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Fright Night (2011)
Good popcorn fun
Remakes of classics usually end up being pants. Every once in a while though some comes through holding up to their original counter part - or at least enough to be worthy of cinema time.
Fright Night is one of these. It's a typical vampire story where one person detects the unbelievable truth and then needs to repair the damage before it gets really out of hand. It has a very nice pace and doesn't wait long with making sure everyone knows who is who and where things are going - it's as predictable as the average soap opera but it plays out fun.
Adding to that the fact that it doesn't take itself serious and you can add good bits of laughter to the otherwise gruesome effect of having people close to you being hassled by a vampire and you not being able to do much about it. It rolls on and never looses track and all in all its highly enjoyable.
7 out of 10 bite marks on the neck
Why did they apply a can of big name players?
Influenza. Most people get it at least once in a lifetime. Most people suffer from it for no more than a few days and then go on with their normal lives. What would happen though if we were met with a more serious strain? One with a higher mortality rate and even higher contagion factor? This film tells such a tale. Starting as patient zero is admitted to the hospital with unknown ailments, and going on from there, getting worse at an alarming rate. This is one of the best things about this film - the way the sickness progresses is more than believable and sometimes even too close for comfort. It is not impossible to believe how the people respond to it and the actions they are willing to do to be able to survive.
What works against it in my eyes is the appearance of a plethora of big time actors and actresses, where it really does not need them. It feels like the directors didn't feel too sure about the film and tried to apply the age old trick of adding known faces in hopes to improve the film (it never works, and in this film it makes it worse by pulling the attention from the backing story).
Add to that the final minutes were unnecessary - the film could have done (and in my opinion should have done) without them and you get to the final result: a very good film which is hindered by just two problems, but rather drastic ones at that.
8 out of 10 needles in a haystack
Super 8 (2011)
The glorious return of the Goonies
A group of friends consisting of kids of about 12 years old works together to make a film. Using a Super 8 camera and whatever scenery they can find they attempt to put together their master piece so that they can send it in for a competition of sorts. Things get really interesting for them when they see something they shouldn't have seen during one of their sessions.
And so the story rolls. Story wise this one isn't exceptional. It begins with people being at the wrong place at the wrong time and from that point on being the unwilling victim of sworn secrecy. Most of the things that happen make some kind of sense and that makes the story good enough.
The way it is played out, carried on the shoulders of the children, is cool. Their way of acting is both natural and designed and this works wonders, especially as part of the film hinges on them making a film themselves so there's plenty of acting to be acting so to speak. Most of the adults feel to be at their place too.
The first thing I was reminded of when seeing this film was The Goonies, a feeling that never went away during the rest of the film. That film had the same kind of touch to it, but it's a good touch so nothing lost there.
All in all, surely worth a watch, even though it's based on a story that is a little too overused 7 out of 10 shots in the dark
Final Destination 5 (2011)
A fitting finale
Being the fifth part in the series there is nothing left to be explained. The motto is the same: an event that causes several fatalities happens and for some reason a number of people survive it while they shouldn't have. Death doesn't like this and comes after them to finish the job.
As expected this film tries to show some new ways for people to die using some new gruesome "accidents". It doesn't entirely succeed at this but does well enough to be better than the previous two installments in this series. Overall it runs at a pretty decent speed and there's enough in there to keep it interesting. It never gets to the level of the original film or even its direct sequel, but it's worth a watch and most definitely a fitting last part. I do hope they keep their promise and leave it at this though, this cow has been milked dry.
6 out of 10 mistakes cleaned
Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Barely worthy of celluloid
One thing has to be said. The title holds true. This film is about Conan, and he's a barbarian. Story-wise there isn't that much to tell really. A guy gets born, grows up and learns the trick of the warrior trade by necessity. The same guy then starts roaming the world in seek of people to slay and barbaric acts to perform.
I must admit I cannot remember how long ago it was that I saw the original films so I am not going into comparison. It can be said that this film is not going to win any prizes - but its more or less like its title character: crude but effective. The humorous touch is nice enough and the different characters get together pretty well.
The visualisation of the fights and scenery are matching and the speed is nice, there's no sloppy bits that drag on for an indeterminate period of time. All in all, it's OK enough popcorn material, something to sit through on a bored evening.
6 out of 10 skulls bashed
Starts OK, then looses the plot completely.
A smart company has a smart idea. They have developed a drug that might one day be used to repair the brain damage caused by Alzheimer disease. All they need to do is expand their tests from rats to bigger animals and eventually humans. But as many smart ideas go, this one turns sour and they end up with more than they can handle.
Story wise this film is a prequel to its direct predecessor, giving a more or less plausible explanation of how things got to where they were. It really is too bad though that this exact story has been used to many times before already because it makes the film feel more bland than it should. Either way, the story rolls and eventually the revolution begins.
And that point is the point where this film really starts loosing its grips on reality. One has to enter this film being able to believe that a drug makes apes much more intelligent and that is perfectly fine, but what one is supposed to take as believable from the middle of the film is just ridiculous.
Those two added together make the film an insult to the original series and even worse than its direct predecessor (which was bad to begin with). Again eye candy wins over story and depth and again it makes for a film that will probably lure in the popcorn lovers and send everyone else off to the DVD rental store to see the original ones again.
4 out of 10 apes gone mad
Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011)
A bit too easy, but fun for the kids
When a workaholic guy gets a penguin from his deceased father it is clear that he isn't cut out for taking care for such an animal. So when he gets more of them that can only spell disaster. Good thing for him he is able to adapt.
A simple film, a simple typical story, but more or less enjoyable, especially for kids. Carrey again shows off his ability to pull the maddest faces known to man, the necessary evil characters perform their role believably, and everyone else is fitting enough. It's all just too easy, it is clear that little effort was taken to build anything more than just the penguins. If the penguins are removed all that is left is a hollow template that has been used for too many films before and that doesn't do this film the right to exist it deserves.
So, all in all, kids will enjoy this, their parents probably won't.
5 out of 10 frozen eggs
Green Lantern (2011)
This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine
The Universe is a big and dangerous place. Good thing there's an agency of guardians to watch over us. When one of them dies their selection procedure finds a replacement, and against all odds it turns out to be an Earthling.
Another comic turned into film. Another comic I have never read so I can't say whether the conversion was done well or not. As a film it works OK enough - it's popcorn amusement with plenty of spectacle to keep the audience busy for its full duration. It is not going to win any prices though, no master piece performances, no master piece story, no master piece of anything.
Graphic-wise it works well enough. The planet of the guardians is depicted like a place worth living and the effects used are ranging from OK enough to pretty good. Story-wise it tells enough even though most of the backing tale is biased along an all-too-known cliché. Sound-wise I see no reason to complain - music was either not there or not disturbing.
So, all in all, a 7 out of 10. Popcorn amusement and decent enough at that.
And so the circle closes
As an eight part in the series there's not a single reason to explain the story or its characters, they've been defined. And so this film starts running, and doesn't really pause until the very end of it. As a book translation I guess it doesn't do too bad of a job - most events of importance get a glimmer of screen time. I have no idea how it works on people that haven't read the books though.
As a film it's dark, literally. Too dark to my liking, it's a good thing to express the dark and grim feeling of the book, it's overkill to make the film look like everything was shot between dusk and dawn. This effect was even worse in 3D - which again turned out to be a dud.
Overall the film felt rushed - as if the maker was done with it, glad to have the series end. As part of the audience I now feel the same - it was a good series to watch through the years but I am happy it is done now.
Adding that all together makes it the worst part in the series to me, fitting but not fitting, pleasing and not pleasing.
6 out of 10 last rites
A very pale shadow of its first part
Picking up the story where the previous one left off (more or less) this film continues a fairy tale world where Red Riding Hood is not quite as helpless as she is in the original tales and where Granny is something else entirely. The characters are, to an extend, the same as they were in the first film - but quite sadly that is the end of the comparability of the two.
Where the original film is a quirky "whodunnit" that attempts to solve a crime by having the audience sit through several viewpoints on the events that happened this sequel is a sequence of standard events that seems to be stolen from several other films - and stolen poorly at that.
As a comedy it doesn't work - good scenes are few and far apart. As a twisted fairy tale it doesn't work either - it's not convoluted enough by far. As an animation film it doesn't work either - it's bland and many scenes feel overly easy.
All in all, an insult to the first film and I only didn't feel cheated out of paying because my kid did seem to like it (he's never seen the original though) 5 out of 10 sequels too many