Monthly Archives: November 2011

Brian’s Review – “Conan The Barbarian” 2011

Based on the pulp fiction of Robert E. Howard, this action-driven adventure breathes new life into the story of Conan the Barbarian, a warrior who rises to defend the people of Hyboria after evil forces slaughter his family and fellow villagers.

Brian-

Rating 2 out of 10

There are a lot of different genres of movies: action, horror, drama, comedy, etc.  If I had to put Conan in a genre, it would be under “dumb.”  It’s the most prevailing character trait that permeates through its painful 115 minute running time that is loaded with action and couldn’t be more boring.  Conan is horrendously played by Jason Momoa whose previous credits include several Baywatch episodes.  Apparently, all director Marcus Nispel wanted was someone who looked like the comic book Conan character complete with the six pack abs and the brain of a flea.  Well, Momoa certainly fits the bill by grunting the majority of his dialogue and trying to act like he’s sexist when his facial expressions display a hesitation to the act.  It’s hard to cast someone in a role as an “actor” when the exact emotions you want them to convey aren’t even right.  Ron Pearlman, Stephen Lang, and Rose McGowan are talented actors but are utterly wasted here.  Rose is unrecognizable in a thousand pounds of bad makeup, Lang’s fake chompers are shown to great effect, and Pearlman was lucky he saved his outfit from the Beauty and the Beast TV series because it was used to great effect here.

The story…well..what story?  There’s a mask that will bring back the dead wife of the bad guy’s character and Conan wants to kill said bad guy because he murdered his father when he was a boy.  If that’s not two of the most clichéd plot points in action history I don’t know what is.  All of it is fused together with extreme violence to remind us that it is R-rated and for adults even though the script was probably written in crayon.  I would have given it a 1 if not for the technical team which does a decent enough job creating Conan’s world.  It’s too bad the writer and director didn’t do anything with it.

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John Carpenter films available on Netflix Instant Viewing

There is an abundance of great John Carpenter films available on Netflix for Instant viewing. Among them is “Escape From New York”, “Big Trouble in Little China”, “Prince Of Darkness” and “They Live”, “Ghosts Of Mars”. Most recently the tight thriller “The Ward”. Hunker down with some of these great Carpenter titles on a rainy, thunderstorm filled night with the lights off and enjoy the “Master” doing what he does best…scaring the shit out of you.

Vic’s Review – “Fragile”

In this atmospheric thriller, American nurse Amy (Calista Flockhart) is thrust into an eerie and dangerous world when she takes a temporary job at an isolated children’s hospital in England that’s slated for closure. The children, who are being terrorized and injured in baffling ways, confide in Amy that “the mechanical girl” doesn’t want them to leave, and Amy must convince skeptics that the menace is real.

Victor

Rating 7 out of 10

It’s easy to say a film is an “Atmospheric thriller” and quite another for it to really be one. In the case of Jaume Balaguero’s “Fragile” it is easy to say that it truly and easily has atmosphere and mood which elevates it above routine entries in the genre. First and foremost it is an eerie ghost story which takes place in the UK on the Isle of Wight. Calista Flockhart capably and admirably portrays a newly transferred night nurse that has come to supervise and care for children at a hospital which is about to close. Richard Roxburgh plays the head Doctor of the facility who takes her on.

Balaguero also directed Rec 2, another genre gem, that is fast moving and relentless. This film unfolds slowly and sets up characters in the form of orderlies, nurses and the children who we all learn to care for from all the caring interaction of Flockhart’s character. One in particular, Maggie, sees and hears a phantom named “Charlotte” roaming and haunting the hospital. We hear loud noises, letter blocks moving by themselves, experience blackouts, watch elevators fail and witness everyone stay clear of the abandoned second floor. It has a terrible history and secret only Flockhart can get to the bottom of. She is determined to help Maggie and find out who “Charlotte” really is. Even if it may cost her her job and friendship with Roxburgh’s attentive doctor.

The films boosts great photography and moody lighting. The music score comes across strong and bombastic at times but is appropriate in setting up tension. There are some scares that we see coming but it doesn’t take away from the dread of the story. It is very reminiscent of Peter Medak’s “The Changeling” in some ways but with a more wicked antagonist. Also “The Orphanage” comes to mind. “Fragile” is a neat little supernatural flick which has an intriguing twist, suspense and a commendable performance from Calista Flockhart. Check it out, gang.

Brian’s Review – “The Tree Of Life”

Brad Pitt and Sean Penn star in Terrence Malick’s 1950s adventure about a confused man named Jack, who sets off on a journey to understand the true nature of the world. Growing up in the Midwest with two brothers, Jack has always been torn between his mother’s guidance to approach everything he encounters with an open heart and his father’s advice to look after his own interests. Now, Jack must find a way to regain purpose and perspective.

Brian-

Rating-3 out 10

The Tree of Life, Terence Malik’s Palme D’or winning film, is the most beautifully shot, well acted, and well directed piece of shit I have ever seen in my life.  How can a film with this much talent miss this badly?  It contains so many elements that could have worked well but because the original concept was so enormous, it literally crushed the story under its own weight.  It’s a shame because it might have been an interesting examination of two parents with completely contrasting personalities struggling with the loss of a child. Instead, we are given an entire history of the creation of planet earth complete with volcanic activity creating land, dinosaurs, an ice age, and the formation of sea life.  Now, you’re probably wondering why this choice was made.  Some may say that it’s an examination that all life and death is part of the evolution of creation.  Others may say that it shows how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things when compared to the vast infinity of space and time.  I, however, think that it’s the conception of an arrogant director who wrote a script about a Midwestern family and it just wasn’t “big” enough a story to fit the vastness of the ideas contained within his massive ego.

I have read some reviews where the film was compared to 2001 and I couldn’t disagree more.  2001 was about how machine caught up with man and how we were forced to evolve to keep up.  It was relevant, poignant, and challenging.  The Tree of Life is more of a cross between Ordinary People and a Planet Earth special on the Discovery Channel.  It’s a complete waste of a director who has proven he has talent and a terrific cast that brings great work to the table.  Instead of getting a modern day risk taking masterpiece, we get one of the most pretentious films ever made.

Under The Radar – James Wan’s “Dead Silence”

In the wake of his young bride’s mysterious death, grieving newlywed Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) is forced to return to his haunted hometown, where he butts heads with the ghost of a creepy ventriloquist who was infamously murdered years ago. Amber Valletta and Donnie Wahlberg co-star in this chilling horror offering from James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the same team that created the grizzly Saw trilogy.

Victor

Rating 7.5 out of 10

Starting with Saw, then Dead Silence, Death Sentence and eventually Insidious, James Wan is knocking ‘em dead. He is a diverse and talented movie director with a eye for arresting images, quick but evocative cuts and compositions. He can maintain mood and build suspense. I was impressed by Dead Silence which I saw recently. It is a ghost / revenge story that is a bit flashy but none the less very creepy, intriguing and interesting.

Without spoiling the plot, it involves a dead female Ventriloquist named Mary Shaw that has a pretty horrific back story that affects our protagonist, played very believably by True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, and his wife and family. Of course it takes place in a very moody, desolate and barren town that is in total fear of the entire legend of Mary Shaw and her wooden dummies who are the centerpieces of this cool little film. It has a wonderful twist that is not telegraphed until the end. The film also stars Donnie Wahlberg as the gumshoe who is watching closely or Kwanten and his family. I recommend it for a spooky and rainy night.

Brian’s Review – “Heavenly Creatures”

The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson helms this chilling true-life drama set in 1950s New Zealand about an obsessive friendship between two girls — introvert Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and self-confident Juliet (Kate Winslet, in her film debut) — that led to murder. The two become increasingly inseparable, retreating to an imaginary world, until their relationship invites opposition from their families that ultimately begets blood.

Brian-

Rating- 9 out of 10

Disturbing, loving, creative, imaginative, and glorious are all perfect descriptions to sum up the amazing Heavenly Creatures.  It’s hard to believe it was only the fourth full length feature film that Peter Jackson had directed and the first for actresses Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.  Jackson’s work here is nothing short of extraordinary.  His camerawork, the performances he gets from the entire cast, and his progression of the story through the intertwining of both the real and imagined is exacted nearly flawlessly. Both Winslet and Lynskey deliver what would be career defining performances for any actress.  Heavenly Creatures, is at its core, a love story.  The setting, being in the 1950’s (with terrific period detail), and them being two women, make for an interesting backdrop and situation but this is a familiar tale of love at all costs.  Juliet (Winslet) and Pauline (Lynskey) are madly in love with one another and you can truly feel that as a viewer.  It’s not a sexual love but a true and deep love where one girl truly completes the other.  That’s why it is made all the more tragic when we know that their need to be with one another, while stronger than anything, clouds their judgment and causes them to make a fatal error that ends up separating them forever.

For anyone who likes films where you ride the wave of emotions with your main characters, this is the film for you.  It’s rare to find a movie where the acting and filmmaking come together so flawlessly to tell a ripping good yarn.  If there’s anything that holds it back from perfection is that this is a film that could have benefitted from a longer running time.  While it’s a solid 99 minutes, it would have been nice to extend it by another 30 minutes to bring us closer to the supporting characters, particularly Pauline’s mother.  That minor complaint aside, this is a very special film.

 

 

 

 

Available on Netflix – James Wan’s “Insidious”

The very well made and frightening film Insidious, directed by James (Saw, Dead Silence) Wan is available for instant viewing on Netflix. Don’t miss it! Highly recommended!

-Victor

Josh and Renai confront terrifying tribulations when their son falls into a coma and his body starts to attract malevolent forces. But when the family moves, hoping to leave the evil spirits behind, they realize their problems are only beginning