Monday, January 19, 2015

Biography - Ed Gein (2004) Review:

Horror icons are not always made up in the fabrication of the mind. Clive Barker, a literary horror novelist who created the memorable cenobites to his film Hellraiser (1987) was unique and was a fabrication by him alone. However, Freddy Krueger from Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was not. Craven conjured up the idea after he did some research on people in Asia who died in their sleep for mysterious reasons. Krueger was only created to create a reason for it. But did anyone ever think that Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) or Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) production was based off of a single man that actually live in the North America? Most likely not. Unless research was done on it prior, very few people actually suspect that these couple of films were (loosely) based on events that actually happened. It's these kinds of stories that make the movies sound less scary and the real ones more frightening.

Ed Gein
The story itself is about a quiet town in Wisconsin called Plainfield. There in 1957 a series of shocking discoveries were made by the head of the police department. These sightings were found in the house of man named Ed Gein, a what looked to be a simple and mellow town man. But this is only what seemed to be what was portrayed on the outside, for what lied beneath his exterior was something inhuman that can't be explained clearly by any analyst. As a for a short TV documentary, this roughly hour long video is fairly effective in its job at making viewers’ skin crawl. The biggest component to that feeling is that the story is true. That alone is bone-chilling enough but here's where the rest of the production really hits the nail on the head.

Alex Flaster's writing shows he did his research. The story covers from exactly when the unbelievable encounters were made, up to the end of Ed Gein. There is some back-story that sheds light on Gein but much of it is too muddled for anyone to truly know if it was true. The interesting thing is once it's been seen and understood, viewers will understand the correlation to how Psycho (1960) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) relate specifically to this estranged man. The narrator David O'Brien, who doesn't have much for a filmography certainly gave it his best shot when it came to creeping out his audience. O'Brien's voice is oily slick and gives the story telling a much uneasier feel.

Another element to this documentary that pushes the uncomfortability level was the music provided by Jim Gaynor. Gaynor's music consists of electronic piano and other synth instruments but it is worked in a fashion that does create a sense of frantic nervousness to the tale being told. I must say though, it does sound like a score than composer Richard Band would create because it sounds awfully cheap. Yet, Gaynor's score is much more compelling than Bands. The other aspect to the story that takes the cake is interviews/Q&A's held with various individuals who worked on the Gein case. Whether it be a News Reporter, homeowner from Plainfield or someone who personally looked after Gein, the fact that they were there and took part in what was considered one of the most alarming stories of the mid 1900s is just mind blowing. It seriously must have been a scary thing to learn when everything was all revealed as time went on.

The names there,....he's a reporter (obviously)
Unfortunately, even with how effective a lot of these supporting sections give to the documentary, there are still two big flaws; both of which try to work off each other. This flaw is when the story is being told, it is done so as a recreation - as if the viewer is watching it as it was being filmed the day of. For 1957, it's obvious that no one would even have a hand held recorder, so why try to convince its audience now? But because they did this, the other error they commit is trying to make the still photographs (which are real) look 3D. There's absolutely no need for that. If the material is graphic, let it be graphic. War is graphic and you don't see documentaries on those being vaguely lit. It's also not like these pictures aren't visible but it would be nice to see just how much of twisted man Ed Gein really was and that means seeing the whole thing from top to bottom. Yet, even with these minor things, it is still a moving documentary.

As a short TV documentary its writer certainly packed in enough information to help its audience comprehend just how weird this man is. The visual elements are a bit flawed but the music, narration and interviews help elevate its story telling experience to one ghastly night.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) Review:

By this point in any movie franchise, if a series of films all related and connected to each other reach beyond two sequels, there must be a loyal following behind it. That also means something is being done right to the franchise (for some). Now although Universal's The Fast and the Furious (2001) feature film debut and subsequent sequels all do not have glowingly positive and overwhelming reviews, the production managed to find its demographic. When The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) came out with writer Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin handling the project, who would've suspected that they would have collaborated for three more films in the franchise. Amazingly even with writer Chris Morgan back tracking by introducing a later sequel earlier, the franchise persuaded its loyal fans to stick to it and keep following the later entries.

Time for another round?....ehh why not?
After breaking free of the law and living in a secluded life from trouble, newly appointed father Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) finally could enjoy the time they always wanted together. Or so they thought; Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) returns to Toretto showing him recent pictures of what Dominic thought was his dead girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguiez) who turns out is working for a group deadly mercenaries headed by a man named Shaw (Luke Evans). Upon this newly discovered information, Hobbs and Toretto agree that if Hobbs gets Shaw, Toretto will get Letty. So in order to capture Shaw, Toretto regroups once more with the crew he gathered from Fast Five (2011) in hopes reclaiming Letty and helping Hobbs out. For what started all the way back in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), Chris Morgan's screenplay finally,....finally realigns itself to the timeline it initially broke from. Out of all things, this was one of the most crucial things that needed to be fixed and by golly it’s wonderful to see everything add up again.

But aside from this, Morgan shows that he had an appreciation and respect for the films he did not write for earlier because of how he treats the characters. Dominic Toretto's underlining factor to why he's so good is because of the family he has. In the early entries it was about racing, hot girls, slick cars and understanding one's place among all that. Later on, it turned into revenge and then fleeing the law. Now, it's just about family. It doesn't get anymore selfless than that and it feels more genuine than ever among all the previously established characters (including the recently new ones). Now everyone works together for a common cause. There's no second-guessing this anymore and that's just the writing alone. The fact that this is written into the script and the actors can pull it off without having to act as so much as being themselves is also a plus. The installments before this did have emotion and arguments related to family matters, but this film feels authentic in every sense of the word when it comes to feelings.

Every actor plays off each other like it was another day in the life of the job they do daily. There's no tension at any point between any of Toretto's crew because they know what makes each other tick and that makes it all the more preferable to see when it comes to interactions. Luke Evans also feels like the most formidable villain Toretto and O'Conner have ever come up against. Not only is he smart, agile and callous but also tends to be one step ahead of Toretto and Co., even Hobbs. For once, Toretto can't keep up and to see him challenged is definitely a new thing. The action that ignites between Toretto and Shaw's gang is much more interesting to watch this time too. Although it is still way over the top (if not more than before) and the physics behind such reactions remain unlikely, the sequences feel much more creative this time. This is probably due to that this particular plot is no longer a heist; it's more of a rescue.

I believe I can fly.....
However that still does not go over easy when people go flying into things or roll around in cars and handle walking it off only with a few scratches. Some of these particular events are simply impossible for the human body to withstand at once or all in one day. Sometimes it feels almost like a superhero movie because of how invulnerable some of these characters are portrayed. Again though, it’s only for certain scenes. Stephen F. Windon again gives his audience the usual airy and spacious cinematography that almost every other entry in the franchise has received. Lots of road and aerial views for audiences to see how big of an issue these chase scenes get. The music is a puzzling choice however. Instead of Brian Tyler scoring the film, this time composer Lucas Vidal is doing the job. This is Vidal's only mainstream film score and to be honest it sounds a lot like Tyler's anonymous music. I guess Tyler was over scheduled for other films this time. Nothing sounds that much different though; it does sound good but not memorable in any way. It's just there like all the other scores to this franchise. All in all though it is still one of the better films.

Justin Lin's latest entry contains lots of the same generic music and over-the-top action that feels physically flawed, yet it entertains better with Luke Evans' imposing presence and a story that is more about unity than it is about who has the faster car. Also after watching this, the confusing timeline will finally come into place.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Kim Possible: So the Drama (2005) Review:

When it came to this movie in particular, it seems as though this would have been the finale to Kim Possible's TV run as a cartoon. Turns out fans of the series protested to the mouse house and demanded another season. Talk about dedication. What makes this final TV movie of baby sitter turned World Saver Kim Possible more enjoyable than Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time (2003) or any other feature is that it nicely ties together the loose ends for Kim Possible in her academic career and personal life. Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time (2003) just had Possible and Stoppable correcting the altered past caused by Dr. Drakken and his goonies playing with the magic time monkey idol. It was good but did not move anything forward, just fixing the past. Here, Dr. Drakken gets even more personal than before to disrupt Kim's livelihood. The best part is Dr. Drakken actually having the upperhand on everybody for a while.

Friend Zoned like a boss
When a new boy named Eric comes to Kim's school, she begins to fall for him. This results in Ron Stoppable becoming jealous, thus having himself reassess his feelings for her. There really isn't much to say about what isn't good about this TV feature. The only thing that's worthy of a critiquing is that the running time could have been longer so Kim Possible could have went out with a bang. Then again, perhaps it was also kept short because fans were demanding another season after this, so it's difficult to say where it really should've concluded. Everything else manages to entertain with ease. All the voice actors return for their respective roles and give enjoyable performances too. Christy Carlson Romano and Will Friedle voicing the comedic action duo still have the skills to do their characters justice.

Nancy Cartwright as Rufus also is another fun role. Even the minor characters return; Wade (Tahj Mowry), Monique (Raven-Symoné), Ned, the Bueno Natcho Cashier (Eddie Deezen) and even Maurice LaMarche (best known as The Brain) plays a character. And of course Shego (Nicole Sullivan) and Dr. Drakken (John DiMaggio) return too as the villain duo that just can't seem to ever get it right when it comes to world conquest. As a side note, April Winchell voices a news reporter and it’s hilarious to hear the way she speaks for this character. As a story, Disney writers Robert Schooley and Mark McCorkle made good use of what happens when you take people for granted. Ron Stoppable was so used to being around Kim Possible that he didn't realize what would happen if another guy entered Kim's life that took more precedence over him. It is a very common issue that friend zoned guys come in contact with. Viewers should also have fun watching Stoppable notice that Dr. Drakken still doesn’t know his name after so long.

That action though
As an animation feature, everything is done accordingly. Since this isn't an official film feature, the animation wasn't polished because it still looks like it belonged to the cartoon. It's nothing to get fussy over though. The action and music also satisfy as usual. Director Steve Loter, who has worked the Kim Possible TV series and the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command TV series definitely knows how to make the action fun. There's plenty of explosions, fight sequences and other things that not every cartoon now a days displays for younger audiences. Lastly, the music provided by TV composer Adam Berry is fine. Berry continues to play the Kim Possible theme and even includes "the naked mole rat" number for Rufus. Any scene in between is used appropriately too. Not much else to say other than a fun time.

Except for not being longer than 70 minutes for Kim Possible's last TV movie, all the other components work like they have been. The voice-actors, action animation, music and comedy continues to entertain fans of the series.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) Review:

It's truly sad to see when a promising franchise starter manages to shoot itself in the foot after its first sequel. Of course for Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), was not the only movie franchise in general to achieve mainstream popularity and have a sequel made right after it. Like many others, whether it be "Part 2" or just labeled with the number 2 after it, its successor ended up financially blowing away its competition but lost its critical flare that the original had. The reason behind these flaws was either the lack of the creator's involvement with the further projects or the producers decided otherwise what should be the next step in the franchise. As of right now, there's only one horror sequel that manages to complete its narrative in two successful steps and that's John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981).

"I'm baacckkk,....wait, who do I want revenge on?"
Here fans are introduced to Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), the newest tenant living in 1428 Elm Street, the same house that Krueger appeared in 1984. After a few nights of some intense dreams involving Krueger (Robert Englund) wanting Jesse to kill for him, his friends Lisa Webber (Kim Myers) and Ron Grady (Robert Rusler) begin to notice and try to figure out what's going on. The sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) doesn't make sense in a number of areas. As his first writing job, David Chaskin didn't modify the script in any way to enhance the story that was told prior. His first mistake is the title; Freddy's Revenge? Who is Krueger getting revenge on? He got his revenge at the end of the first entry. This also completely puts into question what are Freddy's motivations. Why does Freddy want Jesse to kill for him? If its to avoid having people think Freddy Krueger is back, the reason seems pointless. Nobody believes what they don't see anyway.

Jack Sholder's direction in the plot is interesting but if looked at deeper, it just doesn't add up. The only thing Chaskin does correctly is continuing to maintain connections to the first nightmare by introducing Nancy's diary, which gives the characters a sparknotes edition of the events before. Although even that may come into question because I don't clearly remember Nancy ever writing down anything about her experiences. The main actors do give believable performances for the situations they encounter but unfortunately, they aren't attachable. Mark Patton and his co-stars can portray emotion but they just aren't the same likable cast. The only actor who comes out unscathed is Robert Englund just because he's playing Krueger like he always has. The only difference here is that he no longer has a connection to these specific characters other than one of the individuals living in 1428 Elm Street.

Even actor Marshall Bell has a minor role but for those who are familiar with Bell's other roles, they might already know where he's headed. The cinematography provided by Jacques Haitkin (who worked on the first nightmare) and Christopher Tufty manage to keep the look of the first with various lighting and colors. However, the creativity behind the dream sequences isn't as frequent anymore either. And when the scene shifts to a dream, the scenes focus more on the surroundings than what Krueger can do. Instead, the big thing going for when Krueger is around is that everything gets molten hot. That's nice because in some cases it did look good for the practical and special effects used. However more could have been done too. A good example of this is one dream sequence that is skin crawling. For a minute I actually thought it was real.

Robert Rusler
This leads to the horror aspect of the picture. Is it scary? Well, for horror fans no but they should still have fun watching it. As for anyone else who's not used to Krueger already, they will be scared. The makeup on Krueger is still slimy and gross and his method of killing is still grotesque and ugly. Can you imagine being killed by rusty claws? Ewww, least clean them. The music produced by horror composer Christopher Young is an unfortunate let down too. Young who would later prove himself with Clive Barker's Hellraiser (1987) score, manages to only make the score to this sequel only creepy and not scare inducing. For some reason, Young also did not include composer Charles Bernstein's original theme from the first movie and its sad because Young probably could have enhanced such a unforgettable cue. Here Young does include drawn out clashing string tunes and one-two mystery notes. That's it and regrettably, this is Young's only score to this franchise. Sigh.

The special/practical effects still look good and the story's direction is new but with little to no clarity, the reasoning barely makes sense. Although every actor is new other than Robert Englund, none of them give showings that are remotely memorable. Grievously, even with Christopher Young composing the musical score, he too cannot help the film be but only mediocre.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Blackhat (2015) Review:

For a large part of his career up until now, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has been riding the successful road in the realm of Hollywood movies. After finding success in Marvel's Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and critically acclaimed Rush (2013), it seemed as if there wasn't a role Hemsworth couldn't pull off that people didn't enjoy. But in everyone's success story there are always slips and mistakes along the way. This movie highlights one of Hemsworth's errors. One of the more surprising things though is that it's not just Hemsworth's mistake either. There are a lot of mistakes that belong to several other professionals that have proven before they are better than this. Most notably, this belongs to director Michael Mann.

Chris Hemsworth & Wei Tang (background)
Although not a mainstream director of popular movies, Michael Mann has produced a number of films that people recollect as being highly entertaining. The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Heat (1995) to name a couple are of his most well respected films he has directed. This however is a totally different problem. The story to this movie is about a cyber-hacker AKA a "Blackhat" working its way into certain country's government systems and using whatever they can manipulate for personal gain. After first being sited when it activates a nuclear meltdown in China, Chinese Computer Security Agent Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) and his sister Chen Lien (Wei Tang) ask for Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), a convicted hacker and friend of Chen Dawai to help them figure out who's behind the cyber-hacking. However, because Hathaway is a convicted felon, Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) and another guard comes along to make sure Hathaway doesn’t leave the project.

As a story, the concept and premise is compelling. In an age where digital information is recorded and stored in private databases in a central processing unit, hacking is a contemporary issue that results in many people's cyber issues related to either social media profiles, personal email accounts or leaked footage (that the movie companies can't seem to handle yet). But aside from this, the execution isn't cleaned up. Of the cast, only three actors will make any kind of impression on its audience and that belongs to Leehom Wang, Wei Tang and Viola Davis. The characters they portray at least have some existence of humanity in them and carry a bit of charm to their personality. Chris Hemsworth on the other hand is about as dry old provolone cheese with not one sarcastic statement sounding the least bit humorous. Sadly, this is the least of the film’s crimes because there's more to discuss.

The villain in this movie is unknown. His name isn't mentioned once and trying to find the cast member name without a proper picture doesn't help. His performance wasn't worth much either. As for characters on an individual basis, from thread to thread it’s incredibly cliche and predictable. Does it even need to be said what'll happen when a best friend meets his best friend's sister? Adding to it is that these particular subplots weren't needed. It didn't develop the characters in any unique fashion. And with that, the result ends up being a 2-hour snooze fest of stuff viewers have already seen. These flaws are quite vivid when looking at the writer Morgan Davis Foehl, who's prior positions belong to film productions as an assistant editor. That's not a good sign and why didn't Foehl edit this picture? Apparently the four editors to this film did barely anything.

Viola Davis
The only other minuscule plus to this movie is that there are shootouts and fights. However even they are not particularly entertaining because cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh couldn't keep the camera still for hardly any scene he filmed. There are some scenes that involve no motion at all and Dryburgh still manages to have the camera shake. Why? Does it create realism? Kind of but it makes the movie feel more like a found footage genre movie than a cinematic traditional thriller. The music is another mixed bag. Harry Gregson-Williams worked with two other composers; Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross. However according to Williams almost none of his work was put in the movie. So for that I cannot say anything about him but for the Ross brothers (if that is their work), the music they produced isn't the least bit inviting. Much the music consists of deep bass synths and dense percussion that don't really appeal to anything that goes on through the movie. Williams’ music would probably been more appropriate considering his past work involves much more of a hybrid mix between synths and orchestra. Some much was wrong here.

It has some ok action scenes, a few good performances and has an interesting premise that pertains to today's culture but fails to be clever in any way in its execution. The story is badly written with cliche character threads, very slow pacing, a dull showing by Chris Hemsworth and unappealing music.

Points Earned --> 4:10

Clive Barker: The Art of Horror (1992) Review:

Influential people exist all over the world and they affect different people in their own specific ways. There are the people who workout, comic book lovers, novelists, computer scientists; the list goes on. For each group there was at least one person who is treated as a household name that influenced the interest. For horror fanatics, Clive Barker (although not the only one i.e. Stephen King) is frequently mentioned at the top of people's lists. Now, when it comes to understand that particular individual, it's very important to digest and comprehend all the factors that played in that person's life; that made them what they are now. For Clive Barker, knowing a documentary would be made about him at some point was obvious after the release of his franchise starter Hellraiser (1987) and its sequel Hellraiser II: Hellbound (1988).

Must have spoken to Schwarzenegger prior....
The thing is for this documentary; the title would infer more that it's about Clive Barker explaining the art of horror. For that premise alone, its interesting enough to find out because only Barker and a few other writers would actually know what makes good horror. Unfortunately, this documentary somewhat accomplishes this task but not as efficiently as it should have. Here's what Barker does talk about. First and foremost, Barker quotes the first horrific thing he ever encountered was the childbirth his mother went through to have him brought into this world. "We come out kicking and screaming, or we get the screams smacked into us"; it is a view that probably not many even thought about. Childbirth can be violent and can be horrific at times. I don't know if this is what inspired him because it would be hard to say whether he remembered that from such an early age, but I'm sure it did inspire him when he wrote.

Barker also explains how he got to starting Hellraiser (1987), after two initial failures to try and write for Hollywood Studios. Along with that he includes what particular elements he finds interesting and arousing when it comes to writing and how they relate to him. The thing is, these components that he mentions can be disturbing or are things that are normally spoken in hushed terms because of how gratuitously macabre they can sound. Plus like many other celebrities, he gives a small amount of advice for anyone who's attempting to follow what they're good at. One of the more stimulating conversations that Barker has said pertains more to how people’s culture view society. Now of course, this is for 1992 back then when it was filmed, but it shows that even by today's standards, the attitudes for various activities haven't changed.

An example of this is Barker explaining how he sees people at the gym working out and getting tans all just to be beautiful and attractive. Barker sees this as a trance these individuals are in, so focused on their goal that it becomes routine to a point of being robotic. When in fact there's more to life than just "the flesh" which is what Barker emphasizes a lot in his written works. These particular aspects of what Barker has to say are enlightening indeed, but that doesn't exactly bring to light everything the title suggests. Other than this, running in only a half-hour this documentary is extremely brief on information for what makes horror an art. It's very condensed. Also the amount of material given is heavily based on some of Barker's written works and for those who are only fans of his movies won't exactly understand every reference Barker makes.

Ewww,..take it easy Barker
On a technical standpoint as a documentary everything else is for the most part acceptable. The musiccomposed by Christopher Young nicely matches whatever is put on screen. This goes for the horrific pictures edited in between dialog or even the comedy bits that mock critics Siskel & Ebert or just building a model of Pinhead. Surprisingly, the crew that made this documentary are barely in film at all now. The only person to keep moving on other than Christopher Young and Clive Barker was producer Mark Terry. Everyone else just disappeared; even Robert Russell who sounded decent as the narrator only did this job. What happened? The camerawork is the last thing and its possibly the only other issue to this film and that it's just not that interesting other than it panning over a number of grisly images that pertain to Barker. The only other thing worth mentioning is that there are a few shots that give audiences an idea of the hairstyles back then,...yikes.

As a documentary it does have Clive Barker giving some deeply enthralling thematic material related to himself and the products he's worked on. But for a title describing that Clive Barker will explain the art of horror; it isn't done in the clearest of fashions. Plus with its 30-minute running time, viewers will only get a very condensed understanding of what it takes to truly make something horrific so beautiful.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dark City (1998) Review:

Director Alex Proyas is not what you would consider to be a mainstream or cash-grab filmmaker. Although he hasn't produced several outputs, his productions have more than not have had great feedback and has taken years to make. Unlike The Crow (1994) which was more heavily inspired by a comic book, this film starts Proyas' film career as the director who will include the themes of individualism and human life for next couple of entries. This would follow through in I, Robot (2004) and Knowing (2009). However, this particular entry in that field is probably the most surreal and bizarre. When a man named John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up after not remembering a thing about himself or what he was doing, he makes it his life mission to figure it out. This decision of course is only made after he receives a strange phone call from Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) warning him of the danger he is in.

Rufus Sewell
The screenplay was written by a combination of Proyas, Lem Dobbs and famed to be comic book writer, David S. Goyer. Together they produce a written work that will surely have the hooks to grasp its audience and have them pay attention. The basis of individualism and uniqueness is the story's strongest point. The fact that being human is one of the most important qualities in life is essential to our biological existence. Nobody is exactly the same and if we were, what would make anyone of us special or different from the others? Unfortunately, with this very thought provoking underlining topic come unexplained errors and loopholes. These of which cannot be elaborated on in much detail due to how critical it is to the viewing experience. To put it briefly, there are certain things that don't seem logically possible to accomplish physically. Thus producing big questions for how the plot unfolds.

The characters in this movie are memorable in some ways but not all. Rufus Sewell as the protagonist is convincing as a wanderer and grows later on with proper development. Yet, his presence isn't exactly the most ground shaking of performances. Also for anyone who has OCD, it may annoy them that occasionally Sewell will suffer from a lazy eye. Jennifer Connelly who plays Murdoch's wife also gives a believable performance for her attempts to try and jog her husband’s memory. Along with her, she also teams up with Inspector Bumstead (William Hurt) who look to understand what is going on around them. Additionally co-starring these actors is Richard O'Brien, Bruce Spence and Colin Friels, all of which have key roles in the story being told. Still, the most interesting character is Dr. Schreber played by Sutherland. The knowledge that he carries and the rhythm at which he speaks is rare compared to the rest of the cast.

Lots of urban terrain
The finalizing attributes to the film are also well done. The cinematography administered by Dariusz Wolski (who also worked on The Crow (1994)) looks good. For a set that looks awfully similar in several locations, Wolski manages to show different angles and not make it the same view every time. Plus when it switches over to special effects, the integration is mostly unnoticeable. And because this is Alex Proyas directing, the visual style will be heavy handed and it's very creative. For music, composer Trevor Jones took the helm. Although more of an organic composer when it comes to instruments, Jones seems to operate the orchestra with synths with ease. The synths are played to represent memories which kind of sound like "scrapping" notes. For the villains, their theme is much more traditional with horns and percussion. The best however belongs to Emma (Connelly's character). It is very soft and sounds tragic too with background guitars and a leading flute. It's the most memorable piece.

Its plot holes are its biggest issue, which is located in its spoiler filled screenplay. To understand them, it has to be seen. Other than Rufus Sewell not having the most commanding of performances, the acting is serviceable, with appropriate music, decent special effects and a fascinating underlining theme of humanity.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fast Five (2011) Review:

Once Fast & Furious (2009) came back on the scene, reuniting Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and the rest of his crew, knowing sequels were on the way was more than just foresight. The hints were given not only with films prior, but also with teaser footage in the post credits. Amazingly, it has also been one of the few franchises that keeps on going no matter what critics have said previously. However, this is the film that not only topped all of the other installments and was favored the most by critics, but also began to bring the franchise full circle (kind of). Continuing immediately after the last film, O'Conner and his crew break out Dominic Toretto and flee to Brazil. Nonetheless, this does not stop the US government from sending another federal lawman to bring in O'Conner and Toretto. His name is Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and he's determined to get the job done that O'Conner failed to do time and again.

Time to round it up!
Once in Brazil, Toretto and Co. decide that the only way to be free of all the trouble they've been in for for the last number of films is to rob Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), a drug lord who controls the local area and use his money to disappear entirely. To do this, O'Conner and Toretto call in their contacts, which span from the prior sequels. Joining the gang is Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang) and others. The great thing is, the fans of the franchise will definitely enjoy seeing the characters combine forces from beginning to end. Screenwriter Chris Morgan has certainly been improving the way the stories are being told for these characters. My question is since Morgan only began writing for the franchise at The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), did he plan this from that point? If so, he certainly knows how to plan ahead.

Sadly for timeline continuity, Chris Morgan still hasn't made any sense to why The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) was written first if that came later. It gets annoying to think about when trying to make sense of it all. To be honest though, the best part about Morgan's screenplay to this entry is the fact that it no longer focuses on revenge, trying to pick sides or anything near that. It's all about breaking free from old chains and it's something everyone strives for in life. There's nothing to say about acting because anyone watching this movie has either followed this franchise from the start or will become attached from here. All the actors maintained their characters charm and personality. It is surprising to see how some of the actors look now though. A lot of the male actors have beefed up considerably, from Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Matt Schulze. They got huge!

Another impressive visual component is that the cars used are no longer on a high color pallet with neon paint and LED lights made to look and sound like your regular urban crotch rocket. Here, they use slick, dark colored, modern high performance cars and it looks less infantile in style and that’s good. The action / racing is another good element that entertains to a point. I say this because at some points in the movie, the physics do not exactly apply and because this is in a "real-world" setting, what happens in some action scenes aren't the most plausible. There's only so much strain a regular car chassis can handle compared to a van or compared to a truck. Another thing that might annoy people depending on ethnicity is that no subtitles are used for when people speak in foreign languages. It's one thing if its brief but it happens more than enough times for people who are not fluent in the language to get confused.

Because coming off without a scratch is 100% guaranteed
The final visual aspect to the film is Stephen F. Windon's cinematography. Considering that he's been on board this franchise since The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), it seems that he knows what to look for as well. Plus, since this is a car-related movie, one would need a nice backdrop for viewers to look at while things are going on and that's what Windon does here. Much of his shots include beautiful scenery of the Brazilian landscape; from the mountains to urban terrain. Finally, completing the listening experience is Brian Tyler's musical composition. Like much of the other music he produced for the prior entries, again going back to The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), it’s fairly generic music. However, Tyler is able to convey the right tunes for the sentimental moments and action cues. To do this, like he's done in the past, he's used a mix of electronic synths and an actual orchestra. So far, he's doing a good job but hopefully he'll make a more memorable theme for the franchise at some point.

Viewers should enjoy the direction in which their favorite characters go from here. Plus, rejoining the cast from prior entries, adding new characters and maturing the visual style is an added bonus. The only quip fans may have are the omitted subtitles and the action does entertain, but may get a bit out of control for its realistic setting.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004) Review:

Who knew creator Stephen Hillenburg would have made such a success off of the concept of a talking sponge? After five years of running Nickelodeon's Spongebob Squarepants (1999) TV series, it was time for the little square dude to hit the big screen. By 2004, Spongebob had quickly gained traction as a popular and memorable children's icon, so there was no doubt that in order to boost popularity (and of course profitability) a theatrical film had to be made. However, that doesn't mean it was an easy task. The reason for this being is that cartoon adaptations (whether live-action converted or not) have had trouble before extending their 10-20 minute running time into a full length feature. Failures like this happened frequently all the time due to poor advertising, basing the movie on older cartoons that not many kids at the time were familiar with or because the original cartoon only relied on a single gag. It's definitely a risk. Thankfully, Hillenburg was directing so he oversaw everything and for what it's worth, it turned out well.

Plotting much?
Like many other episodes prior to this, Plankton is still trying to find a way to steal the secret Krabby Patty formula from Eugene Krabs, owner of the Krusty Krab. After Krabs earns enough money, he decides to open up another Krusty Krab restaurant. So to get back at Krabs, Plankton devises his most evil plan by stealing King Neptune's crown and framing Krabs for the crime. It's at this point that Spongebob decides that it's his destiny to return Neptune's crown back to him. However, he only has 6 days, for if he doesn't come back in time Krabs will be burnt to a crisp. Starting with the characters themselves, it is nice to see all the major characters in this feature and some added bonuses. Unlike other children TV show turned movies, not every character makes it the screen, but that's not the case here. All the important voice-actors return to their specific roles with no vocal changes or other differentiations. Although I must question why Jeffrey Tambor voiced King Neptune, when originally it was John O'Hurley.

Even actors Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin and David Hasselhoff play a role of which are important. Johansson plays Mindy, Neptune's daughter of which Patrick has a crush on (and yet somehow hasn't appeared in any other episode after this). Baldwin plays a bounty hunter named Dennis who makes good use of his gruff voice to sound menacing enough to be a villain. Along with the preservation of all the original characters, comes the preservation of the comedy which remains in tact. All the characters audiences’ will know and enjoy see no drastic change to their favorite character and that's good. Spongebob is still light-hearted, Patrick is still dimwitted, Squidward still self-centered, Krabs still greedy and Plankton still evil. However there is one scene that depicts the act of being drunk and although there's no alcohol being shown, it is questionable to why that would be shown. Yes it is adult content and something for older viewers to get but it's not something we would want kids to learn about so early would we?

The only other issue the writers (whom all have worked with the TV series prior) are a bunch of continuity errors. In TV, it is more acceptable due to the budget, lack of materials and short running time. Yet for an hour and a half, there are so many things that slip by the viewers eyes that bring up a few "Hold up" moments. An example of this is when two people are traveling in the same direction and yet the one who's further behind makes it to the destination first without the other person seeing them. How does that work? Of course there is more than one way to go places but here it is depicted quite linearly so it contradicts itself. Another good example is that nobody in the fictional town of Bikini Bottom seem to remember that Plankton's evil. How is that the case? Is everyone that crazy about food so much that they can't find another eating establishment to go feed themselves? Yikes. But I digress because these kinds of things are only if one wants to take this particular universe so seriously.

Look at the concentration
Besides this though, making it noticeably better are the visual effects to the film. The animation is more fluid and looks more defined with brighter colors. There's also a small bit live-action animation which looks well made too. Credit to Mark Osborne for directing this particular section of the movie. The live-action cinematography by Jerzy Zielinski also looked good. It didn't make the animation stand out, it just blended nicely. Lastly the musical score composed by Gregor Narholz is decent enough to pass as entertaining. There is one pivotal scene in the movie where it can be quite emotional and it's important that a composer can bring that out in the audience and Narholz proves he can do it. Although because it already has had music composed, Jeremy Wakefield's signature tunes will pop in from time to time and that's fine.

Aside from some glaring continuity errors and one scene that is perhaps too adult oriented, Spongebob's first theatrical big screen movie is entertaining as his TV show. The characters remain unchanged for the better, which keeps their charm and comedic timing. The animation, live-action footage and music are well constructed too.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Fury (2014) Review:

War films aren't the easiest to depict for a number of reasons. Depending on the era the war took place; the period had certain items. These items range from weapons, tools, clothing and vehicles. Not every item from every era exists nowadays. Even if they are still in mint condition, that does not mean it will be available for use. This kind of permission only happens when the people making the film really know what they are doing and have the respect to take care of it and use it in a way that not only shows it in its prime but glorifies it when it's over. The production behind this movie did exactly that The story follows Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) and his small crew that end up accepting a reassigned typist turned rookie soldier (Logan Lerman). Together, they face incredible odds to break what's left of Hitler's Nazis.

Brad Pitt and his crew
As a war drama, this film has it. Writer/director David Ayer displays that he worked hard for what he puts up on screen. The realism is definitely illusive, with lots of blood, explosions and ugly ways to die. It'll make audiences wonder how does one accept such a horrific fate or if they survived, how does one cope with what they saw. The best sequences however do not belong to the gun shootouts in the field or urban terrain. The notable scenes belong to the Sherman tanks. Visually watching these behemoths literally punch holes in anything they launch their projectiles into is enticing to see. This also goes with the mechanics behind how trained soldiers operate and direct these monsters. The operations also do not always take place from the inside, to give a better idea of what the tanks try to accomplish, cinematographer Roman Vasyanov also shoots from a bird’s eye view. It's a different angle and it works in helping the audience understand. Vasyanov also gets other good shots of the urban and rural terrain, either by infantry POV or just showing the devastation. The sound quality is also praiseworthy; much of it sounds like what you would hear from the old Call of Duty games.

The acting is also very good along with most of each one's development as an individual. Although this isn't Brad Pitt's first war film, he continues to show that he can immerse himself in the role that he plays. Here, Pitt portrays his character as a softy but only when it comes to his men and Fury; everyone else he could care less. Surprisingly as much as he continues to trash his reputation, Shia LaBeouf demonstrates that he can act too and not like the punk character of Sam Witwicky from Michael Bay's Transformers (2007) sequels. For once, LaBeouf is a man and that deserves a thumb’s up. Logan Lerman's performance is a great representation of the relatable character for the audience. This is due to his combat experience and how he sees warfare. As time progresses, audiences will understand why his view on war changes. Michael Peña as "Gordo" the only soldier in the crew to give a little foreign flavor provides much of the dry humor (it is done appropriately) that is easily understandable for the situations the crew gets into. Finally is Jon Bernthal who plays a somewhat uneducated soldier but even with his lack of respect for certain things, he also exhibits some likeable humanity from time to time.

The only real blunders this movie makes, belongs to its writing. The characters are developed accordingly but backgrounds are left out entirely except for a few tidbits. Aside from Lerman's character, nobody has any kind of back story other than the crew used to have more tanks and first met in Africa. Okay that's when they met, but what about family at home? This would not only flesh out each individual but also give them a more human persona than just military guys who have nothing but their comrades. Then again, that may be the case but it’s never stated clearly. Also, how is that Wardaddy knows fluent German? And why couldn't subtitles be put for those moments when German was spoken? It's not like they were the most pivotal points in the film but it would've been nice to know what was being said.

The tank battles are truly something
Besides these two components, the only other part that felt sluggish and extended for too long was a dining room table scene. Here, Wardaddy and Lerman's character take some time to settle down in a German woman's house. There they have them make a meal and sit down to eat. At that moment, the rest of the crew comes up and sits down with them. This scene drags, and in some ways feels intentional while also being unintentional. My guess is that the intentional was supposed to emphasize the importance of enjoying the moments of rest soldiers had. However, the unintentional may be that it went on for too long of "enjoying the moment" and forgetting where the time went. I guess the editors (who have worked for other well respected movies) forgot to trim this scene. On the other hand, the music composed by Steven Price was a new listening experience. Price included choirs that highlighted the doom and gloom of the Nazis and the horrors of war for the Allied troops. When it came to the tank scenes, the instruments kept the scene very tense by using deep brass and percussion. Considering he's only scored a few films, score collectors should keep an ear out for his next entry.

Writer/director David Ayer's story omits character back-stories and has one scene that drags but everything else works wonderfully. The acting is solid by all actors, the music matches the period's tone and the tank warfare is highly engaging.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Friday, January 9, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) Review:

Most of the time if sequels to popular movies are not drastically changed, the movie will either perform just as well or slightly below. Even if reviews tend to be fairly low, some sequels continue to push onward. The very best example of this kind of feat is Michael Bay's Transformers (2007) franchise. Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) is no different. After surprising and/or scaring many with his first entry, horror director James Wan returns to conclude where viewers ended with Insidious (2010). The fact that Wan and writer Leigh Whannell decided to continue the story from the previous film is definitely a plus. For some fans, they might think it wasn't necessary while others perhaps wanted to know how it went down. The question is, is it done well? Well, it requires more than a one-word response.

Not feeling yourself today huh?....hmmmm
can't imagine whyyyyy
Like many other sequels, the continuation does not stray far from where the last entry ended. Ideally, the main cast of actors return to reprise their roles. After finding Elise's (Lin Shaye) strangled body by her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson), Renai (Rose Byrne) begins to suspect that her spouse is not feeling himself. Not long after, Renai begins seeing more ghostly figures roaming around. Plus Dalton (Ty Simpkins), their son who can dream outside his subconscious, can also notice differences in his father's actions. Once Josh's mom (Barbara Hershey) becomes aware, she calls upon Elise's helpers Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) to find out what's wrong. If this were the plot itself, there would be nothing wrong. However, screenwriter Whannell begins to slip. The reason is that Whannell piles in too many variables for the story to actually hold. This results into a story that has promise but is overly complex for no reason.

One unfinished subplot to the story was the police investigating Elise's murder. Initially it starts off like it could go somewhere, however it ends up just going cold and shoots itself in the foot. Apparently the hands that strangled Elise was not Josh's hands. Ok so, who's was it? This attacker is revealed later on but not by the police, which brings up the question of why they couldn't accomplish that task. Or why wasn't Josh's handprints on Elise's neck. This is one set of loopholes that doesn't quite add up. Another is that somehow people can still bring physical objects with them into The Further realm. How is that? It's a bit hard to imagine that nonliving objects can dream out of their subconscious too. This flaw also occurred in the first movie, but this time it occurs a little more frequently, thus becoming more obvious.

There's also a slight change in the way the plot is executed. The difference is now the execution will act like a crime scene mystery where people look for clues to get answers. This requires digging through files and searching old records by breaking into abandoned infrastructure. Yet somehow, these significant acts do not have an effect on the characters. Are the police that oblivious? However, these errors mentioned are nothing compared to the next biggest head-scratching component to this movie. Whannell actually brings in the idea of time travel and crossing different dimensions in time. For some reason, it feels like there could've been an easier way to get over this hurtle. The idea here is that somehow The Further realm can now access the memories of other people. This in turn ends up explaining past events that have already happened. It's not that this added trait is bad, but it feels like a lazy way of just solving the problem instead of giving a reasonable answer. Reasonable doesn't have to mean logical because The Further concept itself denies that entirely, but it still should have reasonable laws that define it.

"Like, it's a creepy bedroom Scoob!"
The acting is still good in this installment. All characters are as they were and still have the same amount of charm as they did before. Patrick Wilson also displays his range of acting by showing what he's capable of. The special/practical effects are still noteworthy too. John R. Leonetti maintains steady cinematography and the ghouls continue to look frightening. With regret, the scares are not as strong as before. The way the story plays out, it'll evoke more chills than scares. An actress by the name of Danielle Bisutti plays a ghost and she is perhaps the scariest thing in the film (although she's not the main villain). Joseph Bishara again returns to score the music for the film and again it is effective when it needs to. This counts for either soft tunes or the stings. Bishara has a way of working the strings with no percussion so that they don't sound so typical for like so many other horror film scores. It can still entertain but not as strong of a performance.

There's no doubt that a lot thought did go into making a decent continuation of Insidious (2010). The acting, music, visuals and story are preserved but the screenplay forgets to cover up several of its flaws. Plus it includes methods of deduction that don't quite fit the genre like it should.

Points Earned --> 5:10

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) Review:

Joss Whedon is one of those talented screenwriters and directors many people consider to be a Hollywood name. Whether after working on several productions that redefined how people see movies or creating new characters and the universes they live in, Whedon has had wide success in the film industry. Most notably, the latest work that most people think of is Marvel's The Avengers (2012). Second in line was this little creature feature which gained a cult following for a very subtle reason. If anyone has seen it, all that they will say is "See it for the ending". Sadly, this reason alone should not exactly be it's best selling point, but this is how the filmed gained its momentum in popularity. Sadly, this film did have some promise but most of it was used in the wrong manner.

Geee,....this cabin oddly looks like the one from
The Evil Dead (1981)
The premise is the first thing audiences have to accept. The beginning starts off like many other isolation horror films where a group of young teenagers go out to a secluded area away from home for fun. As cliche as it is, Whedon and writer/director Drew Goddard turn the horror genre on its head in its early head start on why various horrific things happen. In spite of that once the ball starts rolling, the screenplay begins to collapse on itself for being so convoluted. The idea is just very foolish and may in fact annoy people to think this kind of story line is anyway beyond the writing of a goofy college student. It is because of its self-destruction that there is barely a build up at all and once it occurs, it may not feel like it was worth it. The only other notable component to the writing are the multiple references made to the horror fans. Night of the Living Dead (1968) is definitely one. Then there's The Ring (2002), The Evil Dead (1981), Hellraiser (1987) and even a Jurassic Park (1993) reference.

Even with all the inside nods to the audience and fans, the writing continues to miss. A big flaw is the focus on characters, mainly in comedy. There are numerous scenes where it is supposed to be funny but is viewed at from the wrong angle and therefor the viewer won't feel like laughing. It's like watching Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and rooting for Leatherface and his family to kill everyone they come in contact with. It feels wrong and somewhat uncleanly. Delightfully although it too is a horror genre cliche, our main characters played by Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams and Anna Hutchison do combat there opponents. Not much needed to say after that because this is a horror movie so people will die. Obviously. Speaking of which there is plenty of gore to behold. It's not consistent in its frequency of delivery but when it begins, it just keeps getting messier.

Want to guess which one dies first?
This, the special and practical effects for various creatures also mesh in nicely with their surroundings. This is also most likely credited to the cinematographer for getting some nice shots of the woodsy exterior around the cabin and various other places throughout the movie, especially later on. If there's anything else to talk about it is the music composed by David Julyan. The audio sounds like a horror score but it never engages the viewer to feel like they’re in one. This is partially because the writing and tone don't assist it in its cause. Instead, it goes for the usual string stings and creeping tunes but it never works. This isn't Julyan's first horror score either. Most likely it would have been much more effective if the script had the correct tone and used it the right way. So sadly it did not and instead, we get this weird stew of a soup.

It has decent special/practical effects, the appropriate horror, praiseworthy nods to other horror movies and even acceptable acting. But that's it, the screenplay messes it up entirely with a tone that was either unnecessary or directed to focus on the wrong characters. Plus when it’s all over, it almost felt like a waste of time more than a proper buildup.

Points Earned --> 4:10

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Fifth Element (1997) Review:

At some point in the decade of the 1990s, almost every big name action star received the opportunity to play an action role in the science fiction genre. Bruce Willis was no different. After starring in three popular entries of the Die Hard (1988) franchise, it was time for Willis to step into the future. In the early 1900s, ancient guardians that had built a machine to protect humans from an evil force that destroys all life (kind of like Galactus) visited Earth. In order to make this weapon of protection work; four stones that represent the four elements must be placed in the temple of which it was created. At the center of it lies the fifth element. Skip 300 years later and viewers see Willis playing Korben Dallas, an ex-military man who currently works as a taxi-driver.

I was crying too,...hoping there'd be more action
It is in this lifetime that Dallas discovers that he will have to save the world by reuniting the five elements together back where they came from. Running parallel to Dallas is Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman) who also wants the stones and is in cahoots with the strange nameless evil force. From what was just told, the premise sounds awfully serious. Turns out though, almost nothing is taken zealously. This tone shift is brought on after the brief introduction and it may take some time for viewers to readjust. Adding to that is the writing, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. First, why does this mythical being want death and destruction to everything living? There has to be some kind of motive. Is it the same motive as Zorg's? That's the closest audiences get to one and it doesn't even come from the evil thing itself.

Plus, of all things how did this evil force come into contact with Zorg and why did it choose to work with him personally? Surely there must be other chaotic death hungry villains in this universe. Another weird thing is that every time someone is near this force, they leak black fluid from their head? It doesn't make any sense. Writer/director Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have both made better works and it shows they weren't catching the mistakes here. Unusually, even though the writing isn’t very good, most of the actors give their characters a good amount of quality. Willis makes Dallas very nonchalant and his ability to role off the piling issues, which is a likable trait. Oldman as the evil forces' henchman is comical in some ways due to the manner in which he speaks. Chris Tucker as a popular radio DJ wasn't needed but was funny. Depending on preference, he will either be funny or annoying. Tucker is a polarizing actor when it comes to comedy. Even the late Brion James has a number of funny moments dealing with Willis' role.

Perplexing as it may be, Mila Jovovich is the only actor who doesn't have the most likable role. It's not because of her looks or acting ability but more on the development of her character. She speaks another language and can understand English yet can’t speak English. With this, the charm of her character isn't very strong. Also, she claims that she exists to protect Dallas when that barely even happens. I don't know, but you'd think that if an actor plays one of the most important plot related roles, they need to be the most likable and developed. Well it doesn't feel that way here. The editing is another issue. The pacing drags frequently, yet editing is done in a way that simultaneously connects all plot threads so that everything collides at once. The beauty of convenience,...but the movie still drags. Sigh. Thankfully, there is some action,...some. When the action hits, it works well. Willis and Tucker produce a number of laughs as the explosions ensue. Even Jovovich has her own fight scene. She looks great but it doesn't last long unfortunately.

This, the evil force,....kind of like that
green glowing ball from Heavy Metal (1981)
The visual effects have plus and minuses too. The special/practical effects look well made and for 1997 don't look have bad today either. The best looking features are the futuristic technology in various rooms and the creature makeup. The CGI sequences do look a little shaky but not noticeably bad. However, the cinematography does nothing to visually help the movie. Aside from the futuristic gadgets looking cool, the camerawork is plain and uninteresting. Completing this is composer Eric Serra's music, which only impresses half way. When it came to comedy, Serra's tracks did occasionally improve the scene and make it funnier. Yet for the dramatic moments and other scenes, he continued to use odd sounding instruments and weird overtones. This may draw viewers out of the scene rather than into it. Serra is a very avant garde composer, perhaps a little too much. He didn't even stick to the sci-fi genre of music. Disappointing.

It's not a total failure but the entertainment it grants is only half there. The majority of the actors make their characters fun to watch, the action is quick and lively and the comedy is decent. Yet the music is a peculiar audio mix, the pacing is slow and the writing has numerous holes that don't make much sense. It's not unwatchable but it's not that decent either.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Monday, January 5, 2015

Junior (1994) Review:

Movies can be categorized into several different groups (and not just by genre). This can be based on the kind of viewing experience it gives its audience. As for this movie, it is difficult to classify where this male version of a "chick flick" should be placed. It is quite honestly one of the most oddest oddballs anyone could watch. This is mostly due to the case because the concept overall was new (for its time) and sounded good on paper. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean it would look good in real life. So in order to make this happen without it having coming across as a freak show, director Ivan Reitman turned it into a comedy. Yet somehow, this did not make it any less bewildering of a production. The entire running time is just weird.

"I'm pregnant..........."
Dr. Larry Arbogast (Danny DeVito) convinces his cohort Dr. Alex Hesse (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to test himself as a human lab rat for a pregnancy test after the two are fired from the University they work for by Noah Banes (Frank Langella). Replacing the two doctors is the young and beautiful Dr. Diana Reddin (Emma Thompson) who soon joins the confusion and nonsense that erupts. For its writing, credit must be given for being ambitious. It also brings up a couple of good points about what it’s like to be a mom and the side effects of being pregnant. These kinds of notions are demonstrated through Arnold who goes through all these definitive moments (that's next to be contended to). Along with that is Emma Thompson's character who at least sheds some light on the struggles that women go through that men would certainly not understand (even in Arnold's case). Setting this to the side, the rest of the story is just DeVito and Schwarzenegger telling lies in order to hold over the experiment. A very silly pot-boiler plot and it shows because the two writers behind this, Kevin Wade and Chris Conrad did not really have enough experience to produce a screenplay with decent quality.

As a comedy, it's not strong. DeVito, the funnyman, only has a few quips that are noteworthy. The best is when he's discovered of lying. Arnold only had one funny moment and that's when he yells like a man instead of acting like a woman and its only funny because of the doofy face he has at the time. In fact, this film actually makes the female actors like Emma Thompson and Pamela Reed (Dr. Arbogast's ex) funnier than the male actors. This is because they are actual females and don’t need to act like a woman. I don't know, it's just outlandish seeing action man Arnold Schwarzenegger acting like a woman in drag. It doesn't feel right and it's more of a put-off than anything else. But who knew, in 2007 Thomas Beattie the first man (who was originally a woman) would actually become pregnant. And that was no comedy. Even Christopher Meloni from Law & Order: SVU has a more natural role in this story. But I digress.

Ok, start again and this time explain it
reallllyyyyy slowly
The rest of the components to the film aren't that great either. Cinematography provided by Adam Greenberg who shot for other megahit movies like The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) goes all out wishy-washy this time. There's nothing really interesting to look at here other than the occasional bright and feminine colors that appear in the usual maternity rooms. The practical effects are ok but are immediately ruined when the special effects kick in and it is very noticeable. As clear as day, and looking back on it, it looks underdeveloped. As for music, arranged by James Newton Howard, the tracks do work with the softer more emotional moments but for the comedic moments it doesn't. Howard's music is somewhat of the reversal of the contemporary styles of Christopher Lennertz's music, where he can maintain the comedic notes but not much of any emotional ones.

This feature is an irregular mix of comedy, drama and romance it only works in a few places. The female actresses are funnier than the male actors are and watching Arnold Schwarzenegger become a mom is not the most enlightening experience or the most realistic one.

Points Earned --> 4:10

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Insidious (2010) Review:

Although director James Wan hasn't made multiple horror movies, his productions usually end being the next box office grab. Not only did he ignite the Saw (2004) franchise, but he also began his second franchise here with this film. It's not a surprise that this happened because of how much of an innate talent Wan has for making horror films. At first his focus was on insane people, then ghosts and now demons. The trend just keeps getting more supernatural. The story depicted is about a husband and wife that end up seeing their son go into a coma. As time goes on however, they begin to also notice strange events going on as well that for some reason deal with their sleeping son.

Rose Byrne & Patrick Wilson
As a narrative, the story is very solid. Leigh Whannell's writing not only makes its audience invest themselves in the characters but also in the new universe (The Further) that is given as well. Unfortunately, there is one drawback and that is, of which this new dimension, The Further is explained. Who discovered this dimension? How does one acquire the ability to enter and leave this particular area? These kinds of questions are rather significant when this specific plot point is the backbone of the story. Besides this, the writing is captivating enough that viewers may not have these questions on the tip of their tongues. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne both portray their characters nicely and develop off of each other from time to time. Ty Simpkins plays the child that is in the coma. Although Simpkins does not take part in much of dialog, his part is still a scary position to be in and when he does speak, he shows he can act.

The rest of the supporting cast is noteworthy too, of which writer Leigh Whannell is apart of. Along with him are Angus Sampson, Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye who all try to help the couple get their son to good health. The visual aspects to the film also worked in its favor. John R. Leonetti's cinematography helped with the atmosphere of the situation and definitely made good use of his visual style when entering The Further realm. Leonetti also had David M. Brewer work with him. My guess is since Brewer does not have many theatrical releases under his belt, Leonetti was giving him some professional advice and experience. The special/practical effects and horror elements to the film blend nicely too. James Wan also seems to be backpedaling when it comes to gore. Ever since Saw (2004), his other directorial films contain less and less blood. For gorehounds, they will be disappointed but gore isn't always needed to make these kinds of movies scary.

Everybody say CHEEZE
The scariest thing about this movie is two parts. The first part are the ghosts smiles, they are downright unnerving. The second is the demon played by musical composer Joseph Bishara. The makeup on him is terrifyingly well done. The only problem however is the way Bishara plays the demon. Originally, his minor appearances are extremely noteworthy. However later on, he's portrayed in somewhat of a campy fashion. Not sure if it was intentional or not but it lowers the terrifying quality of this character when initially his presence was so menacing. As for music, Bishara's composition is a totally different ball of wax. Right off the bat, like many other tracks composed by Bishara, audiences will be introduced to the shrieking strings. Despite that being his way of creating many of his tracks, Bishara actually composes a lot of other emotionally related themes that revolve around the family in the story. This shows that Bishara knows how to compose motifs that are easy on the ears no matter how simplistic and juvenile his other tracks may sound.

It has decent scares, believable acting, well-rounded music and a new story to tell that goes beyond the normal ghost stories told before. On the other hand, there are some key parts of information left out that are quite important to the back-story. Plus, some of the terrifying tension may be lost if one can't get past a particularly campy scene.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2015) Review:

There are some stories that are just hard continuing as a complete narrative. Sometimes either the source material or the premise itself just doesn't permit it to move far from its origins. This is mostly due to the limitations that were set for the movie's concept from the start. For The Woman in Black (2012), it was certainly not a horror film to truly disrupt the way viewers saw usually the genre. Its story was simple but creepy simultaneously. A woman had her son taken from her and was sent off to a mental asylum where she vowed to she'd see her son. Since then, anyone who has seen the ghostly figure who represented this woman, lost his or her child too. This all took place in the late 1800s. Leap almost half a century and we now are in 1941, World War II. After several young one's houses were bombed by an aerial strike, a caretaker and her assistant Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) round up the children to be moved to a safer area; secluded from the war. This brings this group to the mansion of the woman in black from the first entry.

Phoebe Fox
This regrettably doesn’t end up being a good time for the people staying there or the viewers watching the screen. One big question audiences may have, is why was this place of first choice? It was stated in the movie that this was the only opportunity. Who authorized such an option? You mean to tell me among no other houses in the UK, this came up first? Did anyone learn or pay attention to what happened to anyone who stayed there like Arthur Kipps from the original? Plus, it's in the middle of open space, the mansion is like a giant target. Also, if this is the place of which people will be living, why does it look like it hasn't been taken care of at all? People understand that to make the house look creepier it has to decay even more than from the last movie but it kind of defeats the purpose when it's supposed to be made available for tenants. Credit must be given though to the setting of the story. Having it set in WWII is different and the further decay and abandonment of the mansion does make it look worse (in a good way). Time has a way of bringing out the mystery in something when it ages.

Dismally like other sequels, the script also suffers from unexplained occurrences and a lack of connection to its parent. One example is of physical objects being transported through other solid physical objects. No reason given. Also, why wasn't Arthur Kipps given a brief mention? All the plot devices from the original were touched but not Kipps. Or what of significance of actor Ned Dennehy play? There really wasn't. And because the execution plays out much like its predecessor, the mystery doesn't exist and neither do the supporting elements. This is the sad part because if any viewer is seeing this to see a different story or continuation, they won't get that. Anyone who hasn't seen the first, probably will be just as creeped out as if they watch the first. Aside from a few minor changes in how a person can protect himself or herself from this vengeful specter, nothing else felt new. Jon Croker who hasn't written for a single horror film shows how much he recycled from the first.

It also shows in the imagery and the type of horror the screenplay reprocessed. For his first time theatrical release, cinematographer George Steel was able to replicate the visual style of the first but did not improve it or make it his own. The scare and horror factor to this movie is overdone with numerous jump scares. Some of which are effective, while others are tirelessly trying to catch somebody off guard. There are only a few other positives to find praiseworthy in this feature. The best part were the characters. Phoebe Fox tries her best and for her specific character shows a lot of courage. This is important for feminine roles, it actually makes them more likable than male leads. Jeremy Irvine (War Horse (2011)) who plays a pilot ends up joining the group as well and gives a human performance too. The rest of the supporting cast work but are not beyond the two actors mentioned prior.

She has to find a more welcoming wardrobe
Special effects looked decent too. There was actually less blood in this entry than the last. Yet, the make-up effects looked credible and the woman in black herself is still creepy as she was before. Lastly is Marco Beltrami's composition to the film. Although it may sound negative, Beltrami also replayed his main theme from the last entry for this installment. However, this is one recycled element that is acceptable for a couple reasons. For those who saw the first, the reoccurring theme should be just as effectively bonechilling as it was before. Also, the main theme establishes the franchise's tone and trademark tune. All important if one wants to make a successful series of films. This isn't all though. Beltrami continues to make new tracks for this second approach. Again, he uses his sad sounding cellos and music boxes and creates different themes for other scenes. I say well done. Too bad it couldn't have worked for the other half of the production.

Its new cast of actors, different time setting and music continue to show this franchise has the potential but this time is squandered by over used jump scares, disconnected writing and other unexplained events. It's not awful but as a sequel to a decent first entry, it's just average.

Points Earned --> 5:10