Monday, December 22, 2014

Eight Crazy Nights (Seth Kearsley, 2002) Review

It's Christmas week so what better thing to do than....look at a Hanukkah film. Hey, it's the season fro a lot of things and its only fair. What ISN'T fair is that this is one of the only Hanukkah films out there...and I feel bad about this as it's a bad film to represent the holiday with. I'll look at a Christmas film later in the week but, for now, let's share the season with those who don't celebrate Christmas...I'm sorry for this.

It's Hanukkah season and Davey Stone (Adam Sandler) is alone, bitter and drinking. After being arrested for skipping on paying for his drinks, he is brought into court where his old basketball coach Whitey (also Adam Sandler) manages to keep Davey out of jail negotiating that Davey act as assistant referee. As the two spend more time together, more is revealed about Davey's past and his hatred for the holidays and Davey must learn to let the past go.

Adam Sandler really frustrates me. Yes, he's terrible now as he delivers crap after crap with the likes of Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2 however believe it or not, he has done some decent work in the past. Click, Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love prove he can deliver some solid performances yet he goes out of his way to deliver awful, awful films....and Eight Crazy Nights is one of those awful films. This is a very crude film with no taste or concept of quality jokes. No jokes land and it's just unpleasant The characters are also dire. Davey has absolutely no redeeming traits even if a tragic backstory is forced in. Whitey is as annoying as sin and Sandler's voice acting borders on an Egoraptor video (I mean, I love Egoraptor but come on, the voices are uncanny). We also have to deal with yet another racist Rob Schnider performance.

There are two aspects that are actually note worthy though. Firstly, and most obviously, is the animation. Eight Crazy Nights boasts some really nice animation. It's smooth, is coloured really well and the characters look great (well, as great as an animated Adam Sandler can look). It's kind of insulting in a way that this great animation is wasted of this terrible film. The other aspect would be the music. The idea of Whitey singing is horrifying but I won't argue that I found the songs annoyingly catchy and have stuck with me. For better or for worse, they're memorable and I suppose that's what makes a...'good' soundtrack? Kind of a strange dilemma.

Eight Crazy Nights is a train wreck of a film. The voice acting is annoying as hell, the characters are either unlikable or annoying, the jokes don't land...and are also annoying and all in all...this film is annoying. That's the key word. Adam Sandler CAN do good but he chooses not to and this film is the holiday season addition to his hoard of awful films. It you are the least bit interested then just watch the musical numbers to see the great animation out of context and probably get a few songs in your head.

Only the animation and possibly the music are the decent things. Everything else is dire.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Peter Jackson, 2014) Review

A lot of great franchises are coming to end this year. Anime fans are well aware of Naruto's finale, I myself have been emotional drained by the ending of The Legend of Korra (and am left wondering what my favourite current TV show is...) and now we enter Middle-Earth for the final time. No books to fall back on, no way they would ever consider making up their own stories (unless they were desperate) so here we are at the end of this amazing saga. "Will you follow me, one last time?".

With Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) unleashed from the Lonely Mountain, the Dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) take over their former home and claim Smaug's gold for their own. Bard (Luke Evans) leads the citizens of Laketown to the mountain where Thorin refuses their entry after Smaug's attack. Word of the Dwarf's success gets out which attracts the attention of the Orcs and Elves who enter in an all out war over the gold. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is left in the crossfire to save his friends yet balance Thorin's new found tyranny.

The hardest part about writing the synopsis is that there is a huge major spoiler...less than ten minutes in. It jump-starts the plot yet I had to dance around it which is even harder because that's one of my biggest complaints. I suppose I can generalise my point by saying that I'm starting to see a huge issue with adaptations. The idea of an adaptation, in essence, is to make changes to accommodate a new audience. They do in some places such as the whole Gandalf sub-plot being completely made up however the opening, because of the build up and the actors used as well as the publicity, left me with an audible "...oh". I was left craving much more from that particular aspect and yet I'm left at an anticlimax. I am relieved, however, that the running time is significantly shorter than other films in the franchise seeing as the majority of this one film is based on a single chapter. Doesn't waste time and just delivers what we want...except the opening.

Martin Freeman still delivers a wonderful performance and excels ever further towards the end. One moment in particular is beautifully performed as well as written. One moment towards the end of the battle comes to mind which actually follows a very tense and well one action scene. 2014 has given us some excellent one-on-one fight scenes (Captain America: The Winter Soldier still holding up with its amazing fight choreography) and this one is another one, even more impressive considering its in the middle of a giant war which is also glorious to watch. Throwing in Billy Connolly doesn't hurt either. He fits in with the rest of the cast very well mostly becaues of his banter. It terms of other actors, it is good to see more of Luke Evans this time and I'm glad they actually did  good things with the addition of Legolas and Tauriel which proves to be one of Orlando Bloom's best roles still.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a pleasant send off for the Middle-Earth saga. It may end on a very bittersweet climax but the battle we were promised is a great way to end the year. The acting is on top form this time with Martin Freeman being the best in particular. It's good to see more from the actors introduced in the previous films (well...Cumberbatch is another story) and I can't say there isn't that much to not like...but then again it doesn't do anything new either. It's just simply here to end the series...and that's fine.

Satisfying conclusion that, while I may have craved a bit more, seems like a good enough send off.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Get on Up (Tate Taylor, 2014) Review

I suppose it is that time of the year, isn't it. With Oscars a couple of months away, everyone is no getting their biopics and deep, meaningful films out now that blockbuster season is over. We've seen a good variety of epic action films and great animated films but it's time to slow things down and get into stories about people. The first one I got to see of this season was the biopic about legendary singer James Brown in the form on Get on Up.

James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) needs no introduction since he was one of the biggest names in the music industry. Get on Up chronicles his rise to making history starting from his childhood in poverty living with his father (Lennie James) after his mother (Viola Davis) left. He was forced to work from a young age and, while in prison, befriended singer Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis). The two partnered up to produce music together and slowly but surely began to next noticed, paving the way for their futures.

I will admit that, while I'm intrigued with James Brown and everything, one of the reasons I saw this was because of Chadwick Boseman. He was just cast as Black Panther for the upcoming Marvel films and I wanted to see how good of an actor we are getting. I can tell you we are getting a damn good one. Watching Boseman play James Brown feels like watching the real James Brown. While biopics tend to have fantastic leads, I do acknowledge that I'm watching actors portray people but here, I felt like I was peering into the life of a musical master. A strong supporting cast also helps with Nelsan Ellis giving a wonderfully supportive and warm performance. It's also great to see Dan Aykroyd on the big screen again and deliver a good performance. Films such as Yogi Bear were not kind to his career. Overall, Get on Up has a wonderfully diverse cast and each actor delivers a great performance with Boseman leading the way.

What's interesting about Get on Up is the way that it is put together. Naturally, it has to dictate the life of James Brown but it decided to do this out of order. This could be a risky decision as it could be confusing to some. Luckily the film pulls through and the constant jumping in time helps keep things fresh and matches the erratic behaviour that James Brown displays. In a weird way the film also uses Brown's hair as a way of telling what year it is. It establishes how his hair is initially and then uses it to remind the audience just when they are. It's bizarre but it truly works. That was the main method I was using to keep up with the time jumps.

Get on Up is a well written and performed adaptation about the godfather of soul. James Brown led a very intersting life and the film captures this well by keeping the audience invested with memorable people (thanks to great performances) and a good use of time jumping. While some may be thrown off at the idea of time jumping and keeping up since characters come and go quite quickly, this is a good film through and through.

Written and performed wonderfully with great music (naturally) and unique use of time jumping.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Jonathan Liebesman, 2014) Review

For those unaware, 2012 saw the start of a new TV show based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It's good. It's damn good and is currently one of my favourite shows on TV at the moment. Now I'm sure you nostalgia blinded people won't believe that anything can be better than your precious 80s show and yes, it was good...emphasis on "was". It's very dated now and the new show delivers much more on what the old show established. Let's see what happens when the mindset behind the Transformers films gets a hold of the franchise. Let's find out.

New York City is under threat by the Foot Clan led by a villain known as the Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) who has a hold on everything of importance thanks to high connections. Their reign is challenged by four mutated turtles taught in the art of Ninjutsu: Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville) Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) who fight to protect New York as well as a reporter named April O'Neil (Megan Fox) who stumbled upon the Foot Clan's plans and is in need of protection from them.

I'm going to say this. You're probably not going to like it but I'm going to say it anyway. I enjoyed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Does that means it's a good film. Not entirely. The plot is pretty bad as it is almost a complete retelling of The Amazing Spider-Man right down to the collapsing tower during the climax (that's not even a spoiler. They shoved that in every trailer!). A problem also rises in that they made the turtles the best characters (naturally) meaning that every scene they're off screen you feel like you're wasting your time.

So what then? This is just a generic action film? No. It is a Ninja Turtles film. They nail the personalities of the four turtles and, dare I say, the look fine. I know that everyone was concerned about how they look seeing as they were made more realistic with nostrils and lips but they fit into the look the film is going for and, just like the modern show, have different statures and face shape. I love that they've started to do this with recent TMNT stuff to make them more unique and less samey. Really, my only issue with their designs is why Donatello wears glasses. Yes, I get it! He's a nerd but look at the show. The 2012 Donnie is easily the best version of the character (thank you, Rob Paulsen). As for the human characters, it is fair to say that this is Megan Fox's best acting (not that that's saying much). The main reason is that she isn't really used for sex appeal and is allowed to just play a character. The surprise for me, though, was Will Arnett. When he was cast, I assumed he was going to be a cringe worthy comic relief on the side lines but instead we get a competent yet generally funny character who holds their own and has his fair share of proper moments. William Fichtner is wasted though especially when his character isn't even given any closure. He just disappears during the climax. Wasted.

One of my biggest worries about the film was that it would lose the comedic and lighthearted side the franchise is known for. Luckily that isn't the case as I found myself laughing out loud many times throughout. From the turtles pumped on Adrenalin to the out of nowhere elevator scene, there is no fear about the lack of humour. I will admit there were a few moments that were pointless and not funny but, overall, I would label this as a funny film. The action is also great but after the phenomenal action from Captain America: The Winter Soldier earlier this year, it falls a bit short...although the snow chase scene was one of the films highlights.

So all in all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not a childhood destroying abomination. While the original film is arguably a more 'pure' TMNT experience, this one doesn't do too bad. The action is cool, the humour is retained, the turtles are well captured and it just looks good however the story definitely takes away from it. Maybe because I'm a huge fan of the current show that I was clamouring for something more like that but overall I did find myself enjoying it. You can quote me on this: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not a disaster. I would recommend it for those that like the franchise and know not to take it seriously...but the 2012 show is still the best version of TMNT...just throwing that in still.

The story is cliche but it's the little things that make this one worth a watch just don't take it too seriously.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Rover (David Michôd, 2014) Review

Continuing on with this week of 2014 catch-up now with The Rover. This one definetly went under the radar as I hadn't even heard of it when it was around earlier this year but I suppose that's one of the perks of studying on a film course. So this little indie film that no-one had heard of is next in line for my review and it's time to take a look. I guess the problem with indie films is that there isn't much to say in the introduction. It's a's independently funded...let's take a look.

Set in a dystopian future, a drifter named Eric (Guy Pearce) is left scouring the outback for his only possession left in this world - his car. When he tracks down an abandoned member of the gang who stole his car (Robert Pattinson), the two join together to find Eric's car and return Rey to the gang who rejected him.

I suppose one of the best things about this film is that we can finally close the case on Robert Pattinson and call him a good actor, because he is. Maybe it's just because he works well alongside Guy Pearce, also giving a good performance. It is hard to talk about them independently because they are a duo for the long run and...remind me of a certain other duo. Yeah, I would be lying if I said that this film didn't remind me of Breaking Bad, especially the portrayal of the protagonists. Their relationship and chemistry is also pitch perfect Walter White and Jesse Pinkman terratory. Even the themes and content is remenisent with the steps Eric will go to get his car back and the unbalanced revenge tactics. It's fascinating to see these two together but they work so well it makes you want to see more of them.

While the main focus, the duo, is well done, the rest of the film does come up short in comparsion. The film is set in a dystopian future and it therefore needs to look bland and lifeless (and the opening borders on Mad Max...especially since both films are Australian) but there is a lot of time dedicated to...nothing. I'm fine with lingering shots, just look at 12 Years a Slave, but it's weirdly implemented here. The first shot of Eric you'd swear was your DVD freezing. It lingers for way too long and drags because the film hasn't established anything yet. Sure, we learn more as it goes on (and the journey is the best part anyway) but it sure takes it's time. I suppose I can't really fault it as, with only two main characters, it doesn't have much to work with but I've seen better with only one character (All is Lost and Gravity).

The Rover is interesting and I do believe it is worth a watch purely down to the chemistry between Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson who deliver great performances. I would definetely recommend to Breaking Bad fans, that's for sure. While it does have pacing issues mainly because of the lack of things to work with at times, it still leads to a good conclusion but hey, the journey is what matters in this films. Join me next week for some ninjutsu and pizza, dude! COWABUNGA! (or Booyakasha because I prefer the new show...)

While it has issues in the writing department, the acting is great and you feel satisfied by the journey to undertake.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014) Review

This one is late. Really, really late but I have good reason. Like I said in my previous reviews back early October, I can only use the internet when outside of my accomodation. It sucks, I know, but I have some free time and three films from 2014 to review that are...relativly new so I can get away with the lateness of this one. After Se7en and Fight Club, I have been won over by David Fincher and had heard about his latest film, Gone Girl. So now that I've seen it, let's take a look and see how it stacks up against his previous titles.

Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) Dunne are married couple whose world comes crashing down after Nick returns home one night to find the house in a mess and Amy missing. After days without a word, the press come down hard on Nick over the dissapearence of his wife as people begin to speculate about his connection to her dissapearence. To try and prove otherwise, Nick goes to people her can trust and people from Amy's past such as her ex-boyfriend Desi (Neil Patrick Harris).

Throw this one on the pile of 'great films that leave me fuming with rage' along side Watchmen and The Hunt. Heck, Gone Girl even taps into the reason as to why those two films make me so angry when watching them. They are fantastic films, as is Gone Girl, but injustice and the mindlessness of scared, stupid people just make me incredibly angry as a topic. As a critic, I have to be open to these things but they hit a cord with me. Gone Girl dives into both topics really well (maybe too well) and I can't fault a good script and narrative for such. They nail exactly what I hate about these topics and make me think deeper into why exactly I do. It does a fantastic job of doing so.

Looking on a more technical level, Gone Girl also delivers well on this department. The acting is fantastic with Rosamund Pike playing a very torn character beautifully and Ben Affleck's delivers naivety very well. They're performances coupled with the script leave you guessing throughout the entire picture as the film runs on the idea of doubt and making you reconsider everything you've built up. It's also incredbly to say that Tyler Perry can act and be one of the characters I really can get behind in this whole debacle. The whole idea of doubt is exemplified by Neil Patrick Harris' character. His backstory makes you want to avoid him but his attitude throughout the rest of the film makes you think he may have intentions even if he actually doesn't. A very complicated character that Neil Patrick Harris was key for.

Gone Girl makes me angry. It's a well written and performed film that is sure to be in the Oscar bracket this year but the themes and topics hit hard. I've seen my fair share of unpleasent but poignant films like 12 Years a Slave that are fantastic films but leave a bad taste in the mouth because of diving into the taboo. Gone Girl is this for me but is well worth watching. It isn't Fincher's best film as I feel his previous films have exceeded but it's poignant, thought provoking and keeps you guessing. What more could you ask for...except a happier film to watch after so you aren't angry for the rest of the day.

Risky yet rewarding. This is a fantastically written and performed piece from the new king of suspence.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2012) Review

And now it's finally Halloween. Thank God. The pressure of getting reviews out this month with major internet issues sure was a wild ride but it's all over now. Anyway, for Halloween I decided to take a look at my new Halloween tradition and what I see as a the latest classic for the holiday: The Cabin in the Woods. Seems fitting after looking at The Evil Dead but how this film celebrate Halloween so well? Let's find out!

As you might expect, five teenagers go to a secluded cabin in the woods for vacation. While chilling out, they discover that the basement is filled to the brim with ancient artifacts and they begin to mess around with them. One of them finds and reads out the book of the dead, making an undead family rise and attack them one by one. It's not a typical horror film as we switch between the cabin and a group of scientists who appear to be monitoring the whole event from afar for a dark purpose. The cabin group have to fend off the dead and figure out just what the hell is going on.

The Cabin in the Woods is a love letter to the entire horror genre. It's actually very hard to talk about this film without giving things away. There is a lot to this film and there are many twists that turn the whole genre on its head. The main strengths derive from just how much it is apparent that the writers care about the genre. Poking fun at the flat and cliche characters by bringing the more developed characters down to that level once they enter the cabin (one of my biggest gripes with The Evil Dead ironically) as well as just being a gargantuan mash up of all the great horror tropes. It's really hard to say why without giving it away but, trust me, it's filled with them. It's almost a game of guessing what thing comes from which film.

Looking at this film in a technical sense is also great. The actors do a great job of portraying the cliche characters that we saw in the likes of The Evil Dead while also giving them a bit more depth in a way that it's obvious that they have been affected by the cabin. It's interesting and the cast are wonderful. Chris Hemsworth needs no introduction since he's the jock...bascially Thor but the rest are not to be ignored. Fran Kranz and Kristen Connolly are probably the best of the cabin group but the real acting strengths come from Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who portray the main overseers of the cabin. They are a fantastic duo and bring most of the best moments of the film. They easily play the best characters in the film.

If you're looking for the ultimate good time and Halloweeny fun fest, then look no further than The Cabin in the Woods. This film celebrates and yet still mocks what is so ingrained about the horror movie genre. It has a good sense of humour yet still has its fair share of horrific moments. The cast is great and do a good job of mimicking the tired and dull characters of the genre. The climax an absolute blast. Do yourself a favour and watch it  ASAP. Now that the month is over, I can finally review all the flashy new films I saw over the month! CATCH UP TIME!

A genius celebration of the horror movie genre. Sure to be a Halloween classic!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Army of Darkness (Sam Raimi, 1992) Review

We've reached the end of the Evil Dead trilogy and I realise I need to do loads of one off films. After the gargantuan Saw franchise and now just finishing up a trilogy, I'm a bit fatigued. Well, there is one film left for October but before we look at that, we need to dive into where the trilogy decided to end...hence why it's a trilogy (my god, I'm tired). After Evil Dead II opened the door for a more comedic horror film, where can the last installment go from there? Let's find out.

Continuing off from Evil Dead II, Ash (Bruce Campbell) finds himself prisoner in the medieval time period. He manages to convince the townspeople that he is there to save them from the curse of the Necrenomicon. He travels to find the book but blunders his way out of way the right spell which causes the dead to rise as an army, led by his evil self, who start a war against the innocent people. Ash stands up as their savior armed only with his new prosthetic hand and his "boomstick"!

Army of Darkness is the best of the three. I'm throwing that out there. Leaving behind the generic horror genre for...something that doesn't even resemble it was a great idea. This makes Army of Darkness stand out and would probably explain why The Evil Dead title is omitted for this iteration. Ash combined with the medieval setting makes for a good subversion of the 'fish out of water' cliche. There is little time spent of Ash being an outcast as we almost instantly jumps into the ass kicking and wise cracking. Actually, the wise cracks are what make the film even better. This is a very quotable film and Ash becomes an even more iconic character. The rest of the cast is also improved (slightly cheating since the Evil Ash is obviously played by Bruce Campbell too) with the likes of Embeth Davidtz helping to expand the film. In the end, Ash is the only relevant character but the cast is much better than the rest of the series.

Weirdly enough, my biggest problem is that there are actually two versions of this film. If you were to buy Army of Darkness on DVD, who should end up with two discs, therefore two versions. I suppose it's down to personal preference as the differences only stem to slightly different dialogue and a completely different ending. I personally prefer the original theatrical ending as opposed to the director's cut as I prefer to see Ash win for once and it gives us one of the best lines. The expanded sense of humour is fantastic. Ash has since become one of my favourite film characters solely due to Army of Darkness. Evil Dead II was a start of what Ash would become. From generic, scared teenager to one handed, gun toting, wise cracking badass. THAT is character progression.

Army of Darkness is a fun good time. It's not out to change your life or offer social commentary, it is purely existing to entertain. Bruce Campbell is wonderful as Ash who proves to be a much better character thanks to much more comedic moments and wise cracks. The two endings does sour the experience as you have to debate which version you would prefer to watch. It's less of a horror film now but considering that horror movies have since become over saturated, jump scare filled and souless productions...that is expect one. There is one recent horror film that I have recently discovered and I will address that this Halloween. See you then!

Fun, quotable and a rip-roaring good time. Less focus on horror and more on comedy proves to be a good move.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987) Review

So the first Evil Dead films, while it was scary at the time, hasn't aged well. Sure, the effects look good for the time, it just comes off as cheesy and accidentally what would happen if the film makers themselves realised this and thought "you know what? Why don't we just make it again but deliberately cheesy and silly". Evil Dead II is this exactly this idea. So will the sequel (..or remake...kind of) be better than first or will it just be too forced with its humour. Let's find out.

Retelling the first film, Ash (Bruce Campbell) takes his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) to a secluded cabin in the woods where thing to wrong after a professor's recording of the book of the dead is played. Linda is transformed into a 'deadite' and the same could happen to Ash. The professor's daughter (Sarah Berry) returns to the cabin after Ash fights off the curse (and his own hand) but things continue to spiral out of control as the spell strengthens. Ash has to fight the evil dead armed with a shotgun and a chainsaw for a hand.

Let's address Ash. In the first film, he was a generic survivor character who didn't have much to him outside of living (debatably). This time, however, he is expanded as a more interesting character who Bruce Campbell brings a lot to. He is more competent despite the horrible situations he finds himself in. I think the more relaxed and comedic environment that he finds himself in makes for more character based moments that make him stand out. With a more interesting protagonist also makes for more interesting villains. The monsters in this film are much more impressive and well designed than before. Instead of just make up, we are given stop motion monsters that are more threatening and actually can freak you out. A much needed improvement over vines and camera tricks.

The new tone that the film established is much better than playing horror straight. It gives a new twist on what was established (literally) and makes the film much more unique. Seeing the look of a gritty horror film combined with more comedic dialogue and character moments is bizzare but welcomed. I suppose my problems with the film derive from the fact that Ash, once again, is the only interesting character in comparison to the rest of the cast. Considering that Ash this on his own for most of the film. Most of the my flaws with the first one are fixed as whittling the cabin crew down to two was a smart idea.

Evil Dead II is a big improvement of the first film. It's interesting that a film labelled as the second film is more akin to a remake than a continuation. Begs the question which film is canon but, considering what's next, I can assume this one is seeing as the next film literally takes place seconds later. Join me next time for the last in the Evil Dead trilogy that doesnt even have the name: Army of Darkness. What about the actual remake of the first film? Well, I have it on DVD now but with Army of Darkness and my Halloween pick there won't be time...maybe next year.

The new found sense of humour is welcomed as the series steps into a more comfortable environment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981) Review

Horror films have come a long way. From actual terror to...jump scares (a long way is apparently a long way down in terms of quality). Yeah, horror isn't what it used to be as it has since become an over saturated, jump scare filled attempt to be edgy. Jump scares aren't scary by definition. Shocking, yes but not scary. They don't haunt you, they just make your natural instincts kick in. Where am I going with this? No idea. Here's The Evil Dead...that was one of my worst introductions I've done.

Five friends take a trip out to an abandoned cabin in the woods where they find themselves caught up in the evil that lurks in the forest. They discover an ancient book known as the Necronomicon as well as a tape translating what the book says. As the tape plays, evil beings are released as the group are slowly attacked and/or possessed. The only survivor, Ash (Bruce Campbell), has to take on the evil dead alone and survive the night.

I'm sure this may be considered blasphemous but The Evil Dead is very, very dated. I could agree with those that claim the effects are still decent as I always favour practical effects for horror films over CGI anyday and the plot was fresh at the time (its basically a cliche now) however there are things that just don't hold up. This is a minor point but young Bruce Campbell does amuse me. Maybe it's because of what he ended becoming (see Army of Darkness for the answer), It is no wonder that Ash was the character they kept around seeing how forgettable and dull the rest of the cast are. Sam Raimi had to pick one to keep around and thank god it was Ash. Who knows where we would be without him. The Spider-Man trilogy would be nothing without Bruce Campbell. 

Looking at this film in terms of originality, it does very well actually. The horrors that befall the group are unique and imaginative and leave an impression. The first possessed being locked in the cellar is one of the most iconic bits of the franchise and that goes for the remake too (don't expect that this week. I haven't seen it yet). At the time, I'm sure this was a fresh horror film with great effects and I would agree. Really, the biggest problem is that they made sequels. Evil Dead II is basically a semi-remake that surpasses this one in every way. It's become a redundant film now.

The Evil Dead WAS horror classic but really hasn't aged well. This is partially down to very tiny budget and indie feel however this gives the film its charm. Its silly and cheesy...probably accidentally but that's for the sequel to decide. Did I enjoy it? Yes but I recognise that there are better films now and the sequels just did too well in surpassing it. So with all my bragging about the sequels, I reckon we should take a look and see what they did so well that made them stand the test of time much better than the original.

At the time it was a horror classic but now it's starting to show its age and was superseded by the sequels anyway.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Saw: The Final Chapter (Kevin Greutert, 2010) Review

We're finally here. We finally made it to the end. It's good to see a franchise that actually ends. Concrete. Look at that title. There is no way they can do another one but, quite frankly, they shouldn't have done another one after Saw VI anyway. That would've been a high note for the series to end on but here we are. Maybe it won't be so bad. Most people would save the best for last...or so you would think. Let's take a look at Saw: The Final Chapter. Yes I am ignoring what it's called on the title sequence and in cinemas...shut up.

Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a supposedly acclaimed survivor of Jigsaw's traps who begins a campaign to bring all the survivors together and start a support group where they find a special guest sitting in. A man we haven't seen in a long, long time makes his overdue return as we learn what he has been doing since he left. In a bit of irony, Bobby is abducted and thrown in another trial where has to save his wife from, quite frankly, one of the most horrific deaths ever conceived. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) also does whatever it takes to exact revenge on Jill (Betsy Russell) after what she pulled at the end on Saw VI as the end of Jigsaw's reign is on the horizon.

You may have gathered by now that I am a huge fan of the 'Saw' franchise. However, if there is one thing I cannot ignore is that Saw: The Final bad. Normally I would be able to defend the 'Saw' films but not this one. If you were to make a film based on what outsiders think 'Saw' is, this would be it. Mindless, senseless and all around stupid. The traps are the most boring that the series has even seen and border on slapstick at times. My biggest gripe is that this is contradictory since Jigsaw wanted to end the games with Will from Saw VI. There is no reason to continue after Jigsaw's arc was encapsulated at the end of Saw VI and is evident by the fact that he is almost forgotten in this one. It's just an excuse to finish of Hoffman and Jill's petty rivalry. The traps are made for no other reason than to appease the 3D tagline the film boasts (that I refuse to put in the title. 3D should not BE the movie, rather an after thought).

There are some things that do work. The ending, that I dare not spoil is, is one of the best examples of a perfect franchise ending. It caps off the series perfectly and can't praise it enough. The dialogue, acting, music, cinematography...perfect. My big buzz word for Saw is "cathartic" but I only got that sense twice throughout the whole thing. Nothing feels justified and therefore the whole point is missed. What's the point if you can even fathom what Saw has built up over this length of time. Saw III and VI nailed that aspect yet the last one of the franchise completely fails on all accounts.

Saw: The Final Chapter is, admittedly, an insulting way to end the series UNTIL the ending comes around. If you stapled the ending to Saw VI, we'd be golden. This one is nothing but pointless filler to appease those creepy teenagers with blood lusts who don't understand what makes 'Saw' a fascinating franchise to begin with. Two people wrote this and I would believe that had one of them only written this one. Something clearly went wrong as one of them wanted to tie up all loose ends (done remarkably well, I admit) while the other just wanted for pointless violence with some of the series's worst traps. The ending is perfect, that much is evident, as is the use of existing characters but everything else misses the point.

While the ending may be one of the most perfect endings to a franchise I've seen, the film as a whole misses the whole point of what Saw is.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Saw VI (Kevin Greutert, 2009) Review

Yes, at this point Saw has run its course. There is nothing else they can do to inspire originality or recapture what made the first ones memorable...or so I thought. After the lacklustre Saw IV and Saw V, I was certain there was nothing worthwhile left and yet here we are at Saw VI, the one that would make the original creators proud. Let's find out how and why. 

(More spoilers apparently. These films love starting with spoilers for the previous ones!) Agent Strahm has met his grisly demise and Hoffman (Costas Mandycor) comes out on top as the true successor to Jigsaw. As per usual, a new victim is trust into yet another set of trails to test is worth as a human being. This is Will Easton () who has to fight his way through deranged test subjects within a certain time limit to save his girlfriend all while keeping himself alive. Meanwhile, Jigsaw's wife Jill (Betsy Russell) sets out to exact his dying wish that may leave Hoffman out of commission.

Saw VI is definitely a step up from the previous iterations. An engaging and well performed protagonist you feel for,  a full realised new villain to take over Jigsaw, one of the best cliffhangers and twists, and some of the most inventive traps in the series. I'm not sure what they did but the writers really turned it around (maybe that's what the carousel traps represents). The way this film is made is also great. One scene in particular makes fantastic use of sound combined with cinematography and cutting to really change the pace of the scene instantly at a reveal for the characters (the audience already knows at this point).

Really, the only flaw is that it's a Saw film. That name just strikes a reaction in people of disgust and makes them instantly want to push them away. It's affiliation to the franchise takes it down a notch since you still have to sit through the exposition that we already know at this point. It retreads reveals from the previous film and doesn't really have any of its own. We know there will be a great twist and cliffhanger (the twist is a bit more subtle in comparison to previous films but its still there) as well as the driving force for the protagonist being one of the best in the series, but the fact that its Saw means that many people will be turned off. Saw VI is sandwiched between mediocrity (Saw V) and crap (Saw: The Final Chapter...spoilers for that review I guess) and that's a shame because this is truly one of the best in the series.

Saw VI is the best out of the ones released after the initial trilogy. While the original is still surperior, there is a lot going for Saw VI. The protagonist is one of the best in the series, Hoffman is at his best here thanks to a well made and edited scene that is own of the franchise highlights, the traps are some of the best that don't go too far and stick with the more gritty theme of the originals rather than just violent for the sake of violent. This is the standard that the whole franchise should've been at but sadly the others fall short. Saw VI may win people back to the idea of Saw but IV, V and The Final Chapter will push them away. 

A much needed jump in quality that recaptures what made the original Saw films so good. Most of the elements are there for a good horror film but only the name and formula keeps it from being the best.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Saw V (David Hackl, 2008) Review

Still going with this franchise. I knew it was seven films long but when you have to analyse them individually and base their merits on that, it gets tedious. I do like the Saw films (to an extent) but I have to admit...there ARE seven of them. Does the fifth entry to the surprisingly successful franchise still keep what made the first three engaging (cutting Saw IV off already) or does the formula grow tired and predictable. If Saw VI it's kind of obvious but let's take a look anyway.

As Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) legacy thrives long after his death, five more people are plunged into a new set of trails that aims to teach them a valuable lesson as Jigsaw's newly revealed apprentice watches over them. Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) does whatever he can to try and prove that Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is the aforementioned apprentice. The two clash as Strahm throws out the accusation while Hoffman fights to defend his name and title even if he has a secret explored in Saw IV.

It's quite clear that the Saw films definitely declined in quality as the series went on. Saw V is definitely one of the lowest points (not THE lowest...that's still to come). The major problem with the fifth iteration is that it's very dull. That's saying a lot for this franchise that throws blood and guts at you like it's currency. Strahm has the capacity to be an interesting character as was shown in the previous film however he is stripped of this and left as just a boring, generic detective. On the flip side, however,  is Hoffman who is still proving to be one of the better characters in the franchise. Costas Mandylor does become one with the character as he is given much more development than in previous films which was probably just simply for setting up the twist at the end of the last film.

In terms of plot, the only interesting elements are the traps as Saw V boasts some of the best in the series. The most iconic image of the film is Strahm's head trapped in the cube filling with water. No bloodshed, no violence and proves to be one of the more subtle Saw traps...not that that's saying much considering that this film also shows off what actually happens when the 'walls closing in' cliche is fully realised. It's one of the most memorable moments in the series as horrifically violent and scarring it is. I'm certain your sick bloodlust will be quenched by this one. However, like I said, that's the only interesting part. The rest is very boring exposition that drags. 

Saw V is a dull entry only existing for filler and dull exposition. It fills the quota for the established Saw formula with the inventive traps that definitely leave an impression as well as the mandatory twist and cliffhanger. It's at this point in the series that the formula start to run dry and becomes 'just another Saw film'. It doesn't stand up on its own and needs the others as a crutch, yet even then it spouting with exposition there was no chance of standing up on it's own at all. The acting has improved, that's for sure, as more interesting characters are introduced but it falls short of the previous entries.

Boring, dull, full of exposition and drags. There are good points such as the inventive traps and acting but the plot cripples it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Saw IV (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2007) Review

We should be proud. In my last review of Saw III, we managed to crack the code and worked out what makes Saw an actually deep franchise with an aim and a need. Maybe I'm just a horrible and sick individual but Saw glorifies catharsis and, based on your stand point, it could either be a good thing or a deplorable thing. However you stand, all we know is...a trilogy wasn't enough. Let's take a look at the fourth Saw film...Saw IV (I don't know what title I expected). 

This is going to sound like a spoiler but, hey, it's how the film starts. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dead (told you) and Lt. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is called in to analyses the corpse after an autopsy that reveals he hid tapes within his own body, making sure the game continues after his death. SWAT Commander Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bnet) is abruptly kidnapped and thrust into another one of Jigsaw's trials while FBI agents Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) are called in after another cop is killed in one of Jigsaw's game. The fate of Eric Matthews is still unknown as Hoffman finds out just what has happened. 

Saw IV suffers from a big flaw. As always, there are two narratives running however the one that follows Rigg is a problem mainly because Rigg just isn't a very interesting character. Previous test subjects like Dr. Gordon and Jeff have been the best characters in the film however Rigg not only doesn't have much to work with but is also overshadowed by the other plot that follows Strahm and Hoffman, two much more interesting characters. So half of the film works quite well while the other one falls short of being interesting. All the best moments in the film are all from Strahm's plot. The climax of Rigg's is good however but that's only because of the twist, as per usual, which is only set off by Rigg's stupidity. Yeah, not a great character if his lack of rationality costs people their lives. 

I think what really works about this one is the twist. I won't go into too much detail but it's pulled off very well and makes great use out of de ja vu similar to how Pulp Fiction does. It brings about an idea that I wish more films did well. Saw IV and Pulp Fiction really are the only films I can think of that pulled if off well. The use of visuals and sound in both films make the audience go "ooooh! I get it now!" and those eureka moments are what make the Saw films worthwhile. As for the traps, they're okay I guess. They do their job but pail in comparison to earlier and upcoming traps. Not the worst but nowhere near the best. 

Saw IV is okay at best. It suffers from the mind set that it's the film AFTER the trilogy like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. While it's not as pointless as On Stranger Tides, I am left wondering what Saw would be like if it was just a trilogy. Yes, we would miss out on Saw VI but there would be less dull and dragging moments in the franchise. The new characters are good but the protagonist can't hold the film up. It's not the worst yet not the best. That's the best way to sum it up. It's in the middle somewhere. Arguably the most forgettable in the series. 

The most forgettable entry to the franchise that, while fairly dull, it does have a few things going for it...just not enough to hold it up.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Saw III (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2006) Review

You'd think three would be enough. A nice, solid trilogy would've been fine by me. Granted the ending would've sucked if we only did have the three but I think some last minute editing would fix that. Anyway, let's take a look at the third in the Saw franchise that is note worthy for being the last to be written by the original writers. So beyond Saw III, it's free reign...and that's terrifying.

Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a depressed man left sorrowful after his son was killed in a hit and run, wakes up in Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) next game. He has to navigate through several games that force him to decide the fate of those involved with the car accident which will ultimately lead him to the man who put him up to these sick games. Meanwhile, Jigsaw's life is in jeopardy as his cancer worsens and his apprentice, Amanda (Shawnee Smith), kidnaps Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) and forces her to perform medical procedures to save his life. If she fails, the device Amanda places round her neck with explode, which would kill her instantly... obviously. 

Yes, this is the one with the Rack trap and, yes, it is horrifying and is one of two moments that I have to look away at in the entire franchise (it was three but I got over that one). Saw III ups the horror and gore element even further. It's worth noting that this is the last Saw film that was written by the original writers as they originally envisioned it as a trilogy. One event implies that however the ending itself seems to imply otherwise. It's not exactly stapled on, it's just that it continues that Saw trend of cliffhangers. This seems more flawed than the previous entry because it tries to over complicate things. It is interesting to see the scenes with Jigsaw and Amanda as it does give more context to certain aspects of the first film and clears up most of the second yet it throws a lot at you. It's not as complicated as 2001: A Space Odyssey  but, for the genre, they expect to take in a lot. It gets easier as the films go on but this is the first one to shove exposition at you.  

There are still good things, not as many as the first two but still good things. I complained about the Jigsaw and Amanda scenes but they really are the best parts of the film. The develop the two characters further with a much deeper look at Jigsaw's origins and sort of enforces the idea that...he's right. Okay, he goes about mutilating and forcing people to kill themselves or each other but he is some what justified. Illegal, yes, but it starts to hit what, to me, Saw is about. Saw is cathartic. While most of the people in THIS entry aren't worthy of this punishment, we see in the previous one and later ones that you do want these people to suffer for their crimes. These are horrible people, some that are beyond the help of the legal system leaving only one action - someone has to take it upon themselves to prove there is still humanity left in them. The basic human instinct of survival kicks in and that is what Jigsaw is trying to prove. Admittedly, Saw III's traps are a bad example as most of them are innocent in this one but this was one time thing and is more designed to lift Jeff from his rut. Painful...yes but at least it doesn't happen in real life, right?.....right?

Saw III is a step down in quality but I guess you can just call that ‘Sequelitis' (meaning that it's worse just because it's a sequel). You do start to realise what Saw is really about at this point as we see the film from the perspective of a survivor and Jigsaw himself. The scenes with Jigsaw and Amanda really are the more interesting parts of the film while Jeff's scenes are filler that is in the film for the sake of violence and quite a good twist (not as good as Saw II, but still good). We're going to keep going as it gets more and more violent (not sure how they can top the rack but...I'm sure they will).

Horrifically violent and filled with pointless filler but the effects are convincing and the plot focusing on Jigsaw is the core of the film and is strong.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Saw II (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2005) Review

I may have lied in my last review. Sorry, I know I said it would be more regular than usual because of mooching off the university's internet but I just wasn't feeling it there. Call me picky but it's easier to do in my spare time when I have nothing to do. Well then, let's continue on with the Saw franchise with the first of the sequels which dives into the much darker and gory side of Saw because there is another side of Saw people seem to miss but that will be addressed later on. Until then, let's take a look at Saw II.

Detective Eric Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg) is brought into a crime scene and the lair of the Jigsaw killer (Tobin Bell) where he discovers Jigsaw's next sick game. Eric's son, Daniel (Erik Knudsen), and 7 other survivors are trapped in an abandoned house and are exposed to a fatal nerve gas. They have two hours to find antidotes for each other obtained via Jigsaw's mutilation games. As they are slowly killed one by one, Eric is forced to negotiate with Jigsaw himself to get his son free. 

So the first Saw film was merely an experiment that took off immensely. Just look at it! 7 films! That's hard to do. So if I liked the first Saw, how does the first sequel hold up? It's okay...sort of. To start with the negatives, this is where the Saw franchise got gory for no real reason. Yes the first one had the infamous 'foot cutting off scene' but really, that was it (on screen). For some reason, they flew off the handle and felt that this one had to feature crushed heads, incineration, bullets through the eye, knives in the wrists, I could go on. Just look at that image. He has a key behind his eye and has to cut it out to live! WHAT?! That's a step up from "get the key from that guy's stomach". The plot naturally had to change too. You couldn't throw two more people into a bathroom chained up (...well...I mean...spoilers and that) and, while it is thrilling to see how the people get on in the gas house, the chemistry is lost between the survivors. 
There are pluses however. The film throws an excellent curve ball and delivers one of the movie twists that I legitimately did not see coming. The plot is trilling and, while not as good as the first, still had me guessing throughout. At this point we know that John Kramer is Jigsaw so you'd think some of the suspense the first film was building up would be gone but, luckily, more ideas are thrown in that keep you wanting more after the film ends. Speaking of Jigsaw, Tobin Bell cements his iconic voice and look into the character to make for a fantastic villain who we learn more about later on. For this one, he's laying down the foundation upon which he will build on in the sequels. 

Saw II is a decent effort for a sequel but if you're even slightly squeamish you need to avoid this. It's violent (with pretty good effects to boot) yet the plot is fascinating. It's not a masterpiece of writing but the suspense, coupled with the great twist and cliffhanger, leaves you hungry for more. You would be satisfied with his one if you have some kind of blood lust but if you're brave enough, you can venture forth to the next sequel. See you then.

Suspenseful and packed with great curve balls but fundamentally flawed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Saw (James Wan, 2004) Review

I have a good excuse for being away for almost a month (Reservoir Dogs was the only review in September...oops) since I was badly ill before and now I'm without internet since moving to University...I'm mooching of them now so here we are. Well, it's October now so it's time to roll out the creepy films. Last year was a bit of a free-for-all but this time I have focus. I will focus on the Saw franchise since I did a marathon of them at the start of this year as well as looking into the Evil Dead franchise. If there's any free time then I'll do some more random ones. Well then, let's take a look at the first in the series, Saw.

Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) wakes up in a dark bathroom, chained to a pipe with only Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) as company. They are forced by a un-seen third party to figure out where they are, how they got there and how to get out. Dr. Gordon and Adam reach out to each other and share what they know about the alleged 'Jigsaw Killer' who they surmise is behind this. Jigsaw is a mass murderer who pits people's willingness to live against their sins in sadistic "games" that, odds are, will leave them mutilated and dead. Detective Tapp (Danny Glover) has tangled with Jigsaw before and sets it upon himself to finish him for good and put and end to the games while Adam and Gordon fight for their lives.

A common misconception about the first film is that, because of its legacy of being affiliated with a horrific, gory franchise, that it too is violent and gory. In comparison, it's not. All the gore that happens is mostly off screen or implied except for the big finale that the film is now famous for (the DVD cover sort of gives that away). Instead, Saw is a thrilling and original film that uses unique film styles and filming techniques to produce an eery environment that we are isolated in for most of the film's duration. The bathroom has become an iconic location and this is due to the fact that, outside of exposition and establishment, we are stuck there with the protagonists and are just as lost as they are. It becomes an immersive experience as a result as we are on the same level as the people in the film except for Jigsaw himself. The plot does provide us with red herrings and misdirection that some could see as pointless filler however they are used to keep the audience on their toes in anticipation with an ending that leaves you wanting more.

I suppose the problem with making this a franchise annually is that the identity of the Jigsaw killer will most likely be ruined since they really pushed him in promotional materials for later films. Some would also cite horror films as a place for terrible acting (Troll 2, thank you very much) however it's passable in this one. Cary Elwes does a good job as Dr. Gordon as he manages to juggle his calm composed self at the start as well as the irrational, un-secure version of him by the end. The contrast is staggering. Leigh Whannell, in addition to writing the film, also does an acceptable job as Adam so it's a shame that he never really went on to be in the spotlight again. The rest of the cast isn't as memorable with the exception of Tobin Bell for reasons that would probably spoil a 10 year old film whose twist was ruined by sequels anyway (that's the point of secrets anymore).

Saw is far from perfect but it's rare that a horror movie would be considered perfect anyway (I imagine films from the Alien franchise take that distinction). It's suspenseful, thrilling and the way it's shot is very unique as it would go on to define the franchise's look and feel. Trust me, you know when you're watching a Saw film just based on the way it looks. The acting is passable by it's own merits but it's fantastic by the genre standards (sorry). Saw is a good, classic horror film that has it's place in the genre's history. Is it the best? No but it's a film that's worth keeping in mind. With that, we will tackle the rest of the franchise as the month progresses so join me later for Saw II. Things get...bloody to say the least.

A thrilling and well shot horror flick that left audiences wanting more...and that's exactly what they got.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992) Review

Forgive my completely pointless absence as a combination of laziness and illness has left me not wanting to review films for a while. That and I haven't been watching too many films that are new to me (Need to expand my range a bit) however things are back to normal now and since my illness made me sound like Michael Madsen as Carver in The Walking Dead game, I guess it only made sense to look at Michael Madsen's most famous film...probably. I guess that's open to interpretation but, aw well. Let's take a look at Reservoir Dogs as I return to this because...I'm too lazy apparently.

Six men are picked up by crime boss, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), with no knowledge of each of each to perform a diamond heist. When they come together, they are given code-names so they focus solely on the job and not themselves. While they were so certain that the heist will go without a hitch, it turns that the police were waiting for them and the team is scattered. They re-group at a warehouse to find that Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) has taken a bullet to the stomach, Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) and Blue (Edward Bunker) are both dead and Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), White (Harvey Keitel) and Blonde (Michael Madsen) are left to find out who tipped off the police.

Something I noticed with both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (other than that Quentin Tarantino is a bloody good film maker) is that Tarantino likes to tell stories out of order and yet makes it work perfectly both times. From the start of the film, I had a hunch that it would be Mr. White and Mr. Pink in a room discussing the heist and not actually showing it. They kind of do both. We only see snippets of the actual heist through the perspective of separate team members which is fascinating. It's almost like an anthology with the warehouse scenes used to connect them together as one long narrative. They throw you into the plot with no knowledge of any of the characters such as where they come from or what they've been doing with themselves and it makes it seem like their lives only matter for this one heist. I guess it makes you question the worth of the heist seeing as two men die and one is left bleeding on the floor for the majority of the film (and used perfectly in the second half of the film. That was a stroke of genius).

I also must praise the choice of music. It's used excellently and is a perfect use of juxtaposition. 'Stuck In The Middle With You' and 'Little Green Bag' are the best implemented songs. The former is infamously used in a context that might make you never enjoy the song again as some ghastly images will pop into your head as it's quite a jaunty song for such as horrific scene while the latter is used to perfectly start off the film and establish the tone very well. 'Little Green Bag' is a song that you can start any film with. It's perfect for that. The writing is fantastic. They manage to hide exposition within realistic dialogue excellently performed by a very strong cast. For a film that's over 20 years old, there are still plenty of moments to make you cheer or shout "Oh my God!". It's a surprisingly satisfying experience. It's hard to pin down the best actors in the film (and just realising while typing this that there are no female characters in this film. That's rare) but if I had to I would say Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel are the two stand out ones while Michael Madsen and Steven Buscemi closely follow in their footsteps. What makes Roth and Keitel work is their relationship in the film which boosts their chemistry while Madsen and Buscemi work individually. In fact, Mr. Blonde rarely intereacts with the main cast and works best on his isolated scenes where he's left to his own devices.

Reservoir Dogs is an ordeal. However, if there was ever such thing as a good ordeal, this is it. It's savage and shocking yet you will enjoy every second of it. Twists and turns are around every corner and is wonderfully put together. The acting, writing, cinematography and music are all well implemented for a thrill ride that is satisfying to say the least. It was the film that made me come back after a long time of silence on this website and is worth talking about. It's fascinating and proves that Quentin Tarantino is a very competent film maker and I will probably search out his other films. I already know that Pulp Fiction is one of the best films I ever seen but there are still more out there.

Almost perfectly put together and satisfying to watch thanks to clever writing and great acting.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1984) Review

On Saturday, Peter Capaldi blessed our screens as he made his debut on Doctor Who as the latest incarnation. The general consensus seems to be: Peter Capaldi good, Steven Moffat bad. However, let's look back at one of Capaldi's very first acting roles set in his native Scotland. Let's take a look at Local Hero

Oil tycoon Happer (Burt Lancaster) decides to build his next oil refinery over a small Scottish seaside town and sends Mac Macintosh (Peter Riegert) as a scout to try and confirm this with the locals. He is assisted by native Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) as he settles into the quiet town and gets social with the townsfolk. The town comes together to discuss their opinion of Mac while Mac slowly starts to conform as a result to the exposure to the town. Happer waits for the verdict while Mac tries his best to win over the town.

Local Hero is pleasant. Even if you are unfamiliar with small, sea side towns like Mac is, you can relate to his exposure to the serene location and tight community while those who become nostalgic of the realistic setting will side with the town. You are positioned to want to see the town spared anyway so naturally it has to do a good job of presenting the town in a good light as well as show Mac's progression into their society. This is done thanks to the subtle writing and acting as well as displaying progression with Mac's conversion into the local lifestyle by use of Peter Riegert changing his stance, pace and outfit as the film goes on. It's clever stuff and I imagine this will be a film that will have you catching more if you rewatch it at a later date.

I started this review about Peter Capaldi who does quite a good job considering that this is one of his earliest acting roles and works well opposite Peter Riegert. Overall the acting was enjoyable. Fulton Mackey brings a warm and jolly performance to the role of beach dweller Ben Knox and Denis Lawson joins Riegert and Capaldi for a likable trio residing in the town. The characters are likable and all lend themselves to hilarious moments. The key of Local Hero, as I've mentioned, is the subtly. All the best comedic moments are cemented by throw away lines and facial reactions with one case being made hilarious because there is no reaction. It's subtle yet specific and therefore makes for a unique blend of comedy.

Local Hero is definitely a feel good and calming film with a great sense of humour. The actors bring lighthearted and jolly performances in their wake and the writing makes for some classic lines and moments. Local Hero sets out to do it's job of entertaining and being insightful. I recommend it to those who wish to get more acquainted with Peter Capaldi now that we have him as The Doctor.

Calm, funny, pleasant and a feel good film that started Peter Capaldi's career path.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck, 1986) Review

It seems fitting that on the same day Guardians of the Galaxy released 28 years ago was this other Marvel film. We already know now that Guardians of the Galaxy was not only a commercial success but also a critical success. Sadly,I can't say the same for Howard the Duck if you couldn't tell. That's why you've probably never heard of him.and you can tell just from the image what's wrong with this. Anyway, let's take a look at Howard the Duck.

On a planet where anthropomorphic ducks are the dominant species, Howard (Chip Zein) is relaxing at home when an experimental machine from Earth captures him and sends him to our planet. Now stuck on Earth, Howard tries to fit in but finds it difficult because...he's a duck. He does manage to befriend rocker Beverly (Lea Thompson) and impress her friend Phil (Tim Robbins) however things get worse when it's revealed that Howard wasn't the only alien taken to Earth but these aliens are far less friendly.
Howard the Duck has some bad, bad acting. Really bad. Chip Zein as the voice of Howard is the only actor that stands out probably because he's just voicing a character rather than having to act opposite a guy in a duck suit. Lucky him. I could be bias because I loved Lea Thompson's work in the Back to the Future trilogy but I can't defend her here. Not only do I have no idea why she did this, I have no idea why the film was even made. They are clearly trying to make this a family film since it was rated PG but...the film starts off with a naked duck in the bath...a naked anthropomorphic duck. No idea but I wish I could unsee it. It's not even in the background as the shot lingers on it for a few seconds. It's unsettling. That's the key element here: it's unsettling. Geofrey Jones, bless him for his work in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Beetlejuice, hams up his role but probably too much. It comes off as cheesy and silly. God knows what Tim Robbins was thinking.

I'll go through why Howard the Duck can't work as a film in the first place (and Marvel would be smart to avoid it in the future no matter what the hint at). Yes, Rocket Raccoon is an anthropomorphic animal from another planet too however A) He's likable and B) he's part of a team that rivals the Avengers. He has people backing him up. Howard doesn't. He's an unlikable drunken douchebag whose franchise promotes bestiality. The film was dangerously close to crossing this line too. There are some lines you don't cross and that's one of them. The rest of the cast are also bland and lifeless. Howard is the only memorable character and that's because he's a freaking duck!

Howard the Duck is a low point in Marvel's cinematic career. It's not the lowest but it's close. (Yes, there are films worse than this amazingly). Howard himself is the only good thing about it and I'mr eally streatching the word "good". The actors are either bad or misplaced. Howard the Duck is a bad idea for the film from the very beginning as it would not only suck but not sell very well either...and look what happened. Howard the Duck sucks and bombed at the box office. It was a failure and wasn't even good enough to gain a cult following. Avoid at all costs and let's pray Marvel doesn't do it again..then again they made Rocket and Groot work so...we'll see.

Silly, stupid, poorly acted and was dead on arrival anyway.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mrs. Doubtfire (Chris Columbus, 1998) Review

I woke up this morning feeling the most tired I had ever been. I could barely coordinate and just crashed in a heap on the sofa. After a two hour nap, I woke up to find Sky Movies playing a few Robin Williams films. Naturally I chose Aladdin as it is one of my favourite films but after it finished, I decided to rewatch Mrs. Doubtfire, another one of Williams' classics. It seems only fitting to take a look at this after his death so let's take a look at Mrs. Doubtfire.

Daniel Hilard (Robin Williams) is an eccentric yet caring father of three who works as a voice actor. Despite his love for his kids, his wife Miranda (Sally Field) sees him as a bad role model. After Daniel throws an extravagant yet disastrous birthday party, Miranda official has enough and files for divorce. Miranda is given custody of the kids, leaving Daniel heartbroken and desperate. He learns that Miranda is looking for a housekeeper which gives Daniel the idea of taking on the persona of Mrs. Doubtfire, an elderly Scottish nanny. Daniel now has to balance his life as Mrs. Doubtfire as well as his real work after quitting his voice acting gig.

We all know that Robin Williams is a very versatile actor and Mrs. Doubtfire is definetly one of the best examples of that. While Daniel is clearly just Robin being himself (right down to his job having him to a plenitude of voices) however he gets away with dressing up as Doubtfire herself. Considering that he managed to use the disguise to fool people off set, his performance combined with the wonderful make-up job makes for a lovable and unique character. Robin Williams does stand up above the rest of the cast however I can't put the others down. Sally Field delivers a solid performance as does Pierce Brosnan however the rest aren't as memorable. Mara Wilson is only worth nothing because...she's Mara Wilson although she has done better now (it was her first film. I can't be that harsh). Also Terry McGovern makes a cameo so...that's cool (not that you'd you know who he is).

On the surface, one could very easily brush this film off as a "silly". That's only on a surface level. Deep down, this is a very heartwarming comedy. Mrs. Doubtfire knows when to be charming and eccentric as well as balance the serious scenes. One of my big complains, however, is that the ending is very sudden. There was much more that could've been developed as you could argue that it was built up enough. It's at least satisfying so there's that but sometimes that just isn't enough. On the other hand, the comedy is so well done, especially combined with sincere and heartwarming moments. I guess it's two steps forward, one step back.

Mrs. Doubtfire is often up there in top Robin Williams films and there are reasons why. He is delightful in the role and show his diversity (one scene only existing just for him to throw voices out) however this means he stands very high above the rest of the cast who try to deliver solid performances but, let's face it, we're just here for Williams. The plot itself does have one or two problems with the main one being how quick the ending actually is. I plan on reviewing more Robin Williams films in the future but, for now, we can just let him rest in peace.

Delightful, heartwarming and filled with charm and wit if a bit clunky towards the end

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Tribute to Robin Williams

As you may very well know by now, legendary comedic actor Robin Williams has sadly passed away. Robin Williams has blessed us with his presence in many fantastic films such as Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, Good Morning Vietnam, Jumanji and Hook. He has touched many generations with his zany, 'out of the box' sense of humour, his warm and light-hearted personality and his iconic voice.

I am aware that many other great talents have passed on this year however Robin Williams is very special to me. He was one of my biggest inspirations when I was a kid. I was first introduced to him, as were many people my age, when he voiced the Genie in Aladdin (my fifth favourite film of all time!). The moment he debut in the film, you knew you were in for a treat and his performance is the sole reason that I love Aladdin as much as I do. Even better was when he returned for the third in the trilogy, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, which proved he can bring so much unique humour and life to a character. Genie is one of my favourite fictional characters and I have Robin Williams to thank for that.

In additon, his work in live action works is also fantastic. Dead Poets Society is a delightful film and his charming yet authoritative role rejuvenated the iconic phrase "O Captain! My Captain!", Bicentennial Man had him play a much more sympathetic yet naive character,  Jumanji saw him balance savage wildness and attempted sophistication and Hook sparked a new found interest into Peter Pan as he played a more over-worked and stressed version of Peter. Whiel not every film he was in was a hit, his presence is still appreciated. Flubber, Patch Adams, Happy Feet and Jack. While they aren't the best films, he still does a wonderful job in all of them. He also can't forget is Oscar winning performance in Good Will Huntng, a film that I know has made an impact and changed lives. A powerful, powerful performance.

For me, Robin Williams was an inspiration as I'm sure we was for many people. When I saw Genie in Aladdin, something sparked in me and I wanted to pursue the film industry, specifically acting (voice acting to be even more precises). He was one of the earliest favourite actors and I have him to thank for where I am today. His zany, jolly and versatile nature was contagious and to this day find myself singing 'Friend Like Me' and 'Prince Ali'. I cannot praise him enough. He has made such as huge impact on my life, especially since he makes it easy to point out a favourite Disney film.

As a gamer, I also have to bring up his contribution to the gaming world. He named his daughter Zelda after the eponymous princess of the Legend of Zelda games leading to his appearance in the trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D which is arguably one of the best adverts for a game and has admitted he's a fan of said franchise. Seeing Zelda at E3 for the tournament for Super Smash Bros. For Wii U as well as her friendliness to the community as a whole also makes me appreciate common interest. It's fascinating. Maybe in another universe there was a Zelda movie with him in it.  

I don't wish to dwell on this tragic event but instead want to remind you of just how talented a person Robin Williams was. He was bright, funny, warm and, of course, eccentric and that's why we loved him. He will always have a place in Hollywood history and has left his mark for many generations. Thank you Robin, you will be forever missed.

O Captain, my Captain.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014) Review

Marvel still dominate Hollywood. It's even more clear with DC's recent idea to change the date for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice since it clashed with Captain America 3. Good idea! I would've seen Captain America 3 anyway so win-win. Now, we have to look at a film that features a talking raccoon, an anthropomorphic tree voiced by the Iron Giant and have been set the challenge of taking that idea seriously. I have faith in Marvel....right?

In the depths of space, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is an outlaw out to steal an orb for a high price. Turns out the orb is wanted by a madman named Ronan (Lee Pace) who sends out an assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), to steal it from Quill. During their conflict, an alien duo of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) attempt to kidnap Quill for the bounty but all 4 of them are arrested by Nova Corp. In prison, the 4 team up with a inmate, Drax (David Batista), who wants revenge on Ronan for murdering his family. The 5 inmates form a group to keep the orb safe from Ronan and deliver it to a safe location.

I'll get the one flaw out of the way quickly. To begin with, the plot is a little bit all over the place as the film has to establish not only all 5 team members but also the planets and civilizations. It's a bit crammed in for those with no idea of what the Guardians are about. However, those who keep up with their comic knowledge or at least kept up to date with his film should have no problem. On the flip side, this film is an absolute delight. It was clearly advertised as a comedy/action flick and it delivers on both aspects wonderfully. Sure, Avengers Assemble arguably had stronger action but Guardians of the Galaxy is a blast to watch. Every character in the film has a hilarious moment probably with Drax and Rocket being the two comedic highlights. Drax's is oblivious to abstract ideas while Rocket is just a high sprung rodent. The entire team consists of wonderful, flesh out characters which is commendable for one film.

The CGI is great as Rocket and Groot feel almost real due to the combination of the CGI and the strong voice acting. Bradley Cooper completely loses himself in the role and becomes Rocket while Vin Diesel is perfectly cast.  Chris Pratt follows Robert Downey Jr. in the sense that he does almost play himself but he's endearing and likable that you don't mind. Zoe Saldana does a good job too but David Batista, who I heard wasn't very good, actually delivers a solid performance. For someone who isn't traditionally an 'actor', I'm was very impressed with him. As this is a Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, you can expect a lot of references and connections between the films in the this franchise. They are a lot more subtle this time around as well as a credits scene that only the die-hard Marvel films will get (and I did so...I loved it). As you might also except, the soundtrack is amazing. As there are two soundtracks (vocal songs and background music), there was a chance that one would stand out over the other. You could argue that but I feel that both soundtracks are great.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a joy to watch from start to finish.The only flaw is the establishment of the plot and even then, you'll understand the second time through as will the comic book fans so it's basically a moot point. The CGI is fantastic and, combined with great voice action, makes the CGI characters feel real. The live action characters are also well developed over the course of the form. If you enjoyed Avengers Assemble, you will have a fun time with Guardians of the Galaxy. This was my most anticipated film this year and I wasn't disappointed at all. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. Man, we are doing REALLY well with films this year. I've already given 5 films either a 9 or 9.5. We are doing well. Maybe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will break that streak.

A joy from start to finish. Everything works and is a delight to watch.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension (Dan Povenmire and Robert F. Hughes, 2011) Review

Nickelodeon's recent...'adjustments' to their only good show Legend of Korra (well, they have TMNT too, but that's on break) made me think about how great these cartoon channels were. However, I dove in a bit to find some more shows. Gravity Falls took my interest and now adore that show however Disney's other animated show also intrigued me and that was Phineas and Ferb. I think it's an endearing show, albeit a bit formulaic but there's a movie so, let's take a look at it.

It seems like just another day of summer as Phineas (Vincent Martella) and his step-brother Ferb (Thomas Brodie-Sangster...when he actually speaks) however their latest day plan sends them straight into the lair of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz' (Dan Povernmire) lair. The boys help Dr. Doof's latest machine that sends them into an alternate dimension where Doof is ruler of the Tri-State Area. The boys' pet platypus, Perry (Dee Bradley Baker), interviens and reveals his secret identity as Agent P to them for the first time. Now Phineas, Ferb and Agent P have to find a way to return to their own dimension in one piece with the help of their alternate selves. Wow, writing that plot out was...really weird. 

I do have to congratulate the film on managing to not only capture the feel of an average episode but also up the stakes as a good "TV show: the movie" style film should do. However, this only applies to the main plot. The sub-plot about Phineas and Ferb's sister Candace (Ashley Tisdale) trying to work out where they've gone isn't that engaging and feels a bit too much like I'm just watching an episode. I'd rather they introduced her into the main plot earlier to save us the trouble. I'm also concerned about the absence of certain main characters such as Doof's daughter Vanessa and Norm is barely in it. In addition (or...the opposite of addition), for a film titled Phineas AND Ferb, it feels off that Phineas is the one to take on the alternate Doof while Ferb almost does nothing during the whole climax. Ferb being my favourite character from the show,

Now, the main thing about Phineas and Ferb that keeps me coming back and is probably the best thing about it is the music. The show has churned out some great and catchy tunes (my personal favourites being 'Aint' Got Rhythm', 'A-G-L-E-T' and 'Busted') and the movie is no different....mostly. For some reason, someone figured it was a good idea to start off with all the best songs meaning that the later half of the film's songs just aren't as good. 'Summer (Where do we begin)', 'Brand New Best Friend' and 'Everything's Better with Perry' are all in the first half...I can't even name the songs in the second half. However, the songs I mentioned are still great songs that I....may or may not have on my iPod...

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the Second Dimension (that's a mouthful)  is a good enough attempt at a feature length Phineas and Ferb adventure. The music is great as always although all of the best songs are thrown out in the first half. The animation is about ont he same level as the show itself albeit a few scenes to look nicer with minor shading and other such effects. The voice acting is good, just as the show and..really that sums it up. "Just like the show". However, maybe it's TOO much like the show. Aw well.

While to feels WAY too much like the show, it does still capture what made the show enjoyable in the first place. 

And yes, Phineas facing front looks....scary...