20141117: SciFi Review--Agency of Vengeance

Agency of Vengeance: Dark Rising (original title, Dark Rising 2: Summer Strikes Back!)
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 93 minutes, SciFi, camp.
    2. IMDB: 3.3/10.0 from 125 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No Tomatometer score yet...,' 'No score yet' from 7 audience ratings.
    4. Written and directed by Richard Cymek.
    5. Starring: Brigitte Kingsley as Summer Vale, Landy Cannon as Jason Parks, Cory Lee as Holly Wescott, Kyle Buchanan as Daniel Evans, Mike Nahrgang as Bulo, Michael Ironside as Colonel Haggerd, Matty McLean as Weeber, Richard Cymek as Kyle, Julia Schneider as Renee.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Before this sequel started, Summer Vale had been killing monsters in the 'demon dimension;' she came to our dimension through a portal with the assistance of Jason Parks, an agent of the Rising Dark Agency.  By the start of the current film, Jason and Summer had broken up, and Summer was about to marry Kyle.

    2. As the second film's narrative begins, Jason, Daniel, and Holly are chasing a sandworm.  They track the worm down, but are not able to save Kyle from being eaten by it.  Summer may have lost her groom, but she dispatches the worm.

    3. Back at headquarters, Colonel Haggerd advises his black ops team that there is more than usual supernatural activity near the portal.  The point of the movements is preparation for the return of Mardock to our dimension from the demon dimension.  A mysterious agent X is leading this effort.  Haggerd advises Jason separately that the Book of Shadows has been stolen, and that the thief must be apprehended as well as the Book returned.

    4. X strikes rather hard, converting Holly to a demon, killing all but eight of the agency, and taking Summer back to the demon dimension.  Summer gets to meet an old acquaintance on the other side.

    5. Will Jason and company be able to turn the tide, rescue Summer, return the Book, and seal off the portal?  Will we get to see the face of agent X?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Director made an art of making the actors look stupid.
    2. One of ten

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Basic shooting, not so bad.  SFX, not so much.

    2. Sound: 2/10 Sadly, I could hear the dialog often during breaks in the sound track, which was entirely too loud.

    3. Acting: 1/10

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Poor dialog.  Well, times 1000.


20141112: Comedy Review--The Coalition

The Coalition
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013 (video), rated R, 95 minutes, comedy, romance.
    2. IMDB: 4.3/10.0 from 384 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 1 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No critic reviews yet...',  53% liked it from 64 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on Showtime.
    5. Directed by, Monica Mingo; written by Monica Mingo and Terrell Suggs.
    6. Starring: Denyce Lawton as Skylar Hathaway, Eddie Goines as Prime Alexander, Adrienne Bailon as Katilina Santiago, J. R. Ramirez as Lonzo Ramirez, Ingrid Clay as Autumn Singletary, Sant'e Andrews as Dallas, Nadine Ellis as Kennedy Lorenze', Shanti Lowry as Dylan Singletary, Nicole Garza as Carnegie.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Prime is a sports hero who enjoys time with his male posse, Dallas, Kalif, and Lonzo.  The quartet enjoy publicly and privately embarrassing the women that they date.  Some of these women include Autumn, Carnegie, Skylar, and Katalina; these four have their women allies in tow.

    2. The four men seem to think that the wronged women will never meet and talk to each other.  Of course, that does happen, and the women eventually find common cause for revenge.  The tipping point came when Autumn took Skylar to a park where Prime was with his wife and kids.

    3. Will the ladies break up the pack?  Will the men defend themselves?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Chick flick cliche extravaganza, plus foibles of the idle rich.
    2. One star of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 No problems. Looks like very high end video.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Unfortunately, I could hear the sound track.  I could hear the dialog, which was a mixed blessing.

    3. Acting: 0/10

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 It has a plot of sorts, but there is nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing engaging, nothing touching.


20141111: Drama Review--August Osage County

August: Osage County
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 121 minutes, drama.
    2. IMDB: 7.3/10.0 from 47,908 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 25 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 64% on the meter; 66% liked it from 37,309 audience ratings.
    4. I saw the film on Showtime.
    5. Directed by: John Wells.
    6. Starring: Meryl Streep as Violet Weston, Julia Roberts as Barbara Weston, Ewan McGregor as Bill Fordham, Margo Martindale as Mattie Fae Aiken, Chris Cooper as Charlie Aiken, Sam Shepard as Beverly Weston, Dermot Mulroney as Steve Huberbrecht, Abigail Breslin as Jean Fordham, Julianne Nicholson as Ivy Weston, Juliette Lewis as Karen Weston, Benedict Cumberbatch as Little Charles Aiken, Misty Upham as Johnna Monevata.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Violet Weston's husband Beverly walks off one day, and turns up dead later.  Violet gathers the family.  Daughter Ivy was already there helping out.  Her sister Mattie Fae and husband Charlie show up early, as do daughter Barbara with her husband Bill.  Jean is the daughter of Barbara and Bill.  Violet's daughter Karen (with fiance Steve) get there before the funeral.  Showing up after the funeral is Little Charlie, son of Charlie and Mattie Fae.

    2. So, let the drama begin.  Violet is a long time abuser of prescription medicine.  Barbara and Bill have separated; Jean is seemingly out of it.  Charlie and Mattie Fae can hardly stand each other.  Little Charlie is a foulup.  Karen is concerned about her career and her upcoming honeymoon, and not so much about her family.  Her fiance, Steve, is a major pothead who tries to tempt Jean to start using.

    3. The film is set during a hot August in Oklahoma, where beef cattle are a cash crop.  Jean is a vegetarian.  That's a subject of derision at the dinner table.  Violet is high, and she rags on her dead husband, then the fiance Steve, then on 'cowboys and Indians,' then on to Barbara and Bill's separation.  The heart of Violet's complaining is her comparison of the tough childhood that she and Mattie Fae had versus the upbringing that her daughters enjoyed.  Barbara, in turn, is bloody sick of Violet's drug addiction.

    4. To add to all the drama, Violet has cancer of the mouth.  Barbara decides to take control of her mother's life.  Lots of unfortunate truths receive more light than they have seen in a while.

    5. Will the family dysfunction continue, or get worse?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Tense family dinner after a funeral forces secrets out.
    2. Eight of ten

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

    2. Sound: 8/10 I could hear the dialog, except for Cumberbatch's mumbling.  The sound track did not add much.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Most of the performances were quite good: Chris Cooper, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Juliann Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Sam Shepard, Ewan MacGregor.  However, several of the characters had little screen time and few lines.  The presence of Cumberbatch in an otherwise good film was curious at best.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 There is nothing new here, and little interesting, in terms of story and plot development.  A dysfunctional family has a chewy weekend after a funeral.  Streep and Roberts get some acting exercise here, but the rest of the cast is underused to the point of being wasted.


20141108: Drama Review--The East

The East
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American/British live action feature length film, 2013, rated PG13, 116 minutes, drama, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 6.9/10.0 from 33,230 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 6.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 74% on the meter; 65% liked it from 19,118 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on HBO.
    5. Directed by Zal Batmanglij; written by Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling.
    6. Starring: Brit Marling as Jane Owens/Sarah Moss, Alexander Skarsgard as Benji, Ellen Page as Izzy Cannon, Toby Kebbell as Doc, Shiloh Fernandez as Luca, Aldis Hodge as Thumbs, Danielle MacDonald as Tess, Jamey Sheridan as Richard Cannon.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Jane Owens goes undercover for her security firm to gain intelligence about an eco-terrorist group called The East.  As Sarah Moss, Jane succeeds in this.

    2. Soon enough, Jane takes part in the group's 'jams' or stings of corporations who have done illegal actions, such as selling poisonous drugs or polluting drinking water with carcinogens and other toxins.  In so doing, she participated in the commission of multiple felonies.  For some reason, this is not considered a problem.

    3. There are lots of consequences for the infiltrator, for the group's targets, and for The East itself.

    4. Will Jane make it out alive from this group of psychotics?  The first time I believed it, but not afterward.  Will The East survive its own terminal self-importance?  Will any of the felons described do any jail time?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: PI infiltrates eco-terrorist group that preys on corporate evildoers.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Professionally done, but not interesting.

    2. Sound: 7/10 Professionally done, but not interesting.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Sigh.  This is the weakest part of the film. There were zero believable performances.  

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 What was the point of this story?  Advocacy for eco-terrorism?  An illustration of the Stockholm syndrome?  Another vanity film (Brit Marling) that just looks like a botched effort?

20141108: Horror Review--The Revenant

The Revenant
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2009, rated R, 117 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 6.4/10.0 from 8,239 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 56% on the meter; 51% liked it from 2,140 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on the SyFy channel.
    5. Written and directed by D. Kerry Prior.
    6. Starring: David Anders as Bart Gregory, Chris Wylde as Joey Luebner, Louise Griffiths as Janet, Jacy King as Mathilda.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Bart gets shot in Iraq and dies from it.  He was embalmed, and his coffin was put in the grave.  For better or for worse, the coffin was not buried.  Bart awakens that night, leaves his coffin and finds a nearby morgue.  After cutting the cords tying his mouth shut, and ripping off some nasty looking skin, Bart goes to seek out his friend Joey.

    2. Joey is taken aback.  He was at Bart's funeral.  Bart looks rather bad.  At dawn, Bart drops to the floor.  At dusk, he rises again.  After a botched mugging against them, Bart and Joey discover that Bart needs blood to repair his body.  These traits characterise a 'revenant.'

    3. Through a bumbling progression, Bart and Joey grow to like killing violent bad guys and draining their blood.  Unfortunately, Bart helps Joey become a revenant, and the two of them become terribly more effective as they gather money, better weapons, and experience killing gangsters.

    4. Also unfortunately, they are not careful enough about disposing of the corpses of the bad guys that they kill and drink the blood of.  Some of them return as revenants, and with memory intact and with revenge intended.

    5. Perhaps more dangerous for Bart and Joey is the fact that the authorities have noticed their vigilantism.  They are tracked.

    6. Who would the greater threat be for our heroes, the revenge seekers, or those who would use them as tools?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Two friends become undead vigilantes.
    2. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 Reasonably good, but awfully dark. 

    2. Sound: 5/10 A bit odd during the murder scenes.

    3. Acting: 6/10 The two principals were rather good.  The others, not so much.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 The narration moves along nicely.

20141108: SciFi Review--Mutant World

Mutant World
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, 2014, not rated, two hours with commercials, SciFi.
    2. IMDB: 6.6/10.0 from 10 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: no entries yet.
    4. I watched this on the SyFy Channel.
    5. Directed by: David Winning.
    6. Starring: Kim Coates as Marcus King, Holly Deveaux as Melissa King, Ashanti as The Preacher, Amber Marshall as Nicole, Jason Cermak as Geoff King,

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. A meteor kilometers wide strikes Earth.  A survivalist group goes underground and survives the impact.  Ten years later, the group's solar array gets damaged.  Volunteers go up to fix it.  The fix does not quite do the job, so the group goes out looking for other energy sources.  They encounter radiation and an aggressive mutant.

    2. Then they find some normal-looking humans, but they turn out to be mutants at night.  Great.

    3. They meet The Preacher, who hopes to return to Haven after finding more survivors.  Preacher helps out, but gets killed by the mutants.  Will the group make contact with Haven?  Will anyone find a way to be safe from the mutants?  Will any group find a stable solution in energy or weaponry?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Post-apocalyptic mutants versus normal humans.
    2. One star of five; two black holes for acting and screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 OK in some stretches, downright poor in others.

    2. Sound: 5/10 I could make out the dialog most of the time.  The background sound track was not a positive factor.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Uniformly worthless.  Kim Coates gave a few good moments toward the end of the film, but that did not even balance the long stretches of the film when he was not around.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 There are about twenty minutes of story stretched thinly to about 88 minutes with 32 minutes of commercials.  The film has an extra dose of terrible in the dialog.  The protagonist, Melissa, is so anti-effective as a leader than I was surprised that her followers did not frag her with extreme prejudice.

20141108: Action Review--Battle of the Damned

Battle of the Damned
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 88 minutes, action, adventure, horror.
    2. IMDB: 4.5/10.0 from 2,120 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No critic reviews yet,' and 14% liked it from 186 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on the SyFy channel.
    5. Written and directed by Christopher Hatton.
    6. Starring: Dolph Lundgren as Max Gatling, Melanie Zanetti as Jude, Matt Doran as Reese, David Field as Duke, Jen Sung as Elvis.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. From IMDb and RT statistics, it seems few people saw this, and very few liked it.  Also, why is Dolph Lundgren in this mess?

    2. A virus escapes from a research facility in Southeast Asia. The virus turns people into fast zombies. The surrounding city is quarantined. Max and his team are hired to rescue some rich fellow's daughter, who is alive behind zombie lines.

    3. Now and then one sees robots striding down the streets.

    4. Fast zombies and robots and Dolph.  How could this film miss?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Zombies, killer robots, Dolph Lundgren, but badly assembled.
    2. One of ten.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 1/10 Lots of hand-held shaky photography in all its dominant weaknesses.  Stupid camera angles, hideous lens flare, bizarre framing choices, such as tight close-ups of body parts.  I suppose the restricted palette (white, grey, black, plus muted greens and blues) had some purpose.  However the palette took away much of the shock of spilled blood.  This neutralised the impact of the zombie versus human and zombie versus robot fights.

    2. Sound: 2/10 The sound track seemed to be from the lower end of amateur public domain properties.

    3. Acting: 2/10 I still like Dolph Lundgren, but I hope he gives up lead roles in action films.  The other actors need to keep their day jobs.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 There were lots of unconvincing zombie deaths.  Having six people holed up in a mansion that's proof against zombies seemed ridiculous.  The dialog was terrible. The Duke character and his little fiefdom were absurd.  It was dreadfully boring; the two hours (on SyFy) seemed like five.

20141108: Action Review--The Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated PG-13, action, adventure, scifi.
    2. IMDB: 4.9/10.0 from 44,047 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 30 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 12% on the meter; 26% liked it from 29,171 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on SyFy, complete with commercials.
    5. Directed by: Chris Gorak.
    6. Starring: Emile Hirsch as Sean, Olivia Thirlby as Natalie, Max Minghella as Ben, Rachel Taylor as Anne, Joel Kinnaman as Skyler, Veronika Vernadskaya as Vika, Dato Bakhtadze as Sergei.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Sean and Ben fly into Moscow for a business meeting.  They are clearly unwelcome at the meeting, and have been shut out of the deal that they had anticipated closing.  Ben spent cash and time developing the proposal, but their 'partners' just stole it from them.  While commiserating at a bar, they meet Natalie and Anne.  These are the heroes?

    2. Soon thereafter, aliens make ingress.  People are killed; vehicles and buildings destroyed.  Bullets and the like do not touch the invaders, which seem to be non-solid energy beings of some sort.   The quartet wander the city looking for allies and weapons to survive.

    3. Will they find what they need?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Chris Gorak's resume reads art director (8 properties) more than director.  This is his second film as director, following Right at Your Door, 2006.
    2. One line summary: Four twenty-something slackers versus energy beings in Moscow.
    3. One of ten

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 2/10 To go along with the title, and the location, the film is either at night or in the dim daylight.  The SFX were often cartoonish, and rough around the edges.  I expected more from an art director.  Some of the cityscapes supposedly in Moscow were well done.

    2. Sound: 4/10 The music is much too loud, the voices often too soft.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Terrible, from the lead to the bit players.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 As the film came to its conclusion, the phrase 'too convenient' kept coming to mind.  The idea that four twenty-something losers and self-described screw-ups could survive seems unlikely.  The aliens were black boxes.  Why have they come?  What do they want?  How did they get here?


20141106: Horror Review--Stag Night

Stag Night
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2008, rated R, 84 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 4.9/10.0 from 2,313 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 1.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No tomatometer score yet,' 15% liked it from 490 audience ratings.
    4. I watched this on Showtime.
    5. Written and directed by: Peter A. Dowling.
    6. Starring: Kip Pardue as Mike, Vinessa Shaw as Brita, Breckin Meyer as Tony, Scott Adkins as Carl, Karl Geary as Joe, Sarah Barrand as Michele, Rachel Oliva as Claire.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. In New York City, four men warm up for a bachelor party at a dive.  One of the single men irritated a woman at the bar enough for her to leave with her friend.  Coupled with a near brawl, the four men get booted from the bar.  They decide to head to another venue uptown via subway.

    2. On the subway, they meet the two women who had exited the bar.  The earlier offender resumes his bad behaviour, and one of the women pepper sprays him.  The train stops to let another roll by.  The six young idiots exit the train to get out of the pepper spray, but do not get back in before the train takes off.

    3. They are locked out from the stairs to the surface.  Four of them enter the tunnel (where the electric rails are) to find a telephone or another (unlocked) portal to the surface.  There is a lot of bickering along the way.

    4. Surprise!  They do not have cell reception, of course.  They are not alone.  There are unfriendly people (well, cannibals) in the tunnels.

    5. Will any of them get out alive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Elimination derby: cannibals vs twenty-somethings.
    2. One star of five; one black hole for screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 2/10 Grainy, jumpy, out of focus, too often hand-held.  Absurdly bad blood effects.

    2. Sound: 2/10 Sound does not always match lip movements, for instance.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Actors read their lines, it seemed.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Very little content, just dissension and hard brutality, plus illogical setups and cliches.


20141104: Horror Review--See No Evil

See No Evil
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2006, rated R. 84 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 5.1/10.0 from 19,211 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 8 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 8% on the meter; 50% liked it from 116,343 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on Showtime.
    5. Directed by: Gregory Dark.
    6. Starring: Glenn Jacobs (Kane) as Jacob Goodnight, Christina Vidal as Christine, Samantha Noble as Kira, Michael J. Pagan as Tye, Steven Vidler as Williams, Rachel Taylor as Zoe, Craig Horner as Richie, Penny McNamee as Melissa, Luke Pegler as Michael, Tiffany Lamb as Hannah, Cecily Polson as Margaret.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Eight delinquents (imprisoned convicts, actually) volunteer to help cleanup a remote hotel in order to get reduced sentences.  Unknown to them, there was a robbery there four years back.  Williams is a security guard who was a cop at the original robbery.  Margaret sponsored the event.

    2. The groups breaks up into pairs.  Kira and Christine try to keep each other out of trouble.  Michael did some bad things to Kira in years past; Christine helps Kira avoid it happening again.  Tye and Richie look for the cash missing from the robbery.  Michael and Zoe get high.  Russell and Hannah try to get it on, then try to escape.

    3. Jacob starts killing the lot.  After a kill, he takes the eyes as souvenirs.  We learn from Williams that Jacob has some fondness for religious tattoos.  Kira gets to live a bit longer because she has such tattoos.  The others tend to get pulled in by Jacob's over-sized hook and chain.

    4. Does anyone get Jacob under control?  Does anyone survive the onslaught?

  3. Conclusions
    1. This was a WWE Films production.  Seems to be just as bad as their wrestling on television.
    2. One line summary: Uninspired teen elimination derby by WWE Films.
    3. Four of ten

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 The camera work seems good on the whole, but the sets are rather poor.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Mostly OK.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Nothing good here.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 All the screenplay seems like recycled horror cliches. There is plenty of death, eye gouging, and blood letting.  The number of characters seems high for an 84 minute movie.  We barely get a sketch of a given character before they get killed.

20141104: Action Review--Raze


  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 92 minutes, action, horror.
    2. IMDB: 5.1/10.0 from 2,910 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 44% on the meter; 33% liked it from 813 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on The Movie Channel.
    5. Directed by: Josh C. Waller.
    6. Starring: Zoe Bell as Sabrina, Rachel Nichols as Jamie, Tracie Thoms as Teresa, Bruce Thomas as Kurtz, Rebecca Marshall as Phoebe, Adrienne Wilkinson as Nancy, Bailey Anne Borders as Cody, Sherilyn Fenn as Elizabeth, Doug Jones as Joseph.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Joseph and Elizabeth run a facility where kidnapped women are extorted into fighting each other to the death.  (Fight to the death or we kill your close relative.)  The winner of each of their elimination derbies supposedly gets to go back to society as a free person.  Almost everyone dies though.

    2. Two women fight at a time.  The others get to watch.

    3. So.  Elimination derbies either proceed to the end, or the imprisoned group finds some way to fight back.  Sabrina is clearly the protagonist in this horrid situation.  Will she and her few allies break free?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Women instead of men in forced death matches.
    2. One of ten; black holes for acting, sound, screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 1/10 VHS quality coupled with occasional massive pixelation.

    2. Sound: 1/10 Horrible background music, and vocal sound quality was so so.

    3. Acting: 0/10 There was acting?  There was some mediocre martial arts choreography, but nothing akin to acting.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Flimsy story about an absurd horrific situation.

20141104: Drama Review--The Rite

The Rite
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated PG-13, 114 minutes, drama, horror, thriller.  Spoken languages are English and Italian for the most part.
    2. IMDB: 6.0/10.0 from 65,608 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 37 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 21% on the meter; 41% liked it from 51,969 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this film on Cinemax.
    5. Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom.
    6. Starring: Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas Trevant, Colin O'Donoghue as Michael Kovak, Alice Braga as Angeline, Ciaran Hinds as Father Xavier, Toby Jones as Father Matthew, Marta Gastini as Rosaria, Rutger Hauer as Istvan Kovak.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Michael is the son of an undertaker, and is trained in the trade as he grows up. In young adulthood, he decides to study for the priesthood.  After receiving a very expensive education, he chats with his mentor, Father Matthew.  On his last exams, Michael did well in most subjects, but not in theology.  Also, he has all sorts of doubts about himself, and submits his resignation.  Matthew directs him to spend some time in Rome taking a course about exorcism.  The instructor for the course is Father Xavier, who is very old school and clear about issues.  He sends Michael to Father Lucas to see what practical exorcism is about.

    2. Michael continues his dialog with Xavier, and meets a journalist, Angeline.  Michael decides to witness more of Lucas' work with the possessed woman Rosaria.

    3. The dialogs and the exorcisms continue, as do the flashbacks to Michael's youth and his issues with his father.

    4. Will Michael figure out what is bothering him and resolve it?  Will demons enter the fray?  Will Michael ever find his strength?

  3. Conclusions
    1. The film's end credits claim that Michael Kovak is a real priest operating near Chigago, US, and that Lucas Trevant is another real exorcist working near Firenze, IT, and has done over 2000 exorcisms.  If this is a 'true story,' the film makers should have done a better job.
    2. One line summary: Young man needs to resolve his doubts before becoming a priest.
    3. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Uniformly excellent.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Lots of mumbling, but some beautiful music here and there.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Not that great, but I blame that on the script.  The five points was for the fine performance of Hopkins, and nothing else.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 This would have been a nice 20 minute short.  There is not enough story here to merit 114 minutes.  The actors tried, but this is old ground, and there is little new here.  Perhaps this is a strong example of bad horror.  Inept and untrained fools with little purpose in life are expected to go up against an organised and experienced enemy.  Why should they have any hope of success?  Michael's conversion at the end is just not believable.  Perhaps this might have worked with a better actor, a better script, a better director.

20141104: Adventure Review--Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, PG, 106 minutes, adventure, fantasy.
    2. IMDB: 5.910.0 from 65,846 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 90 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 41% on the meter; 56% liked it from 101,862 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on HBO.
    5. Directed by: Thor Freudenthal.
    6. Starring: Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson, Alexandra Dadario as Annabeth, Douglas Smith as Tyson, Levin Rambin as Clarisse, Brandon T. Jackson as Grover, Jake Abel as Luke, Anthony Head as Chiron, Stanley Tucci as Mr. D (Dionysis), Nathan Fillian as Hermes, Paloma Kwiatkowski as Thalia.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The time is the present; the genre is fantasy, in particular the world according to Greek mythology.  The story centers around a safe camp for 'half bloods' who are the children of Olympian deities and humans.

    2. This film is the sequel to Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief.  The mentors of the camp are Chiron and Mr D.  Percy Jackson (son of Poseidon) and Clarisse (daughter of Ares) are still in contention.  Percy has been coming in behind Clarisse in most of the training contests that are a regular feature of camp life.

    3. At the start of the film, Thalia is shown dying heroically to save the camp from marauders.  Her father, Zeus, gave her a second life as a tree that generates a field that protects the camp full time.

    4. Years later, the camp is broken into by a huge mechanical bull that has flame throwing capabilities.  The bull breaks the shield and delivers what appears to be a fatal blow to Thalia.  Percy destroys the bull with Poseidon's sword.  Luke shows up soon afterward with allies who have joined his cause to bring down Olympus.  Luke is repelled, and the camp goes on high alert.

    5. To heal the camp's defense, Chiron and Mr D decide to send a group to the Sea of Monsters to gain the Golden Fleece from Polyphemus Island.  Clarisse is chosen to head this team, and Percy is not included.  Percy, Annabeth (daughter of Athena), Grover, and Percy's new found half-brother Tyson (son of Poseidon) decide to go as a second team.

    6. Standing in their way is Luke and his minions, who wish to bring Kronos back from the dead.  Other obstacles include the denizens of the Sea of Monsters, time running out, and large distances.  Allies include Hermes and Poseidon, who help mightily, but indirectly.

    7. Will Percy and his friends find a way to restore a semblance of order?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Rebel demigods strive to resurrect Kronos to overthrow Olympus.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Mostly fine.  The often present CGI was variable in quality, much of it good.

    2. Sound: 8/10 The dialog was clear.  The choices of music were indeed atmospheric, but not all that apropos.

    3. Acting: 6/10 I enjoyed Nathan Fillion the best; Stanley Tucci and Anthony Head were also good.  The performances of the younger set were not so fine.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 The narrative moves right along, but is somewhat predictable.


20141102: Comedy Review--Adult World

Adult World
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 97 minutes, comedy.
    2. IMDB: 6.1/10.0 from 7,293 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 54% on the meter; 37% liked it from 4,530 audience ratings.
    4. I saw this on Showtime.
    5. Directed by Scott Coffey, written by Andy Cochran.
    6. Starring: John Cusack as Rat Billings, Emma Roberts as Amy, Evan Peters as Alex, Armando Riesco as Rubia, Shannon Williams as Candace, John Cullum as Stan, Cloris Leachman as Mary Anne.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Amy recently graduated from a good school with 90,000 USD in debts.  She does not have a job, and has been piling up new debts with her compulsion to enter every poetry contest she can find.  Her parents are near (or somewhat past) their ability to support her financially.  Her father gives her an ultimatum: get a job.

    2. Amy goes looking for that job, and fails repeatedly.  Reaching the end of her rope, she interviews for, then accepts with regret, a job at Adult World. This sex shop sells books, magazines, and various related paraphernalia.  Amy is clueless about many things, and being a good employee is one of those things.  She tries, and is rather bad at it.  Alex advises her of her shortcomings, but she does not know that she is supposed to get better at it.  On the other hand, she makes new friends of value through work.

    3. In parallel, she convinces her poet hero, Rat Billings, to mentor her in producing good poetry.  This is not an easy relationship, to say the least.

    4. Will Amy learn some basic life skills?  Will she get published?  Will she ever get Rat's respect?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: John Cusack's performance helped float this dull comedy.
    2. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Reasonable.  The dark look reflects Syracuse in winter, but also Amy's depths of mood while struggling to navigate life on her own.

    2. Sound: 8/10 I had no problems hearing the lines spoken by the actors.

    3. Acting: 4/10 The story is good enough, but the execution was wretched.  The 97 minute runtime felt like 3 hours.  The plus four on the rating was from John Cusack's solid performance.  Emma Roberts was non-engaging.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 Some of the largest steps in the narrative were told in the closing credits.  I found this discouraging.  The pace was plodding.