Sunday, June 30, 2013


Earlier this year when I saw the trailer for THE CALL I really thought the movie would unfortunately be the final nail in the coffin of Halle Berry's career. Turns out that THE CALL might be the best thing for the actresses career.

In this new golden age of television, movies are having a tough time especially for a film like THE CALL, it being a thriller and all. With shows like Dexter, C.S.I., and Hannibal how can movies like this compete? It's much like the western genre during the 50's and 60's. No studio wanted to make a cowboy movie when shows like Gunsmoke ruled prime time. I'm not going to get on a soap box about it but television is killing the movie industry. Maybe television and streaming content is the future? Everyday it seems that talent is moving more toward this medium. It'll be a sad day if going to the movies becomes a thing of the past.

So yeah, THE CALL is good. Really good until the end. The beginning of the film worried me at first but things just kept getting better and better. A few things annoyed me about the script with dialogue like this, “he's coming back up the stairs. He heard the phone when you called back”! You know, things characters don't need to say because we can clearly see them happening on screen. This stuff happens a few times but once the adrenaline kicks in it's barely noticeable.

Jordan (Halle Berry) a veteran 911 operator who takes a life altering call from a young woman who has been abducted, she realized that she must confront a killer from her past in order to save the girls life.

What makes THE CALL interesting is the taut directing of Brad Anderson(The Machinist). Great hand held camera work. There are a good chunk of scenes inside a trunk with abducted Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) and the viewer gets an excellent sense of claustrophobia. Anderson knows where to put the camera and how to come up with interesting camera angles. The editing had a nice flow that keeps the tension going. I plan to check out more from director Brad Anderson.

The abductor/killer was one of the creepiest characters I've seen in awhile. The performance was almost like a character study of a psychopath whose plan starts to crumble before his very eyes.

At about the half way point I was really loving this movie. It was exceeding my expectations. Then the ending came along and kinda ruined the movie for me. The film takes this extreme left turn that took me out of the movie.


So for the whole movie we have an entertaining thriller with the police trying to find the car that Casey is kidnapped in. The trail goes cold but the police and Jordan are so very close on finding her. Time is running out. Jordan gets a hunch and goes to look for where the killer and Casey might be. She goes by herself? Cut to (no pun intended) the killers lair and THE CALL suddenly turns into a Saw film? Okay fine, it's a thriller. So Jordan finds the lair and saves Casey. Where are the cops? Jordan is a 911 operator and not only that shes dating a police officer. A officer who was in hot pursuit of finding Casey mind you. So I ask again, why isn't Jordan calling the cops? Oh, because THE CALL turns into a revenge movie all of a sudden when the two women decide to tie the killer up and leave him for dead. Which is a stupid idea because I'm sure the police detectives are going to find his lair anyway, especially when you tell them he took off running in the very same area his lair is located?

Good movie with a terribly dumb ending!

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Another win for director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids)! THE HEAT is the second best comedy I've seen this year. The best being MOVIE 43. Just kidding. No, my favorite comedy of 2013 thus far is THIS IS THE END. I haven't reviewed that one because quite honestly reviewing comedies is difficult. Comedy is so subjective. Take the THE LOVE GURU for instance, some executive at Paramount Pictures had to think it was really funny or maybe they just hated Mike Myers? How's that fourth Austin Powers movie coming along?

I'm a huge fan of the buddy comedy. THE BLUES BROTHERS, TRADING PLACES, MIDNIGHT RUN, and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS are some of my favorite comedies of all time. Seeing that THE HEAT is a buddy-cop action comedy it would be a crime not to mention another favorite of mine, 48 HOURS.

In THE HEAT an FBI agent must go undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a group from bombing the event. Wait? What? No. That's not it. Sorry. Let me start over. In THE HEAT special agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) must team up with Boston police officer Shannon Mullins(Melissa McCarthy) in order to take down a ruthless drug lord. Neither has ever had a partner and prefer to work alone. Will they learn to work together or just kill each other in the process?

Nothing special about the story. FBI special agent Ashburn wants that promotion nabbing the drug lord will give her. Officer Mullins only wants to find the guys responsible for turning her brother into a drug dealer. In hilarious buddy-cop fashion both women find out they need each other more than they know or really want.

This review is going to be short. What's the point in me telling you all the funny parts? You won't go see the movie if I do that. More because of my poor explanation of comedic gold rather than just plain spoilers.

Melissa McCarthy is well on her way to mega stardom. Her comedic range in THE HEAT is impressive and with her expert improvisation she knows just how long to carry a joke and when to end one or go on to the next beat.

Sandra Bullock playing the uptight agent Sarah Ashburn complimented McCarthy's performance so well. It was so cute hearing Bullock using pseudo cuss words. And by the end of the film when her character was using the real F-word, it made the payoff all the more funnier. With this performance I really could not see another actress better suited for the role.

I highly recommend THE HEAT.


My immediate reaction after seeing WHITE HOUSE DOWN was not very good. I hated the movie. The tongue-in-cheek antics mixed with schmaltzy over the top patriotism for two straight hours got on my nerves fast. What saves this film however, is how it nails the Die Hard formula. Seriously, WHITE HOUSE DOWN is better than most Die Hard sequels. But ultimately this movie is not for me, it's too aware of how it is. WHITE HOUSE DOWN is definitely a Roland Emmerich movie. The other Die Hard knock off this year, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is more my speed.

There is nothing subtle in the direction or script (written by James Vanderbilt) when it comes to WHITE HOUSE DOWN. Big crazy action mixed with self righteous patriotism and stereotype right wing villains. Maybe the movie is actually brilliant in that regard seeing that most villains/terrorists in action movies are one dimensional foreign stereotypes. It's about time someone got it right. Good for you WHITE HOUSE DOWN, I applaud you in your courage.

Capitol policeman John Cale takes his young daughter to the White House for a tour while he interviews for a job to become part of the Secret Service. Seeing that his daughter Emily is very enthusiastic about politics John hopes that his new job will win back the respect he lost since the separation from his wife. With a resume that doesn't live up to the qualifications of a agent to the Secret Service, John doesn't get the job. In lieu of telling Emily the truth he side steps it to go on the tour and not ruin the entire day with his daughter.

President Sawyer is planning a glorious foreign policy publicity stunt by ending the war and pulling the U.S military out of the war zone. The war is over. This is awesome news for everyone except for “Republicans” that have business ties with weapons manufactures. How are these bastards going to make a living if there is no war? So the villains of WHITE HOUSE DOWN are not foreigners but are indeed some of America's distinguished gentlemen. At first I thought this was a clever take on the genre but this interesting idea never got above freshmen college politics.

In coup d'etat fashion the White House gets taken over by mercenaries and disgruntled secret service. The Die Hard formula kicks in when John gets separated from his daughter and in a stroke of luck saves President Sawyer. The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game with lots of action and suspense. Despite being more dumb than fun I give WHITE HOUSE DOWN a solid recommendation for action film buffs. I wanna note that action movie buffs should be able to tell that the filmmakers really cut the action down to a PG-13. Bloody mayhem never gets out of control and I think foul language gets the mute button in some particular sticky situations.

While WHITE HOUSE DOWN is indeed a better Die Hard movie than this years A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, Channing Tatum has a long way to go as an action movie star. He's no Bruce Willis that's for sure. I'll give him an A for effort with one scene that was straight homage to DIE HARD. In one scene a terrorist busts in and John Cale acts all scared and cries “please don't hurt me, I'm just a tourist”! Then in a bad ass moment shoots the terrorists dead to rights. It wasn't perfect like John McClane from DIE HARD would of done it, but it was a great homage.

The chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx is another saving grace to WHITE HOUSE DOWN. The bond that is created by John Cale and President Sawyer trying to make it out of the White House alive is genuine and one of the best cinematic duos of 2013.

I stand by my recommendation of WHITE HOUSE DOWN but in my honest opinion it is no where near as good as OYLMPUS HAS FALLEN. Check your politics at the door and go enjoy a big dumb action movie with WHITE HOUSE DOWN!

Sunday, June 23, 2013


V/H/S/2 is a found footage genre masterpiece. The film transcends found footage if you ask me. When you forget that you are watching the gimmick of the sub-genre then you know you've got something special. I've been horror movie lite in 2013 but so far THE ABC'S OF DEATH and V/H/S/2 are the two best horror films I've seen this year. I consider THE ABC'S OF DEATH one of the most important and interesting films the horror genre has seen in a long time. More on that in a future review.

In the fashion of horror anthology films the concept is the same but our wraparound (segment that ties the other stories together) is different. This time around a pair of private investigators are hired to find a missing student. Their leads take them to a house where they discover some televisions, monitors, laptops, and of course a VHS player. On the desktop of the laptop is a video of the missing student. While the head investigator searches the house for more clues the assistant watches the video. Right away things start to get creepy. The young man on the video starts talking about that you have to watch the videos in order. Something along those lines anyway? The assistant puts a video in the player and thus begins the terror.

The first video/segment is called “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” directed by Adam Wingard (YOU'RE NEXT). Herman gets an eye operation after a terrible accident. The procedure is new and experimental so a tiny camera is installed to record for further testing and research. Everything is recorded, no privacy allowed. Things start getting weird from the get go. That very same evening Herman starts to see strange and creepy things. Images of a young dead girl and the illusion of somebody under the covers laying in his bed.

The next morning the visions have stopped and Herman meets a young woman who he recognizes from the hospital. She tells him about a similar operation done to her ear and that now she can hear dead people. According to Clarissa it's best to just live with seeing “the people” and ignore them. They only bother you if you're freaked out by them. She's learned to tune out the voices and it seems to be working for her. After a very convincing distraction everything seems fine, but apparently Herman isn't that strong and his visions get worse.

“Phase 1 Clinical Trials” worried me about V/H/S/2. It fits the tone just fine but the segment felt very weak as a opener. Somewhere in the middle of an anthology movie would have better suited this short.

The next tape is a segment titled “A Ride In The Park”. This one directed by the guy that brought us THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. It starts off pretty cool with being shot on what appears to be a GoPro camera, the HD video is stunning. So is this student collecting these videos and importing the footage to VHS because he is a hipster? Not a nitpick, just a funny observation. The creep factor is still relevant despite the use of current digital technology. I get a FACES OF DEATH meets THE RING vibe with this new horror franchise.

In “A Ride In The Park” Jay ( I think that's his name) is riding some bike trails through the park. He loves to bike. With his new camera he is ready to get some good footage of his rides. His girlfriend calls him and scolds Jay for loving bike riding more than her. So it's one more ride before heading home when all of a sudden Jay is stopped by a woman screaming bloody murder in the forest. He stops to help only to get bitten on the neck by her. So now “A Ride In The Park” is a zombie movie. Good grief! It's not like we get enough of those nowadays! But wait. This is a POV zombie tale, and I don't think I've seen one of those yet so this could be interesting. It's what you would expect from a POV zombie short which is good and bad. The good. Interesting camera angles. The bad. The usual tropes of a zombie story.

I ended up loving this segment quite a bit. Toward the end I really liked the struggle that Jay was going though being a zombie and how his human characteristics were trying to stay alive. Now I haven't seen WARM BODDIES yet but I have a hunch that the end of “A Ride In The Park” has more impact than that movie.

What have the investigators been up to? After viewing the second tape Ayesha starts to become catatonic but compelled to continue watching the tapes.

The third tape “Safe Haven” directed by Gareth Evans (THE RAID) ended up being my favorite segment and one of the best things I've seen this year. “Safe Haven” follows a group of documentary filmmakers shooting a movie about the leader of a cult. The Indonesian Jim Jones as I like to call him. With video and spy cameras we are able to witness the inner workings of the cult. “Safe Haven” alone is worth the watch of V/H/S/2. I don't want to spoil all the fun so I apologize for sounding vague. Within the cult a ritual is upon us. Unsuspecting to the invited film crew, two of them are extremely welcome. Think ROSEMARY'S BABY meets CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST meets Italian horror. It gets so crazy! I was in shock and awe repeatedly. Things I haven't seen done before in a horror film or at least not done since the late seventies or early eighties. The types of things you'll never see in a mainstream multiplex Hollywood movie today. I loved it! Watching “Safe Haven” made me excited about horror again.

Before getting into the fourth and final tape the wraparound of V/H/S/2 concludes with the student on the laptop video killing himself in the very same house the investigators are watching the videos in. Long story short he's a zombie and he kills, oops sorry, turns them into zombies. The end. Creepy but not nearly as cool as the first films wraparound.

The fourth tape “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” was the funnest segment in the movie. Directed by Jason Eisner (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” follows a group of friends enjoying the summer and also pranking one of the friends older sister. One night the sister plans on throwing a party at the lake house while the parents are away. The little brother and his pals plan the ultimate prank. Mission accomplished, but it never takes much to embarrass your older sister. Her and her boyfriend plan a little payback and let me tell you it's the ultimate payback. Good thing for this kid that shortly thereafter alien's pay the lake house a visit because after what the sister and her boyfriend caught on tape that guy will have to transfer to a different school, out of town. It sounds silly typing it out but believe me this premise totally works. I got pretty nostalgic watching this segment. Back in the day around third or fourth grade I remember staying the night at a friends house. He lived in a big house and that night his older sisters pulled a prank on us that the house was haunted. I love stuff like that.

I really hope this is the beginning to a new horror franchise. The genre really needs something like V/H/S and V/H/S/2. Maybe these films can accomplish what GRINDHOUSE failed to do? I certainly hope so.


WORLD WAR Z  is too little too late.  Our culture is over saturated with zombies. They're everywhere nowadays it seems; video games, movies, books, and television.  What once was a sub-genre in horror beloved by cinephiles has now become low hanging fruit in our pop culture obsessed society.  Every once in awhile something fresh like ZOMBIELAND or THE WALKING DEAD comes along and keeps the sub-genre interesting, sadly WORLD WAR Z does not.

When a studio wants a movie dealing with the zombie apocalypse and makes it PG-13, then your movie has failed.  Who is the audience for a PG-13 zombie movie anyway?  Any 12 year old can turn on the television and watch THE WALKING DEAD or play the latest DEAD ISLAND video game and get a better zombie movie experience.  That being said, WORLD WAR Z is not a bad movie just not a very effective "zombie" one.

Brad Pitt plays Gerry a retired UN investigator who now spends most of his days making pancakes for his two young daughters. On a day just like any other day Mr. Mom is taking the kids to school or his wife to work, I must of missed where they were going? Gerry and his family get stuck in a traffic jam and it is around this time that the zombie apocalypse begins. Trying not to panic Gerry uses his former job skills to lead him and his family to safety. During which he is assessing the chaos going on trying to deduct just what is going on.

He witnesses mass hysteria and people turning into rabid savages. The first moment out of harms way he uses a cell phone and calls his old boss to find out what is happening. They formulate a plan of extraction to evacuate the city. The UN tell Gerry all that they know up to this point and how it is up to him to help find out if there could be a cure to this “zombie apocalypse”. With the promise of his families safety Gerry agrees to globe trot around the world in search of answers and ultimately a cure.

My favorite thing about WORLD WAR Z was that it ended up not being the prequel to 2007's I AM LEGEND. Just kidding. What I really did like was the chaos our main character was constantly thrown into with following the “breadcrumbs” of the zombie virus. The film took a few clever turns always keeping Gerry on his toes. This made for a consistently entertaining action thriller. Director Marc Forester makes up for the lack of blood and gore with strong scenes of tension. The tone of WORLD WAR Z is very R rated but with little to no blood and zero gore the movie has been resorted to something akin to a Roland Emmerich film.

Time to cut the zombies some slack. I really liked the hive mentality of the zombies and in lieu of an appetite for brains the bite and infect method worked for me in the confines of the film. And concerning the hoards of CGI zombies climbing up buildings and going over walls did in fact look terrible in all of the trailers but did not bother me all that much when seeing it in context.

WORLD WAR Z did not turn out to be the train wreak that I was expecting. Bland trailers and word that the film was just not coming together made me think WORLD WAR Z might be an awesomely so-bad-it's good movie rather than a boringly bad one. Producer and star Brad Pitt gathered the troops to try and save what was at one time a disaster of a movie. Rewrites and something like the last 40 minutes of the film redone. If the original footage ends up on the blu-ray it might make for a pretty fun bad movie night.

A decent action thriller I recommend to the summer movie crowd. If it's zombie horror you are expecting then steer clear.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


The new Superman movie MAN OF STEEL is good. Real good. I might even love the movie but there is still a lot that I am processing of what I just saw. The issue that's bothering me the most is that by the end of the movie I was getting mentally exhausted by the special effects. MAN OF STEEL is a brawler super hero film and I love that; however, I found myself getting very disconnected with the conflict between Superman and General Zod because of the amazing special effects. With everything happing so fast I found myself getting bored. It made me immediately start to think that the Metropolis fight scene in SUPERMAN II was a lot more interesting because less is more. Making it way more exciting because the film is relying more on performance rather than CGI.

The structure of MAN OF STEEL took some getting use to. First of all this is not the Donner-verse and there are zero traces of those films or SUPERMAN RETURNS. Some are already panning MAN OF STEEL from going away from archetype of the 1978 film. This new reinvention of Superman isn't going to be for everyone. Even I'm on the fence, but the comic book kid within me felt that MAN OF STEEL was a bad ass Superman story. The movie geek within felt that the action got a little tiresome with all the special effects. This side of me was also thinking that filmmaker Richard Donner is still correct 35 years later by stating Superman fighting/brawling some big alien/monster thing will get boring fast on the silver screen. Superman in a fight has zero conflict because he's Superman. In adapting a comic book movie some things should just be left in the comic books.

Okay so I got my nitpick about CGI fighting out of the way and the comic book kid and movie geek have both come to the conclusion that MAN OF STEEL rocks! Forget everything you know about the previous films and just enjoy the ride. Audiences were ready and willing for BATMAN BEGINS to wipe the slate clean for the cinematic tales of the Caped Crusader and the same should be said and expected for MAN OF STEEL.

MAN OF STEEL is heavy science fiction and filled with crazy super powers. The film opens on Krypton and immediately the pages of the comic book came to life. I was reminded of John Byrne's comic book mini series that reinvented the character of Superman in the mid to late 80's. I wish the movie spent a little more time on Krypton, very interesting stuff going on visually.

Jor-El and his wife Lara send their baby boy Kal-El to earth so that he may live. His alien craft lands in the Kent farm and is raised to adulthood by earth parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. This films reinvention plays up the idea of Clark Kent being a stranger in a strange land. He doesn't fit in, he's an alien, an outsider. The origin of this “Man of Steel” picks up with Clark in adulthood drifting from odd job to odd job and really soul searching. Through flashbacks we see his childhood and parental lessons that made him who he is today. With comic books, the 1978 film, and the television show SMALLVILLE it's very clear that the origin of Superman is well established in pop culture so it was nice how director Zack Snyder handled all the child and teenage years in his film. Lots of visual story and character development going on here instead of boring exposition that most people buying a ticket to MAN OF STEEL probably know anyway.

Reporter Lois Lane is developing a story about someone, a drifter out there exhibiting amazing feats of strength. She eventually tracks Clark down and instantly their friendship/romance begins. Hands down Amy Adams is the best big screen, heck even small screen iteration of the character. I loved the chemistry between the two. It was very convincing how much these two characters need each other.

Clark finds his 'fortress of solitude' and meets his biological father Jor-El. The next to final piece of Clark's/Kal-El's destiny is complete. The ending of the film is where he truly becomes Superman. At least that's what I got out of the ending. Very similar to BATMAN BEGINS but different cinematic universe. The new films take on Superman was an interesting departure to the well known American boy scout attitude that is mostly associated with the character. I liked how the filmmakers focused on him being a very introverted character and alone. They nailed how normal people would react to a “freak” with abilities like Clark has. Henry Cavill is a great Superman. While Brandon Routh was channeling Christopher Reeve in SUPERMAN RETURNS I felt that Cavill was bringing a Tom Welling from SAMALLVILLE vibe. Could be a coicidence but maybe this was intentional on the producers part, you know to reel in the younger crowd? Who knows?

It is around this time that Zod and the rest of the Phantom Zone criminals track down Kal-El and announces to the fine people of Earth that Kal-El is a traitor and if they do not hand him over/he surrenders to Zod, then Earth will perish. Micheal Shannon is one of the greatest working actors of today. His intensity he brings to every role he's done is absolutely amazing. His General Zod is perfectly convincing. You know he's gone mad with his plans for coup d'etat, but you also feel sorry for him a little bit because he's just doing his duty, doing what he was engineered to do and that is the preservation of his people. Micheal Shannon totally sells it.

What happens next is awesome; but yet, the films greatest weakness is the endless fighting. It's amazing visuals. Zack Snyder succeeded in making a Superman brawler film. Except toward the end some of the action was getting boring because the emotional connection was getting lost in the CGI. Just like it did in Snyder's last film SUCKER PUNCH. I shouldn't complain because for years I've wanted a Superman film of this scale. We're talking Godzilla magnitudes of destruction and while it is overkill in parts, the sum is comic book movie gold. These scenes would have benefited better if they had added some scenes of Superman saving some civilians here and there. Because when you think about it millions of innocent people in Metropolis just died and I think we only see him save Lois a few times. In the sequel it'd be nice if this is why and how they set up the rivalry between Superman and Lex Luther. Lex convinces Metropolis and the world that Superman is not the symbol of hope that he claims to be but a villain instead.

Now onto the ending of the film which is becoming very divided among fans. Should Superman have killed Zod? Yes. Zod was a mad dog that needed to be put down and to be honest he put himself in a position where Superman had no choice but to kill him. Superman does not kill. Maybe it was a mistake not to have Zod sent back into the Phantom Zone? It's clear that Superman did not want to kill Zod but had to. But maybe the filmmakers have now painted themselves in a corner with future baddie s such as Brainiac or Darkseid. All of whom are more threating than Zod. So now is it justified that he kills them as well? Sorry for the flip flopping, bottom line is Superman should not kill.

I think I've said enough. Go see MAN OF STEEL, the more I think about it the higher I want to recommend it. With The Dark Knight trilogy and now a new Superman movie Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder are making movies that have potential to stand the test of time. As much as I love MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS in time I just think the movie will seem dated when compared to the Nolan Batman movies and now MAN OF STEEL.