Sunday, August 28, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 9

Continuing my catch up on all the movies I’ve watched. Some were pretty surprising, others met expectations. Still doesn’t give you a clue if it’s positive or negative, but that’s the hook. You’ll have to read to find out, mwhahahahahahahaha. Okay I’m over it. Time to look at a new batch of movies. Join me won’t you.

I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

This was such a pleasant surprise. I heard good things about Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor in this not typical comedy romance. However because it didn’t get much of a release, and being put on the shelf for a bit, I was not expecting such a touching, funny and poignant movie. Carrey is funny as hell, McGregor is pitch perfect as his love interest, and the two actually have a really good chemistry. Some have said that this is one of Jim Carrey’s bravest performances, while I wouldn’t go that far, it certainly is one of his better performances. I think that a few people should give this movie a try as it has been under looked and it is very good.

Red (2010)

It took me a while to get to this movie and it was as good as I thought it would be. Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich all seem to be having such a great time in this movie it comes through and you can’t help but be caught up in the fun. It’s a light, fun action movie that is sometimes missing in action films of late. I couldn’t help but imagine that this was a sequel to a late 80’s, early 90’s action movie that was never created. As such I can see many movie marathons where I’ll be watching Red along with the likes of Tango and Cash or Demolition Man. Fun action for the win.

Year One (2009)

Jack Black is an interesting case, I like Tenacious D, and have enjoyed him in some movies, but damn do my limits get tested sometimes. He’s like junk food and should only be enjoyed on occasion; too much you’ll get sick. Year One just doesn’t have any focus, it limps from joke to joke, all the while Jack Black mugs for the camera. I think what’s worse is there is an actually good idea at the centre of the movie, something that could have been down right hilarious, instead I chuckled on occasion and wanted to smack my television screen whenever Jack’s grinning face. To be fair though Michael Cera as the other lead didn’t really help matters. I have a bit more faith in Cera than most, but damn does his shtick get as tired and boring as Jack Black’s.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010)

I was not expecting much, and even though I liked Brandon Routh in Scott Pilgrim, I still sting a little from his performance in Superman (a tad fan boyish but then again I’m a fan boy). Still I can actually see in Dylan Dog he would be a good leading man. This movie is flawed and yet I had fun as I was watching. I love stuff that deals with hidden supernatural worlds, and this movie had enough of a spin to be unique. The zombie stuff was actually really interesting and something I hadn’t though of before. Oh and Peter Stormare yet again gives another bat shit insane performance, he’s getting close to giving Nic Cage a run. So if your after a harmless, film dealing with werewolves, vampires and zombies then go watch Dylan Dog, you may find a fun film.

The subtlety that is Peter Stormare as the devil in Constantine.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 8

Ever since getting into Quick Flix I’ve been mowing through the movies at a pretty consistent basis, and I’ve found some movies that I never thought I would like. It seems to be the case that if you don’t spend money, you’ll be a lot more lenient on a movie as you don’t feel like you’ve wasted money. Anyway enough of the chit chat, time to get my ass into gear and get into the movies.

Piranha (2010)

The best way to describe this movie is that it’s cheesy and gory. There is just a charm to this movie, honestly its good ol fashioned fun. Well if fun is equivalent to horror movies. I’m sure there are a few people who will be turned off by the nudity and over the top violence but I couldn’t help but have a goofy grin as I watched this. The great thing is you can tell that all the actors are having fun, Ving Rhames, Elisabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd, hell even the Eli Roth in a small role seems to be having fun. Also massive shout out to Jerry O’Connell, who plays a sleazy porn producer, he brings such an insane manic energy, it’s beautiful to behold.

Captain America (2011)

On the expectation level, this movie was just behind Green Lantern and only because I’m a mammoth Green Lantern fan. After watching the movie I have to say that I can’t remember too much about it. I remember having fun and enjoying the movie, but it never electrified me as much as I thought. Chris Evans is great as Cap, as is Hugo Weaving as Red Skull. However thinking back on the season of Super Hero movies, it seems that Thor is the one that I like the most because I at least remember large chunks thanks to the performance by Tom Hiddleston as Loki. The weird thing is, I would actually say Captain America is the better film out of the two. Still all this shouldn’t deter people, the movie is a good one, its fun and I can think of worse ways to spend two hours. Also if you are waiting in anticipation for the Avengers movie then you really need to see this.

The Box (2009)

Oh Richard Kelly, I’m not sure where it went wrong. Starting with Donnie Darko you captured people’s attention, and yet you’ve never followed it up. I love Southland Tales but it’s a hell of a mess, and it’s easy to see why people hate it. With The Box I was hoping that with a smaller scope that maybe you might no off the deep end. But you did it again. Simple premise, you are given a box, you push the button someone you don’t know dies but you get a million dollars. What do you do? What could have been an interesting look at decisions, morality and humanity gets confused and cluttered with a thriller like aspect of trying to find the truth behind it all. I think the big factor that made me hate the thriller aspect is that the truth actually hurt the movie, knowing too much made me lose interest. The performances weren’t all that great, though I’m not sure if that’s the actors fault or perhaps the direction. The movie looks nice though, and does capture the period really well.

If this man comes to your door and offers you the box, take a
deep breathe, clear your head and see what your spirit
animal has to say.

Thanks Spirit Animal. (What squid is an animal?)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Disgruntled Monkey's Top 10 Vampire Movies

I love me some vampires. In fact it’s well documented on this very blog. One of my first blog posts talked about how Dracula saved me as a kid. Now with the Fright Night remake hitting America I thought it would be a good time to look back at my top ten vampire movies. This was pretty damn hard but I got there in the end, as always these are the movies that have stuck in my mind. So let’s get out there, make like Dennis Miller and stake some vampire bitches.

10: Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1991)

Oh hi western themes, meet a vampire movie. I will admit that this isn’t the best movie in the world but there is just this sense of fun that is present through the entire run time that charms me. I loved this when I was a kid. Basically a human family is brought to a small town in America to work on a factory that will produce fake blood that can be used by hospitals. Townsfolk get around wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and umbrella’s during the day, seem a little kooky, but are actually pretty nice. Unfortunately rogue vampire elements are about to start a vampire civil war, so they can feed on real blood. Throw in Bruce Campbell as the descendant of Van Helsing and fun is to be had by all.
Sundown starring ZZ Top. Those guys rock.

09: Dracula (1931)

Bela Lugosi is awesome. The only time he is more awesome is when he’s being played by Martin Landau in Ed Wood. But I digress. The presence that Bela gives to the character of Dracula is why the character has been cemented as one of the classics. Even I recognised the Bela version of Dracula even though I never saw the movie when I was a very small child. Just remember you can only do the creepy hand thing Dracula does if you’re Hungarian and double jointed. I think that's why Gary Oldman will never surpass Bela as Dracula in my opinion. Oh but the one thing Francis Ford Coppola's version did have over the original was Tom Waits as Renfield.
Bitch Please!

08: Fright Night (1985)

The original and so awesome that Hollywood took one look at it and said “There is money to be made from that name boys. Quick to the remake vehicle.” An everyday kid sees finds out his neighbour is a vampire and he needs to become the hero from all the old horror movies he’s watched. I think the real joy of the movie is how it plays with the conventions of vampires, it’s actually pretty old school with the vampire rules, and yet actively goes out of it’s way to modernize how we view vampires. Add to all that a wonderful performance by Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, a late night horror movie host who becomes a fearless vampire killer; kind of.

Now that's a hell of a butter face.

07: The Lost Boys (1987)

Only number seven? Outrage. Well look I love this movie, the Two Corey’s are great, Kiefer makes for a frightening vampire, special effects are great, the ending is humorous and this was one of those movies that was watched numerous times during my childhood. It’s just I have plenty of other vampire movies that I adore or respect just a little bit more it gets beaten down to this position. But don’t worry it’s not going to be beaten by Dracula 2000, no sir. If I was being truthful with everyone, I think this movie loses a few points because of the fashion. I mean wow, people dressed like that? Still Kiefer did look bad ass so it can't be all that bad. 

Death by Stereo; a new way to kill vampires.

06: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Okay vampire killers, let’s kill some vampires. Clooney just makes this movie cool, and it was this movie that really grabbed him attention. Sure he was the heart throb doctor on ER, but damn did he score some major bad ass points with his role as Seth Gecko. From the warped mind of Tarantino (writer) and Rodriguez (director), what starts off as criminals on the run, turns to a balls to the wall vampire survival movie. In fact when if first came out many people thought it was a crime movie and where completely surprised by the vampire in the second half. That’s what’s so great about this movie, it doesn’t matter if you know vampires are in it, the gear shift in mid movie means you won’t be bored. Also it’s nice to see some brutal bloody vampires. They do not mess around. Beating people with severed limbs, ripping heads off, and all down with a Mexican flare that just makes it a little more unique than the average vampire movie.
Were you staring at a) Tarantino, b) Clooney or c) Hayek? For the
correct answer please turn over book.

05: 30 Days of Night (2007)

Speaking of brutal vampires. I love the comic book series, and was excited to see what this movie would be like. While not everything was what I hoped for, at least the vampires rocked the house. Predator like, they were feeding machines, sharks with human characteristics. The innate sexiness that vampires seem to exude was stripped away and audiences were left with something unfamiliar. I also like the fact that you don’t get a lot of explanation about the vampires, they just appear and begin to feed. Not knowing exact origins of the vampire made them scarier. Also any movie that has Melissa George in it, and that I can stand has to be high on the list.

If you find this vampire sexy, check yourself into the mental ward.

04: The Night Flier (1997)

The vampire in this one is kind of in the background, a white whale to be chased down if you will. The Ahab of this tale is tabloid reporter Richard Dees as played by Miguel Ferrer. I was entranced by the character Richard Dees and his manic search across rural America for a serial killer he believes to be a vampire. It’s a unique vampire movie, and an adaptation of a Stephen King story that works. By having the main character chase down the vampire there is a pace to the movie that some vampire movies lack. Also when all is said, and there is the big reveal, holy heck was it cool. Do yourself a favour and watch this movie.

Miguel Ferrer a career in playing assholes.

03: The Night Stalker (1972)

With this television movie we stay in the realms of the reporter, and take a look at one of my favourite characters. Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is a reporter in Las Vegas who begins to think a serial killer is possibly a vampire. In fact he looks at the evidence and knows he’s a vampire he’s just got to make the city officials believe him. It’s great to watch a smart character piece everything together early, and instead of going full on vampire hunter he tires to convince the police to do the killing. Kolchak is a smart man, through and through. The vampire kind of plays second fiddle and doesn’t really have enough time to be all the memorable, but for me it’s the location, they way the story is played out, and of course the most excellent character that is Kolchak that truly makes this movie.
So bad ass doesn't need to even look at the vampire.

02: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

I don’t like my vampires too weepy. The oh woah is me act grates on my nerves. Personally unlife is wasted on some vampires. So here we go with a movie where the main character Louis (Brad Pitt) is a constant whiny bitch. Thank goodness for Tom Cruise (I didn’t think I would ever say that) as Lestat who really gives a good showing of what a proud vampire should be, something between your best friend and the devil. But this movie is a really good movie about a vampire recounting his unlife, while Louis isn’t normally what I like to see in a vampire it’s very well acted. Also seeming the story spans many lifetimes we get to see vampires in different situations across time and the world. Sexy, stylish, a wonderful story that manages to really get in depth into the psyche of different vampires.
Don't let the goofy blonde hair fool you, he's the DEVIL!

01: Near Dark (1987)

Kathryn Bigelow made a vampire movie that is poetry in motion, a true love letter to the night and the world vampires inhabit. A young man falls in love and the girl turns out to be a vampire. She turns him as she also has feelings for him as well. It could have been a wonderful love story, but it gets seriously screwed up when her family is introduced. Here we have vampires who are a close knit family, they actually have some values that we can admire, and yet they are scary as hell as they have no compassion towards humans. We are cattle to this fucked up family. This movie hits upon themes of family, love and life. The way this movie is filmed is beautiful, and captures the night in such a way that you can understand why the vampires love the night. Truly my favourite movie as it has memorable characters, some gruesome set pieces, and can both make me shudder and intrigued.
The cast of Aliens in some rough times.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

*Apes alone weak. Apes together strong.* Sign Language

Actors: James Franco, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Writer: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

The reviews are out and people are saying “science fiction classic”, “Oscar worthy ape performance”, “best movie of the year”. I would honestly like to know what they are smoking, or perhaps their bananas have been spiked with something. Sure this movie is not bad; it’s a pretty damn decent blockbuster in a year where some have said blockbusters have been lacking. But I think there a few too many people kissing its shiny metal ass with out any real reason to.

Acting in this puppy is a little hit and miss, with some actors being given next to nothing to work with. Most of the time actors have the base archetypes to go with (greedy capitalist, evil shelter keeper, asshole neighbour), and for this it allows the audience to readily identify who they need to cheer and boo, but at the same time it weakens the story as the characters are too shallow to create anything profound. Oh sorry, I made a mistake. When I’m talking about that I mean all the human characters, cause the work on character creation with the various monkeys is awesome. Ceaser (as performed by Andy Serkis, who else) is a wonder of what can be accomplished with computers now a days. I truly cared about his journey. His interactions with John Lithgow in the beginning were truly touching, and I forgot I was watching a CGI creation. People have bandied about that Serkis should get an Oscar for his performance, but honestly if any Oscars are given it needs to be to Weta and their team that fully realised Ceaser.

Before I depart talking about actors I do need to say that John Lithgow and James Franco are excellent. Franco has been coping a bit of flack lately but he’s a good actor, and I’m hoping this performance while not great goes to derailing the anti Franco sentiment. Lithgow also has to be commended for his touching portrayal of an Alzheimer’s sufferer. He was one of the few actors I cared about; also his reactions go along way in building how we feel about Ceaser.

 Visually the movie is fantastic, with the CGI used for the monkeys being the highlight. Sure there are some shots that look a little rushed, particularly in the group shots, but in my mind their main task was to make us care about monkeys who want to take over the world. In this respect they succeed had this bloody hard task. I mean come on; would you cheer for the downfall of mankind? Okay I know I would, but then I’m a disgruntled monkey, of course I would be down with their cause.

Getting away from the CGI effects, Rupert Wyatt has a wonderful eye, and many of the scenes were beautiful; particularly the redwood forest scenes. The contrast of the sterile scientific labs, idyllic peaceful neighbourhoods and forests, and the harsh ugly animal sanctuary do create differentiation for the audience. It’s almost a cheat key for the audience in what they should be feeling Ceaser and the apes. Yet again this is an excellent technique to get us on side with the force that is actually wiping us out.

Now the movies weakest link is the script. There is some terrible dialogue in this movie, as well as some truly underdeveloped human characters. While it doesn’t make for a terrible film, it does mean that unlike the best science fiction movies it does stop delving into deeper issues. There is a brief look at the cruelties done to animals in the name of science, but this theme is very superficial and used to move the plot along, rather than be a hearty topic to chew over. It’s a shame that more attention couldn’t be given as there is potential for this to actually be a classic.

So overall I think it is worth people’s time heading into the cinema to see this. The CGI is actually a brilliant step forward, the movie can actually be somewhat touching even if a little bit shallow. While not exactly a science fiction classic, it could have been with some fine tuning. Oh and it’s nice to see a blockbuster that isn’t 3D. Make like a monkey and swing your way into the cinema now.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review - Green Lantern (2011)

“How wonderful that all it took for you to grow is the end of the world!”

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong
Director: Martin Campbell
Writers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg

Before I begin I want to thank all the reviewers and critics out there who tore this film apart, who thought this movie destroyed the sacredness of the source material, who said that anyone who watched this movie and enjoyed it were idiots who were helping the studios destroy movies as art. The reason I thank you is that once again you’ve reinforced my thoughts on how far up their own asses some reviewers are. Thank you.

You see the reason for this little opening is that while Green Lantern is a flawed movie, it is competently put together and has enough fun parts that if I was to give it a grade it would be a C+. This means that it’s actually an average movie that’s better than some other movies that have been released this year. It’s funny. I’m a Green Lantern fan boy and if I was going according to script I should be roasting this movie to hell and back. Instead I’ll admit that the makers of this movie did screw up, but at least there is enough potential for a sequel to build on the movie mythos and hopefully make a better film as a follow up.

I’ll start with the positives. The acting isn’t that bad. It’s a shame the Ryan Reynolds has become the face of failure in this movie, as he’s not that bad. He might have been miscast, but he still does a fine enough job, manages to highlight the flaws of Hal Jordan and at the same time get the audience invested enough to care somewhat about him. Mark Strong makes for a strong (see what I did there) side character in Sinestro. He’s not on screen enough, but what he brings is decent and I would love to see more of this character in the future. Finally Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond plays the villain with both shades of creepiness and tragedy. There are some scenes between his father (Tim Robbins), that did make me feel sorry for him. Also as he transforms his screams did make me feel that he was in a tremendous amount of pain. Other actors vary in quality but I think a lot of the acting problems are thanks to the script and not the actors themselves.

The movie is also put together pretty solidly. If we take a movie like Jonah Hex, we can see the reason it failed was how bat shit crazy things were put together. Scenes don’t make sense, flow is disjointed and there are no themes that match scene to scene. It’s an ungodly mess. However with Green Lantern the audience should know where everything is headed. There are character arcs that work, there are reoccurring themes to bind the scenes, and there is always a focus on the end game with the big bad of Parallax. Sure there are problems with the story, but we are nowhere near the horrid levels of Catwoman, even though some reviewers would have you believe it’s on the same level of bad.

Now to the problems, which there are a few. The big one in my mind is the CGI, there are some effects that are pretty damn good and the 3D isn’t that bad. But when you’ve spent some of this money, there are some bits that just had me scratching my head in how bad they got. First of, yes the mask. It’s bad, it looks really bad on Ryan. The suit itself wasn’t to bad, and actually made the mask look worse. I don’t know why they just gave him a real mask, or better yet just scrapped it all together. Cause that little bit of material didn’t exactly hide his identity. They even point that out in the movie. There are also some flight scenes where the only thing real is Reynolds head. This is really bad as it just seems to float in this fake dreamscape. Yet shots that show him flying from further out don’t look bad. Makes you wonder if there was someone really paying attention to the CGI and how to work around the limitations. To sum up it’s just a case of there being some awesome CGI that makes the bad CGI stand out like a sore thumb and just seems a bit lazy that there wasn’t a work around.

CGI however is the smallest problem this film has; the thing that really brings it all down is the script. I can see why people were frustrated by this movie. There is a decent story that can lend itself to an epic space fantasy, something we haven’t seen in a while. Yet this potential is hampered by some bad dialogue which hampers the actors performances, and ham fisted catering for fan boys. I’m a comic collector, love the Green Lantern mythology, but damn it don’t worry about people like me. Make the movie good and even if it deviates from what we want, we will still go and see it.

There are some story choices that just had me scratching my head as to why they were included. Why include Hals brother and nephew when it amounts to nothing? Why have personnel connections between Hector and Hal when you didn’t need it? Why include a romance subplot when it too doesn’t add much to the overall story? I think you may note that it’s a lot of the earth bound story notes that drag this movie. They pad and slow things down when there is no need. Character development could have been done while still being in space. Maybe extend out Hal’s training on OA. I think the writers just didn’t go balls out enough. There was this huge potential to be just an out there science fiction space opera and yet the writers kept on pulling it back to the earthly connections. They hamstrung any potential greatness out of the movie.

So would I recommend this movie to people? Well despite its flaws there is still some fun to be had. The crowd I was with seemed to enjoy the movie. People laughed and seemed to at least go along with the ride. You look at something like Tranformers 3 that has an overly complicated plot that doesn’t seem to have any real focus, and you can’t help but think Green Lantern is a better movie than that. If you are hesitant about spending money of Green Lantern, I understand. This movie has attracted a hell of a lot of bad publicity. But if you don’t want to head to the cinema then rent it out when it comes to DVD. You may find a movie that’s not all that bad.

I remember when this fan made Green Lantern Trailer made me
giddy with excitement. As this is the Green Lantern review I knew
I had to put it here for your enjoyment.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 7

A new month and more movies that I didn’t do big reviews on. Mostly because I can become a lazy son of a bee sometimes, but fear not that’s why I do these quick reviews. I must say that the next few movies were all great. It was a nice little run of movies. However unlike the last quick review volume I’ll be keeping this somewhat brief with a trifecta of movies that I watched on DVD. So come with me as I we go through some great movies that I missed at the cinema’s.

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

This is just a fun movie, and in my mind is one of the few movies to try and capture the Grindhouse mentality and succeed (sorry Robert and Quintin). The gore is over the top, the lines are cheesy as hell, and the story is insane with where it goes. It shouldn’t be as great as it is, but somehow it is given such a strong foundation thanks to the efforts of Rutger Hauer as the main character. He plays the Hobo completely straight and manages to give this movie a heart if you would. There is also a speech given by the Hobo to some babies in a hospital and it ranks right up there with his Blade Runner speech. Of course this movie won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but damn if I didn’t have a blast and a half watching it.

True Grit (2010)

I have a soft spot for westerns, and while it may seem like a genre that doesn’t get much love, every now and then a gem is still able to be found. There is an ongoing argument about remakes, but True Grit shows that there is value in going over stories again. Instead of reimagining the movie for modern times (a bit of publicist speak there), the Coen brothers have gone over the film and really tightened up the themes of the movie. Revenge and justice and the fallout from both are explored. I know this might sound sacrilegious but I preferred this over the John Wayne classic, and think this movie improves on every aspect. This is a great western, looking at a time less romantically than some other movies. The performances are beautifully realised, and action is authentic but never gets in the way of the story. Also big props to Hailee Steinfeld for her portrayal of Mattie Ross, in which she brings so much presence to the character and holds her own with the likes of Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges. It’s made more amazing by how young she was in making this movie. She was only 14 when the movie was released.

Season of the Witch (2011)

I should hate this movie, I really really should. The plot has holes in it, you can see the budget didn’t exactly match the directors vision and the dialogue can drive men insane (Event Horizon insane). And yet I liked it. I smiled, laughed and was happy with what I had received. The biggest reason why, is the chemistry between Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman. Playing two knights who have been friends with each other since the crusades, they create characters that actually manage to break free from the well worn clich├ęs in use in the script. Rumours abound that the two actually met prior to the movie and started creating the back story to their characters; they then brought what they created to the film when it started shooting. I’m not sure if this is true but the two work really well together and it does seem at times that they are really in another movie of their own devising. Hmm I guess I just outed myself as a Cage supporter. Oh well. Might as well end this by fully going through that door. NICHOLAS CAGE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST ACTORS OF HIS GENERATION. HATERS DON’T GET HIS MAD GENIUS. There that should do it.