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Dumb and Dummier
When you see films advertised "from the producers of" or "From the makers of" it means virtually nothing. "From the director or writer of" is a different story. All the other taglines just are discussing where the money comes from. In other words, James Wan's creative talent is absent from this attempt to make something of the Annabelle story that opened the Conjuring. I think most everyone knows that the doll is more or less inanimate in the film which is a smart move. After 3 decades of Chucky walking around with knife in hand, doll's have lost their ability to scare on their own. So a back story of demon possession and such was brought into play. Annabelle Wallis who plays the main character Mia is an excellent actress , but in this role she is about as forgettable as they come.If you want to see Annabelle Wallis do some great work watch Peaky Blinders on Netflix. The third best TV show ever behind Breaking Bad and The Wire.
I was not familiar with Ward Horton but thought he was good in the role of her husband. The biggest name in the film is the talented Alfre Woodard who is wasted in what has to be the most illogical and poorly written character in the film. She runs a bookstore that has lots of books about demons and the devil, so you figure she may make the story a bit more interesting. No such luck, the writer manages to even waste that angle. Her fate is to be the centerpiece for the lousiest horror film finale in years. Her actions and fate are ridiculous.
There is an obligatory priest that played by Tony Amendola that sets up a couple good scares. And there are 3 or 4 times that you will probably jump, but 2 or three of those scenes are in the trailer. Usually a reviewer will say of a weak film, wait till it hits DVD, but my recommendation for Annabelle is if you want to waste you time on it, pay to see it in the theater where the loud sounds and the big screen will deliver a couple good jolts. If I had rented this film on DVD I would never have finished it. There will be a Conjuring 2 next year, and like it's predecessor, it will probably be a great film, but any similarity between this and the Conjuring, begins and ends with an inanimate doll.
The Equalizer (2014)
The best comic book movie of the year
I never saw the television show and I have no doubt that Denzel's Robert McCall character is quite different than the TV show character, but he certainly is the best superhero of the year. And that is simply what he is. Antoine Fuqua uses close ups of Denzel's face as he assesses impossible situations and then comes out unscathed usually leaving behind a pile of baddies. I was reminded of Christian Bale's Batman character in those scenes.
Reviews of the film have been tepid so far mostly citing it as being clichéd, and implausible, but looking at this like a superhero film elevates it considerably. The Russian mob characters are the heavily tattooed super villains led by the talented Marton Csokas. The violence is all comic book in its execution with a grand finale that takes place in a Home Depot type store. Let's just say Denzel gets creative with a host of the store's products. In fact, the only violence that did not seem comic book like was when the Csokas first exams photos of the bodies that were left in McCall's wake.
And the best news of all is that when the film ends we are left with the feeling that we will be seeing McCall in action again, hopefully soon.
Begin Again (2013)
The music in our lives
I was a big fan of the group the Frames and was very excited when I learned about "Once" directed by John Carney and starring Glen Hasard both members of the Frames. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it had an almost documentary like feel to it. Begin again for me was a statement about how music affects our lives and how different songs can take on different meanings for all of us. For my wife and myself , Ben Folds the Luckiest has a special meaning in our relationship, to most others, it is just another song.
I loved how Begin Again opens with a rather banal sounding song being sung by Kiera Knightly in a small nightclub as Ruffalo stands enthralled. Then for the next 15 minutes we discover why.
The movie uses music in that way several times and I felt it really worked. Your enjoyment of the film will probably be greatly determined by what you think of the music. I happened to love it. Even that banal song soon takes on all new meaning. The entire cast is great and Ruffalo certainly delivers one of his strongest performances.
I have not seen Words and Pictures. My limited knowledge of the film is that it might have a similar theme when it comes to music in our lives. This is a little feel good movie. The kind of film that is a welcome respite in Summer blockbuster season. Last year we had the Way Way back to fill this niche. This year is is Begin Again.
La cara oculta (2011)
The film that Brian Depalma has been trying to make for the last quarter century
A lot of people are comparing this little gem to Hitchcock, but it reminds me of the Brian DePalma films of the 80s that were homages to Hitchcock. He has returned to that genre a couple times during the last twenty years, but with no success at all. This just really felt like the erotically charged DePalma films like "Dressed to Kill". Like the other reviewers, I agree the film started off slowly and it is by no means a classic, but really nice modern film noir and with some wonderful Colombian beauties. Strong cast and stylish direction raise this above the norm. I have been watching a lot of Spanish language thrillers of late. This would be a good double feature with "The Body". But I enjoyed this slightly more. I would like to see Mr. Baiz's other two full length features. Highly recommended.
This did not work at all for me
Tom Hardy is probably my second favorite actor working today behind Daniel Day Lewis. He use to be third, but number two just OD'ed a couple months ago. To me his best work has been in BBC productions in "Stuart a life backwards" and The Take, but he is just brilliant in everything he has done. Perhaps his worst role was his highest profile one in the last Batman. But he did the whole thing with the mask over his face, so he is excused.
The good reviews and the fact Hardy was starred had my curiosity piqued. But I was a as bored as I thought I might be, watching a guy driving in a car for 82 minutes talking on the phone. The story is not at all compelling. It is not a thriller. It is a character study. Hardy is great in his one man show,but it just totally missed for me. I didn't really believe the character. We find out why he is doing the things that he does during the course of the film, but I simply do not believe that any man would do what he is doing. For me to discuss that point further I would have to reveal spoilers and I just don't like doing that on IMDb.
I think here in the states audiences will find his Welsh accent a bit difficult to comprehend at times as well.
If you want to see it for the novel concept or you are a big Hardy fan, I would wait for DVD when you can turn on the subtitles. It certainly is not a visual experience that begs for a big screen.
After the Dark (2013)
I so enjoyed the first 90 minutes of this film
I loved the images as the film drifted from reality to fantasy. The acting was just fine and the script a lot of fun. It is a very different film and probably a love it or hate it experience, but the ending is really terrible. The brakes go on and the story just meanders as an odd love story gets mixed into the pot. Like many others I really disliked the ending. But it was a lot of fun getting there.
OK so my review is apparently too short. I enjoyed James D'Arcy in his role as the philosophy professor and unlike many critics of the film, I thought the rest of the cast did a fine job. I will not ruin the film with any spoilers, because the fun of it is in the clever plot twists.
About Time (2013)
There is something very special about this film....
It is not a great movie by any means. Its' plot is ludicrous and full of logical holes,but it that rare true feel good film.
There are probably less than twenty films that I have watched more than 2 times in my life. Three of them are films that I watch when I need to get out of a funk. I would imagine a lot of people have films that do that for them, classics like It's a Wonderful Life or Forrest Gump for instance, but for me they are Harold and Maude, Breaking Away, and the much less well known but very special film - Let It Ride. About time is now number 4 on the list. I really don't see this as much as a romantic comedy as a film about learning to wake up and smell the roses. I left the theater so full of thoughts about how to approach life and what is important. See this film when you are feeling like life just sucks cause you will leave the theater feeling just the opposite.
I will add this film to my very small DVD collection when it is released. Normally there are just too many films that I have not seen and want to see, for me to spend a couple hours with repeated viewings but I am sure I will need an About Time fix at least once a year.
We Are What We Are (2013)
If you go to only one cannibal movie this year....
Look, I enjoy horror movies as much as the next guy. I enjoy just about every genre in fact, but with horror, I am rarely in the middle. It is either darn good or it kind of sucks. What is so great about "We are what we are" is that it really reinvents the genre. There is a little Donner party type sub theme lurking in the background, but it just encompasses its' own little niche.
The point I am trying to make is that a lot of people that love horror are not anxious to see the latest slasher flick. By its very theme this film will draw the attention of guys who can't wait for the next installment of Hostel or Rob Zombie's next film, and they probably won't care for more than about a minute of this film. Though they may think that one minute is one of the best minutes of any horror film ever made. Those aforementioned type films are usually on my suck or don't bother list BTW.
This is a well written, well acted, fantastically directed and exceptionally scored Gothic horror story. I feel like I just saw my first film by a future great director and am anxious to see his earlier work. Let me touch a little on the score. The composer is a former member of LCD Soundsystem. I really liked those guys. But I am off on the wrong foot here cause the soundtrack has nothing to do with LCD Soundsystem. This is pure Bernard Hermann. Fantastic score to add to the suspense.
From what I understand calling this a remake is like calling Interview With a Vampire a remake of Dracula. I have not seen the original, but my understanding is that this film is substantially different.
It is a truly dark film until the very end where there is Grand Guignol scene that will really mess with your mind. I hope that anyone that appreciates a really good story like The Woman in Black,The Conjouring, Sinister, Skeleton Key, The Others, or Carpenter's The Thing ( I had to throw that in cause Kurt Russell's son has a large role in this film) will take a leap of faith and see a film with subject matter they might not normally be drawn to. You really won't regret it.
Sunset Strip (2012)
Starts out very promising
You won't be bored at all watching this film. It is full of interesting nuggets about the Strip but it is so disjointed in its telling. Some of the important people in the history of the Strip tell some great old stories, but many of them have little relevant stories to tell. I have a certain nostalgic feeling for the Strip myself where I probably spent over a hundred nights in the 70's being a bad boy and seeing some remarkable music.
Rodney Binginheimer who should be able to tell great stories about the glam era on the Strip has surprisingly little to add. Mickey Rourke whom I admire as an actor and some tattoo artist guy have a lot of screen time but add little to the proceedings other than the viewer wanting to figure out if Rourke is still using after all these years or not. On the plus side you have some great comedians telling stories, STeve Jones from the Sex Pistols and Johnny Depp and some other nice story tellers, but there are just as many folks involved that probably should not have been. I am sorry, but Kelly Osbourne is just too young to be nostalgic about anything. It is a really disjointed film, but always interesting in spite of itself.
At least it kept my interest...
Which is more than I can say for any Nicolas Caage film in several years. It is the first one that I have watched the whole way through in probably a five years and I used to love the guy. He was on my list of 5 favorite actors. Leaving Las Vegas is a tour de force in acting and his roles in Moonstruck and Lord of War were almost as good, but since Lord of War his film choices have been pretty horrible. Drive Angry,Ghost Rider and National Treasure were all pretty awful. I did love Kick Ass though that was not really his film. I haven't given up on him, but he seems to especially make bad choices with Action/Adventure films these days when he has made such greats as the Rock, Con Air and Red Rock West in the past.
So I almost gave this a seven but it really was by the numbers all the way through. I was just happily surprised that it held my interest. Josh Lucas was a fun bad guy to watch. If you have nothing better to do it is not a total waste of time.