The setting: a family vacation cabin deep in the woods. The setup: Mia (Jane Levy) is a junkie trying to get clean with the help of family and friends. The twist: the missing squatters who broke into the cabin were possibly into witchcraft, and they left something behind. Faster than you read magic words from a book of the dead bound in human flesh, five friends find themselves in a fight for their lives and their souls to prevent an evil entity from being brought into this world, and they’ll need all the luck, chainsaws, and boomsticks they can get.
Horror fans are almost certainly familiar with the original Evil Dead series directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, but director Fede Alvarez paints his film not as a re-imagining but as a fresh installment complete with James Bond-esque pre-title setup. The premise is purposeful, an intervention where some old friends who’ve drifted apart are bound in a common cause. What works here is that none of these characters seem particularly important or even likable until everything falls apart. Character begins to ooze out (often literally), giving us heroes to cheer and for more than just their survival instinct.
The original title of this post was going to be “When Roger Ebert Agreed With Death.” Out of context, however, some readers might have found that a bit insensitive of me (perish the thought).
So, a little about the man pulled from Wikipedia:
Roger Joseph Ebert was an American journalist, film critic, and screenwriter. He was a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death. In 1975, he was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.
My review of Blade 2 in 2002 had generated a bit of flack in how much praise I had given it, but I soon discovered that I wasn’t alone: Roger Ebert had given it 3.5/4.0 stars himself, higher than most of the average user ratings on the site.
I’m not known for going along with the so-called “average film critic” on my opinions, but they are MY opinions and therefore NEVER wrong (likewise, I will never tell you that YOUR opinions are wrong, but that won’t stop me from trying to make you “see the light,” pun intended). While Mr. Ebert and I disagreed on as many films as we both enjoyed, his passion for film was never in question. Paraphrasing the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall on her critique of Voltaire’s beliefs, I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it (and that speaks volumes coming from the likes of me).
This way to your seat, sir… enjoy the rest of the show.
Guess there’s some life left in G.I. Joe after all.
After yet another betrayal (sensing a pattern here), the covert operations team codenamed G.I. Joe is all but wiped out. Their enemy, COBRA, has launched a new plan to subvert freedom (check) and conquer the world (check). Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) manage to survive the attack, regrouping on US soil to piece together who could have given the order to wipe them out. Meanwhile, the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) is being terrorized by an imposter (also mostly played by Jonathan Pryce) in an effort to put COBRA’s evil plan into action. And on the other side of the globe, Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and new-recruit Jinx (Elodie Yung) are looking for Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) to answer for his crimes against their order and possibly be coerced into reveal COBRA’s plans. Only one thing is certain: a whole bunch of things are about to get blown up.
The first big-screen outing of G.I. Joe, The Rise of Cobra, was kind of a spectacular mess, but it was a somewhat entertaining spectacular mess. Between the writer’s strike and too many cooks stirring the pot, there were problems, but overall it was better than any previous Transformers films or the recent Battleship debacle. It was obvious that filmmakers were trying to reinvent (because sometimes you can’t get the rights to all the story you’d like to use). This new film, however, manages to build on the original and fix the missteps before merrily blowing up everything they can get away with. Folks, we’d all love to see a hard-line G.I. Joe film where everything is realistic, but when was the show ever realistic?
Small time carnival con-man and magician Oz (James Franco) dreams of greatness but has a small-time mentality (not to mention a weakness for pretty faces). When circumstances force him into a hot air balloon that gets sucked up by a tornado, he is transported to a magical land that bears his name: Oz. There he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a beautiful young woman who claims to be a witch. Mistaking Oz for a great wizard from another land, she offers to lead him to the Emerald City and become their king. Theodora’s sister and fellow witch, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), clarifies that the offer of kingship is dependant upon Oz destroying “the wicked witch” who dwells in the Dark Forest. While Oz initially views the enchanted land as a simple place ripe for the plucking, he soon learns from a third witch named Glenda (Michelle Williams) that little is as it seems and hell hath no fury like a witch gone wicked.
There were concerns when Sam Raimi tapped “toker” James Franco (famous for his stoner roles) for the title character of a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, but the actor not only shows up but stands up to the demands of the role. While the original film was all practical effects and camera tricks, this new Land of Oz is brought to life through computer wizardry, and it’s quite a challenge for any actor to carry a scene alone against imaginary characters (hold up; maybe this was genius casting on Raimi’s part). Mix in three amazing actresses to play the witches opposite our heroic fake wizard and the scene is set for an enchanting film standing wholly on its own while effectively previewing the movie that inspired it.
After a solid, edge-of-your-seat beginning, the ending reeks either of studio interference or amateur writing.
Jordan (Halle Berry) is a 911 operator at “the hive,” a nickname given to the Los Angeles police dispatch facility that coordinates all emergency services for the area. When a teenager calls in to report an attempted break-in, Jordan does her best to help the young woman evade the assailant while police are on route. When the connection is lost at a critical moment, her return call results in the teen’s death. Six months later, Jordan has left the phones to teach new hires the ropes. An act of fate pits Jordan not only against her fears of making another fatal mistake but against the same murderer as well.
There’s nothing wrong with a great crime thriller any more than with a great revenge flick, but problems can arise when you blend the two. The Call puts you in the passenger seat of a high-pressure job: taking emergency calls, collecting data, coordinating services, and keeping the caller calm. When the calls go from “my cat’s in a tree” and “where are my keys?” to actual emergencies, the shift in urgency is palatable and real. It’s what happens in the third act that derails the film almost to the point of criminal neglect, and the first two acts really deserved a better ending.
Instead of a celebration of classic horror films and the imagination of Tim Burton, Frankenweenie is more a reminder of why “the good old days” seemed a lot better back then.
In the town of New Holland (looking eerily like the sanitized suburb from Edward Scissorhands), a young boy named Victor (voice of Charlie Tahan) loses his beloved dog, Sparky, in an accident. On the eve of an upcoming science fair, his new science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (voice of Martin Landau channeling Vincent Price), indirectly suggests to him that electricity might hold the key to restoring his dog to life. The experiment is a success, but New Holland is a who’s who of future mad scientists, and a breakthrough on how to reanimate dead pets isn’t going to remain a secret for long.
There’s a lot to love about the works of Tim Burton. From The Nightmare Before Christmas to Alice In Wonderland, his singular dark-and-twisty view of the world is a wonder to behold. Unfortunately, it’s rare that image and setting can carry a film all on its own; in fact, Beetlejuice is one of the actual few examples of any movie getting away this. The problem is that there’s a better version of Frankenweenie already in existence (it’s in the extras of most copies of Nightmare), and this stop-motion version seems to borrow from not only Burton’s own work but every other classic work of black and white horror as well. It could be argued that Frankenweenie is a love-letter to Burton fans, but the finished product looks very weak directly compared to the sheer brilliance of the similarly themed ParaNorman.
This film’s biggest problem is the title; it’s wrong.
It is a period of civil war. The sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), is under pressure to end the American conflict. His desire to pass a 13th amendment to the US Constitution and abolish slavery for all time can’t be won if the Southern states rejoin the union and block the vote. Even the threat of the amendment brings the South to the bargaining table with a willingness to end the war, but if the amendment doesn’t pass now, it might never come up again. If it passes in spite of the war raging on, it could restore freedom to the galaxy….
Steven Spielberg, only you could be so bold. Let’s be honest: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter had more to do with the life of Lincoln than this. That said, however, it is an intriguing by-the-numbers account (however dramatized) of the political machine in motion, specifically in the maneuvers required to get an amendment passed in the wake of compromise. Anyone familiar with the musical 1776 knows that the slavery issue has been batted about since the birth of the United States (or, you know, if you read history books or whatnot), but it was tabled then to ensure the South would band together with the Northern states to throw Britain out of the colonies. If you thought the politics and lobbying to get legislation passed is tough these days, get a load of how it was done in 1864.
Think Army of Darkness rather than Van Helsing, an R-rated version of the famous Brothers Grimm tale that’s a bit of ridiculous fun.
After being led by their father into the woods as children, Hansel and Gretel discover a house made of candy and cake owned by a witch. After foiling the witch’s plan to eat them, the siblings get a taste for killing witches and embark on a career to rid the world of their kind. Years later, the adult Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) investigate a series of child disappearances in a fearful village, but what they discover could be their undoing as the mystery of their past finally catches up to their present.
While the trailers suggest a takes-itself-too-seriously Van Helsing clone, this film is well aware of how silly the premise actually is. Rather than stoop to slapstick, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters instead creates a world unique to the characters that inhabit it while mirroring the pop culture of our own. The weapons are impossible, but then, so are witches, so the production compromises on that idea. In addition, the film is full of interesting little touches, such as Hansel becoming diabetic from being force-fed too many sweets and a perfectly plausible reason why the siblings have any chance against beings that hurl destructive spells on a whim. It’s a bizarre amalgamation that it ultimately works if just barely.
Almost forty years after the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface returns (no surprise there) but it’s not a reboot (surprise!)
After a quick recap of the original story, the local sheriff (Thom Barry) fails to keep of bunch of local rednecks from taking the law into their own hands. The only survivor of their wrath is an infant found by a childless couple and kept for their own. Four decades later, twenty-something (huh?!) small-town girl Heather (Alexandra Daddario) learns that the grandmother she never knew existed has willed a substantial estate to her in Newt, Texas. While Heather turns out to be a long-lost member of the Sawyer family, she is by no means the last.
The term “fan service” comes to mind when viewing this film. First of all, this IS a continuation, an actual sequel instead of merely a reboot. While fans of Leatherface/Tommy/Bubba (whatever you prefer to call the face-wearing lumbering ox with an attitude) will be happy to see the big guy back up on the screen, the film sets up an interesting premise clearly aimed at making additional films. While most of the cast is set up to knock down (you know the drill… er, chainsaw), both Leatherface and his surviving relative are surprisingly effective. While neither as gory nor demented as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, it’s nice to see that someone still cares about taking care of one of our favorite monsters.