Friday, December 5, 2014

Reviews: Horror Edition

The Babadook
Man, I have found horror to be disappointing for the most part this year, but what a gem this turned out to be.  Filled with great atmosphere and a truly unique creature, this is the horror film I wanted with Oculus.
Following Amelia (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wisemen) as they are haunted by a mysterious creature called the Babadook, the film explores depression, loss, and family with a deft hand and a great screenplay from first-time director Jennifer Kent.  Light on jump scares, and heavy on atmosphere and tone, the movie slowly builds, giving horror fans something they don't get very often:  Likeable, if flawed, characters to root for.  Special mention to Essie Davis for giving one of the best performances of the year in any genre.

The trailer is slightly misleading:  The Babadook itself appears very little in the movie, and it leans more toward a character study/psychological thriller than a creature feature.  Still, this is a great movie that I highly recommend to any horror fan.  9.0 out of 10.

Willow Creek
A found footage movie that follows a couple trying to prove that Bigfoot exists, this effort from writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait is a solid, if unspectacular.

One thing I appreciate is the slow build up:  You get to know the couple (Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson) and see a bit of their travels before getting to the meat of the movie.  Again, by creating characters that we care about, the stakes are raised in the latter part of the movie when the actual scares occur.

While both Gilmore and Johnson have onscreen chemistry and charisma, the film does drag in a few spots, most notably when interviewing locals and during the initial backpacking into the woods.  However, an extended sequence involving the couple waking up in the middle of the night is a great moment that the movie could have used more of.

Not the greatest horror film, but there are worse ways to spend your evening,  7.0 out of 10.

Annabelle
This was just a quick cash grab of a movie, and it shows quite a bit.  Following the creepy doll from The Conjuring, the movie could have been worse, but it definitely could have been better.

To give credit where it is due, the lead performance from Annabelle Wallis (yes, the main actress is the film also has the name Annabelle) is fairly strong, and there are two sequences that are exceptionally well done, but this is by-the-numbers horror cranked out to make a quick buck off the prior movie's great reception.

It's competent, but nothing extraordinary, which is a shame, because there was some good stuff to build off of.  6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2 Sentence Reviews (continued)

Maleficent
Great star turn from Angelina Jolie, though I wish they hadn't de-clawed the character so much.  There are worse ways to spend 2 hours though.  7.0 out of 10.

That Awkward Moment
I didn't hate this movie.  It's not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn't hate it.  6.0 out of 10.

The Maze Runner
Better than the first Hunger Games, but not quite as good as the second one.  Great work on the claustrophobia of the maze and the sanctuary.  6.5 out of 10.

Transformers:  Age of Extinction
Why did I see another Transformers film?  Currently questioning life choices.  3.0 out of 10.

Tusk
Fuck this movie.  Fuck everything about it.  1.0 out of 10.

Under the Skin
Weird, off-putting, and not quite sure what I was watching.  But it sticks with you, and I would readily watch it again.  7.0 (?) out of 10.

X-Men:  Days of Future Past
Superhero movies have been pretty solid this year.  Wish they hadn't all but cut out the female characters though.  8.0 out of 10.

Catching Up: 2 Sentence Reviews

Let's get to it:

All Cheerleaders Die
This isn't great cinema, but it is entertaining cinema.  Horror comedy done right.  7.0 out of 10.

A Million Ways to Die in the West
More of a loving mockery of Old West films than anything else.  Has its moments, but underwhelming overall.  6.0 out of 10.

Bad Words
Entertaining, with a neat premise.  Ultimately forgettable though.  6.0 out of 10.

Big Bad Wolves
Well made, well acted, solid film with a very dark plot.  Didn't care for it, even if I did appreciate the craftsmanship.  7.5 out of 10

Blue Ruin
I wish more revenge movies were done like this.  The pain is real and the consequences more so.  9.0 out of 10.

Gone Girl
Why would anyone call this a 'perfect date movie' is beyond me.  Well made, with great performances from Rosamund Pike and Carrie Coon.  8.0 out of 10.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Relentlessly entertaining.  Looking forward to the sequel.  8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

5 More Songs I Love

Third Eye Blind - Jumper

Nickel Creek - The Lighthouse's Tale

Petula Clark - This is My Song

Matchbox 20 - Unwell

Mandy Moore - Love to Love Me Back

Saturday, September 6, 2014

10 Songs That I Love

In no particular order...

The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony

No Doubt - Don't Speak

En Vogue - Don't Let Go

Kelly Clarkson - Low

Patsy Cline - Walkin' After Midnight

Stone Temple Pilots - Sour Girl

Spice Girls - Wannabe

The Flamingos - I Only Have Eyes for You

Ricky Martin - Private Emotion

Carrie Underwood - Wasted

Monday, August 4, 2014

More Reviews

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
I feel that this movie got quite a bit more hate than it deserved.  Not that it is a great movie or anything, but it isn't nearly as bad as many of the reviews implied.  If anything, it is relentlessly average.  The chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is still a highlight, and the 3-D during the fights is particularly impressive.  However, there is a bit too much going on (we didn't really need three villains, even if one is more of a cameo) and 'just okay' is disappointing when compared to Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 (the latter of which I still consider to be the pinnacle of comic book movies).

Dane DeHaan is proving himself to be a go-to actor for morally ambiguous characters, though this feels like a lesser version of his Chronicle performance.  Jamie Foxx is... there?  Nothing about the character really stood out (other than the nerd makeup, which went overboard to an amazing degree) but he wasn't terrible in any particular way.

The movie is an improvement over The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 3 (putting it squarely in the middle of the 5), but not a must-see in any way.  6.0 out of 10.

Knights of Badassdom
Here is a movie I absolutely enjoyed while also realizing (while watching it) that it was not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination.  Very much a guilty pleasure, the movie follows 3 friend at a LARPing event where things go horribly, horribly wrong.

What the movie does have going for it is solid performances (particularly from Peter Dinklage and Danny Pudi), surprising developments as far as character deaths go, and a great sense of camaraderie between the actors that really helps the comedy.

The effects could be better (they are obviously low budget) but I found the practical costume effects charming, especially given how out-and-out terrible some fully CGI'd characters have been in other, more expensive movies.  Again, the movie is not going to be overly impressive on any front, but it has charm to spare.  6.5 out of 10.

Lucy
I cannot remember the last time I walked out of a movie this confused about my feelings for it.  As a star turn, Scarlett Johansson more than proves her worth.  As an action movie, it is fun and builds rather well.  The basic premise of the movie?  Kind of ridiculous.  And the plot holes are aplenty, as are the incredibly inconsistent characters.

The basic premise (thanks to some new drug the titular character is forced to smuggle in her stomach - that starts leaking - Lucy gains the ability to use all of her brain's capacity which turns her into an action hero of sorts) is beyond stupid, and only the seriousness of Morgan Freeman's delivery makes it in any way forgiveable.  Once they get moving with the actual action movie this wants to be, things improve, but scattered throughout are images of the 'greater world' that try to add symbolism to a movie that, frankly, isn't intelligent enough to deserve it.

It's not bad, by any means, but this movie is brainless fluff that will likely be forgotten in a few years time.  5.5 out of 10.

Interior.  Leather Bar.
A short film about the recreation of the lost footage of the 1980 film Cruising, this is not a movie for everyone.  In fact, given the graphic (and I do mean graphic) sex scenes throughout the movie, I'd venture to say that a large majority of people have no business watching this odd little film from Travis Mathews and James Franco.

Now, this movie isn't a recreation of the lost footage from Cruising, but it is about the making of the recreation of the lost footage from Cruising.  If that doesn't confuse you, seeing the movie will explain that sentence plainly.  Meant to challenge our preconceptions of a what a movie is (as well as our thoughts and opinions on the nature of sex in film), this film features talks with agents, someone reading a script that is the action being filmed right in that moment, and lots of discussion of sex in film.

Cinephiles will enjoy this (or, at the very least, get what it is going for), but for most this will be a bit too much.  7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Occasionally I review movies....

...just not much lately.  Here's a brief rundown of what I have seen this year, and thoughts.

Captain America:  The Winter Soldier
Loved it.  I will be forever glad Fantastic Four tanked so that Chris Evans got to do this instead of being locked into that shitstorm.  Great expansion on the character and on Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, and the addition of Falcon is welcome.  Also didn't see Robert Redford being the de facto villain of the movie, so points for surprising me on that front.  This movie and Godzilla are battling for my favorite of the year.  9.0 out of 10.

(I realize I gave Godzilla an 8.5, but I said they are battling for my favorite.  I do feel that this is a better made movie.)

Noah
I'm still not entirely sure what to make of this movie, although I did enjoy it quite a bit.  Great visuals, and it expands the Noah section of the Bible into a decent movie, even if I didn't quite believe that he would be willing to murder his grandson (he doesn't, if you care).  Russell Crowe gives a solid performance, though I thought the movie's standout was Logan Lerman.  Also, the vegetarian thing was a bit much.  7.5 out of 10.

The Lego Movie
This movie was way better than it had any right to be as a quick cash-grab.  Hilarious voicework, great use of the Lego 'world' and a quick pace make this a very enjoyable animated feature.  Even the brief live action section fits the movie well, and it is hard to criticize something so guilelessly entertaining.  8.0 out of 10.

Oculus
This movie wanted to be good.  It tried really hard.  However, apparently it was decided that 'just okay' was all they really wanted to shoot for, and we are left with a disappointing collection of ideas surrounding a ridiculous premise that almost works.  I had misgivings about a killer mirror movie, but the script here sets up the MacGuffin quite well and plays around with how malleable memory can be, but ultimately disappoints and fails to explore this plotline as fully as it could.  Not only that, but they failed to shore up other issues in the script that ultimately hurt the movie (How does the main character track down the mirror?  Why would the incarcerate a child for 10 years for killing his father when the father had obviously just murdered their mother and tried to murder them?)  The movie ultimately fails, but it is an interesting failure.  5.0 out of 10.