Monthly Archives: October 2017

  • 0

Movie Trailer – Sweet Virginia

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jamie M. Dagg

Starring: Christopher Abbott, Jon Bernthal, Imogen Poots

Release: November 17th, 2017

The trailer is literally too dark to see; I can’t imagine sitting through an entire movie without really being able to watch.  That might sound fussy, but really, I want to be able to see what’s going on, I don’t want the director to hide behind the darkness.  And I like these actors, they’re all great, I think they could come together to do something impressive, I’m just not sure this is it.  I’ll keep my eye on it, maybe it’ll surprise us.


  • 0

Movie Trailer – Blockers

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Kay Cannon

Starring: John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz

Release: April 6th, 2018

I’m offended on so many levels, both real and over-dramatic.  This movie looks like shit, and it’s a shitty topic to make a movie about, besides.  John Cena can act, this style of comedy can work, but not like this, this is just wrong.


  • 0

DVD Review – Soul on a String

Category : DVD Review

Director: Yang Zhang

Starring: Quni Ciren, Kimba, Siano Dudiom Zahi

Year: 2016

Soul on a String is a Chinese/Tibetan, Western/Adventure, ancient/modern warrior’s tale, and these odd combinations are the reason that the film ultimately succeeds.  This feature is hard to define, it straddles many borders while paying homage to many styles, but it is made just well enough to elicit respect, when it could easily have gone down a baffling and far less appealing route.  Sacred stones, lone wolves, blood oaths, desperate journeys; this movie needed every one of its 140 minutes to tell a complicated story, but the result was surprisingly solid, especially when my expectations were so very low.

The Movie

Tabei has walked a crooked road, outpacing his demons for years, but they will finally catch up to him when he can flee no longer.  He owes many debts, has angered many men, and is being hunted by a pair of brothers who must settle a family feud.  The list of his enemies is long, and even in the Tibetan wilderness, every man runs out of hiding places eventually.  He will have to face his past transgressions before he can become a soul at peace, but his natural desire to escape always keeps him moving away from settling his debts, from confronting his mistakes head on.

When Tabei is struck by lighting after finding a beautiful stone inside the mouth of a deer, the hunter begins his journey to hell, a place he undoubtedly belongs.  But sacred priests revive him, draw him back from the underworld, and give him a mystical task; to take the precious stone to the holy land in the north, to drop his evil ways along the wayside of his path.  Tabei begins his adventure, but his old enemies are drawing closer, the stone attracts those who would profit from it, the vengeful brothers won’t give up their duty, and those he meets along the way will change his life in ways he never imagined.

Soul on a String works when perhaps it shouldn’t by combining multiple genres, melting multiple storylines, and cleverly manipulating time in such a way that audiences are left fascinated rather than bored.  It’s a Tibetan Western, but with broadswords as well as cowboys, landscapes devoid of any habitation as well as transistor radios.  Director Yang Zhang is able to weave stories throughout that compliment each other and make each other more important, to tell a timeless tale that feels so ancient, centered around a culture that has stayed constant for so many years, yet with modernity hovering around the periphery like a wild dog keeping out of the light of a fire.

It’s this skill that makes this film something more than a throwaway foreign flick, that keeps it grounded and gives it more life than it would appear to have at first glance.  There’s some real wit used to producing this story this way, with some twists thrown in for your enjoyment and to keep you on your toes.  A little humor is even scattered about to lighten the heavy load, to take us out of our heads for a moment, and to give us a taste of ridiculous reality.  It’s difficult to judge the acting, so much of the film is focused on the heavy mood and the slowly-plodding plot, but I would say all involved were solid in their performances.  And I can’t forget to mention the cinematography, the landscapes, wow, you might find yourself booking a flight to Tibet as soon as you can.  This is a real winner of a film without being something that you’ll remember for long, a cool piece of cinema that has surprises, but also never had a very high ceiling.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (Widescreen), the video quality of the DVD is excellent, with a real eye for landscape and detail that truly brings the story to life.  The costumes, the sets, the countryside; it’s a beautiful film to see, and the picture is clear throughout, a nice treat for those looking for strong cinematography and fine visuals.

Audio – The disc was done in 5.1 Surround, with an option of 2.0 Stereo.  The language is Tibetan, with an option of English subtitles.  The audio quality is high as well, with rich, natural music that fits the country perfectly.  The sound of the film is well-balanced and smooth.

Extras – The only special feature on the DVD is a short film, The Rifle, The Jackal, the Wolf, and the Boy, an 18-minute movie from Lebanon about a pair of brothers who use their father’s gun and the lesson learned from the experience.

Final Thoughts

RecommendedSoul on a String is a unique artwork that deserves appreciation, but I would stop short of calling it one of its year’s best.  What it does well it does very well, but it still falls short of pleasing American audiences at least, perhaps being designed for a different group, a different expectation.  It does surprise with its quality though, and does deliver a number of strong elements, from the visuals to the magnitude of its scope.  The video is admirable, the audio is fine, there aren’t many extras, so the technical side is a mixed bag.  Watch for something a little unusual, a little magical, and mostly mood-driven, a film that might not blow Hollywood out of the water, but that still boasts a powerful punch.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

Movie Trailer – The Babysitter (2017)

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: McG

Starring: Judah Lewis, Samantha Weaving, Bella Thorne

Release: October 13th, 2017

Already out on Netflix, I was intrigued when I saw this movie pop up, but I’m less so after seeing the trailer.  I’m frustrated with movies simply recycling other movies, and I know that sounds whiny, but legitimately, what we want are original ideas, fresh concepts.  We don’t want the same genre flicks done again with the hope that we’ve forgotten what they looked like before.


  • 0

Movie Trailer – The Tribes of Palos Verdes

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Brendan & Emmett Malloy

Starring: Maika Monroe, Jennifer Garner, Justin Kirk

Release: December 1st, 2017

I’ve seen both Monroe and Garner attempt to be serious and strong, and they both failed.  I liked Monroe a lot when she first appeared, but the more I’ve seen from her, the less I think she has real talent.  Garner, on the other hand, I’ve always known was a fraud.  She’s awful and will be predictably awful in this film.  It doesn’t look like a very compelling story, just something we’ve seen before and didn’t like then either.


  • 0

DVD Review – Spirited Away

Category : DVD Review

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden

Year: 2001

With the presence of Studio Ghibli, and with the emergence of Laika Entertainment, there exists real competition with Disney/Pixar for the animation market.  Disney will always be a hit with kids, delivering epic fantasies and stunning princesses.  Laika has taken a darker road, using stop-motion to tell us spooky tales.  And Ghibli, which has been producing in Japan for 30 years, gives audiences a unique perspective that the more artistic will appreciate while children will delight.  Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There; these are some of the most widely known and successful animated movies across the globe, and Ghibli’s contributions to even American entertainment can’t be denied.

The Movie

Young Chihiro must follow her parents to a new home, new town, new school, leaving her friends and her past behind.  She’s a timid girl, scared of everything, and not near up to the task of starting life anew in a strange place.  Her parents try to convince her that this is all an adventure, that wonderful new experiences await her around the corner, but she can’t see that, the pain of leaving is still too raw.  Chihiro can’t accept her changed life, but she will soon be forced to look around in a way she has never done before.  Taking a shortcut, her father drives the family up a forest road, which dead ends at an ancient-seeming building that is actually not as old as it seems.  As the family enters to explore, they cross the line between fantasy and reality.

An abandoned amusement park lies on the other side of the gateway, Chihiro demanding to leave immediately, her parents anxious to discover.  They trek through empty fields, a man-made river that was never filled, a fake town where people used to come for entertainment and festive food.  Actually, someone is cooking something, and Chihiro’s parents follow their noses until they find an unparalleled feast, gorging themselves on delights until they begin to resembled pigs rather than humans.  Chihiro finds herself in a world inhabited by spirits, a world in which her parents are fattened up for the slaughter, a world in which little makes sense and danger lurks around every corner.  She’ll make new friends who will help her on her mission to rescue her parents and to leave this magical world, but in the end she will have to find the courage to save herself.

Spirited Away is one of the most stunning films you will ever watch, with visuals that will burn themselves into your mind and will stay with you forever.  I know that sounds dramatic, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen still images like this, the screenshots from this film becoming a gallery of brilliant paintings with vast imagination as their origin, imagination that I can’t even fathom.  I hope these pictures do the movie justice, or simply do a search and see your yourself’; every scene is beautiful and original, every character worth turning into a statuette and placing on a shelf to view for years to come.  The visuals are by far the best part of this film, the artwork and the time put in to creating it are both vastly impressive.

The story, unfortunately, doesn’t hold its own.  I know that this film is highly regarded, and I don’t mean to suggest that it shouldn’t be.  I just couldn’t immerse myself in the story the way I wanted to, the way I though that I would be able to, not like I have with other Ghibli features at least.  Ponyo and Arrietty had plots that I just adored, whereas Mononoke and Spirited Away were more scattered, more chaotic, and probably a little more anime.  That’s not my genre, I won’t claim to know a ton about it, I just assume that I like my Ghibli slightly more American, and I’ll tale the blame for being conditioned by Hollywood animation into becoming so ethnocentric.  But I won’t insult myself completely; I love Ghibli, I love what they do, I guess I just enjoy some more than others.  This film is still spectacular, in a very literal sense, with music and mood and moments that will blow you away.  You just may need to discover which Ghibli style suits you best so you can enjoy their amazing movies to the maximum.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1080p HD Widescreen), the video quality of this Blu-ray version of Spirited Away is among the best you will ever watch.  Its visuals are mind-blowing, and a reason alone to watch the film.  The color and the clarity are brilliant, as are the choices behind every scene and image.  The Blu-ray disc is exactly the media on which to watch this movie, but the film itself brings the beauty to the screen.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in English 5.1 DTS HD, with an option of Japanese 5.1 DTS HD or French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles are available in English SDH, English, or French.  The film is dubbed from its original Japanese, but it loses nothing in translation.  The dialogue is simple and sometimes stilted, but that can be forgiven, and the soundtrack that backs the film is very strong.

Extras – The special features on this disc are few, and also self-explanatory.  Feature-Length Storyboards, Behind the Microphone, Original Theatrical Trailers, and TV Spots.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  I might be in the minority in claiming that Spirited Away is not amazing, but perhaps I need to clarify exactly what I mean.  Because the film did amaze me, how anyone could create such a world and then put in on my screen, that is purely unbelievable.  The images will stay with me, the music was delightful, the characters so diverse and special.  But I just couldn’t accept the story, couldn’t find the entertainment that so many others have found, and so I wasn’t mesmerized by the film as an entire entity.  I hope that how much I appreciated this movie shines through, and I also assume that you will understand your own taste level and expectations, that personal knowledge leading you to the right Ghibli film.  The video is outstanding, the audio is great, and there are a few special features to enjoy, so the technical aspects won’t disappoint.  Watch with confidence, enjoy something brilliant, and feast your eyes.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

Movie Trailer – Wheelman

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jeremy Rush

Starring: Frank Grillo

Release: October 20th, 2017

Oooh, Netflix chooses poorly.  And they’ve been on such a hot streak lately too, pumping out the hits like a real studio.  I don’t think this movie is what they want to produce, not anymore anyway.


  • 0

Movie Trailer – Replicas

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alice Eve, Thomas Middleditch

Release: 2017

It is impossible for Keanu Reeves to play a scientist, he just doesn’t have it in him.  A surfer, a quarterback, even an assassin; sure, he can do certain things.  They tried making Kevin Bacon and James Franco geniuses; that didn’t work, and this won’t either.  Apart from Keanu, the movie itself looks awful, like a spoof of a serious sci-fi flick, not something actually attempting to slide into the genre.


  • 0

DVD Review – Ponyo

Category : DVD Review

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Frankie Jonas, Noah Lindsey Cyrus

Year: 2008

My first experience with Studio Ghibli was watching Princess Mononoke.  I had never seen Japanese animation before and was unprepared for the style, the action, and the dubbing.  It was an art form that I wouldn’t appreciate until years later, even though the studio was becoming famous worldwide.  Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Arrietty, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There; these are some of the most widely-known and successful animated movies of all-time, though Americans continue to prefer Disney, Pixar, and other local animation studies.  But the power of Ghibli can’t be denied, as their films are an artistic medium all on their own and continue to amaze us with wonderful stories brought to life with dazzling talent.

The Movie

Loosely based on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, Ponyo is a tale of love breaking all boundaries.  Sosuke is a young boy who lives near the sea with his mother & father.  His mother works at a nearby retirement home, his father is a sailor.  Sosuke happily relies upon his own independence and imagination, but when he happens to find a goldfish along the shoreline, he’s overjoyed to finally have a companion.  The trouble is, the fish he names Ponyo isn’t a fish at all, but the daughter of a powerful sorcerer and the Sea herself.  They need her to return to the ocean, to keep the balance between life on land and life under the sea, but Ponyo’s love for Sosuke is too powerful a thing to be set aside for the survival of the world as we know it.

Ponyo’s magic delights her new friend, but it also releases the forces of nature in ways that she cannot control.  Ponyo’s transformation into a human girl throws off the balance of the Earth, and causes the Moon’s misalignment, resulting in a storm the likes of which Sosuke’s tiny shipping village has never seen before.  Her mother and father are desperate to take her back to her home before total destruction ensues, but they also know that they cannot rip apart her love for this special little boy, or for a human world that is so full of delights.  Ponyo and Sosuke will have to work together to prove that their love for each other is stronger than the gravity that wishes to pull them apart, and that they are willing to fight for what they know feels right.

Studio Ghibli makes another masterpiece; what else is new.  Ponyo is just another beautiful depiction of a classic tale, a reimagining of a story we thought we knew so well.  It’s very, very different from Disney’s Little Mermaid, holding tight to the original content in some ways, and creating something completely new in others.  It’s as if that tale happened in modern Japan with children as the protagonists, the result becoming something better than you might predict.  The color, the brilliant artwork, the stunning visuals; breathtaking all.  And the cast was pretty impressive, apart from the two youngsters, who we’ll root for to make names of themselves as well.  Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Lily Tomlin; top that if you can.

I might have liked Arrietty just a touch more than Ponyo, appreciating its slow pace, deep moments, and phenomenal music.  But Ponyo held its own, will delight children, and impressed me as a singularly unique film in a world of recycled time-wasters.  It’s very different from Ghibli’s more mystical features, like Mononoke or Spirited Away, and always feels directed at children, with their interests at heart.  But I don’t see that as a bad thing; an animation studio, no matter how deep and adult their themes, should always remember the passion with which children appreciate animation, which is perhaps why adults can continue to love it no matter how old they get.  This is a powerful art form, Ghibli wielding its tools with fine and magical precision.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1080p HD Widescreen), the video quality of this Blu-ray version of Ponyo is among the best you will ever watch.  Animated or not, this film is a spectacle to see, a marvel to sit down in front of.  The color, the imagination, the backdrops, the characters; it’s perfection all-around.  One of the most beautifully draw features you will ever see, Ponyo‘s visuals will blow you away.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in English 5.1 DTS HD, with an option of Japanese 5.1 DTS HD or French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles are available in English SDH, English, or French.  The film is dubbed from its original Japanese, but it loses nothing in translation.  The dialogue is simple but clever, the voice-overs work in every way, the stars that got on board should be commended, and the music will delight you for years to come.

Extras – The special features on this disc are among the most numerous I have ever come across.  There are so very many, but thankfully they are also self-explanatory.  Feature-Length Storyboards, The Five Geniuses Who Created Ponyo, The Locations of Ponyo, Press Conference: Theme Song Announcement, Theme Song Music Video, Interview with Hayao Miyazaki, Interview with Toshio Suzuki, Opening Event at Hibiya Scala-Za Theater, Hayao Miyazaki Press Conference at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, Behind the Microphone, Creating Ponyo, Ponyo & Fujimoto, The Nursery, Producer’s Perspective: Telling the Story, Scoring Miyazaki, Original Theatrical Trailer, and TV Spots.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended. If there’s a more delightful modern animated flick out there, I’d like to see it, because Ponyo is currently the claimant to the crown.  It’s so magically delicious, and it broadcasts that joy to audiences of all ages.  It’s not the animation that Americans are most used to, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be open-minded, and that doesn’t mean that some other form can’t be just as great as what comes out of the studios that we’re used to.  The music is something that stands out as well, a common theme woven through a soundtrack that will live in your brain for days, but you won’t want it to leave.  The video is amazing, the audio spectacular, and the extras more than numerous, so the technical aspects live up to the content.  For my money, this is one of Ghibli’s best, something for every age group, and a film that will simply brighten your day.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

Movie Review – Blade Runner 2049

Category : Movie Review

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas

Year: 2017

Denis Villeneuve is Hollywood’s current premiere director.  In the past four years, he has created four films that have each been independently excellent.  Prisoners, an emotional wreck that you can’t help but fall deeply into.  Enemy, a metaphorical labyrinth that you enjoy being lost in.  Sicario, one of the best visual experiences you will have at a theatre.  Arrival, science fiction turned on its head in just the right way.  But while each of these films have been incredible on their own, they have also exhibited Villeneuve’s style with perfect precision, allowing audiences to watch and recognize the director for the talent that he is, to come away wanting more from the same mind, no matter what story he chooses to craft next.  Blade Runner 2049 is different in that it is a sequel to a different director’s work, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, of course.  But it is also another is an unbelievable string of home runs from a filmmaker that I can’t wait to see more from.

Thirty years have passed since the ex-cop Deckard came face to face with the fine line between humans and Replicants, fleeing from the knowledge of whether he himself was a faux person.  In the interval, Replicants have risen up and subsequently been defeated, the old models waging a war against mankind only to lose.  A new series of androids have been produced by a new maker, Wallace taking over where Tyrell failed.  These new models are faster, stronger, smarter, and are tasked first with finding the aging, hiding Replicants and “retiring” them.  K, an L.A. cop and a Replicant himself, meets an ancient model named Sapper Morton who won’t come in peacefully to be shut down.  This encounter begins a series of confusing events for K, as he learns that Morton and his allies are hiding a secret so vital that it could pull apart the tenuous fabric of human existence.

Blade Runner 2049 blows Blade Runner out of the water.  I know the cult classic has its fans, and I’m not here to pull it down; it’s a pillar of dystopian sci-fi, a genre that I love.  But going back to watch the original, it’s so dark and wet and dreary and odd, without the alleviating moments that a film like that requires to sit well in the stomachs of audiences.  The sequel had the same bleak appearance, but Villeneuve was able to fill the gaps with small, magical moments that helped lift the entire film into rarefied air.  He infused humor when you least expected it, humanity when brutality was all around, love when hate filled the night.  He was able to keep the balance between a story that could easily become a burden and a movie that could easily become nothing more than an action flick, walking the fine line between styles in a way that exhibited his talent to the fullest.

I think the key ingredient in the film, and what made it possible to be both sometimes funny but often violently dark, was Ryan Gosling.  He filled the role of K perfectly, coming off as cool, confident, worried, humorous, powerful, swimming through a variety of emotions, which is only more impressive when you remember that he’s not even supposed to be human.  He, along with a great cast, steered this wild ride in the right direction, keeping it from becoming something none of us wanted it to be.  Ford was great in a smaller role, de Armas is as talented as she is sexy, and the side actors were all of them solid: Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Lennie James.  My only criticisms are that the film is a bit longer than it needs to be, the dialogue isn’t perfect, and although I enjoyed the quiet moments immensely, they led to startling moments when the characters actually talked, like “oh right that’s Harrison Ford, let me try to get back into the groove of hearing his voice.”  Blade Runner 2049 isn’t the best picture of the year, but it will probably be the best sci-fi flick, and it is another Villeneuve success from all angles.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

Save

Save

Save