Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews

I have good news and I have bad news and they’re both the same news.

Firstly, I’m introducing a new movie review heading called Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews. The rules are simple: The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

But this also means the end of 5 Quick Reviews. No, no. Please, dry your eyes. It’s not the end of the world. We’ll always have three years of unsearchable movie reviews of good movies sandwiched between reviews of bad ones.

But what it really does for me is untie my hands when talking about bad movies. I really hate a bad movie. So what I usually do is rant about how bad a movie is without being able to explain why. That ends today.

You Shall Not Pass

If it’s a good movie (to me) I won’t spoil it. I’ll rave about it and do my regular quick review. But if it’s a bad movie, I will tell you guys why I hate it complete with spoilers and examples from the film. I will spoil the whole thing.

Don’t worry. I’ll tell you upfront whether it’s Spared or Spoiled. There will still be the poster, the creative list, a small synopsis and then my verdict. If my verdict is SPOILED, you can stop reading there if you were planning to see it and don’t want to be spoiled. You’ll still get pictures and of course a chance to comment. But if it’s SPARED, you can keep reading without being spoiled and as always spoilers are allowed in the comments.

Fly, You Fools

Here’s an example using one of my favorite films of all-time The Empire Strikes Back. First I’ll spare it. Then I’ll spoil it. oh yeah… SPOILER ALERT.

 

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (20th Century Fox)

The Empire Strikes Back Poster

Directed by Irvin Kershner

Written by Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan

Starring Mark HamillHarrison FordCarrie FisherBilly Dee WilliamsAnthony DanielsDavid ProwseKenny BakerPeter Mayhew & Frank Oz

The second movie in the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back, continues the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and their droids, friends and colleagues. I really enjoyed it.

Verdict: SPARED

Luke, Leia and the Droids

The Empire Strikes Back is even more exciting than the first movie. The rebellion against the empire continues but this time, as the title suggests, the evil empire strikes back against the rebels. The movie is amazing. I predict that in 30 years I will have seen The Empire Strikes Back over 200 times.

It’s that good.

And now the dark side…

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (20th Century Fox)

The Empire Strikes Back Poster2

Directed by Irvin Kershner

Written by Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan

Starring Mark HamillHarrison FordCarrie FisherBilly Dee WilliamsAnthony DanielsDavid ProwseKenny BakerPeter Mayhew & Frank Oz

The second movie in the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back, continues the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo blah blah blah. It’s really not very good.

Verdict: SPOILED

Vader, Lando and Boba Fett

The Empire Strikes Back? More like the movie is half-finished. Not only are we force-fed this preposterous contrivance that Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are related (Darth’s his father? seriously?) but then we get a cliff hanger where Han Solo ends the movie frozen in ice or something. It just ends. We don’t get a conclusion. I paid a full admission price. I wanted a full movie. I don’t know about you guys, but I feel cheated.

Somebody get George Lucas on the phone.

 

So yeah. That’s how it will go.

I hope fans of 5 Quick Reviews will grow to love the new format.

Like a shark, the story must move forward. For when the story stops, the story ends.

I hope to see you guys at the movies.

– Mel

5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVD Releases for December 2014

Welcome to the last 5 Quick Reviews of the year. And this one features an eclectic bunch of films. Comedy, Drama, Sci-fi. Some weird and some wonderful.

“Wait. I’ve gotta get a picture of this. Mel’s gonna review DVD’s again. How interesting.”

These movies go down better with a bit of what Saruman calls the Halfling’s Leaf. If you know what I mean. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more. Say no more.

Frank Rehearsal

“I love you all. Even if you do smoke too much weeeeed. I love you all.

“If you don’t know what I’m saying. I’m talking about pot, marijuana, ganja. If it’s not legal where you live, it should be (or soon will be). And all of these movies are better if you watch them while stoned. Okay?

"Are you saying that you want to smoke a joint?"

“Are you saying that you want to smoke a joint with me?”

What I’m really saying is well… I’m saying you’re a pothead. Just kidding. It’s not you it’s me. Smoke ’em if you got ’em. (Just add the word medicinally at the end. It’s just like allegedly but for pot)

I Am Groot

“I AM GROOT!”

Don’t worry Groot. We won’t be smoking anyone you know, big guy. Or is that your way of saying that you want a hit before we put it out? I never know what the hell you’re saying…. anyway.

Here are my 5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVD Releases for December.

Groot Fireflies

I am Groot.

I’m so fucking high right now.

To the reviews…

First up something too strange for words.

Frank (Magnolia Pictures [US], Element Pictures [Ireland])

Frank Poster

Directed by  Lenny Abrahamson

Written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan  Based on “Oh blimey!” by Jon Ronson

Starring Domhnall GleesonMaggie GyllenhaalScoot McNairy & Michael Fassbender

Frank is a weird, strange movie. About a weird, strange and heart-breakingly fragile man. It is not meant to be a mainstream movie. Frank is a movie that is satisfied in its weirdness and in its indie status. It revels in it.

Frank on Stage

“I feel a tired and over-stretched analogy coming on.”

And just because it sticks to its independence, it doesn’t make it better than the popular films. Nor does it make it worse than mainstream movies. It’s just doing its own thing.

Maggie Gyllenhall and Frank

“This movie is kinda weird, though. Right?” “Yes. Yes it is.”

Frank is about an eclectic band of talented misfit musicians led by the king of the misfits; a man who never removes his large fake head. His name is Frank.

Frank on Guitar

“He’s got the whoooole wo-rld in his head… everybody! He’s got the…”

Frank is a wonderful movie but as it revels in its eccentricity, it alienates its audience. Keeping us at arms length. Making us feel like we’re not quite hip enough for the room.

Frank and The Band

“On the count of three, we all drop acid and watch Frank. 1…2… changed my mind!”

And much like Frank’s band in the film, I don’t think we’re meant to like Frank. And it almost feels like the director doesn’t care if we do. But we are meant to like Frank himself. And we do. Making the whole exercise oddly and refreshingly entertaining.

Rent it

Next one of the best movies of 2014.

Guardians of the Galaxy (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Guardians

Directed by James Gunn

Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman  Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Starring Chris PrattZoe SaldanaDave BautistaVin DieselBradley CooperLee PaceMichael RookerKaren GillanDjimon HounsouJohn C. ReillyGlenn Close & Benicio del Toro

Guardians of the Galaxy opens with one of the most heart-wrenching scenes of a young boy losing his mother to cancer. And continues as the story of that boy being kidnapped and raised by criminals… in space. It is a comedy.

Star Lord

“Oh man. That sounds cool. Is that what this movie is about?”

He goes on to run away from the abusive criminals and become an outlaw in his own right. Because that’s all he knows. He has no family and no friends and only a cassette of his mother’s favorite songs to keep him company. It is a comedy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket

“Didn’t Mel already review this thing when it came out? What is he doing?”

But then he befriends other criminals, loners, thieves and killers to form a new foster family of misfits and outlaws. And they go on to save the whole fucking galaxy.

Guardians Gif

“That’s right. We bad.”

Guardians of the Galaxy is the most depressingly touching yet hysterically fun movie I have ever seen. I will own it on BluRay. It’s already on my Christmas list.

Buy it

Next a sci-fi action teen angst adventure sorta?

The Maze Runner (20th Century Fox)

The Maze Runner

Directed by Wes Ball

Written by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin  Based on The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Starring Dylan O’BrienKaya ScodelarioThomas Brodie-SangsterWill Poulter & Patricia Clarkson

The Maze Runner has its moments but they are few and far between. The mystery is more made for TV than film. With enough episodes to peel away each layer of the back story, I could see liking this tale of kids who wake up trapped in the center of a deadly maze with their memories erased being hunted by half spider, half robot creatures.

Grievers

“I don’t like spam!!”

The Maze Runner, however, is not a good movie but it is interesting. So maybe (once again) I needed to read the book first. (And the moral of the story is read the damn book)

The Maze Runner

“Run away! He’s gonna hate us! Run away!”

I was not intrigued by the mystery in this film version. I didn’t identify with any of the two-dimensional characters. And it wasn’t helped by the young actors’ bland portrayals.

The Maze Runner Elevator

“That’s harsh, dude.”

All the characters have lost their memories (And isn’t that a convenient way to not have to create any real emotional depth). Don’t get me wrong, lost memory stories can be fun, as we discover the characters’ pasts and as they discover themselves. This ain’t that.

"You're just made the list, buddy. M-E-L um R-O..."

“You just made the list, buddy. M-E-L um R-O…”

This lazy writing is more fitting of a dungeon master’s self-made module of an adventure RPG. Get your graph paper out but make sure you write in pencil. The dungeon changes shape every night. In conclusion, The Maze Runner is a stupid movie.

Skip it

Next a dramedy…

This is Where I Leave You (Warner Bros.)

This is Where I Leave You

Directed by Shawn Levy

Written by Jonathan Tropper  Based on This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Starring Jason BatemanTina FeyAdam DriverRose ByrneCorey StollKathryn HahnConnie BrittonTimothy OlyphantDax Shepard & Jane Fonda

This Is Where I Leave You has an amazing cast of some of my favorite comedic actors but this is not a comedy. It is a well-written family drama with a few big laughs thrown in but it’s a pretty solid drama. And a very good movie with some fine performances.

Jane Fonda and Jason Bateman

“All his favorite people in one movie. He’s gonna love us.” “Hope you’re right.”

It’s got a good script based on the author’s novel with a director who seems fine with just getting out of the way and letting this talented cast do their thing. And they shine.

Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Ben Schwartz

“Say you liked our movie or I twist his other one.” “Say you liked it! I’m in the new Star Wars!”

Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Timothy Olyphant, Rose Byrne and Ben Schwartz. This Is Where I Leave You boasts a collection of my favorite people in a fascinating and funny, family baggage-airing drama. And I liked it.

Debra Monk, Kathryn Hahn and Connie Britton

“Aww. He liked it.”

It’s not for everyone. And it’s not a comedy. Also, the only action in the film is when a secret is revealed and maybe a small fight breaks out. This is a straight drama about a family reuniting for the patriarch’s funeral and about the airing of grievances.

This is where I leave you Cast

“Well that doesn’t sound funny at all.”

It is still pretty damn good. And still pretty damn funny.

Rent it

And lastly…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) (Paramount Pictures)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

Written by Josh AppelbaumAndré Nemec and  Evan Daugherty  Based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman

Starring Megan FoxWill Arnett & William Fichtner

I expected this movie to be so bad that it had nowhere to go but up. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a better movie than I thought it would be. It’s kinda sorta fun.

"I have to take a picture of Mel liking the Ninja Turtles movie. It's like seeing The Loch Ness Monster."

“I have to take a picture of Mel liking the Ninja Turtles movie. It’s like seeing Bigfoot.”

Don’t get me wrong, it is still a bad movie based on a bad comic book title that was mostly just a childish insult (called a dis in my day) to the popular books of the time. X-Men and Teen Titans (with maybe a little Howard the Duck thrown in for good measure).

TMNT

“I know Bigfoot personally. I could introduce you.”

It was a dumb comic, but then it became a dumb cartoon and now some dumb movies. And soon a dumb but financially successful franchise. I am not a fan.

Michelangelo

“He doesn’t know Bigfoot. But I do. He has an apartment near here.”

However, this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is enjoyable. The turtles aren’t as annoying as I thought they’d be. Megan Fox is decent and the plot is not stupid. I can’t say I liked it because I am opposed to it from its inception and conception with no exception. Period.

Megan Fox and Will Arnett

“Remember when the captions were funny? Now he’s talking Bigfoot.” “I think he really is high.”

But the movie is not that bad… and if you’re high when you watch it, it’s enjoyable.

Rent it

So to recap…

We had two films about groups forced to work together to remember their pasts; The Maze Runner and This Is Where I Leave You, But this is where their similarities end. One features emotionally immature characters forced to navigate a labyrinth of traps, tricks and pitfalls in order to get out alive and the other one is… The Maze Runner.

We had two films based on less-than-main-stream comic book titles; Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, But this is where their similarities end. One is about a group of kick-ass, immature, constantly bickering heroes trying to save everyone from evil and the other one is… god damn it.

And we had one film about a guy who hides his face from the world; Frank, I also do that. Hide myself from the world. But this is where our similarities end. Because while Frank likes to play music with his friends and loves you all…

I, on the other hand, like to play music with my friends but only love some of you… okay most of you… alright damn it, you win. I love you all.

Awesome Mix

Cue the music.

See you guys at the movies,

– Mel

5 Quick Reviews from November (Catch-up Edition part 2)

The movies of November weren’t a lot better than those in October. But there was a bunch of science fiction, fantasy, action and adventure. And you know how I like that.

Automata Movie 1

“Let us pray to the god of ones and zeroes that Mel likes our movie.”

This month we have six DVDs. A couple of dystopian dramas. A couple of classic dark fantasy reworks. And a couple of good old fashion thrillers with sci-fi elements.

Angelina Jolie

“No more talk.”

November was a good month for Sci-fi/Fantasy.

To the list…

First up…

The Giver (The Weinstein Company)

The Giver

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Written by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide  Based on The Giver by Lois Lowry

Starring Jeff BridgesMeryl StreepBrenton ThwaitesCameron MonaghanOdeya RushAlexander SkarsgårdKatie Holmes & Taylor Swift

The Giver 2

Have you ever gotten an audio clip stuck in your head? Have you ever had a few seconds from a television ad so embedded in your brain that you repeat it over and over out of context and out of nowhere at anytime?

The Giver Jeff Bridges

There was an early ad for The Giver that ended with the voice of Jeff Bridges saying in his Jeff Bridges-y way, “I’m the Giver.” and I can’t get that shit out of my mind. “I’m the Giver.” Every so often I just say it in an impersonation of his voice and it cracks me up.

The Giver Cameron Monaghan Odeya Rush Brenton Thwaites

“I’m the Giver.” The audio seemed out of place even in the commercial. And it was cheesy sounding. Jeff Bridges announcing on the ad, “I’m the Giver.” (Every time I type that I say it out loud) But here’s the sad fact. That line is not in the movie. They recorded that just for the early ads then quickly pulled it because it was so cheesy but not before it was lodged in my subconscious forever… “I’m the Giver.”

The Giver Jonas Asher Fiona

But anyway, the story is a great idea badly executed. I’m sure the book is awesome just judging by the story. And I guess the movie is as good as you can make it. Some books just don’t translate. The cast is good. The theme is very interesting but they blow it with leaps of fantasy and plot holes. Oh, the massive plot holes. Spontaneous universal emotional memory… whatever.

The Giver coloration

But really. The kid turns to Jeff Bridges and asks, “If I’m the receiver then what does that make you?” (I got really excited. I was ready. This was the moment for which I was waiting) and Jeff turns slowly toward him, thinking hard about his answer and says. ‘I guess that makes me the Giver.”

The Giver Katie Holmes Alexander Skarsgard

NO! It’s I’m the Giver. I’m the Giver. Say it like on the television. What sort of madness is this? But he didn’t. He didn’t say it like on the TV. It was all a lie. And to be perfectly honest. I was too distraught to even try to enjoy the rest of the film after that. The Giver is boring. The idea of removing creativity through chemicals is one thing but returning them through osmosis is dumb. Sorry The Giver fans. The movie is not worth having Jeff Bridges stuck in my head.

Skip it

Next up…

The November Man (Relativity Media)

November Man Poster

Directed by Roger Donaldson

Written by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek  Based on There Are No Spies by Bill Granger

Starring Pierce BrosnanLuke BraceyOlga KurylenkoEliza TaylorCaterina ScorsoneBill Smitrovich & Will Patton

The November Man

November Man is an international psychological spy thriller that doesn’t break any new ground but delivers in all the international psychological spy thriller ways. Sex, violence, car chases, explosions and guns. Lots of guns.

Pierce and Olga

Pierce Brosnan is good. But, honestly, he’s good in everything. The mystery is gripping and not too easy to figure out like some of these movies can be. The November Man isn’t a dumb thriller. It has layers and surprises. But in answer to your question, yes. The good guy and the bad guy do talk on the phone a lot.

November Man

At one point in the movie you don’t even know who to root for and I love movies that do that; Movies that blur the lines between the good guy and the bad guy.

THE NOVEMBER MAN

I enjoyed The November Man very much and I recommend it. It’s an exceptionally good, by-the-numbers, international psychological spy thriller. And Pierce Brosnan is still very hot. That is one good looking man.

Rent it

Next up…

Automata (Millennium Entertainment [USA], A Contracorrientes Films [Spain])

Automata Poster

Directed by Gabe Ibáñez

Written by Gabe Ibáñez, Igor Legaretta Gomez and Javier Sanchez Donate

Starring Antonio BanderasBirgitte Hjort SørensenDylan McDermottRobert ForsterTim McInnerny & Melanie Griffith

Automata is a great story. Not the most exciting movie but a great story about Artificial Intelligence in a dystopian future. It’s also about the birth of a new species. It is very cool.

Automata Movie 3

I love the idea of robots making robots. And how dangerous that would be. Automata is like a cross between Blade Runner and I Robot with a little Children of Men thrown in for good measure. Don’t expect action packed. It’s a slow drip. But it’s… it’s espresso.

Automata Movie 2

My main problem with the film, maybe my only problem with the film, is Antonio Banderas, who is asked to carry it in a very dramatic role and is just not up to the task. And I know the movie probably doesn’t get made without Banderas attached to it but I contend that it would be a much better film without him. However, he doesn’t ruin it.

Antonio Banderas

There is really nothing else wrong with the movie but him. It is well-written, well-directed with good effects and one of those themes that leaves you thinking after the credits.

Automata Movie

Automata is worth watching for sci-fi fans who love a good AI story. I love a good AI story. Robots gone rogue. It’s a really good story. It just needed a better star.

Rent it

Next up…

Maleficent (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Maleficent Poster

Directed by Robert Stromberg

Written by Linda Woolverton  Based on Disney‘s Sleeping Beauty and La Belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault

Starring Angelina JolieSharlto CopleyElle FanningSam RileyImelda StauntonJuno TempleLesley ManvilleBrenton ThwaitesHannah New & Kenneth Cranham

Sleeping Beauty

Maleficent is a creative re-working of the Disney villain from Sleeping Beauty.

Maleficent Faeries

Maleficent is a gorgeous film with spectacular effects and creatures and a heartbreaking story of the blurred lines between love & hate and good & evil.

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

Angelina Jolie is fantastic as always. I’m going to have to start comparing her to Tom Cruise. In that, she brings her A game to every performance. She never phones it in.

Maleficent Angelina Jolie

I really enjoyed Maleficent and recommend it highly.

Rent it

Next up…

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Poster

Directed by Matt Reeves

Written by Mark BombackRick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Starring Andy SerkisJason ClarkeGary OldmanKeri RussellToby Kebbell & Kodi Smit-McPhee

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

“It worked for the robots.”

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the third movie in the Apes franchise reboot is a very good movie. I really enjoyed the way the apes were the stars of the movie. The motion captured performances of the ape actors took center stage. The director got some great performances from the ape actors. I want to see them do Shakespeare next.

First Ape Blog

“Do you monkeys even read my blog?”

I liked this one even better than Rise and I enjoyed that one very much. I read a few people online who said it was anti-human. It is not anti-human. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a fantastic movie that shows good and bad on both sides of the Ape vs Human debate. Can’t we all just get along?

Apes

Dawn is very exciting and incredibly emotionally charged. It is impressive the way they’ve relaunched this franchise with motion capture technology and I’m looking forward to the next one. Keep going, guys. You’re on a roll

Keri Russell

One day soon there will be an Academy Awards category for best motion capture performance and they will call it the Andy Serkis award. I kid you not. But of course Benedict Cumberbatch will win the first one.

Andy Serkis

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is amazing. They are not monkeying around.

Rent it

And lastly…

Lucy (EuropaCorp Distribution [France], Universal Pictures [International])

Lucy Poster

Written & Directed by Luc Besson

Starring  Scarlett JohanssonMorgan FreemanAmr Waked & Choi Min-sik

Scarlett Johansson is Lucy

Scarlett Johanson is Lucy; a woman who is given an overdose of a prenatal drug that allows her to use higher and higher percentages of her brain. It’s a great idea for a story but Luc Besson, who writes and directs, does a piss poor job of bringing it to the screen.

Morgan Freeman

Lucy’s development is much too fast. She goes from not very bright to a superhero in a few seconds. I would have preferred a little more of a performance from Scarlett who becomes a machine too quickly. And yet she is fun to watch when she’s being a bad-ass

Lucy

The plot is decent. As is the acting and the effects.

Lucy Movie

I liked the script. Even though the direction makes it seem like the movie is talking down to its audience. The narration is annoying. And for such an intelligent premise, it deserved a smarter execution.

Lucy Scarlett Johansson

And I really like Luc Besson. His movies can be campy but also fantastic. Fifth Element is one of my all-time favorite films. I think maybe if Lucy were set in the future, a few of the choices wouldn’t have seemed so condescending. The movie is condescending. And it ain’t smart enough to be that. Plus this mistaken idea that emotions erode with intelligence is garbage. Stop it. Smart people aren’t inherently evil. Stop it right now.

Lucy with a gun

Lucy is a great story, and a movie with a good script, it just needed to be taken more seriously by its director. And I could have done without the cartoonishly silly history lessons and the percentage increase play by play. Lucy is a good story badly directed. And since Luc Besson is responsible for both, I’m only mad at half of him.

Skip it

So to recap…

There were two films about the creation of a new dominant species: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Automata, Both of them smart, interesting and enjoyable. But only the Apes bring the action. The robots do a lot of sitting around.

There were two films about a great man passing the torch to a younger generation: The November Man and The Giver, One of them thrilling, suspenseful and explosive and the other one… not those things.

And there were two films about powerfully misunderstood women who are not to be trifled with: Lucy and Maleficent, And while both were exciting, only the one based on the cartoon didn’t talk down to its audience.

No more movies…

Until December.

Which is like what? In two days?

But if you haven’t seen The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema and The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology and you’re a massive movie fan like I am, I recommend them highly. The narrator is kinda creepy, hence the titles, but he delves deep into cinematic psychology and the classics. They are both really good movies about movies in spite of the titles. And for intense movie fans, they are a must watch.

Until next time…

See you guys at the movies,

– Mel

5 Quick Reviews from October (Catch-up Edition part 1)

It’s almost December and I haven’t posted a 5 Quick Reviews for October or November. So here are two posts back to back. One for each month.

First up: 5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVDs from October

Sin City 2

This installment includes two of my favorite movies from 2014 and also two of the worse. Throw in a film that isn’t actually about abortion but centers around an unplanned pregnancy and you have the DVDs of October.

To the list…

First up…

Obvious Child (A24 [USA], The Exchange [International])

Obvious-Child

Directed by Gillian Robespierre

Written by Gillian Robespierre and Karen Maine & Elisabeth Holm  Based on Obvious Child written by Anna Bean, Karen Maine and Gillian Robespierre

Starring Jenny SlateJake LacyGaby Hoffmann, Gabe Liedman & David Cross

Abortion movies are polarizing. They are either pro-choice or very pro-life. While Obvious child doesn’t take a political side in the debate, here’s a hint: Planned Parenthood loved this movie. It is the story of a young woman, her unplanned pregnancy and her choices.

Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy

“Why are you in a box?” “I’m afraid Mel is going to start talking about abortion and… well… he has a penis. So I kinda wish he wouldn’t. I’m hiding, alright?.”

This is my abortion paragraph. It is more than okay to skip it: As far as being pro-life or pro-choice, I am staunchly pro-birth-control and anti-rape. I would love to live in a world where there was no such thing as unplanned pregnancy. And I believe with early and comprehensive education, effective birth control and early rape prevention measures that take care of the problem at its source, there would be no need for it. And all the politicians that raise money from the issue would have to…. oh yeah that’s right… nothing will change as long as the issue is a massive revenue builder for both sides. Never mind… but there is this very cute movie.

Jenny Rulz

“That wasn’t too bad.”

Obvious Child is based on the 2009 short film of the same name from the same director. In the film, the main character, played by Jenny Slate, a comedienne who works days in a bookstore, becomes pregnant from a one night stand and has a decision. But the story is not about the decision but about the girl. Her professional evolution. Her relationships. And about a one night stand that produces a pregnancy.

Jenny Slate

“Then he spent a whole paragraph talking about abortion. Why do men do that? I know i said it didn’t bother me but… I’m a little drunk now, so fuck his opinion.”

Obvious Child is a good movie with a great performance by Jenny Slate. She is perfect as the young comedian that finds her voice when her life is tipped on its side. I really liked this cute twist on the romantic comedy. However I know that abortion is a trigger for some.

Jenny Slate and David Cross

“Talk to me about the box.” “Um… I’d rather not.”

I hate being preached at in film especially about abortion. Again, this movie does not do that. It is not about abortion. And the decision doesn’t affect the plot even as it is the central focus of the film and yet it isn’t. It is a smart film. Funny, sweet, very real, very good, well-written, well-directed and Jenny Slate is outstanding. Nice work.

Rent it

Next up…

Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Edge of Tomorrow

Directed by Doug Liman

Written by Dante HarperJoby HaroldChristopher McQuarrieJez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth  Based on All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Starring Tom CruiseEmily BluntBill Paxton & Brendan Gleeson

Tom Cruise Edge of Tomorrow

I make this look good.

Edge of Tomorrow is a great movie. One of my favorite films from this year.

"Come and find me when you wake up."

Come and find me when you wake up.

It holds up well on disc. As long as you have good speakers. Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise turn in great performances in an action-packed sci-fi adventure.

Edge of Tomorrow Jump

Didn’t Mel already review this one when it was in the theaters?

Now… will somebody please write me a damn sequel.

Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise

If you haven’t seen it, rent it or just buy it. It’s that good.

Buy it

Next up…

X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox)

x-men days of future past

Directed by Bryan Singer

Written by Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman  Based on “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont & John Byrne

Starring Hugh JackmanJames McAvoyMichael FassbenderJennifer LawrenceHalle BerryAnna PaquinEllen PagePeter DinklageIan McKellen & Patrick Stewart

Wolverine before adamantium

Days of Future Past is another great movie in the X-Men franchise. One of my favorite films from 2014. Maybe even my favorite.

Days of Future Past

I love the prequel casting. McAvoy, Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence are superb.

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique

And the original trilogy cast too. Stewart, McKellen, Jackman, (Halle, Anna, Ellen)

Magneto

X-Men was my favorite title growing up because I identified with the misfits and outcasts.

xmen-days-of-future-past

So combining the two casts together for the best X-Men story was outstanding.

Magneto and Quicksilver

I love this movie. I will own it. (Hell, one day I hope to marry it)

Buy it

And now the bad…

Life After Beth (A24)

life-after-beth

Written & Directed by Jeff Baena

Starring Aubrey PlazaDane DeHaanMolly ShannonCheryl HinesPaul ReiserMatthew Gray GublerAnna Kendrick & John C. Reilly

Life After Beth

Life After Beth is an exceptionally bad zombie romance but it is also a bad horror film, a bad comedy and a total waste of time. This is a one joke movie. And that one joke isn’t very funny. (Hey dude your girlfriend is back from the dead). Badly directed and poorly written, I laughed once through the entire film and I think I was laughing at how bad it was.

Aubrey Plaza

Romantic zombie stories have been done so much better in films like Warm Bodies and TV shows like In The Flesh. Life After Beth is the story of a young man whose recently deceased girlfriend comes back from the dead. The premise is promising. The casting is good. And that’s it. The characters are bland and two-dimensional. There’s an older brother character that is idiotic and parents (both his and hers) that are useless. Even their relationship, the central theme of the movie, is pointless and weak.

The big brother

The dialogue is awful. The plot is stupid. There is nothing about this movie that I liked. I’m hoping these actors, that I enjoyed in other things, did this movie as a favor to someone because it’s really bad, there is no script and the director has no vision.

life after beth 2

Life After Beth is a bad movie in every single way.

Skip it

and lastly…

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Dimension Films)

A Dame to KIll for

Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller

Written by Frank Miller  Based on Sin City by Frank Miller

Starring Mickey RourkeJessica AlbaJosh BrolinJoseph Gordon-LevittRosario DawsonBruce WillisEva GreenPowers BootheDennis HaysbertRay LiottaJaime KingChristopher LloydJamie ChungJeremy PivenChristopher Meloni & Juno Temple

Speaking of sensationally bad movies. This Sin City sequel does something rarely seen from bad sequels. It actually makes the first movie worse. The story is okay… I guess. But you can’t tell because they never let a story play out before switching to another one with a new narrator. I like Frank Miller but he can’t direct.

Marv

There are too many voice-overs from too many different characters. Instead of showing one story at a time, the stories are edited together so that the different narrators of each tale are practically talking over each other.

Jessica Alba and Bruce Willis

A Dame to Kill For plays more like an audio book. An audio graphic novel with moving images. It is visually annoying. That black and white with splashes of color thing was cool in the first one but this movie does it so badly it makes me think the first one sucked too. this is not a good movie at all. Frank Miller is still a god in my eyes for his comics & graphic novels (Daredevil, Batman) but he shouldn’t direct movies. He is really bad at it.

Sin City A Dame in Color

Telling a visual story in comics and telling a visual story in cinema are two separate disciplines. The two main differences that Mr. Miller fail to reconcile are camera movement and visual continuity. A Dame to Kill For is stupendously bad directing.

Eva Green - the dame in question

And I know Robert Rodriguez also has his name on it as director but I have a hard time believing that Mr. Rodriguez got this bad at his craft this quickly. This is all Frank Miller. This is someone who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing.

Skip it

So to recap…

There were two movies in which the main character couldn’t be killed despite everyone’s best efforts: Life After Beth and The Edge of Tomorrow. One of the best and one of the worse movies I have seen all year.

There were two movies with bad titular colon subtitles based on comics penned by two of my favorite comic book writers: X-Men: Days of Future Past and Sin City: A Dame to Kill for. One is directed by someone who should stick to comic books. The other brilliant.

And there was a romantic comedy that was well-written, well-directed and with a great performance but an uncomfortable theme that may turn some people off; Obvious Child. And that’s sad because it’s a really good movie and it may not get the recognition it deserves or make the money it deserves.

That was October

November coming right up…

– Mel

5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVD Releases for September (The Return of the Quick Review)

This month’s installment of 5 Quick Reviews is a little late. I hope you didn’t have to suffer through any bad films because of me. If so I’m sorry.

The Chief

“He’s sorry?”

I got a little carried away in last month’s installment of 5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVDs. First of all there were EIGHT of them. The reviews weren’t QUICK at all. And actually they were more rants that REVIEWS. I’m sorry for that.

Watanabe

“Oh my god. He said it again.”

This month I’ve calmed it down a bit and returned to form. This time around there are only SEVEN movie reviews, only ONE could be considered a rant (well maybe two) and the rest are all pretty damn QUICK.

Party Time

“Woohoo! Party time!”

There’s a lot of sci-fi this time out. And half of these movies are pretty damn good. There are four (count ’em four) science fiction films, one comedy, one animated and one love story. One… epic… love… story.

To the reviews!!!

Snowpiercer Banner

First up

Godzilla (2014) (Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho)

Godzilla Poster

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Written by Max Borenstein and David Callaham  Based on Godzilla
by Toho

Starring Aaron Taylor-JohnsonKen WatanabeElizabeth OlsenJuliette BinocheSally HawkinsDavid Strathairn & Bryan Cranston

Godzilla in the Water

Godzilla (2014) is a surprisingly good movie after a string of bad Godzilla films.

Ken Watanabe

A prehistoric and (perhaps) extraterrestrial giant fire-breathing lizard is tasked with saving the world. Godzilla is the king of all monsters. You better recognize.

Bryan Cranston

The cast is good. Including the amazingly versatile Bryan Cranston who plays a man obsessed with finding out what actually happened to create the nuclear meltdown that destroyed his life. The plot is good. The effects are good. The fights are epic.

Ashley Olsen

Finally!! someone gets Godzilla right. Well done guys.

Godzilla

“Woo hoo!”

Rent it. (Godzilla is a fun giant monster movie)

Next up… we learn that an epic love does not have to be a long one.

The Fault in Our Stars (20th Century Fox)

The Fault in our Poster

Directed by Josh Boone

Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber  Based on The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

Starring Shailene WoodleyAnsel ElgortNat WolffLaura DernSam Trammell & Willem Dafoe

The Fault in our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is a very good story. Well-written. You can tell it’s a great book. In fact, I’m pretty sure that anything I liked about the movie is likely straight from the book because I didn’t much like the direction or the screenplay. But the story and choice bits of writing; important quotes, (probably directly from the book) were sensational.

The Fault in our Sofa

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of a young girl dying of cancer who meets a boy in a support gr- You know what. It’s about the specialness of first love. And it’s about how life is temporary. So live it to the fullest. At least that’s what I got out of it, as I played a game with myself to see how long I could go without crying. And in my defense, I kept from crying for a while. I didn’t cry until the main character started to cry (that always gets me).

Shailene Woodley

I don’t like to watch tear-jerkers because I cry anyway. I don’t need to be made to cry with some heavy-handed emotional manipulations. It’s the same reason I don’t like Horror Films. a well-done thriller will scare the shit out of me already. I don’t need the contrivance. The whole thing seems too on the nose. Like we are going to make you cry now. But the love story in The Fault in Our Stars is amazing. The actors are fantastic. I was already falling in love with Shailene Woodley from her last few movies and this one just cements it.

The Fault in our Date Night

She is one of my favorite young actresses.

The Fault in our Cast

“Dude, you cried like a woman.” “Ha ha.”

Wow. What a good story. They tell you going in that it’s a sad one, so be ready. But what it actually is is a great love story. What it actually is is fucking Romeo and Juliet done well. Done REALLY well. Still I didn’t like the direction. And the writing is only good because the book is good. And the movie is only good because the book is good. And there’s this one added scene in the DVD where John Green makes a cameo and I just wanted to stand up and applaud him. Dude, well done. Great story. Don’t believe me? Listen to this guy.

“John Green, methinks thou hast written a greater love story than even I.”

– William Shakespeare

Rent it (OR read the book. Read the book. Just read the book)

Next up… there be dragons here…

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (20th Century Fox)

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Directed by Dean DeBlois

Written by Dean DeBlois  Based on How to Train Your Dragon
by Cressida Cowell

Starring Jay BaruchelCate BlanchettGerard ButlerCraig FergusonAmerica FerreraJonah HillChristopher Mintz-PlasseT.J. MillerKristen WiigDjimon Hounsou & Kit Harington

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Well guys, the first movie about a town that learns to co-exist with dragons did well? Time to make a sequel. Let’s see what kind of trouble little Hiccup can get his friends into.

Valka

Any plot ideas? Nope? Screw it. We’ll do a sequel anyway. We’ll just make Hiccup do something stupid and hope the characters from the first movie are lovable enough to carry a second one. Those idiots will see anything with loveable characters.

how-to-train-your-dragon 2

“I don’t like this guy’s attitude.” “It’s okay. He likes us. He likes us.”

And they are loveable. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a fun movie without much of a plot.

Rent it. (Fun with dragons)

Next…

Neighbors (Universal Pictures)

Neighbors Poster

Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Written by Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien

Starring Seth RogenZac EfronRose ByrneChristopher Mintz-PlasseDave FrancoIke Barinholtz & Carla Gallo

Neighbors

Neighbors is very funny and very very sweet. (Surprised the hell out of me).

neighbors frat house

“What you think a frat movie can’t have heart?”

A young couple gets into a hilarious feud with a college fraternity that moves into the house next door. This movie is a surprisingly sweet and a very funny film in spite of that hokey premise. Mostly because the cast is sensational.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne

“Does he mean us or them?”

The story is simple but the entire cast is amazing. From the young married parents who still live in their college town: Seth Rogen, and the incredible Rose Byrne, to their best friends played by Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo, to their next door nemeses played by two of the prettiest young comedy actors in film:

Zac Efron and Dave Franco

“You talkin’ to me?” “You talkin’ to us?”

The very funny Dave Franco (James Franco’s younger brother) and the lovely abs of Zac Efron (who spends much of the film without a shirt). No seriously, he does.

Efron and Rogen

Rent it. (It’s very funny and Zac Efron is very hot)

Next up a little indie sci-fi… (R U Agitated)

The Signal (Entertainment OneFocus Features)

The Signal Poster

Directed by William Eubank

Written by Carlyle EubankDavid Frigerio and William Eubank

Starring Laurence FishburneBrenton ThwaitesOlivia Cooke & Lin Shaye

The Signal

The Signal moves through movie genres at the speed of light. It starts off as a hacker thriller, turns into an indie horror, then slides through four more genres that would spoil the plot. It pretends to be about three college computer hackers on a cross-country road trip that are being harassed by a mysterious cyber stalker. And it is not much of spoiler to tell you that it ain’t true. That ain’t what it is at all.

The Signal Movie

The Signal is a grand mystery but with a weak pay-off. Literally, the film’s pay-off is a special effect. In fact every major discovery in this film is presented as a special effect.

The Signal Still

The movie is very interesting. And it’s intriguing. But it sets up these great mysteries and pays them off visually. It’s unsatisfying and kind of cliché. And yet, I kind of recommend it for sci-fi fans, even though the movie starts like it doesn’t know what it wants to be and ends like the writer and director never saw a Twilight Zone episode.

Hacking in the bathroom

“What’s Twilight Zone?”

Rent it. (It’s not that good but it’s interesting enough so that it’s not a total waste of time)

Next up… a very LOUD sequel…

Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount Pictures)

Transformers 4 Poster

Directed by Michael Bay

Written by Ehren Kruger  Based on Transformers by Hasbro

Starring Mark WahlbergStanley TucciNicola PeltzKelsey GrammerJack ReynorSophia Myles & Li Bingbing

Bad. Bad bad movie. Bad movie. Bad movie. Bad.

Transformers

Transformers 4 is a bad movie. Not as bad as the last Transformers and there’s the beautifully sublime absence of Shia LeBeouf (Thank you for that). But the writing is horrible. The dialogue is unbelievably insipid. The plot is unfollowable. And the rules of the magic system are re-written somewhere in the middle.

Lockdown

Once again, the Earth is in danger and the big dumb robots have to destroy a city in order to save it from the other big dumb robots. It’s bad. But what really annoyed me is its inconsistency with the robot powers. How when a robot is broken all it has to do is scan an automotive of the same type and it’s all fixed. What?

Mark Wahberg

And the destruction. The awesome destruction of everything around. The death count is astronomical. But just as long as the three humans that we’re supposed to care about don’t die, it’s party time. And don’t get me started on the maddening fact that these are metal robots shooting metal bullets at each other. So since all of it; the gun, the bullets, whatever, are just a part of their body, in a sense they’re shooting their own DNA at each other. It’s all just one big circle jerk. One massive money shot.

Bumblebee

Age of Extinction is yet another incredibly bad Transformers movie from a franchise that continues to make millions at the box-office releasing incredibly bad movies.

Transformers Age of Extinction

Skip it or Rent it. It really doesn’t matter. They’ve made a really bad movie but it won’t stop people from sending them lots of money. It didn’t stop me from wanting to see it.

Dino Bots

You win Michael Bay. You’ve made idiots of us all.

And lastly… half American, half Korean, All French and all weird…

Snowpiercer (RADiUS-TWC (North America), CJ Entertainment (South Korea))

Snowpiercer Poster

Directed by Bong Joon-ho

Written by Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson  Based on Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette

Starring Chris EvansSong Kang-hoTilda SwintonJamie BellOctavia SpencerJohn Hurt & Ed Harris

Snowpiercer Cast

“You think he’s gonna like us?”

In Snowpiercer, based on the French graphic novel, the last of the human race, after a man-made global ice age, live on a moving train that takes a year to circumnavigate the global land mass. (Well that seems like a good premise doesn’t it?). There are major plot holes and logistic leaps of fancy in the movie. The movie glosses over much of the basics in the graphic novel and it is noticeably missing.

snowpiercer-train

For instance: Who exists outside to repair the tracks? Where do all these people sleep? The director keeps the same number of passengers but shrinks the train down significantly to only 60 cars. (then he creates this silly spatially challenged inter-train-car shootout that just made me fucking angry).

snowpiercer-train-diagram-bong-joon-ho

Here the director attempts to explain the shootout and the logistics. He fails.

Snowpiercer is the story of a passenger revolt. The poor passengers in the back of the train, that live off of protein cubes made from god-knows-what, have decided to push their way forward. That’s the whole movie. (two minutes per car).

Snowpiercer

This movie makes me want to…

The plot is linear and so is the train. We start at the back and work our way to the front. It’s a fantasy so we’re supposed to forgive that the layout of the train makes no sense.

Snowpiercer-teacher-with-gun

“I could help you with that.”

But what also makes no sense is the movie’s grasp of morality. The bad guy is the guy who makes the hard decisions about how to keep the population controlled (in more ways than one) and the train moving. While the good guy is the guy who wants to destroy the balance and possibly cause the extinction of the human race. It’s a madhouse!

The Tail Section

“What did he say?” “I think he said the movie makes him want a bullet in the head.”

Still the story makes you think even as it misses the mark logically. And it has a great cast. It feels at times like a fable or a fairy tale. A fantasy film that almost reminds me of the best of Terry Gilliam mixed with Ridley Scott mixed with Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train (a great movie) with some early Jean-Pierre Jeunet thrown in for good measure. But it misses the mark and is instead infuriatingly pedestrian and in the end just all kinds of fucking stupid. Did they even read the graphic novel?

Tilda Swinton

“Please end it well.”

But I guess they did the best they could with what they had to work with (three languages and an epic story). And it is kind of interesting… NAH

Skip it. (The movie is a total waste of time. We learn nothing. They learn nothing)

So to recap…

We had two movies about giants that either want to destroy or save the planet but end up destroying most of it; Transformers: Age of Extinction and Godzilla (2014). The first one is yet another bad movie in a series of bad movies and the other is pretty good.

We had two movies about a couple in love who fight against the odds while holding on to their sense of humor; The Fault in Our Stars and Neighbors. One of them may make you laugh until you cry. While the other one will make you laugh until you cry.  Both good.

We had two movies about a society trying to live in balance with destructive forces; How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Snowpiercer. Both of them cartoonish and silly. But only one of them takes itself seriously and thinks it’s trying to teach us something.

And we had a movie called The Signal. Where any description of it is a spoiler. But it’s worth a look for the clever special effects touches.

And that’s it for September (Captain America: The Winter Soldier was pushed back a month but I reviewed it last month)

Until next time, I’ll see you guys on the couch.

I’ve got a train to catch.

Snowpiercer The Escape

One thousand and one (not sixty).

– Mel