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Friday, November 30, 2012

‘The Collection’ Is A Funhouse Horror Show With Living Props!



The Collection:  3 out of 5
Arkin:  Better be prepared.  Bring everything you got, because if he catches you, he’s gonna make you wish you were dead.
Horror fans may not have too much trouble remembering The Collector, which came out back in 2009, but others may struggle when realizing that The Collection is actually a sequel to that film.  Now The Collection is not really a film that solely depends on knowledge from the previous entry and similarly it is a different sort of beast from the first film.  The Collector was very much a cat and mouse thriller, set inside a house, which happened to incorporate a lot of deadly traps, labeling the film as a part of the ‘torture porn’ horror sub-genre.  The Collection may have a similar setup, but this time the majority of the action is placed inside the hideout of the collector, which turns the film into more of a funhouse of horror traps and grizzly images, flipping the series on its head.  It may or may not be worth your time, but it’s a mean, lean, horror flick that is a fun enough ride.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

‘Killing Them Softly’ Is A Sly, Satirical, Mob Vehicle Driven By Pitt



Killing Them Softly:  4 out of 5 

Frankie:  I don’t even know you.
Jackie Cogan
: Very few guys do.
So here is a movie about wiseguys dealing with a mob heist, presidential politics, and the American financial crisis.  I have a feeling that some people are going to be upset with this film for not being what they expected.  Regardless, Killing Them Softly is a sly, dark comedy-drama, with Brad Pitt in a wonderfully effective role as a professional enforcer.  The film is well-acted, very stylish, often heavy-handed with how it presents politics, but at the same time very involving.  I think it’s the dialogue and the unassuming, straight-forward flow of the film.  Killing Them Softly does not feel like the traditional, hip, modern mob movie.  It felt like something different, but something I was very happy to watch.

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Episode - November Holiday Hodgepodge 2012 (Part 2)



This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is another ambitious experiment.  Aaron and Abe decided that due to the many films that came out over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (sorry non-American listeners), it would be best to have several frequent guests of the show all give their thoughts on some of the various movies released in separate recordings.  So what you will get here are thoughts on Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Rise of the Guardians, Red Dawn, and Hitchcock.  The guys are joined by Mark Hobin, Adam Gentry, Mark Johnson, Maxwell Haddad, Jordan Grout, and Liz Manashil, in various segments of the show.  There will be certain movies covered multiple times, but hopefully the different guest will provide fresh enough perspectives, making this episode’s experimental format pay off in a good way.

So now, if you’ve got an hour (or two) to kill…


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Episode - November Holiday Hodgepodge 2012 (Part 1)



This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is another ambitious experiment.  Aaron and Abe decided that due to the many films that came out over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (sorry non-American listeners), it would be best to have several frequent guests of the show all give their thoughts on some of the various movies released in separate recordings.  So what you will get here are thoughts on Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Rise of the Guardians, Red Dawn, and Hitchcock.  The guys are joined by Mark Hobin, Adam Gentry, Mark Johnson, Maxwell Haddad, Jordan Grout, and Liz Manashil, in various segments of the show.  There will be certain movies covered multiple times, but hopefully the different guest will provide fresh enough perspectives, making this episode’s experimental format pay off in a good way.

So now, if you’ve got an hour (or two) to kill…



Monday, November 26, 2012

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 7 – ‘When The Dead Come Knocking’ Review


Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead.  Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.

The biggest question on my mind regarding this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, is whether or not the rest of the nation had a KFC ad pop up after the random cabin dude was thrown to the walkers to be eaten.  Please (really, please) leave comments on wherever this post is to let me know.  Along with that, ‘When the Dead Come Knocking,’ was another solid episode for the season, which was able to work in multiple plot threads and keep it all interesting, within the span of the hour.  While this season continues to seem very much in a hurry, as opposed to last season, it is hard to complain when it is all done effectively enough, give or take issues here or there (again, random camper dude).  So let’s seal up that bullet wound and move forward.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

‘Red Dawn’ Should Have Stayed Behind Enemy Lines



Red Dawn:  1 ½ out of 5

Jed Eckert:  They messed with the wrong family.

Well I certainly liked the idea of remaking the film Red Dawn (which is not all that good), more than actually watching the remake.  This film is pretty terrible.  From the drab energy and look of the film, to the horrid acting and casting of many involved, to the basic logic and storytelling that this film puts forward, Red Dawn is a travesty.  I went in expecting to have a dopey, but somewhat fun time, but instead I sat through a painfully dull film that has almost nothing to offer as a redeeming value.  The only thing that makes this worse is the fact that a film about teenagers causing all sorts of carnage has been made bloodless and rated PG-13 so general audiences can presumably spend the holiday season watch a terribly stupid film in all its jingoistic glory.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dial H For ‘Hitchcock’


Hitchcock:  3 ½ out of 5

Alfred Hitchcock:  All of us harbor dark recesses of violence and horror.  I’m just a man hiding in a corner with a camera, watching.
Among the people that I would offhand list as my favorite directors, Alfred Hitchcock would be one of them.  The movie I regard as my favorite horror movie (let alone a favorite movie of mine in general) is Psycho.  The idea of a movie revolving around the making of Psycho is certainly an intriguing one, made better by the fantastic cast that is involved, with a wonderful looking Anthony Hopkins in the guise of the Master of Suspense.  That is not exactly what I got, but what I liked about this movie, is how it chose to be a fun, romanticized story about a man continuing to challenge himself, as well as a relationship drama involving his wife.  It could have been a stodgy drama that follows recorded details to the letter, but the film is much more energized than that, which is impressive, given the corpulence of Alfred Hitchcock.

‘Life of Pi’ Is A Splendid Visual Odyssey



Life of Pi:  4 out of 5

Pi:  It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names.

Upon hearing that this year would see the release of Life of Pi, a 3D film adaptation of the bestselling, but supposedly unfilmable book by Yann Martel, I was immediately feeling the same vibe that I had from Hugo in 2011.  This feeling was amplified further upon learning that it was going to be directed by Ang Lee, a versatile director, who has yet to be grounded in one particular genre.  Both films are fantastical adventures to an extent, which utilize a theme of storytelling at their core.  They are also both visual delights, with the use of 3D actually amplifying the experience as opposed to taking away from it.  Life of Pi works on many levels and is certainly suited to a release at this time of year, as it is an incredibly earnest, yet exciting film and a visual treat for families to see, but one that has a lot more on its mind as well.

‘Rise Of The Guardians’ Unites Holiday Legends With Decent Success



Rise of the Guardians:  3 out of 5

North:  It is our job to protect the children of the world.  For as long as they believe in us, we will guard them with our lives...

This would seem like the perfect time for a movie like Rise of the Guardians to come out.  It arrives in theaters in the same year that audiences around the globe have already witnessed the ultimate superhero mash-up film, The Avengers, watched the end of Batman’s journey in The Dark Knight Rises, and are preparing to take a step back into Middle Earth with The Hobbit.  An animated hero’s journey film that combines Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost in an adventure together feels pretty appropriate.  However, while imaginative in its visuals, the film feels like it is riding on assumed knowledge regarding these characters in a very familiar story.  I will be curious to see if family audiences embrace this as new holiday favorite, but for the time being, Rise of the Guardians provides some fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 82 - Lincoln



This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe finds Aaron minus his co-host Abe, but the show must go on!  He is joined by guests Alan Aguilera, Mark Hobin, and Adam Gentry, and the group discusses the historical drama, Lincoln, from director Steven Spielberg.  They also go into a detailed discussion about Spielberg’s post-2000 career as a director.  There is still time spent on the other segments as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Trailer Talk” (Side Effects and House of Cards), “Movie Call Back”, and Box Office Results.  It’s an episode with a lot to cover, but that is expected when dealing with the films of one of America’s biggest directors.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…


Silver Linings Playbook - Just Seen It Review


I was given the opportunity to be a guest reviewer on the show Just Seen It, so I took up that offer and discussed Silver Linings Playbook.

Here's the official post:

Liz and Salim are joined by guest reviewer Aaron Neuwirth to discuss this new romantic comedy with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawnrence. Starring Liz Manashil, Salim Lemelle and Aaron Neuwirth. Directed by Amy Taylor.

Synopsis: Released from a mental institution, Pat moves back in with his parents. As he tries to reconcile with his ex-wife, he meets a young girl as troubled as he is. By helping each other out, they again find love.

(My previous Just Seen It appearance can be found HERE)

WATCH US ON PBS SOCAL Saturdays at 6PM or pbssocal.org/justseenit

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 6 – ‘Hounded’ Review



Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead.  Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.

Well, the power went out in my house this week, but that didn’t stop me from getting to see this week’s episode anyway and being happy to report that it was a very solid one indeed.  ‘Hounded’ picks up where last week’s episode left off and basically felt like half of the episode was devoted to being a better grieving episode than last week’s, while the other half focused on improving our opinions on ‘Michonne and Andrea’s Excellent Woodbury Adventures’.  A mix of solid direction, a good amount of tension, strong emotional beats, some resolutions to lingering plot threads, and a cliffhanger all worked to make this a pretty great episode of The Walking Dead.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Is A Dark, Romantic Comedy With A Great Layer Of Sweetness


Silver Linings Playbook:  4 out of 5

Pat:  You just gotta have a strategy, you know?

Silver Linings Playbook is a film by writer/director David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter), which is much better than one would believe it to be.  From the outside, it looks like a story of good-looking people with problems, who may inevitably end up together.  In lesser hands, this material could seem trite, but the script for the film is incredibly sharp, getting around its formulaic aspects to prove itself as a frequently funny, well-acted, and emotional film about two people rebuilding their lives.  It works as a modern-day screwball comedy that has a sense of reality, as its characters deal with the issues that make them different, making it a film that I will not be surprised to see embraced by audiences all over.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 81 - Skyfall


This week’s episode of Aaron and Abe, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, features a review of a film that the group has been looking forward to for a while: Skyfall, the latest entry in the James Bond series.  Aaron and Abe are joined by guests Scott Mendelson and Brandon Peters (who were previously involved in all the James Bond Out Now Commentary Tracks), as they dicuss the latest Bond adventure starring Daniel Craig.  There is also plenty of time spent on the other segments as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Trailer Talk” (World War Z and Warm Bodies), “Movie Call Back”, “Out Now Quickies”, Box Office Results, and of course Games, which there are a few of this week.  Lots to go over, which includes plenty of action, excitement, and shaken vodka martinis.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 5 – ‘Say The Word’ Review




Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead.  Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.

Ask and you shall receive.  Last week I was all for the show switching gears from focusing on the ‘walkers vs. the survivors’ aspect and killing off too many cast members in the process and becoming more of a character drama that happens to be set in a world ruled by the undead, which is how I feel the show would work best.  So this week I got that and plot-wise, this episode is pretty solid, as it progresses the story further, from multiple perspectives and there are a number of reveals that are interesting in general and exciting for fans of the comic.  The only downside is that The Walking Dead’s strong suit has never been its dialogue and this week does have the characters talking…a lot.

Friday, November 9, 2012

‘Lincoln’ Finds Courage In Its Craft And Focus



Lincoln:  4 out of 5

Abraham Lincoln:  Do we choose to be born?  Or do we fit into the times where born into?

Lincoln is a film that has been a long time coming.  I remember hearing about early stories of director Steven Spielberg working on getting a movie made about Abraham Lincoln, with Tom Hanks being rumored for the role.  Then things became more official, as Liam Neeson was said to be attached.  The time passed, Neeson bowed out, only to have Daniel Day-Lewis jump in, bringing his intense, method actor ways to Spielberg’s period drama.  This worked out for the better, I suppose, as Day-Lewis appears to be embodying the Great Emancipator, but in less an overpowering way, as past portrayals have implied, but in an authoritative, yet kind manner.  Similarly, Lincoln, as a whole, is not an overpowering biopic, but a drama focused on a very specific period in the 16th President’s life.  The results are quite good, as everyone involved has worked to achieve an incredibly cinematic, well-acted, drama that respects the material, if just a bit too much.

‘Skyfall’ Is A Great Celebration Of Bond’s 50th Anniversary



Skyfall:  4 out of 5

James Bond:  There's some men coming to kill us. We've got to kill them first.

James Bond returns in this 23rd entry in a series that is now celebrating its 50th anniversary.  The enduring character has gone through a lot, from secret volcano lairs, to undersea hideouts, to up into outer space.  Since Daniel Craig has taken on the role of Bond, the character has since become grounded in a somewhat more plausible reality than some of the more outlandish entries (very similar to Dalton’s days, actually).  Unfortunately, following the superb Casino Royale, my hopes were incredibly dashed by Quantum of Solace, which I considered the biggest disappointment of 2008 and one of the lesser entries in the Bond series as a whole.  Moving up to present day, it was my great pleasure to not only have my anticipation for Skyfall reignited by the fact that it looked to be great, but to now have seen the film and acknowledge it as a wonderfully entertaining, strongly acted, and beautiful-looking entry in the series.  The best part is that this presentation of Bond feels like a Bond movie.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 80 – Wreck-It Ralph



This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is a whole lot of video game fun, as the guys are joined by guests Alan Aguilera and Stephen Gibler to discuss the new Disney Animated film Wreck-It Ralph.  The nature of video game movies goes with it as well, with some tension soaring as the group gets way into which of these movies are truly worth the time.  The regular segments are of course in full force as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Trailer Talk” (Despicable Me 2 and The Guilt Trip), “Movie Call Back”, “Out Now Quickies”, Box Office Results, and of course Games.  Plenty of film and geeky fun this week, so make sure you have all the quarters you need to continue.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

James Bond: Series Thoughts Leading Up To Skyfall




Being that it is the 50th anniversary and having revisited the Bond franchise in the past month, in anticipation for the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, I decided to put together a post that recaps my thoughts about what the series has had to offer.  I have listed my favorite films, my least favorites, as well as a series of other odds and end about the franchise as a whole.  It is basically a best of reel that is tailored to my own personal opinions regarding the franchise, so take that as you will.  Everyone of course has their own thoughts on which Bond is best and which is the best film, but this is where I stand.  As a side note, to really learn about Bond films, check out the series of retrospective essays written by Brandon Peters over at Mendelson’s Memos HERE.  Also, if you have some time, check out the series of commentaries that I put out on Out Now with Aaron and Abe for From Russia with Love, Moonraker, GoldenEye, and Quantum of Solace, which feature Scott Mendelson, Brandon Peters and myself, which are great fun for Bond and film fans to enjoy.  Now, onto Bond, James Bond.

Monday, November 5, 2012

‘Flight’ Coasts With Good Acting, In The Midst Of A Stormy, Heavy-Handed Drama



Flight:  2 ½ out of 5

Whip: Nobody could've landed that plane like I did.

There is a solid 30 minutes of Flight that makes for one really compelling drama.  It involves a sequence that will terrify anyone that was already a nervous flier and sets up possible stakes for the rest of the film.  Unfortunately, that was merely the film that was being advertised, not the one that we see in Flight, the return to live-action filmmaking for director Robert Zemeckis.  The rest of this film is generally well-acted all around, but also very heavy-handed, as we watch Denzel Washington’s character deal with the effects of alcoholism from an internal level, as the film does not give him much of a life to see self-destruct elsewhere.  As a result, this is a film that is admirable for existing as an adult character study, but is also overlong and uneven, hwile cruising at a safe altitude.

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 4 – ‘The Killer Within’ Review



Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead.  Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.

‘The Killer Within’ – not exactly a subtle title.  I should start lightly this week, as this was an eventful episode of The Walking Dead.  A good majority of it is really effective, as we check back into the prison and eventually lose a couple major characters, following a series of tense and well-staged walker chases/attacks.  One of those losses is certainly effective, as a character gets the time to say something meaningful, followed by some pretty gory stuff to look at.  There is also some time spent in Woodbury, letting us know that we will have dueling settings to deal with on, presumably, a weekly basis.  Some more tension is built up there.  However, with the good comes some bad, and while The Walking Dead certainly hit hard with shakeups in the series’ dynamic, I can’t help but think some of the impact was lessened for a few reasons.

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Episode – Audio Commentary For Quantum Of Solace



Commentary, another Out Now Commentary.  For the final (for now) in our series of James Bond movie commentaries, Aaron is joined by Scott Mendelson and Brandon Peters to discuss Quantum of Solace.  A well timed commentary, as Skyfall is just days away from release, this track goes over the pros and cons of the second Daniel Craig entry, which was met with mixed reactions at the time.  Fortunately, the participants are on both sides of this one and discuss the film in full, along with interjecting plenty of wild tangents along the way.  Once again, Bond fans should rejoice with this one, as well as those who just like a good conversation about movies.

Important Note:  This commentary features both juvenile uses of language and jokes that may be considered un-PC.  We of course are just trying to have a fun time…

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…


Saturday, November 3, 2012

‘The Man With The Iron Fists’ Is A Fitting Tribute From RZA



The Man With The Iron Fists:  3 ½ out of 5

The Blacksmith: When you forge a weapon, you need three things: the right metal, temperatures over fourteen hundred degrees, and someone who wants to kill.  Here in this village, we got all three.

The Man with the Iron Fists is the movie that The RZA (pronounced Rih-Zah) has always wanted to make and a film that people would likely expect from him.  It is a martial arts epic infused with hip-hop that pays loving tribute to the Shaw Brothers era of Kung Fu movies, with a mix of modern day sensibilities.  I have been guilty in the past of not appreciating similar and recent films like Ninja Assassin and The Warrior’s Way, but The Man with the Iron Fists just hit me the write way I guess.  The film is incredibly silly from its plot to its casting, but it has the kind of energy that I was able to get into and fits into this grindhouse mold that Quentin Tarantino (presenter of the film) and Eli Roth (co-writer and producer) have been trying to popularize as of late.  It also has an expected, awesome soundtrack and score.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Earns Multiple 1-Ups



Wreck-It Ralph:  4 out of 5

Wreck-It Ralph:  It's hard to love your job, when no one else seems to like you for doing it.

So here is another 2012 movie that seems to be tailored for me to really enjoy it.  As ParaNorman delivered a fun zombie movie in a stop-motion world (with dramatic arcs and solid messages as a bonus) and Seven Psychopaths delivered on my love for darkly humorous hit man comedies (with dramatic arcs and a humorously meta touch as a bonus), Wreck-It Ralph is an ode to video gaming (with dramatic arcs and tons of geeky references as a bonus).  The film does not necessarily break away from the classic Disney formula and the humor may not necessarily be so much timeless as it is very deliberately skewed towards people that grew up with various types of video games, but it is incredibly entertaining on multiple levels and another great-looking feature from Disney’s animation studio.

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