Savages Movie Review
Posted on November 11th, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Grade D+: Savages is a topical movie about the drug culture and Mexican drug cartels along the southern border of the US. It’s a movie that had a lot of potential, but never lived up to it.
In Savages, Chon (Taylor Kitsch), Ben (Aaron Johnson) and O (Blake Lively) operate a massive marijuana growing/distribution business in southern California and sell the best bud in the world. Their group is so successful that they’ve caught the attention of a Mexican cartel led by Elena (Salma Hayek) and enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro) and are made an offer they can’t refuse. But when they do refuse, the cartel kidnaps O in order to force a partnership. What follows is Ben and Chon secretly declaring war on the cartel in order to rescue O.
Savages is a movie with a lot of good ideas, almost any of which could have been an interesting movie on its own. There’s the idea that there might be a declared war in the Middle East, but there’s an undeclared one going on right now one the border of the US and Mexico. There’s the idea of how a modern drug cartel works. There’s the idea that good cops getting caught up in the money of drugs. There’s the idea of what do professional soldiers do when they’re no longer soldiers? And many more.
But none of these ideas were explored that much, leaving Savages as a drag with a lot of wasted potential.
The only reason to see Savages are for the performances of Del Toro and John Travolta as DEA agent Dennis. Del Toro plays his role as a man who sees killing as just another fact of life like and Travolta seems to be the only one in the cast who’s having any fun at all.
The Bay Movie Review
Posted on November 4th, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Grade B+: I’ve been interested in seeing the movie The Bay ever since I’d heard about it last year when it was originally called Isopod. But other than a poster and trailer that was released a few weeks, I hadn’t heard much about The Bay until last week. That’s when a flood of new information about the movie began hitting the internet, just before (surprise!) the official release of the movie last Friday.
Presented “found footage” style via news reports, security cam footage, web chats, etc., The Bay takes place in a small Maryland town over the course of the July 4th holiday. What starts off as a typical celebration turns sinister as people around town begin experiencing weird rashes and boils across their bodies. As this new disease progresses and the local hospital and CDC try to uncover and contain this outbreak, things spin out of control as these rashes and boils begin to literally consume the people alive from the inside out. Is this a new disease or something else?
The Bay is being sold as a horror movie. And while there are certain horrific elements to it, I wouldn’t call it a true horror film. It’s more of an ecological thriller in the veil of Contagion (2011). Here, instead of our modern travel system making the transmission of new diseases faster than ever before, it’s water pollution mixed with invasive species that cause trouble for mankind.
And while it might not really be a horror movie, all throughout The Bay the director Barry Levinson (Copper, Homicide: Life on the Street) and writer Michael Wallach infuse the movie with an incredible sense of dread that never lets up until the very last second of the movie. While watching the The Bay, there were times that I’d find myself tensing to the point that I’d have to tell myself to relax.
The Bay works best when the bad things are only glimpsed or are presented just off screen. In the two most unsettling scenes in the movie, the terror comes from sounds heard outside a house and sounds heard from people investigating the town. What you imagine is going on with those sounds is much worse than anything the writer or director could have shown the audience.
The Bay is currently playing in select theaters and is available on demand.
Disaster Du Jour #3: The Swarm
Posted on November 2nd, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
The 1970s were a time chock full of real-life terrors; from communist world domination fears, to nuclear proliferation around the globe, oil embargoes, terrorism… And all these fears were translated into a golden age of disaster films throughout that decade. Back then there were disaster films about runaway planes, earthquakes and global ecological catastrophes to name a few. But one of the most bizarre of these disaster films has to be The Swarm (1978).
The Amazing Spider-Man Movie Review
Posted on October 31st, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Grade C: I’m not sure there was a need for the movie The Amazing Spider-Man. Not that I don’t think there should ever be another Spider-Man film or that the first trilogy of movies were so good they were untouchable. Just that since much of what happens in The Amazing Spider-Man was already covered in previous films there really wasn’t much need for this one.
In The Amazing Spider-Man, teen Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider and is given spider-like powers of strength, climbing and knowing when danger is about. Parker must protect his girlfriend in the making Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) along with the citizens of NYC from the evil Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) who’s out to transform everyone in the city into lizards too.
And if that’s all there was to The Amazing Spider-Man, I’d be perfectly fine with it. Instead, though, much of this movie is an origin story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, almost all of which was covered before in the three previous movies, the live-action TV series, comic books, cartoons, etc., etc., etc. I can’t imagine there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know the origin to Peter Parker/Spider-Man, so much of The Amazing Spider-Man is a waste in that respect.
The creators of The Amazing Spider-Man did try to differentiate their film from the previous Spider-Man movies by having their NYC be dark and gloomy and rainy. In fact, the NYC of The Amazing Spider-Man feels a whole lot like the Gotham City of The Dark Knight, and I get the sense that this was intentional. But while “dark and gloomy” might work for a “dark and gloomy” character like Batman, it really didn’t work all that well for The Amazing Spider-Man.
I hate to say this, but I found the relatively weak Spider-Man 3 (2007) film more enjoyable than The Amazing Spider-Man.
Rosewood Lane Review
Posted on October 28th, 2012 | By: Mo Alexander
Grade D: Ok, so lets just get this one right out of the way.. I enjoy Victor Salva’s style with horror.
Much to my surprise to hear that he had a new flick out called “Rosewood Lane”, My wife and I decided “Hey, maybe this will be a good rental for the night.” Boy were we ever wrong..
Now, don’t get me wrong, the last two horror flicks that Salva released (Jeepers Creepers Part 1 and 2) were awesome horror flicks. Right up there with the old classic Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and even Evil Dead. Hell they are even so good, Ill even watch them when they are on regular TV (and that says a lot). Jeepers Creepers 1 and 2 both had a style of their own, but it showed through and through that Salva was keeping true to form, allowing his “demon” (if you will) character to run rampant and slaughter a lot of innocent teenagers and adults alike. The movies kept you entertained, scared, and wondering how in the heck they were going to KILL it.
So, you can imagine my anticipation of this chapter of horror from Salva.. Right? RIGHT?? Well, turns out this flick was a disappointment from the start. It all starts with the main character (Sonny Blake)’s father passing away due to unusual circumstances which, of course, the police write-off as an accident. Somewhat unsettled by the whole event, and the fact that she can’t sell her dad’s house after he passes, Sonny decides to move into the house and make it her own. Slowly as things progress, Sonny comes to realize that not all things in her dad’s neighborhood are normal. Her neighbor’s are very reclusive, the dogs living in the area constantly bark at shadows.. and it all seems to stem from the local “paperboy”.
Now, of course this paperboy really starts causing problems in the area (Breaking in Sonny’s house, moving around her figurines, offering her a newspaper subscription….) and of course Sonny doesn’t take a liking to him. She calls in the cops, to which they once again, prove their ignorance to poor Sonny’s pleas that she is being victimized by this 30+ year old (pretending to be 16) on a Schwinn ten speed. Of course drama and murder ensue.. As Sonny’s good friends that come to visit her get put six feet under.
Midway to the end of this rental, we found ourselves watching the movie in fast-forward, finding that a lot of the material (and acting for that matter) lackluster, predictable, and even downright boring. The thought of a paperboy terrorizing a neighborhood just seems laughable. Unfortunately, we weren’t laughing..
Oh and one other note.. If you are shot in the back with a crossbow, odd’s are you won’t be able to breathe, drive a car, much less run…
Salva, lets call this one a “rebound” movie, or say somebody else wrote it and you were paid to direct it… Just please please please… BRING BACK THE GOOD HORROR!!!
Sleepwalk with Me Movie Review
Posted on October 21st, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Grade B: For a few years now I’ve been a fan of comedian/storyteller Mike Birbiglia and was interested in his one man show turned movie Sleepwalk with Me. The movie’s in theaters now and is also available to rent on-demand.
In Sleepwalk with Me, Birbiglia essentially plays a semi-fictionalized version of himself as up and coming comedian Matt Pandamiglio. Though Matt’s comedy start is rocky, he finds success by delving into his real-life issues for comedy bits. The downside of this success is that Matt’s constantly on the road spending time away from his girlfriend turned fiance Abby (Lauren Ambrose).
The stress of building this career and planning for marriage manifests itself in Matt via episodes of sleepwalking, most of which are played in the movie for laughs.
In one episode, Matt wins the “Dustbuster Olympics” and in another enjoys a pizza pillow which got me laughing so hard I nearly choked. But as the episodes continue and Matt’s more and more successful and stressful career is combined with he and Abby reconsidering their relationship with one and other, Matt’s sleepwalking takes a nasty turn where he almost kills himself leaping from a second floor hotel window in the middle of the night.
I can totally relate to Birbiglia’s story, I’ve been an on-again/off-again sleepwalker for most of my life. I’ve never climbed furniture or leaped from hotels, my episodes usually involve waking in my living room after running out of my bedroom convinced some sort of creature was in there with me. But I’ve also shared that feeling with Birbiglia of slowly awakening someplace other than in bed and coming to the realization that “it’s happened again.”
While seeing Birbiglia’s sleepwalking on-screen as he sees it in his dream is hilarious, there’s also an underlying sense in the film that while sleepwalking might sometimes be funny to outsiders, to Birbiglia it’s something that he must struggle with on a daily basis to control it rather than having it control him.
Magic Mike Movie Review
Posted on October 12th, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Grade B: I suspect that many who went to see the movie Magic Mike did so because they were interested in seeing lots of well-toned men wearing next to nothing gyrating on-screen to dance tunes. And while there is much of that in this movie, there is much more to Magic Mike than beef-cakes in banana-hammocks.
Channing Tatum plays Mike who strips on-stage at the Xquisite Strip Club club for a cut of the door and tucked bucks. But what Mike really wants is to open his own shop and build custom furniture for a living. Not because he has many objections to his life of loose women, drugs and rock’n roll, but more because he sees where the life leads in club-owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Who, although well to do has some odd views of the world and the people in it. To this enters “The Kid” Adam (Alex Pettyfer), new to the stripping game who sees Dallas as a role model and anything Mike or Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn) might say to the otherwise as lame.
What I found most interesting about Magic Mike was that it didn’t follow that story path of similar movies like this where the characters find themselves in a questionable lifestyle but loving living on the edge, then going over the edge and suffering the consequences before finally discovering the true meaning of life in their downfall. Instead in Magic Mike, it’s more a story about two guys, Mike and Adam, one discovering all the benefits that come with a stripping lifestyle while the other who’s trying to find a way out if only for a pesky bad credit score.
Magic Mike is the second film this year to be directed by Steven Soderbergh and star Tatum, the other being Haywire.
Dark Shadows Movie Review
Posted on October 3rd, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Grade C+: I was interested in the Dark Shadows movie when I first heard about it since director Tim Burton (Batman, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) doing a movie based on a horror soap opera* sounded like one heck of an interesting idea. But, for whatever reason I never went to see it in theaters and recently caught up with Dark Shadows on DVD. After watching the movie, I didn’t feel like I missed anything by not seeing it on the big screen.
Dark Shadows follows cursed vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) as he awakens 200 years after he was buried “alive” by scorned witch Angelique (Eva Green). Barnabas must navigate a radically different 1970s America from the 18th century one he left while at the same time stopping Angelique, who’s spend the last two centuries amassing a fortune and local good will, from destroying the modern Collins family altogether.
In many ways Dark Shadows reminded me of the movie Austin Powers (1997) in that both dealt with a man out of time who’s forced to adapt outdated modes of thinking to achieve some goal. But, while I’d argue that Austin Powers was a movie that worked, Dark Shadows never quite gelled for me.
There were interesting characters and the visuals of Dark Shadows were striking. But while the movie was very nice to look at the story seemed to skip over a lot of details and I have to admit that I left Dark Shadows confused. I couldn’t decide if the parts were being skipped were because they were from the TV series, and I was lost because I’d never seen it, or if the filmmakers were simply trying to cram too much story into a movie that could have been a lot simpler and still retained a sense of fun.
* The soap opera version of Dark Shadows ran just five years but produced an incredible 1,225 episodes of television. To put that number into perspective, the animated TV series The Simpsons has aired the last 23 years but “only” produced 500+ episodes.
The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 Movie Review
Posted on September 30th, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Grade B: The character of Batman has been very busy in 2012. Not only does he star in as well as appear in many different comic books, he’s also featured in an animated TV series as well as having the title role in one of the most successful movies of the year with The Dark Knight Rises. To all this adds another Batman film, abet an animated and direct to disc/digital download one; The Dark Knight Returns Part 1.
The Dark Knight Returns adapts one of the most critically acclaimed comic series of all time in animated form. In this story, at some point in the past Bruce Wayne has hung up the Batman cowl and has assumed his Bruce Wayne personal full time. Now an older man, Wayne sees crime rampaging and out of control around Gotham City and comes to the stark realization that only Batman might have the capabilities, resources and guts to clean-up the streets.
What a thankless job adapting The Dark Knight Returns had to be for the filmmakers here. If they get it right, the best they can hope for is for the audience to think that they cribbed elements from the Christopher Nolan Batman films for their movie*. The worst they can expect is to be vilified for tarnishing one of the most beloved comic books ever that, it can be argued, is the foundation of the current Batman brand.
Luckily for them, I’d say the filmmakers got it right.
I’ve been a big fan of most of these DC direct to disc animated films and thought that The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 was one of the better of these films. The creators of this movie did a good job in adapting The Dark Knight Returns story to animated form, cutting where necessary and not adding too much, if any, new elements to the story.
Peter Weller (RoboCop, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension) does a great job as the voice of an older, more world-weary Batman and Ariel Winter (Modern Family) made me believe that the character of Robin is integral to the overall story of Batman.
Expect The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 on store shelves sometime in 2013.
*Most of which originally appeared in the 1986 comic mini-series.
The Cabin in the Woods Movie Review
Posted on September 20th, 2012 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Grade B- – The movie The Cabin in the Woods got a lot of positive buzz when it was released earlier this year. People who saw the movie said that it was different, that it played with the typical slasher movie conventions, turned these conventions around and created something new and unique. Being written by Joss Whedon (Firefly, The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was a huge plus as if anyone has experience with convention-busting it would be Whedon who helped reshape the vampire mythos in Buffy and later Angel.
While I’d say The Cabin in the Woods is a good movie and there is a certain amount of convention-busting going on here, I’d also say that what keeps Cabin from being a better film is that it still relies heavily on those same slasher movie conventions to deliver the scares.
In Cabin, a group of teens visit said cabin in the woods where things aren’t quite what they seem. There, the teens accidentally let lose and ancient evil that begins murdering the teens one by one. But, the twist here is that something is controlling the teens and the evil for their own purposes. And telling anymore would spoil the movie.
What works well in Cabin is everything NOT to do with the teens and their horror situation. The teen part of the story is just like every slasher movie that’s come along in the last 30 years and is dull, dry and boring. However, everything outside of the teens and the situation they’re in, the spoiler territory, is quite interesting and unique.
However interesting it might have been, that and the fact that the ending that seemed to be a version of the ending of Cloverfield (2008), made The Cabin in the Woods a good film rather than a great one.
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