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Stranger Things (2016)
I really want to love it, but...
Stranger Things is a very well-made show. The acting is fantastic (especially from the children), it's cinematography is beautiful and it's great at creating a feeling of dread.
By all means, Stranger Things should be phenomenal, but it has one huge flaw, a flaw which I believe derails the show.
The Duffer Brothers claim the show is a love-letter to 80s Sci-Fi. After watching this show, I can confirm that The Duffer Brothers have no idea what a homage is.
A homage shows respect to a previous decade/genre, but Stranger Things doesn't do that. Stranger Things goes the Scary Movie/Seth MacFarlane route of excessively referencing other works. This wouldn't be such a problem if the references weren't so blatant or frequent.
The show loves to name drop ("Maybe she's an escaped loony?" "Just like Michael Myers!", "I was making out with Chrissy Carpenter.), place movie posters in the background or foreground (The Thing, The Evil Dead) or sometimes even lift scenes directly from other works (The scene where Mike hides Eleven from his mother is almost identical to a scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).
Stranger Things feels like it was created by that one annoying kid everybody knew who thought he was so cool because he had some knowledge of popular culture before his time.
A big disappointment for somebody who was hoping for a lot more.
A timeless film.
For a film like "M" to be made in 1931 is absolutely shocking.
The film is a journey through the mind of an almost child-like child murderer (the brilliant Peter Lorre) who terrorizes a German city.
The film's screenwriters are geniuses crafting every single character with distinctive personalities. Also, worth noting are the themes of the film. The film deals with controversial themes such as the morality of the death penalty, criminalization of people with mental illnesses and neglectful parenting, these issues are tackled with frank honesty while also being sympathetic.
The acting in this film is stellar especially Peter Lorre's performance. Lorre is successful in something that is very rare in film: he allows the viewer to feel compassion for a child murderer. Lorre plays his role not as a man to be feared, but rather a fearful man himself which is very rare in film.
I also love this film's atmosphere. This film has a mysterious ambiance that adds to the suspenseful nature of the film. Also notable is the lack of music which gives the atmosphere a unnerving quality.
Overall, "M" is a timeless classic that will shock and intrigue audiences for years to come. A rare flawless film. 10/10
Under the Skin (2013)
Films like "Under the Skin" are the reason I love movies.
"Under the Skin" is a rare film that not only changes your view on film, but on life, as well. It is a profound study of human nature that is both shocking and mesmerizing.
Scarlett Johansson's performance as the unnamed alien is one of the best I've ever seen. Johansson has proved that she is a great actress in films like "Lost in Translation", but "Under the Skin" proves that she is the greatest of our time. Johannson acts with such human emotion that is rarely seen in modern film.
Johansson-a huge star-takes a role in a small, relatively low- budget, independent art film in which she has to push herself beyond what she has ever had to while making less money than she would from her Hollywood films. That's admirable for a star.
The music in this film is fantastic and perfectly adds to the disconcerting and surreal feeling of the film.
The film's only flaw is some of the acting of the minor characters, but that's understandable because Johansson was the only professional actor in the film.
Overall, "Under the Skin" is a brilliantly unique film that has the makings of a classic. A true masterpiece.
Inherent Vice (2014)
Favorite film of 2014.
Many people have called "Inherent Vice" a combination of "The Big Sleep" and "The Big Lebowski" and that's a very accurate description. "Inherent Vice" has all the hallmarks of a classic noir film (beautiful cinematography, chain-smoking, although with marijuana in place of tobacco, mysterious women, complicated plot lines), but also has the wacky antics of a stoner comedy. Many have criticized "Inherent Vice's" complicated plot. The film focuses on detective and stoner Doc Sportello's (Joaquin Phoenix) investigation into the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth (the highly underrated Katherine Waterston). As Doc makes his way through the case, he uncovers many conspiracies and secrets and meets many eccentric characters, all the while smoking copious amounts of marijuana. All of this makes it difficult to follow which may require a second viewing to fully understand, but I believe this adds a certain relatability to Doc Sportello. Your confusion to the events that unfold parallel Doc's confusion to the events that unfold. Joaquin Phoenix gives a brilliant performance as Doc Sportello. Also, worth noting are Katherine Waterston's mysterious performance as Shasta Fay and Josh Brolin's perfect comedic performance as Bigfoot Bjornsen, the banana loving police officer. Even Owen Wilson and Reese Witherspoon give great performances (two actors I don't care for). Overall, "Inherent Vice" is a brilliantly complex film-noir tribute that's both hilarious and mysterious making it my favorite film of 2014.
Insipid buddy dramedy that is neither funny nor poignant
"Tammy" is proof that a great cast doesn't always make a great film.
The cast of "Tammy" is undoubtedly spectacular (Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates), however the cast is wasted on an atrocious script.
"Tammy" tries to be both a drama and a comedy, but fails at both. The comedy fails because it simply isn't funny. The "jokes" in this movie are either unnecessarily crude or are nonsensical and vulgarity substitutes for wit. I never laughed once watching "Tammy", I never even cracked a smile. The drama fails because the characters are too unlikeable to care for. Tip for future writers: If you want us to sympathize with your characters; give us some reason to care about them.
The acting in this film is terrible despite it's talented cast. Melissa McCarthy's gives an obnoxious and unfunny performance as the title character. I can give a little credit to Susan Sarandon (who rarely gives a bad performance) as the title character's alcoholic grandmother. Sarandon appears to be trying to bring life to this lifeless character, but it doesn't work and her performance is unbelievably bland. Dan Aykroyd gives the worst performance in this film. Aykroyd doesn't have much screen time and it's obvious that he shot his scenes in one day. He looks like he doesn't want to be in this film (who would?), his performance feels rushed and it's almost as if the director was waving his cheque off-camera and he wanted to get off set as fast as possible.
Overall, "Tammy" is an unfunny, juvenile and insipid mess that is neither funny nor poignant with atrocious acting and an abysmal script.
One of the greatest films in the past ten years.
"Moon" is truly one of the greatest of all science fiction films.
Not since Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" has a sci-fi film delivered a well-written and poignant commentary on the human condition.
Sam Rockwell's performance is truly spectacular as the lonely astronaut Sam Bell.
Also, worth noting is Kevin Spacey's voice-over performance as the ship HAL-like computer, GERTY.
His monotone voice adds a certain creepiness to the role making you feel uneasy and suspicious of the character.
Overall, "Moon is an outstanding sci-fi film and one of the greatest films to be released in the past ten years.
The Cruise (1998)
An exhilarating portrait of a fascinating man.
The Cruise is a 1998 documentary film focusing on Timothy Levitch, a tour guide for bus tours of New York City who became a local celebrity due to his unconventional and idiosyncratic commentary on the city. The film follows Levitch as he provides psychedelic interpretations of the city to tourists, philosophizes on life and accosts those who have wronged him-all at a frenetic pace.
Levitch's love for the city is obvious, his passion admirable and his philosophies interesting.
Overall, "The Cruise" is an exhilarating portrait of one of the most fascinating men to ever walk the Earth that's both hysterical and poignant. 8.5/10
My all-time favorite film
"Magnolia" is a brilliant exercise in creative filmmaking.
From it's opening moments in which Ricky Jay's narrator recounts three instances of incredible coincidences and suggests that forces greater than chance play important roles in life, "Magnolia" is a masterpiece.
Paul Thomas Anderson has created a work of art, an Altman-esque mosaic of interconnected poignant vignettes in which forgiveness is the common theme. Anderson, the best of modern filmmakers, holds us in his grasp and refuses to let us go.
The acting in this film is stellar. Every single actor gives a superb performance especially the late Jason Robards as a dying man and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as his nurse.
The soundtrack composed almost entirely of Aimee Mann songs is spectacular and perfectly captures the mood of the film.
Overall, "Magnolia" is a masterpiece with incredibly human performances, tight editing, amazing camera-work, fantastic writing and a spectacular soundtrack. My all-time favorite film. 10/10
Batman & Robin (1997)
Worst feature-length adaptation of a comic book ever made.
Never before has one film completely misunderstood it's source material. "Batman & Robin" is supposedly a homage to the 60's Batman television series, but "Batman & Robin" is missing something that the television series had: charm. The (unfunny) one-liners and campiness come so fast in this film that the action takes a backseat to them. The performances in this film are a complete mess. George Clooney isn't playing Batman; George Clooney is playing George Clooney playing Batman. Not once does George Clooney feel like he's playing the Dark Knight. He's just the suave jerk he usually is. Chris O'Donnell seems like he's in a completely different movie. All he ever does is whine and act like an angst-ridden 13 year old. Arnold Schwarznegger's performance is easily the worst. He only exists to make unfunny ice puns and chew the scenery like no other, yet this film expects us to both sympathize and fear this character? Uma Thurman's, in of her few bad performances, gives a performance which is so hammy and over the top that John Lithgow would tell her to tone it down. Although, I have to give her some credit though as she seems to be the only actor having fun with her role in this film. Alicia Silverstone's performance isn't terrible, but she feels miscast as Batgirl. She doesn't really have the tough-girl personality of the comic book's vision of Batgirl. Visually, this film is spectacular. Gotham City has a marvelous design similar to the era of German expressionism and the works of F.W. Murnau. Overall, "Batman & Robin" is a poorly made comic book adaptation that shows no respect or understanding of it's source material. 3/10
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)-dir. Lars von Trier
For some, "Dancer in the Dark" is viewed as one of the greatest films of all time, but for others, it's viewed as a melodramatic, pretentious mess. The film stars Björk as Selma-a Czech immigrant who suffers from a (unnamed) disease which is gradually causing her to go blind. She saves her money for an operation to prevent her son from going blind. The plot has been criticised for being overtly melodramatic and formulaic. The plot of "Dancer in the Dark" isn't anything exciting or original, but it works. "Dancer in the Dark" is a musical, though it hardly feels like one. "Dancer in the Dark" is a gut-wrenching, but not overtly sentimental tearjerker in which Björk completely immerses herself in her role as the natural and innocent Selma. Also, worth mentioning are the performances of Catherine Deneuve as Selma's best friend Kathy and Peter Stormare as her shy neighbor Jeff. I admired the simplicity of this film adherring the some of the rules of Dogme 95, a film movement created by von Trier (Dancer in the Dark's director) which aimed to create filmmaking based on the traditional values of story, acting, and theme, and excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology in the hope that the industry would give the power back to the artist as opposed to the studio. "Dancer in the Dark" works as both a homage to the musical genre and as a tearjerker, if not a little melodramatic. 8/10
Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
Paranormal Activity-you either love or hate it, I fall under the latter. Paranormal Activity originally started out as a Blair Witch Project rip- off and for some reason it became incredibly popular and spawned a franchise which releases a sequel every year. Now, before this review starts I would like to point out there will be spoilers and if you are interested in seeing this, stop reading this review. The plot focuses on the exact same thing as the last 3 films did, a family moves into a house, a member of the family films every little thing that goes on in the house for some reason (Ricky Fits would even call them weird), They notice something creepy on the tape and some spooky things happen. Lets introduce our main characters shall we! We have: Alex: Our annoying teenage brat protagonist. She spends the whole film trying to look scared and swearing.
Ben: Alex's perverted, possibly pedophile boyfriend (There is no way this guy is 15.) He spends the film trying to get Alex nude, recording their video chats and breaking into her house. Charming.
Wyatt: Alex's adopted brother. He's almost a rip-off of Danny Torrance, there is even a scene where the have him ride a bike through the house. Every time he was on screen me and my friend would shout, "Redrum!"
Robbie: The son of Satan himself. He just spends the film walking around talking to himself and being creepy. I'd also like to add that this character kind of disappears from the film, they just put him on a bus and say, "SCREW THE PLOT, WE HAVE SOME SCARY CRAP TO SHOW YOU!"
Doug: Alex's father, played by the late Stephen Dunham. He really doesn't do much in this film, so there is no point in talking about him.
Holly: Alex's mother. This character is possibly one of the worst mothers ever put to screen, she leaves her 6 year old son in the bathtub with a laptop RIGHT BESIDE THE TUB (why the hell does a 6 year old have a laptop anyway!?) and knocks her daughter out with sleeping pills.
Now I'll cover the basics: Writing: The story is just a re-hash of the past 3 films which was a terrible story to begin with. All of the characters are flat and unlikeable and I just really didn't care what happened to them. The dialogue in this film is just atrocious, there are scenes which are simply here to explain words like "duckface" or explain what a "Kardashian" is. Oh, I forgot to mention there is a scene where Robbie draws a "triangle with a circle inside" on Wyatt's back, Alex and Ben are confused about this and decide to Google what it means and what do you know, it's some satanic crap, even stranger they find it AS THE FIRST RESULT. I have to bring up the ending as well, it ends with Alex running out of her house after discovering Wyatt is missing (while holding her laptop for some reason) and finds him in an old house (which for some reason have windows that are covered in Spanish newspaper.) creepily talking to himself, Alex then discovers this creature (Katie from the last 3 films) who then chases after her, she makes it outside where she discovers a large group of people with glowing eyes who then kill her (Village of the Damned, anyone?). This ending made no sense at all and had me thinking, "What the hell just happened?" I mentioned earlier that a new films is released every year, shows the thought process that goes into these films.
Directing: This whole film is filmed in that annoying shaky cam found footage style and some if it looks so bad, I'd swear it could have been scenes deleted from Julien Donkey-Boy because it looked too crappy.
Acting: Good god...the acting. This film has some of the worst acting I've seen in a horror film, our two protagonists (Alex and Ben)are the absolute worst. I have to admit the two kids (Wyatt and Robbie) gave decent performances, they not Marlon Brando or Spencer Tracy but they are good compared to everyone else.
Scares: Scares? What scares? This film relies on jump scares to "scare" you, the majority of these "scares" are false, there is a scene where Alex goes downstairs looking for Wyatt and then a chandelier falls from the ceiling, SCARY! The cat jumps in front of the screen several times, SCARY! The door slams, SCARY! The pedophile boyfriend is tackling Alex, SCARY! There is however, one that did work, there is a scene where the boyfriend is killed and the body is hid in the closet, Alex later comes home and tries to call him from her cellphone and hears his phone ring in her closet.
If you loved the last three Paranormal Activity films you would love this, if not you will hate it.
If you want a scary horror film watch Perfect Blue, Eraserhead, Psycho, Alien, The Shining, The Thing (1951 or 1982 remake), Les Diaboliques, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, Nosferatu (1922 or 1978 remake) or George A. Romero's Living Dead series.
If you want a good modern horror film watch The Cabin in The Woods or American Horror Story (season 2 is the best).
If you want a good found footage film watch Cloverfield.
Just stay away from this (unless you are a fan).