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An anthology is the sum of its parts, so how does this particular set
Novice: A young man with a troubled past is left to live among monks, where karma catches up to him. Interesting idea, but lacking in execution and a bit boring until the end. (5/10)
Ward: An injured teenager spends the night in a hospital room with a brain dead old man on a respirator who is slated to be taken off life support the next day. Spooky and violent, with a twist ending. (7/10)
Backpackers: My favorite of the bunch. Two young hitchhikers are picked up by two truckers with cargo more dangerous than any of them know. I'd love to see a full movie made from this one. (9/10)
Salvage: A dishonest car saleswoman had a terrifying night when one of her vehicles is returned by an angry customer and her own son disappears. A gruesome little ghost story, once again featuring karma as a main theme. (8/10)
In the End: A funny and subversive tale about the filming of one of those "spooky long-haired ghost girl" horror films that had been coming out of the east so frequently in the last 10+ years. (8.5/10)
Phobia 2 gets off to a rocky start, but overall it's an entertaining and varied mix of Thai horror.
I was thoroughly disappointed with the Clash of the Titans remake. It
was a dull, uninteresting slog of endlessly plodding action scenes and
tons of unmemorable CG effects being thrown at the viewer from every
angle as a poor substitute for excitement.
Thankfully, Wrath of the Titans manages to be a better movie than Clash in nearly every area. The story is basic but serviceable, with the father of the gods threatening to escape his prison and take out his vengeance on the earth. The gods themselves, weakened by lack of worship and divided by old conflicts, are powerless to face the danger. It falls to Perseus (Sam Worthington) and a small band or warriors to set things right.
The major improvement Wrath makes is that the action scenes and set pieces are much more exciting this time around. Whether chimera attack or the shifting, crushing walls of a labyrinth and the dangerous beast inside, I was never bored by what was happening on the screen. At the very least, this is a watchable fantasy action flick, which puts it above the first film. Greek mythology is so rich and dense that so much more could be done with the gods, monster and locales that Wrath of the Titans mines for material. Even as flawed as Immortals was, it certainly wasn't generic, which even this improved sequel doesn't totally escape until near the end. Still, whether you enjoyed or loathe the Clash of the Titans reboot, this one is better.
There's one big reason to watch Beach Spike, and that's if you want to
see some attractive Asian girls in bikinis playing volleyball, often in
slow motion. It does that very well: the rest is a mixed bag.
The movie tries to be be a romance/comedy/sports hybrid, a bit like Shaolin Soccer. Unfortunately, it's mediocre in almost all those areas. Especially the action scenes and volleyball matches, which should be the highlights of the movie. The women look great, but it's also obvious that they're not the volleyball experts that their characters are. Most of the matches look extremely staged and choreographed, though the final one is pretty intense. The story, about two girls playing to save their beach from being closed to build a resort, often strives to be sentimental, exciting or amusing, but the writing for the characters is so thin that all that tugging at our emotions just doesn't do much.
Still, Beach Spike is mostly light, fun, and very easy on the eyes. I finally got invested in the characters a bit at the end, and the predictability and slightness of the plot just didn't matter much anymore. Or maybe I was just distracted by how pretty Chrissie Chau, Theresa Fu and Jessica C. were. Take it for what it is, and Beach Spike isn't that bad. If you're not watching for the eye candy, you won't find much to keep your interest.
"You can't flee anymore. Not from your destiny."
Goemon is a fun, bloody martial arts epic. It's a story of betrayal and revenge, set after the death of Lord Nobunaga and (very) loosely based on the life of the real Ishikawa Goemon. Don't worry though, you don't have to be steeped in Japanese history to enjoy it.
I won't go into detail about the twisting, turning story. It's interesting enough, but many characters are introduced without much info or background. Luckily, it's easy to keep up with who's good and bad, and the central characters are fleshed out to an acceptable degree to make them matter to the audience.
The more divisive element of Goemon is the heavy use of special effects. Most of the sets and action are all CG, very much like Sucker Punch. And not as well done. While this gives Goemon a unique look quite different from the bold colors and elegant action of many modern martial arts epics, it also makes the movie look frantic and artificial. It's really like watching a video game, at times. That didn't bother me much as Goemon went on, but cleaner, better implemented special effects would have made this an even more enjoyable film. The costumes are great, though, which is always important in flicks like these.
I liked Goemon. It felt a bit long (the last half of the movie could have lost 10-15 minutes, easily), but I was never bored. The actors and actresses are nothing less than competent, even in some of the more over-the-top roles. And there are some very pretty actresses involved, if that kind of thing interests you (it does in my case). I recommend it to anyone who is fine with a more CG-heavy spin on historical Japanese fantasy warfare.
"And the queen realized if she wanted to remain the most beautiful in
all the land, Snow would have to do what snow does best. Snow would
have to fall."
I just didn't have very high expectations for Mirror Mirror. Lily Collins is a pretty little thing (and a good modern Snow White, it turns out) and Tarsem Singh's movies are always worth seeing for the visuals, if nothing else. However, early previews and trailers made this seem bland and not nearly as "guy-friendly" as the darker and impressively cast Snow White and the Huntsman. I'm pleased to say, though, that I enjoyed watching this whimsical comedy/fantasy.
It's fairly light-hearted, with frequent moments of humor and a story that's family-friendly. The basics of the Snow White fairy tale are present: there's a wicked (well, selfish, vain and mean might better words) queen/step-mother, a dashing prince (Arnie Hammer in a role that shows he has a flair for comedy), a poisoned apple, seven dwarfs, a magic mirror, and the beautiful and innocent Snow herself. I thought the cast worked well together, and there's a surprise waiting for those who don't look too closely at the cast list before watching the movie
The sets and costumes are as interesting and eye-catching as you'd probably expect. Tarsem, along with Wes Anderson, are two of today's directors that absolutely know how to enhance a movie through distinctive eye candy.
Mirror Mirror isn't a movie that takes itself too seriously. This isn't an epic, dark retelling of the classic tale, but it is a pretty and moderately fun flick to sit down and watch with the family. I wouldn't be surprised if the cast and crew had a good time making it, and there's a good chance you may feel the same way after watching it.
"No more screaming. No more running. It's time to die."
I Know What You Did Last Summer was a pleasant (is "pleasant" the right word for a slasher?) horror flick that did nothing remarkable or really new, but was an easy watch and turned out slightly better than average. They went "bigger" for the sequel, to mixed results.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer feels like a different movie from its predecessor. Yes, someone is still trying to kill Julie James for what she and her friends did two summers ago. That hasn't changed. There are a few returning characters, but the new location of the killer's shenanigans (a near-deserted island in the Bahamas) and new cast (several of whom manage to be even more annoying than the first cast) give this movie a different tone. Different, but not necessarily better.
It's harder to take the plot seriously this time around. Frequently, it's almost silly. The characters make willfully preposterous decisions, separate at every possible opportunity, and there's an easy to guess plot-turn near the end that requires way too much work to take credibly. That didn't ruin my enjoyment of what I was watching and I know that stuff is common in the genre, but it happens to such an excessive degree that it bears mentioning.
There were some memorable scenes and kills, plus it was a bit cool to see Julie get fed up with being stalked and at least try to fight back. And there's nice pg-13 eye-candy if you're interested in that sort of thing, as Jennifer looks even better than the first time around and there's plenty of situations where she and Brandy are wet and half naked.
Once you get acclimated to the faint ridiculousness of the whole thing, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is about the same level of quality as the first. Less tense and more haphazard, but enjoyable. Easy-to-please slasher fans and people who just can't get enough of looking at Jennifer Love Hewitt (I fit into both of those categories) will probably find this worth at least checking out on your streaming service of choice, watching on cable, or picking up out of the $5 DVD bin.
"Try to be a nice guy and that's the thanks I get!"
Babysitter Wanted is quite similar to the movie House of the Devil in many ways (though it preceded it by about a year). Both movies have a similar premise (young woman at a small college taking a rural babysitting-type job at a spooky locale because she's desperate for money), both try to scare you by slowly building tension (at least, initially) in a large, quiet house, and both have similar sources of evil as the heart of the threat to our unsuspecting heroines.
The main difference between the two movies, though (besides a gruesome twist or two), is that House of the Devil is just better. It's more frightening, more interesting, and more memorable. That's not to say that Babysitter Wanted is bad or not worth watching. It's a sinister movie that's shot well, and I didn't find much reason to complain about the actors (though there is a faintly ridiculous monologue almost an hour into the proceedings that would have been better left out). The story is simple and violence and gore are certainly present (though it happens off-screen as often as on). The last 45 minutes or so are quite different from what comes before, so be prepared for a shift in tone.
The final act is where the two movies really separate themselves, and that's really where I think House of the Devil completely outshines this.
Maybe I would have appreciated Babysitter Wanted more if I hadn't seen a superior,similar movie that I couldn't help comparing it to. Give it a try if you'd like; there are far, far worse horror movies available.
Rogue is a simple but effective Australian horror flick. The story
setup is basic, with a group of tourists ending up off the beaten path
during a river sightseeing trip, and stranded within easy reach of the
jaws of a monstrous crocodile.
I had tried watching Rogue once a few years ago, but didn't give it more than a few minutes before I turned it off and watched another movie. Something about how it begins failed to catch my interest back then, but I've become such a big Radha Mitchell fan since then that I had to go back and give it another try. And I'm glad I did. Rogue is nothing genre-changing, but it does have some thrills to offer and will admirably serve if you're looking for this kind of a movie. The cast is decent, with a few faces you've probably seen (the aforementioned Mitchell, as well as Michael Vartan, a teenage Mia Wasikowska, and Sam Worthington), but the real star is the croc. The special effects are petty good for a movie of this budget, and as the croc is on-screen more Rogue gets more and more interesting. The finale is pretty awesome, as a result. Recommended.
A young lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe), widowed from the day of his child's birth, leaves his young son for a few days in London in order to handle the sale of a house in a small village. The villagers are less than welcoming, and the more time he spends there, the more he learns a the tragedy that has and continues to befall the children of the village... and the more he may be putting his own son's life in danger.
The Woman in Black is a frustrating movie. For every interesting story turn, there's an irritating flaw that keeps it from being as good as it could have been. My biggest peeve rests on the film's over-reliance on jump scares. They're used so often and predictably that they mostly ruin the effect that the creepy environments manage to muster. It just destroys the immersion factor in a movie for me when there's a loud bang and something suddenly appears in the frame over and over and over.
On the positive side, the period setting is a nice change of pace, the story does unravel in an interesting way, and Racliffe does a decent job (though a lot of the time he's just gazing somberly off in the distance or resolutely investigating a suspicious noise, on the way to his next jump scare).
The Woman in Black isn't bad, it just doesn't do enough to make itself stand out amongst a dozen supernatural thrillers, and it relies far too much on scare tactics that annoy me far more than they spook me. I don't mean to dissuade anyone from seeing it who's interested, just temper your expectations.
"It wasn't lies, Jenny. It was acting."
The Rocketeer, seen in 2012, is understandably a little cheesy and a little old-fashioned. But, in a good way. In 1991, something as simple as a small-town guy with a jet-pack still sounded like an idea exciting enough to make a movie about, and a pretty enjoyable one, at that.
Billy Campbell (Cliff) is likable as a young pilot, desperate to make his mark on the world and show his girl (Jennifer Connelly, at the height of her amazing beauty), that he's a man who's going places. He stumbles onto a rocket-pack that's being pursued by all sorts unsavory characters, and the entire town and his girlfriend end up getting caught between the FBI, gangsters, shady actors, and even more unsavory characters as Cliff tries to save the day and get his girl back.
The Rocketeer is basically a moderately fun action-adventure family movie that won't blow any minds or drop any jaws these days, but it's definitely good for a viewing. Especially for Jennifer Connelly fans, because wow, she's impossibly lovely in this one.
It's nice to be reminded that once, all you needed to be a hero was a jet-pack, a solid right punch, a girl you loved, and a desire to do the right thing.
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