Monday, September 18, 2017

Movie Review: The Strangers

The Strangers

Starring: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Rating: R
Run time: 86 minutes
Synopsis: A young couple are terrorized by three unknown assailants while staying in an isolated vacation home.

This was certainly a film that left me creeped out. A couple have just returned from a wedding where their relationship hit an uncertain patch. As they get settle in for an uncomfortable night, a strange woman knocks on their door. It's the choice to answer that begins a game of cat and mouse with the couple as unwitting participants.



There's something to be said about watching Liv Tyler be stalked by a sadistic group of killers. She's sweet, innocent and charming; the ultimate pretty girl next door. Scott Speedman does well as her boyfriend, convincing in the anguish that he feels over the events of earlier in the night. The couple is mostly unaware of what's happening, but as the viewer we see these people stalking them.


For me, the most unsettling part was the watching and waiting. I wanted to scream at them to run and hide. Being attacked in my own home is something that I've always worried about. I double lock my doors. A knock in the middle of the night makes me jump. It could be a group of killers like these...looking for their next victims.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, September 8, 2017

Movie Review: The Purge

The Purge

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Rating: R
Run time: 85 minutes
Synopsis: In the future, a wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.

I saw this film after a recommendation from a good friend. The plot seemed very interesting for a thriller. What would happen if all crime was legalized for 12 hours a year? It’s certainly thought provoking. Would you lock your family away? Would you get out your aggression on the people who’ve slighted you? Those questions were foremost in my mind as I started watching.


During this 12 hour period, all emergency services are suspended. James Sandin has locked down his family with a security system that he invented. He hopes that this will protect his family from the people participating in the purge. Sadly, that doesn’t go as he planned. His son, Charlie, disarms the system to allow a man into the house to protect him from the masked people chasing him. The Sadlins are given a choice to hand him over or be murdered along with him. It’s rather suspenseful as the characters try to hide and protect themselves.


There have been other movies that have amped up that suspenseful feel with similar themes of home invasion. The strength of this film lies in the performances. Ethan Hawke does a standup job as the concerned, protective father. Lena Headey is as always quite the force of nature to watch. She does quite well in the role of the strong, determined mother. Rhyes Wakefield was quite creepy as the leader of the masked group.


The film does have its flaws and issues. There aren’t many films that are without them. There were some unintentionally amusing things (like the son’s charred baby spy tank). Those things don’t really take away from the overall enjoyment of the movie. I thought it was well done for what it was. Go into it with your popcorn and enjoy.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Movie Review: Poltergeist (2015)

Poltergeist (2015)

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Jared Harris, Kennedi Clements
Directed by: Gil Kenan
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 93 minutes
Synopsis: A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.


For the record, I hate clowns. Why did I see the Poltergeist remake then? I suppose it was a nostalgic moment. The original movie scared me as a kid with the creepy child actor, clown and the medium lady. Thankfully, the remake doesn't attempt to recreate the original exactly. The names, location and time period have all been updated.



I was unsettled by the multiple clowns in this. I also enjoyed the actors better than the original. Sam Rockwell is probably better known as Zaphod Beeblebrox from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He plays the down on his luck, frightened father quite believably. Jared Harris plays in yet another horror film as Carrigan Burke, the psychic medium brought in to find the missing daughter. He's a welcomed addition in exchange for the creepy lady from the original.


Of course, no remake will ever top a successful original. Many have stated that Poltergeist didn't need a remake at all. While I can agree, I do believe that this movie will be successful with the younger generation. What we found scary back then isn't what today's horror fans find frightening. This is the era of jump scares and found footage. Overall, I would suggest not comparing this to 1982's Poltergeist. Think of it as its own entry into the horror genre.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Movie Review: Nurse 3D

Nurse 3D

Starring: Paz de la Huerta, Katrina Bowden, Judd Nelson
Directed by: Douglas Aarniokoski
Rating: R
Run time: 84 minutes
Synopsis: By day, Abby Russell is a dedicated nurse, but by night, she lures cheating men to their brutal deaths and exposes them for who they really are.

Don't go into this one hoping for a deep, insightful plot. You won't find one. Paz de la Huerta stars as Abby Russell, a nurse who moonlights as a femme fatale. Her choice of victim are the men who cheat on their wives and partners. Abby takes great joy in ending the lives of these men by luring them in with her sexuality.  All of this information is made clear in the voiceover narration.

 

In her day job, she has been mentoring a new nurse named Danni. It's quickly obvious that she's very attracted to the young nurse as more than a friend. However, things are complicated by Danni's boyfriend. This attraction turns into obsession in record time with Abby doing whatever it takes to get Danni...or get revenge for being rejected.

My biggest problems with this movie aside from the watery plot is that Abby is so transparent. She's played very bewilderingly over the top. It's pretty hard to believe that none of the other characters ever figured out that something wasn't right with her. Hell, someone should have at least noticed how odd her speech patterns were.


Aside from character issues, most of the movie's budget was spent on bad CGI and 3D effects. Perhaps, if more time and effort had been spent on practical effects, character development and plot thickening, it would have been a better movie overall. Watch this one if you have a love of bad B movies or wish to hear Paz mumble through her lines while nude from the waist down.


Rating: 1/5

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Quick Movie Reviews

No One Lives

Starring: Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens
Directed by: Ryuhei Kitamura
Rating: R
Run time: 86 minutes
Synopsis: A gang of ruthless highway killers kidnaps a wealthy couple traveling cross country only to shockingly discover that things are not what they seem.

I wavered on how to rate this one. Ryuhei Kitamura was a director I admired around the time of Versus. The film has an actor that I like. Luke Evans has potential in a lot of ways. He did well as the villain in the latest Fast and Furious installment. He's great as Bard the Bowman in the Hobbit trilogy. So...you're probably wondering what happened here. The long and short of it was that the plot and cast were wasted. I'm not entirely sure whose fault it was. It was very predictable in a lot of ways, then there were no real answers to a big question that was raised. Who is this person? Why are they doing what they're doing? That tends to be the biggest downfall for the film. However, I'll give it an extra half a point simply for Luke Evan's bare ass.

Rating: 1.5/5

The Call

Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Rating: R
Run time: 94 minutes
Synopsis: When a veteran 911 operator takes a life-altering call from a teenage girl who has just been abducted, she realizes that she must confront a killer from her past in order to save the girl's life.

The first half of the film was decent at building suspense. Halle Berry handled being a 911 operator dealing with difficult calls day to day believably in the beginning. It was easy to be empathic with her character and the people she was dealing with calls from. Once she gets the call from the abducted girl, things continue on a course that seems like it will lead to a typical ‘cops get the bad guy’ resolution. However, the deviation from that potential ending is where the film begins to falter. I simply couldn’t fathom the 911 operator making the choices that she did. Regardless of my feelings on that choice, I do believe that both Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin did well in their roles with the script they were given.

Rating: 2.5/5

Occupant

Starring: Van Hansis, Thorsten Kaye
Directed by: Henry Miller
Rating: NR
Running Time: 85 minutes
Synopsis:  25-year-old Danny Hill's grandmother just died giving Danny the chance to move into her enormous rent controlled apartment in Manhattan. Danny must lock himself in for twelve days before he can take over the lease. There's just one problem -- he may not be the only occupant.

To put it simply, don't waste your time on this one. It was 80 minutes too long. The premise was simple. A guy has to stay in his dead grandmother's apartment for twelve days in order to take over her lease. It sounds like the setup to a little ghost story. Instead, it devolves into a weird, half fulfilled psychosis story. While that could have been interesting, you're left wondering how a seemingly healthy man could end up in the position he was in after twelve days.

Rating: 1/5

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

Starring: Amber Heard Michael Welch, Anson Mount, Whitney Able
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Rating: R
Run time: 90 minutes
Synopsis: A group of high-schoolers invites Mandy Lane, "a good girl" who becomes the object of everyone's affection after returning from summer break, to a weekend party on a secluded ranch. While the festivities rage on, the number of revelers begins to mysteriously drop one at a time.

Originally slated for a 2006 release, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane did rounds at film festivals before finding a distribution source. It wasn’t long after that the distribution firm went under leaving the film shelved for seven years. If it had gotten its original intended release, this might have been a huge hit in 2006. We’ve come a long way since then. Mandy Lane is a formerly unpopular girl who got ‘hot’ before junior year. She’s reserved and sheltered by her family. All the boys want her and the girls seem a bit interested too whether it’s simply for friendship or budding rivalry. The movie is set up like a typical teen horror. They all go away for a drunken, sex-filled weekend only to have terrible things happen. The difference in this film is the cinematography and direction. It’s easily reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s style and films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I did guess the twist ending, but it was still well done enough that I wasn’t disappointed when it came.

Rating: 3/5

Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Starring: Eric Bana. Olivia Munn, Edgar Ramirez
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Rating: R
Run time: 118 minutes
Synopsis: New York police officer Ralph Sarchie investigates a series of crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled in the rites of exorcism, to combat the possessions that are terrorizing their city.

Aside from an attractive cast, Deliver Us From Evil has little going for it. It lacks as a crime thriller with little emphasis placed on the everyday gruesome things Sarchie would have encountered as a detective. These are conveniently used as a plot device to explain why he yells at his wife and snaps at his daughter. The religious horrors are lacking as well. There's a haze cast over what might have made for an entertaining view. Exploring more about the priest and the things that led him to investigate the paranormal could have helped. As it stands, Deliver Us From Evil has about the same amount of demonic presence as your favorite reality haunting show. Things go bump in the night, but you're never fully unsettled. Chalk this one up as a bad re-enactment with a poor script. Don't believe the tagline. Inspired by actual accounts means they took the name of the cop, Ralph Sarchie, but none of the cases from his book, Beware the Night and crafted their own original story.

Rating: 1.5/5

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Movie Review: Honeymoon

Honeymoon

Starring: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway
Directed by: Leigh Janiak
Rating: R
Run time: 87 minutes
Synopsis: A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night.


What happens when you hire actors from two popular fantasy series and toss them into a remote setting? Ideally, magic. Rose Leslie is a talented young actress, best known for her role as Ygritte in HBO's Game of Thrones. Harry Treadaway plays the role of Victor Frankenstein in Showtime's Penny Dreadful. In reality, Honeymoon is a bit too unsure of what it wants to be to effectively produce the appropriate response from its audience. Psychological thriller would have worked far better than the route that the writer/director took. Let's break it down a bit without giving away anything not shown in the trailers.


Paul and Bea have just gotten married. They're very sweet together, recounting details of their courtship for their wedding video. Paul got sick on their first date. They were supposed to go camping, but she got sick. Sickness seems to play a part in their relationship quite a bit. This resulted in him building a tent out of their blankets over their bed and proposing beneath it. Rather than wedding cake, they chose cinnamon buns. Quirky and cute, these two seem destined for white picket fences and happily ever after.

Bea has chosen  to leave the city for their honeymoon to have alone time in her family's cabin. It's rustic, surrounded by woods and an expansive lake. Paul seems overwhelmed by this. How much did he know about his new wife? She can hunt, fish and did 12 years of girl scouts. Things take a turn for the strange when they meet a childhood friend of hers.


Paul responds to this new arrival with jealousy. It's not surprising with how horny he'd been. Is there a darker side to him than Bea realized? Paul made an earlier comment about her womb that lead to an awkward moment where they discuss whether he wants a baby. Later, he finds Bea naked and alone in the woods. Something is now different about her. Or is he the one who has changed?

A better script would have explored their relationship's decline better. What happened to Bea in the woods? Was she attacked by a stranger? Was it her childhood friend? Did her husband rape her? Is Paul losing his mind and unable to cope with his wife's trauma? These questions would have made the film far more rounded and fulfilling. Instead, we're saddled with a weak final half that resorts to body horror to get its point across. There's one major sequence that left me feeling very uneasy. Sadly, even that has been done before...and much better.


Rating: 2/5

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Quick Movie Review


Girl on the Train (2016, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

Originally, I was supposed to see this movie with Buonaventura who actually read the book, but our schedules didn't work out for us to do it and the movie left the theater. I know the book was highly praised by the masses and people claimed that this would be the next Gone Girl, which is one reason I wanted to watch it. The preview seemed like a predictable suspense mystery sort of thing, but according to Buonaventura, it was not...at least in the book. I don't know how the book compares to the movie and most likely I will never find out for myself like I did with Gone Girl. I feel like this movie could have been better, but the story just drags and drags and the characters simply aren't that interesting. I almost wonder if the book is the same way. Even though I thought the story was boring, I was still curious who committed the crime in the end.



The Beauty Inside (2015, South Korea) | Rating: 4/5

Lately, I've been absolutely terrible about watching Asian movies from my job as well as dramas, if you haven't noticed, which is quite a shame. There was one day I managed to get through three Asian titles in one day and all three have surprised me with its content. Normally love stories can be very generic and formulaic no matter the country (at least when it comes to American and Asian films), but this love story had a twist to it. The story follows Woo-jin who has a special condition. Everyday he wakes up in a different body varying from age, race, gender, and everything in between. This becomes a problem for him when he falls in love with a furniture dealer. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the romantic genre unless it has some sort of tragedy, horror, or gender defying take on it. I guess you can say that the whole story revolves around love transcending age, race, and gender, which is quite beautiful and perhaps difficult. I loved watching Woo-jin and Hong Yi-soo trying to connect from beginning to end in their own ways. It's very entertaining and sometimes heartbreaking.



The Great Hypnotist (2014, China) | Rating: 3.5/5

This is one of the other subtitled/Asian movies that I watched along with Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?. The cover was rather mesmerizing, the story sounded interesting, and I hadn't seen a Chinese movie in quite some time. When the story began, I didn't know what to think. We're introduced to a hypnotherapist and a woman dealing with some inner turmoil. There's a lot of conversation that goes on between them and I couldn't quite hook myself into the story. In other words, the story starts off really slow and it depends on dialogue. I don't have a problem with slow developing stories, but it has to feel like there's progress. Fortunately, something did click with me and the movie and my attention was hooked to what's going in the patients head. There's a few twists and turns that occur that really made the movie worthwhile, despite my attention going in and out throughout this movie. I think things could've been done a little better, but I really love the dynamics between the characters, the visuals, especially during the hypnosis moments, are beautiful, and it has some cool moments that reminded me of Inception, which is a good thing.



Queen of Katwe (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I don't think I heard too much about this movie, despite it starring the fabulous Lupita Nyong'o and talented David Oyelowo. The little praise I did hear and the cast made me interested in checking out this movie. Plus, I like chess and I try to watch these black centric movies. The movie is quite lengthy, but it is a biopic of an Ugandan female chess player and her personal journey and struggles. I enjoyed watching her relationship with Oyelowo's character, Robert Katende, as she learns the game of chess and beating out all the boys in this elaborate mind game. There's a lot of ups and downs that occur, but overall it gives an encouraging, heartwarming feeling in the end, especially when you watch the actors interact with their real life counterparts in the credits.



Loving (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to commercials and a little bit of the Academy Awards, this movie slowly appeared on my radar, especially seeing/hearing that my favorite badass lady from Preacher was starring in this historical movie. The movie is about the real life Loving couple. That's their actual last name, which I think is pretty cool and appropriate. Anyway, the story is about Mildred and Richard Loving and their fight for legal interracial marriage in their state. The format of this movie is kinda different than most biographies I've seen. There's no backstory on how they met or chronicling their relationship to the point of marriage. No, this movie jumps right into the meat and potatoes of the problem with them getting married and the police persecuting them for their union. It was eye opening to see this couple struggle to hide their relationship, raise a family while being separated, and just exist in this harsh world with such a dumb law. Although it took some adjusting, I appreciated the change in format for this biography. It was definitely different, even though I kinda would've liked to know a little backstory on our couple, but it was nice that they focused on the law instead of their love, which was obvious and apparent throughout their struggle.