Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) **1/2

DIR: Robert Zemeckis
CAST: Nancy Allen, Bobby DiCicco, Susan Kendall Newman, Theresa Saldana, Wendie Jo Sperber
MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 104 mins.

January 1964. The Beatles are about to appear on the Ed Sullivan show which is taped in New York City. A group of friends from New Jersey make their way to the Big Apple and go to great lengths to see the Fab Four any way possible.

Robert Zemeckis' first feature film is a fairly entertaining little comedy that finds itself a bit off the mark from time to time. The humor comes off as a bit hackneyed probably because this sort of comedy has been done so many times since. There are moments that simply weren't that funny because the characters were just too annoying or irritating that I really couldn't enjoy myself. Whenever they appeared, the movie stopped for me. However the parts that do work are very enjoyable, namely Nancy Allen, Theresa Saldana and Marc McClure. For me these three were the heart of the film and I would have enjoyed it more if it just focused on them. Their story arcs felt more genuine and not too sitcom like.

I know the point of the film was meant for the viewer to just have a fun nostalgic time but instead I found myself longing to watch other films like "A Hard Days Night" instead.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Repulsion (1965) *****

DIR: Roman Polanski
CAST: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, Yvonne Furneaux
Rating: UNRATED Running Time: 105 mins.

To her friends and family Carol seems aloof and distracted. Some think she may just be ill. Some think it's relationship problems. Others just brush it aside thinking it's nothing more than just the way she behaves. When her sister leaves her home alone for an extended period, Carol begins to descend into something far more disturbing with shocking consequences.

This is one outstanding thriller. Well written, tautly directed and brilliantly acted. What I truly loved most was that they didn't dumb down the premise by feeling the need to provide exposition to help the viewer understand what's going on. There isn't a therapist scene, there wasn't some throw away scene alluding to what may or may not be affecting our heroine. It trusts and respects the audience enough to be able to keep up.

There are countless moments that stick with you. However the one thing you will never forget is Catherine Deneuve. She deserved a nomination for her performance but alas wasn't. She effectively conveys Carol's fragile state that you not only sympathize for her but fear her as well. She underlays that look of innocence and beauty with a hint that there is something bubbling just beneath the surface.

There's not much more to say other than go see

Trek Nation (2010) **1/2

DIR: Scott Colthorp
Running Time: 88 mins.

In 1991 at the young age of 17, Eugene Roddenberry lost his father, Gene Roddenberry, to a heart attack. Young Gene knew his father created "Star Trek" but as the years passed he began to realize he never knew a lot about his father and his creation. He sets out to speak with the people who knew him, the fans and others who can help him understand just who his father was and what he meant to so many.

This well intentioned documentary features some interesting interviews with countless luminaries from not only Trek but other franchises and brands as well. For fans of the series, much of what is said is pretty well documented so about the only thing this doc really has going for it is its premise which is a son seeking to know his father after he has died. The best sequences feature interviews with Stan Lee, George Lucas and J.J. Abrams.

In the end does he find the answers he was seeking? I'm not really sure, at the risk of sounding insensitive many of the emotional moments felt like they were being played for the camera and Rod's narration throughout is always at the same level so I suppose the answer is "I hope so."

If you don't know who Gene Roddenberry was then this will be an enlightening viewing. As for fans, it's hit or miss.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) **

DIR: Jason Eisener
CAST: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Nick Bateman, Drew O'Hara
RUNNING TIME: 86 mins.

After witnessing too much violence and filth, a homeless drifter snaps and takes the law into his own hands. Armed with a shotgun he begins to clean up the streets one criminal at a time.

This homage to '70s exploitation films works for the most part. There are some entertaining bits here and there but the core of the film, and the only thing worth seeing in it, is Rutger Hauer. Chewing up the scenery and clearing having a blast, he kinda elevates the film. However, when he's not on screen the film screeches to a halt.

When looking back at the films they seek to emulate, one significant problem they all share is pacing. If they aren't entertaining they really start to drag. Obviously these films can't be taken seriously so hopefully they'll be amusing in some way, intentional or not. Based on a faux trailer, the thin thread of an idea wears off pretty quickly and you are left wading through plenty of dull spots interspersed between the good ones. This would be better as a highlight reel.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Raw Force (1982) **

DIR: Edward Murphy

CAST: Cameron Mitchell, Jillian Kessner, John Dresden, Jennifer Holmes


A group of martial arts students on a cruise to a mysterious island soon find themselves facing a Hitler look-a-like, cannibalistic monks, pirates and martial arts zombies.

Well what more can be said except this is just pure unadulterated B exploitation. Gratuitous nudity, nonsensical plot, plenty of gunfights, hand-to-hand combat and zombies for good measure.

As a movie this was pretty bad. The acting was terrible, direction non-existent, don't even get me started on how outrageous the plot was. However as a "So bad but good" movie it does fill that bill despite the fact it does get a bit dull from time-to-time. So if you are going to sit down and watch this as a feature be warned but if you're going to watch it for the fun of it then it could be an entertaining 90 minutes.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mama (2013) *1/2

DIR: Andres Muschietti.
CAST: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Chapentier, Isabelle Nilisse.

After several years in the wilderness, presumably lost and alone, two children are found and brought back to civilization where they are taken in by their uncle and his girlfriend. However the couple soon discovers that the children weren't in fact alone and whatever it is has come with them.

This could have been a decent little ghost story. It really could have. It wasn't really scary but at least had an engaging mystery. Who is Mama? Unfortunately she is a stereotypical CGI creation. For most of the film you are left guessing but once it is revealed who she is and what she's doing it all makes sense and you say okay let's see how this one ends. Wrong.

The third act does irreparable harm to what came before it. As I mentioned once you know the mystery you want to see how it ends. However, the filmmakers apparently felt they didn't want to go the obvious route and tried something different. It didn't work at all. As the final act begins, one illogical plot point after another occurs. Once the finale reaches what I'm sure was meant to be a shocking and sad conclusion it comes off as so corny, unintentionally funny and dumb that it damages the entire film.

About the only thing worth noting about this one are the performances by the children, yup they were better than Jessica Chastain.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Last Stand (2013) **1/2

DIR: Jee-woon Kim
CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Eduardo Noriega, Forest Whitaker

RUNNING TIME: 107mins.

After the leader of a Mexican drug cartel makes a brazen escape from the FBI, the only thing that stands in his way is a small police force in a quiet border town.

Korean director Kim, he made the outstanding "I Saw the Devil" makes his first English feature that also marks Schwarzenegger's first feature role since leaving politics. There's nothing new or original here but it feels very much like something Stallone or Norris would have done in the '90s which isn't a bad thing. Unlike typical Schwarzenegger action fests, this one takes its time to build up to the inevitable confrontation which involves shoot-outs, car chases and hand-to-hand combat. Tonally it has more in common with "Collateral Damage" then say "Eraser."

Arnold is fine as the Sheriff. He's not as physical but still looks great firing a gun. As for the rest of the cast, well outside of an unexpected appearance by Harry Dean Stanton, nothing special.

It was great seeing Arnold back in action which is the main reason why I kinda like this one. If it were another actor not so much.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Amour (2012) ****1/2

Dir: Michael Haneke. Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuella Riva, Isabelle Huppert.

Rated: PG-13. Running Time: 127 mins.

After his wife suffers a stroke, her husband does what he can to care for and ease her pain.

Impeccably acted, this heart-wrenching look at a long married couple's waning days is sure to bring tears. Never melodramatic or over sentimental, Hanake maintains just the right tone to prevent this from becoming maudlin.

This is definitely one to see.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Best Films of 2012


It really took some time to finalize my list for the twenty best films of 2012. I was adding films, dropping films, re-adding films and re-dropping films. At the beginning of the year there were films that I thought would have been assured a spot on this list but was surprised to find them disappointing. However, it is always great to come across films that you never expected to be so good and this year many films cracked my list for that reason. Unlike other years there are a large number of foreign films and documentaries. So here we go.


An excellent thriller assuredly directed by Ben Affleck.

This is probably one of the greatest comic book movies ever made, an absolute blast.

A truly powerful documentary about bullying that should be mandatory viewing by all ages.

Excellent documentary about five men wrongfully accused of a crime they didn't commit.

Funny and touching look at the Comic Con phenomenon.

This thriller will put you threw the ringer.

A visionary science fiction film that features multiple concurrent storylines that are successfully pulled together.

Tarantino's latest is a return to form and a rip-roaring western.

A well acted drama that features an outstanding Denzel Washington.

This is the feel good movie of the year.

This is a shocking black comedy with a very intense but comical finale.

This one starts as a great hit man thriller and evolves into a scary horror movie that features a punch-to-the-gut ending.

One of the best musicals to come out of Hollywood in decades.

Solid drama featuring another stellar Daniel Day Lewis performance.

This tender coming-of-age comedy should bring a smile to your face.

This is one of the most exhilarating action movies I have ever seen in quite some time.

The best James Bond film. Period.

Lyrical, solemn and depressing. It's not a film easily forgotten.

The story of the West Mephis Three concludes in this well made documentary.

Well made retelling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden.


This was a tough one. It was between Cloud Atlas and this for the top spot. Cloud Atlas was a very well made film but Central Park Five touched a nerve with me. Infuriating, frustrating, shocking and ultimately uplifting this documentary about the failure of our judicial system is a must see.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


The Worst Films of 2012

Another year draws to a close and thanks to the invention of the MOVIEPASS I find myself still discerning but at the very least more willing to see films I would have otherwise ignored.

Oddly enough this years worst ten is comprised mostly of genre films. Now there were a few actions films, comedies and dramas that didn't make my list because these were clearly the worst. Many of those featured big names such as Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp, Robert DeNiro, Jane Fonda, Liam Neeson and Sacha Baron Cohen just to name a few.

So here we go, THE TEN WORST FILMS OF 2012...

10. The Barrens (2012)

This psychological/thriller had the potential to be decent at the very least. In it a father takes his family camping in the Jersey Pine Barrens. As the film progresses things start happening, people start dying and seeds are planted that perhaps the Jersey Devil is behind them. We eventually learn that the father has been bitten by the rabid family dog. He doesn't seek treatment and starts to exhibit symptoms. As a viewer you believe that okay there isn't a Jersey Devil the father is clearly descending into madness due to rabies. However in the conclusion it is revealed there really is a Jersey Devil, a bad CGI one at that, and it was behind all the killings. Clearly the filmmakers were kowtowing to their genre audience and this ending undermined any good will that came before it.

My rating: *1/2

9. Wrath of the Titans

The 2010 remake of "Clash of the Titans" was pretty bad. Again with a sequel the only way to go is up. In this case the sequel is better but it's still a pretty bad movie. Perseus must do battle on many fronts as he tries to save heaven and earth. The visual effects may have improved but this one is dull.

My rating: *1/2

8. Chernobyl Diaries

Mutants are living in Chernobyl. The hows are whys are never clearly explained nor does it make any sense nor does anyone really care why. An interesting grain of an idea whose premise wears thin pretty fast and just as quickly forgettable.

My rating: *1/2

7. The Devil's Carnival

Darren Lynn Bousman has the distinction of appearing on my list twice, he wrote and directed "The Barrens." Here he has fashioned together a horror musical. Yes I did say musical. Three lost souls must fast judgement, repent or spend an eternity in hell. The choreography is uninspired and while there is music I wouldn't exactly call it music to the ears, not even to a deaf person.

My Rating: *1/2

6. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

"Ghost Rider" was amusingly bad. The sequel while better than the first is still pretty bad. Directed by the guys who did "Crank" I thought they could bring something to the franchise but instead this entry lacks energy which they are known for. Pretty forgetful movie because as I'm writing this I can't remember much of it. Well except maybe for Ghost Rider pissing fire. That was pretty stupid.

My rating: *1/2

5. Paranormal Activity 4

This franchise has clearly ran its course and exists solely for the fans who keep coming back. In the third film a witches coven was introduced and I really didn't like that aspect of the mythology. The fourth film further expands on what I didn't like prior so needless to say I thought this one was lame. Same old same old, carbon copy sequel that distances itself from what made the first two entertaining and original. Hell it isn't even scary.

My Rating: *1/2

4. Silent Hill: Revelations

I found the first "Silent Hill" disappointing. Great atmosphere and look but not all that scary or engaging. I found the second "Silent Hill" an insufferably slow and poorly executed horror movie that sets out to confuse the viewer more than scare them. I couldn't begin to tell what it all meant when it ended nor did I even care. I checked out on this one very early in the film so I was sitting there taking in the imagery and thinking of whatelse I could be doing at that moment. Bad!!!

My Rating: *

3. The Divide (2012)

This thriller has good acting and that's it. Plot developments get progressively stupider and stupider that by the end you just have to laugh at how bad it got. There is a plot point that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever except to make sure the last survivor has a particular item in order to get out of the bunker. I was shaking my head amazed nobody called the writer out and said what the hell are you doing.

My Rating: *

2. Branded

Okay so we have these crazy looking anime style things on our bodies that are driving us to consume. When we crave a McRib there's this creature that is driving us to it. Why? So that when the creature is satiated it in turn fuels the bigger creature that is the corporation. Are you following me? What? You don't get it? Seriously it's simple. You see there are creatures that are driving our need to consume...oh you got that. Yeah but you see the hero has the ability to control. Oh you don't care to hear any more. Well I had to sit through this turd so you will hear me out. Just kidding.

My Rating: *


1. Toys in the Attic (2012)

I enjoy animation, especially stop motion. However stop motion animation that is backed by a poorly written story that abandons all logic is unacceptable. The world where these toys exist is very much "Toy Story." They only come to life when humans aren't looking. So you'd think that because this is in the real world that the laws of physics would apply here...absolutely not. Pillows start floating because they're clouds you see. All that plastic coming off that spool is a flood of water, isn't it cool how it floods the whole attic. The animators even cheat when a close up of a bust is clearly the head of guy in makeup, unacceptable. When it all ends it literally goes down the drain. Children will be offended, toddlers will be asleep and adults will be fuming. When I saw this only two people were in the audience and one of them left after fifteen minutes. I should have followed them. This was one of the worst animated films I have seen in quite some time. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.

My Rating: *

So there you have it, my picks for the worst films of 2012.