Tag Archives: Movies

New Japanese Star Wars Trailer Provides New Footage

A new Japanese trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has hit the web and the almost 2 minute trailer provides more new footage and possible hints as to what we can expect.

Who’s Rey’s family that she’s waiting for?

Kylo Ren is talking about “our destiny.” Is it the Empires? Or could it have to do with the Skywalkers?

“Hope is not lost today, it is found.” Could “hope” be the search for Luke, a reference to Episode IV?

We have a little over a month, and we’ll finally find out!

Movie Review: Mr. Holmes

mr holmesLet me clear this up first, this film is not the kind of Sherlock Holmes adaption you would expect to see! It has no witty banter of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s portrayal on the BBC One series, or the slow mo action performed by Robert Downey Jr from the Guy Richie directed duology or the quirky mannerisms of Jonny Lee Miller as seen on the very enjoyable American adaption of CBS‘s Elementary. Instead its a very grounded, slow paced human story of a once sterling detective and highly admired celebrity. The film is a very tender drama with some mystery elements to it, but there is no great whodunit here. There is no theft, no murder, no Moriarty (the main antagonist of the Sherlock Holmes series) the only little bit of mystery comes in the form of Sherlock trying to recall his past. We want to know how Sherlock became a bit of a recluse? What happened on his last case that made him retreat into a small house on the seaside with his housekeeper and his bees? These questions all play into the ideas that I thought about the most while watching the film — memory and mortality, and how we can lose both. What if Sherlock Holmes were a real person? What if he lived in a world in which he had been made famous by the writings of John Watson, his long-time friend and partner in (solving) crimes? What would Holmes be like as a man and what would he think of his fame and his legacy? These questions represent just some of what’s explored in this film.

Watson’s accounts of Holmes’ detecting made him world famous and a legend in his own time. Watson’s stories made the character of Sherlock Holmes larger than life. He made the cases sound more exciting than they were and exaggerated other details that were further embellished on the big screen. Based on the Mitch Cullin novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, we get a rare glimpse into the life of an aging legend which cleverly depicts the world’s most famous fictional detective from a non-fiction perspective. The film is a fine character study about a man who is losing his mental acuity. Now an aging recluse trying to connect names to faces and remember simple daily routines, he sits at home with a housekeeper and her son as his only company. As a standalone film, one of the great charms of this film is that it can be viewed with equal level of enjoyment by two different types of people: the type who know nothing other than the basics regarding the character of Sherlock Holmes, and equally the people who have seen or read everything about him.

mrholmeswomanholmesfollowsmckellenbenchcostumesIt manages to appeal to both camps by being both a revisionist version of his stories, yet still keeping in the same spirit and not denying any of the prior literature. The story follows a 93 year-old Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) as he lives retired in a Sussex farmhouse with his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), whose husband died in World War II and her son, Roger (Milo Parker). He has retired to his cottage by the sea and taken up his well known hobby of beekeeping or apiculture. Sherlock is trying to write the truth about his last case before he dies, due to Dr John Watson’s embellishment of the facts, he has trouble remembering how the case ended. With the help of Roger and some small tricks up his sleeve, he will write the truth about his final case and how it ended his career, but also let him know that he has a compassionate side as well.

The story is basically layered with a number of events; beginning with the time where a retired Sherlock Holmes is staying on a village; then we get flashbacks of his trip to Japan finding a medicine that could help his memory and his last case that seems to have an unpleasant conclusion. We see that this is a point where Holmes does see the limitations that he didn’t foresee while the other segments show how influential his career was. It’s often a character study about what kind of a fascinating man he is, but also taken over by his own abilities, which lead him to regret about his once cold nature, learning to understand how others people feel about him. Due to the fact that the film’s metronome is a 93-year-old man losing his memory, the pace is unfortunately slow for the first half of the film. Having multiple flashbacks that omit information until necessary keeps the viewer guessing but also at times frustrated. The second half of the film picks up in pace as the 3 story lines all begin to start solving themselves, but more importantly Mr. Holmes (I don’t think his first name is ever uttered in this movie) starts to realize a moral that he never quite came to terms with in all of his sleuthing regarding the truth and humanity. I’ve seen a solid handful of the countless Sherlock Holmes incarnations (he is the most commonly portrayed character in cinema) and there is something that becomes almost tragic about each one as you realize he is someone whose intelligence and wit makes him unable to live normally amongst other ‘ordinary’ people. It is rare to find something new done with an old character, especially one that has been around for nearly 150 years like Sherlock Holmes has, but that’s exactly what this film does.

Director Bill Condon (The Fifth Estate, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 & Part 2, Dreamgirls) provides a wonderfully crafted story and a beautiful cinematic backdrop to unlikely discussion points. With the overly used character vehicle, Sherlock Holmes, he engages the aging hero in determining the fine line between fact and fiction and the value of the elderly. These topics may not get the average movie fan out of their seat on a weekend, but they are woven beautifully in a character driven film of relationships and mystery. A rich and meaningful relational portrait is given his mentor-ship of young Roger, who is a fledgling sleuth and fellow bee keeper.

Mr HolmesAlso, Condon seems to take joy in dismantling the mythology of the legend, as he demystifies every fictitious devise that Watson has added into the character of Sherlock Holmes. Condon continues to show his ability to provide fresh vision for story and characters. His only directing weakness is the time line continuance. There are three different time lines to consider and they can get a bit muddled, but it does not detract from the overall experience. Ultimately, he is able to effectively portray the past and the present, and allow Ian McKellen develop Holmes into an original and appealing depiction of the master sleuth. When I first read that Sir Ian McKellen had landed the role of Sherlock Holmes in a film about the end of the great detective’s life, I knew he would be perfect for the part, and indeed, who better to play the world famous detective other than actor who has immortalized two other pop culture roles as well – Magneto (X-Men series) and Gandalf (The Lord of The Rings series).

Ian McKellan is easily one of the most talented and charismatic actors I have ever seen. He shows that a man well into his 70’s can still be a Hollywood A-Lister. He proves his acting chops (as always) as he gives a moving and heartfelt performance as a man twenty years older than he is even now. He seems so feeble and struggles with not wanting to let go of his life. McKellan could and probably should see an Oscar nod for this. It’s as though the charm, the suave and the elegance of the old school detective just come naturally to him.

The finest scenes are between Holmes and that farm boy Roger (Milo Parker) as they slowly but surely uncover the subtle mysteries of Ann’s case and the outbreak among bees. We instantly connect to both characters and that is a credit to the rich screenplay that gives them a variety of emotions and situations to perform in. Milo Parker looks up to Sir Ian as a mentor in the same way his character looks up to Sherlock Holmes. He might be a farm boy but he is a budding detective in his mind and talent. Milo Parker as young Roger was brilliant. I wasn’t expecting much, given he’s a child actor, but he really nailed the role. He holds his own opposite McKellan and is absolutely amazing as the wide-eyed, vivacious little boy that Holmes takes under his wing and vice versa. Laura Linney as Roger’s mother is remarkable in her role as well. Her dedication for her son’s well being, her struggles with income and dismissal of Holmes’ unabashed attitude make up for Mrs. Hudson’s absence among characters.

On the whole, Mr. Holmes is a delightful yet heart wrenching and human take on the legendary character, that truly deserves to be a part of the Holmes canon. If you are a fan of the character and don’t mind a slow burn film, this one is for you!

Overall Rating: 8.8

Director – Bill Condon
Starring – Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada
Rated – PG
Run Time – 104 minutes

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

The Martian Takes the Top Spot

The MartianThe Martian took the top spot at the box-office, earning $55 million. That’s just shy of the record for October which was $55.7 million. The film also earned an “A” CinemaScore, which means the film should do well for some time.

The Martian also opened in 49 international markets. There it earned $45.2 million, and that brings its total to $100.2 million. The film’s full international schedule doesn’t have it opening up in all markets until February 2016.

The other big opening was The Walk which earned $1.55 million. but that was in IMAX theaters and other premium large screens. This hasn’t really been done before, so… I guess it was good?

Last week’s box-office champ Hotel Transylvania 2 came in second and earned $33 million. Sicario came in third in its third week adding $12.1 million to its domestic total.

In other geeky movie news, Minions came in 17th and added $310,000; Jurassic World added $281,000; Inside Out added $240,000; Ant-Man added $132,000 to their totals.

Here’s the 2015 top five grosses for the year so far:


  1. Jurassic World – $650.82 million
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $458.95 million
  3. Inside Out – $353.85 million
  4. Furious 7 – $351.03 million
  5. Minions – $333.91 million


  1. Jurassic World – $1.6638 billion
  2. Furious 7 – $1.5117 billion
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $1.4028 billion
  4. Minions – $1.1453 billion
  5. Inside Out – $792.3 million

Movie Review: Every Secret Thing

every-secret-thing-posterBased on Laura Lippman’s 2004 bestseller, this Amy Berg directed thriller is inspired by the true events of the Jamie Bulger case, in which two young boys kidnapped and killed a toddler. The ideas underpinning this story are based on controversial ground but the film itself is handled in a very understated manner. It’s partly a police procedural mystery and part psychological drama. In the case of the former, it is perhaps not as intriguing as it could be, although admittedly it does have some twists and turns; of the latter it is perhaps more successful where it looks at why a couple of damaged girls and one mother act the way they do. It’s an efficient film, rather than an especially good one but it did manage to hold my interest from start to finish.

It’s a dark story full of grim characters, most of the which are the type you hope never enter your life. You could call this film predictable (and it is to be fair) but I don’t think that’s where the strength of this film was ever supposed to lie. The strength lies in just how interesting the characters are. The mystery of just how evil each of them potentially is just adds to things. The film gives us two very distinct personalities of the lead characters, and slowly changes our perception of them, and the people in their lives, as it proceeds. The people who initially have our sympathy may not hold it at the end, as more revelations about the past emerge even while the investigation in the present is going on. It raises interesting questions about the justice system, how responsible kids that age are for unspeakable crimes and the accountability of parents in such matters. The ending will split opinion, but I admired the realism of it. Sometimes, the people who should be punished aren’t, and this is something all too common in courtrooms all over the world. Maybe thats what is called karma.

The story follows Alice Manning and Ronnie Fuller, a pair united not by friendship so much as their respective relationships with Alice’s overly permissive mother, Helen (Diane Lane). After getting kicked out of a popular girl’s pool party after Ronnie has a violent outburst. On their way home, they discover an infant left alone in her stroller on her front porch. Cut to the opening titles, which, via images of newspaper clippings, explain that the baby—Olivia Barnes, granddaughter of the first African-American judge in the Hudson River-adjacent Orangetown, New York—was kidnapped and found dead, and Alice and Ronnie were found guilty in her murder. The story resumes years after Olivia’s death, shortly after 18-year-olds Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) and Alice (Danielle Macdonald) have been released from juvenile detention and return to Orangetown, attempting to resume normal lives. Around the same time they come back, a young girl disappears during a shopping trip with her parents, prompting Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), the same cop who found Olivia’s body years before, and her partner Detective Kevin Jones (Nate Parker) to investigate. Naturally, before long, Porter turns her seasoned, crime-solving eyes to Ronnie and Alice. All signs point to Ronnie but she insists she is innocent. It is up to Detective Porter to find the missing girl before it’s too late.

I cannot go into too much detail without exploding several spoilers, but suffice it to say that unlike a legitimate, classical mystery structure there is a key character not introduced in the film properly but only in the myriad flashbacks later in order to to make any sense of what happened. I suppose that 21st Century audiences massaged by hit acronym TV procedural s are used to this.

The film is intelligently scripted, yet unevenly directed, and for the most part held my interest throughout, more for the character revelations than for the plot points. Somehow the film is reminiscent of F. Gary Gray’s 2009 thriller film Law Abiding Citizen where the main character succeeds in mocking the justice system. Unlike the older film, the film has many technical issues and painstakingly struggles to build up the necessary tension for a crime thriller, but then only mildly able to do so. That incident parallels with the present problem and Detective Porter desperately fits the puzzle together. However, as the story is told and the secrets are unraveled, the movie becomes messy and cluttered. It continually slips from focus and the main theme gets lost in the haze. Consider that point in the beginning when the detective’s partner initially suspects the baby’s father as involved in the kidnapping. This misleads the viewers and instead of cementing the tension, it veers from the subject and weakens the premises earlier established. The same rise and fall of thrill and distractions from the central matter can be observed throughout the film. I do also feel that themes and sub-themes were raised but never really developed or dramatized adequately.

EverySecretThing_web_1_CSFor example, the bi-racial character of the community and of the principal characters is prominently presented, but then not really given adequate thematic development in the story. We learn, for example, that the kidnapped baby is the daughter of the first black judge in the county, but not much is done with that fact, or with any of the other bi-racial tropes. Also a quibble, but I think relevant when the filmmakers are striving for realism: when the second young girl has gone missing, only the two detectives seem at all involved in finding her. I believe that anywhere in the world,  if a child goes missing for more than 24 hours or even less, the entire region pours forth a huge response in the form of media attention, volunteers from the community by the dozens, additional law enforcement from nearby communities, etc. None of that was evident, and simply points out a general problem with this story – that it was not well enough thought out as a whole. Yet, the movie does a fantastic job pointing out how sick some people can be for attention. Even more strong of a point considering the movie looks like it took place before social media. Somehow at times it is a well balanced very sad story about two girls who become the suspects in a missing persons case just because they were convicted of the same crime seven years ago.

The film makes up by assembling an astounding cast which worked well in complementing each other. Elizabeth Banks, obviously cherishing a cast-against-type tough (yet still vulnerable) lady role, but hampered by a poor plot gimmick that makes her the same cop who was traumatized by finding the very same dead girl that put Ronnie and Alice in jail seven years earlier (though no one in the cast knows this -only Banks and the audience), she is likeable. Dakota Fanning appears trite and erratic as Ronnie. Common, the famous rapper, gives the one of movie’s best performance as the not-by-blood parent of a missing girl whose disappearance at a furniture store immediately bringing our anti-heroine pair under suspicion. It is Lane and Macdonald who went home run with their performances as Helen and Alice Manning, respectively. Lane’ role here is quite similar to the one  Julianne Moore played in Kimberly Peirce’s version of Carrie. In both films, the overprotective mother whose love blinded her reasons and judgment. Though she only appears a few times in the present movie, her character is significant, marked and unforgettable. Similarly, newcomer Macdonald delivers well with her nuances of tenderness, weakness, insecurity, bitterness and hunger. Director Amy J. Berg is best known for her award-winning documentaries and there are certain moments in the film where there is that certain surrealistic vibe and raw quality. Yet, it may have not worked right this time as the grainy texture, combined with the film’s generally depressing air, can shake the audience’s interest and make everything dull.

On the whole Every Secret Thing is close to exciting, almost mesmerizing and little intriguing film. However, most of the elements of a watchable movie seem to work against it. For its original story material and brilliant cast, it is watchable once.

Overall Rating: 6.1

Director – Amy Berg
Starring – Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning
Rated – R
Run Time – 93 minutes

Attack on Titan Movie Stills

With Attack on Titan opening September 30 in the US, FUNimation has released a bunch of stills from the movie. Check them out below and the movie opens this coming Wednesday.

Movie Review: The Visit

Screen-shot-2015-04-19-at-3.42.09-PM-620x400In recent years, director M. Night Shyamalan has become kind of a joke, unfortunate but true. After a brilliant start to his career with films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and to some extend Signs and The Village, his films (along with his career) went spiraling down with Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and the final nail in coffin, the Will Smith starrer After Earth. Even for a fan like me, I had to admit he had lost his signature touch. What worked in his favor was his superb work on the small screen in the form of the excellent 2015 mini-series Wayward Pines – which made me believe that deep down inside Shyamlan‘s heart still resides a true artist, and not some lazy hack who tackles big-budget flops just to get paychecks from the studio. His recent talk in interviews about gaining back artistic control of his products was another positive step in Shyamalan‘s long path to cinematic forgiveness. And the good news is, this small film in which he combines found footage horror with comedy is his redemption! Yes, M. Night Shyamalan is back!

This film is the first in a resurgence of great films from the most controversial director in the business. Though there are plenty of laughs and screams to be had, the film is also filled with surprising moments of drama. There are, at the very least, three genuinely beautiful scenes. One of those involves a zoom in of a certain character, and it’s utterly heartbreaking. Of his whole body of work, this might be one of the best showpiece to demonstrate his genre-less eclecticism that includes genuinely hilarious dark laughs, piercingly effective suspense and in-your-face, yet disturbingly suggestive scares and well-deserved drama that is of Shyamalan‘s usual frankness, but also surprisingly true and sincere, and not contrived-feeling.

TheVisit1The heavily-used found footage device seems to suit really well his sense of post-modernism, and the way he seamlessly combines the method with his usual, dream-like way of framing shots anyhow, works a charm. It’s almost like the overused trope was just dying to fall into his hands, because, all I can say, is that it really, really does work for him. Besides the trademark Shyamalan twist, which actually works here and seems reasonable in hindsight, the extremely self-aware script and the very natural and authentic brother-sister relationship between both co-leads, lends further credence to Shyamlan‘s pet project. You can see that he cared for the characters, and you can also easily remember that this is a director who made a reputation for himself because he managed to facilitate such an emotional and iconic performance out of then-11-year-old Haley Joel Osment, so obviously he’s good with kids.

The story follows 15-year-old Rebecca “Becca”(Olivia DeJonge) and 13-year-old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) who decide to visit their grandparents in Pennsylvania (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie), in order for their recently divorced mother Paula Jamison (Kathryn Hahn) to spend time with her new boy friend Miguel. Paula is reluctant to let the kids stay with their grandparents while she goes on a cruise with Miguel. Yet, Becca and Tyler want to see the grandparents they never met before. Rebecca decides to document the trip with her camcorder (which ever so conveniently sets the movie up in the popular found footage sub-horror genre – but also opens a wide crack for endless jokes and self-aware nods towards the unsuspecting audience). In addition to her desire to craft a compelling documentary, Rebecca wants to interview her grandparents and extract information from them regarding why they no longer have a relationship with Paula. From the moment they reach, something never seems right.

It’s difficult to say much about the story without revealing too much, because the film is essentially the type of film where it’s better the less you know going in. It’s not to say the film is filled with plot twists left and right, but how cleverly it subverts expectations, especially based on the film’s misleading marketing campaign. It’s downright hilarious (intentionally so) during a majority of the film but also equally scary and creepy, which is what M. Night is known for. I was laughing hysterically and screaming, sometimes at the same time!

11-the-visit-1.w750.h560.2xThe success of the film is how effectively it jumps in between the two genres and frequently on the dime. The third act showcases this in the best possible way and in full Shyamalan fashion. In classic Shyamalanian style, there are a lot of themes explored in the film” regarding– overcoming irrational fears, letting go of anger and pride, and confessing secrets that prevent us from being ourselves. When it comes to Shyamalan, a thriller is never just a thriller. But in every instance, every moment of sincerity is coupled with anti-pretentious bouts of comic relief. The film takes itself precisely as seriously as it should. The failure or success of the film might be entirely dependent on viewers’ capacity to depart from what they’ve already made up in their minds this movie to be. Shyamalan has done much more to progress modern cinema than he has to deface it. Credit must be given to Shyamalan who manages to get great performances from his actors, a welcome change after the stilted and wooden performances in his last few films.

Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould play the leads, and they’re completely likable in their roles. Oxenbould, in particular, steals every scene he’s in, providing many of the film’s biggest laughs. Seriously, the jokes in here are funnier than most comedies released these days. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie are also rightfully creepy as the kids’ offbeat grandparents. Last but not least, Kathryn Hahn leaves a great impression, despite the limited screen time she has. She’s truly wonderful here.

Overall, The Visit is ridiculously entertaining and a total crowd pleaser. It’s the film we were all hoping for Shyamalan to make to get him out of the slump. No, it’s not as great as his first four films, but it’s a step towards the right direction. Recently, it’s been revealed that he’ll reunite with producer Jason Blum and Joaquin Phoenix for a new project. If it’s another low budget feature like The Visit, which it most likely will be, we might be witnessing an era of greatness. Shyamalan still has the genius in him to make genuinely engaging films–given that he has complete control of the creative process from start to finish.

Overall Rating: 8.5

Director – M. Night Shyamalan
Starring – Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 94 minutes

Movie Review: 99 Homes

99-Homes-Poster99 Homes depicts one of the most recognizable situations faced by various families across the globe due to the recession & the general economic divide, a situation which more or less everyone would feel about. The film portrays the stark reality of not only the housing market, but many economic systems as well – to either play the game or let the game play you, and the unsettling thoughts that greed and wealth can impose on morale. The dramatic impositions in the film are so horrifyingly realistic and relate able that it makes other generic Hollywood themes seem almost irrelevant.

Prolific American independent director Ramin Bahrani‘s film is both powerful and impactful in the way that it evokes emotion that is universally relate able, losing a place with so many personal memories and sentiments. In addition, it elevates the socioeconomic condition of the general society to a new and wider level, making it not only a film of drama and tragedy, but also a topic of conversation. “America doesn’t bail out losers. America bails out winners.” How is that for an American dream motto? This axiom, among many others presented in the film, is the foundation as the blood- splattered frames of Ramin Bahrani‘s latest offering begin to roll. His film focuses on highly secretive and mostly broken individuals, the challenges and obstacles many of his protagonists face, & are mapped out and executed in a unique, but usually tragic ways. His expertise is focused more on the formula of their progression than the final outcome of the whole event. Unlike others, focusing more on the narrative and development of the story, rather than his deep, often slow, evolution of memorable characters. The narrative is paced with the urgency of a thriller while also portraying (indirectly) how the government favored policies to the wealthy big cash people rather than ordinary citizens.

gallery-1440621567-elm090115intel2-3-002The story follows Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a general contractor in the construction industry, who is struggling to support his son Conner (Noah Lomax) & mother Lynn (Laura Dern), while attempting to save his Orlando family home from foreclosure. Unfortunately for him time runs out when manipulative real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) shows up reinforced by the sheriff’s department, ordering to evacuate their home. Without a home, the family temporarily settles in a motel alongside other tenants in the same predicament. Life becomes unsettling in this new arrangement, Conner doesn’t adjust well in a new school and Dennis is unable to find work until he coincidentally comes face to face with Rick Carver again. Carver offers Dennis work, and slowly he adopts the corrupt work ethics that put his family out of their home. Dennis soon embraces his new task with his own crew not only forcing evictions but also stealing air conditioners and water pumps from the empty houses and selling them at a profit. Dennis begins to become the very person who kicked him out of his home until he finally realizes the saddest thing in the world is not of poverty, but loss of dignity. Nash’s choices and inner struggle is a sharp and dangerous double-edged sword. Nash is a truly tormented moral character who, through his journey of self-discovery, wealth and pain, always draws on the most basic human elements.

The biggest question Bahrani leaves audiences with is, “what would you do if you were left in the same situation?” The filmmaker, whose adamant cinematic attitude is almost non- apologetic on-screen, chooses to highlight a truly sad time in American history. Set in Florida in 2010, when homes were being repossessed by the bank for every chime of the clock on the wall, the film shows a raw portrait of every family’s worst nightmare; a moment of complete vulnerability and uncertainty–being left on the side of the road, with all you’re worldly possessions sitting on the lawn. As troubling as it sounds, some of the best scenes of the film are when people are being evicted from their homes. Beginning with Nash, his family, and ranging from young, old, non-English speaking, accepting and manic, the film shows the different shades of people, sometimes dangerous and always desperate.

khn;Thankfully, Bahrani put enough focus on the narrative and visual style to keep viewers interested in his main protagonist and antagonist in the film. There were two things about the movie that bothered me enough to pull me out of the tense drama temporarily – There were a couple of big coincidental moments (one of which is directly related to the final scene) that seemed a bit too fate-like. For a movie with the very real backdrop of the US housing market crash, and such believable characters, these unrealistic occurrences seemed out of place. Plus at one point, a montage format is used to quickly show Garfield‘s character go through a bunch of different exchanges with other characters. This quick cutting from scenario to scenario is a missed opportunity to fully immerse us viewers in a couple of heart-wrenching moments. As a result, the mixed emotions which we are about to feel weren’t as strong as they could have been.

Andrew Garfield may be know for his role as afflicted teen Peter Parker or (the now rejected) Spider-Man by many, while audiences may know Michael Shannon best for his villainous turn as General Zod in the recent Superman reboot Man of Steel, but the best part about watching this film is analyzing these men, and seeing them transform before our eyes into the demons that haunt the streets and doorsteps of everyday people. Holding his own against a larger than life acting force that is Shannon (who is excellent as the true monster spiced with malice and charm.), Garfield‘s Nash allows himself to feed off Carver’s greed and sinisterly convincing monologues with scenes of heart-wrench, grit and sensitivity. Laura Dern should clearly do more movies, she is brilliant here. Kudos to those involved with casting as every actor/actress, right down to those who were only in one or two scenes, did a really good job. There were a lot of confrontational emotions in this movie and the actors/actresses did a great job of getting me to empathize with their characters.

On the whole, 99 Homes, is a tragic, vivid, exciting, one of the most complete and appealing films I have seen based on the unfortunate crisis. Founded on concrete performances, sturdy direction and a steady narrative, 99 Homes is a good watch.

Overall Rating: 7.9

Director – Ramin Bahrani
Starring – Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
Rated – R
Run Time – 112 minutes

Movie Review: Cooties

Cooties-movie-poster-latestIn recent times, their have been a lot of zombie comedies otherwise known as zom com or zomedies. Out of the bunch of ludicrous efforts its films like Edgar Wright‘s Shaun of the Dead, Dead Snow (both the films) and Zombie Land which stand out as the best ones. The good news is this film may find itself entering the top 10 list collecting together the sub-genre’s best. You gotta admit, we’ve reached a point in the horror genre, specifically in the realm of zombie cinema, where the only way to inject fresh air into the proceedings is by tweaking established concepts and bringing something slightly new to the table. This film excels in that department right off the bat, as the attention-grabbing set-up promises something we haven’t quite seen before: an entire movie about undead children.

Of course, zombie kids have been terrorizing the screen ever since Night of the Living Dead created the sub-genre as we know it today, but here only the children are susceptible to the virus. A clever spin on the schoolyard legend the film derives its title from, the mythology established here is that immunity comes along with puberty, and the whole thing is different enough to feel fresh. Best of all, the film pulls absolutely no brakes when it comes to the execution of the concept, so admirably going full throttle with the idea that it’s almost hard to believe the parents of the young actors even allowed their children to star in it. There’s nothing PG about this one, as it never shies away from both doing terrible things to kids and making them do terrible things to adults – and it’s armed with an appropriately cynical outlook on today’s youth. Movies that prominently feature children are seldom as gloriously over the top in the gore department and make no mistake: though it’s a movie about kids, it’s certainly not a movie made for kids to watch. There’s one point early on where all hell literally breaks loose in the schoolyard, with pre-teens passing around torn off limbs, jump roping with intestines and playing with severed heads – it’s quite a sight. Once things slow down, there are considerable stretches of downtime here, but the good news is that the characters are so much fun to watch – whether they’re dealing with the per-pubescent monsters or simply interacting with one another. The story follows Clint (Elijah Wood) who has returned in defeat to his small hometown of Chicken Fort after an unsuccessful career as a writer in New York City.

CTS_011403He starts his first day as a substitute teacher at the local elementary school that he once attended as a pupil. Clint quickly encounters his old classmate and crush Lucy (Alison Pill), now a teacher here as well, and her P.E.-teaching jock boyfriend Wade (Rainn Wilson), along with the rest of the neurotic, eccentric staff and in just about a moment, chaos breaks lose in the school yard as Shelly, infected with a virus from the school cafeteria’s chicken nuggets, begins to attack others, spreading the virus to whoever she attacks. Clint and Lucy watch through the teachers- lounge window in horror as the vice now acting principal is eaten alive. The faculty are now trapped in the school and must come up with a plan as the chicken nugget virus spreads throughout the town.

Like I mentioned before more subtly, this is a completely ridiculous horror-comedy. It’s not the funniest film you’ll ever see, nor is it the scariest or most exciting, but if you take it for what it is, effectively a B-rated movie, you can enjoy yourself here. The writing by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious) and Ian Brennan (Glee), from a story they crafted with Josh C. Waller, has the snap and drollery of good TV comedy. This is as opposed to film comedy – even though viewers know they’re settling in for a 88-minute running time rather than the beginning of something that could play out over years, the start of this film feels like we’re meant to settle in with these characters. We could easily see them, their interpersonal issues and their struggles with some of the kids (little horrors even before they become actual monsters) keeping on for many seasons. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion use embedded fears of improper food practices to gross us out and while the violence certainly done out of fun, it likely won’t sit well with parents or those actually working in the school systems. Screenwriters can’t resist poking fun of Wood’s height, as Wilson’s redneck character accuses him of sneaking around like a hobbit in one scene (although we see the joke coming a mile away). This isn’t Pill’s first time playing a teacher, you might remember her brandishing a gun in a small scene from Snowpiercer last year, here she is that annoyingly positive person we all hate. The action here is also relatively entertaining. Even though, the whole cooties zombie thing isn’t that funny after a while, once the film descends into a stereotypical zombie movie, but some of the fight sequences and the portrayal of the infected kids is quite cool, making for some degree of excitement in the story.

CTS_003794.CR2Then there’s the gore. So much gore. And sometimes it doesn’t even feel necessary. The opening scene shows a man snap a chicken’s neck, then shows the chicken’s dismembered head and a scene where maggots crawl over a chicken carcass. Then when the kids rip into the adults, a kid plays with entrails like a jumping rope, a dismembered head is used like a barbie doll. Not sure what the point of it all was. And the thing is is that it really doesn’t help the story much all that gore. It’s like, let’s do it because we can. Let’s give the audience something to remember.

It’s the ensemble cast of this film that really makes the whole thing work. As a struggling writer who can’t seem to get his career of the ground, Elijah Wood is his usually likable self, and Rainn Wilson delivers consistent laughs as a brash gym teacher with a particular fondness for actor Jason Patric. The cast also includes Jack McBrayer, Alison Pill, and Jorge Garcia, and they’re all fantastic in their well-written roles. In addition to writing, Whannell co-stars in the film as a socially awkward sex-ed teacher, and his brilliant comedic timing makes for some of the funniest moments and most memorable lines. In many ways, the film feels like a showcase of Whannell’s multitude of talents more than anything else, firmly establishing that he can write comedy as well as horror and deliver lines as well as he can write them.

On the whole, Cooties is hugely bizarre entertaining film, sure it has its problems, but for fans of the genre, it’s mostly good bloody fun. Running a brisk 90 minutes long, Cooties quickly gets in and out without ever spreading its set of charms too thin, and it hits all the right notes in both the humor and gore departments. It delivers pretty much everything you could wish for from a horror-comedy, and also has as much fun with the zombie kid concept as you could possibly ask it to. In short, it’s one of the funniest horror movies this year. ‪

Overall Rating: 7.6

Director – Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Starring – Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill
Rated – R
Run Time – 88 minutes

Sunday Roundtable: DC Comics, Should it Be One Cinematic Universe?

JLA Roundtabledc movie and tvWelcome back for our second Sunday Roundtable where the Graphic Policy team take on a topic and discuss it throughout the week. On tap?

Though we’ve only had hints so far, DC Comics has split their television and movie universes (there’s two Flash for example). Should it have all been integrated? Discuss!

Monique: I would have preferred it if everything was integrated as it would feel a lot more real. It’s nice when things are connected and fun when audiences can spot things that link the DC universe together. However it’s nice to have a TV show to look forward to every week.

Alex: I think in many ways splitting them up gives each show more creative freedom (but if rumours are true, then Arrow had to drop Deadshot because of the Suicide Squad movie – not 100% sure on that, though).

batman v s uperman dawn of justiceMr. H: I like it split. We all know Batman V Superman is going to be epic, but I like the feel of shows like Arrow and Flash which have done beyond what I’ve ever expected. DC owns the small screen for sure! I am looking forward to Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl as well. It like in wrestling, you have the main eventers and the mid carders. The tv shows are the midcarders and let you appreciate it more because they work harder. Personally I want an Aquaman show. It’s well over due and the time is right. I hope they don’t integrate because they give us different flavors. Like on a tv show we might get underutilized characters like Ralph Dibney. Where we wouldn’t on a movie. For everyone that likes chocolate chip. There’s always someone that likes Butter Pecan. Good quote (Identity Crisis)

Brett: But is it really split? DC is all about the multiverse. There’s no reason we can’t see some giant Crisis film and the multiple same characters come together. I actually think DC has an advantage over Marvel due to that.

Alex: You know what? I had never thought of that until you mentioned it, Brett. That being said, will it actually happen? It’d be awesome if it did, but I suspect we are at least five to ten years away from that possibility.

Monique: That is a very interesting point, never thought of it like that Brett.

Alex wouldn’t it be relative to their budget though? If we’re talking about Marvel, Samuel Jackson was in the movies Iron Man, Avengers, Captain America but made an appearance Agents of Shield.

arrowBrett: Yeah, it’s interesting that DC is dominating the small screen too with this strategy and it’s allowed them to do such diverse programming. Agents of Shield had been so hit and miss. It really just feels like I watch the season to get to the movie tie in. DC I watch because it’s good television that also has geeky easter eggs.

And adding to DC too is their web content. They launched the Vixen animated series which is set in the Arrow/Flash universe.

Monique: Yeah, I’ve been watching it, it’s fantastic. I agree, they’re definitely dominating in all aspects and I think they always have done really, in terms of shows movies and cartoons

Alex: I think that’s the advantage to Shield; because it has the movie tie ins, more people are willing to stick it out on the lows. DC’s TV shows have to be consistently good (which is only a good thing for fans).

Elana: The vixen launch was not adequately promoted. I didn’t find out it already started in fact! As for the division I just really resent them turning Green Arrow into Batman. Admittedly I never watch the show because it so obviously had nothing at all to do with the character that I actually love. But it’s just aargh.

Alex: I’m enjoying Arrow so far, but I also agree with you Elana. It feels far too Batman like at times (I know Green Arrow was at one time very imitative of Bats, but I’m pretty sure that was long ago). I’ve never read any Green Arrow, though, so I don’t really have much expectation of what he should be.

Brett: I also find it interesting that DC has really played with the tone of each television series, and wonder if we’ll see that carry over to the movies.

Alex: Do DC have a similar structure governing their television/cinematic output that Marvel had up until recently? I ask because I wonder whether the tonality has been a conscious choice of a group, or simply the creative freedom allowed by DC’s approach.

theflash_full_costumeBrett: As far as how it tv ties to movies? Nope. Everything stands on its own so far. There’s the Arrow/Flash/Vixen/Constantine universe, there’s the Man of Steel/upcoming movies, and there’s Supergirl and Lucifer (not counting iZombie). Each has their own tone/style even within their own grouping.

Shield‘s style mimics the films I think, and that seems to also hamper it a bunch. Agent Carter wasn’t vital to the film narrative and felt a bit free to me.

People give DC a lot of crap, but when it comes to TV they’re knocking out of the park (plus their animated stuff). And the movies are set up, it looks like, for similar freedom.

Alex: It’s true. Last year Constantine was one of the best shows on air before it was cancelled. And whilst I keep hearing great things about Gotham I stopped watching after the first four or five episodes. Why? Because it was competing for my time with Shield (yes, I know they air on different nights, but I DVR most things and watch them later), and Shield has the benefit of being part of the MCU.

If Fox can pull off an X-Men TV show, do you think it’ll be odd essentially having two Marvel TV universes or not?

Brett: No different than it is now, right? The big difference is DC controls all of its output (or parts of their parent company does), unlike Marvel.

Here’s something that’d fit the discussion, is there too much when it comes to television shows. We have to be near saturation in film, but how many shows is too many shows? If there even is such a thing.

Alex: Honestly, for me, we’re dangerously close to over saturation. My wife isn’t as big a comic fan as I am, and really only wants to watch a few shows (Flash, Arrow and maybe Heroes or Supergirl), which leaves me a lot to squeeze at other times; and obviously things fall by the wayside, and I end up not watching half of what I want to watch.

Do any of you have a list of shows you’re willing to drop s the season goes on?

Brett: I review them, hard to drop them! The one good thing is that some won’t be out in the Fall and will be out in the Winter, but there’s still about a half dozen this fall?

Melissa Benoist Supergirl 2Add on top of it, some are going head to head. It’s Gotham vs Supergirl Mondays!

Alex: Yeah, I suppose you’re slightly more obligated to watch them than I am, eh?

Brett: But, beyond splitting the DC universe, do they risk hurting the movies because people love the shows too much? Will people who like the Flash tv show brush off a Flash tv movie? I can’t figure out if folks will let each stand on their own. Hints of reactions may be similar to reactions with the Batman and Spider-Man reboots.

Alex: I think the problem we’re closing in on isn’t that there’s simply not enough time in the day for most people to watch all the comic book TV shows and other TV shows. Laugh all you like, but next week there’s two programs starting up that I’m super excited for; the two hour Heroes Reborn premiere and, uh, Grey’s Anatomy. I’m sure that won’t be the only conflict.

Brett: I’ll admit I watch Grey‘s. I’ve dedicated all this time, I want to see how it ends. Yeah, I haven’t even thought of Heroes as a comic show, but it’s similar in subject.

Alex: To your last comment: I’m more willing to skip the Flash movie because of the TV show. Which I’m sure isn’t their intent at all.

At the end of the day, there is a lot of great TV happening this year, both comic book and not. I think there’s going to be some great shows cancelled that shouldn’t have been (like Constantine last year – I still am not over that).

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