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On the surface, The Loved Ones may appear like just another teen horror
flick involving a little bit of crazy, a little bit of sex, and a ton
of violence. While it does certainly have all those things, The Loved
Ones takes every horror element, and pushes it to wonderfully
disturbing new heights. Completely over the top in every way, this film
is both a top notch horror flick, and something you won't soon forget.
The plot of the film is something that may seem familiar. We have Brent, the good-looking popular guy who turns down Lola, the outsider, for the prom. Unbeknownst to Brent, Lola is a psychopath and decides to kidnap Brent and create her own prom. Things quickly escalate and get bloody. And weird.
Filmed and released in Australia in 2009, The Loved Ones had a very difficult time getting distribution in the states, even though it was considered a darling of the festivals and was well received by fans and critics. Fortunately, Paramount's micro-budget label Insurge picked up the film and set it for a June 1st theatrical release.
The Loved Ones is not your typical horror movie. Yes, it has all the horror movie tropes, and yet it excels in the areas most horror films falter. First time writer/director Sean Byrne was able to create something that drips with style, and has the substance to back it. With some very rich and disturbing imagery and interesting characters, this is a treat for genre fans.
The character of Brent (Xavier Samuel), who becomes hapless victim, is an atypical version of a horror protagonist. First, he's a guy, something that is not usual for the slasher film, and second, he has a backstory. In the early moments of the film, we get to know this character, and his difficult past. We see the inner-turmoil he's dealing with, and we are shown right off the bat, that he's not a bad guy. Normally, in these types of films (Misery comes to mind), the kidnap victim was a jerk, and may have deserved some type of punishment. That wasn't the case in this film, and because of that, the empathy one feels for Brent becomes greater.
Although Brent may be the main character of the film, as with most horror movies, the villain is always the most interesting part. Robin McLeavy plays Lola, a teenage girl who's twisted and sadistic tendencies know no bounds. She's pure evil and seems to have a penchant for power tools. Think Kathy Bates from Misery meets Leatherface. McLeavy plays the part very well, and does an excellent job portraying a teenage psychopath.
While it wouldn't necessarily be considered torture-porn, The Loved Ones is not for the faint of heart. The levels of violence and bloodshed are through the roof, and there are multiple cringe-worthy moments. It only take a few minutes to get the blood to start flowing and once it does, better get a raincoat.
It doesn't redefine the genre, and it's rough around the edges, but The Loved Ones is still a shining example of how to make a good horror movie. It may have taken several years to get to the states but don't let that dissuade you. It's crazy, it's bizarre, and it's a must see for genre fans.
Based on a book by real-life hockey Enforcer Doug Smith, Goon doesn't
try to break any new ground, nor does it try to answer any of life's
tougher questions. This film's ambitions are simply to entertain, and
in that it succeeds
to a point.
Co-written by Superbad scribe Evan Goldberg and Jay Baruchel (who also has a supporting role in the film), Goon is the story of Doug Glatt, a well-meaning but less than bright Massachusetts bouncer who, through luck and circumstances, finds himself playing for the local hockey team as their "go to" enforcer.
From the beginning, it's clear that Doug (a well-cast Seann William Scott) simply wants to "matter." His father and brother are both doctors cut from the Ivy League cloth, while Doug, in his own words "doesn't have a 'thing'" of his own.
It's a classic underdog story, filled with every story beat you'd expect in a tale like this. There's almost nothing surprising about it, and yet there is a strange charm to it even when the blood starts to flow.
And flow it does. Goon is a pretty gory film. It doesn't play down or glamourize the role of fighting in hockey (though whether it celebrates it or not is up for debate). When the punches fly, the camera doesn't flinch away. Director Michael Dowse is not shy about letting the shot linger on a post-punch laceration or on a stream of blood as it slowly drips to the ice. In a way, the blood is almost as much a character here as it was in Tim Burton's 2007 adaptation of Sweeney Todd.
Intercut with the violence is a decent comic film with characters that are, despite being typical, somewhat easy to root for.
Doug's team, The Halifax Highlanders, is full of hard-luck cases and scrubs wanting that shot at glory, and despite the impossibility of developing them all as full-fledged characters, you end up caring for their plight perhaps more than you originally expect.
There's no doubt, however, that hockey fans will get much more out of Goon than the casual movie-goer. The film is very Canadian in feel, and blatant and over-the-top crassness of the sports locker room, while accurate, may turn off more conservative viewers.
The supporting cast is hit-and-miss. Liev Schreiber is stellar as Ross Rhea, an aging, past his prime 'goon' who sees a lot of himself in Doug, and the best scene in the film has Doug lucking into a meeting with Ross at a late-night diner, where the veteran imparts some sobering wisdom to the young protégé.
Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is cute as Eva, a hockey-obsessed bookworm who falls for Doug despite (or perhaps because of) his simple nature, but Eugene Levy is completely wasted as Doug's father.
Worse yet is Jay Baruchel, whose performance as Doug's friend Ryan is so overly grating he almost sabotages the film before it can get started. After the first ten minutes or so, the focus wisely switches to Doug and the film improves almost immediately.
In the end, Goon is a decent little film and nothing more. Its part Bad News Bears and part Slap Shot, and although its story is really nothing new, it gets marks for telling it in an off-the-wall manner.
What happens when you take Sean Penn, dress him up like an aging 80′s
rocker, and send him on a cross-country trip to hunt a Nazi? The answer
to that question lies in the beautifully bizarre and hilarious film
This Must Be the Place. Although it certainly won't be for everyone,
this wonderfully shot and uniquely charming story provides not only a
strong plot, but also one of Sean Penn's best performances on screen.
To explain this film to someone after seeing it, may prove to be
difficult. The stripped down synopsis would describe the film as a road
trip story about an aging rock star who's going through a mid-life
crisis, only to find out his father has died. As a result, he embarks
on a quest to kill the Nazi that held his father captive during the
holocaust, as this was his father's main goal in life. On his journey
he meets some interesting and enlightening characters, and as the road
takes him on some strange paths, he finds something more substantial
than just an old Nazi.
The film stars Sean Penn in the lead as Cheyenne, a soft-spoken 50-year-old who bears an odd resemblance to The Cure's Robert Smith. In fact, Penn's character's real name in the film is John Smith. This role once again proves that Penn can completely transform himself into the character he is given with little to no effort. Although it is mainly a comedic performance, he has no problem seamlessly transitioning into serious mode and delivering some powerfully heartfelt lines. Make no mistake about it, this film does a lot of things right, but it's Penn's performance that pushes it over the top.
Francis McDormand also provides a stellar performance, playing Cheyenne's loving wife of 35 years, Jane. It's clear from the start of the film that she is his rock, and McDormand seems to know exactly how to make the audience love her character. Even though the two live in an enormous mansion and have millions of dollars, she still works as a volunteer fire fighter. This relates to another one of the films strengths. It has likable, and fully developed characters.
Nearly all the characters in the film have this likable charm about them that give the film a refreshing glow. Normally, if you see a film about a rock star, the protagonist is often times a sleaze, but that simply isn't the case in this film. Everyone has enough personality and quirkiness to them, that you will find yourself not hating a single character. Except maybe for the Nazi, but hey, he's a Nazi, there's not a lot you can do about that.
One of my only criticisms with the film, is an unnecessary scene featuring David Byrne from The Talking Heads in which the film sort of inexplicably turns into a music video. Fortunately, I'm a fan of the song, so it didn't bother me too much, but it certainly didn't need to be there.
This is most certainly a love it or hate it film. The mixture of slightly peculiar humor and seriousness may discriminate against the common movie-goer, and Penn's Cheyenne could be seen as sweet and reserved, or just annoying. The trick to this film is to go into it knowing that it is slightly odd, and hopefully you'll walk out of it with an appreciation for all that it is.
Sometimes there are movies that shock you into different worlds and
take you on a journey to a never before seen land that changes the way
you think about film, about life, about the human condition. Sometimes
you leave the theater, uplifted by spending an engaging hour and a half
in the dark, uncovering more about yourself than you'd thought possible
and when you step outside and the sunrays bathe your face in warmth,
you realize something you never thought before about existence. Tarsem
Singh's Mirror Mirror is, by far, the farthest thing away from any
experience like that or anything similar to a stimulating theater
experience and offers no means of entertainment unless your idea of fun
is sticking a fork in your eye over and over again.
Mirror Mirror opens with a voice-over by Julia Roberts's Evil Queen, explaining all the facts and story elements that everyone knows if they have ever heard of Snow White. Explaining Snow White's beginnings, played with dripping innocence by Lily Collins, and who her dad was etc., etc., we, as an audience, learn that White's dad was killed in battle and the kingdom is in ruins and run poorly (literally and figuratively) by the Evil Queen; who isn't so much evil as she is just a selfish priss.
The movie tries to be different and have moments where the Queen is aware of the tried storytelling but these moments are few and far between and don't make up for the waste ofdear god, I hope they didn't shoot onfilm. The Prince, played by Social Network's Armie Hammer, is introduced and supposed to be that huzzah that we want but his performance falls short and feels like a caricature rather than a character.
There are other actors sprinkled in the movie that make it enjoyable to watch (I won't unveil some, just check IMDb) but to me, Singh hasn't proved himself to validate having such big names in his movies. The only movie in his repertoire that could go on as 'good' would be The Fall. And I would consider The Cell if you took out the acting.
Again, I am shown that Hollywood either does not care about what represents them anymore or there are holes in distribution and somehow this managed to squeeze past unnoticed, but it pains and hurts me to know that this is something that can charge $10 at the door and get away unscathed. Here, I'll make a deal, I'll make dinner, you bring 10 bucks, and then I'll punch you in the face. It'll be better than seeing Mirror Mirror or I'll refund your money back guaranteed.
As is unfortunately the case with far too many films, Hysteria is not
of one mind that is to say that it tells two very different stories
that are only tenuously linked thru the main characters rather than
thru any particular plot points. It purports to be based on real events
and indeed some portions of the film are historically accurate. It also
represents one of the few romantic comedies to present itself as a
partial biopic. However, much of the film is conjecture, albeit at
times somewhat fascinating and entertaining conjecture. Indeed, the
doctors' visits discussed below are quite amusing if not in the best
taste for certain discerning viewers.
Hysteria tells the story of Dr. Mortimer Granville who found himself working for another physician who treated women for "female hysteria." This hysteria was once considered a real medical condition throughout Great Britain and on the European continent reaching its height of diagnosis and treatment in the late Victorian Era. Such hysteria was treated in a multitude of ways, but Hysteria focuses on Granville's adoption of the method used by the physician for whom he worked the fictional Dr. Robert Dalrymple. Their method of treating hysteria was to ensure that their female patients achieved a "hysterical paroxysm." Simply put, what all of these hysterical women really needed was to experience an orgasm. The visitations by woman after woman to the doctors' office provide some fascinating and sometimes hilarious results. Just imagine a Judd Apatow film set in Victorian England and you will have some idea of what transpires in these visits. Ultimately, Granville with monetary and technical assistance from a wealthy friend (wittily played by Rupert Everett) creates the first electric device for a woman to satisfy herself without a man's assistance.
One might think this was an interesting enough topic for a Victorian period-piece comedy, but husband-and-wife screenwriters Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer add other intersecting plot. Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) has two daughters. One is an extremely strong-willed, steel-spined fighter for women's issues named Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and the other a demure, science-minded ladylike supporter of her father's more conservative views named Emily (Felicity Jones). When first meeting the daughters, Mortimer (Hugh Dancy) is startled by Charlotte's behavior and attitudes and finds Emily much more to his liking. Mortimer and Emily begin a courtship of which her father approves as Dalrymple hopes to leave his practice to Mortimer with Emily by his side. However, Mortimer becomes increasingly interested in the spirited and winning Charlotte. When she stands up for her beliefs and publicly confronts her father and the police, Mortimer comes to her aid in court and we can see that they are destined to be together.
So how, you may ask, are the events described in the second and third paragraphs of this review connected? Well, they aren't really, and that is a major problem with the screenplay and the film itself. As suggested above, the film contains two distinct stories that are intertwined in an unusual and ultimately disappointing fashion. The cast is rather unremarkable, but then again they are not given much to do except play the characters so often seen in period comedies of this sort. Dancy seems to play the same character in nearly every film (with few exceptions). Jones has little to do but be pretty and polite. Pryce once again plays an English gentleman seemingly befuddled by those around him. Gyllenhaal (whose English accent is never quite right) once again plays a woman of conviction and spirit as she's done many times before. They adequately do their duty in representing these stock characters, but alas the script is not strong enough to make their efforts worth our while.
When I heard they were making a fourth American Pie, my instant
reaction was "Dear god, why does Hollywood have to keep revisiting
characters and sacrificing originality with older ideas?" OK, maybe
those weren't my exact words and I just wrote that here in my review,
but it was pretty damn close. American Reunion's trailer didn't make me
too excited, I just thought most of the cast hadn't had the career that
they wanted and figured they could use the extra cash. Needless to say,
I was pleasantly surprised (not surprised enough to grant it higher
than a 6) at what was presented on screen.
American Reunion starts off re-introducing us to characters that we haven't seen in 9 years and what their lives have turned into. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are married and have a toddler, Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is basically a housewife, Oz (Chris Klein) is a successful sports host with girlfriend problems, Stifler (Seann William Scott) is still a douche but in an office, and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), well, Finch is a supposed badass mofo which didn't surprise me at all.
After the introductions and catch-ups the movie proceeds to the Reunion part of the title and everyone is brought back to their hometown to meet and greet and see who's up to what. There are some funny moments but it feels like a movie designed for the audiences who grew up with the American family. The plot didn't really matter, the problems didn't really matter, it was all just an enjoyable experience to see these actors and characters on the big screen portraying roles that jump started them back in the day.
I was most surprised (I'm not sure why) that the jokes and gags that were brought to the table were of the same caliber as the first three American movies. It seems that the actors playing the parts had grown up but the writers who were in charge of the script had not. It felt like the crew had been the victim of real life arrested development (not the same as the show) and forgotten to grow up with their counterparts.
While sitting in the theater, I realized that some movies are supposed to be fun and not require you to be an active moviegoer, but rather, sit back and enjoy the images that are whizzing by on the big screen. American Reunion is definitely one of those flicks that doesn't ask for too much of your attention and does not leave you asking for more because it is just the right amount of pie you're looking for.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ATM, David Brooks' first feature, has everything that a first feature
should have. One moderately big name actor, a moderate budget, and a
storyline that is "cute" as a first attempt. ATM brings Nickelodeon's
own Josh Peck further into the adult acting world (not XXX) and shows
that with a little bit more practice, Brooks might be able to make a
name for himself.
The film starts off cross cutting someone's hands drawing on blueprints of the aforementioned ATM and our protagonist, David, played by Brian Geraghty, walking to work. As he continues his walk there is a different timeline (the 'future' for our active audiences) being spliced together as well. It has some remnants of Se7en itching to get out and the campy Christmas music doesn't help it one bit. As the intro fades out and we see that David is a young, not very successful stockbroker of some sorts, we are introduced quickly to Josh Peck's Corey, a cocky, shallow coworker that seems like fun.
After being coerced into sticking around for a Christmas party in the office, David eventually asks Emily, played by Alice Eve, if he can drive her home. Corey, much to my lack of surprise, decides to join. The movie then turns into what I like to call a 'bottle movie', where the rest of the movie, due to lack in budget and/or creativity stay in one location (see Abed from Community talking about bottle episodes and you'll understand). David, Corey, and Emily are then terrorized by a hooded psychopath who is deciding to try to freeze them in an ATM in the height of the winter.
The lack of knowing that the characters demonstrate of why they are being terrorized mirrors the quality that Saw made so famous and it serves as a point of thought for the audience to dwell on and an argument for the characters to have throughout the night. The scares and thrills however, are no more than cheap Halloween-esque scares, loud noises, the hooded man coming from a corner, and some excess blood that they wanted so desperately to garner their R rating.
The ending, for me, was extremely disappointing and I won't spoil it for you (god do I hate spoilers) but it was a cop-out for everyone in not digging deeper into the material they had. They could've gone in a certain direction and make up for the weak moments in the rest of the film but they chose to take an easy way out. Very disappointing indeed.
I think in order to truly enjoy this movie, you should watch it by yourself, at night, and don't think too much about what you're watching. If you give it too much thought, this movie will not take you by surprise and you will be severely disappointed.
The phenomenon of San Diego's Comic-con has grown to astronomic levels
in both attendance and exhibition since it's inception in 1970. It has
morphed into something much more than just a gathering of comic book
nerds, packed into a hotel conference room. Comic-Con encompasses all
things pop culture, be it comics, movies, games, or anything else
people can geek out over. Famed director Morgan Spurlock decided to
chronicle the 2010 con, and follow a select few to document their
reasons for being there, and their experience.
In addition to following around a genuine, and interesting cast of characters, Spurlock sprinkles in some interviews with some of the con's most prolific figures including Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Seth Rogan, and many more. Having these people give their thoughts and anecdotes about the con was a nice touch, and added some flavor to the film.
The real meat of the documentary, however, is with the interesting group of central characters. We see two aspiring artists, a costume designer, a collector, a comic book dealer, and a young couple in love. All of the characters have different reasons for being there, and yet they all share the same passion for comics, movies, and games. The characters were varied enough to keep things interesting, and they were all very likable people. In addition to learning about who these people are, and their reasons for attending Comic-Con, we learn that there's much more to the con than to simply see famous people and buy memorabilia. People use Comic-con as an opportunity to showcase their talents, and hopefully further their careers.
One of the other important topics discussed in this documentary is the concept of geek culture, the rise of geek coolness, and the commercialization of Comic-Con. As most of us know, many of the things that were considered nerdy when we were kids, are actually cool now, and as a result, many companies are cashing in. When Comic-Con began, it was just a small convention focusing on comics, however now, comics take a backseat to all the other stuff going on in the con. Nowadays, many of the people that attend, don't even know, or particularly care about comics. This is upsetting to comic book fans, especially since the industry has been suffering for years.
Although Comic-Con Episode IV may not break new ground in the documentary genre, it does give people an inside look at one of the biggest pop culture events of the year. As stated in the film, everyone can find something to love about Comic-Con, and the same can be said about the film itself. It's a light and enjoyable film, that's certainly worth a watch, even if you aren't a die hard comic fan.
Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America is a
badass-satirical-call-to-action-wake-up-call to all of society. It
screams for us, as a collective, to wake up and look at what we are
doing with our lives and civilization. In a trailer for God Bless
America, Goldthwait says that it isn't an angry movie, but a movie
designed to call attention to what we deem worthy of our attention. I
can agree with him on that point, but the movie comes across as an ode
to the cinematic days when characters took the initiative to take
things into their own hands and weren't afraid to get a little blood on
their hands. Well, in this case, with God Bless America, a lot of
Frank (Joel Murray) is a guy who is tired of everything. He is tired of the way American's speak, gossip, discuss nothing substantial, and base everything they do on talk radio, gossip television, and wasteful entertainment. The first scene where Frank thinks to himself that he is not normal is the perfect opener for the explosiveness that the rest of the film delivers.
After being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, Frank decides to take out people that deserve to die, according to himself and his Bonnie ride along Roxy, portrayed by Tara Lynne Barr with just the right amount of teenage attractiveness. Together they make a great spree killer team and scour the nation, attempting to clean up the mess that America has left for them.
This is Goldthwait's third official foray into directing movies for the "mainstream" and I am a fan every time I watch one of them. World's Greatest Dad is a cult classic with Robin Williams and I haven't gotten myself to watch Sleeping Dogs Lie yet, but I promise, I will. Goldthwait's got a style that is his own, a style that is hard to describe, but is evident by his argumentative content and slightly unrealistic universes. His films take place in our society, if it was just a little different, a little "out-there" if you will.
God Bless America is a by product of films like Kick-Ass and Network but lacks the subtlety. The only issue that I have with America is that it proves to be a little more than repetitive in its supposed message. We instantly understand that this isn't the best we can be doing with our society but Goldthwait makes sure Frank reminds us at every chance we get. Goldthwait penned the script and it is easily seen that his directing skills outshine his writing (sometimes, World's Greatest Dad is brilliant).
Despite that one qualm with the feature, I was pleasantly surprised, entertained, and shocked over what was presented in God Bless America. I highly recommend watching this as loud as you can.
Every film-lover has had that moment when he or she sees a film that
tries to say too much and ends up saying little-to-nothing at all.
Unfortunately, that is the case with Mary Harron's adaptation of Rachel
Klein's female adolescent angst drama The Moth Diaries. Here is a film
that attempts to cover female friendship, hetero- and homoerotic
longing, suicide, coming-of-age, murder, love, betrayal, jealousy,
familial separation, grief, empathy, and much more in a single
85-minute vampire fantasy. If it can be done, this is not the film that
does it. Its downfall is largely due to the piling up of explication
upon explication as if Harron does not trust viewers to follow a simple
but sexy storyline virtually styled after the famous
made-for-television after-school movies of decades past.
The film opens with teenage girls joining one another for a new term at a Catholic boarding school. Most of the girls we meet know each other from previous terms this is especially true for best friends Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) and Lucy (Sarah Golden). We know that Rebecca and Lucy are inseparable and that Rebecca is particularly dependent upon Lucy. Viewers are led to believe that this dependence has grown since Rebecca's famed poet father committed suicide a couple of years before the film's opening scenes. The close relationship between the two girls is forever interrupted by the arrival of a new British student named Ernessa (Lily Cole). Like any literary and/or cinematic predator prototype, Ernessa tirelessly works to separate and weaken the two girls to fulfill her own desires. Early on, the oft-seen triangle is in place with Rebecca as heroine, Ernessa as foe, and Lucy as victim.
This triangle can be found in numerous teenage girl stories. The fanciful twist here is that Ernessa is a vampire-like creature who forces her way into the existing friendship to prey on Lucy. However, the decision to attack Lucy is confusing and illogical. Lucy appears the vision of confidence and carefree youth while Rebecca is the introspective and wounded one. One could or would have imagined that Ernessa would pick on Rebecca as the weaker of the two, especially given that they have their fathers' suicides in common (though we know Ernessa's father killed himself over 100 years prior). This against-the-grain characteristic could have opened up many possibilities, but the film simply does not have the time or energy to follow up on Ernessa's motives. I will leave that central story's remaining particulars to the film's viewers. Be forewarned, there are many an incredulous event that occur one right after the other.
I wish to end on the film's major downfall. As previously noted, Harron dooms the film with double explication. First, a new handsome male English teacher arrives and begins the term with a study of Gothic fantasy fiction (which is the film's style). In a segment too on-the-nose to be believed, he introduces Bram Stoker's Dracula as being about "sex, blood, and death" which mirrors the central themes in The Moth Diaries. Second and more importantly, he assigns the girls a vampire novel with a female-centered storyline that perfectly mimics the film's own narrative. In this situation, tone might very well have saved the film just as Harron's nicely-captured satirical preppiness of the 1980s had saved her outrageous adaptation of American Psycho. Harron has likened the tone here to Peter Weir's acclaimed Picnic at Hanging Rock. Unfortunately, she aims too high and misses by a mile. Weir's masterpiece is known for its inaudibly powerful tone while Harron's fantasy bashes us about the head with too much explanation and not enough mystery.
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