Liebster Award: (33 Questions Yours, Mine & Theirs)

I got one of those blog awards I see other people get. I’ve never gotten one before. So I’m going to take part. I’m just gonna dive right in.

I went looking on the internet and I found a few different sets of rules for this particular award. I keep saying award because that is the accepted term but it’s more of a virtual and infinite conversation stick that you hold while speaking then break into multiple segments and pass along to bloggers about whom you wish to know more.

I like it. It’s no secret that I’m unskilled at social interaction on and offline. So, there are blogs that I’ve followed for years that I still couldn’t say whether the writer was male or female, where they lived or the specifics of their particular demography. I’ve never been much of a good neighbor (on or offline).

Liebster Award

So thank you Veronika’s Film Reviews for giving me the chance to do this thing badly.

First the rules:

1. Post the Liebster Award graphic on your site.
2. Thank the blogger who nominated your blog for a Liebster Award and link back to their blog.
3. The nominee is asked to write 11 facts about themselves so people who discover their blog through the Liebster post will learn more about them.
4. In addition to posting 11 fun facts about themselves, the nominee should also answer the 11 questions from the post of the person who nominated them.
5.The nominee will in turn, nominate 11 other blogs with 200 or less followers for a Liebster Award by posting a comment on their blog and linking back to the Liebster post.
6. The nominee will then create 11 questions of their own for their nominated bloggers to answer in their Liebster post.

I’m going to cheat on numbers 3 & 4 and just post, as my facts, the answers to the questions that Veronika was asked.

1. When it comes to movie productions, is bigger always better?
I’m a big movie fan and I mean that in scope as well as degree. I’m a big blockbuster guy but there is nothing I hate more than a big-budget wasted on a crappy movie. (and that’s about 90% of them) But when they are done well…

2. If you could be a wrestler, what name or gimmick would you give yourself and what would your finishing move be?
If I were a wrestler my finishing move would be to tap the canvas and pick up my check. It’s all fake anyway. (and I’m a lover not a (fake) fighter)

3. What song, if any, has made you cry?
Fragile by Sting… honestly, waterworks
Now you got me thinking about that song

“Perhaps this final act was meant to clinch a lifetime’s argument; that nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could. For all those born beneath an angry star, lest we forget how fragile we are.”

4. If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be? 

Crackhead’s Got No Rhythm

5. What do you fear most about getting old?
Death (plain and simple). And not just death but dying without having apologized to the people who will have to clean up after me when I’m gone. I’m a mess and I made a mess of my life.

6. If you could swap gender for a day, what would be the one thing you would most look forward to doing?
I can’t answer this question without being crass. So I’m going to keep this one to myself. I’m sorry if the implication alone is offensive.

7. Is there any possession – childhood or otherwise – you simply cannot throw away, regardless of its current dilapidated condition?
I have parted with everything I’ve ever owned. By choice or by force or by necessity. My cat… maybe? But I guess I don’t really own her. Nothing. Nothing at all.

8. If the opportunity arose for you to have memory erased of just one film so you can watch it again for the first time, what would that film be?
Star Wars. The opening moments of Star Wars. I remember seeing it for the first time and the memory is nice but I’d love to actually relive it.

9. What song do you want played at your funeral?
Reach Down by Temple of the Dog (absolutely love that album) but I want to be the one performing it… by hologram or something. After the eulogies and the moving tributes from hundreds of friends, celebrities and well-wishers, His Holiness will address the crowd saying, “And now Mel, himself, has something to say to you all…”

HEADPHONES ALERT: (That’s Stone in the left speaker and Mike in the right)

(I suppose I should get to work recording that hologram shouldn’t I?)

10. What was your favourite subject at school and why?
Anything artsy or creative. When I was in school there were art programs and music. But today in America those are all but gone. I also liked science, math and lit.

11. If you could be reincarnated as an animal which one would you choose?
That’s a really tough question because at this point there are few animals that aren’t suffering from what human beings are doing (or not doing). I would either be in a cage, a gilded cage, hunted for food, for sport or watching the erosion and pollution of my home without opposable thumbs or a voice to raise in horror. Being reincarnated as an animal at this point in the planet’s history is akin to damnation. (did I just get too serious?) A bear, I guess. A big old solitary black bear that you find chilling in your backyard pool.

Okay now on to Veronika’s questions

1. What was your favourite book when you were a child?
Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

2. What is your favourite TV show and why do you love it?
Doctor Who because of all the things I watch on TV it is the one that I look forward to the most, every year.

3. Who is your favourite film director?
Stanley Kubrick I suppose. This is another tough question but since most of my creative heroes disappoint me artistically at some point in their careers, I choose Stanley because he never did.

4. Which film from the Criterion Collection is your favourite and why?
I do not know what that is. Are there any Hitchcock films in it? Because if so then Notorious (1946) by Alfred Hitchcock. Love that movie so much.

5. Do you have your favourite film period or a movement? If so, what do you like the most about it?
French New Wave or Hong Kong Gun-fu or 70’s Dystopian Sci-fi… Cool. I like a movie with a well-defined sense of cool.

6. To which film festival do you pay the most attention to every year (no matter from which part of the world it is) and what about it do you particularly like or respect?
I don’t really. Tribeca. I guess. Because it’s local. Or Cannes because it’s the granddaddy of them all.

7. What kind of music do you like and what’s your favourite band?
I like a lot of different styles of music. I don’t really have a favorite. I started listening to Metric recently. (recently means the last few years) So I’m listening to that right now. Here’s an acoustic version of their song Satellite Mind:

But what I go back to a lot is: Miles & Coltrane, Mozart and Soundgarden.

8. Do you play any instruments and if so, which one? If not, is there any instrument that you particularly like and would like to learn how to play someday?
My step-dad taught me to read and play music when I was very little. We had a music room and I would play everything in it and since I was young I picked them up pretty quickly. Piano, Drums, I had my Clarinet, picked up the guitar later. I play a lot of things adequately. I play nothing well.

9. What was the most fascinating place you ever travelled to?
I can’t answer this question the way it was intended. The most fascinating place I’ve ever been was a large homeless underground enclave in the middle of NYC. But that was more descended into and less travelled.

10. Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
It doesn’t really matter. I would spend most of my time inside anyway. So a big city with 24 hour deliveries of pretty much anything and good public transportation… I already live in NYC. So any major metropolis like it. Paris, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Stockholm…

11. Why did you start writing a blog and what’s your experience with blogging so far?
When I’m not writing anything I still need to write… something. And I can go months without talking to another person, so it’s a place to put my (well-edited) thoughts.

And here are my nominees: I follow about 80 blogs on WordPress and I don’t really know how many followers anyone has. I just chose the ones that I interact with most.

If you don’t already follow the following 9 blogs, now’s the time.

emmakwall (explains it all)

Sidekick Reviews

The Triple Option

Mesh The Movie Freak


Cinema Parrot Disco

Simply Film

Polar Bears Watch TV

And any commenting regulars who don’t have active blogs, or don’t want to post this on their blog, can answer these questions in the comments.

And here are my 11 questions:

1. If you could be any character from classic literature who would you be?

2. If you could bring back any cancelled TV show in television history what show would you bring back or reboot?

3. What director or filmmaker, if any, do you dislike so much that you will absolutely never watch any of their films?

4. If you ever won a major award (Oscar, Tony, Nobel, Pulitzer, etc.) who, other than the people who technically helped you, would you thank in your acceptance speech? (ie. teachers, friends, family)

5. If you could go back in time, what world leader from history (or current leader) would you depose or prevent from coming to power? (you can say Hitler if you absolutely need to. But I mean other than Hitler)

6. Write down your favorite movie line or quote.

7. What are your favorite movie theater snacks? Or do you not eat at the theater? Or do you bring your own snacks from home? 

8. If you could live in any fictional or mythological city (Books, TV, Comics, Movies) where would you want to live?

9. What toy or game from childhood have you NOT grown out of? or what toy or game do you wish you still played?

10. Would you rather be incredibly strong but kind of slow-moving or incredibly fast-moving but weak? and why?

11. What writer or philosopher from history do you wish was an active blogger? And why?

I want to apologize if this feels more like a chain letter than a conversation. It was not my intention to hand out work and I won’t be offended if you just ignored it (or left your answers in the comments).

– Mel


Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Lionsgate)

Mockingjay Part 1 Poster

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Written by Danny Strong and Peter Craig  Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Starring Jennifer LawrenceJosh HutchersonLiam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonElizabeth BanksJulianne MoorePhilip Seymour HoffmanStanley Tucci & Donald Sutherland

The first two Hunger Games movies featured the spectacle of The Hunger Games themselves, front and center; The crazy contest where kids brutally kill each other instead of districts rising up and rebelling against an oppressive regime. In the first two movies the government is the obvious enemy. Economic inequality is the prevalent problem in this futuristic world. But as I suspected (because it takes money to make movies), this third film introduces a new enemy. And it looks as grey and cold as communism or socialism in the American propaganda films of the 50s and 60s. It seems we have to have this forced balance in our movies these days, right? Well, whatever. I still liked Mockingjay – Part 1 in spite of this ham-fisted attempt to make the rebellion less appealing.

Verdict: SPARED

Katniss and Gale

I love The Hunger Games movies because the hero is not a soldier but a symbol. I love these movies because Katniss Everdeen is not just a reluctant hero of the rebellion but a young woman who only wants to save the people she cares about. Her compassion is grand but unless you fall into her massive scope of caring, she doesn’t give a shit about you. I love these movies because this dystopian surreal future is not far from our disgustingly for real present. And… And I just love these fucking movies.

Castor and Cressida

In Mockingjay – Part 1, Katniss is introduced to the rebels of District 13. Most of this movie takes place underground. It has an entirely different feel from the first two films. The capital district was bright and colorful and full of technology and ostentatiously beautiful costumes and soulless people. While the outer districts were agricultural or industrial work farms that were more oppressive than prosperous and more like prisons. But in district 13, where the rebels hide, there is absolutely no color, no beauty, no light. And as one character points out, the rules are even more oppressive than in the capital. What price freedom, the movie asks? Well, I’m guessing the rebels just don’t know how to party.

President Snow

Once again the message from the capital is the same this time around, that any attempt at revolution or rebellion will be met with brutal violence and destruction. To those in power the choice is clear; leave things as they are or everybody dies. Everyone. So yeah, they’re still evil bloodsucking monsters. But in Mockingjay – Part 1, the rebels use basically the same tactics as the establishment. The same propaganda and manipulation. The same threat of mutual destruction. And the same unflinchingly self-important almost egomaniacal leadership. But from their side, it’s couched in community and freedom and justice. Oscar winner, Julianne Moore plays the rebel President Coin with a nearly menacing sense of fairness and an eerily emotionless sense of compassion.

Coin and Heavensbee

But I must admit that Mockingjay – Part 1 is my favorite of The Hunger Games movies so far. The third movie based on Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy is amazing even though it’s been split in half. And I’m aware this is the new thing in trilogies and adapted film series, with Harry Potter splitting the seventh book, and The Hobbit made into three movies and so on. So I don’t fault it for the split. But my only problem with the “Part 1” of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is that it doesn’t have an ending. I wish that when they did this thing, this splitting of the book thing, that they found a way to give the first movie a hard ending. An actual end. A full stop. Completing a story then rolling the credits. There is no need for a cliff hanger. We’re all going to see the second part. Maybe they should take a B story, that spans the entire book, and squeeze it all into the first part. I just want to feel like I got a complete story for the admission price.


And yet I liked The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 a whole lot and yes, I still fear and believe they’ll find a way to make the rebellion’s upsetting of the status quo into a horribly bad decision. Like the notion that some people are better off as slaves. Extreme inequality and oppression has to be defeated. But the trend in movies about rebellion has been to sour their victories or to even crush them completely. When first seen, this was from trying to break into the Chinese market. They don’t allow movies with themes of rebellion to have happy endings. And admittedly it is a major movie market. And unsurprisingly, this can ruin a really good film. But also because it takes so much money to make a big budget blockbuster (it’s in the name). So at the heart of the financing sits people who are a part of this problem. Who benefit from inequality. And now we see that after a modern movie kills hundreds of less economically viable characters, it pauses to reflect at the killing of one wealthy individual no matter how deserving or unconscionably evil (Except for in the cartoonishly silly Kingsman. I laughed so hard through that entire sequence). A movie like Star Wars, today, would be injected with so much forced balance it would be unrecognizable. You can see this in the difference between the original trilogy and the later released prequel monstrosities, where the rebels are crushed and the bad guys win. But it appears I’ve gotten off track.

Katniss Everdeen

Mockingjay – Part 1 is my favorite Hunger Games movie so far because it is: The most revealing; we get to know Katniss a lot better and learn that she is far from perfect, The most emotionally mature; after two trips to the games, these are no longer children but veterans with severe PTSD, And the most heartbreakingly and politically grey. For while I see no reason the rebellion couldn’t have splashed a little color around the place, I still loved every single minute of the film and cannot wait for Part 2.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is the fantastic first-half of the conclusion to what has turned out to be a politically powerful science-fiction action-adventure film trilogy. And I love it so.

– Mel

Oscar Picks and Anti-Picks 2015

These are My Oscar Picks and My Anti-Picks. Who I want to win in each category and who I do not want to win. Who I’m rooting for and who I’m rooting against. Who I love and who can suck it. You get the point.

To the list…

Best Picture

I saw 7 of the 8 nominees (all but Selma – please don’t take my race card) and I get the feeling that Boyhood will win this year. Which is good because…

My Pick: Boyhood

My Anti-Picks: American Sniper (Please no) and Selma (That’s right I said it) Both of these movies would be political picks and I hate it when the Academy does that.

Best Actor

I saw 4 of the 5 nominees (all but Foxcatcher [I think Carrell’s nose scared me off]) and if Eddie Redmayne doesn’t win then there is something seriously wrong with the process.

My Pick: Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne

My Anti-Pick: Anyone but Eddie Redmayne would be disgraceful. Especially if it’s Bradley (mumbles a lot) Cooper (not to pick on American Sniper [thank you for your service]).

Best Actress

I saw only 2 of the 5 nominees (The Theory of Everything and Gone Girl) but I’ve been a big fan of Julianne Moore for years and it looks like a slam dunk.

My Pick: Julianne Moore in Still Alice (but I haven’t seen it)

My Anti-Pick: I love all five of these women and even though I hated Gone Girl (with a passion) I thought Rosamund Pike did an amazing job.

The Happy Couple

Resse and Marion already have Oscars (with more to come for both women) and a Julianne Moore win would make me happy.

Best Supporting Actor

I saw 3 out of 5 of these. And I love all these guys as well, but if J.K. Simmons doesn’t leave with an Oscar there’s gonna be hell to pay.

My Pick: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Are You Out of Tune

My Anti-Pick: Ethan Hawke. Some say it is the concept of Boyhood that got it nominated for best picture and I agree. It’s the concept that makes it the best picture of the year. But I feel like the actors got nominations because of the concept as well and that I do not agree with because the Oscars like to reward people who age on film when it’s acting. But this was just aging. Everyone can do that. I just did it while writing this paragraph.

Best Supporting Actress

I saw 4 out of 5 (I haven’t seen Wild yet). Looks like Patricia Arquette will win this one but I strongly disagree (see above). Kiera Knightley is great in Imitation Game (especially at the end) but the eyes have it for me. Emma Stone’s eyes in Birdman are heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time and those two make the movie for me… also we love her.

My Pick: Emma Stone in Birdman

Emma Stone

My Anti-Pick: Meryl Streep (why is she even nominated. Is this some kind of a joke?)

Best Animated Feature

I only caught 4 out of 5 of these (and no, I’m not going to mention The Lego Movie again… oops) But of the four I did see the best by far was…

My Pick: The Boxtrolls

Eggs and his adopted family

My Anti-Picks: How to Train Your Dragon 2  and Big Hero 6 (yeah… no. Don’t reward mediocrity) But I get the feeling there is more politics in the Animated Feature category than there is in the Best Picture category.

The Boxtrolls!  The Boxtrolls!  The Boxtrolls!

Best Director

4 out of 5 again (Still haven’t seen Foxcatcher since you started reading this) Here again is a case where Richard Linklater (and I love him) could win this category based on the Boyhood concept. I wouldn’t award him for that here but in Best Picture.

My Pick: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman

Michael Keaton as Birdman

My Anti-Pick: Richard Linklater.

Birdman is superb directing. It’s an acrobatic logistic and majestic ballet of insane proportions and please please please please please see it the way I do, because it would be a crying shame if it didn’t take the prize here. And the way I see it, only Boyhood could spoil that. Unless these two split the vote and Wes Anderson sneaks in to steal it.


This one is tough because I only saw 2 of the 5 films and although the cinematography in Wes Anderson’s masterpiece is masterfully masterful, everything about the camera work in Birdman is phenomenal.

My Pick: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman

My Anti-Pick: I don’t have one. I haven’t seen most of these, so I can’t judge. I wouldn’t mind it if The Grand Budapest Hotel won here. It is gorgeous.

Costume Design

4 out of 5 (I haven’t seen Mr. Turner) This is a tough one because you have your period costumes and you have your fantasy costumes. Maleficent has beautiful costumes but so does Inherent Vice with that wonderful 70’s look. However the standout for me…

My Pick: Milena Canonero for The Grand Budapest Hotel


My Anti-Pick: I don’t have one here either. Of the 4 I did see, they are all well-dressed movies with beautiful costumes. I think Budapest takes this one because that bellboy costume is probably going into the Smithsonian… seriously.

Documentary Feature and Short Feature

I haven’t seen any of these. (I’m not bragging) but I’m going to make picks here based on subject alone. (don’t pretend that’s not how people do it)

Documentary Feature: Last Days in Vietnam Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester (From what I’ve seen this is heartbreaking and depressingly topical. About the fate of the people left behind when America pulls their troops and admits defeat)

Documentary Short Feature: The Reaper (La Parka) Gabriel Serra Arguello (About slaughterhouses and the desensitization that comes from being constantly surrounded by the death and suffering of the animals we consume)

Film Editing

Woohoo! I’ve seen ’em all. But I’ll take that woohoo back because… Where the hell is Birdman in this category? Did they honestly think there were no edits in Birdman. And the fact that they could think that, is exactly why it should be in this category. Seriously my pick is Birdman but it wasn’t even nominated. So…

My Pick: Tom Cross for Whiplash

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons

My Anti-Pick: I could bully American Sniper here again except that if Whiplash doesn’t take it, I wouldn’t mind American Sniper winning. I give it to Whiplash because of the tight frenetic percussive edits (that are NOT MY TEMPO) building the tension beautifully.

Foreign Language Film

I usually seek these out. All of them. Every year they are all fantastic. But I didn’t see any of them. However, this category more than any other is fraught with global politics. I might as well just pick a country. (don’t pretend that’s not the way people do it)

My Pick: Argentina 

My Anti-Pick: Russia

Make-up and Hairstyling

I haven’t seen Foxcatcher but I’ve seen the other two however I feel Foxcatcher wins by a nose… (see what I did there) Only 3 of these this year. More movies are using effects instead of make-up. (I’m looking at you Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

My Pick: Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard for Foxcatcher (still haven’t seen it)

My Anti-Pick: It’s possible this will be another of The Grand Budapest Hotel wins and I wouldn’t be mad at that at all.

Music – Original Score

4 out of 5. Great music all around. Alexandre Desplat does great work in both The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel and of course the great Hans Zimmer does some powerful composing for Interstellar however…

My Pick: Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones

My Anti-Pick: Anything else but that. The Theory of Everything… all day long.

Music – Original Song

Does anyone not think the song from Selma isn’t not gonna not win. Cause I don’t even know what I’m talking about. This one is a done deal. Come on.

My Pick: “Glory” from Selma

My Anti-Pick: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME (I think this was another joke nomination)

Production Design

4 out of 5 (haven’t seen Mr Turner) but this one is also a no-brainer. Production design is a Wes Anderson film’s major selling point and The Grand Budapest Hotel is gorgeous.

My Pick: Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration) for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ralph Fiennes

My Anti-Pick: Into The Woods because, you know, cheesy looking.

Here I’m gonna skip the two Short Film categories because I just don’t have the time to watch a short film… on the internet… for free… (I suck)

Sound Editing and Sound Mixing

4 out of 5 watched for both (just not Unbroken) and also for both of these categories I’m giving the prize to Interstellar.

Sound Editing: Richard King for Interstellar

Sound Mixing: Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten for Interstellar

Visual Effects

I’ve seen all of these. Every year these are always movies that I see on opening day. And this is another no-brainer. Obviously Interstellar has the best visual effects of the year.

My Pick: Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher for Interstellar

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

My Anti-Pick: I love all of these movies. I wouldn’t be mad if Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stole this one for its amazing motion-capture apes.

Andy Serkis

And finally… My two favorite categories every year… writing.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

5 out of 5 (don’t be jealous). This one isn’t difficult for me. I give it to Whiplash. One of the best scripts of the year. The Theory of Everything is good but Whiplash is sensational.

My Pick: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash

The Conductor

My Anti-Pick: Hey Academy! Don’t annoy me by giving this to anyone else. And if you give this to American Sniper or Inherent Vice, you’re gonna owe me a new TV because I’m gonna put my foot through it.

Writing – Original Screenplay

4 out of 5 (Okay I’m kind of embarrassed that I haven’t seen Foxcatcher yet. This has been a long post. What the hell have I been doing this whole time?)

This is the most difficult category of the year. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and Boyhood are neck and neck. Birdman because it is insanely well-written and Boyhood because it is such a great idea (and all that good stuff)

So the winner of the most important award of the year is…

Drum roll…

My Pick: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman Poster

My Anti-Pick: Boyhood and I’ll tell you why. Because while I think it’s the best picture of the year, I don’t think it’s the best written or best directed. I know that sounds weird but I’d say it’s the best movie based on the concept alone. And people need to stop bad-mouthing it. Birdman, however, is better in every single way except in total. Boyhood is better in total. (You have to imagine me making a large globe with my hands when I say “In total”) Say it with me. Birdman is better than Boyhood in every way except in total.

And that’s my picks.

Enjoy the Oscars everybody. (take a drink every time someone comments about how there are no black nominees in any of the major categories… I know I will)

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Dracula Untold

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Dracula Untold (Universal Pictures)


Directed by Gary Shore

Written by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless  Based on Dracula by Bram Stoker (but not really)

Starring Luke EvansSarah GadonDominic CooperArt Parkinson & Charles Dance

Maybe it’s just me but stupid movies really piss me off. And Dracula Untold is a stupid movie. The characters do and say stupid things to stupid music for stupid reasons. Dracula Untold is the stupidest piece of crap I have seen in a long time. I tried to watch it without yelling at it, but I failed miserably. I screamed out “This is so stupid!” at about 15 minutes in and then I wouldn’t shut up about it for the rest of the way. Rant city. First of all, why do we need to try to make Dracula the good guy? What the hell, people? Stop with this. But anyway I watched this garbage. And here’s what happened. This is the hell it put me through. Dracula Untold should have remained untold.

Verdict: SPOILED

Dracula Untold


Dracula Untold starts out okay. Honestly it does. When you press play the movie starts as all movies do. And that’s pretty much it, because then there were some pictures and sounds and these were very painful. Vlad and his soldiers find an old vampire in a cave. They all die but Vlad escapes and goes back to his kingdom and tries to forget about it. But then the Turkish army want him to give them his son as a show of loyalty, like his father did to him when he was a boy. So he starts a war with an army that outnumbers his 1000:1 because he doesn’t want to. There are a couple Game of Thrones actors in Dracula Untold and one of the things I’ve learned from GoT is that with being royalty comes responsibility and sacrifice. To end a war, the king must do things he doesn’t want to. Often involving sons and daughters (marriages, hostages). But no, not our Vladdy.

Dracula and Son of Dracula

Then he goes back to the cave with the old vampire. It should have just killed him and ended the movie right there, but whatever, it turns him into a vampire instead. Vlad thinks it’s a good idea to turn himself into a monster and get EVERYBODY in the kingdom killed to save his son. But he comes back home with his new power and the Turks still destroy his army and his kingdom and kill his wife and take his son and in the end his decision was awful. Just fucking awful. Absolutely the wrong thing to do.

Charles Dance in Dracula UntoldIn Dracula Untold, Vlad has three days to defeat the Turks before he’s supposed to revert back to being human. That’s fine. Vampire rules change in almost every story. But if he drinks blood before then he remains a vampire forever. Okay whatever but he has a clock ticking. He can’t go out in the day. So his army goes off without him and he has to catch up to them after dusk. And even when he catches up, he spends the entire time playing with one of the boss bad guys instead of killing him quickly and saving his people. It’s really Stupid. He takes on a battalion alone but takes forever to kill one guy.

Wife of Dracula

He knocks this bad guy off a cliff or something and doesn’t make sure he’s dead, so of course the guy comes back. But that’s not it. After he fails miserably to save anyone and his son is gone and his wife is dying and all his people are slaughtered. The wife tells him to drink her blood so that he can turn into a vampire forever. For the revenge. And so he drinks, turns others into vampires to fight alongside him and goes to rescue his son from the big bad human dude. The other vampires try to kill his son after they finish off all the Turks, so he parts the dark clouds that he created… (oh yeah he makes cloud cover to attack in the daytime. Something that could have helped him before then but whatever). And the clouds part. The sun kills all of them and him. There are tents right next to them. All any of them had to do was step inside one. But instead they all burn. Tents everywhere. All over the place. This movie is so stupid.

Luke Evans in Dracula UntoldBut the movie is at its most stupid when, in the main boss battle, the big bad (remember. just a dude not a vampire or anything) puts silver coins on the ground to slow our boy Vladdy down and make him sick. He’s been flying around the whole damn movie and now all of a sudden he decides to walk. The bad guy nearly defeats him because of this silver and also because that’s how action films are supposed to work. But then just before he can plunge a stake through Vlad’s heart, in what I’m thinking the film-makers thought was a tension filled sequence, he flies up off the silver and kills the bad guy with the same wooden stake through his full plate mail. Yeah, all of sudden he can fly again. But not just that. Full… Plate… Mail… against a wooden stake. Yeah. This movie is stupid.


So the movie is over. Thank god. Vlad’s dead. His vampire cohorts are dead. The Turks are all dead. The only one to survive is the kid Vlad was trying to save the whole time, while he allowed his entire kingdom, his army and all his people to be destroyed in a senseless war. Yeah, that worked out pretty well for him. Well, at least it’s over. NOPE think again. Cut to the present day. Somehow Vladdy boy survived the sun. The fucking sun (no explanation). So he’s just at a farmer’s market in some other country. He sees a woman who looks just like his wife. They do their secret handshake or something and start flirting or whatever. I don’t remember. I was too busy yelling, cursing and trying not to vomit from all the stupidity. Oh, and here comes the original vampire from the cave. He’s there too for some reason. He’s healed up and out of his cave and walking around as well. Whatever. What-the-fucking-ever. Roll credits.


Dracula Untold is a stupid stupid stupid stupid movie.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Laggies

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Laggies (A24)

Laggies Poster

Directed by Lynn Shelton

Written by Andrea Seigel

Starring Keira KnightleyChloë Grace MoretzSam RockwellKaitlyn DeverJeff Garlin & Ellie Kemper

Laggies is one of those movies where you’re sort of embarrassed that you liked it. You know the kind. A little too cheesy for its own good. Laggies is very cute and it’s very sweet and it’s funny. And it’s technically not a romantic comedy (Or Rom-Com as the cool kids call it). At least that’s what I’m telling myself. Right? It’s romantic. And sure, it’s funny. And it’s certainly sappy. So okay fine, I’m the big old sappy romantic who liked this one.

Verdict: SPARED

Kiera Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz from LaggiesLaggies is Rom-Com 101. But it’s still a very good movie. Kiera Knightley does her American accent and it’s still awkward but cute. Sam Rockwell is amazing as always and the man is gorgeous. Chloë Grace Moretz is Chloë Grace Moretz. And I swear it’s like the girl just plays herself in every movie. But we like her. So it’s cool. And she’s good in this.

Chloe Grace Moretz and Kaitlyn Dever from Laggies

Laggies kind of starts off slow and unfocused like its main character. Kiera Knightley plays the completely unambitious and hopelessly regressing college grad who’s just going through the motions of her adult life. It’s like she may have peaked in High School. Still hanging with the same people from school ten years later. dating the same guy. Still working part-time for her dad. Just taking up space. And the director, Lynn Shelton, does an excellent job of making us feel that listlessness. So much that I didn’t even want to be around her. If there’s anything wrong with the start of this film it’s that it lingers too long like the laziness of its hero sliding into your living room and sleeping on your couch.

Kiera Knightley

But Laggies takes off running when our hero decides to buy alcohol for a group of young High School students, Chloë Grace Moretz and her friends, outside of a convenience store. And it’s that relationship at the center of the movie. And It’s marvelous. Kiera and Chloë form an odd pair with ten years between them and similar boy troubles. They kind of have the same outlook on life as well. Which is only depressing for the 28-year-old.

Ellie Kemper from Laggies

And then Sam Rockwell turns up as the girl’s father and the movie gets really good. Again it’s Rom-Com 101. Don’t expect anything more than that. It’s by-the-book romantic comedy goofiness. But because it’s well-written, well-directed and has some good performances, it is quite enjoyable. Ellie Kemper is also in it as one of our hero’s High School buddies but she’s not playing this one for the laughs (except for maybe the dance at her wedding which is cringingly cheesy). So I didn’t like her in this as much as I usually like her (can’t wait for her Netflix show). But I guess we’re not supposed to like her.

Sam Rockwell and Kiera Knightley from laggies

Laggies is funny and sweet and all of your major Rom-Com elements are present. There’s a cute animal (it’s a turtle. Turtles can be cute). There’s a few parties. An airport scene. A wedding, some secrets, some lies etc. You know the drill. But it’s not just sappy crappy crap. It’s actually pretty good because it has decent dialogue. Like “You’re so fake. Your fake ring is even fake at being fake.” (My favorite line). And that’s something a lot of romantic comedies seem to skimp on. Good dialogue. Honestly that’s the reason I turn most of them off. But I liked this one. And I liked the Turtle.

Chloe Grace Moretz and a Turtle from Laggies

So, if you like romantic comedies. Meaning they don’t make you run screaming from the living room. Laggies is a pretty good one.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Dear White People

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Dear White People (Lionsgate)

Dear White People Afro Poster

Written & Directed by Justin Simien

Starring Tyler James WilliamsTessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P Bell, Kyle GallnerBrittany CurranDennis Haysbert & Marque Richardson

Dear White People is the first film from a talented director. Surprisingly, I liked it even though it involves two of my least favorite elements. I hate college films. I hate films about colleges and films made in college and this film is both of those. I also hate films whose only reason for being is to talk about race relations. Not historical movies where people’s views on race are a big part of the history or the time, but movies that try to discuss race relations in the now. It’s one of the reasons that I dislike most of Spike Lee’s movies (Except for X and Mo Better Blues). So I should hate Dear White People because of these two things. But this first-time director, Justin Simien, does such a great job with the story and the characters and the relationships and the actors that I was too busy liking the film to be mad at it. Dear White People, underneath all the race stuff, is actually a good movie.

Verdict: SPARED

Black People

Dear White People is a socially and politically charged, college comedy based on the stories of real costume parties thrown at prestigious universities that featured white students dressing up in black-face, having hip-hop or ghetto themed, racially insensitive fun. This happens too often in our society; Stupid kids doing stupid things (as always I blame the parents). Dear White People deals with one of those parties, the reaction, the aftermath and the racial tensions on campus. Showing differences in the black student’s views on race and of course black hair. Hair is always a big theme in black movies.

Dear White People Cast of Characters

The story of Dear White People follows four college students at the same Ivy-league university with completely different views on race and race relations: A young woman with a radio show that I have to describe as “of mixed race” because a story this polluted with racial politics demands that I do. Her show is called Dear White People and it’s a tongue-in-cheek discussion of the mistakes that some white folks can make when dealing with people of color. There is also a young gay black male journalist with very few friends but a serious Afro. A pretty black girl with a desire for fame, a YouTube following and a video blog about her struggles with racial identity. And the privileged son of the university dean. These are good characters and some good performances for a student film… for a college film… for a film about a college.


Justin Simien’s directing style in Dear White People reminds me of a cross between Wes Anderson and Spike Lee. And I love this combination for obvious reasons. It has serious potential and I hope he keeps this style going ahead. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next. Dear White People is a good movie because of the skills of its director and because of the likability of its attractive young cast, even while it is a difficult film because of the misguided nature and political views of all of its young characters.

Coco Dear White People

Dear White People is a difficult film to review for me because it is essentially one big argument about race relations. And while I have my views, I recognize that others have their views and that no view is the correct view (not even mine), while many, in my opinion, are the wrong view. When someone’s view orders other people to dress, to speak, to act, to do things their way, that’s what I consider wrong. Follow your philosophy. But as soon as it infringes on someone else’s freedom, there’s a problem. It’s a personal relationship with the divine and society. Stop worrying about what the next person is doing. Stop trying to be right in the eyes of other people and be right with yourself. See what I mean. I can’t review movies like this without getting up on my soapbox high-horse. (a high horse with a soapbox on top of it).

Sam White

I’m almost done. There are seven billions different views on race. Just like there are seven billion different views on sex and religion and there are seven billion different combinations of personal prejudice and passion. And I’m tired of stories that try to tell us there are only two. Another thing I like about Dear White People is that it doesn’t present the world as black and white (I mean contrast, not race). And because of this nuance it didn’t annoy me as much as I thought it might. In fact it was funny and fun. However, I’m still saying Dear White People is difficult to review and may be difficult to watch, because even while it is a comedy, the subject is volatile and polarizing. And if racial politics are upsetting to you or if you’re just tired of hearing about it, then I would suggest avoiding White People. But that would be sad because it’s actually an enjoyable, low-budget comedy. Pretty funny. Kind of sexy at times. And very well-made.

The Afro

But in the end, Dear White People says more about dumb college students of every race than it says specifically about black people, white people and race relations.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Kingsman: The Secret Service

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

KIngsman: The Secret Service (20th Century Fox)

Kingsman Poster

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Written by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn  Based on The Secret Service by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons

Starring Colin FirthSamuel L. JacksonMark StrongTaron Egerton & Michael Caine

Nope. Nope. Too silly. All too silly. Kingsman: The Secret Service is a super-silly, super-spy, action-adventure with some of the most cartoonish comedy violence I have seen in a long time. I’m talking Bugs Bunny level cartoon violence that defies the laws of physics at every turn. It’s a fun movie at times but you have to completely turn off your brain to enjoy this mindless, impossibly bloodless, silly ass, over-the-top, cartoon violence. But even then Kingsman almost won me over when it absolutely abandons any attempt at realism and begins killing people in vibrant exploding colors (not red mind you… every other color but red). But then they went and ended the movie on a butt-sex joke. I’m not kidding. Butt-sex. Roll credits. So now I’m going to spoil the damn thing.

Verdict: SPOILED

We haven’t had a good spoiling in a while.

Kingsman First Class

“It’s just a review. Not a firing squad… right?”


Kingsman (which I can’t stop referring to as The Kingsmen) is based on a comic book about a secret society of British super-spies. The movie was written and directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also directed X-Men: First Class. He rips off the X-Men as much as he can here. It’s Kingsmen: First Class. Because half of this story is just Charles Xavier’s school for gifted children except without the powers. No. Wait. Every character in Kingsman: The Secret Service gets to break the laws of physics. That’s their superpower. It reminded me of the movie Wanted with James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie. That movie broke the laws of physics too but they explained it better. Here, it’s just too silly.

Kentucky Fried Hate Group Massacre

“Silly? Silly? But I have a gun? What about my gun? It’s not silly is it?”

Kingsman opens with a bloodless bloodbath that ends with a man being cut in half from head to crotch and yet there’s still no blood. But wait before that a guy jumps on a grenade. But judging by the aftermath you’d think he landed on a marshmallow. This is Natural Born Killers level violence but there’s less blood in this movie than you might get after nicking yourself shaving. I know they gave it an R rating but even with so many beheadings, limbs cut off, gratuitous head shots and mindless graphic violence, loads and loads of senseless graphic violence, it’s not as graphic as it would have been with even the smallest amount of blood. And then there’s the silly music choices. Every over-the-top violent scene has to have its own classic rock theme song. During an especially violent Kentucky hate-church massacre, the parishioners slaughter each other to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird. It’s all too silly.

Michael Caine

“Here… shoot me with this and get it done. I can’t take any more of this review.”

I liked the casting. Colin Firth and Michael Caine play veteran agents to obvious perfection. While Samuel L. Jackson plays the bad-guy. He’s funny, I guess. He plays the villain as a weird combination of Mike Tyson, Spike Lee and Steve Jobs. And he has a bodyguard who’s a cross between Rose McGowan from Planet Terror and Edward Scissorhands from Edward Scissorhands, except it’s her feet that are knives or swords. Edwina Swordfeet, I don’t know. They call her Gazelle and if you stop to think about how her blade legs are supposed to work… you know what. Just don’t. Its…

Samuel L Jackson

“Let me guess… It’s silly. You’re gonna say it’s silly again. Ain’t you?”

Sam Jackson is a global warming activist who decides that the only way to save the planet is to introduce a signal that causes people to kill each other, while he saves the wealthy, royals and aristocracy in his mountain bunker. But first he has to plant a chip in their necks to prevent them from being affected by the signal themselves. He sends the signal through free connected devices that he offers the world because he’s a billionaire or some shit. But also, the neck implants can be used to blow their freaking heads off at any time. So more silliness ensues. But it’s not funny. The plot is something out of one of the Police Squad movies but not nearly as funny. Meanwhile, every single man on the bad guy’s security force can’t shoot what’s right in front of them. Honestly, they’re worse than Stormtroopers, but without helmets as an excuse. Too silly.


“We’re not the X-men you know… No. Really. We’re not.”

But that’s not the main story line. The main story is about a kid who gets recruited for the Kingsmen. His father was a candidate who died on a mission. And the movie is about this young man’s intense training and testing to join the X-Men. I mean Kingsmen. Sorry. Kings… X… whatever. Is that an X on their uniform or a sideways K? It doesn’t matter at all, once the school’s private jet rises up out of the ground. Is that Wolverine piloting? No. Of course not. That would be infringement.

Kingsman Danger Room

“Oh my god. They make us sleep in the Danger Room?”

But sadly, our hero doesn’t make the cut when at the end of training, they order him to shoot the dog they gave him at the beginning of training (a plot point similar to something from Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD on ABC), but our hero comes back to save the day in the end: Running through thousands of bullets and not getting shot once, Fighting blade girl in a high-flying aerial kick fight where her blades can retract and still somehow cut through bone (Adamantium? Nooooo), Killing Samuel L Jackson’s lisping bad-guy with one of those same foot swords through the back, Saving what’s left of the world, And, if you forgot, going back for the butt sex he was promised by some Scandinavian princess locked in a cell. Zoom into her naked butt… roll credits. Too damn silly.

Gazelle in Kingsman

“Where does the blade go when I land? Don’t ask me. Just keep shooting.”

Kingsman: The Secret Service is just too impossibly silly to be enjoyable.

– Mel