20130629, samedi--8 mini reviews

20130629, samedi

A. (hulu+)  Programming the Nation?
  1. Documentary, 2011, 111 minutes
  2. Concerns subliminal advertising and related advertising methods.
  3. Main areas of interest are rock music, movies, television advertising, billboard advertising, and political ad campaigns via radio and television.
  4. Lots of interesting historical clips and interviews plus discussions of techniques and their efficacy.
  5. This is well worth watching, five stars of five.
B. (hulu+) Orgasm, Inc
  1. Documentary, 2011, 78 minutes
  2. Concerns 'female sexual disfunction' (FSD), a disease created by pharmaceutical marketers to drive the need for a 'female viagra' so that billions of dollars of pills can be sold.
  3. This is a trenchant and funny look into the movers and shakers in advertising, marketing, FDA approvals, definitions of disease, and huge masses of misinformation.
  4. Great film; five of five stars.
C.  (hulu+) Friends (with Benefits)
  1. Movie, fiction, 2009, comedy, romance, 94 minutes.
  2. This is much more about Sturm und Drang than about comedy.  Be prepared.
  3. Compared to the the 2011 movie with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, or the 2011 television series, this work is dark and lifeless.  I found the characters to be either uninteresting or mildly repulsive.  The plot was next to non-existent.  What there was of plot was not engaging.
  4. IMDB rates it at 5.5 of 10.0.
  5. I gave it two stars of five.
D. (hulu+) Primeval: New World: Fear of Flying
  1. Episodic television, season 1, episode 3; 44 minutes, science fiction.
  2. As light entertainment, I like this series one quite a bit.
  3. I rated this one four stars of five.
E. (hulu+) Jack Hunter and the Star of Heaven
  1. Film, action and adventure,  98 minutes, third installment of a trilogy.
  2. Jack Hunter is an archaeologist who does some of the bidding for the NSA to find objects of power.  The Star of Heaven is one of those.  The 'other side' is also searching for the Star, and so arises conflict and chases.  I saw the first of the trilogy on the Syfy channel, and have decided to skip the middle installment.
  3. A bit predictable; could have used better writing.  I gave this one two of five stars.
F. (hulu+) Dead Space: Aftermath
  1. Animation, 2011, 85 minutes, fiction, horror on spaceships.  Allied to the FPS video games, Dead Space, Dead Space 2, and Dead Space 3.
  2. Sequel to Dead Space: Downfall (2008).  Aftermath makes more sense after viewing the first film.
  3. There are too many flashbacks in this work.   I would have much preferred a straight timeline from after Downfall ended.  To make this worse, the flashbacks have varying styles and quality levels.  I found that discordant, and the mark of poor planning.
  4. While less gory than the first, the art problems are worse, and the derivative nature of the story (Alien) is clearer.  I gave this one three stars of five.
G. (hulu+) Exit
  1. Film, 90 minutes, fiction, 2011, shot in colour, but feels like black and white, for the dreariness, depression, and lack of optimism.  IMDB labels it 'psychological drama.'
  2. Hulu says, 'A group of people believe the city is a maze and are obsessively searching for the lost exit.'
  3. Hmph.  I watched the whole thing, unfortunately, but at least I found the end of the film.
  4. That was good enough, since the plot was somewhere between Gordian knot and 'who cares?'
  5. One star of five, and that was way too positive a rating.
H. (hulu+) Avalon
  1. Live action, mostly.  Sepia, mostly.  Boring as hell, mostly.
  2. VRMMORPG gone wrong.  Ah, who cares?
  3. 106 minutes, released in 2001, from those who made the animated series Ghost in the Shell.
  4. In retrospect, GITS seems positively open and clear and transparent compared to this work.
  5. Dissipation, pointlessness, inaction, game-induced permanent illnesses, lack of direction, out-of-focus closeups of low-tech food preparation, such as potatoe-cabbage-rice stew.  People with eastern European accents checking out old books written in Japanese.  Who could ask for more?
  6. Saw this through to the flat cluster-cliche of an ending.  Two stars of five.


20130626, mercredi

A. Added hulu+ for a while, perhaps 9 or 10 weeks.

B. Booth at the End
  1. Hulu+
  2. Season 1, five 23 minute episodes
  3. Season 2, five 23 minute episodes.
  4. Xander Berkeley and a good-sized cast.
  5. Intriguing interconnected stories.  Excellent storytelling.
  6. Five stars of five.
C.  The Secret of Kells.
  1. Hulu+
  2. Animation, flat style, which I do not care for in the least.
  3. Non-engaging story telling.
  4. 1 star of 5.  Would not recommend this to anyone.
D. Dead Leaves.
  1. Hulu+
  2. Anime.  In the direction of FLCL, but gone well off the deep end into an empty pool.
  3. Zero stars; would not recommend this to anyone.
E. American Grindhouse.
  1. Hulu+
  2. Documentary about censorship and grindhouse films and culture.
  3. Narrated by Robert Forster, commentary by many Hollywood insiders.
  4. Nice historical piece concerning film, 1913 to about 1975.
  5. Four stars of five.
F. Arrow.
  1. Hulu+; series on the CW.
  2. Watched the pilot episode.
  3. Dramatically different than the Green Arrow on Smallville.
  4. Two stars of five.  Could not finish the second episode, and will not watch another.
G. Primeval: New World
  1. Hulu+
  2. Episode 2; caught the pilot on the Syfy network.
  3. Liked it, especially in HD.
  4. Four stars of five.
H. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (with John Oliver for a while)
  1. Wonderful job, hilarious and often dead-on in its attacks.
  2. Four of five stars.
  3. June 17, 19, 2013.
I. The Vampire Diaries: Growing Pains
  1. Hulu+
  2. This was episode 1, season 4.
  3. Tried episode 2, season 4.  Did not finish, will not watch again.
  4. One star of five.   Yawn.


20130617, lundi--3 mini reviews

20130617, lundi; continued through 20130620, jeudi

A. The Gift
  1. Released in 2000, rated R, 111 minutes.
  2. Sam Raimi director; Billy Bob Thornton was one of the writers.
  3. Stars Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Gary Cole, J. K. Simmons, Giovanni Ribisi, Kim Dickens, Michael Jeter.
  4. Thriller, mystery, supernatural elements.  Set in the fictitious town of Brixton, Georgia.
  5. Slow start.  Long slow middle.  Deadly boring through to the disappointing end.
  6. There were a number of unbelievable elements.  Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear as a couple?  No; Greg's 15 years older than she is.  Hilary Swank as a punching bag?  No.  Cate Blanchett as a psychic?  Nope.  Cate Blanchett as an American, as a lower class single mother in Georgia?  No, no, no.  Giovanni Ribisi with a cast of real actors?  Dubious at best.  I like almost all of this group of actors, but in different kinds of roles.
  7. Mild plus ratings for J.K. Simmons and Michael Jeter for injecting chunks of skepticism.
  8. Suspend disbelief?  No, I'm gritting my teeth.
  9. 111 minutes is too long; 30 would have been better.
  10. One star of five.
B. Animals
  1. Mark Blucas, Naveen Andrews, Nicki Aycox
  2. 2008, 93 minutes, NR, horror, supernatural, werewolves
  3. Mark Blucas' character gets dragged along through the film by his new werewolf girlfriend.  This passive role is is not one of my favorites for him.
  4. Naveen Andrews' character in Animals varies among the following states: menacing, threatening, demanding, and ultraviolent.  I liked him better in Lost, and some of his other works, such as The English Patient and Kama Sutra, where he was able to show his range.
  5. Nicki Aycox has been doing competent work for a number of years in a number of roles.  In this film, I liked her performance better than Blucas' for instance.
  6. The film was dark, blurry, and murky; this describes the plot as well as the lighting.
  7. Two stars of five.
C.  Kaze no Stigma
  1. Anime series, 2007, TV-14, 24 episodes at 24 minutes each (well, perhaps 18 minutes of content)
  2. Supernatural thriller with comedy and romance elements; set in contemporary Japan; use of fire, air, and earth magic
  3. The main character, Kasuma was born into the fire magic clan, but cannot learn it.  He is cast out of his clan for this failure.  He returns as the 'contractor' for the Wind Spirit King; that is, one of the most trusted and powerful of all wind magic users.  He bears the stigma of the wind (Kaze no Stigma); that is, very blue eyes when resonating with the wind spirits. 
  4. After a bad start, Kasuma and the fire clan try to come into harmony.  Along the way, they battle other potent families and some European magicians who use the Internet to disseminate bad mojo.
  5. Finally finished it.  Great.  Wish there could be more, but I read the creator of the series passed on.
  6. Five stars of five.


20130617: Action Film Review--Haywire

  1. American live action theatrical film, released 2011, rated R, 92 minutes; spy thriller, action and adventure, revenge film.  Steven Soderbergh directed.
  2. IMDB rated it 5.9/10.0 for 54,711 users; blurb--'A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.'
  3. Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (seems way too high) from critics; 6.7/10 from 179 user reviews.  More tellingly, 40% rating from 40,262 ticket buying audience members.
  4. Filmed in New Mexico US, Dublin IR, and Barcelona ES.
  5. Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender--leads (in the billing, anyway)
  6. Also, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum
  7. ----------------------------------------------
  8. Gina Carano is a 'top rated female MMA fighter' as one reviewer put it.  I think she should have stayed with 'reality' fighting.  She might be more convincing there.  The foley for the fights was usually off to the extent that I was certain that no blows were ever landed, just as in 'reality' fighting.  The foley defeated any chance of this being an engaging action film since everything was clearly faked.
  9. Channing Tatum comes across as he usually does, as an irredeemable thug/uncivilized bully/blunt instrument/sociopath.  He shows a moment of thoughtfulness toward the end of the film, and is immediately shot for it, fatally, as it turned out.
  10. Ewan MacGregor's character was flaccid and malevolent at the some time.  Perhaps that was what he was aiming for.
  11. Antonio Banderas had very little screen time.  In the end, though, he was the one who pulled all the puppet strings.  I did not buy that one either.
  12. Michael Fassbender gave a short performance as an ineffectual betrayer working for MI6.  Looks like he was an actor who 'fit the suit' for the role, and was not needed for anything else.
  13. Michael Douglas was sleazy and smooth as a Gordon Gecko type.  He was hard to believe as the only source of possible official redemption for the protagonist.
  14. Bill Paxton was the only actor I liked in this film. He played the straight arrow father of the protagonist who believed in his daughter and supported her, no matter what sequence of lies was fed to him.
  15. ------------------------------------------------
  16. The sound track was regularly annoying and anti-relevant.  Gunshots, for instance, should be a bit louder than conversation.  In some sequences, they were softer than footsteps, and nearly drowned out by the low-volume 'music.'  The techno-crap music was horrid.  It often served to convince me that what I was watching was of no importance, as well as of no emotional significance.  This was all a dreary intellectual exercise in fakery and treachery. The fakery--fake fighting, fake motives, fake stories--made the treachery a lot less believable.
  17. The cinematography was also repugnant.  The over use of yellow (tungsten lights, yellow filtration) was rampant in the interior shots, as well as several exteriors.  There were dozens of fast cuts between the yellow palette and more natural scenes, such as Dublin on a cloudy day, or long shots of nature in New Mexico.  These jarring juxtapositions made me itch for the movie to be done.
  18. -------------------------------------------------
  19. This film deeply eroded my overall admiration of Soderbergh as a director.
  20. I rated this film as two stars of five.
Cinematography: 4/10 This was a major detriment.  See above.

Sound: 4/10  Another major detriment.

Acting: 4/10 Some good, mostly indifferent or bad.

Screenplay: 2/10 Too many flashbacks, too many tricks.


20130616: Movies, short reviews

20130616, dimanche

A. Inhale
  1. 2010, rated R, 83 minutes
  2. Dermot Mulroney, Rosanna Arquette, Diane Kruger, Sam Shepard
  3. Good cast.
  4. Rotten script.
  5. Boring.
  6. Watch Traffic instead: an even better cast, excellent writing, more than one plot line, and a dominant driving sense of urgency and engagement.
  7. Despite the subject matter, I could not connect with this one.
  8. One star of five, and that is too generous.
  9. I forgot irritating.  I kept wondering why all the resources were being wasted on a movie I did not care about.
B. Blood: the Last Vampire
  1. Live action version of the Japanese anime series.
  2. Script and the director moved the action right along from the beginning.
  3. 2009, rated R, 88 minutes.
  4. One version of the anime (Blood+) was 50 episodes at about 20 minutes a pop, so this was strongly abbreviated.
  5. Not a movie for the squeamish; demon and human bloodletting abounds.
  6. Rated it three of five stars.  Liked it much better than the discouraging Inhale.  After the first five or so minutes, the action moved right along.
C. Timer
  1. The blending of science fiction, romantic comedy, and ongoing dysfunction is not my favorite mix.
  2. 2009, 99 minutes, rated R, termed 'indie.'
  3. Emma Caulfield, JoBeth Williams, and Muse Watson were fine.  The other actors were next to forgettable, as I don't remember seeing their work before, and hope I never see them again.
  4. I rated this one three out of five stars; I must have been feeling generous.


20130615, samedi

A. The Fall
  1. 2013, BBC, 5 episodes, series 1
  2. Gillian Anderson
  3. My wife and I rated this one five stars of five; excellent.
  4. Looking forward to the second series in 2014
  5. British TV crime series set in Belfast, Northern Ireland
  6. Anderson plays Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, who pursues a serial killer of young single professional women.
B.  The Numbers Station
  1. 2013, 88 minutes, theatrical film, in HD
  2. John Cusack and Malin Akerman as the mismatched leads.
  3. Way too long; about 15 minutes of content
  4. Said some rather trenchant things about the CIA, but nothing particularly new.
  5. Cusack plays a disgraced assassin who muffed an assignment to retire (kill) a former CIA asset who tried to retire in the usual sense of the word.  His remedial assignment is to protect a clandestine radio station that transmits instructions sent encoded in numbers.  If protection fails, he is to retire the operator who calculates and speaks the numbers.
  6. Rated 3 stars of 5.


20130612: 4 mini Reviews

20130612, mercredi

A. House at the End of the Street
  1. 2012, 100 minutes, horror, thriller, mystery
  2. Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elisabeth Shue, Gil Bellows
  3. I rated it three stars of five.
  4. Jennifer Lawrence was the center, and did reasonably well.  Neither Elisabeth Shue nor Gil Bellows had many good lines.  Max Thieriot was OK but not great as the evil doer.
B. The Glades (TV series, CSI meets romantic comedy)
  1. I finished the first three seasons this weekend.
  2. Had a good time watching it: the visuals were nice, the actors congenial, the writing mostly fun and not too unlikely.
  3. Three seasons was enough, though.  I will likely not watch any of the fourth season.
C. Soul Eater (TV series, anime, horror, the supernatural, comedy)
  1. The anime series comes in 4 parts, for a total of 13 + 13 + 13 + 12 = 51 episodes.
  2. The underlying manga has run from June 2004 to at least September 2013.
  3. I'm about half way through the third part.
  4. For writing, humor, and visuals, this is the best anime series I've ever seen.
D. Hemlock Grove (TV series, live action, Netflix original, 2013, horror and the supernatural)
  1. I'm in the ninth episode.  Each episode runs about 43 minutes.
  2. So far, good writing, good acting, good plots, and wonderful visuals. 
  3. Dougray Scott and Famke Janssen are great as the adult leads.  In general, the acting is excellent.  Bill Skarsgard and Landon Liboiron were particularly engaging.
  4. This series is not for the faint of heart.  There is more than enough butchery of the human form, self-mutilation, alcohol abuse, generalized anger and mistrust, nightmares, and horrid corporate goals.
  5. I hope the conclusion of the series is as good as its progress to the ninth episode.


20130607: Horror Review--The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods
  1. American live action theatrical film with some special effects, released 2012, rated R for violence and gore, 95 minutes.
  2. IMDB: 7.1/10.0 from 163,264 viewers.
  3. Rotten Tomatoes: tomatometer at 92%
  4. Stars Kristen Connelly, Liam Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver, Amy Acker
  5. Starts off as a standard looking young-adults-screwing up slasher-horror film, but has the extra layer of the Bradley Whitford-Amy Acker technical crew operating in parallel.
  6. As those two layers come together, the real fun starts.
  7. Producer Joss Whedon, Director Drew Goddard, the writer of Cloverfield
  8. Rated five stars of five. 
Cinematography: 10/10 No complaints. There were dark passages, where horror films often fail, but the cameras and operators were up to the challenge.

Sound: 10/10 Good.

Screenplay: 10/10 Good pacing, wonderful buildup to surprise ending, which was the quintessence of horror.

Acting: 10/10 Good all around.

Special Effects: 10/10 Vary between competent and extremely good.