Monday, February 29, 2016

'Black' History: Black Mirror- The Entire History of You

To celebrate Leap Day and close out February properly, let me cover the final Episode of Series 1.  It gets real awkward...
In this odd future, people have a unique implant in their head.  What is it for?
It is to record and store everything you see, of course.

That's not creepy at all!
It is a part of all facets of life.  They even scan your memory banks to check on things like whether you went to work or not!
With that in mind, our hero meets up with his wife and her friends for a Dinner Party.  When he sees some behavior that makes him suspicious, it sticks in his mind.
Will his concern turn into obsession and how far will he go?  Is there any turning back as the Past comes to light literally in his eyes?  To find out, watch the Show.
Wow, this one is rough.  Once you get to the halfway point, the Episode gets deep into these problems that a couple is having.  He gets paranoid.  She has something to hide.  Everyone they know gets caught in the middle.  For a Film about people with bio-implants, the Story feels gritty and real.  You want to reach out to these poor people and tell them what to do.  It is so easy to fix this!  No matter how much you plead, they just don't listen though.  Instead, you watch them bicker, argue and other words for not get along.  They seem like nice people, but...things aren't going to end well here.  It is one thing to make mistakes in your life, but it is another thing to have a video record of all of it.  Don't recall exactly what mean thing you said to your spouse?  Good news- there is a record of it.  Yes, you *did* say it that way and you *did* use that tone!  Technology- it's great.  Kudos for teaching me the danger of memory!  This is a really good Episode and it is easy to see why Robert Downey Jr bought the rights to it...3 years ago.  Is that in development or something by now?  In the meantime, the Show gives me more to look forward to in Season/Series 2....
As the Month ends, my look at this Show does not.  More intense and awkward Sci-Fi to come...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Quick Reviews: The Revenant

Well, the Film finally got DiCaprio the Oscar he's craved for years.  Is it any good though?
In the Wilderness, life is rough.  The Natives don't like you, the land is tough and...
The Bears!

Seriously, that Bear is a real bitch!
When our Hero is injured severely, his second-in-command (Tom Hardy) eventually finds a way to leave his ass behind.  What a dick!
So begins the most notable part of the Film: DiCaprio grunting.

If you look away during any of this part, it seriously sounds like you are watching a sex tape or something in the background!
As we all know, DiCaprio lives and seeks revenge on his former-comrade.
Will he find him?  Will Hardy escape his fate?  Will the unforgiving land claim them both?  To find out, watch the Film.
Good stuff, but with some major conditions.  For better or worse, The Revenant is a very intense and grueling Film.  When it works, the Film makes you really feel like you are seeing people fight to survive.  It has an air of honesty and realism about it.  It is really intense.  The Oscar-winning Cinematography is good about taking you right up close to the action.  On the other hand, the Film is super-gritty.  It is really not going to be for everyone.  It is dark and intense.  The Story is pretty simple and doesn't take too many major turns.  The fact that it uses so much 'foreign' language is both realistic and a bit off-putting.  It is hard enough to get people to read Subtitles in Foreign Films, so I can only imagine what will be like for an American Film.  With all that said, it is hard to ignore the technical achievements of the Film.  If you like rough and tumble Westerns, it is a damn good one.  If you're looking for an easily-accessible Film, this is not for you.  So have you ever had one of these days?
A rough and tumble Film that is probably too gritty for some.  If you like

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Quick Reviews: Shockwave Darkside

If you want a less stupid version of Recon 2023, this is it.  If you want a good Sci- Fi Film, well...
The Film opens with some exposition dumping (a solid 2 minutes of it!) that looks like it is out of one of those old CD Games.  Not the good ones like Wing Commander though.
War!  Space!  CG!
So here's the thing- the Film advertises that it was shot in 3-D.  I didn't watch it that way.

So stuff like this is less immersive and more annoying...
On top of that, the Space Suits are...well, look at these things.
The Story- which mostly involves our Heroes walking around in the gray desert that is the Moon- is nothing special, so it doesn't help distract you from...well, more of this.

No need to pile on, I think.  You get the idea.  The End.
One of the worst kinds of bad movies.  There are bad Films that just aren't funny.  There are bad Films that are way too full of themselves.  There is Roller Gator.   In hindsight, maybe I should just avoid low-budget Sci-Fi for a while.  Recon 2023 wasn't good, that Halo Film was surprisingly-morbid and this one is just not fun.  It has all of the stuff that would make you think that it would be.  Intergalactic War, the Moon, lasers and all that.  It gives you a few good moments, but not nearly as many as you'd think.  It is mostly them walking, complaining and...well, complaining some more.  All the fun of a forced march through the desert!  I get it- you don't have alot of money.  Use it well and don't waste so much time with this kind of thing.  It isn't interesting.  Period.  Shockwave Darkside should be good, but it isn't.  Kind of like these Space Suits that make them look like Go-Bots...
Come on, guys- you can do better than this!  It isn't really bad...but it's not good either.  Oh well.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Quick Reviews: Extraordinary Tales

For a man that only lived to be about 40, Edgar Allen Poe influenced so many.  Take, for example, this Animated Collection of Shorts based on his Stories...
The big thing here: the people that did the Narration.

Of note, the now-late Christopher Lee, the much-less-recently-late Bela Lugosi and hopefully-not-late-for-a-long-time Guillermo Del Toro.
I'll spare you the vague and mostly-pointless Framing Device.  Let's just focus on the Story.  First up...
 This Animated Segment is Gothic, colorful and wonderfully-narrated by Lee.  No complaints.
The next Tale is a familiar one, but benefits greatly from some otherworldly voice work from Bela Lugosi.
The Noir style and the (possibly intentionally) grainy sound of the Lugosi narration mesh well.  Again- no complaints.
In a stylistic change, we get this Comic Book-style adaptation of a Poe Tale with narration by Julian Sands.
Next is a dark and stylish adaptation of another Poe Tale, this time with Del Toro's voice.
Lastly, a segment with only a little narration- this time from Roger Corman.  It looks like a creepy painting, so...mission accomplished.

To see all of this in motion, watch the Film.
Cool stuff.  The Animation Styles are a bit different throughout, but all good overall.  'Usher' has that dark story book style, while 'Valdemar' has the look of a 1950's Pulp Comic.  This is a bit of a Catch-22 though.  If they had made all of them look the same, this would look like a standard Animated Film.  Since they made them all a bit different, the Film is (and feels like) a collection of Shorts.  If the right structure is there, it is fine.  There are quite alot of Animated Short Film Collections, be them from Warner Bros or Ralph Bakshi's Studio(s).  In this case, the Framing Device is the weakest part.  Basically, the Spirit of Death is talking to a Raven inhabited by the spirit of Poe.  The pair discuss his thoughts on death and whether or not he can accept it and move on as a spirit.  It isn't bad- it just isn't as good as everything else.  The Film is obviously not the first to give you Animated Poe Tales.  That said, it gives you some damn good (if often used) ones and features some great Actors.  How am I hearing a 'new' Recording of Bela Lugosi in 2016?  If you like Poe, check this one out.  If you don't know his works, this is a good way to get acquainted.  Stick with the so-so Story around it all for the good Stories within.  My only other complaint: not enough purple light...
While it would work best as a simple collection of Shorts, the overall experience is quite good.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

'Black' History: Black Mirror- Fifteen Million Merits

Another Episode to cover in this month of Black History.  On the plus side, this is less of a cheat, given who is the Lead in this Dystopian Story...
In a bleak Future, everyone lives in little cubes that are basically smart phones.  Who wouldn't want to live in their iPhone 24/7?
To keep everything running, everyone in the lower class is, well, running.  More specifically, they are using treadmills to power this underground world and are paid 'merits' to keep them going.
Our Hero has alot of them- for reasons I won't reveal- and is tired of this hollow form of life.
When he sees someone who has real vision and 'seems alive,' he gives up millions of credits to give her a shot at this world's American Idol/Pop Idol Show.
Can her genuine appeal and natural nature get through to the millions of anonymous faces in the crowd?
This makes me think that something goes wrong.

 To see how it all plays out, watch the Episode.
Dark, but deep stuff.  This Episode is a neat but of Science-Fiction in the 'warning you about what could happen' vein.  Do I think that we'll end up living in TV Cubes?  Probably not.  The bigger point is about how people can get disconnected emotionally while being connected online.  We can hide behind our Avatars and think of people much less that way.  If we don't think of these people as human beings, we can be infinitely cruel.  The dehumanization of humanity is the obvious Theme, with the second being our obsession with Media.  In this world, you have to pay Merits to mute the non-stop TV Commercials that run on your walls.  You also have to pay to watch certain Shows, so...message?  The Episode has a pretty small Cast, but they all nail their roles.  Our Hero seems genuine, our Heroine seems innocent and everyone else is kind of an asshole.  You can understand why they have gotten that way, but they are still awful.  While the tone can be bleak at this time, the message is strong enough to make the whole thing worth it.  More poignant and subtle than the first Episode (minus the shock value), this one is an easy recommendation.  See the evil future of Kinect!
One more Episode for this Season to cover in February.  Yeah, TV is weird in England....

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Danish Girl: Room 205

What is Danish for 'eh, it's alright?'  Today's Film is Room 205, a 2007 Horror Film from Denmark.  The Film tells the tale of some young people in the titular Room.  Besides roommates, they also have ghosts!  This is all pretty familiar stuff.  In fact, it is so familiar that I thought there might be some connection between this and Apartment 1303, a Film that came from Japan and eventually made it to America (Review coming at some point).  After all, if one of the guys behind The Blair Witch Project could remake a Danish Film, why not the other way around?  Well, it doesn't.  If anything, it has more to do with stuff like Uli Lommel's Boogeyman.  Is it good though?  To find out, read on...
A young woman moves to an off-Campus Apartment.  What could go wrong?
She finds that not all of her roommates are friendly.  Why not?  It isn't like she is sleeping with one of their ex-boyfriends.
...oh, now I get it.
So yeah, I hope you enjoy people not getting along in a confined space.

Oh and also weird ghost visions.
I'd love to say more about this Story and make jokes, but...there's not much going on here.  Any thoughts, Edgar Winter?
Finally, some killing!  All thirty seconds of big, dramatic moments at any point sure are worth it!
On the plus side, the Film does represent what it feels like when I have to get up early on Saturday mornings.

Just like that- I'm back!
Our heroine finally figures out that it relates to some murder that happened in the same Room and she must stop the ghost by making it see itself for what it is...or something.

It is an evil spirit and a mirror.  Do we still ask questions at this point?
At least the danger is over.  Or is it?!?

There's no Sequel, so...I guess, it is.  The End.
Ghosts.  They are either doing utter nonsense like knock random pots and pans down, molesting you (in fewer cases, admittedly) or just plain boring you.  Room 205 isn't a bad Movie.  However, I take issue with just about all of the descriptions of the Film on the DVD Cover (shown at the intro).  It is not 'Fast Paced.'  There's nothing wrong with being a little slow-paced if the journey is worth it in the end.  In this case, there was nothing all that special.  You don't have to be a completely unique and off-the-wall entry.  I still maintain that well-done, by-the-numbers stuff like Bunshinsaba: Witch Board are good.  This just didn't have much going for it when it started, never felt like it was progressing too much and ultimately did nothing new.  Secondly, it is not a 'Teen Slasher.'  Is there a different Room 205 that they watched?!?  I mean, there is...but it wasn't made until 4 years after this one, so I doubt he used time-travel to see the 2011 Remake, go back to the present of 2007 and then review *this* Film based on its merits.  Plus, it is a Remake.  Sorry, Denmark- you can do better than just copying South Korea and Japan.  If nothing else, just do what we do and hire foreign Directors to redo their old stuff for us again!  After all, Germany isn't above that kind of stuff.  Right, Maynard?
Next up, a combination of two Sub-Genres that usually fail to make me happy.  By the law of averages, this will either be great or utter crap.  Stay tuned...