Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Shutter (Thai original) Review

Check out my updated review!

Disclaimer: Contains spoiler!

Plot Summary: A photographer and his girlfriend accidentally run a woman over and flee the scene. Now they are being haunted by a ghost...cue scary shit!

Review: First, I must say that when ghostface calls me asking, "What's your favorite scary movie?" I reply, "Shutter!" I love this movie! Forget any kind of culture barrier, this movie is true horror at its finest with the most effective scare scenes I've ever watched. There are some cheap jump scares, but most play off genuine fright, and the scares are aplenty. The scares also progressively increase in intensity as the movie builds toward a nightmarish climax. Multiple scenes here would make it into a top ten scariest moments list if I should ever create that; the scares are just that successful. I can't tell how good the acting is with subtitles, but all the actors are excellent from my perspective. Of the three main characters, I must give the most credit to the ghost, Natre, played magnificently by Achita Sikamana. In flashbacks, she pulls off a creepy, clingy, emotionally unstable weirdo, but as a ghost she seems to truly relish the role. The makeup effects on Natre are astounding and truly should have won some kind of award. She has often haunted my thoughts, but I still feel bad for her character as we see a ghost that truly deserves her revenge. At the same time this is an impressive feat creating an antagonist that we both fear and sympathize with. The focus of Natre's attention is Tun and Jane: Tun is a douchebag photographer and Jane is his arm candy I guess; I was never clear if Jane was more than a girlfriend or not. At first you kind of feel bad for them, but as the movie progresses you get a feel for what is really going on and can't wait for Tun to get his just desserts. From beginning to end, "Shutter" sucked me in and had me looking over my shoulder the whole movie. This is what happens when you know nothing about a film, have no expectations, and decide to give it a go alone, in the dark, at night! Great pacing, solid storytelling, impressive visual effects, creative scares, and an all around perfect horror movie. I really can't praise this film enough, but I don't want to say too much because this is a situation where it is better that you watch it yourself. This is that rare time when the hype surrounding a film is truly warranted. If you watch any foreign movie in your life, make it "Shutter." You certainly won't regret it! Screw that, if you watch ANY horror movie in your life, this should be the one. Oh and NEVER bother with that embarrassing Hollywood remake!

Notable Moment: There are a lot of elaborate scares but the scene with Natre at the end of the bed had me sleeping with the lights on.

Final Rating: 10/10

Ted Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Little boy wishes for his teddy bear to come to life and the unexpected life consequences of such a wish being granted.

Review: I really wanted to like "Ted" since it is an amusing premise, and I am fan of Seth MacFarlane, but the jokes just weren't that funny. For the most part, it is standard fare to a veteran of Family Guy. The times I found myself laughing a little were when there was a subtle joke in passing rather than one of the many elaborate setups like when Ted is trying to brush off a stalker lurking in the parking lot. I would say my most general complaint is wasted opportunity. The John character (played by Mark Wahlberg) is stupid and could have been more interesting considering he grew up with a living teddy bear. Ted himself is the origin of most the jokes and those are either hit or miss; mostly he is just a doll version of Peter Griffin. Lori, John's girlfriend (played by Mila Kunis) is equally wasted as she seems to be completely unimpressed by the fact that she is dating a guy whose best friend is a living teddy bear. There are other semi-famous actors and cameos that get wasted like Joel McHale as Lori's boss who doesn't really serve a purpose except to keep the plot moving from one setpiece to the next. All of this doesn't mean the movie was bad per se, but this was just an overall disappointment from start to finish. I think I rated it even lower than I would have had my expectations not been so high, but I really thought they would make better use of the material and use more creativity with such an over the top premise like this. If you like Family Guy or Seth MacFarlane I'd say give this one a view to see if it's on par to what you'd expect. Maybe others will find this more funny than I, but the gags just couldn't do it for me. This is an easy pass for casual fans.

Notable Moment: When John and Ted meet Sam Jones aka Flash Gordon and get high. The party scene in general in which this happens is the only real highlight of the movie.

Final Rating: 5/10

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Ring (American remake) Review

Check out my updated review!

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A reporter stumbles upon a cursed VHS tape that will kill the viewer seven days after watching it.

Review: Too bad everyone knows the plot by now, but when I saw this thing in the cinema, and had no clue what it was even about, I was blown away! My memory of watching this film, spur of the moment one night, with some of my good friends after hearing about how scary it was really makes me nostalgic. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. This movie is SCARY! The film starts off with two girls setting up the plot, during a sleepover, about how if you watch some tape you will receive a phone call telling you that you have seven days to live; on the seventh day you die. We then see creepy happenings as the first girl bites the big one. Apparently this girl was the babysitter/cousin of Rachel (Naomi Watts who is looking quite sexy here) and her son, Aiden. Rachel, with her reporter instincts, hears about the way the girl died and decides to investigate the urban legend surrounding the tape after she discovers others involved died similarly. Rachel of course tracks down the tape, watches it, and is now going to die in seven days. From here the film takes a more mystery-like approach as Rachel and her ex-boyfriend(?), Noah, try to find out where the tape came from since Aiden watched the tape like an idiot. Along the way we get plenty of scares as we uncover that everything traces back to a little girl named Samara who, in life, possessed strange psychic powers. In death, her ghost is still wreaking havoc. The movie's climax is great as we have a scene with Rachel trapped in a well with Samara's dead body. At this point we learn the well is "the ring" and that Samara lived for seven days before dying in said well. At first we think the film is wrapped up in a nice package until we learn Samara was a raving bitch and wants to keep killing people! I must say, the twists and turns were excellent, and I found this version superior to the Japanese one. Samara looks so much more frightening compared to her Japanese counterpart Sadako. The makeup effects were so incredibly disturbing on Samara and were a much needed welcome to just an angry look from Sadako. At the same time, I felt the pacing and scares were tighter than the original as well. I'm sure many horror fans are screaming "blasphemy" at my words, but whatever. There's really nothing I didn't like about this movie except that it has already become semi-dated with VHS now obsolete. But who cares! This is a must-see for all and not just horror fans.

Notable Moment: When Samara comes out of the TV of course! This scene has scared me for life. It looks awesome and really caught me off guard on my first viewing.

Final Rating: 9.5/10

Black Swan Review

Dislcaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A sheltered ballerina is given the lead role in Swan Lake where she must unleash her dark side...which leads to her going bat-shit crazy.

Review: At first glance this movie appears as a possible horror/supsense wherein one of the opening scenes we see the main character, Nina's (played by Natalie Portman), doppelganger casually walking by. But this is to give us the indication that our lead is already a bit deranged as we see the plot unfold into a complex psychogical thriller. Nina has won the lead role in Swan Lake where she is feeling pressure to make use of her chance for fame. Her instructor is pressuring her to unleash her dark side as the Black Swan, Nina's creepy mom is tightening her grip of control, and Nina's inner sexuality is possibly being awakened by a new ballerina named Lily (played by Mila Kunis). All the performances are great with obvious attention to Natalie Portman; this really was an award worthy performance especially considering the contrast of her phoning it in with "Star Wars." There is some bizarre imagery strewn all about the film giving subtle clues to what may or may not be occuring. The audience is often left in the dark to what is real and what is not as if we are getting inside the twisted mind of Nina. All of this comes to a climactic crescendo of insanity as the viewer is left to wonder what it is they just witnessed. At the end of the day, this is a film all about the visuals and each person can have their own view on what happened. There is definitely a lot of room for interpretation as many scenes could have multiple meanings. This film is also one of those that you need to see twice or more to properly appreciate all the little clues going on. There are some weak points though, and I can see how the hype around this movie may turn some off as the exact genre of this film is often misinterpreted. The best advice I can offer is that this is a great movie with an interesting character study, but do not expect to be horrified or think of this as a scary movie by any means.

Notable Moment: Toward the end when Nina goes back to her dressing room to check on the dead body of Lily only to realize it was never there. The music amps up and we see the final spiral into madness.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The brats are back in Narnia this time with an annoying male cousin who sounds like an old woman.

Review: I must stress that I have not read the books nor am I fan of this franchise; I do like fantasy movies however. In this third adventure, only two of the kids are brought to Narnia to help Caspian (from part 2) to deal with some phantom evil. Right from the beginning we are given an extremely questionable plotline as we are told that there is an island that seems to be the origin of evil and only returning seven magic swords will stop the evil. That may sound fine and dandy until you realize that the swords were given away by Aslan (god) to the human lords of Narnia willingly...thus this created the evil to begin with? Say what? So the kids have to run around trying to fight monsters and danger to repair something that never needed to happen to begin with while getting no help from the person that started it who is allegedly good and all-knowing?! Other than the whole plot being pointless, there are some good scenes and the overall adventure is fun while you actually feel some depth from the brats for once. The acting is good, the action and pacing is better than the other films for the most part, and the effects were decent enough. I would have rated this movie much higher if not for the plot problems, but if you can get over the paradoxical quest the kids go on or a fan of this franchise, you will more than likely enjoy this one even more.

Notable Moment: When the Eustace character is first bonding with Reepicheep and learning to fight is kind of touching.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Troll 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Weird family decides to go on vacation in a town called Nilbog (goblin spelled backward!) and zany antics ensue.

Review: Like "The Room," "Troll 2" is in the category of "so bad it's good." First, it has absolutely nothing to do with the original "Troll" which is another awful movie. Ironically, I much prefer the sheer, hilarious stupidity of this sequel than the (somewhat) serious attempt of "Troll." Right from the moment this film opens, you see terrible acting, laughable storytelling, and an asinine plot that makes no conceivable sense. For some reason goblins are vegetarians and want to turn humans into plants and then eat them? I really don't know. From that great starting point we are introduced to one bizarre character after another. Apparently the shopkeep character was even a mental patient on release for the shoot (that actually would explain quite a bit)!  The actors are shoddy at best or downright laughable at worst. Each scene is one nonsensical setup after another which I love, but it's the weird presentation and almost dream-like stupidity that creates such a wonderful environment of comedy. For example: one scene with the goblin queen (or whatever the hell she is) coming on to some guy, making a RV fill with popcorn, and then leaving. What the fuck was the point to that?! At the end, the way the family finally stops the goblins is by reaching into a magic backpack, given to the main kid by the ghost of his grandpa that only he can see, and pulling out "a doubledecker bologna sandwich!" Now if that isn't the greatest twist in movie history, I don't know what is. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, sucks here, but it is that perfect degree of idiocy that makes it legendary. Few words can describe all the nonsense that goes on here so just watch this movie!

Notable Moment: The now infamous scene where a pointless throwaway character screams, "They're eating her. Then they're going to eat me...OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!"

Final Rating: 2.5/10 (10/10 for entertainment value alone)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Contagion Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A fatal disease breaks out and is spreading around the world with no means to cure it.

Review: At first I really liked the way this movie started off showing just how easily a deadly disease can spread all over the world. This may be the first time the movie audience has seen an epidemic from the eyes of the scientists trying to fight the disease rather than just random survivors. But as the movie goes along, you start to feel your interest drift. We hardly get to know any of the characters, and so I'm not invested in them to care when they die. At the same time, we are shown society breaking down yet nothing ever really amounts to anything. If the world was truly falling into chaos, why were there no wars or crazy incidents beyond just mere looting, rioting, etc.? I feel the direction of the film was lost at some point and the writers weren't sure how to end it. The ending feels shallow as everything just goes back to the way it was before, and we haven't really learned anything except wash your hands more. Was this supposed to be a critique of society? Some sort of "what if" scenario to show how fragile our way of life is? I really don't understand what they were going for with this one. Because of this drop in quality toward the middle to end, I had to rate this movie much lower. I would have actually preferred they shortened this movie a bit and just made it the opening hour to "The Stand" that would be cool. I would say this film is worth a watch since the pacing is mostly good, the actors are actually quite superb, and it's a creative storytelling perspective, but don't go in expecting to be wowed.

Notable Moment: The final scene which is actually the first scene chonologically. It is interesting to see how chance circumstances started the entire epidemic.

Final Rating: 6/10

The Room Review

Dislaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Random events in the life of a guy named Johnny as his life (unintentionally) comedically spirals out of control.

Review: What can be said about "The Room" that hasn't been said before? It is arguably the worst movie ever, but it could possibly be one of the funniest movies ever! It definitely falls into that category of so bad it's good; if you're into that kind of thing you'll love this. However, it is a total mess with only the faintest hints at proper film making. I mean, seriously, every aspect of film making is a failure somehow. The characters are ridiculous and the plot is virtually nonexistent. Most of the problems can probably be attributed to the writer/director/producer/main star: Tommy Wiseau who plays Johnny. I often wonder if he's an alien, screwing with everyone around him, or just utterly insane. Every scene plays out like it's own mini script and is usually self-contained rather than contributing to the overall plot. It really is hard to make sense of all this, but it is all presented with terrible acting and laughable delivery to boot. If you look closely you can even see the actors smirking on occassion before the camera cuts away. Honestly, no words can do justice in explaining how idiotically funny this film is! All I can say is this movie must be watched to be truly understood. Now go find it on youtube for free!

Notable Moment: There are many but my favorite is when Johnny goes into the flowershop. I can't even imagine how they filmed that scene and thought nothing was wrong. I find myself watching that scene over and over again still laughing. There's also a rooftop rant that is a contender.

Final Rating: 2/10 (10/10 if going for comedic gold)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Batman (1989) Review

Disclaimer: Contains Spoilers!

Plot Summary: Batman emerges in Gotham City to fight crime in the best way he knows: telling everyone "I'm Batman."

Review: As a contrast to "The Dark Knight Rises," I thought I'd review the original "Batman." What can I say, it's a great movie. It has that near-perfect balance of comic book-feel and attempting to present us that dark atmosphere Batman fans love. The music is iconic and one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard. Michael Keaton is great as Bruce Wayne despite what many naysayers said then and now; his scatterbrain take on the character is actually kind of clever as you get the idea Bruce is constantly distracted by Batman issues while trying to keep up appearances. I did like the Nolan trilogy's approach with Bruce pretending to be busy, but I prefer that we actually see how preoccupied Bruce's thoughts actually are. Kim Basinger is a goddess here and easily blows away the likes of Katie Holmes. The Vicky Vale character isn't all that complex, but Ms. Basinger knew how to play it up. Jack Nicholson as the Joker is also an incredible take on the character; he balances the insanity with the lame jokes nicely to pull off one of the more memorable roles in his illustrious career. I would say the Joker is probably the highlight of the film as Nicholson easily steals the show. The action is well balanced, even if there could have been slightly better fight choreography, and the climax is highly satisfying. Incredibly quotable, immensely entertaining, and enhanced by that weird, Burton-esque vibe, you have a classic on your hands. It isn't entirely perfect as some moments fall flat as does some 80s references (way too much Prince), but it's as good as a comic book movie can get. Definitely give this one a watch and make sure to watch the original films before the Nolan films to truly see the transitions of the character.

Notable Moment: I've always really loved the flashback to the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. The music is so haunting and Keaton pulls off so much depth by just a longing stare. You can almost see that Bruce hates to remember what caused him to become Batman. Unlike the Nolan films, we don't have to have it all spelled out for us especially considering we all know the origin of Batman.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

The Dark Knight Rises Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The third part in the Nolan Batman movies. This time Batman is emo and must fight Bane and mixed feelings for Catwoman.

Review: The best way I can describe this movie is mediocre all around until the last 30 minutes or so. I went into this movie with extremely high hopes only to be greatly let down. It was as if they wanted to continue where "Batman Begins" ended rather than where "The Dark Knight" ended. There are so many contrivances and eye roll moments that I was having a hard time believing this was written by the same guy who did "The Dark Knight." For example: sending ALL police into the sewers? Bruce finding his way home from the middle of nowhere? Bane letting Bruce keep his knee enhancement? I could go on all day (seriously). Most painful was absolutely no mention of the Joker or any of his exploits. This is especially frustrating considering the fact that we see the Scarecrow broken out of Arkham. The Joker would have actually been helping Batman since he'd hate to see someone else kill him. Bane is wasted and pointlessly built up for no good reason. Yeah, he beats Batman, but it was all for nothing since he wasn't the actual boss. There are so many moments where you keep wondering "why the hell would they do that?" They spend almost as much time (if not more) building up some cop called John Blake as they do Bruce, who just magically knows Bruce Wayne is Batman because he "looked in his eyes." In fact, it would seem everyone knows Bruce is Batman this time around which is beyond stupid. Ugh, there is a lot of filler going on in this movie I hardly know how to address it without turning this into a book. Suffice to say, only hardcore fanboys would think this movie was great or anywhere on par with "The Dark Knight." The acting is decent here I will admit, some of the action is good especially at the end, and I enjoyed seeing Anne Hathaway in a skintight bodysuit! But in the end, only the last 30 minutes or so that I mentioned are satisfying enough...which is the only reason I rated this movie as high as I did; it's a shame too because the ending scenes are really enjoyable and made me wish the whole film was as entertaining as that. Unfortunately, I can't say that making it to that point is worth the time or effort unless you're a big Batman fan or just need to see the trilogy through.

Notable moment: The revelation that Bane was not Ras Al Ghul's son but it was Talia aka Miranda who is his daughter. Although this isn't really shocking to a comic book fan or a fan of the animated series, it is interesting nonetheless.

Final Rating: 6.5/10