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.

Insidious

Posted by Greg Butler On March - 18 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

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. 

 

NYCC Final Thoughts 3

Posted by admin On October - 15 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

FINAL THOUGHTS ON NYCC 2012


1. DC Comics places ALL its hopes on Scott Snyder to restore Superman to prominence:

Canceling DC Nation to 2013, Putting American Vampire on hiatus after the next few issues…it’s clear DC is putting ALL hands on deck to put their A-list property back on track. I wonder if that’s even possible? We’re such a cynical society, we can never believe someone with absolute power can be for us. Maybe it’s not the writers who can’t get Superman but the comic book fans?

2. Doesn’t matter if something is good, so long as it makes you happy:

Some of the stupidest systems for signings (Thurs you were supposed to get wrist bands at Marvel or DC that were not guaranteed on unless you had VIP tickets for $700) that allowed for scalpers to get signings and then SELL their bands afterwards…it was so bad, Robert Kirkman HAD to apologize for the lines at the Image panel and would seek a BETTER system at Image table next year. That did not deter a 17 year old girl who was a fan of Brian K. Vaughn from suffering in a line for 1hr 45 min to get ONE book signed.

There’s a LOT of devout love for comic books at NYCC. Proven by the lack of movie star power from last year’s Con. The numbers INCREASED without hype of Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Cap 2, or Guardians of the Galaxy. This town LOVES comics.

3. Movies didn’t save comics, Comics will SAVE movies

Don’t take my word for it, take the word of Del Toro who will publish the Pacific Rim comic book as a means of fleshing out this world before his movie debuts. Legendary Pictures is wise to sign Grant Morrison, Matt Wagner, etc to their comics studio because it is inexpensive when you consider they can patent NEW franchises without having to pay royalties to DC as they did to produce: the Dark Knight trilogy, 300, Watchmen, and Man of Steel.

4. Video Game Industry will make the eyes of the world turn towards NYCC

You NEED a hook to bring people to the dance. Video games are so much more how interactivity of media influences youth that I am glad video games are a part of NYCC. It’s their funding that is continuing to make this con more successful and bigger every year. If only the crowd control and spacing of the Con was as much up to par.

5. Next Year’s Hopes and Dreams for NYCC

Can Peter Jackson bring some love to NYCC since his movie debuts in December? December is the new May for big films and I am shocked Hollywood would give the stink eye to NYC. Wait, this IS LA I can imagine it but how much of a stupid loss is it to ignore one of the hugest meccas for media on the planet? Something has gotta give, it’s WAY too open for someone to step in.

NYCC 2012: Thursday Preview Night

Posted by admin On October - 12 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Don’t get used to the lobby of the Jacobs Javits Convention center to look like that come Friday, Saturday Sunday. NYCC has sold an estimated 200,000 badges.

Thursday is preview night, it’s a chance to walk the grounds before they semble a massive orgy of nerd sweat and anxiety. Originally exclusive to the press, now VIP badges and 4 days can maneuver to get an early start on their geeky fix.

 

Just an altogether smarter move to integrate the anime and manga inspired properties between the PS, X-Box, and Nintendo DS booths. Previous cons, the anime/manga component was so alienated, now it feels a much better blend.

There Will be Games! Last year, the video game industry exerted his power in the geek community and controlled the younger crowd for most of the 4 days. Can’t see that changing this year…

Just shut up and play: Halo 4 ’nuff said.

If the Halo lines are too overwhelming, don’t be surprised if you are shit out of luck with God of War Ascension.

 

The battle over the handheld was very prominent…

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Can Sony turn the tables sooner than later?

Remember what Louis CK was saying about Cinnebon? Not even Steve Rogers could resist feeling bad…

Merchandise! Capitalism! Smell the commerce in the air!

Brian Azzarello giving me a look after I asked, “So you wrote that the Amazons legalized date rape and 86-ed birth control?” Works for me because Wonder Woman is the second best title DC comics has going for itself since the relaunch…

More to come…

Did someone say comics? Beware the new rules with signings are a bitch as they require you to ask for a band first…and the earlier the better for you to get them. Good luck.

The Image table has a sexy hardcover of Thief of Thieves but horribly over priced for $30 (and one third thickness of Invincible GN for the same price). Unless you really love crime books I wouldn’t get it.

 

This is about heroism….

Del Toro is going after another comic based on his movie ideas…and he’s dead serious about Pacific Rim…

NYCC 2012 Preview: Marvel Now

Posted by admin On August - 28 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

by Ronald@thoughtsoncinema.com

In October, Marvel is set to bid adieu to the creative teams on its titles before relaunching them with new creative teams. Fresh blood has been badly needed on all of Marvel’s titles. While it’s not a reboot, don’t bother trying to make any kind of connections from their predecessors. Case in point, Steve Rogers is from Brooklyn not Lower East Side of Manhattan. Still, I believe this is going to make huge waves in the industry.

At NYCC 2010 and 2011 DC stole the show with “Hold the Line” $2.99 books and DC relaunch. Fans were very receptive to DC’s panels because it addressed issues with cost and continuity but don’t tell that to Marvel comics. While there’s no question DC has made strides in closing the gap, Marvel is still top dog in the comic book business. I believe 2012 is where Marvel Strikes Back.

The business model of Marvel is, if we lower our prices it’s accepted that comic books don’t deserve to be treated with the same respect as art books at the MET or literature you pay on Amazon.com. It’s the Apple approach that they don’t want the total market but the best market. They never bothered to lower their prices from $3.99. They continue to market their characters. They know the value of new title as a prospect of new readers.

It’s Marvel’s mentality that continuity doesn’t matter so much as creating a new fresh take with an entry level once every 5-10 years. The formula works. Most hybrid geeks who spend their disposable income on video games, cartoons, movies, etc will likely buy a couple titles a week and just want a good story of their favorite character. That’s what Marvel is going after. And it works.

Counting down to my favorite time of the year,

Ron

The Expendables 2

Posted by admin On August - 28 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

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

Marvel reclaims Daredevil

Posted by admin On August - 24 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Emancipated: Daredevil is finally back in Marvel’s hands. Could be the start of a new line of Marvel movies that are darker and more gritty. (art by Maleev)

 

Now that Marvel studios has reclaimed the rights to Daredevil, can fans expect horn head to be assimilated into the Avengers? Not so fast. While comic book fans are familiar with the fact writer Brian Michael Bendis bringing Matt Murdock into the Avengers I believe Marvel might have bolder plans for the costumed crime fighter.

 

Writers Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, & Ed Brubaker have kept the tradition of Daredevil’s darkest tales but the talents of Mark Waid who has successfully balanced action, adventure and integrated DD’s street life with the Marvel Universe.

Frank Miller’s Daredevil set the tone for gritty street level heroes from which a lot of different marvel heroes could easily fit into. Marvel heroes such as Luke Cage: Hero for Hire, Iron Fist, Shang-Chi, the Punisher, Moon Knight, and Black Panther could be part of a secondary wheel of more modest budgeted movies with a PG-13 rating that rides the line between super hero and vigilante.

 

Shaft meets Ali: Luke Cage was a ground breaking character who had a criminal background but found himself a changed man. Can a DD movie inspire Marvel’s next movie to have a black character as the lead?

The best themes of Daredevil dealt with Matt Murdock’s inner turmoil, which director would be best suited to capture the martial arts savy of DD and the blind faith of a troubled man?

 

Can you hear me now: McNaughton’s Taken is the hottest action film director today. He can add one more feather to his cap with Daredevil if Marvel gives him a chance.

Pierre Morel: Taken, The Transporter, Before Sunset

Blood Sport: Director Gareth Evans turned violence into an art form in the Raid: Redemption.

 

Gareth Evans: The Raid, Redemption, Footsteps

Luck of the Irish: Director Philip Noyce understood the obsessive conflicted nature of the Irish as a benefit and a hazard.

 

Philip Noyce: Patriot Games, Salt, the Bone Collector

 

Helter Skelter: Director John McNaughton with Michael Rooker captured the de-stabilized mind of a serial killer.

: Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, Mad Dog and Glory, Lansky, Wild Things

NYCC 2011 Retrospect Part 3

Posted by admin On August - 14 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Drawing Lines: 2011 saw video game industry exert its muscle towering over the Comic book booths like skyline of NYC. The effect gives credence to hybrid geeks and nerds. Good or bad? Depends on your interests.

NYCC 2011 Retrospective Part 3: One Old Comic Book Fan’s Opinion by Ronald Hugh Pollock

For over thirty years, I’ve collected comic books. I spent my Summers at my aunt’s flat in Brookline, Boston during the late 70s to early 80s. My cousin Joey attended Boston College for undergrad and he took me to my first comic book store. I don’t remember the name of the first comic book store I stepped into with my cousin Joey. I remember the smell of stale newsprint and endless rows of comic books. Every thing felt old, worn, and faded. My first book bought by my cousin Joey in Boston. It was Wolverine #1 (limited series). I also bought Daredevil #183 and Invincible Iron Man #100.

Saturday Night Fever: Thanks to several hundred friendly exhibitionists, Cosplay has delivered the Disney effect to Comic Cons that 20 yrs ago was virtually nonexistent except for Star Wars. Where else can Optimus Prime break dance for free?

Back in Detroit ,  I discovered a comic book store, Comic Kingdom was open a few blocks away from where I went to school. My routine was set after 2nd grade. I would walk and buy a slice at the local pizza parlor that had 5 inch thick bullet proof glass ceiling to floor, drop my money in the metal box, and then the slice would appear, go two doors down where iron bars covered the doors, windows of the shop and added Avengers, Batman, Superman, and Justice League of America to my reading list. The owner reeked of alcohol. Didn’t deter me, all I wanted was on those shelves. The stack of books I would buy for $5 would keep me entertained for days. Couldn’t wait for the next week. Over the years, the shops have changed but the routine remains the same. Today every Weds at 0800, I wait outside Midtown comics branch on Fulton Street to open for my books.

 

Star Power: Feeling a part of the Con is an integral part of the experience.

My first Comic Con cost $6. It had maybe 1-2 signings and vendors selling back issues, bootlegs to Japanese anime on bootleg that were on beta. VHS was more expensive and rare. Laser Discs were the most commercially successful at the time. There were very, very few women per 100 nerds and geeks. No “Cosplay” or costume play kids were in attendance. If you didn’t know better it was a retiree party with no music or pulse but zombies moving around from table to table with a few dollars to haggle.

Magic Carpet Ride: Wonder what would nerds and geeks would say today if they looked at what comic conventions were.

 

Times have definitely changed. Comic Cons are the modern day State Fair. They cater to the modern nerd or geeks, which are hybrids of the purists that I grew up with. Hybrids are like Midwesterners at a buffet table of geeks that spent their money on a percentage of interests. Video games, movies, TV shows, blu-ray, costumed dating games, and card games have eaten into the amount of disposable income available for comic book creators. In 10 yrs, I have to wonder if comic books will even be sold at these massive entertainment extravaganzas that are coming more like mini film festivals. No longer a convention for the socially inadequate, mainstreaming has embraced comic books and it’s marketed as something anyone and every one can feel perfectly normal. In a way, that takes away the intimate feelings the die hards enjoy. One wonders what will happen of the last remaining rag tag group of misfits?

 

Rock Stars: Celebs are unaccustomed to rabid NYers who like to challenge and interrogate the privileged. The expression on Doc’s face when a question asked, “What did you do as real jobs? (before you hit it big)” was priceless but when the audience isn’t into it, a panel fails to bring the audience into the conversation.

The best way for an old school comic collector is to share his experiences with friends old and new. It’s no longer how much you can buy, get for free, or exclusively share or own. It’s learning about how the new generation enjoyed their experiences to keep this oasis of fantasy.

Geek becomes sheik: Enjoying company and exchanging experiences, building memories is the BEST way to enjoy Comic con.

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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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