Last of the New Netflix Streaming Releases for 2014

At least it’s not the dumping ground of television that last week was.

Action/Adventure: The Outsider

Comedy: Behaving Badly, Plastic, The Pink Panther 2, Last Weekend

Documentary: Finding Fela, Daughters of Dolma, The Decent One, This Ain’t No Mouse Music!

Labor Day

Drama: Child of God, Labor Day, Memphis, Winter in the Blood

Faith: Persecuted

Family: Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return

Foreign: Nymphomaniac: The Director’s Cut volume 1 and 2, Mardaani, LFO The Movie, Queens of the Ring, Miele

I, Frankenstein

Horror: I, Frankenstein

Television: The Aquabats Super Show, Hi Opie!, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Totally Spies!, and new episodes of Maron and Jessie

Good People

Thriller: Good People, Beneath the Darkness

Exodus – Gods and Kings

I went to see Exodus: Gods and Kings in the theater recently

Exodus

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) – Rated PG-13

The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.”

Follow me and you will be free. Stay and you will perish.” – Moses (doesn’t this sound just like the classic Terminator line, “Come with me if you want to live”?)

I love Ridley Scott. He makes three kinds of movies: classics, absolutely fascinating missteps, and the occasional forgettable film. His classics are Alien (spawning five sequels and a prequel), Blade Runner (an incredible adaptation of film noir sensibilities to a science fiction setting), Black Hawk Down (still the best movie ever made about modern post-WW2 combat and a true story to boot), and Thelma & Louise (still a feminist hoot).

Unfortunately, Exodus falls in the forgettable category. It is not that Exodus is bad but it does not gel very well at all. Scott tries to ground everything in realism, which is an interesting approach for a tale full of miracles. Moses’ visions are certainly open to interpretation in the movie.

Part of the reason the movie doesn’t gel well is the need to cram too many ideas into two hours and twenty minutes of film. The showpiece, the parting of the Red Sea and the crossing, is given plenty of time to breathe. The special effects are wonderful and the scene is very well-handled but it takes a large chunk out of the running time. The plagues are all jumbled together into what practically amounts to a montage sequence.

The movie comes across as a mixture of Exodus highlights together with what are supposed to be personal moments but the personal moments don’t really work. The characters are not very fleshed out and some of the roles are poorly cast, particularly Sigourney Weaver (who I normally like). On the other hand I suppose I can’t complain about casting when The Ten Commandments had Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson as Egyptian overseers.

First, I have a bone to pick with two very stupid moments in Exodus. One of the moments has a group of Hebrews trying to light a fire. They lay a line of flammable liquid and then strike tinder to some straw and touch the burning straw to the liquid. This would be all well and good but at least three of the Hebrews are carrying LIT torches.

The second is a shot of the Sphinx without a nose. There are several main theories as to when the Sphinx lost its nose. There is a hoary old chestnut about Napoleon’s artillery gunners shooting the nose off. Weather and gradual erosion may have taken it. There are also several other martial candidates who may have defaced the monument as there is quite a bit of evidence that the damage existed prior to Napoleon’s time. However all of the theories agree that the damage occurred between 1200 and 1801.

I am glad I got to see Exodus on the big screen, especially the parting of the Red Sea, but there was no emotional investment and I doubt I would revisit this film again.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 12/23/14

Last of the pre-Christmas releases, reported post-Christmas because, you know, the holidays.

Anime: Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

Comedy: The Trip to Italy, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

Playground

Documentary: Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, Breastmilk, Playground, Two: The Story of Roman & Nyro, A Life in Dirty Movies, Love Hotel, Sexy Baby, Forgotten Four, 21st Century Sex Slaves, Comic Store Heroes, Crocpocalypse, DinoFish, Doomsday Castle, Inside the Hunt for the Boston Bombers, Kissinger, Sex: How It Works, The Dark Matter of Love

Jake Squared

Drama: Jake Squared, Two-Bit Waltz, Tru Love, The Watsons Go to Birmingham

Faith: Ring the Bell

The Gruffalo's Child

Family: The Gruffalo’s Child, Room on the Broom, An Evergreen Christmas, RoboRex, The House of Magic, My Little Pony: Rainbow Rocks, Dear Dumb Diary, Santa Claws

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Star Trek Generations, Timeline

Foreign: Autumn Blood, Heroine, Kundo: Age of the Rampant, The Last Sentence, Le Chef, Oh Boy (A Coffee in Berlin), Ragnarok, What Now? Remind Me, Beyond the Hills

Horror: Dark Skies, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Theatrical and Extended), At the Devil’s Door

Television: PeeWee’s Playhouse (& Christmas Special), The Honorable Woman, All Hail King Julien, BoJack Horseman Christmas Special, Untamed Americas, Snake Salvation, To Catch a Smuggler, The Savage Line, Secret Life of Predators, Alaska Fish Wars, American Weed, Animal Superpowers, Apocalypse 101, Battleground Afghanistan, Beast Hunter, Breakout, Built for the Kill, Cesar 911, Cesar Millan’s Leader of the Pack, Drugged, Fish Tank Kings, Freaks and Creeps, Hard Time, How to Survive the End of the World, Hustling America, Inside Cocaine Wars, Inside the American Mob, The Great War Diary, Keep Your Head Up Kid – The Don Cherry Story, Wrath of Grapes – The Don Cherry Story II, Roseanne Collection, Lines of Wellington, and new episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, LEGO Legends of Chima, Total Drama, and Littlest Pet Shop

Thriller: Cam2Cam

The Pyramid – Such a missed opportunity

The Pyramid is currently playing in theaters

The Pyramid

 

The Pyramid (2014) – Rated R

An archaeological team attempts to unlock the secrets of a lost pyramid only to find themselves hunted by an insidious creature

It’s clear while other pyramids were built to keep people out this one was built to keep something in.” – Holden, borrowing a line from The Keep

The Pyramid is such a shame. It has a number of brilliant ideas that separate it from other mummy movies. There are Egyptian civet cat-like creatures, poisoned air, possibly a mystery disease, and a unique large creature as well as the usual assortment of pyramid deathtraps. All of these things, separately or together, can make for an effective horror movie.

Sadly, The Pyramid is not that movie. None of those ideas are fleshed out at all. The poisoned air/mystery disease subplot actually goes nowhere and has no real bearing on the film. The cat-like creatures are given an absolutely ridiculous rationale. The large creature is identifiable but only expositionally fleshed out.

Those wouldn’t doom the film but The Pyramid is one of the more moronic horror films that I have seen at the theater. It starts off as a found footage film with all of the usual overlaid text. The initial idea of the found footage film is rooted in cinema verite, an attempt to give the horror a sense of intimacy and immediacy. The Blair Witch Project pulled it off stunningly but in the decades since it has become so cliche as to be almost unbearable. It can still be pulled off but movies like [REC] are the exception rather than the rule.

The second reason for the found footage film is expense. You can save quite a bit of money on special effects if you blur things out, shoot them up close, and apply some camera effects instead of going for the big Hollywood money shot. Finally, it just became lazy screenwriting, just one more thing to toss into your horror hodgepodge.

The Pyramid can’t even stick to its own premise. There are constant shots in the film which could not be taken with the multiple cameras they take in with them. Like all the good ideas they had, found footage was just another ingredient in the stew.

Another of those incredibly tired, I mean inspired ingredients, is the jump scare. There are numerous “Boo!” moments in The Pyramid. The first one actually did make me jump, mostly because it occurred just as I was getting bored by all the nonsense. One of the ones that failed was when I noticed a character standing very stiffly in the center of the frame. My first thought of “why does he look so odd?” was quickly replaced with “oh that’s what’s going to happen to him” and sure enough it did.

Our team of EXPLORERS walks into a room with exits on each of the other walls and plenty of landmarks and inscriptions to orient themselves with. Later when they encounter this room, they have no idea which one of the four exits they came from. Seriously? Our creative brain trust of victims are making more bad decisions than the characters in a Friday the 13th movie. I half-expected our scientist crew to break out the weed and JD and get jiggy with it.

Avoid The Pyramid!

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all! Happy Holidays if you prefer – I just have nice wishes for all at this time of year…well, all year, but who’s counting? If you end up having to travel today or run out for groceries, a meal out, or the movies, please be especially nice to those who have to work today.

Black Adder's Christmas Carol

Netflix has a rather ridiculous number of Christmas specials available. For the somewhat irreverent, may I heartily recommend Black Adder’s A Christmas Carol. For the whimsical, there’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. For the kids, try The Muppet Christmas Carol. For the traditional, there is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

True Confessions – Star Wars & Peter Cushing

I went to see Star Wars for my thirteenth birthday

Star Wars

 

Obviously, I was enthralled and had seen nothing like it before. I already loved science fiction, having seen mostly the Heston ones on television (Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, and The Omega Man). However, none of that is why I went to see Star Wars.

Growing up, my first real love wasn’t science fiction or fantasy but horror. I took every opportunity to watch horror movies at home. I loved the Universal classics but my favorite were the relatively new Hammer horror movies. Peter Cushing was my absolute favorite actor with Christopher Lee running a close second. My mom would often watch these with me on weekend afternoons.

One fantastic day, I saw that a new Peter Cushing had come to our local theater and it was rated PG. I had never seen a Peter Cushing movie at the theater before. I was thrilled and asked my mother if we could go see it. She told me no – which she rarely ever did. I can only think the title put her off. That movie was “From Beyond the Grave” and I did not get to see it until I was an adult.

Just before my thirteenth birthday, another new Peter Cushing movie opened at our local theater. That movie was Star Wars. My mom, sister, two of my best friends, and I had a wonderful time. The Empire Strikes Back was even better, even though the Miami Herald spoiled the important plot twist ON THE MORNING THE MOVIE OPENED.

When Phantom Menace was coming out, my wife and father-in-law waited in a line overnight to get tickets. Obviously, crushing disappointment followed that decision. I think that was the last time we ever waited in a serious line for movie tickets.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Still my fifty-year-old self is much the same as my fifteen-year-old self and I am eagerly awaiting Episode VII. Anyway, what reminded me of all of this was the cover of a book I saw in Barnes & Noble. To wit:

Tarkin

 

Yes, that is Peter Cushing’s likeness on a book jacket some twenty years after his passing. By the way, I was lucky enough to catch a few of his movies on the big screen besides Star Wars, though their quality was uneven. I have seen Sword of the Valiant, Top Secret, Arabian Adventure, Shock Waves, and The House of the Long Shadows (w/ Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, and John Carradine) in the theater.

I also got to see Christopher Lee (92) in The Hobbit movies. Yay Me!

Coven of the American Ripper Horror Street Story

Two seasons of Ripper Street and three of American Horror Story are currently available on instant Netflix

Ripper Street

 

Ripper Street (2013) – TV-MA

It’s been six months since the last Jack the Ripper killing, and East London is hopeful that his reign of terror might have run its course.”

Ripper Street is a nice period piece with modern sensibilities. There are some missteps along the way but it doesn’t miserably fail the historical tests like Copper and the new BBC Three Musketeers do. I was glad that they resisted the urge to ‘solve’ the original Ripper killings.

Ripper’s second season builds on the first. I really admired the character arcs as some of the characters find themselves trapped in self-destructive patterns of behavior while others grow, evolve, and/or seek redemption. The female characters are stronger this season, even though it’s difficult to feature them as much since the show is about a police squad.

This is an easy recommendation, particularly if you enjoyed the first season.

American Horror Story

 

American Horror Story (2011-3) – TV-MA

Exploring humankind’s unsettling capacity for evil, this darkly twisted drama plays upon the power of supernatural fears and everyday horrors.”

American Horror Story is definitely the kitchen sink of horror shows. The second season was set in an insane asylum and had all the usual horror tropes you would see there but also had Nazi medical experiments, aliens, a serial killer, and lots more. Each of the seasons takes a separate locale and tells a set of (mostly) separate stories. I say mostly because while the individual seasons are in separate locales and ages, there are familial links between the seasons.

Third season just became available on instant Netflix. It is called Coven and, naturally, features witches. Once again the kitchen sink aspect takes over as, in addition to witchcraft, we also have voodoo, another serial killer, ghosts, zombies, a Frankenstein-like creation, and lots more. We also have racism, date rape, gang rape, necrophilia, and all sorts of things that have the opportunity to offend.

American Horror Story in general, and Coven in particular, are ridiculously fast-paced. If you dislike any particular subplot, worry not as it will soon be disposed of. The word delirious often comes to mind as each episode seeks to top the last. I enjoyed it but could not show it to my wife.

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Well, we were at Wal-Mart again the other day. I saw a new multi-pack display that made me laugh.

Wayne Bullock

 

First they had a nice five movie collection for John Wayne and Sandra Bullock (above)

Gibson Murphy

 

Next to it was a five film collection for Eddie Murphy and one for “Antiheroes”. Apparently Mel Gibson is now persona non grata enough to be removed from the title. I wholeheartedly support actual consequences for bad behavior and this certainly gave me a good laugh at Gibson’s expense.

Mind you, the fact police will have some words over this. Payback absolutely features an antihero. The Road Warrior is also pretty much an antihero movie. Conspiracy Theory features a protagonist who is insane but not an antihero. Edge of Darkness features a grieving father searching for justice. Finally, We Were Soldiers is a fairly standard war picture. So honestly only 40% of the collection is about antiheroes.

JSalvador, LootCrate, Jason, Etc.

Recently, thanks to LootCrate, I was introduced to the work of a pop artist known as JSalvador who does a line called Super Emo. Here is a framed Jason missing his mommy:

Jason

 

And here is my latest T-Shirt that I wore to The Hobbit marathon

T-Shirt

 

And here is The Walking Dead print I gave to my daughter:

Walking Dead

No post today – taking care of wife

Selfie

Well, no post today. I’ll be spending the whole day at the hospital as my wonderful wife goes under the knife. I plan to keep posting but it will likely be sporadic for the first two weeks as the love of my life recovers at home.

DragonCon

 

We’re going to watch the old Batman TV series while our granddaughter is with us. I’ve saved the final season of How I Met Your Mother for her recuperation and we might finally give Sons of Anarchy a spin. My selling point will be to tell her that it is a retelling of Hamlet.

Selfie

 

Get well soon, honey! I love you!