Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Evidence is proof that the found footage genre needs to get lost. I also talk about good found footage movies streaming, and the not-so-good, and how awesome is Radha Mitchell?

I Hated It
My wife and I have a thing for found footage movies. They are, for the most part, horrible. There are some that aren’t bad. I will always be a fan of the original, the one that started it all, The Blair Witch Project. Of course found footage movies were popular with the invention of the camcorder that any average person could buy and film movies on. The Blair Witch Project was the first to make it mainstream, but what it also did was utilize the internet as a way of marketing and keeping up the illusion of the whole movie being found footage. At the time there were some who believed it entirely because of the back story and reports that showed up on the internet claiming to be real.

I Really Liked It
            There are found footage movies that are not completely horrible, and I can think of only one that is pretty good. Barry Levinson’s The Bay is a movie that any person who is thinking of making a found footage film should watch. The Bay is paced perfectly, and that is something that is completely free and yet most people who make a found footage film act as though creating  steady pace within their movie is way too expensive and they’d rather spend it on the effects they’re gonna use for the last five minutes of the movie. The Bay may have more production value than littler films but that doesn’t really show, what shows more than anything is the acting and the story. I think the best thing one could say about The Bay is that when you hear that Barry Levinson is making a found footage film you are pretty certain his career is over, but when you see the movie you see that he’s still making good movies. Sure it’s not his best but it may not even be his worse either.

            The Paranormal Activity movies aren’t bad either. The first one was good, and though the rest have steadily declined in quality, they are still movies that my wife and I check out and enjoy watching how horrible the movies have become. We have started betting each other on when a body is going to be thrown at the camera. The main reason we continue to watch these movies is because – like The Bay – the camera is usually pretty steady and not all herky jerky all over the place.

I Didn't Like It
            The two Grave Encounters movies are about the average of found footage movies. They’re bad, but bearable, opting to let you get to know the irritating people who will be having the “grave encounters” for over an hour, and then giving you the “grave encounters” throughout the last few minutes of the movie. I am aware that the sarcasm did not come through so let me be clear that these movies are more than dull and then they end with something mildly interesting.

            It’s the really bad ones that are dull – spend too much time letting us get to know the characters – and then they end with something that is supposed to be a surprise? A cliffhanger? Who cares! If you’re going to show us over an hour’s worth of footage of these people, then something pretty concrete had better happen to them instead of leaving it all open. It’s such a waste of our time that it’s almost painful.

I Hated It
We anxiously checked out the V/H/S movies, which sucked, and then the sequel, which surprise! Sucked too; and that is a real testament to how horrible the stories are in the V/H/S movies because all found footage movies waste so much time trying to create characters that we should care about when the shit hits the fan, but we never do. The stories in the V/H/S movies are short and still we don’t give a crap about them. To be fair the V/H/S movies aren’t the worst because you can tell they got money, and some of the stories have moments that are interesting, but all together as a movie the stories are just not good and leave too much open. I like open endings if the ending is a fair ending to the rest of the movie, but when you have a movie that’s got tons of insane shit and then you end it without any sort of explanation – well, that’s just lazy.

            We even saw one found footage movie that was streaming at the time, and I can’t recall the name of the movie, but freaking Oliver Stone was in it. Seriously, and then I found out that his son made the movie! This is no shit, and it was horrible! It’s gems like that which make it totally worth our incessant viewing of any and all found footage movies.

            The found footage movie Evidence was interesting because it wasn’t the usual plot. This time it was the police searching through video evidence in the aftermath of one hell of a bad night that left many dead and a few barely surviving. So that was a good thing, and the cast was a good thing. The guy from True Blood and the mom from the Silent Hill movies. Okay, we got some stars here, so let’s check it out. The opening scene was interesting. The camera moving around the aftermath that is all frozen in time meant that they had some money to throw at this movie, and then once it starts going . . . well . . .

            Without giving too much away I’ll just say this movie sucked and you should not watch it. Trust me, the ending was completely stupid and unbelievable, but the whole movie was like that. Too much of the movie was watching the cops watch the found footage, which is worse than watching it yourself! And the True Blood guy spouts awesomely horrible technical jargon about enhancing, and zooming in, and cleaning up the video, and stuff that – whether it’s real or not – just came off as so fake that it was laughable, which is what my wife and I did during this movie – a lot.

No one puts Radha Mitchell in a movie this bad,
and if you do you atleast make her the freaking star!
            The people involved are so much better than a movie like this, seriously. Though I haven’t seen the True Blood guy in a movie or TV show that I’ve liked, I know the Silent Hill lady can act and can pick great movies (Radha Mitchell will always be cool to me because she was in Pitch Black and Henry Poole is Here – this movie, as bad as it was, did not have her in it enough for me to hate her), but this movie was a horrible waste of time. I can’t even think of a way for this movie to be good because it just doesn’t have a story. The Tue Blood guy has a history that is touched upon but has nothing to do with anything going on, nor does it really have anything do with the investigation, and the Silent Hill lady doesn’t even need to be in the movie which is a shame because she can be a good actress when she has the right direction.

            There are a number of found footage movies streaming on Netflix, and though they mostly all reside in the horror genre I’d suggest checking them out instead of this one. My wife and I were anxious to see a found footage movie that was not the usual horror movie, but this was bad enough that we really would rather have watched a bad horror found footage than a horrible mystery found footage.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pain and Gain is like dessert, while The Frozen Ground is like the large meal before.

I Loved It
I loved Pain and Gain.

            I have a friend who hates movies based on true stories, ever since he saw Fargo and found out it wasn’t really based on a true story, he sort of looked into other movies and found that most movies based on true stories are 99% made up. I can see his complaint – Texas Chainsaw Massacre, based on a true story, sure, but a story that has nothing to do with chainsaws – at the same time, life is very rarely as exciting as it is in the movies, and were something to stick to the truth, generally it’s gonna be pretty dull, and to that point it ain’t gonna sell many tickets – which is the whole point of making a movie.
            I don’t look into the factual history of a movie I just saw that was based on a true story. I do enjoy when the movie uses actual footage throughout or at the end of the movie, a sort of acknowledgement or nod to those involved in the true story the movie was based on; also, there’s nothing like seeing pictures of the actual people the movie was based on and seeing how much they look nothing like the actors portraying them – kind of introduces the idea that a lot of the movie is better looking than the facts.

            So Pain and Gain is based on / inspired by a true crime; what is fake and what is fact I have no idea but I bet it’s safe to say the more exciting moments, the funny moments, and possibly even the heartfelt scenes were all fake, does that make it a bad movie? My friend would say so. Why watch a movie based on a true crime when so much of the movie’s version of events turns out to be fake? Because I’m bored, because I don’t care? Take your pick.

            This is a Michael Bay film, and though he gets a lot of crap for being an explosion happy director, if you’re looking for his usual style of over-the-top action you will be sorely disappointed. Bay has a flashy almost candy-colored style to his films that is unmistakable; a style that most consider a bad thing, but I say what’s wrong with candy? It’s like a sci-fi movie that’s all special effects (who really went to see Avatar for the story?); this is a movie that is all about colors, sexy women and insanely muscular men. It’s got something for both the husband and the wife, right?

            My wife loves movies based on true crimes, and she loves Tony Shalhoub – she just hated this movie. Well, she left before more than five minutes had passed, so I’m taking that as a point for the hate column. She is not a fan of Bay’s movies, and obviously they’re geared more towards the stereotypical male, and though this is a tamer version of his regular movies (take that as a good thing or a bad thing), I loved it.

            The movie had enough of Bay’s usual ingredients to keep my wife from being interested. The first problem she had was Mark Wahlberg doing sit-ups on the side of a building (because it looks cool I guess) and then Tony Shalhoub – while not the bad guy – was not a very likable person in the least, and she did not want that picture of Monk in her head, so she left, which meant I got to watch this on the computer with headphones. Normally the headphones are turned up for the action, but since there was none, this time I had it turned up for the music. I really really liked the music in this movie.

            The opening music put me in the perfect mood to watch a movie like this, a movie of three guys, lacking in brains what they have in biceps, who are essentially tired of not having any money and turn to crime to make up for their lack of money. Of course it’s more than just money, they want to teach the spoiled rotten a lesson. The music perfectly captures the emotions of one who wants the best and goes about the wrong way to get it, and fails. If they did not show the cops arriving and Mark Wahlberg’s character running, and still played the music I would know exactly how things were going to play out. The music sets everything up. I was talking to my wife about the music and she said she didn’t remember any music, just the sit-ups and the cops showing up. I played her the opening again and she did not think the music was anything special, so there’s that, but I was surprised how moving the music was, as if Bay – knowing that he wasn’t gonna have explosions and special effects to get people in the seats, put all his effort into actually directing and finding good music for the movie.

            The energy from the beginning is carried pretty much throughout the whole movie; it gets a bit slow towards the end but not so much that it’s a mark against it. The story is still interesting and the characters are . . . well, you can’t really root for them because the main characters are all bad guys, but I’ll be damned if Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson didn’t do a kick ass job of acting in this movie. I know, I know, hard to believe, but I’ll be honest, they did really good work. Mark Wahlberg did his best since Boogie Nights, and Dwayne Johnson did his best since ever. Dwayne Johnson just really seemed to be the character he was playing, sort of innocent in many ways but fully aware of the sort of damage he could do at the same time. There’s a point in the movie when Wahlberg is yelling at Johnson to do something and Johnson really does not want to do it, doesn’t even think he can, but he does it anyway and it was really sad seeing the pain in his eyes as he was doing it. It was a moment of good acting – I thought.
            Also the narration helped with the characters. Narration is normally a nuisance and basically a crutch that the guy writing the story is using to get points of the story across without having to really show us, but here the acting was so well done by everyone involved in the movie that when they narrated a moment or two it wasn’t being used to convey something we weren’t already seeing, it was there as though they were talking to us, explaining themselves and even at times defending themselves. The narration wasn’t important to the movie or the story, but having it there wasn’t distracting because the movie worked so well on its own.

I Liked It
My wife and I sat through The Frozen Ground, a Nicolas Cage and John Cusack movie based on a true serial killer in Alaska. This was a movie that I almost left about halfway through because it was so slow. I was expecting it to follow events through a large period of time, but instead it follows the events of the police trying to find enough evidence to charge the man they believe to be the killer. To me that just took some of the fun of the movie out of it. We know instantly who the killer is and so what we have is a movie about Nicolas Cage running around trying to get evidence and then trying to get things signed so he can search the killer’s house for evidence. Not really all that exciting, so like I said, I was ready to call it a night and head to bed, and I don’t know why I stayed, but I did, and I was pretty glad I did.

            Nicolas Cage and I have a pretty good history. It comes down to the fact that I’ll watch anything with him in it, and I’ll enjoy it as well. Whether he’s the insane Nicolas Cage or the weird one, or the calm one, I love watching him. I wish he’d make more big budget movies, movies that would help his career, but at the same time I love that he keeps making movies like this – movies that don’t get a lot of attention and end up streaming on Netflix in no time, which means I get to see them quicker than I would were they big budget movies. So I’m torn in my rooting for Nicolas Cage’s career, but oh well.

            I am not a fan of John Cusack. I thought he was funny in the early 80’s movies, and he was fine in Con Air and The Grifters was so great it pretty much made me want to see any movie he ever does, but The Raven was so horrible that it did what I thought was impossible, and that was make me go back and look at previous movies he’d been in, and when I did I saw that he wore the same flaccid face for all of them. The guy cannot act, at all. For all the craziness that Nicolas Cage does, and then he does cool quite and calm movies, the guy has range – John Cusack does not, he is the same always.

            My wife argues with me on this because she watched The Paperboy, a movie streaming on Netflix that I have not seen yet. She said he was good in that movie, but The Raven was so bad that I find myself wanting to stay away from movies with him in it.

            The only saving grace is that he is not in The Frozen Ground much, so I stuck with it, even though I felt it was a bit too slow and boring. Then he does show up, and though it wasn’t enough to change my attitude towards the man, it was enough to change my attitude towards the movie. John Cusack did a great job of acting when his character becomes a more central point to the story, I was genuinely surprised at his portrayal of the killer, his emotionless face now had a reason behind it – but then at the end, when the rage seeps out, was really amazing.

            I blame my lack of interest in John Cusack to even see the possibility of this movie being a slow burn movie, I just thought it was a dull movie, but when Cage and Cusack square off at the end, it was good, almost interesting. A bit too much like the last five minutes of a Criminal Intent episode, but The Frozen Ground was a fine movie and good step for me to becoming a fan of John Cusack again, though I don’t really hold much hope of that happening any time soon.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Sanctum is an okay movie - and I watched it on my Vita.

I Liked It
Sanctum probably looked pretty good on an IMAX screen in 3D. I watched this movie on my Vita with headphones, so needless to say the experience for me was a bit different from someone who saw it on an IMAX screen – right? I mean, the movie itself didn’t really need to be in IMAX or in 3D and I’ll prove that when I say that by the end (while watching it on my Vita) I thought it was a pretty good movie.

            Yes there were scenes that in 3D and on an IMAX screen would probably have been awesome to see, but I feel that it would have done very little for the story. I saw the last Batman movie on IMAX and it was still not as good as the previous two movies that I saw on regular screens. I saw Prometheus on IMAX in 3D, and yes there were some parts where the 3D was very cool, but those moments did nothing for the story.

            I remember seeing previews for Sanctum when it came out and I remember talking to my friend Mike (the guy who doesn’t like movies based on real crimes) and he thought it looked cool and we both talked about how it would be worth seeing it on the IMAX screen and in 3D. Of course it wasn’t, though, because we never did it. Do you have any idea how expensive those movies are?

            Anyway, I wasn’t really too into Sanctum at the start. It kind of reminded me of a movie that would have come out in the early 90’s. Now a lot of good movies came from them, but in my comparison this movie would not be one of those.

            Everything you think will happen, does; to the point that I truly believe one could keep the movie playing and walk away so that you couldn’t see or hear it for like five or ten minutes, and when you come back you’d know exactly what was going on. It’s obvious that the time and energy spent on this movie was on the 3D and IMAX stuff, and not the story. The acting was okay, but nothing to pay IMAX prices for.

            The one good thing about the movie is the father and son, who are together a lot for the movie but don’t really click until the end, and then the movie got good! I was surprised at how emotional it was and had the movie managed to muster that kind of stuff up for more than just the end of the movie then it wouldn’t be that bad of a movie.

            Unfortunately it’s only at the end of the movie that the actors seem comfortable as the characters they are playing and the story has a touching and emotional end that – though it doesn’t end the way I wanted it to (which means the way it should have) – was a surprise when the rest of the movie was so dull and predictable.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Family is a good comedy with a decent action filled ending.

I am a fan of Luc Besson. I have been since The Big Blue, a movie I fully admit I was too young to understand, but I still enjoyed it. Then he did the Nikita movie and that was awesome and it has all be awesome since then. Unfortunately he doesn’t direct everything that he writes, and so though a movie carries his name, it may be his story but it’s not him directing, and the director can fuck a story up good if he wants to. Want proof, check out the American version of the Nikita movie, and just about any movie based on one of his screenplays and you’ll see it’s not up to the level of a movie directed by the man himself.

            The Family is a small movie, and one you can tell the people involved were having fun making. It’s not a masterpiece but they can’t all be that. This movie is more like a group of friends getting together to make a movie and in the process, get to live in France for a time and hang out between takes.

            There is no tension in the movie, and yes, though it is a comedy (and actually a pretty well put together movie) I think it could still have benefited from some seriousness. The one moment that would qualify as a serious moment for the movie was the most heartfelt, with the daughter of the family, tired of moving around because of the protection, believes that should she fall in love with a guy – and he in return – that she wouldn’t have to move, but could stay with the guy and finally settle down. Like in the movies, and real life, things don’t ever work how you planned on them doing.

            The movie is a good comedy, the family as a fish out of water scenario works well with the actors involved, and their nonchalance about being new to the town was perfect for a family that has been through it all a number of times and in turn made the comedy a bit more believable and harmless no matter how over the top it got.

            The movie ends with a pretty entertaining shoot out, and a slow and methodical takeover of the small town by the bad guys that was a pleasant change of pace from the rest of the movie. Luc Besson directed the action scenes with the same touch as his movies from the past, though all of it a bit more tame.

            I would compare this movie to Bay’s Pain and Gain, except that here Luc Besson cannot let himself get away without blowing a few things up and creating a chase as well as a few shoot outs, and that is perfectly okay with me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Metallica's Through The Never is something to watch, not so much Green Day's Broadway Idiot

An angry Metallica fan
I was never a very big fan of Metallica. I liked their song One (I think I was 13 when it came out?), the video was crazy and disturbing, but as far as I was concerned they didn’t make any more songs until Enter Sandman, and that was okay but still not enough to make me buy a CD. Then I heard their S&M album with the orchestra, I bought the double CD and loved every single song on there. I had a friend who lent me Load and Reload and I liked both of those albums enough to never give them back to my friend and still have them today (yeah I was stealing music before it was cool).

            I never really gave Metallica much thought once I got tired of listening to S&M until I saw the preview for Through the Never. I wasn’t about to shell out money for an Imax 3D movie of Metallica in concert, but the fact that there seemed to be a plot with action and events going on outside of the concert was interesting and appealing.

            I’m a fan of LCD Soundsystem so I checked out Shut Up and Play the Hits – streaming now on Netflix – which was a concert show but also follows things leading up to the concert, and I could not get into it at all. I like the music but man I just did not care about anything going on with the guy trying to put the whole thing together. I watched some of the songs, and the concert looked cool. I watched the concert parts with my kids and they enjoyed the music too, which was cool, but the rest of it all just seemed like such a vanity project. I’m the sure the LCD Soundsystem guy is nice and all but to me during the documentary he came off as vain as fuck.

            I digress . . .

            The reason I liked Through the Never more than a usual concert film was because of the scenes without the band, the scenes where we follow the kid on the errand and the events he goes through to complete his task, it was kind of like one giant music video for some of their most popular songs. It’s hard to put a label on exactly what Through the Never is, and I kind of like that.

            I don’t see Metallica getting any new fans from Through the Never, but people who are big fans or even those who don’t mind them, will probably enjoy it. I’ll be honest, I was surprised I watched the whole thing, it just really wasn’t my thing, but every time I started to feel that the concert was being shown too much and it was starting to get old, they’d cut to the movie part, or – as happened about halfway through the movie – the concert footage itself began to get exciting. The props; lighting and a statue, began to fall apart during the concert so that even the band themselves got into the acting bit while things began to fall down around them and a crew member engulfed in flame started running around.

            My wife sat down and watched maybe a song’s worth. She watched some concert and then the kid on the errand and asked me if it was supposed to be like The Wall? I told her there’s no way anyone would try to be like The Wall. Then what is it, she asked, and I couldn’t answer her. A concert film, a music video, a musical (no)? My wife is so hung up on labels!

            Seriously, though, I don’t know what it is, but I liked it. I really liked it. It was all just pretty cool.

The same cannot be said for Broadway Idiot.

            To be fair, Broadway Idiot is about Broadway and not Green Day, and I understand that, but still it is about Green Day’s music – specifically American Idiot, an album that I think is very good, even almost 10 years later it’s still a pretty awesome album. It is sort of Green Day’s The Wall, a concept album of social as well as political importance that is still relevant today.

            Unlike Metallica, I did buy Green Day’s albums. I bought their CD Dookie when I saw the video for Basketcase one morning on MTV (that was roughly 20 years ago) and listened to the crap out of the songs Basketcase and Longview, but the other songs weren’t for me. I didn’t buy another one of their albums until Nimrod when I heard the Nice Guys Finish Last song that was pretty popular at the time. That was ’97 and for whatever reason I freaking loved every single song on that album. Seriously, I had them memorized and would listen and sing / yell along with them in my car or around the house when my roommates were gone or we were having a party. I remember when the Good Riddance song was released and so popular and I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of all these people guying Nimrod for that one song and finding out that the entire album is pretty much the complete opposite as that one song.

            I’ll say that’s about when Green Day started to change, their mainstream popularity did not sit well with most of their die hard fans, but I didn’t care. I just liked the music. Warning was an album I wasn’t even aware of until I heard it on NPR one night and I bought that album and though a bit tamer than Nimrod (they still haven’t been able to catch the previous fury of Nimrod) it was still good.

            American Idiot was a return to form for the band, and though it was an angry album and perfect in tone, it still lacked the passion of Nimrod, but it was still a great album. A concept album from a group that took everyone by surprise, mixing the mainstream popularity of Good Riddance style songs and the angst of Warning, the album was easily accessible for non-fans with a hint of their glory day punk rock for the faithful fans.

            Now American Idiot on Broadway? Nope, not for me. I can see how theater kids would dig the show, and this documentary, but for Green Day fans – don’t bother, even mild Green Day fans – don’t bother, these are not the same guys from years past. Sure they’re older and wiser (I assume), but then so is Metallica, much older actually, and they even teamed up with a symphony and fucking killed it.

            So Broadway Idiot has pretty much no music, and the great majority of the singing is from the Broadway cast – which just did not work for me. Seeing American Idiot acted out and performed is like seeing a book you have enjoyed being turned into a movie. None of it is how you pictured it in your head; in fact it’s pretty bad compared to what you imagined.

            I listen to Spotify while at work and because I’m on the computer all day I listen to a shit-ton of music. After Through the Never I checked out some Metallica and found that I still cannot get into their earlier stuff except for a few of their songs, their later stuff, however, I still enjoy. Load, Reload, St. Anger I could listen to all day while at work, their Death Magnetic not so much.

            The opposite goes for Green Day; Nimrod, Warning, and American Idiot (and to a small degree 21st Century Breakdown but to be fair I don’t think I’ve listened to the whole album yet) are albums I could listen to all day, but their new stuff Uno, Dos, and Tre, are horrible, and unless they come up with an album that – I would suggest – leans more away from the mainstream and more towards their roots, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull themselves out of the downward spiral they’re in.

            Metallica is still doing the same kind of music, and to me, for whatever reason, it doesn’t feel like old men clinging to their past or anything negative. To me they’re still cool and still playing good heavy metal music. Green Day on the other hand, after watching Broadway Idiot and seeing the lead singer guy acting on Broadway, just seems like they’re moving forward and leaving more and more of what they used to be in the rear view mirror – which is fine, I’m cool with that, but don’t do that and then release albums that try to capture the past glory because you will fail.

            Accept your decision, your direction, and go with it, don’t go one way and then try to go another, you’ll waste your energy and my time – and my time is money baby!

Friday, May 16, 2014

New movies streaming now on Netflix: one for the kids, one for the adults, and one for the Nic Cage fans

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Not needed, but few sequels are):

Sanctum (I thought it looked okay, heard it was pretty bad):

Frozen Ground (Nicolas Cage, always entertaining in one way or another, and John Cussak, always disappointing since the late '90s):

Friday, May 9, 2014

The best Sci-Fi movies streaming on Netflix? Close Encounters and The Fifth Element - says me.

Poster credit:
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the greatest movies ever made.

            Yes it may be sci-fi but it’s more than that, the struggle that Roy goes through is more than just an annoying image implanted in his mind that he has to understand and then find. We watch as he struggles to keep his family together while at the same time following something that he believes is important but may cost him his family. It’s his struggle to accept that he can’t have both and we watch while he chooses one over the other.

            We never know the history of Barry (the abducted boy) and his parents; he lives with his mom, but where’s the dad? We never know the history of Roy’s family after they leave the house, were the children changed and traumatized by the breakdown of their dad, do they search for him or do they not care? These are the sort of things the movie made me think about and want to know, while at the same time – knowing full well I’d never know the answers to any of these questions – being okay with not knowing, because after all, there are bigger things going on than any of that. We’re not just discovering aliens; we’re making contact, and not a cheesy anti-climactic thing like the movie Contact, and not an action filled attack like Independence Day. No, this is contact with aliens on what one would assume is a rather realistic take on the event. Hidden from the public to the best of the government’s abilities, and all of it taken with the opinion that these guys are all right, they’re giving us back stuff we’ve lost (or had taken from us, actually), they’re singing to us, and though they may leave behind a few wrecked cars and some sunburns, all in all these aliens seem to be pretty classy guys. They wanna meet behind Devil’s Tower, hell, let’s build a giant landing strip for them (do they know what it is?), I mean, they’ll probably need it, it’s not like they’re just gonna lower themselves out of the sky in a massive spaceship that’s nearly twice the size of the mountain we’re setting up behind. It’s all good guys, all are welcome!

            It’s the little things about Close Encounters that makes me love the movie. The scene where Roy and his wife Ronnie are fighting, and the shot of the kids seeing it all, is powerful but the best is when the son starts slamming the door and yelling at his dad how he hates him, just over and over again, and the boy looks like he truly does. Richard Dreyfuss is a great actor, all of the adults are, as well as the little boy Barry, but the Neary kids who are not important to the plot are amazing! They may not be important to the story but you can just tell that time and effort has been put in to make them seem real, whether it be working on homework or just eating dinner, all of it so small but important! Movies now-a-days don’t take the time to make the background people important like they should, they may not be center to the plot but the main character who interacts with them is and us watching the movie get to know the main character – not by what we’re told about him, but what we’re shown – by how they interact with other people.

            The interaction of course is still depending on those involved, are they good actors? Is the direction they’re given any good? All of it – for the entire movie – is yes when it comes to Close Encounters. It is a bonus to those watching the movies that we are drawn close to the main characters as well as those in the background so that in the end, and we’re shown what happens to the main characters involved, we find ourselves wondering about the minor characters – but we’re not sure why. Roy Neary is lifted up into space on a space ship and at the end I found myself thinking about his kids, his wife, and not just them, all the people we’ve met throughout the movie, Barry and his mom, and everyone else – they have all become main characters, though not directly involved with the aliens – they now have lives.

            Close Encounters is one movie I wish they’d make a sequel to but have it simply be about what happened to the Neary family after their father leaves – that’s what I want to see, a family whose father went crazy and then disappeared and how it affected them all, a family drama called Close Encounters.

            Whoever my six degrees from Steven Spielberg are, please let him know I’m for hire – or let him know I’ll do it for free if he watches and reviews Wrong Cops for me.

Picture credit:
Then we have The Fifth Element.

            Holy crap this movie is a fun mess that kind of reminds me of the time my son ate a bunch of crayons then puked them up, a mixture of wonderment and revulsion filled my head and heart when I looked at the pile of regurgitation.

            I must admit that when I saw this movie in the theatres I loved it, it was exactly the kind of chaos that I wasn’t used to seeing from movies, the editing was fast, the story was thin and I knew it but I didn’t care because at the time I was more into how it all looked, and it all looked great – and I think it still does.

            The Fifth Element, with its special effects and set designs, were stronger than any of the acting or story going on in the movie. It’s never good to lose your characters to the scenery, but if you’re gonna lose them somewhere I guess the effects and sets are better than an aimless story. There’s really no way of saying that The Fifth Element is anything other than a special effects movie, the story ain’t really the main draw, nor the characters or even the acting (although a bad movie with Gary Oldman in it is still better than a bad movie without Gary Oldman), it’s the effects. You don’t go see a movie where Bruce Willis is the good guy with a side kick young girl and the bad guy is Gary Oldman, and wonder who’s gonna win and who’s gonna lose. No, you pretty much know full on how things are gonna play out before the movie even starts.
            Of course the movie has other strong points. The story, though flimsy, moves fast and the movie is edited in a way that (through-out all my years of watching a movie, seeing this movie for the first time was the first time I have ever taken note of how the scenes were cut together) made me appreciate the editing for the movie.

            The fighting scenes were good, though nothing exceptionally special except for the climactic fight on the cruise ship that was pretty cool and big and felt like the final loop on a rollercoaster. I watched this movie this time with my wife and kids, my wife is a huge – HUGE – Gary Oldman fan, so she’d seen the movie before, but it had been long enough that watching it again seemed appealing. After the big fight she checked out, which I couldn’t blame her, the movie went on for a bit too long, but it’s still a fun ride. My kids really liked it, they thought it was funny, and my boy, who usually needs constant action, had his attention kept by the movie and the way it moved fast and had plenty of humor and action sprinkled throughout.

            Of course Ruby Rhod steals the show anytime he’s on the screen. Seriously, what happened to Chris Tucker, that guy was hilarious! My kids loved him and when he’s introduced it’s like your suddenly starting a whole new movie – not a different movie, because the frenetic comic book feel is still there, but you’re suddenly shown a guy with so much energy that it’s contagious and you don’t feel like you’ve been watching a movie for an hour or so. Instead, you feel like you just started it. I can’t say the movie would have been helped by Ruby Rhod being introduced earlier, because I could easily see the guy becoming annoying. Still, if the movie could have managed a way to keep the energy up throughout the movie, the way it does when Chris Tucker is on the screen, it would have been amazing.

            The main thing the movie needed, a movie about love saving the world, was heart. The Fifth Element had good writing, fine acting, great effects and sets, a good idea for the story, but it just didn’t have the heart that a movie like Close Encounters had. Sure the effects of The Fifth Element were great to look at, but so were the effects in Close Encounters. The difference being that the majority of Close Encounter effects were the pay off – the alien ship was the whole thing everything in the movie was driving towards, and what did they have to do until the ship showed up? Nothing much, just tell a story is all. The Fifth Element on the other hand, is about having fun, it’s about the journey and not the destination.

            These are two sci-fi movies that could not be any further apart, but are still good in their own way, and they help show the vast openness of the sci-fi genre; a sci-fi story can be full on fun science fiction, while another sci-fi story can be a powerful and emotional drama about life. Is it the genre that opens itself up for such stories or is it the storytellers who see the potential and use it?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Teacher: Streaming on Netflix now

I Really Liked It
A Teacher was a surprisingly good movie – not sure I was really in the mood for it though.

            The story of a teacher having a sexual relationship with one of her high school students who she gradually becomes more and more obsessed with made me think it was gonna be like a high school boy’s fantasy. What I got was a movie following the teacher – a rather sad and pathetic person who can only find any sort of connection with one of her students – and it was more disturbing than what I had expected for two reasons. One, obviously, was because I was expecting a lot of sex scenes and nudity (there wasn’t), and two, because it was a well done and serious bit of drama with even a bit of psychological dysfunction thrown in.

            There isn’t any way to understand someone like a teacher who would sleep with their student, nor is there any way to understand someone who says: “If the student’s of legal age, what’s the problem?” Even without understanding the law, it’s a matter of the fact that the teacher is in a position of power that distorts the whole relationship in a way that makes the student’s age completely invalid. It becomes entirely about the teacher and the fact that the relationship was started with the teacher in a position of power over the student. I think it’s safe to say that for the majority of people and relationships in the world, it’s not good for one to start off with the two involved on uneven levels of power

            It’s an area that I know pretty much nothing about but can totally see and understand why the law is there.

            A teacher is there to teach their students the difference between right and wrong, be it through science, history or math or whatever. When the teacher has an intimate relationship with a student who doesn’t entirely know and understand the world, relationships, or even the changes going on with their own body, that teacher is now showing them that ignoring everything they had been taught for years about right and wrong was okay. Ignore those boys and girls your own age, who you have many things in common with and who you friends are interested in and talk about, ignore all of that and go with the feelings you have for your teacher that may be feelings of liking them and trusting them and take those feelings and turn them into a sexual relationship, I mean of course if you like and trust someone it means you get naked with them and swap bodily fluids!   

            If the teacher loves a student and the student loves the teacher, can’t the teacher just quit their job and then keep seeing the student, who is of legal age? I have no idea, but it seems like that’s okay. I don’t condone it but if the teacher were to do that they’d apparently have to deal with just the parents and not the cops, right? So the teacher quits and goes to work for Quick Trip or some shit and then they can date, but is it still as interesting for them both were that to happen? Is a male student gonna brag about sleeping with the older woman who checks your groceries at the grocery store (okay, yeah, probably, but all men are pigs – especially teenage boys, so that don’t really count)? Is the girl student gonna brag about sleeping with the guy who works in an office all day? Or drives a delivery truck (who knows, all women are psychotic)?

            Beats the shit out of me, but if you want to be with someone, and it’s against the law!? Then it’s wrong, pretty clean cut to me. Relationships can be tough as shit, and the last thing you wanna worry about is getting arrested while also worrying about why the person you’re supposedly in love with is in a bad mood.

            To be clear, I don’t think an older guy or gal should sleep with a kid still in school, I don’t care the details, or the ages. The kid, no matter how much more mature they seem, is not ready for stuff like that. It might make for a good fantasy, where there are no ramifications, but the reality is much more brutal, and that’s where this movie gets things right. The student at first is very happy to be sleeping with the teacher, while the teacher is aware that what they are doing is wrong and works to keep from being caught. Towards the end, though, as the teacher throws caution into the wind and begins to act as though she does not care who knows, the student changes and becomes the one who is wary of it all. The movie shows the progression in a way that seems believable.

            The student is fine with sleeping with the teacher, and even when they come close to being caught and the teacher gets upset that the student isn’t taking things serious I nearly said aloud: “Of course he’s not! He’s not gonna lose his job!” Then, by the end, when the teacher becomes obsessed the student is freaked out – and sure, even a full grown guy would be, but can you imagine what it would be like being a kid and having an adult woman stalking you, not listening to you when you ask her to leave, ignoring you when you tell her you don’t want to see her anymore? And without realizing it, I was watching this movie from the student’s point of view even though it’s presented entirely from the teacher’s.

            I liked how the movie never shows us how the two got together, nor does it show or hint at anything that may have happened to make the teacher become interested in one of her students – I mean, who’s to say that any one defining moment in her life made her like that? Probably for some there was something, but for others – like anything else in the world – there wasn’t anything, it’s just the way she was.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Outrage and Beyond Outrage, perfectly show why the "slow burn" movies are intense and awesome without a ton of action.

I Loved It
Do you like explosions? These movies are not for you. Do you like shoot outs? These movies are not for you. Do you like graphic violence? These movies are not for you. That’s what I don’t get, you look at the poster for Outrage and it mentions “all-out war” which I take that to mean – and I feel most would agree – that there’s gonna be like a moment or two of one constant shoot out, people ducking for cover, returning fire, but that never really happens, and then the quote about the movie not being for the squeamish? Have you seen like, just about any horror movie to come from Japan? This movie is not bad at all, it’s very tame on the gore and even the violence compared to a Scorcese film on the same topic (American organized crime, not Japanese). There’s no glamorized violence, no sex, it’s all what I imagine would be pretty realistic to being a part of the yakuza – except totally not.

            Now to be fair, I am not familiar with the yakuza or their way of “doing things” other than playing Sleeping Dogs on my PS3, but that’s pretty much how I think things are in the yakuza for real. Shoot outs, car chases, hand to hand combat, and bullet time.

            I’m not taking these movies as documentaries; I’m just saying that the way the characters in the movie were dealt with, characters were killed, some tortured, but it wasn’t over the top, it wasn’t made to look cool, it was – for the lack of a better word – real, and it worked. The two movies, I think, had they been filled with explosions, and shoot outs and car chases, they would have been a bit boring. I mean, I love action as much as the next guy, but even I can get bored if the action is all the time. If there is no time given to make the people involved in the action real, then there’s nothing at stake, you’re just watching shit blow up and people yell and it means nothing. That’s boring.

            I tell my kids that all the time, when we watch a movie and they say they’re bored, I tell them that for the story to mean something, to be interesting, and not boring, you have to get to know the people involved, then, when the exciting stuff happens, it’s all that much more exciting.

            They generally don’t believe me and leave to go play outside or something, but a few times they’ve stuck with it. We watched the 3 original Star Wars movie one weekend, and during the first movie they were bored and I told them about sticking with it which they did and they ended up loving them all (my son loved Empire best, which made me proud, my daughter preferred Return but mostly just because of Princess Leia’s Jabba the Hutt outfit which she thought was the coolest thing ever, and then when Leia strangles Jabba my daughter thought that was cool too). That’s the thing with these movies, it takes the time to develop the people, to let you get to know them so that when the shit goes down you’re into it, and when I say “shit does down” I don’t mean anything major, I mean simple kills that come from nowhere, are done, and then the story goes on. You’re reeling from a character dying and you know and can feel that what you just saw is gonna spark a payback and so now you know something else is coming and who it’s aimed at and that person who’s destined to get “hit” next is doing things that may save his ass or may not.

            The main thing about these movies is that you know that payback is coming and it’s gonna be a bitch, and I’m gonna enjoy watching it all the more.

I Loved It
            I watched Outrage, took everything in, the plot, the characters, and then it ended and it just felt like there was more coming. The movie wraps everything up just fine, so much so that were it to not have a sequel it wouldn’t have been a surprise, essentially Outrage follows the rise of one man and then it stops, and on its own it would have been a good movie, but with the sequel – Beyond Outrage – it turns the first movie into a giant set-up for what goes down in the next movie.

            This movie gets a good rating from me because of the story, and acting, but at the same time part of me – a big part of me – wanted some major action, I wanted to see the two gangs really come to blows over everything like a Heat style shoot out in the streets or something like that. Of course that never happened, what I got were groups of people ambushing a group of the opposing gang’s members. The thing is, much like too much action isn’t a good thing, too little can be a bit dull. Though the two movies were interesting, by the middle of the second movie I was getting frustrated that nothing really big was happening. I mean, years of tension and backstabbing and still they’re gonna just kill off a few people at a time? Realistic, I guess, and still good of course, but I wanted just a bit more action.

            It was like watching someone playing a deadly game of chess.

            If you’re into the slow burn, then these are good movies to check out, movies where a single gunshot at the end helped me decide that both of these movies were pretty awesome. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Quentin Dupieux has 3 movies streaming now: this is Wrong, and I end up asking you to review Wrong Cops for me so I don't have to

Wrong isn’t as bad as Rubber, but still . . . come on, man, I mean, the whole working in an office with the sprinklers going off? It’s raining water down on everyone while they continue to type on computers and work with paper? While water rains down on them? It’s stupid, and I say that only because my frustration level is elevated. I haven’t seen a movie before that was so bad that it made me angry, but this one did it. When I reviewed Mr. Nobody I talked about the moments of weird things that are never explained and how that was irritating:

well the same goes for this movie. The moments of weirdness in this movie just come off as moment of stupidity and this in turn really ruins the other moments of the movie that aren’t stupid, and in fact follow a bit of a plot, and are even at times a bit creepy. The positives in this movie are few and far between, and since the negatives are more prominent they outweigh the good and in the end all you remember are the stupid points.

            Where Rubber was stuck on its one trick plot, this one actually has a story more fleshed out, but just like with Rubber, the story brings in other subplots, and where most of them fail, his relationship with his coworkers, one of them is pretty good, and that’s his relationship with his neighbor. The one interesting character and they have him leave for most of the movie, popping up to give his friend the main character a call that were it in another movie, would have been pretty dang creepy, like their conversation in the beginning. However, it is not creepy, it’s just an irritating sign of how cool this movie could have been, but is not.

            I could understand were one to say that it’s just the director’s style, none of his movies will be easy to understand, and I say bullshit. Were it his style, why did it change from Rubber to Wrong? Wrong has a story, a beginning, a middle, and an end (at least the main lost dog plot does), why not stick with something along the lines of Rubber? Keep to something totally pointless, instead of going mainstream and making a movie with a plot and then sticking moments of pointlessness in it? Were it like Rubber I may have not hated it, I may have liked it because as you said – it’s his style. (Okay, I probably wouldn’t have liked it, but I may have not liked it instead of hated it, maybe.)

            I’ll be honest; I’m not looking forward to Wrong Cops. I’ll watch it, but seriously, I’m only doing this for you, those who click on this link and read my blog – or, well, maybe just click on the link but read none of it.

            Hey, how about this, why don’t one of you watch Wrong Cops and review it for me? I’ll post it on my blog with your name in the title and then I’ll link-dump it like I do my own reviews. Or, if you have a blog I’ll link to your blog . . . or something, really, people, I just don’t want to watch Wrong Cops, and if you get off on me watching something I don’t want to, just for you then fine, don’t respond to my request for a guest review, just make me watch it. Just so you know, though, if you do make me watch it, I’ll hate you just a little bit more than I already do. So yeah, think about that you bastard.