Category Archives: Reviews

A Video Review of “Super 8” (with Daniel)


I watched SUPER 8 with my son, Daniel, and then we did a second video review.  Which pretty much means we’ll be doing more and more of them.  Yay!

Feel free to comment!

A Video Review of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (with Daniel)


I watched CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND with my son, Daniel, and then we did a video review.

Feel free to comment!

A Look at “The Peanuts Movie” (2015)


I’ve been badgered into not keeping my thoughts to those in my immediate presence about film, so now I have to write about them.  Here’s the second in what I’m assured will be an ongoing series.

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THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 87% critic / 77% audience

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I grew up watching The Peanuts on television, like a good child of the 1970’s that I was.  I dutifully watched every holiday special.  I went to the theatres to see the theatrical releases.  I even enjoyed the comic strip, despite my love of Garfield as I got older.

But then something happened as I hit my teens … my zest for watching or reading anything Peanuts related wore off.  Chalk it up to discovering pop & rock music, MTV videos, a growing love of visual mediums (film & t.v.).  But the lustre wore off and I left Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest behind … a footnote in my childhood growth.

Then a few days ago, I finally sat my two kids and I down to watch 2015’s the Peanuts Movie.  I had heard good things about it from some film critics that I like/appreciate/respect their opinion.  It had a pretty good Rotten Tomatoes score.

I wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to like it.  I don’t think my kids expected to like it as much as they did, either.

Blue Sky Studios, the makers of this film, is mostly known for producing the ICE AGE movies, a hit and miss series for me.  I wasn’t expecting the total heart that exists in The Peanuts Movie, or the amount of simple humour – some of which actually had me laugh out loud.  Not bust a gut like Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s been known to do to me, but good and honest out loud laughs.  All of the characters were true to what I remember from my childhood.  That sense of innocence not yet spoiled by the real world.  Where those neuroses we all have as kids, as shown through the eyes and actions of Charlie Brown, we know as adults we’ll still have, and yet wish we had been able to deal with them as well as Charlie Brown.

I was surprised that they got me to at least giggle at some of Snoopy’s antics, and actually laugh at Woodstock.  All of the other Peanuts characters got their little moments to shine.  As relative newcomers to The Peanuts, my kids seemed to understand just fine who all the gang were meant to be.  But mostly I loved the movie because it reminded me of something that we should always strive to remember: as Charlie Brown does throughout the film, we must always remain honest and true to who we are.

Blue Sky Studios knocked this one out of the park.  The animation worked, matching the heart and antics of the original (especially the way the kids walk), and managed to make Pigpen actually look as if he’s got a swatch of dirt & dust following him around, like a living entity.

Have to give it a rating? B+.  Have to give it stars?  4 out of 5.  This is the kind of film that will stay with you as a warm glowing memory.

Reasons to see it?  So, so many.  But the heart of it is some of the creativity in it.  There’s a sense of love of the original material, and it shows.

A Look at “Race to Witch Mountain” (2009) … and some thoughts


I’ve been badgered into not keeping my thoughts to those in my immediate presence about film, so now I have to write about them.  Here’s the first in what I’m assured will be an ongoing series.

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RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (2009)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 43% critic / 44% audience

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First of all, I want to state that I do not have any inherent disapproval of someone or some studio wanting to remake, reboot, or just plain redo an older film.**  This especially goes for films that I hold dear to me in one form or another, whether it be from near worship or just really, really fond memories.

My feelings towards the original “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1975) and “Return from With Mountain” (1978) fall into the fond memories.  I saw both of these films at a drive-in when they came out, because my parents liked me enough to take me.  I had a huge crush on Kim Richards, because she was all shades of cute and awesome – at least to my 8-10 year old self.  They were fun, escapist fare, and while no t.v. Star Trek, it did have Eddie Albert to go along with it.  It even had Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard before Dukes even existed!  So, yeah, there’s some fond memories that go along with these films.

So now to current day.  I seriously love me some Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  He’s one of the few deeply charismatic actors that manage their humour, but have more within them that shows.  Doesn’t matter if he’s doing “The Tooth Fairy” or “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” he brings an enjoyment of making the movie along with him that just makes what he’s in that much more entertaining.

Unfortunately, that did nothing to help with “Race to Witch Mountain.”

The use of the normally always wonderful Carla Gugino did nothing.  The lacklustre characters that AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig had to work with was almost criminal.  Quite a few other actors of note were in it, most of whom usually do supporting characters well, were just wasted.  A by-the-numbers script didn’t leave director Andy Fickman much to work with.

The worst culprit, and I think it’s safe to say this, is whomever decided that this script/story was a good idea for a reboot.  I get that it’s budget wasn’t a large one.  It’s easy enough to tell this kind of story without a large amount of money to tell it.  Some of the set pieces were interesting, but considering the source material was predominately family-oriented, it says something when the action set pieces scare an 8-year old girl.  And even worse, by the time the movie is over it leaves three people – ages 8, 12, and 47 – all with the opinion that the film was “meh.”

It’s incredibly easy to Monday morning quarterback any piece of literature – film, t.v., art, written – but sometimes you can just *see* that what you have is not going to work the way you think it’s going to.  This should have been apparent during the writing process of “Race.”  It strikes me that if you’re Disney, and you’re going to producing a reboot of a family-oriented film, then you should keep in mind that a certain share of the market you’re aiming for is, you know, kids.  That all important quality of “family-oriented.”  Write things that make kids want to say more than “meh” at your final product.  And keep in mind that no matter what they may act like at times, most kids are not dumb – they can see through fakery and half-assing it.

This lack of caring for the target audience is frustrating to the writer in me: it’s like how can you not see the car/train wreck coming?  What kind of interference did the writers get from the producers? (“We need a really bang up car chase because ACTION!” or “We need a really cool special effects scene to happen about here in the film.  Can you come up with something in a tunnel and small cave?  We don’t have much budget for an actual set but we can effects the s**t out of it!”)  Were the writers given parameters to start with, aside from updating the original novel or film adaptation?

Having had a low budget feature made from a script I co-wrote does lend me a different perspective to something after I’ve seen it.  But “Race to Witch Mountain” left ‘meh’ in the cold, with a lot to be desired.

Have to give it a rating? D.  Have to give it stars?  2 out of 5.  It seriously wasn’t a bad film.  But I’d rather a film be horribly bad in the end than just meh, because meh isn’t that memorable.

Reasons *to* see it?  Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino.  Two pros bringing what they can to lacklustre roles.

COMING SOON!! (updated the next morning)


Yeup. That’s right. Coming soon.

What’s that you say? What’s coming soon?

Reviews.

I’m taking some time to watch a bunch of films that I either haven’t ever seen before or haven’t seen in *years*.  And by years I mean decades.  Far enough ago that I only remember iconic bits, which really doesn’t help put the context in whole.

So what’s coming up for reviews?  Well, glad I asked!!

(None of the following are in any particular order.)

House of the Dead (Uwe Boll, director) [2004]
   The Answer Man (John Hindman, director) [2009]
Mad Max (George Miller, director) [1979]
   The Sorceror’s Apprentice (John Turtletaub, director) [2010]
(500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb, director) [2009]
   Clerks 2 (Kevin Smith, director) [2006]
Paint Your Wagon (Joshua Logan, director) [1969]
   The Last Detail (Hal Ashby, director) [1973]
Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, director) [1982]
   This Film is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick, director) [2009]
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (Carl Reiner, director) [1982]
   Raising Arizona (Joel Cohen, director) [1987]
Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, director) [1996]
   Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordan, director) [2005]
Hollywoodland (Allen Coulter, director) [2006]
   In the Name of the King (Uwe Boll, director) [2007]
Doghouse (Jake West, director) [2009]
The Midnight Meat Train (Ryuhei Kitamura, director [2008]
Superbad (Greg Motolla, director) [2007]
My Name is Bruce (Bruce Campbell, director) [2006]

Just keep in mind that my reviews are going to be really, really boring aren’t going to be just straight-up reviews.  They’re going to be, well, me.  Me reviewing.  And critiquing.  And some of them are going to involve bantering with a writer friend of mine, Ashley, who’s going to be bringing along her own commentaries.  Heck, feel free to banter yourself in the comments on any review post I put up!

And to those people who don’t think film/movies (and yes, I will pontificate on the subjective difference between the two) are about society?  Bite me.

– Brandon

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