Movies

Blu-ray REVIEW: Family Guy – “It’s a Trap!” (2010)

FAMILY GUY – “It’s a Trap!” (2010 20th Century Fox)

First, they did Star Wars. Due to popular demand, they did Empire next.  And just as Jedi was the weakest of the original trilogy, so is Family Guy’s version.

The full 57 minute episode “It’s A Trap!”, available on its own for those who only like the Star Wars spoofs, follows the same concept as the first two.  Favourite Family Guy characters portray the legendary characters from Star Wars.  After two, though, the well seems rather dry.  Presumably running out of original characters, they peppered the cast with characters from both American Dad and The Cleveland Show.  Rollo Brown, Klaus the Fish and Roger the Alien are some of the characters making a Family Guy appearance in the Star Wars universe.

Still, it must have been awful dry in that well when they were writing this.

“It’s A Trap!” had moments that were as funny as any previous Family Guy Star Wars.  Then there were stretches that that were as dull and uninspired as Seth MacFarlane’s worst. It was very much a rocky ride, but luckily the good outweighed the bad in this episode.

Likes:

  • As always, the surprise of what characters are playing who (which I won’t spoil, google it if you must know).
  • Many celebrity cameos (again I won’t give you spoilers).
  • The Emperor rocked.
  • Looked awesome in 1080p.
  • Ample bonus features (similar to previous instalments). Even the Trivial Pursuit challenge was fun for one viewing.

Dislikes:

  • Boring Yoda.
  • One scene where Peter/Han snaps and torments three Imperial officers…just took it too far.
  • MacFarlane likes jokes that go on too long, but they didn’t work this time.

Pick it up and complete your trilogy.

Or, you know, just watch it on Netflix.

3/5 stars

And, no — there is next to a 0% chance that Disney will let Seth do any more Star Wars.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Solo – A Star Wars Story [MINOR SPOILERS]

It is a lawless time.

CRIME SYNDICATES compete for resources – food, medicine, and HYPERFUEL.

On the shipbuilding planet of CORELLIA, the foul LADY PROXIMA forces runaways into a life of crime in exchange for shelter and protection.

On these mean streets, a young man fights for survival, but yearns to fly among the stars….

SOLO: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Directed by Ron Howard

We are dangerously close to Star Wars overkill.  With the announcement of:

  1. A new trilogy helmed by so-so director Rian Johnson.
  2. A new trilogy brought to you by the folks who gave us Game of Thrones.
  3. A live action TV series from Jon Favreau.
  4. And not to mention more Star Wars Story spinoffs (Obi-Wan? Boba?) and the only movie that really matters: the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, Episode IX.

We are very close to oversaturation indeed.  Remember when you had to wait three years between movies and much longer between trilogies?

Fortunately, Solo is a welcome addition to the crowded Star Wars family.

Solo was one of the spinoffs conceived by George Lucas before he abandoned ship.  He’d been trying to do “young Han” since at least Revenge of the Sith, when he was pictured in concept art as an orphan raised by Wookiees.  Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and son Jon wrote Solo, so you can be assured there is a level of authenticity here.  Who better to write that space scoundrel?  Nobody.

And who better to direct than Ron Howard?  He came in under difficult circumstances after the firing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, re-shot 70% of the movie, and pretty much nailed it too.  Howard also brought in some of his regulars (brother Clint Howard and Paul Bettany) and threw in a literal ton of Star Wars references and crossovers.  Solo is Easter Egg heaven.

Finally, composer John Powell created a soundtrack that is different yet founded in the Star Wars universe.  Powell hybridized new and old themes together into a memorable score.  He too included Easter Eggs, in his music.  Listen closely when [SPOILER] the marauder Enfys Nest and her gang arrives.  Powell utilised a children’s choir, as a clue foreshadowing Enfys’ young age under the mask.

Everybody was worried about lead actor Alden Ehrenreich as Solo.  Admit it, you were too.  Fear not, for young Ehrenreich (who is signed on for three films) nailed the role.  His higher voice is the only niggle that consistently reminds you that he’s not the Han you remember.  Similarly, Donald Glover fits into Lando Calrissian’s capes comfortably, including the suave talkin’.  Billy Dee Williams should be very happy with the new Lando.

The concept of Han as an orphan is retained, but instead of being raised by Wookiees, his backstory is more aligned with the old Star Wars novels.  He is a thief on planet Corellia, where he and girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) try to stay under the Empire’s nose.  Corellia is a shipbuilding world with huge, expansive scenes of Star Destroyers under construction.  When Han and Qi’ra are separated, he joins the Empire, as he did in the comics.

Han wanted to be a pilot, but got stationed in the muddy trenches to quell an uprising on planet Mimban.  Han, you see, isn’t the best at taking orders.  While enlisted on Mimban, he meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his best friend to be, Chewbacca (now played by Joonas Suotamo).  Solo is swept into the seedy world of organised crime where he is delighted to catch up to Qi’ra, and is introduced to her boss played by Paul Bettany.  They both work for the dark, shadowy crime syndicate Crimson Dawn.

From an exciting pulse-pounding train heist to the Millenium Falcon, Solo keeps things moving.  It’s one big set piece after another, including the Kessel Run.  And yes, they used the novels as the source material.  The Falcon does indeed make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, getting a little beat up in the process.  By the end of the film, she’ll look a little more like the ship you remember.

The plot has its twists but you can foresee that some backs are going to get stabbed.  Han’s backstory is over-explained a bit too much for a single film, but there is still enough left to explore should Solo 2 be somewhere in pipe.  The truth is, the first viewing of Solo is less paying attention to the plot, and more looking for cameos.  Speaking of which, characters tie Solo into movies as diverse as Rogue One and The Phantom Menace.  You’ll see some stirrings of the early Rebellion, and Han’s intrinsic sense of right and wrong.  You might even see a giant “fuck you” to the Star Wars special editions.  [SPOILER] Han is definitely a “shoot first” kind of guy.

Things get a little muddled with a side character (Lando’s droid L3-37 played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) with a passion for droid’s rights.  Perhaps a droid-based Star Wars movie would be interesting for the future, but it was extraneous here.  Solo is best when it’s giving you a tour of the Star Wars universe, from crime lords to the trenches on the front lines of the Empire.  Trench warfare on Mimban is directly inspired by the muddy fields of World War 1, and it’s far better than any of the Clone Wars stuff in Revenge of the Sith.

Unlike The Last Jedi, a spinoff movie doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.  In many measures, the pressure was off.  Solo aims to be a fun movie that requires no connections to the Force or Skywalker family.  It’s a shame that it has not performed well, but that is not a reflection on its quality.

3.75/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: The King of Kong – A Fistful of Quarters (2008 New Line)

 

 

THE KING OF KONG – A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS (2008 New Line)

Directed by Seth Gordon

This documentary is a story about a clash of the titans.  A clash of a different variety: Donkey Kong!  Newcomer Steve Wiebe vs. veteran champion Billy Mitchell. Choose your side and watch the battle begin.

If you grew up in the 1980s, then it’s very possible that you spent a good deal of your summer holidays popping quarters into arcade machines. Whether you were a Pac-Man freak, into Centipede, or the ultimate challenge of Donkey Kong (Mario’s first game, don’t forget), then you will love the memories associated with this film. Billy Mitchell was thought to be the greatest classic gamer of all time. He held all the big records, until 2018 when it turned out that Billy was a cheatie-cheaterton!  Many of his records, we now know, were performed on emulators, not original arcade machine.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer fella.  In The King of Kong, he doesn’t come across as a pleasant guy, and not at all humble. He was, however, respected in the classic game community. So what happens when a newcomer named Steve Wiebe shows up, who claims to have smashed Mitchell’s longstanding Donkey Kong record?

Wiebe is a tragic figure, a loving husband and father who always excelled at sports and music, but was never “the best” at anything. He obsessed over Donkey Kong, drawing patterns on screens for months until finally beating the record, on an arcade machine, on film. However it’s not that simple. Many were sceptical of his claims, especially since he came out of seemingly nowhere with a Donkey Kong board given to him by Billy Mitchell’s arch-foe, Roy Shildt. To prove himself, Wiebe travelled to The Funspot in New Hampshire to beat the record in person, on one of the most notoriously difficult Donkey Kong consoles known to mankind.

Partly a history of the golden age of video games, partly a David and Goliath story, and partly just a tale about a guy who wants to be the best at something, The King of Kong is a heartwarming documentary. It will have you cheering along, and remembering the good ol’ days. Surprisingly tense at times, but always interesting, The King of Kong is very re-watchable.

The most common critique of this film is that there is some dispute over its accuracy. It seems that some game records were ignored in favour of dramatic effect. However, it’s still a great film.

The DVD is loaded with special features including two commentary tracks, and check out the cool reversible cover art. Take your pick — Steve Wiebe on the cover, or a cool painting of a loaded video arcade.  You choose!

5/5 stars.  For geeks worldwide.

GUEST REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2018) Blu-ray bonus features

We’ve already reviewed the movie ad-nauseum, so here is something fresh:  a review of the Blu-ray bonus features by guest writer Kovaflyer!

Guest review by Kovaflyer

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi (2018 Lucasfilm blu-ray)

Directed by Rian Johnson

If you enjoyed The Last Jedi or if you have mixed feelings about the newest instalment of Star Wars and are trying to make sense of the film, the bonus features are a great in-depth look at where Rian Johnson took the galaxy that is so very far far away.

 

The Director and the Jedi – Full length documentary feature

The Director and the Jedi is your first behind the scenes look at The Last Jedi and the hard work that went into making this Star Wars movie. This part of the bonus features takes you behind the scenes of the building of up to 120 different sets, the creation of all the creatures that we have come to know and love, the eye-pleasing costumes, as well as the amount of detail involved in the makeup artistry; like the work done to create Kylo Ren’s scar.

The Director and the Jedi also features discussions with Mark Hamill about Luke Skywalker and the direction that Rian took with Luke in the film. Mark tells us that he was going to play the Skywalker that Rian envisioned regardless of how he felt about his own image of Luke. Early footage of Mark and Daisy going over lines and choreographing the Luke vs. Rey scene was fantastic.

The interviews and interactions with Carrie Fisher are both heart warming and fun and showcase Carrie at her best; the only way that Carrie knew how to be. Carrie was excited about the direction of Leia’s character in the movie, calling her strong and in charge.

 

Balance of The Force

Rian Johnson really wanted to hit the re-set button on “the Force” and what it means. He wanted to show new Star Wars fans that the Force is not a super power, but a balance between all things, the light and dark, in all living things.  It is a gift, and not all about moving rock or things across a room.

When he started writing The Last Jedi he had a look back at Star Wars and the main characters in the story and what challenges they would eventually come up against.

Rey is looking to find herself and where she comes from; who her mom and dad are and where they have been, and what her new powers mean and how to use them. With Rey there are no easy answers and if she wants them she is going to have to find them herself.

Finn has just woken up on a ship after being injured in a fight on Starkiller Base while trying to save Rey and the Resistance. He wakes up with the ship under attack and Rey missing, and therefore he has to think fast and take action to save Rey, himself and the ship.

Leia, facing more and more loss is taking charge and leading the Resistance in the biggest fight yet.

Luke is fighting his own internal battle that the Jedi must end. In his view, the Jedi have done nothing but added to the problems of the galaxy, and if he were to bring back the Jedi, the Sith would rise again. Luke believes if the Jedi die, that a new light could rise and win. Therefore, Luke Skywalker has exiled himself; he is being selfless. Rian knew that there was a reason why Luke went into hiding, that it was a selfless act and that he was not just cowering away.

Yoda, yes that Yoda (the puppet version brought to life by Frank Oz), comes to Luke when he needs him the most. Yoda reminds Luke of the same lessons he once taught him, to stop with all the big plans and to focus on the here and now, to be the Luke Skywalker that everyone needs; to be the myth, to be the legend of Luke Skywalker and to not let the light burn out. So, Luke must train Rey and keep her in the light. The most important message Yoda had for Luke, was that failure is the greatest teacher of all. Johnson insisted to have the original puppet version of Yoda and his puppeteer Frank Oz for the film. He wanted Mark Hamill to interact with Oz and not a CGI version of Yoda, and even procured the original Yoda puppet mold in order to fashion the latest version of the Jedi master.

 

Scene Breakdowns

The bonus features also offer the following scene breakdowns.

Lighting the Spark: Space battles are massive undertakings. You get the big explosions, the visual and auditory effects. However, Johnson explains that he felt that in this space battle, he wanted to show the humans behind the spaceships; to make you feel connected to what is happening based on the relevance of the battle to the characters. It is interesting and fun to learn where some of the sound effects that were used in the battle came from (e.g. a roll of duct tape), how some of the spacecrafts and battle sequences were modelled after WWII aircraft and aerial footage (e.g. a B-52 bomber), and how Kylo Ren’s spaceship was of course modelled after Vader’s own tie fighter. In this battle, that saw so many Resistance fighters lost, Johnson chose to highlight Leia’s struggle with loss and grief and her deep love for her people.

Snoke and Mirrors: Rian explains that in bringing Snoke to life, he wanted to ground him in reality; make him have a physical presence. He was worried, however, about the complexity of creating a believable character completely out of CGI technology. In utilizing a complete motion capture suit for Snoke’s character, however, they were able to use every nuance that Andy Serkis brought to the character’s physical being; every facial expression, every twitch, etc.

Showdown on Crait: Johnson explains that the scene of the showdown on Crait was one of the first visions he had when he started working on the movie. To create the visual effects for the shots fired on the salt planet, the film crew went to the salt plains of Bolivia and filmed shooting sequences. It is amazing to hear just how many different options they went through when creating the red under the salt (e.g. shredded dyed red paper), how they reinvented the Walker from Empire into the Gorilla Walker using various sounds bytes to create its own unique ‘voice’, or how they used sounds from old beaten down cars in order to obtain the sounds for the Resistance fighter ships.

 

Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only)

This part of the bonus features offers a look at the first meeting between Rey and Snoke with Andy Serkis in the full motion capture suit. It is amazing to see Andy’s performance in the raw without the CGI effects. To say that Andy’s performance was intense is a serious understatement!

 

Deleted Scenes

The bonus features also provide a look at some of the scenes that did not make the final cut for the movie; fun to watch but one can understand why they were left out for the most part.

 

In closing

In closing friends, I give this bonus footage 4/5 stars and highly recommend that you pick up the Blu-ray edition of The Last Jedi as you will enjoy some fabulous bonus features that will enhance your enjoyment of this Star Wars film.

 

 

 

 

GUEST REVIEW: Rock and Rule (1983) by Robert Daniels

Please welcome guest writer Robert Daniels, from radio’s Visions In Sound 

ROCK AND RULE (1983 Nelvana)

“Oh what will the signal be for your eyes to see me…”

Back in about 1984 or 85 I remember watching TV one afternoon and stumbling on an animated movie. Interested, I stopped to watch. It had weird, trippy images and some scantily clad cartoon woman singing and a strange creature growling. My 14 year old mind was intrigued and then was completely blown when one of the animated characters said “Shit!” Cartoon characters were not supposed to swear!! Clearly this was a mistake. No, it was not a mistake, it was Rock and Rule. Although at the time I didn’t know the title and didn’t see the movie on TV again for a while.
Rock and Rule was set in a post apocalyptic future where the street animals evolved into a human like society. MOK is an aging rock star trying to find a specific voice in the guise of a worldwide talent search. MOK hopes to unleash a powerful demon from another dimension, his dwindling popularity driving him to destroy the world in vengeance and immortalize himself in the process. After returning to Ohmtown he finds the voice he’s looking for in Angel, a singer in a local band along with friends Omar, Dizzy and Stretch. MOK invites her to join him and when she refuses he kidnaps Angel and forces her to sing to raise the demon.

This was the era of the edgy “adult” cartoon, Heavy Metal, American Pop, Wizards, Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin and others. I do remember getting into an argument with my Mom back in 1981 about not being able to see Heavy Metal. “It’s a Cartoon…it HAS to be for kids!!!”.

It would be several years later when I was in high school that I described the ending scene to someone and they said “Oh yeah, that’s Rock and Rule…” Bingo, I had a title and looked high and low for a copy on VHS. Nothing. I was obsessed to find Rock and Rule. Of course, in the late 80s early 90s there was no internet so the only thing I could do was continue to bug the people at Steve’s TV to try and find a copy. Again, nothing. Then one day out of the blue I got a call from Steve’s. They said they found a copy and would order it for me. “Great” I said, “How much.” “$129.99”. My heart sank, that was far too expensive for my blood. So the film continued to sit in the back of my mind for years.

“My Name Is MOK, thanks a lot”

Then one day in (about) 2003, I heard of a showing at the former Hyland theatre. A local Anime expert and film buff rented the then-empty theatre to show the a cut of the film.

Also Don Francks, the voice of MOK, was going to be there. I jumped at the opportunity.

The film was nothing like I thought it was going to be. First, it was produced by Nelvana Studios that I only knew for Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Droids and Ewoks, etc. All kids’ cartoons. It was also one of the first films I ever saw that listed “Songs by…” first above the main cast. This list included Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, with a special performance by Earth, Wind and Fire. After the movie there was a Q & A with Don Francks, who I later found out provided the voices for such characters as Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget, Lackki from Captain Power and the un-credited voice of Boba Fett from the Star Wars: Holiday Special. I asked him if he based his performance of MOK on David Bowie. He said that he didn’t have any particular person in mind when he voiced MOK. I later found out that MOK’s full name was MOK SWAGGER a spin on Mick Jagger. However, the talent representation of The Rolling Stones’ lead singer objected and forced the producers to drop the character’s surname. It’s also interesting to note that David Bowie, Tim Curry, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and Sting were all considered for MOK but the budget of the film couldn’t afford them.

“I dunno about this, nobody seems to be buying these ‘I survived the MOK concert’ T-shirts.”

This year (2018) is the 35th anniversary of this masterpiece of Canadian animation. Rock and Rule is the first English speaking Canadian animated feature film entirely produced in Canada itself. Unfortunately the film sat in near obscurity for years after being shelved by distributor MGM and never got released in North America. The film did develop a cult following after being shown on CBC (who held the Canadian TV Rights), HBO and Showtime. Bootleg copies would show up at comic book conventions oddly enough with Ralph Bakshi being credited as director.

“She can sing, or she can scream!!!”

Much like Heavy Metal from 1981 music was a huge part of the film and also much like Heavy Metal the music got tied up in rights issues.

Back in about 2005 just before the release of the Rock and Rule DVD, I was actually in contact with someone from Nelvana Studios who told me that director Clive A. Smith, whose wife Patricia Cullen had also written the score, had the tape masters for the soundtrack in his garage and that he might be willing to let me have them for mastering. Unfortunately nothing came of this as I lost contact but it was the closest I came to producing a soundtrack release. In 2010 the film was released on Blu-ray and unfortunately has become quite expensive on the used market.
It was previously believed that no official soundtrack album had ever been issued for Rock and Rule. In fact, Deborah Harry mentions on a “Making Of…” documentary that she hopes the music gets a soundtrack release.  However, as it turns out, a handful of film critics received a cassette tape featuring nine songs (“Hot Dogs and Sushi” and “Send Love Through” were omitted). All songs are extended from how they appear in the film and in familiar copies. “Born to Raise Hell,” “I’m the Man,” “Dance Dance Dance,” and “Ohm Sweet Ohm” have been officially issued on CD, along with an alternate version of “Pain and Suffering,” and “Maybe For Sure” (an alternate version of “Angel’s Song”).

Though a deliberate Google search will turn up a couple of versions of the soundtrack, this is the most common track list:

[2:46] 01. Born To Raise Hell (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[5:14] 02 Angel’s Song (Deborah Harry)
[4:22] 03 My Name Is Mok (Lou Reed)
[2:11] 04. I’m The Man (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[3:12] 05. Earth Wind And Fire – Dance Dance Dance
[2:49] 06. Ohm Sweet Ohm (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[3:15] 07. Triumph (Lou Reed)
[1:28] 08. Hot Dogs & Sushi (Melleny Brown)
[3:28] 09. Invocation Song (Deborah Harry)
[3:41] 10. Pain & Suffering (Iggy Pop)
[5:56] 11. Send Love Through (Deborah Harry and Robin Zander)
[4:30] 12. Maybe For Sure (Deborah Harry)
[5:22] 13. Angel’s Song (Cassette Mix)
[3:29] 14. Invocation Song (Mono Cassette Mix)
[4:35] 15. My Name is Mok (Cassette Mix)
[3:42] 16. Pain And Suffering (Iggy Pop)
[0:52] 17. Triumph (Movie Mix)
[2:35] 18. Angel’s Song (Movie Mix)
[1:38] 19. Invocation Song (Movie Mix)
[1:49] 20. Pain & Suffering (Movie Mix)
[2:06] 21. My Name is Mok (Movie Mix)
[3:36] 22. Triumph (Mono Cassette Mix)

Rock and Rule falls into the category of “…what could have been”. Had MGM had more faith in the project and released it in North America it may have been a hit rather than the cult classic it would eventually become. If you haven’t seen it or are interested in a look at a piece of Canadian animation history check it out, you will not be disappointed.

A solid 4/5 stars.  Dark, and yet at the same time fun.

 

 

Robert Daniels

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Super Troopers 2 (2018)

Super Troopers 2 delights but is destined to become just another cult film

SUPER TROOPERS 2 (2018 Broken Lizard)

Directed by:  Jay Chandrasekhar

It took 17 years and a crowdfunding campaign, but we now live in a world where a sequel to Super Troopers (2001) exists!  Judging by the mostly empty theatre on Saturday afternoon, Super Troopers 2 looks to become…another cult film.  Which is a shame really, because these beloved screwup cops are adored for a reason.  And that reason is Rod Farva.

Fear not Farva fans, for your favourite character played by Kevin Heffernan is again the butt of everyone’s pranks.  Thorny, Foster, Mac, Rabbit (still the rookie!) and Captain O’Hagen are reunited once again by Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter), who insists it’s the entire original team.  That means they’re stuck with Rod Farva like deja-vu.  Maybe they can stick him with the radio.

You see, only Vermont’s favourite cops can handle this job.  It turns out a big chunk of Canada near the border was surveyed wrong.  It actually belongs to the United States, and custody is about to be handed over.  The local Mounties will be replaced by US cops.  And that’s our gang.  How d’you think that’s gonna go over in Canada, eh?  Will we still be allowed to listen to Rush?

Mayor Guy LeFranc (Rob Lowe) is an ex-hockey enforcer known as the “Halifax Explosion”.  (Fun fact:  in real life, actor Rob Lowe is “obsessed” with the historical Halifax explosion of 1917.)  He seems friendly, but the locals and Mounties take an instant dislike to the US cops.  (Will Sasso, who really is Canadian, plays the funniest of the three Mounties.  Brampton’s Tyler Labine plays another.)  As you can imagine the drama unfolds against a backdrop of US and Canadian stereotypes.  Guns and “MAGA” vs. beer and “Eh”.

Our favourite cops find a hidden stash of drugs on abandoned property.  Sending them to a lab for testing would take two weeks, so of course they sample the drugs themselves to identify them.  This is how Thorny played by Jay Chandrasekhar becomes addicted to a hormone product called “Flova Scotia”.

Fans won’t want any more spoiled.  There are cameos too, so don’t look at the Wikipedia page and just wait to be surprised.  It was pleasant to see Marisa Coughlan (Chief Ursulu Hanson) and Lynda Carter back from the original film.  Brian Cox (Captain O’Hagen) is a serious Scottish actor of impeccable reputation (the Royal Shakespeare Company for example), and the fact that he came back for Super Troopers 2 must mean he’s a good shit.

Original music was performed by Eagles of Death Metal.  Give them credit for a good soundtrack, including a cover of “Blinded by the Light”.

Super Troopers 2 follows the formula of the first, meaning the plot doesn’t matter because you’re just waiting for the next prank.  Honestly though, this drug smuggling plot is an original one that has probably never been done before.  Expect some jokes from the original to be sequel-ed.  Liters of cola, “meow”…just go see it.

Super Troopers 2 is playing now at a theatre near you.

3.5/5 stars

Super Troopers are:

  • Jay Chandrasekhar as Senior Trooper Arcot “Thorny” Ramathorn
  • Paul Soter as Trooper Jeff Foster
  • Steve Lemme as Trooper MacIntyre “Mac” Womack
  • Erik Stolhanske as Trooper Robert “Rabbit” Roto
  • Kevin Heffernan as Trooper Rodney “Rod” Farva
  • and Kevin Heffernan as Captain John O’Hagen

Soundtrack album tracklisting:

1. Tooth Fairy – Super Troopers 2 Cast
2. Blinded By the Light – Eagles of Death Metal
3. Got the Power – Eagles of Death Metal
4. Litre of Cola – Super Troopers 2 Cast
5. Saturday Night Blues – Natural Child
6. Caulk – Super Troopers 2 Cast
7. Shit Makes the Flowers Grow – Folk Uke
8. Penal Colony – Dog Trumpet
9. Fruit Gum – Super Troopers 2 Cast
10. Big Bear – Steak
11. Easy Eating – Naked Giants
12. Fuck a Moose – Super Troopers 2 Cast
13. Shasta Beast – Eagles of Death Metal
14. French Excerpt – Super Troopers 2 Cast
15. Baby, I Won’t Do You No Harm – The Sheepdogs
16. 80Kmh – Super Troopers 2 Cast
17. If You Ain’t Got the Money – Who Are Those Guys
18. Lyin’ – Charlie Patton’s War
19. Complexity – Eagles of Death Metal
20. All My Friends – Blackout Party
21. Secret Plans – Eagles of Death Metal
22. Wham – Super Troopers 2 Cast

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Spoiler-free]

NEW RELEASE – SPOILER FREE ZONE!

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi (2017)

Directed by Rian Johnson

Writer/Director Rian Johnson brings his own slant to Star Wars with Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.  JJ Abrams played it safely to fans of the Original Trilogy with The Force Awakens, and he did so successfully.  He did little to expand the mythos, but Rian Johnson has certainly stepped up in that regard.  Some fans are already going apeshit.  The old “George Lucas ruined my childhood” has been replaced by “Rian Johnson and Disney have ruined Star Wars”.  They’re also upset because just about every single fan theory…was wrong.

Some fans will have difficulty accepting certain revelations about The Last Jedi.  There are also stylistic choices that are questionable, such as the return of lens flare, and lazy gimmicky slow motion.  Johnson also chose to tell parts of this story by use of flashbacks, something that Lucas generally avoided.  These factors, plus the recurring symbolic use of the colour red, make The Last Jedi feel like the odd man out of the saga.

Now, somebody hand Mark Hamill an Academy Award, because he earned it this time.  His curmudgeonly older and wiser Luke Skywalker is note-perfect.  Some fans have complained that this Luke is not the Luke they hoped for, based on the old Expanded Universe (EU) novels.  On the other hand, this previously unseen Luke rocks because it’s completely different from previously told stories, which is what the Sequel Trilogy needs to be.  Remember, Lucas never would have followed those old books any way.  He never has.  Regardless, Hamill has clearly done his best cinematic work in The Last Jedi, fulfilling the wishes of every fan who wanted to see the most powerful Jedi master in the history of the order.

This isn’t really a spoiler, but The Last Jedi does prove that Luke Skywalker has indeed fulfilled his destiny of becoming more powerful than any other.

Don’t worry, fanboys, there is lightsaber action to be seen; and don’t forget the original 1977 Star Wars had very little to start with.  Instead of prequel-esque lightsaber stupidity, Johnson gives us a more contemplative Skywalker.  The stories of Luke and his new student Rey (Daisy Ridley) are so compelling that other heroes are left by the wayside.  Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) have their own mission on the side, to cripple the evil First Order.  Unfortunately, and perhaps just due to the gravity of Luke’s story, these side missions only prolong the wait for more scenes with Luke.  Or, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the Vader wannabe with the temper of his grandfather.  Ren has a strange connection through the Force with Rey, and the two are eventually brought together to face each other again.

The Last Jedi should satisfy some who thought The Force Awakens didn’t acknowledge the Prequel Trilogy enough.  There is a reference to Darth Sidious (better known as the Emperor) and the new setting of Canto Bight would fit in with Attack of the Clones.  Finn and Rose must find a master hacker in Canto Bight, a posh gambling centre frequented by rich weapons dealers making money off both sides in the war(s).  New character DJ (Benecio Del Toro) is sceptical of both sides, because he knows it doesn’t matter.  The same people are getting rich no matter what side wins.  This is a relatively new concept in Star Wars, although Darth Sidious did control both sides of the Clone Wars, he didn’t do it to get rich.

Poe, Finn and Rose are among those under the command of Princess Leia, still a badass, and so sad knowing that Carrie Fisher has gone.  Leia has her own moments in this movie, and we know that she was to be the main focus of Episode IX.  Now that Carrie is one with the Force, it is very unfortunate that she didn’t have a larger part of The Last Jedi.  She has a few good one-liners, and Carrie portrayed Leia as a strong and immediately charismatic leader.  There is also one Leia sequence that has fanboys destroying their action figures in anger.

Also noteworthy: Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke (via motion capture). Serkis makes Snoke more three-dimensional, and though his scenes are short, they satisfy. Laura Dern’s new character Admiral Holdo was memorable for the scenes she had. Unfortunately, Gwendoline Christie was wasted for a second time as Captain Phasma, in what was little more than a cameo. General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) does a little better as the token second-in-command.

John Williams did it again with another fantastic score, although even here reviews are mixed.  Bass clarinettist and fan Kathryn Ladano was disappointed that there were not many new themes involved.  Radio personality Jason Drury on the other hand called the score “possibly the best of 2017” and “another triumph for John Williams”.  I was pleased to hear the return of Rey’s theme and a few other favourites from the olden days.

Expect the unexpected with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Don’t pay too much attention to the extremely negative or extremely positive reviews.  The truth is, as always, somewhere in the middle.  And that is part of the story of The Last Jedi.  The truth depends largely on your point of view.  The two other main themes here are hope, and the power of a symbol.  If the title wasn’t already used in another movie, you could have called it Episode VIII:  A New Hope.

3.5/5 stars

MOVIE REVIEW: Runaway (1984 – The KISS Re-Review Series)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 27:  Bonus movie review!

RUNAWAY (1984 Tristar)

Directed by Michael Crichton and featuring Gene Simmons

Being in  was never enough for Gene Simmons.  Dating Cher and Diana Ross gave him a taste of Hollywood stardom.  He saw movies as his next mountain to climb.  Gene secured an audition with novelist and sometimes director Michael Crichton.  Crichton asked Gene to communicate, without saying any words, his desire to kill him.  Whatever Gene did worked, and he scored the role without even having to read for it.

Crichton’s next film Runaway was a Tom Selleck sci-fi vehicle and Gene played the villain Dr. Charles Luther.  Turning his back on Kiss and leaving Paul Stanley to do all the heavy lifting, Simmons cut his hair and got filming.

Set in the “near future”, Runaway depicts an America in which robots are commonplace.  Every household has some, and they have failsafes built in to protect humans.  Selleck played Jack Ramsay, a veteran cop now on the “runaway squad”, a quiet department dedicated to capturing errant robots.  His latest case is a shocker.  A robot has committed the first ‘bot-human homicide in history.  What caused it to malfunction and deliberately kill its owners?  Ramsay discovers a strange chip inside designed not only to override its safety protocols, but also to order the robot to kill.  But who would do such a thing?

Who else?  The evil Dr. Charles Luther played by the God of Thunder himself.

Dr. Luther developed new templates that allow robots to identify and assassinate specific humans.  They are worth a fortune on the black market, and so Luther killed his partners and went rogue.  However his ladyfriend Jackie (Kirstie Alley) doublecrossed him and stole the chips.  When Ramsay and his cop partner Karen find Jackie, they narrowly escape Luther who was tracking her.  Not only does he have killer robots, but also a huge-ass handgun that has homing bullets that can even turn corners.  They try to set up him by having Jackie return the stolen chips, but in one of his best scenes, Gene Simmons stabs her in the back in the middle of a kiss.

Jackie didn’t turn over all the chips.  Ramsay still has some.  Being the evil genius that he is, Luther hacks the police computers and finds out where Ramsay lives.  This leads to a very typical final confrontation, in which Luther kidnaps Ramsay’s son and brings him to an under-construction skyscraper.  Of course he would.  It’s a standard movie cliche involving elevators and heights.  Conveniently, the movie establishes early that Ramsay has a fear of heights.  Of course he does!

Luther does have one neat gadget for this long and fairly boring ending.  He has robotic spiders that spit acid, programmed to kill anything that comes down from the building.  Tom Selleck eventually bests Gene Simmons as you knew he would, but Gene also gets one of the cheesiest movie after-deaths you will ever see.  You know those scenes when you think the villain is dead, but he’s not?  Gene gets to make a funny face and go “RAAAAHHHHH!” before dropping down dead for real this time.

Michael Crichton was certainly a fine science fiction writer, with titles like Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain to his credits.  As a movie director, he was less successful.  The Great Train Robbery (1979) starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, and based on his own novel, was his best work.  Others point to Westworld (1973) as his best work as a director.   The main point is, nobody looks to Runaway for movie gold.  It’s sluggish, clunky and at times pretty goofy.  As a science fiction film, it utilized intelligent concepts and envisioned a future that was very different for the cinema in 1984.  Runaway had a story idea.  Jack Ramsay was a complicated character, with a cliche but workable back story.  It was just poorly executed.  One redeeming value is its Jerry Goldsmith score, which was his first all-electronic soundtrack.

While Runaway isn’t considered Michael Crichton’s best film, it might be Gene’s.  His next roles were less flattering.  He played a transvestite villain in Never Too Young to Die with John Stamos.  There was a cameo in the horror cult classic Trick Or Treat.  Opposite Rutger Hauer, he played a stereotypical terrorist in Wanted: Dead or Alive.  His last film before returning to Kiss full-time was an early George Clooney film called Red Surf.  Gene was a friendly weapons dealer.

Meanwhile in Kiss, Paul Stanley had clearly taken over leadership.  All the singles were his.  Since Gene had short hair, he wore a pretty silly wig on stage with Kiss.  None of this helped his image in the eyes of fans.  He did earn a good review for Runaway from Roger Ebert, but otherwise the movie was a dud.

2/5 stars

To be continued…

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Jon Bon Jovi – Destination Anywhere – The Film (1997)

Vintage review from the archives.

JON BON JOVI – Destination Anywhere – The Film (1997)

Directed by Mark Pellington

I bought this on VHS when it first came out. I watched it once, put it away for a decade, and finally sold it at a garage sale for 50 cents. Why? Because this is one of the most boring pieces of vanity projects ever foisted upon the loyal. You can see all the JBJ fanboy-esque reviews on Amazon:  “The Destination Anywhere film is perfect…something to have if you are a true Bon Jovi fan. Good movie plot too…enjoy!”

True Bon Jovi fans need not apply except for “the collection”.  Let’s please be objective.

This vanity project was very loosely based on the Jon Bon Jovi solo album of the same title. As such, the music from that movie acts as the soundtrack. The music is the best thing about this film. Sure, the actors are all great — Kevin Bacon, Whoopi, Demi — but there’s no script here worth filming.

Jon Bon (“Jon”) and Demi Moore (“Janie”) are struggling with alcoholism and the death of a child. A dark film, Destination Anywhere mostly just follows Jon around town while he tries to figure things out. The characters he runs into offer various pieces of advice, but there are no epiphanies. The film sadly falls flat, sitting there purposeless, and smelling like something that Jon thought would elevate his movie career. It didn’t, and I think that’s the proof in the pudding.

1/5 stars. Boring as hell.

MOVIE REVIEW: Accidental Courtesy (2016)

ACCIDENTAL COURTESY (2016 PBS)

Directed by Matthew Ornstein

I’ve done it, and you have probably done it too:  Getting in an argument online with a total stranger over racially charged politics.  We live in new times.  It’s the era of Trump, Trayvon, and Mike Brown.  We live in the years of racial profiling and travel bans.  Just when we think we’ve made amazing strides including the first black US president, we seem to be heading backwards just as fast.

Daryl Davis is a musician.  Most notably, he was the keyboardist in Chuck Berry’s band.  He’s played with B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Platters, and knows all the greats.  He’s a very talented but also intelligent and compassionate man.  Upon watching Accidental Courtesy, I wondered if music really is his first calling.  It seems that Davis’ true talents may just be sitting down and talking.  “When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting,” says Daryl.

Although this movie is about a musician, it’s not about the music.  Music does play a small role.  The first time Davis experienced race-related hate, he was the only black child in an otherwise white marching band, and didn’t understand why things were thrown at him.  He thought, maybe they were playing the music poorly.  His parents had to explain to him, “They don’t like you because of the colour of your skin.”  Life was never the same after that.

Accidental Courtesy isn’t about his music career, but about what Daryl Davis has done with the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.  Since 1990, Davis has sat with various members of the KKK, both high ranking and rank-and-file.  Very few people can rival Davis for his knowledge of the Klan’s history and practices, so much so that Klan members have even approached him to learn.  Over long periods of time, after truly and sincerely befriending Davis regardless of his race, 26 Klansmen eventually turned in their robes to him and gave up the Klan.

It’s bizarre to see men who don’t believe in the mixing of races show up at Davis’ wedding to a white woman, to celebrate with him.  His friendship with them trumped their belief system.  It’s strange to see a black man invited into a KKK home, and vice versa.  It’s certainly unusual to see a fully robed KKK wizard sitting and shaking hands with a black man, simply enjoying conversation and company.

In the film, Davis also sits with the Southern Poverty Law Center, who seem less moved by his “person to person” method of combating hate.  They prefer to use a bigger stick.  What was surprising is how much flak he took from representatives from Black Lives Matter in Baltimore.  Here, he was mocked by two dropout activists for “only” converting 26 KKK members since 1990.  What was especially shocking was that the Black Lives Matter reps refused to continue to the conversation.   To them, he was worse than a white racist; to them he betrayed the cause.  All these white supremacists were willing to sit down and shake hands with Davis, but Black Lives Matter gave him the most difficult time.  They actually got up from the table and berated and belittled him before cutting the conversation off completely.  He was even treated with more respect by the KKK leader who refused to acknowledge the holocaust and said that blacks should be grateful to whites for freeing them.  It’s troublesome to think on what that means.

Certainly not everyone approves of the methods of Daryl Davis.  But in this day and age of social media, it’s more important than ever to talk.  Not online, not on Facebook, Daryl advises.  In person, where people can get to know each other, see each others faces and expressions, actually get to know one another.  Talk to each other, instead of talking at each other.  In this film, Davis asks questions, but rarely lectures.  Davis’ technique is simply to ask what makes people tick.  “How can you hate me when you don’t know me?” is a good opener.  He finds out what makes them think the way they do.  There is always more to the story than appears on the surface.  There is always a root cause.

Some felt Daryl did more harm that good with his methods.  Some feel he has betrayed his own people.  But, as Daryl says in the film, whites and blacks and people of all races must share America together.  That’s why we have to talk and figure out how to co-exist.  If he could convince an Imperial Wizard to hang up his robes, that is one small step to making the world a better place.  Black Lives Matter and the Southern Poverty Law Center have their own methods.  That does not negate the inroads that Davis made, just by talking.

There doesn’t seem to be much accidental about Daryl Davis’ courtesy.  It’s all very much on purpose.  Davis has a rich tapestry of friends behind him, some of whom have given up on hate.  If they can, why can’t everybody?

4/5 stars