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The Brave Frog (1989)
Terrible yes, but still a classic.
Most people are going to take this movie at face value and think it's a terrible waste of their time. And those people would be correct. This isn't the best movie ever made, but the characters, the sounds, the music and the innocence of it make a film that's hard to forget. If children's films can become cult classics, this one fits the bill. If you want a great animated movie go for some classic (Or in the case of Ponyo, recent) Myazaki. But if you want to see something so totally out there that it needs an audience to be believed, this may be a good one for you. One thing to keep in mind, this wasn't even meant to be a movie. This was an old television show in Japan that was cobbled together to make a movie. Knowing that will help put this thing into perspective for you. I wouldn't recommend this for very young children either- some of it is a little terrifying. Like the lobster fight, or the incident with the eggs...
Dark Country (2009)
Brave story telling, but not a film for everyone.
The first thing you will notice about this movie is it's style. It takes a few minutes to get used to the pseudo-film noire feel and the interesting camera work. In the end you may feel as though you've been watching an episode of The Twilight Zone, or Tales From the Dark Side. Welcome this feeling- it is the only way to really embrace the computer enhanced darkness that fills this movie.
For the most part the acting is solid. Thomas Jane is pulling double duty as both lead actor and director, a difficult task for anyone (watch almost any Branagh film), and in this case it works. You can tell he feels very comfortable working with his surroundings, co-stars and cameras. Lauren German never really seems to find her stride in this movie but I'm willing to blame the writer for never making any very solid decisions as to her character. And Ron Perlman is just sort of there, being Ron Perlman. Which is fine, if you like Ron Perlman.
The music isn't the best but what was written for the movie works well within the movie. If the computer enhanced darkness and story don't throw you off, the music isn't going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
I have a soft spot for this kind of film- indie-esquire, first time director, interesting story with certain, almost inexplicable, twists that are almost nuanced into the shots. I like this movie, but it's probably not going to appeal to the masses. If you want a big budget scary movie with Thomas Jane and a satisfying ending that wraps up all events in the movie into a nice little explained bow, rent The Mist. If you want something a little more offbeat with a unique vision from a first time director, try Dark Country.
Silent Hill (2006)
Good Direction Leads to Nearly Perfect Adaptation
Video game to movie adaptations are very rarely as successful as one would hope. For the most part I blame the directors of these movies, especially Uwe Boll, for their lack of adherence to what makes the games so enthralling. Christophe Gans, however, adheres almost perfectly to the roots of the Silent Hill video games. The use of suspense and sound combined with eerily lit surroundings had me on the edge of my seat the entire movie, and his decision to use actors in latex costumes as opposed to Computer Generated Images is something that I applaud him for. There some touch ups done to the creatures with the use of computers, but the effect one can achieve from the use of actual people playing these creatures is phenomenal. The imagination shown in this movie was also a wonder- there were two particular deaths which were so well done that my comrades and I lept from our seats crying out exclamations not suitable for children.
There were a few minor things that were not "perfect" in this film. For instance the subplot featuring Sean Bean did not add much to the film, but on the other hand it didn't really take away either. I suppose one can only blame the studio for this- as I understand it they rejected the original script because there were no male leads.
Even the end credits adhered closely to the roots of Silent Hill- there were parts that actually looked just like the video games, and considering how far some of the games have advanced technically this is not a bad thing. What we have here is a wonderfully realized movie, and an absolutely perfect adaptation of one of the most popular survival horror titles of all time. In short, if you want a good horror movie, a perfect video game adaptation, an example of how to make the most effective movie creatures you can or just a pleasant way to kill a few hours, Silent Hill is what you need to see.
Saw II (2005)
The script carries itself despite sub par acting.
Writing, filming and producing a sequel to a film that is a surprise hit is always difficult. Doing it in under one year is even more challenging. Making it as good as the first film and in some ways better is nearly impossible, and I am pleased to say it was done.
The script is fully capable of carrying itself without brilliant acting. At times the acting seemed contrived and almost forced, with obvious exceptions from Tobin Bell and occasionally Shawnee Smith. It seemed to in many ways prove David Mamet right when he said that the actors job is to just say the lines and the script, if it is good, will tell the story itself. It does. Lacking the complete element of surprise of the first film the writers of this script, while maintaining the conventions of the previous movie, do an excellent job of adding in twists and will keep you guessing on your first run through it.
Tobin Bell is the one actor I appreciated in this movie and I may also be able to attribute much of that to the character he plays. On the whole the majority of the acting in this movie seemed to be at just above the level of a decent Haunted House tour. Not a good tour, a decent one. However the spectacle of gore and blood and the myriad of ways available for the characters to hurt, maim and kill each other will keep your mind off their performances and on keeping your popcorn down. It delivers everything and more that you can come to expect from this franchise.
If you enjoyed the first movie then you will not be disappointed with this one. You may even become giddy. If you did not enjoy the first one you will not enjoy the second one. Well, you might if the first one was just ruined for you and that took you out of it. At any rate I can assure you it is worth the cost of admission.
Oh yes, there will be blood.
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Sequel Lacks Originality and Charm of First Film
Having enjoyed House of 1000 Corpses more than any other horror movie I have ever seen I went to see Devil's Rejects with very high expectations from Zombie. I was very disappointed. The use of strong language, which was employed wonderfully in the first film, was over used and eventually completely superfluous to the film itself. And while the violence was as brutal as you would expect from Zombie it seems his imagination ran dry in this second film. You can only be shocked so many times by the sight of a fleshy human mask. Even the characters were not as involving or interesting as they had been in the first film. If it had not been for Sid Haig giving us the Captain Spaulding we came to love from the first movie, it would have been completely worthless. Portions of the film seem to drag on endlessly, especially the scene with the movie expert rattling on and on about the Marx Brothers. I left the theatre feeling almost cheated; the invincible and completely insane characters, which were charming in the first film, had become these motiveless violent foul-mouthed vigilantes that I was loath to watch for two hours. In summation, Rob Zombie took a wonderful cult horror movie and added to it an insidious sequel that is not worth the price of admission. Wait for the DVD, then find a coupon for a free rental is my suggestion.
This movie calls for widely spread rock with a fifty percent chance of roll. Hilarious!
Will Ferrall is a good reason to see this movie. The rest of the cast is an even better reason to stay and watch. Ferrall gives an excellent performance, genuinely hilarious and is supported by co-stars who are at times funnier than even he is. This movie is a pure comedy- it's sole purpose in life is to make people laugh, and the entire theater was near tears with laughter. Critics may do what they do best, and overlook some of the more fantastical scenes, and mock the violence which is used wonderfully to make one of the funniest scenes in the movie, but this is what you would call a must see. There's even little stuff to pick up on, even a West Side Story reference if you can catch it. This movie has an incredible cast, huge laughs, and not a scene goes by where you won't burst into laughter for one reason or another. It is a very good movie.