Author Archives: Rene Alvarado

Director Spotlight: Alien 3

“You’ve been in my life so long, I don’t know anything else.”

This month’s Director’s Spotlight takes a look at David Fincher. We are starting this off with a movie that has been overlooked by a lot of people, myself included, Alien 3. I am going to be talking about some things from Alien 3 that are definitely spoilers for people who haven’t seen it. This movie tends to get a lot of flack for being the third in the franchise and for what it did to certain characters from the blockbuster hit sequel Aliens. You have been warned.

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Carnage

Sometimes, I’ll watch a movie and read the reviews that critics have given it, then think I watched a different movie. Carnage is like that. I didn’t think anything could beat Your Highness for the worst movie of 2011 until I saw this. I’m sure on paper this movie sounded like a good idea. You have a talented director who has made excellent movies before. You literally have a cast of nothing but talented actors and actresses. How can you have Roman Polanski directing Chris Waltz, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Kate Winslet yet, the best you can up with is the most boring movie I have seen all year?

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

During one of our mini-episodes of the Devil’s Advocates podcast, I was complaining about how filmmakers now have such great technology at their disposal and make horrible movies with all of that technology. In the last five years, we have been inundated with movies like Avatar, The Last Airbender, Clash of the Titans and a whole lot of other horrible movies that were just excuses to show off special-effects. I used the example of Raiders of the Lost Ark to show how a movie could be made thirty years ago with some of the simplest movie making techniques (matte paintings, puppets and miniature sets) and still be better than most of what Hollywood keeps putting into the movie theaters now.

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Genre Spotlight (Secret Santa): Birdemic: Shock and Terror

I have seen a lot of movies. I like “bad” movies. One of my favorite movies of all time is Half-Baked. I can appreciate a B movie. Then, I watch something like Birdemic and my faith in humanity is tested to its limits. Birdemic has to be the worst movie I have ever seen on purpose. Coming from me, that speaks volumes. This makes Avatar look like Hamlet.

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The Descendants

I’m going to admit to something that has rarely happened to me in the movie theaters. I was almost brought to tears by The Descendants. I had to walk out during the showing for a few seconds to compose myself. It came out of nowhere for me. One second, I’m laughing at something and in the next scene I was so moved I got choked up. That’s the kind of movie The Descendants is. It’s a movie about life and the surprises that can change everything in an instant.

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Immortals (Devil’s Advocates Review)

Immortals is a remake of Clash Of The Titans set in Mickey Rourke’s 1980’s Los Angeles apartment that….Wait. It’s not a remake? Really!?!? I have to start this review over.

Immortals is the sequel to the mostly forgettable Troy. Like Troy, this movie….What?!?! Again?!? It’s not a sequel to Troy? But, it’s got…And….It’s….I am so confused now. Please, forgive this reviewer as I try this again.

Right! I think I’ve got it now.

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Actor’s Spotlight: Schindler’s List

“I’m trying to thank you. I’m saying I couldn’t have done this without you.”

I’m going to start this by stating the obvious. That Schindler’s List is an amazing movie. Loosely based on real events and inspired by the novel, Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, it’s quite possibly Steven Spielberg’s best movie. It’s a harrowing, at some points disturbing, look at the horrors of the Holocaust. It’s a movie that I think should be shown in every single high school and college history class as a reminder of the evils of hatred and what happened during World War II. It’s a living monument to both those that died during the Holocaust and the survivors. The movie co-stars Ben Kingsley in the pivotal and memorable role of Itzhak Stern, a Jewish accountant hired by Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) to help run his factory in the Jewish ghetto of Krakow, Poland. Schindler arrives in Poland during the German occupation and quickly sets up a munitions factory for the Nazis using Jewish slave labor. At first, Schindler is only interested in making a fortune through the necessity’s of war, in essence becoming a war profiteer. After seeing first hand the destruction of Krakow and the slaughter of the Jewish people at the hands of the evil Nazi Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), Schindler decides to try to save his workers and as many Jewish people as he can in a plot to smuggle his workers out of Krakow.

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A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

It’s been a few years since we last saw our two favorite potheads Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn). The last time we saw them, they had just escaped from Guantanamo Bay and crashed a wedding with some help from  George W. Bush. It’s been a few years and the boys have grown up and grown apart. Well, Harold’s grown up and Kumar’s still Kumar. Harold’s moved up in the world, both at work and at home. Meanwhile, Kumar’s still a slacker and a pothead.

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Director Spotlight: Red State

I’ve been a fan of Kevin Smith since Clerks. I saw that movie in my early 20s on VHS and I can remember laughing from start to finish. I have memorized most of the dialogue of Clerks, Mallrats, Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back and Clerks 2 because I’ve seen them so many times. I followed Smith’s career through his successes and failures. Before I really understood how a director made movies, I followed his movies because they were honest, and even in their grossest moments, from the heart. When you watch a Kevin Smith movie you can see that he has poured his heart into almost every scene. With the exception of Jersey Girl, I have seen every Kevin Smith movie released in the theaters. His recent misadventures with Southwest Airlines, the media and Bruce Willis’ ego (Copout) might have brought more attention to his antics away from the director’s chair, but they haven’t diminished his talents as a filmmaker.

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The Thing (2011)

About a year ago, two things (no pun intended) happened that connect me to this month’s The Thing. First, I was at a panel at New York Comic Con where the cast and director of The Thing talked about the movie. They explained how and why the movie wasn’t a remake and how much they respected what John Carpenter had done with his version of the story. Secondly, I reviewed John Carpenter’s The Thing (https://damrb.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/director-spotlight-john-carpenters-the-thing) for our John Carpenter Director’s Spotlight. I’m a big fan of Carpenter’s movie and the story it was originally based on. Carpenter’s The Thing is a remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World, which itself is based on a classic science fiction novella called Who Goes There?. They all basically tell the same story, an alien creature crash lands in the Antarctic and is discovered by scientists. Each version of the story adds it’s own unique vision and The Thing stands in good company.

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Captain America: The First Avenger

Marvel Comics has been on quite a roll with their movies this year (Thor, X-Men: First Class) and Captain America: The First Avenger keeps that streak going. Directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jumanji) and starring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America and the great Hugo Weaving as his arch-villain the Red Skull, Captain America is a great thrill ride of a movie. It’s a comic book movie with the patented silliness that comes with the genre, but the movie is done with such style that you just go along for the ride regardless of how silly everything is.

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Drive

“If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what.”

Every now and then, I am genuinely surprised by a movie. I try to avoid trailers as much as possible now because they tend to show all of the good scenes of a movie. I don’t really read movie reviews too much either for the same reasons. I don’t mind spoilers, but movie reviewers and critics love to give specifics for everything. Which inevitably ends up spoiling something. I might see a movie because of its director or star, but lately I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff at random. Drive is a movie that I knew almost nothing about before seeing it other than the fact that it starred the guy from The Notebook (Ryan Gosling) and looked like a throwback to the car chase movies I had seen as a kid (Bullit, The French Connection). Drive turns out to be the best surprise for me at the movies this year.

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Shaolin

Amitābha”

Shaolin is the latest historical epic to hit the theaters from overseas and it’s another example of how some genres Hollywood can never get right. It’s a good action drama. The closest Hollywood can get to that usually is The ExpendablesShaolin, starring a who’s who of Chinese kung fu and action movies (Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Wu Jing), is a drama with some great action scenes in it. It’s a mess of a movie that redeems itself in the last hour.

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The Troll Hunter DVD

“We need a change in troll management.”

The last few years have brought some great ideas and movies from Europe. The [rec] movies and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Millennium trilogy) are both good examples of this. Now I’d say you can add The Troll Hunter to that list. A mix of horror comedy and mockumentary, The Troll Hunter is a fun horror movie with a great imagination and an even better sense of humor.

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Genre Spotlight: Above The Rim

September is a genre month for our Spotlights and this month’s spotlight is on Sports Movies. I must confess to not being a fan of most traditional sports and even less of a fan of traditional sports movies. I think my favorite sports movie might be The Big Lebowski (bowling). See? Not a traditional sports movie. I find most professional sports in this country boring. There. I said it. I feel so much better. For Sports Month, I decided to do things a little differently and watch a movie that I would never have watched on my own and I am glad I did.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

During one of our mini-episodes of the Devil’s Advocates podcast, I was complaining about how filmmakers now have such great technology at their disposal and make horrible movies with all of that technology. In the last five years, we have been inundated with movies like Avatar, The Last Airbender, Clash of the Titans and a whole lot of other horrible movies that were just excuses to show off special-effects. I used the example of Raiders of the Lost Ark to show how a movie could be made thirty years ago with some of the simplest movie making techniques (matte paintings, puppets and miniature sets) and still be better than most of what Hollywood keeps putting into the movie theaters now.

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Devil’s DVD Disappointment: Your Highness

Every now and then, I am pleasantly surprised at the movies. And, every now and then, I am devastatingly disappointed at the movies. I know I am biased to stoner movies and silly comedies. I really wanted to like this movie. I am a big fan of everyone involved in this. On paper and in the trailers for Your Highness, the movie looked funny and, you know, good. But, once again, Hollywood does the “let’s put the best parts in the trailer” move and they got me. With Your Highness, I was shocked and awed by how awfully terrible this movie is. Your Highness is 2011’s worst movie by a mile.

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Captain America: The First Avenger

Marvel Comics has been on quite a roll with their movies this year (Thor, X-Men: First Class) and Captain America: The First Avenger keeps that streak going. Directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jumanji) and starring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America and the great Hugo Weaving as his arch-villain the Red Skull, Captain America is a great thrill ride of a movie. It’s a comic book movie with the patented silliness that comes with the genre, but the movie is done with such style that you just go along for the ride regardless of how silly everything is.

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The Ward

The Ward is the latest from director John Carpenter, who hasn’t had a movie in theaters since 2001’s Ghosts Of Mars. That movie was awful. It had Ice Cube in it. Ice Cube the rapper. And, still The Ward is worse. Much, much worse. Which I thought was impossible. If 2011 has shown me anything, it’s that when it comes to movies being bad anything is possible.

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: [Rec] 2

Ah, remakes and sequels. Sequels to remakes. Remakes of a sequel. Sometimes it’s really difficult to keep track of all the rehashed nonsense that Hollywood pumps out these days. And, because of that some movies get lost in the shuffle.

The [Rec] movies ([Rec] because everything is being recorded on a video camera and that’s what the viewer sees) are great examples of what I mean. Read the rest of this entry

Director Spotlight: 13 Assassins

13 Assassins is director Takashi Miike’s latest movie from Japan. It’s quite a refreshing movie from him. Miike (Audition, Ichi The Killer) is known for bizarre Japanese movies filled with buckets of gore and blood-spraying stumps. Not this time. I was pleasantly surprised by what has to be, for me at least, the best movie I’ve seen in 2011.

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Director Spotlight: Crows Zero

Welcome to Suzuran High School, the “School Of Crows”. It’s the toughest school in Japan. It’s a high school where junior gangsters beat each other up for bragging rights every day. The different classes and grades all have their factions, personalities and leaders. All hate each other and are constantly at each other’s throats. Today is the first day of school. The new kid in town has a lot to prove. His name is Genji. He’s a first year freshman. Genji is fresh meat for the gangs already at Suzuran. His father was a Yakuza gangster who never made it to the top of Suzuran. Genji’s not his father, though. Genji makes it his mission to take over the school and make it at Suzuran as “the king of the hill”.

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Sucker Punch

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Sucker Punch is an adrenaline charged action-adventure movie that makes no sense at all. It’s a modern-day fantasy that takes technology and imagination to dizzying extremes only pausing for some of the worst plot and character development ever put on film. Still, even with its flaws, I think Sucker Punch is a fun and good movie.

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True Legend

Recently there have been some amazing martial-arts movies coming from Asia. Starting with the Ong Bak movies (Thailand), continuing with Ip Man 1 & 2 (Hong Kong) and this year’s 13 Assassins (Japan), Asian cinema has shown the world how to make a good movie about fighting that doesn’t involve a big name Hollywood star. If Asia can produce big budget martial-arts movies with a plot and amazing visuals why can’t Hollywood? Most of these movies have starred people who have worked in the Hollywood system or people who influenced movies like the Matrix and every other fighting movie Hollywood has made or remade. It can be done.

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Actor Spotlight: The Bounty

The Bounty is a retelling of the true story of a mutiny on a British ship during the late 18th century. Anthony Hopkins stars as Lieutenant William Bligh. When we first meet him he is retelling the story of his failed mission to a board of British Admirals. He must explain himself and his actions that lead to his losing his ship on the high seas. The Bounty was a warship on a mission for the British Navy. It was supposed to sail to Tahiti in the South Pacific and then on to the Caribbean. After reaching Tahiti and setting sail for the West Indies the ship encounters trouble from the sea and within. The Bounty never makes it to the Caribbean. After a month at sea trying to get around the capes of Africa, the ship turns back around and returns to Tahiti. There the crew falls in love with island living and the beautiful women. After months of island living Captain Bligh orders the ship to set sail for home. Instead, the crew already tired of the hardships of sea living while serving under Bligh and his loyal officers stage a mutiny with most of the crew heading back to Tahiti and the other half set adrift at sea. Anthony Hopkins leads a great cast as Captain Bligh. His Bligh is a stern and overbearing sort of Captain. He’s not well liked by the crew or anyone else for that matter. His hard ways alienate him from most of his men. Mel Gibson plays Master’s Mate (First Lieutenant) Fletcher Christian who leads the mutiny after falling in love with a Tahitian island princess.

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: I Saw The Devil

I Saw The Devil is a Korean horror movie that follows one man’s need for revenge to its ultimate consequence. Min-Sik Choi from Oldboy stars as a true monster of a human being. He’s a serial killer that makes Hannibal Lecter look like Charlie Brown. He murders with delight and takes enjoyment in tormenting his victims and the police pursuing him. He doesn’t hide his identity and doesn’t care. Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and The Bad from The Good, The Bad, The Weird) plays a Korean Secret Service agent whose wife is one of the victims of the serial killer. Once he discovers who the murderer is, he becomes obsessed with tormenting and chasing a human demon in one of the best cat and mouse stories I’ve ever seen.

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13 Assassins

13 Assassins is director Takashi Miike’s latest movie from Japan. It’s quite a refreshing movie from him. Miike (Audition, Ichi The Killer) is known for bizarre Japanese movies filled with buckets of gore and blood-spraying stumps. Not this time. I was pleasantly surprised by what has to be, for me at least, the best movie I’ve seen in 2011.

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Director Spotlight: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

“For that you traded your ever lasting soul?……Well, I wasn’t using it.”

Continuing our look at the movies of The Coen Brothers this month, this week we’re looking at 2000’s O, Brother Where Art Thou. I am a big fan of The Coen Brothers and I had never seen this movie. I am not too sure why I had never gotten around to seeing this until now. I think it might be because in my head I thought of this as a different movie. To me it was always a musical and I really can’t stand movie musicals. I think the only musical I actually like is Spinal Tap.

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Your Highness

Every now and then, I am pleasantly surprised at the movies. And, every now and then, I am devastatingly disappointed at the movies. I know I am biased to stoner movies and silly comedies. I really wanted to like this movie. I am a big fan of everyone involved in this. On paper and in the trailers for Your Highness, the movie looked funny and, you know, good. But, once again, Hollywood does the “let’s put the best parts in the trailer” move and they got me.  With Your Highness, I was shocked and awed by how awfully terrible this movie is. Your Highness is 2011’s worst movie by a mile.

Read the rest of this entry

Sucker Punch

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Sucker Punch is an adrenaline charged action-adventure movie that makes no sense at all. It’s a modern-day fantasy that takes technology and imagination to dizzying extremes only pausing for some of the worst plot and character development ever put on film. Still, even with its flaws, I think Sucker Punch is a fun and good movie.

Read the rest of this entry