FREE Movie Tickets All Over the Place!

Lots of FREE movie ticket offers going around lately.

Project Almanac

* Best Buy has an endcap of Blu-Rays with FREE tickets to see Project Almanac on them. Titles include Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, the Transformers movies, War of the Worlds, World War Z, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Super 8, Minority Report, Bad Grandpa, A.I., Jack Ryan, Hercules, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Prices range from $9.99 to $26.99

* Regal Cinemas also has a group deal for Project Almanac. This weekend only (ends 2/1), you can buy four tickets and get one FREE. I’m not sure why five of you would want to see this at one time but there you go.

Birdman

* Regal Cinemas has a much better deal for Birdman. For the next week (ends 2/5), Regal has buy one ticket, get one FREE on this Oscar-nominated film. Offer valid at box office only.

Spongebob Squarepants

* Regal Cinemas also has brought back their SuperTicket deal. For $15 over the price of the movie ticket, you get a digital copy of The SpongeBob Squarepants movie (2004) and, later, a digital copy of SpongeBob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water.

* Costco, Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart all have FREE movie tickets for the new Spongebob movie on DVD seasons of SpongeBob and Ren & Stimpy.

* Best Buy & Wal-Mart have FREE tickets for Fifty Shades of Grey on Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids, Les Miserables, About Time, and Pride and Prejudice.

* I know it’s probably only local but I just received two FREE movie tickets to Epic Theatres for donating blood (through Blood Connection).

Goodbye, Goodbye World

Goodbye World is currently available on instant Netflix

Goodbye World

 

Goodbye World (2013) – Not rated

After the world’s energy grid suddenly fails, some longtime friends find their way to a self-sufficient compound in Northern California.”

What would happen if you were holding a Big Chill type reunion when the apocalypse went down?

Wow. I understand that we have become more self-involved as a society and if pointing that out was the director’s main intent in making Goodbye World then bravo! Unfortunately, the script in general and the characters in particular will make you want to pull your hair out.

Some portions of the script are well thought out and the writer has a good handle on interpersonal relationships. A good example of this is after the apocalyptic events, part of the crew goes into town to buy supplies before everyone else has the same idea. They are early enough that the store is open but everything from tomatoes to tampons runs in the hundreds of dollars.

Camerawork and acting are just fine as is Denis Hennelly’s direction. Sadly, the script is just infuriating. The script is by director Denis Hennelly and Sarah Adina Smith

The main premise is that a couple live off the grid deep (but not too deep) in the northern California mountains. They have clearly prepared for an apocalypse as they not only have a farm but have stockpiled canned goods, sundries, and medicines (including antibiotics). All of this preparation for an end of the world scenario and yet they don’t have a single weapon to defend themselves. Seriously.

It is easy to imagine a household without weapons. We have plenty of those as we live in a civilized society where, for most people, police services are just minutes away. It does not make any sense at all though for someone to have thoroughly prepared for the end of the world and not have given any thought to defense.

This is the biggest, most egregious, flaw in the script but by no means the only one. We have a character who, because she worked in government, knows essentially everything about what’s going down despite all communications having stopped. She might as well have been named Miss Exposition. We also have two ‘hackers’ who are about as believable as any other hackers that Hollywood has created.

The characters even appear to know how phenomenally stupid they are. At one point, while having dinner, the characters appear to realize the gravity of their immediate situation and yet decide to pretend that it is not the apocalypse so they can have a quiet evening together.

Now to put that in perspective, remember what you were doing on 9/11 (a significant event but not even remotely as severe as the apocalypse). Imagine that after seeing footage of the first plane hitting the tower, you then turned off the television for the rest of the day and just hung out with your friends. Did anyone do that?

My eyes rolled so violently that I sprained an extraocular muscle and to this day, I have an uncontrollable twitch in my left eye.

Copycats from Ardennes Fury to Z Nation

Oh Asylum, you’re drunk. Go home! Z Nation, Ardennes Fury, and the Ouija Experiment are available on instant Netflix

Z Nation

Z Nation (2014) – Rated TV-14

A team embarks on a perilous cross-country mission to transport the one man who survived a deadly zombie virus, hoping he holds the key to a vaccine.”

With zombies having been hot for at least a few decades and The Walking Dead setting audience records for four successful seasons, I am actually surprised that it took this long for another zombie competitor to come out of the television.

Honestly, The Talking Dead is a ratings phenomenon. New episodes of The Walking Dead often place first in their ratings with The Talking Dead usually appearing just a few places below. The reason why Talking Dead is so astonishing is that it is simply a quick interview and commentary show talking about the show you JUST WATCHED.

Naturally if someone is going to quickly and cheaply cash in on this craze, it is Asylum pictures. Shifting their footing to weekly television. Asylum loses none of their bargain basement approach to things. Special effects in Z Nation are cheap and dirty and it shows. Sadly the effects are great compared to the acting. I lasted twenty minutes before my eye-rolling caused spasms.

Ardennes Fury

 

Ardennes Fury (2014) – Not rated

During World War II’s Battle of the Bulge attack, an Allied tank unit gets caught behind Nazi lines and risks their lives to save an orphanage.”

Quickly hustled out to mooch off of the Brad Pitt vehicle, Fury, Ardennes Fury does have a few minor things going for it. First, I give a large amount of credit to Asylum for ripping off Fury as Ardennes Fury rather than say, Tank Fury. The other thing I credit Asylum for is starting the movie with some World War II footage.

That’s about it. Immediately after the footage, we get the usual dodgy CGI. This is followed in quick succession by bargain basement production values and atrocious acting. For military hardware aficionados, there is a bewildering array of equipment on display here, from World War II era equipment all the way through barely disguised modern equipment. The ‘German’ tanks are Russian T-34s.

Anyway, it all amounts to the usual Asylum garbage.

Ouija Experiment

The Ouija Experiment (2011) – Not rated

Film student Brandon and four friends play with a ouija board, unwittingly opening a portal to the spirit world and a drowned girl’s deadly mystery.”

First off, I owe a deep apology to Asylum and an even deeper one to the makers of this feature. When this popped up on instant Netflix, I immediately assumed that this was an Asylum ripoff of last year’s horror movie, Ouija. I then noticed that this was made in 2011, three years prior to Ouija (which I have yet to see). So my apologies to both parties are now out of the way.

The Ouija Experiment is yet still another found footage film. The acting and camerawork are just awful. Camerawork can be blamed on the premise I guess but not the acting. Skip it.

 

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 1/27/15

I’ve been looking forward to catching Stonehearst Asylum and the oh-so-infamous The Interview

Barefoot

Comedy: Barefoot, The Interview, Iliza Shlesinger: Freezing Hot

Family: The Hunters

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Foreign: 3rd World Cops, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the whole trilogy is available until 2/6 – watch it now if you haven’t), Iceman, Morning Star, Touch of the Light

Television: Doctor Stranger, Fated to Love You, Ben 10 – Alien Force, and new episodes of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures

Stonehearst Asylum

Thriller: Stonehearst Asylum, Repentance

Last Passenger is Not Safe For Work

Last Passenger and Not Safe for Work are both on instant Netflix

Not Safe For Work

 

Not Safe for Work (2014) – Not rated

On his way out of the office, a paralegal witnesses a murder — and realizes he’s now trapped inside the otherwise empty building with the killer.

Not Safe for Work makes good use of its trendy title and low budget by setting almost the entire movie on a single floor of an office building. The script, by horror writers Adam Mason and Simon Boyes, is not only conceptual and economical but also very clever in spots. When have you seen automatic flush toilets used as a plot point? Our protagonist is written way too over the top to start with but things are fine once he is fired.

Director Joe Johnston has made a career of making good movies that could have been better (Captain America, Jurassic Park III, Jumanji) with only The Wolfman being a major misfire. This one is no exception. Johnston keeps things very efficient. The entire movie, including credits, is only an hour and fourteen minutes.

The cast is mostly generic. Max Minghella plays our way-too-idealistic worker. No one in the cast stands out especially but the killer is wryly amusing. Some of the reasoning in the script is specious and this is definitely the most crowded empty office you will ever see.

Overall Not Safe for Work is an enjoyable hour and a bit but you won’t remember the details the next day.

Last Passenger

Last Passenger (2013) – Rated R

A weary single dad boards a train from London with his son and is forced to take dramatic action when a madman seizes control of the speeding train.

Tag – One train. Six passengers. No chance.

Last Passenger is another low-budget thriller that benefits both from a single setting (a train) and a brief run time (an hour and thirty-four minutes). It is director Omid Nooshin’s feature film debut and he is also one of the writers. The story is carefully shaped to keep the action affordable.

Dougray Scott finally gets a starring role after playing third fiddle (or lower) to everyone else, most recently in Taken 3. He is fine as is the rest of the cast. I was thankful that it played out as just some normal passengers in a bad situation, instead of one of the passengers emerging as some sort of superhero.

Unfortunately the feature goes off the rails (so to speak) in the final twenty minutes with some rather terrible plotting. It is as if the writers didn’t know where to go from a certain point and just wrote in anything that popped in their head.

Aside from the head-shakingly disappointing ending (at least two moments in the last twenty minutes will have you saying “that would never happen” to an uncaring television), Last Passenger is a decent albeit somewhat forgettable action thriller.

The Return of Theater Review – A Trip to Old Beaucatcher

Well, I haven’t done a theater review lately – mostly because I haven’t been to any new theaters in quite some time. This weekend, my eldest daughter and I had a day out. We did a lot of shopping and had lunch at the delicious and fiery Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack.

The one movie she wanted to see was The Hunger Games – Mockingjay. Unfortunately it had left all of our usual theaters (Epic, Carolina, and Biltmore Grande) so we had to venture to the mall (ugh) and catch it at Regal’s Beaucatcher 7.

Beaucatcher

The Beaucatcher is a rather haphazard, older theater that shows a lot of signs of having been retrofitted several times over the decades without receiving a complete overhaul. While I enjoyed our time at the movies, it really reminded me of how I take modern movie magic for granted.

Beaucatcher

 

The most obvious retrofit were a couple of little metal ramps for wheelchairs (necessary because of the slanted floor). Today’s seating seems much more friendly, working wheelchair spots next to other seats so families can sit together. Here you would be all by your lonesome in a chair.

The other modern conveniences that the theater had were cupholders on the armrests. Remember how terrible it was before these became ubiquitous. You either had to put your cup on the floor between sips or hold the cold, wet cup in your hand for two hours. I know it’s silly but honestly one of the things we look at when we have to shop for a car is proper cupholders.

Beaucatcher

Unfortunately, the cupholders were all that was new about the chairs. The seats had no give in the back and the cushions had almost no give when you sat down. Once again I had taken for granted comfortable seating at the theater. It’s okay if your seats aren’t the best if you are a second run theater but Beaucatcher is first-run and charges $7.75 for a matinee ticket. The only good thing about their seating was that it is a little wider than modern seating.

As you can see, there is a ridiculous amount of space and there is enough room to move your legs a bit without kicking the seats in front of you (yay!). Even the front row has a good view without having to crane your neck, due to the enormous space in front of the screen. This is perhaps a holdover from when kids would sit in front of the rows but perhaps this design goes back even further to when musicians would play in front of the screen.

With all of the extra floorspace, the screen seems tiny though that is alleviated somewhat when the houselights dim. The speakers only appeared to work in front of the screen. I’m not sure whether they didn’t have any rear speakers or simply weren’t using them but it was disconcerting.

All of this just strikes me as to how spoiled I am. The staff were friendly and helpful. The building is marked United Artists but it is owned and run by Regal. They have giant bathrooms in the lobby (again hinting at a retrofit) and smaller, pocket bathrooms further in. I would certainly go back to Beaucatcher but only if I was unable to spoil myself at my favorites.

“A bad day at the movies is better than a good day at work” – Kevin Smith

Inherent Vice – Go see Doc, Bambi, and the Gang Get High

Inherent Vice is currently in theaters.

Inherent Vice

 

Inherent Vice (2014) – Rated R

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.”

Is that a swastika on that man’s face?” – “No, it isn’t. That’s an ancient Hindu symbol meaning “all is well”. It brings good fortune, luck and well-being.”

One Line Review: Ridiculously self-indulgent

Right after sitting through the execrable Taken 3, I went to see Inherent Vice. In theory, I was going from an incompetent filmmaker to an incredible one. In practice, less so. Inherent Vice appears to be a critical darling but, to me, it embodies much of what can go wrong with auteur cinema, including extreme close-ups and drug-fueled discussions that lead nowhere.

Joaquin Phoenix occasionally mumbles his dialogue. No, not in this movie – just in general. In this movie, Anderson appears to have instructed him to just go ahead and mumble ALL of his dialogue. Anderson then overlays a soundtrack that is louder in parts than the dialogue. A fascinating directorial choice but not an enjoyable one.

I’m not sure whether it is to counteract Phoenix’ mumbling or if it is directly from the novel (which I have not read), but Inherent Vice is narrated by Sortilege (Joanna Newsom) and not Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), our protagonist. I do blame Anderson and not Phoenix as Phoenix isn’t the only one mumbling dialogue, just the worst example. This may have been taken to provide a more naturalistic flow to conversation but, again, that doesn’t make it enjoyable.

I have a hard time pinning down the tone. Many of the events and much of the dialogue appears to have a satirical edge but Anderson is so serious and self-important in his direction that almost none of it comes off as funny. Yet it is extremely difficult to take seriously a script where the characters names are Doc, Petunia, the Wolfman, Shasta, Bigfoot, Dr. Buddy Tubeside, Jade, Bambi, Sauncho Smilax Esquire, Amethyst, Agent Flatweed, Agent Borderline, and on and on and on.

Speaking of events, I defy anyone to watch this movie once and actually explain the sequence of events. No wait I don’t mean defy, I mean implore. Yes, it probably would have helped if I had read the novel but Anderson takes a leisurely two and a half hours to tell this impenetrable story. There were only nine of us in the theater and two walked out at about the halfway point.

Drugs feature in nearly every scene of the movie so obviously some of the events could be construed as hallucinations. Doc is either smoking or rolling a joint every time we see him and also indulges in nitrous, acid, tobacco, booze, and cocaine among other substances but, and this is stressed, he doesn’t do HEROIN.

There are many wonderful directorial touches. There is occasional playful interaction between our narrator and the events occurring. Bigfoot often seems like a hallucination of Doc’s, particularly in his timing, and is well-played by Josh Brolin. Costume and set design are absolutely wonderful. Dialogue between many of the characters rings true and, in general, the movie is well-acted. It is just ridiculously self-indulgent.

The Road Not Taken 3

Taken 3 is currently in theaters

Taken 3

 

Taken 3 (2015) – Rated PG-13

Ex-government operative Bryan Mills is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed. As he is tracked and pursued, Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name.

Ugh.

It is pretty sad when absolutely the best thing about a Liam Neeson action movie is the preview for Liam Neeson’s next action movie.

One Line Review: Liam Neeson is a man with a particular set of skills – unfortunately saving this film is not one of them.

I have to admit that I was not caught unawares. Taken (directed by Pierre Morel) was a fabulous romp but Taken 2 (directed by Olivier Megaton) was just awful, in spite of some nice shots of Istanbul, the same cast (well, those who survived the first film anyway), and the same screenwriters.

All three films were written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Strangely Taken is well written but Taken 2 is a slapped together mess, apart from the humorous idea that all of the surviving family members of the villains that Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) killed have banded together.

The script for Taken 3 is surprisingly lazy. Since Mills was a superspy, you can simply write him doing anything to escape or kill and they do but the scene of Kim Mills being bugged is stupidly clumsy. When you hear Basil Exposition state that Kim always drinks the fourth peach yogurt drink back in the fridge, you will be rolling your eyes waiting for that tip to be useful. We actually return to that little gem twice.

Still lazy is better than inept. I think Olivier Megaton is easily the worst director working in action movies today. After taking down the Transporter series, he has now destroyed Taken in two steps.

I feel so sorry for the stuntmen on Taken 3. Straining to look, you can see that there is a lot of fantastic stuntwork going on in Taken 3. Sadly, Megaton films it entirely with jump cuts and shaky cams. I did a count in my head during one sequence where a car goes off a cliff and I couldn’t get past two Mississippi before it cut over and over again to different angles of the same scene. Every single action sequence is ruined in this fashion. A nice shootout in a liquor store shows some promise but any other director would have handled it better.

Taken 3 seems bizarrely discontent with its PG-13 rating, aiming instead for an actual PG in the violence, despite the torture. I don’t remember specific examples of language but all of the violence is filmed in an incredibly bloodless fashion. When Mills finds a body in his bed, he is completely in disbelief that the person is dead, in spite of the victim’s throat having been slit. I can understand his disbelief as there isn’t so much as a drop of blood spilled in the entire bed.

Lest you posit that this person was killed elsewhere, drained of blood, and transported, let me post another example. Later in the film, Mills shoots a shirtless protagonist mutliple times in the torso. He then tortures this individual by poking his gun in the bullet hole. There is not a drop of blood on this victim, either before torture or after gun poking. This goes on and on. The usual ridiculous number of people are killed for an action film, all bloodlessly.

The tagline for Taken 3 is It Ends Here. We can only hope.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 1/20/15

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is definitely the highlight this week – now if only Netflix would get the Alec Guiness miniseries from the 80s

Johnny English Reborn

Comedy: Johnny English Reborn, Patton Oswalt: Tragedy Plus Comedy

Documentary: Kids for Cash, Red Hollywood, A Small Section of the World, Vito, Way of Life, Zombies: When the Dead Walk

Drama: Open Road

Family: An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster, Slugterra: Ghoul from Beyond, Ribbit

Foreign: Blood and Ties, Sooper Se Ooper, As the Light Goes Out

The Fall

Television: The Adventures of Puss in Boots, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Death Comes to Pemberley, The Elephant Princess, Sirens, Octonauts, The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents, and new episodes of Crossing Lines, The Fall, and Wolfblood

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Thriller: The Bag Man, House of Last Things, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Silent House of the Damned Venom

Just some quick notes on a few horror movies on Netflix. Venom, Silent House, and The Damned are currently available on instant Netflix. If you only watch one, choose The Damned.

Venom

 

Venom (2005) – Rated R

Exploring the murky swamps outside New Orleans, a group of young people meet Mr. Jangles, a madman possessed by 13 souls killed by a voodoo priestess.”

Not much to say here. Venom is very typical slasher fare except for a very nice, involved backstory that is unfortunately not fleshed out enough. If you are aching for a slasher, this will fit the bill. Otherwise, don’t bother.

The Damned

 

The Damned (2013) – Rated R

Stranded during a flash flood, a family finds shelter at a guest house. But when they disobey the owner’s orders, they get a terrifying surprise.”

I don’t mind horror movies that hinge on a character making a stupid mistake. I mind when the characters are drawn in an unbelievable fashion and just continue to blindly ignore their own possibility for survival, or worse have a character that makes repeated omnisciently smart moves.

Yes, the initial decision that strands our travelers is rather stupid though believable but the rest of the movie unfolds in a rather intelligent fashion. The initial family quibbling is a little annoying but sets our dynamic in motion. The movie is in English with occasional subtitles and is quite an effective, little chiller. I’ll leave you to discover its charms.

Silent House

 

Silent House (2011) – Rated R

After getting trapped in her family’s moldering summer home, a young woman finds herself being stalked by a dark figure — and a secret from her past.

Silent House is a remake of a Uruguayan horror movie, La Casa Muda (2010). Both films primarily feature a rather nifty gimmick. They are constructed as if the movie was filmed in a single long take. It isn’t but that doesn’t detract from the novelty.

In that fashion, Silent House is sort of the opposite of found footage films. In general, found footage films use that gimmick out of laziness and/or a lack of funds. Silent House’s gimmick requires a lot of extra work.

On top of the clever gimmick (which keeps you watching), Silent House also has another big asset. This was the first released film of Elizabeth Olsen and she is quite good and really relatable. She had previously made Martha Marcy May Marlene but it had yet to receive a release.

Unfortunately, besides the gimmick, Elizabeth Olsen, and a fairly nice third act reveal, there isn’t much else to recommend Silent House. A lot of hoary horror tropes are trotted out and abused and a few eye-rolling moments are included. The pluses do outweigh the minuses and Silent House is worth a look.