Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
If Nicolas Cage movies were compared to a fine wine, than this movie will taste like a year freshly corked. The first Ghost Rider movie was incredibly so-so. Its effects were hard to see, the villains were non-threatening, and the plot was an overall joke. All-in-all, this film would have been laughed off a high school stage.
Johnny Blaze, a stunt man, makes a Faustian bargain in order to cure his father of lung cancer. Shocker! The Devil doesn’t play fair. Blaze’s father dies in a motorcycle accident instead. After his death, the Devil makes Johnny his minion by changing him into Ghost Rider. Whenever evil is about he turns into a flaming skeleton. He can control flames, has enchanted chains, and can basically suck out souls. In the sequel, Nicholas Cage is attempting to control the demon inside a lot more than he did in the first. He can even go out in sunlight as Ghost Rider, which is new.
This time around, the effects are a lot better. The action is more visible and the threats are a lot more viable. This time it’s not just Mephistopheles’ spoiled brat trying to get souls; the Devil is actually close to bringing forth the antichrist. The stakes are raised a little more since the last film. The Devil also has a minion who can cause things to decay with his touch (with the exception of Twinkies). It’s a pretty sweet villain. With the effects and the action being greatly enhanced, what puts the cherry on top is the fact that it’s Nicholas Cage acting like a smartass most of the movie. Cage’s dialogue is mostly one liners and him going over-the-top. This makes it a delight to watch if you are a fan.
The movie is a lot of fun. It’s much better than the first and you can easily see it and enjoy it if you never saw the first. The entertainment value of movies like this comes largely from the “cheesiness” factor- a quality this film does not lack. Still, it’s played off really well. The script is good and the story is very solid with a lot of great action and cool effects that make for good fun. My advice is pretty simple. See it, if you can.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I’ll admit when I saw the preview for “Chronicle” I was not that impressed. I thought it looked more like a POV version of the first X-Men movie. The villain kid looked like the sort of 2-D stock character that gets powers and lets it corrupt him because now he thinks he is superior. I am so glad I decided to go see it after all. This movie surprised the heck out of me. The characters are all amazingly well developed. The acting is great. The story is really well done. For supposedly being a POV movie, the camera work is some of the best I’ve ever seen and the effects are really fun to watch.
The “villain,” Andrew, is a High School Senior who is victimized by his alcoholic father. His Mother is dying of cancer and he is bullied and harassed by people in and out of school. He has few friends save his cousin, Matt. The movie makes you pity Andrew. You like him and don’t want bad things to happen to him. In a lot of ways it’s understandable why he snapped and the story does a great job showing us the path to that end.
Andrew and Matt befriend a guy named Steve at a big party. While hanging apart from the crowd, the three discover a mysterious hole in the ground with some thing that gives them all telekinetic powers. They soon discover that the more they use their powers, the stronger they get with them. Since Andrew has taken to filming everything in his life, we get to watch this unfold and see what will become of it, for good or ill.
All three of the boys are really well played. Their relationship together is like something out of a coming of age story at times. They seem to care for one another which makes Andrew’s fall from grace all the more tragic. The relationships work so well between the boys and so caustically between Andrew and his abusive father. You can feel the tension mount every time the man yells at his son because deep down you know that if the boy wanted to, he could crush the man like an insect.
This leads me too the acting. I am not sure where they found Dane DeHaan, but that was an amazing choice in casting him as Andrew. The guy is vulnerable and angry with all the angst that high school can chuck at a guy, and manages to look like he is ready to crack. The part of Matt, played by Alex Russell was also well done. He plays the voice of reason in just about every given situation. He does it believably well at least. Finally we have the alcoholic father, played by Michael Kelly who was a security guard in the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”. He was an exquisite asshole and was great at making the audience hate him.
The story reminded me a tad of “Carrie” at times, mostly because both are about a misfit teen that gains awesome powers, then snaps. However, both have different story arcs and you can’t compare the two beyond what I mentioned before. The plot is actually very clever at letting you see how each boy deals with things in given situations. Seeing as how this is a POV movie, they find unique ways to get other views to chronicle this tale such as having a girlfriend as a video blogger or getting security camera footage.
After seeing possibly the worst POV movie this year (“The Devil Inside”) it is really nice to see a movie take care to actually show you what the hell is going on. In Andrew’s case, he has telekinesis so he can levitate the camera around himself and films himself in amazing angles and doesn’t need to worry about holding a camera, nor holding it steady. It’s a brilliant idea. They utilize anything that can be considered a camera for this movie and use it when they can. At one point he steals a crowd of people’s cameras and cell phones and just have them surround him. The effects are very cool. There final fight scene like something out of a comic geeks dream. It’s very fun to watch and it is very impressive.
This is one of those movies that is a really good surprise. I am sure it’ll impress most people who watch it like the first “Paranormal Activity” did and spread through word of mouth. I think we can expect a lot of great work in the future from Dane DeHaan as well. If you are in the mood for really great movie this is one that is completely worth seeing in theaters. I am just glad I decided to listen to the recommendation of a friend of mine and give it a chance.
Monday, February 6, 2012
“The Woman in Black” is a tale of mediocrity with jump scares. The acting is okay but at times it is absolutely farfetched. The setting and the atmosphere are the things this movie really has going for it. The story itself is as weak as a bland tea and left me with a lot of questions. Walking out of the theater, I came up with at least three different endings that would have made the movie much more satisfactory.
The story takes place in Edwardian age London where Arthur Kipps, played by Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter, is venturing to Eel Marsh estate to take care of the it’s paperwork. Radcliffe plays a young lawyer who is dealing with the loss of a wife and managing a four-year old boy. The conflict facing Arthur Kipps is that the estate is menacingly foreboding. It’s also got a very illogical curse on it which makes me wonder why the village hasn’t burned the house to the ground. The supporting actors do a fine job. Radcliffe does well in this roll, but at times it feels like he’s a boy dressed up in a man’s clothing. His role as a parent doesn’t feel natural like it does with the other actors. That is not to say that he would never be able to play the roll of a father, I just think he should wait a few more years.
The atmosphere is the most alluring part of this movie. The foggy streets of London feel like they were lifted out of a Sherlock Holmes story. The small town he arrives in feels isolated and gives all the same setting elements (small town, cold, gothic) that Hammer studios made popular with it’s re-telling of the stories of Dracula and Frankenstein. Eel Marsh itself seems to ooze fear. The moment you see it it’s almost the textbook definition of what a haunted house would look like.
While the atmosphere shines, the story line is really lackluster. The spine chilling effects of the house and setting is just not enough. Sadly, the movie resorts to the cheapest tactic of all- jump scares. The cheap scares are too many to count and they become so predictable that you begin to expect them behind every corner. The problem is, after enough of them even Radcliffe seems to have had enough. Lastly, his character doesn’t seem nearly shocked enough to be in a house that is clearly haunted by supernatural entities.
Without giving away too much there is not a lot of reason for the things that are happening here. When it comes to a ghost story a little background is often very welcome. It makes the audience sometimes wonder more about the person haunting the place. Take for example: “The Ring”. You knew a ton about Samara and almost sympathized with her before you realized she was a completely malevolent character. In “The Woman in Black” it’s one big mystery that you get only small answers to. Things are kind of tossed in a bag of “it’s haunted, go with it.”
Would I say this is a bad movie? Not particularly. However, I wouldn’t recommend going to the theaters to see it. If you want to see it at all, rent this one. It’s a movie that is flawed in a lot of ways but it wasn’t completely unwatchable. My guess is if they gave it another pass through the editing room, re-shot some scenes, and maybe gave it an R or UR rating, it could be really good. Not every haunted house movie is going to be the original 1963 version of “The Haunting”. Sometimes you have to take what you can get.