Tuesday, September 30, 2014

31 Days of Halloween 2014 + Blog Update #2

Are you ready for 31 days of pure horror? I sure am. Starting October 1st and going all the way up to October 31st, I'll be delivering a horror movie review for you every day at 7 in the morning (Pacific Standard Time). That's 31 reviews in 31 days. This is CinematicAddiction's second annual 31 Days of Halloween special, and I am very excited! If you have any requests, bad or good, let me know in the comments -- I might be able to fit them in! Make sure you bookmark the homepage and follow me on Twitter @JonathanCA_KMR to keep up with this special event.

I also wanted to share a quick update on CinematicAddiction.com. As of this month, September of 2014, I have passed over 400 reviews. Even more special, we've had a daily update every day since July 1st, a bulk of them being reviews! At this rate, this site will have over 500 reviews by the end of the year – I think that's an amazing accomplishment, and I am very proud. We also passed another major milestone this month: we have received over 100,000 pageviews! That's right, if you're reading this now, you are 100,000 pageviews late – what took you so long?

In all seriousness, thank you for reading! I write reviews for every movie I watch for you – the reader. I've watched some of the best movies and some of the very worst movies, and I do it for you – I'll watch every Scorsese and Spielberg film and every film from The Asylum as long as you keep reading. Once again, thanks for reading, and I look forward to the future of our website.
 
Jonathan S
@JonathanCA_KMR

Monday, September 29, 2014

Film Review: YellowBrickRoad (2010)

YellowBrickRoad (Review)
United States/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...this is one road you should avoid."

In 1940, the entire population of Friar walked up a mountain trail into the wilderness and ended up slaughter and disappeared. Now, a group of researchers recreate the event and attempt to solve the mystery...

YellowBrickRoad starts off with a promising premise. An entire population walks into the wilderness and suffer mysterious deaths. It sets up a great mystery with endless possibilities. Unfortunately, it doesn't explore these opportunities. Instead, YellowBrickRoad continues to follow this group as they aimlessly wander the woods, eat and drink, bicker and fight, and get lost. Eventually, they start hearing music in the woods, which is initially interesting, but it never builds up on that idea. Then, they go crazy and madness ensues. The story drags to a mediocre ending; it's open for interpretation, like most of the movie, but its also bland and too ambiguous.

YellowBrickRoad is a disappointment. The story is initially interesting, but it never capitalizes on the original idea. Instead, the film takes a more "metaphorical" route and that would've been fine if it was executed properly, but it's not. It hits you over the head with obvious "metaphors" over and over like a child shouting for attention. On that point, the film further suffers from being dreadfully repetitive. If that's not enough, the film is also dreadfully slow-paced; there is no burn or atmosphere to help the pace, either. Combine the repetitiveness and the slow-pace with a longwinded and uneventful plot and you have a boring film. And I must stress, it's booooring -- with that many o's, you can guess its boring, right? There was one gory scene in this film, but it comes off as laughably out of place. Otherwise, there isn't a shred of horror.

The acting was decent. Some of the castmates were duds, but it's more than tolerable. The cinematography is good; the film is shot competently. I like the use of audio in the film; the music in the woods is the one creative aspect of the film. The most notable technical flaws come from the writing/directing pair of Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton -- they seem too concerned with delivering a symbolic/metaphoric film than an entertaining movie. The writing sloppy, the direction lacks conviction and originality, and there is a severe lack of anything horror.

Overall, YellowBrickRoad started off as a promising horror/mystery, but it quickly disappoints. This is one of those rare films that suffers from trying way too hard. It's not scary, it's unnecessarily slow, it's uneventful, and the runtime is bloated -- this is a poisonous combination for any film. And, this is one road you should avoid.

Score: 2/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and gore.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Film Review: Anaconda (1997)

Anaconda (Review)
United States/Brazil/1997
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...hindered by a contrived plot, stupid characters, and a lack of reptiles."

A documentary crew searching for a long-lost tribe on the Amazon River bump heads with a stranded hunter and the world's largest anaconda...

Anaconda follows this film crew -- mostly director Terri (Jennifer Lopez) and cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube) -- as they are kidnapped by a deceitful snake hunter, Serone (Jon Voight), they picked up earlier. At first, Serone seems like an honest and helpful hunter, but he quickly shows his true intentions: to catch the world's largest anaconda. The crew will face the anaconda here and there, attempt an escape, and... that's it, actually. Not much actually happens in this thin plot. The third act is the worst, though, and the ending was cheesy.

Anaconda really feels like a cheesy 90s b-movie. Unfortunately, it's not very entertaining, though. The first act of the film feels like a waste of time -- it doesn't efficiently buildup up the premise and it doesn't do much otherwise. It gets interesting when Serone shows his true intentions, but it also piles on many flaws. The film packs many, many plot contrivances from this point forward. "Did he say stay still? I better sprint away!" "Curse these butterfingers, I dropped my knife!" "I'm going to kill you, but not really!" These plot points are not only contrived, but, as you can see, the characters are blatantly stupid.

Aside from the lack of buildup, the plot contrivances, and the stupid characters, the film also fails to use its main attraction effectively: the anaconda! At one point, I had to ask: is this film about an anaconda? Or, am I watching an Ice Cube and J Lo music video? This problem is most blatant during the first half of the film. It does recover a bit during the latter half, though. There is some mild suspense, too. The entire film, though, has a refreshing sense of adventure. Maybe it was the great environment or some of the set-pieces, but Anaconda has a this unexplainable sense of adventure -- it's like something I'd like to see as an attraction at Universal Studios.

The acting is all-around decent. Jennifer Lopez, who stars in The Cell, is good. Ice Cube plays Ice Cube, so he's right at home. (why are you always mad, Cube? What did I ever do to you?) Jon Voight was great, though, he was scarier than the anaconda. The cinematography is good, it captured the environment well. The music is standard for a thriller. Some of the practical effects are decent, but most are outdated; the computer effects especially stick out like a sore thumb, they did not age well. Director Luis Llosa does well in building up some decent suspense here and there, and the sense of adventure is refreshing; however, Llosa is held back by shoddy writing, and the severe under-utilization of the titular reptile.

Overall, Anaconda is a mediocre film. It's an interesting concept and has a few great moments, but it's mostly hindered by a contrived plot, stupid characters, and a lack of reptiles. I didn't expect the anaconda to be on-screen at all times, but I was hoping its presence would be in the atmosphere -- something you don't have to see, but you can feel. I revisited for nostalgia's sake, but I am leaving disappointed. Stream or rent, if you're interested.

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

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Film Review: Strange Circus (2005)

Strange Circus (Review)
Japan/2005
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...so effective, it's hypnotizing."

Novelist Taeko (Masumi Miyazaki) is writing an unusually disturbing tale about the torment a young girl named Mitsuko endured.

Strange Circus begins with the disturbing story of Mitsuko's childhood. A childhood filled with sexual and physical abuse from her father and mother. A twisted tale of abuse, incest, suicide and murder. The film then transitions to Taeko, who is writing the story about Mitsuko. Taeko is assited by Yuji (Issei Ishida), who believes the story may be Taeko's autobiography. Yuji sets out to unravel the mystery with his own intentions. The climax is as twisted as the rest of the film, and the ending is haunting. It's ambiguous and uncertain, but chilling and thought-provoking.

Strange Circus is a challenging film. It's a film that enters taboo territory without warning. It brings you into a disturbing and depraved world filled with gruesome violence and deviant sex. And, it's oh so hypnotizing. Sure, it's disturbing, but it's hard to take you're eyes off the screen. It blends surreal horror visuals with true-to-life horror to create an incredibly effective and engaging experience -- an unforgettable experience. And, due to it being so taboo, the story is refreshing and original.

This is definitely not for those who can't handle the "taboo" or those who have never even been near it -- I think it'll be shocking for those who are inexperienced. But, those who don't mind being tested, those who don't mind entering uncharted territory, and those who have ventured past Hollywood -- this is a twisted experience worth testing your limits. The only issue I had was during the second act, where it often slows down -- a bit of an inconsistent pace, I suppose.

Masumi Miyazaki dominates the screen with a superb and versatile performance. The rest of the cast offer great supporting performances. The film looks amazing thanks to its great cinematography and nightmarish set designs. The visual aspect of the film plays a large role, and it's thankfully all-around superb. The music helps create the ominous atmosphere -- it's spine-tingling and creepy, and memorable. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are great -- hardly any errors. Writer and director Sion Sono, who also helms Cold Fish, is a true visionary; more importantly, he's an effective visionary without compromise.

Overall, Strange Circus is a twisted horror-drama hybrid. It's a film with disturbing themes and even more disturbing execution. But, it's incredibly effective -- so effective, it's hypnotizing. It's a film that sets out to tell a story without comprising, and it does so. Finally, it's not a film for everyone -- if any of the themes I mentioned earlier already disturb you, this film's graphic presentation will scar you.

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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Film Review: Bloodsport (1988)

Bloodsport (Review)
United States/1988
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...attractively charming and cheesy and it is immensely entertaining."

Frank Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) of the USA travels to Hong Kong to participate in the Kumite -- an underground, full-contact martial arts tournament.

Bloodsport follows Frank Dux as he participates in the Kumite, along with several other fighters from around the world with different fighting styles. There some sappy background information, but it serves mostly as a training montage. There is also a subplot about a reporter trying to cover the Kumite and her romance with Dux, and two CID officers who are searching for Dux in Hong Kong; these subplots were uninspired and dull. Fortunately, the bulk of the story is the actual Kumite event. After several ferocious fights, Bloodsport leads to great climax and satisfying 80s ending.

Bloodsport is a very cheesy 80s martial arts action movie. The dialogue is often very unnatural and unintentionally humorous; the first act of the film, which is mostly a flashback, is the biggest culprit -- I laughed a lot at the terrible dialogue and delivery. Aside from the laughable dialogue, Bloodsport is also very cliché. I think there's a sports cliché around every corner; it even has the "introspective thinking while I'm alone before the final fight" cliché. For a film critic who holds these technicalities to a flaw, Bloodsport is a bad film.

But, I'm not an everyday film critic. -- I don't review movies purely based off of traditional technicalities and flaws. I found Bloodsport to be immensely entertaining. The cheesy dialogue and clichés were actually charming, in my opinion. Kind of like the b-movie charm and humor I found in The Incredible Melting Man. Combine this attractive 80s b-movie charm with some vicious action sequences, and you have an all-around entertaining movie. The action is great, despite most fights being in the form of montage, I loved the different styles of martial arts and how they clashed. The two major issues I had with the film were the useless journalist and CID subplots -- these really cut into the flow of the film, and lacked the charm of the rest of the film.

I'll be blunt: the acting is bad from the entire cast. Apart from the shoddy dialogue writing, the cast plays a major role in the unintentional humor of the film. Jean-Claude Van Damme sounds very unnatural when he speaks, he lacks fluidity in his spoken word; however, he's charismatic and has a strong on-screen presence, and he's also more than physically capable for the role. The film looks good, though. And, the music is fantastic; the Bloodsport soundtrack, despite adding to some clichés, is superb. Director Newt Arnold delivers a cliché and unintentionally hilarious film with exceptional fight sequences; I think his direction would be bad if I had watched this in the 80s, but it's unexplainably charming now.

Overall, Bloodsport is a very good martial arts action movie. It has bad dialogue, bad acting, and bad subplots, but it is attractively charming and cheesy and it is immensely entertaining. The music is also fantastic (listen to it, even if you don't watch the movie), and Jean-Claude Van Damme is great in the many fight sequences. If you like cheesy movies and martial arts, this is worth watching.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Film Review: Spiderhole (2010)

Spiderhole (Review)
United Kingdom/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"For everything this film does right, it does two things wrong."

Molly (Emma Malin) and three of her fellow homeless art classmates go squatting, but find themselves the target of a hidden evil...

Spiderhole starts off promising. Sure, it doesn't really give us a reason to like these arrogant characters, but it introduces an interesting concept. The buildup is decent and the home is creepy. However, as the film enters its second act, it quickly dwindles and becomes, well, boring. The students are targeted by an unknown surgeon who locks them in the home, but it really feels like nothing is happening. The film becomes more contrived during the final act; the ending is uncertain, and even infuriating.

You know, the type of anger you feel when you're screaming at the characters on screen for their stupidity. Unfortunately, there's plenty of it. You're reading it right: not only are these characters unlikable, they're also stupid. I won't spoil any of the film, but there are so many opportunities for the characters to escape or change their situation, it's mind-numbing to watch them do otherwise. ("Oh, my boyfriend might be injured or possibly dead, I should go explore by myself.")

There is some decent suspense here and there, but nothing particularly terrifying. It's kind of hard to even consider this a horror film considering the lack of horror. Based of the trailer, I was expecting some torture or violence, but even that is limited -- at least in terms of what you actually see, most of the time you witness the aftermath. This is part of the reason the latter half of the film feels like there is nothing going on -- because there really is nothing going on.

The acting is okay, though. I didn't think any of it was bad, but it was definitely overacted. (You can't really blame the actors for the characters they play.) The film looks nice, the interiors look creepy. The music blends well with the film, too. I think writer and director Daniel Simpson has the visuals locked down -- the film is stylish and looks great. However, Simpson's plot is hollow and boring, and Simpson struggles to conjure any genuine horror.

Overall, Spiderhole is a bad film. The film starts off promising and the concept has great potential, but the execution is severely flawed. There simply isn't enough story in this film, and the lack of horror makes it even more boring and bland. For everything this film does right, it does two things wrong. There are much better films to watch, I'd avoid this until you get through all of the good films on your list.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex and brief nudity.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Film Review: Rainbow Song (2006)

Rainbow Song (Review)
Japan/2006
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the perfect film to make you feel."

After the loss of his dear friend Aoi Sato (Juri Ueno), Tomoya Kishida (Hayato Ichihara) recollects the significant events they shared...

Rainbow Song begins in the present where Kishida works at a small television studio and receives news of Aoi's unfortunate passing. The film then turns to the conception of their relationship and leads up up to their final goodbyes; in between, we see the pair work on films, seek employment, and console each other during their complicated love lives. It's relatively simple, but extremely effective. The ending is powerful -- it's bittersweet, and allows the film to linger in your mind long after its ending.

Rainbow Song is a fantastic drama. The story's simplicity is attractive to most genre fans, but the characters are the film's main dish. The relationship between Kishida and Aoi is meticulously and masterfully crafted. Every scene they share works efficiently in developing their friendship and their hidden romance. That's also what I love about the film: every scene has a purpose. The film has little-to-no filler content and moves at a moderate pace -- it kept me hooked from beginning to end.

Furthermore, Rainbow Song is a very human experience. It feels very real and genuine. The film's focus on character and relationship allows for a connection between audience and, well, film. And, I was very connected. But, it's not just romance, either. The film also has a focus on general life and the ups and downs we go through -- this, of course, also felt very genuine. In fact, it was also very contemplative and reflective; it's a film that made me reflect on my life and my choices -- there aren't many films that do that nowadays.

The acting is great. Okay, it's superb. Juri Ueno and Hayato Ichihara are great leads, and share great charisma and chemistry. More importantly, the pair emphasize the human-aspect of the film. The film is also beautifully shot; the music compliments the often somber tones of the film. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream has great subtitles, too. Director Naoto Kumazawa (who also assists in the writing) masterfully crafts a thought-provoking and genuinely emotional drama without the melodramatics -- it's one of the most human films I've ever watched.

Overall, Rainbow Song is a masterpiece. It's a powerful drama with deep contemplative and reflective values. It's a film that will make you think about the actual film, but about your life as well. It's a film that doesn't sugarcoat its subject nor does it resort to the melodramatics. It's much more than a romance film, it's a film about life. It's as joyful and happy as it is somber and saddening, the perfect film to make you feel.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: The film is generally safe for most audiences. It does deal with themes of death and has some sexual references, but it is far from graphic.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Film Review: Shrooms (2007)

Shrooms (Review)
Ireland/2007
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the horror is particularly weak and ineffective..."

A group of American tourists and their tour guide take shrooms in the woods... with psychedelically deadly consequences.

So, Tara (Lindsey Haun) and her friends, which consist of your typical horror cutouts, travel 5,000 miles to culturally-rich Ireland to... consume shrooms? Then, they decide to lock their phones and give the keys to the douchebag jock to achieve... a natural trip? And, for some reason, Tara, who has never consumed drugs, decides to eat a... random shroom she fell near? And, I'm writing like this... why? Okay, if you're wondering about the question marks, it's because the story was just stupid at times. After these dumb choices, the film becomes a traditional "run in the woods from an unknown entity" film. The ending is very predictable and underwhelming, too.

Shrooms is an interesting concept with flawed execution. Although the ideas of going to Ireland for shrooms and isolating oneself while doing it are irrational, the concept of doing shrooms while facing some unknown evil is cool. Early on in the film, I knew what was happening and how it would end, but I was hooked -- I stuck to it to the end and had at least some fun. The suspense is light, and there are only a few gory scenes. There are also some decent visuals. But, overall, the horror is lightweight. And, even at such a short runtime, the film felt too long and bloated -- would've been much more effective as a short film.

Leading lady Lindsey Haun overacted the bulk of her performance; I think it was unintentionally funny because of her performance. The rest of the acting was surprisingly decent, despite the characters being generic cardboard cutouts. There are a couple of scenes that are too dark to see, but the general cinematography was also decent. It's an up-to-standard horror film when it comes to the technical side. Director Paddy Breathnach has a great concept at hand, but fails to utilize it; the horror is particularly weak and ineffective, and so is the story.

Overall, Shrooms is a mediocre horror film. It's not terribly bad, but it doesn't do much, either. It's interesting and short enough to kill an hour and a half, but it's also forgettable and occasionally boring. If you have nothing else to watch and you need to kill a night, this might be worth streaming.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some implied sex.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Film Review: Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012)

Starship Troopers: Invasion (Review)
United States/Japan/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"Shoot bugs here, shoot bugs there, and not much variety anywhere."

After rescuing the troopers of Fort Casey, starship Alesia is ordered to search for and investigate the Warden, which has broken all contact...

Starship Troopers: Invasion begins with a great, action-packed introduction. Then, we get some time to cozy up with the generic cast of characters in a mediocre attempt to recreate the cheesy atmosphere of the original Starship Troopers. I usually like character development, but didn't really enjoy it this time around -- these characters just didn't click for me. Fortunately, when these troopers board the Warden, the film becomes an action-packed extravaganza. The film's ending is predictable, but I liked it.

Maybe I spoke a little too soon, though, the film isn't problem-free as soon as they board the Warden. The film's action is completely reliant on shoot em' up, which is good for a moment, but becomes repetitive. Shoot bugs here, shoot bugs there, and not much variety anywhere. There is some cool mech action, but only during the climax; I really wish they had used this more often, we don't get enough mech action, nowadays, at least at this smaller scale. The one-note action makes the simple story more difficult to get through. It's exciting at first, but even explosions get boring after a while.

The voice cast is good. Nothing special and nothing particularly bad. (I couldn't help but think the voice cast would've been better in Japanese.) The visuals are superb when it comes to the settings and environments -- they look realistic, with the colors and lighting adding to the atmosphere. The character designs, much like the character themselves, look bland and uninspired; Johnny Rico looks like Big Boss from the Metal Gear Solid series. The music is your standard action soundtrack, but it does help in creating some epic moments. Director Shinji Aramaki does well in creating a consistent action thrill ride, but it feels like a been-there-done-that experience with a blatant lack of variety.

Overall, Starship Troopers: Invasion is a good action animation film. The story is simple enough for anyone to jump into -- fan of the series or otherwise. The action is exciting and thrilling, but very repetitive. The visuals are also at times luscious, but the character designs are lacking; although Shinji Aramaki directs both, the visuals don't quite match those of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, either.  It's a fun time-killer, but I don't see myself watching this again, at least for a long time.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Violence and some gore, nudity.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Film Review: Penumbra (2011)

Penumbra (Review)
Spain/2011
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...the bulk of the film is boring."

Arrogant businesswoman Marga (Cristina Brondo) finds herself renting an apartment to an eccentric man with hidden intentions...

Penumbra follows Marga as she attempts to seal the deal and rent out the apartment. It begins with Marga negotiating with one man, then with his "driver" or supervisor, then a pair of lawyers... Anyway, they're all waiting for the client, who eagerly wants to rent the apartment and wants to pay multiple times the price and in advance. And that's basically all they do, though: wait. Eventually (more like during the last 20 minutes, excluding credits), the story picks up for a great climax and good ending.

I really appreciate buildup, especially when it's tense and suspenseful. Penumbra has buildup, but it has too much buildup for its own good. Sure, there is some suspense and a solid creep factor during the first two acts, but most of it is really Marga conducting business and, you guessed it, waiting. If the uneventful story doesn't put you off, the dreadfully slow pace might. Again, I love slow-burners, but this one is too slow for its own good. Don't mind an uneventful story and an unnecessarily slow pace? Well, on top of those two glaring issues, you also have to put up with Marga's annoying arrogance -- she's not a very likeable character.

Fortunately, as I previously mentioned, there is some decent suspense here and there. Not nearly enough to fully redeem the first two tedious acts, but enough to make them tolerable and engaging. The film becomes more engaging, more suspenseful, and generally more entertaining during the final act. It's eventful, twisted, and violent. It's like at this point, directors Adrián and Ramiro García Bogliano realized they needed to spruce up the film and thought, "I know, let's move the story forward, lets amp up the suspense, let's toss in gallons of blood, and make sure to lather Cristina Brondo's boobs in baby oil... Yes, yes... Excellent."

The acting isn't demanding nor does it really demand. Leading lady Cristina Brondo is passable, but also a little bland and unnatural. This is partly due to the actual performance, but also due to some of the shoddy dialogue writing. (She's foine, though. That's fine with an o, which makes it more fine.) I like the cinematography and music, it makes the film feel more atmospheric, kind of like a throwback horror film. Directors Adrián and Ramiro García Bogliano have a great grasp on the style of Penumbra, but are inefficient in storytelling and actual writing. (Adrián García Bogliano went on to helm Here Comes The Devil, which is a much better horror film.)

Overall, Penumbra is a mediocre film. It has some solid suspense here and there, and a great climax and ending, but the bulk of the film is boring. That's the best way to describe it: boring. It could've been so much more, but instead we get a short film that's stretched into feature length. Cristina Brondo is a looker, though, if that helps...

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

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Film Review: The Tortured (2010)

The Tortured (Review)
United States/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a passable torture film."

After their child is abducted and killed, couple Elise (Erika Christensen) and Craig Landry (Jesse Metcalfe) seek justice... even if they have to do it themselves.

The Tortured drops you right into the abduction. The only time we see Elise and Craig with their child is during a few generic flashback montages during the first act. After this quick introduction, the serial killer goes to trial, Elise and Craig disagree with the sentence and decide to kidnap and torture him themselves. The rest of the film is the titular torture -- some very gruesome and demented stuff. I appreciate the attempt at the ending, but it didn't really land for me.

The biggest issue for The Tortured is the lack of buildup. Like I said, the film immediately drops you into the situation without any character or relationship buildup. It tries to make up for this with some generic montages, but it doesn't work. I'd love to root for these parents and feel their pain, but it is difficult to do so when you can't even identify with their character; in other words, the characters are practically nonexistent.

This, in turn, may make the film's violence feel more gratuitous than it already is. The violence is effective in creating some cringe-inducing moments, though. Fans of torture films (it feels odd saying that for some reason) will feel right at home with this graphic circus of violence and, well, torture. Not only is it physical, but it's also a little psychological. Other than the creative torture, there is some surprising suspense and tension. The only other issues the story faces are its contrived storytelling and plot contrivances; there are some inconsistent character arcs, too.

The acting is good for the most part. Erika Christensen is good during most of the film; she tends to overact whenever the role becomes demanding, though. I thought Jesse Metcalfe really under-performed during the introduction, but he got much better as the film progressed; I think he really brought it home. Otherwise, it's a fairly straightforward thriller. Director Robert Lieberman is able to conjure some decent suspense and some shocking violence; however, Marek Posival's writing is generic and contrived -- it seems like he spend most of his creativity thinking about torture rather than the themes in the film.

Overall, The Tortured is a merely decent film. It's short runtime, fast pace, and engaging story make this a great time killer. Ultimately, though, the film fails to deliver any effective buildup, fails to develop any character, and it fails to use its thought-provoking themes. It has so much potential, but instead opts to be passable torture film. And that's all it really is: a passable torture film.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Graphic violence and blood, some brief sex and partial nudity.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Film Review: Partick Evil Awakens (2013)

Patrick: Evil Awakens (Review)
Australia/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...jump-scares, jump-scares, and more jump-scares."

Kathy (Sharni Vinson) is hired as a nurse in Dr. Roget's (Charles Dance) psychiatric clinic where she encounters Patrick (Jackson Gallagher), a comatose patient with hidden secrets... and powers.

Patrick: Evil Awakens is a creative concept with decent execution. The story continues follow Kathy after she's hired as she becomes intrigued by Patrick. She realizes he can actually communicate -- first through spitting, then through his psychic powers. In the meantime, Patrick begins to interfere with Kathy's personal life, which takes Kathy a very long time to realize. The climax is bloody, but longwinded, and the ending was mediocre.

Patrick: Evil Awakens is heavily dependent on its loud-noise jump scares. In fact, that's pretty much all of the horror in the film: jump-scares, jump-scares, and more jump-scares. There is some decent suspense during some scenes, but it always relies on jump-scares. I can't even count how many there were in the film. They're not very effective, but I thought they were at least fun and occasionally exciting.

Aside from the one-note horror, Patrick: Evil Awakens features the classic "dumb as rocks" characters we usually find in horror films. Kathy is book smart, but it takes her forever to realize what is happening -- it's almost frustrating. She meddles and interferes with the doctor's work, but can't seem to piece together how she's the victim. Other characters are stupid, too, but I don't think you need anymore examples.

The acting was surprisingly good for the most part. Sharni Vinson does very well during the first two acts; however, she becomes mediocre when the role becomes demanding during the ending. I think Charles Dance is the standout, a great performance. Jackson Gallagher... doesn't really do anything; he lays in bed and spits, should've given me the role. The film looks good, definitely captures an old-school horror vibe. The film also has a throwback-style soundtrack; I think it'll sound great on its own (i.e. If you were to purchase the album), but it's too overwhelming and intrusive for the film. Director Mark Hartley is good, but, like the rest of the film, the direction fails during the ending.

Overall, Patrick: Evil Awakens is a good film. The concept is creative -- at least for those who haven't seen the original film, like myself -- and the jump-scares are fun and exciting. However, the film begins to crumble during the final act with a longwinded climax and mediocre ending. And, the over reliance on jump-scares will make this film less exciting and effective during a second viewing.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, nudity, and some sex.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Film Review: Mean Creek (2004)

Mean Creek (Review)
United States/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it has a deep and resonating contemplative value."

After becoming tired of arrogant and troubled bully George (Josh Peck), a group of friends plan their payback...

Mean Creek is a very simple yet effective story. The story follows this group of friends as they plan to get their vengeance during a boating trip -- it particularly follows bullied Sam (Rory Culkin) and his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan), although others participate. Anyway, their plan goes too far and the friends have to deal with the devastating aftermath. The story loses some momentum after climax -- it really starts to adopt those long "art house" shots, which unnecessarily lengthens some scenes. However, I think the ending is great; it gives just enough to satisfy, and more than enough to leave you thinking.

That's really the best part of the film, in my opinion: it has a deep and resonating contemplative value. The story is simple, but the characters are deep and complex; these characters feel like actual people, which creates a more emotional aspect, as well, a very deep emotional connection. It's like one of those moments where you see yourself in one of the characters. The conflict is devastating and complex; should I really empathize with a bully? Did he get what was coming? Is it fate? Mean Creek is one of those films that left my mind running -- it left me questioning myself.

It's truly a powerful drama. You can love it for its contemplative value, or its great tension and emotional story; I think the latter should appeal to most audiences, this film has a nerve-shredding buildup. The only issue I had with the film was the loss of momentum after the climax. It's still a great third act, but it's pacing seemed off. It has the type of scenes where dead silence amongst the characters take over and we see long shots of the characters faces and the scenery. These are effective as we get to see what the characters are feeling, but I felt like they dragged on for too long. Again, it's not a major issue, but it's noticeable and worth noting -- especially for those who dislike arthouse.

The acting is superb from the entire cast -- they are the reason for this human experience. Scott Mechlowicz is fantastic, a very strong and versatile performance. Josh Peck is particularly impressive; I think he's very well casted, and he has a lot of conviction behind this performance. The film looks beautiful; the cinematography really caught my eye. The music is very effective and blends very well with the film; sometimes it looks and sounds more like a music video, though. Writer and director Jacob Aaron Estes does very well in crafting the characters, building up the climax, and deliver an overall haunting experience; it does suffer from some pacing issues, though.

Overall, Mean Creek is a fantastic drama. It's a film about the bully and the bullied without ever feeling one-sided; it's all-around empathetic, you can't help but feel during this experience. If you like films with great tension and a genuine conflict, as well as films with that can make you think, Mean Creek is for you.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, some brief nudity.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Film Review: Gothic (1986)

Gothic (Review)
United Kingdom/1986
Format Watched For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a difficult film to recommend..."

The Shelley's visit eccentric Lord Byron’s (Gabriel Byrne) estate and find themselves dealing with their innermost nightmares...

Gothic follows this small group consisting of Lord Byron, his physician, poet Percy Shelley, his future wife Mary Godwin, and her half-sister Claire Clairmont as they spend a night in Lord Byron's villa. They tell ghost stories and confess their deepest demons, which causes a night of nightmares and terror. Honestly, not much really happens in the story. In fact, the latter half of the film really consists of this group wandering the halls of this ominous home and attempting to stop whatever they have awoken. Convoluted and somewhat uneventful, Gothic leads to an interesting climax and a decent ending – it's not perfect or definitive, much like the rest of the film, but it is satisfactory.

The story is okay. I didn't think it was all-that good, but it was also far from bad. It just seemed to be uneventful and often blatantly boring. The story suffers more from the convoluted storytelling. To be completely honest, I couldn't give you a definitive explanation for most of the film if I tried -- maybe it is confusing, or maybe I'm stupid (let me know in the comments. But, don't call me stupid. Okay, you can call me stupid.) Gothic ultimately feels very messy when it comes down to the actual plot. I appreciate the attempt at connecting this night of terror to the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but it just doesn't land for me.

This is unfortunate, too, considering I am a big fan of visual-heavy films. I love films that venture into the nightmarish territories – films that create surreal atmospheres through visuals and taboo themes. Gothic has a lot of that, and I liked most of it. In fact, the visuals are a saving grace for an otherwise boring and uneventful story – as previously mentioned. But, a film simply can't be fully redeemed by awesome visuals -- it just can't. So, it helps, but not nearly enough.

The acting is okay by 80s horror standards. I think the cast nails it at times, like Gabriel Byrne, but they tend to overact often, too. The film looks great, though; I loved the cinematography and the camerawork, I especially loved the lighting; this further amplifies the great nightmarish visuals I mentioned earlier, and helps create an ominous atmosphere for the rest of the film. Gothic has a soundtrack that I would love to hear on its own; with the film, it tends to create an inconsistent mood – it's adventurous and exciting one second, then terrifying, then back to fun. I like Ken Russell's direction, I feel like he did well in crafting the visuals and the atmosphere of the film, as well as a great job screen direction and performances; however, I think the writing is bad – I wasn't a big fan of the story or the storytelling.

Overall, Gothic is a mediocre film. The story is interesting, but it is also uneventful, occasionally confusing, and often boring. The visuals help create some terror and help create an immersive atmosphere, but it's more eye-candy than substance. I think Ken Russell builds a great atmosphere and captures the madness well, but the screenwriting and the story hold him back. It's a difficult film to recommend, but I think it might be a film that gets better with a second viewing.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Film Review: Lala Pipo: A Lot of People (2009)

Lala Pipo: A Lot of People (Review)
Japan/2009 
Format Watched For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...a confused film..."

The sexual misadventures of six people living in Tokyo, Japan.

Lala Pipo: A Lot of People is the story of a lot of people. The film follows a charismatic scout, who picks up women and persuades them into joining the adult video industry; an up-and-coming AV star who is recruited by said scout; a mature nymphomaniac who works in the AV industry; a karaoke box staff who believes he is an special agent from space; a lonesome writer whose only friend is his buddy down below; and, finally, an aspiring voice actress who secretly films her sexual misadventures. Although each story interconnects, I didn't think it was done very well. The ending is okay, too.

The problem with Lala Pipo is that it's a confused film – or maybe I'm part of a confused audience. The film begins as a raunchy and irreverent comedy, but quite often leans towards a sad and depressing drama. And, it tends to jump back and forth between both genres, without any subtly, which creates an inconsistent mood. Should I be laughing at this man's talking private parts? Or should I be sad at his loneliness? Honestly, it almost feels like I'm watching two different movies. One wants to be as sexually irreverent and blunt as possible, and the other wants to deliver a social message about life; unfortunately, the former is decent, and the latter never really lands.

I mean, the characters are interesting. They fall into some very humorous situations, but it doesn’t offer nearly enough character to relate. It has a message – maybe about people and reaching for new heights, and loving oneself, and so on – but it's simply lost in translation. As for the humor, I laughed a handful of times. I love black comedies, and this one has some great irreverent humor – emphasis on some, because not all of the humor is great. In fact, some of the humor doesn't work out due to the inconsistent serious tones I previously mentioned. Furthermore, the film tends to drag its feet; there are plenty of characters, but not enough story, so the film feels much longer than the short hour and a half runtime.

The acting is good from the cast. Nothing special or terrible, simply good. The film is also shot well, and it has some decent music. Again: nothing special and nothing terrible. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are great – I can't blame the subtitles for any mistranslations. The writing from Tetsuya Nakashima, who helms the brilliant film Confessions, is partly to blame for the inconsistent mood; the other part of the blame belongs to director Masayuki Miyano, who can conjure a handful of great laughs, but fails to deliver a consistent and satisfying story.

Overall, Lala Pipo: A Lot of People is a mediocre film. It could have been a very raunchy and funny comedy, but its attempts at drama – or at least what I believe are attempts at drama – ruin the mood; worst of all, the drama never resonates – it has a message, I'm sure, but it has no subtly and it doesn’t fit well with the rest of the film. If you're a fan of raunchy, there is some great humor; those looking for some hilarious insight on Japanese culture, look elsewhere.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: The film is all about sex. Aside from the sex and nudity, there are references to Japanese adult video.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Film Review: Rage (aka Tokarev) (2014)

Rage (aka Tokarev) (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...works as a generic kidnap thriller, though, at least enough to moderately entertain."

When his daughter is kidnapped, reformed criminal Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage) reverts to his life of crime and seeks vengeance...

Rage is a very familiar kidnap thriller. Paul, a reformed criminal with a legitimate business, teams up with his old crew to track his daughter's kidnappers -- usually through violent methods. After evidence links the crime to a Tokarev, a Russian mafia favored gun, Paul believes the past has returned to haunt him. He believes his past actions against a Russian mobster may have come back on him and his daughter. It's a very familiar story, which is also lacking in meat. The climax is a little different and even interesting. The ending is decent, too.

Ultimately, Rage is a been-there-done-that kidnap thriller, though. As you can see, the story offers little originality; the climax and ending have some uniqueness to them, but not nearly enough to redeem the rest of the film. The characters are very thin -- they're cardboard cutouts of other films, they're practically nonexistent. In fact, aside from Paul, I can't remember any of their names of the top of my head -- and I just finished the film not 30 minutes ago! The story doesn't have much going for it.

However, I wouldn't say Rage is a terrible film. I wouldn't even say it's a bad film. Generic? Yes, definitely. Rage works as a generic kidnap thriller, though, at least enough to moderately entertain. I may have seen a dozen films with the same premise and I may not have had an emotional connection with any of the characters, but I was entertained. As generic as it may be, the story is interesting and the simplicity is attractive -- especially for those looking to kill an hour and a half. The action sequences are generous, as well, with a few decent shootouts, a few chase scenes, and some knife combat -- all in a very stylish coat.

The acting ranges from mediocre to good. Nicolas Cage is occasionally good, but mostly mediocre -- he simply couldn't hit the demanding notes of this performances. Some of the supporting cast also suffers, but it's more than passable. The film looks great, I enjoyed the cinematography and the lighting. The use of slow-motion is a little too excessive at times, though; it makes for some great looking shots, but cuts the pacing and drags the film a bit, especially during the ending. The music is hit-or-miss -- sometimes it's great, sometimes it doesn't fit. Director Paco Cabezas has a strong grip on the style, creating some slick and memorable moments -- the film looks great; however, the film has some shoddy acting, some bad pacing, and a stupendously generic story -- I still can't believe films can be this generic.

Overall, Rage, also known as Tokarev, is a barely decent kidnap thriller. It is a very generic story with some mediocre acting, but it also has some decent entertainment value -- especially for those simply looking to kill some time. If you're tired of this plot, don't bother watching -- it's the same, nothing new. But if it still hasn't grown old for you, and you're a fan of some cheesy Nicolas Cage movies, this is at least worth a rental or stream. Not a bad film, but nothing special, either -- stuck somewhere in the middle.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Film Review: Blade of the Phantom Master (2004)

Blade of the Phantom Master: Shin Angyo Onshi (2004)
Japan/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...issues mostly attributed to the criminally short runtime, but it is fun and exciting."

Munsu, the last of the remaining amheng osa – police-like government agents who travel the world in disguise and right wrongs – travels the crumbled land of Jushin.

Blade of the Phantom Master drops you right into the middle of Munsu's current task. He eventually takes up a task to free a woman named Chun Hyang from a tyrannical King, as well as the people who are constantly tormented by said King. Munsu then reluctantly teams up with Sando and ends up on a new adventure as he travels to an island with a terrible secret. This plot is the bulk of the film. And, fortunately, it's interesting and engaging. The climax has an excellent action sequence, and the ending is great; I would love to watch a sequel of this promising film.

The biggest issue for Blade of the Phantom Master is the short runtime. The film is practically 1 hour and 20 minutes long, without credits, and it squeezes in two distinct-yet-related plots. Munsu's character, who is really more like an antihero than a hero, is interesting; sure, he's arrogant, rude, and self-preserving, but he has a certain charm that makes him an interesting antihero. Unfortunately, we don't really get to spend much time with the character – we really only see the surface. Sando is more of the same – a distinct and even awesome idea of a character, but not much more than an idea. There's a cute little bat in the film that I thought would end up being a character, but serves no purpose, a missed opportunity.

Aside from the character issues, though, I liked most of Blade of the Phantom Master. Both plots, despite not being fully developed or explored, are interesting and entertaining. The action sequences also great; shootouts, explosions, sword fights... it's really versatile and exciting when it comes to action – it's also very gory. The different challenges Munsu faces, which I suppose we can simply call enemies, are also very interesting and even cool. This echos the same problem as the main characters, though: they simply aren't developed enough, we don't get to see enough of them. There are fights with desert man-eaters, giants, zombies, and other skilled swordsmen, all of which I would love to see more of.

As usual, the Japanese voice acting is great; although somewhat cliché, we get some very genuine and impressive voice work from the Japanese cast. The music is also good; I expected something a little more unique, though, considering the distinct setting. The art is also good; not my favorite art style, but far from terrible. The Netflix Instant stream features both Japanese and English voice overs, and English subtitles; for some odd reason, this version does not translate the introduction monologue, which gives vital information – I had to rewind the film and watch the title sequence again in English to get that information, then switch back to Japanese, which made the experience somewhat frustrating at first. Director Joji Shimura does well in creating a consistent and well-paced anime film, but the runtime is too short; the story and the characters feel overwhelmingly compressed.

Overall, I enjoyed Blade of the Phantom Master: Shin Angyo Onshi. It has some story and character issues mostly attributed to the criminally short runtime, but it is fun and exciting. It's not something
you'll lose sleep over if you miss it, but it is something worth watching, especially if you're a fan of anime and have a United States Netflix account to stream it on.

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Film Review: Crowsnest (2012)

Crowsnest (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the first time I've ever told a film to shut up..."

A group of friends on a trip to a cottage are attacked by an RV...

Can I really say anything else? That's all the film is about. The first 30 minutes of Crowsnest follows this group of friends, who are all incredible douchebags if I may add, as they drive and buy beer. The next 30 minutes follows this group as they are chased by the RV; they get hit by the RV, drive away and cry about it, then get hit again, and repeat. The final 20 minutes or so have the survivors running through the woods looking for cell phone signal. The ending drags forever and is as abrupt as every other found-footage horror film.

Crowsnest offers nothing new to the genre. Worst of all, it offers very little entertainment. I can stand a generic film if it's at least entertaining, but this is simply boring. You go from watching the vacation tapes of 5 unbearable people (like the first hour of Absence) to several boring chases (like Jeepers Creepers, but Jeepers Creepers is actually good) to a boring imitation of The Blair Witch Project. I thought the first encounter with RV was decent, it built up some solid suspense, but then it becomes repetitive and contrived. Other than that decent scene, the rest of the film is boring. There is no suspense, no tension, no realism... there aren't even any jump-scares. There is some gore, but it's not enough to fully wake you up.

I think the worst part of Crowsnest is the intolerable characters. Yes, they are ripped out of every found-footage film ever made, but these somehow manage to be even more annoying than usual. I think this is the first time I've ever told a film to shut up -- I mean, literally, I said, "Shut up already!" to my television. From the first five minutes, you'll know whether you'll like these characters, especially the cameraman Justin. These issues with the characters are amplified because you spend 30 MINUTES watching their vacation tapes.

The acting is all-around mediocre. There mostly passable for the genre. However, whenever the roles become demanding, this cast ridiculously overacts -- hence the "Shut up already!" This is also the same ol' same ol' found-footage film. A lot of wonky camerawork, bad photography, and so on; the camera even malfunctions often, which is odd considering it's a brand new camera. Director Brenton Spencer fails to deliver any horror; the first act is a complete waste of time, the second act starts off promising but fails miserably, and the film ends exactly like anyone would expect.

Overall, Crowsnest is a terrible film. The story has the potential to be unique, but the film opts for dull and bland genre clichés instead. The characters are too annoying, there is a severe lack of horror and suspense, and the film is just downright boring. It's not worth your time, especially if you've seen as many found-footage horror films as I have. (a lot)

Score: 2/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and gore, partial nudity.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Film Review: Adrift in Tokyo (2007)

Adrift in Tokyo (Review)
Japan/2007
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...made me wish I were adrift in Tokyo."

As of his 8th year of college, Fumiya Takemura (Joe Odagiri) has accumulated 800,000 yen of debt. Debt collector Aiichiro Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura) offers Fumiya a million yen to walk with him in Tokyo.

Adrift in Tokyo is very simple and very straightforward. In fact, as far as plot goes, that's pretty much it. Fumiya and Fukuhara walk through Tokyo and reminisce, discussing their lives and their choices. The final destination: a police station, so Fukuhara can turn himself in for an unforgivable crime. Fortunately, there's plenty of character to fill up the simple plot. They'll remember hilarious stories, and run into some bizarre people -- really, they'll run into people. This story of people and life leads to an abrupt yet satisfying ending; it doesn't bother to close lose ends, but it definitely works.

As a comedy, Adrift in Tokyo is very black and often irreverent. Fortunately, this is my type of humor. I laughed out loud more than a handful of times, and I was chuckling throughout most of the film; I felt a little guilty laughing at times, but it wouldn't be an effective black comedy if I didn't, right? The characters were just so vivid and lively, they felt like real people and I felt like that amplified the humor. This feeling of life also creates a more engrossing film; that is also amplified by the engaging look into the culture. Those who love culture, like myself, won't mind the thin story since the character and culture are as thick as they are -- it made me wish I were adrift in Tokyo.

Joe Odagiri, who also stars in My Way and Dream, delivers a great performance; he really embodies the "slacker" personality, but with genuine emotion. Tomokazu Miura compliments his performance with equally impressive acting. The pair are charismatic and witty together. Otherwise, the film looks great; the camerawork is very natural and the cinematography captures the setting perfectly, it really helps immerse you into the culture. Director Satoshi Miki does well in crafting this black comedy, with a balanced approach and a steady pace; he also pulls great performances from the entire cast.

Overall, Adrift in Tokyo is a superb film. Its simplicity may not be great to some "film buffs," but I found it to be very attractive. It gives the film room to flesh out its human characters, and plenty of room to immerse the audience into Japanese culture. It's also downright hilarious! Fans of Japanese culture and black comedies should definitely go adrift in Tokyo.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some partial nudity.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Film Review: Killing Season (2013)

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

"...starts off promising, but that promise is quickly broken."

Military veteran Ford (Robert De Niro) crosses paths with former Serbian soldier Emil (John Travolta), who has hidden intentions...

Killing Season begins with a very slow but effective buildup. Emil tracks Ford and befriends him, Ford being oblivious to Emil's true identity. They share regular stories, war stories, and drinks. Eventually, Emil reveals his intentions, and a violent game of cat and mouse ensues. At this point, the film becomes repetitive and often boring. Emil captures and tortures Ford, then Ford captures and tortures Emil, and repeat... and repeat. There are some exiting moments, but not much. It continues this stale formula until its underwhelming climax and mediocre ending; the ending goes on and on, too.

Killing Season simply doesn't offer much by any perspective. The first act, albeit somewhat interesting and engaging, overstays its welcome and sets the slow mood. The cat-and-mouse game is violent and bloody, but it's not engaging or even entertaining -- I'd even say it's too simple and easy to be considered a true cat-and-mouse game. It doesn't get much help from the uneventful story and dreadfully slow pace, either. That's really all it is: Ford hunts Emil, Emil hunts Ford. The story is thin, as are the characters. It sure is a beautiful film, but if offers nothing "art house" -- nothing contemplative or symbolic -- I think the art house is better left to the pros, like Kim Ki-duk.

Robert De Niro is good, I like him in this. John Travolta, on the other hand, is mediocre; the accent simply didn't feel authentic, at all; it sounds like the accent I'd make when I impersonate a Russian. The film looks beautiful, though; the cinematography does well in capturing the lush and vivid environment. The music was great, too. Director Mark Steven Johnson fails to conjure any satisfying action, and the uneventful story is severely hurt by the dreadful pacing; Johnson isn't only to blame, though, as writer Evan Daugherty pens an uneventful screenplay dominated by boring, albeit beautiful, scenes of the scenery.

Overall, Killing Season is a boring film. It starts off promising, but that promise is quickly broken. The film spirals into a repetitive formula of boredom and false sense of artistry. It's a beautiful film to look at, but the story and characters are ridiculously hollow -- the story may as well be nonexistent. By the way, the short 1 hour 30 minute runtime may seem attractive, but the film really feels longer than two hours.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Film Review: Ip Man 2 (2010)

Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (Review)
China/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...almost as masterful as the original..."

During the 1950s, Wing Chun master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) moves his family to Hong Kong to open a martial arts school, but finds trouble in the local martial arts club and a vicious Western boxer.
 
Ip Man 2 picks up where the last film left off. Don't fret, though, this film begins with a short montage of the last film's major events, and offers a small bridge to this installment. Anyway, the first half of the film focuses on Ip Man's struggles to support his family and start a legitimate martial arts school. The latter half of the film introduces a vicious Western boxer, who goes by the nick name “Twister”. Twister challenges the Chinese martial artists and eventually finds himself challenged by the very best: Ip Man. The climax is fantastic, as is much of the fighting, and I loved the ending; I hope we see a Bruce Lee and Ip Man film next.

The film works very well as an informative biopic without sacrificing a shred of entertainment. And, I absolutely love that about this film, as well as the original Ip Man. The film gives us plenty of information about Ip Man's life, and an incredible barrage of fight sequences. The fight sequences are extraordinary. Donnie Yen delivers the fast and ferocious action of Wing Chun, and the film also blends and clashes several other styles of fighting; I was especially impressed by the Wing Chun vs. Western boxing. The story is occasionally melodramatic and contrived, though. However, I honestly didn't mind as much as I usually do, particularly because it wasn't overwhelming and also because it added to martial arts charm film.

I think the biggest issue for the film is its antagonist. In the original film, Japanese general Miura is vicious yet noble -- he's not completely demonized, it's somewhat subtle -- the same can't be said for his villainous sidekick, but that's a minor role. Comparably, Ip Man 2 portrays the Westerners as evil and as devils. Twister's personality and dialogue, as well as other Westerners in the film, is cartoonish -- it's just so blatant, it treats Twister as a super-villain. I wasn't particularly offended, but it was so blatant, that it kind of threw me off.

Donnie Yen reprises his role as Grandmaster Ip Man, and he's excellent in the role; he has the perfect charisma to play a wise grandmaster. The supporting cast is great. In fact, I was surprised at the impressive performances from most of the English-speaking cast -- usually, English-speaking actors in Asian films are the weaker link. The cinematography is great; the setting is very lively and immersive, it really brought me into this world. The camerawork is great, too, it keeps up with the ferocious action without becoming too shaky or nauseating. On that point, the fight choreography is excellent. Director Wilson Yip delivers a fast paced, informative, and exciting martial arts film; it does lose a point for its cartoonish portrayal of the antagonist, but it's almost as masterful as the original, otherwise.

Overall, Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster is a fantastic martial arts action movie. Fans of Ip Man will be glad to learn a little more about Ip Man's life, and even gladder to find several breathtaking action sequences. Some of the story issues didn't bother me, like the plot contrivances, but the cartoonish villain did; the fact that I call him a villain instead of antagonist is proof enough -- it's cartoonish, but forgivable. If you're a fan of fast martial arts action films like Ip Man or The Raid, don't miss this film.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Film Review: Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man (Review)
China/2008
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a modern martial arts classic."

The story of legendary Grandmaster of Wing Chun, Ip Man (Donnie Yen), from his humble and wealthy life in Foshan to the Japanese invasion.

Ip Man basically follows the titular character through these two major events. The story begins in the 1930s in Foshan, a hub for skilled martial artists. His extraordinary skills shine as he duels with a fellow master and an outsider looking to bully himself into the market. The film then skips into the Japanese invasion where Ip Man and his family lose their wealth and struggle to survive. Ip Man soon finds himself fighting for his country as he faces off against several Japanese fighters, and faces a grand challenge with General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi). A very simple yet insightful and engaging plot that leads to an epic climax and satisfying ending.

Although the plot is overall very engaging and interesting, Ip Man has a stronger focus on character and action. We find out quite a bit about Ip Man, such as his personality and philosophy, through some great dialogue. The action is the main course for the film, though, it's a feast for martial arts fans. The action sequences are ferocious thanks to the lighting fast and vicious fight choreography. Honestly, the fights are simply awe-inspiring, which will either leave you breathless or with goosebumps. And, it's so consistent and balanced, too. We learn a little about Ip Man and his lifestyle, then a fantastic fight, and repeat. But, it doesn't feel repetitive, because it is balanced and versatile -- both in character and action.

It does occasionally have the anti-Japanese stench many Chinese films are known for. It didn't really bother me, though, because it's not overwhelming -- at least most of the time. A character like General Miura is treated like an antagonist, which is fine because he is. This issue is most noticeable with General Miura's sidekick, who is treated more as a villain -- and, I mean like a super-villain type of character. Fortunately, the character isn't overused. And, again, it wasn't a significant issue for me, but it's worth noting.

Donnie Yen is superb as the lead -- he has the right charisma for the character, a very humble and genuine performance. Simon Yam and Lynn Hung are great as the supporting cast, too. The film features superb camerawork and cinematography, as well, it keeps a natural flow so it never becomes nauseating. The set and costume design helped create a more immersive world. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are great -- there are some errors, but nothing that hurts the story. The action choreography/direction is magnificent. Director Wilson Yip does well in developing an iconic character without ever sacrificing action.

Overall, Ip Man is a modern martial arts classic. I've seen the film multiple times now, and I have never been bored by it. It's as refreshing as my first viewing thanks to the superb, unforgettable action sequences, the great story, and Donnie Yen's performance. The setting is also masterfully crafted to
create an even more immersive and engaging film. If you're a fan of martial arts films and you haven't seen Ip Man... what are you waiting for?

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

Film Review: A Haunting in Salem (2011)

A Haunting in Salem (Review)
United States/2011
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"It's a boring and uninspired film that drags its feet."

The new town sheriff, Wayne (Bill Oberst Jr.), moves his family into an old, creepy house with a haunting past...

A Haunting in Salem basically follows Wayne and his family as they settle into their new home. Things go bump in the night, some weird messages are received, and Wayne has some nightmarish visions. It's pretty much every ghost movie ever made, sharing many similarities with The Amityville Horror. Nothing unique or differentiating occurs in the film -- at all. The ending is predictable, and drags on and on -- it's almost like the film didn't want to end.

The story is often unintentionally humorous, too. There are stupid plot points, hilarious plot holes, and bad acting. All of it blends together to create a hilarious experience. It's not the enjoyable-type of hilarious, though, like The Incredible Melting Man, it's more like the "laughing and turning the movie off"-type of hilarious. The hilarious plot holes, which aren't textbook plot holes per se, also negatively affect the horror.

For example, the daughter of the household receives "creepy" disturbing instant message on her computer. One message calls her by name, and the film treats it like it's supposed to be scary -- "like, omg, so creepy, how do you know my name?" But, her name is in her username! Of course it knows your name! Then, there's another character who burns her face in boiling water. All is well... until you realize she was able to boil the water in a mere 5 seconds.

Otherwise, you can expect... Well, more like you shouldn't expect any horror. There are a lot of jump-scares but no suspense, which makes the jump-scares ineffective. There isn't any atmosphere, either, and the house really isn't as creepy as the film wants it to be. I enjoyed two of the jump-scares, but only two -- and that's all of the "horror" I enjoyed in this feature-length film.

The acting ranges from bad to mediocre. Bill Oberst Jr. is mediocre -- I couldn't care what he looks like, but he just doesn't have any conviction or charisma for a leading role. Courtney Abbiati plays a housewife, and she delivers a decent performance -- probably the most redeeming part of the film. It looks and sounds like a straight-to-DVD horror film. Nothing really stood out on the technical side. Director Shane Van Dyke delivers an uninspired and bland film -- his direction fails to develop any horror whatsoever and he fails to pull great performances from the cast -- he also doesn't seem to care for continuity. Like many films from notorious film studio The Asylum, it doesn't feel like there is much direction or writing going on.

Overall, A Haunting in Salem is a very bad film. As a horror film, it fails to deliver any suspense or scares -- it doesn't even use its setting to create a haunted house atmosphere. It's a boring and uninspired film that drags its feet. It's often unintentionally humorous, but it's missing the charm from films like The Incredible Melting Man that would make it tolerable and even enjoyable. Aside from two good jump-scares, there isn't a single reason to watch this film -- fan of the genre or not.

Score: 1/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Film Review: The Guillotines (2012)

The Guillotines (Review)
China/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a tiring and often unnecessarily convoluted and repetitive experience."

The Guillotines is a secret squad of assassins established by the Emperor to crush any opposition. However, the group, led by Leng (Ethan Juan), don't realize they are expendable and their next mission may be their last...

The Guillotines follows this group of highly-skilled assassins as they hunt down the prophet of the persecuted Han Chinese people named Wolf (Huang Xiaoming). There is some backroom drama between Leng and Haidu, a trusted agent and secret sworn brother of Leng, but not much happens during the first two acts. The characters just wander around looking for Wolf, with an occasional flashback. The story picks up the pace during the final act for some interesting plot points and an explosive climax, but it feels too little, too late. The ending was also long-winded and underwhelming.

Aside from an uneventful and often repetitive plot, The Guillotines also suffers from a lack of character. To be honest, aside from Leng and Wolf, I can barely remember any of the characters -- names, personalities, and all -- completely forgettable. And, it's disappointing considering the film's titled the Guillotines. More disappointing is the lack of the titular weapon; there are only a handful of scenes that use the interesting and unique flying guillotine.

The film starts off well with an interesting introduction and a great action sequence, but quickly winds down -- especially when it comes to action. In other words, the action scenes are good, but limited. They're very stylish using vivid colors, decent special effects, and a lot of slow motion. Aside from the style, though, they're not particularly unique -- remember, the flying guillotine is rarely used. If you're a fan of slow-motion explosions, maybe you'll like the climax, at least.

The acting was decent from most of the cast. I liked both Ethan Juan and Huang Xiaoming. However, the entire cast overacted whenever the roles became demanding -- like when they're crying and such. The film looks okay. Despite the setting and costume design, it doesn't really standout. Also, aside from one scene with a great song, the music is forgettable. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are great, though. The direction from Andrew Lau is disappointing, especially after great films like Infernal Affairs and Daisy; the film is really inefficient and ineffective, making for a tiring and often unnecessarily convoluted and repetitive experience.

Overall, The Guillotines is a mediocre film. It has a great introduction and an interesting action concept, but not much else. The story is uneventful and unnecessarily long, which makes for a boring experience, and the action fails to utilize the flying guillotine like anyone would expect. Its few decent action sequences, its almost redeeming climax and its decent acting is all the film really has to offer. If you're a fan of the genre or cast, it might be worth your time; but being a fan of the concept and director, I'm leaving disappointed.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore. (A lot of decapitations and dismemberments.)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Film Review: The Eye 2 (2004)

The Eye 2 (Review)
China/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...like 'going into a haunted house and having things jump out at you' fun."

After a failed suicide attempt, Joey Cheng (Shu Qi) finds out she is pregnant and begins to see spirits...

The Eye 2 is not a direct sequel to the first film, and only shares the protagonist's ability to see spirits. In this story, Joey begins to see spirits after a failed suicide attempt. She feels rejected by her boyfriend and contemplates another abortion, but decides to keep the baby. As she continues to be haunted by these ghostly images, Joey eventually finds out that these ghosts are in the process of reincarnation. But, Joey fears the ghost who is awaiting her labor. And so, Joey attempts to find the woman haunting her and stop the process. I liked the ending -- in a sense, it was surprisingly bittersweet and even reassuring.

The Eye 2 is a traditional Asian horror film. I suppose this is part of The Eye series because she can see spirits -- like a figurative eye into the spirit realm or something? Joey doesn't get any eye surgery, in fact, this film has nothing to do with literal eyes. Anyway, the horror mostly consist of jump-scares and ghostly visuals. Some of the jump-scares were jolting and surprising, some were duds. The ghosts are mostly spooky, despite some being the generic "long black hair" ghosts. It's far from the most terrifying horror film, but it's very fun -- like "going into a haunted house and having things jump out at you" fun. The story was interesting, too. I like the concept, but hoped it would've delved deeper into it.

The acting was great. Shu Qi is great -- she has a lot of emotional depth in her performance, which is impressive for a horror film. She dominates most of the screen time, so it's difficult to judge the rest of the cast -- there aren't any complaints, though. As far as the technicalities, the film is up to standard. It's shot very well, the music is well-fitted, and so on. It doesn't do much to standout, but it's far from poorly made. The Pang Brothers deliver a consistent horror film, but also very familiar; it's concept doesn't shine enough to differentiate the film from the hundreds of Asian horror films out there.

Overall, I liked The Eye 2. The first film is more original and more frightening. But, this film introduces an interesting concept and offers plenty of jump-scares. I won't lose any sleep at night, but I had a very fun time.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Film Review: Extracted (2012)

Extracted (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"Even at its lowest points, Extracted is an engaging and very entertaining film."

Tom (Sasha Roiz), a scientist, creates a device that allows him to enter another person's memories. In need of money, Tom reluctantly agrees to enter the mind of a suspected killer...

Extracted, an indie SciFi thriller, begins with a strong introduction. Tom enters the memory of Anthony (Dominic Bogart), the suspected killer, and grabs all of the information he needs. However, the device malfunctions, and Tom's conscious becomes trapped in Anthony's memories. This second act of the film becomes tiresome as the novelty wears off and the story take a more repetitious route. It does pick up for the third act, though. However, the climax feels contrived and the ending feels like it's trying too hard to be mind-blowing or contemplative -- if it had ended five minutes earlier, it would've been satisfying enough.

Otherwise, Extracted is a well-executed film. It's an engaging and entertaining blend of SciFi, mystery, and crime-thriller. Based off of concept, you may automatically think Inception or The Cell -- I was expecting something like the latter based off of description -- but it's really much more subtle and, dare I say, more grounded in reality. It's not a visual spectacle by any means, but the story and characters are engaging and it was interesting to see the concept play off of a micro-budget.

The only issues I had with the film were the inconsistent pacing and the ending. Due to the uneventful and repetitive second act, the story feels like it has been stretched out to meet a "feature length runtime." It's still interesting and engaging, but it feels like it purposefully drags its feet and doesn't offer much to the concept -- at least not as much as the first and final act.

I think the acting was great. Sasha Roiz and Dominic Bogart both deliver strong performances -- the former was surprisingly effective. There are some moments were it feels unnatural, particularly when the roles become more emotionally demanding, but those are far and few between. The film is shot very well, and I loved how the filmmakers made the film feel "SciFi" without big-budget special effects. The music was also great. Aside from the middle of the film, I think writer and director Nir Paniry does very well in crafting this engaging SciFi thriller with a micro-budget.

Overall, Extracted is a very good SciFi film. Even at its lowest points, Extracted is an engaging and very entertaining film. It's a film that's more than just concept, which is impressive considering the budget. However, the ending is mediocre and there are some glaring pacing issues -- I felt the film would've been more efficient and effective it had been cut down. Otherwise, well worth watching for fans of the concept and fans of indie films -- as long as you understand it's not a big budget blockbuster.

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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Film Review: Come Out and Play (2012)

Come Out and Play (Review)
Mexico/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"Children of the Corn on an island."

Couple Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Beth (Vinessa Shaw) visit an isolated island during their vacation, only to find the adults are missing...

Come Out and Play is a very simple story. The couple rent a boat, sail to the island, and find kids but no adults. Then, the truth is revealed, which is: the kids are savage murderers. So, Francis and Beth attempt to survive the children and escape the island. That's really it. It starts off a little slow, picks up the slack after 20 or so minutes, then drags a bit during the final act. The ending was good, though.

Children of the Corn on an island. Regardless of source material or what came first, I think this is the best description for Come Out and Play. (I think Children of the Corn is a better film, though.) The story is simple, which is both good and bad. On one hand, it's simple and enjoyable -- a great formula for a time-killer. On the other hand, it has no character depth or insight on the cause -- so we really don't root for the characters and we never find out why this is happening. Otherwise, you can expect a run-of-the-mill horror film. Illogical and irrational characters, some suspense, some violence and gore, and so on. Not necessarily bad, but nothing spectacular or differentiating.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach was all-around good. Vinessa Shaw was good, too, but slid into mediocrity whenever the role became demanding. The film looks good; I liked the setting. The music was also great; a throwback soundtrack that added to the suspense. The special effects were also decent; I mean, it's not Tom Savini quality, but it's decent. This is written, produced, edited and directed by Makinov. Aside from the silly pen name (come on, this isn't the WWE and the movie wasn't bad, no need for a fake name), Makinov does a decent job in all fields.

Overall, Come Out and Play is a good horror film. It treads very familiar territory, but managed to keep me engaged and entertained. It's a simple film that could've been more, but there's no point in complaining on what could've been, right?

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Film Review: Case 39 (2009)

Case 39 (Review)
United States/Canada/2009
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...an effective slow-burn with an ominous atmosphere..."

Social worker Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) begins to investigate the case of Lillith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), who's grades have rapidly declined and who's parents act erratically around...

Case 39 continues to follow Emily as she saves Lily from her parents. She forms a bond with Lily and pleads for the opportunity to take her in -- at least until they can find a suitable family for her. Unfortunately, Emily doesn't realize why Lily's parents were trying to kill her, neither does she realize the string of death she has unwittingly unleashed. The story plays out like a drama-horror hybrid with a lot of buildup and satisfying climaxes. It's not the most original story, but it is refreshing in this day-and-age. The ending was disappointing, though, very abrupt and even underwhelming.

Like I said, this isn't a traditional horror film, it's more of a horror-drama hybrid. It has a stronger focus on story, atmosphere, and suspense. If you've read my reviews, you know I love these types of films, like Bug and The Exorcist. However, the film also uses some jolting jump-scares, especially during the second half. I even jumped once or twice, and I think of myself as immune to jump-scares. All-around, I think Case 39 covers all horror bases, and it covers them thoroughly. Aside from the ending, I also felt the film was a little lengthy; some sequences tend to overstay their welcome and cause the film to occasionally drag.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Renée Zellweger was great, but I think Jodelle Ferland outshines her. Bradley Cooper is also great. The film is shot very well, I liked the cinematography and camerawork. The music blended very well with the film, and it helped build the tension and ominous atmosphere. Director Christian Alvart does well in blending the drama and horror to create an all-around effective experience; the ending feels rushed and there are some pacing issues, though.

Overall, Case 39 is a great film. It's an effective slow-burn with an ominous atmosphere, creepy tension, and some surprisingly great jump-scares; Jodelle Ferland also delivers a very impressive performance. It's one of the more overlooked horror films of the last decade, but well worth your time if you like the type of horror I described.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Film Review: Alien Abduction (2014)

Alien Abduction (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...there is some decent suspense and some solid scares."

During their vacation camping trip, a family encounters aliens...

It's really that simple. Alien Abduction is told through the perspective of a young boy named Riley, who uses a camera to cope with his autism -- a unique concept, much better than the "we have to record everything." Anyway, much like Absence, the film begins with the routine family vacation tapes; unlike Absence, though, this segment only takes 15 or 20 minutes instead of an hour. Afterwards, the family simply runs always from the alien force and try to avoid being abducted. The ending was abrupt and underwhelming; also, there is almost 11 minutes of credits in this film with a very short scene during.

Alien Abduction is very simple yet somewhat creative. Most found-footage films nowadays revolve around ghosts and exorcisms, so I applaud Alien Abduction for focusing on, well, aliens. However, the film is severely hindered by found-footage genre clichés. The characters are run-of-the-mill cutouts, there's the classic shaky cam, and the "stop recording, we're arguing" scenes. Oh, and the "something's going on, but the camera's malfunctioning" scenes.

Aside from the found-footage clichés, there is some mild suspense. Not nail-biting, but at least slightly engaging. The climax for most of these scenes are the aforementioned camera malfunctioning scenes, so they're weak. You hear a lot of screaming -- and I mean a lot of screaming -- but you rarely get the opportunity to see what's going on. The small peeks we get at the aliens are decent, but it doesn't quite quench the thirst. The first encounter with the aliens is great, though, I liked the buildup and execution.

The acting is okay from most of the cast, especially considering the genre. The only complaint I had was from Riley Polanski who, of course, plays Riley; maybe it was his delivery or maybe it was the editing, but his voice always sounds disconnected from the rest of the film, almost like a voiceover. Otherwise, it's pretty much a standard found-footage film. The shaky cam is often nauseating, though. Director Matty Beckerman has an intriguing concept, but the reliance on the simple found-footage clichés makes this film feel like just another entry on a genre grown stale.

Overall, Alien Abduction is a mediocre film. I like the concept -- by that, I mean I like the aliens -- and there is some decent suspense and some solid scares. But, Alien Abduction ultimately falls into generic territory, which makes it even more disappointing considering I enjoyed the concept. It's better than similar films like Absence, but never reaches its full potential. If you like aliens and found-footage, you might find some enjoyment in this -- it's barely longer than an hour, so it won't be wasting much of your time, anyway.

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Film Review: 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck (2012)

100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the most generic and cliché films I've seen..."

Paranormal investigators visit the site of Richard Speck's killing spree for a documentary.

That's it. There's not much else for me to say regarding the plot because the plot is nearly nonexistent. The paranormal investigators enter the facility after setting up cameras, lock themselves in, shoot some b-roll, then witness paranormal events. The events become more and more aggressive causing the crew to want to leave but, you guessed it, they're locked in. Finally, it reaches a nauseating climax of characters running around from something you can barely see and a predictable ending.

Fortunately, 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck doesn't pretend to be more than it really is: a generic found-footage clone. This keeps the filler to an appreciated minimum. It doesn't waste time on poor character development like many found-footage films do --this film knows its characters are cliches cardboard cutouts. Unfortunately, it also feels a bit on the repetitive side, especially without the filler -- I guess it's a lose-lose situation for 100 Ghost Street.

As for its horror, it has some light suspense and a few decent jump-scares. There are a couple of scenes with some great subtly and great use of shadows, but these are easily outweighed by the jump-scares. There are a lot of scenes where the character gets dragged away -- I don't know if that's supposed to be scary. Also, the film barely makes use of its setting; it's just a bunch of hallways with dirt on the walls, nothing memorable or even creepy. I didn't find any of it frightening, per se -- it's fun and occasionally exciting, but I won't lose a second of sleep.

Considering this is one of the most generic and cliché films I've seen in a while, the acting caught me by surprise. It's actually decent -- nothing particularly impressive, but far from terrible. Otherwise, it's a standard found-footage horror film. The lighting is decent, but it does have some cool shadows. 100 Ghost Street suffers occasionally from the shaky-cam; it's mostly controlled, but it it occasionally nauseating. Director Martin Andersen and writer Nancy Leopardi do a good job copying and pasting every found-footage movie before it -- in other words, I don't think there was much directing or writing going on, looks like they winged it.

Overall, 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck is a bad found-footage horror film. It's extremely cliché and generic from beginning to end, and offers nothing new to the genre. In fact, 100 Ghost Street is practically a clone of Grave Encounters, but with less concept, less story, and less horror. If you love the genre, this might be worth your time; if you're tired of the genre, this will likely be exhausting.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and gore, some (ghost) sex and nudity.