Best Buy $5 X-Men Blu-Rays and FREE Wolverine Tickets

I took advantage of Best Buy’s upgrade and save program recently. Turn in your old DVDs and receive a $5 coupon towards any Blu-Ray $9.99 and up. Normally I use this to pick up Blu-Rays for $5 and I try to stick to ones that have FREE movie cash on them. This week Best Buy has the X-Men films on sale for $5 (with the coupon) and they will have $10 towards the new Wolverine movie.

The WolverineI also picked up the limited edition steelbook of Scarface for $5. Not only did I get a Blu-Ray of Brian DePalma’s masterpiece of excess, with wonderful footage of my hometown of Miami but I also got a steelbook case, collector cards, and a DVD of the original Scarface (1932). I also got a bonus with one of my other movies.

Groundhog's Day

Groundhog Day came with a security sticker applied directly to the disc itself. Yikes! Now I have to make an extra trip to Best Buy this weekend. Groundhog Day is a comfort movie, one of those films I put in when my wife has had a particularly trying day. This will join Princess Bride, Grease, And Chicago in her cheer up box (once I get a replacement).

Pacific Rim and My Own Personal Movie Theater

I have been hoping that Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, Pacific Rim, would rescue me from the summer doldrums. This year’s crop of blockbusters has been disappointing, ranging from the silly, mediocre, or problematic (Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger) to the downright awful, boring, or misconceived (Man of Steel, The Fast & The Furious 6, The Great Gatsby). I enjoyed Monsters University but not as much as Monsters, Inc., Star Trek: Into Darkness but not as much as Star Trek, World War Z but not as much as the book.

Pacific RimNormally I go to my beloved Carolina Cinemas but I was free on Wednesday morning with a $12 voucher ticket from Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Regal Cinema’s Biltmore Grande has a RPX (Regal Premium Experience – basically a not quite Imax) theater and was showing Pacific Rim at 10 a.m. Matinee price for a 2D RPX ticket is $12. There was a line in front of me at the box office but they were all there to see the $1 children’s movie.

RPX emptyApparently no one wants to spend $12 at 10 in the morning. I had the entire RPX auditorium to myself for Pacific Rim. Woohoo! Using the $12 voucher in combination with my Regal card netted me a FREE popcorn (saving it for this weekend’s Despicable Me 2 family trip). I also grabbed two FREE Pacific Rim posters on my way out for the movie room.

Pacific Rim (2013) – Rated PG-13

“As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.”

One Line Review: If you like giant monsters or robots, then go see this on a giant screen!

Pacific Rim on a RPX screen was just what the doctor ordered. It is not a masterpiece like Pan’s Labyrinth. The dialogue is very cheesy, particularly the speeches Idris Elba is asked to give. The visuals are very dark at times and as such may have difficulty transferring to the small screen.

Acting is definitely a weak point. Charlie Day and Burn (Torchwood) Gorman show personality as scientists but are often annoying in their mannerisms. Charlie Hunnam is bland as Raleigh Becket. Idris Elba is good but is saddled with the worst dialogue. Rinko Kikuchi isn’t given enough to do and Ron Perlman hams it up.

The visuals are magnificent in general but occasionally are murky enough to make it difficult to tell what is happening. The kaiju (monsters) are of course the highlight of the film. There are several long wonderful fight scenes between the kaiju and the jaeger (giant robots) as well as several smaller scenes involving each. Sound effects are marvelous (seat shaking in RPX).

Dramatically this movie is very cliched, particularly in the last act. Dialogue is corny and wooden but only serves to be reminiscent of the movies Guillermo del Toro is paying homage to. This is obviously a labor of love for him.

If you want to see giant monsters and giant robots beat up on each other and destroy cities, then go see Pacific Rim. If not, then there isn’t much reason to recommend it.

July This ‘n’ That

* Best Buy Upgrade & Save: Best Buy runs this promotion about every quarter or so. From 7/14-8/10, you can bring in any commercially produced non-pornographic DVD and trade it in for a $5 off any Blu-Ray $9.99 or more coupon. This is typically a great way to get those Blu-Rays that have FREE movie tickets on them. If you don’t have any DVDs to trade in, you can always hit up a dollar store for some.

Netflix

* Netflix has rolled out a new PS3 suggestion engine named Max. They have fine tuned their algorithms and are tryiing out a humorous front end to get you more engaged in the process. If it works out, expect it on the iPad next followed by the Xbox and Roku. I don’t have a PS3 to try this out but I will say that for the first time ever, Netflix does not have movies I’ve already watched and rated on their service in my Top 10 suggested.

Xbox 360* As the Xbox One nears its release goal of taking over your living room, Time Warner Cable and Microsoft have come to an agreement to allow you to view 300 channels live. Is this a test run for the always live Xbox One?

* If there are any aspiring filmmakers out there, head on over to FilmmakerIQ.com for a slew of informative articles and documentaries. Try this one on the history of aspect ratios.

Mid-July Netflix Update

Here are the latest movies to hit instant Netflix:

Action: The Last Kung Fu Monk, Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal, Dead Man’s Burden

Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Comedy: Don Friesen: Ask Your Mom, For Richer or Poorer, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

Documentary: The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans, Done the Impossible, Lakey Peterson: Zero to 100, Mama Africa

Drama: Back to 1942, An Invisible Sign, A Life in Suitcases, Son of a Lion, A Thousand Months

Faith: If You Really Love Me

A Monster in Paris

Family: A Monster in Paris

Detective Dee

Foreign: Detective Dee & Mystery of Phantom Flame (hopefully they remembered the subtitles this time), Settai, Buried Secrets, The Hairdresser, Sandcastle

State of Emergency

Horror: State of Emergency

Television: Orange is the New Black, Ring of Fire, Lab Rats, Peep Show, Political Animals and new seasons of Doc Martin

More Complete Wastes of Time – Unknown Croczilla Crawlspace Origin

Here are several more bad choices on Netflix. I watched them so you don’t have to.

Unknown OriginUnknown Origin (aka The Alien Within, 1995) – Rated R

A team of scientists battles a 4-million-year-old monster 10,000 feet under the ocean. Once aboard the ship, the intruder begins taking control of the crew’s minds. Soon, it’s impossible to tell whom the creature controls and who remains untouched.”

Wow! I was blown away by this film. I have seen plenty of movies lift ideas, gags, locations, and gimmicks from other, usually better, films. This was one of the few occasions where I have heard entire exchanges of dialogue ripped verbatim from other movies and used in this one.

The movie is pretty terrible and the only good dialogue in it are the exchanges lifted from The Thing and Aliens. The only reason to watch this strange low-budget remake of Leviathan is if you are a big fan of Roddy McDowall. Oh and yes, the Melanie Shatner listed in the credits is William’s daughter.

CrawlspaceCrawlspace (2012) – Not rated

When a super-secret underground military facility in Australia is attacked, the government sends in an elite squadron to rescue the workers. The mission becomes even more complicated when the soldiers encounter a beautiful amnesiac in a crawlspace.”

Crawlspace (not related to Klaus Kinski’s 1986 Crawlspace or 2013’s Crawlspace with Steven Weber) has a good central idea. Unfortunately that idea is not fleshed out very well and the entire production seems to have been made in haste. The crawlspaces are really air ducts and are used just as they are in the Alien series of films.

Aliens features a squadron of marines sent in to explore a facility that was attacked so Crawlspace is not terribly original. The first two acts are snoozers (and ripoff Aliens in other ways) but the third act goes someplace different that is interesting. Unfortunately the whole effort just ends up being meh.

CroczillaCroczilla (2012) – Rated PG-13

A rampaging two-ton crocodile with an insatiable appetite is set loose in the city. With the army on the hunt, Croczilla will terrorize innocent people while a sexy model tries to recover millions from its belly.”

Okay this is a case of a movie about a rampaging two-ton crocodile committing a cardinal sin. Croczilla isn’t bad so much as it is boring. Perhaps it is better in its original language but here it put me to sleep – and I like nature on the rampage movies.

 

Saving You Time – Jack the 500 MPH Giant Killer Storm Mountain

Here are a slew of recent drek from Asylum you should just avoid. They are all terrible and feature vapid dialog, terrible special effects, and usually a celebrity either plummeting down the list or one that has already hit rock bottom.

500 MPH Storm500 MPH Storm (2013) – Not rated

“A rise in ocean temperatures creates a massive hurricane the size of Australia that sweeps cities into the stratosphere and tears a hole in the ozone. Will this be the end for all life on earth?”

Will this be the end for all life on Earth? Honestly I don’t know. I simply could not get through it. Slummer: Casper Van Dien – where’s an unnecessary Starship Troopers 4 when you need one?

Killer MountainKiller Mountain (2011) – Not rated

When an expedition disappears on the world’s highest unclimbed mountain, an expert climber is lured out of retirement to save them. But after he hears the team’s panicked final transmission, he becomes convinced that something more sinister awaits.

Genre stalwarts Emmanuelle (Smallville, Saw 2) Vaugier and Aaron (Battlestar Galactica) Douglas at least try here. The story is the usual Syfy trash but just a little bit more watchable because it isn’t from Asylum.

Jack the Giant KillerJack the Giant Killer (2013) – Not Rated

A beanstalk brings Jack to a land in the clouds filled with evil beasts in this fantasy tale (not to be confused with the hit Jack the Giant Slayer). When the creatures make their way to Earth, Jack must follow suit to save his hometown.”

Asylum all the way baby – run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit. Obviously released to ripoff Jack the Giant Slayer. Slummer: None other than Chariot of Fire’s Ben Cross.

Up next from Asylum: Atlantic Rim – premiering days before Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. No, I’m not kidding. At least the upcoming Sharknado has a good title.

 

 

 

The Long Ranger – Oh, the Humanity!

Thanks to purchasing Oz the Great and Powerful (Blu-Ray combo pack) for my daughter and granddaughter, I had a FREE ticket for The Lone Ranger.

One-line Review: Depp has lots of fun in The Tonto Show, movie just meh.

The Lone RangerThe Lone Ranger (2013) – Rated PG-13

Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.”

The Lone Ranger is such a shame.

My wife’s major complaint with the film is that Johnny Depp essentially plays the entire film in ‘redface’. There would certainly have been outrage if Johnny Depp had played a quirky African-American in blackface but apparently it is still okay for Caucasians to take leading roles as Native Americans away from actual Native Americans. My wife chose not to attend.

Admittedly this is a century old problem for Hollywood. Jeff Chandler (born Ira Gossell) practically made a career out of playing Cochise, assaying the role three times in four years (1950-4). 1962’s Geronimo cast Chuck Connors (aka The Rifleman) in the titular role. A decade later, Charles Bronson went native in Chato’s Land. Sitting Bull has been portrayed by actors as varied as African-American Noble Johnson (1926), J. Carrol Naish (1950, 1954), and Michael Pate (1965). Later films ‘solved’ the racism issue by casting a leading Caucasian as a white man among the Indians (“Little Big Man”, “Dances with Wolves”).

Leaving that aside, there are still more opportunities for outrage. The new movie is clearly an affront to anyone who values the old Clayton Moore series (1949-1957). I doubt anyone even remembers the Klinton Spilsbury outing (1981). In our latest outing, Armie Hammer plays John Reid aka The Lone Ranger as a cross between a gibbering idiot and a total git. Honestly, the film would only have been a half hour long except that every time someone else was going to be a hero, Reid stepped in and bungled everything. This skewering of a pop culture hero can be done as farce (a la The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu) but here it is just a given that Reid is absolutely hopeless (albeit with phenomenal luck).

If you aren’t outraged yet, how about releasing a big budget Disney film during the summer (with all the cachet and family members that brings) and finding out that the villain is not only sadistic but a cannibal as well. Butch Cavendish pulls out and eats the heart of a still living (okay, not for long) heroic sheriff. Some of this is offscreen to preserve the PG-13 rating but they show as much as they can and then you can hear more. If you still missed it, don’t worry they will explain it in detail later.

Still not outraged? The wholesale slaughter of Comanches is perpetrated but it is so insignificant as to be relegated to an almost missed sideplot save for a key dialogue exchange during a standoff. Not being a subtle movie, our dashing cavalryman Fuller is made up to look like George Armstrong Custer. Christianity takes a beating throughout the movie as well.

Okay, I give up. If I can’t outrage you, let me tell you that The Lone Ranger clocks in at an excruciating two hours and twenty-nine minutes. I love epics and some movies need over two hours to develop their plot and/or characters. The Lone Ranger could easily have chopped half an hour, probably an hour without losing much.

Having typed all of that, there is much to like about The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp’s performance is as wonderfully quirky as ever, though it will remind you of Jack Sparrow from time to time. It is to the film’s credit that it realizes that Depp is the star and the film should be titled Tonto. Helena Bonham Carter is her usual eccentric self but the role is rather a one-trick pony.

Sadly none of the other actors are given much to do. Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, and Barry Pepper are all very capable character actors but strangely don’t make much of an impression here. James Badge Dale is suitably scruffy and heroic but isn’t in much of the movie. Armie Hammer comes across as rather bland, when he isn’t being a prig.

There are elements of the unreliable narrator here that are very amusing. The outrageous stunts and setpieces are entertaining. The Lone Ranger borrows a lot from other better films, particularly Little Big Man, so if you haven’t seen the films Lone Ranger references, then you might think it quite imaginative. There is a particularly wonderful dialogue exchange during a standoff.

Mild spoiler ahead:

The climactic setpiece is cleverly set to the tune of the William Tell overture. Of course, because this is an overblown blockbuster, director Verbinski has to have Hans Zimmer add to the classic tune as well as recycle it. The climax just goes on forever.

Oh, and Verbinski, we get it – Indians trade.

White House Dumb

Air Force OneWolfgang Peterson’s Air Force One (1997 – sadly not currently available on instant Netflix or Amazon Prime) was a wonderful melding of the Die Hard premise (lone, unprepared hero fights off a band of villains to save innocents, including his family) with politics and the Presidency.

Olympus Has Fallen

Strangely, after a decade and a half, two studios simultaneously decided to remake this, choosing to make the protagonist a failed Secret Service member (Olympus Has Fallen)/a cop who failed to become a Secret Service member (White House Down), and set it in the White House so we could bring maximum building destruction.

White House Down

In itself these are not bad premises but in Air Force One, the plan is canny if a little loopy and the number of Secret Service agents are reduced by being on Air Force One. When the plan goes into effect, even though it is aided by someone on the inside, the Secret Service goes into action and does exactly their job. The rest of the story occurs because the President refuses to leave his family.

In Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, we have a full complement of Secret Service agents and auxiliary personnel. When the plan goes down, ALL of the agents search out the gunfire and throw their bodies in front of it, not for any effect other than to let our lone hero begin his mission. Olympus Has Fallen is the worst one, with a withering fire concentrated on the White House entrance and agent after agent walking right into the fire. It was almost as if they were filming a World War I over-the-top trench scene.

White House Down is clearly the more well thought out of the two plots. It has an irritatingly de rigeur and deus ex machina hacker so that various things can be magically taken care of but the overall villains give the best chance for success. Olympus Has Fallen was the right-wing version of the story, featuring a white President and North Korean villains. White House Down features Jaime Foxx as an Obama stand-in and the villains are the military industrial complex. I guess private military corporations are the villains du jour, replacing unscrupulous land developers.

It is a shame that neither of these movies can follow the wonderful blueprint set down by the master of the right-wing political thriller, Tom Clancy. Not only can Clancy concoct wonderfully plausible, if xenophobic, scenarios but he doesn’t have a single invincible superhero solve all problems. Honestly, the only purpose the cabinet served in White House Down, besides being victims and hostages, was to tell Cale how much time was left. Clancy has agents Clark and Chavez doing agent type work, intelligence analysts doing analytical work (except when Ryan gets in over his head), and Presidents doing presidential work. Sadly he is so rich now that other people write his books and they don’t typically understand the ensemble approach.

I will say that White House Down has much better special effects and an early blowing up of the Capitol building makes more sense than the Washington Monument as penis metaphor in Olympus Has Fallen. Both feature rah rah jingoistic patriotism, though most of White House Down features Cale (Channing Tatum) trying to rescue his daughter, while the President seems somewhat incidental.

White House Down can be big dumb fun but I would really like an intelligent thriller.

Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down one-line review:

Seriously, just go back and watch Air Force One.

More New July Films on Netflix

Here is a nice little set of movies now showing on instant Netflix:

The Expendables 2

Action: The Expendables 2, Age of Dinosaurs

Comedy: 13 Going on 30, Monkeybone, Playing for Keeps

Documentary: Venus and Serena, The House I Live In, Lunarcy!, Buffalo Girls, 56 Up, The Anderson Monarchs, Baby, It’s You, Bull Runners of Pamplona, A Doula Story, Home of the Brave, Charles Bradley: Soul of America, The Grandfathers

Drama: Starlet, Birds of a Feather

Foreign: The Taste of Money, As Luck Would Have It, The Assassin’s Blade, Little White Lies, My Best Enemy

The Bay

Horror: The Bay

Science Fiction: Crawlspace

CSI: New York

Television: The first eight seasons of CSI:NY

Thriller: Luster

WB Archive Instant – FREE Trial

I’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating – if you are looking for that rare movie you watched as a child that you can’t find anywhere in stores, there is a good chance you can find it in a print on demand DVD from the studio’s archive. Most of the major studios have these archives available for titles that are desirable but not mainstream enough for a big release. The WB archive is particularly rich. These DVDs are mostly no-frills and because they are not mass-produced, you rarely find a decent sale.

WB Archive InstantWarner Brothers has now finished their beta of their Warner Archive Instant service. You can sign up for a 2-week trial for FREE. After that it is $9.99 a month. Currently you can only watch it on your computer or on the TV via Roku (I’d expect Xbox 360 and PS3 support soon).

They don’t really have enough films for a service (only 30 horror movies, 26 science fiction movies, etc.) but some of the titles are gems that have been sitting in the vault. I plan to use my two-week trial to the utmost watching ‘classics’ not available on the other services such as Captain Nemo and the Underwater City and Razorback and even some films I’ve never seen like The Black Scorpion and Moon Zero Two.

Time After Time

If you watch one film from this trial, watch Time After Time. “H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper through 19th-century London to modern-day San Francisco when the serial murderer uses the future writer’s time machine to escape his time period.” This is probably the best work from both Malcolm McDowell and David Warner.