Archive for the ‘2nd Take’ Category

Skyfall

Posted by Greg Butler On July - 16 - 2013

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.

 

 

Vampirella

Posted by Greg Butler On June - 17 - 2013

 

“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.

 

Sinister

Posted by Greg Butler On June - 4 - 2013

sinister stills, summit entertainment, ethan Hawke

Oh what has Paranormal Activity has wrought.

 

With apparently no end in sight, the “found footage” ploy rears it’s over used head again in Scott Derrickson’s Sinister. The approach this time around  is to combine it with back to basic  film narrative as the story plods along. There is however a wonderfully eerie scene at the beginning with an old  Super 8 film shooting  from a distance. A  family of four, hooded and bound, slowly being hanged from a tree mysteriously. Bodies in marionette motion, dances silently in the air before coming still. Losing that effective momentum,  the movie jets ahead to the present as a new family  moves  into a house,  headed by a once successful crime novelist Ellison (Ethan Hawke).  Unbeknownst to his wife  Tracey ( Juliet  Rylance) and the kids, the previous tenants were murdered of which Ellison is secretly researching for hopefully his next bestseller. In the attic he discovers a set of  Super 8 films (yea you know where this is headed), each depicting the gruesome demise of other families in different fashion.  Upon a second viewing, because we know once is not enough, a spectral visage appears in the background.  Rather than turning over the found evidence to the local authorities,  he splices, edits and digitally downloads the films to his computer ( a expertise not seen since Spielberg first picked up a camera)  consults a professor of the occult Vincent D ‘Onofrio (clearly doing a cameo cash grab here), who tries to keep the story on track..sort of.

The snuff footage is  effective but directer   Derrickson doesn’t have a follow up to sustain it, it’s all the cliches of movie horror past–overly long with a meandering third act. Having Hawke’s character wander three times around a darken house, without the common sense to turn on a light switch for at least two of the occasion is  redundantly clumsy. By the way the demon that shows up serves no  purpose other than what not to wear next Halloween.

I give this a domestic beer served at room temperature.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Posted by Greg Butler On May - 20 - 2013

GREAT MOMENTS IN HISTORY——– At the risk of losing my critic credential; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was an enjoyable quasi/ what if our fore father of emancipation was axe choppin’ blood suckers all the way to the Gettysburg address. Traumatized as a boy when mother Nancy is murdered by a vampire, he dedicates his life the to find the monster responsible.

A grown Abraham (Benjamin Walker) pursuing an unsuccessful vendetta  results in him being taught by a mysterious mentor Henry Sturges (Rufus Sewell), training/guiding Lincoln to the appropriate kills, which will lead to a revelation that will determine his destiny and country. Of course with that scenario, there is more things stirring under the stove top hat than what appears.  Fight sequences  are pumped non-stop with adrenaline,  followed by a climatic train sequence that is so outrageous and exciting, it actually puts present action flicks to shame.

The Movie is a romp, no more than the Abbott & Costello films was about their Universal monsters in the 40′s. The CGI is just as excessive as any Evil Resident franchise, but here unlike those, the approach is more goofy fun than hardcore serious. It strikes with just amount of camp in relation to the bloodletting violence.  Director  Tim Bekmambetov  with screenwriter Seth Grahame- Smith makes no excuses, Your here to enjoy the outlandishness, and to the subjects credit it gets my vote.

I give this two glasses of  Blanton’s original barrel with a light wheat beer.

Megan is Missing (2011)

Posted by Greg Butler On May - 13 - 2013

A self styled docu-drama detailing the horrors of cyber abduction and murder . Using found footage of taped dairies and news clips, the story chronicles the disappearances of  two young social outcasts being seduced by an internet stranger.  Although the movie’s heart is in the right place, the presentation of evidence becomes scripted as opposed to being in the moment. In one scene the directer  Micheal Goi makes the mistake of having a third video viewpoint shot by someone else, practically following the girls at a wild party. Trying to truncate both of the characters social and personal status in one event hurts the genuine approach to realism. Another problem are the extras or friends of Megan,  reused again in news interviews and other areas in the movie, not bad if it was situation television, but it becomes comic seeing the same people again.

The stalker in this piece skulks around like Micheal Myers from Halloween, He’s so good at being beyond visual range, you wonder if it’s  another in the long line of Criminal Minds episodes.

The final twenty minutes is grueling as we get the killer’s filmography of his crime, I’m really not sure what to take from this, admittedly there elements of truth based on actual cases, but it comes off phony and a bit gratuitous here.

I give this two  house whiskeys,  at best average.

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. 

 

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