Saturday, May 31, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Iceman (1984) ***

PG, 100 min.
Director: Fred Schepisi
Writers: Chip Proser, John Drimmer
Starring: Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse, John Lone, Josef Sommer, David Strathairn, Philip Akin, Danny Glover, Amelia Hall, Richard Monette, James Tolkan

So I had a mini 1984 sci-fi/drama Man Out of Place film festival last weekend watching “Starman” and “Iceman” back-to-back. It was quite enjoyable. “Iceman” certainly wasn’t as iconic a film as “Starman”, although both have become somewhat forgotten 30 years down the road.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Starman (1984) ***½

PG, 115 min.
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: Bruce A. Evans, Raynold Gideon
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel

I have been meaning to revisit John Carpenter’s “Starman” for quite some time now. I remember enjoying it a great deal when I was younger and more so having a good amount of respect for it as something above your average 80s sci-fi flick. Watching it now, it’s easy to see where the respect came from.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Beavis and Butthead Do America (1996) **½

PG-13, 80 min.
Directors: Mike Judge, Mike DeSeve, Brian Mulroney, Yvette Kaplan
Writers: Mike Judge, Joe Stillman, Brian Mulroney
Voices: Mike Judge, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Cloris Leachman, Robert Stack, Jacqueline Barba, Eric Bogosian

I noticed that “Beavis & Butthead Do America” was streaming on Netflix and I wondered if the series held up from my days in college. I probably haven’t seen any “Beavis & Butthead” episodes since they were part of MTV’s regular programming schedule, well since I was in college as a matter of fact, but I did enjoy them quite a bit at that time in my life. I even saw the movie in the cinema.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Revolution, season 2 (2013-2014) ***½

TV-14, 22 43-min. episodes
Creator: Eric Kripke

Directors: Steve Boyum, Phil Sgriccia, Helen Shaver, Charles Beeson, Frederick E.O. Toye, Omar Madha, Michael Offer, Ernest Dickerson, Liz Friedlander, Roxann Dawson, Nick Copus, John Showalter, David Boyd

Writers: Eric Kripke, Matt Pitts, Paul Grellong, David Rambo, Anne Cofell Saunders, Ben Edlund, Trey Callaway, Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jim Barnes, David Reed, Ryan Parrott

Starring: Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth, David Lyons, JD Pardo, Stephen Collins, Elizabeth Mitchell, Steven Culp, Jessica Collins, Mat Vairo, Maureen Sebastian, Christopher Cousins

Guest starring: Adam Beach, Patrick Heusinger, Blake Hood, Nicole Ari Parker, Matt Ross, Richard T. Jones, Will Beinbrink, Damon Carney, Barry Tubb, Jim Beaver, Zeljko Ivanek, Anthony Ruivivar, David Aaron Baker, Waleed Zuaiter, Maria Howell, Kim Raver, Joaquim de Almeida, Katie Aselton, Daniel Henney, Bret Michaels, Timm Sharp, Cotter Smith, Tyrees Allen, Reiko Aylesworth, Billy Lush, M.C. Gainey, Gonzalo Menendez, Tim Guinee, Colby French

For their first two seasons, for me anyway, the two unrelated shows, “Arrow” and “Revolution” seemed intrinsically connected. Not in any sort of content way. They were both fantasy adventure shows, but that’s where the content connection ended. They both struggled to find their identities throughout the first half of their freshman seasons. They both ended their freshman runs with big developments and very satisfying and devastating cliffhangers. In their sophomore year, they both shared the same timeslot.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Elementary, season 2 (2013-2014) ****

TV-14, 24, 43-min. episodes
Creator: Rob Doherty

Directors: John Polson, Jerry Levine, Michael Pressman, Andrew Bernstein, Sanaa Hamri, Christine Moore, Guy Ferland, Aaron Lipstadt, Larry Teng, Helen Shaver, Jean de Segonzac, Seith Mann, Michael Slovis, Lucy Liu,

Writers: Robert Doherty, Craig Sweeny, Jeffery Paul King, Liz Friedman, Jason Tracey, Cathryn Humphris, Christopher Hollier, Bob Goodman, Lauren Mackenzie, Andrew Gettens, Steve Gottfried, Robert Hewitt Wolfe,

Starring: Johnny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Jon Michael Hill, Aidan Quinn

Guest starring: Rhys Ifans, Sean Pertwee, Lynn Collins, Jeremy Jordan, Christian Campbell, Ronald Guttman, Laura Benanti, Samuel H. Levine, Noelle Beck, Mia Barron, Danielle Nicolet, Mike Starr, Jordan Gelber, Talia Balsam, Sarah Wynter, Ted King, Olivia d’Abo, Phyllys Somerville, William Sadler, Margaret Colin, Casey Biggs, Troy Garity, Chris Bauer, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Dillan Arrick, Elizabeth Marvel, Frankie Faison, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Jordan Lage, Zachary Booth, Brian Reddy, Heather Burns, Ato Essandoh, Richard Masur, Peter Gerety, Natalie Dormer, Faran Tahir, Andrew Howard, Vincent Curatola, Tim Guinee, Paul Sorvino, Ashlie Atkinson, Stephen Tyrone Williams, James Martinez, Jonno Roberts, Jane Alexander, Aleska Palladino, Scott Cohen, Bill Sage, Bill Irwin, Jeremy Davidson, Cara Buono, Sean Nelson, Ron Canada, Shiri Appleby, Gretchen Egolf, Bruce Altman, Robert Stanton, Judith Ivey, Garret Dillahunt, Roger Rees, Ron Raines, Michael Medeiros, Jeremy Shamos, Henri Lubatti, Michael Gaston, Vincent Amato, Ralph Brown, Emily Bergl, Jim Norton, Nasser Faris

In its second season, CBS’s Sherlock Holmes series “Elementary” has solved any of the minor problems it held in the first season. The shows biggest weakness in its freshman year was the lack of development of the Joan Watson character. In season two, Joan comes into her own. She becomes somewhat of an equal to Holmes and, even more importantly, her own person rather than just the super detective’s foil. She is no longer a sober companion or a trainee, but a sleuth in her own right. She takes on cases that Sherlock is not working and she adds important insight into the ones he does oversee.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Grimm, season 3 (2013-2014) ****

TV-14, 22 45-min. episodes
Creators: Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf

Directors: Norberto Barba, Eric Laneuville, Karen Gaviola, Steven DePaul, John Behring, Aaron Lipstadt, Terrence O’Hara, Tawnia McKiernan, Allen Kroeker, Peter Werner, Rashaad Ernesto Green, Rob Bailey, Paul A. Kaufman, David Solomon, Clark Mathis

Writers: Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf, Sean Calder, Rob Wright, Michael Golamco, Michael Duggan, Thomas Ian Griffith, Dan E. Fesman, Alan DiFiore, Brenna Kouf, Marc Gaffen, Kyle McVey

Starring: David Guintoli, Russell Hornsby, Bitsie Tulloch, Silas Weir Mitchell, Sasha Roiz, Reggie Lee, Bree Turner, Claire Coffee

Guest starring: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Reg E. Cathey, James Frain, Christian Legadec, Robert Blanche, Jean-Luc Boucherot, Kamyar Jahan, Jay Karnes, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Damien Puckler, Dan Bakkedahl, Danny Bruno, Michael Welch, Stephanie Nogueras, Brian McNamara, Derek Ray, Sara Fletcher, Manny Montana, Gina Gallego, Bertila Damas, Matt McTighe, Tim Griffin, Gabriel Suttle, Julianne Christie, Alexis Denisof, Matthew Willig, Sharon Sachs, Derek Mears, Shane Coffey, Bernhard Forcher, Sharon Leal, Mark Ivanir, Alicia Legano, Aleksandra Kaniak, Angela Gots, Dalpre Grayer, Emily Rios, Gonzalo Menendez, Kirk Acevedo, Todd A. Robinson, Amy Newman, Matt Lasky, Chris Mulkey, Dee Wallace, Freda Foh Shen, Alain Uy, Tess Paras, Anne Dudek, Gene Freedman, Sam Witwer, Carlo Rota, Chryssie Whitehead, Philip Anthony-Rodriguez, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, C. Thomas Howell, Jacqueline Toboni, Sasha Goldberg, Conner B. Neddersen, Michael Graziadei, Karissa Lee Staples, Camille Collard, Aparna Briel, Sam Anderson, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe

In season 3 of the NBC supernatural horror/adventure series “Grimm” everything returns to grand form. Gone is the endless subplot of Juliette being under a spell. In fact little this season lasts the entire season. The subplot of Adalind’s pregnancy and baby is ongoing, but its one with developments and mysterious and powerful implications. I did get concerned in the final few episodes when it looked like Adalind might be gunning for Juliette a second time, but Juliette was her means not her target this time.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past / ***½ (PG-13)

Logan/Wolverine: Hugh Jackman
Charles Xavier: James McAvoy
Eric Lehnsherr: Michael Fassbender
Raven/Mystique: Jennifer Lawrence
Hank/Beast: Nicholas Hoult
Dr. Bolivar Trask: Peter Dinklage
Peter/Quicksilver: Evan Peters
Professor X: Patrick Stewart
Magneto: Ian McKellen
Storm: Halle Berry
Kitty Pride: Ellen Page
Bobby/Iceman: Shawn Ashmore

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Bryan Singer. Written by Simon Kinberg from a story by Jane Goldman & Kinberg & Matthew Vaughn. Running time: 131 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some suggestive material, nudity and language).

If the latest movie in the X-Men franchise proves anything, it’s that as long as they’re working with good material, filmmakers can indeed keep this up forever. Through a seemingly endless pool of superheroes to pull from, recasting roles with even more versatile actors, using multiple timelines and just plain rewriting anything that has come before, the equally seamlessly interchangeable filmmaking teams are quite capable of utilizing every ounce of artistry and cleverness to put together entertaining packages of superhero action and mythology to engage audiences for many years to come.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Wolverine (2013) ***

PG-13, 126 min.
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee, Famke Janssen

I feel like I’ve been spinning around in circles looking up at the sky after having spent the last week or so watching the six X-Men movies leading up to the new “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. What with starting in the “not too distant future” of the first film, the flashbacks that permeate all of them, then bouncing back to the early 70s for the first Wolverine movie, then back another decade for “First Class”, then back to the present (or is it still the not too distant future?) for “The Wolverine”. I imagine considering the time traveling nature of “Days of Future Past” that feeling won’t be going away when I go to see it tomorrow.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Surviving Jack (2014) ***½

TV-14, 8 24-min. episodes
Creators: Patrick Schumacker, Justin Halpern

Directors: Roger Kumble, Michael McDonald, Victor Nelli Jr., Joe Nussbaum, John Putch, Michael Weaver, Ken Whittingham

Writers: Patrick Schumacker, Justin Halpern (also book “I Suck at Girls”), Connie Marshall, Jim Brandon, Emily Heller, Sierra Teller Ornelas, Brian C. Singleton, Bill Callahan, Zachary Rosenblatt

Starring: Christopher Meloni, Connor Buckley, Rachel Harris, Claudia Lee, Tyler Foden, Kevin Hernandez

Narrator: Kevin Rahm

Guest starring: Lili Reinhart, Thomas Kasp, Troy Romzek, Carter Sand, Damaris Diaz, Neil Flynn, Brett Gelman, Mark Berry

Oh network television, you are a cruel, cruel mistress. You allow a show like “Two and a Half Men” to stay on the air for years on end, despite the fact that the half man left because he realized how stupid and insipid the program was, but you cancel a show like “Surviving Jack” without ever even giving it a chance. A show with genuine wit and something to say about life that is real, “Surviving Jack” deserved a fighting chance. Instead it’s dumped into a spot without any ratings in the last quarter of the season and no one ever knows what they’re missing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—X-Men: First Class (2011) ***

PG-13, 132 min.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer
Starring: James McAvoy, Matthew Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Till, Álex Gonzáles, Jason Flemyng, Zoë Kravitz, Edi Gathegi, Oliver Platt, Matt Craven, Don Creech, Glenn Morshower, James Remar, Rade Serbedzija, Michael Ironside

So, watching this movie with a history major produces a lot of guttural reactions. Anyway, I did really like this movie, but I’m not as enamored with it as many. To me it lacked a little excitement. It is certainly the most interesting of the X-Men franchise, but there is a fine line between clever development and exciting entertainment. Oh, a liked it all right. But a movie of this nature needs a heavy helping of the entertainment side to be as engaging as it can be.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) *½

PG-13, 107 min.
Director: Gavin Hood
Writers: David Benioff, Skip Woods
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston,, Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Danny Henney, Ryan Reynolds, Tim Pocock, Julia Blake, Max Cullen

Ok. I’m going to start by saying that the third time around, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” didn’t bother me as much. The key part of that phrase is “as much.” It’s still pretty stupid and I have some major bones to pick with it. I’ll try to concentrate on different ones this time. You can read my original review here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Arrow, season 2 (2013-2014) ***½

TV-14, 23 42-min. episodes
Developers: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg

Directors: John Behring, Nick Copus, Glen Winter, Eagle Egilsson, Wendy Stanzler, Guy Bee, Bethany Rooney, Michael Schultz, Rob Hardy, Larry Teng, Jesse Warn, Soug Aarniokoski

Writers: Greg Berlanti, Marc Giggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Ben Sokolowski, Beth Schwartz, Keto Shimizu, Wendy Mericle, Jake Coburn, Drew Z. Greenberg, Geoff Johns, Bryan Q. Miller, A.C. Bradley, Holly Harold

Starring: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Emily Bett Rickards, Colton Haynes, Manu Bennett, Susanna Thompson, Paul Blackthorn, Caity Lotz

Guest starring: Celina Jade, Summer Glau, Colin Salmon, Dylan Bruce, Adrian Holmes, Derek Hamilton, Kelly Hu, Michael Jai White, Kevin Alejandro, Bethany Snow, Roger Cross, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Michael Eklund, Audrey Marie Anderson, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Dylan Neal, Teryl Rothery, Navid Negahban, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Graham Shields, Seth Gabel, John Barrowman, Michael Rowe, Grant Gustin, Jesse Hutch, Colin Donnell, Olivia Cheng, Danny Dworkis, Ron Selmour, Sean Maher, Ana Mercedes, Annie Ilonzeh, Nicholas Lea, James Kidnie, Katrina Law, Alex Kingston, Robert Knepper, Curtis Caravaggio, Artine Brown, James Pizzinato, David Nykl, Ben Browder, Eugene Lipinski, Gholem Qadir, Jessica De Gouw, Jeffrey Nordling, Chelah Horsdal, Sean Rogerson, Danielle Panabaker, Doug Chapman, Michael Daingerfield, Anna Hopkins, Roark Critchlow

With all of the cinematic talk about how Marvel conquered the box office through The Avengers movies, the X-Men franchise, now a 5th Spider-Man in theaters, even the hardly heard of superhero group Guardians of the Galaxy promises to be a smash hit later this year, DC Comics has not fared as well cinematically. However, with three new properties making their television debuts next year, including “Gotham”, “The Flash”, and “Constantine”, and with the past success of “Smallville”, it seems DC is conquering the TV set. You need not look any further than “Arrow” season 2 to know why.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) ***

PG-13, 104 min.
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Ellen Page, Daniel Cudmore, Ben Foster, Michael Murphy, Dania Ramirez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Josef Sommer, Bill Duke, Eric Dane, Cameron Bright

So “X-Men: The Last Stand”. If you listened to the fans, this is the most reviled X-Men movie, often called the worst or a total mess, horrible. Of course, the truth is those descriptions really belong to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. It amazes me that people were able to hang on to their hatred of “The Last Stand” once they were given “XO:W”. But for some reason, X-Men fans just hate this movie.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Godzilla / *** (PG-13)

Ford Brody: Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Elle Brody: Elizabeth Olsen
Dr. Ichiro Serizawa: Ken Watanabe
Vivienne Graham: Sally Hawkins
Admiral William Stenz: David Strathairn
Captain Hampton Russell: Richard T. Jones
Joe Brody: Bryan Cranston
Sandra Brody: Juliette Binoche

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Gareth Edwards. Written by Max Borenstein from a story by Dave Callaham. Based on the “Godzilla” film property of the Toho Company. Running time: 123 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence).

Kaiju is a Japanese word that translates to “strange creature.” For many years it has also referred to a very specialized subgenre of movies that involve giant monsters doing battle with the human race and each other. The low budget films of the Toho Company, which spawned the Godzilla series of movies, popularized this subgenre with audiences. Recent Hollywood entries into this subgenre include “Cloverfield” and “Pacific Rim”. Now, Warner Bros. has released “Godzilla”, the third Godzilla film released by a Hollywood studio, and the best U.S. effort to bring the giant green lizard to the big screen to date.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Godzilla’s Revenge (1969) *

G, 70 min.
Director: Ishirô Honda
Writer: Shin’ichi Sekizawa
Starring: Tomonori Yazaki, Hideyo Amamoto, Schio Sakai, Kazuo Suzuki, Kenji Sahara, Machiko Naka, Shigeki Ishida, Midori Uchiyama (voice)

I considered giving this movie less than one star. The fact is that it is a children’s movie. It isn’t trying to be what the other Kaiju movies are. It’s kind of Kaiju Jr. It even tries to imbue its harmlessness with a message about standing up for yourself for kids. For that, and that alone, I give it just a very little credit.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965) *½

G, 93 min.
Director: Ishirô Honda
Writer: Shin’ichi Sekizawa
Starring: Nick Adams, Akira Takarada, Jun Tazaki, Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Keiko Sawai, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenzô Tabu

In the opening credit sequence it’s called simply “Monster Zero”. On the IMDb website it’s called “Invasion of the Astro-Monster”. Whatever it’s called 1965’s “Godzilla vs. Monster Zero” is when the Kaiju movies made like Fonzie and jumped the shark. I think Inoshiro Honda and Shinichi Sekizawa just lost it with this one. Their plot has just gone crazy, the monsters have totally adapted human characteristics, including celebrating their victories and caring about the humans. They’ve taken Godzilla and Rodan into space and brought a ridiculously misogynistic alien race to Earth. An American who sounds like a gangster plays the lead of the film; you know, to appeal to the American audiences. It’s all kind of crazy.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964) ***

NR, 85 min.
Director: Ishirô Honda
Writer: Shin’ichi Sekizawa
Starring: Yôsuke Natsuki, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Akiko Wakabayashi, Emi Itô, Yûmi Itô, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, Hisaya Itô, Minuro Takada

Now things start getting a little weird for the Toho Studios Godzilla/Kaiju films. You know that “more sophisticated storytelling” I was talking about in my “Mothra vs. Godzilla” review? Well, they’ve developed it to a high level for this new film with a plot that involves a princess from a small sovereign nation and an assassination plot that is complicated by the fact that an alien being possesses the princess before she can be killed. In another seemingly unrelated plotline, a strange meteor falls to Earth and scientists are baffled by the strange phenomenon that surrounds it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—New Girl, season 3 (2013-2014) ***½

TV-14, 23 24-min. episodes
Creator: Elizabeth Meriwether

Directors: Max Winkler, Fred Goss, Andrew Fleming, David Katzenberg, Russ Alsobrook, Trent O’Donnell, Nicholas Jasenovec, Eric Appel, Lorene Scafaria, Richie Keen, Alex Hardcastle, Bill Purple, Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Welsh, Lynn Shelton, Steve Tsuchida

Writers: Elizabeth Meriwether, Kay Cannon, Luhv Rakhe, J.J. Philbin, Rob Rosell, Dave Finkel, Brett Baer, David Feeney, Matt Fusfeld, Alex Cuthbertson, Ryan Koh, Josh Malmuth, Berkley Johnson, Rebecca Addelman, Kim Rosenstock, Nina Pedrad, Camilla Blackett, Sophia Lear

Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greefield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone, Damon Wayans Jr.

Guest starring: Merritt Weaver, Hamky Madera, Dreama Walker, Eva Amurri Martino, Curtis Armstrong, Mark Proksch, Brenda Song, Riki Lindhome, Jon Lovitz, Steve Agee, Derek Waters, Jillian Armenante, Samuel Gilbert, Taye Diggs, Justin Chon, Jessica Chaffin, Brian Posehn, Bart McCarthy, Hannah Eisenmann, Gillian Vigman, Bob Gunton, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Falcone, Angela Kinsey, Josh Gad, Ralph Ahn, Prince, Adam Brody, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Linda Cardellini, Matt Price, June Diane Raphael, Alexandra Daddario, Stevie Nelson, James Frencheville

It’s interesting how with a show like “New Girl” it is really hard to distinguish one season from another. Its Seinfeldian nature is such that it’s never really about anything other these strange personalities existing. This is not a drawback or a restriction to the show but a grandiose freeing of comedic possibilities.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Alien (1979) ****

R, 117 min.
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusset
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Bolaji Badejo, Helen Horton (voice)
Designer: H.R. Giger

Is it possible that “Alien” would’ve been nearly as successful were it not for the amazingly original designs of Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger? Now, that I’ve asked it, I realize it’s an absurdly stupid question. The answer is—of course not. Giger was awarded an Oscar for his work along with the visual effects team. He was remembered for the rest of his life for an art style that without the movie would’ve kept him only on the fringe of knowledge to the public, only known to those within the dark niches of the art world.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—X2: X-Men United (2003) ***½

PG-13, 133 min.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter, Zak Penn, Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Barry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bryan Cox, Rebecca Romijn, Anna Paquin, Alan Cumming, Aaron Stanford, Shawn Ashmore, Kelly Hu, Michael Reid McKay

If anything, “X2” stands up after eleven years very well. Other than the hairdressers still forcing Hugh Jackman to try and replicated Wolverine’s hairdo—or rather “hair don’t,” if you know what I mean—from the comic books this could be the latest X-Men movie in terms of keeping pace with the other movies of the cinematic comic book craze it helped to develop. The action is solid. The effects are great, and the story outdoes the original “X-Men” by a longshot. It builds mythology. It delves secrets. It raises more questions than it answers, leaving the need for more movies. But, that doesn’t stop it from answering some key questions as well. It’s exciting and it has something to say.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) **½

NR, 89 min.
Director: Ishirô Honda
Writer: Shin’ichi Sekizawa
Starring: Akira Takarada, Yoriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yû Fujiki, Yûmi Itô, Emi Itô, Yoshifumi Tajima, Kenji Sahara, Jun Tazaki

Toho Studios continues the Godzilla series with more sophisticated storytelling in 1964’s “Mothra vs. Godzilla”, originally released in the U.S. as “Godzilla vs. the Thing”. The storytelling elements are much improved over 1955’s “Godzilla Raids Again”. It seems some sort of executive decision must’ve been made to shore up their storylines with more human elements.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956) **

NR, 80 min.
Directors: Ishirô Honda, Terry O. Morse
Writers: Ishirô Honda, Takeo Murata, Al C. Ward, Shigero Kayama (story)
Starring: Raymond Burr, Takashi Shimura, Momoko Kôchi, Akira Takarada, Akihiko Hirata

So, there’s this monster movie from Japan that has become the b-movie talk of the town. You’re an American film producer and you think to yourself, “I’d really like to bring that across the Pacific to American audiences. But surely, stupid Americans aren’t going to want to watch a Japanese movie dubbed into English. How can I remake this thing in English with an American star, but not have to spend any money on it? Reshoot half of it with Raymond Burr as an American news reporter so he con provide voiceover narration for all the story points we want to keep from the Japanese version of course! I’m a genius!”

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Rodan (1956) ***

NR, 72 min.
Director: Ishirô Honda
Writers: Takeshi Kimura, Ken Kuronuma, Takeo Murata, David Duncan (U.S. version)
Starring: Kenji Sawara, Yumi Shirakawa, Akihiko Hirata

Have you ever watched a movie that you saw as a kid and found incredible joy in seeing images that impacted you so many years ago? That was the experience I had watching “Rodan”, a sort of sister movie to the 1954 b-sci-fi flick “Gojira”, better known to American audiences as “Godzilla”. It isn’t really a sequel to “Godzilla”, but the same studio made it and eventually the Rodan monster was incorporated into the Godzilla series of movies. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Godzilla Raids Again (1955) *½

NR, 78 min.
Director: Motoyoshi Oda
Writers: Shigeaki Hidaka, Takeo Murata, Shigeru Kayama (novel “Gojira”)
Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, Takashi Shimura, Masao Shimizu, Seijirô Onda, Sonosuke Sawamura

“Godzilla” has surprisingly become the 2014 movie I can’t wait to see. The first teaser didn’t really convince me that another American attempt at Godzilla would be worth it. The last one was rather disappointing. Gareth Edwards—who masterfully crafted the low budget “Monsters”—at the helm and the fact that the script attracted stars with fairly good taste, like Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Elizabeth Olsen, suggest that it may not be a wasted effort. Plus, the most recent trailers do a good job selling the classic summer blockbuster feel of the new movie.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PG-13) ***

Peter Parker/Spider-Man: Andrew Garfield
Gwen Stacy: Emma Stone
Max Dillon/Electro: Jamie Foxx
Harry Osborn: Dane DeHaan
Aunt May: Sally Field
Donald Menken: Colm Feore
Felicia: Felicity Jones
Richard Parker: Campbell Scott
Aleksei Sytsevich: Paul Giamatti

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Marc Webb. Written by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinker and James Vanderbilt. Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Running time: 142 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action/violence).

Two-years ago Sony, the owner of the film rights to Marvel’s Spider-Man characters, decided to reboot the franchise after a mere five years since the very successful original trilogy. There was some legal mumbo jumbo involved about securing the film rights so they wouldn’t revert back to Marvel, which would’ve made Spider-Man a Disney film property.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Last Supper (1995) ***

R, 92 min.
Director: Stacy Title
Writer: Dan Rosen
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Ron Eldard, Annabeth Gish, Jonathan Penner, Courtney B. Vance, Bill Paxton, Nora Dunn, Ron Perlman, Charles Durning, Mark Harmon, Jason Alexander, Rachel Chagall

“The Last Supper” is a little indie black comedy that slid in under the radar in the mid-90s, which is surprising because much of its cast was in the process of quickly climbing the rungs of fame. It is not some religious representation, as some might gather from its title. It’s more like an episode of “The Outer Limits” for the politico mindset.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Fisher King (1991) ****

R, 137 min.
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Reuhl, Amanda Plummer, Michael Jeter, David Hyde Pierce

“The Fisher King” contains one of the single most astounding bits of acting I’ve seen. It isn’t performed by the Oscar-nominated Robin Williams for his role. No, this piece of acting is provided by the equally talented, but overlooked for this performance, Jeff Bridges, who plays the actual lead of the film. Yes, Bridges, as Hollywood royalty, has had the industry’s heart for quite a while and has gained more nominations than Williams and was finally honored by the Academy with his award winning role as a country singer in “Crazy Heart” in 2010, but at the time it was Williams who was the bigger name despite the fact that Bridges carries the story. What Bridges pulls off in the first five minutes of this film, however, is nothing short of remarkable for any actor.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Archer, season 4 (2013) ***½

TV-MA, 13 20-min. episodes
Creator: Adam Reed

Directors: Adam Reed, Brian Fordney

Writers: Adam Reed, Chris Provenzano, Tesha Condrat, Mike Arnold, Rick Cleveland

Voices: H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter, Chris Parnell, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Adam Reed, Lucky Yates

Guest voices: Dave Willis, Ron Leibman, John Roberts, Timothy Olyphant, George Coe, Andrew Donnelly, Bobby Ford, Neal Holman, Ona Grauer, Peter Serafinowicz, Anthony Bourdain, Dayton Callie, Carla Jiminez, Nick Searcy, Casey Willis, Chi Duong, Rene Auberjonois, Jon Hamm, Eugene Mirman, Kriten Schaal

Season 4 of FX’s animated spy spoof “Archer” is the best since season 1. During seasons 2 and 3 the very adult comedy seemed to be trying almost too hard replicate what had come before and to build some sort of mythology to the series. Season 4 seems to relax a bit and just tell some silly spy stories involving the most perverse and incompetent group of spies ever seen.