Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Obscurities and Abject Pandering: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX"

"Obscurities and Abject Pandering: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX"


(2015, NR—definitely for MATURE audiences, 13 Episodes, MARVEL STUDIOS/NETFLIX)

Hell’s Kitchen, New York, is a seriously rough neighborhood.

In Netflix’s latest original series/Marvel event (which takes place in the same town as "Daredevil"), the title character of "Jessica Jones" is one bad-ass lady.  Played by the versatile Krysten Ritter, and by keeping to the basic formula already presented in "Daredevil", Jones is a former hero/private investigator caught up on the wrong side of a bad guy.  Said evil doer is played by the wonderfully psychopathic David Tennant (taking a big step away from his previous role as The Doctor in "Doctor Who").  He is, indeed, a guy of low morals.  Thankfully for that rough neighborhood, so is Jessica Jones.

If Kilgrave (Tennant) is the opposite (maniacally speaking) of Vincent D'Onofrio’s "Wilson Fisk", then Jones has that demeanor the Daredevil was so afraid to adopt.  She kicks ass first, asks questions later.  Not to say that she isn’t haunted by her choices or actions—for the majority of superheroes, that seems to be where their greatest weakness lies.  But our Jessica has a bit more fun embracing her powers.  From the comments she and the lesser characters make, to the littlest and most subtle of actions, the humor here is just as gritty and dark as the series itself.

And unlike the "Daredevil" series, this hero is not the only goodish person on the show with superpowers.  I don’t want to spoil your fun, so I’ll not divulge too many secrets here.  But just keep in mind that Netflix does have an endgame, and it involves Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and at least two other characters all appearing together in a future series called "The Defenders".  Kind of like "The Avengers", but with a much longer running time... and more blood... and more swear words.

This is where I think Netflix has established a stranglehold on the adult comics market.  This is not your regular terrestrial show, like "Arrow" or "Flash", where there is not a whole lot of moral ambiguity or PG rated language (see: "crap" and "gosh-darn-it").  By making the shows that take place in a gritty setting, and allowing a certain hardboiled-ness to permeate the dialogue, complimented with interesting camera work, Netflix has put its own unique spin on the market.  Kind of like how you know you are listening to a Prince song; it has that certain rhythm, that distinct voice, that absolutely awesome funk to it that separates the melodic piece from the rest.

The show is not perfect, not yet; some of the plot points of the co-starring characters get pushed off to the side and, in at least one case, abandoned and forgotten.  Which is a shame, because to watch Carrie-Anne Moss as Jessica’s sometimes employer and possibly corrupt attorney Jeri Hogarth is to see the best performance of her career.  She doesn’t chew the scenery so much as she lovingly grips it and starts squeezing the life out of it.  Yes, she’s that good.

The show is binge-worthy, but, as I must play the devil’s advocate, remember that season two will not be around for another year.  We will get the sophomore season of "Daredevil" between now and then, and if Netflix sets up future series the way I think they will, we may be seeing a regular rotation of four or five series every three months or so.

If they keep to the tempo of their first year, then someone please lend me the money to move to Hell’s Kitchen—I don’t want to miss anything.

Series Grade: B

Put me to work, dammit!  Suggest a queue for me to review, and get creative!  The holidays are here, surely you want to know the best Christmas action movies!!

T.S. Kummelman

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

'Blu-ray or Bust' - TERMINATOR GENISYS

'Blu-ray or Bust'

“You are going to love this movie.”

That’s a quote from James Cameron, director of the first two installments of the franchise.  Apparently, when they asked him for a quote to put at the very top of the Blu-ray release, he was either talking to someone in a coma, or shooting up or snorting his lunch that day.  Honestly, that’s the only thing I can imagine:  Jim Cameron, slamming his face into a Tony Montana-sized pile of cocaine, and pretending a Titanic model is a big-ass machine gun.  That, or they were talking about THE LEGO MOVIE.

GENISYS is an attempt to reboot the sputtering franchise with new faces, new twists on the plot line(s), and new action sequences.  Some of this, they pull of wonderfully.  But when decent actors have to read dialogue written by someone that watched too many 80’s action films (and I’m referencing the ones that went straight to video), you long for the times when more attention to detail was commonplace.

There are one or two effects that the CGI just doesn’t seem ready for, and this also makes the film suffer.  The makeup effects are good, the props look great, and the sets are wonderful and big and blow up nicely.  The human exposition, not so much.

A conversation about time travel leaves one of the characters to utter the “classic” line “talking about time travel makes my head hurt.”  Really?  Your crappy dialogue is making my ear-holes bleed.  And the locker room conversation between the new Kyle Reece (Jai Courtney) and the new Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”) is so steeped in re-used and over-done banter about an off-screen character that you wonder how many films the screenwriters borrowed/stole dialogue from.

This is not a movie that picks up where the last one left off (thank the Sweet Baby Hey-Zeus).  Because of that nifty, ever-present plot element called “time travel”, director Alan Taylor is able to reimagine the series itself.  By borrowing plot points from the first two films, he is able to wrap up any similarities in the first half of the film.  There are stumbles along the way, interwoven with some intense (and some trite) action sequences.

But the reliance on the time travel aspect to reboot the franchise is the same thing that leaves so many gaping plot holes, and some parts that just don’t make a whole lot of sense.  This movie is not horrible, but surely Paramount was looking for a better reboot than this.  The best thing about this film is the original Terminator himself:  Arnold Schwarzenegger has the best lines, and pretty much the best acting, in the whole film.  Go figure.

The special features are a bit long for the movie that came out of all their hard work, but the behind-the-scenes stuff is good.  The best doc is the second one, unfortunately titled “Infiltration and Termination”, which gives you more info on filming locations than most docs include.  If you insist on watching this film, the only way you should watch it is on Blu-ray; MOST of the effects look great, and the booming sound helps the overall feel of the film dramatically.

For a film that opened dismally in the US, the International Market may have secured a sequel.  No official announcement has been made yet, but grossing over $400,000,000 worldwide has to count for something.  Although the fact that only eighty-nine million of that staggering number is from the U.S. box office should also tell you something about the International Market…

Film Grade: C
Special Features: B
Blu-ray Necessary: Recommended

-- T.S. Kummelman

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: SPECTRE

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on SPECTRE (2015, 148 minutes, PG-13)

"You're a kite dancing in a hurricane Mr. Bond."  - Blofeld

The Quick of It -
The fear of losing my favorite Bond is now very real.  While watching Daniel Craig's fourth film, my senses seemed heightened as I watched, wanting every second to last.  SPECTRE may not be the best of the collection, but what do you expect when trying to compare it to CASINO ROYALE or SKYFALL.  Expectations cannot be continued at such a high level.  But SPECTRE still hits to the core with intense action and a culminating storyline that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  You don't get to breath until about three-quarters into it, which may be why critics and fans complained about the pace slowing.  I, for one, saw it as the only chance to build on the characters outside of the nonstop action sequences and then to prepare you for the final push towards the epic conclusion. 

The acting never faltered, taking you out of a scene.  The characters each had their own motivations that ultimately moved the plot forward to the finale, which could be the end of Craig's tenure (rumors are all over the place).  Each played their part with the typical Bond flare.  Even Dave Bautista (Mr. Hinx) made you cringe and twist as he continually beat the crap out of Bond.  As if ever doubted, Christoph Waltz was the perfect choice to head the Spectre organization, the reason for Bond's continuing misfortune.  And the surprise gift was Andrew Scott playing 'C'.  You should recognize him as Moriarty from the "Sherlock" TV series.  Even though his role was not as crucial for the given conflict implied by the story, his screen presence made you pay more attention to a peripheral character (saying that anyone could have played the role but Scott made it far more notable). 

If nothing else, this film continued the Bond tradition of spectacular settings.  This made the film seem to tip its hat to the previous films by finding those highly exclusive and exotic locations.  As another tribute, the theme song 'Writing's on the Wall' by Sam Smith lived up to what was to be expected and, after hearing it a more few times, gave some depth in regards to Bond's past with its sorrowful melody.  Director Sam Mendes should be proud to have had a chance to be called up to direct another Bond film, and how the beautifully crafted piece fits into one of the top movie franchises of the world.

Grade: A

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

'Blu-ray or Bust' - POLTERGEIST

'Blu-ray or Bust'

I love me some Sam Rockwell.

The actor, who seems rather picky with the roles he chooses, is one of the better character actors working today.  His quick wit and delivery makes him an easy choice for a leading comedic role, and his dramatic performances have been underappreciated for some time now.

But apparently, Sam must have been drinking his lunch one day when he agreed to star in the un-scary remake of the classic Tobe Hooper film POLTERGEIST.  Honestly, where the hell did his integrity go?  Does some weasel of a studio exec have compromising pictures of Rockwell with a lemur and two stoned midgets?

The script, written by a guy used to writing kids films (David Lindsay-Abaire) is mostly stupid.  Gone is the charm of the original.  While there are some delightful moments with the kids interacting with each other, overall, the script is dull.  It follows some of the plot points and “scary” bits from the original, but trying to modernize certain aspects of the film was a mistake.  Also, cutting out other storylines from the first because you spend too much time exploring the new stupid parts is… well… STUPID.

Remember that nasty preying mantis-looking ghost at the top of the stairs that brings Jobeth Williams to her knees?  Gone.  The pool?  Nope, not there.  (Even a freaking kiddie pool would have worked better than the bubbly goo…)  Practical effects?  Ha.  CGI is the true monster here.  Well, that and THE STUPID SCRIPT.

As much as I like Rockwell, stay away from this one.  The only good parts of the film happen before any of the “oh crap, my daughter is in the flat screen TV” stuff does.  And the special features?  Who cares.  The last thing I want to see is a doc about how to write a stupid script, or how to make a bad movie thanks to a STUPID FREAKING SCRIPT.
Film Grade: D
Special Features: D-
Blu-ray Necessary: Only if you are the same person that liked the remake of THE THING.  Then yes, by all means, buy the most expensive version of this film you can find.  Then, go buy a copy of the stupid script online, and kindly beat yourself in the face with it.  A LOT.

T.S. Kummelman

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Obscurities and Abject Pandering: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX"

"Obscurities and Abject Pandering: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX"



(2014, NR--hard "R", 92 minutes, FANTASTIC FILMS)

This not-so-subtle and oh-so-bloody little gem from The Emerald Isle is a tale of evil, retribution, sin, and Good Vs Evil, played out in a small town police station.  New kid on the force Rachel (Scottish actress Pollyanna McIntosh) has a rather eventful first night on the job when the jail becomes populated with all sorts of evil doers, including a few murderers and a mysterious man that seems to wreak destruction by playing with matches.  A slight biblical overtone adds atmosphere to this thriller, which brings out the worst in its players.  You may sympathize with one or two of the characters; however, to intone Yoda: like them, you will not.  As serious as this film is (great acting, even better cinematography, and a careful and caring script), it is a fun ride.  And it proves a lifelong lesson: playing with matches is bad.  Seriously, kids, don't do it.

(2014, NR--hard "R", 98 minutes, SNOWFORT PICTURES/DARK SKY FILM)

Talk about unlikely performances... all of the acting here is fine, but it is (in what should be a star-making turn as "Sarah") the performance of Alexandra Essoe that gives this film its fright factor.  In a brave and totally unhinged performance, we see the mental and physical transformation a struggling actress goes through in order to land that 'gateway role'.  Gory at times, and absolutely visceral in its dealing with human nature (and beyond...), writers/directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer have crafted a tale of horror that should leave you thinking.  And that ending is not a trick, it is perfect.


(2015, R, 115 minutes, STUDIO CANAL)

In Sean Penn’s first attempt to pull a Liam Neeson, the actor does a fairly believable job as a retired private security/assassin trying to move on from his troubled and violent past.  However, someone from his bloody time in the Congo is out to murderize him, so he sets out to get answers.  Never mind the fact that we are rooting for a cold blooded killer, Penn’s acting, which never is bad, shines through a script that would have had a younger actor yawning.  You feel his age, his sorrow, and his will to survive... especially when the biggest reason for him to keep drawing air into his lungs is the gorgeous Italian actress Jasmine Trinca.  She also happens to be the biggest problem I have with this film: she’s way too young for him.  Of course, Hollywood has no problem casting a younger woman to play the love interest of an aging star, but seriously, I’m forty-freaking-six years old—WHERE THE HELL IS MY HOT ITALIAN BABE?!?  Now, you will notice that, while Netflix classifies this as “Action”, I do not; while the film does have some rather exciting action sequences, this is not a spy movie.  It is not a Liam Neeson or Bruce Willis film.  Penn is all about character, and the pacing of this film follows the classic thriller formula.  Worth the watch.


(THE MANEATER) (2012, NR—strong “R”, 93 minutes, 7E HEART PRODUCTIONS)

This French film will surprise you in that you think it is about one thing, and it turns out being about something else entirely.  The bisexual Jezabel (the gorgeous and sultry Mylène Jampanoï) is a promiscuous painter living the high life (literally) when she meets Father David (Marc Ruchmann).  Her pursuit of the one person she cannot have is what drives the story, but don’t think for a minute that is all this film is about.  Filled with poignancy and simple flair, this is a movie that begs you to think afterwards.  It is a drama, so the subtle moments of humor are helpful, but this is a love story deep down.  Bask in its tragic glory.

You see what happens when you leave me to my own devices?  I’m still watching horror movies after Halloween has passed!  Put me to work, dammit!  Suggestions are always welcome, so get creative!  The holidays are right around the corner, and I’m always up to new challenges!

T.S. Kummelman

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: PAN

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on PAN (2015, 111 minutes, PG)

The Quick of It -
Well, I bit the bullet on this choice and made it this week's viewing.  I was not sure if this was going to be worth the time but it showed promise, and when you don't have a clear 'must see', you go with horror or the unusual.  In this case, I have to say I am angered with Disney's marketing plan.  The trailer and promos didn't quite portray who the true target audience was.  From now on, I will not trust them again on their live-action remakes (except for THE JUNGLE BOOK, that is on my 'must see' list).  This was clearly a kid's movie and should have been presented so.  The production value was decent but had troubles with some CGI elements.  It had the classic over-the-top dialogue for characters to build and highlight the drama, a typical writing style for the youngin's, but a turn-off for me and probably most adults.  The story is interesting but simple, and brings magic to the horrors of a war-torn world.  There are those who will completely enjoy the Neverland ride, I'm just too tall...

Grade: B-

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"Blu-ray or Bust" - JURASSIC WORLD

"Blu-ray or Bust"

When I first saw this film, I was in a very crowded theatre, sitting next to Andre the Giant’s bigger brother.  Well no, I don’t know that for sure, but I hate basketball, and I can’t think of any other super tall dudes for a comparable behemoth.

When I originally reviewed this one, I mentioned that it had the power to (mostly) suck me out of my social anxiety disorder long enough to enjoy the film.  Now, in the privacy of my own home (okay, it’s really the front bedroom of my mommy’s house, but I’m a single parent, so bite me), I have the opportunity to pick this summer popcorn flick to pieces, like a less educated and less eloquent Roger Ebert.  A Roger Ebert that was high on methamphetamines and Cherry Coke.  Yeah, that sounds about right.

I was totally prepared to just lay into this sucker the second time around… however… dang my low expectation monitor, I LIKED IT EVEN BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND.

If you have seen any of the prior films, or saw the trailers for this one, you already know what it is about: kids go to park with real living dinosaurs, the biggest one breaks loose and starts eating people, chaos ensues.  Only this time around, there is a bit more humor, and a bit more attention on the characters themselves.  The biggest charm of JURASSIC PARK was its grounded feel; the characters you saw on-screen seemed like normal people.  That changed some with the next two films, both of which seemed more intent on upping the dinosaur factor and trying to out-do the last.

Have no fear: there is one big, new, badass dino on the loose.  And the special effects here are done convincingly enough.  But it is the almost loving development of every character, and the perfect casting, which steals the show.  Even though sometimes the detail of the sets is more distracting than the dinosaurs are… which gives us a nice segue into the bonus features…

…the first of which is star Chris Pratt (Star Lord) and director Colin Trevorrow “interviewing” each other—pretty cheesy, but Universal more than makes up for it with the second feature, a half-hour “show” that takes you behind the scenes and offers segments on almost every step of the process involved in making this humongous film.  By including interviews with the cast and Steven Spielberg himself, we are treated to certain aspects of filmmaking you don’t normally get to see.  Like what it is like to work with a thousand screaming extras, and how big some of those sets really were.  The studio has done rather well with the special features lately, and here the information is detailed and well worth the watch.

The next Jurassic film is due in less than three years.  The most hopeful thing about the sequel?  Not only will Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard be reprising their roles, but Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly will be back as well.  For the sake of entertainment and a dang good time, let’s hope they keep the momentum going.
Grade: A
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Uh, let’s think about this for a minute… IT’S FRICKING DINOSAURS, OF COURSE IT IS NECESSARY.

-- T.S. Kummelman