Friday, February 21, 2014

Crime Shows, Part 1: A Sort of, Kind of Overview, Sherlock v Elementary...or Something

For a while now, I've been trying to figure out which show was better, or rather if I liked BBC's Sherlock better than CBS's Elementary or vice versa. Although it seems like an easy comparison to make, both are modern updates of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, I've spent more than a year and a half trying to decide between. Now, I tend to mull over decisions sometimes, but that's way too long.

It was only after reading an article from A.V. Club, my favorite place for online pop culture discussions, that I figured out what the stumbling block was: the two shows are completely different genres. Yes, they are both crime-solving shows, but Elementary is more of a police procedural and Sherlock is a classic British mystery drama. This difference creates all sorts of unequal factors that complicate comparisons, not the least of which is the format of episodes, length and frequencies of seasons, types of crimes and the way they are solved, and general expectations. The cliché to use here is like comparing apples to oranges. This article says it's like comparing a good heavyweight fighter with a good middleweight fighter. I say it's like comparing a Picasso to a Monet, or any other masterpiece artwork to another. Both of the linked articles claim Elementary is better, but I can't come to such a conclusion.

While there are objective ways to proclaim that either is a good show, there is no objective way to compare such differing styles/genres/formats. And since it seems like the majority of audiences like either or both shows, like in the art world, anything more said comes down to  a matter of taste. It may sound diplomatic or dithering to say this but....I like both shows equally. They are both great shows, they both do interesting things with a modern Sherlock, they both do interesting things with a modern Watson, they both do interesting things with a modern Moriarty, and they both have fun quirky things to love or, in other words, draw a passionate fan base (ie fangirls and fanboys).

I would venture that if you prefer one show to the other, you prefer that type of show more. Police procedural's are very popular in America. There are loads and loads of them, both the straight-forward follow the cops types (Law & Order, NYPD Blue, Homicide: Life on the Streets, Hawaii 5-0, CSI) and the quirky civilian consultant types (The Mentalist, Psych, Monk, Numbers, Elementary, Castle). But there aren't many American equivalents to the British mystery drama series, a show that usually involves a so-called amateur detective and can sometimes be called a cozy or manor house mystery. In fact, I can only think of one American T.V. show: Murder, She Wrote.

But there are many British series in this vein: Sherlock, Poirot, Marple, Miss Fischer's MurderMysteries (technically Australian), Cadfael, Mrs. Bradley Mysteries, and so on. Many of these series are based off of literary characters, so you could say that Americans don't have the same kind of literary tradition, in terms of the amateur detective line but that's not true. Not only are there scads of amateur detective novels, usually with a niche theme (my favorite being the Goldy Bear/Schulz catering series by Diane Mott Davidson) but also there is the noir P. I. genre, a wholly American institution, and the last television P. I. we had has Magnum.

I would love to go on about the differences in the two genres, and maybe I will in another post, but for now, let's just say it's easy to like one and not the other. Even the difference in American and British procedurals is enough to keep fans of one from like the other, but still I'll leave that for another post. Anyway, I like both (or all 4) genres, I'm a huge crime-solving fan, so both Sherlock and Elementary appeal to my tastes. And no matter how I look at it, I can't see a legitmate claim that one is better than the other, just that certain viewers prefer one to the other for a myriad of tastes, and perhaps cultural reasons.

So, this is the point in the post where I wonder, is there a point to this? Why am I writing this? A problem I have often and recently mentioned here. It seems like all this post does is set up other posts, like the difference in crime shows or further comparing the two Sherlocks. At it's basis I'm saying I like both shows equally, though I'm not sure that's worth announcing, and that they are both good shows but one can't be better than the other because they are so different, also for whatever that's worth. This post has been in draft for a day and a half and I've got no more of a conclusion than that. And yet some how I feel it needs to be said, that it's important to be said, or at least important in spheres where this type of discussion matters, or perhaps only to me. . .so, let's just say this Part 1 of a series of post about . . . crime shows. An overview or an introduction. Or a tentative hypothesis with further and more in-depth analysis to follow. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lockout (2012)

Okay folks are you ready for some reviews?! Sorry for being away for so long. For the longest time I've been unable to think of anything worth saying for awhile. Also, I was struggling with writing a novel. I am writing another novel, it's going much better now, and I seem to have loads of time to do other things. Like write a review for a movie I've seen twice now.

Oh wait, one thing, I am playing with how I am doing ratings now. I have decided that five stars isn't good enough. See, I'm going to give Lockout 8.5 stars out of 10 (?spoiler alert?) but with a five star system it would get 4.25 stars, which makes the movie seem a lot better than it is. Yeah, it doesn't take much math for you readers to do this (just multiply by two) but it does take math and nobody wants that. So I will just do it for you. You're welcome.

Lockout (2012)
Stars: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, and others

This space prison movie takes place in a future where we send our worst criminals to a prison private prison in space to be put to some kind of cryogenic sleep stasis thing, which makes me wonder if Lockout could also be a prequel to Jason X (or Jason in Space). Anyway, Maggie Grace plays the newly elected (or re-elected?) U.S. president's daughter on a fact-finding mission to the prison, MS1. Apparently, there are rumors of the frozen sleep stasis thing causing insanity and death and she just has to find out because that kind of thing is wrong. :/

It's nice to see Maggie Grace, famous for being the daughter in the Taken films, being kind of blonde and also not taken. **Spolier alert: both of those things change pretty quickly** In fact, within moments of being on the space prison, Maggie Grace is taken hostage by a genuinely scary psychopathic Irish (or Scottish or Welsh) rapist, who simultaneously sets all the other violent sleeping criminals free and locks out all command functions (I think).

Enter Guy Pearce, aka Snow. Actually, Snow has been in all along but he just wasn't that interesting. In fact, all of the exposition and set-up to the whole prison lockout wasn't that interesting. Anyway, Snow is an-ex SUPER SOLDIER/SPY/COP/whatever who is under arrest/interrogation for a crime he didn't commit. Unfortunately, the only evidence of his innocence is in a briefcase hidden by a friend who is currently in space prison. OMG! :/

Ok, so Snow gets the save the president's daughter and find out where his friend hid the briefcase all the while running/fighting a prison full of waking medical experiments/violent Irish/Scottish/Welsh psychopaths.

After the opening setup, the movie is a really fun. The dialogue is quick, the bad guys are terrifying yet almost sympathetic, and the action is exciting.

My biggest complaint is sort of logic based. It just doesn't seem believable for this prison, which is clearly packed full of the worst of Earth's criminals, to be taken over by a single bad guy with a small handgun. Along with the monster packing prison in Cabin in the Woods (review coming soon!), this has got to be the worst prison run ever.

How is it possible for ONE GUY to commandeer the entire prison AND set all the prisoners free? Yes, he points a gun at a worker and tells him to do it but . . . why should that guy be able to do that?  I have worked at retail stores where regular associates can't even do returns, you need a key-holder or manager because the company, who does background checks, reference checks, and drug testing on employees, don't trust anyone else to protect the couple hundred dollars in the cash register or to do returns honestly. Yet, this one worker wearing a lab coat has enough security clearance/computer access to release the ENTIRE dangerously violent and possibly insane contents of the space prison.

There are a couple of other question I have about the logistics of how this prison is apparently run but this is the biggest one. I mean, seriously?! One guy with a gun may be able to get himself out of a prison with a hostage, especially the first daughter, but get ALL the prisoners released? Just doesn't seem probably, even in space.

Oh and a few of the accents suck. You'll notice them when you hear them.

Anyway, I give Lockout 8.5 stars out of 10. I highly recommend this movie.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Goals

Pleas ignore any weirdness that was going on with this page earlier. The weirdness has been escorted from the premises and a restraining order has been . . . ordered.

. . .

I am sorry for the above weirdness. The people responsible for that weirdness have been fired and new people are now responsible for the rest of this content. People with llamas.

*Ahem*

I wrote a goal post (I'm still laughing about this). Please visit my RANDOM PUHNK blog to see the post. I mean, if you're interested in my 2013 (and beyond goals). You are interested, right? RIGHT?!?

Well those goals will have a direct affect on this blog's content so I would be more interested if I were you. If you know what's good for you.

. . .

I was going to make another Monty Python reference joke but I think the joke (and its llamas) have landed so I'm just going to sign off. More stuffs soon and Happy New Years 2013!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

3-4-1 Holiday Jollies


Continuing on my last post's theme (Christmas is about Families and Families Suck) this '3-4-1' Christmas Special also focuses on family; however, these film families aren't as horrible as those others and even Death can't stand in the way of Christmas.

Snowglobe -- (2007)

Snowglobe is another ABC Family movie. Seriously, ABC Family can't stay away from Christmas or Netflix.  Christian Milian apparently loves Christmas too but I'll get to Christmas Cupid later. Anyway, Snowglobe is a movie about this chick who wants the perfect Christmas. You know, the whole Norman Rockwell, white Christmas, simple family holiday? However, she lives in NYC where the snow fall becomes gray slush on the city streets and her loud, mostly Italian family has lasagna on Christmas Eve instead of turkey. But this year she gets a magical snowglobe that transports her to the perfect Christmas village inside the orb (I got tired of saying snowglobe). She starts splitting her time between NYC and the perfect Christmas that she loves, until one day one or two of the perfect villagers cross over to her world and hilarity ensues. Eventually she learns her lesson (there's no place like home, amirght?) and the world is made right. Also, there is a romance subplot. All in all, for an ABC Family Movie featuring a one-hit (or was it two hits?) singer, it's actually a pretty decent holiday movie. I've watched it the past two or three Christmases, which is more than I can say for Snow. 4 out of 5 stars.


Santa Baby -- (2006)

Santa Baby stars Jenny McCarthy as Santa Claus' daughter. In this flick, Santa Claus is kind of an asshole. If Jenny McCarthy had hired a fake fiance this movie would fit perfectly with my 'Families Suck' post. Anyway, Santa Claus has a heart attack and Mary (Jenny McCarthy) has to come home to save Christmas. But Santa Claus doesn't like his daughter's ideas, in fact, he has never liked them, which is why she isn't involved in the family business in the first place. Mary changes things, and there is some corporate espionage,  and naturally a romantic subplot. Honestly, I can't remember all the details because I got tired of Santa Claus being kind of misogynistic and discouraging to his own daughter. I think Mary almost ruined Christmas but then saved it . . . and Santa apologized . . . maybe? Oh and the title Santa Baby barely has any connection to the story beyond the father/daughter thing. She was a baby once, Santa's baby, get it?! Or I think at least that's what it's suppose to mean... So for almost remembering the movie in the first place, I give it almost 3 stars out of 5.


One Magic Christmas -- (1985)

One Magic Christmas might be the most deceptively named and most depressing Christmas movie ever made. If you get tricked by the sweet movie poster/video cover, you can't say I didn't warn you.

These are all lies filled with death
This movie starts off simply enough, God (or Santa Claus?) tells a Christmas angel, played by Harry Dean Stanton, that a woman named Ginny never says "Merry Christmas" and I guess this is bad. Then we get introduced to Ginny, played by Mary Steenburgen, and her family. Yup, she is a pretty cranky Christmas hating lady, you know for sure when she almost tells her daughter that Santa doesn't exist. Then we get the details of Ginny's life. You see her miserable job at the grocery store, you see the evil corporation that is taking away her family's home, and you see what a hopeless dreamer her husband.

Oh and you get to see her husband killed and her children kidnapped and nearly killed. And by nearly killed I mean we see them in the back of a car that crashes into a frozen lake and they only survive because of the Christmas angel. But the husband/dad is still dead. That is until the little girl, played by Elisabeth Harnois (CSI) gets the Christmas angel to take her to someone who can help, God . . . I mean, Santa Claus, that's right, only Santa Claus can help. Oh wait, did I say Santa Claus? I meant Ginny's belief in Santa Claus. Once Ginny finally believes in Santa Claus and mails her daughter's letter to Santa, her husband comes back to life and she gets to live Christmas Eve over again only without all the awful, awful events she previously experienced. And yes, in the end Ginny says Merry Christmas, though I'm sure there had to be a better way to get the same result.

If you don't mind your heart being ripped out during the holiday season, One Magic Christmas is actually a Disney movie, not a no name production, with big name actors and a decent production value, there are even some cute family moments early on before the tragedy; it's not my cup of tea but I would still give it 4 out of 5 stars.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Movie Morals: Christmas is About Family and Families Suck


Probably the quickest and cheapest way to gain Christmas spirit is by watching Christmas movies. On television, whatever spirit gained can equally be ruined by the onslaught of holiday commercials shouting "BUY! BUY! BUY!". But made for TV movies are definitely the most numerous type of holiday movies around. Luckily, Netflix is where Made for TV movies go to die; so, you can enjoy the cheesy holiday flicks without the obnoxious commercials. Or you can let me do it for you and read all about the results in a series of blogs that I'm calling Christmas Movie Morals.

Today's teaching moment comes from Holiday in Handcuffs.
Source 
ABC Family is the motherlode for Holiday movies and made for TV movies in general. The films are generally have a decent production value and feature one or two big names from the pop star or has-been teen star arena.

Holiday in Handcuffs stars Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains it All, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch) and Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell) in a plot that is pretty stereotypical for holiday movies: Girl is going home for holidays and is nervous about impressing her parents and/or dealing with her family but it's ok because her boyfriend/fiance/husband is coming and he'll make everything okay, except he dumps her just before they leave, now she has to scramble fora replacement/faux boyfriend to trick her parents into loving her, and no matter the circumstances faux boyfriend and girl fall in love. Got that?

Here's how it plays out in Holiday in Handcuffs. Melissa Joan Hart is a struggling artist working as a waitress who, in one, day blows an interview her father set-up for her, loses her jerky boyfriend, and messes up her home perm all just before her family Christmas. After getting pushed around at work at the end of this terrible  no-good, very bad day, she decides to use her bosses antique gun to kidnap the nearest well-to-do good looking man, Mario Lopez. And through a series of contrivances, Mario can't escape the cabin populated with Melissa Joan Hart's horrible, horrible family.

Again the dysfunctional family is a huge trope for holiday films but I would like to call out Holiday in Handcuffs because her family, her parents in particular, are purposely horrible for some reason. The most brilliant example of this is on Christmas evening, because they exchange gifts at 4pm, they give Melissa a pink sweater, the same gift her mother gives her every year despite her protests, and a brief case followed by a lecture about how she needs a real job and they aren't interested in looking at her artwork.

First of all, they knew she blew the interview, they knew she didn't get the job, so why did they still give her the briefcase and rub it in her face? All the parents had to do was take the present out from under the tree and save it for another time but I guess these people were going for Awful Parents of the Year or something.

Secondly, it's one thing to think being an artist is not a good or 'real' career path, it's another thing to refuse to look at what your daughter is sketching and painting. They consistently tell her she will never make it as an artist while refusing to even looking at her work. It's like the screenwriters come from a pretty happy family and just guessed at what a slightly dysfunctional family situation would look like, misjudged, and landed on straight up emotional abuse.

It's made apparent that this is the normal for the family because all three of their children are hiding something from the parents (homosexuality, yoga or something) and are afraid to tell them. Even the parents are, in fact, hiding secrets from each other. So, it makes me wonder, why did any of the children show up? They were all already lying about something, wouldn't it have just been easier to make up a lie about why you couldn't make it. The Christmas gathering didn't take place at their family home but at a cabin rented for the first time. These are all grown people, why would you want to go back to this shitty family situation? Who shows up and says "It's Christmas, please say horrible things to me repeatedly, thank you!"

Of course, because it is Christmas, everything ends up being okay. Melissa Joan Hart gets her work exhibited, her parents get therapy, and, oh yeah, Mario Lopez leaves his equally awful fiance and gets with Melissa. YEah did I mention that the guy who was kidnapped at gun point, tied up, shot at, and held against his will by people, from his point of view, were completely insane, falls in love with his captor and wants to marry her. The movie should be called Holiday Stockholm Syndrome.

Movies with Similar Themes/Plot Points

Holiday Engagement: In this version the main character loses her job and fiance and so hires an actor to pretend to be the fiance. The family is less awful but still pretty dysfunctional, all the children still hide major life things from their parents, and the still disapprove of the main characters profession, this time a journalist. At some point the real fiance shows up and apologizes as well as wreck the original facade. Guess what happens in the end? Did you say everything is okay and the actor and main character get together? Then you are right.

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas: This one has a twist. The main character gets promoted just before the holidays and has a full workload when her flighty mother blows in to town and starts messing up her life. Some how the daughter and the mother are disapproving of each other, though the mother throws around her judgement with charm. To get her mom out of her apartment she hires a guy to take her out/seduce her which is kind of creepy. Once again, in the end, everyone is happy, she is now dating the man she hired to her mom, excels at her food critic job, and mother and daughter have a better understanding of each other.

Monday, October 15, 2012

3-4-1 Halloween Scares

Welcome to the first post for the newest phunkypuhnk blog about movies, music, celebrities, and news. Or rather my reviews and opinions about those things, cause I'm not an industry insider or anything,just a regular joe who can't stop thinking. I will give a real -About Me- post later but here's a taste of what's to come as I discuss three of the movies I watched this weekend.

I love horror movies all year round but at Halloween there is great number to chose from for viewing pleasure whether it be from the Netflix library, SyFy's 31 Days of Halloween, AMC's FrightFest, or even new releases in theater. However, horror is the one genre fully loaded with amateur  low-budget crap. There seems to be more direct-to-video releases than there are studio based scares. And I'm not such a fan of anything to watch horrible acting and bad bloody effects for 2-hours to see some lame twist ending that I'm sure the film makers thought were genius and totally original, man.

At the same time, it's almost impossible to define what makes a good horror movie. Some of my favorites are just so bad that they're good and other ones are just gory torture porn, though over all I'm not such a fan of that type of thing. So, with all that vague critic of the genre out of the way, here are three films, spanning various horror sub-genres, that I recommend.

Night of the Demons -- (1988) & (2009)

Night of the Demons, both versions, tells the story of a bunch of teens/young adults having a Halloween party in haunted house. Throughout the night they are one-by-one-possessed by demons chasing down whoever's left. Anyone who wants to live has gotta live til dawn.

The original film is definitely a cheesy low-rent fun as hell horror flick and totally 80's. Of the two versions this is my best friend's favorite but she'd also been familiar with it for most of her life, where I only saw it a few years ago. While I enjoy watching the film for a laugh, a few what-the-fucks, and some slight unnerving, I ultimately have a problem with the racist characterization of the one black guy.   I have no problem with the generally accepted caveat that the black character will usually die first, or a at the very least not until the end of the movie. However, this guy goes from a somewhat normal, albeit terrified, guy and then when shit gets real bad he seems to revert to slave talk and downright cowardice ("My daddy teach me to pray real good" and abandoning the female main character, Judy). I don't think it's an NAACP matter, but it urks me and does stand out when I'm trying to enjoy it.

The remake is a definite upgrade in both quality, acting, and story-telling, though it oddly has an all white cast, so racism by subtraction? I don't know, but white-washing aside, the remake infuses a lot more plot and sub-plot into the same basic story-line and way more gore and horror. For remarkable star-power, it features Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Keena, and Eddie Furlong.

Night of the Demons (2009) is available on Netflix. Night of theDemons (1988) is available to view online at imdb.com. I give both movies 4 out of 5 stars but recommend the 2009 remake more strongly.

Slugs (1988)

Slugs is so awful. It is a creature feature basically and I don't even know why they keep making movies like this. Are people actually afraid large animals, fish-men, or relatively harmless bugs? And quite frankly, none of them are any good. Has anyone seen a creature feature that was actually scary? They are always ridiculous by nature because they have to explain why the creatures are doing what they do, which is always bullshit science, and they always have laughably bad creature effects.

While never scary, creature features are alway a laugh riot. Slugs is just as hilarious as the rest of them. It doesn't stand out though. You could watch Slugs or Squirm or Giant Spider Invasion or Swamp Thing or that Buffy episode with the giant praying mantis lady. You can watch it on Netflix and I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars but if you want stand out creature feature about slimy things Leeches (if you can find it) is where it's at.

White (2011)

White is Korean Horror movie about a girl pop group, Pink Dolls,  trying to make it big through a maze American Idol like contests. They are failing pretty spectacularly at this until they move to a new studio and find an old music video of another girl group performing a song called "White". Since nobody can figure out who owns the song or if anyone's performed it previously, the managers behind the group  steal the song and dance and Pink Dolls become an overnight sensation. Tensions within the group build as they compete to become the face/main singer of the group but when a girl is chosen she is quickly the victim of a horrible accident and can no longer perform. Are they just malicious pranks or is "White" a cursed song?

Although the details of the plot can be a little confusing since it centers around a very Korean specific industry, this is a very decent Asian Horror Film. And despite some of the confusion, I still found it easier to follow and more straight-forward than The Grudge, Dark Waters, The Eye, Shutter, or Tale of Two Sisters. Most of the time I was just enjoying the film but I really did get scared at the final reveal. It has subtitles, but I don't mind that at all; however, everyone of those movies above were remade into English, mostly to their detriment, so I guess you could wait around for the English language version to be released.

Overall, this is a movie I would be willing to own and was happily surprised by this Netflix find, I give it a 5 out of 5.

Final Word

These reviews are quick and dirty and written for movies you can watch on Netflix. I plan on doing ones that are longer and more in-depth but also short ones like these. I watch a large amounts of horror and action, some comedy, and very few romantic comedies or dramas. Most of the time I don't have favorable things to say. The star system goes like this 4 or 5 out of 5 stars are obviously very good and worth watching, 3 stars is mediocre but not a waste of time, 2 stars is a waste of time, 1 star means that it's vile and will give you brain damage, and I'm not afraid to give zero stars for something that gives me brain damage and makes me want to throw up and I probably didn't finish, and if I did finish I'm prob about to go on stabbing spree and will say 'Fuck' a lot.

Happy Watching!