Archive for April, 2011

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Scream 4 (2011)

April 25, 2011


Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Alison Brie
Director: Wes Craven (A Nightmare On Elm Street, the Scream franchise, New Nightmare)

Quick Thoughts: After a refreshing, original film that changed the landscape of slasher films in the mid-90s the Scream franchise retired in quiet fashion after 2000’s disappointing Scream 3. 11 years later, it’s a new decade and slasher films have taken on a new trend of torture horror led by Eli Roth and the Saw franchise giving the Scream creators something new to talk about. Along with fresh material to reference, the advances in technology in the past decade are utilized heavily in the new film, with the killer taking things to the next level by filming the murders.

For a series that was legitimately intense and chilling when it first started, it doesn’t take long for Scream 4 to establish its tongue-in-cheek tone with back-to-back false openings. By the time you get to the real opening, you half expect the writers to pull the rug out from under you again and this feeling never left me throughout the film, which ultimately made it a lot less scary than it could have been.

Scream has always been noteworthy for its characters’ clever banter about horror films and that trait is still in tact. From Kristen Bell and Anna Paquing talking Saw at the beginning or Sidney Prescott’s cousin Jill and her friends discussing movies, there are enough references to the genre to make any horror fanatic happy.

Ultimately, despite a new decade of movies to reference, technological advances, and ten years of time off to come up with fresh material, Scream 4 feels like more of the same. You can systematically eliminate potential killers: the more likely someone is to be a suspect, the easier it is to cross them off the list. For instance, Jill’s ex-boyfriend, Trevor, is only on screen to point fingers at. There’s never any character development for him outside of being a potential suspect. The characters of Dewey and Sidney are mostly tired. For someone that has been the target of three mass murder sprees, Sidney Prescott seems ridiculously unprepared. Survivor or not, at some point, you’d think it’d be smart to carry a gun at all times. Like all Scream films, there’s a surprise ending where the killer is revealed and this film is no different. I saw a glimmer of hope that the writers were going to grow some balls and go a different, more interesting, risk-taking route, but once again, I found myself slightly disappointed, like I was with most of the movie.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I think the film’s faults will be more forgivable over multiple viewings. I’m guessing once you get past the initial disappointment, Scream 4 is a pretty decent slasher flick.
Sequel Potential: Rumors of a 5th and 6th installment are already out there.
Oscar Potential: None
Nudity: Never in a Scream unfortunately.
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth A Watch/Recommended)
Recommendation: I was expecting director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson to bring their A-games and we didn’t get that, so I wound up being mostly disappointed. Still, the acting and dialogue in this movie are quality and Scream 4 is still a fun watch even if it’s not really bringing much new to the table. Fans of the previous films, or the genre in general, should definitely check it out.

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I Love You Phillip Morris (2010)

April 21, 2011


Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Quick Thoughts: I really had no idea what to expect from this movie. The title led me to believe it might be about the cigarette industry, but it has absolutely nothing to do with that. Rather, Jim Carrey stars as Steven Russell, a seemingly regular family man who makes some drastic life changes after he suffers a brutal car accident. He admits to his wife that he’s actually homosexual and begins a career as con man that eventually finds him locked up in prison, where he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and they have a soul mate connection. Apparently, this is actually a true story based on real people and that fact makes it really hard to swallow because it’s ultimately a tragedy… yet it’s presented as a comedy. There was a moment during the second act of this film where I seriously considered turning it off. Russell’s first stint in prison when he befriends Phillip is excruciating to watch. I’m no homophobe–I thoroughly enjoyed Brokeback Mountain and Milk–but the focus on these characters’ sexuality is over-the-top and, at times, gratuitous, to the point where it feels like it’s being rubbed in your face rather than eloquently portrayed. Fortunately, the story picks up when Steven and Phillip are released into society and the character of Steven Russell becomes quite fascinating; his ability to manipulate borders on genius levels and his repeated escapes from prison later in the film are wildly creative and successful… and often funny. Even so, I can’t help but wonder what the real Steven Russell is like; as smart as his cons are, Jim Carrey mostly plays him as a fool… and maybe he is. After all, he is spending the rest of his life in a maximum security prison.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Barely made it through the first viewing.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: None
Nudity: I can’t remember… but there were plenty of uncomfortable scenes.
Grade: 4/10 (Rental)
Recommendation: I struggled through this movie, for sure, but it wound up being watchable. Steven Russell’s story is intriguing, but the execution here left a lot to be desired. No need to go out of your way to see it.

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127 Hours (2010)

April 12, 2011


Starring: James Franco
Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting)

Quick Thoughts: Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is a gripping, claustrophobic film. James Franco plays Aron Ralston, a perpetual outdoorsman that must fight for his survival after his arm gets trapped under a rock while hiking through the mountains and canyons of Utah. It’s a compelling story, as Ralston slowly realizes the severity of his situation: it takes at least 24 hours for the boulder on Ralston’s arm to transform from major inconvenience to a seriously life-threatening object. No sir, that rock’s not going anywhere. 127 Hours makes you squirm in ways that would make a horror auteur jealous; it’s genuinely scary. Take a step outside the film and realize this is something that actually happened to someone and then put yourself in his shoes… it will send shivers down your spine. Due to the nature of the situation, the scope of the film is pretty limited, but Boyle and Co. more than make up for this in the first twenty minutes, most of which features stunning cinematography of the beautiful landscape this crisis takes place in. Franco is great in this movie and well deserving of his Oscar nomination, displaying a wide range of character that goes from cocky to scared to outright delusional. 127 Hours is a haunting, true tale of survival that is thrilling throughout its duration despite the fact that the majority of the story unfolds in a very small space.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Doesn’t strike me as something I’d want to watch repeatedly, but I’d strongly consider buying it.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Six nominations: Best Actor (Franco), Best Director (Boyle), Best Original Song, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Picture. No wins.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)
Recommendation: 127 Hours is a great story with a fast pace and clocks in at just over 90 minutes, making for a quick watch. I’ve heard complaints about the hallucinations (Scooby Dooby Doo… where are you?)–people calling them silly–but I suggest going five days without food or water… or mobility… and seeing how your brain holds up. Personally, I thought this movie was great, but if you didn’t like Into The Wild or Slumdog Millionaire, you suck… and you should probably skip this.

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Love & Other Drugs (2010)

April 4, 2011


Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt
Director: Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, Glory)

Quick Thoughts: Love & Other Drugs has the feel of a chick flick, but has enough screen time of Anne Hathaway’s breasts to make any reluctant male companion a happy camper. Also, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jamie Randall is an easy guy for us to root for: successful at his job, funny, extremely adept at attracting women, and emotionally unavailable. Until he meets Hathaway’s Maggie Murdock, a woman that is basically the female version of himself. They say opposites attract, but in this case, two similar people find something in each other that has been absent from every other relationship they’ve ever had: love. Gyllenhaal is slightly underrated as actor–probably because he’s starred in some substandard action fare (see: The Prince Of Persia)–and he continues to charm here. Anne Hathaway is on my radar as a serious up-and-coming actress. She’s been displaying Oscar talent since her turn in Rachel Getting Married and I can’t wait to see what she does with Selina Kyle (Catwoman) in the next Batman movie. Her performance in Love & Other Drugs as the free-spirited, but unavailable Maggie Murdock, a woman experiencing the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, is yet another strong performance in her young career. Love & Other Drugs isn’t The Notebook, but it’s an above average romantic dramedy with enough charm, humor and gratuitous female nudity to leave both males and females satisfied.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I wouldn’t buy it, but I’d watch it again some day.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: YES! Anne Hathaway @ The Oscars: “Whatever happened to the good ‘ole days? It used to be you get naked, you get nominated.”
Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)
Recommendation: A solid romantic comedy with good performances from its leads and Anne Hathaway’s boobs. Repeatedly. I mean, come on!

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Sucker Punch (2011)

April 3, 2011


Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung
Director: Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300, Dawn Of The Dead)

Quick Thoughts: Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch follows in the visual footsteps of his previous films 300 and Watchmen, but fails to capture the endearing qualities of either of those films. The action sequences pale in comparison to those of 300 and the story lacks the substance and depth of the script in Watchmen. I didn’t walk away from Sucker Punch thinking I just saw a terrible film, it’s just extremely underwhelming. The story isn’t interesting, the characters are mostly bland, and the acting is mediocre at best. I like Jena Malone in general, but no one else really brought anything special to the table and lead actress Emily Browning as Baby Doll was particularly lifeless. If I’m supposed to find her performance sexually appealing or empowering, mission failed. Sucker Punch started out promising enough but I was over it within the first thirty minutes and ready to move on to other things. Even with mild expectations, I found this movie to be a pretty big disappointment. As a huge Superman fan, I’m definitely scared of what Snyder is going to do to that franchise.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: 2-3 viewings.
Sequel Potential: It’s tough to see where the story goes from here, but if it does well in the box office, a sequel is probably likely…
Oscar Potential: Maybe a visual effects nod, but probably not.
Nudity: Rated PG-13… by far the worst aspect of the film. Five hot chicks starring and no nudity? Do these people not know how to make money?
Grade: 4/10 (Netflix It)
Recommendation: Sucker Punch is a high octane action film that relies heavily on impressive visuals and it practically bored me to death. I say skip it.