Good Morning, Vietnam has the uncanny ability to surprise. At around the hour mark, I was convinced that the film, while funny and impossibly kinetic and energetic in tone and performance, was solely sticking to this act of energy, while maybe touching but not capitalizing at the apparent possibility of an emotional subplot. Sure enough, director Barry Levinson and writer Mitch Markowitz manage to work in a seriously believable and touching bout of sentimentality to a picture so manic one doubts that it could possibly fit comfortably inside of it. The film is the perfect blend of manic, disposable energy and tender drama that it becomes a film to seriously commend in many different departments.
Robin Williams is at the film’s core as Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer, who arrives in 1965 Saigon to work as a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Station. He meets and takes a liking to the straight-laced and genial Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (Forest Whitaker), who also takes a liking to Cronauer after seeing what the man can do with a microphone and a broadcasting signal. Cronauer’s radio broadcast, contrary from the archetypal and uninspired transmissions the bases were used to hearing, are irreverent and fun, with lively bursts of energy and unpredictable wit coming directly from the mind of its radio DJ. This leads him to be immensely controversial with his peers. However, Cronauer becomes supported and rejoiced by his students who attend his English language learning class on a frequent basis, proving that while he does things differently, the man has the incredibly ability to connect and to inspire.
It should be dually noted that Williams exercised the practice of improvisation while performing his wild-and-out radio shows in Good Morning, Vietnam, for it shows extreme comic energy, timing, and capability. Williams indefatigably, zealously delivers monologues of true power during his radio shows, zipping by with unprecedented comedic speeds, with jokes so sneaky and quick that you’re bound to miss at least a few. His character Cronauer doesn’t even a cohost for his radio show, as he is the sole provider of such indescribable energy and fun in the film.
Furthermore, Williams works to illustrate Markowitz’ more sentimental and emotional second half, which isn’t as emotionally manipulating as one would expect. Rather than carelessly paint a second half so somberly, immediately following a goofy but thoroughly enjoyable first half, Markowitz carefully constructs scenarios and characters for us to latch onto as likable souls victim to a senseless, brutal war. After an hour of Williams’ rampant comedic delivery, despite it being incredibly enjoyable, I was expecting the entire film to only vaguely come to an emotional or even dramatically investing second half. As Markowitz goes on, however, he totally creates a wonderful climax and conclusion to the film. In addition, let it be known that Williams works tirelessly to detail the emotions necessary for the film to succeed. He transitions ever-so naturally from manic energy to humble and sentimental, effectively but commendably illustrating a drastic divide in emotions so beautifully. The performance at hand rightfully earned him an Oscar nod and affirmed a potentially skeptical audience of Williams’ incredible on-screen energy.
We’ve all had our fair share when it comes to natural disasters. At the end of such horrible days, it’s a beautiful thing to see the people of the world give a helping hand however way they can. It’s necessary evils, that give us hope for humanity. The Impossible is one of many great films that will restore your faith. It is shocking, heart breaking, yet beautiful all at the same time.
A family of five spend their Christmas vacation in Thailand. Just like any normal family, they’re experiencing new chapters in their lives, but are doing whatever it takes to keep a positive attitude. While enjoying their time in the sun, it only takes a few seconds to realize their small problems, are nothing compared to losing each other forever. A tsunami swallows the land, taking out everything in its path. Regardless of being shoved in all directions, the oldest son Lucus played by Tom Holland (The Secret World of Arrietty), and his mother Maria played by Naomi Watts ( Funny Games and The Ring), force their heads above the water, trying to keep eyes on each other.
By the time the two embrace each other, they’re surrounded by debris. Distraught, and seriously wounded, they’re unsure which direction to proceed. Taking what steps they can, they push forward to find their family, but with the mother in critical condition, the locals of Thailand help her and the son to the nearest hospital. After experiencing some serious poking and prodding from doctors, she awaits surgery. Back at the hotel, the father Henry played by Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting and Black Hawk Down), searches through out the rubble, screaming for his family. Even in this dark time, this family over looks worst case scenarios, and give’s hope to other victims in search of their loved ones.
The Impossible is not only the holder of 27 wins and 61 nominations, it is also based on a true story. This is not your usual natural disaster Hollywood film, it is so much more than that. Director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage), did more than brilliant job recreating this family’s involvement in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsumani. The hairs on your body will rise as you witness mother nature at its worst, and yes, you will be brought to tears, but not just from fear, but from relief.
The anthology nightmare returns, bringing more jumps, screams, and yes much better quality. Considering how fabulous, yet terrible the first film was, it wasn’t much of a surprise that there was such a high demand for a sequel. It begins with a couple of private investigators, looking into the disappearance of a college student. After breaking into his home, lo and behold there are stacks of VHS tapes, piled next to a collage of television sets, a computer with the college student’s last vlog about the tapes, and how he plans to create his very own. While one investigator roams the house for evidence, the other gets comfortable and pops in a VHS tape.
Segment one is about an ocular implant test subject, who’s vision is still not so clear. He begins to see what he believes to be ghosts. Even when his doctor tells him his new eye is only adjusting, he begs to differ when things continue to go bump in the night. Will he learn to manage his new surroundings before he’s scared to death, or worse? Segment two, shows the spread of a zombie virus through a cyclist’s go-pro camera. As all hell breaks loose through out the park, small yet, big memory triggers remind a zombie that he was once human.
Segment three, is a group doing a film documentary about the life of an Indonesian cult. What at first appears to be just a clash between religion and psychology, turns into something much more terrifying; incest and mass suicide. And with one of the crew member’s secretly pregnant, it’s all the cult needs to complete their mission. Segment four, takes place at simple slumber party. Nothing too extravagant, just a few teenage boys raising hell, and their babysitter trying to keep them in check, in more ways then one. But all the fun ends when a light from outside blinds their eyes, and an usual loud pulse has them shaking in their sleeping bags.
VHS 2 is the winner of the Chainsaw Award – Best Limited Release/Direct to Video Film. With directors Adam Wingard (V/H/S and ABC’s of Death), Simon Barrett (Writer of You’re Next), Jason Eisner (ABC’s of Death and Hobo with a Shotgun), Gareth Evans (The Raid : Redemption and The Raid 2), Gregg Hale (Producer of The Blair Witch Project), Eduardo Sanchez (Lovely Molly and From Dusk Till Dawn- TV Series), and last but not least, Timo Tjahjanto (Killers and Macabre), it’s no wonder how great part two turned out. In fact it did so well, V/H/S 3 will be coming out very soon, and it looks just as fantastic. As said before pop some popcorn, get a nice blanket and hit the lights. Just remember, horror movies are all fun and games, until the power goes out.
It’s been forty-seven years since George Takei began his iconic role as Sulu on the Star Trek television series, and since then he’s gone on to participate in an animated show along with six feature films portraying the same character. But what most people outside of his intimate fan-base don’t realize is that throughout the bulk of his acting career he was forced to hide his homosexuality, fearing he would lose his job and other subsequent parts he hoped to get. But now with battles over same-sex marriage starting to see a hopeful end, he’s become deeply imbedded in the fight for gay rights. And with his position as official announcer on The Howard Stern Show, has been quite upfront about his orientation.
It primarily focuses on his life today as well as his childhood in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. For me, it offered only few surprises because I already knew quite a bit about Mr. Takei, as the actor has been very public in recent years. His Twitter feeds and comedy clips online are legendary and with a HUGE following numbering in many millions. However, despite me already knowing that he’s gay and married his partner back in 2008, the film did reveal some interesting information about the man. However, despite a few revelations, the best part is simply to listen to the man talk about his life…and laugh. Yes, Takei is a chronic laugher and even when he talked about subjects he didn’t like (such as every time William Shatner was mentioned), his smile and laughter was omnipresent–and it’s hard not to like someone who laughs this heartily and this often.
The documentary consists of Takei, and sometimes his husband, Brad, talking about their lives and going about their exhaustive routine of film, convention, radio and public service appearances. However, it did not have a narrator–something I really liked in this film. So, instead of listening to a narrator explaining or interpreting, the film just lets him talk…like you are listening to him as he talks about whatever comes to mind or whatever piques his interest. Additionally, there are many television and movie clips as well as photos–which all help tell his story. The main themes are alienation and human rights. This begins with Takei’s discussion of how his and other families were denied their basic freedom when Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were forced into internment camps during WWII (FYI–this did NOT happen to German-Americans despite the US also being at war with the Nazis). And, over the course of the film, it segues into his discussing his homosexuality and gay marriage. In particular, Takei’s decision to come out about his orientation as well as discussing his life with his partner–and the film does a good job humanizing homosexual marriage and puts a face on it–making it more than just a concept. The films ends with a discussion of Takei’s renaissance–his new career in the busy latter years of his life as a cultural icon–as well as his coming to terms with his internment years. All in all, the ending presents an interesting and unexpected turn of events to say the least over the last decade or so of his life.
“To Be Takei” is a nice, gentle picture where you tag along with Takei and learn from him and his years of experience. Most of it is very uplifting and enjoyable–though as I mentioned above, there isn’t a lot of nice stuff in the film about William Shatner and I am sure the guy won’t be buying a ticket to see this film himself! However, there are also interesting interviews with surviving cast members (including Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig without his toupee, as he apparently is NOT self-conscious about his baldness), footage of Takei greeting Star Trek fans and signing autographs at a convention as well as a few interviews with his friends. The sum total of all this is enjoyable and easy to watch–just like listening to an old friend reminisce.
Starting at a young age, we’re quickly introduced to scary stories. The boogie man, el cucuy , dybbuk, aliens, zombies even. All around the world, fear of someone, or something under the bed, or hiding in the closet is not news; young, or old, I’m sure we all still have these fears. I know I do. Point is, we all have a love-hate relationship with horror stories, but I’m curious as to why. Why do most parents insist on telling us these stories before bed? Is it so we’re scared into being well behaved, and forced to bed before the monster’s take us away? Maybe, or maybe we’re being prepared for something more horrifying; reality. But today’s generation isn’t so easily scared by simple folklore. Its all about found footage, and I must say today’s “boogie man”, is hell of a lot scarier than the 90’s version.
It starts with a bizarre mission to find a single VHS tape, in some man’s house. But unbeknownst to the criminals, the old man is dead, sitting in front a television surrounded by piles of VHS tapes. While the group ventures through out the rest of the house, one stay’s behind to view each unmarked video. But these aren’t just your ordinary tapes filled with pornography, or Wheel of Fortune reruns. Tape one begins with a group of men on the hunt to get their buddy laid, and out of all the women to choose from their night out, they pick the one that does more than turn their night into a living hell. This segment will surely make any man think twice before picking up any random girl at a bar.
Segment two is about a couple on their honeymoon. It all seems sweet at first until a knock on their hotel door, leaves them feeling creeped out. Who is this strange woman? What does she want? But the real question is, is she really a stranger? In segment three, a group of friends take miniature hike in the woods, where a horrible murder occurred. Little do they know, their new friend is only using them as bait to catch the killer. A killer that can be in two places at once.
Segment four will certainly keep you up at night. A young girl manages her long distance relationship, by video chatting with her boyfriend. As each night passes, she experiences strange events in her apartment, and a mysterious bump on her arm begins to irritate her to the point of digging in her skin, with a pair a tweezers. Segment five, set on Halloween night is about four friends on their way to a party, but they stumble into the wrong house. Mistaking it for the best haunted house ever, they don’t realize that upstairs a human sacrifice is taking place. One that could save humanity.
V/H/S is the holder of three nominations, including Golden Trailer – Best Horror. Despite the poor quality of the film, it was still impressive, and gave plenty of scares. If that’s not enough, not only did my boyfriend blow off studying for his finals to watch, but a friend of ours experienced some heart palpitations just by watching segment one. So give it a go, why not, Halloween is around the corner.
Using stock news footage, Ninja Apocalypse opens with us learning a world war has just been declared, ending with us seeing a mushroom cloud. We then cut to a barren but beautiful landscape with text informing us “Years After The Great War,” establishing the post-apocalyptic setting. Framed for assassinating Grandmaster Fumitaka, the Lost Ninja Clan must battle their way through an underground nuclear bunker filled with hordes of supernatural enemies, mutants, and flesh eating zombies, pursued by Hiroshi’s (Ernie Reyes Jr., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, The Rundown, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) unstoppable Ninja army, with orders to hunt them down. Trapped a thousand feet below the Earth’s crust, the Lost Clan will face hell. The bloody, action-packed fantasy, martial arts, action film delivers a non-stop heart pounding, adrenaline-injected thrill ride.
The plot might be new to some, but to others you’ll be on familiar ground. Yet, given the fact that it takes from the 79 classic and spins its own web, I have to say that it works quite well in this post-apocalyptic setting. The visuals, while low budget, still look good and there are some amazing special effects such as the glowing swords, some of the special moves (like Fumitaka pulling off a shadow style fast move or Cage’s electric ball) and the final lightsaber-esque battle, were all pretty impressive. The choreography on the fighting sequences mixed with the editing also deserves a positive nod as moves don’t flow to fast or too slow – everything is just right. Next, the acting is pretty decent, though no real standouts – hell even a vet actor like Tagawa hammed it up just a bit. Oh and lest I forget, Antoinette Kalaj gets PerfectView nod times three – three for the triple role she plays as Siren.
The acting varied from dialed in wooden to downright questionable, with not enough of the actors bringing their A game that I know they have. Star Christian Oliver has done much better than this, however, I put his forced performance and odd delivery down to being directed to act that way. The bottom line is, the writing wasn’t very good, the direction was lacking and the acting was uneven. They also managed to kill off someone who actually had some good moves, and she wasn’t bad on the eyes. That said, what was achieved on such a small budget was very good and visually the film was excellent. I just don’t see anyone that’s not male and over the age of 15 getting much out of it, other than admiring a very hot Antoinette Kalaj X 5 in tight pants.
Since Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios has become one of the biggest moneymaking studios in the world of film. Marvel looked to continue that success with Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians isn’t as well known of a comic book series as say the aforementioned Iron Man and the Hulk but the trailers really brought home that exact feeling that many people were having; Who are the Guardians of the Galaxy? Did a brilliant marketing campaign result in a brilliant film. The short answer: Hell Yeah!
Chris Pratt is Peter Quill or Starlord and at the beginning of the film we see him as a young boy in the hospital near his dying mother. After she dies, he runs away in grief and sadness and is then subsequently abducted by the Ravagers under the leadership of Yondu. 26 years later he is on an alien planet searching for an orb. He later runs into Gamora who was sent by the evil Ronan to retrieve the orb. He also gets into s skirmish with the wise cracking genetically altered bounty hunter Rocket the Raccoon and his friend Groot, the walking tree who only says “I am Groot” with humorous results. They all get arrested and meet up with Drax the Destroyer, no additional information needed and they form the Guardians to beat a common enemy.
What makes this such an enjoyable film is the nonstop bickering between the lead characters. They don’t like each other but they do learn to respect each other to defeat their enemies. Dave Bautista almost steals the show as Drax because of his characters’ hilarious explanation that he doesn’t understand metaphors. Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as Groot form a dynamic duo and are probably the two best characters onscreen. Zoe Saldana kicks ass as Gamora and Chris Pratt shines as Peter Quill. Under the playful direction of James Gunn, the film makes you forget about The Avengers. Captain America who? Thor what? The film does have a sitcom feel but it’s the perfect style that compliments the performances.
The dialogue is ultra hilarious, the action sequences are eye popping and the music/soundtrack is extraordinarily fun and fits perfectly. It’s a film that screams summer blockbuster and with the film having the highest August opening weekend ever so far, is a film people are flocking to and with good reason. The jokes are everywhere and hit on all cylinders. The slow dramatic parts are very well done. Just go see this film in theaters because Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel Studios film to date.
“Lucy” is insane, makes very little sense, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and is an absolute blast. Really, if you like having fun at the movies and pretending to be smart while doing so, you ought to see it. It doesn’t matter how silly it all seems later. Writer and director Luc Besson decided to take off all the filters, remove all the restraints and just go full-bore crazy, both visually and with the story. Scarlett Johansson proves a willing accomplice by playing things straight, the calm in the middle of a raging storm. She plays the title character, a student living in Taiwan. Her boyfriend (Pilou Asbaek) dupes her into delivering a briefcase to a Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), a mysterious mobster-type. This does not go well. The briefcase contains a drug in packages that Jang’s henchmen implant in the abdomens of Lucy and others; they are mules, with no choice in the matter.
But Lucy’s packet is punctured. The drug begins leaking into her body, which absorbs it, causing her brain to work at an increasingly high level. Besson shifts back and forth between all this to Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), a professor in Paris giving a lecture about how humans use only 10 percent of their brains. He speculates on what might happen if we were able to use more. Cut back to Lucy, with an on-screen graphic showing the rising capacity of her brain function as she escapes her captors. The effect of the drug is not just Lucy’s increased intelligence, but an ability to control other people, as well as everything around her. She contacts Norman and rushes to meet him, to try to figure out what will happen as she grows toward 100 percent brain capacity, while Jang and his thugs pursue her relentlessly. Being able to control matter comes in handy in a gunfight, turns out.
Besson puts some highfalutin concepts into play, about the nature of life and intelligence and what we’ve done with it, that sort of thing. But he can’t stop himself from having fun. When Lucy’s boyfriend is trying to talk her into delivering the briefcase, for instance, he cuts to a quick shot of a mouse contemplating the cheese in a trap. When Jang’s men are approaching her in the lobby of a hotel, Besson makes a quick cut to a cheetah pursuing its prey. A tad obvious? Sure. Who cares? What saves “Lucy,” in addition to Johansson’s performance, is Besson’s sense of humor. Despite the serious-sounding subject matter, he never takes any of it too seriously. Or if he does, he misses the mark so badly that it’s funny anyway.
The visuals are often stunning, as we see what Lucy sees: basically everything, without distraction, all at one time as her mental capacity increases. Johansson shifts into a monotone — fitting since, as she explains, she no longer feels pain or emotion. The implication is that these are traits for those of us lower on the brain-function scale. With this, “Her” and “Under the Skin,” Johansson is on a roll of late. This film isn’t the equal of those two, but it doesn’t really try to be. Besson seems instead determined to mix genres and ideas and let Johansson hold it all together. She does, and “Lucy” is an unlikely romp as a result.
“Code Black,” which is the term used to describe the common situation in which the Los Angeles County (public) hospital emergency room is full, takes us into what looks like complete chaos, groups of doctors and nurses surrounding patients on tables to treat gunshot wounds, stabbings, heart attacks and presumably bad headaches. In some graphic takes, we are privy, like the interns and medical students who sit in the balcony as spectators, to surgery involving attempts at CPR some of which are unsuccessful, and invasive procedures involving the placement of instruments deep inside the hapless patients’ ribs, chests, and abdomens. We take a look at the masses of people who sit close together on upholstered chairs looking as though they’re waiting for Godot, not a single one of them using the time to read, to do puzzles, or distract themselves to make the time go by more quickly.
When the county received a spanking new hospital paid for by the taxpayers, an additional problem arose. More government regulations were put into place requiring doctors to spend additional time filling out forms rather than dealing wholly with patients. One young doctor is put off by the separation he now feels from the patients.
The director is kidding himself if he thinks this isn’t a political doc, or at least an issue film, but that doesn’t mean he’s not noble in his romantic view of healthcare. And it’s always an interesting angle to focus on the doctors as heroes, rather than the patients as subjects that the audience can relate to (see Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare for a more conventional doc that does this, too). Code Black is never boring and actually blows through its brief 78 minutes so quickly that it leaves us wanting more — in all areas, including information, history, character study, arguments, solutions, medical procedures, but maybe not gripes. With all the medical TV series out there playing this stuff for soapy drama, this doc shows us something far more stimulating, visually and intellectually, and I’d be interested in seeing it continue.
With more and more doctors turning away men, women, and children who do not have insurance, emergency rooms are filled with patients who can spend 12 to 18 hours waiting to see a doctor. Most of those who come to this ER are working-class people. The title of the film, Code Black, refers to these inhumane jammed waiting rooms where sick people are intermixed with screaming children, mentally deranged street people, and victims of violence. A handful of zealous residents try to set up a new system for moving patients from the waiting room to a face-to-face session with a doctor but the experiment fails when there aren’t enough nurses (many nurses have quit because of poor pay). Three cheers for the young doctors in Code Black; we hope and pray that they will not burnout or compromise their ardent idealism.