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Tag: movie reviews

[Movie Review] Gravity

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

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

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.

[Movie Review] Riddick

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

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.

[Movie Review] Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz directed by Edgar Wright and staring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is the second flavor in the cornetto trilogy. The first being Shaun of the Dead and the last being the soon to be arriving The World’s End. Each movie is it’s own genre. Shaun is horror. Hot Fuzz is action. The World’s End is alien/robot invasion.
Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a police officer in the London that is constantly working much to dismay of his soon to be ex-girlfriend played by an uncredited Cate Blanchett even after getting stabbed through the hand by a drunk Father Christmas played by an uncredited Peter Jackson.
His bosses played by Martin Freeman, Bill Nighly and an uncredited Steve Coogan aren’t to happy with him either and decide to send him off to the county town of Sandford for a little rest. The editing of all of these events from Nicholas’s introduction via voice over to the arrival at Sanford are slick and everything introduced in the first twenty minutes is used through out the movie.
The villagers of Sandford are well meaning folks. Played by several UK actors like Timothy Dalton, Olivia Coleman, Paddy Considine, Paul Freeman and many more. Timothy Dalton being the only one that is relishing his role at eating scenery. Nicholas attempts to settle down and unwind aren’t helped by Nick Frost’s Danny Butterman because of Danny’s awe, general fanboy of Nicholas’s deeds and being a giant action movie junkie. His DVD wall reminds me of my wall before I sold them.
But there are things afoot in Sandford. People are dying via horrible accidents and it takes Nicholas the rest of Act 2 to piece everything together by researching his hypothesis and putting the puzzle pieces together until he confronts the problem and like one of Danny’s Hollywood heroes roars into a third act with guns blazing. The movie’s plotting as a whole feels refreshing and expects the audience to keep up as it takes itself seriously.
Well almost seriously since the movie goes from being a Masterpiece Theater Mystery to a Michael Bay shoot’em up in the last twenty minutes. Thankfully the action pieces have been kept to a minimum throughout so the car chases or gunfights are not boring. Many of Danny’s outlandish questions regarding Nicholas’s work are immediately squashed since police work like flying an airplane: it’s very very very boring. His character and Sandra Bullock’s character from Demolition Man are essentially the same but with a sex change.
Having said all that it should then come to no surprise as the last act everything is an homage to action movies. This isn’t a bad thing since Edgar Wright knows his audience and knows we aren’t idiots. This was filmed for the Die Hard/Lethal Weapon/geek crowd and it does not disappoint from the gun fights to car chases to explosive fourth act reveal it’s a fun movie.
I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to this either set it in the USA ala Red Dawn/any other movie dealing with the fish out of water-trope so long as they saddle Nicholas with a woman partner.

[Movie Review] Shaun of the Dead

Released in 2004, Shaun of the Dead was directed by Edgar Wright and starred Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and a whole lotta zombies.
Filmed three years after Wright’s TV show Spaced. Shaun, played by Simon Pegg is not yet your typical man child. His life at sales person at the electronic store is dull. His relationship with his roommate, Darth Maul, er, Pete played by Peter Serafinowicz is on par with his step dad, Phillip played by Bil Nighy is rocky to say the least while the few bright spots being his girlfriend Liz played by Kate Ashfield, playing video games with his best friend Ed played by Nick Frost and going to the pub.
Unfortunately, Kate and her friends, Dianne and David played by Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran feel Shaun needs to expand his horizons since they are always going to the pub. She wants to go out to nice restaurants and get out and see the world and breaks up with Shaun.
This sends his small world into a tailspin. Meanwhile in the background through out the first act things are starting to stand out like the Omega 6 space probe that broke up over England. The bodies collapsing at the bus stop. The military vehicles driving around in packs and quite possibly the vagrant eating a live pigeon.
A new day dawns only to find Shaun’s world has been spun even more with the rise of Zombies. If the news is reporting it must be true, right? The lovely tracking shot to and from Shaun’s house pre and post zombie invasion serves it’s purpose for the before and after. The encounters being small as Shaun and Ed find they cannot stay in their home or bring people back and after several What If montages they cement a plan into place to track down Kate & Co, get to his mother’s to pick up his step dad and hole up in the bar until the bitter end.
The plans as always do not go as planned thanks muchly to Ed’s wants and needs from driving several fancy cars, running several zombies over and ignoring the fact the world is ending. Ed doesn’t have much of an arc except to be the comic relief while Shaun does grow up by burying the hatchet with his step dad.
Throughout the movie between the slick editing, long camera shots and whip snap dialogue there are nods and homages to zombies movies. The movie manages to cover new ground while keeping itself firmly within the standard zombie movie framework with the Winchester Pub being the bunker/house/mall that will hold up for only so long while the characters erode under the pressure of the apocalypse outside.
The SFX throughout are well done. The blood and guts are mostly for show until the finale when several characters are either turned into zombies or torn apart by the horde. For the purists the zombies are the shambling kind and do not race like 28 Days Later.
This is the first movie in Wright’s unofficial cornetto trilogy and is well worth spending money on via iTunes/Amazon if you have seen it.
I highly recommend a double shot of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland since both movies are well made and thought out even if Zombieland’s third act falls apart.

[Movie Review] Europa Report

One of the better panels at San Diego Comic Con is the science fiction that will change your life panel. It’s a panel of authors and creators that talk about science fiction films/television/books that really stood out over the last year.
Europa Report and Upstream Color was two movies that came up during the panel. Having seen Upstream Color (review forthcoming) already and enjoying the trailer of Europa Report I ordered it.
Europa? The same Jupiter Moon from 2010?
Yep. The same moon. And the same outcome. Sorta.
I’m going to rattle off some movies regarding space travel: Red Planet. Event Horizon. Armageddon. Deep Impact. Mission to Mars. Sunshine. Alien. 2001. 2010. Moon. Europa Report.
I’ve left out anything with Star in it for a reason.
Europa Report like Moon and 2001/2010 takes itself seriously. The realistic look at space travel in our solar system. There is no inertial dampeners. No gravity generators. The rotating ring to create a gravity: yep. The time lag between Earth and the capsule: yep. The bulky spacesuits. The stations at different angles.
Europa Report is a found footage science fiction movie directed by Sebastián Cordero that details the space flight from Earth to Europa to gather evidence from the ice moon. The mission is manned by several smarter scientists than those found in Prometheus. The movie does what Danny Boyle’s Sunshine didn’t and gives us an enjoyable movie that is believable and while the time jumps can get a little annoying sometimes the movie as a whole works.
There are no aliens per se, no scheming beaucrats looking for the next big discovery. It a group of scientists on an expedition that goes from excitement to sullen to happy to doomed as one by one each of them are dispatched by what is on Europa.
Among the scientists, Sharlto Copley and Michael Nyqvist’s characters stood out the most since they have arcs and a bit more back story than the others. The rest of the scientists played by Anamaria Marinca, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra and Daniel Wu are there but nothing about their backstories and character’s occupation is revealed and that doesn’t make them exactly redshirts. But it’s damn close. I’m glad a romantic angle was shoved down our throats but on the other side of that if you’ve got four men and two women in the same confined place for two months? At least show wives and girlfriends.
There’s a part of me that wishes this had been framed like Mission to Mars, Sunshine or even Apollo 13. The found footage can only take you so far, the whole talking head to the camera has gotten stale.
If you’re tired of aliens blowing up cities then Europa Report will be a welcome breath of fresh air.