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Judge Josh Rode's Blog

Judge Josh Rode • Location: Westerville, OH
• Member since: May 2011
• 47 full reviews
• 49 small claims

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Empire of Orgasm Inc.
July 14th, 2011 10:41AM

I don't know how or why, but Empire of Assassins continues to be something a lot of people want to check out, at least until they read my review (I hope). It has been the top read review on the Verdict site for the past three days (although 39 Assassins is going to pass it very soon). My theory is that my review is the only one in existence right now so anyone interested in reading about it has nowhere else to go.

In the meantime, both the Max Manus and Orgasm Inc. reviews popped this past week. They were both a bit disappointing, but for different reasons. Max is about a saboteur but spends all his time moping instead of saboteuring. And there was nothing at all orgasmic about Orgasm Inc..

Just to clear any confusion about the latter, though, I didn't necessarily disagree with the conclusions drawn by Liz. I agree that a lot of what is considered to be "dysfunctions" in modern-day America aren't really medical conditions, and that isn't limited to sexual dysfunction. I think, for instance, that ADD and ADHD are way over diagnosed because parents just don't want to deal with excitable children. That being said, there's no question that some men have sexual dysfunctions, so it stands to reason that some women would as well.

Also, the end of Orgasm Inc. wants the viewer to be outraged because the patch that got shot down by the FDA got approved in Europe. However, the reason it didn't make it in the US was because it needed to be taken with Estrogen, which added all of Estrogen's problems to its problems. It got approved in Europe only in patients who were already on Estrogen, so that entire part of the argument was effectively removed from the equation and I see no problems with it being approved on that basis.

Just sayin'.

More "Empire", Plus the Girls
July 7th, 2011 10:17AM

Apparently Empire of Assassins was a more highly anticipated release than I ever would have suspected; my review of it got a "special commendation" by being #11 in the "14 Day Most Popular" group. It also netted my first official feedback; someone clicked "no" on the "Did we give it a fair trial" link. Unfortunately whoever it was didn't email me or go to the forums, so I can only guess at their reasons for liking the film. All I can come up with is that the person was, perhaps, the mother of one of the actors. As an edit, I looked at IMDB's fan ratings and found one person voted it a 10 out of 10. It was a 30-something female, so it must have been a sister or wife, not a mother.

Conversely, there are 9 "Likes" connected to the "Facebook" link. I don't know what that means, exactly, but it sounds positive.

I probably should have worded the Closing Statement a little differently, since I don't have actual evidence that the film was made from cutting-room floor material. I hope it was, though, 'cause if not, the TV series must have left a lot to be desired.

Also, Land Girls popped today. There's not a lot to say about the show, except that I was pretty disappointed in it. It seemed like it could have been much better than it ended up being. I probably would have liked it even less, but I watched it with Anna and, since everything is always better when she's involved, it made the show enjoyable.

The next list came out and I told Michael to send me whatever he needed again. He sent me two movies and an entire season of a TV series. I'll have to manufacture a lot of time for that much viewing.

In other news, the back speakers of my surround sound system didn't work all (or even most) of the time so I called Sony and spent a couple hours doing all the things I had tried myself before I called. Finally they told me to send them in for repair, so I sent them yesterday. No word on how long the repairs will take.

Week...um...forget it. I'll just title them. Assassin Week!
July 6th, 2011 10:51AM

There was nothing terribly exciting on last weekís list except for 39 Assassins which I signed up for knowing I wouldnít get it. The more experienced judges get first pick (as they very much should), but I figured I definitely wouldnít get it if I didnít even ask.
For the rest I just picked the films from the bottom of the Backlog list and told Michael to send me whatever he wanted to get done the soonest. None of the ones I actually signed up for came, so clearly the bottom of the list isnít the top priority. One that he did send was Bodyguards and Assassins, presumably as a sort of compensation for missing out on 39 Assassins, which I very much appreciated.

I appreciated it much more after watching the film, Ďcause itís way better than last weekís similarly themed Empire of Assassins which was just horrible.
Thereís an irony of sorts here. The worst film Iíve reviewed so far is the one that took the most research. Neither IMDB nor Amazon had anything useful about Empire of Assassins. All I got from them was the poorly written media blurb:

One man is out for revenge after a life-altering event destroys his family. After years of preparation he seeks out his justice, while unaware of its relation to on his brother. As these two brothers seek to destroy each other, certain memories are triggered and although many trusted allies will be dishonest and misleading, neither one will stop until they know the truth.

The rest of the Internet seemed oblivious to its very existence.

Eventually, after extensive Googling, I came across KungFuCinema.com and a thread in their forums entitled ďEmpire of Assassins? Anyone have info?Ē The thread itself didnít have any information because, it turned out, the answer to the titular question was ďno.Ē But it did have a clue of sorts by mentioning a similar movie that came from a TV show.

I Googled the names of the only two actors that IMDB had and wasted an hour trying to track down Xie Miao and Miu Tse because everything I could find on the two actors seemed to indicate they had the exact same background. Eventually I pieced together my problem: they are, in fact, the same person. He just used a different name for some of his earlier movies.

Knowing that still didnít help much so I turned to the other actor, Li Yuan. Here I struck gold, in the form of his blog, written in Chinese but translated by Google. It talked about his work on the TV show ďLegend of Shaolin Kung Fu 2: 13 Cudgel MonksĒ. It also had a strangely familiar looking picture of one of the set pieces on the TV show. Strange because it looked exactly like the set piece for the final inane action sequence of Empire of Assassins.

In case the IMG thing still doesn't work, the look at it here.

Uncanny, right?

So I went back to the forum and did some research on the TV show and pieced together the rest of the story: they had already released a movie based on "Legend of Shaolin" called Kung-fu Master and were dipping into the well again. Except it was clear Assassins did not follow any part of the TV show since neither of the main characters is a monk (well, until the end), which is what "Legend 2" is all about.

So, in the end, I did hours of research only to discover that a bad movie was even worse than I thought.

After that debacle I was a tad concerned about another assassin-titled movie that I had never heard of, but I do love kung fu films so I looked forward to watching it. This time I was rewarded with a well made, emotionally engaging film, even if it didn't have a ton of action up front. Everyone involved was very proud of themselves, judging from the interviews. I don't have a lot more to say about it since everything is in the review, though.

I do wonder if my reviews are a bit longer than they should be. The full ones are supposed to be over 1000 words, but some of the others that I read seem much shorter. Ah well, I'd rather be too long than too short, unless it gets so long that people get tired of reading it. But you'll let me know if that happens, right non-existent readers?

Thought so.

Week 5
June 28th, 2011 2:01AM

The first review I wrote for the Verdict, Adua and Her Friends, popped almost immediately after my last post. I think it was the beneficiary of Chief Justice Staileyís return from his week-long trip from the East Coast, Ďcause everything to which he was assigned editor jumped from the editing bay to published almost immediately. I figured he just wanted to clear out his entire backlog and start fresh. Which is good, because now I can talk about Adua.

The funny thing about the film and my review is that everyone else in the entire world seems to disagree with me about its basic premise. After watching it, I thought (and still feel) that the implication was that the women were planning on opening a brothel from the start. In fact, ďimplicationĒ isnít the correct word because to me itís pretty explicitly stated a number of times.

Every other review I read (which I do after I write my own so I donít pick up any bias) described the women as ďtrying to go straight, only to be dragged back inĒ. There is a lot of talk about the powerlessness of women in that era and even more talk about Pietrangeliís thoughts about women in his time. And, eventually, those themes do come into play, but let the record show that Adua and her friends were not only complicit in their own downfalls, they went willingly to the edge of the cliff, ready to jump off, and only got cold feet at the precipice. The evil men of the world merely gave them the push over the edge.

Not that Iím saying thatís a good thing; but in the end, the women chose their own fates. Especially after Adua told Ercoli off in front of everyone in the restaurant. Okay, it was a gutsy move, and she clearly had discovered self-respect. But where did that get her? Street walking in the rain. They knew they were going to have to go back to whoring, one way or another. Better in the trattoria than on the street; your pride is washed away either way.

Anyway. In other news, I have two reviews complete and in the editing bay and the next list should be coming out tomorrow. We new judges havenít been told our probationary time is up, but Iíve noticed my arch-nemesis Dawn Hunt has picked up several reviews at a time the last couple of weeks, which means theyíve apparently loosened the newbie ďone at a timeĒ rule already. My plan now is to get two each week. The first will be one I actually want to watch (or, at least, that I think Anna will like) and the second will be whatever movie is at the very bottom of the ďpast dueĒ list. I figure this will keep my random quotient pretty high.

A new, completely different surround sound system should be arriving in the next couple of days, and Iím pretty excited about that. The more I sat with the other one, the less I liked it, so I returned it and looked for another. This time I did my due-diligence; I went to CNet.com and read up on their reviews, and found one that got good ratings for a good price, especially after I found the same thing on Amazon.

I love surround sound, but my ex never wanted the wires crisscrossing the carpet (not that I blame her. And, in fact, Anna dislikes that as well.) so even though we had a 5.1 system, the rear speakers were never connected. The new system has wireless back speakers, so wires wonít be a problem. My only fear is that the rear speakers wonít get good reception from whatever transmitter the system uses. A bridge to climb later, I suppose.

Week 4
June 23rd, 2011 12:41AM

I submitted my fourth official review today after a loooong week of research. Once the review is published Iíll go into more detail about that. In the meantime, Iím waiting on the next list to come out Ė should be any moment now Ė while working at my real job.

The surround sound system I mentioned last time turned out a little disappointing. The speakers looked large in the advertisement but theyíre actually quite small. Furthermore, everything is hard-wired into the receiver, which isnít a true receiver at all; the DVD player doubles as the receiver. So I canít even upgrade the speakers.

Ah well, thatís what one gets for spending as little money as possible. Iím going to save up and get a better (and wireless) system in a few months.

Since I donít have anything new published, I thought Iíd go ahead and throw my unofficial first review on here. As you may recall from Week 1, Michelle asked if anyone wanted to do a quickie on an online-only film called Smoke, aka Dym. I did one but Marco had already picked it up, so mine went for naught. Until now. As you can see, I liked it much more than he, but it took me a couple of viewings to get it. I think I eventually gave it an 80.

The Charge
The story of the person who became the captive of surrealistic madness. (Note: this is the film's official tagline. It's quite lame.)

The Case
Like any film that advertises itself being about "surrealistic madness", much of Polish writer/director Grzegorz Cisieckiís Smoke is up to the interpretation of the viewer. My interpretation goes a little like this: a man loses the love of his life to death and needs to find a way to deal with it. After a half-hearted attempt to keep himself on the proverbial straight-and-narrow, he allows his baser instincts to control him and willingly enters a world where every sort of vice is the norm. There are repeated warnings, but he chooses not to hear them, especially since he has been granted his heart's desire: reuniting with his love. But he discovers that it's not the same, and this love and this new life are hollow imitations of his former reality.

In other words, this is akin to a film interpretation of the Eaglesí song ďHotel CaliforniaĒ.

Since there is no discernible dialogue in the film, Cisiecki relies on his score and his imagery to sell the film, and both do a credible job.

The music switches from quiet to chaotic in time with the scenes. Most of it is a simple, slow, slightly discordant piano tune, at least until the alternate reality, which favors something resembling backward-masked electronica. Each musical snippet supports its scene very nicely, although some of the transitions are a bit jarring and take a moment to sync with the story.

The most effective imagery is in the dying of the manís love. It doesnít show the actual death (that would make what happened too clear). Instead, the two are in bed looking at each other when he pulls the sheet quite abruptly over her head, as one would do to cover a corpse. The next shot is him, alone, on a sterile-white, sheet-less bed, followed by her, wearing a blood-red chemise, exiting out of a smoke-filled doorway.

The manís vices are represented by a glutton. He appears first as a forlorn figure under the manís control. After the man enters his hookah-bar alternate reality, the glutton is clearly the one in charge. Even when the man is reunited with the figment of imagination that his love has become, the glutton is nearby, both a catalyst for the reunionís ability to happen and a reminder that none of it is real. He embodies the vices for others as well, taking a menu that was offered to someone else, and parroting anotherís movements to show that it was the vice that was the controlling factor in the action.

Religious subtext abounds, as the glutton appears quite devilish, including a red tint on the screen at one point. A woman wearing something like a priestís collar mouths soundless words. A cross appears on someoneís skin. All seven of the Biblical ďdeadly sinsĒ are on display, in one form or another, beginning with our friend the glutton snorking down food as fast as his hands can get it to his mouth. We also have a dead body (wrath), two probably-naked women kissing and another watching (kind of an odd choice for envy, Iíd say, but her look says it all), a priest groping a woman (both lust and an indictment on the church. Perhaps. The problem with this kind of thing is itís very easy to take interpretation too farÖ), and a woman looking truly miserable (despair). As for avarice and pride, theyíre pretty much par for the course for everyone present, including and especially the glutton.

The end of the movie gives us the man sitting at a table, with his love only a blurry presence in the back of the room.

Of course, this is what I got out of the film. Other people no doubt found other things that stuck out to them, and since thatís what a film like this is all about, Iíd have to say Smoke is very successful. Youíll just have to watch it and decide its meaning for yourself.

The picture and sound are both at the mercy of what your computer (or phone or gaming system or however youíre connecting to the internet these days) can handle, since the film is available (as far as I can find) only on Vimeo and YouTube. It is available in HD, and my picture and sound were both quite good, even at full-screen.

The Verdict
After pondering the evidence twice, Smoke is found not guilty.

Week 3 1/2
June 18th, 2011 5:23AM

Working third shift on my "day job" has given me a bit of insomnia, so I thought I'd talk a bit about the two reviews that have been published.

I requested William & Kate because Anna was really into the royal wedding. She is a much more empathetic movie watcher than I, so the heart-tugging moments of the film really affected her. Which was great for me, 'cause it gave me many opportunities to hold her, and I can never get enough of those.

In the movie Kate apparently just happens to get thrown into the same study group as William, which is how their friendship begins. He doesn't consider her anything more than a school chum until the see-through dress, when he exclaimed in the movie, "She's hot!"

Here is the real dress compared to the original:

Hmm...the image code doesn't seem to work. Here are links instead.
The original dress

The movie dress

You can tell which was designed by the student and which was designed by a professional.

The movie plays Kate as acting uninterested in a relationship with William, even after her boyfriend conveniently dumps her because she won't move away with him. A jaded part of me wonders how much of that is true, or whether the real Kate threw herself in his path. I suppose I could research what really happened, but a) I doubt I'd be able to find any unbiased accounts of the actual relationship and b) I don't really care enough to bother.

My second published review (my first review is still in hock. Since I haven't been asked to re-write it or anything, my new theory is that it's just being held until we have a day when there aren't enough reviews ready for release.) was for The Red Green Show Midlife Crisis Years. Again, I requested it partially because I knew Anna liked the show. I had seen a few episodes here and there, but my ex reallllly hated it so I was mostly unfamiliar with it.

It's a show that works much better than it should, considering it was around for 15 years. And perhaps if I had watched it from the beginning, the Midlife Crisis seasons would have seemed much less funny. Judge Adam Arseneau did a review of the 2001 stand-alone season back in 2009 and his take was a little more dour than mine. In fact, he gave it a "guilty" plea. Of course, that was the season of the Return of Harold, so I can't blame him. The 2000 season was much better and upped my overall numbers for the set. If it had contained, say, the 2001-2003 seasons, my judgment might have been a little worse.

The set contained 54 episodes and I spent every moment of spare time I had watching them. I made an Excel spreadsheet and rated each sketch as I watched, then averaged the ratings for the score of the episode, then averaged...well, you get the idea. You also presumably get the idea that I'm a complete nerd, which isn't completely inaccurate.

This image doesn't work either.

I've been rather fortuitous, in retrospect, by getting these films to review. They're both made for TV, which means they both used 2-channel stereo sound. I didn't give the technical side of things much consideration when I made my film requests, but I should have 'cause if I had ended up with a real movie that supported 5.1 surround sound, I would not have been able to write about it, since I don't actually have surround sound. I have rectified that deficit by ordering a refurbished 5.1 system from Best Buy. I didn't do any actual research, as I probably should have, but it seemed like a good price for a decent system at 2:30 in the morning after nine hours of work.

It should be arriving just in time for my next film, which does support 5.1. I can't quite get a feel for the film yet; I have a feeling it's going to be either really good or really really bad. Guess we'll find out together.

Week 3
June 15th, 2011 1:59AM

Fear not, as-yet-nonexistent readers! I skipped a week, but not because I already gave up on the blog. It was simply because there was nothing new to say.

Now, in week 3, there is. William & Kate came out today. It was my second review; the first is still in the editing bay. Not sure why, but I figure Iíve annoyed my editors enough so Iím not going to ask. Let things happen in their own time, thatís my (new) motto.

I do have to admit to a small bit of jealousy. Fellow newbie judge Dawn Huntís review of Snoopyís Adventures beat mine by a couple of days. But at least now we can both say weíre officially professional reviewers.

Formatting the reviews has been a small challenge. Mike sent out a template and I have followed it as closely as I can, but I donít know enough about the technical side of DVDs so I keep putting the wrong things in the wrong places. For instance, the first review was in black and white and I couldnít find anything on the box or at IMDB about the technical specs except that the aspect ratio was 1.66. The box actually said 35mm, which I know refers to the original cinema film, not the DVD , but I couldnít find any other details. I eventually wrote ď1.66 35mmĒ, which I knew was wrong but was the only guess I had.

Both Mike and Michelle have given me tips since then on correct formatting and Iím fairly confident that Iím getting closer to having it right. I tried Googling ďaspect ratioĒ and got a small education about that part, but Iím still looking for a good source of learning for the other technical aspects. Maybe I should take some filmmaking classes.
Anyway, the next batch of films has been sent out so I need to pick my list. Iím trying to pick things from the backorder list to help clear it out, but there are clear reasons why most of the films on that list werenít picked up by someone before. A lot of them are well beyond obscure.

Week 1
June 2nd, 2011 2:15PM

Hi! I'm Josh, and as of May 2011, I'm officially a probationary judge here at the Verdict (as it turns out they we call them^ourselves). I've been bumping around the staff lounge for the last couple of days, opening and closing doors to see what's on the other side and generally making a nuisance of myself. I came across this blog function and decided I'd try to start a blog that talked about my experience here from the "ground up", as it were. (Yes, it's true -- people who use the term "as it were" are total nerds.)

A few others have blogs, but only Mac McEntire's appears to have been updated within the last six months (although I confess that I didn't check everyone's) and all the other blogs seem more geared toward more review-type stuff (like blog reviews) or up-and-coming releases or RIP's for deceased film industry people. So I'm hoping to do something a little different here.

I've spent my first week harassing my editor with questions for which, it turned out, the answers were already coming. Since my editor is also the Chief Justice, I started to worry that the constant barrage would sour him toward me before I even began, so I've switched to pestering Chief Counsel Melissa Hanson instead, on the grounds that she is a licensed social worker and therefore must have a super-human, deep-rooted patience.

Also during my first week I was given my first-and-a-half assignment. The half-an-assignment came in the form of an email Chief Counsel Hanson asking if anyone wanted to review a short film1. I got excited, asked some dumb questions, and watched and reviewed the film. That review will never be seen by anyone else, because it turned out that the assignment had already been picked up by Judge Marco Duran. Fortunately the film turned out to be pretty interesting, so Iím glad I ended up watching it.

My actual first assignment came in the mail a few days later (thanks for the delay, holiday weekend!). I wonít go into a great amount of detail about how the films get assigned, but I will mention that I didnít know what film Iíd be watching until I opened the package. I love that about this job; itís like Christmas once a week. My first film was one I had never heard of (let alone seen) before, which is the next great thing about doing this. Itís like when I used to go to the theater at a random time and pick whatever movie happened to have the next start time.

This is an exercise that I highly recommend, by the way; it has led me to movies I may never have seen otherwise, like Once which, since I saw it with Anna during an extremely romantic chain of events (we bought the soundtrack as soon as we left the movie and danced to it under the stars. MmmmÖ), is now one of my favorite films of all time.

Anyway, I got the movie on Tuesday and watched and reviewed it that night. Now itís sitting in the Editing bay waiting for its time on stage. And thatís the third great thing about doing this: soon it will be out there for other people to read. The double anticipation of waiting for that to happen while simultaneously waiting for the next mystery film is keeping me in a frenzy, but between work and the boys and Anna, Iíve got plenty to keep myself distracted. Usually.

Since in my experience no one reads blogs past a couple of paragraphs (if they read blogs at all), Iíll end this first ever post here. There are no guarantees that I won't bail on this at any time without warning and it will join the list of blogs last updated four years ago, but that's a chance I'm willing to risk for you, my loyal yet nonexistent readers.

Thanks for reading! Assuming someone eventually does! If not, I retract the thanks!

~ Josh

1 Ė Iím not sure about the official policy on talking about films before the reviews have been released, so I wonít mention the names of unreleased titles.

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