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.

Annabelle

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3/10

A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by a satanic cult. Annabelle is the prequel to 2013’s The Conjuring based on the backstory of the most terrifying gag of that film, a demon possessed doll named Annabelle. “The Conjuring” was probably my favorite horror film easily of the last five years because it affected it’s audience psychologically instead of the cheap jump scares that Hollywood horror films have been famous for over the past two decades. “Annabelle” goes back on all of the greatness that it’s predecessor has created. It’s a dull, uninspired, and lazily acted film that adds nothing to the genre, and makes you wish you were watching something better from the films it steals it’s inspirations from. “Child’s Play” came out in 1988, and it’s a film that has one of those premises that is hard to rip it off without people seeing that you legitimately stole from that film. This movie is the exact same premise, possession, and goal of the doll as it’s 1988 counterpart. What i liked about the doll in “The Conjuring” was that she was mysterious and even a little believable in the way that Annabelle never moved or winked or said a word. Her charms were in her abilities to look at a camera and have the audience shriek at the eyes of a demon that she possesses. That is the first thing that this movie does wrong; it gives away her origins for a story that isn’t very interesting. My biggest question coming out of this film is how this doll isn’t classified as police evidence when the authorities arrive at the doorstep of our main protagonists. It’s logic like that which will make the watchers at home roll their eyes. But what makes the viewer really lose their interest in this film is the lack of delivery from how the camera never knows when to cut. There were scenes that lasted 5-10 minutes with beautiful suspenseful music playing to almost ear shattering levels when the scene just ends. I kind of compare this film’s problems to that of “Godzilla” this year, in which it never delivered on the things it was teasing the whole film. We got so many looks from Annabelle that you were just waiting for her terror to be unleashed at any moment. Things eventually start happening towards the end of the film, and it concludes with a brutally nauseating ending that makes you wonder how that was supposed to solve the problem to begin with. I mentioned before that the acting was awful, and boy do i mean it. The actors resemble hardcore pornography actors, and their acting only supports my theory. These two (Played by Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) are more wooden than the damn doll is. How is it that the depth of a character who barely moves and doesn’t talk is more emotionally gifted than that of two characters who soak up all of the 93 minute run time? The musical score of the film did give me a little enjoyment with the classic violen infamously known in James Wan films. There is also one scene that i legitimately liked involving an elevator not going to the floor that Wallis needs. I have been getting some recommendations on how i feel about kids seeing the films that i see. I don’t think Annabelle has anything terribly bad in it when it comes to gore. There are some bloody scenes, but nothing crazy. It’s more about the cheesy imagery of the demons that it presents as nightmare candy. With that said, i wouldn’t recommend the film to anyone under the age of 10 years old. The language is clean, the sex is non existent, but the imagery might make the wrong impression on a little one who doesn’t quite know that this is only a movie. “Annabelle” presents characters and situations that easily sets itself up for mocking by the awful “Scary Movie” franchise. The sixth version of that franchise will have enough gags and jokes from “Annabelle” to give the audience another torturing 90 minute film. If that isn’t enough to make you truly hate this movie, then i don’t know what is. I would only recommend “Annabelle” as a rental, but even that is pushing it.

Good People

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3/10

Young American couple Tom and Anna Reed (James Franco and Kate Hudson) fall into severe debt while renovating Anna’s family home in London. As the couple faces the loss of their dream to have a house and start a family, they discover that the tenant in the apartment below them has been murdered and he left behind a stash of cash-$400,000 worth. Though initially hesitant, Tom and Anna decide that the plan is simple: all they have to do is quietly take the money and use only what’s necessary to get them out of debt. But when they start spending the money and can’t seem to stop, they find themselves the targets of a gang who stole the money. I found Good People to be one of the most ridiculously cliche and boring films of the year. The first thing wrong with the film is the terrible casting job of Franco and Hudson. This film is a shoot em up action style chase movie reminiscent of Luc Besson films, so what made the casting director ever think James Franco was the perfect person for this style? The good news is that he doesn’t play the role as comedic James Franco, but the bad news is that it’s a step back from his role as the villain in 2013’s “Homefront”. This feels like a paycheck collector for both Franco and Hudson as their personalities are practically muted and the two feel like shells of their former characteristics. Besides the casting, the movie is just too slow paced. The action is done pretty well and explosively, but it takes the film 43 minutes of it’s 82 minute run time to get started. I get that a film has to build it’s plot, but it’s SO SLOW within that opening first act. Tom Wilkinson gives the film what little charge it has playing an FBI agent tracking down the stolen money. It’s funny to see Tom’s reactions to our two protagonists explaining their reasons for stealing the money because he looks at them like idiots. That right there is the biggest problem within the film; our main characters are completely stupid. As the title suggests, i don’t doubt that these are good people, but they also are not the smartest people on the block. A man gets murdered in his apartment and their first instinct is to collect cash that they find is obviously hidden. Maybe it’s just because i have watched so many of these films before, but with the house trashed it’s obvious the murderers were looking for something. With Franco and Hudson living upstairs, who do you think is the first door that this gang will knock on? SPOILERS SPOILERS – If this isn’t enough, the ending is by far the most hilarious part of this film. Our couple meets with the gang at Anna’s childhood home to give them the money. It’s an obvious set up that is put together by Wilkinson, but the gang doesn’t know this. When they get there, it’s traps gallore. One guy falls through a floor and is impaled onto spikes, one guy two nail gun shots in the feet, and much more. My first instinct was that this was a rated R version of Home Alone, and by then i was seriously as done with this film as i was ever going to be. In the end, the couple live and are being treated in a hospital when Tom Wilkinson comes by to visit them. He gives them some of the “Lost cash” for them to keep. The moral here boys and girls is that you should always steal cash that isn’t yours. More moral backbone from a film that is too predictable and doesn’t add anything to the genre. I definitely do not recommend this film. Even if you are an action film buff, there isn’t enough of the good stuff here to keep anyone interested. In closing, sometimes good people do bad things, and sometimes they make bad movies. I’m calling out director Henrik Ruben Genz on this one. Terrible film.

As Above So Below

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3.5/10

A team of explorers search for a lost rock beneath the catacombs of Paris, France in the newest found footage film designed to give you nightmares. As Above So Below is the worst kind of film that you could possibly encounter for an array of reasons. The first is that the plot is actually intriguing enough to get your curriosity flowing. I did a report on the Paris Catacombs in high school, and the caves in them are just begging for a scary movie to be made down there. You get sucked in and then you immediatly regret the decision to spend money on it when you see the presentation. Even for found footage movies, the camera work in this film is awful. Most of the time, you find yourself confused on what you are looking at. It is even more aggravating when a character will say “Look at that” and you can’t tell for one second what is present in front of the camera. It moves around too much and that hurts a film that relies on scary visuals. I won’t say it’s pointless because for once it actually makes sense why everything is being recorded. The main character of the film (Perdita Weeks) is being interviewed for a documentary about her uncovering some great mysteries in the catacombs. Each character is equipped with a helmet camera and it makes sense. What sucks is that we get the feel of constant quick reactions every time a character is scared or hears something. Another thing that annoyed me about the film was just how conveniently these characters figured out mysteries that are a thousand years old. Like i’m sure no one else figured out to touch a tombstone a certain way to get the wall to move, or no one else could figure out the verbal clues given on the walls all around the catacombs. Our characters figure things out like they are sharing the same brain, and it’s aggravating because unless you study alchemy or ancient scriptures, it will all be greek to you. I found myself still stuck on the start of the sentence when these characters have already figured out what moves walls. I mentioned Alchemy before because it’s interesting how much of this film is more about that than Hell and the Devil. I was led to believe that this was a movie about the gates of Hell, but it turns out that it’s more about rocks and the powers that they behold. The film is only 88 minutes and the first 50 or so establishes nothing with no death scenes and not much backstory for the characters. When the film has about 20 minutes left, it starts killing off characters because the movie needs to end soon and we haven’t done much with the threats of this cave. It’s just utterly sloppy. The ending is so frustrating because it’s more of the “Love conquers all” kind of thing. It’s crazy because you wouldn’t expect anything like that in a movie like this. It seriously made me angry the way that this film ends because it’s unlike anything you would ever dream up. I found myself asking how this ending couldn’t have been done 40 minutes prior to this. I won’t give much away, but it’s a solution that was right in front of our characters eyes the whole time. The lone thing i enjoyed about this film was the setting of the actual catacombs. I appreciate that this film was shot mostly in the Paris caves as it shows more on camera than you are used to seeing in documentaries. I just wish the setting had a better story to capitalize on what could’ve been the scariest film of the year. I definitely cannot recommend this film to anyone as it is one of the worst films i have seen in 2014. In closing, if above is anything like below, then leave it as well as this film buried with Paris’s terrible past. The Catacombs hold the remains of about six million people. Hopefully the film won’t affect as many people.

Clouds of Sils Maria

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3/10

The worlds of art and life immitate each other in this story about a celebrated actress who accepts a different role in a play she starred in 20 years earlier. Juliette Binoche is Maria, she picks and chooses the roles she accepts very carefully, and shows she stands for something with the projects she undertakes. She is traveling with her personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) to accept a lifetime achievement award for the playwright and director who launched her career. On the way, they learn that the celebrated director has passed away. At the gala, an up and coming director offers Maria the chance to star in a reboot of the play that made her famous, this time portraying the part of the older woman that the young woman in the play seduces and destroys. Maria reluctantly accepts, and as she attempts to find her way into the other character, she learns more about her new young co-star Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz), a talented but troubled teen the tabloids have made a fixture for her tantrums and bad behavior. “Clouds of Sils Maria” is a film that has been getting a lot of critical praise on review websites like Rotten Tomatoes (90%), and IMDB (4.8/5). After watching it, i can say that i am in the minority of those figures, as i felt the film that was stylistically shot lacked anything in terms of emotional substance or release. A huge problem facing this film is that we are left with more questions leaving the film than we were going in. Binoche was good as Maria, and it was quite interesting to see her play a dominantly english speaking role, as i have only seen her in French films. Her character hides a lot inside mostly due to her life in the public eye. For instance, it’s clearly obvious that she has legitimate feelings for Valentine, but the movie never explores this possible romance between the women even though it’s staring us in the face the entire movie. SPOILERS – Valentine disappears with twenty minutes left in the movie, and we never find out what happened to her. Did she quit as Maria’s assistant because she couldn’t have her romantically? Did she fall off a trail ledge and die? NOTHING IS GIVEN. Stewart is OK in this role, but once again i had trouble believing anything she said. I think she has the ability to be a great actress, but she has to get lost in the roles she takes on. Most of the scenes are Binoche and Stewart practicing lines to this play that we never get to see the entire film, and it’s in those pulse draining moments that we learn absolutely nothing about these characters except the feelings they have for each other. It’s funny because i watched Binoche for over two hours and still felt i knew nothing about her personally, and everything about her as an actress. If that’s what director Olivier Assayas was going for then fine, but it doesn’t make for an exciting movie when 80% of it is stage preperation. Chloe Moretz is in the movie for maybe a total of ten minutes, THAT’S IT!!! Considering the dependancy of this play relies on her negativity to stay out of the tabloids, i expected we would get more from her. She plays a character similar to Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes, and there was one scene that made me want to stop the movie despite having an hour left. Moretz is being interviewed at a podium over some recent DUI problems she had and her answers are making the press laugh with every one given. The laugh track used in post production is absolutely terrifying, and this film loses any seriousness it gained with the beautiful landscape shots of the Sils Maria mountainside. The biggest cavity this film has is a scene when it is mocking the superhero genre of Hollywood. This scene seems to be nothing, but pretentious commentary from the director as to say these movies are a stain on Hollywood. They show a clip with Chloe Moretz portrayinng one of these superheroes, and it’s terrible even for parody standards. The clip shows Moretz with a leather suit and red wig, and ZERO special effects. Is Assayas foolish enough to believe for a second that The Avengers or X Men looked even remotely this bad? Don’t get me wrong, i’m not a backer for superhero films. I have more than had my fair share of problems with the genre in the last five years, but if you say the genre stinks and your parody is worse than what does that say about your movie? Even worse, these scenes feel like they come out of nowhere and don’t meche anywhere close to the first hour of the movie. The plot of this movie is contrived and nonsensical, and i have no desire to recommend this film to anyone. 90%? 90%? 90%? I respect others opinions, but how did a movie this amateur seem acceptable to so many people? This was easily one of the worst films i have seen in 2014, and if my words mean anything to you, you distance yourself from it like a plague