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Joker (2019)
7/10
Kind of a letdown....
5 October 2019
The reviews here are making this film out to be far better than it actually is. Don't get me wrong, technically, it is extremely well done and Phoenix's performance is really quite extraordinary (he is definitely looking at an Oscar nomination), but despite excellent writing, acting and direction....

....the film is kinda boring.

It had its moments, and, sure, it has some very disturbing elements but....If I had a watch, I would have looked at it many times as what this film lacks is...excitement.

The final act is most excellent, but it felt like it took forever to get to it.
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2/10
A completely pointless waste of time
20 June 2017
As a true cinephile, I go to the movies about twice a week, never mind the countless films I watch at home.

I can say, without a doubt or an hesitation, that I cannot begin to understand how anyone is giving this film a favourable review.

I will not give anything away, but first off, this is not, in any way, a "horror" film by any stretch of the imagination. Its slow, meandering (and quite frankly, boring) story continually hints at something bigger.

That something that never actually comes. Leaving you thinking "WTF" when the credits roll.

And they your eyes will.

Honestly, this is a drama that ultimately has no real direction and no point in which nothing actually "happens." It's just a slice of life of a group of people dealing with a deadly virus with no deeper meaning to convey.

So really, don't waste your time. ESPECIALLY if you want a horror film. The only thing horrific about this film is the film itself.
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Crimson Peak (2015)
3/10
Del Toro's officially on a roll...of failure.
16 October 2015
Del Toro officially loses any and all confidence I had in him as a director as he managed to follow up the disastrous "Pacific Rim," easily one of 2013's worst movies, with yet another epic failure.

Even beautiful costumes and Charlie Hunman cannot save how ridiculous this film is.

Not scary in even the most remote sense of the word, no logic in the production design, no real logic in the narrative. Just scene after scene of eye-rolling...and thinking "Doesn't she feel she needs a sweater?" No, it's not a horror film in the least, but it is most certainly horrific.
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Chappie (2015)
1/10
Catering to the lowest common denominator
7 March 2015
Disastrous. Juvenile. Insulting.

Three words that perfectly describe the latest offering from Neill Blomkamp, three words that would not have been expected to describe a film directed by this man.

Blomkamp is best known for the absolutely brilliant "District 9," a reflection on apartheid, but also responsible for the almost equally fascinating "Elysium," which was a sci-fi look at the ongoing 1% debate.

So, expectations for his third feature, "Chappie," were understandably considerably high.

However, the expectations are sadly unfounded as this film does not even remotely live up to expectation. In fact, it doesn't live up to anything. At all.

In short, "Chappie" is the story of a "broken" robot from a fleet of robot police now protecting Johannesburg, which gets rebooted by fully self-sufficient artificial intelligence installed by the developer of the police robots, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire"). Having been "kidnapped" by a ridiculous gang of wannabe "gangstas," played absolutely horrifically by members of South African rap group Die Antwoord (Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser), with absolutely no acting ability whatsoever, Chappie, which needs to learn from scratch like a baby, is "raised" by these bumbling idiots to help them pull off a huge heist.

After screwing up a drug deal for Hippo, one of the few worthwhile characters in the film played with brilliant, anarchic, shirtless hotness by Brandon Auret, Ninja and Yolandi owe him $20 million. And they have a week to get it to him.

And thus, this film then wants you to believe, without actually showing you how it is actually accomplished, that this robot named Chappie, in the hands of idiotic, failed gangsters and with limited input from the wasted Dev Patel, could go from zero and baby-like to an almost full-fledged, heist-worthy "adult"…in about a week. Because "gangstas" would have time for this.

All the while, teaching him to "act gangsta," making the film a complete joke while practically verging on racist gansgta clichés…diving head first into a pool of utter ridiculousness.

With its amateur soundtrack, its "gangsta" stupidity, its horrific acting, complete lack of logical narrative and deflection of all its shortcomings through the use of explosions, this film truly caters to the absolute lowest common denominator.

In fact, it expects its audience to be so truly uneducated, when Hippo speaks, the film features English subtitles. Um, Hippo speaks English.

This film was so dumb, and assumed its audience would be so uneducated, they put English subtitles under a guy speaking English. The film, in all its stupidity, actually manages to directly insult the intelligence of its audience.

So, where do big names Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver fit into this? Jackman plays Vincent Moore, a spoiled brat with a horrific haircut who designed a similar type of police robot which was deemed far too big and expensive to be used, so he devises a plan to knock out Wilson's robots so his will be implemented. Weaver merely plays Wilson and Moore's boss at the company which created these droids.

Why they wanted to be involved in this film is beyond me.

So, listen to me when I say, avoid this film at all costs. Unlike the strong, important political messages of his first two films, on his third outing, Blomkamp has achieved absolutely nothing but creating a film that wants to show an audience just what an epic failure looks like.

If Chappie was humanity's last hope, may a god help us all.
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3/10
An Embarrassment of Riches!
7 February 2015
and what I mean by that is that this is a film about rich people that is just an embarrassment.

"Jupiter Ascending" is the latest film from the Wachowskis and, despite what you read about their under-rated previous efforts ("Speed Racer," "Cloud Atlas"), this one truly is….utter disaster.

Remember when Hollywood seemed to start putting effects ahead of stories and starting insulting the viewers intelligence until some directors (read: Cameron, Nolan) started injecting mindblowing effects into incredibly intelligent stories.

Well, guess who is insulting our intelligence again.

What this movie is "about," and I use the term loosely, is a young woman in Chicago who cleans toilets for a living who finds out she is actually a genetic descendant of the most powerful dynasty in the universe and simply needs to claim Earth as her own, which she left to herself thousands of years prior, before her "son" harvests humans to make a potion that keeps other beings in the universe young You got that? No? Who cares.

The entire film is completely about special effects and scene after scene that shows elements ripped off directly from any one of the Star Wars films. It is clear the entire film was thought of from the perceptive of "how could we get this cool scene in the film?" with very little focus on a story that is chronologically and logistically ridiculous.

Case in point: Jupiter Jones, played by Mila Kunis, in the span of about 24 hours, finds out that aliens exist, that she is galactic royalty impervious to the sting of bees and survives the most ridiculously unlikely air-chase ever shown on screen without a seat belt….without even batting an eyelash or one moment of hyperventilating. I mean, I think most of us would freak out to actually meet an alien, first and foremost…even a muscular, hot one in the form of Channing Tatum…never mind the rest of what was thrown at her. Yet, she takes it in stride, like it is completely normal.

Absurd.

Truly, the entire narrative rolls out like this…with space, time and basic logic (and gravity) being completely ignored in the development of a story so completely ridiculous, Oscar-front-runner Eddie Redmayne must be crying himself to sleep for accepting to be a part of this and giving such a silly performance. In June 2014, when this film's release was pushed back by almost seven months from July 2014 to February 2015, what they should have done was rewritten the script.

On the upside, the film is visually stunning, and they certainly used 3D technology to their advantage, not to mention that Tatum's extended shirtless scene is, indeed, very entertaining while I don't think I have ever seen Mila Kunis look so beautiful. Unfortunately, she is at her best when she is dressed to the nines as a total rip off of Padmé.
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Cake (II) (2014)
10/10
Jennifer Aniston has been robbed of an Oscar.
27 January 2015
It's official.

Jennifer Aniston has been robbed of an Oscar.

And a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor's Guild Award, for that matter. In a year that gave us an extraordinary array of lead roles for men and an even more extraordinary roles for supporting women, 2014 proved to not offer too many truly memorable roles for leading women.

And with all due respect, as much as I utterly adore this year's award-snagger and Oscar front runner Julianne Moore and think she has been deserving more than once for the little gold guy, it is officially an outrage that Jennifer Aniston did not get an Oscar nomination. Because she should have won.

"Cake" is an utterly heartbreaking yet breathtaking look at the pain of loss, both physical and emotional, and the seemingly impossible task of finding the strength to go on. Or even get up.

Aniston is nothing short of astonishing as Claire Bennett, a woman who has just about lost everything but a slim will to live, a loyal housekeeper, crippling remorse and the ability to find reasons to just barely get through her day through the help of Percocet, wine, arguments and awkward casual sex.

And then she stalks Roy.

The less you know about the film, no doubt the more you will gain, but this study of pain and loss and stumbling upon that one little thing that might just give you a little more strength than you had yesterday is one of the most astounding films of this year or any in recent memory.

Not only will Aniston leave you in awe like she has never done before in the single best role of her career thus far, both Sam Worthington and Adrianna Barrazza are utterly brilliant in their supporting roles and both could easily have garnered nominations in a less competitive year for those categories.

"Cake" didn't just move me…it sunk right into my soul and gave me a better understanding of the human condition of sorrow…the likes of which I hope I never have to experience myself.
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St. Vincent (2014)
8/10
Ridiculously Sweet
28 December 2014
St. Vincent…the completely implausible story of a single mom who leaves the care of her only child in the hands of the obnoxious, grumpy, unemployed, hard-drinking old man that she JUST moved in next door to.

So the movie must be ridiculous, right?

Not really. As absurd as the premise may be, the unlikely story of how the man and this kid come to teach each other about the better things in life ends up actually being really quite funny, entertaining and, as much as you'll hate to admit it when it gets you in the end, very emotional.

All of this absurdity is helped in spades by yet another exceptional performance by the Golden-Globe nominated Bill Murray, who has perfected the character of the comedic curmudgeon, practically raising it to an art form while the kid, played by Jaeden Lieberher, is actually point on…a performance that is neither overly kitchy, immature or irritating…which is very impressive for a young actor in such a film.

And then, of course, there is Melissa McCarthy as Oliver's mother, who is, once again, pitch-perfect in her usual role as the sarcastic, strong-yet-vulnerable woman who goes toe-to-toe with Murray's bastard. And does not get lost in his enormous shadow.

All in all, an absolutely excellent film, albeit ridiculous, which is well worth it for the strong performances and funny one-liners…it's got Murray, so just go.

Grade: A
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7/10
Mockingjay Reminder: The FIRST PART of the THIRD Book...
28 December 2014
After two utterly fantastic films, The Hunger Games returns with the third installment, which is the first part of the third book of the trilogy.

Got it? Good.

And the film delivers exactly what I expected. And because of this, it is, indeed, the weakest installment thus far.

Why? Well, reread my first sentence. It is the first part of the third book....which means that, from the third book, all the good stuff is going to be in the SECOND part and this whole film is all about ramping up to the (what will most assuredly by) the epic conclusion of this series.

That being said, this film still has many strengths, including Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence as she continues to shine as Katniss, this time as the woman who needs to rise and lead District 13 into a full on rebellion against The Capital while still trying to overcome the mental stress of all she has been through. And, of course, the very odd inclusion of the always great Julianne Moore as the rebellion leader, President Alma Coin.

The groundwork which is set by the film no doubts raises expectations of the final film very high, but I could not also help by feel that there seemed to be things even I missed as I watched this film. As I sat there, taking it all in, I wondered exactly what Effie (Elizabeth Banks) was doing there....it kind of went unexplained. Exactly how much time passed between the last film and this one? And it seemed like a lot of my questions stems from items that were, indeed, somewhat changed from the book. Effie should not be such a prominent character this early on in the final story, but Banks' character proved to simply be too popular to ignore.

That would be the only major downfall of this installment, and that is the lack of clarification of key points brought up in the film. But beyond that, everything else was right on par and I am most certainly looking forward to the final installment hitting theatres next November 20th.

Grade: B
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9/10
Less Science, More Humanity.
23 November 2014
If you cannot imagine how a film about Stephen Hawking could be utterly astounding and heartfelt and touching, don't imagine…and see "Theory of Everything." In short, the incredibly touching back story of Hawking is presented here…less science, more humanity…and it is absolutely beautiful.

However, Redmayne completely steals the show as Mr. Hawking in an utterly pitch-perfect, transformative performance that will most likely nab him his first Oscar nomination…with a win looking pretty darn good as well as he goes from upright man to wheelchair-bound.

Redmayne is mesmerizing.

As is this whole incredibly beautiful film.
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6/10
Another incomprehensible installment
11 November 2014
I have never been a big fan of Cronenberg because I have found many of his films make no sense at all and are utterly pointless. On occasion, there has been "A History of Violence" or "Eastern Promises," but usually, it's more "Crash" and "Dead Ringers." "Maps to the Stars" did not help me become more of a fan.

Yet another film that made no real sense to me and left me wondering..."WTF did I just watch?" I really hoped this would be a satirical look at Hollywood through the eyes of a Canadian nut job, but instead, what could have been a truly disturbing and great film spiralled into typical Cronenberg incomprehensible ridiculousness.

However, Pattinson? Not so bad here....for reals.
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Interstellar (2014)
8/10
The long-await, yet underwhelming, return of Nolan.
8 November 2014
After a year of waiting and hype, "Interstellar" finally hit theatres with....well, not quite a roar. Written as a love letter to his daughter, Nolan's latest sci-fi epic isn't quite as depressing as his usual films, but it's not as monumentally mesmerizing as we have come to expect from the man who brought us "Dark Knight" and "Inception.".

The story is a little cheesy, with mushy questions about love being able to cross time and such, and there are moments that the special effects reminded me of "Clash of the Titans." No, not the remake...the 1981 original. I found that quite shocking and sorta dismaying...and confusing. As confusing as it was at times trying to wrap my brain around the concepts of relative time and black holes and dimensions.

However, the film is ultimately still entertaining, made me verklempt at moments and has a really nice message about the future of our planet being in our own hands and no one else, not even whatever god you might believe in, is going to save us if we don't save ourselves.
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If I Stay (2014)
9/10
Beautiful
22 August 2014
Anyone interested in this film already knows the premise by now if they have read this far, so I won't rehash it.

All I will say is that this film could have easily been contrived and cheesy and hokey and clichéd but rather, the end is result is truly one of the finest, most real representations of youth and love I have seen in a long time. And the fact that it seemed so genuine is exactly why I have not cried in a film so much since...."The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Chloe Grace Moretz has already proved she is a force to be reckoned with, but by an accomplishment like playing the key character in a film that was made to be a tearjerker without coming across as completely laughable shows what a strong actress this young woman truly is.

Excellent, relatable script, wonderful direction and perfectly edited, the fact the a bunch of tween girls went "Huh? What? That's the end?" when the credits began to roll proved that R.J. Cutler knew exactly when to end this film at the precise moment. There was no need to overstay the welcome.

Make sure you have some Kleenex.
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2/10
Do NOTgnore the critics, or you will regret it.
16 February 2014
There is nothing worth speaking of this film except to mention that it is actually even WORSE than critics and it's abysmal box office intake may suggest.

Truly, avoid at all costs....there is not one redeeming feature about this ridiculous excuse of a film and anyone who posted a positive review here should get their sanity tested. Even the two undeserved Oscar nominations it has received should not deceive you...the writing, the acting, the length of the film, just all horrible. Watching this was truly a painful experience.

Then again, seeing as it pairs Johnny Depo and Gore Verbinski, I should not have expected much after the horrific "Pirates of the Caribbean."
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7/10
Potentially the Most Overrated Film of the Year
22 January 2013
There is much to be said about "Zero Dark Thirty," Kathryn Bigelow's cinematic retelling of the hunt and killing of Osama bin Laden, but the most apt term that comes to mind is "overrated." Plot-wise, we all know how it goes and how it ends. War, hunting, research, torture, invasion, death. It covers a very long span in two hours and forty-five minutes and gives a somewhat choppy rendition of the "actual" events that lead to the discovery of where the world's most infamous terrorist was hiding.

I put the term "actual" in quotes because there is much debate as to how much of the film is true. Having seen it with a friend who knows more than the average person when it comes to American military manoeuvres, in my humble opinion, the all so-called "controversy" of the details of the film being somewhat untrue were created to mislead the public into thinking the truth was actually potentially fictitious.

Smart move, US military. Smart move.

That being said, the film is quite entertaining and really enlightening on many aspects of a hunt for a man that took almost a decade to find. Knowing the film was already in production prior to the actual killing of bin Laden, forcing Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal to backtrack and rewrite the entire ending to the film, lends much gravitas to the information being shared. Knowing some military officials' careers were put in jeopardy for revealing too much intel to Boal lends even more weight. That and the fact that I, myself, had my own intel that some details shared were thought to still be deemed "classified." However, the only reason this film is getting so much attention during Awards Season is mainly because it deals with such a climactic moment in American history and not because the film itself is actually any more worthy of an Oscar than any other military/action-like film like, say, "The Avengers." To not nominate it might be seen as "un-American." There is a reason why Bigelow did not get an Oscar nomination for Best Director: the film is simply not even close to being worthy of such a distinction. That being said, Jessica Chastain's highly-lauded performance as the CIA agent simply known as "Maya" who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the discovery of bin Laden's hideout is even more overrated than the film itself. Yet somehow, she is the front-runner for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Usually an extraordinary talent (most deserving for her nomination for "The Help"), Chastain's cardboard performance is utterly one-dimensional. Her lack of emotion or personality throughout the film made me think the role could have as easily been played by even the most dynamic of actresses, Kristen Stewart (read: sarcasm). As much as I was swept up in learning so much about the efforts that were made to capture this horrific individual, Chastain's performance from beginning to end left me wondering why exactly she would even be considered for an Oscar, never mind being a front-runner.

And alas, there is a good chance the Golden Guy will go to the second-least-deserving of the lot when three of the other performances nominated were actually nothing less than exceptional.

Technical nominations aside, the only truly deserving nominee of the bunch is Mark Boal, whose screenplay is based on intel collected by clearly rigorous research.

Many will be enthralled by this film. However, I highly doubt it will be because of the production value and more so for the information contained in its details. Thankfully, Bigelow has no chance of stealing an Oscar away from a far more deserving nominee for a second time. However, this time, that distinction has a good chance of falling in the hands of Chastain.
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10/10
An Emotional Journey Through the Human Spirit
22 January 2013
I offer two pieces of advice if going to see "The Impossible." 1) Bring Kleenex 2) Bring extra Kleenex.

"The Impossible" is the true story of the Belón family. Mother, father and three children who survived the devastating 2004 Tsunami which ripped apart south-east Asia. There has been some criticism that the film "Hollywoodized" the story by "whitewashing" the family, but clearly, they have not seen the film. The beauty of this story, written by María Belón and turned into a screenplay by Sergio G. Sánchez, may never have been able to be produced had they not been able to bring in big-name stars and get the funding for spectacular special effects, so one must forget the politics and just be truly happy this story made it to the big screen at all in a form which could touch a wide audience.

Naomi Watts plays Maria Bennet who, along with her son Lucas, are separated from her husband, Henry (Ewan McGregor) and her other two sons, Thomas and Simon, after the tsunami hits the resort where they were vacationing. This is the true story of how they miraculously survived and found each other.

And a reminder of the hundreds of thousands that were not as fortunate.

Watts has been nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her riveting performance as Maria, and with reason. The amount of emotion and pain this woman pours into the role makes it easily one of the most heartbreaking of the year. Sadly, she is not a front-runner, but this performance is far more deserving than the woman who is.

And I am not one who is generally terribly impressed by younger performers, but if there was any young actor this year who actually deserves an Oscar nomination, it is Tom Holland in the role of Lucas. The depth and feeling that this kid brings to his role is astonishing for someone of his age. Unlike the other young kid that was nominated this year, Holland actually showed some actual skill in his craft and not just merely being, well, a kid.

This is not to overlook excellent performances as well by an incredible strong McGregor and, yes, the two younger actors that pulled in much of the emotional weight, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast.

"The Impossible" is an extraordinary journey of the human spirit. Not always easy to watch, but the devastation and pain is worth experiencing. Through the love of this family and the efforts of the people of Thailand, you are brought into an emotional wave almost as strong as the horrific tsunami itself while it drags you through the heartbreak to the bitter end.

Take my advice, bring extra Kleenex.
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7/10
The best aspect of this film is the light it shines on a corrupt church.
6 January 2013
To be honest, there is not much to say about "Angels and Demons" in terms of the film itself. Based on the Dan Brown book of the same name, the follow-up to "The DaVinci Code" is a fine action film that throws Robert Langdon back into Italy to solve a very conveniently-put-together mystery concerning the Illuminati to save the Vatican.

The story runs like a locomotive, with great effects and just fine direction from Ron Howard and Tom Hanks' return in the role of Langdon is, as well, just fine. The film sort of runs on autopilot and it's an entertaining ride.

However, the great thing about this film is how it truly does shed a crystal-clear, bright light on how truly ridiculous and corrupt the Catholic church really is. The church apparently didn't have much to say about the film upon its release as they stated it was "harmless entertainment" while the President of the Catholic League stated "Enjoy the movie, but know that it is a fable." Their nonchalant nature spoke volumes.

No doubt, much of what the film shows is based on truth, I have no doubt. As all religions have already been disproved a hundred times over by science, the Catholic church and its corrupt politics and horrifying popes are no doubt worried about that one moment when science actually crosses over and disproves the Bible once and for all with no way of covering everything up again and shoving it into the archives.

So, the film is fine, but the light cast upon the Church is brilliant, and for that, I thank you, Mr. Howard, even if these sorts of lights apparently just continue to merely blind people instead of showing them the truth.
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8/10
Well, at least Tarantino managed to make a Western that DIDN'T put me to sleep...
4 January 2013
Oscar made me do it. Yep. The only reason I sat through two hours and forty-five minutes of a Tarantino Western was because I knew this film was going to get Oscar nominations and thus, I was obliged to see it. But I hate Westerns and I am not a fan of Tarantino, so I knew this could be a tough ride.

I was partially right.

This long, drawn-out story of slavery revenge most certainly had its moments...the problem is that it takes far too many minutes to get through them all.

The story is simple enough. Jamie Foxx, in an excellent performance, plays Django, a slave separated from his wife and sold off to a plantation two years before the civil war. While being transported, the caravan is intercepted by Dr. King Schultz, played to perfection (again) by the incomparable Christophe Waltz, who knows Django knows what the three men he needs to kill look like, and thus "buys" his freedom. In exchange for helping him track his bounty, Schultz indeed offers Django his freedom. However, when he learns the story of Django being separated from his wife...and sees Django's marksmanship... Shultz offers to help Django find his wife if he helps Shultz kill all the men on his bounty list. With the promise of freedom, money AND his wife, how could Django refuse?

In theory, "Django Unchained" has all the elements of a truly great film...and that says a lot coming from a Western-hating, non-Tarantino fan. The story is great. Foxx is great, but Waltz is utterly fantastic...and will be looking at yet another Oscar nomination. Kerry Washington, as Django's wife Broomhilda, proves that she is not only unequivocally stunning to watch but an absolutely exceptional actress. Hell, even Leonardo Dicaprio, as Broomhilda's owner, turns an excellent performance that is worthy of an Oscar nomination if he so gets it. Need I even mention that Samuel L. Jackson is perfection? And then there's Don Johnson! Yes! Don Johnson!!!

So, pair all these great performances with a great script, loads of violence, two scenes that even made ME squint and squirm, along with beautiful art direction, costumes, cinematography and the controversial overuse of a certain word which actually manages to desensitize you to its utterance, this must be a pretty awesome film, no?

Not entirely.

It lacks one key ingredient: evidence of an EDITOR. With a running time of two hours and forty-five minutes, this film managed to run way too long. I mean, way too long. This film could have easily been tightened up to run at a smoother, quicker pace and shave off at least thirty minutes. But certain scenes seemed to needlessly drag on, leaving a film which has so many good elements but leaves you mindful of the time as you begin to shift in your seat, your buns going numb. Although "Inglorious Basterds," arguably Tarantino's best film, had a scene or two that ran longer than they needed to, I don't remember shifting in my seat nearly as much. What could have been one of the best films of the year merely took far too long to get to the point. But hey, it didn't bore me, so I give Tarantino credit for making potentially the least tedious Western I have ever endured.
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2/10
Utterly ridiculous...and not in a good way.
4 January 2013
I walked into "Texas Chainsaw" with my usual tempered expectation when seeing a horror film. We all know that maybe one out of ten releases nowadays is actually good and scary...if we're lucky. And seeing as this one was dumped on the first Friday of the year, it didn't bode well for great expectations from Lionsgate. However, it was distributed by, well, Lionsgate.

Alas, the umpteenth sequel to the 1974, although based on a great concept, is a fail.

Despite the many follow-up films on the subject, this film is, in a round-about way, a sequel to the 2003 remake of the 1974 original. The original was directed by Tobe Hooper, and Hooper himself helped produce not only this film but the 2003 remake (which inexplicably changed the family name of the murderous family) and the 2006 prequel, but the current film actually uses scenes from the 1974 original (and the original family name of Sawyer) as it's jumping-off point, which gave the film some instant weight for fans of the franchise.

However, the weight was lifted real quick.

In short, right after the events of the original film, some of the residents of the town of Newt, Texas burn down the house where the original massacre occurred with the entire Sawyer clan inside, but not without one baby surviving the inferno. Said baby grows up never knowing what had happened until she randomly receives word that her long lost grandmother has passed on and left her with an inheritance, resulting in the realization that her abusive parents are not her birth parents. She leaves to check out what she has received, but not without some friends coming along (of course)....and picking up the atypical Texas Chainsaw hitchhiker in the process. Needless to say, the inheritance came with something a little bit unusual, carnage sorta ensues and what could have been a great twist is ruined by the sheer implausibility of the execution of the story.

And that is ultimately where the issues with this film lie...in the details. Never mind little stupid things like the fact that the house burning down at the beginning of the film happened on August 19th and somehow, the newspaper which reported the story was also dated August 19th (rather than the 20th). It's the major implausible details like four friends leaving a mansion full of silver to get groceries to be "cleaned up" by a hitchhiker they just picked up or the fact that a rotting corpse is randomly found by Heather Miller, the inheritor, and then never once mentioned again. As the story unfolds, it completely falls apart and you risk missing something unimportant because you are too busy rolling your eyes or wondering how a character went from A to B or from caring to not caring. The story just ended up not making any sense.

Why RnB artist Trey Songz chose this train wreck to launch his acting career is beyond me, but his character is as unoriginal as his music. Other than Songz, the cast is mainly made up by mediocre, little-known television actors not worth mentioning except with the inclusion Shaun Sipos as the hitchhiker and Scott Eastwood (yes, son of Clint who, until recently, went by the name Scott Reeves) as a police officer, both of whom are absolutely excellent eye candy.

So, was I entertained? Well, I wasn't BORED...but this film is definitely a fail in terms of plot and execution and wasn't even so bad it's good. But if you do decide to see it, do not pay extra for 3D if you do not have to but do wait for the end of the credits to get a good grin.
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1/10
Thanks to HFR3D, a failure of EPIC proportions.
15 December 2012
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a failure of epic proportions. If you see it in HFR 3D, that is. And after having spent almost $20 to see it and hate it, I am certainly not going to pay to sit through all two hours and fifty minutes in a different format as the film itself didn't impress me enough to even consider doing that right now. So, I guess it will have to wait.

So, with that, after months of anticipation, the film was ruined.

Watching this film in HFR was like watching a high-budget PBS television version of the movie, rendering everything to look second rate and really quite ridiculous, including special effects which look like they were lifted from a video game...or a student film. It was like it was made to look like a movie which would only appeal to five-year olds.

Mr. Jackson, what were you thinking? Within minutes of the film starting, I couldn't believe it was filmed in such a horrible format which should be saved for sitcoms. The film was immediately rendered a joke. And I still had one hundred and sixty-five minutes to sit through. When I bought my tickets to the film six weeks ago, there was no mention of different formats besides being in 3D. I would never have chosen to watch this film in HFR if I had known in advance. And quite frankly, I think Jackson or the cineplex should give me my money back.

So, it's tough to write a proper review of the film because every detail, every word, every effect came across as simply childlike and horribly mediocre simply due to the format. The film seemed to drag on forever and I just couldn't wait for it to end.

So, the only advice I can tell you? See it on 3D IMAX....and let me know how it is. Because all I saw was a second-rate disappointment.
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10/10
It doesn't get better than this.
7 December 2012
I kinda wish someone had warned me about this film, and at the same time, kinda happy I had no idea what was coming. If I had known exactly what this film was about, I may have been slightly reticent to go see it by myself, but I think I would have been equally as embarrassed to have seen it with other people.

Why? Because five minutes in, the film managed to grab hold of me on an emotional level like no film has done in decades, forcing me to fight against tears tooth and nail right through until the credits began to roll. And I am not exaggerating. Not even remotely. And I just barely won the fight.

With that in mind, I'll keep the details to a minimum, but I warn you, if my words move you to see this film, you may want to go in prepared (or wait for the DVD), although little could have prepared me for such a beautifully honest and gut-wrenching film.

Charlie is a loner. He had a best friend, but that friend is gone. He's about to start high school, but just doesn't quite fit in anywhere. A brilliant student with a complete lack of social skills. That is, until he finds every ounce of courage he has to speak with Patrick. And suddenly, he is introduced to a world of people kind of like him. People who don't need to question him to understand him.

He found a band of wallflowers.

I was well-aware that this little indie-ish film had been extremely well-received by critics, and has managed a moderate box office. However, what piqued my interest is the fact that, as Oscar murmurs pick up strength and sail from whispers to rumbles, critics after critic have randomly called this movie out of left field as a film that should up "for your consideration." All I could think was, "Wow, really? A teen movie is THAT good?" Well, without hesitation, I can say with all honesty that it is really that good. I will go as far to say that it may just be the best film I have seen all year.

Much of the Oscar whispers focus on two things: the flawless script by Stephen Chbosky (who adapted the film from his own epistolary 1999 novel of the same name and also directed) and Ezra Miller. After a phenomenal turn as a tormented teen in last year's exquisitely disturbing "We Need to Talk about Kevin," Miller's Patrick is indeed an incredibly memorable young man, playing a teen held back at school with skin that has become so thick, he is not a victim of the torment of his peers, but has instead learned to embrace it. Emma Watson, in her first post-"Harry Potter" starring role, is stunning as Sam, in terms of both her physicality and her acting, the beautiful young woman who is trying to put her past behind her and find her place in the world. But, in my humble opinion, the bulk of emotional gravitas radiates from the film's rising star, Logan Lerman. As the conflicted, unstable and completely lost Charlie, Lerman's performance is nothing short of revelatory. With every look, awkward touch and utterance from his mouth, he is like Michael Cena stripped of sarcasm and overloaded with brilliance and emotion.

And while their screen time ranges from actively supporting to mere minutes, even the secondary roles, played by Paul Rudd as "that teacher" that some of us will remember and cherish forever , Kate Walsh ("Private Practice") and Dylan McDermott ("American Horror Story") as Charlie's parents, and Mae Whitman ("Parenthood") as one of the wallflowers, add to the incredible emotional complexity, lending this film such an unobtrusive air of honesty and genuine feeling that to not be deeply moved by the story as it unfolds before you is practically inconceivable.

If you have always been the pretty one with the perfect grades or the perfect job, the popularity, and attention focused on you, maybe you won't quite get it. But for the majority of us who have ever spent time wondering where the hell we fit in in this world, whether it be back in high school...or right now...keep the Kleenex close. If this film does not move you to your very foundation, make you think of where you have been, maybe where you are, or worry about what your kids might be silently going through, I don't know what else would.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is such an acutely executed film, it overflows with authenticity thanks to extraordinary performances by an almost implausibly perfect cast of young talent. If the AMPAS voters fail to take notice, it will be a shame, not just because nothing else hit the big screen this year like it and it deserves the extra recognition, but because an entire generation or two (or three) should take notice.

Yes, it is THAT good. In a world where we need to assure our younger generation that "it gets better," parents, teachers, wallflowers? Please, take notice. And grab the Kleenex. You've been warned.
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Life of Pi (2012)
8/10
Visually captivating but somewhat underwhelming.
23 November 2012
First and foremost, I'd like to set the record straight. If you're one of those people who think "Life of Pi" is pretty much just a movie about a dude in a boat with a tiger, well, I have news for you...

...you're right.

Ang Lee's latest feature, an adaptation of the book by Yann Martel which, after numerous attempts by other directors including M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Curon and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, was deemed "unfilmable," is indeed the story of a shipwrecked boy who survives for weeks on a lifeboat he shares with a Bengali tiger. As told to a reporter (Rafe Spall) by an adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) from his Montreal home (Canada REPRESENT!), the story starts off with Pi's childhood and religious awakening before spending much time at sea...on a boat...with a big cat.

Religion is the overpowering theme of the film, there is no doubt, but not in a preachy sort of way. Rather than being some sort of moralistic tale, the point I believe the narrative is trying to make is that personal spirituality is important, no matter what you may believe, and we should all just respect each other's points of view. And although I am a non-believer, that is something I cannot fault. If only, right? When a young Pi finds an interest in Christianity after having been raised Hindu and discovering the Muslim religion, his father brilliantly exclaims "I'd rather you believe in something I do not agree with than accept all religions blindly." Excuse me if I am paraphrasing slightly there, but the line was very powerful and one I can respect a great deal.

However, despite the lovely religious equilibrium and the cute ferocious animal, "Life of Pi" never quite managed to enrapture me. The filming style, with its cuts and edits, came across almost amateurish and TV_movie-like while I found the script slightly underwhelming and the performances merely acceptable. Nothing more.

But who am I kidding...I did not see the movie for the story. What intrigued me about the film was the talk of the visual effects. THAT is what I went for. Having been heralded as the most visually captivating film since "Avatar," I was full of anticipation for this film for that reason and that reason only.

And it is indeed a beautiful movie to watch on the largest screen possible. Definitely in 3D. The scenes are so incredibly drawn and meticulously brought to 3D life, you will almost forget what is going on in the film at times because you're busy staring too long at the CGI tiger going "wow, how did they do that?" Don't worry, it's not like you'll miss an important plot point. And you will find yourself asking that exact question many times during this film. However, it is no "Avatar," which remains the most visually magnificent film I have ever had the pleasure of viewing (although I am sure many of you will see elements which have been borrowed from it at certain moments). To be honest, I didn't even find it as visually captivating as "Cloud Atlas," as the beauty of the images hinder rather than help the audience personally connect with a story which seems a tad bit far-fetched as it is.

No doubt Lee, a two-time Oscar nominee for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Brokeback Mountain," for which he won, will undoubtedly get an invitation back to the ceremonies this year for his visual epic, but it's best chances at gold will be strictly technical, as the film itself leaves one a little underwhelmed. That time you spent the night with someone astonishingly beautiful but not terribly interesting? Yeah, kinda like that.
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Lincoln (2012)
10/10
The Oscar race has just begun, but it's already all but over.
20 November 2012
It may be premature to say, but I think the Oscar race is already over.

"Lincoln," Steven Spielberg's latest opus which focuses on the final four months of Abraham Lincoln's life, the focal point being his greatest accomplishment, the abolishment of slavery in the United States in January of 1865 and the end of the Civil War, has every element imaginable to render it possibly unbeatable for a slew of Golden statuettes.

First and foremost, there is Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. His transformation into America's 16th President is, for lack of a better word, uncanny. I would not for an instant lay claim to knowing very much about the Lincoln in any way, shape or form, but Lewis embodies every detail that I feel I have ever learned about this iconic political figure. From his speech patterns to his physicality, I could not imagine a better performance than what Lewis displays in every single frame he is in. Already a two-time Oscar winner ("My Left Foot" in 1990, "There Will be Blood" in 2008), winning Best Actor in 2013 is truly his award to lose.

And then there is the rest of the cast, each one possibly looking at some recognition by the Academy.

Sally Field, also a two-time Oscar winner for "Norma Rae" in 1980 and again in 1984 for "Places in the Heart" could very well be looking at her third nomination and possibly a win as Mary Todd Lincoln. Her performance as the emotionally tortured and completely supportive wife is absolutely magnificent.

Then there are the supporting players....the members of the House, those who helped Lincoln gain voted to pass the 13th amendment. Tommy Lee Jones, almost guaranteed his fourth Oscar nomination (he won in 1994 for "The Fugitive"), brings his A game as Thaddeus Stevens, one of the most outspoken Republicans from the area who fought tooth and nail for equality and was one of the greatest proponents of the 13th Amendment. David Strathairn, also an Oscar nominee ("Good Night and Good Luck") as William Seward, the Secretary of State who initially fought against the amendment while remaining loyal to his Commander in Chief. Golden Globe nominee James Spader as W.N Bilbo who was sent out to recruit Democratic votes by any means possible. Oscar nominee Hal Holbrook ("Into the Wild") as Preston Blair, one of Lincoln's faithful advisors. Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley ("Little Children") as Alexander Stevens, the vice president to the Confederacy. Even Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Lee Pace, best known for his role in "Pushing Daisies" offers an exceptional turn as Fernando Wood, one of the staunchest opponents to the slavery amendment. Even smaller roles by the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Lincoln's son and Gloria Reuben as one of Lincoln's attendants are more than worthy of noting and praise. John Hawkes is also featured in this film in an excellent performance, but he will be overlooked here, as he will already be looking at a Best Actor nomination for his role in "The Sessions." Then there is the writing. Written by the magnificent Tony Kushner, who is not only yet another Oscar nominee for his script for "Munich" but who also wrote the near-perfect Emmy-winning "Angels in America," Kushner's script plays out in brilliant fashion, not only capturing the language and the feel of the era, but also manages to capture the audience while giving what could have been a long-winded history lesson thanks to a perfect blend of drama and humour.

All this under the direction of Spielberg (do I bother mentioning his Oscars, too?)? "Lincoln" is nothing short of a historical masterpiece.

It was fascinating to watch the debate on slavery wage on in the House, hearing people's fear that the abolishment of slavery could lead to blacks and women being able to vote and, oh the horror, possibly enter politics! And to think that all this was done by those crazy, "radical" Republicans. Who would have thought that a hundred years later, the tables would have completely turned on these parties with the Democrats being the party who fights for equality and the mere thought of denying women and ANY minority the right to vote would be ludicrous.

And yet, the needless debate of allowing two men or two women to marry rages on in the United States.

Let's hope Mr. Obama may find a way to be a modern-day Lincoln.
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Splinter (I) (2008)
8/10
What an excellent horror find!!!
18 November 2012
Wow, is "Splinter" a find! Although I often add random horror movies to my list of films to see simply because I love horror films, it's rare that when they finally get delivered...they DELIVER.

"Splinter" delivers...and then some! The film starts off simple enough...and on a cliché...with a couple heading for a night of camping in the middle of nowhere for their anniversary. Typical right? When things don't quite go as planned, the couple end up back in their truck. Not too shocking. Then it takes a twist. The couple get car-jacked by another couple on the run. And when they stop at a gas station when the truck overheats, that is when the film goes nuts as they are attacked by a ferocious and uber-cool monster that consumes their victims until the victim becomes part of the monster.

Chaos between captor and captive ensues...in an absolutely brilliant, grotesque fashion with a conclusion that arrives all too soon.

On top of the great, twisted, original story? "Splinter" features, yes, actual acting. Actual GOOD acting! With excellent performances by all four of the main cast members, Jill Wagner ("Teen Wolf"), Paulo Costanzo ("Royal Pains"), Shea Whigham ("Boardwalk Empire") and Rachel Kerbs, "Splinter" easily rises above the usual monster-flick fare by injecting actual performance into the execution of a great story.

Huge kudos to great direction from Toby Wilkins, who went on to direct "The Grudge 3" and episodes of "Teen Wolf." This man needs to get some new horror projects going, because this film shows he potentially has that elusive talent that helped rise men like John Carpenter, Sean S. Cunningham and Wes Craven. A horror movie is good to find. A good horror movie is hard to find.
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4/10
Best of the series? Um, no.
17 November 2012
For most, the Twilight Saga has been something either you loved or had no interest in.... If you got past the first film, you were probably in it for the long haul. I was one of those...but unlike the TwiHards and such, it has not been an enjoyable ride.

"Twilight," the first film, was great. I thought everything about it was incredibly entertaining, albeit far from perfect. However, that is where it peaked for me. With every subsequent film, "New Moon," "Eclipse" and the first part of "Breaking Dawn," these films got worse and worse and worse.

And worse.

But as I started this pop culture phenomenal, goddamit, I was going to finish it. And what made the last installment the worst one of the bunch was that there wasn't even a decent consolation prize of gratuitous Lautner nakedness lasting more than eight seconds to make up for the two hours of soap-opera-like pseudo-silly-eye-rolling-drama that we had to endure.

Like, c'mon! And thus, that FINALLY brings us to the final chapter of the series, where everything comes to head and we say goodbye to these characters once and for all. And has anything gotten any better? Uh...no.

As Bella comes to terms with her new status as Trampire (and her transition was the easiest I've seen of any vampire story), the feared Volturi are gonna come aknocking as they believe a huge taboo has been committed...that the half-human/half-vamp baby of her and Edward was not born but rather created! Oh no! So, the whole last film and the first hour and a bit of this one has been a set up for the final conflict...a conflict that takes forever to get to, finally has some amazing appeal and violence, and then a plot twist just ruins it all in a millisecond.

And there you are. Disappointed again. But I will give it credit for having a touching final scene and an impressive final credit role.

So, many may claim this is the best of the series, but they would be dead wrong, so to speak. It is definitely the best out of the last four, no doubt, but after the first film, nothing has been able to rise above crap. The acting in this one is just as cardboard as ever, Stewart having not improved her ability to be one of the most popular horrible actresses in Hollywood. When Taylor Lautner is the best actor in your film, you know you may not be in the greatest production.

But on that note, there is an excellent scene where Lautner strips down. And for that, this film does go from 3 to 4 out of 10...and those of us who were most motivated to see these the last four films by Lautner's pecs, we thank you.
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The Sessions (2012)
9/10
And you think YOU have it bad...
17 November 2012
"The Sessions" is the true story of Mark O'Brien, a poet, a journalist and...and paraplegic...who, in 1988, felt his time may be coming and decides that he'd rather not die...a virgin.

Simple as that...and this incredibly moving film focuses on O'Brien and how he hires, on the blessing of his priest (played by William H. Macy), a sex surrogate named Cheryl Cohen Greene.

In the role of O'Brien, John Hawkes gives an unbelievable performance. Two years ago, Hawkes was nominated for his supporting role in "Winter's Bone" and he is almost guaranteed to be looking at a leading-Actor nomination as the man whose entire performance is based upon his facial expressions and delivery of words...which is, in a word, exquisite. Remember, he is playing a man who is all but paralyzed from the neck down.

As his surrogate, Helen Hunt, also an Oscar Winner for 1997's "As Good As it Gets," is also looking at her second nomination, baring all in the role of Greene, the woman who patiently helped this man achieve a level of manhood he never thought he would reach...along with ultimately transforming his life completely.

"The Sessions" is one of those films that you go into assuming it would be a film which would fill you with emotion stemming from pity, and where you walk out realizing that maybe it's you who might be more deserving of such a POV. O'Brien, in all his limitations, proved that love knows no bounds and that the rest of us should really just shut up and be thankful for what we have.

This film is filled with incredibly comedic moments, such an exuberant attitude, exceptional performances and enough heartwarming emotion for two films. An absolute must-see of 2012.
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