"Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster" isn't a bad chapter in the Godzilla saga, but it's sandwiched between two superior films and if it wasn't for the fact that it marks the arrival of Godzilla's arch nemesis, it wouldn't be anything special to the fans and certainly not to general audiences. Police Detective Shindo (Yosuke Natsuki) is investigating the reappearance of Princess Selina Salno (Akiko Wakabayashi). Her plane exploded on its way to Japan in what is widely believed to be an assassination attempt that's been covered up but oddly, the Princess doesn't appear to be who she is. She is claiming to be a prophet from Venus, warning Earth that a great disaster awaits them: not only will Rodan (from "Rodan") reappear, but Godzilla will return to Japan and an even deadlier threat awaits Earth: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster! Shindo and his sister Naoko (Yuriko Hoshi), once convinced that the Princess' prophecies are true must convince Mothra (returning from her appearance in "Godzilla vs. Mothra") to help them against this threat.
This movie is a mixed bag of monster fun, not as silly as the next chapter ("Godzilla vs. Monster Zero") or as serious as the previous one, "Mothra vs. Godzilla"). On the plus side, we've got more monsters than ever before: Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah and Godzilla, all together and ready to fight! On the downside, the special effects aren't very good in this movie. Assuming you're watching the films in the order they were made, you will notice that the Rodan looks very silly this time around, not particularly cool at all and that the awesome Godzilla suit from the previous film has been replaced with a friendlier-looking, but not nearly as good costume. Having really loved the previous movie, I was also severely disappointed that only one of the Mothra larvae comes back (one is said to have died off-screen, inbetween films). We've got Godzilla moving towards a much more heroic role in this story, which is alright but unfortunately that means that we get much less destruction this time around. You get more boulders being thrown than actual skyscrapers toppled. That said, there are a lot of fun things about this movie, as the franchise moves more towards the campy, ridiculous sci-fi plots that became a staple of the next ten or so chapters. We've got princesses being possessed by Venutian spirits, a three-headed space dragon that shoots lightning coming to attack Earth, meteor showers and an assassination plot. Even more exciting, we get some fun monster battles between the characters. Rodan and Godzilla duke it out in what is a very silly but actually pretty funny battle (which involves much pecking and stuff being thrown around), we've got Mothra fighting King Ghidorah by herself, Mothra trying to convince Godzilla and Rodan to join her in order to save the humans (which they are reluctant to do by the way, because the humans "bully them") and finally King Ghidorah, squaring off against three monsters at once (one for each head!) If you think that last point means that we get a sequence where Mothra rides on top of Rodan so she can get some air with her silly string cocoon powers, then you would be right and you should be excited to see it. Yeah, it's a bit of a disappointment to see the monster action turn into a goofy wrestling match but I like to think of Godzilla a lot like Batman. Some people see him as a serious character and therefore, write him seriously. Some people see him as a symbol of humanity's depths and write him in intricate stories filled with all kinds of symbolism. Some people just see him as a silly science fiction hero for the kids and that's what we get here. Even for the people who like Godzilla as a more serious character, you do get the first-ever appearance of King Ghidorah, so that's something to cheer about.
When it comes to the human plot, it's not too bad, but nothing special. There is a really funny moment right at the beginning where we are introduced to the Shobijin (the emissaries of Mothra) through a game show and there is some nice banter between Shindo and his sister. We get a decent plot about some scientists investigating the mysterious meteors that have fallen to Earth, but that one doesn't hold a candle to the princess assassination plot, which is a lot of fun. This is where the movie gets to its nuttiest because we've got a police officer trying to track down a woman who's claiming to be a Venutian while some bumbling assassins (well, they're not comedic, but they're not very good at their job) are trying to track her down too and meanwhile, she's prophesising that monsters are going show up at any minute. It's also nice to see continuity between the films (even if Rodan's appearance is a drastic change from the last time we saw him, and not only in the looks department).
There are a lot of ideas and plot points going on here, but they're not that well balanced. I would have loved to have seen this film drop Rodan entirely and have the two rivals, Godzilla and Mothra forced to team up with a new opponent, but oh well. It's not one of the silliest Godzilla movies, which actually works against it in a way but it's fun enough, mostly because of the revelation of King Ghidorah. If you're a fan of Godzilla movies, or just giant monster movies you can give this one a shot and you'll have a fun time, but this is not one of the "great" Godzilla films. (Original Japanese with English subtitles on Dvd, March 30, 2014)
Alright so under any other terms, "Death Race 3: Inferno" wouldn't be a good movie.... BUT if you're a fan of the franchise, or even if you liked them a little bit this is actually a pretty fun experience. This instalment is actually a direct sequel to the previous film and it keeps on going with the same characters. That means we actually get something we've never seen before in any of the "Death Race" movies, character development! We get to see how the relationships between the characters have evolved since the last time and they keep changing during this movie as the team have to work together to confront a new villain and hopefully get out of "Death Race" permanently by winning a fifth race. The film also improves on the vehicles used in the races, by making them all pretty distinct from each other. They're all still just browns and greys but they use really distinct models as the base and the massive weapons used on top of the frames help make them visually different. It's actually a pretty big improvement on the second film, which was very badly edited and only got to the racing about an hour into the movie. This time, we get to the racing pretty much right away and we also get a decent plot to keep us interested when we're on the sidelines.
The other racers that are introduced in the film aren't super interesting (even if they're given more interesting things to do than simply drive around because they have to interact with each other more and this time around we get to see them confront crowds of civilians too). What's worse is that the other racers aren't even really "introduced" to us. We get a screen where the narrator presents them, but all we get is a name. No reason for why they're in prison, how many kills they've got or anything and that's a big disappointment. There are other problems in the film, like some plot holes and elements that don't quite work but it's still a lot of fun and it's a pretty coherent story overall. If you're tempted by "Death Race 3: Inferno" you should check it out because even though it isn't high-grade cinema it's fun shlock and you'll have a great time. (Unrated cut on Blu-ray, March 8, 2013)
"Room" is by all accounts a great movie. The acting is some of the best I've seen all year, the story is compelling, the characters interesting and as you follow their plight it's impossible not to get emotionally invested. I urge you to go see it. With that said, I feel like something was lost in translation. Between this film and the novel by Emma Donoghue (who wrote the screenplay, making me ask once again "What do I know?") something doesn't sit right with me. Curious? Let's dig in!
Joy (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) live in "Room", a space no bigger than a tool shed outfitted with a bed, a television and some living essentials. Its all Jack has ever known. Soon after his fifth birthday Joy informs her son of the truth: there's more to the world than just "Room". The man who supplies them with food and clothing (Sean Bridgers) kidnapped Joy when she was 17 and there's a whole world waiting for them, if they can escape.
If you have seen trailers for this film, you know well ahead what happens in the second half. If you don't I wouldn't say that knowing this gives away so much away that you won't be able to "Room", but go in as cold as possible. If you're already in the know rest assured. The extra information did not diminish my enjoyment of "Room". It's pretty much impossible not to get involved with what's developing on-screen. Your heart breaks at the very thought of a human being held captive and of another never seeing the outside world. When there is a possibility of escape, no matter how small the odds are you scoot to the edge of your seat because if these two innocents can't be freed, then there's no hope in the world.
This story follows two people being forced against their will to live out a life they have not chosen and making the best of it and about seeing this nightmare through a lens of innocence. If you put two and two together you will quickly realize that there are some pretty unsettling things happening here (we don't actually see Joy get raped, but happening regularly without a doubt). You're getting worried, but hold on. This is not what I would call a depressing movie. Seeing the characters move through this story and getting to know them is a rewarding experience. It's like volunteering at a homeless shelter. You might not be around beauty and the situation is sad, but there's something about being there, holding the hand of someone who is at rock bottom that enriches you. This is particularly true with this Lenny Abrahamson picture because the characters are drawn in such a realistic fashion. Jack is not just a precautious innocent who always behaves and sits idly by while the world moves around. 5 year olds can be sweet. They can also be frustrating and impatient. The key is that when they're being funny or asking an innocuous question they melt your heart and you fall head over heels in love. Joy is no a saint either, despite the fact that she's undeniably a victim and a strong person for holding onto shreds of hope.
There is still hope within Jack and when I saw the bond between him and his mother it more than made up for the discomfort that I felt thinking about everything that this scenario entailed. I could never quite get over it completely, and I don't think you`re supposed to, but by the end of the film I think you'll manage to emerge unscathed. Witnessing the character of Jack really begin to evolve and grow despite everything he's missed out on ignites your own healing process. If anything, it'll inspire you to think of children and of the resiliency of the human spirit in a whole new way.
I do have a criticism which I feel needs to be addressed. Ultimately this movie is about self-discovery and exploration. I don't think it pulls it off 100%. I compare the film to a book that I have not read, but I get the feeling that when you find yourself in Jack's for world the first time, you're not supposed to fully grasp what's happening. Is it a science fiction/fantasy story where the whole world really IS just this tiny? In live action, the illusion is never there. As a person living in the real world, you can immediately tell that there is something wrong. The film is essentially told from Jack's point of view but I never felt like I could truly immerse myself and understand how he thought. Similarly, I think there are missed opportunities with the unique aspects that film can bring to a story. It's not a great example, but I think of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz", where the use of actors, music and color made it clear that she is in a new world with new rules. It sucked you into this new place to help you understand how different a life it would be. A life lived in a single room could have been conveyed better.
I do not think that most people will feel the same way I did about the "film" aspect of "Room". Even if you do, there's no denying that it is an emotionally successful and touching account that sucks you in right from the beginning, contains real tension without resorting to any cheap tricks and works as a profound examination of two human beings. Then you've got the performances. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay alone should be enough to compel you to get off your butt and see "Room" the performances are on a higher echelon than in most films. For those reasons and more, I'm certain that this is not the last time you will hear of "Room". (Theatrical version on the big screen, November 10, 2015)
"V for Vendetta" is a story about revenge. Simple enough, but it also contains some thoughts I'd dare call profound, along with solid performances and several iconic moments that will stick with you. Is it a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore? Not really, but like any interpretation or adaptation, it's ok to deviate from the source material as long as the end result is good and the spirit remains. It's not like this movie is going to barge into your house and burn every copy of the comic after all.
Set in an Orwellian-like England, Evey (Natalie Portman) happens upon an extraordinary man, a masked vigilante simply known as V (voiced by Hugo Weaving). Think of V as a cross between Edmund Dantes (from "The Count of Monte Cristo", you uncultured swine!) and Batman. Is he a terrorist, or the savior the country has been silently praying for? Either way he's out for blood and seeking to take down the totalitarian government, partially because it ties into his own mysterious past.
Based on the graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, this 2006 release but varies wildly from the pages that originally brought the characters to life. I'm torn to which I like better. Here, V is seen as a heroic vigilante and less like a wildfire spawned from the discontent of the masses. Other changes set the story in more contemporary times and there is less emphasis on the tyrannical government. The amount of characters is significantly reduced and most of the sub-plots are gone, replaced with more backstory on the world. It makes for a product that's significantly less intellectual and more action-oriented, but there is still a pretty solid brain rattling in that Guy Fawkes mask.
What works best is that viewing the picture feels empowering, even while never leaving the real of complete fantasy. V is a charismatic hero that makes the whole rebellion thing look easy. He's such a larger-than-life character that he transcends the limitations of the media and goes on to inspire rebellion and power to the audience with his eloquent speeches, incredibly intricate plots and moments of kick-ass kung-Fu. The 17th-century conical hat, the black outfit (cape, gloves, tunic, trousers and boots) and the "face" with the shoulder-length wig of straight hair and the Guy Fawkes mask are incredibly iconic. It's that right mix of theatrics and realism. With the film's big climax, set a on the 5th of November no one is ever likely to forget... it's no wonder that visage has become a symbol for disgruntled youths looking to rebel.
There are numerous bits of dialogue that will stick with you and shake you out of your sluggish existence, lines like "Ideas are bulletproof" and "There are no coincidences, only the illusion of coincidences" and probably most iconic of all "People should not be afraid of their government, government should be afraid of their people". Those are my personal favorites. There is a long speech where V introduces himself so eloquently phrased it makes you want to pause the scene and rewind it over and over until you've memorized it.
V is a character you are instantly drawn to and want to learn more about, but he's not the only compelling player. We've got an avatar for the audience, a sidekick to our superhero in the form of Evey. She's got plenty going in both in the way she interacts with V and how she transforms over the course of the plot. The two characters have an interesting relationship that switches between hero & damsel in distress, aggressor & victim, mentor & pupil, lost soul & savior and there's a hint of romance thrown in. These characters begin on not necessarily opposite sides, but on very different planes of thinking. As their interactions are shown on screen, you will flip between whom you associate with more closely. While some of the in-depth sub plots from the novel are gone, I feel like the ones that remain keep the film afloat.
The action is memorable and well shot, particularly during the sequences when V gets to really show off him karate gimmicks against a slew of opponents. There are several big explosions throughout the movie, nerve-wracking turns, tense decisions made, and all balanced with some moments of deep reflection/contemplation. A particular highlight in the set design is V's lair, which is reminiscent of a museum and an antique store in desperate need of a serious clearance sale, but quite striking. You'll find a ton of theatrics and moments that will have you pumped, excited to see more.
When it's all over, you might even have learned a thing about how you ultimately feel about revenge. If not, hey at least you saw a blood-pumping action movie about not taking no guff from nobody. There's a lot of re-watch value contained in the 132 minute running time and you're going to praise the Home Video Gods when you realize turning on the subtitles makes it a whole lot easier to memorize the epic speeches delivered throughout. I find myself itching to watch "V For Vendetta" every 5th of November, if only so I can pretend like I can recite every line and sound as majestic as Hugo Weaving, or capture a sliver of the work that inspired the film. (On Dvd, November 5,
I've never seen the "Attack on Titan" television series, nor have I read any of the Manga. I knew the plot had nothing to do with a space battle on Saturn's moons (that's an astronomy joke for ya!) but otherwise I went in as a blank slate. In my opinion "Attack on Titan - Part 1" is a mixed bag. At times truly brilliant, disturbing and satisfying in its action in equal quantities the tone is woefully uneven, with over-the-top performances.
One hundred years ago, huge, immortal and insatiable humanoid-like creatures named Titans appeared on Earth, devouring everyone in their path. The survivors now live in a large castle-like city with walls tall enough to stave off any attack. When a new, Colossal Titan appears and breaches the outer wall, our heroes Eren (Haruma Miura) and Armin (Kanata Hongo) lose everything, including their best friend Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara). Now they are enlisted in the city's special ops team: Titan slayers whose mission is to seal the breach in the outer wall. If they can pull off this mission the city has a chance at survival.
Regardless of your familiarity with the source material, this is an amazing setup. It's almost like a zombie movie... but the ghouls are the size of Godzilla. The Titans are truly chilling creatures. They look mostly like people except that their faces are not quite right, almost like crude drawings of what humans should be. They shuffle around with blank stares grinning from ear to ear, only displaying any form of intelligence when they spot people, which they promptly snatch up and stuff in their mouths while giggling gleefully. I've seen a lot of messed-up stuff on-screen, but the sight of these giant naked creatures tearing men to shreds or licking their lips excitedly as farmers run panicking truly disturbed me.
It's a post-apocalyptic world. Resources are getting thin to the point where they don't have guns anymore and equipment is starting to look awfully reminiscent of what we had in the middle ages. Our last hope are these young adults who are equipped with twin grappling hook cannons on their hips. They use these to zip around crumbling skyscrapers at high speed and hack away at the Titans' only weak spots.
There are many scenes where the action and the horror are very well blended together. This film is not afraid of killing off characters, and you won't see the deaths coming. I found myself getting really excited as a team gathered their courage and decided to confront a couple of Titans head-on... only for one of them to get swatted out of the sky and turn into red mist (a negative for me, there's a LOT of CG blood here). You feel like a ping pong ball getting wacked back and forth between a paddle of horror and another of exhilarating kick-butt action.
Unfortunately, I get the sense that everything enjoyable about this first film (there's a part 2) comes from the show. The additions and substitutions required to turn "Attack on Titan" into a live-action film have not been particularly kind to this material. I strongly disliked the comic relief injected here, in the form of an over enthusiastic scientist (Satomi Ishihara as Hange). She belongs in a completely different movie. Hiroki Hasegawa as a Titan slayer so cool nothing seems to fluster him named Shikishima. He's pulled right out of the most generic anime, someone added to appease the fangirls rather than a real person. He's literally more interested in posing and whipping his swords around in stylish formations than actually killing Titans... even when people around him are being eaten alive. As for the performances, you've got to be really hammy or incredibly wooden for someone who doesn't even speak Japanese (a.k.a. Me) to recognize that your performers are not particularly good.
Perhaps this is once again because I'm not familiar with the show and books, but I had trouble identifying who was who for at least a third of the film. It's not that I think all Japanese men and women look the same, it's just that with so many people being quickly introduced and then killed off I found it difficult to mentally sort out who to keep track of. It also certainly doesn't help that everyone (with a few exceptions) wears the same clothing, uses the same weapons, and has the same hairstyle/colour as everybody else. For that reason I want to give special mention to... oh. Apparently it's some character that's been made up for the movie so finding out who portrayed that guy with the axe is nearly impossible. Great. Most glaring as clearly NOT being from the original source material is the soundtrack, which could not be more appropriate if they had little children singing instead. It's obviously been forced in to sell a soundtrack, but was the rock music while people are being devoured really necessary?
I don't know how they're going to wrap up this huge plot in just one more movie. I'm not sure what to make of a final, big revelation as this first part closed out but I'm very intrigued. There are a lot of missteps here and they have nothing to do with the fact that even a big budget Japanese film costs less than some no-special effects comedies released by Hollywood. We're talking about mistakes that should never come up in any movie like bad comedy, awkward performances and an inappropriate soundtrack, along with characters that don't act like human beings and have some of the worst peripheral vision you can find in any giant monster movie.
Despite everything there's enough here that works. If you're intrigued about the phenomenon that is "Attack on Titan" but you can't quite commit to blindly buying the series on Blu-ray (or you know, doing some reading) it's worth checking out. (Theatrical version on the big screen with English subtitles, October 26, 2015)
... And as I sat there, both feet planted firmly on the ground in the dark theatre, my palms became drenched with sweat. "The Walk" is the kind of movie that deserves to be seen in the theatre. This story of an artist that is at least a little bit mad, but much better for it will not play the same at home. It demands to be experienced in the biggest theatre possible and in 3-D. I haven't felt a rush like this in a long time.
Based on true events, "The Walk" is the story of Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who, in 1973 had an epiphany. Or was it a sudden, uncontrollable obsession? Seeing the Twin Towers in a magazine, the street performer became determined to travel to America, to clandestinely set a cable between the rooftops and walk it without the use of a parachute, safety line or net.
This film is about a seemingly impossible task, and in being brought to the big screen manages something quite astonishing. This quest is one that feels excessively foolish. As Philippe Petit recruits accomplices in his native France and in New York to help him fulfill his dream, you're thinking that there's no way that this is going to work. It's also a dangerous, foolish idea... but quickly, you get it. This is not some pampered, snooty Frenchman arrogantly defying the world. The screenplay by Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne makes it clear that to be a true artist, a little bit of madness is necessary How else could you be bold, brave or stupid enough to come up with an idea that no one else has... and actually go to the lengths necessary to bring it to life? You can't help but want to see it done. You understand why this is so much more than just a stunt. The more you think about it, the more you're convinced. If this man can walk this tight rope between the two tallest buildings in the world (as they were at the time of their completion) well... publishing a book, making a painting, finishing those guitar lessons or being the best father/mother my children could ever hope for, that's a piece of cake!
When I hear that a movie is based on a true story, two questions immediately jump to my mind. "Will the characters that are altered/combined, the dialogue that's made up, the timelines that are condensed and the events that are fabricated for dramatic purposes blend seamlessly with the facts" and, more importantly "is this a story that was worth telling, or is it only being told because it actually happened"? It's an easy "Yes!" to both questions. This is a combination of the inspirational story that is Philippe Petit's with some charming moments of comedy and the best elements of a heist film. The sequences of planning the crime, setting up all of the equipment, dodging the unexpected obstacles that come up and the climax are tremendous. It's got a little bit of everything with moments of pure jubilation and drama as well. As I alluded to earlier, you'll find several scenes that are incredibly tense. Whenever the camera began to rise to show the scale of the action. I found myself compelled to stop slouching in my chair, lest I miss even a single detail of what was unfolding. The way the 3-D is used to pull you in and make you experience the fear, the adrenaline rush and the height of the buildings that Philippe scales in order to practice, or the establishing shots of the World Trade Center Towers themselves, it's nothing short of masterful.
I had no idea going into "The Walk" that Joseph Gordon-Levitt could so convincingly play a French acrobat. The stunts are completely convincing and his French is flawless. I was unsure if I would be able to forget that I was seeing an actor portraying a real person, but this is acting that truly absorbs you. I don't want to shortchange the supporting actors, all of which have some solid moments. We have Ben Kinglsey as a mentor to Philippe, Charlotte Le Bon as Philippe's girlfriend, Clément Sibomy and César Domboy as Philippe's closest friends. They're all great.
When I think about this movie, I think of real, fiery passion. Not only in the character of Philippe Petit, but in the way "The Walk" is put together. This story was made for Robert Zemeckis to bring to life. This director has consistently delivered stories that hit on that emotional level while portraying fantastical stories that are so crazy they feel real and juggle special effects effortlessly. I can remember a few movies where the 3-D was used effectively and I jumped maybe once or twice, but here I counted at least 5 times. There were many instances where my eyes couldn't have been shut it leaden weights were tied to my eyelids because I was so anxious to see what was coming next. Even though I knew where "The Walk" was going to end because I had heard of the man beforehand, I could not have been more enthralled. (3-D theatrical version on the big screen, October 20, 2015)
When I first saw trailers for "The Martian" I was instantly hooked. The story of a castaway... on another planet? Sign me up! Then I heard reactions from the trailer, how the plot is ludicrous, that there's no way NASA would attempt a rescue mission because those astronauts know what they're getting into and such an endeavor would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Rest assured, there's nothing about this movie that's ludicrous. It all makes sense and as an extra kicker, it's one heck of a ride. This is the kind of movie where you better make sure to apply some deodorant beforehand, otherwise your neighbors' attention will be diverted by your perspiration.
Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut who finds himself stranded on Mars when a sudden storm forces the crewmembers of the Ares III to abort their mission. While the world watches, he must find ways to survive using every bit of ingenuity at his disposal.
While the main character is undoubtedly Mark, there's a lot more going on here than you expect. This film is like your average "Cast Away" story, with the amount of danger cranked up to a nearly unfathomable level. It's one thing being stuck alone on a rock you can't escape, but our hero isn't even on a planet that can sustain life, the average temperature on the surface is a cool -55°C, there's no water, no air, limited supplies and only because they were left behind when everyone else left in a hurry and on top of all that, he has to figure out a way to contact NASA, who assumes he died. This is a story that doesn't need a villain because the odds are stacked so high that you have no idea how he's going to make it past the 30 day mark, never mind find a way home.
The titular Martian is just a fraction of what you have to look forward to. What the previews don't show you is the other side of the story, the part where everyone on Earth is scrambling to figure out what to do. When is it the right time to release images that prove that Mark Watney survived? Oh wait, there's no choice because NASA is a government organization and they only have a 24-hour window before they're compelled to divulge the information. How do we figure out how to break it to the world that X is going on, that our plan is Y or that our solution to that thing that went wrong is Z? It's a maze of bureaucratic decisions, PR nightmares, stressed-out departments attempting to work in unison with punishingly tight deadlines... and all that while trying to coordinate actions with someone whose answers take 24 minutes to reach Earth.
What had me gripped about "The Martian" is that this is a story that's filled to the brim with intelligence. Everyone has to think on his or her feet at all times. It's about making calculations to ensure that the trajectory of this shuttle will be just right so they don't have to expend too much fuel, or about doing the math to figure out exactly how long supplies can last. Our protagonist becomes a real Robinson Crusoe, using every little stray bit of plastic wrap or discarded piece of Earth technology to last that extra day. You're always sitting there wondering "what are they going to come up with next?" in the most excited way possible.
This movie celebrates intelligence; it shows you the dangers of space travel and makes you feel unbridled terror as you realize the loathsome void that is the universe outside of Earth's atmosphere. It's a story where a piece of duct tape folding onto itself can mean death by suffocation. And it's also quite often very funny. The last thing I expected was to laugh out loud, but I did, and frequently too. You know how even in the worst situations you can find humor in things? Well that happens a lot here. It's because this film by Ridley Scott is a masterwork of character development and relationships. We have 14, yes that's right 14 characters prominently featured at one point or another, all of which have real life to them, personalities and real interacts between the other people their interact with. I was also impressed with the fact that we have major characters of different ethnicities present... and the fact that they are Chinese, Black or Latino in no way shape their characters. It's really is a world in itself because there's so much going on here, even when it's just two people talking via email or making a decision about something that's going to happen millions of kilometers away.
"The Martian" is above all else, fun. It's thrilling, it's funny, it makes you think and it's all based on real science! I can't explain why or how, but I almost felt as if I wanted to be in Mark Watney's shoes, showing to the entire world how ingenious I could be by pooling together every last bit of relevant information and surviving on a distant world. I'd be dead in a few hours but that's the great thing about movies, they allow you to live vicariously through these fantasies brought to life. I almost forgot to mention that this is a great looking movie, one that shows off the beauty of a desolate world ruled by the solar system's largest volcano and populated by endless craters and canyons. Even if you're not a space travel enthusiast like myself, it's well worth your time. (3-D theatrical version on the big screen, October 20, 2015)
To my relief, "Critters 4" is not the catastrophic abomination I expected to follow up the dull "Critters 3". I still wouldn't go as far as to call it "good", but it's amusing. On a personal level, I love that it proves the rule that any horror franchise that goes on long enough will do one of 3 things: either the killer will be destroyed and a new one will take on their role, the killer will need to be reborn/will be involved in a plot in which someone needs to have his or (theoretically) her child, or the plot will go to space.
The plot begins where the previous film left off. It's 1992 and Charlie McFadden (Don Keith Opper) is about to destroy two Crite eggs when he receives a message explaining to him that he is forbidden from doing so because that would cause the extinction of the alien race. Following the proper procedures, he places the eggs in a preservation capsule. The hatch closes with him inside and he suddenly wakes up 53 years later. A group of space salvagers have found the pod and are bringing it to a space station to collect a finder's reward. Captain Rick (Anders Hove), engineer Albert (Brad Dourif), pilot Fran (Angela Basset), cargo specialist Bernie (Erid DaRe) and a young apprentice named Ethan (Paul Whitthorne) are eager to collect their reward, but it wouldn't be a "Critters" movie if the Crites didn't hatch, escape and start eating people.
Despite the ending of the first film, which showed a bunch of Crite eggs ready to hatch, I don't feel like there ever really needed to be a sequel to the first "Critters". Nevertheless, I have to admit that there has been some fun elements added to the franchise along the way. I liked the Crite Ball from #2; I also enjoyed the fact that Charlie got a bigger role as the series progressed, transforming from just a sidekick to a full-on bounty hunter. This film also has some neat additions. Firstly, the space station that the humans find themselves on is a good setting for a space horror film. Yeah, it's been done before, most notably in "Alien", but it still works. The most unique aspect is the fact that this space station is not a very well maintained one and therefore features a very uncooperative A.I. There are some enjoyable moments of comedy, as the crew has to find a way to outsmart it or convince it to perform certain actions.
There are some interesting things done with the gap in time between 1992 and the futuristic 2045. Mostly humorous stuff like the fact that they have all kinds of gene splicing and mutating machines, not because it's technology that the writers legitimately believed we would have half a century from now, but because it's convenient for the plot. You can tell that only so much can be done with the Crites so the story isn't very original overall and the most interesting scenes don't really concern them.
Normally I'd say that you'd be disappointed by the fact that the Critters are not the stars of their movie. Here, I think that anyone watching still watching this franchise at this point will find that overall this movie works more than it doesn't. That only goes so far but hey, it's the fourth movie, it's direct-to-DVD, it's "Critters", I know this is going to sound harsh, but the expectations are low. As long as the picture doesn't flat-out suck, it's basically "good". For non-enthusiasts of the franchise? Well, you won't get what's going on unless you've seen basically all of the previous chapters, and I don't see what would compel you to watch this film so I guess it doesn't really apply.
Do I recommend "Critters 4"? I do, if you have seen the previous ones. It concludes the "to be continued" hook at the end of "part 3" in a way that's satisfying and it's got some fun moments. I was really discouraged with the previous movie, but I'm glad I stuck to it all the way to the end of the franchise. (On DVD, September 15, 2015)
I can't say that "no one cared" while "Critters 3" was made because some of the actors are ok in their roles, but this is lazy throughout. Nothing about the previous film alluded to a sequel being needed and it's pretty obvious seeing the results here that there wasn't a story left in the vault that demanded to be told, so the question remains: why was this movie even made?
The story is set some time after the events of the previous film (in fact we get several shots of "Critters" and "Critters 2" in order to bring the audience up to speed on what the Crites are). Annie (Aimee Brooks), her young brother Johnny (Christian & Joseph Cousins) and their father Clifford (John Calvin) accidentally bring with a batch of Crite eggs with them after a family vacation. When the eggs hatch and cause havoc in their dilapidated apartment building, things are made worse by the crooked landlord (William Dennis Hunt). Leonardo DiCaprio also stars as the landlord's son Johnny and an ally of Annie's in this battle for survival.
I like "Critters" and I think it's got some legitimate charm. "Critters 2" isn't great but at least it has the distinction of being a horror movie set on Easter. This film? It's got nothing interesting to show. To begin, the plot doesn't make any sense. A bunch of tenants are stuck in their apartment building and the Crites run wild eating people. The phone lines and the power get cut, making it "impossible" for them to get help because of a contrived plot development with the landlord. You'd think someone who lives on the ground floor could have broken a window and gone to yell for help, but no. Either the people in this building are too dumb to think of that, or they just happen to live in a ghost town where the skyscrapers are lit up, but no one lives or works in them and there is never any circulation in their neighborhood.
I understand the movie would have been over within like 15 minutes if Annie and Josh had managed to contact the police as soon as people started getting gobbled up, but that's the problem. This is just a bad plot for a "Critters" sequel. It needed to be set on a derelict space station or an isolated island or something and that crooked landlord? Ditch him altogether. More than that, we're supposed to swallow some truly unbelievable events, like characters getting tangled in some wires for at least 20 minutes without figuring out a way to get themselves freed or an attic so massive that someone could get lost in it.
I almost feel insulted watching the picture. Why such a long montage of the first two films detailing what happened previously in the town of Grover's Bend? Did director Kristine Peterson just assume that this story would be so awesome and epic that it would get the greatest word of mouth of all time? Would people hear about the majesty and think to themselves "well, I haven't seen the first two films but this direct to VHS sequel sounds so awesome I HAVE to see it!" Maybe a time traveller told him that because of the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio this film, despite it's consistently awfulness would earn itself some attention?
I think it speaks volumes that the inner continuity of the film can't even get itself straight. Charlie MacFadden (Don Keith Opper, reprising his role yet again) explains in a scene that it all began in 1984... and later we're told that the events in Grover's Bend actually occurred in 1986. Did someone even proofread this slug-brained script? Then, the picture ends in a big "to be continued", forcing you to slog through what is sure to be another probably terrible sequel after this one. Well, I own it so I guess that's what I'm watching next!
"Critters 3" is so poorly put together and made with such little care that I can just barely manage to give it a half star out of five. Why? I don't know. The Crites aren't entertaining, they're just Gremlin knock-offs at this point, complete with the TV watching and the stupid gags. Maybe I can encourage people to watch it for the acting? Certainly not. Most performers are alright but at least one actress, Diane Bellamy is about as convincing as a 3 dollar bill when it comes to her big scene where she's screaming in terror while being eaten alive. There's nothing stellar when it comes to the story, or for the special effects. The best I can say about those is that they're consistent in quality, but that's not saying much. I guess the half star comes from the fact that I foresee the next movie being even worse and if that's the case, I want some room to go even lower. Please prove me wrong. I really thought "Critters 3" was a chore to sit through. If you happen to do so though, stick all the way to the end of the credits though, there's a joke in there that you "don't want to miss". (On DVD, September 15, 2015)
"Critters" is a good movie. I think it stands on it's own as an inventive little monster flick with some moments of good humor, a few memorable scenes cool creatures and likeable characters. "Stands on it's own? What do you mean?" What I mean is that despite what the people involved might tell you, that the film was dreamed up long before 1984 and that plot-wise, this doesn't really resemble "Gremlins" very much... "Critters" will never, ever be able to avoid being cast in the shadow of that horror comedy classic. I know it isn't technically a knock-off, but as those go, it's a good one. It belongs right next to some surprisingly good films like "Sleepaway Camp".
The plot begins on a prison asteroid, where a group of "Crites" escapes. To prevent a disaster, two shape-changing bounty hunters are deployed to track down and kill the beasts. Meanwhile on Earth, a small Kansas town has no idea what is headed towards them!
As the camera shows us the town the Crites are headed to, you will notice that we will mostly be following a single family: Young Brad (Scott Grimes), his teenage sister April (Nadine Van der Velde) and their parents Jay (Billy Green Bush) and Helen (Dee Wallace-Stone). You figure here's how things are going to play out: Once it hits nighttime, the aliens will arrive. Brad will see them and try to tell the authorities what's going on but no one will believe him. His parents are going to leave town for a big meeting or vacation or something, leaving his sister to babysit him. April meanwhile will ditch her brother in order to go on a date with a creep that's extra grabby and he'll end up getting killed as "punishment" for being bad. What I like about this flick is that what the obvious clichés you expect to see aren't there. "Critters" is better than those easy venues.
This Stephen Herek picture might be about a kid protagonist, but for the bulk of the film it's about a family under siege by these alien monsters. You like them and you want to see them make it out alive. They're not like the dumb teenagers in a "Friday the 13th" movie. I liked the fact that April is the one that is making the moves on her date and he stands there mostly baffled as she insists on going to a secluded spot so they can make-out. Brad is fun to follow because he's kind of a brat and that he has some little quirks that makes him an appealing character. I spotted a poster of "Mutant" in his bedroom. Anyone who likes that bad "Alien" knock-off is all right by me. Neither of the parents ever ends up being completely useless or so dumb they weigh everyone down. All of the members in this family have a good chance of surviving because they're intelligent and when you see them put into peril there's gravity to the situation.
With those human characters covered, we can't forget about the aliens. Firstly the Crites themselves: I get a kick out of the fact that they're essentially just rows of teeth crossed with a porcupine. They're mean spirited, their design is decent, they have a nice array of powers and I like little things about them that make them stand out. For instance, they can talk in their alien language (subtitles are provided) so they're more than just monsters. They have a personality of some sort. I also like that they have an alien name. They're not "Creet-urrs", they're Crites. The bounty hunters refer to them as such, but none of the earthlings they encounter call them anything but "those things" or "those critters there". It's a nice little touch. These fiends are the highlights, but you can't forget the bounty hunters themselves. I don't want to give away any of the scenes they're in because I think they're actually some of the best "Critters" has to offer. Let's just say they're not what you expect them to be. I had a lot of laughs thanks to them.
The special effects here range from very good to just ok, with the Crites sometimes being decently convincing, and at other times showing the film's mere $2 million budget. Check out some of the reverse photography to show a metamorphosis early in the film. It's gruesome and I love it. I personally get a kick out of seeing 80's movies set in space stations or ships. I'm not sure what it is exactly about seeing all of these huge dashboards with lights and random buttons, if it's the chairs the characters sit on or just an overall look of it all, but it appeals to me.
Is "Small Monster Movie" a genre? I guess it could be if we have "Ghoulies", "Munchies", "Hobgoblins", "Small Soldiers", "Troll" and a whole lotta sequels. We even have other pictures you could argue would fit in there with more of a lean towards either horror ("Don't Be Afraid of the Dark") or adventure ("Prehysteria"). It's true that among those there is a clear king. You don't always have to watch "The best" movie. Sometimes you want to see something with a few imperfections because those weird birthmarks are part of the charm. I think you can see the joy of filmmaking, the excitement of bringing characters to life and the inspiration in a film like "Critters", even if it won't ever not be compared with you know... that Joe Dante movie. It's enjoyable and you know what? It's a horror movie you can show to your kids because it isn't too violent, it contains no nudity and there's only a bit of gore. Usually that PG-13 rating on a horror movie is a curse but in this instance, it's a good thing. I like "Critters" and I think it's unfair to dismiss it as just a rip-off, it has some genuine good qualities that make it stand out. (On DVD, September 10, 20
I like to create little movie-related rituals for myself throughout the year. On every Friday the 13th, I have to watch the next chapter of Friday the 13th. During December, I like to choose a selection of Christmas and Holiday-themed films. On Guy Fawkes Day, its time for V for Vendetta. When Critters 2: The Main Course started and I realized that it is a horror comedy set around Easter, I was really excited. The further it went along though, the more generic and uninspired, not to mention more Gremlin-like the picture became.
Set 2 years after the first film, Brad Brown (once again played by Scott Grimes) is returning to his hometown after moving away. No sooner is he back that an Easter egg hunt goes horribly wrong and the Crite eggs leftover from the first film hatch. This marks the return of the bounty hunters (Ug and Lee, get it?) accompanied by Charlie (Don Keith Opper).
At the beginning, this really is an Easter film. Theres Easter eggs, chocolate, decorations, a giant Bunny costume and theres even a scene set in a church in which the reverend talks about the resurrection of Christ (hes rudely interrupted by a violent death, but its there). This is when the film is at its best. Seeing the unsuspecting people of Groves Bend paint Crite eggs thinking theyre harmless, its a great setup for some comedic deaths. I was loving it.
Some other noteworthy elements include the fact that if anything, the creature effects are better here than they were the first time around. The Main Course does something really fun with the Crites towards the conclusion that I suspect well see again in the third and fourth films. Its much more creative and interesting than the giant Crite we saw during the climax of the 1986 story. If you liked that first movie, youll also be surprised, but pleasantly so, that most of the original cast is back. Lin Shaye as Sally, Barry Corbin as Sheriff Harv and of course Scott Grimes and Don Keith Opper all reprise their roles.
Soon after the initial Crite rampage, the movie gets less original, tries harder to be funny and gets less classy. It ends up feeling more like a cash-grab on the popular Little Monsters Go Crazy genre that people claim the first one to be than as a legitimate sequel. Youll be disappointed to see the bounty hunters turn into less interesting characters (who are more incompetent than they were in the first film, but in a different way). Next, the whole story basically plays out as you would expect it to, with no really original ideas. We get some eye-roll worthy sequences where the Crites go to town in a burger joint, which wouldnt be so bad and it just reminded me of that bar scene in that other movie. We also get one scene with nudity that firmly plants this picture in the R territory. Its pleasing to the eyes if you enjoy the nude female form, it also does make for one clever joke, but its not necessary, I would have rather it been left out and have the film toned down to a PG-13.
Aside from the beginning where it goes all Easter Crazy and the end where we get a nice addition to the mythos, Critters 2 isnt very remarkable. Its more entertaining to look at the little curiosities throughout than the actual film. A joke about Freddy Krueger is entertaining; I liked seeing Eddie Deenzen (whos highly nasal voice I remember from Dexters Lab) as a fast food restaurant manager. Theres also a joke at the very end of the credits thats not original at all, but you might as well stick around for. Not because its good, but because theres one particular credit on the way that blew my mind. At 1:24:15, at the very bottom of the screen is Krite Translations Karl P. Anno Institute of Intergalactic Semantic Research. At first I wondered if this was some kind of technical thing, As far as I can tell though, its just a joke. You might think its obviously a joke, but check out that spelling. Krite Translations. Krite? I thought it was Crite! We never see it actually spelt out in the film, but the subtitles use a C every time. Is it possible that the official spelling was lost when they made the first DVD, and they just went with a guess and nobody noticed that the credits of the second film show the real way to write it down? Is the joke where it all went wrong? Is the language spelt differently than the species? If someone out there has a Laserdisc of the film, can they check if the spelling is with a K or a C? I must know!
I had hopes for Critters 2: The Main Course but Im going to remember weird little moments here and there more than I will the actual movie. Its a sad thing to surrender myself to, but I dont know if there is a good Easter horror movie out there. I havent seen Bless the Child, Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! or Resurrection, but when it comes to Critters 2, its only amusing for the first 30 or so minutes. Once the nudity shows up, it all starts going down. (On DVD, September 12, 2015
For a movie that lasts over 2 hours, "The Scorch Trials", the sequel to the 2014 "The Maze Runner" has surprisingly little content to it. I was looking forward to seeing more character development and a story that expanded the world that was previously introduced to me, but I feel like a persistent "that's it?" is all this film deserves.
Set immediately after the last film ended, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and the other refugees of the Glade escape the clutches of W.C.K.D. (the World Catastrophe Killzone Department) into the ravaged outside world, the Scorch. Determined to find allies in the desolate landscape plagued with Cranks (zombified humans), they are wary that W.C.K.D. might catch up to them.
I don't even think that "The Scorch Trials" is that bad of a movie, but it feels like a significant step back from the first. I know it isn't often the case (unfortunately), but you expect/hope that a sequel is going to be as good or better than the first one. What disappoints here is that every new bit of information about W.C.K.D. or Thomas doesn't really feel like it was significant enough to garner the time spent on it. For example, the reason we're given for the Maze in the first film? Essentially an elaborate test. Why? I'm not really sure, but I do know that the teens that made it out are related to a cure for the Cranks' infection. What are the Cranks? They're essentially the Infected from "28 Days Later". They run around ferociously, clawing and gnawing at any living person they can get their hands on. Once you get bitten, you eventually turn into them and they look like veiny, gross human people in ragged clothes with black goo and blood all over their faces. The Scorch? It's just your standard post-apocalyptic, wrecked buildings, sandy dunes everywhere, streets littered with debris kind of world. I feel like every question that is answered during the length of this second chapter is robbed of something and is not made the least bit more interesting by the answers that we get.
With those clear weaknesses, I hoped that the character dynamics would get more attention or that the story would really amp it up in terms of excitement. That's not the case. There are surprisingly few moments where we get to learn about Thomas, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) or the other Maze escapees. The new additions to the group like Jacob Lofland as Aris or Rosa Salazar as Brenda similarly feel underdeveloped. And this is in a film that clocks in at 131 minutes and is not forced to set up its entire mythology. We already know who the heroes are, who they are up against and it's not like the Cranks are some kind of brand new concept that you can't wrap your mind around the instant you see them. The more I think about the film, the further I dislike the inclusion of the Cranks. I get that they're part of the integral mythology of the film, but their inclusion just means that we're going to get all of the familiar plot points you get in every single zombie movie.
I'll give "The Scorch Trials" the credit that it deserves. The special effects are good, the performances are convincing and it kept me interested enough that I want to see a next chapter. Unfortunately my lingering excitement for the franchise is still mostly due to what was brought up in the first film. I don't feel, despite the way the movie ends, that very much happened since that escape from the Maze. I know the plot was eventful, but the actions and revelations didn't leave much impact. Overall, it all seems very forgettable. I like some of the new ideas introduced conceptually, but in execution, not so much.
With a third film confirmed at this point, I find rating the "The Scorch Trials" difficult. Do I want to see a completion to the trilogy? Yes. I think if you liked the first film, you will too. In order to understand that final chapter, you'll surely need to see the second movie so you're going to need to see this. On it's own however, I can't really recommend it. With another ending that basically says "The Be Continued", maybe I'll feel better this ordeal once every plot point is wrapped up and the epic storyline gets brought to life. In the meantime though, I can only encourage you to see the film if you have already determined that you are going to see the final chapter, no matter what anyone says. (Theatrical version on the big screen, October 3, 2015)
I don't think there's anything wrong with making a movie with the goal of making money, if your movie is actually fun to sit through. Let's not kid ourselves; the real reason why "The Maze Runner" was made was because the books were popular. Why? Because right now "The Hunger Games" is immensely well liked. Dystopian young-adult novels are considered money in the bank. I'm ok with that because this world we're introduced to, based on the novel by James Dashner shows a lot of promise and has some interesting ideas on display.
The film begins with a 16-year-old boy (Dylan O'Brien) waking up inside a service elevator with no memory of who he is, or how he arrived. Greeted by other boys who woke up in similar circumstances, he is told that he is now in "the Glade", a grassy area encircled by tall stone walls, the beginnings of a large maze that encircles their home and is patrolled by monstrous, murderous creatures.
When I first heard of the premise of this film, I was instantly hooked. Who put these people in this place? Why? Are they prisoners? Is the maze there to keep them distracted from a true means of escape? Is it some kind of experiment or test? Why the amnesia?
I think there's something inherently fascinating about a maze that you see people exploring. There are so many areas that would be great for ambushes that it lends itself very well to tension and when you factor in that this is a futuristic facility where the maze is anything but static, it reveals itself as a place ripe for some pretty good action sequences.
In addition to the captivating environment our hero finds himself in, we have some decent character dynamics. You know that having this many teenage boys trapped in a place where there's always a risk of death at the hands of labyrinth monsters means it's only a matter of time before they all go "Lord of the Flies" on each other. Nevertheless you hope that it's not going to come to that. I enjoyed seeing our hero interact with the other inhabitants of the camp. Gally (Will Poulter), Chuck (Blake Cooper), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Alby (Aml Ameen). It's pretty obvious who is going to end up as "the villain" and who is going to serve as the sacrificial lamb, the mentor or the best friend so I wish the characters could have been developed a bit more, but I foresee that being done with the sequels.
Speaking of which, this would have been a weakness if a sequel was not released, but this is not really a movie that stands on its own. It very much ends on a "to be continued" tone. I didn't mind too much because I am interested in seeing what lies ahead for these people and of course a sequel has been released so there is a continuation instead of an empty promise (unlike "The Golden Compass" and countless others). I'm curious to see more of Kaya Scodelario and Patricia Clarkson. I just hope the whole thing doesn't turn into a mushy doomed romance.
As a first film by director Wes Ball, I don't think this is a masterpiece, but it's a pretty solid debut. Its perfectly workmanlike, gathered my and there aren't really any glaring flaws, except for the fact that some of the secondary characters could have used more development to make them more three-dimensional. I like this movie and if it looks like your kind of story, I say go for it. (Ultraviolet version, September 18, 2015)
Im not a huge fan of Johnny Depp. The guys been in some good movies, but its not his inclusion in Black Mass that lured me towards it. The trailers just looked good to me and I was not disappointed. Its a film that works consistently and features Johnny Depps best performance in years. Within the 122 minute running time you can also find terrific casting, a script that feels authentic and a constant sense of unease or tension as you delve into a frightening world filled to the brim with corruption. Its been a long time since Ive seen a movie that proves that the road to hell is paved with good intentions as well as this film does.
Based on true events, the film begins in 1975, South Boston. James Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) is a small-time ganger who has his fingers in all kinds of illegal pies. An old friend of his, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) suddenly takes interest in him. The goal isnt to take down the Irish mobster though, its about making a deal. Bulger will turn informant and the FBI will look the other way when his criminal activities are brought to light. The film follows his rise to the power and the rampant corruption that blossoms in the wake of this growing empire.
Whenever theres a movie thats based on a true story, there are going to be some details changed. Thats fine. Nobody wants to see a film where every year is given as much screen time as every other year because real life gets boring even when youre a criminal. The key, I think, is to merge characters and alter events in a way that feels authentic. Black Mass is extremely successful in this sense, as no moment or speech or action ever feels like it was inserted to make the film more commercially appealing. For this reason, theres not really an arc to the story. Its more about the characters, tone and mood. This is not a non-linear story, but its one that does not follow a typical 3-act structure. Then again, real life does not follow traditional writing conventions either.
Id compare this film to a game of dominos. Every criminal action and act of negligence by the FBI is another piece added to the chain. When its all going to come tumbling down, you dont know, and you have mixed feelings about when or where youll want the toppling to begin. I desperately wanted to see these terrible people get their comeuppance, but I also have to admit that I was always curious to see what was going to happen next. Could things get even darker? If they did, I wanted to be a witness to it.
Johnny Depp steals the show here so well just touch on him quickly. As Whitey Bulger hes frightening. A flat-out monster that puts you consistently on edge, even more so as his power accumulates. More than a great performance, its a transformation. Depp is still recognizable, but this is about as far as you get from being voted Sexiest man alive twice. Credit goes to the makeup people who did a terrific job and to the actor for making the most of the part.
Ill admit that I came to despise (in a good way) Bulger, but the character that makes this film stand out among the slew of mobster titles is John Connelly. Id even say that hes a worse person than Bulger. I think theres something inherently fascinating about people who try to be heroes but go about it the wrong way and end up becoming as loathsome as the scum they deal with. I was completely engrossed as I witnessed a man who decided that to get his hands dirty was the way to get real results, not realizing what kind of deal with the devil he was truly signing. This theme of corruption and loss of morality; the question of how much is too far? is what makes the supporting characters worth taking a look at even if their parts are too short (I would have liked to have seen more of Benedict Cumberbatch as Whitey Bulgers brother William Bulger for example). I loved seeing Connellys descent and it really made me think about all of the underhanded techniques that police of government agents must have to deal with all the time in order to try and get a leg up on people who play by no rules.
Even at 2 hours, it still feels like there are some segments missing in Black Mass, but I suspect an extended cut on home video could easily patch up some of the holes. I would be interested in seeing any deleted or extended scenes and I do think theres re-watch value here, even if its only to take a second look at the actors. While we wait for the Blu-ray, its the characters, that simultaneous rise of an evil man and the fall of another with good intentions and those performances that makes the film worth seeing. (Theatrical version on the big screen, September 29, 2015)
I find it very funny to have just sat through "A Walk in the Woods", which doesn't have a plot that's all that different from the Canadian horror film "Backcountry" which I saw a few weeks ago. Well, except for the fact that this Ken Kwapis project is a comedy. Not as many people end up being eaten by bears this time.
Author Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) comes to the sudden realization. Despite making his living off of writing memoirs, he hasn't really ventured out into the wild, or done anything adventurous since he and his wife (Emma Thompson) moved to Georgia ten years ago. Joined by his old friend Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) the two decide to tackle the Appalachian Trail: 2,200 miles through 14 different states.
This movie has a lot of old jokes in it. I mean jokes that are for old people, about old people, but also setups and punch lines you can see a mile away because they're old jokes. That's when the movie is at it's worst. As soon as you see a bunk bed that Bryson and Katz are going to have to share, you know what the gag is going to be. As soon as these guys are on the trail you count down the minutes before they're going to encounter every obligatory camping trip comedy cliché: the jokes about being unprepared, the bad weather that comes out of nowhere, the bad food, the wild animals, etc. If that's not bad enough, I found a lot of the comedy to be contrived. Bryson has been on camping trips and vacations before. He also lives on Earth and owns a television. Inexplicably though, he can't fathom the idea that in the wild there might not be an outhouse handy? As with any buddy road trip movie we also see a lot of outrageous characters along the way. Some are fun (I liked seeing Mary Steenburgen in a small role). Others are cartoonish and belong in a completely different movie, like Kristen Schaal's character Mary Ellen.
This isn't necessarily a criticism of the film, but one element that really surprised me is how... vulgar the script is. This is a story about two old guys (they're in their late 50s/early 60s and by movie standards that essentially means they're counting down the days until they fall over dead). Like something similar to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", I expected that the audience this was aiming towards was old people, the kind that would look at a trailer for "Jurassic World" and go "Oh no, that's too extreme for me!" Predictably, I was the youngest guy sitting in the theatre and it was pretty full. If you're thinking of taking grandma to this movie, don't just automatically assume that she'll love it though. Both Bryson and Katz have numerous talks about their days chasing tail all over Europe or of what they wish their sex lives are. Sometimes they just curse a lot. Not necessarily a bad thing because I know some of you seniors out there haven't cleaned up your vocabulary since you got that Tuesday discount, but if my grandmothers were still alive, I would have felt mighty awkward sitting next to them while watching Katz's more colorful recollections.
While the first half of the film frequently features uninspired comedy, it goes away eventually. I enjoyed the fact that despite their time apart, Bryson and Katz are friends, get along fairly well and go on a real-life adventure that feels genuine. They're not going to end up finding some lost treasure of stumble upon a historical re-enactment that will have them running for the hills after they accidentally set off barrels of gunpowder or anything like that. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte have good chemistry between them. I didn't even mind too much that sometimes, I think Nolte wasn't even saying lines, he was just growling because the banter between them and the dialogue when it's just those two is enjoyable and funny. It's a comedy with a good number of well-earned laughs.
There are some moments of weak humor in "A walk in the Woods" but it gets better as it goes along and I left it feeling pretty good. Great scenery too, so if you're trying to convince a friend to go along on a hike with you, this picture will help do the trick. In the end, I'm going to give it a mild recommendation. (Theatrical version on the big screen, September 24, 2015)
Move over "Ghostrider"; "Elektra" is now the worst Marvel movie to come out of the 2000's. It's a total disappointment on every single level and even if you're a hardcore fan of the character from the comic books, there is no way you will be able to forgive the slew of continuous cinematic sins this movie brings to your screen.
If you remember the end of "Daredevil", our titular character (played by Jennifer Garner) had been killed, much to our hero's chagrin. Just before the credits, there were hints that maybe she wasn't dead, despite the fact that she got a sai (those swords she wields) through her chest. Even if you don't remember any of that stuff, it doesn't really matter because this picture has little, if anything to do with that first movie. Elektra is now a crazy ninja assassin who is "deep" because she feels no remorse about killing people and does so a bit excessively; or sometimes doesn't. After being sent to assassinate a man (Goran Visnjic as Mark) and his teenage daughter (Kirsten Prout as Abby) Elektra decides to toss out her assignment and protect them from the evil clan of ninjas called "The Hand" instead.
I had an epiphany during this movie. It made me realize why this, and other notoriously poor comic book movies like "Ghost Rider" and "Catwoman" suck so much. It's because they have totally lame villains. Let's say you were making a Batman movie. Who would you have him pitted against? Would it be villains that no one has ever heard of, that even comic book fans don't care about like "Chemical King", "Hellhound", "Killshot" and "Rip Roar"? No way! Not in a million years! What you would do is pick one, maybe two and make sure they're some of the most interesting, most iconic criminals in Gotham City. Guys like The Joker, or Two-Face, or Bane. Characters that couldn't possibly be mistaken for anyone else, have a ton of personality and feel like genuine threats because their reputation precedes them. With that in mind, who is Elektra pitted against in this story? A bunch of no-name, Z-grade baddies that are totals chumps and that no one will ever remember, or care about. We have Boob lady, who can make stuff decay, sometimes; Big black guy who is bullet proof and strong; their boss who has generic ninja powers and a guy with killer tattoos (he's actually kind of cool admittedly). After doing a bit of research, I realized that these characters, which are about as appealing as the popcorn you find under your seat cushions are actually previously established characters from the Marvel universe. Boob lady (Natassia Malthe) is Typhoid, the strong guy (Bob Sapp) is Stone, their leader (Will Yun Lee) is Kirigi and some of the other characters introduced throughout include Stick, and some ninja clans that fans of Daredevil and Elektra will recognize.
The problem is that none of these villains have powers that feel original. We've seen strong guys before; we've seen people that can make people go mouldy before. If not in other superhero movies, then in generic action films that require a supernatural villain (which is what this feels like). I did think that at least one of the villains in this film was cool, which was Tattoo (Chris Ackerman). Basically he can bring the ink on his body to life to spy on people with spiders, or birds or even use them offensively by unleashing the wolf or snake tattoos. Even then though, this character never really feels like a genuine threat because he doesn't use his powers in any inventive ways and when he goes down, you'll go "wait, that's it?!"
Notice how little I've actually talked about the movie? That's because "Elektra" is about as generic as it gets. Jennifer Garner jumps around in a sexy outfit looking tough, nobody uses guns because guns are too effective in terms of assassinating people, you get your teenage sidekick, characters that make idiotic decisions so that we can have action sequences, and the acting is lousy. In terms of performances, the worst offender has to be Terence Stamp as Stick. He's supposed to be blind, but you couldn't tell from the way he's always looking at the person he's talking to. It's like they didn't even try to make it convincing!
This film only lasts a little bit over an hour and a half and it felt like it was taking forever to conclude. There is nothing interesting going on here. Even the combat sequences couldn't jar me out of my state of nearly-dead-out-of-boredom because the villains suck and the way they're taken down isn't interesting. It doesn't make Elektra look good when she effortlessly takes down a slew of stereotypical black-clad ninjas, it just makes these shinobi look like a bunch of pajama-wearing losers. If you can't predict where this plot is going, by the way you haven't seen any action movies because this doesn't feel like a superhero or comic book movie at all. They don't even refer to Daredevil or anything! This movie is clearly as sequel-spinoff of the Ben Affleck flick (whose "Director's Cut" is solid and very enjoyable) but the only hint of this is an afterthought during the first five minutes of the running time.
At least "Ghost Rider" had some cool visuals, with Johnny Blaze running around with a flaming skull for a head. This movie has got absolutely nothing to offer. None of the characters are compelling, none of the action is exciting, none of the writing is original. Even if you were the world's biggest Elektra fan, I can assure you that this is not a worthy representation of her comic book iterations. I can't think of anyone I could recommend it to, but it didn't offend me so I can't quite give it a zero rating. It's close though. (Director's Cut on Blu-ray, March 28, 2015)
This might date this review a bit, but let me begin by saying that I am watching this film well before "Batman vs. Superman" is being released, and I don't know what all of the Ben Affleck hate is about. I know there's a new "Daredevil" show out on Netflix as well and it's sure to gather a lot of people dismissing that "old movie" as trash, but hey, just wait a moment. I've just finished the director's cut (which ads a full 30 minutes to the running time), and it does have some flaws but otherwise this is a solid 2000's superhero movie. I like it a lot and putting it in the same category as "Ghost Rider" or "Fantastic Four" is a grave mistake. I can't remember what the theatrical cut was like, but this version runs about 2hrs and 15 minutes so there are some significant changes.
When Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) was a boy, he was blinded by a chemical spill. It wasn't a total loss though because his remaining senses where enhanced to superhuman level. As an adult, he uses his sonar-like hearing to walk around as if he could really see, but he pretends to be just a regular blind guy. It's the perfect disguise for his superhero alter ego, Daredevil. When Matt and his legal partner "Foggy" (Jon Favreau, who like Chris Evans also went on to star in some of the best Marvel films) take on a case, it all seems to point towards the ever-elusive, legendary, Kingpin of Crime (Michael Clarke Duncan). Daredevil works his way up the ladder, encountering the crackshot assassin Bullseye (Collin Farrell) and a lovely lady named Elektra (Jennifer Garner).
What I like about this movie is that it spends ample time showing you that Matt Murdock is a tortured man, the kind of guy you can believe would wear a costume and spend his nights beating the living snot out of criminals. He's emotionally distant, has a lot of guilt about what he does, second guesses himself and is very angry on the inside. He's a lawyer that encounters the worst people imaginable every day and he's fed up with seeing the ones who have the right connections or enough muscle to intimidate witnesses worm their way out of an appropriate sentence. What I liked even more was that you can also see that there are moments where he is a nice guy and he isn't always moping around complaining about that one person he couldn't save. He tells jokes, he flirts with women and has friends. You get to see him as a regular guy that takes advantage of his powers but also feels the burden of them. One of my favourite scenes happens just as he's about to call it a night after getting into a vicious fight with a dozen thugs. He is about to lie down when he hears the screams of a woman being murdered. He perks up a bit, then looks discouraged. He knows there's nothing he can do, and if he went out in the exhausted state that he is, he would only get himself killed. It's a difficult thing to do, but he must go to bed and try to let it slide, for now. That scene, with the clever detail that the man sleeps in a sense depravation tank in order to get some peace and quiet really impressed me. That single moment speaks volumes about the character and that's a sign that this is a legitimately good movie, one that's been unjustly dismissed.
When it comes to the supporting characters there's a lot to like. First up our main villain, Bullseye. What I like about this guy is that they make him delightfully evil. He's a sociopath that kills people in increasingly difficult ways... because it's a way for him to get his jollies. He doesn't use guns. Those are for your run-of-the-mill assassins. This guy's weapons of choice will make you look at pencils, toothpicks and office supplies in a totally different way. I also enjoyed the fact that he's given a real character. He's full of himself and very proud of his skills, to a fault. He also appears to suffer from some sort of OCD because he's always being overly theatrical and boastful, but in a way that's believable (unlike say, Two-Face from "Batman Forever"). I liked seeing Jennifer Garner as Elektra. There's real chemistry between her and Murdock and she's not just some damsel in distress that needs to be rescued during the climax. She's got a lot of different facets to her personality. The last guy I want to talk about is Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin. I know traditionally he's a really fat white guy but I actually like him better here than anywhere else. This Wilson Fisk is a powerful presence. He's scary, but not in an obvious way that would have every single person in New York screaming "that's the bad guy! Right there!"
Only two things really bother about this movie. There isn't enough action because there are so many moments where the characters and their relationships are explored and like most of the 2000's superhero films, many scenes contain dated CGI that makes you wish they were using practical effects, or just had more realistic battles that could actually have been done with the actors. The other is that the film is just a tad too long. I can forgive both because it really is an entertaining film filled with interesting characters and complex relationships, but it's worth noting.
If you think that "Daredevil" is a bad movie, you just need to revisit it by watching the Director's Cut. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the drama and how well developed all of the characters are. It captures the spirit of the dark Marvel comic books that made this guy a favourite in the first place. (Director's Cut on Blu-ray, march 26, 2015)
A horror movie is like a roller coaster ride. It's scary, but you're having fun because you know that it's perfectly safe. The scarier it gets, the more entertaining it is because it pulls you deeper into the story until you forget entirely that you're in the theatre watching a piece of fiction. I just saw "The Babadook" a week ago and I didn't expect to see another great horror film in at least a year but Christmas (or is it Halloween?) has come early because "It Follows" is playing at the cinema and it's a truly frightening film. I loved it.
The premise is simple and yet so ingenious. After Jay (Meika Monroe) has sex with Hugh (Jake Weary), a boy she has been dating and likes quite a bit, he gives her a grave bit of news. She's now the carrier of a curse. In the distance, invisible to everyone except those who have been afflicted, is something. This thing, whatever it is, is coming for her. It doesn't move quickly, but it's relentless. It won't ever stop until Jay passes the curse onto someone else, or is dead.
This picture is going to be interpreted in a lot of different ways. I can see someone interpreting the story as a cautionary tale about sex for instance. Proving that you've slept with someone is really the only way not to get made fun of for being a virgin. This pressure makes a lot of people eager to give themselves away. But what if having sex turns out to be dangerous? He/she could be a stalker, it could be someone with an STD, a traumatic event or confirmation that your life as a carefree teenager is over and that now you're an adult with all kinds of responsibilities you weren't prepared for. I think those are all valid interpretations, but I think the movie is about something completely different.
To me, this is a story about the thing that everyone fears the most, death. For you, for me, for everyone that will ever be born, death is coming. You can avoid it for a while if you stay smart, you eat well and you exercise regularly... but it's still coming. It's not even as simple as just keeping an eye out for your inevitable demise and moving out of the way at the last second either because no one knows how they're going to die. No one is going to be able to keep an eye out for you (because in this instance, the monster is invisible to everyone else) and you might not know that you're about to die until it's too late to escape.
A detail that you need to know about this monster is that if you're cursed, you can see it... but you don't really know what it looks like because it's a shape shifter. It could look like someone you know; it could be a total stranger. It isn't limited to the amount of times it can take a certain shape and the only giveaway is that it's always walking in a straight line towards you. This aspect, the fact that you can see it coming is where the cinematography of this movie comes in. This movie will make you insanely paranoid because you will never know for sure if the monster is on-screen. Every time you see someone walking and they're not interacting with anyone else, you will begin to feel a creeping chill up your spine. "Please don't let it get any closer, please, SOMEONE notice that some stranger is walking towards the camera!" It's absolutely nerve-wracking because of the fact that it doesn't run, or wield a big butcher knife or anything like that. It just walks. The slow speed brings in an element of hope that evenly spreads the terror throughout the entire film like peanut butter on a slice of toast. It seems like it would be so easy to get away from it, or even to get rid of the curse. I mean look at it, it's so slow! The problem is that it never stops. If you start running through traffic in an attempt to get away and you get hit by a car, it's still coming at the same pace. If you try to steal a bike, you get caught by the police and then thrown in jail, that cell won't protect you because you know this thing is going to gain ground as you wait sentencing. It looks like your only hope is to pray that you figure out a way to take it down, you spot it early enough to keep moving or you damn someone else to this horrible fate to save yourself.
A big part of this movie is the cinematography. On the big screen, I found myself constantly looking around trying to see if the creature approaching was approaching somewhere in the distance, or hiding behind some fence or bush. But wait a second, why would I want to see it? Is it because the reassurance that I can identify it makes it less frightening? Not really because that means it's getting closer. Which one is worse then, the fact that I CAN see it, meaning that I know to run, or that I can't see it, which means that either it's only a matter of time before it arrives, or that I've failed to recognize it?
There's a whole lot of atmosphere generate by the way the movie is shot, but also by the score. The music here brings me back to some of my favourite horror films. I'm talking about pictures like "Halloween" and "Assault on Precinct 13" where the score doesn't give you hints of what is about to happen or how you're supposed to feel as much as it reminds you that there is nowhere that is truly safe and that you need to WAKE UP! and pay attention because any oversight could mean a painful and gruesome death.
I loved the story, so simple and to-the-point while still having some fun with its premise and plenty of intelligent developments. I liked the characters because they were intelligent and had at least a theoretical chance of surviving (unlike in so many slasher films where the villain is going to win, or at least be back for the sequel for sure). I loved the music because it perfectly captured and amplified how I felt as I grasped the gravity of the situation. I can't say enough good things about the overall execution, which demonstrates that a horror movie can be more than cheap jump scares and senseless gore thrown left and right. It's the simple, memorable and chilling imagery that still haunts me right now as I type this. I found "It Follows" to be immensely frightening and I can't wait to watch it again. (Theatrical version on the big screen, April 2, 2015)
"Memento" is brilliant and expertly pieced together. It's more than a movie, it's an experience. How is that possible? Unfortunately it's impossible to describe to you why that is unless you know the premise, so here goes:
Our protagonist (Guy Pearce) is a man named Leonard. He is on a seemingly impossible quest for revenge after his wife's rape and murder by an unidentified assailant. The attack left him with a head injury that now prevents him from forming new memories. He knows who he is, he remembers everything up to the moment where he suffered the injury but if he has a conversation that lasts too long, he won't remember how it started. Now, using clues from the night, limited information from the police file that's gone cold, Polaroid photographs, hand-written notes to himself and help from people he has met, Leonard is slowly tracking down the man responsible.
Now that you have the premise of the film, there is another vital piece of information that you must know in order to understand what this movie is like. The movie is told in reverse, with the scene that would normally be at the very end of this story being shown at the beginning, and so on. This means that just like the protagonist, you don't know what causes actions or how Leonard go to a spot as its happening. This is where the brilliance of the film comes in. Just like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", where the drug trip the characters go on, and the experience of watching the movie feel like the same, the condition that Leonard suffers and the experience you will get from watching the movie are the same. It's hard to wrap your brain around this, but even if you're dubious about it working (trust me, it works incredibly well), have you ever seen a movie that tries to pull a trick like this? It's a breath of fresh air.
What I love about this movie is that it's not just a gimmicky story; it would still be just as interesting to watch if it was told in the "normal" order. It's a story about revenge like no other because it exposes the biggest flaw about going on a quest to get even in a way that no other movie about the subject can. If you were out on the path of vengeance, you might get satisfaction from killing the person that murdered your wife, but that isn't going to get her back. The purpose of revenge then, is revenge itself. You seek retribution in order to give yourself the satisfaction that you have done something. But what happens when you don't even have that? What happens when you find the guy and you take gleeful pleasure in making him suffer so intensely that he prays for death, but once the deed is done you can't even remember it happening? I'm a huge fan of films about payback because there's something primal about them that is satisfying, but they also lend themselves very well to complicated ideas and paradoxes. This is one of the smartest and most original stories of revenge that I've seen.
There's even more going on with this movie because it plays wonderfully with the condition that Leonard suffers from (the technical term is anterograde amnesia). As the story unfolds you see that many people sympathize with the man's condition, while others use it to their advantage and ultimately it becomes impossible to know who he can really trust. The further you get into the movie, the more twisted it gets and everything that you think you know gets turned upside down. Once again, it makes you as disoriented as the character in the movie and that's a wonderful, original and confusing feeling. All of a sudden, sequences of mundane exposition become huge plot twists!
I found "Memento" to be an extremely satisfying experience. It's so twisty, so intelligently written, so well acted and so well directed that it's the kind of movie that you can never forget once you've seen. I absolutely loved it and I'm very curious to see how it plays out a second time around, or if there is a way to view it in the "correct" order with some special edition blu-ray or Dvd out there. I can't say enough good things about it. If you're interested in movies even a little bit, you should treat yourself by experiencing "Memento". (On Blu-ray, June 14, 2012)