7/01/2015

WEDNESDAY REVIEW OF TERMINATOR GENISYS

year: 2015 rating: ***
While this rebooted sequel of the TERMINATOR series feels like a strategic opportunity to delete the fourth film, SALVATION, an overlong catastrophe taking place in a future where only random flashbacks should occur, it actually winds up erasing the third, RISE OF THE MACHINES, since a gung-ho Sarah Connor is ready for a new start after having experienced similar ups-and-downs of the first two (and best) James Cameron-directed adventures. So when futuristic Kyle Reese shows up in 1984 to save her life, she’s been through the ringer, and then some, and has a familiar face protecting her…

To give anything else away, including what elements of each film are reused and/or recycled, or what time-lines are travelled, would be an absolute crime since... bookended between two segments of non-stop action is so much expository dialogue about what happened, what’s about to happen and what really happened when it almost didn’t happen the first time when everything began... at a certain point GENISYS, relying completely on scientific plot-twists, hits a major wall of downtime…

Thankfully the characters, including a resilient and mysterious John Connor; the energetic duo of Sarah and Kyle; and Arnold Schwarzenegger being used with the right combination of kitsch and badass (“I’m old, not obsolete”), all help morph what begins to feel like an over-explained cable series pilot into the big budget spectacular that was needed to aptly reboot… or rather, sustain… a classic and creative franchise.

6/29/2015

REVIEWS OF MAX & INSIDE OUT IN TWO PARAGRAPHS

year: 2015 grade: D
MAX: Like a dog buries a bone, the makers of MAX buries the titular lead, and instead of centering on a military Marine dog suffering shell shock, as promised, or an unlikely friendship between dog and boy, we follow a confusing melodrama about white trash bullies with some kind of military secret as Max the German Sheppard circles around this boring mainline also including a group of teenagers with less chemistry than a bad After School Special… So Max not only gets lost in the confusing political intrigue that’s hardly intriguing, but his young master’s new human friends hijack any purpose he would have otherwise… After all, it’s supposed to be his very own Dog Gone movie, so where on earth is he?

year: 2015 grade: C
INSIDE OUT: Now for a venture that can be compared to two films that shouldn’t be mentioned in a review about a children’s movie: EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK and THE EXORCIST… In the first, Woody Allen took us inside a body as we saw humans, as mechanics, controlling from the outside, like a bridge on a spaceship, the person inside… And in the latter, well, a little girl is wielded by something other than herself – in this case a handful of personality traits including Joy, Sadness, Anger and the token goofball relief, an Imaginary Friend elephant creature that, in trying to be the Josh Gad FROZEN favorite, winds up more annoying than helpful in a somewhat creative yet rather bland trek – the personalities traipsing slowly through the child’s cerebrum as, on the outside, a little girl deals with unrealistically jovial parents and a new school, which all seems an afterthought to the candy-coded fluff going on elsewhere: perhaps too much for grownup taste buds yet INSIDE OUT might make kids think... about thinking.

6/27/2015

PARENTHETICAL CAPTURES FROM THE MOTION PICTURE JAWS

"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'... I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy... Bad Fish!"
JAWS is celebrating the 40th Anniversary this year, a timeless summer classic directed by Steven Spielberg with images as iconic as anything in the history of film: so here are some cool shots you don't always get to see, along with descriptions, trivia, and beyond.
Roy Scheider's Cheif Brody leafs through a shark book & comes across a shark tower idea, later used in JAWS 2
Jeffrey Kramer's Hendricks is the Barney Fife of Amity, and here's a classic dim reaction
Unlike the poor pooch Pippit, these two dogs survive but obviously aren't having a terrific time
When Richard Dreyfuss' Hooper answers "Tiger Shark," the camouflage guy replies "A Whaaaaat?" hilariously
Glowing glimpse into the epic Spielberg magic, backed by a John Williams score, that would continue for decades
Part of the KILLER SHARK video game that ends the July 4th intro/montage with a bang... and then some
Wider shot of the KILLER SHARK video game as the camera then pans to a very busy beach
"A dark cloud in the form of... a killer shark" says JAWS novel author Peter Benchley as a reporter
Apocalypse Before as an annoyed Mayor bitterly shrugs off a shark-spotting helicopter
An old school scream queen reaction while the copter soars during the beach stampede
The Cute Hippie Artist Chick who bridges the beach to the pond, Carla Hogendyk is the true shark spotter 
Following the ominous opening credits, the bluesy fire-pit party includes this condom ad moment
Sean Brody, "bitten by a vampire," played by Chris Rebello, who died  of a heart attack in 2000
Like Hitchcock captured the seaside town in THE BIRDS, Spielberg provides a neat establishing shot
What type, literally, of death was this? Well the coroner says one thing before quickly changing his mind
Lee Fierro as Mrs. Kitner, the last to react... She later made a cameo in the abysmal JAWS 4: THE REVENGE
The central gunner who resembles Sam Bottoms aims at two practical joking kid brothers: "He made me do it!"
Lee Marvin was originally sought, Sterling Hayden considered, then, thank cinema god, Robert Shaw reigned
Here's a nice shot of the grungy, crowded boat that would wind up catching... that red herring Tiger Shark
This is a popular scene but take a look at that suddenly-oblivious coroner who changed facts to fiction
Another well known image, and it's great seeing a biscuit-chomping Shaw by his iconic chalkboard artwork
Back to basics: What seems like a shark attack is really boy & girl playing frisky in the water
An aesthetic cross between Peter Boyle and Grandpa Al Lewis, here's the Tiger Shark scene's White Rabbit
Scriptwriter and actor Carl Gottlieb directs the victorious shark photo within the shark movie
CLICK HERE for the first Cult Film Freak tribute to JAWS

6/26/2015

WEEKEND REVIEW OF TED 2

2015 rating: *1/2
For what's considered a silly stoner buddy comedy, TED was pretty philosophical, taking on everything from pop culture to relationships to religion. Through the safety net filter of a foul-mouthed, pot smoking Teddy Bear, Seth McFarland could channel everything he loathed without restraint and, providing the voice of the titular doll turned human-like sidekick of Mark Wahlberg’s sweet-natured Boston slacker John, the sky was the limit.

Like any comedy sequel, the main agenda here is to go so overboard, fans will forget the past. Right off the bat is a dance number opening credit sequence, as if Seth’s Oscar gig inspired an extravaganza that might lead to something maybe not better, but definitely bigger this time around... Nothing doing.

With a semi-serious plot about Ted going to court to prove he’s human enough to have a baby with his wife; a new love interest for the divorced John in cool chick lawyer Amanda Seyfried; a pointless road trip and a handful of lazy cameos seeming like guests at a stranger’s funeral, TED 2 doesn’t try for anything, really, that would push the envelop any further in this bland vehicle, too contained to be extemporaneous, too restrained to be raucous, too reserved to be controversial, and using the same lame villain, can’t even die with dignity.

6/22/2015

DOUBLE TRIAD OF THE CLASSIC MOTION PICTURE JAWS

"What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine." Richard Dreyfuss in JAWS
Year: 1975 Grade: A++
Never has a motion picture made such perfect use of three acts, and three main characters...

Gonna Need... More Chum
As Martin Brody, the relatively new Chief of Police in the beachside town of Amity, ROY SCHEIDER solely headlines the first act of JAWS, which can be titled WARNING, as he investigates the death of a young female swimmer by what is, despite the eventual coverup, a bonafide SHARK ATTACK. Thus Brody both leads the show and blends into the canvas of the eccentric town, lost in mazy politics concerning keeping the beaches open despite the immanent danger...


"Half Assed Autopsy"
As the Mayor of Amity, Murray Hamilton is the epitome of a strategically placed, politely antagonistic side-character, and his importance of capitalistic denial grows into the second act, FEEDING, where the most memorably nightmarish scenes occur, having to do with the shark lunching on various beach goers: but RICHARD DREYFUSS as Matt Hooper, an Oceanographic researcher brought in to help Brody figure out the so-called mystery of the attacks, truly shines within this pivotal sequence: His scientific knowledge and intense determination brings not only needed expository but he's the funniest, most energetic and endearing character on board...


Quint's Essential Machete
Leading to the final adventurous act, HUNTING, as Brody and Hooper take part in a MOBY DICK inspired deep sea trek for the shark led by a character introduced in a wonderful monologue early-on: In the role of the boisterous, opinionated, modern pirate Captain Quint, ROBERT SHAW steals the movie outright, highlighted by a mesmerizing, first-person account of the U.S.S. Indianapolis: American History blending into one of the best and most entertaining cinematic miracles of all time, not only the first summer blockbuster but with a 27-year-old Steven Spielberg at the helm, JAWS is the perfect combination of horror, terror, monster/creature feature, slowburn suspense, adventurous daring-do and, although the killer fish embodies this 1975 masterpiece, it's a character-driven vehicle like no other before, during and after. 
Three Leads of JAWS: Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider & Richard Dreyfuss 
The second-billed higher than first-billed credit sequence used in many movies

6/19/2015

ANDREW DICE CLAY IN THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE

year: 1990 rating: ***
This movie seems like something it isn’t – an introduction to Andrew Dice Clay onto the big screen, the at-that-time popular standup comic whose gloriously chauvinistic routine gave him the chance to have his own vehicle and character both, FORD FAIRLANE, and yet THE ADVENTURES is hardly his first time at bat… Clay had a scene-stealing role, praised by critics and audiences alike, in CASUAL SEX, played the cool bouncer bonding with Jon Cryer in PRETTY IN PINK and before all that was a thug nicknamed “Dice” in the Judd Nelson comedy MAKING THE GRADE.

But FORD gave the man the chance to prove his worth as a screen giant, and surprisingly it was not in a comedic fashion… Which doesn't mean Dice doesn’t try to be funny… Yet his signature one-liners seem rather contrived – the comic persona fails to resonate throughout the otherwise entertaining story about a Rock N' Roll detective caught in a Neo Noir Gumshoe maze, searching for the cause of a famous singer's death, and that of an obnoxious deejay. Like the Bogart genre this intentionally mirrors, there are tons of smitten dames, last names, dangerous clues, neon nighttime locales, and noisy brawls where Dice seems most comfortable.

High octane director Renny Harlin began as a second rate Tony Scott, specializing in extreme close-ups captured within an MTV gloss readymade for opening night audiences, but no one can deny his talents here, rising above a flawed script while making FAIRLAINE a worthwhile action vehicle even when the driver seems overwhelmed in the process. Like when Dice shined in his cameo roles, he basically plays second fiddle to all the suspenseful big budget distractions.

6/16/2015

REVIEW OF CONNERY BOND THREE: GOLDFINGER

1964 rating: ***1/2
For some people... one in particular, pictured below and mentioned later in a very special, personal family tribute... the main problem with GOLDFINGER is simple enough: James Bond is captured throughout most of the story. But that’s also what sets the third film apart from every other Connery vehicle. Taking a prolonged look inside the villain’s process, we get to see how he really ticks...

In the title role, Gert Fröbe underplays what would become gloriously fantastical by the likes of Blofeld and other world-dominating, monologue-spouting drama kings. He's surely the most subtle Ian Fleming inspired heavy in the 007 canon. Some of the best sequences occur before Bond goes on his caged sabbatical. The golf match between he and Goldfinger has its own rhythm, purpose and agenda: A beginning, middle and end... And a chance to enjoy our resilient hero as a free man, playing a gentleman's game with mischievous tricks under his sleeve.

Goldfinger Artwork
In many Bond films, the villain’s henchman trumps the big boss himself, and it’s no different here. Odd Job, the killer Korean with his decapitating boomerang hat, provides this meticulous vehicle some fun and pulpy fare. As does the third of three “Bond Girls”, Pussy Galore, and her aerial troop of killer blondes...

Galore’s connection with Bond injects a tinge of humanity that ruled the entire FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, which was less daring and dashing than the groundbreaking DR. NO, and more realistic than GOLDFINGER – unintentionally comical during the final heist on Fort Knox as a myriad of American troops are rendered unconscious, or pretend to be… Quite badly, either way.

Shared A Bond
So while the potential of the first act… also including Bond thwarting Goldfinger’s gambling ruse in Florida, a nifty chase inside the first-time Aston Martin and Q’s roomful of gadgets… is slightly derailed once the tables turn, we get to experience a side of the dashing hero not seen much before and after: a sly sense of moving forward by giving in completely.

PERSONAL MEMORIAL TRIBUTE: This post is dedicated to an awesome nephew, who died recently, at 28-years-old, and while he was not a huge fan of GOLDFINGER for the fact Bond was imprisoned for so long, there was a three-decade debate, particularly endearing for his young age back in the early 1990's, and unceasing as we would sporadically discuss the movie... and just last week we both planned on catching it on the big screen, which sadly, never happened... But the 007 franchise was a mere drop in the pop culture bucket, ranging from Orson Welles to Jack Kerouac to Charles Bronson to Led Zeppelin to Judd Nelson to Kurt Cobain to Reservoir Dogs to Wolverine, connecting Nephew with Uncle, and vice versa. So Rest in Peace, Austin Tavolara, you're already missed... and then some. 
Did the Fort Knox soldiers falling look silly on purpose since they were faking? You decide...

6/15/2015

RANDOM RAD REVIEW OF INVADERS FROM MARS

year: 1986 rating: ***
Starting off... off the beaten path, relating only partially to the subject at hand, the infectious Steven Spielberg magic often gets rubbed off on his directors, from the likes of Robert Zemeckis, whose mailbox-shaking, license plate spinning BACK TO THE FUTURE looks nothing like the subtle I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND or USED CARS; Joe Dante, whose sparsely terrifying PIRANHA and HOWLING look and feel quite different than the rolling camera mainstream vibe of GREMLINS; Richard Donner going ultra-slick in GOONIES; and last but not least Tobe Hooper, the groundbreaking, blood-splattered, low budget exploitation king of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and the more conventional yet still ultra violent and thrilling FUNHOUSE, who, after stepping behind the lens for Spielberg’s ultimate ghost story POLTERGEIST, kept that mystical yet youth-friendly vibe alive in INVADERS FROM MARS, a chance for Hooper to show he could pull off an extravaganza WITHOUT Spielberg's backing while keeping a lot of the fantastical signature elements, epic soundtrack style and best yet, in 1986... for Karen Black to work with her son, PARIS TEXAS child actor Hunter Carson as David, and other memorable cult cinema moments like Louise Fletcher eating a frog and Martians who are actual costumed creatures ("ugly, slimy, giant Mr. Potato Heads") before the computer generated takeover: all in a film that balances a nostalgic b-movie homage with the kind of adventurous paranoia that delves our buried young lead within a nifty cast also including Timothy Bottoms as dad, Laraine Newman as mom, Bud Cort and POLTERGEIST human antagonist James Karen as a military general whose Marine compound could harbor government secrets… per usual in this genre. But we’re skipping way ahead…

Retro Opening Credits
MARS takes a little while to get going, starting out with a nuclear family too hip to be realistic – making sense when the inevitable monotone changeling occurs. The beautiful locations trump the somewhat dragging initial takeoff – one incline viewed outside the kid’s window (adorning the official poster above) winds into a rural, fog-shrouded backdrop reminiscent of E.T. with the enigmatic glow liken to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, adding to the dreamlike aesthetic and, like already mentioned, showing Hooper's residual influence (intentional or otherwise) to his former POLTERGEIST boss. 

Yet the coolest visuals are inside pivotal caverns, leading to origin-secrets revealed about the Martians, who, up until that point, seemed part of the kid's wild imagination... at least in the narrow-minded adult point of view. Only Karen Black’s friendly school nurse, not having the mark on the back of her neck like the others, seems legit, joining the trek to discover and uncover what’s behind the nefarious curtain, providing Tobe Hooper a chance to wield his own unique brand of paranormal intrigue and, for core fans, getting sporadically morbid and downright gruesome. Yet INVADERS never gives too much away for the characters or the audience, so even the overboard militaristic finale still holds an intriguing potential: that anything can happen around each cavernous bend.
Carton Hunter's perspective as Louise Fletcher provides the White Rabbit into Martianland
The Signature Location with the backs of Hunter Carson, Laraine Newman & Timothy Bottoms

6/14/2015

BREAKING ICE WITH HAPPYISH EPISODE 8

E8 Grade: C-
When a show’s been on for a little while, the conversation/dialogue seems more like eavesdropping than a stage play catered to win over the audience… In other words, you're more listening than being spoken to...

So whether or not HAPPYISH, starring Steve Coogan as Thom Payne and his equally-frustrated wife Kathryn Hahn as Lee, is comfortable enough in its own shoes to keep a steady pace without overselling loads of snarky pessimism... well so far, after eight episodes, still isn’t clear… It’s like eavesdropping on someone else’s favorite play, and this week deals with Lee abhorring the popular Disney musical, FROZEN, shedding light on how parents have to weather this misleadingly optimistic parade that only honest adults can rain on: by either complaining in another room, or smoking loads of pot outside… Which Lee does, both, and that’s pretty much that other than Thom at the ad agency disliking some kind of kitschy think tank room… And what better to counterbalance wife’s Disney hatred than a porn star providing a forth-wall-breaking narration at husband's work, which hardly relates to anything relevant or entertaining: Thus Episode 8, titled “Starring Rene Descartes, Adweek and HRH the Princess of Arendelle" sort of remains in neutral with one foot orbiting the brakes, and yet, there's a feeling both characters want to be, at this point, on a steady cruise control... but it just ain't happenin', yet.  

6/12/2015

WEEKEND REVIEW OF JURASSIC WORLD

year: 2015 rating: *
The wasted potential of the title alone, an entire WORLD as opposed to a PARK, is the first thing very, very wrong here – and this JURASSIC sequel/reboot is flawed beyond extinction.

Ripping off ALIENS, a troop of soldiers are viewed on their own monitors, falling prey to a gigantic combination of T-Rex and… other mischievous ingredients at the famous (or infamous) Theme Park finally open to the public, and not just in test-only mode or posthumous ruins…

The Shark Still Rules, Steven
Actually, it’s been going for a little while, and people are already tired of normal dinosaurs roaming around: thus the edgy hybrid was born. And if up to leading lady and semi-villainous Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, whose nephews visit the way John Hammond’s grandchildren did in the original, the fierce monstrosity would have its very own limousine...

But our token action hero Chris Pratt knows better… Much, much better… With breezy idealism intact, and an ability to maneuver Raptors like sheep, unlike his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY intrepid slacker he’s just too perfect to relate with. And, being this film’s Sam Neill, there's a potential Jeff Goldblum sarcastic sidekick who winds up completely benign. So all Pratt’s Owen does is argue with the slowly-thawing Claire as they attempt to rescue the boys, who, like everyone else in human form, we hardly get to know at all… Especially one jerk wanting the dinos for military gain: Talk about cliché.

The real crime of WORLD is the lack of JURASSIC: the impressive location is a mere afterthought for a dull Monster Movie while the other neat looking dinosaurs are hardly shown at all. Just because the fictional public within this story are tired of them doesn't mean we are.

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