20131130: Comedy Review--Fun Size

Fun Size
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, 86 minutes, rated PG13; spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 6,676 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 14 million USD. This is a Nickelodean Movies production.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 25% on the meter; 49% liked it from 23,674 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.7/5.0 from 114,411 audience ratings. 
    5. Directed by: Josh Schwartz.
    6. Starring: Victoria Justice as Wren Desantis, Chelsea Handler as Joy, Jackson Nicoll as Albert, Josh Pence as Keevin, Jane Levy as April, Thomas Mann as Roosevelt, Thomas McDonell as Aaron Riley, Riki Lindhome as Galaxy Scout, Johnny Knoxville as Joergen.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film is about: a teenaged nerd girl growing up, thinking about college, boys, school.
    2. The film is about: a single mother's attempt to have romance with two kids on hand.
    3. The film is about: losing a pudgy, mischievous, pre-school aged boy on Halloween night, then trying to find him.

    4. How well do these themes fit together?

    5. Joy is going to a party with Keevin, so she assigns Albert to Wren.   Unfortunately, Aaron Riley invites her to a party.  Looks like conflict of interest.  Even before the party, she loses Albert in the first haunted house they go to.  Albert makes his way around on his own, oddly enough.  Albert hooks up with a convenience store clerk.  Wren just misses him, but spends time with some of her fellow teens, mostly Roosevelt.  The clerk fouls up and gets his car towed; Albert gets into the car as it's towed, since his jackalantern full of candy was in it.  Wren targets the chicken place, since Albert loves it.  Unfortunately, they take a slow route, and he evades them.  Roosevelt's 'borrowed' car breaks down. They just barely miss Albert again as Galaxy Scout intercepts him.  Roosevelt screws up royally, and backs the car into the chicken building, and knocks the huge, animated chicken off the top of the building onto the car.

    6. Joy finds that the host of the party Keevin invited her to lives with his parents, and most of the attendees are quite definitely younger than she is.  Galaxy Scout takes Albert to the party where Joy is.  Unfortunately, he leaves with the enormous scumbag (Joergen) who stole all his Halloween candy.  The clerk sees the scumbag with Albert in the back of his convertible.  Joy gets to know the hosts of the party, which is weird, but is a bit therapeutic for her.  She goes home and sees that Wren and Albert are not back yet.

    7. Does Wren get Albert back from Joergen?  Do Wren and Roosevelt ever clear the air?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Probably fine for the target audience of tweens and teens.

    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Looks good.

    2. Sound: 6/10 No particular problems.  Stupid incidental music.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Thumbs down: Jackson Nicoll, Chelsea Handler, Thomas McDonell, Johnny Knoxville.  Thumbs up: Thomas Mann, Riki Lindhome, Jane Levy.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 The basic ideas are okay, but it might have been better if Robert Altman had written and directed it.  In less capable hands, this did not work all that well.  There were too many balls in the air.  Most of them dropped to the ground.


20131129: Comedy Review--The Perfect Stranger

The Perfect Stranger (El perfecto desconocido)
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Spanish live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 92 minutes, comedy.  Spoken word is in Spanish; subtitles in English.
    2. IMDB: 5.9/10.0 from 139 audience ratings.  Aspect, 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' 50% wanted to see it from 15 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 10,322 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Toni Bestard.
    6. Starring: Colm Meany as Mark O'Reilly, Ana Wagener as Isabel, Guiem Juaneda as Biel, Carlos Santos as Amancio, Natalia Rodriguez as Celia, Pascal Ulli as Klaus, Kate Burdette as Grace.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Mark walks into a small town in Spain.  In the town square, he opens an old shop for which he has keys.  Biel wounds his hand, gets help from Mark, then asks for a job repairing things in the shop.  Celia hides from the cops in his shop for about five minutes one day.  Later, he helps patch her up after someone punches her in the face.

    2. Mark does not speak Spanish.  Next to no one in the town has any English.  This makes for some interesting interactions.  Mark is looking for something in the surrounding countryside.  He mounts a large topographical map on one of his walls.  He makes notations at the places where he has visited.

    3. The people in the town come up with a variety of explanations of Mark's presence.  Celia makes some progress in teaching Mark Spanish in exchange for temporary shelter and meals.  Klaus, the violin player, on the other hand, speaks German and not as much Spanish.  The two cops are trying to figure out what Biel and Celia are doing while spending time with Mark.

    4. It was a lovely moment when Biel fixes the tap, which used to turn out the lights.  People bring all sorts of things to Mark's establishment, thinking the objects will be directly applicable to his business.  Together with Biel's work, the place starts to look rather nice.

    5. Mark's quest starts to look more coherent on the map.  The cops finally ask for ID after they ask the local realtor about sales; there were none.  They never get around to asking how Mark got the key to the place.  While at the police station, Mark sees a photo of a man at a place he sort of recalls; the police help him find where it is on a map.

    6. Celia fails her physical since she has an inherited pulmonary problem.  She had intended to work on tanks in the armed forces.  She gets in a row with her father, and punches the cop who thinks he is her boyfriend.  The cop gives chase; the next morning she's missing.  Biel looks for her.  Mark seems to be very close to finding what he was looking for.

    7. When Biel lets Mark know that Celia has gone missing, Mark immediately joins the search.

    8. Will they find Celia?  Will Mark find what he was looking for?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Simple, beautiful story executed with compelling direction and acting.
    2. Five stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 No problems.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Good.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Colm Meany at his best, and his best was very good.  Fine supporting actors.

    4. Screenplay: 10/10 Lovely story, with just the right level of resolution.  The communication accomplished against language barriers was exceptional between the mature, compassionate older man and the two young people.


20131128: Drama Review--End of Watch

End of Watch
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 109 minutes, crime, drama, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 7.6/10.0 from 115,282 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 7 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 85% on the meter; 86% liked it from 76,671 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 4.2/5.0 from 1,984,196 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: David Ayer.
    6. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal as Officer Brian Taylor, Michael Pena as Officer Mike Zavala, America Ferreira as Officer Orozco, Frank Grillo as Sarge, Natalie Martinez as Gabby, Anna Kendrick as Janet.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film is about LAPD cops, and mostly about the partners, ex-Marine Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala.  They make some lucky and high-profile arrests and get some notoriety.  They also attract the attention of a Mexican drug kingpin.

    2. There are some great arrests, as well as significant arrests foiled by federal agencies, plus loss of colleagues.  Taylor's wedding to Janet was quite a talk fest, but was reasonably written and acted.  The rotten camera work, throughout, just put a damper on everything.

    3. They find more horrible things during routine investigations.  They learn from an informant that there is a paid hit out with their names on it.

    4. The Mexican gang lures them into a trap and attacks with heavy weaponry. They get a message out calling for backup, which seems dreadfully slow in coming.  Taylor takes one in the hand and later one in the chest.  While Zavala tries to revive Taylor, he is surrounded by gang members who unload dozens of rounds into him.

    5. Backup arrives and a fire fight immediately ensues.  The assassins are mostly killed.  There is a huge police event afterward for Zavalos, whose body shielded Taylor.

    6. The last segment, shown after Taylor struggles to say what he feels at Zavala's ceremony, was perhaps the best segment of the film.  This was not so much for the content of their conversation, but for the evident bond between brothers-in-arms.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Demerits for being in the trash genre of found film.  Demerits for dropping the f-bomb well over 200 times.  After a while, the rough language is inert, meaningless, dead filler.

    2. One line summary: A good script tarnished by terrible camera work.

    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 The film used button cams, security footage, and various hand-held cameras to give a deeply incompetent presentation.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Fairly good considering the video.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Who can tell what the actors are doing when the cameras are out of control?  Gyllenhaal and Pena were great, despite the director's contempt for the viewer; otherwise I would give this category a zero.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Way, way, way too many abrupt cuts.  The thing looks like a quilt made from left over cloth pieces put together with duct tape.


20131127: Horror Review--A Haunting at Silver Falls

A Haunting at Silver Falls
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 96 minutes, horror, supernatural.
    2. IMDB: 4.6/10.0 from 1000 audience ratings. Estimated budget: 2.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' 38% liked it from 140 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 291,674 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Brett Donowho.
    6. Starring: Steve Bacic as Kevin Sanders, Tara Westwood as Anne Sanders, Erick Avari as Dr. Parrish, Alix Elizabeth Gitter as Jordan, Jade Ramsey as Heather Dahl, Nikita Ramsey as Holly Dahl, James Cavlo as Larry Parrish, James Ralph as Sheriff O'Leary, Tadhg Kelly as Robbie O'Leary.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Jordan's father died, so she comes to live with her aunt Anne, her deceased mother's twin sister, and her uncle Kevin.  She goes on a date with Larry Parrish; Larry ends up being arrested for drug possession, and Jordan gets a ride home from Robbie.  Larry is in line to be the school valedictorian, and Dr Parrish (Larry's father, a psychologist) is not amused.

    2. Jordan starts getting nocturnal visitors; one leaves candy wrappers, the other tries to pull off the ring she found in the woods while fleeing the cops after the 'date.'

    3. Larry tries to help Jordan get the ring off.  It seems to work, but then the ring gets back on, somehow.  Jordan's new parents bring up the things (an Hermes scarf, money from Kevin's wallet) found in her underwear drawer.  The lock her in the bathroom using pennies while they have a night out by themselves.   Then the ghosts try to drown her.  Good planning there.  She's soaking wet but the bathroom is not.  Hm.  They give her some haloperidol, an anti-psychotic.  Oh, great.  She sees the one ghost in daylight now.

    4. Her first visit with Dr. Parrish on a professional level does not go well.  She sees the ghost in his office, cannot take her eyes off of it, and cannot tell him about it.  The doctor knows she is lying and concealing.  Sigh.  At school, Larry and Robbie are competing over her.  Larry and Jordan ditch school and follow Jordan's ghost.  Larry calls her parents and the Sheriff, who then stage an intervention.

    5. Jordan gets to meet Mr. Dahl, the father and the condemned killer of the twins, Heather and Holly Dahl.  These are the ghosts Jordan has been seeing.  Mr. Dahl gives her another ring, the second third of what used to be one ring.  After she gets home, Jordan puts it on as well.  She has quite the dream after that, featuring both twins.  They warn her that she is next.

    6. Jordan finds the third part of the ring, and information that she did not expect.

    7. Will Jordan make it out alive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Foster parents sometimes be very, very bad.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Fairly good, but had a few problems, at least on Netflix.

    2. Sound: 8/10 No particular problems.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Steve Bacic was great; Erick Avari, an enduring favourite, was even better.  James Cavlo was beyond bad.  Except for him, I might have given this film a five of five. Alix Elizabeth Gitter was fine as Jordan.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Liked the story.

20131127: Thriller Review--Redline

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 86 minutes, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.7/10.0 from 447 audience ratings.  Spoken word is in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' 17% liked it from 27 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 84,337 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Robert Kirbyson.
    6. Starring: John Billingsley as Sam, Nicole Gale Anderson as Tori, Kunal Sharma as Al, Kevin Sizemore as Jared, Joseph Williamson as Mason,

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Passengers on a train in Los Angeles get derailed by a bomb.  While tending to the wounded, they find a second bomb.  They try to figure out how to stop it.  They also guess that the bomber is still among them.

    2. The bomber does fairly well at covering his tracks.

    3. They accuse a young man who looks middle eastern, but who grew up in the USA.  He's not the bomber, of course.

    4. With some courageous action, they keep themselves from getting blown up.

    5. Do they make it through to rescue?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Survivors of a terrorist attack on a train cooperate to outwit the bomber.
    2. Four stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 OK, though rather dark.

    2. Sound: 8/10 No particular problems, but some better incidental music might have helped the dramatic tension.

    3. Acting: 7/10 John Billingsley was great as the villain.  Many of the other actors gave just middling performances.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Has a beginning, middle, and an end, plus reasonable dialog.

20131127: Thriller Review--Love Sick Love

Love Sick Love
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, 82 minutes, rated R, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.5/10.0 from 261 audience ratings.  Aspect: 1.78  Spoken word is in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: x% on the meter; y% liked it from z audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 47,554 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Christian Charles.  Written by: Ryan Oxford.
    6. Starring: Katya Winter as Dori, Matthew Settle as Norman, Jim Gaffigan as Andrew Blythe, Lindsey Rose Binder as Dolly, Dean Kapica as Albert, M. Emmet Walsh as Ed (Dori's grandfather), Charlotte Rae as Grandma.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Norman is a busy, successful real estate agent who is deeply interested in making money, no matter how much time it takes.  He likes his girl friends, but tends to cycle them, a new one every so many weeks.  Dori, however, gets him to go on a long weekend early enough in the relationship that he decides to go.

    2. Dori has surprises from the beginning.  She goes through the 'I love you' dance a bit early.  The next morning, Dori introduces Albert and Dolly, her son and daughter.  Then she introduces her grandfather and grandmother as well.  Norman is by no means ready or willing for this to happen.

    3. Norman attempts to leave, but Dori has sawed off the steering wheel on his Porsche.  This is where he needed to do anything he could to leave.  He comes close to it, but his cell phone reception is poor.  Dori slams him over the head with an iron, then ties him down to a bed.  The kids are on with it, as are grandpa and grandma.

    4. The festive tortures that the kidnappers put Norman through are both ordinary and disgusting.  They celebrate all sorts of holidays during the long weekend: Valentine's Day, Easter, Father's Day.  They tie him up with duct tape, chain his legs together, then make fun of him when he cannot hold his bladder after a long time.

    5. Norman does his best to leave, but the ball and chains make it difficult.  They talk, and talk, and talk.

    6. Norman does get free, locks Dori away, then starts to run away.  Dori suckers him in by yelling that Dolly had trouble breathing.  This was an horrid moment, when Norman's small piece of compassion is leveraged by this family of psychos.  They re-capture him, then subject him to Christmas carols while dressed for Halloween.

    7. Norman knows he's in trouble when the New Year's celebration involves voting, rather like the voting in an elimination derby, such as Survivor.  Is there any way out for Norman?

  3. Conclusions
    1. A bit too much of the PC bovine scatology.  Dori sounds oh, so calm and clear and philosophical as she drags Norman's body into the shed.  This is one of the harshest crushings of the human spirit I have seen in quite a while.  This is horror at its purest, not a thriller, as billed.  'I still believe in love,' says the kidnapping multiple murderess at the end.  A much better ending would be that Norman escapes when he had the chance, comes back with police, and the four kidnappers are killed in a hail of bullets.  That would have been a thriller, as opposed to this embrace of murderous madness.

    2. One line summary: Self-involved real estate agent encounters psycho girlfriend and her family.

    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10  Well done.

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 8/10 I liked the performances of the veteran actors.  The child actors did well in their roles.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 Story makes sense in a sick sort of way.

20131127: Horror Review--Stalled

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 82 minutes, horror, comedy.
    2. IMDB: 5.0/10.0 from 217 audience ratings. Spoken word is in English.  Estimated budget, 450 thousand pounds.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No Score Yet,' 47% liked it from 21 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.6/5.0 from 6,609 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Christian James.  Written by Dan Palmer.
    6. Starring: Dan Palmer as WC, Antonia Bernath as Heather, Tamaryn Payne as Evie, Mark Holden as Jeff From I.T., Giles Alderson as Nick Shanks.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Christmas Eve, somewhere in the UK.  There's a corporate party.  There's also a complaint about a smell in the ladies' rest room.  Our hero, WC, extracts the dead rat causing the smell from the ceiling fan vent.  Two women in skimpy costumes come in, so WC hides in a stall on top of a stool.

    2. One of the women turns zombie, then bites the other.  WC drops his cell phone into the toilet, which fries it.  Then the first two zombies go after WC.  He kills the first., then the second.  More zombies come in.  Soon enough, WC is trapped in the loo.  More zombies come to the toilet.  Fortunately for WC, they are, by and large, slow zombies.

    3. He gets another cell phone from a zombie, then calls the police.  Unfortunately, he does this at the moment of conversion.  Evie is in the second stall over, and she has also not converted.  Jeff from IT shows up, strong and not infected, but WC unintentionally infects him.  Their chances grow slimmer.

    4. Evie and WC talk from 33 minutes until 41 minutes.  That inspired zero laughs, rather like the movie as a whole.  WC gets his ladder, and makes an attempt to get his tool box.  He get the toolbox, but loses the ladder.  The conversation resumes, only on a more ribald note.  Evie throws him a pill, and he makes the awful mistake of taking it; he has not experience with drugs, so he's screwed.

    5. While drugged, WC just walks out of his stall and the zombies take him where he wants to go.  Sure.  Then Evie finally makes contact, and the false memories fade.

    6. Some truths come out.  The management had fired him.  On the way out, he stole some fund for a 'good cause' whatever that was.  He also stole Evie's cell phone, that is, the one he dropped down the toilet.

    7. By another happy circumstance, he gets his hammer for a while, only to get his hand grabbed and bloodied...or so he thought.  He needs to get swinging with the hammer.  He does get to a crawl space that might get them out, or not.  Evie turns out to be really large, and likely won't fit.  She sacrifices herself to give him more of a chance.

    8. He follows a crawl space to another vent, but only zombies are in the connecting room.  He tries other rooms.  Finally, he wraps himself in toilet paper and breaks through the zombies.  He meets the real Evie, and she seems OK, except she got lacerated by one of the zombies.

    9. Will he make it out alive, talk to his mum, have a Happy Christmas?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Yikes, another vanity film; screenwriter = principal actor.
    2. One line summary: Low end vanity film, and the low end of the zombie genre.
    3. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 Poor.  Has sort of a VHS feel to it: low contrast, washed out, sometimes grainy.

    2. Sound: 6/10  Hollow.  Has that bad VHS hollowness.  I wonder what equipment they used to record such bad sound.

    3. Acting: 1/10  There is only Dan Palmer, and he is not worth anything.

    4. Screenplay: 1/10 Nonsense.  Perhaps 15 minutes of plot spread over 82 minutes.  The zombies are not funny, WC and Evie (actually Heather) are not funny, the drug nonsense is beyond stupid. The zombies are a threat, then they are not, then they are.  It is totally inconsistent.

20131127: Thriller Review--Interview with a Hitman

Interview with a Hitman
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 96 minutes, action, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.4/10.0 from 3,409 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' 45% liked it from 277 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 384,621 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Terry Bhandal.
    6. Starring: Luke Goss as Viktor, Caroline Tillette as Bethesda, Stephen Marcus as Traffikant, Danny Midwinter as Sergei, Elliot Greene as young Viktor, Philip Witchurch as Tosca, Patrick Lyster as Xavier.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Growing up in Romania young Viktor joined organised crime to stay alive and pay off bills.  This segment was long, violent without purpose, dreary, boring, and hopefully relevant at some point.

    2. Viktor hopes to align himself with a different crime group in the UK after being betrayed by his old group.  Lots of fighting and killing ensues.  He gets to meet some of his childhood acquaintances, and deal with an old issue or two.

    3. Does he do better with this group?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Goss seems to be the king of the sequels: Hellboy II, Deathrace II, Deathrace III, Blade II, but none of the originals.  This film is a sequel.  Like the others, this film is just not as good as the original.
    2. One line summary: Mud, in all categories.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Good some of the time, but wobbly more often. The sepia segments I could have done without entirely.  There were entirely too many minutes spent where no one is doing anything and the horrid music plays.

    2. Sound: 5/10 Yikes.  The sound level of conversation tends to be too low, and has accompanying buzz/hiss.  This is not an asset.  Incidental music is jarring and irritating.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Stale, cliched, boring.  I did not believe Luke Goss for a minute.  Since he is the centre of the piece, that is rather annoying.  The other actors do not make up for it.  Versus Daniel Craig, or Matt Damon, or Jason Statham, or Brad Pitt, or Gerard Butler, or even Aaron Eckhart, this guy is an emotionless, empty scarecrow to be blown away.  I cannot imagine him accomplishing anything useful.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 Long on development, short on delivery.


20131126: Horror Review--Munger Road

Munger Road

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated PG-13, 84 minutes, horror, mystery, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.4/10.0 from 736 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 200,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 45% liked it from 350 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 78,488 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Nicholas Smith.
    6. Starring: Bruce Davison as Chief Kirkhoven, Randall Batinkoff as Deputy Ross Hendricks, Trevor Morgan as Corey LaFayve, Brooke Peoples as Joe Risk, Hallock Beals as Scott Claussen, Lauren Storm as Rachael Donahue.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Thread 1: Corey, Joe, Scott, and Lauren are out looking for ghosts with baby powder and a very expensive camera.  They get some inconclusive evidence at the Munger Road site where the ghosts are said to hang out.  Then their ride dies from a cracked ignition coil housing.  Scott goes looking for help.  Their cell phones get no signal, and the cell phone clocks are all stopped at 11:14.  Time passes slowly.  Then Corey sends them a picture, then a text, 'Run.'

    2. Thread 2: the Chief and Hendricks are looking for an escaped killer, Gunther.  They want him apprehended before the Saint Charles Scarecrow Festival starts.  They capture a copper thief.  While continuing the hunt, they hear that Scott and Corey are missing.  So they start looking for the teenagers.  They find an empty van, because it's blocking a road needed to get the Festival fully setup.  It's empty, and belongs to a woman in town.

    3. The Chief and Hendricks look for Gunther in a hotel in town.  The examine tunnels beneath the town, and start thinking that Munger Road is a possibility.  Hendricks and the Chief decide to take separate routes to Munger Road.  The Chief takes a car; Hendricks continues in the tunnel.

    4. The teens decide to follow Corey.  Then the film slips (off and on) into found-film mode, with the hand-held being the mode of recording footage.  The Chief finds Joe still alive, and they meetup with Hendricks.

    5. Will they recover the others?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Was it ghosts or the escaped convicted murderer?
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 There's a whole lot of dark in this film, particularly in the second half.  Also, the found film segments at the end were not a plus.

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 6/10 One of Bruce Davison's better efforts, and when he's good, he's really good.  The actors who played the teens were good but not great.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 This was as murky as the often dark picture.  The police seemed quite slow at getting to Munger Road (both to find Gunther and to find the teens).  That was odd, since the Chief, anyway, seemed rather bright.

20131126: Thriller Review--Breaking the Girls

Breaking the Girls
  1. Production Fundamentals; reception
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 86 minutes, crime, thriller.  Spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 4.7/10.0 from 975 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes:  13% on the meter; 25% liked it from 186 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 5,037 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by Jamie Babbit; screenplay by Mark Distefano and Guinevere Turner.
    6. Starring: Agnes Bruckner as Sara Ryan, Madeline Zima as Alex Layton, Shanna Collins as Brooke Potter, Sam Anderson as Professor Nolan, Shawn Ashmore as Eric Nolan, Manish Dayal as Tim, Kate Levering as Nina Layton, John Stockwell as David Layton.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. Parties, booze, back biting bad behaviour set at a school with a law program.

    2. Sara (from the lower class) is on scholarship and works more than one job.  She and Eric like one another.  Brooke wants Eric to herself.  Alex (from old money) is a lesbian Cassanova who wants Sara because she's straight and because she thinks Sara is vulnerable.  Brooke (another privileged young woman) gets Sara fired from her job, which gets her scholarship revoked, and gets her kicked out of housing.  Alex's step mom (real mom died in swimming pool) is five years older than Alex, and quite nasty to Alex (like don't visit home without calling first).  The heat comes from Alex's father, though.

    3. So, Brooke and Nina are the obvious targets.  Sarah despises Brooke, and Alex despises Nina.  So, Sara and Alex discuss this, but not really at any length.

    4. Alex kills Brooke and frames Sara, then kills her father and frames Sara.  Nice.

    5. Were there important missing pieces that Sara needs to know about? Will Sara be able to extricate herself from the murder charges?  Will everything we think we know be thrown out in the last three minutes?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Deep into the PC here: public drunkenness is good,  kleptomania is good, littering is good, drugs are nice, stealing at work is good, extortion is par for the course, men can accomplish nothing, while women commit all the decisive acts.  Last but not least, if one is clever enough, one can get away with murders.
    2. Remind anyone of the much better film Strangers on a Train (1951)?  A second film of higher quality to watch with similar topics would be Bound (1996) with the talented Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon as the lesbian criminal duo.
    3. One line summary: Lesbian relationship with a psychotic liar has bad consequences.
    4. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Mostly fine; camera a bit wobbly now and then.

    2. Sound: 8/10 OK.

    3. Acting: 2/10 The only good acting I saw in this film came from Sam Anderson and John Stockwell; both performances were short.  The other performances were between sub-par and bad.  The relationship between Alex and Sara was not believable.  Shawn Ashmore does better with a stronger director.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Derivative and boring.  For a bright person trained in the law, Sara navigates her situation very poorly.  The exposition of motivation was not all that good, and the poor acting did not help.  The turnaround in the plot at the end was a fairly nice touch in terms of plot, but was also yet another full-scale affirmation of corruption.  There were so many in this film.

20131126: Horror Review--Fading of the Cries

Fading of the Cries
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 93 minutes, horror. Spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 3.3/10.0 from 1,336 audience ratings.  Aspect: 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 0% on the meter (impressive); 42% liked it from 672 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.7/5.0 from 57,404 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Brian A. Metcalf.
    6. Starring: Brad Dorif as Mathias, Mackenzie Rosman as Jill, Hallee Hirsh as Sarah, Julia Whelan as Emily, Jessica Morris as Malyhne, Elaine Hendrix as Maggie, Jordan Andrews as Jacob, Thomas Ian Nicholas as Michael.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Michael's wife and daughter die in a car crash.  Then 14 years go by.  However, this point in time is returned to more than once, such as when Maggie introduces very young Sarah to Uncle Michael at Echling Manor.

    2. In the present, bad-tempered, ungrateful teenager Sarah steals some booze and a necklace, gives her mother a hard time, then goes to see her friend and fellow drinker Emily.  They drink and talk about how creepy Echling Manor is.  That does not last long.  The zombie apocalypse arrives in the blink of an eye.  Emily gets killed right off the bat.

    3. A young man (I guess) rescues Sarah, and they make their way through small mobs of zombies.  These are fast zombies.  The young man is even faster with his sword, but he and Sarah have to run to get away from the remaining zombies.

    4. In the past, Michael finds a large, creepy book under a broken floor board in Echling Manor.  All this back and forth over 14 years is irritating.  Perhaps I'll see the utility later.

    5. Sarah and the young man hole up on the 'old church' which looks absolutely nothing like the rest of the town.  They have an incredibly inane conversation filled with bald assertions that often make no sense.  The young man finally identifies himself as Jacob.  With lines such as 'Hey, I need you to trust me,' and 'The sanctuary has been breached,' I'm hoping the zombies get him first.  As well as the zombies, we have a gorilla-Predator-Spiderman cross-match, and hordes of low-flying bats.  Sigh.

    6. In the past, Michael reads the journal or whatever.  He's tormented by bumps in the night and feelings of doom.  He reads the journal (a spell book) and ignores writing his current novel.  Eventually, he starts invoking spells.  He shows Maggie and Sarah one of the more elementary ones.  Unfortunately, it immediately starts warping his ego and ethical sensibilities.

    7. Jacob and Sarah go down the secret exit from the church.  The church is one small room, maybe 1000 square feet.  Underneath the church is huge, as in hundreds of football fields of area, huge supporting structures, and quite a high ceiling.  Sarah meets the necromancer Mathias, who wants the necklace from Sarah's neck.  He cannot take it from her, for unknown reasons.  Soon Mathias shows up as does an enormous crowd of CGI characters.   To escape, they climb a cliff hundreds of feet high.  Sure.

    8. Maggie and Jill hide in a closet at home.  Maggie hears a noise, and goes to see whether it is Sarah returning. It's not; it's the zombies.  Maggie and Jill run for it.

    9. Jacob and Sarah have more run-ins with zombies.  They have some quality time together where they discuss the necromancer, the necklace, the book of spells, and the monsters.  Jacob lived at Michael's house a bit after Michael.  They discuss Sarah's meeting of the necromancer, and the 'Rune of Syirlan,' which Sarah had been wearing as a necklace.  Jacob tells her that they've been trailed because she had skin contact with the Rune.  Sarah tells Jacob that she inherited the necklace from Uncle Michael after he died in Echling Manor.  Jacob relates that his parents died soon after they moved into the house a few years later.  Also, Echling Manor used to be the necromancer's house.  No one else has been welcome since.

    10. In the past, Michael kills the drunk driver who ran down his family.  He uses that to bring forth one of the more advanced spells.  That is, summoning one of the necromancer's familiars.  Then he summons another.  Later, when Jacob's family moves into Echling Manor, the servants of the necromancer are all present.

    11. In the present, Sarah and Jacob confront the necromancer too early; Jacob loses his sword and they lose Jill.  The necromancer invokes night, and the zombies rise.  Jacob goes to meet the necromancer in Echling Manor.

    12. Will anyone get out alive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. It is difficult to like anything about this film.  Cranky rebellious teenagers are of little to no interest.  Necromancers and zombies and flying bats in the same film?  Why?  Who decided to fund that?  The ending was incredibly bad, totally at discord with the florid music.
    2. Demerits for mispronouncing 'Mathias' and 'necromancer' and so on.
    3. One line summary: Nonsensical mixture of disparate sub-genres of horror; bad screenplay.
    4. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 Fine most of the time.  Occasionally, as in the tombs under the town, the mob made of CGI looks totally fake, which it is.  Unfortunately, it's horribly fake.  Demerits for shaky camera and out of focus passages.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Well recorded at least, with some reasonably creepy incidental music.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Brad Dourif has been in some bad films over his 38+ years of acting.  He has also had many much, much better roles than this; The Lord of the Rings comes to mind.  Veteran character actress Elaine Hendrix has had 20 years of better roles in television, plus some movies. The rest of the cast I do not recognise and expect that I never will recognise, since they seem to be non-actors.  Hallee Hirsh is a terribly bad actress, and Jordan Andrews is just as useless.  Also, the 24-year-old Hirsh (as of 2011) looks much older than her age, and has no business playing a teenager.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10  Yikes.  Worse conversation than one would find in a bad original high school play.  Bad dialog, horrible exposition, sad logical failures, hundreds of continuity errors.  The beginning to middle to end progression goes somewhat well, but the rotten dialog and horrible acting ruin the film.


20131125: Drama Review--Floating City

Floating City
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Hong Kong live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 104 minutes, drama.  Spoken language is Cantonese; subtitles in English.
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 141 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' 64% liked it from 40 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 6,542 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Ho Yim.
    6. Starring: Aaron Kwok as Bo Wah Chuen, Leon Hill as Club Member, Josie Ho as y, Annie Liu as Fion.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Bo Wah Chuen is of mixed European and Chinese ancestry.  To make things more interesting, he does not know his real parents as he grows up.  His adopted mother had just lost a child when she accepted him.  This sets up a long list of difficulties for him, but also gives him impetus to succeed in life.

    2. After his best friend (a girl he hoped to marry), whose family was close to his family, dies in a storm, Bo and his family convert to Christianity.  Years later, as a teen, the priest helps him go to school to learn reading and writing. School is tough for him at first.  He's bigger and older, but cannot write his own name.  He gets his first pair of shoes (oi), and first land-side job.  When he sees musical notation, engineering diagrams, a picture of young queen Elizabeth, and a living Taipan who resides in Hong Kong, everything changes for him.  His father does his best to keep him fishing with the family.

    3. Years later he is able to leave his father's boat and the fishing life.  When his father dies about the time of the birth of his seventh sister, Bo becomes the head of the family.  He took in several jobs to keep the family afloat, but times are tougher without the father.

    4. His mother give up some of her children to couples who want to adopt, and encourages some of the daughters to marry. Bo learns more about Christianity and decides to learn English.  His reddish hair gets him a job at the Imperial East India company as an office boy.  His English teacher is a dedicated mainland China communist.  Bo gets some political education as well as English.  The downside is that he loses promotions because he sounds more like a parrot than an English speaker.

    5. Teaching his mum how to write the Chinese words for 'sea' and 'fish' was touching.  Watching her reading later was heart-warming.  Bribing teachers, not so much.

    6. He asks for housing at work.  The man he asks gave him grief the first time because he could not say his name.  This time he did.  To get the housing he needed to be married and a full-time employee.  Back to the drawing board! 

    7. His mother and the children still with her get a boat, and leave the area.  Bo stays with the company and moves up.  His negotiations to marry the young woman he's known for some years makes a little progress.  As 1997 approaches, anti-British riots make life a bit uncomfortable, but it's an opportunity for the Imperial East India to choose a more Chinese looking face in its executives.

    8. Bo meets Fion (Chinese, studied architecture in Los Angeles), who teaches him about social graces in upper class Hong Kong society.  This is both a blessing and a curse.

    9. How high will Bo rise?  The results are rather mixed.  He has a British passport, but because he is a Hong Kong native (British colony) he has to get in the queue for 'aliens.'  He can function at upper class events, but his wife has a lot of problems being at them.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Mixed race man rises to high station in Hong Kong.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Fine, often beautiful.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Good.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Aaron Kwok was rather good, and he in onscreen most of the time.  I liked many of the supporting actors.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Moves along reasonably well over the course of Bo's life.  Rich and layered.

20131125: Horror Review--Helldriver

Nihon bundan: Heru doraibâ (Helldriver)

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 117 minutes, horror, zombie.  Spoken word is in Japanese; English subtitles.
    2. IMDB: 5.3/10.0 from 783 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 600,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' 34% liked it from 318 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.4/5.0 from 35,993 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Yoshihiro Nishimura.
    6. Starring: Yumiko Hara as Kika, Eihi Shiina as Rikka, Kazuki Namioka as Kaito, Yurei Yanagi as Taku.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. An object from outer space strikes Hokkaido.  This kicks up a cloud of ash which makes people fall to the ground, only to rise again in an hour as zombies.

    2. A large wall was erected across Honshu north of Tokyo to keep the zombies out.  Refugees flood Tokyo.

    3. There's a banner: Protect the infected.  Support human rights.

    4. Unfortunately, the infected eat the uninfected, but the government does not care.

    5. The zombies have an odd shaped horn; the only way to put a zombie down permanently in this film is to cut off this horn.  Horns have psycho-active effects, so drug dealers collect them.  The horns are volatile and explosive as well.  This is all explained in a newscast/paid advertising TV session.

    6. There is social dissension about the issue: the pro-zombie rights advocates versus the Japan is for the living advocates. 

    7. From the political to the gorefest: zombies with chain saws, heroes with bizarre weapons, strange eyes, spewing gore, sudden costume changes.  That's in the first 30 minutes.

    8. Kika meets Taku and No-name, the last of the members of the Kamikaze Orphanage.  Taku and No-name hunt for zombie horns, and the money is getting bad.

    9. Amazingly, there is formal public debate about whether or not to exterminate the zombies before they exterminate the living. The zombies eventually settle the debate by eating the prime minister.

    10. The opening credits start at 49 minutes into the film.  Clever.

    11. After the credits, death row inmates are given a chance at having their sentences dropped.  They are to find the woman who is the source of the zombie infestation and kill/destroy/whatever her.

    12. Kika is the daughter of the zombie queen, so Kika might be able to help locate her.  They meet a skilled hunter in zombie country who helps them evade the flying heads.

    13. There's an effort to rescue No-name's sister Maya, who's been captured and sold at the zombie bar.  Lots of fighting, lots of blood, but this is not the ultimate battleground.

    14. How might this turn out?  Will any of our heroes survive?  Will they get the zombie queen?  Will the help promised by the Tokyo regime actually arrive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Zombies.  Mysterious power from outer space. Odd politics.  Might be a cult classic.  Absurd mustache.
    2. One line summary: The civil rights of zombies discussed during a national blood bath.
    3. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 2/10 Ugly, badly done.  Poor colour, shaky camera, and so on.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Out of sync, voice to speech.  Bizarre choices for incidental music.  Subtitles for the jaunty, pleasant singing would have been nice.  Even more ridiculous choices of Western classical music.

    3. Acting: 0/10 I did not recognise any acting in this one.  There were many people in the film who were on camera for under 30 seconds, and had few if any lines.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 The timeline is dicey, the characters are not developed in a coherent way, the visuals are poor, and the effect of the thing from outer space on Kika never made sense to me.  The flashbacks are not well organised. Incredibly stupid armour, incredibly stupid mustache, ridiculous amount and presentation of blood splatter, flying heads as ammunition, heads flying with no physical reason for their movement, a stolen heart used as a voodoo instrument, and some of the stupidest fights I have ever seen.  These were all part of the nonsense of the screenplay.  Enough continuity errors to torpedo a hundred films that had any reasonable governance.


20131124: SciFi Review--Arctic Blast

Arctic Blast
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Australian/Canadian live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 91 minutes, SciFi, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 3.7/10.0 from 2,204 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 5 million AUD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' 30% liked it from 442 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 361,882 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith.
    6. Starring: Michael Shanks as Jack Tate, Alexandra Davies as Emma Tate, Saskia Hampele as Zoe, Bruce Davison as Winslaw, Indiana Evans as Naomi Tate, Alan Andrews as Harold Stuart.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Front story: after an eclipse of the sun, there is a major singularity in the Earth's atmosphere, and the drop in temperature starts.  All the rest of the film as about: figuring out causation, predicting effects, and constructing a way to stop, then reverse, the effects.

    2. Back story: Jack and his wife Emma are getting a divorce because he spends too much time at work.  Of course, Emma also spends too much time at work, but Jack gets blamed for it, since Emma got to her lawyers first.

    3. We have some of the usual themes.  A few people know disaster will strike, but the people they contact will not believe them.  This happens to Jack as he tries to warn of additional problems after his company's research ship has all on board frozen to death.  After a while we get the 'boy who cried wolf' problem; no one will believe Jack no matter what he says.  Those in power are somewhat willing to believe the predictions after plenty of damage and death has already occurred.  An extra threat comes into play: the child of one of the leads (in this case Emma, Jack's ex) is in jeopardy for a substantial part of the film.

    4. The last usual theme is: the survivors put in a perhaps successful effort to stop the threat.

    5. This fails at first because Jack is 'out of the loop,' and the solution proposed by Winslaw, who is in the loop, is destined only to make things worse.

    6. After the massive fail, will anyone get behind Jack?  If so, will they be in time?

  3. Conclusions
    1. The film is a bit too preachy for me.
    2. One line summary: The ice fog that froze Tasmania spreads around the globe.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Fine.

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Not as bad as many of these formulaic disasters.  I liked Michael Shanks.  The lesser known actors were were not as bad as I expected.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 There is nothing new here.  I've seen this film at least 30 times before.  The themes mentioned above are used just about every time.  The only variable is the current threat: meteors, sharks, piranhas, insects, whatever.  Fortunately, the movie was easy on the eye, pleasant to the ear, and the SFX were not all deadly bad, as is often the case.


20131123: Animation Review--The Rabbis Cat

The Rabbi's Cat
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. French animated feature length film, 2011, NR, 100 minutes.  Spoken word is in French; English subtitles.
    2. IMDB: 6.7/10.0 from 1,101 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 12.5 million euros.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 94% on the meter; 71% liked it from 1,038 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 5,439 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Antoine Devesvaux.
    6. Starring: voice actors: Maurice Benichou as the rabbi, Francois Merel as the cat of the rabbi, Hafsia Hertzi as Zlabya (daughter of the rabbi), Karina Testa as Zlabya's friend, Mathieu Amalric as the Prince.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Set in Algiers initially, then many places in Africa around 1920.

    2. A cat adopts a rabbi and his daughter.  The cat, after eating a talking parrot, gains the ability to speak and read.  He helps the rabbi with his professional development test.  In doing so he invokes God's name; the rabbi passes, but the cat temporarily loses his ability to speak French.

    3. A large box of books from Russia; the box also contains a body.  Only the cat recognizes that the body is still alive.  When the cat awakens the Russian, he finds the prince can understand him (in Russian) even though the others cannot understand him in French.

    4. They look for a person in Algiers who speaks both Russian and French.  The rabbi finds him and recruits him to translate for the prince.

    5. There are a number of philosophical discussions and talks about the politics of the area in 1920.  As a side effect of all this, a quest is started to find black Jews in Africa.  Getting there was hilarious.  It is also revealed that the prince wants to paint all sorts of subjects throughout Africa.

    6. The rabbi, the prince, the cat, the rabbi's Arab Muslim friend and his talking donkey set out to find this city.  There are lots of changes along the way.  The cat regains his ability to speak French.  The prince finds his wife.  Eventually the prince and his new bride find the city.  The humour is outstanding.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Lovely, funny, clever, and beautiful.
    2. Five stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Art/Animation: 10/10 The style is pen and ink, with minimal shading.  This is rather well executed in great detail.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Always good.

    3. Screenplay: 10/10 Brilliant writing for an ensemble of clever characters.  The story is humorous and moves right along, from beginning to middle to happy ending.  The comedy of manners aspect is deftly handled.

20131123: Horror Review--The Possession

The Possession
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/Canadian live action feature length film, 2012, PG13, 92 minutes, horror, thriller.  Estimated budget 14 million USD.  Aspect ratio, 2.35
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 31,392 audience ratings. Spoken word is in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 39% on the meter; 49% liked it from 59,008 audience ratings. 
    4. Netflix: 3.7/5.0 from 406,006 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Ole Bornedal.
    6. Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Clyde, Kyra Sedgwick as Stephanie, Natasha Calis as Em, Madison Davenport as Hannah, Grant Show as Brett, Jay Brazeau as Professor McMannis, Matisyahu as Tzadok.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Clyde is a basketball coach on his way up; he has practices and meetings that take odd and long hours.  He also has two daughters and a wife from whom he is separated.   Custody is joint; Clyde has gotten a new home to which he takes the girls.  He needs more furnishings; he and the girls go to a local yard sale.

    2. Unfortunately, they buy some objects from a house where a woman passed away under strange circumstances.  Purchases include a ring and an old, faded mirror.  Odd effects soon start appearing, affect Em the most, and affect others as well. 

    3. Soon enough it's clear to the viewers that this is a possession film, but not to the characters.  One of Em's spells is misinterpreted by Stephanie as a physical attack by her ex, and Stephanie takes it to court.

    4. Clyde consults Professor McMannis about possession.  He tries to find a way to free Em, despite Stephanie, despite Brett, despite the courts, despite the possessing spirit.  He gets help from Tzadok.

    5. Who prevails in this metaphysical battle?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Good production values, good acting for the most part.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 No problems.

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Jeffrey Dean Morgan was great, Natasha Calis was excellent as Em.  Grant Show was reasonable as the interloper who destroyed a marriage; Ms. Sedgewick was a detriment as the stupid, angry fool who believed him.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  The logical progression is well done.

20131123: Horror Review--Area 407

Area 407
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film 2012, NR, 89 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 3.6/10.0 from 2,239 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 14% from 682 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.6/5.0 from 176,752 audience ratings.  Spoken word is in English.
    5. Directed by: Dale Fabrigar, Everette Wallin.
    6. Starring: Abigail Schrader as Trish, Samantha Lester as Jessie, James Lyons as Jimmy, Melanie Lyons as Laura Hawkins.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Trish and Jessie travel by jet from New York to Los Angeles for New Year's Eve. Trish is video recording. Trish's high-pitched elf voice is incredibly irritating. The new year arrives during the flight; this was quite the anticlimax until the heavy weather hits.

    2. The plane crashes in a desert area. Trish and Jessie survive.  Jessie takes over filming after Trish is incapacitated.

    3. After seeing this film, not hearing the word 'okay' for about 8 years would be fine.  The characters kept repeating 'okay' while examining bleeding, broken limbs, no food, no shelter, missing people, and so on.  The anger at the intrusive camera seemed quite understandable.  The only use I could see for the camera was as a torch (flashlight).  Jessie, who is even less skilled at operating it, took over.  Jessie zooms almost continuously, concentrates on bloodied faces, and almost never focuses well.

    4. Something goes bump in the night, kills several survivors, and routs them from the leftover fuselage.  Six survivors find a nearby cabin.  Eventually a car comes by.  The surviving air marshal has a conversation with the driver, who proceeds to drive away.  The bump in the night returns and scares them out of the cabin.  The ever-useless, petulant Trish holds half of them back.

    5. They find a working two-way radio in the second cabin.  The initial 'replies' are indecipherable.  They keep trying and eventually contact someone who will try to triangulate their position.  The voice tells them to go back to the plane where the bump in the night killed people.

    6. They obey this direction.  Will anyone survive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. This is yet another found-film, hand-held camera, cheap, bad production.  Why does a US air marshal have an Aussie accent?  Why does the blood on everyone never dry, never run, nor change colour as it must?
    2. One line summary: The worst in found film; lots of closeups of bloody faces; not much plot.
    3. One star of five. Two black holes for cinematography and acting.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 Hand-held nonsense.  All the usual failures are there: continuous and unnecessary zooming, bad focus, bad framing, settling on a subject who is doing nothing other than zoning out.

    2. Sound: 5/10 Varies wildly.  Trish's high pitched voice rates a good minus four.

    3. Acting: 0/10 The hand-held camera trumps acting.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Is there a story here?  Way too much time is spent on the camera zooming and re-zooming and focusing on characters who are basically not moving, not talking.  So far it is: plane crash, deaths, scramble, hope for rescue, then hopes dashed.  Looks like a nice ten minute short.


20131122: Documentary Review--Vivan Las Antipodas

Vivan Las Antipodas
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. German live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 108 minutes, documentary.
    2. IMDB: 7.0/10.0 from 319 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 1.5 million euros.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes:  100% on the meter; 86% from 114 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.2/5.0 for 1,233 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Victor Kossakovsky.
    6. Starring: no one.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film has four parts, one for each pair of antipodal points examined.

    2. One: Entre Rios, Argentina and Shanghai, China.

    3. Argentina alternated between great beauty and straight out boring; Shanghai was both beautifully shot and repellent.

    4. Two: Chilean Patagonia and Lake Baikal in Russia

    5. Prosaic lives versus prosaic lives; in both cases, set against majestic landscapes almost devoid of human life.  Great camera work.

    6. Three: Big Island, Hawaii and Kubu, Botswana

    7. Both dreadfully ugly.

    8. Four: Miraflores, Spain and Castle Point, New Zealand

    9. Thank God, there is an end to this.  The upside down video has my teeth on edge by this point.  More of the same, only less interesting.  Sawing up the dead whale was not a plus, nor was the footage of digging a hole and pushing the corpse in.

  3. Conclusions
    1. The director is a bit behind the times; check Smithsonian channel for more current and engaging approaches to similar material.
    2. One line summary: Well-shot, but boring.
    3. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Excellent.  Watch this in high definition if at all possible.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Sparse, but well done.

    3. Acting: z/10 Not applicable.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 The transition from one point to its antipodal point given by sky down ground up was amusing the first time, but immediately lost its charm thereafter.  Some of the juxtapositions were amusing, others were just boring.

20131122: Horror Review--The Ward

The Ward
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 88 minutes, horror, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.5/10.0 from 25,167 audience ratings. Aspect, 2.35; estimated budget, 10 million USD.  Spoken word is in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 32% on the meter; 26% liked it from 11,574 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 697,310 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: John Carpenter.
    6. Starring: Amber Heard as Kristen, Mamie Gummer as Emily, Danielle Panabaker as Sarah, Laura Leigh as Zoey, Lyndsy Fonseca as Iris, Mika Boorem as Alice, Susaneh Burney as Nurse Lundt, Jared Harris as Dr. Gerald Stringer.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. After burning down a farmhouse in 1966, Kristen is institutionalised at North Bend Psychiatric Hospital.  She gets to know Emily, Sarah, Zoey, and Iris.  A few days in, she gets attacked by a rotting corpse.  At least that is what she sees.

    2. They give her electroshock therapy to 'just fry the crazy out of her.'

    3. Iris seems to be doing well, but she disappears from Dr Stringer's office.

    4. Kristen organises an escape, but it does not succeed.

    5. Sarah thinks she's doing well, then she disappears.  After this, Kristen gets Emily and Zoey to tell her about Alice, and how they killed her some time back.  That more or less explains the ghost.

    6. Will either of Zoey or Kristen make it out alive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Looks like a ghost story; is a psychological drama.
    2. Three stars of five.  Tough call here, two stars or three?

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Excellent.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Fine.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Jared Harris was well cast.  Mamie Gummer sure needs to get a day job; she was horrible.  Laura Leigh was in-character timid, but that did not show much acting.  Danielle Panabaker was fairly convincing as a manipulative young person.  Amber Heard was fairly good.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Why did Kristen land in the hospital in the first place?  There was not much exposition of that until the very end.  How does a 100 pound anti-athletic female physically overpower older, taller, and much, much stronger staff who are trained to put down inmates?  Answer: she does not.  Of course, that is more or less explained at the end, and the end really was off-putting.


20131121: Bollywood Review--Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola

Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Indian live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 147 minutes, bollywood, comedy, drama.
    2. IMDB: 5.9/10.0 from 3,603 audience ratings.  Spoken language is Hindi; subtitles in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 33% on the meter, 43% liked it from 471 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 7,658 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj.
    6. Starring: Imran Khan as Matru, Anushka Sharma as Bijlee Mandola, Pankarj Kapur as Harry Mandola, Lekha Washingtonn as Kamini, Arya Babbar as Baadal, Shabana Azmi, as Chaudhari Devi.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This starts out in class warfare mode, extremely rich landowner, Harry Mandola, versus indigent farm workers.  Bijlee is Harry's daughter.  Baadal, the son of one of Harry's political ally Chaudhari Devi, presents her with a dance number complete with Zulu tribes people from South Africa.  Matru is one of Harry's trusted workers, but he's a lower class worker.  He's not so happy with Bijlee spending so much time with Baadal.

    2. To add to the comedy elements, Harry has a history of excessive drinking, and he swears off toward the beginning of the film.  Then he gets the DTs (delirium tremens), and starts seeing shocking pink water buffalo and the like.  Harry's doctor's receptionist is a large woman who likes to wear pink.  There's an ongoing joke in which she is referred to as the pink buffalo.

    3. Chaudhari Devi has been a government official for 20 years, and has helped Harry get his way in exchange for this and that.  At a party, Harry takes up drinking again.  He calls Baadal in idiot, and trusts Matru to keep him from falling.  Baadal seems to be Devi's emasculated son; she tells him how to think.  Nice.

    4. Baadal does, however, come up with the idea of destroying all the farmers' crops with a chemical that is a pesticide at low doses, and an herbicide at slightly higher doses.  The land grabbers intend to poison the land for years, which will enable them to acquire the farmers' land at much lower costs so that they can do construction instead of farming.

    5. How does this play out?  Will Bijlee go with Matru, whom she has known for 20 years, or Baadal, whom she has known for 5, mostly at school?  How will the movement of the disenfranchised poor versus the rich and corrupt turn out?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: The corrupt and entitled versus the poor and disenfranchised in rural India.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Lovely.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Very good.

    3. Acting: 9/10  Imran Khan was very good.  Pankarj Kapur was excellent.  Anushka Sharma and Arya Babbar were rather good.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Frequently funny, often touching.  A bit long, though.

20131121: Thriller Review--Abducted

Abducted (Layover)
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action video, 2012, NR, 91 minutes, thriller. Spoken word is English and Russian.
    2. IMDB:  4.4/10.0 from 344 audience ratings. Aspect 1.78
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 'No scores yet.'  Looks like I will be the first.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 195,612 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: R. D. Braunstein.
    6. Starring: Lauren Holly as Suzanne Hollingsworth, Kaylee DeFer as Rebecca White, Joe Lando as Elliot, Gerald Webb as Special Agent Andrew Rohm.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Set in Detroit, Michigan, USA, though filmed in Los Angeles.

    2. Suzanne and Rebecca are driving to a charter flight for Suzanne.  That falls through.  Rebecca arranges a commercial flight, and gets fired for it.  Sigh.  Foul weather lands Suzanne in Detroit.  Suzanne's reputation keeps her out of the better hotels.

    3. Suzanne ends up in a fleabag motel.  She pounds on the wall when the neighbors are noisy, and ends up seeing something she should not have seen, namely Russians who kidnap American women as meat in the (involuntary) sex trade.

    4. Although fired, Rebecca stays on the case.  Really?

    5. Rebecca gets Elliot on the case, and Elliot goes to Detroit with her to investigate.  They find enough evidence to stay interested.

    6. The Russians finally look at Suzanne's ID, then make a ransom call.  Elliot calls the FBI, who jump on the case.

    7. Elliot and Rebecca work on the clues Suzanne sent during the proof of life telephone call.  The money drop is made.  The FBI trails the mobster who picked up the money.  Suzanne manages to escape the handcuffs.  One mobster is full time after her.

    8. After the FBI's plan to use a transmitter on the money fails, will Elliot and Rebecca get there in time?

  3. Conclusions
    1. As TV movies go, this was pretty good.
    2. One line summary: Heiress in the wrong place is kidnapped by Russian mobsters.
    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 There was a little camera wobble, but otherwise fine.

    2. Sound: 9/10 Sound quality could have been better on the incidental music.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Lauren Holly was fine, as were Joe Lando and Gerald Webb.  Kaylee DeFer was much better than she was in the wretched Darkroom, 2013.  Still, that is treading water compared to being at the bottom of the ocean.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 Rebecca stays on the case after she's fired?  I find that very difficult to believe.  It was too bad that the chip-in-the-dog was not remembered until late in the game.  Also, the FBI was written as being pretty lame.

20131121: Thriller Review--Liars All

Liars All
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 91 minutes, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.0/10.0 from 394 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 34% liked it from 158 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.7/5.0 from 9,468 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Brian Brightly.
    6. Starring: Torrance Coombs as Dennis Hogue, Tim Phillipps as Billy, Clair Scott as Tanya, Matt Lanter as Mike, Sara Paxton as Katie, Jackie Jandrell as Brenda, Stephanie Simbari as Kim, Alice Evans as Sandra, Randy Wayne as Jack, Gillian Zinser as Missy, Darin Brooks as Brax

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. An American film set in London, UK. The film starts at a police station where a pregnant detective reviews what went bad at a party.  During the interrogations there are many flashbacks.

    2. On New Year's Eve, there's a party at a flat in London after some time at a public house.  Attendees are: Dennis (soccer, very successful), Billy (soccer, team mate of Dennis, not as successful), Tanya (a waitress), Mike and Katie (American students), Kim and Brenda (friends traveling together), and Missy Dembree (an American studying in London).

    3. Early on, we see that Missy did not survive the New Year's Eve game, which was a variation on Truth or Dare.  They start with ritual bloodletting (a drop or two), followed by a second ritual of smoking recreational illegal drugs.

    4. At this stage, the director has advised me of context, but my probability of liking the film is about 10%.  Idiots on drugs and booze, doing Truth or Dare, a version with no prizes, but only penalties?  Hm...how can this turn out well?  Which characters should I find engaging?

    5. Next stop, breaking and entering plus burglary; they film it for the sake of the party.  Hardly worth the downside risk.  That is where Missy gets shot.  More flashbacks.

    6. Mike knew Missy in LA, then Missy became attached to Dennis.  More of the Truth or Dare.  Still more flash backs, with a touch more clarity.  Mike loves Missy, Missy loves Dennis, Dennis has left Missy and is engaged to Casey.  Missy cannot take this.  Mike is discouraged.  The Detective has all sorts of motivations for someone causing Missy's death, and different accounts of how it happened.

    7. The interrogation-flashback-interrogation cycles continue.  The detective finds more nooks and crannies of motivation and fact.

    8. How many go to jail?  Does anyone get away without charges?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Sour romantic relationships end badly.
    2. Three stars of five.  Lukewarm all the way.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Terrible in the introductory music video; hand-held nonsense.  Otherwise competent.

    2. Sound: 7/10 OK, though the incidental music seems to just fill time when nothing is happening onscreen.

    3. Acting: 5/10 No one was particularly good or bad.  All of them portray knee-jerk followers of modern conventions for wastrels with money.  If you are looking for a study in drug-using herd animals, here it is.  Matt Lanter had the most screen time and the greatest number of lines; fortunately, he was almost competent.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 There are zero characters to root for, zero to despise, zero to embrace.  The level of choppiness is too high.  Linear exposition would have been more effective.


20131120: Thriller Review--Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Danish/French/Thai live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 90 minutes, thriller.  Spoken word is in English and Thai.  Aspect is 1.85
    2. IMDB: 5.9/10.0 from 38,976 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 4.8 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 40% on the meter; 41% from 34,566 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.6/5.0 from 34,566 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Nicholas Winding Refn.
    6. Starring: Ryan Gosling as Julian, Kristin Scott Thomas as Crystal, Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang, Gordon Brown as Gordon, Tom Burke as Billy.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Set in Thailand. Among other things, Julian and his elder brother Billy observe fights.  Billy pays a fighter afterward, partly on Julian's advice.

    2. Billy tries to get laid with a 14-year-old.  The pimp he talks to will not have it.  So Billy beats him up, terrorizes the whores, then kills one of them.  Chang arrives to see what the uniforms have found.  Billy, covered in blood, is still at the scene with the cops.

    3. If I had watched this in a theatre, I would have walked out at the nine minute mark.  I would like both brothers dead and the film ended at ten minutes.  Since I'm watching on Netflix, I decided to come back to it later when I hated it less.

    4. Crystal arrives from the UK to oversee Billy's burial, and to regularize drug operations in the permanent absence of Billy.  She does this more through Gordon, Billy's friend, than through the feckless Julian.

    5. Julian needs to kill Crystal to assume leadership of the family business, but he does not have the moxie to do it.  Crystal despises him for this, all the more so because she made him that way.

    6. Julian confronts the man responsible for Billy's death, Chang.  That might improve his self-image, but that's not his real motive, since he is absurdly outclassed.

    7. Crystal's betrayals are endless.  How might this all end?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Criminal emasculated by his drug kingpin mother seeks escape from his psychological prison; boredom ensues.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 The film's visuals alternate between gorgeous and quite bad.  I hate filters and strongly coloured lighting.  The heavy use of these elements in this film made it even more repulsive that the salacious subject matter.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Effective for the most part.  On the other hand, there are many minutes of no dialog.  Also, many lines of dialog have no translation into English, whereas the spoken English usually has subtitles.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Acting?  Ryan Gosling is catatonic.  Kristin Scott Thomas plays an embodiment of control freak, and I did not believe her performance for a moment.  Vithaya Pansringarm seemed to be taking a nap standing up during the film.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10  This is a so-so seven minutes of story weighing in at 90 minutes.  There is very little dialog, which is a huge minus.  The hundreds of lines of missing subtitles make this a disaster.  Major demerits for the ridiculous use of karaoke.