Sunday, June 26, 2016

Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison (2010): Review

Conspiracy theories are one of those touchy topics for some people. In a day where as easy as the public has access to almost anything at the touch of their fingertips, one would think hardly anything would be private. Yet some people still believe there are individuals higher up that have their own agenda and continue to push it to this day. Whether it's true or not has yet to be proven and that goes for any other conspiracy theory. Even more of a reason as to why only select groups of people believe in certain theories is because there are so many for each case. Some of which contradict other theories, while some add or remove events or reasons from others. This is why when theories have conflicting proof, many people do not believe the ploy being made. Whether it's been about a celebrity or infamous criminal, there's been several suspicions made for these people. For this film, the premise is to prove that Paul McCartney from the popular English rock group The Beatles, truly is dead via narration George Harrison.

Clues galore throughout
Directed by Joel Gilbert, a producer/director to other documentaries and some conspiracy films, this documentary is the official one made for this case. There have been other films made but as for reaching the public's eye, this is probably the one. According to Gilbert at the film's introduction, his studio, Highway 61 Entertainment received an unknown package in July of 2005 with no return address. Inside it contained mini cassette tapes labeled with writing saying "The Last Testament of George Harrison". In these tapes the voice speaking reveals supposedly the entire true story that indeed Paul McCartney is dead and the one we know of today is actually the winner of a look alike contest who took his place. This alone (like any conspiracy) does raise some eyebrows because, the whole idea is crazy and questions the very nature of how incidents are handled. However, even before bothering to listen to the rest of the story from the cassettes, there are already some glaring holes in this story.

Looking at the packaged received date alone is a problem. The package was delivered in 2005? So who delivered it? George Harrison died in 2001 so who would Harrison entrust to deliver this important information? Also why wait until 2005? What's the significance? Another glaring issues is that Gilbert also states he had the tapes sent to three different forensics labs to determine the authenticity of the voice and match it to Harrison. The answer - "the results were inconclusive" he states. Okay,...then just play the tapes as is anyway and let the audience think for themselves. But no, instead Gilbert hires actor Lance Lewman to perform as Harrison and dub over the actual tapes. Is this to make the story sound more realistic? It won't if the audience knows it’s an actor redubbing the actual audio material. It's almost like Gilbert knew the actual recording wasn't close so they decided to make it sound close. That doesn't sound honest and it's very questionable on an ethical level.

Then there's the matter of execution to this documentary. The way it changes from chapter to chapter is fine but each chapter has clips of what looks like re-enactments but edited to not be very clear in its presentation. This is also a bit strange because it can confuse the viewer. Is it supposed to help the audience think up of what was happening while the story is being told? Even some of the photos used don't exactly look entirely correct and there's a lot more evidence to sift through. How did Lennon have roughly 50 more songs to make after McCartney's death and they all pertain to McCartney if Lennon and McCartney wrote these songs is another weird coincidence. At the same time though, even with all these inconsistencies, some of the evidence is oddly enough real. Things like the backwards replaying and hearing "Paul is Dead, Man, Miss Him Miss Him" or "Turn Me on Dead Man" is quite eerie. And it's not just the recordings that make this story sound plausible to some degree.

McCartney's double before surgery
Seeing all the albums being analyzed for deeper meanings and having certain areas pointed out that appear on all the albums that came out after McCartney's "supposed" death is strange in its own right. Why is it that the McCartney double is depicted with hands only over his head or how come he's always the only Beatle not facing the same way as the rest? It's always McCartney, so there has to be some kind of reason behind it. Since this is a documentary dealing with history, a cinematographer was not needed. But the historical pieces and archive footage from the past is well appreciated and helps give the viewer a better understanding how certain events led to the rest (or so its claimed). The music composed by Wayne Peet is another nice touch. Especially the main tune used in the introduction, the light flute triplets sound like it belongs in the 60-70s and stirs the intrigue a little more when it comes to understanding what allegedly happened in 1966. Who knows, maybe McCartney is who he is or not.

This conspiracy documentary does bring up some valid points and coincidences but there's a lot of contradicting and confusing evidence as well. With a re-dubbed narration and strange re-enactment footage, it doesn't solve or confirm anything. Thinking about it does sound disturbing though and the music helps with that too.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Friday, June 24, 2016

Shredderman Rules (2007) Review:

Growing up and doing acting, as a profession is not always the easiest thing for certain people. There have been plenty of stories time and again of various child actors who hit it big in one film and completely botched it when they hit their double digits. For cases like these, some have recovered, while others never made it (alive even). It's a sad day to see youth like this head down the wrong path. There's no excuse for it. There is still hope though, especially when looking at Nickelodeon's school-friendly TV show Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide. Starring a truckload of child actors, when looking up the cast and where they are now, it's nice to see several of them have gone on made a name for themselves. More importantly the lead character Ned Bigby played Devon Werkheiser, has been the front runner of all them. Coming out with two extended play acoustic albums, jump starting his own youtube series called Devon's Life Survival Guide and continuing to play in movies, Werkheiser has not slowed down.

Not the noogie
Slowly letting go of his schoolboy Ned Bigby image, Werkheiser began with this TV movie
after the series ended. Here Werkheiser plays Nolan Byrd, a nerdy kid who follows all the rules. He studies hard, doesn't bother anyone and has had a crush on a girl named Isabel (Francia Raisa) since he was little and met her at a lake they both liked. Now, Byrd is harassed by school bully Alvin "Bubba" Bixby (Andrew Caldwell), the son of crooked wealthy town sewage owner Bob Bixby (Daniel Roebuck). When being assigned in class by his history teacher Mr. Green (Tim Meadows) to bring an important situation to light, Byrd decides to create an alias known as "Shredderman" who reveals all of Bubba's wrong doings. Written by Russell Marcus and based on a book by Wendelin Van Draanen, this middle/high school comedy isn't that clever. It is a TV movie so that does limit it's budget and resources, but everything comes off as just very generic among all other things. Savage Steve Holland who has headed other Nickelodeon movies also directed the film.

What writer Russell Marcus doesn't understand is how overused all the school tropes that are shown in this feature and how exaggerated they are. Bullying is still a very serious issue when it comes to school but the way it's displayed here doesn't feel that relevant in today's time. Do bullied kids even get "atomic wedgies" or "fish hooked" anymore? If anything, cyber-bullying feels like more of a thing now. Besides, with these particular humiliations, surely someone from the faculty would see this and would not stand for it. Yet this is a continuous thing at this school at least. This leads into the next point - consequences. Sure there are moments where someone will get what's coming to them but it's all contrived due to plot convenience. Any other time that it's due, it will never show its face. How does a student gain access to old personal digital video files? And if they were, what makes them think they can get away with it? There is such a thing as digital tracking and that can go a long way.

Story wise there's nothing to ride home about either. Making the typical school stereotypes even more generic are the cliches that come with them. The fact that Nolan Byrd acts weird around the girl he likes and his crush not understanding him has been done numerous times before. It's also quite obvious to how it'll end too unfortunately. The story doesn't even try to develop them in a way that'll have its audience feel any other way towards it. It's that straightforward. However even with these problems, the film isn't garbage to sit through. All actors perform their roles the way they should play them; no matter how cliche they may be. Shining among all these actors is Devon Werkheiser for his likability as an actor and his ability to work with whatever he's given. Francia Raisa as his love interest is all right but her character's actions only prove to influence Nolan Byrd's motivational choices. There's also another girl named Miriam (Marisa Guterman) who also likes Byrd, but of course the same can't be said.

"Me tired....of cliches"
Miriam is a socially awkward character and written to be continually disliked by her classmates. Wouldn't it have been nicer to have them accept her more? But no. On a side note Daniel Roebuck also resembles that of a cousin to Donald Trump, it's very odd. Plus Tim Meadows plays a super relaxed teacher (which I don't know how he could've been hired) and Dave Coulier as Byrd Sr. The cinematography by William D. Barber, who normally serves as a camera operator works fine here. Knowing that it was a TV movie but had the look of something a little more than that was fine. There are some special effects shots though that weren't needed and they weren't that good. The music by Paul Doucette was okay too featuring a piano theme for Byrd and other instruments like organ and snare drum. Since it is a TV production, expecting an official release of the music would require too much money. So for what it's worth, Doucette's music is fine where it is being only in the film itself. It has its moments but nothing worth remembering.

Unfortunately the cast of likable actors, music and decent camerawork isn't enough to make this school bully story relevant in today's world. There are a lot of cliches in its story and characters that out date it rather than making it close to today's culture.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000) Review:

Seeing actors early on in their transition stage moving from different genres sure can be surreal sometimes. Perhaps for some, their actual screen presence is not as prevalent as it use to be, but the name itself carries a lot of weight when it comes to how successful a film could be (most of the time). Now a days, when the names Angelina Jolie, Nicolas Cage, Scott Caan, Chi McBride and Robert Duvall are mentioned, all have their names connected to some well-known movie. However, when seeing actors in a transition state where their not the main lead or are but are not given the liberties to do what they did in later films, it just feels strange. The title to this film actually sounds like a knock-off of The Fast and the Furious (2001) franchise that started after that. Pricey, shiny cars, looking to be stolen in a heist film? Sure sounds aggressive enough to be one. But does it turn out like it sounds? Ehh,...kind of but it is a bit misguided in areas. Compared to its 1974 original, the story is more of a soft remake than anything else.

"Hmmm,...should I steal 50 cars today?".....
Written mainly by Scott Rosenberg who also wrote for High Fidelity (2000) and with uncredited rewrites by J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Hensleigh, the plot is about retired car thief Memphis Raines (Nicolas Cage) who is brought back to his old profession in order to save his younger brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) after a major screw up with car trafficker Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston). The job Raines has to complete is stealing 50 high-end cars and have them ready to ship out, otherwise, Raines' brother dies. So in order to complete this task, Raines gets the help from his old crew played by actors, Angelina Jolie, Scott Caan, Chi McBride, Will Patton, Robert Duvall, Vinnie Jones and some others. All the while, police officers Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo) and Drycoff (Timothy Olyphant) are on Raines’ tail trying to figure out if the retired thief has re-entered his old profession. Directed by Dominic Sena who's only done a handful of films heads this production. Unfortunately, both the writing and direction have their issues.

Going back to what was mentioned before, one would think if the title suggests something will be gone in sixty seconds, then the end result will be a fast paced, action film. The thing is, there is action and fast cars, but the build up to this is slower than necessary. Half of this film is Memphis Raines getting his posse together and over time removing the respective cars from their location. However, when this happens very few times is anybody speeding. It's more like nonchalantly cruising off. That doesn't sound that exciting, especially when considering the padding. For almost two hours, there are definitely some scenes that either could've been trimmed or removed completely. This is in due part with the writing, which has a minor subplot about Memphis Raines and Sway (Angelina Jolie) being in love once. It's brought up at one point, then put on hold before having the cliche of "being back together" later for no real reason. What's the point? Audiences aren't exactly given the clearest of backstory to their relationship therefor so what?

Another problem is the lighting and coloring. According to sources, Sena's trademark look are sepia tone / yellowish colors in his film. However, this practically the only color available because there isn't a whole lot of other things that stand out. It doesn't make the viewing experience that interesting. With that though, there are still some nice highlights. The main leads to this film do have their moments together as a crew. Nicolas Cage plays the fence in his acting changing between calm and ready beat anyone who comes to take him out. Angelina Jolie may not be as active in this feature as her later roles would be but she still has a presence that can't be ignored. Vinnie Jones is a character that never talks and isn't explained as to why but he too has some moments that showcase he's not to be messed with. On the other hand, Chi McBride and Delroy Lindo are probably the most vocal, being that they add some kind energy to their roles. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast aren't engaging because there’s too many and not enough development.

Angelina Jolie (action star "in transition" status)
There are however some nice deadpan comical moments delivered by Cage and that deals with his car named Eleanor who sort of has a mind of its own for some reason. It's dumb but funny. The cinematography by Paul Cameron (Man on Fire (2004) and Deja Vu (2006)) are well shot and work well the action scenes that do occur. Since it's wide screen, the look gives a broad range of view to see what surrounds the characters. The car chases that Nicolas Cage performs are decently exciting and are nicely edited. That's the way the rest of the film should have been executed. The music composed by synth enthusiast Trevor Rabin is a mixed bag. The score itself is pretty short surprisingly, clocking in only at a half-hour. Rabin does compose a main theme to Raines and Eleanor with a synth choir that pops up from time to time, but the rest of the tracks are somewhat muddled. There are some exciting cues that involve deep scratchy synth bases but they don't show up all that often because much of the tracks run on average about a minute. It's okay but could've been better.

The electronic synth musical score, cinematography and main leads make the viewing experience watchable but the premise itself is squandered by slow pacing and infrequent action. To be gone in sixty seconds, the momentum this feature creates takes much longer than that.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One Man's Hero (1999) Review:

When it comes films based on true events, it is in the filmmakers' best interest to keep all the facts as legitimate as possible without skewing the story all that much. The genre of films that probably receives the most critical of film buffs' attentions are the ones that have been historically recorded and not some fable spread by rumors and myths. Taking a deeper look, the type of historical film that gets this kind of focus is usually bio-pictures or war dramas. Further closing the gap, the war dramas that have received the motion picture treatment range; but several have depicted these tragedies during the Great War, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Revolutionary War and the American Civil War. Of course in world history, these are not the only confrontations that occurred, but for North American history, this is the usual batch. It is rare when another event is looked at that possibly was forgotten in the regular high school history books. The most recent that comes to mind is Heaven's Gate (1980), which was about a county war in 1890.

Marta & John Riley
Turns out this movie takes place during the 19th century as well. Lance Hool, a producer to other various films like Missing in Action (1984), The Air Up There (1994), Flipper (1996) and Man on Fire (2004), takes a turn in the director's chair to cover the Mexican-American War in 1846. Written by Milton S. Gelman (who passed practically a decade before this film's release), the story is about real-life soldier Sergeant John Riley (Tom Berenger) and his men who abandoned the U.S. army after being persecuted because of their Catholic faith. While leaving, they find refuge with fellow Mexicans led by Cortina (Joaquim de Almeida) and Marta (Daniela Romo). There, they both decide to join Mexico and fight for their freedom. Meanwhile, Colonel Benton Lacy (Mark Moses) attempts to get Riley back to the north before General Winfield Scott (Patrick Bergin) blows them all away. Running parallel to that, Marta and Riley start to become more attracted to each other every minute they spend together.

For problems, there isn't all too much to gripe about. The only script issues that are obvious deal with character motivations. From what is known, John Riley is somewhat a mystery but only after the Mexican-American war ended. There are documents of his existence but there isn't a clear answer as to what he did post-war. Did he marry for real? In this feature, Marta is Riley's love interest as is she to Cortina. The passion that Riley has for Marta is a constant subplot that is brought up every half-hour or so. Yet Cortina repetitively reminds Riley to stay away, but Riley doesn't listen. Soon, Riley and Cortina fight and immediately right after; it's water under the bridge for some odd reason. What was all the antagonizing for if it was going to be settled so quickly? Was it even worth writing in? The only other dilemma in this movie is more technical and that's the depiction of war. This film was Orion Pictures last release and many of the studio's films were rated R (as was this one). Still there seems to be almost no blood or gore.

That particular aspect was probably the most inaccurate component. War is not light and fluffy stuff. There are a couple scenes where blood does flow but it’s rated R. Gettysburg (1993) also should have been R but it was PG so the depiction of violence was much less gruesome and that's only appropriate because of its rating. Why give a movie the label of rated R if won't even play out as an R rated film? It's misleading. The cast to the film was also entertaining. Hearing Tom Berenger with an Irish accent is definitely a change in his usual speech pattern and it does sound authentic, as well as the soldiers played by Stuart Graham, Gregg Fitzgerald, Don Wycherley, Wolf Muser and Luke Hayden. Each actor equally matches Berenger in amiability. Daniela Romo as Marta is very pretty and it is obvious as to why Riley falls for her so quickly. Joaquim de Almeida is always fun to watch but in his role as Cortina, it’s hard to know how trustworthy he is. Mark Moses performance as Colonel Lacy is another great show. Moses knows how to have a presence.

Riley's Brigade
Visually, the film had an appealing look to it. All effects looked like they were executed practically, of which regularly gives a movie a more realistic viewing. Credit to João Fernandes as the director of photography for capturing wide shots of the western North American terrain. The actual depiction may not feel it has the right temperature to walk in casual clothing but it rightfully matches the environment of what the west was like. Fernandes was also the cinematographer for Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984), Missing in Action (1984) and Red Scorpion (1988). The film score produced by Ernest Troost was another great element. Troost also composed the music to both horror comedies Tremors (1990) and Dead Heat (1988). Unlike Dead Heat (1988) though where the orchestra sounded like it came from an oldies monster film, Troost's orchestra to this film is much more full and contemporary. The main title is very applicable to the setting, with bagpipes representing Riley and his men. There's also a choir to boot.

It has some weird character motivations and underwhelming violence for an R rated war film, however it is an immersive film. The story provides a new history lesson to those unfamiliar of the Mexican-American war, the actors perform great, and the cinematography is befitting to the setting as well as the film score.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) Review:

When it comes to Hollywood rebooting various nostalgic properties, fans have to be reassured that the right people are on board to make them. Since the late 2000s, the Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) reboot had its fans up in arms from the very start of reports, pre-production and all the way until its release. It was one of those subjects that had endless debates between all kinds of fans on how the characters would be treated and whether the casting and character designs would properly represent the turtles today. Stepping back, the live-action CGI reboot to the original 1990 film was not a complete critical misfire but there were things about it that blatantly showed how much attention to detail was given to the production. Nonetheless the film brought in a hefty amount of money and two days later, a sequel was green lit. Of course, certain fans that already had their opinion would probably stick with it. However for this entry, there may be people who care after all. From what it looks like, things may turn around.

"Hey,...I think Raph's missing from this screenshot..."
The sequel seems to have taken note of big complaints fans had about the first and has worked to improve it. The first writers to the reboot, Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec continue to pen the script here. In the director's chair is no longer Jonathan Liebesman, but Dave Green, the director of Earth to Echo (2014). The premise to the story is straightforward. After the events of the first, the Shredder (Brian Tee) and two inmates named Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) get broken out of police custody by his fellow foot clansmen and with the help of sci-fi wiz Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). Together they team up with squid alien Krang (Brad Garrett) to help conquer the planet. Thankfully the teenage mutant ninja turtles are willing to stop them with the help of Vernon (Will Arnett), April O'Neil (Megan Fox) and new addition Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). Noel Fisher plays Michelangelo, Jeremy Howard as Donatello, Pete Ploszek as Leonardo and Alan Ritchson as Raphael respectively.

Master Splinter is still voiced by Tony Shalhoub and Laura Linney plays the Chief of the police headquarters. Here are the only problems with the script. Where were the villain connections made? When and where did Baxter Stockman make connections with the Shredder? And the same could also be said for Shredder having connections with Krang. Also it's probably safe to assume Erick Sacks (William Fichtner's role) faded into obscurity or moved out of the country because he's never mentioned. Other than that, there are noticeable improvements in how things are carried out. Character properties were a major complaint among viewers and that was fixed. The footclan - yeah, they're ninjas now, not gun wielders. The turtles themselves are also focused on more instead of their human counterparts. This entry does not have the Michael Bay schtick humor where Michelangelo, Vernon or whoever else ogling over April O'Neil's looks. The turtles are still goofy yes, but no longer with hyperactive immature humor.

The development for the turtles also brings up further questions of teamwork, trust and mistakes. All of which serve as learning curves for each and help them grow as a family. Casey Jones even has a legitimate backstory. Stephen Amell as Jones may not have the long hair but he has the right amount of geekiness and comedic timing to his performance. The action is a nice ride too. There are still CGI fights when the turtles either battle Krang or Bebop and Rocksteady but they are well put together. Another character modification was toning down the CGI on Shredder's costume. Instead of being one giant magnetized mechanized suite with flying daggers, the only metallic parts are his helmet and arm guards and it looks completely acceptable. There's only one scene where the CGI looks a bit off and that's when Bebop and Rocksteady transform into their humanoid animal counterparts. For some reason they do not look completely polished. For a big action film though, Dave Green's direction and ability to handle such scenes is noteworthy.

CGI Live-Action Bebop & Rocksteady
The same could be said for Lula Carvalho as the director of photography. Carvalho's experience with mainstream Hollywood films starts at the remake RoboCop (2014) and this installment's predecessor. There are still some issues with how close the lens will get to the CGI character's faces but there isn't much else to knock on. All action scenes were handled easily and there seemed to be more lit areas too. Surprisingly the composer to the music swapped although the choice of replacement was no shocker. Taking over Brian Tyler's role from the first film is frequent Michael Bay collaborator Steve Jablonsky. Although Jablonsky does not keep Brian Tyler's main theme that Tyler had created from the first film, the new theme that is used has its own motif as well and it is memorable. As to why he couldn't have just added those cues to Tyler's is probably an answer nobody will get (if they're even asking a question like that). The action cues are well produced and definitely help with the momentum in the film.

Originally what seemed like would be just another clunky Michael Bay influenced movie; the sequel has made some significant improvements. The script still misses on explaining certain character introductions but it also focuses more on developing the turtles. Various character designs were fixed by fans’ critiques and the music (although different) is still an enjoyable listening experience.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Blade: Trinity (2004) Review:

Some people may not recognize it as the actual successful start of film studio Marvel comics but Blade (1998) was the original renaissance to where the company entered into profitable film making. It may have not had the intro credits like every property that came after it until its sequels or glowing reviews but the character was one of the few to have a much grittier and darker tone. This attribute would only go to Blade for the first five years until Daredevil (2003) and The Punisher (2004) were released. It was a special franchise that molded vampires from romantic / fantasy creatures into action / horror icons. Blade II (2002) reaffirmed this understanding although it was not as compelling as its predecessor. A couple years later, fans of the series would get their final entry in the series and very few left the theater happy. With a troubled production involving Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson being unsatisfied with the script, the end product feels like not the entire crew was on board.

Blade with Hannibal King and Abigail Whistler
David S. Goyer, the now divisive comic book film adapter of multiple properties wrote and directed this feature. After accidentally killing a human, Blade (Wesley Snipes) is on the run from the F.B.I. and teams up with a group called the Nightstalkers played by Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) and Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel). Together they must join forces to stop Drake AKA Dracula (Dominic Purcell) from bringing the world to an end. Sounds okay on paper (or screen) but the execution is different. Seeing Goyer's experience in other properties and being involved with this franchise from the very beginning, its confusing as to how Goyer messed up this much. Of the premise, the first subplot that does not belong is the killing of a human. It's not that it's a bad idea, but it never gets resolved so why even bother shoehorning it in? The cast is also a mismatch of actors. The only two actors who fit the best are obviously Snipes and Kristofferson; a close third could be Jessica Biel due to her character's relation to Blade.

But of this, Snipes and Kristofferson feel and sound the least invested and that only further cements the troubled production history. One of the biggest things that fans of the series will notice is how much Whistler and Blade take a back seat. Casting Ryan Reynolds would not have been a mistake if the character of King did not eat up all the dialog on the script. Blade barely says anything in this feature. Here and there yeah he does say a couple of good lines, but it's not that often. Most of the time, he just stares into space or grimaces. There's more to Blade than just that. The same could be said for Biel's role. Her character enjoys listening to music when fighting vampires; that dates the film a lot. Dominic Purcell as Drake (is that supposed to modernize his name?) isn't terrible but he also looks awkward in the role. His face looks as though he doesn't quite know what he's playing so he'll just be himself to some degree. His minions played by Paul Levesque (Triple H) and Parker Posey are actually more convincing vampires than he is.

There's also a distinct lack of action and horror throughout this picture. The special visual effects are actually better than a lot of the CGI stuffed scenes that were in Blade II (2002) but the count is much lower here. There are a couple of decent action scenes but the rest are rather underwhelming. Even the battle between Drake and Blade looks less exciting than what has been put to screen before. There are vampire stabbings, bitings and some blood but it's not as heavy as the violence depicted in this franchise's earlier years. Again going back to tone, Blade (1998) and Blade II (2002) roughly had equal tone with each other. The atmosphere of the universe Blade lived in felt dark and unsafe. The locations used in this entry are just uninteresting and boring. The Nightstalkers' headquarters has nothing special about it and the city itself feels more clean and shiny than in past representations. What was the purpose of this? Was it to just add to the fad at the time of other supehero films? It takes away what the series had going for it.

"How do I look?!"
Handling the camerawork was Mexican cameraman Gabriel Beristain. Beristain had also filmed for Blade II (2002) and S.W.A.T. (2003). Thankfully for much of the film, Beristain's experience kept the shoot steady. Beristain delightfully changed the aspect ratio from the previous entry to a wide lens and that always gives the movie a much bigger scope in visuals. The music was also enjoyable though this series has never had a solidified composer attached. Producing the music to this entry was German composer Ramin Djawadi and for some reason his official score has gone unreleased. There are a few areas where bootlegs can be found but there's no real way of obtaining the music. Only a few actual tracks exist, which mainly highlight some of the action sequences. One called "Shooting Around Corners" uses mainly synths but with an energetic fashion that actually is fun listening to. There are some cues that are organic like "Drake's Parting Gift" using real orchestra but it's not as memorable as the scores released it before.

Unfortunately, the last series to the original Blade (1998) franchise is just middling. The music and visuals are acceptable but the casting feels misguided. The main leads don't sound invested, the action is infrequent and Blade doesn't do all that much wisecracking or say much at all.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Smokin' Aces (2006) Review:

Like several jobs around the world, only a hand select group of people get the best jobs and are called back frequently to continue their style of work. This type of search goes the same route for those looking to show their skills in the movie making business. Only some people get their name in the trailers as "..., the director of..." or something along those lines. This particular headline also isn't biased on the critical fame of the designated individual. As long as the director to the movie makes the studio a truckload of money, it doesn't matter. Unfortunately, this doesn’t let other possibly qualified people of that profession to excel. The person to represent this group is the man to this film; Joe Carnahan. Heading only six movies in the last fifteen years or so, Carnahan has proven that he has what it takes to be an acceptable action director along with critical flair. It was actually the release of this film that got him recognized to direct The A-Team (2010) reboot. Weird how that happened because this isn't a good film.

Piven just realized the mess of a movie he's in
Joe Carnahan positioned himself as writer/director to this feature and this could be why it just isn't even decent. Being a solo writer/director is not easy. Anyhow, the story is a collaborative character plot where a bunch of assassins head out to kill a once famed magician named Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven) who decided to turn on the mob that made him filthy rich headed by Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin). While Israel hides in his penthouse suite, F.B.I. agents Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Carruthers (Ray Liotta), amateur assassins Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck) and his buddies played by Peter Berg and Martin Henderson, a rogue trained assassin Pasquale Acosta (Nestor Carbonell), chameleon killer Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flanagan), Neo-nazi hillbillies Darwin (Chris Pine), Jeeves (Kevin Durand) and Lester Tremor (Maury Sterling) and lastly fem fatales Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson) and Georgia Sykes (Alicia Keys) all converge on that point to kill him. With all that said, hardly any of these characters have development.

For a two-hour film one would think some kind of story would occur. Instead, there's a subplot about as to why Buddy Israel needs to be kept alive but it's written as some kind of government plan that is unnecessarily convoluted. Without saying much more, the story will in fact waste the time of the viewer. It completely makes everything pointless. Imagine realizing that after the movie ended, sitting and watching two hours of nothing. Substituted for that is an overstuffed cast of personalities that are difficult to connect with in any way and the list of names mentioned continues. There's also appearances from Common, Andy Garcia, Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton and more. There's just too much to go around. That's not to say the cast can't act or don't have distinct personalities, they just feel rushed and wedged in. Along with that are unresolved character threads that do not conclude the way they should; they just go missing. There are also inconsistencies with security being a thing. How does someone get into a hotel with a sniper?

There are also comedic bits thrown in but that's a mixed bag. Seeing Alicia Keys being a complete tough girl and spewing manly lines is fun. Then there's also a couple scenes where a knock-off karate kid shows his moves to one of the assassins. By golly is he annoying; why was he even included again? It's just unfunny padding that makes no sense. However, even with all this said, the technical quality of the film still thrives. Action-wise, again director Joe Carnahan proves that’s his genre. He doesn't rely on the shaky camera effect to make action look real. He films real cinematic action and it's very entertaining. The type of action to this movie are just gunfights but its rated R so there's decent blood effects. At some points it even goes beyond that to the point of demented horror action. That's mainly credited to the Tremor Neo-nazi brothers for their weird antics. Speaking of which, Chris Pine had a stupid comical scene. Not hilarious, just enough to create one laugh.

Alicia Keys =O
The director of photography to this picture was Mauro Fiore. Fiore was also the guy behind the camera for Training Day (2001), The A-Team (2010) and Southpaw (2015). All of which these films did not involve much of or if any shaky camera movement and that's commendable. There's no particular scene that isn't well lit nor is it frustrating to follow what happens. Clint Mansell composed the musical score. The scores Mansell has produced for various films range in critical praise but some are movies like Requiem for a Dream (2000), Sahara (2005), Moon (2009) and Black Swan (2010). Mansell's Smokin' Aces (2006) score may only be forty-five minutes, but there are number of solid action and emotional cues. Soft electric guitar and strings highlight the action, which helps get the blood pumping. The softer cues that easily stir the correct emotion use more acoustic guitar, and more drawn out strings in a tragic key. Mansell shows that he is proficient at both ends of the spectrum.

Joe Carnahan is naturally a well-equipped action director and his technical crewmembers hit the mark as well in music and cinematography. The actors can act in their roles but with little development, very few come out feeling likable in any way. The story wastes time and the plot is bloated with too many character threads.

Points Earned --> 4:10