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All reviews - Movies (13) - TV Shows (2)

Speed Thrills!

Posted : 5 years ago on 19 November 2015 12:50 (A review of The Flash)

ย  ย  ย I've been a fan of comics and super heroes since childhood. Being born in '67, some of the most treasured times of that childhood were spent going to the store with my mother and, upon entering, making a beeline for that relic of the past known as a carousel rack to discover what wondrous new adventures awaited me. The 70's were a magical time for an adolescent comics fan; some of the greatest creators and imaginarians in the industry were in their prime and delivering, without fail, some of their best work. Groundbreaking stories. Tragedies. Romances. Dramas. Heroic adventures! And whether it was Marvel or DC Comics, I loved them all.

My favorite character has always been The Flash - Barry Allen, the Silver Age Scarlet Speedster. While it's debatable (isn't everything?) which hero has/had the best rogue's gallery in comics, the top three inevitable choices (nine times out of ten) will be Spider-Man, Batman and The Flash. In fact, that's how I would rate them, in descending order. The only other heroes whose enemies come close are the Fantastic Four; the gap between them and anyone else who might occupy that fifth slot is huge. A hero isn't made by his enemies but he is defined by them, just as much as he is by his heart and soul. The FF's adversaries were pulled from the entirety of the Marvel Universe, with universe being the operative word; ranging from evil scientists to aliens to actual representations of divinity and universal concepts. Batman's, on the other hand, had one common denominator - the psyche...or madness, if you prefer; there's a reason that so many of his enemies ended up in Arkham Asylum - nearly all of them were nuts! Spidey's normally drew inspiration from the animal kingdom, just as he did. And The Flash, well...ย 

Barry Allen was a scientist; a police scientist but a man of science nonetheless. His foes...his Rogue's Gallery...were usually science-based as well. These were the villains who perhaps coined the term Rogues gallery and many of them, eventually, banded together under that unifying appellation. They are some of the most unique and elemental characters in comics history. The Golden Age of comics was all about Mystery; the Silver Age though...well, that was about Science. Atomics. And no other super hero's enemies (or rogues) personified that ideal more than The Flash. Capt. Cold and Heat Wave, two thieves with similar weapons that operated at opposing ends of the temperatic spectrum. (Yeah, temperatic probably isn't a real word but I'm gonna roll with it anyway); the former, cold and calculating...the latter, emotionally volatile. Gorilla Grodd, a super-evolved and psychic ape. The Weather Wizard. Mirror Master. The Top. Captain Boomerang. Their powers fit their names aptly but there was so much more to these characters than just that. And, of course, last but not least at all....Prof. Zoom, the Reverse Flash. Time-traveling antithesis to the Flash. Yes, there are many others but these are the ones that come swiftly to mind.ย 

Barry Allen is still the most recognizable, the most memorable, of the many people who used the alias of Flash. Surely that's why the makers of this new, updated version of The Flash television series chose him as the man under the mask. Still, it's their own version, an updated melding really of both Barry and his successor, Wally West, into one person. Older comics fans who frown at discrepancies to historical continuity may find fault with certain aspects of this series. I did. Actually that's why I stopped reading comics altogether in the early 2000's. Yet this show hits all the marks it needs to. Refreshing, new takes on a hero and his adversaries that all ring true, even if other aspects of the tale (and history) are played about with. But it's not done so fast-and-loose. It's calculated. It's...inspired! It's freaking brilliant! :D

I've seen virtually every movie and television series that was based from the comics and this one...this one is the best by far! Inspired (and reverent) stories told with skill. Characters of depth, both emotional and intellectual, played by actors that are all perfectly cast. And Rogues!!!ย 

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Grabbers review

Posted : 5 years, 7 months ago on 22 April 2015 04:32 (A review of Grabbers)

The best horror/comedy to come out since Shaun of the Dead. Think Tremors in Ireland and you've got this in a nutshell. I'd love to see a sequel to this one!

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The Perfect Hybrid Drama

Posted : 6 years, 5 months ago on 4 June 2014 04:20 (A review of Longmire)

Longmire is one of the best series broadcast on television today and something of a sleeper. I get the feeling that it is overshadowed by such vastly-popular shows like Big Bang Theory or Sherlock. Still, it obviously has it's share of fans because the third season began only days ago.

The show is based from a series of books known collectively as The Walt Longmire Mysteries by author Craig Johnson and, while I have yet to read them, the TV series is so good that I desperately wish to. The cast, which includes Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips and Katee Sackhoff, is stellar.

A cross between a western and a police procedural that is nothing like either; Longmire, set in Wyoming, isn't afraid to be different and succeeds in going against the grain. It's a pleasure to watch, completely engrossing and leaves me greatly anticipating each new episode.

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A Delightful Departure

Posted : 6 years, 5 months ago on 4 June 2014 03:53 (A review of The Big Wedding)

A wonderful romantic-comedy with an incredibly likable cast of actors! The Big Wedding is nothing like your average rom-com and, for me, that's a plus. An ensemble cast offers up the perfect blend of romance, comedy and drama with likable, believable characters and dialogue.

There's no hitting you over the head with the comedy hammer here. It's smooth-as-silk and will have you smiling, even when you're not laughing. I couldn't have chosen a better cast for this film. Charming, delightful and thoroughly-enjoyable!!

This is one of the better comedies that I've seen in years and is a breath of fresh air, especially when compared to the countless stupid comedies that seem to be everywhere. Big Wedding is a big hit and something that I could have seen being made years ago with the top actors of the day. It's a classic, without the shelf life.

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A Samurai Always Carries Two Swords

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 14 January 2014 03:30 (A review of 47 Ronin)

In the beginning of the 18th century, a group of samurai were left leaderless (thus becoming ronin) after their daimyo was ordered to commit seppuku for assaulting a court official. They swore to avenge him and restore his honor by killing the court official, which they did, though it took them two years of waiting and planning. They were then forced to commit seppuku themselves, to answer for the murder that the way of bushido demanded of them.

This is one of the greatest legends in Japanese culture and has been celebrated in festivals and plays for many years.

47 Ronin incorporates other aspects of Asian myth and legend into the classic tale (namely demons, magic and mysticism) for a new, fantastic twist. The project is the directorial debut for Carl Erik Rinsch, as far as feature-length films are concerned, and I found it quite impressive. Attire, weaponry, sets and so forth all seemed quite accurate for the time period, as well.

While I realize that Keanu Reeves isn't exactly a golden-boy among movie fans and gets knocked quite a bit for a presumed lack of acting ability, I am not among that group and have been a fan of his for many years. I've enjoyed most of his films and this one is no exception.

Here he plays a half-breed outcast barely tolerated by Japanese society but is protected by the daimyo whose death triggers the events which unfold. Yet his character, Kai, is much more than that and, as his own origins come to light, he becomes indispensable to the Ronin in carrying out their vengeance.

The cast is filled with many notable faces of Asian cinema and the acting superb. Hiroyuki Sanada as Oishi and Rinko Kikuchi as The Witch deliver outstanding performances and their characters were the most notable for me, other than Keanu's own. The epic battle near the film's end was quite a treat, especially when Kai faces The Witch.

Sadly, this film has yet to recoup it's financial costs, which were hefty; this is even more despairing considering the creativity and effort put into making such a fine film. Perhaps this is due to Reeves in the starring role and the fact that he hasn't exactly hit the box-office motherload since The Matrix. In his defense, he delivers a solid performance here; with regards to the film itself, and all those who had a hand in it's making, all I can say is that those who choose not to see it are missing out.

47 Ronin isn't Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai but it doesn't pretend to be either. It is a fictionalization of history, a fantastical take on legend and a feast for the senses that should not be spurned by anyone who has a love for the period and subject matter. It's quite good, people.

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When Poetic License Remains...Poetic

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 12 January 2014 05:08 (A review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

The genre of fantasy fiction has always been and will forever remain my favorite among all of literature's offerings. No other genre offers such an endless vista for the exploration of imagination as there are, literally, no boundaries whatsoever. The only limits are those of the imagination of the writer. Many view the creation of Middle-Earth and the tales of J. R. R. Tolkien among the finest ever written and his epics of high-fantasy have been emulated time and again by others.

It's been years since I read The Hobbit last; yet it is a treasured, if dusty, memory which is afforded a grand place among the many adventures I was privileged to take throughout my life and, especially, my childhood. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, regarding how long it's been since reading it, because age and memory don't always walk the same paths. I found myself, time and again, while watching The Desolation of Smaug, raising an eyebrow and remarking, to myself, "I don't recall that being in the book."

Now, it's a given, with the decision to make a trilogy of movies out of a book that was shorter than any one of the three LOTR's books, there were going to be parts of the book drawn out and a multitude of things added in that weren't there at all. There had to be. When I found out that they were doing this I immediately rolled my eyes and muttered something nasty about the collective greed of the Hollywood Machine. At the same time, I couldn't wait to see the movies.

What really gets me is the conceit of a filmmaker that they would know better than a celebrated author of an unarguable classic how the story should go. The immortal words of Yul Brynner, as he stands overlooking the sands of Egypt, echo in my mind, "So let it be written - so let it be done." Yet such is not the case within the realm of cinema for the ego of the filmmaker is an unrivaled beast.

Now, I love Peter Jackson, I really do; he's one of my favorite directors. Tolkien's works are among my favorites, too. So, I'm divided here. It's a perfect movie, just as the LOTR's trilogy was, and couldn't have been done in an earlier era of filmmaking and come close to doing the product justice. Such is the case with a number of films these days, with CGI; it opens up all sorts of avenues and options.

The Hobbit is a grand adventure and this trilogy, along with it's predecessor, will forever be among my favorites. Yet I can't help but wonder what it would have been like if those involved in it's creation would simply have stuck to the source material, shown the proper respect and not felt the need to add to it, or worse, take away from it. The excuse of not having Tom Bombadil in LOTR because of constraints upon length of film is a poor one because there wouldn't have been such if numerous scenes weren't (needlessly) drawn out. The same holds true for The Hobbit.

It was thrilling to see Legolas and Tauriel, and Evangeline Lilly makes for a beautiful elfmaiden, but neither were actually in the story. Radagast was only ever mentioned in passing in the book yet, here he is again, too. I'll admit that he's a humorous character but, ultimately, one must ask, "What's the point?" If the recipe is already perfect, and has stood the test of time, you don't tamper with it and then offer it up as the original. Ego and greed....ego and greed.

Still, complaints aside, this is a wonderful movie and an enjoyment to see. The humor that is present in this trilogy is welcome after the grimness of LOTR. The creatures, action and majesty that are present here could never have been made possible without the advent of CGI. In truth, Smaug is one of the greatest and most believable depictions of a dragon onscreen that I've seen since the unjustly-panned Reign of Fire.

Will most everyone love The Hobbit? Yes. Will purists, like myself, take offense (however slight) with the poetic license of the creators? Absolutely, but we'll still love it, too. It's hard to guess who might enjoy it more; those who have never read the book or those who have. The joy of having a treasured memory finally appearing onscreen weighed with the tampering of memory or a completely new experience which isn't tarnished by knowing how much it is different from what it really should be.

You be the judge; either way, it's a great movie.

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This ain't your daddy's Evil Dead

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 4 January 2014 05:39 (A review of Evil Dead)

The revamped, polished and gore-soaked remake of the cult classic is a worthy successor to the name The Evil Dead. The future of horror is now! This marks the third impressive horror film that I've watched, produced in the last five years. Along with Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and Cabin in the Woods, The Evil Dead serves as a balm to concerns that truly awesome and entertaining horror films were a thing of the past. Granted I haven't watched that many of late but I'm both a bit relieved and hungry for more.

Where the original trilogy was laced with campy humor, this leaves the comedy behind, pulling out all the stops for an edge-of-your-seat, spine-tingling, shock-fest. (Was that enough hyphens for ya?) I have no idea if this is 'The most terrifying film I will ever experience', as the film was touted but it was terrifying. I haven't jumped while watching a horror film in years and I did a couple of times during this.

I will admit that some of the gorier scenes had me wincing; it's not really my thing. Yet the film was very well done with an excellent script and dialogue. The actors were all outstanding and it was a personal pleasure to see the beautiful Jessica Lucas again...even if she met her fate far too soon for me. As well, the direction of Fede Alvarez, who I'm not at all familiar with, was quite impressive. This was an all-around, damned fine horror film.

Truly, there were only two things which disappointed me and, while I can understand both, they still had me shaking my head. The first was the excessive use of gore but this was an Evil Dead film, so it's to be expected. The difference here is that the Bruce Campbell trilogy was camp and this sooooo was not. The second was the fact that with each violent act they seemed to be trying to imitate what had come before.

The tree-rape scene, locking the possessed Mia in the cellar, the hand-bite/amputation, the shotgun, the duct-tape, the chainsaw (and another hand-capitation), etc... I felt as if this new crew of film-makers had come upon the abandoned playroom of those gone before and simply scooped up their toys instead of bringing their own.

Still, it was a small discredit, in my estimation, and I'm still tempted to give this a higher rating than 8 out of 10 stars. Food for thought... I'll certainly watch this again in the future. Maybe then.

I highly recommend!

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Pacific Rim review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 4 January 2014 04:04 (A review of Pacific Rim)

Pacific Rim freaking rocks!!! Guillermo del Toro does it once again and in grand style. This brought back childhood memories of the Shogun Warriors for me but they were never this cool. Everything about this film was impressive and my only regret was not watching it in theatres. If ever a film deserves a sequel, it's this one!

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The Devil Wore Black Leather

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 3 January 2014 04:02 (A review of Hellraiser)

There are certain people whose names are synonymous with horror; along with Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, John Carpenter and George Romero invariably Clive Barker's name will be found as well. That's not at all bad company to keep. Barker, a prolific writer of horror and dark fantasy, made his directorial debut with Hellraiser and, to this day, it's still my favorite work.

The film was released in '87 to mixed reviews. The UK press fairly championed the film (Barker is a native son, after all) and Stephen King remarked "I have seen the future of horror and his name is Clive Barker." Lauded film critic Roger Ebert was much less enthusiastic though saying "This is a movie without wit, style or reason, and the true horror is that actors were made to portray, and technicians to realize, its bankruptcy of imagination. Maybe Stephen King was thinking of a different Clive Barker."

Ebert's comment, and it's effete snobbery, is just one of the reasons I've never liked the man. Perhaps he (Ebert) saw a different Hellraiser. The film is one of the most imaginative products of the 80's (in particular) and the history of film (in general); it is an iconic masterpiece in every sense of the phrase and it's safe to say that , while Ebert may have made his living as a film critic, Stephen King is a far more knowledgeable judge of horror than he.

But I digress...

In a decade that overshadows all others for it's output of horror films, Hellraiser rises to the top like sinfully-rich cream and Doug Bradley's Pinhead instantly became one of the most iconic horror characters of all time. It is a study in sin, religion, the thin, blurring line between pleasure and pain and, ultimately, the cost one can pay for seeking to push such boundaries as overlay these things.

Hell is in the details, waiting patiently in the cracks and corners of existence, for the curious, naked eye to focus upon it. Barker's unique puzzle-box is the key that unlocks the untold horrors of Hell and the Cenobites are the keepers of the labyrinth that awaits beyond the threshold. When Kirsty finds herself faced by them and asks who they are, she is answered thusly, "Explorers... in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others."

Hellraiser is a labour of love and vindication for Barker, who had written screenplays before which were directed by others culminating in unsatisfactory results for the author. Perhaps this is part of the reason the film is so damned good. Yet it has it's shortcomings, as well.

Filled with a cast of unfamiliar faces, save for Andrew Robinson who played the father, Larry, Hellraiser follows in the footsteps of most horror movies. Still, while the acting isn't the greatest, it is better than most offerings of the genre. The early scenes involving the family are the weakest of the lot; the introductions of those characters, the arrival at the old, family home and the dinner. They seem to be barely-tolerated set pieces, standards which must be tossed into the mix, their existence endured for the tale to come into it's own.

Yet interwoven among them are scenes that carry you through and keep you interested until the hook is firmly set and there is no escape. Flashback sequences into the past showing Frank's searches for visceral experience, the purchase of the puzzle-box in Morocco, Julia's remembrance of her illicit affair with Frank as she stands in the attic room which culminates in orgasmic pleasure perfectly timed with Larry's hand being ripped open by the nail as he helps the movers with a mattress on the staircase... By the time the Cenobites take the stage to face the horrified and bewildered Kirsty there is no escape and no thought of it.

The film has one of the lowest body-counts of any horror I've seen and it's only apparent as an afterthought; Hellraiser rises above the plethora of slasher-flicks that the 80's were rife with and sets itself firmly apart and above them. The final result? A movie that is more an experience that just a few hours entertainment that will fade in memory; a journey taken at the behest of it's creator that will be indelibly imprinted upon the mind and never forgotten.

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Occupational Therapy

Posted : 6 years, 11 months ago on 19 December 2013 04:02 (A review of Red Dawn)

Unwarranted criticisms abound for this remake of the 80's cheese-fest which starred a host of up-and-coming, young B-listers such as Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell. In contrast, this updated version has it's own troop of young Hollywood talent including Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki and Alyssa Diaz; the aforementioned contrast being that this time the cast can actually act.

Hollywood loves remakes for the same reason that it loves sequels - money. Professional (and amateur) critics, on the other hand, tend not to; instead they seem to love to trash them. Granted, quite often the criticism is justified but not always. Every once in a great while the new version surpasses the original; such is the case with Red Dawn.

I'll be the first to admit that some films should be held sacrosanct - inviolable. A fine example is Hitchcock's Psycho. Red Dawn though...c'mon, who are we kidding here? It's developed something of a cult following but it's no classic. The original was chock-full of holes and inconsistencies, bad special effects and even worse acting. It was completely unbelievable...and so cheesy that they should have sold crackers and wine at the theater instead of popcorn...yet it was the 80's and the action film reigned supreme; besides, it was fun.

Even with the problems that the remake faced, being shelved because of MGM's financial woes and the decision to change the protagonists from Chinese to North Korean (for fear of alienating China and losing access to it's box office), this film is still superior to the original in almost every way. It's single deficiency is the choice of North Korea as the invading/occupying force; I found it a bit hard to swallow that a successful operation of this magnitude could be launched by them. Yet the movie is so well-done in every other aspect that it just didn't matter.

I like that they left the original main characters and merely shook up the dynamic a bit. After all, there was no reason to completely change those characters; they were what made the first movie good, in it's own way. From the opening sequence, this new (and improved) version blows it's predecessor away.

Hemsworth and Palicki were fine here (no surprise for me); Hutcherson, Peck and Diaz impressed me (as I had seen little of them up till now) and it was nice seeing Brett Cullen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in their supporting roles. As I said before, the caliber of the actors here was simply better and so was the script. The actions of the characters, the dialogue, the emotion...all of it was much more believable.

Finally, as movies go, there are set-in-stone classics (such as Casablanca and Rear Window ) and there are memorable action flicks; if the original is remembered as being one of the latter, then 2012's Red Dawn very much so belongs in the second category.

Honestly, I don't get why people are so down on this film. It's damned good! So if you want some cheese with your whine then, by all means, opt for Swayze & company; for myself, I'd much rather see Hemsworth drop the hammer on the North Koreans.

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