Rock The Kasbah

Rock the Kasbah

A crass, smooth talking music agent learns about truths and consequences about living in Afghanistan, in “Rock The Kasbah”. Richie Lanz (Bill Murray), dumped and stranded in war torn Kabul by his last remaining client (Zooey Deschanel), discovers Salima Khan (Leem Lubany), a Pashtun teenager with a beautiful voice and the courageous dream of becoming the first woman to compete on national television in Afghanistan’s version of “American Idol.” Richie partners with a savvy hooker (Kate Hudson), a pair of hard partying war profiteers (Danny McBride and Scott Caan) and a gun toting mercenary (Bruce Willis) and, braving dangerous cultural prejudices, manages his new client into becoming the “Afghan Star”. “Rock The Kasbah” is certainly one of the strangest movie experiences that i have had this year. Director Barry Levinson’s latest flick is perhaps his worst directed effort of his storied career, but it goes a lot further than just lack of effort from the film’s head.

This movie is terribly miscast, even as far as making misery out Murray, a man who rocks even the weakest of scripts. The only smile that you will see out of Bill in this film is in the movie’s poster. Murray does his usual tongue and cheek schtick with strange voices and noises, but it feels like he (Along with the film’s tone) gives up midway through the movie. What we are left with is a beaten down character whose best days are behind him. The film uses his ability to lie very well as the big bombshell when the third act comes. Yes, we the audience are supposed to feel shocked and dismayed when Lanz reveals that most of his tales and Rock-N-Roll adventures are just hype to get new clients to sign with him. Agents lie? Who knew? In addition to Murray, Willis, McBride, and Zooey Deschanel are all cast in roles opposite of anything they are used to playing, in order to drag a smile out of the audience. The film can’t buy consistent laughs, so why not cast these big name actors to fill the void. The problem is as i already mentioned, these actors have no direction to play these characters off of. They all feel like stereotypes without very little heart added to the film. With the exception of Lubany, the film’s performances are all thrown away. Leem breaks the mold as someone wanting to breakout and change everything about her culture and how people see her. Something this movie could use a little more of. The negative is that we only get a hand full of scenes to show off her big screen presence and impeccable vocal capacity.

Even more than the performances is the movie’s lack of act structure or tone. The movie begins with a first act that pulled a couple of giggles out of me, and you feel like you can really settle in to a movie with this kind of twisted humor. Boy was i wrong. During the second act of the movie, the film almost changes entirely to an ammunition charged thriller. This is an area where i couldn’t understand why you would cast someone like Murray as the lead. It’s not that Bill can’t act in these kinds of situations, but “Kasbah” cuts off his actor legs in favor for a variety of on screen chaos that never quite forms in to anything. Car explosions, tribal kidnapping, and even a reality show all come out of nowhere without any lead up to the direction the film is heading. It felt to me like many scenes were missing in between some of the major action points of the movie, because i am clueless as to how a majority of these scenes reached their resolution. If this movie is really based on a true story, then maybe we could’ve gotten some honest answers to the questions the movie raises, instead of this off the chain feel where anything can happen. The movie wants to be so many things at once, when in all reality it never settles on just one identity.

Another strange aspect was in the musical score for the movie. I’m not saying i didn’t enjoy it, but it is quite unusual to hear songs like Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba” alongside “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone. It’s a very eclectic taste, and that is why it was one of the only things truly relatable to the film, but i feel like the music used here is put in the wrong scene order. Simone’s ballad should be placed during the third act when Khan’s village is coming down around her confrontationally, and not so much when Murray is coming back from a long night of boozing and handcuff sex with Hudson. It might not seem like such a big deal, but it’s all about care for a script this tender. I use that word because the film’s trailer was A LOT better than the actual movie, and yet even a decent trailer didn’t yield such striking results for a movie that opened 13th at the box office this week, with a wide release. I certainly smelled failure coming from a mile away with this one, but was willing to look past the 8% it is currently listed at on Rotten Tomatoes. This is strictly a payday movie, but too much star power with big contracts combined with a weak box office intake might make this a losing effort on all ends.

“Rock The Kasbah” is a big step backwards for Levinson and Murray. With two polarizing figures of the silver screen, the mystery of how this movie screwed up so bad will always be a mystery. This is a movie with the capability to sweep the categories at the Razzie Awards. Truly one of the worst films that i have watched this year, made even more frustrating by the fact that it makes “Jem and The Holograms” only the fourth worst release of the week.

2/10

Knock Knock

Knock Knock

If “John Wick” restored Keanu Reeves to the top of the A-list glory, “Knock Knock” will paralyze his actor legs so that he will never ever get up again. Eli Roth’s latest torture upon the audience takes place When a devoted husband and father (Reeves) is left home alone for the weekend, two stranded young women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana De Armas) unexpectedly knock on his door for help. What starts out as a kind gesture results in a dangerous seduction and a deadly game of cat and mouse.

To the simplest of review statements, I absolutely loathed this film. The characters are idiots and detestable on every possible level, the suspense is completely uneven to the tempo of two different films in one, and the performances are laughably bad to the point of Lifetime television stature. It’s clear that Roth was going for a humorous touch on the thriller genre, but it just doesn’t work on so many levels. The first is that the film isn’t funny at all. It tries to be “Funny Games”, but the problem in that disguise is that movie had characters who you legitimately felt sorry for. I’m not really spoiling anything here, but Reeves cheats on his wife, so we’re supposed to give a damn whether he overcomes these two psychotic women who destroy everything in the family’s home? See the problem here? these are characters that are written poorly, and nobody writes them poorer than Roth.

Going back to the subject of Reeves, i can’t imagine what made him accept a role like this. It doesn’t cast him as a performer in any kind of positive light, and he is greatly above this kind of moral filth. I would like to say the problem is all in Roth’s screenplay, but Reeves gives the absolute worst line reads of his career. His character is beyond excuses in the lack of intelligence department, and it hurts so bad when you can see something coming from a mile away when he doesn’t even gather bombshells when the girls are trying to explain it to him. With the exception of Lorenza Izzo, the film is a total waste that should’ve been left in developmental hell. Izzo is devious in her seduction and multi layered in her torture to Reeves character. She treats the film as a legit opportunity, while everyone else treats it like a laughable joke. Between this and “The Green Inferno”, she might not have the best filmography, but she makes the most of every chance given to her.

The third act and ending of the film only confirmed what i was worried about for the entirety of the 99 minute run time; it’s a big waste of time. It’s a long drawn out process for this end result that honestly could’ve been flushed out in a fifteen minute short film, and that is the biggest problem with Roth’s film. Everything moves in slow motion, when we see it’s predictability from a mile away.

“Knock Knock” is a mind numbingly bad film that doesn’t even fall back on Roth’s greatest troupes of unlimited gore. It’s a dry and non-entertaining mess that offers very little in the noteworthy department. It’s lack of scares and all around entertainment, searches for an identity that it never really finds. In a year where horror films are actually slightly above par, “Knock Knock” can’t even get on the playing field with it’s lack of criteria for the genre. You should do what Reeves character should’ve done, and just not answer the door to this opportunity. Eli Roth go away. Come again some other day.

2/10

Sinister 2

Sinister 2

The biggest waste of cinematic film in 2012 is the sequel to the 2013 sleeper hit of that year. In the aftermath of the shocking events in “Sinister”, a protective mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and her 9-year-old twin sons (real-life twins Robert and Dartanian Sloan) find themselves in a rural house marked for death. At the helm of this is a demon who abducts children to do his dirty deeds. I’m not going to beat around the bush here; this movie had no reason to be made, other than Blumhouse Productions desire to spend ten dollars on a film to make ten times that back. That budget isn’t accurate, but it certainly feels like it with the effects and production costs that went into this movie. Underwhelming CGI effects, terrible makeup work, and overacting are just a few of the charming traits that this movie had. To anyone who read my review of the original film, i greatly enjoyed it. The movie used shocking imagery shot in a 35mm camera, which was very innovative during an era where all horror films and POV. That movie also gave us characters to get behind and appreciate. The scares didn’t have to come cheap, because the tension was always building around that family. I feel like the sequel and in particularly, Director Ciaran Foy, has never watched that 2012 film. Everything feels completely different here. If it wasn’t for the presence of Bughuul, the movie easily feels like a turned down “Children of the Corn” script, complete with corn stalk scenary and laughably bad performances from children who are trying to be menacing. I’m sure someone out there finds this terrifying, but i have always laughed when children are used as the main antagonists in a horror film. My reasoning comes to life during a final fight scene that is laughable for it’s dialogue reads, but incredibly short in actual conflict time because an adult will always kick a kid’s ass. END OF STORY. I guess i shouldn’t insult the kids too much because Sossamon’s fake Southern accent, despite her and her kids living in Illinois is hilarious. I’m not saying it’s not possible for her to have a Southern accent, but it’s even less believable when she goes noticeable stretches without it. Jump scares all over the place in this movie, despite the shrieking coming out of nowhere. Does a bowl shriek when you move it? Does a computer’s webpage shriek when it pops up on the monitor? All of what i have mentioned would be easy to overlook if the death scenes are done well. THEY ARE NOT. I get that children are in control of the camera during these murder scenes, but does the camera work have to be done so damn badly? I could barely make out a church scene involving rats and a bucket, and the only reason i knew what it was is because i know it’s used as a Russian form of torture. I also didn’t understand the ongoing direction of the film. The movie treats the audience like it hasn’t seen the original film or the trailer for this movie, because our characters treat it as a mystery that the children are the ones being possessed by Bughuul. From an audience standpoint, this only wastes the already paper thin run time of 91 minutes by rehashing the same kind of conversations that we had in the first film. I wouldn’t have a problem with a sequel that rips off most of it’s gags from the better film, but nothing is up to par here. The only reason the film’s score is even remotely chilling is because they use a lot of the same tones from the first film. I only wish they would’ve showed us that film in it’s entirety all over again. The ending is of course aggravating because nothing gets solved. We don’t feel like we are any further in the storyline after being submitted to this kind of torture, and it leaves the door open for more sequels. “Sinister 2” is not only the worst horror film that i have seen in 2015 (And that says a lot), but it’s one of the worst horror sequels to a good first film that i have ever seen. The sense of dread is gone in this sloppy sequel, except for the dread that lingers in your less occupied wallet space for spending money to see this wreck. Perhaps the best thing about it is that i am already forgetting valuable points to the movie, because this review should be three more pages.

2/10

Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four

Fox’s latest attempt at the superhero genre has been met with plenty of negative feedback, but just how bad is the latest reboot, ‘Fantastic Four’? There is very little good about this film, and a lot of it stems on sloppy film making that feels anything but fantastic. It centers on four young scientists who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. I left this film with an even worse taste in my mouth than the horrors that i had predicted for it a year prior to it’s release. The film’s production troubles have been very well documented online lately, and while it is quite obvious that this movie suffered from vicious scene cuts, i have to grade the project that is laid upon my critic desk. Even said, the scene cuts are far from the only thing wrong with this degrading slop to any Marvel Comics fan. First of all, there is the poor casting choices for the movie. Many people were worried about Michael B Jordan as Johnny Storm because of the color of his skin, but he is the only positive i took away from a cast that was dry, dull, and lacked any kind of background structure. Jordan adds the kind of welcome charisma to the other three actors who couldn’t talk their way out of a paper bag. His fire effects were also the only positive note that i took away from the cheap CGI effects that plagued the film. Miles Teller plays Reid Richards, and usually i am a big fan of his filmography. In this film, i couldn’t be further from that status. Richards feels like the one true villain in this film, forcing his best friend into a nightmarish freak accident, as well as cost the life of another guy who returns with twenty minutes left to be the film’s hired villain. Kate Mara makes Jessica Alba that much more memorable, and i HATED Jessica Alba in the Sue Storm role. Mara at all times looks and sounds like she is reading slowly off of cue cards that are right around the corner. i felt zero romantic chemistry between her and Richards, as the movie never once has an intimate scene between them. If that isn’t enough, none of the Fantastic Four ever feel like a family, and that is a huge mistake when talking about Marvel’s most tight knitted family. If anyone gets screwed in this film the most, it’s Viktor Von Doom. His CGI look after his mutation is the VERY worst design for a comic book character that i have ever seen. He has powers that are unfaithful to the comic books, and the final fight between he and the Fantastic Four is laughably short,considering the movie builds and builds for this big showdown that does nothing but disappoint. One would think that we have come decades in CGI technology, especially with a film with a 125 million dollar budget, but this film’s effects feel every bit as bad as a movie filmed in 1995. Is there at least positive storytelling? HELL NO!!! That’s the worst part of the movie. The film feels completely rushed with the first hour of the movie being dedicated to the build up before the big accident. I did appreciate Director Josh Trank’s attempt at telling an origin story from where Richards and Ben Grimm were children, but the movie flash forwards in such vicious takes, that i often found myself searching for timeline answers despite screen text helping me out. The movie just has no heart, as evidence by it’s anything but natural tone compared to it’s lighthearted comic feel. It all feels too grim and serious for any comic fan, let alone child to ever add to their superhero DVD library. ‘Fantastic Four’ will be remembered for it’s destruction of the remaining pieces from the awful 2000 decade films destruction. The story is chopped up, the characters have no heart, so therefore we never care about them or their surroundings, and the terrible effects are so transparent that it creates a clash with the real world setting in favor of a cartoon looking world where nothing looks appealing production-wise. I hated almost every single thing about this film, and i think it’s a shame that in 2015 we still have to worry about caliber-like films among the same discussion as trash like ‘Elektra’, ‘Catwoman’, and ‘Batman and Robin’. The Fantastic Four watch over our world, but who watches over theirs for a future that seems anything but fantastic?

2/10

The Vatican Tapes

The Vatican Tapes

The biggest battle between good and evil is about to take place through the eyes of a young woman during the night of her 23rd birthday. In ‘The Vatican Tapes’, Angela Holmes (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is a young woman on the cusp of a great life. She has a beautiful home, a loving boyfriend (John Patrick Amedorl), and an army coloniel father (Dougray Scott) who would do anything to protect her. She begins to have a devastating effect visible to those closest to her, causing serious injury and death. Holmes is examined and possession is suspected, but when the Vatican is called upon to exorcise the demon, the possession proves to be an ancient satanic force more powerful than ever imagined. It’s all up to Father Lozano (Michael Pena) to wage war for more than just Angela’s soul, but for the world as we know it. The plot of this film sounds like more than enough to maybe produce a sleeper hit for the Summertime season, even so much as not needing a found footage resolution to garner cheap thrills to it’s audience, and instead opting for the movie style of realtime shooting. So where does it all go wrong? EVERYTHING. This movie is without a pulse, just like it’s main protagonist. The movie borders on directionless ground with many of the scares essentially coming out of nowhere with very little to no build. This results in a lack of anything serious to pull out a scare or shriek from it’s audience. In fact, many of the films possession scenes are played off in such a ridiculous manner that i couldn’t help but laugh from the obsurdity and underwhelming acting from a cast of mostly veteran Hollywood actors. Scott and Djimoun Honsou are almost non existent in their portrayals. The movie needed some veteran leadership that it never found, and it felt to me at least that these two had very little interest to be in the film. Pena is definitely the best part of the movie, but it’s hard to fully grasp him as a man of the cloth with some of the roles in his recent films. For now, he will be typecast as a comedic clown, and it’s unfortunate because a movie like this was really his best chance at breaking out of the mold. I mentioned before that the movie didn’t do the found footage gimmick, and this is true all until the final half hour of the movie when we see that a lot of these scenes are afterwards being watched on a surveillance style kind of camera. Who is watching these? It’s never really made clear. I mean, i know they are being presented to the audience, but that is one of many ways to make your movie painfully obvious in the self aware field. The ending to the movie feels like it is trying to get preachy about the people in our own world who we are ready to write off as profits. The message is very jumbled and not exactly coherent, and we are left with a final image that feels like another twenty minutes are coming, somewhere just beyond the credits. It never happens, and it all sums up the 83 minutes of time wasted. ‘The Vatican Tapes’ is another failed experiment in possession films. A genre that has long since reached it’s peak for cinematic creativity in 2005’s ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’. In that film, we were treated to a courtcase drama, as well as a possession film. This movie offered nothing original, and even mocks many scenes from past movies that were done a hundred times better. It’s all so poorly done that Director Mark Neveldine (The Crank movies) better thank his lucky stars that the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise isn’t what it was ten years ago, because this movie screams and points to be made fun of. Don’t waste your time on such poorly made chuck.

2/10

Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser

Joe Dirt 2

2/10

A word of advice to my readers; there are some straight to DVD films that are great that not a lot of people know about. There are ZERO straight to internet films that are any good. To call ‘Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser’ a film is perhaps granting the biggest pass i ever have in life. The movie picks up 14 years after the first film, with Joe Dirt (David Spade) returning as the mullet-wearing, classic rock and roll loving, down on his luck white trash hero who embarks on another epic journey. This time, he travels back to the past in a soul searching effort to get back to Brandy (Brittany Daniel) and their loving family. The original ‘Joe Dirt’ had some charm to it whether you enjoyed it or not. There was a deeper story beneath the Happy Madison exterior that intrigued it’s audience to get behind this lovable loser. The bad news with the sequel is that it completely steps on and ruins anything from the first film that you enjoyed. Comedy sequels are often never good, especially a decade and a half after the previous effort. Far too often, this film and sequels in general rely on the common formula of cruder dialogue, animated characters, and repeated jokes that were told in the original film. For anyone who watched ‘A Christmas Story 2’ and thought all of the repeated jokes gave the movie a lack or original inspiration, you will hate everything about this movie. Even when the jokes are repeated, they aren’t even told line for line correctly as they were in the first movie. It’s like the cast had an idea to make a sequel, but didn’t care to revisit the original to study for their characters. And why should they? This torrentially putrid offering from Director Fred Wolf clearly thinks it’s audience is as dumb as the characters being represented in the film. It was nice to bring back actors from the first film like Kickin Wayne, Buffalo Bob, or Clem (Christopher Walken), but it’s the film’s supporting cast where i noticed some huge errors in casting. A couple of the actors from the first movie who only had a line or two are re-cast as totally different characters with different names and backgrounds. Is this a movie you really want to suspend your disbelief for? With the exception of one brief pity laugh, i remained silent throughout ‘Joe Dirt 2’. In an effort to make this 101 minutes go by even quicker, i tried to take as little of breaks as possible, but i had to stop three times. With the movie being presented on the internet website known as Crackle, it’s hard to feel like you have to sit through the movie like you would in a movie theater without missing some important dialogue or character build. The hardest part for me was the lack of structure in the story’s one dimensional plot. The movie feels like a collection of Youtube scenes shot for fans still aching for Joe Dirt’s tired schtick. The plot lacks any kind of imagination while ripping off better movies like ‘Cast Away’, ‘Forrest Gump’, and ‘There’s Something About Mary’. All of these films came out before the first Joe Dirt, so why are these tired jokes being used now? I’ll tell you why, because they weren’t good enough to make the first film. I personally enjoyed a lot about the first movie, and while it’s not a film that ages very well with time, it’s always the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon brain-on-mute kind of entertainment. I am just upset that the sequel will leave a bad taste in my mouth with that first offering that i will never be able to forget. The first movie ends so positively for these characters and the finalizing of their stories that there really is no need for this pointless wreck. I recommend that nobody watch this movie. Even if you are somehow dying to see it after watching the trailers, TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. To receive this movie for free VIA internet website, is paying too much. I knew this movie would be bad, but to be in contention for the worst film of 2015 not only disappoints me emotionally, but it also makes me want to give an apology to Kevin James for his awful effort in ‘Paul Blart 2’. You know what?…………….I’m not going that far.

Hot Pursuit

Hot Pursuit

2/10

Hot Garbage would be a better title. ‘Hot Pursuit’ is the latest film from Director, Anne Fletcher, a woman who knows a thing or two about awkward pairings with her 2012 directorial debut, ‘The Guilt Trip’. Her latest film is about an uptight and rule following cop (Reese Witherspoon) who tries to protect the vivacious and outgoing widow (Sofia Vergara) of a drug boss as they race through South Texas, pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen. If i am thankful for one thing in the dull, unfunny film, it’s the short run time of 82 minutes. The movie has just enough storyline to make a feature film, but it’s structure is stretched unbelievably in the standing still progression of the duo’s adventure. Not many things are believable in this mess, and that includes the duo’s friendship as well as Reese Witherspoon’s character being a cop who can’t 1) Do a pull up, or 2) Figure out a Longhorn tattoo from a shooting suspect that she has drawn upside down. Witherspoon is so much better than this movie, it’s not even funny (Double meaning). After the role of her career in 2014’s ‘Wild’, this has to be one of the biggest steps back for an A-list actress. That unwelcoming presence is enforced by a lack of chemistry with her big mouth co-star, and a southern accent that has her fighting for mediocrity. The two ladies bicker back and forth, and by a half hour into the film i felt like i was close to walking out with the torture it unloaded on my ears. They both play for comedic laughs with neither one playing the straight person role for the film. Every comedy needs a straight laced no nonsense character to bounce off the jokester of the movie for great comedic timing reactions. Those reactions never happen here because both ladies are played off like their personalities turned to eleven. If this handicap isn’t enough, the two have to work their way out of some of the worst comedy lines i have heard in a film this year. ‘Hot Pursuit’ feels like it could’ve been directed by Seth Macfarlane for it’s unapolagetic repitition of on-going jokes. No fewer than three times are we reminded by breaking news reports on televisions that Witherspoon is short and looks like a boy, and Vergara is old. Reese’s height is smaller with each passing story (5’2 then 5’0 and so on), and Sofia’s age increases (40 then 45 and so on) with each briefing. Fletcher is clearly trying for a buddy cop movie that was the rave in the 80’s, and there are some noticeable winks to that genre, but a lack of action scenes combined with an odd couple paring that doesn’t do anything spectacular when compared to other films of that stature. ‘Hot Pursuit’ is the ‘Tammy’ of 2015. Both movies with two leading actresses who should keep moving forward and forget that these career killing mistakes ever existed to begin with. There should be no pursuit even for this DVD. It’s better left collecting dust before making it’s way to the bargain buy-one-get-one pile.

The Lazarus Effect

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2/10

The line between life and death is blurred dramatically, in this newest psychological horror thriller from Director, David Geib (Reawakening). Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) are college scientists who have achieved the unthinkable: bringing the dead back to life. After a successful, yet unsanctioned trial on a newly deceased animal, the team is ready to unveil their breakthrough to the world. When the dean of their university learns of their underground experiments, their  project is unexpectedly shut down and their materials confiscated. During a late night break in, Zoe is killed in a freak accident, and brought back to life using the team’s dangerous serum. The results prove that once a person is gone, they can never be the same. Blumhouse Productions are known for their mind numbing efforts when it comes to B-Grade horror films, but “The Lazarus Effect” takes the spoiled cake. It’s an absolute mess of a film that is rushed on run time (78 Minutes), and lacking on definition for creative kills (PG-13 rating). The movie takes a pretty decent cast with supporting turns by Evan Peters, Sarah Bolger, and mainstream rapper Donald Glover (Better known as Childish Gambino), and wastes their talents with very little about their backstories. The film puts us in a position where we are supposed to care for four scientists who are trying to play God by forcing life upon helpless animals (one of which shows dangerous side effect when being brought back), and feel for them when they are to stupid to throw in the towel. The movie’s sloppy production comes full circle with two scenes i counted that were repeated for other scenes. One in particular displays a wide shot of the college campus with two extras having the most awkward silenced background conversation i have ever seen. Because these extras made me laugh upon the first time i saw them, it wasn’t hard to recognize them wearing the same clothing, and making the exact same hand gestures that they did in a different scene only five minutes prior. Did they really think nobody would notice this? There is a guard on the floor who occasionally checks in on the team, but he disappears during the second half of the film when all of these overwhelmingly audible events should make him curious. Nope, he’s gone forever once the team outsmart him by hiding. The film does supply some creepy imagery, but nothing ever sticks out from a limited rating that always pulls the camera away when someone is about to bite the dust. I wasn’t expecting to go into this movie yearning for a descriptive explanation on how everything works, but the film takes pages from 2014’s “Lucy” when it explains that Zoe can now use 100% of her brain as a result of this serum. The explanation is presented with scientific gibberish that the directors hope the audience is too stupid to understand. Nothing needs explained when it comes to the dead tissue that a brain suffers when life has been taken. I guess the serum just fixes these dead cells, but you would never know it because the movie doesn’t care to explain it. Everything is rushed along so much so that the film gets down to it’s final twenty five minutes, and we realize no one has been killed. What follows are jump scare deaths that never quite earn the jump. For those of you who know me, you know i hate jump scares in horror movie. Not because they scare me, but because they are the cheapest method of terror psychology. A true director will create an eerie setting and rely more on the performances of it’s actors to translate the terror to the audience. 2014’s “The Babadook” is a great example of such methods. The ending of “The Lazarus Effect” did nothing to lift a fast dropping rating. The movie just ends without that last scream, or shock that makes us feel like we spent our money wisely. What is it with horror movies in the 21st century where 90% of them don’t know how to end their films? Instead of the idea first, think about an ending that gives the crowd something they have to see, then build it going backwards. It sounds weird, but you have to know where you’re going before you know how to get there. Overall, avoid this one like the plague. I suppose the film hits it’s target because it couldn’t possibly aim any lower. It’s redemption is in it’s short run time, but this film (Like the corpse) are dead from the opening bell.

The Loft

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2/10

Director Erik Van Looy takes the helm of the 2011 original Sweedish film titled “Loft”. In the remake, Karl Urban and James Marsden star in the story of five guys who conspire to secretly share a penthouse loft in the city–a place where they can indulge in their deepest fantasies. But the fantasy becomes a nightmare when they discover the dead body of an unknown woman in the loft, and they realize one of the group must be involved. Paranoia seizes them as everyone begins to suspect one another. Friendships are tested,  loyalties are questioned and marriages crumble as one bombshell after another drops. Not many things can be said in the positive department for “The Loft”. It currently holds a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, but i think the film is a little better deserving than that. There is a slight feel of a Hitchcock thriller hiding deep below the surface. Looy takes a script full of swerves, but many of them are painfully obvious for a dedicated viewer during the first act. This movie shows pieces of the ending to kick off the film. The problem with this in any movie, is that you know the subtle clues to look for when figuring it all out. For instance, there is a man laying on a car dead for the film’s first shot. We notice he has on gloves, and you only have to keep that in mind when thinking where the ending direction of this film is headed. Many of the surprises are like that. I found myself accurately predicting about 80% of the big twists in this movie, with the other 20% being completely unnecessary. These twists themselves are so hard to believe to anyone with even half of a brain to understand how impossible it would be for these characters to be in these places in the given explanations. On the subject of the acting/character work, that is the true weakness of the film. Marsden and Urban try their hardest with script dialogue that feels like something out of a Lifetime Network TV show. In fact, this whole movie feels like three thinly stretched half hour episodes of a hip young adult drama. The repetitive monotonous tones of the score play slowly and reach higher lengths right as we find out a big bombshell that feels like the end of an episode. It never feels like a movie because it’s a story that lacks total structure. Nothing is ever built for the long term to let the viewer truly soak every new piece of information in. Instead, we are given the next bombshell dropped before we can ever enjoy the last one. The film had good pacing during the first act, but i feel like there are too many things to reveal in the second and third to make it feel overcrowded. It was great to see Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller in an eye opening role even if the film is garbage. His work in the movie is among the very few bright spots i took away from it. The biggest problem with the men around Miller is the inability to believe that these guys were ever friends in the first place. Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet is one of the friends in the groups, and he spouts these awful lines that are so degrading to women that even the most dedicated of groups would have trouble considering this guy for a spot in their wedding. Maybe his spot is acceptable because every single one of these five protagonists (if you can call them that) are pigheaded and lack a single redeeming quality to ever make you care about them. I feel like this film has done for men what Gone Girl has done for women. If you are on a date night, i would steer clear of this one. Overall, “The Loft” is as bizarre as it is silly. It’s storytelling is as subtle as an atom bomb drop in a highly populated city. It’s unpleasant people doing unpleasant things, and there is nothing “Must See” about that.

Strange Magic

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2/10

There is no film title in 2015 that will make more sense than that of “Strange Magic”. While the film tends to have trouble with the later part of that title, the movie is by far and away one of the strangest offerings i have ever seen from the Disney name. The film has it’s little charms, mostly in the animation aspect itself by George Lucas’s LucasFilm studio. However, this is the first truly terrible film of 2015, and i can see this one standing the test of time in that aspect. The movie, a chaotic fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Two different neighboring worlds tell the story of Fairies, Goblins, and elves as they search for life’s greatest wish; love. I watched this film in complete amazement because i couldn’t believe this warranted a big screen release. Far and away, the movie’s biggest problem is in the form of it’s paper thin plot. It feels like someone wrote a twenty minute outline for a film about ugly creatures with a moral of “Looks aren’t everything”. The moral is great, the execution stretches the moral to ripping shreds. As i mentioned, the film is a musical, and it’s in that genre that this film commits the biggest sins for the reason i despise the genre. If a character says they are in love, you can expect to hear “I can’t Help Falling In Love” five seconds after hearing that declaration. If a character is evil and menacing, you will hear “Trouble”. It’s more examples of how animated films today mostly treat children like idiots, and how everything has to be spelled out for them. The movie seriously has no fewer than 30 performances. I know because i started counting them midway through the film. Musical numbers would be OK if it weren’t for two big problems that it had on the film. 1) The singing is terrible. Kristen Chenoweth stars in the film, and is usually one for on key performances. But there is something about her singing in “Strange Magic” that makes my ears bleed. Even the creatures in the film hilariously grabbed their ears in agony for the only true emotional bond i have with this movie. 2) The overbearing amount of musical numbers serve as a pause button for any character development or storyline progression going on. There were times where i forgot where we were with the characters because the movie couldn’t go five minutes without stopping for some moronic character to howl about their emotions. The musical numbers aren’t original pieces at all, and that’s not really a big problem, but it leaves no memorable note for the audience to carry long after they leave the theater. One of the biggest things that made “Frozen” such a box office success, was the beautifully lyrical original score. Think about it, what is the first thing people remember about that film? THE MUSIC. That is the problem with “Strange Magic” being a karaoke night of awful top 40 love songs. Thank God for Lucas’s animation touch because the film would fall even further if it wasn’t for the stunning design. The characters all have detailed structures to the creatures they convey. The landscape of the forests is a wonderous dream of beautiful backdrops. There were times where the film’s setting reminded me of a “Fern Gully” 2015 reboot. The cast of the movie is alright if they aren’t singing. Any film with “Strange” in the title has to star Alan Cumming, and he is good as The Goblin King. Evan Rachel Wood, Kristen Chenoweth, and Maya Rudolph round out a supporting cast that do good voice work, but nothing to ever take it to the next level. They are all easily recognizable with their signature voices. “Strange Magic” is a film that tells it’s audience that looks don’t matter, and it’s true. Looks don’t matter, but plot, musical quotas, and character development certainly do. The movie should’ve been focused more on these things, but it’s end result will make for a forgettable film in a 2015 that will have more than it’s share of creative and magical animated offerings.

Left Behind

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2/10

A pilot and father of two (Nicolas Cage) plans on a getaway rendezvous with an airplane stewardess he works with. He is a pilot on a flight to London when the rapture hits the world, and millions of people vanish without a trace. Left Behind is the newest in religious propoganda films that is by far the worst of this film genre that i have seen this year. Before i begin, this review might be offensive to some who shutter any time i mention religious films not turning out good, and if you don’t want an honest review, leave now. There are so many things wrong with this film that i worry i will forget about something. First of all, the positives. Nicolas Cage is far too good of an actor to do a film like this. He feels asleep during the film, and it seems like more of a paycheck collect for someone who had tax evasion problems with the government last year. He doesn’t even feel like the main character in this film as a majority of screen time is spent on his daughter, Chloe (Cassi Thomson) and Chad Michael Murray. Murray is the lone good thing about this film. He plays a news journalist who rides shotgun opposite of Cage in the plane when half of the passengers disappear. Murray tries his hardest with his role, and it feels like he is happy just to be cast. The problem with him however is that he doesn’t have anyone else to bounce off of to create good drama in a film that never can get off the ground. The acting isn’t terrible, but there are many lines that scream out that this film will lead the film world in Razzie nominations this year. The action sequences visually look like something out of Sharknado with terrible green screen animation. There are points during the rapture where the people running on the street don’t look real.I even laughed at a couple of parts because the same running scene played over and over. I could tell because it was a wide shot where the same man carrying a big screen TV grabbed a woman and ripped her out of her car so he could steal it. Another big problem with the film is that it brings out the worst not only in religious people, but atheists as well. The religious people in the film come off as psychotics who are pushing their beliefs on the non-believers, and the atheists come off as heartless jerks who can never just respect others beliefs. So who do you root for in the movie? What do you look forward to in a film that has no antagonist, so therefore no conflict? Sure, the film has the rapture (A terrible tacky one at that), but what happens after that? What is left for the remaining hour that makes you even care about this film? The remainder of the film is about landing the plane that has been hit by another plane and supposedly has no severe damage other than a clipped wing. I can’t say enough about how unbelievable the ending is except that i am not stupid enough to believe even for a second that it’s plausible. SPOILERS SPOILERS – Cage and Murray need a mile long stretch to land the plane, but they don’t have enough fuel to get to an airport. The last hour of the film shows the two men trying to get ahold of Chloe their cell phones are getting no signal. Then, when Chloe is about to commit suicide, the phones magically work out of nowhere. Gee, that was convenient. Happy to hear from her father, she clears a construction zone road full of cones, trucks, and oil barrels. Cage can’t see the road, so Chloe has to light a fire to create runway lights. This is stupid for two reasons. The first is obviously that a plane leaking fuel and flying into fire is probably not a good idea for the passengers on board. The second is the eight or nine oil barrels surrounding the construction area that Chloe has already set on fire. It’s thinking like this that makes me think director Vic Armstrong didn’t care how much sense it made because he knew the religious crowds would see any movie about preserving your faith. You people are much smarter than this. There have been tons of films like this in 2014, and they will keep coming if you can overlook huge plotholes and faults in a film that features Jesus tones. The biggest hole to me is the fact that the film mentions all of the children of the world disappearing. So i guess this means even the evil ones huh? Oh forget about them? You know, the ones who kill their parents or accidentally drown animals. I guess they are forgiven. So if they are forgiven, why not the adults? I’m not going to pretend for a second that i enjoyed any of the Kirk Cameron Left Behind films, but they were a hell of a lot better than this dark day in October. The only part believable in Left Behind is the praying. Not for the safety of the passengers, but for the actors who wanted out of this film or to be “Left Behind”. Not recommended in any form.

The Identical

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2.5/10

The story of twin brothers seperated at birth because the parents could only afford raising one child. Both children turn out to be amazing singers with one becoming the biggest rock star in the world. The Identical is easily the sloppiest film i have seen in 2014. That doesn’t mean it is the worst movie i have seen, but it is pretty damn close. What made this movie a guaranteed failure was the movements of actor Blake Rayne playing both of the brothers as Elvis rip offs. When i first saw the trailer to this film, i thought it was a biopic on Elvis Pressley, but then i heard that the brothers names were Ryan and Drexel, and immediatly i was confused. Why would you make a film with a singer who looks, acts, sounds, and moves like Elvis Pressley and then name him something else and change the story completely. The story isn’t good or compelling at all, but i would’ve had more respect for director Dustin Marcellino if he would’ve given his musical act an original feel. I can only imagine that they had trouble with the licensing rights from the Pressley family, but that is even defunct when the film mentions Elvis Pressley a couple of times. So we are led to believe that it’s ok to live in a world where not one singer looks and sings the same, but three different singers (Elvis included) do it? Ridiculous. I know the pop music haters will come back at me with every singer looks and sounds the same, but consider this movie to be like if Kesha looked like Britney Spears. That is the kind of logic that The Identical uses. The soundtrack is unforgiving with generic Elvis songs because this isn’t Elvis’s story. The songs feel like B-side Elvis songs that The King passed on to write the stuff he was legendary for. On top of it, there isn’t many of these original songs to go around so we get to hear them played over and over again. No one can listen to these songs and tell me that they weren’t going for an Elvis impersonator. Think whatever you want about my review writing, but i’m not acceptable to a movie that was this lazy. Why don’t we just make a rock star impersonator franchise and put Jimi Hendrix in Ghostbusters 3? The makeup and wig work is laughable for all the wrong reasons. Ryan’s hair grows and trims itself without any explanation what so ever. If he is wearing wigs, we certainly don’t see it from the awful editing work going on behind the camera. The funniest thing about the makeup to me came in the effect of Ryan’s parents played by Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd. Liotta is made to age right along with the decades that pass in the story. He inherits a head of greys and wrinkles on his face that give him the distinction that 30 years has passed. However, Ashley Judd apparently didn’t want to wear makeup or they ran out of the budget because she never ages more than a year during the whole film. There was one point towards the end of the film where i had to remember that she was married to Ray Liotta and wasn’t his daughter. Liotta is the only performance worth anything as a preacher who is wound a little too tight when it comes to the next generation of teenage interests. He plays the role with enough responsibility and love from a preacher who adopts a child that he wasn’t quite in agreeance to. Judd is Judd. Same hollow emotion behind her usual smile. Rayne is alright, but he is basically being Elvis even when he isn’t supposed to be. If this is an Elvis film, then yes he played the role perfectly. But since it’s not, his performance comes off as simple and uninspiring. The best note about the cast is the terrible miscasting of Seth Green as a groovy drummer and Ryan’s best friend. He is so laughable and so eye rolling in the character of Dino that i found myself exhaling as hard as i used to when my Dad would try to rock out to Grunge Music. It just doesn’t feel right, and with the exception of Will Smith as Satan (Winter’s Tale), this is the worst miscasting of 2014. The film ends after 102 minutes that feel longer because of the terrible pacing and rushed scenes when it’s trying to tug at the heart strings of any kind of emotion. The film’s end feels like we have watched our main character for nearly 2 hours and yet we still know nothing about what is going on inside. The Identical is sloppy, bland, and devoid of any intentions. It’s like they set out to make an Elvis movie and couldn’t get the rights halfway into the film, so they just changed the names around. It’s a good thing the King has left the building because Elvis would find new meaning to the words “Don’t Be Cruel” after slop like this. Not recommended at all.