Archive for June, 2012

Movie Review: Seeking Justice

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People have been very harsh on Nicolas Cage lately.  I honestly do not understand why.  I mean there have been a few movies where I found myself thinking “What?  Nic Cage is better than this.”  But I think a lot of the criticism is undeserved.  He is still a great actor just has had some questionable movie choices as of late (mainly the Ghost Rider movies and Drive Angry).  Other than that I kind of liked Knowing and The Weather Man which every else was quick to throw aside as terrible.  So when I saw the trailer for Roger Donaldson’s Seeking Justice all I thought was this will be the movie to put him back in audience’s good graces.  (Warning this review will contain spoilers)

Seeking Justice follows Will Gerard (Nic Cage) who unintentionally enlists the help of a mysterious man named Simon (Guy Pearce) he meets in the hospital waiting room after his wife (January Jones) was attacked by an unknown man.  The “help” Simon offers is to bring this assailant to justice but in return Will has to do something for Simon when he is called upon which unleashes a vicious cycle of events that has Will constantly looking over his shoulder and regretting that he ever got involved with Simon.  Here is the trailer:

I am just going to throw it out there that this movie is cleverer than it appears.  It may seem like another vengeance movie and it kind of is but there is a lot of thinking to it.  Just as a heads up here is where the spoilers start.  The organization that Simon works has an interesting turnover rate shall we say.  The fact that it is a chain of people in Will Gerard’s situation doing the act of vengeance for other people who are experiencing the same hardships is really a cool concept.  The fact that neither Simon nor any of his henchmen get their hands dirty with the ones who committed the crime is a genius way of having no trail back to them.  And this is a very plain explanation of what is going on in this movie which is why you need to see it.  No pun intended but I know I am not doing it justice.

So back to Nicholas Cage, will this movie redeem him in audience’s eyes?  I hope so.  He gives a pretty good performance, not his best but still good.  There are times I think he is too visibly paranoid.  For example there is a scene at a vending machine where he is overly anxious when he sees a cop watching him.  But hey, he picked a good script in my eyes.  Guy Pearce is awesome as always.  He does a good job of appearing professional and buddy/buddy with Cage’s character when you can still see a devious and creepy look in his eyes.  As for January Jones, well she was January Jones.

Final verdict, if you were looking for an action/thriller that redeems your faith Nicolas Cage, definitely check out Seeking Justice.  Roger Donaldson delivers another thriller with twists and turns to satisfy any action fan.  I give it an 8/10.

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Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom finally hit the theaters in my area so I know I am behind in the blogging world for posting a review.  It is the latest from Wes Anderson whose previous films can best be described as unique.  I say that because his movies had a feel and formula totally different from any other director.  That said people who see his movies love or hate them.  There are some who fall in the middle but for the most part people are at polar ends.  Someone who sees a lot a movies will most likely appreciate Wes Anderson’s style where as a casual movie-goer might find themselves thinking, “What did I just watch?”  I heard this from a lot of people as we left the theater this time around.  That said, Moonrise Kingdom definitely follows the Wes Anderson formula of unique drama, comedy, and atmosphere.

Moonrise Kingdom is about a couple of barely teenage lovers, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), who believe the only way they be together is by escaping into the wilderness away from their drab everyday lives.  When the two go missing local police’s Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Sam’s Khaki Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Francis McDormand) must work together, while butting heads, to bring the modern day Romeo and Juliet back to safety before a might storm strikes the small New England town.  Here is the trailer:

Starting off, if you found yourself not liking any of Wes Anderson’s previous films like The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, and Rushmore then you most likely might not be thrilled with Moonrise Kingdom.  I say might because who knows, maybe you would like this one since you like Norton, Willis, or McDormand who have not been in a Wes Anderson directed film previously.  The material is dry and a lot of the comedy is situational as oppose to spoken.  Do not get me wrong there were some funny lines in this movie but a lot of what made this movie funny were the awkward situations, which is classic Wes Anderson in my opinion.

The acting was perfect.  There was not a single person in this movie that could have easily been replaced.  I look forward to seeing what is next for Gilman and Hayward because they absolutely nailed their roles just way Anderson envisioned the characters being.  Bill Murray again proves himself to be a true actor, not just a witty comedic actor.  Bruce Willis played a different kind of cop for a change!  Not complaining about his other roles at all but he never draws a gun here which is a cool change for him.  But the best performance to me was from Norton.  He embodied the commanding troop leader turned paranoid, naïve, regular guy and delivered his lines with the right amount of emotion.

Overall, Moonrise Kingdom is a fun dram-rom-com that any Wes Anderson fan will enjoy for its situational humor and adolescent view of true love.  I give it an 8/10 and it is probably my favorite film from Anderson thus far.  And Bill Murray and Bruce Willis are two of my favorite actors so it was cool to final see them in a movie together.

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Random Movie of the Week: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

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Good horror movies are hard to come by these days.  That is not to say there are all duds but only a few have been worth remembering.  To me some of the most attention worthy horror movies are the ones that have you rethinking and in a way poking fun at the genre.  Ever since Wes Craven’s Scream it has been a sort of fad to recognize and point out the obvious path that horror movies take and the characters in the story.  Tucker & Dale Vs Evil managed to show us an alternative side to the victims in slasher movies that maybe the alleged ruthless, psychotic killer(s) are actually just misunderstood.  Then most recently there was Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods.  If you have seen it you know where I am going with it but if you have not then just go see for yourself.  Which brings me to this week’s random movie that take a look behind the scenes of what it take be a serial killer, Behind the Mask:  The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

Here is a brief synopsis of the plot:  A film crew working on a documentary about what it takes to be a real life serial killer work alongside a young man, Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), who is showing them the tricks of the trade.  Vernon enlightens the crew on how he developed the spoken word of his legend among the crowd, physical/cardio training, picking the right candidates to be his victims, how he plants the seed to spark their interest, scoping out the locations, rigging them in his favor, and so much more.  But the film crew faces a dilemma of whether or not to let Leslie go through with his vision.  Here is the trailer:

There is a lot to take in from the story of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.  The first is that in this reality Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger actually exist!  And I think they mention Chucky too.  I mean the idea of them really existing is both cool and scary but what this movie eludes to is that the famous cinematic slashers are an alternative persona from who they really are.  When you think about it, it is a crazy thing to toy around with in your head about how Leslie was inspired by them and that they trained and prepared just as he does.  It answers a lot of those questions like “who did the killer know they would go there” or “how do they know so much about the house” and so much more.  But I must add this is and indie flick so it is low budget so there is not much gore because a lot is left to imagination.  For example, we know what a person getting there neck snapped looks like so all they need to do is play the sound.  You will know what I mean when you see the movie.  Plus it is cool how it starts out with a found footage feel and switched over to being like a real movie.

The cast was great as well which is why the story is so well told.  Nathan Baesel was amazing as Leslie Vernon, he could go from an energetic, happy, and funny guy to a cold, aggressive maniac effortlessly.  One of the best scenes is actually in the trailer when he is talking about the cardio he has to do, just hysterical and clever dialogue throughout the movie.  And I have to acknowledge the legendary cameos by Robert Englund as the Ahab, Zelda Rubinstein (short woman from Poltergeist) as the story telling librarian, and Scott Wilson as Leslie’s mentor, Eugene.

Final verdict, this is easily a 9/10 because it is just a genius horror/comedy/thriller.  If you consider yourself a horror movie fan you have to check this one out.  You will be glad you did.

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Movie Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

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There have been dozens of world disaster movies over the last twenty years about the end of the world as we know it.  Some common ones are that we did it to ourselves/global warming films like The Day After Tomorrow, robots smarter than their creators like the Terminator series,  alien invasions such as Independence Day, the dead rising up from the ground (any zombie movie), and even a meteorite heading straight towards Earth like Armageddon.  These films have become increasingly popular as we near the inevitable date of December 12, 2012 where according to the Mayan calendar the world will end.  Regardless of your belief about when, how, and/or if the world will end we can all agree that a good apocalyptic movie is hard to come by.  They usually all doom and gloom with explosions and mutilations which is exactly why Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a breath of fresh air since it is a romantic/comedy at heart.

A brief synopsis of the plot:  Three weeks before a meteorite is destined to obliterate Earth, an insurance salesman named Dodge (Steve Carell) is abandoned by his wife and left feeling empty, not because his wife ran away (literally) but because he desired the first lost love of his life Olivia.  Dodge is one of the few that still went about his day as he would have had there been no meteorite until he befriend a neighbor he saw but never bother to get to know named Penny (Keira Knightley).  When their apartment is threatened by destructive citizens Dodge and Penny (along with Dodge’s new adopted dog, Sorry) flee on a promise that if Penny can get Dodge to Olivia he will get her to someone with a plane to fly her home to England.  Here is the trailer:

As I mentioned earlier, this is not your run of the mill end of the world movie.  Lorene Scafaira has crafted a very unique film with that shows something that I feel has been missed in many of these apocalyptic movies.  Most focus on the extremes of everyone going crazy, doing things that they would never have done otherwise but Seeking a Friend for the End of the World also shows people going about their day like business as usual some even going as far as a hit man to take themselves out so they didn’t have to see the world end.  In my opinion this is the most accurate portrayal of how people would really act meaning you are going to have a lot of people engaging in mayhem but also people that act like nothing is wrong which makes for a bunch of hilarious and awkward moments in the movie that is carried by the dialogue.

What is said by characters are things everyday people would say and never feels forced.  Steve Carell is just the perfect modest guy next door Dodge that just goes about his day, acting as dodge normally acts.  But what really makes the movie is Keira Knightley as the free spirited Penny.  This sort of character could make or break a movie break you do not want her to be too care-free or else they would become annoying and Knightley got it just right as Penny.  Yes Penny smokes weed, a promiscuous past, has hypersomnia, and is friendly with strangers but is actually a much deeper character than a free spirit.  Whenever there is discussion of her family back home and her upbringing there is so much heart to her character you get lost in the movie.  Plus all the minor characters from Dodge’s friends played by Connie Britton and Rob Corddry (“Fight threw the burn!” was probably my favorite line of the movie) to people Dodge and Penny encounter on their journey played by William Petersen and T.J. Miller.

Overall, a very fun change of pace apocalyptic movie that turns into a romanctic/comedy.  I give Seeking a Friend for the End of the World an 8/10.

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Review of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

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A lot of people have been talking about how excited they were for Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter to come out after reading the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith.  Even though I had not read the novel myself I was just as excited to see.  Recently there has been a lot of taking well known stories and tossing vampires or zombies into it (my favorite being Pride And Prejudice And Zombies).  I remember sitting in a theater the first time I saw the trailer and hearing the other people in the theater’s reaction which could be placed in one of the two following categories:  (1) “That is going to be sweet” or (2) “Seriously?  Another vampire movies… with Lincoln?”  I found myself torn between the two, I am getting a little tired of vampire movies but at the same time the trailer is pretty sweet.

A brief introduction to the plot is as follows:  As a adolescent, Abraham Lincoln watched his mother get murdered by a vampire after he interfered with his father’s boss attacking his friend and slave, Will.  Years later, now as a young adult (Benjamin Walker) he unsuccessfully attempts to kill the man who attacked his mother and is saved by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper).  While recovering from his injuries, Lincoln requests the training of Sturgess to seek vengeance on his mother’s killer but Sturgess will only help if Lincoln promises to combat all other vampires he may come across including vampire leader, Adam (Rufus Sewell).  Here is the trailer:

As I said I was looking forward to seeing this movie.  Hearing that it was produced by Tim Burton made me confident that the visuals in the movie would be cool and they were.  Now let it be clear that the premise is ridiculous but that does not mean it could not be fun.  That said, there is such thing as too ridiculous.  I am a fan of axe-wielding mayhem as much as any action/sci-fi/horror fan but there were times even I found myself thinking “Common, what?”  Was it clever?  Of course.  I am no history buff so I cannot poke holes in if this “underground” life of his could line up with actual events but my problem was that I would see all this just-in-the-nick-of-time action and it would toss me out of the movie.

The highlights of the movie are definitely in the acting.  Benjamin Walker is practically a spitting image of a younger Liam Neeson and acting skills to match.  He had that deep booming voice and tall, frail frame that made him perfect for the role.  Well maybe not frail, no lead actors these days are frail.  Put simply he was a good Lincoln.  The other person to take not of is definitely Rufus Sewell as the Adam, he was creepy, devious, and arrogant.  But something about his appearance kept distracting me until about half-way through the movie went it hit me, he looks like Roger Daltrey of the band The Who!  And then Sewell stopped being creepy and instead I would laugh whenever is saw him and sing in my head “I won’t be fooled again!”

Sewell (left) & Daltrey (right). Okay they are not identical but it distracted me from the movie every time I saw Sewell put on his baby blue shades.

Overall, pretty disappointed with how this one came out.  I give it a 5/10.  Just was not up to the hype for me and I hope the book was better.

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Random Movie of the Week: One Week (2008)

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Over the last two or three years I have really began to embrace independent movies.  They feel so fresh, raw, and just do not seem to follow the same rules or guidelines as the main stream more popular titles that you hear people talking about around the water cooler.  I think it is because independent films have no one to please but the filmmakers (just an opinion).  From what it seems indie flicks come out the way the filmmakers envisioned them rather than how the studio wants them to look or include.  One of the words I used early to sum up indie films to me is “raw.”  What I mean by raw is that they have a very authentic and un-doctored (I guess you could say).

That said, this week’s random movie is a Canadian independent movie called One Week.  One week follows Ben Tyler (Joshua Jackson), a young teacher who has done nothing but settle for what he has in life (fiancé, job, hobbies) until he gets diagnosed with cancer.  Being a person who has always played things safe, doing what other have told him or expected of him he questions how something like this could happen to him considering he has never really lived his life. Despite the wishes of his loved ones, Ben embarks on a trip on a motorcycle his wife would not let him have across Canada for one week.  Here is the trailer:

Now I am sure readers are thinking one of two things:  (1) “I love Joshua Jackson I have to see this!” or (2) “Joshua Jackson?  Seriously?  I’ll pass.”  I will admit that I fall into the latter.  Jackson has never been able to outgrow his role as fast talking, wise cracking character Pacey from Dawson’s Creek even though many praise him in his current TV series Fringe.  But my new found love for indie films drew me to this one and turns out I could not have been more wrong about Mr. Jackson.  He was fantastic in this film.  His performance as Ben an everyday average guy really establishes a connection with the audience with that idea of “settling” for what you have.  I think that is something everyone finds themselves doing even if you are one of those “Type A” personalities.  Being a recent college graduate that settled for the bottom of the barrel entry level position, this really hit home for me.

Prior to this movie I have never heard of Michael McGowan but I really look forward to seeing what else he has to offer in the future.  McGowan wrote and directed One Week so much of the films perks can be directly credited to him.  Its story is one you can really get behind and appreciate.  The thought of someone who knows they have never really lived there life deciding to take charge for one is always inspiring.  Seeing him hit landmarks of different cities he goes through was funny, touching, and interesting, best of which is a scene featuring the NHL’s Stanley Cup with a mini story of its own that was cute.

Overall, it is an 8/10 for me.  One Week’s drama feels very real, raw, and relatable.  This is one of the “seize the day” type movies so there are clichés and so forth which is not everyone’s kind of movie but the acting, direction, and scenery make the movie a great watch.  If you have an Amazon Prime account this one is streaming for free right now so go check it out!

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Sinister: Latest from Producers of Paranormal Activity & Insidious

(Still of Ethan Hawke & Bagul from Sinister)

One of the many trailers to debut this past week has me very excited for the fall season.  Fall just screams horror movies to me most likely because of the ominous yet beautiful colors resulting from a change in climate (at least here in upstate New York).  The sense of the leaves on trees dying turning from a lush green to tattered reds, oranges, and yellows is essentially a perfect atmosphere to curl up on the couch and enjoy a good slasher film or spooky movie.

Some of my favorites horror movies of the past five years include (but are not limited to) Paranormal Activity and Insidious.  These two have been under a lot of scrutiny, being accused of being not original and just rip offs of classics such as Poltergeist, The Blair Witch Project, and more but I never understood that.  Of course horror movies borrow from something that came before it there is no avoiding that but these two movies I found to have something unique at the same time.

So when news broke about the producers of these two movies have another project, Sinister, set to be released in early October this year I could immediately feel the hair on my arms rise with chills before even watching the trailer.  A short synopsis of the plot from IMDb.com is as follows:  “Found footage helps a true-crime novelist realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity of pagan myth known as Bagul.”   And the trailer does not disappoint:

This movie gives me the same creepy vibes as the Insidious trailer when if first saw it so naturally my expectations are already high.  The demon in the videos Ethan Hawke’s character is watching is very reminiscent of the spirit that kept appearing in photos of Patrick Wilson’s character in Insidious.  There is something that people will say has already been done, personally I do not care so long as demon appears creatively which is what the trailer suggests and works in with the story.

I have never heard of a Bagul before or even if it is a real story but all I know is that this one is rated R.  Insidious was hands down one of the scariest PG-13 movies I have ever seen so I am anxious to see what and R rated non-found footage movie from these producers will be like.  Hopefully better than Chernobyl Diaries.  What are your thoughts?

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