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Category: Reviews

[Sherlock Review] The Empty Hearse (no spoilers, honest)

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After two years of waiting, the US fans of Sherlock will have to wait another two weeks for Season 3 to start with The Empty Hearse.
When we last left our heroes, Watson arrived to witness Sherlock jump off a building to make sure Moriarty’s goons didn’t kill Watson, Lastrade or Mrs. Hudson.
The death of Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem has been played out across much of the reboots over the years. Jeremy Brett’s run being the one I remember the most. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows being the most recent and enjoyable since both Robert Downey Jr and Jared Harris were fun to watch even if the plot got a little laughable in spots.
The Reichenbach Fall doesn’t take us all the way to Switzerland and instead The Final Problem is played out on a rooftop giving our hero the only option left to him to save his friends. In the end, Sherlock falls, dies and is buried. And in the final moments shown to be quite alive.
There’s a phrase in DC Universe to explain how Batman does the things he does: He’s Batman. And like the costumed Detective, Sherlock is the same way.
The tone of The Empty Hearse is less morose than it’s predecessor, The Empty House. Two years have passed and everyone is getting on with their lives. Fresh from the seven minute short entitled Many Happy Returns, Lastrade continues to happily shoot down wild theories from Anderson that Sherlock is solving crimes across Europe. Watson, now with mustache is getting ready to propose to Mary and just where is Sherlock, exactly?
The return of Sherlock is less of a surprise this time round. Instead of Sherlock regaling Watson of his continental adventures we’re shown the events which is much better than being told it. The set up and the pay off is laugh riot. Honest to god, a laugh riot.
And I’m not just talking about Martin Freeman flipping off the audience (check the Hobbit DVD extras for his outtakes of flipping off the audience) the episode on a whole is fun to watch and is welcome breath of fresh air after the disappointing Doctor Who season.
For much of the episode the Detective Duo are separated until the unnamed antagonists reach out and the episode gets moving. The use of Moran was a nice touch even if he isn’t chasing Holmes like before.
The episode on a whole was very V for Vendetta, minus the bald Natalie Portman. Using the London Underground as a set peice reminded me of Skyfall.
In the end, I’m happy Gatniss and Moffat have dulled some of the edges of Sherlock and made him more human. This is a good thing. You make the highly functioning sociopath more likable while still solving crime and keep the humor within reason.
Here’s hoping the quality of the next two episodes are just as good.

[Doctor Who] The Day of the Doctor

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It has been fifty years since William Hartnell premiered in the Unearthly Child.
I can thank WGBH out of Boston for being here.
In the eighties my family was glued to the television set at 7pm on weeknights for 30mins of Cybermen, Daleks and a Timelord played by Tom Baker.
The Day of the Doctor revisits a fixed point that has been elephant in the room since the series restarted: The Time War. Timelords vs. Daleks and Doctor #8 being at the middle of it all until one day he decides drop his pacifist notions and by way of a elixir of life from the Sisterhood of Karn, becomes a war doctor.
The downside of seeing Paul McGann regenerate into John Hurt is that it’s not part of The Day of the Doctor special itself. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great snippet that should be how we start off this special.
Instead we get a classic opening. As in, the old black and white opening turning to color as we find Clara, played again by Jenna Coleman is now a school teacher near to Foreman Junkyard that started it all 50 years ago. This is slightly perplexing because the last time we saw the Doctor and Clara at Trenzalore and the whole timeline with the Intelligence trying to kill them all.
The Doctor and Clara are picked up, literally, by a UNIT helicopter and brought back to London where trouble is a abrewing in the form of a three dimensional painting called Galifrey Falls or No More. It should not exist. This brings up bad memories for the Doctor obviously and the we are shown the final day of the war as John Hurt puts the hurt on some Daleks and steals “the moment” a galaxy eating machine that has a personality.
He steals it because he plans on using it to end the war and in doing so treks to this far off place that if I didn’t know better was his home but no one mentions who, what, when or why so I’m going with his childhood home.
The moment is steampunk-type box with clock gears and it’s personality is none other than the Bad Wolf herself played by Billie Piper.
The dialogue between the two of them is getting off to rather good start when the plot pulls them away when a time vortex opens and a fez pops through something neither of them were expecting unless you’re the audience and you know exactly how Moffat’s mind works.
Everything is out of time/space so going back to the Doctor and UNIT where Kate Stewart played by Jemma Redgrave brings the audience up to speed on the Doctor’s affair with Elizabeth 1.
Somewhere between Voyage of the Damned and Partners in Crime, Doctor #10 visited Queen Elizabeth and the two are having a lovely time playing kissy face when Zygons try to take over the Crown. And while running away from these shape shifters is when #10 and #11 meet up with hilarious results until the War Doctor arrives through the time vortex the fez came through and quickly all three are dumped into the Tower of London as prisoners.
I should also make mention that John Hurt steals every single scene he’s in and for some reason there wasn’t enough in the budget to spike #10’s hair so he may look odd. If the scarf was #4’s trademark then the hair is trademarked for #10.
Soon the Zygons threaten to derail the plot but the Doctors fix the on coming invasion quickly and get back on track to the real problem at hand: The War Doctor is about to blow up all of Galifrey to stop the war. The prop department had a good time with this episode from the Black Vault that is TARDIS proof with certain Doctor items to having 3 Tardi next to each other with different paint schemes and designs.
The three actors, John Hurt, David Tennent and Matt Smith really act with each other. Having all three of them stuck in the Tower of London to bounce off each other was a great idea because there are no explosions or SFX, it’s just them and their baggage and Bad Wolf just watching them all.
Clara and Bad Wolf are mostly in the background and while they’re there for most of the big scenes they get the short end of the stick since the dopey Elizabeth plot is given so much.
UNIT and their secret vaults are a great idea since Torchwood inception and execution was fumbled and they are practically no longer even in the picture. I hope the areas introduced are used again next season.
As for the overall plot: It’s really all over the place and really when you have a Doctor team up most of the plot goes out the window. Part of me and probably my mother would ask this: Ditch Queen Elizabeth and get the Doctor/Donna back in there. Donna zingers would have helped or even Wilf.
This episode thankfully gives the Doctor his call to action without blowing up the universe, or gathering the heroes to save the universe or the hero’s journey shenanigans that most season finales are there for.
Instead this episode was about one man trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do in the time of war.
The Curator idea I loved before the Curator showed up. I wished for more Curators but as you’ll see the extra special video at the bottom of this post helps.
Does The Day of the Doctor make up for the lameness of Season 7. Nope.
Season 7 should have built up to this but instead this episode is rather stand alone. Like neatening up dangling plot lines.
The Christmas Episode should be interesting since it’ll be Matt Smith’s last and Peter Capaldi’s first. I’m hoping for a grim Christmas episode or least one without the sweet tooth.
And for a extra special treat: A 30min film written and directed by Peter #5 Davidson which features a good deal of the Whovian cast both past and present.
The Five(ish) Doctors –

[Movie Review] Thor: The Dark World

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I hereby accept your surrender.”
It’s been two years since Thor and in a post-Avengers/Iron Man 3 world Thor: The Dark World has a lot to live up to.
Everyone else is making comparisons and I agree with them after sitting through Thor: The Dark World 3-D IMAX Experience.
First, the 3-D isn’t worth it. Gravity in 3-D was better. Jurassic Park in 3-D was better.
Second, the IMAX showing was gorgeous.
Third, the preview of Captain America: The Winter Soldier took the wind out of Thor’s sails.

[Movie Review] Gravity

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I’m not going to ruin Gravity for you. I will recommend not watching the trailers, either. The TV ads show enough but the two minute trailer won’t ruin it but I highly recommend going into this movie cold.
I will say that James Cameron and Buzz Aldrin are raving about it. And, rightfully so.
I saw it 3-D IMAX and the only thing I will ruin is: it’s too loud in specific points. I mean the audience is now deaf type of loud. I’m thirty-eight with good hearing and it took me out of the movie.
Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts repairing Hubble when the shit hits the fan. And for the rest of the movie it’s race to survive in the most hostile environment ever charted by man: space.
If NASA ever wanted a recruitment movie this is it. Too bad it symbolizes the worst NASA disaster ever.
I would love to see the Blu-Ray second screen of this movie and watch the movie without the SFX. The SFX aren’t the gloss from say a J J Abrams movie. The SFX look, sound and feel real.
There is no sound in space. Sure you hear vibrations through the suits but otherwise there is no Star Trek/Star Wars noises.
And this brings up a good point I mentioned on either Twitter or Facebook: Star Trek: Into Darkness would have sucked a lot less if they had taken even 1% of Gravity and used it.
It’s worth seeing in 3-D IMAX just drool at the amount of work the digital artists did.
The one downside I will say is this: I wanted a longer ending. It just felt too pat.
Make sure to watch the credits for Mission Control voice.

[Movie Review] Byzantium

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Byzantium directed by Neil Jordan and staring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton as two vampires surviving in present day Britain, running from town to town as the bodies stack up all the while two investigators played by Uri Gavriel and Sam Riley nip at their ever growing trail.
This movie does not try to be something it’s not. It doesn’t over extent itself, it doesn’t burden the plot with too many ideas. I would say it’s gender roles are switched from Interview with a Vampire which was also directed by Neil Jordan.
The movie follows Clara played by Gemma and her daughter, Eleanor played by Saoirse living out life, Clara as a stripper and Eleanor as the teenager that will never grow up and writes down her tale of woe that is revealed to the audience in dribs and drabs.
Clara has her way of getting blood and Eleanor has her way and both are fairly straight forward until a former beau tracks down Clara and ends up losing his head.
So, a tank of gasoline fueled fire later and the girls are off to another town.
Several truck rides later they end up in a seaside town that looks fun to Clara but Eleanor knows she’s been here before since it turns out to be the same town they were born in. Clara goes back to what she knows and finds a rube in the form of Noel played Daniel Mays and sets up a make shift brothel in an old hotel called Byzantium.
Eleanor and Clara’s actions/roles are reversed. Clara dresses like the free wheeling spirit that she is while Eleanor in her red hoody desperately wants a friend.
Both of their histories are played out through the use of flashbacks. The flashbacks don’t become a drinking game and are kept to a minimum and or in Eleanor’s case it simply happens in front of her. Their histories and the people they’ve touch over two hundred years will continue to haunt them until the end of the movie. From the Johnny Lee Miller’s bastard captain to Sam Riley’s calm Lieutenant to Eleanor’s new friend, a waiter named Frank played Caleb Landry Jones.
The empire building for the vampire society is not as structured as the one found in Blade. Vampires powers are fairly weak which allows for a great deal of walking around in daylight. No fangs. No bodies turning into ash. No super strength or suggestive powers. No type of sire hierarchy.
Just a cocaine nail to suck the blood out.
So with no way to make a Vampire how do they do it?
Each of the characters come across an island in their travels. The island has a stone cabin and inside that cabin is a duplicate of themselves.
Or at least we’re made to believe it’s them. Since most of the vampires are made some two hundred years ago this doppleganer-type of presence is creepy. Once they become a vampire the island which is gushing with waterfalls already flows with blood.
Yes, I know, Gemma’s heaving bosom covered in blood, right? Yep. And tastefully done no less. Sure the blood waterfalls were post-production but it looked creepy.
Unfortunately, this vampire society is not very forward thinking so it should come as no surprise when a woman (and a hooker no less) becomes a vampire the men aren’t too happy and banish Clara and her daughter until they catch up with them in the end.
I found the movie enjoyable because it focused on the characters and not their powers. This could have turned into a blood bath but the blood is kept to a minimum and the acting from all parties involved made the movie worth renting.

[Movie Review] Hell Baby

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Hell Baby written and directed by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon of Reno 911 fame tries and fails to spoof the horror genre. Starring Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb as couple moving into a wonderful home in New Orleans just in time for the arrival of their first child.
Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon play two chain smoking priests from the Church that specialize in exorcisms while Keegan Michael Key plays the neighbor next door that general breaks in and gives the charming couple the bloody backstory on the house.
And along the way there’s a gratuitous, drawn out scene of nudity with Rikki Lindholm that just goes to show the script needed one more pass.
Now having just gotten into American Horror Story’s first season this movie hits on several recurring themes: the supposedly creepy spirit haunting the house, the possession of the pregnant woman, the house acting out like stacking boxes to vex Rob Corddry and of course the aforementioned exorcism by the two priests. I’m going to ignore Rikki Lindholm’s character trying to exorcise the house with mind altering drugs.
It should be funny. It should be funnier. It should be funny to watch the creepy spirit turn out to be an old shriveled up old naked woman who the couple have to bury in the back yard. This creates great tension only to find the tension evaporates when she wakes up uninjured.
The priests are ineffective and while they got the look down they spin their wheels until the last act when the hell baby arrives and an all out fisticuffs begins. The fisticuffs was great. Who doesn’t love it when grown adults punch and wail on a demon baby puppet.
I wanted to like this movie but it comes up far short. The ingredients are there for a funny flick. The characters are there and so is the setting but Leslie Bibb barely gets time to shine and when she does she’s plays a great possessed pregnant lady drinking turpentine, smoking and speaking pit bull.
I found Balls of Fury to be a funny and well directed movie so seeing this just makes me wonder what happened. Wait for it to appear on cable, not worth spending your money.
This earns the Paulie Award.
paulie

[Movie Review] Riddick

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Riddick directed and written by David Twohy with Vin Diesel returning to the titular role of Richard B. Riddick that made him famous in 2000 with Pitch Black. Four years later Chronicles of Riddick came out and while it cast was stellar the plot not so much and so now 9 years later Twohy goes back to the roots of what made Pitch Black so interesting: people trying to survive on an alien world with no help in sight and oh by the way: blood thirsty animals are trying to kill you. It’s a B-level movie with A level stars.
Riddick begins with Riddick rising from the dead after being left by his Necromongers, a brief cameo by Karl Urban reprising his role as Vaako dangles the carrot of helping find his homeworld. Riddick takes it hook line and one fall off a tall cliff later and Riddick has to fend for his life because everything on this world is trying to kill him.
The size of Chronicles that made the movie so bloated is turned down to focus for the first act on Riddick surviving. From making weapons to poisoning himself to build up an immunity to the toxicity to even getting a dog which just like Tony Stark getting a kid sidekick in Iron Man 3 is good thing. The Mad Max vibe was prefect since the feline CGI creature from Chronicles was probably the best thing of the entire movie.
The helpful discovery by Riddick’s dog that things may get worse moves the plot along to a deserted Mercenary encampment and a giant: SOS button that brings down several ships. They’e all looking for one thing: Riddick, preferably dead.
Two sets of crews, a merc crew led by Santana played by Jordi Mollà and a military crew led by Boss Johns played by Matt Nable their differing styles helps give the soon to be redshirts and one red skirt, Dahl played by Katee Sackoff. Along with their arrival is large call back to Pitch Black with Boss Johns being the father of departed drug addict/law man Johns played by Cole Hauser.
Once the ships are disabled (so Riddick doesn’t take them, smart move) the countdown clock begins and Riddick’s psychologically messing with the crew is a great call back to Pitch Black even if Pitch Black did it with cleaner cuts. The bodies being to drop one by one, some unseen by Riddick and some by the little beasties that come out of the ground when a rain storm hits.
And for the most part it works. Dahl is given enough story to work with and is not treated as arm candy, Johs is looking for answers to why his son is dead and Santana just wants to get paid and get off the rock. Most of the merc characters are given enough personalities to not come off as cardboard cut outs. It’s unfortunate, Nick Chinlund couldn’t reprise his role of Toombs. All in all it’s drama with action and not an action movie with drama.
The planet itself along with it’s creatures is fun little place from the dingos to the eels in the water to the long tailed scorpions that serve as the main villain of the movie. I heartily agree with some of the other reviewers that some of the shots looked very Frazetta-esque.
The ending was a little bit of the let down and so were the SFX sounds for the lasers. I may sound like a whiney geek but did the SFX for those lasers sound so weak. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to see a science fiction franchise that isn’t Resident Evil getting a second go round but sometimes the SFX sounded too B-movie.
In hindsight it would have been nice to begin and end the movie with Vaako. Something other than what we got because it felt like after surviving this journey through this planet and escaping by the skin of his teeth there was no prize besides escape and while that sounds like a great emotional prize it’s the physical prize (no Katee Sackoff is not treated as a prize, thankfully) that I was looking for just something besides Riddick riding off into the sunset like in Pitch Black.
Good movie and probably worth seeing in IMAX.

[Movie Review] The Colony

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The Colony is a science fiction/horror movie directed by Jeff Renfroe. It stars Lawrence Fishburn, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan and Kevin Zegers as a group of people surviving in the inhospitable world of Earth after mankind tried and failed to fix global warming with weather machines. The world they live in now is not pretty without medicine to cure the colds the infected have two options take a walk into the snow or bullet.