Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) Dir. by David Fincher

This English-language adaptation of the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson follows a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), as he investigates the disappearance of a wealthy patriarch's niece from 40 years ago. He is aided by the pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). As they work together in the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander uncover immense corruption beyond anything they have ever imagined. Written by Anonymous on

If you are not familiar with the works of David Fincher by now, then there is a chance you should probably be beaten. Aside from probably the worst Alien sequel ever, he has built quite a resume of intense, and sometimes mind boggling films. This includes last years Oscar stomping film The Social Network, but also includes some other greats like Zodiac, Panic Room, Fight Club, The Game, and Se7en. The man makes some super intense films, and I absolutely love it. I always look forward to seeing his work, and now that he seems to be teamed up regularly with my favorite musical phenom Trent Reznor, it only makes me want to see his movies more.

The casting job is about as spot on as I have seen in a long time. Daniel Craig plays the curious and sometimes submissive Blomkvist like he lifted it from the pages of the novel. The always amazing Christopher Plummer portrays Henrik beautifully as a man crushed by his own family and determined to solve a 40 year old murder mystery. I don't think there is ever a doubt that Stellan Skarsgård plays whatever he is told to with excellence, just as he does here. The rest of the supporting cast does just an absolutely amazing job. Now that brings me to the one last person I really want to talk about, and I'm going to start a whole new paragraph for her just because she deserves it.

Rooney Fucking Mara just blew my mind away. I even forgot who she was after the film was done. Now I remember making fun of her after watching Nightmare on Elm Street. Her acting was horrible, but now looking back that was probably the director's fault and not hers. She was forgettable in The Social Network and Youth in Revolt. I barely remember her in either of those films, and it doesn't fricking matter. If she doesn't take Best Actress at the Oscars this year then I have lost all hope for film. She took the character of Lisbeth Salander and ripped it out of the frickin book and portrayed it on the screen in probably the best book to film adaption of a character I have ever seen. I left the theater last evening just amazing and I can't stop thinking about it. She bared it all emotionally and physically to bring this character to life. All of the piercings she has in the film, she really got in real life just to help understand her character. She does such an amazing job playing a troubled woman, beaten down by life, and still managing to survive because of her inner strength. After being brutally raped, instead of taking it as it is and remaining shattered she rises from the ashes to exact her revenge in such a beautiful fashion. The rape scene is graphic just as it should be, but you feel her pain as you are watching it. You are rooting for her to do something about it, and not to just take it. You can tell she is troubled when she seems to use sex as a way to escape her surroundings, and takes comfort in finding a new friend in Blomkvist. I don't know that I have ever seen a person act as well as I saw Rooney Mara do in the theater last night. Just pure beauty and pain wrapped up in the same person. I recommend watching it just alone to see her performance.

Since I am well aware of the story through the books and previous movies, it was not a surprise to me to see the film move at such a slow and steady pace. It picks up at all the right times, and drops down when it needs to. The editing is flawless and brilliantly linked between screen and score. It was such a unique score that it could be construed as overwhelming at times, but I thought it really matched the emotional foreground of the film. It helped make the two hours and forty-five minutes fly by, and kept me super involved in the film. The way Fincher chooses to reveal the contents of the story is a thing of beauty in itself, as he lets the viewer only know as much as the characters at all times, and slowly brings everyone up to speed, slowly building to a big dramatic finish, while cleverly setting up the film naturally for a sequel. I recommend this movie to everyone, and it will be on my DVD buy list when it finally comes out. I look for this to at least get nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (which she damn well better win), and Best Score.

Entertainment Value: 10/10 Forty Year Old Parade Photos
Cinematic Value: 10/10 Forty Year Old Parade Photos

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trollhunter (2010)

Trollhunter (2010) Dir. by Andre Ovredal

A group of students investigates a series of mysterious bear killings, but learns that there are much more dangerous things going on. They start to follow a mysterious hunter, learning that he is actually a troll hunter.

I can't honestly tell you what I was expecting going in to this viewing of Trollhunter. I had never heard of Ovredal before, but this film has definitely got the buzz over the past year or so. I tried to go in with a wide open mind. This makes the third found footage film I have seen in the last week or so and I have been disappointed the first two times. I guess this helped me go in to the film with low expectations.

I absolutely love films with a small cast. I think it is perfect when there is s small amount of characters to really focus on, rather than a large group. I say this now, but it is only really true when we are allowed to really develop with the characters themselves. One quiet and smart camera man, one scared yet oddly aroused mic girl, one fearless documentary leader, and one mysterious yet rugged and manly trollhunter... with a beard. Yes... the beard is essential to the film. Yes everyone just sort of falls in to their respective places, but it really makes the film work this way.

Ovredal has managed to create a real gem of a film here, and on little to no money. This is a prime example of how to make a film for $3,000,000. The troll effects are fantasy like, yet scary at the same time. The differences in the troll types is great, and only makes the experience that much better by explaining the different types of trolls, and given them backgrounds as well, rather than just the mysterious creatures of the night. I thought this made for a rather respectable film that relies on your senses of sight and sound even more so than a jumpy horror flick. It is just beautifully shot, and perfectly executed. Everything from the lighting and sound was done amazing. The only thing I can really say negative about the film is the ending. I understand why the ending is there, but it felt rushed, and I'm not so sure I was ready for that moment to be the time for the film to end. I think I wanted more, and I wanted to know what happened next. I guess I will just have to wait and see if the American remake in 2014 expands on it at all. Otherwise everyone should check this flick out. Good Fun!

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Christians Screwing Shit Up (movie reference)
Cinematic Value: 8/10 Christians Screwing shit Up (movie reference)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Apollo 18 (2011) - Quick Review

Apollo 18 (2011) Dir. Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego

Decades-old found footage from NASA's abandoned Apollo 18 mission, where two American astronauts were sent on a secret expedition, reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.

Gallego took a big swing and a miss on this one. With such an amazing film as Nomadas under his belt, I thought it would be interesting to see his American debut, so to speak, but I was way off. I was so pumped to see this film. Man it upsets me to say the things I'm going to say.

I feel like someone just did a big ol glass bottom boat to my face. The characters are more annoying than anything, offering up no characterization to help me feel for any of the characters. Yes... I get it... it is a found footage movie. I can think of several other found footage films that are brilliant. Paranormal Activity = brilliant... Cloverfield = brilliant... [REC] = brilliant... Trollhunter = brilliant and I could probably think of one or two more, but Apollo 18 is not on that list. The first half of this film made the first half of Blair Witch Project look riveting.


One last warning... there is a spoiler below this line.

I was so pumped for the idea of rock spiders on the moon. It sounds like something out of a Roger Corman SyFy original film! I am all about that. It isn't even the creatures that ruin this film. It is trying to stay involved in the movie when half the time you can't see a damn thing. Yes... I get it... you were going for a realistic approach to a found footage film. Everyone that goes in to the movie knows it isn't a true story before they get there. We have all seen Warren in SyFy's Alphas, or if you haven't you should... Great show. The movie did look like it was made in the 70's and I respected that from a filmmakers point of view, but I would have liked to see some higher production value come out of the $5 million budget. Gareth Edwards made a masterpiece on less than 1 million. Duncan Jones made what should have been an Oscar winning film with Oscar winning performances for $5,000,000. This is what you came up with Gallego? Just atrocious. The creatures were underused, didn't look very good. The acting was bad, but not the worst part of the film. It was so hard to see what was going on half the time.

Ok, now that I have ripped the film a new one... there were some really good things the film had going for it. Make-up effects were done really well. I was super impressed by those. The flashing camera light in the dark crater idea was brilliant, and I'm glad they utilized it more than once. The flashes were a little quick, but it was enough to get the job done. This movie was just bad... boring and bad, and I can't believe I was talked in to seeing it, although I do give every film a fair chance until I have seen it. Now I need to go watch Rubber to end my night on a good note. Rock Spiders on the moon should be redone right. I'm still holding out for Sandworms on Venus though.

Entertainment Value: 3/10 Empty Russian Vessels
Cinematic Value: 4/10 Empty Russian Vessels

The Reef (2010)

The Reef (2010) Dir. by Andrew Traucki

Luke welcomes his friend Matt and his girlfriend Suzie that come from London and Matt's sister and Luke's former girlfriend Kate that comes from Sydney to sail with him and the sailor Warren in a sailboat. However, the vessel hits an underwater rock and capsizes with an opening on her bottom. Luke advises that they should swim in the north direction to reach the Turtle Island, in Queensland, Australia, while they have strength since there is a current moving the boat in the opposite direction of land but Warren prefers to stay on the hull waiting for help since there are sharks in the water. The quartet swims, but they are hunted by a great white shark. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on

If you are not familiar with Traucki, go watch the movie Black Water. The guy is relatively new to the whole filmmaker scene but he is surely making an impact quickly. I look forward for him to start to branch out a bit in what he does, but he has the "Based on True Events" down to a science. There is something about the way he makes these movies that it does manage to keep you fairly engaged.

I can't really say much about the acting, other than there isn't much of it, and there doesn't have to be. I mean, for the most part the characters are stuck in the middle of the ocean and there isn't a lot to be said. The men do manly things, and the girls yell, whine and scream a lot. It is pretty annoying at times. During the beginning, and some of the down moments in the film Traucki does manage to do what he does best, and that is get you to feel for the characters and relate to them. I think this ability is what makes his films as affective as they are.

There are a lot of things that are really great about The Reef. The camera work, for instance, is really creative and manages to balance on a thin line between shaky cam and Hollywood mainstream. The camera (and the story itself) always gives the perspective of the people, and nothing more. It is actually perfectly done, as you always know nothing more than the characters. This is one of the reasons the tension is so easy to build. The shark itself is never mulled down by crappy CGI effects, and this I loved very much. There was something about seeing a realistic dorsal fin floating along the horizon in the distance that really gave me goosebumps. I'm pretty sure I saw moments where I could tell the people and the shark were filmed at separate times, but it was a tough catch. The pacing of the film came to get to me after a while, but thank goodness the film is so short that it didn't really matter. All I can say is that it is ten times better than Open Water, which I didn't care for at all. It was nice to see something done right for a change, although it was still no Jaws or Orca.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Big fish nibbling at your toes
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Big fish nibbling at your toes

Friday, December 16, 2011

Super (2010)

Super (2010) Dir. by James Gunn

After his wife falls under the influence of a drug dealer, an everyday guy transforms himself into Crimson Bolt, a superhero with the best intentions, though he lacks for heroic skills.

It didn't take long for James Gunn to graduate from Troma films to the big leagues. Slither was pretty much a spring board on a high dive for Gunn. Oddly enough that is also where it ended. After having such a huge hit like Slither he has managed to state out of the spot light a bit, barely doing anything other than hosting "Scream Queens" on television. I was excited to see his return to solid filmmaking.

It didn't take long for Super to set the stage. Rainn Wilson as a man who thought his life had come together so well. His life immediately shattered when Kevin 'flippin' Bacon comes in and steals his woman by offering her a drop of liquid happiness (drugs). Man gets upset, sees Nathan Fillion in spandex as a superhero and decides he wants to be one too.

The characters are relatively well stretched out. Rainn actually does a superb job in a semi-serious role. Ellen Page is more attractive than she has ever been before and all she had to do was put on a superhero outfit. Kevin Bacon is actually pretty hilarious as a bad guy. Nathan Fillion pretty much steals the show as a caped crusader on a mission from God to rid the world of evil.

What really surprised me about this film is the level of gore Gunn was willing to go to. It did not disappoint me, and it is pretty much responsible for being on this site. It does not shy away from the real life consequences of hitting someone with a monkey wrench. YOU WILL PUT SOMEONE IN THE HOSPITAL OR KILL SOMEONE! I was so happy to see that it didn't take a ridiculous approach to this, and remained realistic. Overall the film wasn't too bad. It was mildly entertaining with a few great scenes that were enough to pump it up past the half way point for me. The film was actually made really well, but just didn't do enough for me to get more than one viewing.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Exploding People
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Exploding People

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Am Number Four (2011)

I Am Number Four(2011) Dir. by D.J. Caruso

Extraordinary teen John Smith (Pettyfer) is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Olyphant), John is always the new kid with no ties to his past. In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events-his first love (Agron), powerful new abilities and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny. Written by Walt Disney Pictures

I have always been a sucker for Caruso's films. You can make fun of me all you like, but his films are almost always extremely enjoyable, and hold high rewatch value in my mind. With a list like The Salton Sea, Taking Lives, Disturbia, Two for the Money, and Eagle Eye; can you really argue? Unfortunately I have not had the time to pick up I Am Number Four or its sequel to read. It is on my list. I was, however, familiar with the story and I was excited to see Caruso's take on the book. I don't think I was really set down by the film so much, but it did seem really rough.

The acting was actually pretty good. I'm really starting to like this Alex Pettyfer dude. With movies like Tormented, Beastly, and In Time, he is really starting to make a name for himself. I look forward to seeing what he can do with a little more experience. Timothy Olyphant does a decent stand in job as well, although his role is rather minor, as John's guardian. Now when you throw in two insanely attractive actors, Teresa Palmer and Dianna Agron, and you have the making of a very watchable film. Everyone does very well in their relatively cookie cutter roles, but it never takes anything away from the film. Callan McAuliffe is an actor to watch out for as plays his role of the curious friendly nerd. I see big things in his future, as there were times during the film where I felt like he was what really held it together, and the side story with his father added depth. I kept trying to see Kevin Durand during the course of the film, as the bad guy, but I felt like it was a role that was underused, and forgettable. He has such a strong presence on screen (Mystery, Alaska; Dark Angel; The Butterfly Effect; Walking tall; Smokin' Aces; 3:10 to Yuma; Legion; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Robin hood; and many more), but he doesn't get a lot of focus in this film. That made me sad.

The film itself is well paced, with good acting, but I couldn't really get behind it as a whole. There are moments in the film where it seems like it has no direction. Unnecessary filler can kill a film, and it certainly starts to here. The unsatisfying build made for a fizzle of an ending. I surely hope the sequel makes up for it. The flashlight hands thing is pretty cool, but I look forward to him getting more powers. I know in the books, all of the people have several powers. The special effects in the film are extremely cool, but they should be with Bay behind the wheel at producer. All in all I recommend watching the film, but I don't know if it is worth a buy, unless the next two are better, and a trilogy box set comes out. I remain hopeful.

Entertainment Value: 7/10 Cute Pet Chimaera
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Cute Pet Chimaera

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Skew (2011)

Skew (2011) Dir. by Sevé Schelenz

When Simon, Rich, and Eva head out on an eagerly anticipated road trip, they bring along a video camera to record their journey. What starts out as a carefree adventure slowly becomes a descent into the ominous as unexplained events threaten to disrupt the balance between the three close friends. Each one of them must struggle with personal demons and paranoia as friendships are tested and gruesome realities are revealed...and recorded. Written by Sleep Apnea Productions Inc on

When I was asked to review Skew, I didn't really know what to expect. This can be a good thing when dealing with low budget independent films. That being said, I think it really worked in the favor of Skew. Schelenz seems to have found footage filmmaking down to an art form. Typically when watching films of the found footage genre, there always seems to be some things I can pick out to make the movie seem less effective. Stuff like: a movie that runs 2 hours long and the person operating the camera never puts their arm down, or never turns off the camera or plugs it in to an outlet to charge. Never having to change the tape. Aside from a questionable part near the end this film does a great job of tying up those loose ends. It shows him gathering the cords, multiple tapes, and moments where the camera shuts off for a sustained period of time. I really liked this about this film. It almost seemed to take a unique stab at a storyline from a Goosebumps book I read as a kid, Say Cheese and Die!, where the camera takes pictures of people and the people in the picture die. I don't know if it was intentional, but it seemed to make me like the movie even more.

The acting, while acceptable for the most part, really bugged me a bit when it came to Rich's overacting. He seemed to be the only one that I thought never quite pulled his weight on the screen. Amber Lewis did an amazing job as Eva, and considering you never really get to see Simon in front of the camera, he did exceptionally well bringing life to a voice over.

There are moments where the film seem to drag on a bit, but sometimes necessary for the development of the characters. With a limited amount of story in a film of this length, there seemed to be times where filler was used that just didn't seem to go anywhere. One thing that was used as a scare tactic was randomly showing dead people in the camera, and often using jump scare tactics, which I admit were very effective, but in the end never seemed to come to life story-wise. The last little bit I want to add is, while the body of the film was fairly entertaining, the ending seemed a bit abrupt and didn't really offer me the closure I was looking for. All in all the film was very entertaining, and I look forward to seeing Schelenz grow as a director and continue to increase his skills and make solid films. I know it seems like I tore the movie apart according to this last paragraph, but it did have a lot of good things going for it and it is worth checking out.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Gunshots to the head
Cinematic Value: 4/10 Gunshots to the head.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tron: Legacy (2010)

Tron: Legacy (2010) Dir. by Joseph Kosinski

Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn, looks into his father's disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin's loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous. Written by ZootCatchy on

With a first time feature Director at the helm, I didn't know what to expect when I finally got around to watching Tron: Legacy. It wasn't like I wasn't excited to watch it, but the situation just never came up. I missed it in the theater, which I kind of regret, but seeing it for free on Starz proved to be just as satisfying. I really don't know the story behind Joseph Kosinski, but I can say that, watching Tron: Legacy, I could tell he is a fan of the original. There were several little quips thrown in regarding the original, and the story itself plays directly off of it. The film doesn't waste any time, as it throws Sam almost immediately in to the Grid. This made me happy, and left some things better left unsaid. It gave him a shadow of a back story and your imagination could fill in the rest. He lost his father at a very young age. Led to believe that his father had just picked up and left everything behind. As I'm sure you know by now this simply just isn't true. He is stuck inside that world that brought out the most nerd powers in me as a child. I remember growing up to Tron, and while my slowly increasing lack of vision is probably somewhat due to the vibrant lights and colors that Tron led me in to, the new world of The Grid has changed vastly. The special effects of this sequel really stand out but don't take away from the story. Which you will just have to see to watch it unfold.

Jeff Bridges is the man who obviously steals the show, not only as Kevin Flynn, but as his equal enemy CLU. Bruce Boxleitner also reprises his role from the original as Alan Bradley. Cillian Murphy also appears in a clever little cameo as Edward Dillinger II, in an implied cameo as the son of the first film's antagonist Edward Dillinger. It has been said that it was a prelude to the planned third film. There is also leaked footage out there with Junior contacting his father through the use of a computer. Should be cool. Olivia Wilde was great and insanely attractive as always in a unique role instantly impacting the storyline. There were even some other good smaller roles, but in the end it was really good acting throughout the film.

There was plenty of action to keep me interested and it gave me my science fiction nerd fix for the day so all in all it was a pretty dang good movie. Great special effects and enough to keep me hoping for a completed trilogy. I recommend it for everyone.

Entertainment Value: 8/10 Beefed up Light Cycles
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Beefed up Light Cycles

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Time (2011) - Short Review

In Time (2011) Dir. by Andrew Niccol

In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage - a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system.(IMDB)

Andrew Niccol is commonly known for is ability to dance between genres but bring life to anything he touches. If it weren't for The Terminal boring the crap out of me (yes... I know he was just the writer), I probably would have watched this sooner, since he has directed some great movies like Gattaca and Lord of War, as well as writing The Truman Show. All I can say now is that I just wish I would have watched it earlier.

Niccol has managed to create what I believe to be a unique futuristic version of Robin Hood. We are still stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, but in this case we are stealing time. It also adds a bit of Romeo and Juliet to the mix as there are two distinct classes... the rich and the poor. The rich have plenty of time on their hands (literally), and the poor are dropping like flies whenever their time runs out.

The acting, aside from Amanda Seyfried who I have yet to see do any sort of acting, is done exceptionally well. Timberlake once again shows he is just as capable of being a leading man as Jake G, but I don't know about more than that, and the supporting cast is booming with well known people. The always amazing Cillian Murphy plays the man in charge of finding the two runaways and restoring balance to the system. Johnny Galecki steps out of his Big Bang Theory realm to play a short lived role as Will's (Timberlake) best friend. The beautiful Olivia Wilde plays Will's mother (remember they stop aging at 25). Matt "I'm a badass" Bomer(White Collar) also joins the cast for a small but important role. Up and coming actor Alex Pettyfer plays nicely into his role.

I'm not going to go in to great detail since that would probably be giving most of this very simple but very effective movie away. I'm a sucker for science fiction so the story had me stuck from the beginning to the end. There are a lot of undertones to our society and where we are headed in our future and blah blah blah. Just know that it is a short movie, plenty of action, and a satisfying ending. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I shall leave it at that.

Entertainment Value: 7/10 Cool Car Chases
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Cool Car Chases

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fright Night (2011)

Fright Night (2011) Dir. by Craig Gillespie

After several people start disappearing in a small suburb of Las Vegas, including his former best friend, Charley Brewster fights for his life to protect his mother and his girlfriend from the vampire next door.

A few months ago... if you would have told me that Craig Gillespie was going to make a horror movie remake... let alone horror movie at all, I probably would have laughed at you. This is the guy who made the mildly funny and entertaining Lars and The Real Girl starring Ryan Gosling, followed up with the horrendous Mr. Woodcock. Gillespie is hardly the first choice I would go to when making a horror film, but I guess they assumed that Mr. Woodcock scared enough people that he might be able to follow that up with something really scary. Did he make anything really scary though?... No he didn't, but he did make a mildly entertaining remake of an extremely good 80's film. He's what I'm going to do though. I'm going to review it with the same mindset that I went in to watching it. From this sentence forward I will not be comparing it to the original.

With that being said... Let's dive in to the characters. Might as well start with Jerry since he is pretty much the focus point of the film. Colin Farrell one again shows his diversity with his ability to play a bad guy. I think he seems to be someone who generally gets a bad wrap, but I truly feel like he is one of the more talented actors out there and shows great range in his films. With Fright Night... I really just felt like he was having fun with his character and it worked really well. Jerry is a badass. Charlie, however, is not a badass, and at times he doesn't really seem to be much of a character at all. Aside from being a douche in the first 20 minutes of the film, I found it difficult to connect with him at times, but there were several occasions where I did manage to cheer for him. David Tennant continues to surprise me with his acting ability, while I'm still pretty sure that Christopher Mintz-Plasse has little to no acting ability what so ever. Still... he stretches what little range he has playing Evil Ed, and does get to explore a bit of a dark side for a while. Then there is the always beautiful Imogen Poots who manages to play a convincing hot girl who actually loves geeks. It gives hope to nerds everywhere. The rest of the supporting cast is filled with recognizable people and almost recognizable people including Toni Collette, James Franco's little brother(Dave Franco), Sofia Vergara's little sister(Sandra Vergara) and a clever little cameo from the original Jerry, Chris Surandon, who also happens to be another favorite character of mine multiple times as Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Sorry... had to plug it.

The film itself is fairly predictable, but the acting for the most part keeps everything interesting. There were some plot twists that I really thought could have been avoided, and the biggest downfall was probably the CGI, although when done it was done pretty well. I don't know if they will make a sequel to this one, but I'm assuming they will... I just hope they clean it up a bit and focus more on the story. That being said... there were some really cool moments that got me to smile, like when the family decides to not let Jerry in the house... to which he responds by grabbing his shovel and digging up the gas line in the back yard. It was good stuff. Overall I enjoyed it, but I won't be purchasing the DVD any time soon unless I win the lottery.

Entertainment Value: 7/10 Pointless Illusionist Story Arcs
Cinematic Value: 6/10 Pointless Illusionist Story Arcs

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Drive (2011)

Drive (2011) Dir. by Nicolas Winding Refn

A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.

Unfortunately I haven't really had the chance to watch all of Refn's other films, but I have managed to catch a bit of Bronson, and from what I have seen it is pretty good. Refn is making quite the name for himself as a not only a filmmaker but a writer as well, with the Pusher Trilogy, Bronson, Valhalla Rising, and Drive all getting great reviews and I can see why. He has such a unique style of filmmaking.

The acting in Drive is as top notch as I have seen this year. I have always been a big fan of Ryan Gosling, but he went above my expectations once again for Drive. Even without a whole lot of dialogue he is able to portray a multi-leveled character that just pulls you in to the story. The supporting cast is about as good as it gets as well including Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, and another solid performance from newcomer Oscar Issac. Ron Perlman was a bit over the top on occasion, but I mean... it is Ron Frickin Perlman, so I let it slide.

This film was unlike anything I have seen in a long time. It had a Scorcese tempo, and 80's style score, a story as deep as any Oscar winning film, and cinematography so beautiful it almost made my eyes water. The way Refn films this movie is a thing of beauty. The tempo is super slow, but just fast enough to keep you interested. I really appreciated the fact that he takes the time to not only develop the characters, but also concentrate on the relationships between the characters, and how they interact with each other. I cared about each and every one of them, even after they get dispatched like a Scorcese film. I was really not expecting the level of gore in the film, and when it happened it shocked the crap out of me. I was really surprised at how realistic it was, and it never took away from the story. If I were to end this with something negative about the film, it would be a couple of shots that just lingered a good twenty seconds too long, but other than that it was a solid film that I will return to watching many times.

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Shotgun Blasts to the Head
Cinematic Value: 9/10 Shotgun Blasts to the Head

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

High School Movie Club - Cutting Class (1989)

Back in High School, every Friday night I would get together with a group of friends and watch movies. It was probably the most fun I had during my High School years. I just thought it would be an interesting new addition to show all of you the films I was introduced to when I was young. These films helped pave the way to my horror loving days now. So we will start off with one of the first movie night horror films, Cutting Class.

Cutting Class (1989) Dir. by Rospo Pallenberg

High school student Paula Carson's affections are being sought after by two of her classmates: Dwight, the "bad boy", and Brian, a disturbed young man who has just been released from a mental hospital where he was committed following the suspicious death of his father. Soon after being released, more murders start happening. Is Brian back to his old tricks, or is Dwight just trying to eliminate the competition? Written by Jean-Marc Rocher on

Yes, I am ok with admitting that this film was chosen by a female person within our movie club. It wasn't a sexist club! The local video store had quite a cheesy collection of old horror films to choose from, so it made film night a blast, and the only rule to our film club was, "Keep it Cheesy", and I don't think we every broke that rule. This film falls right in line.

Have you ever heard of Director Rospo Pallenberg? No? (cricket sounds)... That's because this is the only film he ever directed, and it isn't SOOO bad that no one would ever hire him again. I mean, Uwe Boll is still making movies, but for some reason this guy never touched it again. It looks like he got the job because of some mediocre writing he did in the late 70's/early 80's.

The movie starts off slow, even for a who dun it flick. The movie really focuses on Brian, played by Donovan Leitch, or as you may remember him, Paul from The Blob remake. He does a pretty good job playing the semi-creepy, mysterious guy just released from a mental hospital. Then it is followed by everyone being in love with Paula, played by Jill Schoelen of The Stepfather. This love parallelogram includes Paul, The Principle, The Basketball Star (the before-mentioned Brad Pitt), and Paula. Mr. Dante is played by legendary actor Roddy McDowell (Fright Night, Planet of the Apes). There are some very cheesy kill scenes and some horrible script writing from Steve Slavkin, who would go on to be one of the Writer/Creators of Salute Your Shorts. In the end it is a pretty clever who done it that just gets a bad wrap. It wasn't until Brad Pitt became acting gold, two years later with Thelma and Louise that this movie started to get looked at again before it fell off the planet for good. I still say give it a watch if you haven't. The film is a BLAST to watch in a large group.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Claw Hammer shots to the head
Cinematic Value: 3/10 Claw Hammer shots to the head

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Piranha (2010)

Piranha (2010) Dir. by Alexandre Aja

Lake Victoria's annual Spring party by 50,000 young revelers is about to turn into a feeding frenzy with prehistoric hunger-pains. With knee-trembler's above the waves and tremors below, released from their dormant sleep, thousands upon thousands of flesh-eating nippers are released into the lake with whetted appetites and razor-sharp teeth. With a motley crew of strangers thrown together to defend these shores, it is now up to them to prevent the largest eat-out in human, and piranha, history. Written by Cinema_Fan on

Despite it often getting a bad rep, I am still a fan of the original, although I do actually like the sequel better. I have a feeling it is going to be the same way with the reboot. The film starts off by killing an actor used to get people to watch the film. I have seen the ploy happen on multiple occasions and that is fine, but it has trouble keeping a stead pace after that.

I will start out with Alexandre Aja. I don't really know what to think of the guy yet as a director. I absolutely hated High Tension, LOVED the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and hated Mirrors (although it was a better attempt than High Tension). So all that being said... I didn't really know what to expect from this remake. He did an OK job, and did some really great things with the film, but also flew through the movie so fast y0u can't even concentrate on any sort of plot what so ever. His direction made the film an outline, without any depth. If that was what he was going for than he achieved it.

The acting was pretty much the worst acting I had ever seen, but that was to be expected from a movie of this caliber. The only three people doing anything worthwhile on the screen was Ving Rhames (a short lived performance), Adam Scott (who was decent, but played the same character he always does), and the amazing Elisabeth Shue was... well... amazing as always. The main kid, Steven R. McQueen (Vampire Diaries), doesn't really hold his own, but also wasn't really given a shot working with Jerry O'Connell (who was doing well acting like an idiot, but his overacting is sometimes unbearable). I will say this, and I hope I'm not giving out a spoiler too much here, but it made me SUPER happy to see Eli Roth's head pop like a zit. Oh that felt good.

The film was meant to be cheesy, from the post production 3D conversion to the hundreds of random naked girls. I will say there is an underwater shot through the glass bottom boat that was just beautifully shot. As a horror fan, I did appreciate the gallons and gallons of blood being used, and the special effects for body wounds were all done with old fashion make-up effects, which I thought was respectable. The film was fun to watch for the most part, but I really shouldn't be bored half way through the movie when people are getting ripped to shreds. I was let down by a couple of cameos, especially some major overacting from veteran Christopher Lloyd, and the less than worth mentioning cameo from Richard Dreyfuss. However, it was nice to see someone I know in the movie, with Devanny Pinn as a wet T-shirt girl, but overall the movie was just an ok popcorn film, but finished pretty strong in the last 15 minutes or so. The ending was pretty funny, and I knew there would be a cliff hanger, but I didn't know it would happen the way it did.

With all the not so great things I had to say about this film... I can't help but feel like it will be a repeat of the original series, where I like the second film better than the first. How could I not be excited for it? John Gulager is doing it! The same man who brought us one of the best, and one of my recent favorite cheesy modern day horror trilogies with Feast, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds, and Feast III: The Happy Finish. I guess we will just have to wait and see, but until then I give the Piranha remake exactly what it deserves for a rating.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Severed Body Parts
Cinematic Value: 5/10 Severed Body Parts

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nature's Grave (2008)

Nature's Grave (2008) Dir. by Jamie Blanks

Peter and Carla have a wasted marriage and constant friction. Peter buys expensive camping gear and, despite the protests of Carla, insists they travel with their dog Cricket to camp on the isolated Moondah Beach in the North Coast with his friend Luke and his girlfriend during the rainy holiday. Peter stops in a pub at the Eggleston Hotel and leaves a message for Luke with the owner of the pub. When Peter takes what he believes to be shortcut to the beach, he gets lost and the couple spends the night sleeping in their SUV. The next morning, Peter organizes the campsite and their intrusion into and abuse of the natural environment begins. During the two days, the couple's relationship deteriorates while the nature avenges the bad treatment the couple has inflicted upon it. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on

Nature's Grave has been sitting on my list of film's to watch but never really moved up on my list as other movies that sounded more interesting came out. When I saw it was going to be on Showtime this afternoon I decided to give it a try. My interest in the film stems from its original film, Long Weekend (1978). Yes... this film is another one of those dreaded remakes, and even shared the same name as its predecessor prior to changing its name on release in the U.S. of A. The story between the original and remake doesn't really change that much, but the major difference is how effective the message is. The story is supposed to be about nature fighting back after it is treated poorly.

Jamie Blanks has made some mildly entertaining films before with Valentine and Storm Warning. His most famous probably being the extremely entertaining Urban Legend. I had high hopes for this remake but it fell so short.

James Caviezel heads up the cast, and considering how I just put him on my list of top underrated actors, I was really let down. It felt like he just did the film for a paycheck. Claudia Karvan (Star Wars III, Daybreakers) plays his always angry wife, but has no real effect on the film.

I'm finding it really hard to say anything positive about the film. Even within the planet vs humans sub genre, it is probably worse than The Happening, and that is saying a lot, haha. Jamie just seems to misstep over and over again. There are parts that should be building suspense but instead trample through thoughtlessly. There are parts where you can clearly tell they are trying to build suspense, but fail miserably. For being a married couple there doesn't seem to be much chemistry between characters at all. It makes it really hard to believe they were once married. I think at some point I will have to watch this movie again, but there were parts that I was just confused. The plot would start building and all of a sudden deter as James just starts running pointlessly. Other than a very pleasing gory ending, there really isn't anything positive to say about this film. You guys should know me by now, I don't give out bad ratings to a lot of films but this film is deserving of what it gets.

Entertainment Value: 3/10 Dead Manatees
Cinematic Value: 4/10 Dead Manatees.