Stars Wars the force continues and continues…….

Posted by Greg Butler On December - 13 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

If anything George Lucas’s space fantasy have taught us, is that the Star Wars saga is a work in constant motion, never quite completed to be one thing but rather morphing in many different ways, sometime dividing the communities in free fall battles in fan forums, youtube or Imdb commentaries.
The shoving match between the revisionists and the purists, the prequel lovers Vs the sequel romantics. Did Greedo really shoot first, did little Anakin Skywalker build C3PO and when did faith in the force turn into a trekkien science babble?
The idea of childhood dreams being assaulted because of some questionable interpretations always seem to me way over the proverbial top. Backlash of fans and critics have resulted in extreme opinionated articles and videos. Online examples as The Phantom Menace edit, whereas as a not very favorable character Jar Jar Binks is severely omitted, or Redletter Media’s hyperbolic (but hysterically amusing) deconstruction review of said prequels.
Is it reasonable to expect more than what was there, just a mercurial entertainment for the sake of a few escapist hours.  Comedians like Pat Oswalt and other unflattering comments from various Hollywood sources, has held up the original trilogy as the holy trinity. But then if one were to research it carefully the divide between fans really began with Return of the Jedi and those cursed Ewoks. Since then, the irregularities and contradictions of all six films been either ignored, not noticed, accepted or dismissed .

“There a really a lot of haters. BUT this is what art is: you release it and let it be judged. Some people don’t like the originals films. This one everyone is going to like, though by force” Actor John Boyega , Star Wars: the force awakens.Timeout Magazine.

Well Mr Boyega that remains to be seen.

A colleague of mine once qouted from the film The Big Chill, ” Sometimes you have to let art flow over you. ..” perhaps that is why there isn’t common ground among fans, art is subjective, who cares if it doesn’t make sense, or maybe our criteria of entertainment is low, fuck do I know. In the meantime despite my misgivings, I do prefer certain certain chapters more than others, so in celebration of awakens, let me and my fellow writer Sean give a quick rundown on the negatives and positives of a
galaxy far far away……..

The Phantom Menace
(What’s Lucas smokin?)
Midi- what?
Casting too many high powered actors with nothing for them to stand out (sorry Terrance Stamp).
The space station blowing up, undermines the original death star explosions as being trivial.

( What went right )
Double edged light saber and fight sequence.
Darth Maul.
Ian Macdiarmid.

Attack of the clones.
(What’s Lucas smokin’?)
The editing as a whole throws too many ideas without a cohesive direction to digest to what we are seeing.
No chemistry between All the actors, the romance being the worst.
Relied more on the cgi than usual.

(What went right )
Casting Christopher lee as Count Dooku
The fight between Jango Fett and Kenobi, something over due from Return of the Jedi.

Revenge of the Sith
(What’s lucas smokin’)
Knocking off Mr lee much to soon.
forcing the plot such as it is, in disposing the Jedi knights in a ham fisted way just to get to the main characters, again the key word is trivilizing.
The editing of the film is choppy and pacing disorganized.

Star Wars
(What’s lucas smokin’?)                                                                                                                                                                                        
Should have edited out the Biggs part during the original run, was fixed later in the revamped version but still unnecessary.

Repeating the threat expositions twice, the Greedo and Jabba scenes, basic 101 screenwriting mistake.

Greedo shooting first at close range, sorry Lucas you can’t turn Solo into John Wayne decades after the fact.

han shot first

 

(what went right)                                                                                                                                                                                       

  Screenplay with a Macguffin and character motivations, the best since The Wizard of Oz.

John Williams’s score.

Costumes and design.

 

The Empire strikes Back

 (What’s Lucas, Kasden and Kershner smokin’?)                                                                                                                                                                          

Not wearing pressure suits during the whale/asteroid scene, or rather the characters not questioning the gravity or air on a floating rock.

Ah Hell, who am I fooling, I luv the flick!

 

Return of the Jedi

(What’s lucas smokin’?)

Resolving the Luke and Leia relationship by making them siblings, creating a uncomfortable vibe affecting the first two films.

Ewoks; enuff said.

The Untapped potential of bounty hunter Fett/ The impressive imperial guards of the emperor, disappearing off the picture.

(what went right)

 

Speederbike chase through forrest.

Before the prequels and special editions, first appearance of Jabba the Hutt.

Again;  Ian Macdiarmid.

 

<b>Star</b> <b>Wars</b>

SEAN

Phantom Menace

Cons

• The stakes are never really felt because no one seems to react like there are any, with the exception of Padme. She’s the only one who acts like she cares.

• If you erased the original trilogy and just had this film, you wouldn’t care for anybody or what is going on. Vice versa, you can erase this film and not lose anything in the original trilogy. Those films gave you a reason to care. Any investment you have in Phantom Menace is not earned by the film itself.

• For being wise, powerful peacekeepers, the Jedi have no qualms with putting a child’s life in danger by bringing him along when they go to fight.

Pros

• It expands the mythology of the universe and how some of the societies work with the introduction of the senate and the Jedi council, even if it doesn’t make the story interesting.

• The action is exciting and the light saber fights are very well choreographed.

• Darth Maul was a threatening villain, even though he had little dialogue and no background. He came off as more of a Sith terminator.

Attack of the Clones

Cons

• The dialogue is very poorly written (Ex. “Sand”), and the stilted acting makes it so much more apparent, especially since most of the actors are actually really good outside of this series.

• There is only one scene where Obi-Wan and Anakin act like friends—the elevator scene in the beginning, which kind of feels forced (refer to previous con)—and what little time they spend in each other’s company during the rest of the film is spent with Obi-Wan putting up with Anakin’s whiny bullshit. If they are such great friends, the film doesn’t do much to support it.

• How in the name of God does Padme fall for Anakin?! Everything he does screams unstable psychopath, and any sane person would’ve taken off running after listening to him rant about how he killed men, women, and children. With how Anakin’, it would’ve made more sense if Luke and Leia were the spawn of rape than forbidden love.

Pros

• The plot of the film is not as isolated at the first one and firmly plants the seeds for what’s to come in the original trilogy by delving into the Republic and the Separatists.

• The action is exciting and the light saber fights are very well choreographed.

• Palpatine’s plan, while convoluted, takes shape here and makes the Emperor all the more sinister because he was able to orchestrate the clones and the civil war from behind the scenes without drawing the attention of the Jedi and getting the Senate to actually back him up.

Revenge of the Sith

Cons

• The opening, while a thrilling action piece, is drawn out and serves only to have Anakin execute Count Dooku and build towards his turn to the dark side. This segment takes up a good twenty minutes or so, but the same goal could’ve been achieved with something more focused and less meandering (Ex. R2’s silly action scene), and more time could’ve been spared to developing other points in the story, like the ending or Anakin’s transformation, which leads to:

• Anakin’s turn, though built up over the past two films, still feels too quick and out of character. If he was the same whiny brat from Attack of the Clones, I would have bought it a little more, but in this film, his angst and psychotic tendencies are toned down quite a bit in favor of desperation for his love of Padme, which I still can’t buy into. It was as though his emotional arc was shown in reverse between Ep. 2 and 3.

• The ending is merely a rapid-fire checklist of things to set up the original trilogy and even contradicts future revelations (Leia remembers her mother, though she could also be referring to her mother on Alderaan). Padme dies, the twins are split up, Obi-Wan goes into hiding, and Darth Vader is born and watches the construction of the Death Star; we are shown “what” happens, but we aren’t really shown “why”. We aren’t really given a chance to digest the somber chain of events, and once again, much of the emotional connection relies on the viewer having already seen the original trilogy. It would’ve earned nothing if the prequels existed on their own.

Pros

• The opera scene. It is a beautifully shot moment, and while it’s meant to serve Anakin’s transition into the dark side, it works far better in adding a new facet to the Star Wars mythology with the introduction of Darth Plagueis and providing more insight into the soon-to-be Emperor. I wouldn’t mind if this bit of knowledge is brought up again in future Star Wars movies.

• The fall of the Jedi and is a grim, haunting moment. The montage of Order 66 is actually one of the most emotional scenes in the entire Star Wars saga as the light side of the Force get blindsided by Palpatine’s puppet-mastery, and Anakin’s march into the Jedi temple is cold, brutal, and extremely effective without showing the carnage, despite how alarming this shift in Anakin is.

• And to cap it all off, Palpatine uses the guise of safety to lure the Senate into siding with him and creating the Empire. It’s a moment that reflects everything going on in the world today, where the fear of terrorism has led to the people giving up certain freedoms in the name of security. As Padme so eloquently puts it, “So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause”.

A New Hope

Cons

• Leia seems a little nonplussed after watching her planet blow up.

• And the movie wants you to believe that Obi-Wan deserves more mourning than said planet.

• Wait, so Leia actually did know they were being tracked after they escaped from the Death Star, and they still went to the Rebel base?!

Pros

• Harrison Ford. Enough said.

• Despite the grave events that happen in the film (Luke’s aunt and uncle dying, Alderaan blowing up, Obi-Wan dying) the film maintains a rather consistent fun and light tone and never seems to dip in pacing.

• Though the effects are a little dated, they hold up much better after almost four decades than most CGI in films from the past five years. The practical look works in favor of making you believe in this sci-fi universe.

Empire Strikes Back

Cons

• The time duration of the film is murky at best. Luke’s training is happening at the same time as Millennium Falcon’s run-and-hide scenario, which means that Luke only trained for a few days, a week or two at best. Far too little time for Luke to make the progress he displays before he takes on Vader.

• C3PO’s bickering got a little annoying after a while.

• Parts with the Millennium Falcon running away dragged a little bit in terms of pacing.

Pros

• The Empire Strikes Back earns its title. The stakes are ramped up throughout the course of the film, leading to the powerful crescendo of Luke vs. Darth Vader.

• The story takes the characters into new and even dark places (Luke’s journey into the cave), and while most character arcs in any story have them overcoming their struggles and doubts by the end, here, the main characters don’t end up on top. They suffer for their flaws and desperation and barely make it out alive, showing them and the viewers that this is not just some light-hearted adventure anymore. Shit got real.

• Yoda is equal parts fun and wise and a better mentor than Obi-Wan not just because he was a superior Jedi but because he didn’t have to deliver that much exposition. He got to teach, to guide Luke way more than Obi-Wan ever did, since the latter had to serve as the exposition provider for Episode IV. Yoda does further elaborate on what the Force is, but it’s disguised so wonderfully as pure words of wisdom that you can attribute to real life obstacles.

Return of the Jedi

Cons

• Too much time is focused on how the Ewoks live with their savage cuddliness, and the subplot of C3PO being their deity felt like the movie was trying too hard to regain that light playfulness of Episode IV and became just childish.

• Han doesn’t really feel like Han anymore. I know he’s grown from the first movie, but the moment where he suddenly acts jealous of Luke on Endor just felt out of character.

• The ending was very short and seemed to undercut the enormity of defeating the Emperor and the Death Star by having such a limited perspective of the victory. The Special Edition, in one of the very few improvements, actually showed that what the Rebels did really affected the galaxy.

Pros

• The stories of Luke and Darth Vader reach a grand and heart-breaking finale.

• The final space dogfight outside of the Death Star is pretty awesome and intense.

• Despite knowing very little about the Emperor (prior to the release of the prequels), he comes off as quite threatening by doing very little. Perhaps it mostly because of how Vader interacts with him. Either way, the film sold that the Emperor was indeed the monster in charge.

TOP Halloween films to watch (at least for that night)

Posted by Greg Butler On October - 30 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Around this time of year just about every website ad nausea , roll out the their top ten or twenty horror films to  join in the over crowded recommendation pile. So we at Thoughts on Cinema might as well join in. Below are eight carefully selected suggestions to binge all night long. To help in the order to watch them, there is a fear meter under :   Scary fun-frights with a few laughs,   Downright Disturbing- well done but uncomfortable subject matter,   Chiller Suspense -moments of creepiness and mystery and old school classic - refined horror at its best.

If you don’t see the usual suspects like the Exorcist or the Shining, it was left off mainly because their already “go to” favorites everywhere else online, going to try some curve balls here and there. So get ready with your Netflix or illegally favorite torrent site, get that burnt popcorn going  and see what nightmares are really made of.

 

Diabolique (1955)

Diabolique (1955) Poster

Still of Véra Clouzot and Simone Signoret in Diabolique (1955)

Forget the remake with Sharon Stone, watch the french version instead. An abused wife and neglected mistress murders husband, only to find the body missing later and peculiar occurrences plaguing both women.{ Chiller Suspense}

 

Phantasm (1979)

... to why he wanted to make a movie that dealt with Phantasm’s themesMausoleums, flying finger monsters, the tall man,  spheres that drill into your head and  killer dwarfs  from another dimensions, What does it all mean, I haven’t a clue but this is the most original horror fantasy at that time and even now. { Scary fun}

 

 

Fiend without a face (1958)

Bunch of Old Movie Posters - Special FarmThe  usual mishaps of science experiments  gone way wrong.One of the few Sci-fi with a creepy feel to it. The appearances of the creatures once invisible is especially high on the eek meter.{old school classic} 

Martyrs (2008)

Review: Martyrs (UK - BD RB) - DVDActiveChild abuse escalating  into  violent vengeance, which leads to something even worse. One of the few horror films that actually perturbed me. This is not for the squeamish.{ Downright Disturbing }

 

Carnival of Souls (1962)

CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962). Directed by Herk Harvey. Written by John ...Forget its low budget minimalist leanings, it actually works in its favor. Woman survives a  drag racing accident that kills her friends, but the trauma has left her feeling disconnected to things and seeing strange figures that are not there. The atmosphere of unease permeates from scene to scene. { old school classic .}

 

The Descent (2005)

The Descent - IGNHow dangerous could cave expedition be, our women explorers are about to find out, Oh yeah there is something down there alright. { Scary fun}

Noroi: The Curse (2005)

Noroi The Curse 1a.jpg

The Asia Beat: NOROI: THE CURSE (2005) May Be The Greatest Found ... A found footage that actually has a story to it, this Japanese import deals with a paranormal documentarian investigating a case which in terms leads to his disappearance. The events are put together by the film evidence left behind.  After  awhile the unraveling tale creates a thick sense of dread to it. {Chiller Suspense }

From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond: Unrated Director's Cut DVD (click for larger image) Based  0n H.P. lovecraft ‘s short story.   A machine called a Resonator is made to stimulate the human pineal gland, giving the person to perceive and enter another dimension where all sorts of big and small critters lurk. When the apparatus goes out of control…. well you can see for yourself. { Scary fun}

Happy Halloween folks!!

 

 

 

 

Body Double (1984)

Posted by Greg Butler On July - 26 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

still-of-melanie-griffith-and-craig-wasson-in-body-double-1984-large-picture

 

 

Subtle wouldn’t be Brian Depalma’s favorite word as he rummage through Hitchcock’s drawers for this mish-mosh update of Rear Window and Vertigo. Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) suffers from claustrophobia, fear of enclosed or crowded places. A bit actor working in a low budget vampire, looks for a place to crash, a chance meeting with another fellow actor Sam (Gregg Henry) offers him to house sit while away. Using a home telescope, he sets his peepers on negligee wearing female dancing provocatively in a neighboring window, cue the the Pino Donaggio erotic score just in case if you weren’t ĺawake. Voyeurism soon turns into pantomime drama via an open window, uncovering domestic abuse, menacing stalkers and finally her murder. Guilt ridden over the tragic event, he later stumbles across a porn commercial showing a video of actress Holly Body (an air- headed Melanie Griffith channeling Judy Holiday) using the same exact dance movements. Convinced the crime was a set up and the woman involved,  Jake enters ( double entendres are abound in writing this.) the adult entertainment as a performer, engaging in record time a role opposite the woman in question and a cameo in a Frankie goes to Hollywood Video. This is simple abc’s for this type of genre, but the camp moments are way over the top. It loses cohesiveness because its laughing at its own indulgence. Conventional cliches are being send up for sure but if the director couldn’t take it seriously why should we. However there is a thrilling scene with a street drill, realigning the balance of dark humor and violence. Unfortunately its the one decent aspect. The most awkward sequence that mars the film further is the climatic ending; interrupted by a flashback that disrupts the narrative. Uninspired; the movie plods along to a flat ending, on screen The whole thing feels lazy, maybe midway through the picture Depalma said fuck it……literally.

Somewhat a very disappointing  sex on the beach drink.

 

20131010_161435Halloween comes  twice a year in New York, so if you wander upon a horde fantastical creatures and maidens, strolling down the avenue, take notice that comic con has arrived. A four day event filled with memorabilia vendors,  nerd dating services, video movie hawkers and cos play shows. There is so much shit to keep every nerd fetishes entertain for days, and unless your focused on a particular subject, the entire experience can be overwhelming, even frustrating as you try to navigate between shows and seminars. Best to download the comic con app and plan accordingly before you go.

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Some snippets of NYCC

 

Animal planet: Finding Bigfoot

20131012_195025

A reality show that really has nothing to do with reality, but certainly has a hard core following, at least with audience I was with. The panel talked a bit with the fans after the presentation.  Ranae Holland with a manly handshake is the resident skeptic, although she seems to be pseudo critical, as if it’s just a performance act for the masses. On the other hand Cliff Barack man seem generally enthusiastic about the subject even has a calling card he gave out. I asked about  about the onslaught of bigfoot videos on Youtube, and if it hampers any serious research about it,  Barack hasn’t an issue with it, the plus side that it keeps the subject going in the public eye.

 

 

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Breaking into Comics right now:

20131012_183228

For those that dream about it, the title alone said it all.  Some quick notes, research company, eight page write up with drawings. Avatar comic might be something to look into. Web comics are another option. All in all, just hook up with some like minded individual,  pull talents together. One novice artist was looking for a writing partner and more than a few (including myself) volunteered. who said networking doesn’t work.

 

NYCC Thursday night kick off:

Everyone was on their game except Janeane Garofalo, she seems to wander in without an act.

 

Meanwhile at the fortress of Solitude……….20131011_200942

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Star wars rebels: the might of the empire:

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Full house on this panel, but what did you expect when it comes to this particular series, a quick design glimpse for ravenous fans.

 

 

CBLDF: The Secret origins of Comic Censorship!

A little history taught by scholar Carol Tilley…….20131012_162138_2

 

 

True blood with Kristin Bakers and Lauren Bowles:

Still wonder why the show was on this long, although the actresses were engaging.

 

 

 

Your opinion sucks! Rotten Tomatoes Critics Vs Fan:

Possibly the biggest disappointment, less of a in depth discussion about the value on film criticisms and its relevance today. Instead  the panel dialed it down to what sucks or didn’t suck. Did speak with Owen Gleibman  of Entertainment Weekly about the saturation of Internet critics on line, he felt it wasn’t a problem to his position,  and counted himself lucky to make a successful career of it.

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Get set for NYCC 2014, seeya there.

 

 

Skyfall

Posted by Greg Butler On July - 16 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

Bond is back … not that he really left.

 

Director Sam Mendes is up at bat in this 23nd go round with Britain’s greatest spy James Bond. This time the theme of betrayal and abandonment permeates in the background. Mendes have visited the subject before in Road to Perdition. In that movie a mob father’s doubtful faith in his son makes a crucial decision with disastrous results, (interestingly enough starring Danial Craig).  In Skyfall the Bureau chief M ( a take no prisoner Judi Dench)  also  makes  a sacrificial call that nearly cost Bond his life. Rethinking his priorities about the unit and especially M herself,  James takes a long sabbatical away from the agency.
He’s forced back in operation when a hard-drive disk containing information of secret operatives under cover is stolen, threatening a shut down of the organization and M’s forced retirement. Coming back into the spy game has James a bit rusty in his usual physical skills as well as failing  psychological  sessions  especially childhood memories of  something called Skyfall, leaving  doubts  from intelligence and security head, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) , but confidence from M about the ability to handle said mission. The person responsible is Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) , a rogue agent ( Shades of Goldeneye! ).  Decked out in blond hair and suited white tux and a bit of effeminate style,  probably the most interesting Bond villain in quite awhile. No global megalomaniac like Goldfinger Or Blofield, no; this is somebody hurt physically and emotionally.  The screenplay  pulls a sense of homo-eroticism between Bond and  Silva,  where  he massages  the captured agent’s  injuries in a gentle manner,  Challenging perceptions of  Bond’s masculine sexuality, subtlety planting the possibility  he would fuck for Queen and country regardless of gender.

Throughout the film, questionable decisions by M both past and present propels the plot of the story, in some way these events  are more about M than Bond,  but Mendes  made sure he gives a heaping shitload of baggage for just about everybody involved.

Craig continues to impress as Bond, a steely visage coupled with a not so pretty face, more of a street thug than GQ Pierce Brosnan   was.  No humor retorts for this spy, it recalls the attempt of Timothy Dalton’s take on a serious 007 decades ago.

The cinema photography by Roger Deakins is possibly the most gorgeous looking yet in the whole franchise. In one  sequence Bond fights an adversary, silhouetted behind glass walls with neon lights in the background, the glowing shadows  creates visual beauty to the choreography.  Another  is the lair of the villain, not a opulent palace of wonder, but some  island or scow adrift in the sea, Its decayed and muddling look is a nice contrast to the usual hideouts.

There’s enough eye- winking references to earlier films  of Bond, especially to the Sean Connery era, if anything in a retroactive or quasi alternative universe, this film actually is actually the first official start of the series…and  that is fine by me.

 

I give this your  4 best Absolute  Martini—shaken; not stirred.

 

 

The Iceman

Posted by admin On June - 29 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

Portrait of a Stone Cold Killer: The notorious Ice Man Richard Kuklinski is still an enigma today. One can only speculate on what through in his mind as he disposed the bodies in a most gruesome fashion.


An ordinary Polish man, struggling to make ends meet in NJ, ran into all the wrong people who gave him an offer he could not refuse, and uncovered his true calling in life that of a remorseless killer. If you’ve heard the expression, “Skeletons in the closet” before, one would have to wonder if the notorious Richard Kuklinski had a walk-in closet that extended 7 city blocks. By the end of the Iceman, the mystery remained was there ever a soul underneath the relentless thick layers built upon over the years?

Directed by Israeli filmmaker Ariel Vromen, The Iceman was a biopic that didn’t feel the need to over explain every thing about its central lead. Thus it preserved a sense of mystery, an essential ingredient when filming a story about a larger than life killer. Glimpses of Richard Kuklinski’s past are portrayed through 2 lines of dialogue. He had an abusive upbringing and his brother was just as troubled.

Michael Shannon who has an affinity for uncanny roles and memorable performances, was a natural fit as Richard Kuklinski. No stranger to playing a subdued character with a constricted affect and disturbed, internally preoccupied look, he gave a character with very little background, some subtle personality and even a sense of humor in a complex role that called for emotional detachment at very intense, violent moments throughout the film. It was that delicate balance that made Kuklinski not unlike any person whose profession entailed making objective decisions in ending life.
As his character’s love interest, Deborah played by Winona Ryder juxtaposed Shannon’s performance as someone who was emotionally fragile, trusting, and hopelessly naïve. While Richard buried his emotions, he was drawn to Deborah because there was a sense he could see that she accepted being emotional and wore her emotions on her sleeve. The dynamic of these two lovebirds that inevitably start a family life became the focal point for Kuklinski’s motivations and need to lead two lives.

Like all mob related films, it became clear that the ability to lead two lives never worked out like it did in comic books. In the end, untrustable people have no qualms about selling someone down a river. While Ray Liotta mailed it in as his 4th sleazy low-level mobster role, the performances of David Schwimmer and Chris Evans added some fresh, quirky characterizations, sporting some of the grungiest looks and fashionable staches.

For the great performances, The Iceman rated fine bourbon that became more and more complex as you worked your way to the bottom of the glass.

Cheers,

Ron

Oblivion

Posted by admin On June - 25 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Beech played by Morgan Freeman shines a light in the dark for Jack played by Tom Cruise and this time, there’s no red or blue pill to choose from.

Sometime in the near future, mankind endured a catastrophic alien attack that wiped out most of human life and civilization. Stationed above the Earth in an outpost resembling a condo designed by Apple overlooking what was once NYC, Jack (Tom Cruise) and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are a watch dog/maintenance team entrusted with surveying the last collection of vital supplies before accompanying the mission to travel to the next star. When the departure date became imminent, Jack’s intuition caused him to have second thoughts about the course laid out for him. Like an itch he couldn’t scratch, Jack questioned orders and started to investigate on his own without authorization. His behavior pattern might suggest a psychotic break or the possibility that there was something wrong?

Director Joseph Kosinski brought together familiar components from 1970s Science Fiction films such as the Omega Man and Silent Running. When Cruise trekked out into the wasteland, there was something contemplative about man’s mortality, his legacy, and how at peace the Earth looked. Similar to his previous film Tron Legacy, he brought a polished, sophisticated use of computerized special effects that never failed to inspire a sense of beauty in the midst of urban ruin. Oblivion was a good-looking movie that one might not even need dialogue to enjoy the art captured its camerawork.

However the story suffered from too many cliché plot twists that never raised the bar from the material it was inspired by. Even though Tom Cruise was electric and his presence was commanding, familiar roles played by Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko flattened out the performances. In the last 10-15 minutes Oblivion delivered an ending that didn’t offer many surprises. Thus the film became generic.

Oblivion offers the familiar distinguished taste of a house brew. It won’t make you regret you had it but it won’t compel you to drink another.

Cheers,
Ron

Vampirella

Posted by Greg Butler On June - 17 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

 

“Vampirella; a Playboy magazine!” said sarcastically by one of the older kids on the block, as I tried shielding the cover from judgmental g eyes. There were other published anthologies such as “Creepy” and “Eerie”, both had a fair share of nudity and violence, mashed with horror genre, but the Vampirella issues at least in the early ones  seem to have a more emphasis on women be it as victims or perpetrators in the stories.

With cover like that how could I resist

 

 

She was the brain child of the great Forry Ackerman, creator of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. The basic origin was that Vampi was the sole survivor of a planet of vampires, where rivers once flowing with blood was slowly drying up.  She escapes on a manned rocket-ship back to earth where she befriends a drunken washed up magician named Pendragon. Taking a serum that curves her blood-lust and pursued and later befriended by a new generation of Van Helsings, each story would deal with her battles with a cult called Chaos and other dark forces.

 

The legendary Archie Goodwin would take on the writing chores later and perfected the twist ending to her twelve page adventures. Arguably these were the quintessential version, short as they were, it had a breezy quickness that hit the points it wanted to make. No heavy handed plot to detract its concise narrative.  Of course the stories wouldn’t have half the impact if not for Jose “Pepe” Gonzalez great artistic rendition of the the title character. Coming in at issue # 12, the makeover created a stunning siren,  seductive,  sexually chaste without the nymph prancing nature of her  more active  half sister of the sci-fi film Barbarella,  of which Forry  semi-christened our  gal  her name.

In the years to come, Vampi would be reinterpreted by other publications, whether manga styled or superhero horror,   concepts  that will continually evolve for every generations.

Before Ripley,  Xena, or Buffy,  she was the first female  ass kicker of fantasy horror genre.

By the way ignore the Roger Corman film Vampirella, the campy approach and low (low) budget is an injustice to the idea of the original, in other words it sucks.

 

The Purge

Posted by admin On June - 16 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

Bad Company: Thanks to horribly repetitive horror/suspense films, not every one in America may be proficient at handling disaster drills but no one in this country will hide under the bed during a break-in.

In the tradition of nihilistic not-so-distant future satires the Purge, a right wing American act to deal with interpersonal conflict, legalized manslaughter for 12 hours and somehow that release of aggression has eliminated crime and unemployment for the next 364 days of the year. Ethan Hawke, played James Sandin, an unscrupulous home security salesman who celebrated the Purge like it was the Christmas holiday. Business for home security systems against invaders was never better for those who could afford them. To further draw parallels, the day was commemorated with blue flowers that harkened back to the tradition of putting out poinsettia plants on Christmas. While James Sandin and his wife played by Lena Headey acknowledged the Purge, they were not participants. They chose to stay home, protected by their security, divorcing themselves and their kids from the psychotic, senseless slaughter outside their door. When his naïve son offered shelter to a homeless man fleeing a hunting party during the Purge, the successful suburban American family faced an unpleasant moral dilemma: Sacrifice the homeless man marked for death and guarantee their families lives but lose their dignity and children’s respect. Save the homeless man and take their chances with their lives at stake.

James DeMonaco, director of Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) and The Negotiator is no stranger to Mexican Standoff scenarios where every one with a motive is a threat and no one can be trusted. The build up tension was well played until the siege had begun and the participants were put in motion. From that point, the film steadily de-evolved into a level of predictable, repetitive stupidity more reminiscent in schlock horror but without the dark humor. Missing from the carnal stew was a few slices of well placed socio-political dark humor that director Paul Verhoeven delivered in Starship Troopers and Robocop. Without the humor the story became too concentrated in one area and the film unraveled quickly and clumsily. Still there was just enough with the enticing premise to warrant a sequel where one hopes the morning after the Purge, the writer/director explain how they prevented soaring health care costs and call outs.

As a result, the Purge could have been that bargain worth 5 times its value. Instead, it really was a $4 beer special sold at market price.

Cheers,
Ron

Star Trek Into Darkness

Posted by admin On June - 15 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

Hormones in Space: Young Captain Kirk played by Chris Pine (left) drinks obsessively, sleeps around, and disregards Star Fleet regulations until Admiral Pike played by Bruce Greenwood (right) gives some fatherly advice on how to be a better Captain.

The Romulan Ale fueled fraternity of rule breakers are back, in Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to JJ Abrams’ re-imagining of Star Trek as Animal House meets Star Wars. After having survived a Romulan attack from the future, raw and inexperienced Captain Kirk and his crew have learned very little from the lessons bestowed upon them by Admiral Pike and the elder Spock from the alternate time line. After having survived a near death experience forcing the crew to break the Prime Directive, Kirk and Spock still has trust issues to the point where the younglings aren’t even sure they like each other. To further complicate things, young Spock struggled to balance his duties as a first officer and continuing to dip his pen in company ink with Communications officer Lieutenant Uhura. If that resembled an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 in space, the film was very much an angst ridden tweener drama with shots of Romulan ale if not for a post 9/11 trope that involved two villains, looking to escalate the tension between Starfleet and the Klingon Empire. Unfortunately there are no POV outside of Kirk and Spock to give any fresh insight to make the stand off on the edge of Klingon space more dynamic. Benedict Cumberbatch played the rogue mystery man at the center of the storm. When the money shot of his true identity was unveiled, one should have expected a bewildered, “So What?” from an inexperienced Kirk, a confused, “huh?” from most of the audience born after 1989, and from long time Trekies “Groan.”

Cumberbatch’s performance had a cold, calm, calculating presence but his role was nothing more than a plot device to quicken the pace to a sprint at the end with not a moment to contemplate the meaning behind all the running, shooting, explosions, and screaming. The standout performance was Zachary Quinto as Spock. His performance has elevated Spock as the center of Abrams’ universe. He distinguished himself from Nimoy in that Spock used his cold logic as a defense mechanism to be cruel to his human crewmates. Apparently Vulcans have learned the value of embrace your stereotypes. Chris Pine’s Kirk took a back seat as a punching bag and always 3 steps behind the other superior alien characters. This depiction of a fatherless Kirk was very unlikeable in that he’s just plain foolish at every juncture. Shatner’s Kirk was always a coy, brash young man but he wasn’t stupid. Kirk’s recklessness had a virtue. His ability to provoke his opponent into doing something foolish. Re-imagined Kirk just did the most foolish things without any rhythm or reason. It didn’t seem to be necessary to have Kirk in the Captain’s chair at this point. Something one wonder could very well happen if Pine decides to take on another franchise.

In the last 20 minutes the obligatory fan service was hastily slung around, having ignored plot holes it generated so Abrams could deliver the theatrical climax of a giant vessel rammed through downtown San Francisco that realistically slaughtered thousands. To top that gratuitous scene, a final chase between Spock and his nemesis on top of moving transport ships. When the bad man was put away, there’s cut to a nice speech on a clear day about duties and value in the face of terror that never addressed the fact, Kirk and his crew had to break every rule in Star Fleet bring an end to this conflict.

Captains are supposed to make the ultimate sacrifices for the crew but that was never Kirk’s problem. His problem was putting himself in constant jeopardy that led to others taking the hit. Lost in the ADD of CGI was all the life lessons, which made Star Trek so much more contemplative. Instead, its a look that continues to be shallow. Despite the clean, polished look of the film, I have to rate Star Trek Into Darkness a lite beer. It’s not completely unsavory but it never left me with anything memorable. Instead it made me cherish the original Kirk and Spock even more.

Cheers,

Ron

 

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