Monday, May 30, 2011

Recommended: Netflix gets Canada's Intelligence

Someone made a show with a black female lead in a rather deep role. Honestly, I think I should've noticed, because network shows that don't expressly cater to minorities usually put them firmly on the sidelines. Oh, "Intelligence" is Canadian, so I guess that makes sense...

Of course, many who watch this show will be forced to compare it to "The Wire," which I'm purposely saving for some undefined future date. And "Wire" fans may say, "some Canadian wanted to re-do 'The Wire,' but thought it had too many minorities, then dodged criticism by giving one the lead." This is also a valid interpretation, I guess, but "Intelligence" ran for 26 eps in 2 seasons, & was canceled in '07. Maybe it wasn't meant to be.

The basic story is this: the leads are Jimmy Reardon (Ian Tracey) and Mary Spalding (Klea Scott). Jimmy is a big-time crime lord in Vancouver, and Mary is a high-ranking member of the Organized Crime Unit (OCU), who interacts a lot with CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

She's looking to advance her career and compete with the US spy system, but faces bureaucracy and incompetence. He's a semi-legit business owner, and the biggest pot-distributor in town. Even without an out-of-control brother and aggressive competitors, Jimmy has a lot of personal and professional problems to handle.

The real starting point is established in the 2-hour TV movie that aired 1 year before this went to series. There, Mary and Jimmy form a tenuous alliance. After all, it's not like he's running coke or arranging assassinations, and she's not the kind of cop who'll make him wear a wire or threaten to arrest his family. Light and dark don't necessarily make enemies, at least in Canada.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vacation, not the National Lampoon kind

I'm giving less than 2 week's notice that I'll need a break soon, but then again, this isn't a job. I've had a lot of work lately, and it's crunched my time for hanging out, shooting clay pigeons over the Hudson river, or working on my other writing.

It makes no sense to not crunch my blog-writing time, too. Also, as we come into June, I find that my choice to post 12x/month should be reviewed - even just whether I should try a new pace for the rest of the year. At least you'll still get 3 more posts before the break starts.

LoTR extended in theaters, Netflix-Viacom deal

June 14th, June 21st, and June 28th will bring theatrical releases for the extended editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King (in that order). So if you have 3.5-4.5 hours to spend on each of those days - and if you love the Tolkien books or Peter Jackson movies - you'll be in heaven. Or whatever they call heaven in middle earth.

Please keep in mind this is a little different from other re-releases I've hyped before. Most of those were only announced 2 weeks before they came out. This news appeared on AICN on April 26th! Someone wants this to be big. Go to this page to see showtimes and location.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Youtube Free Movies, Part 2

[12/30/14 UPDATE: I wrote a third entry on this topic in December 2013. Go there for updated info.]

I'm back ("& I'm p@#### off") to finish this review of Youtube's free movie selection. I'm doing the balance now because I haven't had much time to write, & had other articles I wanted to release first.

Last time, I ran through 8 of the 14 available movie categories. The Indian category was so small, there was nothing to say. Read that entry for extra info on Youtube's system; the web is too good a reference system for me to type it twice. Unlike then, I've been able to check out Youtube on an IPad 2. It was disappointing - Youtube embeds on this site were fine, but no free film would play...

The Documentaries/Biographies section kicks off with one of the most well-known recent documentaries, Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me. The first line also has the much-loved The Buena Vista Social Club. It's a pretty smart way to begin, right? They have an old classic, Nanook of the North, and new foreign entries, like 2010's Israeli Wake Up Alive.

The other entries tend to have a very wide-ranging appeal: the Sierra Leone pic The Empire in Africa (which I'll soon watch), as well as The Battle of Britain, The Fort Fisher Hermit, and Fuel. Between all of these, you can tell this section appeals to Discovery/Biography/History Channel fans. I'm glad that this is a section that offers enviro-docs, as well as biopics. You'll find RuPaul's (no seriously) The Eyes of Tammy Faye (great title!), and Kristen Scott Thomas in Nowhere Boy, the young John Lennon story.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Brotherhood of the Wolf - Too Good?

I come today to sing the praises of a movie I've long loved, "Brotherhood of the Wolf." I wanted to see it from the moment I heard of the reviews from overseas, and it didn't let me down.

Since this movie has probably been missed by many of my readers, I keep descriptions of plots and events limited. I'd feel a little cruel depriving you of a chance to discover all the joys of this movie for yourself.

In essence, "BotW" (original title: "Le Pacte Des Loups") is something I never expected: a foreign period piece mystery martial arts werewolf film, action and horror all rolled into a French 18th Century drama. That's not a joke, and "Brotherhood" is the best possible result of such an improbable description. RT even backs me up this time (72% fresh).

Do you like fairy tales? Well, try this one on for size - the Beast of Gévaudan. Over 300 years ago, in Gévaudan, France, over 200 people were killed or hurt by wild animals. This mountainous region was suddenly awash in attacks by fearsome (homicidal!) wolves. A mass of people (army, common hunters, noble gamesmen, etc.) stormed through the area, looking to stop the attacks.

When women have no rights, men wear makeup & dress like girls. Weird.
What does the movie do with this story? In the period just before the Revolution, an adventuring scientist (Samuel Le Bihan) with a Native American blood brother (Mark Dacascos) is asked by the government to hunt the beast that's terrorizing the countryside. The slaughtered locals have the populace thinking the Devil may be behind it; others suggest it's God's anger at the King...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oh God, NO: Netflix-Miramax deal

And so the end times begin: Netflix announced the brilliantly-titled "Miramax Content Deal," and many people are in danger of sinking into web-based, Streaming, waking comas. "Pulp Fiction." "Cinema Paradiso." "Bad Santa," "Good Will Hunting," "The Piano," and "Shakespeare in Love" and many more. Goodbye, my friends.

My feelings can be summed up by a moment in film: the first "Matrix" when Trinity picks up a phone and sees a truck speeding at her phonebooth: "No."

For the first time, people getting fused to their furniture starts to sound credible. It helps that the selection will run from some of "Scream" and "Scary Movie" and "Spy Kids" franchises. You throw in the fancy pix I named above, and there's something of value for everyone who's looking for something to watch.

Is it a plan to undermine the human race?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Sean Connery Musical Parody

I feel a bit embarrassed! I've referred to them twice already, and I thought it was a collective called jonandal! It turns out that Jon and Al (John and Al Kaplan) are the two clever, musically-minded souls behind Conan: The Musical and Predator: the Musical. Well, they're back with something new, and I'm in the sharing mood.

I do a pretty mean Sean Connery voice. I've gotten many people to laugh at all sorts of jokes using "a little bit of Conn," as I like to say. Jon and Al, however, went the full route, writing and performing a two-minute song about it. They don't just show mastery of Sean's constantly pronouncing the letter "s" like a "sh," that's actually what the whole song is about.

Fer reals. Please watch and enjoy - since I just covered 70's disaster pic, "The Cassandra Crossing," I'm running low on finished reviews to post. I'll keep the variety going, but I can't promise more. Look at this way: I promised more reviews on March 23, and I've put up 21 of them since. It's been less than 2 months, so promise complete.

I digress. Take a look at Jon and Al's genius wit, and be kind to your film reviewers. And next time you're in the shower, take a little moment to belt out a few lines of "'S' with an 'h'."

Monday, May 16, 2011

"The Cassandra Crossing" Review: No Xing

"The Cassandra Crossing" is a 1976 disaster movie that's hard to enjoy and easy to laugh at, for a variety of reasons. The story: many people board a train for what sounds like a fun little trip from Geneva to Stockholm. The passengers, however, don't know that there is a terrorist onboard (as it is now, terrorism was "in" back then).

This terrorist isn't deadly because he's going to blow up the train. He's deadly because he just ran a raid on, basically, the World Health Organization and got infected with a lethal disease there. Now, his getaway plan risks the lives of all the passengers, many of whom live surprisingly soap-opera lives.

As with many disaster pictures, a sweet ensemble cast was gathered: Richard Harris is the lead who's paired with Sophia Lauren. Ava Gardner is in a relationship with a sleazy Martin Sheen. They don't save the experience, but they try. OJ Simpson, Burt Lancaster, and Lee freaking Strasberg are in the periphery of all the "action" here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

More free legal videos, Netflix's new Instant Cartoons

I'm putting off my sequel to "Youtube Free Movies Part 1." I'll still give you some advice and info on streaming, tho. I reviewed 7 movies on Tuesday, so it's a lazy week...

If you're in the mood for more free videos, you can always check out the WB network's website. This page lists the surprising collection of TV videos available for free viewing. It offers Veronica Mars, The Gilmore Girls, and Everwood, yet the site also has old shows - The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Gilligan's Island, and Growing Pains.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Movie Review Quickies, VIII

Action films and sequelitis make up most of the entries for MRQ VIII. Then again, most of the entries here received wildly-off scores from Rotten Tomatoes and/or Metacritic. This time out, I cover: Dick Tracy, Spy Kids 2, Scream 2, The Golden Child, Live Free or Die Hard, Judge Dredd, and Finding Forrester.

PS - the jump links will be fixed momentarily. Just scroll down like a normal person.
PPS - It's fixed now; there was no way to avoid the problem before I published this post, and it's hard to fix these things when you like to actually do your job when you're at your job. Click or scroll as you wish!

Dick Tracy

How do you review a vanity project with lots of A-list stars, media attention that approaches that for Tim Burton's "Batman," and a franchise property as big as Superman or Mickey Mouse? You can do it in a lot of words, and many did... But "Dick Tracy" was no fun, so I'll do it in just a few.

Warren Beatty plays the famous serial detective - a straight-laced, savvy do-gooder named Richard Tracy. He's a good cop in a crooked town full of vivid noir-esque characters. Many of the villains, for some reason, look like mutants. Yet Dick's faithful friends, and his wrist-watch communicator, will help him out as he's heading into a big fight with one ugly mobster (Al Pacino); he's also on a collision course with two beautiful women (Madonna, Glenne Headly).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Youtube Free Movies, Part 1

[12/30/14 UPDATE: I wrote a third entry on this topic in December 2013. Go there for updated info.]

The AV Club prompted me to do something I had on the back-burner: they announced that Youtube has inked a deal with some movie studios, allowing their flicks to be seen through the site. That deal concerns Youtube rentals, specifically, but I decided to finally look through their films.

Youtube's free movies section has a fairly large selection, broken down into 13 categories. True, you won't want to watch most of them - but there are plenty of respectable titles and niche offerings. After all, this isn't like cable or Netflix - they'll play roughly 8 ads throughout a 95-minute movie. So this entry is the first of a two-part post to let you know what you're in for...

I started by scanning through Classics, of which there are currently 154. Every movie category page has rows of 4 mid-sized film posters/covers, with the appropriate titles appearing beneath the pix. There's a maximum of 15 rows, so every complete page (i.e., page 7 out of 9), has 60 entries.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"If We Don't, Remember Me" - Best Fan-made Gem?

I'll write it flat-out instead of just linking to it: - that's a site I think you should check out. I'll show 3 examples of how impressive it is, and I mirrored iwdrm's own setup to convince you.

3 weeks ago:
“Do you mind if I have a quick one?”
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

That's one of the first images you'll currently find on the second page of "If We Don't, Remember Me," a true fan-made work of art. It's an incredibly simple concept, magnificently executed: animated gifs of movies,  paired with a film quote that matches or evokes the moment. But the animation is sometimes so limited or so small - a pair of eyes, a phonograph - that you have to pay attention to notice. The effect is heightened by a time delay that's sometimes several seconds long.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tom Cruise's One-Man "Mission: Impossible"

I saw "Mission:Impossible" twice, but only good company and some excellent sequences made me really enjoy it. I had some issues with it, even as I watched it, but the problems grew the more I thought about them. In short - some joy, but not enough, given the names involved. While Brian De Palma can't be blamed for doing a big-budget feature - his visual style is a blessing here - I can blame the writers for selling out "M:I."

In short, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is a top-notch (of course!) US operative with the IMF ("Impossible Missions Force," not "International Monetary Fund"). He and his team are trying to make the world a better place, but their plans go awry. Ethan is now alone and suspected of treason. He has to find out what happened to his team and clear his name.

The real issue here is that "Mission: Impossible" is not a summer blockbuster. It was an excellent, inventive TV series about a team of skilled field agents who can accomplish anything. These are guys who can make you think that you're the last man alive on the whole planet, the Cubs won the World Series, that you're in Holland 25 years in the future, or that people want you dead. They would travel the world to stop Soviets, arms dealers, terrorists, and mobsters.