Tag Archives: Top

Poltergeist won’t scare anyone

POLTERGEIST (5 of 10) – Directed by Gil Kenan; Written by David Lindsay-Abaire; Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Jane Adams; Rated PG-13 for “intense frightening sequences, brief suggestive material, and some language”, in wide release May 22, 2015.

Originally posted at BigShinyRobot.com by Andy.

Don’t let the pedigree fool you. Despite being executive produced by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) and directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House), Poltergeist offers no new scares or thrills. Instead, we get a fairly predictable, by-the-book remake of the 1982 film (co-written by a Mr. Steven Spielberg).

In the era of over-the-top-blood-by-the-truckful-raining-from-the-sky horror remakes (I’m looking at you, Evil Dead remake!) or the deconstructive masterpiece that is Cabin in the Woods, you’re going to have to offer more than some evil clowns, creepy tvs, and a few good jump scares to make this work. In fact, in terms of ambience and scariness, I think you’ll have more scares watching a playthrough of Five Nights at Freddy’s on YouTube than in this movie.

Which is too bad. Both director and actors really try to elevate this material. Sam Rockwell is great as the dad, as is Jared Harris as the paranormal investigator (who now has his own reality show, natch), but the real stars here are the kids. Without them, the movie wouldn’t work at all. And they do a great job, or at least as much as they can.

Poltergeist isn’t a bad movie by any stretch. In fact, compared to the spate of other very, very, very bad haunted house movies we’ve been subjected to (I’m looking at you, every movie in the Paranormal Activity series!!), it stacks up well. But why this is being released now over Memorial Day weekend is beyond me, when it really would clean up is in October as we’re ready for a good scary movie. Maybe by then it’ll be on DVD and Blu-Ray, in which case, make sure you watch it at home with all your lights turned off and have a great time.

But waste my time and money in a theater when I could be watching Mad Max, Avengers, or Tomorrowland (or even Pitch Perfect if that’s your thing?) Nope. Not unless you’re REALLY in the mood for a few scares but mostly just retreading the same ground as the original, done with better effects.

5 out of 10.

Mad Max: Fury Road is everything you’ve heard and more

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (10 out of 10)  – Directed by George Miller; Written by George MillerBrendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris; Starring: Charlize TheronTom HardyNicholas HoultHugh Keays-ByrneJosh HelmanNathan JonesZoë KravitzRosie Huntington-WhiteleyRiley KeoughAbbey LeeCourtney EatonJohn HowardRichard Carter; Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images, in wide release May 15, 2015.

Originally posted on BigShinyRobot.com by Andy.

Yes. Mad Max: Fury Road is just as good, if not better, than you’ve heard. Whether you’re looking for a ridiculous spectacle of epic proportions of an action movie, or a thoughtful (but incredibly intense) musing on ecology, feminism, religion, resource allocation, you will find it here. And stuff blows up. A lot of stuff blows up.

The plot is fairly simple: Max (Tom Hardy) finds himself alone, going crazy, but now captured by a tribe ruled over by Immortan Joe, who is treated like a demi-god by his people because he controls the scarcest resource of all: water. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is sent out on a resupply mission to trade water for gasoline and bullets, but it seems she has her own agenda. Instead, she has set free Immortan Joe’s harem/sex slaves (let’s be real, that’s what they are!) and is off in search of “the Green Place,” which she believes she can find.

Max is taken along as the “bloodbag” for one of Joe’s WarBoys, who use his universal donor type O negative blood (and considerable strength and resilience) to transfuse into themselves to amp up for battle (in much the same way endurance cyclists would supposedly bank their own blood and then get a transfusion to increase the red blood cell count and replenish nutrients). Also amping them up for battle? a giant truck with six drummers and a heavy metal guitar player who actually provide the score for most of the intense battles. Oh, and, in case you missed it in the trailer? The guitar shoots fire.

Max finds himself between Joe’s Warboys and Furiosa and generally wants no part in this dispute, but just wants to escape and be left alone.

And hijinks ensue. And by hijinks, I mean that’s all in the first 15 minutes of the film. The rest of it is just one giant car chase scene for the rest of the movie.

Mad Max Fury Road guy playing guitar cool meme

 

 

George Miller has not only revitalized his Mad Max franchise, but in so doing has remolded what our expectations should be for action films. It bookends well with the two other best films (so far) of 2015, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Ex Machina. Kingsman was fun and a great spectacle, but not much in the way of being thinky. Ex Machina had all the thinks and all the feels. Somehow Miller manages to offer both in a film I can’t wait to see again, or, even moreso, get on Blu Ray and watch repeatedly, rewinding sequences and going frame by frame to study what is truly the apotheosis of everything this director has done before.

If there is any downside of Fury Road, it is that it moves so fast that you will miss things. It has an intensity that films like Furious 7 should be jealous of, and whips the audience along at a breakneck speed. Let me create a metaphor out of the film’s content itself:

In the film, Theron’s character Furiosa drives a war rig: a giant tanker truck outfitted with weapons and defensive measures.

The film moves like this giant war rig– with a huge intensity and inertia that once it is going it is not going to stop for anything or anyone. There are dozens of tiny moments — glances between characters, crumbs of information and exposition and world-building — that if you blink you might miss them because the movie is going so fast. Characters are often jumping on and off the rig, finding places to grab on and stage some of the more daring fights. In this same way, there’s multiple places for the audience to find purchase and get onto the movie. But it is moving so fast it expects you to keep up and keep holding on.

Also like the war rig, Furiosa is the only one who can drive it. In the hands of a less skilled director who didn’t intimately know what he was doing, this could be a huge mess. But Miller, like Furiosa, has a plan, and knows exactly how to handle this gargantuan mess cobbled together from pieces of lesser cars and trucks.

There’s been a lot said about whether or not this is a “feminist” movie or not. It undoubtedly is. Theron’s Furiosa is the main character of this film, and is far more developed than even Max, who mostly plays the brooding sidekick role (and is also the surrogate for the audience, as he has to be explained to exactly what’s going on). Furiosa kicks more ass than most male action stars do in their films. And since she is literally liberating women from sex slavery, confronting Joe that women are not property, and fighting a literal oppressive patriarchy, it’s hard not to say this isn’t not just a feminist film, but perhaps THE feminist action movie. (Move over, Aliens!)

But to reduce it to just being feminist belies a much greater complexity. Immortan Joe is not just a stand-in for patriarchy, but also for the worst aspects of capitalism, religion, and all other manner of great evils. (Not to say capitalism and religion are evils– just that they can be certainly used for evil purposes.) There is also a strong undercurrent message about ecology and how we’re destroying the planet. Or you can completely shut your brain off and watch this as just a plain action movie. People with agendas are certainly welcome to claim this movie as their own, but much like the cave in Empire Strikes Back, what you see therein is determined by what you take with you.

Seriously, anyone threatening to boycott this movie because they don’t like some perceived agenda is a fool of the highest magnitude. You’re simply denying yourself one of the greatest treats of the year, and probably encouraging your opposing side to want to go see it more. Everyone just calm yourselves down and go enjoy one of the best movies of the year? No, make that one of the best movies of the decade. MRAs and SJWs should go to the theater together, enjoy a tub of popped corn and a tasty beverage, and just watch stuff get blown up real cool.

10 out of 10.

Yes. 10 out of 10. It’s just that good.

Unfriended Review

Unfriended (1 out of 10); Directed by Levan Gabriadze; Written by Nelson Greaves; Starring Shelley Hennig, Matthew Bohrer, Will Peltz and Heather Sossaman; Rated R for violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug and alcohol use – all involving teens; 82 minutes; In wide release on April 17, 2015.

Originally posted at BigShinyRobot.com by Adam.

Hollywood loves found-footage films because they are cheap to produce and usually make a ton of money. Unfortunately, most of these end up being complete rubbish and exist only to add to the studio’s bottom line. Unfriended looks promising because the trailers portray it as a unique and fresh take on the tired genre — a Blair Witch for the Facebook generation. Sadly, its gimmick is all it has going for it, and after it wears off 20 minutes in, all that’s left is an utterly boring and forgettable experience.

The whole movie takes place on a MacBook screen where the plot is laid out via text messages, Skype, YouTube and Facebook Messenger. Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her friends are all happily Skyping each other when an unknown person hacks in and starts harassing them. At first this hacker is merely an annoyance since it won’t go away, but when it starts revealing dirty secrets about each teen’s past, they desperately try to get rid of it even as they begin to turn on each other. Blaire eventually figures out that it is the one year anniversary of the death of Laura (Heather Sossaman), one of their classmates who was driven to suicide after a particularly lecherous video of her was released online and ruined her life. Sure enough, the ghost of Laura has indeed possessed their computers and is out to get revenge against the people who tormented her in life. One by one, each teenager falls prey to her twisted games in order to punish whoever was responsible for recording and posting the video.

The only good thing about Unfriended is the initial novelty of watching everything unfold on a computer screen. Considering that many of us, and especially Millennials, pretty much live in their phones and computers, the idea of a ghost stalking you through social media is actually pretty cool and creepy. The director does a decent job of making it feel like we are watching a real teenager use her computer as she constantly flips through apps and web pages in the way a bored adolescent would. But like I said, that gets old really fast.

The last two-thirds basically boils down to a bunch of teenagers texting, drinking and yelling obscenities at each other, and that’s not a movie, that’s something on MTV. None of the kids are remotely likable; there’s no one to root for as each is an abominable person who we want to see killed in horrible ways except we really don’t get to.

Sure, the kids begin to die off in presumably gruesome ways, but instead of allowing us to see what happens, their computer will freeze or “buffer” allowing only a brief glimpse of what took place before their session hangs up. Half the fun of a horror movie are the death scenes, but Unfriended isn’t even kind enough to give us that. Which leads to the biggest problem of all.

It’s boring.

Horror can be funny, bloody, scary or outright strange, but this one isn’t any of that. It’s literally nearly an hour and a half of watching kids text with an occasional moment of “tension” thrown in when we know the ghost is going to kill someone. It isn’t scary in the least nor is it funny or remotely entertaining. This is the very worst kind of film because it’s very obvious it — and the inevitable sequels — only exist to fill a bank account.

I guess one can argue that it is trying to make a statement about the evils of cyber bullying, and yes, that is an underlying message, but most people would probably find an after-school special more interesting than the drivel presented here. There’s just nothing going on.

Unfriended is so bad that months down the road, most people won’t even remember it exists, and I can’t think of a more damning sentiment about a film. This could have been really fun and creepy, so it’s too bad that the final result was so terrible.

Furious 7 Review

Furious 7 (8 out of 10); Directed by James Wan; Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and Kurt Russell; Written by Chris Morgan; Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language; 140 minutes; In wide release on April 3, 2015.

Originally posted at BigShinyRobot.com by Adam.

The Fast and Furious franchise hasn’t made a name for itself for its deep acting, storytelling or filmmaking. Fans go in expecting fast cars, beautiful, scantily clad people and lots of ‘splosions, and most of the series has provided that in spades. Some misfires in the middle gave way to a decent fifth and sixth outing, but this final film has trumped them all and is easily the best in the series. Not only fun and frantic, it also pays tribute to the late Paul Walker and delivers a satisfying and touching experience.

Due to the twisted continuity of the films — four, five and six are prequels — Furious 7 takes place after the events of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift with ex-MI6 assassin Ian Shaw (Jason Statham) on a mission to hunt down Dom (Vin Diesel) and the rest of his crew in revenge for their nearly killing his little brother. Brian (Paul Walker) is happy yet not content with his new life and family and agrees to come out of retirement to help Dom and the crew put the Shaw issue to rest once and for all. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his shadowy government organization rescue them and promise to do everything in their power to stop Shaw if Dom and Brian will do them a favor — rescue a brilliant hacker and her tracking program from a notorious terrorist. The crew races across the globe in an attempt to guarantee her safety and also stay one step ahead of the madman out for their blood. Enemies join forces and force an epic showdown in the streets of L.A. where fast cars and fancy driving may not be enough to help Dom and his family survive.

While this isn’t high art by any means, Furious 7 is definitely one of the more entertaining movies to come along in awhile. In fact, the only other recent one I can think of that I’ve enjoyed this much was Kingsman. Yes, it’s incredibly stupid and has no idea how gravity or the laws of physics work, but the whole experience of watching cars literally fly through the air and the streets is exhilarating. Newcomer James Wan has an incredible eye for shooting action and doesn’t disappoint anywhere. Whether it’s jumping cars in between and through luxury high rises in Abu Dhabi to having them literally fall from the sky, he never lets up or fails to eke out the most excitement possible in each shot.

The same can’t quite be said of the script which, while not horrible, is definitely the weakest point in the film. I wasn’t expecting The Godfather, but the rewrites and edits are evident throughout as characters react or respond to things that were never mentioned or said anywhere else. It’s also too long, clocking in at nearly two and a half hours. It’s entertaining throughout, but there are a few too many moments where we are waiting for everyone to stop talking about family and get to the next action set piece.

The best thing here is the thoughtful and poignant respect they paid to Paul Walker. Without spoiling anything, I can say that they give his character a proper send off that was befitting of his role in all seven of the films. The wonderful montage showing some of the his well-known moments in the series combined with a touching voice over by Dom will no doubt leave moviegoers a bit misty-eyed as they exit the theater.

Too many action movies take themselves far too seriously or end up being brain dead, but Furious 7 never forgets what it is and what it wants to do. It delivers a surprisingly well-done and fun thrill ride that also squeezes in a poignant ending. Film snobs will absolutely hate it, but if anyone is willing to sit down and just enjoy the spectacle for what it is, they’ll have a good time. It’s big, dumb fun with heart … and nitrous.