Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015)

PG-13, 99 minutes, Monster

Starring: Michael GrossJamie KennedyPearl Thusi

It’s here!  It’s here!  It’s finally here!  Finding an opening in my schedule has proven a little difficult what with the holiday season beginning, but I finally managed to watch the fifth installment in the Tremors franchise I’ve been fawning over for the past month.

Burt is back!  And this time the graboid hunt has taken him to South Africa where an ass blaster has made a sudden appearance.  Having believed he contained graboids and their kin to the North American continent, Burt rushes across the world to take on the new threat.  He takes along his new videographer, Travis (Jamie Kennedy), but when the two arrive they find a new menace lurking in the night.  To make matters worse, Burt’s guns have been confiscated by local authorities and his tried and true methods of hunting aren’t going to work on the beasts.

Forget my previous posts, this movie has the highest production value in the Tremors series.  The camera work is crisp, the acting is corn free, and the CG is dramatically improved.  Sadly, however, it has come to the point where they’re no longer using puppets…  But we are still given guts!

While the new monsters are impressive, I was notably disappointed by the lack of previous storyline.  One character is mentioned and another is parodied in a graphic, but we’re never shown Perfection, El Blanco’s name is never uttered, and the Mixmaster arc is obviously said and done.  If you were expecting something, I’m in the same boat as you.  My only hope is that somehow these elements are at least given a proper burial in the upcoming Tremors television series.

The movie isn’t a disappointment.  Not at all.  I enjoyed it.  Aside from the lack of E.B. my only real complaint is the additional characters.  I realized that the original creative team had nothing to do with this installment, but Tremors is typically a buddy team up.  This time ’round we’re given two locals and a little girl–characters I know full well we’ll never see again.  The focus shift between them and Burt’s team is a little on the awkward side as I found myself not caring because, well, Burt.

It seems like every few years, just when I’ve run out of patience and begin combing the net for news on the series, something new has sprung up.  I’ve had my fill, but knowing there is more to come continues to make me eager.  To the crew in charge of Tremors:  I look forward to viewing your work.  Please just don’t forget about ol’ Burt.

Rating: Watch it, even if you’re unfamiliar with the series.

tl;dr
Watch:  Because Tremors.
Don’t watch: If you don’t like the series.

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The Gambler (2014)

R, 111 minutes, Drama

Starring: Mark WahlbergBrie LarsonMichael Kenneth WilliamsJohn Goodman

I consider myself poor.  By no means do I live in a run-down studio apartment surrounded by cardboard furniture, but I’ve struggled with finding sustainable work.  I’ve also never taken hand-outs from anyone other than family.  You can call it pride, but I can’t see any point in taking government assistance when I’m still managing to pay my internet bill on my own.

Still, $260,000 is a lot of freaking money.  That amount is nothing short of staggering to someone like me.  That’s a house and then some.  When watching The Gambler and seeing Mark Wahlberg dump ten grand on a single bet, I cringe to the point of bleeding internally.  Watching him further dump hundreds of thousands of dollars, I feel cysts the size of baseballs form all over my body as I scream, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

…And that’s his problem.  Mark Wahlberg plays Jim, a gambler with an extreme tendency to make stupid bets that get him into a lot of trouble.  It’s painful to watch Jim act with such recklessness–especially since he’s an intelligent guy.  When his debts stack up too high, he finds himself owing three people a lot of money that needs to be paid in seven days.  Seven days to turn over the cash or watch his friends and family die before he’s finally taken care of.

Admittedly this movie screwed with my emotions.  Again, the betting was extreme, but the real gems of this movie come from the philosophical debates the characters partake in.  Jim, an English professor, holds his own against a slew of sharpend real-world minds as he battles to keep himself in the business of living.  Is he a man?  Is his lifestyle worthy?  If he has seven days to live, will he even bother to save himself?

Brie Larson plays the love interest and it’s her that I kept finding myself looking to.  Equally intelligent, but reserved, she is established as important to the plot from the very beginning.  Unfortunately, as the story progresses and things get worse for Jim, she fades into the background becoming more of a purpose rather than an actual character.  I found this disappointing as it made me question the initial focus on her.  It was as if the director or scriptwriter said, “Look at the pretty girl!  Moving along…”

I did like this movie.  Watching a character go out of control and hit the wall running didn’t sit well with me, but watching how he picked himself back up did.  I would watch it again, if nothing else other than a reminder of how to live life from the position of “f— you.”

Rating: Watch it.

tl;dr
Watch: If you’re a man.
Don’t watch: If you can stand to see smart people do stupid stuff.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

PG, 126 minutes, Drama

Starring: Paul NewmanGeorge Kennedy

My friend gets a text on his phone.  It’s another friend.  They send a few texts back and forth.  Every time his phone chimes, I look down at the glowing screen.  My friend is being called “Cool Hand Muke.”  “What the heck does that mean?” I ask.  “You ever heard of the movie Cool Hand Luke?” my friend replies.  “Well they kind of named me after it.  Have you seen it?”

No.  No, I hadn’t seen it.  That was about a year ago, maybe more.  I hadn’t thought of that movie until recently.  So I finally checked it out.  After all Paul Newman used to the man way back when.  What could go wrong?

Cool Hand M–er, Luke is about one seriously deranged individual played by Newman himself.  Luke acts a fool and gets himself locked up for… cutting the heads off parking meters.  The prison he is sent to is nothing more than a wooden shed with bunks and Luke is forced to spend his days hacking down weeds along country roads.  Seemingly just to shake things up Luke gets himself in trouble and tries to escape.

There really isn’t much plot to this movie–at least nothing of any real importance.  That or their was an awful lot of subtle story so deep that dove under my realm of understanding.  As far as I can tell, Luke simply acts out of boredom.  “What reaction can I get?” he might ask himself in a manner that would suggest he’s twelve and has something prove.

It’s well enough acted, I guess.  Nothing technical is worth mentioning.  This film is really just a void of two hours.  It’s like this movie exists to not exist.  It boggles my mind that not only is this movie well known, but it’s generally well received.  So what the heck am I missing?

Maybe it’s an example of “living life to its fullest” or “never giving in” or even “being a martyr for a cause” (since the religious iconography is blatantly obvious) but people should face facts: Luke is an idiot with zero interest in living in the real world.

It makes me feel ignorant, but this is undeniably a movie where nothing happens.  Having committed time to it leaves me frustrated–angry even.  It’s not like I can shout to the world, “This movie sucks because of this or that!”  I just can’t say anything, because there is nothing to talk about.  I’m a mute with a grudge.

Rating: Don’t bother.

tl;dr
Watch: If you’ve got two hours that mean nothing to you.
Don’t watch: If you’ve got better things to do.

Thoughts and Trivialities: Black Friday

Every year this thing rolls through: a dark bank of negative numbers on the horizon of your bank account, brawls in public, and a suddenly explosive population boom (seriously, where do these jerks hide themselves the rest of the year?).  I’m writing, of course, about Black Friday.

This “holiday” is truly trivial.  Established as a means to keep American companies afloat during the Great Depression, this non-holiday was given to us sans travail (with the exception of those unfortunate enough to work retail) by the government.  Over the years, and seemingly moreso recently, the day is nothing but an excuse to mess up a random stranger’s face.  What’s worse is the fact that the blackest of shopping days is drowning out the one holiday we have that celebrates family togetherness.

Me?  I eat turkey and see relatives I haven’t seen for a year.  I’m boring like that.  I don’t even think about shopping until the adds dump out of the newspaper.  By then, the family discussion turns to things we may want or need.  Still, we stay at home.  It’s not fun to rush through family time in order to buy yet another TV.  Serious question: Do people buy a new one every year or two?

On the morning of the actual Black Friday, I wake up early, drag myself out of bed, and suffer through dark:freezing o’clock.  I get in line like seemingly fewer and fewer people are doing anymore and I wait for… cat litter.  Yeah, I do.  It’s the cheapest day of the year to buy this stuff and I’ve got four furry poopers to tend to.

It isn’t until mid morning that I finally get to the thing I’ve been waiting all year for: discount DVDs (I knew I’d get here sometime).  Many places carry them.  They’re kibble, designed to get you to buy bigger ticket items.  But I don’t care!  I drown myself in movies costing two bucks a pop, knowing full well that the bank account is going to be disappointed in my life choices.

It’s a crapshoot.  Retailers get whatever is cheapest to produce and puke out discs into cardboard display stands that won’t last the day.  Some titles you know about, others turn into gambles, still others you’ll see advertised, but never find a shelf no matter how many stores you hit up (seriously, guys?).  And there are those select few that you find yourself willing to pay a little more for.

I’ll admit that there was some disappointment over not finding The Amazing Spider-man for the advertised $1.88, but seeing the familiar gaping maw of a graboid, I lunged at a display not caring if I got in someone’s way.  I held Tremors-friggin’-5 in my hands.  Not anywhere near the $2 mark, but certainly half the price I’d seen online.  A month ago I drooled over the thought of the new title, but now I’ve got the real Leonard McCoy.

It wasn’t the only movie purchase I made–not by a long shot.  In all (and I should be ashamed to admit this) I collected enough titles today to fill a media shelf I do not have.  They’ll make for good writing material though.  Goodness knows that I have enough in my collection to keep me writing for years to come… all without having to punch a single security guard in the throat.

Parks and Recreation – Season 1 (2009)

TV-PG, 6 episodes, Comedy

Starring: Amy PoehlerRashida JonesAziz AnsariChris Pratt

Having worked for a Parks and Recreation department for the past year a common question I get asked is, “Is it just like the show?”  It’s a question I ended up asking myself, except I knew what the work was like without knowing how the show played out.

I love having a library around to answer my silly questions.  As I’ve said before, but I don’t have cable and I don’t stream.  I’m one of the last holdouts in this age of instant gratification.  I can wait and that patience makes it easier to acquire materials that the masses might care about anymore.  So after requesting the first season of Parks and Recreation I was finally given my answer.

Consisting of a very short six episode run, Parks and Recreation follows the campaign of Assistant Director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), an overly optimistic liberal do-gooder, as she struggles to get giant hole turned into a community park.  Along the way she faces opposition from both government officials and uncaring members of the public all while trying to figure out… well, trying to figure out how to do her job.

The experience of this show is presented in a mocumentary style, with shaky, amateur-ish camerawork and personal interviews separated from the main action.  We follow more than just Knope, as the rest of the office staff has their own path to follow, and the multiple perspectives are sewn together in a layer storyline that gives us the bigger picture.

All of the characters are likeable and everyone is funny.  That’s the hallmark of this show as Amy Poehler, being a founding member of the comedy troupe The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, was able to bring the right actors and writers together to create a flurry of laughter.  I found myself feeling for even the minor background characters and that is the mark of excellence.

Rating: Own it.

tl;dr
Watch: It’s funny.
Don’t watch: If you hate laughing.

Art School Confidential (2006)

R, 102 minutes, Drama

Starring: Max MinghellaSophia MylesJohn Malkovich

     I have to admit that there are few movies that come to my mind when I think about Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving movies just aren’t a thing.  The holiday is really just a background and it feels like it’s forgotten on and off the screen.  So when going through my collection I thought, “What Thanksgiving movies do I own?”  Finding nothing I asked, “Okay, what has it in it?”

     In the end I came up with Art School Confidential.  Not a Thanksgiving movie by any means, but hey, at least the day is represented.  Jerome (Max Minghella) dreams of someday being as famous as his favorite artist, Pablo Picasso.  He enters Strathmore (haha) and tries his best to show off his natural talents.  When no one takes to his work, his frustration begins.  A downward spiral of depression and lost love grips Jerome leading him to unwilling become involved in a serial killer’s masterpiece.

     While this movie does nothing groundbreaking or even inventive, it’s narrow focus on the art community speaks truth beyond anything I’ve ever come across.  Jerome’s struggle is real and the chaotic (if unintentional) deception of the other students getting rewarded for mediocrity is something that carries over into the real-world working industry.

     John Malkovich’s character is something worth mentioning.  His portrayal of Jerome’s professor, Sandiford, is so accurate it’s scary.  Sandiford comes across as unconcerned for a good portion of the film, focusing mostly on his own work and then focusing on being the one who discovered a new talent (hint: not Jerome!).  He fails at comradery with his fellow professors and gives advice that is the opposite of what he expects from his students.  In all, he the perfect example of what an educator should not be, but actually is.

      One final point I’ll make is about Thanksgiving itself.  The setting of this movie is actually the fall semester of Jerome’s freshman year in college, so the “back to school” time, Halloween, and Thanksgiving are all present.  As a former art student I felt a pang of sorrow as his family expressed their misunderstandings about Jerome’s choice of career as they sat around the dinner table.  There is a need for expression inside of an artist that goes far behind painting little pictures on sneakers.

     I have wished so many times that this film had been released sooner–and more widely dispersed.  It would have saved me three years of taking art classes for a degree that is nothing more than a piece of paper with my name scribbled on it.  Seriously, employers laugh at a art degrees.  But it was a different economy way back when and the warning contained within this movie may not have stuck with me anyway.  The real point here: This should required watching before signing up for any college art program.  Art isn’t about skill, so don’t make that costly mistake.  It’s about making other people think you’re something you’re not.

Rating: Required for artists.

tl;dr
Watch it:  If you’re foolish enough to consider a career in art.
Don’t watch it:  If you don’t like offensive… well, anything.   This movie is full of offensive material.

Thoughts and Trivialities: Another Tremors TV Series???

Though I make an effort to control my excitement over the potential for new content, a part of me remembers that Universal has announced more than one Tremors-related project that failed to see the light of day.  But seriously–more Tremors.  While the small fraction of the population we fans occupy cheers, I thought I’d torture you with a few more thoughts.

Previously I wrote about my concern over the future of the series when it’s principal actor, Michael Gross, was getting up there in years.  However, it was announced today (for those of you who aren’t Brits, November 24th) that another television series in the works–and the Bacon is back!

Source: http://www.blumhouse.com/2015/11/24/tremors-television-series-in-the-works-with-kevin-bacon/

After seemingly abandoning the series, Kevin Bacon is set to reprise his role as Val.  I’m guessing that, much like Burt and his family’s silver mine, the royalty money failed to hold up Val’s new-found way of life.  I’d also hope that this is just the starting point for a more fleshed-out reason to return to Perfection.  What would make Val come back to a place populated by El Blanco?  Heck, is El Blanco even going to be alive anymore?  Dear manic fan currently speaking to your computer screen, keep in mind that I still have not seen the fifth movie installment.

With the return of Bacon, I can’t help but hope that Fred Ward will also return.  Though both Val and Earl made their money at different times and in  different ways, reuniting the two characters would certainly make for several episodes of conflict as they feud amidst an onslaught of Mixmaster creations.

Well… assuming Mixmaster is even a thing anymore.  Having one television series set up a story drop off into utter nothingness, this new series is making me pray for longevity.  Two seasons.  That’s all I ask.  Enough to know how long they’ll have left to finish the current story after they get cancelled in the first season…  And perhaps just enough time to wrap up a few loose ends from the old show?

 PLEASE?!?!

Finally, Burt, Jodi, Nancy, and the other residents of Perfection surely aren’t going to make their way back into the story–at least not as we saw them last.  Michael Gross, absolutely, but I’m doubtful that even the Tyler character is ever going to come back after the original series end.  This is probably the biggest shame since I believed he and Burt worked well together and Tyler does have the second biggest role in the entire run.

While I do hold my breath, I still remember that the chemical processing of inhaled gases would potentially extend my existence to a time at which I could consume hour upon hour of graboid goodness.  I’m certain it will be at least 2017 before anything really comes of this series, but my body is ready.

Vice (2015)

R, 96 minutes, Action

Starring: Thomas JaneAmbyr ChildersBruce Willis (sorta)

I’m not on a crime kick right now.  Interests shift and that’s alright.  I know I’ll come back to it, because quite frankly there is something so… attractive about the power that comes with crime.  I’m too much of a coward to bother with it myself, but I can safely say that there is a decent enough following that various media companies have picked up on.  Imagine robbing a bank or taking a joy ride.  Imagine killing that annoying boss or becoming a vigilante like Batman.

Imagine Vice, an all-encompassing experience that lets its users do whatever they want for the right price.  In the city of Vice, the law has no power as there are no rules to break.  But that doesn’t mean the law is happy about its existence.  Roy (Thomas Jane) is a detective stuck in the throws of early ’90s fashion and stereotypically pissed off about everything.  Hell-bent on shutting down the capital of debauchery, he feels people will begin to stop recognizing the line between fiction and fantasy.

Meanwhile, the owner of Vice (Bruce Willis) is militantly defensive of his haven.  As Roy begins to poke around in other people’s affairs, it becomes apparent that he is a threat to everything Vice stands for; a threat in need of neutralizing.

This is an amazing concept.  While not quite a virtual city, Vice is a fantasy realm full of robotic servants designed to play along with the experience.  There are clean up crews and engineers that maintain the infrastructure, programming the servants with realistic memories and resetting them on a regular basis to keep the illusion fresh.  Imagine if something like this existed.  The insanity of the potential alone would rake in more money than could ever be conceived.

However, the movie… really wasn’t that great.  It was just… stiff.  Everything about it was stiff.  Thomas Jane is so grizzled, perhaps stuck in a Frank Castle mindset, that there is literally nothing I could find in his character to care about.  And Bruce Willis is just about a cameo in this film.  The bulk of the drama lies on Ambyr Childers’s character Kelly and her search for the truth about her past.

I guess I expected the filmmakers to showcase Vice a little more.  We begin with a bank robbery scene and there’s a murder, but our cast of characters spend next to no time playing out their own fantasies.  Shouldn’t our protagonist suffer temptation?  Shouldn’t the villain be pulling the strings?  It just felt incomplete and if it’s the beginning to a series (which I’m sure it’s not), then it had a poor time getting off the starting block.

I can’t help but wonder if sometime down the line some scriptwriter is going to be like, “Hey, remember Vice?”  If that happens and if they greenlight a remake my sincerest hope is that they give this thing a complete overhaul and the treatment it deserves.

Rating: Don’t bother.

tl;dr
Watch: Cool dystopian-esque concept.
Don’t Watch: Because it wasn’t written to be cool…

Map to the Stars (2014)

R, 111 minutes, Drama

Starring: Mia WasikowskaEvan BirdJulianne Moore

I have a tendency to not be picky about my movies.  Sometimes I just find myself not caring about the subject matter.  I pick up a movie and say, “I’ll watch this because so-and-so is in it,” or “This movie is about this subject and I’m really into that right now.”

Combining John Cusack and crazy people into a movie isn’t a new concept.  After all, he already starred in the bizarre Being John Malkovich.  But when it came to watching Map to the Stars I found myself wondering 1) why I chose the movie and 2) why John Cusack was so prominently featured when he plays such an unimportant part.

After recovering from an accident, Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) travels back to Hollywood in hopes of finding apart of herself that she lost years ago.  Similarly Benjie (Evan Bird) tries to recover his long-gone childhood acting career after finishing a stint in rehab.  As the story progresses, the two find themselves in each other’s company amid the stress of working for a over-the-hill actress and filming a movie.  Things go south when the truth about their past and their parents comes to light, leading to chaos and death.

So yeah, I watched this.  Hate might be too strong and too simple a word to describe my feelings about this.  I “hate” a lot of things, but having something just be plain stupid doesn’t quite reach the same plateau.  I suppose it’s meant to be something deep; something that only actors and struggling Hollywood poseurs would relate to, but that means it’s quite narrow in scope.  So perhaps more than hate–more than stupid–perhaps I found this movie just… boring…

It’s messed up for sure.  Watching it for the first time, any viewer might be taken aback.  The subject matter touches upon cults, inbreeding, and using vulgarity in order to succeed.  So while I tend to like movies about crazy people, even this one made me cringe.  I couldn’t relate to the main character and honestly… I couldn’t even feel sorry for her.  She was just someone I didn’t want to watch.

There are much worse movies out there–by far.  At least I wasn’t subjected to anything too… unnecessary (other than Julianne Moore taking a poop).  For the average viewer, this movie will not be digestible.  Heck, even for a cinetaph like myself I cannot see myself buying, renting, being gifted, or otherwise acquiring this DVD again.  Bleh.

Rating: Don’t bother.

tl;dr
Watch: If you’re crazy, like all the characters.
Don’t watch: Because an otherwise sexy woman is shown pooping.

Daddy’s Home (2014)

Not Rated, Drama, minutes

The bulk of movies that I watch come in the form of rentals from the local library.  It’s free.  Most of the time I don’t have a dollar for a night or three or more for forever.  So I get to see them for free.  If the movie proves to be worth my time, then I’ll front the money at a later point in time in order for me to keep them to rewatch for forever.  It’s also easy.  I get a list of titles coming out and I make my selections from there.  Unfortunately I make the occasional mistake, losing track of my place on the list and inevitably choosing something that I have no interest in.

In comes Daddy’s Home.  Just hearing the title made me hopefully it was some freaked out horror film, but upon seeing the cover I realized the true horror lay in some super low budget “coming of age” piece.  The story is simple: some guy can’t get his act together, so his ex constantly mad at him for sleeping around.  More and more people get angry with this guy even though he’s making an effort to change and they don’t let up until he turns the tables on them.

This movie–as a movie–is abysmal.   I hate being so harsh, but this was written and acted out as though it were a stage play.  And it would have worked as a stage play.  Go out, have dinner, see a show, do some window shopping.  Whether or not you thought this was worthwhile, this still could have been the kind of things dates are made of.  But the biggest mistake they made was actually recording it, because this simply would have played out better as an experience rather than a means of entertainment.

The acting is stiff, as though the lines were meant to be spoken aloud and clearly: Play.  There are only two sets in the entire movie and the perspective change is minimal: Play.  The cast is so small I can’t even think of more than ten characters including extras: Play.  There is a significant amount of white noise on the audio track throughout the entire movie and–did I hear someone coughing off camera???: PLAY!

I won’t even bother with how stereotypical the characters are.  That path leads to arguments that I don’t even want to bother with.  The simple truth is that this sucked.  While I don’t blame the production company for trying to a make quick buck with a DVD release, I do blame myself for not being more careful with my selections.

Rating: Don’t bother.

tl;dr
Watch it: Don’t.
Don’t watch it: Ever.