Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MRQ IX: the "Friday the 13th" series

This is a special round of Movie Review Quickies. This time out, I tackle the entire original Friday the 13th series, Parts I-X. I know it's ambitious, but I give you my thoughts on the series as a whole, its progression, and the quality of each chapter.

I'd keep this in my back pocket for October, but that's cheap and a long time off. You should definitely read on if you're thinking of renting any of these, or if you want the opinion of an expert in this genre and time period.

I know, I know, even this effort is kind of scary! It clocks in at over 5900 words, so I doubt many people will (or should?) read this in one long run. I'll make it easier for you, ok? Anytime I'm overwhelming you with my sheer incredibleness, you can just count to 10 with me, ok? Give it a try : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Let's do this.

1 - Friday the 13th - Seven young people look to re-open a camp site in Crystal Lake, New York. The locals, of course, say the grounds are cursed. After all, a young boy drowned one summer just before two counselors were killed... But these stories are discounted and the kids get about their jobs, not knowing how much trouble they're in.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Recommended: Netflix has BBCs Sherlock

Netflix Instant Streaming continues to earn the worship it receives: they've added the excellent BBC series, "Sherlock." It sounds trite and silly to tout a modern-day update to a well-loved character (franchise, anyone?), but they put the effort to make it work.

For one thing, the modern touches are all right. Cells and the 'net are perfect for Sherlock, and he uses both to a tee. The excellent everyman Martin Freeman is solid as the new John Watson, medical soldier returned from Afghanistan with some PTSD. The modern-day police force is no longer bumbling, either - they're just overworked blokes who don't suffer from Mr. Holmes' genius.

Naturally, the linchpin will always be Sherlock himself - the BBC found a very able actor in Benedict Cumberbatch. Good lord, it's a name so preposterous that he probably related to the character since childhood. He embodies the freakish contrasts that make up the most famous PI in English fiction.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Remake-itis! The Song Remains the... Very Similar

Wow, we're in store for another bout of remake-itis, along with a special guest technological remake. Sometimes, I wish I didn't have such a track record of writing (and once playing devil's advocate) about this very topic. Drink something if you need to, gird yourself, and dive right in with me. I'll make this painless and quick (for a change).

First, something a little different: "The Lion King" will be re-released in theaters this September, with a 3-D conversion. Thanks to tAVC, as usual/often, for the news. Running for two weeks, it's part of what I'll call "the circle of profits," a promo for a Blu-Ray DVD release.

I didn't really think that "TLK" was that big of a deal. Other animated films - ones without racist and homophobic overtones - seem more likely to warrant a bigtime re-release. I guess today, any anniversary is a good excuse for a re-release. Or we can look back at Cameron's choice to release "Titanic" in 3-D. I'd forgotten about that, honestly. Circle of profits, indeed...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Netflix loses some Instant pix and user data

Oh, Netflix, when will you learn? First, they got rid of the ability to share lists with friends, and now they've deleted all the personalized info from Member Reviews. No longer will you, the site user, see names associated with reviews, just a steady series of them. Netflix actually entitled their press release, "Minor Update to Member Reviews."

What you actually have is a total deletion of everything but the opinion. You just get a star rating, the written review, a group rating of the review ("X out of X members found this review helpful"), and an option to rate the review. Then a dashed line and the next review. It's kind of un-thrilling, and sadly depersonalizing.

Worse still, it's not a very useful change at all. Anyone who's read through a handful of comments knows that some reviewers are better than others. Hopefully, you feel that way about my site as well...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Howl's Moving Castle - Animated Perfection

Let me kick this off by stating: you'll see that a lot of my reviews have carefully-placed, nice pictures, usually with captions beneath. I'm skipping that this time out - not from laziness, just because I sometimes like going left when I should go right. \English and Japanese trailers only this time, unless convinced otherwise. Now...

Japanese writer-director Hayao Miyazaki has an enviable career. His animated movies are all beautiful, with excellent scores and inventive plots. His Studio Ghibli, much like Pixar, often creates mature tales within the confines of kid's stories. Very rarely does HM produce something "so-so" or mediocre. Nearly every work is dazzling, and each one is a financial blockbuster. 

Which brings us to 2004 and "Howl's Moving Castle." I feel a bit guilty - it's the only Miyazaki I haven't watched in the original language. I got a 7-movie set of Hayao's work, but "HMC" wasn't part of it. I caught the film on cable and was completely floored. I may rag on American studios for over-dubbing in English, but Disney chose wisely with Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, and Billy Crystal providing the voiceovers.

"Howl's" begins in what looks like a fantastical 19th Century European town. There are bakeries, hat stores, dirigibles, and big squares with uniformed troops and civilians wearing suits and gowns. Sophie, the protagonist, takes an alley shortcut during a quick walk, then is accosted by two repulsive soldiers. A man rescues her from them, but a widely-feared witch (and her blob monster?!) comes looking for her savior. The aptly-named Witch of the Waste curses Sophie out of spite.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cronenberg? Extreme? Recommended!

Yes, yes it is. In a fairytale time known as "1997," when Osama Bin Ladin had already tried to destroy the WTC once, there was a BBC documentary about David Cronenberg. Entitled "Cinema of the Extreme," it couldn't have a better name attached. It's on youtube, and I certainly hope it's a legal upload, as the BBC has put a lot of material to the biggest video site ever.

I'd feel a little guilty, on both names' sake. But I looked on Amazon Video and IMDb and if this isn't with permission, it's stepping on highly inactive toes.

In case you don't know my feelings already: David Cronenberg is a superb director, a titan among even the greatest sons and daughters of Canada. Not only wouldn't I consider his success with Viggo in "Eastern Promises" as a sell-out, I'd consider any rise in his status as a positive development.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

At last, the 15 Questions Meme strikes

My fellow reviewer/blogger/cinephile Jack introduced me to the 15 movie questions meme, which he says originated with Anna at Defiant Success. And now, I'm inclined to play too. I'd've done this earlier, but I was a bit excited to get out my other posts first.

Here are the questions, as well as my answers...
  1. Movie you love with a passion.
    Zero Effect. The soundtrack, the characters, the lines. I love the whole thing.
  2. Movie you vow to never watch.
    Big Mama's House. Anything, really, with Martin Lawrence,  Rob Schneider...
  3. Movie that literally left you speechless.
    12 Monkeys turned me upside down, drugged me, then me threw me into a hotel swimming pool from an 6th floor window. It brought me to a complete stop.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Netflix' New Look, Subtitles Thoughts & News

So Netflix completely revamped the Watch Instantly section yesterday. We're just past the first week of June, and suddenly, the Streaming home page has become highly-personalized and works more smoothly. Some won't like it, some will love it, but nobody got a manual for using it. Instead of writing "good luck figuring it out" (which would be deliciously snarky, but still) I'll tell you what I've noticed so far.

For one, it's only the "WI" material that got a reboot. If you check out the other main Netflix tabs, everything works exactly like it used to. "Browse DVDs," "Your Queue," and "Suggestions For You" - no changes in form or functionality. In fact, I nearly started laughing when I found that using the search box on the WI Page will bring you directly to screens and lists with the old designs. The company's new focus is kinda half-hearted, I guess...

No, I won't let you see what I watched last.
The Netflix banner and site navigation are now a static part of the page. When you use a scroll wheel or hit "page down," the top of the page will stay still while everything else moves. And my browser doesn't give it any of the bars at the side and top of the window - there's no sliding the picture left and right. It's an up/down world, these days.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"George Lucas Strikes Back"

There are a lot of trailers out there for movies that will never be made. I think most everyone in North America, and certainly everyone who saw the Star Wars Prequels, is missing out. We should get to watch "George Lucas Strikes Back."

This funny, well-filmed, clever trailer tells the story of a man who finds his whole life destroyed. It's actually a more plausible theory, to my mind, than what seems to actually have happened.

Bigtime thanks to Slick Gigolo, the makers of "GLSB." I like their style and their jokes. What think you?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lifeforce Review

Tobe Hooper directed this 1985 pic, which stars Steve Railsback (as Col. Tom Carlsen), Mathilda May (as "She"), and Peter Firth (as Col. Colin Caine (fun name!)). "Lifeforce" is difficult to review. Why?

That's why. I covered anything that may be inappropriate for kiddies, and I'm not a pig, but believe me there is nothing offensive about this woman. She walks around fully naked a whole lot in this picture, so I'll admit up-front that maybe (?) my brain's scrambling to justify this movie.

"Lifeforce" is patterned off of smart 70's scifi - maybe something like "The Andromeda Strain." At times it seems influenced by "Suspiria" with its weird sequences and lighting changes. If you like this picture, you like it as a hybrid of loud popcorn blockbuster elements that were grafted onto B-movie sensibilities and execution.

I really want to write "this is a good movie; see it." But I have to point out that it has big, huge flaws that make the whole experience shaky. This leaves me with "'Lifeforce' is entertaining, and doesn't need a drop-dead gorgeous woman walking about nude for a good 20 minutes. That nudity does, however, distract from some awful dialogue and acting, as well as loose plotting and a weird space vessel. Also, Patrick Stewart: what were you thinking?!"

Got anything better than "squid-umbrella, in space?"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In 8 days, 50 US theaters will vibrate you during "Super 8"

Of all the many gimmicks, of all the many shiny baubles people can hold in front of your eyes, we're in 2011 and got the announcement that 50 Stateside theaters would be equipped with vibrating chairs for the release of "Super 8" on June 10th.

Yes, the new wave of the future involves a chair that can rock and vibrate, and other weird stuff like rocking and vibrating. And it's not some person's weird sex fantasy or an effort to get incriminating info about film-goers... The (appropriately-titled?) "d-box" is somehow a big thing - just check their website.

But there's more...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Alien Loves Predator: A Gem of a web comic

With great premise comes great responsibility. Bernie Hou lives up to that responsibility. Since 2004, Hou has released "Alien Loves Predator," a web comic that recasts the 2 creatures as walking, talking, jovially combative friends and roommates getting by in NYC. The tag-line is "In New York, No One Can Hear You Scream." Which, if you live here, you know is kinda true.

The Alien is called "Abe," and "Preston" is the Predator's name. Abe is dating-obsessed, but completely clueless. Abe's the kind of jerk who'd mutely stare at a woman's chest (not even on a date, just anywhere), but he'd admit it if the woman asked. Preston is a smart, (occasionally?) sensitive guy, but he's less confident and direct. Preston mocks his friend relentlessly, but Abe is the kind of guy who could burn the place down, so he deserves it.

A New York sensibility shows up throughout the writing. Before you look at the entry below, linked here to his site, keep in mind that Hou himself is Asian, or (much more likely) Asian-American.