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.

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

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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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