Sunday, March 09, 2014

REVIEW: I, Frankenstein (2014)



One of the plot points throughout this movie is a quest for a fabled journal that could spell doom for humanity. The good guys have it, and though it's completely useless to them while the bad guys need it desperately, they decide to do the obviously logical thing: lock it in their vault, instead of, say, burning the damn thing. Which is what they surmize should be done once they lose posession of it. I, Facepalm.

I, Frankenstein is not so much a bad movie as it is disapointing. Even though it's a barely veiled remake of Underwold (both created by mountain-man Kevin Grevioux), the basic premise should've assured it instant awesomness. You have Chis Nolan's Two-Face Aaron Eckhart playing the Frankenstein creature who still lives 200 years later and finds himself at the center of a war between two factions of supernatural warriors. Where can it go wrong??? Everywhere, that's where.

First off it makes it easier to understand why the movie adaptation to teen-lit hit Tomorrow, When the War Began was a complete let down; director Stuart Beattie, who also wrote the script for both films, tried to make them a spectacle but, like the creature, didn't give them a soul. The visuals are interesting and the fight sequences more than adequate, but the tired dialogs and nauseating clichés make it just as empty as the non-stop plot holes.

I did something truly awful... I read the script!

All those things wouldn't be so bad if at least it was fun, an adjective that is resoundly missing from start to finish. Everybody tries like hell to avoid being campy in favor of seriousness, which is the last thing this sad mess needed. If you can't make it good, at least make it enjoyable. But Beattie takes it too seriously and doesn't have the ingredients to deliver that. Instead we get a maelstrom of missed opportunities and microwaved moments that made me pine for someone like Gareth Edwards to cut the fat and give me nothing but a story.

I do however have to give kudos to Aussie bombshell Yvonne Strahovski. After helping make Chuck into a cult show and bringing Dexter back from the abyss of its Colin Hanks storyline, here she completely surpassed herself with a dead-center Kristen Stewart impression, complete with wooden face and absolute lack of interest whatsoever. It might even have been enough to finally have me pay for membership with the Golden Raspberry Foundation so that I can log a vote in her favor.

I, Frankenstein is frankly not as disastrous as other similar genre entries like Stephen Sommers' Van Helsing or Nicholas Cage's post-Las Vegas filmography. But the gargantuan misuse of a great cast and of a promising setting makes it one of the biggest disapointments in recent memory, despite the foreshadowing of it's ominous release date (late January rarely EVER produces good movies).

Final Word: 3.5 out of 10




Thursday, February 27, 2014

First Impressions: Global's REMEDY


If CBS had any sense (and seeing as they promoted Nina Tassler to chairman, well...) they would've given Enrico Colantoni's Person of Interest villain Elias a spin-off of his own so much he made that character rich and irresistible to watch. But while the Eye remains happy with putting him on a few minutes here and there, Global made the smart play of putting their new medical show square on his shoulders.

Remedy, Global's answer to CTV's massively popular Saving Hope (NBC may have dropped it after one season, it's still the most watched Canadian drama) stars the Flashpoint vet as Doctor Conner, the head of a medical family all working in the same hospital (and not all of them voluntarily). Nikita Vets Sarah Allen and Casey Dillon co-star alongside Vampire Diaries alum sara Canning as the Conner siblings, with resident Warehouse 13 psychic Genelle Williams and the always-hilarious Martha Burns on board for the ride.

While 'Hope is a romantic procedural with fantasy undertones, Global's latest offers right off the bat a microcosmic look at social classes and standings still very present today. The Star's Tony Wong compared it to Downton Abbey, which is a pretty accurate analogy; one of the main characters, a resident doctor who boasts of having studied for ten years but has little to show for, faces-off against an orderly who clearly knows more than he lets on but remains mum about it due to his position of a simple porter. I was almost expecting Lady Grantham to drop by with a sick burn.

At the center though, Remedy reminds of a heartfelt Edward Burns movie with its looks at a dysfunctional family that really tries to be the nuclear kind, but seems to fail at every turn. Medical shows might be a dime a dozen, this one stands out with such a heart, and at the center of it an already-strong cast that perfectly juggles dramatic turns with impeccable comedic timing. It's all about family, and this team doesn't need to rely on the tired trick of flashbacks to get you in on the clan's history; their demeanour for one another speaks volume, and rewards us for having tuned it to this little gem.

Unlike for our American neighbours, here mid-season shows usually are just as good if not better than the line-up starters, and Remedy is no exception. The production on the whole season had already wrapped before going on air, which gives the show an air of excited exuberance at pushing forward without constantly cringing at ticker-tape feedback. This one truly deserve the moniker of "original" series, and while it would probably flop belly-up down South, over here it could well be the next big thing.


Remedy airs Mondays at 9pm EST on Global.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Being Human put to rest

"This entire season was, from inception, designed to be the last one. All stories are tied up. This was how we wanted to go," Sam Witwer tweeted yesterday. "Wanted to tell a great story from beginning to end. We didn't want to bleed the concept dry. Believe it or not - artistic decision." We see what you did there, Sam.

The story might not be bled dry, but Syfy soon will at the rate their going. The network announced earlier this week a heartbreaking cancellation for their fantasy drama Being Human, which will bow out of the air entirely this spring and make the current fourth season its last.

SyFy has been litterally cleaning house of their genre shows over the last couple of years, with fan-favorites like Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, Eureka and Alphas having all tasted an early axe while reality series and  competitions keep growing in number and season orders. Laura Vandervoot This latest cancellation though is only a first for the cabler's new chief of programming Bill McGoldrick, who took office 4 months ago.

"Cast and crew have done an amazing job bringing this show to life over the past four seasons and we sincerely thank them and the series," the network said in its press release.  “They’ve saved the best for last with the final six episodes".

The show, filmed entirely in Canada and consistently employing local actors and crew, was based on a British series of the same name which suffered a steady decline in ratings and quality after most of the original cast left the show only 3 seasons in, and ended its run last year after 5.

So how WILL the adventures of Aidan, Josh and Sally end? Tune in for the next 6 weeks as the show airs without further hiatus until it's April 7th finale. Tweets Sam, "Next weeks episode?@MarkRPellegrino called it "The best #BeingHuman episode" he'd seen up til then".

In the mean time, let's go back to square one, shall we?






Monday, February 24, 2014

Heaven just got a little funnier

He was a man never seen without a smile, and seldom around people who could resist smiling back at him. He was among his genration's pioneers in the art of making people laugh, pushed the enveloppe for so many others to express their art free of censorship and marked his time with work that will outlast any of us.

Canadian actor, writer, director and comedian Harold Ramis passed away today, and all of sudden Canada feels a lot more sad to live in. Without him there's no Ghostbusters, Animal House, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Meatballs & Stripes, No movie career for Rodney Dangerfield and no big break for Rick Moranis, John Candy, Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy.

The last 10 or so years were really counter-indicative of the massive contribution and influence he's had, and that infectious smile of his never faded. Heaven will be filled with a lot more laughter now that he's joined too many of his friends, and God forbid Dan Akroyd be taken from us anytime soon.





Saturday, January 04, 2014

REVIEW: Drinking Buddies (2013)


Let's be honest right off the bat: Drinking Buddies is the very definition of an independent movie, from hand-held cam tracking shots to the ass-kicking soundtrack to a set of low-to-no name actors clearly having their own personal little blast. It has NO budget, but most of all, No SCRIPT either. Those who DON'T like dialogue-based character pieces where very little happens while Michael Bay is elsehwere in the Milky Way, will certainly NOT like this one either. Unless you're in it for Olivia WIlde's hotness. Which cranks up to Eleven here as she plays a beer-guzzling, couch-slumping tumboy who happens to be really hot.

The story, so much as there's one, follows BFFs Luke & Kate who work together in -of all places- a brewery. If I may slightly segway here and say that if such a place really exists, where you you can freely "sample" the product strainght from the source, I'll apologize to everyone whom I bragged at for having what I thought was the world's greatest job (I mean I'm paid to watch movies all night long, com'on!). Back to our Brewy Bunch, the pair find each other at a somewhat similar stage of life: she's dating a music producer who wants something more, he's dating a teacher who can't wait to get married. The only sure thing in either's life is their friendship. Or is it?




Beer. It makes a buddy look good.

It's a premise we've seen so many times before -can men and women be best friends without blurring the line- but never get any kind of answer for other than "oh just get it ON already". The interest is thus not in what it has to say so much as HOW it is said. The movie exists for the sole purpose of allowing its players to improvise everything from top to bottom with only an outline of what needs to happen. It makes for a tense viewing because the actors are themselves understandably tense, which in the end becomes the most honest viewer-to-viewee experience you can get from a movie. It doesn't thrill and spill and dazzle, but it makes you honestly feel. Period. Like a reality show, but without the scenario.

Jake Johnson, whom I'll forever refer to as Jealous Jesus thanks to Harold and Kumar, offers a fun, heartfelt lead performance that makes it impossible to not want a friendship of our own with this scruffy dude, despite the Billy Carter cap and attitude. The sheer chemistry he shares onscreen with Wilde, probably due to pressure of having to ad lib everything as they go, makes them both irressitible to watch. The gravy, though, is with support players Ron Livingston and Ann Kendrick whose own awkward moment together makes for one of the more touching scenes of the cinematic year.

Plenty will see in this movie a 90-minute bore that just drags on without intent or purpose. And that's OK. But then again there are those who will see in the exercise an echo of the early 90's indie boom spearheaded by Reservoir Dogs among others, which probably explains why Tarantino pinned it in his 10 Best of '13 list. I'm just sayin. *cough*

One thing above all is clear: it'll make you wanna have a beer.

Final Word: 7.5/10


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

REVIEW: Only God Forgives (2013)

The slogan “art is supposed to make you think” is the doctrine that in part what makes a work of art good or worthwhile is its underlining of some social problem. We are stimulated to think about the problem, to recognize its ubiquity in contemporary society and the harsh effects it has on people. We recognize that some people’s enjoyment is bought at the price of other people’s unmerited suffering. In this lies the emotional experience provoked by the work, an experience involving sympathy for or empathy with others. Perhaps we are, thereby, stimulated to do something about the social problem to which the piece refers.

Such a process is never imbued with attractive values however, and thus to many will appear dull, slow, empty and devoid of an actual story. After all, with distributors charging more than ever a premium for an evening's worth of strong sensory  experiences, shouldn't we be gratified with a few well placed money shots complete with pyrotechnics and some cooler-than-McQueen soundtrack? We have enough depressing matters as it is to deal with in a work week, we deserve an outlet of pure entertainment that won't remind us once again of just how f*cked-up our world has become.

I will not pretend to understand any of the insanity that is Only God Forgives. If Drive was director Refn's answer to The Fast and the Furious, than OGF is an enigmatic response to Tarantino and his revival of the Revenge genre. It is at the core a psychoanalyst's wet dream rolled in Oriental spirituality wrapped around an advisory travelogue. It offers 15-minutes worth of storytelling stretched with non-stop staring contests between the principals (Ryan Gossling has a thouroughly-counted 22 lines in the entire run of the film) and admitedly gorgeous shots of cinematography. And some Inception-inspired baseline music that carries along one imagery within the next. If only someone could expplain to me the deeper implications of Karaoke Night, than I feel my ability to appreciate would greatly improve. Or at least I'd know why I felt it so strangely frightening.

I'm TELLING you, my name is NOT Dinah Lohan!

Gossling, in replacement of original star Luke Evans after that one left, plays the lower end of two drug-smuggling brothers who must satisfy their crime-lord mother's need for retribution when the older sibbling is -quite gruesomly-  dispatched. "He raped and killed a 14 year-old girl" he explains to her as the reasons behind his murder, to which she simply scuffs "He must've had his reasons". Kristin Scott-Thomas, cast spectacularly against type as a Joan Rivers-meets-Nurse Ractched queen of all bitches, walks all over whomever dares try to share her spotlight. As she induces the "Mother" of all Oedipus complexes (she litterally had her son kill his own father...), so does she meet one of the more jaw-dropping ends of all time. Cast as their tormentor, the chill-inducing Vithaya Pansringarm is a name I can't pronounce but will nevertheless keep on my watchlist for sure. He--Friggin-Creeps-Me-Out.

Only God Forgives is an uncomfortable film to watch, with its gory violence and disturbingly slow imagery, but nonetheless a film impossible to dismiss and ignore once viewed. It will no-doubt polarize it's entire audience in complete opposite ends of the appreciation spectrum, and that in itself should be enough to be considered a movie of quality. If not one that can be dubbed "Good".

Final Word: 8.5/10

Saturday, September 29, 2012

REVIEW: Dredd (2012)

Karl Urban called it a few weeks ago, when he told reporters his movie would be an instant cult hit. I wish he hadn't though. If we learned anything from Michael Bay or Summit, it's that moviegoers will more often than not choose bad movies in droves. And this instant cult classic is simply too good to have caught the interest of general audiences. Like Mad Max, Army of Darkness or Serenity before it.

From the opening minutes we are gushingly reminded of similar films that probably inspired the look, style and tone of this one, as well as their more (in)famous scenes. Bad guys mow pedestrians down in a gruesome yet matter of fact way, but the cherry on top is the title character reacting to it by calling for a "recyc" on the bodies. Paul Verhoeven is facing-palming a wish he'd thought of that one... We HAVE seen that future before plenty of times, in various degrees of effectiveness, but that doesn't make the post-apocalyptic Mega City 1 any less impressive and hard hitting.

For newcomers to the 2000 A.D. character AND those who sheepishly think it is but a remake of a Stallone atrocity, the story takes place in a future where most of continental America has been irradiated, and what's left of the population live in megalopolises that span thousands of square miles. The inability to keep such calamities under control has led to the creation of the Judge Corps where individuals are mandated to act as Judge, Jury and Executioner right on the spot. One of the more ruthless of them, the uncompromising Dredd, has to break a new recruit before she is left on her own to patrol the city. Their training day puts them in the cross-hairs of a powerful drug-selling gang whose control of an inner-city tower will prove a sizable challenge for both mentor and trainee.

Toilets of the near-future use a quite minimalist design

In a cinematic landscape where directors -and studios- bet on visuals worth the operations budget of a small country to make their product look much better than it actually is, director Pete Travis dared limit his enterprising sets and effects to a mere $50M, meaning the whole thing rests on the screenwriter and lead actor. Thankfully both were up to the task.

Karl Urban, who in accordance to the source material never once takes off his helmet, contrasts the current superhero trend of making crime fighters brooding, deep and driven by complex emotionalities. His Judge is coiled to the limit with anger and matches it only with his confidence in the rule of law. There's no loved one to avenge, no dead relative that triggers a quest, no need for something bigger and greater; he's the law and he'll kick your ass, period. Urban completely loses himself under the character and lets him do all the talking, in a performance that reminds Hugo Weaving's brilliance in V for Vendetta.

One Batman's trash is another comic book hero's treasure...

Dialogues and exchanges are wisely few and manage to reduce the cringe-inducing one-liners oft associated with the genre. Save for the over-sue of slow-motion that more than once made me wonder if Zach Snyder had commandeered the editing room, the quick-paced and tightly packed proceeding -clocking in at a brisk 85 minutes- makes for one of the more surprising and enjoyable action movies since Fast 5 (YES, I LOVED that one, problem with that?!?) and one who deserved better than the cold shoulder it got from audiences on opening weekend.

Final Word: 8/10

Friday, September 07, 2012

TV REVIEW: Elementary (2012)

Let's the get the obvious question out of the way right from the start: Elementary isn't as good as the BBC's Sherlock. Because NOTHING is. Period. It would be completely unfair to compare the two, seeing the amount of talent and money pooled into the Cumberbach/Freeman version which benefits a 90-minute, 3-outings-a-season formula that easily outshines any 26-episodes US Network show current or past. That being said, it IS nevertheless an interesting show that deserves a chance to prove itself.

Admittedly I was of two minds when reading the initial announcement; a modernized, junky Sherlock roaming the streets of New York sounds great on paper but the choice of Johnny Lee Miller seemed a little too fast-tracked (especially since his last US TV gig gave him the thankless task of succeeding the amazing John Lightgow as Dexter's villain-of-the-season) while other tried-and-tested shows already explored the concept of a 21st Century Holmes; Hugh Laurie's House  and Simon Baker's Mentalist pop to mind. After viewing the recently released Pilot episode, I can't say I'm entirely sold but my former opinion prevailed: a tattooed, 12-stepping lunatic is indeed an excellent transposition of the character into modern times, and given some clever writing could prove to be a serious hit, if not a cult one.

Purists probably won't agree however, since the first major change other than the country is the gender of loyal sidekick Watson. Jane, as she's now known, could only be unfavorably compared to her predecessors had she not been made a lady, here in the guise of TV already-vet Lucy Liu. So far the clichés and pitfalls have been avoided; Liu brings a broken, sensible and surprisingly smart ex-surgeon who now serves as a hired nanny for the recovering sleuth. Thankfully there's no trace of a possible will-they/won't-they rapport, and Liu genuinely brings something fresh to a character that's been portrayed every-which way for decades. Rounding out the cast is one Aidan Quinn, who's in his 12th year of seeking his second wind on TV, playing a generic cop who plot-devices Holmes into investigating cases for the NYPD.

If the pilot's storyline is any indication, Elementary will be following its own independent plots with little to no reference in the general direction of the source material's supporting characters and lieux. The gamble would be promising as a cable-show format of 10-to-12 episodes a season, but here might prove to quickly run out of steam and originality in the hands of a broadcast network. Hopefully the emphasis will be to study the characters and their interrelations as opposed to trying for a new and clever Shyama-twist every week.  The one thing that can help make or break a new show, a recognizable score and title sequence, is so far unaccounted for, which adds to my desire to find out more. Not a hit in any sense as it is right now, but with the right touch could definitely become the welcome winner of an otherwise-bland vista of fall-TV start-ups.

Overall decent intro for a new show, but a long way to go before it gets the bona-fide thumbs up.





Thursday, August 23, 2012

Darth Schwarzenegger

That thing's been been a sure-fire picker-upper of mine for almost 2 years now, about time I help spread the word. Very well edited, extremely clever choice of sound bites, overall pee-in-my-pants funny.

So here y'all are, enjoy!


TV REVIEW: Bullet in the Face (2012)

It's been a week now since IFC aired over two night the entire 6 episodes of their latest original TV show, and I still can't decide if it's brilliantly insane or just a spectacular misfire. Series director Erik Canuel is known, at least here in Canada, as a guy who tries to make both the audience and financial backers happy, pretends to be edgy but delivers pre-cooked, unoriginal content that barely takes a chance. On the other hand, he works of the writings of Alan Spencer, the off-the-wall mind behind cult classic, ultra-violent fan favorite 80s show Sledge Hammer. So what the heck DID I just watch?

In an undisclosed country's fictional metropolis or Brũteville, the only thing thicker than the permanent smog is the crime rate that turned the city into a war zone. Pigeons gets shot randomly mid-flight, jewellery stores are operator by ex-mossad agents and criminals are as ruthless as they are clueless. When the bloodiest of them, Gunter Vogler, gets shot in the face by his lover during a botched robbery, he is secretly transplanted with the face of a glorified cop he killed. The reason behind such a move, ordered by a lady police commissioner with ballpark-size daddy issues, is to fight evil with evil, pit Vogler against the two crime Lords who control the city.

If the plot makes little sense, worry not, it matters even less. Very quickly the characters, straight out of some Frank Miller nightmare, themselves highjack this series with twists and turns that feels like All My Children as written by Marilyn Manson. A lot of it is funny if only because it's much too insane to be properly criticized. And because Eric Roberts, for once, didn't take himself seriously either and is actually, absolutely funny. And a great contrast to series star Max Williams who perfected an impression of Robin Williams on a cocaine rampage.

Most of the targets from this satire are quite deserving but also way too easy and even uncomfortably NOT subtle, like the compulsive gamer kid hooked on energy drinks who goes out and shoots people for real; Colorado movie theater, anyone?  But then comes along Eddie Izzard who steals the show six ways till Sunday with an hilarious delivery rivaled only by some of the best lines I've heard on TV. Examples:

-We could name our child FIRE! and create mass panic whenever we call his name!

"You think you're GOD!" 
"No! HE thinks he's ME!"

-"Are you busy?"
"I'm in the middle of a woman!"  

-I don't want to live the rest of my life with a face I don't recognize. I'm not Mickey Rourke.


IFC probably didn't put much stock or faith in the series seeing as they dumped the whole of it on two subsequent nights. Yet I can't help but wonder the reaction generated had it been shown on HBO. It would have certainly caused some wildly divergent opinions, but what would the final word be - brilliant or just another sell-out attempt at attracting a hard-edge crowd?





REVIEW: The Expendables 2

The good news here is this one has an actual director, no offense to Sly who's marketed an entire career out of writing ONE decent screenplay which dumbfounded its way to an Oscar win almost 40 years ago. The bad news: that director is Simon West. As in the guy who got relegated to directing TV shows for 10 years after that painful Lara Croft movie. He returned to feature films last year for Jason Statham's Nth generic action flick The Mechanic (do yourself a favor and watch the generic Charles Bronson original instead), and has another movie coming out this year, a generic Nic Cage piece of shit action thriller. Good to know that some things will never change.

The original was flawed, but it was fun and it was made to please the fans; take a bunch of stretch-faced, steroided geezers from the 80s, add some wrestling goons trying to leave the ring behind, sprinkle two current action stars and an NFL retiree and top it off with the mob boss from one of the 3 highest grossing films of all time. Oh, and throw in one of Dexter Morgan's pals for good measure. Lots of big guns, outdo Michael Bay on the explosion count, some cool bikes and tattoos and you got yourself an entertaining -if brainless- crowd pleaser. Why not stop at one? Because there's money to be made that's why. I mean after all, Tony Scott (rest his soul) was on the verge of unleashing a second Top Gun, 25 years later.

30 years ago, cause for a global nerdgasm. Today, cautionary tale about quitting while you're ahead.

And like the aforementioned brain candy, this one throws logic out the windows in order to make room for spacious egos. In a way it feels like a 90-minute commercial, a montage of money shots aimed at making the 50+ crowd get up their fattening arses and go out to and buy some Viagra and other over-the-hill helpers. Heck, you even have a slow-mo shot of 72 year-old Chuck Norris walking out of some heavy smoke and badassingly taking off his Rayban sunglasses. You got Jean-Claude Van Damme performing random gratuitious roundhouse kicks to show-off his shiny Airwalk boots and Colgate smile. You got Bruce Willis and The Governator making fun of each other's 80s catchphrases while riding indoors in a brand spanking new zero-emission, noiseless electric car. You got the Stat dressed as a monk throwing some badass Henckels Five Star 8-inch kitchen knives to singlehandedly take down 12 bad guys. You got one-liners flying by so fast you don't even have time to register what's being sold to you. And somewhere in there you got a storyline. Something about revenge for Thor's little brother from Hunger Games getting killed. In some unidentified east-European area. Oh, and plutonium. Darn that stuff!

Chuck Norris Fact: If u drop a penny off the roof of the empire state building and hit Chuck Norris in the head it will ricochet off, kill u and hunt down your family.

To be perfectly fair, if you wanted more of the original (as in first one, not that is was original) you'll be quite satisfied with this sequel. If you thought beforehand they should've left it at just the one goofy, testosterone-sprayed entry, you'll feel vindicated. Personally I was entertained but strongly feel it must've felt much funnier and cooler in discussion stage with a few brewskys in the belly than it came out on screen. I also maintain Sly should lay off the juice and leave the boom toys to younger boys from now on; you had your comeback and your trip down memory lane, now go the Eastwood way and do good movies if you really must do some more.

Final Word: 5.5/10

Friday, August 17, 2012

There IS a God: Bill & Ted 3 is almost a reality!

I KNOW these films are exacerbatingly idiotic, AND the second one would be dead boring if it wasn't for, er... "Death", as played by the insanely awesome William Saddler. BUT I just cant help my unconditional love for Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure!

Reeves mentioned casually, 2 or 3 years ago, that he'd love to revisit these characters in their forties and show them depressed, struggling to becoming the world saviors everyone was expecting them to be. Everyone had a good laugh at that but never expected it to actually happen. And then it did...

The guys not only have original creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson penned the script (which was recently reported to be complete) but BOTH stars are locked and perfectly willing, and now they got themselved a director attached. Galaxy Quest handler Dead Parisot (haven't done much since that, but I loved it SO much I'm still giddy as a dog in front of the fire hydrants store). 

This....is... GONNA ROCK!!!

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