Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Housebound

Housebound (2014)

Runtime: 107 minutes

Directed by: Gerald Johnstone

Starring: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Ross Harper, Cameron Rhodes

From: Semi-Professional

If you guys want to read a review apparently so good that it inspired several people I follow/follow me on Letterboxd to add it to their watchlist (a first), check this out:

I try not to think of how I am going to rate a movie as I am watching it. Sometimes it happens, though. No matter that, it's a rare thing for me for think of a movie one way then it change for the better due to how it finishes. What happens too often is that I am turned off pretty early and the movie never recovers. But this is an uncommon film where I thought I would just rate it “fine” early on but once I saw where it was going then the final act hit, I can give it a high rating.

In short, this is a New Zealand motion picture where a young female felon (Kylie) is arrested and she's been in trouble often. She gets 8 months of house arrest with her mother and stepfather, whom she both hates. Kylie is a pretty loathsome character early on; it was amusing at times but overbearing at others. As the plot progresses, though, things do change. The big mystery is if the house is haunted or not. The mom believes so, Kylie doesn't.

I won't reveal more about the plot as the key component of the film is how you expect it to be one thing and several times things are flipped and it goes in completely unexpected directions. I'll just leave it at that; even if it's quite absurd it is also quite entertaining and it does get funnier as it goes along so if you don't enjoy it at first you may change your mind the further along you watch the film.

I have to give credit to the cast of unknowns (especially Morgana O'Reilly, who doesn't have the easiest role and despite the opening act I ended up enjoying her character and she ended up as “bitchy smartass” instead of “awful bitchy person”) for helping make this film work and I am glad this was a pleasant surprise as I was worried this would be another “miss that most think is a hit”.

GoldenEye

GoldenEye (1995)

Runtime: 130 minutes

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Judi Dench

From: MGM/UA

This week I decided to rewatch all the Bond movies, so that they all can have similar length reviews on Letterboxd. I tackled the first two in the series... then this, which I hadn't reviewed before here and in fact hadn't seen it in years. The Letterboxd review is below.

In what may be the last Bond movie I'll review for awhile I decided to see this for the first time in years. It's a popular entry in the franchise; it's the first in 6 years due to legal issues and you have a new Bond in Pierce Brosnan, who did a great job with the role even if you can accurately complain about the films/scripts he had to be involved with. Poor Timothy Dalton getting short-shrifted due to no fault of his own and his two movies aren't always rated well even though I do like both.

Furthermore there's the 007: GoldenEye game for the N64, which even now is a cult favorite and at least at the time of the mid 90's was awesome. I am glad that even with the 90's-ness of it (talk of sexual harassment, the new M being a woman and saying 007 has antiquated views, not to mention what computer geeks of the time were thought of) I can still enjoy it.

The plot isn't too complex: you see a mid 80's mission in the Soviet Union where Bond's partner 006 (Alec) dies during a missing. Back in the mid 90's the Cold War is over but in Russia there's still trouble as the titular weapon (it delivers an EMP) by mysterious forces... led by Alec; he's played by Sean Bean so you can probably figure out his ultimate fate. 007 has an unwitting partner in an attractive-but of course-computer programmer Natalya (Izabella Scorupco) who saw what the villains did.

The movie for the most part is successful at being a Bond motion picture for the 90's, with the technology and all the other aspects that were different from the past. The story takes you from Monaco to Russia then the Caribbean.

Some of the effects don't look so hot in 2015 and you can complain about the story but otherwise it's still fun, with colorful characters (played by the likes of Joe Don Baker, Robbie Coltrane and the ravishing Famke Janssen as the crazed sex vixen known as Xenia Onatopp, a name you can only get in this series) and memorable action scenes, from an insane bungee jump-and there's a 90's fad-to a long scene involving a tank... showing that the 6th Fast & Furious movie wasn't the first to do such things. There are even some brutal moments too.

I imagine everyone will agree that this is clearly the best Brosnan Bond, with things starting to fall apart; when I review the other three I'll explain why, and oh boy am I not looking forward to seeing Die Another Day another time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Fourth Kind

The Fourth Kind (2009)

19% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 111 reviews)

Runtime: 98 minutes

Directed by: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Elias Koteas, Corey Johnson, Enzo Cilenti

From: Universal

I don't have too much to say here except that this was even worse than I expected. Read why below:

I'll be real here and tell you that I only watched this because it was in the recommendations section of Netflix Instant, due to what I have been watching as of late. As you can see with my one star rating, if I “thanked” Instant for this, then it'd only be in a sarcastic sense.

Since the movie came out and it got a lot of bad publicity due to the strong attempts from the filmmakers and the studios involved to make this hokum appear to be legit (to the point of creating fake headlines from real newspaper and producing other bogus evidence), I have avoided watching it as the general buzz was bad. Yet I still took a chance, and oh what a mistake that was! The story-completely fake despite all their attempts otherwise-revolves around a psychologist in Nome, Alaska, where she does a mysterious study and also notices similar odd experiences among several of her patients. Considering that the title refers to the “close encounter” scale created by UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek (which is of course where the title Close Encounters of the Third Kind came from) and while not part of that scale, others later included a fourth kind to represent alien abductions. Sorry for the spoiler but when it's right in the title...

I had a feeling this would be bad... it exceeded my expectations into being quite bad. For me, the biggest reason is that this is just not scary at all. When the most frightening moments include an owl naturally turning its head almost 180 degrees or a character barfing... that is a problem. They went so far as to create faux footage that was allegedly “real” and that was incorporated into the film often under the usage of split screens but I would have figured out without being told that it was all flim-flam and poppycock. It is just painfully and howlingly bad and a gigantic waste of time you couldn't possibly believe was real.

Not to mention, Nome is like 51 percent Native American, as in non-white people, and yet because it's Hollywood you have a cast that except for the one black man was as white as all the snow on the ground in Alaska. That's one thing, but the movie seems to think that Anchorage is close by Nome (incorrect) or that Nome has mountains and trees all around it, which is the complete opposite of how it actually looks. It's just insulting.

The movie made the residents of that town upset as they felt this trivialized the actual missing people in Nome; I mean, they vanished due to natural reasons, not due to aliens, I am pretty sure of that. My opinion of aliens... the universe is so vast there has to be life elsewhere besides Earth, and unexplained things have happened, but I've never seen any definitive proof. That doesn't really matter when it comes to this film, though, as no matter your opinion of such things this is just not an effective film at all.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Quiet Ones

The Quiet Ones (2014)

36% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 69 reviews)

Runtime: 98 minutes

Directed by: John Pogue

Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Clafin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne

From: Exclusive Media Group/Traveling Show Picture Company/Hammer

Even though the general buzz on this film has been bad since it was released last spring I was still interested in it so I decided to give it a shot and while it's not a must-see I am glad I did.

They claim it's based on a true story but what is here and what actually happened... very different. Instead of a controversial experiment in Canada where they try to manifest an entity-a fictional character-they created themselves, the movie is set in the swinging 70's of Britain (w/ groovy clothing and songs from such artists as Slade, T. Rex and The Jimmy Castor Bunch, which I did approve of); a tweedy Oxford professor (Jared Harris), two students (male and female and they were a couple) and a male cameraman are attempting to draw out an evil entity known as Evey from a young troubled lady (Olivia Cooke) and of course complications happen.

I know many thought this was “too slow” or “boring” but I personally did not really feel that way. Maybe it was the British 70's-ness of it that I found interesting or maybe it was me being amused at how the randiness of most of the characters was a key part of the plot. The story itself is pretty ridiculous and they go the jump scare route too often, but at least I was entertained by this story where part of it is found footage from a giant 70's camera and the rest is more traditional.

What does help is that everyone in the small cast does well, especially Harris as the eccentric professor you can't quite trust and Cooke as the poor troubled girl who said a lot just by her posture and expressions without saying a word. Maybe it was the lowered expectations but I thought this was at least acceptable and not a waste of time.

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes (2014)

Runtime: 98 minutes

Directed by: Kevin Kolsch/Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Fabianne Therese, Shane Coffey

From: Several different companies

I have finally started to catch up on recent horror films, and I hope to continue this for the next few days. I picked this one as it has gotten a lot of publicity. Unfortunately...

Look, despite what people may think I do not actively seek or want many of the “modern” films I see to be disappointments or make me mad. That's not want I want and yet it has happened often as of late. I was hoping this wouldn't be the case with this highly regarded horror film. Alas...

Basically, the main idea here is that Hollywood and the movie-making industry is pretty terrible and an awful place for young actresses... which I do think is true from all I've heard and seen. The way it's presented here, however... a young lady named Sarah works at a Hooters-esque place and she goes to auditions but she's never hired. Finally, she gets hired for what looks like a big gig, but then weird things start happening.

I'll list the positives: the old school score was cool, there were some memorable moments and Alex Essoe as Sarah did a swell job with what was a difficult role. Regrettably, I did not enjoy watching this overall. The story was not enjoyable to watch and once you discover what the whole plot is, you discover it makes little sense. I just grew more and more frustrated as the plot progresses, especially after there's a big shift in the final act and the style totally changes. The fact that some moments were lifted from earlier and better films didn't help either.

Also, this is just me and my tastes but the friends of Sarah are by and large pretty terrible people, and not just because they are hipsters but that's a big reason why! It adds to the unpleasantness. As I have said more than once or twice before, I am glad that others love it but I am just unable to. Even with the retro-sounding score and opening/closing credits, I need more than that to be enthralled with a motion picture.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Invasion Of Astro-Monster

Invasion of Astro-Monster (Kaiju Daisenso) (1965)

Runtime: 94 minutes

Directed by: Ishiro Honda

Starring: Akira Takarada, Nick Adams, Jun Tazaki, Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno

From: Toho/UPA

I don't have too much to say about this film also known as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero so the Letterboxd review is below:

(Note 1: The version I saw is the original Toho cut)

(Note 2: Earlier in the month I was hoping to see some Godzilla films on Hulu that would expire at the end of this month. Well, for various reasons those plans changed, but that is alright as I can always track them down at a later date.)

As I have this movie on disc and nothing better to do on this lazy Sunday, why not watch this Godzilla film?

This plot was rather wacky: Astronauts Fuji (Akira Takarada) and Glenn (Nick Adams; this was a co-production with UPA from the United States) fly out to a mysterious Planet X, which is inhabited by an intelligent yet wacky-looking group of humanoids known as the Xiliens. They wish for assistance for their little King Ghidorah problem but it turns out to be a ruse and they actually wish to use King and control the minds of both Godzilla & Rodan in order to rule Earth.

Thankfully the goofy plot and characters were interesting; the quaint charm of the 60's sci-fi special effects did help, as there actually isn't too much in the way of kaiju action, although what we got was good, and this is the film where we got the famous .gif of Godzilla doing that rather odd dance, which I just

Even though this isn't the best film in the franchise, such things as the special effects and the score from the always good Akira Ifukube help make it at least acceptable.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Left Behind

Left Behind (2014)

Runtime: 110 agonizing minutes

Directed by: Vic Armstrong

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thomson, Nicky Whelan, Lea Thompson

From: Several different companies which should be ashamed of themselves

Even though it came out just last fall this already is an infamous movie, not due to any offensiveness but due to how bad it is. They were right! This is just horrible. I explain why in my Letterboxd review below.

I have several things to say before I get to the review proper:

It was years before I discovered this but in the canon of the original novels Rayford Steele (the character played by Nicolas Cage here) is from Belvidere, Illinois. I bring that up as the town I grew up in... Belvidere, Illinois! I swear this is true. I have no idea how the writers of the novels picked my town but they did.

My opinion (and your opinion) of religion won't and shouldn't have any effect on the review.

The main reason I saw this: to see if it was as bad as I had heard. Well, it is! I have never seen any of the previous Left Behind movies and I certainly haven't read any of the novels.

I don't even want to delve too deeply into the plot, except that The Rapture happens (meaning that everyone who is worthy goes to heaven and they leave their clothes behind) and those that get... left behind are made out to be pretty terrible people, so you get to see a lot of that here before, during, and after the big event. It's done in the worst of ways so you don't enjoy watching and hearing these dumb A-holes act like dumb A-holes.

As everyone else has said this is just inept all around, from most of the performances to the “special” effects and everything else. Believe me, the conversations over whether God exists and if He does have an impact on the world, those aren't exactly thought-provoking or intellectually stimulating theological vs. secular discussions. Furthermore, what's supposed to be New York state clearly isn't that... oh and there's also how no one in the movie is smart and it takes people ages to figure out that The Rapture happened, and as someone I follow explained in their review, the movie is much more about “tell” than “show” so things are done in the most blunt fashion possible, and also there's a pretty awful musical score throughout.

So yeah, there's a lot of nothing that happens in the film. It's more Nic Cage piloting a plane full of idiots and broad stereotypes than how on the ground most everyone still remaining immediately turns into a felon and Nic Cage's daughter tries finding her little brother among the chaos despite it being obvious that something supernatural happened as he vanished out of his clothes... it's just stupid, totally unnatural and much of it makes zero sense at all.

Director Vic Armstrong is a veteran stuntman and he's either been a director or a second unit director many times before so I don't know what went here but go wrong things did. Nic Cage is subdued here so this is just mind-boggingly awful.

An important point you can learn here is that the entire movie being a first act to a story that most likely won't be completed with any sequels...that's a bad idea. Even with the ending of this film being astoundingly awful to an incredible degree in a number of ways, there is no real good reason to ever see this. Save yourself from experiencing this agony.