Maps to the Stars

 

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3/10

Critically Acclaimed Director, David Cronenberg presents his first feature film in three years, as he takes us through the very dark and secretive world of the Hollywood backdrop. “Maps To The Stars” follows four different characters through intertwining stories, in which they all share very horrifying secrets about their dark pasts. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a famed TV self-help therapist with an A-list celebrity clientele. Meanwhile, Cristina Weiss (Olivia Williams) has her work cut out managing the career of their disaffected child-star son, Benjie (Evan Bird), a fresh graduate of rehab at age 13. Yet unbeknownst to them, another member of the Weiss family has arrived in town, mysteriously scarred and tormented Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), just released from a psych ward and ready to start again. She soon works her way into a friendship with a limo driver (Robert Pattinson) and becomes personal assistant to unraveling actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), who is beset by the ghost of her legendary mother, Clarice (Sarah Gadon). Agatha is on a quest for redemption and¬† she’s determined to find it, no matter what it takes. Cronenberg has always been one to never be held down by any particular genre title, but it’s hard to classify his latest film based on a lack of setting tone, or bland narrative direction from characters revealed one to be worse than the other. The movie lacks any defining structure in it’s story. The main goal (If you can call it that) centers on Agatha’s journey to redemption for a troubling past, but we don’t grasp until the final shot of the film that her story is not that of an honorable one. The point of the film feels to me like almost a parody of A-list life, and to show that these celebrities are every bit as human as the people who look up to them. The acting isn’t what i would call decent even by the furthest stretch of the imagination. The movie has a great cast of actors, but i never felt like they connected to the roles they were playing. Instead of getting lost in their portrayals, i instead only saw A-list actors playing a role. The one solid performance throughout the film is that of Moore. The Best Actress winner at this year’s Oscars is playing a spoiled and bitchy character, which is so much different from anything she has ever played. There were many points in the movie where i wanted bad things to happen to this character, so job well done. The problem with Moore’s performance, as well as a stylish direction, is that the movie is marred by some very unintentionally hilarious scenes. There are a few scenes in the film where ghosts haunt our protagonists, and i didn’t have a problem with this until it became tedious and repetitive every ten minutes. If the film added something more to these scenes as the film progressed, then i wouldn’t have felt my time was being wasted for something that could’ve easily been explained in one lone scene. Sound editing/mixing is another big problem i had with the film. Once again, another movie has exemplified unbelievable scenes with it’s surrounding distractions. There is one scene that takes place in a loud bar with live music, but we hear the characters like they are in a paded room. One scene has our characters standing on the busiest road in Hollywood, and yet we only hear faint distortions of passing cars. It’s a scene that was obviously edited for sound, and it made me lose my focus on more than one account. I saved the best for last, in which there is one scene where a character is burned alive, and the CGI composition is among the very worst i have ever seen. For a film about the rich, and luxurious (Albeit spoiled) lifestyles of the people who inhabit it’s city, it’s hilarious to see a film with “Birdemic” like effects when it comes to a very important scene during the third act. The commentary on celebrity’s is certainly a refreshing idea, but it could’ve used something other than obvious rumored cliches like picking out a certain color of M&M, or bratty child stars. I’m not saying this cliche isn’t true, but it feels outdated with how far we have come on such a subject. Overall, it’s best to stay away from this one. Art house filmgoers like myself will even have a tough time trying to follow such a lack in narrative plot, especially with a payoff that had me asking more questions coming out of the film than i had during any other point of watching it. “Maps To The Stars” travels down a road creatively unpaved, and then goes off road on a detour on insane logic. Consider this map outdated.

Seventh Son

 

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3/10

The cure for insomnia has been gift wrapped to the audience, in Director Sergei Bodrov’s newest film “Seventh Son”. A 95 minute mixtape of some of the fantasy genre’s greatest cliches. Most of which are predictably bland, and all of which are easily done better in better films. The story is about witch hunter Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges). A knight who had imprisoned the violently powerful witch leader, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), centuries ago. She escapes in present day,and is seeking vengeance. Summoning her followers of every size, Mother Malkin is preparing to unleash her terrible wrath on an unsuspecting world. Only one thing stands in her way: Master Gregory. In a deadly reunion, Gregory comes face to face with the evil he always feared would someday return. He has only until the next full moon to do what usually takes years: train his new apprentice, Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) to fight a dark magic unlike any other. Man’s only hope lies in the seventh son of a seventh son. The premise would seem very important to Barnes character, but for a film that is based off of a novel, the role of Tom feels very forced in the film. To me, it almost feels like the film didn’t need this character, as Gregory was not only well versed in defending himself against large armies, but also quick on his feet for an alcoholic aging veteran. Barnes is easily my least favorite part of the story. Every time he is on screen, the movie slows down to it’s weakest halts. He not only seems too old for the part of Tom, but his on screen chemistry with Bridges is virtually non existent. This kind of thing was done much better in a weaker film in 2011’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. In that film, the tandem of Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel at least felt entertaining with a dark humor to match the action. This film’s comedy is sadly absent, and it leaves us with a dry taste combo as a result of multiple boring history lessons, and fight scenes that are over before they begin. The whole effort by Bodrov just feels too rushed, and i for one hope there is a director’s copy to fix some of the vital slicing that the script took as a result. For those who don’t know, the movie has been on the shelf for two years to the month because of rising production costs. It’s amazing that this is the finished result because the CGI costs had to be outstanding. The monsters look silly even for a fantasy film, and i mean that in the movements of the creatures themselves. I know that the creatures are morphing human beings, but that doesn’t give the right for a tiger to walk like a human. It’s silly to think about an hour after the film, but even worse in a quiet theater where everyone around you is intrigued by such fascinating designs. Two huge problems i had with the film are going to really test the patience of my readers, but this is something that seriously bothered me. I will get the silly one out of the way first. The mother of the seven kids is played by long time film veteran, Olivia Williams. A woman who in real life is nearly 50, but doesn’t look a day over 35. She is also quite a petite actress. Now i’m not saying there was no way for a woman to lose the weight in the dark ages, but she looks damn good for having seven children. Especially when the youngest of which doesn’t look more than ten years younger than her. When did these births begin? Did she have quintuplets at one point? I personally would’ve cast an actress more believable physically for the audience to grasp that this woman has given birth seven times. My second problem is a huge one when it comes to Hollywood violence: the dreaded PG-13 rating, and it’s effects on a violent movie. The film feels like it directs R rated violence with PG gore. When i see someone in a film (or real life for that matter) get stabbed in the face by a spear and killed, i expect that at least a little blood will spill as a result of it. Most people can overlook this because the film is PG-13, but i ask why you would have such violence in a film if you can’t go all the way with it? It’s a cheap reaction, and it makes the movie suffer GREATLY because of it. Did Bodrov think it was a better idea to pretend blood doesn’t exist to begin with? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds? Overall, this film is every bit the silly and boring affair i thought it would be. It was great to see such big actors like Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore (Both Oscar nominated) give their all to script dialogue that they were honestly way too good for. Moore gives the role her absolute most, and it’s a reflection of her constant professionalism. This film is going to do her zero favors as she takes home the Oscar this year for her role in “Still Alice”, but i don’t think she pictured it would be released two years after she participated in it. I think it will be tough for even the most dedicated of fantasy buffs to enjoy this film. It’s laughable dialogue combined with amateur CGI creature designs reeked of 2014’s “The Legend of Hercules”. Both movies felt like a SY-FY movie of the week following Sharknado. “Seventh Son” is a payday that the A-list actors would like to forget. It’s the kind of film that actors who go bankrupt refuse to make. At $9 a ticket, it’s $9 too much.

McFarland USA

 

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5/10

The latest in Disney’s “Zero to hero” line, stars Kevin Costner as a high school football coach fired from his job after some violent circumstances leave his legacy tarnished. He and his family move to Mcfarland, a poor, mexican demographic community with a prison and a high school…..next door to each other. Costner is hired as the first ever cross country coach with no experience to boot. As time goes on, he finds that there is a lot more to these kids that meets the eye. Disney has attempted this road with many different films before. Sadly, there isn’t really anything that makes “Mcfarland” different, or even memorable. The film’s two hour and four minute run time disects many characters that we are introduced to over that time, but never really feel like we truly know. The problem with having so many characters and not dedicating any time to them, is that when the time comes for them to do something truly miraculous to the plot, we’re never fully invested into that character’s triumphs. There is a lot of lag time to the structure of a pretty thin and tired plot to begin with. The movie really starts to feel it’s time around the one hour mark, and it’s in this second act that i wish the film would’ve given us that background depositional time for each character. When the end credits flashed, it hit me that i know nothing about these kids schooling, or how intelligent they are outside of picking fruits and vegetables in the field. We are shown Costner sitting in a classroom a couple of times, but for the life of me i can’t figure out why. Make no mistake about it, this is a SPORTS FILM ONLY. There are some shots of the landscape of Mcfarland, and how dangerous and out of touch the city is with any of it’s California counterparts. But the scenes with trouble or violence are so few and far in between that they feel like they literally come out of nowhere when our characters ride an emotional high. There is a lot i did enjoy about the film. The Disney underdog story is certainly not a new one, but they always knew how to write good situations for their characters to overcome. They have also always been great at casting the lead for these roles. Costner has been having his best two years since the prime of his acting career. He has managed to take more roles in 2014 and 2015 than any other single year in his career, and “Mcfarland” shows the heart of such a crafty veteran. There are many throw away lines or reactions in the film that Costner turns to gold. He comes from an old generation of actors where one look tells you so much about the character you are trying to understand. He also has some great help with supporting actors, Maria Bello (His wife in the film), John Ortiz, and sadly, a wasted effort by long time film villain, Chris Ellis. The film also flirts heavily with it’s Disney friendly PG rating. It’s got a bloody shootout, gang activity, and more than one racially insensitive comment. The movie certainly toes the line for such a kid friendly production company. Overall, “Mcfarland USA” is going to have it’s fans, but it doesn’t offer anything new to an old pair of shoes. Director Niki Caro (North Country) has certainly shown a directoral depth when it comes to her young film career. There’s a lot she plays safe in this film, and i think it certainly deserved more chances. With big risks, comes big rewards. “Mcfarland USA” is an OK film, but it could’ve been great with that risk.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

 

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3/10

John Cusack is missed very much. That’s not just a statement coming from a critic/audience member, but the sequel to the 2010 hit original misses just as much. The sequel (if you can call it that) has a weird way of mentioning his character several times, as where most sequels would try to forget he ever existed in the first place. This reminder that Cusack (Who hasn’t passed on much) isn’t in the film, only adds to one of the most painful comedy sequels i have ever sat through. It’s a constant whispering of how much better the original film was with Cusack playing the voice of reason. Without that voice, the children are free to tastelessly binge. The film picks up ten years after the events of the first film, with the assassination of the world’s richest man (Rob Coddry), and his friends (Clark Duke, Craig Robinson) attempt to save his life. I found it revolting how much i really hated this film. I knew that it was going to be a failure going in. Granted, the first film looked terrible by it’s trailer, but it ended up a pleasant surprise. What makes part two so painful is that it follows the same roads a lot of other comedy sequel failures travel down. For one, the characters are amped up to eleven. Coddry’s character was trashy in the original, but his portrayal is a character i hated so so much. From sleeping with his friend’s wives, to being morally shallow, this character shouldn’t be the main protagonist in any film. The film also explores some of the exact jokes and punchlines that were presented in the original. It seems like script writers always have this belief that the same joke can be played off just as funny the second time, and they were really wrong on this one. The blatant look to the camera when the words “Hot Tub Time Machine, Too” are uttered, is just further proof that this script was constructed in a short amount of time. Just look at the poster. It’s so mindlessly dull that it serves as a representation of the trouble anyone is getting into with this offering. The characters and their time travels just don’t work here. In the first film, we cheered for them because their lives were kind of pathetic, and they longed to change the things they regretted. This film’s traveling is the staple of an assassination sniper mystery that could’ve been prevented to begin with. We figure out the assailent by film’s end, and this ending completely makes zero sense to anyone with even half a brain. The events and situations have so many holes in them that even with a wide open ending, the film’s cast wouldn’t even dare flirt with a third film in the series. Most of the film would get a pass if it were funny, but it’s not. I laughed one time in the whole movie, and it was during a scene when one of our main characters is getting sexually assaulted. Do you see how low i’ve sunk? Overall, “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” is a slap across the face to an already ridiculous premise. At 88 minutes, it is the bare minimum of effort that should only increase the DVD sales of the first movie. On that aspect, maybe it’s genius.

Project Almanac

 

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3/10

This is the maddest i have been in quite sometime. For the record, it doesn’t mean “Project Almanac” is the worst film i have seen in this early 2015, but it means that it lowered even my already low expectations. I knew that this film was originally scheduled to be released in August of 2014, but it got pushed back after the studios canned the original version. I can only imagine how bad THAT movie was if this is the one that got through to a wide release. “Project Almanac” is about a brilliant high school student and his friends uncovering blueprints for a mysterious device created by his father. It’s a time machine that enables them to go back to the past and change what they don’t like most about their lives. As with any time traveling film, the group realizes the damage they create every time they go back. This review is going to be a long one, because there are countless errors that i found in the film that shouldn’t be given a passing grade by anyone who watches. Getting the worst out of the way first, the sound mixing/editing is among the very worst that i have ever heard. There are many scenes at a party or a concert where we hear our characters crystal clear without any muffling or “What’s?” used at all. It’s also quite humorous to see two characters walk away from the camera only for us to hear their conversation perfectly when the camera is closed up. Closing up on someone doesn’t mean i will hear their conversation better. If i attempted the same fate with people on the other side of the road from me, i would be laughed out of a conversation like a moron. I don’t see why this accounts as believable by anyone who watches a film like this. When i see a scene at a club or a concert, it’s the first thing that hits my mind. This leads to my next problem and possibly the biggest handicap facing this film; the tired “Shot on Video” genre. This movie has ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to be shot on a handheld camera. It’s an overused cliche in 2015 that is hurting a movie a lot more than helping it. I think this film would’ve been fine without this gimmick. The script has some decent ideas when it comes to time travel that no other movie before it has explored, but we are literally kept in this bubble when a wide shot would be greatly appreciated to understand the impact of what is around the time travel areas. There are so many scenes that you wonder why the characters are filming this, or even who is doing it. Midway through the film, the main character tries to justify this by telling his sister to film everything from this point forward. That’s all fine and dandy, but what was the point of filming scenes before this point that included her brother looking in the attic, or filming her friends at school with witless banter? Lets try to pretend this isn’t a movie for a minute. What is the point of capturing these things on camera? Try not to be so desperate when trying to succeed in your 100 minute movie minimum. I also felt this movie screamed to be in 3D, but because of it’s craptastic idea to shoot this on a handheld, the movie wouldn’t do justice to the random objects floating around our characters when they travel through. One of the funniest aspects of movies shot like this is the effect of putting your hand on the camera lens to signal that the camera is being cut. Is the audience really this stupid to not understand that a simple edit splice couldn’t signify for them that the camera has been cut? Is there a button on the camera lens that shuts the camera off that i didn’t know about? For a movie about time travel, they certainly take their sweet time before getting to it. I appreciate that the movie tried to explain it’s silly premise with trying to explain to the audience how the machine works, but did the first forty minutes of the film really have to be about how many times they screwed up the formula? There is seriously an hour left in the movie when they travel for the first time, and even that is only an hour into the past. Most movies can pass if they get off to a sharp start, but this movie is in the negative column before we get a taste of it’s notable premise. In regards to explanations, “The Butterfly Effect” knew too that it had a silly concept, but it didn’t waste time explaining to the viewer why it worked. It told you the conditions of it’s main character, and let the interesting transition scenes guide the movie. For the record, that is a much better film than this meager effort by director Dean Isrealite. This is Dean’s first film, and it could be because of the hilarious alias name that he used so this film wouldn’t follow his career. Either way, his effort shows. The movie also has a lot of trouble following it’s own rules, as their are many scenes that contradict the rules that it put out in front of us. For example, there are two scenes in which a time paradox is created when the current version of characters run into their younger selves. When this happens, the travel is immediatly over, and our characters can disappear without ever existing to begin with. During the final scene, our main character has to attend the 8th birthday of his younger self. He is literally ten feet in front of this little boy, and not even so much as a flicker happens to let us know a paradox is being created. This movie makes me tired just thinking about it. Speaking of that party, it’s in a video of this birthday party where our main character finds the hints that his father created some sort of time machine. He gathers this by seeing a reflection of his older self in the mirror. How is this possible if he never traveled before? Wouldn’t there be multiple David’s walking around as a result of an older one already traveling back in time? If the movie is attempting to tell us that this might not be the first time that David has traveled back in time, then it needs to be fair with it’s audience and clue us into that aspect. We can only go with the timeline that we have been presented in the film. How are we supposed to know things that technically didn’t exist in front of our eyes? The movie is complimented with a nice young cast who are very charasmatic, and make the most out of error plagued script they are given. I was closely following their characters even if it was hard for me to take David seriously as a nerd character. I mean really, the guy looks like he is one year shy of a Calvin Klein ad. Overall, “Project Almanac” CAN NOT be the choice of movie that you see this weekend. There are much better films currently out, and much better time traveling movies already on DVD. The movie left me with not only a bad taste in my mouth, but a headache. Whether it was from the time travel rules it set for itself or the horrible camera work, you be the judge.

Mortdecai

 

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3/10

What happens when Johnny Depp runs out of accents and cooky characters to give his fans? Will he return to glorious roles that makes him one of Hollywood’s most recognizable stars? We won’t find out anytime soon with his latest garbage role as the title character in “Mortdecai”. Director David Koepp reunites with Depp for the first time since their 2004 collaborative effort on “Rear Window”. Charlie Mortdecai is a suave art dealer with a demanding wife (Gwyneth Paltrow), and a full time bodyguard (Paul Bettany). He is caught in the middle of angry Russians, the British MI5, and a thirst to get out of his inevitable debt. He is recruited to obtain a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold. Where this film ultimately fails completely is in the fact that this movie is about Depp’s trials and tribulations, and not his much more interesting and morally structured bodyguard. I think a movie about Jacque (Bettany) would’ve not only been a much more intriguing picture, but it would’ve had a lot more comedy than the four or five lines that made me laugh in this film. Most of those are from Bettany’s impeccable comedic timing and facial reactions to some bizzare reactions to his male protagonist counterpart. Depp’s character doesn’t work at all in this film. We are supposed to support a character who can’t fight his own battles (EVER), or has zero charm despite being played by arguably Hollywood’s most charasmatic actor. To be frankly honest, the character reminded me a lot of Sacha Baron Cohen playing Borat. The awful accent is a mixture between Steve Martin’s dreadful french accent in “The Pink Panther”, and a touch of Borat’s Khazikstan. If this is supposed to sound British, it certainly doesn’t. The movie has much bigger problems though than just it’s character performances. The movie zooms by scene by scene, yet does the impossible by making the film feel dragged out. Charlie travels all over the world in and out of many countries. While the landscape transition scenes are very stylishly edited, it’s the timing of only a couple minutes in every country feel like many movies rushed into a 97 minute run time. I think if the movie took the time to slow down and let it’s audience comprehend every line and action by it’s characters, then the film won’t feel like just a collection of scenes trying to pass as one film. I can see even the strongest of Depp fanboys (err girls) having their patience tested on this one. A new Depp movie with a new Depp voice comes along every year, so what makes this one so special that you should even attempt to see it on DVD? Nothing that has anything to do with Depp anyway. The film is easily forgettable by an inability to decide if it’s satire or spoof. What we are left with feels like an inside joke that only the film’s cast is in on. Mortdecai is mortifying….or should i say Mortdifying?

Blackhat

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3/10

 

I have always believed that Michael Mann is overrated as an action genre director. That’s not to say that there aren’t notable exceptions, like “Heat”, “Manhunter”, or “Ali”. Those three films i mentioned are my favorites from Mann, and two of them aren’t considered action genre movies. His latest effort is titled “Blackhat”, a film about the threat of global cybercrime. The film follows a furloughed convict (Chris Hemsworth) and his American and Chinese partners as they hunt a high-level cybercrime network from Chicago to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Jakarta with a stolen bank account of over 700 million dollars. “Blackhat” had the possibility of being a social commentary for today’s threat in online activity. The film should’ve educated the audience with the mission of educating, not alienating. Where the film suffers the ladder is in it’s hard to understand Cyber world language. Not everyone who watches this film is going to be a highly educated master of internet terminology. The film is hard enough to follow through a first act, but it’s made nearly impossible with the terrible delivery of action camera framing. For a movie full of action in it’s trailer, it sure lacked anything in the two hours and five minute run time that we have to suffer through. I was a little worried going into this film because i knew most of this film would take place at a computer screen. Not exactly the most action oriented of activities. When the action does come, it’s sound editing is done notably enough, but the camera work leaves the long wait totally unsatisfying. We experience more of the shaky camera effect that we have come to know from post “Saving Private Ryan” action films. Two years ago, i wrote about how terrible the camera work was in the action sequences of “A Good Day to Die Hard”. “Blackhat” may have surpassed it with not only terrible framing work that has the actors falling out of many shots, but some excellent sounding action scenes that are missed because the shaking camera is too quick for us to ever register what is going on. Luckily, the film’s final action scene is mostly on the street and in one shot, but it’s over too quick to ever change the damage done by the previous efforts. Like any Mann effort, the film has to have an outrageously cheesy 90’s sex scene, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Chris Hemsworth suddenly has feelings for his best friend’s sister after fifteen minutes of being on screen. The film doesn’t hint at any lost chemistry time between them due to Hemsworth’s jail stint, so this literally comes out of nowhere. If it’s not enough for a fast placing of the film’s on screen duo, they have sex on a rooftop for the entire Tokyo skyline to see. This isn’t a huge deal breaker for me, but it does set a silly tone in the film that tells me it’s writer didn’t believe in the film, so why should i? “Blackhat” is very tedious and boring, but the perfect kind of film for the usual January dumping ground. If the film focused more on educating it’s audience about online terrors and more detail to pacing issues that plagued the film, the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as bad as it’s finished product. Stay away from this one. It’s a mess of epic proportions

The Woman in Black 2 : Angel of Death

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3/10

Hammer Films return to the silver screen with the sequel to the 2012 original starring Daniel Radcliffe. During World War I, a group of orphaned children are moved to the Marsh House 40 years after the events of the first film. It isn’t long before supervisors Eve (Phoebe Fox) and Jean (Helen McCrory) start to sense that this house is not what it appears to be as the children in their care begin to disappear. As their house of safety becomes a house of horrors, Eve enlists the help of a handsome pilot (Jeremy Irvine) to help investigate what is happening. Eve soon discovers that it may not be a coincidence that she has come to reside in the house inhabited by the Woman in Black. When i heard a sequel to the pleasant 2012 surprise was coming, i wasn’t happy to hear this news. After seeing the movie, i am not only displeased that a sequel exists, but i feel that the whole thing is entirely pointless. “The Woman in Black 2” has it’s charms though. If there is one thing that Hammer Films always does well, it’s an eerie setting that the minimal budgets go into. The Marsh House seems to have little to no light in the house, and that is reflective of the house’s tragic events. If Director Tom Harper could put a little bit of anticipation in the scares he attempts, then this could’ve been a sequel to live up to it’s name. As it stands, the story (what little there is) is very thin. The film feels very monotonous, and the audience will suffer through a first act that leaves the eyes very heavy. I did appreciate the attempt at something different with the World War I setting, but it’s clear that this era is only used to make some of the paranormal events feel not so paranormal. The house shakes at random periods with lights flickering on an off, and this can all be conveniently explained because of the fighter pilots flying over the house. One thing that worked about the original was the emotionally frail acting of Radcliffe. There were bruises beneath the exterior of his protagonist, and it’s something that just doesn’t feel believable with this sequel. Fox is a decent actress, but there is so much she does wrong as the front and center of this film. Because of her lack of emotional depth, it never feels like she fully understands the events at play. There are scenes where she is terrified, but it never feels like these unbelievable events will ever permanently scar her. Another hilarious on going game i had with myself was to see how often her English accent changed throughout the film. Fox is a British born actress, so i don’t understand why some scenes sound American, and some sound like the former. It might not seem like a big deal to the casual viewer, but it’s something that distracted me any time the film had a plot it was trying to convey. I mentioned earlier that the jump scares were without anticipation, and a lot of that has to do with this sequel settling for twice the amount of jump scares than it’s predecessor. I counted seventeen jump scares throughout the film, and anyone who reads my reviews knows i think it’s the cheapest form of horror that you can display. The movie feels like a James Wan film, in that he cranks up the shrieking noises any time someone appears out of nowhere. Films like this are becoming a parody of themself, and i for one would like to see this trend halted. A couple of jump scares a film are OK, but seventeen jump scares average out to one every 5-6 minutes of the film, and that is quite excessive. One thing that i enjoyed about this film more than the original was the ending. Everything feels well tied up in this film compared to the original that left us feeling like there was so much more story to tell about “The Woman in Black”. I was hoping this movie would sew up all of these loose ends, and to some degree it did. My compliments towards the ending however, involves an ending worthy enough of the fight that our characters went through. I can’t explain much more without spoiling the film, but i was glad to see the picket fence ending for a change. Overall, i can’t recommend this film to anyone. The first film is far superior, and i would recommend that to my readers for Radcliffe’s haunting performance alone. The strange thing is that this is considered horror, but the blood and language are non existent. If you feel your child could deal with jump scares accordingly, then “The Woman in Black 2” is a safe bet if they really have to see this. It’s a sequel to a film that definitely feels like something you would discover at a video store before you ever knew it was made.

The Pyramid

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3/10

Some of the Earth’s greatest wonders were never meant to be uncovered. Some films should remain hidden just the same. A team of U.S. archaeologists gets more than they bargained for when they discover a lost pyramid unlike any other in the Egyptian desert. As they unlock the horrific secrets buried within, they realize they aren’t just trapped, they are being hunted. There is so much wrong with Director Gregory Lavasseur’s film that i struggle to even know where to begin. As with most horror films this year, “The Pyramid” settles for cheap scares, and acting reminiscent of a Uwe Bowl film. What really perplexes me about this film though, is the inconsistencies among it’s own rules. There are many instances in the film when our characters go back on the rules set earlier in the script. In the opening ten minutes, our group is told that they have to leave Egypt because of ongoing riots that are happening in the area as a result of their findings. The group’s leader, Holden, gathers up all of his equipment and is telling each of his crew to hit the road against their wishes. The very next scene shows Holden and some of his crew standing around a monitor watching a robot they created enter the pyramid. Did we miss a scene here? What made Holden change his mind? Just a minute ago he was ready to call it quits and now he is leading the charge into the pyramid. Another instance is when our main character tries to use her cell phone in the pyramid and it doesn’t work because they are “600 feet under the ground, and the walls are two miles thick”. About a half hour later, another character uses a satelite on his robot to stream a connection to the outside world. Guess those walls grew thin all of a sudden, huh? Our characters also enter the pyramid with gas masks to protect them from the poisonous gases encased in the tomb, but these masks seem to vanish a couple of scenes into their voyage. Why could this be? Perhaps to further a plot point of our characters dying later on in the film. Trust me when i say i have seen bad horror films this year, but “The Pyramid” may very well be the worst because the things it does wrong are multiplied when factored in with the goofy imagery and AWFUL CGI work. The creature that is plaguing this pyramid looks like something you would see out of a late 80’s Tim Burton animated featurette, and in 2014 this does not give the movie the look Lavasseur probably intended. The actors give terrible green screen body acting to match this creature that ensured lots of laughter from me and the rest of the audience. As i mentioned earlier, the film settles for cheap scares instead of resting on an already creepy setting. Jump scares are something that has always bothered me because i feel they are too cheap to bring out the most of real terror. Anyone can turn up the volume and be frightened by the loud noises they are hearing. It’s in that aspect and a few others that this film feels a lot like this summer’s “As Above So Below”. I bring this up because i felt like i have seen each film twice now. Both films are about uncovering an ancient tomb underneath the ground, both films explore the realm of claustrophobia, both are found footage films that totally don’t need to be. The ladder is another HUGE inconsistency with the film. This movie picks and chooses when it wants to be a found footage film and when it wants to feel like an actual movie. It’s confusing at times because you wonder what parts of the horror they encounter are going to be seen by the person who eventually watches this tape. My biggest problem with found footage films is when they have absolutely no reason to be that way. This film has a minor reasoning why the cameras are on with the unlocking of the pyramid, but i find it hard to believe that our characters would keep cameras rolling when they are running for their lives. It slows them down too much, and it’s just too illogical. “The Pyramid” is an awful exercise in a tired subgenre of horror that has certainly run it’s course over the last decade. It’s only playing in two theaters in my area, and maybe that was two theaters too many. This film deserved to remain buried.

Third Person

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3.5/10

Paul Haggis writes and directs this film with an array of Hollywood’s finest A-listers at his fingertips. When describing the plot of Third Person, i had trouble conjuring up the right words to accurately describe it. The story is spread into three different narratives with the first being a cheating relationship that stars Liam Neeson as an author, Olivia Wilde as his mistress, and Kim Basinger as Neeson’s wife. Neeson is writing his latest novel in Rome while seducing Olivia Wilde off of her feet. He uses Wilde as a forefront for his novel without even caring about her feelings. The second story involves Adrien Brody as a con artist business man type who is in Paris to make a big deal. He meets a mysterious woman (Played by Moran Atias) who needs twenty five thousand dollars to get her daughter back. Brody decides to help, but is left in question as to whether this is a scam or not. The third story (And only decent one in my opinion) stars James Franco and Mila Kunis as exes who are fighting for soul custody of their child. Kunis delivers what i feel is the only solid performance in the film playing opposite of anything she has ever done. She is a down on her luck loser who knows her life is spiraling out of control after the death of her daughter. Kunis was the one bright spot in a film with performances that are easily calling it in. The two biggest problems with this film is that it is too long (136 minutes), and the stories with it’s characters just aren’t interesting enough. You wonder how these stories have anything to do with each other minus some characters passing by one another much like Richard Linklater’s Slackers or Haggis’s 2004 film, Crash. It’s supposed to be a film about love, passion, and betrayal, but it’s all just not interesting enough to last over 2 hours. I found myself having problems even supporting any characters because they were all deceitful in some way. Maybe that was the point of the film, but it also leaves your audience not caring about their fate by the time the credits roll. The three stories aren’t interesting enough on their own and only drag the movie down when combined. There are some twists that happen during the film, but they come and go without being treated like a big discovery or reveal. How are we supposed to care if the movie obviously doesn’t? I have always dug Haggis’s style so i have absolutely no idea what went wrong with a movie director who panned Million Dollar Baby, Crash, and Casino Royale. This definitely feels like a Haggis film, but the endless supply of big time celebrities interracting and crossing stories feels used and abused ten years after his Oscar winning film, Crash. Third Person feels like a 20 minute idea with 115 minutes to fill in, and that time is never given that attention. The cinematography and artistic style of the camera angles were done very well with mostly light tones surrounding the locations of Rome, Paris, and New York. The big twist at the end with the three stories being related isn’t very well explained, and i hope you like symbolism because otherwise you will not understand the big reveal. It felt very easy to predict for me personally because the trailer was a lot more revealing than it probably should have been. I definitely do not recommend this film. It left me feeling tedious and overwhelmed by a story where i had to look for all the clues. I like a challenge in a film, but sometimes presenting the twists with an easy highlighter is much needed. Third Person is an absolute mess of the film. Even a blockbuster cast cannot save it from a disjointed plot and laughable dialogue. It’s a film that tries to be smarter than it really is, and that’s what will keep the audience from ever relating to Third Person. It’s a complicated mess that is best if you stay away from it.

Dumb and Dumber To

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3.5/10

Twice the rude, twice the crude, and twice the unoriginality plague the latest film that is a sequel to the 1994 smash hit, “Dumb and Dumber”. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their signature roles as Lloyd and Harry 20 years later with Lloyd being in a mental hospital after the events of the first film. The original film’s directors, Peter and Bobby Farrelly take Lloyd and Harry on a road trip to find a child Harry never knew he had and the responsibility neither should ever, ever be given. The first movie was mindless, but it had the kind of charms and sarcastic wit dialogue that made you do a double take when hearing the punchline. This movie feels like a complete remake of the first film with many scenes and jokes being recreated. For as many people who said “The Hangover 2” was a remake of the first film, this film is every bit the same to it’s original telling. The film’s protagonists are still dumb, but they are even worse in the sense that this movie does neither of them any favors. Lloyd (Carrey) is a complete jerk in this film. The things he did in the first film made you feel sorry for him because he still had a heart for his best friend. A kind of child like innocence if you will. In this movie, he does horrible things and mocks people, and it gives his character an understanding why no one wants anything to do with him. Harry (Daniels) doesn’t have enough meaningful dialogue in this film to compete with Carrey for on screen time. The first film makes both characters feel equal in screen time, and equal in hilarious moments. This movie is clearly the Jim Carrey show. New actors to the film include Kathleen Turner as the infamous “Fraida Felcher”, Rob Riggle playing two roles as twin brothers, Laurie Holden as the film’s main antagonist, and the big screen introduction to Rachel Melvin as Fraida’s daughter, Penny. Melvin in particular is a welcome addition as she feels a lot like the stupid innocence characters of the first film. How nice it would be to have someone equally as charming for her to bounce off of. The comedy is at many times disgusting with no real punch line for a laugh out loud moment. That’s the biggest problem with this film; no moments that will have the audience clutching their stomachs in laughter. There are a handful of moments that gave me the quick giggle, but nothing that will ever be nearly as memorable as it’s predecessor. I almost feel like they waited too long to make a movie like this. Then again, the original is a movie that didn’t need a sequel to begin with. It’s all a big cash grab for an actor (Carrey) who said he would never be in a sequel to one of his original movies again. After seeing this, i wish he had the strength to hold on to his original morals. “Dumb and Dumber Too” is awful by even sequel standards. The movie knows how paper thin it is by even showing scenes from the first movie in a side by side with a similar scene from the sequel during the post movie credits. If there is one good thing from this film, it makes you want to run home and watch the original movie to have the laughs you waited 105 minutes for during this snorefest. Some people will enjoy this film. I’m not foolish enough for a minute to think there isn’t an audience for this somewhere. I just don’t think anyone on this planet will ever have to think even for a second when they are asked which film is better. I don’t recommend this movie. Instead, i say stick with the original. No matter how many times you watch it, that movie will never feel as paper thin as this pointless sequel.

Ouija

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3/10

The world’s of the silver screen and the board game collide in this possession haunt. Ouija tells the story of a group of friends who must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board. There isn’t much of a surprise when Ouija comes up mostly empty in the 85 minute run time it tries to stretch out. The film feels double of this run time mainly because it’s pacing is terribly misconstrued in a PG-13 rating that¬†suffers even further because of it. The film stars Bates Motel’s Olivia Cooke, and this is an actress who is MUCH better than the roles she chooses. This film isn’t as bad as her earlier 2014 film, The Signal, but this film isn’t doing her any favors. It’s a role that is too generic for someone like her to take on. The strange thing is that the movie doesn’t even really do anything terribly wrong, it’s just an antagonizingly boring effort. The visuals that the movie does conjure up certainly is not anything we haven’t seen from better films in the last two years. The dialogue is something on the line of early 90’s teenage shows like “Saved By The Bell”, and it just makes you care less and less about these characters and their survival. The movie’s ending is unforgiving to even the couple of people who are interested enough to stick around for nearly an hour and a half. There was a group of teenagers a couple rows ahead of me, and they enjoyed the film until the ending when i heard one yell “THAT’S IT?”. Even though i hated the film, i was kind of surprised along the same lines. First of all, the evil spirit haunting the group of friends is easily defeated to where any pee brain could figure it out. Lets put it like this, the person who dies second or third in a Friday the 13th film, would breeze through the villain in this movie. Once the spirit is defeated, the film continues on for ten more minutes for absolutely no reason what so ever. The camera cuts to black because it feels like we ran out of film rather than produce a real ending. It’s not as bad as 2012’s “The Devil Inside”, but it gives the whole presentation a pointless film. What’s the saddest about a movie like this is that it will still make a ton of money and inspire ten other films just like it. I think that is the biggest problem with horror films today; they have no reason to strive for better because they have an easily pleasable teenage audience just itching for the next one. Ouija by all accounts is a boring game that (SURPRISE SURPRISE) crosses over to a boring film. I would only recommend it if you absolutely need to catch up on sleep that you have been depraved of. If i want real Halloween scares, i will settle for a heart pounding game of Candy Land. Ouija is shamelessly…….BORING.