Archive for February, 2013

First Teaser Trailer for James Wan’s “The Conjuring” Brings You to 1970’s Harrisville

the_conjuring_james_wan_ed_lorraine_ed_lorraine_warren_release_dateJames Wan, though very young, has definitely left his name in hour books with the success he had with Saw and Insidious.  If this new trailer is any indicator, The Conjuring may be his scariest movie yet.

Calling this a trailer may not be far since it hardly lets on any of the key plot details but it definitely teases the brain.  For those of you not familiar with The Conjuring’s plot it is as follows:  Ed and Lorraine Warren where the pioneers of paranormal investigations that were made famous by the case known as the Amityville Horror.  But this was not there first investigation.  One of the many cases before Amityville was Harrisville where the Warrens were brought in to rescue a frightened family from a demonic spirit haunting an isolated farmhouse.

Here is the trailer:

This first teaser for The Conjuring may be hands down one of the scariest I have seen (no pun intended).  The opening of the trailer really places you in the 1970’s setting with the wardrobes, style of the home, and the happy/mello “Time of the Season” playing over the family playing hide and seek.  Then introduce the clap.  No not the STD (although that is scary too) but they hands reaching out from the depths of the closet.  I think a lot of filmmakers would have been tempted to make the hand either skeletal or decayed but they fake that they appear to be nomal health adult human hands makes it feel very of this world and eerie.  If they had gone any other direction I probably would have brushed it off as cartoonish.

The other thing I thought watching this trailer is this could have fully served as a short film.  Even at a measly two and a half minutes it tells a story and scared me for than a two and a half HOURS long horror movie.

I am officially sold on this movie and easily jumps to the top of my last as my most anticpated movie for the summer of 2013.  Makes me wonder what Wan has in store for us with Insidious Chapter 2.  Click here to see Wan and actor Patrick Wilson discuss the two films.

What are your thoughts?  You on board with me or am I getting all hopped up for it?  Don’t worry you will not hurt my feelings if you disagree.

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Dark Skies Review: Familiar Fun

dark_skies_aliens_the_greys_movie_reviewDark Skies is one of many horror movies of the last two years sporting the label “from the producers of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and INSIDIOUS” that it is starting to lose value.  But Dark Skies lives up to that label and may be able to add its name to it.  While the producers seemed to focus on the spiritual scares with their previous efforts this one tabs into a different realm of scares, foreign beings outer space.  If you are getting tired of all the ghost stories, vampire/werewolf tales, or zombies (like I am starting to) then a good alien movie like Dark Skies will entertain you.

A brief introduction to the plot of Dark Skies is as follows:  The Barrett’s were just your average suburban family in a struggling U.S. economy.  Parents Daniel and Lacy (Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell respectively) experience spooky break-ins on top of their youngest of two sons, Sam (Kadan Rockett), begins speaking to the mythical Sandman late at night.  The break-ins escalate to the point the home security company cannot explain it which soon becomes the least of their worries when they lose control of their minds and bodies.  Click here for the trailer.

The makers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious have gotten a fair amount of flack for their lack of originality.  Is Dark Skies any different?  Not really and that is okay.  I have said before that a movie does not have to completely be original for me to enjoy it as long as it is not the same scene to scene as a previous film.  To best explain this film would be Insidious meets Signs.  The plot and pace feels a lot like Insidious at times and has the subtle shock of Signs.  Another thing that it does not quite stray from is the alien mythos that has been already been established.  I do not want to elaborate on that too much because for those of you that have not seen it yet I would be giving you a check list of things to expect which would ruin the experience.  But all those supposed negatives did not bother me one bit.

Director/writer Scott Stewart tells a good story with Dark Skies.  The Barrett’s really felt like an everyday family that just moved up in the world in this nice new house when the Josh Hamilton’s character loses his job, Keri Russell’s character, a real-estate agent, cannot sell their old house, and their oldest son is hanging with an older yet more immature jerk.  All these everyday things suck to handle enough as it is before all hell breaks loose with youngest talking to the “sandman,” personal items rearranging or going missing, and unexplained blackouts where they are physically harmed.  Stewart’s directing credits are limited and most of his resume is visual effects and it showed with the appearance of the aliens.  It is similar to Signs in that you are given a rough outline of what they look like but they are never shown with great detail which I loved.

If there are any downfalls, it’s that Josh Hamilton as the father was a real douche.  He seemed very conceited and dismissal of anything dispute how obvious of a conclusion he should have drawn.  Then when he finally accepts the reality he acts completely illogically.  But then again if I was in his situation I probably would not think clearly either.

Final thoughts, I am a sucker for most alien movies and Dark Skies definitely strikes familiar chords but that never bothers me.  There are some good jump scares but this is more thriller than horror.  I give Dark Skies a 7/10.

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Ric Roman Waugh Discusses a Grounded SNITCH Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

(From Collider.com)

(From Collider.com)

I am willing to bet that if you approached the casual movie-goer and asked them who Ric Roman Waugh is all you will get is a blank stare or shrug.  Waugh spent a good fifteen years as a stunt coordinator until 2001 when he broadened his resume to include writing and directing.  Even though his writing/directing credits are limited right not, I truly believe this guy will be name of the future.

Last summer I posted a review on Waugh’s last directorial effort, Felon.  To put it simply Felon is a powerhouse of a small film.  I won’t spend much time discussing the plot for that you could click here for the full piece.  But I will emphasize is that the film features some strong authenticity.  What I mean by that is that it rarely feels exaggerated but instead grounded.  The characters feel like everyday people that go through emotions of those in the prison and how life outside the prison is impacted by their imprisonment.  If you have not seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it you will not regret it.

The word “authenticity” is a word that Waugh used to describe his filmmaking process especially with his latest film Snitch.  Most of you at this point have most likely seen the TV spots for Snitch but if it is not ringing a bell, it the one with Dwayne Johnson going undercover to prove his son’s innocence in an underground drug ring.  Naturally after reading that one line synopsis I just gave you are thinking of Johnson flexing his muscles toting a large automatic firing weapon but really it could not be a more different action/thriller.

In an interview with Collider.com and Drax Largo on YouTube Waugh mentions how this will be a very different Dwayne Johnson role and movie (click on source’s name for the interviews with Waugh).  Waugh specifically says that if you were involved in the real life drug world that your stature would not make you any safer.  Whether you a six-foot-five-inch brick wall like Johnson or a five-foot-nothing twig, a bullet or explosion will stop you in your tracks just the same.  We are all used to seeing Johnson in the “larger than life” sort of action flicks like Fast Five, Faster, and The Rundown where the man’s skin might as well be armor not flesh.  But what Waugh wants to do with Snitch is show Johnson as a regular guy that is vulnerable both emotionally and physically as a man diving into a foreign business world to clear his innocent son.

This is not to say the explosions and other action elements will be played down because let’s be honest how fun would that be?  Again this is about the characters and being true to that drug world.  Waugh describes the emotional drive behind the film as willing to move heaven and earth to protect our children by whatever means necessary.  But there is also the emotion on the law enforcement side one people who are so close to a bust but yet so close to ignited the powder keg that is the war on drugs.

Waugh does a better job explaining it than I do but what I am getting at is Snitch’s authentic/grounded approach to an action/thriller should create a more rounded experience than those larger than life movies as proven in Felon.  They have the necessary amount of gun fire and explosions to excite audiences combined with immense suspense from unimaginable situations that these everyday characters are experiencing.

What are your thoughts?  Do you want to see the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson take one more grounded action thrillers like Waugh’s Snitch or would you prefer he stuck to the over-the-top larger than life action movies he has done in the past?  I recognize this is tough to answer know being that Snitch has not hit theater yet but what is your gut or initial feelings?

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Christian Bale and Tom Hardy to Star in Separate “EVEREST” Movies

christian_bale_tom_hardy_everest_movieNew broke earlier today that Christian Bale has opted out of the cape and utility belt for a down coat and crampons.  Bale is to star in director Balstasar Kormakur latest survival drama/thriller about the infamous expedition in 1996 than would spawn John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.  But earlier reports say that it will not be an adaptation of his novel but a mix between Krakauer’s telling of the events with other survivors.  The cliff notes version of the drama that unfolded in 1996 is (1) conflicting takes on what exactly happen from the survivors after unpredictable conditions rolled in and (2) that the expedition’s guide, Rob Hall, felt obligated to get one particular un-fit member to the summit after two previous expeditions that failed.

Now around 1996 commercialization of Everest was at its peak.  What that means is anyone with enough money in the bank to write a $10,000 check (give or take – remember 1996) can join an expedition to attempt to reach Everest’s summit.  No matter your fitness level that check is what matters.  Needless to say a majority of those expeditions do not reach the top but it’s the thrill and experience of trying.

As of right now Bale’s role is not yet known but if I had to guess, my money would be on him playing Rob Hall.  Hall was a well respected mountaineer that made summit on Everest on several occasions.  Currently Kormakur’s project is simply titled “Everest” but this is not to be confused with Doug Liman’s project of the same name.

Nearly four month ago word got out director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith) would be doing a movie about Sir George Mallory who is to be played by Tom Hardy.  Mallory has a lot of speculation surrounding him and Everest as well (warning S P O I L E R S   to follow).  Mallory was allegedly the first mountaineer to reach Everest’s summit back in the 1920’s.  I say allegedly because it was his third attempt and well he never came back done until climbers found his body in 1999.  So there is disputable proof of whether he made it or not which should be interesting to see what Liman will suggest.

Two separate Everest movies that will most likely be release close to each other staring Bale and Hardy.  Reminds me of when another Bale film about magicians The Prestige came out at the same time as another magical film called the Illusionist.  Funny how that happens in Hollywood sometimes.  This might explain both actors growing those serious beards of theirs.

My question to those reading is which are you more excited to see?  The Kormakur/Bale EVEREST about the disastrous 1996 expedition or the Liman/Hardy EVEREST about Sir George Mallory.  Or maybe both?  I am a big fan of both actors but not all too familiar with the directors.

Sources:

Christian Bale in EVEREST

Tom Hardy in EVEREST

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Review of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

hansel_and_gretel_witch_hunters_movie_review_posterYou would think with all the action movie success Jeremy Renner has been having with The Avengers, The Town, and Bourne Legacy on top of his more dramatic roles that he may finally get to the point where he did not have to star in an action movie with a ridiculous title.  Guess not.  It sounds like something off the Syfy Channel but despite the primitive title this movie has its share of perks.  Hansel & Gretel:  Witch Hunters mutates the familiar elements of the fairy tale into a bloody adventure.

A brief introduction to the plot of Hansel & Getel:  Witch Hunters is as follows:  After being orphaned at a young age, siblings Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton respectively) grow to become bounty hunters seeking to avenge their parents by taking out every witch possible.  The brother/sister duo meet their match when the evil witch called Muriel (Famke Janssen) who is collecting children born in different months before the Blood Moon approaches to make witches everywhere immune to Hansel and Gretel’s murderous methods.  Click here for the trailer.

As I stated above, this movie feels very much like a Syfy Channel original… except with a budget.  I say that because it has a really fast pace that tells a decent story but has flat acting and little character development.  But what makes this movie superior to Syfy’s run of the mill films is the quality of the sets, make-up of the creatures/witches, and special effects.  They looked so cool on the big screen and not that cheesy CGI look that filmmakers seem to prefer these days especially when it came the troll character, Edward.  By actually putting an actor underneath the makeup and props it made him feel real.  In addition I appreciate the choreography of the fight scenes.  Again they avoided the easy CGI effects or shaky camera to make the action appear to be happening fast but took advantage of good old fashion choreography and wiring.

Visuals is about the only perks the movie has.  The story is imaginative but at the same time bland and predictable.  Like Hansel’s flaw of being diabetic or in need of a sugar shoot because of poisoned candy that a witch gave him as a kid.  You knew exactly when that would play a role.  Or why it was that they were able to fight the witches successfully where others have failed.  Then because the story was standard the acting suffered.  Renner I think did what he could with Hansel as a know it all and wanna be loner but Arterton was near unlikeable and annoying at times with how she approached the character.  Plus the almost seemed more like a couple than siblings until Hansel found a love interest.  Janssen clearly had a fun time playing the conniving witch because it was fun watching her.

Overall, whether or not you see it in 3D Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters the visuals will impress you or at least it did for me.  It moves along a good pace despite being predictable with boring characters.  I give Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a 6/10.

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Sliver Linings Playbook Review: Golden Characters & Acting

silver_linings_playbook_review_movie_posterI am definitely late to the party getting to see David O. Russell’s latest film to hit theaters, Silver Linings Playbook.  Russell’s success with The Fighter has shown his ability to draw the best performances possible out of his actors to tell a complex and character driven story.  If after watching The Fighter you thought they had some family issues, wait until you see Silver Linings Playbook.  Even though the family is considerably smaller that does not mean the problems are any less.  What Russell again manages to do is really make these characters relatable even if you would not fin yourself having too much in common with them.  If I had to make a comparison it is like Benny & Joon meets Little Miss Sunshine.

A brief introduction to the plot of Silver Linings Playbook is as follows:  Against the judgments of the doctors, the court allows Dolores (Jacki Weaver) to take her bipolar son, Pat (Bradley Cooper), back home from a psychological institute much to the surprise of her gambling addicted, obsessive compulsive/superstitious husband Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro).  Determined to win back his wife who has a restraining order against him due too his emotional and violent outburst that sent him the the institute, Pat read up on her favorite books and reconnect with their friends.  In the process he meets a widowed young, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and the two develop an unconventional friendship to help the other get to where the other wants to be.  Click here for the trailer.

I cannot praise Russell’s talent for a great narrative and character development enough.  The first half of this movie is heavily devoted to developing the characters to set up the events of the second half of the movie where most of the plot happens.  Not going to lie the first half had me wondering “what have I gotten myself into” because there is just a lot of yelling over other people yelling which nearly gave me a headache but luckily it never reaches that point.  A lot of the characters are headstrong and set in there ways.  Pat Sr. believes in a set order to things to get the best possible outcome, Pat wants to change things about himself to optimize his chancing of getting his wife back, Dolores wants things to be like they used to where everyone she cares about coexisted, and Tiffany wants comfort/positive attention to cope with the loss of her husband.

Being a character driven movie, this movie is only as good as its actors and their performances were flawless.  To this point we all knew the talents of Lawrence, DeNiro, and Weaver so I will not go too into detail about them but I must say Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker proved a lot in this movie.  Until now I only thought Cooper had a limited range with the in comedies and some action/thrillers but Silver Linings Playbook proved not only that he is a capable leading man but that he can give characters depth with different levels of emotion.  As for Tucker, one I am glad to see him in a movie again and two he took a role we had not seen him play before.  Yes he was a comedic supporting role, which is nothing new, but I thought he did a fantastic job of making his character kind of deceitful yet sincerely kind at the same time.

My only trouble with the movie is how it looks and feels.  The camera work was very unusual.  The close ups were too frequent.  I do not mind when filmmakers do close ups from the neck to the top of people’s heads but I cannot stand chin to eyebrow.  That is way closer than I need to be especially during screaming matches between Pat and Tiffany.  Then the way the camera would move back and forth between bantering characters (even if they were right across the table from each other) felt messy to me and at times disorienting.  This is as oppose to the way Tarantino usually does it of a wide-angle shot and letting the actors work or cut from actor to actor instead of moving the camera side to side.  I know that’s picky but I am not a fan of that sort of camera work.

Overall, Silver Linings Playbook well deserves of all the attention its director and actors are receiving.  It is a roller coaster of feelings so real that you forget you are watching a movie at times.  I give Silver Linings Playbook an 8/10.

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