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Archive for the ‘fantasy’ Category

poster_fantasticbeastsI just can’t get into this type of movie. I’ve tried, and I DO enjoy the Harry Potter series. However, I am not fanatical about them. My biggest problem with fantasy type films is the verbiage. There are so many terms of beasts and locations and spells that its difficult for me to understand what is being said half the time, let lone be able to identify with the characters and feel engaged.

In this work written directly for the screen by Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling, Hogwarts alum Newt, played by Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), brings his collection of magical beasts to New York City where one breaks loose at a bank and causes a scene for the wizard and an American non-magic amateur baker named Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury). An exiled agent Tina, played by Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs), of the American wizarding community takes the Brit into the authorities for his antics while eventually more beasts get out into the “no-mag” world.

Now Newt and Tina must work together along with her sultry sister Queenie, played by Alison Sudol (The Lucky One) and Kowalski, now illegally exposed to all the magic of his surroundings to prove the escaped beasts are not the culprit of repeated dark magic taking the lives of a handful of Americans no-mags.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed about the film; Redmayne, Waterston, Fogler and Sudol. These four characters were well created by their actors. Redmayne was extremely consistent, while Waterston made it easily to see what her inner motivation and conflicts were as we kearned more about her. Fogler had probably my favorite character as Kowalski. I’ve only seen him in movies which were outlandish comedies or the over-the-top bestfriends characters. This role was a character performance but on a more subtle scale than I’ve seen him before. Queenie was hard not to fall for, as Kowalski did.

I also loved the visual effects the film used to create prohibition era New York City; model T cars, pin-striped suits, etc. It looked quite like the real deal and added to the experience.
Before I get into my issues with the film, I’ll last mention I adored the dyamic of the four mentioned characters. Kowalski’s love of the magical world which grows once his eyes are open to it. Queenie’s adoration of him. Newt’s love of animals who are banned from ownership despite having practical uses in the wizarding world and Tina’s passion for making things right and loyalty for those who appreciate her. I loved their storylines between each other. It kept me involved, while the remainder of the film would have lost my interest otherwise.

Now, don’t expect a Harry Potter movie when you see this, despite being a part of that universe set 70 years prior to where the first HP film lands on the universal timeline. The only thing that connects this story to HP is a couple of last names like Dumbledore, L’Estrange and Grindewald. Oh and the sign of the Deathly Hallows. There were no familiar locations since its set in NYC. There were no creatures identifiable to the previous eight HP films. Although I enjoyed the film making itself its own independent franchise for the most part, I just feel die hard HP fans need to realize they may be severely disappointed expecting something similar.

I hated the screen time spent on certain aspects of Newt’s back story. I agree we need to know more about him as a person and a wizard, but honestly what they shared was stupid, and without visuals I really couldn’t care about his days at Hogwarts. I also thought the script attempted to set the character up as an annoying British Sheldon of sorts. At least there was dialogue to say such, but to be honest, even though Newt was a little socially awkward and better with beasts, he wasn’t altogether bad with people nor was he at all unlikable. He was actually charming in his simply way.

Lastly, I think the design of the dark force which threatened lives has been done before. This dark cloud that resembles trying to comb gum out of the carpet has been done before several times; the most recent was Marvel’s Thor: The Dark Age, same effect. I’m waiting for a new way for fantasy filmmakers to present dark forces without a visage in a new way because this dark cloudy thing has gotten old for me.

Overall, I liked the movie. I’ll own it because the four main characters were good and well acted, which is important for a fantasy film I feel. You need your actors to sell it first. However, I feel the writing is generally weak and simply uses “Harry Potter” as a marketing technique. Comparing this movie to Harry Potter is like comparing Saving Private Ryan to Schindler’s List. Same war being represented but far from similar movies.

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poster_woozThis review was a general challenge from Brian G. Felts to Benn Farrell.

The reason why I rarely watch movies prior to 1970 is because of their dated production style. It’s not just how stiff the camera work and blocking can be with older movies, especially those during the Golden Age of Hollywood when color film was barely getting introduced, but also the acting was as stiff as Chris Rock’s jokes during the 2016 Academy Awards broadcast.

But since Brian G Felts challenged me to see a movie released prior to 1960, and since my wife owns a copy, I opted to see The Wizard of Oz since I had NEVER seen this “classic” from start to finish.

It’s terrible. Just terrible.

The Wizard of Oz is about a teenage girl named Dorothy, played by LGBT icon Judy Garland, from Kansas who runs away from home and decides to turn around when her Aunt’s farm is hit by a tornado. The house soon get thrown into the sky and lands in the Land of Oz and onto a wicked which who was terrorizing a bunch of little people. The little people rejoice and Dorothy is sent on her way to meet the head wizard of the land in hopes of finding a way to return home. Along the way, she meets a trio of friends, each in search of something stupid and the sister of the recently deaded little-people terrorist hellbent on revenge.

I know I’m critiquing this historic film with the eyes of someone who  saw his first movie in 1977 and was raised on cinema when Steven Spielberg had just become an A-lister, but I don’t care. It’s a terrible film in so many respects. The studio sets were fake as hell. The sound stage matte paintings were even worse and watching Dorothy “following the yellow brick road” and practically running into a wall just before the shot dissolves to the next scene is just awkward.

Garland was the largest problem. He performance was so melodramatic, it gave me a head ache. The parts of the movie were when she didn’t have any lines. However, even her unspoken choices made her look like she choked bag of mushrooms and was hallucinating.

Margaret Hamilton who played the Wicked Witch of the West was also one note. The whole “I’ll get you my pretty” type delivery was satisfactory of a sign spinner outside a seasonal Halloween store, but here it was an annoyance. Play another record, Margaret; I’m tired of THIS tune.

There are a handful of quality singing voices and the choreography was fun in spots. Bert Lahr did well with his character performance as the Cowardly Lion, but ultimately the performances from this 1939 ASS-terpiece were terrible.

There is only one aspect of the film which totally had me impressed however. I watch a lot of the show Face-Off on Sci-Fi Channel, and from watching that show, I know where to look to find flaws in certain characters’ makeup in some movies. As for the Scarecrow character, his makeup was great. There was next to no visible transition from actual skin to prosthetic. The seams were invisible and the entire face was impressive. Makeup on the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion however were simply a waste of time. It was about as good as any decent community theatre production would have done.

Overall, I think we could go ahead and blame director Victor Flemming for now having enough imagination or his cinematographer for not using a mixture of creative lighting, lenses and field to better hide the strings in this puppet of a production. It was careless and makes it feel like 1939 could do no better.

The Wizard of Oz makes me believe Hollywood couldn’t.

 

 

 

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This is not the first time I’ve said this, and unfortunately I feel it’s not the last. Video game storylines do NOT make good motion picture storylines, so why bother.

“Van Helsing” is the latest example of this fact. I’m not going into what the picture is about because I want to hang myself just thinking I broke down and went and saw it in the first place.

So, the title character is assigned by this secret church to kill evil creatures, and eventually he is pit up against Dracula.

I’ll just list the reasons why this picture is such a piece of shit. Richard Roxburgh throws away all screen time he has by half yelling every stupid fucking line director Stephen Sommers wrote for him in obviously an alcoholic stupor. Roxburgh plays one of the most thoughtless Dracula roles I’ve ever been subjected to.

Points in the plotline also give no aide to my blood pressure. Why does Dracula need Dr. Viktor Frankenstein’s machine to give life to his offspring life? One, if that’s the way vampires mate, why are their no mating parts? Two, how did all those vampires BEFORE Dracula get to mate without THEM having Frankenstein’s machine? Three, as Dracula’s mistresses are flying around killing folks, they have these boobs without nipples, which yes adds some unusual aesthetic feel for the film, but realistically, if a female creature is created without nipple, why would it have boobs? Does this mean vampire women are mammals? And I thought vampires had no gender and did not see sex between them?

However, I will say the action sequences are a lot of fun to watch, and Kate Beckinsale is one of the hottest bad ass chicks who somehow is still able to get her stupid ass abducted towards the end.

Despite the hot girl and some on screen fun, this picture is a complete waist of its budget. Movies like this should be trashed and the money used to make a bunch more movies like Miracle, Passion of the Christ and American History X, or Saving Private Ryan, or Amistad or Schindler’s List, or….. in fact, just give the money to Spielberg, he’ll know what to do with it.

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“Superman 2: The Adventure Continues” is by far the best Superman pictures made during the 1980s. The first picture was boring, the third one was for laughs-casting Richard Pryor, while the fourth one….(Well, let’s face it. Most people don’t even remember there WAS a fourth one).

In the second installment, the title character faces three evil foes from his home planet who were jailed in space by his father Jarel. Meanwhile, Superman falls heavily for Lois Lane and eventually revels himself outside of his Clark Kent persona.

The three evil doers, under the command of General Zod, are released from outer prison by a hydrogen explosion in space, pretty much caused by Superman’s own actions. So Superman, wanting to be mortal and of the people of earth so that his sexual escapes with Lois do not kill her (I’m referring to a humorous bit of dialogue in Kevin Smith’s film “Mallrats”), he steps into this special Krypton chamber and becomes a normal earth born man. Just in time to realize the President of the US has surrendered the control of the country to Zod and his cohorts.

So in turn, Superman has to march back to the north pole and become a “made” man again, and he only got to tap Lois’ ass ONCE. That sucks.

Anyways, the story of the picture reads funny, but it is the most solid plot for Superman to face, especially having very human struggles inside. Similar story plot was included in the recent “Spiderman 2.”

Christopher Reeves is of course awesome in his role, and Margot Kidder returns as Lois. However, the absolute greatness of the cast comes from Terrence Stamp as General Zod. His super villain performance was so stupid, and yet acting somewhat lacking in testosterone. Its weird, but makes a strong nemesis for the man of steel. Let’s face it, Superman runs around in blue tights, so why not have a supervillan who comes off slightly limp wristed.

Gene Hackman returns as Lex Luther, but his involvement in the story was feeble and not needed. However, Hackman in anything is worthwhile, so I did enjoy seeing him show up. Ned Beatty makes a hapless cameo as his “Superman” one character Otis.

If you haven’t seen any of the Superman movies from the 80s, watch the second, the others you can probably miss. However, be warned. It IS an eighties comic book movie, so the visual effects in the show are extremely dated.

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I’ve never been so bored by a movie with the words “Star” and “Wars” attached to it.

Basically, we step back in the Anakin Skywalker storyline to a time during the Clone Wars when he and general Obi Wan Kenobi are fighting the seperatists droid army.

Except now, we have a new Sith lord named Asajj Ventress. Where the f*ck did she come from? I thought Sith’s only came in pairs? The master and the apprentice. Who is this chick attached to? And I thought all Sith’s were deemed “Darth.” What makes HER so special? F*ck her.

So, the big objective for Anakin is to rescue Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped son, referred to as a huttlet. WHAT? It was beyond lame.

The last problem with the storyline was Anakin gets a padiwan learner. How can he when he’s still technically the padiwan of Obi Wan? Can a padiwan HAVE a padiwan? Not by what the double trilogy has taught us previously.

I know I’m flying my nerd flag by pointing all this crap out, but these are fundemental Jedi plot points getting bent. So, that’s what I say to this piece of sh*t animated project. Get bent!

I’ve never been so bored by anything with the words Star Wars attached to it. The story was NOT engaging and did NOT feel like it fit into the entire Anakin Skywalker storyline. AND his padiwan Ahsoka could NOT be more annoying.

The animation was so-so at best as was the vocal performances; however, Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings trilogy) reprises as the voice of Count Dooku and he’s awesome, but whatever…it couldn’t save the movie.

Simply, this did not feel like a Star Wars venture and doesn’t deserve our time. It should be skipped. It is maybe NOT the worst movie of this year (2008), but it could be for sure the most boring.

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Ian McDiarmid made this picture for me. His performance was simply awesome. I can’t get enough of the way he says, “Your anger makes you strong.” I am convinced, there is no one else in the world who could match the caliber of this man’s contribution to the “Star Wars” saga.

This picture ranks right up there with Episode V “The Empire Strike Back” for me, but slightly less. I thought Episode III was exciting and well thought out, minus a couple of saga flubs, which plenty fans have already caught.

I DID get the feeling there was some deleted material, whether it was deleted scenes from the final movie or deleted pages from the original draft of Lucas’ screenplay.

For example, I get the feeling what Yoda told Obi Wan towards the end of the picture about his former master Qui Gon living on a spiritual plane and they can communicate with him was set up earlier and ultimately lost in sotry editing. As it stands, that piece of information, especially being the tail end of act three, felt thrown at the viewer extremely fast.

All the fight scenes were awesome, except I thought Obi Wan’s lightsaber fight against General Grievous could have been more. When clone troopers coming to the rescue interrupted that fight, I was extremely disappointed.

The worst thing about this movie, and I’m sorry to have to admit it, is Natalie Portman’s performance. It was apparent she had no clue where her character was coming from this time around. It is almost as if Lucas decided to shoot all HER scenes without any rehearsal, of which she obviously needed.

It is because of Portman’s weak link in the cast that Lucas’ flaws as a director are revealed. I enjoy and appreciate him as a master of storytelling, but his ability to make sure actors are ON is not his greatest strength. Even if you look at the original “Star Wars, Ep. IV: A New Hope,” you can see Mark Hammill as Luke and Carrie Fisher as Lea give several deliveries which should have warranted another take.

This new trilogy is riddled with this problem, and it’s simply because Lucas should remain a kick ass producer and writer, and leave the directing to someone else. Of course, I wouldn’t have anyone else direct this new trilogy but Lucas, so I guess in my mind it’s a catch 22 situation.

In Episode II, I enjoy the romance of the story, the romance in Episode III, however, was extremely stiff and effortless. Luckily, the romantic scenes are few and far between.

Of course, all my problems with this new installment are minor. It is one of the best of the saga, one of the most exciting of the saga and of course one of the saddest of the saga. Composer John Williams has captured this tragedy perfectly in his latest and possibly final “Star Wars” score.

If you like the “Star Wars” saga, then I think you’ll like Episode III. Even fans Brian and I have spoken too, who hated Episodes I and II, LOVE Episode III and find it redememing of the new trilogy’s flaws.

I have heard a few scattered persons complain about the picture, saying it was boring and stupid. Frankly, I think anyone who finds this picture boring and stupid must have a sucky life, and they simply cannot bring themselves to open their hearts to a tragic tale which DESERVES to be as popular as it’s been.

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Wow. Did you here that? Wow. What a movie. “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is the best movie to come out in years; a great mixture of action, drama and comedy. I will not go into details, because chances are, you have seen the other two LTR movies or read the books. If you haven’t for shame. I have, and I will say these three movies are now the greatest trilogy ever made, which–considering I was born in the 70’s and my first movie was “Star Wars”–says something, I think.

My apologies Mr. Lucas (George) and Mr. Spielberg (Steven), director of the Indiana Jones’ Trilogy, Peter Jackson (Dead Alive, The Frighteners) has made three great movies, in a time when all we have is mediocre movies winning Academy Awards® for Best Picture, like “Titanic.”

I can’t even complain about the length, being 3 hours and 20 minutes. I saw the midnight showing here in Colorado Springs. I didn’t get home until 4:00 a.m. and had to be up at 7:00 a.m. for work. I had tickets to see it Wednesday night, and the Theatre actually oversold the showing. There were 50 angry people who had paid for the 7:30 p.m. showing who didn’t get to see it.

Go see it. It should win Best Picture¹.

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This isn’t my favorite M. Night Shaymalan movie, but it’s still better than “The Village.”

“Lady in the Water” is about an apartment building superintendent named Cleveland, played by Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man), who discovers he’s living in an Asian bedtime story when he finds a sea nymph named “Story” temporarily living in his building’s pool.

Soon, Cleveland and the rest of the tenants devise a plan to help Story back to her home land and protect her from the wolf-like creature that is stalking her.

At first, this movie appears to be choppy and stupid. That is until I realized what writer/director Shaymalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) wanted from us. The film literally says it.

To believe this story and get sucked in by it, you have to watch it with a child’s eyes. You have to imagine you’re 6 years old, lying in bed and your grandmother is telling the story to help you go to sleep. If you can do this, the movie will seem pretty cool. If you can’t, you’ll probably just think it’s dumb.

Paul Giamatti proves once again the large amount of talent and range he has, having to adopt a stutter for the role of Cleveland, which was cured when he was around Story.

The only thing I really DID NOT appreciate was the fact that it was set up Story would be carried off by this huge hawk-like bird and taken back home. When the moment finally comes, we (the audience) don’t even get to see it.

Instead, Shaymalan chose this shot from underneath the pool’s water, watching Cleveland and Story as rain drops murk the visibility. Suddenly, there’s a flurry of feathers and wings and then we can only see Cleveland. We were denied seeing the climax of the movie, even after all the talk about it. That sucked.

Among the movies Shaymalan has created, “The Sixth Sense” is still my favorite, “Unbreakable” a close second and “Signs” third. “The Village” wasn’t very good, so I would put “Lady in the Water” on the same level of enjoyment as signs but ONLY if you can watch it with a child’s innocence.

Overall, I think “Lady in the Water” is worth seeing in the theater. There are a couple of intense and somewhat frightening moments, so don’t bring your young kids.

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Have you ever seen Japanimation features like “Fist of the North Star?” Well, it’s THAT kind of wacky, wacky, WACKY action sequences that litters this latest import from China. However, this picture is a near screwball comedy, which spoof numerous American contemporary classics, like “The Matrix” and “The Untouchables.”

“Kung Fu Hustle (Gong fu) is about the worst neighborhood in Shanghai, called “Pig Sty Alley,” the only neighborhood where the gangs of Shanghai, like the most vicious Axe Gang, do not rule. However, a couple of wannabe thugs, including one named Sing, played by writer/director Stephen Chow, start some trouble there and before you know it, the REAL Axe Gang shows up.

Except when the Axe Gang starts to terrorize the people of this alley, they are suddenly wiped out by three Kung Fu masters who live and work there.

The very creepy Brother Sum, leader of the Axe Gang, played by Kwok Kuen Chan, retaliates with a couple of assassins who end up killing the Kung Fu masters. In the process, the draw out two of the most powerful fighters in the area, the landlords of the alley, a dude who always looks drunk and some fat lady who likes to yell and hit people.

Meanwhile, Sing, who is trying to initiate himself into the Axe Gang by killing someone, searches for a victim. He eventually tries to make it a young pretty street vender selling ice cream. After a couple run in’s together, Sing and this mute beauty realize they have a history together; he defender her honor as a child when he was just learning the Buddha Palm method of Kung Fu.

Eventually, Brother Sum has Sing break into the local mental institution to free “The Beast,” an old man notorious to be the deadliest fighter ever. “The Beast” is enlisted by the Axe Gang to retaliate against the Landlord and Landlady. Their epic battles eventually turn the heart of Sing, who comes to their aid, and eventually unlocks his true fighting potential.

The story is very cute. The message is very simple, “Good will always overcome evil.” The same simple message a little 1970s film called “Star Wars” carried.

Director Chow had such a manner of pacing in this picture, I knew when I ran off the rest room, I was going to miss SOMETHING exciting. Of course, according to Brian, I missed a good laugh; one of MANY this picture carries.

This movie is an acquired taste. Even I, at times, had a look on my face as if to say, “What the hell is going on HERE?” For the most part, I laughed a lot at the slapstick dark comedy.

My favorite funny scene was when Sing and his sidekick kept trying to kill Landlady with a series of throwing knives, except somehow, each knife ended up being stuck in Sing’s torso. I was almost crying by the time the sequence was over.

The picture is fun to watch, has funny material and for a comedy, is definitely tailored for an International audience. It doesn’t just bear gags of which only Asian audiences would find funny. It ends on a very sweet subplot, and a possible sequel. I enjoyed it immensely.

If you enjoyed kung fu flicks and screwball comedy violence, then “Kung Fu Hustle” is one to check out.

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It’s long and it feels it, but this latest over-budgeted, over-marketed version of King Kong has some very cool sequences.

Set during the great depression, “King Kong” is about a young woman named Ann, played by Naomi Watts (Sweet and Lowdown), who is hired by a desperate filmmaker to shoot aboard a cargo steamer on its way to an undiscovered island.

Once there, the crew meet the natives and Ann is soon captured as a sacrifice to a 25-foot tall gorilla named Kong, digitally performed by Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings trilogy).

Ann soon falls for the monkey love, as Carl the director, played by everybody’s favorite over-actor Jack Black (School of Rock), devises a plan to take the ape back to New York and exploit it. Once there, the ape breaks free and takes his anger out on the city, resulting in a climax atop the Empire State Building.

This version is extremely a lot like the original 1933 version of the movie. It is also far better than the 1976 remake. However, the latest picture runs 2 hours, 47 minutes and boy, does it feel it.

It takes an hour for the gang to reach the island in the first place. The story sticks in all this character bulls**t in the one-hour first act, which doesn’t end up mattering in the end anyway.

There was a subplot with a steamer crewman, former a stowaway, who was reading Joseph Conrad’s “Hearts of Darkness” and being mentored by the ship’s first mate; however, the crewman, named Jimmy, played by Jaime Bell, doesn’t amount to anything and there’s nothing to learn. His subplot was a waste of screentime, and director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy) should have had more tenacity during the story editing and film editing processes.

The producers of this picture should have had more integrity as to reign in Jackson’s desire to make the film as long as it was. Instead, they kissed his a** and allowed the director to have his bottle.

Now, we’re stuck with an almost three our version of King Kong, which could’ve easily been two hours. 30-minutes to get to the island, 60-minutes to get to New York, and 30-minutes to kill him off. It’s not brain surgery.

Speaking of the second act, it brings me to the best part of the picture. The battle between Kong and three T-Rex dinosaurs was very thrilling, even though physically ridiculous, but HEY, we’re talking about a 25-foot ape, so I HAVE to check reality at the door.

I also thought the New York rampage sequence was very cool, but once again Jackson seemed to want to spend 400-shots on seven bi-planes trying to shoot the ape off the state building. Jackson had a series of shots for the planes’ approach which took FOREVER. It was painful.

The relationship between Ann and the ape was very good, as good as it could be in my opinion.

Jack Black was the weakest link of the cast, which is almost the case in every movie he’s in; “Shallow Hal” excluded.

The biggest reason I’m upset with Jackson on this project is if he wanted to make a goofy comedy, he should have made a goofy comedy. If he wanted to make a down and dirty spectacle of “King Kong,” he should have, but adding almost an hour of screen time so he could do both was extremely amateur and the picture suffers for it.

Overall, I think there is enough good aspects of this high budget Jackson carnival to pay the money to see it in the cinemas. I DO NOT see it as an award contender, but it should please almost anyone who pays money to see it. I just wish it was more concise with its material and slightly better cast.

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