Monday, March 14, 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool

Another super hero movie, I know where my expectations are set, yet you shouldn’t expect Deadpool to be your average super hero movie.  I should preface this blog by saying I have (in the past) been a bit of a comic book fan and I’ve read quite a few Deadpool comics (which I’ve since sold on e-bay).  Deadpool is almost an anti-hero.  Think of him as the least bad option in a sea of bad options.  It isn’t that he’s a villain, no, it’s that he chooses to do the harshest thing, kind of like Punisher, but in a less crazed sort of manner and with less of an origin story, of which the movie sort of glossed over to get to the mind numbing action.

When I first heard about this movie, I knew I wanted to see it.  I didn’t quite expect how crude, graphic or over-the-top it would be.  It was all that and more.  There are a lot of scenes that a normal Marvel fan might balk at.  There isn’t really much of a synopsis to provide.  Deadpool is a good bad guy, he gets horribly disfigured, goes after the guy who tortured him and kills him.  By just watching the trailers one could discern this.

This is one of those action movies that does do the source material justice.  The caricature of X-men in it was quite entertaining, as was Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool.  There wasn’t anything overly original to it, for the most part, yet it was well worth seeing.  The bathroom humour got a little tired as the movie went on, yet Reynolds and his co-stars make it work at every turn.  I hope Deadpool won’t get relegated to the other Marvel movies as a cameo, but it will be fun to see him opposite Captain America.

Movie Review: The Other Side of the Door

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, a new horror movie came out and I went to see it, it wasn’t that great, the end.  That pretty much sums up this whole movie, sadly.  To be fair, I’m going to provide a slight plot synopsis, for posterity, and move on.

The movie is set in India (yay!  For those of you who don’t know, I’m Indian, even if I look white).  The family, Americans (white, of course), have moved to Bombay (Mumbai?!?) for business and one of their children was killed in an auto accident where the mom could only save one of the two kids.  The mother is haunted by the decision she made, even if there was only once choice as the son’s leg was stuck and she couldn’t get it free and the other kid was unconscious.  After a failed attempt at suicide, the mother is consoled by the help, an Indian woman from a small village, who tells her about a folk story about being able to say her final goodbyes to her son, and ask for his forgiveness for not saving him.

At first the mom is skeptical, but then she decides to do it.  I’ve ridden the trains in India and I can say the movie captured what that feels like, chaos on a moving steel box.  The only thing they were missing was the guy asking if anyone wanted tea at 2 AM, waking everyone up.  I digress.  The mom gets to the village, somehow makes it from the train station (which should have been a lot tougher given she didn’t seem to speak Hindi all that well) and just walks right through the village into the forest.  Also, she did this in sweltering heat with only one water bottle, which also seemed a little strange.

The temple she is supposed to go to is dilapidated, yet the door opens almost effortlessly.  There are also a bunch of men with ask all over their faces who are almost hidden around the temple, watching her, but getting no closer.  The Indian woman had told her that they live around cemeteries, but didn’t provide much of an explanation.  The mom follows the ritual and spends the night in the temple, alone, and she didn’t bring any food or sleeping bag.  At first nothing happens, then late at night, she hears something and then decides, after being in the temple for hours, to look around (as if she couldn’t have done this sooner, when it was light outside).  She stumbles upon the statue of the keeper of the gate of the dead, or something, and gets scared.  She goes back upstairs and that’s when she hears all this rustling outside the closed door.  The Indian woman had told her not to open the door, but despite this, after a quick conversation with her deceased son, she throws the doors open and there’s nothing there.

At first everything is fine, but soon weird things start to happen in the house once the mom gets back.  The Indian woman asks her what she’s done and she denies it, but everyone except the Dad realizes that the dead son is haunting the house.  Much like Pet Semetary, the son isn’t quite the same and the keeper of the gateway comes calling (ie, ready to drag the boy back).

I won’t spoil the rest of the movie, but needless to say, it ends about how you might expect, not well.  I gave this movie one out of five stars.  It isn’t that it was so stultifying terrible, but the potential was so great.  As I said before, I’m Indian, and there is a ton of folklore to be found.  Much of what was done in the movie was based on those stories.  There was a brief snippet where I almost yelled at the movie screen (and possibly disrupted the other six people in the theatre) when the mom throws the door open after hearing someone knock.  An old Indian/Muslim wives’ tale has to do with Djinns knocking on doors and needing people to open them so they can enter.  The mother did exactly that, letting the demon/ghost/entity in.  There is a great deal of promise to be had if a story is told well, and acted well.  The mom was played by Sarah Wayne Callies, from The Walking Dead.  I can’t fault her, but she was not as invested as I felt a grieving mother would be.  The dad, played by Jeremy Sisto was so unbelievably bland and uninspired.  Every scene he was in I was unable to concentrate on the context because he was just dialing it in.  The Indian help Suchitra Pillai-Malik, and the daughter, Sofia Rosinsky, were the strongest of the cast.

I normally am not this long-winded with reviews, but this movie bothered me on so many levels, not least of which that it painted India as this backward, crazed country.  Yes, it still has a ways to go to be a little more modern, but people aren’t killing people in sacrifices to demonic Gods in the middle of a huge city (they’re committing other heinous crimes on buses).  Like so many horror movies, the potential was there, but instead there is lazy storytelling, barely passable acting and stereotypes for every type of person out there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Movie Review: The Witch

I should hang my head in shame that once again I’ve opted for a horror movie over any other movie, but here we are again.  I often feel like I’m competing against an unseen clock, time ticking down for a movie to fly out of the theatre before I can see it.  Sure, I could just wait for the movie to appear on Netflix or Amazon (as I did with Goodnight Mommy – which was worth seeing).  I fully admit, I tend to get caught up in the hype, caught up in believing I need to see something.

In a lot of ways, The Witch was a both a traditional and non-traditional horror movie.  The story follows a family that has been banished from their plantation and forced to live in the wilderness.  The movie is set in the 1600’s, so this is not a huge stretch, I suppose.  Amazingly, they are able to build a farm in short order.  The family consists of a father, mother and five kids.  Don’t get too attached to any of the kids.  Not long into the harvest for the season, the viewer realizes that something is afoot.  The crop is unusable, one of the kids goes missing and the animals go nuts every so often.

Without revealing what could be potential SPOILERS, I found myself surprised and unfazed by a lot of things.  One particularly gruesome scene early on I only just now understood the implications of after reading a synopsis.  I didn’t think, anyway, I don’t want to ruin that.  For a horror movie, I was never scared.  If this were a psychological thriller, then this was on point.  The acting is passable, but not great.  The scenes are tight, at times too much so, as if a wider frame could have revealed more.  I also found the main actresses’ eyes to be too far apart.  This was thoroughly distracting throughout the movie.  I’m not sure this movie is a can’t miss, but it kept me engaged, but was soon forgotten.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Movie Review: The Boy

I know, suspend your disbelief that I’ve yet again managed to go see a horror movie.  In fairness, this one, The Boy, played out much better than a lot of other movies I’ve seen lately.  There is little new in the horror genre, yet I did feel honestly surprised at the varying twists and turns this movie took.

The story behind The Boy centers around an elderly couple who hires a nanny for their son.  Their son is a porcelain doll.  At first the nanny, played by Lauren Cohen (of Walking Dead and a short stint on Supernatural), doesn’t take this seriously at all.  The quaint, old British house starts to get to her and she’s quickly convinced that the doll is actually haunted by the son’s spirit.  The movie takes on a strange calm as she accepts this and does all that has been asked of her.  It isn’t long into the story where things are turned upside down.

Without giving away the major plot twist, and it was quite surprising, the story has a slow burn to it.  The mystery around the passing of the son and the parents’ equally odd behavior makes for a creepy movie that can claw into your psyche.  The cousin I went with debated with me as to whether or not the parents were complicit in all the goings on.  I wanted to believe they didn’t know, but on closer inspection, it would have been impossible without their knowledge.

This may not be a movie worth $13, but it was a low-budget style movie that kept me engaged throughout.  After seeing it, I almost feel bad it did do better, as it could have been one of those movies that everyone talks about.  Somehow the movie just didn’t hit at exactly the right time.  It is well worth seeing.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Movie Review: The Forest

A new horror movie comes out and I manage to find myself at the theatre.  This almost sounds like your typical sitcom.  The ending is also about what you’d expect.  The draw of getting scared, being surprised, sucks me into the theatre.  After that, I find myself scratching my head as to how a trailer that seemed so promising turned into an unmitigated tire fire.  There is a great episode of Pepper Ann (a 2000’s cartoon) where the main character, Pepper Ann, flames a movie, then is challenged by the director to make her own movie.  She soon discovers how a perfectly good idea doesn’t get executed the way it should.  I wonder if that is what happens to 99% of the horror movies that make it to the theatre.

The story behind this movie follows the connection between twins. One seems to have the perfect life, the other, not so much.  The ‘good’ twin is always saving the troubled one.  At some point, the good twin feels what I can only describe as a disturbance in the force, and runs to her sister’s aide.  The trip takes her to Japan (which, incidentally, who has money to buy a plane ticket at the last second?  Wouldn’t that be several thousand dollars?).  Her sister was last seen in a forest where people go to commit suicide.  The sister finds an American and they work with a forest ranger to go into the forest.  Nothing good happens after that.

On the off chance that you make the foolish decision of seeing this movie, I won’t tell you exactly what happens.  What really happens, in a meta sort of way, is that there are several huge threads to the story, none of which get enough time to be discussed.  There is the main story of the sister being lost in the forest.  There is a secondary story of the past that haunts both sisters (their parents died when they were six).  There is the story of the forest itself and the people who have passed there.  There is the story of the American who helps the good sister.  Nothing really gets resolved and while in some cases, loose ends are compelling, in this case they were just additional distractions.  This movie is utterly disorganized and disappointing given the concept.  It would be a wonderful video game.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

There is a certain cadence to Quentin Tarantino movies.  Either you like it or you don’t.  For the most part, I’ve always, at the very least, enjoyed his movies, enjoyed the stories he’s trying to tell.  In many instances, the stories can be overshadowed by gore, though somehow the story still shines through.  While his casts are always eclectic (usually male-drive save for Kill Bill), he still manages a wonderful cross-section of talent that, together, makes the movie jump to life.  I’m not sure I can say that about this movie, however.

The movie is heavy in dialogue.  Many of the early scenes are actors going toe-to-toe with heady conversations, saying more than is being said through the enormous expense of words.  The movie weighs in at a solid three hours and I felt every single one of them.  While it wasn’t putting me to sleep, and I wasn’t as engaged as I could have been, the story still churned along like the little engine that could.  Samuel L Jackson is always a screen-stealer, and he did so with reckless abandon.  At times, I often believe Tarantino wants Jackson to always be over the top, but I would love to see him be a little more subdued.  It might have kept the mystery churning a little longer.  Jackson’s character is basically the same character he played in Pulp Fiction.  As the movie progressed, I couldn’t help but see this with all of his tried and true friends.

The flaw of the Tarantino film is also the strength.  The cast are well acquainted, the director easily understood, that much seems to be missed because perhaps they believe it to be there already.  There were many instances in the three hours where less would have been more.  The undue length of the movie could have made the story better if it had been an hour shorter.  Mr. Tarantino seems to film scenes and movies just for the sake of hearing his words spoken by others, but not necessarily needing those words to further the plot along in a discernable way.  This felt like a sharp contrast to Kill Bill, which seemed to have a brevity of dialogue, letting the actions speak for the characters.  I would never willfully dissuade someone from seeing a Tarantino movie, but this one could be missed with no ramifications.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Movie Review: Krampus

Christmas is one of those times of years where most of us spend time with family, whether we like them or not.  Since I don’t celebrate Christmas (minus the gift exchange and not going to work), I don’t have the same kind of issues with my family that others have, even if I do see most of my extended family a few times a year, if not more.  The center of the movie Krampus is about wanting to have positive family time instead of everyone sitting in stony silence hating one another.

The movie follows the youngest son of the family (parents Adam Scott and Toni Collette) and how he wishes Christmas could be like it was before, when he was younger and there weren’t so many issues between everyone.  His letter to Santa (he’s about 10 or 12) is spotted by one of his uncouth cousins and read aloud, much to his embarrassment.  After fighting for the letter back, he throws it away, losing hope in Christmas and Santa Claus.  This action prompts Krampus to appear and wreak havoc on the family.

While the story could be construed as heartwarming, I found myself bored at varying intervals and having a hard time seeing (as if the movie was too dark, and as always, too loud).  This does beg the question, why do movie studios feel the need to blare the sound out?  Is it really necessary?  It is nice to feel a dull thump from a dinosaur foot, but at some point the overuse of sound just assails the ears.  I digress, I know.  The movie was mildly diverting, at best.  The acting was decent, the story came together in the end, but I still just didn’t feel scared or invested in any of it.