All posts filed under “reviews

My unsolicited thoughts on movies.

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The Hunger Games review: Strong performances win out over shaky camera

hunger games poster** Related post: Shaky camera technique inspires Lenbrook’s new ShudderStik tripod head

The Hunger Games movie review: Shaky cameras and low budget blues are saved by a strong premise and stronger performances.

The Shaky Camera

Yes, it’s true, the Hunger Games Shaky Camera Effect does suck. But it kind of doesn’t entirely ruin the film.

It’s not just “hand held”. It’s like some palsied old man with tremors (like me) was holding the camera and then hired a guy to grab him by the elbows and shake him mercilessly.

And come on, if you’re one of those people saying it was just in the action sequences, shut up and be honest. The shaky camera isn’t exclusive to the action scenes. It’s used right in the opening sequences, in the most quiet and intimate of scenes, as Katniss soothes her little sister after a nightmare and helps her fall back to sleep… camera jittering and shaking like security cam footage of an earthquake.

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TrollHunter – The Review

I’d been looking forward to TrollHunter since seeing the trailer in August of last year… any successful film that features a classic but underutilized creature bodes well for our horror script Faeries.

trollhunter movieSo I was excited to see it available on NetFlix streaming this weekend. In some ways, it didn’t disappoint. And in other ways, it did.

There’s some originality in TrollHunter, in the form of said underutilized creature. Some good CGI, and some good pacing and structure.

But there’s also sadly a lot that’s not terribly original. And in the end, not a lot of “there” there.

First, check out the trailer:

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My son laughs all the way through Commercial Kings

My son laughs all the way thru Commercial Kings with frequent pauses to gasp “I love this show!” What? You don’t know this show? You should. It’s like Dirty Jobs meets Project Greenlight with funny. And, maybe a touch of…

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Recipe for Skyline: 3 easy ingredients

Recipe for a science fiction movie Take 11 lines of dialogue and 3 core concepts from Independence Day. Add the squids from The Matrix. Fold in some War Of The Worlds remake, stir. Accidently knock over the Mars Attacks and…

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Platinum Hit Finds A New Twist On Music Reality Shows

It’s true, I like me some reality TV.

Platinum Hit Bravo SeriesIf you’ve known me long enough, you know how unlikely that statement is. I was one of the (many? few?) decrying reality TV as the launch of the apocalypse 10 years ago, the first of the 4 horsemen. But its siren song called to even me, and as a consequence I’ve just finished watching my 10th season of American Idol (the show that, yes, brought my lovely wife and I together) and am hunkering down for my annual fix of So You Think You Can Dance.

I do have my standards, though. My preference is for reality TV that rewards some kind of creativity and talent, extra points for illuminating a little known process or industry, double points for maybe inspiring others. And I don’t have much patience for behind-the-scenes cat-fighting (not too much, anyway … I’ll still DVR my Project Runway … I think mostly it’s because of Tim Gunn, who I think is hilarious and awesome and classy and I would love to have a beer with).

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Dying To Do Letterman Premieres at Cinequest

Liver cancer and comedy prove a perfect match.

**UPDATE**

Dying To Do Letterman invited to qualify for Academy Award – raising funds at Kickstarter.

Live Your Dream Or Die Trying

At 35, comedian Steve Mazan learned he was dying of liver cancer. So he did what any sane person would do: he dedicated the next year of his life to earning an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Five years later, last night, the story of that one year quest had its premiere at the 2011 Cinequest film festival as Dying To Do Letterman. And I was lucky enough to be there.

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Black Swan – mini review

Saw Black Swan tonight. It was everything I wanted it to be… almost. Intense, dark, sexy, twisted. I enjoyed it, but in the end I was a little bit “that’s it?”. Why? Story. Again. Sure, all the parts are there,…

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Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief – A lesson in storytelling?

(aka: Percy Jackson: The Story Thief)

Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” – a review about mismanaging story

*** NOTE: Spoilers galore. ***

I am not one of those “the movie is never as good as the book” guys. Ever read Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the source material for Blade Runner)? You couldn’t help but make a better movie than book, as the book is laughably bad. And Blade Runner is one of my all time favorite films.

And I’m not in love with Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief as a book. It’s engaging enough, and full of big ideas, but somewhat lacking in story structure.

So why am I so struck by the failure of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief the movie?

I think, the more I ruminate on it, it’s because the mistakes seem so rooted in fundamental story issues, and seem to favor the weaknesses of the book over its strengths.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE BOOK *** spoilers ***

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where the wild things are – review

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Where The Wild Things Are – a disappointing imbalance of dramatic and thematic intent.

I knew going in. I’d heard the reports, seen the reviews, and I knew.

“It’s awfully dark,” they’d say. “It’s not a kid’s movie.”

“But it’s a kid’s book,” I’d say. “It’s about a boy who imagines a land with friendly monsters. How can that not be for kids?”

But in my mind I thought maybe at least it would be an interesting adult take on a kid’s story. And it was a tossup between WTWTA and Jim Carrey’s new 3D Scrooge extravaganza from the people who brought you the robotic and unengaging Polar Express. So I opted for WTWTA.

Ah, but they were right. And I was wrong. And here’s why.

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Paranormal Activity: the review

paranormal-activity-movie-poster1Paranormal Activity horror film review

“Once every five years, a guy makes a movie for a nickel that can cross over to a broad audience,” says “Paranormal Activity” producer Jason Blum, who, as a senior executive at Miramax Films, had a producing credit on “The Reader” and acquired the supernatural thriller “The Others.” “And there are about 3,000 of these movies made every year, so this film is about one in 15,000.”

THE BUZZ

You’ve heard the buzz. Paranormal Activity, “the little indie horror film that could” about a couple who videotapes a demon haunting them in their home, made in a week for $11,000 by a guy with no filmmaking experience (Oren Peli, a video game programmer) gets seen at a horror fest (Screamfest), scares Spielberg so bad he won’t keep the DVD in his house (marketing hype, anyone?), and gets picked up by DreamWorks for the full court press. (LATimes story here)