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REVIEW – Happy Death Day

October 28, 2017 Leave a comment
Directed by: Christopher B. Landon
Produced by: Jason Blum
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Edited by: Gregory Plotkin
Cinematography by: Toby Oliver
Music by: Bear McCreary
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken, Rob Mello, Phi Vu
Year: 2017

 

I originally planned on reviewing far headier stuff this year for Halloween Movie Month, but due to some personal/family circumstances and a general lack of motivation that’s partly resulted from that, I’m choosing instead to focus what little time I have left before the actual day of Halloween with movies that are a bit more lighthearted and easy to digest. At least for now. Considering the fact that the holiday also happens to be my birthday, however, I figured what better time than now to review the recently released and appropriately titled Happy Death Day?

 


 

Is the concept of repeating a certain day over and over, Groundhog Day-style, an overused plot contrivance already? I’m sure there are plenty of examples of TV episodes doing it, or at least doing something similar to it, but I’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful of movies that used the time loop device as their primary driving force. There’s Edge of Tomorrow, of course, and then there’s Run Lola Run, Source Code (sorta…), ARQ, and earlier this year we received 2017’s first film about a young woman repeating a traumatic day in her life with the decidedly more serious Before I Fall. While Wikipedia points me towards a few examples of the time loop being used in a few other films, however, I’m pretty certain that this concept being used in such a particular way, complete with characters fixing mistakes and wrongs, is still mostly known from Groundhog Day, a fact that horror comedy offspring Happy Death Day openly acknowledges, thanks largely to the obligatory meta-commentary all horror comedies are apparently required to integrate into their structure these days. Read more…

REVIEW – Unfriended

October 27, 2016 1 comment
UnfriendedDirected by: Leo Gabriadze
Produced by: Timur Bekmambetov, Nelson Greaves
Written by: Nelson Greaves
Edited by: Parker Laramie, Andrew Wesman
Cinematography by: Adam Sidman
Starring: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson, Heather Sossaman
Year: 2015

 

Previews for this movie had me thinking this was going to probably be one of the worst movies of 2015. Screaming teenage characters, the gimmick of having the movie confined to a single MacBook screen for the entire film in an insane twist on the “found footage” genre, a guy forcing his hand into a blender by some unseen force that was apparently getting revenge for being “unfriended”… Just… every time I saw this movie being advertised, I couldn’t help but mentally wretch at the thought of seeing it. Audiences in the theatre even seemed to agree – there was always laughter accompanying the viewing. And then… a funny thing actually happened when it finally came out. Much like how I had hilariously low expectations for the schmaltzy, gimmicky-looking, Nicholas Sparks-esque The Fault in Our Stars, this sure-to-be-awful teen horror flick with the computer screen gimmick ended up getting some solid reviews from critics – not nearly as good as The Fault in Our Stars, mind you, but horror is an acquired taste genre, so you’ve gotta grade these things on a curve sometimes. However, just like with the other movie, I had to see what the fuss was about. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW – Don’t Breathe (2016)

September 2, 2016 2 comments
Don't BreatheDirected by: Fede Alvarez
Produced by: Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, Fede Alvarez
Written by: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Edited by: Eric L. Beason, Louise Ford, Gardner Gould
Cinematography by: Pedro Luque
Music by: Roque Baños
Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang
Year: 2016

 

Isn’t it nice to see horror movies that succeed both financially and critically? It wasn’t too long ago that the biggest horror movies given wide release were mostly sequels, remakes, and cash-ins on trends. I mean, we’re seeing that still, sure – that’s just part of how the movie industry works in general – but, specifically in regards to the horror genre, it’s not nearly to the degree from back when the Saw flicks were an annual tradition. Don’t Breathe, the latest surprise critical darling, is currently sitting at the top of the box office in its first week and is also maintaining an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – not just a good approval rating for a horror movie, but any movie in general. And while it doesn’t reach the same heights as films like The Babadook and It Follows in terms of vision, style, and execution, I was still incredibly pleased to find that not only were the positive reviews well deserved, my own expectations based on the trailers and word of mouth were exceeded. Read more…

REVIEW: Pokémon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back

February 25, 2016 Leave a comment
Pokemon: The First MovieDirected by: Kunihiko Yuyama
Produced by: Choji Yoshikawa, Tomoyuki Igarashi, Takemoto Mori; Norman J. Grossfeld (U.S.)
Written by: Takeshi Shud­o; Norman J. Grossfeld, Michael Haigney, John Touhey (U.S.)
Edited by: Toshio Henmi, Yutaka Ito
Cinematography by: Hisao Shirai
Music by: Shinji Miyazaki; John Loeffler, Ralph Schuckett (U.S.)
Starring: Veronica Taylor, Ikue Otani, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Ken gates, Philip Bartlett, Megan Hollingshead, Stomi Korogi, Maddie Blaustein, Tara Jayne, Jimmy Zoppi, Ed Paul, Lisa Ortiz, Kayzie Rogers, Ed Paul
Based on the Pokémon series of video games created by Satoshi Tajiri and the Pokémon TV series
Year: 1999

 

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon video games, and so I thought I’d commemorate the event.

I used to be very into the Pokémon games and anime. My sister and I used to recite the Team Rocket motto for fun (I can still do it all from memory, inflections and all, in fact), and I used to own all three versions of the original games released in the U.S., not to mention a whole slew of the trading cards (including the three original legendary birds – Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, which my mom so lovingly sought out by name for my big Christmas present one year – and the Ancient Mew card that came out with early tickets of the second film) and some of the spinoff games. There was also my prized Game Boy Printer, which is yellow and Pikachu-themed and was released only in Japan, where I was living as a very nerdy 10 – 12-year-old when the games initially released. I even had a pair of Pikachu and Togepi boxer shorts, and my first ever email account was pokemonmaster1@hotmail.com – because while plain ol’ “pokemonmaster” was already taken, I didn’t care because I was #1! Read more…

REVIEW: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

December 17, 2015 2 comments
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)Directed by: Ron Howard
Produced by: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard
Screenplay by: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
Edited by: Dan Hanley, Mike Hill
Cinematography by: Donald Peterman
Music by: James Horner
Original song by: Mariah Carey, James Horner, Will Jennings, performed by Faith Hill
Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, Josh Ryan Evans, Clint Howard, Anthony Hopkins (voice)
Based on the book by Dr. Seuss
Year: 2000

 

I’m not really certain what makes studios think that live action adaptations of things that belong in animation are good ideas, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say it’s because they make money. Obviously, that trumps artistic expression, more often than not. And that’s how you end up with things like The Cat in the Hat starring Mike Myers. These movies are at least technical marvels, when sufficient effort is put into them, and the environments in How the Grinch Stole Christmas are really quite incredible and well realized. The makeup effects are also mostly impressive, too. That being said, I’ve only once ever seen a live action adaptation or extension of a property that I ended up liking more than the original, and that was this year’s live action Cinderella. Still, that’s one exception, and none of this can overshadow the fact that Dr. Seuss’ book was already perfectly adapted decades ago by Chuck Jones in the 26-minute-long, 1967 animated TV special, complete with the perfect look and tone, and, best of all, with absolutely zero filler to pad out the original book. The same cannot be said about Ron Howard’s admirable but misguided adaptation. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW: Spectre (2015)

November 20, 2015 1 comment
Spectre (2015)Directed by: Sam Mendes
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Screenplay by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
Story by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Edited by: Lee Smith
Cinematography by: Hoyte van Hoytema
Music by: Thomas Newman, Sam Smith (theme)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona, Judi Dench
Based on characters created by Ian Fleming
Year: 2015

 

It’s been three years since the release of the last James Bond film, Skyfall, but it seems as though a mere matter months have passed by the time Spectre begins, with Bond tracking down an assassin named Marco Sciarra, who is suspected of having ties to a larger organization that has been causing headaches for MI6 and, more generally, the world at large. Fans of the series, particularly those who have either read the books or seen the older films, will by no means have any trouble quickly knowing exactly what organization Sciarra is working for (hint: it’s in the title) as well as what this will likely mean for the Bond franchise going forward. Your enthusiasm for the film and the implications of this organization’s presence from here on out will largely depend upon one’s devotion to the series and whether you’re willing to accept that the more serious, grounded, and gritty Bond films that began with the Daniel Craig era of films were pretty much always going to build up to this from the very beginning. And even if you’re willing to accept this inevitable return to a refreshed but familiar form, what few surprises Spectre does have in store for audiences will actually be a far greater point of contention than the choice to continue moving these films “backward” in terms of tone and grandiosity. Read more…

2014 IN REVIEW: Everything in Between That I’ve Seen

February 7, 2015 1 comment

Under the Skin - Eye

Finally, we come to the films that I actually did see! As with the films I didn’t see, these films will come at you in three parts: the films that were just somewhere in the middle in terms of quality, the films I greatly disliked, and the films I really enjoyed.

I use those qualitative terms just to avoid confusion over what I’m ranking here. The films in this section range from generally bad to generally quite good, but never elevating to excellence or making me fall in love with them or making me hate them with a passion. That being said, I didn’t expect to like some of the films here as much as I ended up liking them, and, of course, I was letdown by others I actually was kind of looking forward to.

If you don’t see the movie here and didn’t see it in the list of films I didn’t see, then you can almost certainly be guaranteed to find them on one of my next two lists, as this is just a portion of the 121 total films I ended up seeing from 2014 as of this writing, whether in theatres, on DVD/Blu-Ray, or through streaming. Read more…

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2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – April)

January 15, 2015 1 comment

Joe - Tye Sheridan, Nicolas Cage

I’m not going to waste too much time this year on introductions. We all pretty much know this is the dumping ground for lesser films prior to the summer blockbusters and awards season after that. Still, it’s worth mentioning that this was a slog to go through, and I didn’t even see these movies; I just charged myself with reviewing why I never got around to them.

Yes, 2014 may have been a record year for me seeing the most movies from that year, but there were still movies I never got around to or never even had the ability to see due to either foreign or limited release. I still like going over them, however, as this process often leads  to me finding some unexpected gems that I might enjoy. Some of these I might become so interested in that I see them before I even get to the films I did see, so there is actually a possibility you might see these films reappear in this 2014 in Review series if that becomes the case.

Anyway, here are many of the films from January to April 2014 that I didn’t see, for one reason or another. It’s by no means complete, but that’s what you get when you’re using Wikipedia and Best of/Worst of lists from other sites. Read more…

REVIEW: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

November 14, 2014 Leave a comment
Batman Mask of the PhantasmDirected by: Eric Rodomski, Bruce Timm
Produced by: Alan Burnett, Michael Uslan, Benjamin Melniker, Bruce Timm
Screenplay by: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Martin Pasko, Michael Reaves
Story by: Alan Burnett
Edited by: Al Breitenbach
Music by: Shirley Walker
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, Abe Vigoda, Mark Hamill, Efram Zimbalist, Jr., Robert Costanzo, Bob Hastings, Dick Miller, John P. Ryan
Based on the DC Comics character created by Bob Kane and Batman: The Animated Series
Year: 1993

 

I would just like to begin this review by pointing out that 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of Batman’s creation, and pretty much every Batman movie has been released to Blu-Ray, including the 1960s Adam West feature film based on the camp TV series. The one exception, however, may very well be the most wanted of them all among those who have seen films based on the Caped Crusader: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Along with its sequel, Sub-Zero, these two films, based on arguably the greatest animated superhero series of all time, have yet to see anything beyond a DVD-quality release. Meanwhile, the infinitely inferior Mystery of the Batwoman has been given a release, and, while I’m certainly thankful for it, even the spinoff Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was given its time in the HD spotlight long ago. Wouldn’t now be the perfect time to release a double pack or something, Warner Bros.? Or are you going to wait until the 25th anniversary of this movie to do that? That’s 4 years away, you know… Read more…

REVIEW: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

October 22, 2014 3 comments
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet StreetDirected by: Tim Burton
Produced by: Richard D. Zanuck, John Logan, Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Written by: John Logan (screenplay)
Edited by: Chris Lebenzon
Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolksi
Music by: Stephen Sondheim
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Ed Sanders, Jayne Wisener, Jamie Campbell
Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Sacha Baron Cohen
Based on the stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler and characters created by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest
Year: 2007

 

I haven’t seen it myself, but, given its large fanbase, I’d say that it’s a surprise that it took nearly 30 years for Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s 1979 musical to see a film adaptation released. Of course, considering that most of those years were pretty lacking in any non-animated musicals, this would have definitely been a misguided notion. And even if musicals were not considered the box office poison they were considered to be throughout the 80s and 90s (again, provided that you were not animated), then no doubt the very nature of Sweeney Todd would be enough to hold it back. It’s a grim, macabre musical that dares to shock audiences with its rampant and bloody violence, songs with swear words in them, and even a dark sense of humor largely built around some sneaky cannibalism on the main characters’ part. This is some dark material, and any adaptation during that time would have no doubt led to the film bombing and further sullying the idea that musical films have their place in this world. Luckily, fortune smiled upon musical film fans, as not only did the early 2000s provide studios with an unexpected small boom in that very market, with Moulin Rouge! and Chicago gaining both popular and critical acclaim (not to mention money), but the 80s and 90s also saw the rise in popularity in the one director who could conceivably adapt the play for film faithfully and still not have it bomb based solely on name recognition alone. I’m talking, of course, about Tim Burton. Read more…

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