Archives for posts with tag: criticism

Grade C-

“Minutes Past Midnight” is a horror anthology that would have fallen flat on its face and stayed that way had it not been for three stories that redeemed it.  “The Mill At Calder’s End,” “Feeder,” and “Ghost Train” were the best of the bunch, offering very good acting, direction, cinematography, music, and screenplays.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Minutes Past Midnight” is the scene that reveals what happened to the boy who disappeared in “Ghost Train.”

Fans of horror movies should at least watch the three stories I mentioned above; and if you have some time to kill and want to watch a few ridiculous, short movies, then watch the other stories that “Minutes Past Midnight” has to offer.

— M

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Grade B+

 

Near the beginning of WWII, hundreds of thousands of British soldiers and their allies were trapped by the German forces on the beaches of Dunkirk.  The ships to rescue the allied forces were few and far between, and those few that were sent were under attack from German bombers and U-boats.  The British, desperate to save at least a small portion of their trapped soldiers, decide to commandeer small, civilian boats to assist in the rescue.  This is the story of “Dunkirk.”

Told from three timelines that eventually intersect, “Dunkirk” will confuse the typical moviegoer who doesn’t fully pay attention.   One timeline starts a week before the civilian rescue; one timeline starts about a day before the civilian rescue; and the third timeline starts about one hour before the civilian rescue.   This is a complicated way of telling the story, but it is effective and absolutely necessary to keep the tension high throughout the movie and to get the audience emotionally invested in the major characters from the beginning.

Timeline one: Tom Hardy plays a British, Spitfire fighter pilot who flies to Dunkirk to engage German bombers and fighters.

Timeline two: Mark Rylance plays a civilian who takes his small boat to Dunkirk to save the soldiers trapped on the beach.

Timeline three: a young, British soldier spends days trying to escape Dunkirk in any way he can.

When I started seeing things that were familiar — the same parts of the movie told from different angles and with either more or less detail — even I was trying to figure out what was going on, but quickly figured out what Director Christopher Nolan was doing, and became very impressed with his choice of storytelling.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Dunkirk” was the scene when Hardy was still flying his plane that ran out of gas, providing air cover for the soldiers below him.

This movie would have been given an A rating had it not been for the confusing ending.  **SPOILER ALERT** Why did Hardy fly so far away from the British soldiers to land his plane, leading to his capture by the Germans?  Why not glide to an open spot on the beach close to the British?  I understand there were still tens of thousands of allied soldiers on the beach and he didn’t want to hit any of them as he landed, but come on!  Are you telling me the soldiers on the beach wouldn’t have gotten out of the way?  I am guessing Nolan wanted a dramatic ending — and it was dramatic — but that drama was ruined because it made no sense to me.  What better way to up the morale of the British and French troops by safely landing on the beach after downing several fighters and bombers despite being low on fuel and actually running out of fuel?  This man’s a hero!  Still killing the enemy with a fighter plane that ran out of fuel!  Still protecting his fellow soldiers as he glides over the beaches and shores!  And then he…keeps gliding far away from the allied troops and lands where the Germans are.   Huh? What?  Are you kidding?  Sorry, Nolan, you made a bad choice.

— M

Grade A

 

Based on the true story of a rugby team and a few family members and friends whose plane crashed into the Andes mountains.  A brief search for the plane and its occupants were made and soon called off when nothing was seen.  Low on food and with no rescue coming, the survivors resorted to eating the dead.  After several weeks of hopelessness and cannibalism, a few of the survivors decide to walk the treacherous grounds for a desperate attempt to reach Chile and send help back to those still by the crash site.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Alive” was the scene when the survivors, after deciding to eat the dead, go out of the broken plane and line up to start taking chunks of flesh from the frozen bodies that were left outside.

“Alive” doesn’t delve much into the details of the cannibalism part of the story, rather it concentrates on the courage of the survivors and the spiritual nature of their struggle and ghastly actions.  What could have easily been an exploitative movie became an uplifting one, showing the audience that people, despite horrific circumstances, can still be hopeful, dignified, and courageous.

— M

 

 

Grade B

 

The second of the Thor movies, “Thor: The Dark World” has the Universe threatened by an evil, elf ruler who wants to use something called the Aether (a powerful, energy source).  As Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) goes from one world to the next to quell wars, as well as sulk because he misses his girlfriend (Natalie Portman), the evil guy and his evil henchmen are on the march to retrieve the Aether and bring destruction to every world he can reach.   Why?  Because he’s evil.

Hemsworth has a plan to destroy the evil elf dude, but it goes against his father’s wishes.   Hemsworth decides to do it anyway with the help of his “brother” Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a few Earthlings who are in way over their heads.  The plan is risky, and failure means the deaths of gazillions of creatures in many worlds.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Thor: The Dark World” is the scene when ** SPOILER ALERT ** Hiddleston is told that his adopted mother has been killed in combat by the evil elf ruler.   Quiet and calm at first, Hiddleston suddenly destroys his room with his magic.  Earlier in the movie, Hiddleston uttered harsh words toward his adopted mother.

“Thor: The Dark World” was more fun than I thought it would be.  The action sequences were very good, as expected; but the dialogue and how the main characters interacted with each other were done very well, which has become the trademark of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  Despite the alluring special effects and thrilling action scenes, the characters are the ones we truly connect to.

— M

Grade B+

 

Shakespeare’s “The Taming Of The Shrew” is the basis for “10 Things I Hate About You,” a fun, sweet, romantic-comedy that has a surprising amount of substance.  Julia Stiles plays the “shrew,” a highly intelligent teen who is fiercely independent and speaks her mind at all times.  So what’s the problem?  Well, her sister is a social butterfly who wants to date but isn’t allowed to by the father…unless Stiles also dates.  The father’s idea is that Stiles will never date, and so the other daughter won’t either, and neither of them will do any crazy, sexual things with boys.

But two young men — one of whom is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt — desperately want to date Stiles’ sister; and so both of them work up a scheme to have a fearless, bad boy in their school (played by Heath Ledger) to ask out Stiles.   Typical of a rom-com, the lead romantic couple “meet cute,” they start to really like each other, then a monkey wrench gets tossed into the situation that can potentially mess everything up.

My most memorable, movie moment of “10 Things I Hate About You” is the scene when Stiles gets up in front of her English class and reads a poem that is basically a list of things she hates about Ledger.  It was the most poignant part of the movie as well as showing the wonderful talent of Stiles.

What sets “10 Things I Hate About You” apart from the typical, teen rom-com are: solid, three-dimensional characters of Ledger, Stiles and Gordon-Levitt; very clever dialogue dished out by Stiles; the two lead characters are very likeable; and the great chemistry between Stiles and Ledger.   It took me almost 20 years to finally see this movie, and now I know why it is so popular.

— M

Grade B-

 

Stephen King’s novella of the same title gets a decent adaptation in “The Mist.”  After a strong storm, a large mist quickly surrounds a town, trapping dozens of people in a supermarket.  Terrifying creatures roam within the mist, hunting and killing anyone who ventures outside.  But danger also lurks within the refuge of the supermarket.  As the hours slowly tick by, the people form opinions on what is happening and how to survive it.  Three separate groups start to form, and one will overpower the others, ushering in a new level of violence and bloodshed that will rival the horrors within the mist.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Mist” is the scene when 5 survivors trapped in a vehicle make a shocking decision.  More on this below.

I have read the novella and thought it a brilliant piece of writing.  But the movie version is…far from brilliant.  Two things prevented it from being great.  First: Thomas Jane is completely wrong for the part of the main character.  His superhero looks had no place in this story.  The main character was a regular person forced to do extraordinary things under a tremendous amount of pressure and fear.  Jane was completely out of his element as he wasn’t believable at all when he tried to look afraid.  I was expecting him to suddenly walk around with his Punisher shirt on, blasting the creatures with a large, automatic rifle and saving the whole world.  Second: the ending.   I understand some of the logic that went to the decision that was made in the vehicle; but there was another option.  And the aftermath of that decision?  Depending on your values and point of view, you will either be horrified and stunned, or start to laugh.   And the fact that the ending can produce laughter tells me that it was the wrong ending to put in this movie.

The creatures were great though.

— M

Grade B-

Manny’s Movie Musings: an interesting plot set in The Bronx, NYC, “Babygirl” has Yainis Ynoa playing the title role, plotting to destroy her mom’s relationship with a younger man who has his eyes set on Ynoa from the beginning.  Ynoa’s plan involves using herself as bait; but things get messy when Ynoa develops feelings for her mom’s lover.  At an age somewhere between a woman and a girl, the innocent Ynoa has a difficult time making sense of her feelings and what she wants; and yet she plays a serious game that can destroy her relationships with her mom, her best friend, and a nice boy who likes her.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Babygirl” is the scene when Ynoa and the guy find themselves alone in a hallway late at night, staring at each other.   It is tense and very creepy.   Rosa Arrendondo gives the best performance in this indie movie that is mostly cast with unknowns.

— M

Grade B-

Knowing that more metahumans and assorted superpowered creatures will be coming to Earth with a bad attitude, Batman (played by Ben Affleck), recruits other metahumans (Gal Gadot as Wonderwoman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg) to form a league to combat all the incoming super bad dudes out there.  Affleck’s problem is that some of the metahumans in his wish list don’t want to join, and they all still have to learn how to fight as a unit.

And then comes Steppenwolf, a super bad guy who has been alive way before the invention of toilet paper, always in a pissy mood and wants to control everything he sees.  He is in search of three special boxes that will give him more power to accomplish his goals.  But the “Justice League” is there to do their best to put a wrench in Steppenwolf’s hostile takeover machine.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Justice League” is the scene when Momoa didn’t know he was sitting on Gadot’s truth lasso, and he just started spewing funny and insulting comments about his League members.   The best joke was on Affleck.

Grade B-…not bad for a movie, right?  Well, for a $300 million movie (plus the costs of advertising and distribution) it’s a failure.  For one thing, there were too many cooks in the kitchen.  With two directors working on this movie at different times, you just know certain things aren’t going to mix well.   Then there was the mandate that the movie should be about two hours long.  Hmmm…a movie that has to tell the origins of Steppenwolf, plus Aquaman, plus Cyborg, plus The Flash, plus show how Affleck gets all his people together, plus that whole thing with raising Superman from the dead and how he was going to deal with it and how the world and the League will deal with him…all that in two hours?   Studio executives…please stop taking cocaine/Vicodin/alcohol when you make decisions about a movie.  Two hours were definitely not enough to tell this story well, and it shows.

Then there are the shenanigans, such as Wonder Woman being fast enough to deflect bullets from an automatic weapon, yet where the hell was all that speed when she fought Steppenwolf?  Then you have The Flash who is supposed to be extremely fast (some sources say about the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second); but he is getting his ass handed to him a few times by the bad guys who have normal speed.  The same with Superman (played by Henry Cavill): he is now extremely fast and should be able to kill Steppenwolf’s minions by the thousands in a few seconds, but can’t.   Suspension of disbelief doesn’t mean the audience will forgive poor screenwriting and numerous logical flaws in the story.

Problems, problems; but $300 million does buy a lot of eye candy.  For those who want to be dazzled and entertained, this movie may do it for you.  Just don’t expect too much substance, or sense.

— M

Grade C-

 

Manny’s Movie Musings: “Detour” is an indie flick about a teen (played by Tye Sheridan) who enlists the help of a young gangster (Emory Cohen) to kill Sheridan’s dad (Stephen Moyer).  The story’s strengths are the talented, young cast (Sheridan and Cohen); and a manipulation of the timeline to produce a clever twist at the beginning of the third act plus a more shocking twist near the end.  “Detour” is weakened by the dialogue Cohen speaks, making the actor seem like a wannabe Tarantino character and the writer/director just a plain, wannabe Tarantino.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Detour” is the revelation of the twist ending that turned this somewhat entertaining movie from a suspense/thriller into a tragedy.

— M

Grade B+

 

Hundreds of years into the future, a transport ship crashes into a desolate planet with no means to send a distress signal.  A captured convict (played by Vin Diesel) on his way back to prison, a bounty hunter (played by an icy Cole Hauser), a co-pilot (played by Radha Mitchell) who is focused on saving her life at the cost of others, and a handful of assorted voyagers are the unlucky ones.

At first, Diesel is considered the biggest threat to the survivors because he is a convicted killer of many and an escape artist; but a quick exploration of the planet with three suns reveals terrifying creatures that lurk underground in the darkness, waiting for the right moment to go above ground…and that moment will come soon when a lengthy eclipse takes place.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Pitch Black” is the scene when Diesel kills a large monster easily, then says “Did not know who he was fucking with.”  Maybe Diesel is the biggest threat on the planet.

“Pitch Black” is a low-budget, sci-fi/horror movie that definitely delivers.   The story, direction, acting, pacing, and special effects are solid.  The three main characters — of Diesel, Mitchell, and Hauser — have enough depth to them to add extra layers of complexity to the story.  There is one bit of shenanigan that I will address: the numerous creatures are starving, and there aren’t enough people to feed on, so they start feeding on each other, and one is so crazed by hunger it doesn’t fly away when light — which hurts the creatures — is shined on its body as it attacks a survivor.   Why didn’t this happen more, especially when the light source of the survivors were weak and few?

— M

Grade B-

Manny’s Movie Musings: Jennifer Aniston plays a single woman whose biological clock is ticking so loudly she decides to use a sperm donor to get pregnant.  Jason Bateman, playing Aniston’s best friend, is horrified at her choice, partly because he is subconsciously in love with her.  During Aniston’s get pregnant ceremony/party, Bateman gets wasted on alcohol and drugs and switches the donor’s sperm for his own.  Aniston moves away to have her baby; and 7 years later, she and her son move back into Bateman’s city.  The boy’s personality is very much that of Bateman, who slowly realizes why that is; and now he has to decide if and when to tell Aniston of his discovery.  My most memorable, movie moment of “The Switch” is the scene when Bateman decides to make the switch because of his drug/alcohol induced accident; and out of desperation, uses an image of Diane Sawyer to help him get his product out.   “The Switch” is a typical, formulaic rom-com, meaning you’ll get exactly what you think, including the ending.  Still, it has its funny moments.

— M

Grade B

 

Adapted from a Stephen King novella, “1922” stars Thomas Jane who plays a farmer who will do whatever it takes to hold on to his farm, his son, and his way of life.  Standing in his way is his wife, played by Molly Parker, who has fallen out of love with Jane and wishes to sell her part of the farm and start a new life in a big city.

The idea of losing all that he loves in this world keeps twisting in Jane’s mind and gut until he becomes twisted enough to manipulate his son into helping him kill Parker.  The murder is slow and violent, and Jane has crafted a story that may keep people from asking too many questions about his wife’s disappearance.  But sometimes, the dead don’t stay dead.

My most memorable, movie moment of “1922” is the scene when Parker’s spirit — covered in blood and showing the wounds she suffered at the hands of her husband and son — first comes to Jane.

“1922” is a well-crafted ghost story, moving slowly and methodically, building up the suspense and horror.  It doesn’t rely on cheap scares.  The horror comes from what people can do to those they love because of greed, and the guilt and damnation that results from the evil that people do.

— M

Grade A

 

The life of one man intersects through several pivotal and troubling moments of American history.  Welcome to the very interesting life of “Forrest Gump.”

Playing the extremely likeable, title character is Tom Hanks.  Born slightly “slow” with a crooked back, he will face many challenges as a boy and as an adult.  Despite the mental and physical handicaps, Hanks is blessed with great strength and speed; and a warm and generous heart that will always lead him to where he needs to be.  His God given talents and the love of his life (played by Robin Wright) will see him through school bullies, the Civil Rights march, college, the Vietnam War and the protest against it, the loss of loved ones, and a floundering business venture.  This simple yet extraordinary man will seek his destiny as he goes through life, not knowing that he already fulfills it time and again since he was a child.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Forrest Gump” is the part when Hanks uses his speed and strength to rescue wounded members of his platoon during an ambush in Vietnam.

“Forrest Gump” deserves its place as one of the movies that should be watched before you kick the bucket.  It is funny, sad, uplifting, and very entertaining.

— M

Grade B+

 

Manny’s Movie Musings: Will Smith plays the title role in “Hitch,” a debonair, love guru in Manhattan who helps out men completely lost on how to approach the women of their dreams.  As Smith coaches a lovable klutz (played by Kevin James) into getting his dream girl to take interest in him, Smith meets and becomes very interested in a woman (Evan Mendes) who believes all men are dogs and true love is just a fantasy story.  Although Smith’s experience gives him an edge into breaking Mendes’ mental wall, he will soon discover that the rules he created for himself and his students don’t always apply.  “Hitch” has all the elements of a good romantic-comedy movie: the main characters are likeable and they “meet cute”; things go well until a huge misunderstanding ruins everything; the problems are resolved in a funny and satisfying way by the end of the third act; the secondary characters are adorable and funny to watch; and the main players have great chemistry with each other.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Hitch” is the scene when Smith has an allergic reaction to seafood and his face blows up as if he was stung by a thousand bees!

— M

D+

 

A book titled “Death Note” magically falls from the sky and comes into the possession of a teen-aged boy (played by Nat Wolff) who is sick of the injustices that he experiences.   Flipping through the pages, Wolff reads the rules that are laid out in the book, the main one being the person whose name is written on the Death Note will die.  Wolff doesn’t believe all of this, of course, until the spirit that gives the Death Note power shows up suddenly in a somewhat comical scene.  With a bit of prodding from the spirit, Wolff writes the name of his first victim — a school bully — into the Death Note, along with a general description of how the bully will die.  Seconds later, it happens.  And just like that, Wolff’s descent into vengeance and darkness begins.

Wolff doesn’t go into this Faust-like journey alone.  He reveals what the Death Note can do to his High School crush (played by Margaret Qualley), and she readily tangles herself up in this horror.  Together, Wolff and Qualley write down the names of those whom they think are not fit to live, trying to right the many wrongs in this world.  But power corrupts; and when the law comes close to solving the case of who is doing all these mysterious killings, the true natures of Wolff and Qualley will come out.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Death Note” is the scene when the first victim is killed.  It reminded me of a “Final Destination” style kill — gruesome and fun.

“Death Note” had such potential, all ruined by poor execution on the part of the director and writers.  The movie is plagued by shenanigans.  The lead investigator of the mysterious mass killings has a “theory” that the killer needs a name and a face before he or she kills.  Although his theory is correct, it is never discussed exactly how that theory came to be.  Then we have an abandoned, government black ops site that still contains secret files!  Also, the spirit that gives the Death Note power is sometimes shown in a funny way, ruining scenes that could have been very tense and/or horrifying.  There are more negative things to mention but I’ve wasted enough time on this movie, so I’ll end it with this: “Death Note” is an eh movie that is good to watch if you have seen almost all the new movies out there and you’re desperate to watch a new, sort of horror flick.  Think of it as a granola bar: it won’t satisfy you, but it’ll keep you from starving.

— M

 

Grade B+

 

Gal Gadot plays the title role in this retelling of the super hero’s origins and first encounters with humans.  Raised to be a super warrior on an island of Amazons, fearless Gadot trains with the expectation of one day fighting the god Ares, who is thought by the Amazons to come back one day and kill all the humans and Amazons on the planet.  When a soldier (played by Chris Pine) crashes his plane near the Amazons’ island, his story of a great and terrible war happening all over Earth is interpreted by Gadot that this is the doing of Ares.  Gadot follows Pine into the world of humans where her kind heart will be overwhelmed with the duality of humans (their savage and loving nature).

At first, Pine helps Gadot blend in with the crowd, trying to ease her away from what he considers her insane mission of going to the front line to seek Ares and kill the god of war.  But no one can tame her spirit; and when the innocent are suffering, Gadot’s disguise comes off and Wonder Woman comes out in all her glory.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Wonder Woman” is the scene when Gadot is in the trenches with the soldiers.  Upon hearing of civilians trapped behind enemy lines, she shrugs off her coat and goes into No Man’s Land alone, fully dressed in her Wonder Woman armor.  Beautiful, exciting, and dramatic, she charges forward ready to kick some serious enemy ass.

Stripped down to its basic essence, this is a love story between two very likeable characters.  The awesome special effects and thrilling, action set pieces are just icing to a substantial cake.

— M

Grade B

 

River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, and Corey Feldman play best friends in Stephen King’s coming of age story, “Stand By Me.”  In the 1950s, four boys leave their rural town to search for the body of a missing boy who is rumored to be rotting near train tracks.  Their two day adventure will test their bonds of friendship as they encounter a vicious junkyard dog and his owner, killer trains, wild animals roaming at night, leeches, bullies, and of course, themselves.

My most memorable, movie moment is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene when Wheaton points a gun at Kiefer Sutherland.  Sutherland asks if Wheaton is going to shoot him and his whole gang.  Wheaton answers “No, Ace, just you.”

Director Rob Reiner does a good job with this non-horror story from King.  Add to this a very young and talented cast with some breakout performances by Phoenix and Sutherland, and the result is a very entertaining movie in a subgenre that is usually boring and predictable.

— M

Grade B

 

A famous writer (played by James Caan) gets into an accident while driving through a blizzard and is rescued by his “number one fan” (chillingly played by Kathy Bates).  With an injured shoulder and badly broken legs, Caan is bedridden and is cared for by Bates, who at first comes off as a guardian angel; but as time passes, she proves herself to be quite the opposite.  Caan utilizes all the imagination of a brilliant writer to find an escape, but it may not be enough to counter Bates’ devious mind.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Misery” was the “hobbling” scene.  No matter how many times I’ve seen it, it still makes me cringe.

Rob Reiner does a good job of directing this Stephen King story.  All the elements of a good suspense tale is here, and Bates’ performance takes this movie to a higher level of quality.

— M

Grade B+

 

Manny’s Movie Musings: “Letters From Iwo Jima” is one half of a two movie set about the World War II battle on the island of Iwo Jima. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie focuses on the Japanese soldiers’ perspective; and is based on the letters the commanding officer of Iwo Jima wrote to his family.  “Letters…” shows the hopes, fears, and struggle of the island’s defenders in a way that humanizes them.  Strip away the combat and uniforms, and what you have are mostly young men who love their families and just want to go home and live ordinary lives.  Sounds like most people, right?  My most memorable, movie moment of “Letters From Iwo Jima” is the scene when an officer commands his men to commit suicide, and one by one, each grabs a grenade, pulls the safety pin out, and holds the small bomb close to their chest until it explodes.  This is the rare scene in this movie that shows a drastic difference between American and Japanese soldiers in WW II.

— M

Grade B+

 

Lindsay Lohan plays a home schooled teen raised in Africa who is finally going to a regular school.  She will quickly find out that nothing is regular in the High School that she will go to.  The teachers are a bit mentally off; and the students are like a microcosm of the wild animals that Lohan has seen during her African upbringing.   Alone in this teen jungle, Lohan must carefully navigate the numerous cliques of jocks, burnouts, cool Asians, wannabes, nerds, and the powerful “Mean Girls” ruled by Rachel McAdams.

Lohan quickly befriends two outcasts who persuade her to join the mean girls and use whatever secrets they tell Lohan to help bring down the mean girls’ reign of terror.  Lohan reluctantly agrees; but when one wears a mask for a long time, it becomes difficult to distinguish the real face from the mask.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Mean Girls” is the scene when McAdams discovers she has been duped into eating “health” bars that actually makes a person gain weight.  The long scream that came out of her mouth was priceless!

“Mean Girls” flies high above the average teen rom/com/revenge flick because of Tina Fey’s script, Mark Waters’ fine direction, and the good acting of the principal actors.  It’s no wonder this movie has many repeat viewings.

— M

 

Grade C-

The sixth movie of the “Saw” franchise has the usual ingredients that fans of the series enjoy: traps that lead to gory deaths that will make the audience cringe and probably laugh, rapid-fire cuts in editing, a fast pace, and the surprise twists at the end.  Although Jigsaw (played by Tobin Bell) is dead, he makes appearances through flashbacks and causes pain and suffering via his last wishes that is given to his wife and Costas Mandylor, who plays a dirty cop who continues the work of making people suffer and die for not appreciating their lives — apparently, being a smoker or a secretary to an insurance company is enough to put you in one of the traps.  As Mandylor carries on the brutal games, the F.B.I. comes close to revealing who the new Jigsaw is, forcing Mandylor’s hand to prevent this from happening.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Saw VI” is the scene when Shawnee Smith’s character is revealed to have some connection with what happened to Jigsaw’s unborn child — a connection that will lead to some of the crucial moments of this movie.

Making most of the victims in “Saw VI” health insurance workers was an interesting way to try to get the audience to get more emotionally involved in the story.  After all, isn’t it more fun to see characters you hate suffer?  Despite this and the extra revelations of how some major characters are connected with the others, this series is well past retirement age.  But as long as it is profitable, Hollywood will prop it up on walkers and an oxygen tank and put it to work again.

— M

Grade A-

From the “fake” trailer that was in the “Grindhouse” double feature movie, “Machete” is the fully realized version, starring the incomparable Danny Trejo as an ex-Federale who winds up as a day laborer in the U.S.  Picked by a man to assassinate a Donald Trump type politician (played by Robert De Niro), Trejo takes the job and before he can fire a shot, he is double crossed and set up to take the fall for De Niro’s attempted assassination.  Wounded and on the run from the police and De Niro’s henchmen, Trejo is helped by an underground network of Mexican immigrants to get his revenge on those who wronged him.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Machete” is the scene when Trejo goes to the house of De Niro’s main henchman.  Holding garden tools, Trejo tells the bodyguards that he is the new gardener.  The bodyguards let Trejo pass; and one of the bodyguards says something like “You ever notice how we let a Mexican inside our homes just because he’s carrying garden tools?”  It’s the funniest line in the movie.

“Machete” is a hyper-violent, often silly, fast paced, action/comedy that revels in its absurdity and glorifies the 1970s cheesy action/revenge flicks.   Obviously not meant to be taken seriously, this movie is best viewed with friends as you munch on unhealthy snacks and drink unhealthy beverages.  As a bonus to viewers, “Machete” has a surprisingly complicated plot for a movie that focuses on outrageous, bloody violence.

— M

Grade C-

A family of four, including an autistic boy, takes a trip to the Grand Canyon and the boy falls into a cave that contains five stones that keep five ancient demons at bay.  The boy picks up the stones, puts them in his backpack, and joins the family and everybody goes home and weird things start to happen.

Strange noises, putrid smells, wild animals appearing suddenly, handprints…things escalate rapidly and the boy is blamed; but the parents wonder  maybe there are ghosts, but maybe it’s just the boy and he is becoming dangerous, then again maybe there are spirits, but the boy is acting funny and started a fire and almost burned down the house…the family can’t seem to make up its mind on what to do with the autistic son.  So he stays in the house and more weird but violent things happen.  The daughter knows there is something supernatural going on; the mom (played by Radha Mitchell) finally catches on and does research on the internet about paranormal stuff; and the dad (played by Kevin Bacon)…ha ha, good luck trying to convince him there are evil spooks in his house.

Oh, somewhere in the 2nd act, the daughter is revealed to be bulimic; Mitchell falls off the wagon and resumes her drinking problem; and Bacon is revealed to have cheated on his wife in the past and he has to deal with a hot assistant who is tempting him — all subplots that are completely unnecessary and makes the movie wander around and lose focus.  I believe the writer and director were trying to convey how the family was falling apart because of the influence of the evil spirits; but these things could have easily been cut out and made the story leaner and tighter with a better pace.

Back to the focus of “The Darkness”: the five demons are slowly using the boy to create a pathway for them to enter our world and destroy it. Why?  Um, it’s not mentioned, so I have to assume that they are just being demons.  Bacon and Mitchell must find a way to figure out what is going on and how to stop the evil from getting through, or else the world is doomed.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Darkness” is the scene when the portal opens up fully and instead of the spirits coming out, the autistic son goes in and the spirits are taking him deeper into the cave where the stones were originally hidden.  Huh? What?  Aren’t the spirits supposed to enter our world and destroy it?  So why are they retreating further into the cave where they have been trapped for hundreds of years?  Maybe I missed something but I don’t think so.  It just doesn’t add up.

“The Darkness” is well acted, well directed, has a decent plot, and provides a few scares that are mostly cheap.  From a technical point of view, it is mostly competent, the way a base model Honda Civic is competent at its job…but no way in hell does a Civic give you the same excitement and joy and fear as driving a Lamborghini Aventador will.  Understand?

— M

Grade B-

If you set aside the fact that our military cannot be duped so easily as to believe that the enemy on the radio is a U.S. soldier, you may find this movie very entertaining.

“The Wall” is about a sniper team (Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the spotter, and John Cena as the shooter) who are sent in to investigate the killings of a pipeline crew and their security force by a possible sniper.  Having watched the area for almost one full day, Cena decides the enemy is long gone, and takes a walk toward the killzone.  Cena is soon shot in the stomach, Johnson tries a rescue and gets shot himself; and Johnson takes cover behind one crumbling wall.  With Cena a possible KIA and Johnson’s radio broken from being shot, Johnson is stuck where he is.  If he makes a run for it, the sniper will kill him.  If Johnson stays put, he’ll either bleed out from his wound or die of thirst.  Making matters worse is that the enemy sniper is on the same frequency as Johnson’s and Cena’s radio headsets, setting up a tense, psych warfare that will test Johnson’s will to keep fighting.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Wall” is the final scene that reveals what happened to the enemy sniper.

“The Wall” is a decent suspense/thriller that is undermined by the writer and director who chose to ignore realism in order to move forward with the story they wanted to tell.  But as I wrote earlier, if you choose to ease up on your critical thinking of the story, “The Wall” will be worthy of your time.

— M

Grade B

One of the first slasher movies that popularized this sub-genre of horror movies, “Halloween” broke new grounds with its style, music, and minimalist production — this was a low budget movie, after all — and scared millions of fans during its day.

Jamie Lee Curtis stars in “Halloween” as a babysitter who goes up against “the boogeyman,” a psychopathic killer who escaped an insane asylum to go back to his hometown on Halloween to terrorize his old neighborhood.   During the day, the boogeyman chooses and stalks his victims; and when night falls, he strikes.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Halloween” is the scene when the boogeyman, a.k.a. The Shape, a.k.a. Michael Myers, slowly appears from the shadows behind Curtis.

Today’s audience probably can’t appreciate this movie because they are used to slick, big budget horror movies that have lots of gore and a high body count.   Granted, “Halloween” does suffer from victims doing stupid things that turn them into victims instead of survivors.  But this is a well-directed movie that rises above other slasher flicks of its day because of the genius of writer/director/producer/composer John Carpenter.

— M

 

Grade B-

A highly controversial movie by director Sam Peckinpah, “Straw Dogs” stars Dustin Hoffman and Susan George as a married couple living in an English countryside who endure an escalating series of attacks by local goons.

Hoffman plays the calm and gentle mathematician who chooses to be ignorant of the menacing nature of the local men he hired to work on finishing his garage; while George plays the young, petulant wife who notices the little threats all around her but cannot persuade her husband to see things as she does.  Hoffman judges George to be childish and silly, and George accuses Hoffman of being a coward.  Soon both will be tested to their limits, and their true natures will be exposed when the goons lay siege to their farmhouse and demand something that Hoffman cannot comply with.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Straw Dogs” is the most controversial segment of the movie, **SPOILER ALERT** the double rape of George.  Controversial for three reasons: 1) its raw brutality (this is a 1971 movie, don’t forget); 2) George appears to enjoy the final moments of the first rape; and 3) it is insinuated that George is anally raped during the second rape.   This part of the movie is something that movie fans will heatedly argue over for many years to come.

“Straw Dogs” isn’t a movie for the faint of heart nor for those looking for a quick thrill.  It starts off very slowly, and the suspense builds up gradually until what is left is a devolution of human nature to its basest instincts.

— M

Grade B –

A low budget horror flick, “Abattoir” is about a strange, old man (played by Dayton Callie) who buys houses where brutal crimes have happened.  The rooms where the crimes occurred are removed, and the house is put on sale again at a loss.  One such house belonged to slain relatives of a reporter (played by Jessica Lowndes).  Finding it extremely strange that the house would be sold within a week of the crime, plus the crime scene was gutted out of the house, Lowndes starts an investigation that will lead her to Callie and a creepy town where evil secrets are tied with Lowndes’ past.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Callie shows off his Abattoir to Lowndes, revealing all the horrors within.  This is where the movie really shines, showing the audience dozens of murder rooms and seeing the ghosts within go through an endless loop of suffering and dying.

Unfortunately, “Abattoir” suffers from many shenanigans that ruined a very good, original idea.  How did the cop/ex-boyfriend know exactly what house Lowndes was in when she went to the creepy town?  Despite being way in over their heads and warned repeatedly to leave and never come back, Lowndes and ex come back immediately instead of leaving and coming back with a larger force of cops, or at least more guns.  **SPOILER ALERT** How stupid and desperate and retarded were the people of the creepy town to have followed Callie and sacrificed so much for a better life?**And why would the police allow a crime scene to be gutted out of the house within days of the crime?

But for Callie’s good performance and the originality of the plot, “Abattoir” would have plunged into a much lower grade.  For horror fans, there is enough here to warrant at least one viewing…just don’t expect too much.

— M

 

Grade C-

An inferior remake of the original, “Planet Of The Apes” (2001) has Mark Wahlberg playing an astronaut who gets sucked into a time warp thingy in space and crash lands on a planet where apes rule and enslave primitive humans.   Luckily for Wahlberg, a female ape (played by Helena Bonham Carter) has the hots for him (!) and sets him free.  With the help of a couple of apes and a band of humans Wahlberg has set loose, they search for his ship that contains a device that can send an S.O.S. to Wahlberg’s mother ship.  Closing in behind Wahlberg’s group is a large, ape army all stirred up to kill Wahlberg and any human who dares defy the dominance of apes.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Planet Of The Apes” is the final scene, which is a surprise, twist ending.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense.  I suspect idiot, studio executives were to blame, probably counting their chickens before they hatched (or should I say counting their monkeys before they were born), looking for a way to introduce a possible sequel and didn’t care that it made no sense.  Damn you, idiot, studio execs!   Damn you all to hell!

In a nutshell, this remake of “Planet Of The Apes” is a rock covered in a fancy wrapper.  It doesn’t matter how pretty the wrapper is…what you have is still a rock.

— M

Grade C +

The second movie to try to capitalize on the hit, video game series “Silent Hill,” “Silent Hill: Revelation” has a father and daughter (played by Sean Bean and Adelaide Clemens, respectively) forced to go back to a place where evil waits to be unleashed upon the entire world.  Clemens knows she is the key to the release of this great evil, but she risks it all to save her father.  Into the nightmarish world of Silent Hill she goes, where failure will doom her and the world into an eternity of hell.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Silent Hill: Revelation” is the scene when Clemens’ sort of love interest — played by Kit Harrington — sees some weird and scary stuff in Clemens’ apartment.  Having known her for less than a day, and having been warned by Clemens that Harrington does not want to know her, he still stays with her and helps her!  He’s either an extremely nice guy or extremely horny.  As it turns out, there is another reason for his decision to stick it out with her.

The biggest flaw of “Silent Hill: Revelation” is that it’s not scary enough.  I’ve played some of the “Silent Hill” video games…those were scary as hell (I played them in the dark).  The movie’s focus is on action instead of palpable dread and terror, giving the audience a lot of eye candy at the expense of horror.  This is an inexcusable failure on the writer, the director, and the studio.  All they had to do was follow what the video games did.  Simple, right?  Apparently, not for some people.  There’s a saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

— M

Grade C+

A family of three survives the apocalypse (some type of disease — and that’s really all the information the audience gets) in a large, boarded up house in the woods.  A stranger breaks in looking for water, and the father (played by Joel Edgerton) decides to trade water for some of the stranger’s food.  They apparently bond so well that the stranger and his wife and young child move in Edgerton’s house. For a while they all live happily like a hippie commune until an event brings the possibility of disease within the house, an event that is never fully explained and is one reason why this movie gets a low grade.  From this point on, some of the worst natures of people in times of crisis comes out, mostly from Edgerton; and this is what “It Comes At Night” is truly about, the monstrous nature of people that lie dormant, waiting for the right moment to emerge.

My most memorable, movie moment of “It Comes At Night” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Edgerton is tracking a mother and her young son, finds them, aims his rifle at them and…

The extremely misleading title of “It Comes At Night” will frustrate many viewers because the title and trailers leads us to believe there is a monster out there stalking people at night, which is not the case.  The lack of info on how the disease is transmitted, and several plot holes will further aggravate the viewer, as is proven in the overwhelmingly negative reviews in so many outlets.  But I happen to like this movie’s study in human nature in times of disaster and the question it poses: what price will you pay for survival?

— M

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