Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Reel Rhino Continues to Exist

Yep, I do.

First Off...Happy, that is!  Yeah, I'm persistent, but I have been a stranger!

I have been really, really busy and I have succumb to the curse that befalls most folks that write for any reason, be it professionally or time.

Yeah, that's right, I've been pretty busy living. 

I do live to 5th grade I won the regional writing award for poetry...I even remember the first few lines:

A look to the future,
A glance to the past,
From cavemen to dinosaurs,
Astronauts to cats.

Yes, that was the AMAZING first stanza that won me a $50 savings bond and also the chance to read said poem at the Millcreek Township school board meeting.  In fifth grade, that was on par with national publicity.

So I really do love to write and I would love to write on a more professional level (maybe someday), but for now, this is my venue.

That is the is my venue and I can write once a month, or once a day, and its all good.  Just know that if I had my way, it would be more often than less.  I love you guys, I do!  Yeah, its getting misty in here!

So, seen any good movies lately?

Here's a short and partial list of what I have seen since I last wrote:

Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Men In Black III: Real-D 3-D
The Chernobyl Diaries
The Sound of My Voice
Snow White and the Huntsman
Prometheus: The 3-D IMAX Experience
Madagascar 3-D
Snow White and the Huntsman
Rock of Ages
The Avengers 3-D
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3-D
The Amazing Spiderman: The 3-D IMAX Experience
Safety Not Guaranteed
Moonrise Kingdom
Singin' In The Rain
Your Sister's Sister
Ice Age: Continental Drift
The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience
The Watch
Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story

Yeah, I've seen a bunch!  In fact my count for the year as of this moment: 194 movies, theater and home viewing included!  If you remember back in January, I made the statement that I would make a run at 365 in 365....well as of today, the 29th of July -- 211 days into the year...I'm still in this thing!!  I was well ahead of schedule until around the end of April.  I will be back!  I will make 365!

As for what I have seen, I wanted to give you a list of must-sees from my list above...

Your Sister's Sister - 4.5 Horns - An indie flick starring Rosemarie Dewitt, Emily Blunt, and Mark Duplass -- DUPLASS IS A GENIUS actor (and director) - see also Safety Not Guaranteed, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, and THE LEAGUE!

Safety Not Guaranteed - 4 Horns - Awesome indie comedy drama that made it to the mainstream theaters for two weeks...starring Duplass and AUBREY PLAZA...everyone loves April from Parks and Rec, and she is channels in Plaza's performance here as well!  This flick is an indie dramedy that by the end, becomes an indie dramedy SCIFI flick!

Rock of Ages - 4.5 Horns - 80's Rock Musical that defied by uncertain expectations to be absolutely effing AWESOME!

The Sound of My Voice - 4.5 Horns - Creepy indie drama...the second larger release after Another Earlth, from Brit Marling...she has writing chops and in the lead role of Maggie, the leader of the cult at the center of this film, this indie drama is also indie sci-fi, that delivers a twist that is well worth the price of admission!

Jeff, Who Lives at Home - 4.5 Horns - I was a quivering mess by the end of this MARK DUPLASS directed flick...yes it was co-directed with his brother Jay, but this is the third entry for Duplass in my must-see list.  Mark Duplass is phenomenal in general, and he and his bro deliver here in a well told, tightly woven story that seems to be all over the place while managing never to lose you!  And holy S, RAE DOWN CHONG is in this thing!  Where has she been!

Prometheus - 4.5 Horns - Sir Ridley Scott demands to be seen.  His touch is golden and his flicks rock, consistently!  

The Amazing Spider-Man - 4 Horns - A story I didn't know needed to be told, actually was told quite well. I think for his delivery, Andrew Garfield is a superior Spidey, but Spider-Man 2 remains my favorite of the Spider-Man flicks!

The Dark Knight Rises - 4.5 Horns - Just a phenomenol end to Nolan's run!  This flick was awesome!  Much more story-centric than the previous two, it will be my #2 in the series, but only a close second to The Dark Knight.  Ledger and Eckhart delivered in a way that may never be matched again in comic book fare, but Tom Hardy did a damn fine job as well.  Bravo to everyone involved in this flick.

I was dissappointed by: Ted, The Watch, and Savages.  That is all I will say about the negative...

Well...its good to see you all...check out some of the flicks I mention will not be disappointed!!

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

Sunday, July 1, 2012

BURNED FILMS returns to school us on TED

WASSUP AMERICA?  Yep, I said Wassup....that just happened.  

My delinquency continues and I yield the floor again to Burned Films, whose writing continues to wow and amaze...we are lucky that he chose to opt out of Magic Mike...although, Tanning Chatum is actually pretty bearable and Magic Mike looks decent...yeah, I said it.  I may see it tomorrow if only to see it in a theater packed with ladies, for the ambiance.

Family Guy’s creator Seth McFarlane first feature film Ted is a story of a little boys Teddy Bear that comes to life because of his wish.

When I first heard about this idea about a little boys bear coming to life I thought it might be funny.  I am a huge fan of Family Guy so I hoped there would be some damn good comedy involved. I saw the Red Band trailer in front of that stupid ass movie “The Dictator”; by the way the “Ted” trailer was the best part of the film. I lost count at how many times he said the F-WORD. I was laughing so hard just from the trailer that I had tears in my eyes. So I knew I would be seeing this film.

So the film starts out, with little 8 year old John Bennett asking the suburban Christian kids who celebrate Christmas by beating up the neighborhood Jew, if he can beat the Jew up too.  But lo and behold, the Jewish kid who is getting his butt kicked by all the other kids won't let little ol' John in on the action.

Christmas morning John opens his present from Santa to reveal a cute Teddy Bear. He names him Ted. They are best of friends, and thunder buddies for life. Given the disappointments John has experienced in the lack of friends department, John wishes upon a star that his best pal would be real.  Yep, he comes to life, and almost makes John's parents have a heart attack. 

Ted is a worldwide star...even appearing with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. But even a talking bear becomes old hat after a while and, a quarter-century later, Ted suffers the fate of many other child stars, indulging in major substance abuse while living in the past and mooching off others. 

Now almost 30 years later Ted (Seth McFarlane) is a raucously funny goof, boozing, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed, horn dog, who by the way still manages to get the ladies with no penis, and he has talked to Hasbro about that issue. Ted is a teddy bear who would be instant new best friends with The Hangover guys. He is living with a now 35 year old John (Mark Wahlberg) and his girlfriend Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). John works for a car rental company, and is very happy with his low paying job.  The plot thickens when Lori wants John to ask Ted to move out, and John is forced to choose between the love of his life, or his life-long Thunder buddy. 

The CGI done on TED was awesome. No complaints. I feel like this was a live version of an episode of “Family guy”, and loved every minute of it.

I thought the acting in this film was good enough. Not great, but they got the job done. A lot of surprise cameos in this one.  I was very surprised that this movie had heart and good character development, with an all around good story. This film will keep you laughing all night. They have jokes in there that made my jaw drop. I literally choked on my drink on one particular joke.  You will laugh.  Not too many films serve up laughs that just keep coming from beginning to end (SEE ALSO: THE HANGOVER). The interesting aspect of some of the humor...Ted says things that really would only be funny coming from a little teddy bear.

The bottom line if you love Family Guy or American Dad then you are going to love this film. I highly recommend you go see this movie and just enjoy the hell out of it.  Sure it has some flaws, but honestly the film is a whole lot of laughs, and crude sexual humor. Leave your thoughts at the door and laugh your ass off.
Thanks Burned!  Good to have you good broheim and to all of you out there in film land, head out to the theater soon....until later, take care!

Reel Rhino

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hello from RHINO and BRAVE with Special Guest "BURNED FILMS"

Hey Everyone!!  Long time no talk!

I feel like to catch up, I may have to break into a Billy Joel, We Didn't Start the Fire custom jam to bring you up to speed on my last month.  You know, like Liz Lemon was going to do for Avery on 30 Rock.   Love that show!

I have been "micro-blogging" a bit through the MISO "what I've been watching site."  It is quite addictive and you can follow me here: and of course I am flying under the handle: ReelRhino  If we are friends on facebook, this is the source of all those...Ryan is watching... posts.

Be careful, it is an addictive site!

I have also been selling lots of stuff...on eBay under the handle Rhinoterp and posting much of my wares on - feel free to stop by and brows my goods!

So I have been to loads of flicks since May 20th, when I last said hello.  Speaking of hellos, how about a goodbye?  Last Wednesday night, myself, with The Kid, The Kid-ess, and Papa, we forayed out to the AMC Mainstreet, for the last time it would be open under that banner.  The Mainstreet is an iconic theater in Kansas City and while it was a great flagship for AMC, but the tenant-to-be is not too shabby...

This can only mean good things, but still, the Mainstreet was a pretty great AMC property, with my peeps at Barrywoods of course taking home my top prize for "The Place to Be."

The first photo was from a year or so ago and the one at left is from the front of the theater, sans the AMC logo.  Apparently, it is being turned over, turnkey to Alamo, including some of the staff.  It's a happy sad kind of thing!

Speaking of the place to be, it is - even though I've been gone, I have managed to find a pinch-writer to share some wisdom with you...I didn't see any of the new openings this weekend, so I had to look to the cadre of film geeks and buffs that I know, to give you..."BURNED FILMS" - Burned is the latest entry into "staffers" and he had the chance to bring us up to speed on Pixar's Brave...

I was amazed at this movie. The quality of the animation was such a jump from any CGI movie and it made the scenery so lush and rich. That’s about the only good thing I am about to tell you about this film. As much as it pains me to say it, this is my least favorite Pixar film. I was alternately bored and frustrated by it. I think it was a great idea that ultimately went off in the wrong direction. A woman (Brenda Chapman) directed the beginning of the film, and then they fired her and brought a guy (Mark Andrews) in to finish it. I feel that the filmed lost its womanly touch. Some points to make...there are surprisingly a lot of bare asses in this movie...surprisingly for a rated-PG flick!  This film reminds me too much of the movie "Brother Bear". 

The crux of the story has to do with the heroine (Merida) getting into an argument with her mother (Elinor) and then seeking help from a witch to make things right.  Of course the witch has skewed motives, and Elinor gets turns to a bear.  First of all, it was so dumb to have her still act human. Think of how much more challenging things would have been for Merida if Elinor literally became a bear.  Also, being a movie set in Scotland, I think they should have gone with a ghost or something of that nature, and not a bear. When you think of Scotland you don’t think of bears. You think of monsters (ex. Loch Ness), or ghosts... Castles have ghosts.  They don't have bears (right?). Some kind of change in the core of this character That would of given the film a little better edge to it. The 3-D was also lacking, but even if you strip away all of my previously mentioned problems with "Brave," there's still one big problem – it's predictable. Every single step of the plot, from the point of the transformation on, plays out exactly how you would expect. There are no surprises in "Brave" and that makes it rather dull. 

This is even worst than last summers snooze fest "Cars 2". I will not buy this in Blu-ray when it comes out. Hopefully they can restore my faith with "Monster University" next year....

Now you listen here Burned...I have a two-and-a-half year old who is quite convinced that Cars 2 may be the greatest movie ever put to film!  If you don't believe me, just watch him watch it and its like he is seeing The Matrix for the first time.  I will be giving Brave a try, even with your problems with the film, because I am compulsed to do it for one, and for two, I need to find out more about this Dolby Atmos.  When we spoke on Saturday, you referred to it as the closest thing in a theater to true real-life sound.

That, I need to see....err hear!  See also, the press release here.

Sad to hear otherwise that the film is lacking.

BURNED FILMS, thanks for kicking in!  An air pound fist to you for the effort and you are always welcome in my hood!

Until next time all, take care....I'll try and pipe in soon with more film babble....
Reel Rhino

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ready for a Short Post? Giant Mechanical Man, Dark Shadows, Avengers, and Battleship

Sorry I have been checked out for a while folks...I have been busy with other stuff.  Not necessarily more important stuff, but when you get to a couple flicks a week, work a full-time job, and try to have a full life outside of all that, well just a little stuff can easily keep you from the keyboard!

I have been to some flicks, though, and for what I normally do, I will give you a word or two on each.

I just saw it on Saturday.  It is 10X better than the critics are giving it credit for and I had a very good time watching it.  Peter Berg is a completely capable director and the effects team made their bones long ago on the Transformers trilogy.  The movie popped as far as summer blockbusters go, and it really was an enjoyable watch.  There were some great patriotic moments and I will be honest...I got some waterworks going at one point.  Battleship is everything we look for in a summer movie and I say give it a try.  4 of 5 Horns for this totally acceptable entry into the summer movie genre.

This is a great little romantic dramedy, starring Jenna Fischer, you know, Pam from The Office, and Chris Messina, a lesser known, but handsome and extremely affable actor.  The film is written and directed by Lee Kirk (who is also Fischer's husband and baby's Daddy).  Kirk has managed to craft an immensely likable film and for my money, I could watch Jenna Fischer in just about anything.  She is cute, easy to enjoy, and easy to relate to in the "everyperson" role.  Messina has charisma and he plays the titular role with passion.  The two of them together are extremely likable as an on-screen pair.  This is a Tribeca Film Festival selection and I had the chance to see it on Time Warner is out there.  If you can find it, please give it a try.  At just over 90 minutes, it is a fast watch and really easy to digest.  4.5 of 5 Horns for this really sweet film.

A truly dark film, Dark Shadows has been undervalued for as good as it is.  I say that it is good, comparing it to nothing and thinking about the film on its own merit.  The people involved are all talented, without a doubt, but this film is really unique and an entertaining story.  I am not the biggest Johnny Depp fan, not that crazy for Tim Burton's filmography...I mean I like most of it, but may not love it.  But Shadows was well crafted and well made and for my money, a great time in the theater!  4 of 5 Horns

Someday, I think I will compose an ode to the Avengers.  For now, I will just say that this is clearly in my top ten film of all-time...Marvel, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier, and Kenneth Branagh, to name just the helmers of this great run, have pulled off the unthinkable.  This is something that I hope DC learns from and gets moving on a just as impressive run at the Justice League of America.  AVENGERS was a ridiculously awesome flick.  Let me say, re-donk-a-donk.  5 of 5 Horns

So there you have it...a mini-round-up.  I miss writing, but not at the expense of the amount of "stuff" I am getting done in the meantime.  As Arnie says it best, "I'll be back."  And for now, please enjoy my more brief writings.  Until later, take care!

Reel Rhino

Monday, April 30, 2012

Once Upon a Midnight Dreary...The Raven, Safe, and Revisiting COMIC-CON with Morgan Spurlock

This weekend brought four wide releases, the most we have seen in some time!  It is the LAST WEEKEND before official beginning of the SUMMER MOVIE SEASON.  Yes, the arrival of Earth's Mightiest Heroes will usher in the popcorn eatin', ray gun blastin', all-in-all good time at the movie season.  For this weekend, we have The Five-Year Engagement, The Pirates: Band of Misfits, Safe, and The Raven.

Safe, for those keeping track, is the latest Jason Statham flick.  You know, The Transporter 8: Safe

Yes, you read that right, I mean, come on, we have:

The Transporter 
The Transporter 2
The Transporter 3
The Transporter 4: Crank
The Transporter 5: Crank 2
The Transporter 6: The Mechanic
The Transporter 7: Killer Elite

And now, this.  I have to say, jokes aside, Jason Statham has found a niche that absolutely works for him.  Other than being let down a bit by Killer Elite, I think that I did in fact like all of those movies.  Statham has both charm and he can fight his ass off!

I wasn't feeling Safe today, and I also wanted to fulfill a request for a Raven review, which is what I did see.

The Raven
The Raven is a story bearing the title of an Edgar Allen Poe poem, named as such as the lead character in the film is Poe himself, played by John Cusack.  A killer is loose in mid-19th century Baltimore, MD, and his murders are modeled Poe's tales, with Poe being one of the earliest American horror writers.

The story is wholly enjoyable, but for everything it does right, there is still something missing that keeps this fantastic concept from elevating to a fantastic film.

Alice Eve is astonishingly beautiful, and she plays Poe's betrothed, Emily Hamilton, and Brendan Gleeson plays her father Captain Hamilton.  An adequate amount of time is put into building the foundation of their romance and her fathers disdain for it, to make their relationship more than just a plot point.

The lead police detective, Det. Fields, was played by Luke Evans.  He is exceptionally British in his filmography, and once I IMDB'ed him, I recognized him immediately.  But until last night, I actually thought he was Matthew Morrison, aka Mr. Schuester from Glee.  Yep, take a look at the trailer again and tell me you don't see it!

I don't know what this flick was missing, but there was something palpable lacking in the overall package!  I hate to say this, but the actual sound of this film was exceptionally weak.  Normally, during the Oscar Pool, I think that for sound editing and sound design, how do they pick and then judge a winner.  While I cannot tell you what is worthy of the big prize, I guess I can tell you for certain when something does not.

Overall, I liked the story, but didn't love this movie.  The flick has a little bit of gore in a few scenes, but for a rated R flick, I thought it pulled it's punches a bit.  Don't get me wrong, there were some scenes that would have been quite at home in the next installment of Saw, but overall, the bloodshed occurred mostly off camera.  

I give The Raven 3 of 5 Horns and leave the ball in your court as to whether you even see it at the theater, or wait to catch it at home.

So I made the Transporter joke up above and when I started writing, at which time I hadn't yet seen Safe.  But as the weekend wore on and I was kept from my computer, I decided not to split the post.  

I have a very soft spot in my movie going palate for Jason Statham.  I find him exceptionally likable and I will never forget the impact that the original Transport film had on me.  I mean before that, his pairings with Guy Ritchie left some memorable dramatic impressions, but his early action fare was less than great in John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars and the Jet Li headlining The One.  Now The One was bad, and we would later learn that Statham and Li on their own could be great, but when paired up ala The One, and later in War, their combined efforts were remarkable stinkers.

The short story is, I like Statham and the longer tale is that I liked this movie.  It has a decent supporting cast with only a few named players, including Chris Sarandon and James Hong.  

The story is that this mysterious man, Luke Wright, wins a UFC fight that everyone expected him to lose, putting him at the wrong end of the Buddy List of most of the New York City criminal underworld.  Some retribution is dished upon him, and after suffering a fair amount of personal tragedy and hardship, he decides to make a stand, and help a young Chinese girl named Mei (Catherine Chan), who he sees running away from some Russian mobsters in the subway.  He intervenes, and the two of them go on the run together.

I was rather vague in this description because there is a fair amount of exposition laying out this tale and I was pleasantly surprised the filmmaking used to tell this back story and also how much I enjoyed the actual meat and potatoes of this back story.

Bottom line is this, you have Statham and this girl on the run, which is what you likely took away from the trailer as the crux of the flick.  That part of the story doesn't kick in until about 30 minutes in, and then when it does, it is a pretty awesome and sometimes standard Statham ass-kicking ride.

I give this movie 4 of 5 Horns and for what is partly some of the same old same old, Jason Statham manages to continue to pick projects that are different enough to keep us coming back for more!

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this documentary.  At the end of the day, it was way more entertaining than informative.  In fact other than learning a little more about the 5 or 6 folks that were featured in Morgan Spurlock's Comic Con doc, there wasn't a great deal of substance to this flick.  

This film was made starring many legends of Comic Con and while I, a man in the know, found it exceptionally entertaining, I also thought that it was quite closed off to the "non-geek" crowd.  Comic Con is really something to see and whether as a fan or for pure people watching pleasure, there really is something for everyone there.  This film presents everything really assuming that the viewer will know and understand the backstory on the Con.  I mean there is some bare bones info, but there is a great deal going on that the non-initiated will be in the dark.

I was entertained and I think on the face of it, most anyone would be entertained, but Spurlock could have done a great deal more to both inform as well as entertain.  I would like to see more of a Discovery Channel style doc on Comic Con and perhaps the special features will come through.  I say 4 of 5 Horns, but again, that's as a man in the know.

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rhino and Catfish Review The Raid: Redemption and The Three Stooges

Usually, I would subjugate the Catfish to the second review, keeping top billing as the Blog is my namesake.  But this guy has been riding my ass all day....I'm checking the site....I'm checking the site!  CATFISH, you get the first run review today, my friend!!  Without further delay, the Catfish reviews...

The Three Stooges movie trailer was enough to get my eight year old daughter and five year old son to quickly commit, but my ten year old daughter held fast in her refusal. I not only had a nostalgic desire to see the film, but I had just acquired two scapegoats to deflect blame in the event the movie was atrocious. There are undoubtedly fringe benefits for having common interests with your five and eight year old kids.

Let’s just cut to the chase. The Three Stooges were never known as a mature ensemble trying to convey subtle dry humor. They perfected the art of slapstick, which as entertainment is timeless (but I guess that is debatable...just ask my wife).

The question now becomes: what is the expectation level of such a remake. If your pretentiousness only allows you to see Oscar nominated films then I wouldn’t recommend this one. By the way, that was not why my ten year old daughter refused to go. She just thought it didn’t look good. You know “good” like iCarly, Jessie, and Good Luck Charlie. If, instead, you want to be entertained by idiots being idiotic then have at it. I really wanted to see how well the Stooges were portrayed and I was amazed at what a good job they all did (Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Will Sasso). Sasso gets extra kudos for his spot on depiction of Curly. That is not to take away from the other two who were great as well, as the integrity of the characters remained intact. We the traditionalists take pleasure in that.

I tried to stay tuned in to my kids during this movie. My five year old son was cracking up. I didn’t see much reaction from my eight year old daughter even though she claims to have liked the movie. I was doing my share of laughing too. Granted, it’s a limited sample size, but I came to a definitive conclusion based on our individual experiences. This type of humor is right in a five year old boy’s wheelhouse and will appeal to adult men of any age who have the maturity level and sense of humor of a five year old. 

Amen, brother. Now you know who I am!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy this mindless humor as an innocent boy anymore, but it didn’t make it any less entertaining. I realized I was watching through the eyes of what has become a neurotic, worrisome man who isn’t what he once was (**ReelRhino note: he ain't kiddin'!). Every time I saw a chainsaw or sledgehammer taken to Curly’s head I was worried the moviemakers were going to be sued by some idiot kids who would try to mimic what they saw on the screen (funny, not worried about the idiot kids; worried about the lawsuit). In my head I found myself working out my fatherly post-movie speech on the subject of reality. Like an answer to a prayer, immediately after the movie ended two studly dudes faux posing as the Farrelly Brothers gave a safety disclaimer. Let me clarify. The answer to the prayer was the disclaimer itself, not the studly guys. They explained how the props were rubber and how it is never a good idea to poke anyone in the eye. Disaster averted; no obligatory lecture needed. Thanks, Farrelly Brothers, for cleaning up the loose ends even if it was most likely done at the insistence of your attorneys.

If you understand what you’re getting into then I think you can enjoy the stooges for what they were
and always will be…no more, no less. Just don’t ask the question, “Where’s Shemp?”

3 out of 5 Whiskers ~~~  Catfish
Thanks Catfish, although you didn't touch on it, my real question is how does this fit in with the up and down career of The Farrelly Brothers.  They have fallen from their 90's pedestal, but I think they still have the touch, but it is very hit and miss!

I gave HALL PASS a 3 out of 5 Horn rating last year, and on a second viewing, I actually enjoyed it a great deal more, even perhaps as high as a 4 of 5!


This movie was off the hizzy fo shizzy.  That is one of the highest compliments I can pay a flick.  This film was written and directed by Gareth Edwards and it was shot for a ridiculously reasonable $1.1 million in Indonesia.  This film looks like a $30 or $40 million Hollywood flick, rather than the low budget indie that it is!  

The story is simple: a police SWA T team is sent into a high rise building owned and run from top to bottom by the big crime boss in the Jakarta slums.  Things go fairly smoothly, until they don't and that's when things get re-donk.

This movie is about 70-30...70% crazy balls-to-the-wall action scenes consisting of some gun fights, but  more prominently, hand-to-hand martial arts combat.  These fights are crazy and there are some kill moves reminiscent of Mortal Kombat, but done in the real world.  The speed and choreography is brilliant and again, Edwards is unreal in his shot selection and it all comes together in a tightly woven sequence of battles and fights, with sparse dramatic scenes interwoven, that for the type of movie are quite acceptable.

This is a film that has been extremely hyped from a critical perspective.  It is subtitled, which will turn some off, and most likely they can wait until it is re-released in the US after being remade here (which is unnecessary!).

I had a great time watching this movie and I fully recommend seeing it in the theater, rather than waiting for the home viewing, and even more so watching it on a mobile device or a computer.

4.5 of 5 Horns for The Raid: Redemption....go ahead and take a try, it's an otherwise weak weekend ahead.

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reel Rhino Reviews: Cabin in the Woods and Lockout

So the results are in...The Hunger Games have taken the weekend...again, banging out $21.5 million!!!  This is the first flick to roll four weeks in a row since Avatar did it in January of 2010.  The movie sits at 22nd all-time on the domestic box-office already and it is only four weeks in!  

The Stooges, as the most family friendly flick (it was rated PG) of the bunch, came in at second at $17.1 million, with the R-rated The Cabin in the Woods jamming a solid $14.8 million, but besting the Stooges per screen average opening on less screens overall.  Number 4 was Titanic 3-D and Number 5 was American Reunion.

The second flick I review today, Lockout (see below), came in at a paltry ninth place, bringing in only $6.25 million but playing on over a thousand less screens than the stooges.  So the PG-13 crowd that should have been seeing Lockout, apparently was watching, or re-watching Hunger Games.

I did also see The Raid: Redemption, which I am saving for a mid-week post, but let me say quickly, it is re-donk-a-donk.

Also, the week ahead looks bleak...the three wide-openings for April 20th....Chimpanzee, The Lucky One (Ugh), and Think Like a Man.  I have little interest in any of those, so it looks like I will be searching the art houses for next week!  

For now, on to business...

The Cabin in the Woods
So...Biff wants to be a buff! (what's that line from?  anyone know?)

I fancy myself a bit of a horror buff, reaching back about as far as Romero's Night of the Living Dead, loving the classic era of modern horror (1970's) and most of the first installments of the era of sequeled/franchise horror (Nightmare, Friday, Halloween, etc.).  Perhaps my favorite genre is the splatter film, gore film, or "Splatstick."  Most notable on my list of favorites here is Romero's Dawn of the Dead, which is vastly superior to Zach Snyder's 2004 remake, and also Romero's lesser seen Day of the Dead.  

The "cabin in the woods" genre is almost a subset of horror in and of kind of goes hand in hand with the summer camp sleepaway horror flicks, except that with the lone cabin, ala Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, you are on an island, so to speak, as far as being utterly alone.

So we have your standard cabin in the woods flick here...insomuch that the damn title is even, "Cabin in the Woods!"  Well, that's actually just a bit of tongue-in-cheek marketing at play, because this flick is anything but standard.

Cabin in the Woods is much more of a comedy than it is a horror flick and while there were a few hearty jump scares that got my blood pumping, this is a flick that is wholly self aware and is played much more for laughs, than for pure horror scares.

At the outset of the flick, you meet a pair of scientists in Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins.  They are talking about some kind of operation that is going on around the world, and how it has come down to the Japanese and the Americans to come through.  Out of the gate, you realize, this is a horror flick with a twist, and at no point during the movie, does the film try to keep you from realizing that things are absolutely not what they seem.

That is the beauty of this movie, it is telegraphing its differences from your standards run of the mill horror flick, but you still have NO IDEA what the end game is, and that keeps you 100% invested in seeing this story unfold!

The story...a genius effort from Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, with Goddard also directing.  Goddard has been on Team Whedon since the good ol' Buffy and Angel days, being involved as a writer on the prior and a writer and story editor on the latter.  Cabin in the Woods is exactly what it sounds like...a story about a cabin in the woods.  My only surprise was that we started off with only five kids headed out to the wilderness, which seemed like a little light on victims, but in the end, it all came together and it all made sense.

The five kids include quite a spread of folks, most notably including Chris Hemsworth as Curt.  Yes, Thor himself is one of the primaries in this thing, and this was filmed long before he hit the mainstream as Kirk's papa in the 2009 Star Trek reboot and certainly before he became the God of Thunder and started his path towards the Avengers.  The other four are much lesser known actors, but things may changes as this flick is bound to launch them into somewhat of a cult status as the hapless victims in a new evolution in horror.

Let me not spoil a thing about this story, other than to say that you have never seen anything like this and while you learn early on that a team of scientists is following the plight of our young victims, you really have to wait until the very end to learn why.  Also, there comes a moment at the end of this flick when this thing just blows off the rails into super crazy, and when it does, you will either love it, or like the older couple in my theater, perhaps stand up and exit the theater.  I think most of you will love it, but it gets crazy, fast, as this flick heads toward its resolution.

4.5 of 5 Horns for this fantastic reinvention of a played out subgenre of the horror scene.  Kudos Mr. Goddard, Kudos Mr. Joss, you best not let us down with The Avengers...I have faith in gave us Firefly, they took it away, but you continue to thrive, and I will consume every bit of what you serve!  

Just as Cabin knows what it is, so does Lockout: a silly, action-packed sci-fi comedy.  I almost wanted to add thriller in there, but I think there is a marked lack of drama, and while there are some thrills in the action, it isn't really a thriller.

In fact, given the startling rate at which Guy Pierce's Snow spews one-liners, this is almost a full fledged comedy.  Produced by Luc Besson, a genius who among other things, brought us The Fifth Element, which also had a fair amount of comedy, but didn't seem to try nearly as hard.  If most of his jokes didn't stick, I would have walked away from this with a completely different view, but for trying so, so hard, this script was actually pretty damn funny!

If it isn't the funny, it may be the pain old fashion fun.  This movie would perhaps be the B-movie stuff of late night SyFy if not for Guy Pierce's absolute affability.  He is just plain lovable as our anti-hero, mixing one part John McClain (badass reluctant hero), one part Snake Pliskin (concepts), and one part Michael Weston (Burn Notice -- looks...Damn if Pierce isn't the spitting image of Jeffrey Donovan in this!).

This is nothing to write home about.  It is a fun movie and it takes you on a fun ride.  In the not so distant future, there is a low-orbit space station, known as MS-One or Maximum Security-One.  A prison, with hundreds of beds, being used a test facility where prisoners are kept in stasis during the course of their prison terms, eliminating the troubles with your average run of the mill prisons.

The president's daughter, Emily Warnock, played by Maggie Grace, is off on a humanitarian mission to interview some of the prisoners, to see if the rumors about stasis dementia are true and if the concept of MS-One is actually a sound one or just good for show.

Of course, her visit goes badly, the prisoners overpower her protectors, and ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a good old fashion hostage situation.

Now we have something in the vein of Escape from Los Angeles, the vastly inferior, 1996 Carpenter sequel to Escape from New York, in which Snake Pliskin is sent to LA to retrieve the president's daughter, who has run off to cause some mischief.  The concept is similar, except that Emily Warnock hasn't chosen to be in peril, but the story did in fact demand it.

Snow is a disgraced CIA operative, who has been accused of treason, and who stands to be sent to MS-One for a sentence for his own crimes, before he learns of the rescue request that is being made of him.  He basically tells them to piss up a rope, until he finds out that his confidential informant, who happens to have a piece of information that proves his innocence, is already an inmate there.

Of course he accepts the mission and nearly 30 minutes in, things really start to get moving.  I make a note of this because the flick is not excessively long, and for taking a few extra minutes getting snow to the space station, it really keeps the pacing of the rescue itself moving along nicely.

Lennie James has a great supporting role, as does the ever smarmy Peter Stormare.  The main badees are played by Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgan as Alex and the psychopath Hydell.  Hydell is excessively over-the-top in a deliciously evil kind of way.

Look...this is not the best action flick you will ever see, but it is interesting, enjoyable, and out and out fun, for my movie dollar.  I give it 3.5 of 5 Horns and say critics be damned, it was a fun time in the theater.

Until later gang, take care!!
Reel Rhino

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Couple of Flicks - American Reunion, Wrath of the Titans, Mirror Mirror, Casa De Mi Padre, Titanic

I have seen a couple of flicks over the last few weeks and I just haven't had a lot of computer time to share my thoughts.  Well folks, I give you a few minutes of my evening to get some (very) brief thoughts down on these flicks.

American Reunion - 2 of 5 Horns
I am a huge fan of American Pie, and a moderately decent fan of American Pie 2 and American Wedding.  The original trilogy had both heart and loads of laughs.  This film leans way to heavily on the old reliable jokes, and to bring this series back after 9 years and a solid end to a TRILOGY, well, I expected a much stronger effort.  Eugene Levy is great, and there are glimpses of hilarity in all of the original cast.  The only problem is that the glimpses of hilarity were quickly clouded by replaying so many of the SAME JOKES from the originals.  In a post Judd Apatow, Todd Phillips, Bridesmaids, Hangover world, from those who reinvented the teen gross out comedy at the end of the 90's, I expected much, much more.  This was a lame duck from a crew that historically has delivered.  Weak folks, very weak.

Wrath of the Titans - 2.5 of 5 Horns
This is a movie with very little story.  I mean there is a story there...a very basic hero's journey, but it has absolutely no substance!  The 3-D was not terrible, but there was just so little to grab onto here.

Mirror, Mirror - 4 of 5 Horns
This is a movie full of fun and whimsy!  Tarsem Singh is shaping up to be one of my favorite directors and his flick, The Immortals, puts to shame the Titans flick mentioned above...don't believe me, check it out!  Mirror, Mirror is the first of the two SNOW WHITE flicks we are getting this blockbuster season.  The other one is a bit more serious, and this effort is a family friendly and really fun outing at the theater.  Lily Collins is stellar in the role that actually inspired her to take up acting.  Julia Roberts chews up the scenery in her turn as the wicked Queen, and Armie Hammer is stellar, just stellar as the Prince.  The seven dwarves are both eccentric and reinvented in a unique and enjoyable presentation.  This was a fun movie that was a welcomed flick in a so far lackluster film year.

Casa De Mi Padre - 4 of 5 Horns
Will Ferrell as the protagonist in a Spanish language film.  One part comedy, one part drama, one part western, one part GRINDHOUSE genius.  Look, I'm not even going to make a shot at describing this flick.  The comedic sensibilities are similar to the tongue-in-cheek-ed-ness of Anchorman, and while I thought it was wholly ridiculous, I also thought is was very creative and exceptionally cool!  

Titanic 3-D - 5 of 5 Horns
Just a great all-time classic!  This is how films are meant to look in 3-D.  James Cameron should be in charge of all up-conversions, from here on out.  Line 'em up...all of Michael Bay's early work, The Matrix trilogy, all of the blockbuster wet dream flicks, give them to Cameron and let him handle the 3-D-ization, please!

Sorry It's been so long, I'll try to write again sooner...till then, take care!

Reel Rhino

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Who's Hungry? Reel Rhino Reviews: The Hunger Games

So until today, I have resisted this Hunger Games thing.  Everybody has been raving about the've got to read them, they say!  I have resisted fearing that we had on our hands, the likes of the second coming of the Twilight Saga.  I was wrong.

I was tempted to get into the books before this came out, but I resisted for one main reason.  I didn't wanted to spoil a decent movie, with a much better book.  From what I have been hearing from fans of the book, the movie does justice to the written version, so perhaps my fears were overwrought with memories of The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, both FANTASTIC Dan Brown books, both TERRIBLE Ron Howard movies. Would I have liked those movies more if I hadn't read the books?  Who knows, but I wasn't going to chance it.

So I got up early on this fine Friday, to check out the 9:45 AM IMAX show at my home theater of AMC Barrywoods.  I expected a larger crowd, but there were only about 100 in the huge auditorium.  It was 9:45, though, maybe too early for some movie goers....for me, it was a great opportunity to AVOID THE CROWD.  I am sure the evening showings were an absolute mess!

The story is simple, a civil uprising in the world of PAN-AM was quelled in the past by the government.  The world consists of 12 districts and as penance for their uprising, each year each district would offer up one young man and young woman as tribute to the Hunger Games.  Their names were drawn from a bowl and depending on things you received from the government through the year, your name may be in there more than one time, increasing the odds of your selection.  Of the 24 competitors selected for the competition, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE! (Sorry, that's highlander!)  But still it's true, there can be only one winner, in a fight to the death battle arena style competition, in which the arena is this futuristic gaming cage consisting of forests, mountains, fields, and rivers.  Lots of places to hide, plan an ambush, or cry for mommy, if that's your cup of tea.

This is a sci-fi, fantasy, action, adventure, love-story, but also methinks, it falls into the realm of post-apocalyptic (of sorts) and me likely likely!! 

We focus our attention on District 12, where young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to survive with her mother and her sister, hunting for whatever she can find them to eat.  We meet her early on and we can tell she is quite proficient as a survivor.  She has a close friend in Gale (apparent man-candy to most young ladies in Liam Hemsworth), who dreams of their families running away together, away from the oppression of the PAN-AM government and their wicked Hunger Games.

The day of The Reaping (the selection of the tributes) is upon their District,.and the fancy-schmancy Effie Trinket (an almost unreconizable Elizabeth Banks) is their to lead the ceremonies as the District's liaison to the games.  Katniss has a younger sister, Primrose, who is in shambles because this his her first year with her name in the bowl.  Of course, the odds are stacked way against her being selected because the older you are and the more in debt you are to the government, the more times your name is in that bowl.  As fate would have it (and for the sake of good storytelling!), of course young Prim is selected.  With that event, District 12 is then presented with its first ever volunteer for tribute in Katniss stepping in to take the place of her much younger sister.

Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the son of the town baker, is selected as the male tribute.  The two are given fleeting moments to say goodbye to their families, and then they are off to a two week stretch of pagentry, celebrity, training, and then the ultimate fight to the death.

On their travels via a high speed futuristic floating (magnets?) train to the capitol city, they meet their "mentor," a former Hunger Games champ, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson).  On the train, the are regaled with lavish food and hospitality.  Haymitch is not so eager to begin their training, as he is quite jaded by all this, but he quickly comes around to their cause.  Once they arrive in Capitol City, they are each given a handler to make them presentable.  Katniss has the good fortune of hooking up with Lenny Kravitz himself, who turns out to be a master of style and panache.

The supporting cast of adults, Kravitz and Harrelson included, are all matched to their characters perfectly.  From Stanley Tucci's jovial host of the Hunger Games talk show, attended by thousands, to the game designer, Seneca Crane (Wes Bently), who has by far the beard of the year in any movie to date.  The enigmatic Donald Sutherland is perfect as the soft spoken, man of little words but harsh glances, President of Pan Am.

After the selection of the Tributes is complete, they are presented to the audience of thousands who have gathered for the Games.  In this process, they have the opportunity to impress folks and possibly garner sponsors that may send then needed items that may aid them during the Games.

There is a training session, some get to know our characters time, and by the midway point in the film, much to my happiness, the games begin.  

This is a PG-13 film that features a competition of battling to the death.  This is mostly a bloodless battle film, but the skill in overall presentation makes you the viewer, forget how mild the violence is, compared to what it could be, ala say, The Running Man.

The game site is a beautiful landscape, that is controlled precisely by a computer control room, meaning the game designer can affect the outcome, insomuch that he tries to goad the Tributes into combat when there are lulls in the competition.

This film reminded me of sorts of Firefly, the cult classic Whedon series, in that there is a seamless combination of high-tech sci-fi concepts intermingled with old world, outworld type of Macgyver tech, designed on the fly so that the competitors can survive.

This is an out an out adventure film.  Jennifer Lawrence is a very strong lead and Josh Hutcherson holds his own surprisingly well.  I was quite surprised at the lack of screen time for Liam Hemsworth, but from my understanding, he becomes more prominently involved in the subsequent entries in this violently popular trilogy.

I learned from a co-worker today that Jennifer Lawrence and Director Gary Ross, in an interview on NPR, revealed that each day brought an hour hike in and out of the very rural set that was used for the Games grounds.  That is really something...piggyback rides anyone?  Sherpas?  Hopefully they had some kind of a hookup!

The screenplay was written by the novelist, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray, and the Director.  I think having Collins on board is what has helped keep everyone so happy, but for my money, they knocked this story out of the park!  There were some very touching moments and I thought the selection process was especially heartfelt, as even though we had only met our characters for a few moments before we learn that Katniss will be the D12 warrior, her loyalty to her family and friends is absolutely palpable.  The story is well told from start to finish and I am very much looking forward to the sequel!

The big question is, now that I know for sure that I will read the first book, will I be able to keep from reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the interim?

The critics seem to love this film, the audiences seem to love this film, the fans of this book seem to love this film and you know what, I loved this film.  I enjoyed it from start to finish and I certainly was glad to have caught it on the IMAX screen, as it is limited in that regard, playing only one week on the super-duper big screen.  I wonder if the theaters will be happy that Hunger Games gets bumped by Wrath of the Titans next week?  Hunger Games set the midnight record for a non-sequel opening, I think it will be tough for the Titans to knock off Katniss next week!  THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!

4.5 of 5 HORNS for this fine flick!

As a final and interesting aside, another friend at work today brought up the similarities between this and Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.  I remember reading that back in 8th grade and being disturbed (a little) but also in absolutely loving it!  You can read it, if you haven't, here:

It's a quick read and it is worth it.  I really used to love short stories in English and Lit classes!  The Most Dangerous Game, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and so many more!  Such great tales, told in so few words!  

I hope you all have a great weekend!!

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

**Thanks to Hermione for pointing out my is in fact Panem, as opposed to Pan Am, which I thought it was.  Oops!  None the less, thanks Hermione!