20140524: Action Review--The Adventurer

The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2013, PG, 99 minutes, action, family features.
    2. IMDB: 5.3/10.0 from 1,588 audience ratings. Estimated budget: 25 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 17% on the meter; 23% liked it from 599 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Jonathan Newman.
    5. Starring: Aneurin Neuman as Mariah Mundi, Sam Neill as Otto Luger, Michael Sheen as Charity, Ioan Gruffudd as Charles Mundi, Keeley Hawes as Catherine Mundi, Lena Heady as Monica, Xavier Atkins as Felix, Mella Carron as Sacha.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The time and place are somewhere that has both steampunk and fantastic elements.  The clothing and cultural affect is late Victorian; the technology, steam, mechanical, with some electricity, but no electronics.  The dual quests are for a lost brother and a magical, powerful box.

    2. The Mundi family and Charity are on one side of the quest for the box.  Luger and Monica are on a different side.  Charity gains some particular intelligence about Luger's efforts, plus a broken key relevant to the box.  He relays some information and the pieces of the key.  Soon thereafter, the Mundi family is attacked.  Charity helps Mariah escape, but Charles, Catherine, and Felix are kidnapped.  The parents, Charles and Catherine, and questioned harshly by Luger, and Felix is made to work in a particular mine.

    3. Mariah works at Luger's hotel to gain intelligence, disguised as a new porter.  He has some success at this, and meets Sacha.  After Luger gets the two broken key pieces from Felix and Mariah, he adds another piece to complete it.  The fun really begins, as Luger gets closer to the box.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: YA action thriller; steampunk, fantastic elements.
    2. Four stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Dark and murky, but well shot.

    2. Sound: 9/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Sam Neill was good, as was Michael Sheen.  Aneurin Neuman grew on me during the film.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Moves right along.  I'm looking forward to the sequel.

20140524: SciFi Review--Star Trek into Darkness

Star Trek: into Darkness
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, PG-13, 132 minutes.  Estimated budget: 190 million USD.
    2. IMDB: 7.8/10.0 from 372,150 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 87% on the meter; 90% liked it from 309,428 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: JJ Abrams.
    5. Starring: Chris Pine as James Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Karl Urban as McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scott, John Cho as Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, Bruce Greenwood as Admiral Pike, Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus, Alice Eve as Carol Marcus, Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. In this second Star Trek film of the Abrams era, Kirk and Spock are still running the Enterprise, and are still doing it in amateurish fashion.  However, there is a lot of action, excitement, and relief when difficulties are overcome.

    2. While completing the mission in the opening sequence, Kirk violates the prime directive in order to save Spock who was doing the last part of saving a new species of sentient beings.  Sigh.  Kirk loses command of the Enterprise.

    3. Admiral Pike finagles getting Kirk to be his First Officer just before there is an attack on a critical Starfleet installation.  The attack leads to a high level conclave of Starfleet officers.  Kirk figures this out just before the attack, and manages to blunt (but not stop) its effects.  There are heavy losses.  Kirk gets back the Enterprise, and is ordered to find and kill the perpetrator.  His crew is given special weapons to accomplish this.

    4. Kirk's quarry is traced to a deserted part of Kronos, the Klingon homeworld.  The quarry's real name is Khan who is the maximal result of a eugenics experiment done many years earlier on Earth.  Admiral Marcus (Pike's superior) had hoped to use Khan against an array of future enemies, such as the Klingons.  Khan and Marcus had a falling out, though, and the whole dynamics of the film is derived from that.

    5. For the Federation to be brought back to an even keel, Marcus' vision of endless war has to be put aside, and Khan has to be contained somehow.  Just to make things for fun, Carol Marcus, the daughter of the Admiral, stows away on the Enterprise.

    6. So, will the Enterprise crew be up for it?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Abrams' second attack on Star Trek.
    2. Four of ten.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 For the most part, the blending of CGI with real photography was well done.  I saw why there are so many posted complaints about lens flare, however.  Some of the sets were laughably stupid looking.

    2. Sound: 4/10 The often symphonic music seemed an odd choice, and only amplified my misgivings about the film.

    3. Acting: 4/10 I liked the performances of Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, and Peter Weller quite a lot.  However those six good choices were more than offset by the miscasting of the pivotal characters Khan, Spock, Kirk, and Uhura.

    4. Screenplay: 3/10  Usually, I watch action films in one sitting with no breaks whatsoever.  This property took me four days to watch, since it just did not interest me that much at any stage.  The three principal characters were all drawn as emotionally childish and short of training for their chosen profession. It seemed utterly unlikely that such incompetence could produce good results in very difficult situations.


20140520: Action Review--The Avengers 2012

The Avengers (2012)
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, PG-13, 142 minutes, action, scifi.
    2. IMDB: 8.2/10.0 from 659,742 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 220 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 92% on the meter; 91% liked it from 1,098,456 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 4.5/5.0 from 5,956,605 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Joss Whedon.  Screenplay by: Joss Whedon, story by Zak Penn.
    6. Starring: Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man/Tony Stark, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk/Bruce Banner, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Stellan Skarsgard as Selvig, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers, Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Loki travels to Earth with the help of aliens who intend to invade.  Loki steals the Tesseract in order to open a portal from the invaders' location to Earth.  While doing this, he instills a large amount of tension among certain SHIELD operatives.

    2. The SHIELD project 'Avengers' gets started to counter Loki's activity.  By the time the Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America) get done dealing with each others' egos, Loki has opened the portal.

    3. When the invaders flow through to Earth, the Avengers and the SHIELD flagship are already bruised and battered.  Will the Avengers save Earth?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Lots of action in the Marvel universe.
    2. Seven of ten.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 The blend of SFX and real photography was consistently well done.

    2. Sound: 5/10 The volume levels were wildly out of control.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Better than I expected.  I liked the performances of Downey, Hiddleston, Ruffalo, Johansson, Renner, Skarsgard, and Gregg quite a bit.  In contrast, Chris Evans, Cobie Smulders, and Samuel L. Jackson were, as per recent experience, reasons to stop watching.  So, seven pluses and three zeros to be charitable.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 The story was well told.  Two hours and twenty-two minutes is fairly long, but went along very smoothly.


20140518: Comedy Review--Much Ado about Nothing

Much Ado about Nothing
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, PG-13, comedy, drama, romance.  Shot in greyscale ('black and white.')
    2. IMDB: 7.6/10.0 from 9,602 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 84% on the meter; 78% liked it from 24,841 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 36,414 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Joss Weedon.  Screenplay: Joss Weedon, from the play by Shakespeare.
    6. Starring: Amy Acker as Beatrice, Alexis Denisof as Benedick, Nathan Fillion as Dogberry, Clark Gregg as Leonato, Fran Kranz as Count Claudio, Reed Diamond as Don Pedro, Jillian Morgese as Hero, Spencer Treat Clark as Borachio, Riki Lindhome as Conrade, Sean Maher as Don John.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film was shot in Santa Monica (Los Angeles County, CA, US), in modern dress, with computers, pistols, automobiles, and live cell phone video.

    2. Leonato, the governor of Messina, welcomes back Don Pedro and his comrades, Benedick and Claudio, from a successful campaign, and hosts them for a time.  Claudio and Leonato's daughter Hero take a liking to one another quickly.  Benedick and Leonato's niece Beatrice take a dislike to one another and argue heatedly.

    3. Claudio and Hero's marriage is arranged quickly, while friends decide to deceive Benedick and Beatrice into thinking that each is in love with the other.  Don Pedro's brother Don John arranges for Borachio and Conrade to bear false witness that Hero was untrue to Claudio.  The marriage is stopped during the ceremony.  Hero is rejected as an adulteress by her prospective groom, by her father, and by Don Pedro.  Beatrice does not believe it.  The priest at the ceremony counsels cooling down and investigating.

    4. Since this is a comedy, one knows that most of the issues will be resolved with a good dose of wit.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Another modern take on the Shakespeare play.
    2. Four stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Greyscale (the vast majority of pixels are neither black nor white) is not my favourite, and never will be.  Despite that, most of this film is beautifully shot; I took off 2 points for camera shake.

    2. Sound: 7/10  There is a whole lot of mumbling going on.  I was hoping for crisply spoken and perfectly miked dialog.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Amy Acker, Sean Maher, Clark Gregg, and Reed Diamond were delightful.  I expected a bit more from some of the other actors.

    4. Screenplay: 9/10 The modern visuals with a dose of modern musical instruments coupled with the original text was an interesting mix.  Perhaps this is not for everyone, but I liked it.


20140515: Horror Review--The Secret Village

The Secret Village
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 89 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 2.5/10.0 from 567 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 1,950,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 42% liked it from 142 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.3/5.0 from 19,665 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Swami M. Kandan.  Written by: Jason B. Whittier, Swami M. Kandan.
    6. Starring: Jonathan Bennett as Greg, Ali Faulkner as Rachel, Stelio Savante as Joe, Richard Riehle as Paul, Toby Gadison as Jim.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Rachel is a reporter of sorts, and Greg is a screenwriter.  Both of them become interested in reports of mass hysteria in a small town in Massachusetts.  By some circumstance, they end up being roommates in a large house in the area.

    2. The locals vary between not forthcoming and outright hostile.  Rachel takes a job at a local eatery.  Rachel keeps in touch with her boss by telephone.  Greg floats around looking for information to help his creative process.  Paul and Jim help Rachel with clues as they can.  Greg's position turns out to be ambiguous; he steals some of Rachel's research materials and gives them to the villagers.  Max, Rachel's boss, is glad to help her, but needs some sort of supporting facts before bringing in authorities to deal with the evil-doers.

    3. Will Rachel get to the bottom of this?  Will Greg's position become clear?  Will the secrets be revealed?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Murky horror/mystery set in a village in Massachusetts.
    2. One star of five.  Two blackholes for acting and screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Mostly clear and sharp; only occasionally falls into shaky camera mode.

    2. Sound: 6/10 The music is reasonably creepy, but is often over the top compared to the story and visuals.

    3. Acting: 1/10 I have nothing good to say here.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Where do I begin?  Editing is a clear weakness; some clips are out of sequence.  Exposition of motivations is not good; I saw only a pinch of that on two characters.  Too many of the short conversations in the film seemed context free.  The historical flashbacks seemed to have little or nothing to do with the main storyline.  The ending may have been meant to be as wonderful as the ending of The Sixth Sense, but it fell flat instead.

20150515: Documentary Review--Thievery Corporation: Live at 9:30

Thievery Corporation: Live at 9:30
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 97 minutes, documentary, music.
    2. IMDB: 8.8/10.0 from 12 audience ratings. Twelve ratings is not much of a sample.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 100% wanted to see it from 1 audience ratings.  Yes, that is ONE audience rating.
    4. I watched this on Crackle, complete with commercials.  The commercials, at least, were done by professionals.
    5. Directed by: Jolyon Hoff.
    6. Starring: Thievery Corporation.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film consists of concert footage interwoven with documentary interviews.

    2. The camerawork on the concert footage is truly poor.  The sound recording and playback is rather good, but the visuals are amateurish in comparison.

    3. Perhaps most unfortunate about this uninspired effort is that the interviews (beautifully shot, but impoverished in content) seem to have less than nothing to do with the concert footage.

    4. I have recently watched and reviewed Metallica: Through the Never, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, and Muscle Shoals.  Compared to those majestic accomplishments, this film is amateurishly directed, visually ugly, and musically listless.

  3. Conclusions
    1. For better 'world music' try Afro-Celt.
    2. I would not recommend this to anyone.  The best parts were the commercials.
    3. One line summary: If you enjoy lens flare and smoke, you'll love this.
    4. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 If you enjoy lens flare and smoke, you'll love this.  The film is beyond belief ugly.  The multiple overlay method fails badly; the background videos seem irrelevant.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Just fine.  That is why I gave the film 2/5 instead of a (first ever) 0/5.

    3. Acting: z/10 Supposedly not applicable here, but some numbers were clearly lip-synced, and done so quite poorly.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Documentary clips: relentlessly boring, incomplete, and self-important.  Concert footage: musicians were competent, but poorly presented visually.  Fusion: complete failure.  With eyes closed, the film is a bit better.


20140514: Documentary Review--Muscle Shoals

Muscle Shoals
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 111 minutes, music, documentary.
    2. IMDB: 7.5/10.0 from 865 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 96% on the meter; 88% liked it from 2,937 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 4.43/5.0 from 23,960 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by:  Greg 'Freddie' Camalier.
    6. Starring:  Rick Hall, Jimmy Johnson, Bono, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge (When a Man Loves a Woman), Allman Brothers, Lynard Skynard, Jerry Wexler.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The recording house Fame Recording Studios began in the small town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, seemingly out of nowhere.  The film fills in a lot of back story, commentary from well-known music figures, and a great deal of local colour.  The early perspective was with Rick Hall, who led a group of local musicians who became his session crew for recordings with big names such as Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin.

    2. The story of how Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman conspired to make a cover of the Beatles' Hey Jude was touching, magical, and hilarious, as was the short story given of the beginning of the Allman Brothers Band.

    3. At one point, Rick Hall got a contract with Capital Records.  When he announces that, his early crew has an announcement of their own.  They broke off and went with Jerry Wexler (Atlantic Records) to form Muscle Shoals Recording Studios in the same town.  At first the new studio did not do well, but then the Stones recorded You've Got to Move, Wild Horses, and Brown Sugar, three of their best blues tunes, at MSRS.

    4. Rick Hall was in a feud with Jerry Wexler, and recruited a new session crew using the leverage of Capital Records.  He formed a new rhythm section called the Fame Gang.  This worked well for him.  He cut records with Lou Rawls, Bobbie Gentry, Candi Staton, King Curtis, Little Richard, Mac Davis, Joe Tex, and plenty more.  In 1971, Rick became Producer of the Year, which he did not achieve with his original session group.

    5. Jimmy Johnson's MSRS was also doing interesting things.  They signed Lynard Skynard, and recorded a number of great cuts with them.  However, the band ended up leaving Johnson when he could not sell a nine minute single to any record company.  After a plane crash took the lives of three band members, two of the survivors came back to Johnson and asked that 11 of the 17 cuts they did at MSRS become the next album.

    6. The stories about Jimmy Cliff (early reggae) and Steve Winwood (Traffic) recording with MSRS and going on the road with them were just delicious. Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Glenn Fry, and a host of others recorded at MSRS.

  3. Conclusions
    1. This one of the best documentaries I've ever seen.
    2. If you like modern music (last 50 years or so), catch this film: for the musical history, for the cultural references, for the magic and the misfires.
    3. From Sweet Home Alabama: '...now Muscle Shoals has the Swampers...'; this film gives a complete explanation.
    4. This film really does deserve the 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    5. One line summary: Beautiful portrait of two of the greatest recording studios.
    6. Five stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Beautifully shot; only some of the archival footage was not great looking, but no surprise there.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Oh, so good.

    3. Acting: z/10 Not relevant here.

    4. Screenplay: 10/10 Nicely organised; one gets a feel for the practical magic of the two studios in Muscle Shoals.


20140513: Documentary Review--Coldplay Live 2012

Coldplay Live 2012
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2012, TV-PG, 59 minutes, music, documentary.
    2. IMDB: 8.4/10.0 from 418 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 95% liked it from 109 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 4.1/5.0 from 39,415 audience ratings.  The 59 minute version was offered.
    5. Directed by: Paul Dugdale.
    6. Starring: Coldplay (Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion), Rihanna.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This concert footage film was generally in support of the album Mylo Xyloto.  Cuts from that album (Us Against the World, Paradise) plus some old favourites such as Clocks, Viva La Vida.

    2. The footage was shot mainly from Stade de France and from Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage.  The visuals with the thousands of lit wrist bracelets were interesting.

    3. There is a little commentary from Chris Martin in voiceover versus some poor footage of band members.  Otherwise, there were no interviews or insights.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Find the 96 minute version if you can.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 Meh.  Disappointing.  Looked like late eighties, early nineties.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Quite good.

    3. Acting: z/10 Not really applicable in documentary.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Not interesting.  It only had concatenated concert performance footage, which was not that good.

20140513: Documentary Review--Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 106 minutes, documentary, music.
    2. IMDB: 8.4/10.0 from 2,369 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 100% on the meter; 94% liked it from 1,816 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 4.3/5.0 from 89,551 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen.
    6. Starring: Rush (Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson), Billy Corgan, Gene Simmons, Jack Black, Les Claypool.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film takes a three-pronged approach.  First, there are interviews done in contemporary time, with the three principals of Rush, and well-known musicians who admire them, or were influenced by them.  Second, there are interviews with family, handlers, and music industry associates.  Third, there are many archival clips of live performances of Rush.

    2. Their growth from getting their first radio play in Cleveland to being well-known was quite engaging; the first hour slipped by quickly, going from nowhere to the album Moving Pictures.  Then the issue of dealing with fame started to come in.  Fan interaction rose strongly.  Alex and Geddy were fine with that, but Neil was more of a private person and avoids interactions.

    3. The band's character and their fans' characteristics are compared in lots of detail.  Neil was the principal lyricist, and his special talent seems to be reflecting his deep literacy in terms that just about anyone can understand.  Further, their music tends to be complex, yet still accessible.

    4. In the eighties, the group switched producer and instruments toward synthesizers, electronic drumsets, and keyboards.  They trended toward shorter songs with less complexity, less bass, and more keyboard.  Some of their fans drifted away, many others did not.

    5. As one of their industry admirers put it, there were different periods of Rush, and that is one of the things that makes them interesting.  Toward the end of the eighties, they switched producers again, and went back into being a 'power trio' again, but in the current context.

    6. Around 1997, Neil's daughter died in an accident, and his wife passed from illness not too long after.  He embarked on a long trip on motorcycle (55k miles).  The band shutdown while Neil healed.

    7. When Neil returned, there was a period of getting his chops back.  They recorded a new album; they went on the road again.  The band was rejuvenated, and traveled to places where they had ever been before, to large audiences.  In the 21st century, some of their fans from the seventies celebrate them: the makers of South Park and Steven Colbert, for instance.

    8. Up to the time the documentary was made, the band was going strong.  As Geddy said at one point, Rush is the world's most popular cult band.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Finely crafted documentary of the legendary Canadian rock group Rush.
    2. Five stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Nicely done.  The archival footage clips look like the eras they came from, but the current interviews looks sharp and well-produced.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Seldom disappoints.  I wish there had been more concert footage, but the exposition was too good to be omitted.

    3. Acting: z/10 Not really applicable here.

    4. Screenplay: 10/10 Well-organised, well-presented, and rich in the level of information that it presents.

20140513: Documentary Review--Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon

Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 85 minutes, music, documentary.
    2. IMDB: 7.0/10.0 from 626 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 50% on the meter; 73% liked it from 273 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.8/5.0 from 35,485 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Stephen C. Mitchell.
    6. Starring: Caleb, Jared, Nathan, Matthew Followill.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The Followills are family: deeply religious, poor, with musical traditions in the church.  Their relatives are interviewed.  There are extensive snapshots of the band on its way up, coupled with footage of the reactions from within the family during that process.

    2. Segments of the film compare and contrast: the family's poverty versus the successful band's enormous wealth; the stern religion of many of the family versus the drug use, sexual freedom, and foul language of the band; the political conservatism of the family versus the relatively PC outlook of the band.

    3. These disparities have all sorts of fallout, as one sees throughout the film.  Many of the family are happy for the band; some worry for their welfare.  Much of the white hot energy of the band's music and lyrics come from these harsh differences.  Some of the band members deal with these issues consciously, and the process seems not to be over.

    4. In the long run, how well will the band's members keep dealing with the family issues?  If they reach resolution, will the band still have the same level of fire and creativity?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Documentary of the roots of Kings of Leon.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Varies quite a bit.  Most of it is fairly bad.  It was nice to see some of Oklahoma again.

    2. Sound: 6/10 I expect hugely wonderful sound on a movie about a successful rock group.  Compared to the sound in Metallica: Through the Never, this is just week-old porridge.  In addition, there is very little music actually played from the Kings of Leon: two partial songs at the end, which was only a little redemption.

    3. Acting: z/10 Documentary; this does not apply.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 To my mind, there were too many cuts and joins.  The same points could have been made with three examples instead of twenty. On the whole, though, the exposition was still effective, just redundant.


20140512: Music Review--Black Keys 2008

The Black Keys Live at the Crystal Ballroom
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2008, NR, 64 minutes, music, documentary.
    2. IMDB: 5.1/10.0 from 30 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet' and 100% liked it from 15 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on Crackle.  The commercials were quite an improvement over the sub-amateur concert content.
    5. Directed by: Lance Bangs.
    6. Starring: Daniel Auerbach (guitar, vocals, keyboard) and Patrick J. Carney (drums) as themselves.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The Black Keys was a two man group in this 2008 effort: Daniel on guitar, keyboard, and vocals, Patrick on drums.

    2. The pair was recorded during a set at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, USA.

    3. The visuals are between poor and worse.  The audio is not that good. 

    4. One can make out some of the sound that would later mature into something good.  The musical style for which the group achieved fame was definitely not present yet.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Might be interesting for die-hard fans.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 1/10 Sub-VHS quality.  Bad focus, lens flare, so-so framing, contrast flattening.  Looks like the worst-ever camcorder product from the eighties.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Not very good.  I've heard far better quality from Black Keys cuts on the FM radio in my car.  Their expanded group for post 2010 efforts has a much better sound.

    3. Acting: z/10 Not really relevant.  This is musical performance only, with no further aspirations.

    4. Screenplay: 3/10 Straight-up concert recording, with no particular frills, or acting, or story line.  This was about the longest 64 minutes I can remember.


20140511: Thriller Review--Trap for Cinderella

Trap for Cinderella
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 99 minutes, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.4/10.0 from 657 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 25% on the meter; 20% liked it from 129 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 4,276 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Iain Softley.
    6. Starring: Tuppence Middleton as Mickey, Alexandra Roach as Do, Aneurin Barnard as Jake, Frances De La Tour as Aunt Elinor, Stanley Weber as Serge.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Mickey and Domenica meet each other after a number of years.  Do is a bank employee; Mickey is a photographer who lives as if she were rich.  Do quits her job, and they get to know each other somewhat.  They decide to get together at a house where they had common experiences as children.

    2. As 'Mickey' recovers her memory, and recovers from reconstructive surgery, we switch to flashbacks of when the two had just met each other again.  Then there are further flashbacks to the estate where there was a near drowning incident when Do and Mickey were pre-teens.  Mickey was blamed for this and a subsequent event that was at least as bad.  They do not see each other for years, partly at Do's family's insistence.

    3. In the depths of these flashbacks, a plot is hatched.  Will it succeed?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Fraud, deceit, and bullying aplenty; good story telling, not so much.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Mostly good, parts excellent, but sometimes in shaky camera mode, which looked horrid.

    2. Sound: 3/10 Bad sound leveling.

    3. Acting: 2/10 There was acting? The characters were repellant, but not engaging. I hoped the trap would spring on Cinderella so that the film would end.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Neither the pacing nor the labyrinth of flashbacks and reinterpretations were engaging.  I had a strong hope that all the main characters would be terminated with extreme prejudice.


20140509: Action Review--Sushi Girl

Sushi Girl
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 98 minutes, action, crime.
    2. IMDB: 6.0/10.0 from 2,795 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 750,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 40% on the meter; 44% liked it from 459 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 75,879 audience ratings.  I saw this the first time on The Movie Channel.
    5. Directed by: Kern Saxton.
    6. Starring: Tony Todd as Duke, James Duvall as Francis, Noah Hathaway as Fish, Andy Mackenzie as Max, Mark Hamill as Crow, Michael Biehn as Mike, Jeff Fahey as Morris, Danny Trejo as Schlomo, Cortney Palm as Sushi Girl, Sonny Chiba as Sushi Chef, David Dastmalchian as Nelson, Cyrus Alexander as Martin.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Fish has been in jail for six years, without his comrades from a diamond heist gone bad.  He took the fall, he did the time, and now he's out.

    2. Duke, Max, Francis, and Crow treat him to a sumptuous dinner in a reserved room.  The food is sushi, served off the body of a naked young woman.  The woman has been trained not to react to what the guests are doing, and this probably served her well.

    3. Soon enough, the real reason for the meeting surfaces.  The robbers had a bad accident: their van and a car encountered each other at speed.  The gang's driver was killed, the other driver was dealt with by Duke, and the cops and firemen showed up quickly.  In the process, most of the gang got away, but the diamonds seem to have gone missing.  The ones who got away want Fish to tell them where the diamonds are.

    4. There are many flashbacks as the details of the heist are rehashed, particularly the events surrounding the traffic crash.  When Fish refuses to tell his erstwhile partners where the diamonds are, they decide to encourage his veracity by force.

    5. Will there be a falling out among thieves?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Excellent acting, but a weak plot; redeemed somewhat by the ending.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Perhaps this was done intentionally, as Tarantino sometimes does, but the visuals looked gritty and jumpy, rather sub-VHS quality.  In other segments, the visuals were of reasonable quality.

    2. Sound: 9/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Mark Hamill, Tony Todd, and Noah Hathaway were great.  In much smaller roles, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, and Danny Trejo were fine.  Cortney Palm also had a limited role, but it was pivotal to the overall effect of the film.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 The last five minutes were just exquisite.  On the other hand, the characters played by Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, and Danny Trejo seemed to be vastly underused.  The worst part for me was the disposition of the diamonds after the accident.  It should have been abundantly clear where the diamonds were, and the whole extended torture sequence was unnecessary.

20140509: Documentary Review--Metallica Through the Never

Metallica Through the Never
Rob Trujillo
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 92 minutes, documentary, music, heavy metal.
    2. IMDB: 7.3/10.0 from 8,349 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 78% on the meter; 78% liked it from 11,871 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.9/5.0 from 12,828 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Nimrod Antal.  Written by: Nimrod Antal, Kirk Hammett, and Lars Ulrich.
    6. Starring: Dane DeHaan as Trip; as themselves: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo; Kyle Thomsen as The Rider.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This is a two-layered film.  There is the live action concert footage, then there is a fictional layer about Trip the roadie.

    2. The camera work was crisply shot with excellent equipment and was brilliantly edited.  The sound was seamlessly joined to it.

    3. Some of the most powerful moments for me were when the thousands of audience members sang the choruses in unison, while the band listened and encouraged.  I wished I had been there.

  3. Conclusions
    1. If you like heavy metal in general, or Metallica in particular, see this one.
    2. One line summary: The live action concert footage was great; the contrived side-plot, not so much.
    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Inventive and of professional quality; excellent camera crew and film editing.

    2. Sound: 10/10 The sound quality and editing were great.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Loved the live action concert performances. James Hetfield is quite the showman. The icing from the Trip video did not add anything.  Fortunately, the sound editing moved across those parts without a hitch.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 Fortunately, the live action concert footage was dominant.  I liked the lasers and pyrotechnics, plus the way the props crew constructed huge pieces while the band continued.  The so-so fictional sub-plot about the roadie, Trip, was less interesting.


20140506: Horror Review--Here Comes the Devil

Here Comes the Devil
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Mexican live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 97 minutes, horror, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.7/10.0 from 1,128 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 41% on the meter; 34% liked it from 2,609 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.7/5.0 from 19,665 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Adrian Garcia Bogliano.
    6. Starring: Francisco Barreiro as Felix, Laura Caro as Sol, Michele Garcia as Sara, Alan Martinez as Adolfo, Giancarlo Ruiz as Sgt. Flores.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Parents Felix and Sol take children Sara and Adolfo on a trip.  Sara starts her first period, which is a temporary alarm.  After visiting a medic, they return to their motel, and the kids want to go exploring again.  While waiting, the parents get interested in each other, and the time gets away from them.  The sun goes down and the children have not returned from their trek to a steep, rocky hill.  The police wisely advise to restart the search in the morning.  The next morning, the police return the kids.

    2. However, not all is well.  Sara draws some disturbing art.  Both Sol and Felix get unexplained bruises on their bodies.  Sara has an unexplained seizure when she sees a man who was around just before the kids went missing.  The parents do a dastardly violent crime at night.  The babysitter has an horrific blackout.  That is just the beginning of the family's descent.

    3. Is the family doomed, or will they find a way back to sanity?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Neither scary, nor suspenseful, nor gory, nor interesting.
    2. Two stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Good, but not great.

    2. Sound: 7/10 The actors were well-miked, but I was paying more attention to the sub-titles.  The music was only mildly helpful for setting mood.

    3. Acting: 3/10 Some people were in front of cameras while they hit their marks and said their lines.  I would not call any of this good acting, however.  There was way too much time spent with the camera on Laura Caro's stone face while someone off camera spoke.  Francisco Barreiro was quite unconvincing.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The film does tell a story, but it is neither interesting nor well told. The SFX and the hallucinations were not convincing at all.


20140505: Action Review--Beyond Outrage

Beyond Outrage
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 112 minutes, action, crime,
    2. IMDB: 6.8/10.0 from 2,012 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 50% on the meter, but no consensus yet; 58% liked it from 537 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 21,027 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Takeshi Kitano.
    6. Starring: Takeshi Kitano as Otomo, Toshiyuki Nishida as Underboss Nishino, Tomokazu Miura as Chairman Kato, Ryo Kase as Underboss Ishihara, Hideo Nakana as Kimura, Yutaka Matsushiga as Detective Shigeta, Fumiyo Kohinata as Detective Kataoka, Shigero Koyama as Fuse.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film is set five years after the action in Outrage ended.  The utterly corrupt Detective Kataoka is still in place, perhaps more entrenched than ever.  Detective Shigeta, a somewhat more straight arrow policeman, accompanies Kataoka on some of his tasks.  Kato is still the Chairman of the Sanno family.  Ishihara, formerly in Otomo's clan, is now Kato's underboss.  Sanno has grown considerably in wealth and power, partly because they absorbed Murase's drug business from the first film.  Other shifts in the Sanno family are placement of older executives by younger ones, and valuing acquiring money over muscling other families.  As the story begins, there is plenty of fuel in the powder keg: the old guard resent the younger upstarts; when one family expands, others just might feel threatened; the cops have decided to squeeze Sanno growth.

    2. In the film's opening sequence, the police lift a car out of the water.  Kataoka and Shigeta arrive, so one knows there is a yakuza connection.  One of the bodies is that of a high government official, and evidence points to the Sanno family issuing the hit order.  The police see that Sanno thinks its money is sufficient to buy enough protection for them to openly order the killing of a government official.  This seems to be too much to bear.

    3. Kataoka sets about riling up the yakuza against each other.  He encourages one of the old guard in the Sanno family (and two of his followers) to attempt to unseat and replace Underboss Ishihara.  He arranges a meeting with Fuse, the Chairman of the Hanabishi family.  That seems to go well, but when the trio report back to Kato, they find that Fuse had described the whole situation to Kato.  Fatalities ensue.  Resentment increases.  Kataoka gets schooled by his superior: did he not know that the Sanno and the Hanabishi were secretly allied?

    4. To get the pot boiling even harder, Kataoka arranges for the release of Otomo, whom Kimura (released years before) shanked in prison.  Kataoka had misled many (such as Chairman Kato) into thinking Otomo was dead.  Now the detective brings him forth to heat things up.

    5. Kataoka arranges a meeting between Kimura and Otomo, which goes surprisingly well.  Also, he nudges them toward 'helping' the alliance between Hanabishi and Sanno to fail magnificently.

    6. That is most of the early context of the film.  How goes the execution?  Quite well, I would say.

  3. Conclusions
    1. I would recommend seeing this film to anyone who has seen all of the first one.
    2. The exposition of motivations was much better.  I could see easily why the houses were at war with each other, and why individual alliances formed and broke.
    3. One line summary: Growing pains in the yakuza family structures.
    4. Four stars of five.

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

    2. Sound: 8/10 No particular problems, but them again, I was following the sub-titles.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Even better than the original.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Nice story development.  Not as many plot points as the original, but easier to follow.


20140504: Action Review--Outrage

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2010, rated R, 109 minutes, action.
    2. IMDB: 6.8/10.0 from 6,811 audience ratings.  Spoken word is in Japanese, sub-titles in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 77% on the meter; 64% liked it from 3,288 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 121,334 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Takeshi Kitano.
    6. Starring: Takeshi Kitano as Otomo, Kipei Shiina as Mizuno, Ryo Kase as Ishihara, Fumiyo Kohinata as Detective Kataoka, Soichiro Kitimura as Kan'nai (Mr. Chairman), Tadashi Sakata as Okazaki, Kenji Morinaga as Abe, Tokio Emoto as Emoto, Hideo Nakano as Kimura, Jun Kunimura as Ikemoto, Tetta Sugimoto as Ozawa, Tomokazu Miura as Kato, Yuka Itaya as Otomo's girlfriend, Renji Ishibashi as Murase.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This film is about warring clans within a larger yakuza community.  Mr. Chairman is the current overall leader; Ikemoto is one of his vassals.  Ikemoto, however, has started an alliance with the Murase family, which deals drugs.  Mr. Chairman is old school, and does not like trading in drugs.  The protagonist, Otomo, is a vassal of Ikemoto, but is a sworn brother of Murase.  Mr. Chairman charges Otomo with breaking this alliance by moving against Murase.  Otomo is reminded rather strongly that his loyalty to Mr. Chairman should outweigh his brotherhood to Murase.

    2. In the meantime, Detective Kataoka of the Organized Crime Unit keeps getting paid off by Otomo.  Kataoka gives Otomo intelligence that keeps the police off Otomo's back.

    3. Otomo sends an underling to let one of Murase's lieutenants cheat him out of 1 million yen.  When the lieutenant arrives at Otomo offices, he sees that the Otomo group is vassal to the Ikemoto family, and begs to skip receiving the payment.  Otomo's people insist.  Word gets back to Murase, who phones Otomo immediately.  Otomo accepts money and a finger and an apology from Murase's under boss, Kimura.  The Ikemotos demand a finger from the under boss for the insult.

    4. As one might imagine, there was a lot of hurt pride.  That, coupled with mistakes by underlings, ignites an escalating set of reprisals.  Alliances shift.  Ikemoto wants to keep the skim of the drug money, for instance, despite all the thunder coming down from Mr. Chairman.

    5. Otomo tries to keep his standing with Mr. Chairman sound, but it is not easy; nor is keeping his sworn brotherhood with Murase.  Mr. Chairman makes it worse by demanding reprisals.

    6. Who survives this bloodbath?  Will anyone be left in place?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Harsh times during a clan versus clan yakuza war.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Beautifully shot using excellent equipment.

    2. Sound: 7/10 Moot; I read the subtitles.  The background music was good, and the actors seemed to be well miked.

    3. Acting: 8/10 All the actors were rather good.  Gladly, the ones with the most screen time were the best.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 As a move-forward all-the-time action film, this was great.  However, I could have used a bit more exposition of motivation.  The film made more sense the second time I watched it, but was still a little unclear.


20140503: SciFi Review--500 MPH Storm

500 MPH Storm
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated NR, 86 minutes, SciFi, action.
    2. IMDB: 2.1/10.0 from 592 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 300,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 9% liked it from 83 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 211,507 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Daniel Lusko.
    6. Starring: Casper van Dien as Nathan Sims, Sarah Lieving as Mona Sims, Bryan Head as Johnny Sims, Keith Meriweather as Captain Wright, Dale O'Malley as Tech Oxenberg, James Lawrence Sicard as Specialist Tudor, Michael Beach as Simon Caprisi,

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Simon's group starts a energy production project.  The beam generated is a lot stronger than expected, and it starts hosing the weather in the TX/NM/AZ region.  Nathan wrote much of the theory underlying the project, but has been absent from it for a while.  When the problems start, Simon tries to contact Nathan.  The Sims family is on the run from the storms, and eventually Nathan needs to get with Simon to correct things...such as getting the core of the project's reactor cooled off.

    2. Most of the film is about getting Nathan to the project, keeping the Sims family safe, and fixing the project.

    3. Nathan gets information to Simon to stop the beam.  Then the bigger problems show up.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: There is not much to recommend this nonsensical disaster film.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 The parts with no FX were nicely shot.  The SFX were on the cheesy side.  The model for the project's main site looked like 1960s SciFi props.  Some of the matte paintings were not well done at all.

    2. Sound: 3/10 The actors were miked OK.  Some of the background music was OK, but a lot of it sounded like it was generated from an automatic system.  That irritated me quite a bit.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Sarah Lieving is always easy on the eye and the ear, but this is another film like Mega Shark and Super Shark; I wish she would move to better films.  Casper van Dien has done better work, and he helps keep this project from being absolutely terrible.  Similarly, this is about the worst property I've seen Michael Beach in.  The other actors were rather bad, Bryan Head in particular.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The dialog and the plot were both simplistic and nonsensical.  The film tries to convey a sense of urgency.  However, the repetitions, the mistakes, and the poor delivery by many of the actors negated much the urgency. 

20140503: Horror Review--House

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2008, rated R, 88 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 4.7/10.0 from 4,628 audience ratings.  Estimated budget: 2.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 0% on the meter, but no consensus yet; 27% liked it from 16,658 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 334,100 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Robby Henson.
    6. Starring: Michael Madsen as Tin Man/Officer, Reynaldo Rosales as Jack Singleton, Heide Dippold as Stephanie Singleton, Julie Ann Emory as Leslie Taylor, J. P. Davis as Randy Messsarue, Lew Temple as Pete, Leslie Easterbrook as Betty, Bill Moseley as Stewart, Alanna Bale as Susan.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Jack and Stephanie (a writer and a singer) drive in Alabama.  Jack is driving too fast, and a cop passes him.  The cop had gone ahead to block off part of the road next to an accident.  Jack runs over some of the cop's cones, so they have a conversation.  Jack asks for the quickest way back to the Interstate, and the cop gives them a shortcut.  This turns out very badly: there is a car partially blocking the dirt road, and a do-it-yourself spike strip over the rest of the path.  So, they are in the middle of nowhere with two flat tires and one spare.

    2. Jack and Stephanie find a house with lights on inside, which looks promising. There is a guest register.  Randy and Leslie (grad student in psychology, and a real estate developer) are the other involuntary 'guests,' who also ran over the same sharp iron and got flats on their BMW.  Shortly after the two couples start exploring, the electricity goes out, and the men go looking for the generator.

    3. The owners, Stewart and Betty, plus son Pete, greet them and give them some so-so news, like indifferent telephone service, no likelihood of tow trucks coming in the night, and 20 USD/person to stay the night.  Pete does fix the electricity, and Betty sets a nice table.

    4. At the dinner, the weirdness starts.  The ice is impossibly cold, visions start showing up, the owners are rather menacing.  When Leslie tries to leave, a menacing figure shows up at the front lawn.  Betty is rather discouraged, and asks them what they did in order to bring forth the Tin Man.  Leslie starts reading newspaper clippings glued to a wall, recounting an accident some years past.

    5. Betty identifies the figure as the Tin Man.  She says that he comes only for the guilty.  The Tin Man drops in a tin can with rules on it.  They need to deliver a body to the Tin Man by morning, or else he will kill all of them.  Stewart and Betty attempt to lock the quartet in the meat locker, but they fight back.

    6. So, do any of the protagonists survive?  Just who are Stewart, Betty, Pete, and Tin Man, anyway?  Do the guilty secrets of the young quartet surface?  What secrets are contained in the house?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Extended guilt trips for two couples with ugly secrets.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Too dark, with focus a bit too soft.

    2. Sound: 5/10 A bit hollow at times.  Also, the synchronisation between actors' lips and spoken words is off, giving the impression that the whole thing is dubbed without sub-titles.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Not great, but better than in many similar films.  Lew Temple, Leslie Easterbrook, Bill Moseley, and Michael Madsen were fine, though Madsen's role was rather short.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Familiar themes with not much original, though the ending did seem to be borrowed from another genre.  The story does move right along.

20140503: Action Review--On the Job

On the Job

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Philippine live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 115 minutes, action, crime, drama.
    2. IMDB: 7.1/10.0 from 755 audience ratings.  Spoken word is in Filipino/Tagalog/English; subtitles in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 100% on the meter (average 6.7/10, 13 ratings); 92% liked it from 1,232 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 10,091 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Erik Matti.  Written by Erik Matti and Michiko Yamamoto.
    6. Starring: Joel Torre as Mario 'Tatang' Maghari, Gerald Anderson as Daniel Benitez, Piolo Pascual as Francis Coronel, Jr., Joey Marquez as Sergeant Joaquin Acosta, Michael de Mesa as Congressman Manrique, Leo Martinez as General Pacheco, Angel Aquino as Lulette, Vivian Velez as Thelma.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Set in the modern day Philippines.  The film describes interactions among prisoners, crime families, police, police leaders, and politicians.

    2. Tatang and Daniel get releases (under the radar) recurrently from prison in order to carry out assassinations.  Tatang's parole has been approved, and he hopes to pass the torch to Daniel after Tatang leaves prison.  Daniel clearly is not ready, but it is hoped he will learn quickly on the job.

    3. At the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), Francis takes on new responsibilities.  He is both blessed and cursed by the shadow of his father's accomplishments, such as they were.  One of his main jobs is to keep secret the traces of the assassinations.  Francis is mob-connected, as it turns out, since his significant other is the daughter of a crime boss.

    4. As one might expect, this network of relationships, held together by blackmail and corruption, is doomed to break.  One of Francis' potential witnesses in his corruption investigation gets targeted for assassination.

    5. Looks like the house of cards could all fall down.  Which group gets the most damage?

    6. Tatang, Daniel, and Francis all have personal lives that they conduct through all of this.  Will they keep their relationships together?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Trying to bring down corruption has all sorts of personal consequences.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Well shot; looks good consistently.

    2. Sound: 10/10 The actors are adequately miked, and the music was wonderful.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Joel Torre was wonderful as Tatang.  Joey Marquez, Gerald Anderson, Piolo Pascual, and Vivian Velez were all good in their roles.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 The film did good story telling here, with a lot of texture, and just enough threads to follow.  Almost two hours was not too long at all.


20140502: Action Review--Bad Ass

Bad Ass
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 90 minutes, action, comedy.
    2. IMDB: 5.4/10.0 from 12,450 audience ratings.  Spoken language is English. Bad Ass (2012) on IMDb
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet' and 40% liked it from 6,511 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 885,072 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Craig Moss.  Written by Elliot Tishman and Craig Moss.
    6. Starring: Danny Trejo as Frank Vega, Charles S. Dutton as Panther, Patrick Fabian as Officer Malark, Joyful Drake as Amber Lamps, John Duffy as Martin, Harrison Page as Klondike Washington, Ron Perlman as Mayor Williams.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. In the first arc, Frank Vega narrates his life.  His early days on a farm, the time in Vietnam, returning to find his sweet heart married to someone else, no one willing to give him a job, starting a hot dog stand, but not branching away from that.

    2. Then we hit the defining event.  Two neo-Nazi fools roust an older black man on a bus.  Frank decides to stop them instead of letting the other old man get hurt.  He becomes a local hero of sorts.  Three months later, his mother passes.  His friend from Vietnam, Klondike, moves in with him.

    3. Mayor Williams announces a program to clean up Los Angeles, or at least parts of it.

    4. Klondike goes to buy some Camel cigarettes.  Sebastian and Terrence, two young low-lifes, are waiting for him.  He beats the hell out of them, but they shoot him in return.

    5. Frank interrupts a convenience store hold up.  He sees fairly quick action on a case where an Anglo is killed in a robbery.  He gets angry about the lack of progress on Klondike's case.  He starts investigating on his own.  His methods are more than a bit brutal.

    6. The mayor and Panther have an agreement, and Frank gets on their radar.  From his investigations, Panther is on Frank's radar.  Amber and Frank get a bit friendly.

    7. Frank gives Officer Malark (who did many a ride-along with Frank) a copy of the thumb drive that Klondike gave him for safe keeping.  Will Frank's trust prove well placed?

    8. Will Frank catch to Klondike's killer?  Perhaps more to the point, will he deal with Panther?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary:  Corruption, beatings, and felonious assaults abound.
    2. Three stars of five.

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

    2. Sound: 6/10 Between OK and uninspired.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Dutton, Perlman, Page, and Trejo were fine.  Patrick Fabian and Joyful Drake were OK, and I liked John Duffy.  The minor players were interchangeably useless.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 This could have been better.  I liked the actors by and large, but their lines were not all that good.  I found it impossible to believe that a single thumb drive was of any importance.  One of the late chase sequences made no sense at all.  If Danny Trejo is to have a love interest, perhaps a lady over 50 would be more likely.


20140501: Action Review--Bullet

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2014, rated TV-MA, 87 minutes, action, crime, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.2/10.0 from 741 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 3 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 13% on the meter; 50% wanted to see it from 27 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 2,289 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Nick Lyon.  Written by Nick Lyon and Ron Peer.
    6. Starring: Danny Trejo as Frank 'Bullet' Marasco, Jonathan Banks as Carlito Kane, Julia Dietze as Brooke Madison, Torsten Vorges as Kruger, John Savage as Governor Johnson, Eve Mauro as Samantha, Eric Etebari as Manual Kane, Max Perlich as Leroy, Kyle Villalovos as Mario, Tinsel Korey as Vanessa.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Carlito Kane kidnaps the Governor's daughter and her significant other in order to free Carlito's son Manual Kane.  They kill the young man to show how serious they are.

    2. Shortly thereafter, Carlito kidnaps Frank's grandson Mario, then attempts to force Frank to recant his testimony against Manual.  Vanessa (Frank's daughter, Mario's mother) uses the money Frank gave her (which he won from prize fighting) to buy drugs.  After she attempts suicide, Frank takes her to emergency.  In the meantime, the Governor takes Carlito's trumped up evidence to force the Attorney General to have Frank arrested.

    3. Frank does get arrested, but he and the cops sort things out.  Frank goes rogue for a while, handing in his badge, even though he does not have to do so.

    4. Does Frank get Mario back?  Does the governor's daughter get rescued?

  3. Conclusions
    1. In some of the shootouts, there were way too many bullets shot versus the number than hit.
    2. One line summary: Two good performances did not overcome a bad script.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 OK, not great.

    2. Sound: 6/10 A bit out of control on levels at times.  The actors seemed to be miked OK.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Danny Trejo and Jonathan Banks are their usual menacing, intimidating selves.  John Savage gave a sub-par performance, which I did not expect.  The other actors were forgettable, except for the terrible Torsten Vorges.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Throughout the film, I was confused as to whether Frank ever was a righteous cop.  Early on, he kills a couple of cops, for instance.  I was surprised to see that he had a badge a bit later.  After the large number of felonies that he committed, I did not see how he was not arrested.  When Frank and the kids leave the site of his killing spree, I wondered how many years of therapy those two would need later on.  They leave happy, though.  Sigh.