September 30, 2014

Movie Haiku of the Week: APOCALYPSE NOW

Dark jungle trip to
Kill a mumbling fat guy.
Sweet morning napalm.

September 29, 2014

AIR FORCE ONE: Fox News Sexy-Time

Starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell, Xander Berkeley, William H. Macy. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. (1997, 124 min).

One weekend, while his wife was out of town, Bill O’Reilly invited his good buddies, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Mike Huckabee over to his house for a movie night…

BILL: Thanks for coming, guys. I got the TV fired up in the den and a fridge full of Buds. Let’s get this party started!
MIKE: Woo Hoo! Pornos!
ANN: Dude, put your shirt back on. You’re acting like a  liberal.
SEAN (grabbing a beer from the fridge): So, what are we watchin’?
BILL (beaming proudly): I thought we’d start off with Killing Lincoln -
MIKE: Drilling Lincoln! That’s my favorite! I love that that part when Abe and Mary Todd are doin’ the Club Sandwich position, then Booth comes in with that huge vibrating -
BILL: No, no! Killing Lincoln…the movie based on my book, a New York Times bestseller, by the way. You’re thinking of the porn parody, Mike.
ANN: No-doubt funded by immigrants, Muslims and gays.
SEAN: Bill, we watch that one every time we come over. Even you must be getting tired of it by now. (He shotguns the entire beer in a few seconds, then pops open another)
BILL: Well, what do you guys want to watch?
MIKE: Woo Hoo! Pornos!
BILL: I got Killing Kennedy -
MIKE: Drilling Kennedy! I love that one, too, especially when Jackie O straps on that -
BILL: No, dammit! Killing Kennedy…based on another one of my books, also a New York Times bestseller, I might add.
SEAN: Don’t you have anything you don’t get royalties from?
BILL (shrugs): Just this…
ANN: Hey…Air Force One. Isn’t that the one where Harrison Ford plays -
BILL, SEAN, MIKE (chorusing): An ass-kicking president!
ANN: Fire that bitch up!

The four engage in high-fives and chest-bumps before Bill pops the disc into his DVD player. Then, after grabbing more beers, they sit on the sofa together as the movie begins...

MIKE: Any of you guys see Bare Force One? There’s a scene in the plane’s restroom that I swear they used contortionists for, and -
SEAN: Shhh! This is better than pornos.
BILL: Look at President Marshall at the podium, laying down the law regarding terrorism. Now that’s a speech!
SEAN: I’ll say. Look at my arms. Goosebumps!
ANN: Me too. If our current president showed those kind of balls, I’d rock his world whenever Michelle was out of town.
SEAN: Me, too!

An awkward silence prevails…

SEAN: I mean...you go girl!

"It's my mother...tell her I'm not here."
Sean gets up to grab everyone another beer. They all watch in relative silence until Air Force One is overtaken by a group of Russian terrorists (led by Korshunov, played by Gary Oldman) still loyal to their captured dictator, Ivan Radek, who killed over 200, 000 people. President Marshall (Harrison Ford) is escorted below deck by Secret Service to the escape pod, but since his family is still onboard, he launches the empty pod to fool the terrorists into thinking he got away.

BILL: Escape pod. Brilliant strategy. Only in America.
SEAN: Damn straight! I love documentaries.
MIKE: I love porno documentaries!
ANN: I can imagine me and George W. rockin’ that pod!
MIKE: So can I!
SEAN: Wait…wasn’t there another movie where Air Force One had an escape pod?
BILL: You’re thinking of Escape from New York. It’s a well-known fact John Carpenter stole the idea from this movie.
SEAN: But didn’t Escape from New York come out in 1981, sixteen years earlier?
BILL (tapping Hannity on the forehead): Use your noggin! Carpenter’s a conniving Hollywood liberal who knew a right-thinking republication strategist would eventually think of it, so he stole the idea in advance -
ANN: To save a fucking British president...like that would ever happen.
BILL: So shut your hole, Sean. And slow down on the beer. This is a no spin zone.

Vice President Kathryn Bennett (Glenn Close) arrives at the White House Situation Room, where she is briefed on the situation. The terrorists threaten to shoot a hostage every half hour until General Radek is released.

ANN: What! A woman vice president? Bill, you know how much I hate science fiction!
MIKE: Then let’s watch pornos!
BILL (raising his hands): Okay, okay…we all know Hollywood likes to indulge in a bit of fantasy now and then…like Toy Story and Zero Dark Thirty. You just gotta suspend some disbelief.
ANN: I can’t.
SEAN: I dunno…Bennett seems pretty reluctant take action and shoot the plane down, probably ‘cause she‘s waiting for a man to take charge. Ain’t that just like a woman?
ANN: Good point. If I can accept talking toys, I guess I can put-up with a woman vice president. (Under her breath, she adds, “Even though Glenn Close looks like a dyke").

Soon after, President Marshall uses his military skills to start taking out the terrorists one by one. 

ANN: YEAH!
BILL: U-S-A! U-S-A!
SEAN: God, that’s so hot…
MIKE: You’re right, Sean. This is better than pornos!

Bill's O-face.
As Marshall makes his way through the plane, kicking-ass and blowing terrorists away, Sean unconsciously slips his hand down the front of his own trousers.

BILL: Sean, what the hell are you doing on my sofa?
SEAN: Come on, Bill…this is the sexiest movie ever! What are you, a eunuch? You can’t tell me you haven’t bopped your baloney to this before!
BILL: Not around my colleagues, for Christ’s sake.
MIKE: You need to lighten up, O’Reilly. Me and my frat brothers used to do this all the time on weekends

Mike stands, drops his pants and commences his own five-knuckle-shuffle.

MIKE: Ah, yeah…
BILL: Come on, guys…I just had everything steam cleaned!
ANN: Then why don’t you be a congenial host and go fetch us some towels…

Ann hikes up her skirt to reveal a hunk of anatomy that would make John Holmes proud. All the men collectively gasp, though none are actually surprised. Bill stands up and hits the pause button, right before Marshall pulls the rip-cord of the parachute which snaps lead-terrorist Korshunov’s neck. 

BILL: Okay! Okay! If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do it right! As a team! Mike, you grab Sean. Sean, since you’ve got the biggest hands, you’ll take care of Ann. Ann, hold Bill Jr. here while I handle Mike and the remote. Sound fair?
SEAN: Fair and balanced, buddy!
MIKE: Wait! I still got a free hand. Lemme grab my iPhone and we can make our own porno!

September 25, 2014

DVD Review: MOM, Season One / MIKE & MOLLY, Season Four

Chuck Lorre has a knack for creating shows which tend to grow on you. On paper, there’s nothing special about them. In fact, nearly every series he’s had a hand in creating got off to inauspicious starts (even the mighty Big Bang Theory), rewarding audiences over time with sharp writing and characters we learn to love (or at least identify with). Both Mom (Lorre’s latest) and Mike & Molly (which confounded initial critical abuse by lasting four seasons with a fifth on the way) are two prime examples why one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover…or even its first chapter.

MOM: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Starring Anna Faris, Allison Janney, Sadie Calvano, Nata corddry, Matt L. Jones, French Stewart, Spencer Daniels, Mimi Kennedy. Various directors. (2013-14, 459 min).
Warner Bros.

Anna Farris is Christy, a recovering alcoholic and single parent of two kids. Her estranged mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney, the show’s MVP by a wide margin), a recovering addict herself, creeps back into her life. Complicating things is Christy’s teenage daughter, Violet, who discovers she’s pregnant in the second episode (the father, Luke, is an idiotic stoner, but truly loves her).

Christy is mostly miserable, partially because she’s nearly always on the verge of falling off the wagon, but also because she does not want to turn into her mom, even though Bonnie has endeared herself to Violet in ways Christy never could. Meanwhile, Christy is bothered by her worthless ex-husband, who skips his child-support payments yet still manages to establish a loving relationship with her son. Meanwhile, an on-again-off-again affair with her married boss is going nowhere.

This is all a lot funnier than it sounds, especially after the first episode, which seems to be raunchy for the sake of shock value. But once we get to know these characters (all of whom are extremely flawed), the dialogue and banter becomes a lot funnier. Most of us know people like this, whose sense of morality is decidedly different, and tend to make no apologies for their past behavior (a huge part of what makes Mom amusing, if not hilarious).

But this isn’t a pandering program like ABC's godawful The Goldbergs. Mom ultimately earns its laughs (and numerous moments of sentimentality) because despite their frequent lapses in judgment, we like these characters, even the ones who make Christy miserable. Based on the premise, writing and performances, Mom is a show which could last a long time.

EXTRAS: Gag Reel

FKMG RATING:
1/2
(OUT OF 5)


MIKE & MOLLY: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Billy Gardell, Reno Wilson, Katy Mixon, Swoosie Kurtz, Nyambi Nyambi, Rondi Reed, Louis Mustillo. Various directors. (2013-14, 433 min).
Warner Bros.

Melissa McCarthy might be the funniest woman on the planet right now, and without a doubt the primary reason Mike & Molly has endured. She’s able to move effortlessly from broad comedy to insightful humor, all while retaining a consistent persona which makes her so fun to watch. This is true in her movies (even the bad ones), perhaps even more-so in Mike & Molly.

Mike & Molly may not always be a side-splitting comedy, but we’ve grown to like all these characters, whose personalities provide much of the humor. Season 4 is no better or worse than previous ones…just more of the same, which is a good thing, since it’s currently a better show than it ever had a right to be. The running plotline this year has Molly leaving her teaching job to pursue other opportunities, primarily trying to be a successful novelist of crime fiction. This leads to some amusing episodes (as well as a bittersweet one) which put a strain on her marriage to Mike (Billy Gardell).

Some episodes focus more on secondary characters, and while they’re amusing, the show is at its best when the title couple is front and center. McCarthy and Gardell (Mike) have a lot of chemistry together, and we’ve been around them long enough to truly care about the ups and downs of their marriage.

Mike & Molly will never be mentioned among the greatest sitcoms of all time, and travels a familiar path depicting the toils of a middle class family, but McCarthy and Gardell keep things fun anyway. Now that she’s recently become a bankable movie star, it’ll be interesting to see how long McCarthy sticks with the grind of a weekly TV show.

EXTRAS: Gag Reel

FKMG RATING:
(OUT OF 5)

September 24, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: THE 100: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

Starring Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco, Thomas McDonell, Eli Goree, Marie Avgeropoulos, Bob Morley, Kelly Hu, Christopher Larkin, Devon Bostick, Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusiack. Various directors. (2014, 544 min).
Warner Bros.

The Walking Dead notwithstanding, the end of civilization doesn’t fare too well as weekly TV. Part of the reason is the genre’s built-in limitations; there’s only so much you can do with any apocalyptic premise before the well runs dry. But even creatively consistent programs (such as NBC’s terrific Revolution) tend to get cancelled once the ratings no longer justify their production costs. Still, Hollywood keeps trying.

The 100, the CW’s latest teen-centric serial, might have a chance. Based on the popular YA novel by Kass Morgan, the show is handsomely produced and features a plethora of good-looking kids in the lead roles, along with a few token grown-ups as secondary characters. In that respect, The 100 is similar to CW’s Vampire Diaries and may likely appeal to the same crowd (and will totally accept the notion only the gorgeous will survive the apocalypse).

Someone didn't shower this morning.
The premise is actually kind of interesting. 97 years has passed since a nuclear war rendered Earth uninhabitable. What’s left of humankind has been living in an orbiting space station (dubbed The Ark) for the past three generations. To keep the population in check, any crime, no matter how small, is punishable by death…unless you’re under 18. In that case, you’re put in prison. But when the governing council discovers The Ark will soon run out of oxygen, they decide to send these kids back to Earth to fend for themselves (extending everyone else’s lives for a few more months). The council monitors them from above to see if they indeed survive or die from radiation sickness. Of course, most of them do survive, but face bigger problems, such as mutated monsters, toxic dust clouds and “grounders” (tribes of marauders who’ve been surviving on Earth the entire time).

Another obstacle threatening undermine their survival is each other, as when level-headed Clarke (Eliza Taylor) continually clashes with Bellamy (Bob Morley), who takes a more brutal, survival-of-the-fittest approach. But while Bellamy is kind of a turd sometimes, he’s not really a bad guy. In fact, he’s probably the best-realized and well-rounded character in the whole show. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Richard Harmon’s sneering, over-the-top performance as Murphy (Bellamy’s primary thug and the most one-dimensional character) approaches high camp.

Like most serial programs, The 100 features many plot twists, story turns, love triangles (yeah, even in this world, such a thing matters) and deaths of characters we initially assume will be in it for the long haul. Episodes typically switch back and forth between the kids on the ground and the adults on The Ark (whose decisions regarding everyone's well-being have increasingly ominous implications). Much of it is fun, providing you are able to accept it for what it is…a teenage soap opera. As science-fiction, you’re better off not scrutinizing the science part too deeply and just enjoy the fiction.

As such things go, The 100 is off to a decent start. While nothing original or compelling enough to tune into on a weekly basis, it’s entertaining enough for an evening of binging.

EXTRAS:

  • Featurettes: In the Beginning; The Ark; A New Earth; Grounders, Reapers & Mountain Men
  • 2013 Comic-Con Panel
  • Season Finale Audio Commentary
  • Season Finale Deleted Scenes
  • Digital Copy

FKMG RATING:
(OUT OF 5)

September 23, 2014

Movie Haiku of the Week: THE EXORCIST

Regan is possessed!
Spinning heads, floating beds and
Tasty split pea soup.

September 21, 2014

CD Giveaway: THE BOXTROLLS Original Soundtrack

In advance of the film’s release Back Lot Music has announced that they will release The Boxtrolls – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally and on CD September 23. The album features an original score for the Focus Features and LAIKA family event movie by Academy Award®-winning composer Dario Marianelli (Atonement) and an original song by Eric Idle (of Monty Pythonfame), plus classic songs performed by the group Loch Lomond.

Free Kittens Movie Guide is giving away a copy of this album. Don't miss out...simply leave a comment along with your email address. Winners will be randomly chosen, and your email will not be used for any other purpose. 
CONTEST ENDS 10/7!

Blu-Ray Giveaway: If You Loved HEAT, You Have to Check-out FIRESTORM

Free Kittens Movie Guide and Well Go USA are giving away Blu-Ray copies of the action packed Hong Kong thriller, Firestorm, to a few of our readers. Don't miss out...simply leave a comment along with your email address. Winners will be randomly chosen, and your email will not be used for any other purpose. 
CONTEST ENDS 10/7!

A storm is heading toward the city of Hong Kong, threatening the lives of everyone in its path. As citizens scramble for cover, a crew of seasoned criminals stage a series of armored car heists in broad daylight, showing no mercy to anyone who gets in their way.  Hardboiled police inspector Cao Nam (Andy Lau) has had enough.  He vows to take back his city, but quickly learns that regular police tactics are no match for the thieves’ unmerciful brutality. The more Nam pursues them, the more unhinged he becomes - and the savage confrontation brewing in the streets may leave an aftermath even more horrifying than the devastating effects of nature itself.


“… a relentlessly fiery pyrotechnical spectacle, climaxing with a protracted heavy-artillery shootout that has Hong Kong's central business district literally caving in on itself.”
~ Clarence Tsui, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

"Firestorm is a hell of a lot of fun."
-D.M. Anderson, FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE

September 20, 2014

DVD Review: CASTLE: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON

Starring Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan, Molly Quinn, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever, Tamala Jones, Penny Johnson Jerald. Various directors. (2013-14, 984 min).
ABC Studios

I always enjoyed Castle whenever I came into the room while my wife was watching (she loves the show, especially during syndicated marathons on TNT). But it’s never been part of my weekly viewing schedule. No reason, really…it’s just one of those programs which simply fly below my radar. But here it is, six seasons in with a seventh on the way. Castle has never been a ratings blockbuster, and you’ll probably seldom hear it mentioned among anyone’s favorite shows, but solid writing and terrific chemistry among the main cast have made this romantic comedy/crime drama a quiet hit over the years. And there’s no better way to watch it than binging on one disc after another.

Season Six has Castle (Nathon Fillion) and Beckett (Stana Katic) solving intricate mysteries each episode while simultaneously planning their upcoming wedding (he proposed to her at the end of Season Five). While that amusing story arc is ongoing throughout the season, most of their cases are wrapped up in a single episode. As with most episodic crime dramas, some stories are more intriguing than others (a few mid-season episodes are a bit less intriguing). My personal favorite has a desperate woman, accused of murder, who’s taken hostages and demands Castle (her favorite writer) to help clear her name. The funniest (and somewhat bittersweet) episode is the one where the entire police division (at Castle’s insistence) is forced to convince a traumatized former mob boss to ID a killer by pretending it’s still 1978 (including clothing, cars and the décor of the precinct).

"Trust me, I miss Firefly, too, but that's no reason
to start shooting people."
Of course, what makes a show like Castle successful is its characters. Yeah, we all miss Firefly, but Fillion carries Castle with the same humor and delivery which made Firefly an endearing cult classic. The rest of the cast shines as well, especially Susan Sullivan as Castle’s sometimes embarrassingly free-spirited mother. As Beckett, Katic continues to be a terrific cohort/love interest. Most programs which create sexual tension between its lead characters tend to fall apart once they actually get together, but so far, the budding romance between Castle and Beckett is funny and charming (it probably helps that their relationship still takes a backseat to the individual cases at-hand).

The season ends with an ominous cliffhanger which will have longtime fans (like my wife) chomping-at-the-bit for Season Seven to start. While I have a sneaking suspicion everything will turn out hunky-dory, we still like these people enough to worry about their well being. Sans commercials, this DVD set makes Castle as binge worthy as they come.

EXTRAS:

  • FEATURETTES: A Few of Our Favorite Things (cast & crew present their favorite moments from the show); On Location with Stana (a Day on the set with Stana Katic); Castle Karaoke (Seamus Dever’s extended karaoke scene).
  • Audio Commentaries
  • Bloopers
  • Deleted Scenes

FKMG RATING:
(OUT OF 5)

September 19, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: THE BIG BANG THEORY: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON

Starring Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Melissa Rauch, Mayim Bialik, Kevin Sussman. Various directors. (2013-14, 486 min).
Warner Bros.

The Big Bang Theory remains CBS’ most popular program, and while it’s still one of the better comedies on television, Season Seven shows some slight signs of fatigue.

The interaction among all the lead characters, especially when they’re all onscreen together, remains witty and sharp, such as the episode where Raj conducts a scavenger hunt and the couples pair-off with someone besides their significant other. Another standout episode features Bob Newhart returning as the retired (and somewhat bitter) Professor Proton, once again stealing every scene he’s in. But topping Newhart is James Earl Jones, playing himself as he paints the town red with Sheldon after the boys are unable to secure tickets for the local Comic-Con. Speaking of Sheldon, this is the season where he finally kisses Amy.

"Here's a little ditty by Deep Purple."
On the other hand, while these characters mostly remain pretty amusing, Season Seven is essentially more of the same, which may be good or bad. Sure, their geeky-as-ever personas are still charming and funny, but there are a few episodes which fall flat, especially those where Sheldon’s personality is exaggerated to the point he’s more obnoxious and unlikable than endearingly clueless. On the other hand, we’re spared any jumping-the-shark storylines (like when Howard became an astronaut in Season Six). But at this point, especially in later episodes, one can see the light at the end of the tunnel, when everything has played itself out, and continuing the show any further would wear out its welcome.

"**We traced the call...
It's coming from inside the house!
**"
One can only hope the powers-that-be will realize when that moment arrives in order to end the series on a high note. 

EXTRAS:

  • 2013 Comic-Con Panel
  • Featurettes: Johnny Galecki Crashes the BBT writers Panel; String Theory Serenade; BBT’s May the 4th; James Earl Jones: The Unconventional Guest Star; BBTea Time
  • Gag Reel
  • DVD & Digital Copies


FKMG RATING:
1/2
(OUT OF 5)


September 18, 2014

Film Review: THE BOXTROLLS

Starring the voices of Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Tracy Morgan. Directed by Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi. (2014, 96 min).
Focus Features

Review by Lucy and D.M. Anderson

I picked up my ten-year-old daughter, Lucy, early from school the other day. Though happy to see me - what kid doesn’t love a short school day? - she asked why she was going home. I replied she wasn't; we had an appointment. Her smile briefly faded before I reassured her it wasn’t a doctor or dental visit…it was something she was going to help me with. During the drive, she hounded me incessantly, and it was amusing to hear her plead “Come on, Dad, tell me” over and over from the back seat. I finally told Lucy her appointment was with The Boxtrolls, and I’d been invited to an advance screening but needed her help to review the film. She was ecstatic…not only was she getting out of school early, but attending a movie she’d been excited about ever since seeing the first trailer. Who better to assist me than someone from the film’s targeted demographic?

Shortly before the lights went down, I reminded Lucy of her important job. “Right, Dad,” she said enthusiastically. “Today we’re colleagues.” (I had no idea she knew the meaning of that word…what an awesome kid I have).

The Boxtrolls is the latest feature-length film from Laika, the stop-motion studio responsible for Coraline and ParaNorman. The title creatures live beneath a cheese-obsessed village, venturing above-ground at night to scavenge for old junk which they use maintain their home, keep the lights on and build various useful contraptions & machines. The villagers have feared the Boxtrolls ever since they allegedly abducted and ate an infant, which is why the White Hats (the stuffy old men who run the town) instilled a nighttime curfew. Meanwhile, opportunistic Red Hat exterminator Archbald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) offers to eradicate every last Boxtroll in exchange for membership with the White Hats. He and his crew commence hunting the creatures down.

But it turns out the abducted baby was not eaten by the Boxtrolls, but raised as one of their own. Named Eggs (after the box he wears and voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright), he's mostly cared for by Fish (also aptly named), who brings him gifts and teaches him music. Eggs is content until, during a scavenging trip above-ground, he bumps into Winnie (Elle Fanning), the neglected daughter of the chief White Hat and out past curfew. That same night, Fish is captured by Snatcher and taken away. Determined to get him back, Eggs risks venturing above-ground during the day with Winne's help (who’s also trying to help him act more like a ‘proper boy’). During their rescue efforts, they discover more about Eggs’ past, and also that Snatcher has a greedy, nefarious plan that’ll affect the lives of everyone above and below-ground.

Fish soon discovers attempting The Wave all
by yourself is pretty pointless.
The Boxtrolls’ story is a bit slow paced at first, but picks up momentum and becomes more interesting as it goes along, throwing some unexpected surprises along the way. It’s often sweet without becoming saccharine, funny without becoming pandering (the laughs are usually well-earned) and suspenseful without becoming too scary (though I could see Snatcher’s allergic reaction to cheese being somewhat traumatizing to some of the wee ones in the crowd). There’s a lot action, especially during the second half, but it never threatens to overwhelm the viewer with visual bombast (well…maybe a little toward the end).

Visually, the characters are imaginatively rendered, their appearance doing much of the work to establish their exaggerated personalities, meaning the villains are suitably grotesque, and the Boxtrolls themselves are charming while never being mistaken for cute. Ironically, it’s the two main characters (Eggs and Winnie) who are the least interesting.

Right from the get-go, the film is wonderful to look at. Like Coraline, it truly looks like a richly-illustrated children’s book come-to-life, though not quite as creepy, and the stop-motion animation is incredible. Maybe because CG-animated movies are now a-dime-a-dozen, one can’t help but appreciate the unfathomable amount of man-hours it took to put this together (though we get a hint of that effort during an end-credit coda…so don’t leave early).

As for Lucy…she loved every minute of The Boxtrolls, already asking me on the drive home if we could pick-up the DVD when it comes out. Dad enjoyed it as well (though he wasn’t expecting to), especially Snatcher's ultimate fate. Without giving too much away, it’s straight out of Monty Python and laugh-out loud hilarious.

FKMG RATING:
1/2
LUCY'S RATING:

September 15, 2014

CAT NIP Reviews: Women at War, Sarandon’s Calling & Life on the Fast Track

WOMEN IN WAR FILMS (Book)
Authors Ralph Donald and Karen MacDonald study women’s roles in war/military films and TV shows through the years, and how they’ve evolved to reflect cultural and societal changes. Even films with a tenuous connection to the genre (such as Casablanca, The Terminator and Alien) are covered here, if not in the chapters, then the extensive filmography section (which comprises the last quarter of the book). This very academic volume reads more like college text than a traditional movie guide or reference book, which makes it an interesting initial read, but not likely one you’ll feel compelled revisit unless required by your film-study professor. From Rowman & Littlefield.

THE CALLING (DVD)
If you can imagine someone attempting a mash-up of Fargo and Seven, you might be intrigued enough to check-out The Calling. But you’ll likely be disappointed because none of the visual or narrative mastery of those classics is present here. There’s a serial killer carving a bloody path across Canada, inspired by an obscure Biblical prayer. Susan Sarandon stars as a drunk, pill-popping small-town sheriff, and while she’s always interesting to watch, the film itself can’t decide whether or not it’s a quirky character piece or grungy thriller. Ultimately, it fails at both, rendering the whole affair a rather boring endurance test with a resolution that isn’t worth the viewer’s patience. From Sony Pictures.

BORN TO RACE: FAST TRACK (Blu-Ray)
This is a sequel to Born to Race, a 2011 direct-to-video film which, frankly, we didn’t even know existed (and we’re usually up on such things). At any rate, here’s the follow-up someone was apparently asking for. Fast Track is essentially Top Gun on wheels, with young studs (and one studette - is that a word?) vying for the top prize at a prestigious racing school. The leads are all photogenic but devoid of any real personality, and there isn’t a single plot turn you haven’t seen in a hundred similar films, not to mention it sometimes plays like a 90 minute advertisement for auto parts stores. Still, it’s a mildly entertaining film with some well-shot auto action. From Anchor Bay.

NEIGHBORS: Delta Psi Beta House Beer Pong Rules (NSFW)

Just in time for the Neighbors Blu-ray and DVD release on September 23rd, we have the official Delta Psi Beta house beer pong rules. Play the way Teddy, Pete and the rest of the frat house would want you to by following these hilarious Neighbors-inspired rules of the game.

September 14, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: THE ROVER

Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNary, Gillian Jones, Anthony Hayes. Directed by David Michod. (2014, 102 min).
Lionsgate

I'd like to think the following scenario has probably already happened...

Picture, if you will, Tiffany, Clare and Heather…a teen trio of BFFs all suffering from Twilight withdrawl. They happen to notice The Rover on the shelf at Wal-Mart or among the choices on Netflix or Redbox. Robert Pattinson (who still adorns their bedroom walls in his pasty-white splendor) is one of two co-stars whose name is prominently featured above the title. These card-carrying members of Team Edward gleefully pool their allowance money together to gaze once-again at the man of their dreams without a second thought, never bothering to read the plot synopsis.

The movie begins, taking place in the desert wastelands of Australia ten years after a global economic collapse. There’s a shot of a scraggly old guy sitting in his car, flies buzzing around his face. A few minutes later, his car is stolen by a gang of other scraggly old guys who just crashed their pick-up during a robbery getaway. The first scraggly old guy restarts their pick-up and tears down the highway after them, determined to get his car back.

Tiffany slightly frowns. This looks sort-of like that old movie her dad watches, the one with a bunch of scraggly old guys in assless pants killing each other for gasoline, only the scraggly old guys in this new movie look like her hungover uncle who wakes up on the living room couch each year after the Fourth of July barbecue.

But this movie's bound get better when Edward shows up to save the day, since all these other scraggly old guys are too ugly to be heroes, especially Eric (Guy Pearce), who’s not only ugly…he’s mean, shooting a man just to avoid paying for the gun he needs to kill those who took his car. Right?

Clare thinks, who cares about this dirty old car? What’s so special about it? Where’s Edward, dammit? 

Guy Pearce is sick of Robert's
Donnie Wahlberg jokes.
Wait a minute, Heather slowly realizes with dread a few scenes later. That guy lying on the road holding a gun, his gut bleeding from a gunshot wound...he looks familiar…those eyes…that face…

No! That can’t be Edward! Look at that awful crew-cut, those disgusting brown teeth, the bruised face, the dirty Goodwill clothes! 

But it is him, isn’t it?

Tiffany, Clare and Heather collectively sigh in despair. The Rover is one of those movies where Robert Pattinson demonstrates he’s actually a pretty damn good actor. They’d heard rumors that he hated Twilight and wanted to distance himself from Edward as much as possible, but refused to believe such an awful thing.

To make things worse, Pattinson's character, Rey, is part of the same gang of scraggly old guys who stole the initial scraggly old guy’s car, then left-for-dead after getting shot during the robbery. Worse than that is the revelation Rey is, not only a bad guy (sort-of), but a total idiot who ends up accidentally shooting a little girl.

The girls are deflated…The Rover is no Twilight…not even Water for Elephants. It’s moody, violent and sort-of depressing. They are also increasingly angry that Eric is so obsessed with that stupid car, killing a lot of folks just to get it back. Still, they spent their allowance, and maybe Edward does some awesome shit later on, so they stick-it-out like the loyal fans they are.

For the final scene, The Rover does indeed explain why the car is so important to Eric. Depending on the mindset of the viewer, this coda is either bittersweet or ironically funny. Without giving anything away, trust me, you will not see it coming.

In the end, Tiffany, Clare and Heather are confused and disappointed. They didn’t expect a film driven more by its tone and dynamic performances than the actual story, where long moments of silence and simple unexplained actions says more about these characters than an entire page of dialogue. Nor did they expect Pattinson to let them down by almost completely disappearing into his role (like a real grown-up actor). They may not appreciate it now, but Pattinson’s performance is a revelation. Even then, it’s Guy Pearce who successfully carries the film on his shoulders. We identify with him almost immediately, though some of his actions has us questioning his sense of morality. But after a solemn (and revealing) speech about absence of accountability for murder in this bleak world, Eric reveals a complexity totally lost on the likes of Tiffany, Clare and Heather.

I chuckle at the thought of this entire scenario occurring more than once (and you just know it did), where Twi-hards watch in slack-jawed horror as their precious Pattinson drops the glamour to show he’s capable of more than smoldering and sparkling. The Rover is a bleak, thought-provoking gem that Tiffany, Clare and Heather may not appreciate, nor will anyone expecting a Mad Max retread. If you don't count yourself among that crowd, The Rover is a wonderfully satisfying film which presents a cynical vision of a violent world, yet subtly suggests not everyone has been totally stripped of their humanity.

EXTRAS:

  • Featurette: Something Elemental: Making The Rover
  • Digital Copy


FKMG MATING:
(OUT OF 5)
(FOR TWI-HARDS)