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Could Have Been Great
26 July 2015
Directed by a man from Kentucky, a monster/horror film and starring one of my personal favorite underrated actors (Kevin Durand) I was intrigued to check out Dark Was the Night despite the name. It sounds kinda cool but once thought about you half expect it to be directed by Captain Obvious. (Because no crap, it's dark at night)

Bright Was The Day still brings the good stuff for at-least the first 2.5 acts. A nice, slow burn, mysterious story about a Father (Durand) with a painful past trying to prove to himself he's capable of keeping his family safe. Then something screwed up comes to town and gives him the chance to x 5000.

The tension builds in an already paranoid small town when animals start to go missing and freaky hoof prints are found all over the place (No really, but they pull it off nicely). Things feel less dumb horror movie and more J.J. Abrams style Monster Mystery at this point as we slowly unravel the menace along with Sheriff Shields (Durand).

Director Jack Heller does a great job of using atmosphere & slowly delving out creepy hints rather than throwing out empty jump scares. Also working for him is Durand who overcomes a done-a-thousand-times back story and manages to deliver his heartache & intention with sincerity. Plus the dude just looks and acts like a leading man. He's a kick-butt Schwarzenegger type believable hero who can also act. He's usually the best part of everything he's in & it's nice to see him get to keep the cameras attention throughout.

Remember those few episodes of Lost when we didn't know the monster was just a stupid cloud of black smoke? They do almost as good of a job hiding their perpetrator here, just showing us enough to keep us scared. Maybe they knew that once we saw the evil full form, we would lose interest.

Just as things are reaching peak intensity and they create a killer moment for us to chew on everything goes flat. Mainly the special effects kill all the momentum and end our hopes of scary time goodness. The tension is literally sucked out of the film in a single ugly moment. The shock and horror instead comes from just how bad the special effects look and I think the film makers knew it because they go for a really stupid final horror moment that undermines its best character arc and renders it useless. But damn, they started off really nicely.

6.5/10 Dark Was the Night is watchable because of the well crafted pacing by Jack Heller & Kevin Durand. Damn that final act though. This is a film worthy of a re-make with a better budget for better special effects and Cinematography. As long as they could keep the same players! Just give them the money to make this look the way it should.
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Inside Out (I) (2015)
Emotional Gut Punches
21 June 2015
Good lord, people love Pixar. The theaters in town were packed with poor souls with twenty seven kids, grown men without kids and us taking our 5 year old Daughter to the movies. Whats more intriguing is every kid in a packed audience shutting up from start to finish. Grown people don't even do that. (They should though, you know who you are)

That says something. When Pixar nails it, they really nail it and with Inside Out, they nailed it. It starts off hitting you in the face with emotional Mike Tyson uppercuts and ear bites. It may help that I'm a dad to a little girl but hey, we were all little girls once. Or uh, little kids once.

Watching this little girl go through the tough times of life is heart wrenching. It's a great reminder of how devastatingly the outside world can effect the little ones. The originality displayed in how they crafted her mind to really project the many emotions and layers of a human psyche is truly impressive.

Inside Out really shines when they show the correlation to whats going on in the outside world & how it effects the mind and body. Seeing the Parents efforts truly change the course of a life in mere moments is some heavy stuff. The whole middle act however?

Things become less touching and innovative and lend to a more adventure-ish "gotta get from point A to point B before C happens" race when some of the emotions go haywire and have to find their way back. From here we spend a lot of our time inside the mind and imagination. Things becomes more Magic School Bus than truly breakthrough for a while and hey, that's OK. Magic School Bus was awesome. But things did get a bit average in the middle acts.

The ending brings back the correlation to real world and with it come the tears and emotions. As well as breakthrough ideas and originality. You can't help but watch and wonder the many, many places they could go with this idea. The well of emotions, stages of life, different types of people......it's an endless, genius idea. But what makes Inside Out work isn't this idea alone. We really care about this kid and her parents and we relate to their joy, fear, disgust, anger and sadness.

No really, I had man tears. 8/10
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Manglehorn (2014)
Over-direct much?
20 June 2015
A character piece about the life of one grumpy old, senile man. His issues are laid-out in grandiose & overly sentimental melodramatics. We as an audience are slowly dragged from sad set piece to sad set piece where the conclusions are obvious if only the film would spare us the "drama" and arrive at them already.

Manglehorn is an Indie that knows its an Indie and is closer to "Prince Avalanche" than any of the Directors other works. Al Pacino kills it here but instead of focusing on the solid dramatic acting, Green decided to over-direct this right into "trying to hard to be pretentious" territory.

Manglehorn is trying to re-connect with a long lost love while slowly driving away the things he does have in his life. He's struggling to be happy. Where in that the Director feels the need to have "LSD flashback" type sequences is lost on me.

It's not original nor refreshing to slowly plod an audience around in drab and everyday circumstances, throw some folk music or a harp in the background and call it "subdued" and "special". I don't need Jurassic Park Dinosaurs or anything but I don't need to see him feed his cat 37 times to realize he loves it. I don't need to see him get his mail 32 times before you get to the point of why. I just need Pacino, with something to chew on. I just need his character to fight these demons already. I just need his struggles, his journey and his resolution.

Instead you meandered for 90% of the film and slapped it together at the end with some attempt at an thoughtful ending that landed with about as much intrigue as a happy meal toy. What a wasted Pacino performance. 3/10
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Blasty Blast
5 August 2014
Was lucky enough to see this at an early screening in Ohio for our youtube channel. Twister was one of my favorite movies ever growing up and as someone who even watches "Night of the Twisters" with Devon Sawa I'm a self professed tornado movie lover so I have been excited for this one! Even if the trailers did look way too obvious with the CGI. Into the Storm starts out awful and makes a huge comeback. The characters are like the bad MTV show version of the Friday Night Lights small town characters. Or a CW show rather. Everyone is annoying and whiny with cardboard cutout issues and almost everyone is a terrible actor. Then the tornado hits. Then stuff gets awesome.

See this movie in the theater! It wont translate as well to blu ray or DVD. When the storm finally hit you can literally feel the air on your legs and the rumble in the seats from how loud these terrors are and it is more of a ride than a movie suddenly. Into the Storm manages to put you inside of the situations it presents. You see what (I would imagine) it would be like to be in a school as it is hit by a tornado. Or in a car. Or outside. It does an amazing job of putting you in harms way.

For tornado lovers? Into the Storm gets way up inside these tornados. Its total tornado porn. You see parts of these things that you didn't even know you wanted to see. Really cool, inventive ideas and one of the coolest death scenes of all time. They don't get too political with a bunch of global warming junk either. This film is all about scaring the crap out of you and having a good time with it.

By the end of the film things get so intense your even able to become emotionally invested in the terrible one dimensional characters you hated so much at the start. Some things you cant fully recover from so as a movie this is an 8/10. As far as fun movie theater experiences go though..... it's a 10.
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Will Make Your &$% Numb. In a Fun Way.
1 July 2014
Transformers 4: Age of Extinction gets better at a lot of things. Even if it still doesn't actually get anything completely right. Even if it is still full of mostly the same old garbage juice. Dizzying camera moves, slow motion shots, a downright stupid amount of buildings being crushed and the customary young girl belly button shot. Yeah, Age has all that and another hour of other unnecessary super crap that could have been cut out of the nearly 3 hour running time.

BUT! We do get to replace the whiny Shia Labeouf with the likable Mark Wahlberg. Heck, we get a fresh slate with the entire cast. Plug and play characters? Sure! Only this time the fresh crop is way more likable and sympathetic. We aren't talking Oscar nominations here or anything but after three movies of the exact same people doing the exact same things (Think Tyrese running around stating the obvious as toughly as he can pretend to be. For THREE mother loving movies.) I'd rather change my name to Witwicky than see any of that nonsense again.

There are still cringe-worthy lines throughout the script but the difference is this cast seems unload the "what the fluck did he just say?" moments as though they are in a stupid and fun blockbuster movie about toys. Offenders from the previous cast would say the same dumb shnit while trying to look cool. (See previous Tyrese comment). The jokes land a lot more when you don't want to throat punch the people saying them on screen. Hence, Extinction is also the funniest Transformer movie yet. It helps that the humor comes from actual written jokes and not just robots peeing on stuff. (see Transformers 2) Here's a big deal: the Transformers are way cooler in Age of Extinction. Sure, the people who have been into this since childhood aren't going to be completely pleased yet and they probably shouldn't be. But for those "I don't know beans about Transformers" people like me all that matters is the Autobots looks light-years cooler now than they did in the previous films. In every Michael Bay explosion porn that came before I hated just about every Autobot except Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Here we get a killer Samarai-bot, a John Goodman bot and some assassin like bad guy Transformers that use big guns.

Remember the ghetto bots? (refer again to Transformers 2) I'd rather own Jar-Jar Binks as a pet than ever see those craps again. In Extinction the bad guys are cooler and the Autobots don't make you want to jump off a building into a Mortal Kombat like pit full of spikes and skeleton bones. Also, the miniature sesame street looking things are barely in this film thank god. Oh yeah, and another thing? No big deal? Mother loving DINO BOTS. Optimus Prime with a big sword riding a m effin' Dinosaur Autobot…….America.

The special effects are by far the best of the series. This thing felt like a total theme park ride at times. (Wait…..you did that on purpose you soulless goon!) Even though it may be for dirty superficial reasons that Bay wants to drop a gargagillion dollars on a single film for this, we can't really complain considering we have been seeing fit to pay the tab for it all these years. For the love of Nike commercials and gold chains you just have to laugh at the sheer fun stupidity of it all. We ask for too much from these movies. If it's a fun ride who gives a crap if it doesn't have anything to say? All that matters in Transformer land is does the fun out-weigh the boring. It passes. Although there is still too much boredom for a movie that is supposed to be this simple.

After nearly three hours Bay's camera movements become nauseating and so do the so-stupid-I-want-to-kick-my-own-face-with-an-iceskate story lines. Seriously someone PLEASE take the pen and the camera from Bay halfway through production because when you don't we end up with conversations about robot souls and I swear to god if we EVER cover the "humans don't like Autobots so they threaten to leave and come back again" thing again I'm gonna tie myself to something heavy and roll off a boat into the middle of the ocean.

Age of Extinction is more of the same, yet the best of the series. We don't have a great movie, just a fun little ride and that is just fine and dandy. Nearly three hours of mother effin' butt numbing dandy. 6.5/10
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Sinister (I) (2012)
Sinister is well made, not scary
11 October 2012
Ellison (Ethan Hawke) is a writer who follows unsolved crime stories and writes books investigating them himself. He had a bestseller ten years ago called "Kentucky Blood" but hasn't had a hit since. So he moves his family into a new home where the family occupying the house had been murdered with the exception of a little girl, who was missing. Desperate for another hit book and buried under pressure from his unknowing and un-patient wife, Ellison works diligently to solve the case of the missing little girl for his new book. After coming across a box of videos in the attic of the family that was murdered he realizes he may be opening a door to something he won't be able to walk away from.

Ethan Hawke delivers a performance we aren't used to in horror films. He plays a character not sure of his own true motives. He wonders whether he is putting his family through this to save a missing child or to prove he can write a great book after his last several have failed. He closes himself off from his family out of obsession with the book yet never goes off the deep end. He is reserved and does a great job showing his inner turmoil using subtle facial expressions and line delivery rather than going off the deep end and overacting. You can sense his fear without being told about it. It's a refreshing performance for a genre not known for its acting. Especially since for the majority of the film he's the only one on screen.

Most of the horror in Sinister comes from the found footage video reels we view alongside Ellison. They document several terrible incidents; one in particular involving a lawn mower that is extremely unsettling. A lot of the other scenes meant to frighten though are much less original and less disturbing. Even with the slow burning suspense of the film; the ending scene comes fast and is slightly disappointing. It always felt as though the scares could have been taken a step further.

Sinister has a nice platform to tell a horror story and a capable actor in a role that fits him perfectly. At times the slow pace is perfectly suspenseful, leading us to believe we are in for an emotionally scarring climax (in a good way). At other times it had me rolling my eyes as plot lines were re-enforced over and over again (We get it, he needs a new bestseller!) and left me wondering if the film had enough time left after an hour and fifteen minutes passed to truly frighten. The footage Ellison finds delivers a lot of extremely eerie sequences but when the horror begins to occur in real time Sinister loses its originality and feels like a different film entirely.

The whole story and feel of the film though is pleasantly creepy and it's ultimately a well-made horror film that unfortunately falls short of being as memorable or frightening as I'd hoped. It may not have been as scary as I would have liked, but it is a good film that happens to be horror. That's rare enough to appreciate a little. 7/10
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Not a horror film.
10 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
So here we are with The Last House on the Left. Sorry, I meant House at the End of the Street. Whatever. Can we start by having a serious talk with the guy picking movie names? He is really slacking off. We are here with Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her Mom (Elisabeth Shue) moving from the big city to a small town looking for a new start. Of-course, the house next door was apparently the location of a double murder where a little girl killed her parents and then disappeared herself. The little girl's brother (Max Thieriot) still lives in the home despite the tragedy. The adults hate him because his presence keeps them from bulldozing the house and its drain on the local housing market and the teenagers hate him because his parents were murdered? There really is no explanation for this other than everyone in this town is apparently a jerk. (Just go with it. That's the best were going to get.) Elissa starts to fall for Ryan and also has a hard time understanding the massive hate he gets when her mom and the neighborhood object to their relationship. But whether it for protecting the good or serving the forces of evil, Ryan has secrets of his own and as the two get close things begin to get creepy. (Allegedly)

Minus a few jump scares that I'm not afraid to admit made me drop my popcorn due to some sharp sound editing; this is no horror flick. HATES was advertised as scary business to get the target teenage audience' butts in the seats but is merely a Suspense/Thriller with young leads. With the exception of a single twist that will shock some and slightly nudge others everything is played rather straight. There's not much new to see here and there is certainly nothing to be scared of. Even after the true evil is finally revealed, there just doesn't seem to be much of a threat at any point.

HATES is still indeed, watchable. That's mostly due to Jennifer Lawrence who shines bright amidst all the average. It's impressive how she takes something as boring as a high school girl falling for the "mysterious guy with a past", adds heart and makes it more interesting than it was written. When in danger she's believably strong willed and could be the perfect "Scream Queen" for a horror film deserving of it. Elisabeth Shue played the part of concerned mother well and Max Thieriot didn't detract either. The problems with the film are rather in its constant plot holes and lack of anything interesting, original or more importantly scary for a film that calls itself Horror.
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Chained (I) (2012)
A disturbing tale that doesn't quite hold up
6 October 2012
Chained has you uneasy from start to finish. There are no moments of comfort as you wait for the Taxi Driver Bob (D'Onofrio) to bring home another victim or fly off the handle and abuse Rabbit at any moment. All the while we are faced with the hopelessness of Rabbit's situation. From the moment you see he has grown into an adult under the captivity of Bob, you know in your gut there may be no happy ending in site.

The casting choices for Chained are perfect. Especially Vincent D'Onofrio. With deliberately unpredictable movements and strange speech impediments make his character more realistic than you'd ever want him to be and Eamon Farren does a great job putting him-self in an unspeakably horrible situation in a role that had to be difficult to play.

If you are like me, the question you may find yourself asking is why. Why am I watching this poor kid be subjected to such a terrible life? I can only have patience for this amount of ugliness if there is a reason for it. Thankfully Chained mildly succeeds here. There is some method to the madness because they are exploring what makes a person like Bob so sadistic which is strangely fascinating. We see the interactions between these two in an unfathomably horrible situation and the relationship that unfolds through force as if we are a fly on the wall, thankful to go unnoticed. It's hard to watch but it's not ugly just for the sake of being ugly like many other films of its nature and that's what kept my attention throughout. It's torturous but it's not pointless torture porn either.

I get the feeling the ending was meant to be a shocker. It fell flat in that regard and was so off pace with the rest of the film that it leaves you in- different. There are some questions left to be answered which is sure to give you something to debate with your friends afterward. Assuming you don't feel like you need a shower immediately after watching Chained. It's a dark and dungy way to spend a couple of hours but it's not all for naught. There are a lot of interesting characterizations to explore in Chained isn't quite on the level of sensationalism it was shooting for.
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Rampart (2011)
Harrelson's great but Rampart goes nowhere
15 September 2012
Woody Harrelson plays a corrupt cop named "Date Rape" Dave (and for those of you still reading, we continue) who got the moniker not from doing so but rather for allegedly killing someone who did. He also lives in something one can only call a "situation" in which he married sisters (both at different times) had kids with each, divorced each and now insists that they all live under the same two roofs in homes right next to each-other. This leads to an awkward moment in which his daughter actually asks if their family is incest. Dave is also a cop that really likes to beat people down. Not just anyone mind you, everyone. Because he is not racist, he simply hates everyone.

The whole story focuses on Dave trying to beat a charge of victim abuse when a camera catches him beating the daylights out of a perpetrator that hit his car. All the while we watch Dave womanize, take drugs, smoke about two million cigarettes and try to get his two families to love him despite his disturbing life choices.

Despite the disgusting things his character does Harrelson actually makes you feel bad for him in a few fleeting moments. All the while you know he deserves everything he gets and more but it's hard to hate him when he is watching television with his youngest daughter and cannot stop smiling at the thought of her wanting to be near him. The film is also packed with small roles by big names like Steve Buscemi and Sigourney Weaver who spice up the film but don't really add anything memorable.

Harrelson makes the film watchable with an amazing performance and like a train wreck, is hard to take your eyes off. Unfortunately, Rampart is a gritty character study that is more repetition than self discovery. See Dave womanize, disgust his family, say shocking things, beat someone up, get wasted, freak out, rinse and repeat. He gets deeper into trouble with his family and career with each endeavor and never really learns anything from it. By the films end you realize Rampart suffers the same fate as Dave in that it's not going to change its ways and is ultimately headed nowhere. 5/10
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Savages (2012)
A well made film that shoots itself in the foot
29 August 2012
Best friends Chon (Kitsch) and Ben (Johnson) are genius pot dealers in Laguna. One of them is more of a "save the universe" type guy and holds a degree in Business and Botany. Yes, pot heads in High Schools everywhere just rejoiced "It's a real thing!" and the other one, suffering from anger issues stemming from tours in Iraq takes care of the "beating the crap out of people when necessary" aspect. Oh yeah, they also share a girlfriend. (Awkward right?), her name is O (Lively). No really it is I swear. Anyways, moving on because we have to, these two guys have made some of the best pot known to man and have made millions from it. (Still can't find their own girlfriend though, just saying). Everything is going great as they take turns with their shared girlfriend (still weird) in their huge beach house when the Mexican drug cartel decides they want to be partners. This actually stands for "We own you now and you know you like it." Ben and Chon don't really feel like being De-decapitated so they decide to make a go of living in a jungle somewhere until Elena (Hayeck) the ruthless lady leader of the cartel has O kidnapped.

So are you over the fact that our two heroes share a girl yet? OK good, because I'm not either. This is one of those films that can only be enjoyed if you can let go of a few things. The whole film is narrated by O in her stoned and lazy version of her "OMG you guys I am so high right now" voice. She is a lot like her role in The Town only without the Boston accent. She is really annoying as a character and it's kind of hard to feel bad for her much less root for her. This is one of the things you have to let go of to enjoy the film. Ben and Chon worked well because they are the exact opposite to one another yet somehow have the respect for each-other to get along despite their constant different point of views. Kill everybody or run away. Ben was almost as annoying as O because he was always whining and psycho-analyzing everything. I found Chon to be my favorite of the three because he seemed to be the only one who just wanted to actually get things done and blow up some stuff while everyone else talked and talked some more.

Villains make films though and despite the awkwardness and UN-likability of some of the lead roles the bad guys were sinister, relentless and kind of funny at times. One interaction between Elena's ruthless right hand man Lado (Del Toro) and out for himself FBI agent Dennis (Travolta) in particular was tense and humorous at the same time. Travolta was surprisingly great in this film as he looked like his old self and I was pleased to see he had a larger part in the film than anticipated. Elena had a well written back story as well as the bad guys, while certainly crude enough to hate were interesting enough to steal the flick.

Savages UN-intentionally gives us no-one to root for and may even get on your nerves for a moment or two with its anything goes mentality. There is no doubt however, that it has some great action sequences, well written dialog (minus a few horrendous lines by O's character), strong acting by a strong cast and is an all-around well-made film all the way up until it's absolutely dreadful crash and burn of an ending. I won't give anything away here but let's just say this ending is a problem. It felt as though the Director had a decent ending for a good film but wanted some attention so badly that he was willing to ruin his own movie to do so. You don't always have to be edgy and cute. Sometimes playing things straight up is what's best.
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Drive Angry (2011)
WWAM review: I need a shower
28 August 2012
"All Hell Breaks Loose" is truly the perfect tagline. John Milton (Nicolas Cage) breaks out of hell to save his grandbaby from the clutches of the Satanic Cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) that killed his daughter. Along the way he is chased by "The Accountant" (William Fichtner) who is sent by the Devil to take Milton back to hell. Milton also picks up some help in his mission after running into the feisty Piper and beating up her cheating abusive husband.

I was having a lot of fun watching the opening scenes of this movie. Nicolas Cage is truly going all out as a ruthless badass from hell and the cheesy catch-lines and over the top violence are hard not to get a kick out of. From the opening scene Milton blows up a car that had been driven by some bad guys and walks away in slow motion with the cliché explosion going off behind him and hard rock playing in the background as if the film is saying "Yeah, this is what we are doing. If you don't like it you can kiss our ass." I'm on board. Piper is also out of the ordinary in an awesome way. Aside from her amazing looks, she is no poster girl. She talks about sex constantly and doesn't take any crap from anybody. At one point she gets into her car and thumps music with the lyrics "F the pain away" blaring from her speakers and singing it loudly. Maybe that's a little bit too much but again: the winner of the "kiss my ass if you don't like it" award goes to Drive Angry. The award also doubles as an ash tray in case you were wondering. Drive Angry really starts to drive the point home that they are quite original yet a bit trashy when in one scene Milton takes down several bad guys while at the same time having sex with a waitress. Not kidding. This much like the movie brings on some entertaining laughs but also kind of makes you feel like you need to take a shower after watching it.

Every so often "The Accountant" shows up on screen again almost in T- 1000 form to deliver a few hilarious lines and lighten the mood while murdering a few big mouths or driving a propane tank through a road block of police while humming a happy song playing on the radio in the truck in his pursuit of Milton. This is always a refreshing change of pace and Fichtner really steals the show when he is on screen. Amid all the fun, explosions and filthy business the film starts to taper off once they actually try focusing on the storyline and the bad guys. Billy Burke was a good cast for the part of the manipulative and evil cult leader but the cult story didn't match the rest of the films over the top antics and I found myself getting bored quickly. Drive Angry is an easy movie to think back on and laugh about and it was a pretty fun ride. I'm gonna go take a shower now.

Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie http://www.youtube.com/WeWatchedAMovie
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Source Code (2011)
Source Code pulls off a nearly impossible story
25 August 2012
Source Code finds Army Helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) waking up in complete disarray to his surroundings on a train with people treating him as someone he isn't. Eventually the train explodes and he wakes up once again to find out he will be inserted into an alternate timeline for eight minutes at a time with the mission of finding out who was responsible for the bombing of the train before the same person sets of a bomb in downtown Chicago later that day.

Source code has a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time and a lot of potential plot holes. After all, there is the mystery of who Colter is, who bombed the train, the science behind it all, the relationship between Colter and Christina Warren (Monaghan), a passenger on the train and the whole alternative timeline business. Yet, somehow the film sidesteps inevitable plot holes and questions and manages to make an endearing sci-fi action film because of its pacing, entertainment value, concepts, and performances of almost every actor and actress in the film.

Gyllenhaal is a big part of why this film works as he plays each emotion he goes through with his own edge. Making you feel for him and even laugh at him at some points as he frantically searches the train and nearly assaults innocent passengers thinking they were suspects. I also believed him when he started to care for Christina Warren which is also a tribute to how well Michelle Monaghan played her part as the innocent and lovable passenger on the train. This could have seemed forced as another typical love story shoved into the context of another film that didn't need it but because of the films excellent pace and acting it actually added to the story. Even the story going on behind the scenes between Captain Goodwin (Farminga) and Dr. Rutledge (Wright) as the two people pulling the strings behind Source Code matter to the film as they toe the line between heartless conductors of a science experiment to people trying to do the right thing and save lives.

Unfortunately some loose ends and plot holes are inevitable with a story like this but Source Code is so well oiled that it runs seamlessly through them as it focuses on the heart of the story embedded in the suspense of the situation and it's well written characters. It asks some interesting questions, invests you in the characters and manages to be quite entertaining at the same time.
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The Rite (2011)
The Rite attempts a different look at exorcism films
25 August 2012
Exorcism movies always carry loads of horror potential and usually end in disappointment. The reason for this is? The idea of demons possessing us is arguably the scariest thought one could imagine because it is one of the more realistic fears one could have. Exorcisms apparently happen all the time and many consider them to be very real indeed. The Rite is no different especially when you consider the fact that this movie is based on the book 'The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist' about the alleged real events of Father Gary Thomas. The trouble is that none of these movies ever seem to be very original because let's face it the story has already been told to perfection in The Exorcist.

The Rite takes a slightly different angle as it is about Father Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) who enters a seminary school unsure of his faith. When he tries to leave the school however citing his lack of faith he is sent to Rome to take a class on Exorcism. When he shows his disbelief in the stories of Exorcism in class he is then sent to Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) a tried and true exorcist who has been doing this for so long he barely bats an eyelash at things that would make you and I need a new pair of shorts. Here Kovac witnesses several exorcisms performed yet still remains skeptical even after seeing one patient choke up a set of rusty nails.

We go through this repetition for quite a while before things really start to fall apart for Michael and for the plot as he begins flashbacks to his youth and his creepy mortician father and things begin to get really convoluted. It's at this point that The Rite kind of says "to hell with it", and jumps back into familiar exorcism movie mode. There are a few scares and a few genuinely good Anthony Hopkins creepy moments even if a few times I was unsure whether to be freaked out or laugh at some of the really strange dialog choices. But alas, O'Donoghue's portrayal of Father Kovac is where the film spends most of its time, dissecting his faith and his past. The Rite needed O'Donoghue's performance to give us a lot more than it did and he wasn't terrible he was just…. there.

O'Donoghue's performance mixed with the films unsteady changes of pace and convoluted story will have you enjoying what you are watching one moment to just not caring the next and feeling as though you just watched two different movies. A horror movie about exorcism and a character study into the true story of a Priest unsure of his faith. Unfortunately the film bites off more than it can chew and doesn't do much justice for either but as far as exorcism movies go it at-least had the desire to be more than generic. It wouldn't be all that disappointing if it weren't for Anthony Hopkins being in the film. I found myself thinking how lucky they were to have him in this role and wondering what could have been.
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Premium Rush (2012)
A waste of talent. Unless your into that kind of thing.
25 August 2012
Watching the trailer for "Premium Rush" was very odd on two levels. I thought "Why did they make a movie about bicycle riding in New York?" and then I thought "Why with all that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon have going for them, would they willingly sign on for this?" My only conclusion was that there is obviously more to it than the trailer is showing. Maybe they do this whole thing in a unique, groundbreaking way. Nope. It's a movie about bicycle messengers in New York.

Wylie (A failed attempt at a unique name) is a bike messenger in New York who is the best of his trade. He rides with no brakes and has almost a sixth sense when it comes to riding dangerously through New York traffic putting not only his life, but drivers lives at stake in the process (The film overlooks that part of it by the way). He gets a package to be delivered to Chinatown and it happens to be a package that Bobby (Shannon) wants for his own devious purposes and will stop at nothing to get it as he chases Wylie through the streets of New York.

It's really hard imagining this movie being made and getting a wide release if not for Levitt and Shannon signing on. Levitt seems to be a go to guy for Hollywood right now and rightfully so as both he and Shannon have proved time and time again to be worthy actors who may be in or nearing the prime of their acting careers. That leaves the biggest question. Why? I could imagine 1,000 different scenarios and movies that would be more interesting ways to use their talents. Especially the two of them on screen together. Levitt is completely wasted in this film as almost anyone could have played his part cycling through traffic and snickering. It's not his fault but his character was completely one sided. He's a really gutsy bike messenger bordering on reckless. That's about all there is to him. Shannon was the most interesting of the film even though he's been accused of maybe going over the top. The script offered no help whatsoever and you could see the guy basically reaching for anything possible to make that character work. I think he went over the top out of necessity rather than choice and if nothing else he made it interesting.

The action is supposed to be this films saving grace but the action ceases to be entertaining twenty minutes into the film. It's not that the movie did a terrible job portraying the underground world of bike messengers in an interesting way. As a matter of fact they did a great job attempting to make the action as engrossing as possible with a few neat little gimmicks here and there but at the end of the day it's a guy on a bicycle. It's just not enough for a movie, especially a movie that is supposed to be packed with adrenaline. At one point, toward the end of the film we are supposed to be on the edge of our seats as two rival messengers finally face off and race their bikes. Call me spoiled but bike races don't exactly put me on the edge of my seat. I guess I should have realized there wasn't more to this movie than the trailer offered up. If the trailer interested you or you have a specific interest in biking then by all means you may love this film but for those of us who saw the trailer and thought "Why?" will likely leave the theater with the same thought. 5/10
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The Avengers of action hero movies
18 August 2012
The Expendables are back and in action working another job for Mr. Church (Willis) when something goes wrong on the job and the crew vows revenge. (No real plot necessary) This is one of those few exceptions in the world of movies where the sequel is actually better than the original. The Expendables was quite serviceable in my opinion, but it never really lived up to the potential of what could have been with the dream team cast it touted. This time however The Expendables take on a whole new attitude.

By embracing the films true nature The Expendables 2 makes a love letter to the action movies that bred it as well as the fans that grew up watching. You spend just as much time laughing as you spend in awe of the films face offs and graphic action sequences. Everybody is ragging on one another in such a self aware way that you feel like you are in on the joke too, especially if you were a fan of the genre in its hay-day. Gunner (Lundgren), playing the half drunk badass is intentionally funnier than I ever could have imagined. There was one hilarious line by Chuck Norris that actually brought the theater into all out applause. I've never seen that before.

Although the movie had a few short "Where did the action go?" moments to instead hone in on a pointless character called Maggie who needs her action fix and is forced on the guys by Mr. Church, the action sequences were over the top and just as much fun as one would hope. There were some Rambo-like graphic gun shots putting gigantic holes in bad guys, sometimes knocking their entire heads off. The hand to hand combat was creating lots of ooh's and ahhs from our theater (rightfully so), and the dream one on one matchups reach a new high as two of the biggest names in ass kicking face off at one point. Van Damme as Villain is sinister enough to be a believable bad guy and fits the role quite well, although I'd rather have seen a bit more of him. (He's JCVD for crying out loud)

Whether fighting, shooting, or talking The Expendables 2 works for the same reason The Avengers did. Watching The Avengers I thought "This is what it would really be like if these epic Superheroes fought together ".The same goes for The Expendables 2. I just watched John McClane, The Terminator, Ivan Drago, Frank Duux, and Rambo either work together to blow stuff up or even face off against one another. In the first film that's what I expected but The Expendables was trying to be its own movie. The Expendables 2 however, was every 80's and 90's action film we have ever enjoyed wrapped into one and a reminder that having a good time at the movies is what it's all about.
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A fitting and hard to watch end to the legacy
21 July 2012
The Dark Knight Rises is the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. It enters the theaters like an undefeated fighter fighting his last bout. With it's legacy at stake. Nervous?

The Dark Knight Rises picks up with the idea that The Dark Knight left us with. Harvey Dent is gone and Batman took the blame. Gordon knows this, but protects the lie to preserve the peace of the people. Which is at an all time complacent high. Crime is way down and the city is in danger of becoming a normal one. While Wayne struggles with his battered body and the fact that no-one needs the Batman anymore, a young "hothead" cop (Joseph Gordon Levitt)with many similarities to Bruce Wayne's traits and struggles, begins to piece together the truth about Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. All the while Alfred struggles mightily with the choices Bruce has made since hanging up the costume. All the while Bane and his ruthless, talented, and dedicated thugs begin their terror tour on the city of Gotham providing a reason for war torn Batman to surface once again, albeit in the face of a possibly un-beatable force. Catwoman is in the mix as well, more as a thief than anything else, with questionable motives as we can't ever tell who's side she is really on other than her own. With Batman's personal struggles never ending even including major problems with Wayne Enterprises, our hero has never been up against it like he is in The Dark Knight Rises. I mean, look how long it takes just to write down the plot. This movie had a lot to cover.

Nolan's films have always had a grandiose landscape and issue scope. This film is no different, although in The Dark Knight it was easier to hone in at times simply on the madness of The Joker. With Bane however, though more intimidating by far, has much deeper agenda that parades us further into the issues at large and perhaps taking us away from the heart of the film we really came to see at times. Again there was just so much to cover in this film it was nearly impossible to give every monumental moment ample time, even with a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. Though the film was enthralling to watch at every turn, I do wish it had a bit more Batman.

The action scenes are epic and disturbing. If I had to pick one thing I think this trilogy has done best it would be the mass scale of panic and doom in Gotham that Nolan projects on the screen. For the first time in a super hero films, you really feel like there is a city in danger. That people are being terrorized and need someone to save them. Other films talk the talk, but none walk it the way Nolan's films do. Making you feel as though you live int he city in peril and are watching the Joker and Bane terrorize you on the nightly news. This film is no different, taking you to a whole new level of hopelessness. Whereas The Joker would threaten and toy with the city, Bane just wants it wiped off the map and has a disturbingly strong conviction to do so.

Our hero though not on screen as much as we would like is as interesting as he has ever been. It's difficult however to take Bale's performance in because his character has so much going on around him he doesn't even have time to be upset about some of the most profound things that may ever happen to him. His blind dedication to risking it all to save Gotham is what you expect from your hero. But at the same time watching him give it all it in such a personal way is tough to see at times. Especially during the physical interactions with Bane. It was beyond a spectacle to watch someone so strong and thought of as almost un- beatable be so helpless. Nolan did an amazing job showing that.

All the acting is on par with the films before it and there are a few scenes with an emotional Alfred that Michael Caine really steals the show drama wise. Though I believe time would have been better spent in other places than the character of Catwoman, Hathaway is great and not in the nearest bit off-putting in this movie. She was the perfect actress cast for the part even if the movie really didn't permit time for the role. Then there is the matter of the ending. Wow. All I can say is that it took conviction and guts for Nolan to make this film and close it out the way he did. Despite how you feel about what transpires, you will not feel cheated. There are no cop-outs in this film. Just remember as you sit in your seat full of expectations and hope for the ending of this great trilogy. This isn't The Dark Knight. It deals less with the maniacal villain versus Batman spectacle and more with the deep consequences and emotional wreckage that the villains of Batman have wreaked on the city of Gotham and of course Batman and those he knows and loves. Nolan began the trilogy with Batman Begins with intent to make it realistic as possible. He ends with The Dark Knight Rises true to that promise and in the real world, actions have consequences. Even for Batman. Even if it's hard for us to watch.

The Dark Knight Rises provides the excellent film-making we expected and this trilogy is a gift to Batman and film fans everywhere. We all have our idea of how Batman should end but Nolan's vision is a spectacle we can all accept even if it needed a bit more Batman and a bit less vision.

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Dark Shadows (2012)
Tired formula and a disappointing movie
11 May 2012
Let's leave it all at the door here. I loved Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Batman. Hated Batman Returns, Alice in Wonderland, and Willy Wonka. Could care less about Nightmare before Christmas and Sweeney Todd. Okay, so I'm not a Tim Burton hater. I'm not a huge Tim Burton fan. I think in this situation, I'm as close as you get to the average movie goer. No agenda, no attachments. That being said, this film is terrible. Burton spent so much effort and time worrying about making this film Gothic and off pace, stuffing his favorite actors into the film even though half of their parts were pointless, he forgot he was making a film. It's a simple and fun idea but it feels like ego and "showiness" kept them from making the plot even make sense. We get it Tim! You are weird! Don't ruin a good performance by Depp and a fun idea for a film because you have to live up to your own Gothic standards. Grow up. So much talent is wasted on these films having the same look, cast, and feel to them. Take that talent and make something fresh! Stretch yourself just a tad out of that Hot Topic comfort zone will ya? This movie was long, boring, and ruined. All of the funny scenes were in the trailer. By the way.... wasn't this supposed to be the 70's? Other than a shot or two of trees and a hippie van it was just like the set of Sweeney Todd. The whole film felt like London in the 40's. That's bad film making whether your name is Tim Burton or not.
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Child's Play (1988)
Fun and creepy when it works....corny when it doesn't
22 April 2012
A classic cult horror film that is as well known as the heavyweights of horror like the Michael Myers films or the Freddy films. But is it as revered or loved as the other horror classics? Well, no. It is, however the quintessential toys coming to life to kill people movie. Also, For what it's worth it's a pretty good horror movie considering the subject matter. If any story about a doll killing people is going to have a chance to be believable or scary, it's the story of Child's Play, the first installment in the Chucky series. The reason for this is the surprisingly well written back story and origin of Chucky. I won't give spoilers but I was actually interested in how Chucky came to be an evil doll that murdered people. I mean, they at-least attempted to give a valid reason of how this could possibly exist which was fun. Chucky does a decent job being menacing and almost believable until he begins to really speak. There are some freaky scenes of short dialog that really get you going, but when he speaks too much, it becomes kind of hokey and laughable (as you would imagine, it's a doll). I enjoyed Brad Dourif in the beginning of the film but as Chucky's voice, I would rather have everything said in that creepy doll voice than the voice that actually comes from the doll. The less human the doll was the creepier it was. I felt they kind of lost that as the film moved along. Also, there are a few "death" scenes that were shot poorly and completely un-believable. That being said, to pull of ANY believable and creepy scenes at all using a doll as the murdering villain, is impressive, and they made a handful of scenes really well. Ultimately, it's a pretty creepy and fun movie when it works.

Mike Holtz, We Watched a Movie Check out some funny video reviews and movie news at our youtube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/wewatchedamovie
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If you have been ruined by a member of the opposite sex....
19 April 2012
Ever been hurt by a member of the opposite sex so badly you went through the growing a beard and wearing a stained t-shirt while being rude to everyone you came in contact with but really just wanting a hug phase? Whew. Me too. That's why this movie is so enjoyable. The film mostly follows Adam Scott's character Caleb. The film doesn't divulge all the details right away and I won't either, but let's just say a girl hurt him. Badly. Enough to make him the rudest bearded person around. His family life is not that great either, if you add the fact he's not even allowed to step foot on his Father's (JK Simmons) Property. Basically his wide eyed and innocent Brother Peter (Alex Frost) is all the family Caleb has. So naturally when he meets Peters gorgeous new girlfriend (Brittany Snow), who looks like the adorable punk rock girl that would rip out your heart from your chest and look cute doing it.....Caleb tries to stop his brother from falling for her, and of-course... ends up falling for her himself.

This film is written perfectly and played perfectly by everyone involved. What could have easily been a love triangle movie we have seen a thousand times before was anything but. Scott's performance as a guy teetering on the edge of madness and looking for answers is top notch. Snow never lets on exactly what she's thinking which makes for a really interesting movie throughout. JK Simmons is great as you would expect him to be and the writing leaves you wanting even more. The film had a great look to it and a decent soundtrack. It didn't feel like a false big budget romance, yet it didn't feel like a hipster indie film either. Yes, some indie films are starting to become as cliché as the big budget films. Not here though, this film has entertaining anger and a dark heart. But it's a genuine dark heart and an enjoyable, believable watch.

Mike Holtz WeWatchedAMovie http://www.youtube.com/wewatchedamovie
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One of those films you don't forget
14 April 2012
What a strange little movie this is. A Criminal named John (Crawford), looking for a Hideout tries taking advantage of the wealthy and harmless Warwick (Hyde-Pierce). Little does he know Warwick has bigger secrets than he could ever imagine.

The story is interesting from the start. Albeit a pointless scene or two, watching John work his criminal mind to get into Warwick's home and gain his trust using lies and trickery is suspenseful and smart. Once things begin to unravel the suspense begins to churn an interesting dialog between the two. A typical cat and mouse game, only it's between a desperate bank robber and a getting stranger by the minute home owner. Warwick begins asking more and more questions while at the same time revealing his own strange tendencies. You can see the comfort level and suspicion of each character rise and fall as if there were a meter above their heads charting it.

The second act, without giving anything away becomes an all-out romp fest of psycho. This is where David Hyde Pierce really shines. He puts it all out there in a way that's impressive, disturbing, and fun. Even though he had a lot of the same traits he had in his character in the TV show Frasier (highly educated and slightly snobbish), you can't tell me this guy doesn't have acting chops. Considering the character of Warwick has so many different emotions and sides to him, David Hyde Pierce took a role that would make or break film and nailed it. Clayne Crawford was also impressive to watch. I was surprised to see that he is not in many more films. He was charismatic and enthralling when on screen and did it playing a part that wasn't easy as the bad guy you had to sympathize for. He was very believable. Making you afraid of John when you needed to be, as well as root for him when appropriate.

So up to this point there has been great tension, drama, trickery and even a genuine scare or two. But the film unfortunately falls apart in the third act, as the story just can't hold up to all the twists and turns it throws at you. Eventually it comes crashing down like a tower of Jenga that has one (or five), carelessly placed blocks. The ending is confusing, not because it's hard to follow but because it doesn't seem to fit the rest of the film you were enjoying so much. Ultimately, The Perfect Host isn't perfect. But that doesn't mean the party wasn't fun.

By: Mike Holtz, http://www.youtube.com/WeWatchedAMovie
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How did this movie get made?
10 April 2012
So basically a group of young adults are partying in Moscow when the power shuts off and orange orbs of light begin to fall from the sky. Then these orbs begin to become invisible and start disintegrating people by the masses. So now that we have that deep, deep plot out of the way, lets begin. How did this movie get made? Apparently around 30 Million dollars worth of special effects was spent on what exactly? Invisible aliens? The special effects were of the Sci Fi Channel variety. The large scoped landscape shots of Russia in the aftermath of destruction were obvious CGI. I can't fill you in on how the acting was because the script was so laughable it would have made Marlon Brando look like Hannah Montana. That being said, the acting was terrible. Emile Hirsch gave his all but the rest of the cast gave up half way through. I got the sense that the unknown actresses gave up, laughing at the script between takes. Solutions just magically pop out of thin air time and time again with no explanation. It's as if light bulbs literally pop on above our hero's heads and suddenly they have years of Scientific knowledge and are experts in electromagnetism. The explanation? "I watched shark week." That's not a joke guys, that was the explanation. So bottom line? It's a B movie void of the humor or charm that makes B movies lovable. The worst part? They weren't trying to make a B movie, they were trying to make a blockbuster. One of the worst movies I have ever sat through.
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"I Melt With You" burns everything it touches, for better and worse
31 March 2012
The movie and the characters will make you mad. But you can't deny the films gall to show you the ugly side of its leading men with it's unflinching descent into their manic self destruction. It's almost impossible to like. But it's a beautifully shot film with amazing acting by everyone involved. Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane really show some versatility and I wish they were allowed to showcase it in a film less ugly at it's core. The problem is it's a film mostly about male bonding by people who obviously don't know anything about male bonding. It's homo-erotic undertones are pointless and showy and I think the ending comes only because you can't possibly let these unlikable animals be unleashed back into the world after you see how screwed up they really are. Bottom line it's a beautiful film that's ugly at it's heart with amazing performances by it's actors. Unfortunately despite all of it's deep thoughts and gutsy stories.... it doesn't have anything meaningful to say. That's okay for a popcorn flick about a few guys partying but not the art house drama this film tries to be. Mike Holtz- WeWatchedAMovie
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