Monthly Archives: October 2017

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Movie Review – The Nightmare Before Christmas

Category : Movie Review

Director: Henry Selick

Starring: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Danny Elfman

Year: 1993

Halloween doesn’t have too many film standards, not like Christmas of course, which bogarts the holiday movie genre.   But one film not only represents the October festivities but also reaches its tendrils into December, spanning months and seasons with a magic not many can muster.  The Nightmare Before Christmas is a classic animated feature no matter how you look at it, as a stop-motion movie, as a spooky surprise, as a holiday tradition.  Tim Burton lends us his genius, which we are always lucky to hold for fleeting moments, and this film lives on every Halloween, an undying standard that we will always find wonderfully creepy.

Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, has grown tired of scaring children out of their wits every year, a routine that has become as boring as the same old monsters that surround him in Halloween Town.  Jack’s talent is undeniable, his power to frighten unmatched, but he knows that there must be something more out there for a bag of bones of his passions, and that’s when he stumbles upon the doors.  In a glade, in the sides of trees, are doors that lead to each holiday town, each place where the different seasons are brought to life by different specialists; Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  In Christmas Town, Jack sees the joy that can be brought into the hearts of children, and he wants to harness that emotion for his own use, to branch out, to take over another city of festivities.

This really is a unique film in the way that it has become an icon of an entire month, but how it also touches Christmas as well.  Disney doesn’t often use stop-motion, but they do here, and it’s magic.  The story is excellent, full of spooks and nightmares but somehow hope as well, weaving together a complicated theme in only 70 minutes.  But it’s Tim Burton and Daffy Elfman who bring the film to life.  Burton brings his dark style, Elfman writes the music and sings Jack’s songs, and the result is fantastic.  These songs stay with you all year long, the images Burton brings to life are indescribable, and if The Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t already one of your cult favorites, one watch and it will be.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Book Review – Annihilation

Category : Book Review

Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Year: 2014

I first heard of Annihilation as a film, to be released this coming February.  You can watch the trailer here; it has a very unique sci-fi feel, but also seems like a combination of many others, so I’m interested to see how it will turn out.  The fact that it is written/directed by the creator of Ex Machina, Alex Garland, is reason enough to get me in the theatre to see it, so I’ll report back on the movie as soon as watch, and hopefully I’ll have great things to say.  Meanwhile, the original novel was a big hit when it was published, but I hadn’t read it, so I figured that was something I should remedy before the film is released next year.  I was not disappointed in the quality of the book, as I can often be when reading something from a Bestsellers list; sometimes I don’t see eye to eye with the general populace.  But in this case, I thought Annihilation was an excellent read, an incredible story, and just another reason to anticipate the film version.

A biologist sets out, with a team of other women, into an uncharted zone called Area X, a place where teams of scientists and soldiers have been sent many times, with varying but always concerning results.  Once across an obscure border, life changes, and perceptions cannot always be trusted.  The members of the team all have different objectives, may have had different training, and are all hypnotized in order to acclimate themselves the this strange Area.  But nothing inside makes sense, no descriptions could possibly have prepared them for what they are about to witness, or how the very landscape will alter their reality.  There is an inverted tower that beckons them to come within, there is an abandoned lighthouse that calls them to explore, there is a marsh that holds creatures that are far too human, and there is a life force in the air they breathe whose presences will have unpredictable consequences.

I’ve read the book and I still couldn’t tell you what it’s really about, and you know, that’s OK.  It might not be for everyone, a story that makes absolutely no sense, and not even the characters know what the hell is going on, all they can share with you are their ridiculous theories.  But I can appreciate a little obscurity in my life, not every novel/film has to spell it out for me, I am allowed to think through the point and come to my own conclusions.  Now, we should look to the author, we should attempt to divine what they intended, but we can lead ourselves, it’s OK to still wonder when you come to the end instead of definitely knowing.  Annihilation is a book that won’t answer your questions, it will only ask more, but it can still be an enjoyable piece of literature.  I was thoroughly entertained by it, even as I stumbled along beside the characters, as I went on a journey with them that made no sense.  It was fascinating, open-ended, scary at times, odd at others, but always engaging, like a sci-fi plot should be.  I only hope that the movie captures the same sentiment, because I know how Hollywood likes to do it, and I don’t have a ton of faith that they won’t screw it up.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Den of Thieves

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Christian Gudegast

Starring: Gerard Butler, O’Shea Jackson Jr, 50 CentPablo Schreiber

Release: January 19th, 2018

This movie is filled with guys who are either barely actors or who aren’t actors at all; we should definitely not be surprised when it’s the worst movie of 2018, holding the title all through the year.  I mean, Butler was in 300 but has sucked in literally everything else, O’Shea can only play his own father, 50 is a rapper, and Porn Stash from OITNB will never live down that role.  Also, the director has never directed before; I wish someone would unmake this movie.


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Movie Trailer – Thoroughbreds

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Cory Finley

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cook, Anton Yelchin

Release: March 9th, 2018

Oh Anton, we miss you.  I wasn’t alive when James Dean died, but losing Dean must have felt like it did to lose Yelchin, a young talent that you knew would grow into a megastar gone way too soon.  I’d watch this movie just to see Anton again, but it also looks like it might actually be good.  I am a bit worried about the amateur director, but the young actresses have chops and I’m hopeful that the film will succeed because of its actors.


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Movie Review – The Foreigner

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin Campbell

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Rory Fleck Byrne

Year: 2017

Jackie Chan is listed on IMDb as having 134 roles, many of them uncredited or as an extra.  During the 80s and 90s, he began to obtain larger roles, and then in 1998 he emerged in front of American audiences alongside Chris Tucker, melting our hearts as only Chan can and proving that he could be a legitimate Hollywood superstar.  From there, he became a franchise player, appearing mostly in movies that worked once because of his certain skill set and could probably work again; Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, Kung Fu Panda, Karate Kid.  He’s an icon, was recently given an honorary Academy Award, and at 63, is apparently just getting started.  The Foreigner is his best film to date, his most convincing dramatic work, and a film that shouldn’t be ignored when considering this year’s best.

Quan, an ex-special forces operative now living in London and running a Chinese restaurant, has moved on from his past life, leaving the violence far behind.  But when a bomb explodes on a busy street, killing his innocent daughter, Quan finds himself sucked right back into a world of lies, espionage, and blood.  A rogue IRA group takes credit for the bombing, and so Quan heads straight to the source to find the names of the men who killed his daughter.  He targets ex-IRA leader and current negotiator for peace Liam Hennessy, a man who knows all the players and all the motives.  Meanwhile, Hennessy must keep the delicate balance between the Irish and the British, one wrong move sending the countries back into revolution and pacification.  Qaun doesn’t care, he simply wants vengeance, but his passion may start a war.

The Foreigner is basically A Most Wanted Man, but with Brits, Irish rebels, and Jackie Chan’s signature stunts.  It’s much more a political thriller than you might imagine, or than the trailer would have you believe.  They advertised the film as a Chan knock-em-out action showcase, where he drives the story with his feet and his fists.  But that couldn’t be farther from the truth, from what the movie actually becomes.  This is a geopolitical, underground warfare, counter-terrorism drama, that just happens to include Jackie Chan as a side character.  Audiences hoping to see kung fu throughout will be very disappointed, but those looking for a bit more will be pleasantly surprised, as this film has a ton more to offer than just fighting.

We shouldn’t really be shocked; after all, Campbell is an experienced director who always brings something fresh to the screen.  No Escape, GoldenEye, Zorro, Vertical Limit, Casino Royale, Edge of Darkness, Green Lantern; not all successes, but films whose impact can’t be denied, each one.  He and Pierce Brosnan team up again, and the result is something powerful and well-made; again, that shouldn’t really be a shock.  Brosnan is basically the main character, and he steals the show from Chan, who you came in thinking would be the star.  Chan is still excellent, he really does exhibit the best acting of his career, and he’s still got the moves, age has not beaten this badass.  He just isn’t in the spotlight the entire time, which is absolutely fine by me, since it resulted in a high-quality all around film.  The story is intense, it’s believable, it’s sexy without too much sex, there are brief moments of solid comedy, and it’s one of the most engaging political thrillers you will watch, this year or otherwise, especially for a genre that can pump out some real duds.  The Foreigner is the real deal, one of the best movies of 2017, if not leading the list not exactly lagging far behind either.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Winchester

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Michael & Peter Spierig

Starring: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke

Release: February 2nd, 2018

For a haunted house movie, this doesn’t look terrible, and it has solid actors.  But really, it’s still just a haunted house movie; what makes it any better?


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Movie Trailer – Almost Friends

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jake Goldberger

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Haley Joel Osment, Odeya Rush

Release: 2017

This is silly.  I loved Highmore in Finding Neverland, but I think he would have proven himself a great actor by now if he had it in him.


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Movie Review – Happy Death Day

Category : Movie Review

Director: Christopher Landon

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard

Year: 2017

Each year there’s a surprisingly excellent horror flick that catches critics’ eyes, that keeps hope that the genre can be more than ghosts jumping out of closets alive.  This year, the title will probably be claimed by It Comes at Night or Get Out, the former being pure, unrelenting, psychological terror, the latter being part comedy, part social critique, with enough style embedded throughout to deserve the ‘horror’ label.  Happy Death Day won’t rival either of these films in quality, but it does resemble Get Out in a few, commendable ways, and that should be noted.  It’s smart, funny, just a touch gruesome, and all-around enjoyable; not a bad way to spend a few bucks at the theatre, and a reminder that not every slasher has to be a b-movie.

Tree, apart from having an odd nickname, has a fairly typical, rich girl life.  She’s in a sorority at her college, she skates by in class because she sleeps with the teacher, she gets drunk at big parties, she makes out with the guys her friends like, she hooks up with completely separate dudes, she doesn’t eat carbs, she isn’t very nice, and, really, there aren’t too many redeeming qualities to come up with.  On her birthday, she wakes up in the bed of a guy she went home with, has a wicked hangover, is late for class, almost gets caught by her professor’s wife, and still gets primped to go to a party that evening.  But here’s the rub; she gets killed on the way.  Instead of dying though, she begins the day all over again, knowing that at the end of it she’ll just be murdered.  Tree has to solve the case of her own death before it’s too late, because apparently you can only die so many times before the bloodbath is real one last time.

Happy Death Day would be surprisingly good for the genre if we hadn’t seen it coming a mile away.  The trailer was just so cool, you could kinda tell that the movie would be better than the idea would sound if said aloud.  “It’s like Groundhog Day but with a serial killer” doesn’t sound too wonderful, but hey, it worked with Edge of Tomorrow and sci-fi, and it worked here as well.  Other films have even tried the solve-my-own-murder plot line, but most don’t work this well, this is a one-in-a-hundred sort of film.  It succeeds because it’s simple, at least in set up, and it’s fresh, as far as the comedy and characters go.  There’s an undefinable quality in the story that’s really easy to like, an ease to the filmmaking that’s hard not to enjoy.

Whoever cast the film either got lucky or knew exactly what the were doing, because the stars and their supporters were almost entirely spot on, and were able to sell the product of the movie when other actors would have been turned away at the door.  Jessica Rothe was great, a beautiful badass who sheds layers as the timeline progresses, who can be catty and caring from one scene to the next.  Israel Broussard was strong as well, the lovable college kid who doesn’t fit into the cliques but has a heart of gold.  Rachel Matthews was my favorite side actor, she was perfect, which is weird because she’s literally never appeared in anything else.  Ruby Modine was the only actor I didn’t like, the movie is short enough to fly by, I laughed more than once, and I even approved of the ending; for what will never be considered an amazing feat of cinema, Happy Death Day has everything it takes to entertain audiences for 90 minutes, which is not something every film can claim.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Acrimony

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Tyler Perry

Starring: Taraji P. Henson

Release: March 30th, 2018

Taraji P. Henson is an awful actress.


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Movie Trailer – Bitch

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Marianna Paika

Starring: Jason Ritter, Jaime King, Marianna Paika

Release: November 10th, 2017

I think I get the point of the satire, but I’m not sure I want to watch 90 minutes of this story being played out.  It might just be stressful, and not that enlightening.  I appreciate the metaphor, but maybe in a short story, not a full-length feature.