Friday, May 31, 2013

Film Review: Megan is Missing (2011)

Megan is Missing (Review)
United States/2011
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Megan and Amy are best friends, despite being complete opposites. Megan comes from a broken home filled with sexual abuse, and sees Amy as her only true friend. Amy is mistreated by most of her peers, yet she handles it very well, living an innocent life. One day, Megan meets Josh online, who goes by "Skaterdude"; Josh's webcam is broken, so he can only share a picture and his voice with the people he contacts...

As they develop a quick online relationship, Megan agrees to meet the seemingly shy and gentle Josh behind a diner. The next day, Amy contacts Megan's friends and Josh as Megan has gone missing. The media quickly capitalizes on the news, reporting of an "innocent" Megan, a "heartbroken" mother, and a ridiculous reenactment. Amy suspects foul play from Josh, which places her into the crosshairs of a vicious online predator.

The story in this film is good. It does work as a cautionary tale to an extent. However, I think it would be too overwhelming for children and parents alike. It's a raw story of the dangers that lurk on the internet, and the monsters that easily manipulate teenagers. The message is there, but the writing was very stereotypical - the conversations of these teenage girls don't feel authentic, as if they were written by a mid-30s male with little experience around teenagers. I mean, really, how often do teenagers call each other "slut" or "ho". There are certain scenes where the writing does shine, however, and we can see the real struggles within Megan and Amy. The last 25 minutes of the film are very disturbing, very blunt - ending with a long, dreadful plea for life. This final act starts up with two very disturbing photographs, and it features a rape scene, along with an unexpectedly shocking scene that I won't spoil.

The acting was okay. As I said previously, the story suffers from stereotypical writing, which strongly affects the delivery of the dialogue. Although they seem believable at times, the dialogue from both leads can often be cringe-worthy. The rest of the cast also suffers from poor delivery and dialogue - a lot of it simply doesn't feel real. The few times that the stars shine are great, however; Amber Perkins as Amy genuinely feels like an awkward and innocent teenager and she really captures the right emotions at the right moments. So, the acting wasn't the largest fault, the writing was.

This is a found-footage film. It often uses a shaky-cam, but it mosly relies on webcam and Facetime-like chats. (I don't think this technology - the cellphone video chat - was available in
2007, so that was odd.) It feels very realistic towards the end, and very intense, as well. Of course, all of the footage is fake - but, the fact that this film is based on several real events is chilling, nonetheless. This shouldn't be shown to children as a cautionary tale. If you're an adult that can handle it, this might make you want to monitor your children's online activity much, much more.

Overall, Megan is Missing is an effective drama/horror film with a vicious final act. Although it has an important message to convey, the delivery is stifled by unrealistic writing/dialogue and some poor acting. I recommend renting or streaming before purchasing, this may not be a film you'll want to watch more than once.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and sexuality, including rape. (no nudity)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Film Review: The Conversation (1974)

The Conversation (Review)
United States/1974
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is known as the best surveillance expert around. He can record any conversation at any location. In fact, Harry is currently recording a conversation between young couple as they walk around a densely crowded and very noisy Union Square - a job that requires exceptional skill. However, process isn't the issue, instead the content that is captured haunts him...

Harry successfully captures the conversation and pieces it together revealing some chilling details. A moral dilemma emerges as Harry believes the recordings may lead to the deaths of the young couple. The issue is further escalated when his client, The Director, cannot be contacted and Harry refuses to give the tapes to Martin Stett (Harrison Ford), The Director's assistant. Harry tries to continue living regularly until he can contact The Director directly, but his thoughts are controlled by the tapes, his paranoia, and his obsession with his personal privacy.

The story in this film is great. However, it starts off slow and is often too slow for its own good. Fortunately, most of the story is complimented by the slow-burn pace. I like the subtle paranoia aspects of the film, they weren't overwhelming blatant or underwhelming dull - it was just right. A lot of attention to detail and some great foreshadowing. The film relies on its dialogue, and, luckily, it is very immersive. It's filled with fluent and authentic conversations of surveillance and Harry's past. The ending of the film is great - it played out perfectly. The film leaves a few unanswered questions, and the actions of certain characters are ambiguous - it's a bit unfulfilling, really.

The acting is fantastic. Gene Hackman plays Harry very well - he's very consistent, every little detail is perfect. I also really enjoyed Harrison Ford's performance, although he has limited screen time. The writing is exceptional, as is the direction of the fantastic Francis Ford Coppola. The editing is fantastic in this film, especially the audio editing as it really compliments the film. The music is also great, very well-fitted. Technically, the film is perfect.

Overall, The Conversation is masterfully made film of paranoia. There are a few inconsistencies and the story is often too slow, but it still manages to entertain. I highly recommend for fans of the genre.

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

Film Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Review)
United States/2010
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Late one night, Kris goes to a diner to meet her boyfriend, Dean. Dean, who has just awoken from a nightmare, has had trouble sleeping. As Dean slips into sleep again, he is confronted by a burnt man with a clawed glove and his throat is slit, although everyone awake witness Dean cutting his own throat.

Now, Kris, Nancy (Rooney Mara), Jesse, and Quentin seem to be suffering from the same nightmares - nightmares that can actually kill them. It is revealed that they are being haunted by Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), and these young high school kids have a long forgotten connection with each other and Krueger. They fight to stay awake as they investigate Krueger and the past that their parents have hidden - a past that either holds Krueger as a child abuser or a man mistakenly murdered by angry parents.

The story in this film is bad. The concept is amazing, but the execution is horrible. The story is almost nonexistent as the film is heavily reliant on nightmare set pieces; consequently, the film feels like a tech demo someone would present to producers and say "this is what we can possibly do with an Elm Street remake made with modern technology." Every nightmare feels disconnected and insignificant, and they occur too often which lessens their impact. The characters are forgettable, and Freddy Krueger is poorly utilized. The ending of this film is horrendous - *spoilers* - it ends with a terrible one-liner and a predictable "I'm not dead" jump. Oh, and the story doesn't tell you how much time has passed, it seems to be only a few days. This is funny because the characters fall asleep in class, while bathing, even while swimming. The funniest scene was at the end where a character is told to keep watch over Nancy as she sleeps and wake her as she hunts Freddy - as soon as Nancy turns her head, this character falls asleep! And he just injected himself with clinical adrenaline!

The acting was mediocre. Rooney Mara is bland and boring; she is unbelievably underwhelming throughout most of the film, and she occasionally overacts - my point being: she is bad, which is frustrating considering she's the lead. The rest of the cast deliver mediocre yet tolerable performances. The writing can be blamed for some of the bad acting, as well; there's a sequence between Mara and Connie Britton, who plays her mother, where they shout back and forth "You're lying!" and "No, I'm not!" for a few seconds and I couldn't help but laugh - it was terrible. Jackie Earle Haley had some large shoes to fill - those of the original Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund. Mr. Haley did an adequate job with his performance. However, Freddy Krueger's new design isn't scary - too much computer, it looks odd and too clean to be genuinely frightening.

The nightmare sequences feature great special effects and cinematography - the use of color and lighting really works well in these scenes. They show real potential - if the story were the main concern for these filmmakers, the nightmare sequences would've been much more effective. The gore effects were also good, definitely a bloody film. This is a remake that had a huge advantage, and A Nightmare on Elm Street could've significantly benefited from these effects - unfortunately, it doesn't. The music wasn't really effective this time around, it's forgettable.

Overall, A Nightmare on Elm Street is bad film. It's a waste of time, the story is poorly written, the acting - particularly Rooney Mara - is bad, the frights are nonexistent, and it's unintentionally hilarious. One of the worst remakes I've seen, and I'm not a harsh reviewer when it comes to remakes - I don't habitually hate remakes. Don't waste your time.

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Film Review: Child's Play 2 (1990)

Child's Play 2 (Review)
United States/1990
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Two years after the first film, Play Pals, a toy manufacturer, uses parts of Chucky to manually rebuild him in hopes of reconstructing their image and impressing their investors. The project goes terribly wrong as a worker is electrocuted and killed...

The CEOs assistant takes Chucky home after the fatal accident, and, on the way, Chucky escapes. Meanwhile, Andy, who's mother has been place in a mental hospital, is placed in foster care, along with his new, older foster sister, Kyle. Chucky finds the home and begins to stalk and attack Andy to take his body before he is permanently trapped in the doll. Andy is mostly helpless as no one believes his story of a killer doll.

The story is more of the same. Except, this time around, the black comedy is much more evident and consistent. There are a few great scenes of terror and suspense, such as a showdown in a dark basement, a tense scene in a school closet, and a game of cat and mouse towards the end. But, they are vastly outnumbered by the comedy aspects. The comedy isn't bad, I laughed a few times, but it ultimately makes it a less effective horror film; I won't lose any sleep at night. Chucky's maniacal laugh is still haunting, though. And there are a few vicious death scenes.

The acting was good; it definitely gets the job done, but feels like the typical 90s-horror acting. Chucky is voiced by Brad Dourif, and he does a wonderful job with his chilling voice and psychopathic laugh. I also really like the mechanical effects of Chucky, his special effects were great including his design and movements. It's very fast paced and consistent, it was over before I knew it.

Overall, Child's Play 2 is a great blend of horror and comedy. It's not a terrifying film, nor is it as iconic or original as the first film for obvious reasons, but it is entertaining. I recommend a purchase for fans of the genre and series, a rental or stream otherwise.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Film Review: Reykjavík-Rotterdam (2008)

Reykjavík-Rotterdam (Review)
Iceland/2008
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Kristofer is working a job as a security, no better than a janitor on wheels, after being fired from a freight ship for smuggling alcohol. On top of that, his brother-in-law has gotten deep into issues after a job went bad. As money issue pile on, Kristofer accepts a job from a close friend, Steingrimur.

Steingrimur gets Kristofer his job back, which gives him the opportunity for one more run - one more visit to Rotterdam. Kristofer brings his brother-in-law along to teach him the ropes, as well. But, everyone has ulterior motives, which send Kristofer on a hellish journey of drugs, alcohol, smuggling, and deception. As plans begin to change, Kristofer concurrently plans his vengeance.

The story starts off slow. On top of that, the story didn't have a hook to really capture my attention, it just doesn't start off very interesting. It starts off immediately with a deal gone bad, but with very few detail, quickly slows down afterward, anyway. However, it eventually clears up as the planning and execution of the smuggling takes place. This is where the story gets interesting and starts to hook the audience. This is where the double-crossings take place, where the tension and action occurs, and where the story really captivates. I also liked how the film was very humorous at times. The ending of the film is also fantastic and gripping.

The acting was great from the entire cast. The dialogue comes off fluently and authentically from the cast. Everything felt real - the frustration, the anger, the wit - all of it felt genuine. The direction and editing is tight and consistent throughout, really adding to the immersion. The cinematography was also great, especially on the freight, as the film is shot beautifully.

Overall, Reykjavík-Rotterdam is a great thriller. It starts off slow and uninteresting, but, when it starts up, it really starts up. Patience is rewarded as it ferociously reaches its fantastic ending. I recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Film Review: Bullhead (2011)

Bullhead (or Rundskop) (Review)
Belgium/2011
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), a cattle farmer, is given the opportunity to deal with a shady beef trader through a questionable veterinarian. However, the death of a policeman investigating the illegal use of hormones and the secrets Jacky's past surface causing a chain reaction with Jacky caught in the middle.

The story starts off in the present with Jacky being asked to be a part of a shady deal. There is no harm in talking, so he agrees to a meeting. At the meeting, a disgruntled Jacky recognizes his past and notices something is afoot - something is not right. So far, the story is too complex and slow to really be impactful or effective - I was not hooked to the story as much as I was hooked onto Jacky's character. Fortunately, the story begins to unravel as Jacky's past is told through several disjointed flashbacks. Jacky is tormented by his past, which explains his use of hormones, and his past also influences how he deals with his current situation. Without spoiling much, it continues to focus on Jacky's characters, his past, and his love interest, much more than it focuses on the situation at hand - that is, the current deal. In other words, it is heavily character-driven, which is not bad.

Bullhead starts off slow and confusing. Jumping from location to location, character to character, and so on with little explanation. It eventually begins to focus on Jacky and his past, which includes a brutal accident and a broken friendship - both which continue to haunt him throughout the story. Jacky's character takes center stage, instead of the current hormone and beef situation every other character is concerned with. I'm fine with that since Jacky is fully and realistically developed. His character is mesmerizing from the confusing introduction to the brutal, thought-provoking finale. There are many scenes that are genuinely gripping, and a few scenes that may make you cringe. I've purposely left out some vital parts of the story, I believe this will benefit those that haven't seen it and make it a more tense experience.

The acting is fantastic from the entire cast. Matthias Schoenaerts really delivers as Jacky. His performance is the strongest aspect of the film, it works as a pillar to a film that would otherwise be about average. He shows emotion through his actions and facial expressions as much as he does through his dialogue; you can see the pain in his eyes, you can see a tormented soul. Although his performance is an anchor, the rest of the cast did a wonderful job keeping up; especially Jeroen Perceval as Diederik, a friend of Jacky, who suffers with his inner demons and past as well. The film is shot beautifully, wonderful cinematography. The music was effective and really matched the tone of the film. It has a very art house approach, which I didn't mind.

Overall, Bullhead is a character-driven film with an interesting story and a great ending; a film that is strongly supported by its magnificent performances. The story does feel like it takes the back seat throughout most of the film, but it still has an evident presence and significance, and the story really lacks a hook. I recommend a rental before purchasing, unless you're a fan of the genre or are accustomed to slow-paced dramas and art house films.

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

Monday, May 27, 2013

Film Review: Shutter (2008)

Shutter (Review)
United States/2008
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Newlywed couple Ben and Jane move to Japan for Ben's promising career as a photographer. As they travel through Japan late at night, Jane and Ben accidentally hit a girl in the middle of the forest with their car and crash. Jane and Ben eventually wake up and the girl has mysteriously disappeared without a trace - the police also fail to find evidence of an accident.

Ben and Jane continue regularly living their lives Japan, believing the woman escaped harm. That is, until Jane and Ben find mysterious glares and stains on their photographs. On top of that, Ben continues to have disturbing visions of a young girl - the girl that was hit in the crash has been haunting him during his shoots. Jane finds out about spirit photography, where odd human figures - alive or dead - appear because they have a strong connection. And so goes the investigation of this mysteriously eerie young girl.

The story in this film is good. I like the concept of spirit photography, and I like the explanation and montage of the spirit photographs. This story is heavily reliant on jump-scares, along with some suspense and creepy imagery; it's great for a first-time viewing, but it lacks effectiveness on multiple viewings. The ending of the film is good, the twist is the same as the original film's twist - if you've seen the original, this might be less effective, though. I knew the ending from beginning, but I still felt the film dropped too many obvious hints and made the ending much more predictable. I like the twists, but the character's actions during this sequence are questionable - to be blunt, they are stupid. The story does often feel predictable and cliché, overall.

The acting is surprisingly good. The characters aren't deep, but they are believable on the surface. The performances were spot on, and the dialogue wasn't as cheesy as some other remakes. The music was also effective in creating a creepy mood. The story has a moderate pace, but it does often feel like it drags. I watched the unrated version of the film, and felt like it dragged its feet at times. Technically, it's not really anything special, but it is average - it's acceptable.

Overall, Shutter has a great concept, but it is flawed in its execution. Being too reliant on jump-scares, the film lacks immersive atmosphere and originality - this remake adds nothing special to an already spectacular horror film. I recommend for fans of horror and horror remakes, and for this looking for a quick way to kill a night. Otherwise, purchase it at a low price or rent it.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, disturbing imagery, and some sexuality.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Film Review: Broken City (2013)

Broken City (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

NYPD detective Billy (Mark Wahlberg) is arrested for the murder of Mikey, who raped and killed a sixteen-year-old girl. He is saved by Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) when he eliminates substantial evidence against Billy. However, Billy is still forced to retire from the force. Seven years later, Billy is a private investigator and his services are requested by Mayor Hostetler. Original paid to investigate a cheating wife, Billy ends up in a web of lies, corruption, and death.

Although a bit generic, I really enjoyed Broken City. The initial investigation of the Mayor's wife is interesting and often intense. The conversations between Billy and Hostetler were smooth - very fluent and authentic, generally intense. The ulterior motives of each character really keeps you guessing for most of the film; every character has secrets that may benefit different parties, and Billy is caught in-between them. The film continues as an investigative thriller as Billy begins to unravel the mystery, and as he realizes who are the true villains; along the way, Billy will have to fist fight several times, there's a thrilling car chase, and a few heated arguments. What I'm saying is: Broken City manages to be a captivatingly gripping thriller through its action and dialogue.

The film is not perfect. Although it manages to keep you guessing for some time, the ending is predictable. It seems to have a heavy build-up for its twist, but the revelation ends up being underwhelming; the entire film makes it feel like a sinister, unbelievably heinous secret is being kept, but it is in front of your face from the beginning. The story plays it safe, it doesn't stray far from the genre's cliches and you've likely seen a film like this before. However, playing it safe doesn't hurt the film has much as it benefits it as it was still a very entertaining story. The film also fails to explore some concepts it brought up, like Billy's girlfriend and his alcoholism.

The acting was great. Mark Wahlberg plays Billy; he's a charismatic, humorous tough guy and he plays it well; never over-the-top or boring, always just right. Russell Crowe plays the Mayor and his performance is also great; his character is also charismatic, with a pinch of manipulation and corruption on top; these attributes are shown in a great debate scene, and subtly during other conversations. Wahlberg and Crowe work well together as they have some very fluent conversations, they felt very authentic. I also really enjoyed the music in this film, it was well-fitted for the genre.

Overall, Broken City is an entertaining thriller. It has drama, action, thrills, mystery, and even some comedy. It's not the most original film, but it is definitely well-made and very entertaining. I recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Film Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

We Need To Talk About Kevin (Review)
United States/United Kingdom/2011
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Eva Katchadourian (Tilda Swinton) is currently struggling to cope with the atrocities her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), had committed. Eva is hated and berated by most her neighbors - she is tortured by Kevin's past as much as she's tortured by her own.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is ambitiously told. It frequently jumps from time to time almost seamlessly. What I mean is: one scene will show Eva's present situation, then quickly transition into her past, while also foreshadowing Kevin's actions. Although it's easy enough to follow, this storytelling technique comes off as sloppy at times; not so much that you'll be lost, but you may be left questioning. It does ultimately add to the suspense of the film. You know what's coming at the end, and you concurrently see the build-up and the consequences; this really added to the tension and dread of the film, so, all-in-all, the storytelling ended up beneficial.

Eva's current situation has her searching for a job in a city where almost everyone hates her for her son's actions. She occasionally visits Kevin, but still has trouble connecting. Eva's past situation says a lot about her character. As Kevin was growing up, he was constantly crying, he was detached and angry, and he rejected his mother, except for one special occasion. However, Eva was equally angry and disappointed, a mother that openly took her frustrations out on Kevin - physically and verbally. The relationship between Eva and Kevin is dysfunctional to say the least.

Although much of the story focuses on Eva, Kevin has an ominous presence throughout the film, even when he's not fully introduced. The film brings up several interesting points, somewhat subtly. Is it nurture or nature that influenced Kevin's actions? When you look at it, Kevin's mother wasn't exactly a model parent. Like mother, like son? Also, was Kevin mentally ill? Did he suffer from a personality disorder, but somehow slip through the cracks? This is a story that is controversial, discussable, and relevant today, as well as a story that is terrifying, thrilling, dramatic, and ultimately entertaining.

The acting is fantastic in this film. Tilda Swinton plays Eva; her character shows many emotions - from happiness to sadness, from anger to frustration, and so on. She's very spot on as she's not overly dramatic or underwhelming. John C. Riley plays Kevin's father, Franklin, and he is also amazing; he is incredibly understated, this performance is realistic and relatable. Ezra Miller plays Kevin as a very manipulative, sinister young man. He is very chilling as he presents himself as a narcissistic, deceptive, yet very charismatic teenager - exactly what you'd expect from a mass murderer. The film's storytelling can feel muddled and sloppy, but it makes the film much more effective. The writing is fantastic, especially Kevin's monologue-like interview. The music is very ominous, very intense, and well-fitted.

Overall, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a fantastic drama that blends elements of horror and thriller to create a dreadful experience - a haunting, unforgettable experience. It is further supported by Ezra Miller's chilling performance, Tilda Swinton's versatile performance, and John C. Riley's realistic performance. It's a film that can also be discussed thanks to its relevancy. Don't miss this film, I highly recommend it.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood. Some sex and brief nudity (these scenes are in the dark)

Film Review: Kill List (2011)

Kill List (Review)
United Kingdom/2011
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Jay (Neil Maskell), a British soldier and part-time hitman, hasn't worked for 8 months due to severe stress from what was presumably a bad mission. Due to the constant nagging and abuse from his wife, Jay takes up a promising job with his friend, Gal (Michael Smiley). However, his employers act suspiciously and Jay slowly begins to lose control...

Kill List is a slow-burning crime drama that continuously evolves as the film progresses. It starts of very slowly, almost dreadfully slow, as we are vaguely introduced to the characters and their issues. Jay's financial troubles are introduced, as well as his damaged family. Gal is also introduced as a close friend of Jay, and he brings a promising financial opportunity to the table - a valuable kill list contract. Although it is densely atmospheric, the first act of the film is too empty and long, in my opinion.

It continues into the second act where the hits are performed - Kill List begins to evolve into a psychological mystery as more ambiguity is introduced. The first hit is a priest who seems to recognize Jay and oddly thanks him before being killed. Why? The second hit is a pervert that also recognizes and thanks Jay. Again, why? The brutal murder that follows is a scene that will haunt you; a vivid and brutal hammer attack - breaking hands, knees, and a skull. As you can see, this is where the film really begins to hook the audience with its captivating imagery, effectively graphic violence, and choking atmosphere.

The third act of the film is an odd transformation where the pace is unexpectedly turned up tenfold. I won't get into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but this is a hit that spirals out of control. It changes the entire vibe of the film, almost as if you were watching a completely different film. The final scene in the film is jaw-dropping and shocking. However, the ambiguity of the finale is a bit too overwhelming; I love films that let you think, but Kill List leaves you little explanation and not much to think about. But, again, it is a shocking ending that may leave you speechless.

The acting is great. Neil Maskell plays Jay - his character shares great chemistry with his partner Gal, played by Michael Smiley. Both Michael and Neil play their characters authentically, their discussions feel very real. The music in this film is also superb, it adds significantly to the film's superb atmosphere; the music is very ominous and eerie, I loved it. The special effects are superb, the graphic and realistic violence adds to the overall effectiveness of this film.

Overall, Kill List is a brutal, disturbing crime thriller, blanketed in a dense, captivating atmosphere; it's a rare film that manages to evolve over time. It has a rough start, but it eventually manages to get on to its feet. It's definitely not a film for everyone as it tends to lean towards an art-house style. I recommend renting or streaming before purchasing, unless you're an open-minded filmgoer.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Graphic violence and blood. Full nudity (not sexual).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Film Review: Crawl (2011)

Crawl (Review)
Australia/2011
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Rusty, a bar owner, hires a hitman to kill a business partner with unpaid debt. Meanwhile, Marilyn, a hostess at the bar, is home alone, waiting for Travis, her boyfriend, to arrive and propose. However, Marilyn gets caught in the middle of a deal-gone-wrong...

The hitman decided to double-cross Rusty. On top of that, as the hitman leaves, he runs over Travis. So, the hitman ends up at Marilyn's home where he holds her hostage until he can find new escape vehicle. But, Rusty finds out about the double-crossing from the local police that place him at the crime scene and Rusty begins to track the hitman.

The story is very simple and, as you can see, very uneventful for a 1hr 20min run time. Not much happens in this film. The film isn't as suspenseful as it thinks - walking slowly without music doesn't equal suspense. The only genuine suspense occurs towards the end of the film, where a game of cat-and-mouse occurs. There is a tense scene where the hitman is trapped behind a door because of his shadow, which I thought was great; the story would've benefited from more scenes like this.

Also, most of the characters in this film must be blind as they have trouble seeing the obvious; some characters can't see drops of blood all over a well-lit porch, one character can't see a cake sitting at that same porch, the house is well-lit yet Marilyn can't see the hitman standing in plain-sight nor can she see the lock on the door that is CLEARLY LATCHED ON and so on. Other ridiculous events occur, like Travis walking into the middle of a street to flag down a car - who does that, really? Oh, and the hitman, with a severely injured leg, is able to travel back and forth between the house and car several times within what seems to be a short time - why didn't Travis walk home if his home is in clear sight? Not exactly plot holes, but inconsistencies that bothered me.

The acting was good from most of the cast. George Shevtsov plays the hitman with a performance that is good, but underwhelming. He isn't really intimidating, and he isn't frightening, either. But, he is a calm and collected hitman. Georgina Haig plays Marilyn, she has a few great scenes where looks genuinely frightened. The music in the film was great, it reminded me a bit of Psycho - a redeeming factor of the film.

Overall, Crawl is a weak suspense film. It's uneventful, it's too inconsistent and unbelievable, and it lacks self-identity; you've seen this film before, and better. I recommend streaming or renting before purchasing.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, very brief nudity.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Film Review: The Chaser (2009)

The Chaser (Review)
South Korea/2009
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Eom Joong-ho is an ex-detective turned pimp. After two of his women go missing, Joong-ho begins to suspect his women are being abducted and sold. Joong-ho, currently in a financial crisis, sends Mi-Jin, one of his remaining women, to a customer, Je Yeong-min. Eventually, he realizes Yeong-min may be responsible for the disappearances...

After Joong-ho realizes Yeong-min may be abducting his women, he tries to warn and locate Mi-Jin. However, at Yeong-min's home, the phone signal is nonexistent, consequently leaving Mi-jin trapped. Yeong-min is disrupted by a couple from the local church searching for the home's owner; Yeong-min handles the situation and begins to dispose their vehicle. Unfortunately, his escape is stopped after he crashes into Joong-ho's vehicle. Joong-ho, suspicious of Yeong-min's behavior, calls the customers phone number and subsequently identifies him as the abductor. A barrage of intense chases, brutal beatings, and investigation follows.

The story in this film is superb; it is simple yet captivating. As previously mentioned, the story blends chases, fights, and investigations into a chaotic situation. The foot pursuits are exciting and intense, the fights are brutal and realistic, and the investigations and interviews are equally intense. There are twists around every corner as Yeong-min manipulates and teases the police, sending them in circles like a dog chasing his tail. The film also breaks away from the formulaic film formula we've seen hundreds of times, expect the unexpected. It has a dark, gritty atmosphere/vibe from beginning to end.

The acting is fantastic from both leads. Kim Yoon-seok plays the cop-turned-pimp; he's usually a sleazy pimp, but manages to deliver different emotions as his character evolves. Ha Jung-woo plays Yeong-min; he plays that cowardly character, the character that gets tough when he has the advantage, the manipulative, evil, cold-hearted character that we love to hate - and he plays it superbly. The music is fantastic in this film, being simplistic yet effective. The makeup is also great, really adds to the realism of the film.

Overall, The Chaser is a magnificent thriller - a gripping, insanely suspenseful film from beginning to end. A dark, gritty, must-watch gem from South Korea. I highly recommend a purchase.

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

Film Review: Bloody Innocent (2010)

Bloody Innocent (Review)
South Korea/2010
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

In 1985, Dong-sik and Seung-ho are close friends in high school, and both like the same girl, Myung-hee. One day, Myung-hee is found raped and dead. Subsequently, the mystery of her death is slowly unraveled over 17 years...

Without spoiling too much, in 1985, the lead suspect of Myung-here's murder is Dong-sik's brother. He is arrested, and Dong-sik decides to leave his small town, noting that it's time to move on. Dong-sik and Seung-ho's paths are separated - Dong-sik working as a sailor and Seung-ho continuing his education. For the next 17 years, Dong-sik and Seung-ho come into contact at least 4 times. Each time they meet, they get closer and closer to finding out what really happened to Myung-hee; each time they meet, their relationship is strained and damaged even more.

The sloppy storytelling is the most significant problem within Bloody Innocent. Within its 1hr 35min, the film goes over 5 significant events/years. Each event is told in short time, and, due to the massive time skips, they feel very disconnected. The confusion continues as the flashbacks are repetitive and show very little detail, I think there was even a flashback within a flashback at one point. The actual story is mostly ineffective as relationships are never fully developed; you would never know Dong-sik and Seung-ho were best friends without reading the description of the film. The ending of the film was okay; however, it feels incomplete, it felt like I missed something significant as the mystery doesn't feel resolved. (I really don't think I missed anything, though.)

Bloody Innocent has a few redeeming factors regarding the story, however. For example, the relationship between Seung-ho and Myung-hee gains some traction and does become effective towards the end. There are some scenes that you can connect to and are painful to watch. And, despite their relationship lacking development and explanation, Dong-sik and Seung-ho change overtime and their characters develop separately; I liked watching them change over time.

The acting is great. Kim Da-Hyun plays Seung-ho; there are a few scenes where he shows authentic emotion, especially towards the end where you can see and feel him choke up and cry. Shin Sung-rok plays Dong-sik; his performance was also great, although his character emphasizes anger and frustration much more. I really enjoyed the music in this film, especially the song that plays during the credits. The writing and structure of the story was very unorganized and sloppy, in my opinion.

Overall, Bloody Innocent, or River of Murder, is a poorly-told mystery film, with a few redeeming factors. The story is genuinely interesting, but the execution is flawed. The few standout performances and effective scenes can't save this film from its other severe problems. I recommend renting or streaming before purchasing.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Film Review: Cold Fish (2010)

Cold Fish (Review)
Japan/2010
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Nobuyuki Syamoto is a quite and passive owner of a tropical fish shop. His estranged daughter, Mitsuko, is caught stealing, but subsequently freed thanks to Yukio Murata, a fellow tropical fish shop owner. Murata invites the Syamoto family to his ambitious fish shop and they quickly become friends. However, Mr. Murata and his wife have sinister secrets...

Cold Fish is loosely based on a true story. After Mr. Murata saves Mitsuko from legal trouble, he allows Mitsuko to work for him at his shop and stay at a dormitory that houses six other young female employees. Syamoto and his wife agree as it would be a load off of their shoulders. Syamoto's wife, Taeko, is eventually seduced by Mr. Murata and he convinces her to bring Mr. Syamoto into a business deal. Now, Mr. Syamoto is brought into their sinister business - a serial killing spree that spans dozens of murders and disappearances. He is vividly taught the tricks of the trade, like making a body "invisible". If Syamoto runs away or tells the cops, his wife and daughter will be killed. Can Syamoto handle the serial killing business?

The story in this film is bone-chilling and very disturbing. It delves into the minds of two psychopathic serial killers, and a passive man with a broken family who is dragged into a bloody mess. Mr. Murata is a twisted, deceptive killer, hidden under the skin of a happily aggressive older man. On the other hand, Syamoto is quite and passive, he allows his rotten daughter to control his life, and he withholds his anger. The characters are important to the story, and I like this focus. You'll likely hate most of these characters due to their disturbing, manipulative actions; that's okay, though, as that's is who they are supposed to be. The violence is graphic as bodies are mutilated into chicken-nugget-sized pieces of meat; this is very effective. Ultimately, the story is very bleak up to it's very bloody, unexpected ending. I like this approach because it's a change to the formula; it's something different, without feeling like it's trying to be different.

The acting is fantastic from the entire cast. Mitsuru Fukikoshi plays Nobuyuki Syamoto as a very passive man; he displays the right emotions and he is believable - you can see the fear, the anger, and the hesitation in his eyes and movements. Denden plays Yukio Murata magnificently; his character changes often depending on the situation, and Denden captures him greatly; his character genuinely manipulative, changing his emotions from a vicious, emotionless killer to a gentle, caring man in a blink of an eye. Asuka Kurosawa plays Aiko Murata and shares a similar performance to Denden's - capturing a wide range of emotions as a manipulative beast. The music is fantastic in this film, often using a classical soundtrack. The special effects are grizzly and disturbing; there is tons of blood, body parts chopped into small, indistinguishable pieces, etc. Sion Sono's direction is fantastic, as well.

Overall, Cold Fish is an extremely disturbing serial killer film yet... it manages to entertain immensely. It's a film that will stay with you long after you finish viewing it. I highly recommend this film for fans of the genre, those sensitive to violence should stay away.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Extremely vivid violence and gore, sex and nudity (including rape.)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Film Review: Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall (Review)
US/UK/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is chasing a mercenary who has a hard drive with the names of all the undercover MI6 agents that have infiltrated terrorist organizations. Bond fails his mission as he is accidentally shot and presumably killed by his partner, Eve Moneypenny. Later on, MI6 is under a vicious cyber attack - a terrorist attack that stems from M's past. Bond, who faked his death, returns to duty to stop the vicious terrorist, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), at any costs.

The story in this film is a pure action-thriller from beginning to end. It begins in Istanbul, Bond and Moneypenny are chasing a mercenary in possession of a hard drive with sensitive material - information that places undercover agents in dangerous. Bond faces the mercenary on top of a train where he is presumably killed by Moneypenny's bad shot; this action-packed opening sequence sets a high bar for the rest of the film. After signing the death certificate for Bond, the MI6 headquarters are attacked causing M to relocate the agency. Bond faked his death and returns to help M capture the terrorist that is hunting her and the agency. This sets off an international hunt for Patrice, the mercenary from Istanbul, which subsequently leads to Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent.

I skipped quite a few details in the story to make it as detailed and as short as possible. But, those are the basis of the film; a hunt for someone, who leads Bond to someone else, who leads Bond to another person, and so on. The story is more than good enough, though. It works well as everything seems to be falling apart around Bond - you can see the sky is falling for Bond. The film's action sequences are also very similar, although extremely entertaining. The film starts on such a high note that it loses momentum by the end, partly due to its inflated runtime. The repetitiveness of the film - again, partly due to the inflated runtime - was the only real complaint I had, I really felt drained by the end of the film.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Daniel Craig plays James Bond with great charisma - he's smooth with just the right amount of wittiness. Javier Bardem plays Silva, the film's villain. His character is sinister yet odd, I really like the way Bardem portrayed the character. The action sequences, albeit repetitive, are very high quality and wonderfully choreographed. The cinematography is superb as it creates cinematic eye candy - the use of color and lighting is very effective and attractive. The music is also wonderful staying true to series with a hint of uniqueness. Technically speaking, the film is flawless.

Overall, Skyfall is an action-packed film, a benchmark for the genre. The action is thrilling, the cinematography is jaw-dropping, the music is marvelous, and Craig and Bardem are brilliant. The inflated runtime causes the film to lose steam and become a bit repetitive, though. I highly recommend a purchase.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Film Review: Les Misérables (2012)

Les Misérables (Review)
United Kingdom/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict turned mayor. A story that highlights the life-changing events of Jean's hard life, and how he connects to others - whether it be Cossete, the young girl he takes in, or Javert, a police inspector who has been chasing Jean for 17 years.

This film is a musical based on a musical, which was based on a novel. As previously mentioned, the story mainly follows Jean as begins to understand life and death, love and hatred, redemption and loss. This massive tale spans 17 years. Jean starts as a convict finishing his term for stealing bread - for trying to survive. He is saved by a priest and promises to change. Fast forward a few years, Jean is now the mayor of a city and we are introduced to Fantine. Fantine is another struggling soul trying to survive and save her daughter after being fired from her job for the same reason. After a torturous life in the underground, Jean agrees to foster Fantine's daughter, Cossette. Fast forward again, Jean and Cossette have moved on and a revolution is on the horizon. Cossette falls in love with a young rebel, and Jean realizes what he must do. Throughout the 17 years, Jean and Javert, two opposite characters, face each other in a game of cat-and-mouse.

I enjoyed the story in Les Misérables. It's a bittersweet tale of love, death, faith, identity, and people. It's often a bleak story as death lurks around every corner, but the deaths are often noble and beautiful; they are deaths that mean something, whether it's death for your daughter or for your beliefs. The main focus is on Jean, but it still manages to balance the other characters enough to develop their identities, their feelings, and such. The story consists of mostly singing, in fact, it likely takes up 99% of the film's dialogue. I enjoyed the singing from most of the cast; I felt it added a lot of emotion to the film, so I didn't mind the bulk of the film being in song. It is a little too long, but if you're enjoying the music, it'll be over before you know it. My only minor complaint is the inconsistent storytelling, it often jumps from scene to scene with very little connection.

The acting is fantastic from the cast. Every cast member hit their emotions perfectly, you can feel the pain through the singing and the visuals, the tone of the voices and the facial expressions. Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean in a very powerful and demanding role; he can sing very softly, but also with the utmost conviction. I also enjoyed Anne Hathaway, although her screen time is limited. Russell Crowe plays Javert in a performance that shows the right emotion, although his singing is decent - not bad, not  spectacular, but tolerable. The setting and costume design is marvelous and it helps create an immersive atmosphere; the cinematography is also beautiful during some of the large scale set pieces. The music is fantastic from beginning to end; sonically, the film is very consistent and captivating.

Overall, Les Misérables is a magnificent musical; it's captivating thanks to it's dark, compelling story and it's effectively emotional singing, topped off with top-tier performances. The occasionally disconnected storytelling and Russell Crowe's singing were the only minor issues I had with the film. I highly recommend this film for fans of musicals and film in general; to be honest, this is the first musical film I've watched since Repo: The Genetic Opera.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex (no nudity).

Film Review: Flight (2012)

Flight (2012)
United States/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Flight Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) wakes up from a night of debauchery with flight attendant Katerina Márquez. Drunk, high on cocaine, and with very little sleep, Whitaker arrives to pilot a plane to Atlanta. After navigating through severe turbulence, Whitaker mixes vodka into his orange juice and eventually takes a nap. He is abruptly awaken by the plane's malfunction, which causes it to take a seemingly inescapable nose dive. However, Whitaker is able to maneuver the plane with limited damage and casualties. But, his substance abuse problem throws Whitaker into a battle for his freedom... where his worse enemy is himself.

Flight is an amazing drama. It concurrently introduces two troubled characters: Whip and Nicole. After the crash, Whip and Nicole's paths interlink causing them to develop a relationship. However, Whip's constant drinking is a problem. At a certain point, Whip tells Nicole about his problem and how he understands it because he is the cause - he chooses to drink, he doesn't blame anyone but himself. On the other hand, Nicole strives for improvement, so you can guess the potential issues that may arise. Now, Whip's life is one of abuse, abandonment, and dependency. How will he win a court battle when his biggest enemy is himself? A self-destructive man that understands his problem, but hasn't taken responsibility. It's a story of an unbelievable event as much as it is a story of alcoholism and the troubles that surround it.

I love how this film focuses on story as much as it focuses on character. What I mean is: it focuses on the catastrophic, unbelievable event and the legal aspects of it as much as it develops a self-destructive, substance abusing character. Some of the characteristics were a bit stereotypical, or cliché, I suppose; however, I believe this is as authentic as it can get, and that's a compliment. The film begins with a suspenseful - scratch that - absolutely breathtaking, perfectly executed plane crash. This is a high-caliber action sequence, the only sequence like it in the film. However, the film keeps its suspenseful, action-like momentum through its magnificently captivating dialogue; the discussion, the arguments flow so well and authentically.

The acting in this film is fantastic. Denzel Washington delivers a triumphant performance as Captain Whitaker; an authentic portrayal of a struggling alcoholic battling himself and the world around him. His dialogue, his facial expressions, and his movements are incredibly authentic and consistent. Don Cheadle and John Goodman are also standouts with their great performances. In fact, the entire cast did a splendid job. The music is great, blending an original soundtrack and some hit singles. Also, the film is shot beatifully. The direction and editing is very tight and consistent, as well; a fantastic job from director Robert Zemeckis, I hope to see more live-action films from him.

Overall, Flight is an incredibly captivating drama - a thoroughly entertaining film from beginning to end. Flight effortlessly glides above most films in the drama thanks to spectacular performance from Denzel Washington and a brilliant script. I highly recommend Flight.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Excessive drug and alcohol abuse, full female nudity.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Film Review: Scary Movie 2 (2001)

Scary Movie 2 (Review)
United States/2001
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

After the event of the first film, Cindy (Anna Faris), Brenda (Regina Hall), Ray (Shawn Wayans), and Shorty (Marlon Wayans) are in college where they have been signed-up for a weekend stay at a haunted house. They are joined by several newcomers, most notably Buddy, Cindy's new love interests.

The story stats off with a vulgar parody of The Exorcist. This is a very raunchy scene that starts off the film on a strong note. It continues to college life of the main characters, continuing to be vulgar and inappropriate ("Tucked in or tucked out?") The original cast and a few newcomers are chosen to stay at Hell House for a weekend. The Hell House experience, which is the bulk of the film, is where the film starts to lack focus and consistency. The basic premise is the search for the ghosts and a way out. Not much to discuss story-wise.

The story lacks focus. The jokes feel very disconnected, like if they're skits for SNL or MADtv. For example, the basketball segment where they spoof a Nike commercial is funny but completely random; this scene feels like it belongs as a promotional clip or teaser. Afterward, it's like this never happened - this problem occurs often in this film. Another complaint is the lack of structure and focus on the horror genre. The ending spends about 10 minutes (of the 1hr 14min runtime) on a dragged-out Charlie's Angels spoof. Don't get me wrong, I laughed quite a few times, especially during the first 15 minutes or so, but the jokes are definitely hit-and-miss. The most redeeming factor of this film is Shawn Wayans' character, Ray. Ray is hands down one of the funniest characters with the most memorable scenes; he should've been utilized more!

The acting is what you'd expect. It's definitely not going to win awards for outstanding performances, but it's more than tolerable and acceptable. Both Wayans brothers steal the show with their absolutely hilarious characters and eccentric performances. There's not much else to say for this film, at least on the technicalities. The writing lacked much focus and structure, although there was some genuinely hilarious dialogue.

Overall, Scary Movie 2 is a funny film. I like it enough to recommend when you want to kill a night with a comedy. It lacks structure, focus, and witty dialogue. However, Shawn Wayans is an anchor for this film, his dialogue and charisma are incredible; Marlon Wayans also has hilarious dialogue and action; it's safe to say, the Wayans brothers are the main reason to watch this film.

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Film Review: Triple Tap (2010)

Triple Tap (Review)
China/2010
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Ken, a record-breaking sharpshooter who recently won a competition, comes across the robbery of an armored van. The police are busy with an overwhelming accident, so a traffic cop checks on the robbery. As he arrives, hell breaks loose as he is shot and the hostages are killed. Ken uses his skill to kill the robbers, but one escapes. Jerry Chang takes the case, although he was recently beaten by Ken at the shooting competition. Jerry is suspicious of Ken, but does not have proof since the cameras were out that day and the only other witness is in a coma...

The story in this film starts off simple enough. A shooting competition occurs where Ken and Jerry are competing; Ken wins with his impressive swiftness and triple tap technique. As Ken leaves the competition, he runs into the robbery that he subsequently stops. He's taken to trial for the shooting murder of the thugs where he is declared not guilty. However, Jerry's suspicion continues to linger so he continues to subtly pursuit Ken. A few twists are introduced that show the motives of the crime and, by the end, most of the significant parts of the film are somewhat explained. I did enjoy the actual ending of the film as it shows more of Ken's character, although it did feel a bit rushed.

After Ken wins his trial, the story begins to lose itself as it introduces too much story with too little detail. Many characters and relationships are introduced that aren't fully fleshed-out, and Ken's job and his actions aren't fully explained at the proper time. I'm not asking the film to hold my hand, but some detail would be helpful. Most of the story begins to come full circle at the end, but not in a good way. It basically tricks the audience into thinking "that was a great twist" when it really feels cheap and sloppy since it goes back on everything you already saw. Also, the story loses its effectiveness as it feels like it goes on and on. This is a film that would've benefitted from more action. When the film gets immensely interesting at the end, it feels so rushed. The film has some great concepts and does enter the mind of a criminal, at least briefly.

The acting was great. I really don't have any complaints for any of the actors as they were all able to do a more than acceptable job. The storytelling is easy-to-follow for a short time, but eventually becomes overly-complicated. The editing is not to blame for the storytelling, it's actually very smooth and consistent. The few action sequences have great choreography. I really enjoyed the music from beginning to end.

Overall, Triple Tap is entertaining and has some great concepts and editing; I really enjoyed how the ending played out and the brief examinations of the criminal mind. However, it has some lazy writing, it's too long, and it lacks impact (it's uneventful). I recommend for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

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

Film Review: Dumplings (2004)

Dumplings (Review)
China/2004
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Mrs. Li is a retired actress who is losing her good looks and has a broken relationship with her husband. In order to repair her life and regain her youth, Li visits Aunt Mei, a chef who cocks "special" dumplings. Li fully understands and consumes the special rejuvenating ingredient in Mei's dumplings - unborn fetuses. However, Li is not patient and wants to consume the most potent ingredient... a 5 month old fetus.

The story in Dumplings is dreadfully disturbing. The worst part is: it's completely believable considering the many food scandals that go on today. The story really speaks about society, and our obsession with youth and aesthetics; what would you do to stay young forever? It starts immediately as Mei picks up the unborn fetuses and feeds them to Li, as if it were a regular practice. Mei, herself, claims to be proof of the special fetus-filled dumplings. You won't be able to guess how old she really is. The story continues to show Li's disturbing appetite for beauty, although she does often battle with the morality of her actions. We also see Mr. Li's obsession with younger woman and his personal appetite for other odd food. The story reaches the pinnacle of chilling when Li requests a 5 month fetus. The origin and the method of acquiring this fetus becomes all-too-real and the aftermath is bone-crushing. The ending is equally chilling and sinister.

The story is more of a disturbing drama than a horror, in my opinion. I won't look at dumplings the same way, but I'll be able to sleep at night. The film really works because it is believable; there have been many food scandals in China recently that add to the chilling realism of the film. (of course, I have nothing against China and its many delicacies.) The story is an extended version of a short film in Three... Extremes. It worked very well as a short story, but I did like the extra detail and story in this film. However, despite both ending being disturbing, the short film version takes the dumpling as most disturbing and effective.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Bai Ling plays Mei and Miriam Yeung plays Mrs. Li; both plays their characters perfectly, Miriam Yeung becomes more and more sinister throughout the film, which I really enjoyed. The special effects, particularly the bloody fetuses, were very realistic; the sound effect of a crunching dumpling is also chilling. The music was great in this film, matching the overall tone and setting of the film.

Overall, Dumpling is a very disturbing and effective drama; so effective it can justifiably be classified as a horror film. The disturbing subject matter, the chilling details (did you know a 5 month old fetus is the most potent and rejuvenating), and the crunching and consumption is extremely cringe-worthy. I highly recommend for fans of disturbing dramas and horror films, a rental otherwise.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some blood, 3 sex scenes (no notable nudity)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Film Review: The Hidden Face (2010)

The Hidden Face (Review)
Colombia/2010
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Adrian, an orchestra conductor, watches a video of his girlfriend, Belen, explaining why she is leaving him. Adrian, shocked and depressed, drives to a bar and drinks the pain away. At the bar, Adrian meets a waitress, Fabiana, with whom he develops a relationship. Fabiana moves into Adrian's home as they get closer. Eventually, Fabiana begins to notice an eriee presence within the home...

The story in this film is great. It starts off in the present during the first act, goes into the events prior to the breakup during the second, and comes full circle during the third. It plays out like a suspenseful psychological drama; what's causing the abnormal activities in the home? Where is Belen? What are Fabiana's intentions? These questions will run through your head; that is, unless you watched the spoiler-filled trailer, which you should avoid at all costs.

I won't spoil it in this review, but there are scenes that play out so well, and, depending on how much you like or dislike certain characters, you'll be in awe. The ending of the film was the biggest problem, in my opinion. If it had ended at a certain scene, it would've been great. Instead, this ending feels to abrupt, unfulfilling, and typical; this is likely due to the unnecessarily prolonged third act, which causes the film to lose some steam. Normally I'd mention this in the Parental Guide at the end, but: this film has excessive nudity and sex - throughout most of her screen time, Fabiana appears nude during sex or showering (she in the bathroom all the time, she must be very clean.)

The acting was great from the entire cast. Clara Lago, who plays Belen, is wonderful during her scenes of anxiety, fear, and loss; she plays the insecure girlfriend very well. The music also stands out and add a very "epic" vibe to some of the scenes, and also matches Adrian's character; it really helps the film develops its own identity. The direction and editing are great, really creating an easy-to-follow story, despite it's nonlinear storytelling.

Overall, The Hidden Face is an often suspenseful and a mysterious story, although it begins to stumble towards the end. Avoid the trailer completely if you're interested in this film, it will be a much better experience if you do. I recommend a purchase for fans of psychological dramas/thrillers.
Score: 8/10

Parental Guide: Some blood. Excessive full nudity and sex.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Editorial: Going to the movies alone...

I walk up to my local movie theater... alone. As I approach the ticket booth, I get an eerie feeling, as if I were being watched or stalked. Of course, I eventually spot a group of teenagers smirking and giggling from afar. I shrug it off, and continue to walk toward the ticket booth; however, this time, it feels as if I'm fighting gravity and fate - something doesn't want me to reach the cashier. I reach my destination, tired and distraught, where the cashier is happily smiling and I say, "One for Prometheus, please." Her smile instantly goes away as she stutters "O... One?" The other cashiers' heads viciously turn in my direction - you can hear the loud popping of their necks, as if they were dislocated during a vicious car wreck. I finally respond, "Yes." 

Why don't people go movie theaters alone? Well, for one, going to the movie theater alone has become a social stigma. If you're not surrounded by a group of friends when you watch a movie, then you're weird or different; in our social world - which revolves around Twitter and Facebook - this is the mind frame of many. We tend to be the most insecure when we're alone.  

There are plenty of excuses for not going to the movies alone. Some people thinks it's embarrassing. Others over-think the perception of themselves; as in, they think others will think they're a loner or something's wrong with them; they may ask, "why are they in a movie theater alone?" This is largely because going to the movies is a social experience for most audiences. And, that's completely fine. I think it's great to see people bond over a movie - whether it be friends or family. Some films are much more enjoyable with a group of people, especially the bad movies. 

However, there are plenty of reasons to go to the movies alone. For one, it's completely fine to go to the movies alone; some people may judge, but most others likely won't care; in fact, they might not even notice you! (unless they personally know you.) Also, you may have a film better experience going by yourself. Why? Well, you might have those friends that talk too much or have other undesirable movie-going characteristics, or at least characteristics that don't work for the film you are going to watch. And, some films are much more impactful when you're alone.  

If you skip visits to movie theaters because you don't have a friend to go with, then you should definitely reconsider. Don't miss out on amazing theater experiences because you may have to go alone. The "benefits" of avoiding a lonesome visit to the movie theater aren't really benefits, they're more like excuses.  I've been to the movies alone quite a few times, and the experiences I've had have been... great! Not bad, at all!

Have you gone to the movies alone? You should share an experience in the comments section! Thanks!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Editorial: Are spoofs funny?

I don't find most spoofs funny. Although I haven't seen the recent films such as A Haunted House or Scary Movie 5, I've seen my fair share of spoofs throughout the last decade. Yeah, I've seen Scary Movie 4, Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie and the like. I can't say I remember the films much, not even the highlight jokes or set pieces, if any. I've come to this conclusion: spoofs movies just aren't very funny, or at least they're not my cup of tea. 

One of the flaws I see in modern spoofs films is the lack of focus. It's fine to drift into other films, and even other genres, briefly, as long as the main theme takes center stage. Scary Movie should've focus 90% on scary movies, Disaster Movie should've focused 90% on disaster movies, and so on. Instead, Disaster Movie has characters like Amy Winehouse, Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian (one of these isn't a even spoof character), Meet The Spartans has a dance segment that belongs in a dance flick (no, not the spoof film) and a Grand Theft Auto spoof, while Scary Movie 5 has a spoof of Inception. Why?  

Remember in Scary Movie 2, where Cindy was singing along in her car and the singer rudely (I use this term lightly) interrupted her. That's random and funny! Or, in the same film, the Dude, Where's My Car reference - that was raunchy, wasn't it? These aren't set pieces like in Disaster Movie and Meet The Spartans, these are simple, funny jabs at other films/genres - the way it should be. The only reason a writer would completely drift into a different genre would be because of a lack of creativity and focus; cheap gags and jokes for a cheap check. A notable example of this is, again in Scary Movie 2, the inexcusably long Charlie's Angels spoof at the end. I feel like the original Scary Movie and Don't Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood are the best examples of films that followed there themes and were hilarious. 

Spoofs are a completely random set of jokes - recent additions fail to follow their own themes, as I mentioned earlier. These random jokes may conjure a laugh or two, maybe a smirk, but they really aren't genuinely funny. What I mean is: the randomness may catch you by surprise, in turn, causing you to laugh, but the actual content of the joke isn't really funny. It's not a joke you can tell a friend, or a piece you can vividly and enthusiastically explain. These random "jokes" are usually completely forgettable. 

If spoof film writers focused on content and structure, spoof movies would be a lot better than the recent releases. What we get now are poorly organized spoofs that are all over the spectrum. What's the purpose of having a theme-based film if you're not going to follow the theme?   

I ended up ranting much more than I intended to, so please excuse me? What do you think of recent spoofs and spoofs in general?