds that extra bit to this film due to the fact that she’s an MMA fighter and does all of her own stunts in the fighting scenes- and it shows,.
Jordana Brewsater’s Mia is sidelined into being the damsel in distress but, other than being a fan of Jordana’s, I really didn’t mind as far as the film went. She was not needed in this storyline and hopefully that changes in Fast 7.
The plot is extremely silly, but that doesn’t matter if the action delivers and it does. The fights with carano are intense and hard hitting, the car stunts are well choreographed and filmed. The geography of the fights and chases are well staged and executed (well, okay, except for the longest runway in the history of the world),but it is always easy to follow and understand what it happening.
I also loved the fact that several characters die in this film, upping the ante for the next one. When the team can’t stay in one piece (as anyone who saw Tokyo Drift should have expected), anyone can go out in a blaze of lorry come next summer, and it will be exciting to see how they wield that sword.
This is not rocket science, to be sure, and it doesn’t even attempt to reach down and show the deep existential quandaries of life, but, as a mindless summer film, it rocks!
Film rating- 4
Movie Rating-8


Hangover Part 3- I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the first Hangover film. First, I saw it at Brewvies, and, if there is a perfect film to watch at brewvies, it is either Being John Malkovich or the original Hangover.Secondly, as a writer, I love any film which has this particular line- “I keep forgetting about the goddamn tiger!” and it makes perfect sense in the story.
The second Hangover was a lazy excuse to make more money. They took the action to Bangkok, upped the raunch and disgusting factor, and released it to theaters where it made a huge ton of money, but no one who saw it seemed to really like it. I did think that the mystery of where the brother went was better than where the groom went in the first film, but, otherwise, there was not much there.
I have to say that I am pleased that the filmmakers did not fall back on their laurels and just try to make more money this time around. They tried something different. They went from a crazy comedy to a gritty action film that has comedic moments. While I don’t think it works as a whole, at least they tried and I would much rather watch a film that tries something different and fails (this or Brothers Bloom, for example), than a film that takes all the easy roads and offers nothing interesting (Hangover 2, Transformers, and most sequels, to be honest).
The film this time centers on The Wolf Pack trying to take Alan to a mental facility for help but getting kidnapped by a vicious druglord (John Goodman, perhaps expanding the drug dealer role that he played in Flight?), who wants their help to find Chang, who stole his money from him. And, if they don’t agree, their friend will be killed (Justin Bartha, again being taken out of the large majority of the film).
Again, the film works in fits and starts. Some scenes are fun, some are deadly dull, some action scenes are good, some fall flat. The experience is all over the place. A perfect example is the scene where they go to visit Heather Graham’s character again. There are a few funny lines, she gives a piece of information to the gang that proves useful, but mainly, it is a nice dramatic scene showing that she has moved on from the events of the first film and has a good life. While it is a very nice sequence, it adds very little to the film as a whole, and seems to be there just for fans of the first film and make it okay that Stu left her.
As I left the theater, I can honestly say that I was glad that I saw it, but it quickly left my brain and it didn’t stick around much like the first one did. Again, points for breaking from the mold, but take away those points for being uneven and relatively uninteresting.

Film rating- 5
Movie Rating- 5

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Movie Reviews- Bling Ring- This is the End

Today, I am going to do quick reviews of two Emma Watson films- one she has a major role in and the other, a smaller, but very funny role.

This is the End- How do I describe this one? It is a comedy/ drama/ action film starring real-life Hollywood stars Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, & Craig Robinson (and many other cameos including the aforementioned Emma Watson, Michael Cera, and Rihanna, just to name a few) who are all playing alternate reality versions of themselves. Jay Baruchel is a friend of Seth Rogen’s from his days in Canada and who comes to LA to spend time with Seth and just hang out. Rogen takes Jay to a party at James Franco’s house (which baruchel resists because he hates the fake LA group) and, while there, the Apocalypse occurs and the few who survive the initial rapture and destruction must then survive the fires, looting, bottomless pits, and other gory ways of death to find a way to make it to heaven.
Yes, you read that right- make it to heaven. The whole point of the film is to go from a wild and raucous Hollywood party and to learn to be better people to be taken to heaven. And yes, this comes from a major Hollywood studio with stars and writers known for a large amount of drug and potty humor. (Make no mistake- one of the demons near the end does have a large flaming penis.)
I really, honestly don’t know how to feel about this one. Some parts are very winkingly hysterical (Michael Cera as a cocaine snorting sex-crazed version of himself is very funny as is Emma Watson’s attempts at survival) while others go on way too long and are not funny at all (an extended sequence discussing what Danny McBride did with a porn magazine is thuddingly unfunny and just flat out crude). There are great in-jokes mixed with an actual touching drama about 2 friends growing apart who don’t want to. There is a level of debauchery countered by the fact that the goal is to get to heaven.
I don’t think the two sides of this film work well together- it is definitely not two great tastes that go great together, but I’ll be darned if I am not very impressed at the gall it took to attempt this and get it made and released in the middle of summer. The film cost $35 million and has thus far made $80 million and I am very pleased with its success. As a whole for me, it fails, but only slightly. I hope that Rogen tries to do a mixture like this again and tone down the raunch a bit, amp up the interpersonal drama, and he may have something.
If this mixture intrigues you, I would recommend that you see it and make up your own mind- if it doesn’t intrigue you- stay far away!, but do NOT go in expecting a Family Home Evening –type film! It is EXTREMELY R-Rated.

Movie Rating- 4
Film Rating- 6


Bling Ring- Here is another film that I am impressed with but didn’t really like. This is based on the real story of the group of teenagers in LA who used the public knowledge of where celebrities are at every hour of every day (think Twitter and TMZ) and then went and robbed those celebrities’ houses while they were at public gatherings. The real celebrities who were robbed included Paris Hilton (who even let the filmmakers use her real house to stage the scenes set there), Lindsay Lohan, Audrina Partidge, Rachel Bilson, and others. The teens felt that they were part of the celebrity culture and wanted to be even more a part of it and live the life without doing anything to earn it (the argument of ‘earning’ with the Kardashians and Hiltons of the world will wait for another time).
This is the most vapid film that I have seen recently. There is nothing to it. Only 1 participant agreed to speak tto the filmmakers so it is very one-sided. The teen played by Emma Watson has given a couple of interviews in print and a few soundbites for TV, but other than that, everything else had to be invented for the film. As such, not much is known about the people themselves, but the acting and direction is impeccable.
Sofia Coppola keeps a detached view of the teens and watches them rob, party, and parade in the stolen gear. Emma Watson plays one of the teens and pulls off a pitch perfect southern California accent, and does a great job of acting since I could not stand her in this film, in a good way. She is the epitome of fame-obsessed youth in this film and puts it across amazingly well.
The rest of the cast of adults is populated by lesser known celebrities (Leslie Mann and Nina Siesmasko to name 2) and Lohan, Hilton, and a few other real-life celebrities play themselves fleetingly in club scenes.
However, at the end of the day, I am glad that I saw it, but didn’t really “like” it. Again, just like ‘This is the End’, I appreciated it more than I actually liked it.

Movie Rating- 5
Film Rating-8

Monday, July 8, 2013

Movie Reviews- Lone Ranger & Man of Steel

In the last few weeks, I have seen 2 movies which are remarkably similar and both have about the same problems, but, in watching them, one of them rises over the other for one simple reason: fun. All told, I had fun with one of them and thought the other was boring and tedious with great moments, but not much fun.

Man of Steel- I will admit that, in the world of superheroes, I am much more like my wife- I like them dark and tortured and human. It is for this reason that I am drawn much more to Batman than Superman because Superman is too bright and happy and cheerful, in general, and not much can harm him, so where is the danger and the concern that Superman will not be able to accomplish what he sets out to do? I was excited by the prospect that Christopher Nolan and David Goyer were attempting to darken up Supes. However, I was also concerned that Zack Snyder (of Watchmen and Sucker Punch fame) was directing. I was hoping that Nolan and Goyer could even out Snyder.

I was wrong.

(MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

When I first heard that we were getting another origin story of Superman, I was concerned. I thought, Do we really need another origin story? But, again, I was hopeful.
My first thought upon seeing the newly imagined Krypton was- “This is Zack Snyder’s audition for Star wars Episode 8.” The planet of Krypton has been reimagined to fit into the Star Wars Universe with its color schemes and creatures and pure CGI.
While watching the new scenes of Kal-El being rescued and sent away by his parents (and later with the “teaching” of the older Kal-El by his dad’s image, I realized something. I don’t care about his origins. I never have. I always hated the Krypton flashbacks in the few Superman comics that I have read, and I have hated all of the Krypton parts of both this and even Richard Donner’s 1977 version. I have always found them boring and tedious. While I will admit that they are done well here, especially Russell Crowe as Jor-El, I just didn’t care and was bored.
I did however, really like the scenes of young Clark Kent with his earthly parents played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. These scenes really brought what it would be like to be an alien with these powers on Earth and how necessary it would be to keep them under control while growing up. The bus crash sequence was very well done, the young Clark twisting the metal post of a fence so that he didn’t retaliate against the bullies, was very well done. Diane Lane talking him down from hearing and feeling everything in the classroom around him was well-done. I really, really liked these scenes.
Henry Cavill as the older Clark kent/ Kal-El gives a very nice, nuanced, and balanced performance as he saves oilmen from an exploding oil rig, lets his frustrations out on a trucker, “meets” his dad and Lois Lane, deals with the military, and attempts to come to terms with General Zod. Definitely not playing the part as “cutesy”, I was perfectly fine with this version of the character and thought he brought great depth to the character.
Amy Adams, as Lois Lane, has finally given us a Lois Lane to care about and believe that she could be a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. I liked her search for the man who would help people in trouble and then disappear. This part of the story intrigued me. I also liked how she was able to leak her story on the internet, bringing into play the world of journalism today (play and day rhyme, maybe I should move one of them to the second sentence???).
Michael Shannon as general Zod was a very menacing presence and he made a great “Big Bad”, I just didn’t care about his “Villain’s plan” to turn Earth into Krypton. It was, again, basically a land deal and many people were criticizing Superman Returns as having another Lex Luthor land grab scheme, but, when it boils down, isn’t that essentially what Zod’s plan in this film is?
As said before, the parts where Lois and Kal-El team up to make him known to the military and to attempt to bring himself to the forefront without bringing fear to the world were the best parts of the film (however, having major cast members from The West Wing, law & Order:SVU, and Dollhouse all on screen at the same time broke my brain a bit). While I love Laurence Fishburne, he was not given enough to do as Perry White in this film, but is obviously being set up to have a larger role in the sequels.
The problem was the action. How often is it said that there was “too much action”? About the last hour of the film is the “final confrontation” and it was too much with not enough variety. To me, it seemed like the last half of the film consisted of ‘punch, punch, punch’, ‘punch, punch, punch’, ‘You throw me through a building and I’ll shake the dust off, now I’ll throw you through a building and you can shake the dust off’, lather, rinse, repeat.
Some people are saying that the battle caused too much destruction and the loss of life must have been huge. I think there is some validity to that, because except for the female Daily Planet reporter who is in danger of becoming collateral damage, there never seems to be any human stakes at all in this film.
I do find it interesting that, had this film come out 11 years ago or so, it would have been ripped on for causing so much destruction to a major city and it would have been boycotted by being “too close to the horrible events of 9/11”. However, now, it is perfectly fine to show this destruction. (Please do not read too much into this- I would have found these complaint silly then and now- I am just pointing out the discrepancy of knee-jerk reactions to violence in the media.)
At the end of the day, I just felt that Zack Snyder as a director had all this control to really reboot Superman, and even had the script to do so (I understand that not liking the Krypton parts of the Superman story are all mine and not a fault of the film, but I still felt that the script could have been tightened and tuned up and focused more which could have been done by a better director at the helm), but he had no real vision and imagination. He spent millions on visual effects and the toppling of buildings, and destruction of Smallville (let alone Smallville’s IHOP and Sears), and I got bored, closed my eyes a few times, looked at my watch, and just wanted it to be over.
I did really like the conflict which has been caused to Supe’s psyche by breaking Zod’s neck to save a family (how did he do that again when all the punching and throwing through buildings didn’t cause Zod’s neck to break, but Supe’s strength somehow overcame the same strength that Zod’s bones would have had to resist the breaking of the neck???- oh, never mind- I’m thinking about it way more than Goyer and Snyder did), but I still don’t quite buy the darkening of the Superman story.
I will admit that the final scene of Clark getting a job, being introduced to Lois (who obviously knows who he is so we don’t have to play the whole ‘he has glasses on which blinds me to the fact that he’s actually Superman’ game) and Lois of welcoming to the Planet, made for a fabulously perfect ending sequence, but by that time 2 ½ hours had passed and I was ready to be done. I think that 45 minutes could have been trimmed to make this a leaner, meaner Man of Steel instead of in the flabby shape it was delivered to us.
Again, don’t read into this that I hated ‘Man of Steel’- I was just greatly disappointed by it. I think it has some great building blocks for a new series of Superman movies, but I am more excited for the possibilities of the sequels than I am to ever watch this again.

Movie Rating- 4
Film rating- 6



Lone Ranger- Again, Major Spoilers Ahead!!!!!

Lone Ranger has several of the same problems as Man of Steel. It is also just a hair under 2 ½ hours and could have used a substantial trimming to its runtime. Again, at an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours, it would have helped the movie flow so much better. I also did not care about getting another origin story for The Masked Man (although I admit freely that the Lone Ranger’s origin story is significantly less well-known than Superman’s). While the scope and detail is extremely impressive, not all of it is needed.
The Lone Ranger finds Johnny Depp playing Tonto, an outcast Commanche who is attempting to kill Butch Cavendish. He is, however stopped by the new county prosecutor, John Reid (Armie Hammer). When Cavendish escapes, John joins a posse with his brother Dan Reid. While on the hunt for the outlaw, the entire posse is ambushed and killed, including John and Dan.
The bodies are found by Tonto and buried. However, a spirit horse, who will eventually become Silver, tells Tonto to bring John back from the dead since John is a Spirit Walker, one who cannot be killed in battle. (If John was actually dead or just very close to it is never specified and left to the viewer, but it seemed to me that John was just close to death and was just helped by Tonto and not actually brought back from the dead.)
Once brought back, John is told that since he is thought to be dead, by wearing a mask he can keep his identity secret and seek vengeance on those that killed him.This origin story takes about 40-45 minutes. The next hour is a basic “buddy” movie where there is drama as the two investigate why the Ranger Posse was killed, and where we meet many more random characters, many of whom could be edited out and streamline the storytelling.
We also get a backstory on Tonto and why he wants to kill Cavendish himself and why Tonto keeps feeding the dead crow he wears as part of his hat. This, to me, was the only truly effective part of the backstories that each character has.
During this hour and 45 minute section, it is never flat out boring, as I felt portions of Man of Steel were, but it could have been tightened a lot in the editing room and made this first part quite breezy and fun instead of entertaining enough and plodding, as it is now.
However, the last 30-40 minutes features an amazingly fun and spry train car chase that starts with The William Tell Overture and The Lone Ranger and Silver rearing up and it never slows down from that point on. The climax chase escalates from one chase into a series of chases and almost feels like a live action Looney Tunes cartoon- and I mean that as a compliment.
The whole film is bookended by a very elderly Tonto telling the story to a child at a County Fair exhibit. Again, while a nice idea, it just pads the running time and is not really needed. This bookending device also does the same thing that the ending of Life of Pi did, in that Tonto asks the boy if The Lone Ranger is a true story or a myth, and then never answers the question- a very unnecessary piece of the storytelling puzzle.
While I do have massive issues with the script (including tons of historical inaccuracies and subplots that really go nowhere- the scorpions, anyone?), I cannot find fault with any of the acting or cinematography. The actors leave it all on the screen (to borrow and modify a sports term). While some actors play their characters very over the top, I feel that it is in the spirit of the old time westerns. Others, like Rachel Wilson who plays Dan’s widow, almost downplays her role, and Depp plays Tonto as a long range relative of jack Sparrow, which is again not a bad thing.
The cinematography is also superb by showing off southern Utah on the big screen again in service of a western storyline- and it does not disappoint. (Except for the fact that we are continually told that we are in texas at “Promontory Summit” and it is clearly Monument Valley, but I digress).
To sum up, while The Lone Ranger would have been helped immensely by a tightening of the film through editing, it does not have the same major problems that Man of Steel has, and is able to still bring a ton of entertainment and fun to this reboot of the classic character.
It’s just waaaaaaaaay too long.

Movie Rating- 7
Film rating- 6

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

1/2 way through 2013

Since Iron Man 3 on May 1st, I have seen 13 more films in the theater. They are:

24. Star Trek Into Darkness- 2x
25- The Last Stand
26- Hangover Part 3
27- Now You See Me
28- Fast & Furious 6
29- Gangster Squad
30- Man of Steel
31- World War Z
32- Monsters University
33- This is the End
34- The Heat
35- Bling Ring
36- White House Down


At this rate, I will se 72 films that are released in 2013 (although I hope to be a bit higher than that when all is said and done).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Now You See Me Movie Review

This will be very very short because 'Now You See Me' is the type of film that you really can't discuss without giving away its secrets. While this film is nowhere near the level of 'The Prestige' (and doesn't even try to be), it is still a very fun, escapist film.
The basic plot is that 4 different magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco) are all brought together by a mysterious individual for a larger purpose. 1 year later, they are re-dubbed The Four Horsemen and have 1 show planned in Vegas, one in New Orleans, and one in New York. After the Vegas show where they appear to rob a Parisian bank, the FBI & Interpol (with agents played by Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent) start hunting them to find out what their ultimate goal is. Also thrown in to mix are Morgan Freeman as an ex-magician who now makes his living by explaining how magicians do their tricks and Michael Caine who is a businessman who is funding the Four Horsemen.
To say more about the plot would start to spoil the surprises.
This film is much more like Ocean's 11 than The Prestige in that it is much more a heist film than a film about magic or illusion. While I was disappointed that some of the magic is done through the use of CGI and camera trickery, when it became very clear that it was not about the magic, it didn't bother me as much.
What it is, though, is a very fun, plot heavy heist movie. While some of the exposition is clumsily inserted, making sure that the audience knows it will come into play later, the film keeps up a brisk pace for its entire 2 hour running time.
While I cannot say for sure that this film plays 100% fair throughout its entire runtime, it seems that it does. With the fun had by each actor, a nimble screenplay, and just the enjoyment of watching everyone interact on screen together, it is definitely worth your time. It is just not quite the slam dunk I was hoping it would be, although it is nowhere near the disaster I was afraid it might be.
Sometimes it sucks watching this type of film when your favorite movie is The Sting. :)

Movie Rating- 8
Film Rating- 6

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Horror & Horror/ Thriller Reviews

This is going to be a batch of quick reviews of Horror films and Horror/ Thrillers that I have seen this year. Some people ask why I watch so many horror films. I think it is because the REALLY good horror films are out there and, when you find one, it makes sitting through all the crap worth it. Witness Neil Marshall's film 'The Descent'. I have yet to find anything too great on this front so far this year. While they all have great moments and great things in them, nothing has really been fabulous yet this year.
Read on for reviews of Dark Skies, Last Exorcism 2, Texas Chainsaw 3D, Hansel & Gretl Witch Hunters, Evil Dead(2013), and V/H/S.

V/H/S- available on video now

This is a "found footage" anthology horror film which shows a group of thieves who break into a home to steal a specific videotape. When they get there, they find the homeowner dead and a ton of VHS tapes. So, while looking for the tape, they also watch several of them.
As with most anthology films, some stories are much better than others. They are all obviously low budget. The first story seems to be the longest and, while very cool in execution (I believe the last segment is shot in one long take), the story of guys bringing unsuspecting girls back to their hotel room and having the tables turned just isnt very interesting. None of the characters connect at all with the audience.
Other stories are much better (Second Honeymoon starts off very slow and gets creepier with a total WTF ending, a story of a supernatural killer in the woods who cant be photographed uses the VHS ploy to its advantage, the story where guys go to the wrong house for a Halloween party has some amazing physcal effects that I wont soon forget, and a Skype conversation with visitors is creepy), but still, even in these, pacing and acting may be off in sections and perfect in others.
There is a sequel coming out in Summer of 2013 and advance word is that it is much better than this installment. I really liked the inventiveness and how they tried to do different things throughout. So, for adventureous types looking for a mixed bag anthology of low budget horror stories, I highly recommend this. For others, watch if this review intrigues you. All others- stay away!


Movie rating- 5
Film rating- 4


Last Exorcism 2- video release date- June 18, 2013

Nell Sweetzer from the first film (played again by Ashley Bell) is found cowering in the kitchen of an unsuspecting couple after the end of the events in the first film. She is taken to a home for wayward girls. Some of them have run away from home, others are there using it as a halfway house. At this home, they are ruled over by a strict but loving (maybe too loving???) caretaker who gets them all jobs at local businesses. Nell gets a job at a motel cleaning the rooms and meets a young man that she carefully starts dating.
However, the demon from the first film will not let her go and he starts creeping into her dreams and then into manifestations throughout the day. Some of these scenes are creepy, others laughably stupid. When Nell discovers that she is endangering those around her by ignoring the demon, she must find someone who can help get rid of the demon once & for all.
The ending is hilariously bad and the tone is completely off from the rest of the film. This is almost as much of a mixed bag as V/H/S, the bigger problem is that it is not an anthology film. The only thing that keeps this film afloat is Ashley Bell as Nell. While some may think she is overly mannered in her performance, I found that I was enthralled with what she would do next. While the charcater of Nell is bizarre and totally off-kilter (due to the events of the first film and things which are inferred therein), Bell's performance never wavers and she is staggeringly good. If I only rated a film based on one performance, this would get a 10 for Bell alone. Unfortunately, the totality of the rest of the film is quite bad to mediocre.

Movie rating- 3
Film Rating- 2


Texas Chainsaw 3D- available on video now

While the fact that the beginning shows a conclusion to the events of the first film in 1974 and they find a baby and flash forward 20 years, the year should be the late to mid 90's, only it is obvious that after the flash foward we are in present day. This immediately takes one out of the film and it sverely undermines much of the seriousness of the film, if you can just turn off your brain, TC3D is actuallly a fun little horror film.
Alexandra daddario plays Heather, a girl who has a dead end job, lives with her musician boyfriend, and tries to avoid her parents whenever possible. She discovers that she has actually been adopted and that her grandmother has left her some property in a small Texas town. She confronts her parents and then heads down to pick up her inheritance with boyfriend and skanky friend couple in tow.
Once she gets there, the realtor has her sign some papers and then gives her a note from her grandmother (which she conveniently never reads until the last moments of the film- ooops!) and is given keys.
Obviously, throughout the next 12 hours, she and her friends are tormented both by Leatherface and the local townspeople who don't want her there. People are sliced and diced after having sex, others are hacked up as they try to escape, and there is not too much originality going on.
Dadarrio (seen in the Percy jackson films), gives it her best but is not very memorable as the "final girl". She is a good scream queen, but not much else. Her friends are not too much different than other potential victims in a dead teenager film, but the movie does have its share of blood, guts, and gore and a few actually tense sequences. It is also helped out by Richard Riehle, one of "those guys" whose face you recognize but not his name.
The film sets itself up for a sequel and, if one comes from this, I wont be first in line to see it on opening night, but I will definitely check it out.
As it is, a fun time with a few unintentional laughs thrown in, but nothing spectacular.

Movie rating- 5
Film rating- 3


Dark Skies- video release date- May 28, 2013

The first 15-20 minutes of this film could easily be trimmed down to 1 neighborhood BBQ scene (which is already in the film), and instead of getting one laborious charcater development and exposition scene after another, each only giving one important piece of information about the characters, they could throw all of the exposition into the BBQ scene with different characters talkign to each other and setting up the film before the opening credits are done. Unfortunately, the filmmakers do the opposite and drag on the beginning faaar too long setting up the fact that the family is having issues: dad is out of a job, mom is having a hard time as a real estate agent, the kids are pulling away, etc., etc., etc. They almost kill the film from the start, which is really too bad.
Once the film sets its plot in motion, it is actually very intriguing. Are the strange things happening because the kids are acting out or is there something else behind the strange occurrences?
There are enough very unsettling shots and events that, once it gets going, the film holds you in your seat. There are some cheesy jump scares, along with some very well-earned ones. The inematography adds to the feeling of dread, as though something is waiting just around the next corner. The camera also picks up, whether in shadow or sunlight, several very creepy shots that seep into your subconscious.
While the ending is a bit of a cop out (it sets up a sequel), I found that I really enjoyed this film and have thought about certain shots and moments several times since leaving the theater.
A solid choice for a creepy, PG-13 alien flick, once you get past the opening 15-20 minutes.

Movie rating- 6
Film rating- 5


Hansel & Gretl- Witch Hunters- video release date June 11, 2013

To be honest, the title says it all. If the title makes you want to see this film, I say to go for it. If you think the title signifies an idiotic waste of time, stay away. I will not be able to persuade anyone about this film with anything that I say. Unless maybe these words mean anything to you- Gemma Arterton and leather.
The film starts with Hansel & Gretl's father taking them to the woods in the middle of the night due to some emergency happening. he then leaves them alone. They stumble on a house made of candy and start eating and eating and eating. They aretaken in by thye witch who tries to shove them in the oven but they fight back and end up killing her. They have now found their life's calling.
In a very inventive opening credits sequence, we see medeivel newspaper headlines outlining their work as they grow up to become Jeremy renner & Gemma Arterton.
They are summoned, by Peter Stormare, to a town which has come under threat of witches. The duo investigates, find they have more trouble than they bargained for, meet several townspeople who help them or delay them, and they must gear up for the ultimate battle against many very evil witches.
I could go on, but what's the point? This is a silly film enlivened by some good kills, cheesy one-liners, and good acting (all things considered).
Being a theater employee, I got to see this for free, and am glad I didn't have to pay for it, but it was a fun, cheesy time watching a film.
Which has Gemma Arterton in leather.

Movie rating- 5
Film Rating- 3


Evil Dead (2013)- tentative video release date- July 16, 2013

Evil Dead is easily the most well-made of all of this batch of films. It has a lot of blood, guts, and gore, several very disturbing sequences, and a sense of dread that does not stop. I like the fact that it is not a direct remake since the characters have a specific purpose for being at this particular cabin in the woods,and this underlying plot thread leads to some great character moments, even after all hell has broken loose (literally). I love the fact that the effects are 99% practical (meaning very little CGI), so that when a charcater has to cut their hand off, you almost feel that character's pain as something is actually being taken off of their body.
For some, this may be a case of waaaay too much, but I had a fun time with it and enjoyed it.I was sad that the friend I went with was utterly disturbed throughout, so that showed me that it definitely is not for everyone, but I had a good time. Word is that a sequel is being considered and I, for one, would love to see where they take this now.


Movie rating- 7
Film rating- 7