Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Tops of 2014 - August

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY had a great cast, a rocking soundtrack, and wanted to focus more on character-building and comedy instead of the usual superfights and city destruction. It had some flaws but I still had a blast.

PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE was pitiful trite and its "humorous" look at stalking is distressing.

SNOWPIERCER was an exciting/unnerving thrill ride, constantly bouncing between black comedy, violent action, and weighty dramatics. Unfortunately, the flat ending hurt the full experience.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES may have some hook, line and sinker with its breezy tone but this awful reboot did more damage to the brand than the third entry.

HERCULES was a surprise, in that it was an adequate swords-and-sandals flick and it somehow got a PG-13 rating, despite featuring a flood of bloodshed.

NEED FOR SPEED pretty much proved why Hollywood can't piggyback off of the Fast and Furious franchise.

GOD'S NOT DEAD easily shot up the worst of 2014 ranks. The fact that it ends with the advocation of text spam is disgraceful.

TRANSCENDENCE continues the dilution of the Nolan brand, due to the poor craftsmanship of his disciples.

DIVERGENT is a passable young adult adaptation but can not escape from the shadow of The Hunger Games.

INTO THE STORM was a dumb found footage movie but at least you could sit back and enjoy the fire tornadoes.

TARZAN is an animated fiasco waiting to be rediscovered.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED was a cute little riot. The majority of the Muppet cast sadly sat in the background, plus the soundtrack was good yet very forgettable, but it didn't really hurt my total enjoyment was so ever.

JERSEY BOYS had 40-year-old teenagers, bad renditions of classic pop, and featured Clint Eastwood's worst directorial skills.

13 movies this month. A great haul but I can always watch much more.

Guardians of the Galaxy is now one of a few number of movies given a low rating upon initial viewing, to make it on to my year-end top ten. I saw it twice in theaters this month, a rare feat for me, and its refreshing tone and high excitement helped me forgive its shortcomings. Captain America 2 is a better built Marvel movie but Guardians made superhero movies fun again.

Guess what movie I still didn't re-watch?

Best Films of 2014

1. The Lego Movie

2. The Raid 2

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

4. Snowpiercer

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

8. Muppets Most Wanted

9. Under the Skin

Worst Films of 2014

1. God's Not Dead

2. A Million Ways to Die in the West

3. The Other Woman

4. Heaven Is For Real

5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

6. Winter's Tale

7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

8. I, Frankenstein

9. Son of God

10. The Legend of Hercules

11. Tarzan

12. Enemies Closer

13. Welcome to the Jungle

14. The Nut Job

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jersey Boys - Review

In this film adaptation of the very popular Broadway musical, the viewer gets to watch the dramatic trials and tribulations surrounding the creation, success, and falling out of The Four Seasons. If we are especially good, grandpa Eastwood may be nice and actually give us one of those pop songs that we love and came predominately to see. Yes, director Clint Eastwood is greatly at fault for this solemn, poorly crafted movie, chiefly because he, like Tony DeVito, refuses to let the music stand and sing on its own. He instead wants us to sit through his faulty narration scheme, where characters talk right to the audience and state the obvious. He wants us to listen to a script that has some delectable moments but is constantly telling the story, not showing, and oversaturated with lackluster melodrama and frivolous females. He wants us to take in his flat landscapes, with shot after shot featuring no visual rhythm or distinguishing features, thus causing the digital camerawork, color correction, and re-using of sets to be even more distracting. And finally, he wants us to accept these four mamalukes as are stars, including Tony Award winner/original Valli actor John Lloyd Young, despite the sheer fact that they are 40-years-olds playing young teenagers at the beginning, their singing skills are not totally up to snuff, and they are caked in horror-inducing old man makeup at the end. When we are treated to the tunes, they too are badly decomposed by Eastwood's touch: The breakout single "Sherry" looks like a run-of-the-mill jingle on the American Bandstand backdrop; All of the "on the road" breaks seem to be coming from the same theater; Several popular songs are missing are not present at all; Teenage girl anthem "My Boyfriend's Back" is handled by an awful lead singer and is wrapped around the absolute worst scene in the entire movie, where the makers do a dreadful green screen job (Why couldn't they film it on a real road?); and the intended Act Three rouser "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" is utterly ruined by bad sax skills and absolute shrillness. The acting and the novelty of seeing The Four Seasons on screen may make the ordeal slightly pleasant but you are better off waiting for the theatrical production to travel into your town or soothing your personal life to the modern jukebox of iTunes.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

9 Movies Currently MIA or Otherwise (As of August 2014)

Premiering today across the nation, to combat The November Man and to get any kids not tied down by school prep back into the theaters, is the movie Underdogs, the animated soccer flick from Argentina, where it had the more accessible, memorable title of Foosball. Oh wait, I'm totally incorrect. It seems that everybody, including major publications, seemed to forget to spot that Underdogs has been removed from the schedule. According to IMDB, the film is now to be buried away in the winter months of 2015, January 15 to be more precise. The movie was my last top pick of this summer output and I was very hopeful to forgo an afternoon of hot weather to instead spend an air-conditioned visit at the cinema, with the film in front on me. Unfortunately, The Weinstein Company, as they always do, dampened my dream and are now hurting the potential of the product. For god's sakes, who would want to watch a soccer film in the middle of a snowstorm?

Now, changing the release date of a film is common practice, as seen this summer, when Warner Bros. decided at the last minute to move Jupiter Ascending from July 16 to February 5, 2015, due to so-called "post-production problems". But not all movies get to have the luxury of a major press release or even a brief news story. Some recent films have elapsed into relative obscurity, despite much fanfare and presence of movie trailers. Below are a few movies that have caught my eye yet still reside in distribution purgatory. Or do they?


Plot: A flight to Tokyo hits some unknown, supernatural turbulence. Stars Ryan Kwanten, Jaime Chung, Leslie Bibb, and Amy Smart. Directed by Takashi Shimizu (The Ju-On/The Grudge franchise).

Pre-Release Buzz: Just a forgettable, nondescript trailer, set to a pathetically slow cover of "Leaving On a Jet Plane". The movie was originally supposed to come out on August 31, 2012 (!). I noted this movie back during my 2012 summer overview, where I decried it alongside another horror film, The Possession.

Current Status: October 3, 2014 should be when the plane thriller finally makes its descent into theaters. Suffering from multiple delays, the most likely reason for this cold-feet approach is because of its production company/distributor, CBS Films. The film division of the CBS Corporation has had a tough time breaking into the movie business, often delivering less than stellar features or, in the case of the unsung Seven Psychopaths, are more known for their poor domestic box office returns. 7500 is thankfully coming out in the Halloween season but I expect it to more alike to CBS' The Last Exorcism: Part II than The Woman in Black, in terms of quality.

Dino Time

Plot: Three kids mess around with a scientist's time machine and find themselves messing around with dinosaurs. Voices include Pamela Adlon, Tara Strong, Yuri Lowenthal, and Jane Lynch. Produced by the Southern Korean powerhouse CJ Entertainment and specifically designed to meet the 3D quota for theater owners.

Pre-Release Buzz: Was to be released on December 7, 2012. The movie's trailer and poster were fairly ubiquitous two years ago, with the latter still being displayed at my local metroplex.

Current Status: Unknown. Despite the notable marketing push and earning a rating from the MPAA, the film was never released here in America, not even on home video. IMDB states that the movie is currently making its way around the globe but it still lists the false USA date. CJ Entertainment is not hurting right now, as they just helped make Snowpiercer a global attraction, so your guess is as good as mine. It seems I'm the only person who cares about this animated trifle.

The Green Inferno

Plot: Clearly borrowing from the despicable template of the cannibal horror craze, a group of environmental activists are captured and ready to be served as dinner to the tribe they wished to protect. Eli Roth's latest film.

Pre-Release Buzz: Was to be released on September 5, 2014. Premiered at last year's Toronto Film Festival, its trailer made waves online, and was highly sought for both Roth supporters and detractors.

Current Status: Postponed Indefinitely. This is the most recent addition, as the film has currently made the rounds on news sites. Production company Worldwide Entertainment and distributor Open Road Films are at war with each other over who has to pay for the film's marketing, with neither side giving way. A settlement may come just in time for Halloween but the dilemma is not an easy fix.

Keith Lemon: The Film

Plot: A film vehicle for a raunchy British "comedy" character. Think along the lines of Sacha Baron Cohen's personas, except far, far worst.

Pre-Release Buzz: None, other than a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and multiple wins at the British equivalent of the Razzies, the BARFTAs.

Current Status: N/A. I'll admit that I put this here because of my own perverse obsession to see this arrive stateside after the harsh slacking it got in the U.K. The Inbetweeners actually had a limited release with their first film in 2012, so this travesty might have a chance; I've heard Happy Madison is always looking for crass entertainment. If not, illegally posted videos on YouTube are the best bet.


Plot: An underage assassin goes after the people that killed her parents. Stars India Eisley and Samuel L. Jackson. An adaptation of the violent ecchi-filled anime, which was popular back during the heydays of the 90's anime rush.

Pre-Release Buzz: A trailer was released at the start of this year, which I covered in an edition of Trailer Review. Nothing much came after it but recently, several posters were released online. Wikipedia has it listed as coming out this Thursday (August 28, 2014).

Current Status: Unknown, but most likely will be buried away from sight any day now, possibly on home video and/or VOD.

The Loft

Plot: Five friends use the titled location as a place for their love affairs, until a dead body is found one night. Stars Karl Urban, James Marsden, Rhonda Mitra, and Wentworth Miller. A remake of a 2008 Belgium film and being helm by the same director, Erik Van Looy.

Pre-Release Buzz: Just it being previously listed for release on August 29, 2014. Absolutely no material has been seen of the project, hence why the image above is from the original film.

Current Status: Unknown. Universal pulled the movie late June and moved As Above, So Below into the open spot. No word on its new home but given the lack of publicity, it looks to be a real stinker.

The Mighty Eighth

Plot: No story has been handed out but judging from the teaser trailer, it looks to be a half found footage, half normal war picture about the Eighth Air Force, a WWII unit that carried out several bombing missions over Europe.

Pre-Release Buzz: Nothing but the teaser trailer, which was released back in November 2013.

Current Status: Apparently, this isn't an upcoming movie but a future HBO miniseries, the third WWII drama from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg; this explains why the trailer features a noticeable sound bite from Saving Private Ryan. Despite this clarification, there has been no news of the project since a January 2013 press release about the company acquiring the rights to the book, "Masters of the Air". IMDB doesn't even have a page for the series under the current name; even the Masters of the Air page is completely blank. Probably by the end of the year, most likely Veterans Day, the big push for this miniseries will finally spring up.

The Polar Bears

Plot: A film about the Coca-Cola Polar Bears. That's it.

Pre-Release Buzz: A trailer for the feature was all over the place two years ago, preceding nearly every feature during the fall movie season. Of course, this prevalence was due to corporate synergy, as Coca-Cola has a contract with the likes of Regal Cinemas.

Current Status: Guess what? I done goofed again. The Polar Bears was actually released back in December a short film. But this flummoxes me a great deal: If it ended up being a short, why wasn't it put in front of anything after all of that time and energy?

The Seventh Son

Plot: A farm boy is trained by a grey-haired master, in order to save the world from darkness. Why does that sound familiar? Stars Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges, and Julianne Moore. Very loosely based on the first book of "The Wardstone Chronicles".

Pre-Release Buzz: Was to be originally released on February 22, 2013, but was moved to October 18 in order to complete the special effects work. Then, it was moved to January 17, 2014, when Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. decided to end their business relationship. Legendary even gave the pic a panel at last year's Comic-Con.

Current Status: February 6, 2015. Universal picked up the movie but decided to give it a year off instead of a mercy killing. All this trouble over a fantasy movie that is sure to bomb fast and hard.

So there you have, 7 movies in limbo and 2 products that had highly misleading trailers. There are probably some more films I forgot to cover here and there surely will be some more films to be given the shaft. I guess I'll just have to write about those features another time.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted - Review

Starting off at the ending of the 2011 film, while also annihilating the fourth wall, the regrouped Muppets decide through a song that they should go on a world tour. Wined and dined by their new business manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), they kick it off in Berlin, where Kermit is swapped out by an evil, clone-like frog named Constantine. Will the trope figure out the deception before they are all framed for some museum thefts, or will they remain under his "give you everything" spell and keep Kermit locked up in a gulag? Even though nearly all of the crew of the reboot return for this romp, the biggest MIA of course being star/co-writer Jason Segal, MUPPETS MOST WANTED is a slight step down in childish euphoria. Despite this tiny setback, the sequel is a total joy, briskly keeping the action moving forward and delivering an ample supply of warm jokes and absurdist winks. There's a huge wave of clever cameos throughout it, so much so that many can easily be missed and/or obscured away from the camera's focus. Tina Fey and Ty Burrell are always humorous as a Broadway-loving prison guard and a Clouseau doppelgänger respectively; Gervais, unfortunately, looks way too solemn once Constantine is at his side and mocks him endlessly for being a flunky. As for Bret McKenzie's songs, they are still catchy but they often lack a definite presence, quickly dissipating from memory when the tunes hit their final notes, so don't expect to pick up the soundtrack this time around. The sole exception from the pack is the opening number "We're Doing a Sequel", which takes a bite out of Disney and the franchise's own formula. Perfect to draw in adults and children together, in a marketplace filled with forgettable CGI worlds and 3D cash-grabs, MUPPETS MOST WANTED is a giddy wonder.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Into the Storm - Review

The small town of Silverton is about to be expunged from the map, as several storm fronts move toward the area and are producing multiple tornadoes. The sights and dangers brought on by the funnels are shown through several viewpoints: A "Ghost Hunters"-like television crew, two video-loving high school students/brothers, and two redneck jackasses that even Larry the Cable Guy would ask to tone it down. INTO THE STORM could have been a fine disaster b-movie, able to fully generate mighty thrills from weather terror and the random everyday objects that fly around and nearly splatter people on the pavement. Unfortunately, it's structured through the gimmick of found footage. Simply put, none of the material needed to be done in this style, especially considering the script is filled with basic, by-the-numbers conflict like daddy issues, money over people, and long-distance work engagements. That is, when John Swetnam isn't regurgitating the lines, "Do you see that?" and "Is everbody okay?", over and over again throughout it. The first-person view could have worked in short spurts, or at least stuck solely to the storm chasers, instead of having everyone run around with one or two hands tied down. Because of this artistic decision, you then have to sit through the usual cardinal sins of found footage films: Characters refusing to help out others and instead keep filming; Equipment and footage that somehow survive intact despite massive damage; Cameras, from pocket ones to professional-grade, all having the same high picture and sound quality; Shots that are clearly not from real sources; and incoherent imagery because the director though intense shaky-cam and muted lighting makes it more scary. Couple all of that with a full-blown, non-diegetic musical score and you have yourself a really moronic movie.

Despite my snippy commentary, I did find a few redeeming elements, other than the colossal destruction that makes the popcorn go down. Though the characters are all one-note, the acting is frankly believable, with Richard Armitage doing the bulk of the work as Action Vice Principal. There are a couple of moments where director Steven Quale crafts some visual beauty amid the mayhem, such as the ironic moment of calmness at the very end. Plus, the coda all about American altruism is corny but a nice message to leave on, especially since most found footage horror flicks have sequel bait instead. INTO THE STORM is also a pretty safe disaster movie for general viewing, since the on-screen deaths are often fairly obscured or are cut away. This gets more egregious, however, when some people pop up alive and well at the conclusion, in spite of clearly being hit and sucked up by a tornado at point blank range. If you can forgive that boo-inducing final fact, you make walk out of this more virtually unscathed than myself.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Divergent - Review

In post-apocalypse Chicago, the walled-off city maintains a faction-based society based upon emotions, personal attributes, and true purpose of oneself. Trust me, I don't understand the logic either, so you best let the stupidity walk on through. Anyway, lowly teen Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) reaches the age of 16, which means she is worthy to test for her future faction, only to be shocked when the test results reveal her to be "divergent", possessing skills from every faction. Since everyone sees the label as a menace to civilization (how exactly is never answered), she instead publicly states her allegiance to Dauntless, a bunch of black jacket-wearing parkour experts who serve as the city police. DIVERGENT is a surprising satisfactory young adult adaptation, in a large sea ridden with broken would-be franchises, that all dared to match the might of THE HUNGER GAMES. The acting is all-around solid, the action sequences are well developed, and director Neil Burger makes great use of mind-bending visuals and surreal horror. All of that goodwill being said, the film does has some questionable errors of judgment, the biggest of course being the sloppy story. The majority of the 139 minute run time is devoted strictly to Act Two, where Beatrice (short-named "Tris") has to pass the training phase in order to really be part of the clan, or else be kicked out and become one of the "Factionless". No tension in how it all turns out but because so much time is given to the orientation, the last act is totally rushed out. The finale has big plot turns, vicious exploitation, sentiments that change on a dime, and sequel bait, all crammed into a scant twenty minutes. It's a painfully shoddy conclusion, riddled with bad plot holes, a lame cliffhanger, and the sheer fact that the characters have to leave the evil genius alive, solely so future conflict and more deaths can happen. The other big stink about the picture involves Woodley: She fits the character and is always good when it came time to cry, but she is never really a believable threat or a capable action lead. Nonetheless, I'll gladly take a scene featuring her awkward fighting prowess than see any more of her unlawful courtship with an instructor, which becomes full-blown statutory rape in a false exercise. Queasiness aside, the movie is an okay engagement.


Transcendence - Review

Will Caster (Johnny Depp), his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), and several other colleagues are in the process of creating a super-computer that is both self-aware and can help bring a new age of humanity by acting as a god. This dangerous thinking puts them in the crosshairs of an anti-tech terrorist cell called RIFT, led by Kate Mara, who sends an agent to shoot Caster with a isotope-laden bullet. To save his legacy for her own selfish reasons, Evelyn uploads his consciousness into the computer program, which will surely not produce a mainframe megalomaniac, once give access to the internet. TRANSCENDENCE is a tiresome endeavor, filled with a talented cast that all give deliberately sleepy performances; They all must have realized on the first day of shooting that this isn't a Christopher Nolan pic but is being directed by one of his note-copying buddies, Nolan's resident cinematographer Wally Pfister. To be very fair, Pfister easily knows how to design striking illustrations and delivers genuine terror during the film's uneasy moments, such as when Computer Caster uploads himself into real people. But he doesn't know how to operate with actors or liven up the dynamic of the world, instead staying the course on his sterile view of humanity and making up for his shortcomings by just flourishing the frames with LCDs exploding with imagery best served for a screensaver. Even if he could run a self-diagnostic and fix his own errors, Jack Paglen's script is total garbage. Its veins are flowing with 90's "Internet is Bad!" logic, trying to strike fear in all hearts and minds by name-dropping Y2K and showing us how computers will ruin small towns and turn everybody into a walking zombie. The best example of the film's dated material: Wired magazine is still relevant as a status signifier and is popular in print form. In a film saturated with the digital age, none of the makers could just put the issue on a tablet? But it gets far worst than just that: The story has no grasp of a moral compass, telling us to boo RIFT for their heinous assassinations, then to switch gears and ask us to cheer them on once Caster is viral. The same thing happens to Caster in the laughable third act: His Hal-9000 tendencies are very disconcerting to accept throughout the picture, especially once his nano-sperm spews from the ground, but we're supposed to feel bad for him since he refuses to take a human life. However, none of these creative issues compare to the character of Evelyn. The film always wants us to identify with her ongoing plight, despite her being a total sociopath, values a digital projection of her late husband over a human being, and thinks that living in an underground, artificial apartment is a rational decision. Warner Bros. and the other production companies should have shut down this project before subjugating it onto the public.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God's Not Dead - Review

A philosophy instructor (Kevin Sorbo) forcibly has his new freshman class to agree with his skeptic principles, by requesting that they all write "God Is Dead" on a piece of paper and sign their name. All of the lambs do it except for one kid (Shane Harper), who then has to prove the existence of God at the end of the each lecture in a mock trial format. If GOD'S NOT DEAD had just stick to this simple conflict, it would still be a dreadful piece of religious filth but at least easy to comprehend. Instead, director Harold Cronk and his fellow deplorable creators unleash the absolute worst use of hyperlink cinema. Subplots involving an Chinese student and a Muslim girl are followed solely so they can be indoctrinated into the Jesus flock, but not until they tell Buddha and Allah to go fly a kite and be physically and emotionally abused by their respective fathers. Two supporting female characters are treated as walking pariahs, scorned by evil, snooty upper class males for being carriers of diseases, namely "cancer" and Catholicism. There's a dementia-stricken mother whose sole purpose of cinematic existence is to have a speech about moral comfort at the end. And lastly, you have to sit through a farcical plot line where a pastor can't hang out with an African missionary (?) because cars "magically" stall on him and he doesn't believe in mechanics, trains, or buses. All of these subordinate tales go absolute nowhere and pretty much serve no purpose to the main narrative, that of a conceited mouth-breather and his battle with a predatory professor. A professor who is an atheist, sleeps with his female students, and commits several acts of unchecked harassment. Why not have Sorbo twirl his goatee while you are at, you putrid propagandists?

But GOD'S NOT DEAD gets even more appalling than perpetuating stereotypes of higher education and naming the sole black kid "G-Dogg". It's a ultra-shoddy $2 million product, full of insipid cinematography and flat lighting. The makers couldn't even do something as simple as break a real car window or give a kid an iPhone/Nintendo handheld to play with. The editing scheme is treated the exact same way as a third-rate live television broadcast; scenes instantaneously stop in their tracks mid-speech, cut to a pointless clip, then cut back to resume the discussion. Cronk has no directorial skills whatsoever, littering the picture with nil energy and strange visual logic. For example of the latter, before the final debate, our "hero" takes an elevator ride to the second floor to get to class, solely so Sorbo can psyche him out one last time. Speaking of the debate, the film never delivers any actual evidence to back up its evangelical thesis, instead throwing out a ton of random information and quotes at the audience, hoping and praying that none of the viewers actually see through the intelligent design smoke. The final argument of the fight, however, takes the cake, as the Christian douchebag spouts an unbelievably juvenile question that immediately destroys the smug pillar he stands on. Just when you think the pain has finally stop, GOD'S NOT DEAD concludes by going the Soupy Sales route, breaking the fourth wall and advocating the practice of text spam. To hell with you, you heinous atrocity!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lauren Bacall - RIP

Off the heels of one Hollywood death comes another: Lauren Bacall has died. She was 89 years old.

Starting off as a fashion model, she made an auspicious debut in Tinseltown, starring in the lead female role opposite Humphrey Bogart in Howard Hawks' To Have and Have Not. Her glamour looks, husky voice, and delivery of the classic line, "You know how to whistle?", made her a star overnight and caught the full attention of Bogart, who would eventually marry her.

Her career was nearly sunk completely with her second feature, Confidential Agent. Though greatly hurt by its reception, Bacall rebounded with three film noir classics back to back: The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Again partnered with Bogart, the films made great use of the white hot chemistry between the two, particularly The Big Sleep, where the two spar in a humorous yet still racy conversation about "horses".

Other popular endeavors include How to Marry a Millionaire, where she played a witty gold-digger, and Written on the Wind, the frothy soap opera authored by Douglas Sirk. When Bogart succumbed to cancer in 1957, Bacall slowly walked away from the Hollywood spotlight.

She would then spend most of her energy on the Broadway stage, including Cactus Flower and Applause, the latter being a musical version of All About Eve and would earn her a Tony. She popped up in films every now and then, such as being one of the many suspects in Murder on the Orient Express and a pastiche of herself in the horror "cult classic" The Fan.

Her last time in the bright lights came in 1996, when Barbra Streisand cast her as the dominating but loving mother of the heroine in the rom-com The Mirror Has Two Faces. She was expected by many to finally earn an Oscar for her acting talents, only to be beaten by Juliette Binoche. She would be given a Honorary Oscar in 2009.

In recent years, Bacall has appeared in several challenging art indies, such as the works of Lars Von Trier (Dogville, Manderlay) and Jonathan Glazer (Birth). She also gravitated towards voice-work, the most notable being the beleaguered witch in Howl's Moving Castle and this year's Ernest & Celestine, which is her last credited role.

Bacall was an amazingly versatile woman: Able to stand toe to toe with rough men, project intelligence in all of her characters, and belt out a chord. She was one of the strongest females to ever grace the screen and stage.

She will be missed.

Need for Speed - Review

Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), an expert street racer from Upstate New York, is framed for manslaughter by former friend/rival Dino (Dominic Cooper), because he dared to help fix up and sell Dino's expensive Ford Mustang. Sprung out of jail, he seeks to right the wrong by entering into a major underground race in California, behind the wheel of the same car he sold to a British gear/time-freak (Imogen Poots). Despite being over two hours (130 minutes to exact for Poots), there is no substance in the story to be smoothly spread over the running time, nor does any of it make any sense. Tobey needs to get from NY to CA in less than two days; though he can probably have his flying-vehicle-hopping buddy (Kid Cudi) transport the Mustang in an airplane carrier, he instead drives the entire way there, putting many innocent drivers in danger with his reckless showboating. Why exactly? Well, the movie states that he needs to get his gang back together to help him with the race and do a real-time demo reel for Monarch, the race's organizer played embarrassingly by Michael Keaton. But, as seen by every viewer, his car buddies do jack crap for him except for a cool refueling stunt and he could have done something less destructive and keep his public profile low to impress the strange pirate radio host. All of this doesn't matter at all unfortunately because the third act delivers one stupid twist after another, including a car swap and the sheer dumb notion that Dino would want to keep crucial evidence of his past crime in near pristine condition. Plus, why would anyone want to participate in this pink-slip race if practically all of the cars are destroyed before anyone crosses the finish line? Though the real car stunt-work is commendable in this day and age of Hollywood, it doesn't fully excuse the abysmal script, Paul's flat lead performance, or the fact that the makers tried to strum up any substance from one of the most boring video game franchises.


Hercules (2014) - Review

The titled character and his fellow band of mercenaries accept their latest job, simply so they can have their own weight in gold. Tasked with defending a poor kingdom and leading its army against a ruthless warlord, the group venture out to be soaked in the blood and bile of their opponents. For a PG-13 film, HERCULES is an extreme gorefest, featuring wholesale slaughter, vicious weaponry, and a ton of severed heads stuck on pikes. This is okay for young children, MPAA? Putting the moral concerns of a dumb ratings board aside, I did in fact enjoyed in the partaking of this swords and sandals romp. The film's most ingenuous overall idea, amid all of the deadly yet fun carnage and light comedy, is to find the reality within the myth, to show off the heroic demigod and his great exploits but then pull back the veil and display the true story. To give a minor example, we spot a brief glance of The Hydra in the prologue, only to later find out in another flashback that the "creature" was actually a barbaric clan that hid in the waters and all wore a serpent-modeled helmet. This clever approach keeps the blockbuster nice and fresh and helps distinguish it as a worthy watch, standing a bit above the Steve Reeves pictures and certainly overshadowing the dumb Kellan Lutz one released earlier this year. That being said, this reality-based approach doesn't stop director Bret Ratner and the rest of the makers from featuring inhuman action efforts like the mighty sight of Herc suplexing a horse. The blood may turn off most families and its script does falter at times when trying to connect too many plots but HERCULES still remains strong, especially with Dwayne Johnson at the helm as the believably beefy hero.


Robin Williams - RIP

In shocking news overnight, comedian/movie star Robin Williams has taken his own life. He was 63 years old.

Williams was one of the few remaining actors that have touched viewers for five continuous decades, whether on television, film, or live theater. Despite growing older, he still retained his comedic skills, employing expert imitations, super-fast speaking, and other child-like sensibilities.

His big break into the mainstream came from mega-producer Garry Marshall, who cast him as an odd little alien who visited the Cunninghams, in a one-off episode of Happy Days. The popularity of his appearance led to a spin-off series, Mork and Mindy, which lasted until 1982. Not content with just television work, Williams tried his hand in several film projects. Unfortunately, it took him awhile to successfully transition; his first films all had cultish appeal, including the fiasco turned semi-beloved live-action adaptation of Popeye and the adaptation of John Irving's The World According to Garp.

He didn't give up his pursuit for movie stardom, paying his dues in many forgettable comedies until 1987, when he portrayed Vietnam War DJ Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam. He earned his first of many Oscar nominations for the role, which allowed him to crack open his insanely funny rambling humor on the big screen while also giving him a opportunity to widely show off his softer side. He followed the movie up with another Oscar-nominated performance as the "carpe diem"-whispering teacher in Dead Poets Society. The most dramatic role of his career, as a doctor who helps out his catatonic patients in Awakenings, was surprisingly snubbed by the Academy. The Fisher King gave him another opportunity to win Best Actor but again, he was left empty-handed, despite pulling off the difficult role of a delusional homeless man who believes himself as the white knight of New York City. It wasn't until 1997, with the indie juggernaut Good Will Hunting, that Williams finally got to walk up the stage and hold the golden man.

Of course, Williams didn't let his search for Oscar gold keep him from making people laugh. Hook gave him the "like a glove" role of an adult Peter Pan. Mrs. Doubtfire made him the most popular cross-dresser on film. He even help generate buzz for modern cult classics, such as Death to Smoochy and World's Greatest Dad.

His distinct voice and improv proficiency made him perfect for animated fare. He altered the entire landscape of the genre when he played The Genie in Disney's Aladdin, a role he didn't want credited for or marketed heavily during the film's promotion. The critical praise and fanfare for the character would eventually lead to more established actors taking up voice-over work in major animations.

There were some works where Williams didn't show off an inch of humor. His guest starring role as a grieving widower on a special episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets blew America away and help keep the struggling, realistic cop show off the chopping block. Dark turns as deranged psychopaths in Insomnia and One Hour Photo further showed that the actor should be taken serious.

Some of his endeavors were very poor, however: Jumanji, Jack, and Flubber were poor family affairs of the 90's; Father's Day and Bicentennial Man are unbearable to watch; Patchet Adams was an ungodly audience-friendly Oscar bait; and Jakob the Liar nearly killed his career. Recent examples such as Licensed to Wed, Man of the Year, and Old Dogs also didn't help his image.

Still, the man was an one-of-a-kind star. He leaves beyond a legacy of classics, several upcoming films, and a beloved family.

He will sorely be missed.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Trailer Review - Atlas Shrugged: Part III

Atlas Shrugged: Part III (aka Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?)
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Laura Regan as Dagny 3.0 and Kristoffer Polaha as John Galt 3.0 lead off another complete cast overhaul.

Scene Pop: None, but the inane lines certainly stand out.

Briggs Breakdown: A plane crash, a wrecked door, and multiple scenes of flat delivery and wooden acting.

Effective?: No. Late comers and new viewers have no idea what's going on and this film is projected to be more of a romantic drama instead of the grand finale to the Atlas saga.

Check it Out?: Oh Hell No! This movie looks even more cheap and terrible than the preceding two entries. As with those, the free market will gladly let this fail at the box office and it will finally end one of the worst movie trilogies ever made.