Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lucky Number 7: To Save A Life

Man, life is great.
Jack Burton here, dictating from the Pork Chop Express about my 7th movie of the year. Caught To Save a Life earlier today with my cousin at AMC Hoffman Center in Alexandria (his choice). About halfway through, I leaned over and said, "I'm going to kick your ass." This is a very, very sneaky movie. The trailer here depicts a rather generic coming-of-age tale infused with a touch of drama stemming from a friend's suicide. Sure, I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be a propaganda piece for the Evangelicals. Yes. It's a Jesus movie. Now, am I so closed-minded as to throw a movie off in the corner or to just shit on it because of Christian themes? I like to think not. But maybe I'm too cynical to give it as much a shot as I should.

The fact is, the lives of these teenagers aren't all that bad. Sure, they have money, and family, and prospects of a bright future... and maybe their parents hate each other or they don't get enough love from daddy, but c'mon. Get real. Nobody's life is perfect, and to espouse their frustrations is almost insulting. So Jake, the blond-haired-blue-eyed poster child for the Aryan Brotherhood, the Evangelical Church, and our protagonist discovers how unhappy he is after his boyhood friend, Roger, kills himself. So he discovers a youth group which is full of hypocrites and headed by the ultra-cool Chris and spends the remainder of the movie trying to help out troubled, minority, emo teens. Apparently all he needs to do is to show that he cares, and suddenly people stop cutting themselves and dress in light pastel colors instead of black. So in the end, the moral is simple: even if you have everything, if you don't have God, you have nothing. Great. Just what I was hoping to see. Y'know that saying "Mo' money, mo' problems?" Try having no money and see your problems just magically disappear, dipshits.

The film itself is just unbelievably dense at times. Everything turns out like a fairy tale and the complications are all tied up with a nice bow by the end. It just wasn't interesting--in fact, you could call it boring. It isn't as bad as some after-school specials, but it's not far off. I'd probably rather watch this than soap operas and talk shows about baby-daddies. The characters aren't really sympathetic, and while I appreciate some cheesiness, the cheese factor was appallingly high. I will give it some kudos for attempting to show some of the hypocrisy and corruption within the church, but each issue was handled with kid's gloves and none of them seemed to be beyond the reach of a simple prayer or finding a proper leader. Simply, the film felt more like a recruiting tool than it did a movie.

Personal politics aside, I do think there is space for religious films, such as the far-superior Mormon undertaking, God's Army. But the difference here is critical: instead of propping up Christianity as a better world or a better life, God's Army is simply about two Mormon missionaries. It's about the characters, and their story. It's not about promising God's love, or promising a brighter future, or undertaking some kind of drastic, sweeping change to better the world. It's not about the world or its problems--it's smart enough to realize that it can't change the world. To do so is just presumptuous and more than a little patronizing. And that's what the makers of To Save a Life need to understand about movies: they're not the end-all. It's about the story, and the characters. And this one was just way too flawed.

Cost Breakdown:

10.50 on the ticket
5.00 on gas

15.50 overall. I want my money back and the earth wants my car to take back the emissions I dumped in the atmosphere.

Legion: Angels and Zombies and Terminators, Oh My!

Paul Bettany is nailing her as we speak.

Pork Chop Express here, checkin' in from a roadside diner called Paradise Falls off the Mojave Desert. Now I'm not sure the thinking behind the movie Legion, a mishmash of zombie imagery, angels, and Sarah Connor lore, but I'll be damned if it's not watchable. I mean, it's not good. Far from it. But it's got replay value in abundance. It's pretty much what I expected it to be: nonsensical, stupid, and kind of fun.

Legion's premise is simple: God's pissed, and decides to send Angels instead of another flood to get rid of humanity. Apparently only the soon-to-be-born bastard son of a waitress with loose morals can save the world. So Michael, an angel played by the normally awesome Paul Bettany, has to protect her until she gives birth. And to do so, he uses the ultimate weapon against angels: guns. Yes, guns. Apparently that's all you need to kill angels who act more like demons. So in Paradise Falls, the isolated desert diner in which Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), the aforementioned waitress with loose morals works, the staff and what few customers they have hole up under the leadership of Michael, who has forsaken the angelic life in order to defy God because it's about giving Him "what he needs" and not "what he wants." Right. So the angels possess human bodies and try to attack the diner in zombie-like fashion, only to be repulsed by gunfire and dry quips. To add to that clusterfuck of a plot, the whole world is facing Armageddon. At least I think it is. The film doesn't really make it clear, but the television in the diner isn't working so you know it's gotta be Serious. And that's what bugged me throughout the movie: has the world gone to hell? I'm not sure if it was budget constraints that prevented us from seeing the world go through Armageddon, but I somehow doubt it was the filmmaker's attempt to paint a narrow, personal, intimate portrait of these few survivors while keeping them isolated from the outside world. But maybe I'm wrong.

To call the film uneven would be an understatement. The story is absolutely unbelievable and the emotional arc(s) are laughable. When Percy, the one-handed cook played by Roc himself, Charles Dutton, confronts would-be thug Kyle, played by Tyrese Gibbons, about a gun in Kyle's possession, I had to roll my eyes. How many times have we seen this archetypal confrontation between the older, experienced black man and the younger black man from the streets? It's almost insulting in such a generic movie. Or how about when a mother blames her daughter for their need to move which leads their car to have a breakdown and them to be stranded at Paradise Falls? I mean, really, I understand that the characters need to be, well, characterized, but damn. I just wanted them to shut up. You see everything coming from a mile away, including the lackluster climax.

Cost Breakdown:

9.00 on a ticket
4.00 on gas

13.00 well wasted. I'll call this film watchably bad. The best parts were the trailers in the beginning, when I laughed readily at Macgruber and Death at a Funeral, and got excited for Iron Man 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The A-Team. I wouldn't mind watching Legion again on TV or something, but I don't think anyone should actually waste money on it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pork Chop Express Goes International with: Män Som Hatar Kvinnor

Ol' Jack Burton here with a review that doesn't count toward my incredibly behind quota. Caught Män Som Hatar Kvinnor, or Men Who Hate Women at home after finishing the book. The book's English title is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a suspense/murder/thriller/corporate espionage novel full of tension and fantastic characters. The film, made in Sweden, fully captures the atmosphere and ambiance of the novel and I was amazed at how well crafted it was. It reminded me of the Bourne films in that they exude a sense of timeless conservativeness, that is, they (and this) will probably be as appreciated in twenty years as they are now. As with the Bourne films, Män Som Hatar Kvinnor doesn't rely on gimmicky filmmaking or presumptuous artsy-fartsy bullshit. It's meticulous, straightforward, brutal at times, and draws out fantastic performances from the actors.

The story centers around Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist recently convicted of libel against a powerful corporation headed by bully extraordinaire, Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Blomkvist leaves Stockholm in disgrace to work for Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Vanger needs Blomkvist to look into his niece's mysterious disappearance in 1966. Blomkvist is aided by a private investigator, Lisbeth Salander, an antisocial, tattooed, pierced, punk chick who kicks ass and takes names, social security numbers, bank account statements...

As I said in my review of The Lovely Bones, I don't expect a word-for-word translation of the novel into film format. That isn't realistic. But that also seems to be the weak point of this movie. The novel moves at a breakneck pace and the film does as well, often making the 2.5 hour run time feel like 1.5 hours. The problem is that the movie attempts to jam pack--or at least allude to--as much as possible from the novel. And in return, it often cuts corners and we lose a lot of the tension and the feelings of frustration that the protagonists encounter. It all just seems too easy for them to figure everything out. I didn't particularly feel a sense of satisfaction with the end, nor did it feel as "earned" as it should have.

Don't get me wrong: I wholeheartedly enjoyed the film. It was just a little anticlimactic. I don't know if that is perhaps because I had literally just finished the book hours before sitting down to watch it, but I had hoped for a little more on the corporate espionage and mystery fronts.

All in all, I'd definitely pick this up on Blu-Ray if it ever comes state-side. I'll probably start reading the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire soon and try to get a copy of the film adaptation. Till then, Pork Chop Express is signing off.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jack Burton Reviews The Lovely Bones

Pork Chop Express checkin' in with an incredibly late review of Peter Jackson's triumphant return to crybabies and special effects overload, The Lovely Bones. I'll keep this short since it holds absolutely no relevance. Now I'm not sure if this was supposed to be the epitome of a pulled punch, but it sure as hell comes off that way. As many people know, the story revolves around the murder of fourteen year old Susie Salmon and how her family ultimately deals with their grief. I haven't read the book, but intend to once I become a fifteen year old girl, so I can really only judge it on what I saw; and what I saw was a sentimental tear-jerker that lacked originality and the balls to show us the reality of dealing with such a loss. In the book she was raped and killed violently. We don't get that. We are also spared from seeing the mother have an affair with the lead detective, and the growth of the entire family over a period of several years. Now, I realize that you can't fully translate a book into a movie. It's just impossible. But I am worried when the themes of a book are so pared down as to make the film a contrived, manipulative piece of sentimental tripe that it can only hold a superficial comparison to the source material. And this movie does exactly that. It's shallow. It's out there just to get you to cry, or to feel grief, or to show grief. It lacks the strength and depth to really delve into these topics; instead we get some kind of poppy, censored version of the book that, really, doesn't connect on an intellectual level.

As far as performances go, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci knock their characters out of the park, if only because Jackson's imagining of them are so simplified as to make them two-dimensional jokes. But the fact that they both actually make their characters more is a testament to their abilities as actors.

Cost breakdown:

11.25 on movie ticket
5.00 on gas

16.25? Nope. maaaaayyybeee a six dollar show somewhere, or at the dollar theater. Rent it or catch it on tv would be my suggestion.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


A friend of mine linked me to the following collection by Adidas.

Geeks UNITE!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: The Lovely Bones

I don't know what to say about The Lovely Bones. I wasn't really expecting much based off of early reviews and Rotten Tomatoes rating, but I thought I would be entertained enough to keep me interested. After all, this is a Peter Jackson movie, and I was interested to see what he would do after returning to his roots with a smaller scale movie. About thirty minutes into the movie I was deciding what to pick up on the way home...Chipotle or Pei Wei.

Some people have compared this movie to What Dreams May Come, and I can't tell you why because I fell asleep in that movie. So I guess that's where the similarities come from for me. I was completely bored through most of the film. And it wasn't because the movie was bad, it was just that I felt underwhelmed. The subject matter of this movie lends itself to some strong and emotional performances but nobody really moved me. Stanley Tucci was great, but he is good in almost everything he does. The other exception was Susan Sarandon who brings some much needed energy. She steals the screen during a montage about halfway through. Aside from those two, everyone else feels flat. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why people keep casting Mark Wahlberg in these types of roles. If anyone bothered to watch The Happening they would have seen why. He rarely shows any range that doesn't feel forced.

Saoirse Ronan who plays Susie Salmon, the lead character, does a decent job, but I never felt attached to the story she was telling. I think this is due to the film focusing too much time on all the other characters as well. No one character feels like the lead horse, so maybe that is why the movie couldn't keep my attention.

I did appreciate a lot of the visuals, which show a surreal interpretation of the afterlife. These scenes are beautiful. I liked the idea that our heaven is unique to everyone based on their own pleasures and experiences. But it wasn't enough to keep me from wanting the movie to end so I could grab a bite to eat.

Lobo says: 1.5 out of 4 moons

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lobo Status: Week 2

6 down. 144 more to go.

Slow week with football and the return of Jack Bauer!

Movies seen:
The Lovely Bones

Overall Impression:
Check out my review coming in a day or two.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 Movie List

If you're wondering what movies to get excited about this year, the folks at Dark Horizons have completed an exhausting list of movies coming out in 2010. It's broken up into eleven parts and includes analysis of 280 movies.

Get your movie watcher cards ready!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Youth in Revolt, or its alternate title: AWESOME

Ol’ Jack Burton here with a review of my fourth film of 2010: Youth in Revolt. I don’t have much to say, or to analyze, but to get to the point right off: go fucking see this movie.

It isn’t that Michael Cera is a particularly good actor. It isn’t that he’s particularly interesting, even. He’s kind of the same, awkward-but-accessible guy that I’ve followed since the award-winning Arrested Development. But neither is Denzel, Hanks, or Cruise. They, with Cera, are personality actors. And while I do not harbor any particular interest in Denzel, Hanks, and Cruise, Cera is a whole different beast. And a beast he is, if his portrayal of François in the fantastic Youth in Revolt is any indication.

Youth in Revolt follows Nick Twisp, an awkward, horny teenager afflicted with thinks-he-knows-everything syndrome and a crime-laden obsession with Sheeni, a girl he meets while on a quasi-family vacation with his mother and her boyfriend Jerry. He goes so far as to burn down “half of Berkeley,” to get kicked out of his mother’s house and into his father’s in Ukiah, the vacationing ‘burb where Sheeni lives, just to be close to her and her promises of sweet, sweet lovin’. He is aided by his evil, alternate personality, François, who is an absolute joy to watch.

Their hijinks include the aforementioned burning, talking dirty to Sheeni, faking his own death, and scheming against Sheeni’s perfect boyfriend, Trent. How can this film miss? And much more often than not, it doesn’t. The story is quickly paced, the characters are hilarious, and the schemes, while evil, are perfectly accessible to the audience, who cheers with Twisp’s every step and howls with François’ every line. I mean, my God. I don’t know how Cera manages to say the things he does with a straight face.

As Hombre Lobo pointed out, this film is not mainstream—it reeks, absolutely reeks of arthouse. But in a good way. The dialogue is nowhere near conventional, but the story is classic: young love, coming-of-age, and finding what you have inside of you and how far you’re willing to go to get what you want. And trust me, you want to go see this.

Cost breakdown:

11.25 dollars per ticket at Fairfax Corner Cinema de Lux
5 dollars worth of gas (28 miles round trip, with lights)
So 16.25? I call that a bargain.

Check out this oldie but goodie behind-the-scenes look at Youth in Revolt:


Lobo Status: Week 1 Extended Edition

5 down. 145 more to go.

Movies seen:
Black Dynamite
The Princess and the Frog
Youth in Revolt
Sherlock Holmes

Overall impression: Meh

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Review: Sherlock Holmes

I'm a Guy Ritchie fan. I love both Lock Stock and Snatch, but none of his movies since have been on the same level. RocknRolla came close, but it follows the same formula as the two aforementioned films and isn't as good. He has a created a style to his films that we come to expect everytime, so I was interested in how he was going to handle a big budget film like Sherlock Holmes.

I have never read a Sherlock Holmes book, so I'm not familiar with the material. Therefore, I had no expectations for the character going into the film. That said, I enjoyed Robert Downey Jr's. interpretation but never quite felt like he was delivering an iconic performance. He brings the charisma and wit he delivers with all his characters, but he doesn't do anything new to make this performance memorable.

On the other hand, Jude Law's Watson is a great compliment Holmes. The two have great chemistry together which provides the best moments of the movie. They have a screen relationship that is very reminiscent of House (who is probably based on Holmes) and Wilson on the show House. I agree with Jack Burton's review that Jude Law is having the most fun of anyone in the movie.

If there is a downside to the bromance going on, its that it detracts from the mystery of the movie. The mystery never really sucks you in because there is never enough focus on the overall story. The villain, Blackwood, doesn't inspire enough fear to make the plot of the story believable. So we are left with a classic case of style over substance.

From what I've read, the studio wanted to breath life into Sherlock Holmes which would make Guy Ritchie a natural choice for this British property. Ritchie is a bit more subdued here, which is a good thing, and created a London that is full of texture that looks great on screen. He kept the movie entertaining, but had it been shorter and more focused, it would have made for a more engaging movie.

Oh, and Rachel McAdams is hot.

Lobo says: 2.75 out of 4 moons

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Review: Youth in Revolt

Will Michael Cera ever be given a role where he doesn't play a socially awkward teenager? I can only think of one other actor that puts in the same performance no matter what movie he is in–and that's Vince Vaughn. Normally I would say this gets old, but damn it, Michael Cera makes it funny everytime.

In Youth in Revolt, Cera plays Nick Twisp, a 16 year old social outcast waiting for his dreamgirl to come along to take his virginity. When he meets said dreamgirl, Sheeni Saunders, on a trip to trailer park lake getaway, young love is born. But where Nick falls in love, Sheeni enjoys the freedom of living in the moment with no attachments. So when Nick has to leave the trailer park, he becomes obsessed with reuniting with Sheeni. He enlists the services of Francois, his diabolical chain-smoking alter ego, to help him get kicked out of his moms house so he can move back to the trailer park and lose his virginity to the love of his life.

It's easy to see why Nick would do anything to be with Sheeni. She is one of those perfect fictional girls that doesn't exist in real life. Like Veronica Mars. Sheeni is cute, smart, sexy, reads poetry, listens to vinyl records, and speaks french. Most importantly, she doesn't care what others think and she doesn't judge Nick for being a geek.

What develops is somewhat of a tragic but comedic relationship between the two. Kind of like a funny Romeo and Juliet. Nick gets in trouble with the law and has to take down Trent, Sheeni's possible boyfriend. What works about Nick's character is that we can relate to his quest to get laid. We've all had our share of falling for the girl that is out of our league with the douchebag cockblock boyfriend. And Cera always delivers a real performance that guys can relate to and girls find adorable and honest.

Michael Cera is Michael Cera with a slightly more cynical side. So you know what to expect. You will find him and the movie funny and charming. But Youth in Revolt is not the mainstream comedy that the trailers and tv spots make it out to be. It takes it's time developing laughs as opposed to relying on sex jokes and catchy dialog like in Superbad. So when you see it, go in expecting more Napolean Dynamite over say...Knocked Up.

Lobo says: 3 out of 4 moons

Troubling News...

Pork Chop Express here, checking in from a road stop in Idaho, USA.

I just saw over at that we should expect an American remake of the brilliant film, Let the Right One In for 2010. Here's what they said about it:

Out of all the remakes (and there are plenty) slated for 2010 this one, by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves, has the highest mountain to climb. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a masterpiece. There’s no other word for that film. Lyrical, innocent, violent and with masterful filmmaking from Tomas Alfredson, the original, just released a year and some change ago, is going to be hard to top. Thankfully Reeves hasn’t cast teenagers and turned this into another Twilight cash-in… Hit Girl herself, Chloe Moretz, will play the vampire and The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee will play the boy. Reeves has a tough, tough job on his hands, with little chance of success in my personal opinion. But if he pulls it off it’ll be brilliant. It has to be or it’s going to fail.

This is highly disturbing to me since I absolutely loved Let the Right One In--so much so that I bought the book (which is excellent by the way).

2010 Starts With... Daybreakers?!?!

It is a dark time for vampires.  With weird, creepy vampires like Edward Cullen, one almost wishes for the good ol’ days of Kiefer Sutherland running around with a clip-on earring and a whole lot of hair product.  Well, Daybreakers , the first official 2010 film I've seen, has a lot of hair product, so I guess that’s kind of the same thing.  But other than that, these guys are lame.  They don’t have super-strength, super-speed, hypnotic powers, or anything cool at all.  Speaking of cool, they don’t even have the upper-echelon douchebaggery that usually accompanies vampires.  From Bela Lugosi’s Dracula to the Cullen clan, vampires were once considered cool and sexy.  You wouldn't be able to tell with Sam Neill and Ethan Hawke as the prime examples of undead masculinity.  Although this film makes me think that there must exist out there—somewhere, in some screenwriter’s mind—a movie about an inept and socially awkward vampire done in the vein of American Pie or something.  But I digress.
I caught the midnight show on Thursday night at Tysons Corner with Hombre Lobo.  It was a toss up between it and Youth in Revolt.  I let Hombre Lobo decide how we’d kick off the 2010 film campaign.  If this film is any indication of how the year will progress, I’m going to shut the blog down immediately, or at least ban Hombre Lobo from my Festivus card list—though this would make an excellent grievance to air. 
Okay, I may be getting a little ahead of myself.  Daybreakers’ conceit is simple: vampires have taken over the world via a virus and spend their days sipping on blood-laced coffees and hunting down the few humans that still exist.  That is, except for Edward Dalton, played by Ethan Hawke.  Dalton’s a hematologist in search of an artificial blood/food supply and refuses to feed on human blood and pines to rejoin the human race.  He’s a brooding, angst-ridden doctor with the weight of the world on his shoulders and with a brooding, angst-ridden brother who loves being a vampire.  One wonders if Hawke simply hates looking for other types of characters to play.  Anyway, so Dalton works for this company headed by Charles Bromley (Neill).  Neill, I guess, thought it would be brilliant to channel Agent Smith from The Matrix to play a powerful, corrupt vampire in charge of the world’s critically low blood supply.  It just doesn’t work.  He comes off as smarmy, silly, and not the least bit interesting.  Bromley wants Dalton to discover a substitute blood supply but would refuse to stop hunting humans even after the fact. 
If the vampires don’t get enough blood, they degenerate into these insane, violent, monstrous bat-like creatures that feed on their own bodies and other vampire’s blood.  So that’s bad.  So things happen, new friendships are born, Dalton grows a set of balls, there’s an incredibly stiff and useless love story, blah, blah blah.  It’s pretty fucking standard.  Now, it’s not Avatar-predictable, but it pretty much follows the same type of cut-and-paste generic storyline.  But somehow, even WITH that obvious story structure in place, the filmmakers have decided to fuck it all up in the hopes of sprucing it up a bit. But instead, they ended up creating so many plot holes that by the end, I wasn’t sure whether it was poor filmmaking or my own inattentiveness that made me scratch my head in wonder. 
Then there’s the moral of the film.  Not very subtle.  At all.  But Hollywood never is.  Here comes an in-your-face tale about moderation and finding balance in a world of over-consumption and instant gratification. It waggles its finger in our faces the entire time, as if to say, “Hey buddy.  Cool it.  Why go overboard with our resources?  This could happen to us.”  Private companies are evil, and we need to stop our reliance on oil, blood, water, botox, whatever, it’s all the same shit if it’s in short supply.  Then there were the social lessons.  Yawn.  The poor can’t afford the blood, so they become the monsters, and then the rich vampires have to put those fuckers down with extreme prejudice.  So survival is as corrupt as our society.  That’s fine and good, but really, I don’t need to be preached to through such a poor film.  If you want to make us think, why don’t you try thinking up a good movie first, assholes?
So why even bother watching this movie?  Well, two things.  First, Willem Dafoe is in it.  That’s right, bitches.  Jesus Christ, Green Goblin, the bad guy from Streets of Fire himself.  He’s Elvis, a badass with a crossbow, a beard, and a penchant for voice-over monologues.  I just about threw my manties at the screen.  It quickly becomes obvious that Dafoe’s having the most fun he's had in a role since The Boondock Saints.  And the second thing to make it worth your trip?  Well, Daybreakers is stupid, and it’s easy to get through.  I don’t know if that’s a ringing endorsement, but that’s as good as you’re going to get from me.  Oh, and the special effects are pretty good. 
Cost breakdown: $0.00.
Hombre Lobo picked up the tab on this one, and he drove too.  So was it worth it?  Yeah, definitely.  But I’d skip this in the theaters if I had to pay.  Catch it on TV.
My review of Youth in Revolt should be up soon.  Till then, Pork Chop Express signing off.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Review: Daybreakers

Hollywood loves trends, and Daybreakers is another addition to the Vampire genre that is all the rave right now. But those of you looking for Twilight or Vampire Diaries should look elsewhere. What you'll find with Daybreakers is an attempt to make a vampire flick that stands out from the rest, but in the end, falls short of leaving a mark.

Daybreakers takes place nine years after a virus (stemming from bats) spreads, making vampires the dominant race. Vampires live in a society much like humans—CEO's, doctors, coffee stands, rebellious teenagers, and homeless starving for blood. Humans are farmed and kept in blood banks run by corporations that maintain the blood supply for all vampires across the globe. But after nine years, the human race is almost extinct and the blood supply is running out. Edward Dalton, played by Ethan Hawke, is a chief Hematologist at one of these blood banks, and is put in charge of finding a blood substitute. His tests are unsuccessful and a growing number of starving vampires are mutating into bat-like creatures that threaten the structure of their society.

This is a social commentary movie about what happens when a society overly dependent on one resource is running out and the greed of those with power. I couldn't help but think of corporations wanting to cash in on alternative energy sources rather than solving the energy crisis.

All of this sounds cool and unique to the vampire genre, but the problem is... the filmmakers forgot what makes vampires cool. We get vampires that are monsters through corporate greed and not because they are creatures of the night. No super strength/speed, sexual seduction, or mind control. Essentially, all that makes them vampires is they drink blood and have a disdain for the sun. LAME!

It felt like the directors were trying to make a movie with the scale and atmosphere of a Bladerunner type movie. But where Bladerunner successfully created a world that felt grand, Daybreakers disappoints. The story feels claustrophobic–stuck in a small space, wishing it could break out into larger territory. In the end, it appears like a small budget being pushed to its limits.

I give kudos to the effects team for good work, especially the gore and vampire combustion. The way these vampires explode is probably the best I've seen, which was enhanced with some surprisingly great audio. I think this film will find a cult following once it hits Blu-Ray, but I don't see it lasting too long in theaters.

Lobo says: 2 out of 4 moons

Would You Pay to See This?

So I'm looking through new titles available On Demand from the comfort of my home when I come across this gem of a movie from last year. Yes, it's not a free title and so you'll have to buy to watch. $4.99 to be exact. Will someone please pay me if I decide to sit through this? On second thought: I think I'll check out Bitch Slap or District 13: Ultimatum. Glad there are plenty more options to choose from!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010 Top Ten Most Anticipated

As the first official Hollywood weekend is finally here with three new movies out this week, let's take a look at what are the most anticipated flicks that are expected to take in our hard-earned $$$ this year:

1. Kick-Ass - Will the early buzz on this film put it in the same category as the Dark Knight, Spiderman 2 and Iron Man as greatest comic films ever?
2. The Expendables - Sly, Bruce and Arnold. 'Nuff said!
3. Iron Man 2 - If it's even half as good as the first one, we'll be in for a treat.
4. Machete - Finally, the first of the Grindhouse trailers to be made into a major film. Bonus: R. Rodriguez is directing.
5. Piranha 3-D - Death by piranhas in 3-D!!!
6. Toy Story 3 - It's a Pixar film.
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - The next Edgar Wright film to come out after cult classics Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz!
8. Paul - The next Pegg/Frost collaboration to come out after cult classics Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz!
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One - Let's hope this doesn't drag as much as the last movie.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street - If only we can expect this to be on par if not exceed the quality of last year's Friday the 13th remake.
10.5 Area 51 - Paranormal Activity 2?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jack Burton Reviews Sherlock Holmes

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

Y'know, I remember a time when a good ol' boy with a truck said what he said and meant it. And my ex-wife would've rubbed it in my face if the she-devil from the tenth level of Hell was still around today and not living in some penthouse apartment in god-knows-where, USA--a penthouse I'm probably still paying for to this day. But I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong. It's like Jack Burton always says: a man's gotta like the taste of pudding if it's dripping down his face. So I parked the Pork Chop Express in at the movies earlier and saw Sherlock Holmes at Tysons Corner AMC and it was a pretty comfortable experience, windchill factor of -300 notwithstanding. Now, I'm a reasonable guy, but I've been asked to see some pretty unreasonable things--things like a decent movie by director Guy Ritchie.

All right, all right, I know what you're thinking: what about Snatch? or Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels? Whatever. That son of a bitch makes films that don't last. And if there's one thing Jack Burton likes, it's lasting. And that's the problem with Sherlock Holmes. It doesn't tell me that it's gonna have the same feel in thirty years. It tells me that it's gonna be like the last girl I dated, good for about a year and then out of nowhere, it puts on fifty pounds and another ten pounds of makeup just to be able to look at itself in the morning. That ain't right. So when I'm looking straight in the eyes of Guy Ritchie's haphazard take on Sherlock Holmes, and it's slobbering on me like I paid a stripper an extra hundred bucks just to be nice, I look that sucker right in the eye and you know what ol' Jack Burton says at a time like that? I say, "Yes sir, this is pretty good for right now. It may not work out in the long run, but it ain't bad."

Sherlock Holmes needs a timeless feel, though. It doesn't need gimmicky video work or too-charming dialogue mixed with contemporary sensibilities. It needs an old school filmmaker's touch. The Count of Monte Cristo sprang to mind when I watched this film, not because they are similar or anything, but because where Monte Cristo succeeded, Guy Ritchie should've taken note. And followed. We don't need that faux-Matrix bullshit. We need a damn story--because that's what a mystery is about. There's too much flash and not enough substance. The villainous Lord Blackwood wasn't engaging or creepy enough to really give us a sense of tension. London erupting in fear and turmoil wasn't believable because we just didn't get that kind of a scope. Who cares, really, that five people were killed by Blackwood, and that he's risen from the dead? Would that make the whole city lose its head? It wasn't believable, but if you just numb yourself to these things, the humor and the action can carry the film.

I like the interpretation of Holmes and Watson as a loving bromance and Holmes' strange quirks, but Downey Jr. doesn't seem to have the weight or seriousness of someone like Holmes. Everyone made much ado about Holmes being a cokehead. Cool. But we didn't see that. It was vaguely mentioned but nothing really interesting was brought up with it. Okay, that's fine. But what else? He's whiney, he's clingy, he's manipulative. But more than that, he's annoying. Really fucking annoying. Rachel McAdams is cute-as-a-button in her role as Irene Adler, but lacks any real depth. We know exactly what is going to happen with her, and we don't particularly care. Jude Law's Watson steals the show with his impending marriage and finnicky breakup with Holmes. Law easily becomes the most sympathetic figure we have, and I don't think that's a subtle nod by Ritchie to the narrative of the Holmes stories.

So I spent:
5.25 on a small Lemonade and a Buncha Crunch for which I had a one-dollar coupon courtesy of my Movie Watchers card.
9.00 on the ticket.
approximately 4 dollars on gas (18.6 miles, or thereabouts, with lights)

18.25 to see Sherlock Holmes? Nope, I wouldn't spend it again. Maybe if it was the 6.00 showing and no concessions.

Until next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off.

Top Twenty Films of 2009

Here is my much anticipated top films list 0f 2009. This list is for movies seen in theaters and not in the comfort of my own home. One glaring omission is 'Inglourious Basterds' which I missed during its theatrical run but will definitely be checking out on Blu-ray soon enough. Of note also is that you won't find any documentaries on my list for the past year; let's hope we see something as equally superior to past docs such as 'The King of Kong' in the coming year.

1. District 9
2. Drag Me to Hell
3. Gran Torino
4. The Hurt Locker
5. Taken
6. The Hangover
7. Fantastic Mr. Fox
8. Up
9. Coraline
10. Moon
11. Avatar
12. Adventureland
13. Star Trek
14. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
15. The Wrestler
16. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
17. Up in the Air
18. Where the Wild Things Are
19. Monsters vs. Aliens
20. Zombieland
20.5 Paranormal Activity

Stay tuned later this week when the top ten movies of 2010 to look forward to drops!

At Home and In Your Face!

Discovery Communication, Sony, and IMAX announce plan to launch first 3D TV network. Does this mean that we will be seeing some Aboriginal torpedoes as the good lord has always intended—in HD and 3D? Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god...

Read the Press Release

Monday, January 4, 2010

Review: Black Dynamite

Saw Black Dynamite, my first movie of the year, at Landmark E Street Cinemas in D.C. on the Friday January 1 at midnight with Hombre Lobo, Erick B. Rackim, and several others. We also stayed for the Q&A with the director afterwards.

Cost breakdown:

One dollar on gas (Approximate; three miles from where I was was, including stoplights and searching for parking)
Eleven dollars on a ticket.
Eleven dollars on a popcorn and beer.

So was it worth it? I just don't know.

I don't remember much of the film because to be honest I was a little drunk. But I laughed. I giggled. I may have passed out a few times. The film's a classic crowd pleaser, with hoots and hollers and laughs galore. The look was great; the director used some old-school film and techniques. Gags were everywhere, from boom mics in shots to perhaps the greatest, longest stream of consciousness deduction of a conspiracy plot ever. Not surprisingly, the most resonant moments in the films are its jokes, not its story or characters, but this may be because of my inebriated state. I'm just not sure. But I'm definitely going to catch this one again when I add it to my Blu-Ray collection. Here's hoping the next films will stick with me a little more.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Review: The Princess and the Frog

This was one of my most anticipated movies of last year. When I heard that Disney was returning to 2D animation with a movie set in New Orleans, my excitement shot up like shirts at Mardi Gras. And that it was being developed by the creators of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin had me wishing on a star that it would be on the same level as those films.

I enjoyed the movie, but sadly, it never lived up to my expectations. The movie focuses on important messages like: finding who you are to find out what you need; and, if you work hard, stay patient and set your mind on something, anything is possible. Tiana, a strong young independent woman, works two waiting jobs to fulfill her and her fathers dream of opening a restaurant in New Orleans. She is raised hearing fairy tales about princesses wishing on a star and living happily ever after, but is reminded by her father that you need to help the star along the way by working hard if you want your wish to come true.

This is a great message to focus on post Katrina and is relevant in today's current economy, but the storytellers beat this into your brain every chance that they get. With songs like, "Almost There", and, "Dig a Little Deeper", characters are literally singing the messages the filmmakers are trying to express. I personally think a more subtle approach to teaching lessons (Beauty and the Beast) would be more affective.

Throughout, I was really trying to get into it, but I ultimately was never engaged in the story or the characters. The best Disney movies have great sidekicks and secondary characters that are funny and charming, but I didn't fall in love with anyone in this movie. The best character to me was the villain voodoo doctor, Dr. Facilier, who is perfectly voice cast and has a great character design. One of the better Disney villains in recent memory. A positive note is that Tiana provides a great role model for all girls and young women.

The music is classic Disney and I love that it's a return to the musical format. My favorite song is, "Friends on the Other Side", sung by Dr. Facilier. Some great jazz work there.

I do hope this movie does well in the box office so that Disney keeps putting out 2D animated movies. The traditionally animated Disney movie is a cultural diamond that would be a shame to lose. But, eventhough I enjoyed it, I didn't love it. I was disappointed with what could have been considering the rich reference material. I guess just wishing on a star isn't enough anymore.

Lobo says: 2.5 powdered beignets out of 4

Review: Black Dynamite

He's cleaning the streets, saving the orphans, avenging his brother, rocking the ladies, and taking it to THE MAN. He's Black Dynamite. And he's taking it all the way to the top. The top of my 2010 favorites list that is.

After a year of so many blockbuster busts, it's refreshing to begin the new year with a low budget movie that delivers on all fronts. Black Dynamite is a tribute to blaxsploitation films from the 70's that is bad-ass and hilarious. The film spends most of the time spoofing classic blaxsploitation movies with perfectly crafted one-liners, precise comedic timing and some accidental improv. The under appreciated, but always cool, Michael Jai White, is smooth, funny, and kicks some serious ass. He really expands his range with a funny side never seen before in any of his previous movies.

The greatest thing about the movie is that it never takes itself too seriously. It gives the audience exactly what they expect; kung-fu action, comedy, pimps and big tits. The only time I feel that it falters a bit is when the movie begins to follow a traditional format rather than spoofing. I understand it is necessary to hold the story together, but I was having such a good time laughing at the spoofs that I didn't want it to end.

After the movie, the director, Scott Sanders, held a Q&A and revealed that an animated series is in the works for Cartoon Network. I will definitely be on the look out for that and the Blu-Ray when it is released on February 16th.

Check out the trailer

Lobo says: 3.5 righteous nunchuck beatdowns out of 4