Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mr. Brooks (2007)


Earl Brooks is a loving father, a mild-mannered man and has a lucrative executive job at his company. His alter ego is an intelligent, psychopathic serial killer. On one of the nights of his ‘last’ killings, an amateur photographer witnesses him. He threatens to expose Brooks and his killings if he doesn’t take him along on his next killing. This psychological thriller is a great character study of a madman, with brilliant performances and a smooth pacing. The only problem is this: there are too many subplots and it’s easy to get confused on what’s going on with each one.

Scary Movie 3 (2003)


The third installment in the Scary Movie franchise. This time we find Cindy (from the last two movies) investigating a series of bizarre crop circles. It leaders her to a videotape that happens to kill anybody who watches it, but it goes much deeper than that. With a possible alien invasion, killer tapes and a bumbling president… will Cindy be able to save the world? This sequel seems to be more slapstick and less wit, which is fine but I miss it from the first movie. Also, they seem to focus on non-horror movies such as 8 Mile and The Matrix, which I could have done without. Overall, this was the last good Scary Movie from the franchise.

Night Nurse (1931)


A young woman, Lora Hart, enlists to become a nurse at a downtown hospital. She applies to become a family nurse and watched over two young girls, but she finds out that these girls are sick and are forced to starve to death in a sinister scheme to murder them. Lora than seeks help from a bootlegger to stop Nick, the Chauffeur who wants the girls dead, from murdering the girls. I loved the plot and the pacing of the film but I felt like I was watching a soap opera at time. Still, it’s fun to watch for some of the comedic moments and Stanwyck’s performance.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)


Edna is trying to get to her sister’s house to put her in a rehab center and George is a motorist who unwillingly tags alone after Edna destroyed his motorcycle. Unfortunately, after witnessing a zombie kill Edna’s sister’s husband, the police blame all three of them on the murder. Unbeknownst to everybody, the culprit behind the murder was a zombie that rose from the grave after an experimental sound device re-animated his brain. And there are plenty more zombies right behind him. Though this movie is cheesy and occasionally long and drawn out, it was enjoyable. The zombie effects were great but the entire film seemed more like a crime thriller than a zombie movie, perhaps that’s because nothing spectacular happens till the end.

Apollo 13 (1995)


Ron Howard’s gripping inspirational re-telling of the Apollo 13 disaster. Based on the real life story, the film finds three astronauts on their way to the moon when disaster strikes. With their oxygen levels slowly disappearing, time running out and not enough fuel to get back home, they must find a way to work together and save each other. This was an amazing tale, perfectly directed by Howard. The entire story was handled with care and precision and even though I know the ending, I still find myself on the edge of my seat. Highly recommended.

Scary Movie (2000)


The Wayans’ brothers obvious but clever spoof of 90s horror movies follows a group of idiotic teenagers who are being stalked by an equally stupid serial killer. Coincidentally, the killer shows up a year after the teens accidentally killed a fisherman and disposed of his body. This hilarious movie is funny in all the right places; it combines wit, humor and slapstick comedy with crass vulgar situations. It proved to me that if I can still laugh at this ‘scary movie’ years after I saw it, then it did its job.

Scarface (1932)


Tony Camonte is an ambitious but violent gang leader that climbs the ladder of success in the mob world. However, after realizing that his sister is getting involved with the wrong people, he becomes overprotective of her. Inevitably, this leads to the fall of Tony Camonte. This was a wonderful and rather sad film that makes the audience sympathize with Tony. The performances were great and the story was compelling. Highly recommended

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pearl Harbor (2001)


It’s Michael Bay is at it again only this time he is tackling the events leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack all the way to the end of the Doolittle Raid. The story follows two friends who joined the Air Force, but when one of them is presumably dead, his friend falls for his ex-girlfriend. Little do they know that he’s made a full recovery. Even though Bay’s version of the attacks were inaccurate, it still think it was a great action movie and maybe it might prompt others into learning what really happened and appreciating how we fought back. It was a Hollywood dramatization of real life events but people seem to forget that this isn’t the first time Hollywood has done it.

The Replacements (2000)


After Washington’s football team goes on strike, the owner of the team decides to let the replacement coach hire replacement football players; they range from a hotheaded army man, to a cocky Welshman with a swift leg. However, the team must learn to get a long and play as a team but things seems to fall apart with the actual football team badgers them days before a big game. I really enjoyed this movie even though it’s cliché. It’s heart-warming, it’s funny and you can really feel that the characters are different but share a common interest in football. It was a great and inspiring underdog story.

Die Another Day (2002)


James Bond is at it again, only this time he seems more lumbering and has a knack for saying horrible one-liners. Bond is sent to stop an evil North Korean terrorist from making a deal with a rich diamond guru to take over all of Korea. Little does Bond know that the two may not be who they really are, and that the mysterious diamond tycoon is secretly building a massive weapon in space. There are plenty of long drawn-out dull action sequences, uninteresting villains and tacky dialogue to keep you laughing but the rest of the movie is very forgettable. I found myself wanting to watch the Connery or Craig Bond movies.

Bad Boys II (2003)


Detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey are at it again, only this time they are sent to investigate a strange ecstasy trafficking into Florida. Things begin to get complicated when Marcus’s sister goes undercover as a transporter/financer to the drug lord. Again, Bay seems to give us nothing but eye-candy and testosterone fueled car chases and shootouts. I quite it enjoyed it, more than the first one and it really put me right there in the Florida heat.

Cedar Rapids (2011)


Tim Lippe is a down-home, small-town guy but that’s all about to change when he is sent to Cedar Rapids to represent his small company at an annual insurance convention. However, the adjustment between the small-town life and the city life begins to take its toll on him but three convention pros take him under his wing and show him a good time. Although the film was funny at times and John C. Reilly steals the show, I found this to be more dramatic than funny. There were a lot of awkward moments and times where I felt like I wanted to laugh but didn’t. Certainly not too memorable save for Reilly’s character.

Transformers (2007)


Michael Bay’s over-the-top envisioning of the 80s cartoon. Sam Witwicky is your average teenager until he soon discovers that his new car is actually a robot in disguise. Before long he is flung into an epic battle between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, and he realizes that his ancestors made the most important discovering on Earth. Now he must help his robot friends find and destroy the All-Spark before the Decepticons use it to conquer the world. Bay was the perfect person for this because the entire movie replaces good dialogue, acting and characters with eye-candy, explosions, action and thrilling suspense. So all in all it was a great action movie but only if you are willing to leave your brain at the door.

Death Sentence (2007)


After witnessing the brutal death of his older son, Nick Hume takes the law into his own hands and tries to find the people responsible for his son’s death. Stricken with grief, the rest of the family is unwillingly drawn into Nick’s mission that seems to get more and more violent. I had a lot of fun with this movie. Sure it was way over the top and very Hollywood but that made the experience all the more better. It’s rather fun to watch Kevin Bacon take a 120 on his character and transform himself from a meek well-mannered executive to a cold-blooded, skinhead vengeance-seeking killer. But at times you do wonder if he really thought this through.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crawlspace (1986)


Klaus Kinski stars as Dr. Karl Gunther, a brilliant but psychopathic doctor who was the son of a demented Nazi SS surgeon. He rents out apartments, hides in the ventilation shafts and tortures his tenants with rats and other devices. However, a beautiful young girl moves in that he begins to obsess over and a man shows up claiming that he was responsible for his brother’s death and seeks revenge. Gunther has a lot on his plate now. This sadomasochistic film is a dark and twisted look into the mind of a helpless sociopathic serial killer. Kinski plays the role like a fine-tuned fiddle and nails his mannerisms. It’s a great film that differs from usual slashers but see it for Kinski if not for the rest.

Sin City (2005)


Robert Rodriguez’s visual masterpiece is a gritty, violent and gory one. The stories are adapted from the Sin City pulp comics by Frank Miller and follow a hero cop trying to save a little girl from a brutal rapist, a sociopathic street thug avenging the death of a dead hooker and a vigilante trying to prevent war between the cops and the prostitutes. Visually, the film is beautiful and attributes the comic books very well but it also attributes the film noir movies of the 1930s and 40s. The dialogue is quick and to the point, the violence is prime and the whole film feels like one giant murderous ballet. The entire cast has put everything they had into this and is probably one of the best films of the last 10 years. It’s truly stunning.

Baby Face (1933)


Barbara Stanwyck plays Lily Powers, a young ambitious woman who leaves her father’s sleazy bar business in hopes of trying to make it on her own. Her mentor convinces her, based on Nietzsche’s teachings, to use her body and sexual personality to con men into getting what she wants. Now she has worker her way up the corporate ladder, but when her game throws her into a love triangle she begins to think about what she has done to get to where she is. For the time the film was very risqué but by today’s standards it’s quite lighthearted. It was a very compelling drama that makes you feel a little dirty about Lily. The film is short and gets right to the point and it made me guess what could happen so that everything works out in the end.

Liar Liar (1997)


Fletcher Reede is a professional liar; actually he is a quick thinking lawyer who made a living off lying but when his lying turns into broken promises, his son wishes (on his birthday) that his dad can’t lie for 24 hours. This is because Fletcher ditched his birthday to have sex with a fellow co-worker. Now, on the day of one of his career-changing cases, the fast track lawyer can’t make on lie no matter how hard he tries. Liar Liar was a great film that had lots of laughs, lots of heart and a great performance by Jim Carrey. He was so physical and goofy that it almost makes you wish there was an entire movie on his physical comedy.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)


Treasure hunter and historian Ben Gates is at it again only this time he is out to clear his family name after recently discovering that his ancestors helped plan the assassination of President Lincoln. Now he must gather his team back and find the book of secrets to not only clear his name but to find the fabled lost city of glod to prove that it wasn’t all in vain. However, Mitch Wilkinson, another treasure hunter is on his tail hoping to bring honor to his family by any means necessary. This was a damn fine sequel to the first movie; it combines the adventure, the puzzle solving and the lovable characters that made me reminisce of the early adventure serials. It was edge-of-your-seat fun and definitely worth a watch.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)


D.W. Griffith’s controversial silent masterpiece is a task and a pain to watch. Two families (a Southern family and a Northern family) face the perils of the Civil War as well as the grueling Reconstruction Era. The film, which is 3 hours long, was very controversial when it came out as it argued for the KKK as well as the Southern spirit. However, despite what it stood for in terms of production and costuming, it’s still a task to watch. It’s a film that should only be viewed once if you are a serious film fan but other than that… it can be difficult.

Intruder (1989)


On the night shift of a small-town supermarket, a young cash register draws the attention of her ex-boyfriend who happens to be an ex-felon. Coincidentally, a homicidal maniac intrudes on the store and begins killing the night shift staff. Could it be the young woman’s ex-boyfriend or somebody far more closely? This wonderful yet corny slasher flick combines several technical elements that have been previously seen in Evil Dead. It’s no surprise since the director has coordinated and casted the Raimi brothers in his film. The kills are original; the killer is frightening, the editing and lighting give the film a sense of atmosphere; something you don’t see every day. I highly recommend it to any slasher fan.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Contact (1997)


When her father passed away when she was 9, Dr. Ellie Arroway devoted her life to find proof that there are intelligent beings outside our solar system. While working at the Very Large Array, she discovers a radio signal that turns out to be extraterrestrials contacting the planet. During her discovery her team manages to decrypt the signals into different fields and numbers revealing plans that call for the construction of a machine. Nobody knows what it’s for but it might be a gateway between our world on theirs. This is one of Zemeckis’s underrated films. It’s such a beautiful study of character development laced with a compelling story, real emotion and a more unique look at alien contact. Despite its subtle Hollywood moments it’s a piece that always seems to hit me in the right spot.

Machete (2010)

★★★★☆ (Grindhouse scale)

After witnessing his wife and daughter killed by a Mexican drug lord, ex-Federale Machete wants a peaceful life. That is until he is hired to assassinate a U.S. Senator. But when the people who hired him betray him he launched a campaign of brutality and slaughter. However, and INS agent is hot on his trail trying to figure out what it going on. She discovers that the Senator may be working with a group of psychotic vigilantes and perhaps even the Mexican drug cartels. This homage to classic grindhouse trash is gooey in all the right parts. It has gore, lots of violence, one-liners, ridiculous killings and a general tone of over-the-top. It’s not meant to be taken seriously but it’s a fun cheesy ride back to the golden days of trash cinema.

The Da Vinci Code (2006)


Based off of the controversial bestseller; after the mysterious death of the Louvre curator, novelist Robert Langdon teams up with agent Sophie Neveu to discover the mysterious killer. However their journey leads them to a secret society, formed hundreds of years ago, that has protected a secret that could turn the foundations of Christianity on it’s side. It then becomes a treasure hunt for the Holy Grail. Directed by Ron Howard, this film is a bit slow and awkwardly paced but the story is very appealing… filled with twists and turns, mystery and adventure. It reminded me of a modern day Indiana Jones.

Minority Report (2002)


In the not to distant future, three psychic humans known as Precogs help arrest people before they commit a crime. However, John Anderton, the PreCrime Unit’s top officer, is accused of killing somebody he doesn’t even know for an unknown reason. Now he has little over 48 hours before he kills the man to prove himself innocent as his colleagues hunt him down. But his journey into the truth may lead him to discover a dark secret hidden in his past as well as the PreCrime Unit itself. Spielberg has done it again. Not only is this film visually awe-inspiring and very plausible but also it’s very engaging, filled with great action, and it seems like every scene is eye candy. But the story goes deeper than that as it’s also one of the first films that became a metaphor for the 9/11 attacks.

Shanghai Knights (2003)


Chon Wang and Roy O’Bannon are at it again but this time it isn’t in the Wild West. A Chinese rebel kills chon’s estranged father and his sister tracks him down to Great Britain. Now Chon and Roy are off to Britain to avenge his death but while in Britain they discover that the rebel is in cahoots with a British Lord who wants to be king. They are then falsely accused of a crime and are racing against the clock to stop the two madmen. Much like the original Chan’s “humiliation fighting” is the real star of the show. It’s funny, it’s stupid and it’s a great sequel to beloved buddy comedy. Look for a hysterical scene involving fighting heroine Chon Lin and Jack the Ripper.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)


Ian Malcolm, one of the survivors of the original Jurassic Park incident, is tricked into accompanying a research team to Jurassic Park Site B where the dinosaurs have begun forming their own territories. However, while on the island they discover another team (comprised of hunters) are sent to take dinosaurs off the island and brought back to San Diego. Now Malcolm and his team must stop them before history repeats again. See Jurassic Park for review. However, this film has an overwhelming hint of King Kong.

Jurassic Park (1993)


Paleontologists Allan Grant and Ellie Sattler are given a once in a lifetime opportunity. To be the first to preview a theme park that has real cloned dinosaurs as the attraction. However, when a computer hacker disables the park’s security system (in order to steal dinosaur embryos for a rivaling company) the dinosaurs are set loose. Now, the preview group, which also consists of two kids, must find a way to stay alive through the night with raptors and tyrannosauruses on the loose. Spielberg’s special effects extravaganza will leave you on the edge of your seat through the entire ride. The sound is mind blowing; the effects are mesmerizing the whole film is filled with memorable moments.

Shanghai Noon (2000)


After the princess is mysteriously taken from the Forbidden City, imperial guard Chon Wang travels to Western America in search for the missing princess. While there he discovers that she was kidnapped in exchanged for imperial gold. Now he must team up with a trigger-happy train robber to bring the princess back, recover the gold and defeat a corrupt railroad builder. This action comedy is funny in all the right places and Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson make for a great team despite their moralistic differences. It’s filled with jaw-dropping stunts by Chan, and funny snarky comments by Owen Wilson. It’s truly a unique but satisfying buddy comedy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Signs (2002)


Ex-Reverend Graham Hess and his family are beginning to recover after his wife passed away from a terrible roadside accident. Now, after discovering crop circles in his cornfield the family has a new challenge to face… possible alien invasion. But first the family must learn to work together and forgive; otherwise they might end up dead. M. Night’s compelling, slow burn tale of coincidence, belief and horror is a stunning one. It’s filled with great motifs, cinematography, metaphors and captivating performances. This is one of M. Night’s best films and is a throwback to classic Hitchcock films.

Be Cool (2005)


Chili Palmer has broken apart from the movie industry so he gets his hands wet in the music industry. He finds a young singer and does whatever it takes to giver her a name in the business; however, he ends up rubbing her sleazy manager the wrong way. Now chili is mixed up with the Russian mafia, a manager who will do anything to get his singer back, a hitman, and the music industry’s top gang, all while romancing the wife of a dead music executive. This is one of those movies where you can’t take it too seriously. It’s ridiculous, over the top comedy at it’s finest but the performances seem to make me cringe. Still, it’s a fun movie to watch.

Dolls (1987)


What do two unloving guardians, a young girl, two female punks and a lovable truck driver have in common? They are all stranded during a storm and are forced to stay in the mansion of two elderly toy makers. However, their collections of hand-made dolls seem to have a taste for blood for anybody who doesn’t appreciate them. As corny as this may be, I love the use of stop motion to create a creepy sense of realism to the dolls. Mixed with a fairytale plot and beautiful art direction, this horror movie is truly unique.

E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)


A young boy befriends a stranded alien and begins to develop a very special bond with him. However, after a nearby woods chase the government is hot on the boy’s trail to try to isolate the alien being. Spielberg’s “ode to childhood” is sheer beauty rendered to film format. Words can’t describe this timeless childhood classic. It truly is one of the greatest films of all time.

After the Sunset (2004)


After pulling off their last heist, master thieves Max and Lola settle down in their sun-drenched tropical paradise. Only problem is the agent that swore to find them… found them. Even worse, a local mob boss has enlisted the retired Max to steal the grand daddy of all diamonds. Now Max has to choose between the love of his life or the love for stealing again. Even though Ratner directed this, I found it to be a very enjoyable, quirky comedy. Hayek Harrelson and Brosnan are all great and in the end it made me want to visit the tropics all the more badly.

The Karate Kid (2010)


After moving to China for his mother’s work, 10-year-old Dre Parker develops a crush on a young girl but also gets beaten up by school bullies. When the apartment maintenance man, Mr. Han, encourages Dre to fight peacefully things get more difficult. Now Mr. Han has to teach Dre Kung Fu in order to bring closure to himself. Though I was skeptical about this remake, I was pleasantly happy by it. It was very inspirational, deviated away from the original but still kept its tone and Jackie Chan was the perfect mentor. You can tell that he truly lost something and I think he was the scene-stealer. All this amounts to is a damn fine remake.