Train to Busan

train2busan_poster

Train to Busan
Cast

Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jeong

Directed by

Sang-ho Yeon

Written by

Sang-ho Yeon

Other Info

Action, Horror, Thriller
Rated PG-13
1h 58min

5 Stars5 / 5
It honestly surprises me that after so many zombie movies have come down the pike we could still love another but that’s what audiences are doing and this reviewer right along with them. The ratings on all the services like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes are stellar. People are loving this foreign zombie film and for good reason.

Suspense is built through the use of a train. This isn’t a prop either. Somehow the director got access to a major metropolitan train going to Busan and these actors are really riding it. There’s something about mass transportation that equalizes us as citizens. Whether one is a drunken bum or a preschool teacher or a major officer in a fortune 500 company, if one is on the train, one is the same as any other.

train1

Once that playing field is set, questions arise as to who “should live” and who is best equipped to. There are humanitarians who shouldn’t die and asshole businessmen who perhaps should. You’ll have to watch the film to get that reference. These are zombies like most others we’ve seen. One unique feature is that they are just as fast if not faster as normal humans. There is no haunting amble like the ones from The Walking Dead. Their speed makes them terrifying and it isn’t limited to their movement: they turn in a minute or two it seemed to me. Imagine seeing a bite on your body and knowing you had not hours but minutes and seconds. What would you do? Would you stay near your loved ones or would you get away and do what you knew you had to do?

train2

There is a tender story here that brought me near tears more than once. You have the main character, Seok Woo who is a COO for a major company. He rarely spends time with his (what appears to be an 8-9 year old) daughter. She resents him for it but more intensely she longs for his time. We get the feeling he loves her, that is not the issue. He is simply a workaholic who puts the company above his family. His priorities suck. To give an example, he buys here the same game system he bought her the year before and didn’t even remember. The sideline story of he and his daughter is extremely moving and works well amidst the zombie craziness.

train4

There are a lot of twists in the story. The director also wrote the movie. It has a take-your-breath-away ending you may or may not expect. Predictions varied in my family. By the way, I watched it with my 9-year-old and she couldn’t leave the room she was glued to the film. This film will appeal to horror and suspense films more than anyone. At the same time, I see a universal appeal in this film. I must warn you, it does have subtitles but they are easy to follow. Moreover, there are long stretches of time where there is no dialog at all. It tells the story through the images.

train6

There are at least a couple more side-stories that make the movie and its characters endearing. You do care about these characters, they are not flat lifeless victims in a horror film. I would recommend this film for older children: 10 and up but parents should use their best judgement.

Like I shared, my 9-year-old loved it but she was clinging to me the whole movie which made it easy for me to explain things. For fans of the genre I highly recommend this film. I give it a perfect 5/5.

American Horror Story: Hotel

ahs-hotel

American Horror Story: Hotel

12 ep.

Cast

Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Chloë Sevigny, Denis O’Hare, Cheyenne Jackson, Angela Bassett, Lady Gaga

Created and Produced by

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk

Directed by

Ryan Murphy, Bradley Buecker, Loni Peristere, Michael Goi, Michael Uppendahl

Written by

Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Tim Minear, James Wong, Jennifer Salt, Ned Martel, John J. Gray, Crystal Liu, Brad Falchuk, John J. Gray

Other Info

Horror, Drama, Romance
Rated TV-MA
Approx 54min each episode

4 Stars4 / 5
This is a review of the television series in its fifth series. At time of writing, the show is in its sixth series “Roanoke” and is 3 episodes in.

This is probably the darkest season yet, and the most glamorous. The Los Angeles vintage hotel coupled with Lady Gaga in the cast make it attractive to Los Angeles fans like myself. You have a hotel that is portrayed as having been built for the purpose of torturing and murdering people. You have one of the most famous singers of our time who is well-known in the fashion world occupying that hotel and seeking her own self-gratification through torture and murder. It’s a deliciously creepy combination you can’t take your eyes off. The entire cast which includes the likes of Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, and many other outstanding actors, works well together to create the feeling of a haunted house with drama and horror inside.

Starting with a foursome in the first episode, the stage is set for a lot of sex amidst the blood. There are many ghosts and their number increases as the episodes wear on. There is jealousy, betrayal, trickery, and heroism in the series. It’s entertaining despite the fact that some episodes wear on a little long with not enough action. It’s neat to look at the antique things but sometimes frankly, it just lags with flat dialog.

If you’re a fan of drama and the old WB shows like Angel, this is right up your alley. If you’re looking for horror and scares, this might not be your thing. There is however a lot of blood and some of the material in these episodes is quite shocking. Nothing, however, jumps out as you would see in conventional horror. Lady Gaga is excellent as the sultry vampire. Her story is somewhat interesting and following it certainly held my attention. I never really feel her humanity though. Perhaps after hundreds of years of living as a vampire, one tends to lose that. Of all the series that came before it, I found this one the most engaging. I recommend it to fans of the show and the drama horror genre.

The Music of ‘Star Trek’ Blogathon: Theme From ‘Star Trek’ (1966-1969)

startrek-original-cdThis is a post for Becky’s The Music of Star Trek Blogathon. I hesitated when I chose to write on this piece of music. Mostly because it comes from the original Star Trek that I grew up with ages 0-10 in the 1970’s. I know a lot of Star Trek fans are much younger than I and are more interested in the later sequels and remakes of the tv series. I also figured it might already be taken as a topic. After emailing Becky, the Blogathon host (thank you Becky), I had the approval to go for it so here I am.

The main theme song of the original Star Trek TV series is powerful because of Captain Kirk, his crew, and the dramatic impact they had on television. It’s also a noteworthy piece of music on its own. It’s musical accomplishment belies the trifle of a catchy jingle or household name, but it has become like that too. It’s instantly recognizeable in my family. I know this because I just tested them. 5/5 family members recognized it.

The theme was originally scored under the title “Where No Man Has Gone Before. It was composed by Alexander Courage for Star Trek, the science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry and originally aired between September 8, 1966, and June 3, 1969. source.

The song has had many other recordings and uses through the years. How can we know if Star Trek would ever have been as exciting for the masses without this song and it’s “Whooosh” sound effect of the Enterprise traveling into space. In some ways, it reminds me of a “space” version of Bonanza or Mission Impossible. It starts at a low tempo and builds until the song is flying with the viewer on their tv screen. It makes one feel as if one is on the Enterprise. I’ll always have a special inspired place in my psyche for this song. It certainly has “launched” an idea in cinema and television that may continue into infinity.

Did you know the Star Trek theme actually had lyrics? Here they are! reference: Snopes

Beyond
The rim of the star-light
My love
Is wand’ring in star-flight
I know
He’ll find in star-clustered reaches
Love,
Strange love a star woman teaches.
I know
His journey ends never
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.

Personal memory: The sound of the first Star Trek TV theme has a hedonic component for me. I’m not sure if the main melody is played by an instrument or a singer in a psychedelic opera. Staying home sick on a school day was when I used to hear it most. It almost makes me dizzy now hearing it still, but in a good way. it reminds me of childhood: grilled cheese sandwiches I’d make for my brother and I in between stealing oreos from atop the fridge. The song brings me back to those times. It is indeed a powerful piece of music in film.

Storks

storks-new-poster

Storks
Cast

Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer

Directed by

Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland

Written by

Nicholas Stoller

Other Info

Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated PG
89min (and no more, thankfully)

For grown-ups: 2 Stars2 / 5
For kids: 3 Stars3 / 5
Storks landed in my local theater tonight and I was there with my 2 daughters ages 9 and 11.  By the way, I’m 47. I’m happy to report the 9 and 11 year-olds loved the film. I was only somewhat impressed.

IMDB gives this synopsis: Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.

If that sounds like  a convoluted story, you don’t know the half of it.

Kids will like it though.

This film has been promoted in theater trailers and internet for what seems like a year at least. I think the makers felt the title would resonate in so many people’s childhood memories that they would mark the premiere date on their calendar as well as their Google alerts. As old as I am, my parents never told me anything about storks bringing babies. If any parents needed an explanation, it was them. I’m the oldest of 4 siblings and I was intelligent and very inquisitive as a kid. Thankfully for me, they shared the truth about how babies are made and how they come into the world at a reasonable age: no need for storks.

My dad on the other hand did get the stork story when he was a kid. I sent him a text after the movie joking that he should see this film. Maybe he’ll get it. I think this film assumed the audience knew this dishonest legend that parents used to tell their kids. It’s ironic how parents in the 1940’s needed storks to explain the mystery of childbirth to children. After this movie, a lot of parents will have to explain the mystery of the storks in the movie through the actual explanation of birth.

But, enough about the weird stork angle, let me tell you 2 things that do work in the film. 1) The babies. The first strong impression I recall of a baby in an animated film is Jack Jack in The Incredibles. He is a firecracker. I loved the way he giggled as he was blurting out superpowers. I think he stands out in all our minds as a movie baby we won’t forget. The babies in this film are amazing in a similar way. Their voices are perfectly timed with deft CGI artistry. This makes them extremely cute and loveable. The best aspect is the laughs. Their laughs make the Pilsbury doughboy sound stand-offish. They invite you to love them. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of merch comes from this film. 2) SOME of the jokes. There is a small bird who is a sort of pseudo-nemesis. He is very funny. Some of the jokes lag too much though. I was surprised this film was so flat in its humor after having been in production for a year or more. Usually they test things like that with focus groups etc. This film feels “off the cuff” a lot. Moreover, so much is predictable because we have seen all this before.

Having said that …

Kids will like it. To them, I recommend it. All else, tell me what you think. I think I could have skipped this one and not have missed much.

Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop: ‘On Seeing Improvement in My Movie Reviews’

Q: 6. What were you blogging about last year at this time? How have things changed?

tumblr_n9xjs3hedU1r45zsto1_1280.jpgA quick look at my archives showed I reviewed the film Sicario last year on this date. I was surprised how shrt my review was. I guess my real surprise was in the realization that I have improved quite a bit in my movie review skills. Take a look at a recent review I’m very proud of and see the difference: Hell or High Water. One item I particuarly like is my use of css to recreate the same sort of title and meta visual used in Roger Ebert’s reviews.

I’ve really almost 100% shifted my emphasis in personal blogging to the world of film reviews. In addition to that, I am currently trying my hand at podcasting with some other film reviewers, most long-term with Darren Lucas. We started our podcast Talking Stars just before Summer 2016 and it’s growing by the day. We’re actually recording one this Saturday in fact.

I still schedule in personal blog posts but I’ve found the reviews are the thing for me. I enjoy doing them and discussing films with other people. Where will I be in a year? Probably more of this but we shall see. My goal and hope is always foremost to get out to comment on more fellow blogs out there. I think I am doing more of that han ever and may that increase.

This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. Want to participate? The rules are below.

Choose a prompt, post it on your blog, and come back to add your name to the link list below. Be sure to sign up with the actual post URL and not just your basic blog URL (click on the title of your post for that URL). For good comment karma try to comment on the three blogs above your name!!

The Prompts:

1. Share a back to school memory.
2. Something you wanted to be when you grew up.
3. If you had to teach, what grade would you choose and why?
4. Write a blog post inspired by the word: substitute.
5. Share something you miss from before you were a mom.
6. What were you blogging about last year at this time? How have things changed?

Blog « Mama’s Losin’ It!

Darling

darling_ver2

Darling (2015)
Cast

Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Young, Brian Morvant

Directed by

Mickey Keating

Written by

Mickey Keating

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Rated PG
1h 18min

4 Stars4 / 5
Remember the end of Psycho when Norman was talking to himself as the camera slowly panned in on his staring face. This whole film is like that. I enjoyed it immensely.

Picture Stanley Kubrick meets Roman Polanski and you have this film. Normally I prefer films with character development. I can understand the actions of the protagonist as well as the consequences of her/his actions. I did enjoy this film but only for the look of it. This film is stylish horror with little to no dialog. I get into art-for-art’s-sake type of movies. People like my wife do not. I warn the traditional movie fans out there about this one: it’s an experiment in banal and simple black and white images. The effects are so minimal they are barely worth mentioning. Basically, Darling is a movie that shows a woman go insane with no character development. That was interesting to me but it won’t be to everyone.

Lauren Ashley Carter owns the screen with her eyes. Lately so many actors have come on the scene with dark and lovely eyes like hers. The return of the “Winona Ryderesque” brunette has come through a lot of theaters lately. How fitting that Sean Young is in the film as well. She defined the type in the 80’s.

maxresdefault

My daughters both make Youtube videos with their “Littlest Pet Shop” figures. There are entire online communities where people share these. This film is like an artsy form of that except the director is being compared to Roman Polanski and not many LPS owners will ever attain that.

Spoilers ahead.

There is a skeleton of a plot here that is thinly developed. A young woman is hired by an older woman to house-sit in a creepy aging house. She discovers someone was once killed in the house and becomes obsessed with a locked room. After finding an upside-down cross on a necklace, she begins changing. She murders a man she lures back from a bar and saws off all his limbs. From that point it is extremely hard to figure out and frankly, I gave up trying. I get the feeling the director doesn’t intend for viewers to figure it out. You might call this the art of being indecipherable. Mulholland Drive anyone?

darling3

He’s working with the basic stuff that’s around. The story is awful, though I wanted it to be good. It wouldn’t hurt this film to tell us more as opposed to showing only curt and neat images with little or no dialog. This film is a trip. It takes you somewhere but it’s the kind of trip where you get out to look around and realize you never left the driveway. I felt a little cheated when the credit rolled. What the hell did I just see? At the same time, I wanted to discuss it, write about it. I went riht out and read 3 reviews. I don’t know, there may be something great in this film I’m missing.

Give it a try, the beatnik hippie in me is still snapping his fingers but I know this is definitely not everybody’s cup of tea.

The Hallow

the-hallow1
The Hallow (2015)
Cast

Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton

Directed by

Corin Hardy

Written by

Corin Hardy, Felipe Marino, Tom de Ville

Other Info

Horror
Not Rated
1h 37min

(3 / 5)
Some films on Netflix pass by my screen daily and I just have no interest. Well, second thought, I have an interest but not enough to give them my undivided attention. The Hallow has been like that for me the past year. Tonight I had the gumption to press play and for the most part, it was a good choice.

This is an Irish film starring  the incredibly beautiful Bojana Novakovic. known for Devil. She plays Clare, a wife and new mother living out in the sticks with her husband who has some sort of deforestation job. As they go through the normal rounds with their newborn, black War-of-the-Worlds type things are discovered growing all around. A seemingly psychotic neighbor warns them to leave repeatedly. As is part and parcel of most horror movies, they stay.

We learn this black material is actually creating beings. We are not told much about them but when they finally appear, they are very creepy and spooky looking. They seem interested in the child. This is the best I can do without a spoiler. The story is thin and noy much explanation is given about these creatures. Some things get revealed in the final scenes but not enough to really make me go “Aha! That’s what’s going on here.” Perhaps reliance on the look of the creatures was too heavy, a better story would have made this film more effective.

There are a few cheap scares at the beginning and soe medium ones half-way through. After that, the best part of the movie is watching the creatures who are shown to us quite close up. It’s talented artistry, the CGI costume and make-up team are to be commended. Apart from the creatures, it’s also a pleasure to watch Clare. She cares for her child with a motherly instinct and tries with all her might to keep her husband safe and their family intact. It’s a rather physical role and of all the characters, I think hers gets to stretch out the most and explore the limits.

If you want a light horror movie that is predictable yet still something interesting to look at, you may enjoy this film. For fans of this genre, I recommend it.

Narcos (TV Series 2015-)

narcosposter

Narcos (TV Series)
Cast

Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal

Directed by

Andrés Baiz, Josef Kubota Wladyka, Gerardo Naranjo, Fernando Coimbra, Guillermo Navarro, José Padilha, Batan Silva

Written by

Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro, Paul Eckstein, Andrew Black, Dana Ledoux Miller, T.J. Brady, Samir Mehta, Dana Calvo, Nick Schenk, Steve Lightfoot, Allison Abner, Zach Calig Curtis Gwinn, Gideon Yago

Other Info

Biography, Crime, Drama
TV-MA
49min

5 Stars (5 / 5)
Narcos is a gritty drama that makes Netflix look good to me again! I’ve been let down by some of their recent series passed off as the next best thing. They really aren’t. But Narcos is amazing. It’s a biographical series about the Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Wagner Moura (Escobar) gives a creepy and moody portrayal of the drug kingpin. With Escobar, the stories are so much more than just thug life. He has an almost monotone way of speaking that doesn’t change one but when he’s ordering death to a man, woman, or child. He is selective however and seems to feel his selection of kills are more sensible than those of his enemies and of the DEA. There are rich views of Colombia: the streets and landscapes. Some of the best stuff to look at is the architecture. This series leaves nothing to be desired by the eyes. Like the classic Godfather film, we learn about the different levels of the cartel. The “Sicario” has a special place as the hitman and there are two mean that live very closely to Escobar, advising him of threats and relevant news. Part of the fun of this series is seeing the inner workings of this Columbian drug cartel. Escobar never gets to be President but his influence through the sale of cocaine produces so much money, he states at one point he can’t do anything with it.

mv5botmwnza1mduxnl5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjy3mdcynje-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_.

I should warn potential viewers that the series is about 80% in Spanish with subtitles. Hopefully, like me, you don’t mind that and in fact think it adds flavor. In the same breath, this is a violent show at times as would be expected of a mafia drug lord show. For example, informants are tortured. It’s high suspense in many episodes as you wait the cat and mouse chases out, wondering who’ll make it and who’ll be killed. There are a lot of surprises here.

mv5boda1njaymtq3ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwnji1mzc3ote-_v1_sy1000_cr0014991000_al_

The woman who plays Escobar’s wife Tata (Pauline Gaitan) is a character study in greed and denial. She is aware of all the corruption but accepts it because she has “so many nice things.” She believes she could never have such things were it not for Pablo’s drug empire. Some might label Escobar a psychopathic murderer but others see him differently. I’ll give him this: not everyone can bring down the hammer on enemies like he does. What’s more, there seems to be a semblance of order to the way he conducts business. Something to remember is that this is a real man. He did these things. Moura does a great job at being chilling to the bone. Even though by his own admission he looks nothing like Escobar, after a few episodes, you’ll believe he and Escobar are one.

mv5bmjmznta5otqxmf5bml5banbnxkftztgwntgymzk2nje-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_

I’m nearly through the second season and have opted to not include spoilers in this review. There are currently 40 episodes listed on IMDB. Perhaps when I am finished I can write about it at greater length. This is a remarkably good series on Netflix. If they keep producing series like this, I’ll be sure to keep my subscription. For a crime drama bio series about a drug lord’s rise (and fall?) this is an amazing piece of work that should not fade over time. Sound interesting? I highly recommend it to you.

Weekly Roundup

These are the movies I reviewed last week on my blog. Get ready for the whopping 2 films I reviewed last week! One is actually a tv Miniseries. They are both quite good, earning high recommendations from me. Check them out if you have the chance.

The Night Of

I’m really happy to give you a preview of HBO’s TV miniseries The Night Of. John Turturro has always stood out for me as an excellent actor but he’s never been a favorite. After watching the HBO-8-episode mini-series The Night Of, he’s a favorite. This is a captivating show and I was able to binge watch it two nights without ever being bored. It’s a whodunnit, a crime drama, a subtle dark comedy, and a realistic look inside our criminal justice system.

legs

There is so much more in this mini-series to experience. The story is basically this: a 20 something “kid” in college feels really lonely so he really wants to go to a wild party in Downtown New York. Unable to find a ride, he “borrows” his father’s taxi and drives himself. That’s when the night of horrors begins. He gets lost and then makes bad decision after bad decision. Ultimately, he is a murder suspect.

turturonaz

Turturo becomes his lawyer, virtually pro bono. This once sheltered middle-eastern kid “Naz” starts getting hardened as he waits in jail and even gets transferred to Rikers, a tough, unyielding prison through his trial. The audience is taken through a gritty ride that really is no different from a CSI or other tv crime drama. The difference is that we follow Naz and meet his friends family. It seems very clear he didn’t commit this crime. From that point we het to see inside the New York criminal justice system through the context of Naz’s case and it’s highly fascinating.

turturo

Turturro is a powerful force but he’s also high comedy. His quirkiness might be compared to a Lt. Columbo from the 70’s. He wears sandals in court because his feet have eczema. This is a part of the comedy but not in a blatant way. he’s not funny because of standup lines, but rather due to who his character is. These jokes have to be experienced to be really understood but trust me, his character is highly entertaining. There are also some other powerful performances from the cast. One highly notable one is from the jail episodes by Michael Kenneth Williams as Freddy.

nightof

I can tell you for certain now that I’ve seen Turturro on the screen all these hours, I hope he comes back for another season. He adds personality to the show contrasted against the riddle of the court system and the dark chasm of prison life. Together, it makes for highly entertainment that certainly addresses the night of the alleged crime but transcend it as well to become a show about the law and personal morality in horrendous circumstances. We also learn once again there is much to be interpreted when looking back at “the night of” a crime.