Film Review: Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (2013)

Release Date: April 10th, 2013 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: James Nguyen
Written by: James Nguyen
Music by: Michael Gordon Shapiro
Cast: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Patsy van Ettinger, Thomas Favaloro, Chelsea Turnbo, Brittany N. Pierce, Thuan Luu, Aaron Pressburg, Sam Hyde

Moviehead Pictures, I Got A Fish Productions, Chill, 79 Minutes

Review:

“Squaaah! Squaaah! Squaaah!” – every bird in the movie

This movie shouldn’t have been made once, let alone twice.

Seriously, this was fucking terrible with a capital FUCKING TERRIBLE.

I don’t mind the cast though. They seem like nice people having fun making these shitty ripoffs of The Birds, which are littered with environmental nonsense, alarmism and misinformation to the point that I can’t believe that the director is remotely serious about it. But then I’ve watched his interviews… he’s totally serious.

Anyway, the plot is even crazier than the first movie. Somehow it rains blood on the La Brea Tar Pits and prehistoric birds come flying out of the muck. Then there are other creatures effected too and we even get scenes featuring human zombies and killer cavemen. This tapestry of terrible bullshit makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There is a sequence where a woman is attacked by a CGI jellyfish that is very pixelated. It’s one of the most bizarre and baffling sequences I have ever seen on film. And then when the girl emerges from the water, she is covered in blood all over her body. How in the fuck can a jelly fish do that? Seriously? The director needs to watch a friggin’ Nat Geo documentary about jellyfish or hell… birds. While we’re at it, he should probably also watch ones on global warming, the environment and just general science.

The acting is beyond atrocious, the directing is completely nonexistent but we do get to see some nice boobies and horrendous dancing from uncoordinated white people.

I watched this alone in my room but the film made me feel awkward. Like people were looking down at me from Heaven, judging me for wasting my time on this. I could hear my dead relatives going, “There he is, just wasting away in his room spending 79 minutes on this garbage when he could be bettering himself somehow or making sandwiches for starving hobos.”

This movie is a blight on humanity. It’s easily one of the worst things ever filmed and I feel bad for the actors that came back to do this a second time. Like did their hours get cut at Starbucks? Because they certainly didn’t make more money doing this than working the Thursday morning shift.

Rating: 1.25/10
Pairs well with: Birdemic and really nothing else.

 

Film Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Release Date: October 22nd, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Christopher Yost, Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus, Don Payne, Robert Rodat
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Zachary Levi, Alice Krige, Chris O’Dowd, Benicio del Toro (cameo), Chris Evans (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I will tell Father you died with honor.” – Thor, “I didn’t do it for him.” – Loki

Unlike the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I have revisited lately, Thor: The Dark World wasn’t as good as my memories of it.

I do remember being pretty fond of it when it came out but it just doesn’t seem to fit well within the overall MCU when you take what came after it into context. Sure, it gives us the red Infinity Stone but not much else here is all that important. But I guess seeing Thor and Loki play off of one another is always, at the very least, amusing.

In the end, this is the worst of the three Thor movies. But it is not all that bad. It’s certainly better than The Incredible Hulk and Avengers: The Age of Ultron. It’s just a film that wasn’t all that necessary. The relationship between Thor and Jane doesn’t matter after this movie, the secondary characters are sort of forgotten except for Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), who at least makes one more appearance.

This was just a movie where no one really seemed to be all that into it except for the actors playing Asgardians. Hemsworth was great as Thor, Hiddleston is perfection as Loki and Odin is a commanding Odin. Natalie Portman obviously didn’t want to be in this and acted as such. Christopher Eccleston, who I was excited about seeing as the villain, just dialed in his performance and is one of the most forgettable MCU villains to date.

The film was dry, mostly boring and even the fantasy worlds that they traveled to weren’t very imaginative or fun. Other than Asgard, all the other realms in this just looked as bland, dry and awful as a sand sandwich.

The Earth stuff was all overcast and rainy. I know that this takes place in London but c’mon… the magical realms were dark desert; Earth was grey industrial wetness. This isn’t an exciting film to look at.

While I guess it was about time for Marvel to introduce the Infinity Stones (or at least more than one), there are better ways this could have been done. Sure, I wanted a second Thor movie and it would have been a good place to bring in a new Stone but the execution here was lackluster. This whole thing should have been rewritten.

For a film about traversing through magical realms, outer space and battling fantastical shit, Thor: The Dark World felt very small and confined.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: ThorThe Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok

Film Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Also known as: Iron Man Three (original title), Caged Heat (fake working title)
Release Date: April 12th, 2013 (Munich premiere)
Directed by: Shane Black
Written by: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany (voice), Ty Simpkins, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Dale Dickey, Corey Hawkins, Mark Ruffalo (cameo), Bill Maher (cameo), Joan Rivers (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney, 130 Minutes

Review:

“A true story about fortune cookies. They look Chinese. They sound… Chinese. But they’re actually an American invention. Which is why they’re hollow, full of lies, and leave a bad taste in the mouth.” – The Mandarin

Iron Man 3 is the third and final Iron Man movie. Granted, one could make the argument that Captain America: Civil War is also Iron Man 4. And he does continue to appear in other films that are a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. But this is the last true solo Iron Man picture.

This is also the first film in the Iron Man pocket of the MCU to not be directed by Jon Favreau. Although, he does still appear on screen as his character Happy Hogan. He would also appear after this film too.

This chapter mostly deals with Tony Stark having to deal with his past demons and facing the consequences of certain decisions he made long before he was Iron Man. Also, it deals with anxiety and PTSD, brought on by Tony’s involvement in the big battle at the end of The Avengers. It takes these things pretty seriously and doesn’t pussyfoot around them. Tony Stark is very troubled and even though he’s matured and grown as a person, the past is still there to haunt him and stand in his way where he needs to move forward.

Sure, Tony’s personality and snarky sense of humor is still very present but you now start to see it as more of a defense mechanism against his own fears and insecurities. You also get to see him come out of his shell and embrace those he truly cares for: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan and the young kid that becomes his sidekick in this film. Tony’s personal defense is let down and he stops trying to be the coolest guy in the room and shows the world that he’s a human being and not just some super powerful godlike figure.

This is the most personal Iron Man story and it succeeds because it doesn’t show Tony bullshitting his way through every situation. For one, he can’t bullshit his way out of this. Two, he’s exhausted and emotional like he never has been before. Three, the stakes have never been higher and he’s never been challenged to the core like he is here.

The film is pretty well written in regards to Tony Stark the character.

Some of the other writing is a bit shaky, especially in regards to the handling of the villain, The Mandarin. However, even though I was originally annoyed by how this part of the movie played out, it really doesn’t matter to the bigger scheme of the picture’s narrative.

A real threat existed, regardless. That threat had to be neutralized. But being a big fan of the comic and awaiting the eventual arrival of the Mandarin on the big screen, it was a real disappointment when the character’s true identity was revealed.

Granted, I still loved Ben Kingsley’s performance on both sides of the Mandarin’s coin. His comedic charm makes up for the shocking twist to some degree. And in retrospect, I enjoy it much more, five years removed from my first time seeing this movie.

I generally like Guy Pearce and was excited to see him in this but as the villain, he was pretty vanilla. He had a cool backstory and they tried to humanize him but it ultimately didn’t work out and he wasn’t as tragic of a figure as he could have been.

Another positive though, is that we get to see Tony Stark duke it out with bad guys without the advantages of having his full armor suit. I liked this approach, it showed Tony as truly heroic and not a guy hiding behind his gadgets. It showed his intelligence, his creativity and his ability to persevere when the deck is stacked against him.

Iron Man 3 is a better movie than what a lot of its detractors would have you think and when this came out, the naysayers took to the Internet in droves. I think it also plays better know within the context of the larger MCU.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Iron ManIron Man 2The AvengersCaptain America: Civil War.

TV Review: Orange Is the New Black (2013- )

Release Date: July 11th, 2013 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Music by: Regina Spektor (theme), Scott Doherty, Brandon Jay, Gwendolyn Sanford
Cast: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Michael Harney, Michelle Hurst, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Selenis Leyva, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Nick Sandow, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, Jackie Cruz, Lea DeLaria, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jessica Pimentel, Mary Steenburgen, Ruby Rose

Lionsgate Television, Tilted Productions, Netflix, 65 Episodes (so far), 51-92 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I finally got around to watching Orange Is the New Black. I’m really glad that I did. I am on a mission to watch all the Netflix shows, in order to rank them for a future countdown post and finally I got to this one, which just may be the cream of the crop.

I had heard nothing but good things about this show and had planned on watching it for a while. Time passed, I was busy and all of a sudden, the second season was out and I hadn’t yet watched the first.

This show is pretty remarkable. The plots aren’t overly complex but they are well thought out and pretty layered, which is probably due to what I hear is great source material, which was the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. I’m not sure how closely the show follows the biographical account but the characters and plots feel incredibly real. Which is a testament to the creators, producers, directors, writers and most importantly, the actors.

In fact, the acting is stellar. Taylor Schilling (who plays the lead character, Piper) is really good and I can’t say anything bad about her work here but she is often times overshadowed by the brilliance of those around her. Kate Mulgrew, who was amazing as the lead on Star Trek: Voyager, is even more amazing on this show. Uzo Aduba, who plays Crazy Eyes, may be one of the best actresses I have ever seen and that is something I don’t just throw around. Laura Prepon, who starred on That ’70s Show, is a welcome addition to the cast and gives her best performance to date. Other spectacular presences on this show are Natasha Lyonne, Jason Biggs, Taryn Manning, Lea DeLaria, Laverne Cox, Danielle Brooks, Samira Wiley and Vicky Jeudy. Yael Stone is also fantastic and incredibly adorable as Lorna. Then there is Michael Healy, who brings a great dynamic to the show, as he goes from a caring sort of father figure to a complete tyrannical douchebag.

There are few, if any shows, as well acted as Orange Is the New Black. In fact, the only thing right now that comes to mind is Netflix’s other big hit House of Cards and AMC’s Mad Men.

Now I don’t know if this is a show that can sustain beyond a few seasons but while the ride is good, I will certainly stay on. I know that a third season is coming and I can imagine that several people on this show are now getting good work elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts and if they can get the cast to stick around, assuming this stays a hit and goes on well into the future. Then again, prison is a revolving door of characters, so why should this show be any different.

And to make a point, I have often times heard this described as the female Oz. While both shows take place in a prison, this is no lady Oz. It is a great balance of comedy, drama and just life. It brings a charm to the table that the extremely hard-edged Oz didn’t have with its brutal and gritty ambiance. I would also go on to say that Orange Is the New Black is the superior show out of the two.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: WeedsOz… simply because of similar themes but there is real contrast in the tones of these two shows.

Film Review: The Purge (2013)

Also known as: Vigilandia (working title)
Release Date: May 2nd, 2013 (Stanley Film Festival)
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Written by: James DeMonaco
Music by: Nathan Whitehead
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, Max Burkholder

Platinum Dunes, Blumhouse Productions, Why Not Productions, Universal Pictures, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Incoming reports show this year’s Purge has been the most successful to date, with the most murders committed.” – Newscaster

*written in 2014.

I watched this film and its first sequel back-to-back. I will follow up with my review of the sequel shortly.

As for this film, the first in The Purge series, it was pretty mediocre and the premise was so unbelievable that I had a hard time buying into it.

For those who don’t know the premise, basically ten years from now the United States government is run by some douchebags called the New Founding Fathers and they implement a thing called “The Purge”, which is an event where one night per year from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., all crimes including murder are legal. Why would the government do this? Well, it cuts down on crime the rest of the year, as people are allowed to get their built-up aggression out for one night. Also, it somehow solves all of our economic woes and makes America some utopia. The writers must have no clue about how economics works. Also, almost everyone buys into this insanity like it is a new religion.

Frankly, this film is trying to make a political statement but what that statement is, I am not sure. It is basically Hollywood liberal propaganda taken to such an extreme level that I wouldn’t be surprised if the studio stole this whole premise from an eleven year-old’s LiveJournal account. If this could happen in America, which it never would, more people would rise against it than support it. Reason being, even if this country is in bad shape and there is extreme polarization on almost every issue nowadays, most people are still inherently good and wouldn’t condone such savagery. Especially people with kids, which is nearly most adults.

I’d hate to keep harping on the bad premise but in no way does it work. Now if it was a scenario like Escape From New York or Arkham City or this premise was some response to a major natural disaster or a zombie outbreak, I could’ve bought into it a little better. Also, if it were more than just ten years in the future, I probably would’ve taken the bait. In the end, it is just an adolescent’s ill-plotted wet dream on screen.

And for a film that was basically guaranteed to be a murder-spree, this film wasn’t. Sure, a bunch of people do end up getting killed but it takes a hell of a lot of time to get to that point and when it happens, it is basically just the home invaders. The premise and the setup had you waiting for bloody chaos. What you got was a family hiding in closets with television sets.

The acting was okay, the villain kid was actually not bad and I liked his style and overall presentation, the cinematic style was effective and the kid actors weren’t horrible. The plot thread about the bum hiding in the house was annoying and more than half the film was spent searching the house for a hobo.

There was a plot twist at the end. It sucked and just added to the bullshit insanity of this whole shitshow. It’s as if the filmmakers thought that they were being clever. They weren’t.

I tried to forget about the premise and lose myself in the film and just accept what was playing out from scene-to-scene but nothing made sense. It was a film made to shock people… unintelligent people. Like the people who liked Paranormal Activity and all these other slew of modern horror films that would be better suited making coasters than actual playable DVDs.

I didn’t hate this movie; I just couldn’t take it seriously. It wasn’t cringeworthy; it was just an 85 minute waste of my time.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other Purge movies.

Film Review: Out of the Furnace (2013)

Also known as: Dust to Dust, The Low Dweller (both working titles)
Release Date: December 6th, 2013
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Written by: Brad Ingelsby, Scott Cooper
Music by: Dickon Hinchliffe
Cast: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoë Saldana, Sam Shepard, Tom Bower

Appian Way Productions, Scott Free Productions, Red Granite Pictures, Relativity Media, 116 Minutes

Review:

“Working for a living? I gave my life for this country and what’s it done for me? Huh? What’s it done for me?” – Rodney Baze Jr.

*written in 2014.

Out of the Furnace is produced by Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio. It also stars Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, Tom Bower and Zoe Saldana. With all those names, one would expect a pretty compelling film. What I saw was actually a disappointment.

Written and directed by Scott Cooper, who did the highly acclaimed Crazy Heart, this film falls sort of flat.

In a nutshell, the film was a bit slow and it felt mostly uneventful and very predictable. Where there were good spots to build some serious tension, the ball was dropped. In fact, tension was nearly nonexistent except in quick instant doses where it appeared and ended within a short single scene. There was no build up, no real emotional investment to be made in the characters and it was a string of missed opportunities for a better story or at least a more layered story.

Part of the problem with the film, is that it is a revenge story where the victim being avenged was an unlikable prick and an idiot. I was more invested in seeing the evil asshole in the film get taken out over how he treated his date in the opening scene than what he did to the idiot prick.

The film’s climax, the big payoff for the revenge we’re supposed to be wanting, is pretty straightforward, there are no surprises and it plays out as expected and I felt no emotional pull in the end.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad film, it is just that I was expecting something of much better quality with all these people involved. It is slow, seemingly pointless and a forgettable film. Nothing sets it apart, nothing makes it special or memorable. It just simply exists, as a story of mostly unlikeable characters that no one will want to relate to.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Scott Cooper’s other films.

Documentary Review: Particle Fever (2013)

Release Date: June 14th, 2013 (Sheffield Doc/Fest – UK)
Directed by: Mark Levinson
Music by: Robert Miller

Anthos Media, Abramorama, BOND360, 99 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

Particle Fever is kind of a necessary documentary. Not that it will be watched for its necessity, as those who should learn about this subject, would prefer to remain ignorant and be fearful of the misleading and scary headlines regarding the LHC (Large Hadron Collider – the big particle accelerator in Switzerland). They would also probably prefer to stay offended over something called the “God particle”.

Anyway, it is still an entertaining and engaging documentary nonetheless, as it follows the story of the LHC and the stories of the people who work on it.

The documentary is well-edited, well-organized and made pretty simple to understand – even when it covers the more complex stuff about particles and the whole point of this giant machine’s existence.

If this film does anything, it goes to show the importance of this kind of research and really, the importance of science in general. Our world is becoming more and more ignorant to these things and this has lead to politicians and others standing in the way of scientific progress.

If you don’t walk away from this film somewhat excited about science and the work that these people are doing, you probably just need to fire up your DVR and catch up on Dr. Oz.