Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review - Circle

Is there such a thing as “situation horror”? If so, this production’s a prime example. A wad of characters in search of an exit get stuck in a big circle in a dark room, killed if they move, killed if they try to help each other, killed one by one even if they do nothing. This has a sophomore theatre student’s “gift” for composing a weak character study with no attention to plot or logic. See if desperate

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review - Bad Santa

This is unlikely to become a key part of the annual holiday film festival. But it was an entertaining antidote to the overpowering treacle of Christmas cuteness. Billy Bob Thornton plays his Malkovich role as an alcoholic petty criminal who takes jobs as mall Santas in order to get after-hours access to store vaults. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review - The Ridiculous Six

Is the theory that putting the word “ridiculous” in a movie’s title somehow absolves the production of any obligation to be anything other than ridiculous? Then to cover all the bases, this should be called The Ridiculous, Stupid, Offensive, Sexist, Racist Six. Some of the stunt casting is minor-league clever (example: David Spade as George Armstrong Custer). Otherwise this is terrible even by Adam Sandler’s standards. Wish I’d skipped it

Review - Mercy

Compared to other movies based on Stephen King stories, this one actually isn’t too bad. Of course that’s faint praise, as even the author’s better work has often turned into a cinematic mess. But this one starts with a reasonably good tale and doesn’t try to do anything too elaborate with it. Mildly amusing

Review - The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

The sad truth is that I waited awhile after the viewing to sit down and write the review. And at this point I honestly don’t remember it all that well. Even the IMDb summaries aren’t helping. I recall a sense of vague unease about working real life tragedy (English children resettled in the countryside to save them from German bombs) in with the flimsy gothic horror of the first Woman in Black movie. However, the production quality was decent and the acting okay. I guess if you want to watch something unmemorable then I can vouch for this picture’s adequacy. Mildly amusing

Review - Last Shift

Like a strawberry, maple syrup, hamburger milkshake, this is a mix of ingredients that might have been okay on their own but turn into a mess when combined. A rookie cop is assigned to watch a soon-to-be-decomissioned police station. Unfortunately for her, the place is still inhabited by the evil spirits of a Mansoneque cult who hanged themselves in the cells. A weak script and inept direction drive the final nails into this one. See if desperate

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review - Terminator: Genisys

This thing’s convoluted even for a time travel tale. I considered making a sarcastic attempt to summarize the plot but found myself annoyed anew by the effort to make enough sense out of it to mock it. Suffice it to say that in short order I grew bemused by the in-joke references to the first one and frustrated trying to figure out the characters’ motivations for much of anything they did. As best I was able, I tried to relax and enjoy the fight scenes and explosions without worrying about the lack of logic. See if desperate.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review - The Taking of Deborah Logan

Back in televangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s heyday, he often told stories about people brought to Jesus by his video ministry. They tended to start with someone in the pits of sin and despair who accidentally happens across a Swaggart broadcast. “I was going to turn it off,” the wretched soul declares, “but something told me not to.” I had a similar – though less life-changing – experience with this movie. It’s apparent from the first few frames that it’s a found film picture, which time and again I’ve sworn to stop watching. For some reason I decided to stick with it, and lo and behold it turned out to be a rewarding experience. This turned out to be a competently-told tale of an aging woman whose Alzheimers symptoms turn out to be a mask for something far more diabolical. The production hits a brief snag toward the end during a nearly unwatchable chase through a cave, but eventually it settles into a creepy conclusion. If you’re willing to stick with this one, it rewards your attention. Mildly amusing

Review - Stonehearst Asylum

After reading a summary or two, I went into this experience wondering how they’d ever stretch Poe’s “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether” into a feature-length movie. In truth they don’t. It runs out the original plot line early on, relying on further complications to stretch the rest of the way. To be sure, it isn’t flawless. But it’s a good deal more clever than I expected. Plus they spent enough on it for a decent cast and good production values. Mildly amusing

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Review - Krampus

For a movie about Krampus, this thing could have used way more Krampus. Most of the villain screen time goes to a gaggle of henchmen in the form of evil toys and creepy elves. When the big guy does show up, he’s a pale shadow of the traditional Christmas demon, which would have been much scarier than what the audience is given here. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I’m guessing this will turn into a series. See if desperate

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review - Home

Even for a kids’ movie from Dreamworks, this is saccharine stuff. A cute, quirky alien and a cute, quirky girl end up on the lam together. Cute, quirky adventures ensue. True to the studio's animation standards, the production is acceptable without being particularly inspiring. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review - The Babadook

A single mom accidentally reads a scary book to her mentally-disturbed kid, thus summoning the title horror. The book (especially its illustrations) actually is kinda spooky, which of course raises great wonderment about why a parent would read such a thing to her already nervous son. Likewise the monster itself turns in a few frightening appearances. The shocks are more or less enough to offset the annoying characters and relative plotlessness. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

A fitting end for the most part. I admit that I prefer the simple survivalism of the first two over the political machinations of the Mockingjay duo. I also think the target audience may be more tolerant than I of cliché plot twists and the awkwardly happy ending. But the acting and production values are still good, and the action is still entertaining enough. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Review - Anna Nicole

Here’s the semi-tragic rags-to-riches story of Anna Nicole Smith. Predictably enough, it portrays her as not as dumb as she seemed to be, and not quite as much of a gold digger. The production is sprinkled with recognizable faces – especially Martin Landau as wealthy old man J. Howard Marshall – who must have lost bets or something. Otherwise the production isn’t especially noteworthy. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Review - At the House of Madness

Once again we find a common question posed: if one sets out to make a terrible horror movie, is a failure a success? In this case I’m going with “pure failure.” Though I appreciated the self-conscious effort to recreate the look and feel of indie horror from the 1970s, that’s still no substitute for plot and character. Abysmal writing and amateur-hour acting doom this two-tales-and-a-bracket anthology piece. Verdict: see if desperate.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Review - Jurassic World

The evolution of this series parallels the evolution of effects-intensive movies in general. When the original came out, it was full of wonder at the mere notion that dinosaurs might be brought back to life (for real within the context of the story and via impressive new effects in the production). Now, however, such miracles are commonplace. Dinosaurs are only exciting if they’re part of a carefully-choreographed theme park attraction. One thing remains unchanged, however: a combination of greed, stupidity and common error brings the whole thing crashing down. I liked some elements here, such as velociraptors on the “good guys” side. But overall this represents a further decline of the set. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review - Spectre

Of the Craig Bonds, I enjoyed this one the most. For the most part this follows the usual series formulae. Indeed, several minor plot points and background details are obvious tributes to earlier movies in the set. The plot is a little threadbare, but then the plot isn’t as important as the gun battles, explosions and the like. And those are both plentiful and well executed. I was also a little pleased to see the return of the Blofeld character. I know he seems cartoonish by 21st century standards, but I still missed him during his absence. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review - Pixels

By the look of things, Adam Sandler is as tired of making these things as I am of watching them. Once again he’s an underachieving man-boy in a love-hate relationship with a woman far out of his league. And once again some improbable bit of cleverness on his part wins the day for him. Here the cleverness is a smidge more clever than usual: Earth is attacked by aliens who take the form of 1980s arcade game bad guys, so only a hapless 40-something game nerd can defend us. That supplies a few plot twists and some effects shots we wouldn’t have gotten from a more prosaic dilemma. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Review - Bridesmaids

As one might expect from a comedy, this production is at its best when it’s being funny. Much of the running time appears to be devoted to improv of one kind or another, some of which actually works quite well. However, it also spends a fair amount of time preaching about friendship, rivalry, failure and the like. Come for the sight gags but be prepared for the story to not amount to much. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Review - The Martian

I was nervous going into this experience. Movies that fill their running times with one catastrophe after another aren’t generally to my taste. And stories about isolated castaways can sometimes turn out too limited by their own set-ups to go much of anywhere. However, this turned out to be an entertaining picture. It had a good sense of humor and only occasionally resorted to accidents that seemed like unrealistic attempts to keep the plot from resolving. Acting and production values were good, which helped maintain the sense of realism necessary for a sci fi picture like this. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

At least the turtles had a little more personality than the Transformers. Obnoxious personalities, but at least they were characters, however creepy and hard to identify with. The rat in particular was too far on the gross side. I was too old to catch “turtle fever” when they originally came out, so I can’t say how a genuine fan would respond to this interpretation. I found it diverting but not much else. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review - Exodus: Gods and Kings

What the hell, Ridley Scott? You’re capable of making big-budget historical epics. And this is what you do with the story of Moses? The overall dullness might have been alleviated somewhat by tossing in a miracle or two (seems like there were some in the original story, and Lord knows they had the effects budget for it), but this production can’t even manage that. Even the parting of the Red Sea comes across as an unnaturally dramatic tidal fluctuation. It’s like Peter Jackson saying “Y’know, this story has too many hobbits and elves and shit. I’m sure audiences would far rather see Bickering Humans: The Motion Picture.” Nope. Verdict: see if desperate.

Review - Hotel Transylvania

As is not exactly unusual for movies of this ilk, the cute moments are almost enough to make up for the weak story. Dracula creates a hotel where monsters can relax in a human-free environment. But when his daughter falls in love with a member of the other team … suffice it to say that this same picture could have been made for less money simply by not peppering the cast with singers and SNL alums. Verdict: mildly amusing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Review - Muck

Are you a 12-year-old boy? Have your parents taken away your internet access because you spend too much time looking at pictures of bare boobs? If so, the idiots who made this fiasco have your basic needs covered. If not, seek elsewhere for even the simplest storytelling standards. This umpty-thousandth reheat of city-kids-attacked-by-mutant-hillbillies lacks plot, character, production values, anything that might justify its existence. Wish I’d skipped it.

Review - Strange Blood

The box sold this as Cronenberg-esque, which I suppose it was in the sense that it was full of rubbery effects and icky sex. A scientist invents a universal cure for all viral diseases, only to see it turn him into a blood-craving psycho. The story might have filled a 22-minute horror TV show or maybe a chunk of an anthology piece. But dragging it out to feature length involved a lot of filler. See if desperate.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Site conversion

It's time for 8sails to get an upgrade. More precisely, I'm going to switch to a new system for organizing the site and creating pages. I've been using Dreamweaver, but Adobe's new Muse system has caught my eye. It provides a lot more design flexibility, and it's just generally a lot easier to use.

However, I can't simply load the old site into the new software. That's an advantage, because I've found that often starting over from scratch is easier than adapting old work. Unfortunately it's also a disadvantage, because we're talking about thousands of pages. Literally.

In order to avoid making the challenge more daunting than it already is, I'm going to stop uploading new pages. Overall this shouldn't have too much effect on the "user experience." But it does mean that I won't be adding new movie reviews to the site for awhile.

Because reviews are one of 8sails' more popular features, I'm going to blog them here on The Octopus as I write them.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Review – Ex Machina

I can’t help but think that movies like this would benefit greatly from any kind of hint of a sense of humor. I suppose a drama about the ethics of artificial intelligence might by nature be a bit grim. But something light-hearted here and there might break up the monotony a bit. And if all the characters are completely humorless, it tends to create the impression that everyone in the movie – not just the female cyborg undergoing an elaborate Turing test – is a robot. As the audience is expecting some kind of squirrelly twist like that anyway, there’s no point in fueling the expectation. Studio backing gives this indie picture a slick look and feel, but the underlying story is still amateurish and dull. Mildly amusing

Friday, August 28, 2015

New on the site

Faithful readers know the drill. It’s been months since I posted new reviews. But recently I’ve had a productive spurt. This probably isn’t all the movies I’ve seen for the last six months, but it’s all the ones I remember seeing. The rest ... well, if they were less memorable than this set, perhaps the lack of reviews is for the best.
Fortunately recent reads were generally better:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Review – American Sniper

The parts of this movie that are actually about what snipers do for a living are actually interesting and well-assembled. Director Clint Eastwood has a gift for gritty, realistic action scenes. Not so much with the mopey redneckery that occupies the majority of the screen time in this offering. Mildly amusing

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Review – Dracula Untold

The producers poured a medium-sized budget into this mix of the historical Vlad Tepes and the vampire Dracula (predictably heavy on the vampire side). The action sequences are fun, but the plot is strange and confusing, especially when it doesn’t follow its own limited logic. Mildly amusing

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review – Edge of Tomorrow

I believe this picture is actually better known by its tag line: Live. Die. Repeat. Which is also a succinct plot summary. Tom Cruise stars in this sci-fi action rework of Groundhog Day. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review – Big Hero 6

Ugh, so much family member death. So depressing. At least the movie includes some sympathetic characters and interesting visuals. Mildly amusing

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Because you know I’m all about the sluts (no shaming)

I'm trying to imagine a world where "slut shaming" isn't exactly what it sounds like.

Perhaps it could be an obscure term of art used by Victorian chimney sweeps for a trick of the trade especially useful for removing stubborn soot.

Or maybe it's a rough translation for the name of an annual religious observance practiced only in a small town in southern Portugal during which Mary Magdalene is burned in effigy.

Nope. It's exactly what it sounds like.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review – The Boxtrolls

If Coraline had been really depressing and preachy, it might have been something like this. A town hires a creep and his creepy henchmen to rid the place of the harmless trolls who creep about after dark. Though the animation is fine, the script doesn’t measure up. The trivia notes on IMDb were more interesting than actually watching the movie. Mildly amusing

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review – The Book of Life

For some time now I’ve been waiting for a good kids movie about Hispanic culture. Guess I need to wait awhile longer yet. This isn’t a terrible picture. But given the richness of the source material the filmmakers had to work with, they should have been able to conjure something better than this often-confusing reheat of the Orpheus myth. The animation could have been better, too. Mildly amusing

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review – The Beast (1988)

One of the great charms of the conflict between Afghan freedom fighters (many of whom would later form the core of the Taliban) and Soviet invasion troops is that there really isn’t a good guy to root for. Having no patriotic dog in this fight made it a lot easier to simply enjoy the drama as it unfolds. The crew of a Soviet tank – under the command of a cruel officer – run afoul of rebels and each other. This is the movie Fury should have been. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review – Burton and Taylor

Celebrity bios aren’t my cup of tea, particularly when the subject is a pair of prima donnas whose egos prevent them from finding happiness. But I was lured in by the chance to see Dominic West as Richard Burton and Helena Bonham Carter as Liz Taylor. The production delivered what it promised, showing the ultimate Hollywood couple struggling to work together on the Broadway stage in the months prior to Burton’s death. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review – The Amazing Spider-man 2

After the first chapter of this Spider-man iteration, I was expecting something considerably better here. The villains leave a lot to be desired. Jamie Foxx makes a goofy, unfocused Electro, and the Green Goblin appears so late in the show that they might as well have saved him for the next sequel. But the real killer for me … and this is a major spoiler, so be warned … was the death of Gwen Stacy. I know she died in the original comics, but Emma Stone was a big part of why I picked this movie up to begin with. And though this is situational and subjective, I really wasn’t in the mood for a sad ending. Wrap this up differently, and it’s a fun action picture. As it stands, it’s a bummer. Mildly amusing

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review – Beauty Is Embarrassing

Artist Wayne White proves to be a sufficiently interesting subject for a documentary. Sure, he has a little of the whole “artistic temperament” thing going, but at least he isn’t as big an asshole as some other members of his profession. The story of his life also includes some interesting behind-the-scenes stuff from the early days of the Pee-Wee Herman phenomenon. Mildly amusing.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Think about what serial dramas on television are like when it isn’t a sweeps period. You know the episodes I’m talking about: the ones that are light on actual plot developments and heavy on the set-up material that builds bridges between the audience-grabbing blockbuster moments from the last ratings-intensive spot on the schedule and the shocking new revelations to come in upcoming episodes during the next sweeps. This movie is like that. It has plenty of entertaining moments, but for the most part it seems to be laying the groundwork for a future release (presumably the next Avengers movie). Mildly amusing