Film A Week Week 12: Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)

In the early 1990s, Saturday morning programming was enjoying success spanning into afternoon cartoons with The Disney Afternoon showing Ducktales and Goof Troop. Cable networks called Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network provided hours of entertainment with Doug and Ren and Stimpy and repeats of The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo capturing the hearts of a new generation. The main leader of all this was and will always be Fox Kids. Fox Kids gave us critically acclaimed hits every week with the gritty presence of Batman: The Animated Series, the semi-serious and poignant X-Men, and the variety show-esque stylings of Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures. It was an great time to grow up after being born in 1992, but no show was more popular than the cult classic Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

Power Rangers combined all the action of Masters of the Universe, the dialogue of cheesy goodness of a regular episode of Saved By the Bell, and ridiculous plots of a classic episode of M.A.S.K. Five (later six after converting the Green Ranger to their side) teenagers given powers by Zordon to protect the the city of Angel Grove, as well as the universe, from the clutches of Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd. The rangers battle against the Putties, got involved in gigantic Zord battles straight out of a classic Kaiju film, and the occasional mishaps of those always kooky Bulk and Skull. The show relied on footage from the Super Sentai series from Japan in order to adapt it for an American audience complete with horrendous dubbing and accidental racism in casting a black actor as the black ranger and an Asian actress as the yellow ranger. The show was so popular with everyone at the time that 20th Century Fox teamed with Saban Entertainment to deliver the cinematic opus known as Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie and well…it was indeed a movie.

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This 1995 ‘classic’ of nostalgia gave the audience what they wanted: Power Rangers on the big screen, for better or worse. Upping the ante and giving the film version a bigger budget, this film falls flat in every way possible with poor dialogue, a godawful plot and CGI that is laughable by 1995 standards. Even the show, while stupid, had more dignity than this pile of dung.

The film starts with an opening crawl explaining what most of us already know about the ranger and somehow manages to make that sound boring. After that dramatic opening, Billy, Kimberly, Tommy, Rocky, Aisha and Adam are skydiving in honor of Ryan’s Comet passing the Earth because Hayley’s Comet is apparently copyrighted. Also, those hoping for Jason, Zack and Trini, they were out of the show by this time, so we are stuck with half of the original Rangers and now the accidental racism is non existent. They land and encourage a young boy named Fred Kelman, who is just as bland as his name, that he is to keep looking up to them. Bulk and Skull also get out of the plane after it is over the downtown area of Angel Grove and humorously land in an construction site. Bulk and Skull witness the uncovering of a large egg at the site causing Zordon to flip his wig.

The egg is known to contain the shape-shifter named Ivan Ooze who was captured 6,000 by Zordon tricking him into the egg before his ooze can take over the world. Zordon calls upon the Rangers to investigate the egg as soon as Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd, Goldar and even Mordant of all villains to release Ivan Ooze, played another than Indiana Jones’ asshole rival Belloq, I mean, Paul Freeman. Funny how Paul Freeman is in one of my personal favorite films and one of my most hated. Anywho, the Ranger comes face to face with Ooze as Freeman grabs the scenery  chews it, spits it out and chews it again with hilariously awful puns and jokes. Ivan unleashes his ‘oozelings’ to distract the Rangers with over the top backflips galore action as he heads to the command center to destroy it and Zordon, resulting in, I kid you not, the best scene in this movie. With Zordon destroy, the Rangers are left dejected with depression and sadness destroying their radical gen X attitudes. Thank god because saying “Awesome!” and “Cool” was gonna drive me to drink.

And if you get the urge to drink, here's a drinking game
And if you get the urge to drink, here’s a drinking game

The Rangers are told to receive a great power on Phaedos by Zordon passes away. Ivan Ooze goes about his personal plan betraying the orders of Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd trapping them in a snow globe of Angel Grove to take on the role of a con-man wizard giving out ooze to kids for free. Meanwhile, the Rangers are on the jungle planet and come across Dulcea, a guardian of the planet who can lead them to the great power.

FILM A WEEK FUN FACT
Mariska Hargitay had to take over for awhile while actress Gabrielle Fitzpatrick was in the hospital. She shot her scenes, but none were ever used due to Fitzpatrick returning for her scenes. Luckily, we have photographic evidence of the gorgeous Hargitay as Dulcea
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Dulcea gives them the spirits of animals (Ape, Frog, Wolf, Crane, Falcon, and Bear) as they become ninja rangers. The team goes to find the zords to connect to their power and battle a skeleton triceratops which is actually not that bad of a fight scene. Back on Earth, Ivan Ooze has hypnotized the parents of Angel Grove in order to work for him to create ‘ectomorphicons’ that will do his bidding to destroy Angel Grove once and for all. Fred gets wind off this and sees that Ivan Ooze is leading the parents to their death off a cliff like lemmings. Fortanatley, our Rangers show up to defeat Ooze’s ectomorphicons, save the parents from mind control and somehow use the Falcon zord to help guide a monorail to the other side without destroying the darn thing. Ooze sees the destruction of his ectomorphicons and merges with one to become giant Ivan Ooze with the Rangers forming their new Ninja Megazords in a horrendous CGI battle. Jurassic Park was just two years before this film and the CGI here looks like Phillips CD-I material in comparison to that film. They fight in space and manage to beat Ivan Ooze by kneeing him in the go go power gonads. Thus, the day, rather night, is saved by the Power Rangers. Cue the Van Halen and fade to black.

Power Rangers: The Movie is a mess of the highest regard. The acting is abysmal  save for Paul Freeman’s scene stealing Ivan Ooze, the action is shot horribly and the film fails to capture the fun of the show. The show had moments of pure action and serious moments of storytelling, which is more apparent during the In Space years. The film tries to appeal to its core audience yet alienates anyone willing to give the Power Rangers a chance by making it as narrow minded as possible to a particular group. The nostalgia goggles are off for this as I feel this is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Judging by my strong critique of this film, you may think I hate the Power Rangers. On the contrary as I love the heck out of the Power Rangers series despite no longer watching it after I believe was Lightspeed Rescue. As for those who say the original was the best, I beg to differ as each season and iteration has there plus and negatives. Personally, I loved In Space and Zeo and I do not regret any influence this series has on me. The movie is more of a disappointment and a poor effort in adapting a show to the big screen. I do not recommend this film at all, but you can watch it for Paul Freeman chewing up the scenery.

Next week, Film A Week will be covering animated films all of April with some guest writers to boot. First up on the animation block is the underrated masterpiece from Dreamworks that features death, betrayal, the cost of greed and religious faith. April 6th, me and my sister Jennifer Berrueta go Back to the Drawing Board for The Prince of Egypt.

Film A Week Week 13: Back to the Drawing Board Month- The Prince of Egypt (1998)

Saturday, April 6th

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Film A Week Week 11: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

The world of the ocean. A marvelous wonder that covers the earth that is both peaceful as it is terrifying. Of all the marvels man can venture and discover, the aquatic life that surrounds us is something that we have been researching and taking time to uncover what lies beneath. Man’s obsession of the sea will never cease to exist by setting courses to explore, swimming with the fishes and sharks below, fighting in naval warfare or taking advantage of its sources for better or worse. The concept is intriguing enough to make some think of the famous Captain Nemo and his mad love of the ocean in Jules Verne’s classic tale 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Luckily for Film A Week, we are tackling the Disney take on the beloved classic adaptation of the tale of Captain Nemo.

Contrary to popular belief, Disney was not to first adapt 20,000 Leagues in 1954. It was previously adapted in 1916 in a silent format with Allan Houlbar as the role of Captain Nemo. Nonetheless, the Disney produced version is the most well-known and beloved version of the tale. In this adaptation, famed actor James Mason tackles the role of Captain Nemo alongside Kirk Douglas as Ned Land, Paul Lukas as Professor Pierre Aronnax and Peter Lorre as Consiel, Aronnax’s assistant.

The film starts with Professor Aronnax and Consiel are ready to head to Saigon when reports of a sea monster off the Pacific Coast comes in. The monster has been attacking shipping vessels and warships. Aronnax ventures with sailors out to find the beast and comes across the jerkass sailor Ned Land, who likes to sing the merry tune of ‘A Whale of a Tale’.

Months soon pass and the sea monster starts to approach the ship. The ship gets attacked as Aronnax, Consiel and Ned Land all end up adrift in the water after the attack. As they drift, Aronnax and Consiel come across the so-called monster and discover that it is a submarine, something like no one has ever seen before. The curious duo begin to search the vessel as Aronnax sees a crew in scuba gear having a funeral as soon as Ned Land hows up to help them escape before they get caught. Unfortnately, the leader of the mysterious crew capture the three men and introduces himself as Captain Nemo. Nemo shows the men the wonders of his submarine called the Nautilus and immediately recognizes Aronnax from his body of work. Unless Aronnax has a nice little sketch of himself in his works, I doubt this would be plausible, but it is a movie. Anyway, Aronnax is allowed to stay to help Nemo on his journey, but the other two must be thrown out. Aronnax demands he leave with them to suffer the same fate. Nemo instead keeps Ned and Consiel alongside him. We officially have Ugarte and Spartcus in one feature together and it is just as good as it sounds.

As they are wined and dined by Nemo’s hospitality with Ned Land complaining about the food (including the most priceless reaction to the term ‘sperm whale’ in film history), Nemo tells them to help gather more underwater supplies. Ned goes and finds buried treasure and fights a shark. I do not no why he needed to fight a shark, but I do not care because it is Kirk Douglas fighting a shark. Nemo gets upset with Ned’s obsession over the treasure and not the bountiful harvest below them, causing a rift between the both of them for the duration of the film. Nemo takes the men to a remote island where Nemo was taken prisoner alongside his men. Nemo has since left the world above and lives below the surface free from the new horrors of man. A warship later that evening is struck dead in the water, no pun intended. Aronnax is disgusted by his actions, but Nemo insisted he just saved lives from the perils that they would create revealing his complex story of being against the nature of man for torturing him and his family to get their hands on the work of Nemo.

Meanwhile, Ned figure out a way to save his bacon by sending messages out to sea with the help of Conseil. Ned writes the coordinates of Nemo’s base, Vulcania, and delivers them out into the ocean for the warships to find. The next day, Nemo allows Ned and Conseil to freely roam above the surface, leaving Ned to send some native cannibals to attack them. In other words, good old fashion underlying Disney racism. Nemo gets enraged by Ned’s  carelessness and locks him away as prisoner. A warship comes to attack the Nautilus, but Nemo escapes 20,000 leagues under the sea only to be attacked by a giant squid. Hopefully, The Darkness will come a free them from the reigns of this terrible beast.

The crew heads to battle on the surface against the squid after his electrical charge to stun the beast has malfunction. Nemo gets caught in a tentacle and Ned breaks free from his reigns to save Nemo from the terror of the squid. After the battle, Nemo wonders why Ned saved him, leading Ned to wonder as well. Wonder meaning get drunk like a skunk and singing sea shanties with the most adorable sea lion put on film named Esmerelda.

TAKE THAT, ANDRE!

Nemo heads to Vulcania and see warships surrounding the island ready for the attack. The Nautilus arrives with Nemo quickly into the base to destroy all evidence as Aronnax finds out Ned sent out the location and gets furious as the discoveries that can influence change in the world are about to be destroyed before their eyes soon. Racing back to the Nautilus with sailors beginning to shoot the ship, Nemo is hit by one of the bullets and enter the Nautilus.  Back aboard, Nemo warns that he is dying and the Nautilus will go down with the entire crew, including Ned, Conseil and Arronax. Ned decides to rebel and leave, until Nemo’s men drags them to their room. Luckily, Ned Land is played by Kirk Douglas which means, for lack of a better word, shit will hit the fan. Ned gets into fisticuffs with Nemo’s men, helps Aronnax and Conseil escape the Nautilus to head to the surface. Captain Nemo takes one last look at his precious ocean saying “There is hope for the future. And when the world is ready for a new and better life, all this will someday come to pass, in God’s good time.” Aronnax, Conseil and Ned escape freely as the final words of Nemo echo from beyond, giving a bittersweet end to the feature.

20,000 Leagues is a classic in every sense of the word. The plot is fantastic, every performance is genuine and the entire film production is nothing short of amazing. Kirk Douglas pulls off his jerkass role well becoming lovable by the film ends. Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre are fantastic from the smart professor to the worrying assistant  respectively. Above all, James Mason as Captain Nemo is brilliant as hell. Mason plays off the complexities and the maddening personality of Nemo with the essence of a Bond villain combined with the overlooked genius bordering on depression. Mason gives his all in the role and I was swept up in it that when it came time for Nemo to die, I did feel very upset at his lost. I am a sucker for broken villains (i.e. Mister Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series).

The story is rich as an allegory for the corruption of man and power overwhelming us and, if taken in the wrong hands, can be used against us. Captain Nemo worries about the way man is headed in the future, but has a glimmer of hope that they way succeed for the better when the time come. Even now, this thought resonates strongly as technology has become more advance and can be manipulated to achieve more harm than good. I am very much with Nemo that it can be used for something greater and better, rather than use in the wrong. The film’s style is filled with steampunk throughout and the use of practical effects, such as the giant squid, are remarkable. Everything seemed out of its source material, working to its advantage and the squid still looks as good as it did back then. The underwater shots were great as well. For those who read my review of Thunderball last year, I praise that boring fest for its camera work underwater, but 20,000 surpasses that. 20,000 Leagues is a marvelous feat by Disney and I would not mind watching it a couple of more times.

Next week, April Fool’s is coming up and the worst in people always shows up. I guess it is time to talk about one of the worst films I have seen and explain why I hate it so. Also, I think I may be burned at the stake since it is also from a part of nostalgia and childhood. Only one phrase can say it all:

It’s Morphin’ time!

Film A Week Week 12: Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie

Saturday, March 30th

Stinger of the Week

Film A Week Week 10- Once (2006/2007) A St. Patrick’s Special

The month of March is a wondrous time to be Irish with everyone in the mood for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. In the States, St. Patrick’s Day is just another excuse to drink some brews, get wasted and wake up the next morning with a hangover so massive, you realize you never want to go through that again…until Cinco de Mayo. In Ireland, it is a national holiday celebrating the life of patron saint of Ireland with parades, a grand feast, and getting drunk as hell. To find the perfect film that feels close to the magic of Ireland is rough, so why not chose a film that everyone seems to agree captures Ireland in a bottle? Something light in heart, done with creativity, grand locations showing the natural wonder yet small in scale. Also, if we can throw some great music that be wonder-

Well, thank you cutoff segue

2006’s Once, directed by John Carney, is a musical like no other and probably the best representation of the Irish music scene and the modern vision of Ireland with full use of real locations without relying on a studio. The story is about a busker simply known as Guy (Glen Hansard) who meets a girl named Girl (Marketa Irglova) to eventually make music together and have a blossoming romance. Once is also unique as it is a musical without big production values or dance sequences. Instead, it relies on realistic performances making the musical world it creates blend seamlessly into the real world.

The film starts with Guy playing and singing away on Grafton Street in Dublin his song ‘Say It to Me’. After a heartbreaking introduction, a 19 year old Czech flower seller named Girl who compliments him on his playing. She has heard him during the day playing covers and wonder why he does not play originals during the day. Guy simply said no one would listen, but Girl counters by saying she will. Girl finds out he works at a vacuum shop, brings along her broken vacuum the next day and starts to make conversation. The two spend the time talking about past relationships and music.

As they converse, Girl informs Guy that she plays in a music store on her lunch break from time to time. Guy goes along with her to the shop with his guitar in hand and play a song together that he has written entitled ‘Falling Slowly’.

Their duet is a spectacular moment as they unite to bring a song about rekindling a flame that has burnt out by bringing it back home. They continue their hanging out with Guy telling the story of his ex on the bus with the humorous ‘Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy’.

Guy and Girl go to the shop to fix the vacuum and he shows her the room. He almost screws himself over by asking her to stay which prompts Girl to say ‘Fuck this’ and leaves. The next day, Guy tries to make up for mistake by starting to hang out more and write some songs together. Guy visits her house and meets her daughter discovering Girl is a young mother. Guy gives a song he has been working on to Girl to write the lyrics for. Girl creates the lyrics by walking through the streets late at night on a battery run. Girl performs ‘If You Want Me’, a song about how the one who longs for her would have to trust her and satisfy her needs.

Guy starts working on another song about his ex-girlfriend called ‘Lies’ reflected back on the times they had and the fallout that came after. This convinces Girl to help Guy win her back through his music.

Girl helps Guy out to get a recording contract and getting a band on the street to come play with them for the time being. Girl convinces a studio manager to give them the space to record. At the studio, they record the fascinating ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’ that even makes the producer go from seeing them as oddballs to musicians that know what the hell they are doing.

Guy soon finds out that Girl is married to a man in the Czech Republic. Guy asks if she still loves him and Girl simply says ‘Miluju tebe’, which translates to ‘It is you that I love’. Girl gives a tearful performance of her original composition, ‘The Hill’.

As their recordings wrap up, Girl tells Guy that her husband is coming back to live in Dublin. Guy is leaving to London after showing his father his demo tape to help him get on track to win his girl back and be a professional musician. Guy tries to convince Girl to stay the night at his place, but it would lead to sex only and she does not want that. Girl agrees after some time to go, only to stand Guy up as he leaves to London. As he leaves, he buys the one thing Girl never had: a piano. Guy tells his ex he is coming back and she is pleased by his return. Girl gets her new piano just as her husband arrives. They both come to the realization they will never see each other ever again and the film comes to a bittersweet end.

What I have to say about Once has been already said by several reviewers and film lovers before me. Once is nothing short of magnificent  It is one of the greatest films of the past decade and a musical masterpiece by breaking new ground on the genre. The two stars of the film are genuine and have a chemistry that hits the right notes, which briefly extended into real life as they created The Swell Season. After it ended, Swell Season made a break-up album that was both depressing and gorgeous. The camera work of this film is something of note as it seems shot like a documentary more than a true film. To me, this route benefits the review as we get immersed in their world and story in the real world. The music for this film is remarkable. I listened to the soundtrack in preparation of this review and it still brought a tear to my eye from the elegant Oscar winning song ‘Falling Slowly’ to the painful and broken sound of ‘The Hill’. The soundtrack is what makes this film great and stands apart from the rest. I honestly have no problems at all with this film. It is a perfect music film and one of my personal favorite films of all time. Once is one film you can’t watch just once.

Next week, Film A Week ventures down to the depths into the sea to uncover the mysteries it holes. Noted as the first true example of steampunk, join us as we travel alongside Kirk Douglas and James Mason in the Disney classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Film A Week Week 11: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

On Film A Week’s new day, Saturday
March 23

 

 

Stinger of the Week

This Is Just a Tribute: A Personal Reflection of Rock Band by Serg Beret

Back in my days as a gamer, I grew up on classics of the field from platformers to RPGs as heroes thwarting evil and saving princesses. I personally played a bit of every genre as I was always one for new experiences be it the unique storytelling component in Heavy Rain to the open worlds explored by Grand Theft Auto and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. All these games own a special place in my heart, but none of these experiences come close to the ones created by a groundbreaking game in the rhythm game genre entitled Rock Band.

Guitar. Vocals. Drums. Bass. ‘Nough said.

2007’s Rock Band, for those who did not have the fortune of playing it, is a game series created by Harmonix that simulated the band experience by combining all the instruments of a four piece group in the form of plastic instruments and a USB microphone. I first played it at a cousin’s house as I struggled to drum alongside the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Maps’ as the concept seemed alien to me at the time. I was a drummer in middle, assuming it would be a piece of cake’ only to wind up completely lost. Yet, me and my cousins all had fun and managed to become a decent band. As a sophomore in high school, I saved every dollar I earned from doing tasks and volunteering in order to get the huge special edition bundle of the game and finally hone my skills as a drummer.

One can fit the entire works of Issac Asimov in this box if their heart desires

I invited pals over to rock out to tunes from the classic warm-up jam ‘Say It Ain’t So’ by Weezer to the thumping bass lines of ‘Reptilia’ by The Strokes to the blistering solos and drum work on ‘Run to the Hills’ as made famous by Iron Maiden. The setlist was small, the room was even smaller, and our band was called The Flying D***. Remember, it was sophomore year, cut me a break.  Four guys in one room, ranging in ages from 15 to 23, switching instruments and rocking like we were on tour venturing to New York to our hometown of Los Angeles. My first true introduction to this genre, however, was in the form of Harmonix’s previous works, Guitar Hero.

And yet, Accordion Hero never quite took shape

Guitar Hero is a different story. I nearly gave up halfway during ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, but started to get the hang of things after playing on my own. I eventually played Guitar Hero II were I finally went from medium to hard in no time. I am embarrassed to say, but expert to this day is still hard for me to truly take hold of. Guitar Hero ended up being sold to Activision and Neversoft, along with Red Octane, going on to spell the death of an entire genre, but more on that later. The guys and gals at Harmonix decided to make a spiritual successor in the form of Rock Band and wound up with a new winner, despite its hefty price tag for the full experience.

One thing Harmonix prided themselves on was the DLC support on the Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3 with weekly releases of songs that would eventually grow to over 4,000. You want Megadeth? Simply head to the music store and snatch them up. Want some Siouxsie and the Banshees? Yes, they are there as well. You want something that isn’t rock? Despite the game being called Rock Band, you can find it as well. With the  release of Rock Band 2 in 2008, I had upgraded from my dinky PS2 to the PS3 and my reign as a DLC purchasing machine started making a vast collection of songs and already adding to the unheard of 84 song setlist of Rock Band 2 and the export of Rock Band with nearly 200 songs at my disposal. This began the eventual Rock Band nights that created dumb moments and great ones from playing classic punk songs with the members of local garage rock groups completely wasted, my friends slurring the words to Lady Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’, and scrapping my knees sliding midway of Motörhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’.

Lemmy would approve

Harmonix would release the granddaddy and most unexpected announcements in the rhythm game genre that made everyone including the residents of local retirement homes stand up and shout ‘Finally!’.

The Deus Ex Machina of Video Games

This was the moment I nearly lost it all. As a Beatles die hard and a lover of Rock Band, it was like the cherry on top of the entire music game experience. Guitar Hero might have outsold it, but this was something no one should have missed. It ultilized the classic gameplay, incorporated dreamscapes for their Abbey Road Studios era songs, the locales of great Fab Four performances and harmonies for a more legitimate Beatles experience. To those how argue that video games are not art, one look at this game and I would dare them not to go ‘I take what I said back’. My family even took a noticed and played alongside on Thanksgiving night having an evening with The Beatles on our projectoion screen. Not a single song was unsung and seeing one of my tíos (uncles) sing along to ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and my little cousin hit every note of ‘Drive My Car’ was astounding.

Even better, no drugs needed

Harmonix put off doing a main game in order to bring this one to life and even went on to make two other spinoffs. Lego: Rock Band was created for a younger audience that combined stunning gameplay with the always hilarious world of Lego. Seeing Legos rock out to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ to help a UFO get off the ground with the power of rock is the second greatest moment in Rock Band history (First being the aforementioned Beatles game). Green Day: Rock Band was in the same vein as Beatles as it had songs solely by that artists bringing back harmonies and complete albums from the group. It was a chord fest, but any new addition is welcome to my library. I never had a copy of the limited release Wal-Mart AC/DC Live Track Pack. If I could find it, I would and I would rejoice greatly. These helped to make my song list grow and the Rock Band nights more insane as ever lasting through the powerhouse Green Day epics ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ and ‘Before the Lobotomy’ and the ode to jerking off ‘Longview’.

Yet, the interests started to dwindle due to Activision’s business model even the Third Reich would find insane of over saturating the market with Guitar Hero games and spinoffs to burn and ruin both franchise without realizing it.

An accurate depiction of Activision, courtesy of cod-ar.com

Harmonix said “Screw that” and announce Rock Band 3 with full harmonies, the new keyboard instrument, and pro guitar capabilities. This was a step in the right direction and took cues from The Beatles by using the same graphics and allowing the player to make setlists and save, play a party shuffle, and a more robust career mode dependent on the DLC many fans had purchased. I was ecstatic and bought it with the new instrument and was excited to see more artists and songs I longed for. Three years have passed and the Rock Band nights have all but ended, my DLC has been slow in pace, and Harmonix has grown a new franchise in Dance Central, which is as much fun as Rock Band and gives a bigger reason to keep the party going. If you ever wanted to see a ton of pals attempt to dance ‘Gangnam Style’, Dance Central is perfect for you.

Harmonix has decided to end DLC support for Rock Band on April 6th. I have put it on myself to throw the final Rock Band night on April 6th in honor of the memories it has created and I will be there to purchase the final song. The memories Harmonix allowed me to create is unreal. From cracking jokes about Muse and Fake Steven Tyler on the forums to the wild nights of singing till near 4 am, I cannot forget this franchise and this series. I may be hanging up the guitar, disassemble the drums and leaving the mic behind, but my love for this game won’t end.

ForThoseAboutToRock
This is the end. My only friend, the end.

To all those at Harmonix and those who helped create this wonder, I salute you for bringing on over five years of Rock Band, for creating a community and experience to new eyes, and for allowing music lovers to expand upon their game and get the best out of it all. You all are winners, saviors, and hold a very dear place in my heart. To quote James Cagney from Yankee Doodle Dandy, “My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you.”

Thanks for everything and keep on rockin’.

Film A Week Week 9- Time After Time (1979)

In 1984, Cyndi Lauper released her second single ‘Time After Time’ from her debut album She’s So Unusual. The song is a gorgeous melodic ballad of lovers drifting apart, but will find themselves in time, even if it proves difficult. Lauper said in an interview she conceived the song after watching a film entitled Time After Time. As a film lover, I went on a journey to find out what film Ms. Lauper was talking about and, as a Cyndi Lauper fan, to say I have seen it. Thanks to the invention of Wikipedia, I finally get to cover this lost in time classic starring Malcolm McDowell of Clockwork Orange as H.G. Wells and the always terrifying David Warner as Jack the Ripper. By proxy, this week of Film A Week is all thanks to Cyndi Lauper who, after all these years, is still so unusual.

1979’s Time After Time has the aforementioned Wells trying to hunt Jack the Ripper in 1970’s San Francisco to make sure he does not repeat the attacks during that period. The film is the second film covered for Film A Week to deal with time travel (first being Back to the Future Part II) and is different in every way imaginable.

The film starts in 1893 in London with author Hebert George Wells (H.G. Wells for short) having dinner with some guests ready to show off his time machine. He proceeds to explain how the machine works all while his friend surgeon John Leslie Stevenson (David Warner) stumbles in. H.G. Wells tells them about the ‘non-return key’ designed to keep the machine in the same time period of the traveler and the ‘tranquil equalizer’ that allows the machine and the traveler to be on the same length of time. H.G. wishes to use this machine to see a perfect utopia of the future as he envisioned it. After H.G. presents his machine, a police constable comes to see if a murderer known as Jack the Ripper has come in to seek escape from his crime. They find a bloody bag that belongs to Stevenson and begin to see where he is. H.G. sees his time machine has gone and presumes Stevenson has escaped. Broken, H.G. Wells sits down and realizes he let a man loose and all has ended for him. The end.

Screw that, we have a good premise on our hands and we are not going to waste it. This is Time After Time after all.

H.G. hears the sound of the time machine return as H.G. has the non-return key and decides to find him in time to confront Stevenson in a psychedelic like time warp. H.G. arrives in 1979 in San Francisco at a museum that is having an exhibit on the influence of Wells. Wells steps out into the future and, as with every man or woman lost in time, is confused by the new concepts he sees before him for some comedic moments including not have the proper identification and the concept of fast food. To be fair, the mere concept of eating McDonald’s is hard to grasp.

Having seen Caligula, I do not want to know where that fry may end up

Wells tries to go to banks to find the whereabouts of Stevenson since he assumes a proper Englishmen would exchange pounds for dollars. Yes, you heard that correctly, Jack the Ripper is a proper Englishmen. Wells finally finds the Chartered Bank of London (known today as Standard Chartered) and heads to the foreign currency exchange to come across employee Amy Robbins played by the always beautiful Mary Steenburgen. This is the first time travel film Steenburgen was in, the second being Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton. She directs Wells to the Hyatt Regency to find Stevenson and ends up in a round of Crazy Taxi thanks to reckless nature of a cab driver.

After that fast paced ride, Wells finds Stevenson and comes face to face with the madman. Stevenson tells Wells that his perfect utopian society does not exists, but what does is a violent world filled with war, poverty, hatred and bloodshed leading Stevenson to say his acts from years ago are amateur compared to the crimes committed by the people of that era. Even to this day, those lines still resonate as that violent perception has not changed. H.G. demands Stevenson come back to 1893 with him to confess to his crimes, but Stevenson refuses and quarrels with Wells in order to get the ‘non-return key’ back into his hands. After an interruption, he flees engaging with Wells on a foot chase were Stevenson is hit by a car.

Wells heads to a hospital only to hear that Stevenson is dead from his injuries, dspite seeing him get up and walk away from the accident. Wells leaves and stumbles across Amy once again who takes him out to lunch. H.G. and Amy hit it off with awkward conversations about making love, sex, and being a ‘detective’, his apparent ignorance to the history of San Fran, attending a screening of Exorcist IV (as if we needed more than one), and cooking dinner with each other all in the span of an afternoon. Amy is stricken by H.G. and wants to have her way with H.G., which he does not mind. Of course he does not mind, it is Mary Steenburgen. No one could deny that.

Meanwhile, Stevenson goes to town killing prostitutes and random women to fufill his desires and bloodlust. The reports of the grizzly killings start to appear as Wells wakes up the next morning after a night of passion with Amy. Wells stays as Amy heads off to work were she comes across the terrifying sight of David Warner, I mean, Stevenson. I am sorry, but David Warner is terrifying. I adore the man, yet something about him scares me. The man wanted to kill Leonardo DiCaprio. His lust to kill leading men is endless. Amy calls up Wells and says Stevenson is right in her sight. As they converse about exchanging money, she slips up and mentions the Hyatt Regency. Stevenson figures out her and Wells must be up to something and demands her to tell Wells to bring him the non-return key or suffer the consequences.

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Wells decides to let Amy know the truth about his reasons of bein here and Amy dismisses him as a lunatic. Luckily, Wells takes her to the museum to prove he was not lying and goes about three days into the future. Amy is in disbelif until she sees a paper reporting that she was killed by the San Francisco Ripper. The San Francisco Ripper sounds like a really good sandwich and a really awful sex move rolled into one. They go back to prevent the forth victim before Amy’s own death. Wells calls the police under the pseudynem Sherlock Holmes to report the forth vitims murder, but they do not believe him because of the name. The forth victim is killed and the police find Wells and arrest him as he heads to Amy’s to prevent Stevenson from killing her.

At the station, the police interrogate Wells as it cuts to Amy resting in bed with Stevenson at the ready to kill. This scene alone is worth the watch as it is both dark in tone and perfects the thriller this film needed to be all along. The set Wells free after visiting the apartment and find the dismembered remains of Amy. Wells, once again, is at a lost until Stevenson calls him saying he has taken Amy hostage and killed Amy’s coworker. Wells heads to come face to face wih Stevenson once and for all.

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Wells meets Stevenson in front of the time machine with Amy in his grasp with a knife to her throat. Wells is more concerned for Amy’s life and gives up the non-return key for him to head back leaving Wells in 1979. With Stevenson in the machine, Wels remember his ‘Deus Ex Machina’ tranquile equilizer and removes it causing Stevenson to be ‘derezzed’ (Those waiting for a Tron reference, there you go). Wells and Amy finally decide to head back to 1893 and marry. Amy is reluctant at first but decides to go along with it, living happily ever after.

Time After Time is exactly what it wanted to be, but not what it should have been. It is a sci-fi romp blending the elements of romance and comedy while trying to balance the thriller of Wells against the Ripper. The performances are great all around with the always stellar McDowell succeeding as a leading man and Warner as the intense and compelling Jack the Ripper. Steenburgen is great as well as a everyday woman who just happens to be involved in the mess. The comedic elements are fun and zany despite being used in practically every time travel feature.

The only true problem is the thriller elements. Personally, they were not strong enough, save for the interrogation scene and the hotel room look at the violence around them. If the film had more of those moments, I might have enjoyed it more and praised it. The romance also feels a bit rushed. It is not their fault, I just like my romances in film outside of fairy tales to be done over a long period of time, not two days, but the chemistry between them is fantastic. No wonder these two ended up married for nearly a decade. Noneheless, Time After Time is worth a watch alone more for its creative concept and performances rather than its thriller elements.

Next week, Film A Week celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a musical like no other. There are no elaborate musical numbers or big production values, just music and the simple romance between a guy and a girl. Also, it is 100% filmed in Ireland. Film A Week falls slowly into the modern day classic and one of my personal all time favorites, Once.

Also, this review was written entirely on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. A Film A Week first.

Film A Week Week 10: Once, A St. Patrick’s Day Special
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Friday, March 15th/Saturday, March 16th

Stinger of the Week

Film A Week Week 8: Argo (2012)

As the Oscars came to a close on Sunday, another underdog won the Academy Award for Best Picture. That underdog was Ben Affleck’s Argo, much to the surprise of everyone with their personal Oscar ballots at home. The buildup to it winning was intense as it went up against the favorite critic’s favorite, Lincoln, due to power combo of Daniel Day-Lewis and director Steven Spielberg. Spelling an even worse fate of Argo‘s chances was Ben Affleck’s directing snub by the Academy which is usually an indicater the film stands a chance next to the other nominees. Argo overcame the odds and won the big award, showing that even the underdog film can come out on top. Personally, following up Rocky with another underdog is quite welcomed. Argo joins the collective few underdogs that beat the major competitors, except this one was one of the true standouts. The other underdogs beat fantastic films that are still remembered today. The underdogs will start to fade over time with the exception of Rocky, which spawned a franchise. I barely remembered Chicago won the Best Picture award beating out Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and the terrific work by Roman Polanski in The Pianist. Give it five years and I will still remember this one.

2012’s Argo is about CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) heading to Iran to help six Canadians escapees from the US Embassy during the height of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In order to do so, Mendez hatches a plan after inspiration from watching Battle of the Planet of the Apes on television to create a cover for them as a film crew scouting locations for the science fiction film, ArgoI have already said my peace about the film in my top 12 films of 2012 in a brief paragraph, so this is the expansion and forgoing the Film A Week format to describe it (read Eternal Sunshine for full disclosure).

Also, if you love short reviews, then this week is your week.

Argo is a fantastic film and knows how to handle its subject matter at hand with tension, humorous moments, fantastic dialogue and performances. Alan Arkin gives his all as deadpan snarker producer Lester Siegel alongside John Goodman as famous makeup artist John Chambers. These two perform well as the typical Hollywood duo and foils to Affleck’s agent character. Ben Affleck is good, but not great compared to his role in The Town, which is my favorite of Affleck’s roles to date. Bryan Crnston is also amazing, but no matter what the hell he is in, he ends up succeeding just for being Walter White.  The dialogue between the hostages is whip smart due in part to the script Chris Terrio and the performances on that front are pitch perfect.

Affleck’s direction is something to note. Despite all the claim he was robbed of an Oscar, Affleck is not on his A game here. The direction is a bit too similar to the style of Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) and does not Affleck to show off his style seen in his two previous efforts. I personally would have love to seen the man get a nomination. Yet, he still earned an Oscar for producing in the form of Best Picture, so I believe that accounts for something because now he has two Oscars. One for Argoone for sitting behind Matt Damon as he wrote Good Will Hunting.

Now, with all that out of the way, the controversy of the film. The airport chase ending apparently did not happen and they did get out of the country easy, rendering the tension at the end pointless. The hostages were in two different houses and allowed to roam around. Tony Mendez was of Mexican decent and not a white man (Note: Mendez is of Italian and Irish decent as well, so Affleck works). Even the nation of Iran got offended for the historical inaccuracies, the depiction of their people and not showing the other side of the confrontation. To all this I say, it’s simple entertainment and not everything is going to be accurate. Sometimes reality needs to be bended in order to get its point across and create a experience or grab the audience attention. One of the films that prides itself on accuracy is Lincoln and was found to have one flaw discovered by a senatorLincoln was not considered any less great though as film can be as accurate or inaccurate as want to be and people will still love it.

As for Iran wanting the other side of the story, as a fan of cinema, I would love to see filmmakers in their country tackle that side. I am not one to be prejudice of one’s race or nationality based on the political air between our countries and the negative depiction of Middle Easterns in the media. I have meet people of Middle Eastern decent who are fantastic, wonderful and no less different than Americans. Just because we frown upon the antics of their leaders does not mean we should treat and shame their people as lower than us. I would love to see the Islamic Revolution and the Crisis from their perspective to better understand the situation as this is one of the topics I would give anything to learn more about.

On the Oscars side of things, did this film deserve Best Picture? I was happy it won and the underdog succeeded, but to me, Beasts of the Southern Wild was the best film of 2012 I saw. I mostly knew Argo or Lincoln would take the golden boy home judging by the way the Academy votes. The Academy usually goes for films that appeal to an older generation or focus on a strong issue with few exceptions. Sadly, Beasts was not a top contender, but should have won the award just to prove the staying power of originality, the artform, and the craft that goes behind into making true cinema. Argo is a true film, but one that is in the same league of The Hurt Locker which I loved. It is something we have seen before and has been done better. I will remember this film as a great thriller, but it did not deserve the Oscar.

Well, that was not that short, but more of a review without giving too much away and displaying my true feelings on the film. Argo is a great intense thriller with stellar performance and a tight script, but probably did not deserve the award. Nothing no one can change now.

Next week, Film A Week once again takes on the sub-genre of science fiction: time travel. What happens when Jack the Ripper takes a hold of a time machine built by legendary author H.G. Wells? It ends up in the world of late 70’s San Francisco where Wells must stop the Ripper from killing women. Starring the two best British actors to roam the earth and Carla Clayton from Back to the Future Part III, it is 1979’s Time After Time.

Film A Week Week 9: Time After Time (1979)

Friday, March 8th/Saturday, March 9th

 

 

 

Stinger of the Week