Monthly Archives: February 2015

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DVD Review – The Remaining

Category : DVD Review

Director: Casey La Scala

Starring: Johnny Pacar, Shaun Sipos, Italia Ricci

Year: 2014

You know how they say that Seinfeld is a show about nothing?  Well, that might have worked for them, but you can’t really use that same philosophy to create a successful horror movie.  You need something to make the story horrific, otherwise it’s just horrible.  When I first saw the trailer for The Remaining I thought that it looked like a great mix of disaster and horror, a film to satisfy my love for both genres and to take me on a wild ride.  The end of the world, fallen angels, head-sized hail; what’s not to like?  But someone forgot to either add more to the remaining majority of the film or to stretch those elements out a little, because, at some point while watching, I came to the realization that nothing had been happening for about 45 minutes.  This film turned out to be a movie about nothing; not exactly what I sat down to see.

The Movie

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A group of friends gather at a wedding to celebrate the marriage of a pair of their cohort; sounds pleasant enough.  There’s Skylar & Dan, the happy couple, two friends who fell in love seven years ago when the gang got together.  There’s Jack & Allison, another couple, but one that has been together just as long with no long term commitment.  And then there’s Tommy, the BFF of all, the videographer of their lives, and a young man who is secretly in love with Allison.  With each passing year that Jack doesn’t step up his game, Tommy is more & more enticed to profess his feelings for Jack’s girl, but that’s easier thought than done.  For now, the gang is happy to party with their enormously smitten friends, have a good time, and just enjoy life.

Well, enjoy life while they can I guess, cause shit’s about to go down.  During the reception, and without warning, the room gets cold, about half of the guests collapse, and all hell breaks loose.  The people who fall down are ice cold, have milky blue-white eyes, and seem to be dead.  The survivors begin to panic, but before they can do anything, it all gets worse.  Lightning and fire flash from the sky, giant hail rains down, planes start plummeting out of nowhere, earthquakes begin, and the world seems like it’s ending.  But no, literally, the world is ending, as the Rapture is upon the Earth and much worse than natural disasters is waiting for the panicked and desperate Remaining.

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It’s a set up that saw me coming a mile away, a con of a movie that sucked me in before I could even think about it.  It’s got all the makings of a great sci-fi adventure; a group of attractive friends, secret loves, a party, a disaster, the amazing power of Mother Nature, and a supernatural threat that’s about to torture the whole world.  This movie was primed to impress, at least the group that I’m a part of, those crazy people who love to watch the world crumble and the little people run around panicking.  And with Armageddon thrown in for good measure, there’s no way this story could fail to get me excited.  It would take an idiot to fail to produce at least a cult classic with this story.

And fail they did.  Miserably.  It’s not really hard to figure out why either; because nothing happens and there’s no point.  Like I said before, this can work for a comedic television show, even a quirky film.  But you can’t have nothing happen in a sci-fi/action/horror/apocalyptic thriller.  Now, in their defense, I guess some things happened.  The world started ending, there was excitement at the beginning, and there was even some dark, terrible thing out there in the dangerous streets.  And that’s where the action ends.  The friends get to a church and start talking for about half the movie, about religion & relationships & boring crap, never remembering that they’re supposed to be making a good movie.  By the end, when nothing is resolved and you stop caring about any of the characters, you start to feel like you were tricked, that some wingnut might have made a very bad horror movie just to get you into heaven.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 1080p HD, the high quality of Blu-ray is wasted on this film.  Some parts were shot with a hand-held camera, though not too many, leaving the rest of the film to flounder in crisp definition.  With a plot like this, you’d expect more; more amazing visuals, more cool graphics, more intense action.  But it’s all missing, leaving you to wonder if the quality of the film was taken to the afterlife along with half the world population.

Audio – There are a ton of audio options on the Blu-ray.  The film can be heard in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Descriptive Service, or Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  There is also a choice of four subtitles: English, English SHD, French, or Spanish.  The sound quality of the film is fine, but disappointing along with the rest of the movie.  The effects failed to live up to the possibilities.

Extras – If you’re dying for more, there are a few extras on the disc.  There is a two minute long deleted scene called Tommy Apologizes To Jack.  There is a twenty minute long behind the scenes segment called Making The Remaining.  And there are four trailers: When the Game Stands Tall, Soul Surfer, To Save a Life, and The Song.

Final Thoughts

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Skip It.  It’s not a good sign when you finish watching a movie and you’re angry at it.  Perhaps for a really intense drama, one that you invested everything into and the main character dies, that wouldn’t be a terrible thing.  But not here, that’s not how audiences are supposed to feel after this one.  What was advertised as a genre film quickly became anything but, a mix of Dante’s Peak and Left Behind that feels more like a sermon and less like a thriller.  Where was the blood, the boobs, and the belly laughs?  That’s what we all want to see from a movie like this, and sadly it was all missing.  The video quality of the film was fine but with wasted definition, the audio was only OK but with a lot of options, and the extras were few & not wonderful.  This is a movie you can miss, since it makes absolutely no impact.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 


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Movie Trailer – Beyond the Reach

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jean-Baptiste Leonetti

Starring: Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine

Release: July 17th, 2015

I like Jeremy Irvine (War Horse, Great Expectations, The Railway Man, A Night in Old Mexico) and I respect Michael Douglas’ career, but the guy is 70; it’s gonna be hard to buy that he’s this sociopathic millionaire who loves driving around in the 130 degree heat yelling at a young, semi-nude man over a bullhorn.


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Book Review – The Songs of Distant Earth

Category : Book Review

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Year: 1986

Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, & Isaac Asimov are considered the “Big Three” of science fiction.  Asimov is my most-read sci-fi author and probably the most recognizable name.  I Robot, the Foundation series, Fantastic Voyage, Bicentennial Man, Robot Dreams, Robot Visions; he was the master of robotic fiction and a man who understood the future of AI & technology more than anyone of his time.  Robert Heinlein may be best known for writing Starship Troopers, the movie version being a cult classic favorite, but he is also famous for the award-winning Stranger in a Strange Land.  Arthur C. Clarke’s claim to fame is in writing 2001: A Space Odyssey, which of course would later become one of the most talked-about films of all time.  The Songs of Distant Earth was my first chance to read Clarke, and if his other novels are anything like this one, it won’t be my last.

On the planet of Thalassa, roughly two thousand years in the future, a small global population of humans thrive in what could be considered paradise; oceans covering the majority of the planet’s surface, a high average temperature, plentiful food, an island nation made up of individuals who don’t believe in monogamy, religion, or hard work.  But this idyllic existence is about to be shattered.  The Thalassans know that they are a people born of a genetic seed starship sent from Earth in the time just before the death of the Sun.  They stopped attempting communications with other such groups long ago, happy to live out the time of their species in peace.  But a spaceship has just entered their atmosphere, a rocket full of human cargo; sleeping Earthlings, thousands of years old, the last to escape a dying planet after all hope for survival was lost.  Now these two groups from two very different times & places must learn to coexist, learn from each other, and adapt, for their worlds have been changed forever.

If there’s such a thing as relaxing sci-fi, this is it.  I don’t mean to say that nothing happens, far from it, but the setting of the story and the way in which it is told creates a sense of relaxation and enjoyable reading that authors all around the world can only dream of.  Clarke sets up a story that is at once extremely technical and easy to understand, presenting the theoretical science while allowing for the details to be a backdrop to the inherent drama of the situation.  If you’ve ever read On the Beach you’ll know the feeling that I’m talking about; an intense situation given a laid-back vibe that creates an ease in reading.  More Clarke is now on the docket; I want to see what else he can do and where else he can take me.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Big in Japan

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: John Jeffcoat

Starring: David Drury, John Jeffcoat, Sean Lowry

Release: February 20th, 2015

Obviously, this movie is weird.  But I think it might be so weird as to be unwatchable.  Art is great & all, but at some point you have to get an audience if you want that art to be appreciated.  There’s a fine line between selling out and staying true, and I think John Jeffcoat’s other film Outsourced was the former, while this one looks to be the latter, but maybe too much so.


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Movie Review – Ida

Category : Movie Review

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Starring: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza

Year: 2013

Ida has been nominated this year for a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.  Not bad for a little Polish film directed by a man who, until recently, worked solely in documentaries and movies no one has heard of.  It’s a big stage for such a little picture, a movie shot in black & white, a story about a young girl, a film in which there is little action, excitement, or pizzazz.  It may end up having been beaten out for the prize by a more vocal film, something with a bit more punch.  And I certainly wouldn’t have chosen it to be in this company; the best foreign film that I saw this past year was Force Majeure, which actually wasn’t even nominated.  But Ida is here to stay, and although it may not be incredibly affecting, it’s a story worth seeing.

Anna is a novice at a Polish convent in 1962.  She was left at the convent as a baby, raised by the nuns, has never known any other life, and is about to take her permanent vows.  But before she does, the Mother Superior has strange orders that Anna must carry out.  An aunt has been spoken to, Anna’s only living relative, and the Mother wants the young girl to meet a member of her family, learn about her past, and confront whatever truth has been hidden all these years, before Anna speaks her eternal vows.  And so Anna learns that her real name is Ida, that she’s a Jew, and that she was taken from her parents as an infant.  But the entire truth is almost too painful to face, and the aunt that she had never met may become the only person who understands.

This story is very sad, very cold, and well-suited to a subtle, black & white film in which the action matters less than the emotion.  We learn about Ida, her family, her aunt, the past, the horrors of WWII, and those who would do anything to survive.  It’s heavy subject matter never laid on too thick, a film that could have become a melodrama but held itself back.  For that I give it credit, but I still would have liked a touch more.  Perhaps Trzebuchowska was a bit too quite or reserved, maybe a little one-note or under-seasoned.  This was her debut role after all, and it paled in comparison to Kulesza, the aunt, who I thought was incredible.  Overall, the story was a solid base, the direction was deftly done, and the acting was quite good.  But I was left wanting more and wishing for a little extra to sink my teeth into.  Perhaps that’s just me being a jittery American, or perhaps Ida missed the mark by a hair.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Cut Bank

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Matt Shakman

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, John Malkovich, Billy Bob Thornton

Release: February 26th, 2015

For a thriller, this looks pretty awesome.  When you’re doing a genre film, you only have to do two things well: stick to the classic model and make the film visually original.  I think Cut Bank might succeed at both and just might be more than just your average, every day, throwaway thriller.


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Movie Review – A Good Marriage

Category : Movie Review

Director: Peter Askin

Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang

Year: 2014

Sometimes I wish Stephen King weren’t my favorite author.  I wish I had a more obscure choice, or a more classic choice, or a choice that people didn’t respond to with “Oh yeah his books are scary.”  Yes, King writes horror, but he also writes some of the best character stories you will ever read.  The Stand, Hearts in Atlantis, The Green Mile, the Dark Tower series; these are some of the best novels ever written, not just because they’re exciting, but because they have an amazing depth of character, something that King seems able to create in the first five pages.  So I can’t get away from him being my favorite, regardless of how cliche that might be.  But there’s one more reason I sometimes wish he wasn’t; his books are almost always made into movies and are almost always horrible.

After twenty-five years of marriage, Darcy & Bob Anderson are the perfect example of a good marriage.  They have a nice house in Cleaves Mills, Maine, they have two wonderful & successful grown children, Bob is the best accountant for miles around, and they even share the hobby of coin collecting, a passion that keeps them connected even when Bob is away on business trips.  They compromise, they have a good love life, they know each other extremely well, and, really, life couldn’t be better.  But one secret can be the wedge that breaks apart what seemed perfect on the outside but is actually rotten to the core.  That secret comes in the form of hidden IDs, stashed away by Bob, found by Darcy, and connected to a local serial killer in a way that will destroy the wonderful life they have built.

This story comes from a collection of novellas called Full Dark, No Stars.  It’s a nice collection of four stories, all very dark but not overly fanciful.  One story deals with murder, another rape, the third selfish choices, and the last a serial killer.  A Good Marriage is not an overly suspenseful or exciting story, it’s one of character building in which we meet Darcy and follow her along a very difficult journey.  The “twist” comes right at the beginning and the rest of the plot unfolds as a study in human psychology and instinctive survival.  What I’m saying is that it’s a good story, but doesn’t make for a good movie.  There’s just not enough drama, though they added in as much as they could to make the film more suspenseful.  What they should have done was to hire some actors that could actually come off as believable, instead of these made-for-TV actors who made the whole thing feel like a skit.  And then Mike O’Malley makes an appearance for some unknown reason; the guy should have just retired after hosting Guts.  All in all, this was a cheap attempt at taking good writing and transferring it to the screen.  It just didn’t work, can’t stand on its own, and never really had a solid chance with this cast.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Minions

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney

Release: July 10th, 2015

I never saw the Despicable Me movies so I don’t know what’s going on.  I’ve heard they’re good but they look dumb to me, if I’m being honest.  I can’t see going back to watch them now in preparation to what thins one, so I’ll just chalk this series up as one that someone else can review.


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Movie Review – Paddington

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul King

Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins

Year: 2014

I went with my family to see Paddington as part of my son’s birthday.  It wasn’t a movie I sought out or ever thought would be a fine film; I went because it was the only age-appropriate kid’s movie playing at the time.  It was the first time my son had been to the theatre, so for that reason this film will always be memorable to me.  So I went in not expecting much, knowing that I would remember this event whether the movie was good or bad, but never expecting actual quality to come across the screen in the form of a fuzzy bear with a British accent.  Perhaps it was the English setting, the classic storybook feel, the simple characters, or the inherent emotion of the movie; I’ll never be sure.  But Paddington was more than just heartwarming; it was actually good.

Many years ago in Darkest Peru, an English explorer journeyed through the jungles in hopes of discovering new & interesting species.  Well, he found one, a family of highly intelligent bear that lived in the trees.  He passed along to them his language, his culture, and his love of marmalade, leaving the bears wholly changed but highly satisfied.  Much later, after a tragic event, the youngest of these bears would go looking for the land of this explorer, ready to discover new places himself and finally meet the people of London.  Well, the city wasn’t exactly what he imagined and the people weren’t exactly as nice, except for one family, The Browns, who named the bear Paddington, took him in, and fell in love with this special creature, despite all their differences.

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Somehow, I have never read these books.  I’m not sure how that happened, since I’ve been an avid reader since early childhood, have two kids of my own, read classic storybooks & novels to them all the time, and have always known who Paddington was.  This is something I shall have to remedy, because I too fell in love with this bear.  It’s a clean & easy storyline that speaks right to the heart and is easy to appreciate; a youngster who has lost his family, goes looking for a new one, and finds love where he least expected it.  It’s a warm plot with only a few scary parts, and those mild & silly.  By the end, you root for the bear and fear for his safety; something that can’t be said about every protagonist you come across in American cinema.

But, again, it wasn’t just pleasant, the film was well-made.  The animation was excellent, with colorful scenes, a high volume of action, beautiful sets, and an attention to detail that was praise-worthy.  The Brown’s house was spectacularly crafted, making you instantly want to live there and allowing you to understand why Paddington, once there, didn’t want to leave.  As far as the acting was concerned, Bonneville & Hawkins were great as the Brown parents, each different yet each conveying a strong set of emotions.  And Nicole Kidman as the villain was uproarious, as she played a cold-hearted taxidermist who wanted to stuff our hero and would stop at nothing to fulfill her dream.  Paddington is an enjoyable film, one that you walk away from feeling good but also appreciating the effort that was put in to bringing this classic story to life.  Too often filmmakers rely on our love for the original medium, neglecting or not caring to present it in a better package, knowing that the money will come rolling in regardless.  Not here, not with this movie, and for that I’ll always be appreciative.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

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Movie Trailer – Lost River #2

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ryan Gosling

Starring: Iain De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan, Christina Hendricks

Ben Mendelsohn, Matt Smith, Eva Mendes, Barbara Steele

Release: February 25th, 2015

This is the second trailer for this film that I’ve put up, the first being more of a teaserLost River could very well be the weirdest movie of the year, but I think I want to give it a shot.  It’s Ryan Gosling’s first attempt at either writing or directing, so how that will work is anyone’s guess.  But he’s a talented guy, seems to have gathered a talented cast together, and could perhaps make this odd story work on screen.