Halloween Keeps Getting Better – Pacific Rim

Blu-Ray.com

 

Blu-Ray.com is a board I frequent, mostly for news and reviews of Blu-Rays. I also periodically flip through the posted pictures of users home theaters and drool away. They periodically run drawings for FREE Blu-Rays. After being on that board for many years, I finally won one of the drawings.

Pacific Rim

 

I won the Blu-Ray for the prettiest movie of the summer, Pacific Rim (Star Trek Into Darkness was a close second). I won on the weekend and received my Blu-Ray on Wednesday via FedEx. Wow! Even the cover is gorgeous, with a lenticular kaiju alternating with one of the jaegers.

Pacific Rim and My Own Personal Movie Theater

I have been hoping that Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, Pacific Rim, would rescue me from the summer doldrums. This year’s crop of blockbusters has been disappointing, ranging from the silly, mediocre, or problematic (Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger) to the downright awful, boring, or misconceived (Man of Steel, The Fast & The Furious 6, The Great Gatsby). I enjoyed Monsters University but not as much as Monsters, Inc., Star Trek: Into Darkness but not as much as Star Trek, World War Z but not as much as the book.

Pacific RimNormally I go to my beloved Carolina Cinemas but I was free on Wednesday morning with a $12 voucher ticket from Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Regal Cinema’s Biltmore Grande has a RPX (Regal Premium Experience – basically a not quite Imax) theater and was showing Pacific Rim at 10 a.m. Matinee price for a 2D RPX ticket is $12. There was a line in front of me at the box office but they were all there to see the $1 children’s movie.

RPX emptyApparently no one wants to spend $12 at 10 in the morning. I had the entire RPX auditorium to myself for Pacific Rim. Woohoo! Using the $12 voucher in combination with my Regal card netted me a FREE popcorn (saving it for this weekend’s Despicable Me 2 family trip). I also grabbed two FREE Pacific Rim posters on my way out for the movie room.

Pacific Rim (2013) – Rated PG-13

“As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.”

One Line Review: If you like giant monsters or robots, then go see this on a giant screen!

Pacific Rim on a RPX screen was just what the doctor ordered. It is not a masterpiece like Pan’s Labyrinth. The dialogue is very cheesy, particularly the speeches Idris Elba is asked to give. The visuals are very dark at times and as such may have difficulty transferring to the small screen.

Acting is definitely a weak point. Charlie Day and Burn (Torchwood) Gorman show personality as scientists but are often annoying in their mannerisms. Charlie Hunnam is bland as Raleigh Becket. Idris Elba is good but is saddled with the worst dialogue. Rinko Kikuchi isn’t given enough to do and Ron Perlman hams it up.

The visuals are magnificent in general but occasionally are murky enough to make it difficult to tell what is happening. The kaiju (monsters) are of course the highlight of the film. There are several long wonderful fight scenes between the kaiju and the jaeger (giant robots) as well as several smaller scenes involving each. Sound effects are marvelous (seat shaking in RPX).

Dramatically this movie is very cliched, particularly in the last act. Dialogue is corny and wooden but only serves to be reminiscent of the movies Guillermo del Toro is paying homage to. This is obviously a labor of love for him.

If you want to see giant monsters and giant robots beat up on each other and destroy cities, then go see Pacific Rim. If not, then there isn’t much reason to recommend it.

White House Birthday Down

Well, I spent Father’s Day enjoying a wonderful meal at Papa’s and Beer with my wife, eldest daughter, and granddaughter. I had spicy bean dip, carnitas (pork) fajitas, and flan for dessert. I enjoyed it so much that I expect to do it again this weekend for my birthday. Besides the quality of the food, my favorite thing about Papa’s is the quantity. I always have leftovers for lunch the next day. Yum!

White House Down

Father’s Day, I also went and saw the very disappointing Man of Steel with a FREE ticket. This time around it is White House Down (also FREE – thank you Amazon!). I don’t expect much from it – the trailer doesn’t look as good as Olympus Has Fallen and that wasn’t very good at all. The film I would have liked to have seen for my birthday doesn’t start for a couple of weeks.

Pacific RimGuillermo del Toro – I expect you to rescue me from this year’s humdrum (The Not-So-Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3 – Now with Less Iron!, Fast & Spurious 6, This is the (Offensive) End) summer movies. Only Star Trek impressed me and that had huge logic gaps.

Mimic

Mimic is currently available on instant Netflix.

Mimic (1997) – Rated R

“Mira Sorvino stars as an entomologist whose work results in the eradication of disease-carrying cockroaches, only to create a new breed of lethal, man-sized insect in the sewer systems of New York City.”

Sometimes an insect will even mimic its predator.”

How do you make a good horror movie? It certainly helps to hire a visionary director like Guillermo del Toro. Guillermo del Toro disavowed Mimic in the end because of the monumental interference he suffered from the studio. The interference was so bad that afterwards he went back to Mexico. Still Mimic is an excellent horror movie.

Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins wrote the screen story and screenplay. It is based on the short story, Mimic, by Donald A. Wollheim. The screenplay is well-plotted and very literate. It also wisely allows things to unfold over time.

Another nice ingredient in a good horror movie is to fill it with good actors. Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino is quite good as Dr. Susan Tyler. Her partner in the accidental creation of the creatures is Dr. Peter Mann, played by Jeremy Northam. Northam was recently in The Tudors as Sir Thomas More. The final member of their team is pistachio-eating Josh, amusingly played by Oscar-nominated Josh Brolin.

The supporting roles are filled by good actors as well. Dr. Tyler’s mentor is Dr. Gates, played by Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham. Golden Globe-nominated Charles Dutton plays Leonard. Finally Oscar-nominated Giancarlo Giannini plays Manny, a father searching desperately for his lost boy.

In addition to the visionary director, good actors and literate script, Mimic also features great creature design, set design, and wonderful special effects. Backing Guillermo up was none other than Robert Rodriguez as the second unit director.

While Mimic is excellent, I would love to see what del Toro’s original vision was, especially given how fantastic Pan’s Labyrinth was. Guillermo recently released a Director’s Cut on Blu-Ray that he says he is happy with, being the best he could piece together with the elements available. Be aware that this film deals extensively with bugs, both giant and of the cockroach variety.

People Watch: Guillermo del Toro regular Doug Jones plays Long John #3 here. He played Fauno and Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in the two Hellboy movies as well as Chamberlain and the Angel of Death in Hellboy II. Distinctive character actor Julian Richings, Death in Supernatural, plays a workman here. Norman (Boondock Saints) Reedus briefly plays Jeremy. Reedus is enjoying success as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead.

Sequel-itis: Obviously an iconic monster like the insects in Mimic have to be replicated. The straight-to-video sequels Mimic 2 (2001) and Mimic: Sentinel (2003) are quite forgettable.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – Revenge of the Tooth Fairy

Here’s hoping I can get the taste of Shark Night out of my mouth. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is currently available on instant Netflix.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) – Rated R

“Soon after moving in with her father and his new girlfriend, young Sally discovers she isn’t alone in the house: strange creatures live there — and they might not be as friendly as Sally thinks. Guillermo del Toro co-writes this horror film.”

Guillermo del Toro’s name is plastered all over this film but he did not direct. He only co-wrote it and it is based on the screenplay from the 1973 original. He is also a producer, has a cameo as an airplane passenger behind Sally, and does one of the creature voices. The original was a favorite of del Toro’s and it shows

The cinematography by Oliver Stapleton is quite good as is the set design. In short this is a very pretty film with the mansion effectively becoming another character. I loved the spiral staircases in the public library and the stone staircase in the basement. The mansion is supposed to be used for an Architectural Digest cover story – why is Architectural Digest always name-checked every time a film features an architect? The creature effects are pretty neat as well.

I normally enjoy Guy Pearce. He is quite good when directed properly (Memento, L.A. Confidential) but he can’t save a movie. He and Katie Holmes are both capable here but not much more than that. It was nice to see noted Australian character actor Jack Thompson in a vital supporting role (Harris).

Of course in a film like this, a disproportionate amount of the acting falls on the shoulders of the child. Sally is played by Bailee Madison. Bailee does a fine job acting bratty, sad, and scared at various turns.

Strangely the big fault of the film is actually the scripting by del Toro, who I love. There are just too many incidents of willful disbelief especially by Guy Pearce’s Alex. Cliche after cliche is trotted out and abused. Also the filmmakers apparently don’t remember how Polaroid flashbars work.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a good stately horror film – just try to hold on to your suspension of disbelief.

People Watch: Guillermo del Toro returns to directing (yay!) with next year’s giant robots vs. aliens film, Pacific Rim.

Blade 2 – Marvel Superhero week

This is Marvel Superhero week. Blade 2 is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Blade 2(2002) – Rated R for Strong pervasive violence, language, some drug use and sexual content.

Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a half-vampire sworn to eradicating the bloodsuckers who lurk in the shadows. But when a breed of “reapers” is unleashed, the Vampire Nation asks for his help in preventing a nightmare plague that would wipe out both humans and vampires. Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hell Boy, Pans Labyrinth), this Blade sequel mixes high-tech action with crimson terror. Kris Kristofferson and Ron Perlman co-star.

“Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.”

Well way back when I was a wee lad, my favorite comic book series was The Tomb of Dracula. I loved the portrayal of Dracula as an evil mastermind and all of the people hunting him were fascinating as well. One of those was Blade, the Vampire Slayer.

Wesley Snipes returns as Blade and Kris Kristofferson returns as his accomplice/handyman Whistler (despite having died in the first film). As he was in the first film, Snipes is a complete bada$$, dusting vampires by the score. Norman Reedus (Boondock Saints) plays the new addition to the “good guys”. You have to love a character that has Krispy Kreme doughnuts shipped to a stakeout.

This is definitely the way to make a sequel. Since Blade took out a vampire “god” in the last film, the vampires have formed a Special Forces team called the Blood Pack to take him down. Now in a by-the-numbers sequel that would be our movie. Instead we have a much larger threat that forces them to team up with Blade.

The Blood Pack is well cast and all the members have colorful personalities. Tough guy and Guillermo del Toro favorite Ron Perlman has a lot of fun as Reinhardt. Leonor Varela plays Nyssa, a possible love interest. Other members of the Blood Pack include Danny John-Jules (Cat in the Red Dwarf TV show) as Asad and Asian superstar Donnie Yen as Snowman. Donnie Yen also handled the impressive fight choreography.

Blade II is written very intelligently by David S. Goyer and yet oddly Goyer would go on to write the terrible third film Blade Trinity. The difference here is that the mighty Guillermo del Toro directs Blade II and naturally it is quite stylish.

The acting is good, the action is fast and fresh, the visuals are well-done, and the script is engaging and has a few good twists to it – basically there is not much not to like in this film. That and these vampires do not sparkle in sunlight.

Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro has three movies on Netflix and one where I’m cheating a bit (he is a producer on the Orphanage). His trademark is wildly inventive visuals. I’m not a big fan of his Hellboy films – the animated ones really do seem to suffer from the “Direct to DVD” mentality and the 2 theatrical films had incredible visuals but lacked in the plotting and writing departments but Pan’s Labyrinth is an absolute masterpiece and I’m very much looking forward to his adaptation of the Hobbit.

Mimic

1. Mimic (1997) – “In this cinematic kissing cousin to the giant-radioactive-ant flick Them, etymologist Mira Sorvino eradicates disease-carrying cockroaches only to create a new breed of lethal, man-sized insect in the sewer systems of New York City. Co-starring Charles S. Dutton, Jeremy Northam and a nest of creepy, computer-generated bugs, Mimic will send you running for the Raid”

Mimic is a really creepy and atmospheric monster movie – I highly recommend this movie as long as you don’t mind horror movies about giant bugs. This also stars Giancarlo Giannini, Josh Brolin, and F. Murray Abraham but the real stars are the subway, the bugs and Guillermo Del Toro’s visual style. Mimic spawned two sequels which aren’t available on instant Netflix but you aren’t missing much there.

Pan's Labyrinth

2. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – “Living with her tyrannical stepfather (Sergi López) in a new home with her pregnant mother, 10-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) feels alone until she explores a decaying labyrinth guarded by the mysterious Pan (Doug Jones), an ancient satyr who claims to know her destiny. If she wishes to return to her real father, Ofelia must complete three terrifying tasks in director Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning fairy tale for grown-ups”

Ok once again Guillermo Del Toro’s visual style is simply spectacular and is not restricted to real world locations as in Mimic. This is a rich dark fairy-tale set during Spain’s civil war. The only problem you will have is paying attention to the subtitles while all the amazing visuals are going by. This won 3 well-deserved Oscars (Makeup, Art direction and Cinematography) yet lost Best Writing and Best Foreign Language.

Hellboy Blood & Iron

3. Hellboy animated – Blood & Iron (2007) – “When a vampire destroyed by professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm decades ago is resurrected, supernatural agents Hellboy, Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien must stop a demon uprising. As the team battles hordes of ghosts and hellhounds, a showdown brews between Hellboy and Hecate, queen of the witches. Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, John Hurt and Cree Summer provide the voices in this animated adventure based on Mike Mignola’s comic-book series”

I’m not sure why but I did not really care for this. It didn’t gel very well and the animation seemed pretty much by the numbers.

The Orphanage

4. The Orphanage (2007) – “Fueled by fond memories from her childhood, Laura (Belén Rueda) persuades her husband (Fernando Cayo) to help her revamp a seaside orphanage into a facility for disabled children. But soon after the couple moves in, their son, Simón (Roger Príncep), begins exhibiting disturbing behavior. As Laura tries to understand Simón’s increasingly malevolent actions, she becomes drawn into the house’s terrifying secrets in this unnerving chiller”

This is one where I’m cheating a little. Guillermo del Toro is a producer on this – Juan Antonio Bayona is the director and this is probably the best film I’ve seen this year. The tone is definitely Spanish, the writing is in the vein of M. Night Shyamalan, and the visuals are excellent (if not as fanciful as del Toro’s). There are subtitles but this is a tight little thriller.