Monthly Archives: May 2017

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Movie Review – Before Sunset

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Year: 2004

Before Sunset is the follow-up film to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, the pair beginning the chronicle of a great love affair between an overly analytical American man and an overly dramatic French woman.  If that sounds cliche, well, perhaps it is, but Linklater is able to take a standard romantic plot and draw it out into something much deeper, a character study instead of a situational love comedy.  Before Sunrise has become a classic romance, a 90s time capsule, and a film to be applauded, as it stands the test of time and spawned this wonderful series of movies.  Before Sunset is even better; a continuation of the story but from a more grown-up perspective, a reminder that life is unpredictable but that love is never too far away.

Nine years after they met in Vienna, Jesse and Celine run into each other in Paris.  Actually, Jesse is a successful writer now, has written a novel about his encounter with Celine, and she comes to a book signing in her home town in order to see him.  The two reunite during a walk around the city before Jesse has to catch a plane; the story of the couple’s life, I suppose.  But will they be able to leave each other again, after so much time apart?  They had planned to meet up after that first, fateful meeting, but failed to do so, allowing their lives to move down different paths away from one another.  But love is still in the air, Jesse & Celine haven’t forgotten that feeling, and they may not be able to go back to their established lives ever again.

This second installment is my favorite, impressing me with melancholy and hope in turns, allowing that love is imperfect but that it’s also worth the wait.  Before Sunset is beyond romantic, the way these two feel when they are back together after so many years, the way they can jump back into the conversation like they never stopped.  As they walk about Paris, we learn what they’ve been doing over the last decade, what choices they have made, and how they regret some of the most impactful ones.  It’s so sad and yet so beautiful, this saga, and I’m not sure I’ve ever rooted for a couple more than I root for Jesse & Celine.  Perhaps it’s because I’m also in my 30s, but I related to this film most acutely, understood how the characters’ philosophies had changed from their 20s, saw life the way they were seeing it, felt the passion they had for each other at this point in their lives.  Before Sunset is a wonderful, simple, short, dialogue-driven film that makes a heavy impact and should make your list.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Before Sunrise

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Year: 1995

Richard Linklater’s magnum opus begins with Before Sunrise, the first of three films that chronicle the romance between two unlikely lost souls, Jesse & Celine.  As you probably know if you’re reading this review and have any previous knowledge of this film, Linklater would direct a trio of films all focused on the same pair, spacing them out with nine years in between, filling us in on what’s been going on in these characters’ lives in the meanwhile.  Linklater loves to play with time and to let real time lead his stories; the best example of that is Boyhood, a phenomenal film, but often critiqued as a one-trick pony.  I don’t think you can call Before Sunrise that, if anything it’s pure character-driven drama with little to no actual events, which isn’t to its discredit; that’s what makes it magical.

Jesse is on a train bound for Vienna after breaking up with his girlfriend in Madrid.  Celine is on the same train after visiting her grandmother in Budapest.  The two randomly sit next to each other and share a laugh, opening the door for one of the most romantic love affairs of the century.  After a chat and an obvious connection, Jesse proposes a wild idea; that Celine, who is French and is headed back to Paris, gets off the train with him in Vienna.  He has the night to waste before he catches a flight back to America in the morning and no money for a hotel room.  He wants to walk European streets one more time before he goes, and a beautiful woman at his side would be a wonderful bonus.  It might be insane, but Celine agrees to join him, and the two begin a memorable evening together, one of walking & talking & not much else, but one that they will never forget.

I don’t like to criticize directors for creating a gimmick that works.  You could look at it as Linklater manipulating the audience into thinking his films are better than they are by using a trick, or you could look at it as Linklater utilizing an original idea that results in an excellent film.  I choose the latter, and I enjoy his projects because of my viewpoint.  But, to cap this conversation off, it wouldn’t work without good dialogue, acting, and chemistry, all of which appear in abundance in this film.  Before Sunrise is romantic beyond description, and really makes use of every moment it is given to tell us a little more about love and life.  Sometimes the conversation gets a little pretentious, but hey it’s the 90s, these are 20-somethings trying to impress each other, they’re bound to get a little existential.  The hair, the clothes, the verbage; it’s so dated, but it a wonderful way, and Linklater catches the vibe perfectly, especially when you remember that he’ll do three look-ins, all from different decades.  The first in this series is more than a solid start, it’s a quality movie on its own, and should be seen by anyone who wants to imagine a world in which love does conquer all.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Alien: Covenant

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup

Year: 2017

Ridley Scott returns to the Alien Universe with Covenant, the second prequel to the previous line of franchise films.  Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Prometheus: this is the must-watch canon for fans of the series, with this fifth piece of the puzzle coming as a delight to all those who have followed the story over all these years.  Alien is a horror film, Aliens is an action flick, Alien 3 is a bit of a dark turn, Prometheus is pure sci-fi, and Covenant is a basically a sample from every movie rolled into a two-hour thrill ride.  I find no issue with that, blend as many genres together as you can, make this a film for a wide audience, not just those who know the xenomorph types by heart.  My problem with Scott’s newest addition is that it fails to progress the plot in a satisfying direction.  We move one step closer to understanding how the madness all began, sure, but only by means of a complete cop out, and that is not what I came to see.

The colony ship Covenant travels toward a distant habitable planet in order to terraform, to set up a city, and to begin the inevitable course of human expansion throughout the galaxy.  A synthetic named Walter mans the vessel while the crew sleeps and the colonists remain frozen, but a freak solar flare causes damage to the ship, forcing the crew awake, and leading to a change of plan.  As fortune would have it, there’s a perfectly pleasant planet only weeks away, one that might be even more suited to human life than the world the Covenant was headed for, so the captain turns the wheel and a new course is charted.  Only, there’s no knowing what awaits them down on the surface, and a synthetic named David who claims to be the last surviving member of the doomed ship Prometheus might not be telling them the complete story of his marooning or of the dangers lurking in the dark.

First, my gripes.  Rewatching all the films in preparation for this one, I lost myself in the story and the whys and the hows and the whens, completely submersing myself in the Universe, asking all the questions I could.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Prometheus more than other critics; I was fascinated by the depth of the story, I wanted to know more about Weyland, how everything began, how it got so out of control.  Prometheus provided me with that extra knowledge and set the story up to tell me even more, which I loved.  Then Covenant let me down hard, and I don’t think I can forgive it.  Without giving away the plot, I was dissatisfied with the explanation, with what was skipped over, with the absence of Shaw and the Engineers and anything I was looking forward to.  It’s like they didn’t know what to do so they progressed the timeline off stage and asked us to simply accept that.  I couldn’t, and so I enjoyed the film far less than I had expected to.

Not only that, but there were other pieces of the movie I found lackluster as well.  I wasn’t scared once, not once, and the creatures looked far too computer generated to be believable.  The action was unbalanced, going for boring to all-out fire-fight and back again on a whim.  The acting was mediocre, and having Waterston and Danny McBride as the stars was a bad choice.  Fassbender twice over was not, he’s amazing, he makes the movie, I can’t say anything negative there, but he wasn’t enough to make up for what went wrong and I still didn’t approve of what was done with his character.  There really is a bit of every film in the franchise right here for us to sample, so I respect that, and I in no way hated Covenant or will recommend that you stay away.  I was just let down, I never felt the magic, and I would make a hundred small changes if I could.  Still, you have to see it, you can’t let it pass by, and you very well may enjoy it far more than I did, depending on what you sat down to learn.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Kill Switch

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Tim Smit

Starring: Dan Stevens

Release: June 16th, 2017

This movie looks to be leap-frogging the surprising success of Hardcore Henry, an original video game made for the big screen.  I get it, it looks cool, I don’t mind being along for the ride as someone beats a really cool boss, but it’s hard to imagine a ton of people paying money to sit through this.


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Movie Trailer – Band Aid

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Zoe Lister-Jones

Starring: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen

Release: June 9th, 2017

Against all odds, this movie could work.  The humor hit me just right, and I’m already rooting for this couple to make it work.  Also, Fred Armisen as their neighbor is a bold and intelligent choice.  I’m in.


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Movie Trailer – Okja #2

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Joon-ho Bong

Starring: Seo-Hyun Ahn, Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano

Release: June 28th, 2017

Snowpiercer was great, and I have no doubt that Okja will be as well.  Actually, let me take that back; Okja will be fucking awesome.


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DVD Review – Lake Eerie

Category : DVD Review

Director: Chris Majors

Starring: Meredith Majors, Betsy Baker, Anne Leigh Cooper

Year: 2016

You may think you’ve seen painful acting before, but you have yet to meet Lake Eerie, a film that is as bizarre, awful, and unimaginative as its title.  I’m not sure if my words can prepare you for such a film failure, an amateur attempt at something, I don’t know what, that could not possibility have resulted in what the filmmakers were aiming for.  Because, if this is the movie that they were trying to make, someone needs to take away their cameras and put them under lock and key.  I can only imagine that “haunted house story with Egyptian magic thrown in for good measure” sounded like a great idea, a script was written, and a film shot, all before anyone had the chance to think about the disastrous consequences.  I don’t want to picture a world in which this movie was intentional.

The Movie

Kate has just moved from Iowa to Michigan, buying a house right on the shore of Lake Erie.  Most of the inhabitants of the little town head south for the winter, the weather is so bad, but Kate has come seeking solitude, and that’s exactly what she’ll find.  The house she moves into is a big old, dusty thing, having been unoccupied for decades.  The man who lived there was an eccentric archeologist named Harrison, and the house was sold completely furnished, including his many treasures and unusual decorations.  Kate finds the house to be lonely and a little frightening, as she struggles to move past a personal tragedy and to get on with the life she still has ahead of her.

But the house isn’t just creepy, it’s downright haunted, but not in the ordinary ghost-in-the-attic manner.  It turns out, Harrison was obsessed with Egyptian legends, including the rituals surrounding the afterlife, a topic that he took much too seriously.  He was looking for an amulet, which was said to have the power to send the wearer over to the in-between world, a place that acts as a prison for souls that are not allowed a quiet rest.  Kate begins to encounter strange shapes and to experience odd dreams, all connected to Harrison and his attempts to reach that other world.  Now she will have to try to save him, with the help of a fiery student named Autumn, before he is trapped there for good.

If you noticed that the pictures I chose to showcase the movie aren’t that interesting or helpful, that’s because there aren’t very many images of the film available.  Well, unless you want pictures of the one time a naked woman walks out of the water with her butt and breasts on display, which you very likely might and I wouldn’t blame you for; it was the only remotely positive piece of what is otherwise an embarrassingly bad film.  The naked woman is part of a greater and more confusing storyline in which the main character’s dead husband asks her to have sex with this buxom lady because he “likes to watch”, which has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the movie, comes completely out of left field, and really encapsulates the entire project, a 100-minute WTF moment that you swear someone could not actually have thought would work.

And it didn’t, not in any way, crashing and burning in record fashion.  I’ve seen the Sharknado movies so I know where the bottom is, but Lake Eerie gave those ghastly gems a run for their money.  At least they are stupid on purpose, talentless by design, over-the-top because someone wanted them that way, enjoyable exactly because they are so terrible.  This film can’t even be called a b-movie, it’s more like an f-movie, a student project done by adults that should have been scrapped the moment the first hideous scene was seen through a camera lens.  I assume Chris and Meredith Majors are married, he directing while she wrote, they both appear in the story, they’re both stunt people, and neither of them should ever attempt to make a movie ever again.  Even Lance Henriksen couldn’t save the day, and you know that means trouble.  The plot was insane, the acting god-awful, I could feel my brain withering from the very start, and I wish I could go back in time to unsee what I just watched.

The DVD

Video – Information on the aspect ratio and other video details for this film are unavailable, which is absolutely fine, given that the picture was as poor as you’d expect from one of the worst indie horror flicks you will ever see.

Audio – Not much in the way of audio choices either: your options are English 5.1 Surround or English 2.0 Stereo, with available English subtitles.  Even the music of this movie is poor, not much in the way of sound other than the standard creepy background track.

Extras – There are no special features on this disc.

Final Thoughts

Skip It. On the surface, Lake Eerie seems like your typical, fun, dumb, scary, haunted house, hidden secrets, sexy ghost, more-than-meets-the-eye horror flick, when in actuality all of that is just a tease, just a concept that the filmmakers didn’t have the talent to put into motion.  The result is a movie that wanted to be all those things but could never be, crawling along like a zombie instead, trying without success to reach an unattainable goal.  I’ve seen bad before, bad doesn’t make me cringe, I can take some b-quality as long as it’s laced with some self-awareness.  But therein lies the problem; this film wasn’t even ridiculous enough to be entertaining.  Instead, it was insultingly poor and a complete waste of time, which will launch it straight toward the bottom of my List.  The video, audio, and extras follow suit, so don’t count on the technical to save you, and just move on while you still have the chance, before you regret what you just made your eyes do.

☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Battle of the Sexes

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough

Release: September 22nd, 2017

For what should be an Oscar-contender based on its directors and stars, it’s a bad sign that I haven’t even heard of this film until just now.  True story, proven actors, an awesome vibe, a relevant topic; I’m worried that there must be something I’m not thinking of missing from this movie since it’s not being set up for awards success.  Who knows, maybe we’re all in for a surprise, and I will definitely be there to see this, but I’m concerned.


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Movie Review – Alien 3

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance

Year: 1992

It’s amazing to think that the first three films in this franchise were directed by Ridley Scott (Alien), James Cameron (Aliens), and David Fincher (Alien 3).  That’s modern movie royalty, and even Alien: Resurrection was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet of Amelie fame, if you want to add that shaky fourth film into the fold.  For Fincher, this movie came before his successes with Se7en and Fight Club, back when he was a music video director, which makes his ascension all the more impressive.  What isn’t exactly impressive is the film itself, Alien 3 landing far short of the intended target, falling way behind the other two that came before.  It’s still a cool part of the series, still a must-watch for fans, but can’t be considered independently excellent.

After two harrowing adventures, Ripley finds herself once again in an emergency escape pod, this time crash landing on a penal planet out at the edge of known space.  Her presence there is very upsetting to the inmates, men who have committed unspeakable crimes in the past but have since found a form of religion that controls their violent urges.  They govern themselves mostly, but having a woman around is bound to put a kink in the works.  Meanwhile, a few unexplained and nasty deaths occur around the facility, and Ripley begins to wonder if she might have brought an unwelcome guest along for the ride before she arrived.  Her worst nightmares are about to come true, and it’s up to her to keep humanity safe once again.

It’s not that Alien 3 is terrible, it’s that it’s unnecessary.  The prevailing feeling as you watch is one of pointlessness, as in “why did they make this if they really didn’t have any more of the story to tell?”  I guess they can ship Ripley off wherever they want and have aliens pop up (literally), but after a while that begins to feel cheap and all we’re really enjoying is watching xenomorphs eat people.  And that’s fun, don’t get me wrong, I’ll basically watch anything connected to this franchise, but this film at least just wasn’t required.  Weaver does an OK job, her shaved head is iconic, and a general Mad Max feel is appreciated, so it’s not all rubbish, I just wouldn’t go in expecting the magic of 1 & 2; it didn’t appear a third time.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Aliens

Category : Movie Review

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser

Year: 1986

Seven years after Alien and two years after Terminator, James Cameron combined the two, starting and progressing and improving a franchise that is still going strong today.  Cameron has always been known for his own, unique sense of cinema, using technology that seems ahead of its time, dazzling audiences with what looks to be impossible.  And he brought his A-game for Aliens, taking a base horror story and fleshing it out, making it both more personal and more aggressive, crafting a film that, like its predecessor in a very important way, had the ability to reach out across the genres, grab them in its claws, and eat them for breakfast.  Aliens is one of the coolest movies ever made, an exciting continuation of a war between imperfect humans and their perfectly evolved opponents, an American icon that demands that you take notice.

Having survived the disaster aboard the Nostromo, Ripley is rescued from her emergency space pod only to be told that all her efforts have been in vain.  Not only have many years passed as she drifted through space, but humans have begun colonizing the planet she “just” fled.  Things go from bad to worse when Ripley and her rescuers lose contact with the colony, alerting them to the fact that the evil there might be fully awake.  So a team of Marines is sent to investigate, Ripley going along as a consultant, a company man named Burke there to make sure that financial interests are protected.  This crew has a ton of firepower, but there will be more than one alien to contend with this time, and each man will be lucky to leave the planet alive.

This is my personal favorite in the series.  I’m not sure how else to explain it, Aliens is just so kick-ass.  The weapons, the strategies, the insurmountable odds, the Marine banter, the spooky colony, the knowledge that death is present in a super-concentrated form.  And there’s always the backstory, always the first film and Ripley’s experience to keep the movie grounded when it could turn into Terminator: Alien Edition.  There are definitely many similarities between the two films, and Cameron’s heavy hand is felt throughout, but it works to perfection, at least with this film anyway, conveying great horror and cool action in surprising harmony.  I can’t forget to mention the performances that really elevate the film: Lance Henricksen as the synthetic Bishop, Paul Reiser as the sneaky Burke, Bill Paxton as the lovable moron Hudson.  They take this movie from 4- to 5-stars, making it one of the best we’ll ever have to pleasure to watch.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆