Saturday, October 29, 2011

In Time - Reel Rhino Review

I may be light on the filmgoing this weekend...if any of the Reel Rhino faithful get a chance to see Puss in Boots, Anonymous, or The Rum Diary...please drop your opinion in the comments section below.  And now on to the show...

I was extremely excited to see IN TIME.  I say that, knowing full well that the lead was played by none other than J Tim...Justin Timberlake that is.  I am here to announce once and for all, I no longer recognize as a former boy band member and I now recognize him as an actor.  His role as Jacques Grande in The Love Guru withstanding.

Granted, he wasn't in Sean Parker form (see also: The Social Network), but he can pass for an action/adventure hero, and I think that we will be seeing a lot more from him in the very near future.

When I saw the trailer for this, I was pretty blown away at the concept of the flick....see for yourself;


I think I will describe this film more than offer a commentary, other this: go see this is an original concept, and for that alone, it deserves to be seen.

When Will Salas (Timberlake) is falsely accused of murder, he must figure out a way to bring down a system where time is literally money, enabling the wealthy to live forever while the poor, like Will, have to beg, borrow, and steal enough minutes to make it through another day. 

Currency is time, in every sense of the word in this film.  There is no paper money...set in the near future, you are paid for work with time, you pay your bills with time...time is all that matters.  You age normally from birth through age 25...that's when your "clock" starts and you maintain a youthful appearance until the day you "time out."  Imprinted on your arm is the sum of your wealth, being the amount of time you have left in your life, unless you can get more time. 

Salas stumbles into a great deal of currency, when he saves a stranger from a group of thieves.  Muggings in this future society have a bit more of a dire impact, than just losing your wallet.  Time can be shared with friends or family, which is also how the thieves make their run at getting minutes however they can.  The means of transfer is touch, with the grip and direction of twist in the hands affecting the direction of flow of time.  A neat concept, indeed.

Then there are the timekeepers...the cops of the future, who are tasked with investigating unbalances in the distribution of time in society.

The concept is made even more complex as the nature of these unbalances become more clear.  There are neighborhoods, known as "time zones," \which to travel into, you must pay a steep toll, to the tune of a day up to a few months, to travel from one to the other.  A sort of population control.  The rich and famous live in Zone 1, where people have time banked to the proportion that they are essentially immortal.  The poor live day to day, literally. 

When Salas gets this load of time dropped in his lap, he quickly maneuvers himself to Zone 1.  He makes some friends and is invited to a party, where he meets Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried).  This is where the story really takes off and i'll leave it to you to see how it plays out.

The lead timekeeper is played by Cillian Murphy.  He looks twice the size as he was in 28 Days Later and truthfully, he was pretty bad ass!

Also making an appearance here was Olivia Wilde, 2011's It-Girl.  She plays Will's mother, Rachel.  It is kind of an odd concept to get used to, given the oldest anyone looks is 25 years old.  Yes, some of the less fortunate do look a bit more haggard...Johnny Galecki for one...good to see you back in features, my friend.

Murphy's timecop is certain that Salas must have stolen the windfall of time that he was given, and the cat and mouse game is on.

This film was written and directed by Andrew Niccol.  A notable work in his past that bleeds through in this flick is Gattaca.  The bio-medical sci-fi genre is clearly something he does well...but then again, he also gave us S1mOne, the Al Pacino atrocity.  He was the screenwriter on Peter Weir's The Truman Show, a Reel Rhino favorite.  I think as a filmmaker, Niccol has talent, I only wonder why his films are so few and far between.  Gattaca was Niccol's first feature, released when he was just 33 years old.  Since then, he has made only 4 other films, In Time included.  He does have another writer/director credit slated for 2012, a sci-fi flick called The Host.  Given my enjoyment of this flick, I can't wait.

The tone of the film reminded me of Gattaca, as well as last year's Surrogates, the later being the much less sophisticated of the two, but a film I like none the less.  I liked the tone, as well as the overall look of In Time, very industrial and dark, where appropriate, which was contrasted nicely with the light colored and more clinical look of things, also when appropriate.

This film had some good laugh out loud moments, a solid through and through storyline, and a real cute hair cut on Seyfried.  What more could you ask for from an original sci-fi film, the likes of which was reminiscent of Christopher Nolan, with just a little less panache.

A real decent outing by all, I give this 4 of 5 horns.

FYI: Ghostbusters is still playing at AMC Theaters...they are running two shows, including a midnight screening, through Halloween.  Go see it if you can!!

Until later, take care,
Reel Rhino

Friday, October 28, 2011

Footloose and Paranormal Activity 3 Reviews

I am a slacker.

What I should have done is to have watched the original Kevin Bacon classic, a childhood favorite of mine, before having watched this film.

The truth...well the truth is I never planned on watching this remake, mostly because the trailer gave me more a vibe of Step Up, rather than Footloose.

I was wrong. Footloose (2011) was a sweet film, with a decent emotional core, that had some really enjoyable action set pieces. Now read that correctly, action scene in Footloose, for me, is a well choreographed dance number, and of this, there were several.

What you may not know is that I am a sucker for a good choreographed dance number. That is one of the reasons I love Glee, but with Glee, they have been mostly devoid of fun songs this season and things have been a little too much show-tuney.  A good dance scene can nearly bring me to tears...okay, it does bring me to tears...

I never intended to see Footloose. I actually meant to go see The Three Musketeers 3-D, given the 3-D trailer for Attack of the Clones preceded it. You would think after 1050 movies at the theater, that I could read the times correctly, but I'm a rhino, not an elephant...rhinos can be forgetful!

So Footloose it was and I am better for it. The film is really a standard fish out of water story, combined with a standard stranger in a strange town, outsider story...set to music.

The original Footloose was a film I saw in the theater, and much like Ghostbusters inspired my friends and I to hunt the spirits roaming our neighborhood...Footloose inspired us to dance. We had roots in the breakdancing years, so making the jump to more contemporary moves shouldn't have been a problem...within a few days, we were back to headspins and backspins. You should have seen us after Karate Kid, now that was a show.  All three; Footloose, Ghostbusters, and Karate Kid all came out in 1984.  I was was a big summer.  You should have seen the bunch of us after 1985's The Goonies...adventure was afoot plenty that summer.

The acting performances were passable. Unknown actor Kenny Wormland plays Ren, just moved to Bomont, TX from Boston following the death of his mother. Ren isn't really a troublemaker, but in a town where dancing is illegal, any non-Bomontian would seem like a rabble-rouser.  Wormland would be just any up and comer to me, except when checking his bio, I see that he played an unknown dancer in Kevin Smith's Clerks II.  That knocks him up a notch in my book.

We learn early on that five students were killed in a car wreck three years prior to the timeline of this movie. This event led to the institution of a curfew, and among other laws, the banning of public dancing by the town's youth and any playing of "disrespectful" music.

The love interest is Ariel (Julianne Hough) and the best friend role of Willard is played by Miles Teller. Ariel's brother was one of the kids killed in the wreck. Her father, the town Reverend, was played quite stoically by Dennis Quaid.

As an aside, I thought that Hough and Teller were the spitting image of both Jennifer Aniston and Shia LeBouf.  Also as an aside, Hough is listed as an uncredited extra from Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone.

Zac Efron was originally slated to play the role of Ren. I am glad he did not, as his presence may have been a little distracting. Wormland was better than passable in his performance, but I mean c'mon, he's no Kevin Bacon...but few are.

There are a few recognizable faces in the rest of the cast, including Andie MacDowell, Ray McKinnon, and Kim Dickens.

This film has your standard love triangle and several montages, perfectly lifted from the 1980's blueprint for this type of film.  The music was good, but not as memorable as the original, but in a turn of homage, all of the best songs from the 80's classic, were organically integrated into this film. That was a surprising and very welcomed aspect of the film.

An enjoyable film, I give Footloose 4 of 5 horns.
Given this film had a Tomatometer score hovering around 80%, I entered the theater with high expectations.

I think I like this movie more in hindsight, much more than in the first few minutes after walking out of theater. But don't put too much stock in that, as I have decided to upgrade PA 3 to a 2.5 from a 2.

This is a barely passable offering as a horror movie.  There were some good jump scares, but for 88 minutes running time, it seemed to take way to long to get into the meat and potatoes of the mythology.  Everything were simple scares until the last few minutes of the films.  And what you learn in those last few minutes, seem highly unlikely give you know exactly the fate of these two young ladies. 
That's right, if you didn't know it, this film it a prequel.  It covers a period of time in the young lives of Katie and Kristi Rey, the two fated heroines of the first two flicks.
Paranormal Activity, the original, was shot and produced for $15,000.  It made $107 million domestically. That's a profit many would kill didn't hurt that the film was viewed by Steven Spielberg, who championed its theater release.  With Pappa Steve guiding the ship, he suggested a change to the ending, and it was so.  Given the $15,000 independent spirit of the original, although I didn't love it, I respected the hell out of it.  Much the same is my opinion of the first Saw film and the sequels that followed.  Much like Saw, it seems as though the more of these are made, the crazier things will get.  Not good crazy, though.  (see also; Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play, etc......)
An interesting aside is that the directors for this film were none other than Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the directors of the 2010 documentary hit, Catfish.  Catfish was one of my favorites of last year and I stand by you should watch it, just don't check out anything about the movie before you see it.  The description by the critics of the film's Hitchcockian feel was accurate.
But the past is the past, and what have you done for me lately?
Jost and Schulman were logical selection as the lead male in PA 3 was as much obsessed with filming their day to day lives as the pair was filming Nev Schulman in his romantic endeavors as was pursued by his Facebook girlfriend.
Paranormal Activity 3 is a lackluster film that is good for jump scares only.  If you haven't seen the first two, it won't matter.  It will help give some context, but not much.
I am told they are planning a total of five movies, and for now, they are left with a tough they stick with the found footage approach, or do they flip over to studio films.  It didn't work for Blair Witch...the original Blair Witch is a cult classic...yes, it only holds up for one viewing, but it is effective.  Blair Witch: Book of Shadows was an atrocity.  It's a tough choice, but to make these worth watching, it may take more than adding a tradition shoot to pull it off.
As an aside, as a Maryland Terrapin, the first time I saw Blair Witch on an unmarked VHS tape making the bootleg rounds around campus, long before the first ad for it hit newsstands or theater previews.  It was scary as hell, and for all we could have known, it may have been real.  That's one helluva way to watch a flick.
I don't think Paranormal Activity will be able to turn it around...but you know that I'll be there to figure it out.
2.5 of 5 horns.  Mediocre at best.
Until later, take care.
Reel Rhino

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who You Gonna Call??? -- They're Baaaackkkkk!


Well that's what my 2-year old was saying, at least....

It's the Ghostbusters and they're ready to believe you!

This is, without question, my favorite film of all-time.  I saw it first in the theater in 1984.  I was eight.

So I am about to weave a yarn, like my grandma used to tell about a spectral-locomotive that would rocket by her farmhouse as a little girl...but let me be point here is to let you know that this Thursday, October 27th, 2011, GHOSTBUSTERS is back.  It has played the last two Thursdays on a special Halloween re-release, and this Thursday is it the end of the run.  Your last chance (for now) to see this film on the big screen.

So as I was saying...I was 8 years old.

The film came out in June.  We spent the rest of that summer trying to fashion proton packs from miscellaneous scraps of metal and wood and nuts and bolts from my dad's leftovers from his constuction business taken clandestinely from my garage. Of course some of the best stuff came from the Mulvin's shed up the street.  They had scrapped electronics, sheet metal, and everything needed to make a real sweet proton pack. 

But as it went, we were eight.  Instead of getting a decent pack built, we nearly burned down that shed, thinking we could replicate some wicked Hot Wheels stunts if we trenched out a track and filled it, moat-like, with gasoline.  That day things went a bit awry.

Now a few years later, when we were in 6th grade, a friend of mine's older brother had actually made a proton pack.  I can't promise that it worked (heehee) but it looks effing awesome.  He made it in shop class and bought a GB-like jumpsuit, got creative for the patches, and for my money, he was a fire-breathing pimp who as far as I knew, was sure as hell ready to bust some heads, in a spiritual sense, of course.

(Note: these days, for anywhere from $50 to several thousand, you can actually by a pre-made proton pack...just remember if you do, you may be walking around with an unlicensed particle accelerator on your back!)

Smash cut to high eleventh grade, I had moved handily past trying to create a respectable Ghostbuster costume...or as I would have referred to it, a uniform.  But I was admitted into "The Vault' that year.  Named after the in-joke to Seinfeld, The Vault consisted of a group of close friends, who had the unfortunate pleasure of spending junior prom night shooting hoops in Mike Wargo's driveway.  They would be there for the Zima incident of 1994 and for the record, initiation for me was strutting into Victoria's Secret and asking if they had a crotchless teddy in my size.  By the time I did it, dozens of my classmates had gathered outside the store, by the time it was over, security had been called and I left a little piece of my dignity inside of the Millcreek Mall that day.  Although many shuvs and zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the slor that day I can tell you, but it was worth it.  (C'mon, you remember, the last of the McKetrick supplicants!)

So one night, I am at a volleyball game with some of my fellow vaultians.  I turn to take a picture and the flash fires, with my friend Mike uttering, I looked at the trap Ray.  Golden.

For either my one of my birthdays or graduation, my best gal pal Lora got me a VHS copy of the flick.  You can read more from Lora here:  She's pretty awesome and to her credit, she knew exactly what I would need foraying to the big city (College Park, MD)...yes, I know, its not that big, but leaving McDowell High School in Erie, PA...really any city is a big city.

I watched that copy of Ghostbusters a lot and I estimate today that I have see the film in general no less than 500 times.  I watched it falling asleep, watched it studying for tests, I watched it a lot.

Between high school and now, I have always come back to this film.  One of my best friends Eric and I would quote GB back and forth like we were breathing.  Like the ebb and flow of the tide, I haven't seen Eric in some time, well over a year by this typing, actually a bit closer to 18 months.

Eric, Reel Rhino, and John (l to r)
I bet next time we get together, I'll drop the Gozer the Gozarian speech...he may say something or another about "the twinkee," and perhaps one of us will agree that 'yes, this is true....this man has no dick." 

I love the film Ghostbusters.  It is the embodiment of a type of film from that era that at the same time were sweet, well-written, well-shot and re-donk-u-lously funny.

SEE ALSO: Stripes, Caddyshack, Spies Like Us, The Three Amigos, Animal House, Meatballs, Vacation, Fletch, and a handful others that in the spur of the moment, I am certainly forgetting.

As the pre-production work for Ghostbusters 3 is reportedly underway, who knows if we will ever get to see that film.  I for one would like to...while I enjoy Ghostbusters 2, it is the far lesser film.  It would be nice to renew enjoyment in this series for a new generation of viewers....

Oh wait...maybe instead of waiting for Ghostbusters 3, you could get out to the theater and go see the theaters for one last showing this month....OCTOBER 27th, 2011...

GHOST BUSTERS (yep, I used the original spelling...)

People, get out there and see this film.  What's ironic is that this is a digital copy, so I figured it would be crisp and clear along the lines of the Blu-Ray release...THANK GOD, it was not.

It had the filmic look as though the film reels were spinning up in the projection booth and it looked glorious...let me say that as a big guy, I typically save the term glorious for only the most savory of treats (or whatever I happen to be jamming down my gullet) so you can rest assured that I really, really mean it.

Ghostbusters is playing at AMC and Cinemark theaters may be at more theaters elsewhere, but those are the two carrying it around my parts.

Do your duty folks...go see this movie because it is great.  Go see it to reinvigorate interest in this great franchise.  Take your kids, take your friends...go see this movie.

If you hadn't guessed, this flicks gets pretty high marks from The Reel Rhino...I'd give is a 5 of 5, but I would say that it probably deserves a 6.

Until next time...always remember...they're ready to believe you!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Here's a mini-cavalcade of film for your reading pleasure.  Reviewed this post:

THE THING (3.5 of 5 Horns)
THE BIG YEAR (4 of 5 Horns)
ABDUCTION (3.5 of 5 Horns)
WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER (2 of 5 Horns)

THE THING: 3.5 of 5 Horns
I prepared for The Thing, by watching The Thing.  When I say "The Thing," I am referring to the 1982 John Carpenter version of course.  I have not seen the more aged classic, The Thing from Another World, but I am okay with that.  While there are many who pine for 1960 and older horror, my love of the genre begins with the 1968 Romero classic, with many of my favorites spanning the 70's into early 80's.

You see the concept of The Thing is based on a 1938 short story, "Who Goes There," by John W. Campbell Jr.  The 1982 film was adapted by Bill Lancaster, whose only other credits include all of the Bad News Bears films and series from the late 1970's.  Bizarre. 

I love The Thing.  I think it was one of Carpenter's finest, and that is saying a lot from the creator of Halloween.  Seminal Carpenter for me includes Big Trouble in Little China.  Carpenter pulled some great performances from Kurt Russell, and Big Trouble is no different.  See also, Escape from New York.  Skip Escape from L.A.

John Carpenter lost his groove in the 90's.  If you have ever seen Ghosts of Mars, I'm sorry.  I you ever consider it, don't.

But lest I digress...I was excited to see this prequel in a part based on my love of the first, but also I am a big fan of both Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton, most notably from their roles in Scott Pilgrim and Warrior, respectively.

So knowing that this current offering was a direct prequel to the Carpenter classic, I had to go in primed.  That score is so damn haunting and so perfect for the original, I am pleased to say that they channelled it nicely for this film as well.

This film serves as a suitable prequel, but it is certainly a lesser movie in general. The first 15 minutes had some of the grit of the original, this film also set in 1982, prequeling immediately the events that took place in the Carpenter classic.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead was a suitable lead and she gave an enjoyable performance. The problem is that this film was a carbon copy of the original film from 1982. There was very little difference, other than the gender of our hero, and for my money, I expected more.
Granted, one of the great aspects of the original were the practical effects that were exceptionally creative. This film offered a wide range of effects that actually stood up in comparison to the original, which lifted this from a mundane prequel to an enjoyable film.

As a fan of the original, I think I was drawn to this film and more apt to enjoy it. It is sitting at 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, but perhaps the higher IMDB ranking at 6.7 of 10 is more fair a score for this movie with a a variety of thrills, decent effects, and a similar storyline to a predecessor in the series.

I say check it out. If you haven't seen the original, put it in your queue and give it a run. 3.5 Horns of 5 for The Thing (2011).
I would support a sequel set after the events of the Carpenter effort that takes elements of both films and creates a new story based in the mythology of The Thing. A few characters seemingly survive the original and both actors are still working...close this series with a bang and give us a new story within this familiar, enjoyable horror world.

The Big Year: 4 of 5 Horns
Don't listen to the critics...well, if you consider me a critic, listen to me, but ignore the naysayers!

The Big Year succeeds as a sweet, funny film, that is much better than it's Tomatometer score would let on (40%).

How about this cast...

A subdued Steve Martin, a sweet Jack Black, a standard Owen Wilson, Rashida Jones, Dianne Wiest, Brian Dennehy, Rosamund Pike, Anjelica Huston, Joel McHale, Kevin Pollack, JoBeth Williams, and Anthony Anderson.

Wow!  The cast alone should have your interest peaked...I went in not having seen the trailer, only having heard through the scuttle that the film was about birdwatching, or birding.

It is in fact based on an actual contest, called appropriately, The Big Year, in which birders try and see how many different species of bird they can see or hear within a calender year.

Barry Bostick (Wilson) is the reigning birding hero, holding the world record and being the pimp daddy of the birding community.  He is as vain as they come and he is fearful of his record being broken.  Among those set to challenge him, is Stu Priessler (Martin), a recently retired high-powered CEO, who has dreamed for years of setting off on his own big year.  Brad Harris (Black) is a dreamer.  A computer debugger by day, he is mostly broke, and like Stu, is in it for the love.

These three actors have given great performances in the past, and while I think they are good but not great hear, they play off one and other perfectly, and it synergistically combines to something much better than most people are giving this film credit for.

Being a stranger to the birding world, I was happy to learn so many aspects of this sport, albeit it a dramatized version of this world.

In addition to being a comedy and a drama, there are elements of thrills thrown into the mix, as whether one is engaged in a Big Year, is typically kept secret, for fear that other birders will set to derail them in their quest.

This is a fun story and for what I recall, a family friendly one.  Minus a few S-bombs and a scantily towel wrapped Rosamund Pike in one scene, this is a pretty clean film.  It is rated PG, which is rare for any mainstream film these days.  The comedy is effective and it is clean.

Give The Big Year a chance.  It has heart and this cast superbly comes together to make something of a Christopher Guest effort, without the tongue-in-cheekedness than comes with his mockumentary filmmaking.  David Frankel is a competent director and his previous efforts include Marley and Me and The Devil Wears Prada.  In my opinion, he has created a very accessible film, written for the screen by Howard Franklin based on the book by Mark Obmascik.

4 of 5 Horns for this very sweet and enjoyable film.

Abduction: 3.5 Horns of 5
The timing was right, so I subjected myself to this film, starring Team Jacob aka Taylor Lautner.  4% on Rotten Tomatoes....4%.

This is a better film than 4% indicates and better than the IMDB 3.8/10 as well. 

John Singleton is a talented director.  I had no idea until moments ago that he directed this film.  His experienced hand definitely elevated this picture from mundane to mildly exciting.

And for a mildly exciting film, in general I have no real complaints.  Taylor Lautner is a tweenagers dream, Lily Collins is an up and comer (she'll be the other Snow White next summer), and the experienced cast like Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver actually show up and don't just appear to be grabbing a pay check.

The gist is Nathan (Lautner) is assigned a school project on Internet websites.  In his web travels, he comes across a website that is dedicated to missing children.  He finds an age progression photo of a boy that looks exactly like him.

Nathan confronts his mother and she admits that while a complicated situation, she and Nathan's Dad have only ever acted in his best interest.  As this is happening, some black suited baddies show up and kill both his parents, and he becomes the pursued.

From the moment of the initiating events, Nathan is pursued by two groups, a terrorist and his endless supply of heavies; and the CIA.  He doesn't know who to trust and the story is coherent and the action decent, if not a little underused in terms of thrilling action set pieces.

A short but effective sequence takes place at the stadium of the Pittsburgh Pirates, with a game underway.  While coming off as a bit needy for some cheap action, Nathan's parkour escape run is actually well choreographed.

There a few cheesy bits of dialogue, but they are not overly distracting. 

3.5 of 5 Horns for this a mindless but enjoyable film that would likely look better on the big screen than at home, so if you can work it in, check it out.  Give preference to more competent films, but if you must, don't hate yourself for seeing this film.  I am often accused of being overly generous when rating films, but I really think this is not a terrible film.  Perhaps I went in with a negative attitude given the poor reviews and awful box office performance, but none the less, I liked it.

What's Your Number: 2 of 5 Horns
The real shame about this movie is that Anna Farris and Chris Evans are two talented actors, both with solid comedic chops, with a great sense of on-screen chemistry.

How is that a shame, you say? Because all that good couldn't save this flick from being just another entry into the romcom trope.

This was an r-rated movie, and while they touched on some decent adult humor, they made the mistake that decent raunch comedies have avoided...they had too many schlocky romcom staples.

Girl is hopeless...
Girl developed a plan...
Girl meets boy, but not "the boy" she thinks he is...
Boy helps girl...
Boy falls in love with girl...
Enter nameless conflict...
Enter heroic resolution...
Cue their kiss...
Roll credits...

The Break Up, for its darker moments, was one of the first films to have boy not get girl.  It wasn't exceptionally successful, but I applaud its courage.
Bridesmaids had a subtle romance intermixed with the hijinx, letting your affection for the on-screen couple develop just as such, with a deft sense of underwhelming.

These chick flicks that focus on the love story, with the love story hijinks first, and the comedy second, will always fall prey to this pitfall.

One For The Money, starring Katherine Heigl trailered before my viewing of Number. What a pile this looks like, and its just another notch in Heigl's long list of clusters that are destined for disaster. This film can't be good, but it will be profitable, and that's the problem.  That it is based on Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich, may save it.  And for the more gritty tone, it will only succeed if they go dark.  Keep things too light and bouncy, and it will just be the same old same old, regardless of the source material.

There were decent moments in Number, both funny and sweet, but I attribute that to the pure affability of Farris and Evans.

2.5 of 5 for What's Your Number. See it at home, at best, and only if you've already seen all of the decent comedies that have romance at the core. ComRom's, I say.  Let's start putting the funny first.

That's all for now.  Here's hoping that Paranormal Activity 3 will give us a decent horror entry for this Halloween season.  If not, there's always Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence.  If you get a chance, Centipede is playing at the Screenland Crossroads.  I have a feeling it will be the only spot in KC courageous enough to show it.

Until later, take care.
Reel Rhino

Applause for Butch Rigby, Screenland Theaters (KCMO)

If you didn't read my prior post (The Next Evolution) about the previously discussed offering of Brett Ratner's Tower Heist on Video On-Demand (VOD), a mere three weeks after the theater release, you already know that NATO was, not mincing words, pissed.

Well it looks as though Universal has bagged the idea.  Cinemark had announced a boycott, and more of the big chains were threatening the same.  Universal caved.

In my post, I talked about doing more to serve the consumer, rather than focus only on dollars.  After all, film is an art form, and being such, we shouldn't be spoon fed how we are to consume it.

The big ticket houses continue to shoot for a dollars only model, and I guess who can blame them, they are a business for goodness sake.  But by focusing on the business, rather than the show, in show business, we the movie goer suffer. 

It is a problem of uniformity.  Corporate theaters conform to a company policy, which leads to a more mild version of what the individual theater GM's could do, if given the latitude.  That uniformity is seen in shops like Wal Mart, McDonalds, and Best Buy.  That's not to say that small theaters aren't fans of making money, but if you look at each of the Screenland properties, they offer both a different theater atmosphere and a wide variety of film selection and special events alike.

Butch Rigby is the owner of the Kansas City local Screenland chain.  They get it...he gets it.  Here is a letter Butch sent out to e-mail subscribers this week.  The letter speaks for itself...there are those out there who try and make the filmgoing experience a fun one. 

I am not trying to say that the good folks at AMC, my home theater of Barrywoods especially, don't try and make the movie going experience fun.  But the suits at companies like AMC, Cinemark, and others, don't always have a grasp of how the average movie goer is entertained.  I think Rigby gets it.

To hell with uniformity, but that is only coming out of one side of my mouth.  I will continue to make AMC Barry my theater of choice.  I like the people and I like the popcorn.

But I am thankful for Rigby and theaters like Screenland.  Without them, I wouldn't have had the chance to see, on the big screen, the likes of Super, Antichrist, Troll Hunter, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, as well as local favorites like Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time and Blackhand Strawman, both Terrance O'Malley products.  I like seeing my indie fare and I like seeing them in theaters like the Screenland.

I get great enjoyment from seeing movies at Barrywoods, talking to their staff, many of whom are now my friends.  But I think there is a place for theaters like Screenland and I wish they were given some latitude so that I, your average movie goer, will continue to have the power of choice.

Maybe I'm just salty that this VOD experiment was quashed before it started.  Like I said, I want choice in how I consume, and an embargo on new ideas doesn't help anyone.  With rising prices and more hikes on the way (Sony's proposed plan of no longer paying for 3-D glasses), something has got to give.

Butch Rigby (left)
Here is the entire note, sent out on October 12th, 2011, by Butch Rigby, owner of Kansas City's Screenland Theaters.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I started Screenland Theatres because I love movies. Plain and simple. My colleagues love movies. We built theatres to bring movies to the screen that you might not see on a screen in Kansas City. We built venues that are unique. Fun. Interesting. "The show starts on the sidewalk". At the Screenland Armour in North Kansas City (just a LITTLE BIT across the river for those of you south who might fear crossing the "Walls of Jericho", aka the Heart of America Bridge) we decided to build a venue unlike any other in KC-and I think we did. A place where you could watch First Run Films in luxury. A place where the doors, windows and even the door handles reflect our passion for this business.

Well, the way of the world (or at least the parts occupied by the major studios) tells us that the small theatres are simply not going to get all of the first run product we need. Imagine a Wal-Mart next to a small grocery store-except in our case we don't get to sell the "Tide". In other words, we can't compete with the big theatres when we cannot get a lot of the smaller releases since they are "not booking anything smaller than an 8-plex" etc for a particular film. Time for us to adapt. Not complain-but go back to our roots. Show films that you can't see in another theatre. Be different. Think Different.

Therefore, we are going to be playing some movies that remind us of why we got into this business. Starting with "Rudy" on October 21st. Why Rudy? If you have seen it, you understand this is the kind of movie that must be seen with a crowd! It is the kind of a movie you cheer for. It is real, about real people. It is a movie that you must bring a young person to. Maybe, just maybe they will grow up fool enough to build movie theatres, or build something that no one else thought possible. Just for fun we are showing the Notre Dame/USC game on the big screen that Saturday night. After that, the weekend of November 4th, "Gone with the Wind" , restored and on the big screen. How many people have seen that movie? How many have seen it in a Motion PIcture Theatre? It is Truly an experience. After that on November 11th, the official launch of Terence O'Malley's book! "Blackhand Strawman", a compilation based upon his award winning documentary. We will be reviving the film for the weekend, as well as a special screening of "Nellie Don". Keep your eyes open in the future for his next film (premiering at the Armour) "Tom and Harry", a fascinating documentary looking at the relationship between Tom Pendergast and President Truman.

We will still bring you some of the Hollywood first runs, but we will be bringing more and more of the classics, documentary films and small independent features that brought us into this business. We will be featuring sing-a-longs, Roasts, the Big Lebowski and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Additionally, we will be selling the Blackhand Strawman books, videos and other movie merchandise, including the incredible works of vaudeville photographer "Orville Hixon.

We love this business, and we love our beautiful theatres. We simply need to put "butts in seats" as the saying goes. Let us know what we can do to get yours there.

Butch Rigby
Owner-Screenland Theatres
Well said Butch.  Well said.

Friday, October 14, 2011

THE WAY - Reel Rhino Review

All I knew about Emilio Estevez's film The Way, was that he and father Martin Sheen were puddle jumping across the country stopping at Wal Mart to promote it. I wanted to go down and see them when they came to KC, but my allegience to my job had me firmly fixed to the grindstone that day, and I skipped it.

Having now seen the film, I wish I had gone that day, if only to have an even greater connection with this wonderful story.

The Way is a story about loss at first, but finds its core in showing the growth that can come from loss, no matter the pain that must be suffered as payment.

This film is not religious in nature, but rather, it is spiritual. Hey, no matter what you believe, at some point or another you have felt connectiveness in your life, to some place or some person. That is what this film taps into. The sense of connection or lack thereof that ebbs and flows with those we hold dear in our lives.

Martin Sheen is Tom. In the opening moments of the film, we learn that his son Daniel has died in an accident in the Pyrenees. He was walking the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, also known as the Way of St. James, and on the first night of his journey, he fell victim to some inclement weather.

Tom has flown in to identify and claim his son's remains, unsure of what led to his life being cut short. When he asks the police official, he first learns of the Camino pilgrimage.

In flashbacks, we gain insight to the sense of regret that Tom has for the deterioration of his relationship with his boy. In very short order, he decides that he will walk The Way with Daniel's ashes.

His journey starts off as a solitary one, with Tom clearly carrying as much pain as he is gear in his pack.

Not by choice, but through proximity, he gains fellow travellers on his journey. Their stories are as checkered and rich as his own and truly, I feel as though I have said too much already, so I will skip their stories and cut straight to this: see this movie.

Each of the characters we meet have a different reason for making their pilgrimage, which is the primary strength of this film...there is so much to grab a hold of.  This film is not overly sentimental, which is a credit to Estivez, given the material being presented.

A character in and of itself is the path itself. This film was shot on location, and if ever I would ask to see a film in high def, IMAX, ETX, or whatever, this would be one. I saw it projected digitally, but still there is a filmic quality to it. While this added weight in the form of grainy charm, I would have like high res shots of many of the beautiful locales featured.

This is an impactful drama. I can not think of a person that wouldn't find this film charming, reflective, and overall, uplifting. Yes, the undertones of loss push this handily into the tearjerker category, but only in the best ways possible.

Well acted, well written, and well shot, this film is my pick for some dark horse Oscar nods. Martin Sheen is as wonderful as ever and shows great range bringing honesty to the redemptive highs and depressive lows any father who had lost a child would feel.

Kudos to Emilio and company for making a fine film, self-promoting, and hopefully ending up with a fine piece if art that reaches a wide audience over time.

The Camino pilgrimege is real, and this film was inspired by Emilio's son Taylor, and his father (Sheen) on a driving trip they took along The Camino in 2003.  Taylor fell in love with a girl on the trip and that girl would become his wife, giving special meaning to the whole concept of the Camino.  Being such a filmic family, the material was rife for some kind of treatment, Sheen initially suggesting a documentary.  Emilio wanted to go bigger, and I for one am glad.  It was worth it. 
5 of 5 Horns for The Way.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

American Reunion Trailer Hits....Funny and Nostalgic (NSFW)

While The Avengers is my most anticipated flick of 2012...this gang may be running a close second....

Beware...Red Band Trailer is afoot!

Enjoy....Reel Rhino

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

AVENGERS: Assemble ~ It deserved it's own post...

While this trailer doesn't show much of anything, I think it is just perfect to give us our first peak at Joss Whedon's Avengers...enjoy!

May 4th, 2012: Reel Rhino Out

Monday, October 10, 2011

REAL STEEL and THE IDES OF MARCH: Reel Rhino Reviews

This was a weekend that jammed about 20 hours of stuff into each 15 hour waking day, up to and including one nature walk, one visit to the pumpkin farm, and one helluva garage sale.

I am a tired Rhino, but I did manage to catch both flicks.

REAL STEEL - 3.5 of 5 Horns
From "Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he's found a champion in a discarded robot. During his hopeful rise to the top, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to know his father."

If I had been a younger man, I may have loved this movie.  If I had been a bit less jaded of a movie goer, I would have had a passion ignited in me, for a film like this.

As it stands, I liked this movie.

I did have the good fortune of catching the flick with my friend Matt and his girlfriend Jen.  Matt is one of the main AMC faithful, who recently surpassed more than 800 AMC Stubs memberships sold...a helluva milestone indeed...1000 is a knockin' brother!  Matt, being a wide-eyed 19 year old, did enjoy the flick a fair bit more than me, and I think watching it with him helped me enjoy it more, as he was a big proponent, who immediately put this into his top 5 of the year to date.
I am a fan of Hugh Jackman's and I am happy to see Evangaline Lily getting some post Lost work.  Anthony Mackie wowed us in The Hurt Locker, and he again showed himself as a fully capable and extremely enjoyable.  Dakota Goya was really solid as Charlie Kenton's (Jackman) long lost son, Max.  You think you saw him somewhere before?  Yep, he was the young Thor earlier this summer.

This movie was well shot, looked great, and had a moderately enjoyable story.  But it was maybe just a little too much in the robots fighting department.  I did like the sense of weight that was given with each step they took, especially seeing it in IMAX.  That said, it was really good, just not great.

I had hoped for more, but you take the good, you take the wasn't a terrible flick and it served its purpose for a mindful summer flick.  Yes, I know it isn't summer anymore, and I wonder if some of this films shortcomings didn't keep it from going head to head with that other giant robots fighting movie.  I think Real Steel would have had more impact if it had dropped in August, rather than October.  What we need now is a good horror movie, and what we are getting is Paranormal Activity 3.  Like I said, you take the good, you take the bad...

Also, Steven Spielberg was an Executive Producer for this flick.  It showed...Atom, the underdog bot that becomes the lead fighter for Charlie and Max, was found and salvaged by Max.  This essentially becomes the non-transforming version of "a boy and his car" that Spielberg pushed into the first Bay Transformers.

These robots are not thinkers.  They are controlled by operators, which brings more "realism" to the concept and keeps this well out of the realm of being a Transformers spin-off.  But, with the robots being nothing more that machines, there is less invested in the outcomes except for the emotional attachments that have been added to them by the humans that control them.

The upside was that for a mildly effective drama throughout, I really thought the last fight and the resolution between Charlie and Max struck me as effective.  The movie ended at exactly the right moment, but that was exceptionally important since it clocked in at 127 minutes.  I think the whole thing would have been a tighter film at about 100 minutes and the drama would have been tighter if not stretched out so much.

Watch the previews, you'll get a good sense of the action the film presents.

Again, not great, but definitely worth seeing at the theater, and I promise it will be enhanced if you see it in IMAX. 

THE IDES OF MARCH - 3 of 5 Horns
Directed by George Clooney, here is the IMDB description in brief: An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. Based on the play by Beau Willimon.

This movie is being critically lauded and this is definitely the result of the superb acting chops that fill this flick from start to finish.  Ryan Gosling has been relatively quiet through the past 10 years in subtle roles, making a choppy wake in the Hollywood pool.  Folks, this is the year of the Gos.  He is making waves now, and with the Ides, Drive, and Crazy Stupid Love trifecta, he is officially marked as a superstar.  He excelled in all three roles, bringing high drama, delivering unwavering violence, and napping status as a sex symbol who has comedic delivery on top of it all.

George Clooney is standard (read: great) as presidential hopeful; Phillip Symore Hoffman is standard (read: stellar) as his campaign manager; Paul Giamatti is standard (read: stellar) as the opposing team campaign manager...even Evan Rachel Wood was above par in her role as the scandalous intern that serves as the fuel to feed the fire of drama in throughout the flick.  Also featured were Jennifer Ehle (see also: Contagion); Jeffrey Wright; Marisa Tomei; and Gregory Itzen.

Clooney is an effective director and I enjoyed a good number of his shots and the mild tension that some of the lighting choices brought.

But all this said, here is what I didn't like...

The overall story was far too light in its handling of the drama.  There was far too little tension and while the gravity of the events unfolding were apparent, there was too little featured in the film that conveyed that any of the characters were really affected by the weight of things going on around them.

Really, only Gosling's role as the idealistic staffer takes appropriate action when the situations around him demands it, but everyone else seemed to be coasting along.

George Clooney is a Steven Soderbergh favorite and I think the Soderbergh style has rubbed off on him.  I was reminded of Clooney's 2006 role in The Good German, also billed in part as a thriller.  I liked The Good German, but thrilled I was not.  Just as with that film, I thought the Ides of March was an effective drama, but there was too little dramatic tension that gives the film the chance to be elevated to the status of thriller.

That I was expecting a political thriller, I was let down.  I remember thinking during the flick that if you told me that this was a dramatic re-enactment of actual events, I would have believed it.  Life is usually filled with drama, but far less thrilling that the movies make it out to be.  To that end, as a drama; as a view through a window looking into the procedural world of dirty politics, I guess the movie succeeded.

For my money, I was happy to see this flick, but overall, I liked it for the actor's workshop we were treated to, more so than the tale that was woven.  I don't know how the Willimon play came off, but I think the story created for the screen by Clooney and Grant Heslov was a little milquetoast.

That's all folks....I will catch up with you soon.  I hope to get to business catching up on some TV this week.  I have three more episodes of Breaking Bad before I can watch the season finale from that show.  Dexter is back.  I tried revisiting CSI with Ted Dansen in the lead...he looked competent in the role, but I decided to keep it off my watch list.  The first 8 season wore me out, but I will always remember the Quintin Tarantino directed two-fer back at the end of season four or five...perhaps my all-time favorite episodes of any show ever. 

I would have liked to have caught Emilio Estavez's The Way this looks a little schlocky, but in a wholly enjoyable and heartfelt way.  Also, I am pretty excited for The Thing...hopefully this prequel will be the horror fare I am clamoring for.  That and Footloose are prediction on Footloose: atrocity.

Until later, take care....
Reel Rhino

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Next Evolution: Nov. 24th, 2011

On Wednesday, October 5th, 2011, Universal Pictures made a monumental announcement that would have a serious impact on the future of film and film going.

Tower Heist, a film by Brett Ratner, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, hits theaters on the 4th of November.  A very short 3 weeks later, Tower Heist will be released on Video On Demand.

Whoa.  It may not sound like much, but this is serious business.

Up until now, the only pre-theater release films set loose on VOD have been small, indie flicks; or films that had very low box office expectations. 

I love the concept of pre-theater release and same-day release for films that are released in very limited engagements.  I had the chance to see Tucker and Dale vs. Evil as a result...George Romero's latest installment in the Dead series...Hobo With a Shotgun...and even another look at Kevin Smith's Red State, before its release on DVD.

This concept is a good thing...but will it work for a major studio release?

Better yet, will it work when the price tag on catching Tower Heist at home is...

Wait for it...


Okay, at first glance, that sounds absolutely effing crazy.  When I told The Kid in the Helmet, his kneejerk reaction was nothing short of poetry:

"Blow Me."

Gotta love The Kid!

Okay, so again, everyone calm down.  Yes, it sounds like an insane price.  But think about it for a minute.  Certainly, there is no way that this will become the standard means for people to see movies, or at least anytime in the foreseeable future.  Yes, the "rich" will probably choose this option at their leisure because they can...damn corporate fat cats!

But, for the average movie going joes and jills, 60 beans is quite a financial commitment for a single movie...or is it?

Let me use myself as an example for a moment:

Two movie tickets: $20.00 at AMC Barrywoods
#1 Combo: $13.75
Bottle of Water: $5.00
Pack of Twizlers: $6.00
and here's the kicker...

Babysitter for Reel Rhino Jr.: $40.00

Do the works out!

This model is not for your average afternoon solo flight to the theater, BUT...this completely works for:

Date night
Bunch of friends catching a flick and drinking beers night
Your kid's sleepover
Your kid's birthday party
A movie party theme night

You get the idea.

My initial reaction was quite like yours.  I actually think this is a pretty lame way to give this a shot....three weeks later??!? 

Ideally, if I am going to blow a load of cash on a flick like this, I am paying for the privilege of seeing it at home when I want, from the first moment it is available.  But NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) is pretty unhappy at the prospect of the movie dollars shifting from their theaters to the cozy confines of everyone's living room and the high end home theater systems that have become so prevalent.  In fact, Cinemark is already talking about boycotting Tower Heist altogether.

Times are changing and we are living in the digital age.  I mean we are a far cry from the sedimentary society that was presented to us in WALL-E, but...times are a-changin'.

My fear is a real one, that rising prices for flicks and food at the theater will continue upwards as theaters try to react to this perceived encroachment on their livelihood.  But what are they really doing for us?

I applaud the distributors looking at new means for getting the art to the audience.  This is happening, just as it happened to the digitization of distribution of photographs; the transition of music from CD's to .mp3's; and the shift from the postal service and phone calls to e-mail and Skype.

Times are a-changin'...

So I say this...this idea is not a bad one.  Necessity is the mother of all invention, and perhaps this is the penis showing game the theaters need to get their ass in gear (anybody catch that obscure reference to cult-favorite flick, WAITING?).

Here is what I want to see:

Reasonable prices for popcorn, soda, and candy.  $7.75 for $0.22 worth of popcorn...hey, NATO, renegotiate the box office split with the studios...silently agree to spend a few years with lower profit anything...but make this happen.  I think if you do, you will be pleasantly surprised at how willing people are to actually purchase MORE of your product.  Take an example from Kansas City's Sprint Center...they operate Quiktrip stores within the arena and sell re-donkulous amount of product to the more than eager arena-goers.  Doesn't it make you mad the lengths that people go to sneaking outside food into the theater?  Take some damn action.

Advanced theater going venues (ex. AMC's ETX) that don't have a huge upcharge attached to them...get over it, you upgraded your equipment.  Absorb the costs a bit more and you won't have empty theaters for the upsold shows!

Show quality prints of older movies.  Not just these digital re-releases that have been making the rounds, but more classic prints and short-time runs of the movies that have impacted cinema for so long.  You know Gone With The Wind is the most successful film of all time (inflation adjusted) and you can get it dirt cheap basically anywhere you look.  But I would pay a premium price to come and see this classic film on the big screen just once.  There is money to be made out there, you just have to be willing to work for it. 

Show special screenings of current films for roasts and live-tweet showings.  Both of these types of viewings would encourage second viewings.  Can you imagine if you got filmmakers and the film's stars involved?  Getting to watch a movie with a live-tweeted running commentary by those involved with the film?  Rian Johnson recorded an .mp3 commentary shortly after The Brother's Bloom was released so that you could watch the film with his commentary.  Brilliant.

Really, my thesis here is this:  You can't stop can adapt...or die.

I am glad that Universal is trying this out.  It isn't an insane idea and for smaller films, it has already taken hold as a successful means for generating viewership for movies many people may not have had access to.

Film is an art form...isn't it sad that corporations and alliances are keeping this art from being released however the hell anyone associated with its creation wants it to be released.

I love going to the movies...that will never change.  I love midnight screenings...that will never change.  But I want the big movie houses and distribution companies alike to remember that they are working for me.  I am the one holding the dollars they are fighting for...fight for me dammit!

I for one am looking forward to the right situation that presents itself so I want to drop $60 and catch one of these flicks at home.  I am glad that I have another option, no matter how ridiculous the price seems on the face of things.

When silent pictures became talkies....when B&W flicks added color...when 2-D added depth...all of these changes have lead to forecasts of DOOM.

The world kept spinning and movies kept playing.  This is the next evolution.  Just remember, everyone who is fighting this out, are working for you.  We need to demand better service, more options, and maybe even some decisions on green lighting flicks not based on a business model, but rather on the prospect of a movie being good. 

If you build it, they will come.