Friday, March 17, 2017

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Introduction:

When I watched Cloverfield back in 2008 I didn’t say “Wow that was great. It really needs a sequel.” Luckily this movie isn’t a sequel to the previous film. Instead it tells a very different type of story that may be linked to the events in the previous film. Instead of people in terror of a giant mutated rampaging monster, you have people in terror of a giant rampaging John Goodman.

Summary:

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) gets into a car accident and is knocked unconscious. When she comes to, she finds herself completely unfamiliar place, not a hospital, but what looks like a bunker or bomb shelter with very thick walls and full air filtering system.

Turns out this bunker is owned by Howard (John Goodman) who tells Michelle that some kind of horrible event has occurred above ground contaminating everything. He found her on the side of the road and brought her to safety. Along with Howard is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) a young man who seems to be hiding something. It becomes apparent to Michelle that Howard may be unstable and could be lying to her. She has to decide to either believe this stranger, or to attempt to make a break for freedom into a world that may be in the midst of apocalypse.

Good Points:
  • Masterfully guides the viewer along a very tense journey
  • Some top notch acting that pulls you into the story
  • A bang up score by Bear McCreary 

Bad Points:
  • Expecting over the top visual effects and massive destruction – you’ll be disappointed.
  • Takes place almost entirely in one location that could bore some viewers
  • The movie climaxes perfectly and then there is the epilogue… yeah that was odd

Overall:

If you enjoy a good solid thriller that focuses on tension and acting than you can’t go wrong here. The concept is pretty simple, but the cast and direction keep things moving briskly and intensely. McCreary’s score supports the film wonderfully. The only misstep is the epilogue that will really rub some viewers the wrong way. Probably the best thriller I’ve seen since GrandPiano, but this one has a much different feel.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 4
Acting: 5
Script: 4
Music: 5
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 5
Total:  5

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

And Then This Happened... Hercules

Being a demigod does have some drawbacks. You usually get selected to go on dangerous quests. You have gods and goddesses doing their best to stop you. Usually there is some kind of tragedy looming in your life. But at least you get fame and fortune.

Well if you are a demigod in a Cannon film then maybe you have a few other drawbacks. You get poor dialogue, goofy costumes and robots. You know about the robots, right?

Well even if you didn't know about the robots, Hercules does. Here is a classic moment from his outrageous 80s adventure.

And then this happened...


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)

Introduction:

I didn’t ever make the connection, but after watching this documentary I came to realize that Cannon Films was a part of my life, whether I liked it or not. Growing up in the 1980s, how could I avoid some of their classics like Masters of the Universe or Breakin’ or Revenge of the Ninja and of course Hercules. But it turns out that the story behind this studio is just as entertaining as some of their cheesiest movies.

Summary:

This documentary explores the rise and fall of Cannon Films. Menaham Golan and Yoram Globus came to Hollywood with a dream to create films – lots and lots of films. They started out small with quicky skin flicks and silly action films. But every once in a while one of their films would become a hit and they would have enough money to make 20 more B flicks.

They rushed production, cut costs, wheeled and dealed. They started the ninja craze of the 80s, rode the breakdancing fad, employed Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson and even managed to make a couple of Shakespeare films (seriously)! But in the end they went too fast, reached too high and everything came crashing down. Filled with interviews with cast, crew and business acquaintances, you’ll hear from Franco Zeffirelli, Marina Sirtis, Molly Ringwald, Dolph Lundgren, Tobe Hooper, Elliot Gould, Michael Dudikoff, Bo Derek, Sybil Danning, Richard Chamberlain and a whole host of others. The stories will have you laughing, shaking your head and wondering if Electric Boogaloo was really as goofy as you remembered.

Good Points:
  • Filled to bursting with great stories about making some of these infamous movies
  • Manages to hit all the key high and low points of the studio and its creators
  • Sure to cause flashbacks to anyone who was a movie fan in the 80s and 90s 

Bad Points:
  • Sorely missing is any input from Golan, Globus, Stallone and Norris
  • Feels like there were even more great stories cut for time
  • Sure to cause unpleasant flashbacks for anyone who was a movie fan in the 80s and 90s (didn’t want to remember The Apple and God help me if I see any more footage from Going Bananas)

Overall:

Oh yeah this movie was right up my alley. I love cheesy movies of the 1980s and Cannon made some of the cheesiest. So many great stories in this, and some of them had my jaw dropping. It both praises and questions the men who made this studio. They did some really innovative things and some really questionable things. While I wish Golan and Globus had participated in this (they quickly got their own documentary produced and released before this one!) what you do get is a hell of an entertaining look at a dark horse studio and the very unique world of 1980s Hollywood.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 3
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 4
Music: 3
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Imitation Game (2014)

Introduction:

What is it about eccentric geniuses that draw audiences to flock to movies about them? Is it the wonder that someone could be so smart and yet so socially awkward? Is it the fact that we admire them and yet feel superior to them? Or do we enjoy the performances that these movies deliver? Hard to say, but I will say that A Beautiful Mind may have some competition for best biography about a grumpy mathematician.

Summary:

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant mathematician who becomes part of a team working for the British government. Their job is to crack the top secret Nazi code that will give them a much-needed advantage in the world war raging around them. Turing may be a genius but he is completely devoid of any social niceties. His abrasive nature soon gains him the ire of his entire team, especially the influential Commander Denniston (Charles Dance).

But then Turing encounters the extremely bright and pretty Joan Clark (Keira Knightley). She contributes to the team even though the entirely male group resents her presence. She is also able to help Turing learn new approaches to get his team to work with rather than against him. But time is running out. The Nazis seem to be winning every battle and there may be a spy on the team. Can Turing’s team crack the code with his new computing machine, or is this the maddest idea ever conceived of? If you are reading this on a computer, then I think you know the answer.

Good Points:
  • Some really good performances supporting Cumberbatch’s excellent one
  • Gives a good feeling of the multiple timeframes it covers
  • Provides a look at an aspect of WWII that we don’t often see explored in film

Bad Points:
  • Jumps around in the timeline for very little narrative impact
  • Feels a bit routine, hitting on many of the familiar biopic routines
  • Someone looking for a more thrilling side of WWII will be disappointed

Overall:

This is a film that works because of its performances and the interesting story at the heart of it. Turing and his path to break Nazi codes is a fascinating story. He is a very intriguing person and his relationships with his team and the military creates plenty of drama. Unfortunately the film feels the need to jump forward and backward in time, interrupting the narrative. It feels unnecessary and much of the information could have been delivered in other ways while keeping us to the main storyline. Worth seeing if you are interested in the subject and like the cast, but don’t expect anything too special.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 3
Sound: 3
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 3
Total:  3

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie Music Musings: The Goldsmith Award 2014

Ready for another Goldsmith Award? While there were plenty of poorly reviewed and attended movies that year, most of them also had uninspiring scores. It took a little bit of research but I did find a movie that fit the bill. The score is gem, one of my favorites of the year, but the movie just didn't click with too many folks.

A Million Ways to Die in the West was Seth MacFarlene trying to bring a modern day Blazing Saddles to the big screen. But I wondered how many people were clamoring for a parody of Westerns. We don't see too many Westerns in theaters any more, and most of them go out of their way to avoid anything traditional. So a movie making fun of traditional western tropes just seemed odd. And most reviewers and the few folks that saw it thought it was odd.

But one thing that worked out great was Joel McNeely's rollicking score. He takes that classic 1950s Western movie sound and just rolls with it. His main theme will remind you of The Magnificent Seven and there is more than a touch of Aaron Copland in there. There is a fun energy to the score and while it does wink at the listener a couple of times, McNeely mostly plays it straight.

The album includes a couple of amusing songs too. The titular A Million Ways to Die in the West has Alan Jackson singing about how perilous it was to live like a cowboy. Then there is the hilarious If You Only Have a Mustache which tells you how to get women by having facial hair.

Lots of great tracks to pick from McNeely's score, but the Main Titles will give you a good taste of the style.



And might as well throw the title song in too!