August 30, 2010
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Ever since The Blair Witch Project, studios and filmmakers everywhere have been trying to duplicate the look and feeling of the film. The best ones (The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Quarantine, and Paranormal Activity) all had a different angle on the same steadi-cam film. With exception of Cloverfield, all were rated R. In spite of the dreaded title of “PG-13 horror film”, The Last Exorcism actually works as a horror film.
The Last Exorcism follows Cotton Marcus, a reverend since he was a kid. At age 10, he successfully performs his first exorcism, and from there he becomes a bit of a local celebrity. Through his website, people learn of his past and contact him for help, almost all of them request the exorcism of a demon.
After reading a horrific article a few years back about an attempted exorcism, Marcus has changed his ways. Now he performs pseudo-exorcisms to help those who believe in the premise of a demon believe that the demon has been cast out. Marcus comes across as a sincere con-man of sorts. He knows that these people aren’t possessed but continues to profit from their fear. The camera is there to film the perpetuation of a fraud to show that many of his clients are too quick to blame the wrong scapegoat.
His “documentary” takes him to a small house in Louisiana. Here we meet a pleasant and innocent 16-year-old girl who is believed to be possessed. What follows is his attempt at a pseudo-exorcism and the realization she might actually need Marcus’ services.
Despite the simple plot, the characters and shoe-string effects make it believable. Ashley Bell, who plays Nell, managed to do all her own physical transformations without make-up or special effects. Shadows play a big part of exploring the characters, both literal and metaphorical. The film seems to have a twist every twenty minutes, which keeps the film moving and keeps the audience involved. Many will be thrown by the ending, claiming it is out of character. In my opinion, the less-is-more effects and ending gave me chills. As the credits rolled, I saw this as a PG-13 horror movie that works. It may not be scary for most who see it, but it is definitely unsettling. A great thriller that would be great for a midnight movie run. 3.5 out of 5 stars
August 19, 2010
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Time and Time again, the animation studios have come up with original material. If only all other genres of films could take suit. Here is a perfect example of an original idea that connects with the audience.
Despicable Me is a delightful film about a washed up supervillian in search of his comeback. Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) has been shown up by the new villain Vector (Jason Segel). To out-do Vector stealing the pyramids, Gru plots to steal the moon. What starts out as a mere plan, turns out to have a much deeper meaning to Gru. And with the help of 3 orphan girls, Gru learns so much more than he could have expected.
The film will definitely appeal to children, but I found there was a good deal of adult humor. The best one for me was the blatant Godfather nod. The film moves quickly and knows not to overdo the cuteness. Despite being filmed in 3-D, nothing is really added. The 2-D is just as exciting, if not more so because of no distraction. The voice cast is recognizable in their roles but fun to watch anyway.
It aims to please everyone, which seems to be its downfall. A solid family film, but it left me wishing it was a little more like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Definitely fun for the kids, and a lot less dark than Toy Story 3. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
August 16, 2010
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Edgar Wright has a rare ability of blending comedy into his projects. He did wonders with Shawn of the Dead. And now, with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, he creates a visually masterful film while properly blending the source material and the comedy of its characters.
In SPVTW, we find Scott is in a relationship with a 17-year-old school girl. Things are going fine until he sees Ramona Flowers, a woman who is as eccentric as her ever-changing hair color. He pines for her and quickly finds she has baggage. Not in a normal sense, but instead she has 7 evil ex-boyfriends that are trying to kill Scott. In order to be with Ramona, he must defeat them all.
The movie draws a lot from video game culture and apparently from the source material as well. Easily this could have been a distraction, but the style doesn’t overshadow the plot. I do feel that people not acclimated to video games may feel a bit lost, but the same has been said for Inception. Michael Cera, an actor I’ve learned to detest, does an excellent job in going beyond what he normally does and makes Scott a believable character. Mary Elizabeth Winstead personifies Ramona Flowers. Her portrayal grounds the movie. The rest of the cast was well executed. I was so pleased to see Chris Evans and Brandon Routh on the big screen. Tom Jane and Clifton Collins Jr. have a cameo that had me laughing. And of course, Anna Kendrick acts the hell out of the short screen time she had.
The film is well produced and executed with a keen attention to detail that only someone who respects the source material could. A great film that will be well-remembered even if the box office receipts don’t quite live up to its epic nature. 4 out of 5 stars
August 8, 2010
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The first two Step Up movies were decent films. I came to fall in love with the second one, mostly because of Robert Hoffman and Briana Evigan. This time around, it seems the plot is an after thought for the dance choreography. And even that can’t save it.
Step Up 3D is by far the worst of the 3 Step Up movies. Though none of them are classics, the first two knew their audience and succeeded where it counts. In 3D, we follow Moose, the scene stealer of Step Up 2, as he begins college at NYU. Within minutes, we see a dance-off and the 3D technology exploited. We know it’s a dance off because of the explaining done afterwards. Apparently, Moose challenged the bad guy dance group and is thus incorporated into the good guy group. From here, the movie just falls over itself in hopes the dance sequences will redeem it. This time, they rarely do.
Outside of the Moose subplot, we also have the love interest/good guy group romance. The 3D technology is wasted. As a whole, this movie is a disappointment. I miss the unexpected fun of Step Up and the style of Step Up 2. This movie is bad to the point of B movie fun. Skip this and watch the first two instead. 1.5 out of 5 stars
August 7, 2010
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Having been in an environment these past couple weeks that quoted Talladega Nights heavily, I was ready for a new Will Ferrell movie to enter the zeitgeist. The Other Guys is that film…hopefully.
In this buddy cop send-up, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as cops. Not cops with any street experience though, one is one step away from working for the IRS, and the other lives in the shame of who he shot in the line of duty (cameo opportunity). It follows the basic buddy cop plotline, but does so with humor and satire along the way. They come across a big case, one that will shake up things, and deal with the dead-ends and resistance as they get closer. Finally having to go rogue (like all these movies seem to require) to prove their innocence and justify their hunches.
The film is an interesting switch for Ferrell. Instead of being over the top, he chose the quieter role of the two. By doing so, Wahlberg and the supporting cast get a chance to flex their comedic chops. Wahlberg gets the biggest laughs, but Ferrell still gets his licks in. I found myself laughing hysterically at the film, even though the plot lurches as it goes. All in all, this is a solid comedy that (I hope) will make enough money to keep Ferrell in these irreverent and goofy comedies. 3.5 out of 5 stars