Saturday, May 31, 2014

Maleficent, A Million Ways to Die in the West Reviews

Dir. Robert Stromberg
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Angelina Jolie stars in her horniest role yet in Maleficent, her first live action movie in 4 years (during which time she was probably recovering from The Tourist).  Taking a cue from/ripping off the stage show Wicked, Maleficent tells the Sleepying Beauty tale from the perspective of the villain, in this case one of Disney's most beloved villains, Maleficent - although most of this film does not fall within the continuity of the original animated classic.  First-time director Robert Stromberg knows how to make a magical CGI world come to life really darn well (he earned two Academy Awards for Production Design for Avatar and Alice in Wonderland), and he sure did make Maleficent into a creature and glow-y things-filled journey... if only he cared as much about the story as the eye candy.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past, Blended Reviews

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Dir. Bryan Singer
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The first X-Men film changed comic book movies; it's kind of what started this whole "Dark Knight" thing of taking these superheroes seriously.  But after six feature films and dwindling box office returns for the last few entries in the franchise, Fox decided the best tactic for the seventh X-Men movie would be to combine both the "prequel" First Class cast with the original trilogy cast in a complicated time-travel storyline taken straight out of the comics.  Personally, I've been pretty fatigued from these movies (X-Men and superheroes in general), but the "all-out" approach of keeping the franchise alive made Days of Future Past enticing.  Bryan Singer is back in the director's chair, with an "I'm sorry" script from Simon Kinberg, who has since publicly apologized for The Last Stand.  It felt right to give the reigns back to the guy who made this all work in the first place, and I'm happy to say - the move worked out beautifully.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Godzilla, Chef Reviews

Dir. Gareth Edwards
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Godzilla is probably one of, if not the most, iconic monsters in pop culture.  From his dark and gritty beginning in the masterpiece Gojira to his many rubber-suited, "dubbed" monster brawls, to the American remake that may as well not have been labelled "Godzilla" at all, the giant lizard has certainly not had a consistent level of quality throughout his 60-year stint destroying buildings and kicking the shit out of other giant creatures.  But as soon as I heard Gareth Edwards was brought on board, I was sold.  His low-budget giant monster flick Monsters was an astonishing first feature that balanced human relationships with the grand monster scale in a beautiful way.  He was a perfect choice to direct this, and with a cast including Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen (who impressed me in Martha Marcy May Marlene), and a couple of fantastic, haunting trailers, my nerd boner went through the roof.  And then the hype machine starting turning.  Facebook, film blogs, people on the damn street - the buzz was that Godzilla was great.  So I bolted to the first screening I could attend, and as I walked out of the theater it sunk in - this was just another mediocre summer movie.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Unsung Hero of “Barf-Bag” Cinema

Hey guys!  I just turned in my LAST paper for my undergrad degree, and funny enough it was for my Film Genre: Horror class (a subject I am particularly fond of).  Anyway, I put a lot of effort into this report and I enjoyed working on it so much, I thought it would be fun to share with more people than just my professor!  So here it is, in all its glory - my final paper for my horror class, written about "The Godfather of Gore," Herschell Gordon Lewis... Now with BONUS PICTURES!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Neighbors, Locke, Blue Ruin, Only Lovers Left Alive

Dir. Nicholas Stoller

Seth Rogen, known for playing the lovable "shlub" type in every single film he's in, totally doesn't break character again and plays lovable shlub Mac Radner in the latest from Forgetting Sarah Marshall director/Muppets co-writer Nicholas Stoller (although it's clear that co-producers Rogen and Evan Goldberg had their paws all over the story).  The plot couldn't be simpler - Rogen, his wife (Rose Byrne), and his baby girl just put all their funds into their new home when, wouldn't you know it, a frat house moves in next door (headed by Zac Efron and Dave Franco).  And comedy ensues.  Although the story is pretty self-explanatory, I have to say, Neighbors was an incredibly well-handled comedy.  If you can handle the raunchiness, the script smartly deals with the fear of growing up within both generations (without making the "frat" side simply a joke) while still bringing on laughs at a regular interval.  Although at times the raunchiness goes a little too far, it was still a funny damn movie, with one of the best fight scenes - if you can believe it - I've seen this year (not counting The Raid 2).  Also, I have to give a shout-out to Ike Barinholtz (MadTV), who plays one of Rogen's friends/co-workers in the film, and is absolutely hilarious (and holds a striking resemblance to Mark Wahlberg, so much so that I almost thought I was watching a long lost Wahlberg brother).  If you're a fan of these type of comedies (ie Hangover, Ted), Neighbors is totally worth your time, and if you're a woman, you get to ogle at Zac Effron's sexy abs.

Rating: B

Dir. Steven Knight

Much like Ryan Reynolds in Buried or James Franco in 127 Hours, Locke is a one-man show set all in one claustrophobic location - this time with Tom Hardy behind the wheel of a car.  The entire hour and a half runtime is spent on a neon-lit, seemingly infinite patch of highway with only Hardy's face and his bluetooth hands-free telephone to keep us company.  What the film amounts to is more or less a standard family drama plot boiled down to its bare essentials, almost like listening to a well-crafted radio play.  Watching this one man try to keep his work, home, and personal life from completely spiraling out of control, just through phone conversations and the expressions and emotions he was feeling was unlike any cinematic experience I've had before.  The only problem for me was that the actual story was somewhat unoriginal - the type of thing you'd see in a soap opera, just given a fancier treatment.  Although I wanted to like the movie more for its sheer ambition, ultimately for me the story left more to be desired.  Still I'd say the fantastic performance by Hardy and its singular experience is worth checking it out.

Rating: B-

Only Lovers Left Alive
Dir. Jim Jarmusch

Only Lovers Left Alive is Jim Jarmusch's take on the vampire myth - and of course it's unlike any vampire movie that's ever been made.  These are washed-out, directionless rocker vamps with a taste for blood and cool tunes.  Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play centuries-old vampires, who've seen and learned everything the world has to offer and are jaded to a fault.  I love how vampires in this movie are basically hipsters, and having them live in the Detroit underground rock scene was brilliant.  The vibe of the film feels like a slowly spinning record (the film literally opens spinning around the central characters), and it feels more like you're "hanging out" with these characters than watching a thickly-plotted, laid-out story.  Hiddleston and Swinton are perfect casting for this offbeat world that Jarmusch created, and they work really well together.  However, like Locke, I found that I appreciated it more than I actually enjoyed watching it; after I while I was wishing the "record" would start spinning faster.

Rating: C+

Blue Ruin
Dir. Jeremy Saulnier

Blue Ruin is a film that made headlines recently for being completely funded through kickstarter and ended up winning some awards at Cannes.  It's basically about this homeless drifter, who we know little about at first, who is notified that one Wade Cleland Jr. is being released from prison.  The two have a history (Wade killed his parents - kind of a big deal), and unlike other movies in the genre, the act of revenge is taken fairly early on in the picture.  What Blue Ruin does is show the consequences of said revenge, in a violent, at times black humor-filled manner. This slow-burn, violent, Southern revenge tale has hints of No Country for Old Men and Jeff Nichols' Shotgun Stories (especially concerning the "family" quarrels), and coming from cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier, the movie looks great.  The central performance in the film by Macon Blair was fantastic (and frankly all of the performances), especially at the beginning of the film, as we see him go about his wordless day as a vagrant.  The violence in the film is graphic and comes at unexpected moments, and although I think critics are blowing out of proportion how good the movie is, I think it's a solidly made Coen/Nichols-esque thriller.

Rating: B-

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Dir. Marc Webb
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The summer season is officially upon us, and you know what that means: copious amounts of super-powered men in tights.  And kicking things off is your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, slinging his way into his fifth big screen adventure in only 12 years.  This sequel to Marc Webb's reboot of the franchise also happens to be the worst-rated Spider-Man film on Rotten Tomatoes, and currently looking at a slightly lower box office intake than all the other films - even with the added 3D and IMAX surcharges factored in.  But I like to keep an open mind about stuff, and I'm a big fan of Spidey (he's my favorite superhero right under Batman), so I really was hoping this movie could pull its shit together and fix the problems of the first one.  In the end though, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is about as "amazing" as a meal at Buffalo Wild Wings.  It's good enough to not starve, but it will still leave you feeling empty and disappointed by the end of it.

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