Snowpiercer (2013)

2014 June 22
by profwagstaff

Be a shoe!

snowpiercer

Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
Written by: Joon-ho Bong/Kelly Masterson/
Based on graphic novel by: Jacques Lob/Benjamin Legrand/Jean-Marc Rochette
Limited Theatrical Release Date: June 27, 2014

Joon-ho Bong is one of the most creative folks working today. The Host and Mother, while not original concepts (a monster attacking a city and another protecting her son), they were executed in ways that most of us didn’t see coming. And that’s how you make a damn movie.

Snowpiercer is no different. Here, he’s taken a graphic novel about a train full of the last inhabitants of Earth with the rich in front and the poor in back and turned it into a “Fuck the elite” parable about capitalism, sacrifice and love.

All without a love interest for anyone!

Curtis (Chris Evans) knows what it was like before the ice hit. He remembers warm days and running free. He chooses to forget because he can’t bear the memory. He was 17 when the countries of Earth sent a chemical into the air thinking that it would stop global warming. It did, alright. It went the opposite way and froze everything, killing every life on Earth. That’s when they gathered up the survivors and put them on a perpetual engine train created by a man named Wilford. The train is basically an ark, carrying everything that they could possibly carry, including prejudice against the poor.

Curtis is in the back of the train along with the other poor people of the “world.” The rich folks are on all of the front cars having the time of their lives. For 17 years, it’s been like this.

It’s time for a change.

Curtis leads the poor folk up, one car at a time, to try to get to the engine and Wilford. When they get there, they’ll control the world, right?

In just about anyone else’s hands, this movie would have been boring. It all takes place on the train. No exit. No escape. Luckily, Bong and his crew are creative enough to make this consistently interesting, exciting and even beautiful to look at. It reminded me a little of a Jean-Pierre Juenet film, there was so much attention to background detail and so many different worlds to enter in each car.

Of course, it all would have fallen apart if there hadn’t been a game cast. Led by Evans, who has never been better (that final monologue will kill you) the cast is perfect. Jamie Bell as Curtis’ right hand man who worships him. John Hurt as Curtis’ mentor. Bong’s mainstay, Kong-ho Song, as a drug addicted engineer who designed some of the mechanisms on the train. Octavia Spencer as the protective mother. Ewan Bremner as a protective father. And, of course, Tilda Swinton as Mason.

Oh, Tilda Swinton. She’s fucking amazing. She owns this role. She’s kind of batshit insane in her devotion to Wilford and the train. She’s created a character that almost seems straight out of something like The Hunger Games, but belongs in this world.

My one issue with the movie is the fact that there really didn’t seem to be much reason to keep the poor people poor. Every once in a while they were pulled out to do jobs, but rich people had jobs, too. And often they had jobs that were just like the poor peoples’ jobs. They would also pull children out of the rear car for a mystery reason, but even that doesn’t really make sense as a reason once we get an explanation. So…why, exactly, are the poor folks kept in the rear of the train? If everyone has their place…what IS their place? And why?

You could say that, in real life, there is no explanation, either. But I feel like there is. Not a good one, but an explanation still. It’s a form of slavery. Keep them poor and they will always have to work for you. But these people are, for the most part, not working. It’s more like a concentration camp. They’re kind of in the rear car just because.

But that’s kind of a small quibble, honestly. It didn’t bother me enough to not like the movie at all. It was just a minor annoyance. I kind of loved the movie overall.

I want to make sure that people see this movie. It was made by a mostly Korean crew and is completely the baby of Joon-Ho Bong. I want the studios to know that we care about movies like this. That they don’t have to water down foreign directors’ art to make money. And that we like complex stories with real characters…that also happen to have a lot of kick-ass action in them.

Many thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse for putting together a pretty awesome event. We all met in Cedar Park to take the Hill Country Flyer out to Burnet, TX. I’ve never really been on a train like that and it was a lot of fun. Director Bong was in attendance and did a fun Q&A before and after the film.

SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THIS FILM!
snowpiercer-Tilda

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014)

2014 June 7
by profwagstaff

Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they can’t be saved.

xmen_days_of_future_past

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg/Jane Goldman/Matthew Vaughn
Based on comics by: Chris Claremont/John Byrne/Stan Lee/Jack Kirby

So, we go back in time and tell the makers of some of these films to NEVER make them.

THINK LIKE A MAN, TOO–Movies like this are why people hate movies. So many things wrong with this. I can’t even start.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION–”This isn’t a war. This is human extinction.” Might as well say it with Prime. So cliched. I hate you, Michael Bay.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES–It’s got one too many prepositions in the title, but I want this movie. Rise was great and I can’t wait to see where the story goes. Hopefully, it goes the way of a good movie and not a quick cash grab. Director Matt Reeves also made Cloverfield and Let Me In, two movies that I liked. AND there’s Gary Oldman! Yep. Can’t wait.

LET’S BE COPS–Again…so much wrong. Two idiots decide to dress up as cops for a costume party. They realize that they are now invincible…and they can get ladies to trust them and let them in their houses! Ugh. Fuck this movie.

Ok. Let’s get BACK!…….TO THE FUTURE…PAST…SOMETHING…WHAT?!?!

I fucking love the X-Men movies. Really, only Last Stand has been anywhere near bad and it was really just a mediocre mess. Not terrible, but it didn’t live up to the first two, so everyone hated it. First Class was very nearly just that: first fucking class.

When I heard that they were continuing that story and getting Bryan Singer back to direct, I was shocked and excited. Singer started it all and then immediately made the best of the series. What could he do with everyone’s favorite storyline from the comics?

Turns out…make a pretty decent movie, but not an amazing one.

At the beginning of the movie, the Mutants are in trouble. Hell, the Earth is in trouble. Giant robots called Sentinels are attacking basically every living thing on Earth. There’s no way to escape them except to wait for an attack, send someone a few minutes back in time to warn everyone of the attack and then get the hell out of there before the attack ever happens. In other words, they’re always on the run and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) is constantly sending Bishop (Omar Sy) back. But she doesn’t send his whole body. She just sends his mind back to his slightly younger self to warn everyone.

That gives Professor X (Patrick Stewart) the idea of sending someone back in time to 1973 to stop the war from ever starting. In other words, stop Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the scientist who invented the Sentinels (Peter Dinklage).

Of course, they send Logan (Hugh Jackman). Of course, he has to find Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) before they become Professor X and Magneto (Ian McKellen) and when they’re the low point in their friendship, make them work together and then save the world.

Luckily, Logan never ages, so they don’t have to CGI his face to make him look 50 years younger…or find a five year old to play him.

It’s a bit of a complex story, but it’s not impossible and I’m sure it’s incredibly dumbed down from the comic. (Sadly, I haven’t read it yet. I really want to now, though.) It’s certainly a good story and worthy of a good movie.

And this is a good movie. By now, everyone has settled into their roles and most of them could play them in their sleep…especially Jackman since he’s played Wolverine more times than Sean Connery played Bond at this point. (That’s including a couple of video games.) There’s no one that I would trade out for anyone else. And anyone who’s a little weak (Halle Berry, I’m looking at you) isn’t in it enough to really matter. The newcomers are just about as good as the X-veterans. Evan Peters is especially good as Quicksilver. I also quite liked Bingbing Fan as Portal Girl…I mean, Blink. But she didn’t have much to do but look worried and throw CGI.

The main issue I had was the script. It started off really fucking dumb, but got a bit better as the movie went on. There was too much exposition at times that bogged things down a lot and…seriously? Erik quoting James Brown? Nope. Don’t buy it.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I just wish it had been better.  Hopefully, X-Men Apocalypse will be the movie that we all wanted this one to be. I can’t wait to see it.

Godzilla (2014)

2014 May 25
by profwagstaff

The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around. Let them fight.

godzilla2014

Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Max Borenstein/Dave Callaham
Based on monster created by: Shigeru Kayama/Ishiro Honda/Takeo Murata

Man, I was excited by the fact that the director of Monsters was going to be making a Godzilla movie! How did it turn out? We’ll see after these behemoths.

MALEFICENT–It’s always nice when a good witch gets her due. Here, we get to see the back story of Sleeping Beauty’s arch nemesis. Even better, the evil sorceress is played by Angelina Jolie for what is her first meaty role in years. (By the way, those are actually her real cheek bones. They tone them down in other movies.) Looks like a lot of fun and a good dark flick for Disney. We’ll see.

EDGE OF TOMORROW–You know what makes me want to see this? I kinda like Doug Liman. Emily Blunt is pretty awesome. And Tom Cruise dies. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. This is Groundhog Day remade as a sci-fi action thriller. Every time Tom dies, he comes back closer to winning some war…and probably getting the girl. Might see it in theatres. Might just wait for video. Depends on what I hear about it.

22 JUMP STREET–It’s still hard for me to believe how good the first movie was. Can this one be that good? I kind of doubt it, but I’m willing to try it out. The preview looks good enough with a few good laughs. I’m a little worried, but not enough to completely blow it off. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are awesome together.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION–Mark Wahlberg lost me when he said that he trusts Michael Bay and is just along for the ride. Fuck that. This looks just as bad as all the rest of these movies. A decent actor in the lead role can’t help it. Especially when said good actor doesn’t care that his director is bullshit.

THE EXPENDABLES III–When did Kelsey Grammar become a tough guy?

THE MAZE RUNNER–I know nothing about this book, but the movie looks pretty cool. It’s Lord Of The Flies meets Labyrinth. A bunch of boys are for some reason stuck on one side of a maze. It opens every once in a while to let a couple of them in. They always die. A new kid appears and he’s…different. Then a girl shows up. Can they beat the maze? I dunno, but I’m interested.

Ok. Let’s check out these here kaiju.

So, as I said earlier, a few years back there was a movie called Monsters. It was about two people who were trying to make it through an “infected zone,” which happened to be the entire northern half of Mexico. There were aliens in that area and a giant wall was being built along the US border to keep them out.

Get it?!

The movie was really about the two people, though. They went through this area trying their best to get home, but getting to know each other and the people who lived in Mexico. They also learned a thing or two about those aliens.

It’s a pretty powerful movie with hardly any action in it at all. It’s a character study that just happened to have a few special effects in it.

I won’t say that I was hoping for the same thing with a Godzilla movie, but I was hoping for something more than what I got.

In this latest version of the story (which actually IS a continuation of the very first movie from 1954), we meet Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), the head of a nuclear power plant outside of Tokyo. In 1999, that plant went tits up. Seriously. It fell over and sank into the ground.

Instead of building another one on top if it, though, they sealed off the entire area and told people that it was too dangerous to live there anymore. Joe took his son, Ford, and went a little crazy. Of course it didn’t help that the accident forced him to seal his wife (Juliette Binoche) in a part of the plant that was exploding. That would drive me a little bit over the edge, too.

For the next 15 years, Joe studied the seismic activity that happened just before the accident. He finds a connection between it and the same activity that happened in 1954 when a giant monster attacked Japan. Dr Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) knows there’s a connection, but doesn’t fully understand it. Or does he?

Meanwhile, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has just come home from the military to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son (Carson Bolde). Just as he’s about to get comfortable, he gets a call that his dad is in a Japanese prison and he has to go get him out.

Soon enough, Ford is put back to work in Japan fighting a giant monster that no one remembered existed, along with two other monsters that might be the real problem.

In 1954, Godzilla/Gojira was a pretty crazy concept. Giant monsters? How could that be good? Well, first off, don’t make it too obvious that it’s a guy in a rubber suit. Second, make it ABOUT something. Just nine years after the bombs were dropped at the end of WWII, Godzilla was a cautionary tale about nuclear power. Godzilla was created by the testing of nuclear weapons mixing with prehistoric fossils or something like that.

What people tend to forget is that first movie was pretty fucking bleak. It was a serious film that spawned hundreds of silly sequels that just got sillier until the 1998 Roland Emmerich fiasco. That pretty much killed Godzilla in ways that Mothra never could. (By the way, Mothra almost makes a cameo in this film.) It’s bloody awful and should be killed with fire.

Edwards and his crew are doing their best to bring the series back to its roots, although they do use the sequels’ “anti-hero” stance on Godzilla. In the first film, he was the villain. No question. He just came in and terrorized Tokyo. It was the later films that had him coming back to destroy other kaiju, saving humanity…while killing probably thousands of humans in the process.

Oh well. There are far too many of us anyway.

None of this do I have a problem with. I love Godzilla. I love the MUTOs. I love their design and the way they fight (although I could have done with MORE fighting instead of a lot of it taking place off screen.) I’m even ok with the fact that they change Godzilla’s origin story. (Now he actually IS a prehistoric creature that wasn’t created by nuclear power, but he’s POWERED by it.) What I’m not ok with is the fact that we don’t give a shit about ANY of the characters.

Let me start with this: There is a big complaint against this movie about the treatment of the one major Japanese character, Dr Serizawa. Basically, that complaint says that Godzilla is a Japanese monster. Why is the one Japanese character not given any character at all? Why are we only really concerned with the white people in the movie?

To that, some people will say, “If they movie had been made in India, it would have been mainly peopled with Indians. If it had been made in England, it would have been mainly peopled with British people. What’s the big deal?”

To this I say, “The movie takes place mostly in Japan. Why is there only one Japanese character? And why is that character completely characterless?”

Seriously. I know nothing about Dr. Serizawa except his name and his job. That and he’s fairly pragmatic about the fact that Godzilla is nature coming back to bite us in the ass. Does he have a family? Is he a workaholic? Does he really give a shit about anything at all that’s going on around him? What’s his stake in any of this?

There are exactly two characters in this movie that the audience is made to care about and they are dispatched within the first half hour of the film. I don’t care about Ford because, as much as I like Aaron Taylor-Johnson (mostly on the basis of the first Kick Ass movie and an REM video directed by his wife), he’s pretty boring here. As talented as I think Elizabeth Olsen is, she’s not given shit to do but run around, scream and look worried about her missing husband. Ken Watanabe is a great actor. He does nothing here. Absolutely nothing.

Another issue? There’s no logic to how these monsters work. The MUTOs send out EMP pulses that take out all power for a fairly large radius. Big Godzilla fans will know that this would come in VERY handy when dealing with the Big Guy. Nope. Just kind of forgotten about.

Oh well. I guess we can’t win ‘em all, can we? I should have known we were in trouble as far as logic and editing were concerned when, at the beginning, there’s a scene with Mrs. Brody running down a hallway with two men. Depending on the shot, she was either in front of or behind these men. She was wherever it was convenient for the audience to see her.

Sigh…

Gareth Edwards is already signed on to make a sequel, according to IMDb. He’s also apparently making one of the new Star Wars films. Hopefully he’ll bring his Monsters game to those and not his Godzilla game. Really, anyone could have made this movie. And that’s disappointing.

Ok. Michael Bay couldn’t have made this movie. He would have fucked it up FAR worse. We wouldn’t have even cared about the monsters in his version.

As High As The Sky (2012)

2014 May 24
by profwagstaff

Directed by: Nikki Braendlin
Written by: Nikki Braendlin

Sisters have a very complex relationship. Of course, I’ve never been a sister, but I’ve known some, and they’re sometimes hard to get a handle on. Issues from the past become issues of the present. They love each other, but sometimes it’s hard.

Maggie and Josephine (Caroline Fogarty and Bonnie McNeil) have just such a relationship. Maggie is a party planner who suffers from pretty major OCD and is going through a breakup. Her aunts (the telephoned voices of Dee Wallace and Jenny O’Hara) think it’s time for her to take the guy’s voice off her answering machine (yeah, she still has one of those), but she’s not quite ready yet.

That’s when Josephine shows up with her 10 year old daughter, Hannah (Laurel Porter), show up on her doorstep. Josephine has always been a free spirit and has led her daughter through a life of travel and fun. The aunts have never liked Josephine and think that Hannah needs stability. Then again, they’re pretty controlling, so “stability” is relative, right?

When the movie started, I was actually pretty annoyed with it. The acting was stiff and the line delivery was stilted. I’m also a little tired of the “stick in the mud OCD” character. Just once I want an OCD character who has some life…they just need to have everything in order. Maggie is so stiff that most sticks think she needs to lighten up.

As the story progressed and the characters got more well defined, I started to realize that this was a pretty realistic vision of sisterhood. These two women, who are 13 years apart, have almost nothing in common. They love each other because they’re sisters, but they barely know each other. Their relationship is strained at best, but it’s not because they hate each other. There’s an underlying reason for the strain that is barely talked about, but it’s there and it’s real.

That really was the best thing about the movie. The portrayal of the relationship between all of these women was pretty realistic. Between sister, mother, daughter and aunt, all of them were great, which is saying something since I never thought that the acting got too much better. (Except from Laurel Porter. She was actually really good.) Writer/director Nikki Braendlin did her best to portray not only the relationships, but the OCD issues with as much compassion as possible. While I wasn’t, as I said, all that into the portrayal of the OCD, she did a great job with the relationships.

Now, if she could only get a better style for her filmmaking. This was a step above Hallmark…but not a very big step above.

One word of advice: Please turn it off before the credits roll. The closing song is fucking awful…complete with “funny” title cards. I know there’s a child singing part of it, but she didn’t write it. Therefore, I feel ok insulting it.

Also, although there is a bit of pot in the movie, this is not, as the title suggests, a pot movie. Sorry, kids.

Return To Nuke ‘Em High (2014)

2014 May 8
by profwagstaff

Wait. You queefed in my mouth when I went down on you?

Return To Nuke 'Em High

Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman
Written by: Travis Campbell/Derek Dressler/Lloyd Kaufman/Casey Clapp/Aaron Hamel

Troma does a few things very well. First off, Lloyd Kaufman and his crew know how to make some disgusting special effects. I’ve rarely ever seen a head smash done as well as in Troma movies.

Second, they know their way around some nudity. Yes, it’s pretty much always nubile young women, but Lloyd does know what he likes. And occasionally, he also likes obese, hairy men.

Third (and you’ll just have to go with me on this if you haven’t seen one of their films), they know how to do some really absurd political commentary. Ever since Citizen Toxie in 2000, their movies have been rife with politics. (Actually, it happened before that, but 2000 is when things REALLY got hot in that area.)

Fourth, they offend everyone. Ev…rey…one.

These four things are why I love them so much. I could watch just about anything made by Troma. (Not necessarily anything RELEASED by Troma. They’ve released some awful shite.)

When I heard that they were remaking/sequelizing Class Of Nuke ‘Em High, I was all over it…eventually. What I didn’t realize is that they were doing so with a THREE HOUR MOVIE!!!

This is the first part. It’s about 80 minutes long and goes pretty fucking far to offend the entire world.

Yeah. I loved it.

Tromaville is no longer threatened by a nuclear meltdown. Oh, no. They tore down the old power plant, so Tromaville High School is no longer in it’s shadow. Now there’s an organic food factory in the plant’s footprint. Nothing could go wrong, right?

But when the owner of the plant is as heartless and greedy as Lee Harvey Herzkauf (Lloyd Kaufman, getting a bigger role than I ever remember him getting before), you know that the high school is in trouble.

Meanwhile, Chrissy (Asta Paredes) is trying her best to figure out her sexuality. She teases her loser boyfriend, Eugene (Clay von Carlowitz), with sex every now and then, but doesn’t really want it. (Then again, who would want it from this guy?) When she meets Lauren (Catherine Corcoran), things change a bit. Chrissy bullies the shit out of Lauren, but can’t seem to stop thinking about her. The feeling is suppressedly mutual. Before, all Lauren could think about was her beloved duck. Now she thinks about Chrissy. A lot.

Did I mention that the organic food at the school is from Herzkauf’s factory? Yeah. So kids start to explode. The glee club turns into The Cretins, a crew of punk bullies who can suddenly sing. And Lauren and Chrissy may now have new appendages. Maybe.

More fun than a ball of glass, Return To Nuke ‘Em High is Troma at its best. Nearly. All of the over the top gore is there, along with all of the surreal political hijinks. I was a little annoyed by the constant fart sound effect, but I pretty much got over it. I mean, you gotta put your standards elsewhere with Troma.

If you know Troma, you know what you’re getting into. If you don’t know Troma…proceed with caution. Great caution. You may have a lot of fun. Or you may want to vomit.

Personally, I can’t wait for the second part to come out!

House Of Dust (2013)

2014 May 7
by profwagstaff

Directed by: AD Calvo
Written by: AD Calvo/Alyssa Alexandria/Nevada Grey/Scott Kittredge
DVD Release Date: May 20, 2014

Insane asylum. Horrible experiments with lobotomies. Super crazy guy goes crazy during an experiment and kills the doctor. Gets put in the crematorium by the orderlies while he’s still alive. Nothing bad could come of that, right?

Fast forward about 70 years. A bunch of really stupid kids break into the now abandoned (of course) asylum and snoop around, finding said crematorium.

None of these people have any real character. Kolt (Steven Grayhm) doesn’t drink and is the “nice guy”. Dylan (Eddie Hassell) is a punk…kind of. Gabby (Holland Roden is “normal” and sort of dating the “punk”. Maybe. Emma (Inbar Levi) is on meds (of course) and another group of girls thinks she’s weird. After seeing her for ten seconds, of course. That’s it. They just saw her get dropped off and decided that she was too weird to be a decent person.

As they snoop around, they don’t even notice that Emma has disappeared. Seriously? There are four people in your group. How does it take you 20 minutes to realize one of them has gotten separated from you?

We don’t know anything about Emma’s issues, but they seem to have been more intense than what most folks on psychotropic meds have. She was in an institution for a bit and her mom is still worried about her. There’s not a lot said about her issues except that she has them. My guess, though, is that she has them so that there’s sort of an explanation for this: She’s the only one of the four kids who isn’t affected by the dust that they breath in the asylum. Dylan becomes angry with OCD. Kolt becomes a sex-crazed asshole. Gabby suddenly hates people touching her and talks about her pet rat. All emma gets is dreams, voices and visions. She’s not possessed by any of the ghosts of the asylum, so she’s free to figure out what’s going on and be the hero.

This is when one of the bitches gets killed in the laundry room by an unseen assailant. Now things start to get…meh.

The worst thing about this movie was that I didn’t give a shit about any of the characters. Emma was the most sympathetic, but she still wasn’t particularly interesting, much like the story. What we have hear is just another possession movie about kids who do something they shouldn’t and get punished by it.

Speaking of punishment, I hated the “mean girls.” I know we’re supposed to, but their brand of bullying is getting old. I know it happens and it sucks. I hate it. There are people out there who make snap judgments about people because they wear black pants. (That really seems to be why they think Emma is weird.) It’s in real life, so I guess it’s fair game for a movie, but it made me hate the movie even more. These girls actually lean over during class to tell her how crazy she is. They call her “psycho…like the film.” (Yeah. They actually say that. Fuck this movie.) When the girls start dying, I really tried to figure out if we were supposed to care.

The leaps of logic didn’t help the case at all, either. First off, I don’t remember actually seeing any of the kids breathe in the “dust” from the asylum early on. Dylan tried to crawl into the incinerator (‘cause he’s a fucking idiot) and said something about getting dust on him…not realizing that it was probably actually ashes of people. But we never see the dust floating around like we do at the end.

Oh, and speaking of the ending…why is the gas still turned on at this asylum that’s been abandoned for 70 years?

Ugh. Skip this one.

Independence DaySaster (2013)

2014 May 7
by profwagstaff

Welcome to America!

Directed by: WD Hogan
Written by: Sydney Roper/Rudy Thauberger
DVD Release Date: May 27, 2014

I loves me some bad movies. I could watch ‘em all day long given the right group of friends to watch them with. My usual group of friends is a space janitor and his two robot pals, but I’ll take flesh and blood, too. Sometimes, that’s better. Sometimes.

For some reason, though, I’ve never delved into SyFy Original Movie territory. I don’t know. I love Roger Corman, but all of the Sharknado and Mega Shark Vs (Insert Ridiculous Animal Here) movies just haven’t grabbed me much.

Sadly, that didn’t really change with Independence DaySaster. Besides the awkward and “hilarious” title, the movie doesn’t have a lot going for it. When your star power includes Ryan Merriman (who showed promise long ago in The Deep End Of The Ocean) and Tom Everett Scott (who showed promise long ago in That Thing You Do), you know that you’re probably dead in the water.

Either way, I gave the movie a shot.

The lead singer of The Wonders is the President of the United States, Sam Garcette. (Come a long way, hasn’t he?) His brother, Pete (Merriman), is a fireman in their hometown of Moose Ridge…some state. Sam’s son, Andrew (Keenan Tracey) has been going to school in Moose Ridge and is now trying to figure out where to go to college. He’s pretty full of himself and, well, that’s really his only character trait. But that goes away pretty quickly. Pete’s character is “hesitant to believe that his brother will show up to the town’s 4th of July party.” Does he not realize that the President has other things to do besides go to some puissant town’s insignificant party? Sam’s character is, “I’m President. Listen to me.”

There’s also a SETI scientist named Celia (Emily Holmes). Her character is “I’m disorganized and I don’t make enough money to get a vehicle that won’t break down all the time.” She sees that some sort of phonon signals are being broadcast from space and then being rebroadcast from Earth. Where are those coming from?

Turns out that they’re coming from giant metal penises that suddenly start drilling out of the ground. Then giant metal balls start dropping from the sky. Soon enough, Moose Ridge is fucked to death.

Luckily, Pete and Andrew make it out just in time (as does one friend who gets sucked up by a blurry CGI rotating blade on one of the penises). They and a couple of other kids were on their way to meet Sam at the helicopter landing pad…which was apparently a lake. The helicopters, of course, get diverted and crash. All of the secret service guys around both the President and Andrew are killed leaving only the civilians to fend for themselves. Naturally. Not a single suit among them.

Pete and Celia meet up, find the three kids and then run around with no particular place to go except wherever the helicopters were supposed to land. Celia saves one piece of equipment when the firetruck is destroyed. It just happens to be the one piece of equipment that might save the world. As big of a coincidence as the fact that Sam drags himself out of the lake and ends up at the one barn that happens to be the home of one of the biggest computer geniuses in the entire state (Iain Belcher). He has everything that a growing boy needs. And everything that the President of the United States might need to get in touch with the secret bunker that houses all of the surviving officials of the government. And all of the pieces of equipment needed to fix Celia’s equipment.

Those kinds of coincidences (and nonsensical events like the sacrifice of one character for no reason whatsoever) make this a bad movie of great magnitude. Sadly, what it doesn’t do is make it a bad movie that’s a lot of fun to watch. Oh, there are some fun scenes here and there and a few real groaners (“America is under attack! On the 4th of July.” Oh, and the rest of the world, too, I guess.)

There’s also a disturbing recurrence of low-grade sexism going on. At one point, Pete takes a piece of equipment away from Celia and then, in a panic, asks her how to use it. Why not just let her keep it since she knows how to use it? Oh, just because he’s a man and she’s a woman. Another time, a woman is panicking and she’s shut up with a kiss…or two…or three. She calms down and says, “I’m so glad you’re here.” In real life, I’m pretty sure she would have slapped the guy and told him to fuck off. I guess the result was the same, either way: The panic would’ve gone away.

That same girl, upon finding out that her hometown had been destroyed, had a look on her face like, “I have to repopulate the Earth with these fools? Shit.”

I think what’s really happening here is that SyFy realizes that they make shitty movies that people like to watch because they’re shitty. WD Hogan, however, thinks that he’s making a real film, even though the movie was really only made to cash in on a sequel to Independence Day that didn’t happen. Those two ideas don’t go together at all. They just don’t gel. What you end up with is a mediocre sic-fi action “thriller” like Independence DaySaster. And mediocre is the kiss of death for a movie like this. Either really, really good or really, really bad. Somewhere in the middle is nearly unwatchable. This one leans a little closer to really, really bad, so it’s watchable. But it’s just not on the level of a Birdemic or The Room or Fateful Findings. Or even Sharknado.

Mr. Jones (2013)

2014 May 4
by profwagstaff

If you see him…….run.

mr_jones

Directed by: Karl Mueller
Written by: Karl Mueller
DVD Release Date: May 9, 2014

This is not to be confused with the terrible Kevin Costner soap opera movie from the 90s.

Imagine, if you will, convincing your wife to leave everything behind for a year to move into the woods so that you can make a nature documentary. Then imagine that you find out that there’s a mysterious man who lives in a house nearby. Could that man be the enigmatic “Mr. Jones” that the art community has been trying to find out more about for decades? His talismans sure do look like the ones made by this man. But who is Mr. Jones, really? And what are these pieces of art for?

Mr. Jones starts off as a found footage movie about the two stupidest people in the world. Scott (Jon Foster) takes Penny (Sarah Jones) into the woods to live and then immediately goes off his meds. She apparently has no idea that he has mental issues because she asks him repeatedly, “What’s wrong with you?” Anyone who knows that their spouse has a mental illness that requires medication would know exactly what was wrong. When he tells her that he stopped taking his meds she gets angry and basically calls him an idiot. I mean, he is, but that is NOT how you deal with that.

This is when they find out that they’re not alone in the woods. Scott follows the mysterious stranger to his house and then runs back home. Later, when he’s sure that the guy isn’t home, he drags Penny to the house! They explore the entire house, including the creepy basement. When Penny starts to realize who this guy might be, she goes insane and starts wanting to explore more…even after the guy gets home.

Then something really strange happens: The movie becomes really interesting. Scott goes to New York to interview some folks who know something about this Mr. Jones, leaving Penny behind in the woods. (Yep. He’s an idiot.) She explores a bit more and even meets Mr. Jones.

That’s when things start to get really crazy and reality clashes with dreams. Is Penny going crazy? Is Scott? And just what in the hell are these talismans for, anyway?

I’ll never call Mr. Jones a great film. There are too many dropped threads (the meds are never brought up again) and it never fully makes sense. But it did what any good horror movie is supposed to do: It kinda creeped me out a little. Mr. Jones is just mysterious enough to make me wonder what the fuck he’s really up to and the ending is surreal, but kinda scary.

Definitely check this one out if you have 85 minutes to kill and want to see something a little creepy.

The Raid 2 (2014)

2014 April 20
by profwagstaff

Hammer later!

raid2

Directed by: Gareth Evans
Written by: Gareth Evans

I highly recommend The Raid 2 to anyone who is in a bad mood. That is, of course, if you have a strong stomach for violence.

Let’s start with a preview or two, though.

LOCKE—Tom Hardy stars in this movie that seems to take place in one car with the titular character drives around town. It’s just Hardy driving and talking on the phone. And it looks absolutely mesmerizing. I’m into it. And so are you.

GOD’S POCKET—This is one of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last films and it looks awesome. He plays a working class guy whose stepson is killed and he has to figure out what the fuck happened. John Turturro, Christina Hendricks and Richard Jenkins also star, and I definitely want to check this out.

Now, let’s check out this ultraviolence, eh?

A few years back, I saw a movie called Merantau. It was directed by a Welsh guy named Gareth Evans and starred an Indonesian guy named Iko Uwais.

I was fucking blown away. This kid was amazing. (I say kid because he looks young. I have no idea how old he actually is.) He hit harder than most martial arts actors and moved faster than them, too. At the time, I thought he would have made a great Spike for a live action Cowboy Bebop film…if only he was about 4 or 5 inches taller.

Alas, he was never cast as Spike. Instead, he’s made two more films with Gareth: The Raid and The Raid 2. (They’ve announced a third film…co-starring Tony Jaa! I can’t wait!) He also made a movie with the guy who was going to play Spike: Keanu Reeves. Man Of Tai Chi bombed, though. And Keanu was a terrible choice for Spike.

The Raid is the story of Rama (Uwais), a rookie cop who gets caught up in a raid on a drug cartel in a high rise. The catch is that his brother is a member of the cartel. It’s some pretty dark shit and the action is non-stop and amazing. It was one of the best action films I had seen in a long time.

The Raid 2 picks up right where the first film leaves off. Rama is forced to go undercover in the cartel while ferreting out corrupt cops. Of course, things go a bit differently.

Once again, this is non-stop, brutal action. There are broken bones a-plenty. There are also bats, balls, knives, guns, hammers and just about everything in between. Luckily, there’s story to go along with it. Rama gets to know and respect these guys. And he’s spent years away from his wife and baby. This is an Indonesian Donnie Brasco…with much more bloodletting. MUCH more.

Evans is becoming a much more interesting director, too. I love the way he and his cinematographers, Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono, move and twist the camera. There’s a scene where a guy gets thrown through a window. The camera follows him and flips upside down with him. Then, as he flips over, the camera flips over, too. There’s so much of this going on and it’s amazing.

I love the shit out of this movie. If you love blood, torn flesh and amazing fight choreography, The Raid 2 is for you.

Of course, Hollywood is trying to figure out a remake, directed by the man who brought us The Expendables 3. Why? Just…why?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

2014 April 13
by profwagstaff

Thanks, Bucky, but I can make it on my own.
I know. But, you see, you don’t have to. ‘Cause I’m with you to the end.

captain america2

Directed by: Anthony Russo/Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely/Ed Brubaker
Based on comics by: Joe Simon/Jack Kirby

Excelsior! Let’s see what’s coming up!

THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN 2—It’s really hard for me to have much of an opinion on this, really. I’m interested really only because I love the character of Spidey so much. I haven’t seen the first in this run yet because I love the first two Raimi films so much. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that they rebooted it so soon. I guess it looks…ok. I don’t know. It also looks kind of terrible. Guess we’ll see…maybe.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST—THIS, on the other hand, looks awesomely intense! It’ll probably confuse the shit out of me, but I’ll have a lot of fun trying to keep up. Plus, Bryan Singer is back! Totally for this one.

Surprised there was no Guardians Of The Galaxy preview here.

Ok, so how was Cap’s new adventure?

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans in the role he was born to play), and he’s becoming a little bit less of a man out of time. Sure, he’s still confused about some things (still hasn’t heard Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man), but he knows other things (he’s seen WarGames?). But he’s about to be a man out of phase, too.

Steve and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) have it out in the first act over the fact that SHIELD is about to launch a program that will keep an eye on everyone and basically pick out who is going to commit crimes even before they commit them. Steve, of course, is fully against this. Nick sees it as a necessary evil.

That is, until Nick is attacked in his car by men disguised as police. Soon enough, Steve is on the run from the new leader of SHIELD, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). Is Pierce out for good or evil? And can Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) be trusted?

Of course, she can. She’s one of the heroes. We never really think that she’s on the wrong side of the law, but just about everyone else is suspect. Even, to an extent, Steve’s new friend, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a recent veteran who may have access to something that might help.

And who is it that is really running things? And…who is this Winter Soldier who has been wreaking havoc for the last 50 years? (I think it’s no secret, really, who he is. Most people who have paid any kind of attention know who he is/was.)

I fucking loved this movie. Was it as good as the first? It may well have been better, actually, but it’s really hard to say why. I love both movies a whole lot.

One thing that was nice was that Black Widow had a LOT to do in this movie. She was a major character and not just some sideline to move the story along. She kicked ass and almost got a real back story! (They still keep it a secret, though.) Her character has become so fleshed out at this point through three movies that I think it’s about time that she get her own! They even sort of set it up at the end of this one. It certainly won’t happen before The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, though, so it probably won’t happen. Sad, really. She’s a badass and Scarlett Johansson is perfect in the role.

Robert Redford. Ah, yes. Robert Redford. His role is pretty actionless (he’s really only on two sets total), but it’s still a great role. It’s almost the antithesis of the roles he’s known for, especially in the 70s. Government conspiracies were his bread and butter back then. To see him on the other side of one is actually kind of fun. And he’s fuckin’ cold blooded. That’s awesome.

There’s an overarching message throughout the film of going it alone vs. getting help from your friends. Cap is so afraid to trust anyone early on that he doesn’t even want to trust Black Widow…or Nick Fury.

I had a pretty in depth discussion with one of my viewing buddies on one aspect: the direction of films like this. Everyone is always excited/anxious about the directors of these tentpole comic book movies. Honestly, though…does it matter? The only people who have really been able to put a stamp on these films lately are Bryan Singer (sort of), Sam Raimi and Joss Whedon. Everyone else does their job and then leaves it to a bunch of special effects artists and editors to make the film good or bad. Thor wasn’t bad because Kenneth Branagh directed it. It was bad because it was badly written and the characters were thin. X-Men: First Class wasn’t good because Matthew Vaughn directed it. It was good because the characters were fleshed out, it was well written and it was well edited. They never hire bad directors for these movies. They hire people who can do their jobs effectively and not rebel too much.

Anthony and Joe Russo directed this film. Their only credits before this were lots of episodes of Community and Arrested Development and You And Me And Dupree. Nothing else was particularly noteworthy. Did they get this job because they did a good job on Arrested Development? Maybe. But they were probably hired because they were competent and they wouldn’t talk back to the producers. They pretty much just had to follow directions on the script.

Which doesn’t mean that the job’s not hard. I’m sure it is. But they don’t really have a say in how the movie is going to turn out. Not really.

Anyway, the movie was amazing, no matter who directed it. The action was well-paced and plentiful. (Not confusing at all, either, which is a nice change of pace.) The characters were well-drawn and interesting. And there was never a dull moment. Ever. All great indications of a good movie. Luckily, it rose above “good” and became one of the best of the Marvel films.