Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

me earlBased on the novel by Jesse Andrews, its easy to dismiss this film as wanna be of 2014’s The Fault in Our Stars (which is a pretty good movie in my opinion), but with its good blend of comedy and drama, the film ends up being irresistible and infectious. This film from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who has made a name for himself directing episodes on the 4th season of American Horror Story and the very enjoyable remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, is more heartfelt and inventive than The Fault in Our Stars ever was. And most of this has to do with the brilliant screenplay written by Jesse Andrews. Full credit to screenwriter Jesse Andrews for crafting a story so charming and heartfelt that you cannot help but feel connected in and drawn to these characters. The dialogue is witty and clever whilst never falling into cliches, rather it remains very self aware, especially during Greg’s numerous (and hilarious) monologues. There is something so real and natural about the script that really enable us as the audience to fully become immersed in the film and it’s world. A rare cinematic outing like this film engages with the consideration of loss and death, but provides discussion points about life. One of the key queries that comes out is what we choose to do with the gift of life? Jesse Andrew‘s screenplay of friendship is woven together with a confronting evaluation of life, even life after death. This is brought to a head with a dialogue between Greg and his teacher, Mr. McCarthy, that challenges the teen to understand more about the life we live and the life that is left behind for others to remember. Throughout the darkness of death, this film provides an opportunity to appraise the gift of life. The story follows high school student Greg (Thomas Mann), an every-man kid who enjoys making amateur parody films of classics with his ‘co-worker’ Earl (RJ Cyler) and his relationship with the eponymous dying girl Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Upon learning that Rachel has contracted leukemia, Greg’s mother (Connie Britton) forces him to spend time with Rachel, the two soon begin to bond and become friends, a friendship that goes deeper once Earl introduces Rachel to their amateur films and the duo are persuaded to make a film for her.

meandearl_001A friendship that would take him through the best of times, the worst of times, and eventually shape him into the person that he will become. Greg is someone I could relate to because I was basically the same person at that age. A bit of an insecure individual who’s trying to make himself invisible and blend in with the crowd. The message is: make sure no one notices you and use humor, sarcasm and funny one-liners as a defense. Greg’s way of demarcation is to avoid everyone or to maintain superficial contacts. These extreme bad films are shown sporadically and made sure I had a few spontaneous laughs. Not because of their probably ridiculous content, but because of the quirky fictional titles such as “Raging Bullshit”, “A sockwork Orange” or “Vere’d He Go?”. The first ten minutes of the film are stiff and awkward and trapped in teen movie hell, but it’s supposed to be that way, so hang in there. The strange beauty of the film comes from the authenticity of the characters, and the brilliant portrayal of the complexities of terminal illness. In most movies you’re forced to endure a sick person who essentially becomes a passage of philosophy for everyone in their lives, offering wisdom and guidance and poetry and a few well-timed coughs before they sputter away to the sobs and wails of everyone around them. This movie shows what cancer truly is: miserable, with a lot of people offering ridiculous canned sentiment over and over again, who only want to make themselves feel better about what they’re witnessing. Writer Jesse Andrews has pulled off a gorgeous book and screenplay, and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon also deserves props for graceful direction and imagination. Every character is given room to be unique and fully-formed, and retains their humanity to the very end. It also brilliant captures what people miss about others when they remain guarded and unobservant of what lies beyond surface examination — or remain too preoccupied of what others think of them to realize that other people are thinking about a whole lot of different things — not them. It manages to do this without being so heavy-handed about it.

In it’s essence, this is a sweet, sincere and brutally honest portrayal of a coming of age teenager, who has to deal with something that no one quite knows how to handle. We see Greg in constant denial, unable to deal with the fact that Rachel is most likely going to pass away. He is even unable to tell us, the viewers, that this is what will happen. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon lets us watch a big share of this movie through a lens of optimism by specifically stating that Rachel will get better. Thus we take our guard down, letting ourselves really indulge and start deeply caring for Rachel. This is in no way a suspense move in a way to spear the viewer from crying for a 100 minutes. It is genuinely a state of mind that any teenager of Greg’s age would have in a similar situation. Any human maybe. It is in our nature to hope for the best, constantly. Greg heroically and willingly becomes a friend to Rachel, he genuinely thinks that she will get better, even during her last moments.

XXX EARL DYING GIRL MOV JY 5386 .JPG A ENTHowever this turn of events also makes us pay attention to small details, that otherwise would have been ingrained in trying to cope with a death of a teenager. We deeply analyze how hard this situation is for Rachel’s mother, we can focus more on the relationship between Earl and Greg as well as nostalgically listen to Mr McCarthy’s life stories and lessons. The performances in this film are all magnetic. Every single one of these actors were able to hold their own on screen. The parents in the film, played by Molly Shannon, Connie Britton, and the always delightful Nick Offerman, all do fantastic work. Their relationships with their children are all very grounded in reality and realistically portrayed. Jon Bernthal is incredibly funny as Greg’s history teacher, and is able to depict the “generic cool teacher who understands the main protagonist” in a different, refreshing light. However, the three leads all steal the show. RJ Cyler serves as a foil to Greg’s character. Instead of BS-ing people in order to avoid any direct confrontation, Cyler‘s Earl is very frank with his language and emotions, and gets right to the core of the problem with Rachel. Olivia Cooke gives a very heartfelt and understated performance in this film, and watching her suffering through this sickness that’s eating her up is truly heartbreaking to watch. However, the whole film rides on Thomas Mann‘s shoulders. His detached performance, and the way he handles Rachel’s sickness is so realistically somber. He does a fantastic job with the darker comic moments in the film, and the way his character develops throughout the film is nothing short of stellar.

On the whole, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is little gem of a film which is accessible, honest and humorous. This is a truly beautiful film that is equal parts sad and uplifting. This film won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival this past January, and it’s not hard to see why. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a film filled with heartbreakingly realistic performances, quirky direction, gorgeous cinematography, and spectacular writing. Whether your an art-house fan, a fan of cinema in general, or just the casual moviegoer, there’s something in this film that everyone can relate to.

Overall Rating: 9.2

Director – Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring – Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 105 minutes

Pan Peters Out, Martian Holds On

pan-film-posters-full-celebrity-watchdog-insertPan, the latest spin on the Peter Pan story, tanked this weekend as the film estimated to have earned just $15.5 million over the weekend.

The Martian repeated the weekend earning an estimated $37 million to bring its domestic total to $108.7 million. Hotel Transylvania 2 added $20.3 million to its total.

In other geeky news, Inside Out earned $440,000, Minions added $239,000 to its total, Jurassic World added $208,000, and Ant-Man earned $92,000.


  1. Jurassic World – $651.12 million
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $459 million
  3. Inside Out – $354.36 million
  4. Furious 7 – $351.03 million
  5. Minions – $334.21 million


  1. Jurassic World – $1.6651 billion
  2. Furious 7 – $1.5117 billion
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $1.4028 billion
  4. Minions – $1.1510 billion
  5. Inside Out – $818.8 million

Movie Review: The Final Girls

TheFinalGirls_Promo_310x228_20151006143712Often the combination of horror and comedy can lead to a disaster, but without a doubt, if done right the film could turn into a major success. This comic call out on the Friday the 13th series is one such film. This film could unjustly be compared to other films like Scream and The Cabin in the Woods, but luckily this film is something of a beautiful hybrid that stands on its own. This film takes the creatively wonderful cleverness of The Cabin in the Woods and combines it with the meta-horror feel of Scream, but adds much more emotion to the actual story than either of those two films. This film has characters that are likable and that you root for, unlike attractive blood bags that are in so many other horror films. The film even goes so far as to include the characters in the visual effects of the film, living them in real time, making the film even more fun.

Director Todd Strauss-Schulson has made something genuine and special here, a horror comedy that actually manages to execute both of those things with skill, finesse, and a clear and genuine affection for the genre. The film starts with a genuine affection for the slasher genre, including a fake trailer for Camp Blood Bath that recalls the days of VHS video rentals. One of the characters is an uber-fan of the genre, effectively conveying the adoration that horror hounds have for the rules (and cliches) of their chosen genre. While Strauss-Schulson can clearly count Edgar Wright among his many, many influences (the editing style is a spot-on homage, to put it generously), the film manages to be utterly original in its knowing rip-off artistry. Fans of the Friday the 13th series will find plenty to love here as the film gleefully pokes fun at genre tropes, and much of the fun comes from the fact that Max and her friends aren’t just living in the world of the film – they’re living in the actual film, complete with voice overs, on screen credits, and flashbacks. There are so many hilarious moments that the film practically begs for repeated viewings, as audiences are bound to be laughing so hard that they’ll miss some of the rapid-fire humor.

the-final-girls-01The story follows Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga) who is struggling after the tragic death of her mother, 80s slasher flick icon Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman). In the ‘80s, Max’s mother Nancy starred in ‘Camp Bloodbath’, a summer camp slasher flick that’s since garnered a cult following for its hilarious overacting, paper-thin writing, and innovative kills. But for Max, Camp Bloodbath isn’t just a bad horror movie that all her friends enjoy. It’s a painful reminder that her mother is no longer with her, and she can’t help but avert her eyes every time the young, nubile Nancy (in the movie) meets her bloody end for having dared to have sex in an ‘80s horror movie. One night, Max agrees to join her best friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat) and Gertie’s horror geek stepbrother Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) at a local double feature of Camp Bloodbath and its sequel. She goes because she’s begged and because the sensitive, handsome Chris (Alexander Ludwig) is going. Sure, Chris’ obnoxious ex Vicki (Nina Dobrev) tags along, but it’s all innocuous enough until a freak accident leads to the theater catching fire. In a panic, Max leads her friends through the screen in an attempt to find an escape route, only to discover that they’ve literally entered Camp Bloodbath (the movie). Upon reaching, they’re forced to abide by the rules of the movie’s narrative in an attempt to survive. Of course, everyone knows that anyone who has sex in an 80s horror film is bound to be butchered shortly after, so Max finds herself in the awkward position of trying to convince her mother’s character not to sleep with the cocky, swaggering Kurt (Adam Devine), whose dialogue is almost entirely made up of sexual innuendos. Meanwhile, the attractive but vapid Tina (Angela Trimbur) is constantly trying to disrobe, which is a big no-no in this film, as its call out for the masked killer and his machete. They must try to not only return to the real world, but also survive the movie before being hacked to pieces by little Billy Murphy (the masked killer).

Inside the movie (within the movie) we meet those lovable, cliched characters that most of us are familiar with, the virgin (aka the final girl), the quiet shy girl (aka the cute girl who sadly doesn’t survive), the sexy party girl (aka you have zero chance of surviving), the jock (aka the sexual deviant), the wannabe hero (aka you aren’t the real hero so you’re gonna die), and a few more body count extras. From there the film functions as both parody and deconstruction, lovingly nicking the campy tropes of the subgenre while messing around with the infinite loop that Camp Bloodbath creates around Max. The movie for the most part is very funny, especially early on in the movie when we first meet the original characters in the movie. Everyone is so over the top when we first meet them that it’s hard not to have a smile on your face at anytime they are speaking. Every conversation leads back to some sort of sexual innuendo and it’s great. But then there are other times when we get some one on one time between a mother and her daughter and the movie is surprisingly touching and emotional during those moments.

final-girls-movie-image-2-1600x900-c-defaultIt’s this aspect of the movie that gives the movie a pulse, you care about these characters (even if the movie isn’t as dark and daunting as it seems to be). As part of the whole meta construct of the film, there are a number of jokes that play off the window dressing we’ve come to expect in movies. Some of the movie-within-a-movie characters are silly, but the likable “real life” characters make up for it; naive comments are trumped by more understanding ones. Director Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas) has fun staging and re-imagining horror movie moments, including flashbacks (with raining black-and-white goop washing away the color) and onscreen titles. Yet none of it is condescending. It stays true to the people who love those kind of movies especially a great sequence using slow-motion! But that’s not to say the movie is perfect, there are times when I found myself disappointed with the script and the direction the movie was taking. It’s not that it was terrible, but there was so much room for a movie like this that I wish it had thrown in a few more ideas. After all the movie is barely 90 minutes long and I feel the majority of people wouldn’t mind sticking around a bit longer to see some other ideas flourish.

The cast deserves credit for making it so likable as well. Our main group – Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story), Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Alia Shawkat and Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), all do great work. Though, for comedic timing’s sake, Shawkat and Middleditch provide the most laughs of the main group, unsurprisingly. Though, much like many other mainstream films today, Adam Devine (The Modern Family, Pitch Perfect 2), who plays Kurt, the hyper-sexual jock, steals the show, offering up the most laughs of any character in the film and completely owning each scene he’s in. The emotion of the film is picked up mostly between Taisa and Malin Akerman, the shy girl at camp, played in the real world by Max’s dead mother. Max is now conflicted as how to keep her mother alive through Nancy, even though it’s not technically her real mother. These scenes are absolutely heartbreaking, with Farmiga and Akerman doing great work with each other in these scenes.

On the whole, The Final Girls is a brilliant, hysterically funny & immensely fun take on the slasher sub-genre that finds a great balance between being a spoof of the genre & a horror film in general. I think its pretty clear that I loved The Final Girls! From the opening frame to the final credits blooper, I was completely delighted as a slasher fan and a comedy fan alike. The film not only is a hoot to watch, its surprisingly engaging in the emotional sense, with refreshingly likable characters that are filled out nicely by familiar faces. The ending of The Final Girls leaves us in the midst of a possible sequel, which typically, is a somewhat annoying trope to leave a film with, but in a film like The Final Girls, I want to see more as soon as possible!

Overall Rating: 8.9

Director – Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring – Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 88 minutes

NYCC 2015: Tiger & Bunny to Get Live Action Feature

TigerBunny_vol01-Manga-FINALGlobal entertainment studio All Nippon Entertainment Works (ANEW) is partnering with Imagine Entertainment and BANDAI NAMCO Pictures to develop and produce the English-language live action feature film Tiger & Bunny based on the smash hit Japanese anime series and feature films, it was announced during New York Comic Con.

The live action film adaptation is being produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, ANEW’s Sandy Climan and Annmarie Bailey, and Masayuki Ozaki on behalf of BANDAI NAMCO Pictures, a subsidiary of Sunrise. Mr. Ozaki produced the original Japanese TIGER & BUNNY brand under the Sunrise banner, one of Japan’s leading anime studios.  Imagine’s President Erica Huggins will oversee the new film on behalf of Imagine Entertainment.

ANEW’s Senior Vice President of Development and Production Annmarie Bailey worked with Mr. Ozaki and BANDAI NAMCO Pictures/Sunrise’s international business unit to acquire the live-action English language rights for the adaptation and co-production.

The buddy hero Tiger & Bunny storylines take place in a near-futuristic city called “Stern Bild”, where professional superheroes known as “NEXT” fight crime and save lives.  When the old school veteran, Kotetsu T. Kaburagi “Wild Tiger” is forced to collaborate with the fearless but cocky rookie partner Barnaby Brooks Jr. “BUNNY” the two polar opposite characters must learn to work as a team to fight evil, protect the city and save each other.

With characters and heroes designed by manga legend Masakazu Katsura, who is known for the very popular series Wing-man, Video Girl, and DNA², Tiger & Bunny first aired in Japan in 2011 as a late night TV series.  The series finale ended with a live-viewing event at movie theaters nationwide where 23,000 fans joined together to see its 25th and final episode.  Two animated feature films quickly followed – Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning in 2012, and Tiger & Bunny: The Rising, in 2014. Both films were a box office success and are listed in the top 20 highest grossing Japanese films originating from TV anime since 2012. Beloved by fans, the franchise continues to excite and engage its strong and loyal following and has grown to include live action stage shows, exhibitions, concerts and merchandising through BANDAI NAMCO.

In partnership with some of Hollywood’s leading producers, ANEW’s active development slate of English language adaptations of leading Japanese IP’s include the adaptation of 6000 in association with producer Mike Medavoy, SOUL ReVIVER in association with Fields Corp. and filmmaker partners Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz of Bedford Falls Prods., a live action remake of TOEI Animation’s robot anime GAIKING, with producer Gale Ann Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment, Inc. and three projects with Chris and Paul Weitz’s Depth of Field production shingle: SHIELD OF STRAW, BIRTHRIGHT and GHOST TRAIN.

The Top 10 Coolest Beasts of Star Wars

PureCostumes has put together an infographic of what they think are the 10 coolest beasts from the Star Wars galaxy. Do you agree with their picks? What’s your top 10?

Star Wars Beasts Infographic
Infographic Created by

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice VIRAL VIDEO – Lex/OS

Check out the LexCorp booth if you’re heading to New York Comic Con.

Movie Review: The Martian

The-Martian_poster_goldposter_com_4Being a huge fan of director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Prometheus, Kingdom of Heaven) and Matt Damon (The Bourne Trilogy, Oceans Trilogy), I proclaim – put their names on anything and I will watch it! Even though in recent years, Ridley Scott movies have been more on the down side for example films like, Robin Hood, The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings have been disappointments. But since the time I heard about the production of this film based on the novel by Andy Weir, a sense of excitement has stayed inside me and thanks to the positive buzz around the film, the excitement stayed intact. And guess what? As expected, this film is one of the best to come out this year!

What Ridley Scott (Director), Drew Goddard (Screenwriter), Andy Weir (Book), and Matt Damon do with this movie is so unconventional and smile inducing, that it may redefine how some movies mix genres. I threw this under the category of Drama, but it wasn’t a drama. I thought of possibly putting it under the comedy or thriller section, but the film is not a comedy or thriller nor is it just a mere mixture of genres to create a new Sci-Fi movie. So what am I trying to say? The film is a mixture of numerous elements that are authentically blended in a way that few movies can attest to. Consequently this makes it significantly harder to put a genre on it, but in this case, I think it’s a good thing. As many people already have stated, I was instantly reminded of the movie Cast Away, with Tom Hanks and to some extend Interstellar. I loved Cast Away and Interstellar, but I don’t see those film as optimistic journeys. Here, the depressing tones are solved by injecting a bit more humor and action into the film. Rather than Matthew McConaughey and Hanks‘ downbeat characters, Damon‘s character is far more upbeat and involved in his own rescue throughout the entire film. I definitely did not expect the humor that is present throughout the film. Whether it was script-writing, ad-libbing, or a combination of the two, it worked out quite well.

THE MARTIANThis Ridley Scott film does not mess around with buildup or anything in the way of expository drama; it gets right to the point and recognizes why you came to see it. It opens with Ares III, NASA’s manned mission to Mars, experiencing a treacherous storm upon arriving on the red planet. The story follows botanist / astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon). Mark is part of the Ares III team also consisting of Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and astronauts Rick Martinez (Michael Pena), Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), and Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie). While the Ares III team explores Mars, a blinding particle storm forces them to abort their mission and board their ship. The storm violently separates Mark from the rest of the crew who are forced to leave without him, believing Mark dead. The crew is so convinced he’s dead that when they communicate that fact to NASA head Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), he almost immediately arranges an honorary funeral for him. Of course, rumors of Mark’s death are premature. Buried in sand, losing oxygen, and suffering a puncture wound, Mark is nevertheless alive. He manages to struggle back to the still-standing planet base, replenish air, equalize pressure, and treat his wound as best he can. However, the obstacles to his survival are just piling up. Can Mark fight Martian weather, radiation, cold, starvation, dehydration, and boredom at least long enough to somehow contact NASA to let them know he’s alive, and then stay alive even longer for NASA to mount a rescue mission? Meanwhile, back on Earth, Teddy, NASA spokesperson Annie Montrose (Kristen Wiig), and NASA mission directors Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) have their own challenges, both urgent and mundane. Besides naturally getting Mitch home safely, Teddy and his team must negotiate the usual treacherous PR protocol to make sure that Mark’s inadvertent abandonment does not embarrass, discredit, and eventually defund NASA. Headquarters is also struggling with the idea of telling the surviving members of the Ares III mission that Watney is alive, which ignites a fiery ethical side to the film’s story.

With that, this film is essentially a gigantic teamwork exercise where everyone feels human, which is a pleasant attribute for Scott, whose recent films have really lacked in the film making craft and humanization elements present in his earlier films. And so the film oscillates among these scenarios and dilemmas and manages, in my opinion, to do it without boring and, if you’ll excuse the expression, alienating the audience. How can a space movie without aliens, laser weapons, or aerial combat hope to do this? I think the film succeeds in this by being more knowledgeable than its audience, but in a way that instructs the audience without talking down to them. The movie explains many astrophysical, mechanical, and chemical concepts (including a crucial “slingshot” maneuver) that help keep the movie going forward and the audience invested in the characters’ fates. It certainly helps that Damon‘s character Mark, in his daily video journal of his ordeals, explains much of this scientific stuff in largely (and often laugh-out-loud profane) layperson’s terms. Scott’s visual effects and grand scale directing usually never fail, but when these become the focus and human characters and the little touches (the science, the cause-and-effect relationships, and the narrative interest) become secondary or gravely shortchanged, then there’s a real issue with his films on a macro level.

THE MARTIANThe film also makes fairly strong use of its 3D elements, using it as a tool of immersion rather than a gimmick that works to add a surcharge to already high movie ticket prices. Consider the storm scene, which completely floods the screen with indiscernible debris and disarray; the scene is only emphasized with the benefit of 3D and makes the experience that much more horrifying, being that, like the characters, we can barely see a thing. The writing has to be the biggest strength in this whole movie, because it was clever, funny, never lost my attention and it had a fantastic sense of humor to itself. It matched the tone of the movie perfectly!

My only flaw in this movie is this 25 minute sequence where it cuts back to earth with the NASA crew talking about different ways of bringing Mark back, but the stuff on Mars was more interesting. I’m not saying it was bad as the earth stuff scene was handled well and it was very well acted, but I was more interested on the stuff that was happening on Mars with Damon‘s character. With its nearly two and a half hour run time, the film remains consistently interesting because it’s a generally optimistic film, surprisingly enough. Watney is a wisecracker a lot of the time, even in the face of certain doom, and seeing NASA’s constant efforts to bring him home show a certain diligence on their behalf works to make this film surprisingly hopeful.

Matt Damon is absolutely brilliant here! This is easily his finest role since The Departed. You constantly laugh at his jokes, you are rooting for him to make it home, and you feel for him when he is starting to break down and go through his emotions. Most importantly, you care about his character and because of this, the audience gets sucked right on in for the ride. They become fully committed and invested into what is unfolding before their eyes and what is unfolding is one of the best Sci-Fi films of the year and one of Ridley Scott‘s best work in a long time. Unlike Castaway‘s one-man show, the film boasts a huge cast that surprisingly never becomes over crowded. Besides Damon‘s amazing performance, the film boasts of a loaded cast – Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Micheal Pena, Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor in particular reminds all of us, why he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor ! Every character was likable, even the CEO of NASA (Daniels) who is supposed to be the corporate boss we are all supposed to hate, we end up understanding why he makes the decisions he does throughout, and the film makes us think about what we would do if we had to make the difficult decisions that he is responsible for in his position.

On the whole, The Martian is a beautifully shot and well acted film which is definitely worth checking out in 3D. The Martian is an absolute must see, without any shadow of doubt, and when you walk out, you will be begging to come back and see it again.

Overall Rating: 9.2

Director – Ridley Scott

Starring – Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 141 minutes

Movie Review: The Vatican Tapes

ET00026314Films based on possession come out nearly every year, while most never live up to the standard of the ones which started the genre, they all usually end up being watchable. Exorcist movies have lost its freshness over the years due to the fact that almost every single one of them is exactly the same and trying to be “realistic”, but it’s just a nonsensical excuse from these filmmakers who lack creativity and try to be scary. But not all of them, of course, suffer with that case. Possession films in the past such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) have proved to be sick, and manage to freak out the audience with the display of its demonic possession. In recent times, PG-13 possession films have proved to be quite sick, and perhaps good as well. However this possession film ends up in the low watchable meter due to its high quality of clichés. The scares of this movie, are surprisingly low. You’ve pretty much seen this tactic in many films before. Does this perhaps ring a bell? A bird flying at the window? Through it? Yea. We’ve seen this before, at least twice. There’s also, once again, without spoiling anything some other scares that have been seen before, on top of that, some of them are even horribly placed, resulting in a failed attempt at jump scaring the audience.

vatican-tapesThere are also some scares floating around that will make you jump, but then when you realize what it was that made you jump, you’d ask yourself “How did that scare me?’ It may be floating around as a new exorcism story but it really isn’t. It’s more of the Antichrist coming to earth story, which Gabrielle Burn kinda set the standard for in the 90’s film End of Days and this film barely comes close to grazing his wickedness. But this may very well be the story’s entire twist? It does come off as a realization in the end but its so underwhelming to the point where it does not feel like a spoiler mentioning it to you. The craft is interesting for a rather generic exorcist story-line.

The camera-work may put people off for being just another found footage mess, but it’s actually not quite a mess. The cinematography and editing are decently put together and it instead brings momentum within the chaos happening on-screen. It’s more action movie aesthetic than horror, but it’s the tone that breathes the anxiety. The film begins with a line from the scriptures about the coming of the second Christ and how it will basically be a sheep in wolves clothing which may be setting up the story about to follow but in reality it pointed out how the pope, or other men of the cloth, could very well be this Antichrist they are preaching about. Starting off with the story of this film, of which seems to be quite simple. Our main character becomes possessed, and it progressively gets worse, and worse overtime.

The story follows Angela Holmes (Olivia Taylor Dudley), who on her 25th birthday party accidentally cuts herself and thereafter for some inexplicable reason, she breaks into erratic behavior which leads to a major car accident, leading to her being in comatose for 40 days. After she miraculously recovers, unwittingly with telekinetic powers, she begins to eliminate people around her in the most gruesome manner. Upon realizing that they can’t help her any further, the hospital discharges Angela. It is then that the local priest, Father Lozano (Michael Pena), assures her live-in boyfriend, Pete (John Patrick Amedori) and her religious father, Roger (Dougray Scott) that he would help them. He informs Vicar Imani (Djimon Hounsou) as a result Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) is dispatched to perform the exorcism. How he goes about it forms the crux of the story. The movie opens with a series of exorcism footage indicating that evil truly exists and then we cut to two Vatican exorcists who are studying a young woman, who happens to be possessed, in a video tape that were sent from a priest in Los Angeles. The story went back few months earlier and telling the complete story of how this victim, Angela, is slowly consumed by this demonic spirit.

VT_D016_2011.NEFAt this point, the movie is quite standard. We see this woman acting strange whenever she is visited by a mysterious raven, she often gets an excess of thirst and does horrible things to people, like blinding themselves to death or make them kill each other. It all seems ridiculous than scary, but with its aspect, it kind of works. It gives this demon a vast freedom to its menacing abilities, no matter how silly these actions get. The script by writers Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin is shoddy and confusing. The plot lacks expositions and thus it is perplexing for the audience to decipher the tale. With minimal horror tropes, the graph of the narration is flat in the first two acts. The account picks up momentum in the last 30 minutes of the 90 minute narrative, which is rather late. The most surprising thing about it may be how serious the film tries to be, given that the director is Mark Neveldine—one half of the duo Neveldine/Taylor, who made films such as Crank, Gamer, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (films I dint hate). Those films were adolescent and exuberant, made buoyant by irreverent humor and athletic camerawork. The demonic possession sub genre could have really benefited from those qualities, as the films tend to be dour and visually uninspired, yet Neveldine applies his gifts stingily. Occasionally the film hints at being a wilder film than it actually is, but ends up never rising over its tedious screenplay.

The acting is decent, as well, though Michael Pena is mostly a studying witness to get his character fully fleshed out, but he does a solid job as the supposed protagonist, anyway. Dougray Scott makes for an effective concern father of Angela. Djimon Hounsou and Peter Andersson spices up the screen whenever they’re around in their very small roles. But who really impresses among this cast is Olivia Taylor Dudley, who gives creepy glares and intense paranoia as the ticking bomb of all possessed victims.

On the whole, The Vatican Tapes is a silly and tired attempt on joining the success wagon of possession and found footage films. The film had potential to be something good, but due its lack in critical horror elements, like scares, and tension, the film never gets interesting.

Overall Rating: 3.4

Director – Mark Neveldine
Starring – Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Peña, Dougray Scott
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 91 minutes

Movie Review: Pan

Pan-film-posters-full-celebrity-watchdog-insert- Everyone knows who Peter Pan is. There have so many adaptions of this legendary tale from J.M. Barrie about Wendy, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, Neverland and the boy who could fly, it’s nearly hard to keep a count! Other than the early Disney animated adaption and Steven Spielberg‘s star-studded but rather ghastly Hook, which pitched Peter as a grown-up, its hard to think of any other adaptation which are close to watchable. Well of course there is Marc Forster‘s J.M. Barrie biography Finding Neverland (*ing Johnny Depp & Kate Winslet) took a completely different approach to examining the story by introducing us to the family that inspired author J.M. Barrie‘s original play, and the struggle he went through to write it. I must admit, I am always intrigued with beginnings, as a result, I was always begging to know answers to the questions of where did Peter Pan come from and how did he get introduced to all of these iconic characters on this magical island? And what is this magical land?. Well we don’t get all the answers obviously, but sure do get some.

Unfortunately, this latest take on J.M. Barrie‘s tale of Peter Pan, which originally debuted on the London stage in 1904, is bright, overly busy and in a rush to grow up. Here, director Joe Wright creates his own interpretation of Barrie‘s story by taking the source material and imagining what came before, in the form of live-action remake/reboot/prequel, telling the story of how Peter found Neverland, and became Peter Pan. The story is placed against a visually stunning backdrop of childhood dreams. Wright provides the magical land that would be expected of the J.M. Barrie story, but like Peter and James Hook in the film, the director seems to get lost along the way. There are so many elements and characters to take in and retrofit into the familiar children’s fairy tale it becomes muddled in the delivery. The main issue I had with this film is that it seemed like it couldn’t make up its mind on whether it wanted to cater to children with goofy and antic like behavior from the characters, or offer up serious and gritty story telling for the adults. It flip-flops from one to the other from scene to scene and it’s very noticeable.

IMG_1046.DNGThe incredibly cringe-worthy use of Smells Like Teen Spirit song from Nirvana in the Neverland introduction scene represents my point the best. This 3D film exists on vertical lines: pirates descend on ropes, ships fly up, and that adds to the dislocated feeling that lingers behind the overloaded compositions. The movie needed a little gravity. Wright is no stranger to excess – he staged the Dunkirk evacuation for a single long take in 2007’s Atonement – but it can be a distraction. Ultimately, there’s not a great deal of emotional sustenance behind all the reasonings. I guess they were trying to go along the same line as the movie Hook (1991), which like I mentioned before was ghastly. Its pretty obvious, there is nothing original about this story, in the sense its obvious where they pulled the source material from. There is no masking of who Peter Pan represents in Neverland. See if any of this story-line sounds familiar, a prophecy says that the son of Mary will one day come and be the messiah for the people of this land. Once Peter is fully aware of his role, he will have three days to rise to the challenge and save Neverland. Even though the overall story is a bit confusing & slow at times, this film production paves the way for many discussions on who Peter is meant to represent and who the true Saviour of the world is for all of us.

It’s not a bad film, just a gorgeous mess. Visually beautiful with a superb music score, this mish mash of the writer and director’s favorite movie scenes, all shoved together and pelted at the audience, ends up being infuriating and tedious. The story follows Peter (Levi Miller), an orphan during World War II, who lives with the hope that his mother will come back to retrieve him. While living in the confines of the nightmarish orphanage, Peter and a multitude of other boys are inexplicably kidnapped by pirates and taken to a mysterious island that is controlled by the dreaded Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Peter must come to terms with a prophecy that has him at the heart of the deliverance of Neverland from this tyrannical pirate. He must partner with the local inhabitants and a strange ally named James T. Hook (Garrett Hedlund) to determine if Peter is really the savior of this magical land. What follows is an adventure in the famous Neverland, re-imagined for modern audiences with CGI creatures, pirates singing covers of Nirvana and the Ramones. There are tribesmen and mermaids too, among other fantastical things.

The actors convey confusion of what type of film they are participating in and their performances do not capitalize on the talent that they represent. Also, with all that Wright is attempting to do with the film, the pacing of the film struggles under the weight of expectation and causes it to drag for the first half. Then he seems to attempt to make up for lost time in the second half and the journey comes in a rapid fire delivery that leads to confusion. Joe Wright knows how to make a beautiful looking movie, each scene comes alive with his distinct touch. The film is a fantastical journey into Neverland from the CGI point of view. It was beautiful and spectacular to watch as it’s probably one of the most colorful movies of the year. The special effects were great and looked glorious in 3D. This is they type of movie that is really worth the extra price of admission to see it on a big screen in 3D.

552fecacfd1bd16507198919_t-pan-garrett-hedlund-rooney-mara-levi-miller-hugh-jackman-copMy screening was in 3D and it was completely stunning to see objects like pirate ships, arrows, and cannonballs fly off the screen. Like Avatar, this is a movie that you’re doing yourself an injustice by only seeing it in 2D. Scenes of aerial combat gave you the feeling that you are actually participating in the dogfights. There are a couple of scenes where Peter is told stories of the past in elements of wood and water that was so beautifully animated. This is probably the one thing that everyone would agree with is that the film has some remarkable visuals. Director Joe Wright, whose previous films include Anna Karenina, Atonement, and Pride & Prejudice, also adds a certain Elizabethan flourish to the origins of Peter Pan. The music really tries to brainwash the audience into liking the movie. Which it probably did succeed to some extent. Even though I still found the film boring and empty. I eventually managed to isolate the music to the film so I could enjoy the movie without worrying about the music brainwashing me.

Levi Miller‘s character was alright. He didn’t know how to use his powers and he didn’t want to have the responsibility of being Peter Pan after knowing his mother is not alive. The acting wasn’t perfect from this character but it passes for a kids film. Hugh Jackman is the highlight of the film as the villainous Blackbeard, especially in a scene early on where he confronts Peter about his flying powers, and the legend that a boy will come to rise up against him “Have you come to kill me, Peter?” he says in a somber tone. He has a charm and menace about him that suits the role well, and makes his unique looking character all the more memorable. Hook’s character was very likable! As the future villain, Garrett Hedlund does his best with what is offered to him. Hedlund presents us with a hardly recognizable Hook, channeling Harrison Ford‘s Indiana Jones down to the costume and humorous one liners.  The love story between him and Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) seemed forced and underdeveloped; put in as an afterthought to break up all the action set pieces. Rooney Maara played herself, being the weird, out-of-place and untrustworthy character she is so accustomed to playing. Though Rooney may not fit the ethnic bill, she’s the one character who quietly brings some heart to proceedings. Amanda Seyfried is wasted in a small role.

On the whole, Pan is a pretty watchable movie, let down by its major flaws in writing. Pan had all the foundation to make a fantastic prequel for the Peter Pan story, sadly the foundation doesn’t have much to stay and what’s there, is on shaky ground. Even though Pan is a glossy special effects-driven, humorous adventure flick, you can see the influence of these genres, as well as other adventure flicks from over the years, on Wright‘s film. If your family likes fantasy movies like The Chronicles of Narnia, Maleficent, and Pirates of the Caribbean, then Pan is definitely worth checking out once or else skip it. Sorry Peter Pan you are no Harry Potter!

Overall Rating: 5.5

Director – Joe Wright
Starring – Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund
Rated – PG
Run Time – 111 minutes

Movie Review: Black Mass

Johnny-Depp-in-Black-Mass-Movie-Poster-4K-WallpaperJohnny Depp is a good actor! I am sure no one can deny that fact! This Scorcese inspired gangster flick is essentially a canvas for Johnny Depp to re-thrive from his recently deadbeat career (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, released back in 2011 was his last success). And as expected Depp, as one of the most infamous gangsters of all time, does not disappoint. The control and maturity of the performance is applaud worthy, and maybe award baiting during next year’s Academy Awards. Yet, something never feels right out about this gangster film centered on the true story of “James Whitey Bulger”, a well-known Mobster who was active in South Boston in the period of 1970’s until mid-1990’s.

The film is extremely slow paced and it focuses on the small details of Whitey’s crime life, but it is also a breath of fresh air for its realistic portrayal of the gritty criminal life without sensationalizing these gangsters. The violence is real and gruesome and not something worth celebrating here. It does however prove why audiences love the more fast paced fictitious portrayal of these criminal, because it can become a dull exercise at times to portray these characters as real people. My main issue was the nonexistence of a certain necessity: stakes. In all great mafia flicks, stakes are essential. Would “Goodfellas” have been as remarkable if it didn’t feel like any wrong move would set off a universe-ending set of events? Would the “Godfather” have been considered the greatest film of all time if a war wasn’t seconds away from breaking out? This film managed to keep a story that easily could’ve had those steaks from having any at all. As a result, you never care whether the protagonists (whether you consider that to be Bulger or Connolly) lives or dies; and in a mob movie, that is a worse crime than anything committed on screen.

It seems director Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace, Crazy Heart) chose to focus only on a handful of key years during Whitey’s reign of terror, perhaps to draw focus on his peak instead of wasting time on his rise or fall. Unfortunately, the result is a dubiously avowed criminal juggernaut who feels–and sometimes looks—like he is made out of paper. Director Scott Cooper strives to portray Whitey Bulger as the boogeyman, an unstoppable nightmare whose actions are made infinitely more terrifying by the knowledge that they exist in reality. But with sloppy writing, downright horrific editing, & bland score the film is dead on arrival.

black-mass-benedict-cumberbatch-joel-edgertonThe story follows Whitey Bulger (Johhny Depp) and his relationship with his childhood buddy and now Boston FBI agent named John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) who struck a deal with him during the course of several years. Whitey was asked to snitch on the Italian mafia which would lead to more arrests for Connolly while Whitey was allowed to get away with his criminal undertakings. It was a win-win situation for both of them. The story then closely follows how Whitey went about doing his business with his entrusted men, Kevin (Jesse Plemons) and Steve (Rory Cochrane), performing gruesome executions while the police looked the other way. Meanwhile, Whitey’s brother Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) starts rising to the top of the Massachusetts Senate, without being involved in his brothers work. Other characters who are simply introduced but not given much to do are Whitey’s partner: Lindsey (Dakota Johnson), Connolly’s right hand man in the agency: John Morris (David Harbour), and Connolly’s wife: Marianne (Julianne Nicholson).

The film uses these characters to explore some of the family dynamics and when it does it works to its advantage, but the film feels like it is missing some cohesiveness between each separate individual. Take for instance a scene where Whitey is sharing a meal with Lindsey and their son while he is explaining to him how to get away with hitting a boy in school who is bullying him. The scene works perfectly to give us a sense of how Whitey thinks and acts, but it doesn’t do anything for the film narrative wise and it feels like a separate scene all together. There are several moments like this that seem to be presented only as facts, but these facts don’t add up to much and it drags out the premise making us lose interest in the story.

Director Scott Cooper‘s has great actors, cinematography and a unique biography adopted script at hand, yet he fails the film with its editing and directing. The main problems of the latest Hollywood Mobster movies are these actually. The same scenes with individual violent punishments of betray, the boss’s and the gangs sudden rise story, depicted in one scene in a few seconds, boss’s problems shown as his loneliness as he loses his family members or getting frustrated with his wife and old friends. And in the aspect of the gang members, senior to junior, feeling the boss fear with a thinking of the boss is going mad day by day. The all come as in the right and simultaneous way, just as millions of other similar late Hollywood Mobster movies. The film tries to cover too much and thus it lacks focus. This is where other films such as The Departed or Goodfellas succeeded. Even though those films had many layers and characters, they stayed in focus. Here their is no clear main character, a main protagonist or antagonist. Just a bunch of characters in tense situations with some irony and symbolism. However, in the end, there is nothing to hold onto, no lessons, no emotions, love or hate, for any of them.

dakota_blackmass_stillThe missing part was generally the lack of the absorption of the characters by me. It is possible for the director, wanting to stay loyal to the real life story of the Whitey Bulger so that, maybe his calm and creepy silent characteristic depiction was thought to be depicted sovereign. The violence was castrated by the director and the editors maybe, instead of a more novelish way of narration. Nevertheless, I tried to watch it, to get the feeling from a genre that I like to watch. But, for instance, Kill The Irishman, Departed and some more other examples of TV and cinema productions, telling the inside stories of Irish mobs made me more attached than this film. Unfortunately, I must admit that it would be much more effective with its cast, and unique biographical story.

The greatest strength of the film is without a doubt Johnny Depp‘s portrayal of Whitey because it was exciting to finally see him play a straight role once again, well at least close. He’s menacing without going over the top. The prosthetics were a bit distracting, but it was worth it to get to see Depp playing this older man. There are some great scenes where Depp is allowed to shine, but other than that the film does miss a lot of its targets. The talented cast is mostly wasted as Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Adam Scott, Juno Temple, and Kevin Bacon are given very little to do. Depp and Edgerton stand out since the primary focus of the film is on their relationship, but the side plots don’t work. Edgerton especially shines the most, at times even stealing the thunder from Depp. While the film tries to focus on other characters it never feels connected to the main relationship that is so central to the story. Director Scott Cooper, after the very disappointing Christian Bale starrer Out of the Furnace has managed to make one of the most twisted, unusual, and mysterious gangster stories into an emotionless web of a film.

On the whole, Black Mass’falls short on expectations, despite some strong performances, the film ends up being dreary and almost downright depressing. Black Mass did not compel me or bring me into this world of South Boston in the 70s and 80s. I knew I was watching a movie the whole time. While being well made and acted, Black Mass completely fails at being even remotely entertaining or immersive. So should you see this movie? -If you love mafia movies of any shape or size, then go see it. -If you love Johnny Depp, wait until it comes out on demand or on DVD. -If you don’t love mafia movies, haven’t seen many mafia movies, or just have none of the listed qualities above, then don’t see this film.

Overall Rating: 5.1

Director – Scott Cooper

Starring – Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson

Rated – R

Run Time – 122 minutes

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