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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Now You See Me Movie Review

This will be very very short because 'Now You See Me' is the type of film that you really can't discuss without giving away its secrets. While this film is nowhere near the level of 'The Prestige' (and doesn't even try to be), it is still a very fun, escapist film.
The basic plot is that 4 different magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco) are all brought together by a mysterious individual for a larger purpose. 1 year later, they are re-dubbed The Four Horsemen and have 1 show planned in Vegas, one in New Orleans, and one in New York. After the Vegas show where they appear to rob a Parisian bank, the FBI & Interpol (with agents played by Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent) start hunting them to find out what their ultimate goal is. Also thrown in to mix are Morgan Freeman as an ex-magician who now makes his living by explaining how magicians do their tricks and Michael Caine who is a businessman who is funding the Four Horsemen.
To say more about the plot would start to spoil the surprises.
This film is much more like Ocean's 11 than The Prestige in that it is much more a heist film than a film about magic or illusion. While I was disappointed that some of the magic is done through the use of CGI and camera trickery, when it became very clear that it was not about the magic, it didn't bother me as much.
What it is, though, is a very fun, plot heavy heist movie. While some of the exposition is clumsily inserted, making sure that the audience knows it will come into play later, the film keeps up a brisk pace for its entire 2 hour running time.
While I cannot say for sure that this film plays 100% fair throughout its entire runtime, it seems that it does. With the fun had by each actor, a nimble screenplay, and just the enjoyment of watching everyone interact on screen together, it is definitely worth your time. It is just not quite the slam dunk I was hoping it would be, although it is nowhere near the disaster I was afraid it might be.
Sometimes it sucks watching this type of film when your favorite movie is The Sting. :)

Movie Rating- 8
Film Rating- 6

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Horror & Horror/ Thriller Reviews

This is going to be a batch of quick reviews of Horror films and Horror/ Thrillers that I have seen this year. Some people ask why I watch so many horror films. I think it is because the REALLY good horror films are out there and, when you find one, it makes sitting through all the crap worth it. Witness Neil Marshall's film 'The Descent'. I have yet to find anything too great on this front so far this year. While they all have great moments and great things in them, nothing has really been fabulous yet this year.
Read on for reviews of Dark Skies, Last Exorcism 2, Texas Chainsaw 3D, Hansel & Gretl Witch Hunters, Evil Dead(2013), and V/H/S.

V/H/S- available on video now

This is a "found footage" anthology horror film which shows a group of thieves who break into a home to steal a specific videotape. When they get there, they find the homeowner dead and a ton of VHS tapes. So, while looking for the tape, they also watch several of them.
As with most anthology films, some stories are much better than others. They are all obviously low budget. The first story seems to be the longest and, while very cool in execution (I believe the last segment is shot in one long take), the story of guys bringing unsuspecting girls back to their hotel room and having the tables turned just isnt very interesting. None of the characters connect at all with the audience.
Other stories are much better (Second Honeymoon starts off very slow and gets creepier with a total WTF ending, a story of a supernatural killer in the woods who cant be photographed uses the VHS ploy to its advantage, the story where guys go to the wrong house for a Halloween party has some amazing physcal effects that I wont soon forget, and a Skype conversation with visitors is creepy), but still, even in these, pacing and acting may be off in sections and perfect in others.
There is a sequel coming out in Summer of 2013 and advance word is that it is much better than this installment. I really liked the inventiveness and how they tried to do different things throughout. So, for adventureous types looking for a mixed bag anthology of low budget horror stories, I highly recommend this. For others, watch if this review intrigues you. All others- stay away!


Movie rating- 5
Film rating- 4


Last Exorcism 2- video release date- June 18, 2013

Nell Sweetzer from the first film (played again by Ashley Bell) is found cowering in the kitchen of an unsuspecting couple after the end of the events in the first film. She is taken to a home for wayward girls. Some of them have run away from home, others are there using it as a halfway house. At this home, they are ruled over by a strict but loving (maybe too loving???) caretaker who gets them all jobs at local businesses. Nell gets a job at a motel cleaning the rooms and meets a young man that she carefully starts dating.
However, the demon from the first film will not let her go and he starts creeping into her dreams and then into manifestations throughout the day. Some of these scenes are creepy, others laughably stupid. When Nell discovers that she is endangering those around her by ignoring the demon, she must find someone who can help get rid of the demon once & for all.
The ending is hilariously bad and the tone is completely off from the rest of the film. This is almost as much of a mixed bag as V/H/S, the bigger problem is that it is not an anthology film. The only thing that keeps this film afloat is Ashley Bell as Nell. While some may think she is overly mannered in her performance, I found that I was enthralled with what she would do next. While the charcater of Nell is bizarre and totally off-kilter (due to the events of the first film and things which are inferred therein), Bell's performance never wavers and she is staggeringly good. If I only rated a film based on one performance, this would get a 10 for Bell alone. Unfortunately, the totality of the rest of the film is quite bad to mediocre.

Movie rating- 3
Film Rating- 2


Texas Chainsaw 3D- available on video now

While the fact that the beginning shows a conclusion to the events of the first film in 1974 and they find a baby and flash forward 20 years, the year should be the late to mid 90's, only it is obvious that after the flash foward we are in present day. This immediately takes one out of the film and it sverely undermines much of the seriousness of the film, if you can just turn off your brain, TC3D is actuallly a fun little horror film.
Alexandra daddario plays Heather, a girl who has a dead end job, lives with her musician boyfriend, and tries to avoid her parents whenever possible. She discovers that she has actually been adopted and that her grandmother has left her some property in a small Texas town. She confronts her parents and then heads down to pick up her inheritance with boyfriend and skanky friend couple in tow.
Once she gets there, the realtor has her sign some papers and then gives her a note from her grandmother (which she conveniently never reads until the last moments of the film- ooops!) and is given keys.
Obviously, throughout the next 12 hours, she and her friends are tormented both by Leatherface and the local townspeople who don't want her there. People are sliced and diced after having sex, others are hacked up as they try to escape, and there is not too much originality going on.
Dadarrio (seen in the Percy jackson films), gives it her best but is not very memorable as the "final girl". She is a good scream queen, but not much else. Her friends are not too much different than other potential victims in a dead teenager film, but the movie does have its share of blood, guts, and gore and a few actually tense sequences. It is also helped out by Richard Riehle, one of "those guys" whose face you recognize but not his name.
The film sets itself up for a sequel and, if one comes from this, I wont be first in line to see it on opening night, but I will definitely check it out.
As it is, a fun time with a few unintentional laughs thrown in, but nothing spectacular.

Movie rating- 5
Film rating- 3


Dark Skies- video release date- May 28, 2013

The first 15-20 minutes of this film could easily be trimmed down to 1 neighborhood BBQ scene (which is already in the film), and instead of getting one laborious charcater development and exposition scene after another, each only giving one important piece of information about the characters, they could throw all of the exposition into the BBQ scene with different characters talkign to each other and setting up the film before the opening credits are done. Unfortunately, the filmmakers do the opposite and drag on the beginning faaar too long setting up the fact that the family is having issues: dad is out of a job, mom is having a hard time as a real estate agent, the kids are pulling away, etc., etc., etc. They almost kill the film from the start, which is really too bad.
Once the film sets its plot in motion, it is actually very intriguing. Are the strange things happening because the kids are acting out or is there something else behind the strange occurrences?
There are enough very unsettling shots and events that, once it gets going, the film holds you in your seat. There are some cheesy jump scares, along with some very well-earned ones. The inematography adds to the feeling of dread, as though something is waiting just around the next corner. The camera also picks up, whether in shadow or sunlight, several very creepy shots that seep into your subconscious.
While the ending is a bit of a cop out (it sets up a sequel), I found that I really enjoyed this film and have thought about certain shots and moments several times since leaving the theater.
A solid choice for a creepy, PG-13 alien flick, once you get past the opening 15-20 minutes.

Movie rating- 6
Film rating- 5


Hansel & Gretl- Witch Hunters- video release date June 11, 2013

To be honest, the title says it all. If the title makes you want to see this film, I say to go for it. If you think the title signifies an idiotic waste of time, stay away. I will not be able to persuade anyone about this film with anything that I say. Unless maybe these words mean anything to you- Gemma Arterton and leather.
The film starts with Hansel & Gretl's father taking them to the woods in the middle of the night due to some emergency happening. he then leaves them alone. They stumble on a house made of candy and start eating and eating and eating. They aretaken in by thye witch who tries to shove them in the oven but they fight back and end up killing her. They have now found their life's calling.
In a very inventive opening credits sequence, we see medeivel newspaper headlines outlining their work as they grow up to become Jeremy renner & Gemma Arterton.
They are summoned, by Peter Stormare, to a town which has come under threat of witches. The duo investigates, find they have more trouble than they bargained for, meet several townspeople who help them or delay them, and they must gear up for the ultimate battle against many very evil witches.
I could go on, but what's the point? This is a silly film enlivened by some good kills, cheesy one-liners, and good acting (all things considered).
Being a theater employee, I got to see this for free, and am glad I didn't have to pay for it, but it was a fun, cheesy time watching a film.
Which has Gemma Arterton in leather.

Movie rating- 5
Film Rating- 3


Evil Dead (2013)- tentative video release date- July 16, 2013

Evil Dead is easily the most well-made of all of this batch of films. It has a lot of blood, guts, and gore, several very disturbing sequences, and a sense of dread that does not stop. I like the fact that it is not a direct remake since the characters have a specific purpose for being at this particular cabin in the woods,and this underlying plot thread leads to some great character moments, even after all hell has broken loose (literally). I love the fact that the effects are 99% practical (meaning very little CGI), so that when a charcater has to cut their hand off, you almost feel that character's pain as something is actually being taken off of their body.
For some, this may be a case of waaaay too much, but I had a fun time with it and enjoyed it.I was sad that the friend I went with was utterly disturbed throughout, so that showed me that it definitely is not for everyone, but I had a good time. Word is that a sequel is being considered and I, for one, would love to see where they take this now.


Movie rating- 7
Film rating- 7

Current list of Media Watched in 2013

Here is my current list of items watched this year of which I will be doing a bunch of reviews coming soon:


Previous Years’ films

Just Go With It- 1st
Raiders of the Lost Ark (re-watch)
Thank You for Smoking (re-watch)



Watching Currently

Long Kiss Goodnight (re-watch)
Gangster Squad
Castle Ssn 4
CSI Vegas Ssn 12
CSI NY Ssn 9
CSI Miami Ssn 10





TV Series

Body of Proof Ssn 2
Covert Affairs Ssn 2
Dollhouse Ssn 1
Good Wife Ssn 2
Mentalist Ssn 2
Mentalist Ssn 3


2012 films

Les Miserables- 2x
Jack Reacher
Life of Pi
Lay the favorite
The Hobbit
Zero Dark Thirty
The Impossible
Django unchained
Wreck It ralph- 2x
Hitchcock
VHS
Beasts of Southern Wild
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen


2013 Films

1-Texas Chainsaw 3D
2- Hansel & Gretel Witch hunters
3- Warm Bodies
4- Good day to Die Hard
5- Snitch
6- Dark Skies
7- Jack the Giant Slayer
8- Last Exorcism Part 2
9- Oz- Great & Powerful
10- Dead Man Down
11- Incredible Burt Wonderstone
12- The Call
13- Croods
14- Gi Joe- Retaliation
15- Olympus Has Fallen
16- The Host
17- Jurassic Park 3D- 2x
18- 42
19- Spring Breakers
20- Trance
21- Evil Dead
22- Oblivion
23- Iron Man 3

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Movie Watching Update & Spring Breakers review

So far this year, I have seen 23 movies which have been released in 2013. 13 movies which were released in 2012, 4 movies released in other years (1 for the first time), and also watched 6 entire seasons of various TV shows and watched portions of 5 other seasons of TV shows.
I have decided that I am going to start doing quick reviews 2 or 3 at a time, of the movies I have watched so that my list at the end of the year will not be too surprising to those who read my blog.
And, as the Joker said, “Here we go….”


Spring Breakers

Yes, I did go see this film. It is written and Directed by Harmony Korine and follows the escapades of 4 college girls who save up to go to Florida for Spring Break. When they pool their money together the night before they are getting ready to leave, they realize that they are woefully short of the amount needed, so they do what any young group of girls wuld do.
They rob a restaraunt.
They ditch the car (stolen from a professor) and head down to Florida on a bus, ready to party. And party they do. Some get involved in drugs, drinking, sex, and shoplifting. The good girl of the group, Faith (played by Selena Gomez) goes along and witnesses most of the shenanigans, but does not get too involved.
Until one of the parties gets busted by the cops and, since there is underage drinking and drugs at the party, everyone is taken to jail.
The foursome is bailed out by a drugdealer named Alien (played by james Franco) who wants them to help him with some of his nefarious dealings. They go back to his place and, since sher has been scared straight by the jail sentence, Faith decides to high tail it home before things get too far out of control. So, Gomez leaves the picture about 1/2 way through.
The rest of the film shows the other 3 being seduced into the darker world and life led by Franco and where those choices lead.
I have to admit that I really liked the last 5 minutes of the film, but the lead up to get there was not worth it. The camera is "shaky cam", the girls have the exact same personality and dont differentiate themselves enough either by script or acting (except for Gomez) so there are times when it is difficult to know who is doing what to whom. There is not much plot to be discussed, except for the last 20 minutes, and, while I was never outright bored, I wasnt too enthralled with the proceedings either.
Harmony Korine is a filmmaker who makes slimy films about slmiy people in slimy situations. There is abundant nudity, drinking, and drugs in this film and with the directorial style, it seems to wallow in the excesses and the film doesnt give us much reason to care about what happens to any of the characters.
Again, while the last few minutes were generally exciting, and Selena Gomez breaks out of the pack with her performance, there is not much to like about this film. The ending is good, but the journey to get there is not worth it.

Film rating- 2
Movie rating- 2

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Iron Man 3 review

You know Shane Black.
Even if you don't recognize the name, you know Shane Black.
He wrote the original Lethal Weapon in 1987. He wrote The Monster Squad, last Action hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Then, he disappeared for a few years. When he came back into the spotlight, it was with a small noir-comedy called Kiss Kiss Bang bang which starred athen- on the rebound after his many legal issues Robert Downey, Jr and Val Kilmer. While not many saw it in the theater, it has become much more well-known on video, although I still don't think it is as successful as it should be.
If you have not seen Kiss Kiss Bang bang yet, go see it.
Now.
I'm serious.
Go now.
I'll wait.
have you seen it?
Good.
Now, imagine an Iron Man film written and directed by the guy who wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang bang.
Imagining? Got it.
Good.
That is exactly what you will get.
By working at a movie theater as my second job, I got to see the employee screening very very late Tueday night and it was a great experience! I would highly recommend working at a movie theater just for all of the perks!
The Tony Stark in Iron man 3 is a different Tony Stark than the one in the original iron man. He has survived the destruction of New York in 'The Avengers' and that has changed him. He is now all about protecting Pepper Potts and attempting to become the man he thinks he should be. Only he is plagued by doubt, insomnia, anxiety attacks, and fear. Because of this, he must, again, go on the hero's journey and become the man he wants to be, both in the suit and out.
When a terrorist named 'The Mandarin' starts bombing areas around the world and announces it by breaking into all known TV broadcasts, and one of these bombings personally affects Tony, Stark goes on TV and threatens The Mandarin to come at him with all he's got. And he does.
He is destroyed by demons which he created (he says this himself in the first 30 seconds of the film, so it is not spoiler territory). He is destroyed by what he created and now he must face those demons and come back. Tony is dragged through hell in 'Iron man 3'. Those he loves and cares about are hurt and split apart from each other, he is left alone and must re-discover who he is and, once again, become Iron man.
Iron Man 3 is its own film. It does not have the same problem as Iron Man 2 where the Avengers plotline must be shoehorned in to make sure that the eventual upcoming film will tie in. The events of 'The Avengers' haunts Tony and it is omnipresent. Throughout Iron Man 3, Tony is plagued by his celebrity status as being both Tony Stark and Iron Man. He is asked for his autograph. He is put on a pedastal. At very inopportune times, he is asked to discuss the events of New York.One character even mentions Thor in a roundabout way, so it is not totally seperated from the mythology, but it is not tied down so much that it struggles to break free.
No, Iron man 3 is its own film. Shane Black makes sure of that. While Iron man 3 is very dark, it is also explosively funny and human, all at the same time. Tony Stark, Col Rhodes (Don Cheadle), all of the villains, are hiding in some way and trying to be more than they actually are and that conflict is apparent throughout.
In each of our lives, we are trying to become the best person we can in each area of our lives- husband, brother, father, son, wife, etc. and so are all of these characters. In 'Kiss Kiss', Downey's character of Harry was a thief pretending to be an actor who loved being a detective. Here, Downey's Stark is a reluctant at times superhero who is just trying to be the best he can be and stumbling through his own personal issues and ego and, when he falls, he must pick himself back up and rely on his friends and others to help make things right again.
This is just like all of us.
And this makes the film more human somehow.
Even with all of the snarkiness and flying metal suits.
Downey spends a lot of time both inside the suit and out. There is even a moment where, both unsuited, Downey and Cheadle are going against the bad guys with guns, bickering all the way, and it seems as though it might be a trial run of a reboot of the Lethal Weapon franchise with these 2 starring, and I would be all over it. The dialogue sparkles, the acting is top notch (especially for a "comic book movie") and it reminds you why there are actual actors involved- they raise the stakes high and bring humanity to this action adventure.
The plot is smart, the charcaters surprising, the dialogue i whip crackingly hilarious and intelligent, and the action is well-paced and effective.
As I said before, Iron man 3 is an Iron man film written by the creator of Kiss Kiss Bang bang, and it is everything you would expect and more. Well, except for the profanity. There is much less of that than you might expect coming from Black, but it isnt missed. Much. :)
Iron man 3 is playing in a Dolby Atmos theater at valley fair Mall in West Valley Utah for the next 2 weeks and I would highly recommend that sound mix as it brings you into the middle of the action with the suits flying all around and explosions rattling your seat.
Iron man 3 is a fantastic time at the movies.
Also, be sure to stay for a scene after the credits. While it does not lead to any of the other Mrvel movies, it is a fabulously funny sequence that also explains the narrative device.
iron Man 3 is my favorite film that I have seen this year- a fabulous way to start the summer movie season!

Film rating- 9
Movie rating- 10