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

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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 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

5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVD Releases in May

Well, it’s that time once again. Time for the big summer movies; the big summer blockbusters in theaters and the big summer DVDs in the mail.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of the big summer DVD releases?

"Stop screwing around or I'm gonna have to shoot you."

“Stop screwing around or I’m gonna have to shoot you.”

That’s because there are none. Distributors want you to leave your house and spend more time in the theaters. So the summer DVD releases are a bunch of crap.

The following five movies are the best I could do with the slim pickings that were offered.

But first a short poem

We’ve got Espionage, History, 
Sci-fi and Mystery.
One movie gives Batman a son.

We’ve got Kristen Bell, Clooney,
Damon, Costner.
But screw me, 
If you’re looking for good films.
There’s ONE.

To the reviews…

First up… the good

Veronica Mars (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Veronica Mars Poster

Directed by Rob Thomas

Written by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero

Starring Kristen BellJason DohringKrysten RitterRyan HansenFrancis CapraPercy Daggs IIIChris LowellTina Majorino & Enrico Colantoni

This is the perfect Veronica Mars movie. Kristen Bell was amazing as the young title character in the TV series and she’s even better as the grown up version. All of the usual suspects are back and there are tons of cool cameos from old favorites and a few surprises. I loved this film. It was the perfect Veronica Mars movie.

Logan and Veronica

I fell in love with Veronica Mars quickly when I watched the first episode on Netflix and then I watched all the episodes in one weekend. By the end of the run I was singing the theme song. “A long time ago. we used to be friends…” I’m so happy they made the movie.

The Sheriffs

“That’s nice. Just please don’t sing.”

I didn’t realize how much I missed these people. Especially the exquisitely beautiful slice of honey in the title role. I can’t say the things I liked about the movie on the blog without giving away the mysteries and the surprises. It’s a mystery… and there are surprises.

Veronica Mars

“If you don’t pull my finger, I can’t do the joke.”

Veronica Mars was a young detective in high school (A lot of people died under mysterious circumstances in her hometown). But if you don’t know Veronica, go watch the Veronica Mars TV series first. This movie was made for fans of the show. In order to fully enjoy it you have to become a fan… wait several years and then watch this movie. It is awesome.

Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars

Everybody sing. “We used to be friends… A long time ago… We used to be friends…”

Rent it (But start at the beginning. The show is really good)

Next up a remake…

RoboCop (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Columbia Pictures)

RoboCop Poster

Directed by José Padilha

Written by Joshua Zetumer  Based on Characters by by Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner

Starring Joel KinnamanGary OldmanMichael KeatonSamuel L. JacksonAbbie CornishJackie Earle Haley & Michael K. Williams

RoboCop is a decent enough remake that pays homage to the first film with dialogue from the original movie sprinkled throughout like little nuggets of nostalgia. The problem comes in when the characters say anything else. Those few lines are the best writing in the film.

The Brand New RoboCop

The dialogue is crappy. While RoboCop is still a great story, (we knew that going in) and there is some great casting choices with Keaton, Oldman and Jackson, even the scenes that feature these powerhouse actors are flimsy, hokey and mostly unnecessary.

Samuel Jackson

“Seriously?? Come on, mah brotha. Don’t do me like that.”

Samuel L. Jackson seems so superfluous, it even looks like his scenes were added in post-production. He’s barely part of the story. Like an afterthought.

RoboCop

The writing of this remake left a lot to be desired. As with all of these sci-fi classic reboots, there is the much needed updated special effects and the modernization of the futuristic tech. What we thought was futuristic back in the 80’s is laughable today.

Robocop Black

But in the end, there was no other reason for an update. The original RoboCop is dated, yes, but it is still a great film. The new RoboCop just can’t compete.

Skip it (Move along, citizen. There’s nothing to see here. Move along)

Next some old school international espionage…

3 Days to Kill (Relativity Media)

3 Days to Kill Poster

Directed by McG

Written by Luc Besson with Adi Hasak

Starring Kevin CostnerAmber HeardHailee Steinfeld & Connie Nielsen

First off, the title is misleading. The movie is billed as some kind of “Taken” scenario except with Kevin Costner instead of Liam Neeson. Spoiler Alert! There is no kidnapping. There is no clock. There is no immediacy. The trailer is a lie.

father daughter dance

I have a particular set of skills. None of them are dancing.

3 Days to Kill is about an old CIA operative who finds out he is dying of brain cancer and has three months to live. The title, 3 Days to Kill, comes from the fact that he visits his daughter and estranged wife in Paris. He wants to reconnect before he dies. The wife takes off on a business trip. Leaving him with the girl. So… he and his daughter have… three days to kill. But of course some old CIA business interferes and adventure ensues.

Kevin Costner

It’s a good story. The dialogue is awful and the direction is uneven but the story is interesting (Luc Besson has a good mind for action). But the biggest problems with 3 Days to Kill are the poorly written female characters. They are horrible.

Amber Heard

“Do you like my wig? I’m undercover.”

I’m done with two-dimensional women in movies. There are three female leads in the movie: The mother, the daughter and his CIA handler. They are badly written and annoying. The mother whines and is oblivious. The daughter whines and is obnoxious while the handler is some sort of sexy psychopath. I don’t even know what’s going on there. (Amber Heard is awful but she’s sexy so I guess that’s supposed to be enough).

Stop or Kevin Costner will shoot

It’s a bad movie but it is still an interesting story, as he tracks down the terrorists and tries to reconnect with his daughter while coughing up blood and hallucinating and passing out at the worst moments (always the worst moments), it is fun to watch. And on the other side, the best things are the minor characters. The secondary characters are very real. Luc Besson puts so much effort into building these rich and dynamic minor characters that it makes the main characters and their flatness even more maddening.

Kevin Costner and Hailee Steinfeld

Watch 3 Days to Kill for the colorful characters Kevin Costner comes across in his travels and for Costner’s fine performance despite the bad dialogue. But…

Skip It if you’re as tired of poorly written women as I am. And I am.

Next up animation…

Son of Batman (Warner Home Video)

Son of Batman Poster

Directed by Ethan Spaulding

Written by James Robinson Joe R. Lansdale  Based on Batman and Son by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert

Starring Jason O’Mara, Stuart Allan, Morena BaccarinGiancarlo EspositoXander BerkeleyThomas Gibson & David McCallum

The kid is annoying.

Batman and Son Private Detectives

“I’m not that annoying.”

There are some good fights and action sequences but everyone flies around like Yoda in Attack of the Clones. It is distracting. In live-action movies that’s fine but in cartoons it just makes all the characters seem lighter than air. Like they have no weight. (w/o the force)

Damian Wayne al Ghul

“I’m not that annoying!”

The story is kind of cool though. Batman finds out he has a son by Talia al Ghul who has been raised by the League of Assassins and her father Raj. So, Batman has to teach the kid not to kill people as the two try to avenge the boy’s granddad’s death and save the city.

Son of Batman

“I bet if I was Robin you wouldn’t think I was annoying.”

All I have to say is the kid is annoying.

Skip it.

Now some history…

The Monuments Men (Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox)

The Monuments Poster

Directed by George Clooney

Written by George Clooney & Grant Heslov  Based on The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

Starring George Clooney, Matt DamonBill MurrayJohn GoodmanJean DujardinBob BalabanHugh Bonneville & Cate Blanchett

The Monuments Men has a great cast. It really does. Most of these people couldn’t turn in a bad performance if they were trying. And It’s also a good story. An important story. A story about saving famous artwork from the nazis. I just didn’t like the direction.

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men is an epic story that spans several countries and several years but George Clooney has the story spread out so much that it loses its narrative focus.

Cate Blanchett and Matt Damon

The Monuments Men plays like a collection of loosely related scenes. And except for the ending, which is pretty cool, it is, literally, all over the place. Not Clooney’s best work.

George Clooney and Matt Damon

“What the fuck did he just say?”  “Wow.”

A historically important story, sure. A good story, yes. Great cast, absolutely. But because the characters spend most of their time in different countries. There was too much going on and it doesn’t make for a good movie. It is not a good movie.

Skip it. A couple of good scenes, some history and great actors but not a good movie.

and lastly… Vampires that don’t sparkle (It is now a requirement that they tell you they don’t sparkle. Thanks Meyer)

Vampire Academy (The Weinstein Company)

Vampire Academy Poster

Directed by Mark Waters

Written by Daniel Waters  Based on Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Starring Zoey DeutchLucy FryDanila KozlovskyGabriel ByrneDominic SherwoodOlga Kurylenko & Sarah Hyland

Vampire Academy is so very bad… it is almost good. It almost makes it to the other side of bad and back around to enjoyable bad. But the movie spends more time trying to be cute than it needs to. It talks down to its audience so severely that it’s annoying.

Rose

And Vampire Academy, at its core, is a misguided cross between Twilight and Harry Potter. Vampire Academy may have made a good book but there is just too much explaining. So much back story before anything happens. And they rush through it.

Vampire Academy

The characters have to speed through pages and pages of exposition and then the writer adds these hokey sitcom jokes on the end of each speech. The guy directed Mean Girls. And I loved Mean Girls. But it was good because it was written by Tina Fey and that’s it.

Rose, Lyssa and Natalie

But there are still some fun parts to the movie. Sarah Hyland is a surprise highlight to the story. She plays a nerdy vampire with just enough awkwardness and comic relief to make her likeable. And of course Sarah Hyland is a great comedic actor.

Sarah Hyland

“What? Is there something behind me? What?”

And Gabriel Byrne and Joely Richardson are good. But other than that, there is very little to like about Vampire Academy. The music choices are awkward and mishandled. The acting is awful and, like I said, the dialogue is mostly long explanations and bad jokes.

The Vampire Academy Girls

Yet underneath all the bad I could tell there was a fun story about young vampires at school that was so poorly directed and so badly scripted that anything good from the novel was lost in all the crappy crappiness. I really wanted to hate it enough to like it. I didn’t.

Skip it (but honestly it’s almost so bad that it’s kind of good)

So to recap…

There were two movies about heartless killing machines trying to reconnect with their family, RoboCop and 3 Days to Kill. Both with a few cool action scenes but both with horrible writing and dialogue.

There were two movies about famous detectives having family problems of their own, Son of Batman and Veronica Mars. One of them a fun and exciting romp down memory lane and the other one a new memory I’d like to forget. (the kid is annoying)

And there were two movies about a group of friends trying to preserve and survive their brush with history, The Monuments Men and Vampire Academy. Neither one of them very good but only one of them based on a true story. (I’ll let you figure out which one)

Thank you for your service. You deserved a better movie.

Thank you for your service. You deserved a better movie.

And that’s five.

Okay that was actually six but Son of Batman was sort of a freebie.

Now if only we could convince them to release some good DVDs for June.

But don’t worry, if they don’t, I’ll dig up something cool, maybe even something foreign.

See you on the couch,

– Mel