The Darkness

A suburban family brings home more than they bargained for, in the newest scare-shriek “The Darkness”. After the Taylor family returns home from vacation at the Grand Canyon, they unknowingly bring home a supernatural force that preys off their own fears and vulnerabilities, threatening to destroy them from within, while consuming their lives with terrifying consequences. What starts as strange behavior from the son, Michael (David Mozouz), as well as mysterious black handprints around the house, quickly escalates into full-bodied apparations that makes their home a house of horrors. The film also stars an A-list cast of Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, Lucy Fry, Matt Walsh and Jennifer Morrison. Directed by “Wolf Creek” director, Greg McLean and written by McLean, Shayne Armstrong and S.P. Krause, the film was produced by horror kingpin Jason Blum, Bianca Martino and Matt Kaplan. “The Darkness” is rated PG-13 for disturbing violence, some light sensuality and minor adult language.

Perhaps the biggest challenge that a horror movie faces in 2016 is to avoid the easy temptation of cliche jump scares instead of impressing the audience with atmospheric terror. Sadly, Greg McLean has fallen victim of the same repeated muck that directors less talented than him feel excited with. I didn’t have much faith for this film going into it, but I figured McLean could possibly be enough reason to think that “The Darkness” could go a lot further than its minimal expectations. Couple this with a complimentary cast of big-screen personalities, and you could have a surprise. Unfortunately, Greg presents us with his first real stinker of his reputable career. “The Darkness” slugs its way through 87 minutes of the bare minimum of PG-13 horror, complete with no gore or no legitimate scares to make this anything other than forgettable ten minutes after you leave the theater. The ending left me surprised, considering how much it takes from other better horror films, and doesn’t add even the slightest bit of bang for your buck. Instead, McLean’s unimpressive script and shady direction leaves this mess a film that came out four months too late, where the rest of the laughably bad horror films belong.

First of all is the style choices that McLean decided on for the movie. After sending chills down the spines of audiences in 2005’s “Wolf Creek”, Greg showcased a fine skill for relating the terror of being lost out in the middle of nowhere, with a knife-wielding antagonist who hunted his prey, as well as the audience. “The Darkness” doesn’t attempt any of these feats, instead presenting the most beautiful of shots within the opening five minutes of the movie. We do get some impressive landscapes of the Grand Canyon, but they certainly don’t last long. Animals like snakes and wolves are CGI, and cheap ones at that. This computer generated touch is spread even thinner when you see the greenscreen backgrounds of the driving scenes, and just how off-putting they are. Now, I know that most movies use greenscreen backgrounds for their driving scenes, but what makes this one different is just how differently the light on the skin of our characters mixes with the sun that is supposedly shining through their windows. The inside of the car is dark, as the outside shows nothing but radiating sun.

This isn’t the only laughably bad creative touch however, as the movie on more than one occasion shows off choppy editing work that really cuts into the creative advancement. Scenes either end too early, or cut out after a long period of actor silence. The latter is clearly from the end of a dialogue scene, and the editors just didn’t make a crisp enough transition into the next scene. This made the very mood of the movie impossible to ever immerse myself in.

On that subject, the film’s shrieks and scares offer nothing to reward any audiences who can predict these jump scares from a mile away. It amazes me that movies can still follow the same tedious formula for generating these jump scares, and people will still yell in terror. Quite often in this movie, as well others for the genre, you will take a scene that gets noticeably quiet out of nowhere, and an experienced viewer of this can time exactly where the scare will happen. This movie is nothing different, as the film blasts ear-shattering audio into the auditorium on scenes where it completely doesn’t make sense. Scenes like a boy standing still when he comes into focus, as well as a handprint appearing on the wall have the same audio firepower as a truck blasting through a nitro-glycerine factory. It’s a cliche that I would love to see wiped away.

As for the non-horror material, the film has some good ideas but never anything past an initial introduction to make it go further. I loved the idea of this little boy having autism, and that trait being used as an easier method to how the monsters invade his psyche. That alone should’ve been all the movie needed to induce terror. “Pet Cemetary” used our own children against us, and despite the good foreground idea, this film doesn’t do anything to make our worst nightmares come true. Instead, we get handprints and strange happenings around the house. For demons who we are told like to rip a family apart, they sure do have time to play these cute games around the house. Nothing feels life-threatening, and that is the biggest creative gap that I had to suspend in order to keep my viewing smooth till the end. Unfortunately, those last twenty minutes are even worse than I could’ve ever imagined. I’m not sure if the writers of this movie knew that they were beat-for-beat ripping off “Insidious”, but it is like watching a SyFy channel knock-off. If you can ignore this fact, you are treated to the easiest monster fight that I have ever seen. Considering this is the only time in the movie where you see the monsters at all, I can only assume that the production of this movie only had enough to rent out the costumes for one day of shooting. Once you figure out the direction that the ending is headed, you will scratch your head as to wonder why this movie was ever over ten minutes long. The film just kind of ends without anything to make us feel like the investment in money or time was worth it….IT WASN’T.

As for the performances, the film doesn’t really give anything that makes this a fun watch. Kevin Bacon is largely missing for a majority of the first act of the movie, and his character is very unlikeable, especially when his son’s autistic condition is blamed for things around the house that clearly no child (especially with autism) could ever accomplish. Radha Mitchell is the best performance of the movie, but her character becomes a weak one when we really need that brave mother the most. It feels like her and Bacon switch creative places midway through the film, as the second half of the movie leaves her univolved. Jennifer Morrison and Matt Walsh are only in the movie for one scene. End of story. “Gotham’s” own David Mazouz gives a pretty solid performance as this autistic little boy. Nothing feels insulting about his performance, and I would certainly like to see more from this boy wonder moving forward. Then I get to the really bad of this movie; Lucy Fry. Let me just say that I enjoyed Fry in Hulu’s “11-22-63”, so I know that she has some legit acting chops. But her delivery for horror had me pissing off the audience members all around me, as I couldn’t help but laugh loudly at her overbearing teenage attitudes getting the best of her every scene. Her character is so flat, that you could easily just cast the part under “Bitchy teenager” without a name or background. The film starts to experiment with some ideas for her midway through, but these come out of nowhere too late, and are left in the dust far too early.

“The Darkness” is best kept away from the creative light of any big release studio. It’s a ghost of a much better genre movie, and never justifies its ideas or existence. This title would’ve been more insightful as a documentary for the long-forgotten rock band of the same name. Truly terrible.

2/10

The Brothers Grimsby

The Brothers Grimsby

Two brothers reunite to stop a gang of brutal crime lords, while re-establishing their loving relationship as “The Brothers Grimsby”. Written by Comedic chameleon Sacha Baron Cohen, the film stars his latest look of gut- busting delight. Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen), a sweet but dimwitted English football hooligan, reunites with his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), a deadly MI6 agent, to prevent a massive global terror attack and prove that behind every great spy is an embarrassing sibling. Nobby has everything a man from Grimsby could want, including 11 children and the most gorgeous girlfriend in the northeast of England (Rebel Wilson). There’s only one thing missing: his little brother, Sebastian, who Nobby has spent 28 years searching for after they were separated as kids. Nobby sets off to reunite with Sebastian, unaware that not only is his brother MI6’s deadliest assassin, but he’s just uncovered plans for an imminent global terrorist attack. On the run and wrongfully accused, Sebastian realizes that if he is going to save the world, he will need the help of its biggest idiot. “The Brothers Grimsby” is rated R for strong crude sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language, and some drug use.

What do you say about a movie that pokes fun at such topics as pedophilia, sexual abuse involving rape, incest, and a five minute scene involving two cows that gets as visual as you can imagine? You say that Sacha Baron Cohen has reached the very bottom in his once prosperous career. That’s not to say that Cohen’s films have ever been the beacon for class, but at least in films like “Borat” or “Bruno” the joke is pointed towards everyone else. Those films offer great social commentary on how we treat the gay community, as well as foreigners when it plays against our fears. What “The Brothers Grimsby” does is offer 78 minutes of truly detestable filth that never resignated even a single laugh from inside of me. Sasha is simply too far along in his career for roles like this. We saw just how radiant he can be in films like “Hugo”, and yet he keeps going back to trash like this.

The film’s comedy touches on every single gross-out factor that it can reach for in it’s grasp. The jokes last for FAR too long, and its evidence that the film’s plot and the development of its characters was the least important thing to Cohen. So much happens within the first twenty minutes of the film, and it’s done in a fast-forward method of storytelling, never allowing the audience to slow down and soak everything in. You can see every gag (great word) coming from a mile away, and because it’s predictable, the joke carries on and on. I found myself praying for an edit button many times in my showing. The material constantly stays at an intelligence level of a five-year-old, full of disgusting results for every setup. There is a scene that I kind of touched on already earlier in the review that is so gross that I constantly considered walking out. If anyone has seen “Freddy Got Fingered”, you’ll know the kind of level I am talking about with humor that consistently feels like you missed the clever punch line about the joke.

Immediatly, I noticed that for a movie that centers around England, the film’s actors portray quite possibly the worst English accents I have come across. Mark Strong is the only one who sounds accurate in his vocal portrayal, and he should since he comes from that country. Cohen too is british, yet his accent is stuck somewhere between Australia and Scotland. This pales in comparison though to whatever accent Rebel Wilson was trying to perform. I almost wish the movie would’ve added in an Australian history to her character, but she’s in the movie for so little, so who cares?

Screen time is also lacking for other big name actors who were in the film. Most notably, Isla Fischer is reduced to a desk job, with a romantic chemistry for Strong’s character. This plot device comes out of nowhere, and it feels like scenes or a backstory is missing to make their reliance on one another believable. Gabourey Sidibe is in one scene for the entire movie. They need her for fat jokes (Hardy har har), so there’s nothing else for her character once that’s done. Hell, Penelope Cruz is the mastermind vilain of the movie, and she’s in the film at the beginning and the end. They only bring her back when it’s appropriate to the plot. The film is so out of touch with its audience that I was actually rooting for Cruz’s terrorist character after I heard her motivation for doing what she did.

The action scenes are solid for a comedy film. There’s a lot of nice sequences that really pack a punch with sound editing and mixing. It’s all for short though, as the artistic delivery of each scene is shot so poorly. When the characters run, we are subject to the very same running camera style that aggravates me in films like these. It makes it so hard to register the kinds of things action on-screen, while forcing the audience to rub their eyes in agony repeatedly. This is made even more evident in the opening scene of the film that had a POV style of camera work for a shootout scene. This problem is what worries me about the upcoming “Hardcore Henry”, but that’s another story for another day.

“The Brothers Grimsby” clobbers viewers over the head with a steady stream of Sacha Baron Cohen’s edgy not-for-all humor, but too many gags hit the wrong side of the line between audacious and desperate to ever warrant a watchable experience. Cohen should be very careful with his next movie role. The potential is slowly slipping away for one of Hollywood’s better character actors, and that is perhaps the biggest shame with this spy spoof smut.

2/10

Norm of the North

Norm of the North

Tourists from across the world think about moving to the Arctic, but one big roadblock stands in their way; “Norm of the North”. Splash Entertainment’s big screen debut is about a polar bear named Norm (Rob Schneider) who is a breed of many words. Norm’s greatest gripe is simple: there is no room for tourists in the Arctic. But when a maniacal developer (Ken Jeong) threatens to build luxury condos in his own backyard, Norm does what all normal polar bears would do…he heads to New York City to stop it. With a cast of ragtag lemmings at his side, Norm takes on the big apple, big business and a big identity crisis to save the day. Along the way, Norm becomes a pop culture icon, creating the ultimate underdog success story while raising the negative approval rating of the developer’s failing firm. The animated feature film is also loaded with celebrity cameo voice work from Heather Graham, Colm Meaney, Bill Nighy, and Gabriel Iglesias doing dual work as two of the three lemmings.

There’s a point at about ten minutes into “Norm of the North” when you realize that this film isn’t going to get anymore entertaining. It’s a film that is stuffed with about twenty different situational humor gags for Norm to make the most of, without really resembling a plot structure that truly does stand out. I was bored about halfway into the movie because of the movie’s lack of humorous content. I managed one laugh which was a surprisingly unexpected gay joke that came out of left field. I guess it’s just further proof how reaching the screenplay was at all times. The material is so thin that the movie inserts several dance numbers into the movie so it can reach the flimsy 84 minute run time that it has set for itself. While I’m not the biggest fan of musicals, I NORMally (see the word I used there?) wouldn’t care so much if this movie wanted to make itself a musical. The problem comes in the film repeating the same song over and over again without even an attempt to change it up a little bit. The song is hard to find an artist to match it to. Probably because no artist wants to own up to this wreckage, but it’s called “Dance Out of Control”. Whoever wrote this got some serious promotion out of it because this song will have you holding a grudge over your children for years for them making you hear it. I will leave a link below this paragraph so I can share the magic that I got to experience SEVEN DIFFERENT TIMES.
Death to Eardrums

One thing that you can usually count on in children’s animation movies these days is the big Hollywood budgets that go into these movies. Sadly, “Norm of the North” does nothing but leave me wondering whose pockets have holes in them for the 18 million dollars they spent on this film. It’s certainly not in the animation, whose definition and color shading are reminiscent of late 20th century Playstation video games. The backgrounds and landscapes are quite gorgeous, and gave me what little enjoyment I had from the movie, but the character designs themselves make this film a shame that they ever tried to market it to theaters. None of the different characters whether it be Polar Bears or Lemmings ever have visual characteristics that make any of them stand out from the others. If it weren’t for talking monologue scenes, I might never know which character is witness to what storyline development.  The look of the main protagonist might be the worst of all of them though. From afar, Norm’s design doesn’t seem like anything that stands out as a negative, but with the up close shots you see a lot more of the problems. This character’s nose looks like its not made for his head type. Its color tones that followed Norm’s head movements often reminded me of a video game when your character drives off road through a body of water that the game never finalized because you’re not supposed to be there in the first place. Truly disgraceful. It’s not enough that he looks like he doesn’t belong anywhere in this world because the lighting of his fur never matches organically what could be expected when trying to blend in with his backgrounds.

So maybe the price tag isn’t involved in the art direction, but in the vocal work of such a committed cast. That would be wrong as well. Nobody here ever truly stands out, despite all of them never doing anything truly terrible. Rob Schneider does fine, but I often felt that his voice just doesn’t match what I could see coming out of a polar bear. Friendly voices are fine, but I would’ve cast someone with light bass tones. Schneider is just too whimpering to play an animal so towering. Heather Graham is passable, but her character doesn’t have enough to do to make her ever stand out as anyone more than just someone reading lines. Really Ken Jeong is the only actor who sounds like he wants to do something with his part, and boy did he ever. I can’t quite decide, but his vocal work is something between a cat being skinned alive and a high powered vacuum after sucking up a few marbles. It is truly agonizing to listen to his character shriek through every plan that Norm foils in his way. Jeong does good as a villain, but that doesn’t make it any easier to dry the blood that was dripping from my ear by the time the credits rolled.

Overall, “Norm of the North” reminds me just how dangerous the Arctic is and why nobody lives there. If I had to look out my window and see an eight foot tall Polar Bear dancing to the same song over and over again, while being made up of body movements that can only be described as Robocop malfunctioning, then I would probably need 18 million dollars just to get me out of therapy. This film is such a mess that a once-in-a- lifetime situation happened to me tonight. I was joined in the theater by three other families of parents and children. I believe there were ten people in total. Anyway, by the time the movie reached the final twenty minutes, they were all gone. I was left alone in the theater wondering how much I truly hated myself. If kids are asking their parents to go home, then that should be all the evidence you need to stay away from this movie.

2/10

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.