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Favorite Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal
Favorite Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Favorite Director: Christopher Nolan
Favorite Horror: Scream
Favorite Drama: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Favorite Comedy: Mean Girls
Favorite Action: Inception
Celebrity Crush: Scout Taylor-Compton
Favorite TV Show: Boy Meets World
Favorite Sitcom: Friends
Favorite TV Drama: Dawson's Creek
The Pyramid (2014)
Fun Horror Flick From Alex Aja
A group of archaeologists and a documentary crew embark to a location near Cairo, Egypt. Discovery of an underground pyramid has been uncovered and the crew seeks to learn more about it. Upon entering the pyramid they find themselves lost, and eventually hunted. To find a way out alive, they must go further into the crypt and learn all of its secrets.
Alexandre Aja who brought us the Hills Have Eyes and Piranha remakes, as well as High Tension, and Mirrors returns to the big screen this time as writer and producer. The film initially had a wide release but ultimately was cut to just under 600 theaters. This is rather unfortunate because it ended up being a rather entertaining and intense film unlike the earlier "underground" horror film As Above So Below. Ever since High Tension, Aja has always had a knack for bringing on intensity and atmosphere in his horror films, even if they didn't end up being that great as a whole. While The Pyramid does feature several formulaic aspects, they work out well here. Once events begin to really begin, so does the intensity. There are many instances where the characters find themselves roaming in the dark and you anticipate something to jump out, as well as just situations that leave the viewer tense. Despite being half found-footage and half actually films, the two are blended together very well, making the atmosphere and intensity even stronger. As for the story itself, it was pretty engaging, it was enjoyable to have the mysteries of the pyramid unleashed the further they got into the structure (which tends to happen right?), it leads to a final act that left me thinking different theories of how it's going to possibly end as opposed to just one no-brainer ending. The acting by the cast pretty well-done, as was the character development. Ashley Hinshaw who plays the lead, Nora, a young archaeologist with a surprising amount of knowledge of tombs and their history, does well with the role when it comes to showing fear and expressing the emotional moments. Denis O'Hare plays Hinshaw's archaeologist father as well as the leader of the group with the knowledge and the plan. The actor who stood out most to me was James Buckley who plays cameraman Fitzie. Buckley provides a lot of the humor in the film and is the one who basically speaks for the audience in certain situations. For the most part, the characters are all likable except Christa Nicola who plays Sunnie, the journalist conducting the documentary. She's the character who is just so annoying you can't wait for her to die. Other than that character, everyone is fairly likable.
Alexandre Aja delivers to horror fans another solid, yet not entirely original film. If you're looking for an entertaining film purely for fun thrills, some humorous moments, creepy atmosphere, and intensity, The Pyramid is well-worth seeing. If there is a theater near you showing it.
Good Not Great
Following an accident that leaves her crippled, Jessabelle "Jess" (Sarah Snook), returns to her childhood home with her father (David Andrews). It is during her stay there that she discovers video tapes for her made by her deceased mother (Joelle Carter). As she begins to recover more of the tapes, Jess finds herself being haunted by a vengeful spirit that is out to get her. Enlisting the help of her old friend Preston (Mark Webber), Jess sets out to uncover the secret of the home she thought she knew.
Prior to viewing the film, my expectations were really low. It didn't look bad, but it didn't look exactly enticing either. Seeing the trailer in the theater, only to have it receive a limited release and a VOD release. While I wasn't entirely blown away, it wasn't as lousy as I was anticipating. Sarah Snook provides a very well-done performance as the title character. I admit the accent was irritating a lot of the time, but she did very well with the role and conveyed the emotions she was supposed to spot on. The rest of the cast, while not bad, doesn't provide anything noteworthy. As for the story itself, I did find myself growing antsy, it was consisting of so many elements of a typical haunted house flick. However, once the final act approached, things began to get interesting, and when the final act does happen, I found my attention completely glued. It features some pretty decent twists and turns, unfortunately, it bares a strong resemblance to particular horror film which I will not indicate in order to avoid giving anything away. Despite this fact, it was satisfactory and it actually made sense, and was very enjoyable. The Louisiana setting also worked very well for the film and provided a decent but familiar atmosphere.
While not exactly original and takes a while to finally gain momentum, Jessabelle goes out with quite a bang, and in the end provides a semi-interesting story. It also shows that Sarah Snook has what it takes to make it in the horror genre.
Not Bad For a PG-13 Horror Film
When her friend Debbie (Shelley Hennig) dies in what appears to be a suicide, Laine (Olivia Cooke) thinks there's more to her death and it may involve the Ouija board that was in her house. Laine then enlists the help of her boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), her sister Sarah (Ana Cato), her friend Isabelle (Bianca A. Santos), and Debbie's boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith). The friends decide to use the same Oujia board the home where Debbie died. When they think they've made contact with Debbie, they feel they can finally put things to rest. However, something dark and sinister has broke through and they must figure out how to stop it.
Ouija is made from the much hated company known as Platinum Dunes, and it is a PG-13 horror film. This alone makes the horror community already hate it. However, this viewer found the film very entertaining film. It takes a simple idea as a Ouija board that's been used in several supernatural films and throws into a very well-executed script. It does feature a few horror clichés such as people suddenly appearing, doors slamming, and even the cliché of the parents conveniently going out of town right when things are about to go down. However, the overall story is interesting and features a pretty decent, although not totally surprising twist. One thing I always give Platinum Dunes credit for is their excellent use of setting, filming style, and atmosphere. All of which shows up here. Many of the settings the characters find themselves help boost the the spook/creep factor, as does the cinematography and set design. The film isn't scary, but it does a great job of providing just enough a creep factor to put the viewer in the right mind-set. And it does have seem genuine creepy moments, especially in the final act. The young cast also does very well with their roles, we believe them as a young group of kids, and they come off as pretty realistic. Olivia Cooke in particular who is known from the popular series Bates Motel shows that she can definitely pull of the role of the main girl. We really believe her as a girl wanting to know the truth and eventually wanting to save her friends. Definitely one actress to keep an eye on. One thing that particularly makes the film enjoyable is an excellent cameo made by an actress very well known in the horror genre.
Ouija may be made by a company with a bad rep in the horror community, and it's PG-13, featuring some horror clichés. But it is a very entertaining film with a fun story, a great cast, excellent and creepy atmosphere/settings, and some genuinely spooky moments. Easily the most enjoyable PG-13 horror film since Insidious.
My Rating: 9/10
See No Evil 2 (2014)
Following the events of the first film, the sequel takes place shortly afterwards. We meet Amy (Danielle Harris), a young woman just finishing up her shift as the local morgue. When news arrives that the corpse of killer Jacob Goodnight (Glenn "Kane" Jacobs) is about to arrive, Amy cancels her birthday plans to help her co-workers Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and Holden (Michael Eklund) with the body. To Amy's surprise, her friends show up unexpectedly to celebrate her birthday. The group features the feisty Tamara (Katharine Isabelle), her whipped boyfriend Carter (Lee Majdoub), the bubbly Kayla (Chelan Simmons), and Amy's brother Will (Greyston Holt). It's not too long before Jacob Goodnight rises from his slab and is out to crash the party and the group must find a way out of the enclosed morgue to survive.
While I was a fan of the original film, I didn't find it anything great, but still fairly fun. I was shocked that it actually snagged a sequel. And it was ultimately an enjoyable one. It wasn't miles better than the first, but still entertaining and slightly better. The film takes place in an excellent setting, many places to run, but plenty of places to get lost. Especially in the dark. Kane is badder than ever in his return as Jacob Goodnight. Showing no mercy for our characters. Scream Queen Danielle Harris is solid as always as our leading lady. She's a friendly girl with edge who will do whatever it takes to get her friends and herself out alive. Also notable is other Scream Queen Katharine Isabelle. She plays the rule of Tamara with a perfect amount of feistiness and provides laughs with her over-the-top character moments. The rest of the cast does a decent job with their roles. As opposed the first film, the characters themselves range from tolerable to likable, and it helps that they are diverse and have their own personalities. The kills, while sometimes brutal, aren't nearly as fun or creative as the ones in the original film, but it doesn't bring the film down. What also scores the film points is the shock factor for a certain moment that occurs towards the end of the movie.
Overall, See No Evil 2 isn't a perfect slasher film, but it is a fun sequel that features a nice cast with likable enough characters, and a decent body count. But what really stands out the most is the setting and following the characters throughout it. Keeping the audience on edge, not knowing what lies around every corner or in any room they find themselves.
My Rating: 7/10
The Best of Me (2014)
Better Than The Book
Following an explosion on his oil rig, Dawson (James Marsden) has a glimpse of the girl he loved from his teenage years. Elsewhere, Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) is home with her alcoholic husband and teenage son, wondering what went wrong in her life and thinking of her first true love. When the news that their old friend Tuck (Gerald McRaney) has passed away, Dawson and Amanda are reunited and assigned to spread Tuck's ashes. As well as confront the ghosts of their past from their youth.
The film is an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. While I personally wasn't a huge fan of the novel, I found the film to be much better. The love story and history of the two lead characters and fleshed out more, as was the character of Tuck. While it did feature some major differences in the last act, it worked well. That aside, as a film, it is a very sweet love story (not as great as some of Sparks' prior films however). As we watch the story unfold between Amanda and Dawson as adults, we are given flashbacks to them as teenagers (played by Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato), which leads to where they find themselves today. Bracey and Liberato provide great performances as the younger Dawson and Amanda, they're great on their own, and have great chemistry to where we really buy them as couple. Bracey plays Younger Dawson with charm and innocence. Liberato shines as Younger Amanda. We initially see her as this pretty and bubbly girl, but she has an edge to her that Liberato shows off flawlessly. James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan play the older versions of the two characters. While the chemistry isn't nearly as concrete as the younger versions, we do get a decent feel of a relationship between the two. On their own, Monaghan gives the better performance of the two as a woman torn between the life of her past and the life she currently has. Marsden's performance, while not terrible, is hardly note-worthy. He definitely could have given more heart into the role as opposed to charm. One of the most note-worthy performances of the film however is Gerald McRaney as Tuck from the couple's younger years. We first see him as a hard-ass old man, but he grows to show his heart when these two teens come into his life. McRaney provides the most humor and heart in the story and easily becomes the most likable character in the movie. Like most Nicholas Sparks movies, it will only appeal to certain crowds. It has its really cheesy moments, but deep down there is a lot to its core, apart from dealing with love, it deals with life in general and where it takes us and where we can go from there.
The Best of Me features decent to solid performances with heart-felt and tear-jerking moments. However in the long run it doesn't set itself too far apart from the Nicholas Sparks formula.
My Rating: 8/10
Many years after the killings in small town by a killer known as "The Phantom" resulted in the making of the 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Texarkana is once again plagued by murders. Every Halloween, the town has a drive in screening of the original film depicting their own town. On this particular night, Jami (Addison Timlin) and her boyfriend Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) decide to bail on the film and go elsewhere. When they are attacked by an assailant dressed as The Phantom, Jami starts to suspect that history is about to repeat itself, and the new Phantom has certain plans for Jami and her small town.
It is difficult to say whether this version of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a reboot or a sequel. But whatever it is, it works. The original film had its creepy moments, but this film has a lot more going for it. For starters, this definitely has more of a slasher film feel to it than the original. We are given a very creepy killer, plenty of great and spooky night time scenes with him, plenty of chase scenes, and excellent and bloody kills. Not to mention it is VERY well- filmed with a great atmosphere and nice splicing between this and the original film. It also keeps you guessing as to what exactly is going on. Our leading lady played by Addison Timlin, while definitely isn't legendary as far as a Final Girl, but she's likable enough for us to root for her. And she has very sweet scenes with her grandmother, played by Veronica Cartwright. The acting isn't bad, but it's not anything great either. Timlin does well with the lead role, and easily does give the best and only note-worthy performance of the film. The concept itself is very interesting in how it is trying to bring new life the original film, and bring in a new generation. However, the concept does have a few problems. It bares a very strong resemblance to Scream 4 in trying to re-create the events of a real story/film in the film's world. In fact, there's a few things that can be compared to with Scream in regards to this film. The twist is another one of its weak spots. When it's revealed, it's not so much shocking as it is that you don't see much point to it.
Despite the film's borrowing of ideas and strong resemblances to Scream/Scream 4 and the awkward twist, this reboot/sequel is ultimately a fun slasher film. Let's face it, there haven't been many good ones. So if you look for particular aspects in a slasher film like a creepy killer, chase scenes, a decent body count, and bloody kills, with a likable lead, you may just enjoy this. It doesn't take itself too seriously, which makes it all the more fun.
My Rating: 9/10
Gone Girl (2014)
When Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), returns home one day to find his home trashed and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing, he realizes something isn't right. Immediately he contacts Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit). As the two begin to investigate the home, they begin to sense something peculiar about the break-in, as well as Nick's behavior. He then turns to his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) for support as the case begins to escalate and the media strongly begins to believe Nick has something to do with Amy's disappearance.
Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the film's screenplay, director David Fincher brings this dark and mystery-filled story to life. The film goes back and forth between the present, and flashbacks shown through Amy's diary entries that lead up to her disappearance. The film runs at two and a half hours, but the film hooks you right away and never lets go. The story begins to build just as much as the evidence does until it leads to many twists and turns. It is also very excellently filmed, much like Fincher's previous films, he wants to bring the viewer into the world that characters live in by really focusing on the setting and the character's themselves. But what stands out the most in the top-notch performances by the cast. Every single actor/actress in the film gives it their all. Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit do a great job of representing the viewers as the two cops divided. Dickens does a solid job of showing her conflict of whether or not she wants to believe Nick. Whereas Fugit brings a lot of humor as the skeptical character who doesn't believe Nick for a second. Carrie Coon who plays Affleck's sister in the film, provides us with the most likable character. She's not afraid to say what's on her mind, she's blunt and hilarious, but she's also the shoulder that Nick needs in the end and we really sense the bond between the two actors. Ben Affleck gives the performance of his career as a man caught in a web mystery. He gets so into character by showing two sides of his character that leaves the audience baffled of whether to believe he had something to do with his wife's disappearance or not. Finally, Rosamund Pike gives the best performance of the film as Amy Dunne, a wife who at first found herself deeply in love, but slowly beginning to grow unsure of her husband and his motives. The character of Amy herself is also so complex and Pike sells it to us all the way.
Overall, David Fincher's Gone Girl, is easily the best film adaptation of a novel that I have seen thus far. It has much to thank from the novel's author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, the perfect direction of David Fincher, and the spot-on performances from its entire cast. It is top-notch mystery thriller that keeps you reeled in until the very last scene.
My Rating: 10/10
An Unnecessary Horror Film
Annabelle is a spin-off/prequel to the hit 2013 horror film The Conjuring. It tells the story of the creepy doll that eventually fell into the hands of Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The film begins with the scene in The Conjuring in which a young woman and her friends came across the doll and have it examined by the Warrens. It then goes back in time to Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and her husband John (Ward Horton), who are expecting their first child. John surprises Mia with an antique doll that she had her eye on. All seems well until a brutal murder happens to the next door neighbors, and Mia is then attacked by one of the intruders. The female intruder then has her blood drip into the doll's eye. Soon after, sinister things begin to happen, and Mia is convinced that they need to move out of the house. However, despite their move the presence follows them, and the events continue. The couple then enlists the help of Father Perez (Tony Amendola) and one of their neighbors Evelyn (Alfre Woodward) to help solve what is going on. Is the doll suddenly coming to life, or is there something far more darker happening that puts not only the lives of the couple in danger, as well as their child.
It wasn't too long after the success of The Conjuring that word of a spin-off would be happening. And it certainly didn't take them long to film and release, and definitely shows here. Though the film does feature some fine performances by its cast and we definitely develop an attachment to these characters. It also features some fairly well-done chiller moments, particularly the invasion scene in the beginning and a certain moment involving the storage unit in the couple's apartment. However, it does feature some major predictable and cheap jump scares that eventually become repetitive. Not only this but the plot is very much lackluster and provides nothing new as a film overall.
While Annabelle does feature fine performances, likable characters, and a couple of chilling scenes, it doesn't make up for the fact that there is nothing new to it. It is purely an origin film that is completely unnecessary, and quite frankly makes the Annabelle does less freakier than it was in The Conjuring. It was clearly made just to bank of The Conjuring's success, and the work involved definitely shows this.
My Rating: 5/10
Endless Love (2014)
Powerful Love Story
The film follows David (Alex Pettyfer) who has had a long-lasting crush on beautiful rich girl Jade (Gabriella Wilde). It is on the day of their high school graduation when their two worlds collide. As the poor city boy and the sheltered rich girl's love begin to grow, the disapproval of Jade's father (Bruce Greenwood) does as well. He will stop at nothing to keep the two young lovers apart, and it will test the limits of how strong David and Jade's love truly is.
Endless Love definitely follows the footsteps of previous romance films, despite being a remake and an adaptation of a book of the same name. However, that doesn't prevent the film from being a powerful love story on its own. The characters are so lovable and more than anything you want their love to prevail and want everything to work out for them. We watch as they begin their cute encounters upon first meeting, and we gradually see their love grow more and more, and as the story goes on, we can literally feel the love between them despite the obstacles. It's definitely not a fresh love story, but anyone with a heart and has a strong belief in love can see so much deeper into his. Despite what critics and other reviews say, this is a powerful love story that shows how powerful love can be and how much we want to give that love to someone else.
Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde have AMAZING chemistry, enough to where it really helps you believe this couple is in love. Not since Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook has one been able to literally feel the love and chemistry two actors have to display on screen. On their own, the two actors do just as an amazing job. Wilde provides a lot beauty and innocence to her role as the girl who wants to throw away her sheltered and rich life to be with the one she loves most. Pettyfer proves a strong performance as a guy who will stop at nothing to be with the one he loves. He displays his full range as an actor when it involves his character confronting his past demons and deeper emotions.
Despite the harsh reviews that will come its way, Endless Love is a truly powerful love story that only people who are deeply in love, have deeply loved, or strongly believe in love will appreciate. It is only those like critics and those who haven't experienced love or really believe in it that will be blinded to the film's overall meaning. On top of that, we have the two solid performances by the leads to lift the film up to higher standards than most recent romantic dramas.
My Rating: 10/10
Gimme Shelter (2013)
Powerful Movie and Performance by Hudgens
Tired of her life of abuse and constant foster care, Agnes (Vanessa Hudgens) sets out to find a new place to call home. But she soon comes to realize that home is the place where you least expect to find it.
Gimme Shelter is a powerfully emotional film that chronicles the life of a young girl who just wants to find a place where she belongs in the world. We watch as Agnes encounters people from her dark past, to people in her present who may just lead her on the path to salvation. Some of the situations are dark and heart-breaking, but the moments when Agnes finds and feels the love she's been looking for will move you to tears. While many may compare it to the film Precious, Gimme Shelter is based on a true story. The film moves at a quick-pace, but not too quick to where you don't find yourself emotionally evolved in the story and the characters.
While many remember her for role in High School Musical or even most recently for her devilishly trashy performance in Spring Breakers, Vanessa Hudgens gives the performance of her career. It's powerful, heartbreaking, and moving at the same time. Hudgens gets so lost in her role. We really believe her as this lost and broken girl who yearns to be loved. For anyone who doubts that Hudgens can't act (which honestly, I thought this at first), once you see this film you can see the great potential Hudgens inhabits. Very few young actresses could have pulled this role off, but Hudgens nails it through and through and carries the film on her own. In very much supporting roles are Rosario Dawson who gives a dark and pure evil performance as Agnes' drug addicted and abusive mother whom she tries to escape. Dawson really delivers in this role and every time she's on screen you're digested and you absolutely HATE her. Brenden Fraser stars as Agnes' biological and wealthy father. When we first meet his character, Fraser comes off as very bland in the role, but during the course of the film he eases into it more and gives a decent enough performance.
Gimme Shelter is a deep and emotional film that will touch you, and leave you in tears, and full of hope. All of this definitely wouldn't have been possible without the powerhouse performance given by Vanessa Hudgens.
My Rating: 10/10