Saturday, August 25, 2012

PARANORMAN - the new goth

Lovers of Coraline will enjoy this second stop motion attempt, ParaNorman, by the same producers. Its creepy cute with some clever homages thrown in for good measure. 

To be honest, I didn't really care all that much for Coraline, but I know the vast majority of critics raved about it as well as its many fans. I guess it just didn't strike a chord with me. ParaNorman was slightly more enjoyable but only slightly so. These two movies feel like a reinvention of Tim Burton's goth style, only the characters and sets are far more grotesque and ugly in many cases. I have no good reason for not liking these movies, I just don't care for the pacing, vibe and various other attributes of them. 

As I have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of stop motion. I have seen the first uses of this interesting art form since the late 19th century to King Kong to Ray Harryhausen all the way to Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit masterpieces. The stop motion revealed to us in these two films is no doubt as incredible as the films that led to the current technology. 

You most likely will enjoy ParaNorman as will your kids, if you have them. It might as well be an animated version of the 6th Sense, so if you liked that, give this a shot. The final sequence is breathtaking.

Recommended Viewing: The Curse Of The Were Rabbit - Jason And The Argonauts - Vincent

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 7.5   -   The Fan: 7.0
             MetaCritic: 73
 Rotten Tomatoes: 87
                    IMDB: 7.6

PREMIUM RUSH - gleaming the block

I went to the movies today and purchased some popcorn, a corn dog, some delicious kettle corn, a small packet of candy corn, an ear of fresh corn on the cob, a coke loaded with corn syrup, a side of steamed corn, and topped it all off with lots more corn, corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn.

It's movies like this that cause me to question Ebert's current mental prowess. (he gave the film 3 and 1/2 stars) I can see some actually enjoying this bizarre "action" movie for it's unique brand of stellar badness. Even IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes are showing love so I guess I'm missing something here. A movie for young teens maybe? I guess it's so cool to ride a bike through NYC with no brakes to deliver messages for $30 bucks a pop, nearly killing yourself and others every few seconds. Maybe this is the most stupid dangerous job in existence.

Recommended Viewing: Gleaming The Cube - Remote - Lucas

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 4.5   -   The Fan: 4.0
             MetaCritic: 69
 Rotten Tomatoes: 75
                    IMDB: 6.8

Saturday, August 18, 2012

THE EXPENDABLES 2 - testosterone squared

Most guys, I would dare to assume, have some inner desire to blow shit up, be the biggest badass on the block, have the greatest stature with the biggest muscles, the balls to go headfirst into ultra dangerous situations with giddy composure, and all the while destroy, wreak havoc and kill everything in sight. We all have fightin genes. The Expendables sequel fulfills those impulses to become an uber manly man man man. 

This is a movie you have to be older to enjoy. You have to go in with a load (about 30 years) of previous action movie experiences to get the full benefit. It requires a certain amount of fanboy love and childhood awe for maximum enjoyment. 

The whole film, I could barely help myself from conjuring a smile because seeing all these great ole action stars together in one place brings with it, much humor and nostalgia. I was not expecting a very good film overall - I did not care for the first one - but I ended up enjoying this one. It's still not a very good movie; many times the script is piss poor juxtaposed to a weak linear storyline but who cares, I guess, you get to see Chuck Norris sniping bad guys from afar while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis are spinning out of control in a tiny Euro car unloading giant,  deafening machine guns on dozens of inferior minions all the while Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Cluade Van Damme have an epic fight scene to the death!!! At points I felt that these guys were so jacked and full of steroids that even their facial muscles had muscles which affected their talking ability. This movie is a pipe dream for guys with one female thrown in for good measure. You will get plenty of vintage one liners, lots of bloody, ridiculous action stunts and a virtual panoply of forgotten greats.

Recommended Viewing: Die Hard - Rambo - Rocky IV - The Terminator - Bloodsport - Delta Force

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.2   -   Subjective: 7.8
             MetaCritic: 54
 Rotten Tomatoes: 64
                    IMDB: 8.0

Saturday, August 11, 2012

THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES - idols for idiots

The Queen of Versailles is the kind of documentary that comes about by chance and good fortune, on the behalf of the filmmakers, at the expense of it's subjects. This absurd tale was fascinating. In the words of the "king" - a riches to rags story. 

The film documents one of the wealthiest business men and his resulting family, lounging about in Orlando, Florida. David Siegel started small; in the early eighties he was introduced to the concept of time-shares and the world has never been the same - literally. He is the considered the world leader of the time-share enterprise with 28 resorts to his company name, Westgate. He also admits in the film that he alone enabled Bush to become president but that he could not say why because it was probably illegal!! What kind of idiot says this on camera!

I really hate reality shows; this movie kind of feels like one, only the people aren't acting - they are true to life bumbling pea brains. I am being harsh but let me explain. I don't think David is dumb, but is clearly just a work obsessed individual who has seemingly lost touch with reality to some extent. His wife, Jackie, the buxom buxom queen, was apparently an engineer (what the hell kind?) in her younger days who went on to become Miss Florida and a model of some kind.  She subsequently left her brains somewhere in between. Really though, she became victim to her own beauty (cough) and resulting nuptual wealth - not needing to care or worry about anything other than how many purses you own undoubtedly would cause your cerebral function to dwindle. Unfortunately their eight children also suffer from blatant poor relationships and proper life education. 

There is a lot to say and digest from this film. The American Dream realized to it's utter limits is no walk in the park - not that I feel bad for them, but being loaded, at least in this family unit, does not seem very fun at all. The filmmaker caught some excellent real moments that contained a certain verisimilitude that could hardly be easily faked. It's awfully interesting to see what wealth can do to people and also sit back to laugh your head off in bleedin amazement at the words that come out of the mouths of these fellow apes and the ridiculous mental feats performed and acted upon. I won't give any specifics away, but yes, these are actual homo sapiens, that yes, have way too much money and not enough wit to know what to do with it. Frankly Disgusting.

Recommended Viewing: The Up Series - Crumb - Capturing The Friedmans

              Bob Scale: Objective: 8.5   -   Subjective: 9.2
             MetaCritic: 80
 Rotten Tomatoes: 94
                    IMDB: 5.1

HOPE SPRINGS - love in the late afternoon

Ahhh, Hope Springs. Sounds like another boring, geriatric romance that also contains a young couple in love so the demographic is widened. But noooo, this was actually a smart, realistic portrayal of two older people that have fallen out of love and don't want to talk about it. 

At moments, the movie feels slightly provincial in view. The great Meryl Streep, at points may even overplay the dim, simple American housewife and Tommy Lee Jones may at times overplay the grumpy curmudgeon. I really don't care. The acting from them blew me away; I was shocked by how emotional I became and how much I cared about these two elderlies love life. The movie becomes magic in the marriage counselor's (Steve Carell) office. The frank sex talk is humorous but so much more affecting because of the frankness and awkwardness that comes about. 

This is a no-frills film. It should be. It doesn't get into all the possible complex problems that could have arisen over the years between the two people. Hope Springs has a straightforward and universal story to tell and it does so with extraordinary simplicity and poignancy - how could you not be taken in by it's spell? Oscar worthy?

Recommended Viewing: Defending Your Life - Silkwood - Coal Miner's Daughter

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.5   -   Subjective: 7.4
             MetaCritic: 67
 Rotten Tomatoes: 74
                    IMDB: 6.6

THE BOURNE LEGACY - treadstone can eat my shorts

I must say, I'm a fan of the Bourne series. The first one was a solid action movie from the under appreciated Doug Liman; the following two crafted by the phenomenal Paul Greengrass are nothing short of fantastic via the greatest authority on shaky cam. The new Bourne, directed by Tony Gilroy and acted to perfection by Jeremy Renner was my favorite one yet. 

Some may watch this film and be disappointed. There is not as much action and the pacing is slower than the previous films. That, though, is generally characteristic of good cinema. The action sequences and frantic gun battles are absolutely enthralling because the film took ample time letting us get to know the the characters and didn't bombard us with unnecessary fight scenes and what have you. Therefore, when the action does take place you become transported into the scene and are riveted.

I haven't read the Robert Ludlum novels but numerous sources have told me that these films are the very rare instances when the movies are equal to, if not better than the books. I don't believe such contrasts should be drawn, but alas, they will always be inevitable. They are two different mediums and art forms - books and movies - their merit should be judged within their own form. Anyway, you will get probably the best action movie of the year, fantastic, cryptic dialogue, disturbingly real fight scenes, cool new science initiatives in super soldier pharmacology, and no nicely wrapped up ending - there has to be a sequel coming! 

Recommended Viewing: The Bourne Trilogy - Go - United 93

              Bob Scale: Objective: 8.5   -   Subjective: 9.0
             MetaCritic: 61
 Rotten Tomatoes: 53
                    IMDB: 7.6

Friday, August 10, 2012

THE CAMPAIGN - a vulgar election

Bah! Jay Roach has directed a number of decent comedies like Meet the Parents and the Austin Powers trilogy; he has also directed two very good TV dramas of late - Game Change and Recount. The Campaign, no doubt, is a raunchy, satirical ode to the current state of affairs in this country and a spoof off his last two political movies. Was it very good though? No, not really.

Roach has proven, at least to me, that he can dramatize current bizarre and shady political schemes in a way that contains as much veracity as possible without feeling too heavy handed - a bit like what JFK was for Oliver Stone. You may not agree with the artistic license taken at all points but somehow the direction conveys what most people feel about how the events probably took place. His representation of Sarah Palin in Game Change seemed fair and incredible as was his telling of the Gore/Bush voting booth craziness in Recount

The Campaign, however, was juvenile and hackneyed in the extreme. Corporations are bad. Capitalism is bad. Money is bad. There are some funny jokes, but most of them you feel like an idiot for laughing at, or worse, you begin to conjure a laugh and then you choke mid way through because whatever is said is not really even that amusing. A typical day out with Will Ferrell - gross out humor and peculiar sentences instead of wit and subtlety. Roach should stick to TV drama and stay away from puerile farce. Bah!

Recommended Viewing: The Great McGinty - Election - Wag The Dog

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.0   -   Subjective: 6.5
             MetaCritic: 63
 Rotten Tomatoes: 66
                    IMDB: 6.2

Sunday, August 5, 2012

TOTAL RECALL - indelible no, pleasing yes

I wandered into the theater anticipating this movie to be another bland science fiction remake. Did we really need another Total Recall so soon? I found Paul Verhoeven's version of Philip K Dick's short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, to be utterly riveting. Arnold Schwarzenegger  on Mars, sidekicked by Sharon Stone, from the director of Robocop and Showgirls - what more could you ask for? High camp with splendiferous special effects and stellar non stop gruesome action. A deep love and affection - I still - have for this film. The new version, entirely different in story and style, was... remarkably enjoyable.    

First off, the science fiction. Numerous instances of rather ingenious practical devices such as the hand implanted cell phone, were commonplace. As cool as that is, with translucent phone station walls non the less, they still made the harborer of such a device put it up to their ear. You would think our future would contain the technology to implant a phone in your palm and cleverly devise the receiver in an unnoticeable cochlear implant! Oh well. The characters still wear watches 100 years in the future too, I guess. The magnetic levitating cars were awesome, I thought, but still no autonomy? One other cool device was the gun shot load of little robot camera eyeballs that transferred data back to the receiver - very nifty indeed. The drones seemed rather realistic, still a bit inept as functioning machines but powerful and capable. Furnished by humans, though? I think not. Robots of the future will surely build themselves. As for the tunnel through the Earth from Great Britain to Australia - I would do well to guess this will never be possible - the Earth just gets too bloody hot nearer we get to the center. Guns haven't changed, except for design, and body armor hasn't either for that matter. Two things I imagine will be vastly different in 100 years. The 3D head changing device is maybe possible but rather unlikely to fool anyone in reality. As for Recall itself, we have just begun to map the human mind with all it's 100 trillion cells and therefore are quite a ways from being able to implant false memories. Will this be possible ever? It seems to me via current scientific breakthroughs every single week that yes, maybe some form of brian wave alteration may become reality. If you don't believe me just hop on over to and just look over the last month worth of blog entries (all of which come from reputable sources of science discovery like Nature and so forth). In the last two weeks alone we have developed the lightest material on Earth called aerographite, have found an exoplanet that seems to be habitable and most similar to Earth, sequenced the genome of human sperm and have mapped the entire mouse brain! Enough with the gadgets already. Take heed, the next two years are going to be chalk full of sci-fi movies!

Colin Farrell is no Arnold but this was not an Arnold type of movie per se. This, essentially, was a chase film with characters always running to places you know they shouldn't go because someone will soon be after them. But of course they had to anyway. The action is almost non stop, but somehow, via the editing and direction, the pacing felt right. A movie dealing with the reality of ones mind is bound to be incomprehensible but I felt Total Recall did a decent job of keeping us informed of the plot without being too too expository and too over complicated. Generally speaking, a proper sci-fi movie and yes - Jessica Biel wasn't atrocious, Kate Beckinsale was kick ass awesome, Bill Nighy was hardly noticeable (unfortunately), Bryan Cranston was an apt mastermind and, of course, the female creature with three tits was present. 

Recommended Viewing: Total Recall (1990) - Minority Report - A Scanner Darkly

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.5   -   Subjective: 7.4
             MetaCritic: 44
 Rotten Tomatoes: 31
                    IMDB: 6.4