Monday, January 30, 2017

Film Review: Attack on Titan Part 1 (2015)

Attack on Titan: Part 1 (Review)
Japan/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a cheesy but exciting action-adventure movie with some surprisingly effective elements of horror. "

Eren Yeager (Haruma Miura) joins a scouting group in order to avenge his friends and family who were killed by the Titans, humanoid giants who prey on humans...

Attack on Titan: Part 1 is an adaptation of the popular anime/manga of the same name—an anime which I enjoyed immensely. It starts off a bit rough and disjointed, but the plot is similar. One-hundred years ago, Titans, humanoid giants, slaughtered most of humanity. The survivors built tall walls and secluded themselves from the rest of the world in order to survive. Fast forward 100 years and their wall is penetrated, which causes the outermost city to be decimated by the Titans. Three friends from said city—Eren, Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara), and Armin (Kanata Sakuraba)—are affected by the attack. Like I said, if you're familiar with the anime, this is more of the same. The characters and their relationships have changed, but the core of the story is the same. The changes in character don't really help the film, though. It leads to an action-packed climax and a solid ending.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Film Review - The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale (2015)

The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale (Review)
South Korea/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...creates a very special and compelling rivalry between two hunters."

In 1925, Japanese rulers demand the death of the last remaining tiger in Korea. The tiger, however, proves to be a worthy challenger...

The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale is a period drama that follows Chun Man-duk (Choi Min-sik), a hunter tormented by his past. After tragedy strikes his family, Man-Duk finds himself living alone with his son, Seok. As he attempts to live a regular life, away from the hunting and death, Japanese rulers and a group of Korean hunters attempt to kill the last living tiger in Korea. The tiger, known as the lord of the mountain, is a difficult target, though – smart, agile, and vicious. It takes quite a bit of time to get to the promised showdown between Man-duk and the tiger, but it eventually gets there. It's not an epic hunt in terms of scale, but it is compelling thanks to the buildup and character development. So, it leads to a strong climax and ending.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Film Review: Blair Witch (2016)

Blair Witch (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: FandangoNow
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...most of the movie is underwhelming and disappointing."

After discovering footage of his missing sister, James (James Allen McCune) and his friends enter the Black Hills forest believed to be inhabited by the legendary Blair Witch...

Blair Witch is a sequel to the 1999 found-footage film. However, it also sort of feels like a remake due to the similar plot. So, there's a group of friends: James, Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter, and Ashley. James believes he has found footage (Like the genre! You get it?) of his sister, Heather, who vanished in the Black Hills forest when he was a child. Seizing the opportunity, Lisa agrees to help James explore the forest so she can make a documentary for school. So, along with another pair who serve as their guides, the group enters the woods and things happen. I emphasize things because this is another film where you don't really see anything. It leads to a ferocious, fast-paced climax and an interesting ending.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Film Review: One Hour Photo (2002)

One Hour Photo (Review)
United States/2002
Format Viewed For Review: HBO Now
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a creepy and suspenseful film about obsession."

Sy Parrish (Robin Williams), an employee at a one-hour photo lab, develops an unhealthy obsession with a suburban family.

One Hour Photo starts off a bit slow. In fact, I'd say the first half of the film is too slow for its own good. It works in developing Sy's peculiar character, but it could have been fine-tuned. The second half of the film acts as a more traditional thriller as everything falls into its rightful place. The plot, with many compelling layers beyond its simple surface, follows Sy. Sy is a lonely photo technician who obsesses over his work – and also obsesses over his customers. In particular, Sy is fond of the Yorkin family: husband Will, wife Nina (Connie Nielsen), and son Jake. Since he regularly prints their photos, Sy feels like he's part of the family – often fantasizing about being with them. The plot takes a few twists and turns. It leads to a surprisingly poignant ending, too.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Film Review: Sea Fog (2014)

Sea Fog (aka Haemoo) (Review)
South Korea/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It works as a drama, romance, and thriller – a great combo."

Struggling to make ends meet, a fishing-boat crew takes on a job of smuggling immigrants from China to South Korea...

Sea Fog is a great movie. The plot follows Captain Cheol-joo (Kim Yoon-seok) and his crew, which includes rookie Dong-sik (Park Yoo-chun). Cheol-joo is struggling to make ends meet and he refuses to sell his boat. So, he takes a high-paying and dangerous job smuggling people from China to South Korea. All is well at first. Dong-sik even finds love with young immigrant Hong-mae (Han Ye-ri). However, tragedy quickly hits the boat and the crew is forced to tie up loose ends – except Dong-sik, who refuses to quit on Hong-mae. I'd say more, but this is a film where the less you know, the better it is. It even surprised me at times. It leads to an interesting ending. It has me thinking about the entire situation, but I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Film Review: The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: VUDU
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"It's a boring, generic, and forgettable survival horror film."

Near the shore of a secret beach, surfer Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) is attacked by a great white shark and forced to fight for survival.

The Shallows is a ridiculously shallow film – clever, right? The first 20 or so minutes of this film showcase Nancy's vacation videos. Really, all she does is surf in slow-motion for twenty damn minutes. Sure, we're introduced Ashley's character, but she's very generic so it doesn't really matter. Eventually, she's attacked by a shark. She survives the attack with a severely mangled leg and ends up on a rock. Then, she... Well, she survives. That's all there is to this contrived plot. She screams for help, she swims a little, she fights back, and she survives – and she often does all of this in glorious slow-motion. It all leads to a very predictable, underwhelming, and cheesy ending.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Film Review: The Sea of Trees (2015)

The Sea of Trees (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...an emotional, poignant, and beautiful film."

A suicidal American attempts to help a lost Japanese man in Aokigahara, a forest known for attracting suicide...

The Sea of Trees is a simple but effective drama. On one hand, the plot's simplicity allows the characters to grow. On the other hand, the simplicity also means the film is predictable and safe – it really doesn't take many chances. The film follows Arthur (Matthew McConaughey), an American who travels to Aokigahara to commit suicide. While in the process of killing himself, he bumps into Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), a suicidal man whose wrists are already slit. Arthur is able to help Takumi, but the pair soon find they are lost. While the couple try to escape the forest, the film goes back and shows Arthur's complicated relationship with his wife, Joan (Naomi Watts). It frequently hops back-and-forth between past and present, but it's never confusing. It moves to a predictable but moving ending. I liked it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Film Review: Hope (2013)

Hope (also known as Wish) (Review)
South Korea/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the best films I've seen in years..."

After 8-year-old Im So-won (Lee Re) survives a devastating sexual assault, her family attempts to help her heal while confronting their own sorrow...

Hope is a devastating drama about a family, a brutal sexual assault, and a broken criminal justice system. The film follows the Im family: Dong-hoon (Sol Kyung-gu), a hardworking father who inadvertently neglects his family, Mi-hee (Uhm Ji-won), the hardworking mother trying to keep everything afloat, and So-won, a spunky young girl who is ready to tackle the world. One morning, So-won is violently raped by a disgusting man. Her internal injuries cause her to undergo significant surgeries that will affect her for the rest of her life; her emotional injuries will also scar her, taking time to heal. So, Dong-hoon and Mi-hee do everything in their power to help their daughter. I won't spoil anything else about the plot. I think you get the gist. It's focused on developing its characters and relationships while always pushing the plot forward. It leads to a devastating ending that shines through its glimmer of hope.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Film Review: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Alice, Sweet Alice (Review)
United States/1976
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Instant: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"The focus on character, atmosphere, and mystery made the film much more effective than the average slasher."

When a young girl is murdered before her first communion, Alice (Paula Sheppard), her older sister, becomes the main suspect...

Alice, Sweet Alice is a surprising slasher horror film. This is a film that works better if you know less about it, so I'll keep my description as short as possible. The film follows Alice and her family: her sister, Karen, her mother, Catherine (Linda Miller), and her estranged father, Dominick. When Karen is murdered before her first communion, all of the evidence leads to Alice, a young girl with some violent outbursts. The police and the church work hand-in-hand in trying to solve the mystery while Catherine and Dominick try to save their daughter. But, is she the sweet, misunderstood girl they think she is? It all leads to a surprising climax and a solid ending. There are some things that occur during the second half of the film that lessens the effect of the movie, but it still rebounds at the end.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Film Review: Tales of Halloween (2015)

Tales of Halloween (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it really isn't effective in the horror or comedy departments."

Ten stories of murderers, ghouls, aliens, and other creatures who terrorize the citizens of a suburban neighborhood on Halloween...

Tales of Halloween is an horror-comedy anthology. This anthology features ten stories, so I won't go into details about all of them. I'm not writing a thousand-word review for this one. Anyway, the film brings you to this suburban community where everyone has orgasms when they eat candy and everyone watches black-and-white public domain movies on Halloween. Residents are terrorizes by urban legends, like Sweet Tooth, and creatures, including aliens. The stories are filled with over-the-top gore. Some have strong horror premises, most are downright silly. They're all short, though, so you won't have to watch anything you dislike for long – unless you dislike all of the stories. I enjoyed at least four of the stories; the rest were, unfortunately, forgettable.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Film Review: Fists of Legend (2013)

Fists of Legend (Review)
South Korea/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...may not bring a lot of new elements to the genre, but it is very well made and it is very entertaining."

Three friends, past their prime and living lives of regret, reunite in the ring for a show about 'legendary' fighters...

Fists of Legend is a by-the-books sports drama with some much appreciated depth. The film follows three high school friends: Im Deok-kyu (Hwang Jung-min), a boxer with Olympic dreams, Lee Sang-hoon (Yoo Jun-sang) the right-hand man of an arrogant boss, and Shin Jae-sook (Yoon Je-moon), a thug thriving to be something bigger. The plot hops between past and present, showing us their conflicts in high school and where they ended up. It can be a little convoluted at times, but it generally works. It all leads up to a large MMA tournament where all of the friends participate – and therefore fight – for $200,000. I've read a few critics didn't like the ending of this film. Personally, I thought the climax was great and the ending was refreshing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Film Review: Sausage Party (2016)

Sausage Party (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: FandangoNow
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"There were moments where it felt like an adult Toy Story."

Frank Wienerton (Seth Rogen), a grocery store sausage, discovers the purpose of his life and the sinister intentions of the humans...

Sausage Party is a very... bizarre movie. The plot follows the groceries and common household products of a grocery store. These products include Frank, a sausage, Brenda (Kristen Wiig), Frank's boyfriend who happens to be a hot dog bun, Barry (Michael Cera), a deformed sausage who is purchased, and Douche (Nick Kroll), who happens to be a douche. Anyway, this group is purchased by a woman early in the film, but their escape to the promise land is ruined when Frank and Brenda try to rescue a jar of honey mustard. This leaves Frank and Brenda wandering the store after-hours while Barry discovers the truth of the promise land. So, while the group tries to find their way home, Frank starts looking for answers and discovers the sinister truth – humans eat food. It leads to an unexpected 'climax,' and a great ending.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Film Review: One Missed Call (2008)

One Missed Call (Review)
United States/2008
Format Viewed For Review: HBO Now
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a soulless horror movie without any horror."

People start receiving voicemails from their future selves, revealing details about their imminent deaths.

One Missed Call has an interesting concept, but the execution is severely flawed. The plot follows a generic set of characters. Primarily, it follows student Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon) and Detective Jack Andrews (Edward Burns). Beth notices her friends are dying after receiving mysterious voicemails detailing the moments before their deaths. Meanwhile, Jack is investigating said deaths because his sister died in a similar fashion. When Beth receives a call, the pair race to find the reason behind the madness. That's really all the plot offers. As you can see, it's a pretty straight-forward and predictable horror film. It leads to a very underwhelming ending. The ending felt rushed, too.