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Insidious: Chapter 2 is lost in the after life

17 Sep

INSIDIOUS-CHAPTER-2

James Wan may have now established himself as the King of modern horror with SAW, Insidious and The Conjuring under his belt. He knows how to keep his audiences on edge and screaming for more. The sequel to the 2011 surprise horror hit brings back the cast and pick up right where they left off at. The Lambert family (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) seek to uncover the secret that has them attached to the supernatural.

The film does give some better scares than the first one, but also makes some predictable choices that would bore the avid horror fan. Writers Wan and Leigh Whannell bring some welcomed creativity to the story but at the same time overreaches and leaves too many unanswered questions. John Leonetti deserves some recognition for his brilliant camerawork as he frames the film’s haunting atmosphere. Insidious: Chapter 2  will frighten audiences, but the story does not live on in the “after life” of Chapter 1.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: C+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Riddick grabs you by the throat…

13 Sep

RIDDICK-FILM

Riddick grabs you by the throat at the beginning of the film and squeezes hard. The special effects and the gritty survival story pulls everyone in right away, until the B-level supporting cast (bounty hunters) shows up and reminds audiences they are watching a sci-fi film closer in quality to Pitch Black than Chronicles. Diesel’s slow delivery and deliberate physicality demonstrates his box office appeal. He has not lost a step, although this version of the title character has an “in the gutter” sense humor that helps keep audiences entertained as he must kill man and beast over and over again. It does get a little repetitive at the end, but Riddick delivers on his promises. This movie does not advertise to be something it is not. Audiences get what they expected and most people leave satisfied and hoping for another film that will feature a climatic showdown between Riddick and Vaako (Karl Urban).

WORD COUNT: 154

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Short Term 12 should not be overlooked this summer

6 Sep

SHORT-TERM-12

Filmmaker Destin Cretton draws from his personal experiences from working at a foster care facility to create a thoughtful and powerful film, Short Term 12. The plot revolves around a group home for troubled teens where a supervising staff member, Grace (Brie Larson) attempts to negotiate and navigate her way through her personal and professional problems.

Cretton artfully presents a difficult subject and backs it up with authentic dialogue that resonate for a long time after the end credits. The acting is wonderful across the board with Larson and Gallagher Jr. leading the way with award worthy performances. Their characters are flawed which makes for a much more interesting film. Cretton’s script is sound and the documentary-like shot direction adds to the story’s authenticity. Short Term 12 balances hope and despair in a way most independent films cannot. It is a valuable gem that should not be overlooked this summer.

WORD COUNT: 149

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The World’s End goes down like a good beer

26 Aug

AT-WORLDS-END

Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will enjoy the hilarious and heartfelt, The World’s End. It concludes the Cornetto Trilogy, which refers to the color and flavor of ice cream in the film. Obviously, very important stuff and I will have to get a triple scoop with each flavor because Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s third installment ends the trilogy on a high note.

Twenty years after a failed attempt of a pub crawl called the ‘Golden Mile’ – 12 pubs, 12 pints, Gary King (Pegg) drags his childhood friends along to complete the hedonistic task. Not even aliens will deter them from this great achievement.

I was impressed with the film’s ability to mix genres and still spend the time developing each of these characters. Unfortunately, I did feel overwhelmed at times with the story’s sci-fi/action sequences and ending, but with repeated viewings I am sure I will grow to appreciate it like a good beer.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Kick-Ass 2 gets its ass kicked

19 Aug

KICK-ASS-2

The original Kick-Ass surprised audience with its funny story, gratuitous violence, and vulgar language from a cute cast of kids. Three years later, the kids are not as cute and the violence is cartoonish, and the language seems appropriate for your typical high school teenager.

Dave aka Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) joins forces with a group of costumed vigilantes led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), while Mindy aka Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) attempts to live a normal life. Elsewhere, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), seeks revenge against Kick-Ass.

The film mainly lacks a good story. The script tries to set up emotional moment after another and fails miserably. However, the action is entertaining and like the first film, Hit-Girl steals every scene she is in. Kick-Ass 2 gets its ass kicked by the original because it cannot defeat the expectations of its fans and ends up like most sequels, which is not much.

WORD COUNT: 152

Adam’s Grade: C+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Spectacular Now shook me

15 Aug

the-spectacular-now

Eight months into 2013 and The Spectacular Now is the best film I have seen so far. It features a young cast that brings Tim Tharpe’s novel to life. The film follows Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior that refuses to live beyond the moment. He has no plans and his interests have led him to a life of hard partying, but after being dumped by his girlfriend he wakes up to something much more.

The film exceeded my expectations because of the performances by Teller and Shailene Woodley. Their chemistry and charisma are charming and pulls you in. This is not your normal coming of age film. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber defy the formula and create an unpredictable story that goes to all the right places. I believe it is the most authentic picture of adolescence since John Hughes. The Spectacular Now shook me and took me back to a place I had forgotten about

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Elysium is worth the trip

10 Aug

ELYSIUM-FILM

Elysium is Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up film to his sleeper hit District 9. Set in the year 2154, the wealthy live on a man-made space station called Elysium while the rest of humanity is stuck on Earth working and dying for crumbs. Max (Matt Damon) agrees to sabotage Elysium, but the Secretary Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster), and her key enforcer Kruger (Sharlto Colpey) stand in his way.

Blomkamp’s story can heavy-handed at times because this is non-fiction. The technology and special effects only enhance his metaphors about class, immigration, health care, and the environment. There is a balance, but your politics will impact your perspective and enjoyment of the film. Like District 9 it is difficult to separate the message from the entertainment. For the cast, Damon fits right in while Foster appears lost in space, however her executioner arm, Colpey is menacingly good. I look forward to Blomkamp’s next project. Despite its minor flaws and Jodie Foster, Elysium is still worth the trip.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: B-

ABE (short film) has a different serial number

3 Aug

ABE-short-film-2013

Killer robots is nothing new in the horror/sci-fi genre, but writer/director Rob McLellan interpretation of the idea is a fresh take that mixes psychosis with humanity, which are usually absent from such characters. The short film opens on a high note and is able to maintain the pitch through a well written monologue and adept cinematography from Kate Reid. A robot that feels loss and finds itself desperate to fix things creates a sympathetic character for a moment. The story lures audiences into a web like a spider, until it is too late to late to change our minds. ABE has a different serial number that separates him from other models.

WORD COUNT: 111

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

World War Z adapts to the zombie genre

31 Jul

WORLD-WAR-Z

World War Z wastes no time. The exposition is about five minutes, and then all hell breaks loose as Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his family find themselves in middle of mass hysteria and death as the infected run wild through the city. Gerry is a former UN investigator that is forced into tracking the origin of the virus with a small team. Most good zombie films have been attached to some social/cultural/political metaphors to describe the contemporary condition. There are hints of all of these ingredients in the film, but rabid consumption and depression from lack of stimulus resonated the most with me. I am not a zombie fan and I have not read Max Brooks’ novel, but I will pick up the book and I look forward to the seeing a sequel. It is a serious story that equals 28 Days Later, but like its predecessor finding a suitable ending that will satisfy everyone is its biggest shortcoming.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: C+

Pacific Rim is a monstrous mess

28 Jul

PACIFIC-RIM

Acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is finally back behind the camera in the enormously disappointing Pacific Rim. Giant monsters versus Giant humanoid robots. There really isn’t that more to tell as far as the story is concerned. It lacks emotion, humor and character development. I love Idris Elba (Stacker), but he is out of his element, along with Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh) and Rinko Kikuchi (Mako).  They are forced into relationships that don’t work and a rivalry that comes out of nowhere. The only thing that saves this film from becoming one of the summer’s worst is the astounding visual effects and the cinematography. I wanted to like Pacific Rim, but it is a monstrous mess.

WORD COUNT: 115

Adam’s Grade: C

Chuck’s Grade: N/A