Diet Coke Meme-Mentos

I am not a big music fan. I don’t keep up with pop hits as my hobby is obviously movies. When I’m in the car, I’m either chatting or listening to a podcast. I do appreciate music. Sometimes I appreciate music ironically within my movie sensibility. Such was the case the other day during the pre-movie commercials.

Diet Coke

Diet Coke comes on with a lady on a plane. Boom Bap Pow is the soundtrack with their song “Suit”. The lyrics in the commercial are: “You look real cute. I want to wear you like a suit. I think you’d look really good on me.” Now picture someone else saying those lyrics…

Buffalo Bill…say Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. That was all I could picture. I’m sure people looked at me when I laughed out loud at a Diet Coke commercial. For those not of a serial killer bent, you could substitute…

Edgar Suit

 

Edgar Suit from Men in Black.

 

The Loft, The Loft, The Loft

The Loft is currently playing in theaters

The Loft

 

The Loft (2014) – Rated R

Five married guys conspire to secretly share a penthouse loft in the city–a place where they can carry out hidden affairs and indulge in their deepest fantasies. But the fantasy becomes a nightmare when they discover the dead body of an unknown woman in the loft, and they realize one of the group must be involved.

My wife went off to Ikea on Sunday so I took the opportunity to catch a movie at the theater. I prefer going during the week as it is much less crowded but, hey, opportunity. The previews for The Loft were not inspiring but it was rated R (less kids on the weekend) and a remake of a European thriller (good sign).

Loft (2008) was a Belgian thriller written by Bart De Pauw and directed by Erik Van Looy. It was the most successful film in Belgian history. It was remade in 2010 in The Netherlands. Erik Van Looy came in to finish directing it after the original director had an accident.

Hollywood brought in Erik Van Looy to direct this film for the third time. Wesley Strick rewrote Bart De Pauw’s screenplay for the English language. Strick’s screenplays have been good (Arachnophobia), bad (The Glass House), and ugly (Doom).

Casting did a good job of picking men who look good in and out of suits. Karl Urban, James Marsden, and Wentworth Miller are three of our friends. Matthias Schoenaerts replays his role of Philip from the original. Eric Stonestreet plays the token overweight friend (yes, successful overweight people like to fool around too).

I failed my daughter. She asked me to count the number of times they said ‘Loft’ in the movie. I quickly lost track as not only is the loft referred to as such but the building it is in is also referred to as The Loft. Let us just say that they made the title abundantly clear.

The tagline for the original was “Five Friends. One Deadly Secret.”. The tagline on this one is “The Right Place to do Wrong”, further selling us on the location. Sadly the location isn’t much. The Loft just appears to be a bachelor pad with a bar, sitting area, and a decent bed. It overlooks a decent chunk of city but there is certainly no location porn here.

VAGUE SPOILERS AHEAD: So we are left with Five Friends – One Deadly Secret. Here’s my numeric rundown. Seven men, plenty of liars, several alcoholics, a drug addict, a rapist, a murderer, a corrupt city official, a procurer, a corrupt businessman, an extortionist, a pornographer, a man with incestuous issues, a john, ZERO likable, or even relatable, male characters

I was hoping for a neat thriller with some good twists that might say something cogent about sexual politics, desire, or need. Oh well. It was not to be. At the least, I was expecting a prurient interest guilty pleasure but it fails on that level too. We do have a lot of good-looking thirty-somethings in various stages of undress but the focus is never on the sex or violence but on the dialogue and, trust me, the dialogue could use some work.

The plot twists are interesting, or would be if you cared about any of the characters. The Loft is not horrible but it is not much more than that.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 2/10/15

A little bit of this and that, I really enjoyed the over the top silliness of Dead Snow 2.

Action/Adventure: Catch Hell

Anime: Ghost Pain, Ghost Tears, Ghost Whispers

Documentary: You Laugh But It’s True, 25 To Life

Drama: Elsa & Fred, Life of a King

Family: The Little Rascals Save the Day, Pete’s Christmas

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Age of Ice

Stray Dogs

Foreign: Stray Dogs

Horror: Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead

Tears of Steel

Television: Danger 5, Ever After High, Tears of Steel, and new episodes of Bates Motel

Breaking at the Edge

Thriller: Breaking at the Edge, Blood Ties

Carolina vs. Carmike – Two theaters enter, one theater leaves!

Recently, Carmike Cinemas introduced their 2015 refillable popcorn bucket. It costs $20 and refills throughout the year are $4. This is a great deal for them as the bucket costs them probably a buck and popcorn costs essentially nothing so the $4 is pure profit.

Carmike Popcorn

 

Is this a good deal for moviegoers? Possibly but only if you go exclusively to Carmike and always need a popcorn fix. Let’s compare this to Carolina Cinemas. If you purchase an Asheville Film Society membership for $10 (half the bucket price at Carmike), you get FREE refills all year long on any size popcorn that you purchase at Carolina AND $1 off any movie ticket at Carolina all year long. Add to that, that at Carolina you get FREE refills on soda any size and your day at the movies is made.

Obviously this is another of my rants about why you should go to Carolina Cinemas but wait there’s more!

Carolina Cinemas

Every Tuesday at 8 p.m., the Asheville Film Society puts on a FREE movie at the Carolina in theater 6. Membership is not necessary to attend.

Thursday Horror Picture Show

 

Every Thursday night at 8, Ken Hanke & Justin Souther put on an absolutely FREE horror movie in movie theater 6.

Blue Ruin of Some Cleanskin

Blue Ruin and Cleanskin are currently available on instant Netflix

Blue Ruin

 

Blue Ruin (2013) – Rated R

Bad news from the past unhinges vagabond Dwight Evans, sending him on a mission of bloody retribution that takes him to his childhood hometown.

“I’d forgive you if you were crazy, but you’re not. You’re weak.”

This is writer/director/cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore production. He had previously made Murder Party in 2007. I have not seen that film but Blue Ruin is a great study of what can be done with a good idea, even on a tiny budget.

There is a great economy of storytelling in Blue Ruin. In just the first few minutes, Saulnier and Macon Blair, who plays Dwight, convey a pretty accurate picture of a homeless beachcomber. Dwight receives the news that the murderer of his parents is being released from prison.

What follows is something I won’t go into detail about as the turns are an absolute delight. I will just say that this is a fairly interesting and somewhat realistic look at the directions revenge can go.

Watch it – you won’t be disappointed.

Cleanskin

 

Cleanskin (2012) – Not rated

A burned-out secret service agent must pursue a deadly suicide bomber and dismantle a terrorist cell that is wreaking havoc on the streets of London.”

Does Sean Bean, aka The Human Spoiler, die in this movie too? Sorry, I’ll leave that for you to find out.

Cleanskin is a wonderfully violent terrorist thriller that, unlike American Sniper, assumes that both sides are human. More importantly the main characters on each side are being constantly manipulated and lied to, leading to some pretty thorough disillusionment.

Obviously the credit for this film goes to Hadi Hajaig as he is not only the director and producer but also the writer and editor. The film and script are very intelligent. The story is split pretty equally between Ash (Abhin Galeya), a muslim student who keeps getting in deeper and deeper with some radicals, and Ewan (Sean Bean), our burned-out agent hunting down the terrorists.

Abhin Galeya is quite good as our angry young idealist. Sean Bean is marvelous as always and it is nice to see him in a lead role. It is also nice to see Charlotte Rampling as Charlotte, Ewan’s boss.

Cleanskin has a very exciting climax and an even more interesting denouement. Don’t worry about looking up the title, they explain it towards the end. Cleanskin actually seems to be what 24: Live Another Day should have been, albeit British.

American Sniper Pew Pew Pew

American Sniper is currently playing in theaters

American Sniper

 

American Sniper (2014) – Rated R

Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.”

Wow. This film, and the character of Chris Kyle (in both senses of the word), seem to have split extreme left and right. I am certainly of two minds about this film.

American Sniper is an extremely well-made film. It begins with an incredibly suspenseful scene and leaves us in that suspense as we flashback to Kyle’s early life. The movie also ends on several perfect notes – a fade to black with some print on the screen, some real footage, no music over the end credits. Absolutely the most satisfying beginning and ending to a movie that I have seen in a long time.

Bradley Cooper’s transformation into Chris Kyle is simply amazing. He bulked up quite a bit which I expected for his role as a Navy SEAL. He’s left behind many of his mannerisms, or Cooperisms if you will. I thought the bulking was in general but when you see pictures of the real Kyle, they did a great job of making Cooper look like him.

Cooper’s performance is spot on as well. If he wins the Oscar, it will be deserved. He is ably backed up by Sienna Miller as his wife. Sammy Sheik is good as the enigmatic Mustafa, particularly as he has very little screentime for the role. The other actors playing soldiers do their jobs but don’t stand out particularly (which works well as this is a story about Kyle).

So American Sniper is a perfect film then? Not exactly.

American Sniper is shamelessly jingoistic. We are shown footage of the Tanzanian and Kenyan bombings of 1998 and one of the towers falling on 9/11. The other side is shown torturing civilians with a drill and executing them.

The movie is based on Kyle’s autobiography and, as with the jingoism, shamelessly promotes him to the exclusion of all others, sometimes embarrassingly so. His spotter serves no actual purpose in the film, other than perhaps bodyguard. We are told repeatedly that Kyle got 150 kills but are shown only a few of them and of those few, at least two are quite fabricated.

HISTORY SPOILER:  If you’ve read the autobiography then you know that Mustafa’s fate is quite different in real life than in the movie. The opening scene is also fairly embellished.

There are also plenty of details that are bizarrely wrong. In one scene, Kyle is clearly holding a baby doll and not a baby. Huh? Kyle was not even close to 30 when he went through training. I’m not sure why this was even a thing.

American Sniper is still a very good and riveting film but I don’t feel it is Best Picture material. It certainly isn’t innovative like, for example, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Knights of Badassdom on The Frozen Ground

Knights of Badassdom and Frozen Ground are currently available on instant Netflix

Knights of Badassdom

 

Knights of Badassdom (2013) – Rated R

Venturing into the woods to act out a medieval fantasy, three friends face a real-life struggle for survival after inadvertently conjuring a succubus.”

You just summoned a succubus from Hell!” – “Sorry”

First-time writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall nail the particulars of LARPing in this mildly amusing movie. The script could have used a serious polishing though to make it shine.

Director Joe Lynch has had an absolutely fascinating career. He started as an actor, creative assistant, and best boy in the movie Terror Firmer. Since then he has been an actor, director of photography, editor, cinematographer, writer, and producer. He has even been an editor on pornographic films under the rather ridiculous alias of Fernando Phagabeefy. In 2007, he took a franchise that was hackneyed from the first film (Wrong Turn) and made a very tongue-in-cheek sequel that was much better than the original.

Lynch assembled a dream cast from nerdvana. Ryan Kwanten, Jason Stackhouse of True Blood, plays our reluctant LARPer, Joe. Summer Glau, River Tam from Firefly and the main Terminator in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, plays our requisite love interest, Gwen. Peter Dinklage, Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, overacts outrageously as drunk redneck LARPer, Hung. Danny Pudi, Abed from Community, plays Lando. Steve Zahn is along for some (extra) comic relief.

The cast is obviously where a lot of the fun comes from. None of them are even remotely flexing their acting muscles but they all seem to be having quite a bit of fun. The meager special effects budget serves the film well in some ways as the monster seems to be just a few steps above those costumed for the LARP.

Frozen Ground

 

Frozen Ground (2013) – Rated R

In this fact-based thriller, an Alaska state trooper pursuing a serial killer teams with a 17-year-old-prostitute who escaped the predator’s clutches.

Once upon a time, Nicolas Cage anchored tentpole action movies and John Cusack headlined many fascinating independent movies. They even appeared together in the marvelously over-the-top Con Air.

Sadly, Cage’s career hit the skids and he had some pretty severe income tax problems. He turned to quick direct-to-video movies to make a fast buck. His performances were occasionally good but more often than not, they turned lazy, with Cage playing roles somnambulistically or simply yelling his way through them. I’m not sure what happened to Cusack but he appears to have joined Cage in direct-to-video land.

The Frozen Ground is written and directed by first time writer and director Scott Walker. It is competent, by the numbers, but unimaginative. It is based on the story of serial killer Robert Hansen (John Cusack collecting a paycheck). Scenes involving the victims are very mean-spirited, presumably to show realism but it seems like torture porn lite. Nicolas Cage is our dogged detective on the case, knowing who the killer is but having trouble proving it.

The third member of our cast is escaped victim Cindy Paulson. She is played by Vanessa Hudgens, who seems more alive than the rest of the cast. Dean (Breaking Bad) Norris backs Cage up as another detective on the case.

The Frozen Ground catches the actors frozen but breaks no new ground. It isn’t bad per se but there is not a compelling reason to watch it.

Welcome to February’s Crop of Instant Netflix Titles

Here they are (I particularly enjoyed Horns even though there is a sexual assault):

Action/Adventure: Into the Blue 2: The Reef, King Arthur, Quest for Fire

Anime: Bleach the Movie: Hellverse, Naruto Shippoden: The Movie

Classic: Houseboat

Comedy: Not Another Happy Ending, Along Came Polly, The Brothers Bloom, Bulletproof, Cecil B. Demented, Danny Deckchair, Diggstown, Expelled, Fools Rush In, Four Seasons, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Hitch, Hot Pursuit, Lars and the Real Girl, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Next Stop Wonderland, The Other End of the Line, To Be or Not to Be, We’re No Angels

Documentary: Fifi Howls From Happiness, Last Hijack, And the Oscar Goes To…, DisneyNature: Wings of Life, Enquiring Minds, Generation Iron, The Ghosts in Our Machine, Gucci: The Director, Isolated, The New Public, Now: In the Wings on a World Stage, Paul Williams: Still Alive, The Search for Michael Rockefeller, This May Be the Last Time, We Could Be King

Drama: Coach Carter, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Field of Lost Shoes, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, Gimme Shelter, Home, Joe, Leaving Las Vegas, My First Mister, The Object of Beauty, Proof, Showgirls, Steel Magnolias, Ulee’s Gold, The Verdict

Family: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, Zapped

Starship Troopers

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Starship Troopers (making four Starship Troopers movies on Netflix)

Foreign: Cam Girl, Dark Valley (Das finstere Tal), Nights With Theodore, Salvo, August Eighth, Bodyguard, The Forgotten Kingdom, Ghost Graduation, Poklosie (Aftermath), Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Horns

Horror: Horns, An American Haunting, Borderland, Crazy Eights, Dark Ride, The Deaths of Ian Stone, Killer Mermaid, Lake Dead, Mulberry Street, Nightmare Man, Re-Animator, Unearthed, Wicked Little Things

Spartacus

Television: Bob the Builder: Teamwork Time, Cunning Single Lady, Fleabag Monkeyface, It’s Okay That’s Love, Plankton Invasion, Departures, Life Stories, Magic City, MASH, Roaring with Pride, RWBY, Wildest Africa, Street Food, Wildest Middle East, World’s Wildest City, The Travel Bug, Shaun Ryder on UFOs, and new episodes of Spartacus

Last of the Netflix Streaming Releases for January

A few late arrivals

88

Action/Adventure: 88, Guardian

Comedy: Chef

Money for Nothing

Documentary: Expedition to the End of the World, Money for Nothing, To Russia With Love

Days and Nights

Drama: Days and Nights, Frida

Family: Monster High: Freaky Fusion

Foreign: Gloria (2012), Mardaani, Puppylove

Horror: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

Television: Coffee Prince, God’s Gift – 14 Days, Good Doctor, K-POP Extreme Survival, A Word from Warm Heart, Lily’s Driftwood Bay, and new episodes of Paradise Bay, and Beauty and the Beast

Thriller: App, Stephen King’s A Good Marriage