Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: The Fighter (2010)

Director David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) does an admirable job telling the true story of former welterweight champion Micky Ward (portrayed by Mark Wahlberg). Ward is known especially for his famous trilogy of title fights with the late Arturo Gatti. The Fighter takes place years before these fights, as Micky is desperately trying to make a name for himself. Torn between depending on his family-that has a tendency to fall short- or training with professionals that will ensure his spot on HBO, Micky continues to exert himself. His brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale)- former professional boxer known for bringing Sugar Ray Leonard to the mat- persists to miss training sessions and events for Micky as he spirals deeper into his crack addiction. The Fighter is a magnificent display of a man with a dream, rising from the streets to fame. David O. Russell and Wahlberg continue to prove themselves a great cinematic duo. Wahlberg, showing both emotional and physical determination as he trained with the real Micky Ward and brother Dicky for the film, displays a great depiction of the great fighting Irishman. Additionally, Bale, famous for his astonishing physical dedication to roles (losing 63 pounds for his role in The Machinist, and reaching peak physical status for such films as American Psycho and Nolan's Batman Begins), continues to shock audiences with not only his drastic change of appearance for the role of Dicky, but for his oscar-worthy performance and portrayal of addiction. The setting and time period are precise, from the streets of Boston to the horrific moosed hairdos of the Ward sisters, placing the viewer's seat directly in the atmosphere of Lowell, Boston. The astoundingly talented Amy Adams only adds to the authenticity as Micky's autonomous Boston broud love interest. Much like Rocky, the final fifteen minutes of the film will leave its audience's nerves much like the antagonist's after a long drag of crack. Inspirational, compelling, and at times tragic, The Fighter hits on many levels- scoring it 31/2 stars.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: True Grit (2010)

The Coen Brothers' adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel-True Grit- stars Jeff Bridges as the infamous U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn. Known for his recklessness, yet also for his grit and consistent persistence, Cogburn seems a worthy candidate to help the young, autonomous Mattie Ross (the new and encouraging Hailee Steinfeld) find and kill her father's murderer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Chaney, being a wanted man by more than simply the daughter of his most recent victim, attracts a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) to his trail of hunters. Determined to not only pay the man who will avenge her father's death, but ride with him on this dangerous path to redemption, there is no shaking Mattie off the path. Will the heroic drunk and ranger have the guts and grit to eliminate Chaney and protect Ross? True Grit is a fine example of the Coen brothers ability to tell a compelling story. Having a passion for the west, Joel and Ethan had no trouble creating an atmosphere that engulfs it's audience in the 1860's. Reacquainting themselves with Bridges of The Big Labowski and Brolin of No Country for Old Men, and introducing their first collaboration with Damon- the brothers could not have crafted a better, more inspiring cast. It is hard to understand any issue with the film, other than The Dude vs. The Duke. Sure, Jeff Bridges "is no Duke", because the Duke has been gone for years. In comparison, Heath Ledger was no Jack Nicholson in the role of The Joker-- he was better. Additionally, fans of Fargo, Raising Arizona, The Big Labowski, etc. may notice a loss of overall absurdity in the brothers' translation of True Grit. This stronger sense of normalcy can only be described by the fact that they are displaying someone else's story and surely did not want to distort it too severely. Containing all of the original characters and personalities, a few precise horseback duels from the original, and the same plot, climax, and dramatic question- Grit still certainly maintains a Coen Signature. The dark humor is gut busting, and the few scenes of tension are enough to make any audience grind their teeth. It is hard to find a solid child actor, but the new aspiring Hailee Steinfeld proves that diamonds do exist in the rough. A fine display of leading and secondary performances, and film making at its finest, True Grit earns 31/2 stars.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: Black Swan (2010)

Director Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is strongly based on the four act classical ballet: Swan Lake. Swan Lake tells the tale of a princess who has been cursed to appear as a swan, and will remain this way unless a prince confesses his love for her. Upon falling in love, the prince is deceived by an evil sorcerer, and proposes to the wrong lady. Devastated and heart-broken, the "Swan Queen" throws herself into the lake- taking her own life. The Prince witnesses this and cannot bare the despair- leading him to the same fate. Aronofsky is known for his ability to flourishingly depict a variety of downward spirals (i.e. the heroine addiction of Requiem for a Dream, the obsession of a washed up professional wrestler portrayed by Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler). Aronofsky continues this trend in Black Swan, as he introduces his audience to Nina (Natalie Portman)- a ballerina desperately consumed by the role of her lifetime, to the extent that her fate is beginning to match that of the very character she is set to master on stage- the Swan Queen. Challenged by her competition (the other desperate ballerinas), obliged by her mother to give it everything she has, drugged by her most prevalent rival (Mila Kunis), and hounded and seduced by her fierce ballet instructor (the always astonishing Vincent Cassel), Nina is quickly loosing her grasp on reality. She is becoming obsessed with perfection, and until she realizes that she is the largest obstacle in her way (perhaps quite literally), perfection will not be achieved. Will she make it to the show of her life before her hungry alternate dancer? Does she have the dedication it takes-and for that matter-is it worth it? Wow! Black Swan is everything a thriller should be. It's original, tense, charismatic, psychological; it's art. The symbolism achieved in this film between fairy tale and reality is truly hair-raising. As if the screenplay and Aronofsky's clear understanding of it wasn't enough, Natalie Portman shows us all that she was born for this role- which ironically is of a girl who was born for her role (I'm pretty sure we have just been incepted). Not only were her emotions absolute, but her physical abilities and appearance matched that of a professional ballet dancer. The levels that Black Swan clicks on are endless. The correlation between the characters of Swan Lake and the people in her life is something that could only have been captured in this way by Aronofsky and perhaps Kubrick. Much like the music within the ballet, this film is a never ending crescendo that contains a finale worthy of applause. The film achieves what its leading lady seeks the most- perfection. For ranking as the best film viewed all year and containing the best performance by a single actor, Black Swan earns 4 stars for this audience member.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Review: Buried (2010)

Director Rodrigo Cortes' Buried stars Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy- a U.S. Contractor who delivers supplies by truck to Iraq. For Paul, this day bears no resemblance to other days on the job. Conroy has awakened to darkness, feet below the surface of an unknown location in Iraq, after he and his crew were attached: killing his fellow truck drivers and leaving him alone in a coffin. Though exasperated, Conroy is filled with a sense of ambition as he discovers that his kidnappers have left him a cell phone, a knife, a Zippo lighter, a glow stick, and a flashlight. As an average joe, Paul desires nothing more than returning home to his family. Unfortunately for Paul, he lacks the position of royalty, therefore struggling to find answers or anyone that feels as desirous about his escape as he does. Will Paul reach his wife and son? Will this day end with vengeance over his Iraqi kidnappers?Will his battery die-or more pressingly- will he? Much similar to Neil Marshall's The Descent, by the end of this film the viewer and the protagonist will be gasping for the same breath of air. Whether or not they both receive I will reserve for the film to portray. From the beginning of Buried, the audience is plunged to the edge of their seat: much like classic Hitchcock. For a movie involving a single six by four foot set, there is enough struggle, action, and stimulation to keep an audience member counting down to closing time. Sure, Buried is at times so heavily claustrophobic, secluded, and uncomfortable that even the viewer feels the need to amplify- but what else should one expect from such a title? The one-man-show performance delivered by Reynolds deters fans of the actor from the belief that films such as The Proposal define his career. Reynolds performs an exceptional work of art in Buried. Such a role has the potential to make or break a film judging by the actor carrying the load- and Reynolds conveys Buried its full length. Never has a dying battery of a cell phone had such an intense effect on me. By the end of this film, you will have formed a liking for its protagonist, a passion for their survival, and a sense of unpredictability of their fate. Buried brings suspenseful film making back to its roots, earning it a strong 3 stars.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Monsters (2010)

Written and Directed by Gareth Edwards, Monsters tells the tale of Andrew Kaulder (Scott McNairy), a struggling photographer and journalist who is having a hard time making a living in an earth that is dealing with alien inhabitants that landed six years ago. These Monsters have implanted fear in the minds of humans- not only making everyday situations much more complicated- but making dangerous journeys significantly more hazardous, for example, crossing the border of Mexico and the United States. In a world that a photo-journalist can only benefit from horrific, appalling photographs and stories, Andrew is open to high paying projects. Conveniently for Andrew and for a fair price, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able)-daughter of an important American figure- needs guidance and transportation across the Mexican border. Inconveniently enough, the ferry (the safest way to travel in these formidable times) has become unavailable to the duo, forcing them to cross the border on foot with a team of protective authorities. Though Andrew is a bit of a playboy and Samantha is engaged, sharing the same journey and fear of these "creatures" that lurk our land forces Andrew and Samantha to not only become familiar, but perhaps fond of each other as well. Not only will this film please monster film fans or those devoted to science fiction, but a large array of viewers of all tastes due to its appeal to human emotion. For a film who's title and centerpiece is Monsters, this picture has everything to do with human relationships and the magnetic forces of love and fate. Much like early George A. Romero films such as Night of the Living Dead, the beasts are candidly bait to bring the film's characters together- and when this happens in Monsters, the chemistry is coercing. The film has a perfect enough blend of magic realism, drama, action, humor, and tension to earn its spot on the top of this year's independent film list and 3 1/2 stars in my book.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Unstoppable (2010)

Director Tony Scott's Unstoppable tells the tale of an absurd first day on the job for a rookie conductor named Will (Chris Pine). Tutoring Will is an experienced veteran engineer- Frank (Denzel Washington). Will- not looking forward to being hounded as a rookie on his first day by old-timers- and Frank- upset at the fact that the industry continuously brings in new blood to weed out such old-timers as himself- have no idea what kind of high-octane, nerve-racking day is ahead of them. Young, dumb, full of fun engineer Dewey (Ethan Suplee, Remember the Titans, My Name is Earl) lets a twenty-six car locomotive carrying toxic chemicals get away from him going full throttle. At the rate this train of death is traveling, it is likely to run off the tracks in Stanton, PA and has the ability to decimate it from existence. The question is: will the brave/crazy Frank and Will have what it takes to stop it? I'll admit I was skeptical about the second consecutive film by Tony Scott being about issues on a train. However, leaving the theater I was quite pleased to have witnessed Scott returning to his roots by delivering his most exciting, lovable film since Top Gun. It is easy to give an audience non-stop action from start to finish (*cough* Michael Bay *cough*), but to include some exceptional character development and astonishing tension that will keep you in your seat is another thing. A director has something to be proud of when audiences claim that the final fifteen minutes of a film had them on edge, but in Unstoppable's one hour and thirty-eight minute running time the viewer will be on edge for one hour and thirty minutes. The Scott brothers (Tony, and Ridley- Alien, Gladiator), tend to stick with Denzel (i.e. American Gangster, De Ja Vu, Man on Fire), and it works. For the first time together on the big screen, the chemistry between Pine and Washington was that of two long-time friends. This, along with tremendous direction, camera work, and simplistic plot, makes a perfect formula for a marvelous film. Is Unstoppable slightly predictable and been there-done that? Absolutely, but what isn't? This film blasts its way to the top of my list for 2010 faster than the train that carries it, earning it 31/2 stars.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reviews from the Vault: Tremors (1990)

Director Ron Underwood's Tremors stars Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as two natives from a tremendously isolated desert valley between mountains and a cliff edge. Valentine (Bacon) and Earl (Ward) often spend there days riding around cutting up on the job. This day, however, isn't filled with as many laughs due to mysterious findings of deceased natives. Puzzled and aghast, the wild country duo frantically fled to a nearby convenience store to warn the locals of these eerie findings. Meanwhile a new set of legs in town, Rhonda (Finn Carter)- a seismologist- is observing some sketchy reads of seismic activity under this isolated valley. Before they know it, the whole gang is gathered on roofs, avoiding monstrous worms that seem to be the reason for the demise of the town people. Tremors is a classic cheesy tale of man vs. beast that honestly gets the job done as far as entertaining goes. Though it is certainly no work of Hitchcock or Spielberg, if Psycho prevented you from showering, and Jaws deterred you from the ocean, Tremors will keep you from resting in the deserts of Nevada. The film delivers both thrills and laughter, earning itself a position in both horror and comedy. The acting may be sub-par, but a film of this caliber does not require Oscar-worthy performances. One phenomenal element of Tremors- much similar to Robert Rodriguez projects and early James Cameron films- is its use of complex puppets, machines, and make-up as its beasts rather than CGI. There is nothing worse than becoming attached to the characters of a film and then being snatched right out of the atmosphere when a monster similar in comparison to a Nintendo 64 character bursts from the ground. Such effects create a state of realism that only adds to the fear and excitement. Though the film is far from perfect, it delivers nothing less than what it promises. Tremors is a fun-filled, thrill ride of a man vs. beast stand off that is nothing less than 96 entertaining minutes, earning it a solid 3 stars.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review: Due Date (2010)

Director Todd Phillips' Due Date stars Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis as two strangers caught up in a situation that neither could have previously anticipated. An edgy soon to be father-Peter Highman (Downey Jr.)- only desires to promptly arrive home in L.A. to his wife (Michelle Monaghan) in time for their child's birth. Little does Peter know that an individual would soon be placed before him. This man's name is Ethan"Tremblay" (Galifianakis), and though his heart is large, he is a walking disaster. From the moment Peter encountered this gentle cataclysm of a man, Ethan began setting down his large array of speedbumps in their trip to L.A. that they have been forced to share together due to Highman's misplacement of his information. Along the extended road to California, this odd couple is forced to form a relationship- whether or not it involves more love than hate is determined by the upcoming events. Yes, we have seen this film before; it was called Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, with a blend of characteristics from Todd Phillips' other films- such as Road Trip. However, Due Date earns a spot on its own map with credit given to strong, talent-fueled performances from Galifianakis and Downey Jr. Though at times being a sucker to trailers portaying too many funny moments of the film, Due Date still managed to extract chuckles from its audience. The film may have been an overall fun trip, yet it did at times try a bit too hard to change gears- leaving the audience confused as whether to laugh or cry. Had it not been for the talented direction of Phillips alongside a stand-up cast, the script of Due Date would have as likely as not fallen short of a theater release. Thanks to its nearly indestructible talent, Due Date earns a strong 21/2 stars.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Director Tod Williams' Paranormal Activity 2 is brought to us just one year after Oren Peli delivered the thrills of the effectively low budget original. 2 is a prequel to the first film, set only sixty days prior to the first day of the original. The film follows the extended family of Katie (Katie Featherson), the protagonist of the initial film. Katie's sister Christie and her husband, step-daughter, baby, and German Shepherd are living in a house that is becoming more and more noticeably occupied by a demon. This film surprisingly pleases on nearly all levels. Being a sequel of a film that achieved its success while remaining extremely simplistic, it was smart not to go overboard. It did however have all of the astonishingly eerie elements of the first film along with some additional ones. The home video-style camera work remained the same, continuing to bring the fear closer to home with its sense of realism. As any great sequel should, 2 contained more victims, more bumps, more chills, and improved on the previous film- making it ultimately scarier for this viewer. Additionally, writers Michael R. Perry and Oren Peli wisely added a few factors to create a tension not achieved in the first- a baby, a dog, and a non-believer. There is nothing quite as tense as evil being clearly present to the audience and the protagonist, but not to their loved one. Going into this film I had my expectations lower than the original, yet the outcome exceeded the original. Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 (Much like the spanish shaky-cam film duo Rec and Rec 2) connect and feed off of each other in a way not often achieved, earning this quality sequel 31/2 stars.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Golden Oldies: House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Williams Castle's House on Haunted Hill stars Vincent Price as an aberrant millionaire playboy named Fredrick Loren who has taken the liberty of inviting five individuals to a house known for its strange occurrences and fatalities. Fredrick promises that each guess, if still living by the following morning, will leave with a whopping 1,000 dollars (way bigger deal back then). As the night unfolds strange events continue occur, from sightings of ghouls to appearances of severed heads. This night is not only beginning to seem stranger and stranger, it is beginning to appear hardly survivable. This cult classic is a perfect formula for a horror film- it's eerie, humorous, black and white, and it features the legendary Vincent Price. Haunted Hill not only treats its audience to fine filmmaking, it simulates a halloween fun house in the viewer's living room. The film serves as a great reminder that not all horror shows have to include computer generated monsters and Michael Bay explosions. If nothing else, House accomplishes thrills and laughs through Price alone with his historically charismatic performance. Additionally, the old-fashioned music of the film only improves on the spectral atmosphere. Whether the viewer's intentions are to take a time capsule back to 1959 for some antique chills or rather laugh at the anti-hero black humor of Price, House on Haunted Hill pleases on all levels without flaw- earning it 4 stars.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: Red (2010)

Robert Shwentke's Red, a film adaptation of the successful DC graphic novel series, takes its audience on a thrill ride with Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired black-ops agent who's life has recently been threatened by what seems to be a group of highly trained federal agents. Upon defeating these agents and having few individuals closely related to him, Frank grabs the one gal he's interested in (Mary-Louise Parker) to prevent her from getting hurt and reassembles his team of retired assassins. The team includes Victoria (Mirren), the looney Marvin Boggs (Malkovich), and the ill but dangerous Joe Matheson (Freeman). As events unfold it seems the heros have been pinned with an assassination and it is up to them to infiltrate CIA headquarters and get to the bottom of what turns out to be quite the large cluster of conspiracy. Red is a rarity in the sense that it's a graphic novel adaptation that works (without the Frank Miller touch). With A-list actors and a uniquely humorous idea, it was hard to miss the mark with Red. Though at times relying a bit too much on witty phrases from Willis and Malkovich and on explosions, the film is carried by strong performances and character development that is many times lost in translation with comic book movies. It wasn't necessarily the old age of the characters that fueled the most laughs and interest, but perhaps both the characters' and actors' youthful on-screen charisma; had one character been recast, this group of assassin retirees may have lost a sense of chemistry that is seldom achieved such as in Red. Although there were many generic elements of this high octane action comedy, most of them were the good kind. The film's ability to carry the audiences interest, its great additional performances from actors Brian Cox and Karl Urban, its fitting soundtrack, and its creative scene transitions consisting of post cards fading into reality complete Red's solid formula, earning it a solid 3 stars.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: The Social Network

Director David Fincher's The Social Network stars Jesse Eisenberg as America's youngest billionaire- Mark Zuckerberg- the founder of Facebook. The film begins in the Fall of 2003 at Harvard University, during the spark of an idea manufactured by twin rowers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (played by Armie Hammer) about an exclusive Harvard social networking site called HarvardConnection. Zuckerberg, a brilliant yet obnoxious Harvard student known for his skills with computer programming, was approached by the Winklevoss twins about this idea with the hopes of aiding them in the creation. Having the creative, self-centered mind that he does, Mark ran with this idea on his own time with the financial aid of his best man Eduardo (Andrew Garfield). Mark and Eduardo improved on the ideas of the Winklevoss twins, renaming and expanding not only the capabilities of the site, but the users' locations. It doesn't take long for this situation to bring success, betrayal, and lawsuits to the feet of Mark and Eduardo- making this biographical Drama a must see. Besides having subject material that millions of people across the globe can relate with, The Social Network is topped with perfect casting, music, plot, and leading performances that leave its audience indulged. Though Jesse Eisenberg (much like Michael Cera) has played the same nerdy, likable nitwit in nearly all of his prior roles, for the time being it's still working; he was everything his character needed to be to force the audience to remain on board and like him more than they hated him. Additionally, all of the supporting roles could not have been better cast. By the end of the film there is a clear distinction between which characters the viewers love and which they hope fail miserably due to greed. Above the film's surface material, The Social Network does a marvelous job of simulating the drive that is in all of us to not only survive, but exceed the norm. Much like Scorcese's ability to portray the luxury and the insanity of a billionaire in the making (i.e. The Aviator), Fincher captures the life of fame and obsession flawlessly, earning The Social Network 3 1/2 stars.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: Enter the Void (2010)

Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void is 2010's award winning psychedelic, independent roller coaster of a film. The film takes you through the last hours (and beyond) of Oscar's (Nathaniel Brown) life through a first person perspective. Oscar and his sister Linda (Paz de la Puerta) were separated at a young age due to their parents dying in a car wreck. Oscar is determined to re-acquaint with Linda, and does so by selling enough drugs to buy her a ticket to Tokyo. Upon arriving in Tokyo, Linda and anyone else associated with Oscar is pulled into his downward spiral of drug use. The spiral comes to an early halt as Oscar is murdered by local authorities as a direct result of his problem. At this point we, as an audience, are taken on Oscar's journey in the after life from a third person perspective as he views all of the wreckage he has left behind. Enter the Void may be one of the most original, artistic, compelling, bizarre, and dramatic films I have ever seen, but that does not mean that I enjoyed it. Noe portrayed hallucinations and the afterlife like no other being has before, and for that he deserves to be recognized. The sexual content of the film was at times unbearably brutal, and the drama was at times overly desolating much like a Jodi Picoult Novel (My Sister's Keeper, The Pact) or Requiem for a Dream on Acid. From a critics standpoint, I cannot call this film bad simply due to my dislike of it; it was effective and fertile. Void was at many times quite boring and discomforting mainly due to the numerous long, drawn out camera pans and zooms that the cinematographer must have been a bit too excited and confident about. I would reframe from recommending this film to any viewer with epilepsy or anyone beyond drastically-dark artistic viewers because of its extremely graphic content that has been permanently burned into my oculars. Enter the Void certainly stands independently as the most original film I've ever viewed, but due its unnecessary roughness and the fact that it long over-stays its welcome at 2 hours and 43 minutes, I give the film 11/2 stars.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Reviews from the Vault: Let the Right One In (2008)

To new readers, Reviews from the Vault are reviews from my personal collection. This weekend being the opening weekend for Let Me In (America's adaptation of the recent Dutch film Let the Right One In), I figured I would review the "real" film and give credit where credit is due. Writer John Ajvide Lindqvist and director Thomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In is an award winning tale of love viewed through the perspective of a vampire caught in youth. Oskar (Kare Hedenbrant) is a timid young school boy who has recently encountered a new, strange girl in his apartment complex named Eli. Realizing that Oskar is a shy, nearly spineless boy, Eli (Lina Leandersson) makes it her aspiration to protect Oskar and teach him to stand up for himself against school-house bullies. The more Oskar peers into Eli's life, the more clear it becomes that Eli is far from an average girl, and far from human for that matter. In a time so cluttered with Vampire movies, television shows, and novels, one might find themselves hesitant to view such a movie as Let the Right One In. The film tends to stand on its own in this genre due to its originality of plot and characters. For being both young and first time screen actors, Hedebrant and Leandersson put on Oscar-worthy performances. The chemistry between the two characters is eerily realistic, and at times the actors do not need to speak in order for the audience to understand what is inferred. The film may be set in a different country, the actors may be younger than most viewers of the film, and the story may invlove a fictional vampire, but Let the Right One In depicts a journey of love and passion that we can all appreciate and relate to. A director's ability to make his audience sympathize and care for an otherwise monster shows true professional cinematography, which is indefinitely the case with Alfredson. From the top notch writing, directing, and acting, to the eerie setting and subject matter of the film, Let the Right One In is an instant horror classic that not only inspired an American remake, but earned 4 stars in my book.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: Devil (2010)

John Erick Dowdle's Devil, starring Logan Marshall Green, Chris Messina, and Bokeem Woodbine (I don't know them either) introduces its audience to a group of not-so-great people who are forced to put up with each other on the same elevator. The longer the wait continues, the more they suspect and detest each other, and things begin to seem a bit supernatural. A detective (Messina) viewing from an outside perspective, is becoming more and more apprehensive to the idea that one of these individuals may be the devil himself. This may sound like a premise nearly incapable of being dull, but somehow the cast and crew accomplishes just that. Although the phrase "from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan" used to mean something, that time has long since passed; it's a shame the producers didn't realize this. Devil is initiated with a splendid idea, however tumbles the rest of the way. The sub-par acting and slack directing of the film only made matters worse. There have been many successful slow building classic horror films (i.e. Rosemary's Baby, The Shining), but what makes such films classic is their ability to finish with a forte of an ending, which Devil far from delivers. Entering the cinema, I was sort of expecting a sluggish film, yet received even less. Leaving the theater, I was deeply unsatisfied as a horror fan. For a mystery horror flick about a demon aboard an elevator of strangers, Devil is monotonously stale and otherwise not fulfilling. I give Devil 11/2 stars.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: The Town (2010)

Based on a Chuck Hogan novel entitled "Prince of Thieves" and written & directed for the screen by Ben Affleck, The Town is a Boston cop movie resembling a modern day mix of Heat and Goodfellas with an Irish-Boston accent. The film follows Doug MacRay (Affleck), a skilled bank robber from the most infamous city in the country for such a profession- Charlestown. Doug's right-hand man and lifetime friend James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) has his back in a very Joe Pesci-like way. Though his actions are always out of pure love for his crime brother, he is at many times quite dangerous. In an early scene, the audience is taken on a bank robbery in which they escape with the comfort of having a very attractive blind-folded hostage- Claire (Rebecca Hall)- who is released with the ultimatum of "you tell, you die". Upon speaking with Federal Agent Adam Frawley (John Hamm), Claire begins to be followed by Doug. Rather than confirm that Claire is not advancing with turning in any further evidence or information on the perpetrators, Doug falls in love with his ex-victim. Will Claire conclude that Doug was in fact her robber, and will this change the way that she feels for him? After being taken back a few steps with the success of Affleck's directorial debut of Gone Baby Gone in 2007, audiences had high expectations for The Town and for this viewer the film has delivered and exceeded those expectations. The film begins and ends with energetic tension, yet the meat of the film lies in everything in between. The dynamic characters of Hogan's novel have been admirably displayed by top-notch actors, even in smaller roles such as Doug's inmate father portrayed by the always fascinating Chris Cooper. The compelling scenes involving Affleck, Hall, and the threateningly short-fused Renner will have audiences balancing on the ends of their seats (not to mention the high-octane getaway scenes). Have we seen films similar to The Town? Of course. But from the remarkable presentation as actor/screenplay writer/director by Affleck, to the breath-taking performances from the films additional actors, to the powerful jump start and triumphant finale, The Town pleases on all levels of action, suspense, and drama- earning it 31/2 stars

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review: Moon (2009)

Duncan Jones' Moon stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, an astronaut in the near future who is at the end of his three year mission of sending back resources to earth from the dark side of the moon that aid earth's energy problem. Having only an astronaut assisting robot aboard named GERTY (voice of Kevin Spacey), Sam begins to loose touch. Drawing near the end of his extended journey- missing home dearly- Sam encounters a second Sam on the moon and brings him aboard the ship. Has Sam lost his mind or is there an explanation for this identical stranger? Moon captures the audience with its dazzling premise, its top-notch leading actor, and its originality. The film is much like a combination of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Fight Club. From the beginning, Sam's passion for what he does, his family, and his sanity reels the audience into this captivating one man show. The following scenes only improve on this, with well planned twists and elements of confusion (the good kind) that leave the viewer wanting more, and getting it. Rockwell's performance is so strong that it suggests he was born specifically to play this role. A film involving a lonely astronaut who's nearing the end of his mission with no companion probably would have been a bit discomforting. Moon avoids this by brilliantly casting Spacey as Sam's right-hand robot, relating quite a bit to Kubrick's HAL 9000 from 2001. Rockwell's ability to portray two identical, yet opposite characters simultaneously on the same screen, combined with the debuting Duncan Jones' original story and directing, make Moon a truly stunning Sci-Fi experience that under stays its welcome at 97 minutes- earning it a perfect 4 stars.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reviews from the Vault: Bronson (2008)

Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson tells the true story of a young man named Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) who always wanted to be famous. Peterson reached his fame in a manner not reached by many. Michael robbed a post office and was sentenced to seven years in prison, where he served 30 years for atrocious behavior performed by his alter ego- Charlie Bronson. The film is as bizarre as a Stanley Kubrick film and as compelling as a Martin Scorsese project. Most of the film is spent focused on Bronson in numerous jail cells and mental institutions, seeing how those are the places he feels most at home. There is another element of the film that is portrayed as a one man play, starring Bronson communicating with an audience that seems to symbolize his conscience. For some, this film may go beyond the acceptable borders of the mind. For this viewer, those lines crossed make this flick a masterpiece. In fact, that is exactly what this film is- a work of art with the aim of depicting a mad man's creative mind. The story and additional actors of the film could have completely bombed and Bronson would still have been a gem due to Hardy's brilliant performance. Hardy's acting could easily be compared to a young Brando, or perhaps to Nickleson's portrayal in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. At times in which Hardy's character isn't speaking, the viewer still finds themself consumed by Bronson's raging emotions. His lips don't have to move to know what he is thinking due to Hardy's charismatic facial expressions and stage presence. Refn and Hardy managed to manufacture Bronson into a lovable of a monster as King Kong. Though at times a bit too out there for even the most imaginative viewers, Bronson is a captivating and compelling one man show that earns itself 3 1/2 stars.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Review: Machete (2010)

Robert Rodriguez's Machete, starring Danny Trejo and Robert De Niro, began as a fake trailer in front of the 2007 Tarantino/Rodriguez project: Grindhouse. Much like the Grindhouse double feature itself, the Machete trailer's aim was to resemble a 1970's exploitation film. Having had such a success with Grindhouse, Rodriguez saw it fit to go ahead with the idea and make Machete a feature length film. Machete stars Trejo as an ex-Federale ("FBI, DEA, and CIA all rolled into one") who has been lead to believe that if he assassinates the senator (De Niro) he may continue to reside in the states and receive any legal documents required to do so. As events unfold, Machete finds that he is in business with the wrong individual and has been double crossed. However, what they failed to apprehend was that they messed with the wrong immigrant! Much like some recent reviews (Piranha 3D, Evil Dead 2), Machete doesn't promise much, but it delivers. Being inspired by exploitation films of the 70's, the flick does just that- it exploits every aspect of film. Scenes that are "ordinary" in normal films, are extraordinary in Machete. Ordinarily violent scenes are extra violent, as well as routinely cheesy lines being more frequent and extra cheesy. Machete defies gravity, physics, humanity, and pain tolerance- making it everything an action fan could dream of. The film also has special appearances from Cheech Maron, Don Johnson, and Lindsay Lohan (in an ironically appropriate role). For fans of exploitation films, Trejo, Rodriguez, action, De Niro, and babes, Machete pleases on all levels. Having started as a pre-movie gag trailer, Machete is an amazing adaptation of a simple idea and a really fun way to spend 105 minutes. I give Machete 31/2 stars.

Golden Oldies: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

Director Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn stars Bruce Campbell as Ash, everyone's favorite zombie slaying hero. The first Evil Dead, released in 1983, told the tale of five friends that spent the night in a cabin in the woods and accidentally unleashed demons that would in turn ruin their night. Evil Dead 2 was brought to us four years later in 1987 as if there was no such thing as the original film. There was neither a recap nor even a hint of the first film mentioned in the sequel, making Evil Dead 2 that much more bizarre. Though the film does not consist of much more than Bruce Campbell holding up a cabin from the undead with a group of strangers, 2 has every element of a perfect sequel: more laughs, chills, and thrills, a larger body count, and a bigger budget. Much like Raimi's other trilogy- Spiderman, the second film was arguably more exceptional than the initial film. From the convivial one-liners, to the boundless gore, to the alluring Campbell, Evil Dead 2 is not only everything a horror fan could ask for, but a comedy fan as well. Sure, the film is very campy, but did it ever promise not to be? For this viewer it only adds to the thrilling fun. Having begun as a very low budget, simplistic fright show to becoming a cult-classic horror trilogy, to having its own nation-wide musical, the Evil Dead trilogy has come a long way. For this viewer, Evil Dead 2 contained more laughs, more thrills, and more fun than the others, scoring it a solid 4 stars.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Redbox Review: The Fourth Kind (2009)

Yikes! The film is Olatunde Osunsanmi's The Fourth Kind, starring Milla Jovovich. I chose to title the review for what it is- a Redbox review- meaning it is worth no more than a dollar. The film takes place in Alaska and follows the research of Dr. Abbey Tyler (Jovovich), a therapist that is beginning to uncover strange coincidences between unrelated patients concerning an owl outside their window at night. The further Dr. Tyler explores these abnormal incidents, the more she feels they are of a higher intelligence and of another world. My biggest issue with The Fourth Kind is its attempt to persuade the viewer into believing that its based on some sort of documented evidence- which it's not. The film refers to no-name actress Charlotte Milchard's character as "the real Dr. Tyler", whereas she is credited as "the 'real' Dr. Tyler". Some scenes consist of a split screen, including one side of the screen depicting the actors playing these "real" individuals, and the other side portraying the "real" footage. The problem with this is that neither side of the screen is actual footage, leaving inquisitive viewers confused of the writer/director's motives. If a film can make the audience believe, if only for a moment, that what they are watching is real, than it has succeeded above all expectations. Not only did Fourth fail miserably at this, but it failed to thrill this viewer even once. Between the ongoing lies, c-list acting (sadly even from Jovovich), the camera work being equivalent to a high-school educational video, and an overall feeble premise, Fourth Kind wouldn't even qualify as a worthy day-time SyFy original movie. This film earns 1 star on a good day.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: The Last Exorcism (2010)

Produced by Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) and directed by Daniel Stamm, The Last Exorcism takes us alongside Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), through his last exorcism that he has agreed to perform while being filmed by a documentary film crew to show how much of a scam the whole process really is. As the events unfolding at the farm grow more and more mysterious, Cotton can't help but question his doubts that demons exist in the world. The Last Exorcism can be best described as a blend of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and the Blair Witch Project. The film consists of three diverse elements: horror, suspense, and a relieving presence of comedy in the film's early scenes. Exorcism does a fine job of mood transition throughout the film's running time of 100 minutes. The beginning of the film is a vessel for encouraging the audience to become familiar and fascinated with Cotton's charm. The middle of Exorcism plants a question in the viewer's mind of whether what is going on is supernatural or a mental illness. And the end leaves the viewer either captivated or angry depending on whether or not they appreciate quality film-making, or are expecting a hollywood ending. Fabian, primarily spending most of his career on the television screen, brought to the big screen a character that I believe no one else could have delivered. This was a character with enough individuality to carry his own movie- it was simply a plus that the rest of the movie satisfied. The suspense and fear administered on the audience was almost too tense at times (just the way I like it), leaving viewers anticipating the unknown. There came a point near the film's end that I questioned if it was over (and I would have been fine with that), but it only improved and continued on a path that I could have only dreamed of as a horror fan. From the top-notch acting portrayed by both Patrick Fabian and the recently introduced Ashley Bell in the title roles, to the admirable direction and camera-work, I give this arguably flawless horror flick 4 stars.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Piranha 3D (2010)

Piranha 3D, directed by Alexandre Aja, stars Elizebeth Shue, Jerry O'Connell, (Stand by Me), and Ving Rhames. The film follows a high-schooler named Jake Forester (Steven R. McQueen), who has finally spent enough summers baby-sitting that he can't endure it any longer. As his mother (Shue) is patrolling the lake, he decides not to baby-sit and to partake in the summer festivities, only to find that he chose the worst day to do so. A sudden underwater tremor has set a large group of prehistoric piranhas loose into the college student populated city lake. Much like Snakes on a Plane, Piranha promises four things: laughs, gore, summer fun, and nudity. Not only does this flick meet these standards, but it exceeds them with its use of 3D technology. Sure, this 3D phase seems to be growing old all over again, until Piranha delivered 3D boobies (yeah, I said it). This film won't win any oscars, and the plot is considerably laughable, but it never promised to be anything more than just that. A film including Ving Rhames using a propeller to kill evil fish, 3D nudity, Christopher Lloyd, excessive gore and language, and lines like: "I think they took my penis!" should not be judged on a dramatic scale- and I won't. Despite the comical plot, sub-par acting, and overall absurdity of the film, Piranha distributed a fun way to spend 90 minutes- earning it 3 stars.

Reviews from the Vault: Kalifornia (1992)

Dominic Sena's Kalifornia tells the story of a serial killer-enthused journalist named Brian Kessler (David Dachovny) and his partner Carrie (Michelle Forbes). The duo suits up for a road trip to travel the country stopping at famous murder sights as Brian writes his novel with the final destination being California. A white-trash couple-- Early (Brad Pitt) and Adele (Juliette Lewis)-- having had their sites set on California for some time, decide to ride along. As the trip continues, Early's twisted side becomes more and more apparent, leading Brian and Carrie to believe that they may be in the very presence of a killer. Kalifornia is tense, not only in its final scenes, but from the moment the protagonist is placed in a car with a mad man. The viewer knows from the first thirty seconds of the film that Early is a deranged sociopath. It is the characters that are ignorant of the danger they are in, leaving the viewer on the edge of their seat awaiting conflict. Unlike similar thrillers, Kalifornia does not end moments after the good guys find out who the bad guy is-- there's another thirty minutes of tension that follow, inclining to a triumphant ending. With a disturbing performance from Pitt accompanied by his passionately naive partner well played by Juliette Lewis, and a convincing portrayal of a dedicated journalist by Dachovny along-side his increasingly suspicious partner (Forbes), the viewer is equally attached to both couples of the film. Kalifornia delivers the chills and thrills that the premise promises, earning it a solid 3 stars.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reviews from the Vault: Brick (2005)

Writer/Director Rian Johnson's Brick tells the tale of Brendan Frye (Joseph-Gordon Levitt), a high school student that is having a hard time finding his missing ex-girlfriend Emily. The more Brendan searches, the further away she seems. As the story unfolds, Brendan discovers that Emily was caught up with a bad group of people, including the town legend, "The Pin" (as in kingpin). You may find it hard to remove yourself from your seat due to the intriguingly devious characters acquainted along Brendan's journey, and the sense of film noir. This is the very reason that this detective film is a success. Brick may include teenage characters. It may be set at a high school and take place in recent years, but don't be befuddled, Brick has the poise of a much older film noir such as The Maltese Falcon. Not only does Levitt portray a "Private I" with nearly the same accuracy and passion as Jack Nicholson in Polanski's Chinatown, but the film's music is a large part of the action (much like its predecessors). Additionally, Brick delivers an ending not as easily analyzed as some other modern day noir. Although some of the actors opposite Levitt tend to portray the fact that they are below his pay-grade, the twists, excellent dialog, and pioneer script of Brick earn the film a solid 3 stars in my book.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reviews from the Vault: The House of the Devil (2009)

Ti West's The House of the Devil is based on true events that take place in the 1980's. The film follows Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue), a sophomore in college in need of extra income to support her near future move to a new house. To raise a bit of money, Samantha agrees to a night of baby-sitting that turns into something she couldn't have imagined. Upon arrival and on the night of the lunar eclipse, things rapidly become eery when she begins to discover that the people dwelling in the house are sadistic cultists. The House of the Devil succeeds where recent horror movies fail in the sense that its not fueled by gore, but by tension. From the first confrontation with Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan of Manhunter), it is very clear to the viewer that he and his family are nothing less than sadistically wicked. The relief in this is that the film is not driven by the mystery of who's good and who's bad, but by truly authentic tension. Much like firmly gripping horror films of the 1980's, Devil contains a slow build to a deeply chilling finale. It is not necessarily the ending that will haunt your dreams, but everything leading up to the ending. As the viewer watches Samantha go about her night, they can hardly stay in their seats knowing that evil lurkes and not knowing when it will strike. Much like Jaws not showing the beast for the majority of the film, The House of the Devil leaves you almost impatiently awaiting the beast; only this time the beast comes in human form. Donahue and Noonan's top-notch acting along with Ti West's best direction of his young career make this gut-wrenching horror flick worth the watch. I am forced to score The House of the Devil 4 stars due to its pleasingly horrific essence.

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Director Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based upon the Oni Press graphic novel Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, written by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22 year old canadian rocker who has found himself in love with with the wildest, most astonishing and fashionable dame in Canada. Her name is Romona Flowers (Mary Elizebeth Winstead), and she has seven evil exes. In order to date her, Scott must defeat these seven jealous foes. Can Scott gather the heart and the cojones to fight his way to Ramona? From the classic video game references, to the special effects, to the marvelousness of the enemies turning into coins upon being defeated, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is every nerd's fantasy. The film arouses the viewer in the same sense that Sin City rocked the audience with its blend of reality and comic-like characteristics. Beyond its visual domination, the film's adaptation and transition from book to screen is a success. Some may recognize Edgar Wright's other cinematic accomplishments, including films like Shaun of the Dead and Hott Fuzz. This film is less British and more hipster than its predecessors, which may be a turn-off for some, though no more than a nice transition for this viewer. Although we may have seen Cera closely portray this character in previous films, it is too early to say that its gotten old and stopped working. In this case it fits the script as well. Beyond the A-list cast, superb direction, and stunning effects, the immaculately fitting music is the glue of Pilgrim. Though this flick may be too nerdy and hip for some, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a sigh of relief for this viewer, scoring it 31/2 stars.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: The Other Guys (2010)

Director Adam Mckay and Will Ferrell have returned to the big screen in The Other Guys. The film stars Terry Holtz (Mark Wahlberg) and Allen Gamble (Ferrell) as two pencil-pushing odd couple office cops who are growing more and more tired of filling out action cops' paperwork and are ready for some of the excitement. When superstar officers Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) and P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) die in hot pursuit, it's Terry and Allen's turn to step up to the plate as New York's top cops. Mckay and Ferrell have been integrating since 1995 on Saturday Night Live. In more recent years audiences have applauded Mckay/Ferrell projects such as Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers. One thing that is very clear about these films is that viewers either love them or hate them. The Other Guys, like Mckay's other flicks, gives the audience a chance to stop stressing about work, bills, and life. It gives the audience a chance to laugh at the simple things, like a gang of hobos having an orgy in a Prius (don't ask, just watch). Upon seating one's self at the cinema, one must discern that they aren't awaiting a showing of Casablanca. This is a farcically unrealistic film with a humorously been there done that plot, however it's okay considering the director and actors know it. Ferrell's antics are a riot as always and Wahlberg's intentional over-acting remains amusing throughout. The film touches that part of you deep down that wants to brake all the rules and conquer the day with a buddy cop. Though too silly for some, for this viewer The Other Guys pleases the mind and under stays its welcome at 107 minutes, earning it a well-deserved 3 stars.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: Dinner For Schmucks (2010)

Dinner for Schmucks- (Jay Roach's adaptation of the French film, The Dinner Game) stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. Schmucks is about Tim (Rudd), a rising executive who has discovered that in order to attain his promotion he must attend a dinner hosted by his CEO that celebrates the stupidity of poor souls (i.e. Carell's character Barry) chaperoned by his boss's inferiors. Torn between the immorality of humiliating an honest man and his desire to advance by any means necessary, Tim must make a tough ethical decision. Having not seen the original French film, I can only guess that either the cast and crew of Schmucks lost the comedy of the original in translation, or there's a major cultural difference interfering. The film seems to be fueled by physical humor, awkwardness, and the implausible stupidity of Carell's character. Not to say the film doesn't have its funny moments. Zach Galifianakis is a saving grace of the film, simply due to his on-screen charisma and facial expressions. This is not enough to save the film from plummeting further and further as the predictably ironic scenes unravel. I don't much care for awkwardness in real life, much less do I like paying to experience it on the big screen to the extent that Schmucks dishes out. Carell's character tends to be more obnoxious than humorous. Having come from the man who brought us Meet the Parents, Borat, and Bruno, I would like to perceive this as a mere speed bump in Roach's directorial career. The film had a phenomenal cast, including Ron Livingston, Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Concords, and David Walliams of Little Britain USA. I must add that although I am not alone on my opinion (Dinner currently has a 50% on RT), I personally know a collection of individuals that loved the film. Although arguably an acquired taste for some, this viewer would feel like a Schmuck if he scored it any more than 2 stars.

Monday, August 2, 2010

DVD Review: Big Fan (2009)

Robert D. Siegel's Big Fan stars Patton Oswalt as Paul Aufiero, a man in his forties working the ticket booth at a coliseum while living with his mother. Paul is also a hopelessly die hard New York Giants fan and practically devotes every waking minute to either thinking about the giants, discussing plays and stats with his friend (Kevin Corrigan), or calling into sports stations. After meeting his all-time favorite player Antoine Bishop, and being brutally beaten by him, Paul is torn between suing or letting it go so Bishop won't miss the season. Big Fan is diverse for actor Patton Oswalt in the sense that it's not a laugh-out-loud comedy. Oswalt electrifies the viewer with his ability to switch gears to a more serious role much like Robin Williams (i.e. One Hour Photo and Insomnia). This film has a truly dark brand of humor if any at all, yet keeps you entertained from start to finish with its one of a kind characters and discrete script. Having already shown us a washed up, near pathetic sports related figure in Siegle's script of The Wrestler (starring Mickey Rourke), one tends to be skeptical of such a similar story written and directed less than a year later. One quickly recognizes the diversity between the two stories and Big Fan's ability to captivate the audience and force them to admire this fan's dedication and passion for the sport. The film's top notch directing, acting, and casting earns it a solid 3 stars in my book and won it the 2009 Sundance Film Festival Breakthrough Director Award for Robert D. Siegel.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review of an Attempted Viewing: Battlefield Earth (2000)

Is that a terrible movie in your pants or are you just happy to see me Travolta?
Hoooly sh*t. So I was recently dared to endure the pain of the infamously awful Battlefield Earth. I was strolling through F.Y.E. today and saw a copy for $1.97. "What the hell?", I thought. Let me begin with a Synopsis. Battlefield Earth was a science fiction novel written by L. Ron Hubbard in 1982. Hubbard also composed a soundtrack to the novel and literally named it Space Jazz, no joke. The novel takes place on earth in the year 3000, a time in which earth is run by an alien race that has virtually enslaved and almost completely exterminated the entire human race. Humans are ready to fight back. The novel brought about much controversy due to the fact that the church of scientology reportedly bought a ridiculous amount of copies of the book, resulting in it earning 1.5 million dollars by 1983. John Travolta, a scientologist himself, decided immediately upon reading the book that he wanted to make a movie adaptation. This brings us to the year 2000 in which Travolta produced, starred, and obtained a director (Roger Christian) for the film. I wish that I could give the film zero stars, but that would require I finish watching the film. I did not. In the first 20 minutes of the film (which is all I could endure), I witnessed an impressively dreadful performance from the not-so-dreadful Barry Pepper. I was in awe at the scene transactions resembling a Power-Point presentation. Additionally, I simply cannot comprehend the thought process of the costume department issuing costumes equivalent to an eight year-olds halloween wear. And finally, Travolta's god-awful acting was no shock, but I may never view the once promising Forest Whitaker the same ever again. I'm pretty sure this film was an attempt to brainwash the human race into buying into Travolta's fantasy, but those crazy aliens will never get this guy. Battlefield Earth is to the film industry what Hitler is to Germany's reputation. I watched 20 minutes of this film so that you don't have to watch any of it. You're Welcome.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Golden Oldies: Cocoon (1985)

Ron Howard's Cocoon tells the tale of a group of adventurous elder men living in a retirement community who decide to take a stroll on the wild side. The group of men (Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn) stumble across a set of mysterious cocoons in their "foreign" neighbors' pool. Upon diving in, the men began experiencing a sensation of youth not felt in many years. As if to have discovered an extra-terrestrial fountain of youth, the gang experience a vast array of youthful side effects. The seniors sex life sky-rockets, and Cronyn's character's cancer is gone. Although like most good things, there's a catch; there is only so much to go around. Howard's Cocoon not only differs from many Science Fiction films in the sense that it doesn't thrive on action and laser beams, but its characters are just as interesting as its premise. Cocoon's space men (one of which portrayed by Brian Dennehy) are just as humane and sympathetic as its human figures, nevertheless the film's glue is in the four senior men and their wives being twice as lively as the younger characters. Additionally there is the ethical dilemma of wether or not it's morally wrong to go against nature, therefore daring the viewer to decide which set of characters' morals closely resembles their own. Cocoon may go a bit over the top on a couple of occasions with the older gentlemen acting a bit too young. Otherwise Cocoon not only fulfills the viewer's dream of a new-found youth, but allows them to experience exceptional film-making. I give Ron Howard's Cocoon a solid 3 stars.