20140131: Animation Review--Kaena: The Prophecy

Kaena: the Prophecy
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. French live action feature length film, 2003, PG13, 85 minutes, animation, adventure, fantasy.
    2. IMDB: 6.2/10.0 from 3,082 audience ratings. 
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 7% on the meter; 44% liked it from 5,626 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on Crackle.
    5. Directed by: Chris Delaporte, Pascal Pinon.
    6. Starring: Kirsten Dunst as Kaena, Richard Harris as Opaz, Anjelica Huston Queen of the Selenites, Michael McShane as Assad, Keith David as Voxem.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The picture starts near a village high on a huge vine called Axis.  One resident is Kaena, a young adult woman who likes to adventure, while the rest of the village is bound to harvesting sap and offering it to the gods.

    2. For sassing the priest, she is exiled.  She is captured by an unfamiliar group that is very interested in her because she has curiosity, and will venture beyond the village.

    3. Opaz and his people have reconstructed a star ship to return to their home planet.  Kaena sees visions of a repository of knowledge of Opaz' people.

    4. After various machinations, the repository opens itself to Kaena, with conflict all around her.

    5. Will the disputes among the groups be resolved?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Relentlessly ugly and poor animation meets nearly opaque script.
    2. Two stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Art/Animation: 2/10  There is seriously too much negative space is the artwork for most of the scenes, rather like the more disgusting parts of the Alien series, or most of H. R. Giger's paintings or sculptures.  It is mostly dark, dull, depressing, surreal, and hideous. Other parts of the film are overly bright and washed out.  Neither of these habits is attractive or 'eye candy' as I have seen this monstrosity described so often. Here and there I see serious frame jumps, the kind one sees in a flip book.

    2. Sound: 2/10 Amazingly bad leveling.  Keep your hand near the volume control.  This detracted seriously from the voice acting.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Richard Harris and Keith David were fine; Kirsten Dunst was much better than I expected.  The queen and so many others were just terrible.

    4. Screenplay: 3/10 Next to opaque.  Exposition of motivations was a distant, never achieved goal.

20140131: Horror Review--Self Storage

Self Storage
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, horror. Spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 3.2/10.0 from 149 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No Reviews Yet..' and 0% liked it from 19 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.6/5.0 from 20,144 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Tom DeNucci.
    6. Starring: Tom DeNucci as Jake, Eric Roberts as Walter, Michael Berryman as Trevor, Jonathan Silverman as Jonah, Nick Principe as Freddie, Gillian Williams as Sara-Marie.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Walter and Trevor have quite a nasty but lucrative business going in blackmarket organs.  They set up at self storage facilities, do some business, then move on.  They often supply Jonah, who has connections and access to lots of money.

    2. Jake overhears Walter tell Trevor that they are leaving, and will fire Jake.  So Jake sets up a party at the facility.  In the process, he ruins the product that Walter and Trevor were going to sell to Jonah.  To make things even worse, Jonah is coming that same night with money and people to collect the organs and whatever else was involved.

    3. When Walter and Trevor go to check the product, they find that Jake has more or less destroyed all the organs being carried by the kidnapped victims.  So the obvious choice is to harvest the organs from the drugged out fools at Jake's party.

    4. The idiots continue to party.  Trevor starts knocking them out and bringing them in for harvesting.  After everyone else is captured or dead, Jake, Freddie, and Sara-Marie counter-attack using weapons stolen from someone's storage locker.

    5. Who will come out of this happy (or alive)?  Jake and friends?  Jonah's mob?  Walter and Trevor?  None of the above?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Half glorification of drugs and booze; half about involuntary organ harvesting.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Varies from sub-VHS quality to nice and clear.  This is a bit jarring at times.

    2. Sound: 3/10 OK, except that the actors speak now and then, and the incidental music is played.

    3. Acting: 2/10 This is a vanity film for Tom DeNucci, who is not even convincing as a drugged out idiot.  Veterans Eric Roberts and Michael Berryman certainly know how to act, but the weak star/director/writer did not get much out of them.  Jonathan Silverman seemed to phone his performance in, but from a separate movie.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The ideas were not too bad, but the execution was utter and complete nonsense.  The ending was the worst, worse than all the rest of this wretched film put together.

20140131: Horror Review--Kill Theory

Kill Theory
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2009, NR, 85 minutes, horror, slasher.
    2. IMDB: 5.6/10.0 from 4,198 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 6 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' 27% liked it from 986 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 119,556 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Chris Moore.
    6. Starring: Agnes Bruckner as Jennifer, Patrick John Flueger as Michael, Taryn Manning as Alex, Theo Rossi as Carlos, Teddy Dunn as Brent, Don McManus as Dr. Karl Truftin.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The picture opens with Walter getting out of a psychiatric institution after three years for killing three of his friends.  Walter and Karl discuss this for nuances.  Karl wants to see how well Walter does in the next year, and schedules regular visits.

    2. The film transitions to another environment where Walter can execute another kill-the-group exercise.  Brent and Amber, Michael and Jennifer, Carlos and Nicole, the heavy loner Freddie, and the biker girl Alex.  The group celebrates (early) their upcoming graduation at a remote vacation house that  belongs to Michael's family.

    3. After a night of drinking and storytelling, they retire for the evening.  Nicole gets up to get a snack, and Walter grabs her.  He offers her the choice of killing Carlos or being murdered herself.  She chose the latter; Walter records the whole thing, then throws Nicole's corpse through a window onto Carlos.  Michael tries to get his father's rifle from the basement, but Walter had already taken it,  In its place he left many photos from the preceding two weeks.  Walter calls them on a radio and tells him that they have to kill each other for any of them to survive (winner take all or all lose).  Michael and Carlos go out to get the pistol in his father's boat.  The boat has been sunk, and Carlos gets badly injured on the way back.  Michael leaves Carlos there since Michael thought he was dead.

    4. What's left?  It's classic elimination derby.  Whom can one trust?  Do we have to hear every detail from Walter's first killing spree?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Seems that they made absolutely no plans, much less concerted attempts to find the killer and take him out.  Of course, Walter had most of this planned out so that they would feel powerless and confused.
    2. One line summary: Shows the bad decision making of the victims in an elimination derby.
    3. Two stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Nicely shot, including the majority of the film which was shot in low-light.

    2. Sound: 8/10 No real problems.

    3. Acting: 3/10 Lousy.  I've seen worse, but not too much worse.

    4. Screenplay: 3/10 Ordinary.  The victims are very unimaginative, which eliminated most of their possibilities.  As it was, the victims did most of the killer's work for him.  The histrionics were not all that interesting, and did not illustrate motivations all that well.  For instance, why did these 'friends' have so much energy devoted to killing each other in very messy, inefficient ways?

20140131: Action Review--Man of Tai Chi

Man of Tai Chi
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/Chinese/Hong Kong live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 105 minutes, action, drama. Spoken word is Cantonese, English, and Mandarin.
    2. IMDB: 6.1/10.0 from 12,640 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 25 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 71% on the meter; 50% liked it from 8,679 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 46,686 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Keanu Reeves.  Screenplay as Michael G. Coney.
    6. Starring: Keanu Reeves as Donaka Mark, Chen Lin-Hu as Tiger Hu Chen, Karen Mok as Sun Jingshi, Simon Yam as Superintendent Wong, Qing Ye as Qingsha.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Donaka runs an ongoing illegal fight-to-the-death contest with high stakes.  He's on the lookout for new talent a fair amount of the time.

    2. Tiger is an advanced Tai Chi student.  He participates in some martial arts contests to show that Tai Chi can be used to express power.  Donaka views one of his matches, and sends Tiger an invitation to meet.  Tiger puts on his best suit and goes to the meeting.

    3. He soon finds himself alone in a room designed for fights.  Fighting he does.  Donaka encourages him to fight for pay, but Tiger demurs...it's not the Tai Chi way.  Tiger gets outside pressure.  The dojo he has been with for years, which has stood for six centuries, is to be torn down unless monies are produced to effect repairs to keep developers away.

    4. So Tiger starts fighting for money.  He also starts enjoying it, perhaps a bit too much.  His efforts get the dojo a temporary reprieve.  However, the developers telegraph that they will continue to pursue the property in order to demolish the dojo and rebuild expensive structures.

    5. A police woman (Chief Inspector Jing Si) has been after Donaka from the beginning of the film.  Will Tiger be the weak link that brings Donaka down?

    6. By the time Donaka brings in Tiger for a professional fight against two opponents in front of a select upscale crowd, Tiger is ready to perform no matter what.  He does not do all that well at first, but rises to the occasion, defeating two experienced fighters at once.

    7. In his next public fight, he breaks some bones, and is disqualified.  Donaka is pleased.  Tiger goes back to the dojo and attempts to overpower his master.  Tiger has grown quite a bit in fighting skill, so his master no longer can overpower him, but neither can Tiger defeat his master.  Also, his master's attacks have effects after the fact, and leave Tiger with bruises.  His master warns him to meditate; otherwise he path will lead to destruction.

    8. The agency in charge of development changes their mind again, and recommends development over the demolished dojo.  Their excuse is that Tiger was disqualified from his last legitimate fight.  Oi.  Tiger asks Donaka for a fight; he gets one against Yuri Romanov, a mercenary 'killing machine.'  Tiger defeats him and barely restrains himself from killing him.  Donaka encourages him to finish the job.  Tiger does not.  Oh, my.  Donaka enters the battle room and breaks Yuri's neck.

    9. Jing Si finds the location of the fight, but is about 20 minutes too late.  Tiger contacts her, but his telephone was bugged.  Donaka knows, and will have surprises.

    10. So, who comes out well in this one?  Anyone?  Does Tiger survive?  Do we care?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: The two miscast lead actors render the film's value inert.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Well shot for the most part.  The colour palettes are a bit off now and then.

    2. Sound: 2/10 Be sure to view this film on a device that allows subtitles.  Much of the film is in Mandarin and Cantonese.

    3. Acting: 0/10 The performance of Chen Lin-Hu as Tiger was just as unbelievable as Keanu Reeves as Donaka.  Those two casting choices were just ridiculous.  The fake fights did indeed look fake.  In a Jackie Chan film, it's the same, but the fake fights accentuate Jackie's warmth and humour.  This deadly bore of a film is not a comedy, and the fake look of the fighting is a terminal detriment.  One is reminded of the terminal mistake of casting Jaden Smith and Keanu Reeves in the hideous remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 This is a fairly straightforward plot, nothing new, with good production values.  Unfortunately, the two leads just cannot execute it.  The end fight was just absolute bovine scatology, ludicrous and insulting to the viewer.  Telekinesis?  You've jumped the shark, fellows. Unless this was meant to be Dragonball Z, of course.

20140131: Animation Review--Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian animated feature length film, 1981, rated R, dark fantasy, eroticism and horror.
    2. IMDB: 6.7/10.0 from 18,250 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 9.3 million USD; aspect 1.37
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 58% on the meter; 68% liked it from 38,157 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on Crackle on the last day of its current run.
    5. Directed by: Gerald Potterton.
    6. Starring: (voice actors) Don Francks, Caroline Semple, Richard Romanus, and many more, see imdb listing .

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film follows the Loc-Nar (glowing green orb) that contains the personification of ultimate evil in the universe.  The orb corrupts whatever it stays near.

    2. First story ('Harry Canyon'): a professor finds the orb while excavating.  The professor is killed by gangsters.  His daughter is rescued by a cab driver, Harry Canyon.  She disappears on him overnight.  Next morning, everyone wants to talk to Harry, so he half heartedly looks for her.  Loved the humour here.

    3. Second story ('Den'): an idiot who experiments with lightening obtains the globe.  During a storm, his apparatus catches lightening; the globe adds its own power.  The experimenter is transported to another planet and perhaps another time.  He is in a new body.  He rescues a woman from being sacrificed.  They get kidnapped by an odd group that takes him to the leader of the revolution, whatever that is.  This person demands that he steal the Loc-Nar from the queen.

    4. Third story ('Captain Sternn'): set on a space station orbiting a planet that resembles Jupiter.  A space officer, Captain Sternn is on trial.  He thinks he has an 'angle' with a janitor Hanover Fiste.  The Loc-Nar takes over Fiste, who delivers damning evidence against Sternn.

    5. Fourth story ('B-17'): set on a World War II vintage B-17.  The Loc-Nar follows the plane.  It kills the crew one by one.  The pilot parachutes out.  Does he survive?

    6. Fifth story ('So Beautiful and So Dangerous'): set in Washington, DC.  Mutations have been appearing on Earth.  Is this because of interference from forces from outer space?  An expert says no at a top secret meeting in the Pentagon.  The expert starts to mutate himself; he attacks the voluptuous secretary taking notes.  Then aliens abduct them.  Can this turn out well?

    7. Sixth story ('Taarna'): set on another world.  The Loc-Nar enters a volcano, which it causes to erupt in green vomit-like lava.  This mutates those who are trapped in it.  The non-mutants are about to be overrun by the mutants.  An elder calls for Taarnak (of the line of Tarrak) to come defend them.  It is their sworn duty, after all.  She answers the call after those she was to defend are all slaughtered.  Her mission becomes vengeance.

    8. The preparation scene in Taarna was beautiful, as was the destruction of Loc-Nar and the transfer of the mission to the new Taarakian.

    9. This is quite a classic.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Anthology of animated shorts from the comic; great set of background music.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Art/Animation: 5/10 Good for 1981, but does not age well.  At all. Has some of the same styles as Bakshi's Wizards, 1977, for instance, and that is not a compliment.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Outstanding.  The music is still good.  For a list of performers, see this page; look in the User Reviews.

    3. Voice: 7/10 OK.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 The last segment, Taarna, was the best.  I would give it high marks for heart, humour, and heroism; its use of a female hero was cleansing and cathartic, rather than PC nonsense.  This segment almost carries the entire film.  The first and second stories were good for humour, and advanced the story overlying the segments a bit.  The third and fourth stories were not as good as the others.  The fifth was just a waste.

20140131: Action Review--Heavy Metal 2000

Heavy Metal 2000
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian/German animated feature length film, 2000, rated R, 86 minutes, action, animation, fantasy, music.  Spoken word is in English.  Aspect, 1.85
    2. IMDB: 5.3/10.0 from 5,005 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 15 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 0% on the meter; 37% liked it from 11,804 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on Crackle on its last day for a while.
    5. Directed by:
    6. Starring: Michael Ironside as Tyler, Julie Strain as Julie, Billy Idol as Odin, Pier Paquette as Germain St. Germain, Sonja Ball as Kerrie.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. An ordinary space miner named Tyler touches a shard of a glowing rock that gives him a hunger for power and a thirst for immortality.  He attacks a space colony, Eden, to kill people and collect survivors who have a precious substance in their blood.  Unfortunately for Tyler, he kidnapped Kerrie, but left alive her sister Julie.  Germain was in his crew, but when Germain tries to protect Kerrie, Tyler leaves Germain behind.

    2. Jule dragoons Germain, and they follow Tyler on his journey to a jump point.  They hitch a ride just before Tyler's ship enters the wormhole (the 'jump point').  Tyler tries to kill them.  The results are really bad for both ships.  They crash on a nearby planet where Julie meets Odin and his rock-like assistant.  Odin is in search of the 'Key' (the glowing rock) which Julie is oblivious to.

    3. Tyler becomes leader of a local race of lizard people.  He searches for the pool of the pure substance that will give him immortality.  Odin leads Julie to Tyler's ship, where she rescues Kerrie.  They go back to the city that protects the pool and the chamber of immortality.

    4. Will Julie and her new friends be able to protect the city from the lizard horde?  Will they keep Tyler from his goal?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Favourite quote: 'how do you lose a six foot bitch with a talking rock?'
    2. One line summary: Not PC, guns blazing, swords slashing, revenge, spaceships, ample bosoms, aliens, and metal soundtrack.
    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Art/Animation: 6/10 Varies from barely competent to good.  It seems a bit weak for a film made around 2000.  Also, the use of mixed productions modes (some flat, some hand drawn, some done by export of 3d modelling) is rather distracting.

    2. Sound: 8/10 The sound levels might have been a bit better balanced.  The metal background music seemed to be kept too low compared to the sound levels for gunfire, explosions and voices.

    3. Voice: 10/10 Michael Ironside, Julie Strain, Billy Idol, and Pier Paquette were all fine.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 The twin quests for revenge and for immortality move the story right along.  However, the story lacks the powerful heart and heroism of the first film.


20140130: Horror Review--Toad Road

Toad Road
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 75 minutes, horror, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 242 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 67% on the meter; 52% liked it from 118 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.3/5.0 from 15,103 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Jason Banker.
    6. Starring: James Davidson as James, Sara Anne Jones as Sara, Whitleigh Higuera as Whitleigh, Jamie Siebold as Jamie, Scott Rader as Scott.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film opens to a group of drug addicts having fun with each other while getting high or coming down.  That's about the first 45 minutes worth of 75 minutes total.

    2. James and Sara go to Toad Road to see what's there.  Supposedly there are seven gates, and if one goes through all seven, one gets entrance to hell.

    3. At the first gate, one can feel something pulling at you, and wanting you gone, but you cannot see them.  At the second gate, one starts to hear things.  Just after the third gate, one starts to see things; the voices become visible.  Just after the fourth gate, things around you start to die; leaves start to fall and the like.  Just after the fifth gate, everything gets cold, but you feel warm and powerful.

    4. At this point in the description by Sara, it had started snowing, and a CGI gate was visible.  James catches up to Sara.  The narration describing the gates continues.  Time supposedly changes after passing through the fifth gate.

    5. At this point, James is separated from Sara.  He looks for her a bit, and calls her name repeatedly.  He gives up and takes a long walk home.  His keys do not work.  After some time he gets in touch with two of his druggie friends.  They tell him that he has been gone for months.  No one cares that he has been gone that long, but Sara is a different matter since she has roots with people and institutions that care about her.

    6. Do we see Sara again?  Does James do anything to find her?

  3. Conclusions
    1. The characters in this mess are the best argument for birth control that I have ever seen.
    2. One line summary:  Drug user investigates a path to hell, but does not remember it.
    3. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 Bipolar, to say the least.  On the one hand, some long stretches are hideously bad: fuzzy, poorly lit, poorly framed, overexposed and alternately underexposed, shaky.  On the better side, sections of the film have fine focus, good depth of field, nice framing and no camera shake.

    2. Sound: 3/10 A real detriment.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Non-existent.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Next to worthless.  There is about 90 seconds of plot here, yet the film drags on endlessly for 75 minutes.  Filming drug addicts putting out their cigarettes in vomit is of no value whatsoever.

20140130: Movie Review--Persona

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2008, NR, SciFi, action.
    2. IMDB: 6.8/10.0 from 20 audience ratings.  Spoken language is in Japanese. Subtitles in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: not even a stub web page.
    4. Netflix: 2.4/5.0 from 3,858 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Tatsuro Kashihara.
    6. Starring: Mami Yamasaki as Hiyori, Masato Hagiwara as Koichiro Kiba, Sawa Suzuki as Sayoko Kiba.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Hiyori is the subject of experiments that look more like torture than anything else.  She escapes from the lab early on, and tumbles across the young doctor Koichiro.  A squad of men show up and hustle Hiyori into a van.

    2. Koichiro's wife Sayoko tells him she is going on a business trip.  As it turns out, she works for LIS, which is doing the experiments on Hiyori.  These experiments involve a mental resonance which allows for a bit of personality transference.

    3. Yeah, sure, right, everyday.  Perhaps one should keep going if one can still suspend disbelief.

    4. Hirori escapes again, this time with some of Sayoko's personality.  She seeks out Koichiro, her most trusted ally.

    5. It is no surprise that they are soon on the run.  There is a bit of fighting action involved. Eventually, they have to go back and fix things up with the sleeping Sayako.

    6. Will our heroes accomplish all their goals?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Poorly made Japanese export that is slow, boring, non-engaging.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 2/10 Poor, VHS quality or worse.  Grainy, pixelated images, washed out appearance, camera shake.

    2. Sound: 6/10 The incidental music sucks rocks.

    3. Acting: 2/10 There was acting? Poor fight choreography.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Enough of the girl fighter PC nonsense.  Very little story spread over 84 minutes.

20140130: Horror Review--Rosalind Leigh

The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 80 minutes.
    2. IMDB: 5.5/10.0 from 1,542 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' 32% liked it from 201 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 149,603 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Rodrigo Gudino.
    6. Starring: Aaron Poole as Leon Leigh, Vanessa Redgrave as Rosalind Leigh, Julian Richings as Rahn Brothers, Stephen Eric McIntyre as Preacher, Charlotte Sullivan as Anna.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Leon returns to the house he grew up in after his mother dies.  They had been apart for many years.

    2. Leon spent lots of time in the past with his mental health professional, who has helpful suggestions about his 'bump in the night' experiences at the house.  The house is opulent and chocked full of reminders of Leon's childhood.  There are audio and video tapes from a mystery cult, including one about communications with the dead.  Eventually, Leon finds a room full of religious statues, candles, stained glass and the like.

    3. The cult is "God's Messengers" which Leon researches on the web.  He consults his security company by phone, then online, when he seems to have an animal intruder.  They see something in the surveillance data, but cannot make out what it is.  Then he loses online connection.

    4. Leon seems to see a lot of things after that, but does he?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Fine production values, but cheap jack script; massively bad ending.
    2. One star of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Amazingly beautifully done, in low light or high.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Well done, sometimes quite atmospheric.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Veteran actor Aaron Poole gave a fine performance.  Film legend Vanessa Redgrave was OK as a voice actor.  However, the script was so bad that the performances mattered not.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Five minutes of a bad plot stretched beyond breaking over eighty minutes.  I certainly hope the director is not funded again unless he has strong oversight.

20140130: Horror Review--Donner Pass

Donner Pass
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 86 minutes.
    2. IMDB: 4.6/10.0 from 1,480 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 800,000 USD; aspect, 1.85
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' 8% liked it from 93 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 62,031 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Elise Robertson.  Written by R. Scott Adams and Elise Robertson.
    6. Starring: Desiree Hall as Kayley, Eric Stocklin as Thomas, Colley Bailey as Mike, Adelaide Kane as Nicole, John Kassir as James Michael Epstein, Elise Robertson as Dead Mother, Krystal Davis as Valerie, Antonio Trischitta as Brody, Brandon Morales as A. J., Dominic Devore as Derek.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. We start with a re-imagining of the Donner party's problems in the mountains in 1846.  The story is re-told in a bit of a different light.

    2. In the present, Thomas and four friends head toward his parents' cabin in the woods, which is coincidentally near Donner Pass.  Three more people the group knows show up and bully their way in, indirectly making Thomas break his promise about occupancy.

    3. The final roster ends up being Thomas, Kayley, Mike, Nicole, Brody, Valerie, Derek, and A. J.  During the first night's stay, there is an extra three inches of snow.

    4. Brody goes for beer, and does not come back.  Thomas, Mike, and Kayley go look for him.  Kayley thinks she sees him before they start out, but is not sure.  They find Brody's car, somewhat broken up, with plenty of blood splatter inside the car, and some outside.  Soon enough they find Brody with his guts ripped out.  Could this possibly become a pattern?

    5. Meanwhile, Derek and Nicole discuss Nicole's date rape by A. J.  I did not see how that was going to go forward without a confession (highly unlikely) or admissible video evidence.  Derek and Nicole turn out to be rather cold blooded themselves, but are not the root of the problems.

    6. Does anyone survive this elimination derby?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Indie vanity film for Elise Robertson.  Oi, the ending telegraphs sequel; let us hope not.
    2. One line summary: Gore, slasher, soft R, teen elimination derby with zero likeable characters.
    3. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Too dark much of the time.

    2. Sound: 7/10 Mostly OK, but was not the asset it might have been.

    3. Acting: 0/10  Terrible, stem to stern.  More or less bad high school play level.  Several of the actors look close to thirty, but act like bad tempered, entitled delinquents.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Standard teen elimination derby, with a weak link to the Donner party historical events. Neither interesting nor compelling.  Even the gratuitous nudity had me wondering how it fit into the story.  Of course, it did not.


20140129: Horror Review--Gallowwalkers

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/British live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 92 minutes, action, horror, zombies, thriller, zombies, Western.
    2. IMDB: 3.7/10.0 from 3,615 audience ratings. Estimated budget: 17 million USD; aspect 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 10% liked it from 638 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 201,729 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Andrew Goth.  Written by: Andrew Goth and Joanne Reay.
    6. Starring: Wesley Snipes as Aman, Riley Smith as Fabulos, Kevin Howarth as Kansa, Tanit Phoenix as Angel, Steven Elder as Apollo Jones.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Aman's mother was a nun.  To ensure her son's safety, she makes an unholy deal with a supernatural force.  As he grows up, he becomes an invincible gunman.  After his wife is raped, he goes for vengeance.  Unfortunately, anyone he kills comes back as a zombie.

    2. That includes the group of five who raped his beloved.  Their leader is Kansa, who has kept his group together in the after the first death period.  Kansa is looking for the group that Aman's mother belongs to, and San Diablo, where they guard the gate between heaven and hell.  In the meantime, Kansa and his group gather up the defenseless to kill them to steal their skins and hair for their re-use.

    3. After Kansa obtains a map to San Diablo, the climactic battle is setup.

    4. Will the gate remain sealed?  Will the zombies ever be put down permanently?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Too many genres.
    2. One line summary: Western zombie horror, oh my.
    3. Three stars of five

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

    2. Sound: 8/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Wesley Snipes and Kevin Howarth were rather good, but Riley Smith and most of the others were not.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 The plot did not make a whole lot of sense, and had too much narration, but at least it moved from beginning to end.

    5. SFX: 5/10 Not the best, often not convincing at all.

20140129: Comedy Review--Drinking Buddies

Drinking Buddies
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 90 minutes, comedy, drama, romance.
    2. IMDB: 6.2/10.0 from 22,308 audience ratings.  Aspect, 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 82% on the meter; 51% liked it from 16,818 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 324,035 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Joe Swanberg.
    6. Starring: Olivia Wilde as Kate, Jake M. Johnson as Luke, Anna Kendrick as Jill, Ron Livingston as Chris, Ti West as Dave, Jason Sudeikis as Gene Dentler.
    7. This film is an example of the indie subgenre mumblecore, which is deadly boring.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Kate does PR and promotional setups for a fairly new small brewery.  Luke works at the same brewery.  Jill is Luke's long time girlfriend.  Chris is Kate's boyfriend.

    2. The two couples spend a weekend in the woods at a reasonably appointed cabin in Michigan.  Jill and Chris go on a hike, while Kate and Luke play cards.  Through all sorts of usual out in the woods activities, Luke and Kate seem to gravitate to each other.  They are a better fit than Kate and Chris.  Chris and Jill seem a bit more compatible than with their usual partners.

    3. What could possibly go wrong?

    4. Kate and Chris break up.  Jill puts the screws on Luke to get married some time or another.  Chris gifts Jill with a book; Luke is not all that happy about it.  When Jill goes away for a week, one wonders what else might break.

    5. Kate drops in on Chris, who re-asserts the breakup.  Kate and Luke get drunk at his place.  Soon thereafter, Luke helps Kate move to a smaller place, which was not without its pain for Luke, especially when they finish the job.

    6. Jill returns home days early from her trip.  Can they patch things up?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Uninteresting couples shake up their relationships in this feel bad comedy.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 It's a bit soft on focus, plus recurrent camera shake.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Dips a bit low in conversation now and then.

    3. Acting: 3/10 Uninspiring, uninteresting, slow, uninvolving.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Slow, but not worth finishing.  "You are not allowed to make me feel bad," says Kate about ten times in one scene.  Tremendously bad scripting; really bad planning overall.

    5. 20151019, lundi.
      I just watched Olivia Wilde on Off Camera with Sam Jones. A long part of the interview was about the making of Drinking Buddies. The director is more than a bit non-standard, and makes up films on the fly. There's more to it than that, and it does not work with all actors, but that is essentially it. Like the scene of selling a couple a beer was made up after the crew went to a brewery, drank, and watched people. Oi, perhaps that works for some films, but it's my thought that it did not work for this one. Despite this new insight, I still think that this film sucks rocks for the reasons given above.

20140129: Movie Review--Love and Other Disasters

Love and Other Disasters
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2006, rated R, 90 minutes, comedy, romance.
    2. IMDB: 6.3/10.0 from 9,415 audience ratings. Aspect: 1.85
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 20% on the meter; 57% liked it from 6,767 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 687,301 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Alek Keshishian.
    6. Starring: Brittany Murphy as Emily Jackson ('Jacks'), Matthew Rhys as Peter Simon, Catherine Tate as Tallulah Riggs-Wentworth, Santiago Cabrera as Paolo Sarmiento, Eliot Cowan as James Wildstone, Stephanie Beacham as Felicity Riggs-Wentworth.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Emily is an American working in a fashion house in London.  Her formal job is in fashion photography, but her hobby seems to be matchmaking.

    2. Jacks' friend Peter is looking for a significant other; his tentative screenwriting centers around Jacks.  So Peter is a lead in the film perhaps as much as Jacks.

    3. How many of Jacks' matchmaking schemes will work?  Will she find her own good and lasting relationship?  Or will she stay stuck in her rat's maze of correctness?

    4. Least favourite moment, paraphrased: "I don't want to be one of those characters who gushes out their deepest secrets while the violins play."  Then Jacks gushes out her secrets while the violins play.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: An overabundance of tired cliches: young adults in the fashion world.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Often overexposed, rendering thousands of frames nearly washed out.

    2. Sound: 7/10 Okay.

    3. Acting: 4/10 The late American actress Brittany Murphy was going through the motions at best, and flying over the top at worst.  Matthew Rhys was even worse. The other actors seemed to be in competition for who could be the most wooden, except for Catherine Tate, who was indeed irritating.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Yikes.  There seemed to be no cliche from the fashion industry that could not be exposed and exploited.  The central joke of this mess is just not funny.  The film's open self-awareness was discouraging.

20140129: Horror Review--Primal 2010

Primal (2010)
  1. Production Fundamentals; Reception
    1. Australian live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 84 minutes, horror, supernatural.
    2. IMDB: 4.9/10.0 from 4,161 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 75% on the meter; 28% liked it from 497 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 158,975 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by Josh Reed.
    6. Starring: Zoe Tuckwell-Smith as Anja, Krew Boylan as Mel, Lindsay Farris as Chad, Rebekah Foord as Kris, Damian Freeleagus as Warren, Wil Traval as Dace.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. Anja, Krew, Lindsay, Kris, and Warren take a trip to the outback led by Dace.  They are looking for cave paintings that have not been spotted for 120 years.  Anja has some drawings left to her by an uncle from the 19th century.  The group finds the site with little incident. 

    2. Anja clearly has trepidation about when she reaches the opening of the cave.  She has something akin to a panic attack and passes out after cutting herself by incidental contact with the rocks.  Unfortunately, the blood of her family has been shed, which goes into the ground and the nearby water.  This dooms the party...or does it?  That is what the rest of this short film is about.

    3. They get about viewing the rock paintings, taking notes, and shooting photographs.  The local fauna (mosquitoes, rabbit) seem to find them tasty.  The dead rabbit had some fierce looking teeth, which should have been a clue.  Mel's skinny-dipping had some bad side effects.  When she came out, there were leeches all over her; that evening she gets a fever and her teeth start falling out.

    4. They try leaving, but the local wildlife have somehow disabled their SUV.  By the next morning, Mel's teeth and personality have been replaced.  She starts biting, which makes matters worse.

    5. Will anyone get out alive?  If so, will they be regular humans?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Australian twenty somethings encounter ancient evil while studying cave paintings.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Fine for the most part, except for interludes of very jerky camera motions.

    2. Sound: 7/10 The actors were adequately miked.  The incidental music did not add much to the film.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Wil Traval was OK,   The rest of the actors I could have done without.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 This was a 15 minute story stretched to 84.  The monster-human interludes were frequently boring and always unbelievable.

    5. SFX: 4/10 Those monster teeth look like they could never work at all.


20140128: SciFi Review--100 Degrees Below Zero

100 Degrees Below Zero
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 89 minutes, SciFi
    2. IMDB: 2.5/10.0 from 675 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 500,000 USD; aspect, 1.78
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 93% wanted to see it from 64 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 116,053 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: R. D. Braunstein.
    6. Starring: John Rhys-Davies as Colonel Ralph Dillard, Jeff Fahey as Steve Foster, Sara Malakul Lane as Taryn Foster, Marc Ewins as Ryan Foster, Ivan Kamaras as Dr. Goldschein, Luke Healy as Lieutenant Perkins.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. There is a huge volcanic eruption in Iceland.  The resulting ash cloud heads toward Europe, and causes temperatures to drop.

    2. Steve is flying in with his new wife Lacey.  The cloud diverts his flight to London from Paris.  Meanwhile, son Ryan and daughter Taryn are waiting in Paris.

    3. Doctor Goldschein and colleagues try to predict the progress of the cooling, the volcanic eruptions, and the earthquakes.  Goldschein tries to coordinate with Colonel Dillard.  He predicts massive snowstorms and that the cooling will last perhaps 18 to 24 months.  To make matters worse, the rising sulfide levels (?) mean that polar melt will increase, even though the air temperature is going down.  Hence there will be rising sea levels to go with the snowfall.  If the predictions are correct, survival in Europe will be unlikely at best: 16 inches of ash fall, many feet of snowfall, dropping temperatures.

    4. Lacey and Steve decide to get warm clothes, and to rent a car to drive to Paris from London.  Ryan and Taryn try to hole up in Paris as best they can.  The US embassy has been deserted, and they head for the Louvre.  Before they can leave the embassy, they get themselves trapped in a locked basement room.  Then Ryan gets a big electric shock.  An ER resuscitating shock machine just happens to be in a nearby room.  Sure.

    5. Steve knows Dillard from Desert Storm.  They get the promise of help from Dillard, who is in Germany.  Dillard offers seats to go to Australia if they can get to Paris in ten hours.  They get in touch with the children and set up a rendezvous point.

    6. Will the parents meet the kids?  Will any of them reach Colonel Dillard in time?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Asylum Pictures; oi.
    2. One line summary: Family tries to reunite while natural disaster strikes Europe.
    3. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Not too bad, but has a habit of soft focus.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Incidental music was varied between irritating and irrelevant.  The actors were miked well enough.

    3. Acting: 3/10 John Rhys-Davies and Jeff Fahey were wasted in this film.  Sara Malakul Lane, Marc Ewins, and Ivan Kamaras were truly bad.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 How many times do the son and daughter need to fall down or say 'are you okay?  In any case, the repeats were more than a bit much.  How did the 'rising seas' figure into the plot?  How were the planes able to fly to Australia, but not around Europe?  These were not the only plot points that make no sense.  For instance, during a cell phone conversation, the kids say that only the Eiffel Tower was standing whereas one's eyes show everything still standing around them.

    5. SFX: 2/10 Hail the size of basketballs?  This was mighty unconvincing.  Even worse, one of them grazes Ryan and knocks him down and out.  In contrast, Taryn raises her dainty foot and knocks another one away by touching it.  It's nice to know that physics is controlled by PC.  The CGI of storms out at sea was also beyond unbelievable.  Why was there rain on the windshield during a snowstorm?

20140128: Drama Review--The Iceman

The Iceman
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 105 minutes, drama, thriller, crime.
    2. IMDB: 6.9/10.0 from 31,668 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 10 million USD; aspect 1.85
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 67% on the meter; 64% liked it from 21,861 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.8/5.0 from 494,846 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Ariel Vromen.
    6. Starring:  Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski, Winona Ryder as Deborah Pellicotti, Chris Evans as Mr. Freezy, Ray Liotta as Roy Demeo, David Schwimmer as Josh Rosenthal, Robert Davi as Leonard Marks, James Franco as Marty Freeman.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Richard starts out as a business man who runs afoul of Roy Demeo because of some missing boxes, which translate into missing profits.  Richard eventually rectifies his problem by murdering someone for Roy.  Assassinations become a big part of his regular work.  He chooses not to kill women and children, which becomes his reputation.

    2. Richard has a more or less normal life with Deborah, and raises two daughters with her.

    3. Things unravel a bit when he kills Marty, but lets the teenaged girl he was filming go free.  He meets Mr. Freezy at this time.  Freezy wants to kill the girl, since she saw his face; Richard prevents him from doing that, at least for a short time.  This is a big backfire; Richard becomes unemployable.  Eventually he becomes a sub-contractor for Mr. Freezy.

    4. Later Ray gets trouble from his boss, Leonard Marks, for a drug deal gone bad.  Richard gets involved with Freezy's contracts with Marks.  Roy eventually catches wind of this.  Richard is definitely in a tight spot.  After Marks stiffs him on a contract, Richard has had enough and does in Marks.  This starts the fall of many pending weaknesses.

    5. Can Richard navigate his way out of this alive?  Will his family survive the fallout?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Solid movie following the mob assassin Richard Kuklinski.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Good on the whole: often dark and atmospheric; other times a little shaky.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Good enough, but not really well used as an asset.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Michael Shannon, Robert Davi, Ray Liotta, and Chris Evans were rather good.  David Schwimmer and James Franco I could have done without.

    4. Screenplay: 9/10 Well written; the plot moves right along.


20140127: Drama Review--Standup Guys

Stand Up Guys
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 95 minutes, drama, comedy.
    2. IMDB: 6.6/10.0 from 30,528 audience ratings; aspect 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 37% on the meter; 48% liked it from 16,580 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.7/5.0 from 381,517 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Fisher Stevens.
    6. Starring: Al Pacino as Valentine, Christopher Walken as Doc, Alan Arkin as Richard Hirsch, Julianna Margulies as Nina Hirsch, Mark Margolis as Claphands, Vanessa Ferlito as Sylvia.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Val gets out of jail after 28 years; Doc picks him up.  They are both so much older than when Val went in.  Twenty-eight years ago, Val had killed Claphands' son in the commission of a crime gone bad.  Claphands let Doc live on the condition that he kill Val when he got out of jail.  Claphands reminds Doc rather strongly of that.

    2. Val is older, and needs to use Viagra to do the partying he wants to do.  This leads to a drugstore break in, then a visit to a brothel.  This eventually ends with a hospital visit.  They meet Nina in the ER, which leads to their getting her father, Hirsch, out of a home.  They travel about in a new, high end car they stole from some active criminals.  Hirsch evades a pair of police cruisers.

    3. As with Val, Hirsch feels some return of lust for life; they head back to the same brothel.  They continue the wild ride next.  Before long, though, they discover a naked woman in the trunk.  She tells them her sad story, and they decide to drop some vengeance on her tormentors.

    4. The burial scene was both surreal and funny, in a black humor sort of way.  The same could be said of the confessional scene toward the end.

    5. How will Doc resolve his dilemma with Val and Claphands?  Val knows his fate, but can Doc go through with it?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Old friends deal with issues from the past when one gets out of prison.
    2. Four stars of five.

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

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, and Alan Arkin were wonderful.  The brothel personnel were amusing. Julianna Margulies and Vanessa Ferlito were fine.  Addison Timlin was a pleasant surprise as the waitress Alex who never sleeps.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 This could have been better, something to match the firepower of these fine actors.  The plot was rather ordinary, but it did have some good laughs.  Although this feels like a missed opportunity, the film was still well worth watching.  The ending was rather nice.

20140127: Mystery Review--The Tall Man

The Tall Man
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/Canadian live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, crime, drama, mystery.
    2. IMDB: 6.0/10.0 from 23,524 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 18.2 million USD; aspect, 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 48% on the meter; 38% liked it from 7,663 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 738,070 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by:  Pascal Laugier.
    6. Starring: Jennifer Biel as Julia Denning, Jodelle Ferland as Jenny, William B. Davis as Sheriff Chestnut, Stephen McHattie as Lieutenant Dodd, Samantha Ferris as Tracy, Colleen Wheeler as Mrs. Johnson, Jakob Davies as David, Eve Harlow as Christine.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film is set in Cold Rock, a dying mining town in Washington state, in the US.

    2. The opening issue is unwanted babies.  Some of the local families decide to take care of them independent of hospital stays and official paperwork.  Oi.  We're off to a sad start already, with the birth of such a baby with the help of nurse Julia in bad conditions and no other medical support.

    3. Also early on the subject of abductions is raised.  There's a bulletin board of pictures and descriptions of missing children.  Then there is the legend of the Tall Man, whom some claim they have seen about the times that children had gone missing.

    4. Lieutenant Dodd is on the case again, and is in the mood to bad mouth anyone who does not dress the way he does.  Julia visits Tracy, who has dispatched the baby recently born and her teenaged mother to Seattle and relatives.  At least that is what Tracy says.

    5. Speech impaired Jenny claims she has seen the Dark Man.

    6. Julia lives with her housekeeper Christine and her son David.  Her doctor husband passed away some years back, but provided her with a nice house and some money.  When David is abducted, the issue is raised to a much higher level for Julia.

    7. Will Julia find David?  Will we find out the true cause of the kidnappings?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Repulsive introductory credits.  
    2. There is no horror here, no supernatural elements.  It is crime, mystery, thriller.
    3. One line summary: Relentlessly PC: rich people think it's OK to steal the children of the poor.
    4. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10  Mostly good; could have done without the credits.

    2. Sound: 6/10 OK, but not the asset it could have been.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Better than a high school play, if it's a bad high school play.  Jodelle Ferland was bad.  Jessica Biel gave an uninspiring performance.  The less experienced actors were next to painful to watch.  I usually like Stephen McHattie's acting, but not in this case.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Another assertion of 'class warfare is good.'  Bad writing at its worst.  Exposition of motivations was quite weak.  The glorification of kidnapping was just bovine scatology.  With such weak/nonexistent foundations, it's even worse.


20140125: SciFi Review--Skyline

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2010, rated PG13, scifi, horror.
    2. IMDB: 4.4/10.0 from 64,227 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 10 million USD; aspect 2.35.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 15% on the meter; 18% liked it from 66,289 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on the SyFy channel.
    5. Directed by: Colin and Greg Strause.
    6. Starring: Eric Balfour as Jarrod, Scottie Thompson as Elaine, Donald Faison as Terry, Brittany Daniel as Candice, Crystal Reed as Denise, Neil Hopkins as Ray, David Zayas as Oliver.

  2. Setup and Plot

    1. Jarrod and Elaine visit Jarrod's friend Terry in Los Angeles.  Terry is fabulously rich, and feels a debt to Jarrod for work they did earlier in life, so he's arranged a sweet new gig for Jarrod if he wants it.  Complicating this is Elaine's very recently discovered pregnancy.  There's quite a party where the new realities are awkwardly announced.

    2. All this goes down the tubes during the next night.  Aliens arrive in giant starships that hover over the city.  The emissaries from the ships try mind control experiments on our heroes with mixed success.

    3. The next morning, many have already died from the onslaught, and more die trying to leave the highrise.   Soon the story narrows down to Jarrod, Elaine, Oliver, and Candice and their attempts to survive.

    4. American armed forces fight back with limited success.

    5. Will the survivors find the key to escape?  Will the US armed forces get the upper hand?

  3. Conclusions
    1. This was much more enjoyable than the loathsome Cloverfield.
    2. One line summary: Humans are killed or absorbed by tremendously more powerful aliens.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Rather good.  Some of the CGI was a tad hokey.

    2. Sound: 9/10 Occasionally hard to hear, but mostly fine.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, and David Zayas gave reasonable performances.  Many of the others were less competent.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 Exposition of motivation is more than a bit murky for most of the film, but the end redeems this.  The lack of clear intention by the humans is explained by the mind-control abilities of the aliens.  The presence of the aliens on earth is also explained.  I would think that most viewers would not care for the fact that one needs the last five minutes to make sense out of the rest of the film.


20140124: Drama Review--Apart

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, UR, 85 minutes, drama, mystery, romance.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 434 audience ratings. 
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 11% on the meter; 55% liked it from 209 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 33,396 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Aaron Rottinghaus. Written by Josh Danziger and Aaron Rottinghaus.
    6. Starring: Olesya Rulin as Emily Gates, Josh Danziger as Noah Greene, Bruce McGill as Dr. Thomas Abner, Joey Lauren Adams as Dr. Jane Sheppard.

  2. Setup and Plot

    1. In the first half or so of the film, we follow Noah around as he tries to remember his past.  He's lost much of his memory in some acute personal event.  Several people assure him that this is a good thing.  He looks for Emily, finds her, gets past her thorny personality and direct resistance to visiting the past.

    2. Supposedly Emily and Noah are linked by a psychiatric disorder which lets them know each other's minds.  Even worse, they see visions of bad things happening to those around them.  It's tough for Noah to recall.  For similar reasons, it's tough for Emily as well.  Even worse, they are not able to ward off the bad things happening.

    3. The first such event was when they were around eight years old; the second around when they were high school seniors.  The first was a bus crash.  The two of them recuperate, more or less, in the same hospital.  The second was a fire, the culmination of a sequence of unfortunate events during late high school.

    4. All this is nonsense, and assigned to folie à deux, or induced delusional disorder.  In this case, "She's crazy and made me do it," or "He's crazy and made me do it." The simpler explanation is "He is crazy and she is crazy."  So, own up to it and get them off the streets: two crazy people are over-indulged and allowed to hurt others unnecessarily.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Folie à deux (Induced delusional disorder (F.24) ICD-10) is in the literature; wikipedia has a nice article about it.  However, this is the worst vanity indie film I've seen in months.
    2. One line summary:  Two defective children are bad for each other and those around them.
    3. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Fine work.  Amazingly good considering the foulness of the screenplay and most of the acting.

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 3/10  The veteran actor Bruce McGill delivered as usual.  The rest of the cast was terrible.  The two principals were the worst.  The three points are for Mr. McGill.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 This was a rat's nest of nonsense of endless re-interpretations.  The script is as bad as the acting of the two principals.  There is about five minutes of content stretched over 85 minutes.  Rotten Tomatoes got it right at 11%.


20140122: SciFi Review--Lockout

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. French live action feature length film, 2012, PG13, 94 minutes, action, SciFi, thriller.  Spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 6.1/10.0 from 65,283 audience ratings. Estimated budget: 20 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 38% on the meter; 46% liked it from 162,519 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 1,913,783 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger.  Screenplay by Stephen St. Leger.
    6. Starring: Guy Pearce as Snow, Maggie Grace as Emilie Warnock, Vincent Regan as Alex, Peter Stormare as Scott Langral, Peter Hudson as President Warnock, Lennie James as Harry Shaw.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The action is set in a SciFi universe of the year 2079.  There is a prisoner uprising in the orbiting maximum security prison in orbit around Earth.  Compounding this is that the daughter of the US president was in the prison doing interviews at the time.

    2. As the film opens, Snow is in custody, and is being beaten/interrogated by Scott and his thug.  The subject was a botched operation where Snow's contact Frank was killed, Snow escapes for a bit, and gets a briefcase to his contact Mace before being captured.  After he's done, Scott leaves Snow with Harry.

    3. In a parallel thread, the president's daughter travels to the orbital prison that is still under construction.  The prison is run by a corporation and uses stasis/sleep to keep the prisoners quiescent.  Emilie is trying to find out whether the prisoners are suffering damage from stasis are experiencing psychological or physical damage from the process.  Snow gets pointed to the prison as an inmate.

    4. Emilie's first interview goes woefully bad: the prisoner escapes, has a gun and a plan for opening all the stasis cells and wakening the prisoners.  Emilie is wounded, but escapes temporarily.  The prison rebellion is successful.  They activate the prison orbiter's defense systems, so a massive armed rescue seems out of the question...at least without massive losses.

    5. The Secret Service has a change of heart toward Snow, and injects him onto the station almost unnoticed.  Emilie is captured, but is unrecognized at first.  During the negotiations between the prisoners and the Secret Service, the prisoners find her credentials.

    6. Snow manages to spring her, and to find Mace.  Mace has some severe mental damage, but Emilie manages to decipher his seemingly wild speech.  Emilie refuses the rescue plan as long as there are hostages on the station.

    7. They escape the station via an improvised solution before a massive strike hits the station.  Snow is re-incarcerated, but Emilie finds the case.

    8. Will Emilie be able to get Snow out of trouble?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Reasonable thriller rescue in space, circa 2079.
    2. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Mostly fine, but some of the CGI seemed a bit out of date for 2012, but not too bad.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Few problems.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Peter Stormare, Guy Pearce, and Lennie James were good.  Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun were OK.  Maggie Grace and most of the rest of the cast I could have done without.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Meh.  The exposition of motivations was weak.  Why would Emilie be interested in Snow?  Yes, he had something to do with her rescue, which she tried to sabotage whenever possible.  Just what was in the briefcase, for which so much effort was expended?  Why would anybody care?  As it was, the only thing interesting about the film was rescuing a privileged daughter who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.


20140121: Comedy Review--Overnight

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 95 minutes, indie, romance, comedy.  Spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 5.1/10.0 from 346 audience ratings. Estimated budget 2.85 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 36% liked it from 73 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 98,732 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Valerie Breiman.
    6. Starring: Rachel Blanchard as Jenny, James D'Arcy as Tom, Gbenga Akinnagbe as TMJ, Anthony LePaglia as Tully, Maz Jobrani as Amir, Mousa Kraish as Mohammed, Christina Chang as Lisa, Claudia Christian as Sandy, Kevin Rahm as Chip, Josh Braaten as Derek.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Most of the activity of the film is on a red eye flight direct from Los Angeles to New York City on Valentine's Day.  Tully, the pilot, has anger management issues.  Many of the passengers have problems finding successful romantic relationships.

    2. Jenny and Chip have a dinner before she flies back to New York.  He gives her some expensive earrings, though her ears are not pierced.  She tells him that she has decided to move to Los Angeles to be with him.  Unfortunately, he has a second string girl friend and does not want Jenny to move.  They break up.  No surprises there.

    3. Tom, a theoretical physics professor, gets hooked into accepting a ride to LAX with his ex, who breaks up with him again, for not kissing her on the lips.  Tom and Jenny bump into each other at on of the gift shops.

    4. TMJ (a rapper) is going to NYC without his entourage.  While he is walking to his gate, rap music plays, in which the singer shows his sense of entitlement--to murder whomever he wishes.  This was a good place to stop watching the film.  Hate speak usually does not bode well for a film.  Amir and Mohammed are both 'randomly' chosen for a more thorough inspection before boarding.

    5. On the plane, the flight attendants Sandy and Lisa immediately classify Jenny as a high maintenance bitch.  Great: more hate speech.  Amir and Mohammed are immediately pigeon-holed as terrorists.  TMJ immediately shies away from Tom because he's white, while Tom is not positively impressed with TMJ's "I'm the most garish pimp here" clothing.  The male flight attendant has trouble getting TMJ to get off his cell phone during take-off.  After learning that TMJ was on board, Sandy and Lisa sing part of one of his songs which was beyond gross.

    6. Tom tries to enable a seat switch between Jenny (in coach) and TMJ, so that TMJ can appear non-elitist to his girl friend.  TMJ objects to sitting next to the terrorists, but Tom talks him into it.  Tom and Jenny try to get to know each other at some length.

    7. Tully and his wife have an off and on telephone fight during most of the flight. In between those heated exchanges, Tully and his co-pilot discuss the merits of Christianity.  Tully is an atheist, while Derek is an evangelical.

    8. Amir turns out to be allergic to TMJ's dog.  Mohammed tries to talk TMJ into putting the dog back in its carrier.  The dog makes a break for it.

    9. Will any of these earnest attempts at relationships work out?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Another failed, low-budget, cliche-ridden, feel-bad, romantic comedy.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Competent but nothing special.

    2. Sound: 5/10 No particular problems on sound qualities.  The choice of the incidental music should have been considerably better.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Rachel Blanchard, Christina Chang, Claudia Christian, Josh Braaten, and Gbenga Akinnagbe were considerably more irritating than interesting.  Anthony LePaglia and James D'Arcy were better than competent, but could not make up for the others.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 The singing filled with hate-speak did not help, nor did the touchy-feely conversations, nor did the ugly yapping dog loose on a plane.  I am not looking forward to other efforts by Valerie Breiman.  Belly laughs? Zero.  Smiles?  Zero.  Anything in between?  No.  The endless weepy confessions by men were neither illustrative nor interesting.


20140119: Drama Review--Argo

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 120 minutes, biography, drama, history.
    2. IMDB: 7.9/10.0 from 289,273 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 44.5 million USD; estimated domestic gross, 136 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 96% on the meter; 90% liked it from 193,623 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on DVD.  The picture quality was good but not HD.
    5. Directed by: Ben Affleck.  Screenplay by Chris Terrio.
    6. Starring: Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, John Goodman as John Chambers, Bryan Cranston as Jack O'Dell, Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, Victor Garber as Ken Taylor, Zeljko Ivanek as Robert Pender, Kyle Chandler as Hamilton Jordan.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. During the storming of the US embassy in 1979, six American personnel escape to the Canadian embassy.  The CIA puts together plans to get them out of Iran.

    2. The winning plan was to produce a Canadian science fiction movie shot in Iran.  Tony flies to LA and gets together a director, a complete script that they own, a prosthetics genius, a walk-through of the script by a full cast of actors in full costume, and a storm of press coverage.  In Iran, Tony convinces the six escapees to study up on their biographies as his crew.

    3. The relevant ministry gets the script for the fake film, Argo, and the press releases.  He writes Tony that he wants to discuss locations with his crew the next day.  The six learn their new identities as movie people.  They meet with the minister at the appointed place. This is not without challenges along the way.  Presenting the difference between American and Canadian has to be done now and then.

    4. In the night before the last day, the day to fly back, Tony grills the six on their backgrounds.  After a long session of this, the movie tells us that Washington pulled the plug on the operation.  So what do Tony and the group decide to do?

    5. No surprise.  They go through with it.  Jack in the CIA threatens Hamilton Jordan with embarassment if it does not go through.

    6. The last piece was really delicate.  The only Farsi speaker explains the story boards.  The guard wants to verify with Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, John and Lester are out of their office and blocked by filming.  But they connect just in time, and the guard sees a story about Argo in the papers.

    7. Still, other parts of Iranian justice are after them, and the suspense continues.  Will they make their flight and get into international air space?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Entertaining when considered as fiction; fine ensemble acting.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Good looking, even on DVD.

    2. Sound: 9/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Great performances by Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, and Ben Affleck.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 This account was strongly different than the one given to the public in 1980. At the time, the efforts of the Canadians were assigned roughly 100% of the credit for the plan and the successful execution.  I remember feeling a great deal of kinship toward the Canadians at the time.  Also, reactions from Canada in 2012 mirror the same view.  So, accuracy was not set at a premium here.  Considered as a fiction, however, this is an entertaining movie.


20140118: Movie Review--Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 157 minutes, drama, history.
    2. IMDB: 7.5/10.0 from 152,871 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 40 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 93% on the meter; 80% liked it from 188,278 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on DVD.  The picture quality was not quite as hoped.
    5. Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow.
    6. Starring: Jessica Chastain as Maya, Jason Clarke as Dan, Reda Kateb as Ammar, Kyle Chandler as Joseph Bradley, Jennifer Ehle as Jessica, Harold Perrineau as Jack.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film follows current history from just before the 9/11/2001 attacks through the successful finding and execution of Usama bin Laden in May of 2011.

    2. Maya is the centre of the piece.  She is a new analyst for the CIA in Pakistan shortly after the 2001 attacks.

    3. When Maya's friend Jessica, plus six other CIA operatives, are killed by al Qaeda, Maya becomes even more focused on finding bin Laden and seeing to it that he is killed.

    4. The film concludes with the successful raid by Seal Team Six on the compound where bin Laden had been staying in Pakistan.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Well crafted exposition of the search for bin Laden from the CIA POV.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 The extended night-vision sequences were low on detail.  The film's 'look and feel,' though, was convincingly accurate.

    2. Sound: 9/10 Good.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Excellent performances by Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau, James Gandolfini.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Tight and nicely crafted, but just too long.  The insistence on accuracy about the compound and the attack helicopters was quite rewarding.  If you have access to the DVD, the extras are well worth watching.