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I liked the horror film The Pact very much, but when I found out about the making of a sequel, I decided to have low expectations for it, because sequels are rarely at the same level (let's not even say "surpass") the original film. Unfortunately, The Pact II didn't end up being an exception. The screenplay is pathetic, some performances are horrible, and co- directors Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath couldn't create any suspense or terror. Camilla Luddington brings a decent performance in the leading character despite how poorly written her role is, but Scott Michael Foster, who plays her boyfriend, lacks of any conviction and presence, while Patrick Fischler, as a profiler from the FBI, ends up being laughable due to his forced intensity and "attitude". Caity Lotz, the leading actress of the first film, comes back in this sequel for 15 or 20 minutes, but she isn't given too much to do. In conclusion, The Pact II is an atrocious horror film, and my suggestion is definitely for you to watch the original The Pact if you haven't yet.
Nobody would have imagined the fact that the original Wrong Turn would initiate a prolific horror franchise. My favorite film from this saga so far is Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, because it displayed narrative innovation, good doses of black humor and big quantities of gore. After that one, we have had films which go from the decent (Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings) to the bad (Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines), but I think Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort is definitely the worst film in this franchise so far. The screenplay from this movie quickly derails, and it fragments the story into boring and poorly connected slopes, which are focused on such hollow and hateful characters that they didn't inspire any empathy or interest. And the villains are as insipid as the victims, besides of the fact that the gore is scarce and not very realistic. And finally, my opinion about Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort decayed even more due to a horrible scene with a deer, which I would like to think it was a special effect, even though I doubt it (as I said in other occasion, shooting in East Europe far from from North American laws promotes this kind of abuse). In conclusion, Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort is a pathetic horror film, and I recommend you not to waste your time and your money in this piece of junk.
It was a pity to see a good actor like Pierce Brosnan wasted during his James Bond period. The films in which he participated (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day) were among the worst ones of the franchise, not because of him, but because of weak directions and poor screenplays which didn't make any effort to rescue the character from the self-parody it had fallen into. Fortunately, on the other side of the coin, Brosnan has also participated in a few excellent espionage films (The Tailor of Panama, The Ghost Writer). The film The November Man is another espionage film in Brosnan's filmography, but it didn't leave me very satisfied due to the various weaknesses from the screenplay. The November Man starts well, with an enigmatic woman who knows too much, some international intrigue and a sly Russian villain with a wide motivation in order to erase his turbid past. However, after the first half hour, things get more improbable with every new scene, and eventually degenerate into a parade of clichés which leave the world of espionage aside in order to show us trite action sequences and absurd twists which wouldn't have been out of place in any of those bad James Bond films I previously mentioned. What makes The November Man moderately entertaining is the solid performances from Brosnan, who brings charisma and credibility to the leading role, Bill Smitrovich, who shows conviction and has a good chemistry with Brosnan, and Amila Terzimehic, who manages to take the biggest advantage of her character despite her short screen-time. Unfortunately, Luke Bracey feels bland and not very credible as the main character's opponent. In conclusion, I can give a slight recommendation to The Novemeber Man, because it managed to keep me moderately entertained despite its mediocrity. James Bond betrayed Brosnan, but that makes revenge sweeter, even though not very satisfactory.
The most commented thing about Boyhood was the ambitious strategy to shoot it through 12 years in order to reflect the characters' real growth, particularly the one from the protagonist Mason Evans. On the beginning of the film, he's 6 years old, and through Boyhood, we see him mature until he's 18 years old, sharing representative moments in the development of his family, but they are not necessarily big and apparatus events... just the small details and turns of the destiny which forge his character and outline his future. The result is fascinating, distilling the old "slice of life" concept into something so real, intense and emotional that it's difficult to describe the experience. I don't know what kind of pact with the devil director Richard Linklater made in order to find actor Ellar Coltrane, on whom he bet the film's success. He had to be a good actor since his childhood, keeping like that during his adolescence until becoming an adult. However, Coltrane brings a wonderful performance, and he has a perfect chemistry with the rest of the cast. Like the title suggests, Boyhood is subject to the kid/teenager/young adult Mason's point of view, but it has an extensive cast who made a perfect work during the 12 years of shooting. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette occupy their roles with absolute naturalness, and they credibly transmit the evolution of adults who were parents when they were too young, and had to learn some tough lessons during their lives. Lorelei Linklater plays Mason's sister, and the film would have probably been equally interesting if it had been "Girlhood", because her performance is as honest and credible as Coltrane's. I would also like to mention some supporting actors who leave their mark with brief but excellent performances: Marco Perella, Jenni Tooley and Zoe Graham. So, Boyhood is a simultaneously intimate and epic film, not because of the scale of its production, but because of the ambition of its narrative. And it doesn't only tell us the story of a family, but it also reveals Linklater's growth as a director. Boyhood resonates with the echoes of other excellent films from his filmography: the warm romanticism from Before Sunrise; the juvenile frustration from SubUrbia; the philosophical stances from Waking Life; and the enthusiasm of School of Rock for modern music as a valid artistic discipline (well, I might be stretching the analogy a bit with this last one). After saying such many compliments, I have to point out the fact that I would have occasionally preferred a more concrete dramatic arc. In some ways, Boyhood is like the sitcom Seinfeld: "about nothing". And even though "nothing" ends up being "a lot", I would have occasionally preferred kind of a more conventional structure in order to give more shape to the narrative. Nevertheless, Boyhood is a fascinating and unique experience which deserves a very enthusiastic recommendation.
Many movies have been made about the internals of Hollywood cinematographic industry; some of them were comedies (State and Main, The Big Picture), other ones were dramas (Sunset Boulevard, Somewhere), and other ones were surrealistic thrillers (Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire). The film Maps to the Stars combines all those genres, and the result is a disturbing, raw and funny experience... which is probably too close to reality. David Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors, even though I kinda miss him in the horror genre, which is the one that made him famous. However, his "serious" filmography keeps the characteristic analysis of individuals deeply involved in micro-universes of drama and dysfunction, where there aren't good or evil people, but just variable degrees of mania or obsession, such as the mobsters from Eastern Promises or the repressed Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method. Combining and expanding those themes, Cronenberg visits Hollywood in Maps to the Stars with his habitual sharpness, not in order to seduce us with a tale of sex and drugs (even though they are present in this film), but in order to explore the neurosis and insecurities from individuals infected by fame and deceived by their out-sized egos with an impersonal precision. The material leaves the opportunity to display the most sordid drama, and those who prefer to see Maps to the Stars like that will be left satisfactorily scandalized. There's also a wide opportunity for the satire, something which screenwriter Bruce Wagner took advantage of in order to add such cynical humor that it borders on the aggression. However, Wagner shows compassion for the tormented characters. Yes, they might be monsters, but not because of their own decision, but because of the toxic environment in which they have to survive, and for the constant consensual hallucination of imaginary talent and impunity which encourages the industry for the sake of money, the ratings or the simple power. Those are truly powerful drugs, at the difference of the ephemeral chemicals which only invade reality for a moment. The performances from Maps to the Stars are brilliant, as well as the cinematography and the taciturn music. On the negative side, I have to mention the sub-plot of the limousine driver played by Robert Pattinson, which doesn't add too much to the plot (even though it becomes an important catalyst at the ending). Don't misunderstand me; Pattinson makes an excellent work in that role, but the character feels kinda superficial. Another con I would like to point out is a particular scene with a dog. Nevertheless, Maps to the Stars is quite an interesting film which combines the morbidity from a tabloid newspaper with the sober objectivity of a psychological treaty. My favorite film from Cronenberg's "serious" filmography keeps being Eastern Promises, but I liked Maps to the Stars pretty much, and I consider it worthy of a recommendation.
Sabotage is like an over the top parody of the '80s action cinema, except that director David Ayer (whose previous film was the excellent End of Watch) and the cast take it very seriously; and I don't know whether that makes it more entertaining or more ridiculous. The characters are so tough that they reach caricature levels... literally. Their laughable attitudes and extortionate dialogs seem taken from animated satires such as Archer and Venture Bros. None of them has deepness or identity beyond their physical appearance: the bearded one, the butch woman, the "corncrows", etc. The violence is brutal and gratuitous, rejoicing in multiple shootouts, bloody fights and juicy headshots. And, needless to say, all the agents are rebels who work under their own rules. Despite everything, I have to respect the inflexible seriousness and conviction from Sabotage, even when it provokes involuntary laughs (something which is frequent). And I also have to say I found its screenplay interesting and well structured (even though it's full of holes), with moderately unexpected twists and agile dynamics which allow us to see glimpses of the characters' twisted psychology. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his usual stuff in the leading role of Sabotage, even though he's looking quite old nowadays (he should ask for some advice to Sylvester Stallone or Tom Cruise). Sam Worthington plays a supporting and passive (at least inside this film's standards) role; it seems that he won't end up being the Hollywood star he seemed he was going to be some years ago. Harold Perrineau brings a decent performance as the only remotely normal human being from the film, even though he doesn't share any scenes with Josh Holloway, so the mini-reunion of Lost I was expecting didn't happen. But my favorite performance from Sabotage was Olivia Williams' as the tough (of course) agent Brentwood. The attitude and intensity she brings to that role are perfect. In conclusion, Sabotage isn't a very original or memorable film, but I found it a competent action film whose disproportionate violence and cartoonish tone make it an entertaining experience, despite the excesses and inconsistencies which plague the screenplay.
It's not very common to see an anthology film not belonging to the horror or thriller genres. However, I'm glad to say that the format works pretty well for a tragicomedy... or whatever way you want to classify Relatos Salvajes, because its combination of drama, violence and black humor rejects easy labels, while leaving the spectator satisfied in all those levels. Director and screenwriter Damián Szifrón applies ingenuity to this eclectic combination of tales, whose thematic variety builds an interesting cultural tapestry which isn't only limited to Argentina, because the ethic and ideological conflicts from the characters are universal. The performances are excellent, and the member of the cast who stands out the most is the great Ricardo Darín. A common problem in many anthologies is the fact that the short running time from each segment avoids an adequate establishment of characters and situations, but that wasn't the case in Relatos Salvajes; despite their briefness, the stories feel complete in their structure and development, showing narrative efficiency and a good dominion over the cinematographic language. And the technical aspects are perfect, from Javier Juliá's cinematography to Gustavo Santaolalla's incidental music. I would like to analyze each segment from Relatos Salvajes, but I'm afraid of revealing too much; so, I will only say that my favorite segment was "Bombita", while "Hasta que la Muerte Nos Separe" was a bit longer than it should have and has some forced details in its story... even though its farcical tone and bittersweet ending work as an appropriate conclusion of the whole film. In conclusion, I wouldn't consider Relatos Salvajes an excellent movie, but I liked it pretty much, and I definitely consider it worthy of a recommendation. Oh, and I would also like to mention the initial credits, which are simple, but full of meaning.
It seems hugely ambitious to resurrect the biblical films from yesteryear, but director Ridley Scott had already shown his expertise with "peplum" cinema in Gladiator. And Exodus: Gods and Kings ended up being a very entertaining film which tells us an epic religious story with a modern sensibility, where the mystical aspect is kept on the periphery, always present but open to interpretation. Christian Bale brings an excellent performance as Moses, taking total possession of his character and perfectly navigating the thin line between divine prophet and fanatic partisan. Unfortunately, various supporting characters aren't well developed by the screenplay, and as a consequence, some brilliant actors (such as Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley) are wasted in their roles. Joel Edgerton makes a solid work as Rhamses, credibly expressing his character's internal evolution through the story, equally produced by the pressure of power and the arrogance of feeling himself a virtual human God with absolute power over his people. Special mention: the kid Isaac Andrews, playing an enigmatic role I won't reveal, even though he steals every scene he's in. Needless to say, we can't have a biblical epic without an impressive visual style, and Exodus: Gods and Kings completely fulfills with that requirement, but always keeping a good balance between spectacle and realism. Unlike the mediocre Noah, which had had an excessive use of digital flourish, Scott keeps the images as mundane as possible, and as a consequence, the extraordinary work from the studio Double Negative feels like a genuine complement of the story. The views of Egypt during the peak of its prosperity are amazing, but not very striking. And the same applies to the more "mythological" elements from the film, such as the plagues and the "split of waters". In other words, everything is seen as it would be in the real world... or at least, as "real" as we can expect in a Hollywood interpretation of the Bible. On the negative side, the emotions from Exodus: Gods and Kings feel a bit distant. There isn't much dramatic weight in the Hebrew Exodus or in Moses' internal growth. Even the conflict he has with Rhamses (his cousin) lacks of strength, and when the catharsis moment comes, it feels a bit forced as an emotional climax. However, I prefer a kinda cold film, instead of an excessively sentimental or falsely cloying one, something which would have been fatal in a film like this. In conclusion, Exodus: Gods and Kings kept me very entertained, and I almost didn't feel its 150-minute running time. I'm not interested in watching it again, but it was quite a pleasant experience, and I consider it worthy of a recommendation.
Director, screenwriter and actor Jon Favreau decided to make Chef, a film in which he travels through the United States satisfying his obvious gastronomic hobby. The result of that personal whim is an entertaining film, despite the seasoning of clichés from the kinda indigestible screenplay (ugh... I promise not to use any more culinary references in this review). The "crisis of the middle age" subject isn't very new, and it has been better handled in other films, either dramas (American Beauty) or comedies (The Hammer). In Chef, it is used to lubricate the gears of the story, but it doesn't feel particularly credible. And, well, that applies to many elements from the film, from the chef's "friend with benefits" to the forced sitcom homilies which solve everything during the ending. There's a persistent artificiality contaminating the whole movie, and even though that's not enough to ruin the experience, it "took me out" of the film in various occasions, invalidating various dramatic moments which lost impact and credibility. Fortunately, the agile direction and solid performances were enough to keep me entertained during this film. Favreau makes a good work in the leading role, and he's well complemented by Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofía Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., John Leguizamo and Oliver Platt. I would also like to mention the perfect performance from the kid Emjay Anthony, who displays an exact combination of maturity and innocence and has a good chemistry with Favreau. So, despite its rancid narrative ingredients... (no; sorry, I can't say that). Despite its worn-out formula and pre-fabricated situations, Chef is an entertaining film, and I consider it worthy of a moderate recommendation.
Even though I'm not a collector and I don't have a particular affection for the VHS format, I have witnessed the emergence of the videocassette, the video stores and the amazing novelty of watching films at our homes, something which seemed impossible in the times of Super 8 cameras. The protagonists of the documentary Rewind This! are authentic connoisseurs, collectors and many times key figures in this technological revolution, and we can enjoy their anecdotes thanks to director Josh Johnson, who traveled around the world (well, United States, Canada and Japan) recollecting testimony from "normal" famous people, such as Atom Egoyan, Cassandra Peterson and Mamoru Oshii, as well as from authentic psychotronic celebrities, such as Frank Henenlotter, Roy Frumkes and the late Mike Vraney. We can also witness pleasant interviews to people like Lloyd Kaufman, Charles Band and David Schmoeller. But the most sincere and emotive words come from the fans who don't only share their memories, but also illustrate the genuine importance of the VHS format as a cultural archive in danger of extinction due to the natural deterioration of the magnetic tape. For better or for worse, during the boom of the home video, thousands of films were exclusively edited on VHS, and not all of them had enough popularity in order to resurrect on DVD years later. This means that a significant part of "B" cinema will get lost forever in a few years from now, because so far, there isn't anybody like Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola taking care of their preservation, like they are currently doing with the old films shot on celluloid. On the other hand, some people will say that films such as Ninja the Protector or Santa with Muscles don't deserve to be preserved, and that in fact, it would be better for humanity if they end up becoming semi-magnetic jelly... but those are obviously not the people this documentary was made for. So, I found Rewind This! a very entertaining documentary, and I recommend it not only to those who share the memories of that era, but also to modern lovers of cinema convinced that "cinematographic art" possesses enough categories in order to admit those modest films which defined a time, even though its popularity has dissipated through the years.
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