Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Last.fm Presents: My Top Artists & Songs of 2015


As many of you already know, I am just as passionate about my music as I am about my movies. To keep track of my music, I use an amazing service called Last.fm

Last.fm uses an app, called the scrobbler, to not only track the artists, songs, and albums you listen to the most, but it also creates your own social media page with your own radio station! If you have a song on your device that is in the last.fm library, when you scrobble it, it gets added to your own radio station. People can then go to your page and listen to the music you listen to! Additionally, they let you know when your artists are playing in your area, when they release new material, and they'll even recommend similar artists you might really like, Last.fm really is a terrific service that is 100% free! You can check out my last.fm page and radio station by clicking the link in the links section.



Todd's Top 30 Songs of 2015:
1) Alice In Chains - Man In The Box
2) Alice In Chains - Again
 3) American Hi-Fi - Happy
4) Black Veil Brides - The Legacy
5) Trapt - Bring It
6) Emphatic - Bounce
7) Stone Temple Pilots - Sex Type Thing
8) Buckcherry - Lit Up
9) Buckcherry - Ridin' 
10) Local H - Deep Cut
11) Velvet Revolver - Slither
12) The Exies - F.S.O.S.
13) Seether - Remedy
14) Seether - Fake It
15) Lit - Beginning
16) Toadies - Possum Kingdom
17) Local H - All The Kids Are Right
18) The Exies - Hey You
19) Papa Roach - Alive (N' Out of Control)
20) Green Day - Hitchin' A Ride
21) Rage Against The Machine - Sleep Now In The Fire
22) Local H - Bound For The Floor
23) Oleander - Lost Cause
24) The Offspring - Spare Me The Details
25) Sum 41 - Fat Lip
26) Green Day - Nice Guys Finish Last
27) Pearl Jam - Spin The Black Circle
28) Everclear - Heroin Girl
29) Puddle of Mudd - Abrasive
30) The Offspring - Bad Habit
 
Todd's Top 100 Artists of 2015:

TOP 25: 
 1) Local H
 2) The Offspring
3) Green Day
4) Buckcherry
5) Foo Fighters
6) Live
7) Everclear
8) Seether
9) Papa Roach
10) Alice In Chains
11) The Living End
12) Oasis
13) Collective Soul
14) Red Hot Chili Peppers
15) American Hi-Fi
16) Goldfinger
17) The Exies
18) Danko Jones
19) Sum 41
20) Stone Temple Pilots
21) Eve 6
22) Unwritten Law
23) Puddle of Mudd
24) Bad Religion
25) Zebrahead

TOP 50: 
26) Lit 27) MxPx 28) Nickelback 29) Sugarcult 30) Nirvana 31) Marilyn Manson 32) Oleander 33) Pearl Jam 34) Marvelous 3 35) Shinedown 36) Lifehouse 37) AC/DC 38) Hoobastank 39) Bowling For Soup 40) Silverchair
41) Bon Jovi 42) Fuel 43) Rancid 44) Weezer 45) Anti-Flag 46) Goo Goo Dolls 47) Rob Zombie 48) Finger Eleven 49) Less Than Jake 50) Fountains of Wayne

TOP 75: 
51) The Smashing Pumpkins 52) Creed 53) Black Veil Brides 54) Godsmack 55) Thousand Foot Krutch 56) NOFX 57) Josh Todd 58) Bloodhound Gang 59) Rage Against The Machine 60) Fall Out Boy 61) GOB 62) Howard Stern 63) Falling In Reverse 64) Ozzy Osbourne 65) The Pink Spiders 66) Royal Republic 67) Hinder 68) Tom Petty 69) Incubus 70) Helmet 71) Allister 72) Billy Talent 73) Sound of Urchin 74) Saliva 75) My Chemical Romance

 TOP 100:
76) Three Days Grace 77) Nine Days 78) Bush 79) The Subways 80) The Donnas 81) Harvey Danger 82) Trapt 83) Velvet Revolver 84) Emphatic 85) Linkin Park 86) Disturbed 87) Cage9 88) New Politics 89) Sick Puppies 90) Nerf Herder 91) Cage The Elephant 92) Alien Ant Farm 93) Sugar Ray 94) The Bangkok Five 95) Korn 96) Limp Bizkit 97) Matchbox Twenty 98) Our Lady Peace 99) Blink 182 100) Theory of A Deadman

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Force Awakens


Starring: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, & John Boyega
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

***THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW***

For the first time in thirty-two years, the cast of the original Star Wars has reunited, to tell billions of fans around the world, just what happens next. With the largest weekend opening in the history of film, and the merchandising off the charts, Does the Force Awakens live up to the hype? Yes and no.

The story starts with Leia (Carrie Fisher) still in charge of the resistance, looking for a missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil). The only clue to his location is inside a droid, that is discovered by a planetary scavenger and a former storm trooper, who together embark on a journey to return said droid to the resistance.

As far as special effects, make-up, sound effects, costumes, and 3D goes, this is easily the best Star Wars ever. Even if you're a person who has never seen a Star Wars film, you can't help but be impressed by the visual impact of the film. It's was also amazing to see the old cast back together again for another adventure, but even that somewhat failed to meet my expectation.

Maybe my hopes for this film were too high, but as I watched it, I couldn't help but think that I was just watching A New Hope again! The characters may be different, but throughout the film, certain situations are almost exactly the same. I am sensitive to spoilers, but I will give a small example, using just the description of the story.

A New Hope, Princess Leia sends a droid down to a desert planet with a hidden message, where it is discovered by a young worker, who takes it to Obi Wan and then on to the resistance. The Force Awakens, a droid is send down to a desert planet with a hidden message, where is is discovered by a young scavenger, who takes it to Han Solo and then on to the resistance.

Unfortunately the parallels don't end there, as they continue throughout the entire film. In reading other reviews, some people say it was intentional, to honor the original film, but with one of the largest budgets and audiences ever seen in the industry, why not instead go for originality? That's not the only thing that bothered me, as this film takes place thirty years after the original, the empire has fallen and a new villain has arrived, yet everyone still uses the same ships, blasters, and technology? Has this civilization not progressed at all in three decades?

Aside from the similarity to A New Hope, I did enjoy seeing the cast again, and every actor involved in the new story was outstanding in their own right. Star Wars continues to be the pinnacle of success at the box office that all films are measured by, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't tell you, the similarities to the first film are more than just perceived, and in my opinion, they take away a lot from the franchises third trilogy, right from it's very beginning.

Persons Unknown


Starring: Jason Wiles, Daisy Betts, Chadwich Boseman, Lola Glaudini, Tina Holmes, Kate Lang Johnson, Gerald Kyd, Sean O'Bryan, Alan Ruck, Andy Greenfield, & Kandyse McClure

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Persons Unknown is absolutely the worst type of television show there is. I say this, because over the course of 13 episodes, this show went from being one of the most clever and imaginative things I've seen to being complete and utter garbage. If that wasn't bad enough, this mini-series had high hopes, and even though they knew the show was a one shot deal, the producers actually had the nerve to end the whole thing on a cliffhanger, something that really bothers me to no end.

The show begins admirably, with seven strangers from all walks of life, waking up alone, in a brand new, but abandoned hotel. After coming together, they realize they are in a fully functional town, the only problem is, that they're the only ones there. As they explore, they find that they are confined to this town by an impenetrable barrier. At the same time, a reporter looking into the mysterious disappearance of one of the victims, uncovers a cover up, one that could cost him everything.

For the first four episodes, this show was incredible, the kind of show that had you on the edge of your seat, craving as much knowledge as you can find. If the show had continued on this mysterious path, following the strangers attempts at escape and distrust of one another, it would have been phenomenal, but that's not what happens. After the four initial episodes, the show starts to get weird, to the point of being absurd, and those mysterious story lines, became as obvious as the nose on your face.

Jason Wiles stars and will always have my admiration for portraying Bosco on the long running cop drama, Third Watch. Here he plays the un-elected, mysterious leader of the group, who no one is really sure of. Wiles manages to do a terrific job of keeping the audiences attention focused on him, in what is now an obvious attempt to take the focus off the holes in the story. Wiles is joined by Daisey Betts, who out of the entire cast, was really the only person one could relate to and feel an attachment for. Aside from them, the rest of the cast seems to just be props in this sorted game, that just never makes a whole lot of sense.

Persons Unknown started off with a bang and crossed the finish line with a whimper, as the story just completely falls apart and descends into chaos. By the end of the series, I couldn't tell what was going on anymore, nor did I really care all that much. This show had such potential, but as it progressed, it just continually failed to live up to the hype.

For A Good Time, Call...


Starring: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, & Justin Long
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

In recent years, the direction of female comedies has taken a turn for the better. It was always believed that a comedy, featuring a mostly female cast, would only work as a buddy comedy. No one ever thought that women would ever be able to successful pull off a raunchy comedy, until Bridesmaids came along and changed all that. For A Good Time, Call... is from the same writers and producers as Bridesmaids and may even be funnier. The story begins with Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller) being dumped by her long time fiancee. On her own, Lauren can't afford the upscale apartment she's been living in, and is forced to move in with Katie, a promiscuous, pill popping OCD, who she'd only met once before, at a party, where Katie threw up on her. At first, the hostility is off the charts, but when Lauren loses her dream job, she is forced to help Katie run her business, a phone sex line. This film is not for the faint of heart, as it is very raunchy, to the point of shocking even me, someone who thinks they've seen it all. While this may seem like a great thing, the truth is, as with most single themed comedies, the longer it goes, the less funny it gets. At first, seeing the things these girls were saying and the people they were talking to was hilarious, but after an hour of  this film, it just really wasn't all the funny anymore. Both the female leads are terrific and they are the reason this film works. For A Good Time, Call... is very raunchy and very funny, but it has one centralized theme and doesn't deviate from it much at all. If not for the amazing young ladies who star in it, this film would have got tiresome a lot more quickly then it did. For a good time watch this movie, it's way out there, but some parts are truly hysterical.

Cross (2011)


Starring: Brian Austin Green, Michael Clarke Duncan, & Vinnie Jones
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Allow me to preface this review, by saying that I'm not entirely sure if this movie was supposed to be taken seriously. Nowhere in any online description have I found Cross, listed under comedy, and if that is truly the case, then the filmmakers must think people are all very simple minded. Full of 80s teen hearthrobs, cliche lines, and really awful special effects, I was sure that this was going to be a farce of the Avengers, the only problem is, it never did get funny. Callan Cross (Brian Austin Green) is an ordinary man, who is given superhero powers from an ancient cross he wears around his neck. When the cross is stolen, Callan and his band of aerobatic, kung fu, gadget wearing friends, go to retrieve the cross and discover a much larger conspiracy. Brian Austin Green stars and at one time, he was a great actor, he was good looking too, but that's all changed. Depressed and lazy, Green delivers absolutely some of the worst dialogue I've ever heard, over the course of ninety minutes. He was clearly in it for the paycheck, as Cross is streaming, featured, and complete garbage. I even suspect that the whole 80s teen heartthrob aspect wasn't intentional, but rather the only actors desperate enough for work, that they agreed to be cast in this thing. Don't let looks deceive you, this is no farce, and it is far from being the Avengers, the only thing Cross is, is a complete waste of time.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World


Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, & Kieran Culkin
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a film adaptation of one of the most successful teen novels of all time. The story and film have gained an almost cult like following, and I had to see what all the fuse was about. The truth is, that this particular film represents everything that is wrong with our society and youth culture in general. Scott Pilgrim is the kind of guy who likes to label everyone and everything, but worse than that, he rants in circles, using constant innuendos, that only a fourteen year old would understand. The story isn't even that unique or special, as the film moves at lightning speed, which is slightly slower than the speed at which it's star, Michael Cera, delivers his lines. I really felt as though my head was spinning, with a mix of slang and new terminology, that simply didn't make any sense to me. As far as the story goes, it's just another modern love story, featuring a lovable loser in love, which was completely unbelievable. The reason is Michael Cera, who seemingly plays the exact same role in every film. He's this nerdy, uncomfortable guy, trying all these awkward ways to get girls to fall for him, and it never works, possibly because he is one of the most feminine and closeted actors out there today. I generously gave this film 1 star, because I actually did enjoy Scott Pilgrim's band, but aside from that, this film is a complete waste of time. It's star is unbelievable, it's story is overly complicated, and the dialogue is arguably the worst I have ever heard. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World may be your teenage daughters favorite movie, but if you're older than sixteen, you're going to want to skip this one.

School For Scoundrels (2006)


Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, & Michael Clark Duncan
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Following his Old School Road Trip, and long before his epic Hangover, Todd Phillips went back in time to remake the classic School For Scoundrels, with disappointing results. The story follows an insecure loser in love, who takes a class on how to become more appealing to women. His teacher is a total player, who teaches the class to the best of his abilities, but in the end, he has the same goal as the others, and ultimately falls for the same girl as the loser. When seeing a Todd Phillips comedy, that is unrated, and features Billy Bob Thornton, you should expect to see a raunchy good time, but that's not what happens here. To Phillips, keeping as close to the original story was more important than modernizing it for today's audiences, and the result was a film that fails to live up to expectations. This film needed a major injection of raunch, the kind Thornton became known for in films like Bad Santa. Instead you get what amounts to an average, mediocre, comedy. In this film, Thornton is paired with Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite himself, but as with that film, his monotone lovable loser act, gets old very quickly. This film has all the makings of a wild ride and a terrific comedy, but instead it falls flat on it's face, as just another ordinary, run of the mill, romantic comedy.

The Outsider (2014)


Starring: Craig Fairbrass, James Caan, & Jason Patric
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Some Writer/Directors prefer to use the same actors in their films. You can't blame them for wanting to work with people they're comfortable with, but not many Writer/Directors, remake the exact same movie with a slightly different twist. Brian A. Miller came out of relative obscurity to produce the hit action thriller, The Prince, starring Bruce Willis. Less than a year later, he followed it up with The Outsider, which is basically the exact same film! The Prince featured a former mafia turncoat, going to the city he once owned, in order to find his missing daughter. The Outsider features a former member of British Special Ops, coming to America, to find his missing daughter. Both films have similar endings, mafia bosses that are played by legendary action stars, and oddly enough, both films have a cameo by 50 cent. These two films are literally so similar to one another, that aside from the British accent, and Jason Patric in the role of the cop, nothing has really changed. As a fan of action film, I realize there aren't many different directions these films can go in, but to release what amounts to the exact same film, a year later, with several of the same actors, is just bizarre. The Outsider wasn't a bad film, and I did enjoy Craig Fairbrass, he was a beast, who I was previously unfamilar with, but aside from that, this is the exact same story as seen in The Prince. Wheather you chose to sit through this one or that one, really depends on who you like better, James Caan or Bruce Willis.

And Soon The Darkness (2010)


Starring: Amber Heard, Odette Annable, & Karl Urban
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Human trafficking is one of the most scary and abhorrent realities of our society. While it happens in many places, for many reasons, and in many different ways, filmmakers only seem to see the obvious. Once again we have a film about two girls traveling abroad, when one is abducted for the purposes of being sold as a sex slave. And Soon The Darkness is simply the same story as Taken and Hostle, with several small difference. In this film, only one girl goes missing, while the other teams up with a good samaritan, to try and find her. As always American girls are at a premium and the trail leads her to a vile underground of deceit and deception in a third world country. As far as abduction films go, this one was pretty unrealistic. How many young American girls, travel alone, to remote locations in third world countries, rather than staying at the resort or with some tour group. Second, there are a ton of American's in this supposedly secluded area, that doesn't have anything close to what could be considered a tourist attraction. And Soon The Darkness features an adequate cast, and of course, two very good looking girls, wearing as little as possible, but as far as substance and originality go, this film was severly lacking in both.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2


Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, & Liam Hemsworth
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I watch a lot of movies and I also read a lot of books. Far and away my favorite book series is The Hunger Games, and I've always appreciated the fact that the films have been nearly identical page for page representations of the books. I also love how the cast has always fit into their roles as if they were written just for them. People who never read the books, assume that all four movies are about this strange war game, and they couldn't be more wrong. The games are just a part of the story and are what ultimately spark the people to rebel against an oppressive government. What the Hunger Games is really about, is pushing your limits to become something more than you ever thought possible. In the spectacular finally of the series, the Civil War is on and it will take a dangerous mission into the capital to bring it to an end. Part 2, is just as exciting and well done as the other films with one exception, and that's why it's the only one of the four films to receive less than a perfect rating. Mockingjay was only one book, but they split it in two for the sake of making more money from another film. While this was a good idea to the film company, the fact is that there wasn't enough substance left for the final movie. Some scenes were rushed, while others moved to slow, and for the first time, whole sections, such as Katniss's training and newly formed bond with Joanne, were completely removed. While the film was excellent, I feel as though it was somewhat rushed and that the continuity was not as solid as it had been in previous films. That being said, it's still an epic conclusion and if you aren't already aware of the ending, you'll certainly be shocked and surprised by what happens, so while it's not the best of the four films, it's still well worth your time.

The Barber (2015)


Starring: Scott Glenn & Chris Coy
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

They say that serial killers are driven to kill and are unable to stop, but Eugene Van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn) did stop. He stopped nearly thirty years ago and moved away to a small town, where he became the local barber and beloved member of the local community. One day, out of the blue, the son of the cop who originally investigated his crimes, tracks him down. The cop, posing as a budding serial killer, wants advice from Eugene, who continuing to claim he's not who the boy thinks he is. Eugene feels sorry for him and forms a bond with the young man, trying to lead him away from a life of crime, but as he does, will those old feelings come back to the surface, or is Eugene really just a misunderstood old man? The premise of the new independent film, The Barber, is certainly unique and to me it seemed as though there were many different directions this film could have gone in, but the path chosen, was the road less traveled, and the result was just a really boring and predictable story. This is one of those film where nothing really happens until the end, and by that point, the viewer is just so bored and sick of the whole thing that they just want it to be over. Scott Glenn stars and is far too old to be believable. I can understand wanting to be active and not simply take on the role of grandpa, but a mentor for a serial killer, it just doesn't fit. Glenn is paired with newcomer Chris Coy, who honestly couldn't act his way into a high school play, much less play a character with duel personalities. By the end of this film, I literally cringed every time the guy opened his mouth. The story here is solid, but the way producers go about telling it and the people they cast to star in it leave a lot to be desired.

Spectre


Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, & Lea Seydoux
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Spy films are a dime a dozen, so what makes James Bond so special? Is it the fight scenes, the crafty villains, his style, or maybe just all of it combined? James Bond time means time to try new things in film, which is why even twenty-four films later, the story is still fresh and the character is still relevant. Spectre may be no different in terms of James Bond on a mission to stop a madman from destroying the world, but each film is different in the way it is shot, and each Director and actor brings their own take, style, and personality to the series. Spectre is a lot more audience friendly and lot easier to follow than many previous Bond films, but what made this one really special was the unique action sequences that I've never seen anywhere else. The balcony and helicopter scenes alone are enough to get any action junkies blood pumping. In film number twenty-four, James Bond is following up on the events in Skyfall, trying to find out who killed M. During his investigation he discovers something a lot bigger, an underground global terror network, that is responsible for many of the missions he's had to go on. Daniel Craig is of course fantastic and I still content that he is far and away the best Bond ever, but in this film, he meets a villain who may be one of the best villains ever. There is just something about Christoph Waltz that makes audiences hang on his every word. We first saw it in Inglorious Bastards six years ago, and since then he's only gotten better. The chemistry and friction between the two characters and the two actors trying to one up each other is nothing short of spectacular. While many fans of the series don't like how modern it's become, I feel as though the series is re-inventing itself with each film, and Spectre, is definitely among the most unique and special in the series.

The Hurt Locker


Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, & Brian Geraghty
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have never really enjoyed war films. I am by no means a pacifist, but to me all the stories seem to be the same, and until now, I've been uninterested. It wasn't until viewing the Academy's best picture of 2010, The Hurt Locker, that I started to see things differently. In these films, it's not so much the story line that matters, but rather the characters that are featured in the film. The description of The Hurt Locker is just as bland as any other war picture, the story of a unit in Iraq that is responsible for disarming explosives. What makes this film so unique and made it the best film of 2010 was William James, played remarkably well by Jeremy Renner. Renner is known as an action star, so when I saw him nominated for best actor, I couldn't believe it. The truth is Renner's performance in this film was outstanding, because for once, he simply played himself. Renner may have been portraying a Sargent in Iraq, but the personality was his own. Director, Kathryn Bigelow, has become known for letting actors be themselves in developing their characters personalities, to the point where even some of the dialogue was in the spur of the moment. The Hurt Locker is a powerful film, with remarkable events and heartbreaking moments, but it's the films personality that is larger than life. I enjoyed every second of this film and it was truly the best choice the Academy could have made for best picture.

Love The Coopers


Starring: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, & Ed Helms
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Over the past decade, we've seen a recent phenomenon in film, where producers cast many big names in a clip film, that all comes together in the end. While this may work well with superheroes, it has yet to be successful in regards to comedy. That is why the film, Love The Coopers can be defined with one saying, too many cooks in the kitchen. This film features a large and impressive cast, and the previews looked terrific, but I assure you, Ed Helm's little girl calling him a dick, is just about the only truly funny moment in this film. The story here has a lot of different angles, and they do come together quite nicely, but this film is not what it was intended to be, as the last thing I would refer to it as is a hilarious holiday film. A lot of people are going to see this film because of it's cast, and from young Timothee Chalamet to veteran Alan Arkin, this cast is remarkable, however the story is not, in fact this whole film was fairly dull. I expect a lot from the cast, but even Hollywood's best and brightest can't make a film work when the writing just isn't there. I love the concept and I really wanted to like this film, but in the end it's just a big disappointment.

The 100


Starring: Eliza Taylor, Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos, Thomas McDonell, Christopher Larkin, Devon Bostick, Paige Turco, Henry Ian Cusick, Kelly Hu, Eli Goree, Isaiah Washington, & Richard Harmon

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

From the beginning of the series, the 100 had three strikes against it, making its success seem almost miraculous. This show is based on a trilogy of novels, in most cases the show/film is never as good as the books, but in this case it's better. Second, the show was a mid-summer replacement, something that almost never makes it passed it's first season, and finally it's on the CW, so most people assume it's just another teen drama, but the 100 is a lot more than that. The reason this show has survived and the reason it's been named one of the best shows on television that you're not watching, is because of it's terrific story lines, deep characters, and unique make up. When Entertainment Weekly said it's the most underrated shows on television they weren't kidding.

150 years in the future, Earth has been all but destroyed by World War 3, and the remains of the human race, the lucky decedents of people who escaped the cataclysm, live on a space station called the Ark. Resources on the Ark are extremely limited and for that reason, crime is met with death, unless you're under the age of eighteen, in that case the punishment is imprisonment. After nearly 100 years in space, the Ark is dying and the leaders know their only hope for survival is to return to Earth, but can they withstand the radiation? In order to test this, they decide to send 100 of the least violent juvenile offenders down to the planet as test subjects. As the kids set up camp and learn to live on the planet, their accomplishments quickly take a backseat when they learn, they are not alone.

Most TV shows that are based on books, never seem to be able to capture the essence of the main characters and for that reason people never really get a complete look at what the author intended. In the 100 saga, the skilled actors and the tremendous writing allow you to connect to characters in a way that goes above and beyond the original story. This is a show that also has many sub-plots, it's not simply about the kids on earth, the people in space, and the survivors on the planet. the viewer learns backstory through flashbacks and knows every character and their history intimately. As I watched this show, I really felt as though I was a member of this camp and I knew everybody, only a great show can accomplish this. 

This is a show that is so much more than just another CW teen drama, it is a look into the new direction the network is taking with shows like Arrow & The Flash. The 100 is a continuous story that you will not be able to stop watching. It is intense, exciting, and has more depth to the story than any show I've seen in a long time. If you can get over the fact that its a CW show and prominently features a group of teenagers, you will see one of the most interesting and dynamic science fiction shows to air on network television in years.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Highway (2002)


Starring: Jared Leto, Jake Gyllenhaal, & Selma Blair
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Before becoming household names, Jared Leto, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Selma Blair were all cast in an independent movie, that was so unlike anything we've seen to that point, that it led to the creation of many of the quirky road trip films we see today. 1994, In a Las Vegas, Pilot (Gyllenhaal) is a small time drug dealer, and his best friend, Jack (Leto) is doing a mobsters wife. Life seems great for these high school dropouts, until a series of screw ups lead to them becoming targets. After stopping for prostitutes, (because that's what guys on the run typically do) they embark on a trip to Seattle where they pick up a hitchhiker (Blair) and prove that they are every bit as crazy as they are funny. Eventually the group winds up in Seattle, for the memorial to Kurt Cobain, where things get even stranger. The talent of this young cast is evident right from the beginning of the film, and you won't believe the amazing things that happen to them during their epic road trip. There have been a lot of best friend teams in films like this, Bill & Ted, Harry & Lloyd, Alan & Phil, but I would say that despite being completely overlooked, Jack & Pilot may be the best of the bunch. This film clearly paved the way for the buddy road trip comedies that followed and did so in such a way, that I felt like I was back in the 90s, watching a true cult classic. I say it all the time, but films like this are the reason I watch so many independent films. Highway is worth every minute you spend on it and is an absolute must see movie!

Lost For Life


Starring: Joshua Rofe
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I watch a lot of documentaries, but rarely if ever, do I review them. The truth is that very few documentaries are objective. They are always an attempt to get the producers own point of view out to the public, and it's very hard to judge someone based on their personal philosophies. In this case I made an exception, because of the controversial nature of the film. My hope is that people will chime in and it will re-energize our failing comment system. 

This film focuses on youth offenders, who were given life sentences for the crimes they committed. The question is, should a persons entire life be determined by one act they committed as a teenager? Several of these people are interviewed and the overwhelming opinion is that most of them don't deserve to remain where they are, despite what they've done. In fact a new law is going to allow for lifers, convicted as teenagers, to have their case re-examined after a specific amount of time, based on the nature of the crime. Given the people interviewed in this film, it's easy to say they deserve a second chance. Who doesn't feel for a kid, who was with a crazy friend at the wrong time, and convicted of felony murder, just for being there? Who doesn't feel that a fifteen year old, who killed his sexual abusive parents, twenty years ago, shouldn't be released? It's easy to feel this way when presented with these types of offenders, but what about the people they didn't interview? The kids who brutally kill, just to see what it feels like or the kid who goes into school and shoots a dozen people because he's been bullied, do they deserve a second chance at freedom? I don't argue with the fact that a persons development isn't fully complete by the time they are a teenagers. I also don't argue that this lack of maturity leads to their stupid decisions. In some rare cases, these cases should be re-examined. However, when someone is so broken, that they kill for fun and without remorse, even at a young age, they are broken, and until we knows for certain how to fix them, they belong behind bars. What does everyone else think?

The Divergent Series: Insurgent


Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, & Miles Teller
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of the Divergent series, and after reading all the books, I went so far as to proclaim that parts of it were even better than the Hunger Games. Unlike The Hunger Games and the first film in the series, Insurgent starts to veer away from the novel, making it hard for the fans, to envision just how they'll make the jump into the third book in the series. In what was once Chicago, the war between the factions has begun, and this time, no faction is safe from the Erudite. The intellectual faction has started collecting all the Divergent, in an attempt to open a mysterious box, that supposedly contains something that will change all their lives forever. Tris and Four are on the other-side, doing everything they can to stop the group from hunting the Divergents, whom they see as the key to changing everything. The first part of this film is an excellent representation of the novel and is every bit as exhilarating, but the second part veers off into a new direction. The films producers said they wanted to make the story easier for the casual fan to understand, and they did that, unfortunately, taking away the complexity of the story, takes away some of it's magic. As for the ending, it is completely different from the novel, leaving many to wonder if they'll make the third book into a film at all. Indeed they plan to, but it's hard to see just how they will go about doing it, after the events put in place by the end of this film. Shailene Woodley and Theo James returned for the sequel and again, they played the characters to tee, I really felt like these two were meant to play Tris and Four before the book was even set to be released on the big screen. Once again, the special effects, the acting, and the story are amazing, and this film would be worthy of five stars, if not for the ending that diverted too far away from the original story.

Sorority Row


Starring: Briana Evigan, Rumer Willis, Julian Morris, & Carrie Fisher
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The daughters of Bruce Willis and Greg Evigan team up in Sorority Row, a remake of the 1983 Horror classic, The House on Sorority Row. The remake is of course modernized and takes the classic independent horror film to the next level, with terrific effects, increased levels of fright and gore, and of course a ton of beautiful people. Where is this college and how soon can I apply?! Every guy and girl featured in the film, with the exception of Carrie Fisher, could be models, despite being well passed the age of most college students. The story starts out much like the original film does, with a Sorority prank that goes horribly wrong. The girls decide to cover up the incident and put it behind them, but at a large cost to their sisterhood. A year later, at the same party, someone knows what happened last year, and have decided to make the whole Sorority pay for their crimes. This film is a classic 'who done it' mashed together with a slasher film, and the results are pure excitement. The truth is that most of these film don't have much in the way of a story line and the killer is obvious to everyone, but not this time. This film is very reminiscent of Scream, and it really had me on the edge of my seat. A good Horror film is hard enough to find, but one with all that suspense and a compelling story to follow, that's worth it's weight in gold! Sorority Row is a perfect choice for those who want to spend Halloween, in front of the TV watching a scary movie!

Don't Blink


Starring: Brian Austin Green, Mena Suvari, & Joanne Kelly
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Independent Horror films are always hit or miss, there is no in-between. They are either better than any Hollywood movie or as awful as a film can be, Don't Blink is part of the latter. Ten friends in four cars go away on vacation, to a small resort village in the middle of nowhere. When the group arrives they are shocked to find, the town is abandoned, so why don't they just leave? All four cars are low on gas and of course the pumps at the only gas station in town don't work, for that matter neither do any of their cell phones, what are the odds? I don't know about you, but if I was in the situation, I'd run away as fast as I could, but these geniuses decide to huddle up in the main cabin and hope for the best. As they try to keep calm, members of their party start to vanish, one by one, in the blink of an eye, and soon, the group descends into madness. The whole premise of this film is ridiculous and the budget is so small, that most of the film is shot in the same location. As far as what's happening to them, don't think you'll ever find out, because that is supposedly the scariest part of the whole thing. Don't Blink, sounds like it would be fast paced and exciting, but it's as slow as can be, with a lot of talking, by a lot of stupid people, who are in a situation that would never happen. The dialogue is amateurish, the bad acting is the only real joke in the film, and the ending makes the whole thing just a complete waste of time. Even though I see movies like this from time to time, I'm still amazed that someone thought that something like this deserved to made into a feature film, and I continue to wonder if anyone reads these scripts before producing the film.

Heroes


Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia, Ali Larter, Masi Oka, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Greg Grunberg, James Kyson Lee, Adrian Pasdar, Zachary Quinto, Noah Gray-Cabey, & Jimmy Jean-Louis

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Even casual readers of this blog will know that I hate superheroes, so why then did I watch the series Heroes? The truth is that I put it off for a long time, until I unlocked it's secret. They aren't really superheroes and the special abilities that some of the characters posses is only a small part of the story.

All around the country, ordinary people are discovering that they have remarkable abilities. Some see these abilities as the next natural step in human evolution, other see these people as a threat. The show begins with one group trying to understand their abilities and how to use them for good. A second group is trying to exploit there abilities for personal gain, while the third works for a group known as the company, which is trying to contain the whole situation.

From a TV standpoint, this show was really innovative with special effects and a large cast of future stars, but there in lied the problem. The show was so expensive to produce that by the fourth season, when the ratings started to fall off, the show was cancelled. However, thanks to streaming services like Netflix, the die-hard fans were able to prove their love for the show, and six years later, NBC has brought it back for a fifth season, which will supposedly tie up the loose ends from the season four cliffhanger.

The show is continuous and the multiple story lines are vast, so I won't go into them, but I will mention a few stand outs from the cast. Heroes launched the career of Zachary Quinto, who played the villian Syler. Syler has the power to absorb others abilities and become the most powerful of them all, only he is unable to focus leading him in many directions. Sometimes he's helpful, other times he has plans of world domination, and occasionally he just wants to know where he came from. Syler is the deepest, most interesting character of them all, going through a range of emotion and a love/hate relationship with the audience. The ability to portray such a complex character has led Quinto to superstardom and rightfully so.

Next is Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, the master of space and time. The Hiro character not only added a lot of much needed levity to the show, but also introduced writers to all kinds of possibilities, such as time travel and alternate histories. To me, these were some of the best story arks they had and it's all the more fun, when the guy leading the charge is hilarious.

Finally is Hayden Panettiere, as Clare Bennett, the cheerleader who can not be hurt. She's the character that most fans can relate to, because she's just a teenage girl caught between the factions. All she wants is a normal life, but can someone that can heal themselves ever truly be normal?

Heroes was terrific science fiction, which covered more story lines and topics in four years, then some shows have covered in twenty. The characters are always changing and the story is continuous, so don't skip episodes. There are constantly changing roles and relationships, which kept the series fresh, moving, and always entertaining. Even if you didn't like one of the story arks, there were still a half dozen more going on at the same time. Heroes is some of the best science fiction you will ever see on TV, it's just a shame that it only lasted four seasons. It is a perfect example of the networks continuing desire to go with cost over quality.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nightcrawler


Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, & Bill Paxton
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

There was a huge buzz on the internet about this film, because of Jake Gyllenhaal's outstanding performance, but a great performance doesn't always make for a great film. Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is down on his luck, he drives an old car, lives in an disgusting apartment, and doesn't have a job. He drives around at night looking for ways to earn money, when he comes across a film crew taping a crime scene. It seems like easy money, so Bloom goes out, gets a camera, and starts filming the police himself, only, he doesn't follow the same rules that the others do. I will not dispute that Gyllenhaal was terrific, but his character was beyond annoying. Louis Bloom is this O.C.D. guy, who is constantly rambling and talking to himself, something that basically ruins the whole film. This guy gets so annoying it's to the point of frustrating. On top of that, it takes a long time for anything substantial to happen. I was really looking forward to seeing this film and was impressed by how far Jake Gyllenhaal has come, but despite it's looming cult classic label, I found this film to just be one frustrating scene after another. Critics are willing to give films like this four stars and tell you it's a must see, because of an Oscar worthy performance, but what's really the point of seeing something that most people aren't going to want to sit through? Similar to Citizen Kane, it's got a great reputation, but don't let that fool you, this is one of the most nerve racking films I've ever sat through and to be honest, I'm sorry I did.

Truth or Die


Starring: Liam Boyle, Jack Gordon, & Florence Hall
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

It was a simple graduation party in the suburbs of London, that was starting to get boring. With nothing else to do, the drunk teenagers decide to play Truth or Dare. One of the popular kids decides to use the opportunity to embarrass one of the less popular kids with disastrous results. In order to make it up to him, the popular kids agree to go to his birthday party, at a lavish country house, but when they get there, Felix isn't there. Instead the group finds his older brother, who forces them to play a more extreme game. I love the horror site Bloody Disgusting, and I watch most of what they recommend. For some reason they occasionally choose these obscure British films, with actors I've never heard of, and they almost always turn out like this. Truth or Die is unbelievably slow moving, and as expected, nothing really happens until the last ten minutes, and even that didn't make this film worth watching. As for the cast, it's no wonder I never heard of them, because most of them were absolutely terrible. The story is somewhat unbelievable to begin with, but add to that a bad cast, with thick accents, bumbling lines, and you get a film that is nearly unwatchable. I respect the opinions of our friends at Bloody Disgusting, but in this case, I don't know how they could have made this a selected film, it really is a complete waste of time.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story


Starring: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, & Tim Meadows
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I'm not a fan of farces, and to be honest, I'm not that crazy about John C. Reilly, but one thing you can be sure of, is that when I see Judd Apatow's name attached to something, I'll eventually see it. Walk Hard is a mocumentary about an Elvis Presley type persona, whose music spanned an evolved over a 50 year career. As styles changed, so did Dewey Cox, his outfits, personality, and his music, it was all very clever. I especially liked when he ran into the Beatles at a monastery in India. Walk Hard has some very funny moments, but this film would be nothing without John C. Reilly. It seems like he's in everything these days and most of the roles are quite forgettable, but Dewey Cox is easily his crowning achievement. Reilly is an actor I don't care for, in a style of film I don't care for, yet I was still very amused by the whole thing. The one negative I can give the film, is that is was exceptionally long for this type of film and it spent far too much time on the early stages of his life. The end of the film felt rushed to avoid it becoming a three hour movie, which to me suggests that maybe it should have been split in two. The inherit problem with comedies is that the longer they are, the more tiresome they become. While I enjoyed the first half of the movie a lot, by the end I really couldn't wait for it to end. Farcical comedies are usually way out there and Walk Hard has some of that, but by and large it was an interesting take on fifty years of American pop culture. The film and it's star far exceeded my expectations and for what it was, I was impressed.

The Black Donnellys


Starring: Jonathan Tucker, Tom Guiry, Billy Lush, Michael Stahl-David, Olivia Wilde, Kirk Acevado, Keith Noobs, Peter Greene, Patrick Brennan, & Brian Tarantina

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

NBC's answer to the Sopranos, was a show called The Black Donnellys, and it was a show about the Irish mob, starring Jonathan Tucker, who is as talented as he is good looking, so what went wrong? As it turns out, there were a lot of things wrong with this show that could have been easily corrected. We forget though that this is the era of on-demand, DVR, and Netflix, and in today's world, network shows that don't crack the top 50 in their first 13 episodes, don't stand a chance. 

The Donnelly brothers grew up in a tough Boston neighborhood, and their father, was heavily involved in the Irish mob. Wanting a better life, Mr. Donnelly's four sons inherited his bar and try to run a legitimate business. There is of course a problem, not all the Donnelly's are keeping their noses clean. Eventually, a pair of brothers run into problems with the Italians, and have to learn the lessons their father never wanted them to learn. The show has a very solid backstory and if it were presented in the correct way, I think it could have been a huge hit, but as it turns out, the show was like a bad joke, which only a handful of viewers seemed to get. 

For starters, the show is narrated by a wise-cracking family friend who is always telling the story in some comedic way to one law enforcement agency or another. The big joke is how does this guy know all these things when he's not there, and then, just like that, he's randomly there in the background, with everyone looking confused. 

The timing of the story is also problematic, because when you're doing a show like this, you need to draw viewers in before starting the story from the very beginning. Would anyone have watched the Sopranos if Tony Soprano was a twenty year old kid, just getting started? If this show had started a few years later, when the brothers were established gangsters, in some full on mafia war, and then gone back and showed how it all started, it would have been a lot more interesting. As I watched the episodes, I could see the show leading into something bigger and better, but it never go there. I suspect there were big plans for future seasons, but how can you start a show assuming there will be more seasons? 

As for the brothers, they are all former child stars, led by Jonathan Tucker. While he's not a huge star in Hollywood, he has made it a lot further than his co-stars, and his experience and talent are very evident, especially by comparison. Tucker has what it takes to take the lead in a show like this and draw in an audience, but that's impossible when the show is poorly written and just doesn't seem to go anywhere.

The bottom line, I like the idea behind the show and there were a couple of really interesting characters. If this show had lasted, I have no doubt that it would have grown into something bigger and better, but as it stands, The Black Donnellys didn't make past it's first season, and with good cause. I kept waiting for things to happen that never did and eventually gave up on it too. Having an idea for a long running series usually means that show will be well written and highly intelligent, but in today's world, if you want to go beyond one season,  then you really need to go all out, right from the beginning, if not, you'll be a forgotten show on Netflix, that some talented reviewer finally sees eight years after the fact. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation


Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson, & Simon Pegg
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Believe it or not, until now I have never seen a Mission Impossible film. While I love action films, the premise just never appealed to me, but when I heard Christopher McQuarrie would be Directing this latest one, I had to see it. McQuarrie, the brains behind Persons Unknown, always tells imaginative stories, that while aren't that believable, are still extremely entertaining. In the fifth installment of Mission Impossible, the franchise is anything but stale as it is every bit as fast paced and extreme as I thought. I was expecting the action and for Tom Cruise to play his usually arrogant self, but what I wasn't expect was just how intense and in depth the story was. There is also the villain to consider, who was so much better than I hoped he'd be. I had always thought of Mission Impossible as sort of a mix between Get Smart and James Bond, and was presently surprised to learn that I was way off base. Rogue Nation is actually a very clever story, that isn't is as comical or as over the top with espionage as I thought it would be. In fact, the only thing that really was what I expected was Tom Cruise. While he's not my favorite actor, he's not a bad one either, I just never liked the fact that every character he plays is just so full of themselves. No matter the situation, Ethan Hunt was always so sure he had all the answers and knew exactly what to do, and even when he was wrong it didn't deter him from getting right back into it. Rogue Nation taught me a lesson I never seem to get, in that you really can't judge a book by it's cover. Certain stories may appear to be one thing, but you can never know for sure unless you sit down and watch them.

Blade Runner


Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, & Sean Young
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Blade Runner is widely considered to be the best Science Fiction movie ever made. It is on almost every top 100 list, and that's why I am reviewing it. To tell you why it is one of the most overrated films of all time. Science Fiction is my favorite genre, and the author of Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite authors, but Blade Runner is far from his best work. I would go as far as saying that Blade Runner isn't even in his top ten, and if it wasn't for Ridley Scott, it wouldn't have been the first film adaptation of Dick's work. At the time, the special effects were innovative and exciting, but they fail to live up to today's standards. With that being said, all that's left over is a simple story that follows a futuristic police chase and a very cheesy, awkward, love story. In a futuristic Los Angeles, android technology has been perfected. These replicants are used for labor an odd jobs, but occasionally, they become aware and try to run for their freedom. That is when the blade runners are called in to eliminate them. The best Blade Runner around is Deckard (Harrison Ford), a man who doesn't love his job, but always gives one hundred and ten percent. After three replicants escape from the moon, Deckard is called in to track them down and this is the whole premise of the movie. There isn't much of a side story and the rare breaks in the action, rarely prove to be substantive. The film is just you're typical chase with some very weird elements. For example, why does Rutger Hauer take off all his cloths before he fights Harrison Ford, and for that matter, what the hell is he talking about the whole time? How about the talking toys, can you tell me they weren't just a bit creepy and out of character for the rest of the film? Finally, we're in Los Angeles, why is everything Chinese? The story is just a very strange chase through a futuristic nightmare scenario for Los Angeles. Yes, Harrison Ford was terrific, and yes, it must of been the hardest thing Ridley Scott ever had to direct, but the film and story itself are very simplistic and certainly not worthy of legendary status. I love Philip K. Dick and I am obsessed with Science Fiction, but watching Blade Runner for the third time, I was still just as bored and confused as I was the other two times I saw it. How can anything that makes a person feel that way be considered legendary?

Reservoir Dogs


Starring: Harvey Kaitel, Tim Roth, & Steve Buscemi
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Reservoir Dogs is the debut film from legendary Director, Quinton Tarantino, and that's why it's taken me such a long time to see it. Most Directors, even the great ones, aren't always successful right out of the gate. In fact, it's a very rare thing to accomplish, but I should have known that if anyone could do it, Tarantino could. In his signature style, Tarantino heavily uses flashbacks to piece together an amazing story of a heist gone bad. The score of a lifetime is at Joe Cabot's fingertips, so he puts together a crew of six of the best criminals his city has to offer. To make sure nothing goes wrong, everyone remains anonymous and is given a nicknames. Right from the start of the film, we know that something has gone terribly wrong, but what happened? That we'll eventually find out in pieces, through flashbacks, in a style that is pure Tarantino. Even in his first film, you can see the style, classic lines, and intriguing that made Tarantino the household name that he is. Aside from flashbacks, the other thing Tarantino is known for, is putting together unlikely casts, that turn out to be perfect for the roles they are in. Harvey Kaitel as Mr. White, may very well be the best of the lot. Kaitel is at the top of his game, and while older and unlikely to be the leader of the group, he turns out to be much more, including the star of this film. Reservoir Dogs is nearly twenty-five years old and it is still as exciting and relevant today as it was then. I never thought anything would ever come close to topping Pulp Fiction as my favorite Tarantino film, but Reservoir Dogs certainly makes a compelling argument for the top spot on that list.

Would You Rather


Starring: Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, & Jonathan Coyne
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A really good independent Horror film is worth it's weight in gold. Finding that diamond in the rough makes the hours of sitting through low budget garbage, well worth it. For me, Would You Rather is that diamond, as it is one of the most imaginative Horror films to come along in years. Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) is an eccentric millionaire, who wants to help people that are down on their luck, except there's a catch. With a large sum of money at stake, Lambrick invites several down on their luck people to his mansion, where they must play a game in order to win, a deviously twisted game. Would you rather stab yourself or a complete stranger? Would you rather take a razor blade to your eyeball or cut off your own finger? These are some of the challenges involved in this game, which sees the winner go home rich and the losers in worse shape then when they started. Jeffrey Combs of Star Trek fame stars and was absolutely the perfect choice to play the sadistic millionaire. In all his roles he has this crazy twisted side, behind the mask of a very likeable guy. In this film he is paired with the beautiful Brittany Snow, who is there to help her sick brother. As it turns out, she is the logical one, who tries to match wits with Lambrick, making for some terrific dialogue. Would You Rather is creepy and graphic, just when you think you have it all figured out, the story takes a twist, and you're back into the satanic paradise. This film is everything I look for in Horror and will definitely be included in my 2015 Halloween Horrorfest, and it should absolutely be considered for yours.