Rod Paddock's blog

Review: My Way


My Way 2012World War II, fought on multiple continents with multiple armies, has an untold number of unique stories. One story revolves around an Asian soldier captured by the Americans during the Normandy invasion. In My Way (Mai wei), filmmaker Je-kyu Kang shows us how this man found himself taken from Korea to ultimately become a conscripted soldier in the German Wehrmacht.

The movie begins with color commentary of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. The announcer is highlighting the movement of a Korean runner named Jun-shik Kim (Dong-gun Jang). Jun-shik Kim is steadily moving up the field of runners.

Quickly the story flashes back to Japanese-occupied Korea. A Japanese doctor and his family have moved to Korea to serve under the doctor’s father, a colonel in the Japanese Imperial Army. This family has a young son, Tatsuo Hasagawa, who spies another young boy running alongside their car. This boy is Jun-shik Kim, who quickly becomes fast friends with Tatsuo ... and also rivals. Via their shared love of running, the boys are commonly found in competition with one another.

The film takes a sudden turn when Tatsuo's grandfather is assassinated and Jun-shik’s family is blamed, causing the family to fall into poverty and despair. Jun-shik is forced to make a living as a rickshaw driver. Never letting things get him down, Jun-shik uses his job as a means to improve his running ability. 

After depicting Jun-shik’s continued training, My Way moves to the Korean Olympic trials. The Japanese took insult when a Korean runner won an earlier Olympic event and have banned all Koreans from representing their country. Ultimately, under pressure from a former Olympian, the occupiers are pressured into allowing Jun-shik's participation. Jun-shik wins the event, is denied his prize and a riot breaks out. As punishment, the Korean rioters are conscripted into the Japanese Imperial Army.

Review: Lockout



The future, a federal prison ... location? Space! Guy Pearce plays Snow, a man framed for a crime he did not commit. With a carrot of freedom hanging over his head, Snow accepts a mission to rescue the President’s daughter from the aforementioned floating Alcatraz. The problem? The inmates have broken free of their cryogenic slumber and now run the asylum. Not only have the inmates broken free of cryogenic slumber, someone gave them a camera, a budget and let them make this colossal trainwreck of a movie. Welcome to Lockout!  

A concept like a floating space prison requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. It's perfectly fine to require some amount or belief suspension, but there is a level where it becomes abusive. Lockout requires the viewer to abandon all logic, reason and gray matter at the door. 

The problem with this movie starts with its initial premise. The government in partnership with "generic evil mega corporation" has spent trillions of dollars constructing a highly technical, space-bound prison. The problem is they built a technical masterpiece with a security system worse than an unattended box of Cracker Jack. No-one in their right mind would build a space station without some type of ground-based on/off switch.

Review: The Cabin in the Woods


Cabin in the Woods poster from Mondo Tees[Editor's note: I told Rod I'd rip his head off if proofreading his review spoiled the movie for me. It didn't, and he's still in one piece, so feel free to enjoy the review if you haven't seen the film yet.]

The Cabin in the Woods has to be one of the most unoriginal and unimaginative titles for a horror movie in 50 years. Do not be fooled by the title. It is neither unoriginal or unimaginative. This horror movie has the power to change your worldview of what a horror movie is and should be -- The Cabin in the Woods is a genre game-changer.

The cast of characters is reminiscent of an 80s horror film or The Breakfast Club. You have your requisite set of college-age kids: a jock, a stoner, a hot girl, a second hot girl and the new guy tag-along friend. This menagerie of John Hughes characters exists in a movie that starts with a typical horror-film plot line: Let's go to the woods, put ourselves into an altered state of mind and see what happens ... and a whole lot happens!

Our adventurers set out in a motor home, encounter the "creepy dude" that always seems to be employed at the last gas station on the road, finally arriving at their destination, a creepy, overgrown and dusty cabin in the woods. In quick order they find a basement packed to the rim with tons of creepy gizmos, trinkets and artifacts. It’s at this point that all hell breaks loose and we are thrown into a horror movie that defies explanation. Note to self: "If I am ever trapped in a basement full of arcane junk, never and I mean never, play the tape recorder."

This is where my review has to become vague. This vagary is for your safety and mine. I am duly sworn to protect the integrity of this film against all foes foreign and domestic.

First and foremost in this picture is the script. During the Q&A at this years SXSW, co-screenwriters Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon said that the script for The Cabin in the Woods was cranked out in a marathon three-day writing session. Each writer had a goal of 15 pages per day and what glorious pages these are. After you view this film, you will see how a script with such a unique hook could be cranked out in rapid fashion. 

Review: The Raid: Redemption


The Raid: RedemptionEvery year there are films that receive a lot of hype. Sometimes these films live up to the hype and and sometimes they disappoint. I recently saw one of these highly hyped films, The Raid: Redemption, and let me say it right now this movie lives up every bit of the hype.

The Raid: Redemption received a great deal of attention at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, and word quickly spread that this was a must-see film. A lot of us hoped that that The Raid: Redemption would be a last minute addition to Fantastic Fest 2011. But luck did not shine on our screens as Gareth Evans's Indonesian action film was unavailable from the studio. This simply added to its mystery. A lucky 1,200 filmgoers did get to see the movie at the Paramount during SXSW this year, spreading still more good buzz.

The Raid: Redemption tells a story of a police raid gone wrong. A small team of Indonesian police officers descends on a drug lord's compound -- a high-rise, low-rent apartment complex with the head honchos at the very top. This small team quickly finds itself overrun and outgunned by the drug lord's hired army of thugs.

This film is an excellent mashup of themes developed in some of my favorite genre films. We have a group of police officers outgunned and trapped, a la Assault on Precinct 13. We have a high-rise slum used as a drug lord's castle, a la New Jack City. And finally we have shootouts and kung-fu battles, a la Shoot em Up and Fists of Fury. This movie seeps action from every pore.

This movie works on numerous levels. The cinematography immerses the viewer into the cold dinginess the tenants occupy. Life under the control of drug-dealing thugs is not pleasurable and The Raid: Redemption shows that. The choice of color palette highlights this cold dinginess.

Review: Being Flynn


Being Flynn

Films serve many purposes. Some movies are meant for pure simple entertainment, others provide a means of escape from reality and some are used to shine a light on the human condition. Being Flynn falls into the latter category. This film shines a light on many facets of the human condition: the relationship between fathers and sons, the problem of self medication in the form of substance abuse, and finally how quickly you can go from being fully employed with a roof over your head, to sleeping on a park bench. Being Flynn does a good job of this without senseless pandering.

Being Flynn is the story of Nick Flynn (Paul Dano). Nick is a struggling author (aren't we all) whose entire existence seems to revolve around being abandoned by his father Jonathan (Robert de Niro) at a young age.

The first act of the film is filled with imagery illustrating both Nick's and Jonathan's current battles with their demons. We see Nick's failed relationships with women, his flirtation with the bottle and of course the struggles that seem mandatory in every aspiring author's life. In Jonathan's case, we see a self-proclaimed master storyletter, who drives a Yellow Cab while sipping screwdrivers from an orange-juice container.

SXSW Review: Indie Game: The Movie


Indie Game The Movie

Super Meat Boy is your typical boy-meets-girl story. The protagonist goes to world's end, avoiding hazard after hazard, all in the name of rescuing his damsel in distress: Bandage Girl. Fez tells the story of namesake Fez, who makes his way through a Brazil-like world in search of love. Braid takes place in a time-shifting multi-dimensional universe. The lead character Tim travels through time and space solving riddles in order to save, yes you guessed it, a princess. Are these the titles of new indie movies that took SXSW 2012 by storm? No, these are descriptions of three independent video games covered in the delightful documentary Indie Game: The Movie.

We live in a culture of mass entertainment. We love our movies, our music, our sports and we especially love our video games. Alongside our love of mass entertainment we also love our underdogs. You know, the lady (or gentleman) who against all odds strives to overcome adversity and triumphs. Indie Game: The Movie is the story of video games and underdogs. In this case the underdogs are the people known as independent game developers.

SXSW Review: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists


We Are Legion

Some documentaries give insights into events of the past, while others take place in the present and comment on current events. The movie We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists definitely takes place in current times. You might not have heard about Anonymous, but there is some certainty that this group's actions have affected you or someone you know.

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists gives historical and social context to a group of loosely affiliated hackers who participate in an activity known as hacktivism. The activities of this group occur in both terrestrial and online venues. The origin of Anonymous comes from a website called is a website started by SXSW 2011 speaker Chris Poole, where people can post and comment on images uploaded by other users. Users are not required to sign up for an account and can simply post images and content under the name Anonymous. This is where the hacker group derived their moniker.

In the movie we learn that one of Anonymous’s earliest hacktivism activities was against the Church of Scientology. In 2008, a video of Tom Cruise talking about the Church of Scientology surfaced and in typical Church of Scientology fashion they tried to get it removed from the internet. The Church of Scientology is well known for attacking news organizations and websites critical of their organization. When the Cruise video surfaced, the Church of Scientology went on blast and sent numerous DCMA notices to websites and new organizations.

Opening Night in the 'Woods' at SXSW 2012


The Cabin in the Woods cast

A capacity crowd waited hours in the rain on Friday for the SXSW 2012 opening-night film, The Cabin in the Woods. This waterlogged crowd soon found out that the wait was definitely worth it. The evening's festivities began with an introduction of the movie by director and co-writer Drew Goddard and producer and co-writer Joss Whedon. The house lights were lowered and 90 minutes of sweet joy were unspooled before a capacity crowd of 1200 at the Paramount Theatre. 

After voraciously devouring this delectable meal of a movie, we were re-greeted by Whedon and Goddard, who quickly brought out four members of the film's cast: Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Kristen Connolly and Anna Hutchison. The Q&A was a riot with Whitford and Jenkins providing tons of laughs. You can tell these two gentlemen had a great time working on this film. 

'Rewind This!' and a Love of VHS


VHS Memorial By Tim Doyle

Right before I moved to Austin, I broke off a long-term romance. The romance was rather tepid by then, so I used my move as an opportunity to simply end it. I had no idea that just a few months later, that romance would be rekindled. What is this romance and why is it relevant to a movie website? Well, that romance was with my VCR and right before I moved I took crates of VHS and two VCRs to Goodwill.

Little did I know that I was moving to a hive of movie fandom. I knew Austin had a cool film scene but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I learned about quote-a-longs, I mastered the pancake, I heard all about people with numb butts and I soon learned about VHS fandom. There are lots of subgenres of film fandom and one of these subgenres is the lover of films and videos available only on VHS. Little did I know I was one of these lovers as well, and my feelings were simply repressed.

Review: Red Tails


Red Tails PosterThe 332nd Fighter Group of World War II was known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Toward the end of the war they became known as the "Red Tails" for the painted tails of their P-51 Mustang Aircraft. This fighter group is well known for several reasons: Its pilots were all African-American men, who served with distinction and were some of the most highly decorated fighter pilots in World War II. The 332nd has appeared in a number of documentaries, films and television shows. Red Tails is the latest attempt to tell the story of these airmen.

Red Tails has been a work in progress by executive producer George Lucas for over 20 years. Sadly, that 20 years of effort went to waste. This movie fails on so many levels, it boggles the mind -- how could 20 years of effort produce such an amateurish piece of work? Red Tails tries to tell the story of the 332nd through a series of non-believable and sometimes stereotypical caricatures.

A number of areas are problematic in this movie. The first and primary problem is with the screenwriting. The dialogue is pedantic, boring and many times simply ridiculous. In one scene, the new P-51 Mustangs arrive and the pilots decide to paint the tails red (hence their nickname). One of the pilots exclaims, "Let's paint the tails red like the Red Baron!" Hey dumbass, the Red Baron was German, you know the guys we are fighting. I cannot count the number of times that characters German and American exclaim, "Look, the pilot is African. Look, the pilot is black." This coming from people flying at 150 knots plus.

It's really difficult to know whether the writing issues come from screenwriters John Ridley and Aaron McGruder or the emperor himself, George Lucas. It's hard to tell who put in a character with the call sign "Ray-Gun" who actually has a Buck Rogers raygun with him. Has to make you wonder.

Another major problem concerns the performances themselves. Every performance seemed forced and unbelievable. With a cast of great actors like Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrence Howard and Bryan Cranston, you would think director Anthony Hemingway could draw out some great acting. He fails on every level. During combat, no one breaks a sweat. Even the injuries are laughable. Think Paul Reubens' death in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The big difference is we were treated to over 40 minutes of that weakness.

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