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.