Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review: The Crazies (2010)

August 6, 2010

The Crazies. Director: Breck Eisner. Starring: Tim Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith. Written by: Scott Kosar, Ray Wright, George Romero

In an era of flu scares, this remake feels timely. It doesn’t seem entirely out of the realm of possibility that some virus could spread through a town and turn everyone batty. While the original played on people’s fear of the government, the remake of The Crazies wisely plays on people’s fear of widespread diseases and nasty viruses.

The residents of the small town of Ogden Marsh are being plagued by a virus that causes insanity. When the government swooped in to put the town on lockdown, Sheriff David Dutton (Tim Olyphant) and his wife (Radha Mitchell) try to escape along with two other uninfected friends. Mystery and horror ensue.

more insightful analysis after the jump

Review: How To Train Your Dragon

May 1, 2010

Sometimes, a person just wants to watch some awesome 3D flying dragon sequences. If that is you, then you have come to the right movie, because How To Train Your Dragon is chock-full of awesome 3D flying dragon sequences. Normally, I would feel pretty negative about a movie whose soul reason for existence is some flying sequences, but this one is brisk and fun and well-made.

A village of vikings is constantly being attacked by dragons, and the improbable hero is a scrawny young boy named Hiccup. Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel)  astonishingly captured a dragon using a homemade bow-and-arrow-contraption and even more astonishingly was able to secretly tame and train the flying lizard. Soon the boy and the dragon, who he calls “Toothless,” become friends, and then Hiccup has the tough job of convincing every other villager that dragons are nice and they should stop fighting with them.

Hiccup has a parcel of young training mates: a nerd, a spineless bully, twins who are always bickering, and a tough young girl who is obviously the love interest. These training mates keep things breezy, but Hiccup’s dad is a bit of a downer. This is my main qualm with the entire movie. The father-son relationship brings a bit of unneeded melodrama into an otherwise lighthearted affair. The dad, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), is a hefty successful viking who is disappointed in his son. He has many cliche and obviously manipulative  lines of dialogue throughout the movie, including “You’re not my son.” I mean, come on. Can it get any more generically melodramatic than that?

The flying scenes are outstanding. There was swooping, near misses, twirling, and just about every trick in the ocular book. I thought that I might get tired of them after awhile, but I didn’t; and it was impressive how long they held my two-year-old daughter’s attention. When it comes to the flying scenes, you’re really getting your money’s worth.

How To Train Your Dragon is a perfectly acceptable vehicle for abundant flying sequences. If you want more than that, good luck finding it. But if you are happy with nothing more than a bounty of visual dazzlement, then watch it already!

Two Fishbones out of Four

Review: A Serious Man

February 20, 2010

The Coen Brothers’ cynical worldview is captured as elegantly as ever in there 2009 film A Serious Man.

Larry Gopnik is not a serious man. He is not important or significant, he is meek and compliant, and his problems are mounting like flapjacks on a platter. When Larry learns that his wife has a lover, he does not kick her out of the house, instead he takes her suggestion and moves into a local motel. When  Larry’s brother mooches off of him and his son steals from him, he does not lay down the law, instead he let’s them get away with it.

Larry turns to his Rabbis to try to make sense of it all, but they just tell him unhelpful stories about dentists and parking lots, and Larry leaves more confused than before. The Jewish context seems to make this film more personal than all of the Coens’ other films. The characters seem true to life and almost biographical. The Coens claim that the characters of the film were not based on real people, but they say that the characters were very similar to people they grew up with.

A Serious Man is not as momentous as the Coens’ trademark films like Fargo or No Country For Old Men, but it is more of a personal film and more lovingly rendered. This film is not entirely satisfying, but in the end, does anyone ever really  get any real answers?

3 fishbones out of 4

Note: In my preview of the A Serious Man trailer, I gave it a 3 out of 4 on the Potential meter. I think the trailer was a good indication of the quality of the actual film.

Review: The Crazies

December 6, 2009

When I heard about a remake being made to the 1973 George Romero film The Crazies, I thought I’d check out the original. I’ve been meaning to watch the original for a while now, since I love some of Romero’s other work, but I haven’t gotten around to watching it. What I saw was somewhat disappointing.

A mysterious illness has overcome the people of Evans, PA, and soon the military has swooped in and barricaded the town. The illness makes people burn down there houses, stab people, and talk crazy gibberish. The military men wear biohazard suits and go around burning crazies with flame throwers. Through all this, a small group of survivors (including a fireman, his lover, his best buddy, and two others) try to make it out of town.

the rest of the review and my rating after the jump

Review: [REC]

September 2, 2009

[REC]

A young TV reporter, Angela, and her cameraman, Pablo, cover the night shift at a fire station.  They cover the firemen eating in the cafeteria, playing basketball, and sleeping. For about the first fifteen minutes of the movie, you have no idea you’re watching a horror film.

Then the firemen get a call to help a woman who is trapped in her apartment with a mysterious illness. This is the first clue that something is amiss. Unfortunately that mysterious illness turns out to be an infectious virus that changes people into zombies. The sick woman bites a police officer who later becomes a zombie, and he bites others who then become zombies themselves,and soon the whole apartment building is just crawling with the undead.

More after the jump

Review: Inglourious Basterds

August 22, 2009

inglourious basterds

Quentin Tarantino is a kid in a candy store. He loves movies. He loves making movies. He has complete control over his movies, basically he gets to do whatever he wants. In Inglourious Basterds, he mixes some of his favorite genres (spaghetti western, spy thriller, etc.) to make one big and tasty cumulative stew. Tarantino has made his best movie since Pulp Fiction in 1994, and all of the flair and intensity of his earlier work is back intact.

There are two seperate stories that drive Inglourious Basterds. In the first story, a young Jewish woman, Shoshana, plots revenge against  Col. Hans Landa, the Nazi officer that slaughtered her family. In the second  story, Lt. Aldo Raine leads a group of Jewish-American recruits behind enemy lines to kill and terrorize the Nazi army. The two stories converge at the end, as it seems Shoshana and Raine come to have the same target.

Tarantino lets the stories run long (but never boring) as he relishes in the dialogue and characters, especially the arch-villain Landa. Landa reminds me of the villain Anton Chighur from No Country For Old Men; each using cunning and brutality, each playing cat and mouse with their victims. Christoph Waltz played Hans Landa to perfection, earning him the best actor award at Cannes.

inglourious_basterds-posterI took my wife to see Inglourious Basterds on a date. This was not exactly the best date movie. Nazis being beaten to death with a baseball bat and being scalped doesn’t give one a warm and fuzzy feeling.

But the thing that struck me about this film that I don’t hear anyone else talking about is the pervading aspect of suspense. Every scene and almost every conversation could have erupted in violence. Waiting for that violence to happen as the scenes went forward pretty much had me at the edge of my seat. How can a Nazi officer ordering a glass of milk be more suspenseful than a woman walking into a dark alley? Tarantino masterfully builds suspense just as well as any movie director out there, and he makes it look easy.

fish-bone4

Four fishbones out of four

Review: The Machine Girl

August 18, 2009

Ami and her Machine Gun

Ami is a girl with many problems. Her brother has been killed by a Yakuza’s son, her hand has been cut off by the Yakuza father, and her path of revenge has become a very bloody path indeed.

The amount of blood used in this film is outrageous and borders on ludicrous. There are fountains and puddles and lakes of blood. The soul purpose of this film is to depict all the various ways to die a bloody death. There are decapitations, dismemberment, slit throats, skulls split open, you get the point. And the weapons are quite over-the-top and comical as well. The main attraction is a machine gun in place of Ami’s amputated hand, but this feature also includes a chainsaw in place of a foot, a flying guillotine, and a drill bra. That’s right, a drill bra.

Machine GirlThe low budget of The Machine Girl could be seen as a detractor to its believability, but it didn’t bother me. It almost reminded me of old Herschell Gordon Lewis gore movies from the sixties. The gooey red corn syrup and organs made out of jello were just realistic enough to make one cringe.

I guess the question you have to ask yourself is: am I in the mood for gore? If the answer is yes, then this is your movie. If the answer is no, then run far away.

fish-bone2.5

2.5 fishbones out of 4