2014-03-24

20140324: Horror Review--Summer's Moon



Summer's Moon

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, 2009, rated R, 91, horror, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.5/10.0 from 2,321 audience ratings.  Spoken word is English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet...' and 31% liked it from 1,182 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 122,898 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Lee Gordon Demarbre.
    6. Starring: Ashley Greene as Summer Matthews, Peter Mooney as Tom Hoxey, Barbara Niven as Gaia Hoxey, Stephen McHattie as Gant Hoxey, Peter Michael Hilton as Darwin, Cinthia Burke as Jessie, Paul Whitney as Sheriff.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Summer travels to the small town of Massey, where she hopes to connect with her long lost father.  After shoplifting in a convenience store where a cop is, the cop gives chase.  Tom helps her escape the cop, and she goes home with him and has a one night stand.  The next morning, though, Tom lets her know that she's not leaving.  Tom's mother Gaia hits her over the head with a blunt object to drive the point home.

    2. When Summer wakes up from the head blow, she's staked, all four limbs, to a gardening bed full of exposed soil.  She's not alone; there's another captive woman not far away.  One version of the title is "Summer's Blood," and we can guess the origin.

    3. Darwin, Summer's putative father, gets out of jail, and comes looking for Summer.  The Sheriff listens, but Summer has not left an impression that keeps his interest.  He makes a few inquiries; Gaia is the first one whom he asks.  Gaia tries to talk Tom into abandoning his 'gardening' and setting the girls free to avoid trouble with the law.

    4. Tom does some reading, which he shares with Gaia.  They set Summer free, but keep her in their orbit.  Soon after, Gant Hoxey calls, and there are a series of revelations.

    5. Then the emotional fireworks start.  Who survives the gore fest?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Ugly Canadian slasher film with incest and bad line reading.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 On the dark side for the interiors, with better than VHS quality, but not by much.  The colour palettes were often ugly to the point of looking like 1970s video shown during late night.  The exteriors, fewer in number, were better, but still had the low-budget look to them.

    2. Sound: 5/10 For a Canadian film done in English, the actors seem to be lip-synching.  Perhaps that's a Netflix problem, sound versus video.  Music did not seem to be an asset.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Peter Michael Hilton and Paul Whitney were just horrible.  Even as little as ten hours practicing reading lines might have helped.  On the other hand, veterans Stephen McHattie and Barbara Niven were very good.  Peter Mooney and Ashley Greene were just all over the map, occasionally believable, usually terrible.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The film is fairly open about incest, real or intended (Gaia and Tom, Tom and Summer, Gant and Summer), but does not seem to even try to capitalise on the shock value.  The gardens did not make any sense.  Was Tom just practicing protracted torture, or was there something to be gained from the plants?  Referring to the original title, was blood actually involved there?  What did the young women before Summer actually die from?


2014-03-23

20140323: Drama Review--Cargo



Cargo
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 85 minutes, drama.
    2. IMDB: 5.3/10.0 from 500 audience ratings.  Spoken language is English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 67% on the meter; 37% liked it from 113 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 129,200 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Yan Vizinberg.  Written by: Lee Peterkin, Yan Vizinberg.
    6. Starring: Natasha Rinis as Natasha, Sayed Badreya as Sayed, Philip Willingham as Lukasz, Raul Torres as Kidnapper, Misha Kusnetsov as Val, Seth Ruffer as Joe.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Natasha arrives in Mexico thinking a job is lined up for her in New York.  A driver picks her up, gets the number of a close relative, then takes her passport.  Yikes!  It's time to get the passport back, then run screaming away, whatever it takes.

    2. Natasha does not do that.  She gets thrown into a prison with other kidnapped women who are soon to become enslaved sex workers.  After some time, she's sent off to Brooklyn with Sayed.  When Sayed finally lets her out to use the toilet at a gas station, she hits him over the head and tries to run.  Sayed beats her up, then ties her up.  He continues toward New York.

    3. Natasha is discouraged when she has to urinate in the van.  When Sayed gets to a truck stop, he listens to her banging and weeping while he rolls something to smoke.  He gets enraged when she kicks out a window.  He tapes her into the front seat.

    4. "I'm just a driver," says Sayed.  Sure, Sayed, you have no moral culpability for your active participation in the slave trade.  Soon after, he stops to pray, pointing to Mecca. After this, Natasha tries to bond with Sayed, telling him how she gave a man in Russia 3,000 USD to get an opportunity with an agency in New York.  The money plus her flying to Mexico was all she needed, or so she thought.

    5. This is where the movie lost my interest.  The slave bonding with the slaver?  If you enjoy lying, cat and mouse games, cheap shots and gratuitous violence, you'll like the rest of the film.

    6. Does Natasha escape?  Do any of the slavers get brought to justice?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A much better film was Abduction of Eden, 2012.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Mostly OK.

    2. Sound: 7/10 I could hear the lines spoken.  Music was mercifully minimal.

    3. Acting: 0/10 I would have liked to have seen some acting in this two-character film.  One might as well have teleprompter messages instead of people mouthing words.  Neither was believable, even when they revealed that they had been lying previously.  Who cares?  This goes beyond the rottenness of the screenplay.  The bit players were almost as bad as the principals.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Sayed's self-righteousness is utter and complete nonsense.  His belief that all enslaved women are whores is rubbish.  I could have done without his hatred of the United States.  I could have done without his endless self-serving lies.  Natasha was about the dullest tool in the shed, and was not engaging.  She had opportunities to ditch her kidnapper, and she did not.  His physical brutality seemed about right on for a vicious kidnapper and slaver, which made his lies all the more foul. -- Anyway, the screenplay was repellant, but to no good end whatsoever. -- The ending was the worst part, since the rest of the film did nothing to justify it.

2014-03-22

20140322: Horror Review--Buried Alive



Buried Alive
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2007, UR, 94 minutes, horror, supernatural.
    2. IMDB: 4.0/10.0 from 1,549 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet..' and 13% liked it from 685 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 30,239 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Robert Kurtzman.
    6. Starring: Terence Jay as Zane, Leah Rachel as Rene, Tobin Bell as Lester, Erin Reese as Laura, Steve Sandvoss as Danny, Lindsey Scott as Julie, Germaine Scott Grimes as Phil.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The protagonists are in their late teens or early twenties and in some college somewhere in New Mexico, USA.  The characters are Rene, who seems to have a lot of bad dreams; Zane (Rene's cousin), who's looking for a lost fortune from his family's history; Phil, the nerd who's helping Zane; Danny, who's cool for some unseen reason;  Julie (dressed as cow) and Laura (dressed as dog), two sorority pledges who try to make Rene happy.

    2. The six of them head out to the desert to find the 'treasure.'  In parallel, Lester has been digging for gold out in the sticks, and seems to find some early on.

    3. Zane starts seeing things.  He does a panic stop at freeway speed to avoid running over someone; no one else sees anything.  Oi.  The group meets Lester, who is the caretaker for Zane's family's deserted house.  There is friction there from the beginning.

    4. Rene makes Phil tell the rest of the group about Zane's request for  research on the family history.  This is a bit troubled, but also seems a bit hard to have documented.  The common great grandfather of Rene and Zane had two wives. When Phil goes outside for a better signal, someone kills him.

    5. The group gets into a discussion of ancient totems and symbols.  They find pictures of the great-grandfather's two wives; both of them wore the necklace which Rene currently wears. Laura has the symbol on the necklace tattooed on the back of her neck.

    6. Rene sends Laura (dressed in boots) to bring back something from Lester's trailer.  She gets there, selects a stuffed rabbit, and returns.  Julie (dressed in jeans, poor choice; her feet suffer) makes the run to Lester's next.  Zane carries Julie back after the ankle injury.

    7. Still, no one checks on Phil, who is dead, but propped up in the car.  After so many hours one might think they would notice something.

    8. Looks like an elimination derby.   How many of the remaining five will survive?  Do Rene and Zane figure out the knot in their ancestors' history in time for it to do anyone any good?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Good visuals, but not much of a story in this teen slasher film.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Well done, no complaints.

    2. Sound: 5/10 Leveling problems, conversation versus 'music.'  The music during the credits was really hideous.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Germaine Scott Grimes, Steve Sandvoss: useless. Lindsey Scott, Leah Rachel, Erin Reese: not that good.  Terence Jay: almost OK.  Tobin Bell: rather good in an extended cameo.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The central threat, the motivation for the revenge, and the ending did not make a lick of sense.  What was the point of the Danny character, except to supply drugs?  What was the point of the Phil character, except to slam people with computer skills?  What was the point of the Julie character except her pneumatic figure?  The characters Rene, Zane, and Laura were not interesting enough to make up for the general lack of story.


2014-03-21

20140321: Thriller Review--High Lane



High Lane (Vertige)
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. French live action feature length film, 2009, NR, 84 minutes, thriller, action.  Spoken language is French.
    2. IMDB: 5.7/10.0 from 4,360 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 60% on the meter; 33% liked it from 850 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 247,355 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Abel Ferry.
    6. Starring: Fanny Valette as Chloe, Nicolas Giraud as Fred, Johan Libereau as Luc, Raphael Lenglet as Guillaume, Maud Wyler as Karine, Justin Blanckaert as Anton.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Skilled climber Fred and girlfriend Karine, with friends Chloe, Guillaume, and Luc take a hike in the mountains.  IMDb claims the film was shot in the French Alps; the scenery is impressive.  However, the titles and dialogs say that that they are in Croatia, 'leaving civilization.'  That was a bad sign.

    2. Early on, their path is marked as blocked.  They decide to rock-climb above the blockage and proceed on the chosen path down line of the blockage.  That looks rather iffy to me; the terrain takes some serious rock climbing skills.  Further, Luc has vertigo, and should have turned back to wait in the vehicle.  Also, someone is following them.

    3. After a sturdy-looking suspension bridge breaks, nearly killing Karine, they must press on to a pass.  After that, at a critical turn, the climber's cable is no longer anchored.  The leader, Fred, goes high, again attempting to go above and around the problem.  He succeeds, but Luc and Guillaume are left dangling when more pitons pull out.  Fred gets caught in an animal trap.  Karine and Chloe rescue the dangling Guillaume and Luc via a rope.

    4. While waiting in the trap, Fred gets a clue that perhaps he is not alone.  The other four finally head for Fred, but he has been dragged off.  Apparently these folks have never heard of tracking a blood trail while it's still light out.  Chloe falls into a pit trap.  Karine goes in after her, and extricates her from a spike.  The men pull them out.  Darkness falls; they keep looking for Fred in the dark as the rain starts.  Whoever has been hunting them shoots Karine through the thorax with a barbed arrow, and cuts the rope joining her to Chloe.

    5. Things get worse for the group.  Will any of them get out alive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. On Netflix, an English dub was used.  I would have preferred the French with subtitles.
    2. One line summary: Started out nicely enough, but its finish looked completely copied.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Loved the 2.35 aspect ratio.  The mountains and the woods were beautiful, and the camera work was professional.  There was a little camera shake now and then that did not improve the viewing experience.

    2. Sound: 7/10 The dubs really were not good.  The incidental music and sound were hit and miss: some right on target, some seemingly pointless.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Perhaps not Academy Award performances, but rather good.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 This film starts nicely enough, but borrows much too heavily from the Wrong Turn series.  Whatever demons Chloe seemed to need to exorcise early on are not revealed completely, but they killed her in the end.  The portrayal of a love triangle was weak.


20140321: Horror Review--Resident Evil: Damnation



Resident Evil: Damnation
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese animated feature length film, 2012, rated R, 100 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 6.5/10.0 from 10,748 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet...' and 74% liked it from 1,654 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on Crackle.
    5. Directed by: Makoto Kamiya.
    6. Starring: Matthew Mercer as Leon S. Kennedy, Dave Wittenberg as Buddy/Sasha, Wendee Lee as Svetlana Belikova, Val Tasso as JD, Robin Sachs as Ataman, Courtenay Taylor as Ada Wong.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This is animation via 3d modelling tools coupled with recording of live actions.  Looks wonderful; better, in fact, than many live action horror films that I have reviewed lately.

    2. The main action takes place in a fictional former Soviet bloc nation, Eastern Slav Republic, that came into existence after the fall of the USSR.  The film follows an American agent, Leon S. Kennedy, who goes rogue during the continuing civil war in ESR.  The rumour that Leon wants to check out is whether or not the rebel forces in the civil war are using BOWs (Bio Organic Weapons).  Leon encounters a BOW almost immediately.

    3. President Svetlana brings in Ada Wong from the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) to look into the allegations.  By themselves, the BOW are useless (attack friend and foe alike), but if a plaga is applied, control can be asserted.  Sounds tricky.  Leon needs to get some sort of evidence of all this.  So does Ada Wong.

    4. The things that look like zombies walking around in Eastern Europe seem to be humans enslaved by plaga attaching themselves to spinal cords.  Great.  I was expected a high quality zombie film, and got a no zombie film.

    5. Will Leon or Ada get the evidence they needed?  Will the ESR survive as a country?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Amazing animation accomplishment; not so amazing plot.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Art/Animation: 10/10 Exceptional; I'd like to give it a 73 out of 10, but 10 is tops.  Most of the film looks great.  Loved the fight sequences between Ada Wong and President Svetlana.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Sound leveling could be better.  Going from fight-action music to/from conversation is a disaster.

    3. Voice Acting: 7/10 This varies a lot.  Matthew Mercer, Wendee Lee, and Courtenay Taylor were good. Val Tasso was mighty irritating.  Most of the others were competent.

    4. Story: 4/10 Wow. Terrible dialog in so many places.  Is this a civil war film, a zombie film,  an east vs west film, a biohazard film?  The connections to Resident Evil seem weak.


2014-03-20

20140320: Thriller Review--Killing Jar



Killing Jar
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2010, rated R, 90 minutes, crime, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.9/10.0 from 1,838 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 400,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 0% on the meter; 33% liked it from 552 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 302,816 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Mark Young.
    6. Starring: Michael Madsen as Doe, Danny Trejo as Jimmie, Harold Perrineau as John Dixon (Smith), Amber Benson as Noreen, Jake Busey as Greene, Kevin Gage as Hank, Lew Temple as Lonnie.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film is shot in a diner (the Copal Grill) in a small town called Silver Lake, where the lake has dried up some years back.  Jimmie is the manager/owner/cook, Noreen is the waitress on duty during the film, Dixon is the man passing through from a conference to his home in Brooklyn.  Lonnie is one of the local cops; Hank sort of lives at the diner.  Doe blows in after the group heard the story of a family of four getting murdered in a nearby town.  He immediately gets on Noreen's case, and pisses Jimmie off.

    2. Lonnie is one of the dullest tools in the shed, and he does not pick up on Doe being a possible problem.  Noreen convinces him to talk to the man.  He does.  Doe leaves, then comes back with a fully loaded multi-shot shotgun.  He kills Lonnie and Jimmie immediately for the insults.

    3. Noreen, John, Hank, and the two teen-aged kids are stuck in the diner with Doe.  For a short while, Doe seems to have everything under control, but then Greene walks into the diner.  Greene brings money to pay 'Mr. Smith' for the job completed.  Greene tries to walk out, but Doe informs him that he is not Smith.  Of course, we've already met Smith; we just have to find out who it is.

    4. Greene attempts to bargain with Doe.  That does not work.  Turns out it was a real estate deal that Greene wanted to complete to avoid vengeance from loan sharks.  To cure his problem, Greene hires an enforcer to convince the farmer to sell his land.  So the enforcer did the murders of the family that the diner heard about earlier.

    5. Do we discover who the enforcer is?  Does anyone escape from Doe?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Talk about low budget!! Very little spent on sets and props.
    2. One line summary: Nice character driven small film.
    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Iffy at best, but the lighting in diners does suck.

    2. Sound: 9/10 Pretty good; all the actors were well-miked.

    3. Acting: 9/10  Good.  I liked Madsen, Busey, Benson, Perrineau, and Gage quite well.  Trejo's part was small, but he was good for the spot.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Nicely done.


20140320: Horror Review--War of the Dead



War of the Dead
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/Lithuanian/Italian live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 86 minutes, horror, zombies, supernatural.  Spoken word is English with lots of dubbing.  Straight to video.
    2. IMDB: 4.1/10.0 from 1,753 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 1 million euros.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 11% liked it from 185 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 95,684 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Marco Maekilaakso.
    6. Starring: Andrew Tierman as Captain Martin Stone, Jouko Ahola as Captain Niemi, Samual Vaurama as Kolya, Mikko Leppilampi as Lieutenant Laakso, Andreas Wilson as Assistant, Antti Reini as Sergeant Halonen.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. In World War II, Finnish troops and American troops attempt to investigate a Nazi bunker that lies inside Germany.

    2. After spending some time with Wikipedia, I see that there was little historical support for the idea of American and Finnish troops to be operating together against the Germans.  America was the ally of the Soviet Union.  Finland had been fighting the Russians off and on for about 150 years.  During most of World War II, the Finns were allied with the Nazis based in Norway and Germany against their longtime enemy, Russia.

    3. So, the setup of the film is nonsense.

    4. The 'action' scenes are boring or inept.

    5. As a zombie film (the bunker in Germany supposedly contained experiments to re-animate the dead), this is a bust.  The main clue that a walking biped was a zombie was 'did we not already kill that one?' or words to that effect.  A few zombies had glazed over eyes.  The gloomy, heart wrenching threat one expects from the Zombie Apocalypse environment was absent.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Cheap jack zombie film with historical inaccuracy.
    2. One line summary: Avoid this ersatz zombie film plus poor action film.
    3. 1/10

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 3/10 Dark.  Poor camera angles.  Colour palettes so reduced as to be only slightly different than greyscale.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Horrible accents.  Background music was not an asset.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Terrible performances.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 There was a screenplay?  Where was the exposition of motivations?  There was a lot of stilted dialog that generated confusion.  The joint group just drifted from one disaster to the next.  The film seemed more of an elimination derby of nameless characters that were impossible to care anything about.


20140320: Horror Review--Argento's Dracula



Argento's Dracula 3-D

  1. Fundamentals, reception.

    1. Italian live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 110 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 3.6/10.0 from 2,039 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 5.6 million euros.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 11% on the meter; 18% liked it from 1,179 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 30,847 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Dario Argento.
    6. Starring: Thomas Kretschmann as Dracula, Marta Gastini as Mina Harker, Asia Argento as Lucy Kisslinger, Unax Ugalde as Jonathan Harker, Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing, Maria Cristina Heller as Jarmila, Miriam Giovanelli as Tanja.


  2. Setup and Plot

    1. In the opening segment, a young woman, Tanja, has a tryst with her married lover.  They have a spat.  She walks back home alone; an owl targets her.  She calls for help; a taxidermist comes out of his house, but does not help her after she falls.  The owl transforms into a humanoid vampire and bites Tanja.

    2. In the next segment, Jonathan Harker arrives at a small train stop after the only coach of the day has left.  He commissions a horse, and rides to Passburg.  He quarters his horse, and stops at the Gasthaus for a hot evening meal and a night's lodging.  He observes a number of shady characters lurking about.  Later the shady group dig up Tanja's grave.  The taxidermist who did not help Tanja fight off the vampire attacks them.  By the time they have subdued him, Tanja is gone.

    3. The next morning Jonathan visits Lucy, the daughter of the mayor.  Lucy wonders where Mina is; Jonathan says she was delayed.  Jonathan eventually makes his way to Count Dracula's castle, where he is to be the librarian.  The Count shows him his collection, and Jonathan looks forward to the cataloging and the reading.  Unfortunately for Jonathan, Tanja is still a young out-of-control vampire, and she sets about to get his blood.  When she's drawing from his neck, Dracula throws her off and takes her place.  Escape fails the next day.

    4. Mina arrives at the train station and is met by her old friend Lucy instead of Jonathan.  Dracula visits Lucy that night, and Lucy looks terrible the next day.  Lucy talks her into going to the castle.  Mina, alone on horse, is attacked by wolves, but saved (hm) by Dracula and taken to his castle.  Mina thinks Dracula looks familiar; Dracula feels the same.  Jonathan is not at the castle, so Mina heads back.  Lucy has passed.

    5. What will become of Jonathan?  Is Mina one of Dracula's wives re-incarnated?  Will Lucy rise as a vampire? Will Van Helsing ever show up?


  3. Conclusions

    1. One line summary: Serviceable remake of Dracula, based mostly on the novel.
    2. Seven stars of ten.


  4. Scores

    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Other than some gratuitous camera shake, the film was well shot.  The sets and costumes were beautiful on the whole, conveying the impression of the Europe of around 100 years ago.  The CGI interludes (few and short) were seriously bad, such as the praying mantis segment, the blood effects, and a couple of the wolf transformations.

    2. Sound: 7/10 The lip synch needed improvement.  Some of the instrumental music sounded like throwbacks to the 1950s or 1960s; this was not a plus.  The choral background music was far better.

    3. Acting: 8/10 I was put off by Kretschmann's performance at first, but got to like it as the film progressed. When Van Helsing accomplishes hard-to-believe feats against the vampires, I only kept watching because Rutger Hauer was the actor.  Marta Gastini was good in the pivotal role of Mina.  My favourite was Miriam Giovanelli as Tanja.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 I liked the meeting of Dracula with the town leaders.  They mention their pact with Dracula: he helps them financially, while they allow him certain liberties.  After a number of deaths in short order, the leaders consider breaking the pact.  Dracula lets them know his power; only his true ally survives.  That would have been a good place to start wrapping up the film: there is no defense against transcendent power.  Let everyone know (or suspect) this, then end it. -- The film stays with the book's tradition, though, which is unfortunate.  For instance, if Dracula can change from human form to a swarm of insects back to human form in a second or two, why would he allow himself to be destroyed? -- This movie answers that question better than any other I have seen.

2014-03-19

20140319: Horror Review--Infected



Infected
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 94 minutes, action, horror, zombies.
    2. IMDB: 2.9/10.0 from 756 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 12% liked it from 72 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 78,433 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Glenn Ciano.
    6. Starring: Christy Romano as Kelly, Michael Madsen as Louis, William Forsythe as Dr. Dennehey, Tom DeNucci as Andrew, Johnny Cicco as Seth, Jeanine Kane as Angela, Tracey Sheldon as Hooker.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Louis and son Andrew attempt some bonding centered around deer hunting.  Dr. Dennehy is the local sawbones.  He's doing the same thing with his son Seth.

    2. Things start to go to hell after one of Dennehey's patients (a friend's grandmother) bites him; the wound starts getting nasty.  Seth and Andrew bond over being embarrassed by their respective fathers, and over loving illegal firearms.

    3. After granny goes missing, Louis, Dennehey, Andrew, and Kelly (the granddaughter) go looking for her.  The other youngsters get plowed, and Seth gets attacked by granny.

    4. Things go downhill from there.

    5. Will the authorities arrive and fix all this viral outbreak?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Terrible zombie film; two actors wasted.
    2. One star of five.  Black hole for screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Not so good.  There is too much fuzzy focus and failures with zooming.  Camera rotation I can always do without.  Zombie effects were on the poor side.

    2. Sound: 3/10 The actors were usually miked OK, but not always.  The score/incidental sound varied between irrelevant to counterproductive.

    3. Acting: 2/10 I've seen Michael Madsen give wonderful performances in several movies, but this was not one of them.  William Forsythe was a bit better (accounting for the two points).  The lesser players were just horrible.  Tracey Sheldon was pneumatic and decorative, but did not deliver lines well.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10  Talking zombies?  Thinking zombies? A zombie who wins an argument with a normal healthy human being?  Zombies having telephone calls about uncashed checks and child custody?  ---  Horrible dialog.  Little internal logic.  A new Lyme disease that accounts for zombie behaviour?  I doubt it.


20140319: Action Review--Kill em All



Kill 'em All
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, 86 minutes, action.
    2. IMDB: 4.4/10.0 from 902 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 3.2 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 26% liked it from 83 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 166,682 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Raimund Huber.
    6. Starring: Johnny Messner as Gabriel, Gordon Liu as Snakehead, Ammara Siripong as Som, Tim Man as The Kid, Rashid Phoenix as Mickey, Joe Lewis as Carpenter.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Set in Thailand.  A number of martial artists/assassins are drugged by one means or another, then kidnapped and placed in a prison/gladiator building.  The room where they wake up is where they get to fight to the death.   That is, the eight of them fight until seven are dead, and perhaps one is alive.  First a voice from outside the room introduces them and berates them one at a time.  The voice sees to it that one of them is killed just to be able to say, 'obey or die.'

    2. There is a fatal encounter, then there is a box lunch session marked by stupid conversations, with the obligatory open mouthed sloppy eating.  Then there is a second fatal encounter.  The winners of the two fights get to choose weapons from a room off to the side.

    3. Then they are supposed to sleep.  Right.  After more fatalities, a few break out of the room and start exploring the building.  There are more fighters from the 'cabal.'  The protagonists have to deal with them before the boss.

    4. Lots of fighting.  Some trash talking.  Who cares.

    5. Does anyone get out alive?  Do they defeat the boss?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Terrible acting, screenplay in martial arts film set in Thailand.
    2. One star of five.  Two black holes for acting and screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Footage from many crappy locations.  Odd camera angles used to lessen one's enjoyment of the visuals.  Visual quality is a bit better than VHS most of the time.  Sometimes we view the movie from the CCTV view point of the observer who tells the fighters the rules.  Wretched colour palettes.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Sound levels suck.  If the sound is set to withstand the overly loud poor choices of music, then conversation cannot be heard.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Uniformly and completely absent.  The people in the film look athletic, but are not actors in any sense.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Ridiculous fight choreography.  Dialog that is beyond stupid.


20140319: Action Review--Violet & Daisy



Violet & Daisy
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 88 minutes, action, comedy.
    2. IMDB: 6.2/10.0 from 4,396 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 23% on the meter; 39% liked it from 2,415 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 50,668 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Geoffrey Fletcher.
    6. Starring: Saoirse Ronan as Daisy, Alexis Bledel as Violet, Danny Trejo as Russ, James Gandalfini as Michael, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Iris, Tatiana Maslany as April.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Violet and Daisy are contract killers.  In the opening sequence they murder 6 people while dressed as nuns.  Soon thereafter, Daisy turns 18, so she can get charged as an adult.  Violet is a bit older, but probably not by much.  They turn down a new job.  Then they see some dresses that they want to buy.    They take the job to get money to buy dresses.

    2. The second job is to kill one guy who stole some money from someone higher in their organisation.  Their target shows up late, after they take a nap. They try shooting him with their eyes closed.  He's in the kitchen making oatmeal cookies for them.  Oh, my.  He is dying anyway, and hopes they go ahead with their job.

    3. There is a lot of talk among Violet, Daisy, and their target.  This is coupled with a number of odd incidents (like the shootout at the hardware store) that are interspersed with the ongoing conversation.

    4. Iris drops by to nudge the girls forward.

    5. Will the girls finally finish the job, stay out of jail, and go on with their shallow lives?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Surreal art film about teen female contract killers.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Beautifully shot!

    2. Sound: 10/10 Amazingly good.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Alexis Bledel was 30 when this film came out.  She's best friends with a girl who just turned 18?  Oi.  I like Gandalfini, Trejo, Bledel, and Jean-Baptiste even more than I did before seeing this film.  I'm sure they did what the auteur asked of them, and they certainly did it well. Ronan, on the other hand, is an actor I can count on to deliver a disappointing performance.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Patty-cake?  Really? Absurd and surreal set the stage.  There was not enough story to fill the 88 minutes.  The theoretical side of me saw that many of the lines were meant to be humorous, but I did not find myself laughing or even smiling.


2014-03-18

20140318: Animation Review--Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United



Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American animated feature length film, 2013, PG, 71 minutes, animated, adventure.
    2. IMDB: 4.6/10.0 from 509 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: no entries, not even a stub.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 100,247 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Leo Riley.
    6. Starring: Adrian Pasdar as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Fred Tatasciore as The Hulk, David Kaye as Jarvis, Dee Bradley Baker as Dr. Cruler/Zzzax, Robin Atkin Downes as Dr. Fump/Abomination.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Dr. Cruler and Dr. Fump intend to overcome Hulk's strength advantages using the Abomination.  So they capture Hulk, betray the Abomination, then try to squeeze all the energy out of them.  That does not quite work.

    2. Cruler and Fump manage to create a glowing ball of energy that has a primitive self-awareness.  It feeds on energy.  Stark uses the EMP (electro magnetic pulse bomb) on it, and seems to put it out of commission, but not really.

    3. Hulk gives Stark a lot of trouble.  Then the ball of energy, Zzzax, takes over more and more parts of Stark's flying fortress.  Hulk has no problems dispatching the mandroids, but Zzzax gets into the reactor.

    4. Can Tony and the Hulk get out of this one?  If they do make it, who did more damage, the bad guys or Hulk and Iron Man?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Terrible animation; not that good a story.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Art/Animation: 0/10 Amazingly ugly and incomplete.  Looks like old school 3D, and not good old school.  Too flat, too few polygons, too much loss of contrast, and so on.  Looks like a giant step backwards.  What's with that, Marvel?  Did I mention lack of contrast?  Looks a lot too much like the first Tron, only with slightly more colour.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Mostly OK.

    3. Voice Acting: 2/10 Talking, articulate Hulk?  Sorry, no.  The voices for Fump and Cruler give the impression of feckless, bumbling idiots.  Adrian Pasdar was OK as Stark; David Kaye fine as Jarvis.

    4. Story: 2/10 Stupid dialog.  Drs. Cruler and Fump seem to be woefully stupid, and Hulk too clever.  The story, such as it is, is not compelling.  Hulk figuring out the root cause when Tony Stark does not?  No, thanks.  So, the EMP is supposed to solve any awkward situation?  We go directly from fighting Zzzax to fighting wendigos in foggy church yard?  What is that?  Worst of all, the easter egg at the end indicated that a sequel was in the works which will have the same terrible production values and stupid dialog.


20140318: Animation Review--Star Wars: The Clone Wars



Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American animated feature length film, 2008, PG-13, 98 minutes, animation, adventure.
    2. IMDB: 5.7/10.0 from 31,520 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 8.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 18% on the meter; 39% liked it from 160,314 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 856,956 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Dave Filoni.
    6. Starring: Matt Lantner as Anakin Skywalker, Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano, Christopher Lee as Count Dooku,  James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Nika Futterman as Asajj Ventress, Tom Kane as Yoda, Dee Bradley Baker as Rex, Catherine Taber as Padme Amidala.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This film is a story in its own right, and it serves as an introduction to the animated series that followed it.  The characters Asajj Ventress (Dooku's assassin) and Ahsoka Sano (Anakin's padawan) are introduced in the film, and are regulars in the animated series that follows.

    2. The Republic is at war with the Separatists.  The Republic armed forces, composed of clone soldiers and sailors plus Jedi commanders, is fighting valiantly against the droid forces often led by Count Dooku.

    3. In order to secure passage in the Outer Rim, the Republic must deal with Jabba the Hutt, whose son has been kidnapped by Dooku's henchmen.  The Jedi work and fight to free the small Hutt, while Ventress and Dooku's forces counter them.

    4. Senator Padme Amidala contacts Jabba's uncle Ziro the Hutt on Coruscant to try to resolve the issue.  However, Ziro is in league with Dooku to overthrow Jabba and replace Jabba with Ziro as head of the Hutt clan.  Ziro captures Padme, and things look worse.

    5. Can Padme escape Ziro?  Can Anakin and Ahsoka deliver the Huttlet safely to Jabba, or will Dooku's elite droids capture her?  Will Anakin defeat Dooku?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Animated Star Wars segment set between live action movies 2 and 3.
    2. Seven of ten.

  4. Scores
    1. Art/Animation: 9/10 As good as the sound is bad.  The motions were a little stiff.

    2. Sound: 5/10 Wow!! The sound level difference between music (too loud by far) and conversation is just too big and the up/down jumps occur frequently.

    3. Voice Acting: 9/10 Nicely done all around.

    4. Story: 7/10 Some of the dialog was a little raw, like the remarks between Ahsoka and Anakin.  Otherwise, it was competent adventure material, opening to middle to exciting conclusion.


20140318: Animation Review--Iron Man: Rise of Technovore



Iron Man: Rise of Technovore

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese animated feature length film, 2013, PG-13, 88 minutes, animated, action, scifi.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 1,813 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No Score Yet...' and 35% liked it from 506 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 43,803 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Hiroshi Hamazaki.
    6. Starring: Norman Reedus as Frank Castle/The Punisher; Matthew Mercer as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Eric Bauza as Ezekiel Stane/Technovore, Kate Higgins as Pepper Potts, Kari Wahlgren as Maria Hill, James Mathis as James Rhodes/War Machine, Clare Grant as Natasha Romanov/Black Widow, John Eric Bentley as Nick Fury.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This is an anime version of an Ironman story, late teen/adult style.

    2. Tony Stark is about to launch a surveillance satellite.  Someone does not like this.  They set about to blow up Tony's properties near the launch, and draw him into a one on one fight.  Further, they kill his long-time friend and ally, Rhodes, and many people near the launch.

    3. Fury sends Black Widow to fetch Ironman.  They have a chat, then Fury tells him he is in custody.  Ironman decides to leave.  Fury sends a lot of people after him.  Ironman evades most of them, but Black Widow gives him a harder time before he disables her plane.

    4. The bad guys in this film are a small group who think of technology as a set of false idols, and particularly blame those who create more technology.  So Ironman is high on their list, and his satellite is a prime target.

    5. Tony meets with Pepper to get intelligence.  SHIELD surrounds the place, but Tony escapes.  He finds a lead in Pakistan, and meets up with Punisher.  They zero on Ezekial Stane.  SHIELD catches up, and Hawkeye screws Tony's suit with his arrows.  Punisher helps him get away, with Black Widow and Hawkeye in pursuit.

    6. Ironman follows Stane's efforts to China.  He discovers more about the powerful weapons that Stane has, namely the technovores, which invade high tech gadgets and take them over.

    7. Does Ironman find the ultimate goals of the enemy behind all this?  If so, will he stop that goal from being accomplished?  Will Tony make nice with SHIELD and Pepper?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A good Tony Stark story, told anime style.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Art/Animation: 8/10 Good by anime standards, but occasionally had the washed out look.

    2. Sound: 7/10  The lip synching was not the best.  The music's sound level was way off.  Most of the time the voice actors' words were clear enough.

    3. Voice/Acting: 7/10 I liked the performances of Norman Reedus, Matthew Mercer, Kate Higgins, and Clare Grant.  The work of Eric Bauza and John Eric Bentley I did not care for so much.

    4. Story: 8/10 Rather nice.  Had transitions beginning to middle to end that were reasonable to follow.  Has some pleasant surprises toward the end.


2014-03-17

20140317: Animation Review--AniMen the Galactic Battle



AniMen: the Galactic Battle
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Chinese animated feature length film, 2012, unrated, 86 minutes, animation, adventure.
    2. IMDB: 3.6/10.0 from 27 audience ratings.  Spoken language on Netflix was English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No Reviews Yet...', and 'No score yet...'
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 56,610 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Xu Kerr.
    6. Starring: Bruce Boxleitner as General Moss, Steve Blum as Colonel Steel, Keith David as Sergeant Brass, JB Blanc as Captain Hered, Ogie Banks as Sergeant Gator, Jim Cummings as Xanthor.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This is a space opera rendered using 3-d animation objects.

    2. In some galaxy, at some time or another in the history of the cosmos, two sides fight in space.  The Swarm is a single race that has huge numbers.  Many of their members seem to be fairly stupid insect forms that are fitted to combat.  The leaders are few in number, but good at coordinating the hordes of underlings.  The other side is mostly made of humanoids with two arms, two legs, one head, who walk and run upright.  So they are sort of like humans, but still look nothing like Earth humans of the present day.

    3. In the opening, General Moss on the humanoid side (the Starworld Alliance) is gathering some sort of intelligence against the Swarm in the form of chips.  He succeeds at that, and narrowly makes his escape at the cost of the lives of several underlings.

    4. The scene switches to scenes of militarised non-Swarm life.  We see some training with armored suits.  We switch again to space battles.

    5. General Moss returns to the Alliance side during the battle.  Everyone seems concerned about keeping him safe.  The elite 'Triton Force'  is made up of armed flying armoured suits (like badly designed Gundam), and are allies of Moss.  Xanthor is the main leader of the Swarm that Moss and company face.  Xanthor wants to kill Moss and get the chips.  The Triton Force wants to protect Moss and get the chips to the Alliance.

    6. So, who comes out on top?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Looks like an old video game made into a movie.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Art/animation: 4/10 About 40% of the runtime is just beautiful, visually speaking.  Then the rest of it is iffy or poor, as in mid-1990s poor.

    2. Sound: 4/10 The voice actors were miked OK, but incidental music and sounds were not really effectively used.  The synchronisation of mouth movements and words was rather bad, as often happens in the mixed language setting.

    3. Voice Acting: 5/10 There were professional voice actors involved. Bruce Boxleitner and Keith David from live action movies come to mind, as do the veterans Steve Blum from Cowboy Bebop and Ogie Banks from Ultimate Spiderman.  Most of the lesser parts were poorly handled by much less skillful voice actors.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Terrible.  Full of poor one liners that are not funny.  The script seemed to be an afterthought.  The flow of beginning => middle => end was nowhere near smooth.  The chain of command in the Alliance military seemed to be entirely broken.  The ending was nonsensical.  The main thread of the film was abandoned rather than resolved.


2014-03-16

20140316: Horror Review--Darkwolf



Darkwolf
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2003, rated R, 93 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 2.8/10.0 from 1,305 audience ratings.  Approximate budget: 2.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 20% liked it from 1,619 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 27,868 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Richard Friedman.
    6. Starring: Samaire Armstrong as Josie, Ryan Alosio as Steve Turley, Andrea Bogart as Stacey, Sasha Craig as Anna, Aaron van Wagner as Tom, Jamie Bergman as McGowan, Alexis Cruz as Miguel, Beau Clark as Wayne, Rick McCallum as DarkWolf, Steven Williams as Hartigan, Tippi Hedren as Mary.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Hartigan and a plainclothesman apprehend a suspect and load him into a paddy wagon to get him to jail.  That does not work well.  Both policemen are killed.  Hartigan's partner Steve gets a new partner, McGowan, who gets ravaged soon after by the same suspect.

    2. While investigating near the pub where the murders occurred, Steve meets the old lady Mary, and the waitress Josie.  Mary tells Steve about the DarkWolf and about the DarkWolf's designated mate.  So, Josie is the mate that DarkWolf is looking for, and she will be going through some changes that very night.

    3. Soon after DarkWolf wounds McGowan, he wounds Mary mortally.  Before she dies, she tells Steve that he needs to read this giant book that she has with her.  When the ambulance arrives, Steve forgets the book and attends to McGowan.  One of the  dancers, Stacey, snags the book and takes it to a photo shoot.  Josie was to be at the shoot.  While waiting for her, Stacey shows the book to the makeup guy Miguel and photographer, Tom.  There are lots of illustrations.  They paint Stacey and Anna (full body) in the style of the book, and start taking photos of the two models as they dance.

    4. The book, of course, should have been in Steve's hands to study, so that he could help Josie through the troubles she was about to experience.  Instead we get a lot footage of gratuitous painted naked ladies.

    5. The DarkWolf is also attracted to the book, so the people at the photo shoot are in danger as well.

    6. Will Josie make it through the transformations?  Will the DarkWolf attain his goal? 

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Poor cinematography and sound complement bad acting and screenplay.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 2/10 Some very bad SFX.  Odd camera angles, sudden switches to closeups of very bad werewolf masks, some shaky camera.  The SFX of the DarkWolf in four-footed mode are particularly poor.

    2. Sound: 4/10 The actors are often poorly miked; the voices are often hollow or overdriven. In some segments, the music is looped with an overlay of moans, gasps, and groans.  One might as well be watching an adult film.

    3. Acting: 2/10 The two leads, Samaire Armstrong and Ryan Alosio, are particularly poor at delivering lines.  When Samaire Armstrong tries to sound authoritative and commanding, she sounds screechy and ineffective instead.  It was nice to see Tippi Hedren again, but her role was rather abbreviated.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Awkward dialog.  Strange story told in an odd, unconvincing way.  Lots of gratuitous skin that has little to do with the main plot lines.  Way too many poor werewolf jokes.


20140316: Drama Review--How I Live Now



How I Live Now
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 101 minutes, drama, indie.
    2. IMDB: 6.5/10.0 from 7,555 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 67% on the meter; 55% liked it from 5,357 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 5,039 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Kevin McDonald.
    6. Starring: Saoirse Ronan as Daisy, Tom Holland as Isaac, George Mackay as Edmond (Eddie), Harley Bird as Piper, Danny McEvoy as Joe, Anna Chancellor as Aunt Penn, Stella Ganet as Mrs. McEvoy, Des McAleer as Major McEvoy.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. An American teenaged girl flies to the UK.  The markers of a police state are everywhere at the airport and along the drive to her destination in the countryside.  Identification: retinal scans, thumbprint, passport with barcode.  Large, determined looking soldiers in camouflage (ridiculous in the urban segments) with automatic weapons.  Live video feeds of a bomb's consequences in Paris.  On the way to the countryside, they see large military helicopters, and military transport vehicles on the road.

    2. The girl is Daisy, not Elisabeth.  Daisy does not like her father but does like her expensive headphones.  She's a faux platinum blonde with jet black roots and great bushy jet black eyebrows.  Her black leather jacket with silver decorations, badly tattered hose, and miniskirt combine to give the effect of a cheap hooker.  She has enough attitude to depress a small city.  Daisy is the protagonist, and at five minutes in, I already regret choosing to watch this film.  Isaac, her driver from the airport is a fourteen year old boy who has been driving since he was six.

    3. At the country estate, she's greeted by dogs larger than she is who knock her down.  Nice start.  Edmond helps her up, then leaves to do something else.  She meets Piper, who is about ten or less.  She meets Joe, an early teen, the next door neighbor who visits often (since his dad is a wanker) and has an extra dose of creepy.  Piper's unicorn is a small goat with a fake horn attached.  Daisy seems to be allergic to the dogs and is surprised that the dishes are not washed.  The room they've made up for Daisy seems to be a good one.  Daisy is more than a bit abrupt with Piper.

    4. The next morning, Daisy thinks about breakfast with Piper, Joe, and Isaac.  Of course, she does not eat wheat or dairy, so a lot of breakfast is out.  Aunt Penn is out for a meeting in London.  Piper makes the first mention of World War III.  Eddie joins them. Daisy mentions that her dad is busy with work and the new baby and all.

    5. There we have it, a particle of truth.  Daisy's got abandonment issues, which flower as the film progresses.

    6. Eddie stares at Daisy a lot.  She challenges him on it.  She turns down an offer to go fishing.  She meets Aunt Penn. She gets to know the other kids.  One day she decides to go to watch the others swim, and gets dragged into the water by Eddie.  Life seems OK for once.

    7. That lasts really quickly.  Jets go overhead.  There is a large explosion in the distance.  They get dusted with ash.  The telly says London has received what looks like a nuclear strike.  The electricity goes out.

    8. The adapting starts: they break out gas lanterns, candles, matches, and try to get news from battery powered radios.  The power might be out for months due to massive infrastructure damage.  Daisy takes medications regularly, which of course, will run out.  The telephone is out, and Aunt Penn is in Switzerland, last they knew.  Martial law is declared, and they are lucky to find that out before interacting with the military.

    9. A man from the American Embassy in Scotland arrives and gives her a ticket to NYC.  She packs to go to the village for a pickup the next morning.  Since they are not American citizens, the embassy representative cannot offer Daisy's cousin any help.  He does tell Eddie that the area will likely be evacuated in the next few days, so just hang tight.  Daisy thinks about it, or emotes about it, then burns her ticket.

    10. Then they get forcibly evacuated and separated.  Daisy and Piper are dumped into a foster home with Major and Mrs. McEvoy.  They get to participate in work camps for the military.  Even that is not steady state; enemy troops sometimes break the workflow.

    11. Will Daisy and Piper stay wards of the State?  Will they meet Eddie, Joe, or Isaac again?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Teens versus the world in WW III in the UK.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 No particular problems, but nothing all that interesting either.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Irritating music at times.  The actors were miked OK.

    3. Acting: 2/10 The protagonist is quite important in this piece.  Unfortunately, Saoirse Ronan is just abrasive without any particular point.  Ronan may have been born in New York, but Wikipedia describes her as Irish.  Why not have an American actress play an American, rather than an Irish actress?  George Mackay was more wooden than anything else.  I liked Anna Chancellor's performance a bit.

    4. Screenplay: 1/10 The actors make the script look bad, but it had structural problems of its own.  Is there any character that I identify with?  Empathise with?  Like?  No, no, no.  That alone is next to fatal.  The kowtowing to an unstated set of weak values and the pimping to a quite narrow demographic further degrade the product.  Unless one is a self-loathing, adult-hating, teen female, the chances of liking this hot mess are small.


2014-03-15

20140315: SciFi Review--The Day after Tomorrow



The Day after Tomorrow
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2004, rated PG13, 124 minutes, drama, action, scifi.
    2. IMDB: 6.4/10.0 from 245,196 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 125 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 45% on the meter; 50% liked it from 32,747,992 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this film on the SyFy channel.
    5. Written and directed by: Roland Emmerich.
    6. Starring: Dennis Quaid as Jack Hall, Jake Gyllenhaal as Sam Hall, Sela Ward as Dr. Lucy Hall, Emmy Rossum as Laura Chapman, Dash Mihok as Jason Evans, Jay O. Sanders as Frank Harris, Austin Nichols as J. D., Ian Holm as Terry Rapson.
    7. Production costs: 125 million USD; revenue, over 544 million USD.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Paleoclimatologist Jack witnesses some impressive breakups of polar ice.  He discusses this during a conference.  He gets a lot of scoffing, even when he predicts changes to the Atlantic currents that will likely bring on an ice age in 100 or 1000 years.

    2. Terry Rapson starts noticing some huge current anomalies.  He convinces Jack to plug the current data into Jack's models for paleo-environments.  Jack demurs at first; his model is not meant for making predictions.  Jack adapts his work and fills in the data.

    3. While Jack is adapting and applying, odd weather shows up all over North America and Europe.  In parallel themes, Sam takes a trip to New York for an academic contest, and Lucy is involved with a needy patient at her hospital.

    4. By the time Jack has a compelling case made with current data, he is asked to present to the President.  He includes evacuating most of the southern United States.  Sam is marooned in New York with some of his friends from the contest.

    5. After delivering his predictions and seeing some come true almost immediately, Jack treks to New York to find Sam.

    6. Will Jack find Sam?  Will they get to long term safety, if there is such a thing?  Will Lucy and her patient get rescued?

  3. Conclusions
    1. The last time I checked, commercial TV allows about 18 minutes of commercials for 60 minutes of runtime on a property.  I do not think that number got smaller.  This one ran 150 minutes, so there were at least 45 minutes of commercials, so 105 of content.  This means that 124 - 105 = 19 minutes of content were cut from the original theatrical version.  Crap.
    2. One line summary: Dealing with an outlandishly sudden Ice Age in 2004.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Nice looking film for the most part.

    2. Sound: 8/10 No real problems.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward, Ian Holm, and Jay O. Sanders were all fine.  The other players were reasonably good.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10  A little too heavy-handed on the preachiness, but the adventure part was rather good.  The rescue part seemed incredibly unlikely, but had a lot of heart.  Then again, I saw an edited version.  Also, how does one evacuate half the USA?

    5. SFX: 5/10 Reasonable for 2004.  Some of the scaling was off, such as the levels of ice and snow in NYC after some of the storms.  The effects of the tidal wave coming into NYC seemed awfully weak.

20140315: Horror Review--A Dead Calling



A Dead Calling
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2006, video, 90 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 3.3/10.0 from 486 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 1.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 24% liked it from 371 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 80,389 audience ratings.
    5. Written, produced, and directed by: Michael Feifer.
    6. Starring: Alexandra Holden as Rachel Beckwith, John Burke as Stephen Javitz, Sid Haig as George, Shawn Hoffman as Brian, Leslie Easterbrook as Marge, Bill Moseley as Chief Murken, Micah Costanza as Deputy Murken, Mike Korich as Arnie Howard.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Rachel is a successful roving reporter for a television station.  One evening she comes home and all seems well.  A home invasion occurs and the thief kills her significant other by stabbing.  She's in shock.  She loses her job, her place of work.  She goes back to her home in Fillmore with her parents George and Marge, then gets a job at the local television station.  Her first assignment is an ongoing one in which she is to report on some of the high points of the local architecture.

    2. When she goes to first stop on the list, the 'Sullivan House,' all seems as usual until she goes upstairs.  Then she hallucinates a brutal stabbing of a woman by an enraged man.  On her second visit, she meets Arnold, a photographer who is investigating paranormal events using very sensitive photographic equipment.  When they are about to uncover a paranormal event, a big fellow gets in Arnold's way, then stabs him to death.

    3. Stephen does some research, and finds that Arnold was killed some years ago.  Oh, my.  The Chief would rather that Stephen and Rachel quit poking around the Sullivan house.  So of course they go there the same night.  The Chief gets a complaint about their skulking around, and confronts them in the house.  Unfortunately for the Chief, Dr. Sullivan, who owns the house, has gotten out of prison, and he stabs the Chief to death.

    4. Rachel figures out that the killer is her father and the ghost in her first hallucination is the ghost of her birth mother.

    5. Does Rachel help resolve the ghost's psychological problems, so that the haunting stops?  Will any of the cast survive Dr. Sullivan?  Are there last minute surprises?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Ghosts, revenge, confused parentage, murder, obsession, but no scares.
    2. One star of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 Camera shake.  Stupid camera angles. 

    2. Sound: 5/10 There are some big shifts in volume for no particular purpose, except perhaps for shock effect.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Alexandra Holden and John Burke are both terrible in this film.  Their delivery of lines is just poor, and their external affect seems irrelevant.  Micah Costanza was wretched as Deputy Murken.  Mike Korich as Arnie Howard was no prize either.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Does Rachel ever mourn Brian?  Why is Rachel so snotty toward her parents?  Why was absolutely nothing in this film scary?  Bad writing.


20140315: Drama Review--Glengarry, Glen Ross



Glengarry, Glen Ross
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 1992, rated R, 100 minutes, drama.
    2. IMDB: 7.9/10.0 from 59,517 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 12.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 94% on the meter; 89% liked it from 38,372 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this film on Amazon Prime.
    5. Directed by: James Foley.  Written by: David Mamet.
    6. Starring: Jack Lemmon as Shelley Levene, Ed Harris as Dave Moss, Kevin Spacey as John Williamson, Al Pacino as Ricky Roma, Alan Arkin as George Aaronow, Alec Baldwin as Blake, Jonathan Pryce as James Lingk, Bruce Altman as Larry Spannel, Jude Ciccolella as the Detective.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Shelley, Dave, Ricky, and George are real estate salesmen who are under the gun to sell more real estate.  They work at Consolidated Real Estate in Arizona.  Their line manager is John; those above John brought in Blake to put a fire under these four.  So the re-working of their work life consists of a contest.  In two weeks, whoever comes in first in sales get a Cadillac.  Who comes in second gets a set of steak knives.  The other two get fired.

    2. The common complaint is the availability of leads; that is, connections to a likely real estate sales that is worth a lot of money.  With Consolidated Real Estate, they get leads that are dubious and re-worked.  Shelley appeals directly to John for the premium leads, the 'Glengarry' leads.  He tries to construct a kickback scheme with John to get the Glengarry leads.

    3. Dave and George do a lot of complaining, then consider robbing the office to get the Glengarry leads directly, then sell then to a competitor.  Ricky schmoozes James at length, and closes a deal.

    4. The robbery does occur, and there is a great deal of consternation at the office.  The Detective is doing interviews.  Contracts and some of the leads have been stolen.  Ricky's deal with James got registered with the company and the bank, or at least that's what John tells Ricky.  Shelley comes in a little late and is so happy to have sold 8 units in a development.  Dave blows up and leaves after his interview with the Detective.  George gets interviewed next.  Ricky and Shelley swap war stories.

    5. James tries to get out of his deal with Ricky.  Ricky and Shelley try to fast talk him out of this.  Ricky manages some quality talking time while the Detective interviews Shelley.  John manages to torpedo the deal.  Ricky is not happy with John.  Nobody does anything but abuse John.

    6. Will the thief be discovered?  Will any of these four salesmen get their act together again?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Excellent acting illuminates this great story about the real estate business.
    2. Five stars of five.

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

    2. Sound: 10/10 Well-miked actors; no problems understanding the dialog with the sound at a reasonable volume.  Music is not a factor here, and the dialog is everything.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Great performances: Ed Harris, Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin.  The fine story is made better by the excellent acting.

    4. Screenplay: 10/10 Mamet's story is riveting with these actors executing brilliantly.