Monday, April 30, 2012
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Film: The Raven
Starring: John Cusack (Hot Tub Time Machine) and Brendan Gleeson (The Guard)
Director: James McTeigue (V for Vendetta)
U.S. Release: April 27th, 2012 (Rated R)
Runtime: 103 minutes
In 2006 director James McTeigue burst onto the scene with his mega hit V for Vendetta. Based on a graphic novel written by Alan Moore, the political overthrow film dazzled audiences and grossed north of 70 million dollars. McTeigue then defined the phrase "sophomore slump" with his 2009 follow up feature, Ninja Assassin. Facing a slight make or break moment in his career, the director tackles the tales of famed author Edgar Allan Poe with his third major motion picture release, The Raven.
The Raven examines the latter years of the life of infamous author Edgar Allan Poe (played by Cusack). Poe, a now forgotten and penniless writer living in Baltimore, finds himself in the most unsettling situation when a brutal killer emerges and uses his stories as a source of inspiration. While aiding police authorities in their investigation, Poe gets lured even further into this mess once his bride-to-be is kidnapped by the mysterious murderer. Racing against time, Poe and company must find this sadistic killer and save his one true love.
The Raven is a flawed, yet interesting, journey into the world of Edgar Allan Poe during the 1840s. Director James McTeigue does a stellar job of transforming a well written mystery story into a big screen motion picture. Successfully drawing the audience into the dark and twisted aura of Poe, McTeigue delivers on the macabre and gore. The film offers a fitting tone as a backdrop to the mayhem and gruesome violence that occasionally transpires on the screen. Furthermore, compliments are in order for the picture's scribes, Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare, who conjure up a well thought out and perfectly calculated mystery. Without the solid story serving as a formidable backbone to the film, The Raven would have otherwise failed miserably.
On the other hand, there are problems galore with the feature. Mostly due to its uninspired cast, The Raven never feels authentic to its time period. John Cusack, although not unbearable, feels all too miscast for his role as Poe. Much like Cusack, Luke Evans offers no redeeming qualities as Poe's sidekick and police detective. With the massive amounts of screen time given to these two actors, The Raven needs far more convincing performances in order to succeed. In addition to its cast, I was also displeased by the film's final scene. Nothing is more troubling than a thoughtless resolution, and we certainly get one here. I understand the director's and writer's intent, however, I find the movie's final moment to be a bit forced and unnecessary.
When all is said and done James McTeigue's The Raven is a polarizing, run of the mill feature. It's mediocre to a disappointment, but the film contains a small core audience that it's sure to thrill. If you're a huge fan of mysteries such as Sherlock Holmes, then The Raven will definitely be a likable watch. Otherwise, I recommend waiting for DVD, at the earliest, to catch The Raven.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Sunday, April 22, 2012
For starters, let me preface this post with an apology. Over the course of the past month or so, I haven't been able to critique as many films as I'd normally like to. April has been in a bit of a lull, as it usually is, and the pickings have been mightily slim. In what has annually turned into "the calm before the storm", we all have had to do our best to be patient and wait for the onslaught of Summer blockbusters. With May only a stone's throw away, I wanted to prepare everyone for what's ahead in the upcoming months.
The Avengers - May 4th
We've all dreamed of a world that unites Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk and more. In just 2 short weeks, we'll get it. From the imaginative mind of Joss Whedon comes 2012's first major Summer blockbuster, The Avengers.
Men in Black III - May 25th
For all of you sentimentalists out there, the end of May will be highlighted by the third (and most likely not the last) installment of the Men in Black series. With a plot summary that will send its star Will Smith back in time to find a youthful version of Agent K (played by Josh Brolin), we can all expect a nostalgic good time with Men in Black III.
Also coming in May: Dark Shadows (May 11th), The Dictator (May 16th), Battleship (May 18th) and What to Expect When You're Expecting (May 18th).
Snow White and the Huntsman - June 1st
Forget all about that sugar-coated Julia Roberts movie currently in theatres, I want some Charlize Theron and a dark twist on the story of Snow White. Theron, along with Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth, will attempt to open our minds to a more sinister version of the Disney fairy tale. Once June arrives, sign me up for Snow White and the Huntsman.
Prometheus - June 8th
I guess we can call June the month of Charlize as she'll open her 2nd major blockbuster, Prometheus, one week later. With this sci-fi adventure, Ridley Scott returns to his Alien roots and tackles what some are speculating to be a prequel to the franchise. There's a lot of mystery revolving around Prometheus, which gives us all the more reason to catch the movie once it hits theatres on June 8th.
Also coming in June: Madagascar 3 (June 8th), Rock of Ages (June 15th), That's my Boy (June 15th), and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22nd)
The Amazing Spider Man - July 3rd
Despite Hollywood beating the Spider Man character to death, I'm somewhat intrigued by this franchise reboot. Starring rising celebrities such as Andrew Garfield (The Social Newtork) and Emma Stone (The Help), there's a massive amount of hype circling around The Amazing Spider Man.
The Dark Knight Rises - July 20th
I don't care if it's your sister's wedding, July 20th should be off limits. Reserve that special day for the most talked about theatrical release in the history of cinema, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. With his third installment putting on all the finishing touches to the trilogy, there's no Summer blockbuster with as much hype as this one.
Also coming in July: Savages (July 6th), Ted (July 13th), and Neighborhood Watch (July 27th)
The Odd Life of Timothy Green - August 15th
Disney will once again hope to dazzle audiences with it's mid-August release, The Odd Life of Timothy Green. The film centers around a childless couple, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior) and Jennifer Garner (Juno), who bury a box in their yard containing all of their wishes for an infant son. And when a son is born, Timothy Green isn't all that he appears. Disney requests that you save all of your tissues until August.
The Campaign - August 10th
What comedy duo could perk up those ears more than Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis? Fresh off of a deviant sex scandal, Will Ferrell plays an incumbent politician trying to hold off his campaign opponent played by Galifianakis. There's potential galore here and we'll just have to cross our fingers until August and hope The Campaign is as good as it sounds.
Also coming in August: The Bourne Legacy (August 3rd), Total Recall (August 3rd), Premium Rush (August 24th), and Lawless (August 31st)
Friday, April 20, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Film: The Cabin in the Woods
Starring: Kristen Connolly and Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
Director: Drew Goddard
U.S. Release: April 13th, 2012 (Rated R)
Runtime: 95 minutes
As a huge fan of the horror genre, Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods has been one of my most anticipated films of the year. As the scribe of Cloverfield and a longtime writer for the hit television show Lost, Goddard's resume speaks for itself. Therefore, I couldn't think of anything more uniquely creative than the idea of Goddard tackling my most beloved genre, horror. And without a moment's hesitation, I ventured out on its opening day and experienced, first hand, the story behind The Cabin in the Woods.
Cliche for a reason, the film follows five friends on a remote trip to an uncle's cabin located far off of the grid. You've seen the commercials, listened to the taglines, and you wouldn't bat an eye. You'd probably even ask yourself "what's so original" about The Cabin in the Woods. And to a degree, you'd be absolutely correct.
Every now and again I come across a rare movie that I struggle to review. The Cabin in the Woods is a prototypical example of such movies. For starters, there's only a handful (or two) of friends to whom I'd actually recommend this picture. The Cabin in the Woods is far too strange and outlandish for the masses to enjoy. However, in throwing my opinion out there, I can truthfully say that I appreciated the film. The Cabin in the Woods serves as a cleverly constructed mockery of its own genre. Purposely addressing every overused nuance of horror movies and slasher films, the feature prides itself on its embellished shell. Generic to a perfection (just look at the title), the movie uses this form of simplicity as a game to transform itself into a shockingly original piece of work. Without giving away too much of the plot, The Cabin in the Woods is a smart, well written twist of ideas.
Although there's a crafty core at the center of The Cabin in the Woods, the picture is not suitable for all types of audiences. Most moviegoers will find the feature to be erratic, nonsensical, and lacking in scares, all of which I can agree with. Almost to a fault, the film uses the duo of Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers) and Bradley Whitford (Billy Madison) to inject an overabundance of laughs. Unless you can appreciate the film's sarcastic intentions, this overuse of humor will feel unnecessary. Furthermore, when seeing the movie, it's imperative not to expect a full fledged horror flick. The Cabin in the Woods attempts to detach itself from the genre almost immediately but, after trying to sell the audience on its ideas, it eventually comes full circle.
The Cabin in the Woods is a surprisingly original journey into the heart of the schematic horror formula. It's a movie created for lovers of all horror films, no matter how good or bad. If you want some cheap scares or something far more meaningful, don't waste your time with this one. Unless you're interested in simultaneously witnessing a slap in the face and a big thank you to its genre, I'd stay away from The Cabin in the Woods. Otherwise, please enjoy.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Film: Bully (2012)
Starring: Alex Libby, Kelby Johnson, and Ja'Meya Jackson
Director: Lee Hirsch
U.S. Release: March 30th, 2012 (Limited Release - Rated PG-13)
Runtime: 94 minutes
With all of the hoopla and controversy surrounding the release of Bully and the MPAA's refusal to lower the documentary's rating from R to PG-13, I had to see the film first hand. After countless public outcries by film mogul Harvey Weinstein complaining that the movie would never be seen by its most intended audience, it was less than a week ago that director Lee Hirsch and the MPAA finally reached an agreement. Forced to remove three expletives from the original cut of the film, Hirsch made the necessary changes and Bully ultimately received the PG-13 rating it desired. Now, Harvey Weinstein (a businessman first and activist second) can rest easy.
Bully focuses on 5 central stories of recent torment, all of which are performed by middle school and high school students throughout the United States. Attempting to bring the severity of bullying to the forefront, the documentary examines the lives of current victims and, even in two accounts, the family's of suicide victims. Hoping to spark some sort of change in the methods used by parents to raise their children and schools to monitor their students, the film journeys deep into this problematic issue.
Where do I begin? Bully serves as a much needed perspective into the lives of our nation's youth. Throughout the film, the audience forms a bond with bullied adolescents such as Alex Libby (a unique boy who barely survived his massively premature birth), Kelby Johnson (a 16 year old openly gay female teenager in Oklahoma), and Ja'Meya Jackson (a verbally abused student arrested for her extreme actions to end the torment). Opening our eyes to the cruel and harsh reality that is every day life for countless youth all across the country, Bully is an appropriate public platform to address the topic. Director Lee Hirsch, who claims to have been a victim of similar circumstances himself as a child, does an admirable job of confronting the issue with dignity and class. His efforts clearly deserve to be recognized and commended.
On the other hand, Bully fails to ever look to the future. Primarily spending its entirety focusing on the unfathomable stories of the previously mentioned trio of victims as well as two families coping with the suicides of their sons, the film never tries to conjure up any sort of solution to the problem. Other than presenting the viewer with the obvious flaws in our school systems and most districts' lack of attention to the issue, Bully ignores any other suggestions for resolution. The audience is successfully made aware of this delicate, yet deliberate, dilemma, however, the documentary seems to believe that knowledge of the problem is all that needs to be done in order to change this unruly behavior. I, on the contrary, disagree and would have preferred it if Bully expanded its purpose and provided some insight into other ways to correct this ordeal.
Lee Hirsch does an honorable job of tugging at the audience's heartstrings and presenting a clearer picture into the world of the abused. Perhaps screening the documentary to middle and high school students around the country will help prevent bullying. As seen by the heartbreaking stories of 17 year old Tyler Long and 11 year old Ty Smalley, both of whom took their own lives as a result of the chronic harassment, Bully has the ability to change people. But as compassionate as humans can be, sometimes nothing is more difficult for a child to overcome than peer pressure. And until our country can conjure up a better solution to help put an end to bullying, this problem may never go away ... no matter how much we know about it.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Friday, April 6, 2012
To show some Easter pride I posted a festive movie list on Geekscape. My list comprises of the top 5 rabbits featured in movies. You can read the list (and a few honorable mentions as well) by clicking the link below. Happy Easter!
Monday, April 2, 2012
In last month's poll asking "Which trilogy is your favorite", it was no surprise to see The Godfather trilogy taking home the victory. I refused to include any movie franchises that added films on later, for example Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Therefore, there wasn't much competition for The Godfather which claimed 46% of votes. Slightly shocking was the runner up, Back to the Future (30%), which beat out other trilogies such as The Lord of the Rings, the Bourne movies, and The Matrix (which each claimed 7% of the votes).
Be sure to vote on April's poll which spotlights Adam Sandler, fresh off of his 10 Razzie victories for 2011's vomit inducing blockbuster Jack and Jill. The poll question (which is located in the top right corner of the blog) asks, "What is Adam Sandler's best film to date?"