Second Breakfast: The Battle of the Five Armies

SecondBreakfast-01Peter Jackson has spent some time in Middle-earth, producing six movies and oceans of profit, and fostering more childhoods than he could have anticipated. The Fellowship of the Ring hit theaters in 2001, thirteen years ago. Feel old yet? If you don’t, that’s because you’re too young, and you missed The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Ah, let me tell you, that was a good time to be nine. Movies and books and culture in general harbor a magnificent capacity to influence young folk, and thinking back, I don’t know if any movie changed me quite the same way The Lord of the Rings did. It’s a funny thing, to think that a decade later, a whole new generation of children not unlike me went through a similar process with The Hobbit trilogy. It introduced them to fantasy, changed the way they saw the world, igniting the sparks of imagination.

I pity those children.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

The Plot: After finally completing the natural climax of the previous film, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and company (twelve other actors) at last reclaim their homeland of Erebor and the riches therein. Under pressure from the men of the recently destroyed Laketown, led by Bard (Luke Evans), and the elves of Mirkwood, led by King Thranduil (Lee Pace), Thorin must confront whether he values his own prosperity or honor more. This conundrum is interrupted when a massive army of orcs, led by the villainous-and-superfluous Azog (Manu Bennett), shows up at his doorstep. Urged on by his followers, and his recently shirked friends Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Thorin must lead the defense of his homeland, before it slips from his fingers once more. There’s a lot of leading in this movies, apparently. Continue reading

A Bomb in the Lasagna: “Top Five” is a Mostly Really Good Dramedy

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Top Five (2014)

IAC Films

IAC Films

The Plot: On the day before his live-on-air marriage to reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), comedian and recovering alcoholic Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is in Manhattan promoting the release of his new critically maligned drama. At the urging of his agent (Kevin Hart), Andre agrees to do an in-depth interview with New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), in spite of the toxic reviews he’s been given by another Times writer. As the two spend the day together, puff piece questions become harder-edged and their relationship grows into something more than interviewer and subject as the pair share awkward encounters with Andre’s friends and family, Chelsea’s boyfriend Brad (Anders Holm), and confront past failures. Through prying questions, uncomfortable anecdotes, and debates of the top five rappers of all time, the duo work through harsh truths and some unsettling lies.

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The Tuesday Zone: Eldritch Adaptations (Part 21), or an Abomination Named ‘The Resurrected’

The Tuesday Zone

The Call of Cthulhu | Die Farbe | In the Mouth of Madness | Re-Animator | From Beyond | The Dunwich Horror | Shadows on the Bayou | “Pickman’s Model” & “Cool Air” (Night Gallery) | Cthulhu | The Whisperer in Darkness | Dagon | “Dreams in the Witch-House” (Masters of Horror) | Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown | “Cool Air” (H.P.L. Collection, Vol. 1) | Short Films (H.P.L. Collection, Vol. 1) | The Haunted Palace | Welcome to Night Vale | The Unnamable | Cast a Deadly Spell | Call Girl of Cthulhu | The Resurrected (aka Shatterbrain)

Eldritch Adaptations is a series of reviews of movies based on or heavily inspired by the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft—better known as H. P. Lovecraft—an American horror writer who produced numerous stories during the 1920s and ’30s. His works have influenced the horror genre and inspired major writers and directors like Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and many more.

The major text that comprehensively outlines film adaptations/homages to horror author H. P. Lovecraft is the book Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft by Andrew Migliore and John Strysik. They say that, “The Resurrected is the best serious Lovecraftian screen adaptation to date, with a solid cast, decent script, inventive direction, and excellent special effects that do justice to one of [Lovecraft’s] darker tales.”

Source

Scotti Brothers Pictures

This might be the saddest sentence I have ever read in a book related to Lovecraft, and that includes his biographies—which chronicle anxiety and depression with surprising depth—and critical studies—which tend to fall under that adjective because they are about as nuanced as your average Stuart Gordon film. I mean, The Resurrected (a 1991 movie in the worst ways) is not an atrocity, but it is pretty bad, if only because it is so excessively average. There is nothing special here, which makes the bad moments stand out all the more. There are your pointless, uninteresting voiceovers; terrible effects (don’t give me that, “It was 23 years ago!” argument; movies with smaller budgets made decades previously have looked way better) with highly questionable camera-work; lazy character writing; and an aimless story. There’s just so much that made this movie sub-par, and not even in the sense of, “Oh, that was delightfully bad and silly.” Continue reading

Second Breakfast’s Mass Exodus

SecondBreakfast-01A lot of critics hate Ridley Scott. A lot hate blockbusters. A lot hate religious movies. Some hate a combination of the three. What can I say? In the immortal words of President Thomas Jefferson, “Haters gonna hate.”

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Scott Free Productions

Scott Free Productions

The Plot: Moses (Christian Bale) has lived his whole life as a prince of Egypt, cousin to Prince Ramses, later Pharaoh Ramses II (Joel Edgerton). His world comes crashing down when a Hebrew slave, Nun (Ben Kingsley), informs him that he was born Hebrew. Since not being Egyptian is basically like having leprosy, Ramses expels his lifelong friend from court, but refuses to execute him. Moses’ wanderings in exile eventually lead him to have a vision of God (Isaac Andrews), who commands Moses to return to Egypt and free the 400,000 Hebrew slaves from the vicious tyranny of the pharaoh.

2014: the year of the Old Testament blockbuster. Nah, that’s an overstatement. True, though, earlier this year we saw the release of the half-good Noah, but that hardly constitutes a “year of” title. Aronofsky’s spin delved deeply into the psychology of isolation and the moral quandaries of living under a wrathful God. He also added in a bunch of violence and CGI. Exodus sets out with a similar goal, but executes it differently, because though Ridley Scott is a highly visual filmmaker, he manages to avoid the seduction of computers pretty well. At the core of the film beats a complicated triangle relationship between Moses, Ramses, and God. Ramses of course doesn’t communicate directly with the Hebrew God, but his status as a living god falters under the seven plagues of Egypt, and he suffers a crisis of power. It might pay off to take a closer look at each of these three characters.

Scott Free Productions There they are.

Scott Free Productions
There they are.

Continue reading

Rooster Recap: The 2015 Golden Globe Nominations

Rooster RecapThe Golden Globe nominations came out today, and that was really the only surprising thing about them. Seriously, the nominations themselves are pretty much what you’d expect them to be, but did anyone know that the announcement was going to happen today? I didn’t.

Let’s all be honest with each other. The only reason anyone cares about the Globes is because they offer some indication of what might happen at the Oscars. Otherwise, they bear little value. They try to keep things a little fresh by dividing the Best Picture, Actor, and Actress categories by genre—one for drama and one for musical/comedy, because those are the only genres. This convolutes their indicative capabilities, however, since they feel obligated to recognize ten comedic performances every year and the Academy may acknowledge one.

Let’s take a look at all the major categories, shall we? I’m not going to waste my time with the TV awards.

Best Motion Picture – Drama: Boyhood, Selma, The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything.

Selma’s perhaps a bit of a surprise there. The Martin Luther King Jr. biopic is slated for release early next year, so few people have actually seen it yet. Early reviews have it testing well with critics, but appealing less to wider audiences. The other four are the obvious choices. It will be interesting if Boyhood can regain some momentum and overtake its based-on-a-true-story competitors. What a world we live in when one of the Best Picture nominees is an original story. Continue reading

A Bomb in the Lasagna Tried His Best to Not Make a Joke About ‘Catching’ “Foxcatcher” in Theaters

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Well, it’s been a fortnight since I wrote here last, but after some travels and long holiday retail hours, I’m back, I’m full of holiday cheer, and I’m ready to spread it through the world via film reviews.

So with that, let’s look at a harrowing drama that ends with a murder.

Foxcatcher (2014)

Annapurna Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics

Annapurna Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics

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The Tuesday Zone: ‘True Stories’ (1986)

The Tuesday Zone

True Stories (1986) opens with a young girl ambling down a long road; the fields and sky continue out of the shot in every direction, and due to the complete stillness of the camera, there is a feeling of openness and nonchalance.

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However, the perfect symmetry of the shot contradicts those feelings, and the result is an opening that purposefully stirs up conflicting emotions in the viewer. For those familiar with director David Byrne’s work as a solo musician and as the frontman of Talking Heads, that sense of spiritual and emotional tension is likely familiar.

From: Stop Making Sense,  by Talking Heads & Arnold Stiefel Company Pictured: tension.

From: Stop Making Sense, by Talking Heads & Arnold Stiefel Company
Pictured: tension.

Byrne continues that contradictory atmosphere throughout the film. The very premise of the movie is that Byrne took stories he read in tabloids and strung them together into a fictional narrative, although even that might be a fabrication. And yet, the movie is called True Stories. One of the stories is of a husband and wife who haven’t talked to each other in over a decade, yet they are happily married. Louis Fyne is played by John Goodman, who is ultimate contradiction: godlike perfection, yet still flesh and blood. Continue reading