Trailer: Men, Women, & Children


Here’s the trailer for Men, Women, & Children.  I’m really looking forward to this film, even if the trailer does bring to mind memories of last year’s terrible Disconnect.  I’m an unapologetic fan of director Jason Reitman and it seems like, as opposed to his previous film Labor Day, this is material that should be perfect for Reitman’s style.

Believe it or not, Adam Sandler has gotten some dark horse Oscar buzz for his performance here.  Personally, on the basis of films like Funny People, Punch-Drunk Love, and Reign Over Me, I think that Sandler has it in him to be a far better actor than most people want to admit.  He just needs the right director.  Considering that he’s gotten career-best work out of everyone from George Clooney to Jason Bateman to Charlize Theron to Patton Oswalt, Reitman could very well be that director.

Artist Profile: Albert Kralis


Blood of DraculaAlbert Kralis was a member of the Art Students League of New York City and studied at the Art Center School of Los Angeles before he was hired to serve as art director at American International Pictures in the 1950s.  Not only did he design some of the most memorable film posters of the period, he also went on to be one of the founders of the International House of Pancakes!

A small sampling of his work can be found below:

How To Make A Monster I Was A Teenage Frankenstein Invasion of the Saucer Men It Conquered The World Not of the Earth Terror From The Year 5000 The Amazing Colossal Man The Astounding She Monster The Brain Eaters The She Creature The Undead War of the Colossal Beast

What Lisa and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #105: Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse (dir by W.D. Hogan)


Last night, my friends, the Snarkalecs, and I watched the latest SyFy original film, Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse!  So, was Zodiac as good as Sharknado 2, as underrated as End of the World, as overrated as Invasion Roswell, or as bad as Heebie Jeebies?  Or was it just somewhere in between?  Let’s find out!

Zodiac

Why Was I Watching It?

Why were we watching it?  Because I’m a snarkalec and that’s what we do!  We watch original films on SyFy, we tweet along, and we do our best to try to get things to trend.  My hope was that Zodiac would eventually become a trending topic on California and end up freaking out a lot of people who would naturally assume that the legendary Zodiac Killer had finally been caught.  Unfortunately, last night, we were competing with football and this is America.  Nothing beats football.

What Was It About?

Good question.  It was a SyFy movie so naturally, the world was on the verge of ending.  And somehow, the upcoming apocalypse involved the signs of the zodiac and an ancient stone that was found in a deserted mine.  There was a bad business guy named Woodward (Aaron Douglas) or maybe he was a government guy.  But, for some reason, he wanted to get the stone so he could do evil things with it.  Luckily, there were three scientists (Joel Gretsch, Andrea Brooks, and Emily Holmes) and one scientist’s son (Reilly Dolman) who were attempting to save the world.  And Christopher Lloyd was in it, playing yet another scientist who had apparently invented holograms or something like that.  There was also a guy named Marty (Ben Cotton) who was a survivalist and lived in a really spacious bunker.

And let’s see, what else happened?  Fire rained from the sky.  Raging floods soaked the Earth.  Woodward flew around in a helicopter.  The scientists spent a lot of time driving around in an SUV.  A lot of stuff happened.  How it was all related was not always easy to follow but, then again, we all know that if you’re tying to make logical sense out of a SyFy film, you’re doing it wrong.

What Worked?

You know what?  I always think that when people criticize SyFy films, they’re missing the point.  SyFy films are supposed to be silly, the special effects are supposed to be cheap, and the performances are supposed to be melodramatic.  Occasionally — like with Sharknado 2 for instance — these elements come together perfectly.  And then other times, like with Zodiac, the end results are fun for two hours and quickly forgotten about afterward.  Zodiac was no Sharknado 2 but it gave us everything that we typically want from our SyFy films, it was a fun movie to tweet along with, and it gave the viewers a few laughs.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Zodiac was a Canadian film and Canada certainly looked pretty.

What Did Not Work?

For a film that was sold as being about the signs of the apocalypse destroying the world, the greatest sign of all — Scorpio — was sadly underused.  I kept expecting a scorpion-shaped cloud to form in the sky but it never happened!  Speaking as a Scorpio, I was very let down.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

My favorite character was Sophie (Andrea Brooks), the kickass scientist who survived being buried alive in a mine, not to mention Aquarius, Capricorn, and Sagittarius!  And she did it all while rocking the traditional SyFy scientist outfit of tank top and tight jeans.  She also had great hair!  If I wasn’t already planning on being the Black Widow, I’d be Sophie for Halloween.  She was the best!

WDH-ZODIAC-2014-Andrea-Brooks-2-compressor

Lessons Learned

Don’t mess with the Zodiac.

Sailor Moon Crystal – Act 4 – Masquerade Dance Party!


sailor_moon_crystal_04_preview_masquerade_dance_party_masqueradeObviously it is a source of tremendous pleasure for me to say that once again we return to the bi-weekly world of brand new episodes of Sailor Moon: Crystal. I am deeply troubled that my brethren in the great country of Canada still can’t imbibe legally of this show. Say strong, my friends, and any of you others similarly handicapped! One day these chains, too, shall be struck, and we shall be free to embrace Sailor Moon as one people, together.

This week’s episode looks to be the first one yet not to introduce a new Pretty Guardian to the team. As I stated in my previous recap, this is in keeping with the manga timeline, which we already know is more of a priority for this series. Our very brief cold open has Moon Cat Luna narrowing her eyes at the figure of Mamoru Chiba, aka Tuxedo Mask.

And then we’re off on the opening theme song odyssey. Yes, it is still long. No, I am not tempted to skip it. Get out of here with that hate. One thing I will say is that between the theme song, the closing song, and Sailor Moon’s transformation (hers is about twice as long as the others’, I think) they really pad out the 25 minute run time on these episodes. It’s really just a normal half hour of television.

Hulu’s commercials have annoyed me far less this week. I do hate the Geico Pig almost as much as it’s possible to hate anything, but his DMV commercial is pretty short, and it doesn’t fill me with hate the way that eSurance commercial with the woman on the rooftop does. The rest of the commercials were pretty forgettable. That’s in no way a bad thing. Don’t worry, you can expect a link if I find a particularly irritating one this week. That’s my promise to you, valued reader!

Since we don’t have to spend a lot of time on a new character this week, this episode feels pretty lightweight by comparison to the last few weeks. Usagi makes it to class (on time, for once!). All anyone is talking about is the police barricades that are in place for the arrival of Princess D, from the Kingdom of D, a kingdom which has become fabulously wealthy based off of a plethora of precious gemstones as a natural resource. Princess D is bringing the fabulous legendary ultimate real secret treasure of her family to Tokyo to show it off at a grand ball / exhibition for… well… I’m sure she has reasons of some kind, anyway.

At the arcade, Ami and Rei talk, and play some Sailor V while they wait for Usagi who, while on time, fell asleep during class and got nailed with detention. With Luna, the girls have a little meeting, discussing the mysterious enemies that keep popping up. Since even we the viewers don’t clearly know the objectives of the Dark Kingdom yet, our heroines know even less. Luna does mention that the princess they are supposed to be protecting has been sealed in some way that would make it difficult for enemy forces to find her, and that the Silver Crystal is a source of incredible power. Letting it fall into the wrong hands would be catastrophic.

Meanwhile, down in the Dark Kingdom, we finally meet Kunzite. You can tell he’s cooler than the other three because he has a cape, and his outfit is slightly different. Queen Beryl orders the four of them to figure shit out. Get the Silver Crystal. Restore the Great Ruler.

Back at Usagi’s house, we learn that her father is headed off to Princess D’s gallery for an interview for his “magazine”. I assume he’s some kind of respected online publisher. Anyway. Usagi, not to be left out, immediately uses her magical powers to transform herself into “a princess”, and runs off to infiltrate the party. This is followed by a K-Mart commercial that is… just bizarre. I wish I could find a video link for it. I feel like I’ve failed you.

Offscreen, Usagi ropes her friends into coming along with her to Princess D’s party. Naturally, the three girls are able to simply walk in like they own the place, while Luna is detained at the gate. Usagi immediately becomes excited by the masquerade nature of the party, and runs off to involve herself in some dancing. Ami and Rei remain more focused on their actual mission, which they head off to get a jump on. Usagi’s own father sees her running around, but only wishes to himself that his girl will grow up to be so beautiful. Naturally, Usagi ends up on the dancefloor with the mysterious Tuxedo Mask. It’s going well at first, but then he bails for seemingly no reason.

Meanwhile, Ami and Rei have tracked down Princess D, the treasure, and a disguised Nephrite, who apparently has replaced Jadeite as the commander of record for this episode. This is another manga thing, although I believe that in the manga, Sailor Mars slays Jadeite with her fire attacks at the end of Act 3, which was not the case here. Nephrite is confronted by Sailors Mars and Mercury, so he decides to possess Princess D while he himself flees. Princess D goes crazy, sprints through her own party knocking people casually aside, and then leaps a balcony. Usagi goes over the edge as well, but Tuxedo Mask catches her. He loses his grip, however, and Usagi is forced to use her powers to save them, transforming her pen into a… parasol. That works, I guess! For some reason, Tuxedo Mask doesn’t seem that perturbed, but he does bail again. What’s with that guy, anyway?

Sailor Moon joins her companions and uses a cool new moon beam to blast the Nephrite right out of poor Princess D. All four of the Kings (Kings!) of the Dark Kingdom show up to act intimidating. They don’t really do anything though. Kunzite reveals that (in case we couldn’t guess) that they’re after the Silver Crystal in order to rule the world. He ends with a cartoon-villain-ish “Stop us if you can!” before they bail, surrendering an obvious opportunity to use their combined magical powers to bust up the Sailor Soldiers something good. No, I’m sure that strategy will pay out in the end. I’m not here to question the tactical wisdom of the great Kunzite.

In the end, Princess D’s treasure is just a ridiculously ostentatious statue of the first Princess D, made out of a 2000 kt diamond. Good grief. Tuxedo Mask finds a sleeping Sailor Moon on the balcony, does some creepy face stroking and hair touching, and goes in for the kiss. It’s about this time that Luna shows up and starts spitting fire. Who is Tuxedo Mask? Is he friend or foe? Well, he’s after the Legendary Silver Crystal. And if we’re after the same thing… maybe we are enemies. Then he vanishes into the night. Man, that guy is the best. Our outro is a glance of Makato, who I suspect will feature prominently in next we… damn, is it really an entire fortnight to wait? Curse this release schedule! Anyway, I strongly suspect based on prior knowledge and the teaser which uh… covers things pretty comprehensively… that we’ll be meeting Sailor Jupiter next time. Cool beans. The shows where we’ve been introduced to new Sailor Guardians (especially Act III, which I think was the best episode so far) were quite a bit more compelling than Masquerade Dance Party, which felt like a lot of fluff paired with some cool moon beams.

Well, no matter how long I’m being cruelly forced to wait, never fear dear reader! I will be with you next time for Sailor Moon Crystal: Act V!

Trailer: The November Man


The-November-Man-poster-900x1333

Outside of Sean Connery, my other favorite James Bond has always been Pierce Brosnan. He was able to inject some of the fun that became camp when Roger Moore was Bond, but still retain the ice-cold lethality that Connery brought to the role. It was just bad luck that he ended up with Bond writers and directors that were hit or miss. I think Pierce woud’ve done just as good a job, if not better, in the films that Daniel Craig ended up doing as Bond.

We now have Brosnan back as a spy, but not as Bond, but as Peter Devereaux from the spy novel series written by Bill Granger. The November Man looks to be Brosnan’s attempt to try and add another spy thriller franchise in the mix with both Bond and Bourne. Whether Brosnan succeeds depends on how critics and audiences react to this film.

The trailer makes the film look interesting enough. Using the time-tested plot of master vs. protege, The November Man may have some success when it comes out at the tail end of the summer season with little to no competition.

One thing that’s good to see is Brosnan back on the screen. If Liam Neeson can transition into the elder action hero then I can’t see why Pierce Brosnan can’t do it as well. Neeson can’t be the only Irish kickass on the screen. Lisa Marie would agree that there’s never enough kickass Irish stars on the big-screen.

The November Man shoots its way onto the big-screen this August 27, 2014.

Film Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four (dir by Michael Radford)


Nineteen-Eighty-Four

Yesterday, as I was flipping through the channels, I came across a documentary that was being shown on This TV.  The documentary was called Nineteen Eighty-Four and it told the story of a low-level British bureaucrat named Winston Smith (who bore a strong resemblance to a youngish John Hurt)  who, after having a secret affair with a free-spirited woman, was charged with committing “thought crimes” against the state.  As a result, he was tortured by a man named O’Brien (who looked a lot like Richard Burton) until Winston finally came to love the government above all else…

What’s that?

Okay, you caught me.

This movie was not a documentary.  Instead, it was an adaptation of George Orwell’s famous novel about a dystopian future Britain (quite cleverly renamed Airstrip One in both the book and the film) where the citizens spend their time giving thanks to Big Brother, a leader who may or may not actually be a fictional creation of the ruling party.  It’s a world where everyone knows that “Big Brother is watching you” and every day is scheduled around the “two-minute hates” that are directed towards Big Brother’s enemy, Emmanuel Goldstein (who, much like Big Brother, may or may not actually exist).  It’s a world dominated by three separate superstates that are in a state of perpetual war, though we’re also given reason to suspect that the war is just as fictional as Big Brother and Goldstein might be.  It’s a world where order is kept by the Thought Police and history is regularly changed for the benefit of the ruling party.  It’s a world where people can become unpersons and cease to exist and where all good citizens understand that one plus one equals three if the government says that it does.

So, no, it’s not a documentary.

It just feels like one.

Richard Burton 1984

As I watched Nineteen Eight-Four, it was impossible for me not to compare Orwell’s vision of the future (which is faithfully visualized in the film) with our present world.  Even though the book was written in 1948 and this film was shot and released in 1984, it was hard not to feel as if Nineteen Eighty-Four could have just as easily been made yesterday.  Beyond the obvious NSA-as-Big-Brother comparisons that everyone makes, it was hard not to compare the brainwashed citizens waiting to hear from Big Brother with the people today who slavishly repeat whatever talking points they hear on MSNBC or Fox News.  How different, I wondered, was Big Brother railing against Goldstein from our President continually telling us that we’re at war with the “forces of cynicism” and that anyone who disagrees with him is not just expressing an opinion but instead is being unpatriotic?  When O’Brien explained how the Party stayed in power by keeping the people perpetually angry at unseen enemies, he might as well have been talking about our own elected officials.  And, when the Thought Police finally arrested Winston and Julia, it brought to mind the images of the militarized police force of Ferguson, Missouri.

And that, I think, is why Nineteen Eighty-Four remains so powerful as both a book and a film.  We live in a world where we are told more and more often that, regardless of what it does, the government is in charge and must be obeyed.  We live in a world where we are currently told that good citizens must obey the law simply because it is the law.  We’re told not to question why a police force needs to resemble an invading army.  We’re told not to question why a member of the police force might happen to shoot an unarmed black teenager multiple times.  We’re told not to question the official history.  Instead, we’re just supposed to live in a state of blind obedience and accept, on faith alone, that those in charge are always right.  We’re supposed to “respect authority” and not think about the specifics.

Thought Police or the Ferguson PD?

Thought Police or the Ferguson PD?

In short, we’re living in the world of Nineteen Eight-Four whether we realize it or not.

As for the film itself, it’s a powerful and surprisingly faithful adaptation of Orwell’s novel.  John Hurt is perfectly cast as Winston Smith and Suzanna Hamilton is sympathetic as Julia.  The two of them have a very real chemistry in this film and it makes the inevitable final scenes all the more disturbing and tragic.  This was also Richard Burton’s final film.  After years of alcoholism, Burton died shortly after filming ended and he looks ill throughout Nineteen Eighty-Four.  But his obvious ill-health actually works to the role’s advantage.  As played by Burton, O’Brien becomes the perfect embodiment of the morally corrupt ruling Party.  The scenes where O’Brien tortures Hurt as difficult to watch, as they should be.  But both Hurt and Burton give such committed performances that you can’t look away even when you want to.  Finally, Nineteen Eighty-Four was an early job for the great cinematographer Roger Deakins and the film has a memorably bleak look to it.  The drabness of Air Strip One perfectly mirrors the empty life of its citizens and it serves as a perfect contrast to the lushness of Winston’s fantasies.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is not an easy film to watch but it’s one that everyone should track down and see.  Watch it and ask yourself how different 1984 is from 2014.

1984-john-hurt

Scenes I Love: Guardians of the Galaxy (Spoiler)


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(image by aktheneroth)

I just had to make sure I posted this scene the moment Marvel Studios released it for all to see and enjoy. For those who have already seen the film knows of what scene I speak of. It’s the one scene that cemented for many who have fallen in love with Guardians of the Galaxy why they love it so.

I know that my co-founder Lisa Marie just adores and loves this scene. I would describe the scene itself, but I think there’s still a few people out there who hasn’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy. So, with “spoiler tag” in the title I’ll just let the video speak for itself.

WE. ARE. GROOT.