Monday, June 30, 2014

CinematicAddiction Blog Update #1

Hey, folks, hope you're having a great day and summer -- or whatever season we're in when you read this. If you follow this website, you know I usually don't partake in the typical "blogging". I like to stick to the business, and that's bringing you movie reviews, TV reviews, and lists of the very best films, as well as some discussion pieces. And I've done that. As of today, I've written over 300 reviews and have crafted 15 lists of my favorite films.

I've been doing this for over a year, and I am proud to say I plan to continue for much longer. I'm even prouder to say: I'll be updating this website every day starting July 1st. That's right. I'll be posting a new, unique movie review every day starting tomorrow. By unique, I mean they will all be written by me, as they always have. It's a lot to shoulder -- especially with Monday, Wednesday and Friday updates over on KoreanMovieReviews.com (shameless plug) -- but I think it'll be fun.

I have other plans for improvements, but would definitely like some feedback now. I know the design isn't the sleekest, but it's simple and it works. Don't like it? Leave a comment, send me an email, or tweet me @JonathanCA_KMR and I'll consider my options. Have other requests? Contact me with any of the aforementioned methods. Even if it's a movie review requests, leave a comment and let me know.

Thanks for reading and visiting so frequently. If you haven't already, bookmark the site and keep visiting. I need someone to read all of these reviews...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Anime Review: Attack on Titan (Season 1) (TV)

Attack on Titan (Season 1) (Review)
Japan/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it makes it feel like something was actually on the line."

After a millennium without direct threat, Titans -- humanoid giants ranging from 3 to 15 meters in size who lack intelligence and devour humans for pleasure rather than survival -- emerge and attack the final percentage of human survivors.

I won't go too deep into the story to avoid spoilers and an overly long review, so I'll try to keep it short. So, a little more back-story, the last of the human race, which is on the brink of extinction, have sealed themselves in a layered city protected by three large walls -- much larger than the average Titan. But, a Titan much more powerful and larger appears and breaks a hole into a wall, allowing the Titans to enter the first part of the city. By now you're already introduced to the main characters: arrogant but ambitious Eren, his skillful and protective foster sister Mikasa, and their cowardly but brilliant friend Armin. After the devastating event, the trio, especially Eren, set out for vengeance by joining the fight against the Titans. The rest of the season consist of epic battles, good character development, and a handful of twists and turns. The ending was epic, but somehow felt slightly unfulfilling -- not necessarily bad, but it felt like something was missing. (stick around for the short teaser after the credits!)

Before I get into more detail, I'd like to state: I'm not an avid anime fan or critic, and I'm not familiar with the manga. So, this review is coming from more of a casual fan. Anyway, I really enjoyed the dark story. There are some unexpectedly devastating plot points, and I think the emotional depth of these plot points helped amplify the superb action -- it made it feel like something was actually on the line. I also really enjoyed the focus on character; it has a lot of characters, though, so there is some incomplete character development and arcs. On that note, the amount of death in this anime makes it difficult to guess who'll die, which also keeps you on the edge. You can make some safe bets, though, but not for all. The only issues I has with the story were the repetitive themes and some pacing issues. The theme of triumphing over self-doubt is great and all, but it hits you over the head with it in almost every episode.

As for the action, it's very fast and ferocious. The military and scouts use a 3D maneuvering device which allows them to freely flow through the air and attack the Titans. (They can't use it on flat ground, though.) I really liked it because it gave the action a full canvas; the characters can fly any which way to attack, and the attacks are usually vicious. The Titans attacks are usually slow, but when a character gets caught, he likely won't get away. Later on in the anime, the action becomes more versatile when it adds a new form of fighting; I won't spoil it, but it basically increases the scale of the battles. Ultimately, all of it is epic. Maybe it's the fast action, the feeling of potential loss, or the epic music, or a mixture of all of the above, but it can best be described as epic. I had goosebumps, I had my hair-raising from the action.

I watched the Netflix Instant stream, which uses the original Japanese voice acting. I loved it. As usual, the Japanese voice cast is very enthusiastic and genuine, which really makes the story more effective. It's a great looking anime, too. There are quite a few scenes where it skimps on the animation -- where the movement is implied rather than actually animated -- but I didn't mind as much. It's worth noting, though. The music was fantastic; the soundtrack is epic, it's just chilling and worth a listen, even if you don't watch the anime. Although it felt it was a bit repetitive and had some pacing issues, I did enjoy Tetsurō Araki's dark direction; Araki crafts an uncompromising and entertaining anime.

Overall, Attack on Titan is a great anime series. I think it's a great introductory anime for new fans or those trying to get back into the genre, like myself. (I'm a big fan of Dragon Ball Z and Cowboy Bebop.) And, I thought it was wildly entertaining. Its story is often devastating, its characters are interesting, and the action is the definition of epic. Don't let the repetitive themes and pacing issues scare you away, it's without a doubt worth the time.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore. (although the Titans are nude, they do not have distinguishable reproductive organs.)

By the way, if you have any recommendations for someone like me (an anime fan trying to get back into anime) let me know in the comment section below, or tweet me @JonathanCA_KMR. Thanks, it's really appreciated! Also, this review is for the entire first season (25 episodes), the Blu-ray is for the first part of the series, which I believe is 13 episodes.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Film Review: Ichi The Killer (2001)

Ichi: The Killer (Review)
Japan/2001
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...extremely violent and irreverently humorous..."

When his boss goes missing, Anjo, ruthless yakuza enforcer Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) will stop at nothing to find him...

Ichi: The Killer is a little confusing mainly due to its ambitious storytelling. The story follows Kakihara as he tries to locate his boss, usually through some vicious torture and investigation. Meanwhile, the eccentric yet vicious Ichi (Nao Omori), who is seemingly responsible for Anjo's disappearance, is manipulated into picking off more of Kakihara's crew. When Kakihara realizes Ichi is responsible, he becomes excited and anxious to finally face someone who can fulfill his sick fantasies. The ending is as bizarre as the rest it the film; I don't think the ending had a definitive meaning, so it should be open to many interpretations.

Ichi: The Killer is an extremely violent and irreverently humorous film. If you're looking for something shocking, Ichi: The Killer will definitely deliver. The story becomes much more than a yakuza-crime film thanks to the eccentric characters and their different motivations. The very dark, often subtle humor is also a big plus; you may feel guilty for laughing, but it's genuinely witty and cheeky. The main fault with Ichi: The Killer is its storytelling: I'm all for creative and unconventional storytelling, but it has to be precise to be effective; in this case, I felt like it was too convoluted and messy. Other than that, the story can be a bit slow at times.

Tadanobu Asano dominates the screen -- it may just be the character, but the performance also screams badass. Nao Omori was also good in capturing the eccentric character. The music is great, some of it will stay with you long after the film has ended. The cinematography and especially the camerawork are unique. The special effects are so-so: on one hand, the computer use is very blatant and even cheesy; on the other hand, the practical effects and makeup are wicked. Honestly, the computer effects should only bother those spoiled by big blockbuster graphics. Director Takashi Miike delivers a vicious action-comedy with his incredibly unique direction; Miike is a true visionary.

Overall, Ichi: The Killer is a great film. It's uproariously entertaining, very creative in its style and content, and creates a truly iconic character. It has some storytelling and pacing issues, and the special effects may be detrimental for some viewers.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, graphic torture, nudity, and a brief, distorted rape scene.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Film Review: Ring of Curse (2011)

Ring of Curse (aka Gomennasai) (Review)
Japan/2011
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...an atmospheric horror-mystery hybrid."

High school student Hidaka Yuka (Airi Suzuki) begins to suspect Kurohane's (Miyabi Natsuyaki) writing is responsible for her classmates' mysterious deaths...

Ring of Curse follows Yuka; she's the main character and she narrates the story. Kurohane is a lonely and odd student who is bullied constantly by her classmates. Kurohane is also an exemplary writer, much better than Yuka. However, her writing is cursed, and causes the reader to die a horrendous death. Yuka witnesses her friends die one by one, and tracks the curse back to Kurohane. At this point, Kurohane shares her sad life story and her mission. A very creepy and even depressing tale, Ring of Curse leads to good ending; the final sequence is surprisingly scary, although the actual ending may seem a bit gimmicky.

Ring of Curse is a little more than a traditional Japanese horror film. Instead of an overwhelming jump-scare ghost story, Ring of Curse goes a more slow-burn and creepy route. In fact, I don't think there were any traditional jump-scares to be found. Kurohane's story is very sad, and her character has some surprising depth. Unfortunately, her character is the only character that receives any character development. Anyway, Kurohane's character is also very creepy, as are her actions. The film's unique concept -- the writing is a curse -- also helps the film differentiate itself, consequently making the film more engaging; it's like an atmospheric horror-mystery hybrid. The only issues with the film are minor: some unnecessarily slow pacing, and some repetitive plot points.

The acting is good. The role doesn't demand much, but Airi Suzuki is a charismatic leading lady. Miyabi Natsuyaki steals the show with her ominous and spooky death glare. The film is shot well. The music is a standard horror soundtrack; this film is affiliated with a pop group, Buono!, but there isn't any pop music in the film until the credits. Director Mari Asato does well in building a creepy atmosphere and keeping a consistent slow-burn for most of the movie; I think some scenes could've been cut down to make it more efficient, but I may just be nitpicking.

Overall, Ring of Curse is a very good Japanese horror film. It's very creepy and creative, and the story has some surprisingly effective emotional depth. (i.e. It's very sad.) It's not a horror film with a lot of jump-scares or ghostly visuals, though, so it may not be for everyone. Otherwise, I was very entertained, and even impressed.

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Film Review: Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005)

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (Review)
United States/2005
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...feels like a bunch of TV segments edited together for a bad, long-winded horror film."

Three high school girls unwittingly unleash the wrath of an angry spirit after chanting Bloody Mary...

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary starts during Homecoming 1969 where a girl named Mary was killed and hidden. Fast forward to the present, a similar scenario happens to Samantha (Kate Mara) and two friends, but none of them are harmed. Eventually, the jocks who played the prank on Samantha and friends are found dead one by one. So, Samantha teams up with her brother to find out what's killing them and who's next. A lackluster and inconsistent story, Bloody Mary leads to a predictable ending; not only that, but it also lacks impact.

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary doesn't offer much to its audience. It abandons the slasher elements of the two previous installments and opts for a supernatural approach, but the supernatural elements are half-baked. It never feels like a ghost story. The story has zero focus on character and consistency; it begins with three girls and quickly abandons that concept -- the other girls barely have any screen time. As a big fan of urban legends, it's a shame to say these are child's play. This film does feature the fantastic "People can lick, too" urban legend but the execution was terrible -- absolutely zero setup. On the topic of execution, the death sequences are mediocre. Worst of all, there is a severe lack of horror and suspense. Was this even a horror film?

Kate Mara delivers a good performance -- she's usually great, but she's simply good this time around. The rest of the acting screams B-movie. The film is shot competently, and I like the soundtrack; the use of music was very well done. Some of the special effects and makeup were good; unfortunately, the use of computer effects is detrimental. Director Mary Lambert is all over the place; like I said, the film has zero focus and lacks consistency -- it feels like a bunch of TV segments edited together for a bad, long-winded horror film.

Overall, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary is bad. It's not scary or suspenseful, the story is sloppy and inconsistent, and the concept is thrown into the trash. You have a plethora of classic urban legend to play with, and this film opts for the weakest of the bunch. The use of music was decent and Kate Mara tries to hold the film up, but it's simply irredeemable.

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

Film Review: Urban Legends: The Final Cut (2000)

Urban Legends: The Final Cut (Review)
United States/2000
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the bigger mistake was the lack of decent urban legends."

At a prestigious film academy, Amy Mayfield (Jennifer Morrison) begins shooting a film about a serial killer who uses urban legends to murder. All is well until her crew beginning suffering similar fates...

Urban Legends: The Final Cut follows Amy and her crew as they begin shooting this film. At first, the members of the crew mysteriously disappear; there's an explanation for their disappearance, but Amy feels something sinister may be afoot. Eventually, a close friend passes away, and Amy teams up with his brother as they suspect murder. Unfortunately, many of the urban legends used to kill are lackluster. Furthermore, the story becomes more and more laughable as it progresses. Eventually, Urban Legends 2 reaches an unintentionally hilarious climax; you likely won't see the twist coming because it has zero hints and no build-up.

Urban Legends: The Final Cut is a bad slasher. The film follows a set of stupid characters as they die, often due to their stupid actions. One scene has a character trying to escape from her captor through a window; I must've missed something, though, cause it's impossible to get stuck on a WIDE-OPEN WINDOW! Another scene has a character climb down a ladder as the killer climbs down with him; if the killer is climbing down, why didn't you just pull him of the ladder and throw him downwards instead of heading towards a dead end? These are just off the top of the head, too, there are plenty of odd, illogical scenes.

I think the bigger mistake was the lack of decent urban legends. I love urban legends, that's why I gave the first a 6/10, despite its flaws. But, this film really falls flat in the department. There are only a few urban legends, and they're very, very weak. In fact, the concept of urban legends really takes the backseat; the killer doesn't really use the urban legend to kill his victims, instead he just seems to kill them when they're shooting the scene about the urban legend. So, the concept is a complete loss. However, not all is lost, there are some scenes with decent suspense and a few gory kills; not nearly enough to redeem the film, but it's something.

Oh, yeah, and the story is just bad. It starts of decently with the film-within-a-film and its urban legend concept, but it becomes more and more ridiculous towards the end. It took itself too seriously which made the film unintentionally hilarious. The twin brother scene, the reasoning for the serial killing, the campus cop... Everything about the story is lazy, sloppy, and cliché.

The acting was competent from the cast. Jennifer Morrison is good through most of her performance. Jessica Cauffiel was supposed to be intentionally terrible during some scenes, but she ends up mediocre during her entire performance anyway. Some of the gore and makeup effects were good. The music really didn't fit the genre; it felt to mystical, had too much adventure. This is written by Paul Harris Boardman and, surprisingly, Scott Derrickson, and they deliver a mediocre story with terribly laughable dialogue. Director John Ottman has competent direction but lacks vision; the film is a generic slasher with minimal suspense.

Overall, Urban Legends: The Final Cut is a bad sequel to a decent film. The urban legend concept is severely underutilized, the characters are stupid and have laughable dialogue, and the horror is minimal. This sequel offers very little for fans of the genre or concept, stick with the original.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some gore, some partial nudity.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Top 10 Best Martial Arts Movies on Netflix Instant

Top 10 Best Martial Arts Movies on Netflix Instant
Martial arts movies are one of my favorite types action film. For decades, from Bruce Lee to Donnie Yen, martial arts films have been entertaining immensely – some cheesy, some serious, but all entertainment. Now, here's my list of the 10 must-watch martial arts movies on Netflix Instant. I'd also like to note, many of these are Chinese, but I tried not to limit myself to any “pure” form of martial arts.

10. The Grandmaster
Read The Grandmaster (Review) Here!
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
I had a lot of complaints when I reviewed The Grandmaster back in April -- maybe they were valid criticisms, as I still feel, or maybe it's a victim of hype. The film is absolutely beautiful and the action sequences are superb, but the story is too large and the details are too miniscule.

9. The Wrath of Vajra
Read The Wrath of Vajra (Review) Here!
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
In order to rescue a group of kidnapped children, K-29 (Yu Xing) must fight several martial arts masters, including his ruthless rival. The story is cliché and occasionally dull, but the action is creative and adrenaline-filled.

8. Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear
Read Ninja 2 (Review) Here!
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
Casey Bowman seeks vengeance in Thailand, using his masterful fighting skills and his ninja equipment to achieve his goal. A great improvement over the first film, this is an exciting sequel that takes full advantage of Scott Adkins.

7. Man of Tai Chi
Read Man of Tai Chi (Review) Here!
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
Struggling to balance his exemplary skills and moral responsibility, Tiger Chen is influenced by the wealthy and mysterious Donaka, who offers Chen a "security" job -- a job fighting in a deadly fight club. Tiger Chen may lack charisma and screen presence, but his fighting is superb, and this film gives him plenty of opportunities to show that. It has a few pitfalls and one glaring disappointment (read my review), but it's immensely entertaining.

6. Dragon
Read Dragon (Review) Here!
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
A seemingly normal paper worker and family man, Liu Jin-xi has unusually exceptional and violent martial arts skills, which lands him in the middle of an investigation and hunt. Donnie Yen stars and directs the action in this fantastic film -- a blend of martial arts and investigative mystery. The ending is a little off, but it's definitely a must-watch film.

5. Ong-bak: The Thai Warrior
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
Ting attempts to retrieve his village's Ong-Bak head as he fight and runs through clubs, streets, and caves in this amazing action film. Tony Jaa is vicious during fights and nimble during the epic stunts.

4. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky 
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
Ricky Ho finds himself in a corrupt private prison after slaughtering the drug dealer who killed his girlfriend. Ricky Ho is a different "type" of martial arts film -- this is the over-the-top ultra-gory type of martial arts... and it's ultra-entertaining.

3. Ip Man 2
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
Wing Chun master Ip Man finds himself in Hong Kong, where he teaches his discipline and where he finds a foreign challenge. Donnie Yen reprises his role as the titular character and delivers the signature ferocious action the series is known for.

2. Shaolin
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
Warlord Hou Jie finds refuge in a Shaolin temple after his life is shattered, and seeks the opportunity for redemption. Shaolin is an epic film with a deep story and character, and magnificent action sequences.

1. Ip Man
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
Likely the most recognizable film on this list and one of the most popular martial arts films of all time, Ip Man rightfully secures the number one slot. Following the titular Wing Chun master during the Japanese invasion, Ip Man creates an icon through the ferocious action and fantastic story. Donnie Yen has been around for decades prior, but this film has solidified him as a mainstream martial arts icon among Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

There's my list! If I missed one of your favorites, leave it in the comment section below. Or, follow and tweet me @JonathanCA_KMR! Thanks for reading, and please share this post with your friends!

Want more of my lists? Check out my last two:
Top 10 Best Korean Horror Movies
Top 10 Best Horror Remakes

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Film Review: An American Ghost Story (2012)

An American Ghost Story (aka Revenant) (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...fans of jump-scares might find it somewhat entertaining."

Paul (Stephen Twardokus), a struggling writer, moves into a haunted house with his girlfriend to write a novel based on the experience...

An American Ghost Story is a fairly straightforward and predictable haunted house film. The story follows Paul as stays in the home of an infamous murder in order to write a book. (As you can see, the basic premise is very similar to that of 2012's Sinister, but the similarities don't stop there.) That's all that really happens. Furniture moves, voices are heard, and people are reluctant to talk to Paul about their experiences in the home. As the story progresses, the force gets stronger. The ending was interesting; it's original, but also unintentionally humorous. Very generic, as you can see, but what can you expect from a film with such a generic title?

As for the horror, An American Ghost Story is heavily reliant on loud-noise jump scares. The suspense building up to these jump-scares is merely decent; the buildup for these scenes takes way too long, so most of the suspense dwindles before the climax... which, in turn, makes the climax less effective. There are plenty of jump-scares spread throughout the film, though. Most of the horror sequences take place as Paul wanders around his house in the dark. (again, glaringly similar to Sinister.) It's not the most terrifying film, but fans of jump-scares might find it somewhat entertaining.

The acting ranges from mediocre to decent. Stephen Twardokus is decent as the leading man; and, once more, he has a striking resemblance to Ethan Hawke's character in Sinister. Since most of the supporting cast is mediocre, it's fortunate that Twardokus takes up most of the screen time. The lighting was well used during the horror sequences. The music was mediocre; the score is repetitive and too strong for a horror film. Director Derek Cole delivers some decent suspense and a few jolting jump-scares, but this effort is ultimately damaged by its generic story, mediocre acting, and bad music; however, it is a promising indie horror film, and I'd like to see what Cole is capable of with a larger budget, better writing and better cast.

Overall, An American Ghost Story is a mediocre horror film. Although it does have some surprisingly decent scares and suspense, it has a severe lack of originality, the acting is mediocre, the music is bad, and there are some pacing issues. Fans of jump-scare horror films and those who don't mind smaller production values will likely find the most enjoyment from this film.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Film Review: The Sunset Limited (2011)

The Sunset Limited (Review)
United States/2011
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Prime Instant Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...should be treated as much more than a typical TV film."

Two men discuss their conflicting beliefs in a small apartment...

The Sunset Limited is a simple film on the surface. Black (Samuel L. Jackson) has stopped White (Tommy Lee Jones) from committing suicide. We start at the apartment where Black and White discuss the attempted suicide. This discussion transcends to a deeper conversation of religion, culture, and general philosophies. Going back and forth, the pair have a conversation -- that's really the best way to explain the story. This conversation leads to a thought-provoking ending; which would be expected considering the rest of the film was also contemplative.

Part of HBO Films, The Sunset Limited is a thought-provoking drama that should be treated as much more than a typical TV film. The frame story may be simple -- a conversation -- but the content is interesting and the execution is engaging. Although obviously I wasn't participating by talking to my television, (I'm not crazy, really) I was actively listening -- everything that was said placed a thought into my head. This philosophical conversation worked very well in keeping me engaged and even entertained. I liked the fast dialogue, despite it being a bit repetitive. (you know, when one character says something, then the other quickly repeats that final line of dialogue but in question form -- keeps the dialogue flowing but can become repetitive.) Also, although it does discuss many different ideas, it always reverts back to religion; it doesn't preach, but it does hinder the conversation from evolving.

A two man cast, Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones are superb. I especially enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson, a great storyteller and very charismatic. Tommy Lee Jones plays the hopeless pessimist very well, too. It's also shot very well; I liked the cinematography and camerawork, despite being limited to a single room. Writer Cormac McCarthy pens a very engaging script -- impressive since it relies solely on dialogue. Tommy Lee Jones also plays director and he plays it well.

Overall, I enjoyed The Sunset Limited. It has a few flaws, but it kept me hooked and it kept me thinking. The two fantastic performances help amplify the overall contemplative value of the film, as well. However, it's definitely not a film for everyone.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Language.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Film Review: Pain and Gain (2013)

Pain and Gain (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...Bay's best direction in a very long time."

A group of bodybuilders decide to stop being don't-ers and start being do-ers... by kidnapping and stealing from the successful and spoiled Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub)...

Pain and Gain is a satirical crime film that follows a trio of bodybuilders: the scheming and ambitious Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), the steroid-induced impotent Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), and the religious but cocaine-addicted Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). They team up to kidnap Kershaw, and take all of his assets. Of course, the plan has plenty of amateur holes, which causes plenty of hilarity, like failing to kidnap the target several times. And, of course, these guys have plenty of flaws that will bring them down a notch, like a particular character's cocaine addiction. It all leads to a satisfying ending.

Pain and Gain is a sexy, violent, and irreverent comedy. It's a very black satire about true events. Due to this, I think it'll offend many -- some audiences will see it as glorying these actions and whatnot. Fortunately, I'm not easily offended, and this is my type of comedy (think: The Wolf of Wall Street). The characters are despicable, but the actors make them the type of people you love to hate. If the actions between these mismatched characters aren't hilarious enough, the dialogue and the plot points should have a smirk on your face. The humor is dark, raunchy, offensive, a little slapstick, and overall very versatile and consistent. The only flaws I can find is its slightly bloated runtime. Also, I've never been a big fan of Rebel Wilson, whose brand of random comedy doesn't really fit this film; fortunately, her role is small.

Despite its large cast, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson really steal the show; both actors are full of charisma and genuine energy in their performances. I think this adds a bit to the satire of the film considering the real people look like they severely lack charisma. Acting is great, overall. The cinematography is great, it looks like a Michael Bay film, minus the explosions. The music choice is also perfect. The film is very well written for the most part. Director Michael Bay delivers a great black comedy is great balance and consistency; in fact, this is Bay's best direction in a very long time.

Overall, Pain and Gain is a very funny and entertaining film. At least, it will be for a particular audience. This film isn't for everyone due to its offensive comedy and irreverent take on the true story, but I think it'll find a home with people who watch movies as, well, movies.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and some gore, sex and nudity, and drug use.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Film Review: Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer (Review)
United States/South Korea/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Panorama) (Hong Kong)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"I only wish I could have more."

After a failed experiment to stop global warming brings humanity to the brink of extinction, the survivors find themselves in a massive, non-stopping train separated by class...

Snowpiercer drops us 17 years after the failed experiment in 2014 (which leaves the story at 2031) as the passengers of the tail plan a revolution. The tail is the poor side of the train, whereas the front is the rich and luxurious side. The first half of the story takes place mainly on the tail as its inhabitants plan and execute their assault on the higher powers. The second half of the story follows tail leader Curtis (Chris Evans), security specialist and drug addict Min-Su (Song Kang-ho), his equally addicted daughter Yona (Go Ah-sung), and a few other tail survivors as they press on towards the front. All-around an engaging story with an immersive world, Snowpiercer leads a great ending.

Snowpiercer is a fantastic SciFi action film. There are a few plot contrivances and convenient plot points in the film, especially during the first act, but nothing too bad -- you won't roll your eyes or anything like that. The first half of the film has a stronger focus on action than the second half. On that point, the action is brutal, bloody, and exciting; it even packs quite a bit of variety. In other words, the first half was an epic action film. The second half doesn't necessarily stop being an action film, but it has greater focus on world and backstory -- and I loved it. This is where the world becomes engaging because every cart has a different theme, like a school or spa, and it looks wonderful. I was already hooked from the beginning, but, at this point, I was mesmerized. Add on some very humorous scenes, especially from Min-Su and Yona, and you have one extremely entertaining film.

I had a moderate stance on its themes. It's very blatant and some subtly would've been appreciated, but they still work in conjuring interest and contemplation. Also, there was a bit of an inconsistent mood at times. For example, some of the antagonists, like one particular :super-guard", come off as cartoonish. That would've been fine, but that cartoonish tone is rarely used in the film. I think if it had a little more presence it wouldn't have felt out of place. Regardless, they don't necessarily damage the film or become detrimental at all. In fact, it kinda gives the film more personality than it already has when you think about it, but it is worth noting for those expecting something bleak and realistic.

The acting was great. Chris Evans has a lot of high moments and a few lows, and he's overall a great leading man. Song Kang-ho still has great energy with his very genuine and humorous performance. However, I think Go Ah-sung really stole the show -- she's oozing with charisma. The only problem I had with the acting comes from some of the supporting cast, they sometimes come off as amateurish. (in this case, by supporting I mean the actors who play the guards, and I'd like to emphasize sometimes because it only occurred a few times.) The film is shot beautifully, I especially enjoyed the set design. The music is also well-fitted, creative like the concept and epic. The special effects are up to standard with many of today's blockbusters. Director Bong Joon-ho crafts a very stylish and entertaining action film; the world he creates is very unique, creative, and immersive -- I only wish I could have more.

Overall, Snowpiercer is a superb SciFi action film. The concept is interesting and masterfully executed by Bong Joon-ho, the action is exhilarating and versatile, the humor is hilarious and blends seamlessly, and the story is superb. Despite some issues with the plot contrivances and some of the supporting acting, I felt like the world this film brought me into was too mesmerizing to bring me down. I won't give it a perfect score because deep down I know it's not perfect, but I'll give it a near perfect score because I loved it -- don't miss it.

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Top 10 Best Korean Horror Movies

10 Must-Watch Korean Horror Movies
I've always love horror films. As a child, I loved the big hits like Scream and Halloween, and I loved the sleepers like The Relic and Faculty. (I was born in the early 90s, please don't judge my taste and crush my nostalgia!) As I grew older, though, I found my taste expanding and expanding... and expanding. I still love love those classics, and, right now, I really love Asian horror movies, especially Korean horror. So, here's my list of the 10 best Korean horror movies of all time – some of these are on Netflix Instant and Amazon Prime Instant Video, so check them out.

As usual, fans of Korean movies should check out my niche website KoreanMovieReviews.com. I update this site with new Korean movie reviews every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I have over 60 reviews, and counting!

10. A Blood Pledge
Read A Blood Pledge (Review) Here!
After Eon-Joo mysteriously commits suicide at an all-girls school, her friends are suspected of foul play and a haunting begins. The most accessible of the Whispering Corridors series, A Blood Pledge delivers a bloody and spooky ghosts, plenty of jump-scares and some solid suspense. If you're looking for a traditional Asian horror film with plenty of scares, this is it.

9. Killer Toon
Read Killer Toon (Review) Here!
As murders resembling her web comics emerge, detective Lee Ki-cheol investigates cartoonist Kang Ji-yoon. A film with a creative concept, the first half of this film is excellent – filled with slick visuals, great jump-scares, and spooky atmosphere. The film does lose steam during the second half and becomes somewhat repetitive, but it still stays strong enough to finish.

8. The Doll Master
Read The Doll Master (Review) Here!
With vibes of House on Haunted Hill, The Doll Master follows a small group of people invited to a large, spooky house for a doll-making photoshoot. The Doll Master opts for atmosphere and suspense over jump-scares – and I loved it. The film has a skin-crawling atmosphere, very creepy visuals, and a dreadful slow-burn – in a good way.

7. Bedevilled
Read Bedevilled (Review) Here!
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
Frustrated, angry, and disappointed, Hae-won travels to an isolated island and is welcomed by her optimistic friend, Bok-nam. Bok-nam is treated as a slave at the island, but lives with hope. But, an devastating “accident” pushes her over the edge. Far from a traditional horror film, Bedevilled is a film that will make you extremely angry, then relish in the bloody revenge.

6. Death Bell
Read Death Bell (Review) Here!
A group of elite students are trapped in the school during a special program. They are forced to answer very difficult questions, or one of the captured students will suffer a horrendous death. Death Bell is creative concept with an engaging, compact story. It's not overly violent, but it offers enough to convince fans of Saw, supernatural, and general horror films to watch.

5. The Wig
Read The Wig (Review) Here!
As her younger sister struggles with terminal cancer, Ji-hyeon removes Soo-hyeon from the hospital. Soo-hyeon looks and feels healthier, but has an eerie attachment to a wig. The Wig is a very sad horror film – that's probably why I like it so much. Now, I don't dwell in sadness, but I feel like the emotional story really amplified the horror in this case.

4. White: The Melody of the Curse
Read White (Review) Here!
Watch it on Netflix Instant!
A struggling girl group finds and copies an unknown song that launches them to stardom... but the song pits the girls against each other with a supernatural twist. White is a very fun horror film. This is a film that delivers jolting jump-scare after another. But, that's not it. White is also able to deliver some spine-chilling visuals and some surprisingly great suspense and tension. If you're a fan of these type of horror films, it rarely gets better than this.

3. Voice
Read Voice (Review) Here!
During the night, a singer is mysteriously killed by a music sheet at school. She awakens but can't be seen or heard by anyone at the school, except for her best friend. A fantastic blend of drama and horror, covered in a creepy atmosphere, and filled with audio and visual scares, Voice is the most complete and most terrifying installment in the Whispering Corridors series. It's one of those films that keeps you on the edge until the end, but the great story and mystery won't let you leap off.

2. A Tale of Two Sisters
Two sisters arrive home from a psychiatric hospital... only to be overwhelmed by horrific events involving the pair and their stepmother. A Tale of Two Sisters is another blend of horror and drama, and a very effective one at that. It's a chilling, atmosphere-based horror film that keeps you hooked and frightened. Try not reading so much about the film for the ultimate experience.

1. Hansel and Gretel
Read Hansel and Gretel (Review) Here!
A car accident leaves Eun-soo in the middle of dark forest. A young girl, Young-hee, finds him and brings him to the "House of Happy Children", where everything is not what it seems. Hansel & Gretel captures the magical feeling of a fairytale and blends it with a terrifying horror element. The story is engaging, terrifying, and even sad. The soundtrack is mesmerizing and the cinematography is absolutely beautiful. On top of that, the performances, especially from Shim Eun-kyung, are top notch.

There you go! Let me know your favorite Korean horror movies in the comment section below. Or, follow me and tweet me @JonathanCA_KMR! Also, please share this article with your friends! Thanks for reading!

Want more of my lists? Check out my last two:
Top 10 Best Horror Remakes
Top 5 Best Korean War Movies

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Film Review: Badges of Fury (2013)

Badges of Fury (Review)
China/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"Both the humor and action elements come up short."

Young and reckless detective Wang Bu Er (Wen Zhang) and grizzled veteran Huang Fei Hong (Jet Li) search for a suspect in a string of smiling murders...

Badges of Fury follows detectives Bu Er and Fei Hong, as well as their superior Angela (Michelle Chen), as they search for clues and investigate these suspected serial murders. In the murders, each victim is found with an eerie smile on their faces. The mystery messes with the ideas of sibling rivalries, curses, and lies. But, regardless of its unique and often bizarre concepts, it is still very procedural. Therefore, there really isn't much to discuss when it comes to actual story. The third act runs out of steam, but the ending was funny, though.

Badges of Fury is an action/comedy B-movie. The humor is a little quirky and mostly bizarre. Really, most of it is out there -- it's just so over-the-top and ridiculous that it comes off as cringe-worthy rather than funny. I laughed a few times, though. I especially liked the scenes between Bu Er and Angela -- the latter who has a very charismatic character; unfortunately, she's not used much during the final act. The action is also over-the-top -- a lot of wire action and computer effects, as well as some blatant stunt work. Some of the scenes were fun and thrilling, but the special effects really hurt the overall excitement. Both the humor and action elements come up short.

The ensemble cast filled with special guests is good. I liked Jet Li, although he has surprisingly less screen time than the rest. Wen Zhang is also good, but he lacks the screen presence of a leading man. Michelle Chen is very charismatic with her performance -- hits the perfect balance for a movie like this. Liu Yan stars in this film and contributes some of the humor with her charisma. (She also has two bags of sand filled with charisma.) The special effects are very obvious -- they stick out like a sore thumb, and it contributes to the cheese and cringe of the film. Director Wong Tsz-ming attempts a very creative and bizarre comic-style film, but fails to do efficiently; the ideas just come up short.

Overall, Badges of Fury is a mediocre film. Sure, I laughed a handful of times and some of the action was decent, but most of the film was simply mediocre. The humor mostly falls flat and the special effects hurt the action, too. Maybe entertaining for a night in, but not worth actively seeking.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Film Review: The King of the Streets (2011)

The King of the Streets (Review)
China/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the action can't save the hollow, generic plot."

After a vicious brawl lands him in prison, skilled fighter Yue Feng (Yue Song), also known as The Street Fighter, condemns his fighting and hopes to live an honest life...

The King of the Streets is a very simple and very generic story riddled with cheesy dialogue and ridiculous plot contrivances. The story follows Yue after he's released from prison as he attempts to stay away from fighting. He starts volunteering at an orphanage. Conveniently, this orphanage has been under attack by thugs hired by a rich company trying to buy the land -- by "buy", I mean force them off. So, Yue Feng must resort to his vicious skills to save the orphanage and redeem himself. The ending was out of place, misses its mark and, again, features an eye-rolling plot contrivance.

The story is bad, but the action is great. Yue Feng is vicious as he kicks his foes several feet through the air and delivers devastating punches -- all with fierce quickness. There isn't much fighting during the first half, but the second half explodes with the aforementioned action. However, the action can't save the hollow, generic plot. Usually, I'm one who can forgive or overlook plot contrivances, but this film has too many and they're way too convenient. The storytelling isn't bad or confusing, but it adds to the plot contrivances. It's like a buddy telling you a story but having to go back to clarify every five minutes. ("So, this and that happened, and... Oh, yeah, I forgot, this happened before it...")

The acting was mediocre. Yue Song can fight, but he has little screen presence and lacks charisma -- most of his dialogue was wooden, too. On that point, aside from the bad plot writing, the dialogue is also very cheesy and unnatural -- it just doesn't flow right. The cinematography is decent -- I like the style, but some scenes were too dark to see. I think part of the problem is Yue Song's hand in almost everything -- you'll see his name in every other credit during the introduction -- lead actor, writer, director, action director, and so on. It ends up feeling very amateurish, like a fan film that was very rapidly and sloppily put together.

Overall, I give King of the Streets the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it is a fan film, or maybe it's a spoof of the old-school martial arts films? (the dialogue is equally cheesy.) Regardless, the story is bad and severely flawed, but I was overall entertained. I really enjoyed the exciting fighting and I had a few laughs -- maybe they were unintentional, though.

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Film Review: On The Job (2013)

On The Job (Review)
Philippines/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a more consistent and much more thrilling second half."

In the Philippines, two prisoners are released from prison to conduct hits for their boss -- and they return with the perfect alibi.

On The Job follows both Tatang (Joel Torre) and Daniel (Gerald Anderson), the prisoners released to kill, and NBI Agent Francis Coronel (Piolo Pascual) and Sgt. Acosta (Joey Marquez), who team up to solve the case. Although the general concept is simple, the first half of the film is a bit convoluted; we're quickly introduced to many characters and ideas, such as the entire concept of prisoners being released to kill. It takes a while to iron out, and the film doesn't really become an "action" film until the second half. The second half unravels the mystery and becomes more of a suspenseful conspiracy film. Fortunately, the second half is amazing and the ending is great.

That's not to say the first half is completely useless. No, it does work in introducing the concept, and it's always interesting to see how these foreign prisons operate; I'd say it's subtly insightful for the setting. However, it's not very efficient in its storytelling. There's so much going on and the storytelling simply isn't fluid enough. You'll likely understand what's going on, but it'll take a while for it sink in. The first half offers some excitement, but not nearly as much as the second half. The latter half of the film is a masterful suspense thriller with some memorable chases and unbelievable tension.

There was some stiff acting and dialogue, but the acting was generally great. I really enjoyed Piolo Pascual and Joel Torre's performances. The cinematography stood out; these gritty streets are elegant thanks to the great cinematography. The music isn't memorable, looking back, but it does blend well with the film. The film is well paced, as well. Director and writer Erik Matti crafts a masterful suspense film, but the story suffers from too much compression; this is one of the few films that could've benefitted from a longer runtime, especially considering the immensely interesting concept.

Overall, On The Job is a very good film. The first half of the film is unnecessarily complicated, but it works in introducing the key concepts and characters. And, fortunately, the film does iron out for a more consistent and much more thrilling second half. A rewarding experience for dedicated filmgoers.

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Film Review: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Charlie Countryman (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...fun, funny, and even occasionally exciting."

Visions of the dead lead Charlie Countryman (Shia LeBeouf) abroad, where he falls for Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), a young Romanian girl...

Charlie Countryman follows the titular character as he tries to win over Gabi, a woman he instantly falls in love with. Most of the time, Charlie's wandering the streets unwittingly getting in and out of trouble. But, the worst of his trouble comes from ruthless thug Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen), Gabi's on-and-off again husband. Anyway, that's basically how it goes: Charlie tries to romance Gabi, he gets into trouble, usually with his new roommates, and tries to survive Nigel. The ending felt a bit like a cop-out; it lacked some satisfaction, and just didn't really feel logical.

Charlie Countryman is forty percent comedy, forty percent romance, and twenty percent action. The humor is a blend of black, lighthearted, and quirky; there were a few moments that missed the mark, but I laughed out loud at least twice and smiled a lot. The romance is by-the-books yet effective; Charlie and Gabi fortunately share great chemistry. The action is also straightforward; there was one great chase scene towards the end, but, like I said, the action is limited. All of the elements are well balanced, and the film is well paced -- I didn't check the timer once. To be frank, I simply enjoyed it. It's not a masterpiece, but it doesn't have many flaws, other than the ending. What can I say, it's a great time-killer.

Surprisingly, Shia LeBeouf is great as the titular character -- he has great charisma and wit, and he's very genuine. Evan Rachel Wood was decent; something about her accent seems odd, doesn't really seem authentic. Mads Mikkelsen, who's superb in Hannibal and The Hunt, shares less screen time, but delivers a fantastic performance. The cinematography is great, the film has a distinct and attractive style. The soundtrack is also perfect, the music really leads your emotions well. Director Fredrik Bond creates his consistent and distinct vision of romance and humor well.

Overall, Charlie Countryman is a great film. It's fun, funny, and even occasionally exciting. It might even inspire someone to take a similar trip of their own. However, the ending is flawed, it ultimately lacks some impact, and Evan Rachel Wood delivers the weakest performance. Regardless, definitely worth at least a stream -- especially for those with an open-mind.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, nudity and a brief sex scene.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Top 10 Best Horror Remakes

Top 10 Best Horror Remakes
Horror remakes are very often bad films – many of them are absolutely terrible. (I'm looking at you A Nightmare on Elm Street.) Even worse: many of the original films that inspire these remakes don't require or warrant a remake at all – they're perfectly fine films that can live on for generations as is. But, there are at least a few horror remakes that are more than tolerable and even enjoyable. Surprising, isn’t it? Here's my list of the best horror remake movies.

10. The Grudge
Read The Grudge (Review) Here!
The remake of the Japanese horror film Ju-on focuses on the same concept of a grudge – when you die in a fit of rage, your spirit stays and kills anything that crosses its path. It offers some more tangible storytelling, but doesn't do much to differentiate itself from the original. It's a very fun jump-scare horror film with some spooky ghost visuals, though.

9. The Hills Have Eyes
A family becomes a target of vicious mutant people when their car breaks down in the desert. Directed by Alexandre Aja, this remake is violent and gory, and is one of the few remakes that stands near, if not higher, than the original.

8. Halloween
Working as a complete reboot to the legendary series, Rob Zombie's Halloween works as an origin story and traditional slasher focusing on the iconic Michael Myers character. Although it doesn't top the original, it's a vicious and entertaining horror remake and Rob Zombie really does make it his own.

7. The Ring
A cursed videotape causes the viewer to die in 7 days. When she and her son watch the tape, journalist Rachel races to stop the curse. Another Japanese remake, The Ring is a suspenseful slow-burn that adds on to the original, and I'd argue it matches the Japanese horror film in total horror.

6. The Last House On The Left
Read The Last House On The Left (Review) Here!
Father and mother attempt to get revenge on a group of criminals who raped and left their daughter for dead -- a group of criminals they unwittingly offered shelter to during a storm. A dark and bleak story with graphic violence, The Last House On The Left is a tense and suspenseful film. It's as unforgettable as the original.

5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Read The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Review) Here!
A group of teenagers heading for a concert become the target of a cannibalistic family, including the vicious chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. Maybe it's the nostalgia, but I've always enjoyed this remake and the original. This remake is darker and bigger than the original, and offers some vicious gore and suspense.

4. Dawn of the Dead
A group of survivors seek refuge from zombies at a shopping mall. This is one of the remakes that is as good as the original. Not because it does everything better than the original, but because it helped revolutionize the zombie genre -- and it became a film distinct from the original. The fast running zombies create a ride of pure thrills and adrenaline.

3. Maniac
Read Maniac (Review) Here!
Mentally disturbed Frank Zito, haunted by visions of his mother and his past, stalks the streets for his victims. This film is better than the original. It moves at a smooth pace, its story and characters are well developed, and the violence is shocking. It also uses a unique perspective that makes the film all that more distinct and shocking than the original.

2. Let Me In
The film follows Owen, a young bullied and unhappy 12-year-old boy, who befriends a young girl named Abby – a vampire. Let The Right One In is a classic film, and Let Me In does right by it. Let Me In meticulously develops its characters and their surprisingly genuine relationship, as well carefully crafts its ominous atmosphere. The climax is amazing, and the superb Chloe Grace Moretz leads a great cast in this terrifying remake.

1. The Thing
John Carpenter's The Thing is a masterfully-crafted horror film. The setting is ominous, the suspense is heart-stopping, the thrills are heart-pounding, and the film oozes with creativity. The film features some of the most iconic scenes in any horror film, particularly the brilliant blood test scene. The Thing is exactly how one should remake a film – make it your own.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what your favorite horror remakes are by leaving a comment below or tweeting me @JonathanCA_KMR. By the way, I had The Fly on the list, but decided to remove it. It's a masterpiece, no doubt, but I always look at that film as a SciFi film, not so much as a horror film.

Want more of my lists? Check out my last two:
Top 5 Best Korean War Films
Top 10 Best Horror Anthologies

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Film Review: Evidence (2013)

Evidence (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...surprisingly good until its surprisingly bad ending."

Investigators try to piece together a vicious massacre at an abandoned gas station using the victims' recovered cameras...

Beginning with a stylish introduction, Evidence continues to follow this group, led by Detective Reese (Stephen Moyer), as they shift through the evidence. The evidence shows a group traveling to Las Vegas, who retreat into an abandoned gas station after their bus flips; the group includes actor Leann (Torrey DeVitto) and director Rachel (Caitlin Stasey). The group is slowly picked off one by one by a welder. It moves a steady pace with an engaging mystery up to its very disappointing ending; in fact, if it had ended just a few minutes earlier, the film would've been at least good -- instead, it throws an unnecessary and bad twist that really hurt the film.

Evidence is an interesting blend of traditional and found-footage filmmaking. It seamlessly transitions from the investigation to the evidence, which is great. It's more of an investigative thriller than a horror film, though. And, it offers some moderate thrills and some gore to please. The mystery/investigation is interesting, although it may not be realistic. Also, it all moves at a fairly moderate pace. Unfortunately, it does adopt some found-footage flaws, like the irritating characters, the cliché dialogue, and the shaky cam. "Don't record me!" "We have to record this!" "(inaudible nagging at each other)" These flaws hurt the film, but the ending was the nail in the coffin. In fact, before the twist, I had considered rating this a solid 3 stars on Netflix -- the ending dropped it to a 2. I mean, it was surprisingly good until its surprisingly bad ending.

The acting was decent. Stephen Moyer is good, as is Caitlin Stasey. Torrey DeVitto was a dud -- came off as the most unbelievable character, didn't feel authentic at all. I think the cast of the found-footage segments has a harder time since they had the worst dialogue by far. I like the cinematography, the film looks good. The camerawork was decent, but the overwhelming spinning became nauseating towards the end. Director Olatunde Osunsanmi is merely decent; some of his direction is lively and distinct, but most of it falls flat.

Overall, Evidence is a mediocre film. It starts off very promising, and holds on to that promise for most of its runtime, but disappoints in the end. Everything was simply good -- I had complaints, but I was entertained -- until the ending. It's like running a steady marathon. You know you're not going to win, but you'll finish, which is an accomplishment. But, as you see the finish line, you trip over a microscopic pebble and snap your leg cause you got cocky -- and you don't finish.

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Film Review: Big Bad Wolves (2013)

Big Bad Wolves (Review)
Israel/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a must watch films for fans of the genre."

After a string of vicious child murders, Micki (Lior Ashkenazi), a cop, teams up with Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the father of the latest victim, to interrogate Dror (Rotem Keinan), a school teacher and the primary suspect...

Dark and relentless, Big Bad Wolves is a straightforward thriller with a very disturbing subject. The story follows Micki, who becomes a vigilante early on, as he attempts to extract information from Dror, the one and only suspect. All while Dror suffers from the stigma of being labeled a subject in such a case. Eventually, Micki crosses paths with Gidi, and they team up for a "special" type of interrogation -- and by "special", I mean brutal torture. The latter half of the story consists of this brutal torture; some breathing room is given through its use of black humor. The ending is devastating -- it's dark and breathtaking.

I like to think of Big Bad Wolves as a blend of 2012's The Hunt and 2013's Prisoners with a pinch of Tarantino's signature humor. The story is dark and sinister, and the humor is just as black. But, the humor does help liven the film up a bit, and will likely make the film more tolerable for those not accustomed to the dark side of cinema. Regardless, this is my cup of tea -- exactly the type of films I love -- the type of film that can make you uncomfortable yet laugh out loud at the same time. The fact the film dared to enter taboo territory was enough to interest me, but the masterful execution kept me hooked. The meticulously-crafted balance of thrills, shocks, and humor also kept me thoroughly invested.

The acting is fantastic. Tzahi Grad really steals the show with his performance, and I thought Rotem Keinan was great, as well. The film is shot beautifully; I thought the cinematography was great in the basement scenes. The use of music is superb; some of the music sounds like horror music for a fairytale adaptation, and it was fantastic; the soundtrack was also well used in creating some of the black humor. Directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado carefully craft this sinister film; it has pinches of Scorsese and Tarantino, but also manages to have a distinct style.

Overall, Big Bad Wolves is an amazing film. It's shocking in both subject and visuals. And, it has a familiar pinch of black humor that adds to this film's distinct style. I was thoroughly entertained, and I was equally shocked -- this is a must watch films for fans of the genre. I only wish it took just a little more time to develop the situation -- it kind of just drops you in there.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, including sequences of torture.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Film Review: Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained (Review) 
United States/2012 
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay)
Netflix Streaming: No 
Amazon Prime: No 

"...superb acting from DiCaprio and Waltz."

Texas 1858, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) inquires the Speck Brothers about a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx), who he seeks for his bounty hunting business...  

Django Unchained starts by following Schultz and Django as they hunt the Brittle Brothers, whom Schultz needs Django to identify. After Django shows off his exemplary skills and his need for vengeance, Schultz invites Django to work with him for the winter; afterward, Schultz will aid Django in finding and rescuing Django's wife, Broomhilda. This leads them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the Candyland plantation. The story in Django Unchained is much larger, coming in at huge 2 hours and 45 minutes, but I don't want to drag the review with too many details. Django Unchained holds up for most of its ginormous runtime, and the ending is great. 

Django Unchained is a fantastic western film. The story blends action, humor, and drama very well. The use of these elements also helps in creating a very distinct western, as well as a very vibrant and lively world. Furthermore, thanks to the versatility of the story, it never seems to lose momentum for the bulk of its runtime. One moment I'll be laughing out loud at the cheeky humor, the next I'll be enjoying an extremely violent and stylized shootout; and it uses these different energies to keep the movie moving and the audience on its feet.                    
                                                                                     
And, if that's not enough, the film is well paced and balanced through its use of character introductions; all of the characters aren't introduced at once, so characters like Calvin Candie and Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) appear with perfect timing to keep the momentum up. However, I did feel like the final act of the film did lose some momentum – instead of using some cheeky humor or a new character to liven the film, it opts for a longer action sequence – I love the action, but it just feels like it doesn't know when to end.  

The acting is superb from the entire cast. Jamie Foxx's performance is fantastic. However, I feel as if Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio fully dominated the screen – both actors are fully immersed into their characters and deliver stunning performances. Samuel L. Jackson's humorous performance also adds to the momentum and balance of the film. Although the music may seem out of place, I thought it was excellent; it really help differentiate the film from others in the genre. The cinematography is superb, as well. The costume and set design aid in creating the aforementioned vibrant and lively world. Writer and director Quentin Tarantino is ingenious; the film oozes with originality and style. 

Overall, I loved Django Unchained. I was thoroughly entertained. It may be excessively violent and even offensive to some, but I couldn't help but laugh and have a great time throughout most of the film. The finale loses some steam, but the rest of its aspects are exemplary – especially the superb acting from DiCaprio and Waltz. 
 Score: 9/10 
Parental Guide: Very strong violence and blood, and nudity.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Film Review: Eastern Promises (2007)

Eastern Promises (Review) 
United Kingdom/2007 
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Universal Studios) 
Netflix Streaming: No 
Amazon Prime: No 

"...it doesn't really hold anything back..."

When a 14-year-old girl dies during labor, midwife Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) delves into her diary to find her identity and a suitable relative to adopt the surviving child. However, the diary holds much darker secrets connecting with the Russian mafia... 

Eastern Promises is a dark, disturbing mafia film with strong themes, subtle commentary, and respectable authenticity. Beginning with a graphic murder, the film takes you on a simple yet complex trip through the Russian criminal underworld via Anna and her complicated relationship with the "driver", Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen). What I mean is: the plot is straight-forward and by-the-books, but the character is deep and complex. I usually don't mention it if this element is present, to avoid spoilers and keep the element of surprise, but I feel like I should: there is a twist in this film, and I think it's easy to see it coming from a mile away. Not only that, but I felt like it really wasn't necessary. But, then again, the character, Nikolai, works out either way. Regardless, the ending is great, it gives some hope yet has an ambiguous, open-ended vibe.  

Eastern Promises works very well as a gritty crime film. It has unexpectedly graphic violence, realistic sex, and honest mafia crime ceremonies and other workings; it doesn't really hold anything back, and delivers its realism with full force. There is also plenty of tension and suspense, and some action. It all comes down to the characters, though, and these characters are deep -- they are characters you can relate to and even empathize with. The story, as simple as it may seem, keeps you hooked from beginning to end with engaging storytelling and significant plot points at every corner. Like I said, I'm not a big fan of the twist, but it isn't significantly detrimental to the experience. 

Naomi Watts is great with a believable performance. Viggo Mortensen steals the show with a charismatic performance, a strong and complex performance. Vincent Cassel is a fantastic actor, and I'm happy to say he delivers great support in a, well, amazing supporting role. The music is subtle yet well-fitted and memorable, it really blends seamlessly with the film to create a very immersive experience. The film Is shot beautifully, despite the disturbing subject and consistent violence. Director David Cronenberg delivers a focused and complex film, and hooks the audience with a sublime style. 
  
Overall, Eastern Promises is a dark crime thriller, with a simple plot, but a complex cast of characters -- as fantastic as it is on the surface, Eastern Promises gets better as you dig deeper. It's a must-watch film for all film fans.  

Score: 9/10  
Parental Guide: Strong graphic violence and blood, sex and nudity, including full-frontal nudity.