Sunday, May 31, 2009

B.T.K. (2008) - Michael Feifer

B.T.K. (2008)
Director: Michael Feifer
Writer: Michael Feifer
Starring: Kane Hodder, Amy Lyndon, Daniel Bonjour, John Burke

Like most people that probably watched B.T.K., I only had one real reason to watch it; Kane Hodder. I have always been a huge fan of the Friday the 13th franchise. Jason Voorhees is my favorite villain of the all the '80s slashers. I have also met Kane Hodder a couple times at Horrorfind Weekend (Yes, I go to a horror convention) and he is probably one of the nicest guys I have met at the convention.

Kane Hodder started his career in the movies as a stuntman and is best known for playing Jason Voorhees so he is not exactly what most people would call an actor. He did have a couple scenes in the movie Hatchet (2006) where he had to show some emotion but there weren't many of those scenes and for the most part he just played a character that was very similar to Jason. I really thought it might be interesting to give B.T.K. a look and see if he could carry a movie in a role that actually might require some acting chops.

Well Kane Hodder came across as pretty believable as Dennis Rader, the B.T.K. killer, however the movie didn't really give him much to work with. The script is pretty awful and for the most part is just a pretty typical slasher movie. The script didn't give Hodder much of a chance to really explore the character so it is hard to say how good his acting really was in the movie.

For the most part the movie just moved from kill to kill with some slight pauses here and there for a little bit of character development. That character development didn't really do much though. There was much to little of it and what was there wasn't really that interesting. They took some scenes to show that Dennis Rader was kind of a jerk that liked to slightly abuse his authority as a Compliance Officer. There were also a few scenes that showed him at church and with his family but overall these scenes were kind of just glossed over in favor of showing the killings.

The biggest problem with the killings in the movie is that the director didn't even try to space them out. There was no real sense of how much time there was between each of the kills. After watching the movie I looked up some info on Dennis Rader and found out that there was usually three to five years between each of his killings. The movie makes it seem like they all happen one right after another over the course of a month or so. The only thing in the movie that seems to set some kind of timeline is that there is a quick comment made at the end of the movie stating that he had been killing for 30 years. That passage of time was never shown though, no one aged, clothing styles never changed, car styles never changed.

Kane Hodder was probably the best part of the movie if for no other reason, it was interesting to see him playing a character that didn't require him to be hidden under tons of makeup. From what I can tell from this movie, he certainly will not be winning any Oscars lately and he probably won't ever be moving outside the horror genre. He certainly may be able to create an acting career for himself in the horror genre. I think he could definitely do better than this movie if he found a better writer and director to work with though.

Rating: 3/10

As a bonus to all my readers: Me at the mercy of Kane Hodder.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant Trailer

I would like to go on record as a Werner Herzog fan. Not just a fan of his movies but a fan of the man himself. Granted his movies are pretty awesome but any man that gets shot at during an interview and says "It was not a significant bullet" is one tough and awesome son of a bitch. I could go on and on about the man and his guerrilla style of film making but this post is about the trailer for his new film, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

I was a little worried about this movie before I even saw the trailer. To begin with it has Nicolas Cage in it and he hasn't done anything good in years and I am not sure if he is even capable anymore. Secondly it is a remake. That doesn't completely disqualify if for me but Herzog is usually a pretty original director so seeing him do a remake is kind of disheartening. Despite those reservations I had high hopes. It is still Werner Herzog, surely he knows what he is doing.

That trailer makes it look like a bloody awful movie though. The trailer doesn't even look like a Werner Herzog film. It looks like a straight to DVD crime/suspense movie. Perhaps the trailer isn't doing the movie its due justice. Maybe there is a lot more to the movie than what is there but I really don't see much in the trailer to be excited about. I am beginning to think that Herzog decided to do this one just to make a quick buck in order to help finance some really awesome project he has lined up next. I really hope that is the answer because that I could understand.

I could be wrong though. This movie could turn out to be completely excellent. Maybe I am judging the trailer to harshly. I will probably see it when it comes out. However after the experience that was Limits of Control, I doubt Shaw-Girl will be joining me in the theater to see this one.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Digital vs Film - which is the future?

For May's LAMBlog-a-thon the discussion will focus on digital film making and the effects it will have on film making in general. Will this new digital age be a huge detriment to the movie industry? Will it usher in an era of new and better film making? Will it even make a difference at all and does anyone even really care?

I tend to understand and appreciate both sides of the issue when it comes to digital vs film. Each side of the debate has a lot of good things to say and when it comes down to it neither side is really wrong. I tend to throw my support over to the side of digital cinema though. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily want to see the death of film but if I decided to shoot a movie I would most definitely shoot it digitally.

Now I may be a bit biased when it comes to this because I am a huge fan of Robert Rodriguez and he exclusively works digitally these days. The truth is I am more of a fan of the way Robert Rodriguez makes movies than I am of his actual movies. Don't get me wrong I enjoy his films but shooting digitally has allowed him to do a lot of things that other directors would never get the chance to do and I have a lot of respect for him because of that.

For starters, shooting digitally has enabled Rodriguez to gain a level of freedom with his film making that not many directors enjoy. He may not make the greatest movies in the world but because his movies are almost always profitable he has freedom to do whatever he wants. Not many directors get that freedom unless they have been working in the business for a lot longer the Rodriguez and made a lot more movies than he has. Shooting digitally helps him keep his costs low, which makes the profits higher which lets him enjoy this freedom.

There is a lot of debate over whether or not the quality of shooting digitally is up to par with the quality of shooting on film and the truth is that I don't have the technical expertise to really have a definite answer on that. I think it is pretty widely excepted that shooting with 35mm film with result in a higher resolution than shooting in HD digital. However that is how it stands now and digital technology is always getting better and better so who knows what the future may hold.

My other main reason for falling on the side of digital film making is because I am a huge proponent of independent film making and because digital film making is cheaper it allows for people with good ideas but not budge to get out there and shoot a movie. Granted a lot of the low budget, independent stuff out there is pretty bad but every once in awhile something sneaks through that is really damn good and that probably would not have been made if shooting on film was the only way to make movies.

If I can, I will return for a moment to Robert Rodriguez. He made his first feature length film with a budget of $7,000. If you read his book, which happens to be one of my favorite books on film making, you will learn that most of that $7,000 went to buying and processing the film. If there had been digital solutions when El Mariachi had been made just imagine the ridiculously small budget Rodriguez could have gotten away with. Of course that just makes me remember that I still haven't made any movies.

As I said before I don't want to see the death of film. I am all for film makers continuing to use film to make movies if that is what they want to do. There is a certain nostalgia that comes with making movies on film and industries don't always like to go about changing what has worked for years and shooting on film has really been around for quite sometime. Convincing long standing film makers to switch to an entirely new medium isn't something that would go over well and I certainly don't fault anyone for that. I personally think there is room for both mediums in the industry and I think both of them will be around for quite some time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Star Trek (2009) - J.J. Abrams

Star Trek (2009)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writers: Alex Kurtzman (Screenplay), Roberto Orci (Screenplay), Gene Roddenberry (Television Series)
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Simon Pegg, Winona Ryder, Karl Urban, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Like most fans of the Star Trek universe I was quite skeptical before seeing J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (2009). On top of the fact that I have never been an Abrams fan I just didn't want to see anyone else playing these iconic characters. Up until the minute I sat down in that theater I was very cantankerous about the whole idea of letting Abrams reboot Star Trek. Honestly as much of a fan as I am of Trek I was of the opinion that is was about time for it to just fade away before anyone could mess it up any further. I mean the last few outings had been less than stellar.

Well, after seeing the movie I can pretty much say that I was wrong. I had thought that Abrams was going to completely ruin the series and get everything wrong. The truth is, he actually showed a lot of respect for the series. He told a good story and put just enough "geek moments" in to keep any fan happy. Personally I was extremely excited to finally see Kirk take the Kobayashi Maru test and they actually played it out pretty well. But there were plenty of other references to other incarnations of Star Trek in the movie and none of them seemed overly forced.

While the time travel plot device has been completely overused in the Star Trek universe and I wasn't looking forward to it being a major plot device in this film, I must say that it was actually handled very well. I don't want to spoil anything for anyone but the plot actually comes together rather nicely and it does a great job of explaining away any continuity errors that would occur between this new movie and the original series. Explaining these things did take a bit too much exposition in my opinion but it worked pretty well and didn't take me out of the movie at all.

I think the film did a really great job of exploring Spock's half human/half vulcan nature. There were definitely a lot of moments where he was struggling with how to handle the flood of emotions that he was not used to dealing with. His relationship with his father was also done extremely well in my opinion. I also liked how his relationship with Kirk started out as very adversarial and the slowly became a friendship over the course of the film. I was really impressed with all of that because I didn't not expect that level of character development from J.J. Abrams. I will say though, the movie did teach one very important lesson about Spock. Never insult his mother; he will not stand for it and mostly like you won't be standing after you do it either.

For the most part the actors in the film did a pretty good job of embodying the characters they were portraying. This was what was worrying me the most from the beginning. I just didn't think I'd be able to believe anyone else as one of these characters. You know what, though? It worked. Zachary Quinto was spot on as Spock and his scene with Leonard Nimoy was really nice to watch. Karl Urban really was great as McCoy; he really had the speech patterns, mannerisms and personality down pat. Chris Pine was a tiny bit over the top as Kirk but since Shatner was always a bit over the top himself it pretty much worked. I did think Simon Pegg could have toned his performance down a notch though. His Scotty was just a little too far over the top in my opinion.

The only real complaints I have are for small things, though. I think there were a couple things in the movie that didn't really need to be there to advance the plot. I thought the scene with the giant monster chasing Kirk on Delta Vega was a little silly and not necessary. It seemed like they just wanted to throw in another action sequence just for the heck of it. I also didn't much care for the scene where Scotty got stuck in the water pipe. I get that they were going for a bit of humor but that scene, like Scotty himself, was just a bit to over the top.

One last thing though. If there is a sequel I will be in line to see it but please, please, please tone down the lens flares. They don't really add anything at all to the movie. All they do is make it hard to see what is actually going on. So, if we could, let's drop those from the plans for any sequels. That is my only request. Otherwise, keep doing what you are doing.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Limits of Control (2009) - Jim Jarmusch

The Limits of Control (2009)
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Isaach De Bankolé, Alex Descas, Jean-François Stévenin, Luis Tosar, Paz de la Huerta, Tilda Swinton, Youki Kudoh, John Hurt, Gael García Bernal, Bill Murray

Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control is an interesting experiment that ultimately just went on too long. In the end it kind of reminded me of The Puffy Chair (2005) in that if felt like someone trying to mimic Jarmusch's style but not having enough talent to pull it off. Granted The Limits of Control is a far superior film than The Puffy Chair and I can find some things to appreciate about it but in the end I couldn't find much to enjoy about it. I've never had that problem with a Jarmusch film before. I was always able to enjoy them while appreciating them on a more artistic level.

Most of the film consists of Isaach De Bankolé's character, simply credited as Lone Man, meeting up with other characters who then give him information that will help him complete his mission, whatever that may be. There are several meetings and they all follow the same pattern. They start with the Lone Man going to the cafe and ordering two espressos in separate cups. Whether or not this is some kind of signal or just a personality quirk we never find out. His contact will then show up and say the line "You don't speak Spanish, right?" to which he will reply "No." The contact then starts talking philosophically about art or film or science and then gives the Lone Man a matchbook with a coded message inside. The meeting then ends and the contact walks away.

The first few times this pattern repeated itself I remained very interested in what was going on. I knew that there had to be a reason for it and that it would somehow lead to some kind of payoff. I knew it wouldn't be a huge payoff because that isn't Jarmusch's style but it would be a payoff none the less. Unfortunately this repetive pattern goes on far too long and begins to get very tedious and by the time the film does get to some kind of payoff I had stopped caring. Perhaps Jarmusch was testing the limits of the control he had over me by seeing how long he could keep me in the movie seat while showing me the same thing over and over for 100 minutes.

Now Jarmusch normally has a pretty slow style to his films and I was prepared for that but he usually has some interesting characters that keep the audience interested in what is going on. There isn't much of that here. Some of the contacts that the Lone Man meet are pretty interesting but they are gone to quickly for us to connect to them in any way. The mysteriousness of the Lone Man was interesting at first but eventually I got tired of not knowing anything about him except that he is meticulous and professional. After awhile the mystery of the character wasn't enough to keep me interested.

The film wasn't all bad though. It was definitely shot very well. There was definitely a lot of interesting camerawork in places. Some of the vast Spanish landscapes were shot beautifully. Jarmusch picked some interesting urban locations to shoot and he really made all these locations look gorgeous. There was also a few good moments where Jarmusch's sense of humor interjected itself into the film. There probably isn't as much of that as there is in his other films but it is present and there are definitely a few funny moments.

Truthfully there is part of me that would kind of like to see this again. That is the part of me that does most of my wishful thinking though. I am such a Jarmusch fan that I want to believe that I just completely missed something that would have made the film as good as his other works. I am sure that isn't true but I can't shut off that wishful thinking. This was probably one of my most highly anticipated films of the year and I was disappointed.

I do feel like I need to apologize to Shaw-Girl for this one though. This was her first experience with a Jim Jarmusch film and I think it has soured her on seeing any more. This is definitely not the film that anyone should be introduced to Jim Jarmusch with. Hopefully once she the sour taste of this movie fades away I will be able to talk her into seeing one of his better films.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, May 14, 2009

John Hilcoat's The Road Trailer

I have been hearing about John Hilcoat's adaptation of The Road for a little while now and kept wondering when it would get a release. Well, we finally have a trailer and what looks to be an official release date of October 16th. I am really looking forward to this because Cormac McCarthy's novel was definitely a great read. I liked it even better than No Country for Old Men but I am curious to see how well it will translate to film.

Download Hi Def Versions of the Trailer*: HD 480P | HD 720P | HD 1080P

Overall the trailer looks decent but I do have at least one problem with it. They really seem to be playing up the action and disaster angle and the book really has very little of that. The book is more about the relationship between the father and son than it is about the actual things happening to them. The setting and plot are more of means to tell the story and this man's relationship with his son. However this is just a trailer so they could be playing up that angle as a marketing tool and the movie could be a lot closer to the book than it appears to be.

The movie definitely seems to have a quality cast. Viggo Mortensen is definitely a great actor and I can totally see him carrying this story. Charlize Theron is usually pretty damn good, although if the movie follows the book closely enough then she probably won't be in the movie very much. You also probably can't go wrong with Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce. I can definitely say that I am pretty interested in this one and will definitely check it out when it hits theaters.

*Author's Note: Special Thanks to Dave's Trailer Page for providing the links to the Hi Def trailers.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) - Gavin Hood

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Director: Gavin Hood
Writers: David Benioff (Screenplay), Skip Woods (Screenplay)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will i Am, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, Ryan Reynolds

After the travesty that was X-Men: The Last Stand (You can read that review by Clicking Here) I didn't really have high hopes for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As much as I enjoy Hugh Jackman as Wolverine I just didn't think they'd do the character justice in his own movie. Well I can say that I was, for the most part, wrong. The movie wasn't as good as X-Men or X-Men 2 but it was definitely a pretty entertaining action/adventure flick.

The film actually told a pretty interesting story and told it pretty well. I found myself actually invested in the characters and caring about what would happen to them. I even found the side characters to be pretty well done. Granted they weren't as fleshed out as the could have been but they worked for the movie that was being made. Overall the acting in the film was pretty good. No one is going to be winning any Oscars but they were all certainly believable.

If I gave it a lot of thought I could probably point out some plot holes. There were probably a few times where things that happened were just a little convenient but honestly I was too entertained by the movie to really care. The action sequences were very exciting and for the most part looked very cool. Obviously they were over the top and "comic bookie" but they worked.

There were really only a couple things that I could complain about and they are pretty minor. For one, it seemed like they did try to jam far to much story into just one movie. Because of this it seemed like some things were glossed over and some things just happened way to fast when they could have been fleshed out a little more. Of course there is only so much you can fit into a 107 minute movie so I can't really blame the film makers for that.

The only other problem I had with the movie was computer graphics. For the most part they were pretty good but there were some scenes where they just seemed unfinished. The scene that stands out the most in my mind is when Wolverine is in the bathroom and he is admiring his new Adamantium claws for the first time. They just looked fake. I am not even sure how to explain it, they just didn't seem to have any real weight to them.

Overall I would say that this was a pretty good flick. I was very entertained by it and I really enjoyed the characters. If they could continue to make X-Men movies that were on par with this one then I would continue to see them. Of course if they could make them on par with the first two X-Men movies that would be a little better. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that enjoyed the X-Men movies and most especially enjoyed Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. They movie does not disappoint.

Rating: 6/10