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22 reviews in total 
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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
An interesting attempt to capitalize on the genre, but adds up to a lot less, 9 January 2011

I'm a huge fan of the first "Paranormal Activity" but I love B-movies and especially horror films so I gave this a shot. Granted, it's of course no masterpiece, but The Asylum's more or less direct rip-off of the "found footage" hit has its moments.

The film begins when Thomas invests in a few small home camcorders to videotape the odd and supposedly paranormal events that have been plaguing the house ever since his mother's attempt at communicating with their recently deceased father. The entity has had a particular inclination for terrorizing his sister, Samantha, who bears an intolerable likeness to Katie Featherston in terms of hairstyle and large endowment (which also of course get more screen time in this film than P.A.).

Beyond that, the film is more or less a cookie cutter copy of the original's even most minute details: the night-time photography, the possession scenes, the cinematography, the "low rumbling" sound when the spirit is present, the title cards for the night scenes, the idea that leaving the house will do nothing as the entity will "follow" the cursed, attempts at contacting a demonologist, footprint markings, you name it.

With that said though, this film does have its gems. This film is definitely more visual and graphic in its depiction of the entities' activities, which is in a way good and also bad. It's nice to see that they didn't skimp on special effects as what you actually see on camera is more interesting and in a way, scarier (one night in particular). However, it's also a lot less subtle than "Paranormal Activity," as the long, patient scenes of waiting for something to happen are less common. A lot of the original film's subtlety is sacrificed for immediate scares and it works against it rather than for it.

The bigger issue with this film is that, while the acting is not nearly as bad as one might think given The Asylum is behind it, the characters are a lot less likable and developed than the original, if you can actually believe that to be possible. Beyond milking the loss of their dad and the direness of the situation for all its worth, the characters are completely one- dimensional and the beautiful and entertaining chemistry between Katie and Micah is nowhere to be found. The scenes add up more like a series of irrelevant moments and transitions are far less smooth. The ending in particular is fairly abrupt and leaves you with a sense of complete and total confusion.

Also, the camera-work and editing in "Paranormal Activity" was far more subtle in the ways that it made you feel like it was legitimately a 'found footage' film (while the sequel did indeed break that formula). Beyond the fact that the multiple cameras break the laws of the film not feeling "edited," there are multiple scenes where any audience member could discern that there is legitimately no reason for the camera to be running at that given time and that certain angles feel very forced or deliberately edited, which unfortunately takes you out of the moment and works against the "mockumentary" style.

Overall, it's not bad, but it's certainly not as good as the original. Good for fans of the genre and style but not much else.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Possibly the best horror film of the decade, 21 December 2009

My biggest recommendation to the movie-watcher interested in seeing Paranormal Activity is to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do yourself the service of knowing as little about it as you possibly can before going to see it. I know that we live in a society where trailers basically give away the movie before it is even in theaters and where film industry executives will exploit this to try to connive as many people into spending their money on a movie as possible, but there is something to be said for being pleasantly (or frighteningly) surprised. I had the pleasure of being one of a select group of people who knew almost nothing about this film before seeing it and if you go in with an open mind and an active imagination it will be a rewarding and supremely fun experience.

Paranormal Activity is a faux-documentary about Micah and Katie, a young couple living together in San Diego who begin videotaping their daily and especially nocturnal activities in an effort to try to capture some bizarre, possibly paranormal occurrences that have been plaguing their picture-perfect suburban home. The film is shot entirely by the characters themselves and the audience is led to believe that this is entirely "found footage" after the events in the film (a la Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, etc.). What begins as an investigation of the unknown spirals downward into a truly terrifying and powerful film of relentless suspense and beautifully slow-paced shocks that send shivers up your spine.

The film is an exercise in the old virtue that "less is more." While this technique has been used by countless films such as Jaws, Alien, and Blair Witch where the trick is to show as little of the antagonist as possible, Paranormal manages to perfectly utilizing the audiences' imagination to fill in the gaps with what they really don't see. Consequently, what you DO see is just enough to make it plausible and more than enough to scare the hell out of you.

There are any number of things I could say about this movie- how likable the characters are, how completely convincing these performances by complete no-name actors are, how it is one of the few "found footage" movies where it is entirely believable that the characters would've actually shot everything in the film, how it was made for less than $20,000 and in a few weeks became the most profitable film ever produced, and how this incredible little movie with its low budget effects managed to make it onto my very short list of films that completely, legitimately freaked me the hell out. This film is evidence that even in our over- saturated market for blood-and-guts slasher films that try to scare us with cheap shocks, stock sound effects, and CGI, this is one movie that, with its old-school creeps and chills, can make the most inane thing- a bedroom, a hallway, a suburban American home at night, legitimately frightening in a way that is more personal and disturbing than many other films have ever dared to go.

So that's it. And please... watch it in the dark, with the sound turned up and lots of bass, for maximum enjoyment ;)

The Messenger (2009/I)
60 out of 79 people found the following review useful:
An even-handed study of the war at home, 18 October 2009

I saw The Messenger (as well as Oren Moverman and Ben Foster luckily) at the 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival and can say sincerely that I was captivated and moved by it for the majority of its runtime. No matter what your background or stance on the war, you need not worry because it is not a movie that attempts to have an opinion, but merely one that captures a different kind of war- one between civilians and the military, between following procedure and following what you believe.

In his last three months of service, Officer Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), is assigned to be a messenger to next-of-kins who have died in Iraq alongside the elder Lieutenant Anthony Stone (Woody Harrelson). He struggles with being the bearer of bad news to heartbroken parents and wives, delivering the messages to people of all ages, ethnicities, and social classes. His work becomes compromised, however, when complications with his girlfriend arise and he becomes involved with one of the widows, challenging his ethical and moral considerations. He plays the younger, more vulnerable to Harrelson's gruff, uncompromising, and often cold ethic.

The film is, in a word, compassionate, as it is almost entirely character-driven. The chemistry between Foster and Harrelson is incredible, demonstrating talent beyond the range of what one would expect for both actors. I would be very surprised if either one of these two were not nominated for an Academy Award. The cinematography is also very unusual, filmed in long takes, letting scenes unfold, rather than wide/medium/close- up/reverse formula, and heavily based on improvisation.

All in all, The Messenger is a touching story about the differences we can make in others' lives simply by being the right person to break the news and having an open heart. It's a tribute to the men and women in arms without letting political differences get in the way. A story of the war at home shared alike by civilians and military, it's hard not to feel emotionally affected.

13 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Unexpectedly deep, but lacks focus, 24 April 2009

Previews and marketing for The Soloist give a very different image of what the film actually is about. Watching the trailer, one would think, "Oh, here's another 'feel good white-guy- meets-black-guy movie where the black guy is sincere but troubled and the white guy wants to help him but can't relate to him and has a short temper but it's okay because in the end they both learn from each others' differences' with a musical backdrop thrown in just for artistic interest- lovely! Exactly what I need to watch to feel better on a Saturday evening!"

The reality is in fact the opposite- the story ends on a somber note, occasionally plunging into melodrama, but the 'feel-good' market is indeed misleading. This is a movie that wants, tries desperately, to touch on some very serious issues, but unfortunately causes itself to become undone as a movie.

The story revolves around an LA Times columnist named Steve Lopez who stumbles across n eccentric and mentally ill homeless musician, Nathaniel, who is a musical prodigy and a Julliard dropout. At first obsessed with the story, Steve inevitably becomes involved in Nathaniel's personal life while dealing with his own issues with his ex-wife and his job.

That's all you really need to know, but even if I wanted to try to explain it further, that would prove rather difficult because the film itself doesn't even really know what it's about- is it about finding the kindness to be someone's friend, the homeless crisis in LA, dealing with people with schizophrenia, pursuing your dreams, coming to terms with not living your dreams, or even more basic, is it about Nathaniel or is it about Steve? The movie doesn't know as it bombards you with as much information as you could possibly need to know about any of that, whether its via flashback sequences about Nathaniel's past, moments where "the voices" invade Nathaniel's head and freak him out, overly dramatic scenes involving policemen arresting homeless people, an excessive amount of really irrelevant time in Steve's office and about a head injury of his, and multiple musical montage scenes to Beethoven, one involving helicopter shots and pigeons, and another involving an uninterrupted three minutes of color splashing across the screen rhythmically.

With that said, it's very well-acted. When director Joe Wright isn't throwing as many different things together in the editing room as he possibly can, Robert Downery Jr. and Jamie Foxx put together a fantastic on-screen duo that actually manages to defy the clichés that one might expect. Jamie Foxx especially makes the character his own to the extent that he is almost unrecognizable, both in speech, mannerism, and physical appearance from anything else he's ever done. The two of them together make the film memorable and it is their lack of ability to understand one another that essential makes the best drama of the film. Without it, everything else going on in Steve's life- the quest for the next big story and the problems with the ex-wife, falls flat of any real dramatic significance.

The film wants to be so much. It wants to be so much so badly it feels like it doesn't even care if it's a movie at all. It has moments of ingenuity, but it could've been so much more powerful if it were just a story about either one man's love for music or one man's choice to change someone else's life rather than trying to throw as many different punches as possible.

WALL·E (2008)
3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
One of the best animated films in recent years, 26 June 2008

For adults and children alike, WALL-E is an absolute necessity. This is proof that Pixar is not losing their touch and still has the ability to make a beautifully animated, sweet, fun, socially relevant, and laugh-out-loud funny piece of visual storytelling.

The story revolves around a small robot, a showtunes-obsessed and sentimental WALL-E unit, designed to clean up and organize the trash on the completely lifeless planet Earth hundreds of years in the future. His curiosity for life in the past leads him to discovering a lone plant specimen under a pile of trash. Soon enough, a robot unit from the stars falls to Earth to research and retrieve it and WALL-E finds himself partaking in a strange, intergalactic adventure that determines the future of planet Earth and mankind.

All of the digital characters are immediately lovable, actually the robots more than their human counterparts (adding to the insightful but not condescending social commentary about a possible future for the human race) and there isn't a moment wasted on any of their screen time. The Pixar team has an unmistakably spot-on eye for great detail, humor, and just downright cuteness in virtually every scene. There's something for everyone: comedy, drama, action, science fiction, even romance. I'm a big fan of animation and cinema from all over the world and I sincerely think WALL-E stands out as possibly the best film of the year thus far. It's definitely a must-see.

136 out of 160 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining, intelligent, and surprisingly humanistic, a very well done film, 2 April 2008

My biggest complaint with Morgan Spurlock's last film SUPER SIZE ME was the inevitable feeling that you always got when a director narrates/stars in his own work: the risk that what he says and does can intentionally or unintentionally come off as really presumptuous, sometimes resulting talking down to an audience rather than educating or inspiring. This is even harder when making a film to appeal to a broad demographic as you often have to entertain rather than provide strict facts and it is a problem that documentary filmmakers from Werner Herzog to, most obviously, Michael Moore have faced. However, Morgan has found a fantastic balance: WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN? is a near-perfect mix of style.

In the beginning of the film we learn Morgan's wife is pregnant, prompting him to ask himself, "How can I allow my child to grow up in such an unsafe world?" Though definitely tongue-in-cheek, this average and perfectly legitimate question leads him to the question of global terrorism and he decides to do what anyone in any big budget American action film does: a stupid ordinary guy fights back. Using his wife's pregnancy as a backdrop, he travels to Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and finally Pakistan to attempt to come to the conclusion of where Osama bin Laden is.

As an American college student, I can safely say that I am aware that the United States' foreign policy has not exactly put us in a good image for the rest of the world. Morgan Spurlock investigates what seemingly completely different cultures think of us and attempts to break the barriers of what common American propaganda has taught us about the Middle East. He interviews civilians, military officers, poor people, rich people, various relatives of Osama and other known al Qaeda operatives, government officials, heads of departments, and just people on the street to try to understand why the so-called "war on terror" is really as ridiculous as it appears to be. He tries to dispel common stereotypes about Americans while at the same time learning more about cultures and religions that we ourselves grossly stereotype to learn that we're really not all that different.

The film's greatest strength is the fact that Morgan learns with the audience. It does not feel like he is preaching to you, but you and him are both on this journey, from speaking to the Jews about Palestinians and the Palestinians about Jews, to finding relatives of known terrorists who watch professional wrestling and having dinner with farmers in the ghettos of Iraq while discussing raising kids.

It helps illuminates one of the world's greatest disappointments: how the people who are the most extreme and the most negative are the only people we care to think about, how the moderates majority's opinions are not represented, and ultimately how people are alike all over despite cultural barriers and popular stereotypes. All we are asked to find out if Osama bin Laden really is the most dangerous man in the world? Is Osama really the problem or is he the symptom of a bigger problem? Do the people we think like him even really like him?

It is a very good balance of an entertaining, mass-appealing film that neither dumbs down its material nor treats its audience like idiots or the director like a genius. It is also a very humanistic film, showing how the many good people are all too often overshadowed by the few evil ones who just happen to have more power and influence. I hope that more Americans, particularly ones constantly fed gross stereotypes and lies by their government get to see this film.

Teeth (2007/I)
130 out of 206 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing even for low expectations, 22 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The general formula for getting a new movie recognized in America nowadays tends to be by means of a clever gimmick or craft in advertising and hype (Cloverfield, The 300, etc.). Teeth is an interesting addition to this formula, as it is a B-horror movie that is generally marketed to an indie comedy audience. Iif you're interested in seeing it it's almost guaranteed you know what it's about before walking into the theater. Unfortunately for Teeth, it manages to give you just that and absolutely nothing else for 90 minutes, and I mean that in the worst possible way:

The movie is about a teenage girl who discovers teeth in her vagina.

That's it. You can basically write the rest of the story yourself.

Yep, there's pretty much nothing else to the movie beyond that. The film milks its premise of the audience knowing what's going to come for nearly 45 minutes before anything involving the plot actually happens. By the time she discovers her problem, half of the movie is gone and any opportunity for interesting character development, sexual commentary, dramatic tension, or remote intelligence is thrown out the window.

Teeth milks as many plot devices for cheap comedic payoff as possible as well: the young, innocent Christian girl who takes a vow of chastity, the boyfriend who wants her to break that vow, the difficulties between being either a prude or a slut in high school... without ruining whatever story there actually remains to ruin. There's a subplot involving her negligent and completely cookie-cutter character of a brother being a jerk to her parents as well, but it fails to develop that at all for the sake of throwing in more jokes about biting and vaginas than Mr. Freeze has jokes about ice in Batman & Robin.

By the time her character is thrown any interesting development and drama in the way of this bizarre plot, it's already turned into a generic rape/revenge B-movie and the credits have come up the screen. I've heard some women say they felt "liberated" by this movie and to those women I would advise them to seek therapy as soon as possible. To say that is no better than saying as a sexually frustrated male I felt "liberated" watching pornography, which of course cannot be said due to political correctness.

It could've been an interesting study of womanhood, of growing up, of men's sexual fears and the relationship between loving someone and having sex with them... but it's not. It's a sleazy, stupid exploitation flick that doesn't spare any opportunity to show its violent acts in gory detail. It also proves, sadly, that indie movies suffer from the same marketing gimmicks and worn-out clichés as mainstream movies. If you want something better but along similar thematic lines, I would recommend Hard Candy, Lady Vengeance, and of course the classic Virgin Spring. But please, avoid this at all costs unless you just enjoy dumb, sick thrills.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
All the world's a stage, 7 October 2007

'I Will Avenge You Iago!', a debut feature from director Zhenya Kiperman, is at once an entertaining, intelligent, heartfelt, and highly original study of how art can change peoples' lives. Simultaneously it is an interconnected drama and a quirky comedy, with some very notable acting, editing, and cinematography to boot.

The film is centered around a disillusioned and slightly psychotic young man who takes Shakespeare just a little too seriously when he attempts to murder the actor playing the villain Iago in Othello after the show. Meanwhile, the actor's wife returns to her home to find a mysterious woman in her apartment as the play director rehearses his newest work.

The humor is subtle and well-delivered while the overall message is quiet and meditative, but never failing to surprise. For those seeking good character-driven humor and a very original look at the art of theater and what it really means to 'act,' you will not be disappointed.

Wild Hogs (2007)
19 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
Extremely meh, 26 February 2007

While the premise is clever, the cast is great, and the trailer gives all indication of a highly amusing ensemble, middle-aged comedy I was not really impressed with Wild Hogs overall. This is one of those comedies where they save almost all of the good out-of-context humor for the trailer and practically give away the plot to draw you into the theater, but never really offer much more.

More or less the basic premise is your four, suburban, middle-aged men who have had a bike "gang" for a number of years coming to the revelation of the total monotony of their lives. They decide to take a few days away from their families and inhibitions to relive the dreams of their youth, and thus a classic road trip comedy ensues.

First off, if I have to give the movie any praise it should go towards the four leads. William H. Macy, John Travolta, Tim Allen, and Martin Lawrence, despite being limited by some terrible dialogue and cookie cutter characters, for the most part give hilarious performances and have great on-screen chemistry with one another. In the end this helps work it towards the classic "Don't let anyone get you down" message, but that's really all I can say on the positive side.

The script is downright terrible. Through a large percentage of the movie I was trying to determine whether it was edited by 50 people with totally opposing ideas and no skill in writing dialogue, or if it was never edited and no one noticed it was written by someone with no skill in writing dialogue. Many times characters' motives for certain actions are either completely unfounded, or instantly noticeable, yet still pounded to the point where "obvious" becomes an understatement. Many minor characters fail due to the disappointing platter of lines they've been given, a contributing factor to why this may be the worst performance of Ray Liotta's career.

It rakes in some laughs, sometimes pushing the PG-13 envelope to its limits in a fashion quite unusual for a film that could've easily gotten a PG rating, if not for its intentional marketing to the 30-55 demographic (the same as its characters) its intended to reach; not daringly offensive to receive an R, nor kiddie enough for a PG, but trying its hardest to be as watered-down PG-13 as possible with its share of aptly fitting racial remarks, homosexual undertones, crude sex humor, and sporadic profanity.

The movie has some very good comedic moments, however, some of which are surprisingly clever and well-executed, but many that fall victim to many Hollywood comedy stereotypes, such as the "One main character who does something that only he and the audience knows about and we will milk humor from this for the entire middle act" syndrome and various others including the romantic redemption for the geek and the token black guy.

Overall, if you want a socially acceptable, moderately funny, assembly line comedy with the inspirational message you will see in about 20 other mainstream releases this year, you won't be disappointed. If you're looking for absolutely anything more competent, you've come to the wrong place.

Dog Days (2001)
7 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Pretentious, dull, and the marks the death of all character development, 12 January 2007

Earlier today I got into an argument on why so many people complain about modern films in which I encountered a curious statement: "the character development in newer movies just isn't nearly as good or interesting as it used to be." Depending on the film(s) in question, this can be attributed to a number of things, sometimes generic special effects and plot-driven Hollywood garbage like War Of The Worlds, but in the case of over-the-top, uninteresting attempts at social commentary and a desperate struggle to put "art" back into cinema, it's movies like Dog Days that are to blame.

I normally have a very high tolerance for movies, no matter how dull or pointless I find them (ranging from good, long ones like Andrei Rublev and Dogville, to ones I've considered painful to sit through a la Alpha Dog and Wild Wild West). I shut this movie off 45 minutes in, which is 30 minutes more than I actually should have. I wasn't interested in any of the characters whatsoever and found nothing substantial beyond a thin veil of unfocused pessimism. In an attempt to say something about the dregs of society, this film too easily falls into being self-indulgent, trite, and exploitative in a very sincere sense. Granted, I've seen many disturbing movies on the same subject, but there are so many better films out there about depressing, pathetic people (Happiness, Gummo, Kids, Salo, Storytelling, Irreversible) that actually contain characters of great emotional depth and personality. Dog Days had none more than an eighth grader's distaste for society, choosing to ignore any true intelligence about the way people actually are, and instead choosing to be a dull, awful, and hopelessly unoriginal attempt at a work of "art." This isn't a characterization of the unknown or a clever observation into the dregs of society, it's just boring and nothing worth caring about.

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