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47 out of 56 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful Boy is a raw and realistic look at society in which very few filmmakers dare to explore., 1 June 2011

Kate (Maria Bello) and Bill (Michael Sheen) have been struggling with their marriage for years and have decided to give it one final go before actually calling it quits. One night while planning their huge family vacation, their son Sam (Kyle Gallner) calls and seems quite out of it. Both Kate and Bill seem worried but feel that Sam is just having a rough time during his first semester away at college. The next day, life goes on as normal until the couple is notified that their has been a mass shooting at their son's college. Its only a matter of hours before Bill and Kate's already troubled life gets worse as they learn that Sam is not only dead, but the one who began to shoot up the school. A raw, realistic, and heart-wrenching look into our society ensues...

Man, do I love movies like this! I love movies that dare to tackle subject matters that our society just completely ignores. Beautiful Boy is not only a realistic tale about a crumbling marriage, but also a unique look at the family of a trouble college student who did the unthinkable. In a time where school shootings are at an all time high, there comes a movie like this that dares to examine the subject matter from a unique perspective. For years after mass shooting at various schools like Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, and of course the notorious Columbine, its about time some filmmaker dared to take a look into this subject and from the parents point of view.

When we hear about school shootings, we always think about the crazy kid who shot up the school, but we never question for a second, what about the parents and how are they taking the news. The media tends to point the blame at the parents and state that they must have screwed the kid up and caused him/her to do that. Why purely blame the parents? Why isn't it on our society? The media? Or even just the large amount of hate in this world. No one can deny that there are some crazy people in this world, but the question that remains is who is to blame and what would ever bring a person to take on such horrific action? No one knows and this film doesn't necessarily answer that questions, but instead does show how hard the parents not only take the loss, but how it makes them feel as people who have to live with knowing what their child is a killer.

While this film not only tackles that difficult subject matter; it also takes a brutally honest look at divorce and the basic struggles of every day life. Many husbands and wives stay together for the kids in our society today. I personally know several people that have stood together for the years when their marriage was on the rocks. Beautiful Boy shows this with Bill and Kate throughout the film and how the couple goes through periods where their love is strong and where it is weak. There is a huge fight scene near the end of the film in which Kate and Bill begin to violently argue about the relationship and whose fault it is that Sam turned out the way he did. That scene would bring tears to the eyes of any couple who has a kid or wants a child. It is gripping, raw, and unforgettable.

In order for this film to work as perfectly as it did, it clearly depended on Maria Bello and Michael Sheen to give realistic and believable performances. Needless to say, they nail it and gave some powerful and gut-wrenching performances. The chemistry and tension that they face is as real as any that I have seen in real life. When they are happy on screen, you are happy and when they are sad and miserable, you are sad and miserable. This film is clearly a character study of Kate and Bill and while there are some great supporting roles its really only those two who we as audience members are focused on. Bello and Sheen are the ones knock this film out of the park and give some truly Oscar worthy performances.

I applaud director/writer Shawn Ku as well as co-writer Michael Armbruster for creating a film that makes our society look at life, marriage, and adolescent violence from a whole new perspective. The script was well written and the scenes were placed perfectly throughout the film to make the movie keep the audience wanting more. The emotional scenes in this film were beautifully captured by Shawn Wu, who seems to have an eye for detail on capturing raw emotion from his actors. With Wu's direction, Beautiful Boy feels makes the audience feel as though we are dealing with the events that are taking place on screen and as filmmakers that is a great accomplishment.

At the end of the day, Beautiful Boy is definitely not the feel good film of the summer, but is probably one of the most powerful and realistic films that I have seen in many years. It's real, raw, and brutally honest and I love that about indie films. I love feeling good when I go to a movie, but I also like movies that tackle issues that are relevant to our society today. This film does that and while many may not appreciate how honest of a film this is, I did and applaud everyone involved for taking on a film of this caliber. Beautiful Boy will more than likely be one of those films that around December of this year that will make it's way onto my " best of" list for the year.

The Beaver (2011)
93 out of 137 people found the following review useful:
Jodie Foster takes on depression and Mel Gibson in "The Beaver", 19 March 2011

"The Beaver" tells the story of Walter Black (Mel Gibson), a man who has lost his way in life and is dealing with an extreme case of depression. His wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) has told him to move out and his oldest son Porter (Anton Yelchin) hates him. Just when he is about to call it quits, Walter becomes friends with a hand puppet named The Beaver, who takes total control of Walter's life. With The Beaver constantly attached to Walter, he is able redeem himself at work and with his wife and youngest son. It isn't long though before living life through The Beaver catches up to Walter making his life even worse than ever before. It is now up to Walter to take back his life or to lose everything he has worked his entire life for and live it forever as The Beaver.

"The Beaver" is a really dark and depressing piece of cinema. As the film continues, you really saw how deep Walter's depression is and that he is in serious need of help. The man is living his life through a stuffed beaver! It's really an original and interesting take on depression, which has never been seen before. The subplot, which was focused around Anton Yelchin was also interesting and kind of played hand and hand as the same situation that Walter was dealing with.

Mel Gibson gives us an extremely powerful and dark performance in this film. This is something that you have never seen him do before and it's extremely scary to watch him portray this character. This is the most unique take on depression that I have currently seen and Gibson nails it. Jodie Foster is good as the dedicated wife and gives an emotional performance. You can tell that Meredith cares deeply for Walter and will stop at nothing to be with him. Anton Yelchin, gives the best performance of his career in this film. He is a kid who hates his father so much that he lives his life through others. He is so focused on hating his father that he doesn't realize he can't live his own life. That is until Jennifer Lawerence's character Norah comes along and helps him find himself. The acting in this film is just ravishing with everyone involved showcasing some of the best performances of their careers.

While I admired the film's creative and unique take on depression as well as everyone's acting, there were a few elements of the film that didn't sit well with me. The first being why the heck didn't anyone have Walter committed to a mental institute? About 30 minutes in, I couldn't suspend belief that an entire company would allow its CEO to run a company through a hand puppet. That just wasn't plausible. I also didn't get how Meredith didn't take more active role in helping Walter out. There is a scene where Meredith and Walter go to dinner and Meredith tells the Beaver that she wants Walter to come out. This scene is quite disturbing as it shows just how much the Beaver has taken control. At this point, however, why Meredith doesn't bring him to counseling is just unbelievable. He has obviously lost his mind at this point. I just didn't get it those two factors of the film. It's like everyone cared yet no one really took the time to guide him to the light so to speak.

Despite those minor hiccups, I really enjoyed the film. I liked that it was about two stories in one. There was Walter living life through depression aka The Beaver and there was Porter living his life through writing about others. Both of these stories were showing how much Walter and Porter were alike and how much Meredith and Norah are alike. It was a very unique way to view living life through others or other things but it worked out perfectly. My favorite thing about the film was the last 30 minutes. The entire third act was remarkable and really overshadowed all my initial dislikes in the film in regards to no one committing Walter. It was a truly powerful and scary because it showed the true side effects of depression and just how deep into the depression Walter really was. I don't want to give anything away but I will let you know that something does happen to Walter in the last 30 minutes that truly impacts his life. It brings the overall tone of the film to a very dark and depressing state but I feel it was an important part of the film. This film wouldn't have worked out to be so good if it wasn't for how deep it got in that last 30 minutes.

In the end, "The Beaver" will definitely not be a film for everyone. If you are going expecting a comedy, I will warn you right now that you should stay far away. This is not a comedy and it's not even a dramedy. While it does have a few light-hearted moments here and there, this is probably one of the darkest mainstream films that I have come across in quite some time. I don't know how well this is going to do, one for the obvious reason of Mel Gibson, but also because of the small niche market for this film. It obviously has great performances, good direction, and a well written story but the subject matter isn't what most people want to see. I think it's great to see a film be as ballsy and real as this one but I also know this isn't what sells tickets. I would be curious to see how this does when it's released. I personally think it's a must see and recommend those who are into really serious dramas to put this on the top of your list. It's a really unique take on depression, as well as a unique piece of cinema.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Emily Blunt & Matt Damon fall in love and question their destiny in "The Adjustment Bureau", 7 March 2011

David Morris (Matt Damon) is running for office in New York. After a shocking photo is revealed to the press, David realizes that his dream of taking office as New York's next Governor isn't going to happen. While prepping for his last big speech to congratulate the winner of the election, he runs into a woman named Elise (Emily Blunt) who changes everything. Elise makes David feel something that he has never felt before and changes his whole outlook on life. This is when the Adjustment Bureau steps in to make sure that Elise and David never cross paths again. An interesting film about destiny ensues...

I have been seeing advertisements for "The Adjustment Bureau" for what seems like over a year now. The film was originally slated to be released in 2010 but the film went through some re-edits including some alterations with the ending. Needless to say, I was really worried when it was pushed back for so long. Normally in Hollywood, when a movie gets its release date moved so much, its a bad sign. I am happy to report, however, that the film is actually pretty solid and lives up to it's solid marketing campaign.

Emily Blunt and Matt Damon are the stars of the film and the two of them work great together. They have solid on-screen chemistry and seem like they really enjoyed working with one another. Damon's character David seemed like President Obama when he was running for office. Damon is skilled at playing characters like the one he played here. He plays the smart yet action packed role perfectly and has done so in several other films. Emily Blunt is great in the film as well. I enjoyed her humor and she has solid on screen presence. Her character is fun yet intelligent, which really made Elise such a likable character. She just felt real, like someone who you would meet in real life.

The other supporting actors were terrific as well. There are so many smaller roles in this film that I probably won't name them all but will focus on a few of the main ones. Anthony Mackie who played agent Mitchel, played a really solid character. It was interesting seeing him go through the emotions and fighting the idea of whether or not he should help David. John Slattery and Terence Stamp who also played agents in the film did a good job trying to warn David about adjusting his future. These supporting stars all helped to build the suspense in the film.

The best thing about "The Adjustment Bureau" is probably the story, which oddly enough is also it's biggest flaw. The idea of an organization that controls our faith and destiny is an interesting one. The film makes its audience wonder about the events that occur on a regular basis in ones life and asks the question was it part of a bigger plan or was it destiny? That idea alone is what makes this film interesting from start to finish. The audience is always trying to unravel the mystery behind what's going to happen next. We want to know how and why this organization is controlling the faith of David and Elise.

With that being said, the movie's idea is great but the script leaves the audience wanting more. Its one of those movies where the idea is intriguing but requires its audience to shut off their thinking caps. I will begin explaining this with the simple fact that David is running for major office, yet he is never surrounded by body guards or security. That seems odd from the get go. Then this organization gets introduced and why they pick him isn't really flesh out. Then the idea of going through doors isn't really discussed with enough detail either. The ending, while I did enough it, left me wanting more. I just felt that the story's premise was a great one especially for a film but it just wasn't intelligently executed. The story was more for the non-thinkers and I guess for a Hollywood type film, I shouldn't knock it because at least it was a creative story.

In closing, I ready did enjoy "The Adjustment Bureau" and thought it was a solid flick. The story will really grab the audience's attention and the performances by Blunt and Damon will have you at the edge of your seat and rooting for them at the same time. Some may argue that the end result was one that was too clichéd but I think in terms of the story here, it really made sense. I think even in life as much as we don't want to admit it, all we really want is companionship and the film really goes the distance to rely that message. Sure, it should have spent a little less time with that message and more about the bureau itself and I will not try to deny that. This film could have been a masterpiece if the storyline was better explained. I realize most people don't like thinking when they see a movie but I think nowadays with film's like "Inception" making big bucks, I think a few movies a year that challenge its audience really would be great. "The Adjustment Bureau" had the potential of being that type of film but instead it took the turn off your brain route instead. At the end of the day, it was a good flick with some flaws but I really did enjoy it from start to finish even though I had to turn off my brain to do so!

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "The Adjustment Bureau" was a 7 out of 10.

Due Date (2010)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
It's like a modern update of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" with half the laughs and drug jokes!, 5 March 2011

Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) is trying to make to home to his wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) who is scheduled to deliver their first born at the end of the week. When Peter arrives at the airport, he bumps into Ethan (Zach Galifianakis), who accidentally switches his bag with Peter and begins to cause trouble in his life. While boarding the plane, Peter and Ethan get into an argument and both are kicked off the plane. This is when Peter finds out even more bad news! He is now on the no fly list. With no one else to turn to, Peter hitches a car ride with Ethan across country to hopefully get home to his wife before the baby arrives. A somewhat amusing road trip ensues...

When I first saw the trailer for "Due Date," I felt indifferent about it. Sure, it looked really amusing at times but then I got the feeling it was going to be really bad. "Due Date" was made by Todd Phillips, a man who I feel has gotten a lot of attention off comedies that are better than the norm. I would like to put this out there right now, while most of his films are amusing, all of them are overrated. "The Hangover" was a funny film but it wasn't god's gift to comedy like almost every critic made it out to be, and the same thing goes with "Old School." Phillips knows how to make successful raunchy comedy and has done so since 2000 when he brought us "Road Trip." He's good at it but like everything else, there is room for improvement.

At times, the overall story and characters in "Due Date" reminded of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." You know, the 1987 road trip comedy with John Candy and Steve Martin that was directed by John Hughes? Yep, that one. Sure, it wasn't the exact same movie but it was similar in many ways and felt like it. Galifianakis pretty much played the funny, annoying but ultimately lovable fat guy aka John Candy's character and Downey Jr played the stressed out business guy. It was very similar in terms of characters just with some extras added in to bring it up to date with the times.

The jokes in the film were very hit and miss. I found some of them to be really funny and others just fell dead in their tracks. There are tons of drug gags in the film as well as some sex humor specifically masturbation. These jokes didn't really work for me. The funnier jokes to me were the ones found in the trailer involving them putting Ethan in the cab of the truck and driving over bumps. The jokes I found more amusing were the little ones, more than the big ones. I think the film tried to hard at times to be funny and I just wasn't laughing at it.

I will be honest and say that I thought, Downey Jr and Galifianakis did have solid chemistry with one another. Galifianakis was back to playing that clueless loser character that he played in "The Hangover." I personally didn't like his character but than again, I didn't like Downey Jrs either. I think that was a big problem with the film; neither of the leads were likable. Sure, they had funny moments but they were both equally annoying and not someone the audience could relate to. Downey Jr plays a good a-hole and he does that extremely well. It's not that they didn't have good on-screen chemistry or that they didn't fit their roles, it's just there wasn't any redeeming qualities about either of them. With buddy road trip films, you have to like at least one of the characters and I didn't here.

In the end, "Due Date" received average reviews and for once, I actually agree with the critics about a Todd Phillips film. It's not a bad movie but it's just not great. For every joke that works, there are probably two that fail. It's an enjoyable film that I am glad I watched but probably not one I would want to add to my collection. I think with a little bit more character development and maybe a better and more well-rounded ending, it would have been a much better film. Since the film used characters similar to "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," it would have been nice if it used some of its heart as well. Its not something you will be upset when watching but you will just ultimately saying to yourself, "eh, it was OK." in the end. I think for a comedy, it's decent but than again great comedies don't happen every day.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Due Date" is a 5.5 out of 10.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A gritty, raw and depressing look into the lives of several students whose life is far from perfect., 1 March 2011

"Inside America" is one of the many films being showcased at SXSW 2011. I, however, am lucky enough to have seen the film before the festival run and therefore am able to write this review as a way to truly help promote independent cinema. "Inside America" tells the story of a group of high school students, who live near the Mexico border. While their backgrounds are different, they are all struggling to follow their hopes and to live the "American Dream." This film shows the struggles and offers a depressing yet realistic look at the lives of kids from a small town. It may not be pretty but "Inside America" offers a blunt and in your face look at people in our society today.

The film "Inside America" is an important film to watch. Like several independent films in the past, "Inside America" gives its audience a look into the lives of students from a small town. Now, while I grew up in a small suburb, I did not live in an area like the one shown in this film. This sort of town doesn't even exist near me, which made this film even more interesting to watch. As a film critic and film connoisseur, I always enjoy films that take risks and don't sink in to give it's audience, the warm and fuzzies. That is the job of most Hollywood films. Movies like this are made to tell a story and while they offer their own biased view on life, I think its an important one to acknowledge exists. I truly believe there are kids right now, going through this sort of life style that this film depicts.

The movie focuses on a loner, a group of kids involved in a gang, glamor and beauty obsessed cheerleaders, and even ROTC Students. This isn't your typical teen flick so don't expect lots of laughs and sex filled jokes. This is a realistic look at kids dealing with real life scenarios like living in poverty, drugs, popularity, gangs, immigration, and struggling to just get by in America. There are several scenes in the film, which make you feel as though you are watching a documentary. One such scene is the as a gang fight scene. The violence was raw, gritty but most importantly real. When the scene happens near the end of the film, the audience is glued to the edge of their seats by the realism being shown on screen.

The overall message of the film was one that I don't think will win over the majority of the world but I don't think writer/director Barbara Eder cares about that. She created a film for those who don't mind looking at the dark and realistic world that exists around our daily lives. This is a world that most of us will thankfully never see but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It's not a pretty portrait of America but the realistic truth that towns and more importantly, people like this do exist. While the film is not a perfect film, it is a solid film for a first time director despite it's minor flaws. The budget on this film had to be almost non-existent and for what little resources the cast and crew had, they did a solid job with what they had.

In the end, "Inside America" probably won't reach a large audience anytime soon and that's just the hard reality behind it. That last sentence, however, proves the fact that film festivals are an important element in the Independent Film World. With festivals such as SXSW, movies like "Inside America" get a chance to find an audience, even if it is a small one. Independent films are the heart and soul of cinema as they are created for next to nothing and focus on telling a story. Films like this are made, not for money but as a work of art. It was made to share the directors vision and passion for film. This film is no different, its a powerful and realistic look into a world where moviegoers rarely venture. The film leaves its audience hating the world and upset by what they just witnessed. It goes to show you how human beings treat one another and it isn't a pretty picture. While depressing and even upsetting in it's conclusion, Barbara Eder created a film that ultimately paints a gritty, realistic, and dark portrait of life at Hanna High School.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Inside America" is a solid 8 out of 10. If you get a chance to see this film and are a fan of realistic films that don't paint that pretty picture, check out this flick!

Unknown (2011/I)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A smart edge of your seat thriller that actually delivers the goods!, 28 February 2011

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) has just landed in Berlin with his beautiful wife (January Jones) to attend a biotechnology submit. While at the airport, Harris accidentally leaves his briefcase on the luggage cart. Unaware of his actions, him and his wife get into their taxi and head for the hotel. Once they arrive, Harris realizes that his briefcase is missing and informs his wife to check into the hotel, while he searches the cab for his briefcase. With no luck, he grabs the first taxi and heads back to the airport with the hope of retrieving his briefcase. This is when this happy story takes a turn for the worst because the taxi swerves to avoid an accident and lands in a river. As the taxi collides off of a bridge, Harris bangs his head on the window and slips into a coma. Three days later, he awakes in a hospital with a foggy memory of the events that lead him to the hospital. Harris ventures out into Berlin to find his wife, only to find out that his wife as well as everyone else has no recollection of who he is. This is when he sets out to prove to everyone that he is, in fact, Dr. Martin Harris. A smart and edgy thriller ensues...

I felt the same way that everyone else did when I first saw the trailer for "Unknown." The movie looked a lot like "Taken" and when I went into the film, I really was expecting that. The great news is that, while the film takes place in another country just like in "Taken," the rest of the film is nothing like it. The story that takes place in "Unknown" has nothing to do with the one that occurs in "Taken" so get that out of your head now. I have read several reviews trying to compare the two films but as I said they have next to nothing in common. "Taken" was an action film from start to finish with very little story. "Unknown" is more of a suspense thriller with a solid story that is loaded with twists.

My question, however, is this, when did Liam Neeson become box office gold? I am not saying that in a negative way, because I always admired the man as an actor but after "Taken" his rise of stardom has grown ten-fold. Neeson, who has always had a wide array of talent, seems to be able to play every role from romantic comedies to a bad ass assassins. Neeson, has been acting since 1979 and has now found his market playing the lead role in such films as "Taken" and "Unknown." I guess to answer my own question is that Neeson became a huge star when he took on the genre of action thriller. What I like most about Neeson is that he has no problem going from nice guy to a complete bad ass in just a few scenes. The reason "Unknown" works as well as it does is because of Neeson in the lead role. He is believable throughout the entire film and his struggle to prove his identity feels real.

There are many scenes in "Unknown," where the audience may have to sustain some belief in order to follow the story. This sadly is the cliché of Hollywood to create unrealistic action scenes to keep the audience involved. The film, however, didn't need those scenes to work but seemed to be added to keep people who enjoy this genre happy. The thriller is a genre that leaves its audience at the edge of its seat. This film accomplishes this pretty early on and runs with it through the entire film. Once you get into the story, you are hooked or at least I was.

The simple idea of someone's identity being stolen is a subject that has always intrigued audiences. The topic itself has been done before several times and most films that have tackled the subject don't leave us with a good taste in our mouths. We live in an era where identity theft is a regular occurrence, therefore, allowing the viewer to truly understand what Harris is feeling. The best part of the film is simply the fact that the story doesn't just stop at a stolen identity topic but adds an interesting twist that keeps the film's audience wanting more. The pace of "Unknown" as well as the better than average storyline is what makes it stand out from other films that feature the whole "stolen identity" plot. The introduction of new characters as the story advances also helps the storyline built more suspense. Each new character introduces unravels another piece of the puzzle that "Unknown" sets us up to put together.

With films like "Unknown" doing well at the box office, I am happy to report that movie-goers may actually want films that actually try to make them think. While this movie has its normal action packed scenes, which feature unbelievable car chase sequences, the story is where it really stands out. "Unknown" may be a thriller that is made for a mainstream audience but it has enough there to keep a person who expects more from cinema to be happy. It's not a masterpiece by any definition but is definitely is one of the better thrillers with a solid story to come out of Hollywood in years. I think if Liam Neeson keeps it up, in a few more years he may actually make it to the big leagues to where people like Tom Cruise once sat. When watching "Unknown" please remember its not a sequel to "Taken" but rather a smart, edge of your seat thriller that will leave you feeling refreshed.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Unknown" is a 8 out of 10. This is one of the better action/suspense thrillers to come out of Hollywood in years.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A prequel/lead-in that makes the original into an even better film., 22 February 2011

Paranormal Activity 2 is sort of a prequel/tie in to the huge hit that was Paranormal Activity. In the prequel, a family's house is tampered with one evening. As a way to fight their fears, the father has a security system installed to prevent the incident from ever happening again. The family soon learns that maybe their house was not broken into but is rather haunted by something that they can't see. Now, the family must try to unravel the events that continue to occur and hope that they can stop it from happening again.

When I originally saw the trailer for Paranormal Activity 2, I was upset. All I could think was why the heck are they doing a sequel to that film? I am one of those people who found the original to be very overrated. That might be because I saw the film so late in the game but to me it wasn't scary and extremely boring. I definitely was not on the band wagon when I saw the trailer for the sequel. Avoiding the film in the theaters, I decided to pick up the sequel when I was out and decided to sit down last night and watch it.

Paranormal Activity 2 actually serves as a companion piece instead of a direct lead in or prequel to the original film. You SHOULD watch the original before you see this one. There are a lot of connections between the two and the end result kind of plays out like the "Saw" films. This sequel or say prequel actually for the first time makes the original feel like a better film. Its hard to explain but I will try. The original had very little story and not much background. This film has more story and is better explained. Also, Activity 2, probably, because of its bigger budget looks better and feels more realistic for some reason. I thought that was odd since the original was actually filmed for next to nothing and had a smaller cast in a real house but something about the house in this film made it feel more authentic to watch.

When you talk about a film flowing, its all about its pace and how the film shapes its story. This movie flows well. It starts off rather rough and I was well on my way to start mocking it within the first 10 minutes. However, when the film hits the 25 to 30 minute mark, it becomes a lot better and actually keeps you on the edge of your seat in suspense. I think the action scenes are much more scary in this film and I actually jumped a few times here and there. I think that bringing in elements like a dog and baby added to the creepiness of the film. We all have seen films with couples being haunted by things but when a baby and a dog are, well that's something new.

I realize that Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the original, was trying to pull a Blair Witch Project on its audience. Nowadays, after films like that and the rise of amazing reality television (why oh why does it exist), I know I can't really believe that a film like this is true. I think both films try to be believable and work for the most part. If I wasn't a victim to bad reality television, I would have probably believed the first film was real that is until I saw that the filmmaker released multiple alternate endings. The scares of this film come from the unknown. There is something just simply chilling about the paranormal. It's creepiness comes from that idea alone and it works.

I do realize that many have said that this film is poorly acted and I have to agree with that mark but these are suppose to be real people so it fits the tone of the film. I can't say I liked any of the characters in the film, while I actually didn't mind Katie and Micah in the original. In that case, the first film is better for having more likable characters. The characters here were very whinny and actually unlikable from the start. They also seemed a bit more silly than those in the original.

In the end, Paranormal Activity 2 does two things that rarely occurs in film. First, its better than the original and the second is that it actually made me like the original film. I know, I am shocked myself. After watching the sequel, I immediately put the original on and watched it from start to finish. The storyline in the sequel helped connect some of those weird what the hell? moments that occurred in the original. It also helped make the original film feel scarier. I think that's a rare feat for movies like this. I admire films that actually create suspense from nothing. It takes a skilled writer or writers to create a story that is scary without actually seeing something. I can't believe I am going to say this but I am now a fan of Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 and am excited to see the third film. I just hope that everyone involved don't overstay their welcome and keep these going like every other successful horror series. They should just stop with the trilogy and not try to push their luck.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for Paranormal Activity 2 is a solid 7 out of 10.

Let Me In (2010/I)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A unique vampire horror gem with a solid story and acting., 7 February 2011

"Let Me In" follows a boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is a outcast and gets bullied on a regular basis at school. To make matters worse, Owen lives a pretty depressing life at home with his mother (Cara Buono) who is constantly arguing with her ex-husband over the phone. One night, Owen notices a new family moving into the complex and wonders who they are. The following night while sitting in the park, Owen is greeted by Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) who begins to talk to him for the first time. The two of them instantly form a bond and become close friends. The only issue is that Abby is not human but rather a vampire who needs to feed off humans in order to survive. An interesting and well made vampire flick ensues...

I have to point out right away that I have not seen the original Swedish film. I do realize that I should have before watching the remake but fear not, I have it at home and will watch it very soon. With that being said, I didn't know what to think of "Let Me In" before I watched it. I wanted to see it just because Chloe Moretz from "Kick-Ass" was in it but other than that it didn't make my must-see movie list. The reason why is probably because I am not a big fan of horror films as a whole because they are usually clichéd and stupid. I am also a little sick and tired of recent vampire films. This film, however, received solid reviews and intrigued me enough to see it. It's not everyday that a horror film gets solid reviews so I knew this had to be somewhat decent. Sadly, "Let Me In" didn't really do well in the theaters (no surprise there) so I had to rent it in order to see it.

Over the past few years, vampire films have become a dime a dozen. Luckily, "Let Me In" is one that truly stands out. Its nice to see that Matt Reeves actually took the time to create a solid horror film about vampires. What stood out the most about "Let Me In" was that it's focus was on the "old" version of vampires. You know the ones seen before "Twilight" and "True Blood" flooded the market. Abby is not your typical vampire and that also adds to it. The character itself is very likable and you as a viewer feel bad that this poor girl has become a vampire. The bond that she shares with Owen is genuine and sincere BUT is also extremely believable. I think that was another key element of this film. In a lot of films, you see characters that don't really fit with one another but Owen and Abby seemed to be a perfect fit for one another.

The scares in "Let Me In" were not the typical horror clichés that one may expect when watching a film like this. Matt Reeves relied heavily on the cinematography and scene set up to create the overall mood for the film. The movie was very dark and gloomy but that fit the film's theme. By doing using these elements wise, Reeves set the mood for the film therefore making the scares work to the best of his advantage. The story also had several story-lines going on at once, which I felt kept the viewer always interested in and questioning what was going to happen next. The multiple story-lines included Abby and her guardian, Owen and the bullies, Abby and Owen's relationship, and of course Owen's home life. I also loved how the film's story felt like a horror retelling of "Romeo and Juliet." The screenplay was well written with solid character development.

Any film junkie knows that a screenplay is only as good as the actors you pick to play the role and if they have chemistry. There are really only two main stars in this film those being Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz. Both of them shine in their roles and I am going to put this out there right now that Moretz is going to be a huge actress in the next couple of years. She is already skilled as an actress at a very young age. There were a few smaller supporting roles in this film including Richard Jenkins and the three kids who played the bullies. All of which played their part and played it well. I think in terms of acting for a horror movie, this was some of the best I seen. I know that isn't saying much but everyone really nailed the role they played.

"Let Me In" is a breathe of fresh air for the horror genre and more specifically in the vampire sub-genre. I can't really say how loyal this version is to the original but based on my research for the film, it is extremely similar with a few scenes being almost identical. I think "Let Me In" will end up being a cult classic for those who appreciate it as a well made vampire flick. I don't think "Let Me In" will be loved by all because it is very dark, gloomy and a deeper than your typical horror flick. Those who like the "True Blood" take on vampires may or may not enjoy it. As a whole the film is not what you would expect from your average horror film but more or less what you would expect from a independent one. Its basically a character study focusing on a troubled boy who shares a special bond with a girl who happens to be a vampire. While its not for everyone, I know that as a film lover I thought this film was a great staple in the horror film library and will be a Blu Ray I will be adding to my collection.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for a solid 7 out of 10.

3 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
An interesting premise is ruined by a sloppy script and poor direction., 31 January 2011

"ExTerminators" is about a woman named Alex (Heather Graham) who loves to help out people. This could be the reason why she married a man that she supports and doesn't work. One day, Alex comes home from work to find her husband cheating on her. Without any explanation needed, this ends the marriage leaving Alex feeling bitter and upset. A few weeks later, Alex is at the grocery store and while shopping a random male approaches her and takes the pie that Alex was planning to purchase. Alex informs the man that she was going to buy that pie. The guy responds by stating, "I don't see your name on it." Upset by the response, Alex punches the guy and is of course, arrested. Alex now has to attend an anger management class. This is where she meets Stella (Jennifer Coolidge) and Nikki (Amber Heard), who have their history of anger issues pertaining to men. What happens next has to be seen to be believed but the three women go into business to become the ExTerminators.

"ExTerminators" is terrible title for a film. I get the fact that it's suppose to be funny because its a play on words. If you read the title and get the little gag in the title than you will figure out exactly what the film is about. Its a film about a group of women who go around and terminate the exes of various women who pay them to do so. I guess if the film had the right director and writer on board it could have been a pretty funny film but instead it turned into something that I feel I would see on Lifetime.

The first problem I had with the film was that it made every male in this movie out to either be a jerk or completely clueless. That element alone made this film feel like a Lifetime movie. Alex's husband is a user and a cheater, another guy is a woman beater, and all the other men in this film are all the typical college guy stereotypes who just grab female asses. Even the good guy in this film was portrayed as stupid. I understand this is a film about strong women but seriously not every guy is an ass or an idiot. Don't insult my intelligence like that. I would pose to even question what kind of guy would cheat on Heather Graham? The woman is freaking beautiful with an amazing body. I don't really get that. If your going to make a film about someone cheating why not make Jennifer Coolidge the main character, because than it would be a bit more believable but that's just my take.

The next issue I had was the whole subplot of the film, which involved an IRS agent by the name of Hutt (Sam Lloyd). You see Hutt was investigating Stella's business, which ironically is a exterminator business. She kills bugs for a living. As it turns out, Hutt now begins to investigate Stella and and the rest of the girls. One would argue that this is all part of the story and adds something to it. I personally found it to be rather silly and the twist in the end seemed almost too simple for its own good. It wasn't as crafty as writer, Suzanne Weinert intended it to be. As the story develops everything just seems to simple and unexplained. Why doesn't anyone look into why all of a sudden this anger management class keeps getting a ton of new members each and every week. Why are the cops so stupid? It's three women who are killing men left and right but yet no one can figure this out? I am sorry but that's a bit of a stretch. The cops didn't even really investigate through the film.

I actually liked Heather Graham in this role. I think she did a decent job even though the script was weak and the characters weren't well written. I personally thought it was really silly to try to make her look ugly by giving her huge glasses from the 50's though. What the heck was the director thinking? Who makes fun of people who wear glasses anymore? Seriously, what is this... the 70s? I don't get it. Anyway, Graham did all she could to survive the role. As for Coolidge, she was alright as well. I think she plays a good drunk and bitter ex-wife. Amber Heard was unrecognizable in the film and was good in the role even if she was a bit too over the top at times. I don't know why they made her into such a psycho but would guess she was the perfect opposite of the character Graham played. The acting by the leads was decent however all the smaller supporting roles were horrible including the guy who played Hutt. Just bad supporting roles all around...

At the end of the day, "ExTerminators" is a direct to video film that truly deserves the title. While the film's premise could be funny, it fails to produce any real laughs. The direction is sloppy and the writing is poor. Graham, Coolidge, and Heard do all they can to help make the film watchable but sadly due to the poor character development they couldn't do much. It's no shock to me why this film went right to video because it would have failed in theaters as a feature film. Its sad to see movies like this sometimes because you can see where if it were in the hands of another writer or director it could have been 100 times better. I will give it some points for the premise and for the decent acting job by the three leads but other than that I would have to tell you to skip this one because it's definitely a stinker.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "the ExTerminators" is a 4 out of 10.

You Again (2010)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
"You Again" is a tad bit silly but all in all is a fun film about high school with an interesting premise., 30 January 2011

Marni (Kristen Bell) is a successful PR representative, who moved out to Los Angeles as a way to start fresh and forget her past. "You Again" opens with Marni telling a group of young PR interns the tale of her life as a nerd in high school. Like many of us, Marni didn't have a great time in high school because she was picked on and bullied especially by the lead cheerleader, Joanna (Odette Yustman). After Marni is done with her big speech at the PR firm, she boards a plane to head home to attend her brother Will's (James Wolk) wedding. Once home, Marni finds out that Will is marrying Joanna; the woman who made her life in high school a living hell. This is when Marni sets out to prove that Joanna is not this innocent good girl that she is pretending to be. To top all this off, Joanna's Aunt Romona (Sigourney Weaver) arrives that same evening only to find out that Marni's mother Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) has a history with her as well. A funny, silly but ultimately clever film ensues...

Many reviewers are labeling "You Again" as 2010's "Bride Wars" and while I see a few similarities between the two films, "You Again" is a far superior film. I was actually perplexed by the amount of negative press this film received. While it is a far cry from an Oscar worthy, it was still a feel good film with a really funny story and interesting premise. "You Again" is a movie about a nerdy high school chick who is bullied by the head cheerleader only to find out years later that her brother is engaged to the woman who ruined four years of her life. A plot like that is ripe for comedy. Furthermore, the movie addresses the theme of confronting and overcoming high school rivalries; a topic I feel very few movies address.

One may argue that the film is too silly for it's own good. I would have to say that it's true especially towards the end but in all honesty its a Hollywood comedy. I would rather it be a bit too silly than a film loaded with sex gags as a filler. There are some really funny scenes in this movie too. I loved the whole car ride scene when Joanna plays "We are the Champions" and of course, the dance studio scene. I think sometimes watching actors act like teenagers are funny especially if you can understand where they are coming from. The reaction that Kristen Bell's character has when she sees Joanna again is priceless. Try to put yourself in these are tortured in high school and get out hoping to never see that person again but find out they are marrying a family member. That's like a nightmare of epic portions. The thing I thought was even more humorous about the film was the fact they showed it happens to all generations, not just the younger. I think Jamie Lee Curtis's reaction to Weaver's entrance was equally priceless.

Kristen Bell is the highlight of the film. I always enjoyed her in these types of roles. I find her to be cute and lovable. She plays a good nerd in the beginning and I found it believable because it fits her as a person. Bell doesn't seem to have that mass appeal that say Reese Witherspoon has but I do enjoy her films and hope she continues to do films. I would say her character Marni is a bit similar to her character in "When in Rome," however here the character has more depth. It's a better written character with more of a background story.

As for the other actors, I felt Odette Yustman was just great and like Bell really fit her character. You can tell that she wasn't this innocent girl she pretended to be. She plays one hell of a mean girl that's for sure. I think she had great chemistry with Bell as enemies. As for Curtis, she's good in comedies and I loved her in this film. While she plays the mom role here watching her competing with Sigourney Weaver is a blast. I think everyone involved did a good job with their roles and did what the script requested of them. I should mention Bette White, who absolutely steals the scenes and has a hilarious scene at the films conclusion.

I really don't know what all the reviewers were complaining about with "You Again." I thought the premise was fairly unique and the overall film was fun and full of fluff. The movie was really funny at times even though it used the typical clichés that comedies nowadays tend to use. This is a movie where you just sit back and enjoy a few good laughs. I know as a male, I didn't mind watching this film and felt that it wasn't like the typical chick flick. The ending was rather typical and overly clichéd but than again that's not surprising coming out of Hollywood.

All in all,"You Again" is an enjoyable comedy that I wouldn't mind having to watch again. Everyone involved did a great job especially Bell who steals the show and wins the audience over within the first 10 minutes of the film. Just remember people, this is a silly comedy and not a comedic masterpiece. No one should be expecting an Oscar worthy film and if you can get past that you should be able to enjoy to this. I personally think a lot of people have enjoyed this film despite what the critics say because can relate to one of the characters in one way or another. It's an cute and enjoyable flick and I recommend those looking for a wholesome laugh to check it out.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "You Again" is a 7 out of 10.

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