Archive for January, 2013

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Iron Sky

January 27, 2013

Iron Sky

This is a film that I had heard about 6 months or so, when I happened to track down the trailer on-line.  Nazi’s with a secret moon base and coming back to take over Earth in this time, what could go wrong? It was somewhere between great and terrible, there were elements to it that were hilarious, and awesome but it got bogged down in a movie that clearly shouldn’t have any message or ideals, when it clearly tried to have some.  Those points in time were basically a waste in time, but there were many moments where that wasn’t the case.

The US has sent two men back tot he moon during a presidential election year to try and bolster the public support for the president who is a poorly done caricature of Sarah Palin, which was funny in concept but much less successful in execution.  One of them is captured, who is an African-American model, and he is studied in the Nazi base.  He says that he knows the President, so the Nazi’s turn him white, and take him to Earth on a mission to plan their attack.  Things don’t go all that well as one of the Nazi’s, who has studied Earth, ends up realizing the Nazi’s aren’t the good guys like she thought.  The Nazi invasion happens, and things don’t go all that well for them.  The US has a space ship with weapons, going against a treaty, and then it turns out that almost every country does, minus Greece.  Things almost work out, but then the Nazi’s use a tablet computer to power up their Helium-3 weapon, but the Nazi who has become good and the model manage to stop the massive weapon that the Nazi’s have built.

The acting performances in this film are pretty hilarious.  The actress who plays the Sarah Palin president, Stephanie Paul, looks like Palin, but really isn’t all that good an actress and is given predictable lines to work with over and over and over again.  Christopher Kirby, as the model actually does a hilarious job, he has great lines, and performs them well doing the opposite thing that Robert Downey Jr did in Tropic Thunder.  The rest of the actors were pretty good, Julia Dietz, as the good Nazi, aren’t bad, they go overboard a lot in the lines that they are given.

This film is shot primarily in grey tones, which was annoying at first, but actually works fairly well.  The Nazi’s, on the moon, are very clueless as to how life on Earth is now, so there are many old fashioned things that make the filming in grey tones actually pretty good.  They also work in a lot of older sounding songs into the film.  Timo Vuorensola hasn’t done anything else that is all that notable, but seems to be working on films now or attached to films that sound basically like this film.

This was supposed to be a better film, but there were a few things that went really wrong.  It got preachy at time mocking the USA in not all that funny a way, it had some potential, and they could have poked great fun at Sarah Palin, but they just did a poor job of it.  The best way to put it would be that they are trying to make a joke, but it comes across in joke form that they really mean exactly everything they are saying, so the insults which are jokes are actually insults, and it comes off as way to forced.  This was especially sad since it could have been a hilarious film and kept much more straight forward.  I was hoping for a film that was somewhat campy and had lots of absurd action and lines.  It had enough of that to make me glad I watched it, and it is one that I might watch from time to time, but it could have been much better and while not being great something I would watch over and over again, like G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.

Critical Grade: C-

Entertainment Grade: C+

Overall Grade: C

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50 New Films in 100 Days: Paranorman

January 27, 2013

Paranorman

This was a fun kids movie, was unfortunately a bit predictable and while it tried to work in humor for adults, the humor ended up being really predictable.  The animation was good and the coloring was good, I would liken it in some ways to Tim Burton and The Corpse Bride where it worked more in a grey tone as compared to bright colors that you see from many of the Pixar films.

The story is of Norman, a not so normal little kid, who is a loser and who can see ghost and talk to them.  He starts having weird flashes/visions of a forest and that makes him from a loser into more of a loser.  There is one kid who likes Norman, and is also an out cast.  Norman’s Uncle comes and visits him and tries to warn him of a witch.  His uncle is like him and can see the dead.  He tries to stop the witch from raising the dead but then he finds out that things aren’t quite what they seem.  In the ends he saves the day, but not in the way that previous people had stopped the witch, like his Uncle.

Since there is only voice acting in this film I’ll focus more on the direction and the visuals of this film.  Like I said, the visuals of the film are quite good, they border a bit on Burton-esque, which when you have the paranormal in animation, you are probably going to see similar visuals.  They do a good job of creating the world, and creating a large variety of faces and body types.  I will say that the whole direction of the film was fairly good.  It tried to walk a line, I’d say, between Pixar and Tim Burton, and it doesn’t quite hit the mark.  They could have made it slightly darker in some ways, or at least put it closer to Corpse Bride, and it probably would have worked better.

This was a film that I was hoping for more out of, it isn’t a bad movie by any means, but it seemed lacking, which is a shame as it had a lot of potential, and the trailer was better.  It had a few moments, and some characters that were fun, but when it came down to it, it was just too safe and too predictable, and the main character, Norman, wasn’t that strong a character, most of the side characters were more interesting.

Critical Grade: B-

Entertainment Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

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50 Movies in 100 Day: The Philadelphia Experiment

January 23, 2013

The Philadelphia Experiment

Randomly decided via Netflix what film to watch, the idea of time travel and a military experiments gone wrong seemed like an entertaining idea.  But it ended up just being so so, it was like so many other political/military films, everything goes wrong, and instead of point to the people who might know, people go in the opposite direction and are very illogical.

The story starts around World War II when the government decides to test out a radar invisibility on a ship.  It ends up opening a time vortex, the other end opens up in 1984when they try another similar experiment.  Two shipmates close to the explosion end up being propelled forward in time.  Things aren’t as they remembered them.  One of them starts having episodes where the time power starts to cause him issues, he eventually gets pulled back to the Philadelphia.  His crew mate goes and tries to find his family and figure out what is going on.  Eventually he does the logical thing and tracks down the scientist who had done the experiment in the first place and finds that he has to travel back in time and turn off the machine on their end to save everything.  He does that and comes back to 1084 so he can spend time with the girl he fell for in the few days that he was there (and whom he had kidnapped).

This is an old film, well, 1984 so as old as I am, and it is just too illogical at so many points.  They don’t go to the military, they barely even try and contact them.  And after it goes wrong one time, they kidnap someone because clearly that will make everything better.  And when the military does track them down (well the one down, his friend had already gone back in time) he runs away from them again and tries to find his family.  I would in some ways compare it to Prometheus from this past year, something that wasn’t bad in theory, but ended up having too many major plot holes in it that they couldn’t get even close to covering up.  People doing the dumbest thing rather than the smartest, and while I realize that might be more accurate for some people, every single activity and action as the dumbest, not likely.

The acting in the film I would call typical 80’s horror acting, it isn’t all that great, probably has stronger cheese to it than anything.  None of the performances stick out and the cast doesn’t have any major actors of note.  It just ends up being a lot of forgettable performance.  Same with the direction, nothing sticks out all that memorably, it is pretty similar to special effects to Wrath of Kahn, the stuff that is a basis for a lot of what we see now, any sort of vortex, time portal anything like that, all has basis from this sort of old film styling because we know what it is without thinking about it anymore.

This is a film that I would recommend skipping, it definitely was an intriguing idea for a film, but like I said it pulled a few too many Prometheus-esque moments.  It has some hockey entertainment value but that is about it.  The best way to put it is that I enjoyed it for having seen it but beyond that, it isn’t something that an average movie viewer is going to enjoy all that much.

Critical Grade: D

Entertainment Grade: C-

Overall Grade: D+

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50 New Movies in 100 Days: TiMER

January 23, 2013

TiMER

This is probably my favorite film that I’ve seen in this 50 movies in 100 Days.  It is quirky good dark indie comedy.  It is set in the future when a new invention matches people tot he one that they are meant to be.  You get a TiMER imbedded in your arm.  Overall it is really dark and works really well.

Uma is a gal who is turning 30 and whose TiMER hasn’t started yet.  They only start when the other person gets theirs as well.  So she is tracking down guys without a TiMER, dating them, then getting them to get a TiMER to see if both of theirs start and match-up.  So far she hasn’t had any luck and he is constantly obsessed with trying to find someone.  In comparison her sister Steph knows when she’ll meet her true love, and it is 40 years away, so she is enjoying life while she can.  She convinces her sister to just enjoy life a little bit and have a one night stand, she has one with a guy with a TiMER that says he’s going to meet his true love in a little more than three months.  It turns out that his TiMER is a fake and they fall for each other.  In a final act of defiance Uma and Steph decide to get their TiMER’s removed, and just when Uma’s is about to be removed it starts counting down at five hours.  She decides to keep and then the dark tragic side of comedy starts.

The acting performances are pretty good in the film.  Michelle Borth and Emma Caulfield star as Steph and Uma respectively and their performances are good.  Emma Caulfield, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, does a particularly  good job acting desperate and obsessed with the TiMER’s.  John Patrick Amedori is good in the role of a young rocker with the fake TiMER and he does a good job of holding stuff together and falling apart at the end.

Visually this is a pretty good film, it has the look of an indie film.  They keep it simple without trying to build a futuristic looking world, everything seems to be set in a time very similar to now with a few minor changes, like the TiMER, people are still acting like people do now a day.  It is a well constructed film and nicely dark.

Like I said, this is the favorite of the films that I’ve watched thus far in the 50 new movies in 100 days.  It is my type of film, the dark and quirky with a hint of tragedy towards the end.  It is well put together and has a number of good laughs in it without being a film that tries and pull out the same tired jokes.  The concept is smartly put together and the acting performances are actually quite good.

Critical Grade: B-

Entertainment Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B+

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Star Trek Wrath of Kahn

January 23, 2013

Star Trek: Wrath of Kahn

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I haven’t seen this film before.  I’ve seen a few of the first episodes from the original series, but I haven’t watched any of the Shatner movies before, which is surprising because how many films have “KAHHHNNNN” in them.  I also like the references that the new Star Trek film put in.

The story is that of revenge, which I always appreciate.  Khan, stranded in a crash on a remote planet, which has changed its orbit, ends up being accidentally rescued.  Kirk while on a training mission gets a garbled call from a scientific out post.  They go to investigate and end up falling into a trap which Kahn has laid for them.  Things turn more sour when they find that Kahn has killed most of the people on the outpost.  They find the rest of the people from the outpost and trick Kahn into a fair fight.  Things end up going nearly as planned but there are some sacrifices that need to be made.

The acting is what you’d expect.  It is the cast from the series and Shatner is Shatner, Nimoy is Nimoy, and so many others from the original series.  They play their roles as they were meant to be played as they have played them many times before.

Overall this is a very good film, I liked the plot, and while I have had a friend said there is an episode where I could have learned more about Kahn and his back story.  I think that it was a very entertaining film.  It has a plot that is well put together and it is memorable for the characters in the film.  I enjoyed it a lot and it was fun to nerd out to.  It is harder to review than many films, it is older to special effects standards are a bit different and something based off of a TV show is also harder to review.

Critical Grade: B-

Entertainment Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B

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50 New Movies in 100 Days: Zero Dark Thirty

January 21, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

This is a film that everyone is probably more familiar with than the last three anyways.  Having just seen it a few hours ago, I can say that this is a very well put together docu-drama.  It walks a very fine line between the realism it portray while keeping the film moving along.  They give snippets of the timeline from 9/11 until Bin Laden was killed, and they give the times and places to keep the documentary feel, but you get more intimate moments like that of a drama.  While watching it, it didn’t seem to fly by like some films that I’ve seen recently, but because of the documentary feel I didn’t feel like it needed to.

As far as the plot, I won’t go into major detail, but what I’ll say is that it was put together to focus less on the raid on Bin Laden, but it focuses much more on the process of finding out where Bin Laden is.  There are scenes of torture and interrogations. It focuses on the nitty-gritty of what went on in the background and who died in an attempt to find out where Bin Laden is.

This film rocks when it comes to acting.  Jessica Chastain,and rightfully so, is getting tons of praise for her performance.  Her portrayal of Maya is well done, she develops her character as time passes, a level simplicity and innocence in her character which develops into an obsession which feeds on her.  I also have to give props to Jason Clarke.  His performance has a level of seriousness to it which is wonderfully done.  He has a few moments of comedy and levity, but you can always see that there is a seriousness and heaviness behind it.  There are many other solid performances, some of the detainees did a brilliant job, but I’m not sure who is who for recognizing them.

The direction of this film is spot on.  Kathryn Bigelow has done a brilliant job and from what I’ve seen, she should have been nominated for an Oscar for it.  It has a level of seriousness to it, very straight forward shooting of the film, pseudo-documentary at times.  She shows off the humanity of her characters well, while she doesn’t make it a character piece, she develops each of her characters beyond a simple level.  The locations are well shot, and in several suicide bomber scenes she pulls what I’ll loving refer to as a Joss Whedon, she doesn’t focus on it, she keeps it as part of the narrative, but there aren’t touching scenes where everyone stops and pauses.

This is a wonderfully constructed film and deserves every bit of praise that it is receiving.  Kathryn Bigelow has put together a great film, very serious, very well done.  It won’t fly by while you watch it, but compared to many war films it is so much better put together.  I am not a fan of war films or government espionage films in general but this one I approve of, because it doesn’t try to glorify, it doesn’t try to stylize, it simply lays out a compelling storyline and powerful set of action.

Critical Grade: A

Entertainment Grade: B

Overall Grade: A-

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50 New Movies in 100 Days: Video Game High School

January 21, 2013

Video Game High School (2012)

The name really says it all, it is about a high school where all the elite video game players go.  It is actually fairly funny and pulls on different stereotypical reactions to different games, they have racing, FPS, rhythm, street fighter, and other types of games as the high school.  They do a good job of creating different types of gamers as well, yes, there are more hot girls than there would be at an actual video game high school, but that’s besides the point.

The story is of a nerdy kid who likes the play video games, which everyone does in this time.  He even gets mugged on his way home from school, prior to going to VGHS, so that the bullies of the school and steal some equipment he had spent months farming (and if you don’t know what that means, that is okay).  His life changes drastically when he kills The Law, who is the top gamer in the world and at VGHS, in an FPS, he gets an invite to VGHS.  He thinks it is going to be great, but it ends up being just like every other high school, parties sure, cliques, and hazing.  Things don’t go as planned and he ends up being eliminated from the school, by doing too poorly in some games.  He has one last chance to redeem himself.  He nearly does, but then the Law comes back in a grudge match to take him out.

The acting in this film is actually fairly entertaining.  All of the students are really caricatures of gamers, some of them so full of themselves, some of them clueless, and for that reason it is a fun mess.  Ellary Porterfield is actually extremely good in the film.  She is similar to Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter in some ways, but while she is ditsy and often having hear head in the clouds she has a sweet personality and is quite funny.  Jimmy Wong is also funny as a secondary character, an RA at the school.  The main characters are pretty good, but like I said, they isn’t a ton of depth in any of the characters, but there are funny.

Visually is where this film rocks, in the video games characters are the actors themselves, and the moves are much better than they are now, even though the computer equipment (at least keyboard and mouse) are the same as they were.  But when they are killed in game, you get the screen flash in 8 bit look, which is fun.  It comes off as something about this time, but is from the future at the same times.  They don’t miss a beat with whatever game they are in it looks similar to what we have now and then ends up being the actual people in it.  It does take a weird Casablanca-esque twist for part of it, in a side episode when the main character is kicked out of school, but it is forgivable, barely.

This is a fun film, it is worth checking out if you are a nerd.  Everything about this film is nerdy and funny that way.  It is put together well compared to other films that try and push this envelope, and compared to something like The Gamer, which I enjoyed, it is a better film with everything slightly more thought through.  Sure it is a high school film, but they do it well.

Critical Grade: C+

Entertainment Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B