Monthly Archives: February 2016

  • 0

Movie Trailer – Our Kind of Traitor

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Susanna White

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgard, Naomie Harris

Release: May 6th, 2016

I trust scripts based on John le Carré novels.  He’s written The Constant Gardener, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and A Most Wanted Man, the latter being a film I think very, very highly of.  His stories are of intrigue & espionage, but not throwaway or action-buried like some.  I also trust Ewan McGregor and this team of actors, so I’m hopeful that this film will be quite solid.


  • 0

DVD Review – Transformations

Category : DVD Review

Director: Jay Kamen

Starring: Rex Smith, Lisa Langlois, Patrick Macnee

Year: 1988

The 80s were a great time for sci-fi and fantasy, even though the technology to pull off such films was nowhere near ready to support the visions of the filmmakers of the time.  But that didn’t stop them from trying, and the result is a wonderfully cheesy, campy attempt at grasping impossible dreams.  Of course, there was Aliens & Terminator, classics that worked even given the technological constraints, though for every Willow you had a hundred Transformations, films that didn’t have the money or the talent to pull off the near-impossible.  Still, there’s a hefty dose of silly magic here for those who enjoy the genre, and this movie is just another example of the fun this time period still allows us to have.

The Movie

transformations4

Wolfgang Shadduck, intergalactic space smuggler, lone wolf & high adventurer.  We don’t get much of his back story, but he has a group of friends somewhere in the galaxy who love him, he’s got a ship that he calls home, and he’s got some interesting goods for sale somewhere in his cargo hold.  All is going well for Wolf, and he sets his computer to cruise control, ready for a good night’s sleep.  But a good night is the farthest things from what is about to happen.  Wolf is visited by some monster, some demon, some evil that travels through space.  It takes the form of a beautiful woman, makes love to Wolf in his dreams, and infects him with a disease of the mind, a desire to kill, and a future of metamorphosis.

But he doesn’t know any of this yet, all he knows is that he wakes up after a strange dream, feels a little funny, but must jump right into action, as his ship is going down.  After he is knocked unconscious, his ship crash lands on an off-limit planet, depositing him in the middle of a very strange land.  Wolf finds himself in a penal colony, a progressive prison where the convicts walk free, but are pressed into ten years of mining service on the planet’s surface.  In the care of the colony’s only doctor, the beautiful Miranda, Wolf begins to grow concerned; for his freedom as availability for leaving dwindles and for his health as he begins to develop strange pains in his stomach and strange appetites for blood.

transformations5

On the surface, the story of Transformations reminds us a little of Alien 3, which would come out four years later.  The prisoners, the dark colony, the alien infection, the fight to get off the planet, a blossoming love story, the doctor; it’s all a bit reminiscent and gives this film a little extra credit for perhaps adding inspiration for what would ultimately become a much better film.  But this movie holds its own in a few ways, which shouldn’t be quickly overlooked.  It has some very gross special effects, becoming a bit more of a monster movie than sci-fi.  It has a cool premise and a feel of impending doom, something that keeps the pace of the film moving.  And the acting actually isn’t as awful as you might expect from something you’ve never even heard of.

But that’s not to say that Transformations gets it all right either.  The smattering of exposed breasts are laughable rather than edgy, forcing sex in space to catch our attention but quickly turning it gory in the vein of the film.  Throwing in a semi-religious element with a wise priest of some sort to give the characters advice & a theory on the monster’s origins was unnecessary.  And even the climax was a little silly, ending too easily and without great skill.  There’s a reason why this film never became a classic, and it will never be compared to the greats of its time, those that actually achieved success despite so many physical limitations.  And it’s not even as good as other b-movies of its time, like Forbidden World, which I rather liked.  So temper expectations, but watch if you’re an aficionado.

The Blu-ray

transformations3

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1920x1080p), the video quality is the best you can expect from a low-budget 80s sci-fi flick that has been transferred to a Blu-ray disc.  You won’t get the high quality you’d expect from the format, but you’re probably not holding that against the film, knowing that there wasn’t a great quality here to begin with.  It’s a dark film, with a few moments of color, but otherwise meant to be dirty & disgusting.

Audio – The disc was done in English DTS, with no audio options or choices of any kind on the Blu-ray.  As far as sound quality goes, it was better than expected perhaps, with some nice music thrown in for fun.

Extras – There are three special features on the Blu-ray disc: Audio Commentary by director Jay Kamen, Interview with star Lisa Langlois (10 minutues), and Interview with director Jay Kaman (9 minutes).

Final Thoughts

transformations

Rent It.  This was Jay Kamen’s only direction, though he’s well-known as a sound editor, working on two dozen films, which include Red October, Sneakers, The Quick and the Dead, Clueless, & Independence Day.  So the guy knows movies, but perhaps wasn’t cut out to be a film director.  Nor was this movie cut out to be an 80s classic, either for being so very good or so very bad.  It lands somewhere in the middle; a passable flick given the times but not something special.  It fails to become awesome and never revels in its “badness”, so the end result is mainly unmemorable.  The video is fine for 28 years later, the audio is OK, and the extras are a nice look back on the film.  But Transformations isn’t special, and won’t be remembered for too much longer.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

Movie Trailer – Equals

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Drake Doremus

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart

Release: July 1st, 2016

Equals reminds me of THX 1138 blended with The Island, but hopefully better than both those films.  THX 1138 was a little too impersonal & odd, The Island a little too dramatic & Hollywood.  I believe these young actors can make this movie spectacular.  Hoult is great (Young Ones, Fury Road) and Stewart is much better than people give her credit for (On the Road, Still Alice).


  • 0

Movie Review – Naked Among Wolves

Category : Movie Review

Director: Philipp Kadelbach

Starring: Florian Stetter, Peter Schneider, Sylvester Groth

Year: 2015

There is no more compelling true story of our planet’s past than WWII and its Holocaust.  Perhaps because it is still fairly recent, perhaps because so much of the world was involved, perhaps because there was such a clear evil to fight.  But whatever the reason, we don’t seem to tire of stories from this war, especially those connected to the Jews and their decimation during the time of the SS, ghettos, and concentration camps.  I’m not sure we’ll ever be too callous to empathize with this plot, these unbelievably real events, nor will be ever forget the terror that humanity is capable of.  That said, not every Holocaust film can meet the same standard, and Naked Among Wolves relies on our prevalent emotions more than solid filmmaking, resulting in another stirring story but not the greatest movie.

Only weeks away from the end of WWII, with American & Russian forces closing in on Nazi troops from all sides, the work camp of Buchenwald is a place of concealed dramatics and quiet struggles for survival.  A young man who found himself a lucky prisoner with a little privilege, one who has a job at the camp that keeps him in a position of small authority, now finds himself the unlucky discoverer of a terrible secret.  A three-year-old has been hidden in an incoming suitcase, with reporting such an assured death sentence for the lad.  But not reporting it would be even more disastrous, as the prisoners are planning an armed resistance for when the end of the war comes, something that they can’t jeopardize for the sake of one young life.

Naked Among Wolves is a unique look inside a concentration camp, not only for its timing, but also for its vantage point.  Set at the end of the war, every prisoner knows that there are only weeks left, that either the guards will kill them all when American tanks come rolling in or else they will be set free.  Feeling that weight, and also seeing the German commanders’ points of view, is an interesting way to envision an awful era in history.  But we also get to see prisoners as workers, in the way of trustees, earning trust & privilege while still under the threat of death at all times.  Adding the boy into the mix upsets a delicate balance, and that element launches us toward the climax.  The only problem I had with the film was the lack of excitement when that climax came, and a sense of redundancy leading up to the final scene.  The film wasn’t deftly done, it more relied strongly on our fascination with the topic and an original viewpoint of history, becoming good but not wonderful.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • 0

Movie Trailer – The Purge: Election Year

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: James DeMonaco

Starring: Elizabeth Mitchell, Frank Grillo, Joseph Julian Soria

Release: July 1st, 2016

I was excited about this franchise before I watched the first film, which pretty much sucked.  By all accounts, the 2nd is a little better, and perhaps in the 3rd they finally get it right.  I’m not sure how much energy I would invest in seeing this movie; I get the concept, have seen it played out, and am not sure if a little added politics will be enough to get me back on board.


  • 0

Movie Review – Deadpool

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tim Miller

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin

Year: 2016

An R-rated comic book movie?  You must be joking.  Comic books come to life in only one way; PG-13 action/adventure with cheesy jokes, false bravado, and the worst acting that could possibly be found.  You take a bunch of celebrities, force them to fit into established roles, dye their hair if need be, spend $100 million, throw together a script, load the screen with CGI, and watch the money roll in.  The Avengers Universe has used that recipe ad naseum, and it’s worked, there are a hundred new Marvel movies on the way to theatres right now.  But one offshoot dared to be different, to take the standards and turn them on their heads, much like the original comic did in the first place.  Stan Lee cameos as a strip club DJ instead of his typical wise old man, which tells you all you need to know about the direction this rebel film took.  And although the money is as huge as usual, it was fairly unexpected, as what the result; an actual quality film.

Meet Wade, the comedian of the underworld.  Not Hell, but the slums, the black market, the criminal underbelly of his city.  He’s a mercenary for hire with the skills to kill/threaten/maim whoever he wants; being ex-special forces has its perks.  But he does it all with a humor that covers over a tough life & tough skin, allowing him to get by without giving too much of himself.  That all changes when he meets Vanessa, a girl whose crazy matches his own.  Wade falls in love and finds himself becoming sappy, albeit sappy with a side of kinky.  It’s not until he finds out that he has cancer that Wade questions his new-found luck, finally understanding that life sucks.  In order to save his mortal body, Wade leaves Vanessa and undergoes a radical treatment that is meant to engage dormant mutation, basically forcing him to heal himself & gain super powers.  Afterward, will he join the X-Men and their fight for good, become a killer for the evil of the world, or go rouge and kill anyone who ever messed with the man now called Deadpool?

deadpool2

This film had the balls to be different and it paid off.  Deadpool had the highest grossing opening weekend of any R-rated movie in history, blowing out The Matrix Reloaded, which I would never have guessed was so popular when it was first released.  This film though, how could you not expect big results after the surge of excitement that was apparent on social media in the weeks before its release.  It seemed like everyone was talking about Deadpool, and now it looks like they were justified in their enthusiasm.  Not only was it audacious enough to be R-rated and to push the boundaries, but it gave us a comic book story unlike those we typically read and delivered it in a format we don’t typically see.  Sex & violence & strippers & brain pulp & cuttings offs of your own hands; this movie held nothing back, and the result was perhaps the best live-action comic book movie we’ve seen in years, aside from Guardians of the Galaxy.

Give credit to Ryan Reynolds for making a success out of a dicey project; no other actor on the face of the planet would have done.  He embodied the character completely, combined sarcasm & grade school insults to perfection, was likeable, supportable, & enjoyable despite being a bit of an asshole.  Without him (a guy who has done questionable work in the past, including Green Lantern, which was hilariously referenced in this film), the whole thing would have collapsed and we would not all be raving about this film.  As it is, we’ll probably see a rash of R-rated comic book movies in the years to come; Deadpool 2 complete with Cable is already in the works.  Those X-Men connections are integral, give the film context, and act as a live example to how this style (included breaking the fourth wall, violently killing people, and talking about anal sex) if different from anything we’ve seen before.  The only drawbacks are the reversion to 10-year-old boy jokes, which start to get a little old by the end, and the use of the typical strength-against-strength punching back & forth that none of us like in these movies but which dominated the end of this one a little too much.  Other than that, Deadpool is hilarious, refreshing, shocking, clever, and an overall ground-breaking must-see.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

deadpool1


  • 0

Movie Trailer – Term Life

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Peter Billingsley

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Hailee Steinfeld, Bill Paxton

Release: April 29th, 2016

This movie is a shoe in for about a dozen Razzies.  First off, the director is Ralphie from A Christmas Story, no joke, and the only other movie he’s directed was Couples Retreat.  Next, we have some of the most awful actors in the business grouped together in one cast for some unknown reason.  Then there’s the terrible title, plot, story, everything.  Oh, and Vince Vaughn’s hair.  My god there are an infinite number of reasons not to get anywhere near this film.  It’s going to be the worst of 2016, believe it.


  • 0

Movie Review – Zoolander 2

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ben Stiller

Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz

Year: 2016

Count me as one of the relative few who absolutely loved Zoolander.  Of those who watched it in the early 2000s, the majority found it to be a passing comedy, a ridiculous farce, fun but not great.  A small group, most of who hated Ben Stiller coming in, found it to be the worst vision put in front of their eyes over the past decade.  And then there are those of us who still view that film as a cult classic, as a spoof on too much to write down, as comedic genius with some of the most quotable lines of all time.  But that doesn’t mean I was excited about Zoolander 2, a sequel released fifteen years after the original, a film that was destined to fall short of its predecessor while struggling for 90 minutes to be an exact copy.  Which is exactly what happened; the movie was desperate to capture the original magic, relied too heavily on past success, and so became a complete disaster.

Tragedy has struck the unique life of Derek Zoolander in the form of a giant book collapsing on everyone he holds dear.  Derek’s Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good was apparently very poorly built, and it crumbled to the ground, burying his wife Matilda, injuring his friend Hansel, and turning Zoolander’s life upside down.  His child was taken away, Derek retired from modelling, became a hermit, and disappeared.  But there are those who will never let him rest, including his former adversary Mugatu.  Derek & Hansel are both lured back into the business, now bitter enemies, but they must work together to save Derek’s son from evil plots and the world from the cunning & manipulative guile of fashion.

zoolander22

There were exactly three funny aspects to this film, which I will relay to you now so you can spare yourself watching the entire feature, which is not worth your time.  If sharing them is a spoiler, then consider yourself alerted.  1) Derek refers to himself multiple times without being corrected as a ‘hermit crab’, which is hilarious in its simplicity and lack of attention.  2) Kristen Wiig as an Italian designer who randomly changes every vowel of her speech completely steals the show.  And 3) Sting lyrics are used as code and almost no one in the theatre understood what was going on since they were apparently too young to know Sting songs.  That’s about it; the rest of the movie is bad.

It’s bad because it’s desperate, and desperation has never been attractive.  There is not a joke from the original film that is not exhumed and shocked back into a frightening semblance of life.  The tiny phone, the orgies, the latte, the little dog, Billy Zane; it’s all back and worse than ever.  The movie is completely full of either failed old reference or failed new jokes, and never takes off as even a laughable romp.  When a comedy is this humorless, you have to wonder what went wrong, who didn’t see this coming, or perhaps who didn’t care.  Is Ben Stiller stuck in a comedic rut, did he just want to make some money, was this all about having a reunion with his old pals?  Who knows, but save yourself some time and give the first film another shot, keeping an eye out for the magic that it had for a fleeting moment in time.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 

zoolander23


  • 0

Movie Trailer – The Invitation

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Karyn Kusama

Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Michiel Huisman, John Carroll Lynch

Release: April 8th, 2016

‘Dread’ is a good word to associate with this film, as the sense prevails over the entire trailer, like knowing that a terrible end is coming and not begin able to stop it.  I like the simplicity of the dinner party story, with the background of something wrong, something suspicious.  I hope, in the end, the reveal isn’t ridiculous, that the cast & crew know how to close out a movie with a satisfying bang.


  • 0

Sports – 2016 NFL Free Agency

Category : Sports

With the 2015 season behind us, the Super Bowl over, and the reality of zero football settling in, it’s never too early to look ahead to next year.  The 2016 season kicks off with the HOF game in Canton in August and the Opener in Denver in September, but before that there are two major events that will change your team’s future.  One is the Draft in April, and the other is Free Agency in March.  There are veteran players out there for the taking, and they could help your team right away with their talent and experience.  Here is a look at some of the top NFL Free Agents of 2016:

Von Miller – LB – Denver Broncos

vonmiller1

Josh Norman – CB – Carolina Panthers

joshnorman

Muhammad Wilkerson – DE – New York Jets

muhammadwilkerson

Alshon Jeffrey – WR – Chicago Bears

alshonjeffrey

Cordy Glenn – OT – Buffalo Bills

cordyglenn

Jason Pierre-Paul – DE – New York Giants

jasonpierrepaul

Eric Berry – S – Kansas City Chiefs

ericberry

Malik Jackson – DT – Denver Broncos

malikjackson

Olivier Vernon – DE – Miami Dolphins

oliviervernon

Doug Martin – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

dougmartin

Bruce Irvin – LB – Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks Panthers Football

Russell Okung – OT – Seattle Seahawks

russellokung

Eric Weddle – S – San Diego Chargers

ericweddle

Sam Bradford – QB – Philadelphia Eagles

sambradford1

Kirk Cousins – QB – Washington Redskins

kirkcousins

Matt Forte – RB – Chicago Bears

mattforte

Andre Smith – OT – Cincinnati Bengals

andresmith

Danny Trevathan – LB – Denver Broncos

dannytrevathan

Janoris Jenkins – CB – L.A. Rams

janorisjenkins

Brock Osweiler – QB – Denver Broncos

brockosweiler