Saturday, August 27, 2011

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark-review

Katie Holmes feels like something bad happened here. She just can't put her finger on it.
            Being a huge fan of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and having dug “The Devil's Backbone”,  I really appreciate Guillermo del Toro’s work.  He really captures the art of the dark fairy tale on film and brings it to life.  This movie is alright in that regard. It is incredibly flawed though and it shows.  The movie itself is a remake of a 1973 made for TV movie of the same name.

Don't get too attached to that Polaroid film kid.
            A little girl names Sally moves into Blackwood Manor with her father and his girlfriend.  Sally, played by Bailee Madison, starts to hear voices calling out to her in the darkness of a sealed fireplace.  She opens the fireplace to investigate and releases fairies which at first she thinks are friendly towards her but then she comes to realize they are much more sinister then she thought.    How can she survive staying in a house with evil Homunculi that aim to kill her when the lights go out?             

            The script is really bad.  That is the first major flaw in this movie. Guy Pearce, who normally is an excellent actor, plays the father, and he completely acts like nobody with a child would act.  Even in the face of overwhelming evidence he still doesn’t believe a word she says.  His girlfriend, played by Katie Holmes, buys into it eventually and becomes the little girl’s savior.

Well, this certainly is inviting.
            The movie is also sort of slow in a lot of regards.  At first you are watching moody little Sally do incredibly stupid things.  Like talk to the obviously horrible fairies in an attempt to befriend them.  This takes up a bulk of the beginning of the movie.  I’ll admit it finally started getting at least a bit interesting when Sally starts to get terrified as she should be about the threat she unleashed on herself and her family.

            The acting is pretty bad at times too. Katie Holmes is just not a great actress.  As for the star Bailee Madison, she has one emotion she can really do well and that is sadness via weeping.  When I saw her in “Brothers” I thought that she was impressive as hell mostly on account that she could bring that emotion out when she needed to.  However, in that she was not on screen nearly as often as this.  This one calls for a lot more and still we get the moody girl who at a whim starts sobbing for almost every scene.  Only this time I don’t believe it.

Shire! Baggins!
            The visuals effects are good. The creatures look creepy as hell considering what they are.  The set itself is pretty awesome.  There is something haunting about a place with fairy rings of mushrooms and a large koi pond near overgrown trees and hedges.  Still, is it worth seeing? Not in theaters, but it is certainly a decent rental if you are up for something different.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Conan the Barbarian (2011)-review

One, two, Freddy's coming for you...
            I am a fan on the original movie staring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  This movie has none of the same feel. The script feels rushed. There are so many plot holes you could mistake it for Swiss cheese.  The acting is awful. Even the editing feels a bit off.  While there are tons of action scenes you can barely tell what the hell is happening or to what character.

            Let me start with the dialogue.  The constant garbage that is spewed out at us as an audience seems like a guise used to create a catch phrase worthy  t-shirt.  Lines like “Barbarian, I don’t like you,” as the evil warlord squares off with Conan.  Is that supposed to be funny?  How about the romance of Conan coming up to his love interest and saying “You look like a harlot.”  Somehow in Hyborian times, this line must work since a couple scenes later he ends up in bed with her.

Barbarians have great dental plans.
Plot holes abound in this cinematic turd.  The evil warlord, Khalar Zym, played by Stephen Lang (who many will remember as the evil Colonel in “Avatar”) has his slaves haul him around in a giant boat.  I don’t know why; it’s never explained.  Also, Conan is apparently able to summon a catapult out of thin air.  That is convenient, to say the very least.

We dwarves are natural sprinters! Very dangerous over short distances!
Zym’s daughter, an oddball little witch named Marique, played by  Rose McGowan, seems to at least be having fun with her part.  Strange enough, her main weapons of choice are the finger blades of Freddy Krueger. She even elects to use those more often than spells for some damn reason.  They also decided to give her an almost incestuous fascination with her father.  Thanks movie. 

I guess even Hyboria has a South.
            Jason Momoa, who plays Conan, is straight-up boring and Rachel Nichols (who you might remember as Scarlett in “GI-Joe: the Rise of Cobra” or as the green girl Kirk is hooking up with in the “Star Trek” movie), the love interest, is easy on the eyes but cannot act at all.  The movie easily doesn’t make you give a crap about anyone in it and so you are not invested in whether they live or die.  The original was a lot better. Hell, “Conan the Destroyer” was a lot better.   This movie sucks. 

Fright Night (2011) –review

Is it really hard to hate characters like Evil Ed in the original 1985 movie when they act like THIS?!

Ooh cross burning.  That doesn't look good to the neighbors.
            I am one of the few folks I know that is both a huge horror fan and not a big fan of the original “Fright Night” from 1985.  It’s not that it’s an awful movie.  It’s campy and fun sometimes. The acting is shit, and the character’s are completely unlikable save for Peter Vincent played by Roddy McDowall and the vampire Jerry played by Chris Sarandon.  A remake was not necessary given what they were working with.

A la peanut butter sandwiches!
            All you need to know is high school lad, Charlie lives with his mother in Las Vegas.  A vampire named Jerry moves next door and murders begin.  Charlie figures this out when his ex-friend Ed turns up missing.   Will Charlie be able to stop this Vampire menace or will he, his mother and his girlfriend end up part of Jerry’s unending quest for blood?  

Go ahead. Make my day.
With a simple plot like that they make a movie that is fantastic.  It has action, horror, suspense, some great humor and a decent cast that can act.  The plot is somewhat changed from the original in a good way.  The characters have decent dialogue that actually makes you give a crap about them.  Ed is not a joke but more a tragic character and a threat.  Charlie, played by Anton Yelchin, works well playing off the others characters like his mother, Toni Collette, his girlfriend Amy, played by Imogen Poots and David Tennant the Chris Angel clone version of Peter Vincent. 

            The effects are great.  The action is really bold.  I think they did a really great job with this movie.  Collin Ferrell is in top form and is absolutely what you would expect a vampire who has lived a long time and has little to fear to act.  He is a smooth criminal and it shows.  Personally, I think this version is better than the original.  You are less likely to laugh from the cheese factor and more from the clever dialogue in this version. 

You've got red on you.
            Sometimes a remake can be better than the original.  “The Thing” is one of my favorite movies and it is much better than the original in my opinion.  I like that Chris Sarandon had a cameo in this movie.  That was added an element of class.  So see this movie.  It’s a good one.  Happy watching.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Help-review

Excuse me? Do you know where I can find the liquor department?
            “The Help” is about a girl named Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, played by Emma Stone, who comes back from college to find her beloved childhood maid gone.  Aibileen Clark, played by Viola Davis and Minny Jackson, played by Octavia Spencer are both African-American maids who struggle to make ends meet and get through their daily lives.  Skeeter decides to write about their stories from the perspective of the house help raising white kids and taking care of families in 1960s Mississippi.

One of these women has rum in their Coke. Can you guess which one?
            That is the short of the plot and as a whole it tackles a lot about racial lines in 1960s.  The cast is very believable and realistic for the time period; Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer really bring their characters to life.  A few other actresses that stood out as great in making this movie more spectacular was Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney, Jessica Chastain, and Bryce Dallas Howard.   A lot of credit goes to Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard’s Daughter FYI), who plays the racist, snooty, rich bitch in town.  I have seen her play a lot of roles in the past but never one like this.  Well done at making an audience hate you so much.

I see EVERYONE forgot their white hoods this meeting.
            It’s a really good movie.  I had a feeling with “Easy A” Emma Stone was going to be able to handle better roles and this is proof she has a lot of what it takes to be more than just a pretty face.  Not that the others in the cast weren’t amazing too. The movie is certainly one that will make you feel a certain rage at the inequalities the past. There is a lot to take in whenever you watch anything about the turbulent 1960s.  We certainly shouldn’t whitewash history to make it more palatable or today’s audiences.

Let's just put a nice red "A" on this dress for old time sake.
            So would I recommend this movie? Yes, in a heartbeat. It’s a really great bit of drama. The cast is really strong. The plot is smart and well told.  I think as a whole they found a clever way to portray a Civil-Rights era mood.  I’d also like to add that as this director’s film director Tate Taylor’s film debut.  Well done!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Troll Hunter-review

Seriously? How does Norway keep these things hidden?
            “Troll Hunter” is a 2010 Norwegian film that has a distinct dark comedy feel with a “Blair Witch Project” look.  A group of college students set out to make a documentary about a supposed bear poacher. They confront him only to discover a vast bureaucratic conspiracy which he is part of involving the hunting of Trolls to keep them from the general public.  The students join him on the hunt in the hopes to reveal their new footage upon their return.

They have a cave troll.
            For the most part it’s an okay movie.  The Trolls look pretty cool when you can see them.  They follow interesting folklore where they can smell Christian blood and they explode or turn to stone in the sun.  There are some funny scenes here and there and the action is alright.  The acting is pretty lackluster with the exception of Otto Jespersen playing Hans, the hunter. I appreciated the fairly decent POV camerawork at least. 

Who's that clip clop clipping over my bridge?
            On the other hand the movie seemed to drag on way too long sometimes. There is a subplot involving a character getting rabies that goes NOWHERE!  Because it’s a found footage movie we get lots of shots of creatures in areas that are too dark that make the Trolls out of focus.  Finally, how can they really make this about a big cover-up conspiracy?  The Trolls are giants that roam the countryside at night.  This is the age of iPhones and YouTube and you are telling me nobody has EVER seen creatures over 200 ft tall flying by in a helicopter or small plane? 

To make a long Troll movie really enjoyable. Try a big dose of heroin.
            Okay let’s say the airspace was blocked off to civilians.  They aren’t exactly the Coelacanth (a fish thought to be extinct then found still alive in 1938) that live underwater.  They are huge mammals that really people would probably benefit to know about and stay the hell away from.  But I am over-analyzing this.    All in all this is an okay movie.  The satire of bureaucracy is amusing at least.  I read on Wikipedia that the rights to a remake have been sold.  So I’d advise that if you have any interest at all you see the original first.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Trick ‘r Treat-review

The children on the bus are creepy as hell, creepy as hell, creepy as hell.
This movie is really close to what is the true spirit of a Halloween movie.  Granted, the original first two “Halloween” movies to me REALLY personified the mood of the Halloween holiday in a movie but then along came this direct to video movie that really shows originality.  It’s four separate stories like “Creepshow”.  However, unlike “Creepshow” “Trick ‘r Treat” has its tales all weave together so that the movie gives four views of one crazy night of horror.  

I'm hot, sticky sweet, from my head to my feet, yeah!
            Most of the stories revolve around a little character named Sam.  He doesn’t say anything and he wears footie pajamas and a burlap sack mask like the illegitimate child of the Scarecrow from “Batman Begins”.    His nature seems benign at first but he is rather strict on enforcing the rules of Halloween. They are as follows:

1. Wear a costume
2. Hand out treats
3. Never blow out a Jack o’ lantern 
4. Always check your candy.

You see Charlie, sometimes a man has an urge to love on a pumpkin bad.
The actors are pretty decent given the subject matter.  The two most notable that stood out for me were Brian Cox and Dylan Baker.  Brian Cox has been in a ton of things before and he gives a sort of gravitas to almost any role.   Dylan Baker is a great character actor who has been in movies ranging from “Fido” and “Across the Universe” to the Spiderman movies.  He is damn good; and he brings that talent from “Fido” back for more.

Sookie Stackhouse here has bigger issues now than just vampires.
I don’t intend to spoil much of the surprises.  There are things many of the average horror fans will probably not like.  There are kids being killed.  There are jump scares and silly CGI effects.  However, if you can handle watching something akin to HBOs “Tales from the Crypt” with much better production values then you can handle this.  It’s got a mix of spooks and humor like you would expect from campfire stories.  I think that is the main appeal.  I recommend this movie to anyone who is in the mood for something new and not too mainstream to bring in the mood of Halloween.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes-review

This is Sparta!
            This movie impressed the hell out of me.  “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” tells the story of the rise of the apes and the fall of men which leads to the “Planet of the Apes” franchise.  This movie therefore seems loosely based off the movie “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.”  Some of the basic names and concepts are there but it really is its own movie.  As its own movie, it works fantastically.

First off, I really didn’t know what to expect from the previews in terms of CGI.  The main ape, Caesar (played by Andy Serkis), was incredible to watch. The expressive primates of the film really make the movie a visually remarkable experience.  WETA workshop did an amazing job creating apes that you can easily become emotionally invested in.  The apes really steal the show and as a whole you root for them the whole time as they have been very cruelly mistreated most of the movie.

Alright! They got Sunny D!
Not to say that the human characters are not fine actors.  James Franco brings a lot of heart to his role as does John Lithgow.  The emotional ties between these characters as father and son are very believable and bring a very real sorrow to the movie.  Franco’s character is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease which his father has.  He is testing it on apes when he discovers it causes their brain functions to increase exponentially. 

Tom Felton as a shitheel? I refuse to believe it.
Tom Felton plays a role as a bully animal caretaker.  Felton, as you might recall was Draco Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” movies.  So playing a bratty shithead was a real stretch for him.  The story is incredible and is like watching the missing link on screen.  This is how I would imagine an ape descendant between man developing language and tactical genius.  I really got chills when all the apes suddenly woke up and realized they were sentient.  That takes astounding talent to portray that realization in a CGI animal’s face.

Keep your Shake-Weight to yourself.
That being said, there are a few things I would have changed.  There is a plot regarding a plague that is shoe-horned into the credits.  That is a bit of an odd choice.  There is also the matter of the extreme animal cruelty that I just can’t handle.  How many times can people be dicks to animals in front of other people without the other people saying anything to stop it?  On the other hand, if cops wanted to stop an ape uprising, is that really such a hard thing with the weapons we possess?  Stupid nitpicks aside, so far this is a serious contender for the best movie of the summer.  The acting is great. The story is wonderful. All-in-all I recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for decent sci-fi movie with a great deal of brains behind it and a lot of heart underneath.  Happy watching.   

Monday, August 1, 2011

Frozen-review with spoilers

Take one down, pass it around, 47 bottles of beer on the wall.
            I saw the preview for this movie and became very interested.  “Frozen” for the most part is a lot like “Open Water”.  The big difference is that the dialogue is a lot better and people are not eaten by sharks in open water.  Instead the plot is about a young couple and their friend that get forgotten on a chairlift of a ski resort.
             When it begins we meet Joe, Dan, and Dan’s girlfriend Parker. They find a way to sucker the lift operator into letting them ride for basically a reduced rate.  Joe is played by Shawn Ashmore, who ironically was Iceman in the X-Men movies and Parker who is played by Emma Bell who would eventually find fame as Amy in the television show “The Walking Dead”.   When riding the ski lift we find that folks in this movie are really dicks to people when the lift stops for even a minute shouting at folks to get it in gear.

            When the resort is pretty much deserted they convince the lift operator to go on one more run.  The operator is called into the boss's office and is replaced by a co-worker who sees three other folks ski down and thinks it’s the three that were on the lift.  So he shuts off the power stranding them.  They assume it’s a technical problem and bitch about it for a while. The dialogue is actually pretty good.

Ewww! Gum!
            Here they talk about the worst way to die.  Eaten by a shark is brought up.  I immediate think more about “Open Water” even more.  The lights go out and they realize they are really fucked.  Normally I would just suck it up, close my eyes and go for the tumble.  Still they sit there freezing.  A snowcat comes along driven by Kane Hodder, who played Jane Voorhees in several “Friday the 13th” movies.  He doesn’t see them throwing shit down in front of him.
            They realize that the resort is closed for a week.  So Dan has no choice but to jump.  He does and breaks both his legs on the ground. Joe attempts to move to another chair lift which is not as high above ground.  After traversing a few feet on the cable, he returns to the chair lift, his hands cut, and holds Parker, preventing her from watching the scene below. Dan is surrounded by a pack of wolves that tear him apart and devour him.

            The next day Parker wakes up to find one her hands stuck to the safety bar.  She pulls it free tearing off a lot of skin in the process.  She and Joe are suffering from frost bite badly.  Joe gets some new resolve and decides to climb the cable again cutting the shit out of his hands.  Joe climbs down the support pole ladder and tries to escape on Parker’s snowboard down the mountain while the wolves chase after him.
Ah man! I fell right in the dog doo!
             Parker's ski lift chair begins tipping as it has started to loosen from its supporting cable. After another night comes and goes Parker realizes help is not coming.  She begins to attempt a jump but the bolt on the chair snaps and the chair falls.  The supporting cable catches the chair so Parker can get down at a safe height.  The chair falls on Parker’s ankle injuring it.  She begins sliding down the mountain and she comes across the bloody remains of Joe being eaten by the wolves.  She makes it to the road where she collapses.  Eventually a car arrives and comes to her aid.

            Like I said, it’s a good movie.  It’s creepy and the dialog is really clever.  I was a big fan of the fact that the wolves were ACTUAL wolves and not CGI jokes. It’s a bit ridiculous that anyone would be stranded that long without everyone just jumping and rolling with the damage and hoping for the best.  It’s a better movie than “Open Water,” though a less terrifying concept.