Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes critiques why this is the worst Die Hard sequel ever!

Let me put this review in a nutshell when I start - this is a BAD movie! A Good Day To Die Hard (2013) TOTALLY loses sight on what made the Die Hard franchise such a great one - great good guys and really hideous bad guys. That is what makes them so accessible to the audience worldwide. We are able to relate to the iconoclastic character John McClane because we both know that the bad guys need to be stopped and their nefarious plans destroyed. In this edition, you find this appeal completely missing coupled with a terrible script!

Here's how the story goes - A Good Day To Die Hard (AGDTDH) has Bruce Willis going to Russia to save his son who has been arrested for murder of a Russian governmental official. We never know what the plan is since nothing in this film makes any sense, AT ALL. There are two Russian officials that seem to be battling for a file that holds the key to what happened at Chernobyl and effects the new leadership in Russia. Kamarov (Sebastain Koch) is in prison at the start of the film and has the file hidden from the new Russian leader, Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). When Kamarov is being arraigned he is placed in a glass box next to Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) who is also being arraigned at the same time. This is just when John McClane arrives at the courthouse. 

What happens next defies logic. The bad guys are there and blow the place to kingdom come. Since Jack is actually a CIA operative his plan was to break Kamarov out. How? Did Jack know the bad guys would blow the place up and make it possible for him to whisk Kamarov out of the country? His whole plan seems to hinge on the bad guys doing what they do. How did he know that? He does not seem to have a plan and to rely totally on a CHANCE the bad guys would do what they do is quite a stretch. 

As the film progresses you will see none of this makes a bit of difference. John McClane shows up and for the next 90 minutes (that's right; 90 minutes. All of the other Die Hard films are at least 2 hours.) we are served up a buffet of inane car chases, explosions, and gunfire. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with violence in films. But in AGDTDH, the violence is thrown at the screen and nothing sticks - badly choreographed and badly edited!

Jai Courtney and Bruce Willis have no chemistry on screen and for the few seconds that the carnage stops, we are treated to a stale and recycled father and son bonding moments that are simply terrible. There is nothing that seems heartfelt and both the stars are basically going through the motions, cashing a check. I cannot tell you how disappointing it is to see such drivel in a Die Hard film. 

There is nothing in AGDTDH that works. The action scenes drag on too long and there is nothing that connects them except a lame script that is not funny, witty or intelligent. The supposed surprise in the last half of the film does not work, either. The bad guys are so weak you know they could be beat in just a few seconds in real life, not the Die Hard calibre. 

John Moore directs this film with all of the subtlety of a brick through a window and this is a guy who can do action films. Remember Owen Wilson's Behind Enemy Lines (2001)? He also directed two remakes, The Omen (2006) and Flight Of The Phoenix (2004) and although they are not as good as the original classics, they were done with some class as homages to the originals. AGDTDH joins Moore's other hyped-up dud Max Payne (2008)

Jai Courtney who was in Jack Reacher(2012) with Tom Cruise seems to stumble all along the entire script while Bruce Willis sleepwalks muttering insipid lines of satirical wisdom. The only characters that bring light to this crap is Mary Elizabeth Winstead as McClane's daughter and the intense Cole Hauser as Jack's CIA boss Collins. But since both are in the film scant minutes we are denied even a fleeting moment to enjoy anything good about AGDTDH. 

Anyway, the only thing that works through this film and kept from shutting it off completely was Marco Beltrami's fine score. This is a composer that has grown on me over the years and the score he has composed for this film is simply terrific. A word of advice is to buy the score, not the film BECAUSE its boring, dull, uninteresting, incoherent and just plain silly. In fact, if you pay attention, you can also see many goof-ups - visible audio equipment, cameraman reflections, etc. 

Now, they will HAVE to make a new one just to get the bad taste out of our mouths from this one. SO, do not waste your time or money on the DVD for this film.Consider this to be a public service announcement. A Good Day To Die Hard is easily one of 2013 worst films, one of the worst sequels ever made. Stay away. Trust me, you have been warned. A Good Day To Die Hard-* out of 4

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sinister (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes highly recommends this superbly crafted horror chiller

Scott Derrickson seems to be carving out a career in horror films and if Sinister (2012) is any indication he will be an A list director very soon. With no less than four films and all belonging to the science fiction/horror genre and one of them being the retooling of Steven Spielberg's classic Poltergeist (slated for a release in 2016). A busy camper!

Sinister stars Ethan Hawke as a down and out crime book writer who has moved his family into a "inexplicably cheap house". Since he still has yet to sell his previous home they are on a strapped budget, so he works out of his home office. He specializes in real life crimes, some unsolved and some he helps to solve. He had a big hit with one of his books, but has failed to successfully repeat it. 

His wife (Juliet Rylance) is supportive but dubious of their present relocation. "Please just tell me we are not living two doors down from a suspected serial killer." " We're not", Elliston (Hawke) responds. They are living IN the house of a suspected former serial killer. So I guess he wasn't lying. 

We meet the family of Ellison and THANK GOD they don't dwell on the everyday happenings of the family like so many films do to an annoyance. We get it. They are a family and they love each other, thank you. Now can we start scaring the shit out of some people, now? 

Since you find this out in the first 10 minutes of the film I have ruined nothing. Upon placing some boxes up in the attic, Ellison sees a box lying in the middle of the floor, in an otherwise EMPTY attic, that has a several reels of Super 8 films and a projector. After setting up the projector, he delves into the films. What he finds on each reel I will not describe so you will have to watch. 

Scott Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill have crafted a superb horror film with no nudity, hardly that much cursing and virtually no gore. It is a PG-13 film that relies on the old adage that less is more and it does this extremely well. The use of lighting (or lack thereof) and the reliance of Hawke's performance propels this film and never lets if get bogged down in procedures. 

Sinister is Scott Derrickson's first big hit and a very effective supernatural horror thriller. Unlike his previous hit The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Sinister is not based on any facts but is one of the creepiest films I have ever seen and, for me it ranks up there with The Exorcist. Yeah, the read it right!

Sinister is a potboiler that builds and builds and it does so quietly and without flashy visuals and CGI nonsense. It relies on Hawke's superb performance as he starts to unravel the mystery which he learns is MUCH more than he originally thought. He pursues the truth further much to the chagrin of the local Sheriff played by a much slimmer looking Fred Thompson. One of the sheriff's deputies that is a little star struck does help Ellison but between the two of them they uncover far more than they bargained for. 

Sinister will not be liked by everyone, as it does take its time but, for me it was very effective in building the suspense and Derrickson knows how and where to place the cameras for maximum creepiness. His use of shadows and ambient sounds ratchet up the tension and Hawke's decent into drink and obsessiveness really pulls the viewers in. 

Christopher Young's score is mix of orchestral chords with bumps and thuds of percussion with some vocal strains thrown in for good measure, suggesting something otherworldly is at hand. There is also a quiet piano that tinkles in the background with a Hammond organ and Theremin that will send shivers down your spine. There are two versions of the score. One is the release that is available from Amazon but there is a longer version that is a promotional copy, if you can find it. It is worth it but just don't listen to it at night by yourself. It will freak you out. 

I would compare this film to an equally efficient Insidious only Sinister is hair creepier. Finally Hollywood is getting back to real horror films and with Scott Derrickson directing, he could be to horror like Wes Craven was back in the 80's. Sinister-***1/2

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26 is Anti-Drugs Day

Be wise, don't EVER do Drugs

Recently, a 15 year old I have known from she was a kid died of a Drug Overdose. Her last few months have bee nothing but spectacularly awful - fired from the school, arrested for theft, hospitalized at least some 4 times, multiple suicide attempts until she finally succeeded!

Drugs may take you high, literally until you are dead! I dont wish to be preachy but be wise, don't waste your life nor the ones around you! DON'T DO DRUGS!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Best of the 80s - Radio Mix 3

Awesome Billboard Hits from the 80s - Series 3

Awesome tuneful hits from the 80s (the third in the series) including Tears For Fears, Benjamin Orr, Roxy Music, The Bible and more! Hear it, share it!

Change - Tears for Fears
Graceland - The Bible
This Love - Bad Company
Kick the Wall - Jimmy Davis & Junction
The Space Between - Roxy Music
Someone Like You - Michael Stanley
Voices - Russ Ballard
Too Hot to Stop - Benjamin Orr

Click HERE to hear these great songs on 8tracks or just click the artwork below!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

James Gandolfini is Dead

Tony Soprano is no more

RIP James Gandolfini (1961-2013)

One more fine Hollywood star is dead!  At just 51 years, James Gandolfini's death is really a surprise. Some say his weight was to blame, heart attack, cholesterol, etcetera....whatever. We will miss this Soprano guy though I liked him more in 1993's True Romance and 1995's Get Shorty!  Killing Them Softly (2012), his most recent appearance was reviewed in April here on the Websnacker Blog. You can read it here  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes shares his love/hate for this dark action fantasy 

Usually when someone says to me, "You have to be drunk or be high to appreciate such and such film," I usually think, "Gee, thanks for the pick-me-up. Can't wait to watch." Some such person told me to get drunk before I watched Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters and I would 'appreciate the film' much more. 

Well, I gave up swilling boozebe a long time ago so I went in dreading the outcome; sober. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is camp and cheese that Roger Corman would be proud of. It's tag line is,"Classic Tale. New Twist." got it? Ooooookay. 

This classic re-spin stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as Hansel and Gretel who have taken up ridding the world of witches after their own near death experience with a witch when they were kids. Now as adults they travel around the land chopping, slicing, dicing, burning, hacking, and disposing of witches with whatever means is available. I say they travel the land but they end up at Auberg (near their home!) which is now in ruins. How you travel all over and conveniently end up near your home without recognizing the terrain, AT ALL is beyond me, but okay, whatever. 

When they are told that the town has had 11 children kidnapped by witches, Hansel and Gretel begin to investigate and find that a ritual that will make all witches impervious to fire and/or burning is coming up in a few days. The BLOOD MOON ritual is what its called, the witches need 12 children and time is running out. Getting the drift?

Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters has some good things going for it. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are two. They seem to know they are in a dog of a movie but the movie makes good use of their talents as they drop the F-bomb and witches simultaneously. Most of the film is goofy but Norwegian writer and director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow / 2009) is not interested in substance but style. Hansel and Gretel deploy various gadgets to combat the witches but the most difficult witch to kill is Muriel played by Famke Janssen. She seems to know the two hunters from their childhood. How? They killed the witch that tried to kill them. It does not matter. If you are looking for reason, look elsewhere.

Never mind the fact that, if my children story lore serves me correctly, weren't Hansel and Gretel of German descent? Yet, the only one that even comes CLOSE to a German accent is the local sadistic sheriff played by the always reliable Peter Stormare. There is a subplot involving a good witch and Hansel that I wished they had spent more time on. Which brings me back to Renner and Arterton. They are attractive leads and they have good chemistry and the film relies HEAVILY on their chemistry. I was particularly impressed at how damn attractive Ms. Arterton is in a pair of leather pants and sporting a crossbow. She has dropped her thick British accent because it apparently was easier for her to adopt an American accent than it was to have Renner adopt a British accent. 

There are scenes that seem out of place, most notably a rape scene with Gretel being attacked by the sheriff and his henchman. I don't recall any rape in the original Hansel and Gretel story. Does anybody? Wirkola has also tossed in a troll for good measure. I don't recall any trolls in the story, either. It does not hurt the film but is seems kind of odd with Trolls being with Witches. But like I said this film is nonsensical fun, albeit cheesy fun and a box office success too (a sequel is in the works!)

Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters has more in common with a better film, Van Helsing from 2004 with Hugh Jackman that EVERYBODY seemed to hate, but I liked it. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is total cheese and stupidity on a grand scale, but it is not without its charms. Most of the characters....awww scratch that.....ALL of the characters talk like they are from Sacramento not Europe and it is clear everyone is in on this joke. 

This film is acted well enough and there is some undeniable fun action sequences and Alti Orvarsson's (an Icelandic composer) score is a good one. He has a mostly orchestral score that compliments the action succinctly, with some electronics and synthesized percussion for the close quarters combat scenes. This is not exactly a good film but it kind of won me over, in spots. Would I recommend Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters? Meh, depends on your mood.  If you are still sober and just want to settle in for some popcorn and cheese then Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is for you; sober or not. 

There are two versions of Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, an R rated version that runs 88 minutes and an unrated director's cut that is 98 minutes. I watched the unrated director's cut, but would wager there is very little difference between the two versions. When in doubt, ALWAYS go with the director's cut of almost any film. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters-**1/2 out of 4.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Happy Fathers Day

Friday, June 14, 2013

One Million Blog Pageviews - 1000000 Thank You's

That Glorious Moment has come!

Its time to rejoice and thank every one of you! Around half past 4 pm on June 11, this blog reached a new milestone - 1 Million Page views. You read it right, 1000000 page views (that's 6 zeroes). 

For noobs, it simply means that the has been visited/viewed for over 1,000,000 times (not necessarily by 1 million unique visitors though) but still a hard feat a very few blogs can manage to achieve (pardon the shameless self-promotion)

Skeptics as usual will disagree and claim I am exaggerating. So, for their eyes (and yours), I have also attached a current screenshot of my Google Blogger Statistics.  

Obviously, this is ONE BIG achievement and it would have not been possible without the support of all you readers, guest bloggers, crew and fans out there! From the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul, I am truly grateful to all of you! 

And in the descending order of readership - Thank you, Danke, Merci, Shukran, Gracias, Spasibo, Shukriya, Khàwp- khun khâ, Nandri...until the next 1 million!~

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Side Effects (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes is in love with this intriguing thriller

Steven Soderbergh is about the only filmmaker I have ever seen to direct no less than six films in less than two years and most of them, good films that warrant a watch. The list you ask? Okay real quick: The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg, Contagion, Haywire, Magic Mike, Side Effects and Behind The Candelabra. I have seen all of'em except the first film (The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg), which honestly I have never even heard of, (apparently it is out of Australia). 

Of all the films above, Side Effects stands out and for good reason. It is a slowly effective pot boiler about a mentally disturbed woman named Emily Taylor under psychiatric care whose mental state seems to unravel with the release of her imprisoned husband Martin (Channing Tatum in an unusual casting - seen also in Magic Mike). It's not that he is a bad sort. He has been in prison for insider trading and before incarceration they were living the high life. Now that he has been in, Emily has been reduced to a modest apartment with a little money but nothing more. She works for an ad agency but her mind is starting to buckle under all of the strain from life itself. 

After a failed suicide attempt, she is admitted to a psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (a fantastic Jude Law). He starts her on some prescription meds that he has a sample of named Ablixa. Emily starts to sleepwalk and do some VERY strange things. When she lands in trouble with the law for a crime she may or may not have committed while under the influence of Ablixa, suspicion falls to Dr. Banks for his prescribing Ablixa to start with. That is all I can say without spoiling Side Effects

Side Effects is an effective urban drama, not flashy or abrasive - taking the science of mental instability, diagnosis and treatment with respect without becoming cheap or tawdry. Soderbergh does not feel the need to assault the viewer with odd or strange camera effects so common in a lot of films these days. He has a great script by Scott Burns to work with and these characters are all smart and well written. They behave out of natural instincts not forced storytelling and what happens to them is believable. 

Let's say, I cared what happened to all of them; even Emily's arrogantly bitchy former psychiatrist played with icy coolness that you could store meat in by Catherine Zeta Jones. Law's Dr. Banks is a good doctor, who cares about his patients even to the detriment of his marriage. What happens in Dr, Banks' life after Emily's crimes is handled effectively and subtlety and not overdone. 

Soderbergh is a masterful director who knows how to construct an delicate subject as in Side Effects. He takes his time and lets this film build and build until the true intentions of all involved remedy the situation; believably and with dire consequences for some - the final act you will have to pay attention to because you will not see it coming. Side Effects will not appeal to all of you as it does take its sweet time in unfolding, but if you have the patience and time, you'll love the finale.

Thomas Newman provides another stand out score with his music also being quiet but it pulsates enough to keep the film moving. His use of an orchestra, electronics and his choice of an eclectic array of odd instruments make Side Effects creepy and interesting. This composer is in my top five of all time and he has never disappointed me. If you have the means, get the soundtrack. 

Steven Soderbergh has stated that he wants to retire and after his busy schedule I don't blame him. Hopefully, this is just the exhaustion talking and after a rest with NO ABLIXA he will return. This is a director that keeps getting better with each film, takes chances and usually comes out on top. Not many directors can make that claim so , my plea to Mr. Soderbergh, PLEASE DO NOT RETIRE. Side Effects-***1/2 out of 4

Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 8 is World Oceans Day

Saving the Worlds Oceans 

June 8th is World Oceans Day. More than 70 percent of the globe is covered by the ocean and half the world's human population lives within minutes of the coastline. Rich with resources and potential, our oceans have long been thought of as both infinite and indestructible. But they are not. 

Overfishing, climate change, pollution, acidification, dead zones, irresponsible tourism and more have put the world's ocean and marine life at great risk. Increasingly, we face the real possibility of seas without edible fish; an acidic, plastic-filled ocean in which nothing can survive except jellyfish; rising sea levels and mass extinction of fish and mammals. Yet if we take action now, this grim future can be avoided. 

We all have the ability to affect our oceans, for better or for worse, no matter where we live. Together we have the power to protect the Ocean. Do your bit today. Learn more at World Oceans Day and SaveMyOceans.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Independence Day (1996)

Not your usual movie review

With Independence Day 2 reportedly in the making, here's a fun review of the 90s Pseudo-Action Sci-fi adventure. (The original review is here.)

Starring - Millions of dollars of special effects that still manage to look like sets Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland built in the barn!

Meet: super anonymous pentagonians spewing pseudo military mumbo jumbo and the cute looking brylcreem president Bill Pullman - he's an ace pilot, he's the no-nonsense president and he's a darn good father, too! all-in-one guy!

Meet: The generic gay guy, Harvey Feinstein doing generic gay business. "Oooh! I'd better call my mother!" The generic old Jew, Judd Hirsh. He stoops, he complains, his every word a sarcastic quip. 

Meet: The Movie! A war movie, an alien movie, a love story! what a deal! all-in-one all inclusive package.

Just listen to this minimalist dialogue that is the great empowering and heart-warming lesson of this film: HEY! We could all write this! 

1. "Get me the secretary of defense!" (significant pause) "THEN WAKE HIM!!" 
2. "Address the nation. There's gonna be a lot of frightened people out there." "Yeah, I'm one of 'em."
3. "You think we'll get to Washington and they'll be there?" (Poignant look) Jeff Goldblum opens the computer, "yap!,yap!,yap!," closes the computer, draws little circles all over the president's letterhead, opens the computer AGAIN, whirls it around... AND THE CLOCK IS TICKING!!!!!! A CLOCK! THAT'S IT! WE'RE DOOOOOOMED!!! 

MORE WITTY DIALOGUE! "And then what?" "Check mate." "OH MY GOD!!" OH MY GOD IS RIGHT! The Shadow: Surprised looks (Ooh! It's big!) from the Hollywood Sign to the White House lawn to Central Park.

The Aliens: They've got an infinitely superior technology but no Virus Scanners. Doh! See the president outrun a fire ball and Will Smith's chick Vivica Fox : the only person in LA clever enough to find a cubby hole of safety. Rats can do it but, apparently, Americans cannot. 

'Terrible movie but entertaining anyway.' Put Will Smith and an Alien in a wave-making, sex pool scene and maybe we'd do the same. It's July 4th and all's well in the world. With a wisecracking, alien-punching Military, Celebrate your Independence!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Red Dawn (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes is angry with this jingoistic mess

Having been one of the few that did not even like the original Red Dawn from 1984, I was not holding out much hope for the new version that has made its way to video after a short and failing run in theaters. This version sadly offers nothing new and actually makes you wonder, why it was even remade? 

Completed in 2009, MGM shelved this version waiting for rewrites in the script, re-shoots, and a change of the invaders of the United States from China (to access its box office) to current favorite North Korea. Seemingly more timely since a new North Korean leader (even more loony than his father) has taken over power, it probably must have felt as a wise choice but it still does not help the movie. 

The problem I had with the 1984 original was the poor acting (and overacting) and a lame script by otherwise GREAT screenwriters John Milius (Apocalypse Now) and Kevin Reynolds (187, The Count Of Monte Cristo). Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore's script is also based on the 1984 film but however bad the original, this remake is worse. Dan Bradley's direction is amateurish and tepid, the script utterly bellicose and the action scenes (except a very few) boring. The movie stutters from the start as its poorly constructed with no pay off. 

The hero Chris Hemsworth is a returning soldier from the Middle East who still has the fighting blood in him. His younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck) is the local high school football stud that everyone loves. After the Wolverine football team loses a big game everyone crashes for the night at their respective homes only to be awaken by the horror that North Korea has decided to invade America. Why? Not a clue. 

North Korea barely has enough gumption to launch a fledgling missile into the Sea Of Japan, let alone launch a full scale invasion into a enormous country like America. I can suspend disbelief for a film provided it gives me a decent reason but Red Dawn (like its 1984 predecessor) fails in this department rather miserably. 

Besides, these kinds of action films are only as good as the villains are. The villains in Red Dawn are paper thin with nothing to distinguish them beyond a cardboard cutout. The villains are ineffective because the viewer knows nothing about them at all. What? Did they have some bad food the night before, wake up grumpy and say "Dammit, I need some good food. Let's invade America!"? 

The heroes don't fair much better. Hemsworth is an engaging lead; rugged, handsome with a swagger that The Duke would be proud of. The rest of the cast is okay but I have to talk about Josh Peck. Now I try not be vicious with films because, after all I can make my point without doing so. Even more so with performers, male or female but Josh Peck, at least in this film, has to be one of the crappiest actors I have ever seen. In Red Dawn he comes across as a simpering loser who would not last one minute going to the grocery store let alone in a real invasion of his homeland. He flashes his puppy dog eyes and everyone is supposed to swoon and give him a pass. I suppose I should not be too hard no him, but every time an emotional moment came to his character, Peck was about as convincing as Charles Manson convincing a parole board he was sane and should be released. Now before I get all kinds of hate mail shouting, "You are comparing an actor to a mass murderer?" , let me just NO I AM NOT COMPARING Josh Peck to a mass murderer. I am simply saying if you watch this film and then any of Manson's interviews on YouTube you will see that both fail miserably at conveying anything they want to convey. 

The only good aspect of Red Dawn is surprisingly its music. Ramin Djawadi terrific score solitarily stands out - its superb during the main highlights, effectively punctuating even some of the less energetic action scenes as well. In fact, it's so good, its worth purchasing. However, it still cant save this mess. 

So, take my advice and leave the film on the shelf. At a run time of only 90 minutes your pain will be short lived. Note to Hollywood, just because it is there, does not mean in needs to be remade. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop remaking crappy movies with crappier movies!! * out of 4
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