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The Visit (I) (2015)
7/10
Shyamalan Needs To Make Up His Mind
10 September 2015
When Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her little brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) take the initiative to visit their grandparents, despite their mother (Kathryn Hahn) being estranged from them for years, they look forward to getting to know them. When the children arrive, things between them and their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) are everything they hoped it would be. However, as their visit progresses, their grandparents begin to show some very unsettling behavior. At first they brush it off and blame old age, but the behavior begins to grow more and more disturbing.

In the newest film by M. Night Shyamalan, he returns to the horror genre ever since the not- so-favorable The Happening in 2008. This time he is taking the step of combining comedy with horror. The trailer portrayed the film as being a horror film, but featuring tidbits of comedy. It was an interesting approach and definitely caught my attention, but I was still going to go in with low expectations (despite enjoying certain disliked Shyamalan films). As the film began it did have some great promise to it by easing us into the world of the characters and going with as little knowledge of the grandparents as they did. It starts off light-hearted enough with quirky grandparents/grandchildren moments that bring laughs. When the events turn and things become dark, this also manages to keep your attention, while at first not thinking quite too much at first. Some of the creepier moments emit laughter that is purely out of unease (particularly the great hide and seek scene, which I was hoping the setting there would have come into play later). Then, as things escalate you begin to feel more nervous about this couple. It all leads to a very thrilling final act that leave you on edge as to what is just going to happen. However, this is where the good things I have to say about the plot comes to an end. I knew going in that this wasn't going to be a straight up horror film. and that it featuring a good amount of comedy. I am all for horror comedies or dark humor in horror films, but the comedy here just felt so out of place and confused the plot and flow of the story. I appreciated most of the comedic aspects, but there was a line that I thought should have been drawn where the comedy ends and the actual horror begins. Instead, it becomes an unbalanced mess that almost makes it seem as if Shyamalan had no idea what exactly he wanted the film to be. I would go so far as to say that the comedy ruined the horror elements. If this would have been more of a horror film with just small dashes of comedy, it would have been much more affective. The last two scenes I also want to add brought down the film a lot. If those would have been axed the ending would have better. The plot also drowns in too much family mellow drama that made me want to barf. The film would also have benefited much more if it only had traces of the documentary style footage but was mostly a regular format production and would have faired better with a good and creepy score.

As far as the cast goes, they all do a fine job. Although I personally didn't care for either of the children at all due to both of them being really annoying and often times stupid, the two young actors do a fine job with the roles when it comes to expressing the fears and other emotions that they are supposed to feel. Kathryn Hahn, while hardly present, provides a quirky mother performance that she easily sells, but also does a good job of the more emotional moments. She does come off a realistic mom more often than not. As for the grandparents, it is Deanna Dunagan that provides the best performance of the whole cast. She can play the sweet and innocent Nana one moments and instantly change character into the terrifying old woman who creeps around at night and displays uneasy vacant expressions. Peter McRobbie does well with the role of Pop Pop, but he isn't given as much to do as Dunagan, which is rather unfortunate because I feel he had the ability to do more.

The Visit is a film that will divide people. I do not think it was horrible by any means, but I do feel that M. Night Shyamalan should have decided what he really wanted the film to be. And to me it would have worked better as a horror movie with just traces of horror. Instead it just becomes an awkward mess that left me unsure of just what I was supposed to feel. And despite the dislikability of the two children, they, and the rest of the cast, especially our two senior actors, do a standout job.
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The Pyramid (2014)
8/10
Fun Horror Flick From Alex Aja
6 December 2014
A group of archaeologists and a documentary crew embark to a location near Cairo, Egypt. Discovery of an underground pyramid has been uncovered and the crew seeks to learn more about it. Upon entering the pyramid they find themselves lost, and eventually hunted. To find a way out alive, they must go further into the crypt and learn all of its secrets.

Alexandre Aja who brought us the Hills Have Eyes and Piranha remakes, as well as High Tension, and Mirrors returns to the big screen this time as writer and producer. The film initially had a wide release but ultimately was cut to just under 600 theaters. This is rather unfortunate because it ended up being a rather entertaining and intense film unlike the earlier "underground" horror film As Above So Below. Ever since High Tension, Aja has always had a knack for bringing on intensity and atmosphere in his horror films, even if they didn't end up being that great as a whole. While The Pyramid does feature several formulaic aspects, they work out well here. Once events begin to really begin, so does the intensity. There are many instances where the characters find themselves roaming in the dark and you anticipate something to jump out, as well as just situations that leave the viewer tense. Despite being half found-footage and half actually films, the two are blended together very well, making the atmosphere and intensity even stronger. As for the story itself, it was pretty engaging, it was enjoyable to have the mysteries of the pyramid unleashed the further they got into the structure (which tends to happen right?), it leads to a final act that left me thinking different theories of how it's going to possibly end as opposed to just one no-brainer ending. The acting by the cast pretty well-done, as was the character development. Ashley Hinshaw who plays the lead, Nora, a young archaeologist with a surprising amount of knowledge of tombs and their history, does well with the role when it comes to showing fear and expressing the emotional moments. Denis O'Hare plays Hinshaw's archaeologist father as well as the leader of the group with the knowledge and the plan. The actor who stood out most to me was James Buckley who plays cameraman Fitzie. Buckley provides a lot of the humor in the film and is the one who basically speaks for the audience in certain situations. For the most part, the characters are all likable except Christa Nicola who plays Sunnie, the journalist conducting the documentary. She's the character who is just so annoying you can't wait for her to die. Other than that character, everyone is fairly likable.

Alexandre Aja delivers to horror fans another solid, yet not entirely original film. If you're looking for an entertaining film purely for fun thrills, some humorous moments, creepy atmosphere, and intensity, The Pyramid is well-worth seeing. If there is a theater near you showing it.
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Jessabelle (2014)
7/10
Good Not Great
10 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Following an accident that leaves her crippled, Jessabelle "Jess" (Sarah Snook), returns to her childhood home with her father (David Andrews). It is during her stay there that she discovers video tapes for her made by her deceased mother (Joelle Carter). As she begins to recover more of the tapes, Jess finds herself being haunted by a vengeful spirit that is out to get her. Enlisting the help of her old friend Preston (Mark Webber), Jess sets out to uncover the secret of the home she thought she knew.

Prior to viewing the film, my expectations were really low. It didn't look bad, but it didn't look exactly enticing either. Seeing the trailer in the theater, only to have it receive a limited release and a VOD release. While I wasn't entirely blown away, it wasn't as lousy as I was anticipating. Sarah Snook provides a very well-done performance as the title character. I admit the accent was irritating a lot of the time, but she did very well with the role and conveyed the emotions she was supposed to spot on. The rest of the cast, while not bad, doesn't provide anything noteworthy. As for the story itself, I did find myself growing antsy, it was consisting of so many elements of a typical haunted house flick. However, once the final act approached, things began to get interesting, and when the final act does happen, I found my attention completely glued. It features some pretty decent twists and turns, unfortunately, it bares a strong resemblance to particular horror film which I will not indicate in order to avoid giving anything away. Despite this fact, it was satisfactory and it actually made sense, and was very enjoyable. The Louisiana setting also worked very well for the film and provided a decent but familiar atmosphere.

While not exactly original and takes a while to finally gain momentum, Jessabelle goes out with quite a bang, and in the end provides a semi-interesting story. It also shows that Sarah Snook has what it takes to make it in the horror genre.
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Ouija (II) (2014)
8/10
Not Bad For a PG-13 Horror Film
23 October 2014
When her friend Debbie (Shelley Hennig) dies in what appears to be a suicide, Laine (Olivia Cooke) thinks there's more to her death and it may involve the Ouija board that was in her house. Laine then enlists the help of her boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), her sister Sarah (Ana Cato), her friend Isabelle (Bianca A. Santos), and Debbie's boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith). The friends decide to use the same Oujia board the home where Debbie died. When they think they've made contact with Debbie, they feel they can finally put things to rest. However, something dark and sinister has broke through and they must figure out how to stop it.

Ouija is made from the much hated company known as Platinum Dunes, and it is a PG-13 horror film. This alone makes the horror community already hate it. However, this viewer found the film very entertaining film. It takes a simple idea as a Ouija board that's been used in several supernatural films and throws into a very well-executed script. It does feature a few horror clichés such as people suddenly appearing, doors slamming, and even the cliché of the parents conveniently going out of town right when things are about to go down. However, the overall story is interesting and features a pretty decent, although not totally surprising twist. One thing I always give Platinum Dunes credit for is their excellent use of setting, filming style, and atmosphere. All of which shows up here. Many of the settings the characters find themselves help boost the the spook/creep factor, as does the cinematography and set design. The film isn't scary, but it does a great job of providing just enough a creep factor to put the viewer in the right mind-set. And it does have seem genuine creepy moments, especially in the final act. The young cast also does very well with their roles, we believe them as a young group of kids, and they come off as pretty realistic. Olivia Cooke in particular who is known from the popular series Bates Motel shows that she can definitely pull of the role of the main girl. We really believe her as a girl wanting to know the truth and eventually wanting to save her friends. Definitely one actress to keep an eye on. One thing that particularly makes the film enjoyable is an excellent cameo made by an actress very well known in the horror genre.

Ouija may be made by a company with a bad rep in the horror community, and it's PG-13, featuring some horror clichés. But it is a very entertaining film with a fun story, a great cast, excellent and creepy atmosphere/settings, and some genuinely spooky moments. Easily the most enjoyable PG-13 horror film since Insidious.

My Rating: 9/10
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See No Evil 2 (2014)
8/10
Fun Sequel
17 October 2014
Following the events of the first film, the sequel takes place shortly afterwards. We meet Amy (Danielle Harris), a young woman just finishing up her shift as the local morgue. When news arrives that the corpse of killer Jacob Goodnight (Glenn "Kane" Jacobs) is about to arrive, Amy cancels her birthday plans to help her co-workers Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and Holden (Michael Eklund) with the body. To Amy's surprise, her friends show up unexpectedly to celebrate her birthday. The group features the feisty Tamara (Katharine Isabelle), her whipped boyfriend Carter (Lee Majdoub), the bubbly Kayla (Chelan Simmons), and Amy's brother Will (Greyston Holt). It's not too long before Jacob Goodnight rises from his slab and is out to crash the party and the group must find a way out of the enclosed morgue to survive.

While I was a fan of the original film, I didn't find it anything great, but still fairly fun. I was shocked that it actually snagged a sequel. And it was ultimately an enjoyable one. It wasn't miles better than the first, but still entertaining and slightly better. The film takes place in an excellent setting, many places to run, but plenty of places to get lost. Especially in the dark. Kane is badder than ever in his return as Jacob Goodnight. Showing no mercy for our characters. Scream Queen Danielle Harris is solid as always as our leading lady. She's a friendly girl with edge who will do whatever it takes to get her friends and herself out alive. Also notable is other Scream Queen Katharine Isabelle. She plays the rule of Tamara with a perfect amount of feistiness and provides laughs with her over-the-top character moments. The rest of the cast does a decent job with their roles. As opposed the first film, the characters themselves range from tolerable to likable, and it helps that they are diverse and have their own personalities. The kills, while sometimes brutal, aren't nearly as fun or creative as the ones in the original film, but it doesn't bring the film down. What also scores the film points is the shock factor for a certain moment that occurs towards the end of the movie.

Overall, See No Evil 2 isn't a perfect slasher film, but it is a fun sequel that features a nice cast with likable enough characters, and a decent body count. But what really stands out the most is the setting and following the characters throughout it. Keeping the audience on edge, not knowing what lies around every corner or in any room they find themselves.

My Rating: 7/10
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8/10
Better Than The Book
17 October 2014
Following an explosion on his oil rig, Dawson (James Marsden) has a glimpse of the girl he loved from his teenage years. Elsewhere, Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) is home with her alcoholic husband and teenage son, wondering what went wrong in her life and thinking of her first true love. When the news that their old friend Tuck (Gerald McRaney) has passed away, Dawson and Amanda are reunited and assigned to spread Tuck's ashes. As well as confront the ghosts of their past from their youth.

The film is an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. While I personally wasn't a huge fan of the novel, I found the film to be much better. The love story and history of the two lead characters and fleshed out more, as was the character of Tuck. While it did feature some major differences in the last act, it worked well. That aside, as a film, it is a very sweet love story (not as great as some of Sparks' prior films however). As we watch the story unfold between Amanda and Dawson as adults, we are given flashbacks to them as teenagers (played by Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato), which leads to where they find themselves today. Bracey and Liberato provide great performances as the younger Dawson and Amanda, they're great on their own, and have great chemistry to where we really buy them as couple. Bracey plays Younger Dawson with charm and innocence. Liberato shines as Younger Amanda. We initially see her as this pretty and bubbly girl, but she has an edge to her that Liberato shows off flawlessly. James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan play the older versions of the two characters. While the chemistry isn't nearly as concrete as the younger versions, we do get a decent feel of a relationship between the two. On their own, Monaghan gives the better performance of the two as a woman torn between the life of her past and the life she currently has. Marsden's performance, while not terrible, is hardly note-worthy. He definitely could have given more heart into the role as opposed to charm. One of the most note-worthy performances of the film however is Gerald McRaney as Tuck from the couple's younger years. We first see him as a hard-ass old man, but he grows to show his heart when these two teens come into his life. McRaney provides the most humor and heart in the story and easily becomes the most likable character in the movie. Like most Nicholas Sparks movies, it will only appeal to certain crowds. It has its really cheesy moments, but deep down there is a lot to its core, apart from dealing with love, it deals with life in general and where it takes us and where we can go from there.

The Best of Me features decent to solid performances with heart-felt and tear-jerking moments. However in the long run it doesn't set itself too far apart from the Nicholas Sparks formula.

My Rating: 8/10
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9/10
Fun Reboot/Sequel
17 October 2014
Many years after the killings in small town by a killer known as "The Phantom" resulted in the making of the 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Texarkana is once again plagued by murders. Every Halloween, the town has a drive in screening of the original film depicting their own town. On this particular night, Jami (Addison Timlin) and her boyfriend Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) decide to bail on the film and go elsewhere. When they are attacked by an assailant dressed as The Phantom, Jami starts to suspect that history is about to repeat itself, and the new Phantom has certain plans for Jami and her small town.

It is difficult to say whether this version of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a reboot or a sequel. But whatever it is, it works. The original film had its creepy moments, but this film has a lot more going for it. For starters, this definitely has more of a slasher film feel to it than the original. We are given a very creepy killer, plenty of great and spooky night time scenes with him, plenty of chase scenes, and excellent and bloody kills. Not to mention it is VERY well- filmed with a great atmosphere and nice splicing between this and the original film. It also keeps you guessing as to what exactly is going on. Our leading lady played by Addison Timlin, while definitely isn't legendary as far as a Final Girl, but she's likable enough for us to root for her. And she has very sweet scenes with her grandmother, played by Veronica Cartwright. The acting isn't bad, but it's not anything great either. Timlin does well with the lead role, and easily does give the best and only note-worthy performance of the film. The concept itself is very interesting in how it is trying to bring new life the original film, and bring in a new generation. However, the concept does have a few problems. It bares a very strong resemblance to Scream 4 in trying to re-create the events of a real story/film in the film's world. In fact, there's a few things that can be compared to with Scream in regards to this film. The twist is another one of its weak spots. When it's revealed, it's not so much shocking as it is that you don't see much point to it.

Despite the film's borrowing of ideas and strong resemblances to Scream/Scream 4 and the awkward twist, this reboot/sequel is ultimately a fun slasher film. Let's face it, there haven't been many good ones. So if you look for particular aspects in a slasher film like a creepy killer, chase scenes, a decent body count, and bloody kills, with a likable lead, you may just enjoy this. It doesn't take itself too seriously, which makes it all the more fun.

My Rating: 9/10
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Annabelle (I) (2014)
4/10
An Unnecessary Horror Film
4 October 2014
Annabelle is a spin-off/prequel to the hit 2013 horror film The Conjuring. It tells the story of the creepy doll that eventually fell into the hands of Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The film begins with the scene in The Conjuring in which a young woman and her friends came across the doll and have it examined by the Warrens. It then goes back in time to Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and her husband John (Ward Horton), who are expecting their first child. John surprises Mia with an antique doll that she had her eye on. All seems well until a brutal murder happens to the next door neighbors, and Mia is then attacked by one of the intruders. The female intruder then has her blood drip into the doll's eye. Soon after, sinister things begin to happen, and Mia is convinced that they need to move out of the house. However, despite their move the presence follows them, and the events continue. The couple then enlists the help of Father Perez (Tony Amendola) and one of their neighbors Evelyn (Alfre Woodward) to help solve what is going on. Is the doll suddenly coming to life, or is there something far more darker happening that puts not only the lives of the couple in danger, as well as their child.

It wasn't too long after the success of The Conjuring that word of a spin-off would be happening. And it certainly didn't take them long to film and release, and definitely shows here. Though the film does feature some fine performances by its cast and we definitely develop an attachment to these characters. It also features some fairly well-done chiller moments, particularly the invasion scene in the beginning and a certain moment involving the storage unit in the couple's apartment. However, it does feature some major predictable and cheap jump scares that eventually become repetitive.  Not only this but the plot is very much lackluster and provides nothing new as a film overall.

While Annabelle does feature fine performances, likable characters, and a couple of chilling scenes, it doesn't make up for the fact that there is nothing new to it. It is purely an origin film that is completely unnecessary, and quite frankly makes the Annabelle does less freakier than it was in The Conjuring. It was clearly made just to bank of The Conjuring's success, and the work involved definitely shows this.

My Rating: 5/10
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Gone Girl (2014)
10/10
Perfect Adaptation
4 October 2014
When Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), returns home one day to find his home trashed and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing, he realizes something isn't right. Immediately he contacts Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit). As the two begin to investigate the home, they begin to sense something peculiar about the break-in, as well as Nick's behavior. He then turns to his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) for support as the case begins to escalate and the media strongly begins to believe Nick has something to do with Amy's disappearance.

Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the film's screenplay, director David Fincher brings this dark and mystery-filled story to life. The film goes back and forth between the present, and flashbacks shown through Amy's diary entries that lead up to her disappearance. The film runs at two and a half hours, but the film hooks you right away and never lets go. The story begins to build just as much as the evidence does until it leads to many twists and turns. It is also very excellently filmed, much like Fincher's previous films, he wants to bring the viewer into the world that characters live in by really focusing on the setting and the character's themselves. But what stands out the most in the top-notch performances by the cast. Every single actor/actress in the film gives it their all. Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit do a great job of representing the viewers as the two cops divided. Dickens does a solid job of showing her conflict of whether or not she wants to believe Nick. Whereas Fugit brings a lot of humor as the skeptical character who doesn't believe Nick for a second. Carrie Coon who plays Affleck's sister in the film, provides us with the most likable character. She's not afraid to say what's on her mind, she's blunt and hilarious, but she's also the shoulder that Nick needs in the end and we really sense the bond between the two actors. Ben Affleck gives the performance of his career as a man caught in a web mystery. He gets so into character by showing two sides of his character that leaves the audience baffled of whether to believe he had something to do with his wife's disappearance or not. Finally, Rosamund Pike gives the best performance of the film as Amy Dunne, a wife who at first found herself deeply in love, but slowly beginning to grow unsure of her husband and his motives. The character of Amy herself is also so complex and Pike sells it to us all the way.

Overall, David Fincher's Gone Girl, is easily the best film adaptation of a novel that I have seen thus far. It has much to thank from the novel's author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, the perfect direction of David Fincher, and the spot-on performances from its entire cast. It is top-notch mystery thriller that keeps you reeled in until the very last scene.

My Rating: 10/10
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Endless Love (2014)
9/10
Powerful Love Story
14 February 2014
The film follows David (Alex Pettyfer) who has had a long-lasting crush on beautiful rich girl Jade (Gabriella Wilde). It is on the day of their high school graduation when their two worlds collide. As the poor city boy and the sheltered rich girl's love begin to grow, the disapproval of Jade's father (Bruce Greenwood) does as well. He will stop at nothing to keep the two young lovers apart, and it will test the limits of how strong David and Jade's love truly is.

Endless Love definitely follows the footsteps of previous romance films, despite being a remake and an adaptation of a book of the same name. However, that doesn't prevent the film from being a powerful love story on its own. The characters are so lovable and more than anything you want their love to prevail and want everything to work out for them. We watch as they begin their cute encounters upon first meeting, and we gradually see their love grow more and more, and as the story goes on, we can literally feel the love between them despite the obstacles. It's definitely not a fresh love story, but anyone with a heart and has a strong belief in love can see so much deeper into his. Despite what critics and other reviews say, this is a powerful love story that shows how powerful love can be and how much we want to give that love to someone else.

Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde have AMAZING chemistry, enough to where it really helps you believe this couple is in love. Not since Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook has one been able to literally feel the love and chemistry two actors have to display on screen. On their own, the two actors do just as an amazing job. Wilde provides a lot beauty and innocence to her role as the girl who wants to throw away her sheltered and rich life to be with the one she loves most. Pettyfer proves a strong performance as a guy who will stop at nothing to be with the one he loves. He displays his full range as an actor when it involves his character confronting his past demons and deeper emotions.

Despite the harsh reviews that will come its way, Endless Love is a truly powerful love story that only people who are deeply in love, have deeply loved, or strongly believe in love will appreciate. It is only those like critics and those who haven't experienced love or really believe in it that will be blinded to the film's overall meaning. On top of that, we have the two solid performances by the leads to lift the film up to higher standards than most recent romantic dramas.

My Rating: 10/10
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Gimme Shelter (2013)
10/10
Powerful Movie and Performance by Hudgens
7 February 2014
Tired of her life of abuse and constant foster care, Agnes (Vanessa Hudgens) sets out to find a new place to call home. But she soon comes to realize that home is the place where you least expect to find it.

Gimme Shelter is a powerfully emotional film that chronicles the life of a young girl who just wants to find a place where she belongs in the world. We watch as Agnes encounters people from her dark past, to people in her present who may just lead her on the path to salvation. Some of the situations are dark and heart-breaking, but the moments when Agnes finds and feels the love she's been looking for will move you to tears. While many may compare it to the film Precious, Gimme Shelter is based on a true story. The film moves at a quick-pace, but not too quick to where you don't find yourself emotionally evolved in the story and the characters.

While many remember her for role in High School Musical or even most recently for her devilishly trashy performance in Spring Breakers, Vanessa Hudgens gives the performance of her career. It's powerful, heartbreaking, and moving at the same time. Hudgens gets so lost in her role. We really believe her as this lost and broken girl who yearns to be loved. For anyone who doubts that Hudgens can't act (which honestly, I thought this at first), once you see this film you can see the great potential Hudgens inhabits. Very few young actresses could have pulled this role off, but Hudgens nails it through and through and carries the film on her own. In very much supporting roles are Rosario Dawson who gives a dark and pure evil performance as Agnes' drug addicted and abusive mother whom she tries to escape. Dawson really delivers in this role and every time she's on screen you're digested and you absolutely HATE her. Brenden Fraser stars as Agnes' biological and wealthy father. When we first meet his character, Fraser comes off as very bland in the role, but during the course of the film he eases into it more and gives a decent enough performance.

Gimme Shelter is a deep and emotional film that will touch you, and leave you in tears, and full of hope. All of this definitely wouldn't have been possible without the powerhouse performance given by Vanessa Hudgens.

My Rating: 10/10
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Cavemen (2013)
10/10
Fun, Charming, Sweet, and Plenty of Laughs
7 February 2014
Struggling screenwriter Dean (Skylar Astin) is not only having difficulties coming up with a good idea for a love story, but difficulties with finding love in his own life. In hopes of finding inspiration for his script, he sets out to find the love of his life. Along the way he begins to learn some lessons from his friends Jay (Chad Michael Murray), Pete (Kenny Wormald), and Andre (Dayo Okeniyi), and Dean's best friend Tess (Camilla Belle).

There's no doubt that Cavemen has all of the element of your typical romantic comedy. Yes, it is predictable, yes it is cliché. But what sets it apart from many rom-coms before it, is that it has the heart and charm to make it enjoyable. You can't help but root for the lead character in his quest for finding true love. The characters are well-written and likable and each have their own story to tell instead of just being your typical side characters. During the course of the film you love seeing these characters with each other because you love them so much. What also sets it apart from other romantic comedies is that has the perfect combination of comedy and romance. There will be moments where you will laugh at some of the dialogue and the situations the characters find themselves in, then the next you'll find yourself invested in the love story aspect.

The cast is hands down, one of the best things about the film. Skylar Astin is solid as the hopeless romantic on his quest for love. He pulls of the awkward moments in this quest perfectly, and when it comes to the moments where he's conflicted of his feelings, you can really sense it. Astin, as well as his other male cast members have great chemistry together and come off genuine buddies who crack jokes and make fun of each other. Chad Michael Murray provides the most laughs as the sex addicted Jay. He pulls off this side of his character with poise, but he also shows Jay's humanity underneath his sex-crazed exterior. Astin also has terrific chemistry with the gorgeous Camilla Belle. The two have the best friend roles pegged. They have fun with each other to where it looks natural, but then in an instant you can see some of the sparks that may be hidden. While Belle doesn't have as much screen time as the guys, she does a fine job with what she has and makes a really lovable female character.

There's no doubt critics and many viewers will tear this film apart just for the fact that it's a romantic comedy. Which in itself is shameful. They need to look past its predictability and see the heart of the story and these characters underneath. This can be said for many other rom- coms out there, and Cavemen is one that sets itself above quite a few others before it.

My Rating: 10/10
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7/10
Good, But Fails At Fully Balancing Buddy Comedy and Rom-Com
31 January 2014
After their friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) reveals his wife wants a divorce, Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) instantly come to his aide. It is then that the three friends make a pact to stay single together and just go on casual dates with women. In hopes of avoiding the big question of "where is this going?", the friends think the plan is going full swing. That is until they find themselves wondering the same question.

That Awkward Moment, is a film that tries to perfectly balance and please both sexes by providing the buddy comedy aspect for the guys, and the cheesy romantic-comedy for the girls. Ultimately what happens is that the film proves that is one line you cannot balance without falling off onto the romantic-comedy side. On the one hand, the film does a fine job in both of those aspects. It features plenty of great laughs, ranging from the dialogue between the three male leads, to some of the situations they find themselves in. As far as the romantic- comedy story, rest assured that is has many cheesy "aww" moments. Sometimes more than one can care for. Not to say, the romantic moments are all awful, there some genuinely good- hearted ones. That aside, it does feature moments where a viewer will see themselves having done some of the things the characters do. So there is some relatability here.

But what the strongest aspect of the film is, is the acting and chemistry among the leads. Efron, Teller, and Jordan have very believable chemistry and come across as realistic buddies. They constantly crack jokes with each other, but also have each other's backs. The dialogue and moments between them come off as so natural that it almost looks like they're completely veering from the script and standing their own. Efron and Teller especially bring on the most charm, while Jordan provides a lot of the seriousness and heart.

Despite the fact that the film failed to balance the fine line to please both sexes, it has enough comedy, chemistry, and acting makes is more than forgivable. But I also give it credit for trying.

My Rating: 7/10
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Devil's Due (2014)
3/10
Total Snoozefest, But Good Acting By The Leads
17 January 2014
During their honeymoon, newlyweds Samantha and Zach couldn't be happier, however upon waking up one morning, they have no recollection of what happened the night before. It isn't too long after returning home that the happy couple find out they are having a child. But during a time of what should be pure happiness soon turns into a nightmare as the couple find themselves being watched and Samantha begins exhibiting strange behavior.

Devil's Due is yet another entry in the found-footage genre. The film can be considered an almost younger generation and found-footage version of Rosemary's Baby. However, this film has no chance in hell (no pun intended) of reaching the status of the classic horror film. It doesn't even stand a chance of reaching Paranormal Activity status. The story may be interesting, but the film itself is just plain boring. There is no intensity and no atmosphere whatsoever. Throughout the film we just see Samantha becoming more and more hostile with random and clichéd jump scares thrown in. And a lot of the creepy moments end up being humorous than anything. By the time we reach the climax of the film where (as usual) all of the real action occurs, it's over before it even begins.

Despite the film's boring outer layer, we are given some pretty good performances by our two leads. Zach Gilford brings a lot of charm to the role of Zach, at the first of the film he's the goofball husband that everyone will seem to adore. But when things start getting serious we see Gilford switch gears into the concerned husband and he does a fairly good job of it. Allison Miller plays Zach's wife Samantha. Like Gilford, Miller shows the sweet and innocent side of her character and we ultimately love her too, but when she needs to show Samantha's gradual change of behavior, she has a few moments where she could have gave it more of a boost, but otherwise she gives it what she can and it's satisfactory enough. The two also have great chemistry together, which also helps the audience care for and root for the two characters.

Devil's Due may be a huge snooze fest and won't leave a mark on the found-footage genre, but it at least has two decent lead actors to keep it from being a total disaster.

My Rating: 3/10
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8/10
Best of the Series
2 January 2014
Following his high school graduation, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) begins to experience mysterious occurrences. He enlists in his friends Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) to help him figure out what is going on. Along the way, the three friends uncover clues to secrets they never could have imagined.

The Marked Ones is a spin-off of the popular Paranormal Activity series. However, this doesn't mean it's branched off from the series completely. The film, while having a different storyline, perfectly fits into the series and answers several questions, while leaving room for the series to develop. As for the film itself, it is easily the best of the series. We are given characters we really like and root for and they are really well-developed to where we are given this opportunity. There is also never a dull moment. When there isn't tension-filled moments, we are given fun and comical moments with the characters. It also keeps the viewer engaged from beginning to end with wanting to figure out the clues and mysteries along with the characters. Once that aspect gets going, it keeps going and doesn't diverge from it. Keep an eye out for returning characters and references to the previous films. It makes the film that much greater to enjoy and piece together with the rest of the films. As far as the "found-footage" aspect. It uses this aspect in a better light. The camera use isn't as referred to or made known like the other films. There were times when I found myself not even acknowledging it was a found- footage film unless it actually was referred to or was obvious.

We are given a group of very talented young cast members. Our three leads have very solid chemistry and really appear as a tight-knit group. When they have fun together it's as if they are really having fun. But then once things begin to happen, we see the genuine concern in the actors playing Jesse's friends. As our lead, Andrew Jacobs does a good job of carrying the movie. He does an excellent job of showing the different stages of Jesse's persona changes throughout the film.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is an excellent entry to the series and the breath of fresh air it needed. It connects so well to the series while using a different storyline. It also gives us some fun and fairly tense moments as well as lovable characters played by a talented group of new faces.

My Rating: 8/10
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9/10
Light-Hearted with a Dash of Dark, and Excellent Performances
27 December 2013
Saving Mr. Banks follows author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), author of Mary Poppins to Los Angeles where she meets with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), regarding the rights of turning her story into a film. During her journey, she tackles the obstacles of how her vision will be handed to someone else, as well as obstacles from her past.

Director John Lee Hancock showed his inspiring and sentimental side when he directed the 2009 hit The Blind Side, he returns with this light-hearted but very deep film. We follow Travers as she leaves the luxury of her London home to sunny California where she is shown a whole new world. Travers begins as an almost cold and bitter woman, but as the story develops we see her character arc begin to form. The story itself can at time be very light-hearted and funny, but it can quickly shift gears into such a serious and dark territory before you can say "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". The light-hearted aspects basically occur whenever Disney himself is on-screen and when the well-known moments and beloved songs from Mary Poppins are being introduced to Travers by the writer and the song writers and lyricist. The darker aspects of the story show us some of the inspiration for the story and why Travers is the way she is and why she feels how she feels. While it's an excellent story, its light-heartedness makes it appear so much like a family film, especially with Mary Poppins and Walt Disney being key figures. However, this is not a family film at all. The dark and serious aspects outweigh all of its happy moments.

Emma Thompson gives a marvelous performance as our leading lady. She provides a lot of the comic relief as the blunt, strong-willed, and opinionated P.L. Travers. But during the moments where she remembers her past, Thompson can quickly show the emotional side of the character as well as she can the comical side…flawlessly. Providing the happiness and light- heartedness of the story is Tom Hanks as the famous Walt Disney. He portrays Disney so perfectly with his optimistic, child at heart personality, and then we see him the serious side of Disney that we have never seen before. It definitely makes for another amazing performance by Hanks this year.

Saving Mr. Banks is a fine dramedy that provides laughs and charm but also deals with very serious issues that don't work for families to see. But don't let that prevent you from going out and seeing this yourself. On top of a great story, you have Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks giving two of the best performances of the year.

My Rating: 9/10
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9/10
Excellent Direction and Performances
20 December 2013
Set in New Jersey, American Hustle follows con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) along with his partner and lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who get caught in one of their schemes by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). However, instead of imprisonment, DiMaso convinces the two to pull off their biggest heist yet on political operator Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Rosenfield agrees, while also trying to keep his eccentric wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) under control and unable to blow their cover.

Under the fabulous direction of David O.Russell, American Hustle looks and feels like a 70s con/mob film through and through. Everything from the set pieces, the costumes, and even the soundtrack completely brings you out of the present and thrown into the world being portrayed on screen. The story itself doesn't exactly bring anything new to the table as far as con artist sub genre, but everything else about it sets apart from any other film you'll see this year. We are given a group of characters that each have their own story to tell in the way they are presented to us. Even if a person viewing the film isn't exactly sold by the story, it's the characters that really help move the film along.

Along with the engaging characters, we have an outstanding cast that help bring them to life. Christian Bale does a good job as the lead as the slimy con man who thinks he's on the top of the world. Amy Adams plays his partner and lover and portrays the seductive role with ease. However, our two other leads give the best performances of the film. Bradley Cooper provides a lot of the comic relief in the film as the cop who coaxes the two con artists into the situation. He plays the cocky and at times crazy character who tries to use his charm to get what he wants, and Cooper nails it. Also providing comic relief is Jennifer Lawrence. At 22-years-old she's playing a role that requires her to act so much older than she actually is. As the wife of Bale's character, she plays the snooping and eccentric character so perfectly and just over-the- top enough to really believe it. She once again proves that she is the most talented young actress of her generation.

American Hustle is an excellent addition to the sub genre with excellent direction and a solid cast that help bring the story and setting to life and completely take you into the world you're watching portrayed.

My Rating: 9/10
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7/10
Nothing New, But A Decent Holiday Film
14 December 2013
When she finds out her daughter Lacey (Tika Sumpter) isn't coming home for Christmas, Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford), plans a surprise visit, but not before convincing the tough-as-nails Madea (Tyler Perry) to join her. The two women then hit the road for Alabama. Upon arriving, the find that Lacey is now living with a white country boy named Conner (Eric Lively), it isn't too long after that word of Conner's parents (Larry the Cable Guy and Kathy Najimy) are arriving for the holidays as well. Along with the worries of these two families meeting, the small Alabama town is also dealing with the troubling situation of not having their yearly Christmas Jubilation.

Tyler Perry is back with another installment in his Madea films. This time Madea bringing the holiday cheer. Like his previous Madea film, there is more Madea and less of the dramatic soap opera aspects. While are different issues deal with, they're all evenly balanced. This issues dealt with this time around include the idea of interracial marriages and relationships, letting children live their own lives, and of course, the real meaning of Christmas including the Christ vs. Santa issues. While the issues dealt with in the film are very "been there, done that", they're done in a way that keeps the story going and makes for a decent holiday film. And of course we are given major comedic relief from Madea. Only this time around we have her going back and forth with Larry the Cable Guy as Conner's father. These moments are easily the most comical. The story isn't anything new or fresh, but it's a nice film to enjoy around the holiday season.

The film is supported by a very talented cast. Tyler Perry is comical as always as Madea. Larry the Cable Guy and Kathy Najimy are also a treat for the screen. The whole cast does a really good job with their roles, whether they are characters we are supposed to love or characters to hate, and when the character arcs come, their transitions for the characters are very clear to see. This has always been one of the strongest factors in Perry's films, he always chooses very talented actors who get really into their roles, and this film is no different.

A Madea Christmas no doubt, like Perry's other films will have its haters. But it's a film that may not be anything fresh or new, but it still has a great cast going for it, plenty of humor, heart, and a good story that brings out the holiday spirit.

My Rating: 7/10
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8/10
Great Story, Excellent Performances
6 December 2013
After being diagnosed with HIV, electrician Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) learns he only has 30 days left to live. After getting an illegal supply of AZT, Ron finds that this isn't doing anything to help him. Eventually fleeing to Mexico, Ron learns of and begins to take a particular drug that hasn't been approved in the U.S. When he finds that this drug is improving his health, Ron sees an opportunity. After smuggling the drugs across the border, Ron, and another HIV patient named Rayon (Jared Leto) begins selling the drug to other citizens with the virus. During the process, Ron battles the medical field and the law in order to prove how beneficial his buyer's club is.

Based on the true story of the real Ron Woodroof, Dallas Buyers Club follow one man's actions on his mission to survive and how he started a revolution in a time when HIV/AIDS was a major issue. The story itself, not only is interesting, but it doesn't contain a dull moments. It filled with dramatic elements with dashes of comedic moments. It also features characters that we come to find ourselves close to. Every one of which gets their own time to shine. The film does jump around quite a bit, but it does so for the sake of the story and the events that are to come, and through every major point in Woodroof's life and battle with HIV.

Among the cast is Matthew McConaughey who easily gives the performance of his career as the blunt and clever Ron Woodroof. McCoaughey conveys different aspects of Woodroof with such ease. There are moments where he portrays Woodroof as being tough as nails, but then he can instantly shift gears into his emotional side. The comic relief aspects also come off completely natural. Jennifer Garner stars as Woodroof's female doctor friend Eve Saks. Garner does a fine job of giving off her charm as she always does, but with this performance we see the conflict her character is battling between her career and doing what is right. But the one actor who stands out the most is Jared Leto as the cross-dressing Rayon. Leto provides not only a lot of the major comic relief, but he also brings the heart of the story. We are shown Rayon as this carefree, happy-go-lucky character, but eventually we are shown just deeply affected this disease brings him emotionally, and Leto brings all of this to the table flawlessly.

Dallas Buyers Club is completely deserving of all of its Oscar buzz. From its powerful story, to its outstanding performances by the two leading males. Whether or not it is or isn't nominated for the 2014 Oscars, it is a film that has to be seen.

My Rating: 8/10
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Homefront (I) (2013)
8/10
Easily Jason Statham's Best
26 November 2013
After the death of his wife, Phil Broker (Jason Statham) and his young daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) to a small Louisiana town. What starts out as what was supposed to be a new beginning quickly changes. After an altercation with a local hick family, the wife Cassie (Kate Bosworth), enlists her brother Gator (James Franco) to put a scare into him. But what starts out as a few minor threats quickly begins to escalate and become more personal, and Broker is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his daughter and his homefront.

Jason Statham has been known for his past non-stop action films. While entreating and fun, most of them lack a lot of substance. Homefront is a change of pace. Instead of playing the normal character he usually does, Statham is family man this time around. He's trying to provide a better life for his daughter by trying to avoid conflict, but conflict seems to follow him amongst the townspeople. At the film's core it's about a man trying to do his best, but like many people, he has his limit. What sets it apart from Statham's other films is that there's more to the story than him running around beating the hell out of everyone. There is also more substance to his character. But it certainly wouldn't be a Jason Statham movie without some good fight sequences. While we are treated to minor ones throughout the movie, the biggest one of all, of course, is in the final act of the movie. The film does a good job of balancing the story with action which should be please most audiences However, one of it's weaknesses is that it has more villains than necessary, and it ultimately leaves the viewer wondering who the real villain is. It also suffers from some weak character development with some pretty important characters including Kate Bosworth's character who essentially is the one who sets things in motion, she pops up every once in a while and randomly shows up at the end. Rachelle Lefevre who stars as Maddy's school psychologist isn't given much to work with either. She's introduced and it's evident there's chemistry between her and Statham's character and that's really it. And while she's present through a good chunk of the movie as Franco's girlfriend, Winona Ryder has a character that should have been given a bit more history, as she's an integral part when it comes to the "other" villains.

Jason Statham gives a very credible performance. As noted, we typically see him as the all- around tough guy with nothing much else to show. Here, we see him as a father caring for his daughter, plus that, and he balances both really well. The moments between him and newcomer Izabela Vidovic are nice to watch as their chemistry as father and daughter really works. Vidovic also gives a very good performance as Maddy, she portrays a tough young girl well, but plays the emotional moments when discussing her deceased mother very well. James Franco stars as one of the major villains in the movie. After his villain-ish performance in Spring Breakers, Franco takes on a more legitimate villain role. The thing about Franco as the villain here is that we never know what his next move will be, he does a excellent job of keeping the audience on their toes. The rest of the cast (at least what we see of them) do a decent job, though nothing spectacular or memorable.

For a film of a new nature for Jason Statham, Homefront does a well-done job, as does Statham and Franco. The story is one that can appeal to both genders. It's not all action, but offers plenty of thrills and dramatic elements to keep the story going until the big fight scenes occur. Despite some of the weak character development, and the over-abundance of villains, Homefront is an above average film that is easily Statham's best.

My Rating: 8/10
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Delivery Man (2013)
8/10
A Very Surprising, Heart-Warming, Feel-Good Movie
24 November 2013
When David (Vince Vaughn) finds out he's the father to 533 children through donations he made to a fertility clinic 20 years ago, he learns that a fraction of them want to meet him. Against the advice of her lawyer best friend Brett (Chris Pratt), and while trying to mend the relationship he has with his girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders), David decides to set out and see how his children turned out. Along the way he starts to find himself waist deep in the situation.

Based on his original French film Starbuck, director Ken Scott brings his original film in American form. The film starts out with some nice comedic moments from Vince Vaughn's character playing the typical immature adult. However, it gradually shifts gears into a more sentimental film. As we watch David interact with his children, often ranging from some comical moments with them, but then we get the genuine and sincere moments where we see David begin to open his eyes to the world. From the outside, the film looks like some average comedy, but in the long run it runs so much more deeper and sentimental than that.

While at first glance, it would appear Vince Vaughn plays the typical character he always plays, but as the film progresses we start to see him take a more serious side that we rarely see from him. It is a major treat to see him interact with some of the youngsters who play his children. When Vaughn has to express his sentimental side, he really nails it. It makes you wish he would do more roles that require this type of range. Apart from his serious moments, Vaughn also has fun chemistry with Chris Pratt who plays his best friend. Their relationship is really believable and they have some good and funny moments together. Pratt on his own provides a lot of the major comic relief in the film, even though we find his character has his own troubles he has to deal with.

Delivery Man definitely earns a ranking as one of the surprise feel-good films of the year. It will have you laughing and by the end it can leave you with tears of joy and a smile on your face.

My Rating: 8/10
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10/10
Perfect In Every Way
21 November 2013
After both surviving in what should have been a lone survivor 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the two victors from District 12 are back one year later. Now, living in the Victor's Village, the two are preparing for the Victory Tour prior to the 75th Annual Hunger Games. The two must also continue their on-screen romance for the world to see. But seeing their survival as an act of rebellion against the capital, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has new plans in store for Katniss and Peeta for this year's games.

Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, this sequel to the hit original film The Hunger Games delivers in every way. Staying very faithful to the book, Catching Fire leaves fans of the book very well pleased. The movie stays very character driven with the characters presented to us. As the events unfold we watch as the characters handle them in their own different ways. Some in anger, some in duress, and some with pure determination to get even. Much more ground is covered in the country of Panem as we follow Katniss and Peeta on their tour. We get a glimpse of the conditions of each district, as well as more coverage of their own District 12. Finally, we given the mother of the games. In this film, when we find the characters in the stadium, we find them encountering much more danger than they did before. This time it's the stadium itself they have to fear more than the Victors. Running at nearly two and a half hours long, the story keeps the viewer engaged from beginning to end. It begins by giving the viewer more of an idea how much the country is changing as a result of Katniss and Peeta's actions as well as what is occurring in their personal lives and really touches the viewer emotionally. Finally, when we get to the games, the thrills and action are non-stop.

Jennifer Lawrence returns as our heroine Katniss Everdeen, and Lawrence has never been better. Every bit of emotion the character of Katniss is supposed to have, Lawrence knocks it out of the park. We can see the confusion of where her feelings lie when it comes to her love for Peeta and her love for her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth). But what she really delivers is showing her raw emotions in the Games when her determination to keep Peeta safe as well as expressing her anger towards President Snow. Lawrence definitely gave an Oscar-worthy performance for Silver Linings Playbook, but her performance in Catching Fire is by far her strongest performance and it shows throughout the film. Josh Hutcherson also returns as Peeta, who is given much more screen time and more to do this time around. Whatever emotions Peeta is supposed to sell, Hutcherson sells it. Not only that, but he and Lawrence have great chemistry and it leaves us wanting to see their relationship flourish even more. Also returning are Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Lenny Kravitz who are also given more spotlight. Harrelson brings back a lot of the comic relief, but the wise advice as Haymitch. Banks is able to show a more sentimental and emotional side to her character Effie beside her perky persona. Finally, Kravitz returns as Cinna, Katniss' friend and wardrobe designer who does whatever it takes to help Katniss on her mission. Joining the cast are Sam Claflin as the tough and cocky Finnick, and Jena Malone as the feisty Johanna. Claflin and Malone easily become new crowd favorites as they do a fantastic job of bringing these new characters to life.

Catching Fire is that rare film that stays extremely true to its original source, outshines the original, keeps the viewer engaged from beginning to end, and offer perfect performances all around. Fans of the original film and of the books will not be disappointed.

My Rating: 10/10
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5/10
Too Much Gross Humor, Not Enough Heart
19 November 2013
When Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) , the class scholar and all around nerd, decides to become more sexually experienced before going off to college, she makes herself a to do list to help her work her way up to losing her virginity. Along the way, Brandy gets a job at the local pool in order to gain the attention of Rusy (Scott Porter), while also being lusted by her friend Cameron (Johnny Simmons). With the help of her friends Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele), and sexually experienced older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson), Brandy goes gets a crash course on the road to sexuality.

In this 90s-era film, The To Do List tries to follow in the footsteps of teen sex comedies like American Pie and Superbad, but in the end it fails to even be on the same level as these films. The film definitely features its share of comedic moments that can be pretty funny, but ultimately it gets carried away by its over-abundance of crude and gross out moments that even the two aforementioned films kept a handle on. The problem is, the story clearly wants to give some heart and moral to the story, but the crudeness really prevents it from showing until the very end where it's clearly written out. It fails to let it's real intentions shine through by trying to throw in every graphic sexual situation or conversation that they can come up with. And it really hurts the film. A majority of the funny moments even come from the non-gross out moments.

On a positive note, the film features a great back drop of several 90s songs that really fill the setting, and provide a great treat to listen to. After viewing this film, the viewer will never be able to listen to Dreams by The Cranberries the same way ever again.

Apart from the soundtrack, the star-filled cast also saves the film from being a complete flop. Aubrey Plaza does provide some great comical moments as the nerdy and awkward protagonist. Scott Porter as the rocker stud also gets his shot of showing his comical side after his stretch of dramatic t.v. roles. Some of the major stand outs include Connie Britton and Clark Gregg as Brandy's parents who are very blunt as far as sex. These two definitely provide a lot of the major comical moments of the film. The whole cast does a well-done job with what they are given and they appear to have a fun time doing it (no pun intended).

I can't say The To Do List is an awful film, but it's pretty weak one as far as the story goes with more interest in having more gross out humor than anything else. But the soundtrack and its fun cast do a fine job of making up for its shortcomings.

My Rating: 5/10
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Paradise (I) (2013)
8/10
Charming and Heartfelt
19 November 2013
After surviving a plane crash that left her with major burns, Lamb (Julianne Hough) begins to question her faith and life. She then flees religious community and goes to Las Vegas in hopes to find herself and live the life she was warned about back home. It is there that she meets William (Russell Brand) and Loray (Octavia Spencer) who teach Lamb the way of life in Vegas, but she also teaches them life lessons of her own.

Diablo Cody, the director of Juno and Young Adult is back with a new film that clearly shows her touch. Paradise is a film with as much charm and heart as her previous films. It's a film that speaks to youth about the bigger world around us and how there is so much out there for them to experience. The film features some humorous moments as we watch our protagonist experience all of these new events for the first time as well as her encounters with the people she comes across. The film's meaning stays ever-present throughout until our lead comes to the realization herself. However, there are instances where the film tends to over-preach and draws the viewer out. But it doesn't take away a lot from the story.

The film is also backed by some very well-done performances by it's cast. Julianne Hough shines as the naive and innocent Lamb. Hough does an excellent job of bringing these qualities out through her facial expressions and her line delivery. And in the moments when Lamb hits her emotional patches we actually find ourselves caring. Russell Brand and Octavia Spencer provide a lot of the comic relief as Lamb's newfound friends William and Loray. Here we actually see a different side of Brand along with his comedic side as his character becomes compassionate for Lamb during her times of doubt. Spencer becomes the moralistic friend for Lamb when she feels she is getting in too deep, but also has her moments of comedy and sarcasm.

Although the film can get very preachy, it has the right amount of comedy, heart, and charm too keep the viewer engaged, along with it's talented cast and professional direction.

My Rating: 8/10
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7/10
A Pretty Satisfying Sequel
8 November 2013
Taking place after the events of The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has returned to Asgard to assume his path of becoming king. But when he learns that his true love Jane (Natalie Portman) has been afflicted by a dark force, and a dark lord known as Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) seeks to collect Jane and use the force to destroy Asgard, and Earth, Thor must enlist in the one person who truly betrayed his trust to help him...Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Under a new direction by Alan Taylor, Thor: The Dark World is actually a solid sequel that surpasses the original. While the original film is very good, it lacked a lot of action scenes. This due to the fact that we had to follow Thor and his interactions with the human characters. Here, we have a perfect balance of it. We are given plenty of action scenes among the Asgardian galaxy and Earth. These scenes are very well-done with excellent CGI. We are also given a lot of comic relief by Tom Hiddleston, and especially Kat Dennings who returns as Jane's intern Darcy (whom also is given much more to do this time around). Stellen Skarsgard also returns as Erik Selvig. This time around however, Selvig is very under-used and gets very much the short-end of the stick as far as what his character gets to do. Admittedly there are moments where the humor can get to be too much, but it's all done in light-hearted fun. Hemsworth and Portman unfortunately like the first film don't have the chemistry that a couple in love should have. But yet they aren't really given the chance to have solid scenes together. Both however give fine performances on their own. What's most notable are the scenes between Hemsworth and Hiddleston, who play off of each other very well. Like the first film, Hiddleston completely loses himself as Loki provides a lot of the great moments in the film. As for the story itself, it goes into a darker territory than the first film does, and it does it well. There are many different emotional situations that Thor goes through that really help Thor show his humanity and where his heart lies. The villain this time around really isn't anything special. He does give Thor many obstacles to go through, but that's it, and he's hardly the villain that Loki was in both the first film and The Avengers.

Thor: The Dark World, while having several flaws that include a not-so-great villain, an occasional over-abundance of humor and an under-usage of characters, it doesn't stop it from being a very satisfying sequel with more action, good comic moments, and a darker story with the characters we've come to know and love.

My rating: 8/10
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