Month: August 2013

Movie Trailer – Dallas Buyers Club

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
Release: November 1st, 2013

I wish they had cast about any other human on the planet as the female lead in this movie.  Jennifer Garner is horrible; is that even up for debate?  What’s she doing in a film that looks really edgy, interesting, and well done?  She doesn’t belong here.  That might sound mean but I don’t care.  Maybe this movie doesn’t end up being amazing, who knows, but regardless she shouldn’t be in it.

DVD Review – I Killed My Mother

Category : DVD Review

Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Anne Dorval, Francois Arnaud
Year: 2009

I don’t see a lot of films coming out of Canada.  Or maybe I just don’t know that I do.  The few that I’m sure I’ve seen have either been very American or very French, seeming more a part of those countries then having their own national feel.  The Lesser Blessed was decidedly American, a story about high school angst that could have been set in any northern town.  I’m sure it didn’t help that the film was in English and that my own ethnocentric tendencies made it all about me.  On the flip side, I Killed My Mother was decidedly French, having almost an Amelie undertone.  It is set in Montreal, Quebec where the director Xavier Dolan is from, and I’m sure there are subtle differences between that region’s films and those from France, but to me they seemed very similar.  Anyway, the story isn’t about the area, it’s about the boy, as Dolan wrote, directed, and starred in this semi-autobiographical film set in his home town and giving audiences an uncomfortably candid look into his past.

The Movie

In the film, Dolan basically plays a version of himself, a 16-year-old named Hubert.  Talented in painting, writing, film-making, Hubert is an artistic bohemian trapped in the suburbs of Montreal.  His grades are not the best, though his intelligence is unquestioned, and he wants desperately to move into an apartment of his own.  The reason behind this is his strained relationship with him mother.  They used to be close, could talk about anything, but recently they have become constantly at odds, screaming at each other, always criticizing, enemies who deep down love one another.  Hubert feels like his mother doesn’t understand him, and he’s right.  She doesn’t because he hasn’t been honest with her, hasn’t revealed to her that he is gay and in a relationship.
When she finds out about his secret life, Hubert’s mother attempts to understand her son and accept the fact that he has changed beyond her understanding.  But old habits and old hatreds don’t just disappear after a revelation, no matter how important.  Arguments erupt, Hubert runs away, and his mother feels compelled to place him in a boarding school; not only to fix his grades but to give him what she feels is much needed direction.  This is the final straw for Hubert, and he believes that he will never love his mother again. The pair must try to understand each other if they are to have any hope of mending their relationship; a difficult task given Hubert’s distance, his new lifestyle, his experimentation with drugs, and his deep seeded resentment.

The summary of the film doesn’t do it justice.  It all sounds a little trite; a young man’s struggle to overcome his mommy issues and grow up to become who he wants to be, a mother trying to love her son despite his resistance and her own shortcomings.  It sounds silly, but it isn’t.  The film does enough right to overcome the trappings of what could have been a very dumb plot.  But it wasn’t.  Instead it came off as honest and relatable, a story that we all can connect to on some level.  Hubert’s being gay didn’t really matter, nor did the fact that it was his mother who he was fighting with, nor was his age important.  There was something in the story that we have all felt; anger, resentment, boredom, the feeling of being trapped.  And it was those emotions that became the focal point of the film, not the details of the plot.
The film needed very strong actors in order to pull off such a complex drama, and fortunately they delivered.  Anne Dorval was excellent as Chantale, Hubert’s mother.  Not only was she a very deep character, but she was funny as well.  The sort of funny that hurts a little, but funny nonetheless.  She was able to be extremely believable while still being very dramatic, which a ton of Hollywood actors can’t pull off.  And Dolan himself was very strong as well.  I guess it’s not surprising that he played himself well; who better to show how he felt at this time in his life?  But it couldn’t have been easy, to write the script that bares your emotions to the world, act it out on camera, and direct the film that puts it all together.  That aspect alone is pretty impressive.  It doesn’t make the movie a success that he worked so hard, but the effort is obvious and helps to make the film feel that much more realistic.
It wasn’t all perfect though.  The film was a little slow at times and perhaps too reliant on dramatic screaming matches.  Raising your voice can hide some imperfections in your acting and can heighten the intensity of a scene.  But I don’t think they were yelling just for the sake of it.  The arguments were necessary to the story, but they did get a little too numerous.  Also, the hand-held camera scenes were a little forced, and the dream sequences were a little silly.  I didn’t feel like they were needed; the “real life” mood of the film was good enough and didn’t need gimmicks to help it.  That said, I guess 16-year-olds are dramatic, so perhaps the over-the-top moments can be forgiven because that’s how the director saw the world at that time in his life.  Regardless, the imperfections were minimal and didn’t hurt the quality of the film.


Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the video was just fine.  The film was shot using a Red One camera, and the picture quality was nice but not amazing.  There were some very beautiful shots though; Dolan has a good eye for a dramatic visual.
Audio – The sound was done in Dolby Digital, with your choice between Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Digital 2.0.  The sound quality of the film was fine, with nice background music.  There were a couple spots where the the voices were soft and the music was overpowering, but some of that could have been done for effect.
Extras – There are a couple extras on the disc.  About Kino Lorber tells a little about the distributor.  There is also a theatrical trailer and a stills gallery.

Final Thoughts

RecommendedI Killed My Mother is a strong film, especially for a first time director who also wrote the script and starred in the movie.  He was twenty at the time and made a great debut.  The film was well acted and well made, with a simple story that was easy to relate to.  The video, audio, and extras were just fine, but not very exciting.  All in all, a very nice movie that was easy to appreciate.

✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ – Content
✰ ✰ ✰ – Video
✰ ✰ ✰ – Audio
✰ ✰ ✰ – Extras
✰ ✰ ✰ – Replay

Movie Trailer – The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: George Tillman Jr.
Starring: Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks
Release: October 11th, 2013

I may be an American Idol fan, but they didn’t need to trick me into seeing this movie by adding some alum into it.  The story itself got me, and the hope of seeing two child actors that can carry a heavy piece like this.  I bet they pull it off.

DVD Review – Rushlights

Category : DVD Review

Director: Antoni Stutz
Starring: Josh Henderson, Haley Webb, Aidan Quinn, Beau Bridges
Year: 2013

Some movies you can tell just aren’t going to be any good.  They may end up with some redeeming qualities, but there are certain signs that point towards crap.  Two young, attractive, unknown lead actors?  Yes.  Two mediocre veterans meant to lend some credit to the film?  Yes.  A story set in a small town in Texas where everyone knows everyone?  Yes.  These all seemed like red flags to me, and when I watched the trailer I was even more confident that this movie wouldn’t be anything wonderful.  But I also thought that it ought to be entertaining, fast-paced, sexy; a fun way to spend an hour and a half.  Well, I was wrong on one of my assumptions.  Guess which.

The Movie

It’s young love at its finest when the handsome Billy falls for the beautiful Sarah.  She’s a waitress, he’s a who-knows-what, but a passionate night brings them together and they seem to have fallen hard for each other.  But their idyllic situation is rocked when Sarah’s friend ODs, dies, and leaves her in a tight spot.  Call the police?  Run?  Or maybe open her mail, find a letter of inheritance, and hatch a deceitful plan that could make the young couple very rich.  You see, Sarah looks remarkably like her friend and could pose for her easily.  So Sarah & Billy head to Texas to claim the inheritance as their own.  Sounds too good to be true, and of course it is.
Things are not so cut-and-dry in Tremo, where this long-lost relative has died.  He left behind a lot of money, but also many secrets and a lot of people who want a piece of the pie.  Sarah & Billy soon meet the brothers who run the town: Cameron Brogden the lawyer and Robert Brogden the sheriff.  While friendly at first, it soon becomes apparent that they have agendas of their own and that the young lovers will not be getting their hands on the cash as quickly as they had imagined.  Lies abound and cover stories unravel, as everyone’s true motives are slowly revealed and the twisted plot races toward a resolution that will definitely not be amicable.

Where to start, where to start.  The production of the film, I guess, since that was as bad as everything else.  First off, director Antoni Stutz has only directed one other film, 2001’s You’re Killing Me… starring former porn star Traci Lords.  You gotta start some time I guess, but the film made it obvious that he was an amateur.  It was more like a copy of a movie than an actual movie.  I take that back; more like a copy of a made-for-TV movie than an actual movie.  It felt stolen instead of created, with no hint of originality.  The whole small-Texas-town thing is so cliche, it’s got to be impossible to do it well.  And adding a yellow filter over your camera lens didn’t make the boring, typical scenes that you’re shooting seem any cooler.  From start to finish the film was a rip-off of so many that have come before; just one more “thriller” with no substance and no saving grace.
I guess I’d have to blame the acting for taking the movie from bad to awful.  I mean, it obviously wasn’t going to be great, but it could have helped itself out a little by having actors who were the least bit likeable, believable, or talented.  Josh Henderson was especially poor as the seemingly simple-minded Billy.  It was like he was reading lines in acting class, not performing in an actual movie.  His counterpart, Haley Webb, was actually OK.  She was pretty at least, and not horrible anyway, but the two of them had such bad chemistry that it felt a little weird every time they touched each other.  Quinn & Bridges, the veterans, were exactly what you’d expect; about as exciting as mannequins taught to speak.  Neither one of them brought anything to the film except a recognizable name.
It all culminated in a badly acted, messy muddle.  The story was hard to follow, the characters weren’t fun to watch, and the movie fell very flat.  And there’s where I was wrong in my assumptions.  I thought that the film looked throw-away, but that it would have some fireworks.  Some cool violence, a sex scene, tense or scary moments.  But no, I was wrong about that.  Instead it was overly serious, strange, and at times pretty boring.  I was left not really caring whether or not any of the principles got any money, got away with murder, died, left, disappeared.  I guess I just gave up at some point.  And judging by how well the film turned out, maybe they all did too.


Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the video was quite nice.  The film was shot on an Arriflex 35 BL4 using Cooke and Angenieux lenses, and also a Clairmont camera using a Clairmont lens.  The quality of the picture was top notch; crisp visuals, nice clarity.  The movie was a bit too yellow for my taste, but then maybe that was an artistic decision.
Audio – The film was done in Dolby Digital, with an option to choose English 5.1 or English 2.0.  There are no subtitles choices or any other audio options on the disc.  The sound quality of the film is fine, nothing to report and no problems.
Extras – There is only one extra on the disc; Behind the Scenes: “The Making of Rushlights”.  It’s only four minutes long and doesn’t really add anything to the movie.  There are no other extras.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  There’s really no reason to watch this movie.  It looks bad from the beginning, only to get worse when you realize that there aren’t any cheap redeeming qualities.  The video is nice, the audio fine, and the extras limited.  Don’t rent Rushlights with the hope of having an entertaining evening.  They say it’s based on actual events, but that’s a pretty loose phrase, and it doesn’t effect the outcome.  It’s not awful enough to be funny, it doesn’t deliver enough to be good, and it’s not provocative enough to warrant your time.

– Content
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ – Video
✰ ✰ ✰ – Audio
✰ ✰ – Extras
– Replay

Movie Trailer – Pompeii

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Carrie-Anne Moss
Release: February 21st, 2014

There isn’t much detail in this trailer, but what there is doesn’t look that good.  Why do directors think that every man in ancient times had a six-pack and went around shirtless?  Or maybe it’s the authors of the graphic novels that some of these movies are based on that are making all this shit up.  I’m fine with fantasy, but I’d like to watch a movie about a historic event that seems halfway believable.

Movie Review – Gangster Squad

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone
Year: 2013

I try to steer clear of shoot-em-up movies, because they’re normally terrible.  I don’t mean Quentin Tarantino films, I meet throw-away action films, stupid Jason Statham movies, and gangster flicks.  The last gangster story I watched was Public Enemies.  Read my review of that one to see how it went.  There’s just something fleeting about that era that is hard to capture on film, especially without making it seem cheesy & stupid.  I liked the look of Gangster Squad because it almost had a graphic novel feel to it.  Not that I’m a fan of comic books, but I thought it might be an interesting take on the genre, one that would actually give me what I want; a good movie that happens to take place in a cool time period.  Well, that didn’t happen.
So here’s the story.  The year is 1949, the city is Los Angeles.  Organized crime has taken over the town under the leadership of East Coast crook Mickey Cohen.  He’s a Jew, he’s a bad ass, and he’s taking the city by force.  The police can’t stop him because he’s bought all the politicians.  No one will testify against him because that’s the same as suicide.  So desperate measures have to be taken.  A secret police squadron is formed, led by the honorable Sergeant O’Mara.  He forms a squad made up of clean cops; a wise acre, a sharp shooter, a street smart, an intelligence expert.  Their mission is to take down Cohen’s operation, destroy everything, kill anyone, while leaving their badges at home.  But will they succeed, or will the gangsters win the war?
So it didn’t end up having a graphic novel feel.  It didn’t end up being cool, having substance, nor was it any good.  It was just another crappy tommy gun movie, in which a million bullets are fired and nothing really happens.  There was a plot; take down Mickey Cohen.  But there wasn’t really much of a story, it was more like action happening along the way.  I never cared whether or not they succeeded, and I never saw much that set it apart from The Untouchables, a far superior movie.  And the acting, oh man.  Emma Stone was worthless and horrible.  Josh Brolin was leaden and dull.  Sean Penn was OK, but it was more weird than good.  Ryan Gosling was the only stand out, and he was the only one who wasn’t phoning it in.  I just don’t like this type of movie, and it’s because they’re usually so bad.  Someone make a good one, please, it can’t be that hard.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Movie Trailer – The Book Thief

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Brian Percival
Starring: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Release: November 15th, 2013

Any movie about Nazis, Jews, and WWII automatically peaks our interest, because that was such a fascinating time in history.  Making a heartbreaking film about that period is pretty easy; it’s making a great one that’s hard.  This doesn’t look like it’s going to be amazing, but it looks well done.

Book Review – Peter Pan

Category : Book Review

Author: J. M. Barrie
Year: 1911
We’ve all heard the story of Peter Pan, the boy who won’t grow up.  There are so many different versions, just among movies.  And then there are books, plays, TV shows, spin-offs.  My daughter is really into Pixie Hollow, a complete world of characters and adventures (and products) that all came from the original story.  I was even in the play in high school, long long ago.  I played Captain Hook, quite well I might add.  But even though I knew the plot very well, I had never read the book.  It was a play first, of course, turned into a book, and then spawning innumerable adaptations.  But the book remains as the pinnacle of Barrie’s wonderful story.
Peter Pan is youth personified.  He is the boy who will remain young forever, but only if he stays in the Neverland, a world that exists through the imaginations of children.  Three such young believers are Wendy, John, and Michael, well-to-do British children who truly think that Peter is a real boy.  And when he visits them one night this is proven to them, and they immediately embark on a journey to the Neverland, leaving their old lives behind.  They will from now on live underground, fighting pirates, competing with Indians, hiding from the wild beasts.  One adventure after another assail the children and their hero Peter Pan, eventually culminating in a final battle with the dreaded James Hook, and forcing them to choose between a live of dreams and one of responsibilities.
It’s hard to recommend a book to someone who already knows the story by heart, but I hope I can make it clear that this was one of the best books I have ever read, and that you should read it too.  I almost cried at the end, and let me say that that does not normally happen.  Not only was it very well written, especially for it to slide so easily across one hundred years.  But it was also deeply stirring.  It got inside somehow and made me contemplate every chapter as if it were a hidden message meant just for me.  Every character was a metaphor, every event an example, of youth, time, selfishness, growing up, giving up.  It’s not surprising that this simple story has created so many copies, because each individual must see something unique to them inside the text and inside one of the characters.  The book was almost prose at times, beautiful to read, with great descriptions and quick wit.  But the excellence of the story was in its depth, bluntly telling the truth about life using a crocodile, a pirate, a child.  Everyone should read Peter Pan, as it has something to tell us all.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Movie Trailer – Fading Gigolo

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: John Turturro
Starring: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara
Release: September 2013

For a movie about a male prostitute, this movie looks kinda boring.  It has a Woody Allen feel, but with lesbians and flowers.  I don’t know, I like John Turturro, but I have strong doubts about this one.  I can’t see myself giving it a chance unless I hear some surprisingly good things.

DVD Review – Dragon Knight

Category : DVD Review

Director: Helene Angel
Year: 2003

This is a movie of many titles.  The DVD has it entitled Dragon Knight.  The original French title is Recontre avec le dragon.  And IMDB has it labeled as The Red Knight.  Whatever you choose to call it, the multiple names are a sign of the confusion to come.  There is not a single dragon in the movie, nor can we ever be sure that a dragon played any part in the story.  That’s fine, there doesn’t have to be an actual dragon; you could argue that the legend of the dragon is what’s important to the plot.  But then there’s the French vs. the English title.  Sure, it’s a foreign film, why not.  But again, it’s a clue as to what’s to come.  And what came was some of the worst dubbing I have ever sat through.  So take the uncertainty of the title as a sign and be prepared for what turned out to be a very odd film.

The Movie

Legend has it that a man baptised by fire has become one of the greatest knights in history.  His name is Guillaume, and in his youth he saved his friend Raoul from the dragon’s breath.  In the process, he was horribly burned, surviving but paying a horrible price.  The scars he will carry for a lifetime, but legend also claims that this brave warrior can never die, can never be defeated, that he is blessed by the fire.  Years after the event his exploits have not been forgotten.  Books have been written about him, and he has become a famous knight, idolized by many.  One such believer is Felix, a young boy who carries an ancient book with him as if it were the Bible, hoping to one day meet & squire for his beloved hero.
When Felix finally meets Guillaume, all is not as he imagined it would be.  The Red Dragon is no more than a bounty hunter, attempting to find the renegade Hugues, return him to the Pope, and collect a handsome reward.  Also on the trail of the runaway is Mespoulede, Guillaume’s rival.  The two fight for the right to the prize, with Felix a near helpless tag-a-long.  But there is even more to the story that will make it even harder for Guillaume to complete his mission.  He is being followed by his now mad friend Raoul, who is cursed and damned and totally insane.  Something happened years ago between the two near brothers that has driven a wedge between them, something that haunts them still and will ultimately help to decide the fate of all involved.

First, the dubbing.  I’m not sure who did it, but it sounds like it was perhaps a high school class.  I’ve heard some bad voice-overs in some bad b-movies, but this has to be right up there with the worst ever.  Not only was it horrible acting, but the voices themselves didn’t seem to fit the characters at all.  Guillaume sounded like he was seventeen.  I could have done a better job, and I really hate when that happens.  Me and my friends shouldn’t be able to go in the basement, watch the movie, find a script, read along, and do ten times better than the actual dubbers.  I mean, come on, put some effort into it at least.  Try to emote a little and inflect your voice.  I don’t want to sound like my old choir teacher, but a little enunciation wouldn’t hurt.
The only thing the dubbing allowed for were some cool sound effects that seem to have been added in to the movie.  Background sounds were louder than usual, but not in a bad way.  It was almost like an old radio show where someone is producing sound effects to go along with the dialogue.  Who knows, that may have been exactly what they were doing, snapping twigs whenever a character went traipsing through the woods.  But it worked, and created a extra sense of reality, of being involved in the story.  And the story itself wasn’t bad.  I was interested in the Dragon Knight legend, I was curious to see how it would all play out, and I liked Felix as the boy who is witnessing the crazy world that these messed up adults have constructed for themselves.
Putting aside the dubbing, the film was alright.  Not great, but alright.  It was very imaginative, with strange locations that the characters were always coming across, original costumes, and some nice ideas put into motion.  There was obviously a lot of time & effort put into the world in which the action was taking place.  The events of the plot were unpredictable, even a little wild at times.  But at least they kept you on your toes.  The level of violence and stark action was nice; there was a very raw sense to the film, a semi-realistic take on medieval warfare, politics, and brutality.  I guess if I had just turned the volume off it would have made for a better movie.  But then I wouldn’t have known what the hell was going on, so never mind.

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the picture quality is nice.  Maybe not quite as perfect as you’d hope for, but nice.  The scenery was what impressed me.  The filmmakers had a good eye for the set, and gave us some really great shots.
Audio – You have two sound options here: 2.0 Dolby Stereo or 5.1 Surround Sound.  The film is in French with English dubbing.  There are no subtitles options, but if you had subtitles you’d miss some of the worse voice-overs you’re ever likely to hear.
Extras – There are zero extras on this disc.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  I wish I had watched this film in its original language.  I don’t think it would have made it amazing, but it definitely would have helped.  The visuals of the movie were nice, the story was cool, but the dubbing was just so bad it made it almost unwatchable.  The video was good, the audio was fine, and there were no extras at all.  Find a French version; otherwise don’t bother.

✰ ✰ – Content
✰ ✰ ✰ – Video
✰ ✰ – Audio
– Extras
– Replay