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Fast & Furious (2009)
Fast & Furious is about what you'd expect, nothing less and absolutely nothing more!
Fast & Furious is the fourth installment in THE Fast and THE Furious saga. Apparently the title has painted itself into a corner, and taking out the two "The's" constitutes the title for a new installment. But getting past that this movie is basically about what you would expect from this series: Fast cars, sexy women, tough guy mentality E.T.C. Except here's something exciting: The whole original cast is back in action for the first time since the original movie. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster! The plot very basically involves Dominic Toretto (Diesel) wanting revenge on one of his enemies, and in the process has to re-team and form an alliance with his betrayer Agent Brian O' Conner (Walker). That's about it in the plot department. The rest of the movie is full of chase scenes through L.A. streets, Mexican deserts, secret tunnels, and many boring talky scenes between the characters.
When Fast & Furious isn't getting bogged down in all the boring dramatic scenes, it's actually a very entertaining movie. The racing and chasing car sequences are exciting and well filmed, and you can really tell a lot of effort and stunt work went into making these scenes exciting. The film opens with Dominic and his cronies stealing giant oil tanks from the biggest tanker truck you will ever see on-screen or in real life. All of this as Michelle Rodriguez is hanging from the side of the truck, an inch away from death, and Dominic comes to her rescue. The races are what makes the movie enjoyable, just like any of the other Fast and the Furious titles. The original movie was an entertaining flick, I remember 2 Fast 2 Furious being awesome (Although I was 12 when I last watched it), and Tokyo Drift, well, I've never seen it. However the real draw-in for this new installment was the return and re-pairing (pun intended) of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, along with Rodriguez and Brewster. It is a welcome return for them in the series and they make this entry memorable. When you get to watch Diesel and Walker race cars with nitro-power for the first time since 2001, you'll be gripping the edge of your seat.
However there are quite a few problems with Fast & Furious, although they are very obvious. The acting is not too good, the dialogue is just plain bad and there are way too many talky scenes, and the plot is thinner than construction paper. Whereas the action scenes are entertaining, the dialogue scenes are stiff and dull. There are way too many of them, and most of them just fall flat due to the bad lines and the dead acting. Diesel and Walker both make cool tough guys on screen, but that does not make their technical acting skills any better. They are just dead weight when they're not behind the wheel of a car, and that's just plain disappointing. As for the plot...what plot? I barely even noticed it until the ending and at that point I was confused by what they were doing in Mexico. I also barely even realized John Ortiz was the bad guy until the ending as well, which is obviously not a good thing. That means that except for the movie's main twist (Which takes place in the first 15 minutes), I barely even noticed that there was a plot at all. Now I know you don't go to see a Fast and the Furious movie for the plot, characters, and acting. But if all of those details were better then Fast & Furious would have been a much more satisfying film as a whole, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Overall Fast & Furious accomplishes what it set out to do. Which is to entertain you with slick chase/race sequences, incredible stunts and special effects, and the cool presence (Not acting) of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Fans of the series will probably enjoy it. I enjoyed it for what it was and I can't even call myself a fan of the series. I give Fast & Furious a good 3 out of 5. It's a fun blockbuster movie that entertains you when it doesn't talk too much.
The Last House on the Left (2009)
If you go to see it, you better know what you're in for.
The Last House on the Left is about a normal family on vacation by their lakeside home. The day they drive out to the lake, their daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) leaves with the family car to meet up with her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac). Mari and Paige eventually hang out with a strange kid named Justin, until his estranged family of three murderous criminals, led by his father Krug (Garrett Dillahunt), show up. They beat and rape the girls and leave them for dead out by the lake. The three murderers soon find Mari's parents house, and unknowingly to them decide to spend the rainy night there. However Mari survives the attack and swims back home, her parents find her, and also gain the knowledge that her attackers are the their guests. They have no car, no help, and no way out. All they can do is fight back. From there on in Mari's parents exact bloody revenge on Krug and his family of thugs.
May I start off saying that I have completely given up on the MPAA. The fact that a film this grotesque and realistically violent did not receive the NC-17 rating is shocking. The Last House on the Left is not one of those horror movies that uses in-your-face gore effects, and preposterous scenes of torturous violence. Everything displayed in this movie is realistic and very much possible, making it all the more terrifying. If you go to see it, you better know what you're in for. This movie contains a rape scene that really gets under your skin, and other scenes of gory mayhem. I am not trying to make this film sound bad though. This is one of the best horror remakes I've ever seen. The acting is terrific, the suspense is grueling, and even the script is pretty good for a horror flick. The violent acts the three felons commit made me truly hate their characters, and want them to suffer horrible fates. This movie does not disappoint in that category. In fact I would go as far as to say it's one of the most rewarding horror flicks I've seen a very long time.
The acting in this movie is also very good and memorable, which is a big surprise for a horror movie. The villains are well acted, especially by Garrett Dillahunt and Aaron Paul. They never deviate from the authentic awfulness of their characters. Sara Paxton and Martha McIsaac are also very good. But the pair that really makes the film worth watching are Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter. They both give commanding, unforgettable performances that only make the movie more memorable. My only real problems with the film are that despite its realistic intentions, it is still very mainstream in terms of horror. We've seen this type of story done many times before in many different ways. The other problem I had with it is that despite how much I enjoyed it, it's not the type of movie I would watch over and over again.
All in all The Last House on the Left is a very good horror movie. It's one the best remakes in years, boasting excellent visuals, great acting, and violence not to be reckoned with. I give it a 4 out of 5.
Watchmen is a fascinating graphic novel adaptation that deserves to be seen by anybody that likes their movies complex, dark, and absorbing.
Watchmen is the long-awaited graphic novel adaptation that has for a long time been deemed un-filmable. There have been many different points over the years where this movie was supposed to be made, which always ended up not happening. But now Watchmen is finally here in all its glory, and it's probably the best adaptation possible of this complex graphic novel. The story takes place in an alternative 1985, with Nixon beginning his third term as president, and the streets of New York are gritty, dark, and violent. Within New York lives a group of costumed heroes that used to be loved by society, but are now hated by practically everybody. One night a depressed retired hero named The Comedian is murdered by a masked person that breaks into his apartment. Another hero named Rorschach, who wears a mask with shifting ink blots, believes that someone is picking off costumed heroes to begin their own agenda of destruction. Rorschach begins investigating and hunting down the person that is responsible for The Comedian's death. Meanwhile we meet another hero who glows blue, and has almost literally become a God. His name is Dr. Manhattan, and although he has the power to save the world he won't do it because he has lost many of his human emotions. The other main costumed heroes are Night Owl and Silk Spectre, who begin to fall in love amid the chaos of their secret lives. Any other attempt to describe the complex plot of this movie would be nearly impossible.
Watchmen was an extremely complex graphic novel filled with a lot of flawed costumed characters, strong plot, powerful sense of style, and also contained a world that seems a little too close to our own. The movie carries every one of these elements in the best way it possibly could. It stays true to the novel, and only changes a few details. The memorable characters are very well portrayed and acted as well. Dr. Manhattan (the giant blue guy) is played very well by Billy Crudup, who manages to keep the character interesting despite his emotionless attitude. Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre II), Patrick Wilson (Night Owl II), and Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt) are also very good in their roles. However the two actors that truly help add depth and a real sense of anger to the film are Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Rorschach was probably my favorite character because technically he's not really a hero at all. He's a psychopath with harmful and destructive behavior, even though in a way he's trying to do what he believes is right for the world. He is a fascinating character with his shape-shifting mask full of ink blots that mirror his personality.
The movie takes place in 1985 and mimics what was happening back then. Watchmen's story revolves around the threat of nuclear war and global destruction, and the characters mostly try to do the right thing for the world but have trouble seeing the point in doing so. This is a great film that stays true to the original graphic novel while transitioning its style, characters, chain of events, and storyline from page-to-screen the best it possibly could. However if you're not familiar with the source material you may find yourself confused by this movie. It's not like The Dark Knight where everybody that goes to see it knows who Batman and the Joker are. These characters are not as famous as those types of household name characters, and may be hard for someone's whose never read the novel to understand. Personally I only read a few chapters before I saw the movie, and I thought the movie was incredible. I always give a movie props for not taking the easy way out by spoon-feeding everything to the audience. The book, as well as the movie, was daring by taking of the risk of being complex and making you think for a change. Watchmen is a great movie, and despite its long running time of 163 minutes, I never found it boring at all. Watchmen is a fascinating graphic novel adaptation that deserves to be seen by anybody that likes their movies complex, dark, and absorbing.
Excellent special effects and acting, but the boring storytelling techniques turned me away.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button nominated for numerous Oscars including Best Picture. It is about the life of man named Benjamin (Brad Pitt) who is born in the 1920s. However instead of looking like a regular baby, Benjamin looks like an old man as an infant because of some strange disorder. He is abandoned by his parents and ends up in the care of a pair of retirement home employees. They raise him through his young years as he begins to take his first steps at age 7, meets a beautiful girl named Daisy, and learns a lot about life. Soon Benjamin leaves off to fight in World War II, and afterwards starts a life on his own. As the years go on he begins to realize that he starts looking younger, as his actual age increases. Eventually he again meets up with Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who is now a matured young woman, and begins a relationship with her. As Benjamin gets younger, Daisy gets older. But the love between them only gets stronger.
This movie has gotten strong critical praise, excellent word-of-mouth, and many Oscar nominations. While there are many things I liked about this movie, there were still a lot of things I did not like about it. Brad Pitt gives a great, nuanced performance that constantly changes and shifts in interesting directions as the character changes. In fact I think most of the performances in this film were good. Cate Blanchett gives a good performance as usual, and Taraji P. Henson also gives an amazing performance as the woman that took care of Benjamin in his early years. The special effects on the way they age Brad Pitt was masterfully done, very convincing, and really make the film memorable. The best effects were when he was an old man, middle aged, and around his 30s and 40s. They also do a good job making Pitt look a very young teenaged guy. Besides the facial effects the cinematography and sets in this movie were amazing. They really helped give the movie a strong sense of atmosphere. I also liked how the lighting changes as the mood of the film changes.
Besides the acting, cinematography, lighting, and special effects, I really didn't care much for the storytelling. The story was interesting but it got very dull after Benjamin goes from being an old man to a middle-aged man. After that the story got boring and the movie became tedious. The movie takes way too long to tell its story, and also takes it way too slow during certain scenes that I found no interest in. Benjamin begins having an affair with a married woman (Tilda Swinton) at one point, which takes way too long. This segment was completely pointless in my opinion, and really didn't help movie the story in any way. The love between Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett was a major part of the story, but as it went on you knew from the beginning that it would only end badly. I thought this would really enrich the film and help give it a great, tragic ending. I was completely wrong. The movie ends very stupidly and in the worst possible way. I sat through over two and a half hours for an ending like this (I won't spoil it)! I know the story could really only end one way, but there were plenty of storytelling techniques that could have made the ending better and more satisfying.
In the end I enjoyed the acting, characters, cinematography, and strong visual effects. But the storytelling is what really turned me away from the film. The storytelling is too bland, boring, and uninteresting. For a movie that is over two and a half hours that's a really bad thing. The visual effects make the film memorable, and the story is good, but without a way to interest the viewer then what's the point? The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ends up very unsatisfying and anti-climactic, and it was plain disappointing.
Marley & Me (2008)
A good movie to see on Christmas, as long as you're okay with having tears in your eyes on Christmas day that is.
Marley & Me is based on the book of the same title, and was released on Christmas day. For those who don't know the story. It's about a newlywed couple, played by Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, that adopt a dog named Marley. Though seemingly gentle and joyful at first sight, Marley turns out to be a rebellious and destructive to their home. Though startling and a little amusing at first, Marley becomes a lot harder to control as the years go on, and even as they start having children. But despite being a naughty dog, Marley is also a very loving dog that sees their family through the good times and the tough times over the years.
Well this is a Hallmark movie if there ever was one! Marley & Me is chock full of scenes that will make you happy, make you laugh, pull your heartstrings, and finally make you cry. While it is a happy and pleasant film overall, it has a few depressing and sad spots. However it these points that make Marley & Me a lot better than your average hallmark-type movie. They give you insight on the frustrations of being married with children, having an out of control dog, finding your passion in life, and dealing with loss. Before I saw the movie I watched the trailer and thought it looked like any other dog movie Hollywood has made. That's actually kind of true since some of the things in the movie seem a little fabricated. Such as Marley playing keep-away with a brand new necklace, and also trying to escape through the car window in the middle of traffic (While half of him walks nonchalantly on the street as his owner hangs onto his behind). These are the type of scenes that make the movie funny, but don't have the impact that the more emotional scenes have.
The acting in the movie comes mostly from Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. Owen Wilson plays John Grogan as a talented journalist who never takes life too seriously. While Jennifer Aniston plays Jennifer Grogan as wife and mother who at first has a hard time raising her kids with an unruly dog running around, until she let's go and becomes less stressful. Wilson and Aniston made a good couple and both of them play the funny scenes and serious scenes very well. Other than them there weren't really any other actors giving important performances other than Alan Arkin as John's boss, and Eric Dane as his best friend. Both actors give good performances that add nuance to the film.
I never read the book and probably never will, but the movie was pretty good for what it is. It was an enjoyable movie to see on Christmas day, where the silly scenes made the movie funny, while the more sad and upsetting scenes ironically shape the film into something bigger than I thought it would be. The acting is good, the story is enjoyable, and the message and morals are the best part. Marley & Me is a simple movie but a good one at that.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
The first direct sequel in the Bond Series, and while it isn't perfect it is very fun.
Quantum of Solace is the 23rd James Bond film in the nearly 50 year old franchise. It picks up directly where its predecessor Casino Royale took off. Bond (the excellent Daniel Craig) has taken Mr. White captive and brought him to be interrogated with M (Judi Dench). White reveals a little information about a secret organization named Quantum, and also hints at what Bond desperately wants to know: Why his deceased lover Vesper betrayed him and ended up dead. However after a series of mishaps White escapes and Bond goes on to his new mission of tracking down a man named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), the supposed leader of Quantum. Greene is a strange man with weery eyes set on the control of a certain important substance. During his mission Bond meets a literally scarred but beautiful girl named Camille (Olga Kurylenko). She is a grieving and tough person just like Bond, since her whole family was killed in a house fire set by the General Medrano, a man involved in Quantum who she vows revenge upon. Bond and Camille team up to uncover the secrets of Quantum and also Dominic Greene, and in the process have to overcome their own problems and grudges.
Quantum of Solace has been a sole disappointment among most loyal Bond fans. It features very little of James Bond's normal traditions in his classic movies. Not once does he say "Bond, James Bond", he doesn't order a specific alcoholic beverage, there's no love scene between him and the Bond girl, and the gun-barrel sequence is saved for the end. However Quantum of Solace features a much more brooding and gritty James Bond instead. While he does use a gun in a few scenes, he engages in much more hand-to-hand combat and also uses a lot more of the environment to his advantage during the fight sequences. To some fans this seems more like a Jason Bourne film than a Bond movie, with scenes of him on rooftops leaping over gaps. The older Bond films with Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan all featured gizmos, gadgets, and villains that had eccentrically extravagant plans to take over the world and/or kill millions of people. Casino Rayale and Quantum of Solace both disposed of the stupid gadgetry, and instead focused on more realistic action and villains that could actually achieve their dastardly plans in real life. I think this is a nice breath of fresh air in the series. Out with the old, in with the new.
The acting in Quantum of Solace is good. Daniel Craig plays a much darker version of Bond with a chip on his shoulder that he has to recover from. Craig gives a mostly strong lead performance although I hope he stops brooding by Bond 23, and grows into a few of the habits of the older Bond movies. Olga Kurylenko also gives a good performance. Her character becomes very developed as the film moves along revealing that her and Bond truly aren't that different. Even though her character awkwardly disappears from the film for a little while until she's needed later on. Mathieu Amalric's performance is pretty standard. He's not a farfetch'd villain but he's not very interesting until we learn what his organization Qunatum is actually up to, and what he's attempting to control. However in the end he does pose a challenge to Bond, unlike most of his cronies who Bond takes out with the wink of an eye.
The visual style was also very interesting in my own opinion. Many fans believed the director Marc Forster wouldn't be fit for a Bond flick, but i think he did quite well. There are some interesting shots and camera angles that are unique for an action flick. Such as when Bond and another bad guy are fighting while swinging around all tangled in rope upside down from scaffolding. As each gets closer to the ground and try to grab the gun lying on the floor, we see lots of uniquely suspenseful upside-down shots of the gun getting closer and farther away as each of them swing towards it, misses it, and swing away from it again. The cinematography also helps bolster the grittiness of the environments, and also puts emphasis on resources that Bond can use during the fight scenes. In one scene Bond meets with another agent, and ends up having 30 seconds to escape. The cinematography and lighting adds a lot of dangerous suspense by revealing the amount of dirt and perspiration there is on each man's face. The only thing that hampered the film, which I really don't enjoy, was the shaky-cam editing. It almost seems like a carbon copy ripoff of Jason Bourne when they do this. Shaky-cam is literally what it sounds like: During the action scenes the camera can't be held still for a second, which is supposed to add to the suspense, but really only annoys. For instance the beginning of the movie involves a huge car chase in a tunnel. The camera is so shaky and the editing of each frame is mostly about one second long each, making it very hard to comprehend anything that's happening.
Quantum of Solace wasn't perfect but then again what Bond film really is? While it goes against the classic rituals of a Bond film, I believe that was only a standalone thing for this film. Bond is brooding over the loss of the woman he loves, and has no desire to do any of those old rituals this time around. Bond's no-nonsense attitude in Quantum of Solace seems to be only a hitch in the road for him, and since he's now over it the next installment can show him taking up the classic rituals the fans whined over. I give Quantum of Solace a 4 out of 5.
Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Punisher: War Zone has the gore and violent mayhem of the MAX comic series, but embodies none of the heart of the original comics. It's all about gore, gore, and more gore!
American Cinema has become pretty gory hasn't it? Ever since the Saw movies became popular, horror movies have become progressively more grotesque and disgusting. However here's an interesting little item, an all-out action flick that is basically a disgusting slasher-flick with guns and explosions. The Punisher 2004 movie was a moderate box office success which was obviously enough to generate a sequel. Its main redeeming values were its action, Thomas Jane's excellent performance as the infamous Punisher, and also John Travolta as the villain.
Punisher: War Zone is the newest movie of the infamous Marvel Comics anti-hero. The plot basically starts off with the knowledge that Frank Castle/the Punisher (Ray Stevenson) has been at grisly work for about five years, dispatching as many baddies and mob bosses from this Earth as he possibly can. However one night he attempts to take out the underground mob boss Billy Russoti (Dominic West) by pushing him into a glass-bottle-compactor. Russoti miraculously survives with his face completely ripped up at the seams. He gets plastic surgery to have his face put together as best as possible, and dons a new name for himself: Jigsaw. As the Punisher continues to kill, buy guns, and brood, Russoti plots to get bloody revenge on the Punisher for what he's done to him. He releases his insane, off-the-wall brother James (Doug Hutchison), known to the mob as Loony Bin Jim, from the insane asylum and together they plot, scheme, kill, and disgust. That's mostly about it in the plot department.
There were basically two types of Punisher series: One version was the original black and white from the 1970s and 80s that relied more on story. And then there were the MAX comics of the 1990s that featured far more explicit, gruesome violence. The new movie Punisher: War Zone follows the MAX series to a T. Punisher: War Zone is a bad film featuring way-too-over-the-top villains, mostly dull acting, and action so violent and explicitly disgusting that I can't believe this movie didn't get an NC-17 rating for it. Like I said earlier, this is a slasher flick with guns and explosions. It amazes me how a movie as nasty as this gets the R, while the recent Kevin Smith comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno literally had to battle its way out of NC-17 water all because of its risqué title. This movie features people getting blown apart by explosions, heads getting shot off left and right, a man's kidney is ripped out and visibly eaten, and a man is pushed into a glass bottle compactor and survives after being ripped to shreds in violent fashion. What makes one little risqué word in a comedy movie title worse than all of that violence? I have absolutely no idea.
This is a bad movie altogether. Ray Stevenson looks like a clone of the MAX comics Punisher, but that doesn't necessarily mean he makes a good Punisher. His acting is subpar and mostly consists of him looking angry and scowling at bad guys. When there's no action going on and he has to be dramatic, he has no charisma to make the scenes interesting. There's even one scene where he visits his dead family's tombstones and almost starts crying, which looks less like an emotional response and more like constipation. The actors playing the two lead cops are boring and their characters are complete wastes of time. The only real good acting comes from Dominic West and Doug Hutchison as the brotherly lead villains. Their characters are completely off the wall insane, and the two actors seem to be having a lot of fun in their roles. This help injects a little bit of life into the movie although it's not a good sign when you like the villain more than the title character. The Punisher is brooding, dark, and gritty compared to Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim's zany eccentric insanity. Their characters become way more interesting to the viewer than the Punisher.
Despite all the bad qualities of Punisher: War Zone, there were still things that I found entertaining about it. The visual style and almost Film Noir-like cinematography helped illuminate the movie. All the neon and offbeat colors everywhere are really reminiscent of the MAX comics. Punisher: War Zone also contains a lot of dark humor that makes you laugh at some of the sickest things. For example the kidney-eating scene is set up very well for a laugh, and it will end up a classic scene next to the Dark Knight's "Pencil Trick" scene. However it is also the humor that breaks the film a little since the Punisher was never meant to be humorous. However the real scene stealer in the movie is Doug Hutchison as Loony Bin Jim. The character is completely insane and yet he has love and respect for his brother Billy Russoti. In one scene Jigsaw almost breaks down in a hotel lobby because he keeps seeing his cut up face in mirrors. In an attempt to cheer his brother up, Jim runs around the lobby breaking every mirror in sight in a violent rage.
Punisher: War Zone is a cheesy B-movie action flick that's mostly played for laughs and gross-outs. The film ditches plot and seriousness for blood, gore, body count, and all-out disgusting mayhem. Fans of the MAX series seem to be proud of this film, but fans of the original stuff seem to be disappointed. I was entertained and disappointed at the same time while watching this film, which was a pretty strange combination. The villains, dark humor, and visual style kept me entertained while watching it, but I never forgot that what I was watching was completely stupid and hollow. Punisher: War Zone has the action and mayhem of the MAX series, but none of the heart and storyline of the original comics (which was embodied by The Punisher 2004 movie). I give Punisher: War Zone a 2 out of 5.
Raising Cain (1992)
Raising Cain is the epitome of style over substance.
Raising Cain is a film by Brian De Palma that while well made, is one of the most self indulgent movies I've ever seen. Raising Cain is a film full of twists and turns, dreams and nightmares, and calmness and chaos all at once. While the movie's strange confusing atmosphere kept my interest for a while, it eventually became overwhelming to the point where you realize how inept the film really is. Have you ever heard the term "Style over Substance"? Watch Raising Cain and you'll find out.
Raising Cain is about a husband and father named Carter (John Lithgow). Right from the start Carter seems to be a very off-balanced person, since he has an evil alter-ego named Cain. Carter's father is the infamous Dr. Nix, a man who dedicated his life to performing tests and procedures on babies. Carter is apparently his wingman who helps kidnap the babies for his father. At home, Carter seems like the ideal husband, always spending time with his wife and daughter. However his wife Jenny (Lolita Davidovich) notices how off balance her husband is, and proceeds to have an affair with her ex-lover Jack (Steven Bauer). Carter finds out about this, and unfortunately so does Cain. Cain begins to take over and create murder and mayhem in Carter's name. Making Carter's life, and everybody's around him, begins to violently spin out of control.
Raising Cain is one of the most twisted and confusing movies I have ever seen. It creates an eery, strange atmosphere where we don't know if what's occurring is a dream or real life. While this atmosphere is intriguing at first, it becomes so overdone and extravagant that at a certain point I forgot about the underlying plot about baby snatching. The baby-snatching plot shows up randomly near the end, and almost completely ruins the movie. Raising Cain is all about its atmosphere and twists, and it doesn't seem to realize that it would have been better if had a functioning plot. Brian De Palma also decides to rip off Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in Raising Cain. There is an infamous scene in Psycho where the killer Norman Bates sinks a car into a swamp in order to bury evidence. The car sinks at first but soon pauses, Norman looks worried that it won't sink completely, however soon enough it does sink till the car is submerged completely. Raising Cain makes homage to this scene that seems like a bit too much of a copycat, and ends up seeming like much more of a rip-off. Carter's multiple personalities and the ending involving a certain character dressed like a woman are both full-on rip-offs of Psycho.
Besides the fact that Raising Cain rips off Psycho and that it's generally low on plot and high on style, there were things that I enjoyed about it. John Lithgow's performance is excellent, especially as Cain and all his other egos. There is a scene in which Carter's mind is switched to one of his egos. That of a timid, young little kid named Josh. The way Lithgow portrays this "little boy" persona is very detailed, well-acted, and realistic to what a little kid would do and say. The most memorable part of the scene is when a psychologist asks "Josh" how old he is, and he quickly replies "Seven and a half!" just like a little kid who's proud of their age would do.
However besides John Lithgow nobody else's acting in the movie is worthy of praise. The other performances are standard, although Steven Bauer's performance is terrible. There's a scene where Bauer's character Jack is framed for a crime, and the police arrest him for it. He should be in disbelief and terrified shock at what just happened, instead he weakly and lightly says "Oh my God". Bauer portrays emotion horribly in Raising Cain, and his expressions and dialogue suggest he doesn't have any personality. As for Lolita Davidovich as the rebelling wife, her performance is decent but nothing memorable. No wonder I've never heard of her.
Raising Cain has a strange atmosphere, and twists and turns that spin the audience around until they don't know where they are anymore. However the actual plot disappears for most of the movie, and shows up randomly near the end for and ending so over the top and stupid it's not even funny. Lithgow's acting is excellent and is just about the only reason to watch the film. Other than that there's nothing memorable about it. It has a few creepy scenes but the atmosphere totally wears off by the end. I don't recommend the film unless you like John Lithgow. Fans of Brian De Palma were probably disappointed by it as well. I give Raising Cain a 2 out of 5, but only for Lithgow.
Saw V (2008)
Saw V has breathed new life into a series that almost died on the operating table.
The Saw series nearly lost all my respect after the dreadful Saw IV. Saw IV was an abominable pile of trash that could never in a million years serve as actual entertainment. However a year has passed, and I have undoubtedly cooled off. I decided to give the series another chance, so I payed ($7.50 of my hard-earned money) to go see Saw V in a theater. I walked out an hour and a half later, and guess what...no headache, no shaking of the head in fury, and certainly no shouting of "Oh my god, how could it get any worse!?" (Like I did after witnessing Saw IV). In fact I really enjoyed the newest installment in the Saw series. Saw V has breathed new life into a series that almost died on the operating table.
Saw V picks up exactly where Saw IV left off. Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) is locked inside a room containing Jigsaw and Amanda Young's dead bodies, and proceeds to shoot and kill Saw III's anti-hero Jeff. Strahm finds his way out, but is attacked and placed into a trap that he miraculously survives. On the way out we see that Jigsaw's newly revealed apprentice Hoffman has "rescued" Jeff's daughter. Not long after this, Hoffman is ironically considered a hero. However Strahm begins to suspect that Hoffman is the new Jigssw, and that the games are not over yet. As Strahm attempts to dig up evidence against Hoffman, a new game involving five people is taking place. These five people are told that they are connected in an important way, and that they'll have to work together if they want to survive their upcoming tests. All of this leads down to a grand finale ending that I thought was even better than the original Saw's classic ending. And if you're familiar with the Saw movies, you bet that's a good thing.
Saw was a great horror film that was original in its own twisted, psychological ways. Saw II however was a bit of a wash-up until its shocker ending. Saw III was a good horror film for taking risks, and although it's the goriest in the series so far, it was gory in a very creative way. And Saw IV...well you already know how I feel about that one. I can't believe the series has made it to a whopping fourth sequel. It's like a new age Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street. Although Saw is different since every movie follows the other and keeps to a strictly connected path.
There were always things that bothered me about the Saw series, some more than others. The acting was sometimes subpar, and not all the characters were well developed. But it technically is a horror series, and at this point in time who really expects either of those two in a horror flick. The thing I always hated about the Saw movies was the editing and cinematography. Is it too much to ask that the camera stay steady for a second? This always made it hard to appreciate the gory traps, because bright lights are flashed in your eyes, there are too many lightning speed zoom-ins and zoom-outs, and the camera pans and spins around the victim faster than Lind Blair's head! However Saw V has an all new director named David Hackl, who worked with the Saw films since the second movie. Saw V really cuts down a lot on this insanely annoying editing style. I was very happy walking out of Saw V because I realized I wouldn't need to pop an Excedrin.
Saw V has a pretty good story for a horror sequel, and the flashbacks used to explain the past are nothing short of excellent. The flashbacks are also the only scenes in which you get to see John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) alive. And Tobin's acting is as good as ever. They also explain why Hoffman became Jigsaw's apprentice, while at the same time they help make the past films seem a little more, dare I say, realistic. The plot about the five strangers having to work together to survive their game is the only weak point to the film, but just because it was a little bit weak does not mean it wasn't entertaining. Plus it's a Saw movie...that means at least a few people have to get mangled in torrents of gore and blood. They couldn't just make a whole movie about flashbacks and Strahm piecing together clues. If they did they might as well rate it PG-13 and sell the series to Fox!
Some are disappointed with David Hackl's direction with Saw V, saying it didn't feel like a Saw movie, or that it was the worst in the series. While it did feel a little different from the previous films, I felt that Hackl did the best direction job since James Wan of the original Saw (Darren Lynn Bousman directed Saw II-IV). Hackl relieved Saw V of the cracked out editing style of its predecessors. He created a mature sequel that was simply more about the plot and revelations, than it was about gore and carnage. I'm disappointed David Hackl won't be coming back for Saw VI (the supposed series finale).
All in all Saw V was the best film in the series since the classic original. And it's certainly a huge improvement over the atrocious Saw IV. Hoffman is going to be an interesting new villain, and Saw V's ending sets up for an "All Bets Are Off" attitude. I have no idea where the series is going to go next, or even if it's going to end with the next film. All I know is I can't wait to see Saw VI! I give Saw V a 4 out of 5. It resurrected the whole series in my opinion.
Saw IV (2007)
Painful in all the wrong ways!
"If it's Halloween...It must be Saw." That's the tagline for Saw IV, the newest installment in the gory horror series of Saw. It's almost a tradition that every Halloween there's a new Saw sequel, hence the tagline. But after this messy, self-indulgent bloodbath I kind of wish that this tired series would just come to an end already.
Saw IV involves a SWAT officer named Rigg (Lyriq Bent) who is kidnapped, and placed in a deadly game by the supposedly deceased Jigsaw. He is told that his also-kidnapped partners Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) are playing a game of their own, and that Rigg must resist saving them for a total of 90 minutes. While searching for his two friends, Rigg continually finds people in life-or-death situations, on the path to his final test. Rigg must choose whether he wants to help save these people (His usual reaction), or follow Jigsaw's rules and let them get out by themselves. Who will win? Who will lose? Who will lose a limb? (Or limbs?) Who will care?
A new Saw movie comes out every Halloween, that means that the filmmakers only have about a year to write it, cast it, shoot it, edit it, and roll it. The first three movies all felt like, for the most part, well constructed films (Saw II not as much). You could tell that they were well thought out, and that a general effort was put forth to create a constant storyline where each movie follows the tracks of the others. Unlike horror flicks like Friday the 13th, or Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw cannot just go off on a tangent, it has to follow the footsteps of its predecessors in order to keep the Saw storyline chugging along. Saw IV is the first in the series that truly feels like a complete rush-job. Since Leigh Whannel (Writer of the first three Saws) has been replaced by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, it is obvious that these new writers of the series were pressured to write a coherent storyline so that the filmmakers could get Saw IV out by Halloween. Close to nothing in this vapid movie is well thought-out, there are plot holes all over the place, and the characters are so incredibly stupid that even their idiot actions aren't funny. It's an assault on the eyes, ears, and stomach (The squeamish will be puking, and the Saw fans will be nauseous from its stupidity).
About the only thing I enjoyed about this sequel were the revelations of John Kramer/Jigsaw's past. Those are the only dramatic scenes that work, but there aren't nearly enough of them to keep Saw IV afloat. I won't spoil anything but this movie, during flashbacks, shows us Jigsaw's first trap, and it is without a doubt the best scene in the whole movie. That is the only scene where character development and story progress actually came together, and made for a tense and excellently suspenseful scene. However that's about all that I liked about Saw IV.
The story makes dangerously little sense, and the characters are basically only there for a quick kill. For instance there's a scene involving a pedophilic rapist who is held at gunpoint, and forced to get into a trap where either his limbs will be torn apart, or he gets his eyes ripped out (That means no more porn watching. Yikes!). Scenes like this won't even be enjoyable for the torture porn crowd. They are so horribly edited, lit, and acted that they are reduced to absymal trash that nobody will be able to appreciate. The editing in the Saw flicks have always looked like the result of an editor on acid. There are endless flashing lights, fast zoom-ins, Pan-shots that spin around faster than Linda Blair's head, and repeated shots of screaming that should build tension...but only build laughs. I've had it up to here with Saw's editing because it gives me a headache, and when it's all over I feel like I just woke up from a nightmare where I was addicted to crack.
The effort put into making Saw IV is minimal to the point that you can tell it was just made so the series can thrive on till the final film (Supposedly Saw VI). It's like the middle child, or older brother, that gets ignored while everybody is busy adoring the newborn baby. In other words the filmmakers didn't seem to care about this sequel as much. They're just stalling until they get to the big payoff with Saw V and Saw VI. And trust me Saw IV's twist ending is the epitome of both "rush job" and "stalling". I give Saw IV a 1 out of 5. No wonder Darren Lynn Bousman walked away after this one.
A landmark in horror history housing one of the greatest, if not the greatest, movie villain in history,
Psycho is a landmark in horror movie history. Alfred Hitchcock uniquely directed the first ever slasher movie, and did so with wit, quality, and absolute brilliance. Psycho is the first Alfred Hitchcock movie I've seen, and I am very impressed by it. Now I've seen lots and lots of slasher flicks in my day, but never have I seen one anywhere near the caliber of Psycho.
Psycho is about a young woman named Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). While she's at work one day, out of the blue she decides to steal 40,000 dollars in cash from an investor. She goes on the run telling nobody where she is going, and soon becomes paranoid and wary of her surroundings, and also the people around her. On a particularly rainy night, Marion stops at the Bates Motel where she meets the odd owner Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Norman invites her to eat dinner with him, and takes a considerable liking to her. At first he seems like a regular nice guy, but it turns out that he does have a dark side after all. Norman's "mother" is a very controlling woman, and as it turns out may be a murderer as well. Using Norman to cover up her vicious attacks. Marion goes missing, and tensions and suspense raise to unbearable heights as Marion's sister and boyfriend, and also a private investigator, begin looking for her. Leading them all the way up to none other than the Bates Motel...and Norman "himself".
This is the greatest horror movie I've ever seen, and definitely one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The suspense is built up incredibly, and the story's twists and turns are amazing. I could never successfully guess what was going to happen next in this movie. And you can't say that about most slasher movies these days. After watching Psycho I realize how much recent slasher films blatantly rip off Hitchcock's masterpiece. However Psycho will now remain an unmovable cinema classic in my eyes, and those new age ripoffs will not. It amazes me how a film that is nearly 50 years old, and in black and white, can still terrify audiences. It's simply astonishing what Hitchcock created here.
Now I'll get into the film itself. Just about everything is done right in Psycho. The editing is among some of the best I've ever seen. The cinematography really helps a lot of scenes, and only adds to the terror. Take the "shower scene" scene for example: It was shot in such a way that you couldn't see any nudity; and I also appreciated how the scene starts up very bright, and as the dark sinister figure moves closer to the curtains, you get that ominous feeling that tells you that something very bad is about to happen. The acting is also very good. Janet Leigh gives a strong performance, and I'm telling you to keep an eye on her facial expressions, because they reveal her character's paranoia and regret. But the real star of the show, the reason the movie is called Psycho, is Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Perkins plays one of the best villains of all time, and one of my personal favorites. You don't know what is going on with this guy. At first he seems normal, then he's covering up a murder with a boyish grin on his face, and then you get to his real personality underneath. Perkins plays Norman as a complete mama's boy who stutters under pressure, and on the spot tries to think up ways to cover up his "mother's" murders. At first it seems to be an average performance, but then you begin to notice how Perkins makes his character stutter with nervous ticks, and laughing when he makes a joke. It's the tiny details, of which there are quite a few, that make Perkins performance into one of the scariest movie villains in history.
Psycho is an ingenious horror film because it blends natural horror with great acting, surprising twists, red herrings, suspense, and a constant sense that something is very bad is about to happen. Hitchcock has created the best horror I've ever seen. After 50 years it is still suspenseful and terrifying, and that is the mark of a brilliant filmmaker. I can't wait to see more of Hitchcock's movies. Psycho gets a 5 out of 5 from me.
Burn After Reading (2008)
It's a hilarious movie about stupid people, and we'll leave it at that
The Coen Brothers are at it again! After taking home the Best Picture award at the Oscars for last year's No Country For Old Men, everybody was holding their breath to see what the Coens would do next. Well it's here, it's got an ensemble A-list cast, a loopy plot full of blackmail and espionage, and an offbeat brand of humor. Sounds like the Coens to me.
Burn after Reading is about an ex-CIA agent named Osborne Cox (John Malkovich), who after quitting his job decides to write a revealing memoir about his past in the CIA. However his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton), who is cheating on him with the paranoid Federal Marshal Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), finds his memoir, burns it onto a CD, and ends up losing it by leaving it at a public gym. It is here where two quirky gym employees, Linda Litzke (Frances Mcdormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), find the CD, and also Osborne's phone number and address. The pair decide to blackmail Osborne into giving them 50,000 dollars if he ever wants the CD back, otherwise they threaten to give it to the Russian Embassy. As all 5 of these morons get further and further into their little web of blackmail, greed, and deceit. Nobody seems to notice the severe consequences waiting for them just around the corner.
Burn after Reading is really not a film that relies too heavily on its plot, since it just gets more and more idiotic as it goes along. This film relies more on its stupid characters and all the immoral, self centered hi-jinks they get into. Which they could have avoided had they just acted a little smarter. I am not saying Burn after Reading was a stupid film, I'm saying it was a very good movie about stupid people, stupid morals, stupid decisions, and frankly just downright stupidity. These characters are all perfectly cast and every single character has their moment (or moments). John Malkovich is excellent as a very angry guy, who begins to just hate everybody and everything. George Clooney is funny as a paranoid, sex addicted weirdo who cheats on his wife every chance he gets. Frances Mcdormand also gives a standout performance as a woman who needs lots of money, because she feels she needs plastic surgery and rhinoplasty to make herself look beautiful. However the real scene-stealer here is Brad Pitt as a flamboyant gym trainer who is obsessed with his ego. In one scene his character tries to smart talk Osborne over the phone by pretending to sound like a secret agent, but really just ends up repeating Osborne's name over and over again. It's scenes like this that really give this movie its comedic flavor.
I have never seen a movie that goes this far with such idiot characters. However that is really what makes Burn after Reading a memorable film. Nobody acts with intelligence, everybody is self centered, absolutely nothing is at stake, and almost everybody gets hurt in some way by the end over nothing. There are a few scenes involving two CIA agents trying to figure out what exactly these people were actually trying to do, and they simply just have no idea, and neither do we. I can barely explain anything about this movie without using the word stupid in every sentence, which I'm sure you've noticed. So we'll just leave it at this: It's a hilarious movie about stupid people, and that's just about it. I give it a 3.5 out of 5.
The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
A different kind of romantic comedy chock full of bad morals, infidelity, and sleaziness. I liked it, I don't know why, but I did.
The Heartbreak Kid is about a sporting goods store owner Eddie (Ben Stiller), who is still single at age 40. Eddie really wants to just settle down and start his life with the right woman. And soon he meets a great, beautiful girl named Lila (Malin Akerman). After just a few short weeks Eddie really believes Lila is the one, and decides to marry her. But while on their honeymoon down in Cabo, Eddie realizes that he's made a huge mistake, and that Lila is the bride from hell. She's immature, obsessive, an S&M lunatic in bed, has a deviated septum from a past coke problem, owes a lot of money to different people, and doesn't technically even have a real paying job. The honeymoon turns into a living hell, especially when Lila gets a huge sunburn, blames it on Eddie, and pretty much locks herself in the hotel room for a few days. But it's here that Eddie goes out and meets a vacationing girl named Miranda (Michelle Monaghan). She's down to Earth, smart, gorgeous, and everything Eddie's ever dreamed of...that Lila's not. Eddie falls in love with her after two days, and suddenly decides SHE is the one. The only problem is he has to break it off with Lila, and keep his reasons for being in Cabo a secret, if he really wants to keep her, and not let her find out he's just a total creep.
For anyone who wants to see beautiful romantic film, or just a regular chick flick, The Heartbreak Kid is not for you. This a sleazy, mean spirited, raunch-tacular movie that's not for the faint of heart. The jokes mostly center around the mean spirits, and Ben Stiller's pathetic jerk of a character. This is definitely hit or miss with some audiences, either you'll like it or you'll probably hate it. Personally I enjoyed it, but only because I like raunchy comedies. I've sat through plenty of chick flicks before, bored out of my mind usually. I liked this movie because it flips those movies by their ears. As always Ben Stiller is still one of the best guys around to play miserable, pathetic characters. This movie gives Stiller something new to do though. Since not only is his character Eddie a flat out jerk, he also becomes very creepy and obsessive over the course of the film. Chick flicks are normally very clichéd, with the male love interest usually being a nice guy. I really got a kick out of watching this movie break the common clichés, and focus instead on a self absorbed weirdo.
Most of the performances are amiable here. Malin Akerman has fun as the demented bride from hell. Her character is the biggest source of raunch in this movie, since her character does lots of gross things, and has gross things happen to her. Lila is not technically a horrible person, but she is pretty unpleasant. Although I don't completely understand Eddie's relationship with her. He dates her for six weeks and then marries her, you'd think he would have realized she drives him nuts before going on their honeymoon. But then you wouldn't have a movie. And the first scene where Eddie realizes how crazy Lila is, where she sings horribly for hours to the worst songs on the radio, is very funny. Ben Stiller's reactions are hilarious. Michelle Monaghan's character Miranda is very much like a character plucked out of a regular chick flick. She's beautiful, funny, and a generally pleasant character. But instead of being put in a chick flick where she belongs, she's in a movie where she's set up with a guy who's out to fool her. The results are pretty funny, and Miranda turns out to be this film's only set of consciences. On the side we have Jerry Stiller as Eddie's dad (small world); Rob Corddry as Eddie's best friend who supplies him terrible tips on marriage; Carlos Mencia as Tito, a Mexican hotel manager and bartender, who thinks everything's a joke; and Danny Mcbride as Miranda's over-protective cousin, who has little trust of Eddie. The side characters provide a few good laughs. Especially Danny Mcbride who has real comedic talent, and made me laugh every time his strangely over-protective character walked on screen. And Carlos Mencia actually does a pretty good job here. His show on Comedy Central is very outrageous, and sometimes it's a little too much. But his role never gets too over the top here, which was a relief.
While The Heartbreak Kid tries to break traditional chick flick clichés, that doesn't change that it's riddled with a few clichés itself. Some of the humor is a little generic of other Hollywood comedies, and some of the raunchy gags have been done before more or less. Although I've never seen characters get a giant pill stuck in their deviated septums, or get urinated on to heal a jellyfish sting. It's not exactly a great return to form for raunchy comedy for the directors The Farelly Brothers either. While a lot of the humor in the Farellys' There's Something About Mary worked, this movie is way sleazier and creepier than that movie will ever be. And that will definitely turn away plenty of audiences. Some of it was a little too much for me, and the movie's characters got kind of annoying at times. But I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a raunchy, yet kind of clichéd, comedy flick. But be warned it's not for anyone looking for a good ol' chick flick (said it about 20 times by now), people who hate raunchy comedy, ...or people with deviated septums. I give The Heartbreak Kid a 3.5 out of 5.
Pineapple Express (2008)
It's the greatest stoner comedy ever!! It has a few problems here and there but I laughed a lot.
Well over the years we've had Cheech and Chong, to the recent Harold and Kumar. These famous duos are both stoner comedy icons. And now we have a new pot smoking duo: Dale Denton and Saul Silver (Seth Rogen and James Franco). Pineapple Express begins with Dale Denton, a 25 year old pot smoking process server, who just so happens to be dating a high school girl. Saul Silver is the dim-witted pot dealer whom Dale buys weed from, and desperately wants to be friends with Dale. One day after buying rare weed from Saul, named Pineapple Express, Dale puffs a joint in front of the man's house he is about to "serve". It is here that Dale witnesses the owner of the house Ted Jones (Gary Cole), and a police officer Carol (Rosie Perez), murder an Asian man at the window. Dale speeds off after getting rid of the joint, but it turns out Ted Jones is a drug lord, and the second he finds the rare joint he immediately knows it came from Saul. Dale and Saul now band together to run away from the dealers, and realize they may not be able to trust the police either. Ted sends a band of strange hit men (Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson) to hunt down Dale and Saul. But as the pot smoking duo continue to only get in more trouble, they have no realization they're about to end up up in the middle of a drug war: Between Ted Jones' crew and the Asian drug dealers. Now with the help of Saul's friend Red (Danny Mcbride), they decide to take action with a fine arsenal of guns to boot!
Let me start off by saying that Pineapple Express is the greatest stoner comedy I've ever seen. I've seen bits and pieces of the Cheech and Chong movies. I've seen both Harold and Kumar movies, the first one was great, the sequel not so much. And although Half Baked used to be the epitome of stoner comedy for me, it was just a little too short and thin on plot to be great. Pineapple Express has a plot, characters that are very funny, good performances, classic one liners, and a great deal of entertaining action. The transition from Comedy to Action movie doesn't exactly mesh together perfectly, but it still provided laughs through its sheer preposterous goofiness. And who says a stoner comedy has to be perfect. Are stoners themselves perfect in real life? No. Walking in to see Pineapple Express expecting perfection is sudden death.
This movie could have been a misfire if it wasn't for the excellent team up of Seth Rogen and James Franco. The two characters blaze up a joint in almost every scene, and provide huge laughs through the hi-jinks they get into. They have really funny charisma together, and some of the parts depicting how blazed they are really ring true. Combine them with Danny Mcbride, and the film only got funnier because now it turns into a pot smoking trio. This may be Mcbride's breakthrough role, just like Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Mclovin) in Superbad. I thought he was very funny when he starred in The Heartbreak Kid, in fact he was one of the only things funny about that movie, and I'm glad he may finally glad recognition after this role. The first 5 minutes are set in 1937, and involve an experiment on the effects of marijuana, and the test subject just so happens to be played by Bill Hader. I won't give anything else away but it's one of the best parts of the movie. A lot of stoner comedies depend solely on the charisma of their leading characters. Pineapple Express has that and much more.
What I also liked about Pineapple Express is it's brand of humor towards pot. It takes a few chances and raises the bar on stoner comedies. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay tried to raise the bar by adding lots of gross out humor, and even a scene where the duo blaze with President Bush. That was even more preposterous than the actiony explosion-filled ending to this movie. There is a scene in Pineapple Express where Dale and Saul sell some weed to a few middle schoolers, and end up getting high with them. This scene offended plenty of people for age reasons, but amused many others including me. Maybe I'm desensitized, I don't know. Pot is the least harmful drug out there, it is even safer than alcohol...Come on admit it. Does that mean I like the idea of pre-teens toking up? No, definitely not...in real life! On screen it's funny, I can't really explain why, and feel free to call me a hypocrite. I liked that Pineapple Express took these chances, because it only made it funnier. I go on the IMDb boards for Pineapple Express, and most of what I see is people bashing the film and weed in general. You know what, if you don't like the idea of people smoking pot then why did you choose to see Pineapple Express? And as for weed in general, people have to learn to live their own life and stop complaining about what other people do.
Finally a stoner comedy that raises the bar. Pineapple Express is a fun summer comedy that, while not perfect, has a lot of laughs. I give Pineapple Express a 4.5 out of 5.
Meet Dave (2008)
Meet Dave is far better than Norbit, but still, is this really all Eddie Murphy wants to do with his talent?
Meet Dave is about a crew of miniature aliens who control a spaceship in the form of a human person (The form of Eddie Murphy). They land on Earth to search for a lost crystal object that will be used to drain the Earth's water, and save their own planet. After being hit by a car, the driver Gina Morrison (Elizabeth Banks) helps the newly named ship "Dave Ming Chang" into her apartment. It is here they discover that her son Josh (Austyn Myers) is the one who has the object they need. Soon the crew begins to learn about the human world, when Gina and her son become friends with Dave. And the more time they spend in this world, the more the crew begins to act with human emotion. Even the Captain (Also Eddie Murphy) begins to have feelings for his beautiful crew mate Number 3 (Gabrielle Union).
Eddie Murphy has really fallen off the wagon lately. He used to star in very funny movies, and he was comedy gold on Saturday Night Live. But lately he's been starring in ugly comedies like Norbit, trying to exaggerate his ability to play different characters in the same movie. Although Norbit had excellent makeup effects, it was a very rotten and mean spirited movie, and ruined any laughs it could have inspired. Eddie almost makes the same mistake here. The premise of him playing different characters is wearing awfully thin, and it's about time he just stopped. Although Meet Dave is a far better, and nicer, movie than Norbit, it's just too weird to be funny. Eddie Murphy speaks with a very astute vocabulary in Meet Dave, as do half the mini alien characters. While everyone else speaks like a normal person, which they are, Dave speaks like a nerd out of a spelling bee. It kind of alarms me that a mother would allow such a strange guy they barely even know, to spend so much time with her son. Dave's strange behavior is where a lot of the laughs in Meet Dave were supposed to come from, but it's almost never funny because the script is just so flat and tired. There are also disjointed scenes that were kind of funny, like when Dave enters a hot dog eating contest, and nonchalantly eats over 80 hot dogs without a single bite. But then there are the jokes about the crew turning more human like. One of the African American aliens begins listening to rap, and another starts to turn into a stereotypical gay fashionista. Meanwhile Eddie just kind of sits there looking bored and uninterested, sporting a fake smile for a quick buck.
The best performance in Meet Dave comes from Elizabeth Banks, whose character is very sweet. Her husband was a captain in the Army, and he died in battle leaving her to raise her son Josh. By the end I wanted something good to happen to her, but that never happens due to the very unfocused script. Nothing really happens with her son Josh either. The only side plot that really gets tied up is the relationship between the Captain and Number 3. Everyone else is left hanging making you wonder what the point of the movie was. There is even a time wasting subplot about two NYC cops, one of whom believes aliens crash landed in New York, who go looking for Dave. But they disappear for long stretches, and were just downright unnecessary. They could have been cut out leaving more time for the other characters to be fleshed out.
Meet Dave is marketed as a kid's movie, but I really don't think kids will be entertained by such oddball humor. And that's pretty obvious since this movie is a total flop at the box office. Can't Eddie Murphy just do a regular movie again? It doesn't even have to be a comedy, we've seen his recent excellent work in Dreamgirls. He has such great talent and yet he settles for the bottom of the barrel. It really is disappointing. This movie had some laughs, but it's no where near memorable or a return to form for Murphy. I give Meet Dave a 2 out of 5.
The Dark Knight (2008)
From the second I saw the Joker card in Batman Begins, I instantly knew this movie would be unforgettable. And I was right!
Comic book movies are just getting better and better aren't they? Recently we've had Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and the less recent Spider Man 2 which add depth and characters as strong as the superheros are. I'm sick of these special effects extravaganzas that ignore the human factors behind the superpowers. With some of these movies it's all about actiony explosions and cartoonish villains. These movies look pristine, but they're pretty weak at the core. Yes special effects look pretty, and they fully entertain some simplistic audiences, but I need something a little more complex. The Dark Knight does just that. Not only did it have excellent special effects and action, it had one hell of a brilliant story for a summer blockbuster.
Batman is back but not too adored by the citizens and police of Gotham. He is gaining a rep as a villainous criminal in a mask. One of the only people in law enforcement who does believe in him is Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). Behind the mask, Bruce Wayne isn't doing too well either. He really wants to help Gotham get back on solid ground, but until then he still needs to be Batman. And the longer he stays Batman the longer his love Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) distances herself from him. She is even dating the strong willed new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who believes in helping the people of Gotham and stopping the mob and crime in the city once and for all. However it is here that a new villain shows up, who starts up with armed robbery and tangles with the mob, and soon starts his own reign of absolute chaos. His name is the Joker (Heath Ledger), wearing white makeup and a carved grin on his face. Without any desire for money or fame, all he wants is to terrify people and cause chaos until the heart of Gotham cracks in half, and people start to turn on each other just like he wants. Out of control and unrestrained, the Joker only gets increasingly more dangerous and powerful, and it's up to Batman to stop him. Or Gotham is going to literally crumble.
I've been waiting for this movie since I saw the ending of Batman Begins in theaters. I remember the second the Joker Card appeared, people in the crowd started clapping with joy. And I thought to myself, oh this is gonna be good! A few years later, after lots of anticipation, I finally saw The Dark Knight in Imax about a week ago. "Good" doesn't justify this movie. "One of the best movies of the decade", and "One of the best villains of the decade" ought to do the trick! This movie contains some of the strongest performances and storytelling I've ever seen in a comic book adaptation. Christian Bale is excellent at both Bruce Wayne and Batman, although his "Bat" voice is a little over the top. However the character of Bruce Wayne gets a little undershadowed here because of the Joker, but his character is still developed well. And the ending truly breaks new ground. His character was done better in Batman Begins, but that's because it was an origin story. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman all have their captivating moments in this film. Although the Rachel Dawes character is still a little dull, Maggie Gyllenhaal is a far better actress than Katie Holmes. However the two best performances come from Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger, who truly provide the light and the darkness of this movie. Eckhart is charming and powerful as Harvey Dent, and as the infamous Two Face is nothing short of excellent, especially for his screen time. Two Face looked wonderfully gruesome, and comparing the great Tommy Lee Jones to Aaron Eckhart. Tommy boy barely even comes close, surprising right? But the real buzz of The Dark Knight comes from the late Heath Ledger, who damn well deserves a post-humus Oscar for this role.
The Joker is far more sinister and threatening here than he was in Batman 89'. First off Heath looks pretty creepy in the makeup, second off the character is just creepy in general. In Batman 89' the Joker tried to poison the streets of Gotham, and ended up failing miserably. In The Dark Knight the Joker just randomly decides to blow up a hospital, making everyone rush to the exits to barely get out in time. The Joker is very unrestrained, random, and downright twisted in his decision making. "I'm a dog chasing cars", he tells Harvey Dent, "I wouldn't know what to do if I caught one." He goes on to say that he just DOES things without any plan, because people don't panic under a plan. But with chaos "Everyone just loses their minds!" He's absolutely right, and this is what makes The Dark Knight's Joker one of the greatest movie villains in a long time. Heath Ledger plays him so well that you completely forget it's him, and even if he hadn't died I wouldn't praise his performance any less.
The Dark Knight is deeply disturbing, riveting, and chaotic experience. Your eyes feast on the visuals of Batpods, truck-flips, and "Pencil Tricks" (wink wink). While your brain is treated to powerful, mind blowing storytelling and performances. There are very few disappointments in The Dark Knight, but those few never overcome the great. The director Christopher Nolan tells his story with both breathtaking visuals, and disturbingly unforgettable emotion. I give The Dark Knight a 5 out of 5. Can you believe we graduated from Batman & Robin to this? Neither can I.
Oh how the mighty have fallen!
Well the war wages on between the human race and the insect alien race of Starship Troopers. Casper Van Dien is back as Johnny Rico, now a general in the military after 8 years on service. After a starship carrying the infamous Sky Marshal Anoke (Stephen Hogan), Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock), and a few other assorted crew members crash lands on the insect planet OM-1. It is up to Johnny and Dix Hauzer (Boris Kodjoe), Lola's love interest, and part of the Federation to keep the accident under wraps and simultaneously come to the rescue. However as the stranded crew on OM-1 try to find shelter from the giant alien insects, they begin to believe that the high holy Sky Marshal Anoke may have a trick or two up his sleeve, and may or may not be on the human side after all. Johnny must now lead a rag-tag team of troopers to retrieve the stranded crew, before the Federation sends an enormous "Q Bomb" to preposterously blow up the alien planet.
It's really about time this series came to an end. Both sequels were direct-to-video, and both had budgets that were way too low. The special effects in this movie were okay at first, but they soon turn pretty campy and begin to look like that of a bad video game. The first half hour was action packed and things were looking pretty good. The action scenes were cheerfully gory, and the shooting and explosions weren't half bad. However it's here where we realize this movie's low budget. An alien scorpion creature shows up but all we see is it's tail, which looks very fake and almost like somebody didn't learn to use animatronics properly. Also a few of the kills occur off screen or in shadow, either out of laziness or for budget reasons. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder will probably make a decent amount of money in sales and rentals, so why not give it a bigger budget. This is just disappointing to fans of Starship Troopers.
The story and characters are technically developed, but that doesn't mean I ever got interested. Jolene Blalock gives a bad performance, and the rest of the cast is either bland or downright terrible. Casper Van Dien is back as Johnny Rico but so what? He gives a flat performance with none of the enthusiasm he had in the original movie. He's basically just back as a marketing ploy so fans will give the series another chance after the apparent train wreck Starship Troopers 2. I've only seen bits and pieces of that one but it looked pretty corny, maybe because it had a joke of a budget. The plot of number 3 is filled with religious mumbo-jumbo about God, and the laughable idea of the bugs being religious fanatics (terrorists anyone?). As for the bugs themselves, they look like crappy slapped together CGI. The planet OM-1 is supposedly filled with them, but we barely see any. And the ones we do see just herd the human characters around instead of trying to kill them. When they do attack they're either shot down with bullets, or a lucky one gets to kill one of the stupid underdeveloped characters. Who cares? The movie is just stalling in order to get to the payoff at the end, which is so far from a climax it's not even funny. Actually it is kind of funny, because the ending is just an assault on the eyes and ears of religious hysteria, bad f/x, and one of the weirdest ideas imaginable even for a b-movie.
Starship Troopers 3: Marauder ought to be the finale of this series. Although it probably won't be. The studios will keep milking the franchise by handing out poor budgets for sequels, and then making money while Starship Troopers fans lie down in their beds and cry. The original was a tasty piece of cake, but this piece of cake is is moldy and expired. This series has outstayed its welcome, the only way it could have survived was with a better budget. This sequel was good for about the first 45 minutes, but once that religion kicks in it's all crap from there. I give it a 1.5 out of 5.
Starship Troopers (1997)
A first rate bloody b-movie!
In a distant future the human race is in a defensive military frenzy to defeat an insect alien race, and military service guarantees citizenship. We meet a few kids just out of school who decide to join the military. We meet Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), who is trying to win over his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards) who also joins the military. We also meet his best friend Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris). Once in military training the friends seem to have no idea what they're up against. Johnny is sent along with his troops to fight the wide-scale war against the giant alien insects on the planet Klendathu, bent on conquering and destroying the human race. Hell bent on winning the war against these disgusting bugs, all three friends continue to fight. But as mangled bodies fly, and the bugs seem to get smarter, the humans have to start finding new ways to defeat their foes. And that may mean finding the leading "Brain" of this insect race, something beyond what anyone could imagine.
Starship Troopers is a modern classic. It's action packed, gung-ho, gruesome, flashy, and definitely one of the most exciting action movies of the 1990s. There are so many awesome things in this movie that it's hard for me, and many other fans of this cult classic, to name them all. The special effects on the bugs are really well done, and the same goes to all the rest of the action. All of the different bugs looked very cool, and were constantly a menacing enemy. However I don't exactly understand how this race of giant alien insects could ever take over the human race. Sure if there were colonies of these bugs, like the ones on Klendathu, that got to Earth they could surely dominate us. But how are the bugs technically a big threat when they're on their own planet? How are they ever going to get all the way to Earth to destroy the humans without any technology? Maybe I'm just thinking way too far into it. This is an action/sci-fi movie after all. And there were far more things I enjoyed about this b-movie rather than disliked.
Now let's talk about the acting and the story, you know...the secondary parts of the movie. Casper Van Dien gives a good lead performance, actually it's probably his best performance if you count some of the crappy movies he did after this. Cough* Shark Attack *Cough. Denise Richards and Dina Meyer are both good as the two girls in a love triangle with Johnny Rico. There's almost always a little sappy romance thrown in b-movies, and some actress has to show her boobs. This is a Paul Verhoeven film after all, let's not forget that. In my opinion the best three performances here come from Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey, and Michael Ironside. Jake Busey kicks butt and takes names, Michael Ironside gives a particularly strong performance. And Neil Patrick Harris, well, Neil Patrick Harris is just awesome in all his movies and shows. People are starting to notice him even more nowadays by casting him in the Harold and Kumar series. For an action movie the performances were pretty good in Starship Troopers.
The alien insects were awesome, the action was cool, the performances were dead on, and the basic story just worked. Starship Troopers is a really good action movie that has it's share of shooting, blood, gore, brain-eating, and severed body parts that only make it more memorable. One thing I also forgot to mention is all the hilarious propaganda used in the story. Propaganda encouraging people, even little kids, to join the army and die a painful death in order to protect the human race. This shows that a movie doesn't have to take itself so seriously all the time, it just has to be fun. That's exactly what Starship Troopers is. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Iron Man (2008)
Marvel is doing a damn fine job with putting their infamous comic book heroes on screen. Iron Man is definitely one of them!
Iron Man is the most recent Marvel comic book superhero movie. It stars Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, a genius weapons engineer who lives a life of fame and fortune. While in Afghanistan demonstrating his latest destructive bio-weapon, he is violently captured by terrorists. He wakes up in a cave within the mountains, and immediately the terrorists demand that he build them his new weapon. It is then that he realizes that his weapons are being used by not only the military, but terrorists as well. As weeks go by, instead of building a missile, Tony Stark builds an armor suit equipped with weapons. He escapes using the suit, destroys the camp, and is soon rescued by his friend Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard), and brought back home. As soon as he's home, Tony decides that his industry will no longer make weapons. And he begins to work on a new, flashier red/gold version of his suit, and a more flyable one at that. Tony Stark realizes that he should protect the people he's put in harm's way, and does just that with his new suit under the name Iron Man. However a new foe faces Tony in his own business partner Obadiah Stone (Jeff Bridges). After Obadiah receives the blueprints for Tony's original suit, he builds his own, one that is not on the "good guy" side.
Let me start off saying this is an excellent superhero movie. Robert Downey Jr really brings the main character to life, and even adds lots of wit and humor. That's pretty important because if the wrong actor is hired for the part of an infamous superhero, you can bet that will cause some problems (Fantastic Four for instance). Although Jeff Bridges gets a nice amount of screen time, his iron-suited villain unfortunately does not. But for the time he was shown, he was a very menacing and dangerous villain, and makes me wonder what the next villain is going to be. Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the rest of the cast also bring a lot of heart to the film. That's another ingredient that's important in a superhero movie. If it's all just special effects and none of the heart the original character had, then comic book fans may be pretty disappointed. But Marvel Comics, now its own movie company, has done a pretty good job of maintaining excellence in their movies. That list includes Spider Man 1 and 2, X Men, The Punisher, Hulk. Now Iron Man can be added to that list as well.
Iron Man is the jump start to the summer blockbuster season. The movie is filled with brilliant special effects, visuals, and lots of things that blow up! Just the right dosage of what everyone wants in a summer blockbuster. The action scenes were masterfully crafted and edited, and really bring a lot of justice to the original Iron Man comics. Anyone whose seen the commercials for this movie has seen a tank fire a shot at Iron Man, he stops, looks back, and fires an arm missile right back at the enemy tank. As Iron Man slowly walks away the tank explodes, and the thought pops up in our heads: This Movie is Awesome! Everything works to great effect in Iron Man whether it be the action, script, characters, actors, or the special effects. It may not be the best superhero movie ever, but who said it had to be. I give Iron Man a good 4.5/5. P.S. Stay after the credits Samuel L. Jackson shows up!
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Alien Resurrection is completely different from the first three movies, and I mean that in a bad way.
200 years after Ripley's suicidal death in Alien 3, she is back in Alien Resurrection. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has successfully been cloned, after 7 clones gone wrong, with the alien queen inside her by scientists (Brad Dourif, J.E. Freeman) on the ship Auriga. Ripley has alien DNA in her blood and seems to take on a few alien characteristics. The ship researches the queen and uses her eggs to facehug kidnapped people, for the purpose of studying the aliens that pop out of them. Soon a group of smugglers led by the tough Elgin (Michael Wincott), Johner (Ron Perlman), Call (Winona Ryder), and two or three others, board the Auriga to collect owed money. However the aliens soon escape and run rampant all over the ship, just as the smugglers begin pulling guns on the crew. Almost everyone on the ship has been killed by the aliens. And when the smugglers find out the ship is automatically headed back to Earth, they band together with Ripley, a scientist, soldier, and a man who has an alien in his chest. They have to find a way to stop the ship before it lands on Earth, and the aliens infest home planet.
Alien and Aliens are sci-fi horror classics. Alien 3 is much less favored, but it's still one of my favorites. However I can't deny that Alien 3 is way better than the awful 4th Alien Resurrection. Even the new Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is better than this movie. Alien Resurrection contains dangerously low character development, mostly bad acting, a terrible script, and a completely different style from the first three films. The first three Aliens were very dimly lit to the point where it was hard to see the whole creature. That effect really added to their mystique. However Alien Resurrection leaves leaves nothing to be wondered about, since it is disappointingly brightly lit up. The bright atmosphere felt all wrong because the aliens don't really belong in the light, they belong in the dark. We can see the whole entire alien in their slimy brilliance, and there are actually a few good scenes with them. The scene where they escape from their containment by killing one of their own, and letting his blood burn through the floor creating an exit. This is one hell of a scene and most definitely the best part of the whole movie. It shows that the aliens may seem like mindless killers, but they are actually kind of intelligent. Other than the terrible CGI action scenes (where the aliens seem out of place), the aliens actually look great. In fact the close-up shots of them are fantastic, and really make them look hugely threatening and creepy. But then we get extremely Hollywood-style action scenes such as when the aliens attack underwater. It's scenes like this one that even further ruined the movie and the creatures.
Once you get past the great looking aliens, you realize how stupid and shallow the whole movie really is. The band of smugglers are basically one-dimensional (save for Winona Ryder), as are the scientists, soldiers, and pretty much everyone else who shows up on screen. The acting is poor but what can you expect, the actors were given terrible material to work with. Upsettingly Sigourney Weaver is not good in this movie either, but then again she is just like the rest of the actors, her dialogue and character are awful. I think it was really stupid to bring her back into the series. She killed herself...that should have been final enough! They could have done an Alien movie without Ripley, but I guess since Weaver decided to come back the filmmakers just said "Let's find the most preposterous way to bring back Ripley from her suicidal grave. I got an idea, she can be an alien/human clone with no personality. Alright high fives all around!" These terrible human characters are housed by an absurd, shoddy plot that makes absolutely no sense. Ripley apparently has alien features within her, but this is barely mentioned or played on till the end. There is also a side-plot that the scientists are breeding aliens through kidnapped civilians, but it's really only mentioned once or twice. These extra little side-plots don't really matter to the story once the crappy action cranks up. It doesn't even make sense how all the aliens got loose. We only see two aliens escape their cell, but how do ten more get out? This is an enormous plot hole that made me laugh at how stupid the writers must be. There is another scene that also makes zero sense, and that is when the characters swim away from an alien underwater. They break through a cocoon covering an opening to the surface, and when they get through they realize they are surrounded by eggs hatching facehuggers. One of them yells "They set a trap! It's an ambush!". We find out at the end that the queen never moved from her cell, and if that's so then how the hell did all those hundreds of eggs get there for this "ambush". And even if this was plausible, which it's not, why would the aliens need to put all those eggs there? They already wiped out pretty much the whole ship's crew.
Alien Resurrection is a pretty awful film. Its story, characters, and even its action are all extremely shallow. Just about every single element in this third sequel barely makes any comprehensible sense. The only good thing were the close-ups of the aliens, they looked very good here. But everything else about them felt misplaced in this action flick. And don't even get me started on the whole newborn plot at the end. That was just painful to look at and think of. I give Alien Resurrection a 1 out of 4, just ignore it and go watch the first three.
Child's Play 2 (1990)
Child's Play 2 is more disturbing and laughable than scary, and that's no good.
(Almost) Every horror movie has its degrading sequels, and Child's Play is no different. Well what can I say, if you've seen the original movie you probably realize what this sequel is about. Chucky the killer doll, with the inhabited soul of a madman, is back again! And he's angrier, and more sadistic, and wielding more corny one-liners than ever. All Chucky fans remember that he was burnt to a toasty crisp in the first movie. However in order to dispel rumors that Chucky ever came to life, the business that makes the Good-Guy Dolls decides to preposterously rebuild him, and show the public nothing is wrong with the doll. When they do this, Chucky comes back to life and sets out to find Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent). The kid he needs to voodoo in order to come back to life as a human. Chucky finds Andy in the hands of his new foster parents Phil (Gerrit Graham) and Joann (Jenny Agutter), and a stepsister Kyle (Christine Elise). Andy realizes that Chucky is after him, but as always nobody believes the youngster. Until the crazy, psychotic doll begins running out of time to turn human again, and sadistically murders anyone in his way of Andy.
First things first, the original Child's Play is a campy classic, Child's Play 2 is not. Whereas the original had a way of composing itself with fine suspense and acting, which helped shut out the corniness of its doll-come-to-life plot. This utterly puke-inducing sequel has no way to take itself seriously at all. It happens in a lot of horror films with a lead slasher. Freddy Kruegger fell victim to crappy one-liners, Jason Voorhees turned out to be a frady-cat loser as a kid (Freddy Vs. Jason), and even Michael Myers got his butt kicked by Busta Rhymes. The only slightly creepy thing about Child's Play 2 is the ending, which takes place in the Good-Guys Doll Factory. But that can't save this ludicrously over-the-top slasher sequel. The acting is mild, the script only gets creative with the kills, and even the kills are more unsettling than scary.
The few parts where Chucky kills somebody go too far over the top, to the point where you almost (or may) laugh at them. While they were a bit creative, I was repulsed by them in every imaginable way. There is a random, grotesque kill where Chucky pushes an innocent man onto a conveyor belt, and he is killed when doll eyes are punched into his face. It's scenes like this that, while creepy, really cross the line. Horror fans may enjoy a movie with nasty kills. But for me there has to be something to back it up, or it's just a senseless kill. I think it's absolutely disgusting how Hollywood glorifies murder on screen nowadays. It's only gotten progressively worse over the years after Child's Play 2. This review is being written in 2008, and the theaters are filled with Saw, Hostel, and more torture, torture, torture! I don't understand why people are so intrigued by gore. What fascinates audiences so much with it that it makes big money in ticket sales? A person gets killed on screen and there's no tragedy, but yet everyone gets upset and mourns when someone dies in real life. There's a word for that and it's called "Hypocrite".
Child's Play 2 is an awful horror film. The poster art is scarier than the movie itself. Chucky did not deserve to have a horror series because in my opinion he's one of the worst horror icons since the evil killer Leprechaun. However I do have to give it points for its eery, creepy "playtime" atmosphere (such as the doll factory scene). I give Child's Play 2 a 1 out of 4. It's a gruesome 84 minutes, and for me it was too inhumane and it just wasn't worth it. Child's Play 2 was followed by 3 more sequels...Oh brother!
The Brave One (2007)
This movie is well acted and good looking, but it's completely immoral.
The Brave One is about a New York radio show host named Erica Bain (Jodie Foster). Her life is a dream living in the city she grew up in and loves. She has her great fiancé David (Naveen Andrews), whom she is planning to marry. But one night while Erica and David are out walking their dog, they are attacked and mugged by a group of degenerates, leaving David dead. Erica recovers but is heartbroken and traumatized later on, and can barely cope with real life anymore. She buys a gun off a guy on the streets for protection. But one day she's shopping in a store, and a man comes in and shoots the clerk dead. It is then that Erica shoots and kills this man, and she becomes a vigilante. Killing anyone who tries to threaten or harm her or any others. At the same time Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) is tracking down this elusive unknown killer, and in the process becomes friends with Erica. Erica begins to regain her sanity as she kills these violent people, but is unsure of whether or not what she's doing is morally right. And as her and Mercer become closer, he doesn't even realize the unknown murderous assailant is right next to him.
Jodie Foster gives a very good performance in The Brave One. She portrays this type of violent, morally corrupted character brilliantly. Terrence Howard is also great in this movie. Both have excellent chemistry together, and strengthen the film to a certain level. The Brave One looks visually pristine, and conveys some brilliant camera work, but not all of it works to a great effect. The scenes where Erica is absolutely traumatized and afraid to walk out her front door to face the world. The camera swayed back and forth to the sides in an almost dream-like way, and really captured the moment with essence. Whereas almost every time Erica killed somebody, everything just had to go slo-mo and show her facial expressions in fine detail. The slo-mo was properly used when Erica committed her first murder. But why keep doing this effect almost every time she committed murder? The camera work creates a great atmosphere in most of the film, but there a few scenes here that are just plain overkill.
The Brave One is very much about how these murders affect Erica emotionally. Her fiancé is killed by a group of thugs, and suddenly her love of New York City is turned upside down. She realizes that there is a dark side to the beloved city, and she says so on her radio show. I don't completely understand this though. Erica acts as if she never realized that violence can occur at night in the city, and that's pretty stupid. If she lived there all her life she must be either blind or very oblivious. Erica also seems to be a glutton for inhumane, murderous people. She really doesn't even have to go look for them, they just to come to her as if they're begging to be shot dead for their wrong-doing. The Brave One deals with the morals and proper use of violence strongly at first, and then suddenly it glorifies it. The ending is very negative, and completely immoral and inhumane. It also negates the purpose of Terrence Howard's character, which the movie spends so much time trying to evenly develop, and suddenly his morals take a U-turn. The morals in The Brave One become very fractured, and just plain shatter all over the place by the end. So violence is okay? It's a good thing to commit murder as long as it's for vengeance? I pretty much refuse to believe that. You know why? Because I have a conscience, which this film surely lacks. It is not right to take the life of another person, no matter how bad they are, or how much you hate them. Erica Bain sets out to stop these evil-doers, but in the end she is no better than the horrible people she kills.
Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard provide a lot of strength for this movie. The Brave One contains a strong message, but that message is both immoral and wrong. This movie may look pretty, well acted, and intelligently strong. But it becomes pretty rotten by the end. I give The Brave One a 1.5 out of 4. The message is very out of line and morally incorrect, and really can't be saved by the good acting.
Aliens vs. predator: Requiem is a B-movie guilty pleasure. But it really doesn't do the two titled legendary creature-features much justice.
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is the second installment of the new AVP franchise. The story takes off exactly where the last movie left us. The predators are leaving Earth on their ship, when suddenly a new hybrid breed of Predalien bursts out of a dead predator's chest. The predalien proceeds to kill all the predators on board, and the ship ends up taking a U-turn, and crashes in the large woods of small town Gunnison, Colorado. The facehuggers break out and lay baby aliens in a father and son hunting near the ill-fated ship, and their chests burst open and thus starts the alien infestation. A lone predator warrior is sent to Gunnison in order to stop the aliens, and wipe clean the details that the aliens were ever there in the first place. Meanwhile we meet a few characters which include an ex-con named Dallas (Steven Pasquale); his pizza boy brother Ricky (Johnny Lewis); the girl Ricky has a crush on named Jesse (Kristen Hager) the town Sheriff Eddie Morales (John Ortiz); and returned Iraq war veteran Kelly (Reiko Aylesworth). They all have to band together in one dark, rainy night in order to survive. As the aliens are led by the predalien, and multiply in huge numbers, as the lone predator hunts them down and kills them.
2004's Alien Vs. Predator was a horrible movie, full of stupid characters, and a lot of CGI overkill. And of course it was rated PG-13 which ruined the violence and battle scenes, and disgracing the Alien and Predator name. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is really not a very good movie either, but it's far more enjoyable than the first AVP. The characters here are very cardboard, but you know what if the title has the words Aliens, Predator, and a "Vs." sign in the middle, I fully realize that's what the movie's going to be about. The actors are adequate enough here I guess, and a few of the characters actually stand a chance in the end. Unlike the first AVP where 3 quarters of the characters were killed in ten minutes. The character Dallas is obviously a heyday back to the original Alien, and the presence of the Irag war vet Kelly is supposed to resemble Ripley. She's no Ellen Ripley of course, but at least the film knows that. As for the other characters, I think it was a big mistake to make one of the main characters a pizza boy. And also why have a teenage romance going on in this movie? These characters and side plots don't belong anywhere near this type of movie. We apparently go from a space military (Aliens), to a war in the jungle (Predator), predator kicking drug dealer booty in LA (Predator 2), to a pizza boy's crush on the cute girl from school? I think you get the picture.
Now for the action, the part you go to see this type of movie for. I'll tell you that the action is actually pretty intense. But it can get pretty underwhelming and disappointing at times. The editing in this movie is really bad because during the action scenes it cuts too quickly, and the camera moves around too much to the point where you barely get a clear image. At one point during a scene involving the predator killing some cop in the woods, I thought somebody dropped the camera. And I thought Cloverfield's camera angles were all over the place? Another huge problem with this movie is the lighting and cinematography. I'm not sure if the budget was so low that the Brothers Strause (directors) could only afford paper matches. But maybe the costumes would look too cheesy if exposed in full light. The directors reverted back to the original film-making style of these two alien and predator sagas. Instead of using a lot of CGI, they actually used robotics and suits for most of the action scenes. They probably used the rain and minimal lighting so that you wouldn't be able to see the zippers (Haha). Other than the lighting and editing problems, there's not as much predator-alien mash ups going on in this 93 minute film. But when the battles do occur, they're pretty intense and cool. The fact that this movie has an R rating also improves the action greatly in comparison to the first movie.
However I don't understand why there's only one predator. The predators are developed as smart, intellectual hunters in their two films. But here they're not even smart enough to send more than one. This warrior predator has a few cool new gadgets and trickery, but without more predators around the movie felt a little hollow. We only really see predators die in the first scene, and sadly that's really not enough. Also the predalien seems to be very evolved. He pops out of the predator's stomach, and in what seems to be minutes he is full size. She can also lay multiple babies within people without use of facehuggers. I just wish the predalien was explained a little more, and that the directors did a little more with the concept.
Overall Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem is definitely a B-movie. The budget didn't seem to be as high as the first movie, but the use of actual animatronics is a lot cooler than AVP's CGI. This movie is a little underwhelming, and isn't completely satisfying. But the action is intensely cool, despite the bad editing and lighting, and the short running time. I give Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem a 2.5 out of 4. It's much better than the first, mostly due to the use of an R rating and mechanics instead of flashy F/X.
Drillbit Taylor (2008)
Drillbit Taylor is too sour and mean spirited to be heartwarming, and rest of the movie is dull and undercooked.
Drillbit Taylor is the newest addition to the collection of Judd Apatow comedies. Although this time around he only produced, and the movie is watered down to a PG-13 instead of his usual raunchy R rating. The movie is about two nerdy young kids Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile) who just started high school. But on just their first day they begin getting picked on by the school bully Filkins (Alex Frost), and his little-to-no-dialogue crony Ronnie (Josh Peck). The bullies becoming increasingly threatening, and it only gets worse when the biggest nerd in the school Emmitt (David Dorfman) starts hanging around them. The constant bullying gets to the point where the kids decide to hire a bodyguard who calls himself Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson). Drillbit tells them that he was trained by the military and is an expert fighter, but in reality he is just a lazy, lying homeless man, and proceeds to loot their homes. But the boys gullibly believe in him anyway, and as Drillbit teaches them some martial arts and defense moves, some right out of action movies, he really starts to like them. But eventually Drillbit has to face the truth behind his lies, and the boys have to face their fears and stop the bullies themselves.
Judd Apatow and his crew's comedies have really been on a roll lately. Recently we've received the hilarious Knocked Up, Superbad, the 40 Year Old Virgin, and Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story. All of them received a good R rating for their raunchy, and often foul mouthed, dialogue and humor. But along comes Drillbit Taylor with its watered down PG-13 humor. Let me start off saying this, Judd Apatow should really stick to the R rated comedies, and if he really wants to produce a PG-13, at least produce one that is actually funny. That just goes to say that Drillbit Taylor tries to be funny, but the whole bullied kids story has been done so many times that there's not much here to laugh at. But hey does anyone remember a guy named John Hughes? The man who had his name written all over excellent teen comedies from the 1980s, like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and the classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Well John Hughes helped put together this story, but in my own opinion he should never have graced his name on such garbage.
Drillbit Taylor is not only unfunny, but also incredibly mean spirited and cynical. The jokes in this movie are few but when they do happen to arrive, they're far too soft and easygoing. Nate Hartley and Troy Gentile however are a completely welcome presence, and both are very good and charming in this movie. They were essentially the only good part of the movie. Whereas the third actor David Dorfman is awful as an annoying, jabbering loser who really doesn't even become a character. He just sits around and acts like Raymond from Rain Man, only this kid acts like he just did crack and had one too many Red Bulls. Owen Wilson gives it his all as Drillbit, but the character is just not made to be funny. The scenes where he teaches the boys self defense, loots their homes, flirts with their teacher, and most other things he does didn't make me laugh. Drillbit and his homeless friends even preposterously pose as substitute teachers at the boys' school, because it seems as long as they have coffee cups in their hands, all the teachers are oblivious to them. Drillbit hits on the teacher Lisa (Leslie Mann), but she is so flat and one dimensional it's not even remotely funny. Leslie Mann is a great actress and she is wasted here because her character is stupid, barely gets screen time, and is completely pointless to the story.
The bullies in this movie, which the plot of Drillbit Taylor is centered around, are not just bullies, but sadists as well. Alex Frost played a school shooter in Gus Van Sant's movie Elephant, and it almost seems like he's the same character here. As the lead bully Filkins is more of a teenage psychopath, and whenever he's on screen I was reminded of Columbine. Josh Peck only has a few words of dialogue in the movie. Josh Peck is also very talented and deserved better. The bullies in Drillbit Taylor try to run over the kids at high speed with their car, driving over lawns and mailboxes and anything, and in one fight scene Filkins picks up a long metal lamp and starts swinging it violently at Wade. He also says he gets off on their misery and that he likes watching kids like them suffer. But when he's brought to the principal's office he acts like a goody-two-shoes, and gets off Scot-free. I began to wonder if the teachers and administrators were blind. The tone and message of Drillbit Taylor are way off, because at first it's about self defense, then suddenly it's anti-violent, and then for the end it's brutally, sadistically violent. In the end Drillbit Taylor taught me violence is okay as long as it's brutal; you don't get in trouble for bullying; and that as a bully you naturally crave the pain and misery of others.
Everyone here tries their hardest but Drillbit Taylor is just not funny. It's message and extreme violence is disheartening, and for a movie that's PG-13 this film sure is nasty. I give Drillbit Taylor a 1 out of 4. I don't recommend it to anyone really, especially kids.
Hostel: Part II (2007)
The atrocious Hostel: Part II is essentially just a rehash of the original, only with women and new death scenes.
Hostel: Part II involves three young women named Beth (Lauren German), Whitney (Bijou Phillips), and the nerdy Lorna (Heather Matarazzo). They are all studying art abroad when they meet a beautiful woman named Axelle (Vera Jordanova), who leads them to Slovakia for a few fun parties. As the three girls are slowly lured in, Lorna goes missing. As they worry over their new acquaintance, we meet two middle aged men named Stuart (Roger Bart) and Todd (Richard Burgi). These two men pay thousands of dollars to the torture facility from the original Hostel, and then proceed to bid on Whitney and Beth against a bunch of other sick-minded people, but the both of them turn out victorious. When Beth and Whitney realize that Axelle has double crossed them, it is already too late. They are both captured and sent to the torture chambers to await Stuart and Todd's arrival. But as the two psychotic men get ready to carry out their vile fantasies, they each begin to have doubts on whether or not they actually really want to do it. But this change of heart angers the people who run the facility, because after all a deal is a deal.
As I was watching Hostel: Part II I was actually rather interested in it. The film is very well made with lush production values, and the exquisite locations are excellent as always. But as the sequel dragged on and on I began to realize that everything I'm seeing in Hostel: Part 2 is really just a rehash of the original. Here's what I noticed: Instead of three guys, it's three girls; low character development; a shady person lures them in to Slovakia and the torture facility (ala the dutch businessman from the original); all are killed except for one character, who then has to fight for her survival. Except for the story about the two rich men who pay to torture, there's really nothing new here. The three young women were basic horror movie clichés, as in one is a drunken slut, one is actually intelligent, and the other is a nerd who the other girls despise and make fun of (I'm talking about Lorna). However I actually liked Lorna the best out of the three girls, and it was a shame she had to go first, just like Oli from the first Hostel (Even though he was annoying). The other two girls were just snobby, selfish, and irritating. Lauren German did a fine job here as Beth, it's just that the story gives her nothing good to work with. This movie should have focused completely on Stuart and Todd, who were both not well characterized in the first place, but were very well acted. But they were actually intriguing characters, and Hostel: Part II would have benefited from focusing on the mentality of the villains instead of rehashing the original. The two of them were good up until Stuart's character change in the end, which went way over the top and kind of ludicrous.
As for the gore levels Hostel: Part II is far gorier than the first Hostel. There is a scene where a woman lies in a bathtub as she kills someone hanging above her, letting the blood fall all over her so she could bathe in it. Although I must admit this scene was gruesomely creative, it is also completely over the top and to me, for some reason, it does not exactly fit the mood of the story. It makes the movie into too much of a gore fest, and ruined the spirit of the original. There is another scene where Whitney is tied to a chair in what seems to a beauty salon within the facility, and she is pampered by a psychotic employee. I can't put my finger on a name, but this scene definitely rips off countless other horror movie sequences just like it. There is even a scene where a man points a gun at a bunch of mean spirited kids' faces, then he proceeds to shoot a 7 or 8 year old in the head. The mean spirits of this scene are just unbearable, I don't care how rotten the little kids were.
Hostel was intelligently creepy because of the way the torture scenes were shot and written, and because it had a few really classic suspenseful scenes. Whereas Hostel: Part II feels more like karaoke, as if the director Eli Roth is trying to retread the first movie's plot, but bringing a few new elements to the table as well. However this sequel turns out to be more into the torture than the plot, and actually sinks to the very bottom of torture porn. The torture was not at all intriguing like in the first, but more grueling and disgusting than anything. Also the ending, while clever, really only made me hate the Lauren German's character Beth even more. I won't give it away but in the end she is no better than the people that run the facility, or the people that kill there. The final of course had to complete the rehashing of the the original Hostel, revealing just how uncreative and unintelligent this sequel really is.
Hostel: Part II is ridiculously awful. It fails to do anything but rehash the original's plot, and it does so with little to no taste or any biting suspense. The characters are poorly developed and the story is undercooked. This sequel could have been good, but ultimately fails miserably. I give Hostel: Part II a 1 out of 4. Go watch Hostel instead because at least that movie was original, this is just a depressing little retread. And I hope Eli Rioth gets back on course because he has the budget to make great horror movies, and I don't want to see him sink into generic torture porn.