Saturday, September 10, 2011


Contagion -- 3/5

Contagion would have been the show-stopper of the month if it weren't for Drive, but that's not saying too much since it's September. The film is an interestingly open-ended thriller about how the world would react if a disease epidemic broke loose in this day and age. Following many characters at once, this film is not afraid to kill off one of their big stars quickly. It's good, it's compelling, and it's a very interesting commentary on how people react to something so scary and so unavoidable.
This film, though interesting in concept, was all about the performances I feel. It hired huge stars for all the tiny main roles in this film. If I were to pick, the protagonist was probably Matt Daemon's character, because the movie starts out with his story, and also ends with his. Played by Gwyneth Paltrow, his wife's death was the catalyst in figuring out the disease and where it started throughout the film. However, my absolute favorite performances in the film belonged to Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard. I found their stories the most interesting and the most heart-wrenching.
Though creative and compelling to watch, the big question is doesn't this movie have repeat value? Probably not. It was an interesting character study, but I feel watching it again wouldn't have that same compelling vibe. Once the spark for the virus is unveiled, the movie neatly falls into place and the mystery the movie builds up so well is gone. Though this can be said for many films, there are some that once the mystery is discovered, the movie loses its edge. Though it's packed with characters, the audience never has enough time to become fully entangled in their lives to fall in love and become attached to them. When a character dies, it's sad for sure, but it is not tear-worthy. This is where I feel the movie lacks, and why it does not hold that special repeat value, therefore diminishing the film's greatness and making it only good.

Sorry this review is very short, but I fell behind so much that I actually forgot a lot of what I wanted to say about this movie. I guess that means I could also add this movie in pretty forgettable as well, which makes it even less greater. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Apollo 18

Apollo 18 -- 2/5

I'm going to drive right into this review with budget comparisons! So apparently according to IMDB, this movie cost $5 million to make. Well, at least it can say it made money, but did it really cost that much to make this super unappealing movie? Though I'm not crazy about it either, when someone can make Paranormal Activity for $15,000 and it honestly looks better than this movie, I worry. Now, let's compare + contrast my favorite and least favorite horror movies of this first person POV genre (from greatest to least amount spent).
Paranormal Activity: $15,000 (3/5)
The Blair Witch Project: $60,000 (3/5)
Rec: $2 million (4.5/5)
Apollo 18: $5 million (2/5)
Cloverfield: $25 million (4/5)
I would say my favorite out of them all would be Rec, the Spanish zombie infestation movie (maybe you have seen the remake Quarantine?). I think it was done very well, and it was quite spooky. And the best part about it was the fact that it didn't shake as badly as some of the other previously mentioned movies above do. They all have similar-types of stories, but the one thing that can totally mess up one of these movies is the direction, and Apollo 18's was horrible.
I liked the idea that someone had captured alien life on the moon and no one knew about it, and I also thought the acting wasn't too awful, though it wasn't fantastic either. The problem was the plot holes and the direction. The fact that most of the footage was caught via super 8 film that was destroyed by a crash or left behind, confused me a little. How did someone retrieve said super 8s? It was quite a perplexing little plot hole.
Also, the way time lapsed was really boring to watch. I understand the reason for no music, but the action was so painfully slow to get into, that I never really got scared. There were no jumps, because they were a little obvious and expected.
I also found the aliens a little laughable. Attacking rocks? Apollo 18 should go meet up with Don't be Afraid of the Dark and look at their "scary" tiny monsters, and see where they went wrong. It's not that tiny monsters can't be scary, you just present them and design them better, and on top of that write them better. No fairies, no rocks.
I suppose I should have known this movie would be bad when it kept jumping around with release dates (a tell tale sign that a production company doesn't know how to advertise the movie, and on top of that they do not have faith in it). September movies also tend to be on the not so good side, so that maybe should have been flashing red lights already. Oh well, time goes on, and people waste time watching mediocre movies. Maybe you saw this movie, and maybe you were lucky enough not to. Even if it hits Netflix instant (which after this month, you may not even be a subscriber), I'd say skip it and watch something better.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Dont' Be Afraid of the Dark -- 2.5/5

There was so much about this movie that I wanted to like, but it never came through for me. I loved that Guillermo del Toro's name was attached to this, and that it looked like a classic haunted house story not so different from one of my favorite horror films El Orfanato (also produced by del Toro). It also had a pretty creepy trailer attached to it, and furthermore I had no clue what it could be about. Maybe not knowing was for the best.
[spoiler alert] The movie starts out in possibly the 1800's. A creepy old scientist who lives in a ridiculously gorgeous mansion knocks out his maid's teeth to feed to these evil sounding creatures who have captured his son and will not give him back until he gives them "child's teeth." Needless to say the scientist angers the whispering creatures by offering them adult teeth and they pull him down some shaft to his death.
Jump to the future, where the movie doesn't seem to quite know where it is. The airport has old fashioned arrival signs, Katie Holmes (the evil step-girlfriend) carries around a Polaroid camera, and the father (Guy Pearce) has a smart phone he can text on. What? At first I thought they could be in the 90's, but the texting really through me off that scent.
Then we get to the house, and it's gorgeous. Probably the only thing that made the movie worth viewing to be honest. Now it's the time where characters are established (sort of). The little girl's parents are divorced, she is taking some pretty strong medication that could be the cause of her depression, and the dad seems like a class-A jerk. Oh, and I shouldn't forget that Katie Holmes' character apparently had a really bad childhood, but don't worry -- apparently that's not important because they never ever mention it again in the movie. Actually, the character's lives aren't important either because all this back story that could be potential character development is shoved to the side for the rest of the movie.
We move on as the secret basement is discovered by young Sally (played by Bailee Madison). After roaming around a fairy-tale-like labyrinth (complete with fairy mushroom circle and all), she finds a window covered by one giant bush, thus the discovery of the basement. Of course, one of the construction workers (Harris) attempts to keep the family away from this discovery, but fails miserably. When the father and girlfriend Holmes discover the basement, they go hog wild. Of course, the audience realizes this basement is the one where the mad scientist killed his maid for her teeth and was in return killed by these whispering creatures. Right away, Sally notices the shaft that has been conveniently bolted up. This intrigues her.
It all seems so simple and easy to follow up until this point. So potentially good and interesting. But alas, this is where the plot holes and weird parts start and keep on coming. This is where the movie gets bad.

Plot Hole #1: Apparently Harris's grandfather was the one who bolted up the shaft (what?) but we never know why his family doesn't own the house anymore and why on earth he's working to restore it if he knows the house's dark and scary secrets.
Plot Hole #2: Even though the creepy whispering creatures sound, well, creepy it doesn't stop Sally from wanting to be their friend (why?). Maybe this is because her parents don't love her (the creatures repeat that a lot), but as a kid if I heard creepy voice who demanded me to "turn off the light!" I would be running away and not trying to release them from there bolted shaft. Maybe she was just lonely.
Weird Part #1: Grown up men can't seem to escape the wrath of these hunchback, limping creatures with tiny sharp objects. And they almost kill poor Harris for attempting to protect Sally. I don't know why he couldn't just walk or run up the stairs to the light and save himself, but apparently these little guys are very...strong?
Plot Hole #3: After Harris' demise and the father refuses to believe the daughter about anything, girlfriend Holmes decides to rush off to the library on the command of Harris. 16 minutes before closing time, she is able to find the young librarian and they run off into a restricted section to discover more about the scientist who owned the house, Blackwood. While she must wear gloves, the librarian doesn't seem to need them while touching these old sketches and diary entries. It is now where we discover the secret of these hunchbacked tiny creatures. Apparently they used to kill people to replenish their ranks, but after making a treaty with the Pope (what?!?!) they started to live off of children's teeth. To get these teeth, at night a child would place his or her tooth under a pillow and in the morning find a silver piece. So, like Darkness Falls, we are dealing with...a tooth fairy. Oh how scary.
Plot Hole #4: After successfully crushing one of the creatures, Sally doesn't show anyone the body's remains. Maybe that would have made someone believe she wasn't mental??
Weird Part #2: While these creatures can apparently drag a little girl down to a basement, attack a grown man, and break a woman's legs with a rope, they seem to have issues with stabbing someone with a poker in the face.
Plot Hole #5: Once girlfriend Holmes is taken by these creatures, the father and daughter seem to get out of the situation OK. No police questioning, no anything. The disappearance of Holmes goes unnoticed it seems.
Plot Hole #6: The ending was just of the charts confusing. After sacrificing her life to save little Sally, apparently girlfriend Holmes is now the master and commander of these little tooth fairies (wait....what? why?...the world may never know).

The characters never grow, we only ever get to know them skin deep. It attempts to be a commentary on modern child abuse (what with the medication and the neglect), but stops concerning itself with that about 30 minutes in. Who knows why the creatures were able to make a treaty with the Pope, but were never documented otherwise. The story is all over the place, and it doesn't seem to be very good and understanding what it wants to be. The movie is just confusing.
The sad part about it, is that there were some interesting parts to this movie that if done right could have made it really great. But it fell so short of greatness and completely fell off the map into craziness. It seemed like del Toro mashed all the things he likes (labyrinths, dark houses, children) into one film and didn't care where or how the story would pan out.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fright Night: Gay Vibes vs. 3D remakes


Up front I'm going to say I really like both of these movie, but in extremely different ways. The 80's Fright Night was undeniably gay and very much enjoyable to watch with a group of people, while the current Fright Night remake was exciting as well as fun and a tad bit self aware.
Last week I watched the 80's Fright Night because I wanted to see the remake, and also because it was mentioned once or twice in my Horror film class. I cannot say it was scary at all, but it was super enjoyable. I love the sexy music that played every time the vampire would stalk a young male, I loved the mom's line regarding the neighbor "with my luck, he'll be gay," and I loved the absurd thought process of the teenagers. The special affects were cool, and the death of Evil Ed was really great. The original has everything going for it, except terror.
And though there are quite a lot of thing that separate the original from the remake, terror may be the biggest one. I would say, Fright Night the remake had a little bit more tension to it. The opening scene was very good to establish that.
I also enjoyed the film's self awareness of the original. It wasn't too distracting, and it gave the movie a little something special for me. I enjoyed Collin Farrell as the new vamp eating the old vamp (Chris Sarandon) for dinner. I thought it was funny how they constantly poked fun at the name Jerry for a vampire. But above it all, I loved it when Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) screamed "I'm feeling a little homo right now!" Total kickback to the homosexual awesomeness in the original one.
[spoiler alert] But there's also something else special about the remake. While the original run amok with homosexual not-so-secret undertones, the new one deals with the difficulties of high school. This time around Ed wasn't popular and had just lost his best friend Charley (or Brewster) to a hot and sexy popular girlfriend (who also turned out to be sweet and kind). Though I would complain that the death of Ed wasn't as devastatingly long as the original's, it had a lot more depth and back story as to why it was so sad. Also (it may be a stretch) but by creating Charley as the killer of his old friend, it was a metaphor for him leaving behind his confused adolescence. [/spoiler alert]
Other little things that made this remake stand out was David Tennant as the vampire hunter (who also had a nice back story), and the 3D surprisingly enough. I would say see it before it leaves theaters, because I fear that will be soon what with all the horror films like Shark Night 3D coming out and hogging the horror spotlight (for better or for worse).
In the end, I love both movies the same, but very differently.

Fright Night (1985): 4/5
Fright Night (2011): 4/5

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris -- 4.5/5

Even though I missed maybe the first 5 minutes of this movie, it did not take away from its creativity and fabulousness. I loved loved loved the way the story flowed. It was creative writing as well as total eye candy. I'm really glad I was invited to see this movie, because otherwise I wouldn't have seen it til it somehow hit Netflix instant.
Underneath the movie's creative concept it's a (not so average) story about a man who doesn't know if he's making the right decisions. Move to Malibu with his fiance or stay in Paris alone? Does he even truly love his fiance? Does she love him or his money and prestige success? Midnight in Paris uses the imagination of a nostalgic writer to help answer these questions. And I loved following his journey all the way.
Midnight in Paris is about a screenwriter (Owen Wilson) who travels back in time to Paris in the 1920's every night at midnight. Along his adventure he meets the Fitzgerald's, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Salvador Dali, and a beautiful "art groupie" who has a nostalgic fantasy for the 1890's (played by the gorgeous Marion Cotillard). It's hard to decipher if his trips back in time are actually real or a fantasy inspired by prescription drugs, but it doesn't matter because it's fun to experience either way.
I really enjoyed the message this movie concluded on -- it's doesn't do well to consume oneself with dreams of another life in some other time and to live your own present the best you can. Do not settle for less than you feel you deserve :). It's cute to watch Owen Wilson find the right girl in the end, who appreciates the 20's like him and loves to walk around Paris in the rain. Smiles all around, this movie is so cute.
I also really love the cast in this movie. Previously mentioned Wilson and Cotillard, Adrien Brody (<3), Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Alison Pill, and Tom Hiddleston (also known for Loki in Thor! <3) are some of the more well known faces. They're all great actors, but as good as they are, they were given great characters to play. Though I cannot say I am much of a Woody Allen fan, he really knew the famous names he was writing. My favorite would have to have been Hemingway's voice (played by Corey Stoll). I couldn't prevent myself from laughing when he talked about how "it was raining." I can finally appreciate reading A Farewell to Arms, something I never thought I would be able to do.
I really want to go to Paris now. Maybe I can catch a Peugeot 401 and head back to the 1920's myself :).