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