Saturday, August 31, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2011) *

PG, 89 min.
Director/Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Joel McHale, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Danny Trejo, Ricky Gervais

So, here’s a movie I never thought I’d see again after the misery I experienced from it in theaters. However, you never know what curves life is going to throw at you. Last night, I was given a choice. Take my niece to see the new One Direction movie, or stay home with my youngest son and watch “Spy Kids 4”. Despite the fact that I really think I would’ve enjoyed sitting in a theater with hundreds of pre-pubescent girls screaming whenever one of those little whining jerks winked at the camera, my wife felt our niece would rather go with her aunt. Whew! Dodged that bullet.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Year of the Horse (1997) ***

R, 106 min.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Neil Young, Ralph Molina, Billy Talbot, Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro

I was informed yesterday that “Year of the Horse”, Jim Jarmusch’s documentary on Neil Young & Crazy Horse, has the distinction of holding the number one spot on Roger Ebert’s list of the Worst Movies of 1997. That was saying quite a lot. Let’s look at some of the other movies that were released in 1997—“Beverly Hills Ninja”, “Booty Call”, “Jungle 2 Jungle”, “B.A.P.S.”, “Turbo: A Power Rangers Adventure”, “Anaconda”, “8 Heads in a Duffle Bag”, “Father’s Day”, “Trial & Error”, “Speed 2: Cruise Control” (which Ebert liked), “Batman & Robin”, “George of the Jungle”, “Nothing to Lose”, “Spawn”, “Steel”, “Leave It To Beaver”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation”, “Rocket Man”, “Starship Troopers”, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”, “Alien: Resurrection”, “Flubber”, “Home Alone 3”, and “Mr. Magoo”. Not only is every one of those movies a better candidate for “worst” of that particular year, but also “Year of the Horse” is actually a very good representation of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Orange Drive (2011) ***½

NR, 11 min.
Director: Mark Lester
Writers: Mark Lester, Chad Reinacher
Starring: Chad Reinacher, Jordan Dunn, Libe Barer, Leah Munson

There is a time in our American lives when we have a special relationship with our cars. It is usually when we are younger and closer to that point when we first obtained a license. It is a time when everything we do seems to happen with our car. “Orange Drive” is a short film that perfectly captures this special relationship and the relationships that take place within that one.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2013) ***

NR, 90 min.
Directors: Dmitry Vasyukov, Werner Herzog
Writers: Werner Herzog, Dmitry Vasyukov, Rudolph Herzog
Narrator: Werner Herzog

Happy people live in the Russian area known as Siberia Taiga. This fascinating documentary is brought to you in part by filmmaker of new images extraordinaire, Werner Herzog. “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” follows two professional trappers who live in the town of Bakhta, a small village along the Yenisei River. The river is frozen for ten months out of the year. The only other way to access the town from the outside is by helicopter. So, isolation is a way of life for these people.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Penny Thoughts ’13—Darkness: A Radio Play (2013) ***

NR, 57 min.
Director: James Robinson
Writer: Tom Stoppard
Animation: Darren Dubicki
Cast: Amaka Okafor, Iwan Rheon, Rufus Sewell, Bill Nighy, Adrian Scarborough, Peter Marinker, Robert Blythe, Ben Crowe, Philippa Stanton

Last night, in celebration of the 40th Anniversary year of Pink Floyd’s masterpiece album “Dark Side of the Moon”, BBC Radio 2 premiered Tom Stoppard’s new radio play “Darkness”. Described as a philosophical comedy, the radio play incorporates Pink Floyd’s album into its performance and British animation studio Aardman Animations also created visuals to play along with it on the station’s website. Throughout most of the play’s running time the visuals run in a near five-minute loop until the play’s climax. You’ll definitely want to look at the last three minutes of visuals, however, which break the loop cycle and are the most interesting of the bunch.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Lion in Winter (1968) ***½

PG, 134 min.
Director: Anthony Harvey
Writer: James Goldman (also play)
Starring: Peter O’Toole, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, John Castle, Nigel Terry, Timothy Dalton, Jane Merrow

I’d never seen “The Lion in Winter” until recently. I didn’t know how deliciously pointed and witty it is. Watching Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn dance their duel of words with each other is like watching a world championship of some sort. This is politics that puts our political campaigns to shame. This film should be required viewing for anyone going into political negotiations.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Deathstalker (1983) zero stars

R, 80 min.
Director: James Sbardellati
Writer: Howard R. Cohen
Starring: Rick Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson, Victor Bo, Bernard Erhard

If you’re looking for some misogynistic, sword and sandal, “Conan the Barbarian” rip-off, dreck, look no further than “Deathstalker”. I vaguely remember movies like this from the early 80s, when these non-existent low budget studios would pop out of the woodwork to capitalize on whatever hot Hollywood trend was sweeping the box office and pump out three or four look-a-likes before anyone got the wiser. “Deathstalker” is desperately following the Conan formula and throwing in a great many naked breasts and bare asses to make up for its shortcomings. Sure, that might make it sound enticing, but trust me; it’s not worth it. It’s not so bad its good. It’s just wretched.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The World’s End / **** (R)

Gary King: Simon Pegg
Andy Knightly: Nick Frost
Steven Prince: Paddy Considine
Peter Page: Eddie Marsan
Oliver Chamberlin: Martin Freeman
Sam Chamberlin: Rosamund Pike
Guy Shephard: Pierce Brosnan
Voice of The Network: Bill Nighy

Focus Features presents a film directed by Edgar Wright. Written by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright. Running time: 109 min. Rated R (for pervasive language including sexual references).

“The World’s End”—the supposed third film in the “The Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy by filmmakers Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost—is bloody brilliant. There’s no better way to say it; and I just don’t feel like beating around the bush about it. It’s bleedin’ aces, Bob’s your uncle! That’s no codswallup. You aren’t going to see a funnier movie this year. You’ll laugh your arse off. It’s truly the dog’s bollocks. It takes the piss out of 50s/60s science fiction/alien invasion films, and yet it is one at the same time. It’s just bloody brilliant.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Upside Down (2013) *

PG-13, 100 min.
Director/Writer: Juan Solanas
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, Blu Mankuma, James Kidnie

“Upside Down” is a science fiction film that makes me think of Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity. If Newton came up with his theory, but was unable to connect it with why the apple fell on his head, then his story would have some semblance of the science fiction theories explored in this movie.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—To the Wonder (2013) **½

R, 112 min.
Director/Writer: Terrence Malick
Starring: Olga Kurylenko, Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams, Tatiana Chiline

I’m a bit conflicted about Terrence Malick’s latest image and sound collage “To the Wonder”. Certainly it is the weakest of his films. There are moments when it reaches near self-parody. And yet, I’d still rather watch this than 80 percent of most of the movies out there, even ones I’ve rated higher. Malick’s sense of cinema is so grand, his scope so wide, his eye so in tune with the natural world.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Magnum Force (1973) ***

R, 124 min.
Director: Ted Post
Writers: John Milius, Michael Cimino, Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitch Ryan, David Soul, Tim Matheson, Kip Niven, Robert Urich, Felton Perry, Maurice Argent

Today was the first day of school. That meant an early morning for everyone. Our youngest took the bus for the first time this morning. Everyone was up for it, including myself. I’d planned on getting off to bed early last night. I had written an obituary entry for this blog about the great Elmore Leonard. I already had a review in the bag for today’s entry, and then I learned of the news that Leonard was not the only cinematic influence who passed away yesterday.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)

Elmore Leonard courtesy of Getty Images
Crime and western novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard died this morning in his Bloomfield Village, Mich. home. Leonard was hospitalized in early August after suffering a stroke and passed away at 7:15 this morning, according to The Detroit News. Leonard was 87.

Leonard was a cinematic writer. His novels demanded to be put on screen. Sometimes they dared, but usually they begged. He wrote characters that belonged in a format that was larger than life in an environment that was sultrier and more dangerous. Great filmmakers were drawn to the man’s work. Delmer Daves, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, James Mangold, John Madden, Barry Sonnenfeld, John Frankenheimer, John Sturges, and Martin Ritt are just some of the filmmakers compelled to explore the world of Leonard. It was a world of violence, with criminals and crime fighters defined as much by their brains as their brawn.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Penny Thoughts ’13—Clapping for the Wrong Reasons (2013) ***½

NR, 25 min.
Director: Hiro Murai
Writer: Donald Glover
Starring: Donald Glover, Chance the Rapper, Danielle Fishel, Flying Lotus, Trinidad James

“Sometimes you just can’t explain things.” — Childish Gambino

That’s what I think sometimes when I’m watching a David Lynch movie. Now, comes Donald Glover’s new short film “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons” and his own character and pseudonym, Childish Gambino, makes the claim in his own movie that makes me think the same thing. I think I’m getting dizzy here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

We’re the Millers / *** (R)

David Clark: Jason Sudeikis
Rose O’Reilly: Jennifer Aniston
Kenny Rossmore: Will Poulter
Casey Mathis: Emma Roberts
Brad Gurdlinger: Ed Helms
Don Fitzgerald: Nick Offerman
Edie Fitzgerald: Kathryn Hahn
Melissa Fitzgerald: Molly Quinn

Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema present a film directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Written by Bob Fisher & Steve Faber and Sean Anders & John Morris. Running time: 110 min. Rated R (for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug content, and brief graphic nudity).

There’s an old entertainment adage that states that comedy is hard. It’s always assumed that means it’s hard to perform, or direct, or just pull off in general. In my acting days—which hopefully aren’t entirely behind me—I found comedy to be rather easy to pull off. It came naturally to me. I was good at acting goofy, and it didn’t always require those “real” emotions that, for me were always a little harder to connect with inside. I suppose this is also the case for many comedic actors, most especially actors like the ones that inhabit the cast of the movie “We’re the Millers”.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jobs / *** (PG-13)

Steve Jobs: Ashton Kutcher
Mike Markkula: Dermot Mulroney
Steve Wozniak: Josh Gad
Daniel Kottke: Lucas Haas
Arthur Rock: J.K. Simmons
Bill Atkison: Nelson Franklin
John Sculley: Matthew Modine

Open Road Films presents a film directed by Joshua Michael Stern. Written by Matt Whiteley. Running time: 122 min. Rated PG-13 (for some drug content and brief strong language).

It’s easy to fail to notice just what an impact the work of Steve Jobs has had on our lives. I remember the Christmas when my parents got the family an Apple II computer. We were all so excited to have entered the computer age. We were just an average family. None of us had electronic inclinations. My dad wasn’t a tinkerer. My brother and I weren’t overtly obsessed with video games. But, to have an Apple II computer was sort of a status symbol signifying that a family had arrived in the modern age. At that time, no one knew of the innovations to come from Steve Jobs.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—It’s Not You, It’s Me (2013) ***½

NR, 11 min.
Director: Matt Spicer
Writers: Eric Spicer, Matt Spicer
Starring: Gillian Jacobs, Fran Kranz, Rob Huebel

I really should’ve saved this one for Horrorfest. Gillian Jacobs, from NBC’s “Community”, stars in this dark comedy that was a hit at this year’s SXSW. Perhaps it gives a little insight into the mind of the woman. Hopefully, just this particular woman played by Jacobs. Whichever it is, it’s a man’s worst nightmare that he never has. The reason he never has it is because he is oblivious to himself and the harm he can bring upon himself through his oblivion.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Admission (2013) ***

PG-13, 107 min.
Director: Paul Weitz
Writers: Karen Croner, Jean Hanff Korelitz (novel)
Starring: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff, Lily Tomlin, Travaris Spears, Gloria Rueben, Wallace Shawn, Michael Sheen, Michael Genardy, Olek Krupa, Sonya Walger

“Admission” is a little more than your average sitcom, and in some ways it’s the same old same old. In terms of plot structure, there’s little to surprise in this story about a Princeton admissions officer who tries to get the boy she thinks is the son she agreed to abandon for adoption when she was in college into the prestigious educational institution. It all goes about the way things like these go in sitcoms. There are some funny awkward moments between the admission officer and the former Dartmouth classmate who thinks he’s found her son. There is work place comedy involving the thrilling profession of college admissions and the troubles of settling into a life with an English professor who treats you more like a pet than an equal. There’s that moment when the truth threatens to ruin everything and does ruin many things.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) ***

PG-13, 100 min.
Director: Don Scardino
Writers: Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chad Kultgen, Tyler Mitchell
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr, Michael Bully Herbig, Brad Garrett, David Copperfield

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” isn’t incredible, but it made me laugh, so I’m going to recommend it. The movie was a major bomb at the box office and didn’t fare well with the critics either, prompting unending debate about whether Jim Carrey should just throw in the towel. This isn’t Jim Carrey’s movie, however. I’ve billed him fourth, and going by role size, that’s where he belongs.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Requiem for Romance (2013) ****

NR, 7 min.
Director/Writer: Jonathan Ng
Voices: Shannon Kook-Chun, Meilie Ng

A few months ago I stumbled upon this website, Short of the Week. As a film buff, I couldn't have gotten luckier. Of course the advent of YouTube has been a great benefit to the short film, but this website is the best online venue I've seen. As the title clearly states, this site features a new short every week. I've seen some of my favorite films this year on this site, all under 20 minutes in length.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Gangster Squad (2013) **

R, 113 min.
Director: Rueben Fleischer
Writers: Will Beall, Paul Lieberman (novel)
Starring: Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, Mireille Enos, Sullivan Stapleton, Jon Polito

“Gangster Squad” is a particularly unimaginative period crime thriller. It suffers from the same fate as movies like “Transformers” in the way it depends more on the production design than it does on an actual story. I think the people who made the movie assume everyone knows who Mickey Cohen was and that L.A., unlike New York and Chicago, was never a stronghold for organized crime; but there was a time when many different gangsters tried to get a foothold on the City of Angels by using it’s notoriously corrupt police force for leverage.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The School of Rock (2003) ***½

PG-13, 106 min.
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Mike White
Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jr., Kevin Clark, Jordan Claire-Green, Veronica Afflerbach, Robert Tsai, Angelo Massagli, Maryam Hassan, Caitlin Hale, Cole Hawkins, Brian Falduto, James Hosey, Aleisha Allen, Zachary Infante, Rebecca Brown, Jaclyn Neidenthal, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Kimberly Grigsby, Lee Wilkhof, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Wally Dunn, Tim Hooper, Suzzanne Douglas, Frank Whaley

I’ve written about what a wonderful learning movie this is before. It is a formula movie that hits all the right notes and it hits them well, so you can forgive the formula. Jack Black is a force of nature in his prime, before people began to grow weary of his shtick. And it just makes you want to rock, which is a pretty big win considering the movie’s subject matter.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Elysium / ***½ (R)

Max: Matt Damon
Delacourt: Jodie Foster
Kruger: Sharlto Copely
Fray: Alice Braga
Julio: Diego Luna
Spider: Wagner Moura
John Carlyle: William Fichtner

TriStar Pictures presents a film written and directed by Neill Blomkamp. Running time: 109 min. Rated R (for strong bloody violence and language throughout).

Science fiction is a genre like no other in all of story telling. Other genres can acts as allegory and adventure, but none puts the elements together in the same sense of dependence on one another as science fiction. Sci-fi is a marriage of plot and metaphor in both structure and execution. It attracts with story and a need for something more. At one time, this meant that sci-fi required the more rare consumer, but its reach has expanded because of film. Now, sci-fi isn’t just about the unique, but also about the masses.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 3 (1989-1990) ****

TV-PG, 26 45-min. episodes
Creator: Gene Roddenberry

Directors: Winrich Kolbe, Cliff Bole, Les Landau, Robert Wiemer, Gabrielle Beaumont, David Carson, Robert Scheerer, Timothy Bond, Jonathan Frakes, Chip Chalmers, Robert Legato, Tom Benko

Writers: Gene Roddenberry, Michael Piller, Michael Wagner, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, Ronald D. Moore, Ron Roman, Richard Danus, David Kemper, Hannah Louise Shearer, Sam Rolfe, Robin Bernheim, Ed Zuckerman, Ira Steven Behr, Trent Christopher Ganino, Eric A. Sitwell, René Echevarria, W. Reed Morgan, Drew Deighan, Dennis Bailey, David Bischoff, Sally Caves, Shari Goodhartz, Peter S. Beagle, Marc Cushman, Jake Jacobs, Fred Bronson, Susan Sackett

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton

Guest starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Colm Meaney, Ken Jenkins, Eileen Seeley, Mark L. Taylor, Richard Allen, Mart McChesney, John Anderson, Anne Haney, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Ray Wise, James Greene, Pamela Segall, John McLiam, James McIntire, Lois Hall, Susan Powell, Gabriel Damon, Susan Gibney, Albert Hall, Julie Warner, John Snyder, Andreas Katsulas, Steve Rankin, Matt McCoy, Elizabeth Hoffman, Castulo Guerra, Scott Thompson, Dan Shor, Kevin Peter Hall, Lisa Wilcox, Joey Aresco, Nancy Parsons, Stephen Lee, Marc Lawrence, Elkanah J. Burns, James Sloyan, John Hancock, S.A. Templeman, Jeff McCarthy, James Cromwell, J. Michael Flynn, Andrew Bicknell, Kerrie Keane, Richard Cox, John de Lancie, Richard Cansino, Corbin Bernsen, Craig Richard Nelson, Gina Hecht, Mark Margolis, Juli Donald, Denise Crosby, Christopher McDonald, Tricia O’Neill, Hallie Todd, Nicolas Coster, Judyann Elder, Charles Cooper, Tony Todd, Patrick Massett, Thelma Lee, Stephen Markle, Reiner Schöne, Joycelyn O’Brien, Jennifer Hetrick, Karen Landry, Michael Champion, Max Grodénchik, Michael Cavanaugh, Peter Vogt, Harry Groener, Dwight Schultz, Nehemiah Persoff, Jane Daly, Saul Rubinek, Mark Lenard, Joanna Miles, William Dennis, Rocco Sisto, Majel Barrett, Frank Corsentino, Ethan Phillips, Peter Slutsker, Rudolph Willrich, Carel Struycken, Mark Lemura, Charles Dennis, Elizabeth Dennehy, George Murdock

Who’da thought that adding collars to the costumes would make such a difference in the Star Trek universe?

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” season three is a perfect example as to why I like to review television series by individual seasons. This is the season that the show really found itself, and it wasn’t just because of a minor uniform adjustment. The episodes in season three show a confidence, a diversity, a consistency, and a science fiction purpose unlike either of the previous two seasons of this cult hit spin off series. The writers, directors and performers of the series show an effortless will to change genres and emotional atmosphere from episode to episode. Some episodes are serious science fiction, some pure adventure, some romantic in nature, and some on the lighter comedic side and they all blend together seamlessly over the course of the season.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Batman Begins (2005) ****

PG-13, 140 min.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, Bob Kane (characters)
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Linus Roache, Larry Holden, Sara Stewart, Gus Lewis, Richard Brake, Rade Sherbedgia, Emma Lockhart

I’ve reviewed “Batman Begins” several times. Many feel that it is the best Batman movie ever made. Many feel that its sequel “The Dark Knight” is the best Batman movie ever made. I was of the former camp, but every time I watch “Batman Begins” the two movies close the gap on each other in my mind.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Red (2010) ***

PG-13, 111 min.
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis (graphic novel), Cully Hamner (graphic novel)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Karl Urban, Rebecca Pigeon, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine, James Remar, Julian McMahon

The last time I wrote about this movie, I was just gaga over the casting. Nothing else in the film much mattered to me. Perhaps that wasn’t giving it enough credit. Sure, “Red” is just an excuse to get some older actors together and put them in some action scenarios where we don’t usually see players this far past their “prime” and prove that the prime can come in the golden years. However, Robert Schwentke does work some pretty good magic with the camera here and there.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) ***½

PG-13, 102 min.
Director/Writer: Stephen Chbosky (also novel)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd, Nina Dobrev, Johnny Simmons, Dylan McDermott, Fran Walsh, Melanie Lynskey, Erin Wilhelmi, Adam Hagenbuch, Joan Cusack

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is essentially “The Breakfast Club” for the Y or Z generation, with a little added twist of personal drama. I’m not sure how necessary that personal drama is to the proceedings, but it is an interesting subject that is not often tackled in a movie focused on teens.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Stoker (2013) ***½

R, 99 min.
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Wentworth Miller
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Phyllis Somerville, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Jacki Weaver, Dermot Mulroney, Ralph Brown

Watching Chan-wook Park’s U.S. directorial debut “Stoker”, my faith in a filmmaker’s ability to make a good vampire movie has been restored. I thought that the “Twilight Saga” had forever tainted that horror subgenre for me, but here my faith in the forbidden lusts of gothic horror has been restored. The funny thing is that “Stoker” isn’t a vampire movie at all, but it certainly feels like one, and I’m pretty sure the connection is no coincidence.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Berberian Sound Studio / ***½ (NR)

Gilderoy: Toby Jones
Francesco: Cosimo Fusco
Silvia: Fatma Mohamed
Santini: Antonio Mancino
Elena: Tonia Sotiropoulou
Veronica: Susanna Cappellaro
Elisa: Chiara D’Anna

IFC Midnight presents a film written and directed by Peter Strickland. Running time: 92 min. Not Rated (Contains verbal descriptions of sexual violence and disturbing images).

I heard about “Berberian Sound Studio” long before it was officially released in the United States thanks to a friend of mine who is obsessed with music. He turned me on to the soundtrack for the film months ago. Until the movie itself came to the best little art house in Mid-Missouri, the soundtrack was about all I knew about the film. Because of that soundtrack, I knew I had to see it once it opened at the Ragtag Cinema in Columbia, Missouri.

The soundtrack album, with original music by British electronic musicians Broadcast, sculpts an aural soundscape of a 1970s Italian horror flick, the like of which made by filmmakers like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci. It encompasses not only the musical sound of the Italian horror flick, but the screams, the scraping of metal on whatever, the feedback of poor recording, and various other strange sounds found in the oddball stories of Italian horror.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) ***

NR, 103 min.
Director: John Ford
Writers: Frank Nugent, Lawrence Stallings, James Warner Bellah
Starring: John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Victor McGlaglen, Mildred Natwick, George O’Brien, Arthur Shields, Michael Dugan, Chief John Big Tree, Fred Graham, Chief Sky Eagle, Tom Tyler, Noble Johnson

“She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” is one of those classic westerns that has been on my list of to see movies for a very long time. I’m sure at the time of its release it was a great movie, but with the amount of age it has on it at this point, it is merely good. It includes a great deal of cinematic cliché that was perceived as what was proper for a film at the time, but today dates the movie with schmaltz and corniness.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003) **

G, 87 min.
Directors: Victor Cook, Toby Shelton, Tad Stones
Writers: Thomas Hart, Henry Gilroy, Kevin Hopps, Tad Stones, Steve Englhart, Marty Eisenberg
Voices: James Arnold Taylor, Cree Summer, John Mahoney, Jacqueline Obradors, Don Novello, Corey Burton, Phil Morris, Florence Stanley, Clancy Brown, Jean Gilpin, Tom Wilson, Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman, William Morgan Shepard

Well, the first one was fun. So, on a family movie night when I didn’t make plans for a movie ahead of time, I thought, what the heck? Let’s check out the direct to video sequel. The sequel is just ho hum. Most of the voice talent is back, except for the lead, who was originally voiced by Michael J. Fox. The new voice is a good approximation of Fox’s, but lacks his hesitational charm.  

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—True Lies (1994) ***½

R, 141 min.
Director: James Cameron
Writers: James Cameron, Claude Zidi (screenplay “La Totale!”), Simon Michaël (screenplay “La Totale!”), Didier Kaminka (screenplay “La Totale!”)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Art Malik, Eliza Dushku, Grnat Heslov, Charlton Heston

My wife and I have always loved this movie. It isn’t one of James Cameron’s powerful pictures like “Titanic” or “The Abyss” or “Avatar”, and it doesn’t have the science fiction commentary of “The Terminator” or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” or “Strange Days”. But, it’s more fun than any of those films.