Aisle Of The Damned Episode XIV: Strawberry Fields – God Rest Her Soul

After a long time away our fantastic fourteenth episode is here! Its super-sized with plenty of Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews! We start with covering the news of Lucasfilm being sold to Disney and Episode VII happening. We review Dial M For Murder, They Live, The Great Mouse Detective, Pocahontas, The Nightmare On Elm Street Collection, Tremors and The Avengers on Blu-Ray. We then review current movies in theaters Dredd, Wreck-It Ralph, and Skyfall! KEEN!

Music: The Aquabats – Stuck In A Movie, Blue Stingrays – Goldfinger (Cover)

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Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Goon

No relation to Eric Powell

Hockey movies are not exactly prevalent as far as the sports genre is concerned. Of the slightly more than half dozen I can think of, more than half are Disney movies and three quarters of those are from the Mighty Ducks franchise.

Arguably the most beloved of the films is Slap Shot, starring Paul Newman. The tale of a minor league hockey team trying to keep from being shut down. (It was more or less remade as Major League a few seasons down the road.) Goon, which comes to DVD and blu ray after a brief and limited theatrical run is absolutely a spiritual successor of Slap Shot, minus the overwhelming use of gay slurs. It manages to hew close to the tride and true formula of classics sports films, while being something new. There are no bad guys and the stakes aren’t huge (there’s no championship on the line, but rather simply a trip to the playoffs); it’s mostly a character piece built around the guy that is usually nutty comic relief. (Or, in the case of Slap Shot, three guys that provide nutty comic relief.)

It’s odd to write this, but Goon is possibly the best role Seann William Scott will ever play. While I’ve liked his performances in the past for what they were, he manages to bring far more to the table in playing Doug “The Thug” Glatt than all of his other films combined. Glatt is a simple guy, in more ways than one. He works as a bouncer and he knows he’s not that bright. But he can take and give out punishment like few men can. In addition, he’s a stand-up guy that can’t stand to know that he’s wronged someone. When he is signed up by a local hockey team thanks to a fight in the stands of a game he attends, he begins fighting for his team, not because he enjoys the carnage, but because it’s a job and he’s good at it. He can take pride in it. The way Scott manages to have an undercurrent of sadness in the film instead of just being “Stiffler on ice” results in a performance that may not win him any Oscars, but will certainly gain him fans.

The truly special part of the script by regular Apatow cronies Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg is that instead of a snarling cartoon villain, Glatt’s season builds to a confrontation with Liev Schreiber’s Ross “The Boss” Rhea, a veteran enforcer, knocked down to the minors. Schreiber and the script may not portray Rhea as a hero, but they show him as a professional and when the two face off, it is not a case of good versus evil or a personal grudge match. It is because it simply must happen. And when it does, it is bloody and painful.

Add in Scott Pilgrim’s Allison Pill as Doug’s love interest and Eugene Levy as Doug’s adoptive father and the cast is perfect for a light (but not too light) comedy that will give you the fix you need when it comes to these kinds of films. I almost feel just a tiny bit too generous in my scoring, but the movie is so darn likable that I can’t help myself.

(Three and a half out of five stars)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Dredd

Dredd will not stand for this graffiti.

Dredd is the best John Carpenter movie in the last twenty-plus years.

The only problem with that statement is the fact that Dredd is directed by a fellow by the name of Pete Travis. However, if the film isn’t deeply inspired to its core by films such as Escape from New York and Assault on Precinct 13, I am the proverbial monkey’s uncle. It perfectly captures that kind of post-apocalyptic thrill ride zeitgeist that Carpenter brought to just-this-side-of-respectable exploitation fare from the late 70s up through the 80s.

The story centers around Star Trek and Lord of the Rings’ Karl Urban as the eponymous Judge Dredd, taking out a new recruit (Olivia Thrilby) into the 800 million sized Mega City One (taking up nigh the entire eastern seaboard of the former U.S.) for a trial run. While out investigating a multiple homicide, the Judges stumble upon a large-scale drug operation run by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). She decides to trap the judges in her 200-floor slum-as-building, proceeding to hunt them down and protect her fledgling empire.

The uberviolent romp that follows is Die Hard in the ghetto. The destitute folks within the ironically named “Peach Tree” building hide in their homes, driven more by fear of the powerful drug lord than for their duty as citizens to help law enforcement. Yet many of them still can’t escape the crossfire as Ma-Ma gives unique meaning to the term “overkill.” What could inspire this amount of carnage and bloodshed?

The narcotic in question, Slo-Mo, makes its user feel like the world is moving at a fraction of its actual speed, leading to some neat 3D effects that seem halfway out of a hallucinogenic National Geographic documentary. Considering the darkness of the film, the 3D works surprisingly well altogether and is in the same league as Prometheus in the use of the extra dimension. Assuming you’re okay with the fact that it is being used for some pretty gory effects, because the film does not shy away from showing the insides of people being moved to the outside.

The biggest and most pleasant surprise (aside from the fact that it’s quite good, following the stinkfest that was the previous attempt to film the character) is Olivia Thrilby’s vulnerable, yet no nonsense and somewhat badass portrayal of Judge Anderson, a young woman imbued with psychic powers, having the ultimate worst first day on the job. Known almost exclusively for her role as Juno’s best friend and a few secondary roles in romantic comedies, the performances could not be more different. Hopefully it will lead to some more featured roles, because she kills it. (Literally and figuratively.)

Urban, meanwhile, gives an absolutely fantastic and egoless performance as he Boba Fett’s his way through the film, never removing his helmet. He is a pinnacle of black and white moral authority, cracking off verbal tweaks and repeating his mantras about the law.

All in all, Dredd is an absolute blast, completely eradicating the bad taste from pop culture’s mouth. If there is any real justice, Dredd will become a cult hit, playing for years on cable, midnight screenings and home ‘video.’

(Three and a half stars out of Five)

 

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Wreck-It Ralph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the original run of films through Walt Disney’s life from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves through 101 Dalmations or so was the company’s golden age and the silver age was the late 80s (most would say beginning with The Little Mermaid or Who Framed Roger Rabbit, though I would argue The Great Mouse Detective was the first big sign of progress) and running through around Lilo and Stitch, then one would have to say the Mouse House is entering their bronze age.

Beginning with the deeply flawed but sometimes brilliant Meet the Robinsons (a movie that cried out desperately to be traditionally animated in a flat, stylized UPA manner) and continuing through films like Princess and the Frog and Bolt, John Lasseter’s term in charge of the Disney Animation department has seen a steady uptick in the quality of it’s films over time, culminating in the release of Tangled, a film that somehow managed to capture the magic of the oldest of old school fairy-tale Diz, while managing to somehow be modern without ever crossing over into the snarky pop culture tripe that Shrek kept mining until the vein petered out (sadly, long before the series was over.)

Wreck-It Ralph may not surpass Tangled, but it is in every way its equal while also being completely different. There are definitely a lot more pop culture gags here, nearly all of them video game related, but they are so fluidly integrated into the story that it never feels out of place. The director here is a Futurama alum, and the feeling and pace of the jokes really reflects that. The current generation of parents will get the jokes about Ralph taking the cherries from a game of Pac-man. The kids will find it funny for different reasons. The only real worry is whether kids today, practically born with a console controller in their hands, will understand just what an arcade is. (If the film causes a resurgence in them, it can only be a good thing.)

The story, in a nutshell, is that Ralph is the baddy in a classic arcade game, Fix-It Felix, Jr. Over 30 years, he has become dissatisfied with his lot in life, with the other characters in the game treating him like he really is a bad guy when he’s just doing his job. Thinking that if he can prove himself to be more than an engine of destruction he will be more accepted, he begins hopping to other games in the arcade, looking for a medal to prove his valor.

At a glance it would seem like Wreck-It Ralph, with its look into the “secret life of video games” is more of a traditional Pixar film than a Disney film and that description would not be inaccurate.

For one thing, it is a film that feels like 3D computer animation is truly the best medium for it, and it’s not just because it has become the industry standard thanks to the declining fortunes of the more mediocre hand-drawn films of recent years. It makes absolute sense that a movie filled with computer generated characters would be generated by a computer.

Another positive about the film is, despite a lack of straight up voice actors in the cast, this isn’t a film cast with “stars” to cash in on a name. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman obviously aren’t slouches, but one could hardly call them box-office draws. Instead they seem to have grabbed people with fantastic voices, perfect for the parts they are playing. Reilly puts layers of fed-up subtext into his performance, while 30 Rock’s Jack McBreyer is so spot-on as the voice of Felix that one would hardly know who else could possibly fill the part. Throw in Alan Tudyk doing what is an oddly original version of what could easily slip into being merely an impression of Ed Wynn’s classic Mad Hatter from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland in his role as King Candy from a sweets-based racing game, and you end up with a cast of character actors that creates the feeling of the era when Disney used to cast strong radio personalities. (One of the reasons their early films have endured, in my humble opinion.)

All this would be moot if the story were awful, but it’s big, bold and emotional. The only downside of the film is that it could absolutely be described as predictable and a bit paint-by-numbers as well, but most folks should be having such a good time watching it unfold, that only the worst cynics should whine about it.

With Wreck-It Ralph, Disney can put another feather in its cap. If they continue to put out entertainment on this scale, they may find themselves considered the equal of their stablemates Pixar again.

(Four out of five stars)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Skyfall

Skyfall is in some ways a better version of The Dark Knight Rises (itself a fine enough film.) Both are about an inescapable pop culture figure going through a kind of death and resurrection as the films (if not themselves as characters) ask if they are still relevant not just to the fictional universes that they occupy, but to the world at large. Both involve an almost cathartic destruction of the remnants of the most important pieces of their personal histories. Both make huge leaps to bring in classic elements of their mythology in some instances.

In the case of Bond, the reboot of the series seems complete by the end of Skyfall. While it is only moderately connected plot-wise to the previous two films in the Craig cycle (there’s nary of mention of the shadowy Quantum), it has much in common with emotional through lines previously established as Bond brings a character arc full circle. One hopes that he will continue to grow and change as the films proceed, rather than have it sink into an episodic mess like the old series. It could easily fall into the trap as many of the classic parts of the mythology are reintroduced to the new generation. Most notable is probably the addition of a new Q, in this case much younger and less world weary than the late Desmond Llewelyn, but equally as fastidious. Judi Dench, the last real link to the old Bond films, returns and with a much larger role than the previous two. Ralph Fiennes joins the cast as the new government oversight figure in charge of MI6 and manages to be as excellent as he always is. Javier Bardeem is arguably given little to work with as the main villain of the piece (his backstory is practically a passing moment of wispy exposition) but he manages to put enough character spin in his delivery to establish himself as not just a classic villain in the series, but as the kind of crazed rogue that occupies the same weird-space as Jaws or Blofeld. A far cry from the more toned-down baddies from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace (which were actually kind of appreciated in a way.)

In a lot of ways, this film feels like it’s trying to be all things to all Bonds. As it is being released on the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, it works in a lot of references, both literal and tonal, to the previous eras of the series. The villain feels like an old school villain. The character arc feels naturally evolved from the Fleming novels, with a shadow boiling under the surface (a far cry from the suave agent usually presented.) And, as with Bond pantheon at large, the weakest spot in the movie is a Roger Moore-ish set piece involving kimodo dragons with a cheesy line to wrap it up. But the callbacks hit much more than they miss and to ruin many of them would be to ruin the fun for the enthusiast. That it succeeds in managing to mash up so many years and interpretations is nearly a miracle unto itself.

Actually, one could make the case that as the third film since the reset button was pushed, there are a lot of parallels one could make between it and the third Connery film, Goldfinger. Goldfinger was the film where everything about what a Bond film would mean for the rest of the Connery years began to fall into place (though I would argue it was never surpassed.) Where Skyfall leaves us with the feeling it is setting up the new continuity in a similar way; that this will be the new norm and with its success, the rest will follow its example.

Skyfall is the best Daniel Craig Bond film. It is not a stretch to say that Skyfall is definitely the best Bond since Goldeneye. It may even be the best Bond has been since the sixties.

(Four out of five stars)