Author Archives: Jamie Insalaco

Quick Reviews – The Completed Series on DVD

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I can’t imagine why anyone would want this, but if you did, I can send you Quick Review on DVD. Remember Quick Reviews?  That was good times.  Anyway, if you want it, you got it – just contact me and I’ll hook it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Incredibles 2 movie review

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In the endless stream of remakes and sequels that is the new normal for summer at the movies, here comes The Incredibles 2. Unlike most of it’s “another chapter in the story” brethren, this movie is well written.  The thing is, its story beats are nearly identical to the first one.

Even though this movie is about the exact same thing as the previous installment, it’s still creates and expands on interesting characters, situations and does it in a different way than the first installment. This made me think about what Robert zemeckis said when making Back to the Future Part 2 and how the audience wants the same experience when they go see a sequel as they had the first time and The Incredibles 2 fits this tradition like a glove.

The reason it works is because the revisited story points are covered in broad strokes.  For example:

  • superheroes have conflict with the public
  • conflict within the Parr family
  • there’s a mysterious villian
  • Edna makes a super suit
  • Luscious’ wife complains about his super heroing
  • Jack-Jack has powers?!?

And so on.  The thing is, the subtext drives the relationship between the characters and the way the audience relates to them. It’s the reason the movie is a fun time at the movies instead of a tedious retread of something we’ve already seen.

At its core, The Incredibles 2 is a carbon copy of the original. It doesn’t quite reach the same heights, but then, what movie could? The original film (in what seems to be destined to become a franchise) is essentially without flaw. While this new entry hits all the right (even if the same) notes, the champ is still undisputed.  But I still can recommend this movie to fans of the first one.

Ranking the Jurassic Park movies because here we are

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Ranking movies is about as arbitrary as it gets, and then there’s ranking movies within a specific franchise… Yeah, I’d say it’s an exercise in futility, so you may be wondering, “Why do it?” The fact that you’re reading this is the answer. Anyway, here’s my ranking of worst to best of the Jurassic Park movie series, and just for the record, I don’t care how many Jurassic World movies they make, I’m not calling it that EVER.

5. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

This movie is boring and a carbon copy of the previous installment – all they did was substitute “the park is open” with “the park is covered in lava” and then immediately abandoned what could have been an intriguing ticking clock gimmick for BORING. Meh.

4. Jurassic World

A pale imitation of the original with a pale imitation of Indiana Jones in the lead. There’s a few cool things to look at, but this is a bland affair – aside from the most brutal inessential character death to ever be put on screen.

3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park II

Sure, it’s a clunker, but it’s MEMORABLE.

“We’re not going to make the same mistakes again.” “No, you’ll make all new ones!”

“You got kicked off the team?!?”

And so on. The trailer falling off the cliff is neat, too.

2. Jurassic Park III

This movie gets better every time I see it. The phone gag never gets old. I know the dream sequence is silly, but I look forward to it and I laugh every time.

1. Jurassic Park

Or, as I like to call it, “Jaws for people who think Jaws is boring.” It was visually dazzling in it’s day, but there’s a lot of tension here, too. It’s definitely one of the best of the big budget blockbuster of the 90s.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom? More like Failing Franchise! (Movie review)

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(And by “Failing,” I mean artistically, obviously not commercially.)

Journey with me into the depths of Universal Pictures and see how a Jurassic World movie gets made… if you DARE.

“Okay everybody, it’s time to open the cash register that is the Jurassic Park franchise. Does anybody have ideas for a script?”

“That’s easy. Just take the script for Jurassic World and cross out “The Park is open,” and replace it with “There’s lava, but not for the entire movie, because that would get expensive,” and that’ll do. For the rest of the time, we’ll just do the exact same ‘genetically engineered dinosaur on the loose’ and ‘dinosaurs can be trained, bond with humans’ thing we did last time.”

“Okay.  I think that’s lunch.”

It’s just that simple, folks.  They put shiny thing in front of us and we open our wallets.

Speaking of which, Director J. A. Bayona gives us some interesting things to look at during the course of 128 minutes where there’s nothing to think or feel about – he does this trick with shadows that’s both effective and cool to look at, but he does it more than once, which was probably not a good idea.

Meanwhile, the idea to bring human cloning into the movie reeks of both “Look, here’s something NEW! Don’t you see how this movie is totally different?” and “This may be way off brand, but the next movie can now be able human-dinosaur hybrids,” and man, do I NOT want to see that movie.

Anyway, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are both likable enough, Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith are both welcomed additions and Jeff Goldblum isn’t really in this movie, it’s just a cheap gimmick.  Toby Jones and B. D. Wong could really use a mustache to twirl, and that about rounds out the cast.

What else can I say about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom?  It’s especially engaging – I’ve never seen so many people leave the theater to go to the bathroom during a movie.  It’s not that it’s fundamentally broken, it’s just lazy.  If this is your first Jurassic Park movie, maybe you’ll enjoy it. but as a twenty year veteran of the franchise, I was just waiting for it to be over.

No more shouting at the wind: why I deleted social media from my phone

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In the early days of social media, we jumped from one network to the next. What was once new hotness became old and busted (I’m keeping it 2018 with my Men in Black reference), and we moved on to the next one like an angsty teen. From Myspace to Friendster to Google Buzz (and probably a bunch of other ones I’ve forgotten), Social Media has now been around for over a decade. Then, as platforms evolved and we settled in to The New Normal of Facebook Twitter and Instagram (oh Google Plus, you hang in there!), I’ve tried to engage, but it hasn’t gone so well.

In my personal experience, Facebook is the official website of finding out which of your old friends from high school are racist, are open to living under a fascist dictatorship (“We should postpone the next election until all the illegal voting stops!”) and/or can’t seem to make an inference (“I know this story sounds far-fetched, but the website my new friend Sergei linked to looks so real!”) as well as what they had for dinner last night. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before Mark Zuckerberg had to testify in front of Congress because a foreign intelligence agency used his business to muck with American democracy, the folks at Facebook development realize they could track us (and gather information for its advertising platform) much better with an app rather than the simple convenience of a mobile site, so Facebook started asking you to download the messenger app, the Facebook app and whatever the hell else. For some reason, the fact that I could simply switch to desktop mode on my phone’s mobile browser and circumvent their nonsense really annoyed me, and my minimal use a Facebook dwindled to non-existent.

Yes, the photos of people’s dinner got old quickly, but that was a far cry compared with what was to come. You know what I’m talking about: the negative behavior feedback loops, the tracking, the fake news story links, the advertising, and so on. And Facebook’s not the only one.

In terms of user experience and content, I do like Twitter. Lots of easily digestible content from interesting people. For some reason, it doesn’t seem like a lot of people I grew up with are on Twitter, so there’s no pressure to like Little Johnny’s video of his ceremony celebrating moving from green belt to brown belt, “I made a pie FROM SCRATCH!” and that sort of thing. But I find that Twitter has all the same problems as Facebook with a lot more stranger danger. I’m nobody, this website’s reach is bodaciously a small, so I don’t think that has anything to do with the way people treat me on Twitter, and yeah, it’s not exactly great. The interaction is fine with people I know, but man, strangers will just let you have it and they don’t care if they’re right. Of course, you’ve also got your bots and trolls (particularly the ones employed by governments) also muddying up the waters . I don’t need to get yelled at by some stranger – whether he’s in idiot, a program or a foreign intelligence agent, I just don’t have time for this. My threshold for news and entertainment just got higher and my Twitter use dwindled.

Instagram seemed like the answer. I like taking pictures, I like looking at pictures and the fact that you can view and share them electronically means there’s no hard copy to produce and store. This seemed like the perfect option for me, but again, I just got bored with the content and annoyed with my own photos. I started to feel like I was taking pictures for Instagram instead of myself and that was the end of that.

App deleted.

Initially, I thought this was just me on another quest to find a social media network that fit. I left Facebook for Twitter and then Twitter for Instagram, but then wandered back to Twitter. Just the other day, somebody responded to an innocuous reply with the usual vitriolic nonsense and I was fed up. I deleted the Twitter app and haven’t looked back.

In the end, I didn’t delete any of my social media accounts, I just stopped using them and deleted the links and apps from my phone. This website automatically drops notifications for each post, so since I don’t have to post anything manually, that will continue, but that’s pretty much it. Social networking can be a valuable Communications tool and a lot of fun for many, but right now, it seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth in every possible sense – at least for me. There’s the many sins these companies have committed, a lack of interesting content and the fact that it seems as though there is little going on to change this other than the costly Facebook apology commercial airing on cable television.

Add I thought a Rubik’s Cube was confusing (Cube movie review)

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Sometimes you wander around Netflix and just pick whatever. If you randomly watch Cube, you could do worse.

I think the thing I liked most about this movie was its ability to make me care and like these characters. I actively rooted for them and I didn’t want them to die – this might seem like a low bar, but trust me, many movies grasp for this bottom rung and fail. Even when one character goes crazy for reasons I don’t fully understand, I just care about how this changes the way that character interacts with the others. I still care, even if it doesn’t make sense.

This is an achievement.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie do so much with so little. Man, they recycled and reused basically one set and just let the tension draw from the performances. But more than that, even when the dialogue was pretentious or unclear, the movie found a way to sell it.

Some of the performances are over the top, the last scene is too vague, but somehow, it overcomes all this. Cube isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s pretty damn good. I’m excited to watch it again, so that’s about as ringing an endorsement you’re going to get from me.

3000 Miles to Graceland is a huge pile of shit (movie review)

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I decided not to bury the lead.

So yeah, this movie is not good. 3000 Miles to Graceland opens with two silly looking digital scorpions fighting each other. The metaphor and connection to the plot is, in a word, forced. Anyway, the basic premise is five guys dressed up like Elvis during an Elvis impersonator weekend in Las Vegas rob a Casino. Your brain is going to make you expect to see a scene where they all disappear into a crowd of Elvis’s (or Elvie?), but it never happens. That’s a recurring motif in the movie; the thing the plot seems to pointing to never happens. (The studio decided not to release this movie under its original title: Shattered Expectations.)

And don’t bother waiting for the climactic fight between Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell, because there isn’t one… I guess I just made this point, so moving on.

Besides its own fundemental plot issues, the other big problem with 3000 Miles to Graceland is the characters. You sort of root for Russell, but you don’t sympathize with him, and you don’t really like anyone else. Costner is sorta fun in a bad guy you love to hate sort of way, but you don’t want him to win, and Courtney Cox is just a dispicable excuse for a character you’re supposed to relate to, because you can’t get behind a mother abandoning her son with someone who just got out of prison.

Add I was really surprised when that woman snowballed Costner, but that’s beside the point.

So you’re sitting there, watching the movie, wondering how much longer it could possibly be (it’s a grueling 2+hours), Ice T shows up out of nowhere (Howie Long also pops in and out, doing basically what he did in Broken Arrow) and gives you false hope but provides two of the biggest laughs of the movie, one intentional, one not.

At the end of the day, 3000 Miles to Graceland is bloated and pleases no one. The action isn’t exciting enough, the characters are too flat and the plot barely holds together, so you can’t write it off a genre flick when it doesn’t adhere to any conventions of any genres – except poorly made movies.

3000 Miles to Graceland is streaming on Netflix – proceed at your own risk.

Pics: Dogs Mirroring, Cardinal, can’t fit in coach seat

Two of the dogs ALMOST lying in the same position.

There’s been Cardinals around recently and I was lucky to get a quick shot of one.

I’m under six feet tall, but when I fly coach with United, I just can’t fit in the seats. The leg room space is comical.

Bad Samaritan or Dropped Thread: The Movie (movie review)

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Yeah, there’s a pay phone in this movie. Because those are still around.

When I go to the movies, I want to like the movie.  I’m not hoping for it to be bad.  I went into Bad Samaritan totally cold – I don’t think I’d even seen the poster.  I was ready to go with whatever story this movie wanted to tell.  No expectations, no preconceived notions, I was ready to see an entertaining story on any terms.  And for the first twenty-ish minutes, it seemed like maybe this trip to the theater might work out – there’s David Tennant, the story might have potential… and then it falls apart, piece by piece. Read the rest of this entry

Fahrenheit 451 is the latest reminder that Michael B. Jordan is your new God

I saw That Awkward Moment in 2014 because everything else was sold out. You probably don’t remember hearing about it because it’s not a good movie. Zac Efron stars and I think he has a lot of talent, but I haven’t seen him play a complex role yet. Michael B. Jordan, on the other hand, had been crushing it since then. Every movie I’ve seen him in isn’t perfect (or even good – COUGH Fantastic Four COUGH), but Jordan is never the problem. In fact, after seeing him in Fahrenheit 451, I now consider him as automatic as it gets.

But just to be clear, this movie is not great.

Yeah, Jordan is excellent. Yeah, I like what they did with social networking, but this movie could use some more world building and more character development. It’s clear enough to get by, but from a story point of view, it’s a straight A student turning in C work.

I don’t want to debate changes they made from the book or nitpick dialogue (Michael Shannon practically had to memorize a phone book), I just want a little bit more. HBO cut corners and prioritized style over substance and it shows. Fahrenheit 451 isn’t bad, but it could have been great.

If you have HBO, consider this a soft recommendation. Michael B. Jordan delivers, but that’s all anyone will remember about this movie.

Avengers Infinity War: high drama or cheap shell game? (Movie Review)

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Here we are for the third Avengers film and the 19th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series. (“Who knows what adventures The [Avengers] will have between now and when the series becomes unprofitable.”) The MCU has been an above-average experience for me with a high point of Winter Soldier and the least enjoyable experience being Age of Ultron. Now, we get to finally see all of the different corners of the MCU come together, which turns out to be a lot of fun. But at the same time, does this story give us high drama or are the cornerstones of the plot indications of the whole thing being just a cheap shell game? Spoilers follow!

spoiler alert Read the rest of this entry

Ready Player One is the clickbait version of a movie

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“Oh my God, it’s THE IRON GIANT! I’m so excited, that’s worth the price of admission alone!” -what every executive at Warner Bros expects you to say when you see the marketing for Ready Player One

I knew going into Ready Player One that there would be a never-ending parade of nostalgia geared toward people around my age. What I didn’t realize was that it was the sole focus of the movie. While that does sound like something that COULD work, my conclusion is that it doesn’t.

And to be clear, I’m reviewing the movie only. I’ve never read the book, nor do I think that should be required for seeing the movie.

I thoroughly reject the argument that you won’t get this movie if you are not a gamer. I wouldn’t call myself hardcore, but I’ve been playing video games for nearly my entire life. The fact that the movie’s plot is covered in a video game wrapper doesn’t matter. Nearly all action adventure movies conform to The Hero’s Journey just as this movie does – there’s not really anything new happening here in terms of structure. Most adventure stories have a down-on-their-luck hero (Marty McFly, Billy Peltzer, Luke Skywalker, etc) with a love interest, then he overcomes threshold guardians to ultimately beat the bad guy and win the day. That’s just how these movies work.

The real problem with Ready Player One is the lack of world building backstory (I don’t understand how a corn syrup drought created a dystopia and so on) and a cast of characters that just don’t compel. I wasn’t actively rooting for the protagonists to fail, but I wasn’t excited when they won, either. At a late point in the movie, I just wanted it to be over because the end was so telegraphed and obvious that I was starting to get bored.

In concept, I would think I’d like Ready Player One. The movie is all about 70’s, 80’s and 90’s pop culture (which is very much my bag), but it wasn’t charming.  Instead, it’s beyond forced. Maybe that’s the problem – references work when they’re subtle, not when they’re the sole focus and reason something exists. That’s when something stops becoming a reference and just becomes the plot. Yeah, I saw the campaign poster from Back to the Future in the background, big deal. That didn’t make the movie better. Yes, I see the Iron Giant too, except this film seems to be missing the entire point of its to titular character and if you were going to ignore the moral, then why leave out the giant gun that lives inside his chest? When the good guy army was rushing toward the bad guy, I think I saw a Battletoad in there, but honestly, everything image is so saturated with characters and things that I feel like the movie is really just an advertisement for the Blu-ray. By this I mean the movie is intentionally visually dense to the point where the only way to really see all of its bloat is to watch it at home while continuously pausing it and examining each frame. I guarantee you that when this movie hits the aftermarket, you’ll see every single website in existence write an article entitled All The Stuff You Missed in Ready Player One. It’s coming, I promise you – if they’re not here already.

The thing is, I didn’t hate the movie. I wasn’t particularly bored or frustrated with any one scene, it’s just that the movie as a whole is bland. I didn’t really feel anything while watching this movie. At all. I appreciated all the work the zillions of digital animators did on this movie and I think that if Steven Spielberg didn’t direct it would be a horrible mess, but that’s about the only positives I can rattle off.

When when it comes down to it, Ready Player One is an underdeveloped movie that tries to make up for its own shortcomings with nostalgia and flashy visuals, but it’s just not enough. The only reason to see this in the theater is because every image is so cluttered that if you care about seeing every single thing, the bigger it is the better.

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