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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Paris, je t'aime (2006) Drama

Paris, je t'aime (2006) - This collections of 18 stories about Paris was an enjoyable morning watch. Like most multi-part features some of the stories are hits and others misses. I loved that the threw in a vampire story (segment "Quartier de la Madeleine") staring Elijah Wood and Olga Kurylenko. Most of the stories did a great job of not only showing the lovely city but giving unexpected twists in the 2-5 minutes they had to tell their tale. I also liked the sad story of the young mother having to drop her child off in daycare so she could travel across the city to care for another persons child. Included the lovely actress Catalina Sandino Moreno.
Rating (7.8)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hell on Wheels (2007) Documentary

Hell on Wheels (2007) - This interesting doc about the start of the Austin Texas roller derby league, is a testament to how shared love and hard work can make dreams happen. The league started and then split as a few of the women could not share leadership. As the league grew in popularity the original founders and team captains closed the leadership and created a corporation. The skaters each paying $25 a month to participate revolted with 65 of the eight women leaving and forming an alternative league, The Texas Rollergirls. The original group continues as the Texas Lonestar Roller Girls, but what is important is both groups continue to succeed.
I saw this film atthe Regent Theater in Arlington MA with Local Roller girls the Boston Derby Dames league. It is good to support local women in whatever sport they choose to do and roller derby is one cool sport. The movie itself was interesting in showing the conflict in the leadership of the league and how easy it is to have a love of a sport become an intractable disagreement in who and how it should be lead.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) Sci-Fi Marathon

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) - The second and best Star Trek movie. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the crew are in battle against Khan (Ricardo Montalban) in a great tale of revenge vs. strategy. Khan was stranded on a planet 15 years before but escapes when Chekov (Walter Koenig) comes across his group while surveying the planet in the hopes of using it to test the Genesis device. Khan captures and uses Chekov to get off the planet and capture the ship Reliant to use to hunt down and kill Kirk. The battles scenes are great and Star Trek is so classic. It was amazing to hear 700 people at the marathon yell "KHAN!" with Kirk. Just excellent.
Rating (8.7)

I Married a Monster From Outer Space (1958) Sci-Fi Marathon

I Married a Monster From Outer Space (1958) - A young man is taken and an alien that looks like him takes his place. His bride notices the difference, even though those around her tell her it sometimes happens after marriage. Like in the other pictures eventually the townspeople figure things out and the day is saved.
What I liked: This movie fit the alien invaders theme and the aliens taking shape of people we know.
What bothered me: Wow the ideas about the PAINS of marriage are all over this flick. Guys commiserate about the old ball. The women act as if a prize is caught and there never seems to be true love in the relationships.
Rating (3.6)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Transformers (2007) Sci-Fi Marathon

Transformers (2007) - Michael Bay's painfully hollow action movie based on the children's toy set / cartoon characters who come from outer space to hide in our society as gas guzzling muscle cars, trucks, tanks and jets. When the robot need to not be vehicles they transform into robots with weird eyes. The story centers around a cube that contains energy that turns normal electronic devices, cell phones toasters etc. into little evil killing machines. There are two groups of robots, one good and one evil looking to get their hands on the cube. Caught in the middle of this war are the humans. Shia Lebeouf, Megan Fox, and Josh Duhamel do there parts to aide the good robots. There is lots of vehicle chases, transforming, explosions but remarkable little death. You can guess how this vacuous piece of crap ends.
Rating (3.6)

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) Sci-Fi marathon

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) - Several people go to investigate a meteor sighting but instead find a spaceship in the shape of a circus tent. In this tent are aliens who look like clowns. They capture humans with their cotton candy guns. Once in the cotton candy cocoons, the humans break down into a fluid the clowns can drink through a silly straw. Our heroes, Mike (Grant Cramer), Debbie(Suzanne Snyder), and Officer Dave(John Allen Nelson), with the help of the goofy Terenzi brothers (Michael Seagel & Peter Licassi), attempt to fight the Klowns and save their town.
What I liked: I have to admit this is one of my favorite silly sci-fi movies. I own it and watch at least twice a year. Creative, original and full of humor it is a pleasure for me. Now most people I know are not so enamored so take it as a warning that my rating is higher than everyone Else's for this movie.
Rating (8.6)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - This first remake of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) where we are left with the feeling we can fight the aliens, this is the pessimists view of the story. More paranoid and frightening than the original, this 1978 version leaves no doubt we lose this battle. Staring Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, and Veronica Cartwright, it is a suspenseful version of a classic. Aliens invade the earth in the form of plants whose pods develop into a human with a shared consciousness and no emotions. Our heroes wage a battle to get the word out but it becomes more and more apparent that you can't trust the government. The final scene of the yell will stay with you for a long time.
What I liked: This is a great remake, paranoid and futile for the characters it really lives my my personal ball park. The acting is pretty good and you can't beat the story. Where the first may have been a metaphor for communism this one seems more of a metaphor for the US.
Rating (8.4)

Repo Man (1984) Sci-Fi Marathon

Repo Man (1984) - Punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) falls into a job with a group of auto repossession professionals and through this work gets wrapped up in the plot to get a car that has alien bodies in the trunk. Naturally there are many people looking for the car. It is also a story about growing up and making choices about your life.
What I liked: The movie is funny and philosophical. It also capture a real punk attitude, has a great soundtrack including, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop and Plugz. So many great characters showing a unique profession to tell a story.
What didn't work: Ending was out there. Debbi, (Jennifer Balgobin) was just dreadful.
Rating (7.2)

Thing From Another World (1951) Sci-Fi Marathon

Thing From Another World (1951) - What a good story, not as good as the John Carpenter remake "The Thing" but still this is a great story about a group of airmen and scientist on the North Pole who find a spaceship and then an alien in the ice after a meteor (ship) crashes into the ice. When the alien who is brought back in a block of ice is accidentally thawed, it soon becomes a struggle for survival.
What I liked: The story works very well with a very good struggle for the characters who have to not only battle the alien but the elements of the North Pole.
What didn't work: The acting is eh, and the female character is written poorly.
Rating (6.7)

Alien Raiders (2008) Sci-Fi Marathon

Alien Raiders (2008) - A supermarket at the end of a day in small town of Buck Lake Arizona is invaded by an armed group. They shoot a stock boy and start rounding up customers, each checked by the armed men. Unfortunately before they can check everyone the local police are notified and a stand off begins. The "Raiders" hold the remaining citizens and workers hostage while trying to figure out which ones are actually aliens from out of space. These parasitic invaders attached to the brain stem of the human victim and look for others like them so they can mate and spread across the earth. Raider leader Aaron Ritter (Carlos Bernard) with his crew, Kane (Rockmond Dunbar) and Sterling (Courtney Ford) and others try to find the aliens before they run out of time and the police storm the store. Captives, Whitney(Samantha Streets) and others attempt to find a way to escape before the test to see if they are aliens which involves milk and losing a pinkie finger. Will the Raiders find the remaining aliens in time or is the earth doomed.
What I liked: Taught and suspenseful this was a really well done movie. Other movies have been done in a supermarket, a small space. This one does it well. It is also a who will survive as the monsters fights back trying to survive.
What didn't work: Well I would have liked more possessed human monsters. You didn't get a lot of the special effects shots.
Rating (8.1)

At the marathon the director Ben Rock came in for a Q&A. This was an entertaining piece where we got to hear about his luck in getting actors and getting the movie shot in 15 days. I heard him say as he was signing mini posters and giving out swag (severed fingers) that this was the first time he has been asked to sign autographs. BONUS: Ben Rock stayed the whole Sci-fi marathon, this was excellent and shows his love of movies.

Runaway (1984) Sci-Fi Marathon

Runaway (1984) - In the near future policeman Sgt. Jack Ramsay (Tom Selleck) and his new partner Officer Karen Thompson (Cynthia Rhodes) have the job of stopping runaway robots. Usually a mundane job things get hairy when Dr. Charles Luther (Gene Simmons) starts making killer robots. As the police close in Dr. Luther goes after a whistle blower, Jackie Rogers (Kirstie Alley)and then Ramsay's son Bobby (Joey Cramer). Ramsay must beat the Doctor and his fiendish inventions before his son is killed.
What I liked: Gene Simmons in his totally over the top bad guy. The movie holds up okay over time and has a bit of decent action in it. The robots are not great but in the end the good guys win and the truly bad guy is done in by his own robots.
What didn't work: Robots simple, Simmons was over the top but really bad.
Rating (6.3)

Logan's Run (1976) - Sci-Fi Marathon

Logan's Run (1976) - Logan (Michael York) is a "Sandman" in a futuristic society where people live in Domes and life is forcibly ended at 30 years old. Sandmen hunt those people who attempt to run instead of committing the accepted suicide in the "Carosel". Logan is given the assignment of becoming a runner in hopes he can find and eliminate the "Sanctuary" successful runners have created. With a rebel, Jessica (Jenny Agutter) Logan runs and is chased and there is much of that and eventually makes his way out of the dome and into the outside world. Seeing that the world had healed since the events that required the domes, Logan returns to tell the society people no longer need to die at 30 and can leave the domes.
What I liked: I liked Farrah Fawcett, first acting badly and then dying. I loved this a kid.
What didn't work: Oh this film was slow and just has not aged well. From the poor miniatures of the dome cities to the robot "Box" the effects are just awful. There is no humor and little suspense. Really didn't like it that much.
Rating (4.8)

Chrysalis (2008) Sci-Fi marathon

Chrysalis (2008) - In a future earth the government is collapsing as the environment has gotten so bad nothing grows. A group of scientists work to modify plants to grow in the new world. On of them, Smith (Glen Vaughan) falls sick and a Chrysalis forms over his body. As he is transformed scientist argue over should he be killed with Hartley (John Klemantaski) saying he should because you do not know what he is being transformed into. Rockwell (Darren Kendrick) saying they should let him develop and possibly the evolution that saves the human race.
What I liked: It ended
What didn't work: Everything! It was a story in a small space, it had poor acting, it sucked eggs and did not really have very good arguments either way. Just boring and plodding all the way through.
Rating (0.9)

It Came From Outer Space (1953) in 3-DSci-fi marathon

It Came From Outer Space (1953) - This is a classic and in the Red and Green 3D it was just wonderful. A meteor crashes near an old mine and soon people are acting strangely and disappearing. It is a spaceship. The Sheriff in town eventually does something and a couple John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) keep the climax from becoming horribly violent by entering the spaceship.
What I liked: One of the great Sci-fi classics of all time. The 3D was very good, I first saw this movie flat and never noticed it had 3d framing but you could not miss it in this print and boy it really worked.
What doesn't work so good: Well it is choppy and the acting is not great.
Rating (7.8)

Alien Trespass (2009) Sci Fi Marathon

Alien Trespass (2009) - This wonderful ode to "It Came From Outer Space" wonderfully done with the love of old style Sci-Fi shining through in every frame. Aliens are invading a small town in the Mohave desert and astronomer Ted Lewis ( Eric McCormack ) sets out to investigate. Aliens capture and impersonate the towns citizens. These Ghotas are bad news, good thing there is another Alien out trying to hunt them down. Urp, the alien hunter helps to solve the problem of the ghotas and fix his ship so he can leave the earthling alone with the lessons they have learned.
What I like: Since I like old sci-fi I really liked the feel of this film. Not played for laughs but definitely with an eye on the movies of the past this film was a fun visit to the past.
What didn't work for me: It was good fun but the acting was just okay. Since it was in the more corny Sci-Fi style there was not allot of room for the actors to work. The story really determined the acting.
Rating (6.5)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Burning the Future: Coal in America (2008) Documentary

Burning the Future: Coal in America (2008) - I am so conflicted by this good documentary about mountaintop removal coal mining and the effects of this activity on the people of West Virginia. It is a crime the toxic poisoning that is going on in coal states with the invention of mountaintop removal mining. Slurry ponds that contaminate water, coal dust that sickens residents, loss of jobs as the innovation requires less people to perform, it is all bad. I push down that little part of me though that is cold and uncaring, the part that says "You get what you vote for." I must not listen to the part of me that knows these same people boldly and proudly supported the Bush administration. His policies sped up the development of this type of mining and those people who thought he was so great are now paying for that folly. I push those negative thoughts down and keep thinking about the fact we are born into our lives they don't choose where they come into this world. Coal is all these people have know and it is horrible that the new methods are ruining their lives. The US gets 51% of its electricity from coal and this movie reinforces that we need to move to wind and solar sooner better than later. Although the movie is heavy handed, the harm done in the name of coal is staggering.
Rating (7.8)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jam (2006) Documentary

Jam (2006) - When I was a kid in the late 60's, early 70's roller derby was bigger than baseball and on television every week. A mix between the theater of wrestling and a sport it inspired the movie Rollerball. In this documentary which follers former player and now promoter Tim Patten from 1998-2004, as he tries to save a sport he loves. Playing tiny venues and high school gyms Tim and a group of original aging stars perform their magic on the oval. It is a sad tale with Tim and his partner having to overcome the fading popularity of the sport and their on personal challenges with HIV. The player too doing each event for only $25 and the love of skating derby. It is a good time for this documentary as a revival of a kind is taking place in Roller Derby. Women's leagues are playing all over the US, not the revival Tim was wishing for but still the sport is reborn. This is a sad but enjoyable look at a small group struggling for something they love and worth seeing.
Rating: (7.5)

Some current Roller Derby leagues:
Boston Derby Dames
TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls
LA Derby Dolls
Gotham Girls Roller Derby

I hope to see the documentary "Hell on Wheels" about the birth of modern day roller derby at the Regent theater in Arlington MA on Feb 20th

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Commune (2005) Documentary

Commune (2005) - Written and directed by Jonathan Berman this was an interesting film about the hippie started Black Bear ranch in the wilderness of Northern California. Started loosely in 1968 the film uses old footage and present day interviews to tell the story of the ranch and those who made it happen. Founded on the a commune with the motto "free land for free people." The Ranch survives today as a trust so it can never be sold and developed. It has a famous actor in Peter Coyote as a former member. Very interesting story showing how an idea can become something even without much planning but how ideals are not all you need for a sustainable life.
Rating (7.8)

Manufactured Landscapes (2006) Documentary

Manufactured Landscapes (2006) - The film is really a blend of photography and political insights about the effects of industrialization on the landscape. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal. Beautiful and devastating at the same time, Photographer Edward Burtynsky captures the effects of the industrial worlds from massive factories in China to Bangladeshi shipyards where ships are taken apart in pieces. Not as informative as some documentaries but certainly visually stunning.
Rating (7.1)

Monday, February 9, 2009

East of Havana (2006) Documentary

East of Havana (2006) - This lackluster music documentary does little to capture the vibrant Cuban hip hop movement. Instead it is an exercise in how finding one's place in a failed country gets you through the tough life. More interested in making a statement about Cuba, but still showing some of the life in the hip hop community the film sort of just makes a good try but does not hit the mark. Not daring to explore the politics in a detailed way it only touches the topics of the 40 year embargo and its affect on everyday Cubans. It should have either chosen to show the music in detail or the plight of everyday Cubans instead of the mishmash of a bit of each. We never get the detail to invest in either.
Rating (4.5)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Push (2009) Action PG-13

Push (2009) - There are people among us with special powers, telekinesis, thought control, seeing the future. Since WWII the governments around the world have been trying to harness these abilities to make super soldiers. It is a cruel use of these people against their will and has killed thousands over the decades while trying to develop a drug to enhance abilities. It has to stop!
This is the basic premise of Push, starting with a flashback to define the main character as a man who in childhood watched the government agency in charge of specials (The Division) kill his father. The movie leaps to the present ten years later as the man, Nick (Chris Evans) hides out in Hong Kong trying to avoid teams Division "sniffers", agents who can find specials by touching and smelling there personal belongings. (We would call them perverts) Nick is contacted by a clairvoyant named Cassie (Dakota Fanning), a 13 year old who has seen in visions that Nick can help her get to a women who escaped the Division with a syringe of r-16(?), a drug that will boost abilities. The plot only gets more complicated from there. Division is looking for the girl and has seen Nick finding her in visions. The Chinese are also seeing this with their clairvoyant and are after the pair. Actions sequences ensue with running and screaming by "bleeder" who kill you by yelling and making you bleed with the sound.
The pair find the girl who escaped, Kira (Camilla Belle), a former girlfriend of Nick, who was helped to escape by Cassie's mother the best clairvoyant in the Division. They have to recover the case that has the drug and was hidden by Kira before she had her memory cleaned by another kind of special. This part was sketchy as the Chinese clairvoyant was better at it than Cassie so could track our heroes. They involve several other specials to help them. Nick comes up with an idea that he will write notes to all the people involved in getting the case, not tell Cassie what is in them and the team using there special abilities will successfully get the drug and take down the Division saving Cassie's mom. Since the Chinese are tuned to Cassie what she doesn't know they don't know. From there there is action and thrilling effects. Each person plays there part perfectly. In fact you could say that it was a one in a billion chance that people would open there letters at the right time and the plan would work. Magically this is what happens, even though Nick can't see the future he guesses just right, they get the case and the movie ends.
What I liked: hmmm... it was a story, I mean I was not wishing it was over. I liked Djimon Hounsou as the leader of the division but he was underutilized.
What bothered me about it? Well there just was not a big stake for the audience in this one. The characters were one dimensional really only developing Cassie and Nick and even that was limited. The bad guy, has to be a real bad guy. You have the wonderful actor Djimon Hounsou play Henry carver the Division's head guy but he just was not evil enough to make you want to hate him and thus pull for our underdogs. In today's action films they never, NEVER kill off the main characters, everyone always comes out unscathed, why bother creating back story from past trauma if everything we see now does not change the characters at all. It is all just an adventure with no consequences to the character, just to their circumstances. Where is the growth arc? Physical harm does not count, sure when the action is done the characters are often bruised and battered but they have won, and those scars heal. Where is the damage to their souls? The last thing that bothered me is the non ending, they win in an obvious way but it is never clear that they accomplished "taking down the Division" or getting Cassie's Mom out of their hands. We have a reveal about Cassie's Mom but that does not stop the filmmakers from stopping in a place that would allow a sequel if this movie does well.
Okay I said a lot about what bothered me but let me restate something I have said in the past. I am not a real fan of today's style of action film. I am always it seems left a bit empty by the lack of depth these films have. During the movie I was mildly interested and could easily ignore the stupid "buddy movie" writing they did between Nick and Cassie. That said they rating may be worse than expected. If you like action movies you may enjoy this. I didn't but it seems to be a predisposition.
Rating (5.8)

Grip - A general-purpose handyman, the movie set's counterpart of the theater's stagehand. His duties include laying dolly tracks, moving flats, setting up parallels, building platforms, placing reflectors and gobos, doing light carpentry, and generally performing tasks that require brawn.

Key Grip - The head grip on a film set, in charge of a group of men, usually numbering from five to fifteen.

Key Grip: W.C. "Chunky" Huse although IMDB fails to list him under the movie.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

P2 (2007) Horror

P2 (2007) - Psycho security guard Thomas (Wes Bentley) decides to drug and kidnap workaholic businesswoman Angela (Rachel Nichols) trapping her in the parking area of the high rise they work at because he wants to get to know her better? Oh wait it was because her wants her to share christmas with him. He has gifts after all, like getting to watch him kill the guy that tried to feel Angela up in the elevator. WTF! I am having a hard time making sense of this one. It was a painful experience watching this limited thriller that was so far from thrilling. You can guess the outcome, she wins he dies and nothing is learned about anyone or anything. It was just this happened and then that happened until she wins. Can you boo on a blog? BOOOOOOO!

Grip - A general-purpose handyman, the movie set's counterpart of the theater's stagehand. His duties include laying dolly tracks, moving flats, setting up parallels, building platforms, placing reflectors and gobos, doing light carpentry, and generally performing tasks that require brawn.

Key Grip - The head grip on a film set, in charge of a group of men, usually numbering from five to fifteen.

Key Grip: Christopher J. Toudy
Rating (1.0)