You’re Next

Movie Review #892

ONCE YOU GET PAST THE DUMB WRITING AND UNEVEN ACTING, “YOU’RE NEXT” IS AN EFFECTIVE MIX OF BLOOD, SCARES, AND BLACK HUMOR.

★★½
By Red Stewart

youre_next_ver6

Released August 23, 2013 (nationwide)
Horror, Thriller
Rated R (contains graphic violence, profanity, sexual content, nudity)
95 minutes

In recent decades, horror fans have been treated to an influx of so-called “splatter” films that replace genuine scares with scenes of extensive gore. It’s this flooding of the market with such amateur works that’s made me fear that horror afficiandos will grasp at any new movie that attempts to return to form, no matter how much it fails in doing so.

Such is the case with “You’re Next”, a home invasion thriller that provides some powerful scares but is ultimately brought down by the problems plaguing many low-budget films today; bad writing. The premise is something we’ve seen one too many times already; a rich family get-together turns into a nightmare as everyone is hunted by a pack of killers, no doubt hired by someone to secure their inheritance (a motivation so old, even the Greeks dropped it soon in their folktales).

But of course, no one watching “You’re Next” is here for the story. They want to be frightened by the terror that grips the household as the body count rises and paranoia grips the masses. However, I have to ask these people, is there really a point in getting tensed up if the next scene has as good a chance of ruining the immersion as accentuating it?

Read the rest of this review…

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Movie Review #891

ONE OF THE GREAT FOUNDING FATHERS OF MODERN-DAY INDEPENDENT CINEMA.

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

sex_lies_and_videotape_ver1

Released August 4, 1989 (Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York)
Drama
Rated R (contains sexual content, suggestive dialogue, profanity, partial nudity)
100 minutes

The ‘90s was essentially the Reformation Era of independent movies. “Pulp Fiction”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Clerks”, “The English Patient”, “Fargo”, “Shakespeare in Love”, and “Good Will Hunting” were among the John Calvins of that time. Before them, though, was “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”, the Martin Luther who came to fruition in the summer of ’89.

It’s pretty clear in “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” why this inspired so many to become independent filmmakers. It effectively deals a plot that isn’t mainstream, and proves entertaining to a Hollywood audience from its methodical storytelling. “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” is a soap opera of a movie, except it’s suspenseful, gripping, and dramatic, not melodramatic.

Read the rest of this review…

Fury

Movie Review #890

THE MOST REALISTIC WAR MOVIE SINCE “SAVING PRIVATE RYAN”.

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

fury_ver6

Released October 17, 2014 (nationwide)
Action, Drama, War
Rated R (graphic war violence, disturbing content, frequent profanity)
134 minutes

“Fury” hits pretty darn hard on its audience. Every scene is either exciting, heartbreaking, reassuring, reveling, comforting, or terrifying. The scary part is you never know which one of these the movie’s about to become. “Fury” doesn’t ask you to prepare yourself for what comes next. Director David Ayer wants to come up from behind and attack. He likes to make us think that everything is all right. In an early scene, the American soldiers are seen throwing innuendos back and forth at each other, passing the time as they make their way onto the front. You can never expect when that moment of fun is going to be interrupted by enemy gunfire.

Read the rest of this review…

Halloween II

Movie Review #889

“HALLOWEEN II” IS FAR FROM PERFECT (WILL SUCH SEQUELS EVER CEASE TO BE?), BUT STILL INTRIGUING AND VERY, VERY, VERY BLOODY.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

h_two_ver4

Released August 28, 2009 (nationwide)
Horror
Rated R (contains frequent graphic violence, disturbing content, profanity, strong sexual content, nudity)
105 minutes

Blood. Carnage. “F” words. Nudity. More “f” words. More nudity. Blood on the walls, on the carpets, and all over that guy’s body, this girl’s dress. Oh and don’t forget that other girl’s skirt. It’s soaked in blood, too. More nudity, more “f” words, more carnage…

Do I sound like I’m going crazy? It’s because I’m imitating Rob Zombie. He has a formula for “Halloween II”, as he did with his first “Halloween” remake. And unless it involves Michael Myers confronting his victims without his mask, it’s an enjoyable formula. Because beyond the blood, the carnage, the “f” words, the nudity, and yadda yadda yadda, there’s something more. There’s a psychological approach (as there was last time) and there’s a point (as there was last time). Though I’m sure that at face value, I still would have somewhat enjoyed “Halloween II”.

Why am I honoring such a grisly film? Mainly, because it’s proven that the series is more than just entertaining when rebooted. This sequel to Zombie’s 2007 “Halloween” reboot is better than the 1981 movie called “Halloween II”. And this “Halloween II” (2009) starts out as a remake of that one: Laurie is hospitalized on Halloween night, after receiving the massive injuries seen in the first film. But after she escapes from the hospital, so does Rob Zombie from the source material. Flash forward almost a year, to where PTSD is catching up on Laurie Strode. Yep, it’s Halloween again, and we can’t exactly say that Michael Myers is dead yet.

Read the rest of this review…

Irréversible

Movie Review #888

“IRRÉVERSIBLE” IS A SICKENINGLY VIOLENT PORTRAIT OF HEINOUS CRIME.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

irreversible_ver2

Premiered May 23, 2002 (Cannes Film Festival)
Released March 7, 2003 (limited)
Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Not Rated (contains graphic violence, depiction of rape, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, strong language, drug use)
97 minutes

If you’ve heard of “Irréversible”, and have not seen it, but you are aware of any one scene that isn’t the infamous rape scene, consider me surprised. And I must confess that while that scene should never have been filmed in its entirety (let alone shown in its entirety), I am glad that it has given the film a reputation. Because no one wants to watch a movie knowing they’re in for watching a brutal depiction of a brutal, brutal act. Frankly, if a film is going to depict molestation with absolutely nothing to fetter it from doing so, the rest of the movie should at least be watchable.

This infamous scene occurs in the middle of “Irréversible”, and it seems to split the motion picture into two distinct, uneven portions. The first half is clearly a thriller. Two men are seeking revenge for a woman who has just been raped. They are later on revealed to be the woman’s boyfriend and ex-boyfriend, and they know who they’re looking for. It seems like a trend in the early 21st century cinema to tell rape-and-revenge stories out of chronological order. (I’m thinking “Memento” and “Kill Bill”.) But “Irréversible”, quite ironically, would have worked more effectively in chronological order, rather than being pieced together in reverse order. The second half is far less interesting. I think it might be an attempt to establish some character development, but it just seems like a soap opera.

Read the rest of this review…

The Judge

Movie Review #887

I, THE JURY, FIND THE DEFENDANT (“THE JUDGE”) GUILTY ON TWO COUNTS OF UNLIKEABLE CHARACTERS.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

judge

Premiered September 4, 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Released October 10, 2014 (nationwide)
Drama
Rated R (contains profanity, suggestive dialogue)
141 minutes

“90% of Americans believe in ghosts, while only 3% believe in evolution. 35% of Americans recognize Homer Simpson, yet less than 1% know the name Thurgood Marshall.”

Roughly paraphrased above is a line spoken by Robert Downey Jr. in one of the final scenes of “The Judge”.  Perhaps the first portion of the quote is a bit of exaggeration, but I believe there may be some truth in the second portion of the truth.  Which is pretty disheartening, but that’s not my point.  My point is that, even if the entire quote were false, those four statistics were perhaps all I got out of “The Judge”, save for a ticket stub, a barely-empty bucket of popcorn, and the ice at the bottom of my soda.

There are two Roberts here.  There’s Downey Jr., and there’s Duvall.  There should only be one Robert, and if hints are allowed here, it’s not Duvall.  Not only is Robert Duvall miscast in this one, it’s plainly obvious who the role was meant for.  Jack Nicholson was offered the role of Joe Palmer opposite Robert Downey Jr. in “The Judge”, and the role screams Jack Nicholson. It doesn’t scream Boo Radley.  It doesn’t even whisper Boo Radley.

Let me break it down for you. Joe Palmer (Duvall) is a judge in Indiana. His son, Hank (Downey), is a lawyer. Joe is a first-class asshole. Hank is also a first-class asshole. Hank’s brothers are played by Vincent “Private Pyle” D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong. D’Onofrio is the older brother who attempts to mentor Hank, but has absolutely no personality. Strong is their intellectually disabled younger brother who ports around an 8mm movie camera.

Their mother, Joe’s wife, drops dead. Joe starts drinking. Hank gets a call at court telling him that his mother’s dropped dead. As if by obligation, Hank goes back to the home he is glad to have moved away from. He’s coming back to visit his estranged father, and he complains the whole way into town about having to pay respects.

While Hank is visiting, Joe kills a man by the gas station. Joe loses his position as the county judge. Hank offers to be his father’s lawyer when he is tried for murder. Joe accepts.

Hank’s thoughts through all of this couldn’t be more clear. They aren’t, “Sure, I’d love to represent my father in a murder trial!” They’re, “God, I’ve paid my respects, can I just go home already?” Downey and Duvall play two children trapped interminably in the bodies of men. They’re ungrateful, unwilling to face reality, and tremendously whiney. I dare say that if “The Judge” had been written by Dr. Seuss, Duvall would be Asshole 1 and Downey would be Asshole 2. Of course, this means Downey’s in his comfort zone (has he ever played anybody that wasn’t full of himself?), but his character is more than self-absorbed.  He’s downright heartless.  While this is occasionally played for humorous effect, I didn’t find the attempted comedy funny at all.  In fact, it only fortified Downey as a thoroughly unlikeable character.

Read the rest of this review…

Annabelle

Movie Review #886

ABOUT AS SELF-AWARE AS A COMEDY, AND IT’S ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL.

★½
By Alexander Diminiano

annabelle

Premiered September 29, 2014 (Hollywood, California)
Released October 3, 2014 (nationwide)
Horror
Rated R (contains disturbing content, violence)
98 minutes

I hate to say it, but I was the annoying moviegoer this time. Sorry. I did everything I could to lighten the mood when I was watching “Annabelle”. It’s hard not to treat it as a comedy, and when it wasn’t funny enough, I made fun of it myself. Soundtrack gets so quiet after a giant musical crescendo, and I’m prompted to softly sing the first two lines of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”. Camera focuses on blood dripping into the eye of the titular doll, and I comment, “That’s not healthy, her eyes are, quite literally, bloodshot!” Heroine screams “Who are you!?!” at the demon-possessed Annabelle doll, I start humming the chorus of “Who Are You” by The Who.

Actually, Annabelle may not have been possessed by demons at that point of the movie. There’s no explanation as to whether she’s possessed the whole movie, and if not, when she becomes possessed. In fact, the movie lacks a lot of explanation for a movie that has been billed as a prequel to last year’s “The Conjuring”. Aren’t prequels supposed to explain what we didn’t understand the first time around? Isn’t the story supposed to dig deeper, or am I for some reason supposed to be thankful that there is a story?

Read the rest of this review…

Halloween

Movie Review #885

ROB ZOMBIE HAS CRAFTED A SURPRISINGLY INTRIGUING “HALLOWEEN” REMAKE, DESPITE ITS TENDENCY TO GO (WAY) OVER THE TOP.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

halloween

Released August 31, 2007 (nationwide)
Horror
Unrated Version
Not Rated (contains material not included in the theatrical version)
121 minutes
Theatrical Version
Rated R (contains frequent graphic violence, frequent disturbing content, sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity)
109 minutes

Editor’s Note: This review regards the Unrated Version. At the time, I was not aware this was the version I was watching. It contains 12 minutes of additional carnage.

Those who haven’t seen the original “Halloween” might enjoy stereotyping it as the “father of the slasher genre,” and so might those who have seen it. But those who have seen it also understand that it’s not just a slasher. John Carpenter’s directorial technique makes all the difference in the movie: he turns it into a hybrid of slasher and psychological horror.

Rob Zombie wants to achieve the same thing with his reimagining of “Halloween”. Except the only psychological horror left in his technique is Carpenter’s score for the original movie, which was more than likely kept in this remake for the sake of tradition. The psychological horror is all in story here. Rather than a single opening sequence of Michael Myers’s first murder—his sister, on Halloween night—we are treated to thirty-eight minutes of backstory, wherein we watch the realization of Michael’s murderous abilities, followed by his time in a mental asylum when he grows obsessed with masks. This is all when he is ten years old.

There’s still horror formula. I’m not sure why, but titillation has become as expected a reaction to horror movies as cowering in fear. It’s kind of laughable how desperate Zombie’s “Halloween” remake is to arouse its audience. Michael’s mother is a stripper, and we are shown scenes of her gig at a strip club on Halloween night. Plus, there’s far more nudity during the sex scene that Michael’s sister enjoys right before her death, and the scene lasts several minutes, not seconds.

And of course there’s blood. Gallons and gallons of it. Rather than killing only his sister on Halloween night, Michael also kills his father and his sister’s boyfriend. Earlier in the day, before any of this has happened, he also bashes a bully’s brains out in the woods. Each death is extensive and elaborately played, though unrealistic and sickening. This accounts for half of the backstory in the film, and it makes the original snippet of backstory seem like “Bambi”.

Read the rest of this review…

Adventureland

Movie Review #884

BENEFITING FROM GREG MOTOLLA’S SINCERE DIRECTION, “ADVENTURELAND” IS A WHIMSICAL BLEND OF HUMOR, NOSTALGIA, AND DRAMA.

★★★½
By Red Stewart

adventureland_ver2

Released April 3, 2009 (nationwide)
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated R (contains profanity, drug use, suggestive dialogue)
107 minutes

If you’ve never worked a crappy job in your life, I have two things to say: A) Consider yourself lucky and B) Don’t bother watching this film. If you have however, then you’ll find “Adventureland” to be a humorous reflection on those awful days spent dealing with horrible customers and shooting the breeze with your fellow co-workers.

While everyone’s job may have been different, the experience was no doubt the same. For me it was a McDonald’s, but for James Brennan (Eisenberg) it’s Adventureland; a theme park he’s forced to work at after his parents find out they can’t pay his college tuition. He immediately becomes familiar with his colleagues; a ragtag group of good people that are trying to pass the long days catering to the annoying masses. In particular, Brennan finds himself attracted to the street-smart Em Lewin (Stewart) who, little does he know, is involved in a deep love/angst circle with a lot of the other employees.

On the outset, “Adventureland” seems more like a stereotypical vision of the teenage life than a legitimate depiction of it. You have everyone smoking pot, reminiscing about the future, and constantly fantasizing about sleeping with the hottest guy/girl. But in reality this is all a very sly ploy constructed by writer/director Greg Motolla to give insight into how young adults really feel about their radically-changing world. It’s often said that the hardest years of someone’s life are the ages 18-22, and we truly see that here as, though everyone puts up a facade in the park, at their core they’re normal human beings with feelings. They recognize their own faults and have a breaking point to the amount of criticism they can take, whether that be from parents, friends, or complete outsiders. The amount of honesty the characters displayed was the most surprising thing to me given that most teen films settle for trite and tired tropes.

Read the rest of this review…

Gone Girl

Movie Review #883

“GONE GIRL” MAY JUST BE THE MOST EXCITING MOVIE OF 2014.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

gone_girl

Released October 3, 2014 (nationwide)
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Rated R (contains a scene of graphic violence, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity)
149 minutes

Preface: Every word of this review is SPOILER-FREE.

I’m sure companies love product placement, at least when their products are the ones showing up.  I don’t.  I don’t like product placement one bit.  Granted, I like pointing it out in old movies, and doing so can really put a nice grin on my face, because we don’t expect products like National Geographic to make an appearance in movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946).

And I won’t deny that I more than likely screamed when I saw Lisbeth eating McDonald’s in David Fincher’s remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011).  I was fine with seeing her use her MacBook, because I’ve accepted as much as the rest of us that Apple Inc. and new world order are the exact same thing.  But seeing her eat a freaking Happy Meal made me angry.

Product placement is approached differently in “Gone Girl”.  Dare I say uniquely.  Not since “The Gods Must Be Crazy” has product placement contributed to satire so directly.  And let’s be clear that in “Gone Girl”, it’s not just a bottle of Coca-Cola.  It’s a can of Diet Coke.  And a Big Lots store.  And a Sony TV.  And FOX.  And Google.  And more.  It’s all there, bit by bit, to stand for excessive desire, and it reinforces that theme in its central characters: an insatiable couple that seeks happiness in shallow waters when their love for each other no longer satisfies…and, in some ways, can be dissatisfying.

Read the rest of this review…

Next Page »


  • Don't like coming here all the time? Not a problem: we can come to you. Enter your email address to follow the blog and receive notifications of new reviews by email.

    Join 3,842 other followers

  • Upcoming Reviews


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,842 other followers

%d bloggers like this: