Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

After diving into a documentary last night, I wanted to finish off 2016 with one of my favorite movies of the year and a movie that everyone should see. What is that movie? It is arguably one of the best movies to be released all year, Rogue One!

Plot/ All looks lost for the Rebellion against the Empire as they learn of the existence of a new super weapon, the Death Star. Once a possible weakness in its construction is uncovered, the Rebel Alliance must set out on a desperate mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. The future of the entire galaxy now rests upon its success.

Being the first Star Wars movie to take place outside the existing familial storyline, it was interesting to see what Gareth Edwards would create to fall into this important canonical spot. What I found was an amazing entry that fit perfectly into the given timeframe and created the prequel that many of us have longed for. Rogue One has so many elements that are impressive and more importantly creates an adult oriented film that is darker and shows the harshness of the Empire and the horrors of what a true rebellion would be. The performances are outstanding, the action and pacing flowed in a way that was on par with the classic Star War entries (especially Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope), and the storyline was perfectly placed within the confines given as a direct lead-in to A New Hope (plus seeing Grand Moff Tarkin was a great surprise). While some of the CGI was a touch shaky and the addition of some of the fighter footage, as homage to A New Hope was not needed to complete the project, they were but minor flaws. In the end, Rogue One is one of my favorite entries in the saga falling second only to the best in the series Empire Strikes Back and is a movie that must be seen by everyone (not just Star Wars fans).  

Friday, December 30, 2016

Killswitch (2014)

Living in the world of Alien lately, I decided I wanted to go into something different and watch one more documentary before the end of 2016. With that in mind, I decided on the 2014 documentary/drama Killswitch.

Plot/ The Internet is under attack. This award-winning documentary explores the threat Internet censorship imposes on free speech, innovation, and democracy.

In this digital age, no topic should be at the forefront of society than net neutrality. If you are unaware of the importance of this topic, you are wrong and this documentary breaks down the importance of net neutrality in a way that everyone can understand. This is not a partisan political documentary in any way, it does a great job of presenting the information while being open about the infringement being applied by both sides of the political spectrum. The documentary is well made and does a great job at profiling the cases of Edward Snowden and Aaron Schwartz, both polarizing figures of the modern digital age. Yes, there is a lot of message bias; it does outline the cases of civil disobedience, and it definitely appears that more attention was placed on the story of Aaron Schwartz than Edward Snowden, but the information from both accounts must be heard and understood. In the end, this may not be the best documentary out there, but it is one of the most informative and important films to come along in some time. If you care about freedoms and Constitutional rights, you should watch this and embrace the message.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Alien 3 (1992)

I have taken the past few weeks to revisit some horror/sci-fi franchises and complete reviews on them before the end of the year. That started with Phantasm, and now I am putting the Alien franchise to bed as I prepare for the new entry in May. The next review is my least favorite of the series, Alien 3 from 1992.

Plot/ After her last encounter, Ripley crash-lands on Fiorina Fury 161, a maximum-security prison. When a series of strange and deadly events occur shortly after her arrival, Ripley realizes that she brought along an unwelcome visitor.

As I have said, sequels are always a hit or miss proposition. In the case of the Alien franchise, the first sequel Aliens is a masterpiece, a movie that expands the universe in a positive way and allows the story to grow. Unfortunately, Alien 3 does not have the same effect or quality that the first two films offered to the viewers. In this one, the story left to build upon was totally disregarded, and something new and unpolished was placed in its path. The entire storyline feels forced and with that contrived outcome, the atmosphere that made the first two films memorable is gone. Yes, an attempt was made to reach that heavy almost brooding atmosphere from the source material, but it was almost too much and never found the balance of the first films. Sure, the cast is decent and the performances solid, but even that cannot overcome the uneven storyline, contrived plot, and shaky effects. In the end, this is definitely my least favorite entry in the series and a movie that could be skipped. Unless you are a true fan preparing for the fifth installment due in May, stay away!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Snowden (2016)

Here it is, post number 1500 at the Ringmaster's Realm. As I said in yesterday’s post, I put a lot of thought into what movie I would review and decided on Snowden from Oliver Stone. To me, this was a very important story that must be told, and there is no one better than Stone to deliver the goods. No matter where you stand on Edward Snowden, he is a hero and should not be subjected to the hatred and ridicule he has faced. In fact, no whistleblower should be treated in this manner and if the United States government was not so corrupt, did not have so much to hide, and did not treat whistleblowers like criminals, this ordeal may not have ever happened. This is a perfect example and a powerful look at the Military Industrial Complex and the globalist community (led by the United States Government) that wants to enslave not only America, but also all of humanity.

Plot/ The illegal NSA surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency's employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

Any time I sit down to watch a movie by Oliver Stone, I am excited about what minuscule detail will be brought out for the entire world to see. That was especially the case with Snowden. No matter what your political ideology is, the truths revealed by Edward Snowden opened the door for a more transparent society and again proved that you cannot trust the government. This is a great movie about a man that should be viewed as an American hero. Stone again delivers with his great eye for a story, and also proves he is not afraid to say things within his films that a great many people believe, but do not have a platform to speak from. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is outstanding as Snowden, and should be in line for recognition during award season. The rest of the cast is also top-notch and their performances are solid. The storyline and script is well developed, the cinematography and editing are tremendous, and the amount of information provided to the viewer is powerful. It was an easy watch and a movie that kept me glued to the screen. The only real negative with the movie is the fact that everything felt a bit compressed for the runtime. Yes, there will be viewers that discount the authenticity and will blindly believe that the surveillance infrastructure is fiction, but for them I would say wake up. Since the inception of the Patriot Act, no one has been free, and this story again proves that what many believe are conspiracies and indeed truths. In the end, Snowden is a powerful movie that should rank up there near the top of the Stone portfolio. It is a movie that must be seen full of information that should be embraced. Find it and watch it!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

31 (2016)

As I was sitting here last night I realized that I was two posts away from hitting 1500 here on The Ringmaster's Realm and was debating what movie I wanted to review for that post. After some debate, I finally decided on a movie I feel that must be seen and truly embraced. While that movie will be reviewed tomorrow, for tonight, I have the 2016 Rob Zombie flick 31.

Plot/ Five carnival workers are kidnapped and held hostage in an abandoned, Hell-like compound where they are forced to participate in a violent game, the goal of which is to survive twelve hours against a gang of sadistic clowns.

Having decided to watch this as one of the first films on the new television, I was unsure of what to expect. Rob Zombie is one of the most polarizing filmmakers out there, and his films often sit in the love/hate realm. For me, I love his material, not because it is artistic masterpiece, but because it is a flashback to some of the no-budget grindhouse flicks from my youth. In this case, there is nothing much I can truly say about 31, as it is a trip into violence and gore. Sure, it lacks a coherent plot, it is full of mindless murders, blood, and guts, and the characterization is all over the place. It is what it is, a strange journey into the depraved mind of Rob Zombie. In the end, 31 is a movie that will be polarizing and a movie many will hate. Sure, I thought that it could be better, but it was a fun trip into the 1970s.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Aliens (1986)

The holiday season is always a great time to catch up with friends and family, but also a great time to revisit some of the classic horror/sci-fi flicks of the past decades. Last night, I finished reviews of the Phantasm franchise, now my plan is to continue with the Alien franchise, with the 1986 sequel Aliens.

Plot/ Fifty-seven years after Ripley survived the moon LV-426, all communications with the terraforming colony on the outpost have been lost. The Company enlists Ripley to aid a team of space marines on a rescue mission to the moon to find out if there are aliens or survivors.

It isn’t often when a sequel may be more satisfying than the source material, but that may indeed be the case with the classic franchise. Aliens is both more entertaining and more diverse than the original Alien. While this may not be by a gigantic amount, it is still the case. This one has all of the elements that made the made the original fun with an awesome soundtrack, a claustrophobic atmosphere, a tremendous cast with outstanding performances, and of course the tension that continued to build throughout. Really, every part of this movie was just as good (if not better) than the original including the action and scripting. If there were a downside, it would be the fact that the computer technology presented in both the facility on the ground and in the ship did not really seem to develop as much as it should considering the timeframes that were being used  (57 years in a long time), but that would be nitpicking. In the end, this film is one of the best Sci-Fi movies ever made and one of the most memorable. With another sequel on the horizon, it is a great time to revisit all of these to get primed. Check it out!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Phantasm (1979)

Before I could dive into Phantasm: Ravager, I needed to get back into the series by revisiting the classic Phantasm. When I saw it on Shudder, I was excited to reenter one of my favorite horror films. So, without anymore of my babbling here on Christmas Day, the next review it the 1979 low budget classic Phantasm.

Plot/ A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a lethal arsenal of terrible weapons with him.

As I mentioned last night in my review, Phantasm is one of my favorite horror franchises and a movie that left a lasting impression on me as I was growing up. When I decided to revisit the remastered version, I already knew what to expect, and it is a movie that can be very polarizing for viewers. There is so much to love in this low budget horror classic, featuring both surrealistic and sci-fi/fantasy elements. Set in an atmospheric and layered storyline, there are many elements that make it a strange ride into its own dimension of horror. Complete with the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), the silver blood draining spheres, and the crazy superhuman dwarfs, the emotions of love and loss, as well as coming of age are all woven into the scripting. Yes, the performances are uneven and some of the overall feel is incoherent, but those factors are easily overlooked when immersing yourself into the story. In the end, this is one of the most memorable horror films of the 1970s, and a movie that is a must see for horror fans. If you have not seen it, shame on you! Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

As I settle down for the Christmas Eve adventure, I decided to finish a review on one of the first movies I watched on the new television. In many ways, this flick, while an ending of an era, served to be the perfect movie to start my new television with, because it made me also revisit the source material (which will be reviewed soon-maybe tomorrow). This movie is the 2016 entry Phantasm: Ravager.

Plot/ Reggie is wandering through the desert seeking out his friend Mike and the evil The Tall Man. Along his journey; he is hunted down by the dangerous spheres and stumbles upon the gorgeous Dawn. Out of the blue, he finds himself in an institution with Mike explaining that he has dementia and then in another dimension.

Being a fan of the series from the start, I was definitely saddened by the word of the passing of Angus Scrimm, but I knew we would have this last entry to complete the saga. While this one may not be as great as some of the earlier entries in the series, I definitely enjoyed many of the dimensional aspects and of course the use of the spheres. I also loved the way the storyline revolved around Reggie and the way he was dealing with a real life turmoil that in many ways plagues all of us in some way. The performances and effects work and in some ways the storyline and its surreal nature does serve as a solid ending to the franchise. Of course, this story may not be for everyone because of the way it is portrayed and with the fact that there are a bunch of unanswered questions lingering inside the different dimensions, but to me, that was fine. In the end, this entry will definitely have mixed reviews. For me, who watched the original in my youth at the drive in, it was a solid yet subdued entry in a classic franchise.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Plan Z (2016)

After spending last night getting caught up on a few of the films that I watched in between trips to Family Video, it is now time to get back into the swing of things. The next movie that falls closer to the horror genre up for review is the 2016 zombie entry Plan Z.

Plot/ One man has a plan for a zombie outbreak, when one occurs it will take all his will to stick to it and all of his courage to change it.

I went into this unsure of what to expect, but was excited by the independent aspects of the film. This was definitely more of a zombie themed character piece than straight zombie entry. This movie definitely had some of the elements that are prevalent within independent cinema, but it also had enough positives to make it at least entertaining. While I do not think, it reached its potential; the atmosphere and performances were at least solid. Unfortunately, the storyline was somewhat thin, the cinematography was uneven, and overall the film lacked memorable qualities that would make a lasting impression. In the end, it is a decent character piece that will help pass some time on a cold evening. Other than that, there is nothing new. Watch it, but be warned it is far from perfect.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Imitation Game (2014)

Having spent some time with true stories such as Black Mass, I decided to stay with that type of film for one more entry prior to getting back into horror (which is coming with Plan Z, Phantasm V Ravager, and 31). The final true story is the 2014 biopic The Imitation Game.

Plot/ Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

Being in a mood for true stories, I followed up Black Mass with this one and I am glad I did. This is one of the best biopic films to come out in some time and features a tremendous cast led by Benedict Cumberbatch. This film has a lot going for it including an awesome script, tight cinematography and direction, emotional and solid performances, and true backstory that must be seen. The events played out in this movie (and true story) definitely are part of a historic event that changed the face of the planet during World War II. Yes, there may have been a few historical inaccuracies sprinkled in with locations and such, but those are but small flaws that were easily overlooked as part of this important, yet saddening story of true genius that died for all the wrong reasons after being destroyed by an intolerant society. In the end, this was an outstanding movie and a story that everyone should know about. I highly recommend that you check it out.  

Black Mass (2015)

I know, I know, it seems like I have been taking quite a few breaks from the blog recently (and I have). Why, not quite sure, but I know that the New Year is almost upon us and I am ready to get back into the swing of things. Since my last post, I got a new television, a 60-inch LG LCD (thanks PIA), and now it is time to get rolling. Next up is the 2015 entry Black Mass.

Plot/ The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

When I saw this one, I was interested in what type of performance Johnny Depp would offer. Yes, he is a great actor, but it had been some time since I watched him in something conventional, and this seemed like an awesome story for him. What I found was a tremendous performance that in many ways carried this somewhat flat true crime entry. While the cast and performances were solid, Depp clearly embodied the character. Being a true crime entry, the storyline was predictable and really never rose to a great level (unless you were unfamiliar with the Whitey Bulger case). As is the norm for this genre the pacing is slow, the character development is somewhat off, and because it was based in reality, never truly reaches its overall potential. In the end, this is an entertaining film, but it fails to reach the level of some of the great gangster movies of the past. Yes, it is worth watching, but do not expect something great.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Equals (2015)

With all of the craziness that surrounds us every day, I felt at home watching something based in a dystopian society. Plus, I definitely wanted something different and that is exactly what I found with this one. I imagine this is what Agenda 21 would shape if the future were now. What was that movie? The 2015 Sci-Fi flick Equals.

Plot/ In an emotionless utopia, two people fall in love when they regain their feelings from a mysterious disease, causing tensions between them and their society.

This one was definitely different and a movie that I expected would sit outside my wheelhouse. Fortunately, what I found was something both entertaining, but interesting (at least if you understand the globalist eugenics ideology). While it is not a perfect film with some uneven pacing and sound quality issues, it is a movie that does have a lot to offer. The cinematography and direction do a great job creating a heavy (almost claustrophobic) atmosphere, the performances are solid, and the storyline does an amazing job in creating something that was somewhat surreal especially considering the way the thought police are attempting to create a mindless society devoid of emotion and expression. In the end, this one is much better than I ever expected and created a thought-provoking look at what could be potential reality if the globalists rise to full power.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Alien (1979)

Being back into the swing of some horror flicks this weekend; I figured that it was time for me to revisit a classic. While at Family Video, I saw the perfect film to fill that void. That movie is the 1979 classic Alien.

Plot/ After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as distress call; their landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious life form. Continuing their journey back to Earth with the attacked crew having recovered and the critter deceased, they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

I know that there are movies that need no introduction or lasting homage, and this is one of those films. Really, there is nothing more that I could add about this classic, except maybe the fact that it holds up tremendously well even after all of these years. Honestly, it is incredible that this movie came out in 1979 and remains one of the greatest and most influential Sci-Fi/Horror films ever made. The cinematography and direction is perfectly done and helps develop the dense and claustrophobic atmosphere that saturates the entire movie. The performances are outstanding and take the script to a very memorable level with actions and dialog that also stand the test of time. On top of that, the special effects are amazing and the soundtrack blends in with the darkness and creates something that may never be duplicated. In the end, this is a movie that will definitely outlive many films that have been considered classics and should always find a new fan base to entertain. If you have not seen it, what are you waiting for?