20140430: Comedy Review--White Reindeer

White Reindeer
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 82 minutes, comedy, drama, indie.
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 458 audience ratings.  Aspect 1.85
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 89% on the meter; 54% liked it from 278 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.6/5.0 from 18,982 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Zach Clark.
    6. Starring: Anna Margaret Hollyman as Suzanne Barrington, Laura Lemar-Goldsborough as Fantasia, Lydia Hyslop as Patti, Joe Swanberg as George, Chris Doubeck as Detective Ross, Marissa Molnar as Latifa, Nathan Williams as Jeff Barrington.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Jeff and Suzanne seem to be happy living in Virginia near Christmas time.  Jeff has a new job starting in January, and they enjoy each other's company deeply.  Suzanne comes home one day before Christmas to find Jeff on the floor with his head bashed in.

    2. The police investigation seems rather light and inept at the beginning.  Things pick up a bit after Suzanne starts combing through the files and web addresses on Jeff's computer.

    3. Suzanne decides to meet some of the girls that Jeff knew.  Fantasia is one of the dancers.  Suzanne starts into shoplifting, as well as cocaine use.  Neither of these serves her well.  Her old set of friends prove to be less normal afterward.  Eventually, though, she starts to get information about Jeff's secret life: lap dances, cocaine use, and his other love interests.

    4. Her excursion into getting to know the neighbors is not too damaging.  Then again, it was not beneficial for Suzanne.

    5. Does Suzanne connect the dots?  Does she seek help with the police?  Will she survive the neighbors, or her Internet Christmas-sadness buying spree?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A Christmas-themed feel-bad film.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 From overexposure to underexposure to faux blondes to terrible makeup, the sets and lighting were poor.

    2. Sound: 7/10 The actors were miked OK.  The incidental music was crappy, but then again, that's pretty much what the story was about: crappy situations.

    3. Acting: 4/10 I almost liked the performance of Anna Margaret Hollyman, but not any of the many others.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 There was nothing funny about this film.  It should not be billed as a comedy.


20140429: Comedy Review--Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 100 minutes, comedy, mystery, horror.
    2. IMDB: 6.8/10.0 from 14,282 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 27 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 35% on the meter; 65% liked it from 4,490 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 4.0/5.0 from 26,740 audience ratings.
    5. Written, produced, and directed by: Stephen Sommers.
    6. Starring: Anton Yelchin as Odd Thomas, Addison Timlin as Stormy Llewellyn, Willem Dafoe as Chief Wyatt Porter, Gugu Mbatha Raw as Viola Peabody.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Odd Thomas is a psychic who sees dead people and can find people whom he needs to find.  Stormy is the perfect girl friend for him. 

    2. Thomas also sees details of murders that were, and murders that will be.  He has a trust relationship with the Chief.  He helps the Chief solve cases; the Chief helps him avoid courts and awkward questions.

    3. Odd and Viola share a terrible dream/nightmare about a massacre to come.  Odd, Stormy, the Chief, and Viola try to figure out how to minimize the damage of this horrible problem to come.

    4. If Odd accomplishes this one large goal, what sort of price will he have to pay?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Based on the novel of the same name by Dean Koontz.
    2. One line summary: Young adult clairvoyant tries to minimize damage to his town from supernatural evil.
    3. Four stars of five

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

    2. Sound: 8/10 No particular problems.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, and Willem Dafoe were excellent.  The onscreen chemistry between Yelchin and Timlin was wonderful, and Dafoe was brilliant with the two of them.  These three dominate the movie, but the other players were good as well.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10  The voice-over soon got to be too much.  Based not on the book, I would say that the story hung together well, and generally moved forward.  The ending was sweet and poignant in a young adult setting, and begged for a sequel.

20140429: Drama Review--All Things to All Men

All Things to All Men
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2013 (UK, 2014 US), NR, 84 minutes, drama, crime, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.4/10.0 from 595 audience ratings. Estimated budget: 3 million PS.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 29% on the meter; 74% wanted to see it from 107 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 13,817 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: George Isaac.
    6. Starring: Gabriel Byrne as Joseph Corso, Rufus Sewell as Parker, Julian Sands as Cutter, Toby Stephens as Riley, Gil Darnell as Adrian Peters, Pierre Mascolo as Mark Corso, Terence Maynard as Sands, Ray Polhill as Paul Myers, Leo Gregory as Dixon.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Set in modern day London, UK.  The issues are criminal activities versus police responses. Riley moves stolen diamonds.  Joseph Corso is a crime boss, the 'Merchant' of London; Cutter is his henchman. Mark Corso (Joseph's son) seems to be running drugs, and doing them as well.  Parker, Dixon, and Sands are on the New Scotland Yard/Metropolitan Police side of the issues.

    2. By squeezing Mark on cocaine possession, Parker and friends leverage his father Joseph into trapping Riley, who has been skirting Joseph's rules of order. The plans move forward, glacially.  Joseph wants his son safe, well-treated, and preferably free; Parker wants Riley in jail and off the streets.  At least that is the first story.

    3. Joseph sets up Riley to do 'one more job' that is a complicated heist that has to be done lightning fast.  Parker gets Mark back to Joseph.  Joseph tells Mark that he is retiring as the Merchant, but that succession is unlikely since Mark is a known addict.  So, the stage is fully set.

    4. Given the complicated arrangements, something is bound to break down.  Will the cops keep faith with Joseph on the deal?  Will Joseph help Riley just enough to get him caught?  Will Mark pull a wild card out?  Will Riley diagnose the whole setup and get free of it?  Where does the difference start between normal police procedure and straight up corruption?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Endless betrayals mark this dark anti-procedural crime film.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 A bit too dark for me, but presumably done for effect.  Focus and framing and the like were just fine.

    2. Sound: 8/10 The tension building from the background music was good, and the actors seemed to be miked OK.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Normally I like Byrne, Sewell, and Sands.  They were fairly good here as well, although perhaps the material was not enough of a challenge for them.  I like Toby Stephens as a comedian in television (Vexed) and film (Severance), but not so much as a dramatic actor.  I kept expecting a flippant remark or seven together with a sneering smile.  Terence Maynard was rather good, and I liked Leo Gregory's performance.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 How does Riley get shot in the abdomen then can keep going with high-stress muscular maneuvers for a good continuous 20 minutes afterwards?  This seems unlikely.  The heist succeeding seemed unlikely.  The wrong amount of valuables being in the vault open for inspection seemed ridiculous.  Normal police discovery seemed to be almost absent.  The ending (and much of the plot) reminded me of LA Confidential.  This worked in the year in which LA Confidential was set, but not so much in 2013.  Perhaps worst of all, the 84 minute play time felt like 130.


20140427: Horror Review--Last Days on Mars

Last Days on Mars
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 98 minutes, horror, zombies, scifi.
    2. IMDB: 5.5/10.0 from 15,459 audience ratings. Spoken word is English.  Estimated budget, 7 million pounds sterling.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 20% on the meter; 26% liked it from 7,797 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 108,308 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Ruairi Robinson.
    6. Starring: Liev Schreiber as Vincent Campbell, Elias Koteas as Charles Brunel, Romola Garai as Rebecca Lane, Olivia Williams as Kim Aldrich, Johnny Harris as Robert Irwin, Goran Kostic as Marko Petrovic, Tom Cullen as Richard Harrington, Yusra Warsama as Lauren Dalby.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Opening set on Mars in Aurora Mission 2, toward the very end of the mission.  There's a sandstorm, elided time, then a scene with Vincent and Rebecca picking up Kim.  The ground crew and the orbiter had lost contact, but the radio link was re-established.

    2. Marko and Tom go out to fix something that Marko left incomplete.  Kim, who is almost universally disliked, barges into Marko's computer files and discovers what seems to be clear evidence of active bacterial life.  At about the same time, there is a cave in right beneath Marko; he falls into a cavern.  The rest survey the situation, then return to base to get equipment to enter the hole safely.  Dalby stays behind at the accident site.

    3. The group returns.  Vincent goes down and has a panic attack without finding Marko.  He's quite a mess when they bring him up.  In parallel, the team notices that two pairs to tracks are headed back to the base structures.  At the base, Kim and Richard prepare for Dalby and Marko to return.  Kim is concerned that communications was not established; Richard is in a hurry to let them in.

    4. About 34 minutes in, the movie breaks.  It started out as a competent SciFi effort with good production values.  After the 34 minute mark, it becomes a zombie film and an elimination derby.  Zombie Marko apparently did not need a space suit, and he immediately kills Richard, who gets the alarm started before he dies.  Kim barely escapes while Brunel wards off Marko.  Brunel exits the airlock as well, but not before he gets a pick axe through his suit into his chest.

    5. Vincent, Kim, Lane, Irwin, and the injured Brunel go to the hydroponics unit where there is air but no zombies.  When the skipper Brunel starts to turn zombie on the table where they are hoping to fix his wounds, one knows the prognosis for the group is dim.

    6. Does anyone get back to Earth?  If they do, is that a good or a bad thing?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Neither SciFi nor zombie; watch at your own risk.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Excellent pre-zombie, not so good post-zombie.

    2. Sound: 5/10 Excellent pre-zombie, not so good post-zombie.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Seemed absent during zombie rages, but was rather good otherwise. Without Liev Schreiber, I would not have finished it.  The others were competent, but had much less screen time as non-zombies.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 I quite liked the ending, but this was neither a good SciFi nor a good zombie offering.

20140427: Horror Review--Frankenstein's Army

Frankenstein's Army
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Dutch/American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 84 minutes, horror.  Spoken word is English.
    2. IMDB: 5.3/10.0 from 3,816 audience ratings.  Aspect: 1.78
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 71% on the meter, but 'no consensus yet'; 39% liked it from 3,878 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 44,840 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Richard Raaphorst.
    6. Starring: Karel Roden as Viktor, Alexander Mercury as Dimitri, Joshua Sasse as Sergei, Robert Gwilym as Novikov, Luke Newbury as Sacha.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Set in late World War II, on the front between Germany and Russia.  There is a lot of 'found footage' style shaky camera, shot by a young soldier on the Russian side.

    2. They come upon a village where the population is mostly missing, but there are plenty of corpses.  In a nearby factory, they find a stitched together something that is connected by cables to the main electrical lines.  When the squad's flunky starts the generator, the thing animates and kills the squad's commanding officer.

    3. They find some rabbits, which looked good for food, but they also found more constructed monsters.  These have more impressive armament, and the squad loses a couple of more men.  They find some German civilians who try to be helpful, but the whole situation is close to irredeemable.  More armed monsters show up and do more killing.

    4. Dmitri's underlings (Dmitri is a captain, and has always outranked everyone in the squad) find out about his treason that kept them in the factory to die.  He led them indirectly to the place, and jammed their radio once they were there.  Dmitri claims it's orders, and had a document to back him up.  Anyway, they are expected to figure out what the Nazi scientists have been up to.  Dmitri's squad mates are upset with him, and they shove him down a chute so he can find out better.  He does find out quite a bit more, but it is not clear how he will get out.  Then he meets Victor, whose last name comes from the title.

    5. Does anyone get out of this alive?  Are all the constructed Nazi warriors put down?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Clever ideas wasted by bad execution and found footage style.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 Hand held cameras.  Bad everything.

    2. Sound: 5/10 So-so.  What would one expect from hand helds?

    3. Acting: 1/10 There was acting?  Well, Karel Roden did a bit.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 The steampunk Frankenstein monsters were often cleverly constructed.  The ideas were fairly well realised visually, but the story did not make all that much sense.


20140426: Action Review--Vikingdom

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Malaysian/American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 114 minutes, action, fantasy.
    2. IMDB: 3.5/10.0 from 1,730 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 15.6 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 43% on the meter; 26% liked it from 442 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on the Syfy Channel.
    5. Directed by: Yusry Abd Halim.
    6. Starring: Dominic Purcell as Eirick, Conan Stevens as Thor, Natassia Malthe as Brynna, Craig Fairbrass as Sven, Jesse Moss as Frey, Tegan Moss as Freyja, Jon Foo as Yang, Patrick Murray as Alcuin.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The goddess Freyja raises former King Eirick from the dead.  The god Frey encourages Eirick to seek the Horn of Helheim, since only the undead can venture there and return.

    2. Eirick gathers a ship and two close allies (Brynna and Sven) on the way to a nearby kingdom where the king remembers and likes him.  He gathers more allies and sets off to find the druid Alcuin, who shows him the way to Helheim.

    3. Eirick obtains the Horn with the help of the shade of his father, who informs him that his real father was someone else.  Great stuff.  Eirick and company proceed to Eirick's former kingdom, where his younger brother now rules.  They are betrayed, but still manage to get to the meeting with Thor before the time of the 'Blood Eclipse' of the sun, which occurs once every 800 years.

    4. Thor has the Hammer of the Gods (Mjolnir) from Valhalla, the Horn Eirick liberated from Helheim, and the 'Necklace of Mary Magdalene' from Midgard.  The stakes are supposedly rather high at this event.  In any case, secrets are revealed, and a climactic battle ensues.

    5. The ending begs for a sequel.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Action romp in mythological setting that is both silly and fun.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 Some of the camera work is fine, but a lot of it is sub-VHS quality.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Mostly OK.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Good enough to keep up with the screenplay.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 The story moves right along, which is exactly what one wants from an action film with so-so mythological underpinnings.


20140425: Drama Review--The Factory

The Factory
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/Canadian live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 108 minutes, crime, mystery, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.7/10.0 from 5,365 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 25 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet...' and 42% liked it from 1,128 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 636,300 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Morgan O'Neill.
    6. Starring: John Cusack as Mike Fletcher, Jennifer Carpenter as Kelsey, Dallas Roberts as Carl, Mae Whitman as Abby Fletcher, Sonya Walger as Shelley Fletcher, Ksenia Solo as Emma, Gary Anthony Williams as Darryl.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Mike and Kelsey have been on the case of a serial killer for quite some time, but the department is shutting their efforts down for lack of progress.  It's Thanksgiving, and Mike asks Kelsey to stop by to say hello to his wife Shelley, and daughter Abby.

    2. There is tension between Shelly and Abby, and between Shelley and Mike.  Mike and Kelsey revive the case somewhat over a murder of a transsexual.  Abby gets more discouraged with Shelley, and takes off.  She breaks up with her boyfriend, and the serial killer kidnaps her.  Shelley finally notices Abbey is gone.  She alerts Mike, and the police engage more strongly.

    3. Mike and Kelsey get a lead on the accomplice of the killer.  Mike goes off on him, and physically assaults him.  After trying to follow the accomplice, they give up after a while.  The accomplice was on a long shift and stayed in the hospital where he worked to avoid being followed.  Mike loses his composure at home.

    4. Abbey, meanwhile, has a wretched time in captivity with other young women who have been kidnapped.  Mike starts looking at his daughter's life as he would if he were not his father; then the clues start coming.

    5. Will Abbey get rescued?  Will Mike still have a career?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Cop needs to find his daughter emotionally to find her physically.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Better than VHS quality, but not by much.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Sound levels were absurdly out of control.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Cusack and Carpenter were fine.  Dallas Roberts, whose role was pivotal, was unconvincing, beginning to end.  Mae Whitman was rather good, but Sonya Walger not so much.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 The story was clever and engaging, but the poor choices in casting nullified much of that.  I enjoyed the onscreen time of Cusack and Carpenter, but when Roberts was onscreen, the urge to leave to get a cup of coffee was enormous.  The ending was tough to stomach, but it certainly explained the difficulties in the investigation.


20140424: Comedy Review--Rapture Palooza

Rapture Palooza
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 84 minutes, comedy, fantasy.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 5,173 audience ratings. 
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 22% on the meter; 32% liked it from z audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 73,001 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Paul Middleditch.
    6. Starring: Craig Robinson as The Beast, Anna Kendrick as Lindsey Lewis, John Francis Daley as Ben House, Rob Corddry as Mr. House, Ana Gasteyer as Mrs. Lewis, John Michael Higgins as Mr. Lewis, Calum Worthy as Clark Lewis, Paul Scheer as Security Wraith, Ken Jeong as God, Tyler Labine as Shorter Wraith.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The Rapture comes.  Mrs. Lewis gets taken up to Heaven, but is returned as defective.  Those left behind have a lot to deal with: wraiths, molten rocks from the sky, blood rain, locusts who talk, crows that verbally abuse everyone, and the like.

    2. Worst of all is that a one-time politician, Earl Gundy, becomes the anti-Christ.  He talks everyone into calling him The Beast.  He has his own deadly Beastly Guards, and an array of wraiths protecting him.  He takes over the world's armament, and destroys cities to spread terror and obedience.

    3. Lindsey and Ben are engaged, and hope to make a living in the apocalyptic times.  A molten rock ends that.  Ben's father works for The Beast, and suggests that the pair interview with The Beast.  When The Beast finds that Lindsey is a virgin, he entices her to become his bride.

    4. They concoct a plan to imprison The Beast as predicted in the Book of Revelation.  They proceed with this, and it seems to be going well, but Ben lasers God's son as he descends from heaven to take out the anti-Christ.  God and The Beast have it out.

    5. How does this end up?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Funny, irreverent look at the Christian apocalypse.
    2. Four stars of five.

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

    2. Sound: 8/10 The actors are well-miked, but the music could have been better.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Craig Robinson, Anna Kendrick, and John Francis Daley (Bones) were the best.  I liked most of the actors, but a few were not so good, such as Calum Worthy, Paul Scheer, and Tyler Labine.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 I got several good laughs out of this one, mostly for its sheer irreverence.  The stoner dogma was pushed a bit too hard for my taste.

20140424: Drama Review--Revelation Road 2

Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 90 minutes, drama, action.
    2. IMDB: 4.4/10.0 from 330 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 50% liked it from 112 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 88,047 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Gabriel Sabloff.
    6. Starring: David A. R. White as Josh McManus, Eric Roberts as Sheriff Jensen, Brian Bosworth as Hawg, Logan White as Cat, Roberta Bassin as Kathy Jensen, Noell Coet as Beth.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This film takes up just after the first movie ends.  There are a few scenes of the Sheriff's home life, and how the Rapture affected it.  Then we get back to the pursuit of Josh by Hawg.

    2. There are several flashbacks to explain Josh's fighting abilities.  There are several action sequences of fighting among Josh and allies versus Hawg and allies.  There are other flashbacks to what made Hawg so ornery, cantankerous, and murderous.

    3. The overall trend is to push Josh toward being religious and toward breaking his military training.  Hawg's gang is mostly wiped out.  Cat gets free of her father.

    4. Josh finds that his wife and daughter have been taken up in the Rapture.  He sets out to do something, which I expect might be explained in the third film.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Continues in the Christian apocalypse mostly after the Rapture.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Fine camera work again.

    2. Sound: 8/10 No particular problems.

    3. Acting: 6/10  I liked David A. R. White, Brian Bosworth, Logan White, and even Eric Roberts in his short role.  Many of the secondary actors were not so good.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Long on flashbacks to explain the motivations of characters from the first film.  Again, short of story for a 90 minute movie.

20140424: Drama Review--Revelation Road

Revelation Road
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 88 minutes, drama, action, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.5/10.0 from 1,003 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 'No score yet.'
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 229,395 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Gabriel Sabloff.
    6. Starring: David A. R. White as Josh McManus, Brian Bosworth as Hawg, Eric Roberts as Sheriff Jensen, Jen Lilly as Rachel McManus, Ray Wise as Frank,  Logan White as Cat.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Josh drives through the desert to his next sales opportunity before he returns home.  He is rear-ended by some hold-up artists.  A gang, The Barbarians, drops by and inadvertantly helps him get free.  Josh continues to Frank's hardware store, where he tries to sell some body armour.  Frank feels Josh out about his core values, as it were.  A contingent of Barbarians bursts in and starts a strong arm robbery.  Josh's skills kick in.  He kills three of the Babarians, beats up some of the others, and sends the survivors packing.

    2. Hawg, the leader of the Barbarians, has a couple of his more cleaver members reconnoiter.  They scope out Frank's home, and the motel where Josh is staying.  Hawg makes plans to strike back against those who killed some of this crew.

    3. Hawg does indeed invade Frank's home.  Frank and his wife fight back to some degree, but the gang disarms them.  In parallel, Josh tries to help out a prostitute who has been beaten up by her, ah, employer.  That does not go so well.

    4. All this gets interrupted by a long depiction of the Rapture, which is much better done than in The Mark.  I did not say it was great, just better than in The Mark.

    5. The film sets up for part 2 after that.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Depicts the beginning of the Christian apocalypse.
    2. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Beautiful; skillfully done.

    2. Sound: 9/10 No particular problems.

    3. Acting: 7/10  Ray Wise was professional as always; David White was better than competent; Brian Bosworth was better than I expected him to be.  Eric Roberts was fairly good in the small role as the Sheriff.  I also liked Logan White as Cat.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 The injection of Christian doctrine seems forced most of the time, but is much better done than The Mark, for instance.  On the other hand, minus the doctrine, the film is short on story, and it is spread over 88 minutes.


20140423: Drama Review--The Mark 2 Redemption

The Mark 2: Redemption
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 94 minutes, drama, action, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.9/10.0 from 98 audience ratings.  Spoken word is English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 'No scores yet.'
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 95,583 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: James Chankin.
    6. Starring: Craig Sheffer as Chad Turner, Eric Roberts as Cooper, Sonia Couling as Dao, Johann Helf as Warren, Gary Daniels as Joseph Pike, Ivan Kamaras as Phillip Turk, Sahajak Boonthanakit as Dr. Siriwat.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The sequel takes up immediately after the point where the first film ended.

    2. Pike got free and continues to look for Chad at the behest of Phillip Turk.  Turk is emerging as a world leader.  Cooper has been imprisoned by Pike, and Cooper unexpectedly gives his captors a strong clue (Chad's brother's last location) to Chad's current whereabouts.

    3. Pike's forces close in on Chad as he prepares to depart his brother's last home. Chad finds a way to locate Dr Siriwat, who was a leader in the chip program.  He tries for a meeting, but is intercepted by Pike's men.

    4. Do they find Dao's sister alive?  Does Chad survive having the chip inside him?  Will Turk get control of Chad?  Can anyone undermine Pike's pursuit?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: The sequel was slightly (but not significantly) better than the original.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 The camera work was better than in the first film. There were fewer minutes of shaky camera, for instance. The flashbacks were unpleasant to look at from the choice of filtering techniques.

    2. Sound: 6/10 The voices of many of the actors seemed hollow.  The incidental music was a bit florid for my taste.

    3. Acting: 3/10 Wretched.  The male leads, Sheffer, Gary Daniels, Ivan Kamaras, were all terrible.  Eric Roberts was better, but only in a small part.  Sonia Couling and Johann Helf were also somewhat better.  Most of the actors in the bit parts were quite bad.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The dialog was repeatedly awkward where Christian messages were forcibly injected.  As a tool to convince people of a point of view, I think this movie was a failure.  As with the first film, there was not much story stretched over 94 minutes. Some of the chase scenes looked like very poor imitations of the fourth Bourne film. The ending more than hinted at a sequel.

    5. SFX: 5/10 Neither convincing nor horribly bad; just so-so.


20140422: Thriller Review--The Mark

The Mark
  1. Production Fundamentals; Reception
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated G, 92 minutes, drama, action.
    2. IMDB: 3.7/10.0 from 525 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 1.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...', and 30% liked it from 21 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 146,681 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by James Chankin.
    6. Starring: Craig Sheffer as Chad Turner, Eric Roberts as Cooper, Gary Daniels as Joseph Pike, Ivan Kamaras as Phillyp Turk, Sonia Couling as Dao, Sarah Deakins as Jodie Scott, Carey Scott as Pilot.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. Avanti Corporation creates one biometric computer chip intended to have some profound interface with a human being.  If that were not strange enough, their lab was just about to implant the thing inside a chosen test subject when the lab is attacked.  While the lab burns and things are still blowing up, the lab surgeon does an emergency implant into a member of the security force for Avanti, one Chad Turner.

    2. Cooper, the failed head of security for Avanti, gets Turner on a plane to a safe place.  That does not work.  For one thing, Joseph Pike is determined to have the chip.

    3. The plane is hijacked by three murderers and one tech accomplice.  The attempt at re-taking the plane and killing all the hijackers was almost successful.  The lights go out; when they come back on, some passengers are gone, with their clothes left behind.  (This event was given a spiritual explanation.)  There are more problems than just the departed hijackers.

    4. Will the plane land safely?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Mostly ineffective action film with spiritual overtones.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 2/10 Poor close-ups accompanied by camera shake.  Stupid camera angles.

    2. Sound: 7/10 The actors are miked OK.  The music is not all that effective.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Absurdly bad.  The lead actor, Craig Sheffer, is perhaps the worst of them all, with Gary Daniels a close second. The pair who played the pilot and co-pilot were terrible.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 The dialog is odd and stilted, especially where Christian beliefs are being injected.  There is not much story stretched over 92 minutes.

    5. SFX: 4/10 The mock-up of a commercial passenger jet airplane is ridiculous.  The animated airplane exteriors were not good.


20140419: SciFi Review--Big Ass Spider

Big Ass Spider!
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated PG-13, 80 minutes, SciFi, comedy.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 2,357 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 78% on the meter, but no consensus yet; 43% liked it from 739 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on the SyFy channel.
    5. Directed by: Mike Mendez.
    6. Starring: Ray Wise as Major Braxton Tanner, Patrick Bauchau as Lucas, Greg Grunberg as Alex Mathis, Clare Kramer as Lieutenant Karly Brant, Alexis Knight as Nurse Lisa.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Alex the exterminator has an ordinary day, more or less, but he gets bitten by a brown recluse.  He goes to a hospital to have the inflammation treated early on.  He sees a corpse go by, and asks Nurse Lisa about it.  While Alex is being treated, one of the hospital staff in the morgue notices something moving in the corpse's body bag.   The staff member thought it was a spider, just bigger than a spider.  No one believes this, but his wound inflammation is huge, nearly all of the right side of his neck.

    2. Alex trades killing the spider for paying the hospital bill.  He sets about to kill the spider with a security guard.

    3. Meanwhile, Major Tanner arrives and places the hospital under his command.  (Right, under what jurisdiction?)  Tanner wants to see the body in the morgue.

    4. The spider, now a bit larger than dinner plate, crawls through the ducts ahead of Alex, and kills a patient.  The spider keeps getting larger with each kill.

    5. The rest of the film is about the continued growth of the spider until it is huge.  Will Alex or Major Tanner get the giant arachnid under control before Los Angeles is destroyed or the spider eggs hatch?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: The endless badness is almost funny, but not quite.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Reasonably good.  The creature animation was mostly ordinary, partly stupid beyond belief.

    2. Sound: 6/10 The actors were miked OK, but music was not used well.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Yikes, what are Ray Wise and Patrick Bauchau doing in this debacle?  (The plus four was for Wise and Bauchau.)  Greg Grunberg was unrelentingly not funny and not believable.  I got absolutely no sense of fun or cleverness.  The rest of the actors (notably Clare Kramer) were terribly bad.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Fifteen minutes of story were stretched beyond breaking over eighty minutes of movie.  On the SyFy channel, add another forty minutes of commercial interruptions.  This story was never scary, never funny, never clever.  It's wall-to-wall nonsense delivered with straight faces; stale, stupid, failed.  For this one, I would say that the viewers got it right, and the RT critics got it dead wrong.


20140418: Horror Review--Texas Chainsaw

Texas Chainsaw
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 91 minutes, horror, gorefest.
    2. IMDB: 4.8/10.0 from 25,243 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 10 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 19% on the meter; 42% liked it from 115,519 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 404,712 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: John Luessenhop.
    6. Starring: Alexandra Daddario as Heather Miller, Dan Yeager as Leatherface, Trey Songz as Ryan, Scott Eastwood as Deputy Carl Hartman, Tania Raymonde as Nikki, Shaun Sipos as Darryl, Thom Barry as Sheriff Hooper, Keram Malicki-Sanchez as Kenny, Paul Rae as Mayor Burt Hartman, David Born as Gavin Miller, as Sue Rock as Arlene Miller.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The movie opens to the slaughter of the Sawyer family by a bunch of Texas locals and a couple of lawmen.  A baby is taken from the place and adopted.

    2. We jump forward in time.  Heather's grandmother has died, and she inherits an estate in Texas.  This is when Heather finds she was adopted by new parents who moved away.

    3. Heather and friends drive to Texas and connect with the executor of the estate, who tells Heather to 'read the letter' from the deceased grandmother.  He does not tell her that there is a huge serial killer locked up in her basement.

    4. Darryl, the drifter whom the group picked up along the way, says he'll help move in their stuff while they are getting food and supplies in town.  He starts ripping them off, but finds Leatherface instead; end of Darryl.  The group returns and discover the attempted thievery, but do not investigate enough to find the crime.  While cooking, Kenny discovers the extra door Darryl found, and ends up with the same fate.

    5. Ryan, Heather, and Nikki attempt to escape in the van, but Leatherface catches them and kills Ryan.  Heather runs to the local carnival; Nikki stays at the van with her deep leg wound.  Carl challenges Leatherface, who throws his chainsaw at Carl, then runs off.

    6. Officer Marvin finds the overturned van, then follows the blood trail.  The Sheriff recognises the giant chainsaw that Carl brought in from the carnival.  Marvin pursues to the mansion, and gets encouragement from the mayor via radio to follow the blood trail in defiance of the Sheriff's orders to stand down.

    7. Meanwhile, Heather reads all the police documentation of the slaughter of the Sawyers.  Not surprisingly, she seems to be deeply affected by it all, and connects to her Sawyer roots.

    8. How does this all play out?  The mayor is out to kill the last of the Sawyers.  Heather is not too happy with the entire town since they murdered her natural family.  The Sheriff would like the violence to stop.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Nicely shot but unnecessary sequel.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Varies from OK to quite good.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Actors were miked OK.  The music was reasonably good for building suspense and the sense of imminent danger.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Thom Barry, Paul Rae, Scott Eastwood, and Richard Riehle were fine. David Born and Sue Rock were OK as the Millers.  Alexandra Daddario, Trey Songz, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos, and Keram Malicki-Sanchez were just plain terrible.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The chronology does not make a whole lot of sense: Heather would be right around 40 years old, not a bit over 20.  Nobody except perhaps the sheriff seemed to have aged in almost 40 years.  The Sheriff's response to the endgame seemed hard to believe.  Heather's profound switch was unbelievable as well.  Leatherface had just murdered her lover and her close friends, after all.  The worst part for me was the opening sequence.  The Sawyer family from the 1974 film was irredeemably bad; that was essential to the pungency and originality of the first film.  The family members portrayed at the beginning of this film was made out to be the innocent victims, decent people who should be left alone.  No thanks.  The clip after the closing credits was more true to form.  That is where the plus two comes from.


20140417: Horror Review--Dead before Dawn

Dead before Dawn
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 89 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 4.9/10.0 from 2,105 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet...' and 38% liked it from 272 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 60,021 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: April Mullen.  Written by: Tim Doiron.
    6. Starring: Devon Bostick as Casper Galloway, Martha MacIsaac as Charlotte Baker, Christopher Lloyd as Horus Galloway, Brandon J. McLaren as Dazzle Darlington, Brittany Allen as Lucy Winthrop, Tim Doiron as Seth Munday, 

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Casper has a traumatic experience as a child at his grandfather's curio shop.  He still has nightmares during college.  A particular vessel drops, his father catches it, and his father is transformed for the worse by it.

    2. Casper is more than a bit on the wimpish side.  He agrees to mind the curio shop "Occult Barn" for his grandfather while the grandfather receives a lifetime award.  His friends drop by, and he lets them handle the vessel; this is something his grandfather explicitly forbid.  One of his friends drops the vessel and it breaks.

    3. The lights go out.  The group makes up a curse, in great detail, then say they are done with the curse's rules.  The lights come back on.  The group agree to meet later to test it out.

    4. So, if someone in the group looks directly into someone else's eyes after 10 pm, the targets kills themselves, then return as a mixture of demon and zombie, or zemon.  Unless they reverse the curse before dawn, the group itself will be cursed.

    5. That evening, the number of mysterious deaths mount, but many of the 'dead' do not stay dead.  The group re-assembles, realises that they are in deep trouble, then arm themselves.  They go back to the Occult Barn, and tell Horus about the incident and the curse.  Unfortunately, they look Horus in the eyes, and he kills himself.

    6. Will the group be able to use Horus' book to reverse the curse?  Will anybody in town be left as a normal human?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A film about rapid zombies without much humor or plot.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Better than VHS quality, but not by much.  The SFX vary from mediocre to poor.

    2. Sound: 6/10 I could hear the actors' voices and the incidental music, some of which was appropriate for a zombie comedy.

    3. Acting: 3/10 Weak.  The three is mostly for Christopher Lloyd's short performance.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Boring, not funny, not engaging.   The central idea of the curse was beyond stupid.

20140417: Comedy Review--Some Girls.

Some Girls
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/British live action feature length film, 1988, rated R, 94 minutes.
    2. IMDB: 6.0/10.0 from 1,820 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 50% on the meter; 44% liked it from 845 audience ratings.
    4. I watched the DVD version.
    5. Directed by: Michael Hoffman.  Written by: Rupert Walters.
    6. Starring: Patrick Dempsey as Michael, Jennifer Connelly as Gabriella, Sheila Kelly as Irenka, Lance Edwards as Nick, Lila Kedrova as Granny, Andre Gregory as Mr. D'Arc, Florinda Bolkan as Mrs. D'Arc, Ashley Greenfield as Simone, Sanna Vraa as Young Granny.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Gabriella invites Michael to spend Christmas with the family in Quebec City.  This includes the mother and father, plus sisters Simone and Irenka, and Irenka's boyfriend Nick.

    2. Michael runs afoul of just about everything.  Gabriella tells him she is no longer in love with him.  Gabriella's mother is a fairly strict Catholic who believes in avoiding sex before marriage.  The family dog does not seem to like him.

    3. In a sub-thread, the grandmother is ill, and periodically escapes from the hospital to be with her dead husband at their previous home.  While looking for Granny, Michael falls down a shaft.  Granny discovers him, and they go back to where Granny lived with her husband, also named Michael.

    4. Michael gets a second round of this when the others go skiing, Nick goes for petrol, and Michael thinks he's alone with her.  Michael finds Granny's long missing 'summer shoes.'  When he tries to present her with them, he finds that Granny has gone to yet another house. 

    5. On the way back to the hospital, Granny's health plummets.  Nick and Michael don't quite get her back in time.  The funeral was held before Christmas.  Nick leaves after the viewing.  At Christmas, things are a bit somber.  Michael meets (yes, mysterious) Young Granny at the family tomb.

    6. Michael has farewell discussions before he goes home.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A fine comedy about a duck out of water with an eccentric family.
    2. Four stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Professional presentation, start to finish.

    2. Sound: 9/10 The actors were properly miked, and most of the incidental music was well-chosen.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Patrick Dempsey was brilliant, as were Lila Kedrova, Andre Gregory, Florinda Bolkan, and Sanna Vraa.  Jennifer Connelly was hard to recognise, and was more irritating than anything else.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Clever and mature.


20140416: Horror Review--Creature

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 93 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 3.7/10.0 from 2,050 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 3 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 11% on the meter; 16% liked it from 2,207 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 150,727 audience ratings.
    5. Written by directed by: Fred Andrews.
    6. Starring: Mehcad Brooks as Niles, Serinda Swan as Emily, Dillon Casey as Oscar, Lauren Schneider as Karen, Aaron Hill as Randy Parker, Amanda Fuller as Beth, Jennifer Lynn Warren as Ophelia.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The opening sequence with Ophelia's swim in the swamp marks this movie as an exploitation effort: full nudity followed by gore and death.

    2. The scene then jump shifts to three upscale city couples traveling in an expensive SUV to the backwoods swamps in Louisiana.  The six rich kids stop at a general store.  They show their general disrespect for local traditions and people.  The four men at the general store are depicted as inbred, uneducated, violent, and unsanitary.

    3. The good old boys tell a story of the Boutine family, which was dying out some decades ago.  The story culminates with the almost wedding of brother and sister (Grimley and Caroline Boutine), who are the last possible breeders in the clan.  The ceremony is interrupted by a legendary gator, Lockjaw, who eats the bride.  The groom is discouraged by this.  He kills the gator, then eats it, including parts of his almost bride.  Following one of the cliches of cannibalism, Grimley absorbs some of the strengths of Lockjaw, becoming a man/monster.

    4. Let's have a moment of silence for that massive 'jump the shark' incident.

    5. The local good old boys warn the six city folk to respect the tradition, which is not explained in any detail.  The city folk don't show respect, of course, and the locals attempt to force the tradition on them.

    6. Do any of the city youngsters survive this elimination derby and get home?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Lots of cliches, very little new; throwback SFX.
    2. Two stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 Looked professional at least part of the time.

    2. Sound: 7/10 Not too bad.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Mehcad Brooks seemed way too old for the part; on the other hand, he was the best actor in the film by far.  That in itself was another problem: why would such a level-headed young man get into this mess?  Most of the other actors played caricatures, particularly Sid Haig.  All of the actors playing swamp folk gave terrible performances.

    4. Screenplay: 3/10 The dialog the actors were given was mostly poor.  The exposition of motivation left a lot to be desired: why did anyone do any of the things they did in this movie?  The worst for me was during the Niles-Lockjaw fight.  There is no way that Niles could survive even one hit from the monster, much less 15 or so.  Ridiculous.

    5. SFX: 3/10 The creature effects were modestly convincing; they were reminiscent of the Creature in the Black Lagoon (1954).  The gore effects were not convincing at all.

20140416: Horror Review--Contracted

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 84 minutes.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 3,231 audience ratings.  Spoken word is English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 50% on the meter; 32% liked it from 1,293 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 240,535 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Eric England.
    6. Starring: Najarra Townsend as Samantha, Caroline Williams as Sam's Mom, Alice Macdonald as Alice, Katie Stegeman as Nikki, Matt Mercer as Riley, Charley Koontz as Zain, Ruben Pia as Doctor.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Samantha, a lesbian coming off of drugs and out of a relationship with Nikki, gets drunk enough at a party to accept a drink from a stranger.  Ouch, not a good idea.  She has an anonymous one night stand with a man.

    2. Her hangover lasts quite a while, and she gets some unexplained bruising and bleeding.  She tries to go back to her waitress job at a posh restaurant, but hallucinations, auditory hallucinations, and more bleeding interrupt this.  She gets to a doctor, who prescribes a few things for her ear and vaginal problems.

    3. Her condition continues to degenerate.  Alice from the party gets visits from the police, who are asking many questions about the party.  Her doctor switches theories, from a head cold and a mild sexual area irritation, to hardcore STD.  Plus, "we'll have to wait for the lab results."

    4. Samantha's mother thinks Sam's problems come from a return to drug usage.  Sam shows her otherwise.  Sam gets the art grant she wanted; soon after, she throws that away.  She tries to get back with Nikki, but she's too ugly for Nikki to give her anything but contempt.

    5. Things continue to get worse for anyone near Sam, including Sam.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Subgenre: body horror.  No supernatural anything.  No techno anything.
    2. One line summary: Strong vorticity in this personal down-the-toilet film.
    3. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 3/10 The film looked like the equipment used for filming was quite good, but the skill of the operator was, to be charitable, incomplete.  An alternate view of the bad visuals is that this is a failed attempt at an 'art' film.

    2. Sound: 7/10 Good for reinforcing creepiness and paranoia.

    3. Acting: 0/10 What acting?

    4. Screenplay: 1/10 The scenes with the physician were unbelievable: a pelvic exam with jeans fastened?  The worm-like things dropping out of Sam's vaginal area were some sort of clue, perhaps.  In terms of story, Sam's life was bad, then she had a one night stand after being drugged, then her life got worse.  The primary failure here was that none of the characters were engaging, and the plot was simple, monotonous, and boring.


20140415: SciFi Review--Starship Troopers 3

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/South African/German live action feature length film, 2008, rated R, 108 minutes, SciFi, action.  Spoken word is English.
    2. IMDB: 4.4/10.0 from 16,698 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 9 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 49% liked it from 926 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 681,498 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Edward Meier.
    6. Starring: Casper van Dien as Colonel Johnny Rico, Jolene Blalock as Captain Lola Beck, Stephen Hogan as Sky Marshal Omar Anoke, Boris Kodjoe as General Dix Hauser, Amanda Donohoe as Admiral Enolo Phid, Marnette Patterson as Holly Little.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Johnny Rico is on an agrarian planet Roku San where the Bugs are attacking.  For various PR reasons, Anoke, Beck, and Dix come to the planet.  The Federation personnel become embroiled in a bar fight while hoping to relax with a drink.

    2. The Federation mounts a defence against a Bug attack, but sustain a bad defeat.  The few who escape the scene of the defeat, include Rico, Beck, Anoke, and Dix.  The ship seems to make a clean get away, but they are forced out of hyperspace.  The ship is critically damaged by plasma streams sent from the Bugs.  The higher ups escape and some return to Earth.

    3. Johnny gets the blame for the failure at Roku San.  The calls for help from the Sky Marshall and Captain Beck are classified by Admiral Phid.  Dix saves Johnny from being hanged, and uses him to mount a raid to rescue Anoke and Beck.  Phid files a false video that Dix and Sky Marshall Anoke were killed by a bombing done by religious a opposition group.

    4. Sky Marshall Anoke was being controlled by a Bug brain, so his jump into religious fervour eventually made a bit more sense.  He thought of the Bug brain as God, and obeyed it, as we saw in the Roku San incident.

    5. Will Johnny's group rescue the Sky Marshall and the Captain?  Will the truth come out?  Will Phid be stopped?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Better than ST 2, not as good as ST1 or ST4.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 There was too much CGI, not all of which was good.  The regular photography plus green screen was not so bad.

    2. Sound: 5/10 Woof.  Voices often sound hollow.   Incidental music was not effective, but was irritating.  The leveling of the sound was incredibly poor.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Stephen Hogan and Boris Kodjoe were totally worthless.  Van Dien, Donohoe, and Blalock were considerably better.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 This wretched script makes the original Starship Troopers look articulate and coherent.  The political satire is laid on too thick: hangings without trials, arrests without cause, strongly enforced double standards (I can hang you, but you cannot insult me).  There is talk of advanced weaponry, followed by footage of trench warfare, so the advanced weaponry consists of shovels.  The interruptions for the Federation propaganda are more than a bit too much.  Given the willingness to kill anyone for any reason, one wonders why the Federation did not just explode every Bug infested planet.  This is explained in the original book; in this movie, not so much.


20140412: SciFi Review--Bermuda Tentacles

Bermuda Tentacles
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2014, made for TV, 120 minutes including commercial breaks.
    2. IMDB: no ratings as of 20140412.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: nothing as of 20140412.
    4. I saw this on the SyFy network: with commercials and without f-bombs.
    5. Directed by: Nick Lyon; written by: Geoff Meed.
    6. Starring:  Trevor Donovan as Trip Oliver, Justin Cuomo as Alex Preacher, Luke White as Stephen Hondo, Linda Hamilton as Admiral Hansen, John Savage as President Desteno, Jamie Kennedy as Dr. Zimmern, Mya as Lt Plummer, Tiffany Pulvino as Lt. Greene.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The president's plane goes down over the Bermuda Triangle.  It submerges quickly.

    2. Elements of the US Navy go to the last known position and start surveillance.  Some huge tentacles rise out of the ocean and do a lot of damage.  Trip Oliver leads a team on a submersible vehicle to find the president.  The countdown threat is that the president is running out of oxygen.

    3. On the surface, the admiral and the navy battle the tentacles.  Underwater, the team in the submersible find an underwater chamber that contains many vehicles.  Eventually they find the president.

    4. Does the team fight its way free with the president safe?  Will the threat from the Triangle be dealt with?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Bad script plus horde of non-actors trump three good actors.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Most of it was OK, though not good; the CGI was laughable.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Lots of sound and fury, signifying very little.  Seriously, the music was too blasted loud in spots, to no good effect.  The actors were mostly miked OK.

    3. Acting: 3/10 How did Linda Hamilton, Jamie Kennedy, and John Savage get stuck in this mess?  Compared to everyone else, those three were just excellent, despite the poor lines.  Trevor Donovan, Mya, and Tiffany Pulvino were incredibly bad.  Mya, in particular, was so bad that this film did not even deserve 1/5.  The large cast seemed to be composed mostly of non-actors. 

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Horrible.  The antagonism between the admiral and Trip Oliver seemed empty and forced. The lack of chain of command seemed ridiculous.  The script depended on the CGI and the CGI was absurd.  'Obviously' is used too many times, especially when asserting that the underwater structures are of extraterrestrial origin.  Non-comms questioning the direct orders of the Commander-in-Chief?  No thanks.  An ending that is worse than stupid.

20140412: SciFi Review--Lake Placid: the Final Chapter

Lake Placid: the Final Chapter
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 86 minutes, SciFi, Horror.
    2. IMDB: 3.9/10.0 from 825 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 27% liked it from 168 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on the SyFy channel; that is, without any nudity or f-bombs, but with commercials.
    5. Directed by: Don Michael Paul; written by: David Reed.
    6. Starring: Elisabeth Roehm as Sheriff Giove, Robert England as Jim Bickerman, Yancy Butler as Reba, Paul Nicholls as Loflin, Poppy Lee Friar as Chloe, Ako Mitchell as Dennis, Benedict Smith as Max, Daniel Black as Drew.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Reba from the third installment wakes up in the supermarket where the final bloodbath took place.  A giant croc approaches her, but Reba lets it know who is the boss.

    2. Some time is elided.  Reba is now working for the EPA, not entirely of her own volition (work for us or go to jail, that sort of thing).  The new law is Sheriff Giove.  Giove, Reba, and the 'tree hugger' Dennis capture a small croc for study using an anesthetic dart.  They return to the shore and talk to the folks who are building and maintaining the electric fence around the lake.  This includes Loflin.

    3. The professional poacher Jim Bickerman and cohorts approach the same point when fewer people are present, then break in to kill at least one croc.  They beat up Loflin's son Max to get there.

    4. Giove sets up a chick flick night with her daughter Chloe, but Chloe goes off on a fun outing with a busload of other late teenagers.  The bus goes through the gate opened by Bickerman and his allies.  They tell ghost stories and have make out sessions.  Giove, meanwhile, gets closer to Loflin.

    5. The next morning, the party group at the lake is missing a member, and they call the sheriff.   The sheriff, Loflin, and Reba arrive at the now-closed gate, and talk things over with the engineer who closed it.  They attempt to rescue the idiots, er, the party goers.

    6. During the process, they meet Dennis again, who was working on his project, and not at all helping the overall order of the proceedings.

    7. Will Loflin be re-united with his son Max?  Will the sheriff and her daughter survive?  Will there be enough crocs left over for Lake Placid: the Final Chapter, part II?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Better than 2 and 3; not as good as the original.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Mostly quite good, but not the CGI.

    2. Sound: 7/10 The actors are well-miked, and the incidental music usually appropriate to the occasion whether it be creepy, foreboding, or pleasant.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Roehm, Butler, and Nichols were fine, as was England, though his role was on the short side.  Benedict Smith, Daniel Black, and Ako Mitchell were not great, but were better than I expected.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 The dialog was not great, but was much better than one usually gets in such films.  The interconnections of the poacher with the first films was interesting, as was the connection of the poacher to the tree hugger.


20140411: Documentary Review--War on Whistleblowers

War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 66 minutes, documentary.
    2. IMDB: 7.9/10.0 from 34 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 60% on the meter; 75% liked it from 13 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.8/5.0 from 10,300 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Robert Greenwald.
    6. Starring: Steven Aftergood, Danielle Brian, Michael Dekort, David Carr, Lucy Dalglish, Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Isikoff as themselves.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This documentary follows a small but interesting set of case studies of real whistleblowers who have been punished by the system in recent years.

    2. Daniel Ellsberg was a whistle blower from the 1970s who provides perspective throughout the film.

    3. In Iraq in 2006, our soldiers were dying due to the lack of armour on Humvees.  An IED could take one out, and the military inside often died or were badly injured.  Franz Gayl, Science and Technology Advisor to the Marine Corps in the Pentagon, became aware of this and brought it to the attention of his superiors.  He championed the replacement of the Humvee by the safer MRAP, but was greeted with roadblocks. He went to USA Today to get leverage on the problem.  He faced reprisals at work; his journalist contacts were threatened with lack of access.  The Humvees were replaced, but Gayl was put on administrative leave for quite some time.

    4. Thomas Drake: (former) Senior Executive at the (US) National Security Agency was the second whistle blower profiled.  'We do not spy on Americans,' was a phrase Drake heard at work.  However, he started his job on 2001/09/11; thereafter, however, he noted huge breaches of this key charter element of the NSA.  Massive amounts of information were being collected on US citizens living inside the USA.  Drake exposed portions of this process.  His life was massively invaded in response by the FBI.  The Justice Department threatened him with the Espionage Act, and specific charges that could potentially land him in jail for the rest of his life.

    5. Michael DeKort: (former) Lead Systems Engineer: The Deepwater Program, for the US Coast Guard was the third to be profiled.  DeKort brought to the light of day two major problems with the Coast Guard fleet's upgrade: radios with non-waterproof circuitry, and hulls that were overly susceptible to buckling.  DeKort used YouTube to spread the story, and it eventually found its way to 60 Minutes.  DeKort stayed out of jail.

    6. Thomas Tamm: (former) Attorney in the Justice Department was the fourth to be profiled.  He was in the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review within Justice.  He talked to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  His group applied for judicial warrants to listen in on persons in the United States who were thought to be connected to terrorists.  His group worked with the FBI which had developed the 'probable cause' for these warrants.  Some cases were treated differently, however.

    7. All of these whistle blowers suffered in their professional lives.  All of them tried to go through official channels, where they were largely blocked.  I specifically liked the point made that the recent administrations leak secret information as a matter of policy, and none of those leakers go to jail.

    8. How did these stories pan out?  What are the implications for other potential whistle blowers?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Well made documentary about federal whistle blowers after 20010911.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Fine for a documentary.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Voices and words were clear enough. Incidental music was not overbearing.

    3. Acting: z/10 Not applicable.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 The telling of the four stories were well packaged.