Carrie (2013) |Review

Sitting through this film was extremely hard. I seriously considered walking out the theater during this abomination but taking into account the ridiculous movie prices nowadays, I decided to sit it out for the  giggles.  This was seriously a movie that shouldn’t have been made.  With so many things wrong with this film, I think I’ll start first with the couple positives of the movie,  then go from there.

Julianne Moore plays the part of the religious and abusive mother of Carrie. Her representation of the devout and somewhat psychotic nature of Margaret White was disturbing and pretty much on par from what I expected from this Stephen King character.  The scenes of self mutilation were particularly disturbing,  Gabriella Wilde actually surprised me in her portrayal of Sue Snell. She didn’t have much dialogue in the film but her character actually did evoke some sympathy from me.

Stephen King said something along the lines of “why remake the film, when the original was so good?”. Why can’t Hollywood let good films and franchises die? This film didn’t add anything  substantial to the previous movie. What we do get is a performance from Chloe Moretz that is overacted and downright awkward. Yeah, shes supposed to be the kid that everyone hates but I haven’t watched a film and shook my head in embarrassment this much, since the first G.I Joe movie released.

The use of special effects was distracting to the story. The flashy Hollywood effects were decidedly unimpressive and pretty much ridiculous at times. It’s sad that the people who made this film focused so much on transforming Carrie into something that the masses could relate to.  More work should have been done on the casting and cinematography.

The direction of the film was pretty sloppy. Portions of the film just fall flat. Queue scenes of Carrie at the library watching a boy type at impossible speeds on a computer. Additions of modern day bullying and technology appear to be an after thought.  Even after everything that happened to her, the buildup to the finale was somewhat of a let down. While watching, I felt  that somehow she was overreacting to the whole situation.

All of this is from a woman who directed Boys Don’t Cry. I’m  pretty much dumbfound at her work here. She managed to take the beloved and tortured character, Carrie, and somehow make her motives seem flawed. I went into the film with a neutral state of mind and left somewhat irritable but mostly disappointed.  All things considered it could have been worse. Lindsay Lohan was actually considered for the role at one point…

Score: 3/10 – You’ll Cringe… for all the wrong reasons.

Spring Breakers| Review

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Just from the opening scene of Spring Breakers, I had this feeling that I would be watching a over sexualized teen-college film. I wasn’t entirely wrong. While the movie had some redeeming quality and acting moments,  the story wasn’t substantial enough for me to take seriously.  If I have to give this movie anything, it had some really visually stunning colors and of course plenty of eye candy to go around.

The cast of the movie includes four beautiful ladies(Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Corine) with a surprise role from James Franco as rapper and gangster.  The premise of the movie is a group of young girls head out on a journey of self-discovery and find themselves thrown into a world of crime and luxury. As the story unfolds, you are revealed how each of the girls deal with immersing in this new life. Selena Gomez perhaps played the best role out of the girls. That not being much of a compliment, considering…

But the girls all played their roles pretty good. If they were aiming to be superficial promiscuous Americans  than they hit the part right on the head. Ala- Some of these scenes were a bit cringe worthy, it seems they were aiming to teach some type of lesson from the mindless parties. I have a feeling some people will just find half this movie to be an overload to the senses.

I actually feel bad for James Franco. I was hoping to see him in some more serious roles that would broaden his acting spectrum. But not this one.., His portray of rapper and gangsta was actually enjoyable to watch. He brought some charisma even through his evil nature. Which made you kind of confused of how to react to his manipulation of the girls. He took on the role like a champ but even that  wasn’t enought to be the saving grace for this film.

The last strike for this movie would have to be the ending which was too ludicrous to appreciate. And that brings me to my review score of

6/10.

Elysium: Review

The last summer blockbuster has arrived in Elysium. District 9 director and writer, Neill Blomkamp ‘s continued run in the sci-fi genre provides an enjoyable experience. The setting of the story, is 2154 on a severely over-populated and diseased world. The rich and powerful abandon earth for an man-made utopia named Elysium. Elysium entertains with visceral action sequences and a futuristic and unique story that keeps you on your toes.

Matt Damon who portrays the main character of the film, delivers another good performance in his role as Max Da Costa; a man with nothing to lose. Matt Damon is no rookie to action films. He is widely known for his tough bad boy persona in his roles in the Bourne films. He trained four hours a day to get physically and aesthetically equipped for the film. He certainly shows that he isn’t out of practice in the art of asskickery. The weakest performance in the film came from Wagner Moura who played Spyder; a human smuggler who takes people to Elysium. It wasn’t that he had bad acting necessarily but there was an apparent and jarring language barrier. Just seemed sort of forced and a better option probably would have been to to have him speak his native portuguese/spanish tongue especially considering that Max actually had an Hispanic ethnicity.

The highlight of the film came from Sharlto Copley who plays the vicious and psychotic character C.M Kruger. Copley gives a powerful performance and steals the spotlight from the rest of the veteran cast. Even the cold and calculating Jodie Foster, who plays the secretary of defense of Elysium, doesn’t stand a chance to his ruthless and unhinged personality. He takes command of his role and puts a choke-hold on every scene he is in. Even though he is a mercenary who gets paid for his job he he takes pleasure in it all. Neill Blomkamp might be one of the only people in the film industry to acknowledge his talent so far, but that’s sure to change.

The dense over populated and dirty sprawls of Earth are visually stunning. Wide angle shots of the swarming city of Los Angeles on Earth offer a stark contrast to the perfect and clean-cut nature of Elysium. The use of handycam is present in the film but it doesn’t distract me as much as it did in District 9 . The security/surveillance drones are masterfully crafted and have a sense of realism to them. Their design balances just the right amount of finesse, stiffness, and weight to be believable. The highlight from the cinematography and VFX team had to come from the combat and weaponry of the film. It was a truly a blast to watch the way some of the guns and gadgets worked.

The plot and setting of story takes a look at the hardships of a possible future without proper medical care. This system only affords the wealthy and those with influence. Neill Blomkamp was quoted saying that this story was not an alternate future but it was actually a look at the present. Though the story was probably a bit more action oriented then District 9 its still offers some room for thought even if isn’t as deep as his previous work. All in all it was thoroughly entertaining. It’s the one of the best sci-fi films of the year and I recommend it.

The Place Beyond The Pines: Review

The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie about the decisions you make and how they may have far reaching implications. The story encompasses the lives of several characters . Derek Cianfrance’s most ambitious film has arrived and he is proving himself to be quite the filmmaker. Derek applies the same intimate approach to this film as he did with Blue Valentine and expands it into a Babel of crime dramas in a sense.

As if the screaming masses needed another reason to watch a film starring the actor/musician/ entertainment connoisseur Ryan Gosling. It’s becoming abundantly clear that he is not just a fad. He is a legitimately good actor and he shows it film after film; this time being no different. Gosling plays a somewhat famous motorcycle stuntman turned bank robber, Luke Glanton. His outlook on life changes in an instant when he learns of a son that was kept away from him byhis ex. Ryan’s character is easy to sympathize with. We get a performance we have come to expect from Gosling. Gosling is easy to sympathize with even though his actions may be flawed, we still feel as though they are justified.

Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross; a police officer who finds himself doubting his decisions and full of remorse. Cooper who has received his first nod at the Academy Awards for his work in Silver Linings Playbook is showing that he can portray characters with more depth then he is usually associated with. Eva Mendez has a notable performance as the conflicted mother of the infamous bank robber/stuntman. If you just watch her films in anticipation of the inevitable semi nude scenes, most of the time you won’t be disappointed. You won’t be getting We Own the Night levels of eroticism but we do get one particular scene with some intense shirt nipple. Fortunately, for the most part her character is too broken to be viewed as eye candy. She shows that she is more than just a pretty face

The segment of the plot with the most impact in my opinion came from the examination of Dane DeHaan who played Luke Glanton’s son and Emory Cohen who portrayed Avery’s son. Everything that transpired weighed on their characters if they knew it or not. Emory Cohen in particular had a very good performance. The young actor portrays a misunderstood kid who has fallen into a culture of drugs and partying with great effect. Even with all the slang and cool kid vernacular being thrown around it still felt genuine and natural.

>The film has an ensemble cast with strong performances, the choices that were made become theirlegacy. The film has some great cinematography. The film also sports a compelling score that surprised me. The only downside that I can think of is the somewhat erratic pacing of the last 2/3 or half of the movie. The film was essentially a three part story/epic. It would have been interesting to see some of aspects of the story being more explored. Through and through I was satisfied and I recommend it! I’m looking forward to more of Cianfrance’s work.

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Pacific Rim Review

Guillermo del Toro’s robot vs. monster blockbuster crashed into theaters this weekend. Toro is known for a variety of of films, ranging from animated family movies, to horror, and fantasy. It’s really interesting that he can have his hands on such varied material. One year he is directing Hellboy, the next Pans Labyrinth. His offering to theater goers this summer from his latest film delivers for mech and science fiction fans.

A portal in the bottom of the pacific ocean opens and giant monsters (Kaiju) emerge and wreak havoc on mankind. The world truly comes together for the first time to combat the invaders. The world’s most talented engineers and minds collaborate to invent colossal human shaped mechs. These mechs are controlled by humans in real time. To alleviate the mental strain of this connection to the Jaeger, two pilots sync their minds together and share the load.

The story is cheerful and generally upbeat. The film goer is presented with some amazing action sequences and fights. I didn’t watch the film in 3-D but I was thoroughly entertained by the action. It was fast but not too fast that I couldn’t keep up with it. Plot and character developments come at a generally acceptable pace. The story never becomes too gloomy or have too many highs or lows.

The visual aspect of this film was one of its highlights. The movie felt grounded despite it’s large use of computer generated imagery. The backdrops never felt too green-screeny and there were actually some very cool sets. The ambient lighting in Hong Kong in particular was superb.

Idris Elba brought some good acting to the film in a role he is becoming known for; The Zen-Master like authority figure/leader. And we get his british voice –a nice change from the norm. Some of the comedic relief from Charlie Day(Always Sunny in Philadelphia) seems a bit too much at times but it works in most cases. The best performance in my opinon came from Rinko Kikuchi. Her character Mako is quirky, shy, demanding, and full of vengeance;all at once. How she pulls it off?, I’m not so sure but its really entertaining to see her interact with the other cast members. And of course we get a cameo from Ron Pearlman as a black market vendor for Kaiju parts— a sort of signature addition to the cast from Guillermo del Toro, that got plenty of laughs from his fans.The dialogue of the characters wasn’t revolutionary or exceptional in anyway but it was just so fun to let go and watch the story unfold.

In many ways this experience felt like I was watching a live action anime movie. The inner geek in me took hold. Mechs? Check. Monsters? Check. Akward romances? Check. Bizarre and at times stereotypical personalities? Check. The film was exciting and managed to keep me entertained for 2+ hours. Go to see it. It’s surprisingly satisfying and has the potential to be del Toro’s new big franchise.

Review: The Purge

The year is 2022 and unemployment and crime is virtually gone. This is achieved by an event called The Purge. For one night a year all crime is legal. A fantastic premise for a horror movie in a stagnating genre. The film stars Ethan Hawke  an actor who is having a bit of resurgence especially in this genre.  He is the highlight of the film when it comes to the acting with Lena Headey(Cersei Game of Thrones) coming in a close second. Their family in the film are trapped in the house on the day of The Purge.  After their son feels sympathy and lets a man looking for refuge into their home, a group of hunters vow to break in if they do not release him.

The setting of the film is unique. A possible sci-fi like future where the poor are seemingly eradicated because they do not have the means to protect themselves. It’s a good thing this film skates over the socioeconomical implications of the Purge. It probably would have somehow led to a race fueled controversy. It’s an interesting topic and it certainly caused me to debate what would happen to my neighborhood if that did happen.

Some of the dialogue from the leader of the hunters was jarringly flat. Maybe he should have just kept his mask on for a creepier effect. It felt very forced at times. The actual events that transpired after  him  and his lackeys breached the house were very satisfying. The film did have to suffer from the typical horror tropes. We have the usual heads peeping out at the edge of screens in the background, clumsily falling in chase scenes, hiding under beds, sneaking around in the dark, and the suspense even hits a rock bottom low when an extremely predictable kid hiding in the dark behind an object in the basement forgets his flashlight is shining out of his hiding spot.

There’s a reason I usually don’t watch horror/thriller movies by myself. Horror movies generally just don’t work.  They are usually way to similar and all follow the same formulaic plots and devices. Yet we still go to watch them with friends. There’s something about that horror movie audience atmosphere that is just special. There’s nothing particularly good about the movie The Purge but its still fun to watch. That’s pretty much all that matters for horror movies. I generally don’t go into horror films with high expectations.  If you file this under a category I like to refer to as popcorn flick then you’ll be fine. It’s mindless fun. A film you go to watch and laugh at, especially at the moments that are suppose to be serious.

‘Life of Pi’ Review

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Once in awhile a movie comes along and makes me appreciate cinema again. I usually don’t give into or condone the purchasing of 3-D tickets, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, it actually makes the film better. The movie is given a sense of depth and clarity with its incorporation. Cheap 3-D effects. that we usually get in blockbusters nowadays aren’t used. Its inclusion is used simply as a tool to immerse the viewer into the world. From the very opening of the movie, your eyes are greeted with mesmerizing and lush imagery.  The film should most certainly be receiving some nods for visual effects at the upcoming Oscars. For its visuals alone, the film, set itself apart from the competition and it doesn’t hurt that it contains a magical and awe inspiring script to boot.

The film was adapted from a short story by Yann Martel. It covers the remarkable and spiritual story of survival of an of an Indian boy named Piscine Patel. Pi  is castaway at sea and is forced to live on a small life boat with a Bengal Tiger. The film covers religious themes but in such away that it isn’t agitating or forcing its way on the viewer. Just as Pi seeks out different religions; the viewer is given the chance to explore them as well. I would say that these themes are actually more about Pi  being given choice, as well as, giving the film watcher a wider perspective on the subject.

The film was amazingly casted and filled by a remarkable set of international actors. One of the only faults I found in movie was the decision to have Rafe Spall play the reporter. He had some pretty flat reactions to some of the more emotional scenes in the film. The decision to have Tobey Maguire removed from the role was probably for the best. He was replaced due to his image being too much related to Spider-Man. Yet, I still wonder what he could have brought to the table.  After seeing him receive a nomination for best actor in a motion picture drama for his performance in ‘Brothers’.  He definitely has shown, in my opinion, that he is willing to prove he can play more diverse characters then what has come to be expected of him.

Ang  Lee truly found a needle in a haystack. The leading role of the film is played by Surah Sharma. Not only is this Sharma’s first role in a major film but Sharma has no previous acting experience before this. Ang Lee chose him over about three thousand other candidates, for mostly his looks, but Sharma has provided a great performance for his Hollywood debut.

The real praise, however, should go to the visual effects team at  Rhythm and Hues Studios for creating one of the most believable and life-life characters ever to be brought to life; Richard Parker. Your given the opportunity to forgot that he is fictional. Even the slightest movements of Richard Parker contain subtleties that give the beast personality. The most unexpected and unique bond is brought to life on screen between Richard Parker and Pi. With all the hard work put into Richard Parker; we are actually inclined to believe that all of this. somehow might be possible.

The movie follows a pretty basic formula. Pi’s childhood is explored, he is given a romantic interest, and an obstacle he must overcome. He overcomes his obstacle but there is no definitive moment of catharsis for his character. Instead we are given an enigmatic ending  that is neither happy or sad. The moviegoer gets to decide for himself what they want to believe. This idea of story telling is very powerful and I want to praise Ang Lee for his courage in taking this film on that route of imaginative narrative. You aren’t just simply watching the movie. You have created a relationship with the author of the story. You are required to come into understanding on the material presented to you on your own accord.

Life of Pi pulls you in, breaks your heart, and leaves you to decide how to put all the pieces of the story’s puzzle back together again.

Review Score: 9.5/10 (Beautiful Film)