Monthly Archives: November 2014

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Movie Trailer – The Age of Adaline

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Lee Toland Krieger

Starring: Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn

Release: April 24th, 2015

I like a good time travel movie, or immortals, sure, anything a little sci-fi/anomaly like that.  But I don’t like romance, I get annoyed by the genre.  Now, About Time I loved, which I guess you could call a romantic time travel movie.  So there’s a bit of hope, but I would bet money that Adaline turns out to be more like Winter’s Tale and less like About Time.  I think I’ll keep away from a movie that’s bound to be more sap than anything else.


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Movie Review – The Theory of Everything

Category : Movie Review

Director: James Marsh

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis

Year: 2014

I feel like I’ve been able to watch Eddie Redmayne’s career develop every step of the way.  I’m sure this is erroneous, but at the very least I’ve seen a few of his benchmark films, the movies in which he’s grown into the excellent actor he is today.  The first time I saw him was in Powder Blue, a mediocre stories-tied-together drama that also starred Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, and Jessica Biel.  Redmayne stood out, with an unusual look for Hollywood and a unique presence.  I didn’t think too much about him until I saw him again in Les Miserables.  He played Marius, and played him well, stepping into the spotlight for the first time (well, the second time; My Week with Marilyn came out one year earlier).  And now, Redmayne is a star, taking his biggest test yet, receiving Oscar buzz for a portrayal that is being called award-winning, and deservedly so.

This is the true story of the life of Stephen Hawking, as seen through the eyes of his wife Jane.  It begins with Stephen as a young physicist, attempting to get his doctorate at university in England.  There was no doubt that Hawking was brilliant, but his laziness & distractibility kept him from developing a thesis and putting his great mind to work.  Two significant events kept Hawking’s attention away from school as well.  The first was Jane, a beautiful art student met at a party, a woman who would become Stephen’s wife, constant companion, and ultimately his caretaker.  For the second event was a tragic one; the revelation that Stephen had motor neurone disease, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Life expectancy was two years, but with the help of his brave wife, Hawking not only outlived his prognosis, but went on to become the most famous physicist of our time.

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First of all, what an amazing persona to base a film on.  What an incredibly fascinating story of a man who was not only a genius, but a genius bound to a wheelchair and unable to speak.  Stephen Hawking is a phenomenal figure, a scientist who understands the universe better than any of us, and yet has such limited means to communicate that information.  The wonderful part about this story is that he finds a way against all odds, not only a way to survive but also a way to write books, challenge theories, develop new ideas, and basically teach us all about the amazing world around us.  Hawking spent much of his life unable to move, speaking through a computerized voice box, writing novels one word at a time using only his index finger.  This is an unbelievably courageous and impressive true story, one that takes us through all the years of trial, through the setbacks & successes that make the life of Stephen Hawking so unique.

Redmayne was excellent as Hawking, deserving all the praise he’s received for his perfect portrayal.  He transforms from the young, goofy, fun-loving college genius into a man who won’t be held down by his limitations, although they are many.  Redmayne does a lot with very little, having to speak with basically only his eyebrows towards the end of the film, communicating with barely a movement.  He became the character in a way that made me forget the Hollywood process, drawing me into the world of Stephen Hawking with seamless effort.  Felicity Jones was also strong, playing Jane with what began as weak tenderness and turned into a strength that could teach us all a lesson.  The story was more about Jane that I had imagined it would be, detailing her struggles to raise a family, to remain a woman, not just a nurse.  There were heartbreaking moments, great triumphs, bitter defeats, and ultimately love, as cheesy as that sounds.  This is a movie that can sweep you up if you let it, that can become something more than a biopic, perhaps even more than Oscar-winning film.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

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Movie Trailer – Peanuts

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Steve Martino

Starring: Bill Melendez

Release: November 6th, 2015

This is a Blue Sky animation production.  They’re not as big as Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks, but you’ve seen some of their movies: Ice Age, Robots, Horton Hears a Who, Rio, Epic.  This could be their best effort yet, as it looks like a good combination between classic & modern, kiddy & adult.  I’ve never been a Peanuts fan, but this looks like it might be a very easy movie to enjoy.


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Movie Review – The Lego Movie

Category : Movie Review

Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks

Year: 2014

I’m sure every 30-something guy says the same thing, but man did I love Legos.  Still do really; I still have my old sets, from the ice planet to the pirate ships, and I pull them out every once in a while to play with them with my kids.  It’s amazing how cool they still are, those stupid little yellow heads and gray knight’s helmets.  But they still bring the same joy, both to me and to my kids; I guess that’s a sign of a great toy.  So anyway, the Lego movie (aptly named The Lego Movie) got my attention right away, not only as a neat-looking animated film but as a way to bring my favorite childhood toy to life.  The fact that the film would be directed by Lord & Miller, the guys that brought us 21 & 22 Jump Street, concerned me a bit, made me wonder what kind of humor would be brought to the screen.  And although my doubts were somewhat justified, the Legos spoke for themselves with a power I’ll never be able to resist.

In a world where everything is awesome and where everyone follows the instructions, Emmet fits in perfectly.  He watches the normal shows, listens to the popular jams, does his work, and ignores the infrequent doubts he has towards President Business, the guy who runs the city and every product in it.  Emmet feels pretty normal, maybe a bit left out, but not original in any way.  Until the day that he’s told that he”s the Special, the dude to save the world, the most important & interesting person in the history of everything.  Apparently a hidden group of Master Builders have knowledge that Business is going to destroy the world as everyone knows it, that he will use a powerful weapon to freeze  everyone into the perfect position in a perfect, immovable world.  Only Emmet can save the day, with his yet undiscovered power to mold the world around him into any image he can imagine.  He’ll team up with Batman, the wizard Vitruvius, a cool girl named Wyldstyle, and other heroes in an attempt to change everything.

This is a movie obviously made with a lot of love.  It showcased Legos in exactly the way I wanted them to look; real.  It was like an actual world made completely out of bricks, a step into my own young imagination.  The animation was tremendous, bringing the toys to life in a visually stunning and heart pleasing way.  Later scenes even brought the early 90s to life with scenes straight out of a Wishbone episode.  As a fan of the toys, I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the film turned out.  It even had a good deal of social commentary, packing a lot of meaning into a short punch.  The humor was perhaps a bit slap-happy at times, but not unenjoyable, with a balance between witty & juvenile that should appeal to a large audience.  And the cast was enormous, name dropping all over the place: Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Will Ferrell, Alison Brie, Shaq, Billy Dee Williams, Liam Neeson twice over.  The Lego Movie is just that; a movie that showcases the love of Legos over all things, adding in a good bit of comedy, a touch of depth, a nice message, and entertainment for all ages.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Against the Sun

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Brian Falk

Starring: Tom Felton, Garret Dillahunt, Jake Abel

Release: January 23rd, 2015

The premise alone is enough to get me on board, figuratively.  True story, WWII, bomber, survival, sharks; OK I’m in.  But I’ve gotta say, I’m nervous.  Draco Malfoy, that guy from Raising Hope, and some kid from Percy Jackson?  What is this, the fantasy book reunion tour?  I’m just not sure any of the three can carry the film, not make it cheesy, and impress me the way I’ll want to be impressed.


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Sports – NFL Picks 2014, Week 13

Category : Sports

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Here are my NFL Week 13 Picks

(11-4 last week, 117-58-1 for the season)

Bye teams: none

iconDetChi @ Det – It’s Thanksgiving, and that means time for Lions football.  Through the years that’s also meant Lions losses, but not this year.  Detroit is 4-1 at home this season, are coming off a loss, and allow the least points in the NFL.  As my fantasy QB I need Cutler to score some points, but I don’t think he’ll win this game.  He might get sacked 10 times.

iconDalPhi @ Dal – I’m just gonna say it; I want Sanchez to fail.  He’s not a good QB, he’s not a franchise guy, and his success so far is making my predictions look bad.  So, I’m gonna need him to lose & look silly.  This is the week for it to happen, as the Eagles play in Dallas against Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and that great offensive line.  And it’s the anniversary of the Butt Fumble.

iconSFSea @ SF – This is an almost impossibly unpredictable matchup.  These two teams are very similar, very balanced, both are 7-4, both play good defense, and honestly I don’t know who to pick.  If Seattle were at home I’d pick them no problem, but the game is in SF, the Niners have won 3 straight, and DangerRuss just isn’t playing lights out.

iconBalSD @ Bal – Here’s an interesting statistic; the Ravens are 3-4 against the AFC, 4-0 against the NFC.  They’re also 3-3 on the road, 4-1 at home.  So what happens when they play an AFC opponent in Baltimore?  They go 2-1.  Alright, those statistics are messy and probably don’t mean much, but I think the Ravens have proven that they’re a tough team to beat at home, and the Chargers are inconsistent at best.

iconBufCle @ Buf – Here is a  money-where-your-mouth-is game.  These are two Cinderella teams, both outplaying their predictions, both with a playoff shot.  The team that wins here could be on the right track, while the loser could fall by the wayside.  The Bills are coming off a smashing of the Jets, the Browns are coming off  a game they should have lost.  I’ll keep on the Buffalo bandwagon and root for Neckbeard all the way.

iconHou1Ten @ Hou – I say it every week; the Titans should be in the worst team conversation.  People make fun of the Raiders, the Jags, the Bucs, even the Jets, but the Titans are equally terrible.  They’re 2-9, can’t score, can’t defend, and can’t compete.  It’s not like the Texans are amazing; Houston is only 5-6 and probably won’t get a Wild Card spot.  But they’re good enough to beat Tennessee and should.

iconInd1Was @ Ind – Andrew Luck vs RG3, the top two 2012 Draft picks!  Or it would be, if Griffin hadn’t been benched for being terrible.  We haven’t seen this sort of discrepancy since Manning/Leaf, with Luck growing into a superstar & RG3 digressing quickly.  But the game goes on, and the Colts should dominate, moving toward winning their division with ease.

Jaguars_IconNYG @ Jax – Oh dear.  Can there be a game that ends with both teams losing?  This would be the matchup to make it happen, as the Jags are 1-4 at home while the GMen are 1-4 on the road.  Neither team has any hope or any momentum, combining to lose 10 games in a row.  Yikes.  I guess I have to pick someone and it might as well be Jacksonville, winning here to make themselves feel better.

iconMinCar @ Min – I like the Vikings a little bit.  They have pluck in the face of a pretty terrible season.  Maybe we all had very low expectations of them, so going 4-7 seems like an accomplishment.  Contrarily, the Panthers are a huge disappointment, especially in a division that’s wide open; they ought to be near undefeated.  But Cam kinda sucks and Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t seem to.

iconPitNO @ Pit – It seems ridiculous to say, but the Saints are a bad football team.  I’m gonna have to stop picking them to win games, as they aren’t.  They can’t even win at home where they’ve been so dominant recently.  The Steelers, on the other hand, are 4-1 in Pittsburgh, 7-4 overall, and have a real shot at winning the tough AFC Nouth.  Look for Big Ben to have a nice day & Brees to not.

th_Rams_IconOak @ STL – Oddly enough, the Raiders and the Rams have allowed the same amount of points this season (285).  St. Louis has only scored a handful more points this year but have won 3 more games.  I guess my point is, neither of these teams are good.  Oakland has only won 1 game, none on the road, and will probably lose here.  I’m still mad at the Rams for beating the Broncos, but I gotta pick ’em.

iconCinCin @ TB – Oh the Bungles.  What an unpredictable team.  Although, they did just beat the Saints in New Orleans and are undefeated vs the NFC.  Also, the Bucs are terrible and haven’t won a game at home all season.  Man, going 2-9 on the year is bad enough, but losing every game at home is just embarrassing.  This should be yet another loss in Tampa, as Cinci should do enough to win.

iconAriAri @ Atl – Odd fact of the day; both of these teams lead their division, Arizona with a 9-2 record, Atlanta with a 4-7.  Say what?!  That’s the kind of year it’s been, and I would bet that neither team ends up winning their division at the end of the year.  The Cardinals are by far the better team, even though they lost their QB, and their defense should hold them up in a game against a weak Falcons team.

iconGB1NE @ GB – Here’s the game of the week.  These two teams could meet again in the Super Bowl, although the Broncos and the Cowboys will have something to say about that.  Both teams are 6-0 at home, so it’s fortunate for the Packers that the game is in Green Bay.  Neither team has a great defense, so we should see a lot of points, but I think Rodgers & the Pack come out on top.

iconKC1Den @ KC – This is a tough game for me to pick, given that I’m a Broncos fan.  I’d love to choose them here, they beat the Chiefs in Denver, but I just don’t think I can.  The Broncos are bad on the road, going 2-3 on the season, while KC is 4-1 at home.  Also, the Broncos have a history of losing to the Chiefs in cold weather in KC in these tough matchups.  I hate to do it, but I have root for one thing, pick another.

iconMiaMia @ NYJ – The Dolphins showed some moxy last week, going toe to toe with the Broncos in what turned out to be a shootout.  They’re not a bad road team and shouldn’t have much of a challenge vs the lowly Jets.  Geno is back in at quarterback, but that really isn’t some wonderful momentum shift; we’ve already seen him this year and he’s bad.  Tannehill & the Dolphins win.


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Movie Trailer – Furious 7

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: James Wan

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez

Release: April 3rd, 2015

Really, seven?  This series lasted seven movies?  And it’s only ending (maybe ending) because Paul Walker died.  It’s really unbelievable and a little impressive that this story has lasted this long.  I’m not a fan, but I wonder if this one will actually be the best of them all.  I like all the side actors (Jason Statham, The Rock, Kurt Russell) and the trailer makes the movie look pretty cool.  Still dumb, but kinda cool.  I doubt I’ll see it, like I said it’s not my thing, but I won’t judge you if you do.


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Movie Review – The Two Faces of January

Category : Movie Review

Director: Hossein Amini

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst

Year: 2014

I know I’m not alone (although sometimes it feels like it) in saying that Inside Llewyn Davis was one of if not the best film of 2013.  It had everything you could ask for; great music, an excellent story, witty comedy, an original feel, and some phenomenal acting.  Oscar Isaac was a big part of that, obviously, as he played Llewyn and set the tone of the movie.  He’s a young up-and-comer whose talent shouldn’t be ignored, as he can be so many things within a short span of time and/or role.  Here he plays a much different role than that of Llewyn Davis, but he delivers the same depth of character, the same complexity of emotion, the intriguing lack of background.  The Two Faces of January is a thriller led by this excellent, dark, captivating actor, a story held up on capable shoulders.

In Greece in the 1960s, a wealthy couple tour the cities & sites as you continue their roaming of Europe.  They are Chester & Colette MacFarland, at least those are the names they go by.  Chester is much older than Colette, a dealer in investments, and a man who may have made a lot of rich people back home  in America very angry.  The couple meet Rydal, an American tour guide, a young man who speaks many languages and knows his way around.  So when Chester gets in a little trouble and needs to disappear, Rydal is there to help, often casting a longing eye toward Colette and Chester’s suitcase full of cash.  Now the duo is a trio, with the police hot on their heels, with questions about each others’ pasts, and with no way to know how this odd relationship will end.

From the description and the genre, I expected a bit more typical thriller; a thousand double-crosses, twists around every corner, never knowing who was telling the truth until the very end.  What we end up with is something much different, a thriller based on tension and trouble, less reliant on surprise.  With that kind of story, you need great acting, and thankfully each of the three were solid in their respective roles.  Dunst was perhaps the best I’ve see her; restrained and simple, beautiful but not cheesy.  Mortensen was the same, strong in a complex role and never trying to steal the scene with over-acting.  Isaac ended up as the star of the film, the character that you root for, the pivotal piece in the driving action.  He kept the film grounded and smoldering, making it interesting & deep rather than exciting & shallow.  The Two Faces of January is less thrilling than you might anticipate, but in a good way, ultimately becoming a good movie on its own without relying on the tricks of the trade.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Song One

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Kate Barker-Froyland

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn

Release: January 20th, 2015

This is gonna sound sexist, but a love story written by a hyphenated first-time director/writer sounds like the worst thing ever.  Had I not seen the trailer I would have been worried, and then, after viewing it, all my fears have come true.  Are there any more cheesy elements that could possibly have been thrown into the film?  Dying brother, guitar-playing hunk, crying short-haired Anne Hathaway.  A resounding “No Thank You” from me.


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DVD Review – Beneath

Category : DVD Review

Director: Ben Ketai

Starring: Kelly Noonan, Joey Kern, Jeff Fahey

Year: 2013

I’m not alone in my dislike of “true story” horror.  Noting at the beginning of your film that the events we are about to see are based on actual happenings is neither believable nor funny.  It’s pathetic really, and dishonest, an unlikable combination.  No, this didn’t actually happen.  No, your movie doesn’t get credit for investigatory journalism.  No, I’m not extra intrigued because you think ghosts are real.  Filmmakers of this genre need to understand their subject matter and their audience.  Sure, I might love horror, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid.  I’d rather see tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top, gore-fest slashers any day over fake documentaries or gruesome “exposes”.  To be fair, Beneath isn’t Blair Witch, it’s not found footage, and it’s not a run through the nighttime woods.  It’s a horror movie, plain & simple, one that’s not awful, that actually has some suspense & creep.  But let’s cut the crap; you started out your movie by pretending that your story would be true; big mistake.  That bothered me from the beginning, never left my mind, and ultimately made me like the whole thing less.

The Movie

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For Samantha Marsh, returning to her home town means returning to the coal mines.  Although she’s never been down in them herself, her father George has spent his entire life working in the darkness, providing for his family, and ruining his health day by day.  Samantha moved away to the city as soon as she could, went to college, became a lawyer, and specialized in environmental law.  An odd occupation for a coal miner’s daughter, one that doesn’t sit too well with George.  But she’s home once again, this time to celebrate her dad’s retirement.  The company is sad to see their best digger go, and throw a party the night before his last day in the pit.  Sam reunites with Randy, an old boyfriend, and even volunteers to join all the boys for a couple of hours down in the mine tomorrow as a way to say goodbye to George’s old life.  Her father reluctantly agrees, and the pair head underground early the next morning, for what will be a fateful trip.

While on tour in the mine, Samantha & Randy work side by side, connecting perhaps.  Sam sees the sights, as much as there are; the automated digger, the ventilation shaft, the conveyor belts, the emergency shelter.  All is well, until a duo of workers accidentally open a crack in the coal.  There’s a strange tunnel leading to who-knows-where, and here’s where things start to get weird.  A cave-in happens suddenly, destroying the vents and blocking all exits.  Men are injured, some lost, some dead, and the survivors gather together at the emergency bunker.  It’ll be three days until rescuers dig through, but there’s plenty of food, water, and air in the bunker.  Sam, Randy, George, the boss man with a busted leg, the rookie, the hot head; everyone gathers inside for the long wait.  But odd occurences are happening right outside the door; screams in the distance, someone moving around, messed up machinery.  The crew venture out from safety only to find death waiting for them in every tunnel, death and worse, with the darkness of the mine closing in on all sides.

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I actually dug (no pun intended) the set up; the mine, the crew, the daughter, the emergency that turns out to be the least of their problems.  It’s a good, solid horror storyline, one that’s set in a naturally creepy environment and is prepared well for a dark & scary story.  The inexplicable noises, the close confines, the curving tunnels, the panic; it all works to create a great atmosphere of fear that had be drawing back from the television more than a few times.  Even the acting was acceptable.  Noonan, who doesn’t have many quality films to her credit, did well as the fish-out-of-water daughter, keeping her screams to a minimum and actually coming across as pretty badass.  Kern, who I can’t help but see only as that douchy boyfriend from Cabin Fever, did a fine job, making Randy a little tough, a little love-interest, slightly brave.  And Fahey, who you’ll recognize from a million bad action movies, was fine as coughing daddy, the old pro at the end of his glory days.  So the story was prepared nicely, the cast was up to the task, and the mine was ready for some blood.

Here’s where they lost me: the “true story” and the reveal.  First, it’s worth repeating that claiming actual events is just silly.  We, of course, don’t believe you, and even if a couple facts actually happened we know that 90% of what we are about to see is bullshit.  It cheapens your work to pull such a prank, because what you had going wasn’t all that bad.  There’s no need to try to trick audiences with a ploy they’ve seen a hundred times before.  And all that aside, including the good story & acting, the ending left me unhappy.  I won’t spoil the plot by telling you what was outside wreaking havoc, but it wasn’t just falling coal dust.  I didn’t care for how they chose to explain the terror, it took away from the believability of the film even more, and felt more like a cop out then an original attempt to tie up loose ends.  The meat of this movie is well-made; it’s the beginning & end that fail to deliver, and those are pretty important times.  Don’t be fooled by any promises; this is just your run-of-the-mill horror film, and not too brilliantly done.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, the video quality is not the problem.  Almost every scene was dark, small-scale, compacted, a bit claustrophobic, but clear, with a good balance in color and light.  The picture boasts crisp images and interesting visuals; a high point of the film.

Audio – The DVD was done in Dolby Digital 5.1 English Surround.  There is an option for subtitles: English SDH or Spanish.  Also, you can watch  the film with commentary, with input from director Ben Ketai, writers Patrick J. Doody & Chris Valenziano, and producers Nick Phillips & Kelly Martin Wagner.  The sound quality is also strong, with a good balance, a good mood, and a creepy vibe.

Extras – There are a ton of extras on this disc.  First off, ten interviews: from the director, Sam, George, Randy, Van Horn, Masek, Torres, Grubbs, Strode, and the producers.  There is a Writers’ Featurette called ‘From Script to Screen’; three minutes of inside look into the process.  Also Lessons From Below: Miner Education, another three minutes of preparation for the authenticity of the film.  Behind the Scenes is a two-minute look at the thought inside the plot.  Breaking News Report, fictitious breaking stories reporting on the mine collapse.  Newsreel – ‘The 19’, another fictitious historical document.  And lastly, a trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

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Skip It.  There are ways in which you could enjoy this film, mainly by forcing yourself to believe that the movie is cerebral, that it’s more than what meets the eye.  It didn’t come off that way to me though, it felt more like a bad attempt.  It tries hard, brings good pieces to the table, and delivers a scary story.  But in the end, I just found myself disappointed rather than impressed.  The video quality is high, as is the audio quality, and there are a lot of extras on the disc.  I wish I could recommend Beneath as a great horror film, something that does credit to the genre, but I can’t.  It’s simply not good enough and not worth your time.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay