Feb 28, 2015

Review: Larry-Boy! And the Fib from Outer Space! (1997)

There's something quite ironic about watching and reviewing all these Christian friendly VeggieTales videos. If it's not already clear, I hate the series, I hate the characters and I hate the songs. I hate pretty much everything to do with VeggieTales. Sorry fans of the series, but it's the truth. Don't want to be caught in a lie now do I (heheh)?

Despite hating the series as much as I do, I think Cinema Whatever might end up becoming one of the best resources for VT reviews on the internet. Albeit, all negative ones most probably. I aim to make that happen anyway because I intend to watch every single video which currently stands at fifty in total, not including the two feature length films. To say that's a tall order would be an understatement.

Feb 27, 2015

Review: Junebug (2005)

Amy Adams had been around for some time before truly catching fire for her role in Junebug. Known to be her breakthrough performance, it netted Adams a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006. She unfortunately ended up losing to Rachel Weisz of The Constant Gardener. Even so, it's been a great decade for Amy Adams who's momentum hasn't shown any signs of slowing down yet.

In terms of Phil Morrison, he doesn't have much of a track record before or after 2005 which is a bit surprising given Junebug's popularity with the critics. Junebug happened to be his first big movie project after directing some episodes of TV series Upright Citizens Brigade. The only thing of note he's done since then is a Christmas comedy/drama called All is Bright released in 2013 with Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd that hasn't gotten much fanfare. It seems kind of interesting actually, so I got to remember to look out for it come December.

Feb 26, 2015

Review: The Negotiator (1998)

Based on the 80's-90's pension fund scandal in the St. Louis Police Department, well loosely anyway, The Negotiator pairs heavyweights Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. From an acting and screen presence point of view, you can't ask for much better now can you? Sylvester Stallone was originally cast to be in Spacey's role and Spacey was going to be in Jackson's role. The deck got reshuffled once Sly dropped out and probably for the best.

There have been some good police-themed crime/action thrillers that I've enjoyed over the past few years such as 16 Blocks, End of Watch and Infernal Affairs. I'm not saying that 16 Blocks is a masterpiece or anything and to be fair it probably shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence as Infernal Affairs. All I'm trying to say is that I like cop movies and I had high hopes for The Negotiator.

Feb 25, 2015

Review: Western Spaghetti (2008)

I've already seen a PES short film before and that was when Fresh Guacamole was nominated for Best Animated Short at the 85th Academy Awards in 2013. I remember going ahead and watching three out of the five films that made up the category and coming out quite impressed with FG. Best word to describe it? Satisfying.

Feb 24, 2015

Review: The Sound of Music (1965)

The Sound of Music was one of the many VHS tapes my parents had bought for my sisters and I when we were children. That makes it one of my most watched movies even though I haven't seen it since VHS was actually a thing. Pretty sad really, so it's about time I get a proper viewing of it. I'm finally able to appreciate it properly too because how could you expect a young boy not to zone out from time to time during a 174 minute movie?

There's no doubt that The Sound of Music is one of the greatest musicals of all time, arguably the best of all. I'm no musical expert though, so I can't really say. I'm going to say it anyway. It's based on The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp herself. Don't be fooled though, there are of course some facts that have been changed for entertainment's sake. But who really cares though right? Julie Andrews' place as an actress was firmly cemented because of her performance as Maria von Trapp and with Mary Poppins coming the year before, that's quite the 1-2 punch.

Feb 23, 2015

Review: Rejected (2000)

Don Hertzfeldt's Rejected is a certifiable cult classic. It gained a large following from its many film festival showings and it's the kind of thing that's commonly referenced in popular culture. I've seen a couple of Hertzfeldt animated shorts and my opinion is that they're definitely pretty out there. Not in a bad way or anything though, they're just very different and he always uses this simplistic stick-figure-on-paper kind of animation that's supposed to bring attention to what's being said and not necessarily what's being shown.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2000, Dutch short Father and Daughter won that category and for good reason. It's a great little short that packs a pretty big emotional punch along with some pretty visuals. Still, Rejected is the short that has lived far beyond its awards season and release year. Does that make it the better film?

Feb 22, 2015

Review: Alien³ [Alien 3] (1992)

The production issues of Alien 3 are pretty well known by this point. Pre-production went through several writers and directors as no one could seem to decide what the next logical step in the Alien universe should be. All sorts of ideas were proposed like Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) being the main character of the film instead of Ripley and having the film set on a wooden planet. David Fincher was brought in at the last minute in what was his big budget debut and he didn't even have a finished script to work with.

Predictably, production continued to be troubled and David Fincher went on to disown the film, mostly due to studio interference. Amazing to think that just a few years later, he'd direct insanely popular movies like Seven and Fight Club early on in his career. Who knows what could've happened. There probably was no way that Alien 3 could ever match up to Alien or Aliens though, even if Fincher was given all the breathing room he wanted.

Feb 21, 2015

Review: One True Thing (1998)

One True Thing was nominated for a single Academy Award and it's no real surprise which one it was. With Meryl Streep as part of the cast, do I really need to spell it out? It's all too easy to nominate her as best actress every time she's in a movie practically. I got no problem with that though because Streep truly is something special, an anomaly really. Although people might be sick of her getting so much praise, her performance in One True Thing is just another feather in her cap.

The 71st Academy Awards are famous, or infamous really, for awarding the Best Actress award to Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. OK, most of the infamy is for giving Shakespeare in Love Best Picture over movies like Saving Private Ryan, Life is Beautiful and The Thin Red Line. But still, doesn't Paltrow winning feel like a typical Harvey Weinstein job? I guess I can't really say much though because I've never even seen Shakespeare in Love. It's just that the consensus seems to be that SiL was the wrong choice at the time and I can't help feeling so strongly about Meryl Streep in One True Thing.

Feb 20, 2015

Review: Mann (1999)

It's always a challenge for me to get excited to watch a Bollywood movie and I guess that's my own doing. I've forced myself to sit through so many bad ones over the years it's not like Mann is really setting itself out to be any different. It looks to be the usual song and dance, or at least that was my impression before I started watching it.

For one thing, it's rated quite low on IMDb for a Bollywood movie which isn't a good sign. It's weird how so many Indian movies are in the 8's and higher with at least 10,000 ratings or more, but that seems to be par for the course. It's a little suspicious really and the only other country that I can think of that has as much nationalistic pride when it comes to their movies are Turks. There's nothing wrong with loving the movies that come from your own country, but there's no way all of them can be masterpieces.

Feb 19, 2015

Review: The First Wives Club (1996)

It's funny how I just watched a movie recently about a couple of aging female characters struggling with their self-identity. The Banger Sisters was two days ago and that was my girlfriend's choice as is The First Wives Club. I think the typical way she goes about choosing movies is looking up actresses and then simply picking movies from the filmographies. Goldie Hawn is the common thread here which is funny because I don't think my girlfriend even likes her.

Anyway, I think everyone can agree that Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler is quite the grouping of female performers though. The First Wives Club ended up being a surprise success in 1996 and for a long time there's been talk of a sequel. Hawn tweeted in 2011 that she and her costars had signed on for a sequel but nothing's come of it and here we are four years later. It doesn't really look like we'll ever get that sequel.

Feb 18, 2015

Review: Nirgendwo in Afrika [Nowhere in Africa] (2001)

I'll admit, I was a bit put off by the prospect of watching Nowhere in Africa. It's a foreign language film which would require me to read subtitles, it's long at 141 minutes and it's about some pretty serious stuff. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'm sure everyone knows the feeling of being faced with a big task at hand that requires real commitment. When you're a bit on the tired side it can be a bit more of a challenge no?

Anyhow, Nowhere in Africa does have some pretty good credentials though. Written and directed by German native Caroline Link, it's all about a Jewish family's escape to Africa before World War II. The story is in fact based on Stefanie Zweig's autobiographic novel of the same name. NiA managed to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002 as well as the top prize at the Deutscher Filmpreis among other awards. Not too shabby at all.

Feb 17, 2015

Review: The Banger Sisters (2002)

In Hollywood, being an aging female actress isn't easy. In 2002, Susan Sarandon was 55 and Goldie Hawn was 56 and both had done admirable jobs at fighting Father Time to keep the roles coming. That especially goes for Sarandon though who never seems to be lacking work, even today. Her movie choices are maybe a bit more suspect now, but you can't fault her for keeping busy. She does have the odd good film from time to time anyhow.

Goldie Hawn was however on the tail end of a Hollywood offensive by this time that unfortunately fizzled. She had some box office highs in the early to mid-90's like Bird on a Wire, Death Becomes Her and The First Wives Club, but that string of success would come to an end in the late 90's. The Out-of-Towners, a remake of the classic 1970 comedy film, was a big flop. Add in the mess that was Town & Country and you can see how one's career might stall. The Banger Sisters might have been a modest success but the damage was already done, making this the final film appearance of Goldie Hawn.

Feb 16, 2015

Review: Aliens (1986)

Ridley Scott's Alien vs. James Cameron's Aliens has long been a debate over the decades. Slow, cynical and atmospheric vs. bloody-thirsty and action-packed. For me personally, Alien is my movie of choice. I love its subtlety and as a horror movie it works unbelievably well. It's really scary and it owes a lot of that to Ridley Scott's patience as well as his attention to detail in creating a great atmosphere. I suppose I'm also just very attached to it since it's the movie that got me into horror movies in the first place.

That's not to say that I dislike Aliens. Trust me, I absolutely love it and there's no denying that it is one of the greatest action/horror movies ever made. It's also one of the greatest sequels ever made, period. Although I miss the slow-building horror elements of Alien, James Cameron made the right decision in changing the tone of this sequel to be more action-oriented. Trying to go toe-to-toe with Alien probably wouldn't have worked.

Feb 15, 2015

Review: One Froggy Evening (1955)

Trust me, I watched a lot of Looney Tunes when I was a kid. My mom had generously recorded a ton onto VHS for my sisters and I and she did a relatively good job at not recording the commercials. Not perfect, but I couldn't really complain now could I? I honestly can't think of much that better demonstrates love for one's children more than taping Looney Tunes for them in what is quite a labour intensive method. Can you? 

Anyhow, One Froggy Evening is probably the most important Looney Tunes cartoon ever put out. Famously called "the Citizen Kane of animated film" by Steven Spielberg, it's got everything you could probably ever ask for in an animated short. Even though it doesn't have Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, or any other famous Looney Tunes characters, it's the most memorable of all for me personally and probably a lot of other people.

Feb 14, 2015

Review: Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)

Criminal organizations like the American mafia have always intrigued people. At least that's how it is for me because I've always loved crime movies that deal with the mafia. I definitely have nothing to complain about when we get treated to classic movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas. Satire of popular film genres is inevitable though and that's exactly what Mickey Blue Eyes is. It takes a very obviously British guy, puts him with some mafiosos and we get to see what happens next.

My girlfriend happens to be Italian and she's always wanted me to see Mickey Blue Eyes with her. I've got some Scottish/English ancestry on my mom's side of the family and so Hugh Grant's character apparently reminds her of me. I don't know if I should be insulted or not, but either way I suppose a comparison to Hugh Grant isn't all bad right?

Feb 13, 2015

Review: VeggieTales: Very Silly Songs (1997)

I feel like King Théoden when I say this; how did it come to this? I've been dreading the day that I'd have to see this particular entry to VeggieTales because of the fact that it's a sing-a-long video. The songs in VeggieTales have always stuck out like a sore thumb among many other sore and rotten thumbs. I just couldn't imagine that by seeing these songs a second time, I'll like them any better. My courage was hanging by a single thread as I started this 30 minute horror and I faced the very distinct possibility of breaking my streak of finishing every movie I had ever started. It would be so easy to quit wouldn't it?

Review: Doubt (2008)

Doubt is another one of those highly-regarded films that ended up slipping through the cracks for me. It's sad really because it racked up five Oscar nominations for the acting performances of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis as well as a best adapted screenplay nomination. It didn't win anything, but that's phenomenal whether or not 2008 was a weak year which I don't think it was.

Doubt reminds me of a funny story though. My parents were at one point renting movies from Blockbuster quite regularly and John Patrick Shanley's Doubt was one of the last ones ever. They were pretty good about returning movies when they were supposed to, but one of my sisters moved the case from the return pile with whatever else my dad was returning. I guess he "doubted" that he had another movie to return and Doubt hung around my house for quite some time after that, resulting in a $60 late fee. After that, my parents didn't really go to Blockbuster anymore.

Feb 11, 2015

Review: Need for Speed (2014)

I've only played one entry of EA's Need for Speed racing video game series in all my life and that was Need for Speed: Underground 2, sometime in 2004. That goes back to when renting video games from Blockbuster was still a thing. I remember teenage me actually really liking the song "Riders On The Storm (Fredwreck Remix)" by Snoop Dogg and featuring The Doors. That was really the only memorable thing of the entire game for me. One song.

I loved cars back then and I still do. I was just never very big on modifying their appearances into gaudy, chrome-wheeled, pearlescent painted creations which was a big part of Need for Speed. I liked my cars pure which makes me a snob I guess. The racing series that finally did steal my heart was Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 4 which had exactly the love of cars that I was searching for. It also helped that GT was more of a racing simulator than an "arcadey" racing game.

Feb 9, 2015

Review: The Virgin Suicides (1999)

You know what else Sofia Coppola was doing in 1999, before releasing what was her directorial debut in The Virgin Suicides? Believe it or not, she had a supporting role in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as one of Queen Amidala's handmaidens, Saché. Yeah, it's pretty easy to forget that because she's hardly there at all. Somehow this was enough to earn her a second Razzie nomination after a Razzie win for her supporting role in The Godfather Part III in 1990.

To be honest, I don't think it's a very fair nomination because there isn't very much acting to actually judge with a role like Saché. This is just the Razzies piling it on like they usually do because it's easy. It's true that Sofia Coppola didn't make too many friends with her performance in The Godfather Part III and that's probably why she pretty much stopped acting since then. Appearing in Star Wars was just to do a solid for "uncle" George Lucas who is a longtime friend of her father Francis Ford Coppola.

Feb 8, 2015

Review: Thanatopsis (1962)

Thanatopsis caught my eye as I was looking at the Brief Encounters list on iCheckmovies for a suitable short film to watch. I've hit a bit of a busy patch and haven't had much time to sit down in the evenings for a full-length movie. I'll get back to that of course, but I thought this gave me a nice chance to fit in some short films in the meantime.

The reason why Thanatopsis caught my eye was because it shares its title with a band featuring the talents of experimental guitarist Buckethead. Buckethead really isn't for everyone, but his brand of weird music and dizzying guitar skill made me a fan. Check him out here if you want. I honestly wouldn't be surprised at all if Buckethead had seen Thanatopsis before because it seems exactly like the kind of thing he would be inspired by.

Feb 7, 2015

Review: Oktapodi (2007)

I have a new found respect for octopi in general all because of the independent video game Octodad: Dadliest Catch where I got to play as one. You know what else? I just realized that it's DADliest Catch and not DEADliest Catch by typing out the title. All this time I've been reading it as Deadliest.

Anyhow, in this video game you play as an octopus who is pretending to be a human. Believe it or not, your character is even married with two kids, hence Dadliest. Quite the feat to be able to hide such a secret right? What makes Octodad so fun to play though is trying to navigate the world with some pretty wonky controls due to being forced to find a way to tame those eight tentacles as you mow the lawn, go grocery shopping and avoid a murderous chef who knows your big secret.

Feb 6, 2015

Review: Alien (1979)

There's no doubt in my mind that Alien is THE movie that inspired me to watch horror movies. For a few years I refused to watch any horror movies at all because of a preconceived notation that they're all the same. I was a snob and the worst kind. I was also a baby if I'm truly honest with myself. While it's true that most horror movies are unoriginal and follow a pretty similar formula, there are gems sprinkled here and there that shouldn't be missed. I ended up watching Alien on a whim and I haven't looked back since.

Once I saw Alien for the first time, I had this huge hunger to devour as many horror movies as I could. I wanted to be scared and thrilled all over again. I had missed a lot of horror films over the years, so there was a pretty healthy supply out there for me and there still is. None have been able to match the experience I got out of Alien and sadly, I doubt one ever will.

Feb 5, 2015

Review: Prime (2005)

I wonder what the title Prime is really referring to? Is it the fact that its main characters are 37 and 23, both prime numbers? I'm no a math guy by any means, but at least I know that it means they're only divisible by themselves or by 1. Is the title referring to the fact that the characters are IN their prime? Or is it just 23 year-old Dave who's in his prime? Anyway, it doesn't really matter.

Romantic comedies, often the bane of the male species, can be good from time to time. Especially when they avoid being contrived Hollywood drivel like they are so much of the time. Prime was written and directed by Ben Younger, so that sort of seems like a good sign if you ask me. It's the vision of one person which is usually a good thing. If that person has a good vision anyway and Meryl Streep is a good sign too right?

Feb 3, 2015

Review: Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007)

Eight years after House on Haunted Hill was released, a remake of the 1959 Vincent Price film of the same name I might add, Dark Castle Entertainment decided that the world needed a sequel. Was there anyone actually clamoring for a sequel? I have a hard time imagining that to be the case, but at least they had the sense to release it direct-to-video.

Return to House on Haunted Hill was notable for its use of "Navigational Cinema technology" which permitted watchers to make choices during the movie that would result in different outcomes. It honestly just sounds like an excuse to include more gore and more nudity, which is why I stuck to the plain old vanilla version. RtHoHH wasn't a place I wanted to spend more time than I had to anyway and 80 minutes was more than enough time without any dumb gimmicks added in to the mix.

Feb 2, 2015

Review: Basil, the Great Mouse Detective (1986)

I was little and visiting my cousins when I saw Basil, the Great Mouse Detective for the first time on VHS. I can also tell you that it scared me quite a bit with certain dark scenes that could be almost considered to be jump scares out of a horror movie. That's something that's especially true with the main villain's peg-legged henchman Fidget, who had a nasty habit of popping in and scaring the bejeezus out of young me.

Watching it again after all these years, it was amazing how it felt only like yesterday since I had seen it last. Definitely got to credit Disney on creating such a memorable movie. Coming off the disappointing flop that was The Black Cauldron, Basil, the Great Mouse Detective was the movie that convinced Disney to continue making animated films and ushered in the great "Renaissance" that lasted until 1999.

Feb 1, 2015

Review: Les nuits fauves [Savage Nights] (1992)

Savage Nights is a no-holds-barred look at one man's battle with AIDS. What makes this an unbelievably personal film is due to the fact that Cyril Collard wrote the book (which is semi-autobiographical) that the story is based on, he wrote the script, he directed it and he even starred in the main role. Collard even wrote the songs that make up the soundtrack. Does it get any more personal than that?

Three days before Savage Nights when on to win four Césars in France, which is like the Academy Awards in the US, Collard died of AIDS. AIDS was still considered an extremely controversial topic in 1992 and it still is. The stigma just isn't as intense today as it once was though. Keeping that in mind, SN was a trailblazer when it came to presenting AIDS in what is a totally unforgiving light. Movies with AIDS had been done before, but I don't know of any that depicted the disease as bravely as Collard did.