December 29, 2014


Starring Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Luke Arnold, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Tom Hopper, Zach McGowan, Toby Schmitz, Clara Paget, Mark Ryan, Hakeem Kae-Kazin, Sean Cameron Michael, Louise Barnes. Various directors. (2014, 456 min).
Anchor Bay

Considering Starz’ reputation for bawdy, blood-n-boobs historical epics (Spartacus, Da Vinci‘s Demons), it was probably inevitable we’d get one chronicling the sordid lives of pirates. The only real surprise is that it took this long.

As one might expect, Black Sails ain’t your daddy’s pirate tale. Forget Errol Flynn, Johnny Depp and everyone’s favorite Disneyland ride. This series is packed to the gills with grit, grime, sex and death, giving us the impression this is a fairly accurate historical depiction of piracy in the 18th Century. But even if it isn’t, Black Sails ends up being pretty damned entertaining if you’re in possession of two things: patience and attentiveness.

Patience is required because, after an initial pirate plunder which sets up the basic plot - the hunt for a Spanish galleon loaded with millions in gold - the show takes its sweet time introducing each primary character (and there are a lot of ‘em). Though necessary, it sometimes slows early episodes down to a crawl, spiced-up on occasion with fairly explicit sex and violence. It isn’t until the last three chapters of this eight episode season that we really get to the action.

"Gentlemen...I found Waldo!"
Your complete attention is needed because, while the overall story is fairly straight-forward, it’s complicated by the different (and self-serving) agendas of every one of these characters, nearly all of whom are morally-ambiguous at-best. These side stories turn Black Sails into a labyrinthine tale of loyalty, politics, deceit and betrayal. If you were to skip even a single episode, you’d most-likely be lost. Your patience and attention is ultimately rewarded, however, as the season comes to a slam-bang climax (though still maddeningly open-ended to pave the way for Season Two).

None of these characters would be mistaken for heroic (or even likable, making this sort-of a Sons of Anarchy on the high seas), but most are well-rounded and interesting. The overall cast is quite good, especially Toby Stephens as Captain Flint, the most feared pirate in the Bahamas in danger of losing the loyalty of his crew, and Mark Ryan as Gates, a quartermaster who remains committed to Flint even after running out of reasons to.

Black Sails is handsomely produced with a lot of attention to period detail (this isn’t your typical romanticized depiction of a pirate’s world). While there are some jarring moments of extreme, bloody violence, it seldom seems overly gratuitous. Nor do the numerous sex scenes (including one unsettling public rape), which are sometimes graphic, but far from titillating.

Ultimately, this series doesn’t quite reach the heights (or depths) of Spartacus, but it’s arguably Starz’ best series since (and infinitely better than the pretentious Da Vinci’s Demons). Black Sails may not compel you to suddenly subscribe to the channel, but that’s okay. It’s more fun to binge on the show with this Blu-Ray set anyway.


  • Featurettes: Black Sails - An Inside Look; Dressed to Kill; Pirate Camp, Folklore is Finished; A Place in History; Building the Behemoth
  • Season Two trailer

(OUT OF 5)

December 28, 2014

December 26, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: THE GUEST

Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick, Sheila Kelly, Leland Orser. Directed by Adam Wingard. (2014, 98 min).

Since director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett were responsible for the surprisingly amusing sleeper hit, You’re Next, one probably can’t help but have some elevated expectations for The Guest. While not a horror film in the same vein, it is a well-crafted psychological thriller which more-or-less delivers the goods (but unfortunately didn’t get a fair shake at the box office).

Dan Stevens plays David, a recently-discharged soldier who pays an unexpected visit to the Petersons, a family still mourning the loss of their son, Caleb (recently killed in Afghanistan). David claims to be Caleb’s best friend, here to fulfill a promise to let them know how much he loved his family. After David reluctantly reveals he has no where else to go, the Petersons take him in as a houseguest. But we immediately suspect not all is quite-right with David; something sinister lurks behind the congenial smile and blue-eyed stare. The only one who seems to sense anything is askew is the oldest daughter, Anna (Maika Monroe)

Our suspicions are correct, of course, otherwise there’d be no movie. At first, David is friendly, helpful and supporting of the Petersons (who are pretty dysfunctional). But his generosity takes a psychotic turn when he begins taking violent revenge on those in town who’ve wronged a family member: he beats the shit out of some local high school bullies (which son Luke is totally cool with), frames a local drug dealer (and Anna’s slacker boyfriend) with the murder of a local criminal (killed by David himself). By the time Dad’s boss dies from an apparent suicide (resulting in a promotion), it’s obvious David is behind it all. However, only Anna is suspicious, and she contacts the Army to try and find out who David really is.

Nothing ends an argument quite like
a couple of grenades.
This is where the film takes an unexpected turn. David is apparently some kind of super-soldier, a one-man wrecking crew, and the Army drops everything to come out to stop him. It’s never made quite clear, but we’re led to believe “David” was part of a conditioning experiment gone wrong. David is also programmed to kill anyone who poses a treat to his real identity (which now includes the family he’s been protecting).

A lot of The Guest is pretty entertaining. Stevens exudes both charm and menace as David (even during quiet moments, we always have the feeling he’ll go postal at any minute). Monroe is also effective as Anna, even though her character is your standard example of disaffected youth. Unfortunately, aside from David, most of the adult characters are complete idiots, their overall cluelessness essential to plugging some obvious plot holes. The film isn’t as comedic as You’re Next, but there are a few amusing scenes in which some of David’s victims more-or-less get what’s coming to them. Director Adam Wingard maintains a pretty steady pace and tone, at least until the climactic Halloween funhouse scene, which is kind-of a generic and cliché location for a stand-off, especially in a film like this.

Still, The Guest is seldom boring, one of those movies with a slow-burning fuse before exploding with the violent fury we likely came to see. A door is gratuitously (and ridiculously) left open for a sequel that I doubt is forthcoming (or that anyone is pining for). But as it stands, this film is enough undemanding fun to make it worth checking out.


  • Deleted Scenes
  • Q & A Featurette with Dan Stevens
  • Audio Commentary with Director Adam Wingard & Writer Simon Barrett

(OUT OF 5)

December 22, 2014


Every website and blog dedicated to movies trucks out their annual year-end lists, so why should FKMG be any different? But we try to do something other than the usual 10 best and worst, especially since we spend most of our time on this site living in the past. At any rate, here's our highly-subjective 2014 year-end wrap up of the good, the bad and the ugly...

BEST MOVIE (given our subjectivity and finances): In a year rife with stupid sequels, Michael Bay monstrosities, Marvel’s movie-of-the-month and ridiculous reboots, Snowpiercer was far-and-away the smartest, most exciting and original film of the year. This violent, brooding post-apocalypse epic deserved a wide summer release. Instead, its studio (Radius-TWC) dropped the ball by releasing it simultaneously On-Demand and in a few scattered art houses. Because of this, Snowpiercer also wins the award for the CRIMINALLY-OVERLOOKED MOVIE OF THE YEAR.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Imitation Game, Chef, The Raid 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, Godzilla

BEST REASON I INITIALLY POSTED MY YEAR-END REVIEW TOO SOON: My wife and I recently caught The Imitation Game, which was playing at a local art-house. Promoted as a thriller, the film was so much more, which jerked our emotions around with stunning ease. Rousing, intriguing, funny, suspenseful, bittersweet and ultimately infuriating, this single film encapsulates every reason we all go to the movies.

TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE I’LL NEVER GET BACK: Given a choice between enduring Think Like a Man Too again and licking a cheese grater for the same amount of time, I’d have to think long and hard about it.

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE: To be honest, I initially thought Guardians of the Galaxy looked all kinds of awful…another exercise in CGI overkill for undemanding kids, with a generic premise and a stupid title which made it sound like a Saturday morning cartoon from the 1980s. But not only is Guardians Marvel’s best film to date, it was nearly as much audience-rousing fun as the original Star Wars. And who knew a bunch of cheesy bubblegum pop tunes from the 70s would ever be relevant again?

BEST SEQUEL NOBODY ASKED FOR: Many agreed The Purge had a wickedly-awesome premise, only to squander ripe opportunities for biting satire in favor another home invasion story loaded with dumb characters. That may be true, but the film is still a guilty pleasure of the highest order. While nobody was exactly pining for a sequel, The Purge: Anarchy actually tops the original by showing the effect this annual ritual has on both the haves and the have-nots, while still providing the prerequisite body count we’ve come to expect.

WORST SEQUEL NOBODY ASKED FOR (tie): Dumb and Dumber To and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For are both prime examples of too little, too late.

BEST REMAKE/REBOOT NOBODY ASKED FOR: Godzilla. Some complained we didn't see enough of the big guy, but when he does show up, it's ass kicking time.

WORST REMAKE/REBOOT NOBODY ASKED FOR: This was a tough one, but in the end, Endless Love takes this dubious honor because at least the original was good for some unintentional laughs.

"What exactly is this Scientology you speak of?"
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?: Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise, was arguably the smartest summer blockbuster since Inception, but struggled to find an audience. Yet people flocked to check-out the retarded reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the worst movie Michael Bay ever attached his name to (which is saying a lot). Speaking of which…

PROOF THAT HOLLYWOOD DOESN’T KNOW WHAT IT’S DOING: Part of Edge of Tomorrow’s middling box-office could be attributed to its generically awful title (changed at the last minute), which sounds like an ABC soap opera. What was wrong with its original title, All You Need is Kill (the graphic novel it’s based on)? Doesn’t that sound far more intriguing? Apparently Warner Brothers realized the error of their ways when they retitled it yet-again for home video, Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow.

MOST BLATANT CASH GRAB: As usual, the dubious winners of this award are studios which continue the practice of turning relatively short novels into two-to-three individual films, likely wringing their hands with an evil laugh at the obsessive fans more-than-willing to hand over their hard-earned cash for half a movie while quietly ignoring the fact they’re being ripped-off. But perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Mockingjay, Part 1 is so slow and meandering that even some longtime Hunger Games fans expressed their displeasure (though not enough to keep it from becoming a huge hit).

GET A LIFE: Finally! A teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Yay! But rather than be grateful we’re even getting another Star Wars movie at all (with George Lucas mercifully out of the picture), snarky fanboys worldwide immediately started picking it apart frame-by-frame, calling bullshit on everything from the design of the new lightsaber to the possibility that one of the main characters is black. Sometimes the internet is an awful place.

The Raid 2...starring Asia's Bruce Campbell.
BEST GRATUITOUSLY VIOLENT MOVIE: The Raid 2 throws in everything but the kitchen sink to give us even more blood, more chases, more gunplay and more bone-snapping mayhem, all wrapped up in a cozy 150 minutes that feels more like 90. Great stuff!

MOVIES WHICH WERE BETTER THAN THEY HAD A RIGHT TO BE: 22 Jump Street, The Equalizer, Guardians of the Galaxy, Firestorm (a 2013 Hong Kong action epic, released in the US this year), Into the Storm, The Purge: Anarchy, Need for Speed, The LEGO Movie.

MOVIES WHICH MAKE ONE LOSE ALL FAITH IN HUMANKIND (BECAUSE THEY WERE INEXPLICABLY HUGE): Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Let’s Be Cops, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I.

BEST TREND: Foodgasm movies. If Chef and The Hundred-Foot Journey didn’t have you making a bee-line to the closest bistro in town afterwards, then you ate too much popcorn. Speaking of which…

BEST MOVIE DISGUISED AS AN “ART FILM”: Chef, a funny and ultimately heartwarming film about fatherhood and friendship. And damn, those grilled sandwiches look freaking awesome!

BEST REASON TO OWN A BLU-RAY PLAYER: 1977’s Sorcerer, an underrated classic given a pristine transfer by Warner Bros.

SECOND-BEST REASON TO OWN A BLU-RAY PLAYER: Netflix, which essentially sucks unless all you care about is what’s new.

BEST REASON TO STAY HOME ON WEEKENDS: The Walking Dead, Sharknado 2, the Seattle Seahawks.

MOST BINGE-WORTHY TV SEASON ON DVD: Revolution: The Complete Second and Final Season. Just when this show is hitting its stride, it gets cancelled.

Oh, no! Not the dog!
BEST REVENGE MOVIE: John Wick - he avenges his dog! Sure, the dog is a merely symbol of his wife’s love, but so what? Speaking of which…

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: Keanu Reeves in John Wick.

BEST 3-D MOVIE: An oxymoron. 3-D isn’t what makes a movie any good.



MOST WELCOME RETURN: Michael Keaton in Birdman.

LEAST WELCOME RETURN: The entire cast of The Expendables 3. Speaking of which…


BEST COMEDY (INTENTIONAL): The Grand Budapest Hotel.

BEST COMEDY (UNINTENTIONAL): : Annabelle, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, Annie, Winter’s Tale, Oijia, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Legend of Hercules and every movie featuring Nicholas Cage.

WE WANT TO LOVE THIS FILM, BUT JUST CAN’T: The Monuments Men, A Most Wanted Man, When the Game Stands Tall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I.

BEST ANIMATED MOVIE: The Boxtrolls. Aside from the jaw-dropping stop-motion animation, this one also wins the award for the BEST DEATH OF A BAD GUY, which is straight out of Monty Python.

"Yeah...I styled it myself..."
JACKASS OF THE YEAR: I was originally going to reserve this dubious distinction to the fanboy seated behind me at Guardians of the Galaxy on opening night, who felt the incessant need to voice his opinion every ten seconds or so. But recent events have forced me to bestow the award on both North Korea and Sony Pictures…North Korea for declaring a Hollywood product like The Interview an act of war, and Sony for caving-in to their threats and yanking it from release at the last minute. Ironically, what both parties have done is turn The Interview (which would likely have come-and-gone in theaters in a few weeks), into the now-I-gotta-see-this movie of the decade.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE STOP: Adam Sandler, Michael Bay, Cameron Diaz, Kevin Hart, Johnny Depp, the Wayans Brothers, Nicholas Cage.

WE’LL MISS YOU: Robin Williams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Mike Nichols, Lauren Bacall, Ruby Dee, Sid Caesar, James Garner, Harold Ramis, Billie Whitelaw, Marilyn Burns, Eli Wallach, James Rebhorn, Russell Johnson.

CINEMA SHEEP AWARD: Despite all the pre-release eye-rolling, everyone who made that godawful cinematic suppository, Transformers: Age of Extinction, a massive global hit will be getting exactly what they asked for…another film. Thanks a lot, folks…you have justified the production of yet-another entry in the most creatively-bankrupt franchise of all time.

BEST TRAILER FOR A 2015 MOVIE: While any impending Star Wars film is a cause for celebration, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is beginning to look too good to pass up, even without Mel Gibson in the title role. Here’s hoping it isn’t watered down with a PG-13 rating.

BEST NEWS: After his star-making turn in Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt’s lead role in Jurassic World bumps-up that film’s gotta-see level a few notches, especially if he’s required to do nothing but be…Chris Pratt.

WORST NEWS (tie): 1. The announcement that Ghostbusters 3 is apparently going forward without Bill Murray (with a brand new cast). 2. The long-gestating adaptation of Stephen King’s greatest novel, The Stand, is slated to be cut-up into four separate movies. I doubt even King’s staunchest fans want to pony-up four times for a single story.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE: Boyhood, one of the most critically-lauded films of the year (and the likely Best Picture winner at this year's Oscars), is probably not even on the radar of moviegoers who made Transformers: Age of Extinction turn a billion dollar profit.

December 19, 2014

THE BABADOOK: Holiday E-Cards For Download

IFC Midnight Presents a Gruesome Holiday Treat!
"How the 'Dook Stole Christmas"

Download Link:

Six years after the violent death of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is at a loss. She struggles to discipline her 'out of control' 6 year-old, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), a son she finds impossible to love. Samuel's dreams are plagued by a monster he believes is coming to kill them both.

When a disturbing storybook called 'The Babadook' turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he's been dreaming about. His hallucinations spiral out of control, he becomes more unpredictable and violent. Amelia, genuinely frightened by her son's behaviour, is forced to medicate him.

But when Amelia begins to see glimpses of a sinister presence all around her, it slowly dawns on her that the thing Samuel has been warning her about may be real.

Free Kittens Movie Guide: THE LAST CHRISTMAS by D.M. Anderson

Free Kittens Movie Guide: THE LAST CHRISTMAS by D.M. Anderson: On the eve of last Christmas I turned out the lights; I tucked in my daughter and wished her goodnight. “Tomorrow is Christmas!”...

December 18, 2014

Go Behind The Lens with A MOST VIOLENT YEAR Cinematographer Bradford Young

Go behind the lens and get to know Bradford Young, one of the most creative cinematographers in modern filmmaking. Learn how he transports audiences into the treacherous yet stunning landscape of NYC, 1981. Check it out below. 
Immerse yourself in the culture of NYC 1981 with the AMVY official blog, featuring an art retrospective curated by Miss Rosen and Alan W. Moore, a dive into graffiti culture with features from Chris "FREEDOM" Pape, Skeme, CRASH, and King Blade, fashion coverage from Karley Sciortino, Susannah Breslin and David R. Coggins , and more curated by celebrity guest editors.

Movie Haiku of the Week: FRIDAY THE 13th (any of 'em)

To hunks and hotties
Who engage in naughtiness...
Meet my machete.

December 16, 2014


Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz, James Earl Jones, Kenny Baker. Directed by Irvin Kershner. (1980, 124 min).

You silly kids these days...with your WiFi and your Facebook and your Tweets. Back in my day, we had to actually call our friends, and we couldn’t walk more than ten feet from the phone without pulling it off the wall. We would hang out with those same friends at a place called the mall. And none of us were so important that we felt our lives were worth constantly summarizing in 140 characters or less.

We only had three-and-a-half TV channels to choose from (the 'half ' was PBS, because who the hell watches PBS once they’ve outgrown Sesame Street?), and our shows only aired once a week, one episode at a time. Reality TV was called Cops, and we never turned any of those shitfaced & shirtless wife-beaters into celebrities.

As for movies…you kids don’t know how good you have it. Back in my day, if we didn’t see a film in a theater, it could be years before it showed up on cable or home video (and we had to rewind the goddamn tape when we were done!). Not only that, blockbuster movies played at only one or two theaters in town, making them seem like a big events. In the case of the original Star Wars, this meant not only talking my dad into carting my friends and I across Portland, but waiting in a two-hour line for tickets to a movie that had already been playing for several months (it was worth it, of course, though Dad would disagree because he was missing the 49ers on TV). So to all you young 'uns who think wading through the flock of other fansheep to catch Mockingjay Part One on opening night is a big deal…shut the hell up.

Speaking of Mockingjay, back in the day, you always got a whole movie for your three-dollar ticket (yeah, you heard that right…three bucks). Any Part II or III or IV was a sequel, not the second half of the same goddamn story. There was none of this ‘to be continued’ bullshit, a gimmick once-reserved for soap operas and season finales of Dallas.

Wait a sec...that’s actually not entirely true. One guy had the audacity to commit such an atrocity on us fanboys back in 1980...a guy by the name of George Lucas.

A Jedi always knows who just farted.
After Star Wars became bigger than Jesus, even the most-clueless moviegoer knew a sequel was inevitable. And really, there was no other movie more ripe for franchising than the adventures of Luke Skywalker & friends. So three years later, everyone who took Star Wars into their hearts (which was essentially everybody but my dad) found their place in yet-another two-hour line for The Empire Strikes Back. Now able to drive across town on my own, I was there on opening night. I brought a date, Susan, but since she was just as big a Star Wars fan as I was, I’m pretty sure she mostly agreed to go out with me because I had the means to get her there. She was a good kisser though.

The Empire Strikes Back was nothing-short of mind-blowing. Far more than just an obligatory sequel, Empire expanded on the original, giving established characters increasing complexity and plopping them into a darker story which confounded our expectations at every turn. After all, we’d previously been led to expect Leia would eventually hook-up with Luke, not a scoundrel like Han Solo!

Then there's the mother of all movie bombshells, when Darth Vader reveals he’s Luke’s father. Sure, we all know this now, and I doubt anyone batted an eye when I just revealed such a spoiler. But back in my day, there weren’t thousands of fanboy websites or social media outlets happy to dish-out every conceivable plot twist before a film was even released. Back then, on opening night, the jaws of everyone in the theater dropped to the floor in unison. Absolutely nobody saw it coming.

Darth Vader’s revelation was one of the greatest plot twists in movie history and, sorry kids, you just had to be there to appreciate it.

Then the second shoe dropped…Empire ended with Han frozen in carbonite and Luke’s future as a Jedi uncertain. Even though it told a completely satisfying story on its own terms, the goddamn movie had a cliffhanger ending!

What??? No coda??? No last-second heroics to reassure the audience everything turns out okay??? Are you fucking KIDDING me???

"Just give me the damn ball!"
Speaking of which, those of you who’ve blindly (and gullibly) accepted Hollywood’s increasing practice of needlessly turning books into two-part films in order to bilk every last cent from a franchise, you shouldn't bitch about the wait between installments of The Hobbit and The Hunger Games. At least that wait wasn't three years long.

That’s right, kids. Three. Fucking. Years.

That's how long we were all forced to wait for Return of the Jedi to come and end our agony. And in the interim between films, there were absolutely no hints, clues or spoilers accessible with the click of a mouse. Furthermore, unlike taking a 300 page novel like The Hobbit and milking three films out of it, we never had the impression the open-ending to The Empire Strikes Back was anything but a stroke of creative genius, an homage to the serialized Flash Gordon shorts made in the 1930s, when kids were encouraged to return to the theater the following week to find out what happens next. After all, those old films were a major inspiration to George Lucas in the first place. It’s this dark, open-ended coda which arguably makes The Empire Strikes Back the best film in the franchise from a dramatic perspective.

People also tend to forget George Lucas paid for Empire entirely out of his own pocket in order to retain complete creative control. While wisely handing the directorial duties to Irwin Kershner, this was a huge gamble because there was still no guarantee of success. The Exorcist was a pop culture phenomenon only seven years earlier, yet Exorcist II was notoriously laughed off the screen. For Lucas to end Empire with a cliffhanger…man, that took serious balls, especially since no one had attempted such a thing in decades (at least on this scale).

Today, The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered to be the most character-driven and emotionally satisfying film in the whole franchise, not-to-mention one of the greatest sequels of all time. But believe it or not, many initial reviews of Empire were not exactly complimentary (perhaps because it wasn’t as much mindless, aw-shucks fun as the original). It’s probably hard to believe now, but I’ll bet ol’ Lucas downed a lot of Pepto Bismol back then, especially with a $27 million on the line.

You spoiled kids, with your iPads and social media, will probably never get to experience any cinematic phenomenon on the level of Star Wars, to say nothing of the shocking revelations like those in The Empire Strikes Back. If the film were made today, you'd probably already know who Luke's old man was before he did.

What’s the fun in that?

December 13, 2014


Starring Chang Jung Lim, Daniel Choi, Dal-su Oh, Yun-hie Jo, Ji-yoon Jeong, Young-hoon Lee. Directed by Hong-seon Kim. (2012, 111 min).
Well Go USA

I would love to have been a fly on the wall when someone was pitching this idea to a studio exec…

“Picture Teong-gyoo,  a low-life criminal who was once the biggest smuggler of body parts in all of Korea, where he and his crew of fellow scumbags would lure unsuspecting rubes onto a cruise ship, abduct them, then harvest their organs to sell on the black market. After one particular assignment goes bad, he retires and settles for being just another drug dealer, at least until he’s forced to do one last job in order to erase the debt he owes a local gangster. So he reassembles his crew of psychos, morons and perverts to snatch the heart of a wheelchair-bound woman while she and her husband are heading to China for a vacation. He’s also smitten with Yoo-ri, a waify young woman who’s also on the ship because she’s forced to do business with the same gangster to get her father the heart transplant he needs to survive. Oh, and did I mention this guy is the hero of the story?”

I suppose it’s a credit to director/co-writer Hong-seon Kim that he manages to (almost) make us root for Teong-gyoo, even though he’s long-been involved in a trade where innocent people are abducted and murdered for their organs. But the bottom line is, because of his affection for Yoo-ri, he’s only slightly less reprehensible than the low-lifes surrounding him. Traffickers is a movie loaded with characters whose contempt for human life is pushed to the forefront, practically rubbing their overall shittiness in your face.

These guys would really like to find a restroom.
Personally, I have no problem with movies in which every character is a scumbag, so long as the story is worth telling. However, Traffickers takes a looong time to finally get interesting. When it does, despite a few suspenseful moments, it becomes overly-complicated, with too many gratuitous scenes designed to confound the viewer by throwing in plot twists and last-second revelations, none of which redeems anyone involved.

Even though the characters are painted in broad strokes, Traffickers is well-acted by a game cast, all of whom go a long way in making the repellant nature of the material just a bit more digestible. Speaking of which, while there are a few fairly graphic scenes of gory violence, they are mostly relegated to characters who deserve what’s coming to them. To its credit, the film never descends into the torture porn it could’ve been. But ultimately, while Traffickers is watchable, it’s saddled with an overly-complex plot, along with characters who really don’t deserve the amount of time or empathy required for us to care about them.

EXTRAS: Trailer

(OUT OF 5)

December 10, 2014

Movie Haiku of the Week: JFK

Who killed Kennedy?
The Mob? Cubans? Government? 
Looks like they all did!

An Interview with James Gunn for the Home Release of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Guardians of the Galaxy arrived this week (12/9) on Blu-ray™ 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray and On-Demand! Enjoy the bloopers clip below as well as a Q&A with director/co-writer James Gunn.

Q: What were the biggest challenges in bringing Guardians Of The Galaxy to the screen?
A: The biggest challenge was definitely having to set up so many characters and so many foreign planets that nobody had ever heard of within the first 20 minutes and then get to the story. To have people feel comfortable with the plot and who the characters were while telling a fun, engaging story – that was the big challenge. I really look forward to doing the sequel because I won’t have to do all that heavy lifting. I can just focus on the characters and the adventures they go on.

Q: How would you sum up the movie yourself?
A: I see it as a space adventure but with a lot of comedy and a lot of heart. We didn’t restrain ourselves in any way, other than just keeping the characters as real as we possibly could.

Q: Was it tricky getting the tone of the film right in terms of not making the comedy too adult?
A: I was thinking that if I had kids, which I don’t - I have a dog but I don’t care what my dog sees – then what would I really care about them seeing? Would I care about them seeing a raccoon say ‘S**t’? Not really. There’s one risqué joke in there that no kid will understand and if they do they’ve been watching something else risqué, but mainly I was thinking about what would be OK for my nieces and nephews to see. But I don’t think I’ll ever write anything that’s not funny because it’s what comes naturally to me. I’m writing characters, I fall in love with those characters, and those characters make me laugh as they go about their lives. I’m just writing down what they’re doing as I see it happen in my brain.

Q: Were you heavily influenced by the Marvel comics when you made the movie?
A: Yeah, especially the 2008 team because Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning wrote the series. They’re the ones that chose the characters who are in the movie and the characters they chose were all sort of Z-grade comic book heroes, some of whom had been around for 30 years. Groot first appeared in 1963. So there was a lot of humor and a lot of interesting stuff in those comics, a lot of space fantasy, and so if there was anything that influenced us when we were making the movie it was Dan and Andy’s work. I’m very indebted to those guys. I’m also indebted to some of the Cosmic guys from the 1970s like Jim Starlin, who created whole universes that really began the Cosmic side of Marvel, and he created Thanos. There are a lot of those elements in the film.

Q: The humor in the film is very bold and brave, but did anybody try and rein you in?
A: It was the opposite, actually. There was a lot of humor in my first draft and I thought ‘This might be a little too out-there for Marvel and they might want to pull it back and make it a little straighter’. I actually brought that up in the first meeting because they really liked the script, which of course I was incredibly relieved to hear, and they actually said, ‘You can make it funnier if you want’. And that’s what I did.

Q: The film is sure to be a DVD and Blu-ray favorite. How do you think it will replay repeatedly?
A: There’s lots of little things in there that people might miss the first time round. There are all kinds of things from the Marvel universe. I was very specifically thinking of the R2-D2 model that Spielberg had on the spaceship in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind when I did the Collector’s Museum scene. If you freeze-frame it you’ll see all manner of references. We also have Cosmo popping up, who’s a character in the Guardians Of The Galaxy comics. He’s a Russian dog who speaks with a Russian accent and that was our nod to him. I really like Cosmo in the comics but he’s very hard to have in the movie because it’s difficult to have a live-action dog next to a CGI racoon due to the way fur looks on screen. In the comics they don’t get along at all, which is why they’re growling at each other in the film. Also, there are some deleted scenes and outtakes because we’d goof around on set a lot, and they’ll be on there.

Q: Did you already know Chris Pratt, who plays Peter Quill/Star-Lord, before making the movie?
A: No but through the process of making the film he’s the one I became closest to. We became very good friends and he moved next door to me when we were based in London so we could hang out all the time. I didn’t know him before but strangely we have a couple of close friends in common, which I think made us instantly trust each other because the friends in question are very good people. They’re guys that I like. They’re just good, basic dudes.

Q: When you’re working with a huge budget is it easy to get carried away and go ‘I want this and I want that’?
A: I don’t do that. I’m selective. For me having a big budget is definitely better than having a small budget simply because visually I can do what I want, but there are always strengths that come through limitations. On this movie, though, having the budget was great.

Q: How did you choose the songs for the soundtrack?
A: For me that was the most fun part probably of the entire film. When I first wrote my treatment for the movie I put a picture of a Sony Walkman on the top of it. That was probably the first sign that this was not the typical thing, but Kevin Feige [the producer and Marvel Studios president] loved that Sony Walkman and he was going, ‘I wonder if we can work that into the advertising somehow’. We didn’t do that in the end although it would have been cool. To me, the songs are the emotional center of the movie. They’re Peter Quill’s attachment to earth and his attachment to the mother he lost. The songs were very important and they were all baked into the script. The way I chose them is that I went and I made a playlist of 500 pop hits from the 1970s on my iTunes, then I whittled it down to about 100 songs that seemed tonally in line with what I saw in my head. With those 100 songs I would play them around the house and be inspired by them, then when I wrote the script I’d try to find the right song for the right moment, like when Peter is dancing through the temple. At first I wrote it with Hooked On A Feeling in mind then changed it to Come And Get Your Love halfway through. I’d try and find the right song for the right moment.

Q: Were there any instances where you were refused permission to use a song or it proved too expensive?
A: No, never. Part of it was probably the songs I was choosing. With the exception of David Bowie – and Moonage Daydream isn’t one of the more well-known David Bowie songs – they were mostly songs that people had probably heard but they probably didn’t know the title of the song and they probably didn’t know the artist. I wanted to get things that were familiar but not too familiar. It’s not like I was putting The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin on the soundtrack. Because of that fortunate aesthetic choice it meant that the songs were not unaffordable.

 Enjoy some Guardians of the Galaxy bloopers.

Q: Why do you think Guardians has been such a big hit with audiences?
A: The thing that makes it so much fun is taking these outlandish situations and these outlandish characters and then having these aliens act like they’re real people. The things they’re arguing about are things you’d argue about with your friends in your apartment. That’s a big part of the fun of it. I also think it’s a reaction to a lot of the other blockbuster movies. We’re not taking ourselves too seriously and we’re not adding a sheen of darkness and broodiness over the movie to cover up the fact there aren’t real characterisations in there, and we’re not adding a string of explosions with no character moments in between – we’re creating something that is, first and foremost, about those characters. I love those characters with all my heart and I’ve put them on screen to the best of my ability.

Q: What were the big movie influences for you?
A: I thought of the movies I loved as a kid, like Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Back To The Future. I wanted to create a movie that wasn’t necessarily like those movies but a movie that made me feel like those movies made me feel. That was the starting point.

Q: If you had the whole Marvel universe to choose from, who would you like to see in the sequel, even if it was just for a cameo?
A; [Laughs] I do have the whole Marvel universe to choose from. It depends on where we go with the sequel. At some point the Guardians will meet up with characters from other Marvel movies and that’s totally cool, but it’s not really my interest. My interest is to keep building Marvel Cosmic and to make Marvel Cosmic as cool as it possibly can be, and also to bring in other characters that I didn’t get to put in the movie. There are a lot of Marvel Cosmic characters I’m really into that I think would make great cinematic heroes or villains. The opportunity to create them for the screen is exciting to me.

Q: The cast has said you have a very definite idea of what you want. Is that something that stems from directing independent movies?
A: It’s just sort of how I create something. I need to have a very specific idea of where I’m going and [laughs] when I don’t, I fake it. It’s how I go about doing things and I really believe that Hitchcock idea that the movie is really made before you step on set. The majority of the filmmaking process is in pre-production. The more you’ve planned out the more freedom there is on set to find new stuff, to play around, find new jokes and let the actors kind of breathe – but it needs to come from a place where it’s completely structured.

Q: Hitchcock also said he preferred the preparation to the actual filming process, but it sounds like you had a great time making Guardians
A: We had a great time and we really like each other. I always think back to something I heard Madeline Kahn say when I was really little. I don’t know why it stuck with me but it’s that Twinkies are delicious to eat but it doesn’t mean people who work in the Twinkie factory are having an especially great time. Obviously it meant something to me because I heard it when I was around seven years old and I still remember it. Maybe I even made part of it up. I don’t know. I think she said that. So making a movie is not easy but this one was fun.

Q: Chris Pratt says you had to tire him out to get what you wanted. Do you deliberately use tricks to get responses from your actors?
A: I don’t know if they’re tricks, it’s just a method and it isn’t necessarily true for everybody but Chris is such a cerebral guy. He doesn’t seem that cerebral, I know; he seems like a dummy. But he’s a really cerebral guy and he thinks a lot. One of the tricks with Chris is to keep pushing him and pushing him until he gets to the place where he’s just acting on instinct, then you capture this magic. Unfortunately I didn’t know that on the first day of shooting; it took me a little while to learn it. With Dave Bautista [who plays Drax The Destroyer], on the other hand, we understood each other from the moment we met each other so that was a little bit easier. With different actors at different times you get what makes them click.

Q: How important is it to cast name actors like Vin Diesel [Groot] and Bradley Cooper [Rocket] when they’re not actually appearing on screen?
A: I didn’t know Vin was going to be as important as he was. That’s the grace of God. We had other people doing the voice for a temporary track and it was fine and the character of Groot was really cool. Then Vin came in and what he did was kind of miraculous. The editor Fred Raskin and I were sitting in the room and we kept turning to each other because we couldn’t believe how much of a difference he made to that character. Suddenly Groot was complete and he was full and he was real, and that’s because of Vin’s voice. We had this secret script that had ‘I am Groot’ on one side and on the other side it had the lines he was actually saying. Sometimes he was cursing and sometimes he was saying a whole paragraph and at other times it was just one word. It’s amazing to me how when Vin says ‘I am Groot’ he gets across what he’s meant to be saying. We have Rocket in the movie interpreting what Groot’s saying and it’s funny, but we kind of get what he’s saying anyway. Having Bradley do Rocket was a little different because I knew Rocket was as important as anything in the movie. We auditioned a lot of people but it was difficult to find somebody who was able to do all the comedy that Rocket does and also be as emotionally grounded as Rocket needs to be. He really is a haunted little beast. He’s the least happy of all of the Guardians and I needed that on screen, and I also needed someone who was going to do a character, not just come in and do their celebrity voice over this animated raccoon. I needed someone who could create a character out of him and Bradley had the track record of being able to do all that. My first day of recording Bradley was maybe my happiest day making this movie, [laughs] and by happiness I mean relief because it’s pretty much how I experience pleasure.

Guardians Of The Galaxy is available on Blu-ray, Digital HD and
Disney Movies Anywhere December 9, 2014

December 8, 2014

GET ON UP: Film Clip from the Upcoming Blu-Ray Release

In anticipation of the upcoming video release of the Blu-ray, Get On Up, starring Chadwick Boseman as James Brown, we have a clip from the disc's bonus features. The film arrives on Digital HD December 9th and Blu-ray Combo Pack January 6th. 
Get On Up stars Chadwick Boseman (42Draft Day) in yet another career-making performance as Brown, with a stellar supporting cast that includes Oscar-nominee Viola Davis (The Help, “How to Get Away with Murder”), Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The HelpFruitvale Station), Nelsan Ellis (The Butler, “True Blood”), Oscar-nominee Dan Aykroyd (Driving Miss DaisyGhostbusters), Craig Robinson (This is the EndHot Tub Time Machine) and Jill Scott (Why Did I Get MarriedBaggage Claim).
James Brown’s ferocity, talent and ambition propelled him from his hardscrabble South Carolina roots to some of the most prestigious musical venues in the world, earning him a reputation as “the hardest working man in show business.” Get On Up takes audiences behind the scenes of his brilliant, six-decade-long career for an uncensored look at the turbulent forces that drove the legendary performer.

One on One Conversation with A MOST VIOLENT YEAR's Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac

Join National Board of Review Best Actor WINNER Oscar Isaac and Best Supporting Actress WINNER, Jessica Chastain in an intimate one on one conversation available to check out NOW below. A MOST VIOLENT YEAR will be in NY and LA on December 31, 2014 and will expand in January 2015.

"A Shared Foundation"
The conversation continues in "Mastering the Craft", available HERE.

December 7, 2014

THE BIG LEBOWSKI and the Oregon Flower

Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, John Turturo, David Huddleson, Peter Stormare, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ben Gazzara, Tara Reid. (Directed by Joel Coen). (1998, 119 min).

Oregonians of a certain persuasion rejoiced the recent passing of a bill which legalized marijuana. It was a hard-fought victory, but after previous election years when the bill went down in defeat, we are now finally free to include bong hits and Bob Marley as part of our nutritious breakfast. It was made legal in Alaska as well, but that seems a bit redundant since marijuana can’t grow in snow.

But now that Oregon has sided with such smokin’ states as Washington and Colorado, it’s looking like the West Coast is slowly becoming a happier place than the East. Sure, weed was also made legal in Washington D.C., but I suspect this was an intervention by God to show he has a sense of humor. After all, isn’t it ironic this bill was passed at almost the exact time Marion Barry, the hardest-partying mayor in D.C. history, kicked-the-bucket?

So yeah, as a lifelong Oregonian, I’m rejoicing too, though maybe a tad resentful at the timing. Where the hell were these hemp-happy heroes back in the days when I used to smoke this shit, forced to score two-finger dime bags from a nearby neighbor who lived in black-lit squalor among Led Zeppelin posters and stacks of discarded Domino’s pizza boxes?

Still, even though I no longer indulge in wacky-tobacky (and have no desire to), this bill’s passing is a great thing. Beyond the immediate economic benefits to our state, not to mention those who own stock in 7-Eleven, Oregon’s legalization of marijuana has inspired me to grab my share of the American Dream…

I’m gonna go into the drug business.

And I don’t mean opening a little boutique in the hipster part of town where nappy-headed white guys buy their sandals. I’m talking mainstream…a weed-related Wal-Mart for the cannabis culture, the one-stop superstore for everything you could possibly need. In addition to a wide selection of weed from around the world, our grocery section will carry isles and isles of Twinkies, Pepsi, Hot Pockets, Fritos, Cap’n Crunch and all flavors of that easy-to-prepare favorite, Top Ramen. You’ll also want to visit our bakery for the best brownies north of Mexico.

Furthermore, if a household object can be fashioned into a makeshift pipe, you’ll find it in Hardware. Our Home & Garden department will meet all your indoor agricultural needs. We’ll have a wide selection of pajama bottoms and concert tees in Apparel. You’ll enjoy our wide variety of lava lamps, incense, black lights, Jim Morrison tapestries and paintings of poker playing dogs in the Home Décor isle, and don’t forget to visit the Furniture department to test-drive all of the big cushy recliners. In addition, our Music department carries everything from Santana & Pink Floyd to Santana & Pink Floyd…all on vinyl, of course.

But aside from a few bowling balls, we won’t waste precious floor space with sporting goods & fitness equipment. You already knew that, though.

Here's to you, Oregon.
Best of all, we’ll give away free copies of The Big Lebowski with every purchase. If you find yourself asking why, then you’ve either never seen the film, or never fired-up a J. The Big Lebowski and weed go together like wine & cheese, Martin & Lewis, cops & donuts. It’s the most repeatedly watchable, infinitely quotable movie ever made, even without chemical assistance. Watching the film while sparking-up a fat one must be as awesome as dunking fries into a chocolate shake.

I say ‘must be’ because The Big Lebowski was released in 1998, a full decade after my last bong hit, so I’m sad to say I’ve never actually experienced this movie enhanced by anything other than a beer in my hand.

There are scores of other beloved films that get better with each suck on the pipe. Hell, who didn’t love zoning-out in a smoke-filled living room to the surreal pleasures of Heavy Metal, Pink Floyd The Wall or The Song Remains the Same? But most of those movies are actually pretty terrible when you watch them sober, which I can attest to. I once championed Heavy Metal as the greatest adult animated film of all time, only to revisit it ten years later - married and drug free - and recognized it as the godawful piece of sleazy, juvenile shit it really is. I was almost embarrassed to admit I once enjoyed it.

But the difference between The Big Lebowski and Heavy Metal is the Coen Brothers didn’t have stoners in-mind while making it. Its story is mostly an homage to Raymond Chandler potboilers, only the main character happens to be a complete slacker (yet turns out to be the most normal guy in the entire film). Part of its genius (besides the characters, dialogue, music and individual set-pieces) lies in the fact we’re duped into thinking we’re watching an intricate story unfolding, when in reality the movie is almost plotless, which we don’t really realize until after it’s over. If you don’t agree, just try to summarize the story to somebody in just a couple of sentences.

The Coen Brothers have made films which earned more money, awards and critical accolades, but The Big Lebowski has arguably had the biggest cultural impact. Even star Jeff Bridges has made it obvious he still loves being The Dude (if in doubt, watch Tron: Legacy again and try to convince anyone he’s not revisiting his inner Lebowski).

What better movie to give away at the grand opening of my Weed-Mart than the one film which makes it okay - even cool - to be a middle-aged slacker? In the real world, few of us can realistically aspire to be as heroic as John McClane, Atticus Finch or Bruce Wayne. But The Dude? Yeah, that seems feasible. And what better way to drum-up business for my superstore than a cinematic reminder that indulging in a bit of ganja now and again is perfectly okay?

The Big Lebowski still ranks among my favorite films, but one of my few regrets in life is I’ve never actually enjoyed it while stoned. I envy those who have, for whom it must have been an out-of-body experience. It’s such a perfect film that, if members of American Film Institute were smoking the same shit as The Dude when compiling their annual list of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time, they would probably knock Citizen Kane from its spot at the top.

December 3, 2014

December 2, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD

Starring Vegar Hoel, Orjan Gamst, Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas, Stig Frode Henriksen, Kristoffer Joner. Directed by Tommy Wirkola. (2014, 101 min).
Well Go USA

Early in this film, an elderly man, aroused by a newspaper photo of a scantily-clad girl, tells his wife to take out her teeth because he’s in the mood for some head. Immediately afterwards, her bloody severed noggin is tossed into his lap.

Later, our hero threatens a gay store clerk, who helplessly raises his hands and begs, “Please don’t kill me! I have two kittens!”

If either of these scenes strike you as funny, you’re gonna love Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead. Subtlety is not one of its virtues.

Director Tommy Wirkola is obviously a big fan of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise and Peter Jackson’s early films. Those influences were proudly on display in the original Dead Snow, a surprisingly amusing zombie flick in which undead Nazis return to claim a cache of gold discovered by some hard-partying tourists. That film was bloody as hell, but had a quirky playfulness which rendered the extreme gore part of the fun. Like the best zom-coms, Wirkola skillfully balanced laughs and shocks in equal measures.

Naturally, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is bigger and broader, taking the Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness route by putting a greater emphasis on splatstick humor than actual scares. As such, this film is an improvement on the original.

This one picks up right where the original left off, with lone survivor Martin (Vegar Hoel) still trying to escape undead Nazi commander Herzog and his soldiers. It turns out they have a bigger agenda than retrieving their gold, which is to complete a mission assigned to them by Hitler before they died…taking revenge on townfolk of a Norwegian village who revealed the location of a German warship during World War II. Not only that, Herzog now has the power to raise fresh corpses to replenish his army.

Dig deep enough and you're gonna hit brain.
Meanwhile, Martin, who cut off his own arm in the first film after being bitten, wakes up in a hospital with Herzog’s severed appendage attached to him (an amusingly-unfortunate turn of events). The police already suspect Martin is responsible for the slaughter of his friends, not helped by the fact this zombie arm seems to have a mind of its own, forcing him to kill several people during his escape. These scenes are gruesomely funny, and Hoel’s performance is what makes these gags work. Now free, he manages to contact the Zombie Squad, a trio of geeky Americans led by Daniel (Martin Starr), whose experience in fighting the undead is regulated to movies they’ve seen. Their shock in confronting actual zombies for the first time provides a lot of laughs and satirical moments.

Martin also discovers, not only does his new zombie arm give him incredible strength, he has the same power as Herzog’s to raise the dead to do his bidding. And what better corpses to awaken than a batch of Russian soldiers once captured and killed by Herzog during the war? This leads to a climactic and bloody zombie-on-zombie battle in the town Herzog came to destroy.

Again, the emphasis is on laughs, which Dead Snow 2 mostly earns, much like the best over-the-top moments of Braindead and Evil Dead 2. Some gags border on tasteless (such as the killing of children and babies), but the goofy tone of the film makes these scenes pretty easy to digest. Not everything works, though. The scenes involving an inept squad of Norwegian cops are almost insultingly stupid and have absolutely zero impact on the story. But most of the other characters are quite likeable (or at-least entertaining), including a hapless-but-loyal ghoul resurrected by Martin.

As for the violence, Dead Snow 2 is ultra-gory, but so extreme in its depiction of bodily dismemberment (through practical effects and CGI) that it’s difficult to take any of these scenes seriously. After all, this is a movie featuring zombies using intestines to siphon gas from a vehicle. In other words, everything, no matter how brutal, is totally tongue-in-cheek.

Dead Snow 2 doesn’t quite reach the giddy heights of Evil Dead 2, nor is it as funny as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. But it’s entertaining nonetheless, with great performances and an absolutely hilarious coda that’ll forever change the way you hear that awesomely-bad 80’s hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”


  • Norwegian language version: Dod Sno 2
  • Short Film: Armen
  • Featurette highlighting the visual effects
  • Dead Snow comic book
  • Trailer

(OUT OF 5)

Celebrate the Season with Your Favorite Disney Characters Singing "Jingle Bells"

Disney Movies Anywhere is celebrating the holidays with all-new heartwarming music video mashups set to classic holiday songs. Sign up and access Disney Movies Anywhere for free on or through the Disney Movies Anywhere iOS and Android apps, and then connect your iTunes, Google Play and/or VUDU accounts to begin enjoying their Disney, Pixar, and Marvel digital movie collections across platforms and devices.  
Check out the "Jingle Bells" like never before at Disney Movies Anywhere's "Discover” section.  Be sure to check Disney Movies Anywhere every week, where a brand new holiday music video mashup will be updated! Happy Holidays!