Sunday, August 28, 2016

Vampires: The Turning (2005)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.


I recently got digital cable. With digital cable came On Demand. One of the great things of On Demand is that they have a selection of free movies. Some of the free selections are pretty good, depending on your taste in movies. I’ve found that most aren’t particularly memorable. Take, for example, Vampires: The Turning. I took a look at the description and saw to things: Vampires and Thailand. So, I’m thinking hot Asian vampires. It turned out that there was only one female vampire and, while she was pretty hot, that alone wasn’t enough to make up for the rest of the movie.

The story begins with two American tourists, Connor and Amanda, watching a fight. He’s way more interested in it than she is, mostly because he studied the form of martial arts that they’re using. She walks out and gets lost in a crowd. He follows her, but can’t find her. It’s not long before a stranger finds the lost woman and ‘offers’ to help her back to her hotel. Turns out he’s a vampire and Connor arrives just in time to see Amanda as an unconscious passenger on his bike.

One of the guy’s cronies tries to kill Connor, but a mysterious man slays the vampire crony and warns Connor to go home. Don’t bother trying to rescue Amanda, as she’s as good as dead. Don’t go to the police, either, since they won’t do anything. Oh, and if Connor follows the mystery man, he’s as good as dead too. So, what does Connor do? Of course, he follows the guy and then goes to the police. Once the police officer hears what Connor has to say, he tells Connor to wait 48 hours before filing a missing persons report.

Connor goes back to the mystery guy’s place tog find a whole hive of vampires, led by the aforementioned hot Asian vampire. Rather that cower in fear, he teams up with them to get his girlfriend back. There’s a possibility that she’s still alive and if she’s still alive, there’s a possibility of getting her back, even if she’s turned.

It all stems from Sang, the female vampire. 800 years ago, she bit someone in rage and that person turned, or became a vampire. From that one bite, all of the evil vampires (and good ones, too) descended. The original bite was during a special eclipse, which apparently means that if she exposes herself to the same eclipse, she dies and all the remaining vampires go back to being mortal again. Connor gets the idea to become a vampire so he has a decent chance of kicking some vampire butt. If he’s successful, he’ll become mortal again. With an attitude like that, how can you lose?

If you’re like me and like vampire movies, I wouldn’t recommend paying money to see it. Free was just about the right price. Most of the movie was about the fighting. The script was pretty bad, there was no real suspense and the acting was just above par, assuming you’re not expecting too much.

Aside from the fighting, the only reason to watch vampire movies is the women. There is something very erotic about watching a women get bitten and/or turn. As I said, there was one who was very attractive, but she was already a vampire. The other wasn’t as attractive, but I did enjoy seeing her get bitten.

Supposedly, this was the third in a series, but the movie didn’t seem like a sequel. It seemed like a self-contained story and I didn’t get any sense that I was supposed to know something. I might see if I can get the other two movies for free and see if they make sense in the context of this movie. From what I’ve read and heard, this is simply the third movie to use Vampires as the main title.

This movie is two-star material, and I only say that because I do like vampire movies. It was only 84 minutes, which wasn’t too bad. It didn’t drag at all. If you happen to get this movie free on demand, go for it. If not, don’t bother looking for it in the video rental place. 




Saturday, August 27, 2016

Final Destination (2000)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.


I had originally planned to see this movie when it first came out, but when I got to the theater, I found out that the listings in the paper were wrong and the movie had been playing for a little while. I didn’t get around to watching the movie until recently, when I rented the movie from NetFlix.

It’s an interesting premise. Devon Sawa plays Alex, a student on his way to France with a class trip. Somehow, he’s allowed to see the plane crashing. He and several other people (including two teachers) leave the plane. One teacher gets back on while the other stays with the six students, agreeing to catch the next plane out. As they’re arguing about what went on, the plane actually blows up, as per Alex’s vision.

Understandably, Alex gets the attention of the FBI, but since there’s no real evidence that Alex did anything, they have to let him go. Of the other six people that he saved, very few seem to be appreciative. The teacher is flat out scared of him now. A friend of his wants to remain friends, but has parents that aren’t as understanding. That’s a heck of a way to treat someone who saved your life.

Over a month goes by without incident. Then, the seven people start dying. Is there some sort of master plan? Alex seems to think so. He notices certain coincidences, such as the fact that the people are dying in the order that they would have had they stayed on the plane. Then again, it’s possible that he’s reading too much into it.

It wasn’t a great movie, but I wouldn’t recommend avoiding it, either. It’s just one of those movies where there are a lot of questions. For instance, why allow Alex to see Death’s plan? Once that happened, why wait over a month to start killing the people? Are we to believe that Death was bored? The thing is that before the other survivors are killed, Alex is given new premonitions, meaning that he’s being given the chance to save them again.

The movie was a little slow to start, but I eventually got into it. I was actually debating whether or not to just send it back without watching it. I can’t say that it’s my favorite movie, but it was worth watching. I have to admit that Tony Todd was perfectly cast as the mortician. Also, I noticed that Devon Sawa bears some resemblance to Anthony Michael Hall of The Dead Zone, another show where premonitions play a big part. (Any resemblance is purely coincidental since the TV series had yet to premiere when this movie was released.)

The movie is worth three and a half stars, but I’m rounding up, mostly because it was just an interesting movie. If you’re looking for something to watch and not really think about too much, this is your movie. If you’re looking for something with a little more substance, you might want to look elsewhere. I’m actually debating over whether or not to get the sequel. 




Friday, August 26, 2016

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

It seems like there’s always some major celebrity event going on.  There are divorces, arrests, tyrades, feuds and all manner of other things to fill the magazines and tabloids.  This isn’t to say that all of it is true, but there is the ever present celebrity gossip/news.   Growing up, I asked my mother why it seemed like stars from her childhood didn’t seem to have any scandals.  Did celebrities not have affairs when she was my age?  Did they simply not make it into the history books?  The truth was that studios had people like Eddie Mannix.

Eddie Mannix is head of physical production for Capitol Studios.  He deals primarily with damage control.  The movie is set in 1951 and Capitol is making a movie called Hail, Caesar of all things.  Hail, Caesar stars Baird Whitlock, played by George Clooney.  Whitlock isn’t that bright.  He can act alright, but he manages to get himself kidnapped very easily by a group of Communists calling themselves The Future.

When Whitlock wakes up, he starts to hang out with The Future not realizing that they’re asking for $100,000 in ransom.  Mannix not only has to deal with the ransom demand, but he has to contend with competing gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker.  (It doesn’t help that they’re twins.)  Add to this a pregnant actress who doesn’t seem to be in any rush to marry the father.  His solution is to have her put the child into foster care so that she can adopt the child without public finding out she‘s the mother.  Oh, and there’s the Western star, Hobie Doyle, who’s forced by the studio to star in a period piece.   Doyle has no business being in a period piece and everyone knows it, but it’s what the studio wants.  This makes an offer from Lockheed very appealing, as he’d be done with all of the stress.

I was able to watch the movie on a flight back to Miami a few weeks ago.  I kind of wish that my parents had watched it, as well, because I suspect that a lot of the context is lost on me.  Apparently, there was an actual Eddie Mannix who worked for MGM.  It appears that the similarities are tenuous, but most of the characters do seem to have real-life counterparts.  The real Mannix did try to cover up a pregnancy of an actual star.  Many of the problems that he had to deal with actually did happen to someone, at least on a superficial level.

A good deal of the context was lost on me, as I grew up in the 1980s.  This isn’t to say the movie can’t be enjoyed by younger audiences.  It’s just that I don’t think Westerns have ever been really big in my lifetime, at least in the sense that they were big for my parents when they were growing up.  There are many one-off scenes that mirror actual scenes in movies or pay tribute to a particular style of film.  I don’t think there are any similar styles in production today.

I wish I had someone to discuss this with, particularly someone who knows more about that era.  I don’t know how much was lost on me, exactly, or how it would have affected watching the movie had I known more.  The movie was still entertaining to me.  It was fun watching Josh Brolin and George Clooney play their respective roles.  I also caught a few cameos from actors like Jonah Hill and Robert Picardo.  (I know.  I can’t help but point out Trek actors in non-Trek roles.)    The fact that it was set in 1951 didn’t bother me at all.  I do wonder, though, what the present day will look like in movies sixty years from now.




Thursday, August 25, 2016

Meatball Machine (2005)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Every so often, Epinions has a promotion with first reviews.  Every so often, I feel the need to watch a movie few others can sit through.  What do you get when you put these two things together?  You get a review for Meatball Machine.  The movie is 93 minutes long.  Ten minutes in, I thought of shutting it off.  Twenty minutes in, I couldn’t believe that I still had an hour to go.  After that, it started to pick up, but that’s not saying much.

The movie starts with someone hunting down aliens to kill them.  Not much is explained about who he is or why he’s doing this.  He is, however, dragging his daughter along for the ride.  We also have Yoji, a factory worker who doesn’t seem to hang out much with his boss and coworkers.  He does like to sit and sneak peeks of Sachiko, a woman who works next door.   After work one day, his neighbor walks in on him while he‘s practicing a little self love.

The action begins maybe ten minutes later when Yoji is visiting an adult theater.  Someone sits down next to him.  We soon realize that this someone is a transvestite.  Yoji keeps rejecting his advances until he has to walk out of the theater to get away.  The transvestite takes offense and beats the crap out of Yoji.  While Yoji is recovering, something drips on him.  He looks up to find an alien, which he takes home so he can study it further.

As he’s walking home from a prostitute his roommate hired for him, he finds someone trying to rape a woman.  Turns out that the woman is Sachiko and the man is his boss.  He tries to fight his boss, but once again gets the crap beaten out of him.  The boss walks away, leaving Sachiko to walk Yoji home.  Bare in mind that this is all within the first half hour of the movie.  We still have an hour to go.

When they get back to his place, Sachiko and Yoji admit that they’ve both been checking each other out.  He starts to undress her, but she reveals that she has a scar on her chest and that her father put it there.  As she’s recounting this, the lights start to flicker and the alien comes to life and attaches itself to her.  Once again, Yoji gets the crap beaten out of him.  When the neighbor walks in on them, Sachiko kills him violently.

When Yoji wakes up, he finds himself in a strange apartment.  The guy from the beginning is there with his daughter.  His daughter has one of the aliens on her neck.  The father explains that the aliens are parasites that use a host body to fight.  The winner literally eats the loser.  He explains about how the parasite can make the host feel all the pain and can even use the host’s memories.  How he knows this, I’m not sure.

The important thing here is that he’s breeding the things.  He infects Yoji with one so that the parasite will grow to maturity.  The father has been feeding the things to his daughter so that he can keep her alive.  Yoji is able to keep the parasite from taking full control, but still ends up killing the father.  He walks out in search of Sachiko, leaving the daughter alone.

What follows is about an hour of the weirdest fight scenes you’ve ever seen.  The parasites have the ability to ‘mutate organs’ into whatever they want, as the father put it.  Yoji ends up with an ‘enhanced’ hand covered in what looks like Styrofoam.  I should warn you that this is in no way a movie for children.  It’s not even a movie meant for most adults.

In one scene early on, a young boy is attacked and taken over by one of the aliens.  The boy is then hit and brutally killed by a car.  The car’s driver is then taken over by the alien.  You don’t see the actual impact, but you see a hand and part of the arm hit the ground as well as the shoes with feet and parts of the legs still in them.  In the scene where Sachiko is being taken over, the alien has a tentacle essentially rape her.  Again, you don’t see the actual penetration, but we get the moaning to let us know exactly what’s happening.

This is probably on par with the worst movies I’ve seen, at least in terms of production values.  We’re talking Abraxis: Guardian of the Universe/Future War bad.  The movie looks like it was shot on a home camcorder.  The acting was at least decent.  The actors are listed in other movies on IMDb, but not having seen many of the movies, I can’t say how good they are.  (Interestingly, Issei Takahashi, who played Yoji, was in the Japanese cast of Whisper of the Heart and Kill Bill, Volumes 1 and 2, all of which I liked.)

This is one of those cases where it’s hard to say where the movie went wrong.  More money probably would have helped the production values.  However, as with Abraxis, big names and some money aren’t necessarily the answer.  It’s possible to have the best talent, the best story and heaps of money and still not come out with a  good product.  At least with this movie, there is potential.  Clean up the writing a little and get a decent camera and you could have something.

Most of it is that the first twenty minutes are so hard to watch.  I think a lot of people watching this movie will shut it off before it gets interesting.  For those that make it, you do get hooked and keep watching.  By the time you get to the scene where Yoji is taken over, I actually wanted to see how it ended.  On that note, I spent the entire movie wondering where Meatball Machine came from.  (Having seen the ending, I’m still wondering.)

This is one of those movies I’m not sure if I can recommend.  I’m not giving it many stars, but that’s not to say it’s not worth watching.  I don’t know that I can recommend paying money for the movie unless you’re really in to bad movies.  I was able to watch this through Netflix’s Web site, which means that I didn’t have to wait for it to come in the mail or pay anything extra for it.  In fact, the only reason I found this movie was that I was looking through Netflix’s selection of movies I could stream to find something that hadn’t been reviewed on Epinions yet.  (I have two other selections bookmarked.)

If it comes on a movie channel (not a broadcast network) and you can watch it uncensored, go for it.  I think if they removed the adult aspect of it, it would take too much away from the movie.  Just make sure the kids aren’t around. 



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

AT&T ATT-982 2 Lines Corded Phone

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Last year, it came time to replace the four phones we had at work. We had five lines, but the decision was made to go down to two lines. (It was pretty rare that a third line was ever used unless several people were calling out.) When we got the phones, we set them up pretty easily. I have to say that I haven’t really thought much about them since, and I mean that in a good way.

Knowing that I was possibly going to review these phones, I took it upon myself to learn as much as possible about them. Yes, I know. It’s a phone. How much could I learn from the manual? One of the few things that I did learn was that you need to pay for two lines to be able to use the two-line functionality. (The phone won’t split one line into two.)

The phone has a 24-number speed-dial memory capacity. I decided to program the phone myself, starting with my cell phone and the cell phones of several other employees and several other stores in the area. (Before you accuse me of being egocentric, I needed a way to test my ability without bothering anyone else.)

The speed dial uses 13 buttons. Twelve are assigned two numbers each; the thirteenth is used to select the lower of the two numbers. For instance, if you want the first number, you press the first speed-dial button. (For the second number, you press the thirteenth button, and then the first speed-dial button.) Having read the manual, I knew how to do this. However, it’s not always apparent to someone who hasn’t read it. Most of my coworkers don’t bother using it, especially considering that they already have many of the important phone numbers memorized.

The phone even comes with a piece of paper that you can put on the button area of the phone to label the different buttons, which is pretty common. However, we only got one per phone. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do if you have to reprogram the phone more than three times. Also, they’re not adhesive; we had to tape one of them to the phone because it kept falling off.

Now that I’ve spent three paragraphs on the speed dial, let’s go back to the two-line functionality. One of the things I like about the phone is that each line has a different pitch. If a call is coming in on Line 1, you get a lower pitch than if it’s coming in on Line 2. You wouldn’t think that this is useful, but it is. It makes it easier to tell if the first line is in use. (Since both lines have a separate phone number, it is possible that Line 2 might ring first, but it’s pretty rare.)

Each line gets its own button, letting you select that line. Above each button are two LED lights. One is green and flashes if someone is calling. The other is red and lets you know if that line is engaged. If you put a call on hold, the phone that put that call on hold will have a blinking red light for that line. (All of the other phones will still have the solid red light.)

The only other feature that I want to mention is the speakerphone. It’s useable, but it’s not great. We’ve used it a few times and have had to shout into it to get the other person to hear us, even though we could hear them fine. It’s best for when you have to call out or are put on hold for a long time.

This is a four-star phone. It’s not incredible, but it does get the job done. We haven’t had any major problems with it, unlike the phones that they replaced. Ultimately, it’s a phone. You need something that’s not going to drop your calls or give you too much static. As long as it works, everyone is happy. There are several other features, such as a data port and a place to plug a head set in, but we don’t really use these. I also recommend hanging on to the instruction manual. As easy as everything is, you may need a reference later.

Synchronicity (2015)

You can go a lot of different ways with time-travel stories.  You can have something complicated, like Primer.  Primer has so many timelines and days redone that it gets difficult to keep track of.  Then, you have some stories that are just one timeline.  Predestination is a story that’s told out of order and it’s up to the audience to figure out what it’s all about.  Similarly, Timecrimes is a story that’s retold several times, giving us more information as we go along.

Synchronicity seems to strive for a balance between the two.  It starts with a time-travel experiment that’s trying to get funding   Jim, Chuck and Matt are the scientists.  Klaus Meisner is the only potential source of an expensive material they need.  If the scientists can open a wormhole and  a signal comes through the wormhole, Meisner will know that it worked, thus providing the material that will eventually produce the other side of the wormhole and the  signal.  (Yes, it’s a bootstrap paradox at its simplest.)

Oh, I should also mention that things go sideways when physical objects come through the wormhole.  It proves that it’s viable, but what does it mean that someone seems to have come through and a plant mysteriously appeared in the lab?  The other end of the wormhole won’t be opened for a few days, giving everyone a chance to go crazy.

The conflict comes in that the scientists are interested in contributing to humanity’s scientific understanding while Meisner is interested in furthering the advancement of his bank account.  Meisner is apathetic towards most other aspects of the project.  Jim just wants to know what actually happened.  This leads Jim to make some questionable decisions, like potentially giving up his company.  It doesn’t help that Jim is having strange headaches.  Add to this Abby, a rather attractive woman that may be a little too involved in what‘s going on.  It’s enough to make someone paranoid.

This isn’t a light and fluffy movie.  The movie’s not overly heavy on sex and other adult themes, but I don’t think it’s a movie for children.  There are things that children either would miss entirely or possibly get a little freaked out over.  Those that have seen Blade Runner will probably see similarities in the aesthetics.  The director seems to have borrowed heavily from Blade Runner’s overall mood and/or soundtrack.

It’s also the kind of movie that might be too complicated for some.  I hate saying that you have to pay attention, as it sometimes feels like I’m saying you have to be smart.  However, it’s usually more in the sense that you really can’t be doing something else at the time.  There are all sorts of clues as to what’s going on that might be missed if you’re distracted.  As they say, the devil is in the detail.





Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cosmopolitan Magazine

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.



One day, I received a Cosmopolitan magazine in the mail.  This concerned me primarily because I didn’t order a subscription.  I was worried that someone was pulling a prank by subscribing me to as many magazines as they could get the card for, but I couldn’t think of anyone that I could have offended that badly.  I had thought that maybe it was something through work, but my supervisor didn’t know anything about free subscriptions.

This left me with the question of how, so I posted what had happened to Facebook.  As near as anyone can tell, Hearst must have gotten my name and address and given me a free subscription.  Apparently, postage is so cheap that it doesn’t take many subscriptions to make their money back.  As an adult male, I’m not really in their target demographic.  I’m thinking that they may have gotten my address from CVS, since my mother uses my loyalty card to buy cosmetics there.  Either way, I was able to go online and verify that the subscription had been paid for until December.

As long as I didn’t get a bill, I wasn’t going to complain.  I had always wondered what was in Cosmo.  You’ve probably seen the headlines:  “212 Things Guys Don’t Know They Should Tell You In Bed” or “689 Things Guys are Thinking About When They‘re Not With You”.  Was the information really that useful?  In a word, No.  (Well, not to me at least.)

I actually looked through a few of the magazines.  Many of the articles seem to be about image and/or sex.  One article had advice on applying makeup.  One section was called “The Total Sex Bomb” while another was “The Faux Natural”.  Really?  This is what women are trying to go for these days?  Why not just call it “The Total Slut”?

There’s a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre, “Hell is other people.”  Having worked in retail, I initially assumed that it meant that hell was having to deal with other people, but from what I’ve read, it has more to do with how we think other people perceive us.  Cosmo seems to feed into that.  I would actually be more likely to date a woman who realizes that she doesn’t need a magazine like Cosmo and has the confidence to be herself.

Yes, image is important, but you don’t need an entire magazine devoted to it.  Consider that there was an article in one issue (I don’t know if it’s a recurring column” on how to deal with unsolicited advice, like family members that criticize your lipstick or parents that think you should tan more.  There’s another article on make-up sex.

Mostly, the magazine is advertising, which should come as no surprise.  Most of the ads deal with image and/or sex.  The fact that you can get a perfume-free subscription should tell you something.  If you’re still wondering how bad it is, you can go to their website and see some articles.

Kiss of the Damned (2012)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.


I’ve always liked fangs on a woman.  Make a vampire movie, put a couple of attractive women on the cover and I’ll probably watch it.  If Netflix has it streaming, as in the case with Kiss of the Damned, I’ll almost certainly get around to it.

The movie starts out with a man (Paolo) and a woman (Djuna) meeting each other.  He’s attracted to her and she seems to like him, but she has a secret.  It’s a condition that prevents her from going out in daylight, which is why she has to rent movies at night.  Ok.  Her ‘condition’ is that she’s a vampire.  She’s hesitant to get involved with him, but relents.  He’s kind of persistent.  Even after she bits him, he has to come back.  She eventually turns him.

Djuna tells Paolo that, aside from sunlight, fire and beheading don’t end well for vampires.  This means that they have to stay indoors and be careful what they do, as vampires don’t really want to draw attention to themselves.  The bad news is that Djuna has a sister, Mimi.  Mimi doesn’t seem to care as much for the rules.  She’ll kill indiscriminately.  Paolo tries to get along with Mimi, but comes to realize why Djuna isn’t happy about having to spend a week with her.

The local vampire community welcomes Paolo.  It’s led by Xenia, who’s an actress.  She makes sure everyone has a place to stay and handles problems.  She’s hesitant to do anything about Mimi, though, as there’s direct no proof that she’s a danger.  She is, though.  Whenever a human comes near her, we know it’s not going to end well for the human.

Mimi is the ultimate corruptor.  She tempts Xenia.  She seduces Paolo.  She will kill any human that gets within three feet of her and has no regard for the vampire community.  She is not a sympathetic character.  If anything, you identify more with Djuna, who has to put up with her for a week.  I’ve come to realize why some antagonists get away with what they do.  Even when you have a character as bad as Mimi, it’s not always satisfying to see them meet their end.  In this case, not so much.  You do cheer a little to see Mimi hurt.

On that note, this is not a movie for children.  There is a lot of sex, nudity, violence and gore.  I don’t think this would be appropriate for younger audiences.  Paolo is turned early in the movie.  He and Djuna feed on animals.  After all, this is an R-rated vampire movie.  You have to expect something that you wouldn’t want your kids watching.

If you have Netflix streaming, look into watching this.  It’s even worth renting on DVD.  Just don’t let the kids watch it. 



Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.



There are some movies that I would never consider getting in a million years. Kingdom of Heaven is one such movie. However, my mother rented it one night figuring that I might like it. I figured that at the very least, I’d get a review out of it, so here it is.

The movie starts out with Orlando Bloom as Balian. He’s a blacksmith in a town that doesn’t really seem to care much for him, but he makes a living. At the very beginning of the movie, we see his wife being buried after committing suicide after the death of their child. As she’s being buried, a group of warriors is coming into town. Balian’s father, Godfrey of Ibelin, is the leader of this group. (Godfrey is played by Liam Neeson.)

Godfrey tells Balian who he is and offers him the opportunity to come to Jerusalem. Balian initially refuses, but reconsiders after killing the local priest. He figures that Jerusalem is a holy city (actually, the holy city) and would make a great place for a new start. Unfortunately, he inherits a whole new bunch of problems.

Balian is actually put in charge of the city’s defense when it comes under attack from a Muslim army, which vastly outnumbers his troops. To boot, what forces Balian does have has very little training and Balian has pretty much no command experience. Still, he manages to do pretty well. I won’t say how well for fear of spoiling the movie for you.

The only real problem that I had with this movie is that it was hard to form any attachment to it. There weren’t really any characters that I loved or hated. Sure, I liked many of the characters. But Balian wasn’t a great character. He was just someone who happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. (Or is that the right place at the wrong time?)

Then, you’ve got the leader of the Muslim army, Saladin. Yeah, he’s supposed to be the antagonist, but I can’t really bring myself to call him the bad guy. He does have legitimate reasons for being upset.

There also weren’t any major events. Most movies have some sort of suspenseful battle or major turning points. This was just a series of choices and/or random events that let to Balian’s being put into power. All Balian wanted was a new life. Lily Tomlin was once quoted as saying, “When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have
been more specific.” That’s the story of Balian’s journey through the movie.

Mostly for that reason, I have to give the movie three stars. The movie starts off pretty good, but doesn’t really go anywhere, specifically. It’s a nice movie if it comes on TV, but I wouldn’t bother to pay money to rent it.






Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dragon Hunters (2008)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.


Every so often, I like to watch movies.  I have a preference for animated movies.  When I saw Dragon Hunters, I thought it was How to Train Your Dragon and recorded it.  It wasn’t until months later, when I wanted to watch the movie, that I realized my mistake.  This doesn’t mean that I was disappointed.  (I’ll just have to keep scanning the various Encore movie channels and hope that How to Train Your Dragon comes on.)

Dragon Hunters was released in 2008 and, like How to Train Your Dragon, is animated.  As you might expect, it’s not about hunting dragons.  Instead, it’s about Lian-Chu, who hunts dragons, and Gwizdo, who tends to handle things like getting paid for dispatching dragons.  Along for the ride Hector, a little dog-like thing that can make fire come from something other than his mouth.

Now, when the movie says dragons, it apparently means a wide variety of creatures.  The movie starts with Lian-Chu fighting something that looks more like a giant caterpillar.  It takes him a while, but he is able to kill the creature.  When Gwizdo tries to collect payment, their clients try to back out.  It isn’t until Hector does his thing that they run away in fear.  Alas, poor Lian-Chu isn’t taken seriously enough.

As luck would have it, though, they happen upon Lord Arthur, who’s predicting the return of the World Gobbler.  He’s willing to pay a large amount of gold if they can get the job done.  Gwizdo is even able to secure an advance, which he intends to just take while disregarding their mission.  Lian-Chu, on the other hand, wants to fight the dragon.  He has dreams of living on a farm one day and the reward would go a long way to helping.  The only complication is Zoe, the Lord’s niece.  She idolizes a fictional dragon hunter and hopes to become one some day.

The movie is 80 minutes and most of that is their journey from the castle to the end of the world, where the World Gobbler is doing his thing.  What the movie lacks in plot, it makes up for in great animation.  This is one of the few movies where I think it might be worth it to see it on a better TV set.  I’m sorry that I didn’t see this in theaters.

I don’t think that this movie will win a lot of fans for animated movies.  It’s set in a medieval-looking world with some very interesting physics.  There are islands that float in the air, where people can hop on and go for a ride.  They range from small islands, big enough for a few people, to very large islands, containing parts of castles.  There are even spheroid islands that have their own gravity pointing towards the center.  (People and other objects seem to be of normal weight.)

One big complaint I’ve seen is a lack of plot, which I can’t argue with.  There are maybe a dozen or so people shown throughout the entire movie.  It was also a little confusing at times.  It might make more sense on a second viewing.  I think most of the problem is that it’s based on a TV series and may have been condensed quite a bit.  I’d like to look into renting the TV series, partly to see if this is true, but mostly because I liked the movie that much.

For the most part, it’s relatively kid-friendly.  The only thing I could see being scary is the World Gobbler, which is a giant undead dragon.  The scene is only a few minutes long, but small children may have issues.  It should be safe for teenagers and above, though.

As for the rest of the characters, they tend to have an exaggerated look.  If you can see the cover art, you should get a good idea of what I mean.  Lian-Chu is very big and top-heavy.  Hector is very hyperactive and bounces around a lot.  For those that like animation, I’d definitely recommend this movie.  For those that aren’t, all I can say is to go in with an open mind. 




IMDb page

Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)

It seems that history repeats itself.  That seems to be the case with movies these days.  There’s a new cycle of rebooted Star Trek movies.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are getting new movies.  There’s even a new Ghostbusters movie.  Netflix decided to get into the game with a new Pee-Wee Herman movie.  Yes, that Pee-Wee Herman, the childlike alter ego of Paul Reubens that started as a stage act in the early 1980s.  (Reubens is in his 60s now, even if Pee-Wee is forever young.)

The story is similar to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.  Instead of a stolen bike, Pee-Wee is set off on his adventure after meeting Joe Manganiello.  Joe shows up in the diner where Pee-Wee works.  After becoming best of friends, Joe invites Pee-Wee to his birthday party in New York.  There’s just one problem:  Pee-Wee has no interest in leaving Fairville.  Joe leaves Pee-Wee to reconsider, which Pee-Wee does.  He sets out on a trip that takes a lot of unexpected turns.  He meets several interesting characters along the way.  The journey may not have gone to plan, but Pee-Wee ends up where he needs to be.

It’s strange how some movies or songs will always be enjoyable to some people while other people will have no use for them.  It seems like most of the people I know love Pee-Wee Herman or could do without him.  When I told my parents about the new movie, they weren’t all that excited, but I know that there are a lot of fans that won’t be disappointed.   Even if the movie is similar, it’s fun for me to see the character again.  Paul Reubens will forever be known for this character and still manages to play him well.  Throughout the movie, I was rooting for Pee-Wee to make it to New York.

The only real downside to the movie is that, so far as I know, you have to have (or know someone who has) Netflix to watch it.  I’m not sure if there were any plans to continue the franchise or if this was a one-off deal.   Wikipedia mentions some projects that may happen, but I don’t see anything new for the character on IMDb.  I don’t know if anyone will be signing up for Netflix just for this movie, but if you do, tell them Large Marge sent you.