Thursday, June 29, 2017

Seventh Moon Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A couple honeymooning in China find themselves in the middle of nowhere and pursued by strange creatures.

Review: This could have been a decent, East meets West kind of production, but what we get is a dizzying nightmare. The camerawork is fucking HORRENDOUS! Imagine mixing schizophrenic-chic editing with trying to watch a movie on a roller coaster while high on meth. Yeah. Your equilibrium will be turned to Swiss cheese long before the credits roll around. What the ducky were they thinking?! Other than that huge ass, glaring flaw that makes the film almost unwatchable--ya know, the important part--"Seventh Moon" takes a cool premise and does not even come close to delivering on the goods. Oh, wow, a bunch of a naked albino guys running around in high grass...scary stuff there. For creatures called "moon demons" they sure didn't put much effort in conveying something that represents that name.

Right off the bat they screwed up the story with the dynamic of the lead characters, Mel and Yul. I love the idea of a couple honeymooning in China during Ghost Month, but the actors have no chemistry and the characters are written too poorly. I like Amy Smart, but her character is especially annoying and completely unsupportive. Bitch is seriously whining about her injured, possibly dying, husband falling asleep?! Plus, they are supposed to be deeply in love to the point that Yul would sacrifice himself yet I don't feel that kind of bond whatsoever. In fact, they struck me more as a couple getting divorced within the first year! Meh, none of this matters when you're too dizzy to think clearly. When we do meet these "moon demons" we get absolutely no backstory since they're not really jiving with the beliefs surrounding Ghost Month's lore. Why do they hang out at this one village in a cave? They must be supernatural if they can disappear and turn someone into a "moon demon" through some kind of psychic praying (hell if I know). However, if they're supernatural why are they so damn weak and cowardly? We see no impressive feats that would imply any reason why the villagers can't kill these chumps. But somehow candles can keep them at bay and there's a weird voice on the radio? And Mel and Yul need to bang before getting sacrificed? I mean, sure, why not, but...whaaaaaaat? The movie just ends out of nowhere too with no resolution except Yul has now joined the ranks of naked albino men frolicking off in Kayako-land I suppose. Yippee.

I'm giving "Seventh Moon" a shit rating, but, even then, I feel as though it's generous. Seriously, for some this may be unwatchable due to the camerawork. In fairness, I thought the core premise held potential--though squandered--and there are cool ideas sprinkled throughout. Likewise, there were some non-idiotic decisions like using respectable makeup effects for the creatures in the fleeting milliseconds when the camera was steady. However, it's virtually impossible to ignore the nausea-inducing scenes, annoying characters, and general lack of plot details. Definitely avoid this film, but, if you intend to ignore my warning, just make sure you pack your barf bag.

Notable Moment: When one of the "moon demons" is charging at Mel yet is edited out existence. I guess that's one way to resolve a conflict.

Final Rating: 4/10

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dahmer Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A look inside the dark mind of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Review: I've mentioned before that "Dahmer" is probably the closest thing we have to a true, visceral glimpse inside the mind of a killer. Although this film takes certain liberties with its depiction of Dahmer, it never tries to justify his actions or make him sympathetic. Furthermore, the film does not glamorize his life either. Instead, the filmmakers opt to depict the unhinged nature of a man living an extremely mundane life and his homicidal tendencies. It's also important to note that Dahmer's cannibalism is completely left out of the film for whatever reason. It would have been nice if the narrative was structured more like a biography, but, instead, we get the events leading up to Dahmer's capture intermixed with various flashbacks demonstrating his complete descent into serial killer. Needless to say, the film is disturbing in numerous ways.

The main aspect that will engage the viewer is Jeremy Renner's unsettling performance. He appears at one with the "character," and this is the definitive role I imagine for him. Mr. Renner has that right level of charm and wickedness to properly bring Dahmer to life. However, the other aspect pulling this movie together is the dingy atmosphere and cinematography. The dimly lit rooms, various color filters, and odd closeups create a surreal perspective that we can extrapolate as Dahmer's view of the world. There is certainly a layer of pretentiousness to the production, but, for the most part, the film plays it straightforward with mere artistic decisions to enhance the scenes; that I can forgive and appreciate. Lastly, the score is quite simple in arrangement yet incredibly effective with establishing the mood. There are a few real songs, but the original soundtrack is that right level of dark ambiance I naturally envision for this kind of story.

What hurts the film is the general sense of aimlessness. I detect hesitation by the director in how to approach Dahmer's life. For example, setting the events toward Dahmer's capture works yet we do not actually see his capture. What is the point then? The flashbacks work perfectly fine and add a layer of depth to explore, however, why choose these moments specifically? Do they truly demonstrate Dahmer's nature? That remains to be seen. The scenes are strung together coherently enough, however, there is something amiss that is hard to explain. Better transition shots were needed perhaps? I still feel as though no film fully brings that evil of a serial killer to life. And maybe we shouldn't in an instance like this where filmmakers are using a real life person with real victims.

It's tough to recommend a movie like this since it's not fiction but it sort of is at the same time. I'd actually want to see a film in this style but with a fictional character to really take in a dark and disturbing direction. As it stands, "Dahmer" provides a tale that would be best described as intriguing. For a normal person to wrap their mind around the thinking of a serial killer is more difficult than you'd imagine. This film is probably the closest I've seen to bringing that darkness to life despite amending certain aspects to the real killer--for easier consumption on the viewer's behalf I'm assuming. If you're a fan of Jeremy Renner then this is a must-watch, however, be aware that this film is an acquired taste without a doubt. Now, bear in mind that I'm not insinuating that "Dahmer" is some kind of balls to walls splatterfest--far from it--I'm simply trying to explain that this is art house meets the mind of a killer with a super slow pace. If your interest is piqued then I think you'll be pleased, but if the subject matter rubs you wrong out the gate, then it's best to avoid outright.

Notable Moment: When Dahmer is roaming around the woods hitting everything in sight. It's simple yet effective in its manner of conveying the uncontrollable rage of a killer. Another tiny scene that strikes me is Dahmer just staring at a doorknob to a therapist's office while the camera zooms in. I like these kind of lingering shots since they typically say a lot more than dialogue can.

Final Rating: 6/10

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The Guardians of the Galaxy return as Star-Lord meets his father and discovers his cosmic origin.

Review: Following up the first GotG film was going to be difficult, but part 2 mostly succeeds at being a worthy sequel. It's kind of a toss-up, because some plot elements are done better this time around while others are inferior. To be precise, a significant amount of action is reduced in order to play up the humor even more. As such, the humor doesn't feel the same, stylistically, as part 1. To me, the jokes felt dumber, dragged on longer, and were often so over the top that it's as if they were trying to steal some of "Deadpool's" thunder. On the other hand, part two was more emotional with the characters and their relationships further developing. Then we also have the inclusion of a new team member in the form of the sexy Mantis and, potentially, Nebula joining at some point. I will freely admit, depending on what you prioritize in these movies, you could easily make the argument that this is the better entry.

In regard to the humor...this entry makes part 1 look subtle in comparison. Sure, I found a lot of the gags amusing and was laughing quite a bit throughout, however, I'd rather they blend this in with action. This entry only has a few action sequences, and the only one even worth acknowledging was the final fight which was heavily contrived to boot. The filmmakers have been playing fast and loose with Marvel lore for years which is...okay...I guess, yet, it's still hard to believe a Celestial would struggle to kill the GotG. This is, of course, ignoring that Ego, Star-Lord's dad in the movie, is not really his dad nor a Celestial in the comics. Oh well. This is all beside the main concern is that the filmmakers couldn't go two seconds without a joke--to the point that it felt forced. Yes, the movie as a whole is funny but ease up a little.

On the other hand, plenty of story changes work better than they did originally in the comic. For example, exploring Nebula's character was epic. Understanding how much she has suffered at the hands of Thanos and her resentment for Gamora is palpable. But, of course, they include a joke during this moment that cheapens her story (though, it was a funny joke at that!). I'd definitely like to see Nebula return and join the team for real next time. Speaking of which, the introduction of Mantis was interesting, and she definitely fits into the goofy nature of the team. It was also kind of sweet how Drax fell for her despite his constant reminding of how ugly he finds her. Then we have Star-Lord and Gamora finally hooking up a bit which was nice. Yondu being completely redeemed and having a heartfelt death was surprisingly moving. It was scenes like this that heavily compensated for the lack of action going on. Something extremely impressive was how quick the film went by despite being longer than part 1; that's some tight pacing for sure.

I think my main disappointment was that part 2 should have connected more to the buildup of Thanos, and this story should have been saved for part 3 once Thanos is beaten (presumably) in "The Avengers" movies. Don't get me wrong, this is still a fun and great movie all around that adds more of what you love about the first GotG. The character relationships are expanded, we learn more about everyone, and there is a strong, emotional conclusion. However, the comedy is heavily increased with a slight tonal shift to that humor. In exchange, much of the action is reduced and made equally comedic, taking away from the stakes to a degree. If your tastes align more with the filmmakers than my own, then you will probably enjoy part 2 significantly more than part 1. Overall, this was an admirable sequel that falls short of the original but is still a good film unto itself.

Notable Moment: Although I laughed hard when Yondu said he was Mary Poppins, the coolest and funniest scene is when Star-Lord turns into a giant Pac-Man.

Final Rating: 7/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A group of criminal misfits put their differences aside in order to save the universe and become the guardians of the galaxy!

Review: I wouldn't go as far as calling this the modern day "Star Wars," but it is pretty damn close to it! And, well, let's be honest, modern day "Star Wars" isn't worthy of calling itself "Star Wars." What makes GotG such a surprise success is the great balance of humor, interesting characters, and fun action. Furthermore, after the slew of Marvel movies that all take place on Earth, GotG offered fans a glimpse of the wider universe at hand. However, what's truly impressive is the storytelling ability to introduce these new characters, settings, and plot elements while never overwhelming the viewer AND tying in with the Earth-based story line.

Starting with what works I have to begin with the comedic aspects. The jokes are a bit on the cornball side, however, their timing is what makes the humor enjoyable. More precisely, the film knew when to be serious and when to have its jokes. This is something the sequel did not fully understand, but we'll get to that. While GotG is not on "Deadpool's" level of over the top gags, the filmmakers understood the audience well enough to include your casual humor for the kiddies as well as things for the adults. Of course, presenting said jokes are the likable characters themselves. Despite being set up as criminals, and potentially killers, they are a band of goofballs you can't help but to root for; besides, they do redeem themselves one way or another. I think this degree of goofiness is important to understand since there's a major contrast between the GotG team and, say, the Avengers lineup. Another thing I want to note is how hot Zoey Saldana looks as Gamora--the hottest green chick in the galaxy! Oh, and then there are all those babes in the background on Xandar. Who are all those little chickadees?! Plus the pink girls and Nebula--who would have thought a bald, blue android-girl could be so damn sexy.

See...this is what I'm talking about. Gamora looking hot as we are treated to a random, sexy extra on Xandar. I'm serious, in the background of like every scene on that planet there is some vixen lurking.

It's not just amusing characters and situations that make this film work--GotG has fantastic action scenes and commendable pacing. What caught my attention was the variety to the action that was, again, reminiscent of "Star Wars." You get the opening fight, the awesome street brawl on Xandar, a prison escape, a space battle, and the final battle against Ronan and his minions which includes a heist-esque sensation. Factoring in the character banter between set pieces, the audience loses track of time and becomes completely engrossed with the events; that two hour running time is never felt. Not to be completely overshadowed, the settings for these action scenes are each unique and introduce world-building ideas for fans to pick up on. It's always cool to see aliens and the worlds they come from; there is just something about the imagination involved.

As much as I loved this film, I will acknowledge its faults. The general consensus is that Ronan was not properly developed as a villain, and I fully agree. The annoying part is that I think he was deliberately diluted as a character so as not to compete with Thanos in the mind of the viewer. You have to understand from the studio's perspective they automatically assume the general audience is retarded and treat them as such. To be honest, they aren't entirely wrong in this regard, but that's neither here nor there. So stupid Disney is going to assume that viewers will confuse Thanos and Ronan if they don't do something drastic to separate killing one off before we learn anything about him...just like Darth Maul. Hmmmm. What they should have done was make Ronan this relentless villain after the GotG. Take the time to explain why he's such an asshole and wants an infinity stone. More importantly, he should have survived the fight and retreated for a later moment. Have the final scene reveal that Ronan is nothing more than a crony for Thanos which would actually hype Thanos up even more since you'd establish Ronan as a huge badass only to discover he's afraid of Thanos. You'd actually develop two characters at once through this method rather than the moronic way it's presented. Hell, Thanos just looks like a lazy bitch in each movie sitting in the same chair staring off into oblivion. The general audience doesn't know how powerful Thanos have to show them. Argh.

Overall, GotG is an amazing movie that properly balances a lighthearted tone with solid, sci-fi action. The characters are likable in a snarky kind of way, and you become engaged by their coming together as a team; they are certainly the underdogs. The inclusion of a late '70s/early '80s garnish to the production, due to Star-Lord's obsession with the music, also creates an interesting dynamic within the film's structure and stylistic choices; you know I love that shit! Sure, there are a few shortcomings along the way, but GotG manages to be one of Marvel's best movies yet. There is essentially something for every audience to enjoy here.

Notable Moment: When Star-Lord tries to have a dance-off against Ronan. This scene is randomly stupid, yet, it's Gamora's reaction that really makes it funny.

Final Rating: 8/10

Friday, June 9, 2017

Deliver Us from Evil (2014) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A priest and a cop team up to stop a possessed man from spreading his evil throughout New York City.

Review: Supposedly this film is based on a true story, but I don't know, nor care, how accurate that statement may be. I'm more concerned with the overwhelming levels of mediocrity that weigh down, what starts off to be, a decent story. With a combination of low stakes, an overly long running time, and a general lack of creativity, "Deliver Us from Evil" instead delivered me to sleep on more than one night as I slogged my way through to the lackluster conclusion. My main problem was how cliched the possession plot line was accompanied by a ridiculously easy defeat to the demon despite the long ass buildup to that scene. Don't even get me started on the fucking fake New York accents...

Things go to shit about halfway in, however, the opening premise isn't bad at all. Some soldiers in Iraq stumble across, what looks to be, an ancient structure with sigil-esque writing that acts as a doorway to...hell...I guess. They don't even try to explain this important aspect, yet, we are to believe that somehow reading this writing can potentially allow someone to be possessed. Now, if it's this easy to possess someone you'd think the demon would have some kind of end goal...but you'd be wrong. The demon decides to open up a painting business and haunt a few houses for the lulz. Yeaaah...not exactly the most brilliant of schemes. This catches the attention of the main cop and a priest who must stop this possession shenanigans from spreading. There are some cool scenes like at the zoo and the initial haunted house, but every scene afterward drags and adds little to the central story. The drama of a cop and his family was also tiresome due to the absolute stereotypical presentation. By the way, did the cop murder a criminal and not get caught--still not sure how that subplot resolved itself magically! By the end, and shocking no one, the cop and priest exorcise the demon back to Kayako-land, or wherever, but it's so rushed when you'd think this would be the core of the movie. The demon puts up no resistance either which makes the whole story feel ultimately pointless with all things considered.

Honestly, I cannot emphasize the obscene degree of mediocrity any further. "Deliver Us from Evil" isn't bad, but it doesn't really have a reason to exist either--it's nothing more than an amalgamation of cliches and every other possession movie known to man. This could be overlooked if there were some other cool aspects to the story; unfortunately, there aren't. The actors are okay and are trying to work with the material yet there is only so much an actor can do. That two hour running time is painful and should have been edited severely. There are a ton of stupid things that could have been cut like that asshole doctor they introduce just to bolster the body count or the cop's daughter somehow being haunted and other similar zany antics. Most of the numerous subplots go nowhere except to waste time. But what's annoying is that that long running time didn't even take the opportunity to explain anything about the demon or how mere words could act as a dimensional portal. Ya know, the important shit?! Of course I do not recommend this film, however, I do want to reiterate that "Deliver Us from Evil" is not a truly bad film--it's simply boring, predictable, and cliched. I mostly just watched it to see Joel McHale.

Notable Moment: Including a cat jump scare should be a crime at this point. With that said, I think the director was at least partially self-aware and tried to make this moronic scene funny.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Split (2017) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with 23 different personalities, intending the girls to become food for an emerging 24th personality.

Review: I'll be completely honest, when I initially saw the trailer for this movie I thought it looked un-fucking-believably stupid. I was like, "Oh, god, Night, are you back to the 'Lady in the Water' ideas?" And, wow, I was waaaay off with my vision of what "Split" would be. It sucks because revealing the twist of this film will hurt a viewer's surprise, yet, at the same time, explaining this reveal will probably greatly entice more people to watch the film. Such a dilemma. Oh well, you know how I operate around here! At a glance, the story seems like your typical, psychological thriller fare of a crazed killer who will get defeated by the cliched heroine at the last second. However, we come to learn that the whole movie is essentially an origin story for a villain in the fictional universe of "Unbreakable." Hell yes! Goddamn, people have been clamoring for a sequel to "Unbreakable" for years. And, thankfully, after the success of "Split," we will be getting one too!

Okay, so the connection to "Unbreakable" is fucking fantastic, but that doesn't mean "Split" is nothing without it. Far from that actually. The setup is a total ploy: young girls getting kidnapped by a deranged killer and having to outwit or overcome him somehow...nothing new there. The meat of the action actually involves the kidnapper, a man and his 23 personalities. The gist is that people with dissociative identity disorder are potentially bordering on the height of mind over matter in a supernatural sense. In other words, the personalities are so distinct, so real, that they can warp the body's biological chemistry in a way to bring their own imagination into existence. This translates in the film as the personalities changing the body in a physical way to take the shape they perceive themselves to be. In this instance, the villain has been convinced by his doctor that the personalities are extraordinary and believes in their limitless potential to such a degree that he created a personality specifically that is superhuman. Throughout the story, they build up the arrival of this newest personality, known as the beast, since it wants to eat the girls. You, as the audience, aren't sure how this will realistically unravel, however, Night surprisingly plays it completely straight and the final personality really is a superhuman monster capable of all manner of supernatural abilities. AND he really does eat the girls (well, two of them and a nibble of the third)! That shocked me since I thought they'd totally wimp out in that regard. Of course, once the villain runs off into the sunset to embrace his full power, we later see David Dunn, from "Unbreakable," sitting at a diner watching a news story about this villain while someone mentions the similarity to Mr. Glass.

A major reason why this film succeeds is due to James McAvoy's acting as the personalities. Sure, there are times where the presentation of the personalities are a bit too stupid for my taste, but I understand the effort of making each personality unique for the audience. Mr. McAvoy shows a lot of range between the personalities, and his ability to flip back and forth through them is admirable. Plus, that moment when the original personality, Kevin, finally emerges for mere seconds and just wants to die is perfect. That is the kind of subtlety to a character that impresses me most. In just that fleeting moment, seeing how tired Kevin is, our villain becomes a tragic figure due to his inability to stop himself. But, not to be entirely outdone, our protagonists put in a noble effort too. The main girl, Casey, played by the chick from "The Witch," Anya Taylor-Joy, is somewhat predictable as another tragic character, yet I'm okay with it given the kind of themes that should complement a tale from the "Unbreakable" universe. I mean, in retrospect it makes sense with her name being Casey Cooke and having David Dunn--comic book heroes usually have alliterative names. The way Casey survives also creates a kind of possible bond with the villain we might see in the sequel. Sadly, Casey's sexy friends simply ended up as beast-food! Lastly, I want to address the most unnecessary character: Night himself! Mother fucker, stop doing that shit! Hitchcock walked past the damn camera for a second, he didn't make himself a character in every fucking movie!

Even without the "Unbreakable" connection, this film was still awesome. Established as a straightforward thriller that unsuspectingly transitions into a supernatural horror in an original way--that does take some talent to execute. I love this notion of the personalities becoming so real that they can actually bend reality. As such, the beast personality does become a cool comic book-esque villain that, despite the supernatural context, is just plausible enough to appear possible in that same, reality-based depiction of powers established with "Unbreakable." James McAvoy really impressed me here and carries the story in an epic way; he deserves more credit than a lot of these cornball, pretentious dramas you find at the Oscars. Overall, this was a damn fine movie that is much more than meets the eye from the trailer. The only major detriments are the occasional, humorous depictions of a few personalities and Night's vanity of inserting himself in every project. Definitely check out "Split." Come for the "Unbreakable" connection but stay for the original and creative story along with James McAvoy's portrayal of a complex villain.

Notable Moment: When Casey calls out the full name, Kevin Wendell Crumb, and the primary personality emerges. Besides establishing the true, tortured nature of the character, Mr. McAvoy does an amazing job of bouncing between the different personalities in quick succession.

Final Rating: 7.5/10