Sunday, April 5, 2015

Movie Review: Furious 7

There are some staples of Fast and Furious movies: fast cars, scantily clad people, senseless fighting and harrowing action sequences.  All of these things were in high form in this latest entry and I can’t say it wasn’t what I expected.  The most unexpected thing in this movie was the number of people who were at the 9.30 show.  It was sold out, and on Easter Sunday no less.

The movie leaves off where the last movie ended, with the antagonist of Furious 6 having his older brother vow vengeance on those that put his brother in the hospital.  In SPOILER fashion, the Asian guy gets it first, the audience sees his mangled body before the Jason Statham character promises to come for Vin Diesel and co.  The next few hours are basically a culmination of sequences where the characters barely survive all kinds of insane combinations of things, such as cars being ejected from a plane and slamming a million dollar car through one building into another from forty floors up.

The cinematography for the movie was, at times sickening, and at other times just unbelievable.  There was this shaky cam thing that kept going on during fight sequences and it had me reeling at times.  The cousin I brought with me (yeah, different cousins, how many do I have?), commented on it and I was like, you know, you’re right, it did make me feel a little off.  The bigger action sequences with the cars were done at a different angle and those cars are just outrageous.  What I wouldn’t give to just try those once.  Though, I have a mustang, so I could soup it up, but I think that might end in far more speeding tickets than I’d like.

I can’t say this was a great movie, or that the story was original or the acting top notch.  I am always impressed by how well Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson (the rock) do comedy so well.  Michelle Rodriguez as the really only powerful female lead is always fun to watch and she has an entertaining fight sequence between her and Ronda Rousey.  I’m glad I saw the movie and the montage at the end of all of Walker’s scenes was a tear-jerker.  If you’ve watched a few of these movies, you need to see this latest one.  If you haven’t seen any of these movies, you may not feel like you missed much, but these movies are something of our culture that shouldn’t be missed. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Movie Review: It Follows

Rarely do I come across a horror movie I don’t want to see.  This was hyped as a sleeper Indie movie and I was intrigued.  The last few Indie’s that blew me away include Paranormal Activity or the Orphanage, both of which stopped me from sleeping for days after seeing it.  Actually, with Paranormal Activity, I think I didn’t sleep for a week.  Yeah, I’m a scaredy cat.  Also, in a side-note, there was a trailer with Thomas Jane in it and the sister of KStew from Still Alice who’s name escapes me and there were butterflies and I leaned over and told my friend I straight-up couldn’t see that movie.  Butterflies, nature’s silent killers.  Mark my words.

The premise of the movie doesn’t truly reveal itself until about twenty minutes into the picture.  The story sets up as a random girl goes running from her father and ends up being found dead on a beach. The movie picks up to a girl getting into a pool and seeing two neighborhood kids watching her.  I made the mistake of thinking these were the same girl, but they weren’t, as my friend pointed out.  My eyes were covered at some points, for those of you wondering.  It is safer to watch horror movies that way.  The story continues with a girl going on a date with her new boyfriend and he does something slightly odd, but covers it up well.  The next date they have, they sleep together and that’s when the story begins to truly unfold.

My friend stated it best, I think, it is basically an STD curse.  The idea is that the curse can be passed from one person to the next by sleeping with them.  There is an X-files episode similar called gender bender, but not quite the same.  The guy gave her a fake name and romanced her for a little while before sleeping with her and then she begins to see a person that no one else can see.  He warns her that she can’t let the person, or whatever she sees, touch her.  The first time she sees it she is with the guy and it appears as a naked woman.  Why naked?  I don’t know.  I didn’t do anything for me and made it seem that much more confusing when it was seen with clothes on.  Regardless, the thing keeps coming and she confides to her sister and friends and while they don’t disbelieve her, they can’t see anything.  The cool neighbor sleeps with her, in an attempt to pass the curse, and while it works for a short period of time, he ends up getting killed and it continues after her.

The suspense in the movie continues to build and the girl and her friends try varying activities to kill the thing, but they don’t really know what they’re dealing with and thus all of their attempts fail.  I found it curious that none of them thought to do any research to see if they could figure it out.  The movie was dated for sure, set in the 80’s or 90’s just based on the clothes and the TVs they had.  I didn’t get quite as scared as I thought I would, but the story held my attention and kept me engaged, even if I kind of wanted the main girl to die because I found her kind of annoying.  The movie did get me thinking what someone would do given the same circumstances.  I mean, the message of the movie might have been as simple as no sleeping around, but I might be over-thinking it.  As horror movies goes, this one held true to the teaser and I think most horror fans would enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Movie Review: Still Alice

When an actor receives an academy award nomination, let alone a win, it sticks out in my mind and I feel like I need to take the time to see the movie.  Lucky for me, AMC was still showing this movie and I got the chance to drag my seventeen year old cousin to it.  I don’t know that I was in the right state of mind while watching this movie and while the entire 6-person audience, minus me, was brought to tears, including the aforementioned cousin, I found myself laughing at sequences that probably were meant to be gut-wrenching, which made my cousin imply I was cold-hearted.  Being a huge fan of Charmander, I find this hard to believe, but let us not digress.

The premise of this movie is based off of a book where a woman suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s and how her family deals with it.  The hints are quite subtle, Alice forgets little things, words or locations of things, but the panic starts to set in at a rapid pace and it is quite clear that something is seriously wrong with her.  The story isn’t a new one, per say, but it was one that was compelling and terrifying.  The depiction of the fall into lost memory is horrific to watch.  The very idea of not being able to rely on your mind, your memory, is one I don’t want to imagine.  It is a literal case of not being able to trust anything.  At one point, Alice goes inside to go to the bathroom and can’t find it and goes in her pants.  I didn’t laugh here, but it was a sad state of affairs for any adult and I can’t imagine watching a loved one suffering from this.

The performances from the entire cast were on point throughout.  The somewhat supportive husband was just as frustrating to watch as the children who didn’t want to be inconvenienced greatly save for the youngest daughter, played by Kristen Stewart.  At this point I have to admit that part of my curiosity for this movie was the always amazing Julianne Moore and the unending praise I kept hearing about for Stewart.  I try to give all the kids of Hollywood (Twilight, Potter, etc.) the benefit of the doubt and Stewart has, by and large, been the best of the entire bunch.  A lot of criticism for her comes from her seeming to play the same role again and again.  I’d argue she doesn’t do that at all, but I need to see more of her work, which there is a lot to choose from.  She was in about 25% of the movie and the parts she was in had excellent foreshadowing and chemistry between her and the rest of the cast.  I continue to be impressed by Stewart and I want to see what more she can do as she gets more comfortable in her own skin.  I wish that Emma Watson or Jennifer Lawrence could execute these types of performances, but I have yet to see it from either, let alone any of the boys, like Dan Rad, who has a lot of growing up to do.

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what had me so distracted throughout the movie that while others were brought to tears, I was amused, laughing.  Early on, the audience’s first view of Stewart, she is wearing a t-shirt with Snoopy on it.  Again, if you’re reading this, you know I’m a Snoopy fan too.  Yeah, I like a lot of cartoon characters.  I was just so amused.  After the movie was over, I realised there was more to the tee than just Snoopy and Woodstock.

Stewart in a Snoopy t-shirt

I’ve included a pic, but the text, I believe is: “Sometimes the donut dunks the bird” and the image is Woodstock in a coffee mug and the donut not in the coffee.  It is a really cute shirt, one I might need to find/acquire.  The movie is about life getting the better of a person, and in many ways, I’d argue that the t-shirt is foreshadowing what is about to happen to Alice as well as her daughter Lydia (Stewart).  Alice is overcome by life, just as Woodstock is overcome by the donut in the t-shirt.  My cousin thinks I’m over-thinking this, but I really think I’m onto something and hope that someone from the movie stumbles upon this humble blog and the wardrobe person realises that at least one person noticed the attention to detail.

Movie Review: The Lazarus Effect

I can’t believe it has been two months since I’ve seen a movie.  I often go into horror movies with unrealistic expectations that there will be a cohesive story from beginning to end and I often wonder if the audience could ever hear the original pitch we would be able to make sense of what the movie was trying to get across.  This movie is based around defying death, as many horror movies venture.  The scientists in question are trying to find a way to lengthen the time emergency medical technicians can work on a patient before they flat-line, or so the story goes.  The idea stays the course until an outside group decides to steal the research and of course, the scientists decide to do something brash.

This movie had pretty much every horror movie trope you can imagine.  I try to avoid SPOILERS, but the basics are all covered.  Bad things happen, the black guys dies first, there are fake deaths and fake-outs of every sort.  The movie is composed mostly of jump scares and tired gory sequences and I still found myself looking away to avoid seeing the inevitable.

Given the lack of horror movies to choose from, this movie is one you may not want to miss, but Olivia Wilde was barely passable in this weak storied movie.  I can’t say it was a bad movie, but it wasn’t a good movie either.  The ending was just as weak as the story was and it makes you feel unsatisfied as you get to the credits.  I long for some good horror movies and the trailers didn’t hold much promise either.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Movie Review: The Woman in Black 2

Sequels I never expect much from.  I saw the first movie more because I had seen the stage play than the fact that Dan Rad was in it (Daniel Radcliffe).  The premise seems simple enough, but SPOILER if you’re not familiar: the woman in black is a ghost haunting an old house, and wants to steal children away so they can be with her after the child she had raised was taken from her.  This story was heavy with backstory that seemed needless.  I appreciate the attempt, but there was just a sudden plot, even though there were leading flashbacks. 

A horror movie, to me, should have a simple premise, to scare the audience, to make the audience feel secure, then snatch that safety away with reckless abandon.  The trouble with sequels is that there can be no snatching because you already know what is to come, something scary.  This movie followed the tried and true premise of all horror movies and in that vein, it failed what was a promising take on an opening movie that fell flat.  The first Woman in Black movie wasn’t scary at all.  The play, on the other hand, was horrifying.  I thought I was going to be sitting in the guy next to me’s lap if I wasn’t careful.  How a stage play was scarier than two movies still baffles me, but the fact remains, neither movie was scary nor stayed with me, it was just, meh.

The story revolved around the second World War and how kids were being taken away from the city for their own safety, and somehow they ended up in this scary old house.  Of course they did, because, horror movie, right?  The main character was a school teacher who had been forced to give her young child up because she had it out of wedlock and is haunted by this throughout the movie, more so when they have to bring a child who’s parents were killed right before the group left.  There was an actor, Jeremy Irvine , who had a striking resemblance to Tom Brady and this distracted me throughout the movie.  Imagine a British Tom Brady who isn’t married and doesn’t have kids.  Yes, I went to my happy place there, but let’s continue.  The Tom Brady lookalike is a grounded pilot who is falling for our schoolteacher and the two try to convince the headmistress (Mrs. Malfoy) that they need to leave before more children die.  This doesn’t work and the inevitable happens.

For the price I paid, I guess it was okay, but I can’t say this movie had much bite to it.  I had higher expectations than usual just because I hoped they would fix what hadn’t gone right in the first movie.  I know, that optimism I have is misplaced.  Pass if you don’t like horror movies, but if you’re a fan, this is it until February, I think.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Movie Review: Into the Woods

I often jump for new movies not having any idea what I’m getting into.  For example, as I skimmed the Rotten Tomatoes page for Into the Woods, I noticed it said it was a mix between Hollywood and Broadway, implying to me, that it might have roots on Broadway already.  My initial impression was that it was a fun story, but it didn’t belong in the big screen, but live, on Broadway.  If it was a Broadway baby that Hollywood decided to release for a wider audience/profit, then I was still right, sort of.

The story behind Into the Woods takes many of the characters from the fairytale stories from my youth.  Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel (sort of) and a variety of others are repurposed.  While not one really stands out over another, the amalgamation of all of them is a bit much, making the movie feel even longer than it might have been.  The singing was, in a word, excessive.  There seemed to be more singing than speaking and while some of the stars shined, I was startled by Emily Blunt’s ability to sing, quite unexpected really, for the most part, everyone was quite able, though I felt like a musical in a movie allows the sound folks to scrub everything clean, whereas live, there is nowhere to hide.

I don’t know that I can say I enjoyed the movie.  At times I felt bored and the new versions of the stories didn’t bring me anything that made me think, oh, that’s neat. It was fun, interesting to see actors in different roles.  Chris Pine as a shallow Prince Charming was interesting, but that’s the best I can say.  At some points, it felt like the movie was making fun of itself and if that had been consistent throughout, I might feel more confident thinking that was deliberate.  It was an uneven movie, at best.  For seven dollars, I won’t complain, but I won’t be buying it on DVD or opting to see it a second time.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

If you’re anything like me, every year, you were forced/treated to The Ten Commandments over Easter weekend.  A few years back, I stopped telling my father when it was airing so I wouldn’t have to watch it yet again.  If given the option now, of this new version or the old one, I’d pick the old one, and I’d happily pay the $12 I paid today to see the classic rather than suffer through the new one a second time.  Like Noah from earlier this year, or last year, I can’t even remember, Hollywood has made a failed attempt at rewriting and creating a new version of what was already done as well as it could be done.  That’s like saying someone’s going to film the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Even with all the special effects advances, the story doesn’t change and the execution of it from Ridley Scott was confusing at best, offensive at worst, more so when you look at the number of white actors playing roles that could have just as easily been played by people who were closer to the Egyptian ethnicity.

I will never understand the rave reviews around Christian Bale.  He plays the exact same person in every single movie he’s in.  He delivers a handful of lines in his gravely, angry voice, perhaps to depict conviction, then he looks quiet and then he’s been overcome with emotion.  More than that, how is he supposed to be an Egyptian prince who is really Jewish with that mix of English vs. cockney accents?  I was so distracted by his accent alone I couldn’t figure out who he was supposed to be.  At some point here, someone in Hollywood has to stop buying into this.  It isn’t acting, it is playing the same character the same way over and over again.  Instead of always playing the brutish bruiser, perhaps Bale could try acting like something else, just once.

The casting of the rest of the movie was quite curious.  Everyone was white, whiter than white and it seemed out of place.  All the accents were all over the place.  I love Sigourney Weaver, I do, I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan, but why was there a random American in a movie set in Egypt who is supposed to be playing the mother of Ramses II?  Joel Edgerton seemed out of place from the beginning, but his performance, the only really stellar one, really won me over by the end. Again, though, he was almost wearing brown-face, if there is such a thing, to look Egyptian.  Am I the only one who finds this mildly offensive?  I mean, when do African American actors put on white makeup to look white?  They don’t.

While the movie had moments that were visually stunning, more so in 3D, the story brought nothing new to the Biblical tale and the delivery of Christian Bale detracted more than enhanced the movie.  Ridley Scott has had some misses lately and I can’t even think of a movie he’s done recently that isn’t basically Gladiator all over again.  This one follows suit.  Don’t waste your time or money on this.