Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Clever (2011) Review:

It's weird how film concepts get lost in translation. When the The Gingerdead Man (2005) was released, it had a certain level of groundwork that it needed to cover. Unfortunately, it only covered enough to make the practically hour long movie far from anything worth more than one watch - even with its minimal strengths. Then came Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust (2008) which was even less of an entertaining installment. The continuity was loose, the characters were even less likable and the whole motivation behind the killer cookie was dropped. Now we have this movie, which quite honestly is baffling for several reasons. Nothing makes sense here.

He's just not convincing anymore!
The movie starts off with an actress knock-off look alike of Clarice from Silence of the Lambs (1991) looking to interview the gingerdead man. But wait, didn't the gingerdead man get burnt to a crisp in the last film? And before that wasn't he burnt to a crisp then too? How does he keep coming back? One word - continuity. Also, the place where the gingerdead man is staying is at a psychiatric ward of homicidal baked goods. So the writers mean to say that Millard Findlemeyer wasn't the only serial killer who had a mother who knew witchcraft in homemade pastries? This is really poor writing. Why does William Butler, a person who has exceptional credentials allow an at least potentially fun franchise go down the wrong path of a good production.

A few minutes in, the gingerdead man escapes and happens to find two scientists completing a time machine. So what does Mr. Findlemeyer do? He jumps in of course a decides to use it to help him evade the authorities. The end result is seeing him land in the middle of a discotech in 1976. This ends up pissing the evil (and stupid) cookie off, but he ends up finding a way to cope. How? By killing various people of course. Don't get to excited though because it takes an awfully long time for anything to get going. At least in the first movie it only focused on a small group of people. Here, the audience is introduced to a ton new individuals that don't excel or help move what little plot there already is.

Cherry (right) & her aunt?
The main focus is given to a character named Cherry, a parody of Stephen King's Carrie (1976), the difference being that it takes place at a discotech instead of a prom. Other than that, no other actor makes their characters stand out among the rest. In fact, this movie loves to show a lot of scenes of nothing - specifically scenes of girls giggling and screaming for really silly things. It's just annoying. There was one scene that viewers may enjoy but that's it. The only other thing that helps boost the quality of this picture is the CGI but even then it's too late in some cases. Specifically during the kill scenes, instead of using practical effects, they were replaced with CGI and it looks bad. Topping it off is the fact of adding a ridiculous idea of time travel to an already ridiculously silly (although potentially entertaining) concept of a possessed cookie.

It may make viewers laugh in a scene or two,...maybe. This better than average low budget production still has practically no plot, transparent characters and poorly executed kill scenes.

Points Earned --> 2:10

Friday, April 25, 2014

Contracted (2013) Review:

Diseases and viruses are something no one wants to catch. They make our body's act abnormally and gives us side effects that aren't comfortable. Mind you, a cold is the simplest of infections yet is just as much a pain. Anything beyond that pretty much can be unbearable for some individuals. Thankfully, in today's age science has come up with various methods of preventing these problems. Condoms are one of the big proprietors of it. So if there's one thing that should be worn during intercourse, it's that.
It's not that this film will have viewers convinced that without a condom they'll suffer as much as this main lead here, but either way, unless the person is clean - wrap it up.

We go from no problem being in public......
This is basically all the plot is about. Audiences will be introduced to Samantha; a female introvert who is attends one of her friend's drinking parties. There, she makes the mistake of consenting to having sex with male stranger who ends up raping her. Well now, that escalated quickly. Apparently, that night was also a night of unprotected sex - thus Sam catching a strange disease that begins to take a serious toll on her for the next number of days. This particular plot line works fine but the story contains numerous other subplots that have finishes to them, but feel rushed. Perhaps this was under the circumstances that new director Eric England was directing and writing simultaneously. It's understandable that it's not an easy task but he also should've seen that there was too much to cover.

Each person that the main lead (Sam) has a connection with has some type of subplot connected with them. Sam's single mother deeply cares for her yet it's never explained what she does off screen. Sam is also a lesbian, but can barely show any chemistry with her lover Nikki. The random guy that raped Sam has mentions within the running time yet is never confronted face to face seems almost like he never existed. Even Sam herself had a personal goal she was attempting at completing but seemed abruptly cut off coming to the finale of the film. Another question, if this dangerous disease is so powerful that it affects it's host within only a few days, how is that the guy she consented to have sex with didn't seem like he had it? He couldn't have just gotten it otherwise he wouldn't have known.

Another thing that doesn't work a lot of the time in the film is the dialog. A lot of these moments are slow and seem almost awkward at points. Was that intentional or just bad direction? Even the actions characters take are rather illogical. Why would you make contact with someone if you can tell they're diseased? Sigh. However, what does help raise these flawed elements to at least an average rating are the effects and imagery. The practical effects are done well from skin texture to other anatomical discolorations. Even some of the sounds are cringeworthy which was a nice touch.

To being shady...
The music was provided by the composer of Gears of War (2006) - Kevin Riepl. What viewers may enjoy about his music was that it was atmospherical and tried to elevate the level horror more psychologically. But, unfortunately his efforts didn't help greatly. After a while viewers will understand at which the direction the story is heading. Once they know that, the element of suspense and terror pretty much leaves the screen. It's sad because it's buildup almost got somewhere. If you're a horror film fanatic looking for something different, you'll get that experience here. Just remember though, to get to those areas that are different, the viewer will have to trek through several other things that'll stick out like a fresh rash.

Its concept is a mix of fresh and used ideas and displays some believable gross moments. However its dialog is slow and its numerous under developed subplots clutter the story.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Coneheads (1993) Review:

Dan Aykroyd is known for making good comedy films. Whether it's The Blues Brothers (1980) or Ghost Busters (1984), Aykroyd had something during his prime that made people gravitate towards his comedic films. Along with performing with other cast members of SNL, this particular title was an actual skit ten years before in 1983. My question is, who thought it would be a great idea to make it a movie a decade later? Was the skit that memorable? That's taking a large gamble. The story is about a group of aliens with cone shaped heads that crash land and have to conform to life on earth. It's not even close to an original concept (except for the conehead aspect), but it does have some have positive ends to it.

Yup, problem here
Playing the coneheads are Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, and Michelle Burke - all three of which have faded from today's contemporary films. Their acting isn't bad but the personalities either come off as too dry or too familiar. Aykroyd plays his role like the shadow of Raymond Stantz from Ghost Busters (1984), with fast dialog and vocabulary that is either never heard of or too scientific for most viewers. Curtin plays her role to match Aykroyd but rarely will audiences feel a connection to them. Burke's role is possibly the only connection that most audiences would have, considering she sounds normal and not like her robotic parents. Even then, her character arc isn't developed fully.

Even more surprising is not only was this idea from SNL, but the writers behind this movie including Dan Aykroyd, were from SNL. I'm not sure how these guys created a screenplay that has obvious continuity errors and issues that aren't addressed. For example, why does Michelle Burke's character have normal teeth while her parents have pointed teeth? Or, how is that everyone that the coneheads run into are totally fine with their deformed craniums? Is everybody this accepting here on planet earth? Surely someone would make a buzz over it; considering that the head of deporting illegal immigrants, Gorman Seedling (Michael Mckean) wants to send them back to where they came from. How come he's the only character who finds them abnormal? Comedy works when people notice and react to strange events. But in this film, rarely do people react at all to the conehead family as if they were aliens. This creates a disconnect in the audience. Also, how is this film rated PG? There is some sexual humor in here that I don't think is suitable for a PG rating.

Mr. Chris Farley
Neglecting this though, there are scenes that do have their moments. Particularly the life style that the coneheads live is cooky. Helping with some of these chuckle moments are the special and practical effects. Some of it is noticeably and other times it's not. Overall that element was ok. Adding to some of the nostalgia of this 90s film is the large cast of the "in crowd" stars. Celebrities like David Spade, Sinbad, Drew Carey, Jon Lovitz, the late Chris Farley, Jason Alexander (with a full head of hair) and even Adam Sandler have appearances. Some have bigger roles than others, but it's commendable enough just to even see them. The music provided by David Newman was heard but it was forgettable. There weren't any tunes that really stood out. It's by no means bad - it's just average for a comedy.

The main leads try their best to give their characters charm, but the comedy only seems to work when other well-known faces are on screen. This leaves the in between scenes with nothing to remember them by, making only a part of the film worth a watch.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Saturday, April 19, 2014

National Security (2003) Review:

It's difficult when it comes to buddy cop genre films. For the most part, unless the crew has some creative writers or there is some other aspect to the film viewers have not experienced before, it'll be hard to impress film goers. This particular story is about as generic as they come - two security guards who are basically polar opposites in every respect are put into a situation where they must work together to solve their problems and gain the respect they desire. The only thing that distinguishes itself from other buddy cop films is that the two main characters aren't cops, their security guards. So the hilarity is supposed to be based on the fact that they're acting like cops but don't have the authority to do so. Does it work? Ummmmm not exactly.

At odds,....what a surprise
Our two main leads are Hank (Steve Zahn) and Earl (Martin Lawrence) who only encounter each other by chance. When in fact, their paths were bound to cross after Hank loses his original partner in a robbery bust - but they both didn't know that. Jay Scherick and David Ronn's writing aren't anything out of the ordinary from other projects before this. It also shows that their creativeness hasn't improved much since they've been in the industry with all the ratings they got after this movie and it shows. Hank and Earl go through the typical character arc of being at each others throats and then realizing they're living the same kind of life - almost. This kind of realizations comes more as a joke than reality, yet this helps the two characters connect. Is that really the strongest bond they have between each other - a joke?

The direction provided by Dennis Dugan, who has had his fair share of good and bad movies with audiences, at least keeps the flow of the movie consistent. If there's one word to call the pace of this movie, it’s that it's steady. It's not super fast nor is it terrifyingly slow. This would be ok if anything else really felt worth a watch more than the first time seeing it. Acting wise, Steve Zahn plays Hank straight like any guy would in his situation but it doesn't make him stand out much. I also swear that I've heard his character being called different names during the film - Henry, Nick....ummm do the actors know the characters name? Martin Lawrence on the other hand works at making his character stand out even though his character is just a forgettable as his partners. Saying "what the problem is?" consistently is not going to make the character sound any smarter or any funnier. It just means that Mr. Scherick and Mr. Ronn could not come up with a better phrase to say. Martin Lawrence can say much funnier things than that.

Bill Duke
Surprisingly, these aren't the only other recognizable actors that show up in this comedy. Colm Feore from John Woo's Face/Off (1997) and later in Thor (2011) heads the police department. Bill Duke, best known for having a role in both Schwarzenegger films Commando (1985) and Predator (1987) plays one of the chiefs along side Feore's role. Eric Roberts plays one of the villain's henchmen and like many other films, Roberts is just there. Heck, even Stephen Tobolowsky has a small role where he's some genius metal technician guy that can relay top secret information to our two main leads. Tell me how that makes any sense? That's one flaw that really stands out in the film.

Speaking of which, what was the villain's motivation for the stolen items from the robbery bust? It was explained what its use was for and that it costs a ton of money but the story never got to a point where the actual stolen property would be used in an application. Feels a bit underdeveloped. Other than that, the  comedy may only produce casual chuckles among viewers. It isn't even regularly funny. The special effects and action scenes are executed professionally but aren't anything unique. Even more shocking is that composer Randy Edelman produced the music to film but it is barely heard at all. Edelman can produce a quality score,...why has he been pushed aside? For shame.

With acting that only goes so far and writing that makes sense half the time, this buddy cop film aims for average and that's all it is. Even the addition of other sporadic cast members and a steady pace doesn't make it any more unique.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) Review:

When franchises start with a strong footing in film, it is important to keep the elements that made the first installment just as great in every shot for each future installment that comes along. This includes direction, cinematography, action, music and characters. The writing behind the sequel should really be the only thing that changes because if the writing were the same, it would just be a rehash of previous movies in the franchise. For the most part, this sequel gets a number of the components right but there are also parts of the movie that are dislodged from the past films.

As if we haven't seen a duo like this in 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Starting totally fresh with an entire new cast, viewers will follow the troubled life of Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), a Southern schoolboy who loves to drive cars to their limit. He also can't cut a break with the authorities or doing well in school. After relocating several times, Sean's mother decides to send him to his father who lives in Tokyo Japan. However, Sean still can't keep his hands off a steering wheel. He ends up befriending a classmate named Twinkie (Bow Wow), who then brings him to street race where he learns a new word called "Drifting" - thus the title. Along with Twinkie, Sean also meets D.K. (Brian Tee), Han (Sung Kang) and Neela (Nathalie Kelley).

Character wise, none of the actors are terrible but they do lack characterization and acting skills. Lucas Black can handle a Southern accent (unless that is his real voice) but displays that smirking and frowning are his only two facial expressions. Bow Wow is just a replacement for Tyrese Gibson. Neela is supposedly Australian but slips frequently in speech. Sometimes she'll sound Australian and other times like some other ethnic group. She was the weakest of the bunch - I guess this because this is her first movie role? Brian Tee was able to pull of his role with ease for his muscular physique and gangster like image. Sung Kang is the most likable actor here. His character is smooth and easy going. In some respects, you would think he should've been in the title role.

Han the chill man
As far from the last two films have come, surprisingly, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) does have a connection. It is a very small but significant connection. Chris Morgan's writing behind this installment isn't bad when it comes down to the fleshed out action scenes but again it's the characters that suffer. It's understandable that The Fast and the Furious franchise is about the cars, but audiences have to have characters to connect to. If the cast keeps changing frequently, it's going to get really tiresome.

Thankfully the one thing that keeps getting more creative are the driving sequences. In other words, the "drifting". If it weren't for the drifting in the action sequences, there would not have been anything new to see here. Although the racing wasn't as crazy as The Fast and the Furious (2001) and 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), the slick driving and stylish craft of drifting really helped make the racing scenes fun. Stephen F. Windon's cinematography is able to catch a lot of the nice shots of Tokyo, which is also cool. Lastly, another composer was brought in, this time Brian Tyler. Surprisingly, Tyler's score is barely prevalent in the running time. It's not that Tyler created a bad score, it's just barely there. Perhaps the finale is when it's heard the most. Other than that, the soundtrack takes over. After the last two films, score collectors are still waiting to hear some noteworthy tunes.

It's an equal match to the 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) but for different reasons. It's new hook which involves "drifting" is cool, some of the characters stand out and it shares a connection with the last two films before it. With it however, comes weak characterizations, average acting and little emotional attachments.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Great Gatsby (2013) Review:

Leonardo DiCaprio just can't keep himself away from movies like these can he. To many novelists, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is of the most popular of romance drama stories. Nor is it the first time that this particular story has been adapted to the big screen. However, add a dash of DiCaprio and the whole magnitude of the movie changes completely. There's no doubt about it - Leonardo DiCaprio is a very talented actor. It's not only apparent in how he acts in the role he chooses, but also the role he chooses specifically. Each character that he has mostly chosen in the past do not stray far from each other, which displays his watchful eye of what role he can fulfill.

Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio)
What makes the storytelling unique is that of like most romance dramas where the story consistently revolves around the character of main focus, it is instead told from a third person perspective. The person describing to the audience his view and feelings is Nick Carraway (Tobey Maquire), a man deeply affected by Gatsby. This is a better mean of characterizing Gatsby artistically - so audiences don't have to come up with the description themselves. Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce's writing reflect that not only in creativeness but also in dialog, texturally speaking. Most of the vocabulary is upper class and the words reflect various visuals. The one I didn't understand are the glasses on the billboard - the significance?

For the most part, it is all very good writing - especially by the end where practically everything is explained. The only things that should've been fixed were Maguire's character and a Chicago subplot. It is great that Nick Carraway does most of the explanation to the story but his development as an individual takes a backseat. This may leave some viewers frustrated that the main focus was Gatsby but Carraway received little attention (even though he’s not of main focus). Also throughout the movie Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) receives frequent calls from Chicago about SOMETHING. However, that something is never talked about openly - the end doesn’t even explain that one. What was the importance of that if it was never elaborated on?

Other than that, everything else is fantastic. Viewers will find the idea of contemporary pop culture music and early 1900s fashion together, will blend nicely during the party scenes. This is one film that is able to defy those rules where putting contemporary music into a film significantly dates it. Here it's the total opposite. It feels timeless. The cinematography by Simon Duggan is beautiful, although I'm not sure why I didn’t find it as prevalent in Killer Elite (2011) or Knowing (2009). Craig Armstrong who produced the score did a decent job as well. Since there was also a soundtrack, his music wasn't always around, but when it was heard, his tunes helped with the emotions. They weren't anything that defined the film though.

Tom Buchanan (Edgerton)
Lastly, the characters (besides Maguire's) were well performed and as developed. DiCaprio portrays Gatsby with likability, even when he's nervous. Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan is sweet and gives her character the same kind of emotion any girl would if they were in the situation that she was in. But the guy who gave probably the second best performance was Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan. Buchanan has a pompous attitude and business tycoon voice. The man is quite versatile. But, if there's one thing everyone should learn from this tale, is that secret love triangles NEVER work. It is a very difficult connection to keep together.

With an adaptation that'll have English teachers fainting, DiCaprio and the rest of the cast give respectable performances. The visuals are saturated with literary references as is the high quality dialog. Just a few areas in the writing should've either been expanded on or left out completely.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Friday, April 4, 2014

Superman (1978) Review:

Before 1978, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman had been put on the screen in the past. With multiple actors donning the suit of "truth, justice and the American way", it was hard for fans to really pick their favorite actor who portrayed the Kryptonian. But when this movie came out, there was no decision that had to be made. Richard Donner's Superman (1978) is THE superman. Viewers who are closed-minded and don't like watching older films must try to make an attempt to see this. It does not have the crisp well-blended look like most of our films today but for what it had, it was astounding. It's not just the look either; everything else included as well.

Tell me that's not a beautiful shot
The story follows the original that we all know and love. With Krypton on the rise of destruction, Jor-El sends his baby son Kal-El to Earth where he can start a new, and be the hope and inspiration for all humans. Upon arriving to Earth, Kal is adopted by farmers Pa & Ma Kent and renamed him Clark Kent. As he grew up, Clark journeys to discover his heritage and answers to his questions. He then moves to Metropolis where he secretly puts on his suit and cape whenever help is needed. But it's not at this point where things become amazing; everything described that leads up to this point is just as great.

The writers behind the screenplay took extreme care with the how the viewer sees the growing process of Clark. Seeing Clark and his world change along with his loving stepparents are by far the strongest of character development scenes in the film. There are moments of pain and frustration and there are also moments of joy and power. The emotions are equally balanced throughout the film. With that, the positive tone of the film feels bright and optimistic. This mixes well with our main protagonist because Superman (Christopher Reeve) is an optimistic person. He is a symbol of hope.

The other characters in the film are just as likable. Margot Kidder as Lois Lane portrays her role accurately with a mind only a reporter could truly understand. Although his scenes are limited, Glenn Ford as Pa Kent provides significant depth to Clark Kent and his morals. Even as a villain, Gene Hackman as the notorious Lex Luthor provides a comical performance that viewers should enjoy. Speaking of which, comedy is another aspect this movie got right. The comedic elements do not push for camp. The funny moments feel natural as if anyone would react in the same manner. Nor does any of the funny scenes involve dark humor, the jokes are more innocent than they are intentional.

That's awesome
The other things that'll stand out are the effects, which co-exist with the action, music and cinematography. For 1978, the mix of green screen and practical effects look great. This helps make the action scenes look very professional (including props to editor Stuart Baird). One thing that stands out about the action is that it relies more on the brain, of how to take care of certain situations instead of having an all out brawl or frequent explosions. In fact, there's really only one true explosion in this film and that's all it needed. With the action comes one of John Williams' best known scores. It is by far still, the best of all Superman scores. The main theme is there, along with a love theme that may create goosebumps for some. Lastly, the most visually beautiful aspect of the film is the cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. He captured so many shots that'll take viewers’ breaths away. See it for everything.

Christopher Reeve is the original Superman. There is no argument. The music, action and characters would be nothing without the pristine writing and optimistic tone.

Points Earned --> 10:10

The Brave Little Toaster (1987) Review:

What exactly was novelist Thomas M. Disch imaging of when he created this story? I mean, this can be asked of for any novelist but I guess the fact that the idea seems so out in left field, just makes it so much more significant to ask. Did Mr. Disch have a connection between himself and the appliances he had at his house? It is definitely a creative idea but what inspired him to come up with it? In some ways it presents itself as a premature movie that inspired Toy Story (1995) (considering John Lasseter was on the animation team originally), and in other ways in dives into territories some viewers may not expect.

You choose your favorite!
The story follows the travels of five appliance items who long to hear from their master, or the kid who consistently used them from their childhood. Come to find out, their master has moved on permanently. Refusing to be left alone or to be taken over by another person, the group of appliances set out to find their owner. To do this, they test the fates by stepping outside the house and venture out to accomplish their mission. Along their journey they will also learn some very startling truths that the real world has in store (no pun intended).

The screenplay written by Jerry Rees and now deceased Disney veteran Joe Ranft is praiseworthy for its creativeness and heartfelt characters. The voice casts behind the characters are great. Jon Lovitz as the radio is probably the most comical of the bunch for his quick remarks and energetic attitude. That's not to say the others aren't memorable either. Deanna Oliver as the toaster is by far the most memorable for her soft voice and caring heart. Every viewer will find his or her own character to latch onto. However, with good characters come some flaws that need to be addressed in the story. One of them is continuity - if the group needs an outlet so they can move; the story cannot all of a sudden drop the need for one.

The master
The other flaw that needs to be addressed is the element of death. A family picture has every right to portray a death in a story. The world is not always happy-go-lucky and that's something people learn to understand as they grow up. So the idea that this exists in the movie isn't the flaw - the flaw is how some scenes portray the death. A dramatic death is the best type to be used in a kid’s film. But ones that involve torture or mutilation? That may be diving a little too deep for young viewers. Of course it's ok because guts and blood are replaced with nuts, bolts and battery acid, but that's just as graphic as portraying it to a kid as is blood and guts to an adult. I mean props for taking on adult material but why is it handled with such care as if it were for a horror film? Take it easy guys.

Other than that the rest of the film provides solid entertainment. Along with likable characters, are unique songs (although they may not stick), colorful animation and appropriate film music. David Newman, who produced the score didn't create a theme for these characters but it does match the scenes effectively and do convey the correct emotion. If a family film is what you're looking for, this is definitely one that can be on your list. Hopefully for young one's now a days it shouldn't be too scary.

Its story does suffer from minor continuity errors and portrays death fairly harsh for young viewers, but that doesn't stop the characters from being any memorable than they already are today. It may seem kiddy when in fact it is more adult like than some may know.

Points Earned --> 7:10