Archives for August, 2011
This week we talk stolen laptops and sex games, movie bombs, Oldboy spoiler-age, new TV shows, and why paper comics suck!
For the second episode of Cinegeek Vs. we take on the box office disaster Mars Needs Moms! We even watch in eye popping 3-D!! Check out the audio review and see if you can figure out how we ended up talking about Highlander???
Download this episode (right click and save)
Directed by Seiji Kishi
Featuring Voices by Blake Shepard, Brittney Karbowski and Emily Neves
What would you do if after you died, all that was waiting for you was an eternity of high school? …continue reading
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Starring Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan
So, I love the original Conan The Barbarian but I see it in a realistic light. The film was a campy fantasy adventure with a shopworn plot featuring a lead actor that barely had a grasp on the English language. The thing is that the movie rose above its limitations back then to become something fun and memorable, mostly due to the lead actor who was charisma plus. His ensemble, while not exactly great actors were still fun and entertaining. This remake didn’t have much to live up to production wise but it still needs to be able to make a mark the way the original film did. …continue reading
Breaking Apple news leads off a show stuffed with tech talk, a new Blade Runner movie made official, Buffy winks, Fast and the furious 6, and oh yeah bull seaman.
Directed by Kevin Monroe
Featuring Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Peter Stromare, Taye Diggs and Anita Briem
Wait… why is Superman pretending to be John Constantine? …continue reading
This week we discuss the Johny Depp Lone Ranger flick, Marvel Comics for the blind, a Munsters TV series redo, the Woot Off! and Facebook follies!
A pilot and a scholar spend their vacations saving the world and entire nations. That sounds interesting, right?
This collection is the first half of a bi-generational story based on a series of short novels. This part covers the story of the young hotshot pilot Allison Whittington and scholar/marksman Wilhelm Schultz. Set in a world with generally WWI-era technology and sensibilities, these two childhood friends through the course of their seasonal vacations just so happen to affect major changes to their world’s socio-political structure. From stopping a centuries-long war to installing an estranged princess to her throne, these two stumble into the course of history and unknowingly direct its path while staying out of the limelight.
The aggravating part is that we never see the outcome of these supposedly monumental events. The story focuses so much on Allison and Wil and their friends that the repercussions of their adventures are glossed over to move onto the next adventure.
The other aggravating part of this series is that there doesn’t seem to be any real tension. Even in scenes where characters’ lives are in peril, something about the storytelling or the pacing never leaves the viewer in suspense. The only suspense in this collection is the will-they/won’t-they moments between Allison and Wil, which gets old fast.
The mysteries or the outcomes aren’t particularly compelling either. The show really rests on the interactions of the characters with each other and everyone else, and everyone is generally so cordial and polite with each other that there’s not really much of a conflict. The bad guys are easily brought down and everything is fine just in time for tea.
The twist at the end, a time skip going into the second part of the series, would be more intriguing if it made more sense and didn’t seem unmotivated. It’s a generally lethargic series that makes it hard to find anything to care about.
The video comes in typical 16:9 widescreen. The animation is clean, but it’s not kinetic. Everything feels slow, which may be due to the story’s pacing, but the animation definitely doesn’t help. There’s also some obvious and obtrusive CGI for some of the vehicles, really sticking out like a sore thumb.
The series has only Japanese 2.0 audio. The soundtrack and background music features some uplifting tunes you’d expect from a show that heavily features flying and piloting, even to the point where my roommate heard the music and correctly guessed that the show featured flight. Those are well-inspired tunes, but others like the ending are lackluster.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The two-disc set comes in a single care, featuring only trailers for other Sentai Filmwork series and clean opening/ending. That’s it. Really bare bones.
This series feels almost like childhood short novels. You know, those that feature kids getting into random mysteries and adventures and everything’s fine at the end, perfectly suited for their elementary-middle school audience. Perhaps those are the kind of novels this series is based on. Nothing really compelling about it though to recommend though. It’s not awful, but there’s nothing really interesting either.
Overall (Not an Average) 3/10
The Series 3/10
The Video 4/10
The Audio 6.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 2/10
This week we discuss Fright Night, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, mysterious Marvel movies, the death of Eureka, more unnecessary TV show remakes and cool phone cases!!
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Starring James Franco, John Lithgow
The Planet of the Apes series was one of those campy fun sci-fi franchises that was fun, not particularly deep or complex, just entertaining. There was always the heavy handed moral message in the films but the execution of the message was often unintentionally funny making the films all the more entertaining. Like so many franchises though the series continued to degrade as it progressed both in storytelling and production before it finally hit a wall. Tim Burton attempted to revitalize the franchise with a new film a few years ago but fantastic special FX couldn’t save a horribly written and directed film. It was inevitable that Hollywood would give it another go at some point so now we have Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a pseudo remake of the film of the same name from the 70’s.
Like the original film this one is a prequel to the events of Planet of the Apes, the story of what brought our world to the state it was in during Planet of the Apes. This one can’t really be called a prequel though because it feels like the start of a new franchise. So it is possible that we may see Planet of the Apes in the future. There are plenty of little nods to the original series including the name of the first ape, actually a chimpanzee, to gain intelligence; Caesar. James Franco is a scientist desperate to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease which is rapidly taking over his father who is played by John Lithgow. In an attempt to move the testing forward at one point Franco tests his new drug on a chimp named Caesar. The chimp quickly begins to gain intellect far beyond any ape and even beyond that.
The drama is actually well rendered in this story for such an over the top concept and the CGI is solid for the most part. Caesar is played by Andy Serkis who became somewhat typecast in the role of motion capturing creatures after his amazing portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films. Like that previous film Serkis gives his fully CGI character a sense of uniqueness and reality not common to these sorts of characters. The overt moral message is still here from the original films but it’s delivered with a teaspoon of sugar rather than jammed down your throat like the previous franchise. This is a summer movie so yes there is action and it’s fairly well executed and exciting. Overall, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an extremely entertaining film and a solid start to the franchise.
The film isn’t perfect though. It’s mostly predictable in its story and there is an issue with Franco’s character and that of his boos completely switching points of view by the last act of the film. With that said though, there are some nice story twists and some incredibly powerful and dramatic moments throughout the film. Fans of the original will appreciate this update and those who’ve never seen the original films will enjoy it too.
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Starring Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, David Tenant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Fright Night is one of those films from the 80’s that doesn’t hold up, but kind of does. The music, the wardrobe, and some of the pop culture influences don’t hold up but the campy drive-in horror and humor still works. This is a cult classic film that’s still just as entertaining to watch now as it was back in the 80’s. So why remake it? The easy answer is money?
So this movie follows the same basic formula as the original: a kid discovers a vampire lives next door and decides to deal with it. There are differences though; when things got tough in the original film the kid sought the help of a night time horror movie host but in the new version he seeks out the help of a Chris Angel style illusionist with a thing for the “real” occult. Collin Farrell plays the creepy fanged neighbor and he seemed to be having a great time chewing the scenery overtly and subtly throughout the film. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays, well the character he always plays starting back with Super Bad and as always he steals scenes left and right. The real surprise is David Tenant. He plays the illusionist with a dark past and a really hateful girlfriend who is reluctantly drug into the fight against the vampire. He’s completely hilarious throughout the film and real joy to watch.
Fright Night, like the original is thin on plot but what’s surprising is that this new version actually streamlines the plot of the original. It streamlines it so much that there’s very little “why” given to Collin Farrell’s character’s actions. It’s a minor complaint though for a film that so perfectly melds campy humor and horror like few modern movies do. The good and bad about this film is that it feels like a film of the 80’s, that’s a remake of an 80’s film. So, as far as the story this new version gives us absolutely nothing new. What it does offer up is pure unadulterated fun.
At the screening no one, not even the people running the screening, knew that he film was to be screened in 3-D. So it had to be stopped a minute in and reset while theater employees retrieved glasses for everyone in the audience. Grumbles about another 3-D film faded away extremely quickly as the film settled in because the 3-D was the campy sort of waggle vision that was used in old school horror films and it actually added to the atmosphere of the film in all the right ways. The waggling weapons, splashy blood, and even 3-D ass shot all mixed so perfectly with retro special FX or cheaper special FX if you will, to bring us a fun 80’s campy horror experience. Fright Night is a film that must be seen in 3-D. That statement I don’t take lightly, but there it is.
It’s far from a perfect film but it hits all the beats it wants to hit and it does so with so much zeal that you get wrapped up in it. The cast is great with alums from 28 Days Later, Kick Ass, and Doctor Who all bringing some genre experience to the film. The plot is thin and predictable but so damn much fun that you won’t care at all.
Directed by: Jack Smight
Starring: Jan Michael Vincent, George Peppard, Paul Winfield, Jackie Earle Haley
Scene: studio head’s office circa summer 1977. Studio executive: “okay this Star Wars flick is killing at the box office, we gotta get in on this action, we optioned a novel by this Zelany, Zelaney, Z something guy, its a post apocalyptic road movie story and we cast the “I love it when a plan comes together” guy from The A-Team and we’ll get that angsty helicopter guy from Airwolfe, and for some spice a foreign chick.” Studio head: “you need a kid, and bendy buses on steroids.” Studio executive “yeah, we’ll get the weird looking kid from Bad News Bears and they can drive the bendy bus things across the country and we can throw mutated bugs and radiation poisoned hillbillies and freak storms at them. Studio head “great, sounds like the perfect Christmas movie, lets make it.”
The above is a not implausible scenario you might conjure after perusing the copy on the DVD case for Damnation Alley if your a little fuzzy on your late seventies, early eighties pop culture timelines. Of course five minutes on Wikipedia will completely pop this little flight of fancy. The movie predates Airwolfe, and The A-Team, but was filmed after Bad News Bears, and instead of being a cynical effort to cash in on Star Wars it was totally outclassed by the runaway space opera, any way on to the story.
Denton and Tanner, George Peppard and Jan-Michael Vincent, are just starting their shift at a ICBM launch facility. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, remember those? Rockets filled with enough nuclear ordinance to wipe out entire Soviet cities if the commies were ever foolish enough to strike first. Denton and Tanner wind there way through the many levels of security to get to their duty stations. As they wind they reveal a bit of their personalities. Denton is a straight laced by the book martinet. Tanner is a bohemian free spirit. Or at least as much of a bohemian free spirit as you can be and still have a high enough security clearance to be trusted with the launch controls for one of the original WMDs. Because that’s where Denton and Tanner end up, each manning one of the two keys required to launch a biblical hell storm on the Russians.
Meanwhile in the control room there is activity on the monitors. It looks like the Soviets have decided the doctrine of MAD, which has to be the greatest acronym ever standing for mutually assured destruction, is just a bunch of hooey. The orders come down. Denton and Tanner look up the codes in their code books and orders confirmed, they flick the switches and turn the keys to launch the monster lurking in the bowels of the base with less emotion than you or I would reveal denying the car wash offers when we fill up. Missiles away Denton and Tanner head to the control room to watch the world end. The documentary feel of this footage is so chilling that it’s not even marred by the mandatory mushroom cloud montage. A handy text scroll explains that the earth has tilted.on it axis causing massive storms. So the survivors not only have to deal with the requisite radiation induced mutated creatures there are psychedelics skies and monster storms to deal.with as well.
After the holocaust, life goes on at the base. Tanner and fellow bohemian Weegan, Paul Winfield, take early retirement and live in a bunker separate from the base proper. Denton has been keeping himself busy building a couple of bend in the middle triple axle behemoths in a garage in another bunker that is separate from the base proper. Which it turns out is quite lucky when a careless cigarette ignites a gas explosion that destroys the entire base. With nothing left to stick around for the bohemians and the military lifers saddle up and head for Albany, the source of the last radio transmission the base had received. Of course along the way they pick up a woman, who oddly does not become a love interest for Denton or Tanner, or Weegan for that matter because Weegan succumbs to a tired science fiction movie cliché early in the second act a kid, Jackie Earl Haley.
The story just barely holds up in that world of movie land logic where mutant scorpions can find enough food to grow nine foot long in a nuclear wasteland and it suffers from a typical road movie failing of not knowing how to end so the screenplay is stuck with a run of the mill “umm, were at eighty minutes guys, time to get to the sappy ending” ending. The acting is decent enough, Winfield is great, Vincent and Haley hold there own, but the usually suburb Peppard turns in a rather unsympathetic portrayal of Denton. Remember the prim, officious character that Phil Hartman would sometimes play; it has to be modeled on Peppard’s Denton. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is rousing and the special effects are acceptable as long as you don’t compare them to another science fiction movie that came out a few months earlier. Actually some of the effects are pretty interesting. In most exterior scenes the sky is replaced with a composite of different stormy skies shot with various filters and then they did something clever with lasers. It’s an interesting preCGI look. And of course there is the Land Master, which is the actual star of the movie.
The video is presented in widescreen format. It’s a good clean transfer from a bright undamaged print. The picture is sharp except for some of the effect shots which can get a little soft at times. The color is generally good, but then in nearly every exterior shot the colors have been altered for a dystopian look. I never noticed any moiré, aliasing or other digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS ES 6.1, and Dolby Digital Stereo. All the tracks are in English and there are no subtitles available. The mix is good; you can always hear the dialog over the hiss of the cockroaches and the rumble of the Land Masters. I never noticed any distortion or other problems with the audio.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in a clear Amaray case that shows off the excellent double sided insert Shout! Factory has prepared. The reverse features a portrait of Jan-Michael Vincent sticking out of the top hatch of the Land Master. There is an audio commentary track by the producer Paul Malansky, along with some featurettes about the making of the movie and the vehicle, the Land Master.
The beginning of the movie may seem preposterous to younger viewers. As I was growing up WWIII was always a possibility, but a remote one. On the other hand I have friends just a few years older than I am who figured it was unlikely they would see thirty. Damnation Alley for all its faults is a reminder of why the seventies were what they were. While today there is always the threat of terrorist attacks, big and small ones. It’s hard to imagine a terrorist attack unleashing the devastation demonstrated in the first ten minutes of this flick.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10