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Adrift (I) (2018)
9/10
Shaileen is incredible and the film is really good. Go in knowing nothing
2 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A film that starts off as part survival adventure, part Nicholas Sparks love story. At first I began to question why they made the choice to inter cut between the present and then the past...how they met, fell in love and ultimately accepted an offer to sail a boat from Tahiti to San Diego. But then near the end, it all comes together and if it wasn't hard enough watching the movie, fearing the worse for Richard, then the one small twist just destroyed me, left in puddles.



After Spielberg finished Jaws, he told anyone that would listen, to never film on the open sea, ever. The elements, the waves, the weather and everything in between basically cause chaos. Director Baltasar Kormakur did not take heed to that warning and the result is something magical. To get the feeling of complete isolation, the cast and crew would sail out 2 hours from land to film. Kormakur is an experienced sailor and I'm sure that came in handy during filming. Half of the movie takes place on the open water and slowly but surely you see the two characters start to fade. They haven't given up hope but they are 1500 miles from land, have little food and little water. How Tammy and Richard survived 41 days on their own is a miracle. Tammy had to do it all. Take care of Richard, keep the boat afloat, catch food, make shelters and so on. There were times when she was in tears and close to going crazy, but she kept going, incredibly reaching Hawaii. She was not the experienced sailor, that was Richard. That makes it all the more incredible.



There's one big plot twist and I will not reveal that here. If you know nothing about the story, keep it that way. Go in blind. It'll work so much better for you.



Shaileen owns the movie. She's simply a rock. Her range of emotions are incredible and she has to carry the film most of the way. Claflin is good too but Woodley has much more to do. I simply love her performance and I really hope she gets a nomination this year. She's simply brilliant.



I loved the movie.



9/10
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Leatherface (2017)
8/10
A surprisingly solid entry in the TCM universe
26 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Some of what makes modern reimaginings of classic horror films, not so endearing is that you can't replicate the original's look and feel. 70's horror, especially The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, has that grainy, cheap, almost documentary type feel to it. I thought the Platinum Dunes remake nailed the feel and ambiance of the original. This one comes really close to nailing it as well.

Being an origin story, it doesn't start out feeling much like a Texas Chainsaw movie. It opens well enough but then the setting changes to a mental institution and you are introduced to a character that you think and believe is going to grow up to be Leatherface. Here we meet some of the main characters and one of them is Lizzy, played by Vanessa Grasse. I hope to see more of her. Her beauty is what you first notice about her but she plays the character really well. She's strong at first and then completely vulnerable once it gets going. The two most recognizable faces in the film are Lily Taylor, as the Sawyer mom and Stephen Dorff as an obsessed sheriff, wanting to once and for all put an end to the Sawyer clan. Both are very good here as well.

Once out of the institution, things get pretty crazy. There's a lot of death, murder, gore and gruesome scenes, most of it taking place in a diner.

This is also a bit of a mystery because you think you know where the film is going and then they pull the rug out from under you and make you question who is who and what is what. This is another element I enjoyed about it.

When we finally get to the chainsaw massacre part of it, it feels right. This film reminded me of Unforgiven in a way. Through both films, there are hints of what you are hoping to see and there is a lot of character development and then when things finally go down, you are kind of ecstatic. Once the chainsaw makes an appearance and people are sliced and diced, it's a bit shocking. One death in particular took me by complete surprise.

I liked this entry and next to the original and the PD remake, this is the best one in my opinion.

8/10
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10/10
Bring lots of tissue
18 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Armed with will and determination, and grace too.

For the Canadians reading this, you recognize the lyric. For the rest of the world reading this, sorry but this is going to be about a slice of Canadiana and it's very possible you have never heard of the Hip before. That's okay. For all the Canadians here, like my parents generation remembering where they were when Paul Henderson scored the goal in 1972, our generation and perhaps all generations in this country remember where they were when they saw the Tragically Hip's final concert broadcast live on CBC last August. Twelve million people tuned in on TV alone with millions more watching in together in parks and arenas. It's been rumoured that the unofficial count for that last show was over 15 million Canadians.

The Tragically Hip is Canada's band. They never really made it big outside of our country. But they are loved here. They sing about Canada. They tell stories about our history and they are part of the fabric of this land. There's a mysticism to them and most of us here adore them, myself included.

In March of 2016, Gord Downie, the one of a kind poet/singer/song writer lead singer of the band was diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer. He went through months of chemo and lost a lot of his memory. He has been given no more than 5 years to live. Upon his road to recovery, he told his band mates that he wanted to do one final tour across Canada. He had to learn all the lyrics to their songs again. He had to have a neurologist tour with them. He was thin and frail looking and he had to have a teleprompter up on stage with him so that he didn't get lost singing the songs.

But on he and the band went. And they performed their hearts out. Every night. On stage. Victoria. Winnipeg. Edmonton. London. Ottawa. Toronto. And finally in Kingston, their home town. The Prime Minister was there. The whole country shut down for one night. We all needed to say goodbye to the band that we spent 30 years with. Blow at High Dough. Nautical Disaster. Thugs. Cordelia. 38 Yeas Old. Locked in the Trunk of a Car. Poets. Don't Wake Daddy and Grace Too. Over the tour they performed songs from every album. They had 90 songs with them and weren't sure if they could even do them all. I've been to 7 Hip concerts, and I've never seen them perform Thugs or Cordelia. But they did on this tour.

The Hip means something to all of us (the fans of the group). They sing about our life, our country, our hometowns. They talk about growing up here and they talk about hockey and Niagara Falls and Bob Caygeon and they regale us with the famous stories that are part of the very bloodline of this country. Wheat Kings tells the story of a man wrongly convicted of a murder. He goes free 20 years later and no one really cares because no one is interested in something you didn't do.

I first began my love affair with the Hip in the late 80's. When I heard Grace Too for the first time, I got chills. I'd never heard a band like them, never heard music like this. Gord was famous for going off on rants and sometimes incoherent tangents in concert. When ten of us journeyed to Detroit to see them live and record one of their albums, they opened with Grace Too and during the opening, Gord just turns to his band mates and says, "Did you see that? Did you see that? OH MY GOD LOOK OUT! BIG FFREAKIN BEAR!" I'm not sure if it was part of the act or if in his drug induced state he really thought he saw a bear but it just fit with the concert. The Hip are originals and there will never be another band like them. EVER.

Tonight while watching the documentary at the theater with about 75 others in attendance, my eyes weren't dry from beginning till end. It chronicled their journey together, their love for one another and it ended with the band walking off stage arm in arm. Gord doesn't have a lot of time left. But they gave us, the fans, the patriots of this country, one last time to hear them, to feel their love and their energy, to feel the warmth and vibrancy that they instil in all of us.

When Gord was on stage yelling out the final lyrics to Grace Too, he became overwhelmed with emotion. "HIP! HERE! NOW!" He was telling us that he was here and at least for the time being, he wasn't going away.

The concert documentary is one of the most powerful things I've ever been privy too. I spoke with others on the way out of the theater and everyone was wiping away the tears. The Hip kind of defined what it meant to all of us to be Canadian. My life is richer because of them and I'm so delighted and thankful that I got to see them 7 times over my lifetime.

I'm not sure how much time Gord had left. But if this truly was the last concert that they all did together, what a way to go out. Thank you Gord for enriching my life and thank you Tragically Hip for enriching all of our lives. Your music and words will love on forever.
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Mother! (2017)
1/10
A horrible piece of you know what
17 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
So this is an allegory of the Bible? And this is the reason I'm supposed to sit through a film that makes no sense, has horrible characters and symbolism that is in your face ridiculous?

UH NO.

I'm not sure why a film with nothing but symbolism is supposed to be something I enjoy. I hated this film. Hated it with all of my being. If you enjoy films that just want you to figure out WTF the director means by having an army of idiots destroy a house and then eat a baby, then by all means, see this film. It'll make you feel really smart for figuring it all out. As for me, this is not how I want to spend my $20.00.

1/10 because Jlaw is really good in it.
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9/10
Outstanding film from South Africa
10 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film at the Toronto film festival and we were lucky enough to have Q&A with the cast and crew and we got to meet some of the cast. Before I get into the crux of the review, let me call attention to Vuyo Dabula. He exudes charm and has instant screen presence. At first glance, he reminded me of a young Idris Elba but meeting him face to face, he is much shorter and has different features, but has the same kind of love affair with the camera. When he is on screen, the film is that much better. He is articulate, good looking and demands attention. He also did almost all of his own stunts...and there a lot of them. He said in the question period that the only thing he was not allowed to do is fall off the horse. I expect to see him transition over to Hollywood one day. He already had a small role in Age of Ultron, it's just a matter of time before producers take notice of him.

The film begins with 5 childhood friends who have had enough of police aggression in their small South African village. They start by throwing eggs and stones at the cops and then when one of the group gets taken, Tau, the most brazen of the group, takes her back forcefully. He kills two officers and then spends the next twenty years on the run. The five friends call themselves the Five Fingers of Versailles.

Tau returns 20 years later to a town, and friends, transformed by the violence caused that day. With the crooked cops now replaced by a caustic gang, Tau must take a stand and fight for what he believes in. He can only hope that the other members of the five fingers still have what it takes to do the right thing. It's time to defend or be driven from the land.

With inspiration from spaghetti Westerns, Tarantionoesque dialogue and even films like Gladiator and Roadhouse, it may pay homage in some ways to these films but director Michael Matthews and writer Sean Drummond put their own unique stamp on it and for a western movie-goer like me, I have never really seen it done like this before. Five Fingers for Marseilles subverts the genre by placing the story within the Indigenous community. We also witness really interesting character additions with a white travelling salesman and a Chinese store owner. I learned while watching the Chinese smash--Wolf Warrior 2 that China and South Africa have a rich tradition and strong history with one another. Michael Matthews was asked about his decision to add the salesman and the Chinese store owner, he replied that these are all authentic characters that you would find in a small place like the one in the film.

Gorgeously captured by director of photography Shaun Harley Lee and beautifully directed by Michael Matthews, the film both honours westerns of the past while trailblazing its own path. I haven't seen a lot of westerns recently, but this is certainly one of the better ones of the last 30 years. This is a film that took 7 years to make, from the time of the idea to the final edit. It was a labour of love.

There's a lot of violence and plenty of blood. It would certainly get an R rating here in Canada and the US. This is one of the areas the film excels. The direction allows the violence to percolate. It doesn't cut away from a lot of the gun shots, burning bodies, machete hacks and raw punches to the face. It's tough in that way, but it also benefits from it.

I hope this gets a distribution deal in North America and I really hope it is remembered come Oscar night. Everything about it is top notch. Every actor was terrific, the script was superb and as mentioned the photography and direction were outstanding.

9/10
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Okja (2017)
10/10
A must see film
26 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A stunning film. I was told that it is hard to get a strong voice about animals made into a film. Hollywood doesn't want to touch it. Well Hollywood might be afraid of it but when you have Brad Pitt, a strong advocate for veganism and animal welfare, producing the film and a pariah and new power player on the block like Netflix willing to distribute, then you get a film like Okja made. Then you add a terrific international cast like Paul Dano, Steven Yuen, Tilda Swinton and the star of the movie, Seo-Hyun Ahn plus a superstar Korean director like Joon-ho Bong and you have one hell of a film. For those who don't know, Bong directed the highest grossing South Korean movie of all time, The Host and he also did the well received Snowpiercer. Make no mistake about it, this film has a strong representation behind and in front of the camera. And this is a film that is not only a strong voice, but it is one that is needed.

I'm a strong advocate for animal welfare and this film is up there as one of the best fictional films I've ever seen about the topic. You have a giant corporation that has made genetically modified super pigs. These pigs have grown to be massive animals, perhaps twenty times the size of normal pigs. They send these pigs off to live in all different corners of the world and their plan is to ten years later see which pig is the best and then parade him in New York city as part of a promotion to buy this corporation's new meat. Okja lives with Mija on her tiny farm in South Korea. They have a vast land where Okja and Mija have formed a bond. The corporation comes by, takes Okja and plans to kill him and all the other super pigs in a few days.

Enter the ALF which plans on saving Okja.

There's many strengths of the film. I'll just mention a few of them. The cast is brilliant. I enjoyed Steven Yuen especially. He has a screen presence, even when he was on the Walking Dead, you could feel it. He is very strong here. Paul Dano is excellent as well and Tilda Swinton might be the best actress alive who can play a bitch, someone you just despise. Ahn is priceless as the young girl and she sells the relationship with Okja.

But an animal welfare movie about pigs being sent to slaughter wouldn't be complete without the horrors that must be shown. There are very disturbing abattoir scenes and it's quite graphic. There's also a fair bit of animal mistreatment and for someone like me, someone who strongly advocates animal welfare, these scenes were very tough to watch. But they were necessary and they add to the overall tone of the movie.

Okja is perhaps the best film I've seen this year. It does everything right and it will probably help me become a vegan instead of just vegetarian. I applaud Netflix for getting this film made.

10/10
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Baskin (2015)
6/10
Somewhat interesting but a bit of a letdown
15 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I first heard about this film after it appeared at TIFF in 2015. I never got around to seeing it but when I finally got the chance, it was a bit of a letdown. The director does some really good things here and it does have the look and feel of The Neon Demon in a way (if Refn dropped acid and remade Neon Demon, it might look like this film).

There are five rather unsavoury and kind of morally bankrupt officers sitting around in a diner discussing stories of prostitution, bestiality and violent encounters, kind of like they were discussing what they had for dinner the night before. There's a level of humour to their stories and much of it is spoken about with complete equanimity. We definitely are not supposed to empathize with these men, in the least.

So when the stuff starts and people's guts are torn out and eyeballs are skewered and throats slit, it's horrific to watch but it's not like these men were likable to begin with so seeing these things happen to them isn't really horrifying.

Baskin has some really good set pieces and is directed and acted well. It looks good too. But it doesn't really explain itself all that well. As other reviewers have mentioned, I don't need everything spelled out for me, but none of this makes much sense.

For those confused about the frogs, if you look up the significance of frogs, they symbolize a cleansing, or a rebirth. This is pretty much what the Father character was looking to do with these men. He wanted to cleanse them of their sins and their lust for power. So the frogs were a clever symbolic piece here.

I, like most of you, have seen a ton of horror movies. I didn't find this one to be overly gory or hard to sit through. There is certainly some images of graphic torture but I've seen worse, much worse. I don't think this is any different than a litany of 70's and 80's horror. Hellraiser and Last House on the Left and Hostel were all worse, not mention films like Salo and Men Behind the Sun. This doesn't impugn the efforts here but it's just not the gore fest that I was lead to believe.

Baskin is interesting and it has some good ideas, but ultimately it isn't scary at all and it has a bit of a messy script.

6/10
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Blair Witch (2016)
8/10
So close to being great
17 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Blair Witch is the most disappointed I've been in a movie in perhaps forever. There's a great GREAT movie in here, I'm convinced of it, but for some reason, they chose not to go all the way. They have a good script and a they set the table for us, and then like a prude and a tease on prom night, just when you think you're going to hit a home run, they leave you needing a cold shower. Everything was here for the film to be one of the scariest films out there. It really was. So why did they just not see it all the way through to the end? Instead what we are left with is a remake and rehash of the original, with no answers and more questions than we had going in.

As we all know the plot, I'll just recap it briefly. James, the little brother of Heather from the original, is convinced that she could possibly still be alive in the woods of Burkittsville, 17 years later. There's some new footage that has been uploaded onto the web that could possibly be her. He gets his friends to come along for the ride as they head out into the woods in search of the cabin where Heather and Mike were last seen. We find out that the woods were meticulously searched back in 1999 when Heather, Mike and Josh disappeared.

This time the crew is armed with an array of different recording devices, including a drone, tiny ear cameras and regular 8MM classic style video cameras. One of the true strengths of the film is the different angles that they can and are able to shoot and the sound that the cameras can pick up. The sound design is second to none and it is truly one of the stars of the film. There is some truly unsettling and nerve inducing sounds that are picked up. In the first film, you heard the sounds of the forest at night and you could hear babies crying and people screaming. This time you hear all or most of that, plus so much more. The sound is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

As they six head off into the woods, we get a lot of great exposition. We are told of the witch and how she falsely accused of torturing local children. She was taken by the villagers into the woods and basically hung up with rocks hanging from her limbs to inflict as much pain as possible to her. She was left to die. When the villagers come back in the spring, they don't find her body. Soon people from the village of Burkitsville start showing up dead, including the children who falsely accused her. The legend goes on to say that the woods remain haunted to this day. No one really goes into the woods alone and not over night.

Then things start to happen. The stick symbols show up and the six of them inexplicably sleep in until 2 in the afternoon. There's a fight that ensues between the four main friends and the two tag-alongs. They get separated. Up until now, the film follows a pretty standard pattern and if you have seen the original, it all makes sense and it's all fairly predictable. Then all hell begins to break loose and the film really starts to get good. There is hints of portals into another dimension, time travel or both. They never tell you for certain what happens here and I'm fine with this. What I'm not fine with is that the film never expands on the original. It never gives us any answers and it never truly feels like a sequel. This is much more of a remake than anything. And that is too bad because as I said initially, the script laid it all out for us. All Barrett and Wingard had to do is change maybe four or five scenes. But instead of scaring the absolute hell out of us by going that extra yard, they just stop. Characters disappear without any resolution. One character looks like she is dragged away by something, but again, it's never followed up. If there really was a witch haunting the woods, why would she attack one or two characters but not the others. Why is Lisa made to crawl through an under ground tunnel only to make it out without nary a scratch. Nothing attacks her, nothing scares her. Why? There were so many wasted opportunities here. If they just would have hired me to write some of this, it would have been so much better. Seeing as they don't know who I am, they should have consulted more with Myrick and Sanchez. But instead of giving us what should have been a terrifying film, we get one that is good, unsettling, spooky and kind of scary in some parts. But they left so much out, so much that could have made this so much better. For example, they had a drone, and yet it does nothing. You don't really see any footage from the drone and then there is one silly scene where one of the characters climbs a tree in order to retrieve it and then you never see her again.

The ending is what disappointed me the most because it's basically a shot for shot retelling of the original.

There are three things I would have done to this film. And if they would have done them this would have been a much better experience.

Blair Witch is a very good film for about 70% of the time. But the other 30% really weighs it down. And that is a shame.

6/10
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It Follows (2014)
10/10
A shockingly brilliant horror movie
13 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Bar none, this is the best horror film I've seen in 10 years. This is a film that will get inside you and it won't let go, however if you are looking for gore, look elsewhere.

This review will contain some heavy spoilers.

Right from the opening scene, I was drawn in. There is an obvious 80's theme to this but we know it's modern times because one of the characters has what looks to be a data device.

This review will be spoiler heavy so if you don't want to know the nuts and bolts, skip over it.

The plot is a simple one. There is some kind of malevolent force that follows you around. The way you contract and eliminate this threat is by having sex. Somehow by having unprotected sex, you get it, and then, as the title says it follows you around. Only you can see this thing though. So every person who might look a little strange to you could be the force that is out to get you. And it creates paranoia because you don't know what's real and what isn't. This is an incredibly effective plot device in the film. As it is explained to J, after she gets it from her new boyfriend, this force can be anyone. It walks slow so you can buy yourself time by outrunning it or driving away but like the Terminator, it will not stop ever until you are dead.

The first 15 minutes has J having sex with her boyfriend, it's a nice experience that they share, and then as she is leaning over the backseat rambling on about whatever it is you ramble on about after sex, her boyfriend comes up behind her and puts a cloth with chloroform on it, around her mouth. She wakes up tied to a chair and he tells her what it is that's coming after her. He apologizes to her and explains that all she has to do is have sex with someone else and she's rid of it. But, if the thing that follows her manages to kill the person she passed it on to, then it will start after her again. So no one is safe, ever.

The cast are not really well known but J, as played by Maika Monroe, has been in some films but she's just not a name. That's going to change after this film. Not only is she strikingly beautiful, she absolutely nails the character. She's unabashedly terrified all throughout the film and when she's scared, you are scared for her. The rest of the cast is very good as well and there's a nice love triangle as one of her long time friends has loved her probably since they were kids, but he's not quite her type and this creates a lot of tension. He's willing to sleep with her and take the malevolent from her, that's how much he feels for her.

The look of the film is second to none as this was filmed entirely in Michigan and much of it in Detroit, where you see the poverty, the run down buildings, the old houses, the beat up 30 year old cars. The look of the film is basically a secondary character. It adds to the palette and creates tension. There's something more sinister about seeing an old 70's TV with rabbit ears and all the off, vomit inducing colours from the 80's carpet and wallpaper and such.

And then there's the soundtrack. I think the composer paid homage to about 8-10 horror themes. While not ripping them off, you can easily hear, Manfredini, Bernstein, Carpenter, Hermann and even some very obvious nods to something like Knowing where the soundtrack was overbearing but effective. I am simply in love with the music that was used here.

When you combine all of this together, you get one of the best horror films I've ever seen. Horror has had some good entries in the last decade imo but nothing can top this. It's frightening, tense, creates a lot of panic and leaves you guessing in almost every scene. Writer and director David Robert Mitchell has created one of the most terrifying and original horror films. I won't rank it right now because it's still so fresh but I am simply in love with this film. I honestly wanted to go right back into the theater to see it again.

It's also unapologetically rated R. There's lots of nudity, it's terrifying and if you were to bring kids to this, I think it would seriously have a chance to mess with their minds. IMO, horror was truly born in the 70's. I'm aware of Hitchcock's contribution to the genre, but the horror that I love was from the 70/80's. This is almost a love letter to the films of those decades. But in some ways, it does it better. It Follows might end up being the best film of the year.

As for the ending that some complain about. It's the perfect way to end the film. There is no other way to end it. This thing cannot be stopped. It just can't. So to have it look like a somewhat happy ending was cool.....until you see that no matter what they do, they will never get rid of it. The ending was terrific.

Every time I finish the review I just feel like going back and adding more. I can't say enough about it. This is about as original as it gets and that is a rare thing in today's cinema.

10/10
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8/10
A letter to Sly
12 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Dear Sly,

You are a terrific writer. You have made and written some of the best screenplays of my youth and of my adult life. You wrote Rocky, did the screenplays for First Blood, Rambo, Cliffhanger, The Expendables and Homefront. All fantastic films.

When you made The Expendables, you thought to bring some of the best action guys around, and put them in one film. You called on your friends and because of this you were able to get Dolph, Mickey, Eric and of course Bruce and Arnold. But more than that, you had an ideal. You let each actor do his thing. Jet and Dolph had terrific battle and then you had Jet and Jason fight it out in an epic battle against Gary Daniels. Then you had Randy fight it out with Austin, after you had one awesome go with him. Then, in perhaps one of the most unselfish moves in the film, you got Terry to toss the bomb when you couldn't. The whole point to this is you let everyone shine. The first film was bad ass because of this.

The second film got away from this. You still let Statham do his thing but your battle with Van Damme was poorly executed. And in my opinion, the last battle should not have been with you and him, it should have been with Dolph and Van Damme, for obvious reasons ( I know you know this but to spell it out for you...they were in Universal Soldier together and both are world class martial artists).

Then comes the third. You get a dream cast. All your friends are in it and you even manage to get Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson. It's never been done before and it certainly got me interested in the film. But once again, you messed it up. You forgot what made the first so special. It wasn't because all these guys could fire guns, it was because they could kick some serious ass. Dolph and Jet are world class martial artists, Statham and Gibson have played ones in films. You have MMA guys and of course Snipes who is also a real life ass kicker. Then you get Banderas to come in, talk the whole film about how good a killer he is, and then what do you do with all these guys? NOTHING. They just come along for the ride, shoot a few guns and then you fight Gibson for about 15 seconds. WTF! The story line with the young kids was interesting but again, you did nothing with it. Why not let Roussey show her stuff? Why not let Lutz fight someone? And how about killing a few people? You did none of this, you just had a bunch of actors fire guns.

You have so many story lines here. You even set it up by saying that you were all getting too old for this stuff. But you just let it go. You should have done what you did in the first. Here is how the end of the third film should have went.

The bomb is defused. You find Stonebanks. You guys start to fight. But just like Grammar told you, you can't win this thing. Stonebanks is too good. As you are holding your own, but clearly losing, out of the smoke, in a slow motion shot, comes Jet Li, who as we all know was in Lethal Weapon 4 with Mel. The two of you stop fighting. Mel looks at Jet, makes some kind of comment about how short he is. Jet stops, takes his jacket and weapons off. He squares off to fight Gibson and the two of them put on on a martial arts display while you stand aside. Jet eventually destroys him, because, you know, he's a true life bad ass. With Gibson dead, Jet picks you up and helps you to the chopper. As he does, he tells you that now you should pay him more money. The two of you laugh and then you live happily ever after.

The Expendables was never all about you. It was about a team. But with the sequels, you took the focus away from the team and made it all about you. Shame on you, Sly. You let me down, big time.

And you let your fans down.

6/10
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9/10
A very moving film and an impassioned journey
18 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Looking at the credits, this is not an ABC after school special. This is a film with a good cast and a very good writer/director. Randall Wallace is the Oscar nominated and WGA winner for Braveheart. So he has credentials. Then you have a solid cast with Greg Kinnear, Eden Lake's Kelly Reilly and Thomas Haden Church. They put some money into this production and it pays off handsomely.

I'm not an atheist, I'm not agnostic and I'm not a believer. That leaves me in a very precarious place. I frankly don't know what I believe so my enjoyment of this film has nothing to do with fanaticism or devout belief. This is coming strictly from a film point of view. And this one moved me more than any film I can think of in recent memory.

You know the story so I won't give you all the mundane details but a quick recap is that during surgery, young Colton Burpo claims he went to heaven and met Jesus. He claims that he met a grandfather who died before he was born, that he got hugged from his miscarried sister and that angels sang to him. His father, Todd, played beautifully by Greg Kinnear, is the local pastor and strangely enough when people start to hear of this story, he and his family are ridiculed and made fun of. And this struck me as odd. You have a town full of Christians who go to church every day and believe in Jesus and his word but as soon as someone, a four year-old no less, says that he has met Jesus and spoke to him, they tell him that he's lying and that it's not possible. This, to me, is the very definition of hypocrisy.

The end of the story has Pastor Todd giving a sermon that left a lot of theater sniffling, blowing their nose and claiming they had something in their eye, including me. It's a powerful film about belief and conviction and love. And in my opinion, it doesn't matter if you believe in the Bible and all that it stands for, it only matters if you believe that you can make a difference in someone's life just by being kind and then having that kindness reciprocated. This was the central theme in the film. People were sometimes alone and afraid but the values of the Burpo family dictated that they come to the need of friends and strangers. There's an incredibly moving scene where Colton goes into the room of a very young boy with cancer. It's implied that the young boy will probably die soon. Colton puts his hand on the boy's hand and says, "No one is ever going to hurt you." In that moment the boy knew he wasn't alone and perhaps this would give him strength to get through his final days.

The entire film is sprinkled with moments of passionate, spiritual sentiment. These are good people in the Burpo family and they are going through a rough time. There is nothing in the film that suggests that there was any kind of agenda. I didn't feel like I walked out with a headache from getting bashed over the head with a message. I just felt very moved and very satisfied with the story.

I did find it funny that Sony produced this and in the film, Colton has a very real affinity for Spider-man. He holds a figuring of Spidey and his walls were littered with Spider-man memorabilia. Even Thomas Haden Church has a Spider-man connection. So I got the little nudges the film had towards it's big picture coming out this summer.

Overall a very satisfying film and one that you should give a chance to.

9/10
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7/10
If you are watching this kind of movie, why are you shocked that it's not great to begin with?
14 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Asylum produces some nice films that are low budget and almost spoof like in a way. When I rent a movie by them, I pretty much know what I'm getting. When I come here and read the reviews by people who didn't like it, it makes me wonder why they even rented it in the first place. Titanic and Gone With the Wind this is not. You have a micro- budgeted horror film about a spirit that possesses you if you don't hold your breath while driving by a graveyard. Shouldn't that be a hint for you?

Hold Your Breath is one of the better straight to video horror films I've seen. It doesn't do everything right but it does a lot more right than wrong. To start off, the rapport between the actors playing the college kids is really nicely done. The cast and the set up reminded me a bit of Friday the 13th Part 3 or 4. You had the dating couple, the stoner, the hot single chick and a couple of others tossed in. The script, written by Geoff Meed (who is more known as a B actor) sets it all up nicely to begin. These young adults are off to a weekend getaway and the guy who organized insists on no cell phones for the weekend. Just a cool weekend of camping and being at one with nature.

Back in the 50's a mass murderer/rapist/religious loonie was put to death in an electric chair. His spirit lives on as it is too malicious to even be accepted in Hell. The spirit can pass into different people as it chooses to and those people become possessed by the killer.

Yes, the story has been done before and it has kind of been done better in some movies. But what this one has going for it is some great old school Tom Savini/Rick Baker like makeup effects and the set design is fantastic. Night time is lit ominously by the moon, graveyards have fog drifting by the tombstones and the sanitarium where the execution took place is creepy and vast and claustrophobic all at the same time. There are some great effects as well highlighted by a girl being tied to a tree and getting cut in two by barbed wire. I like effects like this, they remind of the older films like The Howling and Friday the 13th. The Saw films are good and the gore is well done but you can see where the CGI takes over. Sometimes good old fashioned prosthetics and make-up is just better.

Katrina Bowden and Randy Wayne are the two best characters and they do quite well here. The rest of the cast is fine as well. Bowden is almost too gorgeous and they have her running around in Daisy Dukes and a flimsy shirt all throughout the film, which of course is apropos for a horror film.

I would have given the film even higher marks if it weren't for some silly and unnecessary plot pieces, like two characters running away scared from another when she is but a 110 pound woman. That just seemed strange. And I didn't care for the ending. But all in all, it was a good effort.

7/10
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7/10
The kind of film that pays of in the end
2 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
As some of the other reviewers in here have mentioned, this isn't the kind of horror film that has a kill every ten minutes or rivers of blood coming from the walls. Instead, it takes time to build characters and because you get to know the characters, the story starts to unfold as well. This is a well done film from a first time director who was lucky enough to secure a good veteran cast and some good younger talent.

Clancy Brown plays a small town retiring pastor who is helping the new pastor and his family get acclimated to his new job and surroundings. His motives at first seem to be genuine but this wouldn't be a horror movie if the local town pastor didn't have some kind of devious Machiavellian machinations to tend to.

Without spoiling it, the film has elements of Wicker Man, Rosemary's Baby and about half a dozen other low budget horror films. It's well written, well acted and the production design is the films strength. The small town is photographed to look like something you'd see out of Children of the Corn or Cujo. Everyone smiles to your face while planning your demise. Rebekah Brandes and Ethan Peck are the eye candy of the film but they too play their roles well. Brandes has some strange lines to utter but she makes them sound natural.

Horror films come in all shapes and sizes. This one has the slow burn and buildup of films like The Shining. The end is a nice payoff. If you have ADD then this film probably won't interest you. But if you like to see characters and situations build so that the end can kind of horrify you, then you have found the right film.

7/10
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1/10
Where's the Delorean?
4 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
One of the worst horror films I've seen, in fact, one of the worst films I've ever seen. This might be a film that is a spin off of Paranormal Activity but it certainly goes to enough lengths to remind you that this is a Paranormal film. There are tapes of Kristy and Katie in a basement and then Ali, from Paranormal Activity 2 shows up to explain what is happening. I won't even give away the ending here as it is one of the most preposterous and stupid things I've seen in any film. It's like they brainstormed ideas and then threw out all the good ways to end it and settled on the one that's in the movie.

PATMO literally has nothing happen in it for about 85% of the movie. The first real plot point comes when one of the guys gets bit and then develops Spider-man powers. From there, nothing more really happens until after they meet up with Ali. From there, they go to a local gangster for help in hunting down the witches that ostensibly killed his brother and has possessed one of the main characters.

This film is a mess. It tries to expand on the coven story but instead of shedding more light on the plot, it just gets it muddied even more than it was in the last film. In short, nothing more is expanded or explained in this film and the ending of it just makes it even more ridiculous than the first 90 minutes already are.

I understand these films are licenses to print money for Paramount, but it's time to wrap it up. We need closure. If you look at the evolution of the series, the first did huge business and the second dropped slightly, like many sequels do, but the third increased on the strength of the second being so good. But the third introduced new folklore to the story and the fourth dropped dramatically because of it. With what looks to be a sub 20 mill opening, this film should finish with about 35 million. Now they have a 6 slated to open around Halloween this year. People aren't stupid, so unless they tell us that it all ends this October or that they are at least going to start it to the road of closure then it seems like this series has jumped the shark. You thought the refrigerator nuke scene was bad in Crystal Skull? That's poetry compared to the way they end this film.

0.5/10

Only giving it half a point for having close to a sex scene.
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10/10
Scorcese's best film
27 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is not just the best film of the year, it is unquestionably one of the best films I've ever seen. Every scene, every shot, every performance is about as good as it gets. Standing out of course are DiCaprio and Hill. Hill transforms himself in this film but DiCaprio gives the best performance of his career. He jumped head first into the role and there isn't one moment that you are watching this where you feel like you are watching Leonardo DiCaprio. What you are seeing on screen is Jordan Belfort. He is brave, brilliant and fearless. Snort coke off a hookers breasts? No problem. Blow coke into a hookers ass? He does that. Give rousing speeches that compel me, the viewer, want to work for him? It's in here. Dance, get naked, party, crawl around like a baby, cry, show vulnerability, it's all in here. It is one of, if not the best performance in a film I have ever seen. DiCaprio is good in everything I have seen him in, but he has taken the extra step here. He knows Jordan Belfort. There is a scene where he crawls around on the floor for 10 minutes in a drug induced paralysis and it will go down as not only the scene of the year (along with the ejaculation discussion in This is the End) but one of the most messed up but brilliant scenes in film history.

When DiCaprio first came on the scene, his talent was easily seen. Then he did Titanic and became a heart-throb to teenage girls. But he's never just let loose like this. Scorcese did it with Pesci and Liotta in Goodfellas and he has done in Wolf with DiCaprio. He holds nothing back and just goes for it all. DiCaprio worked on getting this made for 6 years. It has paid off handsomely for him. You can tell he dove into this role and just let whatever inhibitions he had, check themselves at the door. Once the cameras rolled and he had to do all the crazy stuff that was required of him, he just did it. The film is memorable for many reasons but none more than his fearless performance. In my opinion, this is one of the best performances in any film.

This is the Goodfellas of the 2000's. It's created from the same palette that made Goodfellas. It's long but never boring and it's so entertaining and funny and exhilarating that I hope the 4 hour cut we have heard about does find it's way to the DVD. I'm not sure yet if this is better than Scorcese's opus, Goodfellas, but it is certainly on par with it. I don't know if the academy is going to be progressive enough to reward this film with what it deserves, but in time, regardless of the awards, it will be remembered as one of the great films in the annals of film history.

It has to be said that the movie makes you kind of envious of the lifestyle these guys lead. Their life is a party. They make 22 million dollars in three hours and then spend the next 12 hours snorting coke, swallowing quaaludes, banging the hottest strippers and hookers around, flying in private jets and spending 2 million dollars on bachelor parties. Their life is a fairy tale and it makes you a little sad that after you leave the theatre you have to go back to your 9-5 existence. This world is full of excess and debauchery but damn it looks like fun.

IMO, this is the best film of the year and it has the best performance of the year and it's not even close. I understand this will not be a film for everyone's liking but it is undeniably hilarious, expertly directed, crisply edited and beautifully acted. And Margot Robbie is insanely sexy, insanely sexy.

10/10
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Evil Dead (2013)
8/10
Gory, grotesque and will leave you exhausted. The ballsiest horror film in quite some time
6 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Evil Dead is perhaps the riskiest, ballsiest, most gory horror film I've seen since the 80's. Once the book is opened and the demon stuff begins, it's an exercise is the grotesque. For the 60 minutes or so that this takes place, it left me exhausted watching it. One character in here, the one who stupidly reads the book after he knows he is not supposed to, goes through more pain than any horror movie character I have ever seen with the exception of perhaps some of the rapists in the new version of I Spit On Your Grave. But that's debatable. Anything and everything that can happen to this guy, does. In short, he gets messed up real bad.

The movie is not perfect as it is hampered by some really bad acting in some parts and by some really annoying characters in others. But horror movies are known for this so if you can get past really egregious performances in some spots, then you'll be fine. It's a small complaint really, but it does take away from the overall rating. Another point I have to bring up that bothered me a bit is that the Ash character ends up being a woman and maybe because to me ASH is ASH, he is a man, then I would have liked it better if David would have lost his arm and becomes the hero. That was one of the cool things about the original is that it didn't follow conventional rules. Women are always the hero in horror films. But in Evil Dead, Ash was. I wasn't comfortable with the change in this one.

And finally, even with a bigger budget, the tree rape scene in this one wasn't nearly as good as the original.

But those complaints aside, the movie was everything they said it would be. It made the audience jump a few times and the humour was also there like in the original.

The good in the film is everything else. Shotguns, hammers, nail guns, knives, glass, syringes and fire is all used to mess people up. I remember reading that in the original the cleanup on the set every night was a nightmare because of all of the goop they used for the blood. I can't imagine being a cleanup member on this set. There was gallons of blood used here and sometimes it looked more like molasses mixed with chocolate syrup mixed with red dye. It was pretty disgusting at times. I also enjoyed how duct tape was the answer to everything in the film. If you have a hole in you the size of China, just use duct, it'll fix you right up.

As mentioned, once the book is open, the pace the film plays at leaves you exhausted. It doesn't slow down in the least and every other scene someone is cutting their own arm off or getting attacked with a nail gun or getting violated by nature. It's a truly terrifying film.

To sum it up, I enjoyed it but not on the same level as the original. And there's nothing wrong with that as the original is one of the all time great horror films. But if you are in the mood for a bloodbath where blood literally spews on screen, this is the film for you. It does not disappoint.

7.5/10
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8/10
Perry knows how to write relationships
2 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Tyler Perry is like the John Hughes of relationship movies. He has an ear for dialogue and he allows you to become immersed into the world you are watching. Temptation is a pretty simple movie. It's really about a woman who is unhappy with her marriage and then gets seduced by a rich man and his lifestyle. That's the pitch. Now if you or I pitched this to some studio, they'd throw us out and maybe even have us beaten up badly by security for wasting their time. But because it's Perry and he pretty much owns the studio that makes it (Lionsgate distributed) then he is free to make what he wants.

Seduction is somewhat over the top. I have read the reviews on IMDb from all the people who hate it and the problem they have with it is that the character arc seems to extreme. I disagree. Judith and Brice have known each other since they were kids. They married and they are the only people they have been with. Brice isn't a bad guy but he is just starting out in life. He is pragmatic (to a fault) as he feels that they won't be ready to take any financial risks until they are in their forties. Judith has a degree in something, forget what it is, and she wants to open a marriage counselling business. But all she can get right now is work at an on line dating company. Here she creates questionnaires for her potential clients. This on line dating site is for the rich and more rich and soon, there is a potential investor who comes into the picture. His name is Harley and he catches Judith's interest right away. After many times turning him down, she finally gives into seduction and the rest is a path to hell.

The thing about the characters, at least Brice and Judith, is that they are not bad people. You hate what happens to them, but you can understand how it happens. It's human nature to want more, maybe not everyone, but most people want more than they have. And it's as old as the Adam and Eve story. You have plenty but there is that temptation. The shiny red apple. In this case that shiny red apple is Harley. Tall, impossibly good looking, loaded, perfect body and charming as hell. The temptation is there and Judith has two choices. One, stay where she is at or two take the plunge and go for the home run. But once you swing for the fences, you enter into a world you know nothing about.

Besides the script being well written, the performances by our three leads is what carries the film. Tyler Perry seems to find beautiful black people and plucks them from obscurity and into his films. Jurnee Smolett Bell is beautiful and she is fantastic in here. She goes from sweet and innocent to a vixen and a cold hearted diva. Robbie Jones plays Harley and he has the task of being charming and evil all in one film and he pulls it off beautifully. But my fave performance was that of Lance Gross, who played Brice. Strong, insecure, hurt and damaged. His arc in the film is the best of the three. I have never seen him in anything before but my buddy (who has seen a lot more "urban" films than me) has and said he is good in everything. I think you could see a lot more from Lance Gross in the future. He has leading man good looks and he has leading man range.

I love Tyler Perry movies. That's no secret. Maybe it's why I seem to like this a lot more than many others. This was a great movie and one that surprised me.

8.5/10
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The Call (II) (2013)
9/10
Intense from beginning to end. Look for Anderson in the future
17 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
One of the most intense movies I have ever seen. And I am not kidding. This is expertly directed and amazingly acted by both leads. Abigail Breslin and Halle Berry should get Oscar nominations for this. I realize the chance of that happening is slim to pretty much none, but without them, this film wouldn't have some of the power it does.

Berry of course is Jordan Turner, a veteran 9/11 operator. She is a little quicker on her feet than many of the other operators. She gets as much information as she can from the 9/11 callers and even though it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, any and every detail is important. Is it a red car, an older car, is the man black, white, Asian or Hispanic? Does he wear glasses and so on. She calmly asks these questions and not only does it help her do her job, it helps calm the victim.

Breslin plays Casey Welson, the young girl who gets abducted. She has the role of the terrified victim who relies on Jordan to get her out of this mess. Breslin shot to fame in Little Miss Sunshine, but this might be her best role. To make the film work, you need to feel what Jordan and Casey feel. Both actors are at the top of their game. They made me feel hopeless, sad and terrified for both of them.

Also good as the supporting players. Morris Chestnut is the calm and collected police officer on the hunt for Casey and he brings that demeanour to the role. He is dedicated and not irrational. David Otunga, of WWE (a producer on the film) fame plays his partner and with the exception of his Adonis like physique, you'd never know he was a wrestler. He fits perfectly.

Michael Eklund plays the bad guy and he is a blend of Norman Bates and the "Put the puppy in the basket" bad guy from Silence of the Lambs. He plays the character beautifully and makes you feel for the victims. Also excellent is Roma Maffia, of Nip and Tuck fame.

The director is Brad Anderson, who I first heard of him when he did a small and unnoticed horror film called Session 9, starring David Caruso. The film was decent enough but it was intense. That is what Anderson brings to this film. Intensity. It really never lets up. This can be attributed to the actors of course, but without a director to set the tone and pace of the film, it might not have been as good. From scenes in the trunk of a car to a dungeon to the "HIVE", he manages to keep us riveted throughout. I will be eagerly anticipating his next film.

The ending is one of my favourite parts. If you don't want to know how it ends, stop reading.

9/10 OK, you're here.

Too many times, the killer does heinous things and then he gets arrested. This time, Jordan and Casey turn into John Doe from Seven. After escaping from his clutches, after he has killed a young girl, stabbed a man to death with a screwdriver, burned another alive and was in the middle of taking Casey's scalp, the two woman end up stabbing him with scissors, giving him a concussion and then chaining him to a chair in his own dungeon. There is no escape for him unless he is Houdini. They leave him there to die, which will take weeks. This, IMO, is the right ending. A man like this doesn't deserve mercy or clemency or a trial.

One of my favourites of the year so far.
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10/10
Thugs in perpetuity
28 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Pat is a man who has just been released from a mental institution after serving 8 months on a plea bargain. He was committed because after he came home early from work one day, heard his wedding song playing and found his wife banging the history teacher in the shower. In a momentary lapse of judgement and an obvious crime of passion, Pat nearly beat the guy to death. Upon getting out of the institution, his main goal is to rebuild his relationship with his wife, who now has a restraining order on him.

Enter in Tiffany, who is a recent widow. Her husband got hit by a car after going to Victoria's Secret to buy lingerie for his wife in hopes of spicing up their sex life, which Tiffany had turned off after 3 years of marriage.

Then you have Pat Sr. and Dolores, Pat's parents. Pat Sr. has lost his pension because of the financial crash and now runs a bookie business and his wife supports him for doing so. Pat feels that his son is a good luck charm and wants him to stay close during Eagles games as his presence helps the Eagles win.

Then you have Pat's friend who has made big money because of the financial crash by flipping houses. But with the this new found wealth he feels stressed, restricted and ready to bash things at any given moment.

There are other bit characters in the film as well and when you throw all this into the blender and you have one of the best films of the year.

Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro give outstanding performances and I believe all three will get Oscar nominations this year. All three of them simply own these roles. But more than just the incredible acting, this is an incredibly emotionally engaging story. In here you have two very damaged people who find ways to help each other. And even though Pat might seem to be a loose cannon, if you look at the people around him, they are no different. I have always believed that humans walk a fine line between sanity and insanity. There's a Tragically Hip song called Thugs that says, "Everyone's got their breaking point, for me it's spiders, for you it's me." Profound in that I believe this to be true. We do all have our breaking points. For Pat, walking in on his wife and seeing another man performing with his mouth on her private parts in the shower, while his wedding song was playing, was enough to push him over the edge. And if that is what it takes to send you over that precipice, how do you recover? This movie explores that journey, and it's not an easy one. Pat doesn't get better over night, or after 8 months or even after spending a few months with Tiffany. It's hard work, but eventually, the human spirit will find ways to mend itself.

I have a friend who gained 150 pounds in a matter of about 18 months. He used to be model good looking. And then something or rather several things tested his mettle. And he lost. For 8 years he kept the 325 pounds on, he drank, he smoked and he was lazy. And then one day he just woke up and decided he'd had enough and he lost the 150 pounds and stopped smoking and drinking and now he's back to his old self. It's like Pat in this film. He has to work at it. The human psyche is fragile and sometimes it needs to reboot. This film is that journey to reboot.

In a way, this film reminds me of Perks of Being a Wallflower....but for a different age group. Both are in my top three of the year. One is about discovering who you are at a young age and the journey that ensues. The other is discovering who you are at an older age, and the journey that ensues to make yourself better. Both are brilliant and poignant and brought a lump to my throat.

Silver Linings also brought a tear to my eye. It's truly a remarkable film.

One final note. There is some criticism from a vocal minority who say it goes typically predictable or cliché at the end and I disagree with this completely. It is the opposite of cliché. This is a film about a journey and to have them not end up together would be a travesty. Their courtship and ultimate pairing was part of the journey to make them whole again. That is not cliché, that is just brilliant writing.

10/10
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1/10
Horrible in every way
1 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Kill Bill is a fraud. Terrible, terrible movie! SPOILERS

Spoilers within this post. Enter at your own risk!

I just got back from the noon showing of Kill Bill in which the theatre was half full (for a noon showing, that is huge. The theatre is one of the bigger ones at the Queensway in Toronto, so it will do well this weekend). What I witnessed in that 100 minutes in the theatre can only be described as Tarantino's flipping of the bird to all of us as he looks in the mirror and congratulates himself on being the smartest man in the world. Straight up, Kill Bill is one of the biggest disappointments I have seen in my life. After masterpieces like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and other greats like True Romance, you would think that Kill Bill would live up to those lofty expectations bestowed upon it by virtue and name recognition alone. But not only has Tarantino told us all to **** off, he he has done it while laughing in our faces.

Kill Bill has all of Tarantino's quirky and weird trademarks in it. And it contains strange techniques that at first you think is simply an homage to a film genre. But in reality, what QT did here was get too cute and at the expense of artistic integrity. What we are left with is more Matrix style garbage, a 10 minute anime introduction to Lucy Lui's character, black and white photography for no reason and the bleeping out of the bride's name just because he can. All of this is looked at as being brilliant by the critics and those in similar circles because Tarantino has a free pass right now. His films have enamoured critics for 10 years now and this one is no different even though it is a shadow of the opulence that we are used to from him. To sum it up, this film is all style and has no substance. The style is there, but for what purpose? Why does he choose to do the things that he does? Is it just because he can? Or is it because he thinks he is so much more clever than the rest of us? You guys thought Matrix Reloaded was pretentious, this film might as well be the Architect meets Socrates meets Locke, meets Rouseau meets Japanese smart guy meets Marx. That is how it comes across. Pretentious doesn't even begin to describe it. There is even a blatant rip off of the burly brawl in this film right down to beings jumping up a flight of steps to come and meet the heroine.

I knew I was in trouble five minutes into the film when it just didn't feel right. You know how in Pulp you just knew you were in for something special? You just felt it with the dialogue, the acting, the soundtrack and everything that encompassed the film. Well Kill Bill has the opposite feel to it. None of that magic is present and it is just a bunch of people getting sliced and diced and maimed. There is no snappy dialogue and that is what QT is good at. Tarantino is a lyrical genius and he abandons that here and goes Wachowski Brothers on us and it just doesn't work.

I despised this film with every fibre of my body. Shame on you QT. Shame on you for starting to believe everything that was said about you.

1/10
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9/10
Intense. A film where you genuinely fear for the characters
5 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There are films where you fear for the characters in it. Blair With Project, Halloween, Jaws to name just a few. But rarely have i seen a film where you actually feel badly for the characters you are watching. This film does that to you. It gives you a genuine sorrow for them as no matter what scenario you come up with, you just can't see it ending well for any of them.

I remember when I watched Friday the 13th the remake one of the actors stood out to me and that was Jonathan Sadowski, who played Wade, the guy who finds the pot plants while his friends are off having sex. He had a small part of course, but I remembered him more than the rest. His mannerisms, his comic timing and his manic and hurried speech. It all stood out. When I first saw Paul in this film, I didn't make the connection right away. He looked thinner in here and he was without glasses. But as time went on, he became more and more recognizable and that to me is the sign of a good actor. You remember them even if you don't quite place them perfectly. Here, he is, imo, brilliant. He's the risk taker but the he's also the protective figure as his younger brother comes to see him in Kiev. He exuded a certain confidence to him and I'm glad to see Sadowski getting more work. I think you'll be seeing more of him in the future.

Chernobyl Diaries, according to IMDb was filmed in Serbia and Hungary. It's hard to find credible information to indicate whether or not this was actually filmed at Chernobyl. But if it wasn't they did a pretty damned good job of making it look like they did. According to Oren Peli, they filmed in some old Nazi Bunkers in Belgrade, Serbia. But there are exterior shots that look like the site of the infamous reactor. Either way, the location is one of bright spots of the movie. It provides all kinds of creepy atmosphere and tension. The dark, narrow tunnels, the dust and the old abandoned equipment, the aged and bucolic landscapes, it all gets inside your head.

While some have complained about generic scares and the fact that you ostensibly know when the shocking parts are coming, that really didn't bother me. A horror movie is effective when you feel for your characters. This wasn't terrifying like The Ring and it wasn't as intense as John Carpenter's Halloween, but it is a film that makes you uneasy and as I said earlier, you fear for the characters. By the end when you know inevitably that it can not turn out good for anyone, I wanted all of them to die quickly, because the alternative was no so pleasant.

Sometimes, as they say, death is not the worst thing that can happen to you.

9/10
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9/10
Perhaps the best martial arts film I've seen
9 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I'm probably going to sound like a little kid here but HOLY CRAP! Everything you have heard about this film is absolutely true. The fighting choreography in this is unlike anything I have ever seen. Now I might screw up some of the characters and their names here, but that's only because they are relatively unknown. Iko Uwais is the main actor in this and according to his bio on IMDb, he is a Taiwanese Silat champion and has been studying it since 10. It shows. His skill is eye popping, truly incredible. And then there's the main villain in the film, who I think is Mad Dog. He's played by some dude named Yahan Ruhian. He is just as impressive, if not more than Uwais. Another martial artist named Doni Alamsyah makes up a trifecta of gifted martial artists. The last battle is a three way as Uwais and Alamsyah team up to fight Ruhian. It truly left me breathless and I clapped in the empty theatre when it was done. I don't know how they did it, but if you think you have seen incredible martial arts battles before, this one will put it to shame.

The story? Who cares. Crimelords in Jakarta trap a bunch of SWAT team members in a building and all freakin hell breaks loose. That's all that really has to be said because it is the choreography and the fights in the film that take centre stage and it's one of the best I've ever seen.

This is one hell of a ride.

9/10
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Srpski film (2010)
5/10
A repulsive film that goes way too far
11 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This review will contain spoilers:

There are films that really test your mettle. Those films make your skin crawl, your blood boil, your mind work overtime and your emotions are tested throughout. Off the top of my head, I can think of films like Martyrs (any Grand Pierre film really), Last House on the Left (1972), Cannibal Holocaust, Men Behind the Sun and Salo. These films are tough to watch because they dehumanize people and in Cannibal Holocaust's case, animals, which is disgusting in itself. But once you start sodomizing babies and then your own family, you have now gone way too far. There is nothing artistic about this, it's just wrong. You can almost hear the script writers sitting down for lunch one day discussing all the disgusting films they have seen over the years. They then decide that to one up those films, they need to rape a kid or do it with your own child. This would be one way to get a reaction from the audience. But there are some things that should never be shown, ever. This film crossed that line not once, not twice but four or five times.

So why do I give this film a 5/10 and not the 1/10 it sounds like I should rate it? Because, as many have said before me, the film is very well made and the script is very sharp and crisp and it takes into a world that not many of us know about. I enjoyed the film for the first 70 minutes but the last 30 are just so repulsive that it really destroys all good will one might have for the film.

I'm not sure what message this film was trying to convey. I'm not sure how anyone but the most perverse and perverted could enjoy a film about sexually exploiting not just kids, but newborns, but this film asks you to do that. And for that, it disgusts me.

If you think you've seen it all, think again.

5/10
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9/10
Strap in, hold on and get ready to be blown away!
29 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Transformers 3 is a miracle. It has everything you could hope for in a summer film. There were times when I wanted to stand up and cheer (I did sit and cheer or clap twice in the film) and there were times when my voice box wouldn't work so my shocked and awe functions were relegated to my eyes bulging like I was on Ecstasy and my mouth was agape like I was lining up to have someone throw an M&M in my mouth. There were times when I laughed when no one else did (Sam's interview with Malkovich and when just a few notes of Sweet Emotion played, just like it did in Armageddon). There were times that I laughed when everyone else did (the two New York mini robots doing pretty much anything got me and the audience all giddy). And then there were times when I just sat back, glasses on, blinding light from the screen, crisp and precise sound emanating from the 100 or so speakers, and just took it all in, and thought to myself, "this is why I love movies". This is why I go to the theater. My favourite films take me to another world. A world of infinite possibilities.

When I watched Terminator 2, I believed that liquid metal was real. I was convinced that it could take the shape of a Vasquez from Aliens and stab a man while he was drinking a carton of milk.

In Jurassic Park, I was in that park with the kids and with Malcolm and with the lawyer and the director of Ghandi. Tyrannosaurus Rex was real and so were the raptors before they started playing basketball in Toronto.

In Armageddon, I knew that Bay really went to a giant asteroid and shot on location. He really did take Bruce and Ben and William with him. It had to be real because the worlds that they inhabit felt real.

And that's not even mentioning some of the big guys like Star Wars and LOTR and Matrix and many others. The worlds that can be created take you places. They remind you that with a little imagination, a lot of hard work and a letting a little bit of the kid in you come out, you can creates anything.

Bay's Transformers 3 is a brilliant and worthy addition to these worlds. There isn't one frame of this film that feels fake. There's not one shot that wasn't laboriously coddled over. It's truly a remarkable film and even though I'm not a huge proponent of 3D, here it absolutely works. The base jumping scene will go down, imo, as one of the all time most amazing scenes ever filmed. It's just remarkable that Bay could do what he did.

The film has a very fresh story which is also a bit surprising as it kind of rehashes the story from part two. But when you can get Kennedy, the moon landing, Cheronobyl, the destruction of downtown Chicago, the middle east problems and a plethora of other issues all rolled into one film, it just feels fresh.

My favourite part of Transformers, even more the mind blowing spectacle of watching them transform, is Sam Witwicky. His character is essential to the film and he is the glue that holds it all together. The first 15 minutes or so is all exposition. They go to the moon and discover the crashed Transformer there and it is a very well done beginning. But when Sam finally gets on screen you feel a sense of relief. His mannerisms, his idiosyncratic ways and his entire ethos is what makes the Transformer films so much fun from the human side. Here, he has grown up. He is disgruntled as he feels he should have some cushy, well paying government job seeing as he saved the world twice. But he is unemployed and looking for work. His new girlfriend is hot, obviously, but she is a nice addition to the film. Her story arc could not have been done with Mykala as his girlfriend, so it was written well. Cameos by John Malkovich and Ken Jeong are played strictly for laughs and they do it well, especially Jeong who's a short and sneaky man working in Malkovich's company. He had some of the best early laughs.

Adding to the mix is newcomer Frances McDormand. She plays a caricature of a bitchy CIA agent who is way too full of herself but really hasn't a clue what she is doing. This part is not played for laughs as she insults Sam and Optimus at every chance she gets. It's also nice to see that Coen's alumni McDormand, Malkovich and John Turturro are all in this film. They even share some screen time together (not all three together).

Without getting into the story, to avoid spoilers, just suffice to say that everything you want and expect from a Transformers film is here and many of the things people complained about in the second one are not. Gone are the Transformer balls, leg humping and the supposed racial stereotypes of the twins. Replacing that is more subdued and well placed humour. Even the sheer emotion is magnified in the film as the last 30-45 minutes will leave you breathless and exhausted. And the only spoiler I will mention is my favourite line of the film is when Rosie tells Megatron that he will be used like he is the Sentinel's bitch.

Transformers 3 is a like a ride at the amusement park. It can leave you breathless, queasy and exhausted. But you know that once you get off you just feel like going back on again.

9/10
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Scream 4 (2011)
9/10
You're the dumb blond with the big tits (who then runs up the stairs)
15 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Scream 4 is a minor miracle. It not only furthers the story of Scream, it updates it. When Scream came out in 96, there was no social media, there was no Blair Witch Project. It was simply a couple of killers who took their love of movies too far. They terrorized people using a coded cell phone. That's about as inventive as they got.

It worked brilliantly as Scream became one of top 25 films of all time. With horror legend Wes Craven directing a fresh and brilliant script by newcomer Kevin Williamson, Scream poked fun at and paid homage to all the horror films that came before it.

Here we are 15 years later and the trick is to somehow stay true to the tone of the original while updating it for today's post-Twitter generation. That can be a tricky thing. Look at the utter failure of Zombie's Halloween. It was a reboot and it tried to walk a fine line between keeping the tone of the original and Zombie adding his own flair. It didn't work at all. But this time, Craven and Williamson have made a ridiculously brilliant film in Scream 4. All the witty dialogue, all the irreverent nods to the horror films of the last 50 years, all the hot young women, and all the goofiness of some of the other characters that we love, it's all here. The film even gets ballsy enough to tell you that it is basically following in the footsteps of the original. So when it tells you this, you try to piece it all together and see if you can figure out who's doing the killing.

As much as I like to be surprised at the end of a horror film, or any good who-dunnit, it isn't very often when I can't figure out the Scooby Doo endings. But I was honestly baffled in this one, right up till the very end when all is revealed. Kudos to the script and to Craven for really keeping you guessing.

The story has Sidney returning to Woodsboro for the ten year anniversary of the killings. She has written a book about her harrowing experience and it has gone on to be a best seller. As soon as she arrives, the killings start again and that familiar voice is taunting her and her niece and her friends. Emma Robertson is her niece Jill and Hayden Pantierre plays her best friend Kirby. David Arquette and Courtney Cox reprise their roles and then you can add in all kinds of excellent cameos or small roles from the likes of Anthony Anderson, who plays Deputy Anthony Perkins...wink wink..nudge nudge...and Kristen Bell and Anna Paquin.

Soon the locals start getting bumped off, but in much more gruesome fashion than other Scream films. There are plenty of stabbings and the outcome is bloody and gruesome. In an homage to Wes Craven's original fright film Last House on the Left, one of the victims actually has their intestines laying beside them. It was a very shocking, albeit quick moment, but it was there.

The film really plays up the fact that the killer wants to up the ante in this one. The killer is using the internet to broadcast the kills and this makes the killer incredibly sick. And when you find out (during the talking killer part, when the killer, instead of just killing their victim, explains the whole plot to them) what the motivation is for this killing spree, you just might stand up and cheer. I'm not sure if Williamson or Krueger wrote the last part about not having to work for fame anymore, you just have to have messed up stuff happen to you, but regardless of who did, it's one of the most brilliant and apropos lines I've ever heard.

Scream 4 is miles better than the last one and imo it even surpasses the very good Scream 2. I am ready for a fifth. The movie really takes you back to what I loved about Scream 1 and 2. Sidney's been through a lot, but I think she go another round or two.

9/10
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