20131230: Drama Review--American Hustle

American Hustle
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 137 minutes, drama.
    2. IMDB: 8.2/10.0 from 17,027 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 40 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 94% on the meter; 82% liked it from 63,626 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: not yet, 20131229.
    5. Directed by: David O. Russell.  Written by: Eric Singer and David O. Russell.
    6. Starring: Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld, Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld, Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser, Bradley Cooper as Richie Dimaso, Jeremy Renner as Mayor Carmine Polito, Elizabeth Rohm as Dolly Polito, Louie C. K. as Stoddard Thorsen, Robert De Niro (uncredited) as Victor Tellegio.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Irving is a semi-legitimate business man who owns a glass replacement business plus several dry cleaning stores.  He sells paintings of dubious provenance, and 'arranges' loans that might otherwise be hard to get.  Irving is married to Rosalyn, but is invigorated by his falling in love with the talented Sydney.  Sydney wants Irving to leave Rosalyn, but recognises that Rosalyn is an even better con artist than either of them.  Working with Sydney, Irving's various dealings go better, and the quality of clients improves.  Their future looks bright and rich. 

    2. FBI agent Richie Dimaso pulls a sting on the pair, and uses the evidence collected to leverage Irving and Sydney to help the FBI.  What Richie wants is for Irving to mastermind a sting against some New Jersey politicians, including Mayor Polito.  This effort moves forward.  When it was about to bear fruit, Richie fouls the sting by deviating from Irving's plan, and Carmine leaves the meeting.

    3. Irving and Sydney save the day.  Irving gets Carmine to trust him; this was a major effort.  Sydney helps the FBI come up with just enough good faith money to convince Carmine and his people that they have a serious investor (a sheik) to re-energise the rebuilding of Atlantic City.  Irving's friendship with Carmine continues to deepen, and Carmine insists that Rosalyn get to know him and Dolly socially.  Rosalyn takes to this social whirl very quickly.

    4. Richie loses his composure when things work despite his foulups.  He keeps pushing the FBI to make larger attempts to get bigger stings. He also pushes Sydney harder to leave Irving, and be with him. On the other side of the coin, news traveled fast in gambling circles, and large figures such as Victor Tellegio join the field of interest.  Victor insists on 10 million in good faith money, and that the sheik become a US citizen practically overnight to ensure that everyone is satisfied about the legitimacy of the operation.

    5. To resolve the citizenship issue would require an act of Congress.  To get that through in a short amount of time, some shuffling of money might expedite the process.  Irving and Sydney help set this up. The FBI is definitely interested in who accepts such money and who does not.  The 10 million in good faith money gets handled in another operation.

    6. In the end, who comes out as winners?  Will the FBI arrest some Congressmen?  Will they arrest any mob figures?  Will Irving and Sydney come out of this unscathed?

    7. The ending is nicely written, as was the entire movie.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A tense, dramatic thriller with fine plot and character exposition.
    2. Five stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Good sets, good camera work.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Excellent.  Some wonderful choices of incidental music.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Outstanding: Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Elizabeth Rohm, Bradley Cooper.  Wonderful, powerful, short performance by Robert De Niro.

    4. Screenplay: 10/10 Wonderful, tightly knit, complicated story.  The two hours and 17 minutes seemed just right.  Character development and story development were top notch.


20131227: Comedy Review--TiMER

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2009, rated R, 99 minutes, comedy, indie, SciFi
    2. IMDB: 6.5/10.0 from 7,053 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 58% on the meter; 65% liked it from 3,051 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 1,065,523 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Jac Schaeffer.
    6. Starring: Emma Caulfield as Oona O'Leary, Muse Watson as Rick O'Leary, JoBeth Williams as Marion Depaul, Michelle Borth as Steph DePaul, Hayden McFarland as Jesse Depaul, Tom Irwin as Paul DePaul, John Patrick Amedori as Mikey Evers, Scott Holroyd as Brian, Kali Rocha as Matchmaker Patty, Sandra Marquez as Luz Morales, Desmond Harrington as Dan.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This romantic comedy is set in the near future where technology has advanced considerably.  Nothing unexpected there.  Supposedly an implant can be attached to a person's body that will count down to the time when the wearer meets their true love.

    2. Oona O'Leary is approaching thirty, and her timer has not started its countdown yet.  Social convention suggests that couples get together if their counters mark each other.  What can Oona do in this situation?

    3. In the opening, Oona and Brian meet with Matchmaker Patty after several dates.  Brian is from Oklahoma, and has never had a timer.  Brian's implant starts showing between two and three years to go.  Oona's timer does not start.  She's been down this road before.  The couple breaks up immediately.  As Oona leaves, Matchmaker Patty describes her as a repeat customer.

    4. The film has a number of amusing commercials plugging the product.  While daydreaming in the checkout line at a store, Oona tunes back in to hear Mikey (checkout person, by day, otherwise a musician) talking to her.  Oona's interest is piqued.  Oona and half-sister Steph DePaul visit mother Marion DePaul (remarried) for half-brother Jesse's timer install ceremony.  They meet the new housekeeper Luz, who speaks next to no English.  Jesse gets a target date immediately: in three days plus change.  Oona in non-plussed.  Steph meets Dan at her first job at the retirement home.

    5. Marion advises Oona and Steph how lucky they are.  Thanks to the timers, they will miss out on divorce, unrequited love, missed opportunities (not meeting the right one), and STDs.  Further, they were so lucky that she broke up with Oona's father and found Paul, and that Paul broke up with Steph's mother.  Being happy about two breakups is a bit much, and the overall picture is ridiculously rosy.  Do the timers ever fail?  Also, how could Marion be so incredibly verbally abusive to her natural daughter?  I'm surprised Oona did not hit her upside the head.

    6. By this point, about 40 minutes in, the film is almost done exposing ideas.  Will Oona get anywhere with Mikey?  Will Dan be Steph's match?  Will the families accept Jesse and his partner?  Will the film illuminate possible variations?  Will we meet Oona's father?  Will he have any wisdom to impart?

  3. Conclusions
    1. The direction was boring, not illuminating or funny, as was the screenplay that the director wrote.  I liked Emma Caulfield much better in her 85 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    2. One line summary: Blending of science fiction, romantic comedy, and ongoing dysfunction.
    3. Three stars of five.

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

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Emma Caulfield, JoBeth Williams, Tom Irwin, Desmond Harrington, and Muse Watson were fine.  The other actors were next to forgettable.  I don't remember seeing their work before, and I hope to never see them again.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 A nice 20 minute short stretched to 99.  There were zero belly laughs, zero chuckles, zero wry smiles. The film fails as a comedy.  Where was the romance?  One's significant other is chosen for you by factors you cannot control. What are the non-matches supposed to do?  The setup is just an excuse for further discrimination against the unlucky.  The film fails in the romantic department.  SciFi?  It did have one idea.  Unfortunately, it was a ridiculous one.


20131226: SciFi Review--Grey Skies

Grey Skies
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 84 minutes, SciFi, horror.  Aspect 2.35
    2. IMDB: 3.4/10.0 from 290 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 1.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' 0% liked it from 10 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 61,151 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Kai Blackwood.
    6. Starring: Michael Cornacchia as Michael, Aaron McPherson as Robert, Stacy Jorgensen as Jenny, Jeff Lorch as Hayden, Anne Griffin as Annie, Shelley Dennis as Sandy, Scott Mullin as Glen, Jeff Schuetze as Brian.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Old friends get together for a weekend in the woods.  Sandy and Hayden hit it off immediately, sharing sex and drugs.  Michael brought his photographer friend Brian.  Robert and Jenny are together, but are bickering.  Annie and Glen seem to be unattached.  They look at the stars which are very clear out in the middle of nowhere.  There are also shooting stars.  One lands relatively nearby.  Some of them are high, and decide to go find it.

    2. Hayden does not come back, so they go looking for him.  They find him, a bit worse for the wear.  Thing move back toward normal, somewhat, except for Jenny's telling Robert that she is pregnant.  Sandy disappears about the same time that the lights go out.  The search is on.  They find her, and she's a bit garbled in her responses.  They decide to leave, but none of their four vehicles will start.

    3. Then the elimination derby is on.  One after another the aliens take over the minds and wills of the people in the party.

    4. Will anyone survive the onslaught?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Michael Cornacchia also supplied the story.
    2. One line summary: Bad SFX, bad acting, bad screenplay trump the reasonable camera work.
    3. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Well done for a low budget film.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Not too bad.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Michael Cornacchia and Anne Griffin were absolutely terrible.  Stacy Jorgensen was also rather bad.  The others were unconvincing.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 There are lots of inconsistencies about what the aliens can do.  There was a large percentage of the film that was just plain boring.  The pointless yelling sequences were very irritating.

    5. SFX: 2/10 Amateurish; special effects were laughably bad.

20131226: Documentary Review--Talhotblond

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2009, NR, 75 minutes, documentary, crime.
    2. IMDB: 6.9/10.0 from 1,041 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 75,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 64% liked it from 436 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 24,520 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Barbara Schroeder.
    6. Starring: As themselves: Thomas Montgomery (murderer), Ken Case (former prosecutor), Rex Beaber (clinical psychologist), Steve Clement (narrator).

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Thomas Montgomery is a middle aged father of two who lives and works in Western New York, near Buffalo.  He is in a job where he has hit the advancement ceiling.  His middle aged body trends into impotence, and he starts looking for satisfaction elsewhere than with his wife.

    2. He meets in a chat room a girl named Jessi, from West Virginia, whose online handle is talhotblond.  Montgomery's handle is marinesniper.  Montgomery was a Marine, but not one who saw combat.  Still, he makes up all sorts of nonsensical lies for his online encounters with Jessi.

    3. Montgomery's wife catches wind of what he is doing; she confronts him and writes Jessi a letter, telling her a number of pertinent truths.  A co-worker Brian also learns of Montgomery's foolishness, and enters the fray.  Jessi and Brian flame Montgomery and get him suspended from the online chats.  Montgomery stays away from it a while, but later he comes back in.  Montgomery manipulates things to get Brian (handle beefcake), off the game; he quits associating with Brian in the real world, and online.

    4. That does not last forever, and Jessi pulls Montgomery back in again.   She convinces Montgomery that she is back together with Brian.

    5. In a small surprise, 'Jessi' is not 18; she also is a deep liar like Montgomery.  Also, she is Mary, the real Jessi's mother.  So two middle aged, unattractive adults keep this storm of lies going via their totally false online characters.  How does this play out in real life?  Very badly, as it turns out.  Who gets to walk away from this?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Man plays out in real life what his online persona would do.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Mostly good.

    2. Sound: 10/10 OK.

    3. Screenplay: 8/10 Tells the real-life and online stories fairly well.  Some of the character studies are good for depth.

20131226: Drama Review--Phase 7

Phase 7
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Argentine live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 95 minutes, comedy, scifi, thriller.  Aspect 2.35
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 2,194 audience ratings. 
    3. Estimated budget: 2.5 million ARS; estimated gross revenue, 665,960 ARS.
    4. Rotten Tomatoes: 71% on the meter, but 'no consensus yet'; 51% liked it from 480 audience ratings.
    5. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 95,420 audience ratings.
    6. Directed by: Nicolas Goldbart.
    7. Starring: Daniel Hendler as Coco, Jazmin Stuart as Pipi, Yayo Guridi as Horacio, Federico Luppi as Zanutto.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Coco and Pipi are at the supermarket.  She's very pregnant, he's grumpy at best.  People are running like anything away from the supermarket as they check out.  They arrive home, after seeing others rushing, some with as many groceries as they can tote.

    2. There is some plague in Argentina, Mexico, USA, Canada, UK, Spain, and other countries.  Air flights are cancelled; some chain stores are closed.  One couple in their apartment building was detained by the health authorities for testing.  Armed people in hazmat suits inform them that their building is quarantined.  A quick total indicates there are 16 people in the building, plus a live in maid.  They are closed off with plastic at first.  Coco's cough causes some concern.

    3. Coco inventories the refrigerator and the rest of the kitchen for rationing purposes.  The health folks drop by to give a physical checkup of everyone.  Zanutto visits them to borrow a power adapter.  They read a lot and play board games.  At the beginning, at least, the water and power stay on.

    4. The level of the outbreak rises.  There is not enough street traffic and police to keep the streets safe at night.  A couple of the other tenants have lowered themselves to holding up other tenants using a hammer.  On the other hand, Horacio gives them light bulbs, some extra breathing protection, and a pistol, which Coco hides rather than tell Pipi.  The alert level rises again, to 7, whatever that means.  Horacio meets Coco to give him direct instructions about using the hazmat suit.  They meet with Lange, Guglierini, and one other to discuss Zanutto.  It turns out the three bachelors are running out of food.

    5. So, we have an exercise in the politics of scarcity.  Horacio is a survivalist, and a mason, of sorts.  He has no intentions of putting up with the bachelors' thieving ways, and he gives Coco some instruction on how to booby trap his apartment to repel intruders.

    6. Will the thieves get what they want?  Well, no.  Zanutto has quite a surprise waiting for them.

    7. How does it all pan out?  Will the plague be ended?  Will some of the tenants survive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Tenants quarantined in an apartment building face scarcity and each other.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 There was the occasional soft focus plus large scale darkness.

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Daniel Hendler, Jazmin Stuart, Yayo Guridiand, Federico Luppi were all quite good.

    4. Screenplay: w/10 Fails as a comedy: no belly laughs, no chuckles, no "isn't that the truth?" moments.  As SciFi, it was a wash, since there were no SciFi elements.  As a gorefest, it was a bit weak.  As drama, it was reasonably strong.  The shock of people acting differently under different rules is pretty strong, as is the sight of blasted bodies to those who have never seen them.  Much of this movie was about ordinary people dealing with these challenges.


20131225: Drama Review--Arbitrage

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 107 minutes, drama, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 6.7/10.0 from 29,179 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 12 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 87% on the meter; 63% liked it from 50,901 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 578,823 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Nicholas Jarecki.
    6. Starring: Richard Gere as Robert Miller, Susan Sarandan as Ellen Miller, Tim Roth as Detective Michael Bryer, Brit Marling as Brooke Miller, Laetitia Casta as Julie Cote, Nate Parker as Jimmy Grant, Stuart Margolin as Syd Felder, Chris Eigeman as Gavein Briar.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. At his 60th birthday, Robert seems to have it all: loving wife, two successful adult children who are close to him, a net worth in the billions, a beautiful artist who is his lover, and a company he is about to sell for a great deal of financial advantage.

    2. However, there are a number of hanging weaknesses.  An audit will not go through which would pave the way for the sale.  The sale, his mistress, his wife, his company, his daughter, and his friend who lent him millions of dollars are all tugging him in different directions.  The CEO of the company who wants to buy his company will not meet with him directly.

    3. Just to make things enormously worse, Robert goes for a drive with Julie, falls asleep at the wheel, and crashes her car.  Julie dies.  He barely struggles out of the car.  As he hobbles away from it, the car bursts into fire.  Robert makes his way to a truck stop and calls a person whom he thinks he can trust.  He goes to the art gallery that Julie ran, and destroys evidence.  He makes his way home, treats his wounds as best he can, and get in bed with Ellen, his wife.

    4. Robert has to figure out how to find the reason the audit is delayed, what he can do to quash the NYPD's investigation of Julie's murder, and keep Brooke, his business brilliant daughter, from figuring out some financial irregularities.  He has to find a way to meet and negotiate directly with the man who wants to buy his company.

    5. Just when Robert thinks he has it all figured out, and all his ducks are in a row again, Ellen lets him know this is not the case.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Everything has a price, sometimes rather high for the top one percent.
    2. Five stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 No problems; well shot.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Fine.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Fine performances by Richard Gere, Susan Sarandan, Tim Roth, Stuart Margolin, and Nate Parker.

    4. Screenplay: 10/10 Followed several story threads to a successful resolution.

20131225: Action Review--The Tower

The Tower (Ta-weo)
  1. Production Fundamentals; Reception
    1. South Korean live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 121 minutes, action, thriller.  Spoken word is in Korean/English/French; subtitles in English.
    2. IMDB: 6.3/10.0 from 1,614 audience ratings.  Aspect: 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet..' 56% liked it from 209 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 17,170 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by Ji-hoon Kim.
    6. Starring:  Kyung-gu Sol as Young-ki, Yi-jin Son as Yoon-hee, Sang-kyung Kim as Dae-ho, Han-wi Lee as Mr. Kim, 

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. The film opens to the apartment of single father Dae-ho and his pre-teen daughter Hana.  The weather prediction for Christmas is for above normal temperatures and no snow.  Dae-ho tells Hana there will be snow, and makes it a promise.  It's not a safe bet promising a child something for which you have no control.

    2. There's a big cast, with several story threads.  There are the members of the fire department, including a new recruit, and a group of weary veterans.  The cooking staff gets quite a few frames.  There are representative inhabitants of the towers, families and businesses, and those who interface between tower management of the clients. There is a lot of money invested in the Tower, and a lot of liquidity used to keep it going.

    3. Early on, hanging weaknesses are made clear: some pipes had frozen, and sprinklers between floor 60 and floor 80 were rendered inoperable.  The discoverer was told to re-prioritize on the Christmas party.  A second group brings up an issue with the chairman of the managing company: there is a danger of a sudden updraft near the Tower.  This would make helicopter flights near the Tower more risky.  The Chairman asks to be put in touch immediately with the Commissioner of the relevant regulatory agency.

    4. Dae-ho and his co-worker Yoon-hee have a number of interactions.  When Hana appears to be unhappy, Yoon-hee helps Dae-ho out.

    5. During the evening celebration, there are fireworks and helicopters flying nearby to provide a simulated snowfall.  It all looks rather nice.  People in and near the Tower are quite impressed.  Hana is really happy that Dae-ho's promise came to pass.

    6. However, the updraft problem manifests, and a couple of the helicopters go out of control, resulting in crashes into the Tower.  A fire starts an spreads rapidly.  The other hanging weakness falls, since the fire started in levels between 60 and 80, where the sprinklers are blocked.

    7. Just about anything that can go wrong, does go wrong.  There's a fire in the elevator well.  Some of the elevators do not work.  There is no way out for many.  By chance, Yoon-hee and Hana are together, and they get rejected from riding the elevator in the well with the fire.  Yoon-hee's observation and quick thinking save them when the fire bursts open the elevator door.

    8. The various story lines follow characters through the fires, falling architecture, rescue attempts, and difficult decisions made in trying circumstances.  Who will survive?  Will the idiots who set up the conditions that led to the disaster be taken to account?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Remake of The Towering Inferno, 1974, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and William Holden.  The buildings in 2013 are much larger, contain many more people, and are technologically advanced.  Like its predecessor, this film is about the human interest stories more than the pyrotechnics.

    2. One line summary: Technically brilliant, solid remake of 1974's The Towering Inferno.
    3. Four stars of five.

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

    2. Sound: 6/10 Incidental music is florid, hyperbolic.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Well done for most characters in a big cast.  A small minority were remarkably bad.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Combines a number of easily recognizable human traits: stupidity, avarice, cutting corners, courage, self-sacrifice, heroism.  The exposition was good for the many difficult situations the characters faced.

    5. SFX: 10/10 Impressive.


20131224: Thriller Review--Cypher

Jeremy Northam, Lucy Liu
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/ Canadian live action feature length film, 2002, rated R, 95 minutes, SciFi, thriller.  Spoken word is in English.  Aspect, 1.85
    2. IMDB: 6.8/10.0 from 22,792 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 7.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 61% on the meter; 66% liked it from 8,162 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 215,793 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Vincenzo Natali.
    6. Starring: Lucy Liu as Rita Foster, Jeremy Northam as Morgan Sullivan, Nigel Bennett as Ed Finster, Timothy Webber as Frank Calloway, David Hewlett as Virgil C. Dunn.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Morgan takes a polygraph test for his job at Digicorp, where he is to do corporate espionage, primarily against Digicorp's rival, Sunways Systems.  He gets a new identity, Jack Thursby, and Morgan is to fill in the blanks on what personality Jack has.  His usual job is to go to conferences and listen and record speeches given by rival companies.

    2. His first assignment takes him to Buffalo, where Jack represents Fairway Fragrances.  He has opportunities to prop up his cover stories, like smoking cigarettes, drinking single malt scotch, and having grown up in the south pacific islands.  He meets Rita on his first trip.  Between the first and second trip, Morgan tells his wife that her father can forget Morgan's working for him.  She tells him he can either apologise or leave the house, which I presume he did.  His next trip is to Omaha.

    3. Rita intervenes: gives him meds to deal with his headaches, tells him not to turn on his pen.  He does neither, and he still gets visions and headaches.  He starts taking the meds.  He's given a cryptic way of contacting Rita.  She starts his education.  At his next convention talk, he sees something entirely different.  Her warnings save him from some very bad possibilities.  What follows is an indoctrination: he is Jack Thursby, not Morgan Sullivan; he has a different wife, and his home base is with her in a different state.

    4. He makes it 'home;' there is a woman in residence who seems to know him and is warm to him, which is one huge improvement for him.  Then he's off to a job interview at Sunways where his 'neurograph' shows he's lying.  Sunways wants him to be a double agent against Digicorp.  Their security chief lets him know that his real home is up for sale, and his wife his divorcing him.  He also lets him know that Digicorp expects him to act as Jack Thursby; any sign of Morgan will result in his elimination. 

    5. He finds that Rita does not work for Sunways, but for Sebastian Rooks.  Jack goes to work with Sunways; his first job is to bug his new home.  He finds that his new 'wife' is a Digicorp agent.  He seeks a way out.  Rita tells him to stay in place, so that Digicorp will think that they have established Jack within Sunways.  Rita discusses a way out via Rooks.

    6. There are more surprises along the way.  Will Jack ever make it out of this complicated mess?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary  Fine, well-acted mystery-thriller set in the near future.
    2. Final Rating: 10/10

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

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Lucy Liu, Jeremy Northam, Nigel Bennett, and David Hewlett were excellent.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 There seemed to be too many layers of charades at times.  I loved the ending, though, which seemed to make it all worth while.


20131221: Horror Review--Psycho Gothic Lolita

Psycho Gothic Lolita (Gosurori shokeinin)
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 87 minutes, action, horror.  Spoken word is in Japanese; subtitles in English.
    2. IMDB: 5.7/10.0 from 347 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 45% liked it from 64 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 26,260 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Go Ohara.
    6. Starring: Rina Akiyama as Yuki, Ruito Aoyagi as Masato (Viscous Gentleman), Asami as Shimada's Girlfriend, Yukihide Benny as Shimada (Gambler).

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film opens to spaghetti being eaten with an emphasis on the slurping while smoking a cigarette with one's hair grazing the spaghetti.  This is a gambling den, where poor people are being tortured or murdered at the amusement of the rich.  The camera meanders from one wretched scene to the next until it focuses on two well-to-do criminals who are gambling over odd versus even for the roll of two dice.  The winner gets to shoot three tied up victims.  After this is completed, the 'loser' gets upset, and the woman who rules the roost calls for her bouncers to settle things down unless the two parties shut up.  One party leaves, while the other braces for confrontation.

    2. Yuki, dressed in Goth style, arrives and beats the nonsense out of everyone except the gambling den owner, whom she decapitates.  After the bloodbath, Yuki goes home to her paraplegic father, who had been giving prayers at a small indoor shrine.  Miraculously, Yuki's clothes have no blood splatter or spaghetti sauce on them. Yuki burns a card that symbolizes her opponent in her recent victory.

    3. There are a number of filler segments, sometimes in flashbacks.
      1. The spaghetti segment at the start.  It certainly justified the death of the spaghetti eater and any of his cohorts, but it did not advance the plot or deepen character development.

      2. There's the segment about the chemistry teacher who wants to demonstrate telekinesis on a spoon, but sends wind up the girls' skirts instead.

      3. Anything involving the nonsense character Elle. There were four of these.  The worst was when Yuki and Elle have guns drawn at point blank range, and they don't fire.  Elle takes a phone call, which goes on  and on.  Sure.  Yuki tries to break Elle's neck.  Takes forever.  Both Yuki and Elle have unlimited numbers of bullets in their guns.

      4. The laughing of her fifth opponent went on ad nauseam.

    4. Ridiculous fight scenes:
      1. The mob fight scene in the gambling den.  Yuki spins with her umbrella and defeats/knocks down a dozen larger attackers with knives, swords, and the like.  Yuki kills target number one, but that took three, perhaps four, seconds.

      2. Yuki versus chemistry teacher, mop versus umbrella.  After a bit he showed he could fly; still, it was a mop versus an umbrella.  In the middle of the fight, he stops to comb the mop's hair.  This was one of the persons who killed Yuki's mother. She did not really pursue the question of why he did it, or whether his allies posed further threat.  This was target number two.

      3. Seven guys in a fight club decide to beat up a man with no training whatsoever.  Yuki challenges them.  They yell for a while, then use their bodies to form English letters.  Then they form a character with the group, and say, 'We are kamikaze!'  With that sort of introduction, how serious could this group be?  Grunting and her umbrella seem to be enough for her to prevail.  Absurd.  Actually, this should be under 'filler segments.'  This goes on and on.  The amusing part was that their victim was the one she came to kill, Yuki's target number three.

      4. Yuki's fights with Elle, her victim number four.  This was about as credible as the mid-level opponent fights in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Whereas fully trained men who each have 50 to 70 pounds of muscle on Yuki cannot defeat Yuki, the diminutive child Elle (a lightweight well under five feet tall) wounds Yuki and narrowly missed killing her.  This is the ultimate foulness of this movie.  It embraces the unlikely or the impossible.  Rather, it seems to insist on it, and rejoice in it.  Yuki and Elle fire well over 50 bullets at each other in the second fight...and land zero of them.

    5. This continues for another 25 or so minutes.  It does not get better.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Slurping spaghetti (70 maybe 80 decibels) with one's hair in the spaghetti while smoking a cigarette; nice. This really is a horror film.  The sound of the slurping was indeed wretched.
    2. One line summary: Weak story, poor execution, still a gorefest.
    3. One star of five; two black holes for acting and screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Dark and soft focus for too many frames.

    2. Sound: 7/10 OK

    3. Acting: 0/10 No credible performances.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Terrible. 

20131221: Animation Review--Strange Frame

Strange Frame: Love & Sax
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American animated feature length film, 2012, NR, 96 minutes, drama, romance, SciFi.
    2. IMDB: 7.6/10.0 from 1,207 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 2 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet...', and 94% liked it from 42 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.3/5.0 from 15,736 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: G. B. Hijim.
    6. Starring: Claudia Black as Parker C. Boyd, Tara Strong as Naia X., Ron Glass as Philo D Grenman, Cree Summer as Reesa Abi Kiran Ariana Livingston III, Tim Curry as Dorlan Mig, Juliette Landau as Bitsea, Alan Tudyk as Chat.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Naia is a singer, Parker a saxophone player.  They made good music together until they encountered Dorlan Mig, who drugged both of them.  He threw out Parker, and denied her access to Naia.

    2. Parker barely manages to keep her best saxophones.  She eventually meets Grenman, the all-around fixit man on a spaceship.  This gives her a safe home and friends.  However, the ship's onboard AI is going psycho, and is sabotaging the ship.

    3. It's the late 28th century, and humanity lives mostly off Earth: Mars, the Jovian satellites, large asteroids, and places further out, rather like in Cowboy Bebop.  There is a war among the various planets, satellites, space stations, and asteroids.  AI and robotics are enormously further along than on 21st century Earth.

    4. Parker sells one of her saxes to help pay the bills on Grenman's ship. She investigates her former band.  She takes the bass of the player Atem, who abandoned it and his clothes.  Parker promises to give the bass to Atem if she finds him.  She meets Chat, another band member, and tries to figure what Dorlan did with Naia.

    5. She attends one of Naia's current shows, takes recordings, feels the singing with her singer's sense..  Parker becomes quarter owner of the ship, and the crew sets about to help her to kidnap the 'fake' Naia.

    6. Will Parker succeed in rescuing the real Naia?  Will the captain succeed in regaining complete control of his ship from the AI?  Will Dorlan get his just reward?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Lush voices, fine music, good story, hideous visuals.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Art: 4/10 Terrible. Ugly.  An assault on the eyes.  A festival of hideous images.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Voices and incidental music were fine.

    3. Voicing: 10/10 Claudia Black was brilliant, Ron Glass excellent.

    4. Screenplay: 10/10 A touching and inventive story set in the Cowboy Bebop like future environment.

20131221: Action Review--Alien Uprising

Alien Uprising
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 101 minutes, action, SciFi.
    2. IMDB: 3.0/10.0 from 1,485 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 2.5 million pounds. Aspect, 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...', 11% liked it from 64 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.3/5.0 from 5,915 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Dominic Burns.
    6. Starring: Bianca Bree as Carrie, Sean Brosnan as Michael, Simon Phillips as Robin, Maya Grant as Dana, JC van Damme as George, Sean Pertwee as Tramp, Jazz Lintott as Vincent.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The main characters are Carrie and Michael (just met, but getting along well), Robin and Dana, who have just become engaged, and Vincent, who has just broken up with his girlfriend.

    2. After a bender at a local club, the five of them get together the next morning.  The electric is out, their telephones are off, both cell and land line, the AM and FM radio stations are down.  The military has claimed and drained all local petrol, almost all shops are closed.  There are alien somethings all around.

    3. Two military men with a bazooka take down an alien.  An old crazy with a gun challenges the same military, who proceed to kill him.  He fires as well, as he goes down, and kills Robin.  Michael talks the military into giving them a lift (they are corporals, he had been a lieutenant).  They contact George, who has some good intel from his old days at area 51.  They find that there are alien imposters among them.  They identify Carrie as one of them.  Things get testy after that.  Even worse, the real people turn on each other.

    4. Will anyone from the beginning survive?  How about the human race?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: This was one of the poorest indie films I've seen from the UK.
    2. One star of five.  Black holes for acting, screenplay, SFX

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10  There was way too much shaky camera work.

    2. Sound: 8/10 OK, though sound levels get out of bounds now and then.

    3. Acting: 1/10 Jeez, terrible.  JC van Damme was by far the best, but he did not have all that many lines. 

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Showed early promise, then went down hill.  Badly.

    5. SFX: 0/10 Bad, terrible, looks poor as in 1970s poor.

20131221: Action Review--Yakuza-Busting Girls: Final Death-Ride Battle

Yakuza-Busting Girls: Final Death Ride Battle
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 96 minutes, action, crime.
    2. IMDB: 5.3/10.0 from 63 audience ratings.  Spoken word is in Japanese; subtitles in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 13% liked it from 20 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.4/5.0 from 1,839 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Kazushi Nakadaira.
    6. Starring: Asami, Rena Komine, Sakichi Sato, Misato Tate, Rumi Hiragi.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film opens to Asami breaking out of her small mound grave.  Perhaps they buried her alive.  She gets out and shakes off the dirt.  She's wearing a pair of black panties and a somewhat healed bullet hole over her heart.  She finds a character killed in the previous phone.  He's obviously alive, so she takes the wooden cross from her grave, sharpened at the lower end, and rams it through his heart.  Nice.  Then a group of characters killed in the last film show up and advance on Asami with menace, and guns, and swords.

    2. Asami keeps killing Yakuza and collecting pinkie fingers.  She makes the news.  Apparently she can kill any reasonable number of men, but when a woman smaller than she is attacks, Asami wins the contest, but is hurt badly.  She meanders around in great pain until Yayoi, the daughter of a local doctor, finds her and brings her to safety.

    3. Asami sleeps a lot while recovering.  This allows flashbacks to when Asami was in different gang alliances when she was younger.  This culminated in her getting shot followed by a vision of her burial site.  Asami has waking visions as well, which makes for awkward encounters.

    4. In the present, the gang elements put pressure on the head of household through his daughter who was seen with Asami.  The Yakuza torture Asami and Yayoi after capturing them.  The scourging with long stemmed (thorned) roses was somewhat well done.  But then there are numerous continuity errors afterward. 

    5. The final large battle was sort of fun, but was ruined by that fact that each individual fight was absurd.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Are there no police in Japan?  Does slavish obedience to PC nonsense rule Japanese film making?
    2. One line summary: Bad acting and screenplay overwhelm mediocre camera work in this poor sequel.
    3. One star of five.  Two black holes for acting and screenplay.  The finger-cutting stand-down game (played twice) was the stupidest thing I have seen in years.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 Horrible camera work when the girl gangs are out intimidating men and stealing their money.  Visuals are dark throughout.

    2. Sound: 6/10 The subtitles seemed to be OK.  The incidental music was way too intrusive.

    3. Acting: 0/10 The fight choreography was bad to terrible.  The acting was absurd throughout.  I did not believe the performance of a single character.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 The long sequences about girl gang members committing crimes was neither entertaining nor informative.  The habit of spending a couple of moments in the present, then going for a long dive into meaningless nonsense (karaoke, or robbing people on the street) in the past is boring and irritating.  When is the main thread going forward?  The main story could have been done at a leisurely pace in twenty minutes, not ninety-six.


20131220: Action Review--Yakuza-Busting Girls: Duel in Hell

Yakuza-Busting Girls: Duel in Hell
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 75 minutes, action.  Spoken word is in Japanese; subtitles in English.
    2. IMDb: 5.1/10.0 from 52 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 'No scores yet'; only a stub page.
    4. Netflix: 2.5/5.0 from 3,465 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Kazushi Nakadaira.
    6. Starring: Asami as Asami the Yakusa hunter, Naoki Kawano, Hitomi Miwa as Akira.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Asami has fought gangsters before and does some more in this film.  She gets taken in by a family, and a good third of the film seems to be the group just waiting around, going to the arcade, chatting while getting drunk, and other mundane activities.

    2. Every so often, some evil doer shows up, and Asami fights them.  She dispatches a couple one night, then has to fight Akira. That ends badly for Asami.

    3. More people get hurt after Asami recovers.  Asami gets more galvanized.

    4. Will Asami prevail against the gang violence?  If she gets that far, will she get revenge versus Akira?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A bad 21st century spaghetti western in Japan plus gore fest.
    2. One star of five.  Two black holes for acting and screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 Lots of bad lighting. The spaghetti western camera work (shooting through heat mirages, long shots with narrow focus, filtered shots of the sun, and so on) were so-so and did not add that much.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Incidental music reminiscent of Spaghetti westerns.  Spoken word seemed clear enough.  Foley was a little exaggerated, but that's common enough in such films.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Bad.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Bizarre mix of low level silliness (documenting playing kids' arcarde games; women giggling while getting drunk), comedy, cult nonsense, gore fest, and spaghetti western traditions.  None of it was very good, and the disparate pieces did not fit together well at all.  Incredible cruelty for the sake of amusement was much too common.  Catching bullets in the bare hands?  Done three times, but should not have been done once.

20131220: Movie Review--Bounty Killer

Bounty Killer
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 92 minutes, action, SciFi.
    2. IMDB: 5.0/10.0 from 1,965 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 50% on the meter; 49% liked it from 293 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 7,963 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Henry Saine.
    6. Starring: Matthew Marsden as Drifter, Kristianna Loken as Catherine, Christian Pitre as Mary Death, Barak Hardley as Jack LeMans, Gary Busey as Van Sterling, Abraham Benrubi as Jimbo.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Dystopian future: multi-national corporations have displaced nation-states, then fought wars against one another.  When they were sufficiently weak, and hatred against them was sufficiently high, an oligarchy named the Counsel of Nine asserted itself.  It offers monetary rewards for the dead bodies of (mostly former) corporate executives.  This gives rise to a class of murderers called 'Bounty Killers' who collect rewards and compete with each other for the most rewarding executions.

    2. Mary Death is such a bounty killer in this period of abject poverty and excessive wealth.  She has celebrity status since she has scored some very rich murders.  She is also a target of corporate groups trying to regain strength in this largely lawless time.  She and Drifter do jobs together now and then.  Until she finds that Drifter is a former high corporate executive; that is, now a criminal with a huge bounty on his head.

    3. Mary and Drifter have a history together, as Drifter recounts to Jack as the gypsies hold them prisoner.  They escape and head to Jimbo's place; Jimbo knows who Drifter is, and is willing to help him across the Badlands for a vintage six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.  Mary heads across the Badlands, and finds that the gypsies are looking for her.

    4. Drifter and Mary both make it across the Badlands.  Mary tries to kill him.  Jack talks her out of it.  They head to the Council of Nine, so that Drifter can submit himself to the judges.

    5. Will the corporations re-assert themselves at the last moment?  Will the gypsies catch up with them?  Will the judges resolve Drifter's issues?  If Drifter survives this political snakes nest, will he and Mary get together?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Not the best knock-off of other dystopian movies.
    2. One star of five.  Two blackstars for acting and screenplay.  Let there be no sequel.

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

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Gary Busey was terrible, Christian Pitre was worthless, Barak Hardley was indescribably bad.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Short on ideas, poorly executed, badly acted.  The model for story is not well thought out.  There is no infrastructure for the top-heavy corporation depicted toward the end of the movie.

20131220: Thriller Review--Devils Pass

Devil's Pass (The Dyatlov Pass Incident)
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/Russian live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 100 minutes, thriller, mystery. Spoken word is mostly in English with some Russian; English subtitles.
    2. IMDB: 5.5/10.0 from 4,251 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 53% on the meter; 26% liked it from 499 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 3,335 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Renny Harlin.  Written by: Vikram Weet.
    6. Starring: Holly Goss as Holly King, Matt Stokoe as Jensen Day, Luke Albright as JP Hauser Jr., Ryan Hawley as Andy Thatcher, Gemma Atkinson as Denise Evers.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Five Oregon students get a grant to replicate the disastrous Dyatlov expedition in the Ural Mountains of 50 years previous.  The Oregon students vanish as well.  The Russian authorities go looking, but do not find them.  Conspiracy theorists obtain a copy of found-film from the Russian authorities.  That is what the bulk of the film  consists of: running that particular found film.

    2. Holly leads the expedition; Denise is the sound person.  Jensen is the video recorder.  Andy and JP are experienced guides.

    3. They follow the path of the previous expedition to the Mountain of Death.  They place where the members of the first expedition died.  The keep going, and find a door, of all things, only slightly buried in the snow and ice.  Three days out, they have some real problems with a minor avalanche.  Denise is buried in the debris.  Andy's leg and face are messed up badly.

    4. Some people show up; for whatever reason, Andy decides to start shooting; the 'rescuers' shoot back.  JP, Jensen, and Holly make it to the door; this time it's open to them.  They find a so-so electrical supply in the tunnel below.  Someone turns off the electricity, so they have only the light from the camera for a little stretch.  They find a lot of stuff in the tunnels, including documents in Russian.  They find pictures of the hikers of fifty years ago.  Plus they find many photos of the USS Eldridge, the supposed location of some time travel experiments in 1943. They discover a nuclear reactor which is still supplying electricity.

    5. Holly and Jensen continue; JP seemed to be having trouble walking.  The pair keep recording.  They find a recently killed military man, lots of bones, and more documents, tunnels, and doors.  JP gets injured further or probably killed by the others in the tunnel.  They find a camera that is the same model as theirs, and view more found footage.  Then the strange stuff begins.

    6. Will Holly and Jensen make it out alive?  Will the full story ever get out?

  3. Conclusions
    1. The door in the ice was just too much like the hatch in the TV series Lost.
    2. One line summary: Retracing the path of a doomed expedition leads to more losses.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 Supposed to be found footage, but much of it looks too good for that.  Unfortunately, visual quality went south toward the end of the film.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Usually good.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Better than I expected, given the script.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Unlikely and not that believable.

20131220: Drama Review--A Perfect Ending

A Perfect Ending
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 110 minutes, drama.
    2. IMDB: 5.4/10.0 from 1,093 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 175,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No Reviews Yet...' and 54% liked it from 146 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 124,176 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Nicole Conn.
    6. Starring: Barbara Niven as Rebecca Westridge, Jessica Clark as Paris, John Heard as Mason Westridge , Morgan Fairchild as Valentina.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Rebecca is in a marriage where she has never had a climax, and she and her husband Mason have sex twice a year, whether they want to or not.  Mason is a bit of a shifty dealer, and he signs over certain company segments to Rebecca to avoid litigation and perhaps criminal charges.  He's very controlling with her and keeps her in the dark as much as possible.

    2. Theme 1: Rebecca's lesbian friends try to get her to enjoy herself more with another woman, perhaps through Valentina, who runs a service for that.  This starts slowly with Paris, since Rebecca is skittish about it, but picks up speed later.

    3. Theme 2: Rebecca decides to use Mason's overconfidence to take control of most of his companies.  The documents he urged her to sign earlier are a great help in this.  Further into the film, we find out that Rebecca has terminal cancer.  She will have a lot of decisions to make.

    4. Theme 3.: Rebecca's first lesbian lover, Paris, is going through emotional turmoil herself over the loss of a loved one.  Some time ago, she had a minor laughing spat with her husband.  She playfully pushed him away, into the path of a car that killed him.

    5. Theme 4: Rebecca's daughter from a first marriage feels left out, plus Mason abused her sexually a few years back.  One Mason and Rebecca's two sons is to be married into even more money, but his prospective wife is a bit of an odd duck.

    6. Will Rebecca and Mason handle the full transfer of power before she is gone?  Will Rebecca figure out her sexual identity?  Will Paris get over the exact way that her husband died?  Will the next generation get their acts together?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Soap opera, rated R; nicely done for the budget.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 There were too many closeups of mundane objects coupled with rack focus.  The shots of Paris emoting were atmospheric, but more often boring than not. The regular footage was very well done.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Mostly OK, but dips too low sometimes.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Lots of variation: John Heard was quite convincing; Barbara Niven almost convincing; the actors who play the grown up children were rather bad, as were the actors who played the lesbian friends.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 The story lines made sense eventually, but the whole thing was rather ponderous.  Oh, well, soap opera traditions.

20131220: Drama Review--Lovelace

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 92 minutes, biography, drama.
    2. IMDB: 6.1/10.0 from 12,910 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 10 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 54% on the meter; 37% liked it from 9,813 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 201,979 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman.
    6. Starring: Amanda Seyfried as Linda, Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck, Sharon Stone as Dorothy Boreman, Robert Patrick as John Boreman, Chris Noth as Anthony Romano, Bobby Cannavale as Butchie Peraino, Hank Azaria as Gerry Damiano, Adam Brody as Harry Reems, James Franco as Hugh Hefner.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Linda grows up in a repressive household, then marries a dominating husband, who eventually corners her into the porn industry.  She gets the job because Chuck had trained her to pleasure him orally, then took home movies of it.  The producers were enthused.

    2. Deep Throat is hugely popular, and she gets a vanity film or two.  She is quite a sensation, and gets to know quite a number of influential people.  Then we jump forward six years to where Linda is into writing books.

    3. The film progresses (?) into re-interpretations of what was shown in the first 20 minutes.  Most of the focus was on how stupid or bad the first husband, Chuck Traynor, was.  Clearly he was a bad businessmen.  Their mobster friends could have done much better.  Clearly he mistreated Linda.  On the other hand, the exposition of how Lovelace could have shifted from prostitute and porn star to moralistic author was weak to the point of non-existence.

    4. Was Linda's second marriage better?  Did she really escape? The movie does not really address this at all.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Muddled account of Lovelace's sadly mismanaged life.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Well shot.

    2. Sound: 8/10 The spoken voices fade away into nothing now and then.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Cheers to James Franco, Chris Noth, Hank Azaria, Bobby Cannavale, Robert Patrick.  On the other hand, Amanda Siefried, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Brody, and Sharon Stone just stank on ice.  I hope to avoid Amanda Siefried in all future roles; she was amazingly terrible here.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 I'm not sure what the story was.  The timeline is very confused.

20131220: Thriller Review--Crawl

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Australian live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 80 minutes, thriller, crime.
    2. IMDB: 4.8/10.0 from 614 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 500,000 AUD. Aspect: 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 71% on the meter; 17% liked it from 117 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 35,685 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Paul China.
    6. Starring: George Shevtsov as The Stranger ('The Croatian'), Bob Newman as Rusty Sapp, Georgina Haig as Marilyn Burns, Lauren Dillon as Holly, Lynda Stoner as Eileen, Paul Holmes as Slim Walding, Paul Bryant as Sergeant Byrd, John Rees-Osborne as Constable Rolly.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The Croatian comes to town and sanctions (kills for hire) the owner of a petrol station, Rusty Sapp.  He gets paid by the Slim Walding (who owns the bar where most of the other characters work) and leaves town.  He runs over a pedestrian on the way to his next stop.  This turns out to be Travis, who's truck had stalled out.

    2. Marilyn prepares for the return of her fiance to be, Travis.  He's late for business reasons.  Then he keeps on being late.  The Croatian breaks in, ties her up, and gags her.  He's looking for transportation, but Travis had the truck as well as the keys to the old motorcycle.

    3. The police come visit Slim Walding about the murder of Rusty Sapp.  Later, Slim and Holly play the spanking game to work off Holly's debt to Slim.  He makes her crawl to him before she gets over his knee, bares her bottom, then spanks her hard.

    4. The Croatian goes back and kills what's left of Travis, then steals the engagement ring from the corpse.  Slim finds his gun missing; he figures he's being set up.  He drives to Marilyn's house, finds Travis' blood, Travis' truck, but not Travis.  So he heads to Marilyn's house; he steps in the chocolate cake Marilyn's friend left on the stoop.  He sees the blood from the Croatian's wounded leg.  He tries to get answers after he unties Marilyn, but she has few answers.  The Croatian comes in and disrupts their conversation.  Then the Croatian goes after Marilyn.

    5. Do we find out the Croatian's motivations? Does Slim get what he seems to deserve?  Will Marilyn survive all this?

  3. Conclusions
    1. This film reminded me of Blood Simple (1984) more than any other single film.
    2. One line summary: An interesting but incomplete effort by first time director Paul China.
    3. Final Rating: 8/10

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

    2. Sound: 8/10 The incidental music was often spot on, but sometimes overbearingly loud.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Just fine if one likes the acting style that the Coen brothers favour.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 Just what was the plot against Slim?  What was the history with Slim and Holly?  How did the Croatian come into play here?  There are a few too many loose ends here.


20131219: Fantasy Review--Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, PG, 91 minutes, family, adventure.
    2. IMDB: 6.5/10.0 from 4,793 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 47% on the meter; 58% liked it from 12,274 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.9/5.0 from 42,990 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Andrew Adamson.
    6. Starring: Erica Linz as Mia, Igor Zaripov as The Aerialist, Lutz Halbhubner as Ringmaster, John Clarke as Sad Clown, Dallas Barnett as Boss, Matt Gillanders as Circuit Marvelous cast member.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This is indeed a film about a carnival, with some fantasy elements thrown in.

    2. The visuals are spectacular.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Refers to Paul McCartney singing Blackbird as 'folk singing.'  Who came up with that? The Beatles' songs were, by and large, of no connection to the visuals (except perhaps for Octopus' Garden).
    2. One line summary: Cirque du Soleil showing off excellent visuals, but not much else.
    3. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Watched this in HD but not 3D.  It was still quite beautiful.

    2. Sound: 2/10 My first experience of Cirque du Soleil was the soundtrack of Alegria, with no video, but with powerful singing.  When I first saw Alegria, I was disappointed, because the visuals were so inferior to the singing.  In this film, the visuals are striking, fully as good as I hoped for in Alegria.  However, the sound track in this film is weak, unimpressive, hardly a match for the amazing visuals.

    3. Acting: 3/10 I have no interest in (or enjoyment of) clowns, carnies, and mimes.  If you like them, you might find this film more palatable. 

    4. Screenplay: 3/10 There was a screenplay?  Were there characters I was supposed to care about?  Enjoy the visuals; that is all you are going to get: art direction, not screenplay.

20131219: Drama Review--Rampart

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 101 minutes, drama, crime.
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 15,248 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 74% on the meter; 35% liked it from 11,103 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 302,148 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Owen Moverman.
    6. Starring: Woody Harrelson as David Douglas Brown, Jon Bernthal as Dan Marone, Stella Schnabel as Jane, Jon Foster as Michael Whittaker, Ben Foster as General Terry, Cynthia Nixon as Barbara, Anne Heche as Catherine, Sigourney Weaver as Joan Confrey, Ned Beatty as Hartshorn.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Los Angeles, 1999.

    2. At lunch, David and Dan give the new rookie Jane a pep talk of sorts about being in the LAPD.  Jane asks about the scandal.  Something's gone wrong, the DA is pressured to prosecute someone in LAPD, but he would rather not.  More details later; this is central to the movie.  Then David and Jane go on routine maneuvers.  Much of the detail is about different nationalities of illegal aliens, together with the Siamese twin issue of the massive illegal drug industry.

    3. David's home life is a bit different.  He married one woman, Barbara.  They broke up, then he married her sister, Catherine.  He sired a daughter with each, Helen and Margaret. Both families live with him.  Just to top things off, when both wives deny him, he's quite comfortable with picking up hot women at bars.

    4. After an incident with a man who rammed his car, Dave is asked to retire.  He makes it clear that he has not intention of doing this.  The pressures against him mount.  He retains counsel.  He uses his contacts to try to find out the real motivations behind what's hitting him.  One of the chief of these contacts is Hartshorn, who finally gives up on him.

    5. His wives and daughters all desert him, kick him out of the house he pays for, send him their rivers of hate.  Internal affairs is closing in.

    6. Will Dave find a reasonable way through the mess he is in?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Follow a dirty Rampart cop on his way down.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Usually excellent.

    2. Sound: 9/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Well done to: Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche, Woody Harrelson, and Ned Beatty.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 Looked like it needed another 30 minutes to close the loops, but decided to leave things hanging.  What happens to Dave and the rookie, or Dave and Dan, or the larger corruption investigation?  Did Hart recover?  There were lots of loose ends.  Still, the story of Dave moved forward relentlessly.


20131216: Drama Review--28 Hotel Rooms

28 Hotel Rooms
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 82 minutes, drama.
    2. IMDB: 5.3/10.0 from 1,303 audience ratings.  Aspect 1.78.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 43% on the meter; 40% liked it from 925 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 68,239 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Matt Ross.
    6. Starring: Chris Messina as Man, Marin Ireland as Woman, Robert Deamer as Bartender.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. She is from Seattle; he is based in New York.  He is a novelist; she is a data miner.  They travel in their work and meet now and then.  They are rather guarded about their personal information, but are obviously attracted to one another.  They get to know each other over time.  She reads his book and likes it.

    2. Eventually they talk about anything and everything.  Their careers change over time.  They discuss the meaning of what they do.  They deal with life events.

    3. When he is about to get married (she has been for some time), they talk about dropping their mates and marrying each other.  But somehow it does not happen.

    4. They have some tough times as well, such as when they talk about why they have not married each other.  The ambivalence shines through again.

    5. Some of their pretend conversations about possible lives together are fantasy, but still priceless.  The acting by Chris Messina and Marin Ireland was very nuanced.

    6. She gets pregnant, and decides to rear the child with her husband of record.  Both of them have trouble dealing with it, but it's the decision that involves the least damage. Other changes come along, like his inability to drink coffee, due to a stomach condition.

    7. Will they keep meeting, or will their married lives force that tradition to break?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Strong resemblance to Same Time, Next Year with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn, 1978.
    2. One line summary: Enduring relationship between two people not married to each other.
    3. Five stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Fine, except for the occasional camera shake.

    2. Sound: 9/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 10/10  The two principals are quite good.

    4. Screenplay: 9/10 Well told evolution of a long-lasting affair between two people who are more than friends.


20131215: Horror Review--Stranded

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 87 minutes, horror, SciFi.  Estimated budget, 2 million CAD.
    2. IMDB: 3.4/10.0 from 1,730 audience ratings. Spoken word is in English.  Aspect 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 0% on the meter (impressive); 11% liked it from 1,011 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.3/5.0 from 6,306 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Roger Christian.
    6. Starring: Christian Slater as Col. Gerard Brauchman, Brendan Fehr as Dr. Lance Krauss, Amy Matysio as Ava Cameron, Michael Therriault as Bruce Johns.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1.  A mining company on the moon has one of its bases damaged by a meteor storm.  Some of the rocks break open after finding their way into the station.  Some sort of life form is detected; it multiplies rapidly.  Communications are out; attempts to re-assert communications fail.

    2. Ava gets a knick on her finger through which she is infected.  This gives rise to a rapidly accelerated pregnancy.  She gives birth, but no one will believe her.

    3. Bruce Johns gets cloned by the aliens.  It takes the Colonel and the Dr a long time to figure this out.  In the meantime, they blame Ava and keep her locked up.  After a pleasant chat, they let her go and enlist her help.

    4. The alien, as Bruce Johns, starts to shut down their oxygen supply system.  They attempt a counter-strike, but this fails badly.  Will their next attempt?

    5. Does anyone survive this one?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Bad dialog, bad acting, weak script in this infection in space story.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 Dark, with shadows placed so that significant things are hard to make out, but trivial objects are clear as day.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Reasonably good.

    3. Acting: 1/10 Zounds.  Terrible.  Brendan Fehr: better in Roswell or Bones or CSI:Miami; not all that believable as a staff physician on a moon base.  Christian Slater: one of his worst performances ever.  Amy Matysio: have not encountered her before, and this was a bad start.  Michael Therriault: plays a weak, incompetent whom no one believes, and who is short on emotional stability.  Why would such a character ever be hired for work in space?

    4. Screenplay: 1/10  Absurd dialog.  Weak, derivative story.  Logical mistakes aplenty.

    5. SFX: 0/10  Terrible. The opening sequence with the meteor storm was laughably bad.  Creature effects were ridiculous.

20131215: Horror Review--The Frozen

The Frozen
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, PG-13, 94 minutes, horror.  Spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 4.0/10.0 from 889 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 250,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 6% liked it from 43 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 128,341 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Andrew Hyatt.
    6. Starring: Brit Morgan as Emma, Seth David Mitchell as Mike, Noah Segan as The Hunter.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Emma and Mike go for a trek through winter snow in Colorado.  They discuss their relationship, not always amicably.

    2. They have a snowmobile accident far from contact with other people.

    3. Will either of them survive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. The reviews looked pretty bad, especially from viewers with experience.  The story was lifted (conceptually) from the Twilight Zone, where the story was told better.
    2. One line summary: An old theme (the dead admitting they are dead) not done all that well.
    3. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 If you love winter snow and ice, this will be a feast for you.  The backgrounds are often washed out, and now and then there is camera shake.  Still, there is a lot of beautiful footage.

    2. Sound: 5/10 There was some creepy music, but on the whole, the sound was not a factor, which is disappointing.  The sound levels were ridiculously bad.  When I had the volume up for conversation, the ending credits came out blaring.

    3. Acting: 3/10 I liked Brit Morgan in True Blood, but not so much in this one.  Seth David Mitchell was one of the producers, and I wished he had kept to that exclusively.  Noah Segan might as well have been a piece of cardboard.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The two main characters die fifteen minutes in.  That is where I started to lose interest. The next 79 minutes did not add much of anything; bickering can be found just about anywhere, as can footage about incompetence.  The conceit of the film is that 'you are not dead until you realise you are dead' is old and tired.  This remake was not an improvement over older, better works on the same theme.