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Under the Skin (2013)
Thought Provoking Artistic Sci-Fi Drama That Is Terrifying
There are some films that are made for the masses. Others are just not meant to be understood but everyone. But this doesn't mean the film is bad. On the contrary, some of these films not made for the general film audience are excellent in every aspect. Under The Skin from director Jonathan Glazer is one film that isn't for everyone. I hate to characterize it like this but this a film for fans of great film. The masses won't get or understand it. Not that I entirely get it either because the film leaves a lot to your interpretation.
Scarlett Johansson stars as undefined being resembling human form. Her task is to lure the men of Scotland back to her 'lair'. From there they are devoured by a pool of black ink. Followed by a watcher riding a motorcycle most of the time, he preps her for her outings. When things go badly he turns into the cleaner. Johansson's character begins to feel for the human race after her one encounter with a victim (Adam Pearson). This prompts a seeking of what it is to be human.
The plot is thin I will admit but the film goes a long way to give you so much. Half way through the plot doesn't matter. This is not the type of film where everything is spelled out. That is a credit to the filmmakers. Glazer created a sci-fi drama that just goes. That's the best way I can put it. We follow Johansson's character as she goes from one place to another looking for her pray. Credit Johansson for conveying an emotionless entity just going through the motions most of the film.
She's cold, calculated and even unapproachable if it wasn't for her good looks. She goes all out with this role being frequently naked. When the film starts there is an amount of confusion on the part of the viewer. But by the end her character has gone through a small evolution. Depending on what type of person you are you might actually feel sympathy. That finale 'chase' was uncomfortable to watch.
The film is incredible shot with some long takes and stunning landscape visuals. The stigma of art house holds true. It's extremely artistic looking and the way it handles the subject matter. Because most of what is going on is left vague, the viewer is left make their own judgment. I'm still up in the air a bit about who these entities are. At one time I thought Johansson was a succubus because the nature of her actions. But with the opening shown as a eye, letting the viewer know that the view they see is not one of the world I suspect that she is a 'alien'.
The only issues I had was when the film starts some of the Scottish accents were hard to decipher. It is a bit of a learning curve. But that quickly falls by the wayside when the story develops. One particular scene (the beach scene) threw me for a loop. I couldn't understand how this entity could be so cold. It was somewhat animalistic. Realizing that she isn't a from this world her actions made more sense. Gorgeously shot the moment will draw up all sorts of emotions from the viewer. Much of the film is like that shocking but appealing.
I didn't know what to think when I sat down with the film. I had read reviews that just disoriented me. Many critics and film fans had this on their list of best films of 2014. I can now see why. Any easy going viewer will hate this. There disdain may spread to other like minded individuals but not everyone.
Film students, fans of great cinema should eat this up. In a world where we get tons of Hollywood fluff it's nice there are still filmmakers out there that reach and succeed. Jonathan Glazer has here a film that does a great balance of intrigue, visual stun and mystify all at the same time. I don't know why it took me this long to watch it but I'm so happy I finally did.
A sci-fi thriller that doubles as film art
I didn't know how to start this review. I thought I hate Sandra Bullock was a bit too harsh. Even though it's not far from the truth. Then I came up with I'm a movie hipster sometimes. But I've done that before. What could entice some to read this? I think I have your attention now with my honesty. I could go into my hearing about Gravity and then the trailers not doing it for me. Which is also true. But I haven't seen an Alfonso Cuaron film I didn't love. I'm not saying I loved Gravity. It was better than I expect. And a side note that come to play later, the ending was spoiled for me.
The film follows an American crew in space as they do what astronauts do, do experiments and fix equipment. Chaos ensues when debris from a Russian satellite shoots their way. The crew scramble to find a way back to earth before the debris comes in contact with their ship. No spoilers, that is the plot of the entire film.
These astronauts are dealing with a catastrophe in space. A movie like this in just about anyone else's hands would have a slow burn bore. Alfonso Cuaron doesn't make boring films. The man is an artist behind the lens. The first shot of the film last fifteen minutes long. It goes places I've never seen done in a sci-fi film. He comes up some ingenious angles and trickery.
This is the first time that I can fully say the general movie going audience got it right. This is a movie that should make $200 million dollars or more. It's art at it's core. A small story about two people deal with adverse conditions trying not to die. The way the film is shot is unreal. The only sounds are voice and music. There is no sound in space. And I love sci-fi films in space shot that way.
Cuaron puts the audience in space for 90 minutes. And I would happily go back. He pulls out great performances from Clooney and Bullock. Clooney is a bona fide movie star. He brings charisma and gravitas to nearly every role he takes. He plays the grizzled veteran so well. The story he tells at the start of the film makes me feel like I was there in space with them. It sucked me into his character and placed the tension high.
I could watch a whole film with his character just telling stories. Bullock plays the rookie medical examiner on her first mission. Even not being a fan of hers you get why she's an Oscar winning actress. She goes through a range of emotions throughout the film that any less of an actress would haves failed early. But Cuaron makes sure we are on board with these characters before it hits the fan.
What makes the film standout for me is the tension. I had the ending spoiled for me two weeks before I got to the sit down with the film. By the end of the film my nerves were shot and my hands clammy. That's what I call captivating your audience. The film looks so vivid and smooth. Cuaron is auteur and we should all celebrate his being on this planet. I can't wait for this man to take over the world with his film. I could only imagine what he could do with the horror drama or a superhero film. I'm still blown away about what a fantastic piece of art this film was.
Daniel Radcliffe led dark comic fantasy that surprises all around
When I see the name Alexandre Aja on any project I get pretty excited. So far in his film career he hasn't disappointed. I loved his crazy debut slasher Haute Tension. It still messes with my head and I finally kind of figured out the brick to the face ending. Both remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha are just plain awesome. The former is a disturbing brutal horror film and the latter being a wild outrageous party type monster movie. Call me overjoyed when the word got out to me that he was teaming up with one of my favorite actors, Daniel Radcliffe, for a horror film called Horns. I have been waiting eagerly for this film and Aja did not disappoint.
Based on the Joe Hill (Stephen King's son) novel, Horns follows Ig portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe, who is a honest, heartfelt guy. He is madly in love with his childhood sweetheart Merrin (Juno Temple). But on the night he wanted to purpose she ends up raped and murdered under their childhood hangout spot. The media and his hometown looking for a culprit brand him the murder instantly. With only his brother Terry (Joe Anderson) and his best friend Lee (Max Minghella) believing him, Ig tries to deal with life as best as he can. After a night of hard drinking which lead to sex with Glenna, a friend he's known for years, Ig wakes up with two horns growing from his skull. In the process of trying to figure out why this is happening he comes to realize these horns make people spew their deepest and darkest secrets. Armed with this knowledge and power he goes on the hunt for Merrin's killer.
This is not a horror movie. I will repeat that just for my own personal gain, this is not a horror film. There are elements of horror in the film. A few brutal gunshots, some dark imagery but nothing that would cross this film over the line into horror film territory. Much like many of Stephen King's stories, this is a dark murder mystery fantasy. Just like Ig, the audience is trying to figure out who's done it. Much less like The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake/sequel the red herrings are few and far between. This is IG's story and partly Merrin's.
Radcliffe I always thought had talent. Stepping away from the Harry Potter films, he stood out well in the horror genre with The Woman in Black. But here, Aja lets the guy go through a physical and emotional roller coaster. Radcliffe takes IG from what could have been a poor beaten soul, but gives him heart and honesty. I felt for him on more than one occasion. He's just a sweet natured guy that has had his world fall around him. With a film of an Oscar caliber nature he's going to be nominated for some big awards in the years to come.
Being that Radcliffe holds the film together he's helped along but some good supporting roles. Joe Anderson continues to shine anytime I see him. In this he goes through more than one character and brother should. David Morse portrays Merrin's father Dale with fire. There are two scenes between him and Radcliffe that sucked me in. I would have love to see more of them two sharing the screen together. Two actors that know their craft taking the material up a notch.
Aja paints the film based in reality, where now a days the media and mob rule condemn a person of a heinous crime before the facts are out. There is a hilarious scene where IG gets the trolling media to beat it out literally for a chance to have his story rights. The narrative is a murder mystery built around these characters. We are shown flashbacks of key moments that set future actions and motives in motion. It's nice for me that we can see these character grow up a bit to explain how they act when older. The comedy comes from most of IG's interaction when people see his horns. Most of the humor is dark and at times vile. But it got me to laugh a few times and be stunned at others.
This is one of those film that comes out of nowhere and just excites me to tell my friends to see. I had to scream it everywhere. Aja is my favorite new horror director but with Horns he steps out of his comfort zone to make a dramatic heartfelt story about a murder that tears a town apart. My only issues would be that halfway through with my inquisitive mind, I figured out the killer. But that's because I'm always trying to figure out who did it instead of letting the narrative play out.
I have read that ending in the book is different, playing out a bit longer with more explanation. I would have like that much. It seemed like the film rushed to the finale and the 'battle' of sorts could have been stretched out. That aside, Aja with a great performance from Radcliffe has made one of my favorite films to come out this year. I'm excited to see them both step out of the norm again because it seems when they do we all prosper.
8.2 out of 10
Stylish, excellently director violent horror remake/sequel
I had not heard of The Town That Dreaded Sundown until late this year. It crossed my horror path when I started choosing films for the Halloween Extravaganza that I was doing. I didn't even know there was an original film until after I watched the trailer. The trailer for the 'remake' intrigued me. It looked like it could be an interesting take on the slasher genre. I still have not seen the original but I plan to since Netflix has it. What got me even more excited about this film was the fact that the film was being produced by Ryan Murphy, more famous for Glee but the co-creator of American Horror Story. As being a fan of that show it thrilled me.
The filmmakers including director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon have created not only a remake but a sequel to the original film but also made the film cannon. The story starts 65 years later as the Phantom Killer starts killing again. Jami is the lone survivor of the killer wrath. He has chosen her to spread his message that he is back. With her past clouded in secrets, she goes on the search to find the killer and why he has returned. What the filmmakers have done is made the original film apart of the back story. Many clips of the old film are shown in the new film. From what I've read a few of the same kills happen in the new film.
The story is somewhat interesting to start. But it does derail about halfway through with too many red herrings and not enough interesting characters. Each character with speaking lines has some kind of seedy back story. That makes for lots of guesses to who is doing the killing and why. If the story hadn't crashed a bit before the finale I would recommend everyone seeing this film. But that's the one downfall of the film is the story fails the fantastic film making.
This film is stylish, vibrant and extremely well shot. The color scheme sets it right in the world of American Horror Story. It doesn't hurt that the director and producer have worked on the best episodes of that show. From the opening with a very cool and well staged long take, this is a different kind of slasher film. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon displays a talent for staging and directing in a powerful debut. I want to see what else he can come up with. I hope he stays in the horror genre. That is a place that needs such a creative eye.
And he doesn't hold back on the blood and gore. These deaths are violent and gruesome. I was taken aback by the gore on display and the use of actual blood. The only moment I noticed CGI blood was at the end. Many of these kills are editing in fast but interesting way. They add unease and terror to moments that are filled with dread. About halfway through any attune viewer can unravel the mystery. But that leaves the story for a nice epilogue with a great final moment. I could see another film being made but I would only be happy if the director and Ryan Murphy were working on it.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a remake/sequel that builds on the world the first film created. It's excellently shot and directed to point that I can't believe someone with this much talent was let loose on a horror film. Story (for the most part) is engaging. The characters keeps the film from running too much afoul. Any fan of the genre or film in general needs to check this film out for the gruesome deaths and stylish way the film is shot. I now feel I might be let down by the original.
Motel Hell (1980)
Backwoods dark early 80's comedy disguised as a horror film
Motel Hell is a film I have been dying to see. In some circles it's a cult 80's horror movie. I had only seen bits and pieces of the film on TV. It seemed very interesting with the chainsaw and Saw-like pig masks. When this Halloween Extravaganza came up I jumped at the chance to finally checked it out. I seems to get caught in the hype, which I need to stop. It ruins the film experience for me. But this film ended up being nothing I expected it to be. In the end, I think this film definitely doesn't fit in the horror genre. But I don't know where else to categorize it.
Rory Calhoun stars as farmer Vincent. He's famous for his meat in the area. You can't get it anywhere other then 100 mile stretch from his farm. What makes his meat so good? He kidnaps humans and cultivates them. So yes, he's selling human meat. This is no spoiler. The film opens with Vincent building one of his traps in order to get his next victims. But after the trap works, he is overcome with emotion for one of his victims. Terry (the beautiful Nina Axelrod) wakes up in his and his sister Ida's care. Vincent tells her that she had an accident but she was spared. The man she was riding with has died. But the viewers know better of his demise.
Terry is grateful for being saved. She takes a liking to both Ida and Vincent but even more so Vincent. Vincent is kept in check by his brother Paul who has grown up eating the meat but knowing nothing of what the meat actually is. Paul takes a liking to Terry but Terry has eyes for his brother. What follows is Vincent coming to terms with what he is doing and Terry coming to realization that not everything is what it seems.
First and foremost this is not a horror movie. There is killing but it mostly bloodless. I get the idea and the concept is in the horror family. The film plays out like a late 70's very early 80's dark comedy. At moments it's goofy like 80's comedies then it will switch gears to become trippy and odd. The performances are okay. Calhoun give Vincent more depth that he should have in a film like this. You can see there more at work then what he is showing. It's interesting to watch his slow downfall. Nancy Parsons plays his sister Ida and she is best known as the crazy gym teacher from Porky's. She plays just about the same part here but with a more fun and sinister nature.
Nina Axelrod may not be the best final girl in horror movies but she's definitely one of the most attractive final girls in 'horror' film history. Being in an 80's movie she is put in all the horror situations including the final battle and the obligatory topless nudity. Speaking of, way to go for the filmmakers to be forward thinking even back then with a goofy Drive-In make out scene that sports some full frontal male nudity. I didn't see that coming at all. The rest of the performance are basic for a film of this nature.
The film is full of tons of oddball characters but Vincent is the only that standout. There is an interesting scene with an S&M couple that would fit better in Police Academy then this film. Motel Hell is one of those odd films that just doesn't fit anywhere conventional. It's not a horror film that's for sure. The only moment of horror would be the final chainsaw battle. It was kind of cool to see a film end like that. But this is a film for one of those late night Netflix viewings, nothing more and nothing less.
Atmospheric and colorfully shot supernatural slasher film
I have been waiting for the right time for my first viewing of Dario Argento's fan favorite Suspiria. When this Halloween Extravaganza came up I took at as the opportunity to finally sit down the the film. I had only heard praises of the film. I personally wanted to go in cold. When a movie is hyped up I hate being let down. It has happened to me in a few of the last movie viewings. I stayed away from reviews and the like. I know that this movie has been out since '77 but I will do heavy research. Going in cold was the best idea I had with this film.
Jessica Harper stars as Suzy Bannion a newcomer to a prestigious ballet school where some grisly murders have occurred. As Suzy gets accustomed to the life at the school she realizes that there is more than meets the eye with the school and it's employees. I know the movie has been out long enough for there to be no need for a spoiler alert. But I wouldn't want to spoil any of the story because there is a slight twist ending. It fits very well with the story as a whole.
Argento has done an excellent job of drowning this film in dread. From the opening to the credits there is an unease that grows slowly. The vivid look of the film doesn't help that unease go away. The use of color is apparent. It's an odd choice but works very well. The film feels much darker than sometimes what's on screen. But when it gets violent it gets ugly. There are some inventive shots on display for a film like this. More so than many films in this genre, this film has style for a slasher. It makes sense coming from who it was made by and the time period it was release.
The body count is low but when someone dies on screen the aftermath is gory. It brings even more to the dread of the film. You just have no idea how or who are going to get it. When they do, it's not pretty. The soundtrack from Goblin is fantastic. It's an electronic score that takes a bit of getting use to but is put to great use in the film. It's especially effective during scene building tension. It's one of those soundtracks that's so good in a movie with a lesser caliber filmmaker it would have taken over the film.
The performances are okay at best. For a film like this is more about the atmosphere, the setting, the soundtrack and the gore. They serve their characters well enough to keep the film moving. The story may start off thin but there is a deep back story that is revealed as the film goes on. I would love to see what happen to some of these characters to see how they got where they are. This is another one of those scary movies where you just don't trust kids. There was always something sinister about children in the 70's. Dario Argento created a fantastic film that help promote the slasher genre and the supernatural genre for years to come. There are plenty of films that this one has influenced. It is a hard balance when tackling two genres in one film but this one rides the line well.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010)
A fast moving documentary about exploitation film in the late 60's, 70's and early 80's
Directed by Mark Hartley, the man behind Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, comes Machete Maidens Unleashed. It's a fast moving but pretty informative look at exploitation films in the late 60's, 70's and early 80's. It's main focus is to give explanation about the wild films that came out from the Philippines. Many of the B movie staples came from this era of film. It spans about 15 years where these films were all the rage at Drive-Ins and the rules didn't apply.
The film starts off with showing how production moved from the states to the Philippines after it was liberated by America. The country was very American friendly. Gerry de Leon and Eddie Romero were the first filmmakers to establish themselves and start making films. The first focus was on the Blood Island films of which there were a few. It's funny to hear the filmmakers talk about these films while clips are show. The films were goofy horror movies shot on shoestring budgets with thin plots and bad acting. What brought people to these films were the shocks promised from the trailers. There would be gore, obviously fake gore but monsters, science fiction and terror.
Roger Corman is introduced as producer as his time line crosses with that of Eddie Romero. Corman was a bigger name and he had lofty aspirations. Most of the 'hit' films being produced by him. The montage of what he was known for is hilarious. There's also a montage of all of the elements in a good Corman movie. Having not seen many of his film, it was interesting that he wanted to make the 'best' film with the money he had.
But the films out of this area Corman is known for where highlighted in a feature on women in prison film. These films were actually highly successful because of the way they portrayed women as the heroes. Even though they were meant to titillate and entertain, the films helped the up and coming feminist movement. There are interviews with many of the famous actress such as Pam Grier, Colleen Camp, Judith Brown, Leigh Christian & Gloria Hendry. They were put through the ringer. The interviews are the most fascinating here. There are first hand accounts of what the actresses had to go through. Some of the things they went through will be shocking but not against the times.
Sig Haig gives insight on what he had to go through in these films as well. Being that all these films were R-rated or not rated at all, it was refreshing to see the clips in all their uncensored glory. I would hate to watch a PG-13 version of this film. It wouldn't give the films their shock credit. There are ample amounts of nudity and bloody violence. The highlight of all the interviews is many of the moments with John Landis. He provides uncensored thoughts which are insightful and laugh out loud funny. I could have seen all the uncut footage from his interviews. I know there was more great commentary from the director.
In the middle of the 70's the blaxploitation films were all the rage. Two of the films that led the charge came out Phillippines. Cirio H. Santiago directed TNT Jackson, which many of the actors talked about. It was a film that mixed Kung Fu with full on action and had a black female lead. This section of the documentary is most about the late 70s mixing of martial arts in the B-movie era. The stunt work is highlighted as most of the actors did all their own stunts. And the extra were on board for doing anything. Many were injured and a few died. But it was the idea of being in a 'big' Hollywood film that tested people's limits. A small portion of the film is devoted to Francis Ford Coppola whose Apocalypse Now is infamous for it's filming in Philippines. It's only give a few minutes in the documentary but enough is shown that made me want to dive into Heart of Darkness.
The final stretch of the film speaks about Manila International Film Festival and the growing film market. Jaws and Star Wars are targeted as B-movies that were made on a A-level. With these films the decline of the Philippine cinema began. The final big success was the James Bond type spoof starting homegrown Weng Weng. It was the last hit of this era of B-movie cinema. This documentary was so insightful and entertaining. I wasn't bored for a minute. Given that it is unrated also help. So much footage was shown that I was intrigued to see some of these films as a whole. To my surprise, Netflix does carry many of these films. I can see a B-movie marathon in my future.
The Innkeepers (2011)
A Slow Burn Ghost Story
Thank you Netflix for keeping my movie library updated. I was searching a website a while back and they were listing the best movies on Netflix. The Innkeepers was on that list. So I added it to my Netflix but never got around to watch it. Fast forward a few months and there's a few lists out of the best horror movies since 2010. Low and behold The Innkeepers is on a few of those lists. So in order to make my own I had to get updated on my horror movies. And that meant finally getting around to viewing The Innkeepers.
The film follows two employees of an inn that is going out of business. They are also paranormal investigators on the side. In between shifts they investigate the inn as weird occurrences began to happen. Giving any more away would spoil this film. And going in totally cold was the best idea. This is a slow burn. It's seems like an ode to old school haunted house horror. The film takes awhile to establish it's two characters and their somewhat menial jobs. The film for the most part focuses itself on the inn employees. There are a few amusing (intentional) interactions with guests. The plot of the film and back story is revealed in dialogue. It is a few stories that start adding up to what could be going on.
Both performances by the employees are done well. Sara Paxton the film's main character is excellent. Her life is well established through her character. I related to her in the nerd sense. Kelly McGillis (Top Gun) shows up in a small but important role as a former TV star staying the weekend. Pat Healy is the only male in the film for a while. You definitely get the Clerks feel with his character. He's a know it all that hates life but slides through it lazily.
The scares don't come fast and furious like most recent scary films. Thank director Ti West for having the restraint to bombard the audience with boo scares. He builds decent tension leading up to a pay off. Some of them work but others fall flat. Mostly there is a feel of uneasy and dread even at the opening. It's most atmospheric than scary. But when the craziness ensues the film doesn't hold back. I enjoy a movie that when it needs a bit of horror it doesn't skimp on the blood. There aren't buckets but there are some pretty nice scenes of horror.
Ti West impressed me with a few of his angles and shots. It wasn't too artsy but it also didn't bore me. I felt like the film was ramping itself up to a conclusion which paid off. I would only say that only a few times does stall out. But just when that happens the film picks itself up again. I wouldn't call this scary. The film has good unease and an interesting narrative that builds full circle to a nice climax.
Some interesting ideas but a rather by the numbers episode
Gotham is getting on their stride. But that stride is going to have to win over fans big. I'm glad that the show has got a full season to play with. From the opening scenes of this episode, Viper, the show wants to revel in a comic book world. I think that's the best way to attract more viewers. Build a world that is straight out of the pages and run with it. I hope that they keep it on the balanced level. Don't go too overboard with the comic book stuff and not too real. I think that it is on the way slowly.
The episode starts off with Bruce, doing the young detective thing with Alfred scolding him that he needs to get out and walk around. Our villain of the week shows up in the next scene. It seems he is a interesting man with an interesting drug. A young man play a guitar is the first victim or guinea pig of his drug. It's a green smoke that is only inhaled. He runs off feeling alive and heads to the nearest convenience store. What ensues is a confrontation with the clerk and video footage, witness by Gordon and Bullock, of the main stealing the entire ATM machine. There's a hilarious scene of the man hopped up on this new drug running down the street with said ATM strapped to his back.
Gordon and Bullock are put on the case of finding what is going on as usual. Oswald has a sit down with his new boss, crime boss Sal Maroni who wants revenge on Falcone for the robbery in the last episode. Oswald starts spilling the beans about who he is and that enrages Falcone who is planning a small heist of Falcone's casino. Fish Mooney is working on her "weapon". Teach the young girl who won the job how to sing opera and talk to someone "like a mother". This all gets wrapped up in a few interesting final scenes. Falcone on the other hand gathers his bosses for a meeting about the state of affairs. Mooney gets into a heated argument with one of the bosses.
During the search for the mysterious drug dealer, Gordon is detained by Maroni's henchmen. He is brought to the Don to explain and get Oswald out of a tight situation. It seems that he now 'works' for both sides and Gordon is not happy with it. The mysterious man, in trying to get his point across, dishes out his new drug to anyone he can find. This leads to a whole ton of chaos and a lot of dead Gotham citizens. It seems the drug was made for soldiers by a company that was working with Wayne Enterprises. This catches Bruce's attention who wants to attend a fund raiser where he can speak to the board at his family's company.
The man on the loose is a former worker in that lab and it seems the company behind the drug is just as corrupt as about everyone and everything in the city. The villain plans to release the drug at this fund raiser where Bruce and Alfred are attending. Gordon and Bullock get there just in time to stop the release of the drug but the villain commits suicide in the process. The following end scenes are reveals of facts we should be shocked about. The company that manufactured the drug are now keeping an eye on Bullock and Gordon. Fish Mooney is in bed with one of other crime bosses (shocker) to overthrow Falcone. With the near death experience Alfred has joined Bruce in research on his parent's company. The finale scene was to show us that Fish Money has released her 'weapon' on Don Falcone.
There is a whole lot going on in this episode. At times too much. But I'm glad much of it was wrapped up, even though pretty obviously in the end. I would say that this episode was the weakest so far for me. I wasn't entertained by the bad guy of the week. But the idea that people can get superhuman people is a nice touch. That means that maybe later that can play with the idea of meta humans, even if Bruce is still a kid. I'm sure we will see a few cameos down the line. This episode was also cameo friendly. Selina Kyle shows up for one scene at the beginning which really didn't need to be. Because of the nature of the drug Edward Nygma has a much longer scene which feeds into this his eventual nature.
I'm still on board with the show. It's entertaining for sure. I like how they've created a comic book world not unlike a tone down Sin City or the Marvel Universe. I just wish the writers and producers could be less heavy handed with the Batman references. Does Bruce really need to be a detective this early? And is there only one room he stays in the whole mansion? There's no need for so many cameos. Keep the story tight and don't throw in a future villain just because it's a cool idea. I hope next week's episode focuses more on the bigger picture of the show and less about what Easter egg can we put in this scene. And more Oswald, he was in three scenes tops.
The Best Episode So Far
I think this show has S.H.I.E.L.D. disease. Not that it's a bad thing but it makes gaining viewers much harder. What happened with S.H.I.E.L.D. last year was the first half of the season was at most, decent. Things happened with the story line and the second half of the season was must watch weekly television. The story got more character driven and less with a bad guy of the week. Last night's Gotham titled "Arkham" is a positive start to that kind of season. Thankfully, the second season of S.H.I.E.L.D. has banked on the second half of last season. This season is a lot more interesting and fun.
The episode starts at the end of the third episode with Oswald showing up at Barbara and Jim's door. And that's when the campy atmosphere of the show continues. Jim and Oswald have a confrontation where Oswald explains his thoughts about the city of Gotham, a 'crime war' coming and how he can help Gordon solve this. Cut to the top of a parking lot where an assassin with a very violent but cool weapon takes out a congressmen. Gordon and Bullock are put on the case to find the killer.
This congressman's death is just the first of many. There is a war for the property of Arkham. The two huge crime bosses are vying for that land. It will bring in money for both of them but the bigger the land the more money will one boss will have. It seems that everyone is following this including Bruce, who is looking for ways to help in order to perverse the memories of his parents. Gordon and Barbara finally have that talk as she brings up Oswald. He explains to her that it is work related. She finally confesses to his dismay her relationship with Montoya.
As the assassin takes out another congressmen in a violent murder, Fish Mooney is looking for a new performer, trying out two different girls with different strengths. Both interactions are pretty hilarious in nature. If you notice what the girls are wearing and how they sing you can figure out the outcome. Bullock and Gordon only have a few scenes together. But their chemistry is one of the few things keeping this show's head above water. Meanwhile, Oswald has strategically placed himself in one of the aforementioned mob boss' restaurant. A robbery happens where he saves a bag of money but the main go to man there is killed. Oswald is rewarded with being promoted to the new go to man in the restaurant.
Gordon has another one of his "I solved the case" moments figuring out that the mayor is the final person on the hit-man's list. There is a mini-chase with Gordon going toe to toe with the assassin and once again being saved by Bullock. This seems like a very fun play on the damsel in distress routine in many superhero movies. The war is averted but things still don't go the way Gordon and Bruce want. Arkham is divided into parts with one of the crime bosses getting most of the land and main head Falcone taking a hit. The episode ends with three character scenes, Mooney lets her girls battle it out for the job. Gordon and Bruce have another end of show inspirational speech/scenes. But the most interesting is the final reveal. The scene shows the robbers of the mob restaurant were hired by Oswald, who disposes them in a very Oswald way.
For a 'fan' of the show, this was the most entertaining episode of the season. It was mostly character driven with the story affect all the main players in the show. Gotham is at it's best when it's more comic book than TV show. This episode showcases that. It plays with norms (so far norms) and doesn't end the way it should even though the cops caught the killer. Robin Lord Taylor's performance as Oswald is the shining star of this show. Any time he is on screen the show is taking up multiple notches. This is his breakout episode with most of the what happens on screen has him sitting in the shadows playing everyone.
I'm starting to think that Gotham is on it's way to becoming something I love talking about from week to week. This episode let's the bright spots of this show come to light and minimizes the weak points. As long as the creators and writers stick to this kind of episode I'm all in. It's when they deviate and start splicing each scene with a new Batman story line or character they get away from what the show does well. If this had been the pilot I think there would have been a much less divide in viewership and fan support.
Gotham: The Balloonman (2014)
The most cop procedural episode yet
This show has fully embraced the camp comic nature of it's source material. And I think I like it. I know that there are many critics of the show. I am partly one. I would just like the show to find it footing and stick with something. The last episode wanted to genre and theme jump. This latest episode, The Balloonman, dives headfirst in to the campy and embraces it. For me this was the most slow moving of all three episodes. It is also the one most focused on the least amount of characters. Jim Gordon spotlights with Fish Mooney and Bruce having two or three scenes each.
A vigilante of some sorts has made his way into the beloved city of Gotham. He targets known people of stature and limelight who have very heinous backgrounds. At first Bullock wants to nothing to do with it. Gordon, being the boy scout, tries to convince him that a murder is a murder no matter what. Selina Kyle gets one scene extended from the end of the previous episode. She proves to Gordon that she was there where the Waynes were murder. But to our dismay she escapes custody before identifying the murderer.
Oswald reaches Gotham to the delight of a low level thug who doesn't last long. Oswald, looking for a job, ends up on his own terms in the employment of a restaurant that is a home for many of Gotham's goons. His slow rise up is an interesting one. He's taking his time, leaving clues, planting seeds and making moves just so when the inevitable war breaks out he will be the one to stand tall. His character is most entertaining. Jada Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney is still eating up every scene she's in. I love to watch her character on screen. She gets small vengeance on crime boss Falcone for things that transpired in episode two.
Montoya and Allen are still hot on the case of who killed Oswald, with Fish Mooney informing them that it was Gordon who pulled the trigger. There is a confrontation between the three of them (Allen, Gordon & Montoya) that leads to a not funny but blatant attempt at double sided humor from Allen. Montoya does get a poignant moment with Gordon's girlfriend her ex Barbara Kean. This scene is quite nice in that it build Montoya's character and her relationship with Kean. They were once an item but Montoya was deep into drugs. It seems she and Gordon have a few demons hidden.
Bullock and Gordon eventually catch The Balloonman only after the case made high profile by the deaths of a dirty cop and a child abusing cardinal of the church. Gordon and Bullock have a few good exchanges together trying to track down any information on this killer. A raid on an apartment is especially hilarious as Bullock gets beaten up trying to take down a suspect. Bruce and Alfred are at a battle of wits as Bruce is looking for clues to his parents murder. Alfred is trying to teach the boy how to be strong. The lightest scene of the whole episode is Bruce and Alfred dueling with wooden swords. There is much foreshadowing for Bruce's character for any fan of the source material.
It seems that every episode will have a Jim Gordon "I just figured it all out" solving the case moments. Thankfully even though this episode ends with Gordon's somewhat inspirational speech, this time he's not talking to Bruce. Kean and him have a genuine moment that shows that they do care and know each other quite well. This moment is spoiled but the appearance of Oswald to Gordon's shock.
This was the lull episode that I hope are few and far between.. I know that it is comic book TV with no superheroes. But playing on the comic noir, this show can't get caught up in the normal of procedural television. It's entertaining me when I'm focused on characters and actions not the story line. Gordon is an interest character and being we all needs a hero, there has to be good to the bad. With so much bad needing to happen in order for the show to get to it's eventual conclusion, there needs to more focus on the darker side of the city of Gotham. Even Gordon is questioned multiple times of what is good and bad and why he does what he does? Those are the moments that the show should run with.
Cold in July (2014)
80's throwback crime noir
Starting off a review with I hate when my expectations are high is not the way I wanted to write this. But that is the only way I can explain how I'm understanding of what Cold In July is. I chalk this up to another movie where the trailer had everything I wanted. I think I need to stop watching trailer. Or companies need to stop putting everything in a trailer. But that is an argument for another time. Michael C. Hall has always intrigued me as an actor. I have never seen an episode of Dexter. I know him from Six Feet Under and a few films he's been in. He was talented for sure. I just never jumped on the bandwagon. With him, Sam Shepard and the always go to Don Johnson in the lead of this film, you might see why my expectation were a bit high.
The film based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale leads a complicated story of a father while protecting his family shoots an intruder in his house. That intruder happens to be the son of a recently released ex-con. The story gets more involved but anymore and I would be spoiling it. This is one of the film, the colder you go in the better off you are. The story twists and turns a lot. I wasn't expecting any of it. It starts as a home invasion drama then turns to a revenge film before diving into full on crime noir. I am usually one to figure out some twists and turns but this one had me locked in.
Even for all the twist and turns there are moments where the film meanders and that too me out of what was going on. It is slow moving, I just expected some action. But the story doesn't call for it until the end. With the film taking place in 1989 with the filmmakers fully embracing the 80's from the cars, the styles and the synth pop soundtrack. Which fit well very much like in Drive. Hall and Shepard are good as two people on opposite sides of the fence for half of the film. Don Johnson is the one member of the lead three that breakouts in a huge way. His private eye is funny, cool, calm and entertaining. I could watch a whole film with just his character. It's disappointing that he doesn't show up until about 45 minutes into the film.
The film is well shot with only a few of the night scenes dimly lit. It takes place in Texas and it felt very southern in it's mood. The bars, the shops, the cars are felt like they were stuck in 1980's Texas. It gave a good sense of atmosphere. The issue I had was after a few early twists the film dragged until the action finale. I was expecting a bit more on the action front or some other twist that I could come up with. Entertaining for the most part, I had too high of expectations. This is a crime noir instead of a action crime drama. I was looking for the latter.
Life After Beth (2014)
An interesting "horror" comedy with some new spins on the sub-genre
The trailer for Life After Beth had me so excited. The cast alone was a treat. Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Paul Reiser, Matthew Grey Gubler and Aubry Plaza. For any offbeat comedy, that's a can't miss. Even better for me was the film they were all in was a horror comedy. The trailer came off like a rom-zom-com in the vein of Shaun of the Dead. I was all on board. It took me forever to come across the film but it didn't play out like I thought it would be.
DeHaan stars as Zach the ex-boyfriend of the title character Beth (Plaza) who is going through a rough time. Right before Beth's death, she dumped him. He's not taking it well. His whole wardrobe is heaped in black. He's avoiding his parents (Reiser and Cheryl Hines) and alienated by his by the rules brother (Grey Gubler). He finds solace in Beth's parents (Reilly and Shannon) who actually treat him more like a son than his own parents. But when they stop contacting him he goes to some extremes, borderline stalking, to find out why. He comes to find out they have been hiding Beth. She's not dead but not alive either.
What follows is some hilarity but mostly teenage angst and a weird zombie apocalypse. This film is more a teenage drama comedy with lite sprinkles of horror. It's seems that everyone isn't in on the gag. For the most part everyone plays it straight. DeHaan the most, but he, like the audience, is just trying to adjust to this very odd situation. It works well for him as when craziness does ensue his reactions are natural. He's just trying to make the best of a very new situation and he gives off that he truly loves Beth.
The best comedic moments are given to Reilly and Shannon who are overjoyed their daughter has returned from the grave. And they will do anything to keep that from getting out. Reilly has some great one-liners especially when pitted against the straight act of DeHaan. Sadly 20 minutes before the film ends something happens with his character off screen and it just seems like the film loses what comic edge it has. Grey Gubler gets one really funny scene when the zombies start emerging in numbers. I felt like Reiser and Hines were kind of wasted. Their one standout moment is a nice play on the dead returning to where they use to live. Plaza downplays her normal snarky character here. The best moments are when she goes full on zombie. She gets a chance to channel her main character trait into some primal violence.
The film isn't as funny nor as gory as I had expected. Thinking about a zom-rom-com I thought maybe there would be a bit more gore and humor. But it's most played as people just trying to deal with unexplained situation. It felt like a drama more than anything. But there are some nice plays on the been there done that zombie genre. I guess I over hyped myself because the film I wanted wasn't the film I got. For any fan of the genre the tweaks in the zombie myths are cool. DeHaan, Reilly and Shannon hold the film together each getting a good laugh out loud moment.
Gotham: Selina Kyle (2014)
Brutal but campy episode with a few shining moments
On the heels of the lukewarm response to the pilot, episode two of Gotham titled "Selina Kyle" shows some promises but still has it's pilot's missteps. The episode revolves young homeless kids being drugged and kidnapped by an interesting duo played exceptionally well by Lily Taylor and Frank Whaley. I'm very happy to see the outcome of the episode. These two need to come back in a later episode. Selina Kyle aka Cat is the only one that gets away from the twosome with one teen being lead on a chase that ends him being thrown through a restaurant's front window. Gordon and Bullock are brought in because an old homeless man was murdered during the attempted kidnapping.
Gordon, still trying to be the law and order cop scolds an officer for not securing the crime scene. What follows is a small back and forth that give the writes credit to their subtlety. They hint at the corruption of the Gotham Police Department. Oswald shows up later limping down a road leading into Gotham look for a ride. I get that they want to give him his evolution into the sadistic villain he becomes but the creators really aren't airing on the side of patience. He's picked up by a two college kids, who joke with him until one of them crosses that 'penguin' line. He is brutally stabbed by Oswald. The other is taking hostage which of course fails miserably to Oswald's not so delight.
The rest of the episode follows Gordon and Bullock trying to track down the child kidnappers. With them encountering Fish Mooney, who steals just about every scene she is in. There is also a short but brutally shootout between the kidnappers, Gordon/Bullock that leads to a janitor henchmen being shot then falling down a well. The show is bookend by Bruce acting out in the opening to Alfred's dismay and having another end interaction with Gordon. The end scene felt a little less tacked on than in the pilot. It also showed Bruce's side for orphaned children which will become very prominent in his future.
I'm entertained by this show but it's just so scattered. It really has an identity crisis. Because there is so much going on it doesn't know where or what it wants to be. The first episode seemed far more dramatic. This episode airs on the side of camp. It doesn't get to the Adam West camp level but it sure could have. I know it's hard to take the Batman world seriously (Christopher Nolan did get that right). I think the show needs to find solid footing instead of sliding around in the muck. When it is actual serious it feel genuine and when it's action heavy I'm sucked in. But there are those campy moments that just stop the show in it's tracks.
I still have my fan boy issues. There's no need for an Edward Nygma cameo. Yes, the show is about villains but establish one or two and have others work in the shadows. The scene with him was painful. It seems like they keep drilling into the viewers heads that the GCP is corrupt. Changing the cannon for the show is fine. But when featuring one of the most prominent characters in the show's character changing moment I get upset. Selina Kyle was there in episode one when The Waynes' were murdered. That was the big cliffhanger of this episode. She tell Gordon she knows who killed them. Isn't there a way for to connect these characters without just dropping a big plot hole bomb like that? Two things that do come out of this episode on the positive side is the show's glaring love of comic book brutality and violence. When someone is shot it's vicious. The attack in the car by Oswald is something out of a horror movie. The blood just doesn't come out it sprays. It's one of those knock back moments when I said to myself "whoa, did they just get away with?". Even Kyle gets in on the mix, scratching a henchmen's eyes out before Lily Taylor's character shoots him point blank in the head. The show takes no prisoners for violence. Thank you to The Blacklist for that.
Jada Pinkett Smith where have you been hiding? The shining light of the entire series so far. She has some excellent character moments in this episode. The drinks scene with her and Carmine Falcone shows a range from her I haven't seen in a long time. If the writers keep giving her scenery to chew I can see a groundswell popping up for her to get some kind of award nomination.
I enjoy this show just being such a fan of source material and the films I take fan boy issues. But it wasn't a bad episode. Overall putting everything together it worked to entertain me. I know it was the episode of the night I was talking about the most with friends. That's a positive. I just would love to see this show get on it's stride and fly. It took Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. half a season to do that. With FOX's reputation Gotham doesn't have that long to get the ball rolling. Next week's episode did give me hope that they are slowly getting the kinks out.
The East (2013)
Well acted dramatic thriller than doesn't go where it should
I think I heard or read about The East before I even know who indie darling Brit Marling was. The ads for the film weren't that appealing to me. It seemed like a thriller with a few names that interested me (Ellen Page & Alexander Skarsgård). It wasn't until I read some reviews of the film and my friends were talking about it that it piqued my interest. By then I knew who Brit Marling was. I had not seen anything she was in. From word of mouth I needed to see her films. She was a writer/actress so the films were tailored to her. I had The East sitting in my DVR for over a month. I finally decided to sit down and make my first venture into Brit Marling land.
Marling stars a corporate spy who is trying to make her way into a prominent Eco-terrorist group. She is there for information and intel to help her security company help their big name clients. Once in the group her world view is change. Being the lead and the writer on the film, she can play to her strengths. But thankfully she has many of them. She stands out as an actress with some serious chops. The evolution her character goes through is fascinating. At many times in the film I wasn't sure who to root for. I didn't know what was coming next. That, for me, is the sign of good writing and even better acting.
Ellen Page is great as the group's second in command. I just wish she had more screen time. But the time she does she kills it in spades. Her character is a lot more complexed than first shown. That complexity is flesh out in some powerful scenes. Alexander Skarsgård has been a favorite of mine since True Blood. I think this is best performance yet. He gets to show some range and depth as the leader of the group. Even his character's history is explained. The one thing that stands out in this film is that the filmmakers let you get to know these characters. At first you may be hesitant to what they're doing. The film doesn't push you in one way or another. There are really no good guys and bad guys. Everyone does things out of necessities and to preserve what they think is their way of life. With such a strong hot button subject matter it's a great turn the filmmakers took. It pays off because I felt for everyone at some point in the film. The only issues I had was there was character in the group who was deaf who had some great early scenes. I would have liked to see more of her but she wasn't integral to the story.
The East didn't surprise me as much as I'm just impressed that a dramatic thriller can be made now a days without pushing the audience to one side or another. The film is excellently directed. During my viewing I thought it felt like a Scott brothers film. And come to find out during the credits Ridley & Tony Scott were producers on it. I would say that my first venture into Brit Marling land was a successful one.
6.8 out of 10
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Cruise and Blunt showcase this sci-fi action roller coaster with dark humor
I'm a fan of Tom Cruise. He's the type of action star any fan would want. He's got charisma, star powers, works with good people and does his own stunts. I think if his lifestyle didn't get in the way of his stardom he wouldn't have alienated so many moviegoers. As a person I can take him or leave him. But as a movie star I'm always there first weekend for his films. I think many of his films lately have given people a bad taste. But that's not his movie star fault. His "personality" rubs people the wrong way. Which in my opinion is sad. I could go on about Jack Reacher. And I have many times. As normal I was excited to hear he was making an action sci-fi fun which he's not done very often. I was even more excited to hear he was working with director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr and Mrs Smith) and actress Emily Blunt.
Edge of Tomorrow has been advertised as a Groundhog's Day type sci-fi action movie using time travel which isn't wrong. Cruise and Blunt's characters do live the same two days over and over trying to figure out how to win this war against an alien threat. But the way they use time travel isn't too complicated or too dumb for viewers to get. I would say it's a cross between The Terminator and Back to the Future. Cruise play a major who is a military talking head. He is blackmailed into being the face of this new battle. Cruise is playing out of character for most of the film. Which excited the hell of me.
He doesn't do the normal Cruise action star for much of the movie. He's just trying to survive in a situation he has no business being in. Emily Blunt throughout this film is the main hero. She is the "super soldier" who is on all the poster and doing the most damage in battle. It's so refreshing to see a female action heroine who is doing all of the action beats most male action heroes do. Blunt is strong, fierce and venerable. I really hope studios take notice because she needs more action roles. I'd love to see her face off with Eva Green in a big action film.
Blunt and Cruise's chemistry keeps the viewers sucked in. There is a lot of dark humor in the film. And it doesn't distract from the story. I feel like if some moments were taken too serious they would have fell flat. But the humor injects some brevity to the film. Bill Paxton plays a hilarious hard nose sergeant. With Brendan Gleeson and Noah Taylor rounding out the supporting cast as a headstrong general and "mad" scientist respectively.
Doug Liman is one of the best action directors working now. The film had quite a few awesome action scenes. They are shot well and not edited to death. A car chase and "Plane" chase stood out in my head as two of the best action sequences in films this year. It's nice to see that a character goes through an evolution in a movie before becoming the hero he's meant to be. It was so enjoyable not to force a love story. There's a bit a romance in the film but it is based out of the situation. This film was a blast. On repeat viewings I can see it becoming a cult classic with Emily Blunt's performance being heralded in the action fan circles.
9 out of 10
A loaded pilot with some good aspirations
I'm going to just throw out there that there will be a fan boy rant during this review. I'm an unabashed DC fan boy even though if I chose one right now Marvel would be my pick. I'm not sure how I heard about Gotham as a show. It was probably something on Facebook my friends tagged me in or an article I read that was posted numerous times on a dozen different websites. I wasn't really on board with another show that was a superhero show without the main superhero. I sat through Smallville already. I love Superman but I stopped watching that show for the main reason 'no flight, no tights' rule. I would love to revisit that show but it just turned me off.
Gotham gets announced and I had my qualms. It was going to be a prequel to the whole Batman legacy. That was an interesting idea. There have been flashbacks in the comics and the films. But the show was going to focus on the villains mostly and a few of the heroes of Gotham outside of Batman. That concept intrigued me more. DC is focused on keeping their film and TV franchises separate. That means that the producers and writers had free range to the whole Gotham candy store. That made me want to watch the show more. I would like to see the origins of the rogues gallery. It would be cool to see what turned these people into the villainous beings that we all know.
Last night's pilot expressed many different emotions for me. The show starts off with the murder of Bruce's parents. It's was more violent than I had expected. That scream that Bruce (David Mazouz) emits still gives me chills. Then we are introduce to what could be the main characters of the show detectives Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) fresh from war and his experienced partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). They will be our main highlights through these trips inside the vivid world of Gotham. What follows is the two detectives meeting seedy beings and challenges while trying to solve this high profile murder.
I'll start off with the positives I took out from the show. It looks incredible. The muted tones clash with vivid colors making each shot look like it was lifted from the comic books. The whole tone of the show felt more gritty and noir more than shows like Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think this show will benefit from no superheroes. McKenzie and Logue have excellent chemistry. They feed off each other very well. With McKenzie playing the straight laced headstrong cop and Logue enjoying being the guy you don't really know what side he's on. Jada Pinkett Smith shined as Fish Mooney, a villain created specifically for the show. She exudes charisma and terror. She seems to be having a lot of fun with her role. Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot was a nice start. He underplays what could be the craziness of his character until he's let unleashed. And when he does it's quite disturbing.
*Warning fan boy rant coming* I know that the creators have been given the keys to the candy store. Even more so because this show is on a prime time spot on a one of the big network channels. But there is no need to dive in headfirst and show your hand. There is so much going on anyone who knows anything about this universe will have their head spin. I'm not sure if there are that many people who don't know many of the characters introduced in this pilot. I guess they felt the need to make sure they set up for what is coming but ease people in. In this episode we are introduced to at six different high profile characters and one who could be lead to believed to be another.
That's just too much for a opening episode. I don't know if they get that sprinkling each character in maybe their own episode down the line would have gone better to hook me in. That's not even counting a few characters who eventually become big get a few lines here and there. It's a lot to take in. I am glad that they kept the concept of a "Batman show without Batman". Bruce gets three scenes and that was more than enough. It should make for good episodes down the line to see where the show goes. Many of us fans know that the city of Gotham has to get much worse in order for Bruce to think about donning the cowl and try to save the city as the dark knight.
So in the light of that we know that Gordon wants to save this city. In his plights he has to fail in order for the Batman to rise. For me, that seems like an great end game to play with. The show could do some things most normal things won't do. It can also go to place most cop dramas don't like to go to. But so far it seems this show is more about the characters and the city of Gotham than the procedural cop drama. I'm perfectly fine with that.
The Normal Heart (2014)
A excellent acted drama that will tug at all of your emotions
There are movies made that people just need to see. They are enlightened, insightful and work with hard issues that some people don't want to deal with in their regular life. Most of the time they are dramas, but it makes sense. People don't want to stylize hard issues that would end up making something offensive. That offensive nature would go farther than the actual issue that people should be talking about. I'll be the first to say I usually avoid "movies with a message" unless they appeal to me somehow. Or if it's a movie that must be seen.
The Normal Heart is that movie that must be seen not just by the gay male community but everyone. It hits hard showing an inside look to the beginning of an epidemic that is still plaguing humans today. The film follows Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) a writer who comes head first with the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980's. He helps start a gay support group with his best friend Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch) and a few other "friends". The film takes place over the span of three years as this group gets bigger while basically nothing is done to curb the spread of the deadly disease.
This film tackles an important topic from the point of view of people on the front lines. Julia Roberts plays the only doctor in NYC working to try to figure out a cure. The film doesn't call it AIDS until nearly the last 20 minutes of the film. It's spoken about as gay cancer. Because in the beginning only gay men seem to be dying from it. This film is directed by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Glee) based on a play by Larry Kramer.
This film is all about the performances. You get the 80's feel with the soundtrack and the direction. But this film wouldn't hit home if it weren't for the standout performances. Mark Ruffalo when given the chance can kill a performance and here is outstanding. You feel for him and at times are frustrated with his character but he has a drive that can't be denied. I highly doubt that we won't see him holding Emmy and a Golden Globe later this year. Matt Bomer of White Collar plays Ruffalo's boyfriend and he's so compelling in his character. This man has acting chops.
Taylor Kitsch proves that he doesn't need to be put in big action tent pole films. This guy can act and is not just a pretty face. I don't want to see this guy in any more summer action movies. Put him in dramas with meaty roles he can handle it. Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory shows up in a supporting role that is left field from his popular TV character and great for this film. I believe he is reprising his role from the stage production. He's not a comedian, but another actor that can pull of the dramatic role. And Julia Roberts is on in this. She isn't one of her normal characters and her scenes with Ruffalo are gold.
I would add this along with Prayers For Bobby as two films that not only the gay male community but humanity need to see. They are hard at times, but if just one person's idea is changed about the topic then the film has done it's job. Because that one person could influence many. The Normal Heart is a drama that hits home (for me being apart of the LGBTQ community) and is full of great performances. I hope that later in the year I'm seeing this film walk away with many awards because it deserves it. This is best thing Ryan Murphy has put his name to. (I'm not a fan of Glee)
Decently directed but over hyped "scary" movie
Insidious is one of those movies I avoided. I don't jump on fads. I am very hipster when things don't fit into my nerd realm. That goes hardcore for movies. Insidious was one of those scary movies that came out and blew up. I hated this trend of the next scary movie banking at the box office when my idea of real horror was passed over. It seemed like every year there was a new scary movie or a sequel to a new scary movie. They were all a year or two years apart. Have to bank on that hype right?
Right from the start I was going in with a negative sense of view. But I thought that if I was watching it then there was something about it that appealed to me. The film stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Bryne as loving parents who start experiencing odd occurrences in their new home. When the events escalate they move to a new house and realize there is something more involved. It's a haunted house story with a 'twist'. From the start of the film you can tell even with the budget James Wan as a director is talented.
It is the exact duo that brought us the Saw franchise. James Wan is behind the lens with Leigh Whannell writing and acting. Technically the film looks great. There are some inventive shots and the ending haunt is staged very well. But the story feel like it's been done before. There are all sorts of elements from multiple haunted house films. If a film could be called a mash up I would give this film that title. Wilson and Bryne do their best with that they have. The story fails them. When things start to ramp up everything of the why is explained by a newly emerged character.
There is a back story to why this is all happen. This is not explained until nearly the end of the film. It's newly introduced characters that wrap up everything in a nice tight package. Some of the back story is shown but not much. It would have been nice if these piece of the story were scattered throughout the entire film. I wasn't really scared as the 'boo' scares weren't stage that well. It was more of putting things for the audience to jump instead of building tension. The most entertaining and well executed sequence was the ending.
There was a nice twist at the end that on it's own would have sat very well. But knowing that there is a sequel comes off as strategically place for a sequel to be made. There is just too much hype surround this film and for me it didn't (never had the chance) to live up to it. Seeing Sinister and The Conjuring (from James Wan) I know there are good haunted house films out there that live up to the hype. I can only describe this film with a quote taken from a user on Reddit, "I think the reason so many people like it and praise it is because it is so bland; it feels safe. It's the movie the average moviegoer can go to, not get too scared, but still say that they love a horror movie." Well said.
4.4 out of 10
This confined horror thriller is just plain creepy
I heard of Sinister before I saw it. I had not heard much. I knew it was another horror movie starting Ethan Hawke. It got bigger on my radar when people started to put it in there top ten lists of horror movies of the 2010's. Then the word came out that the director Scott Derrickson was hired for Marvel's Doctor Strange. I was interested in his work so I did catch before this his big Hollywood horror film Deliver Us From Evil. And now after seeing Sinister I definitely think he's a nice choice for Doctor Strange.
Sinister is a small confined film about a writer (Ethan Hawke) who moves his family to a house in order to write his new crime novel. He's not popular with the police and stuck in a bit of a rut. When strange occurrences start happening he realizes that he might be in over his head. This is one of those films that has to been seen totally cold. The film unfolds itself for the audience and the characters at the same time.
The film is mostly contained to this house. All the characters and side characters converge here. Which makes the film feel a bit claustrophobic. The tension is built well, with a few jump scares that pay off. It's not a false scare of a red herring. When the story eventually plays out, everyone is hit with a proverbial brick to the face. The horror elements aren't shown in graphic details. This help the thrill of the film making you imagine the brutally. Even the film opening scene will get under my skin. There is a bit of a twist at the end. But it comes at a point where things just might develop. I was knocked me off my guard.
Ethan Hawke is usually a hit or miss for me. But he does the down on his life writer well. The family around him aren't giving much to do. They help convey the story well. I was sucked into the story wanting to know what happened next. Derrickson knows his horror. There are inventive shots. He has a nice style on display. The movie moves at a pace that keeps the story from not getting too boring. When it starts to slow, there is a moment where something small will happen just to get the mind racing.
I was on the edge of my seat from the beginning. I'm not easily scared. The jump scares do nothing for me. But not being able to see the brutal horror filled my mind with thoughts of unease. The film spreads dread from opening to end credits. That's something you don't get very often. It sat with me for hours after the film was over. It didn't help that I had watched The Conjuring hours beforehand. A small creepy film great for a late night viewings is what Sinister is.
Guy Pearce is awesome in an action movie that kind of fails around him
I honestly had no idea how I would review this film. I had to watch the film twice. Have you ever been stumped by a film because you weren't sure if you liked it or not? It confused me because there is one standout about this film that threw me or a loop. I've had multiple arguments about this movie with my film fan friends.
Lockout is that movie. This B action film from Luc Besson, producer of Taken & The Fifth Element, is in the vein of Die Hard and Escape From New York. But the film plays out more Escape From New York than anything. And the thing that stumped me was the performance by Guy Pearce will blow your mind. He is the saving grace, the main reason to see this film. He plays Snow, an ex special agent framed for a high end murder. But when the president's daughter, played by Maggie Grace, gets taken hostage in a high facility space prison, he's the man to call.
Pearce's Snow is John McClane and Snake Plisken all wrapped up in a awesome embodiment. He's a smart ass, arrogant, but intelligent, tactical and a blast to watch. Without him this film fails on all levels. I couldn't understand how his performance is so high but the movie at times is lackluster. This character needs another film with a competent action film director. That's how much I loved Snow. I want him in at least another action film. I don't care if it is a sequel or a prequel.
Maggie Grace is in her best role I've seen. (Yes that includes her stint on LOST) Her snarky, spunky liberal heart character plays great off of Snow. Their chemistry is natural and at time hilariously awkward. Their first full screen screen conversation is laugh out loud funny. I couldn't understand how in a movie like this I was so thrilled just watching these characters.
The action other than the opening is very scarce. It mostly comes down to Snow getting to hand to hand fights with prisoners or small traps that he sets. There is a bike/car chase that I still don't know how it got put to film. It is pretty ridiculous and gratuitously CG. I'm sure that this is probably because of the budget. But it takes you out of the film.
This is a Netflix watch (which I did) but it's going to entertain. Guy Pearce is so good as Snow, I think in time he may go down as one of the coolest action heroes in film. The movie around him just doesn't give enough substance for the entire film to thrive. Even if I have to write the script, I want another film with Snow. I could just think of a great sequel where Maggie Grace's character comes back as an ex-flame. Then they have to team up to save whoever or the world. I'm so fine with that.
We're the Millers (2013)
An adventure comedy with some good dialogue that delivers on the giggles
Funny for me is not really a matter of opinion. I think that if something is funny then it's universal. That's why comedies do so well in the mainstream. Laughing is some of the best medicine that a doctor can't prescribe. And I think my comedy IQ is decent enough that I can laugh at just about anything. I know that may sound egotistical but I love a good comedy. Especially for me a good R-rated comedy. We're The Millers trailers made it look a bit stupid at first glance. It was a low concept premise that had to deliver on the performances and the writing.
The story goes as follows, in trying to do the right thing a drug dealer (Jason Sudeikis) gets robbed and owes his boss (Ed Helms) money and drugs. In order to pay him back he has to go to Mexico to pick up a shipment. He gets this crazy idea to pose as a family with two people that live in his building, a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and a goofy kid (Will Poulter). The one thing is that not everything is as it seems. Most of the main characters don't like each other which leads to some of the best lines in the film. They get into comedy hi-jinks, some action hi-jinks and meet a very "open" family led by Nick Offerman.
As funny goes this film has some good moments. There are moments when I was laughing not stop and there are other jokes that fall short. Sudeikis does his shtick well and the guy has the comedy chops. I'm not a fan of Aniston but put her in an vulgar comedy and I'm there. She's found a nice home in this genre. Poulter is decent as the awkward "son" and he has one of the best moments in the movie. Emma Roberts plays the fourth in the group thankfully sticking to her angst teen act which fits well with the other cast members. Offerman is cool in a extended cameo. It's not much of a change from his cameo in 21 and 22 Jump Street.
The script plot wise is a little hit or miss but the dialogue is great. I love the banter between the characters that at times holds nothing back. I know that most movies of this nature go for guy nudity plays as a joke, which it is here. But I was shocked to see the only nudity in this movie was male and it was full frontal. That's forward thinking. Way to go Sudeikis and the filmmakers for battling equal nudity in films. It's also a scene that had me dying. The film does runs a bit slow in the middle. The finale is a bit of a let down but brings everything full circle. I just thought the drama and "family values" were a bit heavy handed. I get that every character has to go through their evolution as humans but it could have been done less after school special.
This is a decent addition to the new line of popular comedy. It seems like Sudeikis is a part of the new school comedy coming in. Add this film to The Hangover films and Horrible Bosses as that adventure vulgar comedy genre that seems to be slowly picking up steam. I giggled more than I laughed but when I laughed it was hard. Much funnier than I had initially thought, We're The Millers is nice for a Saturday when you just need something lightly dusted with laughs.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
A story of coincidences and family through a generation
Do things in life happen for a reason or are they just happenstance? That is a question many have asked their entire life. Sometimes coincidence is just there waiting in the wings to pop it's head and make a person think "hmm". The Place Beyond The Pines is a bit of both. There is so much negative that happens that leads to so much positive.
It's all brought together at times by coincidence and other times just genetics. I've seen movies that can be depressing with family drama. There are films made that have an uplifting family message at the end of all the drama. I can say without a doubt that this film is depressing and uplifting.
Ryan Gosling stars as a drifter who comes back to "home" to find out that the woman he had a fling with (Eva Mendes) is the mother of his child. Trying to do right by her and his child instead of drifting away again, he stays to become something in their lives. This complicates things more than anything. He resorts to robbing banks to survive and provide. From there this small story of family gets more complicated when a run in with a cop (Bradley Cooper) changes everyone's lives forever. That's all I can speak about the plot because anymore and I would be diving into spoiler territory.
It's so funny that we all know Gosling is a "pretty face" but the dude can act and in the scenes he's in you are fixated on him. He holds the film in until Cooper shows up. Another "pretty face' that's got acting skills. He does a nice balancing act of cop trying to do the right thing, struggling with his family, and facing the choices he makes.
Dane DeHaan shows up about half way in as a teenager who missed a big part of his life, being an outcast but trying to connect to something. Eva Mendes is okay with what she has to do. Rose Bryne shows up in a very small role as Cooper's wife. Her scenes are awkward but in the well rounded story they fit. Ray Liotta eats up a few scenes as fellow cop with secrets.
This whole film runs by is the consequences of people's actions. What they do in the past sets the stage for the future. And a lot of people struggle with what they've done. It eats away inside and makes their choices selfish but selfish for reason of family. And that is the running theme through the film is what humans in tough situations do for their family. Sometimes in family history can repeat it self and history can tear a person apart.
The directing is excellent, technically with great shots. The cinematography is beautiful. The film utilizes the upstate New York to it's advantage. It's crispy but drab with muted but vibrant colors. I don't know how it is possible but The Place Beyond The Pines is a story about history shaping the future, family and the struggles of life all set around two families.
By the end of this film you might be thinking to yourself were those coincidences in your life set by the people that came before you. Hauntingly beautiful, depressing and uplifting all at once, I can't express how much the film just knocked me on my behind.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Spider-Man more on his plate than he can handle in this sequel
I'm an unabashed die hard fan boy for Spider-Man. There I said it. You can call me a homer for anything Spider-Man. I wasn't a happy camper when I heard they were rebooting the films that I fell in love with. The first two Raimi films for me were great. The sequel still holding up today as one of the best superhero movies of all time. The first Amazing Spider-Man was a bit jarring for me. I walked out of the film not knowing what I thought about it. I enjoyed Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man but his Peter Parker didn't click with me. I also had some nit picky things about the film as a whole (Gwen instead of Mary Jane, lackluster villain). But watching the film a few more times I realized that I liked it.
I do research on films that I'm excited for. This film came out weeks earlier in the UK and Europe. And the reviews were mixed which was sinking my high hopes. I didn't like the fact that there were three villains (More on that later). But it seemed like they were choosing the right actors for parts and surrounding the film in talent. After much heart and headache reading people thoughts and reviews for me, I'm okay with saying I liked much of this second Spider-Man film.
Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man and it seems he's embraced the part much more this time than in the first film. His Spider-Man is having fun being the savior of the city. He's making the quips, the jokes and the all around energy of his Spider-Man feels directly out of the comic book. I am finally sold on his Peter Parker. Director Marc Webb finally lets the smart but dorky Parker shine in a few scenes that are hilarious and engaging.
I'm still not an Emma Stone fan but she is a good counter to Garfield's Parker. They have excellent chemistry. You can tell that these may be Webb's favorite scenes to shoot. When they are on screen this huge summer tent pole film because a small drama about two people with a unique love story.
The villains, there are three of them but not really. Let me explain. Rhino played basically as a cameo by Paul Giamatti is really only on screen to show Spider-Man in action at the beginning and end of the film. His main adversaries are Jamie Foxx's Electro who starts off as a man who is saved by Spider-Man. He then becomes a obsessed fan only to in perfect comic book fashion have a horrible accident that grants him superpowers. Foxx is okay, I wouldn't say he is awful. He has some good moments and contrary to what has been written I think he only has one cringe worthy line.
Dane DeHaan is one of if not my favorite actor working this moment. His method style works so well in many of the films he's in and here it's perfect. His Harry Osborn is less cartoon-y than James Franco's from previous films. He's creepy, spoiled, arrogant but dealt with a lot of adversity. His chemistry with Garfield feels genuine. It doesn't feel forced like it could have been. They are long time friends who have been distant but because of new circumstances are forced back together.
The action is fun, fast and so Spider-Man if that means anything. The way they use his spider sense was very cool. I want to see more of that. The small nods to the comic book are fantastic. There are nods here and there to the upcoming sinister six film which doesn't cloud the film. It's just there in the story that this is apart of a large story in the future. I was trying to count the nods to the comic books. The only issues I had with the film was Peter's search for what happen to his father was kind of just there to fill time. Also the great Sally Field as Aunt May got only a few scenes. She was great on screen but mostly wasted.
Because this film is dividing fans I think I've pinpointed the problem. I'm a fan of the comic books and this film feel like a few issues of the comic books aka a mini-series. There are multiple stories, with multiple villains and a lot going on. I'm okay with the finally product and eager to see the film again. For Garfield's performance, the chemistry with Stone and the action scenes this film is a fun ride for any fan of the neighborhood web shooter.
The world gets a reboot. We get an emotionally driven fantasy.
I'm not religious. I was when I was young. My parents would take me to church every Sunday and sometimes in the middle of the week. It was when I got to high school I stopped going. I was a bit of a rebel, still am. But I've taken religious class and I know a little about many of the different religions of the world. I'm far from an expert but I get the gist. I won't shout my opinion on religion and God because that's not what I'm here for. I'm hear to tell you about one of my favorite directors, Darren Aronofsky biblical fantasy Noah.
Now with making a biblical fantasy epic for a major studio there are going to be issues. And Mr. Aronofsky isn't the type of director that you can just hone in. I was wary that him making such a huge film for such a big studio. He's the type of the director that would want final cut with his vision. And there were news reports that he had to cut it significantly and that he was in a fight with the studio. I would love to see a director's cut of this film because this theatrical cut thrilled me.
I wasn't sure what I was going to think after seeing it. But Aronofsky has created a fantasy driven film about a bible story that I can get right behind. The story comes directly from the King James Bible story which is about three pages long (I goggled it). It follows Noah, a family man who is tasked with the idea to help "The Creator" (they never say God in the film) reboot the world. He followed by his loving wife, three sons and their adopted daughter.
What follows is Aronofsky interpretation of the story which engrosses, engages the audiences and really makes you think about not just religion but life itself. The film is more about a man trying to protect his family in the midst of a life alter experience. Russell Crowe is killer as he always is. With this and Man of Steel I think the man is back as the talent actor many of us use to love. I can't see anyone taking this with the emotion he does. He has an evolution that would send any to the brink of madness with Crowe making you love/hate/feel for him. I don't think he'll be up for any awards but he should be.
Jennifer Connelly plays his wife and she's a great balance to Crowe's Noah. She loving, faithful to a point but will do anything for her family. I miss seeing her on screen. Ray Winstone is just vicious, making for a gritty "villain" of the film. He does elude a charisma that in the film would make you want to follow him into battle. Logan Lerman pulls of the angst rebellious teenager well. With Emma Watson sporting well against the heavy hitters of the film.
Because this is an Aronofsky film, it feels much different than most biblical epics. I am extremely pleased with the way he shows off this world. It feels very fantastical in the Lord of the Rings way. I like that because I'm a person who has read these stories and think of them in a more as fantasy. The visual are great, but at time might take many people out of the film if they can't suspend their disbelief or beliefs.
It's not going to please everyone. I know a certain religious sect that is up in arms about how they are portrayed. But for a fantasy film about a bible story, this film entertains from start to finish. Aronofsky proves he's one of the best directors working now. I would just enjoy seeing a director's cut to see is true vision and his thought process. See it just for the visual aspect but the story will engross with excellent performances from Crowe and Connelly.