Thursday, December 30, 2010

Playing Catch-up

Here's a quick look at my ratings of the movies I've watched during my writer's block moments:



EASY A (2010)

GOOD HAIR (2009)
HARD GUY (1930)
AVATAR (2009)
KICK-ASS (2010)

WORD WARS (2004)
IRON MAN 2 (2010)

LEGION (2010)
GROWN UPS (2010)

COP OUT (2010)
JONAH HEX (2010)

WILD HOGS (2007)
KILLERS (2010)


Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Film Consumer: Take Two

Those of you who "like" my blog on Facebook know I fell behind with my writing. Of course, you also know that if you follow the blog.

The difficulty, for me, was trying to do too much. Watching the movies and writing down my thoughts are the easy parts. The hitch in the creative process was coming up with a catchy title that also incorporated a food/beverage item. And, I usually watch at least 5 movies in a week, so falling behind on one blog meant falling waaaaaaaaay behind. I would continue to watch movies, but only a choice few would end up with reviews. To me, that's lame.

So, I'm going to try again, but eliminate the frustration. However, if I have a funny idea for a picture, I'll try to go back and attach it to the review. I'll also post the pics in the photo albums on the Facebook page.

A big thank you to those of you who actually took the time to read my blogs, as well as a big apology for the absence of said blogs.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wordplay (2006) - Great Way to Start Your Day

On the Menu: WORDPLAY (2006)

Ingredients: Will Shortz, Merl Reagle, Tyler Hinman, Trip Payne, Ellen Ripstein, Al Sanders, Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, Mike Mussina, Ken Burns, Jon Delfin, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. Directed by Patrick Creadon. Run time: 94 minutes. Rated: PG.

At First Bite: I was actually looking for WORD WARS when I came across WORDPLAY at my local Blockbuster. I enjoy crossword puzzles; I usually start my Saturday mornings with one. I'm better at word find puzzles, but crosswords definitely work your brain. Completing one makes me feel smarter, even if it's the one in the local paper and not The New York Times.

Will Shortz is the crossword editor for The New York Times. He went to Indiana University and created his own major: enigmatology. He also started the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (1978) in Stamford, Connecticut.

And, this tournament is where the excitement happens...

Tough to Swallow: It would have been nice to see footage/interviews with normal, average joes at the tournament instead of just with people who had won before.

I would have like to have seen more on Reagle and crossword construction. It's fascinating.

Second Helping: The DVD has a commentary track with Creadon, Shortz and Reagle, so I decided to watch the movie again. It's amazing to think covering the tournament wasn't originally part of the movie.

Something to Chew On: Watching the movie a second time, you'll notice some foreshadowing in the scene where you're introduced to Al Sanders and he solves a puzzle in real time.

Shortz provided the clues for The Riddler's riddles in BATMAN FOREVER.

The film currently has a 7.4 user rating on (2,213 votes).

Sides: Aside from the commentary, the disc includes 7 deleted Shortz scenes (7:08), 3 deleted Tournament scenes (5:36) and 6 other deleted scenes (7:33). There's an interview gallery (12:16) with 7 of the celebrities. There's also a featurette on the film at Sundance (21:02).

The best extra is the featurette "5 Unforgettable Puzzles from the Pages of The New York Times." It's a breakdown in the construction of the puzzles. You can also use a DVD-ROM drive to access those puzzles for printing and solving purposes.

The extras conclude with a music video, photo gallery, a look at the 2006 tournament results and a 12-minute short film by Patricia Erens title "Waiting for The New York Times."

Aftertaste: Being a crossword "solver" myself, this film is pretty entertaining. I mean, I was unaware of Shortz and his big tournament (it's been going since 1978) until watching this. Shortz is an interesting guy, but the movie really gets going once we're introduced to the "professional" solvers. They're all real characters. I was surprised to find out that musicians and math geeks are usually the best at crosswords.

It's also fun to listen and watch famous people, e.g., Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton, working on the puzzles.

The editing and graphics are wonderful. A key scene is when you see Al Sanders solve a puzzle in real time. The screen is split into four sections and includes a clock. Shortz comments on the scene by stating if ESPN ever picked up crossword solving it should be shot the same way.

Another great editing sequence is when the celebrities solve the same puzzle.

Seriously, you'd never think a movie about crossword puzzles would be intense. Well, this one is. Especially when the final three square off in the tournament final (again with split screens). Really, I was on the edge of my seat watching it.

Sure, it's a documentary, but the last half-hour is exciting drama.

Okay, I'm a nerd. Probably on par with the one guy in the film who keeps a list of his solving times.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adopted (2009) - No Kidding

On the Menu: ADOPTED (2009)

Ingredients: Pauly Shore. Directed by Pauly Shore. Run time: 80 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: I saw this on a list of upcoming DVDs a few weeks ago, and decided to put it atop my Blockbuster queue because of the premise: Pauly Shore goes to Africa to adopt a child.

I won't say I'm a big fan of Shore, but I do own a copy of SON IN LAW.

While spending time with his neice and nephew, Shore comes to the realization that he's missing out on unconditional love. He doesn't want to get married, but figures traveling to Africa to adopt a kid is the next best idea since he doesn't have a vagina.

If Angelina Jolie and Madonna can do it, why can't he?

He roams the streets and asks the people he meets if he can take their children back to America to give them a better life. The locals think he's crazy.

So, he finds an orphanage that allows him to audition three children: Odwa, Summila (Somila) and Faith. He's allowed to take each one out for a 24-hour test drive.

How will these kids react to a day with Pauly?

Better yet, will the Weasel become a father by the end of the trip?

Tough to Swallow: When we meet the second orphan, his name appears on the screen as Summila. In the closing credits, his name is spelled Somila.

The info section of the movie's official site mentions "Peter Mate," who Shore calls "the P Diddy of Africa." He is credited as Peter Mata.

In the Cambodia Crew section of the closing credits, the credit Segment Producer is misspelled as Segement Producer.

Pauly gives special thanks in the closing credits to "ALL THE KID'S PARENTS." It should be "ALL THE KIDS' PARENTS."

Also, the word unintentional is misspelled as unitentional in the section that informs you the events in the film are fictitious.

It would have been nice to have a director's commentary on the DVD.

Something to Chew On: There are 8 deleted scenes/outtakes after the closing credits. So, the movie actually runs just over 85 minutes instead of 80.

The movie is set and shot entirely in South Africa.

This is the third movie Shore has written, directed and produced.

Shore came up with the idea for the movie while in Africa doing stand-up. He storyboarded the entire movie in his hotel room.

Shore threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen for stealing his adoption idea for a scene in BRÜNO, but later claimed he was just messing with people.

Right before the closing credits, Shore acknowledges that adoption is "no laughing matter" and directs viewers to for more information.

The film currently has a 4.6 user rating on (91 votes).

Sides: The DVD includes about an hour of bonus footage (55:17). The footage is split into 26 scenes.

The theatrical trailer is also on the disc.

Aftertaste: This mockumentary has its moments. It's not as edgy as BORAT or BRÜNO, but I don't think Shore wanted it to be. It's also nowhere near as funny as either of those movies.

I mentioned before that I love the premise. What really works for the movie is Shore's interactions with the locals. Most of them have no idea who he is, and aren't quite sure what to make of him. They're very candid. One man questions Shore's audacity when he says wants to give a child a better life. Another guy, Peter Mata (possibly Mate or Maté), is a real character.

The first child, Odwa, is a scene stealer. The other two kids don't really talk, so Shore relies on scripted moments that fall flat (if only because you know they're not real). **SPOILER ALERT** The three children and the orphanage director are all actors. Is that really a spoiler?

There are some voiceover jokes that are funny. One referencing Beyoncé made me laugh out loud (describing the woman he meets on top of the mountain). It still makes me laugh just thinking about it.

The movie does show off some beautiful locations, e.g., the views from the hotel, tram ride and safari.

Pauly Shore can be annoying, so I can imagine 80 minutes might be too much for some viewers.

Personally, I found the movie funny (and sometimes sincere) enough, and 80 minutes is nothing. I mean, have you seen ALL ABOUT STEVE? That is 99 minutes of pure dreck, and it has at least 10 name actors.

Grab some grindage and prepare to waste just over an hour of your life, buuuuddy.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inception (2010) - It Will Hurt Your Brain

On the Menu: INCEPTION (2010)

Ingredients: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Tom Berenger, Lukas Haas, Dileep Rao and Pete Postlethwaite. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Run time: 148 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: All I needed to be psyched for this film was the preview and the cast/crew list. I'm a huge Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan, and, as I noted in my WHIP IT review, I heart Ellen Page. Also, I've seen all of Christopher Nolan's films and never rated one lower than 4 stars (FOLLOWING, MEMENTO and THE DARK KNIGHT were all 5s, in my opinion).

Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is an expert in extraction. He goes into someone's dream and steals something the dreamer is trying to keep secret/hidden. So, basically, he's a thief.

He's also a fugitive. If he can complete his final assignment, then his name will be cleared and he can go back to his family. The catch is it's not an extraction. It's inception.

His employer, Saito (Watanabe), wants him to implant an idea into a business rival's subconscious.

Cobb's partner, Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), doesn't think it can work. He believes a dreamer will always know if an idea is innately his/hers.

So, is inception possible? Cobb thinks so. They'll just have to go even deeper into the subconscious than they have before.

Cobb assembles a crack team (in addition to Arthur): an architect named Ariadne (Page), a forger (Hardy) and a chemist (Rao).

Problem is recent assignments have been sabotaged by someone who somehow knows the layouts of the dream worlds.

Will they succeed?

Tough to Swallow: I figured out the significance of the opening scene rather early, i.e., the players and location.

It's all still confusing, but the way I understood the concept of kicks (things set off to upset the dreamer's equilibrium, which causes him/her to awaken) and levels, Arthur, in Level Two, should have woken up when the van initially drove off the bridge in Level One. Right?

Two of the people sitting in my row (both two seats away from me) constantly had their phones out texting someone. Come on. Do we need to walk through a phone detector before going into a movie theater? Obviously, some people do.

Second Helping: Watched the movie again (July 20).

I took extensive notes.

**SPOILER ALERT** I don't think the entire movie is a dream. There are moments when Cobb spins his totem and it stops spinning, which means he's not in a dream. One such moment is right before he speaks to his kids on the phone.

If there's an interpretation I really like, it's that the film is a retelling of the Minotaur story in Greek mythology, where Ariadne helps Theseus find his way out of the maze after defeating the beast. Others have suggested Ariadne is Cobb's therapist, which would go along with the myth in a way. She sets up these elaborate mazes for Cobb to work his way through while fighting his beast, the guilt from Mal's death.

I have two questions that might be important to understanding the movie.
1) Was the top Mal's totem before Cobb started using it?
2) Did Saito and Cobb awaken from limbo because the sedation wore off or because Saito used the gun?

Something to Chew On: This is Nolan's first original work since FOLLOWING (1998).

INCEPTION is a film about sleeping. Nolan's 2002 film INSOMNIA is a film about staying awake.

Nolan initially pitched INCEPTION to Warner Bros. after completing INSOMNIA. The script wasn't written at the time. He had apparently started writing it while shooting MEMENTO (2000), but it ended up taking almost 10 years to finish.

One of the main characters in FOLLOWING is named Cobb, which is also the last name of DiCaprio's character. Both characters are types of burglars.

James Franco was offered the role of Arthur, but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts.

Evan Rachel Wood turned down the role of Ariadne. Emily Blunt, Rachel McAdams and Emma Roberts were also considered for the part.

Michael Gaston, who plays Sanford Harris on "Fringe," has a small part as an immigration officer.

Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" (translated No, I Regret Nothing) is one of the songs in the movie (used as kick music). Cotillard played Piaf in LA VIE EN ROSE, and won an Oscar for her performance.

Some extraction team members carry totems, which are small, private objects the individual uses to help him/her differentiate between reality and the dream world. Ariadne's object is a chess piece (pawn?). Murphy's character is named Robert Fischer, Jr. Former World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer's birth name was Robert Fischer.

In Greek mythology, Ariadne was the one who helped Theseus successfully navigate out of the Minotaur's labyrinth. The first thing Cobb asks Ariadne to do is quickly draw a maze that it would take him a minute to solve. The maze she stumps him on is circular, as is the Minotaur's. Later, she ends up creating even more elaborate mazes within dreams.

In the Quran, the story of Yusuf (also Yusef) begins with a dream and ends with its interpretation.

Cotillard's character is named Mal, which means evil (in French and Latin).

The film currently has a 9.3 user rating on (5,123 votes).

Aftertaste: The movie is all about ideas.

Speaking of ideas, kudos to Nolan for hashing out an original one. I'm tired of all these remakes (although I enjoyed A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and look forward to DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS).

I don't necessarily understand everything that I saw on screen. Sure, you're taught the principles of extraction and the architecture of dreams along with Ariadne, but that doesn't mean it all makes sense. Some dream concepts will ring true with you though (at least, for me, they did): 1) if you die in a dream, you just wake up and 2) the sense of falling will pull you out of your slumber.

It's on the same level as THE MATRIX and DONNIE DARKO as far as mind-blowing plot goes.

But, as all-consuming as the plot is, to me, it's just a fragment of what makes this film so impressive. The visuals are simply amazing. Seriously, I am more impressed with the look of the dream worlds in this film than I was by anything in AVATAR. There's a never-ending staircase, a cityscape that folds over onto itself, zero-gravity fighting sequences and things exploding everywhere. And that's just a taste, really.

Hans Zimmer's score is sometimes haunting and sometimes beautiful, but it always works.

The acting is top-notch. Sure, the movie spends more time developing DiCaprio's character, but he's the lead. Gordon-Levitt and Page are two of my personal favorites, and they did not disappoint. Hardy is going to be the next break-out actor, in my opinion (see BRONSON). Next to DiCaprio, Cotillard gives the best performance in the movie though. I was pleasantly surprised to see Berenger, who held his own amongst all the young stars.

I plan on seeing this again within the next days, so I'll definitely be adding a Second Helping section.

I've always wondered what it would be like if you could share dreams. After watching INCEPTION, I'm not sure I'd like that.

Just thinking about it gives me a headache.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Defendor (2009) - Five-Dollar Hero

 On the Menu: DEFENDOR (2009)

Ingredients: Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings, Elias Koteas, Sandra Oh, Michael Kelly, Alan C. Peterson, Lyriq Bent and Clark Johnson. Directed by Peter Stebbings. Run time: 101 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: On Groundhog Day 2010, I saw the trailer for DEFENDOR back when I first popped my ZOMBIELAND DVD into my PS2. I made a note to search out the movie once it hit store shelves. Two months later, I added it to my collection solely on the fact it stars Harrelson and Dennings.

By day, Arthur Poppington (Harrelson) is a shy flagman with a below-average IQ.

By night, he's Defendor, a self-made superhero with no powers, lots of courage and a below-average IQ.

His mortal enemy is Captain Industry, but doesn't know where to find him. Until then, he battles punks in the street on a nightly basis armed with a trench club, a handful of marbles and jars of wasps. Needless to say, he gets beat up quite often.

Arthur befriends a crack-smoking prostitute, Katerina (Dennings), who claims she was once Captain Industry's favorite girl. She's muddy on directions, but points Defendor to his foe.

The local police have been staking out the same villain, and Defendor is starting to get in the way of the sting operation. He's also attracted the ire of a bad cop, Dooney (Koteas).

Will Defendor save the day or will Arthur get himself killed?

Tough to Swallow: When we first see the wasps in Arthur's hideout, there is a box of flares next to the aquarium. A sticker on the box reads "DANGER FLAMABLE FLARES." Flammable is misspelled.

Such as fuss is made about Arthur getting agitated when people mispronounce "Defendor" as "Defender," but when Kat asks Arthur why he dresses up as a superhero, he says, "...when I'm Defender, I'm not Arthur anymore. I'm a million times better than Arthur."

In the last scene, there are newspaper clippings on Kat's wall. It's really only noticeable if you pause the DVD, but the second column of the Kristic story is a copy & paste version of the first column.

Not that it's terribly important, but I think the theatrical trailer should have been included on the DVD.

The synopsis on the back of the DVD case says Arthur "falls for a local prostitute." Obviously, the people who wrote that didn't watch the movie.

Second Helping: I watched the movie again with the audio commentary. The commentary is interesting, funny and sometimes politically incorrect.

Something to Chew On: DEFENDOR was filmed in Ontario, Canada.

The film had a limited 4-theater release and grossed only $37,606.

This is Stebbings's directorial and screenwriting debut. He wrote the first draft in 2005.

Stebbings also has a cameo as a doctor.

Ellen Page was attached to the film in 2007, but pulled out. She had described the script as "incredible" and  and "awesome" in an interview on She is cast in a similar film entitled SUPER with Rainn Wilson, which should hit theaters in Fall/Winter 2010.

James Preston Rogers, who plays baddie Biker Bob, was a WWE wrestler named Big Deel. He apparently turned down a large contract to pursue acting. There was a campaign to have him cast as the lead in the upcoming Marvel flick THOR. Rogers didn't get the part. On a related note, Kat Dennings will appear in THOR.

The film currently has a 7.2 user rating on (8,820 votes).

Sides: There is audio commentary from Stebbings, Harrelson, Dennings and producer Nicholas Tabarrok. 

The DVD also includes 5 featurettes: "Origin Stories: The Genesis of Defendor (10:15)," "Removing the Costume: Behind the Screenplay (11:30)," "Heroes and Villains: Meet the Players (20:11)," "An Actor's Director: Working with Peter Stebbings (4:57)" and "Famous Last Words: Wrapping Defendor (10:39)."

There's also a blooper reel, 5 deleted scenes (three of which include the reporter character played by Lisa Ray) and 7 other movie/TV trailers.

Aftertaste: When I saw the trailer, I immediately thought of SPECIAL and MYSTERY MEN. Surely, this was going to be a quirky comedy full of laughs.

Not so fast.

This is a drama. More precisely, this is a tragedy with some laughs sprinkled around. I mean, here is a story of a man-child thinking bullets don't hurt him when he's wearing his hero costume. The movie generously diagnoses Arthur as having ADD and being "socially immature." He finds himself in dangerous situations, but he isn't smart enough to understand the gravity of those situations.

He's a dim bulb, but he hasn't lost his marbles. He has an infinite supply.

I'd say Defendor falls somewhere between Handi-man and Blankman in the superhero hierarchy, but the movie clearly isn't an offensive superhero parody (although I'd love for the Wayans brothers to make a Handi-man movie). It has heart, and teaches us that regular people can do extraordinary things.

Dennings is involved in most of the dramatic scenes, and she steals them. Koteas plays a great creep and corrupt cop, and has some comic moments with Harrelson.

Harrelson owns the role of Arthur/Defendor. He perfectly displays the powerlessness and childlike wonder of Arthur, yet still exudes the right amount of courage and confidence as Defendor. He's a hero the city loves and appreciates when he could just as easily be ridiculed.

On a side note, the end credits sequence is pretty cool.

THE MESSENGER. DEFENDOR. ZOMBIELAND. 2012. One thing's for sure, 2009 was the year of Woody...

Even more proof that ordinary can be remarkable.


Monday, July 12, 2010

The Cove (2009) - Dolphin Safe

On the Menu: THE COVE (2009)

Ingredients: Richard O'Barry, Joe Chisholm, Charles Hambleton, Simon Hutchins, Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, Kirk Krack and Louie Psihoyos. Directed by Louie Psihoyos. Run time: 92 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: I heard about this movie right before it came out on DVD, but put off watching it because of the subject matter. I find it appalling that an animal as intelligent as the dolphin would be slaughtered for no reason other than to misleadingly sell it as whale meat. Disgusting.

Activist Richard O'Barry trained most of the dolphins used on '60s TV series "Flipper." The show created major buzz around the animals, and eventually led to marine parks like Sea World. O'Barry believes one of the captive dolphins committed suicide in his arms. Since that moment, he has spent his life trying to save dolphins around the world.

Well, if ever there was a place that threatened the livelihood of dolphins, it was the National Park at Taiji, Wakayama in Japan. Reportedly, around 23,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed in Japan every year. At the cove in Taiji, the mammals are confused with sonar and herded into nets. Later, they're either sold to aquariums/parks or harpooned to death.

O'Barry teams up with former National Geographic photographer, Louie Psihoyos, and his crew in order to get video/photos of the slaughter. The Japanese locals aren't having any of it. Even the local police hassle the crew and follow them around to make sure they stay away from the cove.

How does the crew get the footage it needs?

They go ninja.

Tough to Swallow: The video of the killings is enough to make you sick. There's a scene with one dolphin that tries to get away, which is really sad.

And, the Japanese are even bribing other countries in the International Whaling Commission in order to get support. Unbelievable.

Psihoyos, who had been in Taiji two years, had footage from a 12-hour meeting with the Taiji mayor and heads of city council. City leaders told him they treat dolphins like their own relatives and believe they are ancestors. They also told him they kill the dolphins humanely. It would have been nice to have had some of this meeting included in the film because the town's officials have claimed they had no idea what the movie was about while the crew was filming. Not having a Japanese official on camera offering an explanation does make the film seem a little one-sided.

Second Helping: Watched the movie again with the audio commentary from Psihoyos and one of the film's producers, Fisher Stevens. It's a nice supplement because they talk of some things that have happened since the film's screening. 

Something to Chew On:  The film premiered April 25, 2009 at the Newport Beach International Film Festival in California.

This is the directorial debut of Louie Psihoyos.

Isabel Lucas and Hayden Panettiere have cameos.

Kernel Optical, which was formerly part of George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic, provided rock sculptures to help camouflage HD cameras.

THE COVE won the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and then went on to take Best Documentary (Features) at the 2010 Academy Awards.

Broome, a coastal town in western Australia, decided to annul its sister-city relationship with Taiji on August 22, 2009. However, the Broome Shire Council reversed the decision on October 13, 2009. The two cities have been sister cities since 1981.

The town of Taiji has the moniker "Whale Town." The government allows for about 19,000 dolphins to be killed each year; Taiji kills about 2,000 annually for meat.

Taiji has been hunting whales and dolphins since the early 1600s. Residents refuse to end the tradition and see the film as foreign bias toward their culture.

Numerous screenings of THE COVE have been canceled in Japan.

In a study done by Tetsuya Endo, a professor at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, it was found that Taiji residents have 10 times the normal level of mercury in their system than the average Japanese person. However, another study, conducted by Endo, showed the highest mercury levels in dolphin and whale meat were in Okinawa not Taiji.

There's a scene after the credits involving the local police and the film crew's whale blimp.

The film currently has an 8.6 user rating on (7,916 votes).

Really? 7,916 is a ridiculously low number for such a compelling film.

Sides: The DVD includes audio commentary from Psihoyos and producer Fisher Stevens. Yes, the Fisher Stevens from SHORT CIRCUIT and MY SCIENCE PROJECT, which I recently reviewed.

The entirety of the "Special Ops Cameras" featurette runs about 9 minutes, and it's broken down into 5 sections for each special camera: Nest Cam, Thermal Cam, Rock Cams, Helicopter Cam and Blood Cam.

The "Freediving" feature is about 5 minutes long and shows Cruickshank and Krack swimming around with fish and dolphins. Krack blows some underwater bubble rings (think smoke rings).

A feature called "The Cove: Mercury Rising" warns about the mercury levels in fish, and the harmful effects of mercury. Its run time is about 18 and a half minutes.

The DVD also includes 3 deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.

Aftertaste: I understand the dolphin kill is a tradition in Taiji, but it is pretty barbaric and ultimately pointless. Dolphin isn't a major menu item, so where does all the meat from 23,000 dead dolphins go? It's labeled as whale meat.

Respect for other cultures is a big issue, sure. But, the film claims, because of the mislabeling, most of the Japanese people don't even know they're eating dolphin meat. Heck, according to Psihoyos, 90 of the 100 Japanese people they interviewed on the streets couldn't believe dolphins were being killed for food. To me, you can't really base a tradition on a lie.

Now, I know a lot of the meat we eat in our own country makes its way to us by horrific means. I've read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and I've watched BLOOD OF THE BEASTS and FOOD, INC. I know how ugly it was and can be.

So as an omnivore, I guess I'm being hypocritical in my judgment of the people of Taiji. I eat cow, pig, chicken, turkey and certain fish. Who am I to tell them what not to eat? Is there a Bollywood film that points out the horrible treatment and massive slaughter of cows in the U.S.?

The biggest problems I have with the slaughter are the method of the killing, plus the notion dolphins are possibly the most intelligent non-human animals in existence (personally, I believe they are)

Perhaps, if aquariums would cease to purchase dolphins, then the number of those hunted/killed would decrease. You can swim with dolphins in the wild. There's no need to go to a dolphinarium.

Of course, things will change once dolphins become endangered. I hope it doesn't come to that.

The movie is pretty intense. It definitely plays out like a heist film with all the sneaking around, jumping fences, using hidden cameras, police surveillance, etc. The score is also amazing, at all times.

The killings aren't a secret anymore thanks to THE COVE.
Make sure the movie isn't a secret. 


Friday, July 2, 2010

Daybreakers (2009) - Drink It All In

On the Menu: DAYBREAKERS (2009)

Ingredients: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Vince Colosimo and Isabel Lucas. Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. Run time: 98 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: There have been a couple of outstanding foreign vampire films made within the last few years: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and THIRST. I had a feeling DAYBREAKERS (an Australian film), with its strong cast, would stay true to vampire lore and be devoid of pale heartthrobs with bad hair.

The year is 2019 and vampires make up most of the world's population. There's only one problem: they're running out of human blood.

Edward Dalton (Hawke) is the chief hematologist at Bromley Marks Pharmaceuticals, a large corporation that is essentially a blood bank where the remaining humans are harvested. Edward is working on a blood substitute, but would rather find a cure.

His boss, Charles Bromley (Neill), is only concerned about the bottom line. Synthetic blood would bring some cash for sure due to the blood shortage, but it would also cause the demand for human blood to skyrocket. It's a win-win.

Edward sympathizes with the humans though. He doesn't drink human blood anymore.

The problem is if a vampire goes without human blood for too long, they devolve into what looks like a human bat.

Luckily, Edward crosses paths with humans, Audrey Bennett and Lionel "Elvis" Cormac, who is a former vamp that created the daytime driving technology used in vampire cars. Yes. That's right. Elvis has left the shielding [behind], and wanders around as a human again after nine years without a pulse.

Does that mean there's a chance for Team Edward to find a cure before everyone goes bat crazy? 

Second Helping: I watched the movie again with the audio commentary. It's rather informative, but nowhere near as comprehensive as the "making-of" documentary. 

Tough to Swallow: A calendar in the beginning of the film has April 1, 2019 as a Tuesday. April Fools' Day will actually be a Monday that year.

In the car chase scene, Edward's car gets shot up by the vamp military. Sunlight comes in through the "bullet" holes and causes him to slink around to avoid it. All he had to do was put his jacket over the back of his head.

When Edward is testing the cure, the fire engulfing him doesn't affect the heart monitors.

The stake-through-the-heart killing method always works on the first attempt.

Not sure about the cure concept, but it works with the phoenix story.

The closing credits are red, which is a clever idea, but they're hard to read on a 27" TV screen. 

Something to Chew On: Shooting for the film began in July 2007.

Production was nearly shut down because of a Shigella outbreak amongst the cast and crew.

The movie was filmed entirely in Australia, but didn't hit theaters there until February 4, 2010. It premiered in Canada at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2009, and its theatrical release in the U.S. began January 8, 2010.

The budget was $21 million and has grossed nearly $50 million worldwide.

The film currently has a 6.6 user rating on (23,927 votes).

Sides: The Spierig brothers and creatures designer/supervisor Steve Boyle provide audio commentary.

"The Making of DAYBREAKERS" is a feature-length documentary. You can either watch the entire doc, which is 1 hour and 25 minutes long, or select from 5 sections: Early Development, Pre-production, Production, Post Production and Credits.

The DVD also includes a poster art gallery (7 photos), the theatrical trailer and trailers for 4 other Lionsgate movies.

Aftertaste: I can only imagine that Stephenie Meyers and her "Twilight" series have romanticized vampirism (I refuse to watch any of those movies). Vampires aren't supposed to be sexy. DAYBREAKERS is trying to show that living forever as a vampire isn't all it's cracked up to be. Imagine being bitten by a vampire when you're 10 years old. Well, now you'll be in that body forever even though the years will keep passing you by. Think Gary Coleman, but immortal.

Too soon?

However, the Spierig brothers' visualization of a vampire society is pretty freakin' sweet. Buildings are connected to a Subwalk to allow vampires to walk underground during the daylight hours. Vampires take their coffee with blood instead of milk. They're living like humans did probably because it provides a sense of normalcy; they were once human after all. Of course, there's also glaring analogy to today's oil situation, and references to the phoenix story and baptism by fire. For me, these types of things are what make DAYBREAKERS a smart movie.

The visuals and futuristic setpieces are quite impressive. It is reminiscent of THE MATRIX at times.

But, it's not just a smart, good-looking film. It's bloody, bloody and bloody, and that's what you want in a horror flick.

The cast list is rather mindblowing for a vampire movie directed by two brothers who had never made a Hollywood film before. Neill is the perfect bad guy. Dafoe is a great presence even if the character is so-so. Ethan Hawke is, well, Ethan Hawke, which means pretty bland overall. Australian actress Karvan may have had the best performance.

I imagine it's hard to come up with a new idea for a vampire movie, but DAYBREAKERS is definitely a refreshing take on the genre.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Science Project (1985) - Fair at Best

On the Menu: MY SCIENCE PROJECT (1985)

Ingredients: John Stockwell, Fisher Stevens, Dennis Hopper, Danielle von Zerneck, Raphael Sbarge, Richard Masur and Barry Corbin. Directed by Jonathan R. Betuel. Run time: 94 minutes. Rated: PG.

At First Bite: I first heard about this movie about three or four years ago from one of my then-coworkers, Paul. It sounded like something fun, so I added it to my Blockbuster queue. And, since my queue is consistently about 5-6 pages long, the DVD finally just made its way to my mailbox.

Michael Harlan (Stockwell) is a slacker, who is going to fail his science class unless he comes up with an amazing project. He's leaning toward something to do with cars since he's obsessed with them.

Looking for all the help he can get, Mike takes Ellie (von Zerneck), the nerdy girl, on a "date" to the old military junkyard. He stumbles upon a glowing device (almost like a plasma globe inside a metallic carrying case) with an affinity for sucking up all the electricity around it, including all the power to Mike's 1968 GTO.

Mike, his buddy, Vince (Stevens), and Ellie take the "gizmo" to their science teacher, Bob Roberts (Hopper). The gizmo goes berserk and sends Mr. Roberts back in time.

If that isn't bad enough, Ellie's even nerdier stalker, Sherman (Sbarge), happens upon the device. While Mike and Vince have been detained by police, the gizmo ends up taking over the high school by rupturing spacetime and introducing mutants, gladiators and dinosaurs to 1985.


Does that mean Mike will still fail science?

Tough to Swallow: It's a silly movie all around. I honestly didn't look to nitpick this one to death. If anything, the acting could have been better, how would anyone believe a teen built the gizmo and why didn't anyone other than the kids notice the school had become the center of a major time warp?

I like John Stockwell. He was Cougar in TOP GUN. He directed BLUE CRUSH (one of my favorite guilty-pleasure movies). He looks the part of a slacker, but, as a lead actor, he's really hard to look at for 94 minutes.

Stevens's one-liners are hit-and-miss.

Something to Chew On: The movie was released August 9, 1985, which was 37 days after BACK TO THE FUTURE hit theaters. WEIRD SCIENCE (Aug. 2) and REAL GENIUS (Aug. 7) were two more sci-fi flicks that beat MY SCIENCE PROJECT to the punch. No wonder I had never heard of it before. Kinda reminds me of everyone seeing BIG enough times to memorize it, but not knowing about VICE VERSA, 18 AGAIN! or LIKE FATHER LIKE SON.

This film was Betuel's directorial debut. Ten years later, he helmed one of the worst movies of all-time: THEODORE REX.

Hopper dons an outfit from EASY RIDER for a scene where Mr. Roberts has been to the '60s.

A line of dialogue references the movie CHRISTINE, which also stars Stockwell.

Several TV shows are referenced, such as "The Flintstones," "Magnum, P.I.," "McCloud," "Kojak" and "The Brady Bunch."

Stevens went on to appear in Tim Robbins's 1992 directorial debut BOB ROBERTS, which sadly had nothing to do with Hopper's science teacher character of the same name.

The film currently has a 5.5 user rating on (1,812 votes).

Sides: There are no special features on the DVD.

Aftertaste: It's an '80s teen sci-fi flick. It's nowhere near as cool as BACK TO THE FUTURE, WEIRD SCIENCE or REAL GENIUS. It's definitely a notch below those although some of the effects are decent. The acting is okay. Stevens is the comic relief and livens things up a little.

I'm not going to say this is a movie you should run out and buy/rent. However, if you're a fan of the genre, I think you'll be entertained despite (or because of) the cheese factor.

I wanted to see it just to say, "I've seen it."

I will say that it might be Hopper's 3rd best film of the '80s behind BLUE VELVET and HOOSIERS.

RIP Dennis Hopper.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) - To Die For


Ingredients: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Connie Britton, Kellan Lutz and Clancy Brown. Directed by Samuel Bayer. Run time: 95 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: After seeing the midnight premiere of the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake last year, there was no way I was missing out on the midnight showing of the reboot of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The NIGHTMARE series is, by far, my favorite horror franchise. I grew up watching Parts 3 and 4 over and over again on VHS. I have to say I was severely disheartened to hear someone was remaking the original, but the casting of Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger definitely intrigued me. The dude has come a long way since his Kelly Leak days.

The plot is pretty much the same as before. A group of teenagers are having deadly dreams involving a burnt man in a ratty hat and sweater.

The main difference is our antagonist, Freddy Krueger, was a child molester in his past life and not a child murderer, which was also Craven's original intent.

Why are Nancy (Mara) and her friends, Kris (Cassidy), Jesse (Dekker), Quentin (Gallner) and Dean (Lutz), all having nightmares about the same man, and why is he trying to kill them? 

Tough to Swallow: The one scene I knew I was going to hate before I even walked into the theater was the Freddy-in-the-wall scene. In the original, the bedroom wall was made of latex, so it really looks like Freddy is going to push through. In this movie, it's all CGI, and, in my opinion, it looks awful.

The final scene also has some bad CG blood spurts. Seems odd since producer Brad Fuller has said he hates CG blood. Just like the first film, the final scene here is the weakest of the movie.

On numerous occasions, sounds and music are amped up to create jump scares.

The biggest problem I have with this film is the filmmakers defanged the Nancy character. Mara's Nancy is timid whereas Heather Langenkamp's Nancy was a take-control-and-do-it-herself kinda girl. Remember the original? Nancy was like Macaulay Culkin in HOME ALONE.

Mara is like an Emily Blunt/Alexis Bledel hybrid, but, unfortunately, doesn't have the acting chops of either.

No cameos? Really? 

Something to Chew On: Unfortunately, Wes Craven was not consulted for this remake.

Some CGI is used to create Freddy's burned facial features. The work is done by the same special effects crew that did the CGI for Two-Face's face in THE DARK KNIGHT.

This is Bayer's feature-film directorial debut. His previous directorial works were mostly music videos, e.g. "My Favorite Mistake" for Sheryl Crow, "Stupid Girl" for Garbage, "Mama, I'm Coming Home" for Ozzy Osbourne, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "American Idiot" for Green Day, "Until It Sleeps" for Metallica, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for Nirvana, et al.

The final script is a combination of 4 different drafts. There were around 15 drafts altogether.

Billy Bob Thornton was considered for the role of Freddy.

John Saxon was offered a cameo, but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts.

Filming took 66 days to complete (May 5, 2009 until July 10, 2009).

Six crew members' names appear on the back of a class photo in the film.

Gallner was injured on set when his abdomen was cut by one of the knives on Freddy's glove.

The film's budget was $35 million, and it grossed $32,902,299 in its opening weekend. The entire box office gross for the original 1984 film was $25,504,513.

Haley is contracted for two more NIGHTMARE films. Mara is contracted for one more film.

Warner Bros. wanted the movie to be in 3-D, but producers Andrew Form and Fuller fought against it.

The film currently has a 5.4 user rating on (10,246 votes).

Aftertaste: I'm not a big fan of remakes, especially horror remakes. PSYCHO, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET are movies that didn't need reboots. They are classics. Unfortunately, nothing is untouchable in Hollywood when money is involved. Look out POLTERGEIST, HELLRAISER, THE BIRDS, CANDYMAN, ROSEMARY'S BABY and anything by David Cronenberg!

Personally, I'd rather go see the original in a theater than sit through something like Gus Van Sant's PSYCHO or the 2009 version of FRIDAY THE 13TH (and, yes, I did see both of those remakes -- on their opening nights).

However, aside from what I mentioned in the Tough to Swallow section, I left the theater impressed with Bayer's NIGHTMARE.

Aside from the first two films of the series and WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE, Freddy was a jokester that you almost ended up rooting for rather than against. Remember his origin story? He was a child murderer. He's supposed to be scary, not funny.

Some reviewers have written that Haley's Freddy still resorts to one-liners and comes off hokey.

No, see, the intent is creepiness. Take the line, "I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy." In the original 1984 film, Freddy says this over the phone, then the speaker turns into his tongue. Here, Freddy says the line and slowly licks the side of Nancy's face. Which one is hokier?

If anything, you can say most of Freddy's dialogue is creepy-pedophile funny; you're not supposed to laugh.

Another thing that works in this film is the sympathy created for its villain. Did he really mess with those kids? No? Well, it sucks he got trapped in an abandoned warehouse and burned alive.

Whether or not the allegations of molestation are true, you know Freddy is back to seek revenge... in your dreams. And, the dream world is visually breathtaking at times, e.g. the burnt classroom (as seen in the trailer).

The concept of micro-naps, where a character has stayed awake so long that he/she will unknowingly start dreaming while still awake, really keeps you guessing. It's a lot harder this time around to distinguish between reality and a character's dream. Near the end of the movie, there's a scene in a store where Nancy goes in and out of micro-naps within seconds. Freddy swipes at her in the dream and products fly off the shelves in reality. It is actually pretty cool to watch.

Bayer took the memorable scenes from the original and made them his own. The murder-on-the-ceiling scene now involves mostly just mid-air thrashing with Kris being tossed around the room like a rag doll. Most likely, if you remember it from the original, there's an homage to it in this movie. My personal favorite is the new twist on the melting staircase.

In retrospect, Craven's film glossed over Krueger's backstory and focused more on the visuals. I doubt many people inferred that each teen had a sibling who was killed by Freddy, but, according to a deleted scene, that was the idea. Why else would the parents of the current teens have burned him? And, then, why wouldn't Freddy just kill the parents in their sleep?

The 1984 version will always be one of my favorite horror films of all-time, but I do think this is the story Craven should have told. This is easily the 3rd-best movie of the franchise (perhaps tied with the third film DREAM WARRIORS) behind both of Craven's entries.

I really want to see it again on the big screen, but that will now have to wait until it shows up at the $3 theater.

Since we know there are perhaps two more new Freddy films lined up, how about we get to see some cameos from old cast members?

That would be a dream come true.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Mega Piranha (2010) - It'sssss... Welllll...

On the Menu: MEGA PIRANHA (2010)
Ingredients: Tiffany, Barry Williams, Paul Logan, Jude Gerard Prest, Jesse Daly and David Labiosa. Directed by Eric Forsberg. Run time: 92 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: In 2009, I watched the trailer for MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, which is, in my opinion, one of the funniest trailers of all-time. So, when I found out the same production company, The Asylum, was releasing MEGA PIRANHA, I jumped at the chance to see it.

Genetically-modified piranha get loose in Venezuela and attack a ship carrying a U.S. diplomat (played by writer/director Forsberg). Of course, no one is aware of the piranha, so the incident is believed to be an assassination.

Secretary of State Grady (Williams) sends Special Agent Jason Fitch (Logan) to investigate. Scientist Sarah Monroe (Tiffany) is the first to greet Fitch, and tells him she believes her experimental fish escaped and are the culprit behind the tragedy.

Well, the Venezuelan army doesn't believe fish are to blame, so its leader, Colonel Diaz (Labiosa), is continually trying to thwart Fitch and Monroe's efforts (without watching it again I can't tell you the reason why the army is always chasing Fitch).

Anyway, the piranha are "growing exponentially" and will soon find their way to heavy-populated areas and wipe everything out.

How will they be stopped? Nukes?

Tough to Swallow: The editing is poor, and laughable at times. The oddest sequence is when Fitch sneaks out of Diaz's compound; it's a pointless series of wipes showing him crawling, rolling and climbing (he doesn't even need to be sneaking around anyway because he's not a prisoner and no one is keeping him there).

Each cut, locator title and camera movement is super-quick and accompanied by a whooshing sound effect.

A natural dam about 5-feet wide is said to separate the piranha from the rest of the river, but in the previous scene one of the giant piranha jumped out of the water and landed about 15-20 feet away on the shore.

One forced subtitle, translating Spanish from an intercom, reads "Opperation L-23 is a go." Then, there was this forced subtitle:

Apparently, if your phone battery dies, you can suck on it for 2 minutes to recharge it.

The cars change makes and models during the chase scenes. Colonel Diaz and his men are in a black SUV, but at least 4 (maybe 6) different vehicles are used. Fitch's car is represented by at least 3 different cars. Two of the SUVs and one of the cars have California license plates.

If your plan is to genetically alter a fish to make it bigger and more plentiful in order to feed the hungry, why choose piranha?

Something to Chew On: The movie was made to capitalize on PIRANHA 3-D, which had a theatrical release date of April 16, 2010. However, the release of PIRANHA 3-D was delayed; it's said to now be hitting theaters on August 27, 2010.

MEGA PIRANHA premiered on Syfy on April 10, 2010. Check out the audience numbers for this epic. Wow.

The song playing over the closing credits is "Frozen Skies" by Tiffany.

Logan is responsible for all the fight choreography in the movie (Yikes). He is also a stunt driver.

Williams's character is named Bob Grady. Grady... Brady... get it? Note that I made my own Brady reference with the blog pic and title. And, yes, I do know the pork chops and apple sauce (that's swell) reference is to Peter not Greg.

Extras are credited as Belize Background and Background.

In the DVD's making-of featurette, line producer Steve Fiske explains how difficult it was to find actresses in Belize who would do a topless scene. They ended up using two prostitutes at a local whorehouse for a scene that would only be seen on the DVD (you're not going to see nudity on Syfy). Pretty pointless, if you ask me. But, of course, this is the scene where the director's character is prominent.

Fiske also says the budget was around $5 million.

The film currently has a 3.4 user rating on (441 votes).

Sides: The DVD includes a 3-minute blooper reel and a "Making of Mega Piranha" featurette (11:11).

In the featurette, I love when Fitch says, "It was a great script." Come on.

Aftertaste: You have to go into this expecting a crappy B-movie full of unintended laughs. Otherwise, you're going to be very disappointed. This might be the only movie with giant killer piranha that jump into buildings and cause them to explode.

If you're brave enough, I suggest you make it a double-bill and watch MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, too. I have to say though that the acting, story and effects are marginally better in MSVGO.

Just like in the late '80s, Tiffany can't hold a candle to Debbie Gibson. Sorry, it's Deborah Gibson now. My mistake.

But, the movies are equally awful and funny.

I can't wait to see what's next from The Asylum.

Gibson AND Tiffany together?

Shanice and Antonio Sabato, Jr. battle Mega Lobster?

Or bring back Lorenzo Lamas and pair him with Traci Lords for Mega Clam vs. Giant Crabs.

Please, please, please make that happen, The Asylum.