Monthly Archives April 2013

Film Review: Pain & Gain

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by Mark Smith

Score: 3/4

I used to be a fan of Michael Bay’s. I knew that his films weren't brilliant by any definition of the word but most of them knew exactly what they were and played to his strengths. (I am one of the few defenders of Bad Boys II and not only do I defend it, I honestly think it is Bay’s masterpiece.) I lost a lot of my faith in him after the last two Transformers films. They both seemed like they played to a boring and clichéd formula and it appeared that Bay was just going through the motions or better yet that he was sleepwalking while making them. So I was excited when he announced he would be returning to his Bad Boys roots by making a moderately budgeted, hard “R”, crime thriller called Pain & Gain.

Pain & Gain is based on a true story and it involves three bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Anthony Mackie) at various stages in their lives, trying to achieve the American dream any way they can. Things predictably go horribly wrong for them after they kidnap a wealthy dirtbag businessman (Tony Shaloub) in an attempt to steal all of his assets.  That last sentence is probably an understatement as this movie gets so crazy that by the end of it I was questioning how “true” it really was. (more…)

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Starfest 2013: Horror Movie Critics’ Panel

panel

This was the third year that we’ve put on the critics’ horror movie panel at the Horrorfest part of Starfest.  It has become a tribute to carry on the legacy that Denver critic Reggie McDaniel ran with for so many years at the convention.  While I get great guests to be on the panel, Barry has really thrown himself into organizing it and put together an amazing show.  Previous guests include Tim Schultz from the Mile High Horror Film Festival, Keith Garcia from The Denver Film Society and Christian Toto from Breitbart’s Big Hollywood.

This year, I had the great honor of being on the panel with Brad McHargue from Mile High Cinema and Michael Felsher, owner of Red Shirt Pictures.  It’s very easy to say that we all rocked the room and that we could have easily gone another hour, both points being true.  What made me really enjoy being on the panel, though, was the feeling like somehow I stumbled into the room and found myself with the best seat in the house.  Special thanks to Christopher Page from Jonja.net for the picture he took at the panel.

NOTE: This panel contains NSFW language.  You have been warned.

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Film Review: Evil Dead (2013)

evil_deadby Mark Smith
Score: 2.5/4

Remakes always give us pause because not very many of them are good. The Horror genre is especially remake crazy, especially in the last few years. Some of them have been great, ( 1982’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly), some of them have been decent, (2009’s Friday the 13th remake and 2006’s The Hills Have Eyes) but most of them have been bad (Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake and the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street).

When it was announced that The Evil Dead was being remade I was cautiously optimistic. I love the original film and always have, but it is definitely dated and could be primed for an update. It was then announced that Sam Raimi, the creator and mastermind behind the original, was going to be producing the remake. The red band trailer then came out last year and I was really impressed with it and the buzz coming out of screenings of the film at SXSW was extremely positive. So I had some expectations for this film. I wasn’t going into it thinking that it was going to be another bad remake. Did it live up to those expectations?

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What Roger Ebert Meant To Me

Ebert3Honestly right now I am still in shock that we will never have another Roger Ebert review. I also don’t even know where to begin with trying to put into words what he meant to me and the influence he has on me but here goes my attempt.

I will start off by saying that there has not been a celebrity death in my lifetime that has ever brought me to tears or affected me like his death has. I had just read his blog post (entitled A Leave of Presence which you must read if you haven’t) that he posted two days ago about slowing down the amount of films he reviews. His last published words were “Thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies.” Nothing could be more appropriate than that.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were the first film critics I followed when I was a very young child. I would watch their show on PBS every Saturday. I would think that their word on any movie was the truth and when they endorsed a movie I had to see it no matter what. My mom and dad would get sick of me always saying, “Well, Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up, so it has to be good.” When my mom informed me that Siskel had passed when I was 10, at first I didn’t believe her. I was then devastated by it and is one of the most vivid memories I have of a celebrity passing away when I was a child.

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In Memorium: Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Ebert1In the coming days, Roger Ebert’s praises will be sung from the film community.  This is as it should be.  You’ll find all kinds of resources to read up on the work of a man many knew and respected.  I highly recommend you check them out.  His film commentary was second to none, even when you disagreed with his opinion.  I’m not going to get into any of that, though.  All I can do to pay tribute to Mr. Ebert is tell you how he affected me and my love of film.

Film figures pretty prominently in my life.  My uncle works in the business and loves movie history.  My grandfather had a great love of film, and I’m a geek.  Movies were always going to figure into my life one way or another.  As I got into high school and college, I really started getting into movies.  Of course I dug the silly guy flicks of the time like Tommy Boy, Wayne’s World and the Hot Shots! movies.  I also was touched by films like Schindler’s List and was intrigued by more independent films like Grosse Pointe Blank and Pi.  I started wanting to read about movies.

Of course, all of this was well before the internet was anything remotely resembling what it is today.  My only outlet of finding out about movies was the Friday edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph.  Every Friday morning, I’d go get the paper and see not only what was coming out, but what the reviewers (I didn’t like calling them critics at the time) were saying about those movies.  Unfortunately, the reviewers they had mostly sucked while I was in high school.  The one time I would get excited would be when I could read Roger Ebert’s critique of film.  Where the rest of the hacks they had writing did little more than spell out the plot and then go down talking points of what was good or bad, Mr. Ebert always had a way of getting to the heart of a film and really try to understand it.  Gone was the stodgy image I had of snobs who only liked “important” films.  He found a way to make me want to understand the art and beauty of film.

In an equally important way, he loved a good fun movie, too.  Roger Ebert showed me that it was possible to love the entertainment that a good movie can bring without ever stopping to seek important film that touches the soul and expresses the human condition in ways that I could never understand otherwise.  He’d also never shy away from the opportunity to take a literary baseball bat to a truly awful film, but there was a distinct difference between films he truly despised and films that he was thoroughly disappointed with because the film had so much potential to be more than the final product.  He had such a love of film that he rarely went into a movie hoping it would suck.  He understood why it was always better to have good movie over a bad one.

I don’t know that I will ever consider myself to be a film critic.  Roger Ebert has always been the gold standard of that word for me and I don’t see myself ever being on that level.  One thing he did help instill in me was a true love of the medium and a desire to show that love to other people.  THAT, I can do.

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