Transformers: Age of Extinction – Review

“What Kind Of Cars Are Those?  They’re  So Scary.”

I didn’t make up that quote, by the way, it’s an actual line from the movie, which is problematic because NO ONE talks like that, particularly when there’re being chased by a bunch of assassins.   Though the thing is, the actor who uttered the line, T.J. Miller, is always interesting, so I was able to let it go (though clearly not forget).

Though one of the many the problems is that what happens when really stupid events occur and the actors aren’t particularly interesting?  Or even worse, when stupid things happen when the actors aren’t even human?

Well, that’s pretty much the story of the Transformers films:  Lots of clearly expensive CGI spending way too much time in an attempt to justify its very existence.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t decent flesh and blood actors in the movie.  Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and Mark Wahlberg all have some pretty impressive performances–in much better movies–under their belts, though there’s so little asked of them here–other than to show up and go through the motions–that you can’t take anything seriously.

Which is a problem when you’re dealing with a bunch of films that are fantastical by design; there’s nothing to ground them.

Joshua Joyce

In case you forgot that Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) was inspired by Steve Jobs…

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I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts–Because They Don’t Exist

I just finished watching Lluís Quilez’s Out Of The Dark, currently on Netlix, and it’s a bit middling, though hardly the worse movie I’ve seen.

It revolves around a family who moves to Columbia, and are haunted by ghosts.

Though not particularly effective, I found it interesting for another reason:  The ghosts come about because the owner of a paper mill, Jordan (Stephen Rea) dumped some mercury into the water–I assumed that it’s either the by-product of producing paper or somehow used in the process–so the justifiably pissed-off ghosts chose to haunt his children and cap things off by kidnapping their daughter, Hannah (Pixie–Yes, according to IMDB that’s her real name–Davies) .

Earlier I read a story from The New York Times earlier today about a slave ship that crashed on reefs just outside of South Africa.  The ship was on the way to Maranhão, Brazil with a cargo of 400-500 slaves.  When the ship crashed, the crew escaped.

The slaves chained in the hold, being but cargo, died bound together like cords of wood.

And as horrific as that must have been for the people who perished aboard that ship, that’s hardly the worse thing we as humans have done to one another, not by a long shot.

That being the case, why aren’t there more ghosts?  There should literally be disembodied spirits everywhere you turn.  People have been on the earth for awhile–so shouldn’t we be literally tripping over them?

And sure, not everyone would be perceptive enough to pick up on them, but being that there are over 7 billion people in the world today, if only a small percentage of those individuals are sensitive to such things wouldn’t that means millions of people should be like that guy from The Sixth Sense?

And yet ghosts, like their sci-fi brethren, UFO’s, are pretty selective whom they appear to (it helps if you don’t happen to have a camera, though speaking of which, now that virtually everyone has cell phones I expect alien abductions to fall precipitously) which is why it all sounds like so much hokum.

Carrie (2013) – Review

“Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie, As Far As Remaks Goes, Isn’t Terribly Necessary, Though It’s Worth Seeing Anyway.”

For the longest time I’ve avoided watching Kimberly Peirce‘s remake of Brian DePalma’s Carrie because I just didn’t see the point, especially since from what I had seen from the trailers it wasn’t saying anything that the original didn’t.

And for the most part, I was right–and also wrong.

I’ll explain what I mean.  Pierce’s remake modernizes the material in a way that you’ll never get from DePalma’s movie–for instance characters use cell phones as well as the Internet–but there’s a very good reason for that:  Cell phones didn’t exist and I suspect that Internet didn’t either, at least not in the form that we know it today.

It’s also worth mentioning that the original movie might feel almost quaint (and to be honest, a bit dated) to a contemporary audience that’s grown up in the age of touch screen phones and the wireless interlinking of devices.

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REC 4: Apocalypse – Review

“Ignore the naysayers.  REC 4: Apocalypse is a pretty good time.”

I’ve been particularly interested in the REC movies, because they’re quite possibly one of the most successful–in terms of staying faithful and uncompromisingly with what made them so interesting in the first place–horror series ever made (Unlike others, such as the Resident Evil series, which pretty much collapses after the first entry).

Each movie in the REC series builds on the one proceeding it, upping the ante in terms of horror, though the series veered slightly from the orignal formula with REC 3: Genesis, which puts forward that the source of the zombie infection was of a more supernatural nature.

REC 3: Genesis

I didn’t mind though, because there was nothing that invalidated what came before, yet it presented a novel perspective.

My expectations were pretty high in reference to the forth film in the series, REC 4: Apocalypse, though I few months ago I read a review that panned it.

So when it turned up on Netflix, I wasn’t expecting much; though I was pleasantly surprised because it was pretty entertaining.

REC 2

The fourth film in the series isn’t as innovative or as gory as the prior entries–and there’s way too much shaky-cam at a few crucial points–but overall it was well-acted and enjoyable.

This time the action takes place aboard a ship, in an effort to isolate the survivors of the last movie, as well as to find a cure.

The film, to varying degrees, sticks with the same found-footage format of the prior films, but used it sparing; though when it does it’s in a more logical fashion (in other words, the bulk of the movie unfolds conventionally, which is a good thing).

REC

When all is said and done, REC 4: Apocalypse is pretty satisfying way to spend an hour and a half, which is really what it’s all about.

REC 4: Apocalypse is currently infecting Netflix.

Extraterrestrial – Review

The last film from The Vicious Brothers (who aren’t–biologically speaking–brothers) was the send-up of found footage reality shows, Grave Encounters.  It was one of the better examples of the genre because it was able to take many of the tropes that come with it (How is it that no matter what or where something happens there’s a camera conveniently located to capture it?  How are people are able to run with a camera in their hands and still manage to maintain an image that’s not nausea-inducing?  It’s almost as if they’re working with a steady cam or something) and at least make them interesting.

As a result I went into Extraterrestrial with higher expectations than I would traditionally, and was a bit let down.  Visually, aboard the alien spaceship–the last half hour or so of the movie)–was way too indebted to better alien abduction movies, like 1993’s Fire In The Sky.

Another problem was that the aliens were particularly murderous, which seems a bit at odds with the whole studying humanity part of their mission.  And speaking of violent tendencies, there’s a scene that plays with a joke earlier in the movie about the anal probing that aliens supposedly love doing on those they abduct.

Only this time, it’s used as an implement of torture. which makes you wonder what sort of highly advanced culture would travel seemingly light-years across the galaxy, just to kill someone by drilling into their ass.  Besides, if their intent from the start was murderous, then why bother bringing them aboard their ship at all?  Especially since these aliens–while resembling those from Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind–aren’t nearly as munificent.

This tonal inconsistency is particularly irritating in the last ten minutes of the movie, when it turns to The X-Files, complete with its own ‘Smoking Man.’  It’s an interesting homage, but it literally makes no sense because what would be the point of the military killing the abductees, when no one would believe them anyway?

And those that did would probably be so much on the fringe that it wouldn’t even matter.  The scene in question doesn’t ruin the movie, but the needless cynicism came pretty close.

Extraterrestrial has recently landed on Netflix.

Late Phases – Review

“Late Phases Is An Interesting Diversion, Though Hardly The Best The Werewolf Genre has To Offer.”

When all is said and done, what separates great werewolf movies from also-rans is the quality of the titular beast itself, which unfortunately isn’t Late Phases strongest point.  The aforementioned monsters here look less like wolves than large hairy gnomes, which is interesting–and a little bit odd–because it’s not like research material–wolves–can’t be found in zoos or on the Internet.

In nature they’re beautiful, powerful creatures (and significantly larger than you’d think) that are in their way quite graceful.

The closest filmmakers have come to capturing the innate grace and power of the animals has been in movies like Dog Soldiers (where director Neil Marshall actually had them played by dancers, in an effort to give them a certain elegance of movement) and Joe Dante’s The Howling.

In John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, while it had groundbreaking practical effects by FX virtuoso Rick Baker, the creature itself was more bear-like than wolf (which had a lot to do with how bulky it was.  Wolves aren’t massive in that sense, and they move with an ease that Landis’ monster lacked).

Where Late Phases does shine is in its depiction of relationships, in particular, those between fathers and sons.  Nick Damici does well as Ambrose, a soldier who’s blinded in combat, and whom can’t seem to put the war, the Vietnam War, behind him.

Ethan Embry holds his own as his son, Will, who’s doing the best he can for his father, though the tension between the two is always bubbling beneath the surface.

Damici plays blind well, though something’s a bit off about his performance.  Part of it is that he really looks like Charles Bronson, which is distracting.

Another is that he seems always tense, as if his sense of peace went along with his vision.

As I implied, the movie is for the most part petty well-done, though it’s at it’s weakest when the werewolves make their appearance.

Which is a pity, since it is after all a werewolf movie.

Late Phases is currently stalking on Netflix.

Sense8 – Trailer

Sense8 

“When the going gets the tough, the tough make television.”

As far as I am aware, that’s not a real quote, though it accurately describes what’s going on with the Warchowskis, Lena and Larry.  Coming off the box-office failure of Jupiter Ascending (the first time I heard of it I associated it with Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators-Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews, which is never a good thing), the siblings moved on to working with Netflix on a miniseries, Sense8.

Judging from the trailer, it’s about eight people who’ve never met, from all over the world.  They all seem linked in such a way that the capabilities and perspectives of any of them can be called on and manifested in any of the others.

Which is kind of cool if you have kickboxers among your retinue–as they apparently do–but I wonder how things would look if they were composed of a bunch of less-capable individuals.

Then again, Sense8 was written by Michael Straczynski, not anyone connected with Happy Madison.