Monday, August 29, 2016

Don’t Breathe – review

Conceptually, Don’t Breathe is a scary idea. The movie is replete with tension, complete with occasional jump scares and camera angles that build up on the fear. The acting is also very good, making the antagonist of the film seem both pitiable and deranged. If there is one flaw to this movie is that the writing made the protagonist unbelievably stupid and fairly unlikable given her motivation.

Rocky, played by Jane Levy, Alex, and Money are three criminals that make a living breaking into homes in Detroit. Rocky has an abusive, alcoholic mother so she is desperate for money to get her and her sister moved to California. Money hears of a blind veteran who is supposed to have $300,000 stashed at his house. The gang pack up and attempt to rob the blind man. Little do they know that just because he is blind, he is far from being as helpless as they imagined.

Jane Levy does a great job acting scared. She is not the most likable character but when she is on screen you can believe that she thinks she is going to die. The blind man, played by Stephen Lang, is also believable. His performance was like a mix of his past performances ranging from pathetic Ike Clanton from Tombstone to his angry badass role as Colonel Quaritch, from Avatar. There are times when I was disgusted by his character’s insanity but also pitied him for what brought him to that state.

I am not a burglar. My knowledge of breaking and entering is limited to: Don’t do it. These characters have been at this a long time but still seem so dumb.  They talk loudly, they leave enough evidence to fill an entire crime lab, they do not plan beyond face value, and they do not know when to leave. Just adding the motivation for Rocky to leave her abusive household is not enough to make her altruistic in my eyes. She could get a job and move out of her Mom’s place and call Child Protective Services on her mother.

Despite its shortfalls, Don’t Breathe is great at building tension. The camera often focuses on just the character’s face so that the audience cannot see what is coming behind the corner or they won’t notice something fast moving until it is too late. The darkness plays its own role in the film, keeping you on edge until the end.

Don’t Breathe is a flawed but good movie. The ending felt a bit hollow as there was no catharsis and it has a bitter feeling of evil winning with no lesson learned. It is certainly worth renting and possibly worth a matinee if you are a horror fan. Don’t Breathe would be a great companion movie with Hush, which came out recently as well. The thrills are legitimate and will have you leaving the theater with pieces of chair stuck under your nails from griping the seat.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) – review

The idea of a reboot of Ghostbusters did not thrill me.  When I saw the commercial it looked gimmicky and screamed “cash-grab.” Still, I went in hoping for the best from this movie that stared a group of funny women and headed by a competent comedic director.  The movie is okay but flawed. There are some funny moments that make the film likable but they are marred by an underwhelming story and poorly written characters.

Dr. Erin Gilbert, played by Kristin Wiig, is a physics teacher attempting to gain tenure. A former book she published with Dr. Abby Yates, played by Melissa McCarthy, is causing problems with her credibility. When Gilbert confronts Yates they team up with engineer Holtzmann, played by Kate McKinnon, to investigate a haunted mansion. Upon discovery of the ghost, they work to trap the spiritual entities. Patty Tolan, played by Leslie Jones, an MTA worker that has witnessed the paranormal first hand, eventually joins them.  Together they must face an evil nerd who wants to create an undead apocalypse.

In the original film, the Ghostbusters had quirky personality types that play well against a world that plays it straight through the film. In the Paul Feig Ghostbusters world everybody is quirky so the main characters need to be VERY quirky. This aspect comes off a bit annoying. The character of Holtzmann was painful to watch. This was disappointing since McKinnon is amazing on SNL. The secretary Kevin, played by Chris Hemsworth, is hunky and over-the-top stupid. Considering that Ghostbusters has a very strong girl power message it felt out of place by having Erin drool over the pretty but incompetent secretary.

The acting was enjoyable. Abby and Erin do their parts well but the character of Patty was surprisingly good. She was upbeat and the character was not too intense. The evil nerd that causes all the spiritual mischief is amusing as well, though his motivation was a bit trite. He is basically evil because he was picked on. The idea of a vexed, angry geek is a lot less threating than a Babylonian god. There are many cameos, which sometimes work well and fit into the plot and other times take you out of the movie by knocking you on the head as if saying “Remember Ghostbusters!”  

As a whole this version of Ghostbusters is okay. It might be worth a rental if you are really curious. It is not nearly the caliber of the original. It feels a lot more like an SNL sketch that was stretched for time. It has moments that make it enjoyable but it still comes off as a gimmicky as a concept as Blues Brothers 2000.  If the mood “meh” had a face it might look like the reboot of Ghostbusters.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Suicide Squad – review

Suicide Squad is an interesting concept for a movie and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but it is also flawed.  The acting is fine but the story is muddled. I can’t help but feel that Suicide Squad was a good movie that was edited into a much tamer and forgettable film. Still, it is colorful and stylized but without the substance that audiences have come to expect from comic book movies as of late.

In the wake of Superman’s death in the film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Government official, Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis, assembles a team of super criminals to do the dirty jobs of the government. She has them implanted with nano-machines that will detonate if they escape or fail their mission. When a rogue magic-user threatens to destroy the world, it is up to the Task Force X to save the day.

The movie has a great soundtrack and is visually appealing. Jared Leto’s take on the Joker is fascinating and new. There are a lot of charismatic characters but sadly they are not given much depth. The ones that are focused on mostly are Deadshot, played by Will Smith, and Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie. They play their parts well but the story does not give them ample motivation to act as they do. Minor characters are there just to add color to the movie but, like sprinkles on a cupcake, they do nothing but appear as decoration. There are cameos from Ben Affleck and Ezra Miller who appear as Batman and the Flash as if to remind the audience that we are in the same DC Cinematic Universe. It almost seems silly to add them since they could have solved this situation in very quick order; there must have been a superhero day off.

The character of Amanda Waller is portrayed as a character that has contingency plans for contingency plans. Picking crazy people, expert marksmen, and circus freaks to act as a team has so many variables to be believed that she would make the selections she does. The world ending threat is pretty much Waller’s fault. So Task Force X is just cleaning up her mess for not thinking things through. There are plot points that go nowhere such as when the prison guard, played by Ike Barinholtz, is confronted by the Joker to get stuff to Harley in prison. He vanishes and we never see if he is killed or dealt with in any way, shape, or form.

None of the “bad guys” seem that bad to be in the position they are in. The exception is Harley Quinn, whose role is literally the wild card. When going to a party a “wild card” can be fun. When creating a group to save the world, the “wild card” is a stupid idea. At one point we find out Captain Boomerang has three consecutive life sentences- for what!? He robbed a diamond exchange and killed his partner. Harley even has her nano-machines disabled at one point and still chooses to remain with the team to fight the big evil. Deadshot is motivated by wanting to not appear bad to his daughter so it is not as if the team consisted of Adolph Hilter, Osama Bin Laden, and the Hamburglar.

Superhero movies lately have spoiled audiences.  It seems that people expect something profound from these comic films. Taken at face value, Suicide Squad is mind candy, which is entertaining at the very least but adds no nutritional sustenance. It is flawed but tries to add flavor that is sorely needed to a bleak cinematic universe. It is worth renting if you are a fan of the series or comics. I just wouldn’t recommend shelling out money to see in the theater. Suicide Squad is fun, but not the must-see hit of the summer.