Monthly Archives: June 2015

Before there were podcasts, there was Christian Slater in Pump Up The Volume (1990)—a real sleeper at the box office but a movie much better than its predecessor, Heathers (1988).

The film stars Christian Slater in what in my opinion is one of his better roles.  He is transplanted from New York to milk toast Arizona because his father gets a promotion.  Frankly he is miserable, lonely and his only out to vent and express his frustrations with his new surroundings is to start an FM pirate radio station that broadcasts from the basement of his parents’ house.  Mark (Slater) is a loner, an outsider, whose only outlet for his teenage angst and aggression is his unauthorized radio station.  His pirate station’s theme song is “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen and there are glimpses of cassettes by such alternative musicians as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Camper Van Beethoven, Primal Scream, Soundgarden, Ice-T, Bad Brains, Concrete Blonde, Henry Rollins, and The Pixies.


By day, Mark is seen as a loner, hardly talking to anyone around him, not even looking people in the eye; by night, he expresses his outsider views about what is wrong with American society. And more importantly what is going on at his school.  When he speaks his mind about what is going on at his school and in the community, more and more of his fellow students tune in to hear his show.


Nobody knows the true identity of “Hard Harry” or “Happy Harry Hard-on,” as Mark refers to himself, until Nora Diniro (Mathis), a fellow student, tracks him down and confronts him the day after a student named Malcolm commits suicide after Harry attempts to reason with him.  The radio show becomes increasingly popular and influential after Harry confronts the suicide head-on, exhorting his listeners to do something about their problems instead of surrendering to them through suicide—at the crescendo of his yelled speech an overachieving student Paige Woodward (who has been a constant listener) jams her various medals and accolades into a microwave and turns it on. She then sits, watching the awards cook until the microwave explodes, injuring her. While this is happening, other students act out in cathartic release.


Eventually, the radio show causes so much trouble in the community that the FCC is called in to investigate. During the fracas, it is revealed that the school’s principal (Annie Ross) has been expelling “problem students,” namely, students with below-average SAT scores, in an effort to boost the district’s test scores while still keeping their names on the rolls (a criminal offense) in order to keep the government money.


Mark’s show becomes so popular that despite FCC trackers he rigs up his mom’s jeep to delay their ability to track him down.  As the police close in on him his voice disguiser breaks and on the verge of being caught, Mark tells the students that the world belongs to them and that they should make their own future.  The police step in and arrest Mark and Nora. As they are taken away, Mark reminds the students to “talk hard.” As the film ends, the voices of other students (and even one of the teachers) speak as intros for their own independent stations, which can be heard broadcasting across the country.

In my opinion working within the confines of the teen-age genre film, Pump Up the Volume succeeds in sounding a surprising number of honest, heartfelt notes. The movie is also entertaining to adults probably because it takes them back to their days of pseudo rebellion.  Watch it, Slater matures significantly from Heathers to Pump Up The Volume.  Pump Up the Volume is the best of the “fuck the establishment if they can’t take a joke” genre.


Posted by on June 20, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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Dr. H Resurfaces with a review of Jurassic World (Still in Theaters)! Welcome back Doc it’s about time.

Dr. H Reviews Jurassic World, Flawed Entertainment at its best (Still in Theaters).

Jurassic world, is a victory of exhilarating CGI’s over the old-fashioned and somewhat mundane art of solid storytelling with relatable characters.  Sadly, it appears that these two factors are like East and West– the two will never meet.

Don’t get me wrong—Jurassic World is a thoroughly enjoyable popcorn summer flick that for the most part will keep you engrossed if not spellbound. But director Colin Trevorrow’s attempt to project the movie as a struggle against corporate and media excess is a bit over-the-top.

The fact that there are two credits for the story and four for the screenplay and that the script was revised about 5 times and the movie took a decade to materialize makes you wonder about the screenplay standards of today.  If this is the final product of a professional screenplay exercise written, rewritten, and revised for audience response, could an amateur writer do any worse?

If this sounds harsh, please consider the following: here are a couple of dramatic moments that needed some creative punchlines.  Two brothers are lost in the wilderness of the park being chased by a rogue dinosaur (and yes this concept is something that the movie has successfully contributed to the dinosaur genre).  Finally after a 20 minute chase outwitting the dinosaur they manage to reach safety only to find a lukewarm reception or perhaps scenes chopped at the altar of the editor’s proverbial splicer.  Ironically, the brotherly bond is the only redeeming chemistry that the movie could successfully portray.  The distant second being the affection between the smaller dinosaurs and their trainer-feeders.  The other, almost criminal, omission was their inability to logically develop the character played by Vincent D’Onofrio, who represented the big arms industry and the Indian actor IRFAAN KHAN (representing the theme park owner with higher ambitions) both of them versatile and talented actors. Henceforth the story takes a childish turn and the protagonists lacked gravitas.

Despite the movies flaws there were some rousing scenes, the most memorable was copied from the master Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds where flying dinosaurs attack the hapless theme park tourists enjoying themselves and pecking them on their heads as the larger beasts lifted them into the air and then dropping some to their some to their deaths and others to serious injury.  Not to give away the climax the most we can reveal is that the director’s final sleight of hand was if you can’t beat them, join them.

Watch the movie for its unadulterated fun but don’t count on remembering the story after a week.  I had to get this review out within 24 hours of watching this film or major omissions would have crept into the review.

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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Movie Reviews


Thanks to our friends at Netflix, JPFmovies has returned to watching SOME western entertainment.

We here at JPFmovies have said in the past that our Asian friends across the sea have the right idea when it comes to TV series; that is, Korean, Japanese and Hong Kong TV shows are often one run of either 5, 10 or around 20 episodes (with the exception their historical time pieces which are usually 45 episodes) and that is it.  They don’t drag out shows until they die a slow painful death like the ones grinding out of Hollywood.  Series like The City Hunter (20 episodes) (running on Netflix) a Korean show previously reviewed here, Legal High (10 episodes a Japanese show about an eccentric lawyer), Bartender (a 4 episode show about a prize winning bartender and his rise to become the head of a fabulous hotel), NHK’s annual historical time piece like Musashi (previously reviewed here 39 episodes) an NHK tradition dating back to the late 1960’s, the list goes on and on.  My point here is not re-hash or recycle an old post, but to say I think Netflix got the message.

We here at JPFmovies can be pretty tough on the entertainment industry, but we also will give credit is credit is due and in our opinion it looks like our friends at Netflix got it right.  I have seen some marvelous 10 or so episode series they have produced or picked up.  Typically these shows involve “no-name” actors, very interesting historical events or original topics and frankly can be so addictive that we have been neglecting our site.  Netflix series like Marco Polo, Turn (the American revolutionary spy), Brooklyn Taxi (a show about a detective who loses her driver license and is forced to hire a full time taxi driver while she is on the job), Borgia the influential family of renaissance Italy and more all seem to follow what the Asians had figured out long ago.  We don’t say this very often but nice work Netflix for thinking outside of the tired American entertainment box.  Keep up the good work Netflix, I believe your fan base will grow if you stick to these simple rules.  I’ve often asked where have all the good writers gone, and I think I just got my answer.

As always comments are appreciated!


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Posted by on June 9, 2015 in Movie Reviews


Our man from the land down under takes a critical looks at: Insurgent

Director Robert Schwentke Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Mile Teller, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Jai Courtney, Octavia Spencer, Zoe Kravitz, Maggie Q, Naomi Watts

Recently I’ve been approaching my blog as more of a business, and a part of that process has been expanding the scope of films I choose to review. Included in that scope isn’t just a larger variety of genres but also quality, and though it does displease me whenever I feel I’ve wasted my time it’s the risk you take.

But in certain cases everything has a limit and I’ve found it with Insurgent. Though I’ve yet to read any of the novels I have seen a number of young adult adaptations and it’s dawned on me that they all have something in common – everything. You could argue that this is the case with any genre but it couldn’t be truer for YA. Furthermore, not only do I have a sense of deja vu I’m also very disappointed with what’s being offered. It’s a reminder that just because something is popular and successful it doesn’t dictate its quality.

The status quo from the first film is instantly re-established. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and lover Four (Theo James) with tag-along Peter (Miles Teller) are hiding in Amity’s hippy commune. Meanwhile, back in Chicago Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) spreads anti-divergent propaganda and evil Eric (Jai Courtney) leads a merciless hunt for our heroes.

When they’re forced to make an escape on a train they encounter hundreds of faction-less fodder that Tris and Four dispatch with ease. Four then randomly reveals his true identity, the faction-less forget the two of them just killed a bunch of their people and everything is cool. They meet their

leader, Evelyn Johnson-Eaton (Naomi Watts), but after an argument between her and Four he and Tris continue on towards Candor territory. Caleb is unwilling to join them in their crusade and turns back to Abnegation. The film moved so quickly, changing from one setting to the next it was hard to maintain a fix on what was going on around them

It’s at Candor that the film announces its overall themes. Jack Kang (Daniel Dae Kim) administers a truth serum to both Tris and Four, and Tris admits to her true reflections on herself stemming from her past. Eric and his army of pawns later descend on Candor, searching for divergent, shooting devices that lodge in peoples skin. The film cheaply adds drama by teasing Tris’ death only to be instantly saved by the conveniently timed Four, who then back-flips on his anti-war stance in an unbelievable change of heart.

The devices shot by Jeanine’s soldiers activate, putting three Candor members into a trance that sees them almost commit suicide while repeatedly chanting at Tris to turn herself over. The tertiary character falls to her death, the young boy is saved because children don’t die and the named Christina (Zoe Kravitz) is caught at the last second by Tris. At last the trouble Tris and Four cause for everyone is acknowledged as the faction-less and Candor members argue over turning her over to save themselves. Instead she willing submits to Jeanine’s tests, which involve divergent entering a five-level simulation in an attempt to open a random mystery box. Why it’s opened in this manner is never explained.

The establishment of the five simulations as the most harrowing known to man is instantly squashed as Tris runs through four of them like she’s taking a morning walk. She then discovers Four has been captured, and from here everything goes to crap. Peter has his own random change of heart, the mystery box is opened and the truth about the divergent is revealed. Convenient timing helps save Tris yet again, who just gets over all her issues and everybody lives happily ever after… until they drag things out over the next two films.

Behind the scenes this film is embarrassingly awful. The script is that standard of a straight-to-DVD action film; it’s incredibly generic, full of badly-written dialogue, inconsistent character development and so lathered with CGI you’re well aware the dilapidated scenes you’re looking at are entirely fake. Buying into this film was impossible.

Tris spends most of the film hating herself before forgetting her problems ever existed while her and Four are immune to death and cause trouble everywhere they go, yet expect everybody to be just as invested in their plight. Jeanine is a stock villain who describes her thoughts to herself with unnatural exposition and Peter’s supporting role is nothing more than a caricature. Meanwhile Caleb’s motives and actions make absolutely no sense at all.

The supporting cast are there purely to advance the plot, they display one single emotion and are given the most generic of lines that left scenes severely lacking depth. None of them, main cast included, are fleshed out enough for us to buy the character profiles we’re supposed to be seeing. Their emotional journey was the focal point of the script but because I never had a decent reason to invest in them I couldn’t connect with anything in this film.

The fact that this was the finished product had me scratching my head. How could the writers so obviously half-arse a script this badly and yet it becomes the finished product? Then it hit me – I went to see it. So did a theatre full of people with me, and their families, plus the fans of the books and fans of the YA genre. The production companies and the writers knew no matter how bad a job they did it was always going to be a hit because the fans would pay to see it regardless of what reviews say. This is an instance where are and potential achievement has taken a back seat to making a few dollars more, and because of that I can’t wait for this young adult phase to be over.

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Posted by on June 9, 2015 in Movie Reviews

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