Film Review: Coda (2013)

Release Date: July 13th, 2013 (Galway Film Fleadh)
Directed by: Alan Holly
Written by: Rory Byrne, Alan Holly
Music by: Shane Holly
Cast: Joseph Dermody, Orla Fitzgerald, Brian Gleeson, Donie Ryan

Film Group of Unions, Frameworks, Irish Film Board, 9 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching a lot of short films lately but this is one that really stuck out. I remember seeing the press for it when it was making the rounds and I wanted to see it but like many things in life, it was brushed away by time and I forgot about it until coming across it while screening a bunch of shorts. I’m glad that I finally got to see this.

Coda is a short animated film that features Death. However, it is sweet and comforting even in its sadness.

The films starts with a drunk walking out of a bar and getting hit by a car. His spirit rises up and wanders the streets, not realizing that Death is in pursuit. He follows a fox into a park where he rests on a bench when Death appears and sits next to him. Begging for more time, Death takes the man on a journey through his memories.

The animation style is very minimalist but it is majestic and alluring. The music and even the voices of the characters enhance the feeling of peacefulness throughout the short film.

This is a pretty hard piece of cinematic art to review, in all honesty, but it is incredibly effective and builds towards a true sense of ease and acceptance, as it moves on from scene to scene.

It is definitely worth a watch and being that it is only nine minutes, even if you don’t enjoy it, isn’t a huge waste of time. But I would find it hard to not walk away from the experience without being effected.

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013- )

Original Run: September 24th, 2013 – present
Created by: Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki, Henry Simmons, Luke Mitchell, John Hannah, B.J. Britt, Mallory Jansen, Ruth Negga, Adrian Pasdar, Kyle MacLachlan, Powers Boothe, Mark Dacascos, Blair Underwood, Constance Zimmer, Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton

ABC Studios, Marvel, Mutant Enemy Productions, Walt Disney, 88 Episodes (so far), 41-44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

I remember watching the pilot to Marvel’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it premiered and I wasn’t a fan of it. I immediately lost interest but as that first season rolled on, I started to hear good things. When the series entered into the phase of setting up Captain America: The Winter Solider, people couldn’t stop talking about it.

So once the first series came to an end, I binge watched it. I have now also watched season two in its entirety.

One thing I can say about this show is that it took about half a season to find its footing but even then, it is pretty inconsistent.

The show has high points and it has some very low points. If you are a fan of Joss Whedon’s style, you will probably love the show. I’m not a Whedon fan however and I find the style to be superfluous, predictable, forced and tedious at times.

The characters are likable enough but no one stands out. You don’t truly care for any of them and as great as Phil Coulson was in the movies that came out before this series, in the show he just becomes an uninteresting one-dimensional character. In fact, each episode almost serves as a way to forcibly remind the audience of how cool Coulson is supposed to be.

Most of this show just rides on by and none of it feels as important as the producers and many of its fans make it out to be. I get that it is used as a vehicle to develop more background to the plot of upcoming Marvel films but in that it falls victim to itself and feels more like a show on rails than something free to go its own way. It gets distracted from dealing with its own separate narrative, as it is forced to tie into the plots of the films. While that worked well the first time around with Captain America: The Winter Soldier it didn’t work so well with Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The second season was pretty uninteresting and the highlight of the series was the last third of the first season, which dealt with the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the aftermath of that. While the show is now establishing the mythos of the Inhumans, who will be getting their own Marvel movie several years from now, the plot and the execution hasn’t been as cutting edge and exciting as the showrunners have anticipated.

This isn’t a bad show, there are things I like and I will continue to keep watching in an effort to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe continue to unfold but I would almost rather binge watch the seasons after they end than force myself to sit down and watch this religiously every Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

At its very best, this show has had great moments. I just hope that there are more of those in the future and less filler and drawn out plots that could be dealt with much quicker. I also hope that at some point Patton Oswald becomes a full-time cast member because his contribution to this show is the best thing about it. I also hope we haven’t seen the last of Kyle MacLachlan’s Mr. Hyde, as he was the highlight of season two.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has promise and potential and if it fulfills that, it could become a stellar show. As of right now, it falls below its superior sister show Agent Carter and it can’t hold a candle to CW’s The Flash or Netflix’s Daredevil.

Update:

I have now gotten through four seasons of this show. Season three was really slow and just a bore overall. However, season four introduced Ghost Rider to the Marvel cinematic mythos and things really got interesting. Season four was broken into three parts, where the middle bit wasn’t interesting but the end caps were stellar. In fact, the last third of season four, titled Agents of Hydra, was the absolute high point of this show and you actually discover that you care about these characters more than you realize. If the momentum can continue on from the last portion of the fourth season, then this show could be one of the best on television. Unfortunately, it has a long history of inconsistency.

TV Review: WWE Total Divas (2013- )

Original Run: July 28th, 2013 – current
Created by: WWE, E!, Bunim-Murray Productions
Directed by: various
Cast: Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, Eva Marie, JoJo, Summer Rae, Rosa Mendes, Alicia Fox, Paige, Mandy Rose, Renee Young, Lana, Maryse, Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Carmella, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Tyson Kidd, Jimmy Uso, Dean Ambrose, Rusev, The Miz, Big Cass

Bunim-Murray Productions, WWE, NBC Universal, E!, 88 Episodes so far, 39-44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2014.

I didn’t watch the first season of Total Divas when it started on E!. I just recently picked it up, as episodes have now been streaming on the WWE Network. And since I pay for the WWE Network, I should most certainly use it.

The show at first glance looked like just your typical drama filled reality show more geared for the female populace. Well, it is – no surprise there. However, it is still pretty entertaining but that also may only be because I am a fan of wrestling. I really don’t know how interesting this would be to someone who has no knowledge or understanding of that unique business.

I like the show for the fact that it shows the hidden side of the business and you get to see how these people interact with one another when the cameras aren’t on (well the WWE cameras not the E! cameras, obviously). Seeing these girls for who they are is pretty cool and they are much more entertaining than their thinly-written characters, which for most of them, really don’t see enough screen time in the male dominated business.

The thing I like the most, is that Daniel Bryan and John Cena are a big part of the show, as both are dating two of the stars of Total Divas. I like the parts where we get to see some of the males and also how they are in real life, how they act and who they hang out with. The show does give you that vibe that the WWE, for the most part, is a close knit family.

This isn’t a great show by any means. However, it is still entertaining enough to watch in spurts. I don’t know how much longevity it will have as the novelty will probably run its course fairly quickly, especially with the non-wrestling audience.

Lastly, I really would’ve liked AJ Lee, Paige and Emma on this show. Missed opportunity by E! and WWE.

Update:

Paige at least showed up for awhile, until she sort of committed career suicide with the company.

Also, the regular shakeups of cast members is pretty well done. The upcoming seventh season is supposed to feature several new additions, as the talent pool at WWE is vastly different from when this show started.

Film Review: We’re The Millers (2013)

Release Date: August 3rd, 2013 (Traverse City Film Festival)
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Written by: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris
Music by: Ludwig Goransson, Theodore Shapiro
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Will Poulter, Ed Helms, Luis Guzman, Thomas Lennon, Ken Marino

New Line Cinema, Newman/Tooley Films, Slap Happy Productions, Heyday Films, Benderspink, Warner Bros., 110 Minutes

Review:

“We are all now officially international drug smugglers. Add it to the resume.” – David Clark

I didn’t have much urge to see this film even though I like a few of the people in it: mostly Sudeikis and Offerman. However, Aniston can be fun and Emma Roberts has been growing on me, even if I can’t stand her show Scream Queens. Ed Helms is awful in every way though but he is only in this sparingly. Plus, I’ve liked Kathryn Hahn since her time on Parks and Recreation.

I’m glad I ended up giving this film a chance though, even though most modern mainstream comedies are lowest common denominator schlock. We’re The Millers was pleasantly surprising. That’s not to say it was great but it had my attention throughout the picture and I laughed at some of the gags. Plus, the cast worked really well together.

In this film, we see Sudeikis’ David rope in stripper Rose (Aniston), runaway criminal Casey (Roberts) and his virginal neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter) into a scheme where they pose as a family on a RV trip to Mexico. On the trip, they are to acquire some drugs and bring them back to the States for Ed Helms’ character. Along the way, they run into trouble at every turn and while they bicker and fight, they find a real family unit with each other.

The picture is pretty straight forward from a stylistic approach. It’s an American comedy made for the general public, so there isn’t much in the way of cinematic artistry. The cinematography is fine but average, the directing isn’t notable for being either good or bad and the acting is exactly what one would expect. But then again, these films aren’t made to even compete for Oscars.

I’ve grown to like Jason Sudeikis a lot in the last few years. This just solidifies my appreciation for him. Offerman was also awesome, as a sexually freaky bad ass DEA agent. This is probably the best comedic role Offerman has had outside of Parks and Recreation.

We’re The Millers is not a movie that anyone will probably fall in love with but it is a better than average comedy film when compared to what’s come out of Hollywood in the last decade. It is not a classic by any means and will probably be forgotten in a few years but then they are supposedly working on a sequel to keep this thing living. It’s probably not a good idea though, as sequels to these sort of pictures tend to fall flat and cheapen the original.

Film Review: Oldboy (2013)

Release Date: November 27th, 2013
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Mark Protosevich
Based on: Oldboy by Park Chan-wook, Im Joon-hyeong, Hwang Jo-yoon
Music by: Roque Banos
Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Michael Imperioli, Max Casella, Pom Klementieff, Rami Malek,

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Good Universe, Vertigo Entertainment, FilmDistrict, 104 Minutes

Review:

“I swear, I don’t know nothin’! I swear before God and eight motherfuckin’ white people!” – Chaney

The original Oldboy might be my favorite South Korean film of all-time. Its director, Park Chan-wook made an almost flawless film. It was an instant classic, has stood the test of time and become more than just a cult film in the United States and around the world.

Spike Lee is one of my favorite directors. I’ve been a fan since seeing Do The Right Thing as a kid. He’s got a unique visual style and a great gift for storytelling. While I respect his work, I’m a bit puzzled as to why he wanted to remake Oldboy, as it was pretty unnecessary.

I guess Hollywood always wants English language versions of foreign hits but the fact that Spike Lee stepped up is a bit strange. Although, the combination of Lee’s skill and style mixed with this violent Asian tale motivated me to check it out.

I’ve heard this film being slammed by many critics and fans of the original. I get it, as some things should be sacred and all that. However, after seeing the film, I think a lot of the bitching is just bitching for the sake of bitching. This film is not as good as the original but looking at it as a completely separate entity, it’s still a pretty good film.

Josh Brolin was fantastic, as he usually is. On top of that, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel Jackson were really good. I also enjoyed the performances of Michael Imperioli and Sharlto Copley. Max Casella even shows up for a bit.

Action-wise, the epic fight from the first film was recreated but not as well. It was still a damn good sequence all on its own but if we are going to compare them, the original was superior. Again, the original, as a whole, was a superior film.

The cinematography in this movie was beautiful. Spike Lee and his art department really did their job in creating specific emotional vibes from scene-to-scene. The “hotel room” was eerie and haunting and really became its own character within the film.

If you were to see this film without being a big fan of the original, you’d probably enjoy it more. It’s not as bad as people say and Spike Lee did some great work, fattening his already amazing portfolio.

But again, after seeing it, I still have to question why this remake was necessary. And in retrospect, this was a project destined to piss off fans and critics alike.

Film Review: Machete Kills (2013)

Release Date: September 19th, 2013 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez, Marcel Rodriguez, Kyle Ward
Music by: Carl Thiel
Cast: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Walton Goggins, William Sadler, Demián Bichir, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Jessica Alba, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, Tom Savini, Elon Musk, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan

Quick Draw Productions, Troublemaker Studios, Open Road Films, 108 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2013.

“Machete don’t tweet.” – Machete

I was a big fan of Machete when it came out. It kept alive the modern revival of grindhouse cinema, which was reintroduced to the world a few years back by the films Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s own Planet Terror. Both films were released together as a double bill feature called Grindhouse. Between the two films, there were a series of faux trailers for other grindhouse pictures. One of those was for a film named Machete. The fake trailer was so popular that Rodriguez decided to make the film. Once that was successful, he decided to make this film. There is also a third planned.

Machete Kills doesn’t hold a candle to the first Machete film. Don’t get me wrong, it was enjoyable and had some awesome moments but it was lacking in energy and in scope. It felt smaller and more linear, whereas the original film was a wild ride taking many different unexpected turns. This film went from point A to point B and then introduced us to a point C. Had it not been for the awesome performance by Mel Gibson as the main antagonist of this film, it would’ve fallen much flatter than it did.

The cinematic style of this movie, mirrored the first and for the most part, stayed somewhat true to the grindhouse vibe. The problem I have with these modern grindhouse films though, is the use of CGI effects. I get that it is more affordable and that these films have a tight budget but the whole essence of grindhouse films is over-the-top violence and action and often times gore. In the old grindhouse days, they had to find ways to pull this off with very limited resources. Part of what made those movies so effective and respectable, was the ingenuity of the filmmakers. This film, like its predecessor really lacks in this area. It takes the easy road and frankly, I expected more from Robert Rodriguez.

I do love that Danny Trejo finally has a starring vehicle though and I do look forward to the next sequel. I could watch new installments of Machete for years to come. He’s a great character and at the end of the day, despite the few issues mentioned above, these films exceed the standard blockbuster action fare that Hollywood keeps pumping out at $300+ million dollar price tags.

Film Review: Don Jon (2013)

Release Date: January 18th, 2013 (Sundance)
Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Written by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Music by: Nathan Johnson, Malcolm Kirby Jr.
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Rob Brown, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Tony Danza

Voltage Pictures, HitRecord Films, Ram Bergman Productions, Relativity Media, 90 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2013.

“There’s only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.” – Don Jon

Funny that I watched this yesterday after writing my last big article Modern Porn Is Bullshit. It was totally a coincidence. Anyway, on with the review.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been proving himself to be quite the actor over the last few years. With Don Jon he goes beyond that, showing off his writing and directing chops for the first time. For a debut, it was a pretty good film. It was also smart of him to cast Scarlett Johansson as his love interest. Shit, I would’ve done the same but made her commit to some nudity. I kid… or do I?

Anyway, this film follows a Jersey brah who has a severe porn addiction. He meets the love of his life and she’s kind of a bitch that is repulsed by porn. Frankly, I knew girls like this and it made me stop going to church. As a 30+ year-old man that hangs around 25+ year-old women, I don’t know of any that are this repulsed by some filmed sex acts.

That being said, I found Johansson’s character to be somewhat unbelievable, especially considering her overtly sensual and sultry nature in the film. To put it simply, she was ready and willing to put out and put out a lot after the first fifteen minutes of the film. Her reaction to catching her boyfriend rubbing one out to porn was hilarious… in a bad way.

Weirdly, after finding Johansson’s character to be poorly written with insane motivations, I did find Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role to be pretty awesome. He owned the part and did a fantastic job. I guess this is what can happen when you write your own material. He really hit the mark though and the fact that he was also directing this film, didn’t seem to hinder his performance.

The other bright spot of the film was Tony Danza as Joseph Godon-Levitt’s dad. Dude was brilliant and I loved seeing him back on the screen because he’s still got it. Glenne Headly as his mother was also pretty awesome. I’ve loved her ever since Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Getting to the story, it was fairly bland overall and I found it mostly uninteresting. I really didn’t care about Johansson’s character and obtaining and keeping her was the primary plot device of the film. She was a bitch, unreasonable and a controlling douche. Joseph Gordon-Levitt needed to snap out of her spell after her first bullshit meltdown. And that’s my main problem with the film. But, then again, some guys can’t save themselves.

This isn’t a bad movie, I enjoyed it for the most part but I wasn’t as invested in it as I had hoped. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s body of work and was excited to see how he did as a director. In that role, I feel that he succeeded overall. As a writer, well… I’m going to wait and see what he does next.