California teens Astin and Shore want to build a pool as a way to gain popularity before the end of their senior year and find caveman Fraser buried beneath the soil in which they're digging their pool on. They introduce and groom him into the modern life of a Cali teen; and when everything seems go to as planned, the free-spirited caveman who's helping the teens build popularity, is getting a bit too popular. Fraser is a pleasure to watch, and Pauly Shore is… well, Paul Shore--this could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your interest for watching the film. Where the film falls short is with Astin as Dave; who's a vain, shallow and selfish little punk, striving to have his own page in the yearbook… no wonder you're unpopular, Dave. Dave's tendencies of a sociopath become even more evident when he attempts to abandon the caveman because the girl who Dave likes has a crush on the caveman. It's not an overall unpleasant film, but still incredibly frustrating when one of your protagonists is extremely unlikable.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Psychotic German doctor Laser kidnaps two American tourists (Williams and Yennie) and one Japanese tourist (Kitamura), subjecting them to a sinister experiment entailing sewing one's mouth to another's anus, resulting in a "human centipede". Decently acted--at least for its classlessness--and filmed stylishly in the Netherlands. The concept of the human centipede is completely childish and unoriginal, and the controversy surrounding it is thrived by people why are offended by fart jokes and have never anticipated the possibility of coprophagia. There are better and worse things in this world to raise controversy over, and this film isn't one of them. The film ends way too easily, but very few will complain that it ended too quickly. The structure and pacing are also terrible; the opening scene (actually filmed during the final day of shooting) is virtually useless save minor and insignificant character development, and the film doesn't really have a third act. Those who made the film and those who complain about how disgusting it is should both be subjects to criticism for contributing to the creation and notoriety of such a terrible film.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Beauitfully shot and genuinely scary adaptation of Bari Woods' novel DOLL'S EYES, about Bening having the gift (or curse) of communicating with serial killer Downey through dreams. After a series of tragedies, her mental stability is called into question and after having no one to turn to, she must follow the killer through her dreams in order to find him in reality. Unfair harsh criticism triggered major plot twists occurring in the second act rather than the typical first or third act; but the beauty of this unsystematic approach allows the viewer to be as terrified, disoriented and confused as the mentally shattered main character. Adam Goldberg from All Movie Guide said, "it simply lacks a new and terrifying take on the dream/reality premise." That's for the viewer to decide, and it's up to the viewer to go into the film with an open-mind and a broad horizon, likely something Goldberg didn't do. Distinct for being the last film Downey completed before being sent to Corcoran State Prison on drug charges.
Friday, November 11, 2011
A trio of high school boys set up a gang bang via internet, only to find out they've been duped by fundamentalists. This is just the first story of many that follow in Smith's serious, dark and unnecessarily episodic RED STATE. Lots of good lines, and Parks is terrifically sinister as the leader of the Five Points Church, and John Goodman is surprisingly fitting as an ATF Agent. However, flaws are apparent right from the beginning with the poorly cast teens Angarano, Braun and Gallner who are obviously too old for their roles, especially Gallner who just won't stop playing an emo high schooler despite the fact that he was out of high school by 2004 (THE SHIELD, JENNIFER'S BODY, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET all post-2004). There are even less superficial problems with the story; the film is trying to say something ignorance and intolerance, yet itself comes from a very bitter and stereotypical area. If RED STATE isn't hypocrisy for you, then what is? The film seems to be one story's ricochet from the previous, going on for 88 minute, while failing to have the basic concept of arcing. A total backfire. Smith just needs to stick to comedy.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
1973 classic has Blair in her most famous role as a young girl displaying unusually violent behaviors that science cannot explain. Priest Miller (in his first film role), who is facing down his own demons following the death of his mother (Maliaros, her only film role and died before its release), is recruited by Regan's mother (Burstyn) to put the exorcism into affect. Max von Sydow plays the title role in a modestly subtle way, yet he masters it perfectly. Doesn't date a bite. Friedkin has mood and story revolve around the characters, their ideals and personal conflicts; a style Friedkin is best at, and there's no better place for it than in this film. Sudden cutaways from intense scenes are a bit annoying at times, but it ultimately works itself out. 2000 version restored the haunting spider-walk scene… ewwwww!
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Gosling plays an LA stuntman who moonlights as a heist getaway driver in this wittingly modest thriller. Anti-hero protagonist adds edginess à la TAXI DRIVER, while characters are linked to action in very cool realism not unlike PULP FICTION. Nice payoff for an underwhelming year of film. Unfitting soundtrack works surprisingly well, and even has a haunting effect that may not be intention but is still perfect. MPAA forced director Refn to trim one scene heavily to achieve an R-rating; hasn't everyone seen IRREVERSIBLE yet, who are we sheltering? Can pass as art-house, but is far too appealing and meek to deter the traditional moviegoer.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Supervillain Farrell seeks purpose after fulfilling his only focus in life… defeating his nemesis, superhero Pitt. The bad guy is painted as the protagonist and the good guy as the antagonist in this interesting little outing from Pixar, but the laughs are few and far between--and some of those are complete misses. Most disappointing is the lack of energy it imparts for an animated action-packed family film. You'd figure there'd be something a little more philosophically humble when the person you're supposed to be rooting for is driven to chaos, no matter how light-hearted or comedic… especially when children are the target audience! No doubt this was just a paycheck for the A-list actors.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Comedy revolving around idealist Rudd, who everyone mistakes as a blabbermouth moron (and in some situations, that assumption is accurate). After being released from prison after serving several months for selling pot to a cop (NOT undercover), Ned is forced to take his sisters (Banks, Deschanel and Mortimer) up on their empty gestures, and eventually his carefree trusting way of life begins to make his sisters' overly-serious lives begin to crumble. More cute than hilarious; which makes some of the brief explicit content look like it's there just for a few extra cheap laughs. Didn't need to be R-rated and could stand to have a few more laughs. Nevertheless, it was terrifically paced, well acted and entertaining from start to finish.
Police detective Pacino goes undercover as a homosexual in search of a serial killer targeting gay men in the S&M subcultures of NYC. Edgy, thrilling, mysterious and unforgettable are some of the good things that can be seen when you look past the explicit stereotypes that caused protests during filming. Director Friedkin captures a wonderful mood and style that ceases to exist in cinema post-1990; it's a shame the story couldn't run smoother and the ending couldn't be executed better. Straight people may find this film uncomfortable, gay people may find it offensively inaccurate, and the ending will definitely make most people feel cheated; but the way Friedkin set the story off, and the chills it sends to the viewer is accomplished in the same manner as any classic thriller. Had they tried to level the controversy with just a little bit of conventionalism, this could've been a real classic.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Rundown employees Bateman, Day and Sudeikis conspire to murder each other's bosses (à la THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, à la à la STRANGERS ON A TRAIN) played terrifically by a supporting A-cast ensemble of Spacey, Aniston and Farrell, respectively. Everyone's story seems so secondary while in the mix with the Bateman/Spacey conflict. There is plenty of room for upstaging in this one, and the strongest actors on each side of the side seem to inadvertently take full advantage. Still, many laughs throughout and delivers everything someone out for giggles will want.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just because one comes out from a movie like this saying, "I could do this", doesn't mean it's a bad thing. The simplicity behind it -- pretty much no character or story arcs, and wordless at times -- is what makes this a good film.
If you go into the theater knowing there isn't much to the story other than people wallowing around during the time of the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, you'll appreciate the movie for what it is. If you're expecting Apocalypse Now or Lord of the Rings, you'll find this film boring and dull. It's not that you wouldn’t get it; it just wouldn’t be your cup of tea. The last thing the world needs is for something else to get criticized because it was simply “not what you expected”.
Naturally, that’s a risk with any art-form that is marketed for mass entertainment -- film, literature, music, even video games. Perhaps this here film critic is being a little more sensitive than usual, but that’s because I knew direct Joey L. Asap.
Back to reviewing the film for what it is:
The film's soundtrack is wonderful. It either fits the mood, or goes completely against it which creates a disorientation that parallels the three main characters’ every day life. The amateurishness and rawness really goes hand-in-hand with the actors in a very chilling sort of way -- it's more than likely that fighting characters were really throwing punches at each other (à la skinhead brothers from Harmony Korine’s Gummo) and drunk characters are played by drunk actors. You don't see films like this frequently and it's nice to have another filmmaker like Joey L. Asap added to a short list of such underrated and fearless directors like Larry Clark and Gasper Noé.
Asap is also impressive because of some of the strings he must have had to pull to get this film distributed. While your average person may not know Thomas Din, Jacob Sewell, Errol Keith, Dolly U., the band Primal Scream and William "Will" Hawkes; all of the above are notable people who have participated in the production of this film. You also have to wonder, not only how a filmmaker could get such a budget for the type of film he wanted to make with such little amount of notable support, and then actually get a permit to shoot on the George Washington Memorial Bridge, the Elliot Bay Marina and the home of Kurt Cobain. Did Asap pull an Ed Wood and shoot without permits?
The only thing that should be criticized is the footage of Ricardo Lopez's filmed suicide. While one can argue that its inclusion helps the audience feel uneasy and hopeless, it's actually nothing more than a copout. If Asap wanted to further express such a mood, he should have done it through characters, soundtrack and/or story. Lopez's inclusion is completely unnecessary, as it has nothing to do with anything. Just because a character jumps off the George Washington Memorial Bridge in the film doesn't mean there's any comparison to Ricardo Lopez shooting himself on tape. The only comparison is that they're both suicides, and that is very weak storytelling.
One can now sympathize with Asap’s decision to use footage of Lopez because of his own premature death. Because this is Asap's final release (save the unfinished Cornfield People), it is hard to watch this without a sense of dread.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Flawlessly constructed historical drama about King George VI (Firth) overcoming his stammer and the friendship that builds with speech therapist Rush in an equally memorable role. Helena Bonham Carter is great as The Queen Mother, and Freya Wilson is respectfully subtle as Elizabeth II--intentionally blending with Ramona Marquez as Princess Margaret. On location production, beautifully shot and Danny Cohen's cinematography is exceptional. The most admirable thing about this incredible film is that the climatic sequence is merely just a speech--and believe it or not, it's indeed intense. Terrifically done, Hooper. One of the best in years.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Unique film that is best categorized as a depressing-comedy about successful comedian Sandler taking aspiring stand-up comedian Rogen under his wing after the former is diagnosed with leukemia. Rogen's character encourages the depressed (and selfish) Sandler to go back to his roots of stand-up comedy and also dig deep to rediscover lost love Mann. What starts off as a one-of-a-kind comedy soon finds itself too different for its own good. By mid-film, every single character flaunts their bad qualities shamelessly; by the end, you realize the film should have ended at least a half-hour earlier. The ensemble cast and celebrity cameos are interesting at first, but then they become exhausting and pointless. Director Apatow uses laughter in the same way Michael Bay would use special effects… a means to steer attention away from a dull conflict and a shallow story. Worth seeing for its gripping quest of a man who can buy anything but realizes the best things in life can't be bought; but it's far from a "good" movie.
Monday, June 27, 2011
In the late '70s, a group of kids witness a bizarre train crash while recording an amateur zombie movie; the event is captured on a Super 8 mm film. Other strange events follow the crash, and the group of kids set out to find the answers. Terrific small-town '70s setting and wonderfully driven dialogue that meshes surprisingly well with the large amount of action. However, aside from the annoyance of dragging on way too long, the most fatal flaw of this thriller is the lack of foreshadowing. When a story builds its suspense on twist after twist like it's a game of Jenga, rather than strategizing a complex conflict to bring everything full circle, really does a film injustice. Disappointingly two-dimensional with numerous disposable elements—why is an important character like Dr. Woodward (Turman) introduced during the first plot point without any development?
Monday, June 6, 2011
Solid thriller adapted from Frederick Knott's 1966 play, about blind housewife Hepburn being tormented three thugs (Arkin, Crenna, Weston) looking for heroin in a lost doll. Deservedly put Arkin on the map, and every spook seems to hit the right spot at the right time. Well-paced, but takes a good half-hour to really get going and much of the story is driven by dialogue rather than action. Also, a little more could've been done with Crenna's character who also delivers a great performance despite not having an overly interesting character. Very cool climatic sequence where the viewer--and characters--are forced into blindness. Very worth it.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Lazy documentary about Andre Rand and the child abductions that led to his convictions. Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio share the director's chair--and not to mention, annoyingly, the unnecessary center of attention. Loses focus at the beginning--the title itself is merely a lead to the actual subject of Andre Rand and the kidnappings. Some call it unique and terrifying, winning the Audience Award at SINY Film Festival. One of the biggest problems with the film is that Andre Rand is painted--and arguably presents himself--as a simpleton, yet he clearly gives the run around to the directors all throughout the documentary. Delivers nothing more than a simple news report. What a joke.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Adaptation of 2008 creator-owned comic book of the same name, about a teenage boy (Johnson) who sets out to become a superhero. His actions are caught on camera, via witnesses' cellphones, and uploaded onto the internet, making him an inspiration. However, he soon gets pushed into the crossfire of an ongoing war between gangsters and ruthless vigilantes that are killing the thugs off one by one. The film starts out very promising, with real life obstacles as a major (and many times humorous) setback for the main character. However, what starts out as something comical and self-aware soon turns into a heartless tale of vigilantism. It's pretty much Marvel's answer to Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy, but it brings nothing new to heroism in the real world. The film soon begins focusing too much on the violence and cruelty of the world, rather than focusing on the main character's realization of why people choose not to become superheroes in the real world--an epiphany brought on by a more interesting sub-plot involving a crush who thinks he's gay. Still, the film hit the right spot for a lot of people, but not everyone. Just another example of why Marvel is inferior and shallow compared to DC.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
The first installment to "The Night Chronicles" trilogy, inspired by the folktale "The Devil's Meeting". Five complete strangers (Arend, Novakovic, Marshall-Green, O'Hara, Woodbine) get stuck on an elevator, and the devil is amongst one of them. Each time the elevator lights blackout for a short period, one of them gets killed. Messina, a detective from the Philadelphia Police Department who's wife and child were killed by a hit and run driver, must keep them sane and calm while firefighters destroy the wall to get them out. The film makes all the right moves, yet the scares still seem underwhelming. O'Hara is the only drag amongst the otherwise solid cast. While there is room for more depth than delivered, if you're in the mood for horror/mystery/thriller, you'll be delightfully entertained.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Thriller about a young boy Mark Sway (Renfro) who witnesses the suicide of a man (Olkewicz) with ties to the mob. The man decides to spill certain details about the mob before his suicide, sucking Mark into the crossfire of a mob murder. The kid must hire his own lawyer (Sarandon) to protect his rights, since district attorney (Tommy Lee Jones) is fixated on taking down the mob and won't stop at anything--even willing to put the safety of Mark at risk. Very '90s, very Schumacher, and very Grisham. Hard to know what to feel for Tommy Lee Jones' character, and it's even more confusing as to why Romey didn't just blow his brains out sooner with the gun right there in the car! A lot of holes at the beginning of the film, and the plot neither fills them or makes up for them. You won't gain anything from watching this so-called "mystery-thriller". Am I really supposed to take LaPaglia serious?
Despite being a one of a kind thriller, there are plenty of flaws that hold back Fleischer's 1968 film about the infamous Boston Strangler. Interesting filming concept, but lends itself to too many continuity errors and audio difficulties. Structurally very unconventional that simply doesn't work--there are fundamentals for a reason. Seems like two different films going on at once, and both lead characters are introduced so late that they have to rush to the audience's emotions. For the first half-hour, we're not even sure who we're rooting for. The film brings attention to social commentary that's applicable even today, but the fact that a lot of what's portrayed in the film didn't actually happen kind of contradicts its own statement. Entertaining, but drags on way too long with terribly dated and redundant interrogation scenes.
Monday, April 18, 2011
The first unnecessary follow up and the fourth installment to the 1996 film sensation that redefined the horror genre. SCRE4M hardly takes the lead in this one, but rather follows. All the films have been about clichés and many a homage--this film has plenty, and within universe nods--but this is the most violent of all SCREAM films, almost as if it's trying to compete with SAW or HOSTEL; really separating itself from the other three films. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to her hometown Woodsboro, and people suddenly start dying… who didn't see this coming? Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is now the sheriff not the deputy, but he's still as useless and foolish as ever. Courteney Cox's beloved bitchy character, Gale Weathers, has now turned into an ex-reporter and housewife--this subplot just begs for an excuse to have Weathers in the film. Something is very askew when the three returning characters (and the only three returning characters) are less interesting than the materialistic and twisted kids that are either getting butchered or doing the butchering. Brie, Jaffe, Knudsen, Panettiere, Shelton and especially Rory Culkin are all terrific in their roles. Keep an eye out for Nancy O'Dell as the reporter interviewing Sidney about her new book--she was also a reporter in SCREAM 2 and SCREAM 3. Williamson returns as the screenwriter (he wrote all but SCREAM 3), developing the most charismatic characters since the original and a very interesting plot that starts to ware thin. If the series has done anything perfect, it's the opening scenes. The opening scenes to all four films have been fantastic. Still, once the plot starts flying, you begin to realize how unnecessary this film is. Also, despite handfuls of salutes to the first three SCREAMs, the fact that the series is all about continuity--plus more importantly, Sidney wrote a book about her bloodbath of a life!--lends the story to have many open windows into the past. Yet, not a single reference to Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), a backbone in the Prescott family history. Thank God there were indirect references to Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) and Steve (Kevin Patrick Walls), and the obvious references to Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), Stuart (Matthew Lillard) and Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore). All-in-all, pointless but memorable--it serves its purpose as entertainment, but there's really not much other purpose besides that. Yes, some of filmmaking is about business, but SCRE4M is pretty much all about the money; kind of lame.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Superbly crafted mystery about two detectives, one a veteran (Freeman) one a rookie (Pitt), on the hunt for a serial killer inspired by the seven deadly sins. Isn't dated and is an instant classic. Ermey and Paltrow are well-cast as supporting characters. Scary, thrilling, memorable; but predictability is nearby, and even the climatic twist doesn't appear to be as shocking as intended. Some of the characters' back-story (specifically Freeman's) seems to be overly developed and completely unnecessary to the plot at hand. Still a terrific pulls-no-punches crime-thriller that made David Fincher a recognized director, and rightfully so!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Cult classic comedy based on the series of cartoons MILTON by Mike Judge (creator of BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD, and writer/director of this film) about a handful of people who are fed up with their jobs. Many colorful characters, each of whom bring their own special contribution to this laugh riot (you won't forget Stephen Root or Gary Cole) and is something anyone who has ever held a job can relate to in some form. Terrific soundtrack with contemporary hip hop and rap music that ironically fits perfectly into this story of white-collar folk. A must see!
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Hilarious action-packed black comedy about overachieving London police officer Pegg forced to transfer into the country by jealous superiors who "Simply makes us look bad." When he arrives in Sandford, he notices petty laws continuously being broken and commonly hears the phrase, "The greater good." This all starts to add up when citizens of Sandford begin dying in tragic accidents. Frost is terrific as Pegg's dim-witted partner, and Bill Nighy is perfect in the bit role of the chief inspector. Plenty of laughs, plenty of blood, but perhaps a little too much action during the conclusion (probably a little overlong too). Still a classic in its own right, Pegg/Frost team continues to satisfy, and the film is still hilarious after several viewings. Considine and Spall are equally funny as the cocky moronic detectives.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Raunchy romantic-comedy about pharmaceuticals salesman and player Gyllenhaal who's breath taken by a free-spirited hard-to-get Hathaway (who has been diagnosed with stage one Parkinson's). The two leads have the needed chemistry, but perhaps lack the needed charisma. Azaria, Gad and Platt are the ones that make this date night outing a hoot. Definitely one of the romantic-comedies the men won't dread--appears to be part of a new trend of kinky carefree sex with passionate elements to make viewers of both genders enjoy the show. That's an okay approach, but the interesting storyline is what also makes this Hollywood love-laugh-riot above par.