Archives for March, 2013
Directed by: Zak Penn
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines, David Cross
When the popularity of poker exploded after Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 World Series of Poker victory, filmmakers tried to find a way to capitalize on both the popularity of the game and the popularity of the cult classic Rounders.
What resulted is numerous box office flops that clearly did not understand either the game or the players involved. That changed when director Zak Pen and producer Jeff Bowler released the poker mockumentary in 2008 known as the The Grand.
The plot of The Grand was seemingly simplistic at first glance. A bunch of poker players come together to try and take down a “Winner Takes All” poker event known simply as “The Grand” and the $10 Million prize. As the viewer starts to watch, it become all too evident that this film is not taking itself too serious and that the “documentary” is indeed a “mockumentary” on the game of poker.
Much of the first half of the film is spent setting up the characters in the film. Woody Harrelson’s character of Jack Faro is your classic screwup that just happens to have one true talent, that being poker. Cheryl Hines character of Lainie Schwartzman is “The Woman” of the poker world and determined to prove she belongs. David Cross plays the “Bad Boy” in Larry Schwartzman but you soon find out there are deeper issues behind his persona.
Each character’s back story and motivation for playing the event is revealed in short order and in a way where you feel you get a solid gist of each person without any further explanation. This all eventually leads to the actual poker event where we see each player in their element.
Once The Grand is underway, we begin to see that the directors and actors actually do a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of tournament poker and what it has become since the beginning of the Moneymaker Era. The use of several top pros add to the realism of the game and also to the comic effect.
As part of the mockumentary process, the actors are basically just given an outline and they ad-lib a majority of their material. In the case of this film, that also included the actual playing of the poker tournament. Once the final table is set, the players are then actually allowed to play out the event to a winner. The result of this forced directors to film multiple ending to the film. You will have to watch to find out who comes out on top.
The Grand succeeds where others failed because it does not take itself too seriously and instead focuses on the things that have made tournament poker great, the people at the tables. It is a film that both poker fans and poker novices will enjoy and is worth a rental at your local RedBox or download on Netflix.
We’ve missed a few weeks due to being slammed here at the site but we are bringing you some great teases this week to make up for lost time! We’re starting off with the latest one sheet poster for the upcoming Ender’s Game film adaptation and we have a ton of previews from Syfy Channel, oh and there’s that new little Iron Man 3 trailer, the first trailer for The Wolverine and a video interview with the cast of The Host!
Ender’s Game Poster
In case you aren’t familiar with this amazing novel and the upcoming film here is the official synopsis: In the near future, a hostile alien race called the Formics have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young minds to find the future Mazer.
Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy but strategically brilliant boy, is recruited to join the elite. Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult challenges and simulations, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham himself to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.
Wolverine Teaser Trailer:
Iron Man 3 New Trailer:
Here’s a little Syfy Goodness!
Defiance—Premieres Monday, April 15 at 9/8c
Changed World – Trailer
SUMMARY: They arrived. The earth changed. Defiance premiering April 15, at 9/8c on Syfy
Haunted Collector—Airs Wednesdays at 9/8c
Island of Fear/Tropical Terror – Sneak Peek
SUMMARY: On this episode of Haunted Collector, John Zaffis and his team of investigators travel to the island of Puerto Rico, where restless spirits and the paranormal appear to be thriving. Their first stop is the historic Casa Blanca in Old San Juan, once the residence of the famous Ponce de Leon family and now a cultural landmark.
Jesslyn Gets Locked in the Showers – Clip from Ep.303
SUMMARY: Terror & panic ensue when Jesslyn’s trip to investigate a flashing light ends up with her locked in the showers. This could be the most horrifying moment of her career as a paranormal investigator.
Eyewitness to a Haunt – Bonus Scene
SUMMARY: John and his team get an eyewitness account to a haunting in the prison.
Stranded—Airs Wednesdays at 10/9c
Three Valley Chateau – Sneak Peek
SUMMARY: Yarc, his girlfriend Princess, and their friend Stephen leave the comforts of Brooklyn NY to check into the sprawling Three Valley Chateau in the snowy mountains of British Columbia. Yarc is a devout believer in the paranormal, Princess is an adamant skeptic, and Stephen thinks there’s “something” to be discovered, but doesn’t have proof.
She’s Freaking Out – Clip
SUMMARY: The cast has a freak-out session due to some paranormal evidence.
Cast Interviews for THE Host:
Bonus Round! Horror hounds here’s a trailer for Hatchet III hitting theaters in June!
In our last poll we asked what videogame you’d like to see made into a feature film. There was a tie between Dead Space and Uncharted at 30%. At least fans of Uncharted have some hope because that film has been in some form of preproduction or wiring for some time. It’s nowhere near ready to start filming but at least there are interested parties trying to make it happen. Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm there could be an Indiana Jones reboot that might crush any hope of this one finally happening though. There’s been a huge fan push for Nathan Fillion of Castle and Firefly to take the lead role in an uncharted film and we here at CineGeek could get behind that casting. Mass Effect and Halo were also close contenders in the voting. Gears of War got absolutely zero votes from you guys. Gears is a ton of fun to play but we have to agree that the story is just a mess, definitely a better game than a movie.
The summer season is nearly here and it has us excited for blockbuster films. So the next question is which film are you most excited to see this summer. Some of the contenders are of course Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Pain and Gain, and Oblivion. Check the poll in the right sidebar and share your opinion!
This week we have a film ball showdown, Niko says cock, JJ Abrams talks trash about Trek, HBO Goes, and much more!
Want the video? Here ya go! We stream on Stitcher Radio also if that’s your thing. Get it in the app or check the sidebar of this very website!
Video streaming by Ustream
Reality TV. Love it. Hate it. No really, that’s how I feel about Reality TV, I’m not just speaking in a general sense of the populous. I really do have a crazy love/hate relationship with Reality TV. Mostly I love to trash talk it, and hate it when I get addicted to a particular show, and it consumes my very being until the season ends. Being a performing artist, who loves every aspect of theater, music, and dance, there are a couple of handfuls of AMAZING competition shows. My favorites are (in no particular order): Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, and Rupal’s Drag Race.
First, Project Runway. I have been obsessed with this show since Bravo said that they were making a competition show about fashion designers hosted by Heidi Klum (who I totally have a girl crush on). As with any competition show, the producers scour the nation for the best, brightest, and craziest in the untapped fashion industry. They are then sent to NYC for a series of challenges. They are mentored by the incomparable Tim Gunn (who I demand play the part of my grandfather at my wedding), who has coined the infamous catch phrase “Make It Work.” In their work room, which I’m sure reeks of muslin, sweat, and drama, the designers work along side each other in various challenges. At the end of the allotted time, they must fit, style and coach their model to embody the garment that they have created. They are then judged as the garment comes down the runway, and one is crowned the winner, and one goes home, or as Heidi says “Aufweidersehen,” in her native tongue. The prize varies from year to year, but the most impressive prize is that the top three contestants go to Bryant Park during fashion week for their own fashion show, which is like having your indie film showcased at Sundance Film Fest- HUGE DEAL.
Now, to why this show is a must watch. First of all, fashion above all is a high visual art. My favorite exhibit that’s ever been at the Frist was the “Gold Age of Couture” exhibit. I saw some of the most intricate and beautiful creations I’ve ever seen, and you live your life in these works of art. I think that’s what makes fashion so special. The creations that these designers make are in one word, fantastical. And they range from everything from a new uniform for the postal service to costumes for the WWE Divas to sexy lingerie. My personal favorite challenge ever is where they had dogs as their inspiration, and they had to make a dress for the model inspired by the dog… and make a dog garment, as well. Uli, my favorite designer from that season, won with her beautiful flowing print dress, and her cute little matching pullover for the pug.
Next, to So You Think You Can Dance or SYTYCD. You have to have some serious talent to and be at the top of your game or you are not even getting through the preliminary auditions. The dancers are eventually whittled down to a top 20 contestants. After that is when the true magic happens. The show brings in guest choreographers, ranging from top Bollywood dancers, to major hip hop choreographers, and even to founders and principle dancers from contemporary dance companies.
SYTYCD literally has it all. Contestants have to dance in every type of dance known to man. What then transpires are neat little vignettes ranging from a poor pauper finding a sexy little genie in a bottle to a couple of jailbirds making a break for it to a heart wrenching battle between a woman and her addiction. Combining lights, music, costume, make up, and dance make for some of the most gripping scenes you’ll find on television anywhere. My personal favorite contestant has to be Steven “Twitch” Boss, and he just happens to be in my favorite dance choreographed by the talented Mia Michaels to John Mayer’s “Dreaming with a Broken Heart” (which I CAN’T STAND John Mayer… so the fact that this dance makes me love this song REALLY speaks for itself). You see Twitch, beautiful man that he is, on a bed in the middle of the stage in just pajama bottoms. But wait, it gets better. Kherington (his crazy sexy blonde partner) pops out from behind the bed just wearing a pajama top throwing rose pedals everywhere as they jump on and off the bed, over and under each other, but never touching… do you need a cigarette yet? I tell you what, I watch that video on cold nights… yes I do.
Last but certainly not least is Rupal’s Drag Race. For those of you who don’t remember, Rupal is the queen that brought drag more mainstream, most notably because of her smash hit “Supermodel of the World,” which if you haven’t heard it, please download it now and “Sashay, Shantay!” Rupal and her producers go on a nation wide search for the queens with the most “uniqueness, talent, and nerve” to win the next crown. About 14 queens are chosen and are whittled down each week with various challenges that range from making garbage into couture clothing to celebrity impersonations to singing and dancing one of Rupal’s newest songs. One queen always wins the challenge and then two queens are up for elimination, which then means that they must “Lip Sync for Their Lives.” At the end of the competition, the queen who wins gets a lifetime supply of cosmetics, headlines the tour they put together for all of the queens, and a cash prize of $100,000… not to mention a big gaudy crown;)
Beyond being about drag queens, being voted by E! Entertainment the best reality show out there (Ryan Seacrest JUST tweeted this), and having the most fabulous host ever, why is this show on my must watch list? Simple, Rupals Drag Race is the most amazing amalgamation of every single performing arts competition show out there. It is Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Face/Off, Hair Show… and ANY other show you can think of like that combined. My favorite queens are always the ones who are the strange, quirky ones who no one else seems to get… either them or the fierce lip syncers, like JuJu Bee, a Leotian Beauty who is as funny as the day is long, and as the incomparable Rosie Perez (who was one of the celebrity judges) once said, “JuJu Bee, you give GOOD mouth.” I swear when I come back in my next life… I want to come back as an Asian Drag Queen… because in my eyes they seem to be some of the most fabulous (no offense to my latin, black, and white queens;-P)
So, as you can see, I LIVE for reality television with glitz, glamour, and just a hint of drama… oh who am I kidding, I live for the drama as well because like fictional television, shows like these remind us that our lives really aren’t that bad. Every single one of us, no matter rich or poor, Belle of the Ball or unpopular ragamuffin, needs an escape. So thank you Reality TV. Thank you for reminding us of why we are alive.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. “Reality” TV is my treasure. These lovely, slightly scripted shows are the backbone to my entertainment, NO… to my life! Drama, Drama, Drama that’s what I want to see, that’s what I want to experience without it occurring in my own life…UNAVOIDABLE. So I ask you, what are the three must see shows in the landfill of television. On top of my list Dance Moms, Bad Girls Club, and the Real Housewives franchise.
Number 1-Dance Mom’s: Six kids, five moms, and one hefty instructor adds up to a trash-tastic yet perfect television obsession. Abby Lee Miller runs a dance studio where she instructs an elite group of girls for competitive dance competitions. This is what the show focuses on week to week, the preparation and execution involved with these girls in weekly competition throughout the nation. Of course during the preparation and execution they show the background thoughts and actions of the moms. So the show follows the interactions between the girls and Abby Lee and the moms and Abby Lee, it’s a tri-collision of estrogen… woo hoo! I really love this show because it kind of reminds me of the moms of the south. My mother use to help with the stage shows I was involved with in high school and let me tell you, mothers can be some of the biggest bitches (sorry mom but you know you’re a bitch).
Number 2-Bad Girls Club:“Bad girls we like to play rough step to my face and ya gonna get touched bad girls we like to talk tough don’t you wish you could roll with us…” this says it all, the opening lines to Bad Girls Club, which is currently in its 8th season. Seven girls are put away in a house in a different city each season and their daily lives and habits are followed. Alcohol, Sex, and Catfights, a gay mans wet dream… believe me I should know. This is by far the trashiest show on television, girls in their most primitive form. If you ever grew up watching the women in your house this show is ten times better plus it gives me an explanation into why women are the way they are.
Number 3-The Real Housewives Shows: There are so many different versions of this show I cannot possibly be asked to narrow it down to one. The Real Housewives franchise is a series of shows following groups of wealthy, social silicone queens, also known as housewives. While all of these series are so different they all follow the same pattern, groups of women known in their communities and who know each other are shown week to week in some sort of interaction between their personal lives and their lives with each other. While all these women aren’t the typical housewives which myself and I’m sure you are use too but definitely depict the house wives we wish we have experienced.
Ultimately I love all these shows because they involve women. They are the most beautiful, smart, and sexual creatures on this earth… besides me of course. Yet they are the CRAZIEST, OVERDRAMITIC succubus’s, which makes for excellent television and which makes me want to be them. Seriously though, these three shows really capture my attention because there are relatable, whilst totally scripted or provoked you observe things that find similarities to the reality of your own life. My life just happens to be full of women and trash TV.
The Evil Dead is a near classic cult film that follows many of the tropes of that era’s horror films while turning some of them upside down and still being an homage to the horror films of the past. There’s some humor, traditional horror elements, and even a little Argento-esque gore, well a lot of gore. Bruce Campbell played Ash. He not only made the film he also crafted a character along with Sam Raimi co-writing and directing that became synonymous with the Evil Dead franchise. There were two Evil Dead films and a third called Army of Darkness that was quite a divergence in the franchise but it further elevated Campbell and his character to hero status.
There have been talks of follow up films, cross overs, and remakes for years. The true challenge in restarting this franchise is that Campbell crafted such a unique character in Ash that it would be extremely challenging to bring that character to life again in the same way and have him played by someone else. The remake seemed to be in good hands though being produced by Campbell and financed and distributed by Ghost House, a Sam Raimi company.
This version of Evil Dead starts with a brief introduction that quickly gives the book of the dead and this new cabin a bit of history. Next we quickly jump to a group of young people converging on the cabin not just on a vacation, but on a mission. The simple little “mission” element of the story gives reason for these people being willing to rough it in such a secluded spot, pretty smart thinking. Diablo Cody did one of the passes on the screenplay and I’m glad I didn’t know that going in. Her writing is usually just a little too cool for school for me. No one talks the way she makes characters talk and she seems to revel in that a bit too much. It’s like her stories are winking at us and say “hey look how clever I am”. Jennifer’s Body was just terrible and I am one of the few that doesn’t care for Juno. There are four names on the screenplay and I believe the other writers may have helped calm that irritating side of Cody down because the dialogue didn’t bother me the way it did in the other two films I mentioned.
This film owns its status as a remake and it recognizes that the fans of the original are at a cult level. By that I mean this version brings along all of the good things fans will remember from the original without winking at us too much and shutting out viewers that haven’t seen the original. This version does however take a much more serious approach to the subject. There are humorous bits, some intentional and some not but it’s tonally more serious that the 1981 classic. The first half of the film offers up all of the new additions of the story while the second half brings on all of the goods from the original including torrents of gore, more so than I expected. The first pass of this film was rated NC-17 and apparently the filmmakers only cut just enough to take it down to an R rating. Gore hounds and fans of grind house style drive-in films will not be disappointed, since I am both I was most assuredly not disappointed. In the screening I was in a group, the girls behind me were laughing in one moment and literally screaming in another which tells me the movie did was it was supposed to do.
A couple of things happen in the second half of the film that would normally induce eye rolling but since this entire film successfully pulls off the low budget grind house thing these scenes really seem to fit the overall design of the film. It’s not perfect, not in any sense of the word, but that’s one of the things that make the film so damn endearing. There’s no Ash but what is there is entertaining. It’s different, but the same, and that’s pretty damn amazing. Hardcore fans of the original franchise will need to stick around after the closing credits for a zinger that’s just for them. Those who haven’t seen the original films will probably leave the theater asking themselves and their oblivious friends “what the hell was that zinger about?” They’ll then follow that up with “this movie was awesome!” at least I hope that’s how it goes. This film is edgy, full of practical special fx (thank you) funny and scary, all the things fans of horror movies love.
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachael Weisz, Michelle Williams
Somewhere, over the rainb…oh wait, this isn’t that movie.
Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a two-bit hustler in a traveling circus who finds himself in a mess when the circus strong man finds out Oz has been sweet talking his lady. So Oz jumps in a hot air balloon to fly away from his trouble only to wind up in a bigger mess when he is swept into a tornado and whisked away to the Land of Oz. There he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis) who promptly tells him he is the great wizard that was prophesied to be king. She takes him to the Emerald City to meet her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Oz finds out that the wicked witch Glinda (Michelle Williams) killed the king and he must destroy her wand. And without getting too spoilery I’ll leave the story at that. But needless to say there isn’t much to spoil because we’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz.
Where to begin? I was a bit hesitant to accept James Franco in the leading role when I first saw the trailers for this film. I really liked him in Freaks and Geeks as well as Pineapple Express (I’m also looking forward to Spring Breakers later this month) but those roles have never let him stretch as an actor. Accepting him as the future wonderful wizard of Oz was going to be a hard sell. But he did it, and in spectacular fashion. Also of note is Mila Kunis’ Theodora. I have liked her since her turn as Jackie on That 70’s Show and she has truly grown as an actor in the last fifteen years. I was looking forward to seeing her as a villain and she delivers. Damn, does she deliver! Her transformation from wide eyed and hopeful proponent of Oz to the angry and wicked witch is spectacular and she could have easily made this turn without the make up. But by far the best casting was Michelle Williams as Glinda the good witch. She is perfect to reprise the role that Billie Burke made famous without being quite so sugary. No, Williams is channeling a bit of her Marilyn Monroe from 2011’s My Week with Marilyn and turns Glinda into a real character not just a plot device to move the story along.
This Land of Oz doesn’t have musical numbers and elaborately choreographed dances but it does have Munchkins and flying monkeys (as well as baboons). Zach Braff plays the role he was born to play by voicing Finley the flying monkey whom Oz saves from a lion. But Rachel Weisz gets the short end of the stick with her remarkable but underused antagonist Evanora. When she is on screen she shines but that screen time is limited by a script that is trying to get in a lot of material. And this is where the Disney influence shines through. Taking a cue from their previous Alice in Wonderland the Land of Oz becomes a hyper colored CGI-fest that is more than a little distracting. Sam Raimi does what he does best by directing around action rather than through scenery and he helps to turn down the acid trip a little but gone are the days of the MGM spectacle and Disney isn’t in the live action musical business these days (no, I do not count High School Musical).
Oz the Great and Powerful opens the way any good MGM musical opens in 1939. Only this isn’t 1939. Nor a musical. And MGM lost the rights to The Wizard of Oz a long time ago. And in part these three elements are very evident from the beginning. I did like the retro opening credits and the way Kansas is once again depicted in black and white (although the original 1939 release did see Kansas in sepia rather than black and white). Once we get to Oz the brilliant colors come to life, sorta. This was probably the biggest discrepancy from the Oz we all grew up seeing. In 1939 Oz was a Technicolor wonderland filled with spectacle. Much of today’s Oz seems like a green screen rather than an actual place, most noticeably when Theodora and Oz are walking through a field of flowers on their way to the Emerald City. I started getting shades of The Phantom Menace with the video game like backgrounds and more than once the actor’s voices felt like overdubs rather than true line readings. Don’t get me wrong this movie is not any of the Star Wars prequels. It is a very good base for a future franchise even if it is a bit too on the nose at times. Where it does veer into “prequel” territory is the obvious references to what we already know. Oz calling the lion a coward when he saves Finley, the pause on the face of the scarecrow the villagers are making, and the reference to “John Gale” by Annie in the beginning. All of this stuff could be a wink at the audience but it feels more like Raimi saying, “Hey, look how clever I am.”
One thing I did find kind of funny and a bit intriguing was the video game feel of Oz. Not just because of the obvious 3D cues (and they are obvious if you watch this in 2D) or the unfortunately bad green screen but more because of the RPG elements of the story. Oz crashes down in the Land of Oz and immediately meets a stranger that tells him his coming was prophesied and he starts a journey to become a king but along the way has to find his allies. Once he starts on the path to destroy the Wicked Witch he takes a side mission to prove he is “magic.” Then after meeting Glinda in the Dark Forest he discovers it was all a lie and he must now sneak back into the castle with his new allies and vanquish the evil witches. And after the evil is driven out it is set up that they will one day try to stop him again. Hell, throw in an anthropomorphic animal and a beautiful woman wearing a corset and it could be the next Final Fantasy game. Oh, wait….
I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining about this movie because I really did love it. The only thing that bothered me was the transformation Mila Kunis goes through to become the Wicked Witch of the East. The green paint and facial prosthetics just cannot make her ugly. Or maybe I’ve just always had a thing for green women (DAMN YOU, Star Trek!!). I walked away from this movie loving it and looking forward to the future. Just don’t make it a musical.
This is a year of innovation and evolution for the Nashville Film Festival and it all started before the festival’s first day. In order to give more Tennessee filmmakers a chance to see their work screened before a live audience, NaFF experimented with a new event called the “Final Cut.” At NPT Studios, in a program sponsored by “Native” Magazine, the final seven films were screened to festival members, families and friends. The audience voted on their favorite film and the winner was given the last spot available to a local short film in the festival.
This week we hit on the big news of how Veronica Mars is being revived from cancellation Hell by Kickstarter and how other cancelled cult classics might not be far behind! We also cover Harrison Ford’s Star Wars comments, Red Box streaming live, new blu-rays, Spider-man, The Avengers, Firefly and more!
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks
In quantum mechanics there is something called the Heisenberg principle. According to this principle the very act of observing a sub atomic particle changes it. Pete and Debbie aren’t sub atomic particles but when they start to take a close look at their lives everything starts to change.
Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) are turning 40 within a week of each other. Well Pete is, Debbie is turning 38 (wink, wink).There’s something about those big round numbers that triggers a deep need for introspection and reflection. Personally I get all introspective on ages that are even primes, but each to his or her own. On the surface Pete and Debbie appear to be heading up a perfect upper middle class family, but lets take a closer look. Yes, Pete is running his own record label. As cool as this sounds though there are rough edges. His number one artist is an aging rocker that may be awesome but nobodies been interested in him for twenty years. Debbie owns an upscale clothing boutique but she suspects her best salesperson is stealing more than she sells. They own a beautiful house but they are missing mortgage payments. There’s more as well; Pete is addicted to cupcakes and is loaning money to his father behind Debbie’s back, Debbie sneaks cigarettes and hasn’t spoken to her father in seven years, Sadie their thirteen year old daughter is obsessed with Lost and is constantly fighting with Charlotte their youngest daughter. While the status quo is no sugar free lollipop things just get even more interesting when Debbie comes up with a list to improve their lives and Pete half-heartedly goes along.
In most movies, or at least ones like this, the protagonists are likable or at least sympathetic, but for long stretches of This is 40 Pete and Debbie are neither. Then they will do something that shows how devoted they actually are to each other or how much they love their daughters, but even that isn’t enough sometimes. In one hilarious but slightly disturbing scene they bond over lying there way out of a bad situation they got themselves in when Debbie bullied one of Sadie’s classmates and Pete later on bullies the kid’s Mom. Yes it’s funny but Pete and Debbie just end up looking ugly. Luckily the movie isn’t just about Pete and Debbie, well actually it is, but they are supported by a great cast playing interesting characters. Albert Brooks is fantastic as Larry, Pete’s financially needy father. John Lithgow is sublime as Debbie’s long absent father. But the real revelations are Maude and Iris Apatow, Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann’s daughters, playing Sadie and Charlotte. They not only are funny but can actually act and manage to steal most scenes they are in. Floating in and out of scenes are Melissa McCarthy, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, Rob Smigel and others.
Apatow’s improvisational style gives all of these talented performers a chance to shine but sometimes the performances actually take you out of the story. It’s like the narrative stops and the movie goes into sketch mode for a scene and then after the patter drops off the story picks back up. This can be jarring but unfortunately the way the movie kind of meanders at times it’s actually welcome. The movie clocks in at two hours and fourteen minutes and it feels like it. When you add it all up the movie is entertaining. I get the feeling that it’s supposed to be a bit more profound that it actually is but there are some laughs and good performances.
The video is crisp, even sharp. The cinematographer Phendon Papamichael leverages this with a deep focus in nearly every scene. It’s only in close ups that the background goes all creamy, anything wider than a two shot and everything is sharp as a tack. This along with a balanced color palette imparts every scene with a naturalness that perfectly complements the action on the screen. The DVD looks fine but the Blu Ray looks fantastic. I never noticed any sort of aliasing or blooming or any other sort of digital artifacts.
The audio is everything you would expect it to be. The dialog, foley and soundtrack all blend well one never stepping on the other. The soundtrack is fantastic with tracks from Paul Simon, Fiona Apple, Lindsey Buckingham and a bunch of other great artists. Apatow has a great ear for matching music to mood. On top of the great soundtrack Jon Brion provides some nice bits of score. I never noticed any distortion or any other problems with the audio.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This two disc set, one Blu Ray and one DVD, comes in a standard blue tinted single width Blu Ray case. The case comes packaged with a cardboard slipcase. The artwork lets you know exactly what your getting yourself into. Along with the Blu Ray and DVD Universal is including a digital copy accessible through iTunes or UltraViolet (which always make me think of ultra-violent which I would nearly swear is a color in one of Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker books). Along with the ubiquitous deleted and extended scenes and the making of featurette there are a couple of pieces featuring Albert Brooks and Graham Parker and The Rumour, along with several musical performances by Graham Parker and Ryan Adams. There is an informative audio commentary provided by Apatow and on top of this there are a bunch of other little bits filling in the corners.
You can tell this is a personal movie even without listening to the commentary. It does star three quarters of the Apatow family with Dad behind the camera. In a sense it is a very elaborate family movie except Mom and Dad and their friends are actually funny. In this case at least that’s not a bad thing.
The Movie: 6/10
The Video: 9/10
The Audio: 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features: 9/10
Overall (Not an Average): 7/10
How can any true aficionado of pop culture completely overlook reality TV? Sure you can call it low brow TV or guilty pleasure TV or whatever you like but there is truly something out there for nearly every taste. Maybe you aren’t into the drama of Bridezilla but you’re a car buff. Well guess what, Top Gear (the BBC version) is reality TV. It seems like a magazine show but some of the scenarios the cast sets up pushes it more into the reality stratosphere. There are competition shows such as Amazing Race and Survivor. These are hybrid reality TV and game show as are cooking shows such as Top Chef and Chopped. There are other personality in a mixing bowl shows such as Duck Dynasty that are more about voyeuristic looks into a side of culture and an eclectic grouping of people that you might not be able to see everyday.
The reality show has its base in documentary story telling. When this sort of TV first began it was more documentary than scripted but now most of these shows are so manipulated that they are virtually scripted. The cast may not have words being placed in their mouths but they are being put in situations where the producers of the shows can predict and control the outcomes and the reactions of the cast. Most reality shows these days call themselves “unscripted television”. At first I was very appalled by these shows calling themselves “reality” and stupefied that the general public can’t tell how set up most of these shows are. I’m still shocked at how ridiculous it is that most mainstream viewers believe what they are seeing is simply reality but the idea of unscripted TV bothers me much less than it once did.
At the heart of what’s on the tube is entertainment. At the end of the day was I entertained? That’s really what this boils down too. If the show takes the format of “mockumentary” is it still entertaining? If the answer is yes then the show is a success. To believe that anything on television isn’t tinkered with is nonsense so to get mad that a show is trying to look like a documentary but actually be semi-scripted is just an esthetic decision that’s as valid as any other night time drama or comedy.
There is room to argue that the people on these shows are exploited and that in fact the actions of the producers and the shows could be fairly detrimental to the cast but these are adults that signed a contract and in most cases went through a lot to be exploited. The only time I have issue with the situation is when it comes to children, and there are those shows out there.
So, it’s with all of this in mind that we launch “The CineGeek Reality Blog” with two new contributors to the site! In this blog they will discuss the world of reality television and all that’s good and bad in it. Coming very soon we will also be adding a fully interactive webcast/podcast called CineGeek Gets Real where they will discuss reality TV live and in mp3 form in a similar vein to our flagship series “The Official CineGeek Webcast”. So jump on in with us, tell us your favorite reality TV shows and let us know what you’d like us to cover as part of this new initiative!
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Lian Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes
Have you ever seen a film that was both incredibly well produced and also so emotionally impacting that it left you awestruck and in tears at the end? Schindler’s List is one of those films, and here’s why.
Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a Nazi businessman who risks his fortunes and his life to save the Polish Jews he came to know within his factory. Schindler arrives in Poland on the heels of Poland’s defeat from Germany in 1939 with the idea of using disenfranchised Polish Jews as cheap factory labor. Over time, this war profiteer grows closer to his workers as his factory accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) and his Jewish employees are hunted down and placed into a concentration camp by the psychotic German SS-Lieutenant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). As the Holocaust grows deadlier, Schindler desperately tries to find a way to save as many of his employees as he can.
Emotionally, this is a brutally devastating film. It makes every attempt to show the horrors of the Holocaust from a personal perspective. Prepare yourself though. This is a long film, clocking in over three hours and covering a six-year time span. The first third may feel slow waiting for the inevitable conflict to kick in, but that waiting quickly turned into nail-biting suspense.
As the depths of the Nazi oppression and extermination of the Jewish people comes full focus, you lose track of time after being engrossed by the atrocities happening on screen. The film’s length benefits it by introducing you to the several supporting and incidental characters. By the time everything goes to hell – with home raids, random shootings, burning ovens, and gas chambers – you’re on the edge of your seat because you are invested in these characters, because you want some semblance of hope in this entirely bleak world.
The film’s bleakness is exemplified by being in black and white. There are a couple of instances of colorized objects and colored scenes, but they are far between. The colorized instances in the black and white are also somewhat subdued, as opposed to some other black and white films that use very intense and vibrant instances of color (*cough*SinCity*cough*).
All of this darkness makes the light at the end of the tunnel much more cathartic. This film is ultimately a message of hope and perseverance, about how anyone can make a difference. Schindler isn’t a fighter or a politician. He’s a business man, and a shady one at that. In the end, his morals aren’t as corrupt as his business practices, and even an almost unscrupulous man can do true good for his fellow mankind.
If any film teaches that lesson with such depth of feeling and long-lasting impression, it’s Schindler’s List.
The Video and Audio
The Blu-Ray of this film is gorgeous, which is almost awkward to say about this harrowing film. The high-definition video is incredibly crisp. The black and white contrast is sharp. The film is almost too clear with how some of the detail of certain scenes is too much to watch, but that’s the nature of the film. This film and its restoration are outstanding.
The film’s audio in DTS-HD Master Audio is likewise clearly audible, especially John Williams’ perfectly-somber score. The switching back and forth from German to English occasionally makes the dialog hard to follow though.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This release includes four copies of the film: a Blu-Ray, a DVD copy across two discs, a digital download code, and an UltraViolet streaming code. Oddly enough, the extras are actually on the second DVD instead of the Blu-Ray. A press release before the Blu-Ray’s release said they would be on both, so that’s going to cause some point loss.
The actual extras include the documentary “Voices from the List” – interviewing Holocaust survivors saved by Oskar Schindler through the USC Shoah Foundation, which was started by Spielberg after the film’s release. The survivors discuss Schindler himself and how he saved them, but they also go into the general lifestyle of the time and then life afterwards. These interviews were filmed sometime after the movie’s release and are shot in 4:3 fullscreen standard definition. Also included are short promotional videos of the USC Shoah Foundation and its IWitness educational program.
I honestly wanted more behind-the-scenes features and commentary on such a storied and praised film. The documentary feels like the only real added experience, which is fine on its own, but it’s hard to follow up with the depressing real story after just going through the film.
Overall (Not an Average)
To be honest, this is the definitive school collection of this film. In addition to the film itself being such a compelling portrayal of a tragic yet important historical event, its extras are also geared towards education and towards getting schools to work with the USC Shoah Foundation. The DVD release even has a natural breaking point between discs in case there isn’t time in class to watch all three hours. After all that, the teacher can keep the Blu-Ray for personal viewing.
Film nerds unfortunately have only one draw to flock to this release: the excellent restoration of the film itself. Is that enough? Yes. Although I want more extras and will dock the release points for that, this film is definitely worth putting on your shelf. Even if you don’t watch it often, and who can blame you after the emotional strain, it’s worth it when you do.
The Film 10/10
The Video and Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
Directed by: Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Adam Carolla
Pixar has proven that if you can craft an animated film built on nostalgia that can bring the adult audience in right alongside the kiddos. The Toy Story franchise is all about growing up and letting loose of those childish things, but still remembering how wonderful those things truly were. The sense of magic and wonder is something that we often lose as adults and those movies brought it all back.
Wreck-It-Ralph in many ways hopes to do something similar with videogames. When the movie was first announced and teased on the web it gained a lot of buzz in the geek community but unfortunately that was the only community that truly locked onto the film. Ralph’s production budget was north of $165 million and by the end of its domestic run the film had only made $187 million. While this is profit you can hardly call it a hit. With that said the film did make a nice sum when you include the global take which totals the movie at just over $435 million. It’s unknown how much more money was put into the film for that foreign distribution and marketing though. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it over and over; a box office success or failure doesn’t always define the quality of the film. Some great fikms just don’t get the attention they deserve.
Wreck-It-Ralph is an 8 bit style arcade cabinet game where Ralph gets his home replaced by a new apartment building. He obviously gets mad and starts wrecking the building. The player plays Fix it Felix, the superintendent of the building, and he uses a magic hammer given to him by his father to fix what Ralph wrecks. After the arcade closes all of the game characters live in their own world via the power cables to the games. Everything changes when Ralph decides he’s tired of always being a bad guy and living alone. He decides the only way he can get in with the good guys is to win a medal. The only way he can accomplish this is by entering another game. And so from here, the story begins.
The first act of the movie worried me a bit because there are some really funny riffs on videogames with lots of cameo’s by popular game characters but the story meandered a bit. All of my worries were assuaged once Ralph made it into a game that is a cross between Mario Kart and a really hardcore anime style videogame. The real story starts here and from this point on the movie is just incredibly endearing. This is an all age’s film so there is a message, and a good one for youngsters. The message deals with people trying to figure out who they really are and how they fit in the world and moreover not letting others tell you what you are. This is an evergreen sort of message that fits every generation of youth. It’s not heavy handed at all though. The story is delivered with plenty of winks at videogame fans new and old and the characters are fairly well drawn and well-acted.
There are tons to laughs and the 3-D is also so well executed you might even forget that the movie is 3-D. You just literally become a part of this world. Oh, along with the videogame jokes there is a myriad of riffs on snack foods that all of us, regardless of age are quite familiar with. Wreck-It-Ralph is the closest any animated film has come to that magical formula so perfectly crafted by Pixar. Those not in the know may even think this is a Pixar film. It’s heartwarming, really funny, action packed, and a joy to look at. Had the first 15 minutes had a little more focus on story and a little less on videogame winks Wreck-It-Ralph would have scored right up there with a film like Toy Story.
The human side of the film is focused on a videogame arcade. Now, it appears to be modern times because some of the games riffed are similar to Gears of War or Halo so we all know that there really aren’t any “arcades” left in most towns. Sure if you look around you might find one but they just aren’t prevalent in the modern pop culture zeitgeist anymore. The director misses an opportunity here to tell a secondary story about the sad loss of these truly special social gathering places that were popular in the 80’s for the youth, and they were the place to find the hot games. Without the arcade though a core arc in the story doesn’t work so this story is sort of in an alternative universe. It’s not a huge complaint but it is a little wonky. The film is pointed at kids as much as or more so than adults and how many kids have actually seen the inside of an arcade like the one portrayed in this film?
Don’t be led to believe that you won’t enjoy the Wreck-It-Ralph film if you aren’t a videogame fan because that’s absolutely not the case. The core story is a classic and very well executed. John C. Reilly brings so much character to Ralph that you can nearly feel him in Ralph’s body language. Sarah Silverman is more perfectly cast in this film than in any film she’s done to date and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) absolutely is Fix it Felix. Jane Lynch is someone I usually don’t like but nearly every line she delivers cracked me up.Also, stay through the credits because the videogame songs are absolutely a riot and the closing seconds are a true nod to fans of 80’s 8 bit videogames. That joke actually may be lost on youngsters but they’ll still think its cool looking. Even with its flaws Wreck-It-Ralph is still the best animated film of the year (at least so far).
Wreck-it-Ralph is wholly a digital production so handled carefully a film like this one should look flawless on blu-ray, and this film was handled with care. To get technical the theatrical release of Ralph was a standard 2.35;1 and the home release has been expanded to 2.39;1.Why? Well it goes a little beyond me to answer that question. What I can tell you is all of the lines are hard with no aliasing or “jaggies”, colors are vibrant when they’re supposed to be and blacks are inky and still detailed. This is as flawless a CGI film presentation as I’ve seen, well since a Pixar film. The 3-D here is also magnificent featuring a mix of some waggle vision and tons of fine details and subtle uses too. The video in the 3-D version of the film is brightened enough that when you put on the glasses the colors are still vibrant and the diversity of color palette is still well represented even though those glasses can often wash out colors. You might even find with a home viewing of the film in 3-D that you’ll notice things you missed in the theater. I did. For instance the exhaust of the vehicles isn’t just generic dust, take a close look. There are some instances where the film is purposefully in 2-D and then changes to 3-D to show a difference in two different worlds and the effect is fantastic. The film in 2-D or 3-D is utterly beautiful but it is obviously meant to be enojoyed in 3-D and the execution is perfect.
The film is presented in a DTS HD Master 7.1 track. There are a few other options I was expecting but this presentation is action packed and immersive. Ralph travels through several different game worlds and each game has a variety of audio changes as well as those visual ones. The 8-bit music and sound effects of Ralphs’ world play in heavy contrast to those of the Medal of Honor/Halo style game he fights through and finally the cart racing world where the majority of the film takes place.
From fireworks to the kid friendly vroom of the carts to the dangerous weapons of Heroes Duty the audible experience of this film is spot on. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout the film and use of special audio is handled perfectly. Trains whiz by in the game central world and fireworks get a chunky hit of bass when they explode. This film is just a joy to listen too.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The multi-disc set comes packaged in a standard amaray case with a slipcover. The art on the slipcover is the same as on the actual cover except that it’s a 3-D presentation. It’s a fun character group shot that works well but I do wish there was a version that featured some 8-bit style of art. Also, why is it these days the slip covers look cooler than the actual covers?
The now Oscar Winning Paperman digital short film is included here and I couldn’t be happier.The film is pretty predictable story wise but it’s cute and very well executed. This is the only bonus feature that’s available both on standard DVD and blu-ray. The remaining bonus features are blu-ray only.
Disney has crafted a fun feature for pausing the film called “Disney Intermission”. Have you ever gotten annoyed pausing a movie while someone gets a sandwich or has to go to the bathroom? You won’t with this film because when you pause the film special little snippets appear that delve into all of the Easter eggs hidden in the film including but definitely not limited too little Walking Dead goodies. While there’s no depth here it’s still a lot of fun.
There’s an all too brief featurette about creating the worlds of the movie and some of the technology used, some deleted scenes, and some fun videogame commercials. That’s really all we get here. A film of this quality deserves much more attention in the bonus features department and hopefully we’ll get a better set of documentaries on the inevitable re-issue that will come when the sequel hits theaters. There needed to be a director’s commentary and definitely some more making of stuff.
Wreck-it-Ralph has a few flaws in its storytelling but for the most part the film is just plain fun, kids can enjoy it and so can adults. What I love here is that Disney isn’t just resting on its iconic character laurels. With Ralph the studio has created a new IP that should bring more movies, games, probably TV shows and everything else that Disney has done so well with their classic characters.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 10/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Overall (Not an average) 8/10
Written by Brian Clevinger
Drawn by Scott Wegener
It’s the future year of 2010 and Dr. Atomic Robo Tesla, PhD is looking to buy an old sugar factory to open a research facility when he is suddenly attacked by a villain from his past. The evil-doer is revealed to be Tyrantula, a crazy ex-girlfriend of Robo’s who has built cybernetic legs and is trying to prove how not crazy she is. The battle ensues and Atomic Robo soon realizes he is outmatched. But that does not mean he is giving up the fight.
I love a comic that doesn’t need a lot of back story to understand. Here we get a full story that is self contained and has a satisfactory resolution. We don’t need to know where Atomic Robo came from or where he is going. Tyrantula tells us everything we need to know with her crazy evil monologues. And Robo fills in with some great one-liners about superheroes and the tropes we have come to associate with them.
I like art that has its own look. Too many times in the comic book world art either gets pushed into the background or looks generic and bland. Here Scott Wegener draws very crisp and clean lines that do not make the reader have to guess what is going on in the panel.
Speaking of panels, that brings me to the use of the comiXology app to tell this story. Each panel appears with dialogue as you click through so no more spoiling big reveals or accidentally reading the wrong panels. I really like this approach and can’t wait to see how
Overall I had a good time reading this book. If you want to read a fun and fast paced book go to comiXology and buy Atomic Robo: Two-Fisted Tales: Along Came a Tyrantula.
The Story 8/10
The Art 9/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10