I love movies, all movies no matter what genre, who's in it or how much money was put into it. As an aspiring writer/director, I see film as the ultimate art form. It's an outlet to express yourself, change the world, and last but not least, a way to be entertained.
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5 STAR: Masterpiece. A milestone in cinema
4 STAR: Best of the Year
3 STAR: Entertaining. Delivers on its promise
2 STAR: Too flawed to recommend
1 STAR: Pure Crap
1/2 STAR: Epic Bad - I reserve this rating for those special movies that are so bad that they're awesome in their own right (think Tommy Wiseau)
Blood Rage is a laughably silly slasher film where the whole premise is void of logic, the acting is horrendous, and the low budget feel poses too many awkward situations. This movie seemed like a small production studio's attempt to capitalize on the Nightmare on Elm Street popularity, but instead of an iconic killer like Freddy Krueger, Blood Rage introduces Todd and his evil twin Terry (both played by Mark Soper). While they were kids, Terry kills someone and blames it on Todd, and everyone without question send Todd to a mental institution because he was too traumatized to tell the truth. One night, ten years later, Todd escapes, which gives Terry the chance to go on a murderous rampage that everyone thinks Todd is the perpetrator. The blood effects are incredibly fake, every actor gives an unintentionally hilarious performance, particularly Louise Lasser who gives one of the most unconvincing breakdowns I've ever seen. All this set to a 80s music score that would be better suited to an action film like The Terminator. Some films can be recommended because they're so bad that they're good. This doesn't quit cross that line. It's just bad.
Reasons why The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is awesome: 1) The title is misleading; it isn't The Desolation of Smaug, it's The Desolation of Legolas; 2) Dwarves in barrels mowing down orcs, freaking hilarious; 3) It's not that it's unfaithful to the book; it's very faithful to the book, Peter Jackson just added a lot of cool stuff; 4) High Frame Rate rocks; screw you non-believers; 5) For fans of Lost, Evangeline Lilly plays the elf version of Kate - she can't decide which man she wants to be with; 6) I feel sorry for any movie from now on that tries to include a dragon. Compared to Smaug, yours will suck; 7) Benedict Cumberbatch; 8) The orc death scenes rival any zombie kill in The Walking Dead; 9) Peter Jackson eating a carrot; 10) Did I mention Smaug? This second installment to The Hobbit proves that this trilogy is not in the same league as The Lord of the Rings. But that's okay. J.R.R. Tolkien's book doesn't have the same depth as his follow up epic, but it is a whole ton of fun to read. Likewise, this film is crazy fun to watch. It is best to think of The Hobbit: The Desolaton of Smaug in a similar light to a film like Fast & Furious 6. This is not an insult (especially if you know how much I love The Fast and the Furious movies). It just means that audiences should not compare the two trilogies. Go into this film expecting a great albeit simplistic story, but most importantly to have fun. You will not be disappointed.
Okay, first the bad news: The Hobbit runs about thirty minutes too long: the first hour takes so much time setting the story up that it begins to feel tedious by the 45 minute mark. Because of this, I can't put it in the same league as Peter Jackson's monumental Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which was not only a flawless adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fantasy novels, but also one of the best film trilogies of all time. Now with that aside, once the set up is done, The Hobbit frequently exhibits the same magic and wonder of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Despite being so CGI heavy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a gorgeous looking movie. Every frame, cut, and shot is amazing. Chief among making this possible is the high speed projector rate of 48fps. The detail in the shots, the clarity of the movements, and the 3D technology is the most amazing visual experience you will have at the cinema this or any year. The High Frame Rate may be jarring at first because the characters move so smoothly, but once your eyes adjust, it's a truly unique experience. The action scenes are breathtaking. Martin Freeman's performance as Bilbo melds clever humour with emotional depth. The company of dwarfs are all remarkably lovable characters, and the returning characters like Elrond, Frodo, and Galadriel are welcome additions to enhance nostalgia. Gollum's return in particular is as creepy and suspenseful as any of his scenes in LOTR. This is great action filmmaking, and while Peter Jackson shows his tendency to self indulge a little too much, he hasn't quite lost his touch.
Another horror movie with completely wasted potential. I mean you can't expect much else from a Platinum Dunes production, but the premise of all crime being legal for one night as a way of keeping America crime free for the other 364 nights is a pretty intriguing one. It should have given a much better treatment than The Purge. Nonetheless, we have an 85 minute film that is for the most part a very standard and predictable home invasion thriller. Masked vigilantes try to break into a house and the family, consisting of horror veteran Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, and their two young children, fight back. There's CGI gore aplenty. There's cookie cutter villains and a very patriarchal overtone to the whole thing where "father knows best." Yes, the all-American nuclear family is very well celebrated by the end of the film. The film brings up the issue that the purge is a way to eliminate the lower class. Those who can't afford security systems to bar themselves in during the purge are the ones who are subject to either kill or be killed. Thus, the poor are the main victims and as they die off every year, unemployment drops and the economy improves. There's material for a great film. But of course The Purge doesn't really explore this. So what we have instead is a standard shoot em up, one that isn't even that exciting.
Being the only $200 million budgeted film this summer to feature no stars and a horrible trailer marketing it as a "Transformers vs Godzilla" knockoff, Pacific Rim has a long uphill battle ahead of it. Hopefully, word of mouth will get around to sell the damn thing, because it's a pretty decent blockbuster. Like most of this year's summer movies, Pacific Rim is heavy on special effects and light on story. But what makes the movie worthwhile is director Guillermo del Toro. The man behind the brilliant masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth, del Toro's focus is on developing a truly unique and believable world, while telling a story we actually care about. Perhaps the coolest thing about the film is that the robots can only be programmed by two people through the process of mind-melding, which literally connects two people through their minds, memories, and thoughts. In other words, finding the right co-pilot requires mutual trust, respect, and friendship. This dramatic stuff is what Del Toro excels at, and while the script glosses over a lot of potential character development that could have been explored in greater detail in relation to this concept, he knows how to get his actors to communicate feelings with subtlety. The robot designs look great and their slow movements mimic a sense of realism in relation to their size. Some of the monsters look a little goofy, suggesting that this material may have been better served in the anime format, but Pacific Rim kick starts a potential franchise about as good as Man of Steel and Avatar respectively did. Only time will tell if the masses agree.