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

 

Sinister

Posted by Greg Butler On June - 4 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

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.

Iron Man 3

Posted by admin On May - 27 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

Lethal Weapons: Tony Stark made a bold statement on drone protection, unfortunately it winced from committing to a resolution on Homeland protection with fireworks and a rainbow ending in Iron Man 3.

Having faced intergalactic terrorism that created incalculable casualties and leveled NYC, Iron Man 3 examined how the constant daily threat to the homeland has taken its toll on Tony Stark’s psyche as his nightmares have become reality and unless he can come up with an answer, he might find himself unprepared in coming face to face with newest threat to national security in the Mandarin. Directed by Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black, his third act served as a looking glass where the POV of Tony Stark and the love of his life Pepper Potts are juxtaposed with two different takes in the post 9/11 world. From Tony’s perspective, life can never go back to normal. The threat will always be there and so he will continue to build and build his drone weaponry in a bomb shelter under his Malibu home. From Pepper’s perspective, life went on uninterrupted, business as usual and the battle for NYC on TV was so polarizing the extraterrestrial attack might as well have taken place someplace in Bangladesh. Unfortunately for Pepper, Tony brought the threat home the minute he taunted The Mandarin, a shadowy fiend who has a knack for being one step ahead of the US military. Similar to Kiss, Kiss Bang Bang, director Shane Black expertly used the narrative to keep Tony Stark’s thoughts connected to the story as each subsequent event unfolded. As a result, Tony Stark became a more evolved, stronger complex character but unfortunately his armor did not make that transition. In the first two films, the arc reactor technology was what separated Tony from his competitors to turn suits of armor into the next weapon of mass destruction. Why did Tony move away from the technology that was so sought after? Why did he accept a replacement that had him running out of power constantly through out the movie. Why didn’t Tony utilize the Iron Army when his prototype armor malfunctioned as the siege on his house was being laid? Or when he needed to infiltrate the villain’s lair? How come Tony’s Bluetooth to Jarvis never ran out of power but his suits constantly malfunctioned? How come all of his suits show no variation in weaponry? How did one of the villains figure out how to pilot the Iron Patriot suit without all the passwords and more importantly how was it remote controlled without Tony or Rhodey’s input? Why does Extremis make human beings heat up and why can’t Tony remember he unlocked the genetic equation? As dynamic as the sets and stunt work were, the cost was creating quite a few plot holes that any Iron Man fan can point out without working up a sweat. That said, Iron Man 3 was a thrill ride with one too many plot twists but it’s not for comic book fans familiar with the Five Nightmares, Demon, and Extremis. For that reason, I must rate Iron Man 3, a lite beer that won’t hurt you to see but definitely won’t leave much of a lasting impression as the Summer Blockbusters continue to come off the assembly line.

Cheers,
Ron

 

 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Posted by Greg Butler On May - 20 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

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 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

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 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

 

 

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 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

 

 

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.

Ebert

Posted by Greg Butler On April - 23 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

 

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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 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

©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 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

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.

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