Reviews

73 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
6/10
Brilliant Cinematography and Solid Acting Can't Save a Lackluster End
8 April 2017
Tank 432 is the directorial debut film of Nick Gillespie, a frequent collaborator with Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High-Rise, Free Fire), who is an executive producer here, when he should have been a co- writer, because this film, while admirable for it's stylish and truly terrible (in a good way) atmosphere, the ultimate payoff never comes.

When a group of mercenaries transporting two hooded individuals through a rural forested area somewhere in Europe, they eventually become trapped in a tank, where the enemy slowly reveals itself to be not the enemy from beyond the forest, but trapped in the belly of the steel beast they now reside.

The story, characters and setting were all there, with the latter two being pretty solid, but the psychedelic and surreal imagery, while compelling and intriguing, doesn't help to clear up the confusing and pointless plot. The pieces to a ground-breaking horror thriller are here, but Gillespie just couldn't put the puzzle together himself, being the writer and director. I feel if Wheatley had co-written the script or did re-writes after Gillespie, the issue could have been worked out and through, but sadly, we're stuck with an empty but stylish thriller, with some truly awesome acting chops (Michael Smiley has an outstanding moment of craziness that does show Gillespie's love of the craft).

Tank 432 is a missed opportunity, but still worth a watch for the performances and the cinematography. Maybe Gillespie will have better luck directing a script from a more experienced playwright, or have his script directed, because the man has talent.
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The Great Wall (I) (2016)
8/10
Gorgeous & Stunning, A Total Blast
21 February 2017
The Great Wall, from director Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) comes this big and beautiful epic that is told to the audience as being legend, not fact (as the trailers were terrible at telling us). When William and Tovar are taken hostage by the Nameless Order who patrol the Great Wall of China, they are unwillingly pulled into a centuries-old fight between humanity and something much older that threatens all of civilization.

The movie is an astounding and thrilling ride from beginning to end, never letting up on the action or the beautifully constructed production that weaves seamlessly with the brilliant visual effects. The cast is incredible, "becoming" their roles wholly, with the banter between Damon and Pascal hysterical, while the determination and steadfastness of Jing Tian's Commander Lin and the other leaders is very believable. But, what I find to be the best thing about the film is how it's not entirely serious, as there's always a certain "playfulness" to the action sequences (save for the final siege).

Everything about the movie was top-notch, from the production design to the emotionally-charged musical score from Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones, Person of Interest). If you want a big, stunning spectacle, go see The Great Wall. It's a solid blend of action, adventure, warfare and terrifying monster-driven fun.
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Spectral (2016)
8/10
A Solid Warfare-Driven Action-Thriller
15 December 2016
Spectral has had a bumpy ride on its way to being released, due to Universal Pictures' lack of faith in the bankable cast,but thankfully Netflix finished the movie and released it in all it's visually-satisfying glory. The story: when soldiers start dying in a war-torn European city after the downfall of a totalitarian regime, the lead engineer of equipment used by the Special Forces teams is brought in to "clarify" what his goggles are picking up, and they soon find themselves in the midst of something far more terrifying than an insurgency.

For director Nic Mathieu's directorial debut, this one hell of a solid entry, looking like a slick cross between Ridley Scott and Michael Bay. The script is never cheesy or over-the-top, but straight-forward all the way through. There are no subplots, and there is no romance. Once the action starts, it doesn't let up, not even a little. The cast is all around solid, with James Badge Dale being a fantastic lead as the engineer, Clyne. The supporting cast (Max Martini, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Mortimer) fill there roles perfectly, and Martini even steals a couple moments in the third act, one of which is truly awesome to say the least. The production values and visuals are incredible, and never look just like CG. For a movie that was filmed a couple years ago, this could be an Oscar- contender for Best Visual Effects and Production Design. Even the score is superb, coming from acclaimed Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, Black Mass). The only negative i can think of is the editing. The transition between the second and third acts is a little sloppy, as the dialogue, character movement and filming becomes uneven and choppy, happily just for a short bit.

Spectral is a surprise hit for Netflix, and definitely a strong entry in their collection of Originals. Honestly, this could have been successful in theaters, just not the scale of blockbuster Universal was probably hoping for. Still, a must-watch action- thriller that's as entertaining as it is interesting.
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9/10
An Unneeded Remake, But Well-Deserved Return
2 October 2016
The Magnificent Seven is both a remake of the 1960 film, and of the Japanese classic which the first Magnificent Seven is based on, Seven Samurai. In this film, warrant officer Sam Chisolm is "recruited by Emma Cullen after her town is attacked and terrorized by Bartholomew Bogue and his men, who plans to fully take the town and use the townsfolk for mining. Chisolm in turn recruits six more fighters to help defend the town and its people.

This is a timeless story that, while didn't need to be retold or remade, is well-deserved and welcomed by how truly phenomenal the entire cast is, and of the true grit (no pun intended there) through which the friendship between these random strangers flourishes, as they come to answer a higher calling that goes beyond gold. I would talk about specific cast members, but everyone was just perfect. Denzel is signature Denzel at his finest, Chris Pratt brings a real balance to being both hysterical and heroic, Ethan Hawke is tragic and heart-breaking, as is D'Onfrio. Byung-hun Lee is brilliant as Billy Rocks, Garcia-Rulfo a scene-stealer and Sensmeier a vision as Red Harvest. Even Sarsgaard's Bogue was a memorable villain, for being the right amount of coward as much as tyrannical monster. The direction from Fuqua was solid, and he too was at his A-game, and I would say this is one of his best films yet (behind Training Day and Equalizer, but tied with Southpaw). While there was nothing new with the story, the writing was still absolutely brilliant, especially coming from True Detective scribe Nic Pizzolatto, as well as Richard Wenk. One thing I personally loved most about this movie though wasn't just the cast or the fantastic production, but the music. You can hear James Horner's touch in a few of the more adventurous ques, and in an action sequence, and on top of that bringing the original Magnificent Seven theme back from Elmer Bernstein.

The Magnificent Seven is a fun, brilliant and well-made remake that does the original story justice, and while it doesn't do anything new or fresh with the story, the re-telling with realism, brutality and raw emotion through the outstanding cast makes the lack of innovation unnecessary. No, it's not perfect, and not everyone will like it, but it is still a truly impressive feat considering most remakes are unnecessary and fall flat, even if they try to do something new or innovative (though some remakes are successful, just not most). I would put this alongside the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, which is arguably an instant classic, and truly powerful. The Magnificent Seven was and is a great movie, and definitely on the Best of 2016 if you ask me. So far, anyway.
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Stranger Things (2016– )
10/10
Steven Spielberg meets Stephen King
15 July 2016
Stranger Things is the newest foray into Netflix's original programming, of which brings us their most impressive- and strange- production to date. When a young boy named Will Byers goes missing, his friends, mother and the town are thrust into a conspiracy involving a mysterious girl named Eleven and something even more sinister hiding in the woods of Hawkins, Indiana.

From the get-go, you can tell this is an homage to classic '80s Spielberg, drawing on E.T. and Close Encounters, as well as JJ Abrams' Super 8. But, as the show progresses, it becomes more and more like a twisted Stephen King story set in a Spielberg movie. It becomes a dark and twisted ride into an even darker and more disturbing world where the stakes feel higher than anything before it.

I can't go into great detail because spoiling even just a bit of the story takes away from the greater mystery, but I can say, it's one of the most thrilling and intense series to be on TV, without being on TV. If it were to continue, they have to pull the same punches they did with the first season, because they took a great many clichés, and somehow made them fresh and surprising, save for just a couple that they purposefully left cliché.
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9/10
Atmospheric, Heartfelt and Boldly Brilliant
21 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Midnight Special is the 4th film from writer/director Jeff Nichols. That should honestly be enough to get people excited, for his films Take Shelter and Mud are both considered instant American classics, and Midnight Special has joined the list. Of course, though, the film and Nichols' previous entries aren't for everyone, but as films, they are true masterpieces. What I find hard to describe about Midnight Special, though, is how it's able to weave together multiple genres and sub-genres into one cohesive whole, from a sci-fi conspiracy thriller to a family drama, and a road film mixed with a chase-driven action movie. Midnight Special takes place over the course of a few days, but follows Roy Tomlin, Roy's best friend Lucas, Roy's wife Sarah Tomlin and their son, Alton Meyer, who Roy took back from Calvin Meyer, Alton's stepfather and religious cult leader who believes Alton will save them, all the while the government is also looking to seize Alton from Roy, believing him to be an inhuman weapon.

What I found the most profound and phenomenal about the film wasn't the writing, the direction, the breath-taking visuals or the moody score from David Wingo, but the acting. Was it acting? Honestly, I felt every second of the film to be happening in real time. Even the second time I saw it, I thought that what happened in the movie was the most organic and natural acting of all time. I don't say that lightly, not even a little bit. But, the simple relationship between Alton and Roy was real, the relationship between Alton and Sarah was real, and even the one between Alton and Lucas, a man Alton didn't know until Roy pulled Lucas into their "situation," which is best described in a scene where Alton sees the sunrise for the first time, and Lucas, also feeling like a father figure/friend for Alton, is taken aback by Alton's experience, sadly to the point where Lucas is shot by one of Calvin Meyer's followers when he doesn't check his corners. This isn't just him being stupid, because later, Lucas apologizes to Roy that he "should have checked first." The other performance that made the film real was Adam Driver as Paul Sevier, an NSA analyst brought in to assist the FBI's investigation and apprehension of Alton. You can tell in his mannerisms and reactions to fieldwork that he doesn't get out much, and that the excitement is something he's coming to like. Quite a bit, in fact.

There are a select amount of movies that have not just an immense emotional impact, but a real sense of urgency and reality. Movies are often tense and gripping, with suspense and action, but more times than not is the urgency from what happens in the film. Instead, with Midnight Special, we feel the urgency. We know, for a fact, the entire movie is riding on a father making sure his son is safe. That's profound in its own right, and beautiful. I want to give the movie a 10, but that would be by my strict, personal feelings. I give it a 9 because, again, not everyone will like it. Not all questions are answered, the movie is not fast-paced, and the sci-fi aspect is not full-blown, but is integral to the development of the characters and world they're in. But, in any case, this movie deserves to be seen, and I hope it gets a bigger audience when released on disc. I, for one, side with Mr. Chris Pratt when it comes to Midnight Special: "If you are like me, Midnight Special will be your new favorite film."
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7/10
Intense and Bombastic Superhero Blockbuster
27 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It's the moment many comic book fans have been waiting for- myself included -and while it's far from perfection, it was a good, intense and bombastic ride that I won't forget, with a battle between two iconic superheroes that was actually quite outstanding in itself.

I thought Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne was superb. He brought a different kind of gravitas to the role, where in this universe he's more broken, hardened and brutal in his skills, mind-set and personality. He also shows that tragic side we saw with Christian Bale's Batman, but I don't think one did it better than the other (and I do personally think Bale is still #1 for being Batman, but Affleck can be better with more time in the role). Cavill's Superman was good, but I felt he was more a supporting role before the big battle of the movie, which I didn't mind, but felt a little underwhelming, considering this is technically supposed to be the "Man of Steel" pseudo-sequel. Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor, honestly, I thought was really cartoonish and, while not a complete disservice to the character, wasn't good enough; Kevin Spacey's was better in Superman Returns. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was pure brilliance in her short screen time, and I'm dying to see her solo film. Zack Snyder's direction, I personally felt was better here than Man of Steel, but it felt incomplete, which makes sense since there is a Director's Cut coming later this year. The script, too, co-written by Chris Terrio, was solid, but showcased too much content. For instance, Doomsday. The inclusion of this monstrosity was completely unnecessary, as he was wasted in the final act of the movie, being "cannon fodder" for the fight, prolonging the epic conflict. Instead, what should have happened is they should have ended the film with his creation, showing that there will be an even more diabolical and insidious threat on the horizon (even though there still is one, subtly hinted at).

Batman v Superman was a solid action film with some great visuals, stunning musical score to accompany the disastrous destruction and sweeping fight that's gorgeously filmed, and boasts a few great performances amidst a few other decent to mediocre performances. I also have to say, to end my review, critics are being quite foolish and ignorant by comparing this to Marvel's MCU, being too grim and dark instead of "fun" and a little more heart. They aren't movies, but have critics forgotten Daredevil and Jessica Jones? Marvel can do grim, dark and violent, but that's what separated DC from Marvel, the penchant to stick with the truly awful and horrifying forces in the dark. I just hope they can continue an uphill climb, because this is a marathon, not a sprint.
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The X-Files (1993– )
6/10
After Two Episodes, General Thoughts...
25 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The X-Files is a benchmark in television. Any and every fictitious television series after '95 took some focus element from this show, big or small, from the format to the style, to the execution. But, that's not what made it great. It was that strange blend of a cop drama mixed with science fiction, horror and thrillers across what could be considered a wild epic of sorts, even with that horrid 9th season. Now, after a 14 year gap, The X-Files is back. What does that mean?

I'm a die-hard X-Files fan. I've been watching it since i was born, and while it isn't the best show of all time, it's one of them. With this pseudo-"revival" series, though, I couldn't help but think, what was Chris Carter thinking? The very first episode of this 6 episode event (if they stick with the story) made the entire 9 season, 2 movie series completely pointless. I've seen horrible writing and direction, and it's not that the episode "My Struggle" was poorly directed and written, but it's the fact that they took an entire series and said, "Let's make it so that the show millions watched, was meaningless. Retcon everything but the characters." Wow. Just, wow. As happy as I was seeing the gang back, I couldn't stop feeling angry and disappointed on a multitude of levels. Also, to address the people calling Duchovny's acting wooden, it was perfect (the guy was isolated from people, living in a rural locale away from general civilization; he's gonna come off as a bit distant). The second episode was slightly better than the first, but they're still with that plot device of pointlessness.

Unless they can pull off the impossible and have something Earth- shattering with the finale, I see this mini-series event as the biggest disgrace in television history. Thanks Chris Carter, for truly ruining your classic series. The show isn't for everyone, but anyone can see how horrible of a move that was to make, even if they wanted to appeal to a new generation (do something original then, dammit).
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Childhood's End (2015– )
9/10
A Dark and Depressing Sci-fi Epic
19 December 2015
Childhood's End, adapted from the Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name, centers on the story of humanity across multiple decades after a visitation from what are deemed "the Overlords," mysterious alien beings that propose an end to suffering, war, disease and all forms of injustice, leading into the Golden Age of Man. Karellen, the supervisor of Earth, appoints Ricky Stormgren as the messenger between the Overlords and humanity, but at the same time refuses to show himself, believing humanity would not "accept his appearance." And, even though this Golden Age does seem to come, there are those who believe it to be a ruse for some more nefarious plan, and events are immediately set in motion that will affect the future for humanity.

Childhood's End, like the novel, is bold and sweeping in scope and scale, asking many philosophical and important questions on life, what it means to be human, what is the soul, and many others. Syfy's adaptation is near perfection, showcasing phenomenal art direction, visuals and the overall production; this is honestly something you'd see if Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg did a miniseries together. The only big detractor of this epic is the unnecessary subplot between Ricky Stormgren and his love interest, Ellie, which becomes a bit annoying and takes away from the shock and awe of the situation. The performances for the most part are good, with Charles Dance's performance as Karellen being the highlight and show-stopper (just wait till you see his "true" form, which is mostly practical effects). Out of the human characters, it is Osy Ikhile as Milo who brings a stand-out performance as Milo Rodericks, a man who, as a child, was healed by the Overlords. As I said earlier, the visuals and art direction are beyond stunning; it was HBO-level quality what you saw on screen, especially in the third act of the miniseries. Even Charlie Clouser's score helped set the atmosphere and tone of the series, bringing a tragic and somber sound to the mystery and strangeness. The writing and direction are both fantastic, but the script sometimes did suffer from excessive story-telling, focusing a little too much on unnecessary subplots when the epic started to build to something bigger than before. But, there was always a quick recovery.

Childhood's End is a must-see epic. It's long, dark and very depressing, while also being intelligent and intriguing, keeping the same themes and ideals Clarke raised in his book in the miniseries. If you want something with action, look elsewhere. If you want a hopeful story, look elsewhere. This series is an extremely faithful adaptation, and while changing a couple details and adding subplots, was successful in modernizing the tale for today, even though it was written in 1958. Don't miss this. We don't get epics like this often.

8.5/10 Stars*
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The Expanse (2015– )
9/10
A New Sci-fi Epic That's Basically Game of Thrones in Space...
3 December 2015
The Expanse is based on the series of novels by author James S.A. Corey (the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), with the first season following the first book, Leviathan Wakes. In it, Detective Miller is looking for a missing girl, Julie Mao, a missing persons case being a very rare occurrence in the Asteroid Belt. Elsewhere in space, Jim Holden, part of the crew of the Canterbury, hears a distress signal calling out near a rogue asteroid, and has a few of the crew- including himself- to investigate, all the while tensions between Earth, Mars and the Belt are headed to a heated stand-off, with terrorist and activist threats continually growing.

The Expanse starts off by throwing the audience into a new futuristic galaxy in the 24th Century, and then slowly showing us the mechanics of how humanity now works, spread out across the system. With this show being on Syfy, I had hopes it would be a good show, also having read the books beforehand, but I didn't expect to be blown away by that premiere (which is available digitally on YouTube). The acting is great, both from the leads and the supporting cast (though Thomas Jane is stand-out as the hard-boiled detective), the direction is superb, showing us a dark and gritty view of the future, hidden behind the facade of lights and clockwork. The writing is fantastic as well, honestly bearing many similarities to Game of Thrones in how the show juggles politics, violence, and sex. Though, what was just stunning and gorgeous, was the production and visuals. If the Syfy logo didn't appear on the episode, you would never have guessed it were Syfy. The visuals are breath-taking, with the scenes involving the Canterbury looking just incredible, and the production values are wonderful, as there is still an abundance of practical effects. Even the music is haunting and beautiful from composer Clinton Shorter, which sounds a bit like District 9 meets Battlestar Galactica.

The Expanse is a huge and bold effort from Syfy that, so far, is paying off. The structure of the show is much like that of Game of Thrones, switching between characters and following different plot points as they unfold, all the while revealing more and more about the characters. If you love science fiction, get on board. If not, give it a shot, especially if you're a fan of GoT, because George R.R. Martin himself praises both the show and the novels, who even compared it favorably to his own work, even saying, "It's been too long since we've had a really kickass space opera."
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San Andreas (2015)
8/10
Johnson Elevates This Fun and Intense Disaster Film
7 June 2015
Whenever a disaster movie is released, it's generally welcomed with open arms as "escapist" fun; a movie that you can just sit back and watch unfold without depth. But, then there are a select few that elevate above your average disaster film. San Andreas is one of those. It's still not without its absurd moments, but there are very few that push believability. The biggest one is actually the opening sequence, of which involves a girl's car flipping down the side of a mountain (repeatedly), and then becoming stuck between rocks, an the young girl survives even without her airbag deploying. After that, things take off in a great way.

San Andreas follows Dwayne Johnson's Ray Gaines, an LA Fire Department pilot who must rescue his daughter after she becomes stuck in San Andreas during a catastrophic earthquake, of which is discovered too late by Caltech seismologist Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti). Surprisingly enough, Brad Peyton's direction here is a superb improvement over the family movie Journey 2 with Johnson, showcasing brilliant effects with heart-pounding disaster sequences that shock and awe. Johnson's performance here might actually be his best, as he offers great dramatic depth as a broken father, haunted by a tragic past. Alexandria Dadarrio was also surprisingly good as his daughter Blake, who had grown accustomed and looked up to her father's life-style, even embracing certain rules and tricks. The script was good, but nothing spectacular, other than Johnson's somewhat clearly deep and thoughtful dialogue (a touching scene between him and his ex-wife, portrayed by Carla Gugino). The visuals were some of the best this year, and never seemed lackluster. Andrew Lockington's score was suitably epic and evocative of a horrific event depicted in-film.

San Andreas is a truly surprising and welcome summer blockbuster that strays away from being generic, but not too inventive either. The movie is greatly saved by strong performances of the main cast and smart direction, of which is a good step forward for Peyton. Certainly a must-see on the big screen, not sure about 3D though, as there weren't many pop-out moments.
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Tomorrowland (2015)
9/10
A Visually Stunning and Heartfelt Sci-fi Adventure
20 May 2015
Tomorrowland is truly Brad Bird's baby, full of intense action, emotional heft and imaginative creativity that only Disney could create. Not the company, but Walt Disney himself, as Tomorrowland is Disney's invention. The film, though, takes the "ride" to unbelievable heights, and I'm curious as to why there's so much hate surrounding the film.

Frank Walker (Clooney), a boy genius, must help a persistent and trouble-making teenager (Robertson) save the world by going to a place called Tomorrowland, where the greatest inventors and creators came together to envision a better world. Brad Bird's direction and writing (with Damon Lindelof) is superb, using some traditional Disney fun, but also by implementing his style in full-form; stylish action, smooth fast-paced sequences and genuine heart, which is shown not through Britt Robinson's Casey Newton, but through Clooney's Walker, but I won't spoil his story; it helps to forward the film. The visuals are absolutely breath-taking, Michael Giacchino's score is one of his best as it compliments each scene with sincerity, and the acting is great from all ends. But, the biggest complaint I've seen so far is the way the film depicts its story. I can understand some criticisms, but to say the film is crap or one of the biggest disappointments ever is just sad. Like the idea of the place, the film doesn't focus on resolution. No, it focuses on tomorrow, what comes after. So, if you think the second act of the film drags quite a bit, it's because you're watching it as a traditional movie with traditional story-telling. This isn't that at all.

I feel the marketing for the film didn't help what the movie was going for, but because of Bird's direction, the heart of the story and strong performances, this film is extremely memorable, even if it isn't ground-breaking. I just hope it's at least successful, since the reviews aren't helping its arrival to theaters, because it really is one to see on the big screen. And looking at how my review is being negatively received, I just pity anyone and everyone who calls themselves a film buff or movie-goer, because Tomorrowland was and is one of the most original films ever made. I'd like to see anyone who downvoted my review to make a bold, original film with important themes and messages.
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Poltergeist (2015)
7/10
A Creepy But Just-Decent Remake
20 May 2015
If you've never seen the original 1982 Poltergeist, then this movie may be absolutely freaky for newcomers, but for those who have seen the '82 classic, this remake is both fantastic and awful at the same time. Produced by Sam Raimi and Robert G. Tapert, who gave us The Evil Dead films, this reboot and remake is a lot of the same with a couple new twists. When the Bowen family moves into a new home, they discover that their house is atop a burial ground, and is a sort-of conductor for spirits, and in this case, a poltergeist. From here, they're tormented by evil spirits, and it turns into a devilish battle that Eric (Sam Rockwell), the father, must fight to save his family.

The film is largely saved by Rockwell's touching and incredible performance, but there was so much that went wrong. Many of the scares were overplayed or just wanted to be jump-scares, and moments that replicated the original (the infamous bathroom scene) were extremely tame and unimaginative. The visual effects for the most part were believable, and Marc Streitenfeld's score was incredibly haunting and truly brilliant, especially when living up to the masterpiece that Jerry Goldsmith created. Gil Kenan's direction is solid, but the script blows through the material so fast that his vision just doesn't stick.

Poltergeist is certainly an admirable effort, but it needed to embrace the original's roots, scare tactics and slow build instead of sticking with recent horror movie "tropes" like jump-scares and minimal story-telling. If the film were fifteen-twenty minutes longer and had a script rewrite, it could have lived up to the original. But it didn't. See this for $5 if you want a theater experience, but don't expect something mind-blowing. Certainly worth a watch, though.
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8/10
An Exciting, Dark and Surprisingly Good Blockbuster
7 February 2015
I can see how people are turned away by this film by either its similarities to "Lord of the Flies" or to other young adult books- to-film movies like "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent," but let me say, this is better than most of these young adult-themed movies, including the first Hunger Games movie. I won't write-up the plot, since it's been written elsewhere and on other reviews; straight into the review we go.

"The Maze Runner" is a surprisingly fantastic sci-fi thriller that succeeds by having superb acting, fantastic visual effects with a stellar production design, a pulse-pounding musical score, focused direction and a well-written script that, while does have clichés, works with them in a very good and fresh way. I personally was impressed with the acting a great deal, especially Dylan O'Brien and Aml Ameen. The visual effects were awesome and never looked cheesy or under-valued, which is even cooler since the film is fairly low- budgeted compared to most blockbusters, taking the "District 9"- route. Wes Ball's direction was outstanding, the way he captured the dark, haunting atmosphere, that sense of a looming evil and how the unknown was the biggest enemy, not just the terrifying Grievers (which were actually creepy). The script, too, was outstanding, but seemed to lack the full force the film required to be an absolute SF classic. It's here one can draw many comparisons, but even so, it was still well-written and didn't slip up once, playing into its clichés by placing them in spots you don't see coming until they happen, leaving you with the "Ah, i should have seen that coming!"- moment.

"The Maze Runner" is a great beginning to a new series of films that will probably extend outside a trilogy, with a prequel having been written and another on the way next year. Hopefully "The Scorch Trials" step up the atmosphere and writing, and with original cast members attached and Wes Ball directing still, i have high hopes.
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Marco Polo (2014–2016)
9/10
In All Honesty, Why So Much Hatred?
18 December 2014
Marco Polo is the new Netflix original series that's big-budgeted (for a TV show) and boasts an epic scope and scale to rival shows like "Game of Thrones" and "Da Vinci's Demons" by taking us to a pre-modern world. Here, we're shown the world explorer Marco Polo visited in Asia during his travels with his father and uncle. It's when he's left in Kublai Khan's court that Marco's 'real' adventure begins, filled with political intrigue and warfare.

Honestly, i don't know what the fuss is about with the negativity. I can understand why it wouldn't have the highest reviews or praise (it starts off well enough with decent acting, a well thought-out script and brilliant visuals), but to have such low rated reviews? Honestly, this show is much more impressive than David S. Goyer's "Da Vinci's Demons" which has extremely high ratings compared to this. I also see many comparisons with "Game of Thrones," and it's reasonable. But this show deserves better. It has good directing, acting that improves as the show moves forward (especially with the lead, Lorenzo Richelmy, a true Italian), impressive cinematography that deserves numerous awards, a captivating musical score and a good script that i constantly see critics bashing for having too many grunts and sounds. What? It just doesn't make much sense.

Marco Polo is highly entertaining, well-balanced with its pacing, and shows that if a show is given a chance to fully develop, it can succeed! We need more shows like this, or anything sci-fi themed to air on Netflix like "Almost Human," so networks like FOX won't cancel them due to low ratings. That's why i will stay with Netflix; they don't look at ratings for their shows because they mean nothing to them. If people like it, keep it coming. I for one want to see Marco Polo for another season and see it develop into something far greater.
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7/10
Extremely Bold and Epic, But Devoid of Power
7 December 2014
Exodus: Gods and Kings is Ridley Scott's most ambitious film yet, and his boldest (but not biggest). Another biblical epic after the recent releases of Darren Aronofsky's Noah and the television series- inspired film Son of God, Exodus tells the story of the exodus led by Moses from the Book of Exodus in the Bible. In the film, Moses (portrayed by Christian Bale) defies Ramesses (Joel Edgerton) and stages an uprising to escape Egypt before God's wrath is brought down upon them.

Like Aronofsky's Noah, this is simply one man's (significantly) different view of the story. Except in this film, instead of adding to the mystical elements of the story, Ridley Scott instead makes the plagues out to be natural occurrences, including the parting of the Red Sea. While some will find this absurd, i find it intriguing. It must be said i am deeply spiritual, but remember, this is a movie, and movies are an art form. With that aside, now down to film details.

Ridley Scott's direction here is eerily similar to what he did with Kingdom of Heaven, and i have a feeling the theatrical cut is not what Scott had in mind, as the script seems to be lacking in nearly every aspect, especially when trying to have us care for the characters and their struggle. It's not that the film is bland, but seems to be focused on the scope and scale, not what happens within said scale. The visual effects are top-notch, though, and well- deserving of the Oscar nomination (Interstellar is still the best by far). The acting is spectacular, with the two leads (Edgerton and Bale) shining bright. Even Aaron Paul as Joshua was good, who added more emotion to the film than one would expect. Sadly, though, Ben Kingsley is under-utilized in a very short performance that i feel we would see more in a director's cut. The production values are astonishing, the musical score helps to solidify that 'epic' atmosphere, and the cinematography is gorgeous, as one would expect from a Ridley Scott film.

In the end, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a stunning epic that lacks the power its story is supposed to bring, but like Kingdom of Heaven, will probably surface in an even more epic director's cut (hopefully). Is Exodus one to be seen on the big screen? Yes, but should you pay top dollar? Depends. Happily, the film isn't a bad movie, unlike most blockbusters. Just don't expect a captivating, full-blown epic but instead a more visually gripping and valiant effort that falls short.
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Interstellar (2014)
9/10
An Emotional, Beautiful Journey into the Unknown
3 November 2014
(This is both a review of the film, and an assertion of Christopher Nolan's filmmaking style)

There have been many reviewers and critics alike that have high praise for the film (the visual effects, the acting, the music), but say how it's not Christopher Nolan's best directed film. This is where i personally would have to disagree. Before i get into it, though, i'll talk about Interstellar a bit.

Interstellar is truly a sci-fi epic like no other. To compare said film to '2001: A Space Odyssey' isn't just a disservice, but unnecessary. The films are almost nothing alike, simply sharing small plot elements. Also, Stanley Kubrick's vision of Arthur C. Clarke's sci-fi epic wasn't to ponder the philosophical questions that accompanied the story, but to make art, and art is was, and is. With Interstellar, Mr. Nolan set out to make his most personal and emotional film to date about love and time (time being a recurring theme throughout all of Nolan's films). But it's so much more than that too. There are no words to express the epic journey Nolan takes us on in the film, but needless to say, it's tear-jerking and emotional throughout. The acting is top-notch, especially McConaughey, who gives (I would say) his most emotional performance yet. But the actor who stole the show in a few scenes (one in particular, when they're on an alien planet) was David Gyasi as Romilly, one of the astronauts aboard the Endurance, their spacecraft. The musical score from Hans Zimmer is, without a doubt, his best and most influential work to date, helping drive the film's bold and breath-taking vision (the church organ helped significantly). The visual effects are easily the best to date as well, and of the year. To see a black hole created through visual effects in such a way, with pages theoretical equations provided by Kip Thorne (theoretical physicist, of whom's work inspired the film's genesis); what you see in the film is the most realistic depiction of a black hole, and even offered new insight to accretion discs surrounding the anomalies. But even everything else, from the alien planets to the Endurance, the visuals always look real. Then, there's the writing. I would definitely have to say this has some of the best dialogue i've ever heard in a sci-fi movie, and the script continually pours or oozes emotion, keeping the audience tethered to the film.

Now, about Mr. Nolan. Don't just look at Nolan, but look at his films. Some say Inception would be his masterpiece, while others would say it's The Dark Knight, or Memento. But honestly, every single film Christopher Nolan has directed is a masterpiece not of its genre, but of Nolan. Following is his quiet masterpiece, not the film that put Mr. Nolan on the map as a phenomenal director, but one people visited or revisited after becoming accustomed to Nolan, after seeing Memento, what could be called his breakout masterpiece. Then, right after, he directed the remake of the Norwegian thriller, Insomnia. This, too, could be considered a masterpiece, even if a remake. Then, we were given his take on the Batman universe, starting with Batman Begins, the origin masterpiece. Then, there's The Prestige, adapted from the novel of the same name, which can be called his dark masterpiece. The Dark Knight, his bold masterpiece; Inception, his complex masterpiece, and The Dark Knight Rises, his flawed masterpiece. Now, we have Interstellar, his emotional or personal masterpiece.

This is just my looking at Nolan and his films, but whatever your thoughts are, you can't deny Interstellar is one hell of a journey. He certainly is one of the best filmmakers of our time, and of all time. I can't wait to see what he does next, but i'm not sure it will be as emotionally powerful as Interstellar.
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7/10
An Intense but Sadly Underdeveloped Epic
7 October 2014
Dracula Untold is the re-imagining of the classic Hollywood vampire, from Universal Pictures. Vlad III (Luke Evans) learns of Mehmed II and his plans to "recruit" young men into his thousand-strong army, including Vlad's son Ingeras. Searching for a way to protect his family and his kingdom, Vlad encounters the Master Vampire (Charles Dance), who imbues Vlad with the powers and weaknesses of a vampire, giving him the chance to save all he knows and loves. But, he has only three days to either use the power and watch it fade away, or become a vampire for eternity if he gives in to the thirst.

Dracula Untold was and is a surprisingly sleek and fast-paced tale of love and courage, but because of its pace, it seems like the big themes and moments of the film rush by all too quickly. That's not to say the film is bad; Luke Evans is perfect as Dracula, who is charismatic, brooding and commanding when on-screen (the supporting cast is fantastic as well), the visual effects are dazzling, the music is perfect and Gary Shore's direction isn't spot-on, but gives the film a wonderfully sleek and gorgeous look. It's the script (as usual) that needed some hefty work. It's not that there was an overabundance of cheesiness or clichés (although there were a few of those), everything just seemed 'mashed' together. If someone like Frank Darabont or even Alex Garland added to the script, giving it say fifteen to twenty minutes more, the movie could have been great. But alas, it's simply good at best.

Boasting its visual prowess and grit over story-telling, Dracula Untold is neither bad nor great. If you want a fun, intense ride, see Dracula Untold (preferably in IMAX). Just lower your expectations for the film as a whole, while Luke Evans certainly deserves great attention.
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Godzilla (2014)
8/10
The Godzilla Remake No One Saw Coming
11 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The original Godzilla is a classic, and is still an extremely entertaining movie to this day, but it lacks a certain relevance and heart seen today in other big (and small) movies. So when i heard there was a Godzilla remake happening, i couldn't not think of the disaster that was Roland Emmerich's Godzilla. Then, i saw the previews, and i was blown away. In this re-imagining, Godzilla is a terrifying force of nature that fights to defeat the MUTOs, Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms. But what really makes this Godzilla remake stand out is the "human element," present in the lead human characters portrayed by Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Ken Wantanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and David Strathairn.

Honestly, I think this Godzilla is better than the original, and for multiple reasons. Firstly, Gareth Edward's direction. The movie feels like a Batman Begins-esque version of a Godzilla franchise, where we don't see the titular character for most of the first third of the film, but more and more as the film progresses, and it works extremely well. And the way Edwards grounds the film in reality and with the times is just amazing, and disturbing. The acting is absolutely incredible, and surprisingly enough, it's not Bryan Cranston that steals the show; Taylor-Johnson does it with his "everyman" character, Ford Brody. The visual effects were easily the best part of the film, and some of the best visual effects of all time. There wasn't a single moment that had me thinking, "That's definitely CG there." I was completely glued to my seat in awe, like most of the other people in the theater and didn't think twice about what I was seeing. Even the musical score by Alexandre Desplat was haunting and epic, with the main theme being extremely memorable (I was humming it on my way out of the theater). The script was great, but there were moments where, they were fantastic and all, but felt like filler-moments; you didn't need them, but they worked.

Godzilla was a superb and epic monster movie that i think is a masterpiece in filmmaking, and could be hailed as a classic further down the line. I agree with some critics in that the marketing campaign was a bit lousy in that they showed off Godzilla a little too much (since he isn't seen constantly throughout the film), but to lower the score of the film because of giant lizard's absence in the first act isn't right; it isn't.

9/10 Stars
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Odd Thomas (2013)
8/10
A Heart-Felt and Intense Supernatural Thriller
28 March 2014
Odd Thomas is the film based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name about Odd Thomas (portrayed by Anton Yelchin), a 21-year old short-order cook who has "abilities" that allow him to see the dead, and other strange phenomena. When a strange man Odd eventually calls "Fungus Bob" comes into town, followed by Bodachs, creatures that feed on pain and fear in times of great catastrophe, Odd believes Hell-on-Earth is about to arrive in their town of Pico Mundo. So, with the help of his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) and Sheriff Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe), Odd does whatever he can to prevent a slaughter the world would never forget.

Odd Thomas is the most surprisingly entertaining and incredible thriller i have ever seen. I did read the book before i saw the film, but that did not prepare me for how accurate the film would be. Sure, there are some truly fantastic book-to-film adaptations, and there are bad ones, but even with the changes from book to movie, Odd Thomas was everything i hoped it would be, and more. Stephen Sommers, who wrote and directed Odd, was in his A-game here, beating out his previous blockbusters The Mummy, Mummy Returns and Van Helsing, all of which were fun and enjoyable, but not as thought-provoking or emotional as Odd was. Anton Yelchin was just incredible as Odd Thomas, a guy who knows how dangerous the world is and how precious his ability is, and knows he is truly odd. Addison Timlin was actually very good as Stormy Llewellyn, Odd's girlfriend. The character really added to the character development and emotional investment the audience had towards Odd, and Stormy herself. Willem Dafoe was great as Wyatt Porter, even having a bit of witty comedy attached to his character. The visual effects were astounding, especially for a low-budget, limited theater film. The cinematography was good, the music was fitting, and the script was just fantastic; it didn't insult your intelligence, it was fresh, and it didn't feel familiar. It had its own pacing (which was odd, no pun intended, really) and the camera work was just incredible; Sommers knows how to put slow- motion to good use.

Odd Thomas is a strange, dark and somewhat comical thriller that does what some big Hollywood blockbusters can't; take a story that literally reaches apocalyptic heights, with supernatural elements thrown in, and ground it in reality. I really hope Stephen Sommers and Anton Yelchin get to make the sequel because this movie was a truly spectacular thriller that everyone should at least check out.

8/10 Stars
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47 Ronin (2013)
7/10
An Entertaining Samurai Epic That Falls Short
12 December 2013
47 Ronin is a highly fictionalized take on the story of the 47 ronin who took revenge on a court official who had the 47's leader commit seppuku. In the film, Keanu Reeves portrays Kai, a half-British Half-Japanese outcast who is called upon by Oishi, the leader of the 47. The 47 seek revenge on Lord Kira, who also has an evil witch (Rinko Kikuchi) serving under him, who killed their master.

The movie itself looks absolutely phenomenal, with amazing visual effects, an emotional and gripping musical score, and strong performances from Keanu and Hiroyuki Sanada, who portrays Oishi. The major problem that i saw with the movie was that, it was over way too fast. They left out important character development for the witch and a few other characters, which really could have added more emotional flame to the film. Plus, the movie overall could have easily been twenty, thirty minutes longer. If it were, i would say it can rank alongside 13 Assassins and The Last Samurai. The script was well-written in terms of dialogue (some cheesy lines), but the overall script was devoid of real depth and thought. Then, Carl Erik Rinsch's directing was actually pretty good, but had a few too many cut-aways.

47 Ronin is an extremely action-packed samurai/fantasy epic that is something you don't want to miss on the big-screen (for a cheap price). Though, if you want to see something award-worthy in terms of writing and directing, hope for a Director's/Extended cut on disc, for you won't find it here. But great performances, visual effects and emotion really help make this movie stand out, even with The Desolation of Smaug as competition.
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11-11-11 (2011)
7/10
A Decent-Good, Demonic Thriller
5 July 2013
11-11-11 is based on a supposed phenomenon that was to occur on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year. No one knew what was to happen, but there were theories. In the film 11-11-11, the theory used is that a door will open, but to where? Heaven or hell? A disillusioned author (Timothy Gibbs) who lost his wife and son in a fire goes to Spain, where his father is dying and his estranged brother, Samuel, believes demons are walking the Earth, ready for hell to be unleashed.

This film is not great, but only because it was a rushed production. The writing was sloppy, but far from absolute crap like the Twilight films or M. Night's The Last Airbender, or every Syfy Channel Original Movie. The acting was just decent, with a couple scenes that were really good, some that were just unnecessary, but overall kept the movie going. Darren Lynn Bousman's directing was good, though the script nor acting helped it. The visuals, though, were actually refreshing, having some CG work and a lot of practical in an age of big blockbusters with CG-battles and epic action (CG isn't bad, just the bad directors who utilize it, ex. Michael Bay). The best thing about the film, though, is Joseph Bishara's score. Known for his work on Insidious, Dark Skies and the upcoming The Conjuring, here he melds the creepy, off-putting atmosphere of a strange thriller with horror elements, creating a moody masterpiece.

Overall, 11-11-11 is a highly underrated thriller that doesn't get the attention it deserves. If only they were given more time to work on it, they could have had a magnificent script to cover for the decent and bearable acting.

6.5 Stars**
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World War Z (2013)
9/10
Highly Entertaining, Globe-trotting Epic
10 June 2013
World War Z, while based off the Max Brooks novel of the same name, is in no way a direct adaptation, and happily, this works for the film's benefit. When Gerry Lane, a former UN worker is tasked to help a scientist travel across the planet to discover a cure for the rapidly growing zombie infection, he also is troubled by leaving his family behind while the world around him collapses into chaos.

Directed by Marc Forster, WWZ is easily one of the most entertaining and epic zombie films ever made. Now this being said, many zombie fanatics will disagree, I know this, as some think you need bloody/gory violence and flesh-tearing. This movie proves otherwise, and the zombies here are among the most frightening zombies I've ever seen, being very reminiscent of the "rage-infused" zombies of 28 Days Later. Brad Pitt is at his A-Game here, being both believable as a father and an unsung hero. Mireille Enos was great as Karin Lane, being the very sensitive, but careful mother who knows how to deal with the situation instead of screaming her head off when zombies are at her back. The cinematography is absolutely stunning and breath-taking, especially after the incredible plane crash sequence. The music by Marco Beltrami is award-worthy, capturing both the horrific atmosphere of a collapsing world and human drama of what we're capable of in such disastrous times. The script, though, while well-written, went from being Oscar-material, to a normal blockbuster script that (happily) doesn't insult your intelligence, or become stupid. But there is plenty of room to make a sequel or two because the story here is much to grand for one film.

Overall, World War Z is one of the best blockbusters of the year, with good acting, directing, and polished visuals that have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. I would have to say, this is one of Brad Pitt's best films
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Oblivion (I) (2013)
8/10
A Fantastic and Note-worthy Experience of Good SF
11 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
In the world of science fiction, there have been many stories that have been adapted to the point where we've just grown tired of the same old stuff, but sometimes, someone comes along and re-creates that story with great vision and excellence. Oblivion is one of these movies, offering different and unique plot points, fantastic acting, phenomenal visuals and directing that is pitch-perfect. Following an alien invasion, 60 years have passed, and Earth is now a wasteland. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a member of team 49, goes around repairing drones, which canvas the planet and eliminate the aliens still there. But when Jack is captured by a human resistance leader on Earth (Morgan Freeman), he is told that everything he knows is a lie, and that something is very, very wrong. He sides with these mysterious rebels, and begins to fight for not just love, but for his home.

Joseph Kosinski, the director and co-writer, as well as writer of the graphic novel the film is based on, creates a truly fantastically frightening world with Oblivion. His direction in many scenes is so smooth and crisp that you forget, this is only is second film. The acting is superb, with Tom Cruise being at the height of his game after doing the well-made thriller Jack Reacher, based off of Lee Child's novel. I can understand why people were upset with Morgan Freeman's short screen time, but at least he was in it. I still came to love his character because he was an important one; he made Jack see reality. Olga Kurylenko was great in her role as the mysterious woman who knows Jack from his past. The visual effects, once again, were stunning, with the post-apocalyptic Earth being truly remarkable and extremely detailed. But the aliens were a true treat in the film, being very unique and different. Now, while I see many people trying to find ways of lowering the rating for the film, like movie connections, I can say, the connections are incredibly vague and little. Those who claim this is too close to "The Matrix", it's not. Humans were enslaved, and used as batteries by machines. In Oblivion, we are nearly extinct, and aliens have come and gone. Jack Harper is a curious individual, while Neo was content with "his" reality. Malcolm Beech was a leader, but had limits, while Morpheus had zero. I could keep going, but that just takes away from the review. The music by M83 was just spectacular; a must-listen and own for anyone who appreciates musical soundtracks and scores.

Overall, Oblivion is a great addition to a constantly growing sci-fi universe that has had great additions in the past five years alone, and more to come. This is not a film for everyone, being a straight-up science fiction film, but for anyone who loves action, sci-fi or good filmmaking. Now, I do see a few award-worthy things about Oblivion, including Tom Cruise's acting, M83's musical score and the visual effects, but mainly this is just one to be seen and acknowledged for its greatness for expanding the genre, and adding a fresh and creative vision to the mix, but not a contender for Best Picture, sadly, falling just short of that, but still a better film of the year.

9/10 Stars***
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The River (2012)
9/10
An Underrated Gem of the Television World
28 March 2013
In 2012, a new TV show aired on ABC called "The River;" amongst the constant release of "found-footage" horror films, or those mixed with traditional film, it seemed only fitting that a television series be made too, since these movies were so popular. Sadly, "The River" was canceled after only 8 episodes, and in these 8 episodes (produced by legend Steven Spielberg) we were introduced to a place where everything we know is wrong. "The River" is centered around an expedition into the Amazon, where TV show host, role model, and father Emmett Cole (Bruce Greenwood) went missing after his 22-year of the Undiscovered Country, a TV series that involved him and his family traversing the wild. Lincoln (Joe Anderson), his mother Tess (Leslie Hope) and some of the old crew of the Undiscovered Country then begin searching for Emmett, who's last position was on the Boiuna, a part of the Amazon that mysteriously vanishes into dense forest.

"The River" is easily one of the most entertaining, thrilling television shows ever made, as its strong cast, great visuals, sleek directing and creativity create an engrossing atmosphere and characters that you love and ones you love to hate. I have no clue why this was canceled because there was so much potential for this show to be something extraordinarily great; a cross between Lost and Prometheus, except Prometheus is getting a sequel. Now, I would recommend this show to everyone because it is something truly different, and full of cerebral scares (and a few jump scares), but because of the way it's filmed I cannot; some people can't handle the "found-footage" angles and shots. But those willing to watch, mainly those who love sci-fi/mystery/horror, will not be sorry. Hopefully someone can get the guys at ABC or whoever to use Kickstarter to bring back The River.

9/10 Stars
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