Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, Clark Sarullo, Anthony Reynolds, Erin Elizabeth Burns, Stacy Keach
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) When a mysterious cell phone signal causes apocalyptic chaos, an artist is determined to reunite with his young son in New England.
Okay, what I’d heard about Cell is true: the movie isn’t good. However, I don’t think it’s quite as bad as its rating on things like IMDb (4.3 out of 10. Yikes). I’ll say that I quite liked the Stephen King book (it just makes it into My Top Ten Stephen King Books list) although it certainly doesn’t seem to be a favorite for most people. And it’s likely to drop out of my Top Ten over time as it’s admittedly not one of his best pieces of work. I’ve just always had a thing for anything at all post-apocalyptic and this story of a “zombie-like” plague of sorts is so my type of thing that I’m probably more forgiving of its flaws than I should be. Story: Good. Execution: Not so good.
The movie starts out okay. As always, things were changed from what I remember of the novel now but the overall story stays close enough. The problem with both the film and book, however, is that the story falls apart at the end. I like King when he’s at his most bizarre & supernatural but not everyone is going to buy into that sort of thing and this novel’s ending was one that was never going to translate well to film. On the written page, it’s easier to suspend disbelief & King has a way of writing which makes you accept some weird ass shit. On screen, it rarely works well. And it unfortunately didn’t work well for this movie.
I spent a long time reviewing It (the 2017 version) the other day as I liked that one a lot & I get all excited and chatty when I see a movie that I truly enjoy. Boring, predictable, poorly made movies just kind of suck my will to live and forcing myself to “review” them is a struggle. I’m sad to say that’s the way I feel about Cell. I can’t be bothered. It was only about three weeks ago that I watched this and I can barely remember the damn thing. I believe I got bored & started f*^king around on my (cell!) phone, meaning I certainly wasn’t giving this my full attention. At least I didn’t turn into a cell phone “zombie”. But aren’t we all cell phone zombies already anyway?!?! Hmmmmmm. Is that the moral of this story? You’d like to think so! But what could’ve been a thoughtful social commentary is nothing more than yet another zombie story.
I like both John Cusack & Samuel L. Jackson but I can’t say they were trying to win any acting Oscars for this one. 1408 is a better movie if you’re specifically wanting a King movie starring Cusack & Jackson. I remember liking the girl & young boy in the book (I’m too lazy to look up their names) but the movie manages to make us not give the slightest shit about the fate of any of these characters. Heck, the most enjoyment I got from this was seeing Stacy Keach as it reminded me of the last thing I saw him in: Class Of 1999, a movie probably even worse than Cell, in which he looked like THIS…
What’s up with the banana? I don’t know. And I’m not sure what exactly made this movie so bad. I suppose it’s mainly due to the lack of decent character development. As I said in my It review on Wednesday, it’s the characters that really made that film so enjoyable. Horror movies are the worst for giving us underdeveloped characters. It IS possible to have a good story and good characters within the horror genre. Why are there so few??
Meh. Cell isn’t the worst horror movie I’ve seen but it’s just another forgettable one to add to the huge pile of bland films in this genre. Both the book & film are guilty of missing the opportunity to really say something about our smartphones destroying society & all that. But, to be fair, the book is over ten years old now so it’s already starting to feel a bit dated. If I remember correctly, you have to actually be talking on a phone to get the virus in this movie. I mean, who the hell actually uses their smartphone as a phone?!?! I’ve typed this entire review on my phone but I can’t remember the last time I talked into it other than to say “Hey Siri, I see a little silhouetto of a man!“. People don’t talk to each other. Social media is the opposite of social. That’s the problem. Oh well – not every movie has to have deeper meaning, I guess. I found the book a fun read. It’s too bad the movie isn’t a bit better. Oh, and I still f*^king love my cell phone. I just wish they’d changed the title to Mobile in the UK because it’s such a horrible title that it would’ve been kind of amusing.
Here are three quickies for three shitty movies. I wasted enough time watching them so I don’t want to spend much time writing about them. Here we go!
Tank Girl (1995)
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Based on Tank Girl comic by Alan Martin & Jamie Hewlett
Starring: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell, Iggy Pop, Scott Coffey, James Hong, Don Harvey, Jeff Kober, Reg E Cathey
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Tank Girl is set in a drought-ravaged Australia, years after a catastrophic impact event. It follows the antihero Tank Girl (Petty) as she, Jet Girl (Watts), and genetically modified supersoldiers called the Rippers fight “Water & Power”, an oppressive corporation led by Kesslee (McDowell).
I recently read a collection of early Tank Girl comics (which I reviewed yesterday HERE) so figured I better finally watch the movie adaptation afterwards despite it being pretty widely trashed. While reading Tank Girl, I kept thinking “how could this actually work as a movie?”. The answer, of course, is that this movie doesn’t work. What a mess…
I’ll start with some positives: I didn’t mind Lori Petty as Tank Girl and thought she had the right look & attitude. I’ll try to ignore the fact that she’s not at all Australian! I didn’t love her as Tank Girl (I’m sure someone else might have been better although I’m not sure who) but I didn’t hate her. She seemed to have fun with the role, anyway. Tank Girl is an awesome character and I think that does come through in the movie even though they don’t quite capture her spirit. And, um… Another positive?? Let’s see… The soundtrack is pretty good! Although I would’ve liked much more punk plus they should’ve tried to use bands mentioned in the comic (but a “score by Ennio Morricone” actually wouldn’t have worked even if the comic liked to credit him with its score). 😉
In the comic, there wasn’t much of a storyline. Tank Girl was daft (and usually drunk) and the whole thing was crazy & all over the place. I liked that. I’ve only read the earliest of the Tank Girl comics so don’t know how many I missed or if there’s actually a similar story to the one in the movie at some point but I didn’t think it worked. The story & the script sucked. Malcolm McDowell was a pretty crap villain and… Naomi Watts was in this?! I didn’t know that beforehand – she must be embarrassed now.
I wondered how they’d deal with Tank Girl’s boyfriend being a kangaroo and, although the movie doesn’t really manage to pull it off, I’m not sure how you ever could portray that in a film without it looking cheesy as hell. I like this bit of trivia at IMDB:
“MGM insisted on cutting a scene of Tank Girl and her kangaroo boyfriend Booga reclining after sex, despite spending $5,000 on a prosthetic penis for Booga.”
I don’t know what else to say about this movie. It just didn’t work but, to be fair, I think it’s a very hard comic to adapt. I do wonder if it would work nowadays with the right director since comic book movies have gotten a lot better and “darker”. I’d like to see a violent, R-rated version. Like Dredd but with a sense of humor? I don’t know – it still probably wouldn’t work but I did read that this movie was very heavily cut & that the director, Rachel Talalay, had no control over that so I suppose that didn’t help. I’m giving it a higher rating than I think it deserves because I really like the character of Tank Girl and, at the very least, I don’t think the movie tainted the character. But I’d like to see that fake kangaroo penis.
My Rating: 5/10
Class Of 1999 (1989)
Directed by Mark L Lester
Starring: Bradley Gregg, Traci Lind, Malcolm McDowell, Stacy Keach, Patrick Kilpatrick, Pam Grier, John P Ryan, Darren E Burrows, Joshua John Miller, Sean Sullivan
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) Robot teachers have been secretly placed in the schools where the students have run riot. The teachers do a good job of controlling the unruly youngsters, until they go too far and some students get suspicious.
On paper (or on a screen since that’s how we read everything now), this movie sounds awesome. To me, at least. The synopsis (killer robot teachers in a high school!), the cool poster & the fact that it’s from the 1980s had me all excited to watch this movie that I’d somehow never even heard of. Well, damn – it’s not good. What a disappointment! I was hoping it would at least be a low budget sci-fi cult classic type of thing like Hardware or something (yes! I got yet another Hardware mention into a post!). I didn’t hate it but it’s not very good despite having so much potential to be something I’d like.
One thing I always love about watching movies from this time period is seeing familiar faces from my favorite era and Class Of 1999 has lots of these. Look – a Tank Girl connection with Malcolm McDowell! He plays the school’s principal in this – I think Hollywood had him on speed dial for these types of movies back then. The movie’s hero (Bradley Gregg – a teenage delinquent who’s actually a “good guy”) is in two of my favorite movies: he’s Eyeball Chambers in Stand By Meand also the character whose death topped My Top Ten Nightmare On Elm Street Deaths in Dream Warriors!!!
The robot teachers are played by Patrick Kilpatrick, John P Ryan & Pam Grier (with dodgy-looking fake robot boobs). Stacy Keach is the main baddie in charge of the robots and for some reason seductively eats a banana? I immediately recognized Sean Sullivan as the drunk one who Garth doesn’t want spewing in the Mirth Mobile in Wayne’s World. Finally, Bradley Gregg’s sweet little delinquent brother is played by Joshua John Miller(!), who (whom?) I know very well from lots of 80’s movies & TV shows including my favorite episode of Highway To Heaven. Haha! Highway To Heaven!! I was such a nerd. I just looked him up & he co-wrote the screenplay for The Final Girls. What?! I should really try to watch that…
To be honest, I’m not sure what actually made this movie so bad. Yes, the acting is pretty rubbish and the special effects look dodgy and the script isn’t the greatest but I still can’t help but look at these images and the overall plot & cast and think that this is exactly my type of movie. I think it didn’t help that, when it started and we saw the exaggerated “futuristic 1999 punk kids”, it reminded me of the teenagers in Class Of Nuke ‘Em High. I’m pretty damn sure that no movie ever wants to make you immediately think of a Troma film.
Also, I watched this and the Bronies documentary very late one night as they were both about to disappear from Netflix. I kept falling asleep through both of them so I may have not fully given this movie a chance. Okay – I think I’m now trying to talk myself into liking Class Of 1999 for some reason?? It’s an okay film but extremely dated and would only possibly be appreciated by someone my age who likes this sort of thing. I’m glad I watched it but I’m not too bothered that it has disappeared from Netflix. I’m sure I’d have appreciated it more if I’d seen it when I was 15 or so. Has anyone seen the director’s previous film, Class Of 1984, which sounds like the exact same movie minus the robots? It has a higher IMDB rating. Hmm… I’ll watch that too if it shows up on Netflix!
My Rating: 5.5/10
Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (2012)
Directed by Laurent Malaquais
Produced by Anglie Brown, Morgan Peterson, Michael Brockhoff, Tara Strong, Lauren Faust & John de Lancie
Starring: A bunch of bronies!
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (formerly titled BronyCon: The Documentary) is a 2012 documentary film centering on bronies, the adult fans of the 2010 animated television series, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
I said I didn’t want to waste much time talking about these movies but I did blather on a bit in my other two reviews. Well, this one will truly be short as there’s not much to say. I find the “Bronies” thing sort of fascinating as I still don’t understand why a bunch of grown men have supposedly latched onto My Little Pony but this documentary doesn’t really explore the “why” at all. It’s just not a very good or in-depth documentary and was quite boring considering its odd topic.
I actually don’t remember if the above guy was in the documentary but this is one of many photos that come up if you Google “Bronies” (I don’t think the guys I used in the photo at the very top were in it). You’d think I’d remember if he was but I can barely remember a thing about this now. That’s the problem – the documentary failed to make a bizarre topic at all interesting. I do, however, remember the below guy as I kept thinking he looked like Corey Feldman.
I’d say that you’d probably only want to watch this documentary if you’re a fan of My Little Pony. I actually found the bits with the voice actors (Tara Strong and, oh my god – Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation, John de Lancie!) & the creator of the Friendship Is Magic series (Lauren Faust) more interesting than the interviews with the fans of the show.
Not surprisingly, one of the Bronies talked a little bit of the bullying he’d had to endure thanks to being a fan of the show (if I remember correctly, he had a gun pulled on him? God bless America!). That kind of thing always pisses me off because, although it may seem strange to a lot of us, these guys aren’t exactly hurting anyone by liking My Little Pony. I guess it was a little disappointing that the psychological aspect of what exactly it is about this show that has apparently drawn some grown men to it wasn’t explored but, hey, this was someone’s project and they did a decent enough job gathering together fans & those involved with the show. I’m sure it didn’t have a huge budget… I’d be interested to know what My Little Pony fans thought of it but I must admit that I don’t personally know any adult fans (although I did love old school My Little Pony as a young girl!).
This is the one I had!!!
My Rating: 5/10
I figured I should end this post with something from the Tank Girl soundtrack, which had potential but could’ve been much better overall. This is one of my two favorites from the soundtrack (I’ll post the other for Music Video Friday this week): Richard Hell And The Voidoids – Blank Generation:
There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.
Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.
In probably his most celebrated role, Edward Norton plays Derek Vinyard, one of the leaders of a local White Supremacist group who is jailed after brutally murdering two African-American gang members attempting to steal his truck.
On the day of Derek’s release from prison, his younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong) is called to the principal’s (Avery Brooks) office after writing an essay on Mein Kampfand its influence on the civil rights movement. Principal Sweeny then sets Danny the task of writing a new essay explaining the events that led to his brother’s arrest and conviction.
As Danny simultaneously attempts to unpick his brother’s past and deal with the fact that Derek has come back changed, both Derek’s former associates and enemies close in with devastating consequences.
As much as American History X may outwardly seem like a study on racism, more than anything it is an exploration of feelings of powerlessness and how they lead to anger and ultimately hatred and destruction. Derek’s prejudice against anyone who isn’t a white protestant has little to do with the actual target of his hatred but rather a desire to belong to a movement where he feels empowered. The irony of Derek’s belief that people of other races and religions are inferior to him is that those he hates are driven by exactly the same feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness that he is and act out with similar impulses… and it’s all a distraction from the way corporate America oppresses its poor.
There isn’t anything particularly unique about this story of a confused young man learning the error of his ways and not wanting his brother to follow in his footsteps but there are a number of elements that elevate American History X above other similar films.
First is the non-linear story-telling. Director, Tony Kaye, slowly reveals what is not only behind Derek’s change of heart but also his original prejudices concurrent with his current post-release experiences with the past shown in black and white. It keeps the audience hooked in until the end wanting to understand who Derek really is. It also adds a level of drama and grittiness to Derek’s past, demonstrating how he sees the world in completely black and white terms. In the present day his experiences are in full colour, showing how his perception has changed. It’s a simple but effective device.
Second is the powerful performances. Edward Norton manages to capture Derek’s power, charisma and confidence but as he enters the prison system and his vision of the world starts to unravel his mask begins to slip and he moves from being a character it is easy to revile to a nuanced sympathetic one. Furlong also gives what is probably the only decent performance of his career as a boy at a crossroads with the potential to build himself and new future that doesn’t include repeating his brother’s mistakes. They are ably supported bythe two men who have the most influence over Derek’s life. Stacy Keach as Cameron Alexander, the fascist leader who lets Derek do his dirty work while he keeps his own hands clean and Avery Brooks as the educator who ultimately believes that Derek is capable of more than his past actions. Guy Torry is also engaging, playing Lamont, a fellow convict who ultimately breaks Derek’s prejudices through friendship.
Thirdly, Derek is never portrayed as stupid. Although his beliefs are abhorrent and there is no way to justify them, it is easy to see how his arguments convince the disempowered around him as well as how he has convinced himself. And the fact that the gangs he directs the majority of his rage at are hardly innocents adds to the believability.
Finally the film does not shy away from showing brutality of its characters, refusing to shy away from who they really are, with one particularly horrific scene proving to be the one thing that everyone remembers turning away from. And this is equally matched by some of Derek’s experiences in prison.
While there is no question that American History X is a powerful, hard-hitting film with a strong and valuable message on occasion it’s a little over dramatic and at times it strays towards predictability. It’s definitely a worthy entry to the IMDB top 250 though and one I would highly recommend. 4/5
Jeffrey M. Howard
Starring Voice Actors:
Cedric the Entertainer
Roger Craig Smith
Walt Disney Pictures
Running time: 92 minutes
Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) is a cropduster plane who dreams of being a racer in the upcoming Wings Across The World race. He qualifies for the race, surprising everyone. Can Dusty overcome the odds and win the race and, perhaps more importantly, the respect of his fellow racers?
Planes isn’t great but it isn’t BAD. It’s certainly no Pixar film but I’d say it’s at least better than Cars 2. This wasn’t made by Pixar but is set in the same world as Cars, which will probably make a lot of people assume it’s a Pixar film due to it having the same look as Cars. I’m still not sure why they’ve chosen to do a spin-off of Pixar’s weakest set of films? I suppose it’s down to all the money that has been made from the Cars toys & merchandising.
I went in with very low expectations so I ended up enjoying it more than I assumed I would as I’m not a fan of the Cars films (although the first Cars is still a better film than Planes). Unlike the majority of Pixar films, which most adults love just as much as their children do, Planes is definitely for the kids. In this way, it feels more like the stuff we get from studios like Dreamworks – I see those as decent enough kids’ films but would never consider any of them to be actual all-time favorite films of MINE, like I do with things like WALL-E & Toy Story.
Planes has the usual kind of feel good story with a moral that you always get from a Disney film (believe in yourself, be kind to others, yada yada). It’s simple & predictable but your kids will be kept entertained. They’ll root for Dusty and his two likeable friends that stick by him as he tries to compete in the famous race.
The friends are a forklift/mechanic named Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher) and a fuel truck named Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett). And an old war plane named Skipper Riley (voiced by Stacy Keach) helps Dusty to train for the race (think “Gill” in Finding Nemo as it’s pretty much the exact same character but a plane instead of a fish). Then there’s a bit of a love interest and some double crossing from a nasty race rival – You know, all the usual stuff in a kids’ film… There’s nothing exactly groundbreaking here! Which isn’t what kids want from a movie anyway. I think us adults have just been spoiled by some excellent animated films in recent years so it’s hard to not expect a little more from them. But they can’t all be Monsters Inc, I guess.
Predictable feel good Disney film that will keep your kids entertained. This one really is for the kids, though, so don’t expect Pixar-levels of fun for the entire family. This isn’t made by Pixar nor is it even as good as their weakest offering, Cars (of which Planes is a spin-off). If your kids like Cars, give this one a go. I’m sure they’ll like it but you’ll probably be a little bored. It’s not bad – It just comes nowhere near some of the all-time classics we’ve had from Disney and Pixar in the past.