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Too Perfect (2011)
Barely passable flick lacking any cohesive, core storyline
This is a low budget flick. You can tell from the really bad musical numbers that litter the film...every five minutes sees yet another musical montage with some poorly done rock tune in the background, odd camera angles, bad editing, three shots overlaid atop each other making your head hurt. And the story is even more lackluster. Every attempt at humor falls flat on its face, the acting is usually so-so to quite bad, and the dialogue is stiff and mostly boring. On top of all of that the story itself lacks any cohesion. You get the feeling the writer/director is way out of her league here, and a co-writer would have been a godsend. Too much of the film is comprised of various stories that seem to go nowhere, have little overall purpose, and you constantly meander back and forth with no real solid foundation...it seems if the writer had many stories to tell but had no idea how to tell any of them completely.
The running time of the actual story is a few minutes shy of an hour, making it feel even more after school special-ish than it does from the acting and writing alone. There is clearly an attempt here to toss in every cheesy "issue" facing teens today- bullying, divorce, half siblings, step parents, illness, death, all while trying to wow us with the kids doing crazy techno things like uhh texting.
Barely passable as a feature, not worth the scant run time. A definite pass.
All Hallows' Eve (2013)
Wrap Around story is mediocre- the frame stories are horrendous
Overall, it's truly an awful film, and thank God it was only $9.96 at Walmart. The idea sounds interesting enough, despite the terrible anthology horror films lately (V/H/S is another example of awful writing, bad acting, etc)...but the clown set it apart, and the character seems interesting enough a twist. The wrap around story is actually really well shot, the photography is really nice, atmospheric, gives you a good Halloween vibe. The main actress, despite the constant scowl on her face, wasn't terrible, and the two kids who she is babysitting are both cute kids, and are probably the best actors in the entire movie. The twist at the end of the wrap around story is nice as well.
The three frame stories in the anthology - all movies played back on a VHS one of the kids finds in his treat bag, are, let's be honest- terrible by any standard. There are no scares, and there is a brutality that is wholly unnecessary and serves no purpose. Violence is okay, and I'm certainly no prude, but it has to serve a purpose, and in this film it doesn't at all. The stories aren't even remotely scary, there's no tension buildup, and you consistently ask yourself, what purpose do these poorly written, badly acted stories serve? It's filled with horror cliché situations, bad acting (some truly awful stuff), and silly dialogue.
The only tense moments or scares at all are found in the wrap around story, and those are mostly door knobs turning, noises in the closet, or the main actress being scared while drinking wine, her nerves getting more and more on edge as time goes by, waiting for the parents to return home.
This could have worked, it seems like a nice idea on paper, and with a better writer, the different stories could have gone somewhere. The wrap around story being mediocre tells me that there's not a complete absence of talent, but what you get isn't worth the price of admission. I'd avoid at all costs.
Near perfect despite some clichéd horror tactics
MAYBE some minor spoilers, but nothing too substantial.
I had this movie sitting around for a bit, and I finally decided to watch it this afternoon. With so many movies, I end up watching in chunks, getting up to do other things that pop into my head as I'm watching, but this was one of those movies I started and couldn't pull myself away. The premise sounded interesting to me, a couple stuck on various British motorways, a menacing fella in a semi truck after them, the scares that come along with all of that.
Tho they used many clichéd horror movie elements, they all seem to work here because the plotting is so well paced, the storyline makes so much sense. Some examples:
The bad guy is always brooding around, his face just out of reach of the light, so you never see his face- this tactic is old, but it works as you use your imagination to paint the scariest face ever on this guy, even if it turns out he probably looks fairly normal. Definitely reminded me of the baddie from I Know What You Did Last Summer (Gordon's Fisherman rain coat and all).
The cell phone signal that drops out at the worst moment. The cell phone that rings at the worst possible second. These are used here, but it seems to just make sense, and it's not overly done, so it doesn't get in the way of a good scare.
Dumb characters making dumb decisions. This was the one that lowered the rating to an 8.5 or an 8 for me. Zakes' decisions in the start of the film were too much to overlook. You understand why they added them, because the story had to progress somewhere, but this was an area to work on. I won't spoil anything, but you kinda wanted to smack the guy a few times in the start of the film. They did a nice job of making you dislike him a bit in the beginning, that way later on you liked him all that much more.
Direction was nice, with some really cool special effects shots on the rainy road, the acting was pretty spot on, and the photography was eerie throughout- nice scenery and locations here...the massive gas station complex/truck stop reminded me of the scenes from High Tension, especially the bathroom stuff. Always fun to see a game of cat and mouse in a horror film like this.
Not a perfect film, but darned near it with a fulfilling ending, some really good scares, a lot of nail biting tension, and atmosphere to boot. A definite gem, and a high point of the 'stuck on the road with crazy guy after me' sub-genre. Highly recommended.
Big Rig (2007)
Almost interesting doc that lacks any narrative
I had high hopes for this based on the description and the reviews of others. I was, needless to say based on my headline, disappointed completely. The movie follows way too many people, very little of it is actually about big rigs or the life of a truck driver, much of it was too political (seemed mostly like fairly uninformed political discussion), and too much of it merely solidified the stereotypes of truckers that the film seemed to want to get away from. On top of all that, none of it was very interesting.
The main problem is the film lacks a solid narrative foundation. The editing is horrendous, jumps all around the country, often leaving you with no idea where we're off to next or if there's any goal in mind. They'd introduce a character, spend 2 mins with him then suddenly leave and never bring the guy back. One guy's entire time on camera was basically him sitting in his broken down truck, and only after nearly 2 hours do we see what on earth happened- yet, even here, we don't get a true sense of what a trucker would do in such a circumstance. The MTV style editing with a millisecond of a random object was distracting as well. It seems like the director didn't get enough coverage for any of the scenes- why else leave in all the annoying zoom in shots where he tried, often in vain, to get an object in focus- an object that had no bearing on the story itself? That took away from the film's aesthetic, and with the shabby narrative, this movie needed all it could get in that dept.
Just generally a disappointing effort throughout. I enjoyed a couple of the stories, and we did get small glimpses into the lives of truck drivers, but nowhere near enough to justify 100+ mins. And let's even discuss in too much detail the endless montages of random road signs and roadway accompanied by music that was a good 3 times louder than any of the dialogue- I had to turn the volume up and down, up and down the entire time. Interesting idea, tragically flawed result.
Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
Equal to the original- so much fun
I've been looking forward to this for, I guess, about two years now. The very idea of a new TCM just excites me. A massive fan of the original, I liked most of what came after, minus the terrible New Generation sequel which stunk. I even liked TCM2 and Leatherface a lot. I just like the series, and the character of leatherface is creepy as heck in general.
I personally loved this one. 10 mins or so in, I wasn't sure how I felt. The girl's family was too over the top redneck, some of the dialog was a bit silly, but it felt like a true homage to the original, a loving tribute made by people who I suspect truly adored the first film. The introduction to leatherface is brilliant, the house itself is super creepy, the stairs, the door so very much like the door in the original, the kills were inventive enough, and there was a good deal of atmosphere. When that chainsaw starts and it overpowers every other sound- it's scary as hell.
I had issues with the timeline, of course (wouldn't she be in her 40's in the present day? How on earth did the police chief look younger today than in 1974? etc), and I had issues with some of the stuff the characters did (SPOILER!!!- If Heather's friends were just butchered, why is she calmly reading through documents in the police station, okay to be left alone- if I had a run-in with leatherface, I'd demand never to be alone again in my life, including trips to the bathroom and shower! That just didn't ring true at all- she seemed way too composed and way too easy with being left alone to browse newspaper clippings...speaking of which, that scene went on WAY too long, and what was with the constant camera pans over various parts of the documents? It hurt my eyes...just have the character read the info. out loud for heaven's sake).
So, yeah, not a perfect movie, but it was so much fun, it was scary enough, it had enough inventive kills that I looked past those problems. This, for me, might be equal to the original. In some ways, I might even go as far to say it's superior. The house, for example, is way more creepy...that long stairway down and the metal door beyond it, yikes!!
I loved every minute of it. 9/10 for sure.
Sorry, Thanks (2009)
Annoying jerky twenty somethings in a movie devoid of any purpose or entertainment value
Maybe I'm old fashioned, and call me crazy for feeling this way, but I sort of think movies need to have a point. They need to be entertaining, and if they're not, they need to have some redeeming value that makes their very existence worthwhile.
Watching boring people live their boring lives just doesn't cut it with me. Especially when those boring people happen to be either idiotic, amoral, or a little of both. In, Sorry Thanks, I wouldn't even want to be friends with half of these people, let alone be involved in their lives in any manner whatsoever, so why would I care to watch them for 90 minutes?
Main character, Max is an idiot twenty-something who has a dead end job he doesn't even try at...when not at said job, he's with his adorable girlfriend whom he pretty much treats like garbage or friends who seem to think he is a douche bag lacking in morals (in fact, there are two scenes where they tell him he is immoral and an ass). Oh, and on the side, he's having sex with Kira behind his adorable and loving girlfriend's back. Kira is. Well, how do you even describe Kira? First off, she's odd. She makes odd faces, she makes odd jokes, and she just acts odd. Max is somehow attracted to this, so why not destroy another person by sleeping with odd girl? Kira has a new job as a copy editor and a string of random boyfriends who aren't boyfriends. Like Max, she seems to be down with messing with people- her friends seem to do the same thing Max's friends do- sort of push the idea that she's kind of a jerk. Kira is, admittedly, slightly less of a douche bag than Max.
Now that I've explained the two main characters, people whom you'd probably want to get AS far away from in real life, I'll explain the plot. Oh wait, I can't, as there is no plot. It's basically 90 mins of watching two assholes who think they're clever and cool do whatever the hell they want.
There are small flashes of likability among the two main characters, and we keep getting scenes of Max being semi-charming in a "I'm 20 something but I act like I'm 6" way. But, in the end, little tidbits of charm don't change the fact that these are just unlikeable characters that serve little purpose other than to exist on video. None of them drive any story forward (as there really is no story), none of them add anything to the overall mood of the movie, and none of them really matter at all. If I wanted to watch morons be boring and violating all sorts of trust with other people, I'd turn on reality TV. Like I said- movies need to fulfill a purpose. God only knows what purpose writers, Dia Sokol and Lauren Veloski, thought their movie served. I can only assume they were bored one day.
Sadly, it's films like Sorry, Thanks that will continue to give indie films a bad name. People will watch this and say, "see, this is why I never watch independent cinema! The writing sucks, the characters suck, and the acting is, in some parts, miserable." (the cat lady comes to mind immediately).
It's a shame, because there are some really great indie films out there. This just isn't one of them.
Death at a Funeral (2010)
Hilarious. Equal to or Better than the Original
I saw the original on DVD shortly after it came out. Loved it. It was quirky, ridiculous, and the humor mostly subtle. The remake, I had my doubts about. You just shouldn't mess with such a funny movie, definitely not this soon after the original. So, I went in setting the bar low, wasn't even going to see it at all, until a friend invited me to go check it out.
I loved it. The humor is definitely not subtle, it's more in your face and over the top, it's hallmark American film comedy, but it works on almost every level. I don't usually care for poop humor, but the scene with Tracy Morgan had everyone in the theatre rolling. I had fears that this would have a lot of the stereotypical black comedy trademarks, but it didn't. It was comedy anyone could enjoy, without a lot of the jokes that a lot of white audiences just don't get.
Marsden's character never went too overboard for me, they played it well, and though his antics lasted the whole film, they were original enough and varied enough that they didn't start to tire me out. Rock was the straight guy for the most part, his one liners made me chuckle a couple of times, but nothing too funny. Morgan was hilarious with the rash stuff and the toilet (literally) humor. Martin Lawrence's character was poorly written- his lines were annoying and I don't think I laughed at him once. I think that came down to the script and not his performance, even though he did get a bit annoying in parts.
Luke Wilson was pretty much pointless here, not offering much in terms of anything worthwhile. Again, script issues.
The editing was a bit off. Jokes that could have landed were ruined by cuts that came too soon, quickly transitioning to another character's action. That stood out several times especially in the first half.
Compared to the original, it held up well. I think I may have liked this one better, which is definitely a surprise to me. The comedy was much less black comedy and more traditional- much louder than the original. Much more high key overall. It all worked though. Highly recommend.
Absurd characters with no sense keep a thin plot afloat just barely
This sounds like a nice premise. A British couple in Australia who meet up with a psychotic American who seems nice at first but turns deadly.
Unfortunately, this isn't really what happens...the guy slowly becomes weird and creepy, but it's all completely one sided.
Alex arrives alone in Australia and will meet his girlfriend Sophie in a couple of days. Taylor meets him and invites him for drinks the night Alex arrives in Australia sans Sophie. Alex gets drunk and falls asleep next to a girl and Taylor gets a polaroid of it...just a taste of the creepiness to come. When Sophie arrives, Taylor brings out his massive stack of polaroids (weird), and proceeds to toss the photo of Alex and the girl into the trash. Except he never really throws it away and holds it over Alex's head. Slowly, Taylor starts making it seem that he and Sophie have a thing going on, doing everything he can to turn the lovers against each other.
This is either a horror movie or a thriller as described on this site and the on screen guide when I watched it on Chiller. Unfortunately, it's neither thrilling nor horrifying, and Taylor isn't really all that weird. We get the impression that he's probably pretty dark deep down inside his core, but he's more malicious in small ways. For example, he sees Alex come into the bar where he and Sophie are sitting together, Sophie's back to the door- he immediately pretends to have a burning in his hand, so Sophie grabs it, making it look to Alex as if they're holding hands. (thrillingly scary and creepy!) The fact is, all Alex has to do is say- look, Sophie, I fell asleep next to some girl, nothing happened, but this guy keeps popping out this pic and being creepy weird. Sophie, if she had any sense, would say, "okay, honey. Let's head off without him." Too bad the characters are dreadfully stupid. They do everything they SHOULDN'T do in a movie like this, and that makes it all tedious and frustrating. When about 20 mins before the end, it gets really dumb. I won't ruin the ending, but let's say it's just as stupid as the rest of the film.
The acting is decent, I guess. It's hard to tell, as they all have so little to work with. They're just basically cruising around from place to place, not doing much, drinking a lot, arguing a bit here and there, and just being completely dumb characters. Taylor isn't some evil super genius, and he doesn't need to be. He only needs to find a couple who are so desperately stupid, they'd fall for any dumb tactics, and he's set.
Dumb characters ruin what sounds like a good premise. On top of that, very little takes place in the movie. With 15 mins left in the flick, you're wondering if anything IS going to happen at all. No thrills to be had here, I can assure you.
Nice scenery, nice setting, fantastic premise, but poorly executed in every manner. Skip it.
The Overbrook Brothers (2009)
Weird, Quirky, and Full of Heart
I ran across this film's trailer on the IFC ONdemand website while trying to track down another film. I happened to check the Ondemand last night and had to watch it. I had no idea what to expect, hadn't heard any word of mouth or any reviews...definitely not disappointed.
It's the story of two brothers who, as it turns out, discover they aren't really brothers and their road trip to the adoption agency that landed them with the parents they've always known. It's really about the friendship (and utter lack of friendship) of these two young men. Quirky is an understatement, as we follow them across several states, first with one brother's girlfriend in tow (she's soon gone, and it's just the two of them).
There were some uncomfortable parts- the deal with the freeze out was just bizarre and unfunny...it didn't match the rest of the movie in some aspect's of the main character's persona. It felt weird to me. The immature brother was over the top, but not so much that you didn't believe it- we've all met people close to this level of annoying and childish, but this guy takes the cake. Madcap adventures ensue, and we get some good bonding between two brothers who aren't actually brothers at all. When you grow up together, you become brothers and stay brothers, even when you find out you were adopted and you have no idea who your "real" parents are.
Great acting here throughout, and there's some really nice scenery. Direction is done well, and there's not a lot of that characteristic low budget stuff where the camera op constantly walks around the scene, lending that documentary feel when it's not needed. This was all pretty solid stuff, and you even get some decent effects scenes with the king Arthur stuff (another quirky side story, don't ask).
Totally recommend this one. The Duplass brothers' movies immediately came to mind, and in fact Steve Zissis (from Baghead) has a small role in the film. This is definitely one to add to your mumblecore collection.
Enjoyable doc, another reason to dislike Trump
I happened upon this documentary series 30 for 30 the other night when ESPN 2 aired a repeat of the Univ of Miami film...It was solid, so I tuned in for this one by Tollin thinking it'd be just as enjoyable. It did not let me down.
I'm not a big sports fan, and I was only a few years old when the USFL was around, so I had never even heard of it until this film. My lack of a love of sports didn't matter here, as it was more about what could be accomplished with a small upstart in such a short period of time. These guys had some big names- Steve Young and Jim Kelley are names I immediately recognize, and most others would too- no matter if you're a big sports fan or not. So, it was obvious that this league had a lot going for it.
Much of the film focuses on "The Donald." As in, Donald Trump, the world's biggest ego. His ego is on constant display here, in clips from the time of the USFL and even in the clips today. Tollin is trying to interview him, and Trump is complaining nonstop asking 'how long is this going to take,' whining that he will only answer a few questions, etc. After whining a bit and getting up to leave, informing them he didn't have time for any more questions (I'm sorry, but NO ONE's schedule is this full), he walks past the director and says "it would have been small potatoes" and pats him on the back. The back pat was patronizing and annoying, and why did he ever get involved if it would have been "small potatoes?"
Trump contradicts himself when he says that he never gets into anything small and always wants to do it big. Yet, he was sure it would have been small potatoes?! I guess when a massive ego is involved, making sense doesn't matter so much. Trump explains, in the interview from today, that he was never interested in spring football and wanted to compete directly with the NFL in the fall. This immediately brings forth the question- why did he get involved at all? He was never interested in spring football, so he paid millions for a team playing spring football? Again with the ego- his ego is SO big, he only got into the league originally to force the other team owners (some of them fairly poor compared to Trump) to embrace The Donald's vision and move the season to the fall where it would compete head to head with the much larger NFL that had already established itself...only to get eaten up by the NFL.
In fact, the league was taken down by a lawsuit that I won't go into, but it's also an interesting story that's told.
Tollin does a nice job, but some of it does seem to generalized. It seems there isn't a solid focus on one topic, but I think it worked overall. It could have been refined a bit, but telling a story this big in 45 mins is hard enough as it is- I've edited down documentary footage, and it's easy for the thing to become really long really quickly, so I definitely understand the hardship in trying to tell a story on a limited time frame. The fact that Tollin ran the company that had exclusive rights to do the "films" for the USFL (in the same sense that NFL FILMS does highlights and reels for the NFL) is a nice bonus. He comes at it all from an insider's perspective, and you get the feeling throughout that he knows his stuff here.
Nothing too fancy visually, it's mostly one camera interview setups and old USFL footage, but it's solid on all levels technically. The story is an entertaining one that really needed to be told. The focus on the Donald is nice, because it seems that most involved point the blame his way, so he probably deserves it. Overall, a great look at an inspiring league that could have been so much more, if only things had worked out better. Definitely recommend this whether you're a sports fan or not.