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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: Kinky Boots

I have finally found myself employment in the tech field, and I have found the effect of waking in the morning with purpose has renewed and refreshed the dormant desire to write. As with most things in life, when I have no time to spare is when I choose to squeeze every second I can into my ignored pastimes.

Kinky Boots is a movie from 2005, directed by Julian Jarrell and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor,  Joel Edgerton, Sarah - Jane Potts, and Nick Frost, among many others.

Sarah selected this film, as it has become a Broadway musical, and she has her heart in the arts of all sorts, plus a job at a theatre.

The movie is a very generic feel good film for the most part, wherein a struggling company must change in a "radical" way in order to become profitable again. British of course, we can't have these kinds of stories stateside where all business succeed.  It follows the same tracks as movies like The Full Monty or The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. Just with slightly more transvestites.

Joel Edgerton is the main character, and frankly, he is a blank and boring slate for most of the movie. I guess that fits fine with the story, but there is simply nothing memorable about his performance. He even managed to suck the charisma out of thigh high "ladies" boots.

Enough about that shit, there is something to be noted in this movie. Noted and praised unendingly.

Chiwetel Ejiofor was fan - freaking - tastic.

In the movie he plays Lola, a showboating and intelligent drag queen, and he absolutely steals the show by singing and dancing, strutting and pouting, just having a stellar time characterizing her into a 3D realized person. The black hole of charisma that Edgerton unfortunately was could not compete with what Ejiofor is pumping out.

So many smiles, so worth a watch, all because of Ejiofor.

Give it watch if you feel like a feel - good movie and are not squeamish about men in drag.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Chef

Feel-good movies. Ugh. That's always my initial thought when someone tells me that the movie I am interested in seeing is a real "feel-good movie". Movies like that are always super cheesy and have pop-music that tries to force the audience into a feeling. This information was especially dubious, as my girlfriend got the tip from some of her elderly co-workers, the same ladies who hated Inside Llewyn Davis and American Hustle (It's ok if you hate them too, I just disagree). There is no way Chef could be any good.

Fact: Chef is a feel-good movie.

Fact: I really liked Chef.

Fact: I don't know who I am anymore!@@@!@#$#%#@

Ok, the last one isn't a fact. Chef had several things to count in its favor where other feel-goods have failed in the past.

1. Very little if any pop-music. I cannot remember anything like that in the movie, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. It was mostly latin/cubano music, which inspires a must-dance feeling in most people, including myself.
2. The movie managed to hit the beats of story typical to a feel-good/rise-from-the-ashes movie, but somehow avoided a few of the big ones, therefore defying my expectations. I kept waiting for a third act beat where everything is going great, and then BAM! Conflict that must be resolved. And of course it gets resolved and everyone is better for it. Now, the film had that sort of thing in a sense, but compared to what I was expecting the event was really underplayed. There were quite a few of those tropes that the film skimmed over, and I was extremely delighted that it did.
3. This movie does a great job at the old "show, don't tell" bit. A lot of visuals showing the guys working, showing the "tweets" going off, showing the father/son relationship evolve. I mentioned the tweets, and that bit is a little goofy, but it wasn't distracting. They handled the "old dude doesn't get tech" bits very well, in a humorous way.
4. It was a quick movie, and it still managed to have enough character development to be interesting. Sure, I had questions about the other characters in the film that weren't fleshed out that well, but in the long run those questions didn't need to be answered and answering them would have just bogged down the pace of the film.

If I have one real complaint about the movie, it is that I don't think Sofia Vergara is a very good actress. She wasn't given much to do, so maybe I just need to see her in a more meaty role.

I had a lot of fun with Chef. It's not a masterpiece or anything, but it is most definitely worth a watch.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: The Raid 2

The Raid 2 (2014):

Synopsis – After the events of The Raid: Redemption, Rama must go undercover into one of the criminal organizations that rule the streets. He has to punch and kick a bunch of people, because that’s what Rama does.

I saw this movie. I saw this movie, and it changed me. I have since dedicated my life to martial arts, and have been pursuing the elite in order to challenge them, mano y mano. Alright, that is obviously a lie. The change that has overcome me has to do with action movies. After having seen what was done in The Raid 2, I don’t think any action is going to be able to hold up. And I don’t even really like action movies! The pure hand to hand combat displayed throughout the movie was simply breathtaking, and I found myself grinning ear to ear as Rama beat his way to the top of the game. If you were to look at my review of the first movie, you might think I was an asshole hypocrite that just changes his mind willy-nilly. Well, that may be true, but the problems I had with the first movie were almost all completely resolved in the sequel. We got a movie with great action and a solid story! It can happen after all.

What I Liked:
-Listen, I know the point of most action movies is to get your blood pumping with the action displayed and not worry about the other bits (although you could argue that Michael Bay is very concerned with the cinematography of all his films, and he mostly specialize in action), but I want a story. I WANT A STORY DAMN IT! And this time, I got one. I got one in spades. I have seen many criticisms about the story and its length, but I freaking loved it. I hope the inevitable 3rd movie has just as much.
-Rama (Iko Uwais) was great, but once again my love goes to Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the first movie and Prakoso in this one. That man can do some crazy acrobatic stuff. And mad props to Cecef Arif Rahman for his fight against Rama.
-This wasn’t just a great fighting movie, the driving action was also really thrilling.

What I Didn’t Like:
-I had been hyped up to see Hammer Girl and Baseball Boy in action, but in the end I found them both pretty underwhelming. Because of the nature of their weapons most of their stuff had to be CGI’d in.

What I Hated:
-As I said before, I don’t think any action movie is ever going to overcome the amazingness of The Raid 2. At least nothing ever American made.


This is one of the best martial arts/action movies I’ve ever seen. If you don’t mind horrendous amounts of violence and reading (as it is subtitled) you HAVE to see this movie. So freaking good.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: Boxcar Bertha

Boxcar Bertha (1972):

Synopsis – In the days of railroads and union busting, Bertha and her rag tag group of heroes move from town to town, fighting for the little guy and tryin’ to make an “honest” buck. But really they just keep getting beaten up and arrested.

The adventure into Scorsese’s library continues! FINALLY! My excuse for waiting so long to dig into this movie can be chalked up to many factors: The title of the film is not exactly encouraging; the movie was produced by Roger Corman, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but can be; a sophomore film is usual a dip in quality for a director, and since I liked his first film so much I didn’t know what to expect; I had already heard that the movie wasn’t that good. So after a walk in the afternoon (in 95 degree weather), and after watching a little of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, we thought better of what we were doing (the we is me and my pal Jose) and started up Boxcar Bertha. And you know what? Not that bad! Even if it was supposed to be a bit of an exploitation film, you still got some very nice Scorsese touches throughout the movie.

What I Liked:
-You certainly see some Scorsese magic in the camera work. Whether it’s a shot of the actors walking toward the camera as it leads them on or a quick edit to show reactions, one after another, Scorsese can be seen all over this, working in as many of his nowadays signature flair throughout. There was even a shot that was so good I had to back up the video and watch it again. I can’t find a clip of it online, but I will try my best to describe it: It was a sort of typical 70’s zoom, but in reverse. Barbara Hershey, David Carradine and at least one other are walking down a long wooden walkway. The shot begins with them slightly in the distance walking towards the camera, and then suddenly the zoom pulls WAAAAAY back, so much so that you can no longer see the actors, only the enormity of the walkway. The camera resumes a more average shot of the actors walking after that, but the moment was so shocking I felt this wave of love for the cinematography wash over me, because I’m a nerd.
-The story was fun most of the time in a Bonnie and Clyde style, feature young-ish bandits fighting “the man”. There is a certain charm to the naivety of the protagonists, although they aren’t much to look at when compared to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. But really who is?

What I Didn’t Like:
-For a film about young train robbers who are constantly being jailed and shot at, this film was sometimes very boring and seemed overly long despite being under 90 minutes. I was enjoying the camera work in-between story beats enough that the movie held my attention, but I did that thing where you check to see how much of the movie is left and it was only half way done! That’s a bad sign. They had to pack in a lot of scenes of David Carradine mourning his position of no longer being an honest Union worker, because he needed character, I guess? Or perhaps it was so we would continue to be on his side after he beats up so many coppers? They must have been going for shades of Grapes of Wrath or something. And of course being Roger Corman produced, we got a bunch of unnecessary nudity. Lots of gun violence too, but that was ok. SO MUCH RED PAINT.
-The dialog in this movie is pretty bad. Considering the screenwriter was Joyce Hopper Corrington, screenwriter for The Omega Man (a movie I love but even I know it’s pretty bad), I guess I’m not surprised.

What I Hated:
-I was going to criticize a few of the actors for how they were in this movie, but I don’t know if I can really fault them. They were probably getting two directions at a time; a person who wanted to cheese it up and Scorsese who probably wanted the opposite. The attempt to baby-doll up Barbara Hershey was just gross, I’ll say that much.

Negativities aside, I still feel like this movie might be worth a watch for anyone. There were enough nuggets of good in the pile of mediocrity to make me feel like I learned a little more about our pal Marty Scorsese. And if you want to watch something a little racy and cheesy, you could do much worse.

Next up on the list is Mean Streets, which if Roger Ebert is to be trusted, should be very enjoyable. We’ll have to see, I tried watching it before I was any sort of film buff and I didn’t get it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: Faraway

Faraway (2014):

Synopsis – The legend of a world right in our world’s shadow, one of Gods and Demi-Gods, sends Audrey to the Philippines in pursuit of treasure and legacy. Along the way she teams up with 2 plucky Filipino youths and an American expat who is also looking for a new lease on life. Danger stalks the adventurers from the very beginning, as where treasure is involved, bandits are sure to follow.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I know the film maker. I worked with Mr. Randal Kamradt in a local stage production. I played Ranger Rick for those of you dying to know. Back then we chatted a little while about film, and he mentioned he was a film maker. I said I would love to see his stuff, and we pretty much left it at that. A few years later, I got a message from Mr. Kamradt, inviting me to see the film he had made recently. Naturally I was super happy to get a chance to see his movie, so I took him up on his offer! After I watched, I was told that when I reviewed it, I should keep the kid gloves off. So here is what I’ve got, after trying my best to remain objective and unbiased. Being unbiased is impossible by the way; Faraway is a true indie film after all. No one wants to kick the little guy. The makers of this film tried to make an action/adventure movie on a tiny budget, and what they came away with is pretty damn good considering that. Faraway leans more toward an art film than anything Hollywood produces. I prefer my films arty most of the time, but trying to make a low budget action movie was really ambitious, and the production suffers sometimes because of that. That being said, the effort alone is admirable, and I cannot wait to see future works from these film makers. Hopefully many others will get to see their work soon as well.

What I Liked:
-Beautiful cinematography is seen throughout the movie. The Philippines is apparently full of lovely looking places, despite how it is often portrayed in films as grimy and unruly. Even the towns in the film have a charm to them. If I had to guess where money went in the movie, I’d say in the camera equipment.
-I gotta say, the score is pretty good for a low budget film.
-I am a fan of the use of non-professional actors. Both of the Filipino leads are non-professional, and I think they both did a fantastic job. Especially Genelyka Castin as Hazel. She knocked it out of the park in my opinion.

What I Didn’t Like:
-Frankly, making my critical opinions known on a low-budget film like this really feels like a cheap shot. BUT, I said I would treat this seriously and so I will. So here are my complaints, and these are all the minor nitpicks: Editing was a little off sometimes; some of the shots were out of focus; most of the night time scenes were much too dark, obscuring the action; the sound sometimes dipped out to inaudible levels; the main actress sometimes seemed tired of what she was saying. Argh, I feel like an ass for pointing this stuff out. It really doesn’t detract that much from the movie; they are just things I noticed.
-Here is my only unapologetic complaint: Nick Medina in the first part of the movie is hamming it up big time. He is supposed to be a screenwriter who has run away from Hollywood so he can have the freedom to write without the pressures of the system, but he doesn’t come off as someone who has experience doing that at all. I think he does an excellent job of playing someone who has “gone native” and blends in with the environment of the Philippines settings. His character has becomes a local, and because of that he is perfectly suited as a guide in the adventure. After Medina settles into the guide role, he becomes quite enjoyable in the movie. I realize that this is supposed to come off as an evolution of his character, but he is too over the top in the beginning.
-I don’t know if the movie is actually rated by the MPAA, but if it was it would be an R for language, violence, and suggested sexual content. I think that the language and violence does a disservice to the film, because otherwise it is a very fun adventure film that would be appropriate for any age, a la an Indian Jones movie. A lot of F-Bombs are thrown around, and they aren’t needed.

What I Hated:
-No, no, nothing warrants any hate this time. Sorry, dudes.

I don’t know when people will get a chance to see this movie, but I can say if you want to see a fun adventure movie with some fantasy elements, made by a promising film maker, then you can’t really go wrong. KEEP IN MIND, this is a low budget action movie. Set your expectations appropriately and you can’t go wrong.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: Under the Skin

Under the Skin (2013):

Synopsis – An outsider pursues men for unknown purposes. Through her eyes we see humanity in a new light. What was once common becomes strange and alien.

Sarah and I went to see this at the local theater downtown. We had been eagerly waiting for it to come to anywhere nearby, as the trailer for the movie is mysterious and that’s what we like! 3 people walked out of the screening we were at (this is according to Sarah, I didn’t witness it), that’s always a good sign right? Shocking amounts of nudity (from both sexes) and beautiful, documentary style camera work wasn’t enough to keep them in their seats! As for Sarah and I, we loved it. Our minds were blown; not in a collective fashion, don’t be creepy. I feel like the world has been blessed the last couple of months, having month after month with only a few lapses between the releases of another set of must see movies. This piece of science-fiction works so well as a frightening thriller and a social commentary I can hardly believe that it is real. I want to go see it again right now.

What I Liked:
-I don’t know what you call this slow and measured camera work style, but I am a fan of it. I don’t need quick edits for continuity, I rather enjoy seeing a shot being held, forcing the viewer to take in everything that can be taken in. It emphasized the almost robotic nature of the protagonist.
-Scarlett Johansson made this movie. Not literally, I mean that she was the perfect choice for her role. She holds herself in a way that is reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator, except every once in a while she must pretend to be a normal person, showing the smallest facsimile of emotion. When in the second half of the movie puts her in even more of a position of being introduced with the unfamiliar, you cannot help but be on her side as you would be for a child discovering feelings and “tastes”. Something needs to be said about her and the films representation of sexuality and power also, but I once again find myself without the intelligence to handle those subjects. While Johansson in the film is presented as a seductress, there is nothing sexy in her actions. It is a trick and one that works so well that you stop feeling sorry for her victims almost immediately.  Johansson does such an amazing job in this film, I cannot say enough.
-Whenever this movie dipped into the unhuman sections of the film, it did an amazing job of utterly perplexing me. What I saw and heard happening during these points made a strange sort of sense, but it was still completely alien to me. Alien, terrifying and fascinating. Some of it was very 2001, which of course is right up my alley.

What I Didn’t Like, What I Hated:
-I am head over heels for this movie. I am sure that if I wanted to I could complain about parts of it, but I won’t because it was too good to merit that kind of deconstruction.


A warning to people who read this and are now thinking “yeah, I’ma gonna see dat one!” This movie is not for everyone. In fact, I would be surprised if outside of super movie nerds many people like the movie. If you are going to see it for the nudity, you are going to be very bored and in the end very disappointed. If you want to see a slow paced, sci-fi mystery thriller, like you’ve never seen before? Then go check it out. Try to see it on the big screen, because it will probably work best there.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: The Vineyard (1989)

The Vineyard (1989):

Synopsis – A wine maker who seeks eternal life invites a group of young actors to his home, wining and dining them so that he can chain them up and stuff. Uh, I kind of don’t really get what was going on. Oh, and there are zombies.

One of the things us film lovers like to do is count how many movies in a director’s catalogue we have seen. There are completest out there who can claim to have seen every movie, no matter how obscure, by any director you can mention off the top of your head. Me? I can only say that for the Coen brothers and Christopher Nolan, and that’s it as far as I know. Why do I bring this up? Well, one day when I was going on one of my click-fests through IMDB cast pages, I ended up clicking on James Hong, in order to see how many films he had been in. That is a huge number, by the way. More interesting to me though was that he is credited as director for 4 movies, only 2 of which appear to be soft-core pornography! I thought to myself, now this is a director’s filmography I could conquer fairly easily! Turns out, that is only partly true. Because of the obscurity of these films, not all of them are readily available. I took the one that happened to be streaming on Netflix Instant and put it directly on my eye holes. This movie, The Vineyard… is pretty terrible. So bad, that I can see people watching it just to laugh at it. Bad acting, incomprehensible plot, digital soundtrack, need I say more? The film also leans into the soft-core area, although there is really only one scene that does that. It is a crappy horror film, and way to goofy to be taken seriously.

What I Liked:
-Well, this is a first I think. Nope, I really can’t say I “liked” anything in this movie. It made me laugh a few times, I guess there’s that.

What I Didn’t Like:
-Acting isn’t something most of the cast seemed to be familiar with, with the exception of Mr. Hong of course. Everyone in this movie must have fell off the California beach bus on its way to Cinemax’s studios for the next episode of Madam’s Closet. Seriously, the cast is all scantily clad women and dumb jocks, and of course there is one “nerd” who is actually a buff dude just wearing thick glasses. The “nerd” in this movie was one of the highlights, because someone told him he needed to be really annoying and so he speaks in a high pitched voice the whole movie. I should also note that there is one henchman who is a fat dude. He, of course, is super strong!
-What the hell was going on in this story? James Hong is a wine maker who is immortal because of an amulet that he stole from… his mother I think? Also he worships some weird God, who is only referenced to when he is at a tiny altar that we never get a good look at. And he is really old. How do we know this? Well, when he was about to kill the nerd he suddenly has a flashback where a Samurai type dude is going to kill his mom. That single flashback is the only reference to that though, so it might have just been an acid hallucination I had.  Oh, and his wine is the best, so people are always paying huge amounts o’ cash for it! What are all these details for? They don’t equal out into anything. He has a torture dungeon, a vineyard full of dead bodies, and an Asian sidekick who is not that good at fighting. It’s not worth puzzling over.
-James Hong is supposed to be a dreamboat. I’m not buying it.

What I Hated:
-Please, someone needs to go back and time and take away all the synthesizers so I don’t ever have to hear one of these soundtracks again.

I can recommend this movie on a single condition: If you are looking to get together with some buddies and watch a bad movie to laugh at, this one will work well. Otherwise, it is so bad, don’t punish yourself with it.

I totally forgot, there is a masquerade party! And it is hilariously awful! ARRGGHHH