FREE Film Noir Class

Well I haven’t done a This ‘n’ That in quite some time. I’m preparing these posts a week ahead as my Florida daughter and granddaughter will be visiting this week and I did not want to fall behind.

TCM Noir

I received an email from TCM recently. As with most companies, most emails are just ignorable spam. This one caught my eye however. TCM in conjunction with Canvas Network is offering a FREE online course in Film Noir. I have included the link below and look forward to taking this course (my first online course or really any course in decades).

TCM Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir

It will certainly help if you have TCM as they are showing 24 hours of Noir every Friday in June and July BUT they will be posting FREE links to Noir films in the public domain and there are a ton of those.

I’m looking forward to rewatching some of my favorites. I really haven’t watched any old noir in decades. I remember some of my favorites being D.O.A., Out of the Past, Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil, and This Gun for Hire.

I hope they’ll cover neo-noirs too like Chinatown, The Last Seduction, Body Heat, L.A. Confidential, and The Usual Suspects.

If you have Amazon Prime, a quick glance shows they have Detour, Pitfall, D.O.A., The Stranger, Dark Passage, and many others available. Netflix is more problematic as you have to search individually. They will let you search on film noir but the result leaves something to be desired.

 

Goodbye HBO Now

HBO Now

I really enjoyed my trial subscription of HBO Now. Yes, that is past tense. We cut the cord a long time ago so it was really nice to finally get an opportunity to watch Game of Thrones, Last Week with John Oliver, and the rest. Here’s the problem: since we have Netflix and Hulu, the only thing we have time for on HBO is Game of Thrones and John Oliver and for that we pay double what we pay for Netflix, which has essentially an unlimited supply of movies.

Last episode (as I write this, not as you read it), Game of Thrones once again used rape as a lazy plot device. /sigh. Controversy generates numbers and free advertising and polarizes viewers.

I may be in my 50s but I am still a teenage boy at heart. I enjoy the gratuitous nudity in Game of Thrones and elsewhere. I also enjoy Game of Thrones gritty realism in terms of violence.

Enjoying those is somewhat titillating but I don’t enjoy rape scenes at all. Rape should never be trivialized. It is not that the subject is taboo or sacrosanct. Murder may seem a much worse crime than rape but that is not the way I see it. Statistically speaking, you are very unlikely to know someone who was murdered. You absolutely know many people who have been sexually assaulted, even if they don’t discuss it with you.

The most misogynistic part of this is that the character was raped so that Theon can get on with his storyline. The rape of a well-known and somewhat main female character was a catalyst, a plot device to spur a male character on.

With Peter Jackson’s Tolkien series over, Game of Thrones had a monopoly on the fantasy genre but just because you are the only game in town does not mean we have to play along.

So Game of Thrones will no longer be served at court. We will catch clips of John Oliver on YouTube. Goodbye HBO Now. While it is not likely to have any impact in this case, always vote with your dollars. Never support, financially or otherwise, a harmful cause.

Hulu Plus Plus Plus

Hulu

Hulu has really been upping their game lately. Obviously they have to work overtime to keep customers over the summer. Once all of the fall shows have had their finales and before they come back, what is there to watch on Hulu?

Adventure Time

In addition to 23 series from Adult Swim (I’m still looking forward to trying out Black Dynamite), Hulu added 10 for kids (Adventure Time, Samurai Jack, Ben 10, Regular Show, Dexter’s Laboratory, Ben 10 Omniverse, Flapjack, Foster, Gumball, and Steven Universe) from Cartoon Network.

They also have quite a few exclusives, such as Murder in the First. When the Mindy Kaling show was canceled by the network, Hulu snatched it up. I love the idea of streaming services rescuing worthy (and not-so-worthy) shows from oblivion.

Seinfeld

Taking a page out the Netflix playbook, Hulu has snagged the rights to the entire series of Seinfeld. They are obviously hoping that people will binge watch it as they did when Netflix acquired Friends early this year. Seinfeld starts June 24th.

As far as movies go, while they are not Hulu’s strong suit, Hulu still has an exclusive deal with Criterion to show almost their entire catalog. If you are interested in film history or the best of foreign cinema, definitely check them out.

The Hot Pursuit of Pitch Perfect 2

I recently enjoyed taking my daughter to see a couple of movies she wanted to see, Pitch Perfect 2 and Hot Pursuit. I love summer for the incredible array of action movies (Yay! Things go boom!) but my eldest is not a real action fan and my youngest is in Florida.

Still I love going to the movies with my girls, regardless of the movie. It gives me the excuse to sit in the dark and have a soda (something I try not to do at home). If I’m lucky, the soda is a Coke Icee! Also all of my girls want to see Jurassic World. Hurry up June!

Hot Pursuit

 

Hot Pursuit (2015) – Rated PG-13

An uptight and by-the-book cop tries to protect the outgoing widow of a drug boss as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen.”

Comedies come in all shapes and sizes. They can be dark social critiques (Heathers, Election), sharp film satires (Austin Powers, Hot Fuzz), charmingly playful (The Princess Bride), raunchy (anything by The Farrelly Brothers), raunchy and heartfelt (anything by Judd Apatow), animated (Despicable Me), and any of many other flavors. The only real requirement of a comedy is that it be funny.

Sadly, Hot Pursuit is fairly unfunny. Oh sure there is a great running gag with TV reports constantly changing. There are some jokes that work well but most fall terribly flat. The best jokes are a few outtakes during the end credits.

On paper, Hot Pursuit seems like a great idea. During the great summer testosterone blowout of Avengers and Mad Max, we’ll release an action comedy directed by a woman (Anne Fletcher) and starring an Oscar-winning actress (Reese Witherspoon) alongside a four-time Golden Globe nominee (Sofia Vergara). Unfortunately Witherspoon and Vergara have zero chemistry and Vergara is not very good.

This is director Anne Fletcher’s fifth feature film. I have to admit to not having seen her other four films, Step Up, 27 Dresses, The Proposal, and The Guilt Trip. Her last film, The Guilt Trip, received dismal reviews and dropped out of theaters quickly. She, or the second unit director, does not know how to film an action sequence. There are a handful of them in the film and none of them are memorable. If you make an action comedy where the action is boring and the comedy lacking, then you have doubly failed.

Both writers, David Feeney and John Quaintance, have written almost exclusively for television. They have worked, individually or together, on 2 Broke Girls, Ben and Kate, Perfect Couples, Whitney, and According to Jim. Quaintance wrote six of the episodes of the ill-fated Joey series,a Friends spinoff. I don’t know about the series but the movie dialogue just isn’t funny.

Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) – Rated PG-13

After a humiliating command performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.”

Well, this is an astonishingly easy one to review. As with many sequels, Pitch Perfect 2 is just Pitch Perfect with some of the dials turned up. There are new Bellas, many more songs, and a new, more professional enemy in Das Sound Machine. The lead members of Das Sound Machine are played by Birgitte Hjort Sorensen and YouTube sensation Flula Borg. The joke quotient has been upped but thankfully they have reduced the amount of vomit.

Beca (Anna Kendrick) was the new girl so in 2, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) is the new girl and Beca is in charge. After a flagrant wardrobe malfunction (Holy plot point, Batman!), the Bellas are disgraced and removed from contention in the Nationals. Naturally this means they have to compete on the world stage.

If Pitch Perfect was your cup of tea, then Pitch Perfect 2 will fit the bill. If you felt that Pitch Perfect was just warmed over Bring It On (itself spawning many sequels), substituting acapella for gymnastics, Pitch Perfect 2 will not make you a believer. Pitch Perfect 2 is an assembly line product giving you more of the same.

Depending on the box office, Pitch Perfect 3 will either be theatrical or straight to DVD but it will happen.

 

More FREE Movie Tickets

Lots more FREE movie tickets

Minions

Best Buy just got a set of FREE movie tickets promos in. Buy specially marked packages of the Despicable Me movies, The Lorax, E.T., The Nut Job, or The Box Trolls and get a FREE movie ticket for Minions. Given my granddaughter’s (yeah that’s it, my granddaughter) love of these, I’m sure to need several tickets.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World tickets can be scored by purchasing specially marked packages of the Jurassic Park movies (natch!), Jaws, Serenity, King Kong, Incredible Hulk, Apollo 13, Lone Survivor, Lucy, Oblivion, Munich, the Bourne trilogy, Back to the Future trilogy, and Inglourious Basterds. Obviously not taking my granddaughter to this but will still need several tickets I think.

Ted 2

There is a combo deal that gives you FREE movie money for either Ted or Trainwreck. Coupons are on specially marked packages of Ted, Knocked Up, Identity Thief, Orgazmo, Wet Hot American Summer, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Change Up, Dazed and Confused, Role Models, Your Highness, and A Million Ways to Die in the West.

Target has a large number of DVDs with $5 tickets and a smaller number of Blu-Rays with $7.50 tickets for Pitch Perfect 2. Titles include Pitch Perfect, The Breakfast Club, Identity Thief, Bridesmaids, John Hughes Collection, Leap Year, Honey, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bring It On, Blue Crush, and Mamma Mia

 

Deal Flicks and Flicks Deals

Every summer I put a lot of thought and effort into making the movies as cheap as possible. This year I have a ton of certificates lined up for all of those wonderful summer movies.

Groupon

Groupon, in my area and many others, is offering reduced prices on DealFlicks certificates. $13.99 for $20 worth of Dealflicks and you can purchase two at this price. Now that may not seem like much of a discount but Groupon regularly runs 20% off specials. On top of that DealFlicks prices are already quite discounted. The amount varies by theater but this comes out pretty cheap in my neck of the woods.

Dealflicks

Dealflicks drawback is that it is only accepted by certain theaters. In my area Epic of Hendersonville and Carolina Cinemas both accept them. Carolina essentially harges the same ticket price but you get a FREE small popcorn. Epic’s tickets are usually discounted by 20%. Opening weekends are typically excluded as are Sony films.

Avengers Age of Ultron

Curse you Kellogg’s!

Kellogg’s did a major tie-in with Avengers: Age of Ultron. Specially marked boxes of cereal contained codes as did boxes of Pop-Tarts. Collect six codes for a FREE $6 ticket to Avengers or any other movie. Yes, it says that on the ticket – Avengers Age of Ultron or any other movie. This deal was not very good as it took too many codes and produced a $6 coupon (matinees here are $8). However, I did get enticed because a single Pop-Tarts code netted you a Funko Avengers bobblehead. I found my Tarts at Target.

They also had a special with Wal-Mart. Purchase specially marked 24 packs of Eggo waffles ($4) and get a $10 ticket for Avengers or any other movie. Limit three per person/family. I now have about 60 Eggo pucks in my freezer. Please note: each transaction must be on a separate receipt.

Speaking of the mart of walls, they have an endcap in their electronic section with movies that have movie money attached. Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome are $5 and come with $5 Mad Max money. A bunch of Paramount movies come with $7.50 in movie money that can be used on any movie.

 

Late Phases

Late Phases is currently playing on instant Netflix

Late Phases

 

Late Phases (2014) – Not rated

After several of his neighbors are killed by savage dog attacks, a blind Vietnam vet starts to believe that a vicious supernatural force is at work.”

I really love the modern horror renaissance we appear to be in. Yes, I know that seems contradictory. After years (decades?) of finding the occasional diamond amid all the dross, it seems that now I am finding a really good horror movie on a monthly basis.

I normally do not care for stories involving blind people. I have known enough personally so films are ruined for me much as they are if there are hackers in the movie. I have no illusions that Hollywood will ever get these or other tropes right.

Late Phases is not great a la The Babadook or better still, It Follows. Late Phases is that rarity though, a good werewolf movie. It is its own film but is also a throwback to good werewolf movies like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London (though not nearly as funny as those two examples).

Nick Damici owns the film as our no-nonsense veteran Ambrose. Horror veterans Tom Noonan (Robocop 2, House of the Devil), Lance Guest (Halloween II, Jaws The Revenge) and Larry Fessenden (Session 9, The Last Winter) lend support as Father Roger, Griffin, and O’Brien respectively.

The script is good when it deals with people but could really use a bit of punching up plotwise. It takes our blind veteran about thirty seconds to deduce what the cops don’t, that the killer is a werewolf. It is a huge leap in logic. There is also a step that the killer takes in the third act that requires knowledge the character does not seem to possess.

The creature effects are a mixed bag. Some of them are quite cheesy. Fortunately, just as many are quite inventive.

All that said, these are nitpicks. Late Phases has a great title (less so if you add the Night of the Lone Wolf subtitle but even that takes on additional meaning) and is an exciting, if not terribly scary, horror movie. Really, that is all I ask. Oh and it is not found footage or shaky cam so there’s that.

People Watch: Yes, that little old lady playing Clarissa was indeed Tina Louise aka Ginger from Gilligan’s Island!

 

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 5/19/15

Another week, another hodgepodge assortment of Netflix streaming releases – this week’s odd niche: Mexican documentaries. I highly recommend the Asian action film, The Killer, if you have not seen it.

Comedy: Corky Romano

Magical Universe

Documentary: Magical Universe, Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation, Maidan, Zapata Lives, Bandidos Legendarios de Mexico, The Cardenas Era, Clean Spirit, Cyber-Seniors, Dawg Fight, Earthquake of Mexico, El Asesinato de Trotsky, El Carnaval de Barranquilla, El Dorado, El Escape de Hitler, Give Me Shelter, La Batalla de Zacatecas, La Masacre de Tlatelolco, La Red Nazi en Mexico, Magnicidios, Magnicidios 2, Mengele the Angel of Death, Pancho Villa Aqui y Alli, A Pope for Everyone, Revolucion Mexicana

Drama: The Sleepwalker (2014), Fruitvale Station, The Soccer Nanny

Faith: The Identical

Family: Toobys

Icetastrophe

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Icetastrophe, After, Scyntilla (The Hybrid)

Foreign: Tip Top, The Enforcer, Fist of Legend, Temporada de Zopilotes, Fists of Legend, Gaturro, The Killer, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, Once Upon ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara

Extraterrestrial

Horror: Extraterrestrial, [REC] 4: Apocalypse

Television: Lottie Dottie Chicken, Young & Hungry, Granite Flats, La Prepago, When Calls the Heart, Bienvenida Realidad, Maria la del Barrio, The Quest, and new episodes of The Universe, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and Grand Hotel

Black Mirror of the Ex Machina

Ex Machina is currently playing in theaters and Black Mirror is available on streaming Netflix.

Ex Machina

 

Ex Machina (2015) – Rated R

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.”

I saw Ex Machina before the Avengers double feature and it was a good counterpoint. Both Age of Ultron and Ex Machina are about artificial intelligence but for all of Ultron’s thunder and lightning, Ex Machina is like a quiet summer rain.

Ultron has about a billion characters. Ex Machina has essentially four. One of those doesn’t even speak. Ultron races around the world but 90% of Ex Machina takes place in one (admittedly magnificent) house. Ultron features actors making millions of dollars, Ex Machina’s actors are close to unknown.

Ex Machina is a very intelligent look at the development of Artificial Intelligence (that always ends well), which we are not that far from accomplishing. Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, an ultra-rich technogeek in the vein of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs but single. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is the robot he creates. Domhnall Gleeson is Caleb, the man invited to Nathan’s home to perform the Turing test (or is he?). Gleeson and Isaac will both be in the new Star Wars movie.

I don’t want to say too much about Ex Machina’s plot as the few twists and turns are a large part of the joy. Ex Machina is about a few characters talking intelligently with very little action. This is Alex Garland’s first directorial effort from his own screenplay and he knocks it out of the park.

Black Mirror

 

Black Mirror (2011-3) – Rated TV-MA

This sci-fi anthology series in the vein of “The Twilight Zone” reflects on the darker side of technology and human nature.”

Netflix’ description pretty much sums up this series. Each episode is a self-contained story that ruminates on human nature, usually the dangers of technology or a dystopian society (I guess a well ordered, functional society would not be exciting).

There is quite a bit of adult material here, both in content and theme. The first episode is not the best and has the greatest capacity to offend so I recommend starting with the second episode to get a real feel for the series.

This series is very well done but very much a downer. If you don’t mind your science fiction being depressing, definitely give this worthy series a try. Just make sure you’ve already taken your Prozac.

I Can’t Believe They Previously Left Me Behind

All three Kirk Cameron Left Behind movies are currently available on instant Netflix.

Left Behind

 

Left Behind (2000) – Rated PG-13

When 100 million people vanish from earth, a man tries to locate his wife and son. As he digs deeper, he finds that the answers may lie in the Bible.”

So small. So easily manipulated. Tell me, Jonathan. Who is the puppet now. Look where I am and look where you are?”

Wow. I certainly started with the wrong movie. It is a real eye opener seeing two different movies from the same exact source material be almost polar opposites of each other. I watched Dangerous Liaisons (a classic) and Valmont (complete misfire and it came out second).

This is not to say that Left Behind (2000) is a good movie. It is not. It is a complete stinker. Parts of it are shockingly amateurish. Yet for all its many many many failings, it is better than the Nicolas Cage reboot.

Whereas Left Behind (2014) is all about how to land a plane and the Rapture is just something going on in the background, Left Behind (2000) attempts to pack everything possible in. The flight is really just incidental and doesn’t even occur until the halfway point. The 2000 version spends all of its time trying to shoehorn global events and a large cast of characters into a short movie.

Kirk Cameron is our star here and, as in the Nicolas Cage version, he isn’t very good but is yards ahead of the competition. Brad Johnson, who oddly is playing Cage’s role, seems like he is reading from cue cards. Gordon Currie, playing Nicolae Carpathia aka The Antichrist, shows neither charisma nor menace.

Imagine, if you will, a movie that was entirely exposition. That is what Left Behind (2000) feels like. I cannot speak to the novels because I have not read them but they were so popular that I imagine them to be better. I doubt they could be worse.

Left Behind 2

 

Left Behind II: Tribulation Force (2002) – Not rated

The Christians left behind after the Rapture find themselves threatened by a man they believe to be the Antichrist: U.N. President Nicolae Carpathia.”

Wow. They stuck all the action in the first movie. Tribulation Force is naturally about the founding of the Tribulation Force to oppose the Antichrist. That is pretty much all there is to the movie. Oh sure there is a bit of skullduggery and a climaxing action sequence of sorts but I have seldom seen a movie that was basically just filler between two other movies.

Left Behind World at War

 

Left Behind: World at War (2005) – Rated PG-13

After a global catastrophe that saw millions vanish, one man unites the world. Some believe he is not their ideal leader, but rather, the Antichrist.”

Funny thing about a dream: When you’re asleep, no matter what happens, no matter how crazy it might be, it all seems to make sense. I was there when millions of people vanished off the face of the earth. But I didn’t wake up. I cheered as the world came together in the name of peace. Race, politics, and religion no long mattered.”

Okay. After sitting through three of these with none of them even achieving ‘watchable’ on my meter, I was dreading this final one. Still I try to stay the course.

I was actually very pleasantly surprised by the start of this. Louis Gossett Jr. stars pre-Obama as President Gerald Fitzhugh. It is a nice touch even if Morgan Freeman was there first in Deep Impact (1998). He gives a voiceover (above) as he sits by himself in a rather ruined White House. Okay so we have mastered the art of the flashback.

Shortly after this, we have an actual action sequence. Between those two scenes and Louis Gossett’s presence, those things must add up to more than the entire budget of the first movie. Charles Martin Smith pops up briefly as the Vice President.

This does not obviate the problems from the other movies. There is a large amount of proselytizing and exposition heavy dialog. Foremost is that there is no reason to put yourself through the pain of the first two movies to get to this installment, which is only good in comparison.