Thursday, August 09, 2018

The Math of Copyright

Worth reposting!

Next time anyone argues that file sharing is to blame for the downfall of capitalist economies, send them to this 5-minute talk by comedic author Rob Reid on the absurdity of the entertainment industry's crusade.

Thanks to klb9037 for the find

Monday, July 09, 2018

REVIEW: Ant-Man & the Wasp (2018)

Let's make one thing straight right off the needle: if you didn't like the first Ant-Man film, no need to state the obvious about this one. But if so, why are you even reading this? It's a Marvel Studios movie, so of course it follows the MCU recipe for big-screen popcorn munching success. Yes, all their movies slightly try to be their own thing -and on that point I'll stare-contest to death anyone who disagrees that Ragnaork and Iron Man 3 are the best of the lot because they stray more- but they all follow the same guidelines. Unlikely hero rising, plenty of funny banter, a generous splash of CGI, breeze-light tone and a cardboard cutout vilain.

The story picks-up roughly two years after the events of Civil War, where SPOILER ALERT diminutive smartmouth Scott Lang joined the now-outlaw Captain America and fought a losing battle against Tony Stark's Avengers. As explained in one of those condescending plot-exposition speeches, both to a character and to the audience, the American & German governments reached a deal to have Scott extradited back home under house arrest and probation for two years. Meanwhile his wanted “accomplices”, Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne, are working to figure out if Janet Van Dyne is still alive in the microverse (Miniverse? Teenyverse?). Three days before Lang goes “Scott” free, he receives a mysterious message from the stranded lady, and therefore again joins less-than-happy-about-it father & daughter to try and bring back mommy. Standing in their way is a tech-dealing gangster who looks, talks and acts a lot like Raylan Givens' best frenemy Boyd Crowder, and a masked figure who can walk through walls thus gets obviously nicknamed Ghost.

Little attention is paid to the story, to be honest, and that as much by the viewer than the writers. Plotholes are sometimes so large you could drive a van into them without even shringking it, as long as the van is from Hyundai who clearly paid sponsorship fees through the nostrils. But you barely really notice or care because it allows for a brisk and very well sustained pace, one that may take a little while to take off but thereafter never sets down. And isn't that what going to the movies is all about? If you're gonna pay seventeen bucks to sit for two hours in a cold dark room with smelly strangers, you better have tons of stress-free, unrelenting fun!

Introducing: ANTonio Banderas!

Like almost always in contemporary big spectacle movies, what attention is taken from the story goes to the visuals. With CGI as advanced as it now is, the wow factor from the days of Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park is long-gone, so effects need to be not just realistic but very clever and inventive. Luckily the gimmick of shrinking tech is a perfect playground for animators, and offers chase and fight scenes that for once don't feel like you've seen them all a thousand times before. If Richard Donner's Superman made you believe a man can fly, Peyton Reed's team will make you wish you too could road-rage some shrinking powers into an SUV full of large a-holes.

On the other hand charcters suffer badly in their development. Kudos to the actors for finding ways to remain interesting to watch because they're being given very little to work with. Starting with the vilains, an aspect with which the studio is still struggling since the original Iron man. Hannah John-Lamen may be the breakout star of 2018 (this year alone she was also in Tomb Raider and Ready Player One whle still headlining SYFY's hit show Killjoys) she's given next to nothing after all the fight scenes are done. Her character Ghost is left with a 3-minute bad-guy monologue to explain her backstory, movitation, intentions and state of mind all wrapped in one lazy package. Walton Goggins is spared such a thing but feels like every baddy he's played since Justified, while Morphe.. I mean Laurence Fishburne's appearance should rank just a smidge above cameo.

Unsurprisingly though, two actors manage to pull the right cards and rise above the rest. Paul Rudd, the man who just won't age, plays such a likeable anti-hero that you want to be his little girl and play-pretend a robbery with him. Even though the two films are named after his character, this is much more the Wasp's movie where Scott is relegated to being her comic relief, yet never do we feel Rudd using that as an excuse to phone it in like many a lesser actor would have. But mostly, Michael Pena once again steals the show with the over-caffeinated Luis, who's story-telling skills are cranked up to eleven.

Whaddaya mean not "that" kinda dump truck?!?

Ant-Man & the Wasp will not win over anyone already indifferent to the MCU, nor those afflicted with superhero fatigue after the veritable assault of the genre over the last 10 years. But then again critics have been predicting such a disease since Joel Schumacher swamped the Bat-franchise, and those who still queue for the next Marvel entry wil certainly not miss their money. It has plenty of flaws and fails to avoid predictability at every turn, but damn it if I won't go see it again before it leaves the marquee.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

REVIEW: Chef (2014)

Who says a movie needs to be dark and edgy, filled with conflict, heartbreak and drama, to be taken seriously? Sure those can be quite the brain food and a good watch as well (Chris Nolan's filmography comes to mind) but can't a heartfelt uplifting movie with nothing nasty to say reach a spot on the same shelf? Although truth be told, one could read a bird being defiantly flipped between the lines of this feel-good food fest.

High-end chef Carl Casper, divorced without knowing why from a woman he still loves and father to a son he can't find time to raise, comes up to an important milestone in his career: the restaurant he works for will be reviewed by the Nikki Finke of Food named, curiously enough "Ramsey" (a slimmed-fast Oliver Platt) . Being torn apart by words is only the beginning of his end: next he'll discover Twitter, and take his meltdown viral. Now out of a job and unemployable, he finds himself at the bottom with only one way to go: across the country in a foodtruck with his most loyal friend (John Leguizamo), a son he can finally get to know, and a new appreciation of himself.

One thing can't be denied to Jon Favreau for this personal endeavour of his: he mightily challenges Box-Office mammoth Guardians of the Galaxy for best soundtrack of the year.  The Cuban-laced rythms, perfectly fitting co-star Sophia Vergara as the Jimminy Cricket of this tale, carries the tone with a fresh optimism too seldom showcased in a  year so dark at the movies that even goofy lovable nightfuryToothless was turned into a mindless killer. Tito Puente and his contemporaries infuse this movie with such delight that Marvin Gaye might find eternal peace in knowing that someone managed to make an incredibly engaging cover of Sexual Healing.

"Why the f**k are they all pouring ice on themselves? Aren't we in a  serious drought???"

Favreau doesn't shy away from how personal this project is to him, surrounding himself with people he truly wants in his movie and vice versa, even if it means a 90 seconds-only presence for Rob Downey who, let's face it, could in such a short appearance school any given Oscar winner of the last 20 years. Even John Leguizamo, the king of playing it over the top, has the good sense to be a truly supporting actor in a performance that made me forgive him for One For the Money, while ScarJo herself plays... well ScarJo, and why shouldn't she for the man who made her into a powerhouse ass-kicker!

The only thing better than the cast is the food, ever present and so perversive the droll each side of my mouth made my own culinary talents recoil in jealousy. Honestly, weight watchers, stay away. Case in point: Favreau's girth. You KNOW the guy "practiced" a lot before filming...

So what's this about the director flipping the bird? Well... the film concerns Jon Favreau's character who, after being hailed in his debut for his independence and spirit (Swingers, Made), reaches the big time with a splash (Iron Man) but then succombs to corporate droneship which gets him shredded by haters and vitriolic critics (Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens). So he goes back to his smaller, personal roots to do something for himself, something that truly makes HIM happy (this movie). Success of which re-opens the door for bigger yet still-personal projects (The Jungle Book).

"No, Porthos was just a character I played. I wasn't really friends with Charlie Sheen."

Just take that one scene where Carl goes publicly berserk on the mega-critic; "It hurts" the man keeps yelling to his tormentor, as if to remind everyone who turned on him that he made the movie which Marvel built their cinematic empire on (not to mention he had to fight tooth and nails for Downey to be Tony Stark, one of the greater casting decisions of modern cinema).

That being said, seekers of low-brow, high octane entertainment will surely find a bore in this effort from Favreau, but even the most casual viewer won't resist the salsa being served on a smiling platter, both musically and mouth-wateringly. If it doesn't boast an original plotline, at least it serves a full order of sincere hope and optimism, something much needed right now amidst the darkness rapidly covering our entire world.

Final Word: 4 out of 5 Stars

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