Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Movie Review: The Visit

I think the last M. Night Shyamalan I saw was about trees killing people or something like that, so I had to really take a deep breathe before plunging into another one of his movies.  I liked Sixth Sense, but really, Unbreakable and Signs are my two favourites of his.  This movie was a far cry from any of his previous work, but it was also a reminder that he is still a masterful storyteller, even with no special effects and a virtually unknown cast.

The trailer gives the impression that the kids are terrorised by the grandparents, but that’s not exactly what happens.  The mother decides to send her two kids to see her parents after she hasn’t seen or spoken to them in fifteen years.  The kids arrive and the grandparents are predictably old and a little odd.  Their behaviour continues to escalate from unusual to strange to terrifying.  It isn’t until the kids have the breakthrough revelation that they know something is amiss that things go awry.  I won’t SPOIL the movie for you, but I had an inkling of what was happening and was correct on my guess.

The heart of the story is really what sticks with you, if anything does.  The idea that the mother walks out on her parents at nineteen, then sends her kids back for a week, gives the impression of today’s society of broken families and broken lives.  More than that (SPOILER), there is a distinct undertone to doing good deeds.  The real grandparents had been volunteering at a local hospital, which is how they ended up garnering the attention of two whacked out old coots who killed the real grandparents and posed as them to spend time with kids.  It is sick and twisted and the ending almost mocks the seriousness of the two children killing their fake grandparents.  In many ways, this movie is probably far more disturbing than it is played off to be.  I’m not sure I can recommend it, but I did give it 4/5 stars on Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Movie Review: Sinister 2

Me and horror movies, like I even have to say it.  When the first Sinister movie came out, I had no idea what I was getting into.  In a way, the first entry of almost all movies are just so original, it seems impossible to top it.  I felt like the other Ethan Hawke horror movie, The Purge, did a better job of this than Sinister.  The story continues with the deputy from the first movie having left his job with the force and doing private investigation, researching the horror when he has free time.  In some ways, it is impressive that he’s figured out a great deal of the mystery, yet the trouble lies with his inability to find a viable solution.  Once he finds the homes, there is no clear answer as to what to do next.

Horror movies can be a tough sell.  Jump scares (things that take you by surprise) are easy enough.  To tell a story that leaves the viewer flummoxed is far more challenging.  This movie had the chance to do the latter.  It did not.  The Paranormal Activity movies vary from this sort of movie by adding to the lore and giving the viewer more to digest.  Those movies aren’t done perfectly and some of the sequels have been a complete and utter waste of my time.  This sequel to Sinister falls somewhere in the middle.  The deputy is able to unearth some new truth, but it also leaves much of the story untouched.  It is hard to suspend disbelief and not believe that the deputy couldn’t have found someone to help him diagnose the larger issue.  I would say this is worth a matinee price, not an evening price.  It kept me diverted for a little bit, but didn’t do as much as it could have.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Movie Review: The Gift

Suspense movies that masquerade as horror movies are still scary, though never nearly as scary as they could be.  The story behind The Gift isn’t terrifying on the surface, but the idea of a bully being bullied has a certain ring to it that makes all of us that were bullied, even a little, feel some justice, while shining a light on what happens to those people when they grow up.  The acting was middling.  The main actress, the one the story seemed to hinge around, never drew me in.  Jason Bateman pretty much plays himself in whatever movie he’s in, though he was more of a jerk in this one, but still the atypical mean white guy.  Joel Edgerton was quite sympathetic, even when the story reveals itself, I still feel more badly for him than anyone else.

I can’t say I’d highly recommend this movie, but I do want to stop and sort of digest what I saw.  The critics, to some degree, raved about the pacing and suspense, but the only thing that kept me engaged was the devolution of Joel Edgerton’s Gordo.  What happens to someone when they get bullied to the point that he’s pulled out of school?  What happens to the kids that do the bullying?  The real turning point for me, and the wife, was the reveal that Bateman’s character is a bully in all facets of his life, thus beginning the question of how the wife never noticed what a sleaze she was married to.  I mean, do bullies just always win because they’re bullies?  I know where I work, the worst person is the one running the show and she does just bully everyone.  Even if you stand up to a bully, that doesn’t stop that person.  There are so many people who just bulldoze their way through life, I often wonder what makes their needs and desires more important than mine.  Why do I have to acquiesce, to fold like a wicker table, to other peoples’ demands?  And somehow, in society, I think people would still root for Jason Bateman’s bully because he’s a ‘winner.’  Kind of like Tom Brady, to some degree.  You have to be a jerk to win at life and bullies are just jerks, aren’t they?  Regardless of what causes them to act that way, they just think it’s okay and we just ignore or do what they want to make it stop.  This movie had me thinking more about bullying than the horror and that says something.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Movie Review: The Vatican Tapes

I can sum this movie up in a couple words: don’t waste your time.  The found footage movies have a certain flare to them, but in this case, some lazy producer and director, maybe writer too, threw together what I can only imagine is the loosest plot I’ve ever seen.  The acting was not even passable, even Dougray Scott (dude, what happened to him, right?) couldn’t carry scenes.  The boyfriend was almost okay, but I expected more from Michael Peña.  The guy was even in Ant-man (Lay, you were right about that!) and he seems to have such comedic timing, but the drama of the horror movie seemed to elude him at times.

What frustrates me about horror movies is that the idea, the concept is sound.  The idea that the Vatican would keep a repository of instances of the Devil on earth seems reasonable.  To make a movie about it also seems reasonable.  To make this movie leaves me wondering what intern dropped the ball on getting the writer a latte at the right time or what.  This movie was lazy in every sense of the word.  The situations were tired and overused and there was not one original element in it.  If you saw The Last Exorcism, you’ve basically seen parts of this movie, as well as any other exorcist-themed movie.  I feel embarrassed for Hollywood.

On a related note, Dougray Scott, are you really lamenting missing out on X-men right now?  I mean, he was in line to play Wolverine if not for Mission Impossible 2.  Looking back now, I bet he is regretting that choice every millisecond, more so if he sees the amazing success Hugh Jackman has had.  Really, don’t we all remember the Drew Barrymore movie we were introduced to Scott in, Ever After.  I feel sad for Dougray Scott, even if he’s certainly making more money than me.  This movie was an embarrassment and he should never have been in it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Well, I guess I’ve hit my limit for Marvel movies this summer.  This movie was amusing and instantly forgettable.  For $10, seeing it in 3-D was a little more entertaining, but I think Marvel is really starting to scrub the bottom of the bucket with stories and super heroes.  I like a good superhero movie, sure, but at some point enough is enough.  I had zero expectations going in and came out wondering if I should have found a better use for my time and my $10.

The story of Ant-man is like most other superhero stories.  A ne’er-do-well type gets out of jail, after performing some sort of Robin Hood like crime, and can’t find work because he’s an ex-con (I did have an Orange is the New Black – Tastee moment, but let’s not add something to the movie that isn’t there).  Ultimately , he ends up turning back to crime, but lo and behold, the person he planned on burgling ‘let’s’ him steal and he’s been chosen to be the new Ant-man.

The story could not have been more tired.  Sometimes, like with Chris Pratt, an actor can make something feel interesting and new.  Paul Rudd and Evangline Lilly are not those actors.  I really struggle with the latter, as I loved Kate from Lost, but the last few movies I’ve seen Lilly in, she’s been just bland.  I’m not sure what to attribute this to, but I just didn’t feel any of her performances resonated.  Bland is probably the best word to use.  More than that, she and Rudd were just uninteresting, even if he had some witty lines.  The supporting cast stole the scenes they were in.
Marvel has really contrived this story out of nothing, more than Guardians of the Galaxy.  A different cast might have had a different outcome, but for the most part, I want my two hours and $10 back.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Movie Review: Minions

This should come as no surprise that I opted to see this movie, in 3-D, but that didn’t actually work, but at least AMC gave me my money back.  The trailers really delivered basically what was going to be in the movie. There isn’t really a plot for me to spoil.  The story is supposed to be an origin story, leading the audience through the Minions finding Groo.  What happened was really an hour and a half of slapstick, sometimes crude adult jokes and little else.  For an adult, it was entertaining, for a kid, it will be memorable for doing physical comedy with others and little else.

What made the first two Despicable Me movies so memorable wasn’t the Minions by themselves, but the family factor from Groo and the girls.  Without that, the Minions are truly sidekicks, as the movie shows.  It isn’t that the Minions aren’t fun, they are.  A movie where they are front and center, with their piecemeal language, is impossible to follow.  The movie never made sense.  My cousins and I spent much of the movie trying to figure out whether they were speaking Spanish, Italian or French and the consensus is that it was a mix of all three.

The idea of the movie was great, and I do love the Minions, but for $15, I’m not sure this movie is worth seeing in the theatre.  It had a few good laughs and the main Minions that are followed are very entertaining, but they can’t hold the loose plot together much, if at all.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Movie Review: The Gallows

Here with another horror movie review.  It seems like I average one a month.  I have been watching a few horror movies on TV, like As Above, So Below and Paranormal Activity 5, neither of which were groundbreaking movies, but diverting.  The Gallows, like most horror movies, has some promise, but the ending saps any value from the movie at all.

The movie opens with the tragedy that occurred twenty years prior and picks up with the school performing the same play (which befuddled me as no school should be performing a play that had an accident that killed a kid).  The cast is unremarkable, with the jock turned actor, the pedigree thespian, the jokester and his blonde girlfriend.  I was really convinced there were more kids based on the trailers, but only four in the chaos actually does serve to make the scenes tense.  The jokester convinces his jock friend to destroy the set because the jock can’t act and when they go to the school with the girlfriend in tow, they run into the thespian who the jock kind of likes.  It is the formulaic horror movie, never deviating from the well-worn script.

There are moments where the story almost could have been something more, or the middling acting of the kids could be tolerated, but the heavy handed story really doesn’t give much room for enjoyment.  AMC dropped their prices, so I feel better knowing I paid less to see this movie than usual.  The concept was solid, and that’s what frustrates me.  The idea of being locked in a school with an unseen killer who is recreating his own death had a lot to offer.  Yet, at the end of each sequence, you could have predicted the outcome.  Despite that, I did jump, a lot, and the main ‘villain’ did wear a hangman mask, adding to the scares.  Overall, I can’t, in good faith, recommend this movie to anyone, unless you’re just really bored or don’t have anything better to do.  I should have seen the Minion movie instead.