Tag Archives: tommy wirkola

Movie Review: Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead

I would like to preface this review by saying I never expected Dead Snow to be a good movie. Something I do to relax and calm my nerves is watch a bad movie and hate on it, which Netflix is the perfect avenue for. I brought up a zombie movie I did not expect it to be good. Dead Snow was a rare exception on Netflix, at least these days. It was a truly good film.

Good, not great. Looking back on it and skimming over the review I did for Dead Snow, something I continually hammered on was director Tommy Wirkola’s lack of direction and the film’s immobility for most of the first half. There was some suspense and there was a little pull on me to stick with it, but I think that pull may have been my want to see a movie at the time and not a pull from Wirkola.

However, I’ve seen Dead Snow twice which means it has some draw to it and I think that draw is that it’s too fun of a movie to not show your friends. It drags, it can be incompetent material at times and it’s certainly not to be taken seriously but it adequately meets the standard of fun.

So I was pumped for Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead. Despite its flaws as a film, I have fond memories of Dead Snow and while I had no idea how the film’s story would transition into a sequel, this was a film I was okay with having a sequel. There are so many sequels these days that are made purely for the dough and not for the story. This was a film that was made for the fun it gave the crew that made it and the fans who watched it. It only made $1.9 million at the box office.

Yes, Dead Snow is a foreign film, made in Norway, so you should probably take that into consideration, but I applaud the efforts. Money was not the top goal here and I truly appreciate that. Nice to see we’re not all obsessed with gold like those Nazi zombies in Dead Snow.

Watching Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead with my roommate and good friend, Jon and some guys around the dorm was a blast and carried so much more weight for me than its predecessor.

For one, Wirkola decided to loosen the reins on this script and just let it flow. The way the dialogue was written, I don’t think Wirkola needed to do much here.

The reason I say that is because Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is more comedy than any zombie movie I have ever seen, including Zombieland. This movie is a gut-buster in more ways than one. Dark humor is a mainstay. Wirkola loves having people lose their intestines so enjoy some of that. Like for real, I think there’s an intestine obsession going on here. Trying saying that three times fast.

The costumes and visual effects took a step up in this film, as did the tempo and entertainment value.

The plot is out there and it’s a go-with-it element. If you’ve been reading this for a while, you know I hate go-with-it elements but when utilized in comedies, it doesn’t bug me as much. Yes, this story is pretty ridiculous on quite a few levels but if you’re willing to accept them for what they are, you can have a real blast with this film.

The comedy writing is phenomenal and the actors do a pretty good job of dropping their lines into our greedy, give-me-more hands. With that said, this film isn’t all a party. Action sequences are taken seriously even if some of the kills in this film are exceedingly preposterous. Not saying that some of these kills would or would not happen, but the creativity this film offers with our zombie-executions is remarkable. It kept me laughing the whole way through.

The amount of time that these actors invested into this film can be demonstrated not by their performances but by the way they handle these roles. The timing is perfect. No joke fell flat. If anything, it felt like each one was on an escalator. After each one, we found ourselves holding our breath in anticipation of the next one. Then the dominoes of our self-control would come crumbling down after yet another brilliantly-executed gag.

Yet, there was something that Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead was missing and it took me a couple minutes following the film to realize what it was. What Wirkola’s sequel is missing is not uncommon. Nearly every comedy I watch is missing it because when screenwriters go to the drawing board, this isn’t the first, second or third thing that comes to their minds. The thing that’s missing is a takeaway, a life lesson.

A quick example of what I mean by life lesson can be demonstrated in a speech in Step Brothers.

Yeah, I’ll own up to it. I just used a Will Ferrell film to demonstrate what I love in comedies. Sometimes his films really miss the mark, but Step Brothers was not one of them.

At the infamous Catalina Wine Mixer, we get a speech that indirectly says, grow up, but never forget your childhood. I’m talking about the “don’t lose your dinosaur” speech.

If you haven’t seen Step Brothers yet, shame on you sir/madam. Shame on you.

Basically, the whole reason Step Brothers gets so many point from me (I haven’t written a review on this yet but when I do, I think my score will surprise you) is because it understood that life can’t be all about laughs. It isn’t. That’s not how life works. Life gets serious more often than it gets funny and while we watch comedies to distract us from the stresses of our lives, we need to be given some confidence as well, something that gives us that boost of motivation to want to go back out there and weather the storm. Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is missing that.

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. (American BeautyGone GirlMulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the Apes)

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.(SnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012))

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 Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead: 72.

You’ll find brand new fire in this installment and it’s a jolly good time, but absence of the reflection element, as well as any real character depth, does make this a journey without a compass. Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead still comes highly recommended from me. It is sure to tickle your funny bone at some point.

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Movie Review: Dead Snow

I can’t remember who it was specifically, but someone in the WordPress blogging community recommended this film. I love The Walking Dead so when it comes to zombie movies, count me in.

It’s about a few Norwegian medical students going to a cabin in the mountains during Easter break. Everything is said in Norwegian so expect subtitles. I myself am not a fan of subtitles. Movies are supposed to be a form of entertainment that is both visual and auditory. When dialogue cannot be understood by your audience and you have to revert to subtitles, I’m now doing a lot of reading and not a lot of listening, which provides the overall feel of reading a picture book rather than watching a film. This is one of the disconnects that foreign films burdens American audiences with. It’s not intentional. It’s part of the language barrier.

Tommy Wirkola’s direction for the first half is aimless at best. He has his proponents sit around a cabin and engage in pointless conversation to waste time. It’s a bunch of guys and gals hanging around in a chilly cabin, drinking and relaxing. I got it. I don’t need to be beaten over the head with it.

For the majority of Dead Snow‘s first 45 minutes, Wirkola panders and erases at the drawing board while letting the tape roll. A film that is already short at 91 minutes, Wirkola’s poor decision-making makes Dead Snow more like a 46-minute short, if you have the patience to get that far. The script is far too nonchalant to stir interest. It doesn’t want to go anywhere. It’s like when you have to go somewhere and the car is in front of you, but instead of getting in the car and getting on your way, you sit down and fiddle with your keys. It doesn’t make sense.

The most persistent viewer will struggle to stay connected to the material. The audience’s desire to stick around would have been strengthened had they been teased of the quality Dead Snow had the potential to exhibit. However, when you watch a film for the first time and the opening half of the skit is mediocre at best, you can’t be criticized for turning it off. If you ate half of a pie and it was rotten, it makes no sense to eat the rest of it, even if the baker has assured you that is the good part. Rather than eat the rest, you’re more likely to ask, “Why couldn’t it have all been the good part?”

Desultory is probably the best adjective to describe Wirkola’s 2009 escapade: lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected. Inconsistency is a glaring blight on the zombie flick and it’s very unorganized. The story follows a logical trajectory but the entertainment value doesn’t. Wirkola’s pacing is off, especially considering this is a horror story and it’s even more of an affront when it’s a zombie movie. Where are the zombies? Where’s the suspense? Where’s the gore and laughs?

There’s no tension. The want to see what happens next is minimal. For a sub-genre that is usually described as gory and adrenaline-filled, Dead Snow if far too dead (haha) to elicit any cares from me.

Then Dead Snow got lively at the halfway point. Our protagonists stopped making the stereotypical, predictable decisions that infuriate viewers and started making the smart, survivalist decisions they should have made a long time ago. These people still aren’t bright. They make other choices that result in their demise, but at least Dead Snow improved.

Dark comedy and gutsy kills (pun) are displayed in favor of character development that never gave anything more than a perfunctory effort. I’ll give credit to the make-up artists for attempting zombie originality, but you got to do better than gray spray paint and some loose flesh to impress me. The Walking Dead is showing you up!

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. (MulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of ExtinctionJack Reacher)

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

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(When the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012)MaleficentRise of the Planet of the Apes)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (RubberHansel and Gretel: Witch HuntersAnchorman: The Legend of Ron BurgundyThe TransporterSpeed)

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. (The Expendable 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage PointThe Starving Games)

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. (Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and Aliens)

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 GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

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.” (GallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmenClash of the Titans)

My score for Dead Snow: 61.

Dead Snow is half a film, so it gets half a score. The final third ascends it to the 60’s but just barely so.

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Movie Review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Everyone I’ve talked to has confirmed that Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a terrible, terrible film. Some have even gone so far as to say it’s the worst cinematic picture they’ve ever seen.

I’m at the fifteen minute mark and I haven’t seen anything that has enraged me yet. Considering this is an 88 minute affair, that’s pretty good.

The half hour mark and I’m still safe and sound. Have to admit I’m a little worried now because that means this must go into a full nosedive.

The End….What was so terrible about that?

I’m not sure what it was about this film but I really didn’t have any serious concerns with it nor could I admit to any sort of rage whatsoever. Dare I say, I had fun with this.

The concept is pretty preposterous and no realism is to be found here but it’s based on a fairy tale so I feel like the options are available for them to go haywire here and there. The action sequences were pretty solid from my angle, even though there’s no doubt Hansel and Gretel would have suffered concussions, broken ribs, separated shoulders and maybe even a punctured lung.

It’s safe to say Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters falls into the category of mindless action. Watch it, have fun, have a few laughs and move on. Wikipedia calls this an action comedy and I certainly wouldn’t call it that because Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton take this material very seriously. Really, I think everyone takes this seriously. No one is acting like this is time to screw around and I don’t think there’s ever a shift to the tone of this film at any point. Considering the opening sequence starts with Hansel and Gretel burning a witch alive, I don’t think there are many giggles or gut-busters in this film.

I’m not sure how this film got an R-rating. Aside from a small nude scene that was no longer than 15 seconds and really didn’t need to be there in the first place, there’s nothing overly sexual here and the violence never reaches the carnage level of brutality most films that have that label reach. Some of the kills are so absurd you smirk at them. I’d be surprised if anyone was shaking in their chair because of what they’ve seen. Given all that, I’m curious why they went for the R-rating. Hansel and Gretel feels like a PG-13 film in every way, from the witty lines to the action sequences.

The attitude is dark and deadly serious but the production quality is where the “comedy” parts come in. Some of it is just not good, especially some of the blood effects but I think everyone knows that, including those involved with this film. It was produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and if you know anything about those guys, it’s that they live and breathe comedy. They don’t sponsor action films. Obviously they found some of the dark humor funny enough to give it a couple bucks.

The plot is blunt and while there was one major question I had early on, the film retreated back to give me an answer to it. I didn’t find any bloated plot holes or script discrepancies.

Finally, the acting was concrete. I haven’t seen Jeremy Renner in much but I have a favorable opinion of him so far. This didn’t change that and I think it actually won him a few points in my book. I think he’s a little flamboyant and he doesn’t seem to fear any role or what anyone may think of him and I admire that fearless trait and not letting other people hold you back.

It was nice to see Gemma Arterton in something other than Clash of the Titans. Really, really didn’t like Clash of the Titans.

Just as it was nice to see Gemma Arterton removed from that shoddy material, it was cool to see Famke Janssen out of the grasp of the X-Men films for more than five seconds. I know she’s got to have talent but she never seems to get a chance to show it because she’s always tied down and judged because of Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. I really enjoyed her ferocity and enthusiasm in this role.

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. (Guardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of ExtinctionJack ReacherGodzilla)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Tears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young GunsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(Red Dawn(2012)MaleficentRise of the Planet of the ApesTransporter 2Battle: Los Angeles)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron BurgundyThe TransporterSpeedGodzilla(1998)The Incredible Hulk)

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. (HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage PointThe Starving GamesYou’re Next)

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. (Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and Aliens)

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. (Planet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice, The Contract)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (X-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

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.” (WatchmenClash of the TitansA Haunted House 2Open GraveAlien 3)

My score for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: 66.

I don’t know if you would call this a guilty pleasure because I’m not sure if I’ll watch it again, but I certainly found Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to be an enjoyable experience, even if there’s no overall message or lesson to take away from it aside from “Don’t eat the candy.”

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