Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Very Murray Christmas

Murray plays himself in this variety show within a variety show, which nobody attends due to a blizzard. With his worries come true, Murray wallows through New York City's Carlyle Hotel with the holiday blues, but fellow guests will get him by with some Christmas spirit. Great song selection and performances, but each number is performed in its entirety, dragging things on a lot longer than necessary. The ensemble cast includes cast and crew that have become part of Murray's modern clique, making A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS seem (appropriately) like a group of friends getting together for the Holidays but at the end of it all, this Christmas special just doesn't end up being all that funny.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Goodnight Mommy

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A pair of twins (Lukas and Elias Schwarz, going by their real first names) suspect an impostor underneath the facial bandages of a woman that's supposed to be their mother (Wuest) after cosmetic facial surgery. The setting of a lakeside house is not only beautiful, but it also creates a sense of isolation and quietness that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film is not without its flaws; particularly with how it handles its twists and turns—but just like some of the best lies have truth to them, some of the best twists have obvious to them. Even still, directors Fiala and Franz execute well enough to keep you engaged throughout, and do a pretty decent job of throwing you off track at random times, despite the film being guilty of trotting down the path of predictability.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge

Rushed sequel with Freddy Kruger (Englund) manipulating main character Patton into doing his murders for him. Black sheep of the franchise, with it being the only film in which the male is the protagonist and also to have no recurring characters aside from Freddy. Typical inferior horror sequel, but it does make attempts at honoring its predecessor. Its low points are a scene with Freddy possessing a pair of lovebirds; and another scene where Myers is inexplicably right on her hunches, trying to convince Patton that it wasn't him who committed a murder when he admits to it, but also that he made his confession to her with his hands soaked in blood! Rusler is slightly more appealing as the bully-turned-friend; unfortunately, he's not explored enough and ultimately comes across as a contradictory character. Concept may have actually worked had they given it another year or two to fill the bumps in the script.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A group of teens are haunted by Freddy Kruger (Englund), a burn victim with knives for fingers who murders his prey in their dreams. Not only scary for its violence and Englund's performance, but director Craven does a terrific job toying with the audience's perception between imagination and reality. However, the film is plagued by terrible dialogue, and Oscar-nominee Blakley's delivery is horrendous. Depp is surprisingly forgetful in his debut. Despite its overwhelming flaws, it's still worth a replay every five or so years. Seems kind of like a cheap-shot to villain-ize a burn victim, but Kruger's attire and his boiler room lair are just so perfect for the horror genre.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dead Poets Society

Film set in 1959 (based on screenwriter Schulman's own experiences at academy) about liberal English teacher Williams influencing his students who attend all-boys Welton Academy. Focuses more on the group of boys, but Williams is able to work his off-the-cuff dialogue enough to keep you reminded that it's still him. Absolutely beautiful Northeastern setting, with excellent enough pacing to keep you entertained the entire way through. The boys are surprisingly less dorky than you'd think. The film never takes the easy way out, with Weir and Schulman seeming perfectly content with impending gloom. Kudos also for developing how important teachers can be to their students and vice versa. Williams' character was inspired by Samuel Pickering.

American Beauty

Tragedy meets melodrama meets the fearless hip '90s, following the Burnham family as they deal with their first-world problems. Lester and Carolyn (Spacey and Bening) are getting older, and both are trying in their own way to hang on to the last moments of what each thinks is the prime of their lives; while their teenage daughter Jane (Birch) is having issues of her own, dealing with finding her identity and not feeling pretty enough next to her "friend" Angela (Suvari). Neighboring Fitts family (consisting of Bentley, Cooper and Janney) work their way into the mix because the son is stalking Jane. A film that speaks to those who have seen a midlife crisis, and is still entertaining to those who have it to look forward to. Oscar-winner is entertaining right from the get-go, and is an experience as flawless as a rose upon first viewing. However, after you've seen it a few times, the rose begins to wilt, unmasking contradictory characters and inexplicable events that unfold just to appease its themes of confinement, conformity, redemption and sexuality—why does Lester lecture Carolyn about materialism right after HE's the one that bought a Pontiac Firebird? Why didn't writer Ball or director Mendes at least try to make Bening's character slightly redeemable? All the many other questions to raise require spoilers, but the list goes on... Hard to completely hate because it's easy to understand why so many people like it.

The Wedding Singer

After being ditched at the alter, wedding singer (and aspiring rockstar) Sandler decides to give up love for good and live life as a bachelor, until he falls for coworker Barrymore and ends up helping her plan her wedding to womanizing Glave. The soundtrack is amongst some of the better 1980s playlists out there, and even if you don't care about a retro flashback, this outing is still a charming romantic-comedy. Some of the laughs are more side-jokes than plot related, and Sandler has a few moments of his annoying trademark tirade, but why pry too much when it has the fun, romance and ability to be replayed no different than your favorite '80s record?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Monster Squad

A group of monster-savvy kids must rescue their city from Dracula (Regehr) and his monster troops. It's as stupid as it sounds, with some of the kids not even being likable, such as Gower's character, who is so underdeveloped that there's the need to flesh him out by dragging his parents and five-year-old sister into the mix, with the mom and dad's conflict being that he works too much and then we have Dracula actually calling the five-year-old sister a well, that part's worth seeing, so no spoilers there. Rightly earns itself a cult status for Stan Winston & Co reimagining the Universal Monsters but the terrible story still can't be redeemed by amazing SFX. Some versions of the film foolishly credit Noonan as Frankenstein when the movie itself points out the common misconception of it being the monster's name when it's actually the creature's creator's.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Horrible Bosses 2

The trio are back as their own bosses this time around, inventing a carwash-like shower system that they foolishly invest to businessman Waltz, who shamelessly takes full advantage of their inexperience and stupidity. In an attempt to break even, they kidnap his equally cruel and charming son Pine and hold him for ransom. The banter between Bateman, Day and Sudeikis is just as sharp as the original, and the plot itself isn't half-bad for a sequel. The downfall is the minor roles from Aniston and Spacey that—albeit fun—are too forced into the story that is stretches the movie into unnecessary territory.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Little Miss Sunshine

Roadtrip hit with all the right moves, following a dysfunctional family traveling from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach in an antiquated yellow Volkswagen T2 Microbus so that Breslin can be a contestant in a beauty pageant. While they fail at leaving their problems behind, their experiences on the road ultimately help them grow closer to each other and cope with their personal situations. The entire cast contributes their share, with grandfather Arkin winning Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Very rare to mix seriousness in a comedy without it coming across as melodramatic, but screenwriter Arndt and directors Dayton and Faris make it work!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

So I Married an Axe Murderer

After numerous breakups over what his friends and family consider shallow and a way to avoid commitment, the hard-to-please aspiring poet Mike Myers finally finds himself the perfect match in Nancy Travis... there's only one flaw... she might be an axe murderer! Very Mike Myers humor with lots of buddy comedians in supporting roles or cameos, all taking place in a so-very-'90s San Francisco—this film only works because all the pieces fall into the right place. Surprisingly light-hearted given its title, only getting dark in the third act. Killer (pun?) soundtrack. Travis actually cut off the tip of her finger during a scene at the butcher shop.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Captain Ron

Panned 1992 family-adventure about middle-class family man Martin unexpectedly inheriting a boat, and instead of paying a boat mover to sail it from the Caribbean to Miami to sell it, he takes his wife (Place) and children (Salisbury and Sisto) on a "spontaneous adventure" led by an incompetent captain-for-hire (Russell in the title role). Viewers may be getting too hung up on the fact that it is Russell in the funny role and Martin in the serious one, but the latter is excellent as a dorky yuppy whose patience is being chiseled away by the former's family-unfriendly antics. If you sit back and roll with it, it's like letting the wind carry the sails, with its wonderful score by Pike and beautiful filming locations (mainly shot in Puerto Rico).