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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012) review
02/18/12 at 09:47 PM by EvilButters
I think everyone had the urge to run outside and kick the ugliest puppy in their neighborhood when it was announced a second Ghost Rider movie was going into production starring a returning Nicolas Cage. The director of the original Ghost Rider (Mark Steven Johnson) was out and the directors of Crank (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor) were in. Now that it's been released it's been getting nothing but a barrage of negative reviews pretty much anywhere you can think of. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is practically a reboot and could serve as a full on reset of the franchise if Cage wasn't attached. With everything working against this requel (that's reboot + sequel combined) and every entertainment site on the planet practically guaranteeing its atrocity, I seem to be one of the few critics in existence who was actually entertained by this movie.

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) has gone into seclusion in Eastern Europe. Johnny fights not only the urge to become The Rider, but fights to stay hidden from those who are hunting for him. That is until a man named Moreau (Idris Elba) shows up on his doorstep offering Johnny a second chance and a way to lift his curse. The offer gives Johnny a chance for revenge against Roarke (Ciarán Hinds) who's Lucifer himself in human form and the man Blaze made a deal with to become The Rider in the first place. The one catch is Johnny has to guard and protect a boy that Roarke is searching for to fulfill the prophecy of becoming the antichrist.

The main attraction to this movie was how it looked. There's this featurette that highlights just how camera oriented Neveldine and Taylor are when they come to shooting their movies. Seeing Neveldine basically risk his life rollerblading on the back of a motorcycle or hanging off of a wire along with the stuntman just to get the shot was incredibly intriguing to me. Unique perspective and fascinating camera work is something I look for in movies and Spirit of Vengeance let you know it had that in the trailers. The flaw in this method though is that even though it gets you up close and personal with the action it also feels really shaky at times. It seems very rough in comparison to dolly tracks or tripods being used. The camera work also involves those slight zoom-ins at random intervals to make it seem like the camera wasn't in the right place when they started shooting.

I'm hearing a lot of people complain about the special effects, but those are another high point. Ghost Rider's appearance is more charred in comparison to how he looked in the first movie. His skull looks scorched, his leather clothes are melted, and the steel on his motorcycle is noticeably red hot and altered thanks to his transformation. The fire looks pretty fantastic all around and there's plenty of it. Everything The Rider drives becomes engulfed in flames and the special effects crew has a ton of fun with that. Maybe it looks terrible in 3D? I was going to recommend seeing it in 2D anyway. Johnny Blaze's transformations into Ghost Rider are pretty sweet, too. Seeing his eyes sink in for the first time is a bit unsettling, but it becomes a trademark. As he holds off The Rider the majority of the movie, his eyes are the first thing to show the transformation. It was a bit reminiscent of the T-1000 being shot in the face in the steel mill at the end of Terminator 2.

Nicolas Cage is exactly what you expect him to be here. The issue is that like always he's way too over the top during intense moments and not emotional enough during the quieter ones. The best example is when Johnny Blaze and Nadya (Violante Placido) are trying to catch up with the men who took Danny (Fergus Riordan) who's Nadya's son and the boy who's set to become the antichrist. Johnny and Nadya are interrogating a man named Vasil. Notice how twitchy Cage becomes here and how crazy he becomes during his "bad man" and "scraping at the door" speech. It's pretty insane in this so bad it's good kind of way. Cage's performance seems to evolve throughout the movie and he almost seems sincere by the end of it. Cage also modeled The Rider's movements off of his pet cobra and it's blatantly obvious. His performance as The Rider is full of rigid movements, swaying motions, and quick cuts. It's very bizarre, especially when it gets to the scene where The Rider is floating around in circles on his back as if he's duplicating Trent Reznor in the Nine Inch Nails video for "Closer."

You'll wish Idris Elba's wine-loving Moreau had more screen time than he actually does as the Moreau character is generally pretty interesting, but doesn't really get a chance to shine. He does have a few really memorable scenes though. This will make more sense after you see it, but the "decay vision" gets a little bothersome. It's like looking at the action through a giant peephole or fishbowl. The evolution of the Carrigan character (played by Johnny Whitworth) is pretty awesome though.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is not as bad as people are making it out to be or maybe it is and it's just really entertaining anyway. The dialogue does get really cheesy at times ("You're the devil's baby mama."), but the story and part of the screenplay were written by David S. Goyer so that should give you a little bit of hope. The special effects are fantastic, Cage's performance eventually grows on you, and Spirit of Vengeance is a huge step up from the original movie overall. In the end, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is explosively entertaining and just the type of brainless fun you need to forget about a hectic week.

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Tags: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, review, action, thriller, Marvel, Nicolas Cage
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Kill List (2012) review
02/18/12 at 08:19 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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Safe House (2012) review
02/09/12 at 11:59 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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The Woman in Black (2012) review
02/03/12 at 12:45 PM 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 it’s 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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The Innkeepers (2012) review
02/02/12 at 07:31 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 West’s 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 fiancé 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 02:47 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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The Grey (2012) review
01/26/12 at 11:14 AM by EvilButters
There were a lot of things that felt like they were kept secret on purpose before sitting down and viewing The Grey for the first time. The trailer hints at the movie being nothing more than a survival thriller starring Liam Neeson as he struggles to survive not only the unrelenting cold elements, but also the ferocious wolves that inhabit his surroundings. The Grey is written and directed by Joe Carnahan, the man who brought us Smokin' Aces and The A-Team. The movie is also produced by Tony and Ridley Scott, which you think the marketing campaign would jump all over but doesn't even mention. Not only that, but there is quite a bit more to the movie than the trailer and TV spots let on.

As the movie begins, Ottway (Liam Neeson) narrates a letter he's writing to his wife. This segment just made me realize what my life is lacking most right now and that's a Liam Neeson voiceover for every thought that crosses my mind. Think about that. It'd be the most amazing thing ever. The trailer reveals a few major things: that Ottway is stranded in the middle of nowhere in the blistering cold thanks to a plane crash and that wolves stand in the way of him actually surviving this ordeal. The plane crash itself is one of the best executed in recent memory. The way it's filmed and edited is downright ruthless. It's as if you're on the plane as it goes down. The Grey doesn't just place you in this blizzard-ridden hell infested with wolves, it kicks your teeth down your throat, laughs in your face, and throws you into it with everything it has.

The movie gives new meaning to some of the simplest things. Seeing your breath in cold weather takes on an entirely new definition and the way The Grey deals with death just feels incredibly powerful. Ottway questions faith right from the start and takes matters into his own hands throughout the movie. The events that transpire take a toll on even the most religious plane crash survivors. Death is more of a relief than something worth distancing yourself from. Ottway describes it as being a warm sensation and thinking about the thing you love most in life before completely giving yourself into it. Many of the campfire conversations are entirely more impactful than they have any right to be. The conversation about faith in general hits you like a potato sack full of cinder blocks.

The Grey manages to shout its message even when there's nothing being said on-screen. One of the images that stuck with me long after the movie ended was the shot of blood flowing into the paw print of a wolf in the snow. There's a scene by the river that strictly relies on sound and the way you succumb to it is nothing more than brilliant. There's another shot at the end of the film where (and I'm trying to avoid spoilers the best I can) Ottway is arranging some objects in the snow. The way Liam Neeson's fat, sausage-like fingers delicately wrap themselves around these objects and the way his hands tremble as he does this illustrates not only what this man has been through, but also that he's at the end of his rope. Plus the movie will make you want to look over your shoulder the next time you consider relieving yourself out in nature somewhere.

That level of greatness The Grey eventually achieves isn't around at all times. Some lame dialogue does squeak through and characters manage to do really stupid things at times (John Diaz, played by Frank Grillo, especially), but that seems to help the movie more than anything. People, real people, occasionally do stupid things especially when they’re scared. So this kind of made the characters feel more genuine and made it very clear that certain characters were caving under pressure.

There was a movie that came out back in 2000 that was called Vertical Limit. It was one of my most trying times at the movie theater. I fought vehemently to leave about halfway through because I hated it so much, but I was with people at the time who wanted to stay until the end. It was probably one of the worst experiences I've ever had to pay for. The Grey is basically everything I wanted that movie to be. The cast is fantastic, their actions are mostly believable, and there's this meaning to everything that really speaks to you.

The Grey is a grainy thriller that knocks the wind out of you on more than one occasion. In fact, it's rare that the movie actually allows you to catch your breath. Everything is such a raw, vicious, and brutal test of faith. It's fantastically violent and Liam Neeson is superb. If The Grey is anything to fall back on, then 2012 is going to be one hell of a year for movies.

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Tags: The Grey, review, action, thriller, Liam Neeson, Joe Carnahan
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Haywire (2012) review
01/19/12 at 12:52 PM by EvilButters
Steven Soderbergh's outbreak thriller Contagion was one of the biggest sleeper hits of last year. The film made a respectable amount at the box office and was critically praised, but if you're like me then you may have written off seeing it in theaters since most films in the same vein weren't so great, but Contagion broke the mold you may have thought it fit into and some of the credit can be attributed to the rather phenomenal ensemble cast. I'm behind with much of Soderbergh's work, but the general consensus is that he's always able to put together one hell of a cast for nearly every one of his feature films. His latest effort Haywire is no exception.

I don't follow MMA, so I had no idea who Gina Carano was going into Haywire. After it ended though, I certainly wanted to see more of her especially with how beautiful she is. Carano handles herself extremely well on-screen and is a fairly solid actress. The fact that she's able to kick ass and at least appear to have acting range is a serious plus. Despite the incredible cast, you're left wishing that the majority of them were around longer than they actually are. I'm looking at you, Michael Fassbender. Channing Tatum seemed a little less annoying than he usually is in his on-screen efforts while Ewan McGregor stepped outside of his comfort zone a bit and played for the opposing team for once. There was a lot of potential for Michael Douglas' Coblenz character, but he's used so sparingly as he's only in three scenes or so. Antonio Banderas appears on-screen about as often as Douglas, but plays a bigger role in the storyline as far as who's pulling the strings on who betrayed whom as far as Mallory's (Carano) mission goes. The only person who's somewhat forgettable is Bill Paxton. There's an amazing scene that takes place at his house, but he doesn't really contribute and is just kind of there.

One of the interesting things about Haywire is that nearly every scene that takes place inside of a building has this yellow filter to it. The hum of fluorescent lighting makes a scene that is otherwise just talking a bit more memorable. It's more than likely a Soderbergh trademark as I seem to recall the same technique being used in Contagion, as well. As Mallory tells her story to Scott (Michael Angarano), we're shown what transpired in Barcelona which is what sparked the events to come. The set up process is fairly meticulous and feels somewhat similar to the preparations a team would have to make to pull off a successful heist. There's this well executed montage in Barcelona with no dialogue and a killer soundtrack that is incredibly memorable. The soundtrack is really fantastic anyway as it has this bluesy jazz kind of feel to it that is really exceptional. When the action gets heavy though, the music disappears and you're left with the loud clamoring of two or more individuals beating the snot out of each other. Those sound effects along with seeing opponents’ skulls bounce off counter corners and being thrown through windows are perhaps the greatest moments the film has to offer.

Haywire establishes this feeling that Mallory is being followed at all times, which is a must because she basically is. The way the camera shows how she's being tailed and those over the shoulder shots to show how she slipped behind a wall just in time to escape their line of vision is pretty extraordinary. The film takes us all over the world as we see the likes of Barcelona, San Diego, New York, Dublin, London, and New Mexico. One of the issues though is that despite a slight change in setting, every place feels exactly the same because a similar sequence of events occurs in every city. I overheard some people saying there were quite a few holes in the film, but I felt like the screenplay was incredibly solid. The spoken dialogue did a really superb job of reeling the viewer in while mostly feeling very natural. With that said though, it would have been nice to have a bit more action to compliment all of the talking.

Haywire is an energetic powerhouse of an action thriller with a fantastic ensemble cast, a story that throws you right in the middle of the action, and an absorbing script. The sensational soundtrack compliments the film in the best of ways. Just keep in mind that while Haywire is pretty good, it's nowhere near as good or as epic as the beard Antonio Banderas shows off in the film. That Peter Griffin beard of his is certainly something grandiose to be proud of.

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Tags: Haywire, review, action, thriller, Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Steven Soderbergh
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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) review
01/06/12 at 04:35 PM by EvilButters
There was much to be excited about when it came to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It may have been a remake, but it also featured the likes of Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and Mark Strong in a spy movie. Odds are that you're a fan of one of those actors and who doesn't love a film about spies? Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy are what initially attracted me to the project and Mark Strong was just a pleasant surprise, so the anticipation was very high. Unfortunately, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is basically a waste of two hours.

A press screening for this was held nearly three weeks before the film’s limited release date. Everyone who attended was handed what was referred to as a "cheat sheet," which not only helped describe the film but also went into detail about "The Circus" along with definitions of code names and terms that were used throughout the film. This is being mentioned because unless you've read the book, have seen the original 1979 film, or receive this "cheat sheet" and go over it in great detail then you will more than likely be lost throughout most of the film. Five years ago, Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly released a film called Southland Tales. The unusual thing about it was that the movie was actually episodes 4-6 while a prequel graphic novel contained episodes 1-3. It's an interesting approach that deserves credit for trying something different, but the bottom line is that most people won't and don't read up on a film before it's released.

With that said, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn't completely incomprehensible. You still know what's going on, but you just don't care. It's a very slow moving film that relies on dialogue more than anything to tell the story. Its nonlinear sense of storytelling isn't a smooth transition and is a bit difficult to keep track of at times. Didn't this character die earlier? Wasn't he working for somebody else like five minutes ago? Wait wait wait...WHAT? Who the HELL is that guy? These are the types of questions you'll probably be asking yourself. The majority of the characters seem very similar to one another and even share similar hairstyles. So everyone basically comes off as old, bitter people working for the government that are paranoid about a mole and probably should have retired ten years ago, which is kind of odd since the film revolves around retired agents attempting to be pulled back into the service.

Gary Oldman puts in a fascinating performance as George Smiley, but it fails in comparison to most of the other film characters he's known for. Smiley doesn't even speak for a good while (Oldman is probably shown on screen for at least a good ten to fifteen minutes before he actually says anything) and the fact that Oldman went through such precise detail just to pick out the appropriate pair of glasses for the character is admirable. He has one magnificent scene in the film, which occurs in his office with Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he tells the story of how Karla never returned his engraved lighter. It's easily the best scene in the film. Tom Hardy is also fairly fantastic in his role as he shows quite a bit of emotion in the film and Mark Strong offers the type of solid performance you'd expect from the English actor.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does have a few redeeming qualities that mostly lie within the performances of Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy. Its decorative setting and use of unique perspective automatically makes the film appealing to the eye. The film is really bland the majority of the time though and is extremely uneventful. Even when something violent does occur, it fades into obscurity rather quickly and is covered up by the gargantuan amounts of jargon that's constantly regurgitated amongst everyone on-screen. So despite a few semi-decent performances and an experience that's at least visually intriguing, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a thriller that never really gets thrilling. Your constant uphill battle to stay awake until the film ends is far more exhilarating.

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Tags: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, review, thriller, remake, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy
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Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2011) review
12/01/11 at 10:54 AM by EvilButters
I wasn't even aware there was an original Elite Squad until after I had heard about and had access to Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. The Enemy Within has been receiving rave reviews from pretty much everyone who has seen it. This is the type of movie that sucker punches you in the gut and you never see it coming, but all you can do is smile because that rush is unlike anything else you've ever experienced. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within makes full use of the term, "thriller" before turning it upside down and inside out and doing it all over again in a two hour time period.

Some rather interesting camera work is utilized throughout the film. You take notice of it in the very first scene as the camera catches every crack and break in a pane of glass as a car is riddled with bullets. Slow motion is also used in a refreshing kind of way mostly because slow motion has looked the same way since 2006 when Leonidas kicked the messenger into the pit in 300. While this was probably done in a cheaper way since the budget wasn't nearly as big as it was in a film like 300, the fact that it was done differently is what makes it noteworthy. This feels more raw and less polished. The "size of a tangerine" scene is fairly awesome, as well. The scene is frozen at one point, but you see that scene from two different perspectives.

Taken, Man on Fire, and The Man From Nowhere; these are a few of the films the action scenes in Elite Squad: The Enemy Within may remind you of. Those scenes when everything hits the fan are the main reason to see this film, but everything in between is so tense that you find yourself easily getting absorbed into all of the events that are going on. Corruption is fascinating in a very disturbing kind of way. This is Nascimento's (Wagner Moura) story, so he's pretty much your guide through this journey as he's removed from BOPE (the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police) and struggles to survive in Rio, but the way his story ties in with the stories of Matias (André Ramiro) and Fraga (Irandhir Santos) is rather brilliant as they're both involved with Nascimento in more ways than one. The bloody brutality of the film seems to be lurking around every corner even when things may appear calm.

In The Boondock Saints, Paul Smecker (played by Willem Dafoe) yells, "There was a firefight!" during one the most extravagant shootout of the film. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within almost seems to redefine that term. While there isn't a lot of property damage in the film, people get wasted left and right and blood sprays into the air whenever a gun is drawn. People get the hell beaten out of them before being lit on fire and dead bodies are burned as their teeth are pulled to hide their identities. There's a grittiness to Elite Squad: The Enemy Within that many films have barely scratched the surface of.

Remember when you first saw The Empire Strikes Back where you had this fairly awesome movie on your hands that left you with this rather huge cliffhanger ending? Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is similar in that aspect. Elite Squad is obviously going to be at least a trilogy, but it'll be one of those things that will be less of an issue when you don't have a long wait between films. In the meantime though, it feels a little cheap.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is a lot like City of God if it was on steroids; there's more action, more intensity, and bigger payoffs. Its biggest flaw is that it doesn't end and is obviously just building toward the next sequel. With an excellent cast and eye-catching cinematography, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is a compelling look at the underbelly of society that's a must-see.

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Tags: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, movie review, crime, drama, thriller, sequel
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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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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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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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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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Last Updated: 02/18/12 (27,031 Views)
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