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Coriolanus (2011) review
11/14/11 at 03:36 PM by EvilButters
Coriolanus was somewhat of a mystery heading into it. As someone who didn't study Shakespeare in school and someone who isn't familiar with the original play, it was difficult to get excited about a film I generally knew nothing about. The thoughts that had crossed my mind were Ralph Fiennes was rarely disappointing, Gerard Butler is talented and can showcase that when he wants to, and the expectations of heavy bloodshed. All of those assumptions turned out to be correct, but Coriolanus is more of a mess rather than a thing of beauty.

You'll notice right away that first person, shaky camera technique that everyone seems to be complaining about not only utilized in the film but fully embraced. It's used the entire film and you can probably already pinpoint its strengths and weaknesses. It does make you feel like you're right there shouting at the top of your lungs and breaking things during the riots and covering your comrades during the war-heavy scenes, but it's difficult to fully distinguish what's transpiring or who hit whom in fist or knife fights. Battle: Los Angeles comes to mind; mostly the scenes of them in the streets since a similar camera technique is used. You can visualize what Fiennes was going for, but it's a curse way more than it is a blessing.

The other thing you need to know is that this is completely set in Shakespearean dialect. It's essentially a Shakespearean play set in modern times. It's interesting on one hand, but you really have to force yourself to concentrate on what's being said the majority of the time and becomes a bit of a pain.

With that said, the film does have its high points. Most of them lie within the bullet-ridden war-heavy scenes and heavy use of violence. It's all very gritty, explosive, and quite bloody. Expect something to talk about whenever a knife is unsheathed or a gun is removed from its holster. There's a headshot early on that practically catches you off-guard and is completely unflinching. Ralph Fiennes is brilliant, as well. He's basically a ticking time bomb from start to finish and he spits his words out as if he hates having to utter them at all. His passion is clearly there though. Gerard Butler is also quite emotionally charged, but is scarcely used; the same can be said about Jessica Chastain. Vanessa Redgrave is featured in a prominent role that's very impassioned and is sure to get her nominated for an Academy Award.

Coriolanus feels like a more adult, slightly improved version of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet. It's unyielding sense of violence is impressive, but its verbose lines of dialogue drags it down. Its frantic cuts are extremely distracting, as well. Despite some strong performances, Coriolanus comes off as unnatural, feels extremely prolonged, and is tediously monotonous.

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Tags: Coriolanus, movie review, Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, drama, thriller
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A Dangerous Method (2011) review
11/14/11 at 11:43 AM by EvilButters
Does anybody out there actually dislike David Cronenberg? It's just bizarre to think that fans of any sort of film genre could hate, dislike, or not care for anything in Cronenberg's genre-spanning repertoire. He's a pretty versatile director and dabbles in a little bit of everything while leaving his fingerprints and trademarks all over everything he's a part of. Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, and Spider are a few personal favorites. With that said, A Dangerous Method more than likely won't be considered one of his best but is still a very solid effort overall.

The entire film feels like an acting vehicle with Keira Knightley firmly in control of the driver's seat. Viggo Mortensen isn't really around much at all and his performance is the most forgetful of the three leads. His performance is still fairly engaging, but it pales in comparison to his co-stars and even his performance in his last film with Cronenberg Eastern Promises. Michael Fassbender does let his talent slip through his rather wooden-feeling performance at times. Carl Jung (Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) are the two main scientific minds of the film and being know-it-all, emotionless drones is practically expected and kind of natural to think of when a scientist comes to mind. Fassbender at least shows signs of emotion and it's almost as if you can see the wheels turning in his head before he speaks at times, but Keira Knightley steals the show. Her facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures are just phenomenal and almost inhuman. I've never seen someone's teeth used to be so expressive before and her Russian accent isn't too shabby either. It'd be kind of a tragedy if Knightley isn't at least nominated for an Oscar after this.

The film becomes notorious for the repetitive way certain scenes are shot. Two characters would be in frame, one in the background and one in the foreground (usually a close-up), and it would only last for a few lines of dialogue. It was a simple idea yet was visually intriguing and the technique usually made the shot more memorable because of it. There's also a scene near the end of the film with a discussion between Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) sitting by the lake. It's mostly absent of background music other than some piano that creeps in later on in the scene, but hearing the sounds of the lake during their conversation made it a little more spectacular.

A Dangerous Method is set during World War I and is about how Freud and Jung developed psychoanalysis at its core, but is driven by the masochistic affair that develops between Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein. Their intimate scenes are usually fairly disturbing and incredibly emotional. They're practically the heart and soul of the film. There are also a handful of one-liners that are sure to stick with you long after the journey ends. ("Little do they know we're bringing them the plague.")

A Dangerous Method is a little unnerving at times, but is very tame in comparison to nearly everything else Cronenberg has done. Keira Knightley is absolutely outstanding. A Dangerous Method is a well-written and intelligent drama that is powerful and superbly acted with just the right amount of discomforting material to keep you fascinated until those final credits roll.

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Tags: A Dangerous Method, movie review, drama, Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender
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J. Edgar (2011) review
11/10/11 at 03:35 PM by EvilButters
I can't recall knowing much of anything about J. Edgar Hoover before seeing this film. Other than recognizing the name, everything else was pretty much a mystery. I suppose that's why it was so intriguing; controversy is always interesting. Here is this man that became known for his incredibly strict standards, his loyalty to his work, his rise to the top of law enforcement, and basically helped the way crimes are solved and prosecuted evolve to what we're familiar with today who basically had confidential files on every major player he'd ever been in contact with, was completely clueless when it came to the opposite sex, and may or may not have been homosexual.

The film begins during the Palmer Raids of late 1919 and early 1920 and covers everything up to Hoover's death in 1972. We constantly jump back in forth in time as an older J. Edgar (Leonardo DiCaprio) is narrating his version of his life and the younger version of J. Edgar in the 30s as he rose to the top of the Bureau of Investigation and formed the FBI. The way the film transitions between the early 1930s and 1972 and the way these transitions are edited is part of the film's charm. It already has this kind of filter on it; the one that seems to have become associated with most of Clint Eastwood's directorial efforts. Everything looks kind of semi-drained of its color and is kind of hazy. It looks the way you'd imagine the past if somebody was telling you a story and they cued a flashback or something.

The unfortunate thing is the film has something really intriguing at its core, but it's presented so blandly. There's a huge explosion early on in the film, gangsters, gunfire, and a dead body among other things but it's all spread out amongst rather underwhelming dialogue. DiCaprio becomes incredibly emotional in the final half hour or so, but he seems to be holding back the rest of the time. Other than portraying a different accent, he seems to just be going with the flow while the same can be said for Naomi Watts. While DiCaprio does pull it together later on, Armie Hammer practically acts circles around him the entire time. His facial expressions are what give away just how much he enjoys being in the company of J. Edgar and his portrayal of an older man with health problems is practically spot-on. Judi Dench also has quite a few memorable scenes as J. Edgar's mother Anna Marie. Keep a particular eye out for the "Daffy" conversation between her and J. Edgar.

The make-up effects are easily a shoe-in to win an Oscar this year. Not only are they fantastic, but trying to think of worthy competition is almost impossible. X-Men: First Class perhaps? Either way they did a phenomenal job here. The subtle sex jokes became increasingly awkward as the film progressed. However, that was more than likely its purpose. There is also one of the most oafish kiss scenes in cinematic history included in here. While watching J. Edgar, I couldn't help but think of David Fincher's Zodiac. It was mostly in the way both films seemed to ease you into conversations and reactions revolving around what interested you in the film to begin with rather than throwing you headfirst into the subject (The Zodiac Killer and J. Edgar's private life respectively). The flaw with that comparison is that Zodiac is still more interesting than J. Edgar.

J. Edgar comes off as longwinded and fairly boring the majority of the time. There is a fascinating story buried within its roots, but somewhere between pen and paper and the big screen a bland representation of what it once was became the movie we know today. Leonardo DiCaprio almost seems to hold back most of the film while Armie Hammer manages to outshine him at every turn and shows how ridiculously talented he really is. J. Edgar isn't downright awful, but it isn't great either. Even though they only played a minor role, J. Edgar manages to be the lamest and dullest film featuring gangsters I've ever seen.

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Tags: J. Edgar, movie review, biography, drama, Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer
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Blu-ray review: A Better Tomorrow (2011)
11/10/11 at 12:59 PM by EvilButters
I've often joked that you cannot put weight in calling yourself a man unless you have seen at least one John Woo film. His early work especially was filled with epic gunfights, explosions, and just all around awe-inspiring action sequences. The only downside is that many of his older films featuring Chow Yun Fat all feel so similar that it's really difficult to distinguish one from another. The storylines are almost exactly the same and many of the same cast members are utilized in each film. It has literally been years since I've seen the original A Better Tomorrow. I was mostly hoping for an upgrade of sorts from Dragon Dynasty since their 2-disc and Blu-ray releases of classic foreign cinema are always top notch. Nevertheless, I do remember holding both the original film and sequel in high regard. I wasn't even aware a Korean remake was on the cards until I received an email informing me of the DVD and Blu-ray details. Given the amount of remakes that hit US shores at such a quickened pace, I was a bit weary of giving this film a chance. But then I began to realize how much I love Korean film and came to notice that John Woo produced the film. So A Better Tomorrow was given its proper chance and folks, maybe it's because I haven't seen the 1986 version in so long but this remake almost seems as worthy as the original film.

Before I get ahead of myself, I love John Woo's film. I want to make that point crystal clear. A Better Tomorrow features some of the most influential action sequences not only of the 1980s, but perhaps of all time. The remake takes a bit of a different route and is more story-driven. There are only a handful of action sequences, but they feel strategically placed and mean a bit more in the long run. Character development is key. The action is only there to compliment the drama. While the original theme, location, and character names may have been changed, much of the impact of what these characters are going through is still rather strong. The majority of the film is carried by the brothers Hyuk (Jin-mo Ju) and Chul (Kang-woo Kim) and their relationship or lack thereof. Hyuk abandoned Chul and his mother years ago. With their mother now dead, Chul seeks revenge and only wants to see his brother dead while Hyuk just wants Chul to be a part of his life. Hyuk is a policeman who illegally deals guns on the side. His partner Young-chun (Seung-heon Song) is more than likely the coolest guy you've ever come across while Tae Min (Han Sun Jo) is the lackey who dreams of becoming a gangster boss.

The film looks stunning. It's beautifully shot and features some amazingly vibrant colors along with some really impressive lighting. The Young-chun gun scene with the arms dealers from Thailand near the beginning of the film is where things begin to get interesting. The interrogation scene where the brothers meet for the first time after many years of separation show how powerful the performances of Jin-Mo Ju and Kang-woo Kim are going to become. But the massage parlor scene with Young-chun is where the film begins to show its first signs of John Woo influence. While the action scenes are fewer, everything seems to be riding on the final gunfight which is pretty extraordinary. The relationship between the two brothers is what drives the movie forward, but the way Young-chun tries to make himself part of that equation and the monster Tae Min becomes is what makes the film at least a little special.

The few reviews I'm seeing online of this film are saying things like it lacks the very important theme of the John Woo film and that there isn't as much action. There's also a lack of female roles, which I agree with. This version of A Better Tomorrow is good for different reasons than its predecessor. I feel like the performances were much stronger in the remake and that the story, even though it deviated quite a bit from John Woo's version, took a front seat rather than the action. The Korean remake is slower and not quite as violent. My only complaint falls onto the ending, which is way too anticlimactic.

A Better Tomorrow is not the same movie it's labeled as remaking and that's a good thing. Strong performances and fewer action sequences help pave the way for more meaningful character development and a story with a bit more of an impact. Maybe I'm biased because I love depressing films, but A Better Tomorrow is well worth giving a chance if you can settle with the fact that it's different and altered from the source material; arguably not for the better but enjoyable in a contrasting way.

Special features are pretty minimal. It says there are 27 minutes total of special features in the set, but I believe the same set of special features are on both the DVD and the Blu-ray. So it’s more like 13 minutes of the same features on both discs. There’s a three minute Character Intro Cast Interview that introduces the characters and shows you a little bit behind the scenes, a four minute Making of featurette that goes into more detail behind the scenes and gives you more information about the film including it being filmed in Thailand, the type of blood packs they used, and action scenes being shot from a helicopter. Challenges & Transformations is nothing more than a two minute interviews with director Song Hae-sung and producer John Woo (separately). Throw in the original trailer and a bonus trailer and that sums up all the bonus material. Keep in mind both the DVD and Blu-ray of the film are included in one package.

A Better Tomorrow is presented in widescreen with a 16:9 aspect ratio and features stereo 5.1 HD Surround Sound along with Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The film is in Korean with English subtitles and is approximately 123 minutes long. The A Better Tomorrow DVD/Blu-ray combo package is available in retail stores and most online retailers now.

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Tags: A Better Tomorrow, movie review, Blu-ray review, drama, action, remake, Korean, John
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Blu-ray review: Zombie (1979) (2-Disc Ultimate Edition)
11/07/11 at 09:27 AM by EvilButters
Lucio Fulci is a name most horror and zombie fans are familiar with. As an Italian horror director, a good portion of his work either slipped under the radar or went on to become a cult classic in the states. Films like City of the Living Dead, The House By the Cemetery, and The Beyond, but Zombie is more than likely the most recognized Fulci film. Also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters and Zombi 2, Zombie was originally planned as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead. Unlike most direct to DVD sequels that try to jump the shark or a low budget sequel that goes straight to Syfy, Zombie is not only worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Dawn of the Dead, but may actually be a better film in general and the best of Fulci's work period.

Fulci films are notorious for gloriously realistic gore scenes while being fairly light in the story department and having some pretty rigid acting. Zombie seems to be the best-rounded Fulci film and makes the most out of all of his strengths. It's certainly in the vein of Dawn of the Dead and is more than a worthy successor. It does have its fair share of overacting that usually falls onto the shoulders of the two main supporting actresses Auretta Gay and Olga Karlatos but it's also easy to overlook. If you're a zombie fan, the story is compelling and the kills are memorable. The eyeball scene is one of the best in the history of horror and a zombie fights a shark under water. Does anything else really need to be said other than that? It's as if Fonzie somehow missed that infamous jump over a shark on water-skis and has been lying on the bottom of the lake waiting until a nude scuba diver swam his way to try and gain some revenge.

The make-up effects are generally really amazing for the time the film was produced; the graveyard scene being the best example. That zombie with the worms in its eye has become iconic. That specific zombie's death may be an even better example of how gore in a low budget horror film can outshine just about anything in most higher budgeted films. The camera work is also key to a film like Zombie. The lighting is actually really fantastic and seems to be just right at all times, but the camera is always just in the right place after a zombie gets smacked in the head to spit a spray of blood into the camera. A POV shot is also used occasionally from the zombie's perspective. The main use of this technique that comes to mind is in the graveyard when a zombie is coming up out of the ground and you see dirt falling away from the line of vision as the camera rises up. The last shot may be the most incredible of the film, especially once you learn how the shot was acquired; the mass of zombies on the bridge in New York. It literally leaves you with no hope for humanity, which is pretty much the most definitive ending any zombie movie could ask for.

Like most early horror films, Zombie isn't without its flaws. There's still quite a bit of overacting and the technique of zooming in closer and closer on someone's face whenever something gross or shocking is discovered gets a bit tiresome. But Zombie offers exactly what every horror fan loves; plenty of gore, excellent practical effects, a fairly decent story, and quite a bit of nudity. Zombie can definitely be considered a triumph for its time and is a bloody terrific zombie masterpiece from beginning to end.

This two disc set has a massive list of extras, so try to bear with me. The first disc includes audio commentary with star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater, two theatrical trailers, two thirty second TV spots, four radio spots, a poster & still gallery, and the Guillermo Del Toro Intro. Disc two includes a plethora of interviews from just about everyone in the cast that you can imagine. Zombie Wasteland is 22 minutes long and is the thirty year reunion of the cast at a few horror conventions. It includes interviews with cast members Richard Johnson, Ian McCulloch, Al Cliver, and Ottaviano Dell'acqua. Flesh Eaters on Film is an interview with co-producer Fabrizio De Angelis and runs 10 minutes long. De Angelis brings up how difficult it was to work with Fulci, how he made three to four movies with Fulci when no other producer could stand him after one film, and Zombie being successful among other things. Deadtime Stories includes interviews with co-writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti and is 14 minutes long. World of the Dead has interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and production and costume designer Walter Patriarca in a 16 minute segment. Zombi Italiano features interviews with special make-up effects artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and special effects artist Gino De Rossi. The feature runs for 17 minutes as these artists walk you through laughing at their first make-up attempt on a zombie, how they retrieved a shark, pulling off the splinter in the eye scene, Fulci always wanting entrails, and the bridge scene being stolen; no permits and causing a traffic jam. Notes on a Headstone is a seven minute interview with composer Fabio Frizzi, All in the Family is a six minute interview with Fulci's daughter Antonella, and Zombie Lover is a ten minute feature with Guillermo del Toro has he explains why he loves the film.

The 2-Disc Ultimate Edition Blu-ray of Zombie is presented in 1080p HD resolution in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Audio is available in both English and Italian in 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, and original mono. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Francais, Espanol, Portugues, Deutsch, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Zombie was originally released in 1979 and its duration is approximately 92 minutes long. The two-disc set is available in retail stores and most online retailers now.

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Tags: Zombie, movie review, Blu-ray review, horror, zombies, Lucio Fulci
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Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) review
11/05/11 at 07:21 PM by EvilButters
Martha Marcy May Marlene is literally one of the most difficult movie titles to remember in recent memory; at least until after you see the film. Shortened to MMMM in movie conversations, when you tell people that title their reply is usually along the lines of, "That sounds REALLY stupid." But Martha Marcy May Marlene is pretty much the furthest thing from stupid a film could possibly be. But then if you were try to convince somebody that a movie starring a younger sister of the Olsen twins is not only good but filled with some pretty extraordinary acting, you'd probably be laughed at. If you enjoy independent film, watch the trailer for Martha Marcy May Marlene and go into the full-length film with an open mind. It's practically guaranteed you'll be surprised with what you discover.

Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) has just returned home to her family; Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). Martha disappeared two years ago without a trace. She never called anyone or let anyone know where she was going; she was just gone. Now that Martha has returned, she doesn't seem right. She acts strangely and can't tell the difference between the past, the present, and events that she dreamed about. But she doesn't want to talk about it. She did however live with a man named Patrick (John Hawkes) on a farm with a group of other women who basically worshipped the ground Patrick walked on. But whatever happened there has tainted Martha. The events that transpired there still haunt her to this day and Martha soon comes to realize that the life she had for two years isn't so easy to run away from.

Martha Marcy May Marlene reels you in right from the start. You see Martha take off into the woods and the shaky point of view that's used along with the positioning of the camera gives you the sense that you're chasing after her, which is basically what you're doing the entire film. There's this constant sense of uneasiness dripping over each frame of the film even before anything is actually revealed. The absence of a score does wonders, but every once in awhile a slow rising high pitched tone can be heard to make things more tense and it works in spades.

The film itself is rather upsetting and almost off-putting in a way. It's incredibly difficult to watch at times, but hard to pull yourself away from at the same time. Elizabeth Olsen is an interesting actress to watch. She spends the majority of the film keeping to herself and not wanting to talk about the hell she's been through the past two years, but her unusual behavior along with how insanity begins to slip through the cracks of the front she puts on in front of her family is the beauty of not only the character but her performance as well. John Hawkes has always been a compelling actor anyway, but he's in top form here. Patrick is a very driven individual. Of course, the way he lives and his ideals are completely off the wall but it's the way he's so calm about it and so confident that makes it believable. Then there's his dark side that's just downright scary. The whole scenario brings to mind a famous serial killer; a certain family from the 1960s.

However like most movies the less you know about Martha Marcy May Marlene going in the better. One of the film's charms is how it transitions between the past and the present. It illustrates to perfection the thought process and current mindset of the Martha character. Marcy's Song, which is performed by John Hawkes, is a beautiful song but its context is genuinely creepy. Most of the conversations between Martha and her sister Lucy are some of the best scenes in the film. Their conversation by the lake while Ted is making dinner is one that stands out. You find yourself just enthralled with the film and just entranced with everything going on, but the ending is kind of a letdown. It's very open-ended and was obviously done to keep you talking (which it has done very successfully), but it didn't feel completely satisfying to me. It doesn't necessarily hurt the film overall, but is just a small nitpick on my end.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is driven by an exceptional cast and an engaging story while being wrapped up in an incredibly unnerving presentation. There doesn't really seem to be a weak actor in the cast as Elizabeth Olsen shows she's a very talented actress and John Hawkes continues to show how talented he really is. Martha Marcy May Marlene keeps you guessing, keeps you on the edge of your seat, and is just brilliant storytelling all around.

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Tags: Martha Marcy May Marlene, movie review, Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, thriller
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Tower Heist (2011) review
11/04/11 at 01:45 PM by EvilButters
Brett Ratner isn't exactly a director people love these days. After the below par Rush Hour 3 fell well below expectations and X-Men: The Last Stand genuinely pissed off comic book and movie fans alike, it's difficult to really get excited about anything he's a part of now. So along comes Tower Heist where Ratner teams with Eddie Murphy, another example of someone in Hollywood people have grown sour on, to assemble a movie that seems to have thrown together a wide assortment of middle class actors that hope to capture the same magic the Ocean's Eleven movies did. Sometimes you can predict a movie at face value and what you see in promos is what you get with Tower Heist.

Tower Heist did seem to finally get going in the middle of the movie; it showed signs of heart, jokes actually felt a bit more on point, and the story was progressing nicely. Unfortunately, it's sandwiched between an extremely lame opening half hour or so featuring what feels like nothing but rectum and feces jokes and a really stupid final half hour that is just too over the top to believe or actually pull off. Peña and Murphy seem to be in a competition with one another on who can say the most ignorant things that come to mind while Broderick falls victim to the same character flaw despite showing signs of intelligence in more difficult areas. Casey Affleck doesn't do a whole lot other than worry about his pregnant wife while Ben Stiller puts in one of the tamest performances of his career. Nearly all of the characters felt flat and underdeveloped. Despite having their own quirks and brief background stories, they all seemed to go in the same direction which was blurting ridiculous one-liners to try and make the audience laugh rather than try and move the story along.

There is some good buried in the middle of the movie though. The entire Lester (Stephen Henderson) subplot is the closest Tower Heist gets to developing any sort of heart even though it feels like it drops the ball as soon as it tries to pick it up. The conversations the team has before the actual heist take place are easily the funniest segments of the film; the lesbian conversation and Lego layout scene with the "Webster" line specifically. Gabourey Sidibe is used pretty sparingly in the movie, but seems to do the most with what screen time she does get. She's genuinely pretty funny nearly every time she shows up. Téa Leoni probably gives the strongest performance though. Special Agent Claire Denham is an FBI agent that does everything by the book and puts her job before anything else, but it's obvious she develops a soft spot for Josh Kovacs (Stiller). The scene where she and Stiller get drunk is charming in this awkward sort of way.

Tower Heist would actually be pretty decent if it wasn't for how everything is resolved at the end. What the team ends up stealing, how they get it out of the hotel, where it ends up, and what they do with it just ruins anything you may have liked up until that point. Nearly every actor that's part of the main cast at least has one line that will make you smile or laugh out loud, so everyone gets their moment to shine. It doesn't save a shoddy movie that can't find its footing in the story department though. With more downs than ups and one of the most unfulfilling conclusions to a movie in recent memory, Tower Heist comes off as nothing more than a generically ghetto version of Ocean's Eleven.

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Tags: Tower Heist, movie review, action, comedy, crime, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy
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The Skin I Live In (2011) review
11/04/11 at 11:48 AM by EvilButters
I had caught wind of The Skin I Live In a few months back. I remember watching a trailer and/or reading a brief description of the project and being incredibly interested in seeing it. Then the film had a positive reputation amongst well-known critics and review sites, so that pretty much sealed my interest in it right there. The downside was I had never seen a Pedro Almodóvar film and I really don't care for Antonio Banderas outside of like Desperado, but still the desire to see this film was there. Nothing can really prepare you for The Skin I Live In though. You'll pretty much be left gobsmacked with your jaw on the floor on at least one occasion during the film.

Robert Ledgard (Banderas) is a plastic surgeon who has just developed artificial skin from pig cells that's stronger than the average person's skin, is heat resistant, and insect resistant. Brilliant research has lead to a brilliant discovery. Robert has many skeletons buried in his closet though. The main one being a woman named Vera (Elena Anaya) being kept captive by Robert who has been the test subject to his experiments. With the loss of his family, Robert has jumped headfirst into his research to distract himself from his demons for so long that he's basically forgotten how to think clearly; a decision that'll come back to haunt him sooner rather than later.

It is extremely difficult to give you much of an idea of what this film allows you to see without spoiling what's absolutely vital to enjoying (or at least being caught off guard) by the climax of the film. There are a few obvious things that come to mind though. The first one being that the score is fantastic and easily one of the best of the year. Full orchestra scores or ones that utilize a heavy use of pianos, violins, and or cellos always speak to me in volumes. The other thing is that Antonio Banderas seems to be stepping way out of his comfort zone for this film and I mean that in a positive way. Outside of a handful of films like Desperado, The Mask of Zorro, and The 13th Warrior, Banderas seems to be known for Spanish films, romantic comedies, and children's films (the Spy Kids & Shrek films). Once you see The Skin I Live In, your reaction is basically something along the lines of, "Holy ....! That was this guy? Where the hell did this come from?" It's kind of spectacular in this awe-inspiring kind of way. While there is certainly an art to actors who make a name for themselves as well-known character actors, I’ve always preferred the talented individuals who take on a variety of different and unexpected projects. Showing a wide variety of your talent is way more impressive than showing people the same thing you do well over and over again. Lastly, if you're a fan of films with twists or movies that offer something you weren't expecting going in then The Skin I Live In is worth looking into. It's a really unique twist on the revenge genre.

The Skin I Live In obviously won't be for everyone. Some will find it ridiculous while others will speak volumes of it long after they should. Its nonlinear storytelling certainly strengthens the impact of a key scene while simultaneously making you contemplate just where in the world the film could go from there. Even if you don't enjoy it, you can probably at least agree that it's one of the most unpredictable films of the year. With all of this said, there are a few downers to the film. For one, the sex scenes are incredibly awkward; the subtext of the film being the key reason for that. The ending also suits the film well on one hand, but is kind of weak on the other. It feels a little too open-ended for a possible sequel opportunity, but also feels like a gratifying finale to this particular part of the story. The Skin I Live In is a dark, beautifully disturbing, shocking thriller that doesn't adhere to predictability.

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Tags: The Skin I Live In, movie review, drama, thriller, Pedro Almodóvar, Antonio Banderas
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In Time (2011) review
10/29/11 at 08:20 PM by EvilButters
It seems like Justin Timberlake has gotten a lot of media attention for his acting since The Social Network, doesn't it? His name is pretty much a regular thing in media anyway, but I think The Social Network was around the time people began to take him seriously as an actor and not just that guy who used to be in N*SYNC. In Time looked to have a lot of potential. A futuristic thriller where currency is measured in time with Justin Timberlake getting a stab at the lead. Like most, I was skeptical but the trailers reeled me in. Regrettably, In Time proves that an interesting concept can't always go as far as you'd like it to.

It was really difficult to get a read on this movie while you're sitting there watching it. You can usually get to the point where you're familiar with the projects certain actors choose and whether you're a fan of their work or not. In Time was all over the place. Olivia Wilde was the first sign that this probably wasn't going to go well. As I've mentioned before, Wilde is amazing on "House MD" and is incredibly talented but her range seems so limited in the movies she chooses to be a part of. Alex Pettyfer was another name I wasn't pleased to see. His outing in I Am Number Four wasn't really anything to be proud of. Now that I think about it, I Am Number Four and In Time are pretty similar; glow in the dark arms/hands, an interesting concept leading to a disappointing result, and both films being in the sci-fi genre among other things. On the other hand though, Justin Timberlake is a pretty decent actor. As a big fan of The Social Network, I was eager to see Timberlake stretch his acting legs a bit more. He's easily the most charismatic character of In Time by showing the widest range of emotion. Amanda Seyfried eventually breaks out of her shell, but she spends half the movie being too rich to really have any need for emotion or do anything remotely noteworthy. I was excited to see Cillian Murphy as he's usually very memorable, creepy, and/or absorbing in some way with his performance but he was just as dull and flat as nearly everyone else around him.

Nearly every character of In Time fails to have any sort of personality. There's no character development and calling them one-dimensional is a bit of a stretch since they barely qualify as that. While it does make sense for the rich to be devoid of emotion, you'd think others would be able to show a little more personality. The odd thing is I hear many people calling this movie "futuristic," but nothing is really futuristic about it other than time being the currency and the timekeepers cars being stolen from "Knight Rider". Having a glow in the dark clock on your arm that counts down to your death doesn't count either. Frank from Donnie Darko is insulted. There are a number of plot holes and inconsistencies, as well. The model car being used in the car crash scene along with never really finding out what happened to Will Salas (Timberlake) father despite Raymond Leon (Murphy) referring to him constantly and hinting at revealing something huge about Will's father early on. The main issue is that nothing really sticks out.

The standout scene from the film takes place in a hotel room in the second half of the movie. Will and Sylvia (Seyfried) are hiding out when Fortis (Pettyfer) and his minute men bust in trying to get a piece of the couple's 10 year reward. Fortis and Will "play to zero" and the end result is easily the most entertaining portion of the movie. Youtube that scene in a few months and you'll be golden. It's interesting since In Time reminded me quite a bit of Repo Men. Not so much in tone or in subject matter, but in the way that each film took a concept that was fairly unique and completely blew it.

In Time feels like it was never fully developed. A fascinating idea and a good message lies somewhere buried underneath all of the cliche garbage that seems to plague the movie from beginning to end. There are a handful of plot holes, most on-screen characters are too similar to each other to really have a distinguishable personality, and toys being used in an elaborate sequence early on basically squander whatever interest in the movie you may have once had. The whole experience is left feeling bland and doesn't ever really feel like the exciting portion of it ever really kicks in. In Time is not only a disappointment, but walks the line of embarrassment.

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Tags: In Time, movie review, sci-fi, thriller, crime, Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried
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The Thing (2011) review
10/25/11 at 01:53 PM by EvilButters
John Carpenter's version of The Thing is a horror classic that has not only stood the test of time, but is considered by many to be one of the best horror movies ever. The desire to return to the 1982 film to attempt and capture a similar atmosphere in a modern motion picture is understandable, but the journey is likely to not only tarnish its reputation but weaken the impact it once had. Despite being held in such high regard, it's not like The Thing is a huge money maker. The 1982 film didn't even break $20 million at the domestic box office and didn't really become a success until it was released on VHS. Fast forward nearly thirty years and a new version of The Thing has covertly made its way into theaters or at least that's what it would like to lead you to believe.

The Thing has a pretty decent opening. What's a modern day R-rated horror movie without a really terrible raunchy joke to break the ice (pun intended) minutes before everything hits the fan? The scenery is kind of breathtaking, as well. The roaming shot that opens the film where we see many of the snow caps in "Antarctica" along with most of the scenic shots are fairly beautiful. There's something about vast, snowy landscapes and icy structures that's mesmerizing.

The special effects are probably the main reason to see The Thing. Many horror fans that have seen the prequel are upset that the film relied so much on CG, but I found them rather extraordinary. There's a mix of both practical effects and computer generation for a result that is both gnarly and out of this world. It's not so much that CG is so relevant in films nowadays that turns me off of it it's the amount of cheap-looking CG that constantly gets used. In regards to living up to Carpenter's film, The Thing came closest with how the creature looked. That along with how everything happening seemed to explain events in the 1982 version are a drawing factor. The Thing feels like a remake, but the events that unfold explain what happened leading up to the opening shot in Carpenter's film. The sound effects also at least make the film worth a viewing in the theater. The creature's sounds alone are pretty intense. The score wasn't necessarily memorable, but was just subtle enough and just enough to put you on the edge to add a little bit to the film. Lastly, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the most decent part of the cast. She's no R.J. MacReady, but she has the most developed personality.

Unfortunately The Thing pretty much has everyTHING working against it despite showing quite a bit of potential. It has the blandest dialogue. Everything is so boring and monotone. All of the characters feel one-dimensional, as well; paper thin. Character development is mostly nonexistent. The jump scares feel cheap and it's so dead set on staying close to Carpenter's vision that it isn't able to establish an identity of its own. The "test" in the prequel is beyond weak and the film?s constant absence of logic becomes groan-worthy.

In the 1982 film, Childs (Keith David) says at one point "If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know it was really me?" This version of The Thing aspires to be a perfect imitation of Carpenter's version and it crashes and burns. It barely passes as an imperfect imitation. The way it relies on Carpenter's film as a crutch hurts it more than anything. However the special effects at least make it worth seeing in the theater. Although disappointing, The Thing is somewhat decent, better than what most review sites are giving it credit for, and moderately entertaining.

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Tags: The Thing, movie review, horror, mystery, sci-fi, prequel, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, J
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Blu-ray review: The Last Circus (2011)
10/15/11 at 08:21 AM by EvilButters
When you sit down to watch The Last Circus, you should go in not knowing what to expect. That mindset is your best bet at enjoying this film to the fullest. In fact, I encourage you to jump to the last paragraph of this review and then read the rest after your first viewing. It has quite a reputation going for it; a reputation that is mostly positive. Avoiding trailers and only having a vague knowledge of a movie is so rare these days and with a film like this it just pays off so well. Álex de la Iglesia is a name I wasn't familiar with until now and while The Last Circus did seem to fizzle out a bit near its finale, it's still very absorbing, gloriously disturbing, and a solid effort from Iglesia.

The Last Circus tells a love story that is centered on revenge; it's demented and rather on the gruesome side but love is the central theme along with elements of revenge, horror, and dark comedy. The film's rich visuals will suck you in right away. It has this unique look to it; color seems to be completely drained from the film the majority of the time yet things like blood, makeup, and rather intricate costumes seem to leap off the screen in exquisite color. It's all very surreal and seems to be on the verge of becoming a nightmare at all times, so when it does finally venture into a dream sequence with nightmarish tendencies it's rather extraordinary.

The score is also pretty spectacular. The triumphant music that plays over the opening credits seems to give you the sensation that you're marching toward your death while the pounding keys of the piano during the tunnel sequence practically rattles your bones. It's kind of intriguing how similar Sergio (Antonio de la Torre) and Javier (Carlos Areces) turn out to be and it’s all thanks to Natalia (Carolina Bang). Javier is so unsure of himself at first, is kind of pathetic, and a complete coward at his core but that changes once he meets Natalia. Sergio is short-tempered, an alcoholic, and his violent outbursts usually cause one or more to end up in the hospital when things don't go his way. Sergio's story becomes really interesting since it seems to borrow heavily from both The Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein. Natalia on the other hand just doesn't seem to know what she wants. She loves the way Sergio makes love to her, but feels safe with Javier. She's truly torn between the two monsters she inadvertently creats.

Keep an eye out for a trumpet and an iron as they both become nearly as iconic as the hammer was in Oldboy. The Last Circus has a way of putting its viewer on edge with a sense of discomfort and uneasiness never being far away. The restaurant scene is a prime example, which also shows how messed up Sergio really is and eventually leads to one of the most awkward and off-putting sex scenes in recent memory. Some of the computer generated effects got a little overboard in the latter half and seemed to slightly sour my opinion of the film. However after watching the special features, it's truly amazing how much of the film was created with digital effects.

The Last Circus is like a one-sided coin featuring tragedy on both sides and the final scene seems to illustrate this point perfectly. Its surreal visuals make the film a real treat to look at and the haunting score is both memorable and beautiful in a sinister kind of way. With its nearly seamless use of practical and computer generated effects and the way the entire film seems to be covered in a veil of unpredictability, The Last Circus is a unique vision into circus life that's mostly calamitous yet visually stimulating.

Special features are pretty slim, but still interesting. Making of The Last Circus is a fifteen minute featurette that takes you behind the scenes of the film. It's here that you begin to realize how much of the film was filmed in front of the green screen as the cast comments on what it's like to work with Álex de la Iglesia. Behind the Scenes Segments is more of the same type of footage presented as a seven and a half minute montage. Visual Effects is really cool. It's ten minutes long and compares the final version of the film to what was shot in front of the green screen. It literally takes you through step by step of the digital effects. It also informs you that there were 47 digital artists and post-production took two months. The U.S. Trailer, International Trailer, and International Teaser round out the special features.

The film looks completely stunning in 1080P High Definition presented in a 16x9 (2.35:1) aspect ratio and sounds fantastic in its Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Its colors are really brought to life in HD as blood splatters, animal cries, maniacal outbursts, and the amazing score probably couldn't sound any better than they do here. The Last Circus is rated R for brutal and bloody violence throughout, some strong sexual content, nudity and language. The film's duration is approximately 101 minutes and will be available in retail stores and most online retailers this Tuesday, October 18th.

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Tags: The Last Circus, movie review, Blu-ray review, romance, revenge, horror, black comedy
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1911 (2011) review
10/06/11 at 09:42 PM by EvilButters
Jackie Chan has been a huge part of my life ever since I saw Rumble in the Bronx in theaters back when it was originally released in the US in 1996. Jackie Chan is known for his rather amazing action choreography, his lightning quick fighting styles, and ability to incorporate comedy into nearly all of his well-known films for an experience that is pretty much entertaining for everybody. In recent years, Jackie Chan has calmed down a bit and has attempted to make the jump to more dramatic features. The move makes sense since he's well over fifty these days. The problem is that many projects Chan decides to be a part of that are genres outside of what he's known for usually turn out to be kind of stale and unfortunately 1911 falls under that category.

1911 is a rather detailed look at the last days of the Qing Dynasty as it's overthrown by the Republic of China, which is led by Sun Yat-sen (Winston Chao). Chan portrays Huang Xing, a man who has studied the art of modern warfare in Japan and pretty much takes it upon himself to lead the revolution whenever he steps out onto the battlefield. 1911 is a historical drama, which might make you groan just by its classification. Films like 1911 are capable of being well-written and entertaining, but they have to have that balance of being both informative of that era and being able to throw the viewer into the midst of a hard fought, blood drenched battle or two. It helps visualize the hell these individuals went through while also mixing up what is otherwise a monotonous exchange of politics. War movies have to have heart and/or have spectacular war sequences to really be memorable. 1911 never really gets that far. The film is just under two hours long, but it feels like it's two or three times longer than that since you're basically sitting there listening to people talk the majority of the film. Most of the war scenes are short and feel unbalanced in comparison to the long strings of dialogue. In a foreign film like this, subtitles are crucial to enjoying the feature. The English subtitles for 1911 are so tiny. When rather large blocks of text are put up on the screen it's fairly difficult to try and comprehend what's going on when teeny-tiny text tries to inform you what's occurring, especially when its presented in a white color while sometimes also being on a white background in addition to being so small. There also seems to be so many people in the film you have to try and remember. Dozens of individuals are introduced on screen along with a block of tiny text saying who they are, but most of them you never see again other than that one scene which results in most of them being rather forgettable.

Bullet shells, pocket watches, Jackie Chan showing he can still deliver what people love him for, dismemberment, and being long and drawn out are probably the only things you'll take away from 1911. Some of the imagery in the film is really powerful. Bullet shells and pocket watches are the ones that leave the longest lasting impressions. There is one scene that is really incredible. It's a Jackie Chan scene with no dialogue. It takes place in the trenches out on the battlefield when Huang Xing thinks he sees the woman he loves pass by him. A simple score kind of guides you through the scene that only lasts a minute or two. It was easily the best scene of the film. Two nurses have to cut off a soldier's leg for him to survive in another scene while Chan manages to squeeze in a fight scene that you'll wish lasts longer than it does. That’s maybe ten minutes of scenes in a two hour feature. It’s not unreasonable to try and educate people of a country’s past they don’t know much about or remind a certain people why they’re proud to be who they are. But that doesn’t make a good film. It’s as if 1911 tries to void itself of anything remotely resembling entertainment and settles for crawling at a snail's pace.

1911 is Jackie Chan's 100th film. It should be cause for celebration, but it really isn't. 1911 feels more like a history lesson than a cinematic feature. Despite being beautifully shot, 1911 is very dull, long-winded, and most of all incredibly preachy. There are a few memorable scenes that stand out, but it doesn't really seem worth it in the long run. It feels like a chore just to be able to finish 1911 and that is just so unfortunate especially since Chan also directed the feature. 1911 is a huge accomplishment for Jackie Chan, but is really just a boring experience that tries to force-feed Chinese history down your throat rather than trying to be worthwhile.

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Tags: 1911, movie review, historical, drama, Chinese, war, Jackie Chan
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The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011) review
10/06/11 at 04:55 PM by EvilButters

The Human Centipede was fairly underwhelming. It wasn't terrible and it wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't this monstrously absurd and gory movie you may have expected from the concept and promotional materials. The concept itself was probably the most disturbing and interesting aspect of the movie. Imagining yourself in that situation was more horrific than anything that made it on-screen. It didn't even feel like people had enough time to fully process the first film before writer/director Tom Six began hyping the second film in a proposed trilogy. The sequel was then banned in the UK (before the ban was lifted recently) and censored in the US, which probably only piqued curiosity even further. Tom Six has gone on record as saying The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) will make the original seem like "My Little Pony" in comparison, which is probably true due to its graphic nature. Unfortunately the sequel has little else to offer.

So before I go into too much detail, the screener I saw was apparently an edited version of the film. Maybe that means this is the one that will be distributed theatrically in the US, but I do know that the barbed wire bit didn't make it into the film and the ending was slightly altered.

We're introduced to Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), a security guard who has a rabid obsession with the original Human Centipede film. He does nothing but watch the movie over and over again and even has a scrapbook devoted to it along with re-drawn diagrams from the movie to pull off the centipede. Martin isn't normal; he was sexually abused as a child, likes mutilating himself, and still lives with his mother. While on the job, he kidnaps people, ties them up, and stores them in an abandoned storage unit with the hopes of making his passion a reality; a twelve person human centipede.

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is entirely black and white. It does make the film stand out in comparison to its predecessor, but it also changes the appearance of gore rather dramatically. Tom Six defended this film after being banned in the UK by calling it "make believe" and called it "art." The black and white aspect of the film certainly makes it feel more artistic, but that term will probably come into question after you witness some of the things that take place on screen. Martin is very off-putting. He's extremely overweight, greasy all the time, and just really creepy overall. He has this Jonah Hill meets Wayne Knight at their worst type of look to him. Every close up, every action, every time he licks his fingers, basically everything Martin does grosses you out. Martin also never speaks throughout the movie. He wheezes, cries, and throws tantrums, so he's not completely silent. But those of you expecting another Dr. Heiter will be sorely disappointed.

It's not like this version of the film didn't completely shy away from gruesomeness though. There's still plenty in here to get offended over or get excited about. The sandpaper bit did make it in there, but I have a feeling it was edited as well. The pregnant woman in the car scene is pretty revolting. I had to rewind it and watch it again to make sure I saw it right. We see Martin dismantle about half a dozen kneecaps by cutting open the sides and snipping their tendons, Martin takes a hammer and knocks out every tooth in a man's mouth before fishing them out, and that same man rips his stapled lips off another man's anus. Those are just a few examples.

Martin's mother was unintentionally hilarious. She mostly just seems bitter and old when the movie first starts, but her bad acting eventually makes itself known. She also has a scene with Martin at the dinner table which leads to their second encounter with their upstairs neighbor that is probably the best scene in the sequel even though it only lasts a few seconds and is kind of ridiculous. The twelve person centipede gets really disgusting though. Once Martin gives everyone a laxative shot, then you can probably see where that is going to lead and it gets all over the camera multiple times. The ending is pretty weak, too. Did you ever play Super Mario Bros 2? Well that's pretty much the ending you get here. Online reports say that there's actually more to the ending featuring more footage, but the version I saw was literally credits of the movie, Martin sitting in the camera room at work, Martin licking his fingers, an outside shot where we see Martin through a window, end film. There may have been a baby crying the background, I don't recall. But with that version of the ending, it's difficult to argue that it all wasn't just a dream.

I'm not going to tell you to not see The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). If you enjoyed the first film or if your interest has heightened due to its hype, then curiosity will cause you to see this in some way or another. Hell, I'd at least like to know what was cut and I'd probably watch it again if I knew it was unrated, the director's cut, an alternate version, etc. But the sequel is a bit disappointing. Sure, the blood and graphic content of the sequel is increased tenfold but Martin isn't nearly as captivating as Dr. Heiter and everything just feels like it's for nothing by the time the ending rolls around. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) just leaves you with bloody discharge on your face without much of anything to show for it. Demented, disgusting, and rather pointless, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is more than likely the extremely nauseating film you expected the first film to be.

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Tags: The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), movie review, drama, horror, Tom Six, sequel
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Blu-ray review: Mimic (1997) (The Director's Cut)
10/04/11 at 03:14 PM by EvilButters
Guillermo del Toro is one of the most original visionaries still directing and creating films today. His films are usually very attractive visually and put a different spin on something you may already be familiar with while also darkening its tone. Even if you don't fully adore whatever del Toro film you just watched, you can probably find something in there to admire and the experience still turns out to be more interesting than the average popular fluff that people go gaga for. del Toro has also produced some amazing projects with The Orphanage gaining quite a bit of praise and being called one of the most original horror films of the past few years and Splice having one of the most surreal audience reactions I've ever witnessed in the theater just to name a few. Guillermo del Toro's projects aren't necessarily films you've never seen before, but are more along the lines of the films you want to see Hollywood producing. His English language debut, the sci-fi thriller Mimic, has just been released as a director's cut on Blu-ray. After realizing how intense the uphill battle was for del Toro just to get this thing made and fighting tooth and nail just to keep what he could from his original draft(s) of the screenplay, it's really quite incredible the movie turned out as good as it did.

The amount of work that went into making something as silly as giant cockroaches become a reality may be the film's biggest achievement. del Toro didn't want a gorefest or give these creatures extra appendages or teeth to make them more menacing. Scientifically speaking, all of the modifications stay within the boundaries of nature. A great deal of research went into creating these monsters and you can tell. The way they mimic humans, where their lungs are placed, and the amount of puppeteering involved are all pulled off in a way where it's obvious a lot of time went into planning how they'd be executed. It's a welcome change of pace worth noting since most horror films along the same lines as this are all about the quick scare and creating a monster that is visually menacing rather than staying within the limitations of reality. del Toro makes it clear in the commentary that Mimic is more about suspense than aiming to be scary. The fact that the film is a slow burn allows you to digest everything a bit more than a film that would throw everything at you all at once.

The special effects look very dated, but only when it comes to digital stuff. Thankfully, it's kept to a minimum because of the budget but all of the practical stuff is fantastic. Seeing their mouths move just like a cockroach's is such a simple idea, but seeing it executed in a creature as big as we are is something extraordinary. The concept of them using their front appendages to form a human face is really creative and exceptional, as well. The method in which this team has pulled off adding human traits to a cockroach without it feeling too far-fetched is spectacular in itself.

Unfortunately I never saw the theatrical cut of the film so I can't really compare the differences, but del Toro's explanations of it don't really make you want to actively hunt it down and see it since this is obviously the cut of the film he wants people to see. The last thing that should be touched upon is the lighting (or lack thereof) used in the film. Most of the camera work in the film seems very straightforward, but having a dolly sliding to the right while another slides to the left makes something as simple as the camera circling around two characters seem a bit more extravagant. An emphatic use of shadows, textures, and amber and blue lighting is used throughout the film to give it a look that many other genre films don't have. Everything just feels very unique and like something you'd only find in a film by del Toro.

Mimic isn't del Toro's greatest achievement, but all of the elements you love about the Mexican director are all there. The attention to detail is astounding as del Toro's scientific approach and staying true to nature made giant cockroaches as realistic as possible. Mimic is also visually remarkable in the way it not only uses shadows, but a minimal use of lighting and heavy textures as well. The only real complaints lie within the dated CG and the fairly atrocious ending. Its obvious flaws and production troubles aside, Mimic is more intelligent than you're probably expecting and a very solid experience overall.

The special features are pretty cool. Video Prologue with Director Guillermo del Toro is only about a minute long but del Toro talks about how this is as close to a director's cut as we'll ever get, being happy with this cut, what the movie could have been, and so on. The Audio Commentary with Director/Cowriter Guillermo del Toro is the Blu-ray's crowning achievement. del Toro is so open about everything that happened behind the scenes, but doesn't seem bitter about any of it. He's very straightforward and isn't afraid to use harsh language, but the entire commentary just makes you admire the film and the rest of del Toro's work just a little bit more. He seems so easy to get along with and relate to. During the commentary, many topics are covered including the opening credits being similar to Se7en, Mimic teaching del Toro more than some of his other films have, the cockroaches originally being bark beetles/scarabs, the never-ending studio battles, original ending idea involving the male cockroach in the subway, the film originally being planned to have no explosions, and he even talks about the direct to video sequels among many other things (he actually recommends seeing Mimic 3). del Toro refers to Mimic as his "imperfect child." One of my favorite lines from the commentary is when del Toro is talking about Sarah having her Ripley moment as she yells at the male cockroach to get away from Chuy. del Toro says, "You cringe every time, I cringe every time, let's cringe together." The commentary track just helps you admire the film a little bit more and that's coming from a guy who isn't a big fan of commentary.

The rest of the special features are fairly short and sweet. Reclaiming Mimic is about fourteen minutes long. del Toro discusses how important suspense is for a film like Mimic, a B-movie concept needing to be executed as an A-movie, the different subway ending, and this director's cut being free of "second unit crap." A Leap in Evolution runs around nine and a half minutes and mostly goes into detail about staying true to nature and puppeteering. Back into the Tunnels is a five minute behind the scenes featurette, there are three Deleted Scenes that total around five minutes in length and include an alternate ending, Storyboard Animatics cover six scenes in the film, and a two minute Gag Reel rounds up the special features rather nicely. The second disc of the two-disc set is just a digital copy of the film presented in widescreen in 1080p High Definition and English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

Mimic (The Director's Cut) is unrated, but was previously released in a version Rated R for Terror/Violence and Language. This unrated version contains material different from the original R-rated version. It's presented in 16x9 widescreen with a 1.85:1 ratio while also being presented in 1080p High Definition, has an English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and has English and Spanish subtitles available. The film is approximately 112 minutes long. Mimic (The Director's Cut) is available in retail stores and most online retailers now (it's currently still $9.99 on Amazon).

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Tags: Mimic, movie review, Blu-ray review, Guillermo del Toro, sci-fi, horror, thriller
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The Pack (2011) review
10/03/11 at 01:37 PM by EvilButters
French horror is a genre that's grown exponentially in the past six years or so, at least when it comes to what's been making its way to U.S. shores. High Tension seemed to open the doors of interest and delivered levels of violence and gore most modern theatrically released American horror had been lacking up until that point. Inside, Frontier(s), Martyrs, Mutants, and The Horde followed in the coming years and continued to get praise from horror fanatics and gore hounds. The thing about French horror is that there are no limitations. It has no boundaries. That's the main reason fans love it as much as they do. While The Pack can be considered part of the same group as these films, it isn't nearly as powerful as any of the films mentioned.

Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne) is traveling cross-country without any real destination in mind. She attracts the attention of a biker gang and picks up a hitchhiker named Max (Benjamin Biolay) to throw them off her trail. Charlotte and Max eventually end up at La Spack, a dilapidated shack that's been modified into a roadside restaurant. Their paths cross with the biker gang once again and a bit of a scuffle breaks out. The fight is broken up by the woman who runs La Spack (Yolande Moreau) and Max disappears after going into the bathroom and never coming back out. Charlotte then finds herself trapped in a cage after snooping around in places she shouldn't. Their captors then make themselves known and begin preparing Charlotte and another prisoner as meals for a horde of cannibalistic guests.

I had this feeling of anxiousness and excitement as The Pack began. A good portion of the French horror films mentioned in this review were a little disappointing, but the interest is still there. When this genre does deliver, it's something special. The Pack was odd right from the start. There's a lot of joking around in the beginning of the film and a ton of dialogue about sex. Nearly all of the characters have bizarre quirks; Charlotte doesn't seem to want anything to do with men, Max is emotionless and cold, the La Spack owner is obviously up to something, and Chinaski (Philippe Nahon), an old man who calls himself a sheriff of sorts, walks a bike around, says, "Hi ho Silver" to it and makes horse noises repeatedly, and runs around in a "I f*** on the first date" T-shirt. It's difficult to get a read on where The Pack is headed when it has elements of comedy, mystery, and thriller as it gets going.

But The Pack eventually goes down the horror path though and mostly sticks to it. Its music is fairly haunting as it jumps back and forth between sounding like a warped lullaby and trying to seduce you with grungy and distorted guitars. The first scene at La Spack sticks out, as well. You hear nothing but The Twilight Zone pinball machine noises in the background while sloppy takedowns and yelling fill up the foreground during the melee between Charlotte and Max and the biker gang. You also probably won't ever hear, "John Wayne," without thinking of this film after viewing it. But once these creatures are introduced is when things get interesting and everything takes a turn into horror territory. Imagine the crawlers from The Descent breeding with Voldemort from Harry Potter and you have a pretty good idea of what these suckers look like. They're bloodthirsty and their hunger seems to be unquenchable. The only downside is that there's so little of them. The entire film is a slow burn to the last twenty minutes or so. While the finale is the most intriguing aspect of The Pack, it doesn't fully deliver. The ending is really peculiar; not overly good or bad but unusual. Nothing is really resolved or fully explained. And somehow nobody who picks up a gun in this film has ever heard of a headshot. The Pack does nothing more than whet your appetite and make you wish it had more to offer.

The Pack does have its moments. It's at the very least intriguing from start to finish and has some pretty fantastic make-up effects. There's also some outstanding gore featured whether it involves a severed head, exploding appendages, or a major organ being ripped from someone's chest and fed upon. Fans of the genre should still check this out. The downside is that The Pack is the weakest French horror film to date and is mostly kind of forgettable by the time you finish it. Despite its fair share of dismemberment, bloodshed, and excellent make-up, The Pack never really gets beyond mediocre territory.

The Pack is available on Video-On-Demand (VOD) now. A DVD/Blu-ray release has yet to be announced.

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Tags: The Pack, movie review, horror, French horror
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