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Into the Storm (2014)
Was lucky enough to see this at an early screening in Ohio for our youtube channel. Twister was one of my favorite movies ever growing up and as someone who even watches "Night of the Twisters" with Devon Sawa I'm a self professed tornado movie lover so I have been excited for this one! Even if the trailers did look way too obvious with the CGI. Into the Storm starts out awful and makes a huge comeback. The characters are like the bad MTV show version of the Friday Night Lights small town characters. Or a CW show rather. Everyone is annoying and whiny with cardboard cutout issues and almost everyone is a terrible actor. Then the tornado hits. Then stuff gets awesome.
See this movie in the theater! It wont translate as well to blu ray or DVD. When the storm finally hit you can literally feel the air on your legs and the rumble in the seats from how loud these terrors are and it is more of a ride than a movie suddenly. Into the Storm manages to put you inside of the situations it presents. You see what (I would imagine) it would be like to be in a school as it is hit by a tornado. Or in a car. Or outside. It does an amazing job of putting you in harms way.
For tornado lovers? Into the Storm gets way up inside these tornados. Its total tornado porn. You see parts of these things that you didn't even know you wanted to see. Really cool, inventive ideas and one of the coolest death scenes of all time. They don't get too political with a bunch of global warming junk either. This film is all about scaring the crap out of you and having a good time with it.
By the end of the film things get so intense your even able to become emotionally invested in the terrible one dimensional characters you hated so much at the start. Some things you cant fully recover from so as a movie this is an 8/10. As far as fun movie theater experiences go though..... it's a 10.
Will Make Your &$% Numb. In a Fun Way.
Transformers 4: Age of Extinction gets better at a lot of things. Even if it still doesn't actually get anything completely right. Even if it is still full of mostly the same old garbage juice. Dizzying camera moves, slow motion shots, a downright stupid amount of buildings being crushed and the customary young girl belly button shot. Yeah, Age has all that and another hour of other unnecessary super crap that could have been cut out of the nearly 3 hour running time.
BUT! We do get to replace the whiny Shia Labeouf with the likable Mark Wahlberg. Heck, we get a fresh slate with the entire cast. Plug and play characters? Sure! Only this time the fresh crop is way more likable and sympathetic. We aren't talking Oscar nominations here or anything but after three movies of the exact same people doing the exact same things (Think Tyrese running around stating the obvious as toughly as he can pretend to be. For THREE mother loving movies.) I'd rather change my name to Witwicky than see any of that nonsense again.
There are still cringe-worthy lines throughout the script but the difference is this cast seems unload the "what the fluck did he just say?" moments as though they are in a stupid and fun blockbuster movie about toys. Offenders from the previous cast would say the same dumb shnit while trying to look cool. (See previous Tyrese comment). The jokes land a lot more when you don't want to throat punch the people saying them on screen. Hence, Extinction is also the funniest Transformer movie yet. It helps that the humor comes from actual written jokes and not just robots peeing on stuff. (see Transformers 2) Here's a big deal: the Transformers are way cooler in Age of Extinction. Sure, the people who have been into this since childhood aren't going to be completely pleased yet and they probably shouldn't be. But for those "I don't know beans about Transformers" people like me all that matters is the Autobots looks light-years cooler now than they did in the previous films. In every Michael Bay explosion porn that came before I hated just about every Autobot except Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Here we get a killer Samarai-bot, a John Goodman bot and some assassin like bad guy Transformers that use big guns.
Remember the ghetto bots? (refer again to Transformers 2) I'd rather own Jar-Jar Binks as a pet than ever see those craps again. In Extinction the bad guys are cooler and the Autobots don't make you want to jump off a building into a Mortal Kombat like pit full of spikes and skeleton bones. Also, the miniature sesame street looking things are barely in this film thank god. Oh yeah, and another thing? No big deal? Mother loving DINO BOTS. Optimus Prime with a big sword riding a m effin' Dinosaur Autobot .America.
The special effects are by far the best of the series. This thing felt like a total theme park ride at times. (Wait ..you did that on purpose you soulless goon!) Even though it may be for dirty superficial reasons that Bay wants to drop a gargagillion dollars on a single film for this, we can't really complain considering we have been seeing fit to pay the tab for it all these years. For the love of Nike commercials and gold chains you just have to laugh at the sheer fun stupidity of it all. We ask for too much from these movies. If it's a fun ride who gives a crap if it doesn't have anything to say? All that matters in Transformer land is does the fun out-weigh the boring. It passes. Although there is still too much boredom for a movie that is supposed to be this simple.
After nearly three hours Bay's camera movements become nauseating and so do the so-stupid-I-want-to-kick-my-own-face-with-an-iceskate story lines. Seriously someone PLEASE take the pen and the camera from Bay halfway through production because when you don't we end up with conversations about robot souls and I swear to god if we EVER cover the "humans don't like Autobots so they threaten to leave and come back again" thing again I'm gonna tie myself to something heavy and roll off a boat into the middle of the ocean.
Age of Extinction is more of the same, yet the best of the series. We don't have a great movie, just a fun little ride and that is just fine and dandy. Nearly three hours of mother effin' butt numbing dandy. 6.5/10
Sinister is well made, not scary
Ellison (Ethan Hawke) is a writer who follows unsolved crime stories and writes books investigating them himself. He had a bestseller ten years ago called "Kentucky Blood" but hasn't had a hit since. So he moves his family into a new home where the family occupying the house had been murdered with the exception of a little girl, who was missing. Desperate for another hit book and buried under pressure from his unknowing and un-patient wife, Ellison works diligently to solve the case of the missing little girl for his new book. After coming across a box of videos in the attic of the family that was murdered he realizes he may be opening a door to something he won't be able to walk away from.
Ethan Hawke delivers a performance we aren't used to in horror films. He plays a character not sure of his own true motives. He wonders whether he is putting his family through this to save a missing child or to prove he can write a great book after his last several have failed. He closes himself off from his family out of obsession with the book yet never goes off the deep end. He is reserved and does a great job showing his inner turmoil using subtle facial expressions and line delivery rather than going off the deep end and overacting. You can sense his fear without being told about it. It's a refreshing performance for a genre not known for its acting. Especially since for the majority of the film he's the only one on screen.
Most of the horror in Sinister comes from the found footage video reels we view alongside Ellison. They document several terrible incidents; one in particular involving a lawn mower that is extremely unsettling. A lot of the other scenes meant to frighten though are much less original and less disturbing. Even with the slow burning suspense of the film; the ending scene comes fast and is slightly disappointing. It always felt as though the scares could have been taken a step further.
Sinister has a nice platform to tell a horror story and a capable actor in a role that fits him perfectly. At times the slow pace is perfectly suspenseful, leading us to believe we are in for an emotionally scarring climax (in a good way). At other times it had me rolling my eyes as plot lines were re-enforced over and over again (We get it, he needs a new bestseller!) and left me wondering if the film had enough time left after an hour and fifteen minutes passed to truly frighten. The footage Ellison finds delivers a lot of extremely eerie sequences but when the horror begins to occur in real time Sinister loses its originality and feels like a different film entirely.
The whole story and feel of the film though is pleasantly creepy and it's ultimately a well-made horror film that unfortunately falls short of being as memorable or frightening as I'd hoped. It may not have been as scary as I would have liked, but it is a good film that happens to be horror. That's rare enough to appreciate a little. 7/10
Not a horror film.
So here we are with The Last House on the Left. Sorry, I meant House at the End of the Street. Whatever. Can we start by having a serious talk with the guy picking movie names? He is really slacking off. We are here with Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her Mom (Elisabeth Shue) moving from the big city to a small town looking for a new start. Of-course, the house next door was apparently the location of a double murder where a little girl killed her parents and then disappeared herself. The little girl's brother (Max Thieriot) still lives in the home despite the tragedy. The adults hate him because his presence keeps them from bulldozing the house and its drain on the local housing market and the teenagers hate him because his parents were murdered? There really is no explanation for this other than everyone in this town is apparently a jerk. (Just go with it. That's the best were going to get.) Elissa starts to fall for Ryan and also has a hard time understanding the massive hate he gets when her mom and the neighborhood object to their relationship. But whether it for protecting the good or serving the forces of evil, Ryan has secrets of his own and as the two get close things begin to get creepy. (Allegedly)
Minus a few jump scares that I'm not afraid to admit made me drop my popcorn due to some sharp sound editing; this is no horror flick. HATES was advertised as scary business to get the target teenage audience' butts in the seats but is merely a Suspense/Thriller with young leads. With the exception of a single twist that will shock some and slightly nudge others everything is played rather straight. There's not much new to see here and there is certainly nothing to be scared of. Even after the true evil is finally revealed, there just doesn't seem to be much of a threat at any point.
HATES is still indeed, watchable. That's mostly due to Jennifer Lawrence who shines bright amidst all the average. It's impressive how she takes something as boring as a high school girl falling for the "mysterious guy with a past", adds heart and makes it more interesting than it was written. When in danger she's believably strong willed and could be the perfect "Scream Queen" for a horror film deserving of it. Elisabeth Shue played the part of concerned mother well and Max Thieriot didn't detract either. The problems with the film are rather in its constant plot holes and lack of anything interesting, original or more importantly scary for a film that calls itself Horror.
A disturbing tale that doesn't quite hold up
Chained has you uneasy from start to finish. There are no moments of comfort as you wait for the Taxi Driver Bob (D'Onofrio) to bring home another victim or fly off the handle and abuse Rabbit at any moment. All the while we are faced with the hopelessness of Rabbit's situation. From the moment you see he has grown into an adult under the captivity of Bob, you know in your gut there may be no happy ending in site.
The casting choices for Chained are perfect. Especially Vincent D'Onofrio. With deliberately unpredictable movements and strange speech impediments make his character more realistic than you'd ever want him to be and Eamon Farren does a great job putting him-self in an unspeakably horrible situation in a role that had to be difficult to play.
If you are like me, the question you may find yourself asking is why. Why am I watching this poor kid be subjected to such a terrible life? I can only have patience for this amount of ugliness if there is a reason for it. Thankfully Chained mildly succeeds here. There is some method to the madness because they are exploring what makes a person like Bob so sadistic which is strangely fascinating. We see the interactions between these two in an unfathomably horrible situation and the relationship that unfolds through force as if we are a fly on the wall, thankful to go unnoticed. It's hard to watch but it's not ugly just for the sake of being ugly like many other films of its nature and that's what kept my attention throughout. It's torturous but it's not pointless torture porn either.
I get the feeling the ending was meant to be a shocker. It fell flat in that regard and was so off pace with the rest of the film that it leaves you in- different. There are some questions left to be answered which is sure to give you something to debate with your friends afterward. Assuming you don't feel like you need a shower immediately after watching Chained. It's a dark and dungy way to spend a couple of hours but it's not all for naught. There are a lot of interesting characterizations to explore in Chained isn't quite on the level of sensationalism it was shooting for.
Harrelson's great but Rampart goes nowhere
Woody Harrelson plays a corrupt cop named "Date Rape" Dave (and for those of you still reading, we continue) who got the moniker not from doing so but rather for allegedly killing someone who did. He also lives in something one can only call a "situation" in which he married sisters (both at different times) had kids with each, divorced each and now insists that they all live under the same two roofs in homes right next to each-other. This leads to an awkward moment in which his daughter actually asks if their family is incest. Dave is also a cop that really likes to beat people down. Not just anyone mind you, everyone. Because he is not racist, he simply hates everyone.
The whole story focuses on Dave trying to beat a charge of victim abuse when a camera catches him beating the daylights out of a perpetrator that hit his car. All the while we watch Dave womanize, take drugs, smoke about two million cigarettes and try to get his two families to love him despite his disturbing life choices.
Despite the disgusting things his character does Harrelson actually makes you feel bad for him in a few fleeting moments. All the while you know he deserves everything he gets and more but it's hard to hate him when he is watching television with his youngest daughter and cannot stop smiling at the thought of her wanting to be near him. The film is also packed with small roles by big names like Steve Buscemi and Sigourney Weaver who spice up the film but don't really add anything memorable.
Harrelson makes the film watchable with an amazing performance and like a train wreck, is hard to take your eyes off. Unfortunately, Rampart is a gritty character study that is more repetition than self discovery. See Dave womanize, disgust his family, say shocking things, beat someone up, get wasted, freak out, rinse and repeat. He gets deeper into trouble with his family and career with each endeavor and never really learns anything from it. By the films end you realize Rampart suffers the same fate as Dave in that it's not going to change its ways and is ultimately headed nowhere. 5/10
A well made film that shoots itself in the foot
Best friends Chon (Kitsch) and Ben (Johnson) are genius pot dealers in Laguna. One of them is more of a "save the universe" type guy and holds a degree in Business and Botany. Yes, pot heads in High Schools everywhere just rejoiced "It's a real thing!" and the other one, suffering from anger issues stemming from tours in Iraq takes care of the "beating the crap out of people when necessary" aspect. Oh yeah, they also share a girlfriend. (Awkward right?), her name is O (Lively). No really it is I swear. Anyways, moving on because we have to, these two guys have made some of the best pot known to man and have made millions from it. (Still can't find their own girlfriend though, just saying). Everything is going great as they take turns with their shared girlfriend (still weird) in their huge beach house when the Mexican drug cartel decides they want to be partners. This actually stands for "We own you now and you know you like it." Ben and Chon don't really feel like being De-decapitated so they decide to make a go of living in a jungle somewhere until Elena (Hayeck) the ruthless lady leader of the cartel has O kidnapped.
So are you over the fact that our two heroes share a girl yet? OK good, because I'm not either. This is one of those films that can only be enjoyed if you can let go of a few things. The whole film is narrated by O in her stoned and lazy version of her "OMG you guys I am so high right now" voice. She is a lot like her role in The Town only without the Boston accent. She is really annoying as a character and it's kind of hard to feel bad for her much less root for her. This is one of the things you have to let go of to enjoy the film. Ben and Chon worked well because they are the exact opposite to one another yet somehow have the respect for each-other to get along despite their constant different point of views. Kill everybody or run away. Ben was almost as annoying as O because he was always whining and psycho-analyzing everything. I found Chon to be my favorite of the three because he seemed to be the only one who just wanted to actually get things done and blow up some stuff while everyone else talked and talked some more.
Villains make films though and despite the awkwardness and UN-likability of some of the lead roles the bad guys were sinister, relentless and kind of funny at times. One interaction between Elena's ruthless right hand man Lado (Del Toro) and out for himself FBI agent Dennis (Travolta) in particular was tense and humorous at the same time. Travolta was surprisingly great in this film as he looked like his old self and I was pleased to see he had a larger part in the film than anticipated. Elena had a well written back story as well as the bad guys, while certainly crude enough to hate were interesting enough to steal the flick.
Savages UN-intentionally gives us no-one to root for and may even get on your nerves for a moment or two with its anything goes mentality. There is no doubt however, that it has some great action sequences, well written dialog (minus a few horrendous lines by O's character), strong acting by a strong cast and is an all-around well-made film all the way up until it's absolutely dreadful crash and burn of an ending. I won't give anything away here but let's just say this ending is a problem. It felt as though the Director had a decent ending for a good film but wanted some attention so badly that he was willing to ruin his own movie to do so. You don't always have to be edgy and cute. Sometimes playing things straight up is what's best.
Drive Angry (2011)
WWAM review: I need a shower
"All Hell Breaks Loose" is truly the perfect tagline. John Milton (Nicolas Cage) breaks out of hell to save his grandbaby from the clutches of the Satanic Cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) that killed his daughter. Along the way he is chased by "The Accountant" (William Fichtner) who is sent by the Devil to take Milton back to hell. Milton also picks up some help in his mission after running into the feisty Piper and beating up her cheating abusive husband.
I was having a lot of fun watching the opening scenes of this movie. Nicolas Cage is truly going all out as a ruthless badass from hell and the cheesy catch-lines and over the top violence are hard not to get a kick out of. From the opening scene Milton blows up a car that had been driven by some bad guys and walks away in slow motion with the cliché explosion going off behind him and hard rock playing in the background as if the film is saying "Yeah, this is what we are doing. If you don't like it you can kiss our ass." I'm on board. Piper is also out of the ordinary in an awesome way. Aside from her amazing looks, she is no poster girl. She talks about sex constantly and doesn't take any crap from anybody. At one point she gets into her car and thumps music with the lyrics "F the pain away" blaring from her speakers and singing it loudly. Maybe that's a little bit too much but again: the winner of the "kiss my ass if you don't like it" award goes to Drive Angry. The award also doubles as an ash tray in case you were wondering. Drive Angry really starts to drive the point home that they are quite original yet a bit trashy when in one scene Milton takes down several bad guys while at the same time having sex with a waitress. Not kidding. This much like the movie brings on some entertaining laughs but also kind of makes you feel like you need to take a shower after watching it.
Every so often "The Accountant" shows up on screen again almost in T- 1000 form to deliver a few hilarious lines and lighten the mood while murdering a few big mouths or driving a propane tank through a road block of police while humming a happy song playing on the radio in the truck in his pursuit of Milton. This is always a refreshing change of pace and Fichtner really steals the show when he is on screen. Amid all the fun, explosions and filthy business the film starts to taper off once they actually try focusing on the storyline and the bad guys. Billy Burke was a good cast for the part of the manipulative and evil cult leader but the cult story didn't match the rest of the films over the top antics and I found myself getting bored quickly. Drive Angry is an easy movie to think back on and laugh about and it was a pretty fun ride. I'm gonna go take a shower now.
Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie http://www.youtube.com/WeWatchedAMovie
Source Code (2011)
Source Code pulls off a nearly impossible story
Source Code finds Army Helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) waking up in complete disarray to his surroundings on a train with people treating him as someone he isn't. Eventually the train explodes and he wakes up once again to find out he will be inserted into an alternate timeline for eight minutes at a time with the mission of finding out who was responsible for the bombing of the train before the same person sets of a bomb in downtown Chicago later that day.
Source code has a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time and a lot of potential plot holes. After all, there is the mystery of who Colter is, who bombed the train, the science behind it all, the relationship between Colter and Christina Warren (Monaghan), a passenger on the train and the whole alternative timeline business. Yet, somehow the film sidesteps inevitable plot holes and questions and manages to make an endearing sci-fi action film because of its pacing, entertainment value, concepts, and performances of almost every actor and actress in the film.
Gyllenhaal is a big part of why this film works as he plays each emotion he goes through with his own edge. Making you feel for him and even laugh at him at some points as he frantically searches the train and nearly assaults innocent passengers thinking they were suspects. I also believed him when he started to care for Christina Warren which is also a tribute to how well Michelle Monaghan played her part as the innocent and lovable passenger on the train. This could have seemed forced as another typical love story shoved into the context of another film that didn't need it but because of the films excellent pace and acting it actually added to the story. Even the story going on behind the scenes between Captain Goodwin (Farminga) and Dr. Rutledge (Wright) as the two people pulling the strings behind Source Code matter to the film as they toe the line between heartless conductors of a science experiment to people trying to do the right thing and save lives.
Unfortunately some loose ends and plot holes are inevitable with a story like this but Source Code is so well oiled that it runs seamlessly through them as it focuses on the heart of the story embedded in the suspense of the situation and it's well written characters. It asks some interesting questions, invests you in the characters and manages to be quite entertaining at the same time.
The Rite (2011)
The Rite attempts a different look at exorcism films
Exorcism movies always carry loads of horror potential and usually end in disappointment. The reason for this is? The idea of demons possessing us is arguably the scariest thought one could imagine because it is one of the more realistic fears one could have. Exorcisms apparently happen all the time and many consider them to be very real indeed. The Rite is no different especially when you consider the fact that this movie is based on the book 'The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist' about the alleged real events of Father Gary Thomas. The trouble is that none of these movies ever seem to be very original because let's face it the story has already been told to perfection in The Exorcist.
The Rite takes a slightly different angle as it is about Father Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) who enters a seminary school unsure of his faith. When he tries to leave the school however citing his lack of faith he is sent to Rome to take a class on Exorcism. When he shows his disbelief in the stories of Exorcism in class he is then sent to Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) a tried and true exorcist who has been doing this for so long he barely bats an eyelash at things that would make you and I need a new pair of shorts. Here Kovac witnesses several exorcisms performed yet still remains skeptical even after seeing one patient choke up a set of rusty nails.
We go through this repetition for quite a while before things really start to fall apart for Michael and for the plot as he begins flashbacks to his youth and his creepy mortician father and things begin to get really convoluted. It's at this point that The Rite kind of says "to hell with it", and jumps back into familiar exorcism movie mode. There are a few scares and a few genuinely good Anthony Hopkins creepy moments even if a few times I was unsure whether to be freaked out or laugh at some of the really strange dialog choices. But alas, O'Donoghue's portrayal of Father Kovac is where the film spends most of its time, dissecting his faith and his past. The Rite needed O'Donoghue's performance to give us a lot more than it did and he wasn't terrible he was just . there.
O'Donoghue's performance mixed with the films unsteady changes of pace and convoluted story will have you enjoying what you are watching one moment to just not caring the next and feeling as though you just watched two different movies. A horror movie about exorcism and a character study into the true story of a Priest unsure of his faith. Unfortunately the film bites off more than it can chew and doesn't do much justice for either but as far as exorcism movies go it at-least had the desire to be more than generic. It wouldn't be all that disappointing if it weren't for Anthony Hopkins being in the film. I found myself thinking how lucky they were to have him in this role and wondering what could have been.