Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: Documenting the Grey Man (2011)

Director: Wayne Capps
Starring: Patrick Hussion, Kelly Coulter and Jillian Walzer

When you delve into low budget horror movies it’s always a good idea to keep in mind that low budget doesn't equal a bad movie. But it’s still a good guide. Thankfully the found footage genre does allow for lower budget movie to be a lot more effective in the scare department. Take a look at The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. So is there any hope for Documenting the Greyman, a movie that I was rather interested in?

Hell and no. Wow I haven’t seen a movie this bad for a while. Normally I try to find any positives in these reviews, but this movie well and truly craps itself in every single way. The acting is awful and it seems like this might have been a movie that delved in improvisation as I couldn’t find any script writer mentioned on line. Also with the word y’know used constantly throughout the movie either the actors were stymied when trying to create dialogue or the writer wanted to add it to the script for god knows what reason.

But the acting isn’t the only thing that reeks; the pacing of the movie is atrocious. It isn’t till the fifty minute mark that things start happening. Oh and the movie is only one hour long. Yep, everyone is killed in the space of ten minutes and not very visually. Most just drop to the floor killed by an invisible force. It’s that lame. There are some special effects but you’ve seen these in other movies and they aren’t much to write home about.

I think the ultimate insult is the premise. The Greyman is supposed to appear to people and warn them of a coming storm, some even see him as lucky. If all the legends point to this ghost being benevolent then why is it terrorizing this family? Thinking about it shows that there was no real thought given to the movie as it doesn’t make sense and no sense is ever given. Also the characters are absolutely stupid, not leaving when they should have.

Summing it all up, avoid this movie at all costs. It has nothing going for it other than; well nothing really. Do something more productive and watch a science fiction channel original movie.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tree of Life 2: Man of Steel

So with the release of The Dark Knight Rises we also got the release of the new teaser trailer for the new Superman movie, Man of Steel. The teaser trailer actually comes in two flavours. One narrated by Kevin Costner who plays Jonathon Kent and the other is narrated by Russell Crowe who plays Jor-El. Using both father figures talking to Clark is interesting, and I like the duality that they seem to be trying to set up. However there was something about the trailers that worried me slightly and the reason why I’m writing this. But before I continue you can watch the trailers below so we all know what the hell I’m talking about.

Russel Crowe Voice Over

Kevin Costner Voice Over

Okay so are we all done? Good. Now I don’t want to be all fanboy and complain, so let me get all the good things out of the way first. The visuals do look really well shot, the narration seems to be spot on character wise, Superman going supersonic is rather cool, and I have no problem with Henry Cavill in the role of Clark Kent/Superman.

Really after all that it would seem that I should have loved the trailer right? Well no, you see there is something missing from this trailer that really needed to be shown. Action! Superman beating the crap out of things, hurling heavy things at bad guys, hell saving someone would have been good. Sure you could say that this was just a teaser trailer and that they will probably put action in the next one, but come on we need the Superman movie we’ve never really had, and the studio should assure the viewing public that that’s what they are going to get.

While there has been action in the Superman movies, we’ve never really had the type of epic battle that comic readers have been used to. Sure the older movie did the best with the available technology they had at the time. But that excuse can’t be used for the last Superman movie which was so boring, and really lacked an awesome finale. I don’t count picking up an island as awesome.

In my mind the first trailer to be released for this new Superman movie needed to have Supes smack the holy hell out of something. Instead the teaser had an almost Tree of Life feel to it. I swear I thought they were doing a sequel at first. Take a look at some of the screenshots below from Tree of Life, you could have added them to the trailers above and I’m sure no one would have spotted the difference.

Now I still have high hopes for the film, but the smallest of crack has appeared. As a friend pointed out this reeks of Superman Begins, and if this movie is a methodical, thoughtful piece looking at the makings of an icon, then this franchise will be dead in the water. We need a fun, action packed Superman. When people try to get to thoughtful with Superman in the comics bad things often happen. Not always, but it’s definitely the harder road to travel. Plus I think if the Avengers has proven anything, you can still have a well made movie, but it can just be fun for the audiences not much thinking involved.

Two issues from one of those missteps. The Grounded story line was bad.

So that’s my concern, take from it what you will, but I feel better for getting it out there. Hey at least the movie can’t be as bad as Batman and Robin right?

Review: Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

“You'd be proud of me now, mother. All the kids like me.”

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Starring: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford and Lawrence Dane
Writers: John C.W. Saxton, Peter Jobin and Timothy Bond

When I saw that this slasher was released on the year of my birth, I couldn’t help but sit down and watch it. Yeah sometimes it’s that easy to get me to watch a movie. But I always have high hopes for slasher films that centre on celebrations; holiday or other. So does this classic hold up, or is it a pretty crappy birthday present?

Simple set up for this film, Virginia (Melissa Sue Anderson) is about to turn 18 in a few days. But as the days tick down, her friends starting dying off one by one. Does it have to do with car accident she was in that took the life of her mother? Is it one of the many creepy people that seem to be hanging around? Or could it be Old Man Witherby down at the local amusement park? Well maybe not Old Man Witherby cause he doesn’t exist.

While I kind of enjoyed this movie, I think it’s a very acquired taste. This movie is made of red herrings, with many people acting more psychotic than they should. It’s a tad annoying as it’s very obvious what the film makers are trying to do, and it just seems all a tad extreme for the characters. Also while the end leads to a pretty interesting and creepy scene involving the birthday, the reveal is a tad stupid if you start thinking about it too much. But then again these are just the side attractions, most people will come for the more interesting kills. The movie proudly proclaims it's murders are some of the six most bizarre, but I think by now they are a tad dated. Still take a look at the poster above and if this image intrigues you, then maybe the kills are up your alley.

Basically this movie is for the slasher fans and that’s about it. You can have some fun with it, but by all means don’t think about it to seriously. After watching this movie I’m sure of one thing. I don’t want to ever visit the Crawford Academy as everyone is a bunch of loons. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

“Calm down, Doctor! Now's not the time for fear. That comes later.”

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway and Gary Oldman
Writers: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan

Finally the end of the epic Nolan trilogy that everyone’s been waiting for and it’s probably been one of my most anticipated movies as I’ve been hankering for a good movie featuring one of my favourite Batman villains Bane. Probably one of the harder things in taking a look at this movie is separating the movie reviewer from the comic book fan. But I’ll try to be as impartial as possible but I thought I would put that out there.

For a final conclusion to everything that Nolan has been setting up, The Dark Knight Rises delivers big time. Thanks to the careful crafting of the series, the ending feels organic and not pushed. There is also an increase of the stakes that are involved in this movie. The threat that Bane represents is one that constantly weighs on the audiences mind as the thing that could end the Batman. Of course I can’t get any further into the story without giving major things away, but needless to say if you enjoyed the themes of the previous two films, you will enjoy this.

The first two Nolan Batmen movies were packed to the brim with great actors, and Rises doesn’t stray from that formula. Bale is always good as Batman, and it’s interesting to see him without the cowl. In this movie he’s truly a broken man, and we don’t normally get this intimate with Bruce Wayne. As for the newcomers, Tom Hardy brings a primal physicality to the role of Bane. While this isn’t the Bane comic book fans may know, there are enough similarities along with some excellent acting to create a memorable villain. Anne Hathaway is pretty darn good in the movie but she isn’t really given much to do. Catwoman is more of a convenient plot mover than an actual character. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a young idealistic beat cop John Blake. It’s interesting to see a fresh go through the change in Gotham that Bane brings about. A little more time of him on screen might have been appreciated but the run time on this movie is already epic. Everyone else does a good job but there does seem to be a lack of screen time for them.

Nolan really uses Imax to his advantage and this is such a beautiful movie to watch. You get immersed into Gotham, and get an excellent sense of how the city operates. There is also attention to detail that gives little nods to the comics fans will appreciate. On top of the crisp visuals the Hans Zimmer score is excellent and while it works with the other two, there are elements used to create a uniqueness that helps reinforce the themes of this movie. With Nolan’s eye, and Zimmer’s music, they create this epicness and in the final action scene it feels that we are witnessing something that truly lives up to this epicness.

However not is all right with this movie. I hate to be the one to be the party pooper but there is a serious flaw present, and that’s the script. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great movie, but it isn’t as good as The Dark Knight. It might be that there is a little too much in this movie, which is saying something as it’s nearly three hours long. Characters get lost and aren’t given enough time to develop, and the set up for the end is telegraphed. Due to so much happening certain scenes are used to quickly set up things but come off pretty ham fisted. There is also the problem of coincidence. Characters discover things, or do actions that seem very coincidental. Funny thing is if this movie was split into two, more time could have been given not only for development of character, but allow events to occur a little more naturally. Thinking upon it I’m pretty sure The Dark Knight had similar problems, but being a more focused film that wasn’t trying to connect all the dots, this problem wasn’t as obvious.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie is great but when compared to its forbearers, small cracks do appear under the weight of this tale. The Avengers was probably a better put together movie, but then it wasn’t as ambitious as The Dark Knight Rises and that’s saying something. If you like the previous two movies, then you will love this. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the story, and a worthy film to put some time into.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Safe (2012)

“What the hell did you do, kid?”

Director: Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan and Chris Sarandon
Writer: Boaz Yakin

Oh Statham, you could have been someone, could have been a contender, but you keep on heading to C Grade Action Movie town. I remember the days Snatch, and how entranced I was with you. Then Transporter hit and I thought I was seeing the birth of the next big action star. Then bit by bit, with each passing movie he just seemed to get in worse productions, there was some renewed hope with Crank but that was drowned out by other films. Last year I saw three of his movie and they were just horrible. I guess I’m a sucker for punishment because I walked into Safe with some hope.

Out of his recent movies this film started off well enough. There was time taken to establish Statham’s character Luke Wright and the premise of him being a protector to a little girl who is on the run from a crime boss. It all seems to be building up to a huge confrontation between gangs, corrupt cops and Statham’s character.  But then in the third act the plot begins to fall apart and actually after too many twists fizzles away.

I think this is a recurring problem with Statham films, there is potential but the ball is always dropped. He really needs to get picky with his films, or maybe move from action movies and into something a little more dramatic. All I can say is yet again I left a Statham film disappointed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Movie Series Reviews: Leprechaun

Like a determined Minecraft player, the horror genre will always keep digging until it hits pay dirt. It doesn’t matter if it seems all the diamond has been dug up; surely there is more that can be sought after. Thanks to this mentality we’ve had killer snowmen, ice-cream men, ginger bread men, Santa, William Shatner trick or treaters, and my personal favourite Leprechaun’s. By no means a good series I think I was drawn into this franchise thanks to wanting to see Warwick Davis do something other than a Ewok or great magician. There aren’t many roles for small statured people, and it seems Mr Davis is relishing the opportunity to play a horror bad guy.

Mike Myers leprechaun audition didn't go well.
The thing is something had to connect with other horror genre watchers as there are six movies in the franchise. Let me repeat that, this horror franchise has six movies about a killer leprechaun. Now in this Movie Series Review I’m only going to touch on the first four. The final two which take place in ‘da hood’ will be covered eventually but I want to tackle those one on one. Now I’m not calling these movies good, but there is some enjoyment to be had. Especially if you like weird horror genre killers. So let’s travel over the rainbow and visit the world of the Leprechaun.

Leprechaun (1993)

“Burn in hell, you little green bastard!”

Stealing the Leprechaun’s gold is a bad thing to do as like Liam Neeson he will hunt you down and kill you. Unfortunately for pre nose job Jennifer Aniston (Tory) some local handy men Nathan and Ozzie, along with the amusingly adult kid Alex set the Leprechaun free by accident and what’s worse they take his gold. From there its weird deaths and weirder rhymes as our heroes try to survive the wrath of the Leprechaun.

There is something about this movie that I really like, I think it is the fact that Warwick Davis is just having so much fun and you can sense that. The movie idea itself is stupid, and characters pull some bonehead moves when it comes to survival, but at least our main heroes’ aren’t horrid so I was hoping they would survive. Also how can you not be charmed by a man being killed by repeated blows to the chest thanks to a Leprechaun bouncing on a pogo stick?

Leprechaun 2 (1994)

“Scream as you may! Scream as you might! If you try to escape, you'll be dead on this night.”

At the moment my least favourite of the Leprechaun movies, as not only is it pretty boring, but it is the start of the franchises biggest problem. Consistency. First move was all about the Leprechauns gold, but this movie throws in a magic curse centred on the Leprechaun having a bride as well as the gold, and also introducing a wish element that wasn’t really covered in the first. It’s a bit of a mess with the two leads being boring.

Davis is still having fun, but the Leprechauns powers seem a tad under utilized. Though I did laugh at the motor boating kill, and a pretty nasty wish that deserved to be in the Wishmaster series, it was all a little ho hum. Sandy Baron as Morty was actually fun to watch, and his drinking scene with The Leprechaun hinted at the weirdness that this franchise can create, but it was just a blip in a movie that seemed longer than it was.

Leprechaun 3 (1995)

“Ahhh... lovely golden palaces completely full of riches. I'll rip 'em off and rob 'em blind, those dirty sons of bitches.”

Now this is where things really get fun. The Leprechaun finds himself in Las Vegas and while the movie is on a shoe string budget, it fully embraces the weirdness of the premise and I can’t help but loving this sequel. Yet again the Leprechaun mythos get’s changed, so that for every coin you get from the Leprechaun you can have one wish. There are a few other new things introduced but I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Needless to say this movie really shows how mean the Leprechaun can be with the kills getting into really zany territory. Killer robots and all.

Also surprise, surprise the leads are actually decent enough, I liked both Scott (John Gatins) and Tammy (Lee Armstrong) and was hoping that they would manage to overcome the Leprechaun. Davis is given more to do, as he runs around Las Vegas interacting with some of the interesting characters that only Las Vegas can supply, including an Elvis Impersonator. What I also enjoy about this movie is that Scott and the Leprechaun have a lot more interaction with each other, and both actors are having a lot of fun. They play off one another and it held my attention more than the other two.

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

“Your shrieks, my dear, provide a perfect accompaniment to this romantic evening.”

Wow. Just wow. There is an idea within the horror community that once you’ve put your earth based horror creations in space; you’ve given up all hope for the franchise. Well it sure seems that way with this movie. There is some enjoyment to be had with this movie as it’s just completely bat shit insane, but you know that it’s a bad movie and couldn’t ever really recommend it too people unless you put three or five warnings in front of it.

The Leprechaun is now trying to claim a world for himself, and he does this by kidnapping an alien princess and then persuading her to help with kill her own dad. Add to this a group of space marines who’ve come to get the princess to prevent a galaxy wide war, and a mad scientist who wants to use the princesses genetics to rebuild his body, and you have a very mixed up movie. I do get the feeling that this was never a Leprechaun movie to begin with and they just added it in later. Davis is good yet again, but he does seem a little out of it, maybe even he knows how bad the movie is.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: My Soul to Take (2010)

“We're all doomed, Bug. It's the human condition.”

Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Stars: Max Thieriot, John Magaro and Denzel Whitaker

In the midst of the bad acting, CGI blood and shoddy script there is a gem on an idea that is intriguing. For a while I’ve heard about this movie and how bad it is, how it seems to be such a misstep for Craven, but as the movie progressed I couldn’t help but wish I was watching something better. The story deserved better.

What we have is a serial killer with several personalities that dies on the night seven children are born. Cut to sixteen years later the seven children are all grown up, and now one by one they are dying. Is the killer back? Is his soul in one of the children? Why does one of the children seem to a psychic connection with the others? It’s something I haven’t seen before and with the right talent behind it, it could have been something.

Now as much as I liked the central idea the script is terrible. The dialogue is laughable, the characterization is cliché but at the same time doesn’t really make sense, and there is no real respect to any type of development. Characters are killed off in a way that would appear shocking, but because no real time was given to the seven’s interactions the audience shouldn’t really care. The movie also has one of the worst qualities of modern horror films, and that’s having characters that are just utter pricks, bastards and bitches. I couldn’t wait for them to die.

As I stated above, the acting is just a complete waste of time, I don’t think anyone could be called competent let alone good. Maybe the material wasn’t up to scratch and putting all the blame on the actors isn’t fair. But there was just something wrong with everyone. It’s not even the actors just hamming it up too much, there is a lack of consistency between scenes.

Now the style of the movie is at least where things improve, Craven knows his stuff and everything looks slick. There does seem to be a dreary atmosphere over everything, a foreboding presence of bad things to come. However there is one stylistic choice that makes some of the kills laughable. That’s the fake CGI blood. Oh my goodness does it look bad. I’m not sure who did this job but it looks so fake, and would seem more at home in a movie in the 90’s that’s just trying CGI for the first time.

 Horror fans should just skip this movie. Remember the good Craven movies. There is a gem of an idea here but it’s just surrounded by crap. In some ways you could find fun with a large group of friends and a party like atmosphere, but why would you do that to yourself? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: Cyborg (1989)

“He's the First Hero of the 21st Century...And He's Our Only Hope.”

Director: Albert Pyun
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Deborah Richter and Vincent Klyn
Writer: Kitty Chalmers

One thing that I miss about science fiction is the cheesy post apocalyptic movies. Well I think we can all agree that it doesn’t come much cheesier than a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick. It would seem that this is a match made in some form of hell, as I now get both for the low low price of about eighty six minutes of my life. So was it worth it?

You just don’t this type of action movie any more, and for the life of me even after numerous talks with people I just don’t know why. So yes this movie was worth it as I was able to live through an era that I miss a lot. You’ve seen this type of movie before, the world has gone to hell and there is a plague killing people. Bandits control territories and survival is the only thing people can look forward to. In steps a possible cure to the plague, her name is Pearl Prophet (I kid you not) and she is a cyborg. Hunted down by evil pirate leader Fender Tremolo, her only hope comes in the form of hero with tragic past Gibson Rickenbacker.

There are many plot holes in this movie, and if you think too hard you’ll wreck the movie going experience. So clearing your head is the only way to have fun. Mind you I do have some questions. Like if you make a person into a cyborg what not give that cyborg weapons to protect themselves? Why are the bad guys pirates when they have no ship and they seem to stay off water for long periods of time? Who would name their child Pearl Prophet? Not really questions I need to know but I they did stick in my mind.

Most of the acting is pretty standard for a B Grade science fiction movie. Jean-Claude Van Damme is really only there to fight people, most of his characters tortured past is told through flashback. I will give Vincent Klyn some props as the main villain Fender Tremolo. He chews the scenery like nobodies business and was physically imposing so he made for a memorable villain. The freaky looking eyes didn’t hurt either.

This movie is destined for fans of bad science fiction movies, it’s sure to entertain but I think most people will just avoid it. It’s not really worth your time unless you wish to delve into the type of movies that get sold for two dollars at your local cheap retail store.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Science Fiction and the New Comic Wave.

Don’t think it’s going to surprise anyone when I say that I love science fiction. Especially when I was a kid I would scour my local library to try and read all the sci-fi books I could find. However when I think about it, for the last few years there hasn’t been any science fiction that’s really spoken to me for a while. Well that is until this year as there seems to have been a spark of creativity and science fiction is coming back big time, especially in the comic book industry.

Of late creators have been given a lot more leeway to create their own ideas, particularly with the independent comic companies. For some reason some of the ideas have been very science fiction based and I wanted to share some of the titles that I’m reading at the moment and really enjoying. Of course the titles i'll get into are just a sampling, there are heaps more science fiction comics out there. I’m currently reading the Dr Who/Star Trek the Next Generation crossover comic which is great. I’ve also heard great things about the Manhatten Projects, I mean how can you hate a comic series that has an evil Albert Einstein from another universe in it. Hell even at the moment we have a series based on Guillermo del Toro’s novel The Strain which is a vampire comic book series but with a more science fiction bent. Truly it’s a good time to be a science fiction fan. So buckle up, grab your light sabre, and get ready for hyper drive.

Mars Attacks (IDW)

Writer: John Layman
Artist: John McCrea

Okay so this isn’t an original idea but I loved me Mars Attacks when I was a kid. Introduced thanks to the Tim Burton movie, I delved into the back history and just loved the weirdness of the aliens. In my mind this was the science fiction equivalent of the Garbage Pail Kids (man I want some of those stickers). Warped and twisted I had high hopes for issue number one.

Thankfully the first issue was both reverent of the Mars Attacks origins while weaving a story that is both interesting, full of action and tongue fully in cheek. I really hope the series continues with this tone, as it’s always nice to see something familiar translating well to a more modern time

The Massive (Dark Horse)

Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Kristian Donaldson

Brian Wood impressed me with his ongoing series DMZ. In that he manages to take the premise of a second civil war in America; an idea that could of gone over the top; and keep it grounded on the street level with a heavy focus on characters and what impact the events have on them. So when I heard he was writing a story about the end of the world I was intrigued.

Science Fiction in the sub genre of post apocalyptic wasteland, the earth has had a bad year, with Mother Nature seeming intent on wiping out humanity with various disasters. In the midst of this are some environmentalists who are trying to find their ship The Massive which has mysteriously disappeared when everything went to hell. It’s an interesting premise of having an environmentalist facing the end of the world, something that he’s fought to protect for most of his life.

Planetoid (Image)

Writer: Ken Garing
Artist: Ken Garing

A web comic that impressed Image so much that it got picked up by the publisher. What’s more, it being a comic that Garing both writes and draws, there is a cohesion that is little seen in most comics. It also helps that the story uses a classic science fiction plot device. Basically an ex soldier crash lands on an alien planet that seems to be over run with mechanical monstrosities, not to mention an alien force that wants him dead.

It’s a survival story that I’ve seen a few times and every time I’ve loved it. While a little different it does make me remember the movie Enemy Mine which did have a lot of focus on surviving on a hostile planet. While the first issue creates an air of mystery about the planet, it’s easy to see that Garing has great things planned for the future of the story. I should also mention it’s a very pretty book and well worth your time picking up.

Saga (Image)

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples

Basically I’ve saved the best till last because in every way Saga is a thing of beauty. Brian K Vaughn captured my attention during his story Y the Last Man, then he left for the bright lights to help with movies and television. Now he has returned and proven that he hasn’t lost any of his skill. Saga is an epic story that shows a universe at war, and yet in the middle of all this is a simple story of love and family slowly developing. Narrated by the child of our main hero’s Alana and Marko, there is a deftness of writing that really shows the power of Vaughn. Each issue so far has been loaded with information and world building but not once does it feel like we are being hit over the head with exposition. The world is also a very weird one with organic robots, ghost children, magic and high calibre science, and yet the story is grounded thanks to the little character touches.

But Vaughn is only half of the package as Fiona Staples has truly captured the universe in her art and from issue to issue I’m amazed with the creative designs she comes up with. It has been reported that Vaughn let Staples create a lot of the universe and some of the weirder aspects are from her head. Thankfully she just has a wonderful style that is clear in execution, yet fluid and natural that it never feels over produced. Kind of like the universe Saga exists in, the art is one of polar opposites.

Saga is science fiction that I haven’t seen in ages, truly imaginative and yet with an epic story that reminds us of some of the classics. Take Star Wars, through in some Romeo and Juliet and you get close to what Saga is. If you are at all a science fiction fan and disregard my previous titles, please don’t pass up on Saga as it’s fantastic.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

“Thirty-eight of New York's finest, versus one guy in a unitard.”

Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves

When I first heard about this reboot I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I wasn’t too sure why we needed another origin story, but that’s a comic fan boy gripe. Spider-Man 1 and 2 are pretty good super hero movie in my opinion and I didn’t have a problem with Kirsten Dunst and Toby McGuire. Even the third Spider-Man is a movie that I can enjoy, sure it has problems but I at least enjoy the villains in it.

It would seem that this movie had a big battle ahead of it, but when the end credits rolled I knew that despite having a few nitpicks this was my favourite out of the four Spider-Man movies. Most of the credit has to go to the cast who just seem perfect for the respective roles. But lets crack this movie open and see what really makes it tick.

Story wise we have the origin story and at least they’ve tried a few different things. Starting with the parents and concentrating on Gwen Stacy as the love interest instead of Mary Jane. There is enough here to be its own movie, and yet still similar as to not alienate fans. Interestingly I like the take on Parker in this movie as an outsider rather than a nerdish loser, its closer to the comics in my opinion and make his journey to being Spider-Man less about living out a fantasy and more emphasis on the tragedy of his origins. Where things tend to fall apart is that this movie is obviously setting up a trilogy, so things are brought up but there isn’t a lot of pay off.

Looking back on a finished trilogy things might shine in a more positive light, but as of the moment there were too many things I wanted answered that just didn’t satisfy me. Also being an origin story there is a big focus on Parker and Gwen Stacy which is good, but Curt Conners/Lizard gets pushed into the background which does hurt our understanding of his motivations. One thing that is great is while there are still comedic beats, this movie takes things a little more seriously and I never realised how cheesy the Raimi movies were until I watched this. So yes there are problems with the story, but people will still find things to enjoy.

Acting wise this movie is just right. Andrew Garfield just gets Parker perfectly, he’s a shy loner when out of the suit, but when Spider-Man he’s the smart ass hero we all love. Emma Stone is hands down everything you could have hoped for in Gwen Stacy. Both Stone and Garfield have a real chemistry, and in retrospect what they accomplish really shows how bad McGuire and Dunst were. I’ve defended Dunst a lot in conversations with people, but Emma Stone just has an energy that Dunst couldn’t hope to have. Rhys Ifans reminds me of the incredible work Molina did in the second movie. A sympathetic villain that the audience wishes would see the error of his ways, however in this case Ifans as the Lizard never really reaches the same heights as Molina’s Dr Octopus. This would have more to do with the script as he could have been given so much more to do. Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben also does an incredible job and even though I now where this was all heading I was still upset at his timely demise. Not once in this movie did I think an actor was doing a horrible job.

Visually the movie was excellent, and I swear they used a lot more practical stunt scenes than the previous movies. If this isn’t the case then that’s just a tick for the CGI as sometimes I couldn’t tell the difference. While the stylistic choices of Raimi were missed, Webb did a competent enough job. I wish he got a little more creative with his visuals but playing it safe for this reboot was probably on everyone’s mind. The two biggest problems I had with the visuals was the design for the Lizard. It just didn’t work for me but that’s more of personal taste. The other was the 3D, it was pretty good but there just didn’t seem to be a point. When I originally saw the trailer I was blown away by the first person wall crawling scene in 3D. I was looking forward to this type of thing in the movie. Not only didn’t we get hardly any of this type of thing, but the scene from the trailer was cut so it was half as long. For shame. Don’t tease me with an awesome idea and then don’t deliver it.

This is a big year for comic book movies and so far we’ve been given two excellent movies. I still think The Avengers is the better movie but there is a lot to enjoy with Amazing Spider-Man. If you’re after a good comic book movie then this as to be on your must watch list, however you could probably skip the 3D and save yourself some money.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: Cabin in the Woods (2012)

“He's got a husband bulge.”

Director: Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison
Writers: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

As the prophecy foretold, I’ve finally been able to catch this movie. Since seeing the trailer I was really excited by this horror movie written by nerd god Joss Whedon. However tragedy occurred when it was announced that Australia was not to get any release what so ever. Thankfully the community cried out and we finally got a very limited release. So how does this movie all work out in the end?

Well absolutely fantastically. This movie successfully deconstructs the horror genre while still being a horror movie. Not since Scream have I seen such an endeavour done so competently, and it was a joy to watch and I’m sure I’ll be mentioning this movie again come end of the year and the inevitable top ten list.

Now while I would love to get into the plot, doing so is probably doing a disservice. At the time when it looked like Australia wouldn’t get a release, I did go ahead and read about story. While this didn’t ruin the movie at all, there would be a certain joy of discovery to be had for those very unfamiliar with this movie. But to sum things up very basically and spoiler free, five teenagers go to a cabin in the woods and very bad things happen.

All the actors in this movie are pretty strong, with highlights for me coming from Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz. To get into the exact details of the characters is yet again fraught with spoiling some of the surprises. Most characters aren’t filled with depth, but that isn’t really necessary for a film like this. Drew and Joss’s writing really comes to the fore thankfully in establishing the characters quickly, and getting into the meat of the story. If you are a fan of Whedon’s characters in his previous work you should dig the hell out of what we’ve got here.

Drew Goddard brings a very fun style to this movie, it’s both reverent of past horror movies while being a brilliant modernisation of a tale we’ve seen plenty of times. Also while the story might seem basic, Goddard has layered in a lot of detail in the background to enrich the story. Along with a great handle on the creepiness that can be derived from horror in general, there is a great visual design to some of the horror’s that are unleashed on the screen.

If there is one thing that I didn’t like, it was the ending. Of course I can’t get into it, and this is more of a nitpick, but I just don’t think it was as satisfying as it could be considering the ride. Now I have no problem the general direction or tone, but there was just something that kind of made me go, “oh is that it.” I just also stress this is in reference to the final minute, so it is the smallest of problems a person can have.

For both horror and Whedon fan’s this movie is a must. There is a smart movie at the core and a wonderful horror movie on the surface. It’s one of those movies that I really had a great time watching, and now I can’t wait till it comes out on Blu Ray.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: Stan Helsing (2009)

“I think now it would be a great time for a reverse POV.”

Director: Bo Zenga
Starring: Steve Howey, Diora Baird and Kenan Thompson
Writer: Bo Zenga

You broke my heart Stan Helsing, now I break you (put’s his Dolph Lundgren mask on). Normally I hate the current lot of parody movies. If you are a regular reader you may remember I tried to watch four movie movie’s in a row and could only get through one and a quarter. But with Stan Helsing I was willing to give it a try because of one man. Kenan Thompson. I like him in SNL but he couldn’t save this movie for me, nothing could.

At first I was actually positive on the movie, it was a bit slow but a lot of the parody jokes were helping move the story along. Also it was sticking with the horror movie tropes, and not just pointlessly adding in other movies for the sake of it. Many of the references were in the background and weren’t given that much attention. However I got a little nervous when the ‘villains’ popped up.

Now they were supposed to be representations of the great horror icons but I understood some changes had to be made so the movie didn’t get sued. However the changes were puzzling. The pinhead character had syringes in his head (okay I can live with that) and lollipops (what?) among other assorted things. The Freddy rip off had a swiss army knife glove that had a corkscrew and lipstick (funny I guess), And so it continues. I’m not sure what they were trying to accomplish as while I understand it’s a comedy, the appearances were just ridiculous and in my opinion not that funny. Still this is character design, I was still liking the beginning right?

Well yes, as I said above it was a bit slow but I was willing to give the movie some slack as a lot of horror movies have slow beginnings, just to have an awesome ending. Yet the movie really didn’t go anywhere. There was a plot, but there was just no flow. Just when it seemed like things would ramp up, a joke would be made, then nothing. It was incredibly sad, and in some ways worse than Epic Movie and films like it. Sure enough the ending is pretty damn pathetic and was such a let down.

Even the actors couldn’t salvage much from it. Kenan was just shoved into a boring role that gave him nothing to work with, Steve Howey as Stan Helsing just seems bored of the movie. Worst is the villains really don’t ham things up enough. The only shining light was Desi Lydic as Mia, the token dumb character who also happens to be very loose with her virtues. She seems to be having a lot of fun with this movie, and really takes every opportunity to ham things up. Truly was enjoyable and I wish this was her story.

When I go into parody movies, I go in waiting to be disappointed. Gone are the days of Airplane, Hot Shots and Not Another Teen Movie. However in Stan Helsing I was given hope in the beginning, which made the end result that much more disappointing. Honestly just skip this movie as it will give you nothing, and pretty much just waste your time.

This was Kenan's reaction, when he found out
he had to film this movie.

Review: Despicable Me (2011)

“That book was accidentally destroyed maliciously.”

Directors: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Russell Brand
Writers: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

I think Pixar has had a lasting effect on the current crop of animated movies. With the likes of Monsters Inc, The Incredibles and other Pixar greats, the bar was really set high, and while the Shreks of the world could be funny they just didn’t have the heart. Despicable Me is one of those films that is stepping up to the plate and trying to tickle the funny bone, as well as have a meaningful story.

Despicable Me is about an evil genius called Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) who wants to be the number one villain, however he has a young brash new villain Vector (voiced by Jason Segel) to take care of. His plan involves using three orphan girls to help him sneak into Vector’s fortress. However as time passes and he starts to bond with the girls, his plans to be the best villain in the world are called into question. It’s a great story that allows it to both make fun of the superhero/villain style of movies, but have a very touching story that doesn’t wallop you over the head with any message.

The voice acting is all top notch and isn’t just shamelessly cashing in on the stars. Each actor is able to create a strong character. Steve Carell is perfect as Gru, the voice he employs is funny as hell and yet he can bring the humanity forth, even with his over the top accent. Jason Segal also plays Vector perfectly, I wanted to slap him several times. I’m pretty sure that was the point.

I have to mention the Minions in this movie who are so damn cute. I want minions of my own and I’m pretty sure parents will be asked by kids if they can get them some. The design, the voice acting, and the various comedic scenes they are put in are very memorable. Dance numbers are just fantastic. They really are the highlight of this movie.

Kids will love this movie and so will the parents. Funny as hell but beating with a heart warming story, it’s a welcome addition to any animation collection. So parents get out there, and get this movie. Just be prepared to buy a dozen or so stuffed minion toys.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Review: Friends with Benefits (2011)

“Shut up, Katherine Heigl, you stupid, little liar!”

Director: Will Gluck
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake and Patricia Clarkson
Writers: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and Will Gluck

Oh Hollywood, you seem to love the idea of friends with benefits at the moment. Many jokes and movies have been made around it; it seems to be the go to idea for romantic comedies. So with a little trepidation I watched this movie, expecting to get a chunk of cliché with tired inevitable results. Yet the movie starts off with characters complaining about romantic clichés, and hating how things are represented in the movies. Could these be a romantic comedy I can stand?

Well that’s a little complicated, there were plenty of parts in the movie that I did enjoy. The script does have interesting observations on romantic comedies, and it tries to be as original as possible. However the end of the movie slips into the clichéd ways of the movies it just made fun of. So how much credit can we actually give the movie? Is it trying to say that the clichés are a common factor in everyday life and no matter how hard we try we will fall into these clichés? Well I would say this movie wants to make you think, but it’s too light and breezy for that. In the end it seems like they had half of an original idea and didn’t now how to really right a sufficient ending for what they wanted to accomplish.

But despite the problems with the story, there is no denying that Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are great in their roles, and both have a chemistry together that is perfect for this film. Timberlake further impresses me with his comedic timing, and seems to be a man who is talented in many different arenas. Mila Kunis is also great, but I do wish she would do more movies like Black Swan. She just seems wasted in all these romantic comedies. Other than these two most of the actors fade from memory pretty quickly. There are some quick funny parts from Emma Stone and Andy Samberg, and Jenna Elfman isn’t too bad.

If you’re looking for a romantic comedy that’s easy to watch and has some elements you haven’t seen a million times, then you can give this a go. The central performances are sure to please, and the jokes hit more than miss. Yet I can’t help but feel this movie was on to something and then just misses the mark. 

Review: Unstoppable (2010)

“This ain't training. In training they just give you an F. Out here you get killed.”

Director: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson
Writer: Mark Bomback

There is a certain mindset you really need to have when you watch this movie. Action, drama, everything is heightened to a ridiculous level and it can be a fun ride if you just don’t think about it too much. While based on a true story, I’m sure there were some embellishments added to create a little more spark.

My main concern with the movie was Tony Scott; the man doesn’t seem to know the word subtlety. Everything always seems over done and Domino, another film based on a true story was a mess of a movie, with an interesting plot destroyed by embellishments. Thankfully it seems that Tony Scott has reigned himself in as much as he can, so it never goes too over the top.

Denzel Washington is always dependable, this role is not really a stretch for him but he knows exactly what to do. Denzel’s chemistry with Chris Pine is good, and Mr Pine shows that he isn’t just Kirk, but capable of more dramatic roles, mind you this movie doesn’t push him too far. Rosario Dawson is a little wasted in her role, but it’s always nice to see her in a movie as she’s good at what she does.

You shouldn’t fool yourself into thinking you’re getting the truth; instead just enjoy the fun ride. Chances are you’ll forget the movie after a while as it’s never going to be a movie that engrains itself into people’s brains, but I doubt you’ll have a bad experience.