Thursday, February 27, 2014
JohnnyTwoToes reviews the biggest bomb of 2013!
I know this is coming late, but better late than never. Gore Verbinski is a man that can direct the Pirates Of The Caribbean films which are not awful. The first two were enjoyable if nothing ground breaking. The third part 'The World's End' I dubbed 'At Wit's End' for the shear fact that it was so awful and bone crushingly dull I could not bring myself to watch the last one, at all. Verbinski's best film is 'The Weather Man' with Nicolas Cage as a local meteorologist whose career is about to take off, but whose home life is utter ruin. It was a quiet, well written and directed film and exceedingly well acted so it was on my list of 10 best in 2005.
The Lone Ranger has come and gone. A critical and commercial bomb that has the studio (Walt Disney) losing an estimated 175 million dollars. At least, that is what my sources tell me, anyway. It might make back its money with DVD sales and overseas sales but it will take a while. Verbinski and Johnny Depp who plays Tonto have gone after critics saying it was, "Their Fault" the film was such a bomb. Could it be the film was a stinker because......oh, I don't know........it stunk? I am just guessing.
Is The Lone Ranger as bad as everyone said it was? No. Is it a misunderstood classic? Helllllll, NO. The Lone Ranger is a perfect example of how NOT to make a big budget extravaganza. With a 225-250 million dollar budget one has to wonder where all the money went. Simply put, The Lone Ranger is an overstuffed and overblown film that suffers, for me, because of the miscasting of Armie Hammer as John Reid (AKA The Lone Ranger). His presence on screen pales in comparison to just about everyone else on screen and for The Lone Ranger to work he has to be a strong character, not a mousy waif.
In this version, Reid and Tonto are battling Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) but for added monotony they also are battling the corrupt Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson). There is the added characters of Reid's slain brother's wife that has a fondness for John Reid but the film does not deal much with it and the only real enjoyable character that seems to be having fun is Helena Bonham Carter's local Cathouse custodian named Red Harrington.
If I was going to recast this film, I would not hesitate to have cast Johnny Depp as John Reid. He has gravitas and depth that Mr. Hammer does not have. The villains are pretty much your standard bad guys as they snarl and spit their way through two and a half hours of bland dialogue, mundane shootouts and some rather unfunny comedy.
For the millions of dollars pumped into the budget, there could have been a lot more effort put into the script which has been penned by Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio and Justin Haythe. There should have been more rewrites for the script because what the viewer is left with is a film that is all style and no substance. The Lone Ranger suffers from just too much hype and too much effort into the look of the film rather than a compelling story and a roguish title character. Depp is merely doing a different variation of his Jack Sparrow character from the 'Pirates' films. This is the kind of 'bad' film people can enjoy if you want to swill booze and make fun of it but due to its bloated length the viewers might pass out before they make to the predictable end.
Still, The Lone Ranger looks great with its cinematography by Bojan Bazelli making good use of the locales and Hans Zimmer's score is a a terrific mixture of electronics, percussion, western guitar and orchestral arrangements that flow very well together.
And remember, I am one of the few that have actually said this is not an awful film and liked the effort they have put into the look of the film if only the script and the lead where up to snuff with the technical achievements. The Lone Ranger is up for some Academy Awards for the technical aspects I have praised, but for the viewers and Walt Disney, it is too little, too late. The Lone Ranger-** out of 4
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
A Defining Movie Soundtrack from the 90's
Film maker Oliver Stone couldn't have picked a better soundtrack producer for his 1994 ultra-violent cult movie "Natural Born Killers" starring Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Downey, Jr., Tom Sizemore, and Tommy Lee Jones than Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor. Reznor, the leader of Nine Inch Nails, was hired to sort through the more than 70 songs used in the film to create this a one of a kind soundtrack that would complement the controversial storyline incidentally based on a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino.
The final product is one of the more eclectic soundtrack compilations ever assembled. In addition to the 27 songs which appear on the disc, snippets of dialogue from 27 different characters in the film can be also heard. How many other discs could feature greats like Patsy Cline, Peter Gabriel, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan with the likes of Rage Against the Machine, Marilyn Manson, Jane's Addiction and Dr. Dre? Fans of every type of music will find something they like on this soundtrack.
The disc opens with Cohen's "The Miracle" and ends with Tha Dogg Pound's "What Would U Do?" In between, it's a ride through the vibrant landscape of music past and present. Nine Inch Nails is featured on three of the disc's tracks. Two of them, "Burn" and "A Warm Place," are great tracks. There is also a remix of "Something I Can Never Have" from the band's debut album. The new mix of this song includes sound bites by some of the characters in the film, and the dialogue adds to the dark mood of the song. Reznor also remixes the Jane's Addiction song "Ted, Just Admit It." The remix, titled "Sex is Violent," features an interesting section of Diamanda Galas' "I Put a Spell On You." Similarly, the Peter Gabriel track "Taboo" is an exotic affair featuring support for Pakistani Sufi Legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
While some soundtracks are nothing but boxed collections of the songs you hear in the film, this one stands apart because it captures the tone of the film itself and the music of those days. Although this album never sold as many copies as the likes of other 90 hit soundtracks, say "Forrest Gump" or "Bodyguard" soundtracks, it is more adventurous and creative than either of those. Even after 20 years, there is yet to release an album of such vivid contradictions and extreme variety blended in one soundtrack. Perhaps, with the "Natural Born Killers" soundtrack, Trent Reznor wanted to set the standard by which other future soundtracks would be judged. A challenge that is still to be bettered!
Friday, February 21, 2014
JohnnyTwoToes recommends this taut mid sea thriller based on a true story!
The recent Academy Awards were announced and to my shock and dismay Paul Greengrass' latest film, Captain Phillips was not nominated for the two Oscars is should have been nominated for; Best Actor and Best Director. Every year the Academy is infamous for nominating those who, while excellent were not better than some that were better. To omit Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass is scandalous. The general consensus by the Academy is that Tom Hanks has been nominated five times and won two so he can go pound salt. But that did not stop the bozos in the Academy from nominating Meryl Streep for her 18th nomination. Yes, you read that right; 18. Paul Greengrass's failure to garner a nomination is anybody's guess. Both are truly worthy.
Captain Phillips is the true story of the title character and his crew on a Maersk cargo container ship, The Alabama, that was boarded by Somali pirates in 2009 and held for ransom. At least, that was their intent, anyway. Tom Hanks is Captain Phillips. He is a driven, hardworking seaman who knows his business but is uneasy about this trip even before he and his crew cast off. But, they have a job to do, regardless of the dangers. As the journey continues, Phillips's suspicions are confirmed when he sees two boats heading their way only a day or so into the Alabama's journey. Try as they might to stave off the Somalis, eventually they do get aboard. The rest of the film is how Philips tries to bargain his and his crew's way out of their situation.
Barkhad Abdi is Muse, the lead pirate. "I'm the captain, now," he says sporting an AK-47. Mr. Abdi's performance is excellent. His performance is unpolished and he is not your standard glossy Hollywood villain. Muse and his gang are desperate but Muse is smarter than he is given credit for. Philips has told the crew to hide, "You know the ship. They don't, " he barks into the intercom as Phillips knows it is only a matter of time before they are boarded. What follows is a crisp and intense thriller as Phillips, at gunpoint, is forced to take Muse and his henchmen through the ship searching for the crew. This is the first half of the film.
The second portion of the film deals with the Somalis taking Phillips on one of the life boats from the Alabama and trying to make their way to shore, where God only knows what they would have done to him. The military had been notified and their one mission was to make sure the Somali's never make it to shore with Phillips. Barkhad Abdi has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Is he deserving of the nod? No. Not to say his performance is not worthy, but there are others out there in other films (The Butler and Saving Mr. Banks) that have some great supporting performances that are more worthy of the Academy's attention.
I only say that because to NOT nominate Hanks is laughable, since both performances are hand in hand, so to speak. Hanks performance is smart, strong, but still maintains his human frailty as you will see in the last 10 minutes or so of just how scared Phillips was. It will bring tears to your eyes.
Greengrass' direction is solid and he keeps the film humming and Billy Ray's screenplay (based on the book by Phillips himself and Stephan Talty) is a true battle of the wits. Phillips feigns concern for the hijackers safety as he takes them all over the ship but avoids taking them to the hiding crew and Ray's script coupled with Greengrass's artful direction keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is a battle of the wits between Phillips and Muse and it is smart and well written. I made the mistake of reading about this incident and its outcome BEFORE I saw the film. That is a mistake for some. Even though I knew the outcome, it did not affect my reaction to the film. Some might react differently so it is not advised.
Obviously, if Phillips wrote the book, he survived, HOWEVER, the story of how Phillips was saved is truly amazing, so I will not say anymore. Suffice to say, Captain Phillips is a terrific film; one of the 2013's best films. It is sharp, observant to human nature and a thrilling adventure and if the last 10 minutes don't bring a tear to your eye then you might want to stick yourself with a pin to see if you are breathing. Captain Phillips-**** out of 4
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
JohnnyTwoToes compiles the Best Movies of 2013
2013 did end a month and a half back but there is still time for the lists. In this case, the Best Movies of 2013! Since I have not seen ALL of the big films I will give my own lists of the 5 best and the 5 worst films that I HAVE seen in 2013. So get your cards and there will be a quiz on this tomorrow. Actually, no but read'em and weep. First the 5 best films of 2013.
5. CAPTAIN PHILIPS - At number 5 is Paul Greengrass's Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks. I have to pen a review for it, but suffice is to say that Tom Hanks shows why he is one of Hollywood's finest actors and director Greengrass has yet to disappoint me with one of his films. Captain Phillips is a riveting and effective thriller based on the true story of a cargo ship taken over by a band of Somali pirates (Maersk Alabama hijacking). The script, direction and Hanks propel this film which pulsates humanity and intelligence in Billy Rays' script based on Captain Richard Phillips' own book of the 2009 incident with Stephan Talty "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea"
4. DESPICABLE ME - At number 4 is the Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud directed Despicable Me 2, a 3D computer animated sequel but every bit as endearing and charming as its blockbuster predecessor. This time Gru, the girls and his minions battle a new super villain that is planning to turn Gru's minions into blue eating machines that devour anything in their path as they are unleashed on the world. Kristen Wiig voices Gru's girlfriend, and she is a total delight. Steve Carell, Russell Brand, and Miranda Cosgrove reprise their voice roles too. Rarely do sequels work as well as the original, but Despicable Me 2 is an exception; clever, sweet and wholesome fun for the whole family.
3. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS - At number 3 is the twelfth installment in the Star Trek film franchise - Star Trek Into Darkness, a bold and boisterously fun film that pits Chris Pine's Captain Kirk against Benedict Cumberbatch's Kahn as Kahn enacts his revenge against Starfleet. Star Trek Into Darkness proves (as does Despicable Me 2) that you can do good sequels if the script is well written and it is here, indeed. Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof have written a crisp and engaging film, with a perfect cast and director J.J. Abrams takes us on a wild ride that is fun and exciting with some nice twists. Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Bruce Greenwood and Leonard Nimoy add to the fun!
2. PRISONERS - At number 2 is Prisoners, Denis Villineuve's masterfully heartbreaking film about the abduction of two little girls in Pennsylvania and the tragic and intense investigation that follows. Hugh Jackman as a father of one of the girls, is terrific as he goes on his own mission to find them. Feeling helpless and with hope waning Jackman dances from enraged to devastated in an Oscar worthy performance. Jake Gyllenhaal as the investigating officer will keep viewers on their toes as a cop who is battling his own demons, as well. A stellar supporting cast including Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Melissa Leo provide solid support! If you have kids and watch this film, you will probably never let them out of your sight ever after. It is truly a tough film to watch in its subject matter but worth viewing. It is not for kids, though as there is a lot of bad language.
1. GRAVITY - And number 1 is Alfonso Cuaron's marvelous thriller Gravity which stars Sandra Bullock as a stranded astronaut just trying to stay alive after their space shuttle is destroyed by flying debris from a Russian satellite. Told in real time at 90 minutes this film is as realistic as any film I have ever seen about space (it tookl apparently 3 years to finish the special effects alone). It is a superbly crafted thriller that had me wincing, mouth open in awe of what a true battle for survival can be. Bullock (Oscar worthy, no doubt)and George Clooney are terrific together and the father and son script by Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron is smartly written. Alfonso Cuaron's direction is top notch and Oscar worthy as well. Film score composer, Steven Price should also be considered for Oscar contention for his tremendous score for Gravity as well. Incidentally, for those curious, Gravity has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Cuarón and Best Actress for Bullock.
So there you have it, folks. I just want to thank each and everyone one of you for reading and responding; good, bad or otherwise in 2013 at the Websnacker Blog. Here's to a prosperous and safe 2014 with plenty of great films ready to come and plenty of stinkers to keep it real. Keep coming back for more film and film score reviews at the Websnacker Blog.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Addictive ElectroPop Teaser from the Enticing German Duo
The Electro Rock German Duo Junksista are truly hard to classify but I'll try. Imagine the groovy freshness of Cardigans with the industrial rock appeal of Garbage, the undeniable danceability of Royksopp and the musical allure of Bjork all rolled into a pleasant, synthetic rock and pop mishmash. Combine this with sultry sexy vocals and explosive, extremely provocative porn laced lyrics and then, you'll have the musical genius of Junksista.
While rigid reviewers may find their lyrics a little vacuous or even obscene for the many references to sex, no one can deny that the music they create at least is truly inventive and original. Singer Diana and guitarist Boog produce a unique funky sound that oozes with sexiness, is perfect on the ear and will definitely make you hit that rewind button often!
Present here is their official video of their hit track "Life Is Unfair (And Love Is A Bitch)", a melodic song with a great tune about love in its many forms. Even more goodness can be found on their latest EP of the same name that features fantastic remixes and also on their trending album "Bad Case of Fabulous". Know more on their website or check out the facebook page now!
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Revisiting the Lo-Fi Indie Rock Band's prolific first studio Album
If any group in the world has attention deficit disorder, it's got to be the Dayton, Ohio based Lo-Fi Indie Rock band - Guided By Voices (GBV). For they discover a great melody, play with it for a minute or two, then toss it aside and find a new one. Maybe main songwriter Robert Pollard gets bored easily. Or maybe he is always trying to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the man who has written the most songs.
Either way, the 24 tracks on their ninth album (and their first real studio album) released in 1996 - Under the Bushes Under the Stars did keep Guided By Voices in place as the kings of the two-minute pop masterpiece. Guided By Voices meld the quirky with the familiar on this release, as the band take classic pop melodies and hide them inside discordant guitars, fuzzy drum sounds, and fragmented arrangements.
"Rhine Jive Click" is driven by a simple guitar-and-cowbell rhythm, with drums being added only during the refrain. Tripp Lamkins of the Grifters joins the band on "The Official Ironmen Rally Song," but the song is one of GBV's simplest and catchiest tunes. The Grifters' guitar noise only shows up during a brief solo. "No Sky" is a classic GBV two-minute power-pop offering, as Pollard repeats "Could you keep a secret from me?" On "Bright Paper Werewolves," Pollard drops the line "Anyone can scratch/ and anyone can win" with a voice that oozes sincerity. GBV cuts loose on "Your Name is Wild" and "Ghosts of a Different Dream," letting the guitars breathe a little bit as they tear through these rollicking rockers. "Look at Them" dabbles in psychedelia until a crunching guitar pops up in the chorus, while "Atom Eyes" could've been written by R.E.M. around the time of Reckoning with its Byrds-like guitar work and sing-along chorus.
Under the Bushes Under the Stars contains some of the oddest song titles you'll ever hear ("Man Called Aerodynamics," "Redmen and Their Wives," "Lord of Overstock," and "To Remake the Young Flyer" to name a few). The songs bearing these unique monikers have lyrics that are just as intriguing, with Pollard spewing out lines in his casual pseudo-British voice. Interestingly, many of Pollard's lyrics and song titles have been cited to have come directly from his fourteen years of experience as an elementary school teacher. Believe it or not, the guy was 40 years old when this album was released. And he still fronts the band besides a successful solo career. So much for the notion that indie rock is a young man's game. If you have been a occasional GBV listener, this is a good album to start with.
Monday, February 10, 2014
JohnnyTwoToes finds this 3rd installment of the Riddick series a weak rehash
It has been nearly ten years since we last saw Vin Diesel as Riddick in action. When we first saw him in 2000, he was battling savage aliens with a group of shipwrecked survivors in Pitch Black. Then, in 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick we saw Riddick seek revenge against the Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, a group of Nazi like troops, who will lay waste to an entire planet. Now as Riddick opens we see him harried and harassed over the desert terrain of another alien planet. This is the opening of David Twohy's 2013 follow up to 2004's sequel.
I have been a huge fan of this franchise and it has garnered a big cult following; both the character played by Vin Diesel and the films. I thought Pitch Black was terrific and The Chronicles of Riddick (although less successful) was a great sequel. The Chronicles of Riddick was something bold and daring. It did not follow the original film very much with the exception of two characters that were in the original. The Plot was something different entirely and I thought it worked well. Which is why I was somewhat disappointed with the latest film, Riddick.
Riddick starts on a barren desert like planet as the title character is attacked nonstop for the first 15 minutes of the film by a series of CGI creatures; a wolf/dog like pack of carnivores, alien vultures and finally, a sea creature that seems to be able to survive on land as well as in the planet's toxic water basins. Wounded, hungry and thirsty, Riddick begins to piece how he came to the planet in the first place.
A double crossing Vaako (Karl Urban) has tricked our hero onto this dust bowl. "Why is it the punch you never see coming is the one that takes you down?" muses Riddick as he finally settles in to get some rest under a fallen rock. As Riddick wakes, he befriends a puppy of the wolf/dog packs and the two become friendly. After about more minutes of Riddick playing Dr. Doolittle, he discovers a beacon of a crashed ship and activates it. All he needs is a ship to get off of this rock, so he can get back to civilization.
Two mercenaries (mercs) groups arrive and neither one of them are interested in taking Riddick alive. It seems he is worth a lot of bounty dead or alive. One group is lead by Santana (Jordi Mollà) and he is a particularly nasty SOB who seems to be rather dumb in comparison to his fellow mercs in his group. The second group is led by Boss Johns (Matthew Nable) and his group, although more professional looking still seem undermatched for what Riddick can do. The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game with Riddick, the amphibious creatures and the two merc crews.
David Twohy is a fine writer and director. So far the series of Riddick has been good and Twohy wrote and directed the classic, gothic horror film, Below (2002) about a doomed Word War II United States submarine. Those films were fresh, inventive fun that were well written and had interesting characters that you could get attached to. Riddick has no characters I could relate to or even care about. Twohy has simply rehashed his original film; aliens attack when the sun goes down or, in this case when the rainy season starts.
Yet, Riddick is not an entirely bad film just not very interesting, Diesel is great as Riddick, as always. He is a fierce fighter but smart and crafty. The rest of the cast seems to follow the motif of going off by themselves only to meet with a horrible demise at the hands of any number of creatures on the planet. The fight sequences are decent but there is nothing in this film that you will remember they way you remember some of the characters from the first two films. There are a lot of good scenes but Riddick is so choppy and disjointed that after a while, I began to get a little tired of it. After almost ten years from the last film, you would think they could come up with some interesting characters and a fresher script.
Still, Riddick has its moments but they come and go and aside from Diesel's performance as the stoic and misunderstood title character and Graeme Revell's sublime score for Riddick is all dressed up with nowhere to go. Sadly, at least for now there are no plans to even release the score, which is baffling. So, the fans of this iconic franchise are left with very little to enjoy. Riddick is now out on DVD and Blu Ray. Riddick-** out of 4
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
JohnnyTwoToes praises this dark, superbly acted crime thriller.
Having worked in retail for the last eight years or so, I am always struck by how seemingly good parents and good people seem to lose sight of their children when they enter a store to do a little shopping. Sometimes the children wander off carelessly, yes, but I am amazed at how easily parents seem to get so entranced by the stuff on the shelves that they forget to keep their own children safe. Granted Prisoners (2013) tells the story differently than parents who shop.The idea is the same. Losing a child to an abductor, regardless of the situation is downright terrifying.
Prisoners is not for the squeamish and child abduction is not easy to handle. Trust me when I say this, you will want to hold your children close. Prisoners starts with the very first frame as a general sense of foreboding sets in as the camera slowly zooms in on a tree during a cold, rainy Thanksgiving day.
The Dover family (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) and their children walk across the street for a nice Thanksgiving dinner with their dear friends, the Birches (Terence Howard and Viola Davis). After a filling meal the older children plant themselves in front of the television downstairs while the youngest two girls go look for one the girls lost whistle. After a period of time the two little girls have vanished without a trace. The only suspect is a young man (Paul Dano) who owns a camper the girls were seen playing on earlier until the older brother of one of the girls shoos them off. The cop investigating the disappearance of the two girls (one girl from the Dover family and one girl from the Birch family) is a Detective Loki (yes, Loki) played remarkably well by Jake Gyllenhaal.
Loki is a determined man who has never failed on a case. Gyllenhaal plays Loki differently than others would have. He is a hero, no doubt but it is referenced in the film he has grown up as a ward of the state for a while in a boys home that was not to pleasant. He is smart but odd, sporting what seems to be prison tatts and facial tics that suggest he is a man dealing with his own pain in life. After, the suspect, Alex Jones (Dano) is released for lack of evidence, Keller Dover (Jackman) takes it upon himself to get Jones to tell him where the little girls are.
I will not say anything more to ruin it, but let us just say that Dover will not rest until he gets what he needs out of Jones. I do not have kids, so I can't say I know how it would feel to have my child abducted. However, ANYBODY who has children who watches this film will never let their kids out of their sight. Jackman's Keller Dover is an accomplished man with his own contracting business, great family and tells his son, "Pray for the best. Prepare for the worst." Keller is a man who has his basement filled with supplies if the worst happens, except nothing he has could prepare him for what they endure.
Jackman's performance is superb as a man who is usually in control of his destiny, but now teeters on the brink of despair, madness and of helplessness. He starts to drink, again and when he fills in Franklin to his plans for Jones, chaos seems to ensue. Hugh Jackman is now a established bonafide star, thanks to the X-men franchise, so it was only a matter of time before we saw him REALLY spread his acting chops and he shows it style with Prisoners. There is Oscar talk for him and deservedly so.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with anguish is this film and the acting by everyone is fantastic. Nothing is oversold and the emotions of rage, anger and hopelessness ring true with each performance. Aaron Guzikowski's script is effectively simple. Mr. Guzikowski knows he does not need to push the material with pointless and gratuitous monologues. He is smart to keep the story as tangible to the viewer as possible, by simply implying this could happen to ANYBODY with children.
Prisoners is also a very effective thriller as director Denis Villeneuve amps up the tension as the days go by without a single lead on the whereabouts of the girls. We know time is running out for them so for the viewer we too,feel the parents agony. Melissa Leo is chillingly effective as Alex's seemingly long suffering mother who has lost her own children and Johann Johannsson's score is quietly somber which adds to the sense of dread.
This is a long film (about 2 and 35 minutes) but that will hardly matter, as you will be glued to the screen for every minute and you will be cemented to your seat even to the very last frame. Prisoners is a smart, atmospheric,and riveting film about appreciating who and what you have and how in the blink of an eye it can be taken from you. It does a good job of showing how it affects the relationships with your own family and friends and how it changes everything and everyone around you. It begs the question, "How far would go to get back someone you love?" Hopefully, none of us will ever have to ask that question.Prisoners-**** out of 4