Archive for the ‘2nd Take’ Category

Island of lost souls (1932)

Posted by Greg Butler On May - 6 - 2013

 

 

In terms of black and white horror films, few come close to the visceral impact  it had in its time and still  does today. The story starts off simply, Edward (Richard Arlen) is a survivor of a ship accident  only to be picked up and stranded on a island resided by Doctor Moreau (Charles laughton). He soon learns that the good doctor has been genetically transforming animals into advanced human beings. The results as with all crazy experiments, is less than successful. The rejects are banished to a secluded side of the island to fend for themselves. To maintain a sense of order, Moreau cracks the whip (literally)commanding a repeated mantra of his demands “What is the law?!”) reminding them of the place they were borne from; “the house of pain”). In a later sequence we see an example of this as a hybrid strapped to an operation table, howls in anguish as the doctor coldly dismisses his agony as another clinical  failure.

Bela Lugosi (before Tod Brownings, Dracula) is the village sayer of the tribe, oddly not knowing enough English off screen,   the phonetic dialogue comes off  extremely alien and effective on screen.

Laughton is definitely  the treat here. Imposing in his white seersucker Congo suit, he is the epitome of what mad scientists should strive for.  Another staged entry is the heroine (Lelia Hyams) introduction. At a shipping port, she is relieved to find her husband alive via a posted notice. She walks away relieved and gratified, as the busy activities on the street divide in front, It’s serenely graceful, a prelude of terrors to come.

Jack Pierce the make up artist must be especially noted. The Rick baker , Rob  Bottin and Dick Smith of his day. The FX  applied to the creatures are restrained, something later remakes would over indulge. It wasn’t  about what the beasts were or becoming, but the results that went awry in  between.

Director  Erle Kenton ratchets up the atmosphere  with dread  before going full throttle at the memorable  end.

I give this your best  four shot Russian vodka  with a smooth wheat beer as a chaser.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010

Posted by Greg Butler On April - 29 - 2013

 

 

Wes Craven created a booming franchise with the iconic horror monster Freddy Kruger, a phantasmal killer with homemade razor claws to slash the many cannon fodder teens unlucky enough to get in his way. Several mediocre sequels and a failed anthology TV series later, we see the inevitable reboot of the series in this DVD release.  In this version we get an added origin of sorts as Kruger, with the silly point of him being a notorious pedophile (which adds nothing to the  story, but it’s there in case murder wasn’t evil enough)  is chased down and burned alive by the irate parents. Of course with every evil character, he survives to wreak revenge on the grown kiddies of the next generation. Asides the emphasis on the origin, movie pretty much sticks quite close to the original, But where Craven took his cues by emulating  EC horror comics of the 50′s, giving it a fun, garish and gory style, this imagining takes itself too seriously, losing the comic aspects of what made the first Nightmare so memorable. I would cite the performances, but the truth of the matter is, all of it was just serviceable, the 80′s version had this acting awkwardness  that added to it’s goofy charm,  in comparison the new version seems mechanical and very lethargic, offering nothing more than another gussied up retread to get your attention.

I give this a very warm, domestic beer with a big nasty fly in it.

Dracula (1979)

Posted by Greg Butler On April - 8 - 2013

©Universal Pictures / Everett Collection

Director John Badham Romanizes up the count in this adaption of Dracula.  Loosely  adhering to the novel  by Bram Stoker,  Count Dracula ( Frank langella) arrives from Transylvania to England to settle some property affairs where he is taken by the somewhat Goth sounding  Lucy Seward( a fetching Kate Nelligan) , during  a dinner party held by  her by father  Jack Seward (Donald Pleasence).  Despite the tragic events to parade later on, the batwings…I mean the sparks fly as Dracula and a very willing Lucy engage in a romantic interlude, despite her involvement with Jonathan Harker (Trevor Eve). All this leads up to Abraham Van Helsing (Lawrence Olivier) to question the nature of the count while investigating his daughter’s mysterious death. Suspicions are later confirmed and the battle for Lucy’s soul becomes paramount.

By far the production is done well and the actors are on point, practically Langella being such a sexy beast. Olivier doesn’t fare as well; his Van Helsing is a cackling character. He spews his dialogue in overly done accent, which reveals more ham acting than acting. Badham updates the tone of the film to be more modern in tempo, there’s actually a chase scene by horse driven wagon and car that would seem reminiscent of 70’s cop movies than a horror or a gothic romance flick.  The love sequence is another forced scene, with the principle characters is silhouetted against a reddish background, while a bat flaps in and out of the picture.  Add John William’s over ripe score and the mixture seems slightly contrived not organic. What’s missing is the lustful eroticism of the Hammer films that dealt with the same subject; this seems tame, not bad by any stretch, but not as hot as it could have been.

I give this two mild bloody marys.

Captain America

Posted by Greg Butler On March - 25 - 2013

Captain America: The First Avenger 4fa6cb6bcdc388ed13f5f68a

 

 

A dedicated but scrawny and sickly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans rebooted from the Fantastic Four) agrees to go through an experimental serum that would transform him into the Iconic, flag waving Captain America. Another in the never ending stable of superhero adaptation for the geek squad

Cap is the counterpoint to the evil Red Skull, played in cackling 101 Nazi-ness by Hugo Weaving.

The film jets back and forth between Captain being used as a prop to sell war bonds, all the while the Skull develops weapons of mass destruction, and trying to tap into the power of  a rubic shaped cosmic cube, imbued with the powers of the Gods (Don’t ask).

The military and especially Colonel Chester Phillip (Tommy Lee Jones phoning this one in from his sleep) have doubts and trepidation about losing their lab rat Captain to the front lines, But help by boring love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and a suave Millionaire inventor Howard Stark ( father of Tony Stark’s Iron man), fly Rogers into enemy territory where he rescues  friend Bucky Barnes ( Sebastian Stan) as well as hundreds of other military prisoners, proving he’s more than a road show commercial. This pushes the evitable confrontation to come between Captain America and the Red Skull.

 

Sounds good on paper, but on film, not much to cheer about.

 

Director Joe Johnston seems clueless in how to make a memorable battle, Action scenes are stitched together with no rhythm, and its all run, punch, leap, surrounded by a background of things exploding. The hero’s trademark speeches of American values while kicking ass, is muted for political correctness for the international film market. He’s just a guy in blue tights that just wants to help out.

Hugo Weaving doesn’t fair much better as the Red Skull, with old school villainy and no dynamic personality to really make him interesting, the trick relies on selling the trademark disfigurement as a makeup gimmick to keep you from not being bored and even that carries no weight, unlike the horrid visage of Nolan’s Two- face from The Dark night. It’s simply a marketing mask for this year’s Halloween.

Probably the biggest issue is Chris Evans as the titled character, he’s plain as un-buttered toast, the Captain is so bland, as to being nonexistent, and in some ways the film is simply a prelude to the video game, although from what I heard, it wasn’t much better.

Insidious

Posted by Greg Butler On March - 18 - 2013

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne

Someone tell Hollywood producers to put a hold on that Poltergeist remake they were thinking of doing, while they’re at  it put a kibosh  on the Nightmare on Elm street reboot,  director James Wan managed to patch together more than a few over used tropes to create this somewhat promising but utterly disappointing fright flick.

A direct template from Poltergeist but substituting a child as the source of the problem instead of a dwelling, the Lambert parents (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), go through the usual nine yards of haunting as par in all ghostly films. Calling in the ghost busting experts. Wan makes the mistake of trivializing the events for cheap laughs as the investigators bumble their way in a nerd like stereotypes. Compounding the tone even more, the plot point psychic Elise (Lin Shaye) show up. In one sequence a séance is conducted on the son (Ty Simpkins), in ludicrous but effective moment. Elise dons a long nosed snorkel attached to a machine of tiny flash bulbs that pop off in frequency when a paranormal event is approaching, all the while breathing Darth Vader like whenever we come back to her point of view. By the time we get to the final shot, the ending pompously pushes for a sequel.

To Wans credit, he ratchets up the eeriness of the film and less CGI driven gore, but falls prey to familiar motifs and a unsure hand in maintaining the seriousness or the humor within the material

I give this a decent domesticated beer; follow by a mediocre shot of house whiskey. 

 

The Avengers

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012

The A-team: When the going gets tough, Robert Downey Jr & company get going in the Avengers.

The Avengers Review by Ronald H. Pollock
When the Norse god of thunder’s mis-behaving step-brother Loki, god of mischief returns to Earth armed with a mind control infinity gem, a ruthless alien army, and swipes an artifact of immearsurable power, the hand of a American super spy Nick Fury, director of SHIELD was forced to assemble a freaky Homeland Security version of neighborhood watch, called the Avengers.

The movie itself wasn’t far from the initial concept that Marvel sold for 12 cents back in 1963. Discovering a new way to market some of their landmark characters from various titles by creating an All-Star team to boost sales even further. That business model hasn’t changed a bit today. Marvel studios produced individual character driven films starring Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America to construct/develop this fantastical comic book world of heroes. The Avengers is the culmination of all these character driven films, now under one roof.

In the past studios, fans and the media have always talked about a super hero team movie but it has been very hard to fathom this possibility because technology, character introduction and development, story, and tone always seemed to be a bridge too far. For long suffering comic book fans ages 35+ a “good” super hero team film was a difficult have faith because of a long history of misfires and horrific attempts. So it’s no surprise that there was an underlying feeling of skepticism.

Director Joss Whedon credited as the father of fan driven TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse did arguably the best job any director could have done. He captured the tone without cheesy winks to the camera, gave all the headliners their due while getting the most out of secondary characters such as the Black Widow, made the third actor to play Hulk relevant, and placed his faith in Tom Hiddelson as Loki to serve as the chain, grease, and spit to all of these moving parts.

For a thirty year comic book collector, the Avengers is the pinnacle of super hero movie making in terms of capturing the qualities of a comic book that being action, imagination and merging it with themes in more serious dramas such as empathy, acceptance, dysfunction, and emotion. It’s the emotional residual of differences put aside to serve a higher cause that inspires both comic book and non-comic book fans alike. That is a more difficult task than it looks. Nonetheless, Marvel has done what many would have said, was impossible.

The Avengers rates a fine wine of 5 yrs for fond memories, punch, and good laughs with friends.

 

The Hunger Games

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012

The Hunter or Hunted? Jennifer Lawrence plays the girl on fire and the eye of affection of potentially 2 suitors.

Take the military draft, TV reality game shows blender them together with sprinkles of films like Logan’s Run,  Running Man and out pours this purée called the Hunger Games.  Its been often said, its not whether or not you win or lose but how you play the game. In The Hunger Games how you play the game, translates to how you win or survive. A dystopian future that suppressed hope and change through social media culture and more importantly made a statement about how the public perceives things juxtaposed against the realities of this world.

 

Since her father died Katniss Everdeen, the film’s main patriarch developed a tom boy attitude and a temper to match. A fancy name for a not so fancy girl played by Jennifer Lawrence lived in District 10, a mining town that more closely resembled a shanty town. When her younger sister was drafted into the Olympics of death more affectionately referred to as the Hunger Games Katniss volunteered, hoping it would give her sister a chance for a longer life than hers.

 

As with any youthful, angst ridden vehicle, there must be a male foil. In the Hunger Games there are two.  One is Peeta, a bakery’s son of untapped talent and strength. He’s both Katniss’ foil and her more even keeled emotionally balanced equal. There’s nothing in the film to indicate how the son of a baker was never as Naive as Katniss about the Hunger Games in terms of how the games are won.

 

 

 

Not having Katniss’ inner thoughts.

 

The flaws of the Hunger games was never more apparent than Peeta who is supposed to be a living chameleon of personality.

GR Spirit of Vengeance

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012

He may not know karate but Nic Cage knows Craaazy in Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

 

Take 2 Review by Ronald H. Pollock

A young woman named Nadya who ran with the wrong crowd sold her soul to the devil in order to give birth to a good son but the devil always wants his due. Like all lost souls with no cards to play, Nadya played by the American’s Violante Placido entrusted her son’s safety with an alcoholic French priest played by Idris Elba. I’m guessing the Catholic Church has researched the probability entrusting the safety of the world with a drunken guardian. This situation adds up to desperation and peril pureed on a heap of trouble. Like a bat out of hell, Nicolas Cage resumed his role as the cursed vagabond Johnny Blaze and hit the road again, as the spirit of vengeance in the follow up to the unremarkable 2007 film directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance directed by Crank’s Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor amped up some of the chase scenes, confrontations, and certainly captures the uncontrollable cruelty of a demon that is barely controlled by its human host. At NYCC 2011 panel, the dynamic duel of gourmet gorilla indy style directing promised a lot of unorthodox shots and effects. They certainly delivered. When the action starts, the stuntwork was incredible and fit the décor of a comic book-esque violence.

A mis-marketed property based on a marginally popular comic book character, Ghost Rider returns to the big screen in what can be conceived as a “comme ci, Comme ca” sequel to the original. Marvel has never been very consistent with the Ghost Rider property. He’s kind of like the Hulk meets Easy Rider. He had the worst rogues Gallery: Water Wizard, Eyeball.

However the story was horribly generic. Why would the devil need a young body of an unremarkable child when there are other bodies more attractive to take over the world in? Like Donald Trump’s children or even Snooki holds more clout. No it has to be ONE kid who doesn’t have one red cent to his name.

One scene that didn’t fit in a conventional movie plot but what was definitely conveyed by the directors, a love of riding motorcycles and the freedom of the open road. The camera angles, the lighting, and feeling of going fast and having fun was more than adequate giving this sense of happiness before every thing goes to hell. It was meditative and spiritual in an Easy Rider tribute.

What didn’t work was Blaze’s whining, some silly scene with fighting gun porn monks to give Christopher Lambert some coin. Ghost Rider was missing 1 or 2 transitional scenes or beats to really eccentuate that this wicked demon can do so much damage that good nor evil wants to mess with it. Peeing fire should have inspired more acts of badness. Instead it’s literally a fantasy in every one’s head including the young boy.

Ghost Rider Spirits of Vengeance ranks a $5 beer tap special in Manhattan at your local watering hole.

-Ron

The Goonies

Posted by ron On May - 24 - 2011

Like tourists attempting to decipher the MTA Subway map, Mikey & the Goonies try to read a Pirate treasure map that has baffled experts for decades.

The Subprime Mortgage Crisis was solved in 1985

Their small town on the verge of foreclosure, kids race against time in hopes of uncovering buried pirate treasure in order to save not only their community but also their childhood. In 1985, Goonies was the greatest pirate adventure for kids. Inspired by the Errol Flynn era of swashbuckling, writers Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus managed to create a modern adventure that incorporated a childhood sense of wonder with Pirate legends but more importantly a sense of naïve desperation and motivation to these characters.

A Roller Coaster ride not meant to top itself but to ensure you had a good time

Director Richard Donner delivered a theme park ride that was one part Indiana Jones, one-part Pirates of the Caribbean, and two parts local water slide. The level of special effects weren’t just dated but vintage. It still served as part of the film’s charm even 26 yrs later. The look made the sets atmospheric but didn’t make the audience question the sense of sending kids to brave lethal booby traps and murderous criminals. It was supposed to be a fun film for kids despite having a use for a murderous Frattelli family as the main antagonist.

Not Quite the Brat pack of the 80s but more like the Outsiders

Anne Ramsey's scowls and brutal honesty delivered some of the biggest laughs

The youthful talents of Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jonathan Ke Quan, and the infamous Corey Feldman nurtured the script by delivering playful laughs. The audience had to be on board because there was a selling point for going through all this trouble to risk their lives without telling their parents. Like so many films in the 80s caricatures of jocks, geeks, and cheerleaders wore typecast outfits as part of a design. There’s even a mutant that somehow fit into the act. The film manipulated the audience but it retained the Spielberg value of nonjudgmental childhood naivety and compassion. At the bottom of a well, “Mikey” Walsh, played by Astin delivered the film’s geeky inspirational speech that served as the defining moment of the film. Like those flamboyant and bold buccaneers, they were outcasts as well. Despite all their geeky differences they accepted each other for who they were. Not even deadly booby traps and a bank were going to break that bond.

The toughest sell today is not necessarily making an ending happy or sad but a satisfying one

The poster child for pregnancy after age 70, Chunk was the last fail safe plot device in case you didn't get the point of the movie.

Like most 80s films, Goonies was a product of its time. The good guys won, the bad guys were punished, and no one was hurt. The film ended on a high note as it was designed to deliver entertainment. Hopefully, the audience understood that there’s a heart to this film that continues to make it revered almost 3 decades after it left theaters.

As cliché as it sounds, The Goonies easily rates a generous self-serving bottle of rum.

Cheers,

Where's the goddam Rum?!

Ron

Tron Legacy

Posted by ron On April - 26 - 2011


Bring on the bad guys! Jeff Bridges does double duty much to our delight in Tron Legacy.

When Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) said, he made a discovery that was going to change every thing from medicine to religion, I thought he was referring to Disney’s attempt to ante’ up the precedent that Avatar had set. After all, the Christmas break has unofficially become the new summer blockbuster season from which, studios try to leech whatever disposable income was left after buying presents in an effort to push new technology that translated to higher movie ticket prices. Case in point, the average ticket in Manhattan was $14.25 before Avatar’s 3-D pushed the price to $20. Nearly a $6 increase per ticket. For a family of three, that’s $60 in the hole before even glancing at the concession stands. So after two years of hype, Tron Legacy was supposed to keep the fires burning for another season. Domestically Tron Legacy did not break boundaries. Via Box Office Mojo, Legacy grossed $172M with a production cost of $170M. Thanks to international and blu-ray sales, Legacy will spawn another sequel. Whether or not it will screen better is cloudy with a chance of backfire.

 

Kevin Flynn had been missing for two decades until Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) received a page from Flynn’s old office within the infamous arcade. Don’t ask why Alan, the creator of Tron, never bothered to look inside the grid but Disney was hoping you’d forget about that egregious plot hole. He decided to tell Kevin’s son, Sam Flynn what he had received and decided to allow him to search for his dad. As Sam followed his father’s footsteps into the grid, he discovered for himself that it’s more nightmarish and less adventurous than his dad had led him to believe. The result was a film that was largely uneven because it tried to be too many things, philosophical, theoretical, spiritual, and action packed.

 

Legacy delivered the visionary world of Tron on an unprecedented level utilizing CGI that the original could never dream to achieve. Deadly discs, light cycles, and light jets equated to multi-level, overly complex and visually stunning imagery that epitomized every gamer’s wet dream. It definitely took Tron to the next level but that’s not where the movie began to ‘derezz.’

 

Much like its predecessor, Tron Legacy tried to push the envelope by integrating a deeper science fiction component to the film. Does total freedom of information require giving up individuality and individual freedoms that western civilization holds dear? The idea of how using information for own personal cultivation brought about imperfection and dyslinear balance was the perfection that Kevin Flynn was looking for but his CLU identity could never understand. Neither could the audience. Like a Philip K. Dick novel, this topic is fret with deep philosophical and socioeconomic jargon that any nerd appreciated. Can it work as a film? Director Joseph Kosinski tried unsuccessfully to flesh the abstract component of Tron Legacy but such deep ideas idea aren’t always filmable especially when your producer was trying to sell toys, video games, posters, and good looking movie stars.

 

Once again, Jeff Bridges continued his streak of brilliant acting. He played both sides of the coin with great panache and sage wisdom. As Clu, Bridges’ CGI-ed youth showed no rust as it represented Flynn’s ego and overachieving will power gone mad. As Kevin Flynn, Bridges’ aged expressions expressed the appropriate vulnerability towards his son as he tried to make atones for his sins both in the real world and the grid. By far, the strongest narrative in the film was the Flynn character coming full circle with his legacy, ambition, and his tragic flaws. When his reach overextended his grasp, he paid the price. Tron Legacy was the ultimate inquiry into the soul of humanity in the modern age. Our bodies cannot possibly live long enough to satisfy the human desire to finish what we started. Is our immortality within the machines we created? A good question worth pondering on the way out of the cinema.

 

If I had to rate Tron Legacy, I’d give it well-aged Bourbon. Lively taste then a subtle after taste that makes you rethink what you had before taking another taste to fully enjoy it on another level.

 

Cheers,

Ron

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Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief

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