Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Introducing KoreanMovieReviews.com!

Hope you had a great year and wish you a healthy 2014. I posted 230 reviews in 2013 and hope to continue strong into 2014. However, not all of my new reviews will be posted directly on CinematicAddiction. I'm branching out with an experimental niche website, KoreanMovieReviews.com, and hope to see you there. I will be posting a different South Korean movie every other day. Well, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at least. So, if you're a fan, head over to KoreanMovieReviews.com and bookmark the page -- you won't regret it!

Regards,
Jonathan
cinematicaddiction.com
koreanmoviereviews.com

Film Review: Devil's Pass (2013)

Devil's Pass (Review)
United Kingdom/Russia/2013
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the film lacks thrills, scares, entertainment and so on."

Led by psychology student Holly King (Holly Goss), five college students travel to the Dyatlov Pass to find out what happened to nine skiers who mysteriously and unexplainably died 50 years prior...

Devil's Pass starts as a mockumentary that quickly turns into a more traditional found-footage horror film. The story follows Holly as she leads Jensen, a pretentious, douchebag film student, Denise, a cardboard audio engineer, and two expert climbers, J. P. and Andy, to the Dyatlov Pass. So, they hike up the rough terrain and talk about the incident -- they speculate, joke around, and so on. Nothing really happens for the first two acts, actually. The story starts to pick up some momentum during the final act, but it's a mess and feels like a completely different movie. It loses all sense of identity along with a useless twist, and throws a plethora of ill-fitted computer graphics to the audience. The ending even starts to drag on a bit.

Devil's Pass starts off with some interesting information about the incident early on. Unfortunately, it doesn't have enough information to fill the first two acts. Instead, you get to several poor attempts at comedy with every other line of dialogue attempting to be "witty" -- it's not. The rest of the dialogue is cliché, ripped out of every other found-footage horror film ever made. Without much story and poorly written dialogue, you really don't have much of a film for the first half. Afterward, the film messes with a plethora of ideas and possible solutions to the "great" mystery -- none of which offer any closure or impact. In fact, it should've been a documentary considering the film lacks thrills, scares, entertainment and so on.

On top of being a boring story, Devil's Pass does nothing to differentiate itself from the other films in the genre. The obligatory "we've got to record everything" discussion, for example, is present. And the douchebag cast of characters are all very familiar. My favorite is the illogical character, though. I mean, why bring two experts if you're going to completely ignore their advice? Why move towards the radiation instead of away? Why open a door that's obviously locked from the outside to keep something in? Curiosity killed the cat, stupidity killed Holly. (not a spoiler.) If you're looking for well-developed or even likable characters, look elsewhere.

The acting is decent for a cast of unknowns; obviously everyone has to start somewhere, it's just surprising to see a solid cast of unknowns work so well together -- not award winning, but worth noting. The special effects are terrible and overused -- this is a cade where it would've been better to show less, especially during the final sequence. Renny Harlin's direction is okay, but he's better than this. The writing is inconsistent and sloppy.

Overall, Devil's Pass is a bad found-footage horror film. The concept is interesting, but the execution is severely flawed. The story is boring, the final act is lost in itself, the characters are annoying and illogical, there is a severe lack of horror and suspense, and the visual effects are bad and unnecessary. Avoid this film, unless your Netflix list is empty; even then, I can probably recommend some better films on Netflix you haven't seen. I mean, Devil's Pass? More like Devil's Ass, right? No? Ok...

Score: 2/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Film Review: Insidious Chapter 2 (2013)

Insidious: Chapter 2 (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"Fans of the original's Further sequence will enjoy it the most..."

Starting where the last ended, the Lamberts feel liberated from their last haunting and relieved to have their son back, despite an unfortunate passing. However, there is still an ominous presence surrounding the family, especially Josh (Patrick Wilson) who doesn't seem to be completely aware...

Insidious: Chapter 2 begins with a prequel-like sequence -- not a flashback per se -- which shows Josh as a child and his first encounter with Elise, who tries to help him get rid of his "friend". Fast forward to the present, only moments after the first film, and we see the Lamberts try to piece together their lives. Josh's wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), and mother witness the same experience as before, while Josh is reluctant to believe it's happening again. So, his mother comes into contact with Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) to find the source of the haunting, while Renai tries to survive at home. The final act connects well to the first film, but feels too hectic. The ending, of course, is left open for another sequel.

Insidious: Chapter 2 links directly to the previous film, so you really have to watch the first to truly enjoy the second. The story in this film is much more creative than the first -- it almost feels like a fantasy horror film, and I like that. At the same time, this film really isn't as scary as expected. Chapter 2 is heavily reliant on loud noise jump-scares, many that aren't very unique or even effective. On top of that, the film blends more humor with character like Specs and Tucker having a stronger presence. Considering it really isn't funny, the horror is made even less effective. I like the Further scenes, and I like how the plot connects to the first, but I wish it was scarier.

Patrick Wilson is great as usual, very underrated. Rose Byrne has more energy this time around, I liked her performance. Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson also perform well, but their characters aren't as funny as they think. The music in this film is fantastic, but underutilized, excluding the loud-noise jump-scares. The camerawork is engaging and helpful in building suspense. James Wan is superb as director, he knows how to build suspense and consistency; unfortunately, Wan's jump-scares aren't as experimental or creative this time.

Overall, Insidious: Chapter 2 is a great horror film. The story is creative, much more than a typical haunted house film, there are some jolting jump-scares, and some great suspense, as well. However, for everything this film does better than the first, it does something worse -- not necessarily to the point of being bad, but to the point of being, well, worse. Fans of the original's Further sequence will enjoy it the most; those looking for something like tge first two acts of the original should look elsewhere, or rent with caution.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Film Review: White House Down (2013)

White House Down (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

" If you're looking for something fun and exhilarating ... White House Down comes strongly recommended."

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a Capitol Police officer trying to impress his daughter Emily (Joey King) by joining U.S. President James Sawyer's (Jamie Foxx) security detail. During a tour of the White House, the building is assaulted with President Sawyer, Emily, and John trapped inside...

White House Down continues to follow a fairly straight-forward story. John has to rescue his daughter and the President from a group of highly-trained and strongly-armed mercenaries, while keeping himself alive; furthermore, he has to stop the terrorists from escalating their attack. Of course, there is an explanation for the attack that involves betrayal and revenge. And, of course, Emily is captured, which causes John to have to focus on protecting two people. The story continues to a cheesy ending, although it keeps the same tone of the rest of the film -- not bad at all.

To enjoy White House Down, you'll have to suspend reality for two hours. Of course this isn't a likely scenario, it's not plausible and so on. After you do so, you'll be able to enjoy the film's humorous, almost satirical vibe and its superb action sequences. The humor starts off a bit too cheesy for me, with some squirrel nonsense, but it becomes more grounded later on. The action is exhilarating with hand-to-hand combat, explosions, and shootouts around every corner. The initial raid if the White House and some of the hand-to-hand combat doesn't quite match those of Olympus Has Fallen, but the rest of the sequences really surpass it. The lawn chase scene, for example, is wonderfully shot and very memorable. The runtime feels a bit bloated, especially when the ending begins to drag, but it ultimately offers enough to justify the two hours.

Channing Tatum -- and this is a problem for most of the cast -- didn't really feel believable or even charismatic. Jamie Foxx's performance felt like a bad impersonation of President Obama, and not in a funny way. However, after some weak introductions, they get more comfortable and their performances become more than tolerable, pretty much enjoyable. The special effects are superb, and they really compliment the stylish cinematography. The music also hits the right notes in the appropriate moments. (i.e. It gets epic when it hits the fan.) Roland Emmerich's direction is also as great as it could be for a summer blockbuster.

Overall, White House Down is a thrilling action blockbuster with a great blend of humor. Although it shares a similar concept, White House Down serves as the opposite of Olympus Has Fallen in terms of theme and even genre. If you're looking for something fun and exhilarating, and you can turn your brain off for two hours so you don't question every single scene, White House Down comes strongly recommended.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Film Review: The Matrimony (2007)

The Matrimony (Review)
China/2007
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a slow-burn horror film with great immersion and some solid suspense..."

When his soon-to-be fiancé, Manli (Fan Bingbing), dies in a car accident, cinematographer Shen Junchu (Leon Lai) has difficulties moving on. However, Shen's ill mother convinces him to marry a humble young woman named Sansan (Rene Liu) against his will.

The Matrimony continues to show Shen and Sansan's dysfunctional relationship -- Shen doesn't want to move on despite Sansan's willingness, humbleness, and profuse love. With odd noised and events occurring, Sansan eventually comes into contact with Manli's ghost, who is not malevolent. In fact, she wants to help Shen moving on by briefly possessing Sansan, as well as giving her some pointers. Anyway, this love triangle has frightening consequences when one's intentions aren't as honest as originally believed. The ending is frustratingly difficult, but you can consider it open for interpretation.

The Matrimony is a beautiful tale of love, life, death, and regret -- with a ghostly twist. A classic ghost story with an actual story. No, this isn't another furniture-moving, fridge-checking ghost walking around a large home, this is a ghost with actual intentions and character. This is a slow-burn horror film with great immersion and some solid suspense which leads to some equally decent jump-scares. Therefore, expect a slowly paced yet beautifully crafted horror film. The film does stumble a bit during the final act, but it is ultimately enjoyable from beginning to end. Depending on how much weight you give an ending, it can possible break the film.

The cast is wonderful, they really immerse themselves into this time period. I really enjoyed Rene Liu performance, a real standout. The setting is beautifully captured through the wonderful cinematography and camerawork. The music is also very effective in creating an atmosphere and creating the "slow-burn" feel. Although not heavy on special effects, they're mostly great; the introduction does feature some poor special effects, otherwise, they are used conservatively and well. Hua-Tao Teng's direction is great, the writing could use some work -- the ending could've had a better presentation or even some clarification.

Overall, The Matrimony is a great slow-burn horror film with well-crafted romance elements. The film is unique in an industry filled with ghost films. Being a sucker of Asian ghost films, I really enjoyed it and I think you will too, at least if you're into Asian horror and slow-burns.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Film Review: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Review)
Finland/Norway/France/Sweden/2010
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"I can't wait to watch it again next year."

During the Christmas time, a group of local reindeer herders, including a young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila), are disrupted by a nearby excavation. When their herd is found mysteriously dead, the herders find the excavation site has been abandoned...

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale continues with Pietari telling his father, and anyone that will listen for that matter, that the real Santa Clause is out to get him -- an evil Santa Clause who will punish the naughty. Eventually, they find an injured man in a wolf trap who doesn't speak and has a striking resemblance to the fairy tale. After a failed interrogation, Pietari convinces the group that they found the Santa Clause from his books. The story is pushed further after an interesting twist on the fairy tale. The final sequence of the film is exhilarating and fun, while the actual ending is an interesting twist on Rare Exports.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a fantastic fantasy horror film. It takes a classic fairy tale and spins it, while keeping the Christmas magic. It's not particularly frightening, but it does have an ominous tone and some creepy visuals. The ominous tone has an enchanting feel -- the atmosphere in general is pleasing and engaging. Like Hansel and Gretel (the South Korean film), this is a film that really keeps you hooked through its masterful atmosphere and creative story. The pacing is very fast and fluid, and the story is very full -- this is further complimented by the short runtime. And, it tells a complete story -- simple, but complete.

I enjoyed the entire cast as everyone delivers believable performances. Onni Tommila delivers an impressive performance, as well; his character may feel annoying and irritatingly disobedient, but it feels like this is how an actual kid would react -- and he nails it. I love the music in the film, it's enchanting, ominous, and exhilarating. The film looks beautiful -- the cinematography is superb, the film looks amazing with an amazing use of vibrant lighting. This is a film that should be enjoyed with Blu-ray quality video and audio. The story and film are tightly written and directed.

Overall, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a fantastic fantasy film with great horror elements. The film just feels like Christmas -- so much that I've been watching it each year since 2011 as my holiday tradition. Yes, this is only my third time, but it's as amazing as the first. I can't wait to watch it again next year.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, and nudity.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Film Review: A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (2011)

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (Review)
United States/2011
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"It really captures the holiday feel through its setting and themes, no matter how cliché."

Estranged friends Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) reunite after six years of being separated when a mysterious package for Harold arrives at Kumar's home.

Taking place on Christmas Eve, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas has the stoner duo -- well, the former stoner duo as Harold is now sober -- embark on a journey to find a new Christmas tree after Kumar accidentally destroys the original tree. This journey, of course, includes the usual crazy antics you'd expect: a baby is incidentally introduced to many party drugs, crazy claymation drug trips, an NPH musical and sexual assault, a drug lord hunts Harold and Kumar, which leads to genitalia being frozen on to a pole. The story delivers the raunchy laughs up to its cliché ending. (it's a comedy, so I don't fault it much.)

I really enjoy A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas. In fact, I have been watching it during Christmas time since its release two years ago. It really captures the holiday feel through its setting and themes, no matter how cliché. The comedy in the film, to put it best, is raunchy, stoner comedy. We've got the addition of Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld) and Todd (Thomas Lennon) as the replacement friends, and, being a fan of both, I welcome them with open arms. Anyway, I laughed a lot, and if you like raunchy, inappropriate stoner comedy, I have a feeling you'll enjoy it as well. It's not as funny as the first two installments, though.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Of course, it's a comedy and it's not aiming for any awards, but it seems like the cast had a fun time making the film and that fun was transmitted to me through their heartfelt performances -- and that's saying something. The music is great, perfect for the holiday mood. The film is shot beautifully, the blue tones are a bit too strong, but it looks great. The comedy is consistent, always taking a step towards more absurdity up until the end and using the setting well. (i.e. It doesn't feel like a cheap holiday cash-in.)

Overall, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas is a great holiday comedy for the adults that love the raunchy comedy genre. With the amount of profanity, nudity, drug use, and violence, I wouldn't recommend this for the entire family, but those that are mature enough to understand and absorb the immaturity should be fine and entertained.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, drug use and references, excessive profanity, and sex and nudity. (including full male and female frontal)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Film Review: Empire State (2013)

Empire State (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a barely decent crime drama/thriller."

Chris Potamitis (Liam Hemsworth) becomes a security guard for an armored truck company, Empire State, after being rejected by the police academy. After his father is fired, tired of being robbed, and under the influence of a friend, Eddie (Michael Angarano), Chris Potamitis decides to rob Empire State...

Empire State continues as Chris informs Eddie of Empire State's poor security: the money they store is rarely counted; the cameras, gates, and locks are easily passable; and, Chris is the only security guard after 8 PM. In fact, Chris is able to steal $25,000 with ease. Unfortunately, Eddie has a big mouth that drags Chris into a larger plot with mobsters and drug dealers. On top of that, James Ransone (Dwayne Johnson), a NYPD detective, is hot on their trail. The ending of the film comes quickly, and it's disappointing -- it lacks impact.

Empire State tells a basic story with little flare or style. The film takes place in the 80s, but the time period plays a weak role in the film. Although Chris is the main characters, Eddie moves the story forward with his stupid actions and his big mouth. The action sequences are decent -- they add a little life to the film. There are some tense scenes, as well, but they are outnumbered by bland scenes. James Ransone adds life to the film with some character and wit, but the rest of the characters are cardboard cutouts. This wouldn't be a problem if the film offered action or suspense, but it's a film based on real events -- there has to be some character!

Liam Hemsworth and Michael Angarano are decent -- I couldn't identify their mediocre accents, though, they seemed sloppy. Hemsworth really doesn't have the screen presence or charisma to be a leading man, either. Dwayne Johnson, on the other hand, has great charisma and delivery with his performance, despite being underutilized; regardless, he's not at his best either. The rest of the film is technically made well, but it's not exceptional. The music, the cinematography, the storytelling... it never tries to be better than good enough. This is one of those films that technically suffers from a lack of ambition.

Overall, Empire State is a barely decent crime drama/thriller. It doesn't offer much drama or many thrills, and it isn't very informative on these actual events, but it is entertaining and briskly paced. A solid way to kill a night, if you have nothing better to watch.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Film Review: Art of the Devil 2 (2005)

Art of the Devil 2 (Review)
Thailand/2005
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"The gore and violence is turned up a notch..."

An abusive, cheating teacher, Aajaan Panor (Napakpapha Nakprasitte), is exposed and humiliated by a group of students. Years later, this young group of friends return home on break to brutal revenge...

Art of the Devil 2 follows this group of friends as they take a break from school and reconnect at their old home. They visit their old teacher, Panor, oblivious of her intentions. Eventually, they begin to have odd experiences -- seeing ghostly figures and such. They see and feel unnatural things at the home and contemplate leaving. After a gruesome reveal of her intentions, the friends attempt to survive Panor's rampage, as well as try to find out why. Although it has a few confusing moments, Art of the Devil 2 leads up to a disturbing finale with a great twist ending.

The storytelling is often difficult to follow. There are many flashbacks, and concurrent events you have to keep track of and it can be hassle due to the sloppy storytelling. Also, this installment, like the last, doesn't explain the black magic, which leaves a few unanswered questions. The characters and their motives, or hypocritical motives, may also bother some audiences. You see, Panor isn't the type of character you'd root for -- she's an abusive stepmother and cheating wife who wants revenge because she was caught and punished. The kids she's getting revenge on were actually getting revenge on her and her secret lover because of the physical and sexual abuse they endured. Then, this group of friends aren't as likable as they may seem when most of their original actions and intentions are revealed. Maybe that's point, though: maybe, the art of the devil is their inner demons. Regardless, you night not like it if you can't stand these type of characters.

The horror and story is much more focused this time around, though. The story that is told is interesting and moves at a great pace, and the ending is great; its storytelling may be confusing, but it's much tighter than the previous installment. The horror consists of some solid jump-scares and suspense. There are also some spooky visuals -- one character is forced to see some creepy ghosts as her punishment, which leads to some eye-gouging. The gore and violence is turned up a notch with some vicious kills and brutal torture. The type of stuff I wish more technologically advanced films like Evil Dead (2013) would show to push the genre.

The acting is good from the entire cast. However, Napakpapha Nakprasitte shines with a sinister performance for the books -- not only is she stunningly beautiful, she's perfect at playing evil with the tone of her voice, the look in her eyes, and her body movements. The music is also great, it fits the setting well and sets an ominous mood. The film is show well enough, it's never to dark or bright. The direction is much tighter and consistent, as is the writing; however, one can expect much when you have a team of seven, known as the Ronin Team, working on the film.

Overall, Art of the Devil 2 is a very good Thai horror film. The story is immersive and interesting, despite the lack of detail on black magic, and the horror is wide-ranged -- you've got jump-scares, suspense, spooky figures, and disturbing visuals all in one. This is a great improvement over the last installment.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Film Review: Redemption (2012)

Redemption (or Hummingbird) (Review)
United States/United Kingdom/2012
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...there is a lack of focus, but it is not a film-breaking issue."

Joseph Smith (Jason Statham), a former Special Forces veteran who went AWOL, is a homeless alcoholic in London. One night, he and a young lady, Isabel, are attacked leading Joseph to find refuge in a temporarily vacant home...

Redemption then follows Joseph as he uses this man's belongings to better himself -- to redeem himself. He cleans himself up, he finds an honest job, and he searches for Isabel, who now works as a prostitute. However, Joseph finds himself in a downward spiral when he becomes a gangster; even further downward when Isabel is found brutally murdered and dumped in a river. Also, Joseph has a troubling relationship with a confused nun. By the end, Joseph finds a different form of redemption that one may not expect -- a great ending.

Redemption isn't an all-out action movie with great martial arts or boxing as you may expect from a Jason Statham-leading film. Instead, Redemption is a dark drama-thriller hybrid with humane themes and only a handful of action sequences. Although I enjoy the story, unfortunately, it's not very consistent or focused. Many of the situations and characters we are introduced to are not fully developed. We meet Isabel, but we never really know her or understand her significance. Therefore, and this also occurs with the Nun-love subplot, it never really hones into one problem. The story is ultimately effective, but it could've been extremely effective with better focus.

Jason Statham delivers a great performance as Joseph -- an unexpectedly wide-ranged performance with genuine emotion. The rest of the cast is equally great. This is one of those moments where Jason Statham isn't playing Jason Statham. The cinematography and camerawork are great, very easy on the eyes while developing a dark tone. The few fight scenes are greatly choreographed -- fans of Statham will not be disappointed in quality, but may be in the quantity. Steven Knight's direction is superb, but the writing is inconsistent and lacked focused -- a superb story is there, it's simply underdeveloped.

Overall, Redemption (or Hummingbird) is a great gritty drama with a handful of great action sequences and thrills -- there is a lack of focus, but it is not a film-breaking issue. There are moments of depression, sadness, reality, but, more importantly, there are also moments of inspiration and redemption.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Film Review: Drug War (2012)

Drug War (Review)
China/2012
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...brings you into its world and keeps you suspended through its tense encounters..."

After crashing into a building, a dazed and confused drug lord Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) agrees to team up with Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei) to avoid the death penalty.

Drug War continues with Timmy and Zhang working together to takedown the rest of the drug ring over the course of 72 hours. Both are taken through tense situations of trust and betrayal -- against each other and the people they're targeting. For example, can Zhang continue to play a drug lord and survive in the drug underworld? Are Timmy's actions genuine, or is he planning something bigger? The tension further rises as the plans complicate. The final act explodes in a climatic gun battle leading into a dark ending of consequence and punishment.

Drug War begins with a successful crackdown. The characters we are introduced to -- Zhang and Yang -- are initially cliché and bland; one is a stereotypical tough supercop and the other plays it bland and boring. However, after this introduction, the clichés are dropped and the characters grow with the plot and settle into more likable and comfortable characters. This isn't an all-out action film by any means -- it's far from Hard Boiled. Instead, Drug War brings you into its world and keeps you suspended through its tense encounters -- usually its action dialogue and suspenseful choices characters make. There are a few brilliantly choreographed shootouts towards the second half of the film; these blazing, edge-of-your-seat action sequences quite literally keep you at the edge.

Sun Honglei initially starts off bland and boring, even if that is supposed to be his character; eventually, he brings life into his performance, though. Louis Koo delivers a wonderful performance -- very lifelike, deceptive and even emotional, especially during the ending. The film is shot beautifully -- the movie looks amazing with great color tones, and the camerawork is extremely engaging. The music is great and sets the tone for the film, as it's supposed to. The action is beautifully choreographed, even if there are only two or three shootouts. Johnnie To's direction is also superb, really consistent and precise pulling as much possible from the cast and story.

Overall, Drug War is an incredible crime thriller. Developing suspense through dialogue and thrills through action is quite the accomplishment on its own, but Drug War becomes much more through its engaging story and direction. I highly recommend this film.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Film Review: Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...easily the most disappointing film of the year."

A group of friends get together at an isolated cabin in the woods in hopes of rehabilitating their drug-addicted friend, Mia (Jane Levy). Unfortunately, there is something much more sinister awaiting its awakening....

Evil Dead continues as Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), a friend of Mia's, reads a passage from a book titled Naturom Demonto, which, in turn, summons a demon. Mia is possessed, but no one believes her and they blame her behavior on withdrawal. And so, one-by-one, this group becomes possessed and the survivors have to find a way to stop it -- killing the host and freeing the soul. Unfortunately, this group isn't very capable or smart; however, this does lead to some very blood gore, so it kinda cancels out, I suppose. The film takes a turn for the worst during the final act when it becomes more cliché and more illogical, as well as taking a generic slasher approach.

Evil Dead takes up a serious, dark tone, but it's hard to accept it as it is. No, not because the original had some great underlining humor and charm. Rather, Evil Dead doesn't build up its ideas or characters to be considered a serious horror film. The emotional story elements and characters are all half-baked. And, the dark tone is spoiled by inconsistently humorous moments. (I can't be the only one that felt awkward laughing while one character tried to remedy all of the bloody mayhem with duct tape, can I? Or was that not supposed to be funny?) I like dark tone, I just wish it stuck to it and developed it more.

A bigger offense, in by opinion, is the lack of horror. The gore is great and all, and it's definitely a redeeming factor for the film, but there really isn't anything scary about it. I cringed during the box-cutter/tongue scene, but, otherwise, it's cartoonish. Cool for gorehounds? Definitely. Will I lose sleep at night? Nope. It doesn't help when some of the scenes look like they were shot during an earthquake in the dark. How much you like special effects or how scary you find violence will determine how scary you find the film. The jump-scares in this film fail miserably due to the lack of suspense, as well.

As for the acting, most of it barely reaches "good". Jane Levy is by far the worst in the film; she doesn't deliver a believable drug addict, she doesn't look like one, and her character came off as annoying due to the performance ( I should feel sympathetic, not irritated); this is mostly due to her performance either being very bland at times, or ridiculously over-the-top during others. Regardless, Jane Levy was either miscasted or misdirected. The rest of the acting was okay, Lou Taylor Pucci being a standout, which isn't saying much in this case. The special effects and makeup are great. The music is also great, having an ominous vibe one and an epic vibe during another. Fede Alvarez direction was okay, but it felt inconsistent, much like the often choppy editing.

Overall, Evil Dead offers plenty of gore, and gallons and gallons of blood. However, the story and characters are underdeveloped, suspense and thrills are nonexistent, and the cast deliver poor performances. I kept the original film out of mind as I already had a feel of what I was getting into: a dark, ultra-violent interpretation of a classic film. In other words, a standalone film with the same title. Even with this mindset, unfortunately, Evil Dead fails and is easily the most disappointing film of the year.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Film Review: From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)

From Up On Poppy Hill (Review)
Japan/2011
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

" It's a great change of pace..."

Umi Matsuzaki is a hardworking 16 year old girl taking care of her siblings as well as the housework while her mother is away. Shun Kazama is a member of the high school journalism club where he and Umi form a strong bond...

From Up On Poppy Hill is a simple yet emotionally effective story. Umi and Shun develop a friendship that just might turn into more when they begin to work together to stop the demolition of the Quartier Latin -- an old, beat-up building that houses the high school's many clubs. They begin to suade the student body into protecting the building by fixing together. Meanwhile, Umi and Shun's relationships takes surprising turns as their characters are further developed. The ending of the film is genuinely heartwarming and reassuring -- a staple for Ghibli films.

The story is great. As previously stated, it's simple but engaging and entertaining. I'd liken it to a coming-of-age film, although not exactly, and we don't see many of those nowadays. It's a great change of pace, although it can be too slow at times. Regardless, every character has life -- you can connect to the characters and actually share feelings. And, the entire "fix up the building"-project feels genuine, despite leading to a predictable resolution. I also really enjoyed the lighthearted humor in the film, it blends nicely with the deep drama. From Up On Poppy Hill is a peaceful and entertaining film -- a film with great heart and life.

I enjoyed the Japanese voice acting. As usual, it captures a wide range of emotion and transmits it to the audience well -- I can actually feel the happiness, the sadness, the enthusiasm, and the anxiety, and so on. The visuals are lavish, really capturing the era with great accuracy and beautiful color. The music is also very effective, truly an amazing soundtrack that can really hit the right emotions. The screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa is great, and Gorō Miyazaki's direction continues to show great promise.

Overall, From Up On Poppy Hill is a very effective and entertaining drama. It's not what most expect from Studio Ghibli, but it carries the same life and passion as the films that came before it. From the beautiful story to it's incredible technical aspects, From Up On Poppy Hill is strongly recommended.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: The film is safe for the entire family, although some themes of death and loss are prevalent.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Film Review: Art of the Devil (2004)

Art of the Devil (Review)
Thailand/2004
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes 

"...this film doesn't offer much."

Boom (Supaksorn Chaimongkol) finds herself pregnant by a married man, Prathan, she met at a country club. She accepts a hefty payment for her silence, but it backfires and leads to her imminent sexual assault. Boom then decides to exact her revenge through vicious black magic...

Art of the Devil continues as Boom slaughters Prathan and his family. Afterward, Prathan's ex-wife and her family are given his estate. Still angered at Prathan's actions, and further angered by not receiving a share of his estate, Boom decides to use black magic on his extended family. Boom works herself into the family in hopes of inheriting the estate, but with deadly methods. Not much goes on during the first two acts that require the amount of time they take up. The final act brings in more story and actual events, but it is sloppy, inconsistent, and rushed. The ending makes sense in a way, but it's overly-complicated and ineffective, anyway.

The biggest flaw in Art of the Devil is its sloppy storytelling. It's told in flashbacks with the present in black and white and the past in color, but many events aren't really elaborated on or fully explained, anyway. Otherwise, there really isn't much going on during the first hour or so, it feels bloated and uneventful. The horror consists of gore and some creepy visuals. Gorehounds will appreciate some of the vicious gore scenes, but I felt like this element was underutilized. Likewise, the spooky imagery was great, but underutilized. On top of that, the characters weren't likeable or logical. Boom's initial intentions don't seem genuine, especially considering how fast she accepts the money and her ultimate motives. Meanwhile, Prathan's ex-wife feels "entitled" to something she didn't work for. And her daughter, Nan, is illogical; if you get shot at a few times, and the gun ends up in front of you, pick up the gun and shoot your pursuer!

The acting was okay. Although I did enjoy Supaksorn Chaimongkol, most of the acting is simply decent. The cinematography is great during some scenes and just competent during others. The editing is choppy and inconsistent, which also hurts the general storytelling. The music fits the horror theme, but it isn't memorable or unique. Tanit Jitnukul's direction is solid, as well, but some of the editing choices ultimately effective the smoothness of his ride. The Art of the Devil is apparently written by Ghost Gypsy, and it's just too sloppy and overly-ambitious.

Overall, Art of the Devil is a weak horror film. It isn't particularly scary, nor is it really interesting. The story doesn't even delve deep into the black magic, which certainly would've earned it bonus points. Unfortunately, aside from a few spooky images and great gore gore effects, both of which are underutilized, this film doesn't offer much. I'd recommend streaming or renting before purchasing.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, some sexual themes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Film Review: 13 Assassins (2009)

13 Assassins (Review)
Japan/2009
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...13 Assassins is a masterpiece. "

In the 1840s in Japan, Lord Naritsugu of Akashi is the sadistic stepbrother of the current Shogun. The Shogun's Justice realizes as the arrogant Lord Naritsugu ascends to higher political power, the situation will become worse. So, he secretly hires Shimada Shinzaemon (Kōji Yakusho), a trusted samurai who served under the former shogun, to assassinate Lord Naritsugu...

13 Assassins continues as Shinzaemon gathers an elite set of samurai to assist him in his task. Along with his fellow samurai, he'll also plan their attack. This includes gambling on what his enemy's next move will be, fortifying a small town for their advantage, and executing their attack. The recruitment and the planning are very detailed and immersive, and it leads to a satisfying third act. And, by the third act, we see 12 samurai and a hunter become assassins. The final act of the film, or final 40 minutes or so, is a exhilarating, action-packed thrill ride -- worth the price admission on its own.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story in 13 Assassins -- a remake of a film I have yet to see. The first two acts of the film play like a very effective slow-burn. The antagonist's introduction is chilling and sets the mood for the film. Every scene with the antagonist, in fact, is vicious and infuriating -- this is how you make a villain. The tension is in the atmosphere and it's heavy. I really liked the planning phase, and it becomes more apparent and interesting when their plan is executed during the final act. Although there are some small action scenes during the first two acts, a bulk of the action occurs during the last 45 minutes. The samurai action is intense and even violent, and it feels authentic which adds to its impact.

The entire cast is fantastic in their roles, even though some have less screen time than others. Kōji Yakusho is a fantastic lead with a wide range of emotion, especially towards the end. The music fits the setting and tone of the film, and it really elevates the suspense. The film is shot beautifully with great attention to every detail and great use color. I also really enjoyed the set and costume design. Takashi Miike's direction is fantastic, very focused and consistent.

Overall, 13 Assassins is a superb film. The story tells an epic tale with effective philosophical subtexts -- and its action makes it a film anyone can enjoy. It's simply an incredible film on so many levels. In other words, 13 Assassins is a masterpiece.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Film Review: The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"There was a disappointing lack of suspense..."

The Wyrick family moves into an old house in the woods. However, their new home becomes horrifying as strange things occur to Lisa (Abigail Spencer) and Andy (Chad Michael Murray) Wyrick's daughter, Heidi (Emily Alyn Lind)...

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia continues to explain that Lisa, Heidi, and Joyce (Katee Sackhoff), Lisa's freeloading sister, are gifted. They can see what others cannot, like ghosts, I suppose. This idea really isn't explained or used properly, and it's unfortunately used as a crutch to move the broken story forward. Anyway, as it turns out, the Wyrick family moved into a home where slaves from the Underground Railroad where sheltered and Heidi can see them, as well as mysterious man named Mr. Gordy. It's a basic haunting film, though. The final act has some ill-fitted serial killer elements, but it features a solid twist and explanation, as well. Ultimately, the ending felt cliché, bloated, and underwhelming.

Ghosts of Georgia is a "sister film" (that's the first time I've heard the term, thanks Wikipedia) to the original The Haunting in Connecticut, but it really doesn't have any ties to that film. So, you can watch it without watching the first, you won't be lost or confused. The horror in this film consist of many jump-scares and some spooky visuals. A few jump-scares succeed, and I did enjoy some of the subtle and even the blatant visuals. There was a disappointing lack of suspense, though, which explain why many of the jump-scares don't work. It has a somewhat unique concept -- the idea of a gifted family -- but it is poorly executed, which leaves this film as another shallow haunted house clone. The first two acts move fast enough, but it loses steam and even identity during the final act.

The acting ranges from good to mediocre. Abigail Spencer is mediocre with an inconsistent performance, often under-and-overacting acting never hitting the mark. Katee Sackhoff comes off the same, as well annoying; I think her character was supposed to have some comic relief, but that failed. Chad Michael Murray is good with a controlled and consistent performance. The real surprise comes from Emily Alyn Lind who delivers a wide range of emotion and bring life to her character. The rest of the film is very basic -- the music, cinematography, and so on, are forgettable but competent. Tom Elkins' direction tells the story well, but fails to create suspense -- a vital part of the horror genre.

Overall, The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia is a decent horror film. It a few great scares, some spooky, spine-tingling visuals, and a unique concept. But, it fails to tell a unique story, use its idea wisely, and develop a tense or suspenseful atmosphere. The mixed acting doesn't help, either.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Film Review: Outrage Way of the Yakuza (2010)

Outrage: Way of the Yakuza (Review)
Japan/2010
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

 "...I'm more than content with what is offered."

Tension rises within the Sanno-kai crime syndicate as Ikemoto and his relationship with a rival gang is questioned. Otomo (Kitano Takeshi), one of Ikemoto's subordinates, is given the task of severing those ties, but not all is what is seems in the yakuza...

Outrage: Way of the Yakuza continues with twists and turns at every corner. Corruption, loyalty, and betrayal play a major role in each character's motives. But, that's the way of the yakuza, (ya know, like the title of the film? no?), and Otomo and his family are caught in the middle. The story not only introduces you to the way of the yakuza (I did it again), but it also brings you an viciously entertaining plot. The third act of the film is pure tension with some unforgettable executions -- the ending of the film fits well with the themes, and it gives just enough closure to keep you satisfied until the next one.

Outrage: Way of the Yakuza manages to be a bit more than a typical gangster film. Yes, it has a few stereotypes and clichés, but it doesn't takes itself too serious. There are more than a handful of intentionally humorous moments, albeit darkly humorous. The executions in this film are violent, graphic, and consistent. In fact, there is one scene about tongues that has been stitched into my memory since I first saw Outrage over a year ago. Aside from the cringe-worthy violence, the film works well off its tense and heated encounters, as well as its twist-filled and engaging plot.

Kitano Takeshi, or Beat Takeshi, is fantastic as the lead -- he plays the old-school yakuza very well with a calm and collected performance with some nicely added humor. The rest of the cast is equally impressive. The music is well-fitted and even unique for the genre. The film is also shot well. It's not strong on special effects, but most of the effects and makeup are great; I believe there may be some computer generated blood, but it's well-executed. Takeshi Kitano is incredibly precise with his direction, and his writing is also great -- occasionally, the storytelling can be confusing, but it mostly translates well.

Overall, Outrage: Way of the Yakuza is a great crime thriller. It's very violent, darkly humorous, and immensely entertaining and interesting. I wished the film delved a bit more into the Yakuza lifestyle, but I'm more than content with what is offered.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, brief sex and nudity.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Film Review: The Wolverine (2013)

The Wolverine (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...this summer's best action film."

Logan, also known as the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), travels to Japan as requested by Yashida -- a now successful businessman on the brink of death, who Logan saved during World War II. In Japan, Yashida offers to take Logan's curse away... his immortality.

The Wolverine continues with the titular character falling into a web of lies and conspiracy. Yashida passes away, and his granddaughter, Mariko, is targeted by the yakuza. Above all, Logan has lost his immortality, leaving him to use any means necessary to survive his battles against the heavily-armed yakuza and expertly-trained ninja. Of course, he develops a relationship with Mariko, as well as a change of heart. The Wolverine enters a final act with a great final battle and a solid albeit predictable twist. (Stick around for the scene in the credits for a peek at what the X-Men have coming up.)

The Wolverine takes up a darker tone this time around. There is some light comic relief, but it's mostly sticks with the darker tone. I personally welcome this tone, I feel like it matches well with the ferocious Wolverine. The action sequences are exhilarating and even creative -- some of the camerawork is a bit rough during some scenes, though. The bullet train sequence and the fights during the final act are easily memorable due to their great choreography. Despite losing some of the comic tone, the film keeps the blockbuster-comic-action superhero movies are known for -- maybe even better than most. Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is the main villain of the film for a bulk of the time, but she comes off as underwhelming -- she's villainous sure, but she lacks a strong threat.

Hugh Jackman is great as the lead -- you can see he really loves playing The Wolverine, and that feeling is transmitted to the audience through his performance. Svetlana Khodchenkova is good as Viper, but for a character with such a strong significance, she seemed to lack an equally strong screen presence. The rest of the cast is top-notch in the blockbuster category. The action sequences feature great choreography, despite some poor camerawork. The music is well-fitted, blending the Japanese sounds with the modern blockbuster soundtrack nicely. The film is also beautifully shot with great use of color and lighting. The special effects are much better than Origins, as well.

Overall, The Wolverine is an exceptional action blockbuster. In fact, The Wolverine is one of the best superhero films in a long time and this summer's best action film. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to watch the unrated version due to Amazon's negligence and poor customer service, but I digress. Check this film out!

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, and language.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ending Explained: Modus Anomali (aka Ritual) (2012)

Ending Explained: Modus Anomali (aka Ritual) (2012) [Spoilers]
Review: HERE!

I thought I'd try something new today. I see a lot of online traffic of people searching for plot and ending explanations of certain films, so I thought it would be helpful to give my interpretation on these particular films. So, I'm introducing a new segment called "Ending Explained". Hope you enjoy it and please feel free to leave feedback. And, of course, beware of the spoilers ahead.

Modus Anomali (or Ritual) follows a man named John with amnesia as he tries to piece together the events prior to his unconscious burial. Soon afterward, he realizes he has a family: his pregnant wife has been murdered and his two children are missing. On top that, John is being hunted by an unknown person wielding weapons such as a crossbow and machete. Well, everything in the first two acts is a delusion -- a result of an amnesia and paranoia causing drug.

As explained during the dreadfully slow and unnecessarily confusing final act, John basically visits cabins in the woods with vacationing families. He then knocks the father unconscious, as well as the mother and any children. When the family is unconscious, he murders the father and mother. John buries the father in the woods after engraving it with a message - a message that will later restart this cycle. He leaves the mother's corpse in the cabin. And, finally, John leaves a note informing the children that he has kidnapped their father and the key is inside John, so they'll have to kill him. Finally, John drugs himself with the amnesia-and-paranoia inducing drug and buries himself. When he awakens, he thinks the slaughtered family is his and the cycle begins.

So, the first dead body John finds in the woods is the actual father of the girl and boy. He didn't kill his own daughter and son in the woods, they were trying to kill him to save their already dead father; therefore, there isn't a maniac in the woods, it's the children. I believe most of the footage he sees is in first-person, except for a shot or two, but those don't have any people in sight. John's intentions are questionable, although one can assume he's searching for the ultimate thrill.

So, there you have it, Modus Anomali is one great self-induced delusion of John. His family is happily at home, while John pretends to save some random family he actually slaughtered. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

*Note: This is my interpretation of the plot, I may have missed the point completely and I don't claim to know it all. This is simply how I absorbed the content and my explanation.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Film Review: Modus Anomali (or Ritual) (2012)

Modus Anomali (or Ritual) (Review)
Indonesia/2012
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"The final act loses all momentum as it moves at a dreadfully slow pace and may end up confusing the audience."

A man wakes up buried in the woods without memory. Eventually, he finds he was on vacation with his family. His pregnant wife has been killed and his two children are missing... while a maniac lurks in the woods.

Modus Anomali, or Ritual, continues to follow the amnesiac protagonist as he searches for clues of who he is and what occurred. He also searches for his children who have gone missing. Meanwhile, the protagonist finds himself the prey of a maniac. And so, he becomes the hunted and eventually tries to become the hunter. The third act reveals an interesting twist, and explains the plot. However, this final act moves at a snail's pace while unnecessarily complicating what should've been a simple explanation.

Modus Anomali, or Ritual, is a slow-burning horror/thriller blend. There are a few great scenes with plenty of suspense and a few jump scares, as well. The ominous killer has a great presence, as well; I thoroughly enjoyed his subtle and occasionally jolting appearances. It can be a bit uneventful during the first two acts, though. The final act loses all momentum as it moves at a dreadfully slow pace and may end up confusing the audience. (Were you confused? Check out my Ending Explained: Modus Anomali [Spoilers] post for my interpretation.)

I should also note, despite being Indonesian, this film is shot in English. The lead actor delivers a solid performance with a wide range of emotion. The child actors were a bit underwhelming, though. The music was great -- it was eerie and ominous, and helped create a tense atmosphere. Joko Anwar's direction is solid in creating suspense. However, Anwar's writing is often uneventful and sloppy particularly during the final act.

Overall, for everything Modus Anomali (aka Ritual) does right, it does something wrong. It is successful at building suspense and some genuine terror, but it fails at developing a plot and characters, and it especially fails at storytelling. It's an okay film, but not my cup of tea. (and I usually love slow-burners.)

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Film Review: Pumpkinhead (1988)

Pumpkinhead (Review)
United States/1988
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"Pumpkinhead has a chilling and intimidating design."

At his small store in the country, Ed Harley's (Lance Henriksen) son is fatally injured by teenagers dangerously riding dirt bikes. In a moment of weakness, Ed visits a supposed witch to revive his son. Instead, he foolishly summons a demon to exact his revenge...

Surprisingly, the first half of the film builds up the plot and characters well. It introduces Ed and his son, as well as the legend of Pumpkinhead. The teenagers are your basic slasher campers: the ultra-douche, the joker, the submissive girlfriend, the overly religious girl, the self-righteous artist and so on. I enjoyed the slow buildup of the first half and the great restraint and suspenseful teasing of Pumpkinhead. The second half is more of a tradition creature feature where Pumpkinhead awakens and slaughters the teens. The ending is okay, but it was predictable.

As for the horror, the first half has some suspense and buildup, as well as an urban legend vibe. The second half features the slaughter. I like the Witch, she's incredibly creepy. And, Pumpkinhead has a chilling and intimidating design; I liked his movements and his flashy entrances. The death sequences in this film are good, however, the often choppy editing makes it feel inconsistent. They're not very gory, but they are brutal. It's not exactly scary, either, but it is thrilling and entertaining -- pretty much what you'd expect from a creature feature. Ultimately, though, the second half of the film really doesn't compliment the first half well.

The acting is good from the entire cast, at least at the standard of 80s horror. I thoroughly enjoyed Lance Henriksen's performance, though. The creature design and animatronics are superb, and the gore effects are also great. Fans of practical special effects will find paradise with Pumpkinhead. I also really like the soundtrack for the film, it was a creative choice, yet it worked well with the theme and setting. Stan Winston's direction is great throughout, despite losing some momentum during the second half.

Overall, Pumpkinhead is a fun and entertaining creature feature. The first half is great for fans of slow-burners, and the second half offers an incredible creature and slaughter. However, both don't effectively compliment each other.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Film Review: The Legend is Born - Ip Man (2010)

The Legend is Born - Ip Man (Review)
China/2010
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...offers more than enough to satisfy Ip Man and martial arts/action fans."

From child to young adult, The Legend is Born - Ip Man follows the titular character, Ip Man (Dennis To), as he studies Wing Chun along with his adopted brother Ip Tin-chi (Louis Fan).

The story plays as a prequel to the original Ip Man films with Donnie Yen. The Legend is Born concerns itself more with Ip Man and his studies, rather than a strong conflict such as an invading army or other foreign affairs. The smaller scale allows us to learn and focus more on Ip Man, however. We see him study Wing Chun from several masters, as well as witness his conflicting love life. I'd say the real conflict in the film builds up in the background, then finally erupts during the final act. This makes the conflict underdeveloped and cliché; in fact, there is more plot in Ip Man's love life than the Japanese conflict. The ending features the most memorable fight sequence in the film, but feels less impactful than expected.

The action sequences in The Legend is Born are greatly choreographed. Every movement, every action is made with great precision and accuracy. However, the actual fight scenes leave little impact and feel almost lifeless. Looking back, it's hard to remember most of the fights aside from the final battle. The story is interesting, but some elements of the film are overdramatic and ineffective; I liked learning more about Ip Man, even if it is dramatized for entertainment purposes, but some scenes simply feel overdone and over-exaggerated. Much of the action feels inauthentic this time around as the stunts are amplified -- huge leaps, crazy spins, unbelievable stunts and the such make the film feel more like an action film than a biopic.

Dennis To does a great job as Ip Man with his calm and collected performance -- a more than worthy replacement for Donnie Yen, despite lacking Yen's charm and emotion in the role. The fight choreography is great, but some set pieces are forgettable. The setting and costume design felt authentic, really bring you into this world. The music was a mixed-bag, I liked some of it, the rest didn't fit well, though. Some of the editing felt inconsistent, like a TV movie of sorts; it felt like the flow was broken more than once. I liked most of the story, especially when it concerned Ip Man, his studies, and even his love life; however, the Japanese conflict was too overdramatic and forced. Solid direction from Herman Yau, too.

Overall, The Legend is Born - Ip Man is a great action/biopic blend. Ip Man's story is interesting, and the fighting is great when it wasn't so over-the-top. Not without flaws, The Legend is Born offers more than enough to satisfy Ip Man and martial arts/action fans.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Violence and some blood.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Film Review: Darkness Falls (2003)

Darkness Falls (Review)
United States/2003
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...delivers plenty of jump scares along with some great suspense..."

Hundreds of years ago, in the small town of Darkness Falls, Matilda Dixon was deemed the "Tooth Fairy" as she would give children a gold coin in exchange for their loose teeth. She becomes disfigured from a vicious house fire, and when two young boys disappear, Matilda is accused and executed -- but before her final breath, she places a curse on the town...

Fast forward to the present, a young boy named Kyle Walsh becomes a target of the Tooth Fairy when he takes a peak. With his mother slaughtered by the Tooth Fairy, Kyle is sent to a mental hospital. Fast forward again and we see Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley) is needed in his old town where a similar incident is occurring to his childhood crush's younger brother. So, the story continues as Kyle tries to aid the young boy and his old friends without seeming crazy. The Tooth Fairy's weakness is light and they use that against her to elude her swift movements. The film's ending is cheesy; "a cringe-worthy one-liner accompanied by a Falcon Punch of sorts" kinda cheesy.

Darkness Falls is a horror film and a solid one at that. This is filled with loud-noise jump scares -- really, one at every corner for every movement. Some fail, but some work well thanks to the use of suspense and tension. Although some moments aren't very effective, Darkness Falls is a consistent horror thrill ride without much breathing room. The Tooth Fairy's design is creepy and her movements are fast and intimidating; her movements along with her eerie sounds make for an ominous presence. The characters aren't developed nor are their relationships. Also, some of the dialogue is poorly fitted and cheesy, particularly with the children. Every child in Darkness Falls speaks like an adult, their dialogue is poorly written and ill-fitted.

The acting is okay from most of the cast. Much of the dialogue is delivered in a very robotic manner, and when you mix that with cheesy dialogue, you get some mediocre performances. The special effects are great -- again, I really like the Tooth Fairy's design and her movements. I like the story and the urban legend theme of the film. Jonathan Liebesman's direction is also consistent, but it doesn't bring out much from the cast. Otherwise, it's a technically basic film -- not bad or exceptional, really.

Overall, Darkness Falls is a good horror film. It delivers plenty of jump scares along with some great suspense, and the story and concept is great. However, the dialogue is bad and some performances are mediocre, and it has a poor ending. For a one hour fifteen minute film, though, this is definitely an effective time killer.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Film Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Olympus Has Fallen (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"This is a brainless popcorn blockbuster, and a good one at that."

After President Asher's (Aaron Eckhart) wife dies in a fatal car accident, lead Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is relieved and placed into the Treasury Department. 18 months after, the South Korean Prime Minister arrives at the White House with unexpected guests...

Olympus Has Fallen continues with a double-crossing of sorts as a North Korean guerilla unit raids the White House and takes the President and other high ranking officials hostage. Fortunately, special ops super soldier Mike Banning is able to assist his former team and infiltrates the White House. After the chaotic raid, Banning has to save the President's son and the President himself from within using any weapon he can get bid hands on and hand-to-hand combat. Thereafter, the terrorists intentions are revealed and the stakes raise. The ending is what you would expect, but it is executed well enough.

In order to really enjoy Olympus Has Fallen, you'll have to suspend belief for two hours. Yeah, we all know this whole situation really isn't plausible for several reasons. And, yeah, the whole "special ops, super soldier" character is an extreme cliché. But, the action sequences are superb and very consistent. Shootouts there, close-quarter-combat here, and explosions everywhere. There is some great suspense and tension, and the raid sequence is fantastic. This is a brainless popcorn blockbuster, and a good one at that. Oh, and if you're anti-U.S., you'll probably dislike the vibe of the film or confuse it with propaganda; I didn't see it that way, I think it lacks the brains needed for propaganda. Just watch it for the action, keep the politics out of mind, and you'll have a solid experience.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman are all great in their roles. The characters are cliché, especially the North Korean villains. The special effects were mediocre during many of the scenes, particularly any sequence with planes or helicopters, they felt very out of place and low budget. However, the rest of the action was well executed. Antoine Fuqua directs a consistent action film. The writing is also easy and smooth, although the dialogue is very cheesy.

Overall, Olympus Has Fallen delivers enough action to justify the two hour runtime. It has some bad special effects, cliché characters, and very mozzarella (cheesy) dialogue, though. Great for a night in.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Film Review: Munger Road (2011)

Munger Road (Review)
United States/2011
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"The little horror in Munger Road is not enough to save it from mediocrity."

A group of friends visit the locally legendary Munger Road said to be haunted by kids who died horrible deaths -- either by a vicious murderer or train accident. At the same time, two small town police officers search for an escaped serial killer...

Munger Road has an interesting story. I love urban legends, and this film plays out like one. So, the group of friends visit Munger Road for a small experiment, but, as they return home, they find themselves stranded. And, there seems to be an ominous presence surrounding them. Meanwhile, two police officers search for an escaped serial killer by following different leads -- visiting abandoned homes and vans, and so on. Eventually, the police officers and the teenagers cross paths, in a way. The ending of the film is unfulfilling and abrupt; it ends with a "To Be Continued." title, but without closure nor promise, especially considering the sequel is nowhere in sight.

The main problem with Munger Road is its generic writing and characters. Every character seems to be copied from other films and pasted into Munger Road. It doesn't help that both guys are obnoxious, and their girlfriends are ridiculously stuck-up. They're also not very smart and bi-polar, as they stupidly separate and one character switches emotions so quickly. And, the dialogue, oh the dialogue: "Did you call me a bitch? You called me a bitch? Like, oh my God, Becky, he called me a bitch!" (note: not verbatim, but you get the jist.) Oh, as for the cops, one is an old-timer and the other is a young guy who's afraid of everything. Ultimately, the comic relief in this film, from either group, falls flat.

As for horror, Munger Road has a spooky atmosphere. The ominous feeling is great during the scenes on Munger Road. There are a few loud noise jump scares, a few work well, but most fail. There are also a few scenes with great suspense, but, unfortunately, suspense really isn't used often in the film. I liked some of the eerie, subtle images in the film, like the first time we see an ominous figure standing behind the car. The stupid and annoying characters may hurt the film significantly, but at least there is some horror.

The acting was good from the entire cast. Everyone speaks clearly, and show some solid emotions; there are a few lines that sound robotic, but it's definitely not bad for a low-budget horror film. The music is good, as well, although it does get repetitive. Nicholas Smith's writing and direction are really at fault here. The writing really doesn't develop its characters or its story, and the ending is almost offensively mediocre -- again, it feels so rushed and abrupt, kinda like Smith said, "I don't know where this is heading, so I'll just bullshit it and address it later... or never." (queue: Vincent Price sinister laugh) The direction also suffers as he doesn't pull enough from his cast and there are some inconsistencies, as well.

Overall, Munger Road has some solid horror elements and it will kill a night if you have nothing better to watch. But, the writing is bad, the characters are annoying and stupid, and the ending is a slap in the face. The little horror in Munger Road is not enough to save it from mediocrity.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Film Review: Dog Pound (2010)

Dog Pound (Review)
Canada/2010
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...doesn't do much to differentiate itself, but it's emotionally effective and well-made..."

Angel (Mateo Morales), Butch (Adam Butcher), and Davis (Shane Kippel) are teenage criminals who are sent to a juvenile detention facility with tough-but-fair guards and other vicious inmates.

Dog Pound is a by-the-books jail drama. After a quick introduction to the three leads and their crimes, we witness their lives in the juvenile facility. The guards are fair but stern. Their fellow inmates, however, range from passive and eccentric to vicious and angry. The bullying inmates cause the most problem for Angel, Butch, and Davis, but, eventually, they find a safe haven within each other. Together they build a friendship -- the type of friendship where they bully each other, but care. The third act is brutal, and the final sequence, particularly the final scene, is devastating.

Like I said, though, Dog Pound is a by-the-books jail-prison drama. If you've seen one, you've likely seen Dog Pound. There's the tough-guy top-dog of his unit, the stern-but-caring guard, the fights, the drug trade, the suicide, and the obligatory rape scene. (It seems like every prison film absolutely needs a rape scene nowadays.) Dog Pound really doesn't try to differentiate itself. Fortunately, the short runtime, the consistent pace, and emotionally effective story make the clichés feel less offensive. In fact, this is a great film with many intense sequences, and it'll be even better if you haven't watched a film like this at all, or at least if it has been a while.

Mateo Morales, Adam Butcher, and Shane Kippel are great as the leads. Mateo Morales, despite having the least screen time, delivers the most believable and natural performance, though -- some of the other performances occasionally felt over the top. Ultimately, every character nails their performance, so you'll either feel bad for some or you'll be infuriated by others. The music blends well with the film, but it's not very memorable. Kim Chapiron's direction is great, pulling a lot from his cast and his story, despite lacking some needed originality. On the technical side, the film is very well made.

Overall, Dog Pound is a great jail drama. If you're a fan of the genre, this one doesn't do much to differentiate itself, but it's emotionally effective and well-made, regardless. If you've been drained by jail dramas, wait a while before watching this, otherwise, you're in for a tense ride.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, nudity and one rape scene.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Film Review: Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Howl's Moving Castle (Review)
Japan/2004
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a fascinating fantasy film."

While walking to visit her sister, Sophie, a young hatter, encounters a powerful and renowned young wizard named Howl, who brings her into a sticky situation. Shortly afterward, the Witch of the Waste, who is in love with Howl, visits places a spell on Sophie that transforms her into a 90-year-old woman...

Howl's Moving Castle continues by following Sophie as she pursues Howl and attempts to break her spell. Proven to be more difficult than initial thought, Sophie begins to find some relief in her new age as she has little to lose the older she gets. Meanwhile, a foolish war is being waged, literally and figuratively, both of which concern Howl. This adventurous tale flows well into a more action-oriented yet meaningful and equally enchanting final act. The ending of Howl's Moving Castle can best be described as sweet, or Happily Ever After.

Howl's Moving Castle is a fascinating fantasy film. The characters are very creative and easily likeable; okay, you may initially hate the Witch of the Waste with her smug face and quadruple chins, but she gets what's coming, and it's a surprisingly pleasant character change. The characters' interactions are also humorous. The overall tone of the story is very lighthearted and even inspiring. In fact, some of themes the film tackles are self-esteem, love, and war. Fortunately, other than the war theme, the themes rarely preach and the film can easily be enjoyed as a fantasy-comedy-action hybrid. On that point, every element in this film is balanced very well to create a moderate pace -- there are few moments when the film loses some momentum, but it generally moves at a steady pace and keeps the audience engaged.

The Japanese voice acting is superb. Color me surprised when I found out Chieko Baisho voiced both the younger and older Sophie; Baisho is extremely talented with great enthusiasm, excitement, and overall emotion in her voice. The animation is beautiful throughout with lush and vivid colors, along with the uniquely designed characters and settings. I also thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack, it's enchanting and adventurous capturing both of the strongest elements in the film. Hayao Miyazaki's direction and writing are as strong as ever, I don't need to praise this genius anymore than I have already, though.

Overall, Howl's Moving Castle is a superb fantasy adventure with so much to offer. It's significant themes, at least most of the them, serve as very effective backdrops, and the mystifying and entertaining adventure takes center stage. This another fantastic animated film the entire family can and should enjoy; in other words, I strongly recommend it.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Film Review: Network (1975)

Network (Review)
United States/1975
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!"

After learning of his impending termination from the air due to poor ratings, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), long-time anchor for the UBS Evening News, announces on live television that he will commit suicide on the following Tuesday's broadcast. Initially disappointed and angered, the Network eventually decides to milk his breakdown for better ratings...

Basically, Network follows the UBS television network as it battles poor ratings. Essentially, they begin to take advantage of Howard Beale and his crippling mental state. We see the politics surrounding every move the network makes, how they work and what they'll do to gain ratings, and gain insightful knowledge on the effects of television, as well as the politics that surround TV and in general. All in a tightly written and exemplarily performed satirical package. This consistent black comedy leads to a vicious ending -- both in it's chilling content and dark humor.

Network is a black comedy drama -- a satire strongly reliant on dialogue. Fortunately, the dialogue in this film is tight, intelligent, and engaging. Although a black comedy, Network isn't a laugh-out-loud feel-good romp. Instead, Network is written as a satire to address political and social issues -- fortunately, the black comedy negates the film from preaching. On top of that, many of the monologues are unforgettable, every line is delivered with great power, meaning, and thought. The plot moves at a consistent pace, and always has something to say -- subtly or in your face.

The acting is fantastic from the entire cast. Peter Finch delivers a phenomenal performance thanks to his many opportunities to monologue; Finch has so much character and emotion in his performance, it's unbelievably impressive. Set and costume design stood out to me as the film felt authentic, which helped the performances achieve maximum believability. The direction is superb from Sidney Lumet, really delivering a smooth and consistent experience. (I also really enjoyed his work on Before The Devil Knows You're Dead.) Paddy Chayefsky's writing also stands out as engaging and entertaining; in this case, it's also fair to call it "brilliant".

Overall, Network is superb black comedy/drama satire film. The dialogue is memorable and insightful, and the film entertains immensely. The direction and writing are superb, and the acting is fantastic from the entire cast -- effectively complimenting each other. I don't say this often about films, but it is safe to do so here, so I'll say it three times: Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!

Overall: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Film Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Review)
United States/2011
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a tedious film without an identity."

After she escapes from a cult, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) moves in with her sister and her husband. However, Martha begins to suffer from paranoia and delusions...

Martha Marcy May Marlene is advertised as a psychological thriller -- I'll even end up tagging it as such -- but most of the time, it fails to build on such themes. The story is not told in chronological order, often jumping from the past back to the present and back to the past again. Regardless, it's told well and easy enough to follow. However, there isn't much meat to the story -- it severely lacks plot. For most of its runtime, the story fails to use its paranoia and delusion themes. The story can be explained as a vacation for Martha, with an occasional outburst or odd question, but nothing else. The last act of the film features a weak climax, as well as an ambiguous ending -- since the film lacks a plot, how do end the story?

Martha Marcy May Marlene suffers from a lack of identity; do you want to be a psychological thriller or a character study of mental health? Either way, the film fails to deliver. The cult takes too long too develop only to find out it's just another cliché. The characters have many drawn-out conversations, but they don't develop actual character. There is no paranoia, there are only a few (questionable) delusions, there are no thrills, and there is only one scene with actual tension. There is no atmosphere and there is no immersion. This isn't a movie, it's a poor man's attempt at arthouse. (note: I've thoroughly enjoyed many arthouse films like Bullhead and Only God Forgives.)

On the technical side, I like the cast. Elizabeth Olsen is impressive with a very interesting and engaging performance, occasionally embodying a truly delusional character. The editing is great, I like the seamless transitions between flashbacks. The music also fits the themes of the film well. However, the writing is boring and lifeless, and, again, the direction tries way too hard to create "art" -- the long, tedious shots and boring back-and-forth conversations between characters are completely unnecessary for the plot -- well, if there were a plot to begin with.

Overall, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a tedious film without an identity. The film fails to evoke any emotions in its characters and the audience. The performances are great and its technically exceptional, but it lacks a plot, so it just goes to waste. I do not recommend the film.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Some violence, sex, and nudity.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Film Review: Hard Boiled (1992)

Hard Boiled (Review)
China/1992
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...action paradise."

Inspector "Tequila" Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat) teams up with an undercover cop playing the mob's highest-ranking assassin to capture a common enemy.

Hard Boiled has a fairly simple story. Tequila is a hard-boiled cop that goes against the rules to get the job done. When one of his partners dies during a shootout with a small army of gangsters, Tequila begins to track the head of the mob and runs into a newly familiar face. From there on, Tequila teams up with the undercover cop to take down a rich, gun-smuggling triad boss. Of course, there are some tense betrayals and tests of loyalty, as well. The ending is explosive and well-executed, much like the rest of the film.

Hard Boiled is more reliant on its action than story. First, the story is interesting and well-done. It has cheesy dialogue and encounters, but I felt that added to the charm and style of the film. The action sequences are all shootouts. Everything explodes in a sense in this film: bird cages, tables, chairs, doors, and so on. There are some many particles on screen, it's amazing. Aside from that, there are plenty of actual explosions, especially towards the end. I really like the shootouts in the film because they're thrilling and creative; there are many stunts implemented into the shootouts, like jumping through windows, surfing on carts while shooting, or gliding forward or back through the air while shooting, and so on -- it's simply spectacular.

Chow Yun-Fat is great as the lead with plenty of charisma to pull off the cocky supercop. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is also great as Chow Yun-Fat's counterpart adding some character to their relationship. John Woo standout with his superb direction, especially for the many shootouts; every action scene has so much detail and consistency, and the execution is flawless. I like the set design, especially when they're blown up by gun fire -- everything looks fantastic. The music is also well-fitted and I liked it all, especially the use of jazz.

Overall, Hard Boiled is action paradise. Every other scene is filled with creative action sequences and daring stunts, the final act, in fact, is pure action. Hard Boiled is arguably one of the greatest action films of all time; and, I feel it deserves more credit, especially considering most action films nowadays are filled with computer effects.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Film Review: Europa Report (2013)

Europa Report (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...awe-inspiring, chilling, devastating, and even petrifying..."

Six astronauts journey to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, to trace potential sources of life.

Europa Report continues to tell of the six astronauts and their trip -- their enthusiasm, their excitement, their stress, their homesickness, and so on. Traveling further than any human has ever traveled, the crew eventually reaches Europa. However, unexpected issues arise, which cause problems for their secure arrival. Furthermore, their exploration of Europa reveals a possible life source that may threaten their return home. Is their life on Europa, or is it all in their head? Europa Report continues to an exciting, albeit darkly ambiguous, ending.

Europa Report is a found-footage, mockumentary-like SciFi film. Fortunately, it plays out like a traditional film and avoids the many found-footage clichés. There is a strong SciFi presence, and it contributes significantly to the plot; in fact, much of the Science seems plausible and it is even engaging. The story plays out like a slow-burn and features many suspenseful sequences; one of these sequences is awe-inspiring, chilling, devastating, and even petrifying. I thoroughly enjoyed the balance of story, science, and suspense. However, there is one sequence I didn't enjoy, which follows the horror logic; you know, the "I got what I need, and I know anything else I do is dangerous, but u'll do it anyway" logic. The final act loses some steam, as well.

The acting was great from the entire cast. Every performance felt very authentic and succeeded in capturing the appropriate emotions. Daniel Wu and Anamaria Marinca particularly stood out to me with their very immersed performances. The film is shot beautifully with great cinematography, set designs, and special effects. I was more so impressed by how the film felt so realistic, and used the found-footage style while avoiding its generic staples. The soundtrack is also perfect, really an exemplary OST for the SciFi genre. Sebastián Cordero's direction is very consistent and smooth, pulling great performances from his cast and constructing some stunningly suspenseful sequences.

Overall, Europa Report is a fascinating slow-burn SciFi film. It has an engaging plot and actual Science elements, as well as more than a handful of suspenseful sequences -- one of which I truly loved and won't forget any time soon. There are a few flaws, though, like the one sequence of "horror" logic and a slight lose of momentum towards the end.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Film Review: My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro (Review)
Japan/1988
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...the whole family can and should enjoy thanks to the clean content, great humor, adorable visuals, and genuine sense of adventure and dreamlike creativity."

A university professor, Tatsuo Kusakabe, and his daughters, Satsuki and Mei, move into an old house in rural Japan to be close to their hospitalized mother. Satsuki and Mei, however, end up stumbling upon and interacting with the friendly spirits of the woods.

My Neighbor Totoro is light on plot but heavy on theme, heart, and ingenuity. The story follows Satsuki and Mei as they live there everyday lives until they stumble upon a friendly spirit they call Totoro. From there on, they have an unbelievable magical experience, and witness the impossible -- whether it be awkwardly spending time with Totoro at a bus stop or climbing giant trees and conjuring beautiful melodies. The only real conflict in the film appears during the final act, but with great suspense and emotion, as well as creativity. The ending is heartwarming and reassuring, a very positive conclusion.

My Neighbor Totoro is fairly simple, and, honestly, that's not a bad thing. The story is pure magic, playing out like a fairytale. It blends lighthearted humor, adorable visuals, and a light sense of adventure to create a smooth and consistent tale -- a very enjoyable and entertaining tale. Both Satsuki and Mei are lovable and adorable, and Totoro is equally sweet, despite that cheesy, almost creepy smile. These visuals and characters alone contribute greatly to the heartwarming feeling of the film. My Neighbor Totoro is one of the only films that almost brings tears to my eyes for more reasons than one. The themes, such as family and environmental, are subtle yet powerful.

The voice acting is great from the entire cast. They -- particularly Noriko Hidaka and Chika Sakamoto, who play the siblings -- capture emotion perfectly, such as sadness, happiness, and especially enthusiasm. Studio Ghibli delivers a film with great production values, from the enchanting soundtrack to the beautiful visuals; on that note, the soundtrack is perfect for the film and its themes, and it also works well on its own. Hayao Miyazaki has ingenious writing and direction with My Neighbor Totoro.

Overall, My Neighbor Totoro is a masterpiece of animation. This is a film that genuinely has a lot of heart. Maybe it's the nostalgia of my childhood, but it's almost like a moment of reflection and introversion. This is a film that the whole family can and should enjoy thanks to the clean content, great humor, adorable visuals, and genuine sense of adventure and dreamlike creativity.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Safe for all audiences.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Film Review: Friday The 13th (2009)

Friday The 13th (Review)
United States/2009
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...has everything you'd expect from an installment in this series."

Six weeks after group of sex-having, weed-loving friends are slaughtered at Camp Crystal Lake by the hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears), another group of friends arrive at a cabin in the very same woods...

The first 23 minutes or so of Friday The 13th introduces the classic formula the series is known for: drugs, sex, and slaughter in the woods. This first group of characters are a bit douchey, but ultimately likable. Unfortunately, the second group of character, of which we spend a bulk of the runtime with, are ultra-douchebags and incredibly cliché. On the other hand, we all know their fate, so it kinda cancels out. Essentially, the story has Jason picking each character off one by one with the most brutal methods. The film loses some steam towards the end, and the final act is a bit generic -- the last minute or so is a great throwback, though.

Despite both stories essentially using the same formula, I feel like the story would've been more enjoyable if the characters were switched. Also, there's this entire brother-sister subplot that doesn't make much sense, it hurts the film significantly. Jason Voorhees is large and intimidating in this film, executing his victims with brutal force. The kills are gory, with gallons of blood and a plethora of violence; the first set of kills are memorable, really cringe-worthy and even disturbing. There is some great suspense, and there are a few great chase scenes, as well. Really, Friday The 13th has everything you'd expect from an installment in this series.

The acting is competent enough. I mean, the film really doesn't demand much from its cast, it's more like: can you be a douche? How big are your breast and are you willing to rub them with baby oil? Derek Mears is fantastic as Jason Voorhees thanks to his intimidating size and ominous screen presence. The special effects and makeup are superb, I really enjoyed the gore effects in this film. (as disturbing as that may sound.) The cinematography is great, capturing a dark and eerie mood, much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003).

Overall, Friday the 13th is a worthy reboot -- in fact, it's better than most of the franchise's later sequels. The introduction is superb, the rest is great, aside from the weak and unnecessary subplot. I recommend this film for gorehounds and fans of the series.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, sex and nudity.