Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Son of Movie Rundown

Back in 2005  three of the major networks ABC (Invasion), NBC (Surface), and CBS (Threshold) released three different SciFi shows.  It was unbelievable and great at the same time.  Unfortunately all three got canceled after the first season.  I tried keeping up with all of them, but fell miserably short.  Working nights and trying to video tape each show just gets too complicated.   I saw bits and pieces of them, but the one I kept up with the most was Threshold, and even then I couldn't, so I ended up getting the DVD set.  With Surface though I caught part of the first episode and enjoyed what I had seen.  Where Invasion and Threshold were about alien invasion, Surface took a different route with a sea monster-type story.  What I also liked about it was that it had good special effects, and had sort of Spielberg-type approach to its storytelling.

The first episode takes three different characters and stories and entwines them together, all of them interesting.  The first is about a young boy that's out boating and skiing with some friends.  He falls in the water, and they take off leaving him in the middle of the water playing a joke on him.  He sees something odd in the water while out in the middle and gets really spooked.  It's huge.  He later goes back and finds several eggs, and takes one home and puts it in his aquarium.

The second story is about two brothers who are going to go water diving.  One knows of a perfect spot which is over by an oil rig.  While diving they see something huge and unbelievable.  They get spooked and scramble toward the structure of the rig for protection, but one of the brothers gets dragged under by the creature.

The third is about an underwater scientist who is exploring beneath the sea in a small submarine.  She's bright, and her career is just beginning.  As she explores the depths she notices something odd.  She looses contact with her associates in the boat above, but later gets to the surface rather shaken.  What is it that they've seen?  These three stories start to form what Surface is about.

And who wouldn't want a little critter like this to play with?  The show really was fairly action oriented and had a lot of suspense and tension.  It sort of played out as a mini-series and layered mysteries upon mysteries.  What are these creatures and where did they come from?   Much like the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, these three people become obsessed to a degree.  It was really an underrated show and at least got to answer many of the questions it addressed before cancellation.

Creep (2015) is a low budget or independent horror film.  It's also a found footage type movie, and I'm not a huge fan of that, but overall the movie wasn't too bad.  The plot and setup are pretty simple about a young man that answers an ad that is looking for someone to take home movies of the guy that placed the ad.  It turns out that the guy that placed the ad is dying of cancer and he has an unborn son that he wants to leave the footage with so that he'll get to know him after he's gone.  The guy that placed the ad lives out in the wilderness somewhere in the mountains, and is a bit of a goofball.  He's pleasant enough, but at the same time strange.  The movie centers just on these two people's relationship.  Thankfully the shaky camera is kept to a minimum, and the whole perspective from the film is gained from that footage.   Of course the guy who is hired to take the home footage starts to suspect the guy is a bit off.  For a low budget film though it plays out fairly well.  I'd probably give it three stars.

The Sixties, The Seventies, and The Eighties are documentaries that I've been catching ever so often off the CNN channel.  Each decade has several one hour episodes and they generally start out light covering the decade with some of the TV programming, music, or movies of that time period, go into lifestyles and culture, and then into politics or historical events.  Since I grew up during all these decades, it's a nostalgic romp for me, not that all those decades were fun and bright.  Each one had their own set of problems that the nation was dealing with, and peoples that rose to the challenge to bring about change.

During The Sixties the Vietnam war was going on, yet here in America we had escapism entertainment like Star Trek, The Beverley Hillbillies, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, Batman, and so on.  For me personally, it was a great time period for music, and a change in the youth culture.

The Seventies brought with the VCR the first time that you didn't have to watch live television, you could tape it and watch it later or rent a movie or even tape a movie off of HBO, Showtime, etc.  (My how that aspect has changed.)  But the programming in TV changed as well with Monday Night Football, Monty Python, and paid cable networks like HBO.  Punk music began.  There was also the exit of our role in Vietnam, Watergate investigations, and gas shortages.  
When The Eighties began and we see MTV, and CDs.  It also examines the age of Reagan, the AIDS crisis, the end of the Cold War (well sort of), Wall Street corruption, the tech boom,  and the expansion of television and the evolving music scene

Even given eight hours or so for each decade they basically skim over and highlight events.  Granted you can't go very much into depth, but at least it does provide a snapshot look at the decades.  It's been a worthwhile watch.  It might be better to catch off Netflix or Amazon, so you don't have to contend with so many commercial breaks.
I pretty much disliked The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).   Some of that  may come from the fact that I've seen other Martin Scorsese films that I've enjoyed much more.  The Wolf of Wall Street followed a lot of the same territory similar to GoodFellas, except with GoodFellas it starts out slow and ramps up toward the ending, with Wolf it's pretty much amped up from the beginning.  The film is adapted from Jordan Belfort's memoir, which I might have found more interesting to read than the film itself.  It's about the shenanigans and rise of a young stockbroker (DiCaprio) who arrives on Wall Street to learns the trade and excesses right before the market tanks on Black Monday of 1987.  But the film just contained too much debauchery and profanity for my liking.  With this movie your mileage may vary.  I think I'll leave it at that.
Pee-Wee's Big Holiday is a bit of a comeback for Paul Reuben in which he plays the oddball character he created back in the 80s.  It's pretty much setup within the road trip formula.  Pee-Wee is a carefree character working for a diner in his hometown of Fairville.  He has a pretty happy life there, but encounters a setback during his day as his musical group is breaking up, and starts to feel a bit depressed until he meets Joe Manganiello that changes his stagnant lifestyle.  They are an odd pairing, but hit it off pretty well.  At the end of the day Manganiello invites Pee-Wee to his birthday party in NYC.  Pee-Wee confides to Joe that he's never left the town of Fairville, but this opportunity gives Pee-Wee the incentive to get on the road and see the world.  Along the way Pee-Wee meets a bunch of different people and circumstances.  Some of the skits work, and some work better than others, but overall I enjoy the film.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is about what you'd expect it to be.  I wasn't a big fan of the MTV show Jackass.  Sure I'd watch it from time to time and even laugh at some of the stupidity on display.  Some of those guys were pretty crazy, and Bad Grandpa sort of follows that formula, but with a different turn in that parts of the story are scripted to form a cohesive story, whereas Jackass was just random pranks.  In Bad Grandpa, played by Johnny Knoxsville, he is taking his grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll) to stay with his father until the mother can get out of jail.  Along the way high jinks ensues, which is the part similar to Jackass, Candid Camera, Impractical Jokes, etc.  Some of the stuff runs the gamut of poor taste to redneck humor, and probably my living in Texas has attributed to some of my tolerance for that.  Even though they are pranks, Knoxsville has enough guts to pull off that stuff, which I don't think I could do.  But I did get a laugh or two out of many of the gags.  Particularly funny was the fart contest he and his grandson had in a coffee shop.

I'm always on the lookout for new (or older) movies to add to my Netflix queue.  Recently I added these:

1. Mr. Brooks
2. Man on a Ledge
3. Reign Over Me
4. A Walk Among the Tombstones
5. The Terminal
6. Amy

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Movie Rundown

It's been movie overload here lately at Voxarama so I better start posting some of this stuff I've seen or else I'll forgot it or just blow it off altogether, and that would be a shame, ha.

Crack in the World is an old SF film that plays out like a disaster movie.  It's science gone awry.  Scientist are doing some geothermal energy research drilling down into the earth.  They hit a snag though as rocks or earth plates have shifted and gotten in their way that prevent them from getting to the core.  They think if they launch a rocket down into the earth they can set off an atomic device to unplug the pesky blockage.  What could go wrong?  It's not an unbelievable premise.  It's in color, and actually has some pretty good sets and such.  It has been put on Youtube by Paramount Vaults that owns the copyright so take a look at it.  Dana Andrews plays in it and was a fairly prestigious actor playing in many popular films of the day like The Best Years of Our Lives and Night of the Demon among others.  You can watch it here.  

Bridge of Spies (2015) is a cold war spy movie by Stephen Spielberg starring Tom Hanks playing the leading role of a Brooklyn attorney in 1960 that gets drawn into an effort to get an aviator back from the Russians that has been shot down and captured.  The thing is he was piloting a spy plane at the time.  That particularly scene where he is shot down was done particularly done well.  To complicate things, James Donovan (Hanks) tries to bargain for another prisoner as well.

 I'm jumping a bit ahead of myself, however, as the film opens up with the Soviet spy here in the states, who is the bargaining chip in this game.  He is Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance),  and is captured for the crime of espionage against the United States.   The first act of the film takes place around the Rudolph Abel character, his capture, and Hanks trying to save him from the death penalty.   This isn't a 007-type movie or some other action adventure, but it does have tension.  Again to Spielberg's credit he crafted another masterful picture that draws the viewer into the plight of an average man that rises above their situation to meet a challenge at hand.  It's one of the better films from last year.

Bone Tomahawk (2015) plays out like a regular western for the greater part of it.  It stars Kurt Russell whom I've always liked in roles.  He plays the sheriff in a very small western town.  He shoots a drifter in town (which was a great scene) and then has to take him to the doc to get him patched up. 

Around the same time one of the wives in town gets kidnapped.  He gathers a posse together to go after the perps.  What I liked a lot about the film is it is shot well and has a lot of wide screen shots that give a nice feel of what a western should feel like.  There's also interesting dialogue once the posse gets on the road.  The story jumps the rail in the third act as does the genre.  The story starts to blend into a horror picture.  Some may enjoy that, while others find it too unbelievable.  For me I enjoyed the full picture.  It may not have been a perfect picture, but it wasn't dull or boring either and that's a plus.  If you've ever seen the movie, Dog Soldier, it was a bit like the genre bending in it.

Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys (2014) is a documentary about all the toys that were made during and after the Star Wars movies.  If you happened to be a child of those decades I'm pretty sure you may have collected one or two of them.  Heck, even I've got a couple of them.  Being a Star Wars fan and after hearing about this movie I've been wanting to see this for a while now. 

As you know Star Wars was a huge commercial success, and continues to be that way today with The Force Awakens.  People just love Star Wars (for the most part).  The toys have played an integral part in that success and keeping kids and teens involved and waiting for the next sequel.  Bear in mind, this is a low budget documentary.  Don't expect scenes from Star Wars in it either as they would probably have broken their meager budget to make this film.  It is unknown people showing off their collections, and talking about how the movies influenced them and that sort of fan thing.  Either that type stuff appeals to you or it doesn't. 

It does give some history on who made the toys (Kenner), shows the place where they worked and were designed, and has interviews some of the designers that help create the toys.  Also way back when, a lot of the major toy companies couldn't wrap their heads around the concept of the movie.  What is a,  what-do-you-call-it, a Star Wars toy?   To be honest it wasn't as great as my expectations for it were, but I did enjoy it quite a bit, and it was fun to relive some of that fandom.  For me it was worthwhile.   You can stream it on Amazon, or see it now for free on Hulu.