Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jay's Review: Primeval Vol. 2

Another review by the Big Lug for! If you like dinosaurs, or fun serial Sci-Fi, check out Primeval Vol. 2.

Primeval: Volume 2

Official Synopsis:

Evolutionary zoologist Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall) recruits Egyptologist Sarah Page (Laila Rouass) to the team, hoping her research can shed some light on the mysterious time anomalies that continue to deposit dangerous dinosaurs in modern England. The third season of the popular sci-fi series finds the group grappling with a crocodilian from the Ecocene period, a deceptively cute diictodon and a ravenous giganotosaurus.

Our Take:

rimeval Vol. 2 is actually season three (Vol. 1 features the first two runs of the show) but you can come in cold without a lot of learning curve. Weird "anomalies" -portals in time- keep opening up all over England, letting in dinosaurs, sea monsters, and insects from the past and future; and we've only one line of defense in a team of scientists trying to stay one step ahead to keep everyone safe.

Our stalwart heroes work for an all purpose sci-fi government team (this is essentially Torchwood without the sex) that is more British bureaucracy than gung-ho monster fighters and they would have been far better served to just do in the incredibly tedious Helen back in the first season, but every week they keep England safe from some very effective sci-fi (Medieval knights, fungus monsters, and clones, oh my!) and it all closes on a heck of a cliffhanger...

It's a real shame that Primeval has been cancelled because it is a pretty ripping weekly series. Watched in one dense serving the juvenilia and plot holes tend to show, but if you pick this box up and parse out the episodes one or two at a time you're in for a real treat. The actors are charming (the cast rotates a few characters in and out through the course of this series) and the CGI is only occasionally wonky, so sit back and relax. You'll feel like a kid watching a Saturday sci-fi serial, enjoying the whiz-bang ride.

Special Features:

-Commentary on episodes 3, 5, and 10
-"Cutter's Odyssey" -Actor Douglas Henshall discusses his character's journey through the course of the series in a 19 minute featurette.
-"Genesis of a Creature" - a 19 minute doc featuring one 16 year old Carim Nahaboo, the winner of Primeval's contest to design a creature for the show (the darn cool looking "Megaoptra") . We join him through the special effects process in both pre- and post-production on the episode.


Primeval got convoluted kind of quickly, but works well as a "Monster of the Week" show that can be watched by adolescents on up, enjoyed, then moved on from. We all like dinosaurs, maybe they alone make it worth a watch?

Overall Picture:

Show: B-
Extra Features: B-

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Direct and Respectful Request: Please Make A Donation to the "Walk To STOP AIDS"

Will you join us and make a donation to support a very worthy cause?

The 2009 Walk to STOP AIDS takes place on Saturday, September 26th. Every little bit helps, and a simple donation goes a LONG way for a group that does a lot of good. Please join the CGYP team, or just make a straight-up donation. STOP AIDS (formerly AVOC) has been servicing Cincinnati for over 25 years now and truly deserves our support.

It's good for your karma, it's good for your community.

I want you to say what I can say: "I made a donation!"

Jay's Review: Impact (or: "I Do Loves Me A Disaster Movie")

There's nothing like a disaster movie, and I do love me a disaster! Check me out on



A rogue asteroid smashes into the moon in a tremendous explosion of rock and debris. Within, days, disastrous abnormalities start happening on Earth. What started as the most beautiful and the largest meteor shower in 10,000 years unexpectedly becomes the catalyst for a potential collison (sic) between the moon and planet Earth. The world's leading scientists, Alex Kittner (David James Elliott, TV's Jag) and Maddie Rhodes (Natasha Henstridge, Species) have 39 days to stop the moon's course or the Earth - and all of mankind - will perish. Also starring James Cromwell (W. and The Green Mile). The countdown is on.


If you enjoy a good disaster movie, you’ll probably find a lot to like here. The formula for these pictures is a big, huge impeding disaster counter pointed by your hero’s humdrum domestic squabbles. Impact doesn’t disappoint. Our dashing lead is David James Elliott as Alex Kittner. Sure, he’s a whiz at electromagnetism who worked for NASA, but more importantly for our purposes he’s a widower with 2 kids he’s loathe to leave and a Father-In-Law who’s agoraphobic (James Cromwell at his crustiest). When he gets a call from Natasha Henstridge’s Dr. Maddie Rhodes - perhaps the world’s most stunning Astronomer - to come help save the world from a Moon that’s breaking ALL the laws of Physical Science - he’d like to help... but he just can’t leave his kids. Even his shared past of near-romance with Maddie, who comes saddled with a tabloid journalist Ex and Doubting Thomas assistant (they discuss faith v. reason three times in some desperate attempt to give the story depth), almost isn’t enough to convince him.

But of course he helps. How can he not when Europe and America are effected by incredibly silly gravity issues and static electricity surges? Steven Culp shows up as The President mostly just to ask the scientists on behalf of the audience to dumb down the elaborately silly sci-fi babble this flick keeps throwing at us. In the end they’ll team with Benjamin Sadler as a German Scientist who’s been neglecting his plucky, knocked-up fiancée to save the world and maybe, just maybe, blow up the moon.

It’s long, it’s fun, it’s got decent special effects. The cosmic shots of a crumbling moon and showpiece train derailment are more accomplished than I’d expected out of a TV movie. You’ll also see children act badly as they weep over loss and the world come together, united in multi-national harmony as it preps astronauts to tackle a threat from outer space. Mostly, you’ll go through 2 bowls of popcorn as you enjoy a pulpy, sci-fi miniseries that satisfies...along as you don’t think too deeply about the science.

The DVD splits Impact into Parts 1 and 2 without offering a continuous play feature. You've got the option of English subtitles, Dolby 5.1 Audio, separate Scene Selections for Parts 1 and 2, and a trio of special features:
-"Making of Impact" is a 25 minute press-kit behind-the-scenes promo feature. You’ll probably find James Cromwell less compelling when he’s not acting, and Natasha Henstridge charming.
-"Creating Zero Gravity" is an 11.5 minute feature going behind the scenes on the various gravity-bending FX shots in the mini-series. Interesting to anyone who likes a "how'd they do that" explanation.
-3 "Deleted Scenes"

190 minutes of 70s style disaster-movie bliss, though perhaps a little more focused on big cosmic scientific problems than domestic issues, Impact is a excellent “snow day” title. It’s a little padded and pokey in places, but easy to follow and as clear as purposely opaque made-up science is going to get. B- stars and B+ effects come together in an enjoyable mini-series that can be enjoyed by older kids up to adults.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rollercoaster? No thanks, I'll take the Scrambler instead...

On Saturday I got the lovely privilege to attend King's Island with Andy, Amy, and Freddy for P&G days. A wonderful time was had by all, though I have to be pretty grateful that they were so tolerant of my one little theme park quirk.

I hate Rollercoasters.

Can't stand them. I don't like the feeling of falling, and I don't like (well, for lack of a better term) "open-air propulsion." I'm not fond of riding in convertibles, either. Every time I've ridden one, it's been an upsetting, teeth-grinding, anxiety provoking nightmare. It's completely irrational, but there you have it.

I attribute it to being seven years old and touring the Salt Mines in Salzberg, Austria with my family. On the salt mine tour they march everyone through and put 'em in jumpsuits, then you get to straddle this weird train-like transport that runs you down the rail into the mine. It goes REALLY FAST. It goes even faster on the return trip. When you're seven, and only as strong as a seven year old, it's a rollercoaster where you come very, VERY close to flying off.

Couple that with some bumpy flights, most notable being an airpocket hit on a transatlantic trip (again, around age 7 or 8) that involved actual hang-time off the seat, with only the lap belt keeping me from hitting the ceiling of the plane, and my "free-fall" aversion was writ in stone...

Haven't liked rollercoasters since. Tried a few times, but never been able to acquire the taste for them. I can just barely handle Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyworld, but I think that's because when I've ridden them, I've been so slathered up with the Disney butter that nothing would upset me.

I had a great time yesterday -for many reasons- even if I am a bit of a Theme Park cripple. I thankfully love the Scrambler - it wound up being the only thing I rode. Next time I'm there, I'm going to ride the Viking Ship ride. I watched them do it and felt like an enormous wimp... since I hate the sense of falling, I wonder if I'll like it?

I dunno, but I'm going to try.

Another thing: Couldn't help but notice that KI needs to strike up a licensing deal with someone who doesn't have another Theme Park outlet. Saw a lot of Marvel and Disney properties represented in plush prizes all over the park...

Jay's Review: Love And Debate (or: "Run Away; Far, Far Away")

This time, I'm using one of my dvdsnapshot reviews to warn you to stay far, far away from a flick, so BEWARE!



Jordan Landa is not your average Latin girl. She has dreams, big ones. As a rising star in the debate world, her elusive dreams seem finally within her grasp. But when the "perfect guy" from her past reappears, so do her desires for a life she thought she didn't want. With beautiful Miami as a backdrop, a cutting-edge soundtrack, and a hot sexy young cast, it is the perfect setting for a girl to choose between Love and Debate.


I’m kind of torn for what to say about Love & Debate. Was the mood wrong? Am I not the audience? Should I attribute it’s meandering plot (filled with random events and a Deus Ex Grandma moment that‘s jaw-dropping in it‘s potential tastelessness) to be perhaps novelistic or “just like real life?” Should I even question or go with the flow when the lead character’s surreally patient boyfriend tolerates two different flip outs she has that seem to come out of absolutely left field?

In the end I’m not sure, though I will throw out a few spoilers while I work it out. What I can say is that Love & Debate is a bland, pedestrian coming of age story about a girl, played the admittedly charming and capable Gina Phillips, who seems to get life handed to her on a platter. Not many people can be thrown out of Harvard then return on a whim two years later. Perhaps it helps to come from a family that only allows you to date Latino-Jewish men... so thank the stars Adam Rodriguez shows up as Elias Cohen (easily my favorite awkward character name since Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald from Passions). Also, not many girls have a pair of “Betty and Veronica”-lite friends (Rachel Miner as the “my character trait is that I’m Rich” Sophia and Azura Skye’s elfin collegiate lesbian) who have nothing better to do than reflect the light our glory-girl gives off.

The story meanders and hits a pair of pit-stops that can easily alienate an audience. Shirley Knight shows up 25 years to young to essay the Fairy Grandmother she’s playing here. Sean Astin collects what I hope was a decent paycheck. Austin Nichols shows up as a throwaway Teflon date-rapist, and Sandil Ramamurthy plays a character who literally consists of a turban. The film is just tone deaf and weird.

There’s nothing new or inspired here and the story wanders and simpers along. Character motivations come from nowhere and everything you need to know about the big last debate (which would NEVER fly in real life) is telegraphed early. I’d say the whole ending is, but the final wrap is tacked on from out of nowhere...

The music and cinematography are uninspired. The actors however are good, and if you’re charmed by Skye, Knight, or Phillips this may be worth killing time with. Other than that, there’s nothing to recommend here.

Menu offers Scene Selection, Bonus Features, and Set-Up, along with an execrable theme song.
Set-Up consists of English and Spanish Subtitles. The default audio is Dolby Digital 5.1.
Bonus Features include:
- the original theatrical trailer, which does a good job at making the film look like a middle-of-the-road romance, but doesn't succeed at making it look that watchable...
- 9 deleted scenes
-an alternate ending
-a six minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which is a videotaped interview with Ocean Drive Magazine. -----Finally, there's video of Sandil Ramamurthy's interview... no doubt included to capitalize on his current visibility of Heroes.


The title of this was changed from “Thanks To Gravity” to Love and Debate. The cast and a topical scene debating Universal Health Care are the only reasons I can figure why this ever made it to DVD.

The kids won’t relate, but teenage girls might enjoy it. It is a long, melodramatic story with a female lead who makes Bella from Twilight seem take-charge. But the lack of focus, dearth of grace, and a few perhaps unintentional messages like “throw logic out the window and pull the heartstrings to win a debate” and “just let your date rapist off the hook and choose to forget” would have me thinking twice before exposing a teen to it. Discerning viewers are welcome to give it a spin... then tell me if you found the tone to be off as many times as I did.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jay's Review: Live Animals (or, "Hostel for the Horsey set")

Another review, this time of a micro-budget horror thriller called "Live Animals" that I found truly upsetting. Not for the squeamish!


In the quiet of the country, a sick, twisted man kidnaps young adults in the dark of night, binds them by heavy chain to stalls in an isolated barn. They are trained to obey with torture, broken like horses, prepared for merciless slaughter. Their screeches of pain go ignored - many others were once here, many more will arrive. But one batch of prisoners has the chance to escape. Too bad they've underestimated their killer...

A small-budget, independent production can be hit-or-miss. Live Animals is the kind where you wonder what the filmmakers could do with a bigger budget. The story of a group of young people kidnapped to be broken, beaten, then sold into white slavery is a nasty, dark slab of Grindhouse-style grimness that left me equally surprised and upset.

Sequences in the stables and out in dark, open country are isolating. They get you to start thinking about the vastness of the American plains and how easy it can be for people to vanish. Those in question here are a batch of naturalistic young actors not overplaying fear set against a second set who do an accomplished job of portraying banal, simple “day at the office” evil. Infrequent, well-done gore and several sequences use cross-cutting, silence, and simple piano chords that are more effective than you see in most low-budget films. While definitely of the “Torture Porn” genre (why do these movies love chains so much?), and a definite exploitation picture, the craftsmanship is definitely present here. I felt the fear and cruelty the filmmakers wanted to express more here than I do in more horror films; budgets big or small. More importantly, there’s a couple twists I did not see coming, a sign that this film can get you engaged and caring about the characters.
Live Animals is recommendable for style, pacing, and the genuine talent behind it. However, the viewer is cautioned that the skill brings home the hopelessness of the situations presented in a way many films of it’s ilk would like to accomplish. It’s a dark journey you’re taking with filmmakers who deserve a bigger budget... and the script for a simple drama with a happy ending.

Beyond simple scene selection, the disc features three items of bonus content: "A View From The Crate: The Making Of Live Animals" is a 17 minute behind-the-scenes featurette, "Behind The Digital Curtain" is a 22 minute spot about a few digital effects flourishes they added to the film and it's presented as a "How You Can Do This At Home" feature, which lends it a lot of charm. It's also fairly informative for the lay viewer to see just how much goes into something as simple as a Green Screen Compositing shot. Finally there's 15 minutes of deleted scenes. They fill a few story-telling gaps, but the film does just as well without them.
Live Animals is 84 minutes and unrated. There are no audio or subtitle options.


This "Hostel for the horsey-set" is equal parts stunning and depressing, well-done and moving. It's not upbeat, or optimistic, and it's NOT for kids. However, there’s something more eloquent than simple "goreno." It’s a trip worth taking, but it isn’t pleasant.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jay's Review: Gigantic

I reviewed Gigantic back at the beginning of August, but it kinda fell through the cracks a bit. Belated, but now posted for your perusing pleasure... or rather, warning that you can skip viewing the actual movie if you want...


Get ready to laugh with this romantic comedy that’s anything but normal, starring Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine), Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer), John Goodman, (Confessions of a Shopaholic) and Zach Galifinakis (The Hangover). Mattress salesman, Brian gets swept up in a romance with the lovely but misguided Happy when she comes in to his store one day and falls asleep on one of the beds. To win her over, he must compete with her bear of a father, an art-collecting loudmouth with a bad back and deep pockets. Gigantic is a funny, surreal love story about the anxiety that comes when two people with crazy families collide unexpectedly and fall for each other.


No, it’s not.

I can't quite put my finger on what's going on in Gigantic, but it's not romantic and it's not comedy. It's moments of beautiful grace, a very respectable attempt, and excellent acting assembled into an odd mess of a construct.

It feels like it wants to be a whimsical indie comedy. You have a lead character (Brian) who shuffles thru life working at a mattress store (wacky slacker job), trying to adopt a Chinese baby (because he always wanted a younger sibling -a fact drawn from the life of the director), and from a dysfunctional family of older brothers and elderly parents who, among other things, make Shroom Tea for the family.

The patented “Whimsical Indie Girl” is here. Zooey Deschanel, no less, is named “Happy” and is both kooky, cute, and sexually forthright... as are all “Whimsical Indie Girls.” To her credit she does eke a character out of Happy, but it ain't by much.

Also, Ed Asner shows up to be the above mentioned 'Shroomin' dad and John Goodman plays his gruff notes as Happy's rude, grouchy, rich dad. A character mostly known for having a bad back and traveling everywhere reclined. The regal Jane Alexander shows up for a few quick scenes towards the end. In fact, her character is there to serve one purpose in one conversation, but it's still nice to see her.

Then come the more serious parts. The adoption subplot seems more unlikely to succeed than anything else. The rhythms of the comedy are plodding when they should be light. I don't think I laughed once. As a drama, I would have adored this. With the attempts at “whimsy,” and general “Sell” from the DVD packaging that this is a comedy, I'm left asking the age old question. “Que?”

Finally, there's the Zach Galifinakis problem. I just can't figure it out. He's credited as “Homeless Man,” and just shows up occasionally to beat or shoot at Brian, then in the end turns out to be... well, I don't know what. Something happens towards the end of his character arc that really queers the deal with this movie. The hopeful warm ending becomes almost a little scary when you wonder just what this adopted baby (delivered via the Deus Ex Machina Express, no less) is being dropped into. The tone is thrown off in ways it doesn't recover from. It can't.

In the end it's not whimsical nor witty, and it's not a drama (tho it is a tad disturbing). It's serious and slapdashedly resolved. The saving graces come in the scenes it's assembled out of. Awkward dates with parents, family dinners, a fumbling conversation or two. Weird characters populate the peripheries. If it didn't feel like they tried so hard for the “Whimsy,” or some “let's wrap this puppy up and go home” cheats, this would be a much better movie.

I say “Meh.”

Auto launches with a trailer for Tennessee, which looks to be an overly-earnest, unwashed road trip film starring Mariah Carey and 2 unwashed angsty guys who I’m betting are really obnoxious. Enter at your own risk.

The Menu only offers Scene Selection, Play, Audio, and Bonus
Audio offers 5.1 and 2.0 English Dolby. No Subtitles. (which is an immediate half a point off from this reviewer and his noisy environment)
Bonus Features:
-2 deleted scenes, one of the kind of “is this whimsy” that permeates the whole movie. No reason I can see to have cut it.
-An Alternate Take of one scene. Some productions stills.
-The Trailer: You can figure out “Beds, Adoption, Zooey” and the boast of being from the producers of “Junebug” and “I’m Not There.” One shot in the trailer is scored and cut to almost imply Brian has shown up at Happy’s house for a profound romantic interlude. In the actual movie it’s the scene where he shows up to see where she works…a glaring cheat that threw me out of the actual movie entirely, since I watched the trailer first.

The film is R-rated and 98 minutes long

The sum of the parts is underwhelming, but the parts have some moments of grace to them. A very long-distance nude Deschanel and some Shroomin' (while approved by the elderly), may make you hesitate showing this one to the kids... as will the general tone that hangs over the moments that should be madcap because the character keeps getting random assassination attempts made on him...

The actors are fine. The cinematography is beautiful. A composition of Deschanel on a mattress in all grays, blues, and blacks, from her eyes to the blankets, with her popping white face in the center is worth watching the whole film for. There are moments here.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Slightly Belated "How Do You Do?"

I'm proud to announce, even if I'm running a little late with said announcement (hey, it's been a rough week), that Big Lug Land is going to be a featured blog at the new site of my friend and neighbor, Troy Henson of Blue Kaboom, The Cincinnati Gay Yellow Pages!

Here's Troy's mission statement for the site:

As a gay greater Cincinnati small business owner, I know it’s important to connect to our community. Years ago, I was often apprehensive when walking into a new business establishment because I was afraid that I may be not “wanted.” I didn’t want to feel that I was treated differently because of the way I looked or acted. Even today, I feel at times that my partner and I are not welcome or feel awkward in some business establishments.

Launching this site for businesses is our way to say “it’s OK” to be who you are. We want to give you the opportunity to tell your future Cincinnati tri-state patrons that you will not discriminate against them based on sexual orientation.


If you haven't been to yet, you need to get over there pronto and check it out. You'll find business reviews you can contribute to and event listings for the whole area (for example: are you ready for Pride Night?)

There's a big marketplace and classified ads (I think I still have some chairs for sale listed over there, actually), and lots of chatter by local Cincinnatians like myself, Drew over at Design Cincinnati, Jamie Royce with Stuff Queer People Need To Know, Gay Travel Reviews, and the team over at Cincinnati Women Bloggers. Leading the pack, you'll find Jessica Dimon blogging on the site as well.

Gay or not, you're going to find plenty to read here. This site is growing and is going to be YOUR clearing house for everything you need to know about in Cincinnati. It's young and growing so you should get in on the ground floor and check it out!

Also, since it's going to be syndicating my blog's content, I'm going to try and stay topical. If you have suggestions or questions you'd like answered - let me be YOUR agony aunt - please email me at

Jay's Review: Lonely Street

Another review up at, this time the disc was a screener so it didn’t have the special features. I took the synopsis from it’s Netflix entry. The Amazon/IMDB description shares a little TOO much... and that's my job.

LONELY STREET Official Synopsis:
After an elusive celebrity hires naïve Det. Bubba Mabry (Jay Mohr) to spy on a tabloid journalist, Bubba becomes the prime suspect when the reporter is murdered. If he wants to stay out of jail, he'll have to solve the case fast. Meanwhile, two pesky journalists (Lindsay Price and Nikki Cox) stay on his tail. Based on Steve Brewer's popular novels, this quirky comic mystery co-stars Joe Mantegna and Ernie Hudson.

Our Take: Lonely Street isn't really a stand alone movie. Adapted from a series of novels, it feels reminiscent of other "introductory" movies of the type. It sets a fun, jaunty tone, but I kept thinking of V.I. Warshawski. However, this doesn't detract from it being a really enjoyable film.

Very much in the spirit of Get Shorty, Striptease, Happy, Texas, and My Name Is Earl; a group of wacky misfits (with overly cutesy names) circle around Bubba Mabry (a miscast Jay Mohr). He's a detective bumbling his way thru a murder investigation filled with gorgeous girls and loopy assistants as he tries to figure out if the mysterious Mr. Aaron really is the story of the century and who's willing to kill over it.

The cast, including the underrated Nikki Cox (sporting some unfortunately over-inflated lips) and Robert Patrick (showing more joyful spark under some heavy makeup than he's ever shown without it) is uniformly charming. As each character tends to be a little overdone, that's no small feat. Constant narration may be the films biggest drawback, but even that isn't intrusive after too long. The writing flows with good humor and the occasional stylistic quirks always bring on a smile.

The real shame here is that this seems to be a stand-alone movie. This should be a pilot, because as a weekly cable show, the verve and spirit shown here could produce a strong, fun series. This isn't a comedy masterpiece, but it IS a gem in the rough and a satisfying way to spend an evening.

Special Features: (PER AMAZON)
Special Feature(s): Widescreen; Behind-the-scenes cast interviews; "Making of Elvis"; "When the Rebel Comes Home" music video; Three exclusive songs
You'll stay engaged with the southern (or rather, southwestern)-fried wackiness from beginning to end, having a good time all the way. There's nothing here that objectionable for mid-teens and up, aside from the scene showing the aftermath of a murder. The sexuality is rather cartoonish, and the approximation of music by Elvis is well done enough to not offend us who wouldn't mind a new single one bit.

Not only would Lonely Street hold up to repeat viewings, but I wish this was a pilot, because as a series, I'd watch every episode, and I can't think of better recommendation than that.

Overall Picture:
Movie: B
Extra Features: NA for me, but they sure sound swell...