New Streaming Releases for the Week of 1/28/14

Slim pickings this week but Saturday the 1st should bring a flood of new titles. The Croods is Oscar-nominated.

Man of Tai Chi

Action/Adventure: Man of Tai Chi, Revelation Road 2

Comedy: Adventures in the Sin Bin, John Mulaney: New in Town, Nantucket Film Festival’s 2nd Comedy Roundtable, A True Story, Bull Durham, Itty Bitty Titty Committee, MST3K: Phantom Planet

Documentary: Cash Crop, Mitt, Trash Dance, Nightmare Factory, Pageant, Question One, Wagner & Me, Soldiers of Paint, Nurses: If Florence Could See Us Now, In a Town This Size, Buying Sex

Unfinished Song

Drama: Unfinished Song

Family: The Croods

Horror: Argento’s Dracula, Dark Touch, Day of the Dead

Sports: WWE Triple H: Thy Kingdom Come

Dallas

Television: My Big Big Friend and a new season of Dallas

Cockneys Stalled in The Tower with Zombies

The Tower, Cockneys vs. Zombies, and Stalled are currently available on instant Netflix

The Tower

 

The Tower (2012) – Not rated

A luxury high-rise building in Seoul is hosting a fabulous Christmas party for its wealthy tenants and guests. But the soirée turns into a nightmare when two helicopters collide over the tower, starting a deadly fire.

From the Netflix description, you might think that this was a Korean remake of The Towering Inferno (1974). You would be right. You will have to read subtitles and this does not have the cheesy joy of seeing Steve McQueen face off against Paul Newman. The special effects are pretty darn nice though they haven’t quite perfected CGI fire.

The Tower isn’t great and suffers from a bit too much melodrama but is an enjoyable disaster flick.

Stalled

Stalled (2013) – Rated TV-14

A sad-sack janitor, appropriately named W.C., is cleaning the ladies’ room when the zombie apocalypse breaks out at the office Christmas party. Taking refuge in a stall, the unarmed, defenseless W.C. makes a final stand against the undead.

First, I must say that Stalled is barely a zombie movie. Yes, it occurs during a zombie apocalypse but it’s mainly a horror comedy that takes place (almost) entirely in a bathroom. It isn’t laugh out loud funny but it is fairly charming. The zombie makeup is not particularly good but its cartoonishness doesn’t work against the film. Office politics, office parties, and blue collar vs. white collar shenanigans are skewered. Dan Palmer is the writer and star and has to carry the entire film.

While nowhere near as funny as Shaun of the Dead or Fido, Stalled is mildly entertaining.

Cockneys vs. Zombies

Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012) – Not rated

“In an attempt to save their granddad’s old age home, slacker Cockneys Terry and Andy team up with three friends to rob a bank. But their caper goes awry when they run afoul of a horde of hungry zombies, who then do battle with the feisty pensioners.”

Cockneys vs. Zombies is just okay. Stalled is funnier. Warm Bodies is funnier still. Shaun of the Dead is much funnier. Fido is also much funnier. Still if you are desperate for a lighthearted take on the zombie genre and have watched all the others, this is a passable waste of time.

Jack Ryan, Generic Spy

I got my FREE ticket for this from Best Buy. Using it put me over the top for a FREE soda at Carolina Cinemas so I had a really nice afternoon.

Jack Ryan

 

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) – Rated PG-13

Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.”

I loved many of Tom Clancy’s novels. I also mourned him before his passing as he had been letting other hacks write his novels for over a decade. While I did not always agree with his assessment of politics, he always had good reason for going in the direction he did. While Jack Ryan was his main protagonist, many many other characters served heroic roles in his novels, including reader favorites like John Clark and Ding Chavez down to individual secret service personnel.

Three of his best novels had already been adapted to the screen (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger) with varying degrees of success as well as one of his lesser efforts (The Sum of All Fears). Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and, now, Chris Pine.

Jack Ryan had plenty of warning bells. It is always a terrible sign to be bumped from a Christmas release to the celluloid graveyard of January. The title, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, smacks of franchise planning. The title is also horrifically generic. Chris Pine makes a great William Shatner but can he act? I enjoyed Carriers but it didn’t really require heavy lifting from Pine.

The movie begins with a couple scenes showcasing Ryan’s character and backstory – I was almost startled that it wasn’t a montage. A lot of what occurs seems intent on setting Ryan up for future sequels.

The first two-thirds of the movie run smoothly. The action is pretty and well-handled but evokes a serious deja vu. If you are going to make an expensive spy movie, then bring something new to the table like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol did (a sandstorm chase, a climb outside the Burj Khalifa, a fight in an automated car park).

Chris Pine is a rather generic hero, in spite of the pedigree they establish for him. Kenneth Branagh makes for a good villain. Keira Knightley is nice too but contrast this with her stunning performance in Anna Karenina.

Extremely minor spoilers (the plot gives this away):

The last act of the film though is ridiculous in the extreme. I won’t post spoilers but knowing that an attack on the U.S. is imminent, some people have to fly from Moscow to the U.S. and apparently, there are no other people in the agency (or any other agency) who can handle this situation.

Jack Ryan is so smart that all answers have to come from him, in spite of the fact that he is a minor analyst/agent in the C.I.A. There is a nice montage as they figure things out but Clancy’s strength was that all efforts, good and evil, require an ensemble of characters. Apparently in the cinema world, a wrench (Jack Ryan) is the answer to all problems, mental or physical.

That’s not to say that Jack Ryan isn’t enjoyable. It just isn’t memorable so go, enjoy, and forget.

 

 

Just When I Thought I Was Out, FREE Movie Tickets

I have been making a conscious effort to attend fewer movies to save money. While nowhere near as large as a movie screen, I have a very nice television. I can drink my own brewed tea at home instead of a coke at the cinema. My snacks and homemade baked goods are certainly better than anything I can get at the theater. Top all of that off with home release windows narrowing to three months and you really don’t have to wait long to watch something at home.

Jack Ryan

Then a certain retailer (Curse you, Best Buy!) had The Hunt for Red October blu-ray (and others) on an endcap for $9.99 with a FREE movie ticket to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Other titles included Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, The Sum of All fears, Top Gun, Minority Report, and the Mission Impossible movies.

Robocop

Best Buy also had an endcap of $7.99 blu-rays with FREE tickets to the new Robocop movie. Titles included the remastered edition of Robocop, Ronin, A-Team, Red Dawn, Die Hard, The Terminator, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Walking Tall, Roadhouse, Predator 2, Escape from New York, Navy Seals, Commando, and Immortals.

Sadly I am a sucker for FREE movie tickets. I finesse them with the theater’s rewards program to earn more new items (popcorn, soda, tickets). Never forget to use your theater’s reward card with these. Also if it is a Sony or Disney release, save the ticket stubs to submit for their rewards points.

Disney offer

Speaking of Disney Movie Rewards, they are currently offering a FREE movie if you enter three DVD/Blu-ray codes. Choices include Cars, Secretariat, Dumbo, and Tron Legacy. You will have to pay shipping and handling but that’s a small price to pay.

300: Rise of an Empire has an upcoming FREE ticket promo on select copies of 300, Braveheart, Gladiator, Alexander, Troy, and either Clash of the Titans.

The Iceman Melteth

The Iceman is currently available on instant Netflix

The Iceman

The Iceman (2013) – Rated R

This thriller based on a true story follows Richard Kuklinski, who killed more than 100 people for the mob — and his own pleasure — between 1964 and 1986. Despite his prolific violence, Kuklinski was a devoted husband and father of two daughters.

One Line Review: True life biography skims details and distorts facts – meh.

I wanted to like The Iceman and there is much to like about it. The filmmakers obviously enjoyed using period outfits, hairstyles, and, to a lesser extent, set design. The cast and acting are pretty good.

David Schwimmer does a good job as perpetual screw-up Josh Rosenthal. Michael Shannon is fine as the titular Iceman, Richard Kuklinski, though the role is hardly an acting stretch. Winona Ryder captures the mousy nature of his wife. Chris Evans is unrecognizable as Mr. Freezy, another killer. Ray Liotta, Robert Davi, and James Franco all pop up to varying degrees but each has already played their role many times before.

The problem with The Iceman is that it tries to fit in too many scenarios so they are all thinly sketched out. It’s hard to have any kind of sympathy for any of the characters. Admittedly the movie is trying to cover over a score of years during which Kuklinski supposedly killed over a hundred men. In addition to the many underwritten scenes, director Ariel Vromen throws in many single shots of victims a la a montage, although not strung together.

The ‘hitting the highlights’ approach would work better if Vromen and the screenwriters hadn’t taken so many liberties with the actual story. I understand changing the wife’s name (avoiding being sued by the wife or heirs) and changing Mr. Softee’s name to Mr. Freezy (avoiding lawsuit from ice cream brand) but so many particulars are changed. Obviously with this being the story of Kuklinski, he is given credit for just about all of the murders that take place. The most egregious liberty is that a socipath like Kuklinski loved and treasured his family when in reality, he beat his wife whenever he lost his temper.

The writers even wrap up the movie with an insinuation that a particular person was murdered in prison – certainly a possibility but why after being incarcerated for over 18 years?

Hilarious Mistake: Pause the scene where Kuklinski and Mr. Freezy look at a headline of The Iceman killer. The person killed in the newspaper article is a character that hasn’t died yet (though admittedly is not long for this world).

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, umm except me

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is currently available on instant Netflix

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

 

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) – Rated R

Beautiful teen Mandy Lane is perfect, and all the boys want her. Badly. But when she accepts an invitation to a weekend party at a secluded ranch, the bodies begin piling up, and Mandy finds herself in a fight for her life.

One Line Review: I’m a boy and I did not love Mandy Lane.

Well they certainly hit all the taboos. Not only do the kids have sex, skinny dip, smoke marijuana and drink but they also perform oral sex, inhale nitrous, pop prescription pills, and snort coke. The film feels like an 80s slasher but not in a clever, Ti West-ish way – more like a tired, we’ve seen this before fashion.

Mandy Lane was made back in 2006 and received some critical praise, though I’m not sure why, but got stuck in marketing hell and didn’t end up released until 2012. The film is overly dark so even with a high-definition television, it is often difficult to tell what is going on. The director likes to offset this by using a washed out palette for the day scenes.

It is a bit difficult (i.e. boring) to sit through but the last ten minutes or so are pretty decent. The problem is that everything that goes before it is pretty inane and definitely by the numbers. People split up and are killed off, do stupid things (like letting someone leave with the only light source) and get killed off, are completely clueless and get killed off, etc. The violence occasionally uses firearms which makes it a little different but not up to the level of interesting.

Having this sit on the shelf for six years means that the cast has moved on. Amber Heard (Mandy) has been in several high-profile pictures from Pineapple Express to Zombieland to The Rum Diary. I can only guess that this is the reason Mandy finally saw the light of day.

The rest of the cast has also done surprisingly well. Anson Mount (Garth) is currently the star of Hell on Wheels. Michael Welch (Emmet) went on to play Mike Newton in the Twilight franchise. Whitney Able starred in Monsters and married her co-star, Scoot McNairy. Brooke Bloom (Cousin Jen) landed a recurring role on CSI: Miami.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane isn’t bad, just rather pointless and really not worth the effort for the minor payoff at the end. If you want a good horror movie that toys with the conventions of the genre, try Tucker & Dale vs. Evil or Cabin in the Woods or go back and watch Scream again.

Valentine’s Day This ‘n’ That

House of Cards

 

* What a nice Valentine’s Day present from Netflix – season two of House of Cards. This series is awesome (though not quite on par with the British original) and Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Penn are simply wonderful as a power couple.

Hulu

 

* Community is finally back. I caught the first two episodes of the new season on Hulu and they may have brought back the magic they lost last season.

Amazon Prime

 

* I forgot to mention that Amazon Prime has added season 4 of Justified to their instant offerings. We blitzed through all 13 episodes over the holidays and thoroughly enjoyed them.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 1/21/14

Obviously this week’s pick would be The Act of Killing, an Oscar-nominated documentary.

Dawn Rider

Action/Adventure: Dawn Rider, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Bicycle Thieves

Classic: The Bicycle Thief

Comedy: Morgan Murphy: Irish Goodbye, What a Man, The Muslims are Coming!

The Act of Killing

Documentary: The Act of Killing, The Baidu Billionaire: The Google of China, Monica & David, Strongman, Informant, The Square, Stolen Seas

Drama: A Christmas Kiss, Pawn’s Move, Romeo Eleven, Judas Kiss, And While We Were Here, Caught Up

Family: Journey to the Christmas Star, The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, Spy Kids 3: Game Over

Foreign: The Bubble, Beyond the Walls, Garibaldi’s Lovers, Undertow, A Hijacking

Horror: Cockneys vs. Zombies

Musical: Rent

Special: Aquarium for Your Home: Goldfish

Television: Discover Planet Ocean, An Idiot Abroad, Satisfaction, That Winter the Wind Blows, When a Man Loves, Voltron Force, new episodes of Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters and a number of Inside documentaries (Chipotle, McDonald’s, DeBeers, Dolce & Gabbana, LinkedIn, Pixar

Thriller: House (2008)

WWE: Undertaker The Streak, Falls Count Anywhere, n.W.o. the Revolution, Rock vs. Cena, The 50 Greatest Finishing Moves in WWE History

Woot! New Arcade Machine for the Movie Room!

I was supposed to go to Hawaii last year with my family but sadly a family emergency caused this to be cancelled. My mother was very sweet and sent me a nice check and told me to buy myself something nice. I thought about it and realized that I have everything nice. I could buy a bigger TV, better sound system, better blu-ray player, better computer, etc. but all of those things function just fine and satisfy me. I told my wife and she reminded me of something that I’ve always wanted but never really thought I’d own – an arcade machine!

Daughter Dig Dug

I thought about it for a while and decided that I didn’t want to start a new expensive hobby by buying old arcade machines and fixing them up. Besides which we have no room in our tiny 2-bedroom cottage. I opted for a cocktail style machine not so it could double as a table but mostly because of the weight. The cocktails run about 100 lbs. which is over my hernia limit but still much less than the 150-300 lb. stand up machines.

 

I got a 60 games in 1 machine and, after a couple weeks of playing, am very happy with it. I got one that came with a trackball installed so playing Centipede and Millipede are a lot of fun. Most of the games appear to be spot on: The Pac-Mans (regular, Ms., Jr., Super and Plus), Donkey Kongs (regular, Jr., and 3), Frogger, Mappy, Dig Dug, Qix and Galaga all appear to play exactly as I remember them with the same sound.

There are a number of nitpicks but nothing that really detracts from the machine. The table doesn’t have a spinner control (none on the net had one that I saw) so Super Breakout, Arkanoid, and Gyruss are essentially unplayable. Five of the 60 games are just sped-up versions. A few games like Phoenix and New Rally X sound bad enough to make you want to cover your ears. Other games seem strange for their inclusion – does anyone want to play a vintage videogame recreation of pinball or pool?

Still with 60 choices, there are about two dozen games I play regularly. The best thing is that I can play them for just a few minutes rather than the marathon undertaking that current games require. Can you pop in for just a few minutes of World of Warcraft? I think not.

Razzie Nominees – Movie 43, A Haunted House, InAPPropriate Comedy

The Razzie nominees for the worst in movies in 2013 have been announced. Movie 43 is currently available on instant Netflix and is nominated as Worst Film, Worst Actress (Halle Berry), Worst Actress (Naomi Watts), Worst Director (the 13 people who directed this), Worst Screenplay (19 screenwriters) and Worst Screen Combo (entire cast). Watch at your own peril.

Movie 43

Movie 43 (2013) – Rated R

An eye-popping cast stars in this sketch-comedy collage, the new millennium’s homage to classic anthology films like The Kentucky Fried Movie. Stars from Kate Winslet to Justin Long to Richard Gere provide the laughs in more than a dozen segments.”

InAPPropriate Comedy is currently available and is nominated for Worst Supporting Actress, Lindasy Lohan.

InAPPropriate Comedy

InAPPropriate Comedy (2013) – Rated R

An all-star cast aims to leave no one unoffended with these gleefully outrageous comedy sketches directed by TV pitchman Vince Offer. The collection includes cop “Flirty Harry,” “The Amazing Racist” and other politically incorrect gags.”

A Haunted House is currently available and is nominated for Worst Supporting Actor, Nick Swardson.

A Haunted House

A Haunted House (2013) – Rated R

In this spoof of horror films like Paranormal Activity, Marlon Wayans stars as an immature guy who’s frightened when he learns the girlfriend who just moved in with him has been possessed by a demonic spirit.