Friday, March 16, 2018

Film Review: Manhole (2014)

Manhole (Review)
South Korea/2014
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...suffers from mediocre execution..."

A serial killer, who uses the sewers of Seoul to kidnap his victims, captures a deaf 14-year-old girl while being tracked by her older sister.

Manhole starts off interesting. I like the concept: an unhinged serial killer uses the sewers to terrorize a neighborhood in Seoul. The plot follows four separate parties: Soo-chul (Jung Kyung-ho), the serial killer, sisters Yeon-seo (Jung Yu-mi) and Soo-jung (Kim Sae-ron), Jong-ho, a taxi driver who is searching for his missing daughter, and Pil-gyu, a clumsy policeman. After setting up the premise, Soo-chul ends up kidnapping Soo-jung. Yeon-seo, Jong-ho, and Pil-gyu—who were all following Soo-jung for separate reasons—end up entering the sewers through a manhole. From there, all of the characters basically run around while trying to save Soo-chul or while trying to figure out what's going on. Due to its repetitive formula, it does end up losing some steam during its second half. I liked the ending, though. I thought it was effective.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Film Review: Leatherface (2017)

Leatherface (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: VUDU
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...an interesting origin story."

The story of Jedidiah Sawyer, a mentally-competent child who grows up to become a mentally-disturbed killer.

Leatherface is an origin story. The plot follows Jedidiah Sawyer, a fairly normal boy in a very strange and violent family. After helping his family kill the daughter of Hal Hartman (Stephen Doriff), an unhinged Texas Ranger, Jedidiah is taken from his family and sent away to a mental institution. Ten years later, Elizabeth White (Vanessa Grasse) begins working at that mental institution. She quickly forms a bond with patients Jackson (Sam Strike) and Bud. It turns out: the kids are given new names when they're admitted to the institution, so Jedidiah is amongst the bunch. After a while, a riot occurs in the facility, and a group of patients escapes and take Elizabeth hostage, which forces Hartman to pursue them. I enjoyed most of the story. The final act felt rushed—for want of a better word—but it offered a decent ending.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Film Review: Sleepless (2017)

Sleepless (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Showtime
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"A lot of it seems phoned in, which is very disappointing."

A cop searches for his kidnapped son in a Las Vegas nightclub crawling with powerful drug dealers...

Sleepless follows Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx), an LVMPD officer. Along with his partner Sean, Vincent robs an expensive shipment of cocaine belonging to nightclub owner Stanley Rubino, who planned on selling those drugs to a powerful mobster named Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy). Everything seems to be going well until Vincent's son is kidnapped by Rubino and he's forced to return the drugs. Unfortunately for Vincent, he is also being targeted by an annoying Infernal Affairs investigator, Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan), who interferes with the exchange and places Vincent's son in further danger. So, Vincent runs around the casino trying to save his son. It sounds like it has many twists and turns, but it's pretty predictable. Up to its end, it follows a very generic formula—you always know when a 'twist' is going to hit.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Film Review: Inception (2010)

Inception (Review)
United States/United Kingdom/2010
Format Viewed for Review: Vudu
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a fantastic film on every level."

In order to win his freedom, a thief, who steals corporate secrets by infiltrating the subconscious of important targets, must plant an idea into the mind of a powerful CEO.

Inception is a fascinating film—whimsical, in a sense. I won't go too deep into the plot because it's a bit complex and it's better to watch this film without knowing everything about it beforehand. (I know, I'm almost a decade late in reviewing it, but I still won't spoil it.) The plot follows Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a professional thief who uses dream-sharing technology to steal valuable secrets. Dom lives his life on the run, but Saito (Ken Watanabe), a Japanese businessman, offers him the opportunity to return to his family if Dom plants an idea in a competitor's CEO. Although reluctant at first, Dom accepts the job and assembles his team, which includes Saito, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Cobb's partner, Ariadne (Ellen Page), an architect, Eames (Tom Hardy), an 'identity thief,' and Yusuf, a chemist. Together, the team enters the subconscious of Robert Michael Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the heir to a business empire. It's a true thrill ride filled with an incredible attention to detail. It leads to a strong climax and a great, open-ended ending—it will keep you talking.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Film Review: Tokyo Videos of Horror 1

Tokyo Videos of Horror 1 (Review)
Japan/Date Unknown
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Prime
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...if you're a fan of anthologies and found footage movies, this is a very entertaining package."

An anthology of five short films from the Tokyo Videos of Horror series.

Although I reviewed Tokyo Videos of Horror: Panic Collection last year, I'm still not very familiar with the series, so here I am watching more. (And it helps that this collection is also available on Amazon Prime Video.) This collection features five videos. The first video is part of the aforementioned Panic Collection. It follows a couple who are lighting fireworks at the beach before they're interrupted by the voice of a child. The second story is very short, following a group of friends who are visited by a creepy entity during a trip. The third story follows a pair of cleaners who are sent to a grave where they are asked to perform some strange rituals. The fourth story is another short one. It's a video of a family playing while being 'watched' by something. It ends with a surprisingly brutal story of revenge where a young woman is forced to consume two capsules, then she's asked to kill herself. Although some of the stories were ridiculously short, I enjoyed this collection.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Film Review: Hard Candy (2005)

Hard Candy (Review)
United States/2005
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"It dares to enter taboo territory, and I applaud it for it that."

A teenage girl baits and captures a man in a plot to expose him as a pedophile.

Hard Candy follows Hayley (Ellen Page), a 14-year-old girl, and Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a 32-year-old photographer. After developing a relationship over the internet, Jeff and Hayley meet at a café, then they decide to go back to Jeff's house. At the house, Haley continues to flirt with Jeff until she drugs him and ties him to a chair. When he awakens, she reveals her true intentions: she wants to expose Jeff as a pedophile. Of course, Jeff refutes the claim, but there are a lot of secrets in his house. The rest of the plot is basically Hayley torturing Jeff, physically and psychologically. It leads to an interesting ending. I liked the ending, but it felt underwhelming compared to the rest of the movie.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Film Review: Don't Knock Twice (2016)

Don't Knock Twice (Review)
United Kingdom/2016
Format Viewed for Review: Showtime
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"It's not a terrifying movie, but it was a fun time killer."

A mother attempts to reconnect with her estranged daughter, who happens to be haunted by a demonic witch.

Don't Knock Twice reminded me of horror films from the 2000s. The plot follows Jess (Katee Sackhoff), an American painter with a troubled past, and her estranged daughter Chloe (Lucy Boynton). Jess wants to rebuild her life with Chloe, but Chloe refuses since she isn't ready to forgive Jess for her past actions. Her mind is quickly changed when, for some reason, Chloe and her friend Danny decide to test a local urban legend and disturb a witch by knocking twice on her door. So, Chloe runs home after she finds herself being haunted by said witch. There isn't much more to the plot. It has a few 'twists,' if you can call them that, but it mostly plays it safe and follows a predictable route. The ending was interesting, but it felt rushed and underwhelming.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Film Review: Before I Wake (2016)

Before I Wake (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's an entertaining and even heartfelt blend of horror and fantasy."

A couple adopts an orphaned child whose dreams become reality while he sleeps.

Before I Wake follows a young couple, Mark (Thomas Jane) and Jessie (Kate Bosworth). Mark and Jessie are still mourning the loss of their first and only child. Their lives change after they adopt an 8-year-old boy named Cody Morgan (Jacob Tremblay). He's a shy but well-mannered child with an interesting past—his mother passed away at a young age, he was abandoned by his past families, and he doesn't like sleeping. Mark and Jessie eventually find out about Cody's special ability: his dreams manifest physically. Mark and Jessie are happy with the dreams... but then the nightmares start occurring. Then, they start seeing The Canker Man. It leads to an emotionally effective ending, but the exposition was heavy-handed—it felt lazy.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Film Review: Don't Hang Up (2016)

Don't Hang Up (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"If you're a fan of thrillers like Joy Ride, you might enjoy this one the most."

A pair of teenage pranksters are targeted by a mysterious stranger who wants to play a game with them.

Don't Hang Up follows two pranksters, Sam Fuller (Gregg Sulkin) and Brady Mannion (Garrett Clayton). Sam is depressed because of his girlfriend's distant behavior, so Brady comes up with a bright idea: drinks and pranks. So, the pair drink and prank Sam's neighbors. Then, they receive a mysterious call from a 'Mr. Lee,' who happens to know a lot about Sam and Brady. They shrug off his initial threats and move on with their night. Mr. Lee has other plans for them, though. He reveals that he's kidnapped the loved ones of Sam and Brady. The only way to free them is if Sam kills Brady... or if Brady kills Sam. It leads to a predictable ending. The ending didn't leave a strong impression, unfortunately.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Film Review: Acts of Vengeance (2017)

Acts of Vengeance (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It has a decent amount of action, but it's missing heart."

A popular defense attorney searches for the person who killed his wife and daughter in hopes of exacting his revenge.

Acts of Vengeance follows lawyer Frank Valer (Antonio Banderas). While he's at work, breaking a promise to his family, Frank's wife and daughter are murdered and dumped in a hole in a train yard. Frank is devastated by the news and he begins to punish himself, turning into a human punching bag for a local fight club. However, after finding and reading Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, Frank decides to take action. He trains himself into a fighting machine and takes a vow of silence until he finds the person who killed his wife and daughter. That's basically the entire plot. There's no way around it: it's generic. It leads to a predictable ending, too.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Film Review: Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...an engaging and entertaining crime-thriller with some of the most explosively violent scenes I've seen in recent years."

A drug runner finds himself in prison after a deal goes bad.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 follows Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn), a former boxer who's down on his luck. Looking to rebuild his life with his unfaithful wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter), Bradley decides to return to his life as a drug runner. All is well for about a year and a half. Bradley and Lauren live in a new house, they have a child on the way, and they have plenty of money to spare. However, after a deal goes bad, Bradley lands in prison. Things only get worse after Lauren is kidnapped by his former associates. The lives of Lauren and his unborn child are threatened. In order to save them, Bradley must fight his way to Cell Block 99 in a different maximum-security prison. It loses some steam during its second act, but it hits hard during its grand finale. The ending is brutal and effective.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Film Review: Cannibal Farm (2017)

Cannibal Farm (aka Escape from Cannibal Farm) (Review)
United Kingdom/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a mishmash of good and bad ideas."

In the British countryside, a vacationing family is captured and tortured by a vengeful farmer and his deformed son.

Cannibal Farm follows the Harver family: Wesley Wallace, the stern step-dad, Katherine Harver, the nonchalant mother, Toby Harver, the smart-mouthed eighteen-year-old son, Sam Harver, the youngest son, and Jessica Harver (Kate Davies-Speak) and her boyfriend Kurt, who really need money from Wesley and Katherine. This family goes on vacation across the British countryside, trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city—to a place without stress or technology. However, at night, their trip is quickly sabotaged. The group ends up at the Hansen farm where Hunt Hansen and his deformed son are farming people. The plot then starts to throw an endless barrage of pointless twists, hoping that something sticks—and most of them don't. It leads to a predictable and underwhelming ending.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Film Review: The Himalayas (2015)

The Himalayas (Review)
South Korea/2015
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"I enjoyed it for what it offered: a genuine experience."

The story of Um Hong-gil (Hwang Jung-min), a renowned mountaineer who climbs Everest in order to retrieve the bodies of his late junior climbers.

The Himalayas is the true story of Um Hong-gil. Off the bat, the film warns you that some events have been changed for the sake of dramatization—I like that. The plot primarily follows Um Hong-gil as he mentors Park Moon-taek (Jung Woo), a junior climber, and his friend Park Jeong-bok. Along with the rest of the team, Hong-gil climbs several mountains in hopes of reaching 16 peaks. His run is cut short due to problems with his leg, so Moon-taek becomes the leader of his own team. At this point, which is around halfway through the movie, the movie becomes a bit more predictable. You'll know exactly where every scene is headed. It's not the biggest flaw, the film based on real events after all, but it does cause the film to lose some steam. It leads to a strong climax and ending, though.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Film Review: It (2017)

It (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: VUDU
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the most exciting and enjoyable horror movies of the decade so far."

In Derry, Maine, a group of kids known as the "Losers' Club" fight against a shapeshifting monster who has been terrorizing their city for generations...

It, also known as It: Chapter One, is an adaptation of Stephen King's It. The film follows the Losers' Club, which consists of its original members, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), and Stan, and their new friends, Bev (Sophie Lillis), Ben, and Mike. After the death of his younger brother, Georgie, Bill and his friends begin seeing horrific visions of their greatest fears orchestrated by a shapeshifting entity known as "It" or, in his clown form, Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). The kids eventually band together and try to fight their worst fears, but it's harder than it seems. There's no point in ruining this classic story—you've either read the extremely popular book, watched the original adaptation, or you've already watched this. Anyway, the climax was a mixed bag for me—I liked it, don't get me wrong, but it was a little underwhelming. The ending was ultimately good and it left me excited for the next chapter.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Film Review: Broken (2014)

Broken (Review)
South Korea/2014
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a suspenseful, thrilling, and compelling movie."

A father hunts the teenagers responsible for his daughter's tragic death while being pursued by the police.

Broken follows Lee Sang-hyeon (Jung Jae-young), a widower who lives with his fifteen-year-old daughter, Su-jin. One night, Su-jin is abducted and raped, and her body is left in an abandoned bathhouse. Sang-hyeon is devastated by the news. After receiving an anonymous text message with information on the culprits, Sang-hyeon decides to take matters into his own hands. He discovers that a group of teenagers raped and killed his daughter—and they recorded the whole thing. Unable to control his anger, he begins hunting the suspects to exact his revenge. Meanwhile, Jang Eok-gwan (Lee Sung-min), the detective investigating the case, tracks Sang-hyeon in hopes of stopping him before things spiral out of control. It leads to a strong climax and a great ending.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Film Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk (Review)
United Kingdom/United States/France/Netherlands/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the most suspenseful films I've watched in a while."

During World War II, allied soldiers are pushed to the shores of Dunkirk and forced to evacuate as the German Army surrounds them.

Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of Dunkirk. The plot primarily follows three parties. Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a young British private, meets Gibson, a soldier who is burying a friend in the beach. While attempting to evacuate, Tommy rescues Alex, another soldier. Together, the three young men attempt to escape Dunkirk by any means necessary. In the sea, civilian vessels are requisitioned by the Royal Navy. Mr. Dawson takes his vessel, along with his son and their teenage friend, to Dunkirk to help in the evacuation. And, in the air, three pilots, including Farrier (Tom Hardy), head to France. The film leads to a strong climax and a great ending.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Film Review: The Neon Demon (2016)

The Neon Demon (Review)
France/Denmark/United States/2016
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's a visual masterpiece, but a lackluster cinematic experience."

Sixteen-year-old Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles to pursue a career in modeling, but she quickly becomes the target of lust, envy, and her own narcissism.

The Neon Demon is rich in beauty and symbolism while lacking plot and character. The film follows Jesse, a young aspiring model who moves to Los Angeles from small-town Georgia. She begins her career as a humble model working with Dean, a photographer she met online. Despite her lack of experience, Jesse is signed to an agency, but she's told to pretend she's nineteen—and so she does. She quickly rises through the ranks as photographers are attracted to her natural body and her innocence. She also attracts the dangerous attention of other models. And... there really isn't much more to summarize. It leads to a decent climax and an interesting ending.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Film Review: Inside Men (2015)

Inside Men (Review)
South Korea/2015
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it is engaging, suspenseful, gruesome, and incredibly entertaining."

A political henchman seeks vengeance after being betrayed by his bosses while a prosecutor attempts to link all of the pieces.

Inside Men is a film with a lot of pieces. The plot follows the corrupted relationships between politicians, media, and gangsters in South Korea. Ahn Sang-goo (Lee Byung-hun) is a gangster who works for Jang Pil-woo, a presidential candidate with criminal ties—obviously. Sang-goo also has a relationship with influential newspaper editor Lee Kang-hee (Baek Yoon-sik), who also works with Pil-woo. So, when Sang-goo finds compromising evidence against Pil-woo, Kang-hee informs his partners and Sang-goo is brutally punished. You keeping up? Okay, well, there's more. In the midst of it all is Woo Jang-hoon (Jo Seung-woo), a prosecutor who is struggling to climb the ladder of success due to a lack of connections. Jang-hoo wants to catch Pil-woo and Sang-goo is hell-bent on vengeance. This is just the first thirty minutes or so of the film, by the way. There is much more going on—and it's mostly fantastic. It leads to a strong ending.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Film Review: Blade of the Immortal (2017)

Blade of the Immortal (Review)
Japan/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies & TV
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...imagine the grittiness of 13 Assassins blended with the unique characters of a manga or anime and this is what you get."

After the murder of her father, Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki) seeks vengeance and asks Manji (Takuya Kimura), an immortal samurai, to serve as her bodyguard.

Blade of the Immortal begins by introducing Manji, a talented samurai. After murdering a corrupt lord and his bodyguards, Manji finds himself surrounded by a hundred bounty hunters. The leader kills his sister, which leads to a legendary battle where Manji kills all of them. In the process, Manji is gravely injured. However, he is 'saved' by Yaobikuni, a mysterious woman who implants sacred bloodworms into his body, granting him immortality. Fast forward fifty years: Rin Asano's family is attacked by Kagehisa Anotsu (Sōta Fukushi) and his group, the Ittō-ryū. Rin seeks vengeance, so she convinces Manji to help her—and so he does. They set out to defeat Anotsu and his gang. There is a lot more to the story, this film is based on a manga after all, but I think that's enough of a summary from me. Hopefully it captured your attention because the plot is interesting. It leads to a bloody climax and a great ending.