Thursday, December 18, 2014

You deserve a break today

As I finished placing my order at my favorite Chinese carry-out spot, the Nicktoons show playing on the dining area television went to commercial. I got my food and left before the show came back on. That’s either really fast sesame chicken or one hell of a long ad break.

Or both.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review – Blended

Typical Sandler/Barrymore comedy. This time around they’re single parents who hate each other. But through a series of unlikely coincidences their families end up sharing a luxury vacation, which of course means they have to fall in love. Situations, plot twists and jokes are all highly predictable. Overall this plays like a 21st century redo of The Brady Bunch. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review – Doctors of the Dark Side

This documentary details the CIA’s use of psychiatrists to design the interrogation techniques it uses to torture prisoners. The production poses some interesting questions of medical ethics, but beyond that this is nowhere near as interesting as the filmmakers seem to think it is. That such things occur should come as a surprise to precisely nobody, and the specifics don’t make the general revelation more fascinating. Mildly amusing

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review – Admission

Okay, Tina Fey. Enough with the sitcoms about successful, intelligent women completely obsessed with child bearing. This time around she’s an admissions officer for Princeton, obsessed with the notion that a brilliant-yet-unorthodox applicant is actually the child she secretly gave up for adoption 18 years earlier. As is sadly all too typical of Fey’s work, the picture sports a few highly entertaining moments that fail to save it from ending up as another run-of-the-mill relationship comedy. Mildly amusing

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Review – American Hustle

ABSCAM gets an indie dramedy twist. The celebrity casting and the off-the-rack soundtrack compete for most overpowering element of what might otherwise have been a more entertaining production. Mildly amusing

July reviews

Looks like I may be able to do site updates reliably once a month or so. Here are the July movie reviews:
And here are the most recent book reviews (some of which go back a little farther than July):
Whew! I think I’m completely caught up now (at least on site business).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review – The Eschatrilogy: Book of the Dead

Unimaginative (not exactly a big surprise from a low-budget zombie picture), but at least the amateur horror fans who made this contented themselves with filming their flesh-eating sight gags without bothering with too many fruitless attempts to add story or character development. The coda was a strong ah-for-cryin’-out-loud-isn’t-this-over-yet moment, but otherwise this delivers what little it promises. See if desperate

Review – Bad Words

A 40-year-old man (Jason Bateman) with a phenomenal memory enters a spelling bee thanks to a loophole in the rules. If they somehow could have left it at that simple plot combined with the protagonist’s amusing assholism, this would have been an exceptionally funny movie. Inevitably, however, plot and character development intrude, adding awkward complications, questionable motives and treacly relationships. Mildly amusing

Friday, July 4, 2014

Review – Birth of the Living Dead

If you’re interested in Night of the Living Dead (and if you care about the history of zombie movies, you should be), by all means take the time to watch this documentary. It provides extensive information about how the picture was made and originally distributed (including the sad tale of how it ended up in the public domain). Even the talking-head social-commentary parts aren’t too bad. Mildly amusing

Friday, June 13, 2014

Review – Curse of Chucky

Here’s a rare treat: a horror series that long ago descended into dull farce suddenly snapping back, returning to its roots and coming up with something genuinely creepy. Yeah, it skips back into the dumb stuff toward the end, but act one (Chucky settles into a new house) features several successful stabs at doing something authentically scary rather than gory or goofy. I also found myself wondering what it was like for Fiona Dourif to do scenes with a killer doll voiced by her father. Mildly amusing

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review – Custer’s Last Stand

The iconic commander of the Seventh Cavalry gets a thorough PBS treatment in this feature-length documentary about his life and death. Though little of this information will be new to anyone who’s read a book (or two or three) about the subject, it’s still a good job of dealing with a complicated subject. Mildly amusing

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review – End of Watch

I guess at this point audiences have become so accepting of shaky-cam crap that it no longer bothers anyone that the logic of the whole “found footage” thing has given way to “standard narrative storytelling only with really bad camerawork.” Robert Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal play cops just trying to do their jobs amid the urban (read: ethnic) squalor of South Central Los Angeles. The story is neither edifying nor interesting, but I guess I’ve seen worse cop movies. Mildly amusing

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review – The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box

I’m trying to think of any vaguely Verne-y bit of Victorian sci fi that turned into a big financial success. I could at least respect the effort if they were doing it for the love of storytelling (though I admit whoever made this likes this kind of story better than I do). But the end is such an obvious sequel set-up that clearly expectations were higher for box office returns (or DVD rentals or instant views or however success of such ventures is measured now). Mildly amusing

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review – Apartment 1303

Tedious ghost story. The acting is okay and the production values are good (thank goodness no found footage crap). But the script is weak, exploiting the same shocks over and over, never really progressing much beyond the bare bones of a haunted apartment tale. See if desperate

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review – Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

I’m always nervous at the start of the sequels to popular animated movies; often they prove to be low budget attempts to cash in on the “kids will watch anything” theory. So I was pleased to find that they put an appropriate effort into this production. I thought the environmentalism was spread a little thick (even though I certainly sympathize with the message). But otherwise this was goofy fun on par with the first movie. Mildly amusing

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review – Banshee Chapter

Y’know, just the other day I was wondering what might have happened if Hunter S. Thompson tuned a short wave radio to a numbers station and then took a massive dose of DMT created by the CIA back in the MK-ULTRA days using extractions from the pineal glands of corpses. And now here we have the answer: transdimensional monsters use everyone who takes the drug as a gateway to enter our world. This indie production mixes up an impressive batch of ingredients but then fails to bake it into a cake. A more coherent story would have been a real plus. Mildly amusing

Review – All Hallows’ Eve

The advantage to anthology pieces is that if you hate one of the segments, at least it will be over in less-than-feature-length time. But then if all three segments and the bracket are amateurish, grainy gorefests, the experience is pretty much the same as watching a single, feature-length piece of crap. If you’re scared of clowns, this should terrify you at least as much as an episode of Howdy Doody. Otherwise the only way you’ll get any joy out of the experience is if you’re excited by cheap gore and screaming women. Wish I’d skipped it

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review – Black Forest

SyFy digs up the creepy roots of well-known fairy tales and turns them into a typically half-baked horror movie. A group of random tourists gets trapped in a strange world where old folk tales are real and homicidal. See if desperate

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review – Devil’s Pass

Typically the found footage approach to horror storytelling doesn't really ruin much. It sucks (hard to look at, places harsh restrictions on plots, overused beyond all excuse), but it doesn't exactly damage a picture that wasn't going to be anything more than a mediocre ghost story under the best of circumstances. This tale, on the other hand, might have been really good if not subjected to some really bad filmmaking. A typical wad of young Americans goes in search of clues about the disappearance of a team of Soviet scientists, uncovering some creepy stuff in the process. See if desperate

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review – Despicable Me 2

Not as cute as the first one, but still quite entertaining. The filmmakers have clearly figured out that the Minions are the main draw, but there’s enough of Gru and the girls to keep the story stuck together. Production values remain high. Mildly amusing

Friday, March 21, 2014

Review – Despicable Me

One of the greatest challenges facing the creators – especially the writers – of kids’ movies is coming up with ways to keep them from getting way too treacly. One possible solution: make the bad guy the main character. In this production, a supervillain trying to outdo a rival adopts three orphaned girls as part of a scheme to infiltrate his competitor’s lair. Our antihero’s transformation from evil genius to loving dad follows predictable paths, but it’s still an entertaining story. The animation is good. And of course the Minions steal the show. Maybe I was just in an unusually good mood when I saw this, but I found it a fun experience. Mildly amusing

Monday, March 10, 2014

New this week – Books!

This is the first time in the history 8sails updates that I’ve posted more reviews for books than for movies. That’s at least in part because I’m not watching movies at the rate I used to. It’s also due to the fact that this is the first time I’ve finished three books in three days (though of course I started all of them much earlier, and in one case much much earlier).

The books:

And the movie: Captain Phillips


Friday, February 28, 2014

Review – Captain Phillips

Though I was probably supposed to spend the second half of this movie on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next, instead I remained comfortably reclined and ran numbers in my head. Somali pirates kidnap the captain of a cargo ship and demand $10 million. In response the Navy dispatches two destroyers, a small carrier and a SEAL team. Mightn’t haggling with the pirates have been cheaper? And if the counter-argument is that this response deters other pirates (unavailing in a part of the world where career options are often limited to “crime” and “starvation”), extend the question farther. Why are American taxpayers footing the bill to clean up a mess that might have been avoided in the first place if shipping companies would stop supplying vessels transporting millions of dollars in goods with less security than your bank’s local branch office? The dubious economics dovetail with the absurd twists of events to turn this into a farce, which makes it a shame that it was directed by a guy who specializes in Bourne sequels. See if desperate

Monday, February 24, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review – Emperor

Here’s a closer look at the question of victors’ justice in post-WW2 Japan. General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) must decide if Emperor Hirohito should be tried (and likely hanged) for war crimes. As is sadly usual for such stories, the plot is complicated by our hero’s love for a local woman. Otherwise, however, this is a reasonably compelling tale of slaughter and politics. Mildly amusing

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Review – Augustus

Here’s a grim trudge down the familiar road of Augustus Caesar’s biography. This isn’t smart enough to be interesting or gross enough to be entertaining. Nor does it have enough content to justify its three-hour running time. See if desperate

Friday, February 14, 2014

Review – Carrie (2013)

What a disappointment. Chloe Grace Moretz has done good work elsewhere, and I was looking forward to seeing the lead in this familiar Stephen King tale played by an actual teenager. Sadly, she comes across as less of a high school outsider and more of a general dimwit, an angle that makes the character less sympathetic than she should be. The production’s good technical quality is largely undone by the aura of dumb teen drama. Though I’ve seen worse, I’ve also seen better. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review – The Croods

I spent my childhood in the age of Goofus and Gallant, a time when media aimed at kids were expected to be educational and morally uplifting. I’d hoped that the farther we got past the hippie days the more movie studios would be able to relax and focus on entertaining storytelling. But if this production is any indication, the exact opposite is occurring. A computer programmed with a transactional-analysis-intensive psychology text could have written this dull-witted tale of cavepersons adapting to new circumstances. Some of the animation was cute, but that wasn’t enough to sustain the movie’s running time. See if desperate

Monday, February 3, 2014

New this week - Metamorphoses

Not a ton of new content this week. Indeed, the only movie I saw was I, Frankenstein, noteworthy only because it’s the first time in awhile that I’ve made it to a movie theater.

However, fans of The Metamorphoses Project will be happy to note that I finally managed to add the content from last year (both spring and fall). The project is now up to 23 images (four of which are my creations).

Monday, January 27, 2014

New this week (and then some)

I can see that it’s going to take some practice to get back into the habit of doing weekly updates. Well, at least this one is just two or three weeks late rather than seven or eight months.

In all honesty, I’ve been so busy with start-of-semester stuff that I haven’t added much content to the site. Just three movie reviews:
And a book review: Creative Photography Lab.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Review – The Bell Witch Haunting

Found footage movies and Amityville Horror reheats don’t make a good combination. As if anyone was really curious about that. Wish I’d skipped it

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back in business

8sails fans will of course have noticed that updates – and most new content uploads – ground to a halt in early May. I’ll spare you the long explanations. For now suffice it to say that I’m working to get everything back on track. Part of the effort will involve simplifying the record-keeping side of the site, reducing indexes and updates to weekly updates on this blog.

Though reviews didn’t flow as freely as they have in years past, guest critic K. Alexander and I did write a few up. Here’s everything between the start of May and the end of December.

Staff movie reviews:

Alexander’s contributions:

And new book reviews:


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review – Bingo Long’s Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings

Baseball and civil rights: what’s not to love? I wish this movie had been made just a few years later, when meandering scriptlessness wasn’t quite so in vogue. Writing aside, this is a charming tale of a barnstorming baseball team’s attempts to make a living and have some fun in the days before Jackie Robinson. Worth seeing