Thursday, July 31, 2014

Movie Review: 500 MPH Storm

500 MPH Storm
Starring: Casper Van Dien, Michael Beach, Sarah Lieving, Bryan Head
Director: Daniel Lusko
Indy Entertainment, The Asylum, USA 2013
When watching The Asylum films, you don't watch them for high quality film-making. Instead you search for the "so bad it is good"- type of experience. Often they are ripping off some big budget hit films (3 musketeers, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, American Warships, Jack the Giant Killer), but they also make some crazy monster/catastrophe films (Sharknado, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus). Usually the acting is bad, the CGI-effects are worse and dialogue is silly.
A perfect example of CGI in Asylum movies
Government's energy experiment goes bad and huge hurricanes are developing. The generator has feedback so it makes the storms stronger and stronger. Meanwhile the inventor of the energy generator and high-school teacher Nathan Sims (Casper Van Diem), his son Johnny (Bryan Head) and wife Mona (Sarah Lieving) are attending a hot air balloon rally. There is some nice balloon cinematography in the beginning.

Pretty balloons
Nathan seeing the incoming hurricane

One brilliant example of dialogue comes when the storm destroys hot air balloons:
-Never seen a balloon explode. I mean they exploded! People exploded! They blew up!
-Just, calm down. Play your game or something.
-Johnny, game!

Johnny is by the way the most annoying character in recent movie history.
Nitpicky Johnny won't eat a sandwich because it is stale
Hurricane nearing the Sims residence
So Nathan must take his family to shelter, which means driving or running constantly away from the storm. Luckily their SUV can evade the hurricanes easily. It seems that the Sims are the only family in the USA trying to escape the storm, there is very little other traffic. Nathan must find a way to use the power generator to stop the storm. As a bonus the power generator may also melt and release radioactive fallout enough to pollute whole USA.

Especially Casper Van Dien does some serious overacting. The film becomes almost parody of itself. Although the plot itself is routine catastrophe film stuff, the film keeps surprising with it's WTF moments. Such as soldier becoming trapped on the wrong side of door when Nathan and the soldiers are escaping a flood. It looks like Nathan is slamming the door shut in front of the poor guy! Or when lightnings are hitting trees and forest is burning, there is a bloke playing guitar calmly sitting under a tree. Didn't he smell the burning trees at least? Also the weather is always nice and sunny, when the storm is only few minutes away. There are numerous other examples.
Run away! The forest is burning!
There were even two guitarists!
The Asylum managed again to make an enjoyingly horrible film. Nothing sucks like 500 MPH storm!
After the storm. Notice the weird perspective
Rating: So bad it is good

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Movie Review: Spiders 3D

Spiders 3D (2D version)
Starring: Patrick Muldoon, Christa Campbell, William Hope, Sydney Sweeney, Shelly Varod
Diretor: Tibor Takács
Nu Image, Millennium Entertainment, USA, Bulgaria, 2013
Okay folks, we are nearing the "so bad it is good" territory here.

A space station crashes to New York's subway tunnels and releases poisonous mutant spiders that were tested in space. Jason Cole (Patrick Muldoon) is a subway operator on shift. He is divorcing his wife Rachel (Christa Campbell) and should attend his daughter Emily's (Sydney Sweeney) birthday. The army wants the queen spider egg that Jason found. They wants to use the super-strong spiderweb or something (however you can cut the web with knife!)
Rachel and Jason get into trouble
Babysitter Phoebe, Emily and Rachel on Emily's birthday party
On Earth the spiders grow larger. The army decides to kill all who know about the eggs, so Jason and his family must run. Much of the movie is about main characters running away either from spiders or soldiers.
Trying to hide in Warehouse. BTW that's nice way to store fragile stuff
Spider's nest
The acting is bad. The effects are bad. The same filming locations are used again and again (building block, underground cavern, subway train). The company signs outside the shops are plain and simple: Art Gallery, Hotel, Medical Clinic, Hair Salon, Music Center, Antic Shop, Office and Warehouse. Even the extras seem bit disinterested, when the main characters are walking the streets there is usually a group of extras often with hoodies on tagging along. 
Group of extras strolling near Antic Shop
Forklift action
However some of the giant spiders look okay for the film's budget. Originally this was filmed in 3D, difficult to say does it make the movie better or worse.
Queen spider on a walk
Rating: This is a bit border case of being so bad it is good or just bad, but let's say: So bad it is good

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Movie Review: And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Parker Posey, Allie MacDonald, Callum Blue, Rhys Ward, Allison Dawn Doiron
Director: Zack Bernbaum
Adman Productions, USA 2013
Ad agency CEO Adan Kundle (Bruce Greenwood) collapses and wakes in a hospital. He can only speak using advertising slogans. Adan also wants watch only TV ads. Hospital's charity Karen (Parker Posey) worker takes him to live in her house while he is waiting for a place in psychiatric rehab facility. Karen also has a teenage daughter Meghan (Alli MacDonald) who is not happy when Adan moves in. Karen has to learn to be a better mother to her daughter.
Adan likes to watch ads
Adan and Karen on a meeting with Lucas
Vice President of the firm, Lucas Foster (Callum Blue) conspires to take over Adan's firm. He has to show that Adan is mentally unable to run the firm. The firm has to create an ad campaign for Senator Allen, and Adan invents a slogan the senator likes. Lucas gets annoyed and tries to get Karen to say that Adan is not fit to run the firm.
Lucas is not a nice guy
Meghan and Karen having fun
The movie is a light indie comedy/drama with funny concept, however it did not get good reviews. There is also a deeper level, for the characters the advertisements presents a perfect Utopia-like world. Even the arrogant Lucas seems to grow a bit in the end. Bruce Greenwood plays well a weird ad man, and there is a hilarious scene when he goes to car shop and recites a perfect car ad.

Rating: Good

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Review: Vanha kultaraha (High Window)

Vanha kultaraha (High Window)
by Raymond Chandler
(first published 1942)
translated to Finnish by Kalevi Nyytäjä
WSOY, 1989
In the third Philip Marlowe novel Marlowe gets an assignment from wealthy old widow Murdock. A valuable gold coin has gone missing and Mrs. Murdock suspects her daughter-in-law Linda. In the Murdock's house there are also other peculiar characters: Murdock's gambling son Leslie and Mrs. Murdock's neurotic secretary Merle. Murdock meets also another private investigator Phillips and coin dealer Morningstar. During the investigation he also meets gangsters and lowlifes. Soon Marlowe has to investigate also why two men connected with the theft of coin are murdered.

Chandler's books always have witty dialogue and colourful descriptions of places and characters. For example Marlowe visiting a night club owned by gangsters: "The lobby looked like a high-budget musical. A lot of light and glitter, a lot of scenery, a lot of clothes, a lot of sound, an all-star cast, and a plot with all the originality and drive of a split fingernail."

The story is complicated with many characters who at first seem to have little to do with the main story until Marlowe connects the dots at the end. Despite being a hard boiled detective Marlowe also shows his soft side, he is described as "shop-soiled Sir Galahad".

Rating: Excellent

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: Vish Puri ja kadonneen palvelijattaren tapaus (The Case of the Missing Servant: From the Files of Vish Puri, India's "Most Private Investigator")

Vish Puri ja kadonneen palvelijattaren tapaus (The Case of the Missing Servant: From the Files of Vish Puri, India's "Most Private Investigator")
by Tarquin Hall
translated to Finnish by Tero Valkonen
Pocket book edition; Gummerus, 2013.
This review is based on the Finnish paperback edition (Vish Puri ja kadonneen palvelijattaren tapaus).

Vish Puri, "Chubby", is a middle-aged private investigator from India. He likes good food, nice whiskey and nice clothes. He values traditional Indian values and is concerned about western bad habits coming to India. He is also concerned about the class inequality, that may someday result to rioting. His guru is Chanakyaa who lived 300 B.C. and invented  espionage.

Vish Puri is hired to help lawyer Ajay Kasliwal whose maid servant has gone missing. Kasliwal is accused of murdering her, so Vish must find the servant. It is not an easy task because only the servants first name is known, Mary.

Vish has a team of undercover operatives codenamed Tubelight (undercover operative who knows the streets), Flush (expert in hacking and wire tapping), Facecream (woman operating undercover) and driver Handbrake. There is also Vish's old friend Rinku who became rich through some shady businesses.

Vish also has to investigate if some husband candidates have something to hide or try to fool the brides' families. Someone also tries to murder Vish. For Vish it is just another attempt more and he does not have much time to find the culprit. Vish's mother goes on investigating the case although Vish thinks that mothers should not play detective.

The Case of the Missing Servant is funny and entertaining mystery in exotic India with some social commentary. Compared to Mma Ramotswe books, Vish Puri adventure contains more action and more technical methods. There is a vocabulary of Indian words in the end of the book.


Book Review: End of Days

End of Days (book)
by Frank Lauria, based on a screenplay written by Andrew W. Marlowe
Boxtree an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, UK, 1999.
This book I found in a second-hand store (cost: 50 eurocents)

End of Days was not one of the best Arnold Schwarzenegger films. However it was still enjoyable Arnie action film and also starred great Gabriel Byrne as the Devil. In the film Arnie is the security specialist Jericho Cane, whose life has been in ruins since his family was murdered. On the Eve of the Millennium Satan comes to Earth to get a girlfriend and breed a dark ruler who will open the gates of Hell. Jericho has to protect the girl named Christine from the Devil and also from assassins sent by the Vatican.

The novelization gives a bit more back story for Jericho Cane. Jericho was a SEAL-soldier doing some black operations. It is revealed that Jericho's family was murdered as revenge because he destroyed drug lord's smuggling ring.

Some of the characters are a bit different looking (for example Christine is blond in the novel and brunette in the film, and detective Marge is redhead in the book but black woman in the film). Also the end of the novel is bit happier than the film. In the book the Devil also has T-1000 style self-repairing abilities, maybe it would have run over movie's budget. The book was a quick read (it lasted about as long as the movie). As a movie tie-in it was quite average.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Movie Review: The Bothnians (Pohjalaisia)

The Bothnians (Pohjalaisia)
Starring: Oiva Soini, Simo Kaario, Aino Lohikoski, Kaisa Leppänen, Einar Rinne, Thorild Bröderman
DIrector: Jalmari Lahdensuo
Suomi-Filmi, Finland, 1925 (restored in 2012 by Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen arkisto)
Artturi Järviluoma's play Pohjalaisia was first filmed as a silent film in 1925. In Ostrobothnia "people are great in goodness but also powerful in badness." In the 19th century there were the ruffians "knife junkers" or "Häjyt", the religious people and those who just work hard. Jussi Harri (Oiva Soini) is one of the latter, the farmer boy and very strong. Jussi's sister Maija (Kaisa Leppänen) is in love with Jussi's friend Antti (Einar Rinne).
The plains of Ostrobothnia
Jussi Harri, the strong farmer
Maija Harri, Jussi's sister
The sheriff (Thorild Bröderman) likes to humiliate the peasants. Ruffian Shoemaker insults Maija so Antti throws Shoemaker through window. The sheriff arrests Antti for such triviality. The shoemaker fakes he is dying and Antti is sent to jail. At home Maija gets a religious awakening. The sheriff comes to disperse the prayer meeting.
Antti in jail cell
Jussi getting angry with the evil sheriff
Antti falls in love with Liisa (Aino Lohikoski) who is the foster daughter of Harri family. At Harri house Erkki Harri, father of Jussi and Maija arranges dance ball. The ruffians come to crash the party. Jussi wrestles with their leader Kyösti (Yrjö Somersalmi). Jussi wins and Kyösti turns out to be quite decent man. Antti escapes and sheriff accuses Jussi for helping Antti which leads to tragic consequences.
The ruffians come to crash the party
Liisa and Jussi
There is a lot of symbolism of Finland's independence process with the Finns willing to live free from oppression. There is a strong sense of honour codes. The film is slow at times but the outdoor scenes are dynamic. Also the new music track works well.

Rating: Good

Monday, July 21, 2014

Movie Review: White House Down

White House Down
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods
Director: Roland Emmerich
Centropolis Entertainment, Mythology Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 2013, USA
The President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is planning to pull the American troops from the Middle East. The defense industry is not happy about the plan and neither is Secret Service Chief Martin Walker (James Woods). Police Officer John Cale (Channing Tatum) is trying to get a job at Secret Service and also tries to improve his relationship with his daughter Emily (Joey King) by bringing her to visit White House.
Emily and Cale attending tourist tour
Security Chief Walker and President Sawyer
Secret Service agent Finnerty
The job interview however goes bad. John and Emily attend the tourist tour when terrorists detonate a bomb in Capitol building and attack White House. Cale has to go rescue his daughter Die Hard -style. First he has a chance to rescue the President. Outside Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) from Secret Service is trying to plan on counter measures. She is also the contact person of Cale.
It's again a lone hero against terrorists
Freeze! or the President will shoot
Testing bulletproofness of the presidential liimo
This is a second of the action films released in 2013 that have the White House attacked by terrorists. Compared to Olympus Has Fallen this has a little less serious attitude. The baddies are very 80s style, with a classical music listening hacker Tyler, Bennett (from Commando) look-alike Killick and mixed bunch of ex-soldiers/mercenaries. Even the president gets to be an action hero, and Emily helps the heroes by getting covert information about the bad guys. There is also a tour guide (Nicolas Wright) who finally snaps when the bad guys ruin the antiques.

Entertaining action film in the spirit of 80-90s action films.
Bennett's long lost son?
Lollipop eating hacker baddie
I said please do not touch anything! says the tour guide.

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