Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is currently playing in theaters

Big Hero 6

 

Big Hero 6 (2014) – Rated PG

The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.”

As with Mockingjay, this review is short, to the point, yet somewhat pointless. You know if you want to see this movie. You also know if you are going to see it (i.e. do you have children). Big Hero 6 is very funny and enjoyable and makes for a nice holiday romp with the kids.

Big Hero 6 is not as good as the previews suggest however. This is an ensemble piece. The protagonist is Hiro and the main secondary character is Baymax. All of the advertising revolves around Baymax because he is not only the most marketable part of the movie but is easily the best character. The problem is that any time, Baymax is not onscreen, you are waiting for him to appear.

If the film had been all about Baymax and if they had maintained the quality throughout then this would have been a classic. As it is, it is still quite enjoyable but there are a few laggy stretches.

Big Hero 6 cup

Our local theater, Epic, had a children’s meal (small soda, popcorn, and Skittles) based on the movie. You had your choice of three figures for the top of the plastic cup so naturally I…I mean Dorothy chose Baymax.

Baymax figure

 

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 11/25/14

 

Action/Adventure: Sabotage

Anime: Ikki Tousen: Great Gurdians, Ikki Tousen: Xtreme Xecutor

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Classic: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Comedy: Donald Glover: Weirdo

Every Three Seconds

Documentary: Every Three Seconds, Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger, Desert Runners, The Last of the Unjust, Mr. X, It’s Not Over, Memories of a WWII Hero: Captain Brown’s Story

Drama: The Retrieval, Happy Christmas

Family: Bold Eagles, Alpha and Omega: The Legend of Saw Tooth Cave

Foreign: Boy Meets Girl, Jackpot, Cannibal, For a Woman, Firestorm, Ida, Viaggio Sola

Television: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Animal House, and new episodes of Undercover Boss, Nikita, Lilyhammer, and Ripper Street

Dream House

Thriller: Dream House

The Hunger Games – Mockingjay – You Know Who You Are

Mockingjay

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) – Rated PG-14

When Katniss destroys the games, she goes to District 13 after District 12 is destroyed. She meets President Coin who convinces her to be the symbol of rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol.”

Well this is a rather pointless review. You already know whether you want to see this film. If you enjoyed the first two, then of course you will want to see how the story turns out. If you didn’t, then you won’t. Mockingjay is quite good even if there isn’t an actual Hunger Game involved.

Regal lines

Everyone returns and Philip Seymour Hoffman is present throughout so most of his scenes must have been in the can before his unfortunate passing. I was fortunate enough to have a day off and went to Regal’s marathon. Not only did I get to see the first two movies on the big screen (again) but I also didn’t have to wait in Regal’s cattle lines (seen here prior to opening crowd showing up).

Mockingjay keychain

 

Marathon attendees also got a $5 medium combo coupon. If you upgrade to a large, you have popcorn and soda for the entire day (I upgraded the soda and had far too much Coke). Attendees also got a FREE Mockingjay keychain (above) and lanyard (below).

Mockingjay lanyard

R.I.P. Mike Nichols 1931-2014

Mike Nichols

On November 19th, director Mike Nichols passed away at the age of 83. He had a long and wonderful career directing quite a few Hollywood classics. While not all of his pictures were classic, he had a knack for showcasing actors strengths.

Instant Netflix currently has three of his movies available and, for once, they are a good representative sampling.

The Graduate is definitely one of his best. A tale of post-college angst, it helped make Dustin Hoffman a star though Anne Bancroft stole the show. The songs by Simon and Garfunkel are a definite boon and look for a very young Richard Dreyfuss in a bit part. Mike Nichols won his only Oscar for Best Director on The Graduate.

One of Robin Williams’ signature roles, that of Armand in the American remake of The Birdcage, is also available from Netflix. I was a fan of the original but Mike Nichols did a good job of bringing it to American audiences.

The last Nichols film on Netflix is an actors showcase. Watch Streep and Nicholson out act each other in Heartburn

Rest in Peace Mike Nichols, you will be missed.

 

Bermuda Tentacles

Bermuda Tentacles is currently available on instant Netflix

Bermuda Tentacles

 

Bermuda Tentacles (2013) – Not rated

When Air Force One goes down over the Bermuda Triangle, the Navy sends its best rescue team. But in saving the President, the team awakens a monster that threatens the entire eastern seaboard.”

I wish I could quit you, Asylum. Okay, I actually wish for good/better health, long life, and perhaps the usual more money than I know what to do with but you get the picture. Why oh why do I still bother to review these things. A few of them have been passable wastes of time but so far only one was actually enjoyable (Sharknado 2) and not because it was good.

Many of Asylum’s offerings make for entertaining trailers but that is pretty much it. Airplane vs. Volcano, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, and Asteroid vs. Earth were all rather painful to sit through.

The one good thing I can say about Asylum productions is that they usually let you know just how bad they are going to be within the first five minutes. They don’t disappoint here – from a non-existent storm passing by a stationary Air Force One to some truly pathetic CGI to some rapid fire exposition as they jettison the President before the downing of Air Force One, all of that is accomplished in under two minutes.

Bermuda Tentacles has the usual assortment of former stars and B-listers. Noted character actor John Savage plays President DeSteno. Former Terminator lead and Beauty of Beauty and the Beast, Linda Hamilton clocks in as Admiral Linda Hansen. Jamie Kennedy pops up as the unconvincing albeit amusing Dr. Zimmer. Equally unconvincing is pop star Mya as Lt. Plumber. Still they are wonderful compared to the non-name actors.

For a movie titled Bermuda Tentacles, one would think that those effects at least would be halfway decent. They aren’t. The tentacles glow and shimmer and radically change size based on perspective. One moment they are man-sized as swat men away then they are plane-sized as, you guessed it, they swat planes away. They’re solid – no, opaque – no, invisible.

Then there is the script. Are you telling me that a naval task force that is searching for the remains of Air Force One would not have any CAP in the air? We’re desperately searching for the President, just not with aircraft or anything. Air Force One’s escape pod doesn’t float?

As per Asylum SOP, simply stay far away from this Turkey this Thanksgiving.

Beneath Antisocial

Antisocial and Beneath are currently available on instant Netflix

Antisocial

 

Antisocial (2013) – Not rated

Unbeknownst to five friends who’ve gathered for a New Year’s Eve house party, an epidemic has erupted outside, breeding chaos all over the planet.”

If it has nothing else going for it, Antisocial has a great title. It refers not only to the zombies but also how we as a society have become more and more antisocial with our constant attachment to our gadgets. It also works quite well as Anti – Social (media). Unfortunately this is far too easy a target (many people would already agree) and the script doesn’t really have anything much deeper to say.

Other than the too-obvious social commentary, Antisocial is a decent low-budget zombie picture. Rather than listen to news broadcasts, the students receive all their information via the internet, Youtube, and a Facebook-like program. That is certainly accurate as every time I read about a celebrity death, it shows up on Facebook before I see it in the news.

Antisocial isn’t great or deep but it is certainly a passable waste of time and a somewhat fresh spin on the zombie genre though not as fresh as Pontypool so watch that one first.

 

Beneath

 

Beneath (2014) – Not rated

A coal miner takes his daughter on a tour of the caverns and a tunnel collapses, trapping them 600 feet below ground … with an ominous presence.”

Unlike Antisocial, Beneath has a terrible title. Besides being utterly generic and not really representative of the plot, there are several other films entitled Beneath in 2007, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

Beneath also has that old chestnut / warning sign, “based on a true story”. Yes, there have been several awful cave-ins in recent years. I am pretty sure none of them involved monsters, demons, or the supernatural.

I always enjoy Jeff Fahey and he is pretty decent here. I liked that the cast wasn’t just a group of attractive twenty-something people who happened to wander into a mine but rather a diverse cast of actors playing miners and the lone woman  (bad luck – it’s bad luck I tells ya!) who accompanies them.

Unfortunately the script goes nowhere. Yes, we do have an accident with a section of the mine collapsing. Mysterious shenanigans do ensue. Unfortunately the mystery pretty much stays a mystery as characters perform actions without rhyme or reason. For every miner with self-preservation skills, we have one who will split off from the group at the first opportunity.

The setting of the mines is nice and the film is watchable but both versions of My Bloody Valentine, Mine Games, and both Descent movies involve mines and are much better than this. In the end, Beneath becomes as generic as its title. You won’t remember it the week after you watch it.

Mid-Month Netflix Streaming Update

Yet still more new streaming movies on Netflix, mostly family-oriented

Seal Team Eight

Action/Adventure: Seal Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines

Anime: The Irregular at Magic High School

Comedy: Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats

Documentary: Los Angeles Plays Itself, Sewing Hope

Homecoming

Drama: Homecoming

Family: Adventures of Bailey: Christmas Hero, Angelina Ballerina: Pop Star Girls, Animal Atlas: Pet Party, Barney: Best Fairy Tales, Bob the Builder: Trains & Treehouses, Bratz BFF: Best Friends Forever, HIT Favorites: Preschool Fun, Kipper: Amazing Discoveries, Kipper: Tiger Tales, More Barney Songs

Time of My Life

Foreign: Time of My Life

Television: Dogs with Jobs, The Secret World of Santa, Trailer Park Boys Live at the North Pole, and new episodes of Doc Martin, Wolfblood, Peaky Blinders, and Henning Mankell’s Wallander

New Netflix Streaming Movies for the Week of 11/18/14

Yay! Back from an all too exhausting vacation, only to become sick (aka life with a four year old)!

Action/Adventure: Pirates of the Caribbean: Black Pearl, Last Passenger

Anime: Freezing Vibration

Comedy: Quartet, Patton Oswalt: My Weakness is Strong, Doug Benson: Doug Dynasty

Documentary: La Bare, Bridgend, Not Yet Begun to Fight, Virunga, Advanced Style, JFK: A President Betrayed

Nebraska

Drama: Still Mine, Louder Than Words, Nebraska, Victim

Faith: A Long Way Off, Rumors of Wars, Revelation Road 3: The Black Rider

Family: Small Town Santa, You’re So Cupid, Mummy I’m a Zombie, LeapFrog Letter Factory: Counting on Lemonade

Bermuda Tentacles

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Agency of Vengeance: Dark Rising, The Crown and the Dragon: The Paladin Cycle, Bermuda Tentacles

Foreign: Abuse of Weakness, Siddharth, Tasting Menu

Scream 4

Horror: Gallows Hill (aka The Damned), Scream 4

Television: Helix, The Adventures of the Young Marco Polo, 30 for 30: When the Garden Was Eden, Dicte, Wentworth, Goosebumps

Thriller: Comforting Skin

More Bronson – Breakheart Pass

Breakheart Pass is currently available on instant Netflix.

Breakheart Pass

 

Breakheart Pass (1975) – Rated PG

An undercover agent on a train bound for an Army fort finds that nothing is what it seems when passengers turn up dead or mysteriously disappear.”

Last week, after sitting through the utterly generic Alistair MacLean’s Air Force One is Down, I bemoaned the lack of Alistair MacLean movies on Netflix. While we are still lacking The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra, and Where Eagles Dare, Netflix has given us Breakheart Pass.

As with yesterday’s The White Buffalo springing forth from Jaws, Breakheart Pass didn’t develop in a vacuum. In 1974, we got a big budget adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Alistair MacLean’s novel, Breakheart Pass, clearly draws a lot of inspiration from Christie’s novel. Since the movie version of Murder was a success, it comes as no surprise that MacLean’s novel was greenlit. MacLean himself was given the job of adapting the screenplay.

Breakheart Pass is a western in name only. It has plenty of western trappings: gunfighters, the army, Indians, horses, the train, a fort, etc. but at its heart, Breakheart Pass is a mystery. Actually, a bit of several mysteries as we don’t really know who Bronson’s character is nor do we know what is going on or who is killing people off.

Charles Bronson plays the enigmatic John Deakin. Jill Ireland, Bronson’s real life wife, plays Marica. Ben Johnson is Marshal Pearce. Richard Crenna is the Governor. Charles Durning is O’Brien. Ed Lauter, who played army officer Tom Custer in The White Buffalo, is army Major Claremont here.

Bronson is quite good here, alternately an action movie tough guy and a charming smooth-talker. He was always more of a star than an actor but he’s a lot of fun to watch and he has a nice drawl. That and his rough looks led to a large number of western roles, both large and small, throughout his career. This is not that dissimilar from the aforemention Ben Johnson, though Johnson never achieved star status.

In addition to all of the western trappings, MacLean has thrown in all the things one would want in a train picture. We have explorations of the train, action in the engine, the obligatory traintop chase, and much more. The action is brisk, the music lively and hummable, and the mystery interesting.

While Once Upon a Time in the West is the best Bronson vehicle on Netflix, you won’t go wrong with Breakheart Pass.

Charley M…..F…… Bronson and The White Buffalo

Pardon my paraphrasing of a Tarantino line from True Romance. Like Tarantino, I love Charles Bronson but I feel for him. He worked really hard as a television character actor starting in 1949. While he got great roles in the ensemble pieces, The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven, he didn’t really become a star until the late 60s. Yet by the 80s, he had essentially become the first direct-to-video star with endless sequels to his hit, Death Wish.

If you see one of Bronson’s films on Netflix, definitely go for Once Upon a Time in the West. If you’ve seen that then watch Breakheart Pass the complete the trifecta with The White Buffalo. The White Buffalo, from his 70s period, is currently available on instant Netflix.

 

The White Buffalo

 

The White Buffalo (1977) – Rated PG

Haunted by visions of a large, white buffalo, Wild Bill Hickok heads West, where he meets Crazy Horse, whose daughter was killed by the same animal.”

In 1975, a little film called Jaws changed the way America saw summer movies. It was the first of the summer blockbusters and was rated PG. Jaws paved the way for a slew of animal on the loose movies such as Piranha, Orca, Alligator, Grizzly, and plenty of others as well as three sequels to Jaws. All the studios scrambled to get a piece of the animal pie and scoured the book racks for tales of natural mayhem.

Richard Sale adapted the screenplay for The White Buffalo from his own novel (or perhaps vice versa as Sale was a prolific Hollywood writer). J. Lee Thompson was brought in to direct, having just come off directing St. Ives with Charles Bronson. The White Buffalo is short and to the point.

There are three stars in the film. Charles Bronson plays legendary gunfighter, Wild Bill Hickok – here undercover as James Otis. The underused Will Sampson plays Crazy Horse, strangely also undercover as Worm. The third leg of our triumvirate is The White Buffalo itself.

Backing up our main actors are a slew of welcome character actors. Jack Warden is Hickok’s sidekick and has almost as much screentime as Sampson. Kim Novak, Slim Pickens, Clint Walker, Stuart Whitman, and even John Carradine (as an undertaker, naturally) show up for small parts.

Everyone does their job but Thompson hides the titular buffalo as much as possible. Unfortunately he is no Spielberg so instead of raising tension, it becomes a question of why aren’t we seeing it. The answer becomes clear when we do see it because it isn’t very good and takes us out of the picture.

The White Buffalo is not very good but is worthwhile for Bronson, Sampson, and the cavalcade of guest stars as well as the very nice western scenery, particularly the snow.