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I, Tonya (2017)
Supporting characters shine, Robbie not so much.
Can this be called a documentary? A mockumentary? Biopic? At different times throughout the film it felt like it wanted to be any one of all three of these. Still after ending credits rolled, the film didn't stick with me. It was good, and for a handful of scenes very good.
However it was never great.
Margot Robbie was the wrong actress for this, with an especially wrong accent. Tonya Harding is not an Eastcoaster, she's from Oregon. Robbie is an average actress at best. Should have been Amy Adams all the way! On the other hand Allison Janney did a great job, and even more so Sebastian Stan as Harding's abusive husband.
This is one of the few movies I believe could have benefited from an additional 15 to 20 minutes of runtime. At 2 hrs runtime that should be enough to forge a strong connection between characters and audience, but that connection never fully developed for me. Less editing may have helped. Different editing choices also. Perhaps more in depth coverage of Harding's childhood and adolescence, and less coverage of every single time she got beat by her husband.
All in all its solid, but not outstanding. With a stronger lead character and different pacing I would have given it a 7.5/10. As it stands now my rating is 6.5/10.
The Visit (2015)
Shyamalan has (partially) redeemed himself. A respectable comeback of a film.
The Visit - 7/10 Shyamalan has moderately redeemed himself after a series of disasters. It's more thriller/comedy than horror but there are a handful of genuinely creepy scenes. Slow pacing, but the tone that something is very "off" makes the film interesting even while nothing is actually occurring. In that aspect (and only that aspect) it reminded me of Rosemary's Baby. Both directors managed to load seemingly harmless events with tension and foreboding. That's the part I appreciated the most. I also appreciated that the twist this time wasn't something totally off the wall, i.e. he didn't try to hard. It was a perfectly respectable twist within the realm of normalcy while still being slightly shocking.
The only negatives are that it's got slow pacing in the first act, but it does pick up considerably about 30-40 minutes in. Also the found footage gimmick is beyond tired at this point, but the utilization of it is slightly smarter than some other films I can recall.
Bonus points for the funny as hell son Ed Oxenbould. Aside from the seriously creepy grandparents he makes the film. The daughter is a decent actress as well , but the son got all of the funny material.
All in all Shyamalan has nothing to be ashamed of this time around. I may just go and see it again .
Nothing we haven't seen before, but it's decent.
I understand that the original is considered a classic, but I'm also of the mind that even the original is not without it's faults. I'm saying this because I think that what may have been lacking in the original is handled better with the remake. Conversely what this version lacks, the original provided.
For starters, the original had absolutely no preamble. The first scenes of Carol Ann going to the flickering TV literally occurred within minutes of the film's opening. It always seemed rushed to me that there was no introduction of sorts. This film does better at providing a build up, if somewhat a small one. It doesn't just thrust you into the paranormal situation straight out of the gate.
The thing is with remakes, people are already prepared to naysay, partly because the majority of naysayers are old enough to remember the original and will nearly always choose the "good ole days". We all do it, with movies, with music, what have you. Just as with newer generation music, those who can remember music from even 10-15 years ago will find that new music usually just plain sucks. It's the same for horror remakes unfortunately. With a film like Poltergeist, which is a staple of the paranormal subgenre, there is almost no winning. I've asked myself what could the writers/director have done differently that would appease those going into it having put the original on a pedestal. And frankly I can't think of too much that could have been changed that would somehow make these type of people happy.
To start: The parents in this remake are more likable in my humble opinion. The father in particular has a great deal more personality than Craig T. Nelson had. I prefer them as a couple to Nelson and JoBeth Williams. The children here leaving something to be desired however. While they get the job done, the children of the original were far superior actors.
I will grant the original had more atmosphere and understated tension than did this one. There was a general feeling of unease that held through the film even while nothing of consequence was occurring. The remake lacked this, and I believe this may be the major hang up of the film. There were many BOO! moments that were sometimes effective. However there was no ever coiling tension. It was more of a case of peaks and pits. The energy was released as soon as the BOO! moment occurred. Wash, rinse, repeat.
On the other hand the remake benefits from advancements in special fx and technology. The writers obviously had more liberties with which to exploit the appearance of the supernatural presence. (Think cell phones, ipads, etc.) The tree, the spirits, etc naturally were far better looking in this remake than they were for the original, but clearly that's to be expected. My major beef with the original was that the final act turned too far away from horror into unscary sci-fi; particularly toward the end. That really puts me off from being a die hard "original" defender.
I guess what I'm saying is this: I will be one of the few who can see the merits of both films. From what I've read thus far, most either really enjoyed it or can't get over the fact that it's not the original (which it could never be anyway so that's a fight this film will never win). This remake has some qualities I think serve the story better than the original even, while at the same time I don't think it surpassed the original in the most important aspects. Still, it was a FUN film. I came to be entertained, and I was entertained for 91 minutes. Maybe my expectations were too low? Perhaps, however my ultimate decision rests on whether or not a film entertained me.
If you're going into it with a very high opinion of the original, I doubt that you will get much enjoyment from it. If you're the type to nitpick at small things, I doubt that you will get much enjoyment from it. If you just like to sit back and have a little excitement for a couple hours, you could do FAR worse than this film. It's decent enough that I don't regret shelling out the $$ to see it in theaters. Just don't expect anything groundbreaking. But then again you probably didn't because after all........it's the dreaded remake! My rating: 6/10
Gone Girl (2014)
A film that is everything it needed to be
David Fincher has delivered yet another film that doesn't disappoint. I often find myself saying that the trailer is possibly better than the movie in most cases. In this case however, the trailer doesn't do it justice. I knew going in that there would be twists, but I had no idea what to expect.
To be brief: Ben Affleck plays the husband of Rosamund Pike who has gone missing and is presumed dead. Naturally Ben Affleck is the prime suspect. All of this is divulged within the first 15 minutes of the film. What happens after that I'd have to include a spoiler warning for; which I won't do because watching the story unfold is so entertaining. We all think we're pretty good at guessing the twist, or we claim to be. But I promise you this time that most of us will be blindsided by this one. The story is at once, dramatic, shocking, and haunting without going overboard into ridiculousness. What transpires between these people is believable enough even though it's quite shocking. More than that I won't say.
What I will add though is that nearly everything in this film is pitch perfect. I would have preferred a bit more excitement at the very end, but the story ended as it probably would have had these been real people. Aside from that the cinematography is beautiful, the acting top notch (look for Rosamund Pike's Oscar nomination in February), the editing is fantastic, everything is exceptional.
Definitely money well spent. One of the better films I've seen this year.
8 enthusiastic stars********
Deliver Us from Evil (2014)
Solid overall, but still entirely forgettable
Maybe I'm doomed to be disappointed in every exorcism movie that is NOT The Exorcist (1973) because I find myself making comparisons whether I want to or not. While I know they can't possibly replicate the shock value of seeing a movie like The Exorcist for the first time, I do still want to be blindsided by something I wasn't expecting. If I can't have that, I'd at least like to be spooked or shaken up just a little. Two movies that come to mind are The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Conjuring; both films I enjoyed for different reasons. If you consider both of those to be good films, then I think you'll find Deliver Us From Evil to be middle of the road.
DUFE is more of a crime procedural film than anything else. This film could have easily been an action cop movie with the omission of about 15 minutes worth of certain scenes. On that level, it was a solid movie. Joel McHale's role as Bana's sidekick threw me for a loop. They worked well together and would have made a great duo were this film about them and not the exorcism of demons. Character exposition, good acting, minimal plot holes, tying up loose ends, this movie does all of that well enough. It's just not particularly frightening. And when the film does arrive at the final scenes, it begins to border on silly and overdone with a little bit of melodrama and cheesiness thrown in for good measure.
I think movies like this sometimes try too hard to be something they're not solely for the sake of trying to shock the audience (just like The Exorcist had done in its time).But after you've seen a possessed 12 year old masturbate with a cross, you become desensitized to anything anyone else can come up with. Besides that, The Exorcist had more going for it than just shock value. That film had the entire package. Deliver Us From Evil did try (there are some glaring similarities to the classic), but they didn't push the envelope enough. This film, like so many others in recent years, just plays it too safe. In the end, this lack of risk (or lack of imagination some would argue) ends up in a disappointment feeling of "Been there, done that. Nothing new to see here".
Overall: 6/10. I'll forget all about this film by next week. Worth a watch on TV, but not worth a Redbox rental if you've already seen it at the theater.
Gets off to a great start, but eventually loses its way. Still worth a watch.
This is one of the more complex story lines I've seen in recent horror films. Without divulging too many details, the plot weaves the past and the present together into one (arguably) cohesive story. In a nutshell: Brother and sister team up to defeat the malevolent forces contained in the mirror; the mirror that once was the source of tragedy for their family. Yes this past meets present has been done innumerable times, but not many recent films have made the effort to interlace past and present to this extent. One of the few that have managed to do it, and do it very well in my opinion, has been Insidious part 2. However I wouldn't liken this to Insidious II in quality or technical aspects.
While the editing was top notch, the story became overworked by the time the movie reached the second half. This is a clear example of Keep-It-Simple-Stupid. Where the first 45 minutes had good build up and intrigue, staying steady on its course to the main event, the remainder of the film eventually became a mash up of time weaves, flashbacks, reality/unreality hallucinations, etc. It became overworked to the point that the viewer was pulled out of the story by what I think of as the "silly" factor. I realize that, by nature, you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy a horror film. However even horror films can cross over from intrigue to silliness with the slightest misstep. Unfortunately Oculus has made this mistake. This is unfortunate because with just a little more editing down, I would have gladly given this a 7/10.
This is not to say it's not worth the cost of admission, because I did enjoy it. I definitely think the story has potential, and I'm glad I paid to see it. I appreciate the effort that went into writing and directing such a nuanced story. By no means is it a bad film. It's a perfectly decent film. However the distinction here is that it is decent, when it could have been elevated to the level of good with just a few less twists and turns.
Final verdict: Silly at times and the story becomes overkill. But intriguing and outright scary in some scenes. Definitely worth the cost of admission. 6.4/10
Very hard to sit through to the end
I'll admit the last 20 minutes were touch and go. I zoned out a few times before returning for the final scene. Suffice it to say, I won't be making it a point to re-watch it. The beginning looked very promising and fresh, as most Armageddon movies focus on people trying to prevent the death of themselves, their planet, whatever. However with SAFFTEOTW the end is pretty much a given and people have resigned themselves to their own demise in 21 days time. And so it is rather interesting to see how the world would have changed under such a hypothetical scenario. I thought it was fun to see who would bother showing up for work, or continue watering their lawn. Would businesses remain open? Would policemen bother issuing speeding tickets? Most of these were actually addressed throughout the film, and were the most interesting aspect of it.
Aside from that, the storyline became disjointed and boring right when it should have taken off. Unfortunately the plight of the main characters was not engaging and so their road trip adventure fell flat. Not to mention there is zero chemistry between Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley. I thought it was only my peevishness, however I've seen several reviews from IMDb members across the pond addressing the utterly annoying acting technique employed by Knightley. About 5 minutes of watching her on the screen had me wanting to pass on the film. I enjoy Carrell for the mot part and can't help but wish some other actress was cast alongside him. I can't say from personal experience, but I'll take their word for it when British reviewers say that Knightley's overzealous (aka terrible) portrayal of a sprightly young English woman is by no means accurate.
For the life of me, I don't see how this film got so many great reviews on IMDb. Is it rigged? Or am I delusional, because this was one of the slowest most uninteresting films I've seen this year. I give it a 4/10 only because the idea of the film is refreshing. Too bad the execution is a major letdown.
The Possession (2012)
The cream puff version of The Exorcist
The parallels between this film and The Exorcist are obvious even from the trailers, so I won't go too far into that. Just suffice it to say that The Possession contains none of the impact or shock value that The Exorcist has. In short, it's just not as good of a film.
However, in its own right, it's a pretty competent horror movie. The story of the central characters is kind of cliché. Husband and wife have divorced, they share custody of the children, there's a new boyfriend/girlfriend in the picture, etc. This type of set up is always convenient when dealing with a "messed up kid" film. That way whatever is wrong with the child can inevitably be blamed on the fact that the child is just not dealing well with the break up of his or her parents. And that's exactly what happens in The Possession; except there is actually something VERY wrong with the youngest daughter and it has absolutely nothing to do with her parents. Without giving away too much, the plot centers around an ancient wooden box the youngest daughter finds at a yard sale. Of course she wants it, and so she gets it. And there begins to occur some rather strange phenomena; most of them downright spooky, a couple kind of hokey.
All in all, I was pleased. This film has got good pacing, decent acting, and exceptional cinematography. There's not much I can find as a fault here. If I had to name my major complaint about this and similar movies it would be this: I'm not thrilled about the influx of PG-13 horror films. I've a suspicion this is due to a need to bring in a wider audience (younger viewers/teenagers), and make more money on ticket sales. Because of this the final product tends to be a little too watered down for my tastes. The Possession shows a lot of promise, but I can't help but wish the writers/director would have pushed the envelope a bit more; fleshed out the story. Then it would have been great. As it stands now, I'll just say it's a "good" little horror film. Nothing that will be talked about this time next year, but I consider my money well spent.
My rating: 6.5/10
A waste of a good cast
I'm usually pretty good at weeding out the films that put all the best scenes in the trailer then leave you with a bunch of junk when you actually sit through it in its entirety. But I must admit I was fooled with this one. The daddy's group shown in the previews led me to believe this would be an edgy hilarious take on pregnancy. Considering Chris Rock was featured heavily in the clips, I thought it would be a safe bet. Unfortunately Chris Rock's " Dudes group" has minimal screen time, and even when they are on screen, the material is just not funny. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the best this movie has to offer.
I guess the producers thought they had a huge summer blockbuster on their hands; I mean why else would they pay top dollar for so many A-list actors all in one film if they didn't believe the film would be successful enough to see a return on their investments? It really does baffle me because this film is nowhere near as good as it should be to warrant the hefty paychecks of this cast.
The film centers around a montage of female characters from early pregnancy to delivery (with the exception of Jennifer Lopez, she's looking to adopt). There's a young 20-something who hardly knows her beau at all, a woman who's been looking forward to conceiving with relish but finds the reality of it a rather unpleasant surprise, her younger mother-in-law who, annoyingly, seems to handle her pregnancy with hardly a glitch, and a fitness guru who thinks she can control the whole ordeal like she does her diet and exercise regimen.
Ironically, as a stand alone, any one of these couples stories could have been developed into a decent film. However the mingling of all these stories results in a shallow treatment that makes the film underwhelming. And while this wouldn't necessarily make or break it, add in the fact that the film is just not funny enough, and it's just a waste. Some genuine humor would have made the flaws forgivable. Consider this: The only funny scene of the film is about 20 seconds in duration, containing non-main characters who have about 10 minutes total screen time. Wendi McLendon-Covery (of Bridesmaids) and Thomas Lennon share the single funny scene in the film and they're hardly in the movie, which means.......you get the point.
Overall there is some potential with this film, it's just underdeveloped and badly written. I wouldn't pay to see it, but it's good way to while away a couple hours if you happen to catch it on TV. Other than that, steer clear. This coming from a chick who enjoys rom coms. Thumbs down.
Dream House (2011)
It was different...not great but different.
Warning: This is not a horror movie. If you were expecting one you might as well pass this one up. It's more a drama/suspense than anything else.
The plot of the film sounds like a horror movie and the trailers lead you to believe it is too. And might I add that the trailers are better than the actual film, even though they give away entirely too much of the plot but that's just my opinion.
Nevertheless the film centers around Will, played by Daniel Craig. We believe him to be a publishing exec who quits his job in order to spend more time with his family and finally write the novel he's always dreamed of completing. Both of these reasons are ironic, and you'll know why after seeing the film. He, his wife, and their adorable young daughters have recently moved into a home that was the scene of a brutal murder of a woman and two children. You get the picture. I won't venture to say more. If you want to know more go watch the trailers, they give up some rather juicy twists, which is a shame because the twists are really the only high point of the film. And once they're revealed the movie really kind of loses it's momentum. There's a final reveal towards the end but by that time I had already lost interest.
It's OK for a one-time watch, but not something I'd like to see again. The story is unique, but the execution needed some work. All in all, not bad though.
The Devil Inside (2012)
Would be a pretty solid movie...if it were finished
In the same vein as Blair Witch and the Paranormal Franchise, The Devil Inside is another entry in the hand-held documentary style film. Although I think Blair Witch and PA did a much better job of making the "found footage" gimmick believable. Anyway The Devil Inside tells the story of a young girl, Isabelle who travels to Italy to learn more of the so-called demonic possession of her institutionalized mother.
The film opens with a 911 call made from the girl's mother in which she confesses to murdering three people who were trying to perform an exorcism. I guess it's safe to say it didn't work because when we next see the mother, she's holed up in Italian hospital for the criminally insane, mumbling to herself and looking generally frightening. Isabelle is looking to investigate the circumstances behind her mother's crimes and hopefully get her returned to the United States. And so the footage goes, mostly capturing her quest to learn more about exorcism, along with some help from two men she meets at a Roman Catholic university.
It could have been a very effective film if it wasn't for the glaringly flawed ending. Up to that point there was nice buildup and a few rather shocking moments. Then abruptly, it just ended. Poof! Like that. Shows over, go home. Myself along with the entire audience sat there for several moments after the ending scene, waiting....for something. I guess it took a few minutes to realize there would be nothing else. The ending came out of nowhere. None of the questions raised by the film were ever answered. The last 10 minutes embarked on a different path that just wasn't followed. It appeared as if the final climax was coming and then somehow the producers ran out of money so they just wrapped the film with whatever footage they had.
As it stands, the movie is incomplete so I can't give it more than a 5. Had there been an additional 20 minutes or more, I probably would have given it a 6.5 or 7.
This movie should have been titled The Devil Inside: Part 1.
Where the heck is the last half?!
The most grown up of the bunch.
Even for those of you who flat out just don't like the Twilight franchise, this will be your highest rated of all 4 films. I've read the books which are vastly superior to the films, but so far I've enjoyed this one the most. You can tell the direction is much more sophisticated than in prior films. The original was my favorite until I saw BD, but I always thought they leaned towards teenage cheese fest. Breaking Dawn breaks away from the pack in what would still be a pretty decent film on it's own. Mind you it will never win any awards, but it's noticeably improved in direction, pacing, and yes acting.
Taylor Lautner is still as bad as ever, and the other 90% of the cast have minimal lines and opportunities to show off their abilities. And while Kristen Stewart is a decent actress in her other films, she's always been dreadfully bad in the Twilight franchise. But alas she was not altogether terrible in this one. I've had the chance to see Robert Pattinson in two other films, and he's a much better actor than the Twilight franchise gives him credit for. Given the chance he can come up with some pretty powerful stuff.
Aside from all that, the writers and director have really brought the film up to a higher level, relatively speaking. The pacing is a thousand times better than previous films. It just seems more organic than all the others. I can't say I enjoyed New Moon, Eclipse was just OK, and I did enjoy Twilight. BD surpasses all of them by far.
Bottom line, if you're not a fan you're not going to enjoy this just like you didn't enjoy any of the others. However it's clear that this is the superior of the 4.
My rating: 6.5/10
Truly so bad it's good!
There comes a time very soon into the film that you think the film is crap and it couldn't get any worse. Then 20 minutes later you realize that it's gotten much worse. Then 20 minutes after that you're staring in fascination at just how craptastic the movie actually is. But what I came to realize at the end is that I was fascinated from beginning to end. I actually couldn't turn away. Maybe it was for all the wrong reasons, but the who cares. I was entertained from beginning to end.
I'm also inclined to believe the writers/directors did this intentionally to give the film a cult/campy feel. If they did, well I'm impressed. This film won't be appreciated by the mainstream. It's way too off. But it's one of those films whose acting, storyline, and EVERYTHING else is so damn bad, that it's fascinating in a way. I saw it for the first time over 10 years ago and I never forgot just how trashy and tacky the film was. That in itself says something.
Go into it with an open mind. If you're expecting quality, don't even bother. If you want something offbeat and quirky, if you're looking for something campy, this is the film for you. Immediately after viewing it, you might think it's one of the worst films you've ever seen. But give it a while. The comedy aspect that is derived from it's trashiness is reason enough to give it a shot.
So terrible, but then again..it's literally terribly good!
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Loved the first two....this one not so much.
Going into this I had heard that this would be the film to answer all the questions created by the occurrences of the first two films. This was absolutely not the case. I walked away with more questions than I had before. Not to mention there are several inconsistencies. I realize that at the time the original was created, the writers probably didn't plan on having the good fortune to have to continue the franchise through two more installments, so a lot of the story line had to be added as an afterthought. Therefore I'm more lenient on the plot holes than I would be otherwise. Still the execution of this film is not on par with the previous two.
One - It's a lot less scary. The "jumpy" moments are not as organic as in the first two. They somehow seem cheap and contrived.
Two - The "found footage" gimmick was excellent in the first PA, good in the second, but now it's no longer credible. There are quick editing cuts that don't jive with the homemade footage idea; particularly with footage that is supposed to have been created over 20 years ago. It's explained that the boyfriend in this film is a wedding videographer but it still seems strange that he would film his entire household everyday all day for no reason at all; even prior to the hauntings.
Three - The screenplay is choppy and just plain bad. There is a lot less dialogue in this film, and when the characters do speak, it's not natural conversation like in the first two. Their actors lines are elementary and basic; and they're not helped by the bad acting. The two little girls outshone the adults by far in acting skills.
Four - It left me a little confused in regards to issues that I wasn't confused about before I saw the film. Not a good sign.
All in all, it was nowhere near as effective as the first two. Too contrived to be in the PA franchise, whose strong point was always the natural unfolding of what was happening to the characters; the way in which it made it seem that these events could and did happen to real people. PA 3 missed the mark entirely. Too contrived, too staged, too showy. And it was for nothing because it wasn't even scary.
A big disappointment! 4.5/10
EDIT - Just finished watching the first trailer that's listed on the IMDb page, and over half the scenes were omitted from the film! Seems like this film may be suffering from bad editing if nothing else. It lacks a flow and cohesion that some of these missing scenes might have brought to the film.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
Couldn't finish it....
Guess my expectations were too high. I'm a fan of Guillermo Del Toro and so I'm highly surprised he's attached to this. The gore is on par with something I'd expect from him, but past that I can't see his influence over this film.
Granted the setting and the set production are exceptional, but that's really where the pros end. The acting, particularly by Guy Pearce who plays father to the main character, is abysmal. Next to him, Katie Holmes looks good. The pacing is way too slow, the CGI is bad, and the creatures look like something that with minimal tweaking could appear in a children's version of a scary movie. I wasn't impressed.
Gave it 45 minutes then just decided to call it quits. I won't be giving it another try. Not my type of horror movie at all.
Horrible Bosses (2011)
Very good story, very good actors.
What I most appreciated about this movie was this: Where lesser comedies take a plot on autopilot and rely solely on jokes to keep the audience entertained, the writers of Horrible Bosses have actually created a good story. Sure the theme has been done before in past films, but the writers of HB have managed to make their version fresh and edgy. For me the storyline was always interesting, never predictable. Even up until the last minutes, I had no idea where the plot was going to go. You can tell the creators put serious thought into their project, instead of what happens so often as of late where Hollywood producers greenlight those recycled, unimaginative paint-by-numbers type films.
And credit also goes to the actors themselves who are pitch perfect in their roles. I see Jennifer Aniston has been getting a lot of attention for her role as the nymphomaniac dentist Dr. Harris. While I think she excels at comedy, it seems that here the dialogue of her character takes the credit. She's as good as she ever is, but the vulgarity of her characters' lines is what catches the audience off guard. Still I was pleased with her performance.
Colin Farrell on the other hand, really kind of blew me away. If I hadn't known he was featured in the film, I wouldn't have recognized him. Who knew that he could pull off this comedic role so effortlessly? His was the role that gave me the most laughs. A truly unexpected surprise from Farrell. I never pegged him as a comedian.
I could go on about each and every character; Jamie Foxx was hilarious as usual, Sideikis, Bateman, and Day are spot on (although Charlie Day's voice does start to get annoying about halfway through the movie), but it's enough to say that this is one of the better comedies I've seen in recent years. Looking forward to more from this talented group of writers and director.
Don't expect to be scared....Expect a good movie
Inisidious is not particularly scary, but let's be honest. 90% of horror films don't scare us anymore. If that's what it takes for you to give a thumbs up to a movie, then this won't be the movie for you. Nevertheless, it's well made and well acted. It's a simple retelling of the haunted house genre, that's not about the house. In this case, the house has some unwanted inhabitants because of this family's little boy who is being surrounded by evil deities. I won't go into the explanation for why this is. One, because it's too cheesy to be believed, and two because it would take too long.
Aside from that, I still enjoyed the film. The entire movie consists of BOO! moments. I admit I jumped several times, but towards the end I became a little desensitized. What made Insidious work for me is two things. Because I never knew what was going to pop out at any given time, I was always on the edge of my seat. Second, Rose Byrne as the main character was believable and sympathetic. With a lesser actress, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much.
So you have-
Pros: Exceptional acting, good pacing, spooky atmosphere, good heroine, ending with a twist Cons: Those "jump" moments become repetitive, explanation for the haunting is kind of hokey and borderline ridiculous
Better than average, but becomes repetitive and predictable at times. 6.5/10
Due Date (2010)
Not bad.....not bad at all.
I see this film being compared to Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, usually followed by a 1 or 2 star rating....which is totally unfair. Is it strikingly similar to PT&A? Absolutely. But viewed independently it's not a bad film. I love both Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, so maybe that's why I sort of enjoyed the film. Galifianakis has plenty of adorable lines that are delivered in his one-of-a-kind way that come off as endearingly earnest and entirely clueless at the same time. Maybe it's his skinny jeans or his Capezio shoes, but I have to just look at the man and I start to laugh. While Downey doesn't get the majority of the funny lines, the situations he finds himself in and the chemistry with Galifianakis' character are entertaining enough to keep you watching. And surprisingly there are some genuine heartfelt moments that have you coming to love both these guys just a little bit.
So I'm a bit surprised by the harsh ratings. I've seen a ton of comedies that can only dream of being this good. And I'm not saying that's it's great or anywhere near the level of PT&A, but it's more than adequate, and one that I'll likely see again soon. I was pleasantly surprised.
Been-There-Done-That but still entertaining.
Admittedly Liam Neeson is tailor made for the character he plays in this film, something very similar to Taken, although here he's in far less control. Aside from that, these films are a dime a dozen and easily forgettable. Just like Taken, the plot of Unknown places Neeson in a foreign country, this time Germany, where he's on a mission to find 'something'. After so many films in the same vein, the "something" ceases to be important. It's simply an opening to introduce a variety of sinister characters and high speed car chases. Granted the plot of Unknown is a little more interesting than your average man-on-a-mission movie, it definitely has it's moments. But it never rises too far above predictable and borders on ridiculous at times.
Neeson plays a man who is introduced as Dr. Martin Harris. He and his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) arrive in Berlin to attend some type of biotechnology summit. Not long after his arrival, Harris' taxi plunges into an icy river and he narrowly escapes death thanks to the quick thinking of his driver Gina (Diane Kruger). Luckily Elizabeth wasn't in the taxi with Martin or else this would have been a totally different movie. Martin wakes up in the hospital four days later only to find that his life as he knew it has ceased to exist. When he finds his wife, she informs him that she has no idea who he is. In fact there's another Dr. Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn) who claims to be her husband. Neeson doesn't believe it, but the man has documentation proving he's the real(?) Dr. Harris. He's even got a honeymoon photo with Elizabeth to prove it. Neeson's character shares the same thought process with the audience. Is he crazy? And if he is, how does he have memories of his wife? Is it one big conspiracy? If it is a conspiracy who's behind it?
As I've already said, the ways in which Neeson begins to unravel this mystery are predictable. He'll encounter characters who are not entirely trustworthy, but luckily he'll have an ally (preferably female) who always happens to be in the right place at the right time. He'll be followed by someone wearing all black who probably knows some form of martial arts, or carries a knife, .... or maybe both. He'll have another character who he thinks he can trust, but who will inevitably turn out to be a double agent. And so on and so on....It's even got what Roger Ebert terms Underlying Reality Speeches. This is where some character, usually at the end of the film, has a monologue explaining the entire plot to the main character, essentially providing the answer to the audience because there was simply no other way to do so in the natural course of the film. I always find those a bit disappointing, like cheating somehow.
Unknown is by no means a bad film. It kept me interested from beginning to end, even while I recognized that it was following a course I've seen many times before. The problem is that just when it starts to get really good, it slides back into autopilot and basically stays there. . My rating: 6.5/10 Too predictable to be great, but still good nonetheless. It's worth a watch.
Desperate Housewives (2004)
Absolutely ridiculous....Positively Addicting
The writing is sophomoric, the characters are stereotypical, the story lines are unbelievably far-fetched. In reality, the four main characters of this story would have high-tailed it out of this imaginary neighborhood around the middle of Season 1. For such a winsome, utopian sounding name, Wisteria Lane is full of nothing but mayhem.
The basic plot of this series follows four housewives, each the complete antithesis of the other three. A Suzy homemaker, a scatter-brained single mom, a domineering wife and mother of four, and a pampered trophy wife. All of these women find themselves in more hot water in a single season than a real person could hope (or not) to have in a lifetime. The peaks and valleys of their individual drama is enough to make anyone dizzy.
In spite of all this, the show is downright addicting. Unexpectedly, the hyperbolic characters are easy to become attached to, and no matter how many implausible events occur, the series still manages to keep it's viewers absorbed with the storyline. It's just like salacious gossip; the juicier the better. And like all gossip, you know it's wrong, but it's just too tempting to pass up. That's Desperate Housewives in a nutshell. The show borders on complete silliness, but like all guilty pleasures, it's just too tempting not to watch.
Note: This is a soap opera through and through, therefore I'd be highly surprised if male viewers were in any way remotely interested in Desperate Housewives. This show is for the ladies. If you're a man, do yourself a favor and pass.
The Rite (2011)
It's all relative........and I wasn't too impressed
Is this better than the majority of horror movies that have been released in the past several years? Yes I think so. But is it on par with something I'd expect from Anthony Hopkins? Absolutely not. I'm convinced that in his advanced years he's taking roles for the fun of it, roles that allow him to indulge. He's already gotten all the acclaim and recognition any one actor can hope to have. I doubt he needs the money, so I'm thinking his decision to play the part of Father Lucas in this film is based simply on the fact that it sounded fun. . Even though I was secretly thinking that his role of Dr. Lecter would have easily fit here and been appropriate. It was insidious and intense. Just what this film needed.
The first two acts are done well, and I was prepared to give it a 7. I was wholeheartedly anticipating the inevitable climax which I knew was coming from the previews, but I was severely disappointed. Up until that point, the movie was sophisticated and smart. However by the end, it had descended into a cheese fest like you wouldn't believe. All because of that terrible dialogue. It was just funny. I do mean literally funny; the audience started laughing. I hated to see such a phenomenal actor as Hopkins having to actually go through with that melodramatic fluff. I think if the writers toned it down a bit and opted for subtlety the outcome would have been many times better. It seems that every movie dealing with exorcism has to go The Exorcist route and try to drum up some profoundly shocking dialogue. That's a losing battle. The Exorcist is in a league of it's own. Don't try to beat it; do your own thing. That's why I appreciate Exorcism of Emily Rose. Now that was a rather good film. As it stands now, The Rite is still a capable film, but those last 20 minutes really don't do it for me. It was there that the whole thing took a nose dive.
Black Swan (2010)
It's like Swan Lake on acid
It's safe to say by now Natalie Portman is well on her way to receiving an Oscar nomination for her performance here in Black Swan. And the nomination would be deserved. Portman is a very competent actress, and this time is no exception. She plays a professional dancer, Nina Sayers, whose entire life is consumed by her desire to get ahead within her ballet company; to ultimately play the title role of swan queen in Swan Lake. Her mind can focus on nothing else. She eats, sleeps, breaths it. Her mother, once a dancer herself, is equally consumed by her daughter's ambition, living vicariously through Nina. Nina is told by the company director that she must have not only a purity but also a dark side to her in order to actually BE both the White and the Black Swan of Swan Lake. Always in control, always striving to be perfect, Nina doesn't know how to let go and give herself over to this so-called "dark side". She struggles with feelings of inadequacy and desperation, and in the midst of this sort of manic frenzy Nina begins (continues ?) to suffer from hallucinations.These hallucinations serve as the focal point for the plot, showing Nina spiraling down into a state of altered reality where she can no longer differentiate between what is real and what is not.
Darren Aronofsky definitely knows how to make a film. Not just in the direction but in the cinematography as well. The look of the film is just beautiful. The use of lighting, music, color, and camera work in the Swan Lake sequences is absolutely phenomenal. Top notch. Aronofsky has brought forth some passionate performances from not only Portman, but also Barbara Hershey, Mila Kunis, and that slippery Vincent Cassel who I've grown to like more and more ever since I saw him in Ocean's Twelve. I always marvel at his perfect hair.
There's not much to find fault with in Black Swan. It's grade A in almost all respects. I just wish Aronofsky had given more of a basis for the story. There are some facets of Portman's life that the viewer is thrown into and not given an explanation for. Has she always had a mental illness? If so why? Her mother certainly acts as if this is a long-standing condition. It's also revealed to the viewer that her mother has some sort of manic mood swings, which Portman is frightened of. The scene is included in the film, as are several others showing Portman barricading herself in her room at night. But then that avenue is abruptly ditched and never develops into anything. It left me wondering why Aronofsky would go to the trouble of including these scenes if he didn't intend on developing them. And towards the end of the film, the hallucinations begin to become just a bit redundant. After a handful or so, we can surmise that she's not well. Anything more than that weakens the impact of the film in my opinion. I'd also like to mention that while this was a very brave and risky performance from Portman, I felt that the lesbian scenes cheapened the film just a bit. Black Swan is nothing if not a sophisticated film, and it seemed like a girl-on-girl scene was just a little tawdry here and a slight cop out. Not because it was shown at all, but the way in which the scene was orchestrated could have been altered. With films like Basic Instinct and Body Heat, over the top sexuality is the gimmick all by itself and the scenes I'm referring to in Black Swan would have fit smoothly in either one of those films. However in Aronofsky's they just seem out of place and awkward.
All in all though, these are relatively minor things when viewing the movie as a whole. It's a well-made film with brilliant acting and an interesting take on the "life mirrors art" story. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who's a fan of thrillers, or for that matter anyone who simply wants to see a good movie.
My rating: 7.5/10
My Soul to Take (2010)
The first 1-star rating in my entire time here!
I'm getting close to 500 movie ratings here on IMDb and I just checked. Yes this is the one and only movie that I gave a 1-star rating. It's simply that bad, no other way to put it. My eyes see it but my mind refuses to believe that Wes Craven actually wrote and directed this. It's unfathomable. How could the creator of such great horror works as Nightmare on Elm Street, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes possibly produce something this inferior? It's a conundrum.
There isn't a single redeeming quality in this film. The acting is embarrassing, the dialogue is so ridiculous it's laughable, and the story spirals down into manic confusion from about 2 minutes in. For the first 60 seconds or so I was clear on what was happening, but things immediately went far off into left field and stayed there. It got so bad that I eventually gave up and started cruising Facebook on my cell phone. Equally unfortunate was the fact that I was stuck watching this in the theater. Which is why I assumed I would be able to follow since I had nothing else to pay attention to, but it got so silly and convoluted without any apparent harmony that I finally decided to save my brain cells trying to decipher this piece of crap.
I could go on and on about what's wrong with My Soul to Take, but I think you get my drift. Whatever you do, don't waste your time or money on this one. Someone would have to pay me to watch this again.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Gave up after 20 minutes. I couldn't finish this.
I mean I physically could not finish because the lightning fast editing was hurting my eyes and just making me dizzy. The camera switches scenes on average about every 1-2 seconds and I've got the beginnings of a headache to prove it. Never have I had a movie make me physically sick, but this one has managed to achieve that distinction and not just because of the editing.
I can't say what the story is actually about because I couldn't discern that amidst the cluster of technicolor overload, ridiculously hyperbolic characters, and MTV music videos cinematography. Luhrmann tries too hard to be out of the box and winds up with a total mess here.
I gave it 1 star for the effort and another star for the production. The costumes and staging are wonderful. At least I think they are. The camera moves so fast I'm not sure I actually saw what I saw. Suffice it to say I won't be going anywhere near this film EVER.
Case 39 (2009)
Definitely a case of peaks and valleys.
I found it somewhat difficult to rate this film in all honesty. Some elements are surprisingly good, while others are just cliché'd and melodramatic. I enjoyed it overall and would have given it an 8/9 had there not been various glaring inconsistencies that were impossible for me to ignore. I've never been one to overly obsess about plot holes or implausibilities, but at times Case 39 doesn't even bother to follow the rules that it's made for itself.
Renee Zellweger plays Emily, a child protective services worker, who ultimately saves a 10 year old girl, Lilly from her abusive parents. She takes a maternal interest in Lilly but problems arise shortly after having removed the girl from her home. At this point, even if you haven't seen the trailer (I didn't), you can guess where the story is headed. This is not a problem because it works in the films favor. The tension and buildup are excellent as we wait for Renee to catch up to where we are. We know what's going to happen and so it creates an uneasiness that stays with us throughout the entirety of the film. There are some genuinely creepy moments ( I think I counted 3), and a host of other cheap "jumpy" scenes that sometimes work and sometimes don't. The movie managed to catch me off guard a couple times, and seeing as how I'm a huge horror buff, I'd say that's impressive. More times than not, I can anticipate a scare, but there were some scenes that had me on edge.
The acting is adequate amongst all the principal characters, the direction choppy in places, the look of the film is beautiful. Once again I just had a problem with the factors that didn't add up. For instance, if a character is what the film says it is, then why can't it get itself out of the situation that occurs at the end of the film? By definition of what this character is, the laws that confine "normal" people shouldn't apply to it, right? Also the explanation for what "it" wants is very unclear and flimsy at best. Without a clear understanding of the motivation, without an answer to "WHY?", it left me feeling a little unstable about the whole story.
All in all, it's still a great way to spend a couple hours if you can spare them. I consider it money well spent. If nothing else, you will definitely be entertained.