Aug
14

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Megan Fox (back to camera) confronts one of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. That's Leonardo, if you care. We don't.

Megan Fox (back to camera) confronts one of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. That’s Leonardo, if you care. We don’t.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES got nothing to worry about. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES doing quite well, thank you very much. Got the big-budget, Michael Bay treatment (he’s the producer on this one; Jonathan Liebesman directed); came in #1 at the box office this past weekend; has the almost inevitable sequel already in the works. Yup, life is good for TMNT. Unless, of course, the attending audience happened to see GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY last week. In which case, there might have been quite a few people coming out of the theater thinking, Nice try, but it doesn’t quite cut it.

In two weeks, we’ve had two films that want nothing more than to entertain us with some adrenaline-packed, fantastic storytelling. How each goes about the task, and how successful each is, says a lot about the filmmakers, how they regard this genre, and what they think of their audience. I explore the issue a bit in my review of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the title to download.

Aug
07

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

(l to r) Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt tap their inner Han Solo in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

(l to r) Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt tap their inner Han Solo in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Welcome to August, the month when studios, having already fired off all their high-profile (not to mention high concept) summer guns, unleash what amounts to their second tier of releases, the stuff that doesn’t automatically trigger broad media attention, things with a more… “culty,” shall we say?… appeal, and things that are, let’s just say it, no durn good. However, since even the big tent-poles can now be somewhat inconsequential in their story-telling and quality (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, anyone?), it’s become less surprising that a dog-day release could have been just as welcome, if not more so, in the weeks preceding.

Such is the case with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, a fun space adventure based on a Marvel comic book that racked up record box office in its opening week, and earns its goodwill in a number of ways. I take a look at the film in my latest review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF — click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click on the title to download.

Jul
29

Sponsored Video: THE LEGEND OF HERCULES

So while Brett Ratner and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got their crack at HERCULES this past weekend, Renny Harlin beat ‘em to the punch — and the slash, and the blood-curdling war-cry — at the beginning of the year with THE LEGEND OF HERCULES. This is a more grounded treatment of the mythological warrior, closer in approach to GLADIATOR than JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS — although any film in which the hero can channel lightning through his sword can’t really lay much claim to historical accuracy (and all to the better in that regard, I say). It’s being released in the UK on iTunes and Blu-ray (in eye-dazzling 3D!) come August 4th. We’ve got the sponsored video for you to check out, so lace up your sandals and get ready for some mighty-thewed fun.

Jul
28

The CFQ Interview: SHARKNADO 2′s Dante Palminteri

(l to r) Ian Ziering, Dante Palminteri, and Vivica A. Fox hope the Big Apple won't take a bite out of them in SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE.

(l to r) Ian Ziering, Dante Palminteri, and Vivica A. Fox hope the Big Apple won’t take a bite out of them in SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE.

It’s raining sharks, hallelujah! Or maybe whether you’re making that exclamation depends on how highly refined your appreciation of irony is. Yes, SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE is here, moving the mayhem to New York (to the producers’ credit, largely the real New York), larding the proceedings with copious cameos (hallloooo Andy Dick, Perez Hilton, Al Roker, etc, etc.), and wasting no time in throwing airborne maneaters at hapless victims (why are there sharknados? Who cares — look, SHARKS!).

One of the major players trying to avoid becoming shark bait is Dante Palminteri, son of Chazz and making his major(?) film debut with this role. In this exclusive interview, he takes us behind the scenes of this landmark cinematic event, certain to be the most monumental film of Summer 2014. Okay, my ironyometer just shorted out, sorry. I’m going to go watch HARLAN COUNTY, USA to recover.

Jul
24

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: I ORIGINS/MOOD INDIGO

Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris float above impending troubles in MOOD INDIGO.

Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris float above impending troubles in MOOD INDIGO.

This past weekend was just chock full of magical, whimsical women breaking studious, guarded men out of their cocoons. No, not SEX TAPE — I have no idea about how that plot plays out and, besides, that’s not genre. But otherwise, for all their divergent approaches to the material, both I ORIGINS and MOOD INDIGO incorporate the same base theme. After that, of course, anything goes: I ORIGINS continues director Mike Cahill’s ongoing exploration of humanity’s interconnectedness through the tale of a dedicated, eye-obsessed scientist (Mike Cahill) having his adherence to objective reasoning challenged by the mystical outlook of an exotic model (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) with equally exotic eyeballs; while MOOD INDIGO lets director Michel Gondry explore the artificiality of certain, idealized brands of French romance through the story of how the wacky life of an eccentric inventor (Romain Duris) is overthrown when the health of his wife (Audrey Tatou) is threatened.

Another way to distinguish these films: They aren’t equally successful in their goals. To find out how they fare, click on the player to hear my review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF.

LISTEN TO HOUR OF THE WOLF EVERY
THURSDAY MORNING AT 1:30 AM
ON WBAI 99.5FM IN NEW YORK CITY
AND LIKE THE SHOW ON FACEBOOK

Jul
17

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Human Jason Clarke finds relations strained with simian neighbors (l to r) Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, and Karin Konoval in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Human Jason Clarke finds relations strained with simian neighbors (l to r) Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, and Karin Konoval in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

This is a trivial question, but it’s been bugging me, so let me get it out, okay? Why is the sequel to RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES called DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES? I mean, “dawn” suggests a beginning, right? And you can’t actually rise until you begin, right? So shouldn’t the titles of these films be reversed? Then again, that first film wasn’t really focused on the planet of the apes beginning, but on the events that eventually led to that beginning. And this newest film isn’t so much about the planet’s rise as one glimpse into how humanity loses its foothold to the newly born society of intelligent simians. But then, I guess EVENTS IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING AND HAVING A DIRECT IMPACT UPON THE DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and ONE CHAPTER THAT WILL EVENTUALLY LEAD TO THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES wouldn’t quite pop on movie posters, would it? Never mind.

Hm? What did I think of the film? Oh, I loved it. No, let me clarify that: I LOVED IT. But it’s not really as simple as that, so listen in to my review for the HOUR OF THE WOLF radio show to get my take on this thoroughly entertaining summer blockbuster. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the title to download.

LISTEN TO HOUR OF THE WOLF EVERY
THURSDAY MORNING AT 1:30 AM
ON WBAI 99.5FM IN NEW YORK CITY
AND LIKE THE SHOW ON FACEBOOK

Jul
09

Dossier Fantastique: SNOWPIERCER; THE SIGNAL; DAN CURTIS’ DRACULA

At long last, Dossier Fantastique re-opens, offering need-to-know data regarding the latest in horror, fantasy, and science fiction cinema and television. I make my long-awaited return with an Hour of the Wolf review of Snowpiercer, the metaphoric science fiction film from Bong-Joon Ho (The Host). Lawrence French receives The Signal, an indie sci-fi flick. And Steve Biodrowski unearths Dan Curtis’ Dracula from its new Blu-ray casket.

Also this week: commentary on Salem and Penny Dreadful; a long overdue obituary for artist H.R. Giger (Alien); and an after-credits discussion of Santo vs. Las Mujeras Vampiro.

Jul
04

The CFQ Interview: RIGOR MORTIS Director Juno Mak

Chin Siu-Ho discovers that urban renewal ain't all it's cracked up to be in RIGOR MORTIS

Chin Siu-Ho discovers that urban renewal ain’t all it’s cracked up to be in RIGOR MORTIS

Even in the anything-to-get-your-adrenaline-pumping world of Hong Kong cinema, RIGOR MORTIS stands out. The story of a famous actor, Chin Siu-Ho (played by actual famous actor Chin Siu-Ho — your heard us), who has to contend with a seedy apartment building whose walls reverberate with echoes of his most famous film, the hopping vampire horror-comedy MR. VAMPIRE — including mysterious spirits, a mystical warrior-cum-resterateur (played by MR. VAMPIRE cast-mate Anthony “Friend” Chan), and, yes, a hopping vampire — the film plays as both a tribute to, and a dark and dizzyingly intense reimagining of, a beloved sub-genre. Director Juno Mak makes his feature film debut with this visually stunning, shockingly violent, and at times surprisingly moving, effort, and we were eager to discuss the roots of the project in the legendary MR. VAMPIRE franchise, and the challenges of creating this effects-laden feast. Click on the player to hear the show.

Jun
26

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: COHERENCE

lizabeth Gracen (left), Lorene Scafaria and Nicholas Brendon are not quite themselves (or are they?) in COHERENCE

lizabeth Gracen (left), Lorene Scafaria and Nicholas Brendon are not quite themselves (or are they?) in COHERENCE

There’s nothing particularly wrong with employing the time-space continuum for the pure fun of the concept. EDGE OF TOMORROW makes good sport of it, coming up with a pretty keen action film and allowing Tom Cruise to play comedy beats better than he did in KNIGHT AND DAY. But, given the mind-bending possibilities inherent in the genre, it seems almost a crime not delve for deeper meanings than just “craven coward becomes kick-ass action hero.” GROUNDHOG DAY did it. So did TIMECRIMES. So did FUTURAMA (numerous times).

And now, so does COHERENCE. The tale of a Los Angeles dinner party that goes all kinds of wrong when a comet begins warping the dimensions, the film — directed by James Ward Byrkit, the man who helped create the freaky “family” film RANGO, and starring BUFFY’s Nicholas Brendon, Emily Baldoni and Maury Sterling, among others — manages to be as much a commentary on relationships and the fragility of the social contract as it is an sf mindfreak. I delve into the film in my review for HOUR OF THE WOLF, and, as bonus, also take a look at the latest episode of the fan-produced STAR TREK CONTINUES and IDW’s first Star Trek: New Visions photo-novella, both of which, in another example of the crossing of the timelines, deal with the aftermath of the Enterprise crew’s visit to the mirror universe in “Mirror, Mirror.” Weeeeeeeird. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the title below to download.

Jun
19

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

The world of dragons is back in all its glory in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2.

The world of dragons is back in all its glory in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2.

I’m at the point where I can pretty much take or leave 3D. As a techie, I want to embrace any technology that’ll expand the cinemagoing experience, but even I have to concede that most of the time 3D is employed as little more than an add-on, just a way to charge extra for stuff that’d be the same with or without depth (visual, that is. We’ll save a discussion of dramatic depth for another day).

Which is why I’m usually jazzed to check out the latest release from DreamWorks Animation. More often than not, those folk go the extra distance with 3D, using it to enhance both the visual canvas and the dramatic impact of their films. That was definitely the case with the original HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, the 2010 fantasy adventure where the third dimension became an active player in an already entertaining and visually stunning film.

So, yeah, there I was at my local multiplex, shelling out the extra bucks for my 3D experience with the new HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2. Did this new adventure — in which the young, Viking dragon-rider Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) faces down a powerful warlord (Djimon Hounsou) and has a family reunion with his long-lost mother (Cate Blanchett) — pay back my investment? In a way, yes; in a way… welllll… Check out my HOUR OF THE WOLF review for the details. Click on the player to listen.

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