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Bullhead (2012) review
02/18/12 at 12:56 PM by EvilButters
Bullhead is the story of Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) a cattle farmer. He along with his business partners inject their cows with steroids and hormones to achieve the results they desire. The problem is the only thing Jacky injects more than his cows is himself as he's got some sort of chemical compound coursing through his veins at all times. Things begin to go south when Jacky makes a deal to distribute his cows to a well-known yet crooked meat trader. A federal agent is killed amongst their negotiations as Jacky is dragged into the investigation and his disturbing past comes bubbling to the surface.

Matthias Schoenaerts' performance is the first thing that will win you over. The reason why he shoots up so frequently along with what he injects himself with has this really breathtaking explanation. Schoenaerts has a short fuse the entire film and you never know when he's going to explode. That's the beauty of his performance. He's so dangerous yet you can't help but feel sympathy for the guy. Schoenaerts is a ferocious powerhouse that chews you up and spits you out like the most devastating hurricane imaginable.

Bullhead features some incredibly impressive cinematography. Belgium has never looked so beautiful. Those shots of the sky and the clouds that populate every inch of it and those lush moments of taking in the countryside speak volumes. Something as simple as grass blowing in the wind is made to look like this grand accomplishment thanks to how the film was shot. It was interesting to see characters that were out of frame become out of focus and or blurred in some way; whether they were approaching somebody in frame or walking away. It was a masterful touch.

The Belgian drama has a unique sense of perspective, as well. The dizzying staircase sequence near the end of the film is the best example. It kind of goes hand in hand with the cinematography though; a brilliant looking film is even better with distinguishing shots. Speaking of unique, the entire film is one of the more original experiences to grace the silver screen in quite some time. Bullhead does draw comparisons to films like Drive and even Bronson, but the mafia and mobster kind of storyline is presented in this rough, grainy, meaty, and intense package that hasnít been done before. Bronson is actually a really great comparison. Matthias Schoenaerts put on 59 pounds of muscle for Bullhead and Tom Hardy put on 42 pounds of muscle for Bronson. While the two films are almost nothing alike when it comes to their storylines, they're extremely similar at their core.

Bullhead is an extremely intense piece of cinema that includes a fairly bloody and hard hitting elevator sequence that rivals that infamous scene from Drive. With an incredible performance from Matthias Schoenaerts, gorgeous camera work, and a huge injection of originality, Bullhead should not be missed by anyone especially those who are looking for something different when it comes to movies. This comes highly recommended for those who enjoyed Animal Kingdom, A Prophet, Drive, and/or Bronson.


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Tags: Bullhead, review, movies, Houston, crime, drama
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Kill List (2012) review
02/18/12 at 07:19 AM by EvilButters
Jay (Neil Maskell) hasn't worked in eight months and it's taking its toll. His savings are gone, his marriage is falling apart, and he's still beating himself up over his last job that went horribly wrong. That is until his friend Gal (Michael Smiley) visits and pulls him back in. The hit man business is good money for work that isn't too strenuous or so Gal thinks. Jay begins to lose it out on the job by taking matters into his own hands, flipping off the deep end, and basically just losing all control. But with the mysterious way their clients are acting, Jay and Gal begin to believe something more sinister is going on.

Kill List is a bit peculiar, especially if you go into it expecting your typical horror film; it's far from it. It actually begins as a drama, evolves into a thriller, and then finishes its evolution as a horror film in its closing act. It's a bizarre development, really. Not because it feels unnatural or forced or anything, but because it's difficult to get a read on the film. It's extremely unpredictable. The fate of certain characters may seem obvious, but it tends to take a different route getting to those conclusions. Once it jumps into the horror genre is when things get a little more familiar. The ending feels like a combination of The Wicker Man and A Serbian Film. But the way the film progresses may leave you with the feeling of being unsure whether you liked the film or not once it ends.

For a film that didn't even cost $1 million to make, Kill List certainly looks pretty great. The biggest issue seemed to be the sound, but it may have just been the DVD transfer that I received (it was a DVD screener). After trying to watch it on my hi-def television on two separate occasions, I eventually gave up before putting the disc into my computer and watching it with headphones. The camera work isn't overly fantastic, but it gets the job done. A scene that stuck out in my mind is when Jay and Gal get out of the car right before they're about to meet their client for the first time in the film. As they get out of the car and walk toward the camera, there's this perfectly placed rainbow in the shot and you get a glimpse of the entire thing over their car. It's as if it was illustrating the calm before the storm.

As you can imagine, Kill List does get pretty violent. In particular, Jay uses a hammer to such extremities that it would make Oh Dae-su from Oldboy blush. The most memorable scene in the film is actually the restaurant scene with the guitar mostly because of Jay's reaction as the British film also squeaks in a few really memorable one-liners. A man in the restaurant says to Jay, "Sometime's God's love can be hard to swallow," and Jay responds, "Yeah? Not as hard as a dinner plate."

Kill List doesn't really seem to live up to the hype or the quotes featured on its poster, but it's still a worthy watch. The way the film is written is its biggest asset as it's a completely fresh experience until it jumps genres. Kill List is a solid, low budget thriller that features better than expected camera work and heavy blood-splattering, brain matter-filled, face smashing, intestines-sliding-around-on-the-ground violence that only makes the transition into horror a no-brainer.

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Tags: Kill List, review, movies, drama, thriller, horror
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Blu-ray review: Three Outlaw Samurai (1964)
02/14/12 at 09:52 AM by EvilButters
Shiba (Tetsuro Tanba) is a wandering samurai who's seen it all. He stumbles onto some peasants who have taken the magistrate's daughter hostage in hopes of ending the corruptive leadership that plagues their land. What begins as a spectator sport and a roof over his head for Shiba turns into him fully supporting the peasants and their cause. Two other samurai; Sakura (Isamu Nagato) another wanderer with a guilty conscience and Kikyo (Mikijiro Hira) a samurai who milks the magistrate for all he's worth eventually join up with Shiba. An epic duel to the death lies ahead for the three samurai as the magistrate will stop at nothing to get revenge.

Three Outlaw Samurai begins in simple yet extravagant fashion. We see Shiba take a few steps in the mud followed by an extremely loud music cue and the title card written in Japanese Kanji. Six seconds into this chanbara film and I already know I'm going to love it. The film buys its time though as the first half of the film is mostly very talkative and swords are drawn only briefly before lengthy discussions begin once again. The storytelling is a high point as loyalty and the overall cause for all of this mayhem are always both relevant to the events taking place on screen. The cinematography is also brilliant, especially since this is the debut of Hideo Gosha. The well-choreographed and intense swordplay sequences are always captured with the most precise camera placement.

Lighting and shadows also play a big part in how the film is presented visually. The one-shot sword fight in the two-story whore house is the best example of this. Right down to the drastic lighting on Kikyo's eyes before everything goes to hell, Three Outlaw Samurai is the type of film fans of samurai, foreign, and great cinema in general dream of. There's something completely gratifying about blood presented in black and white, as well. Maybe it's because it reminds me of the Crazy 88 fight The Bride has at the tea house in Kill Bill, but the crimson liquid almost seems more gratifying in grayscale at least when it comes to older and more legendary motion pictures.

The best exchange of dialogue comes when Sakura is running across a field to support Kikyo and Shiba in the final battle. Sakura yells, "Hey Shiba! I've done you wrong! I deserve to die! Kill Me!" In the heat of battle, Shiba merely replies, "I'm busy at the moment."

While Three Outlaw Samurai may seem a bit slow at first, your patience will be rewarded. You'll become attached to the characters of Sakon Shiba, Kyojuro Sakura, and Einosuke Kikyo, get absorbed in their cause, and understand their decisions. As the swordplay and action becomes more frequent, you'll realize how truly amazing this film really is. Three Outlaw Samurai is a beautiful, well-written, and just a fantastic experience overall that is for fans of Seven Samurai, Shogun Assassin, and The Last Samurai.

Despite how fantastic Three Outlaw Samurai looks and sounds, it literally has no special features. This is a bit unusual since nearly every Criterion Collection release Iíve come across is usually loaded with goodies. All thatís included is the theatrical trailer and a booklet with an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri. So hopefully you werenít looking forward to this release for the special features alone.

Three Outlaw Samurai is a black and white film thatís unrated and presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Itís approximately 93 minutes long, has a new English subtitle translation, and features high definition digital restoration. The film is now available on both Criterion Collection DVD and Blu-ray at most retail outlets and online stores.

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Tags: Three Outlaw Samurai, Blu-ray, Criterion Collection, review, movies, action, drama
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Safe House (2012) review
02/09/12 at 10:59 AM by EvilButters
Safe House has Denzel Washington return to the role everyone loves him for; that untouchable, bad ass, man of the hour kind of role that he's essentially played the majority of his career. Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds sets out to try to prove he's capable of being more than a raunchy goofball. CIA agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) has anxiously been waiting to prove himself. He's been babysitting an empty safe house for twelve months and is eager to get out in the field. Matt gets his chance when Tobin Frost (Washington), ex-CIA agent, traitor to the organization, and currently one of the CIA's most wanted fugitives, is escorted there. But things are turned upside down when a group of unknown soldiers attack the safe house and take out the entire team who accompanied Frost. Now in over his head, Matt tries to cope with handling the situation on his own while Frost does his best to manipulate the rookie.

You'll probably notice the visual style of Safe House right away. It makes full use of that raw, gritty style. It's especially grainy at times as fluorescent lighting seems to jump off the screen. Judging by how the movie looks alone, you'd think Tony Scott directed it. But it's actually the English language debut of Swedish director Daniel Espinosa. So it just seems as though he patterned Safe House after Tony Scott's films. It doesn't take long for negotiations to get tense. Those moments in between the mayhem are when Safe House is at its best. It's like a game of tug of war between Frost's way of manipulating and Matt's attempt to stick to protocol while also juggling a relationship. Those moments of panic are explosive; especially the one at the safe house Matt was in charge of and the intense car chase immediately afterwards. Safe House has a way of getting really LOUD when you're totally expecting it. It usually involves a gunshot or six, but it's kind of the movie's way of telling you that some heavy stuff is about to go down.

The majority of the movie is basically Matt trying to prove himself as an agent all while absolutely everything that you could imagine to go wrong does. Safe House is actually pretty damn good for nearly half of the movie. Sure, Denzel is playing a character you've seen him play a few dozen times before but he does it so well and the audience obviously eats it up. So why wouldn't you give the paying viewer what they want to see? Ryan Reynolds makes the most of his performance though. He seems to be the most emotionally invested actor of the film meaning he shows the most emotion and has the most range. The movie kind of gets coiled up in itself with everything it has going for it in the last twenty minutes or so. It's like it couldn't handle the pressure of being a fairly strong action thriller or something. It becomes extremely excessive and it throws a ton of twists at you in this small amount of time. It's difficult to care about any of them when all of the characters feel so similar and you can pretty much see them coming a mile away. The movie follows this certain path that you may be expecting, but then it shifts direction before shifting again and shifting back again. Did you ever see the movie Basic with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson? Safe House was reminiscent of the amount of twists in Basic.

Safe House begins as this white knuckled thriller with a fairly strong screenplay from first time screenwriter David Guggenheim. The action is heavy, the story reels you in, and the performances of both Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are pretty superb. Everything eventually falls apart though as Safe House falls victim to stereotypical mediocrity. Brutal and intriguing at times and completely frustrating at others, Safe House is mostly exactly what you're expecting and the type of action thriller you've seen done several times before. It's basically a safe bet for success.

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Tags: Safe House, review, movies, action, crime, thriller, Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds
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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) review
02/09/12 at 10:02 AM by EvilButters
*This does contain some minor spoilers*

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth; you know that movie with Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem, and director Eric Brevig all of which didn't return for the sequel. Fraser didn't want to return unless Brevig was back in the director's chair, but Brevig had his hands full with Yogi Bear when Warner Bros was ready to go for the sequel. So Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore director Brad Peyton stepped in and we have an entirely new cast other than Josh Hutcherson, which includes the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Luis GuzmŠn, and Vanessa Hudgens. The result is a visual effects heavy amalgamation of corny dialogue and forced feel-good moments.

Journey 2 was actually preceded by a new 3D computer animated Looney Tunes short entitled "Daffy's Rhapsody." A quick trivia note is that they actually dug through the archives and resurrected a Mel Blanc audio track to be featured in the short. So the legendary voice actor is back as Daffy Duck and Billy West steps in as Elmer Fudd. The short itself was very well done since it was brilliantly animated and made full use of the 3D technology. As a Looney Tunes fan, it was a welcome change of pace to see Daffy actually being Daffy again. I'm a huge Daffy Duck fan and while his run-ins with Bugs Bunny are hilarious Daffy eventually became second fiddle to Bugs and evolved into this greedy goofball. In earlier shorts, he was flat out crazy and that personality fit him best. It's almost as if the character is returning to his roots here. Also, when is the last time you saw Elmer Fudd hunt solely Daffy Duck without Bugs being involved at all? I was very pleased with Daffy's Rhapsody over all, especially in comparison to the recent 3D Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner shorts.

Returning to Journey 2 though, the movie immediately lost me in the opening credits as the score seemed to disrespectfully rip-off the famous theme to Jurassic Park. It doesn't take long for the corny dialogue to slap you in the face either. The phrase, "Here we go," should never be uttered in the face of danger or at all really. From the HDTV line to pretty much everything Gabby (Luis GuzmŠn) says throughout their endless string of adventures, Journey 2 will have you rolling your eyes and facepalming yourself more often than you can count. Characters seem to repeat words over and over again, as well. Dwayne Johnson is the guiltiest of this as his dialogue is pretty painful at times. Shall we bring up "thundercookie" or the "popping the pecs" scene that was only thrown in there for a cheap 3D effect?

Maybe it's because a Looney Tunes short was attached to the movie, but Journey 2 certainly borrowed from classic Looney Tunes shorts on more than one occasion. When they first arrive on the island, Gabby thinks he's been cut in half but it turns out the lower half of his body is just buried beneath the sand. This sequence is awfully reminiscent of a scene in "Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid" and this scene in particular. Gabby also discovers a rock made of pure gold and essentially has almost an identical reaction as Bugs Bunny in "Barbary Coast Bunny." Even the camera placement is similar, so it had to be done on purpose. It honestly felt more like blasphemy than homage though.

I guess the hip thing to do with movies anymore is to make the majority of the cast as intolerable as possible, especially when it comes to family features. Nearly every male in the Anderson family is a snarky, smart aleck, prick; Michael Caine and Josh Hutcherson being the sole offenders. Alexander (Caine) already looks to have raided Indiana Jones' wardrobe and even uses that familiar sounding Jurassic Park-like theme when he first shows up. He spends the entire movie ripping on Hank (Dwayne Johnson). Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) is the same way though in the way she gives Sean (Hutcherson) the cold shoulder, so maybe the aim was to write everyone like a seventeen year old girl. Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson tries to cram as much of his The Rock personality into a PG persona as he can and even sings a little number that is actually pretty darn good.

Journey 2 relies on slow-mo to drive all of its biggest moments home and thanks to movies like 300 has made it all the more obvious in the movies that have followed suit. Even though the entire adventure is basically a race against time, it's like the characters always make time to try and be witty or funny or clever. It just rubs you the wrong way. "Quit standing around in the dark trying to amuse yourself and get out of that damn cave before it collapses on your scrawny butt," you'll say to yourself before throwing the nearest toddler at the screen in frustration. If that isn't the case, they manage to cram these family, touchy-feely moments in at the most inopportune time. "I know you're about to wrestle a giant electric eel, but I just want you to know that me being a hard headed douchebag towards you this entire time was my way of saying I love you." There's more than one comment about being killed after they die, as well. "If we die out there, mom is going to kill us." "If we get ripped to shreds, I'm going to kill you." But you'll already be dead, so who cares? And apparently, being in the Navy means you automatically become "MacGyver." If that's the case, send me a brochure.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island wasn't quite as terrible as I expected it to be. A few of the jokes are mildly amusing and some of the special effects sequences are actually pretty entertaining. In the long run though, it still can't pass as a good film. Its lame humor gets on your last nerve, its feel-good moments make you want to gag, you can tell that everything was done in front of a green screen, and the writing is downright terrible the majority of the time (ďTHE LIQUEFICATION RATE TRIPLED OVERNIGHT!Ē). Why did Sean know so much about the island to begin with? Did he read the books over and over again throughout his childhood? Did he watch a lot of National Geographic and the Discovery Channel? Imagine taking a few of the halfway entertaining sequences from the original National Treasure and combining them with the absolute worst moments from the Land of the Lost film starring Will Ferrell and you have a pretty good idea of what you're in for. In the next movie, I only hope that Brendan Fraser returns and challenges The Rock to a wrestling match...IN SPACE!

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Tags: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, review, movies, action, adventure, comedy
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The Woman in Black (2012) review
02/03/12 at 11:45 AM by EvilButters
At the tail end of the 19th century, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) still feels like the wound is still fresh when it comes to his wife who died four years ago after giving birth to their son. Arthur is drowning in a depressive state that even his son notices. As a lawyer, Arthur is forced to travel to a secluded town to take care of the work of the now deceased Alice Drablow as a last ditch effort to save his job. Arthur is expecting to be buried in paperwork until the weekend, but the odd occurrences that transpire are a bit out of left field. Everyone in town practically begs for Arthur to return to London immediately as children continue to die gruesome deaths left and right. Ignoring their pleas, Arthur decides to confront the problem head on and stay at the Drablow's menacing house where his constant run-ins with the supernatural eventually take its toll on him.

The Woman in Black is a horror film that I wanted to be good. It's Daniel Radcliffe's first movie outside of the Harry Potter franchise and he's been pretty enthusiastic about it in interviews, but every bit of promotional material seemed to point at the movie being your everyday, generic, run of the mill, "scary" movie. The Woman in Black does provoke your interest at first. The strange opening is a little hokey, but kind of intrigues you at the same time. The atmosphere the movie tries to setup is its strongest asset though. The heavy use of fog and old fashioned feel of the town does make the town feel like it existed in the late 1800s and the ominous score does its best to try and bring you to the edge of your seat. The Drablow house is the key to that atmosphere as itís absolutely gorgeous in this hideously grotesque kind of way. Everything is so dusty and creepy while the Victorian design only adds to that uneasy feeling the movie tries to stir up in the pit of your stomach.

In the meantime though, everything else in the movie is working against it. It's extremely uneventful. Daniel Radcliffe reads papers, walks through a house, holds a candle, and gets a little dirty. That's the entire movie in one sentence. The Woman in Black also resorts to relying on nothing more than jump scares to try and scare its audience. There are four in the first twenty minutes; two from the same sequence and there are at least ten throughout the entire movie. Jump scares can be fantastic in small portions, but come off as incredibly weak when you can see them coming a mile away and are strung together haphazardly for a cheap effect. There isn't much dialogue while Arthur is in the Drablow house either, which is practically the entire movie. This was probably done to try and make the audience more absorbed with what was taking place on screen, but seems like a bit of a copout overall. Radcliffe has proven that he is an extremely talented actor, but he's pretty bland here. He mostly wanders around in a daze with a frazzled look on his face the entire time. His hosting gig on Saturday Night Live was more impressive in comparison.

The Woman in Black will still be a very successful film as nearly everyone who was or still is a Harry Potter fan will be lining up around every street corner just to be able to see this movie, but the fact of the matter is that it just isn't a great movie. Its representation of the late 19th century is pretty good, but the writing, the "scares," and (most of all) the entire conclusion are all just extremely disappointing. The Woman in Black is a watered down version of last year's Insidious that will more than likely gain a lot of praise it doesn't deserve.

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Tags: The Woman in Black, review, movies, horror, thriller, Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer
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Chronicle (2012) review
02/03/12 at 10:37 AM by EvilButters
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is what you'd call your typical high school loner. Most students peg him as a loser, but he's really just misunderstood. His mom is practically on her death bed, his dad is an abusive drunk, and he has no friends. Nobody is willing to give Andrew a chance and he's too shy to break out of his shell on his own. Even his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) is a bit hesitant to hang out with him in public. As Andrew begins to start filming his life at all times, he soon discovers something of another world with Matt and student body president Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan). Despite each of them developing chronic nosebleeds, they also discover they now have superhuman abilities. Andrew, Matt, and Steve push themselves to the limit and become stronger in the process. But as Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility." Friendships will be tested and destruction will become nothing more than an afterthought.

I felt a little weary going into Chronicle. The original trailer was interesting, but the TV spots seemed to show too much. They essentially gave away every key point of the storyline. Not only that, but they gave away too much of the special effects as well. That wouldn't be much of an issue if the effects didn't look so shoddy and cheap. Seeing it on the big screen did help, but they still looked a little hokey in the process.

Chronicle is shot in the documentary-style you've been forced to accept as a regular style of filmmaking ever since The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999. The upside is Chronicle doesn't look as amateur as what you may be expecting. There are a few shaky moments, but it's mostly in the beginning before Andrew gets a new camera. Once that happens, everything visual becomes a bit clearer and the perspective becomes a lot more interesting. The "floating camera" perspective is one of the more original aspects to come out of the film. One of the highlights of this perspective is when Andrew first puts the firefighter costume on. That scene in particular is pretty awesome, but is even more exceptional thanks to the intriguing camera work.

Those scenes where Andrew, Matt, and Steve develop their superpowers to their maximum potential are the best in the film. What human being has never dreamt of flying? The way Chronicle pulls that sequence off is incredible. The humor in it isn't too shabby either. It's typical high school drama at times, but it eventually grows on you much like the rest of the film.

Coming back around to the special effects, they plague the film in the second half. It wouldn't be so bad if there wasn't such a heavy use of them. More often than not, something computer generated looks out of place or is heavily shaded when it shouldn't be. It's almost as if you can get a glimpse of the original CG model that was used in whatever special effects software they used before it was actually rendered or something. Andrew's view of life is awful as everyone he runs into beats the snot out of him. After viewing the film, you can understand why this was done but most individuals aren't that cruel and it seems a bit much. Chronicle does seem to get better as it progresses, but it drops the ball in its final moments. You can see the opening for a sequel coming from a mile away.

Chronicle is much better than the trailers and TV spots let on. The camera work is fairly dynamic for a documentary-style film, the acting is very good for a generally unknown cast, and it's actually a lot smarter than it lets on. With that said though, its $15 million budget becomes very obvious with its heavy use of special effects and the finale of the film practically ruins everything good the movie has going for it. Chronicle is a pretty fun ride in the long run though. While it may not be totally original on the surface, the journey in the middle is fairly unique. Setting its flaws aside, Chronicle is quite possibly one of the most exciting stories of the birth of a super villain to ever hit the big screen.

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Tags: Chronicle, review, movies, action, drama, sci-fi, superhero, found footage
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The Theatre Bizarre (2012) review
02/02/12 at 08:15 PM by EvilButters
What the hell happened to American horror? Remember when mainstream horror films actually offered either originality or creativity in the way victims died? Now we're practically spoon fed the same formula over and over and it doesn't help that more than half of the horror films getting the green light or being released in theaters are a remake of a film you love. The 70s, 80s, 90s, and even early 00s in some cases were a fantastic time for horror that seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird. The horror genre is no stranger to the anthology formula, but there's something about The Theatre Bizarre that manages to capture the atmosphere of certain horror films you know and love.

Tales From the Crypt, Dead of Night, Creepshow, Trick 'r Treat, and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie are a few films The Theatre Bizarre will either remind you of and/or it pays homage to. To bridge the story together, a woman is drawn to the worn down looking theater next door. Once inside, she's treated to a show hosted by a man acting like a living wind-up toy (played by Udo Kier). Just the framing segments alone are extremely creepy. The make-up, the way the people on stage move, and the way eyes are painted on the top of their eyelids. It's a bit unsettling in the best of ways. There are six stories in the film's nearly two hour runtime:

"The Mother of Toads" is one of the weakest. A couple takes a vacation in France basically in the middle of nowhere. While they're browsing shops, they meet an elderly woman who draws the man, Martin (Shane Woodward) into her home with The Necronomicon. The tea she gives him puts him under her spell and all hell breaks loose from there. This is probably a lot like the movie Frogs. The multi-colored toad vision is pretty lame. The best scene comes at the beginning where Martin and his girlfriend Karina (Victoria Maurette) are driving through the countryside. The shot obviously pays tribute to the opening of The Shining. I was left with what felt like the punch line to a really bad joke at the end of the story. "Don't you hate it when you get really drunk and you wake up next to a giant multi-titted toad?"

"I Love You" is the other fairly timid story and the one that features the stiffest acting. A man wakes up in his bathroom with blood everywhere. He calls his therapist, who's with his wife that he hasn't been able to get a hold of for days. She comes home only to tell him that she's leaving him. "I Love You" is basically an R-rated drama until the last two minutes where everything is turned upside down. The scenes that stick out the most are the ones of Andre Hennicke unconscious in his bathroom. Everything is white; the floor, the walls, his clothes. The only color in the scene is from his blood. It's not bad, deserves some credit for a solid buildup to its climax, and is at least a bit more threatening than toads.

"Wet Dreams" directed by and co-starring the legendary Tom Savini is up next. A man has very vivid dreams that usually involve his wife castrating him and feeding his severed member to him during breakfast. It's a pretty decent stab at a mind-bending horror story. It's no Inception, but it doesn't really have the opportunity to be and in the end has no reason to be as in depth as that as its story progression is just fine.

"The Accident" is another slow burning story. You can pretty much guess what it's about from the title. The way the deer acts is horrific enough, but what sells the entire story is the haunting music and the facial expression of the biker. The little girl asks some questions about death, which her mom gives really stupid answers to (seriously, a good zombie?).

"Vision Strains" is easily the most original and creative story of the film. A woman targets homeless women and addicts and kills them. In their last breaths and as their life flashes before their eyes, the woman injects their eye fluid into her own and basically experiences their life story. She writes it all down in an attempt to learn everything the world has to offer. A serial killer with purpose is something that doesn't come along very often.

"Sweet Dreams" rounds out the set. This one was a bit hard to watch. There are some really disturbing fetishes going on with this one all involving gluttony, sweets, and overeating. It's downright disgusting at times and it has the goriest ending of the bunch. It puts a pretty interesting twist on The Last Supper, as well.

It's not that The Theatre Bizarre isn't flawed. Like most horror movies, there's plenty of bad to go along with the good as it suffers from weak writing with actors in certain stories that don't have that natural flow that the rest of the cast does. One could also argue that only half of the movie really leaves a long-lasting impression. To be honest though, there were bits and pieces of every story that spoke to the horror fan in me in ways I haven't felt in years. Like a classic horror film, it's like you have to sit through some lameness to delve into the greatness buried deep within its core. Nauseating, phantasmagorical, and discomforting, The Theatre Bizarre is pure, gory, blood-soaked madness at its finest that will give horror fans the feeling of being a kid locked in a candy store for two blissful hours.

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Tags: The Theatre Bizarre, review, movies, horror, Tom Savini, Udo Kier
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The Innkeepers (2012) review
02/02/12 at 06:31 PM by EvilButters
Movies revolving around the supernatural have always felt lacking. Of course, the most recent ones are mostly remakes so they already have an uphill battle ahead of them but there are very few movies featuring ghosts or the supernatural that I feel are worth mentioning in a conversation about great films. Ghostbusters, The Orphanage, The Shining, Shutter (the Thai original), The Ring, The Frighteners, and The Devil's Backbone are about it for me. It's a sub genre of horror that just hasn't meshed well with me over the years much like exorcism films. In the same breath, I still haven't been able to get a clear read on what I think of Ti West as a writer and a director. The House of the Devil was really disappointing. Its slow pace made the film seem practically uneventful and didn't really feel worthwhile in the long run. The Innkeepers has a similar pace as The House of the Devil yet feels slightly more methodical on Westís part in comparison.

Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton) are the only two employees working during the final days of the Yankee Pedlar Inn. This hotel is rumored to be haunted by Madeline O' Malley, a woman who hung herself in her room after being stood up by her fiancť at the altar. Luke and Claire try to make contact with the paranormal through EVP recording devices in between watching the front desk and handling the few stragglers who come to stay during the hotel's final weekend of operation. Needless to say, Luke and Claire begin to see results as the guests at the hotel become a bit stranger.

I'm surprised the score to The Innkeepers was as good as it was. It's a little bizarre to have such good things to say about movies coming out in between January and March since these are the months that studios decide to push whatever's been sitting on their shelf for a long period of time or release something they expect to do poorly at the box office. The score is really fantastic though, especially during the opening credits. It's usually very strings heavy and puts you on the edge of your seat on more than one occasion. It helps add that extra bit of tension. At other times, a lack of music speaks volumes. The way the film encompasses the importance of sound into the overall experience of the film is pretty extraordinary. Suddenly listening to a film is just as important (if not slightly more so) as watching it.

The camera work is really spectacular, as well. Slow, winding shots make it seem as though you're grudgingly snooping around the corner along with the characters on screen. The camera's pace as it travels through the hotel's hallways make you feel like you're walking through it yourself. There are also several shots directly behind Luke or Claire that feel very third person. It's just extremely solid camera work that's more stunning than you may be expecting.

The Innkeepers won't be for everyone though as it's incredibly slow moving. It crawls at almost a snail's pace, but it's the little things that keep you interested. Everything is very dialogue driven as Luke and Claire play tricks on each other and talk smack about each guest that comes to stay at the hotel. Claire's ghost story about Madeline O' Malley is around the time things really get interesting and Leanne's (Kelly McGillis) pendulum speech make the smallest things seem larger than they really are. The Innkeepers spends every expense establishing this thick, creepy atmosphere and is the prime definition of a slow burn at its finest.

The Innkeepers may seem a little dull on the surface, but all it needs is a chance to let its layers unravel right before your eyes. Character development and a horror film that isn't in your face showing you every gratuitous and gory detail is almost unheard of anymore. With its unsettling score, its superb cinematography, and engaging script, The Innkeepers delivers a rare horror gem that's a breath of fresh air to the genre.

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Tags: The Innkeepers, review, movies, horror, thriller, Ti West
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Man on a Ledge (2012) review
01/26/12 at 01:47 PM by EvilButters
There are times when you can tell quite a bit of thought went into naming a movie i.e. Inception, Super 8, and 50/50. They're titles that perfectly describe the film you're about to see, but have a bit more meaning after seeing them. While other movies jump straight to the point with their titles, which certainly isn't always a bad thing; look at Drive, Moon, and The Crow. All three movies are better known for the acclaim they've received (from both fans and critics) rather than the amount of money they made at the box office. The title of a movie can go a long way, but in certain circumstances it can sum up an entire movie in a handful of words. Man on a Ledge is a prime example of delivering exactly what you're expecting.

Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is an ex-con who is trying to convince the world that he's an innocent man, but that's a bit difficult when you break out of prison after serving two years on a thirty year sentence. Instead of talking to a lawyer or taking the advice of his former police comrades, Nick steps out onto the ledge of a building. He wants the world to believe he is innocent or else he's going to paint the asphalt with his insides. Little do they know that Nick's suicide attraction is nothing more than a distraction. Across the street, Nick's brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are breaking in to steal the $40 million dollar diamond Nick was convicted of stealing. But time is running out and Nick can only stall for so long as Joey and Angie run into some unexpected surprises that weren't a part of the plan.

Man on a Ledge just becomes more and more awkward as it drags on. It's as if the movie can't decide what type of story it wants to tell. We follow Nick around for a bit in the present day seeing how the first part of the day panned out before he stepped out onto that ledge, but then we jump back three years to understand why he went to prison. The nonlinear sense of storytelling is fine, but it feels a bit out of place when it's used so early on in a film without ever really returning to that format again. Then the pacing becomes a huge issue. Man on a Ledge is very go-go-go the entire movie and it never really gives you enough time to properly process everything or let you really care about these characters. You're aware of the situation, the heist going on next door, the apparent corruption in the police force, and the fact that time is running out right from the start, but it just doesn't really matter. There's no character development as everybody feels so paper thin. Even Sam Worthington can't keep his American accent going the entire movie as his Australian accent seems much more apparent in the second half. It just comes off as a complete mess.

The other problem this crime thriller has is the fact you never really know who to pull for. You've got three people trying to pull off a heist claiming it's to prove one of them is innocent of a crime they went to prison for while an unsolved investigation concerning the police force comes up during Nick's suicide attempt to let them know that somebody on the force has been working for David Englander (played by Ed Harris and who was the main reason Nick went to prison) the entire time. Without much depth to the characters, you never really want to see either side succeed. Through all of Nick's pleading with negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), the wire he's wearing in his ear becomes blatantly obvious. So her shock and surprise to its reveal later on seems more sarcastic than anything. To make matters worse, things stay this way nearly the entire time until the closing moments where every question you have is answered in the last five minutes. Man on a Ledge has some of the worst pacing to ever make it to the screen.

The only real redeemable factor of the movie is Ed Harris, but it's more of his character being so bad and cheesy that he's good. The scene where his character is introduced where he's given a watch by a colleague is hilarious for all of the wrong reasons.

Man on a Ledge is a combination of many movies you've seen before and it feels that way. It's a mishmash of ideas taken from movies like Die Hard, 16 Blocks, and Hostage. Oh wait; maybe it just borrows ideas from Bruce Willis movies. With its ridiculous pacing and even more incongruous ending, Man on a Ledge will invoke you with the urge to use some of that nonlinear storytelling to go back to the beginning of the movie and push Nick off that building yourself to help prevent you from seeing such buffoonery.

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Tags: Man on a Ledge, review, crime, thriller, movies, Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks
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Carnage (2011) review
01/17/12 at 09:49 AM by EvilButters
I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to Roman Polanski films. Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, and The Pianist are all patiently biding their time in my Netflix queue waiting on me to get around to them and watch them for the first time. The Polanski films I have seen had the potential to be great, but kind of let everything they had going for it slip through the cracks as the film went on. I remember being fascinated by The Ninth Gate, but was extremely disappointed once the ending rolled around. There was also quite a bit of praise being thrown around for The Ghost Writer last year and it just didn't affect me the way any of that praise did for other critics. So while Carnage has gotten many accolades as one of the funniest movies of last year, I took it with a grain of salt. People seem to generally love Polanski and that's fine. His films are genuinely a pleasure to look at as the cinematography is always fantastic, but it certainly seems as though he may not be as great as everyone makes him out to be.

Carnage is basically a 74-minute discussion between two couples whose eleven and twelve year old sons got into a fight. Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet's (John C. Reilly) son Ethan was struck in the face with a stick by Zachary, the son of Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz). The parents get together to try and find a way for Zachary and Ethan to talk things out, but everything eventually falls apart and the two couples are eventually at each other's throats.

This was not the hilarious movie it was made out to be. While the other people in the theater seemed to be howling at everything on screen, it mostly just felt slightly snicker worthy at times. John C. Reilly is pretty funny. His views, the things that come out of his mouth, his character, and his performance are probably the closest thing to hilarious Carnage has to offer. "Is cobbler cake or pie?", the flush mechanisms conversation, "You certainly perked up after...", the hamster story, the doodle nickname being ridiculous, and "YOU'RE BLOWING THIS OUT OF PROPORTION!" are all mostly entertaining thanks to John C. Reillyís over the top performance. Michael Longstreet is probably the closest you'll come to relating to one of the on-screen characters, as well. The film is mostly a competition between four egomaniacal individuals competing for the spotlight though. Christoph Waltz's "god of carnage" speech is pretty amazing as is the "disfigured his schoolmate" conversation, but you want to slap the hell out of Alan Cowan the minute you realize he cherishes his phone more than anything else in the world. Kate Winslet is mostly nauseous and drunk the entire film and you probably won't walk away from this without thinking of Jodie Foster's bulbous, veiny, pulsating neck. Seriously, that thing will probably haunt your dreams the night after seeing this.

Carnage is very short. It feels like it ends as soon as it begins. It's like Cloverfield length. It also has one of the worst endings ever. How many films can you name that stop with a phone call? Nothing is resolved. Everything just stops. Despite a wonderful cast and a few chuckle worthy moments, Carnage mostly falls flat. It comes off as more of a contest between two married couples that become more interested in pointing out the flaws of their marriage rather than the task at hand. Maybe it's because I work in retail and I witness these kinds of conversations on a daily basis, but it just wasn't very entertaining at all. Carnage stumbles on the thin line between being extremely annoying and being mildly amusing.

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Tags: Carnage, review, movies, comedy, drama, Roman Polanski, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly,
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