Monday, February 4, 2013

What've I seen lately?

Canadian green screen magic that satisfies my monster of the week sweet tooth while also having characters with enough personality and charisma to keep me hooked along. Recommend.
Rock solid man bonding that hit a bit close to home a few times. Recommend.
Total surprise,  and speaks to a lot of the issues my wife and I are debating and confronting as we enter the second trimester of our own precious bundle. Yes, I said that in my head the way Gollum might. Having a kid when you're well ensconced in your professional pursuits is like a mid-life crisis, or if you're my age, it's another layer of mid-life crisis. Like leveling up, except messier. And without the rest period Inns, Orgrimmar is my wife's favorite, bigger sized beds & scant humans. And for the record, I've only ever played WOW to make an undead character that can eat elves. I really don't like elves. They never put the seat up in the first place. Anyway, the film has no elves in it, though does travel to Montreal for a spell. Pardon the pun, lowest form of humor in the shire. Recommend.
Turns out this is Drew Barrymore's directorial debut. She had me at "Jammer." The film is a coming of age story for a teen girl, but don't let make you feel dirty. The film rocks, as does Roller Derby, so go out there and support your local league, buy some swag, cheers the teams, and most importantly, appreciate that not all sports have to be spoon fed to you through massive stadiums and ridiculous corporate endorsements, sometimes there is just a fun time waiting to be had, and if you can't come out and play, at least come out and share the experience with those who can! Recommend.
I'm surprised I liked this. Actually, I've liked all of Tony Scott's films, even the overly schizophrenically composed ones (looking at you, Domino). No, this isn't revolutionary or deep or insightful. It's a character driven piece, modern noir - although I think that expression is probably an oxymoron. Any rate, it's fluff, however it's well crafted and wholly entertaining fluff, if only for the utter implausibility of it all. Pleasant fluff.
I really didn't think I would enjoy this, the trailers were so heavy handed. However, I dig how the themes and plot lines are delivered quickly, how nods the the old show are there without slowing anything down, and how there were sidelong references to things like ID4 to embrace the giant ships over big cities archetype rather than attempt to reinvent it. Some great new touches, some fully adequate green screen composting, and I look forward to seeing the next episode when it drops in March. Have to wonder though with the Fifth Column being so cool if there will be an upsurge in reptilian cosplayers, and what would the scaled equivalent be to Furries, anyway? Recommend.
Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode 2
I've always been more partial to Robot Chicken's high speed absurdity over Family Guy's awkward repetition and intermittent shock effect gags. No different here. I do like that their respective approaches are different, though, and frankly the pair should be sold together as a joint venture for their parent companies. Robot Chicken hops all around the Star Wars universe with the bulk of their material rooted in Empire Strikes Back, no surprise there, and makes for a solid second installment and look forward to the next one. Recommend.
I think this one really hits a stride and meanders less than the last installment. I dig that the Family Guy episodes generally follow the plots of the originals, while setting up and delivering on their own gag threads, and of course paying tribute to long time fans of the show with cameos and familiar payoffs. I'm especially impressed with the 3D vehicle work, matching keynote moments shot for shot, and inadvertently demonstrating how far special effects technology has come since the original scenes were created and composited back in the 70's & 80's. I'm sad Meg isn't in this episode more, and wonder if casting her as the space worm means she'll turn up next episode as Jabba, or the Rancor, or a Gamorrean Guard. Maybe all three. Recommend almost as much as Robot Chicken's.
Generally solid art direction and cinematography though heavy handed with the desaturated and / or limited color pallets. Didn't need the me-too giant robot, especially such an unlikely and mechanically untenable one. The robots in War of the Worlds were stretching the whole humans as cattle notion, and those were tentacle-empowered. The Harvester in TS looks like something designed with what Legos were available, and I don't mean from the Expert Builder sets. The Tinker Toy stick arms lacked hydraulic equivalency versus the amount of weight that scale would entail, never mind how aesthetically unappetizing something so stringy and brittle-looking appears to mine eye. And while I liked the motorbikes, they also made no sense. Were they indended to infiltrate Harley-Davidson shops to better kill Hell's Angels that'd survived the nuclear Armageddon, as I'm confident most Hell's Angels undoubtedly will? Again, I think these we're very me-too. The real moment that pulled me out of the film, well, one of them, was when John Conner hijacks a bike and rides it like Mad Max's poorly fated pal into the enemy factory. I couldn't even ride my bicycle standing up after someone had stolen my seat for fear of an amateur colectomy, so how is it a two wheeled twin Gatling gun frocked death machine has a big ol' banana seat handy to sooth John's world weary cheeks? Is it some sort of femme-dom humiliation thing from back at the factory, "Know your place, bike, wear this banana seat of shame to remember that humans will just want to straddle you and ride you hard and probably put you up wet." Also, the whole 'Nam flashback lagoon full of heat seeking Screamers mecha-worms showdown scene left be baffled and wondering if I needed my 4-D goggles on; aka double-fists of local lagers like Blue Buck or Red Truck, what some men use for dating aids, I sometimes use for comprehending the incomprehensible. Disappointing.
Despite low expectations and an affinity for the license content  recollected from childhood, there weren't enough guffaws not already spoiled by the oft repeated trailers to make me wondr if the time might've been spent checking out the Cantina house band's new numbers over a couple pitchers of blue milk with Hammerhead, Neil Armstrong, and Snaggletooth. Blue though, not Red as Red suffers from little man syndrome and really can't hold his milk. Disappointing.
What have you done to Cobra Commander? I died a little inside after seeing this, though the recent discovery of Cobra: The Musical worked well as an impromptu defibrillator. Sure, there were some fun moments, and cameos, and destruction, and underwater space battles, and I'd kept my expectations exceedingly low, so I can't say I regret wasting my morning curled up in a quilt by the fire recovering from a bronchial infection watching this romp. I just don't understand how many key choices in this were made, seemingly offhandedly, and whomever made those should go away and let someone do some damage control before considering making another Joe adventure Go anywhere. And lips on Snake-Eyes costume? And those speed suits... sigh. Disappointing.
Not horrible. Not good either. Why snipe the old folks? Why butcher, quite literally, Deadpool? Why have Gambit in the film whatsoever? Disappointing.
A quiet, occasionally somber without getting needlessly morose, introspective, and generally well crafted short story turned road movie sort of pandemic fiction. Starts like a teens bound for the beach yarn with I Know What You Did Last Summer verisimilitude to set up some solid play with spectator expectation. On the whole, couldn't help but feel like this was the more downbeat prequel to Zombieland, which for the unlikely event anyone might be keeping score, is a damned fine piece of cinematic delight for this post-apocalyptic aficionado. While I would have liked to see more story progress with a faster clip to avoid dragging out a few of the more obvious beats, one the whole, this flick is pretty much rigor mortis solid. Not Doom Generation gut punch solid or 28 Days Later I peed a little solid, no, but solid nonetheless. Pleasant surprise.
This should be a pilot to a TV series. Maybe it is, who knows with the kids these days? All I know is that as a long standing fan of flicks like Ticks, Evolution, Eight Legged Freaks, and Big Buster, and of pretty much every other flick or series exploring the amply bestowed premise of nature versus nurture and the perils of man's wasteful follies, this film stands up like a termite mound and delivers with wit, style, and charm on par with the better Monster of the Week episodes of Buffy, or EurekaVery pleasant surprise.
I anticipated very little from this, and actually, I'm glad I caught this. Basically, it's a mash up of Buffy and Heathers with a simple story delivered pretty well if a little lightly at times (cavalier lightly). The action-horror-scary-boo is handled with restraint that gore hounds will probably be disappointed by. And perhaps it's the gay in me, but the jean skirt Jennifer sports much of her initial murder spree period scared me more than how she handled the emo or athletic set. What really purses my coins is the ending. Love this, from the framing story end cap to the Lance Henriksen cameo to the Details magazine style suggestion of rock star glitz and glamor party boy shots to the wonderful looking up the lens end shot where karmic justice has been super sized served. Love this, and would like to see this IP explored as a TV series as well, because a demon-rabies infected damsel hitchhiking her way from adventure to adventure down the lonely highway like the end of an Incredible Hulk or Kung-Fu episode has appetizing merit. Pleasant surprise.
Noah's arc meets Titan AE meets Eden Log meets  the cut of Dennis Quaid's jib. Pacing suffered from dragging the narrative out to a full film length from what could've been a great 45 minute installments of some newly reborn incarnation of Twilight Zone or other short story stand alone episodic program, something slightly higher caliber than Outer Limits' last stint. If you endured, er- enjoyed Sunshine from Dany Boyle, you'll already be familiar with the tone. Oh, and let's not forget those wacky egghead needleteeth from The Descent, as those pesky drop-frame sprinting feral cannibalistic cave dwellers make an industrially upgraded appearance ala the Borderlands' crazies, thought this time with kids and one scene that seemed like a reinactment of the final duel between Danny Glover & the Predator in P2. While I liked the idea that space radiation had negatively affected accidentally released and subsequently compromised would be space settlers, and I'm a big a fan of Red Dwarf's Cat as anyone, color me skeptical that during the 140 year ship's journey those affected travelers would turn into what the film depicts. Or did I miss something and the trip took longer? I did like that the ferals had sorted out when flight crews would be released to replace preceding crews lest the crews go bat crazy from isolation, and had adapted their schedules to always be around for a buffet when unsuspecting, likely disoriented flight crw staff popped out of their capsules. One question here though, if flight crew teams of about four people get released every two years, what are the ferals eating the rest of the time? One another, I suppose, however with a nine month incubation time per feral, still seems like the swarms the film depicts need alternative sustenance, and the only bit the film shows is a stash of bugs in the agricultural section which is fully feral proof tucked away behind key code locked blast doors.  Basically, despite what I like about the ideas the feral concepts are trying to explore, a sort of mutated Lord of the Flys 140 years later, I think the end product is distacting, derivative, and unnecessarily coulds the film's otherwise pretty compelling narrative circumstances, that of characters trying to remember who they are, what they've done, where they are going, and what they should be doing, or preventing from being done. On that note, I really liked the narrative device of having deep sleep travelers lose their memories for the most part, albeit temporarily, as that serves to give the narrative mystery and discovery as the audience learns in lockstep to the protagonist. Despite the distracting and unnecessary ferals, the narrative otherwise is pretty compelling, from the death of Earth, the gut wrenchingly beautiful scene depicting how space madness leads a historic pilot to eject five thousand sleeping colonists into the void, a morbid and quite literal "Death Blossom." Had to rewind that scene a couple times, to tragic, great sci-fi! And the ending pays off, something that is really hit of miss generally with either sci-fi or horror, and especially a film attempting to do both. Worth a 7 Day Rent or PVR.
So I didn't know Corbin Bernsen is directing films now, albeit straight to DVD ones (better than I'm doing, right?).  I mean, considering his spread as shown in One Red Paperclip, figures he's back filling his income with more than royalties from LA Law, the Major League franchise, or comicons recounting battling wits with Q? I mean, did you know he directed The Dentist 2? Did you know there was a Dentist 2? Anyway, Corbin directed this, and while I would dissuade gore fans from bothering since the extent of the red spread is equivalent to a batch of kids discovering how much messy fun explosive foil packs of ketchup can be at a McDonald's birthday bash, especially when leapt down on from table tops or playground platforms. Note to Corbin's makeup department: corn syrup, instant hot chocolate powder mix, and red dye make ok fake blood; however, to really sell the idea of ruptured flesh, put that fake blood over something non-uniform and rendered looking, rather than the silky smooth and clearly unbroken flesh of the whitest extras known to mankind. Worst case, just spray fake blood all over their clothes and keep the camera at a distance. Close ups on meagerly sauces subjects breaks the suspension of disbelief. Likewise, note to the cinematographer and camera man: if you're rolling on a scene where your protagonist is walking through post outbreak streets or in front of windows where said streets might be visable, cut the shot if normal, non-panicked cars drive by outside or in the background. Failing that, the editor should've cut around such breaks in continuity. The world has gone to hell, but apparently some drivers are listening to iPods and wondering why they can't find any drive-thrus open. Realistic? Possibly. Compelling? Not so much. Funny? Absolutely. What's worth seeing this film for? Two things. First, the premise, the outbreak starts as a terrorist attack in a major sports stadium. Color me a little sensitive to this idea as Vancouver locks down to "host" the Olympics in a couple weeks. And not just one stadium, rather, terrorist cells coordinate to release a super-rabies sort of 28 Days Later blight across numerous major sporting events around the US. Apparently hockey fans are safe, then. I mean, there are hockey stadiums in the States, too, but who goes to those? Of course this is a budget product so much of this occurance is communicated through dialogue and TV samples, just like back in Romero's classic, nothing wrong with that, though I'd like to see Tony Scott make a big budget version exploring this more, perhaps with a release on a plane too, just to bring that notion back into play. Anyway, the other thing I enjoyed more than not was the shock jock radio host played by Bill Moseley, who did well enough I thought he must be some B-String real life radio jock making his big break into films, instead of the well established character actor IMDB proved ol' Bill to actually be. And poor Patricia Tallman, she used to read minds on Babylon 5. I wish I could've read her mind when Corbin's company handed her this script. Worth a PVR as a fiiller in a marathon of 2nd tier zombie fare and a couple flats of Fat Tire.
With the zombie genre's recent resurgence (snicker) with pop culture appetites (snicker again), no surprise there's been a tidal wave of straight to DVD / Cable / Dial-Up content. This is a drop in that bucket. While I like the basic premise, what if an international flight became infected? How might the drama unfold? Anyone that has flown on one of the Cathay-Pacific red-eye flights across the pond to HK has surely wondered the same thing, wondering if this is the flight where a contagion gets into the air recycling system and starts killing people and reanimating their corpses? Perhaps somewhere between dinner service and the second of a four film John Travolta or Jackie Chan marathon? Only those cramming complimentary cups of ramen and cans of San Miguel back and down respectively would be immune. Eat, drink, be merry, for next meal service will be your last! Anyway, this film tries to either capitalize on this obvious irrational fear that besets many a beleaguered international traveler, and does so pretty poorly, meaning, there is plenty of room to do this notion justice, perhaps get a PAL or Cathay-Pacific or KLM endorsement too boot, win-win. What airline wouldn't want to better demonstrate their inherent zombie-outbreak preparedness?Stocking defibrillators De Facto aboard planes is only a first step, after all. Win hearts and minds slowly, start with restarting hearts. I digress. This film at best and through the lens of a healthy stupor marries elements of Executive Decision and Airplane with the TV safe version of Sleepaway Camp 2 and the aftertaste of USA Up All NightDisappointing.

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