Archive for the ‘Pure Popcorn flicks’ Category

Ebert

Posted by Greg Butler On April - 23 - 2013

 

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There’s  more than enough  stuff about Ebert  on the net without me regurgitating the same crap, I’m here to say simply that he was no angel.  At times he could be vindictive, mean spirited  and overly opinionated.  One time he and Gene Siskel  encouraged  viewers  on their  PBS show Sneak Previews, to  letter bomb an actress  for appearing in a schlock horror film ( actors have to eat fellas), despite all that, Ebert championed  international movies as well  created an accessible forum for the average film goers, both in television or print. I didn’t always agree with him, but he certainly maintained the interest of conversation about what movies are or what they can be as cinema.

Thumbs up Roger

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 Expendables 2

Posted by admin On August - 28 - 2012

Real American Hero: Sly and the AARP All-stars once again, answer the bell in the Expendables 2, an upgrade from the original but like a bad 80s porn gets bogged down in frivolous side stories.


by Ronald@thoughtsoncinema.com

Barney Ross and his Howling whiny middle aged Commandos wage war when psychopath mercenary stole a device that can track the plutonium in a lost former Soviet mine to make Iran or any rival to the USA into a nuclear power. The Expendables 2 was a major upgrade over the original Sunday nap, offering a lot of the showmanship and testosterone that long time fans of 80s Gun porn craved. What fans didn’t want, the 80s back story that never added to the ride but really drew it to a creeping halt. Nan Yu as Maggie amplified the sausage fest and reminded us that Stallone’s “Oh woe is me” gimmick has now evolved into a creepy Woody Allen with guns robbing a cradle. There should have been a line about the number of divorces Stallone went through that ultimately forced him to come out of retirement.

The savior of this film was Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean Vill’ain, which was still a better name than Jar Jar Binks. Jean-Claude still had it. The swing kick/knife stunt was classic. His moves were poetry in motion. Van Damme’s panache and theatricality was a steroid injection that this retirement party sequel desperately needed. He was a credible threat amongst the red shirt villains. His cocaine fueled lines were the most enjoyable, “5 kilos of plutonium can change the world, imagine 5 tons…” If that didn’t reek of a deviated septum I don’t know what would be more transparent.

Inside jokes to every actor’s life and lifestyle didn’t stop with Jean-Claude’s lust to sniff Plutonium, Dolph Lundgren’s chemical engineering back ground and his fondness for mixed drinks, and Randy Couture’s cauliflower ear set up some catchy lines and comedic timing. On the other hand, Arnold Schwarzenegger was working off the rust with “I’m Back.”

Perhaps this movie suffered from Stallone’s blind love for that 80s action formula. The first 10 minutes of the Expendables 2 delivered action, explosions, gun porn, exploding heads and right camerawork. The movie should have stuck with one long battle, fighting their way out of the jungle. It would have better complimented the drop in guest star spots by Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, and former governor Schwarzenegger. Instead Stallone tried to plug in the inability to form attachments as the consequence of the lifestyle of a buff lone gun man. Emotional de-tachment was an excellent element if not for the fact there’s no weight pulled as these killers are exchanging catch phrases, cracking jokes at each other’s expense, and having a good ol’ time boozing it up at their watering hole. It’s that glaring flaw that convinced me that some things should remain in the past.

Guiltless gun porn and flaky personal problems have me convinced Expendables 2 is a PBR for nostalgia but nothing you don’t need to make a habit of.

Cheers,
Ron

Drive Angry

Posted by ron On June - 7 - 2011

Like a used carsalesman Drive Angry promised something sweet but sold you a lemon

A man desperate to re-live his glory days of kicking ass and taking names escaped hell for one last ride to oblivion. Drive Angry was the perfect metaphor for Nicolas Cage’s acting career. Cage was once a bad ass Oscar award winning actor who starred in highly acclaimed films such as Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, and Moonstruck. Once his eccentricities got the best of him, he hit rock bottom and he’s taking any role that his agent can deliver in order to stay out of jail for back taxes owed. Unfortunately Drive Angry was not the fun ride that Con Air was destined to be. Instead, it’s about as exciting a film as Driving Miss Daisy.

Perhaps the bigger badass was Amber Heard whose character got punched in the face by her abusive boyfriend and thrown out the back window of a moving RV. Heard had the most fun as she threw more punches than Cage. Heard certainly got a better gig than her limited appearances in Pineapple Express, Zombieland, and Never Back Down.

Director Patrick Lussier was one of a whole generation of directors making movies inspired from pop culture films of yesterday. While he’s not the only one guilty of living off of his inspirations, he’s guilty of failing to take the genre a step further. Drive Angry was a faux Grindhouse film that tried too hard to milk a few camp laughs. When Lussier directed Cage killing bad guys left and right while having sex, someone should have shown him a similar scene in Clive Owen’s Shoot’em Up. Therein lies the problem with a lot of cinema today. There’s only an interest and not a passion to make something worthy of the time and money spent.

As the accountant, William Fichtner played the devil’s right hand man making sure that Cage paid his dues. While Nicolas Cage still has to pay for the debt he owes, the audience shouldn’t have to pay for this film.

Drive Angry rates as a flat beer baking in the summer heat.

Cheers,

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

Hobo with a Shotgun

Posted by ron On May - 23 - 2011

When a homeless man becomes too big of a problem, a small town mob boss brings in 2 bikers fresh from a Gwar concert

Disgusted by the corruption in a small town, a delusional homeless man romanticized a self-righteous killing spree in order to clean up the filth and safe guard a hooker with a heart of gold. Hobo with a Shotgun epitomized the grind house spirit with a shoestring budget, edgy dark humor, spaghetti sauce quality blood splatters, and a cast of characters without any redeeming qualities. Most importantly, Hobo with a Shotgun completed its course without any hope of a sequel, something that other imitators of this genre can’t commit to because of the potential reward of box office gold.

Could this be the unofficial sequel to Ex-CIA agent Nick Randall after hunting down Malak Al Rahim, played by Gene Simmons of KISS?

Director Jason Eisener followed through with his faux trailer back when Tarantino & Rodriguez’s Grind house double feature debuted in 2007. Tarantino admitted that Grind house was a humbling experience. It’s easy to understand why. Too much refinement loses the point of making a low budget film in the first place The spirit of grind house films was always derived from a handicapped budget generating clever improvisation that promote personality & laughs to win over the audience. In essence, digging deeper can lead to a greater upside. A fan of 70s revenge films and Troma independent films, Eisener succeeded in drawing from his inspiration and producing a film that conjured an impression without blatantly pay homage to them.

While Rutger Hauer lent his star to headline the movie and draw some buzz, it’s the performances of Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman who stole the show as a demented duo with no remorse for their victims. Studying manic behaviors of a young Tom Cruise and Christian Bale, over the top performances were appropriate especially in a facetious scene involving a school bus. A pop culture icon, Rutger Hauer still had a little left in the gas tank. Perhaps, he channeled his 1986 character Nick Randall in Wanted: Dead or Alive. Similarly, an unhinged character who also went on a killing spree in search of Gene Simmons who played an Osama Bin Laden-eque character. Yes, a key member of the band KISS did in fact play a militant Muslim leader who for no reason blew up a few random spots in a small downtown area. To add more panache, a pair of scary looking Road Warriors dressed up in a medieval biker outfit dragging a coffin behind them also complimented the cast.

As Hobo with a Shotgun reached its bloody crescendo, the symphony of camp violence prepared the audience well for its final act. In today’s trend towards 3-D IMAX and overpriced tickets, it delivered the same amount of entertainment with modest production value.

Hobo with a Shotgun rates a shot of bourbon for it’s filthy sadistic guilty pleasures and amoral laughs.

Cheers,

Freshness!!!!

Ron

 

Priest

Posted by ron On May - 16 - 2011

No bible salesman, Paul Bettany played the man with no name but one humongous marker on his face

An unemployed fighting monk defied the Catholic Church in order to reconcile with a missing person whose ties go back before his days fighting vampires. Loosely based off the manga, Priest was futuristic martial arts Western where science met supernatural. Beneath this thick as pea soup mixture of genres was a tale about faith and compassion but too much self-indulgent homage to influential genres prevented the development of character depth. Thus, the story could never move forward with any emotional stakes.

Paul Bettany continued his desperate bid to become a super human character. Much like Legion, he has no material to breathe life into one dimensional character designed to look and act like a stone cold vampire killer but very little levity into the motivations of the character and why he would remain so conflicted with the Church that took away so many years of his life.

Karl Urban and Maggie Q had even less to work with as themes of forbidden repressed love, respect, and rivalry are shoehorned into the film and resolved in less than 5 minutes with a flashback scene.

This film had more questions than it had answers. Where did the very alien looking vampires come from? How did the Catholic Church adopt Martial Arts in their war against the Vampires? How does the Church know who was gifted enough to be a Priest? Why would they retire the Priests with so many people in need? What do the Priests have within them that made them more powerful than the vampires? How does this society operate? Why does the walled city of the Church always produce ash to the point of blocking out the sun? Never mind, this was a story with religious themes. Where does God play into this story? As more questions grew, it became clear that this film was more of a product in form than function.

Perhaps the biggest question is, are there any redeeming factors in this film? The 2-D animation benefited from the added postproduction 3-D effects and might be the best way to save old school animation cell techniques. Hopefully, one observant person picked it out and will use that to promote better thought out ideas. Alas, Priest had very little recognizable characteristics of a vampire hunter story outside of the obvious crucifix and one scene showing a Nosferatu looking queen. By the time the vampires’ plot was revealed, it had little resemblance to a Western as well. With acting faxed in from a bad Xerox copy, this film was the equivalent of Castlevania 3000.

If I had to rate Priest, it’s a lukewarm pint on a humid day. That is, it never quenched your thirst but on a dry unbearable day with no alternative and your last dollar on the table, you’ll take it.

Cheers,
Ron

Thor

Posted by ron On May - 8 - 2011


The harder sell in the movie Thor was not the CGI but convincing us that a winner of the genetic lottery, Natalie Portman had a hard time finding a decent guy. By decent she meant, a beefcake straight from the cover of Playgirl magazine.

The Gods are angry and there will be hell to pay in the movie Thor directed by Shakespearean legend, Kenneth Branagh. In a house of two princes, the relationship between two worlds will once again, come into play as a banished warmongering young prince learned nobility wasn’t a birthright but earned through peace and understanding.

Branagh’s film might not be of the classical comic book interpretation of Thor but he did succeed in creating a credible interpretation of his own, a super hero tale of romance. He channeled his Shakespearian stage play experience into decent dialogue that epitomized rhythmic wordy monologue derived from comic books. As the All Father Odin, Anthony Hopkins set the tone having established a regal presence within these characters by carefully weighing his words with every breath. Chris Hemsworth worked within his limitations but it was Ray Stevenson as Volstagg who was one line away from bellowing, “What’s in your wallet?” Within the realm of Asgard, these ornate caped warriors are convincing as something one would see at the Metropolitan Opera. The transition of taking these characters and putting them into the world an audience might relate to wasn’t quite as seamless but Branagh did spare his audience the obligatory, “You must be European…”

Screenwriters Ashley Miller and Zach Stentz best known for their work on Agent Cody Banks weren’t very efficient in terms of balancing out the scenes between Asgard and Midgard headed into the second and third act. The time and care invested to make the budding romance between Thor and Jane Foster credible was not as caring when it came to the Odin sleep and Loki’s somewhat convoluted plot.
As the brilliant astrophysicist Jane Foster who can’t drive, Natalie Portman worked well with the limited material as a giggly girl who hasn’t met many desired beefcakes. Arguably more wasted talent than Rene Russo’s appearance was Kat Dennings who played a useless demographic named Darcy. She was an intentional character shoehorned into the story to provide campy laugh every time the studio execs feared Thor might turn its audience off by taking itself a little too seriously. Gotta ask, was Hilary Duff too busy at the time?

Thor faltered in the last act. The much hyped battle against the Destroyer was over before it even started. Loki’s lie within a lie within a lie just had too many plot points that didn’t make any sense. It was the plot equivalent of Bernie Madoff lying to his investors in order to gain the presidency by dooming those evil rich people. Silly and misguided, one wondered if the god of lies and mischief lied to himself. Thankfully, the film never wasted too much time with super villain explanations. Instead, it’s one hammer strike away from the credits.

Thor rates a Strong Bow cider. Sweet tasting and easy going down so long as you don’t get too carried away trying to make sense of it.

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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