Tag Archives: 2015 movie reviews

Movie Review: Crimson Peak

Guillermo del-Toro. I’m being perfectly honest when I say I have no idea who that is. When I say that, I don’t mean I don’t know who del-Toro is. I mean I don’t know who del-Toro is.

Guillermo has dabbled in so many genres in the realm of moving pictures that I’m unsure what significant impression he’s left on the industry, if any. I don’t consider myself an expert on del-Toro’s filmography, but I wonder if anyone truly is. He has played small behind-the-camera roles in some notable productions and has found himself accredited as a creative consultant more than a couple of times. He has seemingly fallen off the grid when it comes to the director’s chair, but when he decides to pursue a project, he does so full steam ahead. With Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pacific Rim and now Crimson Peak, del-Toro directed and wrote the script. Coincidentally, that is the extent of knowledge I have regarding his filmography.

However, I have the luxury of having viewed the film that epitomizes del-Toro to the letter and that product is known as Pacific Rim. The hype for Pacific Rim during the summer of 2013 was mountainous. All of my friends were pumped. My brother and I were pumped and even Hollywood was on their heels. The Mexican director praised that Pacific Rim would blow our minds, we would be so in awe of what we were witnessing. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Pacific Rim was nothing more than a trend. It was hot and like a poor installment of a video game franchise, was forgotten and passed over in a matter of months.

Fast forward two years and del-Toro decides he wants to make another movie. Let me introduce you to Crimson Peak.

Crimson Peak provides the scenery that allows del-Toro to tinker and sketch a Gothic horror, a throwback to the traditions of the horror genre. In pre-production interviews, del-Toro said he wanted to make a modern installment in the fashion of horror classics such as The Omen, The Exorcist and The Shining. Before the 21st century, the artistry of film was limited in the visual department. What they couldn’t compose on the screen had to be conjured by the writer’s pen and director’s firm hand. I actually watched The Omen for the first time on Halloween a few weeks ago and while it wasn’t scary for me, it was clearly evident why the film has found itself a candidate for the Mount Rushmore of horror. Film in the glory days whipped up the idea of the film and spent hundreds of hours constructing the invisible.

What the horror industry has forgotten and why it struggles so heartily today is because the directors tasked with injecting new blood into the drying veins of this behemoth have forgotten about the invisible-the tension, the suspense, the genuine terror that our own imagination can manifest all its own with the right prodding. They’ve forgotten the difference between a momentary shrill cry, and paralyzing fear and shallow breathing. They’ve either forgotten or still do not understood what truly scares us.

At the very least, Guillermo del-Toro understands what does. Crimson Peak plays the fiddle of our fears, giving the urgency, despondency and dejection of being alone in the world, surrounded by those who wish us harm and a place that makes our bones shudder like the curtains on the attic window. Guillermo’s study of visual aesthetics and Gothic decorum administers an eerie glow to an ash-black setting. Something is astir and our curiosity is peaked, play on the title intended.

The pacing of Crimson Peak is like a slithering snake, slowly sizzling and storming across the floor. At times it’s appropriate and at others you want to see the snake put the rubber to the road and just go already. Tension and grit are built on the foundation of timing and tempo and while del-Toro understands the horror genre better than many of his counterparts of late, it’s still not where it needs to be.

Luckily for del-Toro, he has a cast that bails him out in some facets. It feels like fresh air, seeing Tom Hiddleston in a non-Loki role and Jessica Chastain chewing on a meaty character. Hiddleston, away from the one-liners and crowded cast lists of Marvel films, seems to revel in the luxury of additional screen time. Chastain plays alongside Hiddleston as his sister and is given more range as an actress. Chastain is the one to watch in Crimson Peak.

Yet with all these positives, Crimson Peak still has its negatives, keeping it at an average level overall. Mia Wasikowska’s leading lady doesn’t get the development anyone wants. Curiosity and independence drive her character forward, but audiences will be hard-pressed to find much more. Instead, the elements of a mystery-based plot control the steering wheel of this horror ride. As more clues are uncovered, more of the plot is revealed to the eyes of the audience but none of these discoveries are earth-shattering nor are they all that unpredictable. By the third act, Crimson Peak becomes an average horror entry at best, but still surpasses some of the laughable attempts at scares that peruse my recent memory. Looking at you, The Visit.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The MartianBlack Mass,Enemy at the GatesAnchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The Professional)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Beasts of No NationTerminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParker)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (EverestHerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitz)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Crimson Peak: 70.

Crimson Peak isn’t without its cringe-worthy moments, imposing set designs or haunting supporting cast, but without a developed protagonist, del-Toro’s work slowly mutates into a mystery crime novella rather than a perusing of the deepest depths of the human soul and the demons within.

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Movie Review: Everest

Survival. At the most basic level, beyond our emotions and thoughts, survival is what resides. It is a simple and yet extreme notion. It is a brash concept and at times a heartless theme because survival can lead to cannibalism and such. It is a fire we all have inside us and it is one that is hard to combat.

In Everest, we will see a journey of experts and everyday men and women as they test their wills against the worst nature has to offer.

At least that is what we are left to assume. There is a specific scene cataloged in the script where Jon Krakauer, whose novel this film is loosely based on, asks these regular Joes why they want to climb Everest. The room remains silent. Eventually one character will say he talked to a group of kids in a school and wants to prove to them that if he can do the impossible, they can, too. Another will say he feels composed on the mountain, an idea I struggle to accept since he suffers in the cold for the remainder of the film.

This is a missed opportunity for director Baltasar Kormakur, who directed the buddy cop film 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. There are a lot of people who do not climb mountains and a large majority of them have never considered climbing one of the seven summits let alone Everest. That leaves the film with an uneducated and uninformed audience who knows little about the motivations or emotions involved with such a trek and yet the writing that can hook the audience in is left vague and to compound the problem, shooed under the rug. Removed from the thrill and rush that climbers may or may not receive from this film, the payoff of Everest is unclear if not non-existing.

This makes Everest‘s debut all the more depressing because at the beginning of 2016, the film’s eventual release was swarming with Oscar buzz. Its cast of Oscar-nominated actors Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal and actress Keira Knightley rose eyes and the visual spectacle that was betrothed for the screen was enticing.

While the film can be given a pat on the back for recording the biggest September worldwide IMAX opening with $7.2 million, it’s just as worthy, if not more so, to mention how far this film is from the cinematic mountain it’s trying to climb.

I saw this film in 3D and while the landscape is visceral and the visuals are inspiring, the hunger is there. This is Everest, one of the globe’s most enticing and dangerous endeavors. Surely there is more to offer than this.

Everest will make you feel the cold, and you’ll get chills down your spine, but they are the same chills you will get down your spine driving on the highway with your window down. It is not a tingle set aside for this film alone like it should be.

The tone changes whenever the plot requires it. Danger will set in but will soon flip to achievement when the group reaches the summit and then flip to something else in time for the next chapter of the story. Like Black Mass, which also received some Oscar buzz this past spring, the sincerity is absent and the tension is molded rather than birthed naturally.

The glamour and chill is there, but the tone that should accompany them is not. A very basic technique Kormakur samples is removing music from the film, instead allowing the silence to play to our ears. He lets our minds take hold of our emotions. This play requires us to feel connected to some partition of this film and since the motives of this expedition are never addressed, we find our hands grasping at air.

With a plot playing second fiddle to the true happenings of the story and tonal shifts too rampant, our cast of Oscar-nominated actors attempt to derive empathy from its audience. Connection to an audience can save a film. If audiences develop a care for the characters, they’ll be better engaged in the illusion of loneliness and cold that’s trying to be aroused here.

The script, however, especially in the dialogue department, competes with Everest for the Most-Barren-Item-On-Screen-Award. The dialogue is a sham and never diverts to themes of life, the pursuit of endurance, the empowerment of the human will, or the will to fight. Everything in this story is plot-based and call me cynical, but this plot is boring.

The characters, coupled with the writing, are the most downtrodden element of this debacle. Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s demonstrated great range in the recent films Prisoners and Nightcrawler, is flat-out ignored. Josh Brolin is given little screen time and Knightley is a sideshow. Jason Clarke is the high point of the acting gigs in Everest, but that isn’t saying much. The inability to originate emotion leaves an insensitive audience leagues from where the film should have wanted them to be: close and personal, engulfed in the snow and bitter wind.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Black Mass, Enemy at the GatesAnchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemy)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (HerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe Punisher)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Everest: 57.

With a small clap for the visual department set aside, a ride down the highway with your sleeves rolled up might bring as much cold and indifference as Everest will force upon you. Kormakur’s youth as a director is exploited, leaving more experienced Hollywood thrills taking instructions from a novice storyteller. Had a greater emphasis been put on the crisp detail and magnitude of Everest, it might not have been so easily noticed, but as it stands, Everest is more of a climb for the people who made it then the audiences who watched it.

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Movie Review: Run All Night

Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce you to Taken 4.

I’m as surprised as you. I didn’t expect another sequel so soon after they just made Taken 3 in January but I guess we underestimated the work ethic of Hollywood, huh?

This isn’t even a joke, guys. I’m serious. Run All Night is a garbage title anyway. If Taken 4 Run All Night printed their DVD covers and put a duct tape graphic over Run All Night and wrote in red or black sharpie on top of that “Taken 4“, I would buy this movie just for the simple but yet evidently difficult admission that they didn’t try to make an original film.

If you’ve seen Taken 3, Liam Neeson says something to the effect of, “I feared one day my sins would catch up to me.”

If you see Taken 4 Run All Night, Neeson’s opening monologue contains that phrase almost verbatim.

I chuckled to myself and looked over to my mom and she was already angry with me, claiming I wasn’t giving the film a chance. Liam Neeson is her favorite actor, which is why I was in the theater watching this.

I love Liam Neeson. He is one of my favorites as well, but how do I watch an actor deliver a monologue not just from the same cloth or the same script, but the exact line from another film and keep a straight face? Tell me in the comments if I’m being unreasonable.

So, I’ll admit it. It was really hard for me to try to engage myself in director Jaume Collet Serra’s third Neeson experiment. He directed Unknown, which was a miss for Neeson but got back on track with last year’s Non-Stop. Non-Stop wasn’t great and I’ll admit I scored it higher than I should have, but the film had some originality to it and held suspense over me despite the fact that all of the happenings took place on an airplane.

And despite Non-Stop being a decent action flick, I wasn’t all that impressed with Neeson’s part. The character writing was far too rigid to make much of anything out of it, but Neeson tried and I’d probably give him a win for that. Also, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, after this post, I’m going to start my new series called Winners and Losers. There will be an explanation of the series and what to expect from it so you’ll know what I’m talking about then. Until then, I’m leaving you in the dark, which is ironic because that’s what I felt Run All Night did and not because it was shot in the dark, you smarty pants.

I don’t mean left in the dark in the sense that we didn’t know what was going on. Trust me when I say that you will know EVERYTHING that is going on, has happened and will happen later. A map wouldn’t have made this film any easier to navigate through. We already found one in Neeson’s introduction.

What I mean by left in the dark is that the performers, story and production as a whole never grabs us by the shirt collar and tries to bring us into the experience. The light is in the middle of the stage and I’m standing behind the curtain reluctant to go out. This film, if it were a person, gave me a light tug that even a toddler could have held back from and then gave up.

I can not recall a film that gave such a fetal effort to involve me in its story. It was truly pitiful.

What made it worse is that Run All Night didn’t just copy off of Taken. It stole the script from Road to Perdition, which I wrote a review on.

The story of Road to Perdition, if you find yourself a little too lazy to read the review, is the original Run All Night.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a gangster hitman but his sons don’t know that. Stuff happens, Sullivan’s wife and youngest son are killed by the mob boss he works for after his eldest son, Michael Jr. witnesses a mafia murder. Sullivan and his son rob the banks that have the mob money and Sullivan kills a bunch of people, but he won’t let his son do any of the killing because he wants his son to live a good, clean life. Sullivan is convinced he’s going to hell, but he believes that there’s hope for Michael and that belief is what drives Sullivan the entire movie.

Run All Night is almost the same thing aside from a few minor stipends.

Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is a hitman whose life is pretty much over. He’s still a part of the gang but he’s getting old, his wife’s dead and his only son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman) won’t talk to him because of the things he knows his father did.

Conlon’s best friend and boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), are the best of buds and served in the military together. When Maguire’s son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook) goes off the deep end and murders two heroin dealers, Michael, a limousine driver, witnesses them and runs back home, so now Danny feels he has to kill Michael. Conlon saves the day but takes the life of Maguire’s son and even though Maguire admits his son “went wrong”, still feels the need to claim revenge and kill Michael himself.

The rest of the film is pretty predictable and I’m not going to go any farther with it. Just know that if you’ve seen Road to Perdition, you’ve seen this movie.

The fact that the son’s name is Michael in both movies only enraged me further. Come on, guys. Really?

Whereas Road to Perdition is more of a drama, which you should expect when you see the name Tom Hanks, Run All Night is more of an action flick, which you should expect when you see the name Liam Neeson.

Collet-Serra’s attempt at action doesn’t interest me though. There were a few segments where I got a little excited but I’d like to emphasize the word “little”. They weren’t overly original including yet another action scene in a bathroom. I don’t even want to go over the scene where Conlon strangles a guy with a paper towel roll and yes, that actually happened. Paper towels are meant to separate when pulled. How hard do you have to pull the paper towels in this world to separate them?! Do you expect me to take this seriously?

A plot synopsis like this only made me that much more thankful to have Liam Neeson in my life because he was the only thing keeping this thing afloat. Neeson has developed a certain talent for livening things up. Similar to Statham sometimes in the roles he chooses, Neeson has the bravado required to shoulder a shoddy film and provide some sort of enjoyment for a disgusted audience. I wish he was more selective with his roles, but Neeson is still one of today’s biggest action stars. Taken, the cult classic that it is, brought a new weapon to Neeson’s repertoire. Neeson’s acting career was on the downturn but after the success Taken had, Neeson suddenly had another coal in the oven to burn before his eventual retirement.

Joel Kinnaman started his career with no coals in his “acting oven” and doesn’t look to be adding any anytime soon. No true connection was to be found in this father-son relationship. Ed Harris was left lifeless with his poor character arc and dialogue.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (InterstellarChappieAmerican BeautyGone GirlMulan)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Dead Snow: Red vs. DeadSnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk Down)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (TwistedParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe RavenDead Snow)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (RageZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: Retaliation)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (ErasedI, FrankensteinThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly Madison)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark World)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (SabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmen)

My score for Run All Night: 53.

Taken 4 meets Road to Perdition in an action flick that I’ll applaud for its scene transitions but little else. Aside from yet another Liam Neeson appearance, it’s a film worth skipping on. Run All Night is one to run away from.

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