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Know What You're Getting Yourself Into
I saw the trailers, like everybody else, that were run up and down the block. The big thing was the curving bullets and the assassin son right-of-passage bit. I gathered it was a new-kind of Matrix-style- effects film. I guess, somewhat in that sense, the film delivered. But the first five minutes had me surprised at the cheap-trick hype of vulgarity usage. Another half hour in and I thought okay, this is like "Shoot 'Em Up" except no Clive Owen. Another fifteen minutes later, as the plot unravels, Angelina Jolie isn't good-looking enough to overcome disinterest in the film. And lastly, I'm thinking, "Wow, at least "Shoot 'Em Up" came off as an action farce. All you had to do was just sit back, laugh, and watch the bullets fly." "Wanted" attempts to delve into a complex plot amid action and drama. But the drama fails to deliver and things only get corny toward the end. After seeing Morgan Freeman last week in "Bucket List" and respecting his reputation as an actor, I was surprised he signed on. James McAvoy's performance in "Last King of Scotland" only makes this film look like he decided to go on acting vacation. And Angelina Jolie......well, expect more Tomb Raider, without the accent. It seems like too many actors with potential are getting role happy these days. What film will Jason Statham show up in next?
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
Kari, Kari, Kari....
What do you do when you have an incredible body (with face to match) and want to get into doing predominately horror-type movies? You become Kari Wuhrer. From "Thinner" and "Eight-Legged Freaks" to "Anaconda" and now this (Hellraiser VII), Kari has quickly made an image for herself as the hottie horror actress. I don't mean to imply she hasn't diversified her career, but recently horror seems her genre. Did anybody see "Hitchhiker II"? Anyway, skins flicks and scary movies seem to go well together in a teenager-ish sort of way. Far be it from me to tell Kari to put some clothes on. And speaking of which, "Hellraiser VII" surprisingly gives you a peek at Kari's peaks (pun intended) as does "King of the Ants".
Okay, so I'm getting off track. The guys reading this will understand. As to the movie's story, it is far less entertaining than what I have written thus far. It has all the no-brainers - the box, Pinhead, and grisly pain and suffering in a hellish existence. But none of this was portrayed with the craft and cleverness of Hellraiser V, which was a mirror image of the video game series, Silent Hill. Hellraiser VII's story is all about a reporter, Amy Klein (Wuhrer), who begins investigating a cult in Europe called the Deaders. The members of this group commit suicide and then are brought back from the dead by an enigmatic ring leader. Amy's ambition and intrigue to uncover the truth soon lead her to a story, the makings of which she would rather not have known. This plot runs parallel to the in-hell-ignorant theme of some of the other sequels but adds a prophecy to it about a chosen one who can open the box. Unfortunately, this doesn't add anything useful to the story and leaves the ending full of pins, I mean holes. 3/10
The Forsaken (2001)
Vampire Flick With Little To Offer
The movie seems to take a little of "The Lost Boys" and "Near Dark" and regurgitate it all into your nowadays mundane vampire movie. Little originality shows other than in introducing drugs you can take, known as "the cocktail", to stave off vampiric infection. The story has a couple young guys driving around in the middle of nowhere. They run into an infected girl and the vampires responsible for her doomed existence. What ensues is a ridiculous game of cat-and-mouse falling on a flaccid and incredulous conclusion. Don't expect much in the way of transformations or other special effects as this film rides on a modest budget. I give the actors credit for their part in trying to support a plot with little future. 4/10
Surprising All Around
First of all, let me say the title alone had me expecting some sort of farce or comedy obviously relating to language barriers. I was also expecting the film to be a little bit insulting to the Spanish language (the word Spanglish often seems used that way). With Adam Sandler cast as a lead, it seemed my suspicions would all but be realized. Boy was I wrong.
Spanglish takes everything you presume to know about the film and its actors and turns things around entirely. It shows that Adam Sandler can really act in more than just the goofy, silly man roles. It also shows that a slang word often used to describe our inabilities to communicate with other people can actually encompass and define quite a bit more.
Adam Sandler play upscale chef John Clasky, who with his wife (Tea Leoni) and children, live in a domestic madhouse. When they hire a new maid, Flor (Paz Vega), everyone's life is affected. Since Flor cannot speak any English and the Clasky's cannot speak Spanish, this makes for an odd arrangement indeed. Add Paz's daughter to the mix (in a giant live-in relationship), a wealthy lifestyle, adultery, weight insecurities, and alcoholism......and you get a whirlwind of problems that, in the end, speak deeper than what their surface shows. This is a chick-flick but also a great movie guys can enjoy. It's not really a film where anyone really wins or loses, but more of story about what happens to different people, how they come to be, and where they are going, regardless of what language they speak. 7/10
Todo sobre mi madre (1999)
A Spanish Surprise
While the title of this film would simply suggest a maternal story, more exists in also giving an intimate view of women and the bizarre and horrid lives that many people lead in trying to make ends meet. "All About My Mother" is a heart-wrenching saga of love, children, death, sex, loneliness, and birth. Perhaps what is most odd, especially in retrospect, is that all of these elements seem to be omnipresent, much like real life.
For its acting, this is a rare gem. I was unfamiliar with all of the cast but found their talents (especially the lead role's played by Cecilia Roth) to be remarkable. SOME SPOILERS - A few unknowns occur early on in the film such as who is Esteban's father and where is he. Also, the car accident as Esteban is trying to get an autograph seems a bit stretched. Later, the irony of who Esteban's father is and Sister María's baby (played by Penelope Cruz) leads to a shocking discovery. While some of these elements may not have be too plausible, they help to present a film revealing some of the dirty, chaotic, and ultimately senseless aspects of life. In the end, the film feels as if it leaves you with more than just a story. The character Agrado shows, despite any distaste, that drag queens are people too and can have quite a sense of humor to boot. "All About My Mother" is a European street-life tale that emerges with a happy ending. 7/10
Not A Prequel
I was under the impression this film might be on the prequel-frenzy that others were, but I can assure you that isn't the case. "Elektra" is actually something of a sequel to "Daredevil" where she plays a love interest that is slain by the villain, Bullseye. But don't expect to seen Ben Affleck even though he is in one of the deleted scenes. This movie is solely about the heroine played by Jennifer Garner. She is resurrected and studies ancient arts to make her something of a superwoman. She plays a contract killer that gets close to a family that end up becoming her next hit. When her compassion renders her unable to destroy them, she decides instead to protect them against evil forces.
Like many supernatural actions flicks, this one starts with an ancient legend. It is one that prophecies the coming of a great warrior to bring peace to the earth and eradicate all evil forces. The film leads you into believing Elektra is that warrior. But her character, while strong, is far from superhuman. Towards the end of the film, things almost get a bit ridiculous when we see similar invincible performances taken from "Alias". Garner remains all dolled up and ready for combat only to have easily been defeated a thousand times already. She appears way out of her league.
One of the more entertaining elements of the film was the good C.G. sfx, especially with villains Tattoo and Typhoid. 3/10
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
Connect The Invisible Dots?!
I have said it time and time again that no matter what kind of a cast you have, if the story isn't there, neither will be the movie. "Ocean's Twelve" definitely has the cast (Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, etc.) and while it does have some story, it falls way short of its casting achievements. In a sense, there is little equilibrium between actors and the plot, which later just makes you wonder if you can get people to go to the theaters just by mustering up an incredible amount of star power...? Answer: yes.
"Ocean's Twelve" picks up where "Ocean's Eleven" left off, with Daniel Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew trying to enjoy the fruits of their ill-gotten labors. Unfortunately, a competitor-thief (The Night Fox) has tipped off Andy Garcia to the whereabouts of Daniel and his crew and now Andy wants his money back, plus interest. The criminals work out a plan to repay the money but things begin to go awry when a former girlfriend and detective picks up on their trail (Catherine Zeta-Jones). A challenge is made by the Night Fox in which he will pay the price on their heads if they can steal a priceless egg. It's sort of a "whoever is the best thief wins" type of thing.
While this is an entertaining enough story, its contents are jumbled together straight from the opening. There is no clear succession in the film's plot and with so many characters, it jumps around quite often. It also feels like many pieces are missing and makes the viewer feel that either the film is lacking in discussion or that the audience consists of a bunch of dolts. Other aspects don't make any sense at all even from a Hollywood perspective (unless of course this was some dry satire). You'll be asking yourself plenty of questions as to the possibility of the ending, which to save you some breath and frustration, I will tell you that is next to impossible and furthermore isn't worth spinning your wheels on. I can understand why the behind-the-scenes interviews all came back with the cast saying they had an incredibly fun time making this film. I just wish the audience could say the same thing regarding watching it. 4/10
Not Bad For It's Time
You can't watch a 1977 horror movie and compare it to today, at least not on a special effects level. But what "Suspiria" does do effectively as a horror film for its time is to incorporate some good suspense and shock.
The film is about a American, Suzy Bannion, who goes to Europe to study at a prestigious ballet academy. Upon the night she arrives, another student dies in a brutal stabbing (scenes of this are shocking). Afterward, other bizarre and deadly things begin to happen. The staff also seem controlling/manipulative over the entire school's attendants and goings on. Soon the occult and witchcraft become suspect.
Mostly costume design is used given the film's date but there is one scene with a brief glimpse into some of the "advanced" sfx technology of the time. It's appears almost comical today as I'm sure our sfx will appear to others years down the road. The musical score (by The Goblins) reminds me of other old horror films that use music to scare or amp up the suspense. One scene in particular is shocking as it involves a student falling into a room filled with barb wire. If Clive Barker had directed this, it would have probably been a little too unsettling. 7/10
Drawn Out Pretty-Boy Story
It's no surprise that this film was set up with female audiences in mind when they cast Brad Pitt as the lead role. Complete with golden locks and a surfer's tan, Pitt plays Greek hero Achilles. "Troy" is the modern day re-creation of the Trojan War. For those unfamiliar with mythological history, Achilles was the mightiest of the Trojans in the war, suffering only one weak spot, his heel. The film brings this and other common legends (the Trojan horse ambush) together with an expensive budget to back up fight scenes similar to "Braveheart" and "The Patriot". Unfortunately, "Troy" carries on unrelentless and seemingly oblivious to the staminas of the audience (runs just under three hours). The later half represents a weak pulse to a dramatic conclusion, which quite honestly was something of a let down. And despite following legend, the whole Trojan horse bit seemed to far fetched, but then again.....5/10
Wrong Turn (2003)
It's Got The Gore
If you want to see some disgusting scenes involving a bunch of mutated redneck siblings, then this one's for you. "Wrong Turn" is the story of six youths that end up stuck out in the wilderness after a car accident. What they don't realize is that they just been stranded in an area renowned for missing persons and a group of mysterious and cannibalistic "mountain men".
The first thing that might cross your mind is what in the world are they doing in the woods down some dirt road, without a map and any clue in general? Likewise the fact that people are actually choosing outdoor recreation where countless others have turned up missing, presumably dead. I guess you could just blame it on poor local law enforcement. Yeah, right. One scene in particular (the car graveyard) will definitely make you wonder how anyone in this day and age could get away with killing so many people. Now I know that a story involving a bunch of disfigured cannibals sounds outrageous, but for those who can't help to look for some sense in what they see, you're going to have to let it go with this one.
As to the gore factor, it's pretty high up there. A few scenes in particular are apt to disgust and shock. But then again, that's probably you're motivation for watching this in the first place. The cast is a list of small stars (Elisha Dushku, Jeremy Sisto, Desmond Harrington) who fit their roles quite well. Bludgeoning aside, some great wilderness scenes are shot, although I don't know any few forests where you can walk from tree to tree. You'll see what I mean. 5/10