Posts Tagged ‘movie reviews’

Movie Review Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

July 9, 2014 1 comment

Movie Review Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Some old and new tricks, grab your Crucifix!

Inspired by the actual accounts of ….other movies in this genre.


Deliver Us From Evil movie poster

I like what they did with the title.

I shy away from reviewing horror movies, because, well, I don’t like them. While almost every movie genre has suffered the inevitable slide toward the most common denominator and whatever base interest puts butts in seats, horror seems to have taken the most serious hit. Even if something clever comes down the pipe, it is immediately followed by a million clones and bad, bad sequels. I saw Insidious I and II and thought it was pretty clever to create two movies that intertwine to tell one complete story. I thought the first was novel and the new Friday the 13th reboot was interesting.


Demonic possessions, exorcisms and anything spiritual in nature tend to sit with me longer since it plays to or better yet, prays to our primitive and instinctual fear of the supernatural. The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby gave my nightmares and it’s no accident those are classics. But now we live in an age where cell phones and social media are the new tools of the devil. We live in an era where the cat jumping out of the cupboard is the point. You wait for something shocking to happen and no longer feel dread. You don’t fear the situation, you wait for the next loud sound or surprise pop up.


Scott Derrickson directs and helps write a story based on the accounts of NYPD Sergeant Ralph Sarchie- played by Eric Bana. That adds to the level of credibility and should help immerse us in the world of…I don’t know…devil stuff happens. You almost can’t make a movie of this sort that doesn’t include all of the cliché aspects of exorcisms. The holy water weapon, the weird scrawling, the crucifix, the voice, the…okay you get it. So the movie needs to be well made with attention to detail and atmosphere or include interesting characters that we respond to. Unfortunately, Deliver Us From Evil isn’t big on any of that. Bana does a fine job playing the ‘non-believing, falling out of faith, God has failed me’ protagonist. We have the sinner-as-a-saint in Édgar Ramírez who plays the helpful priest Mendoza. A nod to Joel McHale for his fine turn as the wisecracking partner specialissssst Butler.


This movie lives for the jump scares which were quite effective and well placed and yes, they even were able to slide in two cats in the cupboard. Sadly, The ball was dropped in a few places. The trailer leads us to believe the daughter is the person in peril and that wasn’t so creepy-supposed to be creepy owl child’s toy was going to signify evil. Not really much going on there. What we have is a story with familiar characters, doing familiar things in a story that unfolds in…the expected way. Not bad by any means, but also nothing you haven’t scene before. If you can’t get enough of this stuff, then Deliver Us From Evil is a worthy flick. I’m not a movie critic, I’m just critiquing a movie.


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Movie Review Transformers Age of Extinction (2014)

July 1, 2014 1 comment

Movie Review Transformers Age of Extinction (2014)

The fourth installment stalls.


Transformers Age of Extinction Poster

Not the smoothest roll-out

The rub: A disjointed disappointment that delights in destruction, adores the droids, but is devoid of details.


Maybe it’s fitting that the Dinobots are the saviors since this franchise is suddenly feeling long in the transforming tooth. Let’s jump right to the obvious. Shia LeBeouf is out and Marky Mark is in. The Autobots are out and the world is in peril again. It’s not so much that I dislike Shia [he was awesome in Nymphomaniac] , but it’s the horny-American teen cliché that I was tired of seeing. Well, this time it’s the overly protective father who is ultra-paranoid over his daughter’s…sexual awareness….um…sexuality… I mean, she’s supposed to be this underage, innocent teenie-bopper that just so happens to dress like she’s much older – also to the point that she is the barely-legal eye candy meant to replace the hormonal homerun hit in Meagan Fox.


We also have the camera-carrying douchebag from Cloverfield back in action as actor T.J. Miller is tapped to play the most annoying character possible. Which is actually hard to do after casting Stanley Tucci as the idiot scientist with an overly-generous number of unfunny punch lines and post action quips. These kind of portrayals have always been my problem with the modern Transformer movies. Are they for adults or kiddies? We have plot points that move along very childish lines, but then we have a high human death toll and cursing. We have Marines/Black Ops that are bad-ass, coupled with sophomoric humor, bits of slapstick and goofy caricatures. The mix doesn’t work for me, but we did get an awesome performance from Kelsey Grammer.


From flight to Knight...

From flight to Knight…

The card returns with stereotypes


Revenge of the Fallen brought us the bumbling, buck-toothed, non-reading ice-cream truck twins. Age of Extinction features a slang-speakin–swag-spankin-mini-sellout. We also get to see that every Chinese person knows enough Kung Fu to beat up special agents and a Samurai Autobot that…well, whatever. There’s a lot of the familiar plot holes and numerous chase scenes that seem to be happening for no good reason. We have evil agents shooting to kill from across the room, but later getting the drop on our heroes and choosing bad-bad guy banter instead of just blasting away. The main action stars are also indestructible as they tumble, fall, crash and smash through walls and windows and get nary a scratch. I’m not sure if it’s the result of the 3-D format, but some of the effects looked off and some of the laws of physics seem totally ignored.


Souls without Spark

There’s a scene where Optimus Prime is engaged in combat and says that his opponent has no soul. It’s a fitting statement because it summarizes my entire feeling about this franchise. The original Transformers were all autonomous …cybernetic…sentient…beings. They had personalities that went well beyond gross characterizations. The identities were matched with what they transformed into and the bots had relationships with each other. Starscream was always plotting and scheming, but Soundwave had Megatron’s back and was his loyal top lieutenant. Now we are only left with slick-evil racers and ready to kick-much ass bravado. Character development is focused squarely on the human side of things and frankly, nobody cares to see that. Let’s see more of the Transformers world. How about the evil leader tell us his plan as he thinks of it, as opposed to some big reveal or weird recounting of the overall plan- right at the point that the writers think we might get lost. I go to these movies to see Transformers. They sold me on the Dinobots and then held them back for the final fight. For a movie that clocks in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, it’s a long time to wait.


Director Michael Bay is doing fine with the sprawling fight scenes, chaos and destruction. It’s up to writer Ehren Kruger (Dark of the Moon, Revenge of the fallen, the ring, Scream 3) to craft a story that weaves around the robots and fully develops them into characters we care about. The Transformers Age of Extinction is by no means a bad movie, it’s just not as good as it should have been. Before this movie series truly does go extinct, there better be some evolving.  I’m not a movie critic, I’m just critiquing a movie.


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Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

What if it was Neo inside that Armored Personnel Unit?

The Matrix Revolutions meets Groundhog Day

Edge Tomorrow movie poster

Fighting Today’s war yesterday

Who and What? Tom Cruise plays a reluctant soldier, accidentally gifted with the ability to leap backwards in time. This allows him to fight against an alien invasion and repeat the most important battle over and over again until he gets it right.

Well, yeah, it’s a Tom Cruise movie so you know to expect a couple of things. One; he will be special, the greatest or the last and two; the movie will be about him and there won’t be many scenes without him in front of the camera. Thankfully, Tom Cruise still has his mojo maverick and shines in a movie whose premise affords us tons of action. Is it any good? Hells yeah.

The original story is based on a Japanese short story called All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. His property has the proper props and is propped with more profitable and palatable protagonists. Yes, this is the big screen western realization of his concept(s). And it’s a wonderful plot that allows us to witness the intense action of a futuristic war without any of that boring stuff like plot or character development. As movies and video games merge closer and closer together, it’s movies like this that blur the lines between CGI cut scenes and twitch-flicks. The movie does pause in a few places to add humor, wit and a bit of cleverness. A lot of it will be familiar, but fun and enjoyable.

The Angel needs you

The Angel needs you

Repeating Appearances


With so little time and focus to develop side characters, it’s important (Really, it’s the main reason) to cast deep into the actor pool and get characters that are familiar to you already. Emily Blunt plays Rita “The Angel of Versailles” or the Full Metal — eh, you’ll see in the movie. A friend asked “Is she hot?”, well no, she’s not playing for sexy (thank goodness), but has a character worthy of a starring role (no, we can’t show a woman saving the day in the cinema yet) and her story would make the perfect material for a video game. It’s Lara levels of lethal. Bill Paxton supports the war effort as Sergeant Farell -so imagine private Hudson from Aliens making it back home. It’s as if screenplay writers, Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth [I wonder if that’s a pseudonym] got the casting choices right from their sidebar notes.

Emily Blunt image

The Angel of Versailles

Director Doug Liman: Bourne Identity, Ultimatum and Supremacy shoots an epic combat theater and war, but keeps the focus up close and personal. It’s the Normandy invasion from Saving Private Ryan, but toned down to video game levels of visual violence. The aliens are mostly depicted as blurry masses of tentacles and we are never given that science and biology class of alien anatomy to fully figure out what we are fighting. The whys behind the war isn’t really explored either. Has it ever been done satisfactorily in a movie yet? Anyhow, Edge of Tomorrow uses the sci-fi trope of a singular consciousness, hive-mind species. I like the swarming horde visual, but really, earthling soldiers pouring over a hill would look just as swarmy to any opposing force. It’s the cheap exit point of ‘kill the one and you kill them all’ that would allow one special man {guess who} to defeat an ENTIRE war machine by himself. That aside, Edge of Tomorrow is a great spectacle with enough Cruise special-ness to keep you engaged for the entire run. You’ll actually wish for more. I know I did. Here’s to Tom Cruise sticking with the sci-fi genre and giving us another one for the shelves. I’m not a movie critic, I’m just critiquing a movie. Check out my review of Oblivion and a run down the list of all the movies I’ve reviewed. Thanks for reading. What did you think?

Movie Review Index

Movie Review Chronicle (2012)

May 21, 2012 1 comment

Movie Review Chronicle (2012)

Three friends discover an energy force that endows them with super-human abilities and changes their friendship. One is seduced by that power and embraces the idea that he is the apex predator. He is at the top of the food chain and feels no guilt for his actions, no matter how they may impact others further down the chain.

Chronicle movie poster

What if you suddenly became a god?

Director Josh Trank uses the hand-held camera technique to document the lives of three high school seniors as they become young gods after discovering an (alien?) force. There’s not much more to the movie than that plot summary so really, if you’ve ever wondered what if you gained super powers…and what would you do? The trick is to show us something that is so ordinary that it’s special and thanks to good writing by Max Landis and Trank, we get that. I’m not suggesting this is a greatly written movie, I’m suggesting that it has been written to steer us in a certain way that retains realism and believability.

Blair Witch showed us how effective documentary styled filming can be and Cloverfield showed us how it can be used to bring on the cheese. You always have that nagging voice in the back of your mind- asking about tape and battery time and you wonder if someone would really, really be filming this much. In this case it works well and the camera slides into normalcy and you forget its first-person and just watch the onscreen action. The special effects are well done and seem even more realistic when combined with the lo-fi camera grain.

Back to the writing. It’s important to note that what’s been written out is just as important as what’s been written in. There’s the cliché of the trio. We have a loner (Dane DeHaan), Mr Popularity (Michael B Jordan) and a too-cool-for-my-own-life pseudo-intellectual (Alex Russel). The reason they work well together is because each posses the qualities another lacks and it keeps them focused on group concerns: exploring their new powers and getting stronger.

In younger days, I and my friends would play ‘Adventure’ which was basically Dungeons & Dragons without the paper and dice. We would build scenarios and talk our way through our actions and create a story in real time. You do or say this and this is what happens after. You react and do that and here’s what happens next. In the earliest games, we spent our time exacting revenge on those that wronged us and getting the girl we wanted. Eventually thoughts about our real non-life seemed unimportant and we began to think about being super-heroes and fighting other beings with powers and becoming worldly beacons of justice. Really, we did.

Chronicle could follow that same ambition process, but we are narrowly focused on this trio and the early days of their enhancement. High School life is still most important, and should be because that is all the characters know. We don’t get answers for where the energy source came from and do not explore any of the hinted at tangents -like the world and government reaction to some of the incredible events the trio is at the center of. There’s a built in break for using the hand-held documentary style because you can say: if it wasn’t filmed by this guy then we can’t show it to you. That’s broken up in some nice shots where surveillance camera footage is spliced in at key moments.

Of course in any movie, you can criticize the actions of the main characters and figure you could have done better in their position. One character needs cash and so he robs the local (presumed) drug dealing a-holes. That’s not enough so he robs a gas station. At first I thought with those powers why isn’t he making tons of cash or if you’re going to rob something, rob an ATM or bank…but these are simple characters acting on impulse. This is a simple movie trying to explore what some would do if they suddenly became infused with super-human powers. Sometimes we come back with complex answers when in truth; it might all be as simple as this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and the ending had a much bigger climax than I expected. I am not a movie critic, I am critiquing a movie.

Immortals Movie Review (2011)

November 14, 2011 3 comments

Immortals Movie Review (2011)

Immortals Movie Poster

Immortals, it's the gods getting busy instead of the Spartans.

It’s close to 300, but lacks a fully-defined world.

Synopsis and Plot Summary:

King Hyperion declares war on humanity and seeks the all-powerful Bow of Epirus which he will use to unlock the imprisoned Titans. Theseus, a human peasant is favored and trained by Zeus incarnate to become the savoir of all humanity.

General Angle:

This is 300 turned up a notch by replacing the Spartans with fighting gods. 300 was based loosely around true events and Immortals gives the same visual treatment to Greek Mythology.

The New and Original:

The gods are young and active. No more lounging around in floating clouds, wearing togas and eating grapes. Titans (who were supposed to be as strong as or stronger than the gods) are skillful warriors and not the far-from-factual monsters depicted in Clash of the Titans. For the record, Medusa and the Kraken are not Titans.

What’s Old and Borrowed:

Slow motion combat sequences. A hero that is TOLD he’s a hero, BECOMES a hero without doing too many heroic things. A single weapon/object that’s so powerful it can defeat armies. Yes, more movies like Lord of the Rings and Krull. A woman who serves no purpose besides being eye candy- yes, that’s Megan Fox in The Transformers.

When I saw the trailer for this movie two years ago, I quietly leaned over to my girlfriend and said “They made this one for me.” Really, it’s a guy’s movie with the looks of intense battles and non-stop action. I love the combination of great visuals and majestic vistas. I like when moments in a movie have additional impact from meaningful storylines and solid character development. I do. This is a great movie, but its total ranking on my charts suffers from flaws in its foundation. Since 300 is its too- close- for- kissing -cousin, we’ll offer some comparisons.

I’ll skip over the slow-mo fight scenes and partial nudity to nudity (ahem) and Rourke (Hyperion) verse um…the guy who played Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). It’s about the believability of the world. That makes the action have meaning, the plot twists intriguing, the characters have dimension and the storyline have a logical course. That’s what’s missing here. Oh, by the way, if you’re the kind of movie fan that only cares about loud explosions, action stunts, hot chicks and plots as simple as The Dukes of Hazzard; just go see the movie, its’ awesome.

I expected more and at first I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t enjoying this epic as much as I should have. I figured out why the remake of Clash of the Titans missed the bullseye for me. It was a pacing problem. Everything happened so fast; nothing had any meaning. He gets the Pegasus, no big deal. It’s just a flying horse. No sense of wonder there. Even the hero Perseus seemed unimpressed. Dude, you just got a flying horse! Both Troy and Alexander had some great moments, but the impact was lessened by all the badly executed scenes between battles.

In Immortals, it’s the world that’s lacking. I read that Director Tarsem Singh had a lot of control over this movie. With movies like The Cell and The Fall under his belt, you have no doubts about his ability to tell a tale with visual flair. But for Immortals it seems as though the one-man’s-vision approach leads us to numerous plot holes and logic-defying devices.

Let’s take a look at some of them: SPOILER ALERT AHEAD!!!!!

1. Early in, Theseus is told he must wait a day to evacuate his village before the rapidly advancing army of Hyperion. The privileged upper class is leaving immediately and the poor must wait 24 hours. Why? And why wouldn’t he just leave on his own? If you were told a flood was coming and you must evacuate, but only certain people could leave now, would you say “Oh, okay” and stick around? Exactly.

2. Next, a captured Theseus is sent to the salt mines to work. At night the slaves are corralled near a fountain where the (hot) Virgin oracles are also getting a sip or two. And the hotties are chilling one-room over at the Hyperion-Hotel-Six. Who would mix rough slaves with the sexy virg-…oh wait, why are there only four slaves at the salt pit? Why do we never enter the salt mines and only see the front door? Why are there so few guards? How do they get from the salt flats back to…wait…

3. Everything in this world is a few minutes walk. At least when King Leonidas, in 300, showed his map, it did look like walking distance. They also omit any means of travel. The massive army of Hyperion has no horses, carriages or any depicted means of getting around. We only (really) saw two horses in the entire movie and they seemed thrown in at the last minute to solve another How do we get there quick? problem.

4. She’s the virgin oracle that never sees a useful vision. She was hunted down because she could lead Hyperion to the Epirus Bow, but um…she didn’t know where it was and our hero found it on his own, by accident. And after she loses her visionary powers by having sex (like she couldn’t wait till the end of the movie) she’s still around and truly serving no purpose. Speaking of serving no purpose, did you think the Monk who sliced off his own tongue was going to have some kind of significance after sticking around so long? Me too.

5. Yay, a cool scene involving Poseidon making a giant wave. How come the main characters can leave the boat, but the bad guys stayed in the boat and just watched the wave come. AND the Oracle said something to the effect of staying steadfast when the sky thunders. Well, she quoted that line right before the tidal wave hit and our hero did the opposite. He jetted off that boat like he leaned over and saw the name Titanic written on the side.

6. Their plan is to commandeer a merchant boat of Hyperion’s navy, but at the dock, there’s no one. No other boats, crews or merchants or goods even…and that leads us to another problem.

7. Aside from the bad-guy action figures like the hawk-guy, the Bull guy and the beast, everyone else in Hyperion’s army is a generic foot soldier. No generals, captains or anyone else of any rank or skill. In 300, you saw assorted flavors in the Xerxes forces. They seemed like a conquering horde. In Immortals, they felt like the extras they were.

8. Speaking of people, in 300 I could see myself living in that universe, tending, crafting, hell maybe I’d be some kind of musician there too. In Immortals they never showed us Hellenic life to actually see what Theseus would have been fighting to save. Same with the gods. What do they do besides watch us? I wish we knew more about their world. Had their universe been more and better defined, I might have more to walk away with- than the memories of some very cool and graphically charged combat scenes.

I could go on longer, but I’m even getting tired of taking apart this movie. It’s good, long as you watch it lightly and don’t think too deeply about anything besides the beauty of the visually visceral violence. I rate it a 8.5 and 300 a 9.2

I’m no movie critic, I’m just critiquing a movie.