Welcome to the Space Show (2010) Review

600full-welcome-to-the-space-show-poster
An old review of mine, approximately four months old, so I figured I’d finally publish it.

My Neighbor Totoro meets A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” is how a friend of mine described Welcome to The Space Show and that’s really quite the perfect encapsulation. Welcome to The Space Show is a whimsical adventure through the wonders of space, the final frontier viewed through a child’s eyes. It’s an adorable little film that has more genuine innocence to it then most of the pandering cartoons seen on TV. I would recommend it to every parent for their kids, but with some hesitation due to certain flaws. Welcome to The Space Show is a film I really wish was better than it is, and not just because I would like all films to be good. It has effort, heart, and competence behind it far beyond most other films.

Welcome to The Space Show details the journey of five kids as they make their way through space, thanks to an alien dog named Pochi, whose life they save after finding him injured in a grain field. Traveling from planet to planet, the kids hear about the mysterious and spectacular Space Show, a traveling circus that broadcasts across the galaxies. Due to unforeseen circumstances they have to take a detour to get back to Earth, but this proves to be difficult with greedy poachers after a rare Earth plant that they carry with them.

In 20-30 minute chunks, Welcome to The Space Show works extremely well. It’s technically beautiful and well made, with actual subtlety and thought put into every shot. The characters are likeable, diverse, well-developed, and learn important lessons that you want your kids to learn. You may not remember their names by the end of the film, but you will have a definite feel for who they are, if only by default of having spent so much time with them. The setting of Welcome to The Space Show represents the most innocent view one could have of a sci-fi universe, with bright colors and harmless creatures all willing to help you. It’s a film that asks you to “leave your logic at the door, and just have a little fun” and for the most part, you will have fun.

Looking at the film as a whole, however, reveals a tragically different image, as Welcome to The Space Show clumsily moves from set piece to set piece, taking far too much time to reach its end goal. The plot’s pacing only starts to pick up an hour in, and an unfortunate amount of last minute plot devices and character motivations are used to wrap up the story. Even ignoring that, the film is just too long, clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes. Despite how much fun the movie is, once you hit the hour and a half mark the movie’s length starts to take its toll. The film is a touch slower than most children’s films, so this combined with the average child’s attention span is going to detract from a kid’s enjoyment of the film.

Welcome to the Space Show disappoints, but nowhere near as much as it leaves you feeling warm inside. Perhaps breaking the film into two parts would serve as a better way to view it, but as it stands Welcome to The Space Show is tragically too long and too clunky in order to be the perfect kids film it ought to be. That’s not to say there’s no enjoyment to be had. It consistently manages to immerse you in the universe it has created, and even the most skeptical cynic will find themselves smirking and feeling like a kid again.

Advertisements

Rubber (2010) Review

rubber_2010_6

A couple of years ago (2012), when I knew very little about film outside having seen a lot of horror movies and watched some reviews online, I was on a podcast initially titled “The Forumcast.” I say initially because it was such a disaster that my co-hosts and I renamed it “Podwreck.” On an episode of that show we reviewed an indy 2010 film called “Rubber,” directed by Quentin Dupieux. I absolutely hated it for numerous reasons: its promising premise of a rampaging tire that was so poorly handled; its “no reason” philosophy that was used to explain away any plot holes and inconsistencies; its addressing of both Hollywood and the audience in such a “clever” manner. I couldn’t stand it and proclaimed it to be one of the most disappointing and pretentious films I’d ever seen. I was shocked to find out that not only did one of my co-hosts love it, but so did several of my classmates. It took me two years to force myself to re-examine this movie, and with an accumulated arsenal of critical and filmic knowledge behind me what are my conclusions? That “Rubber” is a rather ambitious, but ultimately mediocre film. Not exactly a drastic revelation worthy of a two year build-up.

3The film has a “narrative” in the story of the killer tire and a “meta narrative” in the story of the audience and those staging the film. Through the first two-thirds of the movie the narrative part is simple enough. It’s the tale of a tire that for no reason becomes sentient and has “psycho-kinetic” powers. It roams the desert roads with little purpose except to blow up any creature it finds. There we have it. A truly interesting and unique premise that promises to not only be amusing, but also horrifying. While yes the tire’s antics do occasionally earn a chuckle, particularly in one scene where it watches NASCAR, it rarely is actually horrifying. If you’ve seen the head explosion from “Scanners” you’ve seen everything horrific about this film, and you’ve seen it eight times less than someone who has watched “Rubber.” The tire unfortunately has only one method of killing, and thus we are treated to the same sequence of events with every kill. The tire vibrates, the victim sits there, 5,4, 3, 2, 1, Boom! It’s the same thing every time and while yes the effects are fairly well done, it gets very boring after a while. It’s hard to build up tension when the audience knows exactly what’s going to happen.

gu3wmifkWatching these events unfold is an audience. A literal one who through binoculars observe the movie the same way we do, except stranded in the desert and watching it in real time. They complain and speculate about the events unfolding over the course of a couple days, but ultimately succumb to the poisoned food planted by the “filmmakers” so that they can end the movie and go home. Unfortunately one wheelchair bound man remains, stubbornly refusing to stop watching, which puts a kink in the the omniscient sheriff’s plans and eventually leads to the meta-narrative completely taking over and becoming the narrative.

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 1.52.29 PMThe sheriff’s opening monologue introduces the concept of “no reason” through several examples: why is the alien brown in “ET”; why do the characters fall in love in “Love Story”; and why do we never see the characters go to the bathroom in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”? The answer to these and questions like “Why can’t we see the air?” and “Why do only some people like sausages?” is NO REASON. While theoretically I should like this, the movie concentrates on too wide a variety of “no reason” examples xto really make clear what it’s talking about. Is it talking about poor writing? Is it talking about unexplained production decisions? Is it talking about the things the writers leave out because they aren’t relevant? Either way, the movie uses this as a launching point to turn “Rubber” into an absurdist film, which by all rights a sentient tire movie should be. The only problem is the film isn’t absurd enough. The plot makes sense, very rarely do things actually happen randomly, and once the world is established nothing abnormal happens that defies the rules. It’s actually an astonishingly straightforward movie, which is quite a shame.

While I may have put my theories of pretentiousness onto the film, interviews with the director show that this was truly a “no reason” movie. It’s a blank slate of “random” events that leave you asking questions and making theories. In this way it is a success, but the filmmakers ultimately fail at fulfilling the ambitions they had. It’s neither the “no reason” film it wished to be, nor an interesting sentient tire film, perhaps because it tried to do both at the same time. However, its blank slate nature also implies that I can’t possibly recommend nor condone this film, because each person will react to it differently, more so than with most other films. If we just examine its quality though, then it’s quite clear that “Rubber” is mediocre, unfulfilled, and not worth most people’s time.

What’s your take on Rubber? What are some other ridiculous film concepts have you enjoyed? Sound off in the comments below!


Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 6.36.48 PM

Planet Hulk (2010) Review

1115321-planethulk_preview1

Unlike Spider-man or Batman, Hulk is one of the trickiest characters to get right in not only comics, but any medium. He’s incredibly popular and is no doubt a unique character, but writers never seem to know what to do with him. How does one deliver the pure destructive badassness that audiences want to see while also creating a complex and interesting plot? It seems to me that the biggest detriment to constructing a good hulk story, until recently, is his lack of intelligence. It’s hard to have good dialogue with a raging monster whose vocabulary solely includes “SMASH!” Bruce Banner is usually cruelly mishandled as well, but thats beside the point. It seems Hulk works best in groups where he can react to other characters and serve as the ultimate weapon. Looking at his movies, the first Hulk film was insufferably boring and the action scenes were just stupid, while The Incredible Hulk was better… if not still boring and stupid. Planet Hulk may indeed be the best Hulk film out there… for what it is and tries to be.

Planet Hulk, based of the comic storyline of the same name, is the rather unusual tale of how Hulk gets shipped off Earth by the other superheroes who are tired of fighting him. Hulk, of course, smashes the shit out of the spaceship he’s on and that causes it to veer off course and crash-land on the planet Sakaar. There Hulk is imprisoned and force to fight in a gladiator ring, along with other rebels, for the entertainment of the planet’s dictator and his subjects. They band together in order to not only survive, but to also right the wrongs of The Red King.

Yeah this is a weird one to adapt, considering it has nothing to do with what people usually think of when they think Hulk. Bruce Banner doesn’t even appear in this movie, but it’s unusual setting does prevent the continuity baggage that Hulk usually has to deal with. Thats not to say that there’s no continuity as other superheroes do appear, if only briefly. What made the Planet Hulk comics work and become extremely popular was that Hulk was slightly more intelligent then usual (for no explained reason), his healing ability which had been creeping into the comics was fully exploited in cool ways, and the setting/story was beyond anything that had been done before. The Planet Hulk storyline was a long one, spanning about 25 issues if I remember correctly and the film does a good job of covering the basic plot points, if in an extremely simplified way.

This movie as I said is fairly simple, with about the intelligence of the Young Justice cartoon series or really most of the other superhero animated movies out there. Despite it’s more childish story, there is a good amount of gore and death in this movie (albeit alien cartoon gore), so the distinction must once again be made between mature content and storytelling. This movie, just because it has a little gore is in no way mature like some people may claim it to be, rather it just has some (slightly) mature content. It’s storytelling is still geared to an audience of 10-15, so if you plan to watch this with your kids keep in mind that while they will enjoy it, they should be able to handle the rather dark scenes. Most kids can, but show a touch of caution. Thats not to say that adults can’t watch this, because let me emphasize that this is a FUN movie. It shows about the level of badassery we got from Hulk in The Avengers, which is impressive comparing it to the other Hulk entries.

The animation is not too bad, certainly not Madhouse level, but it gets the job done. I like the style it’s done in, as it sacrifices detail without losing the general look of the comic. The voice acting is good as most of the key players are veterans in the field. Hulk is slightly miscast in my opinion, but it won’t bother most people. Marvel’s animated movies have never been that great compared to DC’s animated movies, but this one certainly is on par with the likes of Wonder Woman or Green Lantern: First Flight. If you’re looking for a fun movie that doesn’t require much thought, or if you’re looking for a good time with your kids then Planet Hulk is just the thing for you. Hopefully future Hulk moviemakers will take a few lessons from this movie and “Keep it simple, stupid!” Planet Hulk is available on Netflix Instant.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010) Review

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is the follow-up film to the beloved anime series of a similar title and in brief summary it’s fucking amazing. Taking the series as groundwork and using it to build a fantastic and heart-felt story, Disappearance manages to create a justified and satisfactory ending to the Haruhi story, even if you still want more at the end.

Disappearance picks up where the last episode (chronologically) ends and we are accompanied as always by the begrudging Kyon as he’s being dragged along for one of Haruhi’s schemes. The next day when he gets up and goes to school he finds that the world has changed and that no one knows who Haruhi is, or is there any evidence that she exists. With everything and everyone normal, Kyon struggles to find out what happened, what to do, and where in the world Haruhi is.

Lets get the technicals out of the way first. Practically everything about the original series is either maintained or improved on in Disappearance. The animation is even better then before, only showing weak spots on rare occasions. The music remains extremely well used, but this time there’s nary an annoying track to be found. The voice acting is astounding, with both Kyon (Crispin Freeman) and Nagato (Michelle Ruff) putting in memorable performances. The story is well paced and with little plot holes or objectionable content and the script is also good, with the same level of dialogue and wit being well balanced with more serious material. I really need to emphasize that the story is incredibly engaging and there are scenes that are so well done and impactful you may get goosebumps.

So yes. Go see it. Even if you haven’t seen the series give it a go. It’s themes are fascinating and it’s setting and story make it great for Christmas. What gets me most about this movie, and what really makes it a good film, is the characters. With a movie, you rarely have enough time to get particularly invested in the characters even if the story is more epic. With a TV show or anime you get invested, but the show rarely has a good finale to pay off your investment. However, with Disappearance, and with a lot of follow-up films to series (ie FMA, Firefly), you get an epic story that allows for all the proper payoffs with the characters you’d been hoping for. What Disappearance did for me was make me realize how much I was invested not just in Kyon, but in all of the characters. It had nods to subplots I had been curious about and it had callbacks to things that I had experienced with the characters (Endless Eight makes Nagato’s character parts all the more powerful). The SOS Brigade I realized meant the same to me as the Scoobies, Angel Investigations, the crew of Serenity, and the cast of Friends, Scrubs, HIMYM and Steins;Gate. They’re a group of people whose adventures I shared in a way, and who I got to see grow. There are so many poorly written movies and TV series these days that I’ll have to suffer through and hopefully along the way I’ll come across other characters to get invested in, but what Disappearance showed me by being a proper finale was that no matter what I can always come back to that club room and share in the adventures of Kyon, Koizami, Nagato, Ms. Asahina and the always happiness-spreading Haruhi Suzumiya. No I’m not some crazy fanboy of the series, as it’s in no way going to become an obsession of mine. It’s merely another moment of my life, but an enjoyable one. So don’t be a dummy and watch the show if only so that you too can take part in this excellent film. Unfortunately The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya isn’t available for legal streaming anywhere, but you can pick up the DVD again from Bandai Entertainment (until they go out of business).

Exit through the Gift Shop (2010) Review

Despite my fascination with art, it is rare that I actually go in depth with it. That is until I heard an NPR story a few months back about Banksy, a British street artist whose ambitious works of art provide fascinating social commentary. This inspired me to look into the unusual displays of art he had and he’s now one of my favorite artists (next to my girlfriend of course ;). So when I discovered Exit through the Gift Shop on Netflix, I had to check it. Strangely enough, this isn’t a documentary about Banksy, but rather the man who “tried” to make a documentary about him and in the end proved to be just as fascinating on his own.

Thierry Guetta is a man with a fascinating psychological urge to record everything and every moment. In the early 2000s he starts tagging along with his graffiti artist cousin “Space Invader” further and further into the world of street art. As he falls down this rabbit hole he decides to make a street art documentary and that the crown jewel of this film will be an interview with the world famous Banksy. Eventually he gets his chance, and his ensuing friendship with the Graffitist allows him to get the ultimate street art thrill ride. With attention on Street Art rising, Banksy urges him to finish the film, but when he does the result… isn’t exactly pleasing. While Banksy is busy remaking the movie, Guetta is allowed to start creating his own art and from there launches a massive campaign under the name “Mr. Brainwash.” Through his connections Guetta takes the LA art scene by storm, despite his insane business decisions and his derivative work.

Thanks to its unique framing, the documentary works extremely well. It’s told with the thousands of hours of footage Guetta has recorded over the years and is accompanied by interviews with Guetta, his family, Banksy and several colleagues. As we follow this mans life we’re mystified by the fact that no one saw his true nature… not as a seeming documentarian, but as a mentally scarred man. He asks the dumbest questions, he does the most intrusive things, and all around acts insane, but somehow he manages to capture the hearts and minds of the street artists who just want a log of their work. Guetta is a thoroughly unlikeable character in my opinion. He goes from being this naïve, but interfering nitwit to this self-centered exploiter who ignores his family and abuses his friends’ work because he wants to be just like they are. It’s clear once he becomes a “street artist” that he has no artistic vision. What gives the simplistic pop art or the unusually designed street art its artistic merit is not just the image itself, but the thought behind it, the intent. Guetta has no concept of this, simply making changes to pre-existing images (like a studio executive does to a script) and then handing it off to someone else to actually create, loosing any artistic merit for even creating the image itself since it’s not his. Yet somehow… you don’t really hate him. He’s just a goofy man riding on a trend. He’s extremely lucky, but if it wasn’t him it no doubt would have been someone else.

What Banksy wanted from Guetta was an accurate portrayal of what street art was supposed to mean during a time where it was being sold for thousands of dollars. What he got in return was a 90 minute nightmare trailer. Hence him sending Guetta off to do something else. While Guetta’s film failed, I think that this movie does, through contrast, establish what Street Art is supposed to be. We see that the people around Guetta have clear passion and that carries through to the moments in Banksy’s studio where we see the real processes behind the creation of these pieces. However, it’s not until we see Guetta in his studio and at his gallery that this message really clicks. Guetta is almost the opposite of what a Street Artist is supposed to be and by using the inverse of him, as well our impressions from the previous artists, we can gain a clear image of what those weird pieces of Graffiti are supposed to stand for and who the people behind them really are.

Exit through the Gift Shop is well made, but with all documentaries it’s the content that counts and Guetta provides no shortage of fascinating content. The art on screen is beautiful to look at, the artists are fun to watch, and Guetta’s commentary both behind and in front of camera is addicting to listen to, like watching a train crash. The moral of the film is clear and in my opinion an important one that pertains not only to the world of Street Art, but Art in general. If you are vaguely interested in Graffiti, have heard of Banksy, or are just looking for a good character piece then Exit through the Gift Shop is definitely worth checking out.

Wake Wood (2010) Review


The parents of a girl who was killed by a savage dog are granted the opportunity to spend three days with their deceased daughter -imdb.com

Sometimes the biggest detractor from a movie is not its flaws, but its lack of strengths. Wake Wood falls victim to this in the biggest of ways. This is a clearly low-budget production and it’s well made considering that, however the lackluster nature of pretty much everything in this movie prevents it from rising above what people would normally expect from a low budget horror movie.

The acting is fair, even if we don’t care much for the characters. A stand out performance is Wormtail as the leader of the Wakewood cult as well as the little girl, who while stoic, is a good child actor. The movie manages to create enough atmosphere and use odd sets and angles to occasionally get you to feel a touch uncomfortable. The effects are okay, even if there’s not much there. Again, everything technical in this movie is, to an extent, fair.

Where this movie fails is its complete failure to do… anything… to make you interested or scared. The film’s borrowed plot from Pet Semetary is barely accentuated, just replacing an unexplained force with a cult using an unexplained force. The girl has a ticking clock to evil from the beginning, so when the movie’s transition into such isn’t subtle we know exactly what’s going on. There are so many caveats to the rules that defeating this zombie should be easy, so when it comes time to climax we’re faced with a solution we say from a mile away. There are lots of little inconsistencies that perforate this movie, leading me to give even less of a shit about what’s going on. The film does have, to its credit, a lot of strangeness. Little details and twists throughout this movie that do make it unique, but not enough to be special (if that makes any sense). The strange-ass ending should be noted as it’s a wonderful homage to the 70s british horror movies this film is trying to emulate.

Overall Wake Wood is worth your time if a) You’re a fan of 70s british horror b) You’re okay with low budget movies and c) You’ve never seen Pet Semetary. Other then that I’m afraid that this movie just doesn’t due enough to justify the time, even if it’s not an all out bad movie.

Chain Letter (2010) Review


A maniac murders teens when they refuse to forward chain mail.-imdb.com

In an attempt to come up with a horror movie that would actually scare this generation, I stumbled across the concept of using our technology against us. The idea of being hounded or even abandoned by this crutch of life would, if played right, make for some good scares or at least a thought provoking story. Deon Taylor, director of Chain Letter, has taken this concept and twisted into an old man’s rant at teens for their “new-fangled technobizzy” then proceeded to shit all over it and smash it to a pulp not unlike how I want this film to look after I get my hands on it. Chain Letter is a poorly made, mean-spirited mess of a movie that fails to live up to its pretentious message.

Now for being a 2010 low budget horror film called Chain Letter one should not expect the acting to be good or the characters developed. And believe me, expectations are met, however one would expect that the teenagers would look less like they were fresh out of college and more like they are oh… I don’t know… high school students! The accentuated racks on these “girls” are only rivaled by those in High School of the Dead and the men have facial hair that should be in an Old Spice commercial. The characters are… big shocker… fucking obnoxious! It’s that annoying cliché that has continued to survive through this decade where we refuse to develop people we actually care about and rather have targets that we can enjoy seeing getting slaughtered. The writers and directors always seem to forget that we have to spend a whole movie with these people, and the best they can offer in compensation is someone so bland they leave no impression at all, rather then a bad one. The movie is adequately made, but its more artistic flairs are all annoying. The overuse of chains. The overly long title sequence. That’s used twice. Seizure inducing cutaways that in a TV show would signal a commercial break. Special effects that awkwardly alternate between goofy and grotesque. These continually failed attempts to be stylistic end up getting no more of a reaction then a raised eyebrow and a disgruntled sigh.

Where this film ultimately and truly fails is the writing, both in the plotting and its message. Taylor seems to be using the anti-technology motivations of the killer not to satirically promote technology or provide a cautionary tale, but rather as a scorning of the current generation for being so arrogant. This mean-spiritedness, whether it was intended or not, is interwoven throughout and as a member of that generation I was taken out of the movie by it. I don’t needed to be ranted at that I’ve lost so much privacy and that I’m trusting the internet too much and that I can be tracked with my phone and that every bit of personal data could be stolen by a hacker. I’m aware of the consequences of my actions on the internet and a good chunk of my generation are too. Don’t get me wrong there are still plenty of people who act like complete assholes on the internet or bully or what-have-you, but they at least know that hey, I could get hacked. The idiocy of all the characters that “abuse” technology and the outstanding cleverness of those who don’t (yet do since they use it to start the chain letter) is a marked indicator of this, but odds are I’m just reading too much into amateur writing.

I dislike my generation, but to see us represented by a director who has no idea how teenagers act is weirdly insulting. The concept of a video game lounge, studying at an arcade and two girls calling each other “slut” and “bitch” are all the exceptions, not the rule when it comes to any generation, not just ours. We’re not all spoiled rich kids, and for someone who “is up to date on the state of technology” you would think that he would notice that it’s actually the opposite with the state of the economy. If it weren’t for these grandiose claims about technology and generalizations that are made, I wouldn’t care about any of this stuff but, like plot holes, you notice these things when the movie can’t get you to be immersed in it. In fact the very premise of how the killer operates seems nonsensical, after all how is it that those who blindly follow technology and just forward chain mail are those worthy to live? And as for surviving the email, why wouldn’t you just forward the chain mail to people in a foreign country? The killer’s not there now is he? But nooooo that would be far too much logic for these idiotic characters and this idiotic movie.

Chain Letter is not worth your time, unless you feel like being condescended to by a toddler. The pretentiousness required by a filmmaker to put a Nietzsche quote before their low budget email slasher movie is ridiculous. The plot is inadequate, requiring complete stupidity from characters to push it along. Luckily there’s a large supply of that thanks to the either boring or obnoxious over-age cast. The message is convoluted, exploiting serious issues in today’s society just so it can shit all over them. Don’t watch this, and don’t let your friends watch this, it’s not even riffable and for a slasher film, that’s saying a lot.