Archive for the category “Watch it Now”

Star Trek Into Darkness

FILM: Star Trek Into Darkness
RATING: PG-13
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
LANGUAGE: English
RUNTIME: 2 hours and 12 minutes

OUR RATING: Chance It!

There’s something you should know. A confession, so to speak: we are both huge Star Trek fans. While not venturing into the Original or Animated Series much, we’ve watched every episode of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and are currently on the final season of Enterprise. We both got some subtle enjoyment out of the first Star Trek reboot film: it was new, quirky and fun. But, Star Trek Into Darkness, with its attempt to comment on global terrorism, reinvent already brilliant characters and an extremely heavy use of CGI, leaves us feeling we’ve missed something – that Trek mysteriously went mainstream while we weren’t looking, and now can appeal to anyone, anywhere (apart from Trekkies, of course!).

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This mass appeal is detrimental to the franchise. It supposes that you should have a general, cult knowledge of Trek (which everyone does, unless you’ve been living under a Tribble since 1966), but not know enough to tell your Cardassians from your Breen, or to know, first and foremost, that Star Trek is a show in which exploration rather than war is paramount. While revisiting some key moments and recreating some classic characters, Star Trek Into Darkness is really an action film with Trek branding.

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Adam: J.J. Abrams has a mammoth task on his hands. Tackling a phenomenon like Star Trek, with its own fandom community, extensive history and life of its own is nearly impossible for one man alone, and is perhaps why he took the safe route of rebooting the series in 2009. Still, one must tread a fine line between pleasing fans and selling out to the public. Unfortunately, Abrams does sell out here, but that doesn’t mean the film shouldn’t recommend itself as a standalone piece.

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(startrekmovie.com)

We open, thankfully, on an alien world with James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) fleeing some spear throwing natives who haven’t fully appreciated his intergalactic charm (knowing Kirk, he probably slept with the Chief’s daughter). I found myself suddenly realising that I’d seen this all before: Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. While this trope is always fun (yes, I know the Raiders scene is prejudiced, detrimental to archaeology etc., but it was the 1930s!), it felt immediately weird in the Trek context – who were these people, what’s happened, and many other questions come to mind that are never answered. Pine is passable as Kirk, but not nearly as interesting, choosing to be as one-dimensional as possible.

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(startrekmovie.com)

The central theme of the film is terrorism – unseen, unrelenting and unmerciful. This is NOT the Star Trek of the TV series, where Earth is a utopian egalitarian paradise. On this Earth, massive destruction rips the hearts out of cities, while Benedict Cumberbatch plays the evil Englishman in a manner reminiscent of Alan Rickman’s Snape.

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(startrekmovie.com)

Yet, for all its troubles, you do get some fun performances and great action scenes worthy of a good movie. Scotty (Simon Pegg) is still as dry and witty as ever, while Bones (Karl Urban) manages to rattle out some classic lines that still capture some of the Southern comfort we derived from DeForest Kelley.

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Alicia: Four years ago I didn’t really know much about the Star Trek franchise. I thought Klingon was Vulcan sign language, that’s how muddied my ST knowledge was. So when I saw the 2009 film I had nothing to really anchor my experience off of, other than one of your many space science-fiction films, and I rather enjoyed it.

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Four years later and I’ve seen every series except the Original, so I suppose I still don’t have quite the repertoire of a Trekkie going into seeing a movie based on the same time period and characters as the original series, but my past few years watching The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise has made me a fan of ST. Not a trekkie, not a die-hard fan, but a fan nonetheless. It has offered me interesting philosophical insights, aesthetic pleasures, and with Enterprise a keen patience for ridiculous American Nationalism.

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(startrekmovie.com)

And oh, Into Darkness, how uninspiring you are, and how xenophobic. You could have been any science fiction movie (well, more like pure action movie set partially in space), and no matter how hard you tried with your famous actors, your one/two sets of Vulcan ears, your terrible Klingon makeup attempts and the cameo appearance from Leonard Nimoy, you just weren’t very Star Trek. Just calling characters ‘Spock’ and ‘Kirk’ doesn’t make them Spock and Kirk, and neither did any of your other attempts in recreating this world make them such. Other than that…an okay space action movie I suppose?

Final Thoughts: This isn’t your parents Star Trek, or even yours, but Into Darkness is a valiant effort and worth seeing if only to keep the franchise we love so dearly alive.

P.S. To really help Star Trek “Live Long and Prosper”, pick up a copy of Star Trek Into Darkness pre-order and have fun with the included Phaser, which is an exact replica (meaning the EXACT specifications) as those used on screen.

29th Chicago Latino Film Festival

clff_2WHAT: 29th Chicago Latino Film Festival
WHEN: April 11 – 25, 2013
WHERE: AMC Loews Theatres 600 (600 N. Michigan Ave.)

FILM: Dictado (Childish Games)
RATING: Not Rated
DIRECTOR: Antonio Chavarrias
LANGUAGE: Spanish with English Subtitles
RUN TIME: 95 minutes

OUR RATING: Do It!

From humble beginnings in 1985 to the international recognized mega-festival we now celebrate, the Chicago Latino Film Festival (CLFF) organized by the International Latino Cultural Center is an explosion of creativity that brings the best of Latino filmic arts to the Chicago screens. With over 100 feature length films and shorts from the length and breadth of Latin America, there is literally a film for every taste, whether you’re interested in gritty social commentary, light-hearted comedy, or darkly fascinating thrillers.

Perhaps what makes the CLFF most innovative is that it highlights Chicago as a center of Latino culture within the United States, a distinction that might not be the first thing to come to mind. This internationalization has only positive effects, allowing for cross-cultural pollination and diverse understanding that transforms Chicago into a truly global city.

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While the festival is two weeks long, we only managed to secure tickets to one show at this highly popular event, where tickets go for $11 per film. Dictado, a thriller in the style of Hitchcock, seemed to be absolutely up our street, and we even got the opportunity to participate in a Q&A with the director. Sit back, grab a popcorn and enjoy!

clff_4Adam: Dictado, known in English as Childish Games, creates a psychological tapestry with deep, dark undertones that play on our deepest emotions. Above all, what would happen if an event from our childhood came back to haunt us with full force?

In an intriguing story, childless couple Daniel (Juan Diego Botto) and Laura (Barbara Lennie) take in the orphaned Julia (Magica Perez), who is not everything that she seems, as she holds the key to unlock a repressed moment in Daniel’s childhood. Directed by Antonio Chavarrias, we see produced a beautifully compact piece that seems akin to a play in its intimacy and a high calibre film in its cinematography (Guillermo Granillo) – a melding that we do not often experience. Chavarrias makes us question the validity of our protagonists’ actions and memories, thus presenting a mysterious world that is both riveting and reflective.

As the truth about Daniel’s past is slowly revealed (is it a descent into madness, or the opening of emotional floodgates, the waters of which he is unable to stem?), I was enthralled to see the unexpected and twistful realizations that make this film worthy of being included beside the likes of the great English Ghost authors such as M.R. James.

Drawing heavily from Greek tragedy, although perhaps not exploring it in the way you would expect, almost no violence occurs “on stage”, while the psychologies of the characters are fully untangled to explore the plot’s core horror. A much needed antidote to the regular blood and guts of the genre.

clff_6Alicia: During our Q&A session with Chavarrias, he mentioned one of his influences being the infamous Frankenstein and the question of what makes one a monster and what factors influence an individual in thinking that they themselves are monsters, which *hint hint* is something that is beautifully explored here.

The psychological exploration of violence through fear, rather than through malice, is another incredibly intriguing aspect of this film, and the filming of any violence in this movie is done with the intentions of beauty and sadness, rather than shock or grotesqueness.

How are monsters forged: by the monsters themselves, or by others? Rather than just thrusting us into a solution, Chavarrias lets us think about this in a more adult way. How responsible are children for their actions and do adults sometimes make things worse? One of the best Spanish-language films out this year, Dictado is a must-see.

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Final Thoughts: The Chicago Latino Film Festival allows audiences across cultures to experience the enormous diversity of Latin America in this unique creative outlet, merging art with education, especially through discussions with local and visiting filmmakers which accompany a majority of the screenings. The festival’s wide array of programming allows moviegoers of all types to enjoy this multicultural exploration.

P.S.: Dictado is now available on DVD, but only as a non-US import. If you can play international DVDs, pick it up here and enjoy.

The Devil’s Carnival (2012)

WHAT: The Devil’s Carnival (2012)
RATING: NR
DIRECTOR: Darren Lynn Bousman
LANGUAGE: English
RUN TIME: 56 Minutes

OUR RATING: Do it!

A few nights ago, Storefront City had the privilege to watch the new dark musical The Devil’s Carnival, brought to you by Terrance Zdunich and Darren Lynn Bousman, the creators of the cult hit Repo!: The Genetic Opera.

(dailydead.com)

(dailydead.com)

The story follows three sinners condemned to Hell, which takes the form of a traveling musical carnival where they must perform highly ironic versions of Aesop’s Fables as punishment. It’s a short film (56 minutes) and is the first part in a series, the second of which will be released in 2013. With amazing sets and costumes that are gorgeous, The Devil’s Carnival looked as if it would be as good, if not better, than Repo!. Unfortunately, Storefront City was left sadly disappointed in many ways, but at the end of it all, it was definitely an experience they’d do all-over again.

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One of the primary problems with the film is the casting. While the amazing voice talents of Emilie Autumn (Painted Doll), Paul Sorvino (God) and Terrance Zdunich (Lucifer) are featured in an excellent array of songs, most of the musical is dominated by mediocre voice talent that leaves you wondering who the hell (no pun intended) the casting agent was for this production. If you can afford excellent singers like Emilie Autumn, why would you make the likes of Dayton Callie (The Ticket Keeper) sing a song (“666”)? And why anyone continues to think that Alexa Vega is extremely talented enough to put her in all these movies is beyond us (but her costume and makeup were perfection).

(fanpop.com)

(fanpop.com)

On top of that, we cannot say that there was a single memorable song throughout the entire musical, which is extremely surprising as all the songs in Repo! are memorable in one way or another. We are not sure why this is, only that Repo! had a stage run during which some of the music may have been fine tuned (although this is purely speculation). Unfortunately, the best song, “In All My Dreams I Drown”, which has a hauntingly beautiful melody (sung by Terrance Zdunich and Jessica Lowndes) is relegated to a post-credits scene! Zdunich’s “Grace for Sale” and Autumn’’s “Prick! Goes the Scorpion’s Tale” were strong, but purely because they are talented performers, not because of the strength of the songs themselves.

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(bloody-disgusting.com)

All this being said, we still think it’s worth watching (and hell, we even bought the DVD). Alicia is still salivating after the swingset scene in “Grief” and after seeing Maggie Lally (ie. Captain Maggot) alongside Autumn in the film. Here at Storefront, we think that Zdunich and Bousman have done a great job at creating cult classics that America hasn’t seen the likes of since Rocky Horror. We need more people like them in Hollywood.

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(allthingshorroronline.net)

Order this film on Netflix or buy the DVD–you will be supporting independent artists who have proven themselves extremely capable in the past. And after you’ve done so, check out the teaser trailer for the second episode, which was released on December 25, 2012, and prepare yourself for the next trailer, coming out on January 10th! The second episode is slated to come out sometime this year.

P.S. And if Terrance, Darren, Emilie or anyone else from this production is reading this, please don’t hate us. We love you so much and would be thrilled to work with you in the future on anything!

P.S.S. If you enjoy Autumn’s performance, you should catch her at the Metro on February 15th. We’ve seen her perform live before (not to mention Alicia studied her for her BA), and she’s incredible. If we weren’t working that night, you’d see us in the audience, front and center, probably covered in tea and cake.

Hitchcock (2012)

WHAT: Hitchcock (2012)
RATING: PG-13
DIRECTOR: Sacha Gervasi
LANGUAGE: English
RUN TIME: 98 Minutes

OUR RATING: Do it!

If you’re looking for a movie you may not have heard of, why not try out Hitchcock, a biographical drama of Alfred Hitchcock’s process of making the classic horror film Psycho. Made truly great by inspired performances from Anthony Hopkins (Alfred Hitchcock) and Helen Mirren (Alma Reville), the film explores the complex romance of Alfred and Alma against the backdrop of the mayhem and pitfalls of adapting, producing, directing and filming a film all by oneself in the middle of Hollywood.

Hopkins’ performance is masterful, and allows us to view his creative process in a step-by-step manner, accompanied by the macabre humor of someone obsessed with getting back in the game. Even in makeup, he makes us believe he is Hitchcock, a feat lesser actors would not have been able to achieve so admirably. Mirren balances this with a strong determination that reflects well on the film as a whole and the Alfred/Alma relationship in particular. And then there is the constant presence of the serial killer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) in the mind of Hitchcock that provides both comic relief and serious analysis of Hitchcock himself.

(courtesy of imdb.com)

(courtesy of imdb.com)

Unfortunately, supporting roles were weak, and Scarlett Johansson can never hope to live up to the likes of Mirren and Hopkins. While true to her role, her tendency to be modern was distracting, and made one wish an unknown had been cast instead of a pseudo-star. But, the quality of the starring roles, the interesting story, raw humor, and a great score by Danny Elfman, make this movie a must-see.

P.S. Sorry we missed you on the 25th, but we were taking a break from posting to enjoy the holidays with our families. Happy Boxing Day to all our Commonwealth friends!

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