Saturday, February 08, 2020

Has it really been that long?...

Hello and welcome back to Review From The Edge, the movie and television review site where I tell you my opinion and tomatoes don't matter.

It has been quite a while since I have done anything with this website, but life gets in the way sometimes. Other than me posting more reviews, the only other real change to the site is that I am back to being a solo act. PeterG has moved on to different pastures and we have agreed that his reviews are not mine to share. May he do well with his new endeavors and be happy in his life.

That being said, over the last few years I have acquired a ridiculous amount of optical media to watch and review (gotta love everyone going to digital, used DVDs are so cheap). I just need to reacquaint myself with my old reviews so I don't overlap them. I should have something available in the next few days (just don't hold your breath).


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TV Review : Speed Racer - the Next Generation (2008)

View the Speed Racer -The Next Generation trailer here.

There are three ways to sell an existing children's show premise to a new generation.  You can continue the series, adding new origin stories to bring the youngsters up to speed (which is rare).  You can completely reboot the series ignoring that the original even existed (more common).  Or you can continue the series, but with the stars being a younger generation, usually descendants of the original characters.  Speed Racer - The Next Generation falls into this last category.

Made to capitalize on the... popularity (I'm not sure that's the right word in this case)... of the 2008 live action movie Speed Racer, SR-NexGen takes place years after the original Speed Racer series of the 1960's.  Speed Racer has disappeared years ago while being chased for his designs for the Mach 6 and it's gasless engine technology.  Teenage orphan, Speed (no last name), shows up at a high tech racing high school with only a duffel bag of clothes, a mysterious key, a red bandanna that his unknown father left him, and a dream to become a great race car driver like this idol, Speed Racer (Just who is paying the bill for this orphan to attend an obviously expensive and elite private school is never made clear).  He quickly meets X Racer, the son of Speed Racer who happens to be going to the same school, and Annalise, X's girlfriend and daughter of one of the original Speed Racer's greatest enemies (also the guy who has spent a lot of money to build the school).  Then he meets his roommate Conner, the biggest Speed Racer fan of all time and diamond-in-the-rough mechanic, his robotic monkey Chim-Chim, and Lucy, a talented track strategist. Wouldn't you know, the headmaster of the school just happens to be Speed Racer's younger brother Spritle.  An odd and extremely generous series of events introduces Speed, Conner, Chim-Chim, and Lucy to the pieces of the Mach 5 (Speed Racer's car), hidden in the school's junk yard.  Speed's mysterious key just so happens to be the key to the Mach 5.  They rebuild the car (briefly) only to discover a secret hidden within it... the top secret plans for the Mach 6.  They build the Mach 6, but find that, while it runs great on gasoline, to make the engine gasless requires components that they don't have the specs for.  With use of the school's "Virtual Track" (a lame way to allow racing in Speed Racer- like environments without having the students leave the school), racing action ensues.  Oh, and Spritle spills the beans that Speed is in fact Speed Racer's youngest son, and therefore brother to X and nephew to Spritle.

Are you with me so far?  Good.  Now we are going to look at my biggest issues with the series. 

First off the characters, past and present.  Obviously, X is named after Speed Racer's older brother Rex (aka Racer X).  But why he was named "X", and not "Rex" is anyone's guess.  And speaking of Racer X, they don't... ever.  No mention is made of Racer X or Rex in the entire 26 episode first season (I didn't watch the second season, the first was painful enough).  We do see Racer X's car, the Shooting Star, as a slot car on X's toy track, and X's own car is called the Shooting Star, but those are the only references.  There is also zero mention of the Racer brothers' mother, grandmother, or grandfather.  So we have no clue if their mother is Trixie (who is also absent), and if so, where the hell she disappeared to.  Also there is no mention of what ever happened to Pops Racer.  Speed Racer's mechanic, Sparky, does appear, but only for a couple of minutes very late in the series.  Zile Zazik was once a great race car driver, and Rival to Speed Racer, yet now, he never drives, ever.  He is always driven by his henchman, even in a race.  This is never explained.

Now the technical aspects.  In the 26 episode first season, there are two "clip shows" that recap everything that has gone on in the show.  These are totally unnecessary, and seem to only serve the purpose of padding the series because the writers couldn't come up with two more stories.  The sound mix is horrible.  The special effects and music are at a louder volume than the dialog, and often drown out what the characters are saying.

Being a children's show, I didn't expect a lot, but I was disappointed with what there was.  But also being a children's show, I'm willing to give it a little slack, which makes it just barely miss my lowest possible rating.

I give Speed Racer - The Next Generation a DAGGER, placed in the hands of a robotic monkey (who, sadly, was the most interesting character in the show).  Go, Speed, Go Away.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Movie Review : The Hunger Games (2012)

View the The Hunger Games trailer here.

If you haven't heard of The Hunger Games in either it's book or movie form, you must have been hiding out from a dystopian government.  I've had people tell me how important it is that I read the book series immediately.  BUT, this is a movie review blog, not a book review blog.

The synopsis goes something like this: The people revolts against a tyrannical government that is interfering too much in their lives and censoring their internet (I'm just guessing here).  Actually, there was an "Uprising" that the government of Panem (once known as North America) wasn't pleased about.  The "Uprising" was stopped and as punishment, someone in the government (who had watched The Most Dangerous Game one too many times) decided that the nation's children would compete in a battle to the death each year.  The nation is broken into 12 districts, each district must send 1 male and 1 female child between the ages of 12 and 18 to compete.  Volunteers are accepted, but are rare.  Therefore, the combatants are usually chosen by a lottery (apparently someone in government read one too many Shirley Jackson stories in high school as well).  Being a battle to the death, there can be only one winner.  The winner not only gets to live, they get to go home, and the government will provide free food for their district for the year.  Of course, the entire event is televised (just like The Running Man).

Twelve year old Primrose Everdeen has been chosen, but her older sister Katniss volunteers to protect Primrose.  Katniss is taken from her ramshackle coal mining village to the capitol and shown the excesses of the noble classes while training for the main event.  Eventually, the games begin, as does the action.

While watching this movie, I couldn't help but feel that there was critical need-to-know information missing.  This starts right from the beginning with,"The Uprising".  There is mention of "The Uprising" a few times throughout the film, and it is explained that "The Hunger Games" is payment for "The Uprising".  Yet, there is no detail about "The Uprising", when it was, who was involved, or  WHAT THE HELL IT WAS ABOUT!  You would think that we would be given more information about an event that they put so much emphasis on.  We only learn at the end of the movie that "The Uprising" occurred roughly 75 years before.  There is so little information of how the world gets to this point that I was reminded of the movie Cloverfield (which, I was told, required viewing supplemental information on the internet). 

Meanwhile, there is also a lot of emphasis on "getting sponsors" to provide support to the combatants, which could be the only thing between them and dying (as is pointed out by a former champion that is supposed to be mentoring them but would rather get drunk).  Which accounts for next to nothing as the only things sponsors provide are small one-use items, and they only do this a couple of times throughout the event.

Speaking of things that appear during the event for the sole purpose of moving the story along, there are at least 4 combatants that come to mind.  Of course, I only remember the name of one, and to tell you would be a spoiler.

Overall, I am disappointed in Gary Ross.  Ross directed both The Hunger Games and Pleasantville, while co-writing the former and writing the latter.  While I loved every minute of Pleasantville, I expected so much more from The Hunger Games.  It's not a bad film, but it's not a great film either.  I can't help but think that I will like the movie even less after I read the book.

I will now draw the rating from a big glass bowl... and... this movie gets a RAPIER that appears to be on fire, or is it?


Monday, May 07, 2012

Movie Review : The Avengers (2012)

View a slightly different The Avengers trailer here.

While I know that most of my readers are going to be going to the nearest multiplex or IMAX theater to see The Avengers, I couldn't help but go to my favorite Drive-In movie theater.  Yes, it was an hour and a half drive to get there and the picture wasn't perfect, but I love to support this lost icon of Americana.

Where else can you have a root beer float while watching a movie on a really big screen where you control the volume and there is an intermission at the half way point on opening weekend?  ...  Okay, now, where else can you do it legally?

Anyway, on with the review...

I went into this film knowing I was dealing with a real-life comic book with an ensemble cast of characters.  Obviously you aren't going to get a lot of time with one character or another.  I also knew that Joss Whedon was the Director/Co-writer.  Whedon is a known fan of comic books, and has created some interesting characters and situations for his own properties.  So I went in expecting a lot.  While I was disappointed by some things, I was given what I wanted on others.

The biggest disappointment was with the lack of real leadership from Captain America.  While he was shown to put on a leadership role, Tony Stark seemed to be running the show.  The Captain spent more of his time dealing with his own fame than either leading or coming to terms with a world that left him behind half a century ago.  I see the need for him to move on, but I was really looking for everyone to look to him for direction.

As for Stark... well, he was what we've come to expect of Tony Stark from the two Iron Man movies.  He is larger than life, super intelligent, and he has an ego than could go toe to toe with Zaphod Beeblebrox (Hitchhiker's Guide reference FTW!).  Robert Downey Jr. didn't disappoint.  With an ensemble cast it's easy for an actor to phone-in their role, like Halle Berry did in X-Men.  But Downey plays the role with the same zeal as he does when it's just his character.

We learn more about Black Widow, and a little (very little) about Hawkeye... I don't even recall him being referred to as such in the film.  And yes, Scarlet is hot in her Black Widow uniform.  But you knew that. 

The Hulk is just what you expect, genius geneticist/rage monster.  Although I must admit, they had a good choice of actor to play him.  Let's see if they can hold on to this one for more than one film.

Thor was better than he was in the movie Thor, but not by a lot.  Which comes to a split emotion.  There seemed to be a lot of emphasis put on the weight and heft of Mjolnir (his hammer), and I was pleased to see the Hulk try to pick it up, but I was disappointed that we didn't get to see Captain America try.  One of those situations shows the writers have heard about the comics, both would have shown that the writers are truly fans.

Sam Jackson as Nick Fury finally pulled out his RPG, but in the drive-in I couldn't see clearly enough to see if anything was written on it.

And Loki... Loki, Loki, Loki.  It's one thing to throw your ego around with Tony Stark who will only respond with his own ego, it's something else to try to talk down to the Hulk.  Stupid, stupid Loki.  Damned funny scene though.

Which brings us back to Joss Whedon.  Yes, there are a lot of stunts, and CGI, and action sequences, and they are all done very well.  But where you get a true Whedon feel is in the comedic timing.  As we've seen in Firefly, Whedon is very good at inserting just the right amount of humor at just the right time so that the viewer doesn't get too caught up in the action.

All in all, The Avengers was pretty bad, but we aren't talking about that movie.  The Avengers, which has a completely different redhead in a tight black bodysuit, was pretty bad ass.

So, I give to this movie, a KATANA (some assembly required).


For a second opinion click here.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Movie Review : Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

View the Beyond the Valley of the Dolls  trailer here. (NSFW)

Where do I start?  Growing up in a small Illinois town, I lived in the shadow of Chicago.  When it came to movies in Chicago, there were two authorities : Siskel and Ebert.  I first learned of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert from their PBS show, "Sneak Previews".  Which would later move to WGN and be renamed "At the Movies".  I found that I more often agreed with Siskel, and rarely agreed with Ebert.  Siskel's death was a bad thing in and off itself, but it was made worse by allowing Ebert's ego to become unleashed.  Though Richard Roeper took Siskel's seat, Ebert never seemed to really treat him as an equal.  While I was liking Ebert less and less, Chicago was making him out to be the greatest movie knowledge of all time.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that Roger Ebert had written a movie.

In the 1960's Ebert had written a lot of favorable reviews for director Russ Meyer's sexploitation films, which led to their friendship.  Together they came up with a story, and Ebert wrote the screenplay, for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (capitalizing on the success of the 1967 film, Valley of the Dolls, while not being a sequel).  This movie would become the catalyst for the website you are reading today.

I first saw the film a couple decades ago.  At the time, it was the worst movie I had ever seen.  Blood Sucking Freaks has that honor today (I feel like less of a human being for having seen it).  Anyway, I thought to myself, "How can Ebert be the ultimate authority on film, and had anything to do with the writing of this piece of crap?".  I would go from that thought to ignoring Ebert from that day forward.  Eventually, deciding on creating a place that I (and eventually PeterG) could give reviews from the perspective of the common man. 

But enough about me and Review from the Edge.  Let's get back to the movie...

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls follows the sexploits of a three piece, all girl, rock band and the lead singer's boyfriend their manager when they move from small town America to Hollywood, California and become an instant success (because that's what happens to bands from small towns when they move to big cities).  In Hollywood, they are introduced to record producer Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell.  Who goes through life talking like a beatnik version of William Shakespeare, and being overly impressed with himself.  He immediately introduces the cast of characters that will be the downfall of the band (and this movie), including short personality bios.  Z-Man then signs them to a record deal, and makes them famous, just before their lives go completely down the toilet.

First, let's look at the direction of the film.  Seriously, the MTV generation directors have nothing on Russ Meyer when it comes to quick cuts that serve only to confuse the scene.  And the music video-like acid rock performances seem to be a lot more like padding than anything related to story progression.  Which, at 105 minutes the movie certainly didn't need.  But wait!  There's also The Strawberry Alarm Clock... and only 3 years after their one big hit.  Groovy, man.

As for cast, I don't deny that Meyer could pack a film with very attractive talent that was willing to take it's clothes off, but that often serves as a distraction from the film (which may have been the intent), man.  Regardless, the acting had a tendency to be way over the top, man, and I do mean WAY, man.  I was hoping that William Shatner would make an appearance, just to bring it down a bit, man.  The extreme emotional moods would swing almost as fast as one of the quick cuts, man.  And the narrator picking up the William Shakespeare-like speak of Z-Man while doing outro-ductions was just annoying... man.

Which brings me to the screen writing.  With the vast scope this film was attempting, and the poor attempts at Shakespeare, I would normally say that the writer was an egotistical hack.  Seeing as how the writer was Roger Ebert, that goes without saying.  While watching the movie, I noticed that Z-man's ego was not unlike Ebert's.  Not unlike how Tarantino speaks through characters in his films.  By the end of the film, I was frighteningly wondering how much of himself Ebert wrote into the Z-Man character.  As for the rest of the writing...  With all the backstabbing, drug and alcohol use, random acts of sex, and really crappy and annoying dialog, it's hard to nail down what the actual plot is.  Did I say it was hard?  I meant that it's like nailing runny Jello to a wall.  Figuring out the plot is so impossible, that I had to break the movie into a handful of "takeaway" plots.

You can whore around all you like and only your friends and loved ones will be hurt by it, but that's okay, they will forgive you completely.
After abortions, women become lesbians.
Drugs will make you do homosexual things. 
Fame and fortune make you delusional.
Women don't like being called "broads", and take it VERY personally when you call them a "goddamned ugly broad". 
If you do anything vaguely homosexual you will die a gruesome death.
Love can conquer all, including paralysis, and will make you forget the dead body you are kneeling over.
Lawyers left without love or money will become stalkers.

In the end, between the first viewing (oh so long ago) and this one (taking the bullet for my readers), I have officially wasted 210 minutes of my life on this film.  I suggest that you don't do the same.  If you really feel the need to watch a movie about a rockin' trio of good looking women who fall victim to the music industry, go rent Josie and the Pussycats.

No Z-Man, that is not Excalibur as you doth claim.  Truly it be a SOULSTEALER taken from beneath a pile of manure.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Movie Review : The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

View the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailer (US version) here.

While I don't normally seek out foreign film (non-English speaking native film) I am not beyond watching a good movie with subtitles or a good quality English audio track.  I even score La Femme Nikita amongst my favorite movies.  So, when The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was suggested to me by the owner of Main Street Movies of Braidwood, IL (holy plug, Batman!), I didn't think twice.  And I'm glad I didn't.

Based on the trilogy by Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo chronicles a reporter's investigation into the potential murder of a young lady 40 years ago.  Along the way he meets up with a young researcher/hacker who is an interesting mystery herself, but who helps him with his investigation.  They find themselves trying to dig up 40 year old leads in a dead investigation while constantly surrounded by potential suspects.  Meanwhile, they are also trying to cope with their own problems.

This movie is pure drama, don't expect any humor here.  As a drama, you aren't subject to off-the-wall sets or locations, you aren't subject to fast action cuts that keep you from actually seeing the action, instead you get great panoramas, minimalist design, sweeping aerial footage, and intense acting.  A great change of pace from the Hollywood fare that I am used to.  Unfortunately, being a pure drama does have it's drawbacks.  Rape plays an important element in the story, and as such receives some very disturbing screen time.  Thus the "R" rating.  Needless to say, this movie is intended for a mature audience.

Regardless, the design, acting, plot, story, camera work, and directing are all very well done.  I would definitely suggest this movie to someone seeking a good intrigue drama, but if watching with an English audio track, you may wish to turn on the subtitles as well, as there are some items in print on the screen in Swedish that you may want to see a translation for.  I can't wait to get back to the video store to rent the second movie in the series, and I dread the remake that will be hitting theaters in the US later this year.

I give this movie a KATANA with a black vinyl wrapped handle and rings pierced along the back of the dragon etched blade.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Movie Review : Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

View the Hot Tub Time Machine trailer here.

Growing up in the 70's and 80's, I was exposed to some styles of music, clothing, and film that were interesting to say the least.  But I loved every bit of that quirkiness.  So to watch a movie that plays on the silliness of the 80's could go either way.  Hot Tub Time Machine definitely goes the right way.  Other parody films, like the Scary Movie franchise and the Not Another Whatever films don't understand what makes something popular and often exist only to insult fads and trends.  Hot Tub Time Machine looks lovingly on the very era it is making fun of.

Basic synopsis, 3 middle age guys who've kind of lost themselves along the way, and one's nephew (who has yet to find himself) head out for a weekend of fun, skiing, and debauchery only to find that the greatest party place of their youth has aged and lost itself as well.  What to do about it?  Get in the hot tub and drink themselves silly, of course.  A series of just the right circumstances falls into place, and they are all transported back to 1986.

Obviously, set design is important in any film that looks at another time.  And it was spot on.  The costumes, the sets, the plot devices, the music, the hair... it could all have been an 80's movie if not for our time travellers.  There are lots of references to movies in the 80's, including being set at a ski resort like Ski School and Ski Patrol, the infamous kiss by candlelight while sitting cross-legged of Sixteen Candles, the guy who's name sounds more like an appliance, fear of communists invading America (with only a handful of young adults able to stop it), the annoyingly cryptic maintenance guy who seems to know what is going on but won't actually say, and the regular everyday item that just happens to be a time machine (like the DeLorean of Back to the Future and the phone booth of Bill and Ted).  And if you miss the Better Off Dead reference on the ski slope, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Casting John Cusack was a wonderful choice, as he started his career during the 80's and is all too familiar with the movies that this film is having fun with.  Even to the point where his character makes reference to a "journey of discovery", which tended to be his M.O.  Chevy Chase played the part of the repair guy well, while adding the nice touch of having another popular actor of the 80's.  Crispin Glover even has a role.

All in all, it was beautifully handled by making an 80's movie that we can look at through modern eyes along with our time travellers.

Looking at this movie through nostalgic eyes, I can't help but give it an EXCALIBUR, with a day-glo green wrapped handle and a strange bit of circuitry attached to the guard that if you push this butto...