Nov 30, 2014

Review: ThanksKilling 3 (2012)

I had a lot of fun watching ThanksKilling. It's a really special kind of bad where Jordan Downey pretty much satirizes the slasher genre to great effect. Characters are incredibly stupid and the murderer is only the coolest killer turkey ever put on the screen. Shot for $3,500 over 11 days, it's the kind of movie that knows it's bad and relishes in it. That's why I gave it a 5/10, the highest possible score for a bad movie. That's like a 10/10 really.

I just finished ThanksKilling 3 and I'm kind of at a loss for words. That's not a typo either, ThanksKilling 2 was skipped over because, well why not? I'm going to be trying to put my mind back together over the course of this review but I can't promise anything. Either I've seen the dumbest movie ever conceived or I've seen the greatest masterpiece since the dawn of cinema. Either one is possible at this point. 

Nov 29, 2014

Review: ThanksKilling (2009)

I live in Canada so I've already had my Thanksgiving celebrations. I'll admit that I prefer the timing of my native Canadian Thanksgiving because American Thanksgiving is too close for comfort to Christmas. I love my turkey, but I need time to recover after eating huge amounts of it. That's why the longer gap between both holidays suits me just fine.

So besides partaking in some Black Friday madness, all online mind you, how could I celebrate American Thanksgiving in some way? By watching ThanksKilling of course. What better way could there be? I had been biding my time on this one because everything that I had heard about it made it sound like one of the best bad movies in recent memory. I was sure that I was in for a real treat. 

Nov 28, 2014

Review: Begin Again (2013)

Writer/director John Carney did something really special with Once. With zero star power and an undeniable sense of authenticity, it's a beautiful film full of great music and real performances. It's clear that Carney is attempting to recapture that magic with Begin Again. The unfortunate reality is that he probably failed before he even started. You can't recapture magic just like that.

Unlike the star-less cast of Once, Begin Again is completely chockablock. Actors like Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley find themselves opposite musical talents like Adam Levine, Mos Def and CeeLo Green. I'm guessing that a big reason for that is Judd Apatow's presence as producer. While it's nice to have this level of talent, one of the themes that John Carney explores is selling out and on the surface it looks like Carney has done exactly that.

Nov 26, 2014

Review: Die Another Day (2002)

I still remember all the fun I was having when I began a marathon to see every James Bond movie ever made. I had never seen a single one excluding a bit of a pirated copy of Casino Royale at a party  and I thought it was about time I fixed that. After all, I had always been a big action movie aficionado and how could I call myself that if I had never seen any of what is the largest action movie series in cinema history?

I even remember being pretty excited to see the Pierce Brosnan Bond films which were the beginning of what I consider to be the modern Bond era. GoldenEye was maybe not as good as I was expecting, but it was still quite good. From there things took a steady nosedive from soullessness to pure unintended satire with a pinch of tone deafness. Die Another Day is the entry that finishes the job that The World is Not Enough unfortunately started, the straw that broke the camel's back if you will.   

Nov 25, 2014

Review: Chef (2014)

The food and restaurant industry in general has always been something that's close to me. Both my parents are currently working in it in and I feel a certain attachment to it. I respect the workers in the field a lot because I know how tough it is. Unfortunately, the cooking skills of my parents have never rubbed off on me because I just left the cooking to them instead of trying to learn any trade secrets. Wouldn't you? I'm getting better, but it's safe to say that I'm no Michelin chef.

What's interesting is that the story of Chef is a bit of a reflection on Jon Favreau's own career in the film industry. After doing Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens for some major film studios that set their own parameters for these films, Favreau was looking to get back to basics and be his own boss. This is exactly what his character does in Chef and Favreau has actually said that the story is slightly autobiographical.

Nov 24, 2014

Review: VeggieTales: Are You My Neighbor? (1995)

I don't know why I do this to myself. Every time I get ready to watch a VeggieTales movie, I have to mentally prep myself for thirty minutes of torture. I get ready to face the opener with my two least favourite vegetable hosts, Bob the Tomato and the Larry the idiot Cucumber. The thing is, I've been holding off on seeing more VeggieTales for too long and it's about time I get back on track. It's just really disconcerting to know that I have an exceedingly long road of singing vegetables ahead of me.

Review: Wakusei daikaijû Negadon [Negadon: The Monster from Mars] (2005)

In 2005, it had been 51 years since the release of Godzilla in 1954. If that's not a reason for celebration, I don't know what is. There's just something irresistible about Showa era Japanese special effects films and that is clearly what director/writer Jun Awazu is looking to capture with Negadon: The Monster from Mars. It's an animated short film that took two years to complete which is too bad because it could've made the 50th anniversary of Godzilla if it were finished a year earlier.

Nov 23, 2014

Review: The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (2013)

Shia LaBeouf gets a pretty bad wrap and for some of the things he's done in his personal life and understandably so. We can't know all the circumstances to what led to some of his controversies and trouble with the law, but Shia strikes me as a bit of a weird guy who just loses his cool way too easily. None of this really matters to me when it came to reviewing The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman because I always separate the artist and their personal lives when I evaluate their work.

One thing I'll always give Shia LaBeouf credit for is trying and putting in the effort. He takes acting really seriously (maybe a bit too seriously) and that's something I really respect. Although he does seem to end up doing the same sort of performance over and over again, I usually enjoy his hectic energy.

Nov 22, 2014

Review: The Sessions (2012)

The Sessions tackles very mature ground with its story line and it's definitely not the kind of thing you'd typically see in Hollywood. That's why it's no surprise that it's an independent movie that managed to get its distribution rights bought by a bigger studio looking to capitalize on the film's success at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Slight star power and good performances also help. You got to admit that it's pretty impressive that director Ben Lewin managed to get John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy with a budget of only $1 million for the entire movie.

With a storyline centered around being physically handicapped and sex, The Sessions is a story that breaks new ground. It's based on the true story of poet Mark O'Brian who got sick with polio in 1955 and became paralyzed from the neck down. He required an iron lung to help him breathe but despite his handicap, he attended UC Berkeley and co-founded a poetry house that featured handicapped poets. The film centers around his experience with a sex surrogate that he hires once he decides he no longer wanted to be a virgin.

Nov 21, 2014

Review: Nebraska (2013)

Alexander Payne has got to be one of the most consistent directors in the business. Excluding the few things he's directed and written before 1999, he's directed some really good films that all deserve recognition. I've noticed that a lot of them have to do with traveling and road trips and I suppose that's his way of having his characters embark on personal journeys of self-exploration. I can count About Schmidt, Sideways and Nebraska as part of this pattern. It's important to note that Payne didn't actually write Nebraska and he apparently didn't want direct the film right after Sideways because of that similarity.

With Nebraska, Alexander Payne has made the choice to film everything in black and white, despite studio opposition. B&W always seems to be a controversial thing for people these days and it has no business being. Movies filmed in black and white always seem to be automatically associated with boring which is dead wrong. That's how you miss out on gems like Nebraska. From a business standpoint, the studio probably wasn't wrong though. I bet that the decision to do black and white is probably why Nebraska only made a little over $17 million worldwide.

Nov 20, 2014

Review: The World is Not Enough (1999)

Now into the third Pierce Brosnan James Bond film out of four, this is where things really start to get problematic for this era. Interestingly enough, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were the writers for The World is Not Enough and they remained so all the way until Skyfall. Fortunes really can change can't they? To think that they're responsible for some of the biggest successes and duds of 007 is pretty impressive. It's important to remember that box office success has never been a problem for them though.

The World is Not Enough is probably most famous for the failed attempt at having Denise Richards as a Bond girl. She's definitely pretty bad and ill suited for her role but she's not the worst Bond girl there's ever been either. I still give that honour to Halle Berry who's so lifeless you might think she's in a zombie movie. We'll save that for another time though once I actually review Die Another Day.

Nov 18, 2014

Review: Dirty Dancing 3: Capoeira Nights (2010)

I'm going to make a pretty big confession here: I love Dirty Dancing. That's with zero sarcasm. It's for sure one of my guiltiest pleasures out of the movies that I like and I can't help do anything about it. I love Patrick Swayze, I love Jennifer Grey, I love the song "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" and I love every single stinking montage. Don't even talk to me about the climax because I just love it too much.

Now for the 2004 prequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, I prefer to just ignore it. It can be summed up as a transplantation of Dirty Dancing's story into the past with the Cuban Revolution in the backdrop. It's nothing special and it didn't need to be made at all. Six years later in 2010, Website Funny or Die saw the need to make a comedy short on Dirty Dancing. I can't kill the completionist inside of me so I just had to see it.

Nov 17, 2014

Review: Pleasantville (1998)

Gary Ross is the kind of guy who regularly alternates between director, writer and producer roles. Sometimes he does all three, sometimes he only does one. Not all his movies are that great but he's got enough to his name that makes him a guy to look out for. Out of all the movies he's worked on and that I've seen, I'd say Dave is my favourite in which he was the writer.

Pleasantville is one two movies that Gary Ross acted as director, writer and producer, the other being Seabiscuit. Both movies star Tobey Maguire so he must have a thing for him. Nothing wrong with that because I like him myself too. He's got this kind of innocence and vulnerability about him that I like.

Nov 16, 2014

Review: 9 (2005)

I saw 9, the feature length animated film that is, quite a few years ago. Without a doubt, its biggest strength is its rich, visual details and animation. In that sense it's a good film with a really well constructed and unique world. It's also quite gloomy to say the least.

What I missed those years ago is that 9 is based off of a short film that was created by the director of 9, Shane Acker. Apparently he made this film as his UCLA animation thesis project. Acker made the most of his four and a half years of work by doing the film festival rounds. His hard work didn't go unnoticed because he managed to get Tim Burton's attention as well as a nomination for best animated short film at the Academy Awards.

Nov 15, 2014

Review: My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)

My girlfriend really likes Julia Roberts, so here I am once again with another movie of hers that definitely falls in the "chick flick" category. Wish there was a better term than that because I hate using it. Not that I give my girlfriend any grief though, we're totally even when it comes to what movies we choose so there's no hard feelings. Plus I watch anything anyway and My Best Friend's Wedding is meant to be one of Julia's top movies, so I was curious to see it.

Truth be told, I'm not really sure where I stand in terms of my like for Julia Roberts. Without a doubt Erin Brockovich is my favourite performance of hers that I've seen, bar none. But then she has roles in movies like Runaway Bride and Valentine's Day that I don't find very good. I think my problem is that I never really like her in romantic comedy roles. Notting Hill is the only rom-com I've seen her in that I actually liked. One thing you can't deny though, she's always been a big box office draw. That time is probably coming to an end though.

Nov 14, 2014

Review: The Bling Ring (2011)

Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring was a pretty good movie but lacked depth in actually exploring its characters. It made for a pretty good satire of celebrity worshiping culture though. One thing I can say is that it was a pretty film that had the benefit of being able to actually shoot in Paris Hilton's real house. It also had some pretty tense moments. 

Anyway, when I found out that there was a Lifetime TV movie version of the Bling Ring that came out before Coppola's effort, I just had to see it. It's pretty much just a case of wanting to be able to say that I've seen it though, as a completionist. I definitely wasn't watching it and expecting it to be better than the 2013 version. Good TV movies do exist, but they're pretty rare.

Nov 13, 2014

Review: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)

I didn't think that Bridget Jones's Diary was the greatest romantic comedy ever made or anything like that. Despite some predictability, it's quite funny, it's cunningly biting and contains a great Renée Zellweger performance. It's no small feat to bring such a popular book character to life. No doubt about it though, Renée gets the job done despite the early criticisms to her casting announcement.

The other way in which BJD was a huge success was at the box office. We're talking almost $300 million worldwide off of a $25 million budget. That's impressive stuff so no wonder a sequel makes sense. Author Helen Fielding had written a sequel to her original book anyway so the material was there. However I've read though that there are some pretty big differences between this adaptation and Fielding's novel which isn't usually a very good sign.

Nov 12, 2014

Review: The Lucky One (2012)

You know, I don't think Zac Efron is that bad a guy. Most of his success came from the High School Musical series, but so what? He was just a heartthrob that Disney was able to milk for a while. Who wouldn't want to be paid to play that role for a while? It's true that he's maybe not much of an actor, but he just seems like an alright guy. I think that's because he's had personal problems recently that he's tried to fix and I admire that. Hope everything works out for him.

Anyway, Zac stars in what is the seventh Nicholas Sparks adaptation with Taylor Schilling. She doesn't have much to her name but has a few roles between TV and movies since 2007. She's now mostly famous for Orange Is the New Black. With Scott Hicks directing, will The Lucky One offer anything new as far as Nicholas Sparks romances go? Judging a book by it's cover is usually wrong but I'm sure you can already guess the answer.

Nov 11, 2014

Review: Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012)

Although you might not think so at first, I think that The Asylum has made a very educated decision with pretty much everything about Nazis at the Center of the Earth. The title is a clear indicator to anyone that it's not a movie to be taken seriously. It's not a movie that's out trying to trick you as being the recent blockbuster you'd heard about either and best of all it's got Nazis in it. Is there a more classic group of bad guys more adored than Nazis? I doubt it.

It's not exactly clear but I'd surmise that NatCotE is a combo of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and Iron Sky. Not a bad idea really because both movies are pretty much guaranteed to do well in their respective fields. You might be wondering which actor or actress The Asylum managed to cast, probably under duress for this film. That would be Jake Busey this time, famous for, well being the son of Gary Busey.

Nov 10, 2014

Review: Nang nak [Nang-Nak] (1999)

Thai cinema is a relatively unexplored corridor of Asian cinema as a whole for me. I'm far more familiar with movies from China, Hong Kong and Japan. Strangely enough though, I seem to be pretty familiar with Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr's work, albeit as a producer. He's produced titles like Bangkok Dangerous (not the remake with Nicolas Cage) and Jan Dara which I've seen. But Tears of the Black Dragon seems to be the most well known of all his productions which is still on my watch list. 

The story of Nang-Nak is based on a very famous Thai legend about a man who has to leave his pregnant wife as he goes to fight in a war. Unbeknownst to him, his wife dies during child birth but still finds her there to greet him when he comes back home. Nothing seems to be amiss but in reality, his wife and baby son are ghosts. It might sound like I've spoiled the story if you're reading this, but the movie does this itself in the first ten minutes anyway with narration, so don't worry. I haven't done anything the movie doesn't do itself.

Nov 9, 2014

Review: Se, jie [Lust, Caution] (2007)

Ang Lee has proven himself to be a great film director, but not without some bumps in the road. Take Hulk for example which just seems to be an attempt at fitting a square peg in a round hole. Taking Woodstock is another weaker movie in his, but let's not be all negative about Lee's filmography.

Without Hulk we maybe would not have gotten Life of Pi. My favourite film of his though is Eat Drink Man Woman from twenty years ago. It's probably one of the most delicious movies I have ever seen. That's because food is a huge part of it and if you haven't seen it, you're going to be starving afterwards from all that food porn. With Tony Leung Chiu Wai in the fold, Lust, Caution definitely has a pretty big chance of being one of Lee's better titles.

Nov 8, 2014

Review: Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones's Diary was huge in the early 2000's as can be easily evidenced by its box office take. It was huge before it was ever even a movie because of the fact that it was based on Helen Fielding's 1996 novel of the same name. I'm more of a fantasy/sci-fi guy myself, so no I've never read it. It got rave reviews though so I'm pretty sure it's quite good as far as books go. I just don't think I really fit into the target market.

The casting of Renée Zellweger was a controversial decision though and for good reason if you ask me. Bridget Jones is an English character who needs a good English accent. Wouldn't it just have been easier to cast a native Brit in the role? Probably, but once everyone saw Renée performance it didn't matter. She blew everyone's expectations out of the water and got an Academy Award nomination for her efforts.

Nov 7, 2014

Review: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

GoldenEye was huge when it was first released. It still pretty much is but I think a large part of that is because of the large amount of nostalgic video gamers who adored the Nintendo 64 first-person shooter version of the movie. It's not exactly playable anymore because of how poorly it aged, but I too have some very fond memories of it.

That success put a lot of pressure on the production team of Tomorrow Never Dies. MGM had a new owner, Kirk Kerkorian who wanted the movie to be released along with the public stock offering of his newly acquired company. Time was short and that problem was compounded further because of the script having to be completely rewritten from zero.

There also seemed to have been a lot of other production issues including on-set trouble with actors as well as John Barry not wanting to score the movie since he would not be allowed any control in creating the title song which was something he'd always been able to do. The budget ballooned up to $110 million, making it more expensive by $52 million compared to GoldenEye. On the bright side though, all the budget was offset by product placement so everything worked out pretty well as long as noticeable product placement doesn't bother you.

Nov 6, 2014

Review: Safe Haven (2013)

It's amazing how Nicholas Sparks has turned his romance book empire into a scheduled yearly movie release isn't it? 2010 had two releases in Dear John and The Last Song so we can count one of those for 2011. Following that there's been a Sparks adaptation every year. I'm not convinced that the box office takes will be consistently good forever but you got to hand it to the guy for turning schmaltzy romantic books into schmaltzy romantic movies that certain people really seem to like.

Safe Haven brings in director Lasse Hallström who has already done a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. With Dear John under his belt, he's the only Sparks veteran. I knew right away that even if Safe Haven was pretty bad, at the very least it would be a pretty-looking bad movie. Hallström seems to usually stick to very familiar ground with his movies, but at least he can make things look nice.

Nov 5, 2014

Review: Curse of the Fly (1965)

I wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing Curse of the Fly. For one thing, Vincent Price is long gone and I think everyone can agree that like Return of the Fly, there's a probable drop off in quality. I mean for the most part Return of the Fly felt like a simple cash grab that was just made to capitalize on the success of The Fly. I don't think that the goal has changed very much with this release.

No way could I leave the final sequel to the original The Fly unwatched though. This was even a tough movie to see at one point since it never got a video release until 2007. Imagine, 42 years without being able to buy this one. The poor box office probably had a part in this, but all the more reason for me to see it. I can't resist little-seen films.

Nov 4, 2014

Review: LUV (2012)

For the most part, Sheldon Candis only really has experience making short films. LUV is pretty much his first big break, especially given the fact that he's working with established actors like Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Dennis Haysbert and of course Common. Not sure if LUV has really helped Candis' cause though because he doesn't have any upcoming movies unfortunately.

LUV did end up getting a nomination for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, but besides that the critical response hasn't been very good. I can understand as well because despite a strong cast that pulls off some good performances, the script is really at fault here. We'll get to that though.

Nov 3, 2014

Review: Luna Papa (1999)

Luna Papa is one of those relatively unknown movies that I love stumbling on. The less people have seen it, the better. It's a movie that relatively unknown in North America anyway. I had never heard of Luna Papa before and I had never heard of Russian director Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov either.

Luna Papa is definitely his most famous movie by far though and made the rounds through several film festivals around Europe. Khudojnazarov even won best director at the Russian Nika Awards which is like the Academy Awards in the US, so that's nothing to sneeze at.

Nov 2, 2014

Review: Lumière et compagnie [Lumière and Company] (1995)

Lumière and Company is definitely an interesting documentary from the perspective of a cinema lover. Gathering 40 renowned directors from around the world, they're given the chance to shoot a short film with the original Lumière cinematograph. This was among the first few movie cameras invented in the 1890's and even doubled as a projector. However, three rules had to be followed:
  1. The film must be 52 seconds long
  2. No synchronized sound allowed
  3. Three takes max
I'll be the first to admit that I know less than one third of the directors featured in this film. I suppose that is because of the fact that most of them are from outside of North America. I feel like I should know more of them but I suppose that it just gives an idea of how much movies and directors are out there. It's all the same an all-star cast of directors as far as I can tell.

Nov 1, 2014

Review: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The first time I ever saw The Nightmare Before Christmas as a kid, I was entranced. I didn't quite grasp everything that was going on, but the animation style, the songs and all the ultra cool characters had me transfixed. I had never seen anything like it before. The closest thing I had were the Wallace and Gromit stop-motion animation shorts, which of course have a really different tone.

It's known as Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, but I really see it as Henry Selick's movie. Tim Burton did of course come up with the base story in the form of a poem and he did produce it. He was too busy with Batman Returns and Ed Wood to really be all that involved though. Ever since then, Selick has carved himself a place in Hollywood as one of the top stop-motion animation kings. He's like a stamp of approval to me when it comes to stop-motion.