There is no way that I can present a Christmas gift to each
and every reader of this column. At this time of year I most often let you know
about the best Christmas movie to watch. For me that remains constant with IT’S
A WONDERFUL LIFE. But rather than say that once again this year I thought I
might pass along some information to each of you, a gift if you will, of
something to do with your movie collection in the upcoming year.
For some time now I’ve looked at my movies as they arrived and
seen the words ultraviolet and digital on them. The problem was that I never
looked deeper into it than in reading those words or noticing the purple and
white sheets contained in each DVD. That all changed a while back and now I
want to share that with you.
You see we’re moving into a different world, a time when the
word digital is becoming more prevalent. First it was music that went from tape
to CD to mp3. Now movies are heading that same direction, from VHS to DVD and
now to digital format. Like every new idea that comes along the change can be
frightening to some. I’m hoping this makes it easy for all of you. If it helps,
then my guess is many of you will be placing the DVDs you receive as gifts into
your own digital accounts.
To begin with what is this digital world? Well simply put
it’s a way for you to take the movies that you own and store them online in the
cloud, the ever growing atmosphere of storage that means you can take various
items you own and access them through different means. In the case of movies it
means you can download the code for the movie you purchased and watch it
without ever loading the disc into a machine. It also means you can have access
to that movie anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the internet
and a device to watch it on like a laptop, PC or tablet. And it’s easier to do
than you think. Let me help.
To begin with all you have to do is create an account in
your name. Start by going creating an ultraviolet account. Go to www.uvvu.com and do so. It takes just a few
minutes and requires little more than an email account, creating a use name
& password and a few bits of information. This creates an account to which
you can download your digital films. On to the next step.
Log out of that account and you can move on to two different
locations to manager your movies, Vudu and Flixster. For myself I prefer Vudu
but either will work and both take about the same time and information to start
an account. Again, use an email account and come up with a user name and
password after supplying some basic information. Go to www.vudu.com to start this. You’ll notice right
away that it wants to offer you movies. That’s another benefit I’ll get into
Once you’ve gone through the registration of this account
you can log in. Now you’ll notice that across the top of their page it says
“Movies & TV”. If you click on that another offering says “My VUDU”. This
will be where your movies and TV series are stored. When you purchase a new
movies, let’s use GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as an example, included in the box
the movie comes in is a purple and white sheet that has a code on it. This
sheet usually tells you where to go to redeem this code. When you visit that
web site it will ask what program to save it under. In my case I select Vudu
(though it will be in all of my accounts when I link them together). The other
option is to search Vudu for that title. In the case of this film it pops up
and I click on it. When the information for the movie pops up you’ll see
several options, once of which is “Redeem”. When you click on that it asks for
the code on your sheet, you type it in and it adds that movie to your
collection. You’re done.
This means that now you can watch this movie anywhere you
have the access I mentioned earlier. Not only that you also have the option to
share your collection with 5 other people anywhere. This means if you have kids
in college and want to share your collection with them you can. Or maybe, as in
my case, with your parents. And the sharing doesn’t cost a thing other than
time to invite them via email and their creating their own account as well. The
nice part is you keep your movies in house while sharing them at the same time.
In using this to store your movies you don’t have to take up
shelf space and have easy access to them all. Many blu-ray players come with
Vudu installed as do Roku and more. I know that Kindle doesn’t have Vudu but it
does Flixster, the other storage program I talked about. All of these programs
are user friendly and take little time to deal with. The most time you will
spend (other than using it) is in putting all of your movies into it. One thing
to note is the difference between TV and movie downloads. Make sure if your
download doesn’t show for some reason in one that it isn’t in the other.
Lastly I mentioned that when Vudu opens you’ll see movies
for sale. That’s because they also sell digital copies of movies too. For
instance as I’m writing this I see A WALK AMONG TOMBSTONES and THE GUEST both
available for purchase in advance of their being released on DVD. I don’t know
for sure if they open now or the day of release but you can purchase these
movie without leaving your home this way at about the same costs you would pay
at the local store. The same holds true for select TV series as well. Want to
own THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 1? It’s on sale there for $15.99 in HD or $10.99 in
As I said in the beginning this is my Christmas
gift to you all, a way to store your movies with easy access or to buy new
releases without ever leaving your home. So don’t be afraid of new technology
and embrace it instead. You’ll find that using ultraviolet isn’t as bad as you
might think and might enjoy it. Above all else I would like to wish each and
every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The past few years have been very
good to movies based on comic books. While those based on DC comics have been
slow out of the gate movies based on Marvel comics licenses have skyrocketed.
Perhaps the most surprising of these was a movie based on a lesser known and
not hugely popular comic that took the box office by storm. Not only was it a
surprise hit it just might be the best of the Marvel movies released to date.
That movie arrives on DVD this week and is called GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
The movie opens with a young boy
confronted with the death of his mother to cancer. Running from the hospital he
finds himself beamed aboard a UFO. Fast forward some years later and we see
that boy now grown landing on a desolate planet devoid of human life forms. He
steals an orb from a futuristic safe and is then set upon by minions of Ronan
the Accuser out to take the orb for their leader. When he tells them his name
is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) otherwise known as Star Lord they are less than
impressed, not even recognizing it. That adds to their surprise when he takes
back the orb and flees with them hot on his trail.
Quill is out to make some money by
taking the orb he was sent to steal to a dealer and bypassing his leader, the
head of the Ravagers known as Yondu (Michael Rooker). At the same time Ronan
(Lee Pace) has set his own special warrior to retrieve the orb, Gamora (Zoe
Saldana). The dealer cancels the deal when he learns of Ronan’s involvement and
Gamora tries to take the orb. At that same moment an unlikely pair of fortune
seekers reads that Yondu has put a price on Quills head. The pair is Rocket
Racoon (Bradley Cooper) who actually is a raccoon, and his partner Groot (Vin
Diesel), a walking talking plant. As the four struggle for control of one
another they are eventually captured by the space police known as the Nova
Sent to the worst prison in the
universe the four make a deal to get the orb and take it to a buyer Gamora is
aware of. It turns out she hates Ronan and is double crossing him. When they
arrive at the prison she is set upon by a few inmates, specifically Drax the
Destroyer (Dave Bautista). When Drax learns that Gamora was not responsible for
the murder of his family, he joins with the foursome to plan their escape so he
can seek revenge.
Escape they do and from there the
adventure moves forward with alarming speed. Moving from one part of the
universe to another, pursued by Ronan who is working for a cosmic bad guy named
Thanos (Josh Brolin) and wanted by the Nova Corp, the five misfits join forces
to do what it right. Eventually that comes down to facing off against Ronan
after he has taken the orb and utilized it to his advantage. By the third act
the now called Guardians of the Galaxy have united with the Nova Corp and try
to save a world from being obliterated.
I have to say that words cannot
begin to describe how much I enjoyed this movie, so much so that watching it on
DVD was my third viewing. I can tell you that it holds up to multiple viewings
and is one that I’ll probably watch every few months, enjoying it each and
every time. This movie offers the near perfect combination of action, humor,
worlds of wonder and space opera unlike any seen before. Watching this movie
brought back memories of the first time I saw STAR WARS. It is that good.
The driving force that brought this
about was director James Gunn, a man who labored under some truly bad movies
for Troma but who has grown into an accomplished director who knows how to do
it right. Once you include some amazing performances by all around and in
particular Pratt who brings Quill to life, you have a great flick. That is just
added to by the eye popping special effects on scene here from the basic aliens
done with make up to the state of the art CGI effects that bring Rocket and
Groot to life.
While these things combine to make
it look great, the story itself takes it over the top. This is a tale of
misfits, a group of people who don’t quite fit in anywhere, who band together
to form something good. In the process they begin to become friends and to care
for one another. At times they frustrate one another and at others they’re
willing to sacrifice themselves to save their group as well as the Universe. In
so doing these criminals become the greatest of heroes.
This year I’ve seen more movies than
usual not just on DVD but in theaters. I can say now without a doubt that this
was by far my favorite film of the year. My guess is that due to its popularity
and the fact it is comic book based it won’t be nominated for any major awards
with the exception of effects. That’s too bad because for me this was the best
movie of the year. Add it to your collection today.
There have been a number of movies
based on true life tales that involve football. All of them are inspirational
in their own way. It seems as movie goers we must love these tales because each
one has done well at the box office, some becoming movie favorites that last
forever in the hearts of those who view them. Just added to that list is WHEN
THE GAME STANDS TALL. Does it deserve to be on that list? Indeed it does.
The movie is based around the De La
Selle High School Spartans, a team that held an incredible winning streak of
151 games undefeated. No other football team, pro or high school, has held a
streak to match. And yet the soul of the team is what makes it special. Coach
Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) does want to have a winning team but for him the
most important thing is the team itself, the men that these young boys will one
day become. It striving for that goal the winning team follows suit.
The film begins with the team on
their winning streak and a new season about to start soon. It offers us a
glimpse into how the team comes together to form a bonding unit rather than
single stars. At the same time we get a glimpse of how a rising star can fall
short of the goals the coach sets out to achieve. It’s not about that single
player but about the team as a whole.
And then two crushing blows come to
the team. The first is a heart attack suffered by the coach. Secret cigarette
smoking has led him to this and it nearly costs him his life. It’s a set back
for the team as he works to recover from his illness while his backup coach
puts them through the paces that summer as they prepare for next season.
Things go from bad to worse when one
of their best players, a young man who has a bright future ahead of him is
gunned down. The shooting is the result of his bragging attitude on a
basketball court, a gunman who wants to show him he’s not all that he thinks he
is. The death of this player affects his best friend most, a player who feels
that people are dying all around him and he doesn’t deserve a chance at a
better life. The pair had played together since grade school and been in line
to start the next year at Oregon University. But the death also takes its toll
on the rest of the team as well.
The coach recovers and takes control
of the team once again prior to the new season. But something has happened to
them in the meantime. The events of the past few months have become a burden on
the team. Coupled with the extra burden of carrying on the tradition of no
losses it becomes too much and the team is beaten in their first game.
Distraught and disillusioned with the game, they now face a dilemma. Can they
regain the glory they once had or are they doomed to failure? More importantly
has it all boiled down to making records, to being victorious or is it about
brotherhood, bonding together and becoming the men that the coach intended them
to be from the start?
Fans of football will love this
movie. There is more on field action here than in most movies I’ve seen in this
genre. At the same time there are the stories of those involved with the team.
The coach who has put his family on the back burner for years while getting
close with his teams. The son who only wants to have his father in his life as
his coach. The young man who feels the weight of having no one left in his life
but his little brother and now has the opportunity to move forward. The father
who lives so vicariously through his son’s achievements that he places more
value on the prizes than he does the affections of his child. These characters
and their stories make this movie more than just a football film.
Caviezel does a fine job in the
lead, showing a maturity that has come with age and is on display in all his
moves. Laura Dern as his loving and supportive wife who longs for more time
with him is equal to his performance. Michael Chiklis as his right hand man and
fellow coach comes through in a pinch when needed. Clancy Brown as the glory
seeking father living through his son’s achievements is the heel of the film
and does it gloriously. And each of the young men playing the team members act
as a team as much as the characters they portray. They don’t stand out alone
but work together to bring the story to life.
The movie is an inspiration as
opposed to a look at how football is played. As I said, it’s about the team and
the boys who make up that team on their way to manhood. Knowing that someone
like coach Ladouceur was out there helping to form these boys this way gives
you hope for the future. What more could you ask for?
Movies that predict what our future will be like have always
shown a world where something is just not quite right. They’ve veered from the
fatalistic showing us a barbaric world with marauding hordes to pristine worlds
that had no hope. But on occasion those worlds differ from what we’ve been
offered before and we get a glimpse of what could be as well as what we could
THE GIVER takes us to a future more in line with that second
category. In this future, everyone is content and has their job to do. There is
no war, no illness, no suffering. While no one is sad and expressions of
happiness are limited, they exist and do well for themselves, living in the
Community. Everyone lives in a clean home with a generic family. Young people
grow knowing that one day they will be chosen for the job they’ve been destined
to do, one they are suited for. But the price paid for this seeming utopia is
high. With nothing bad how can anything good be recognized?
The story focuses around Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a young
man about to turn 18 and face his focus in life. But therein lies the problem.
While others have known what they were suited for, Jonas has never felt
comfortable in any choice. He sees the world differently than most and can’t
The annual ceremony is held where the elderly are sent to
elsewhere and where 18 year olds are given their positions. When Jonas’ turn
arrives he is skipped over. This is not because he isn’t suited for a position
but because, as they all discover, he is chosen for the most exalted position,
that of the future Giver.
When he shows for his assignment at a house on the edge of
the Community, he meets the current Giver (Jeff Bridges). He is slowly
developed by the Giver to receive information. It has been passed down this way
for generations. All that once was is transferred from the old to the new,
everything from emotions to history. Jonas is suddenly aware of all that he has
never experienced and at first wants more. When he sees pain and war he hesitates
With each passing day Jonas feels more alive than ever. In a
bland world of black and white he suddenly sees a world of color (they’ve even
chosen to forgo colors because it might lead to confrontation). In his joyous
state he begins sharing some of these things with Fiona (Odeya Rush), a friend
and girl he’s felt something for without ever having been able to recognize
that emotion…until now. When he convinces her to stop her morning injections
(the entire world has them) she begins to see and feel too.
Under the watchful eye of the government and its main leader
the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), Jonas’ indiscretion is caught. His trying to
share things with both Fiona and his family are not taken lightly. His own
mother (Katie Holmes), a chief enforcement agent, turns on him and tries to
stop him. But with the door open to a new way of living, with the possibilities
that are out there, Jonas wants to share this new world and give people the
chance at true freedom. When he learns what elsewhere truly means, how it not
only does the unexpected with the elderly but with newborns as well, his mind
is made up.
With the help of the Giver, Jonas intends to change his
world forever. But the entire Community is told he has gone rogue. A land of
passivity wants nothing to do with freedom nor the possibilities it holds. The
leaders will do everything in their power to stop Jonas. Only he holds the key
to the future.
So much of this tale is told in the trailers that were seen
before the movie was released. Many already knew the story having read the best
seller. What is fun to watch here is the world and its beauty laid out for
Jonas to see as his eyes are literally opened. It’s a look at a world that many
of us currently take for granted and one that people in his world have no
Everything about the production of this film ranks high. The
photography, acting, story and effects combine to make a mystical tale of what
could be. What happens in the end, if Jonas can succeed or not, holds you in a
tight grip. You’re not sure if he will win the day or be stopped. In today’s
films that sometimes happens. But the journey to discover what will occur is
one that you will enjoy. Another movie to add to the collection on the shelf.
I’m often surprised by critics who find cause to ridicule
action films. They decry the lack of a deep plot, find the acting to be wooden
at best and in general discuss how unbelievable the movie is. What they miss is
that these are the exact things that fans of those films love about them. This
is why little was heard about THE EXPENDABLES 3. Then again it seems they love
to pound on star/writer Sylvester Stallone anytime he makes a movie these days.
As most already know the series of films revolve around a
group of mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Stallone). Unlike most merc groups
this one seems to have a heart and doesn’t take on jobs that they don’t approve
of; they’re not a do anything for a buck type group. They’re also very loyal to
one another and consider honor something worth dying for.
As the film opens up the team is on and rescue mission,
saving a prisoner from a moving train named Doc (Wesley Snipes). The usual hair
raising, death defying, explosion filled moments come and go but it isn’t until
things settle that we discover this was personal. Snipes was one of their own
they just now were able to rescue. In need of his skills for a new mission they
set out to get started.
That new mission begins fine with everything moving along as
smoothly as possible. Things begin to go badly when the leader of the group of
arms dealers they’ve been sent in to stop is revealed. His name is Stonebanks
(Mel Gibson) and he’s an ex-member of the group thought to be dead, killed at
the hands of Barney Ross. Knowing just how unscrupulous and deadly he can be,
the team ends up trying to complete the mission and get out as fast as possible
The team crawls home, wounded with one man out of
commission. Barney begins to think perhaps it’s time to move on. Realizing that
the men he’s come to love as brothers are in harms way, maybe even more so
since Stonebanks knows them in and out, he decides it’s time to bring in new
blood to face this threat to the existence of the Expendables. After receiving a
threat from Stonebanks, he turns lose the old crew and begins recruiting a new
one. Once gathered he leads them on a mission to take out the bad guy.
But things go wrong and the new team ends up in trouble,
some captured and filmed by Stonebanks who taunts Barney into coming after him
before he takes out “the kids”. When all else seems to be going wrong who but
Barney’s original team can back him up to save the day and the new group?
Some have slammed the film asking why Barney would recruit
new blood rather than his dependable team. For me this was simple, he was
trying to protect them from being killed by someone he thought had the
knowledge to do so. Sure it was probably also done to bring in some younger
faces which would result in younger audience members. But it might also be a
way of giving the series of films longevity with new recruits and eventually a
The gathering of action stars young and old is a perfect fit
for this series, the new faces doing a commendable job. Harrison Ford taking
over in the position Bruce Willis once had does a fine job though his days of
leaping from vehicles, machine gun in hand may be long behind him. Snipes does
a perfect performance here and shows he still has what it takes if only he
could get a decent script in front of him. The stand out though is Antonio
Banderas who steals the movie from the rest. His character becomes so annoying
and yet loveable at the same time that you want to see more of him. Gibson has
shown he can portray a fantastic bad guy and continues with this film. The rest
of the new faces do an equally admirable job and are fun to watch.
Watching THE EXPENDABLES 3 will not save the world. It will
not help push forward a cure for disease. It will not feed the hungry. What it
will do is entertain. For 126 minutes you will forget about your day to day
problems escape into a world of pure action fueled fantasy. You’ll have fun,
you’ll laugh and you’ll wish well for the heroes of the film. For me that’s
enough. I’ll add this film to the collection on the shelf and have fun with it
more than once. I suggest you do the same.
If you’ve read my reviews for some time then you know I’m
not a fan of what is known as “found footage” films. For me it usually involves
jumpy camera shots that add nothing to the suspense being filmed and just makes
me nauseous. That being said on occasion a truly good movie in this genre comes
along, but not often. That can’t be said of THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN, one of
the scariest and disturbing movies I’ve seen in some time.
The basis for the film revolves around a grad student named
Mia (Michelle Ang) who is shooting her thesis around the life of a victim of
Alzheimer’s disease, Deborah Logan (Jill Larson). Mia has contacted Deborah
through her daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsey), dedicated to her mother but dealing
with problems of her own. One of those problems is finances which will improve
with the money Mia is paying her to film Deborah’s story.
Mia and her team set the house up with cameras so they can
monitor Deborah in every area of the house as the disease takes its toll on
her. When they begin those effects will be long term and take some time to
manifest as Deborah is in the early stages. But things aren’t always what they
Where most Alzheimer’s patients deal with things like memory
loss or short term forgetfulness Deborah has symptoms unlike most patients. She
is prone to rages that result in battles with those trying to help her.
Eventually as the movie progresses she also begins to do things like have a
rash appear on her body which in turn causes her to pull strips of skin from
her body. As these symptoms become more alarming she’s taken to the hospital
rather than allowed to stay home. Those days have her under observation but she
eventually returns to the home she loves.
While we watch the deterioration of Deborah we also get a
glimpse into the life of Sarah at the same time. We learn about her personal
life, about her hopes to one day sell the house and return to her own place.
While she continues to drink throughout the film it’s never quite to the point
that it affects her taking care of her mother. But there is something that’s
always there beneath the surface that we’re not privy to at first.
Back in her home Deborah begins to show more signs of being
not quite there. Footage shot with stationary cameras show her moving faster
than seems possible with the time stamp on display. Sleepwalking leads to her
doing incredibly strange things like hammering nails into the window panes to
nail the windows shut, windows that are later flung open as if the nails were
not there. She begins walking the grounds of the property in the middle of the
night seeking something but never quite saying what. When Sarah begins to
understand what she might be looking for the movie takes a turn into a whole different
plane. At that time we begin to wonder is Deborah truly dealing with
Alzheimer’s disease or is something more deadly, more sinister at work here.
Trust me when I say you don’t want to know the answer but will watch anyway to
The movie works because of one simple thing, it seems real.
Rather than have the non-stop jumping camera work seen in so many we fluctuate
between that and the surveillance cameras that are picking up what is
happening. The combination of the two along with most scenes being shot in a
darkened room with nothing more than the light on the camera for illumination
makes for some truly skin crawling sequences.
As the film moves into the final chapter it truly becomes
frightening in a way that can’t be described without revealing far too much of
the story. The camerawork here combined with some fantastic effects make for
images that will stick with you long after the DVD
is taken out of the player. Add with that performances from all involved that
make you feel this is real and not just a movie and you have a disturbing movie
that qualifies as true horror.
I can’t recommend this movie enough. For me, it is rare that
I find a movie that will make me jump at times and make me feel uneasy. I’ve
seen tons of horror films over the years and few of them have that effect on
me. This one made my skin crawl at times, made me jump more than once and has
left images in my brain that will remain there for some time. The thing is
that’s all meant in a good way. To be affected like that by a movie doesn’t
happen often and it does that from start to finish. There is no doubt this is
one that will stay on my shelf to be watched when I need a good scare or when I
need to scare someone else. I dare you to watch it with the lights off.
If you’re wondering what I mean by “real” animation I’m
speaking of the classic style of animation, drawn for the most part, as opposed
to the CGI animation most movies are made
from these days. This is not to discredit those films, they’re wonderful as
well. But there are times when you just long to see that classic Disney style
of animation from the past. So it was a wonderful welcome when I put in
NOCTURNA and pushed play. I was taken not just to a time when that form of
animation was the standard but to a wonderful world and story that’s great for
Made in 2007 the movie makes its way to DVD
now. The story revolves around a young orphan named Tim, a boy who dreams of a
much bigger world and who is obsessed with the stars. That’s in part because he
has a fear of the dark. Each night when the lights go out he pushes his bunk
bed to the window and unlocks the shutters so he can look at the stars in the
sky, in particular one he calls his own.
When his secret handle is stolen so he can’t open the
shutters, Tim goes to the roof to look at the stars and notices that they’re
beginning to disappear, starting with his star. As he worries about this he
notices a large number of cats on the roof followed by a huge person who
identifies himself as the cat Shepherd. The cat Shepherd is part of an unseen
world to humans, people who control the night and sleep of children around the
world. Each cat is supposed to make sure his human child is asleep. Tim’s cat
is more prone to sleep on the job rather than help Tim sleep. When Tim tells
the cat Shepherd what is going on he receives a deaf ear. When he threatens to
stay awake until he sees the man in charge the cat Shepherd takes him to
Rather than be taken to this ruler as he wished, Tim is
forced to sneak in to see him. At that time he is given a quest to help solve
the problem of the missing stars. The journey takes him to various parts of the
city at night, eventually landing at a light house where he may or may not find
the answer that he seeks. Along the way he bonds with the cat Shepherd and
faces dangers that many in this land of night might not survive from if he
isn’t successful in his task.
The movie is not only a joy for the eyes with old style
animation that glows on the screen but offers a nice story as well. Tim is the
hero that children will root for, one of them, a young boy who is afraid of the
dark and unwilling to admit it at first. As the story progresses he must face
his own fears if he is to save the world as we or they know it. It’s a story of
heroism in the face of danger but not a danger that might seem actually life
threatening to a child.
The movie holds your attention from start to finish with
what has been described as a Tim Burtonesque style of city. I can see the
comparison a bit but not near as much as most. There are similarities but not
enough that this movie doesn’t offer its own world for us to enjoy. The
characters we are treated to are at times odd, at times humorous and always
interesting. Tim’s acceptance of each of them displays the innocence of a child
who doesn’t see the differences in the rest of the world.
The movie offers a great story, great animation and a lesson
that all children can benefit from by the last panel. It offers something rare
to find these days, entertainment that the entire family can enjoy without
adults being bored and that children will be delighted to watch. For some just
looking at the visual treat will be enough. I’d suggest that you take it all in
though and enjoy every bit of it. Not one to rent but one to put in your
collection, even if you don’t have children.
If you’ve never taken a trip to Sin
City then you’ve missed a location
rife with grief, drama, crime and death. It’s not a location most would choose,
but the characters in author/artist Frank Miller’s highly acclaimed adult comic
book series have no choice. Their lives and loves fit the city and all if
offers. It’s a black and white world where there are few good guys and even
those end up tainted before long. When word came out that the series was being
turned into a film fans went wild.
That first movie came out nine years ago and did amazingly
well. Directors Robert Rodriguez and Miller brought the page to life by
shooting the entire movie using the green screen process where everything is
shot on a soundstage before a green screen with all backgrounds and some props
inserted by computer. It worked well. Images from the page were literally the
exact same on screen. The crispness of the high contrast images was stunning.
Sadly it took 9 years for the sequel to come out, SIN CITY:
A DAME TO KILL FOR. Unfortunately the magic just doesn’t quite feel the same.
As any fan will know there isn’t a single story involved in
these movies. Here we have a lead in story featuring fan fave Mickey Rourke as
Marv, the ham fisted, violence prone, hard drinking, scarred boogey man of the
city, someone to walk around when seen if not across the street. Marv’s story
of finding well to do college kids lighting homeless men on fire and taking
vengeance sets the tone for the movie. As the title moves from the screen, the
next story begins.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Johnny, an amazingly lucky gambler
who’s come to Sin City
to make his mark and to take down the evil and corrupt Senator Roark (Powers
Boothe). One should never pull a tiger by the tail and the eventual outcome of
this confrontation will not be pretty. Josh Brolin takes over the role of
Dwight from Clive Owen, here trying to stay above the fray but drawn back in by
the one woman able to seduce him to do her bidding, Ava (Eva Green). Now the
wife of another man she draws Dwight back in only to inflict damage on him both
physically and mentally. Lastly Jessica Alba returns as Nancy,
haunted by images of her defender the deceased Hartigan (Bruce Willis) as she
seeks vengeance against the same Roark Johnny set his sights on earlier. Aided
by Marv the end result won’t be pretty.
This combination of tales from the pages of the comics
should play out well on screen, equaling those of the first film. But something
just doesn’t quite feel right here. The look of the film is done well but
perhaps too well. Or maybe it’s been too long since I watched the first film.
Here it feels overused and at times far too stylized for its own good. It’s
still amazing to see and offers some great moments.
I’ve watching it through twice now, once in the theater and
now on DVD. This time felt better than the
first but still, different from the original. Two reasons seem to stand out in
my mind looking back at both viewings. One was the over use of film noir
narration, a raspy whisper that comes from almost every character on screen.
It’s as if one person were telling each story but using a different voice that
always sounded similar. Eventually it becomes monotonous.
The second was the fact that it felt like much more attention
as paid to sexuality here than in the first film. It did exist in the first but
the amount of screen time spent on sexual escapades feels over done here. I’ve
begun to wonder if Eva Green can be involved in any film that doesn’t require
her to disrobe every so often. She can be a talented actress but with this film
she seems as interested in taking off her clothes as she does at delivering
lines. It doesn’t enhance her character but actually becomes boring.
On the whole the movie does deliver a couple of good stories,
some much better than others and unfortunately the worst taking up most of the
screen time. The actors involved all turn in solid performances and while
Rourke as Marv is seen in two of those stories you still find yourself wishing
he had more time. Brolin’s take on Dwight doesn’t quite equal Owen’s but he
still shows he’s become a great actor.
Well done, well made and well acted, the movie is better
than some and worse than others, one I can recommend to fans of the first. This
is one trip to a bad town that will be more fun for some than others but in the
end it’s like a trip anywhere; it’s never quite the same once you’ve already
The first thing that horror fans will assume when watching
this movie is that it was a Hammer production. It’s not but you would be hard
pressed to tell the difference. Even more so when you discover that the director
was Freddie Francis who was behind a number of the films made by Amicus, a
studio that was often mistaken for Hammer.
The basis for the film lies in the tale of Burke and Hare,
filmed many times and in many versions. In the mid 1800s in Edinburgh,
William Burke and William Hare were low lives who specialized in robbing graves
for bodies they would supply to Dr. Robert Knox for use in instructing anatomy
students. They turned to murder to supply fresher bodies. What happened to them
I’ll not reveal on the chance you want to watch here.
THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS
pretty much follows this story from start to finish, adding a few touches here
and there and bringing all of the characters to life on the screen. Timothy
Dalton stars as the arrogant Dr. Thomas Rock, an anatomy instructor who pays
grave robbers for freshly dug cadavers to use in his classroom. The biggest
problem he has is the condition of the corpses being brought in.
Robert Fallon (Jonathan Pryce) and Timothy Broom (Stephen
Rea) are two drunks seeking free drinks at the local tavern when they hear a
group talking about how much they make from the bodies they take to Dr. Rock.
Seeing a chance to make some money they follow the group to the local cemetery
and steal the latest cadaver they’ve dug up, taking it to Dr. Rock and
pocketing the money. In short term wealth they drink their profits up and make
a trip to the local brothel as well. In no time flat it’s time to find another
As all of this is taking place Dr. Rock’s assistant, Dr. Murray
(Julian Sands) is frequenting the same brothel where he finds himself drawn to
Jennie Bailey (Twiggy). As he begins to feel affection for her he wants to take
her away from this way of life. But at the same time Fallon is also drawn to
Jennie, wanting her for his own. Eventually you know this will lead to
complications one would rather not think about.
Through it all Dr. Rock remains aloof, not caring where his
cadavers come from, intent on pursuing his personal goal of intellectual
pursuit in the knowledge of anatomy. Where his sister worries about his
reputation in the social circles, Rock will have none of it. He’d much rather
spend time with his wife or in the lab than mingling with the upper crust of
the social sphere.
The three stories intersect with one another throughout,
that of Dr. Rock and his attitude, his assistant and his love life and the two
murderous alcoholics who don’t care about the sanctity of life, just another
pint and a warm woman to lie with. Just what happens to them and how they get
there makes up the movie you see before you here. Is it a good movie? Yes and
no at the same time.
The movie offers a great look at what life was like at that
time, with details to period rarely seen in movies like this. Part of that may
be due to the fact that the sets used and a number of the people involved all
came from leftovers of the film THE ELEPHANT MAN
which was also made by this same production company, Brooksfilms. Sets were
re-used for those seen here and many of the behind the scenes people also
worked on the film beginning with Francis who was that films cinematographer.
An extra on the blu-ray here features a discussion between Brooksfilm head Mel
Brooks (yes that Mel Brooks) and two of the producers of both films.
The acting on display is better than expected, especially
from Twiggy who most recall simply as a pretty faced model from the sixties.
Why she never took her acting career further is hard to say. Both Pryce and Rea
turn in particularly disgusting portraits of the pair of serial killers the
story revolves around, which is actually a good thing. Dalton
does a fine job of portraying the snobbish Dr. Rock. The weakest of the group
would be Sands but his turn here is suitable enough to get by.
On the whole the movie does offer an interesting look at the
times and what went on in history, even though names have been changed for some
reason to protect the innocent and guilty. The pacing is a bit slow but that
could simply be because as viewers we’ve become acquainted with a fast paced
film that tosses everything at us quickly rather than letting things unwind. In
the end we have an entertaining film that takes its time to reveal the entire
story. It’s a movie definitely worth watching at least once and for some one to
add to the shelf.
With the world opening up its borders one of the benefits
has been the involvement of foreign film directors into the world market as
opposed to just their country of origin. Such is the case with Korean director
Joon-ho Bong. Some may be familiar with his giant monster hit THE HOST
(if not seek it out). Now he presents his latest film SNOWPIERCER.
The movie takes place in the future. In 2014 in an attempt
to save the world from global warming, a world wide decision was made to release
a certain element into the atmosphere to bring down the world’s temperature.
Unfortunately it worked too well and we were plunged into a new ice age. The
only survivors now live aboard a specialized train that circles the northern
hemisphere in a pattern that takes them on a year long loop.
The train has its own hierarchy. Those who live neat the
engine are at the top of the list, those in the tail the low lifes. Among the
back enders is Curtis (Chris Evans), a strong willed young man who wants more
for the people who live around him. With the help of long term survivor Gilliam
(John Hurt), Curtis has been communicating with someone from the front end of
the train. They’ve directed him to a passenger further down the line of cars
named Namgoong (Kang-ho Song) who knows how to open the doors of each
compartment down the line.
After showing how bad things are for those in the back, we
witness the revolution as it begins. Plans long made are brought to fruition
and the march forward begins. With each new car more is learned of what has
been going on up front. Battles are fought and losses mount with each car. What
lies at the end is a mystery to all. But more mysterious is the reason that
drives Curtis to continue forward.
The movie is incredibly interesting from start to finish.
While we’ve been presented with end of the world movies before they’ve almost
all been set in desert wastelands among rag wearing combatants. This time while
the low level class may wear rags, the location is much more sterile and cold,
a white snow covered world where the only sign of life is the bullet train that
moves along fast enough to plow through massive ice blocks and remain on the
The train itself as it unfolds is a fascinating thing to
behold. The set designer on this film needs recognition like no other. Each car
has a purpose, steadily increasing from basic needs to class comforts. The
revelation at the last car, the engine, who is behind it and the purpose of his
creating the train is enough to make the light hearted gasp. The same for the
final reveal for Curtis.
Evans does a fantastic job here as the leader of the rag tag
group in search of a better life. It would be easy to portray Curtis as nothing
more than an inflated chest thrusting hero. Instead Evans portrays him as a
flawed character, one who doesn’t want to lead but finds himself thrust into
that position. With that decision comes the weight of responsibility and a call
to make choices that have results. An actor without chops would falter in this
role. Evans brings it to life.
SNOWPIERCER didn’t receive a wide release when it came out,
at least not in this area. I can only imagine how great it looked on a big
screen. The quality of the film is solid from the grease covered back end rail
cars to the posh front. The entire look of the film captures your attention at
all times. At no time do you find yourself wondering how long till it ends.
Instead you find yourself at the credits asking if it’s really over. What it
made me do is long to see the next film from director Joon-ho Bong. I have
little doubt that I’ll be watching this one again. It’s worth repeat viewings.
There was a time when my favorite genre of film was horror.
I loved nearly every horror movie I saw. But that changed over the past several
years. Perhaps it was the glut of horror films that have come out and not
always good ones. But occasionally a good one does come out and when that
happens horror fans need to know. Such is the case with DELIVER US FROM EVIL
from director Scott Derrickson, the director behind the equally chilling
The story revolves around police detective Ralph Sarchie
(Eric Bana), a member of a select squad that targets specialized crime in the Bronx.
Alongside his partner Butler (Joel
McHale), Ralph occasionally gets what Butler
calls radar about crimes, a sense that something is about to happen. Nothing
can prepare Ralph for the crimes that are about to come into their world
It begins with a domestic disturbance call where they find a
man who beats his wife and acts incredibly strange. Their next case takes them
to the Bronx Zoo at night where a woman has tossed her 2 year old child into
the pit around the lion’s den. The child is fine but they haven’t found the
woman who took off afterwards and search for her. They do find her eventually
as well as a mysterious figure in the lion’s den itself, a worker who was there
earlier in the day to pain the walls there is finishing his job. When Ralph
attempts to arrest him, he lets lose the lions that nearly make a meal of
Ralph. In the meantime this man disappears. A third case involves a home where
they keep hearing noises in the basement. Searching the basement Ralph finds a
decomposing body along with a scrawling on the walls, an odd language he
doesn’t recognize combined with English.
How do these cases connect? When the film opened we were
witness to 3 soldiers in Afghanistan
entering a cave while chasing enemy combatants. Before we had a chance to see
what was in the cave the camera gave out and all we heard were screams. It
turns out that members of these 3 cases were the 3 men in that video.
The woman who attempted to kill her child continues to act
strangely. When a priest shows to talk to her and to ask questions of Ralph
about the case they at first brush him off. But as things change Ralph
eventually talks to the priest. He learns that the man is not just an ordinary
priest but an exorcist who has been trying to help the woman for some time now.
A lapsed Catholic Ralph doesn’t believe in what the priest has to offer. But as
all the cases progress he begins to wonder if this is truly what is happening.
The movie hinges on several things to make it more thrilling
and scary to boot. The first is the fact that it is based on a real story.
There is indeed a Ralph Sarchie who has become a demonologist since the time of
this and other cases he worked on since retiring from the NYPD with
distinction. This is not some random person who takes on evil but someone who
is recognized as a solid policeman.
The next is the viewer’s belief in real evil in this world.
Do demons exist? If you believe that they do, which I do, then the movie takes
on a different perspective than for those who think of it in cinematic terms
only. Either way it makes for some scary moments but believing makes them even
The quality of film making here is quality to say the least.
Everything from cinematography to direction to set designs culminates to bring
about a terrifying film. The performance of Bana in the lead is superb. He
truly makes the character and the things he confronts seem real. An actor who
rarely gets the praise he deserves, Bana makes you believe he is Ralph Sarchie.
And Ralph’s story can make you think the movie is either entertaining or
terrifying on a real life basis. Which ever way you choose this is one movie
that will offer some scares just in time for Halloween. It’s also one that I’ll
add to my collection of horror films worth watching again.
If you’re like me when you think of spy films the first
thing that pops into your head is James Bond. You think of the gadgets, the
girls and the suave, sophisticated agent doing his all to save the world.
Rarely does someone think of characters like George Smiley, the docile looking
bureaucrat from the John Le Carre novels that looked more like a banker than
the spies we were used to. But chances are in the real world that’s what spies
really look like. And Le Carre has made a career of writing about spies like
A MOST WANTED MAN gives
us another spy of sorts from the real world in the person of Gunther Bachmann
(Philip Seymour Hoffman). Gunther is the head of an elite group in the German
government in charge of seeking out possible terrorists and preventing them
from attacks like those witnessed on 9/11. But the problems that occurred prior
to that date continue in this country where various organizations fail to work
together, each one wanting to take credit for the capture or killing of anyone
deemed dangerous. Gunther is more in line to try and put the person he’s after
to use where as his counterpart sees termination as the best possible solution.
Most of the movie revolves around Gunther’s team trying to
find and handle a young man named Issa, an illegal immigrant who has come to Germany
to collect an inheritance his father left him years ago. Where they first
suspect him of being dangerous the more they find out about him the less they
believe him to be a threat. Instead Gunther wants to use him to reach the
people he’s talking to, a banker and another man believed to be the main man in
funneling funds to terrorists. Gunther wants to use this man as a means to an
end. His counterpart just wants to take him down immediately so he can take
credit for one man eliminated from the list; he has no concept of the long term
goals that can be achieved.
The story offers a back and forth on two levels. The first
is the day to day handling of Issa and the people around him. How the team
convinces others to work with them, making promises they might not be able to
keep while influencing people with no known contacts with terrorists, make for
an interesting topic in the film. The second level is between Gunther and the
lead of his opposing team. Gunther wants to do the best work possible and
prevent any attacks in the long run, his opponent just wants praise for taking
someone out now.
While these stories are interesting in the long run they
make for a very dry movie. There is almost no action involved in this film.
There is plenty of discussion between characters and groups involved in the
story as well as with participants dragged into the skullduggery involved in
spying. It’s more of a wordy film than one might expect when the word spies is
used. If you know going in that the film moves at a slow pace then you will
enjoy it. If Bond is what you’re seeking then avoid it.
Many are flocking to this film and praising it solely
because it is considered the last starring role for Hoffman who died of a drug
overdose last year. Hoffman had a long career that had some great roles and
others that in my observations didn’t deserve the praise they received. Here he
turns in an admirable performance as the chain smoking tired looking government
bureaucrat trying to do his best and finding opponents on his side as well as
those against his country.
In the end I can’t recommend this movie for everyone but
fans of Le Carre will want to check it out. Fans of Hoffman will want to see
the movie as well. It isn’t a bad movie but you have to know what to expect
walking in. If you do you’ll find an entertaining evening here.
If you weren’t aware penny dreadfuls were cheaply made
British weekly magazines made at the turn of the century that depicted lurid
tales of adventure and sensationalized fiction that sold for a penny, thus the
name. The stories were more in tune with the readers of the time as low cost
examples of fiction they could enjoy but never care too much about. The same
could be said of this series.
I truly wanted to love this series. It had such a great look
to it right from the start. Timothy Dalton is Sir Malcolm Murray, an
aristocratic adventurer in Victorian London who is searching for someone we
later learn is his daughter. Helping him in this task is Vanessa Ives (Eva
Green), a woman in tune with the supernatural, a good thing since the evil
beings that have absconded with his daughter are almost all supernatural in one
form or another. As the show opens the two of them recruit an American
gunslinger named Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) from a Wild West show to be the
muscle and weapon expert they need in certain circumstances.
As the series progresses we’re introduced to a number of
characters taken straight from the pages of gothic horror novels that took
place during this time period. It’s difficult to explain the series any further
without revealing who these characters are but I’ll do my best to work around
that problem. One is a doctor whose past comes to haunt him as the show moves
forward. Another is a man whose debauchery seems to know no bounds. And the evil
that haunts the world of Sir Murray is an evil that has seen his portrayal on
screen done for decades now. Their stories intertwine with that of the search
for Murray’s daughter as well as
events that take place in the lives of the three main characters.
Dalton does well
with his role here, offering the once mighty warrior in his prime now older and
wiser, using every means at his command to rescue the one thing that means the
most to him. Green plays the mysterious woman well but as with anything involving
her eventually resorts to removing her clothing. I’m beginning to think she
insists on this in her contracts. Hartnett is perhaps the weakest of the three
doing little more than shooting his six guns now and then and bedding down a
local prostitute he falls in love with.
I’m sure I’m in the minority here but this series does what
nearly every pay channel series does these days. It feels the need to push
front and center nudity and sex scenes that involve nearly everything
imaginable. It’s as if they feel the need to insert this to make sure that
people know they can’t get this on regular TV. For me this gets boring. I will
commend this program though for not diving in only seconds from the main
credits but waiting at least a few minutes before we get a glimpse of
Hartnett’s posterior as he slams into a young fan up against a wagon in broad
daylight. I’ve always felt that if your story was solid enough you don’t have
to resort to this repetitively. Apparently the makers of this show don’t think
they can hold you week after week without tossing it in.
While being a show that takes place in a time when horror
fiction was at its peak and involving some of the greatest creations of that
time, it rarely if ever feels terrifying or even surprising. A few good special
effects sequences are well done and when the story is actually there involving
the battle between good and evil it is to be commended. If those in charge
would get rid of the time wasting material and stick with the story perhaps
this could be a great show. As it stands it is only a decent one. I wouldn’t
say it isn’t worth watching because of the good parts but know going in what
you have to sit through to get to those moments. If Victorian filled horror is
your cup of tea then this is for you…as long as your morals aren’t along the
Victorian era type.
I’m a sucker for trailer compilations. If you don’t know
what the term trailer refers to those are the previews for upcoming attractions
seen before your movie starts. There are at least 2 companies devoted to
trailers it seems. One is Synapse with their 42nd
Street collections. The other is Cheezy Flicks. If
you’ve not heard of Cheezy Flicks then you need to start looking into them.
They seem to be devoted to capturing some of the classic drive in/grind house
movies that are out there and offering them at minimal prices. To do so they
don’t overdo the movies by including tons of extras or trying to reconstruct
each movie with the highest tech available. They just present the movies as
they were when released, scratches and all in some cases.
So back to these two titles. Both are compilations of some
of the biggest horror drive in titles ever released. Included are such gems as
BLACULA, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED
HILL, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, EATEN ALIVE, MY BLOODY VALENTINE and more. The
trailers play one after the other and as I said are filled with the true
scratches directors trying to pay homage to these films use as effects with
their movies today. Does it matter that they look this way? Yes but in a
If, like myself, the drive in was a big part of your movie
going experience while growing up then this will offer you a sense of nostalgia
that borders on giddiness. While watching I kept seeing the names of old
companies that put forth so much product back in the day that just seeing these
brought back memories. Jack Harris Productions, Crown International, American
International and more all made a business of creating films for the drive in
circuit. They might not have been Oscar material but they offered something
that many current Oscar contenders don’t which is entertainment. Watching these
trailers like this brought back memories of summer nights under the stars,
small window attached speakers offering tin sounding tracks and movies that we
thrilled to or riffed at all night long.
Some may think that the just under 60 minute running time is
bad but for me it’s just right. You want to get a feeling of what the trailers
offered but not go overboard. As a collector of trailers the hour long program
seemed just right. Add in the extras, because these do have extras, and it
makes for just over that. Those extras include previews of titles that Cheezy
Flicks carries, information on the company and intermission trailers as well.
All combined they help the drive in memories move forward as well.
There are a few trailers that carry over on both discs but
not so much that you’ll notice or feel short changed by. One even has two
trailers for the same movie. But if you love trailers that won’t matter. Just
sit back and enjoy what you see on your TV and travel back in time.
At $7.95 on amazon.com and $2.99 on Cheezy Flicks own web
page you can’t go wrong with these compilations. While at the Cheezy site you
can see the other trailer compilations they carry as well including
Exploitation, Science Fiction, Action and Fantasy.
Make an event of discs like these. Have some friends over
and make a drive in night of it. Pop some popcorn, pour some sodas, make a
pizza burger or two or perhaps some Castleberry pit cooked barbecue and pick up
some boxed candy. Pop in one of these discs and then find a classic drive in
flick in your collection to follow. Maybe DEATH RACE
2000 or FROM HELL IT CAME. Who knows, it might become a monthly event. Give it
a chance and have some fun remembering.
There are many who hold to the theory that a sequel to any
hit movie is bound to be bad. It never quite captures the same magic that the
first film had, just doesn’t quite hit the right notes here and there. Of course
there have been some exceptions to the rule and many great second films in
various series. Unfortunately 22 JUMP STREET
isn’t one of those. This is not to say there aren’t any laughs in this film but
with the expectations set by the first movie there should be more.
Undercover officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing
Tatum) have remained on the job but have had little success since their high
school case. In an effort to duplicate their success the police department
assigns them once again to the Jump Street
program, now moved across the street to the 22 address. With a bigger budget
thanks to their earlier success Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) has a better office,
better equipment and better men. Now he has these two again.
To recreate that earlier success they’re going back to
school again, this time to college. The case involves a new drug on the market
that has claimed the life of one young female college student. It’s up to
Schmidt and Jenko to find out who is dealing this new drug and get it off the
market before it becomes wide spread.
The other students immediately notice the age difference of
the two with the rest of the students. Why they notice more now than in the
first film is anyone’s guess. As the duo dig deeper into college life they take
two different paths. Schmidt begins dating an attractive young woman who lived
across the hall from the drug’s first victim. This sets up one of the funniest
jokes involving a reaction from Jenko, but a joke that is readily apparent to
most making it lose the humor involved.
Jenko goes another route much like the first film, enjoying
the college lifestyle and becoming friends with a quarterback on the football
team when he tries out. The two hit is off as if they were separated at birth
and their combined efforts make the team a winning one. Brought into his
fraternity Jenko begrudgingly continues to investigate them as suspects but
overlooks what should be clues based on his all too growing friendship. At the
same time his partnership with Schmidt dwindles to almost nothing and the two
part ways to do their own investigations.
Obviously this parting of the ways will be solved, the team
will get back together and the bad guy will be found and apprehended. What made
the first movie works was the ease with which the two leads played off of one
another. That happens here but not near as often. On top of that many jokes
that are bad here have a tendency to play out far too long, as if no one was
there to say enough already. That’s become a major problem with comedies these
days, especially from successful actors riding a wave from a previous hit. They
suddenly become untouchable and no one dares tell the emperor that he’s not
wearing any clothes. NEIGHBORS was the same way.
Tighter writing and direction might have saved this one but
as it stands it’s only a decent comedy rather than a great one. Instead we get
a lame story with far too many of those moments, jokes that play out and take
up too much time where better jokes could have been. While the parting of the
two leads may have worked for the story it doesn’t as far as the end result for
the movie goes. I doubt that this film will crash the careers of anyone
involved. There are at least 4 good laughs in it but that’s about it in my
opinion. But with the popularity of the first film I’m sure it will do great
rentals and with the Christmas season near solid sales as well. I also think
you’ll see plenty of copies turn up at the local used DVD
store come January.