Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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Ellison (Ethan Hawke) is a true-crime writer who's just moved his family to a house where a family was found hung in the backyard, and the youngest daughter went missing. As Ellison investigates, he discovers a group of old super 8 videos in the attic that show the murder, along with a series of other murders committed all over the country, and in different years and decades. The only connections is that a child went missing, and the image of a strange man with a scary mask is in each of them.
While Ellison probes deeper, mysterious events begin to occur in his house, which leads him to believe the house might be haunted. When his little daughter starts drawing pictures of the missing children, he realizes he's stumbled upon something more than just a simple murder - a supernatural evil that harnesses the souls of children to keep him alive.
Ethan Hawke gives a great performance in this film, as it is spent a lot of time with him wandering the halls of his house hearing spooky noises, at least he keeps it interesting. The ghosts of the children could've been done better, as their makeup was extremely poorly done.
The home movies were sick and twisted, which is what made the film really great - it didn't hold back. Nice, homely titles like "Family BBQ" and "Pool Party" give new, sadistic meanings when Ellison viewed them, and it was fun trying to piece together the puzzle, even if it was somewhat hackneyed and predictable. Unfortunately, most of the truly scary scenes were in the preview so you saw them coming, unless you never saw the trailer, then you'd probably be spooked. A great, dark, atmospheric supernatural film.
"Bully" is a documentary that focuses on the issue of school bullying, centering around several stories of children who were bullied and the aftermath of the actions, including parents whose children killed themselves because they were bullied.
While I thought it was well done and extremely emotional, I wish that there was more on what to do with bullies and how to handle them, instead of just hearing the stories of kids who were bullied. There wasn't as much information regarding what to do with bullies as I think there should've been, it seems that the film was made moreso for the emotional impact it had on audiences and to raise awareness of it, but it's something that's been going on for decades with no real solutions out there as of yet.
Five years after Katie (Katie Featherston) abducts young Hunter, we're taken to Nevada to a seemingly uninteresting family. Young Alex (Kathryn Newton) who, of course, always has a camera. Her younger brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), and their parents Holly (Alexondra Lee) and Doug (Stephen Dunham).
All seems normal, until the new neighbors across the street move in, and young Robbie (Brady Allen) keeps coming over unexpectedly. After an apparent accident lands Robbie's mother in the hospital, Holly agreed to keep Robbie at their house while she recuperates.
As soon as Robbie moves in, strange events begin to happen, and Alex enlists the help of her tech-savvy friend Ben (Matt Shively) to monitor the house through the use of cameras in their laptops. What they discover is something none of them could possibly have imagined.
When the first "Paranormal Activity" came out, everyone reveled in its "revolutionary use" of found-footage filming. I found it completely boring and pointless. Lots of down time with nothing going on, and then the last fifteen minutes BAM everything happens.
Then the second film came out. Once again, a whole lot of nothing with everything happening the last fifteen minutes.
The third one tried to explain what happened in the past and, although I feel it was the best of the series, it still followed the stale formula of nothing happening until the last fifteen minutes.
So I wasn't surprised when the fourth film followed the same tired pattern. A couple lame jump scares, a boring story, nothing happens until the last fifteen minutes when everything goes crazy. They try to keep the storyline going while you can just see the thread growing thinner and thinner. Not that it doesn't make sense - it does - but it's just getting old and stale and just needs to end already.
Gus (Clint Eastwood) is an aging baseball scout who's losing his eyesight, yet he still loves the thrill of the game, even if his methods are a little "old school" for some of the up-and-coming scouts. He's spent his whole life studying baseball, and in the process neglected his now adult daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who is now an aspiring attorney.
Gus heads to North Carolina to do some scouting, and his best friend Pete (John Goodman) urges Mickey to go with him, and she reluctantly accepts.
While scouting local talent, they run into Johnny (Justin Timberlake), whom Gus mentored years ago and is now a talent scout himself. Sparks begin to fly between Johnny and Mickey, while her attempts to get closer to her father falls on deaf ears.
Clint Eastwood comes out of retirement to star in this run-of-the mill dramatic film, and it's his appearance in the film that makes it watchable. He commands the screen, and his chemistry with Amy Adams is amazing. Sure, you can easily predict everything that's going to happen - and you'd be right - but it's the acting chops of these two seasoned veterans that steal the show. Justin Timberlake - not so much. But he works with what he has.
Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) are recently divorced, and he gets custody of his two young daughters Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport) on the weekends. Everything seems to be cordial until he gets a box at a garage sale. Em loves the box, but it seems to be transforming her into something different.
As strange events begin to occur, and unexplained deaths begin to happen, Clyde researches the box and finds that it's not just an ordinary box - it's a Dybbuk box, which, according to Jewish belief, holds the spirit of a demon inside it.
Now Clyde is racing against time to get this demon out of his young daughter before it takes over her completely.
I'm a big fan of religious studies, and the Dybbuk box is a fascinating object. There's a mini documentary in the extras in the movie that talks about a man who owns a Dybbuk box, and the strange happenings that occurred while he had it, and those who had it before him. Unfortunately, this was far more interesting than the actual film, which turned out to be a typical paint-by-numbers supernatural thriller where nothing much is remembered after it ends. It wasn't a bad film, but it wasn't great.
Edgar Allen Poe (John Cusack) is still a struggling poet who's a drunkard and doesn't have a penny to his name, yet he still is able to woo one of the wealthiest women in the town, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve).
To add to Poe's woes, there is a serial killer in Baltimore who is killing according to Poe's poetry. At first, Detective Fields (Luke Evans) suspects Poe, but soon enlists his help to get into the mind of the killer, especially after he kidnaps Emily, forcing Poe to write about his deeds.
Now it's a cat-and-mouse game with the clock ticking on Emily's life, and Poe must delve into the darkness of his own soul to try and find out who is responsible.
"The Raven" is a very clever whodunit film that features one of history's most tortured poets, and Cusack envelops the role like a glove. The kills are extremely graphic and true to Poe's prose, and the acting by everyone was very well done. The only issue I had with the film is the lack of suspects. There's only like four people it could be, and identifying the criminal was relatively easy. They needed some more characters and development, but other than that it's a great crime film.
Matt Eckert (Josh Peck) and his Marine brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth) live in Spokane, Washington, with their father, Sheriff Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen). Life is normal in the town, as Matt just lost the last football game, and is comforted by his cheerleader girlfriend Erica (Isabel Lucas), while Jed's old flame Toni (Adrianne Palicki) realized Jed is back in town.
They go to sleep that night with normal thoughts, but the next morning it's anything but normal. The North Koreans have invaded, and hundreds of them parachute from their planes and infiltrate Spokane. Jed, Matt, Toni and some of their friends manage to escape to their cabin in the woods, but the North Koreans - under the lead of Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) - have taken Erica, their father, and countless other citizens captive.
Faced with a difficult decision, the youth decide to fight back using gorilla-style warfare, striking the North Koreans over and over again, while amassing a strong following of fellow Wolverines (the name of their high school football team). As the battles escalate and casualties are made, a ragtag Marine survival group led by Tanner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) meet up with the Wolverines with a plan to take out the Koreans once and for all.
I remember seeing the original film several years ago but can't recall the specifics of the film, but I remember I liked it. When this film came out, it was almost universally panned as horrible, so I didn't have much hope going into it. Maybe that's why I enjoyed it so much, because they didn't really delve into character development, but instead supplied almost entirely front-to-back action scenes that any action-loving fan would enjoy. Is it perfect? Not by any means. But it is a darn good thrill ride.
Maya (Jessica Chastain) is an agent with one specific purpose - to capture Osama Bin Ladin. Beginning shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Maya follows every lead available, and stops at nothing to find her man, including torturing captive terrorists with the aid of Dan (Jason Clarke). As the years tick by and every lead dries up, Maya is the only one who refuses defeat, and dives herself deeper into her work, which makes her a target of the terrorists.
Finally, after years of fruitless searching, she uncovers the lead she needs, and discovers what she thinks is the hideout of Bin Ladin in Pakistan. Even though there's no real evidence, her confidence convinces the government to send in Seal Team 6 to investigate, which results in the killing of one of the most infamous terrorists of all time.
Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (who won Best Director and Best Picture for "The Hurt Locker") once again returns to her military roots to direct what I feel far exceeds her previous outing, but oddly enough gets snubbed for the Best Director category this year. Regardless, this completely in-depth analysis of how Bin Ladin met his fate is filled with heart-stopping action, dramatic performances and an overall stunning piece of cinema. Jessica Chastain, who was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actress for "The Help," is now the frontrunner for the Best Actress award, and is clearly deserved. Her performance was nothing short of brilliant, drawing you into her obsessive search and keeping you enthralled in the search from beginning to end.
After being struck by lightning as a kid, Misha (Ed Stoppard) is now an advertising genius living in Moscow, working for executive Bob (Jeffrey Tambor) and dating Bob's niece Abby (Leelee Sobieski). But an evil marketing guru (Max von Sydow) has a plan to revitalize the dying fast food industry that results in Misha losing everything and retreating to a solitary life on a secluded farm.
Years later Abby comes back to him, and Misha has a dream that involves killing a red cow, which will result in him seeing things others cannot. He accomplishes this, and is able to see the "spirits" of brands attached to people, controlling their wants and desires, turning them into puppets. Now he has to use his advertising savvy to destroy the fast food industry that's turning the world fat.
For a film about the evils of advertising, they sure did a number on advertising the film itself. In the previews it seems like it's some sort of monsters waging war against humanity, when in reality it's nothing of the sort. In fact, the advertising "monsters" don't even appear until over an hour into the film. Before they arrive the narrative is spent on Misha and how he was deceived into turning the world into a world of fat people through a botched reality show. It's extremely hard to summarize the film, because it's basically very confusing, but it's still compelling enough to keep you engrossed from beginning to end, if only to see the advertising monsters.
Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry) live in "The Bathtub," a rural community south of the levy in Louisiana. Their life isn't glamorous by any means, but they got a strong community with the other citizens, and Wink tries his best to train Hushpuppy to be a strong person, even if his methods are quite unorthodox.
When a storm arrives and drowns the town, those who stayed behind try to rebuild their community, but the government orders them to evacuate, and Wink's medical condition is revealed, resulting in several heart-tugging moments between the father and daughter, and causes Hushpuppy to search for her real mother.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is an unflinching look into the lives of a highly eccentric community where there's not a lot of money or wealth, but there's a whole lot of love. This underestimated gem was finally recognized by the Oscars, earning several of the top nominations - Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress for the eight-year-old Wallis, who was only six at the time of filming. Her performance alone sold the film, as it's normally difficult to direct children, but she possessed a talent far beyond her years, and this nomination is proof of it. Unfortunately I doubt she'll win, but if she does it would be a pleasant surprise.
In a post-apocalyptic world, five strangers travel in search of safety. They find a supposedly abandoned farmhouse and set up shop there, but there's a cannibalistic gang roaming the area, and has their eyes set right on the farmhouse. Now the friends must survive the night by fighting their way through the cannibal army, or be eaten at their hands.
I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies, I find them incredibly fascinating and entertaining, no matter what they are ("The Road," "Carriers," etc). People downplayed this film a lot, so I didn't have a lot of expectations going into it, but what I found was an incredibly tense, atmospheric film filled with drama and lots of violence and gore.
The five actors are five of today's hottest young stars - Shawn Ashmore ("The X-Men"), Ashley Bell ("The Last Exorcism"), Cory Hardrict ("Gran Torino"), Dominic Monaghan ("The Lord of the Rings") and Shannyn Sossamon ("40 Days and 40 Nights"). They all played off each other very well, especially the mysterious character Ashley Bell portrays.
What also struck me was that the film was shot entirely in a dark sepia-like film quality that gives the illusion of hopelessness and sadness (this was done in "The Book of Eli" as well). It was incredible because it felt there was danger at every turn - and in this type of post-apocalyptic world, there was.
To me, it was an all-around great film.
Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave who's rescued by the mysterious and eccentric Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who masquerades as a tooth doctor but is in reality a bounty hunter who needs Django's help to find three men he's looking for to collect a bounty on. He promises Django if he does this, he will give him his freedom, but instead the two team up to find Django's wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was also sold into slavery.
Their travels lead them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) who purchased Broomhilda to work on his vast plantation, called Candie Land. Now the two men must use their intelligence and wit to get into Candie's inner circle and find a way to free Broomhilda.
Director Quentin Tarantino delivers another rousing, biting, sarcastic film filled with his signature dark humor and over-the-top violence. He does this brilliantly, drawing the viewer in from the first scene and keeping hold of them until the very end. At 165 minutes, this is no easy feat, but he does this with his directorial brilliance and the strength of the lead cast.
Jamie Foxx is the star of the show, but his performance sometimes seems hidden by the performances of Waltz, DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, who all have more "meaty" dialogue, since Foxx's character has to be the brooding silent type. Still he delivers an impeccable performance, as does everyone else, and I'm not a fan of westerns, but this one kept my attention throughout. If you can handle a Tarantino film, this one shouldn't be missed.
Young couple Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) just got their own place, and almost immediately it seems there's something wrong with it. Doors close without anyone near them. Lights flicker on and off. A neighbor's dog dies.
It seems that the house is haunted, but a dark secret haunts the couple when it's revealed that Ben had worked with his old friend Patrick (Tom Felton) and some other college friends to try to conjure up a spirit. Instead they brought over something even more terrifying, who longs to be a part of the human world - and if you believe in it, it will suck you into oblivion, or some place like that.
This is just a run-of-the-mill ghost story with nothing that adds anything new to the genre. The bland acting is only the beginning of this trainwreck, that even the production company tried to keep under wraps by not advertising it. Plus if you saw the trailer for the film, you've seen the whole thing. Literally. Even the movie poster gives away the ending. Not scary in the slightest, this is a ghost story that needs to just stay dead.
Eleven years ago Peter Jackson brought to brilliant life the epic J.R.R. Tolkein saga "The Lord of the Rings" to theaters, and they were massive hits, and hold the distinction as some of the best films of the current century. He decided to go back to the well again with "The Hobbit," splitting it up not into two films, but three. What results are longer films with more storyline from the book, but unfortunately it's lacking the same magic as "LOTR."
I'm not saying it's a bad film - on the contrary, it's one of the best of the year - but there's something lacking in it that was in the "LOTR" series. For me it's the fact that "LOTR" had different races and focused on a lot of different characters, giving them strong storylines and making you feel for them (Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Legloas, Aragon, Gimli, Gandalf, Boromir, etc.). With "The Hobbit," the only characters you really get to know are Gandalf, Bilbo and Thorin, while the other dwarves tend to serve as throwbacks to the "Snow White" era. You hardly even know their names, much less care about their fates. Maybe they'll get more established in the future films, but it just left me with a feeling of nonchalant about their personal fates.
I know it's not fair to compare, but it's difficult not to. Taken as it is, it's spectacular. The cinematography is beyond compare, the music, the acting, everything about it is spot on. But in comparison, it's just a little below the "Lord of the Rings" series for me.
After witnessing a vampire killing his mother, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) grows up seeking revenge, and is helped by a mysterious stranger named Henry (Dominic Cooper) who trains him to let go of his vengeance and teaches him how to successfully hunt down vampires.
As the film progresses, Abraham gives up on Henry's number one rule - no family. He falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and weds her, as a vampire uprising is beginning with the lead vampire, Adam (Rufus Sewell).
Abraham Lincoln makes his way to the White House, and as the Civil War wages, he must again pick up his trusty ax and help stop the Confederate rebellion - which is being led by Adam and his army of vampires.
The book was better. I never read the book, but I could tell it's better than this. I was highly anticipating the film, and was sorely disappointed with the results. The only saving grace the film had was the unique stylized action sequences, not surprising coming from director Timur Bekmambetov, who also directed the Angelina Jolie action flick "Wanted." Other than that, the acting, the fake beards, everything else involved in the movie was highly disappointing.
Snow White (Kristen Stewart) has been held captive in her old family's castle by the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) after she seduces and kills Snow White's father and takes his throne. She has a magical spell that allows her long, beautiful life as long as she sucks the beauty from other women, and discovers that if she gets Snow White's heart, she will gain immortal beauty, and also finds out she is also the only one who can destroy her.
Snow White escapes, and the Queen enlists the help of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down, but he ends up helping her after uncovering the Queen's evil deeds. Together with a band of dwarfs they head to the realm of Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan) and raise an army against the evil Queen.
This isn't the Disney Snow White, that's for sure. There's no merrily singing dwarfs (although they do sing), no passive-aggressive Snow White, and the Queen is darker than ever. Charlize Theron steals the show and delivers another demanding performance that clearly overshadows Kristen Stewart's weak outing, as most of the time she's seen trying to look scared or happy and doesn't do a lot of talking. Her "rousing" speech to the men was probably one of the weakest I've ever heard in a film, and if I was there it sure wouldn't inspire me to follow her. Still, it was a great film with lots of action and awe-inspiring scenery, plus, once again, Charlize Theron.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) faces his most personal assignment yet: he has to track down a man (Javier Bardem) who is targeting his boss, M (Judy Dench) and the entire MI6 agency after he steals a list of names of secret operatives all over the world.
It's the 50th anniversary of the Bond film franchise, and after the disaster that was "Quantum of Solace" (in all seriousness it wasn't that bad, but it was still one of the worst in the Bond series), Daniel Craig returns with a bang in "Skyfall," which is one of the better Bond films of recent memory. Filled with stunning action sequences, hot Bond babes (Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe), Javier Bardem who once again delivers an impeccable job as a psychotic killer (his first being in "No Country For Old Men"), and some simply shocking moments, "Skyfall" is a near pitch-perfect action film, and a wonderful addition to the Bond franchise.
Abraham Lincoln (Bill Oberst Jr.), at a young age, discovered there were zombies in the world, and his mother became one of them. Now, as President of the United States, he hears of a similar outbreak near a fort in the south, and takes a team of soldiers down to try to contain the outbreak. As they take over the fort, they must unite with the Confederates to take down a common foe before the zombies overtake the whole of America.
Once again, the production company Asylum breaks out with another horrible mockubuster (a low-budget remake of a big-named blockbuster). Most horror fans know this company is famous for doing this, so we go into it knowing what to expect - low budget effects, horrible acting, hilariously bad costumes and paper-thin storyline. This film has all that in spades. Yet it was slightly better than other Asylum rip-offs, but not by much. Still an enjoyable film to watch with other people just to make fun of it.
"Cloud Atlas" is a stunning piece of cinematic art, an epic sweeping tale spanning six different stories from six different times, from the late 1800s to literally the end of the world. With an incredible pedigree of talent, stunning cinematography, and utterly amazing makeup, this is one of the few true movies out there that can be considered a cinematic experience. It might take some time to understand what's happening, but you're drawn from the first frame to the closing credits, and I feel it's one of the best films of the year.
Suziey (Suziey Block) is living in the big city, working as a coffee barista, lives with her best friend and has a dog. Everyday it's the same routine. Wake up, feed dog, do makeup, go to work, come home. Rinse and repeat. Have some dull conversations with people that don't really add up to anything significant. Then one day she wakes up and her dog is gone. She's had enough of the big city and decides to move out. Her friends throw her a going away party, and that night a stalker that's supposedly been watching her for awhile makes his move by knocking her out and proceeding to kill all her friends, leaving her only for himself.
Many people of the "higher thinking" world say if you don't enjoy the film then you're a typical popcorn eating horror fan. In reality, I enjoy films like this that has a very slow progression (and by slow, I mean excruciatingly slow. The real action don't start until an hour into the film), but only if the main actors are doing a good job at keeping my attention. The lead actress in this film acts like watching paint dry. She has no inflection in her voice, it's completely monotone, and I was just sitting back waiting for something exciting to happen. If it had a better lead actress, this would've been a great film. As it is, it was just a long, drawn out story.