squirrel_burst

IMDb member since October 2014
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Reviews

EuroTrip
(2004)

"Scotty Doesn't Know" makes it worth seeing
While "Eurotrip" isn't really what you would call a "good" comedy, it's got some solid laughs. The story begins when Scott "Scotty" Thomas (Scott Mechlowicz) is dumped by his girlfriend. After she humiliates him at a party (in probably the funniest part of the film due to a great, memorable song and a cameo by Matt Damon) Scott returns home and angrily blows off his German pen pal. The next morning he realizes "Mike" is actually "Mieke" (Jessica Boehrs), a total hottie that's eager to meet him. She's blocked his email address so he decides to travel to Europe with his friends Cooper (Jacob Pitts), Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg), and Jamie (Travis Wester).

There are many bad jokes throughout the film and overall, the story is predictable. You can tell Jamie is being painted as a loser and is being picked on by the other three posse members just so he can get lucky and show them up. His character is meant to counterbalance Cooper, who is obsessed with sex but for comedic reasons will have only unpleasant experiences. Scotty is the bland protagonist who needs a happy ending (due to the humiliating break-up he suffered at the beginning) and Jenny, Jamie's smokin' sister is going to end up with someone after being just "one of the guys" throughout high school (you get two guesses who that will be). On top of that, the plot is convoluted (does he not think of just creating a new email account and sending her a message?). Basically, the plot is just an excuse to tie together a bunch of zany adventures.

If the plot isn't particularly inventive and just an excuse to have a bunch of comedic setups, does the comedy work? Yes and no. There are genuinely good comedic moments, but quite a few lose their impact because you can see them coming a mile away. The soccer hooligans we meet are funny, there's a perverted Italian that gets in a couple of laughs, the previously mentioned song "Scotty Doesn't Know" is worth the price of admission alone. There's a solid comedic segment about Eastern Europe and their exchange rates and a pot brownie gag that's pretty good too. For each one of these, there are stupid jokes that will only entertain the most indiscriminating audiences. Lame stuff about absinthe, anything set in the Vatican induces groans and an embarrassing gag featuring a young child dressed up as Adolph Hitler is downright embarrassing.

I have to give credit where credit is due. It's a comedy and it made me laugh. When this movie says it's "Unrated" it really means it. There's a ton of nudity, both male and female and a lot of it full-frontal. If you're going to be a sex comedy, this is the way to do it. Just throw everything at the wall to see what sticks and when it doesn't, take off some clothing and distract the audience. For teenagers, this will really hit the mark and they'll have a terrific time (I know the 13-year-old me would have drooled over the scene where Cooper tricks a girl into fondling her own breasts). Overall, the movie is just average. If you like it, it'll be a guilty pleasure. It's the kind of movie where either you'll be able to forgive all the bad jokes and the other flaws or you'll just dismiss it outright as a bad wannabee of the R-rated teen comedy sex classics. (Unrated version on DVD, July 31, 2013)

Good Time
(2017)

Dig through the show times to find this one
"Good Time" is a drama/crime thriller with a tight grip. It constantly ups the stakes and keeps you invested thanks to its blend of tension and humor. With a stellar performance by Robert Pattinson and slick direction by Ben and Josh Safdie, you've got one of my favorite films of the year.

Connie Nikas (Pattinson) and his mentally handicapped younger brother, Nick (Ben Safdie) attempt to rob a bank. When the heist goes wrong and Nick is captured by police, Connie fails to come up with the bail money. He decides that it'll just be easier to break his brother out of the hospital room in which he's being held.

This film is a continuous cycle of "bad to worse". Connie is basically chewing his fingers off worrying about his brother. To him, nothing is too underhanded. He's willing, quick-witted, resourceful... but he's also been cursed with the Midas touch of sh*t and, let's face it, he's not all that intelligent. The man has a knack for finding people to prey upon. You'd feel bad when the situation blows up and he's the only one left unscathed... but it feels like their fate was an inevitability. It just happened a bit quicker thanks to our protagonist. You're nervous all the way through, but dumb criminals are such a joy to watch that you devour every moment with enthusiasm. I never knew what to expect out of "Good Time". Will Connie find some kind of redemption in the teenage girl (Talia Webster) he dupes into helping him? Will the innocent, naive bystander become a pawn or a victim? Whenever the crook encounters someone, you tense up.

Even if you disregard the tight story that keeps you guessing, this is a great film. It's expertly shot, the use of music and the general tone give it a distinct identity. Then, there are the performances. Pattinson disappears in this unglamorous, but meaty and nuanced role. He's accompanied by many great moments courtesy of Jennifer Jason Leigh (in a small part), Barkhab Abdi (whom you'll remember from "Captain Phillips"), Buddy Duress as a criminal who forms a tenuous alliance with Connie as well as the aforementioned Ben Safdie and Taliah Webster. I never wanted the movie to end. I enjoyed seeing this seedy world that much.

"Good Time" offers a slow, steady drip of thrills. You'll be sweating and, very frequently, laughing at the expense of people who are probably getting what was coming to them. There's also tenderness. At its core, this is a story about love, a poisonous love. It's another small film that you're going to have to look for, but wow is it worth the effort. When you watch "Good Time", stay through the credits. The story continues as the words scroll. (Theatrical version on the big screen, September 5, 2017)

While We're Young
(2014)

The kind of movie you'd be happy to stumble upon, but I wouldn't really rush to see it
"While We're Young" is a bit confused as to what exactly it's supposed to be about. The end result is a mixed bag. With that said, I enjoyed watching the film. I liked it without loving it. The story follows Josh (Ben Stiller), who is married to Cornelia (Naomi Watts). They're in their mid forties and things are going alright but they're starting to feel their age. Josh has been working on a documentary for a whopping 8 years now and is no closer to getting it done than he was the day shooting began. Their closest friends have all started families and you'd think this would mean that Josh and Cornelia would embrace their own freedom, having no children of their own, but they are tied down with work and everyday life way too much to be even the slightest bit spontaneous. One day they meet a hipster couple that re-energizes them. The odd thing is that this couple consists of 28-or-so year old Jamie (Adam Driver) and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried).

For the first half, this movie is a wakeup call to everyone watching. "Act your own age!" it tells us. As Josh and Cornelia begin getting to know their new friends, they feel pretty awesome. They're enthusiastic about their free time, they try new things, and they feel inspired. It's like they're falling in love with each other all over again and they see this new world they've been missing out on. For a while, you're thinking that these two are the best thing that happened to this middle-aged couple. I was convinced of how cool Jamie and Darby were. Maybe hipsters have really gotten on to something worth looking into. Who doesn't like the idea of making your own ice cream, or having the satisfaction of working on a desk that's the perfect size, height and colour... because you made it yourself? There was even a tiny moment where I saw their collection of VHS tapes and I thought to myself "I wish I hadn't upgraded all of mine to DVD and Blu-ray". All the while though, you sense that this isn't right. Josh isn't what I would call an old man, but he's too old to be biking around the city. Cornelia is past the age where she can spontaneously decide to join a hip hop class. Maybe what the movie is trying to say is that it's important to reinvent yourself from time to time so you don't end up in a slump... but you don't want to go overboard with it. If you do you'll end up losing track of where you started. It's like that question about the boat. If over the years every single piece gets replaced by a new one, is it the same vessel as the one you started with? I can tell you it certainly isn't if on Monday you have a canoe and on Wednesday you have a motorboat with a single paddle taped onto the side. I think that's what this movie is telling you.

I liked this first half it did something to me that I never expected. I sympathize and related to a 44 year-old man more than I did a 27-year old. I thought there were a couple of funny moments here and there. Not quite laugh-out-loud funny, but humorous in the way that normal life is strange and charming sometimes. I wouldn't call this film a "comedy" for instance, and certainly not when it shifts tone and story completely during the second half.

I suppose I have to give the picture credit that it feels like real life instead of an artificial screenplay that was made to make money. There are elements here that don't go anywhere and others that come up unexpectedly. I found some pretty big surprises in that second half with Josh having to face a pretty big moral crisis. I feel like there's a big missed opportunity here because the movie is about two ideas that aren't related to each other and you don't really get closure on either one. As is, "While We're Young" feels like it's either got too much going on, or not enough. I wish an extra half hour had been added to really wrap up some of the different relationship and themes... or that a bunch of material had been cut so they could have been put in a completely different movie. Which one would I prefer? I'm not really sure.

I enjoyed myself while watching "While We're Young" and I do think that there's an audience for it, but I'm not sure who. Maybe my parents would dig this one because they would be at that stage in life where you realize that you haven't been considered "young" for a while now. I don't want to come off as overly negative on this picture because I'm glad I saw it, but I struggle to find someone that I would strongly recommend it to. To me, this is more of the type of picture that you stumble upon rather than actually seek out. If you see a trailer and the ideas present there (not so much the jokes because this isn't a comedy) I would say catch it at a matinée price or rent it. It's a decent way to pass the time but not overly memorable, even if there are some strong moments throughout. (Theatrical version on the big screen, April 28, 2015)

Mosaic
(2007)

Feels like a story that was rejected back in the 60's
"Mosaic" has some good ideas but the story is a mess and any discriminating audience will find it banal. this animated film tells an original story by Stan Lee, a brand new superhero from the man himself! When Maggie Nelson (voiced by Anna Paquin) gains chameleon-like super powers, she decides to investigate a mysterious murder at a New York City museum. While piecing together the clues, she uncovers a plot to take over the world.

The film really feels like a television pilot, with animation that isn't terrible but never really warrants any special mentions, a plot that is predictable and filled with clichés and a lot of confusion on the script level. There is a reveal about a young man named Mosaic (voiced by Kirby Morrow) and his relationship the big bad guy that is totally predictable for Instance. It MIGHT have been a twist back in the 60's, but nowadays its cliché. There are also a lot of unexplainable; I'd even say "bad" decisions from a script level. Although it appears to be clear that "Maggie" inherits her powers from a magical artifact, there are constant hints that her pet chameleon is also involved, despite numerous references to a prophecy explaining exactly what is going on. Characters only show hints of a personality (which once again gives the impression that their traits would have been developed over time) and a lot of stilted dialog that is not only badly written but makes no sense (a scene where healing abilities are described as "shapeshifting" comes to mind).

I am tempted to say that if there had been a sequel, this could have been the start of an interesting female series. The more I think about it though, the more this feels more like a dated concept, or a knockoff of a classic superhero story than anything else. There's no doubt that with time this character could have become a classic, but that's because this story Is written as if there are no other superhero comics in existence. As is, "Mosaic" is only good entertainment for pre-teens. (Dvd, November 22, 2012)

Red Dawn
(1984)

Not great, but there's a lot of appeal nonetheless and it's memorable
"Red Dawn" does a good job setting up its somewhat fantastical scenario but it's very much a product of its time and might not ring the same way it did when it was first released. I still feel like has a certain amount of appeal, but if you love this movie it's mostly the nostalgia talking. When the United States is invaded by the Soviet Union and its Cuban and Nicaraguan allies, the Americans are overwhelmed. While this Third World War rages, our story begins to take place. A small group of high school students arm themselves, hide in the woods and resist the invaders with guerrilla warfare, assembling underneath the name of their high school mascot, the Wolverines.

The special effects are good and to someone that would be genuinely fearful of an invasion by the soviets this could be a dream come true or a really frightening scenario. I enjoyed the fact that the film gets into its premise right away, telling anyone that doesn't buy the premise to promptly leave the theatre or stop complaining about the events that are taking place. The film also does a good job portraying the long passage of time and the changes that happen to the characters as they become more accustomed to guerilla warfare. Where the film doesn't work is in the emotional growth and towards the end where our heroes make decisions that feel out of character and downright stupid. While I was able to buy the premise fully, I did find that this story doesn't feel as fleshed out as it should be. I'm leaning more towards "video game-like" than "epic" when choosing what word to define the storyline, despite the fact that there is a full-blown war going on.

If you can suspend your disbelief (and the film does take the time to set itself up as a possible scenario so it shouldn't be too hard) and put yourself in the mentality of the red scare you will get a kick out of this, though you might leave wanting more when it comes to the story and characters. (On VHS, November 21, 2012)

Pitch Perfect
(2012)

A crowd pleaser that makes its clichés work and stays consistently funny
Just from the premise of "Pitch Perfect" you can probably predict what the storyline will be like. What you won't see coming is how cleverly written, funny and well performed the film is. I have a theory that for every genre, for every story that's been done time and time again, for every cliché there has to be a few instances where all the pieces fall together so well that you won't mind that you will be able to tell where everything is going. As evidence to back up my theory, I present to you this film.

Beca (Anna Kendricks) dreams of making it big in the music industry and is reluctantly attending college as per her father's demands. In an effort to make the year more bearable she joins an all-female a cappella group (the members include Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Kelly Alice Jakle, Wanetah Walmsley and Shelley Regner). This rag-tag group is disorganized and can barely get through a single song... You might call them underdogs. With a bit of practice and bonding though, the Barden Bellas might stand a chance of beating their rivals and winning the national competition.

I had heard good things about the picture prior to going to see it, but this musical comedy caught me totally off-guard. The a cappella musical pieces are well sung, original and (when dance is involved) well choreographed. I thought the bits where everyone sings were well integrated into the story too. The writing is very smart, particularly when it comes to the jokes. We have everything from witty plays on words to inappropriate surprise humor with a bit of gross-out thrown in as well and even some a cappella puns. I found the soundtrack to be particularly enjoyable, which should be a given considering it's a musical, but it deserves special mention nonetheless. This is a film that will have a lot of re-watch value because you're going to want to memorize and sing along with the characters at home and with your friends. The numbers are catchy and are truly original because they're not just covers of popular songs done without instruments, they're often remixed or mashed-up In clever ways and often, their inclusion comes as a laugh-out-loud punchline.

I found the film to be consistently funny because it knows how ridiculous the premise is. A cappella competitions taken as seriously as college football? It's ludicrous and everyone here knows it. Instead of rolling your eyes as you would in something like "Yu-Gi-Oh! The movie" though, you embrace the characters with open arms, you sing along with them and you get excited to see the film play out the way it's going to… because in this case that's the way you WANT it to play out. Not all of the jokes work but the performances alone make it worth seeing. You'll have a great time and more than a few laughs with it. (Theatrical version on the big screen, November 20, 2012)

The Skulls
(2000)

Unimaginative and Contrived secret society plot
The biggest problem with "The Skulls" is that it's un-memorable. It isn't terrible but doesn't offer any surprises or thrills either. Basically it's about a three best friends (Joshua Jackson as Luke, Leslie Bibb as Chloe and Hill Harper as Will) who attend college together. Everything is fine and dandy until Luke gets invited to join a secret society on campus known as The Skulls. He makes new friends (most prominently Paul Walker as Caleb) and doesn't want anything to do with his old ones and if that wasn't bad enough, the secret society turns out to be pretty sinister.

The plot starts off promising, with Joshua Jackson and Paul Walker's characters bonding (due to their new connection in the Skulls) coming in and disturbing the friendship that is set up between the likable characters in the introduction. From then on the film doesn't really take any chances and goes for the easy route, with standard evil secret society stuff, a predictable murder mystery and a shoehorned love story. Some of the plot points are ridiculous and contrived; like vaults of incriminating security tapes (despite a clearly corrupt leadership that readily disposes of damning evidence), a plot to send a whistle blower to an insane asylum (instead of simply killing him when we've seen that the Skulls have no qualms about killing people) and a problem that in the 21st century could easily be solved in a few minutes (using news media or the internet). For younger, less discriminating audiences this might be entertaining but if you've ever seen any movie with a secret society or cult, you've seen this film before and probably better. (On DVD, November 18, 2012)

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo
(1977)

Not particularly frightening, exciting or worth paying any attention to... even if you manage to stay awake
"Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo" is a critter feature that offers no scares and little thrills. When a batch of Guatemalan tarantulas finds themselves in a sleepy little American town, we have a crisis on our hands! Oh not so much that people might get fatally bitten by these arachnids. The real issue is that they have nested themselves In the shipping centre that contains all of the locally harvested oranges. They can't use pesticides to get rid of them because that would contaminate the fruit, but if they wait too long the produce won't be fresh anymore. Can you feel the terror already?! While the acting and sets are good, the story moves at a snail's pace and the stars of the show, the tarantulas, aren't used in any creative or inventive way. We always see the tarantulas simply crawling on the ground, slowly making it's way in the general direction of the would-be victims. It isn't frightening. Spiders are frightening because they can crawl on walls, hide inside little objects and appear at any moment. By using mostly static tarantulas (which are spiders that are easily recognizable and commonly known to be harmless) the scares simply don't happen. I also found myself restless during the beginning of the film. A long portion of the introduction is wasted on the setup where we meet characters that are simply killed off a few minutes later. This is precious time that could have been used to develop our main characters and make us care about them. Easy mistakes make the whole production look amateurish, particularly when you realize what the "real crisis" is.

Overall "Tarantulas: the Deadly Cargo" is dull and audiences won't be scared or excited to watch it. Although there are a few jokes at its expense that can be made, even as a "so bad it's good" kind of film it's not terribly entertaining. (On DVD, November 16, 2012)

Y tu mamá también
(2001)

Erotic, funny, sad and insightful.
"Y Tu Mamá También" is a drama that has a real insight on teenage sexuality and surprisingly enough this actually generates a lot of laughs between the more touching portions of the film. I'm also going to admit that I find the plot pretty erotic so that's a big plus. It's a coming-of-age story about two teenage boys. Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are, as most teenage boys are, focused on sex pretty much all of the time. They joke about stealing each other's girlfriends, seducing each other's mothers, romancing older ladies, that sort of thing. They jokingly strike up a conversation with Luisa (Maribel Verdu) and try to entice her into taking a trip with them to a beautiful beach where they can all frolic in the sand and sun. Despite the fact that she's in her late twenties, she decides to take them up on their offer and the three of them go on a road trip.

One of the strongest characteristics about this Mexican film is that it genuinely feels like a true story. The sort of story that's too crazy not to be true. The characters and events don't feel manufactured or phony in any way and this allows you to really relate to the characters to the point where you may not have much in common or have experienced any of the events that they have, but you'll feel like you have a connection with them because you've all taken this trip together. The performances are all very good and when the film becomes erotic, it's very sexy. There are a lot of comedic moments but they're mostly there to make the bitter-sweet tale more digestible. This isn't some sex-comedy about a bunch of teens that need to lose their virginity by the end of the summer. The ending will probably leave you sad, but that's because you let yourself get so emotionally invested in the plot and characters that you didn't want their story to end. I've seen it multiple times and I'm not sure I understand all of the subtext that has to do with Mexican politics, but that's what special features are for, so I encourage you to track down some essays that will clear up the details, or watch it with someone that's smarter than me and knows what all of those little moments are all about. One last thing. While I love this movie and encourage you to check it out, even the R-Rated version isn't suitable for teens and certainly not kids. With that said, I strongly recommend " Y Tu Mamá También". I might bust this one out next time I have a date and she wants to see a movie… (R-Rated version on DVD, November 15, 2012)

The Devil's Carnival
(2012)

I'm not sure I understood it, but I liked it enough to recommend it
"The Devil's Carnival" is very much a Darren Lynn Bousman's pet project. It's unmistakable for anything else and that means if you liked his previous work in "Repo! The Genetic Opera" you'll be familiar with the style of horror and rock opera presented in this short film, so you'll enjoy it a lot. The plot? Well I can't say I can really recall it very well and some of It is because it's confusing at times. I remember a lot of cool visuals, some similarities with Aesop's fables, demons, knife-throwing, Bill Moseley in makeup and Alexa Vega looking pretty sexy. In all honesty it's not my fault, this is a picture that you kind of need to watch more than once.

While the songs aren't as polished as the ones in his previous work, the sets and costumes are impressive and for a low budget production, it looks great. I found the story to be scrambled though, which frustrated me because I love the idea of this demonic carnival (and I've always wanted to see it done well since I saw "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story). The upside is that if you like it, the picture is short so you'll be able to watch it multiple times to clarify the confusing bits. Similarly, it's a lot of style over substance and if at first you don't really care for it, it's just not your thing. It's a love it, or hate it kind of thing and I bet the way to really appreciate It would be to view it with someone who's already fallen In love with it and can clarify some of the plot elements or give you factoids on all of those cool little details. I enjoyed it enough that I think you should check it out, if only to see If It will be your kind of thing. (On DVD, November 15, 2012)

Lawrence of Arabia
(1962)

If you haven't seen it, you're missing out
"Lawrence of Arabia" is a grandiose film that's a must watch; even if you're not a huge movie buff, it resonates with so much scale and spectacle that you will be blown away. This epic adventure drama is based on the life of T.E. Lawrence, played here y Peter O'Toole. The bulk of the story centers around Lawrence's experiences in the Middle East during World War I, particularly some of the large battles he took place In and his Involvement in the Arab National Council. There's more than just action here though, Lawrence is a deeply conflicted man who struggles with some internal turmoil as well as the inevitable violence that arises during war times.

Don't settle for watching it on your rink-dink phone or even your TV, take the time to seek it out and find a theatre near you that's showing it on a giant screen because this movie features such breathtaking sights that you will be missing out otherwise. Oh, you'll still be able to appreciate the scale and cinematography elsewhere, but it won't be the same. Regardless of where you see it, the excellent performances and epic storyline will have you cheering. What struck me in particular Is the cinematography. Several shots show armies rushing through enormous landscapes high above, and In one particularly memorable scene a tiny dot on the horizon reveals itself to be a lone rider, coming towards the camera. Writing it down just doesn't do it justice.

Consistently, I found myself scratching my head wondering "how did they do that?" All of these enormous crowd shots or scenes featuring raids on trains featuring clockwork-like coordination make me wonder. It looks like the film was either done in one take or the sand was painstakingly cleaned to look like it was undisturbed between re-shoots. There were no computers in 1962 and yet this looks as Impressive as the $150 million CGI fests that we get every summer. As Lawrence, Peter O'Toole's performance is amazing. He really portrays the feelings of someone who is tortured and divided inside, but almost isn't allowed to worry about it because of the huge burden on his shoulders. The story, despite its multiple characters and multiple locations (several of which have foreign, difficult to pronounce names that you will probably have trouble remembering) is clear and easy to follow. If there's any fault it's that at times the film is overwhelming. So much goes on and there's so much that happens beneath the surface of our hero's exterior that you will have to watch it multiple times to get a real handle on all of it. There is so much greatness here it's hard to describe it all. It's a landmark in filmmaking and you've probably seen countless parodies and clips of the film over the years, so for that reason alone it's worth a watch.

It's a long show, but you won't mind thanks to the intermission and it will really stick with you. It's more than worth your time. I feel guilty admitting this but I almost had a bit of pre-conceived negative feelings towards it because I'd heard people almost trying to guilt me into watching it because they called it "The greatest movie of all time". Now the only person I feel resentment towards is me for not checking it out sooner. Even if you don't absolutely fall in love with it, there's no doubt you will be very impressed. (Restored version on the big screen, November 14, 2012)

Shallow Hal
(2001)

A big heart makes up for the hit-or-miss comedy
"Shallow Hal" is a mix of a very sweet and earnest love story with a comedy that often doesn't really work. I was won over by the fantasy love element and I do think it has more appeal than it doesn't. The idea that the titular character Hal (Jack Black) is a shallow guy who gets hypnotized into seeing women as they are inside instead of what they look like on the outside. He begins falling in love with Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), a fat woman that has a big heart.

Alright, that premise doesn't really make any sense because how could Hal know what people are like on the inside unless he knew them intimately, and unless the hypnosis also messed around with his sense of touch and his strength, there's no way he wouldn't realize that his vision is all kinds of screwed up, but let's just get past that. I feel like there's some good potential for humor with this premise, like if say a hot shot celebrity had an "ugly" sister and Hal confused one for the other, or he was a makeup artist (or even funnier, a plastic surgeon) and he started going crazy with people's faces even though they didn't need it. I'm sure you can come up with some good ideas too. Not a lot of the potential is used here. What we do get plenty of is exactly what you would expect from the premise. Hit or miss jokes about Hal thinking that some ladies are hot while everyone around him stands dumbfounded, fat jokes, and visual gags of seeing beautiful women looking at big clothes or plates full of food and they don't even have the courtesy of coming in quickly enough to build off of each other and make you laugh.

What saves the movie, and I would say actually makes it legitimately good is the love plot. As a fine male specimen with impeccable features that regularly has to fight the ladies off with a stick, you might not think that a story about an insecure lady who has been ignore her whole life one day discovering a man that falls head over heels for her would necessarily phase me, but it really did. If you've ever felt like you were judged because of what you looked like on the outside, that part of the movie will really drive home and it will make you smile. This comedy could have dropped the ball badly by handling the hypnotism thing the wrong way, making it feel like Hal is simply tricked into loving her, but without giving away what exactly happens during the conclusion, I felt like it handled that potential problem very well. This could have easily become a tasteless, mean-spirited mess, one that gets its laughs at the expense of "unattractive people" and I'm glad to say that it doesn't. The conclusion really pulls it all together and makes the shaky premise work. Overall "Shallow Hal" isn't of the Farrelly Brothers' funniest film but it probably is their most heartwarming. (On DVD, November 12, 2012)

Seventh Moon
(2008)

Smartly made horror film with a few issues here and there
"Seventh Moon" is an effective little horror film that does a good job creating paranoia and delivers a good amount of scares. Melissa (Amy Smart) and Yul (Tim Chiou), are honeymooning in China to visit Yul's parents when they get lost in the countryside and end up in a small remote village. Their misfortune coincides with the night of the Seventh Moon, which, in accordance with Chinese Myth means that the gates of hell open and the dead can enter the world of the living.

It's a scary ghost movie that gets the basics right. It stays with a small cast of characters so you can get to know and care about them, It keeps its cards close to the chest to keep you interested and ensure your Imagination plays with some of the quiet moments too. I thought the creature designs were very effective because they are simple, but in a way that is unsettling because you don't quite know what to make of them (unlike say, someone running around with an ax; I might not know what the deal with the person is, but I know what bit to avoid there). I was kept in suspense as to who was going to bite the dust, if anyone and I liked how for the most part you don't see much, except in the shadows until the very end. Once again, letting your imagination play tricks on you and make the terror even more intense. Your imagination can run a little wild while the characters are trying just as hard as you are to figure out who or what is chasing them. While there are a few moments at the end that aren't totally effective, and throughout the movie there are stretches that are poorly shot (to the point where you'll be frantically trying to figure out what exactly is going) it genuinely scared me. That's the objective, it met It's goal and I think you will enjoy it too. There are some good surprises and plenty of fresh material within the frightening "Seventh Moon". (On DVD, November 11, 2012)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
(2008)

A little soft for me, but it's approachable and works as a drama
Around Remembrance Day I like to think about the sacrifices that have been made, and also the horrors of WWII so I'm drawn to films set in that time period. The trouble is that I often find myself surrounded by my family at the time and some of my nephews and family members are a bit sensitive. "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is a movie about the holocaust that is tame enough to be seen by children and works as a drama that will appeal adults as well. I suppose in retrospect I have some mixed feelings about the fact that the movie is at times very sweet and does go out of it's way to tug at your heartstrings a bit, but I have to give it credit for being emotionally effective. Based on the book by John Boyne, it's the story of two 9-year-old boys separated by a fence that become friends. Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) is a Jewish inmate in a Nazi extermination camp. Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is the lonely son of the camps Commander.

The picture is very approachable, which is weird to say about a film dealing with the Nazi concentration camps, but I feel like it works in its favor. Some people might not watch this film if it had been rated R or didn't have children as the protagonists. Because the whole thing is seen through the eyes of children and their parents, it makes It easier to digest for younger viewers that can't (and shouldn't) see harsher R-rated films about the horrific events. This different viewpoint also offers a unique perspective that keeps the material fresh, even if you are familiar with the facts. The acting is very good, especially from Asa Butterfield and Jack Scanlon. Even though part of the film's emotional resonance comes straight from the non-fictional truths that anyone coming into the film already knows, these wouldn't have the same impact if it was handled by amateur performances. Director Mark Herman also does a good job by making all of the characters human. Although a lot of people in this story do evil things, none are without any redeeming characteristics and this serves to remind us that what happened wasn't some kind of alien invasion; it was human beings doing these things to one another.

I think people are going to be split about the ending. Yeah it's touching, but it's also kind of an "easy" ending in the sense that it'd would be very hard not to be emotionally affected by It. Considering this is a fictional story I think it's meant more as a metaphor than an actual possible outcome for people of the time so it works for me. If you want a tasteful film about the holocaust that young audiences can enjoy, this more than does the job. My suggestion is that you keep the remote handy to answer some of the questions that will come up, but if your 7-year-old is wondering what Remembrance Day and World War II was about, this is a good jumping point. (On DVD, November 11, 2012)

Lottery Ticket
(2010)

Middle of the road
While there are some good things about "Lottery Ticket", like the likable protagonist, most of the movie is filled with ridiculous stereotypes and dumb, obvious jokes. Bow Wow plays Kevin Carson, a young lad who lives with his grandmother, works at a job that's not great and dreams of moving out of the projects to become a sneaker designer. When his grandmother wins the lottery, meaning she just got $370 million richer things are looking up. The problem is that it's a long weekend and the ticket can't be cashed until the offices reopen. Soon people hear the news and everyone's becoming his "new best friend" and the neighborhood bully (Gbenga Akinnagbe) begins plotting extra hard against him. I think the biggest problem with this movie is the premise. The idea that someone living in a rough neighborhood all of a sudden has a whole lot of money and must now figure out what to do because everyone around him Is acting differently now has some promise. My issue is that the film feels like it really has to bend over backwards to make its premise work. They win the lottery and they have to wait a few days to cash in it. Alright. But then the grandmother, who doesn't have any sense whatsoever goes about blabbing to people and then we have the fear that the ticket is going to get stolen, but Kevin and his grandmother don't go to a hotel or visiting some trusted friends or anything… it feels really contrived. I'm certain that a bright young man like him with prospects of being a businessman would be able to come up with a sensible solution to this immediate problem. I also didn't feel like the conflicts and problems that arise when the word is out that he has this ticket were particularly creative. It does have some good messages about teenagers practicing safe sex and about how to invest your money in places that will count instead of spending it frivolously on trivial things to impress your friends but there isn't enough of it to make the movie really memorable and the humor felt lazy. I do believe that there was some potential here for some big laughs, but it's completely squandered. It isn't offensive despite some of the stereotypes so at least that was a relief. "Lottery Ticket" has a few bright spots but overall it doesn't really stand out as something you should really seek out to watch unless it's playing on TV already. (On DVD, November 11, 2012)

Scream
(1996)

Smart horror film for fans of the genre and newbies
"Scream" is a good horror/thriller that works not only as a deconstruction of the slasher/dead teenager genre but also as a scary who-done-it? film. It follows high-school student Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who is being stalked by a mysterious killer who wears a long black cloak and a mask based on The Scream painting by Edward Munch.

What I like about this movie is that it's a lot smarter than your average horror show. An easy example that makes my point is that in this story, people have actually seen horror movies before. How many films have you seen where you can't help yourself, you end up screaming at the people inside the movie because they walk into a dark room without turning on the light or grabbing a flashlight, they don't grab a weapon to defend themselves or they put themselves in situations that give away what their fate is? This, combined with a solid cast, a well written script and a lot of funny moments will suck you into the story, while the mystery of the face behind the killer's mask will compel you to stick around. If you're a fan of horror films you'll be happy to see that not only the film makers, but the characters in "Scream" film share the same love and it's a lot of fun to go through the film and check off the titles that are referenced to, in order to see if you have seen them yourself. If you aren't a fan of horror films this is a smart one that doesn't linger on the gore as much as It presents a mystery with some frightening scenes here and there. I really feel like this picture has a lot of re-watch value despite the fact that it's a mystery because it gets better the more horror films you have seen. If you want to get Into the genre of horror films and you're wondering where to start, then of course you have your classics like "Nosferatu" and "Frankenstein", then you've got your 70s flicks like "Black Christmas" and Night of the Living Dead" and from there, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Friday the 13th", "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Halloween" but you better make sure you don't miss "Scream" on your way you're the 2000s. It might even make you appreciate some of the franchises that eventually devolved into bad R-Rated comedies… or you might feel even stronger about pictures like "Leprecahun 4: In Space" being utter trash. It's scary, at times very funny, the characters are compelling and it'll keep you guessing all the way through. (On Blu-ray, November 9, 2012)

Siblings
(2004)

I'm not sorry I saw it, but it's not very memorable
Dark comedies are a tricky thing. I'm used to seeing films where you're supposed to laugh as people get murdered or a comedic moment will suddenly lead into something really twisted. I'm never quite sure how to introduce people that aren't used to that brand of humor to the genre, and if you suffer from the same predicament, maybe "Siblings" is the answer. It's a dark comedy that doesn't go too far into the twisted type of humor that you may be used to so it's a decent introduction into the genre. I wouldn't say the movie is great, but it's not terrible either (what a glowing recommendation!) Considering it's a story about four children that want to murder their parents it's never very violent or gruesome. The film offers some interesting characters and it's too bad that it never really feels like they all get fleshed out as much as they should because I think that most people will be left wanting more. The film has its share of laughs, not many but if you're looking for something funny and twisted at the same time, it's worth taking a look into It if you're paying a dollar to rent it, or it happens to be playing on TV kind of thing. (Dvd, November 6, 2012)

Dead & Breakfast
(2004)

Gets better towards the climax
"Dead and Breakfast" is a mixed bag of horror comedy. While the comedy often works, with some funny songs and good bits of silly gore, it's never genuinely frightening and often feels like it was quickly and cheaply put together. The film begins awkwardly, it's stilted and the scenes don't feel like they were meant to be seen one after another, more like they were coarsely stitched together because it was the only spot this shot or that one would fit in chronologically. I felt like there was no clear direction and a lot of seemingly random jokes added in out of desperation, like the movie wasn't supposed to be a horror comedy at first but when it became clear that it wasn't going to be frightening at all they added gags to the existing footage. Thankfully it gets better as it drudges on, particularly during the climax. There are some gruesomely comical deaths, clever musical bits and even a dance sequence that's pretty memorable. It's unfortunate that it only works about half the time but there is enough here to entertain the people who will read this title and say to themselves "Yes, a movie called Dead and Breakfast sounds awesome!" (On DVD, November 7, 2012)

Elektra
(2005)

"Elektra" Makes "Ghost Rider" look like "Spider-Man 2"
Move over "Ghostrider"; "Elektra" is now the worst Marvel movie to come out of the 2000's. It's a total disappointment on every single level and even if you're a hardcore fan of the character from the comic books, there is no way you will be able to forgive the slew of continuous cinematic sins this movie brings to your screen.

If you remember the end of "Daredevil", our titular character (played by Jennifer Garner) had been killed, much to our hero's chagrin. Just before the credits, there were hints that maybe she wasn't dead, despite the fact that she got a sai (those swords she wields) through her chest. Even if you don't remember any of that stuff, it doesn't really matter because this picture has little, if anything to do with that first movie. Elektra is now a crazy ninja assassin who is "deep" because she feels no remorse about killing people and does so a bit excessively; or sometimes doesn't. After being sent to assassinate a man (Goran Visnjic as Mark) and his teenage daughter (Kirsten Prout as Abby) Elektra decides to toss out her assignment and protect them from the evil clan of ninjas called "The Hand" instead.

I had an epiphany during this movie. It made me realize why this, and other notoriously poor comic book movies like "Ghost Rider" and "Catwoman" suck so much. It's because they have totally lame villains. Let's say you were making a Batman movie. Who would you have him pitted against? Would it be villains that no one has ever heard of, that even comic book fans don't care about like "Chemical King", "Hellhound", "Killshot" and "Rip Roar"? No way! Not in a million years! What you would do is pick one, maybe two and make sure they're some of the most interesting, most iconic criminals in Gotham City. Guys like The Joker, or Two-Face, or Bane. Characters that couldn't possibly be mistaken for anyone else, have a ton of personality and feel like genuine threats because their reputation precedes them. With that in mind, who is Elektra pitted against in this story? A bunch of no-name, Z-grade baddies that are totals chumps and that no one will ever remember, or care about. We have Boob lady, who can make stuff decay, sometimes; Big black guy who is bullet proof and strong; their boss who has generic ninja powers and a guy with killer tattoos (he's actually kind of cool admittedly). After doing a bit of research, I realized that these characters, which are about as appealing as the popcorn you find under your seat cushions are actually previously established characters from the Marvel universe. Boob lady (Natassia Malthe) is Typhoid, the strong guy (Bob Sapp) is Stone, their leader (Will Yun Lee) is Kirigi and some of the other characters introduced throughout include Stick, and some ninja clans that fans of Daredevil and Elektra will recognize.

The problem is that none of these villains have powers that feel original. We've seen strong guys before; we've seen people that can make people go moldy before. If not in other superhero movies, then in generic action films that require a supernatural villain (which is what this feels like). I did think that at least one of the villains in this film was cool, which was Tattoo (Chris Ackerman). Basically he can bring the ink on his body to life to spy on people with spiders, or birds or even use them offensively by unleashing the wolf or snake tattoos. Even then though, this character never really feels like a genuine threat because he doesn't use his powers in any inventive ways and when he goes down, you'll go "wait, that's it?!" Notice how little I've actually talked about the movie? That's because "Elektra" is about as generic as it gets. Jennifer Garner jumps around in a sexy outfit looking tough, nobody uses guns because guns are too effective in terms of assassinating people, you get your teenage sidekick, characters that make idiotic decisions so that we can have action sequences, and the acting is lousy. In terms of performances, the worst offender has to be Terence Stamp as Stick. He's supposed to be blind, but you couldn't tell from the way he's always looking at the person he's talking to. It's like they didn't even try to make it convincing! This film only lasts a little bit over an hour and a half and it felt like it was taking forever to conclude. There is nothing interesting going on here. Even the combat sequences couldn't jar me out of my state of nearly-dead-out-of-boredom because the villains suck and the way they're taken down isn't interesting. It doesn't make Elektra look good when she effortlessly takes down a slew of stereotypical black-clad ninjas, it just makes these shinobi look like a bunch of pajama-wearing losers. If you can't predict where this plot is going, by the way you haven't seen any action movies because this doesn't feel like a superhero or comic book movie at all. They don't even refer to Daredevil or anything! This movie is clearly as sequel-spin off of the Ben Affleck flick (whose "Director's Cut" is solid and very enjoyable) but the only hint of this is an afterthought during the first five minutes of the running time.

At least "Ghost Rider" had some cool visuals, with Johnny Blaze running around with a flaming skull for a head. This movie has got absolutely nothing to offer. None of the characters are compelling, none of the action is exciting, none of the writing is original. Even if you were the world's biggest Elektra fan, I can assure you that this is not a worthy representation of her comic book iterations. I can't think of anyone I could recommend it to, but it didn't offend me so I can't quite give it a zero rating. It's close though. (Director's Cut on Blu-ray, March 28, 2015)

Attack the Block
(2011)

A Superior Creature feature Horror Comedy. A new favorite of mine.
"Attack the Block" is a horror comedy that really works. It has a lot of laughs, memorable characters, sharp dialog, excellent performances, a smart story and some good action/thrills too. Not only are the human characters unique, but the creature designs/effects are unlike anything you've seen. I had heard about this one from word-of-mouth and to me, it feels like a real hidden gem. The kind of movie people might not have heard about and is full of delightful surprises.

The film begins with a crime. Samantha (Jodie Whittaker) is mugged by a small gang of teenage punks. Just as Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones), Biggz (Simon Howard) and Moses (John Boyega) are about to make off with their ill-gotten gains, a meteorite falls from the sky. Turns out it's not a meteorite at all, but the first of a race of deadly alien creatures. Covered in hair so dark it seems to absorb light and armed with razor-sharp teeth, these antiheroes are the only ones who know what's going on when the creatures begin attacking the apartment block they live in.

What I love about this movie is that it takes you for a loop. The heroes are a group of ghetto misfits who are introduced when they mug an innocent woman. Normally, you wouldn't care if any of these punks made it out alive but here that's not the case. The movie plays with your expectations and initially you dislike the protagonists. As the movie plays out though, you get to learn more about them, and your opinion changes. You realize how genuine the friendship between these guys is, you see that there's more to them than the petty crimes they commit and how under these circumstances there is no one else you'd rather be with. These flawed main characters add a touch of realism that makes the thrills and scares more intense. You don't know who is going to make it out alive and when people die in the movie, it's genuinely shocking.

In this movie is something I hardly ever see in horror films; actual character development and personalities that evolve. You feel like you've spent a long time getting to know these guys and just as they've really started to grow on you, an alien comes around and kills them, just like that. I found myself getting really upset when something bad happened to them. Usually in horror movies, seeing people get killed is the best part, it's what you came to see, but here it's heart wrenching. This picture takes the time to make you care about people that you wouldn't usually care about. You get to see the characters grow and this allows the film to explore some important themes about poverty and community without ever feeling preachy.

Another element I thought was nothing short of brilliant was the setting of the action. This apartment block that's under siege makes for some really interesting scenes, something you haven't ever seen before. To give you a hint, this building is set in a poor neighborhood. It's so poor that the lights in the corridor don't even stay on all of the time. To save on power, the lights in the corridors automatically turn off and you're expected to press a button to light them up and walk with the lights before the place is once again submerged in darkness. What a terrific setting for some scares. Just imagine walking down this corridor and not even having the light to comfort you. With these aliens blending into the darkness perfectly, you've got yourself a recipe for more than a few scenes that are genuinely frightening and incredibly tense.

The casting here is perfect. There isn't a moment in the alliances and friendships that feel forced or manufactured and at the end of the movie everyone really feels like a big, unlikely family. The performances, mostly done by child actors are dead-on. The characters speak with unique slang and expressions in a thick accent that at first is hard to understand, but adds that extra touch of realism. As the movie moved along, I found that I was able to adopt to their dialog (in fact I wouldn't mind adopting some of their expressions in my own dictionary) and I'm confident that you will too. Also noteworthy is the excellent soundtrack by "Basement Jacks", which helps pump up the energy and adds to the film's ghetto, uneasy feel.

All this and we haven't even really sunk our teeth into the monsters, which are really intriguing to observe. I'm a big fan of horror being boiled down to its basics and here is a terrific, simple design that's elegant. They feel menacing but because there's not really much to see when they're on the screen (their fur is so dark it doesn't reflect light and they basically look like gorillas with tiger teeth) you focus on the action and the adrenaline the characters feel, not the special effects.

All that, and as a cherry on top, you have characters that are intelligent because they don't make the same stupid mistakes you see everyone do in horror movies and are able to improvise when the situation calls for it. That means there's actually more tension than in your average horror movie because you really don't know if they're going to make it out OK, or if they'll figure out a way out of this mess. You have the protagonists running from 3 different threats throughout the film. "Attack the Block" is more than a good sci-fi creature flick, it's a great, a fantastic, a splendid sci-fi creature flick. It's scary, thrilling and even touching at times. Once it's all done with, you'll be excited to share this with your friends and just thinking about it makes me want to watch it again. (On Blu-ray, November 4, 2012)

Body Snatchers
(1993)

Solid premise, good special effects and some memorable, chilling moments. What more could you ask for?
"Body Snatchers" is a good horror/thriller with excellent special effects. I can't speak as to whether or not it's a remake that stays faithful to the original, but my gut says that this Is a worthy adaptation. The ending isn't as strong as the scenes that precede it, but overall it's an enjoyable sci-fi paranoia film. The premise is basically that there's an alien invasion going on right before our eyes. The extra terrestrials wait until you fall asleep and when you do, you get sucked up Inside of a weird pod and replaced with a doppelganger. There's a lot of potential there and I bet you can already see why this premise has endured over the years. How do you know who you can trust, how are you going to convince the others that something is amiss and how are we supposed to win? I found that the picture takes a bit too long to set up. I understand that every plot point needs to be introduces thoroughly and all, but considering this is the third version of the film, and the material has been imitated and ripped off countless times, you probably already know where it's going in the beginning, and you'll grow restless waiting for everyone to catch up to you. Once it gets started there are a lot of tense parts that will keep you on your toes and some real surprises as friends and foes become indistinguishable from each other. The film really convincingly portrays the body snatchers and their pods and the special effects alone make the movie worth a watch, even though the very end of the film is anti-climactic and contains one very bad special effect that's embarrassing to see. There's a really chilling moment when you realize really how dire the situation Is that's permanently ingrained in my mind. Just thinking about it makes me uneasy, and no matter how many times it's made fun of, it still gives me the shivers. It's worth seeking out. (On DVD, November 6, 2012)

Daredevil
(2003)

Upgrade to the Director's Cut and you've got yourself a solid Superhero flick
This might date this review a bit, but let me begin by saying that I am watching this film well before "Batman vs. Superman" is being released, and I don't know what all of the Ben Affleck hate is about. I know there's a new "Daredevil" show out on Netflix as well and it's sure to gather a lot of people dismissing that "old movie" as trash, but hey, just wait a moment. I've just finished the director's cut (which ads a full 30 minutes to the running time), and it does have some flaws but otherwise this is a solid 2000's superhero movie. I like it a lot and putting it in the same category as "Ghost Rider" or "Fantastic Four" is a grave mistake. I can't remember what the theatrical cut was like, but this version runs about 2hrs and 15 minutes so there are some significant changes.

When Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) was a boy, he was blinded by a chemical spill. It wasn't a total loss though because his remaining senses where enhanced to superhuman level. As an adult, he uses his sonar-like hearing to walk around as if he could really see, but he pretends to be just a regular blind guy. It's the perfect disguise for his superhero alter ego, Daredevil. When Matt and his legal partner "Foggy" (Jon Favreau, who like Chris Evans also went on to star in some of the best Marvel films) take on a case, it all seems to point towards the ever-elusive, legendary, Kingpin of Crime (Michael Clarke Duncan). Daredevil works his way up the ladder, encountering the crackshot assassin Bullseye (Collin Farrell) and a lovely lady named Elektra (Jennifer Garner).

What I like about this movie is that it spends ample time showing you that Matt Murdock is a tortured man, the kind of guy you can believe would wear a costume and spend his nights beating the living snot out of criminals. He's emotionally distant, has a lot of guilt about what he does, second guesses himself and is very angry on the inside. He's a lawyer that encounters the worst people imaginable every day and he's fed up with seeing the ones who have the right connections or enough muscle to intimidate witnesses worm their way out of an appropriate sentence. What I liked even more was that you can also see that there are moments where he is a nice guy and he isn't always moping around complaining about that one person he couldn't save. He tells jokes, he flirts with women and has friends. You get to see him as a regular guy that takes advantage of his powers but also feels the burden of them. One of my favorite scenes happens just as he's about to call it a night after getting into a vicious fight with a dozen thugs. He is about to lie down when he hears the screams of a woman being murdered. He perks up a bit, then looks discouraged. He knows there's nothing he can do, and if he went out in the exhausted state that he is, he would only get himself killed. It's a difficult thing to do, but he must go to bed and try to let it slide, for now. That scene, with the clever detail that the man sleeps in a sense deprivation tank in order to get some peace and quiet really impressed me. That single moment speaks volumes about the character and that's a sign that this is a legitimately good movie, one that's been unjustly dismissed.

When it comes to the supporting characters there's a lot to like. First up our main villain, Bullseye. What I like about this guy is that they make him delightfully evil. He's a sociopath that kills people in increasingly difficult ways... because it's a way for him to get his jollies. He doesn't use guns. Those are for your run-of-the-mill assassins. This guy's weapons of choice will make you look at pencils, toothpicks and office supplies in a totally different way. I also enjoyed the fact that he's given a real character. He's full of himself and very proud of his skills, to a fault. He also appears to suffer from some sort of OCD because he's always being overly theatrical and boastful, but in a way that's believable (unlike say, Two-Face from "Batman Forever"). I liked seeing Jennifer Garner as Elektra. There's real chemistry between her and Murdock and she's not just some damsel in distress that needs to be rescued during the climax. She's got a lot of different facets to her personality. The last guy I want to talk about is Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin. I know traditionally he's a really fat white guy but I actually like him better here than anywhere else. This Wilson Fisk is a powerful presence. He's scary, but not in an obvious way that would have every single person in New York screaming "that's the bad guy! Right there!" Only two things really bother about this movie. There isn't enough action because there are so many moments where the characters and their relationships are explored and like most of the 2000's superhero films, many scenes contain dated CGI that makes you wish they were using practical effects, or just had more realistic battles that could actually have been done with the actors. The other is that the film is just a tad too long. I can forgive both because it really is an entertaining film filled with interesting characters and complex relationships, but it's worth noting.

If you think that "Daredevil" is a bad movie, you just need to revisit it by watching the Director's Cut. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the drama and how well developed all of the characters are. It captures the spirit of the dark Marvel comic books that made this guy a favorite in the first place. (On Blu-ray, March 26, 2015)

The Darkest Hour
(2011)

Feels more like a video game than a movie, and I didn't even get to play!
"The Darkest Hour" has some interesting ideas that make up for its low budget, but it's crippled with bad dialog and a lame story. Ben (Max Minghella) and Sean (Emile Hirsch) are traveling to Moscow for work purposes and while at a nightclub they meet two English-speaking ladies (what are the odds?) Natalie (Olivia Thirbly) and Anne (Rachel Taylor). Things are going well when all of a sudden ALIEN ATTACK! An invisible otherworldly attack force is laying siege on our planet and our characters must scramble to survive. Even if they do, will there be anything left of our civilization? Some of the concepts, like invisible invaders that have no discernible weaknesses, having night and the darkness be a safer time to travel than daytime and having foreigners stuck in a country while an alien invasion takes place are all interesting and should make for some interesting plot points. My first problem with the movie is that it gets frustrating to have absolutely nothing to look at it when it comes to the antagonists. You would think that maybe there would be some variety in the creatures that are sent out to destroy mankind, with some initial, invisible invaders and then maybe some visible, not-so-threatening ground troops to add a bit of variety to the movie but it's the same thing all the way through. It's the kind of thing that would work on paper, or in a novel but feels cheap on the screen. It's true that what your mind comes up with is going to be a lot more frightening than anything that could be created in the movie but this doesn't aim to be a frightening horror movie, it's an action adventure film.

To make things worse, the dialog is poorly written and the characters are flat and the plot is badly written. You can easily predict who is going to make it out alive and who is going to be disintegrated by aliens because all of the characters that die are either late additions to the movie, have no character development or perform some kind of desperate, heroic action before getting whipped out. This means that there's a big lack of tension throughout, hampered further by the fact that the movie's internal logic is very flawed. So these aliens are invisible, but you can kind of "see" them because they make any electronics go haywire (light bulbs light up, appliances get activated, that sort of thing). This means that during night time, you can spot them pretty easily if they pass by anything electronic. In an atypical move, darkness is your friend here. Characters spread light bulbs on the ground to check if the invaders are present or attach them to their own clothing so they can tell when danger is close. That's cool, but sometimes I found it to be inconsistent. I also thought that the way they handled the aliens' "monster vision" didn't really make a lot of sense. It appears to be consistent from scene to scene, depending on whether or not the characters are supposed to get spotted or get away safely. Despite the movie's low budget it does use the money it has well, except when we do finally get a reveal of what the invisible invaders look like. They look incredibly cheap and clearly created by computer effects (Another instance where practical effects would have been the better option).

This felt more like a video game than an actual movie. The characters move from checkpoint to checkpoint, avoiding aliens, gathering weapons and meeting with allies while people get introduced and killed off in rotation. The main survivors acquire a special weapon about halfway through the movie and it's a big deal. They can finally start fighting back while everyone else has just been running this whole time. A couple of scenes later however, someone tells the protagonists that the gun can easily be replicated and they have a second one within the hour. Doesn't that sound like an "upgrade unlocked" feature in something you'd find on your Playstation? The characters act without logic, the aliens develop weaknesses whenever the plot is convenient and the explanations we get for the alien invasion and weaponry are complete non-sense. The story feels like a stock space invader plot and there's nothing that really make this stand out. I don't recommend this one. (On Blu-ray, November 4,2012)

Radio
(2003)

It's a puppet show! Watch the movie pull your strings!
"Radio" may be based on a truthful, inspiring story but that only goes so far. It just doesn't seem to me like this was the kind of story that ultimately lends itself to a movie; or if it does this was not the way to do it. It's the story of James Robert "Radio" Kennedy (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.), a mentally disable young man who is fascinated by radios and football and is taken under the wing of the local football team's coach (Ed Harris as Coach Jones).

What I really disliked about this movie was that the people here don't feel like people. Now I know that this film is based on true events and all, but it's like the details have been fudged left and right in order to make the film universally appealing. In trying to make it so soft and cuddly, it appeals to no one but the most undiscriminating audience that loves anything football-related. The titular character feels like a Hollywood stereotype of a mentally challenged man: he can do no wrong, is always sweet, is loved by everyone (well, except for the one dimensional villain) and has no personality whatsoever. When he is included in the behind-the-scenes of the school football team he feels more like a pet or a mascot than a real person and the film never really focuses on him, following Ed Harris' character Coach Jones instead of going about the more challenging task of showing us what this town really saw in James Robert Kennedy and giving him a real personality with flaws and all. There is also something off-putting about the fact that the people in the town very rarely call him by his actual name, instead calling him by his given nickname of "Radio" and that we never see any portrayal of the man's brother in the film, almost as if he refused to be included.

Overall it does pull at your heartstrings and will likely get some sensitive audiences emotionally involved but the plot is the same one you have seen before: the misunderstood misfit shows the rest of the world that it's important to be more caring and understanding. Oh, if we could just set aside our differences and see those poor outcasts for what they really are: beautiful people that just seem weird on the outside…. well then we could all learn a bit from them and become more beautiful and caring human beings ourselves. This recycled plot combined with the stock villain and the forced, emotionally manipulative story (manipulative to the point where some characters turn into cartoonish villains or saints whenever convenient) that there isn't much to recommend here except for some good performances. (On DVD, November 1, 2012)

Seven Psychopaths
(2012)

Sharply written and memorable
"Seven Psychopaths" offers good performances and a slew of memorable and original characters in a smart, sharply written and intelligent script. Marty (Colin Farrell) is a struggling writer who is working on a screenplay titled "Seven Psychopaths". His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) decides to help Marty by having him meet real-life psychopaths through classified ads. As the two characters get wrapped up in a story where Billy and his criminal partner Hans (Christopher Walken) mess with the wrong dog in their dogknapping scheme, we meet one psychopath after another.

What I liked about the movie Is that this is a truly original story that blends the fictional in-film "Seven Psychopaths" screenplay, the characters of the film and the film itself into a twisted, violent and funny tale. It's a black comedy so there are some moments where it gets violent and people get killed. I found myself shocked more than once as the plot took another turn or another psychopath reared his ugly head just when I thought I had the story figured out. There's a lot to like here and even if a dark comedy isn't necessarily the kind of thing you jump at, you'll have a good time with this. (Theatrical version on the big screen, November 1, 2012)

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