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Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014), clearly the most creatively named sequel of all weather-induced shark attack movies OF ALL TIME!

July 31, 2014

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MY CALL: The utter bonkersness of this movie, by comparison, makes Snakes on a Plane feel like a perfectly reasonable action movie that could totally happen…and that’s a good thing for the adventurous dumb-movie lover who doesn’t mind a zany flick with a low budget and shamefully abundant past-gen CGI. MOVIES LIKE Sharknado 2: Sharknado (2013), Sharknado 3 (2015; upcoming) and Snakes on a Plane (2006). Also try Deep Blue Sea (1999), Shark Night 3D (2011), Piranha (1978), Piranha 3D (2010) and Piranha 3DD (2012).

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Now heroes, Tara Reid (Sharknado, The Crow: Wickid Prayer) and Ian Ziering’s (Beverly Hills 90210, Sharknado) returning characters are no strangers to the over-exposition that plagues Scy-Fy’s movies-of-the-week, including Sharknado (“the first one”). But fret not, it’s all in good fun and we don’t get five minutes into the movie before paying homage to William Shatner’s (or John Lithgow’s) Twilight Zone short Terror at 20000 Feet! Even using the famous line “There’s something on the wing!!!!” Only now..there are sharks on the wings of the plane! This is basically how I knew this would be worth a watch….that, and part one was bonkers amaze-balls fun!

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Director Anthony C. Ferrante (Boo, Sharknado, Sharknado 3) lays on the stupid fast and heavy…and by stupid I mean stupidly awesome! The utter bonkersness of this movie, by comparison, makes Snakes on a Plane (2006) feel like a perfectly reasonable action movie that could totally happen.

Is this movie fast paced? Well, it has plenty of slow parts where we are forced to watch the cast try to act their way through to the next scene. But when the action is happening all is forgiven, lots of funny dumb stuff happens, and festive CGI gore abounds.

Are the effects good? It’s a ScyFy movie-of-the-week…so NO. No they’re not. But the movie is still fun and there were some choice gore effects and the sharks are fun to watch.

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Billy Ray Cyrus, everyone!

Is EVERYONE in this movie? Absolutely! Fantastic cameos include The Today Show‘s Matt Lauer and Al Roker, Kelly Ripa, ex-Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath, scream queen Tiffany Shepis (The Hazing), Judah Friedlander, Billy Ray Cyrus, Perez Hilton, Vivica Fox (Kill Bill Vol. 1/Vol. 2, Independence Day), Judd Hirsch (Independence Day), Jared the Subway guy, Kelly Osbourne and Andy Dick.

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Much to my surprise I must say this movie taught me a few things…

1) Based on more than one scene I can safely say that the best way to fight a shark is with a baseball bat. That, and Ian Ziering has an amazing swing whether wielding a bat, chainsaw, fire axe, sword or that wooden thing they use to get pizzas out of a pizza oven.

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2) Sharks hate physics and take every opportunity they can to defy its lame laws. As you watch this movie you’d swear the sharks were “aiming” themselves at their victims harnessing the propulsive force of the tornado.

3) Not only is Ian Ziering tougher than a CGI shark, but his butt is so rock hard that he doesn’t even feel it when a baby shark is biting it! He probably taught The Rock how to be tough.

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Tough enough to try to defeat a Sharknado with Vivica Fox and a giant slingshot.

4) Judd Hirsch is actually Jason Voorhees! Bare with me for a second. Whenever you don’t see him he transports unreasonable distances almost instantaneously and he’s always where you least expect him. The only real difference is that there are no drug-using, fornicating teens around to trigger his urge to kill.

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This movie is pure, mindless fun. Just watch it and stop being so judgy.

Alan Partridge: The Original Alpha Papa

July 30, 2014

Alan Patridge movie poster

Alan Partridge! Who the f- Alan Partridge! You know who I am, I’ve not been off TV for that long! Identify yourself.

Alan Partridge has been around a long time. 20 years ago the comedy classic Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge (ah-ha!) was released upon the world and it introduced us to an incredibly superficial, narcissistic and insecure ‘wally.’ (Thank you Wiki homepage for Alan Partridge) The show made for some of the most uncomfortable chat show moments in television history and ushered in a new wave of comedy hero (Think David Brent of The Office). His show ended with a gunshot that lead to a spiral of botched Christmas specials, toblerone candy and divorce. His journey has taken him from failing upward on the BBC to hosting an afternoon show on a local radio network called North Norfolk Digital.

The film follows Alan as he becomes the mediator during a hostage situation. The radio station he works for is adjusting to a younger crowd and are looking to sack one of the old school disc jockeys. Alan is a disloyal little turd so he gets Colm Meaney’s character fired and a hostage crisis ensues. Meaney doesn’t know it was Alan who got him fired so he uses his “trusted friend” to meet his demands. Alan uses the crisis to further his brand. occasionally end up without pants and say things like “We’re asking, what is the worst monger? Iron, fish… rumour… or war?”

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The movie goes broader than the television shows yet still delivers the Alan you’ve grown to love because he is such a sad little man. Alan is not a likable fellow and his back catalog of quotes proves he can be described as articulately dumb. What I love is that Coogan has had 20 years to fine tune the character and it has been fun to watch his semi-evolution.

Alan Partridge

We don’t get many creations like Alan Partridge. We’ve been able to watch him fail for twenty years while he still holds on to his self-importance. His will has been tested but he has overcome obstacles like his bare foot drive to Dundee. He has lived in travel lodges, caravans and posh five bedroom homes while chasing fame. Aside from one panic attack he still has his ambitions and with news of the sequel we will get more adventures.

You need to know Alan Partridge. Start from the beginning and you’ll understand why he is the Alpha Papa.

A Long Way Down: Chemistry Trumps All

July 26, 2014

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A Long Way Down is the happiest film about potential suicide you will ever watch. It is tonally odd and bounces all over the place yet remains likable due to the chemistry of the cast. As the proceedings bounce around  you remain engaged because of the all-in performances. I really liked what Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle had to say about the film.

As British comedy sometimes will, “A Long Way Down” has an occasional attack of the cutes, but the actors’ commitment keeps the movie on the plus side. I enjoyed the velocity of Poots’ assault on every line, as well as Paul’s sensitivity – that vibe he has of being a good guy.

The film doesn’t care much for being subtle. The characters sing I Will Survive and Tragedy while the conflicts are resolved swiftly. Time doesn’t matter, side plots are ditched and they all have undefined backstories. Gone is the classy humor from Nick Hornby’s other book adaptations  About a Boy and High Fidelity. What we get here is four people having a great time together. So, the plot and subject matter are thin yet you really like the actors involved.

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The plot revolves around four people who meet on top of a roof on New Years Eve. They all planned on committing suicide but decide to sign a pact (on the back of a suicide note) that will keep them alive until Valentine’s Day. Pierce Brosnan is a formerly famous morning host who went to jail for having sex with a 15-year-old. Aaron Paul is a sad musician. Toni Collette is a single mother who takes care of her disabled son. Imogen Poots is the daughter of a politician who lost her sister and needs to learn impulse control.

I understand all of the complaints made about the film. However, I was able to roll with A Long Way Down. The director Pascal Chaumeil is known for cheeky, fluffy and goofball films that don’t take themselves too seriously. He doesn’t capture drama well but he manages to get believable chemistry from his cast. So, the proceedings might be fluff but the performances are game and the actors are enjoying themselves.  The happiness was infectious and the chemistry real in A Long Way Down. Poots and Paul were wonderful together in Need For Speed (A guilty pleasure of mine) and in this film you can tell they really enjoy each other.

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There are moments in the this film that make it all worth it. It has a cheeky ambition that manipulates emotions well. It is fun watching Brosnan act like a grouch while Toni Collette once again proves she is a chameleon. The four actors are really trying and it makes the film enjoyable. I do wish it could have reached the comedic/drama heights of High Fidelity or About a Boy. However, it makes for a fun romp that should not be over analyzed.

 

 

Filth: James McAvoy and the Truthful Title

July 23, 2014

Filth movie poster

There hasn’t been a more self-explanatory title since Snakes on a Plane. Filth is a nasty little film that is based on a wonderfully nasty Irvine Welsh book. It features drug use, nudity, murder, rape, infidelity, abuse, profanity, phone sex and more drug use. It is depravity buoyed by a demented yet likable performance by James McAvoy. He owns the screen and you can tell he enjoyed every moment of it.

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I don’t know how I could recommend Filth to non-cinephiles but I will fully praise McAvoy’s performance to everyone.  McAvoy navigates the world with a mixture of angst, anger and feigned bluster. Mentally, he has gone off the rails and as the film progresses you begin to feel bad for the guy as his story becomes rather tragic.  McAvoy juggles the mental collapse well and remains sympathetic even as he is doing terrible things. This isn’t a stylized bad guy who is evil to be cool. He is a sad man who needs help and will never get it. I’m happy that McAvoy nailed this role after trying something different with Welcome to the Punch and Trance.

The film revolves around McAvoy’s character doing every bad deed in the book whilst angling for a promotion to become Detective Inspector. He has a beautiful family (whom you only see in dreams or hallucinations), suffers from bipolar disorder and is haunted by flashbacks of a young child. Something has gone mentally haywire and he becomes a drug addled Shakespearean villain. He manipulates, lies and coerces in order to get what he wants but his tenuous grip on reality seems to be going down the tube with each line of cocaine he snorts.

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The supporting cast is wonderful. Eddie Marsan, Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson, Joanne Froggatt and Imogen Poots all play various foils and marks who inhabit the drug hazed world. They journey with McAvoy down a rabbit hole of insanity that makes Edinburgh, Scotland seem like a layer of hell. In one of the my favorite scenes Imogen Poots uncovers McAvoy’s true character and you are able to look back at the rest of the film with new eyes. It is a solid moment that shows how versatile the two actors are. It also helps you understand why he does what he does.

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Filth is a daring and old school film. There is a darkness to it and there is nothing likable about the main character.  It is tragedy mixed with dark humor that is made palatable by James McAvoy’s performance. This film isn’t for everyone and becomes very bleak. However, if you appreciate Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) and brave performances check out Filth. 

Under the Skin: A Haunting and Sensory Blasting Experience

July 21, 2014

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Under the Skin is a mesmerizing film that captures Scotland’s dreary beauty while blasting us with the most sensory film of the year. I love that there is zero backstory or expository hand holding. It is a remarkably simple movie that still leaves many questions unanswered. It is a pure and unadulterated experience that could be vivisected or simply appreciated. My advice is to turn off the lights, turn up the volume and allow yourself to fully appreciate a spellbinding experience.

Under the Skin tells the story of Scarlett Johansson’s unnamed character driving around Scotland on the prowl for men/victims. She takes them back to uninhabited homes where they are doomed via black goop quicksand.  The scenes are slightly improvised and all lead to hyper stylized endings. As her journey progresses she seems to become more self-aware and curious. This doesn’t bode well for her because she is out of the protection of her motorcycle riding assistant/boss/owner.

The journey her character takes is a wonder of cinematic prowess and natural beauty.

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Little is said yet you understand what is going on. The director Jonathan Glazer had this to say about the film:

When you’re choosing to tell a story from an alien point of view, you’re really creating a rod for your own back, because you’re trying to make something feel truly alien. The experience needs to be inscrutable, unfathomable. Something you don’t recognise, that you feel but you don’t see. We didn’t want to make a film where that’s explained away somehow. It had to be outside our understanding.

Under the Skin is a truly alien film that is too easy to make complicated. Much like Tree of Life, Springbreakers and Upstream Color (Enemy is really confusing though) people add symbolism and theory where it isn’t needed. Under the Skin is a tragic journey of somebody experiencing earth for the first time.

Under the skin Adam Pearson

The film has become notorious for the Johansson nudity. However, it feels organic to the film and is part of the character’s self-awareness. As the film unfolds you understand why she is becoming more aware of her body. Her performance is a wonder to behold as she seems genuinely curious of her prey and the world around her. She must have trusted the director because in lesser hands this could have become an exploitative piece called Naked in Scotland.

Glazer made a wise decision to shoot the film in Scotland. When I visited Scotland it seemed like I could close my eyes, put my camera behind my back and still take a beautiful photo. The rainy and misty country provides perfect vistas to explore.

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Under the Skin does a great job of creating an alien world. The trust between Scarlett and the Glazer is evident and the movie works as a sensory blasting experience. It most certainly isn’t for the mainstream because of the vague subject material and lack of information. However, if you appreciate great looking films that take daring journeys Under the Skin is for you. Also, it makes you really want to ride a motorcycle through the windy Scottish coastal roads.

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The Purge: Anarchy: When a Bad Movie Happens to a Good Idea

July 19, 2014

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The Purge 2 takes a good idea and wrecks the development of it with lazy screenwriting. The shallow script and paint by numbers class warfare make it nothing more than a cool poster and missed opportunities. It is not smart enough to be good satire and not dumb enough to be a grindhouse film. The iconic imagery of violent purgers are wrecked as the movie is explained away via expository dialogue and a group of people who have no problem speaking loudly whilst being hunted my murderers.

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The original Purge didn’t annoy me. It was rich on rich violence that kept it simple. Ethan Hawke made money on the Purge and he had to battle the rich entitled murderers who grew up in that world. It was simple low-budget cinema that established an interesting world. I liked the idea of the sequels expanded scope. However, the limited budget kept the set pieces from being able to deliver the shock and awe. The expanded scope hurt the film because it wanted to be all things. Also, world building is pointless when the characters are two-dimensional plot devices who inhabit a black and white political world. It will obviously get another sequel so why not expand the scope little by little? For instance, how did these guys become hunters? Why do they ride around on dirt bikes in a city full of snipers? Wouldn’t the cool masks hinder their ability to hunt?

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The film is loaded with ideas and imagery yet never knows what it wants to be. It starts off well enough by introducing us to Frank Grillo’s vigilante. I could have watched him light up little punks for 90 minutes and been fine with it. However, he ends up saving four people and has to protect them for the rest of the film. The four people do him no favors by lying, yelling and always falling down at the worst moments.  The cast is solid and they’ve all done better work in better films. However, they are nothing more than scared people annoying Frank Grillo. They are also responsible for getting his badass Mad Max car blown up.

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The plot of the movie centers around a night where all crime is legal. Rich people have mercenaries collect innocent bystanders so they can kill them in the comfort of their own homes. Gangs transform vehicles into death machines in order to murder anybody. The government/regime randomly kills people to lower the crime and unemployment rates. It is wholesale slaughter than constantly gets interrupted by whiny people who talk to much.

I would love to see what John Carpenter could have done with The Purge. They Live is a wonderful example of consumerism and government. He could have added intelligence to a great idea. The Purge: Anarchy is too clean and glossy. There is no personality and that is a shame. Films like Escape from New York, Mad Max, The Warriors and They Live had bumps and bruises that made them iconic. Purge 2 feels like a remake of all of these films. It reminded me of the current crop of remakes that are all good-looking actors and no grime. I did like this guy though. Total jerk but you understand how he could have become a baby mask wearing maniac.

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I did enjoy moments of the film and there are some very cool shots. There is a scene in the film where the heroes drive past a girl covered in blood. Is it a trap? What did she go through? Why couldn’t we have watched that movie? Her nightmare seems much more primal than the plight of the main characters.

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The Purge: Anarchy was ambitious to a fault. The expanded scope didn’t have the budget or vision required and it suffered because of that. Hopefully, the next film goes back to its roots and consolidates the carnage. We shall see next year when the inevitable Purge: Armageddon is released

 

 

The Raid 2: Gareth Evans and His Action Opus

July 18, 2014

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The Raid 2 numbs you with awesomeness and proves that Gareth Evans is a director to watch. His ambition is seemingly endless and in Indonesia he has the resources to do what he wants. The Raid 2 is a sprawling crime epic that relishes in blood and leaves you exhausted. It is 148 minutes of stylized action that never lets up. Ancillary characters get their own showpieces, cars are crashed and the stunt crew must have been happy when the movie wrapped.

What I love most about the The Raid films are the characters. Among all the carnage they stand out and become memorably likable/despicable. Their personalities shine through and they give you something to cheer for.

The Raid 2 characters

Many films feature massive action scenes that don’t matter because you don’t care about or like the characters (I’m looking at you Die Hard 5). When you like or despise the characters the action is more important because you know who they are and what is at stake (Saving Private Ryan did this perfectly). Sure, Raid 2 is too long and some of the fighting lacks urgency but Evans has earned the right to do what he wants with characters he has created. My favorite of the bunch is Eka. He is just a badass dude who knows the drill and has worked his way up via blue-collar face punching.

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The Raid 2 tells the story of Iko Uwais going undercover to pull out the roots of the violent organizations splitting up the city. What he doesn’t know is that it will be a three-year long process that has him battling gangs, cops and a woman with a hammer. The plot gets intricate as the son of a crime boss teams up with a nefarious yet slightly hipsterish gangster. This causes a problem with the Japanese and the plot becomes slightly muddled but never out of reach. Basically, things happen so people can beat the snot out of each other.

Iko Uwais once again proves to be a choreography genius and the set pieces he and Evans create hurt to watch. Over the years the two have developed an understanding that has created great bone crunching mayhem. For instance, the opening scene features Iko in a small bathroom stall that is about to be infiltrated by annoyed prisoners. The fight is a marvel of close quartered brutality that uses the small location perfectly for one on one fighting. You actually feel bad for the prisoners who get singled out and crunched.

The Raid 2 prison fight

Evans showcases Uwais while Uwais brings the cinematic pain. You can tell they are friends too.

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The Raid was a small-scale action film that hit really big. The Raid 2 is action on a grand scale that was done much cheaper than any other Hollywood blockbuster. It is non-Hollywood filmmaking that should be appreciated (Much like the beautiful Snowpiercer). Evans is wonderful to have around and with each film (his segment in V/H/S 2 was amazing) he is getting better and better. I just hope he never loses the side of him that created the economy and urgency of The Raid. 

The Raid 2 is a sprawling action saga that hits hard and often. Watch it. Love it. Hope that you never find yourself in a muddy prison riot.

The Raid 2 Prison Riot mud

If you get a chance check out Gareth Evans five favorite fights.

 

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