Tomorrowland

Disney has been writing new stories with Disneyland as a backstory for years now. The worst that comes to mind is the Haunted Mansion. Tomorrowland falls into the “backstory of Disneyland” category. The trouble here is that people don’t share a concept…

Disney has been writing new stories with Disneyland as a backstory for years now. The worst that comes to mind is the Haunted Mansion. Tomorrowland falls into the “backstory of Disneyland” category. The trouble here is that people don’t share a concept for Tomorrowland. Instead of pushing it aside and making a movie disconnected from the “land” at Disney, to the right at the end of Main Street, They’ve attempted to tell us all the backstory that never was. I think it’s that common insult to Disneyland fans that derails the bus to best picture. They’ve also had mixed success with remakes in the past 2 decades. Having said that, if you can get beyond their puny rationale for what the real life Tomorrowland is, there is a pretty great story here to be enjoyed. So far, the reviews I’ve seen have not been kind to this movie. I have a different take, it’s a pretty great movie. The lofty ideal of hope in movies springs eternal. One of the reasons I love movies is because they often make me feel hopeful.

Tomorrowland gives you a good feeling about the past, present and future. There’s also a personal charge to decide your own fate. These are just a few of the positive messages in the film. If you’re like most people, you’ve read the nasty reviews and seen the low ratings. Don’t pay them any mind. This is a movie for the future citizens of the world. They may have lost points by trying to tie it so closely to Disneyland. It’s slow at times and the characterization is not as good as say: Escape to Witch Mountain. Still, there is a fun “ride” here in the form of a movie. Because they tied it to Disneyland in title and theme, it lost points with me. Never tell a church going person what church is. At the same time, the legions of moviegoers with expired, yellowed Disney passes in their wallets are too strongly connected to the real land. This is one director’s vision and we are all directors. If you can set that aside and see it as its own movie, it’s pretty good. Not excellent but pretty darn good.

Jurassic World

Fans of the original Jurassic Park are likely to love this one. There isn’t much new in the way of a twist though. I remember the build up back when the first came out, people came out to the movie in droves. It really was like waiting in line for a ri…

Fans of the original Jurassic Park are likely to love this one. There isn’t much new in the way of a twist though. I remember the build up back when the first came out, people came out to the movie in droves. It really was like waiting in line for a ride. It was an original idea my Michael Crichton and everyone wanted to see the giant lizards. It was basically three things that made that movie popular: 1) The dinosaurs, 2) The action, and 3) the story. On all three levels I still give the first one a 5/5. This new one is good, very good. It is a rollicking rode for sure and worth the price of a ticket. At the same time it really lacks in the story department. I went in hoping to get something new and fresh that made me think about dinosaurs. In between the guttural dinosaur special effects, it just isn’t there.

Having said that, I doubt moviegoers really care about that. The dinosaurs and there, in full tech regalia. I’ve always thought dinosaurs were cool. I like to watch them but in real life they aren’t there. I even think museum bones are a bit boring now thanks to this franchise. I felt the need to explain to my 8 year old that dinosaurs were extinct. It seems kids in the past 20 years have seen them so much on the silver screen, they seem real. I loved the movie, I offer no spoilers except to say you’re gonna love the dinosaurs and the action. Some stories don’t need to be improved upon, maybe that’s what the makers of this Jurassic Park were thinking.

Ex Machina

ex_machinaI don’t know if it is my advancing age or the inclusion of several laborious scenes set to synthesized music but I nodded off twice during the film. I did like it though, it certainly took an original spin on an age old robot theme. This film dispenses with the question of whether we can create AI. Instead it looks at what AI may think of us after having been created. Then yet another question arises: will AI agree to the station we assign it? Ex Machina is a very slow movie but it is clever and interesting if you are rested, at least I am sure it would be. It raises ethical questions about the manufacture of model-figured women who are not human but created to serve. I couldn’t help but recall the Stepford Wives.

There isn’t an original theme but the directorial choices are peppered with new stuff. The special effects are captivating. There are some jabs at Google and the collection of information. The maker says he was able to secure millions of cell phone data banks because the providers steal it and he threatened to expose them unless they shared. This was far fetched in my opinion but an interesting wake up call that Google and cell phone companies probably have far too much on us. Google execs and programmers are the new Howard Hugheses (plural sp?). In this film they are very scary, almost to smart for their own good. What’s more, they’re making female robots, often fully naked on screen, that are devoid of morals. This could be interesting for some. For laborious scenes and general lack of original theme, it lost 2 stars from me.

Men in Black 3

Fans of the Men in Black franchise recently became thrilled to know there is now a 3rd installment. Like its predecessors, the third movie has all the slime, goofy special effects, and laser guns you could ask for in a sci-fi action comedy. It also has some really good actors and that is what ultimately makes this movie franchise a winner.

Men in Black 3 was directed by Barry Sonnenfield, known for Pushing Daisies and the Lemony Snicket … children’s movie (among others). He has created an exciting movie here that includes a powerfully written twist at the end. The film stars Will Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones as agent K, and Josh Brolin as a younger agent K. By way of trivia, IMDB reveals that Sacha Baron Cohen was considered but not chosen for the role of Boris. He would have been great no doubt but as it stands, the character they got to play Boris does an excellent job. Based on the acting, special effects, and clever twist at the end, I gave this movie a high rating. It was a fun roller coaster ride that provoked thinking about stuff like time travel. I love sci fi movies that make me think.

By way of summary: Agent J is transported back in time to help save Agent K from Boris’ deadly actions. As he goes back, we see the slime and future devices in retrospect … “retro-furtristic” if you will. It could have been a film on Roswell or Area 51 as it presented the retro cars of the 40’s and 50’s. Horrible Boris the Animal is at his worst here. We witness him murder and commit crimes through time and up to the present. Nevertheless, through a series of events, Boris is defeated and Agent J returns to the present day victorious. He has saved K’s life by going back in time. I won’t reveal the twist here but fans of the franchise are going to love it. I think anyone, pre-existing fan or not, will find it both touching and exciting at the same time.

In my final analysis, I found Men in Black 3 to be a wild and crazy ride that I might consider going on a second time. The actors and the writing deserve the most credit I think. And of course, let’s not underestimate the power of slime. For a fun night out at the movies (kids or adults) I recommend Men in Black 3.

Hancock

This is a repost of Will Smith as Hancock: Lacking Human Moments published first on Yahoo Voices Jul 16, 2008.

Will Smith’s movie “Hancock” is a superhero flick that struck me as lackluster at best. There are a few moments toward the end that worked but overall it was just a movie trying to win an audience through special effects.

In the beginning we find John Hancock curled up on bench in Hollywood, California. He’s clutching a bottle of booze much to the chagrin of a little kid urging him to go get the bad guys. This scene is wholly confusing and I found myself guessing that he was a well known bum with amazing powers. Sounds stupid huh? Well, I was 100% correct. In the first 2/3 of the movie we see Hancock go through rehab and do jail time. I kept hoping we’d get something to hold onto in terms of a moral, but it never came. I suppose one could justify that big chunk of the movie by saying it shows people should be responsible and stay in jail even when they have the superhero ability to break any brick wall down (or thick steel for that matter). I’m sorry but the morals here, which are always there in great super hero movies, are cloudy if not non-existent. This superhero movie had no morals and therefore slipped and fell most of the way through. Now, in the last 1/3 of the movie it recovered somewhat, at least in the morals department. We find out he has a wife he didn’t know about and he does a few things to save her life. Without giving away too much of the plot, I will just say this moral of “selflessness” is presented in the most cryptic way it takes a movie reviewer to glean it, at least that is this movie reviewers opinion. If I were to ask one of my kids what the moral is of the scenes between Hancock and his wife I have a feeling I’d get a blank stare.

Should superhero movies be that complicated?

The second area the movie flopped in my opinion was the lack of human moments. Ironically, superhero movies are great because they reveal the humanity through the characters. Not only did these characters lack endearing human qualities, they seemed one dimensional, like a storyboard that was never fleshed out with human characteristics. I found the characters flat and built to serve only the grossly overdone violence that never stops from the first scene. This movie has tons of CGI effects that are neat to look at but unfortunately they don’t carry the weight needed to become a great superhero movie like “the Hulk” or “Spiderman.” I am a big Will Smith fan, but unfortunately, not even Will Smith can save this colossal train wreck.

Hancock will be a good rental for kids that want to see things get destroyed or by drunks that find identification in going to jail to sober up. For the rest of us working class heroes that need good movies to inspire and propel us to do great things, this movie will fall on empty ears and desperately-seeking-for-more than “Hancock,” human eyes. Those eyes, in case the makers of Hancock are interested, want morals and human moments in movies, it’s what keeps us coming back.

Movie Review: ‘Crawl or Die’ – Horror in the Pipeline with a Girl

When you were a kid did you crawl through tunnels? I know I did. These tunnels are kind of like that except a monster is following you and they get smaller and smaller as you try to escape. This is horror in the pipeline with a kick-ass girl.

Horror, Sci-Fi, and Thriller never looked so good in a film. It’s been called “The Most Claustrophobic Film.” I would agree with that. For horror fans, those scares are met by the incredible performance of Nicole Alonso. The Director Oklahoma Ward has created a film that sends fear down your spine and makes it impossible to turn away. Several elements work well to make this a perfect indie horror film.

crawlordie-poster

Crawl or Die (2014)
Cast

Nicole Alonso, Torey Byrne, Tommy Ball

Directed by

Oklahoma Ward

Written by

Oklahoma Ward

Other Info

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
1hr 30min

Just like rock and roll bands try to play what rocks, so horror directors try to know what scares. As long as I can remember people have said claustrophobia is one of the most universal fears. People don’t like being in an enclosed space. Crawl or Die plays on that fear and believe me, it scares!

Furthermore, the fear of unknown creatures is another fear of many and Director Oklahoma Ward weaves a really scary creature into his film. These scary aspects combined with the extreme physicality of Nicole Alonso as “Tank” make Crawl or Die a horror, sci-fi, thrill ride of a film.

A high level security force is chosen to transport the “package,” the last woman on earth that can become pregnant. The earth as we know it is gone and the continuance of humankind rests in the safe passage of this woman.

While transferring this package, the team has to find its way through a labyrinth of pipes and tunnels. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is a hungry creature that lives in the passages, coming to feed on them.

*The rest of the review may contain minor spoilers

The star of the movie is Tank (Nicole Alonso). She plays an angry, sexy, soldier role in the manner of Avatar‘s Trudy Chac√≥n (Michelle Rodriguez), Colombiana‘s Cataleya (Zoe Saldana), Alien‘s Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), and the like. Alonso’s physical acting is extreme. You see her pulling her own weight to and fro inside the pipes with artistry and grace. She is fun to watch and definitely easy on the eyes. At the same time, there is a determination in her eyes that builds suspense and keeps you guessing about the horror that is right behind them all.

creature-400

The creature definitely adds to the terror. In the scenes where you expect the creature to appear, Oklahoma Ward (Director) has deftly added subsonic beats that are choreographed to stop. In some of the early scenes, it seems an eternity before the creature crumbles its spider-like leg through the dirt. This works perfectly to release the scares that are not always that scary. It’s more the waiting on bated breath that creates the horror. Having said that, there are plenty of scares that send chills down your spine. It’s refreshing and remarkable what Ward and Alonso did in this film with such a simple set and formula. This is definitely a movie-makers movie as well as a critic’s film. There is much to talk about. I know I’ll be looking for an interview with the makers soon.

To expand on the “simple conventions” idea: I noticed the team used flashlights in an interesting way. They hung them on their boots as well as held them in their left hand while holding a gun in their right. I suppose when you are in a tunnel that’s getting smaller, you hold your light just about any way you can. The gun is a good thing too although it appeared that even an AK-47 assault type rifle cannot take out this monster. I’ve read online that this is to be the first film in a “Crawl or Die” trilogy. I will be eager to see how Ward uses more simplified effects to produce scares and suspense. As an independent film trying to use minimal budget and conventions to scare, I give this film a perfect score. I am a fan now and am looking forward to next one!

You can follow what’s happening with the Crawl or Die trilogy here.

Prometheus (2012)

With the latest Alien film being out this week, I thought I’d reblog my review I did of Prometheus (the prequel to the latest film) when it came out in 2012.

Prometheus takes us back to the time before Ridley Scott’s Alien. It fills in a few gaps for us as fans of the franchise and opens all sorts of curious new doors. It stars a relative newcomer who really packs a punch in her role. The actress who plays the tough and sexy Elizabeth Shaw, Noomi Rapace, is well known for playing Lisbeth Salandeteen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series (Swedish version). Other actors with outstanding performances include Logan Marshall-Green, known for Devil, and Michael Fassbender as the android.

Ridley Scott has said numerous times that this is decidedly not a prequel to the Alien franchise. I would say that is a somewhat misleading statement. It takes place in the same Alien universe with the same sorts of life forms only other species thereof. This could be considered a prequel that requires another movie to really explain what is going on in the Alien movie itself. Furthermore, there is an alien creature at the end that is a child version of the ones we know so well from the franchise.

The movie starts out slowly though it reveals some truly amazing cinematography of Saturn and other parts of the universe in the story. In the beginning a human-like creature drinks a poisonous mixture and the special effects of his demise pull you in right away. There are, in fact, some really gruesome scenes in this movie. No special effect is spared when actors are taken out, Alien anyone? Still, despite the obvious resuscitation of an old sci-fi hit, Prometheus has a lot of treats all its own not the least of which being the question of how we came to be as a species. This movie says that aliens created us then decided they’d made a mistake, and then made aliens to wipe us out. It’s actually a pretty interesting premise, though it sounds really simplistic now as I write it.

Here’s a summary: The crew of a ship named Prometheus are heading to another planet that has some of the features of Earth and is able to sustain life. When they get there they find cave drawings and dead bodies of ancient creatures that died around 2,000 years prior. One cool piece of trivia is that the cave paintings are derived from and include some of the actual cave paintings from Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. In discovering these giant caverns, they set off dormant life that was meant to destroy humanity. This was not the life of their creators but rather created beings to destroy humanity. It is evident that “the engineers” or, those who created humans didn’t really care much about us and in fact decided we were destroying Earth’s environment to we therefore needed taking out.

There is a token android on board along with a bunch of men and women that are almost identical in character to those in the Alien movie. After a lot of gratuitous violence meant to show the aliens truly hate people, Elizabeth Shaw discovers as one of the last living crew members that she must destroy a disembarking ship designed to kill all life on Earth. She manages to destroy it with the self-sacrifice of a few of the remaining crew who die. In the end, Elizabeth takes off with the severed head of an android (?) and sets out to “search” for the engineers. The movie isn’t over before an alien is “birthed” in the usual way. As I said, there are a lot of commonalities between Prometheus and the Alien movies.

Final Thoughts
In the final analysis, Prometheus is a visually stunning, well crafted and well acted movie. It starts slowly but when it picks up it is the ride of ones life. I haven’t seen a sci-fi this exciting and enjoyable since … well, since Alien. All the questions I ever had about Alien were answered here. Well, all except one: will there be a second prequel to catch us up to the beloved sci-fi horror film we know and love so much?

Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

Movies give us a specific point of view. For this reason, it is possible to NOT GET IT in the same way you might not get someone different at work or in your life’s travels. In my years reviewing movies here on my blog (as well as my entire lifetime watching movies) I have suffered from “jumping to conclusions” about movies. I did that with Nacho Libre. Jack Black didn’t seem funny the first time, but my perspective changed. My gate opened up and after a month or so, that film was my second favorite of all time. Gentlemen Broncos was directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite). It is as camp as camp gets. All (I am) saying is give “camp” a chance.


Gentlemen Broncos

Gentlemen Broncos

“A teenager attends a fantasy writers' convention where he discovers his idea has been stolen by an established novelist.” -IMDB

Cast

Michael Angarano Benjamin
Jemaine Clement Chevalier
Mike White Dusty
John Baker Don Carlos

Directed by

Jared Hess

Written by

Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess

Other Info

Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
PG-13
Thu 27 May 2010 UTC
90min
IMDB Rating: 6.2

Sam Rockwell plays Bronco, an interstellar futuristic hero from the imagination of a teenage writer. He is made out to reference the futuristic movies of the 1960’s, usually starring Charleton Heston. He is actually one layer below the reality one, being in a book. Michael Angarano is our true protagonist. Reminiscent of the children’s comedy Big Fat Liar, his manuscript is stolen by a more established sci fi writer and used for his next book. The best parts of this movie are the flashback sequences into the book. Everyone is searching for yeast, it is the lifeblood of a dying species. Does that sound ridiculous? There’s much more. Some of the real life sequences are slow and unnecessary. I don’t know why the director did so many of them. He could have stuck more to the manuscript story and only gone back occasionally to real life. I think tht would have improved the movie. The director seems like he is filling up dead space with snake diarrhea shopping with mother scenes. The manuscripts are where it’s at.

Envision stags with explosive rockets mounted on them. It’s camp effects again (see what I was saying about camp?). This movie will not resonate with a large audience because it is just too loosely joined. I probably will not recommend my friends and family to watch it but for those who have “seen it all” I offer this as a refreshing laugh with truly stupid intentions. If you laugh at this movie or even walk out, you are doing exactly what the director had hoped you would. I like movies like that, just not every day. Check out the clip below of Gentlemen Broncos.

3/5

Super 8

Since I was age 10 when this movie takes place (1979) I was really excited to see the custard colored refrigerators and old school gas stations as well as other stuff from that year. I remember it as a humanistic and inspiring time. Some images of 1979 really made me nostalgic in the first hour. After that however, the movie began to sputter like a 70’s moped in need of a fill up. The homes, schools, and connectedness of the kids all was like 1979. Unfortunately, the story couldn’t continue in that era and turned to your typical violent alien film of the 90’s or 2000’s like Independence Day.

Spoiler ahead (sort of). One difference from other alien movies is that there is just one alien. It is quite ugly but not much different from most in movies extant. The alien is not as scary as the gratuitous shocks the director gives the audience. I counted 6 but there are surely more. Be warned, especially if you are annoyed by these things. There is only one thing that can save a movie with these, in my opinion. That thing is a great ending. Unfortunately, you won’t find that here either. Young kids aged 15 and below will like this movie. A couple times it looks like Transformers. Most above that age will look at their iphone to see the time as it plays out.

[xrr rating=2/

Limitless

Limitless is a movie that takes us to a place where there are no limits for a new mind drug. Not only do we see the classic pitfalls and ills of using drugs but we see a strange new side, dare I say a positive side. A new drug that allows one to utilize 80% more of her/his brain is discovered by a burnt out writer who puts it to good use. As he keeps using the drug he realizes that there are drawbacks to that much brain usage. Somehow he learns to use it to his advantage.

The film was directed by Neil Burger who’s other work includes the Illusionist with Edward Norton. Limitless includes quite a few big names but the biggest are Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. The film has amazing visuals reminiscent of Inception. It has a decent script that takes the viewer on a wild ride from beginning to end. While the visuals move fast however, there are some scenes throughout that tend to lag on. It’s as if they wanted to monopolize on special effects at the expense of keeping the story rolling at a palatable pace. This is one of the only drawbacks in the pace of the film. It is worth waiting out though because the ending delivers a smart and noteworthy conclusion.

Limitless is an excellent film that doesn’t have to be in reality so it isn’t. There are metaphors to real drug use. It opens up a lot for discussion and I recommend it.