Film Review : Spring (2015)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 89%
Metacritic Score – 69/100

Directed By – Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead
Starring – Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francesco Carnelutti, Augie Duke, and Jeremy Gardner

A young man in a personal tailspin flees the US to Italy, where he sparks up a romance with a woman harboring a dark, primordial secret.

I’ve bitched on this site before about how Horror movies need to start getting more creative. I’ve said that even if the acting or visuals are lacking in places, an original script can triumph over anything. This is case and point when it comes to Spring, directed by the guys who gave us the original film about addiction and the supernatural, “Resolution”. The trailer posted above doesn’t give TOO much away. It certainly is better to go into this, like every movie, knowing as little as possible. Seeing it won’t ruin much though. The film centers around a guy named Evan who goes to Italy to get away from his depressing life full of heartbreak and failure. He meets a girl named Louise and over the course of the next week, things happen.

So the film is labeled as a horror movie I mean, I opened up this review by talking about horror movies so what else would it be? This is a special kind of film though. The horror elements will satisfy people looking to get creeped out and scared, but this film has much deeper meaning and effect. The heart of Spring is the romance between these two lovers. The fact that the romantic aspect is coupled with a sci-fi/monster/horror film makes it that more special. This isn’t Jennifer’s Body, which was horrible apparently, but it also isn’t Let The Right One In. The story begins to unfold more towards the end of the film and here is where the real beauty lies. The mythology, while a bit confusing at times, still presents something I haven’t seen before in film. Telling what that is would spoil the story, but trust me, it’s interesting. The film also utilizes some straight forward romantic writing, almost as if Benson watched the Before trilogy a bunch of times before writing this script. I’m a sucker for those kind of films, so I ate this right up.

It’s not perfect though. For one, I wasn’t fond of the acting that much. Nadia Hilker was very good and this film should serve as a stepping stone to bigger things, but the acting from the rest of the cast was average at best. I just couldn’t see Evan, played by Lou Taylor Pucci, as a real person. I felt I was watching an actor. That’s never good. I don’t feel he’s a bad actor by any means. Hell, we’ve all seen a thousand worse performances from indie film actors. A story like this just needed a strong male performance to go along with Hilker and the nature of the script. The plot was also muddy at times. I got the gist of the film and the impact was felt, but it could have been a lot more polished and clean. I had to do a bit of reading afterward to get most of the story arcs.

The film is also gorgeously shot on location in Italy. I’ve always read that Italy can be a bit of a drag with all the tourists and scam artists buzzing around major cities and villages. The main town that this film takes place in however is a fucking beautiful place that I feel I could visit and never come back from. The lush landscape was captured very well by what I’m assuming was a drone camera. Lots of great shots of waves crashing onto rocks and some great color grading that gave the film a warmth about it. It was pretty.

My movie watching habits are changing. I’m finding less time to watch films and less things in the theater interest me. As long as I have films like this come in the mail however, film will still fascinate me. I love original ideas and I love when these ideas come in hybrid packages. Romantic horror films like this could end up becoming one of my favorite things to watch if their done correctly. This is definitely worth the watch and I’ll be anxiously waiting to see what Benson and Moorehead come up with next.

4/5



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Review : Jurassic World (2015) *Minor Spoilers*

IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 70%
Metacritic Score – 59/100

Directed By – Colin Trevorrow
Starring – Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Judy Greer, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Andy Buckley, Lauren Lapkus, and Katie McGrath

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.

As I write this, over 200 million dollars has been spent over the weekend by people going to see Jurassic World. I’m curious as to what those people thought as they left the theater. Honestly, I have no idea what to think. Part of me thinks it was fun as shit and completely validates the enormous haul it took in over the weekend. Part of me thinks that it was atrocious and makes Jurassic Park 3 look like The Empire Strikes Back. Let’s try to figure this one out together.

There is a big difference between this film and the previous three. The park is open. The park is developed. The park has a shit ton of dinosaurs. The park is so big in fact that the 20,000 people that are currently on the island serve as a main motivation for figuring out how to fix the colossal mess that our smart and sophisticated characters have cooked up. Director Colin Trevorrow and the writing team had to figure out ways to include character development into a setting that also housed thousands of people. Honestly, they didn’t do a bad job…with the main characters. The secondary characters however were misused so bad that I didn’t care at all what happened to them. Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is introduced as a stuck up, out of touch with humanity workaholic that cares more about her job than her two nephews who are visiting the park. Her character, throughout the film, goes through a transformation that I feel was actually earned. Chris Pratt, who by the way was in the Navy if you didn’t know after the 15th time they mentioned it, is a total badass. These two characters are perhaps the only characters in the entire film that I gave a sh*t about. The kids were poorly constructed cliches of boys of their age. The youngest is about 11 and if you didn’t know…eleven year olds are REALLY into dinosaurs. The older one was about 16 and was so stereotypical teenager that the writer might have actually googled “what do teenagers do” when creating him. We’ll get to the rest in a minute.

There is a theme going on right now in Hollywood. Let’s take a director that made a well regarded yet small indie sci-fi film and give them the reigns to a half a billion dollar mammoth of a budget. Josh Trank got Fantastic Four. Gareth Edwards got Godzilla. Rian Johnson got Star Wars. To me, this can either go two ways. You either get a film that has the aesthetics and characteristics of a new era or you get an over zealous attempt to try to join the ranks of superior films. I can’t blame the directors really. It’s like giving the best young go-kart driver the keys to an indy car. I feel that Colin Trevorrow, whole talented, was given the reigns to a franchise that he just wasn’t ready for. I felt the film was trying WAY too hard to do too many things. Because he’s a good director, he succeeded in some places. Other places he failed miserably. Let’s see what he did right.

The effects

I’ll admit. The effects in this were pretty awesome. Sure the sight of CGI dinosaurs was a bit distracting at first, but you got used to it and started to get a feel for why they had to be CGI. There were scenes in this film where you just couldn’t use anything else but CGI. The action in this film was all over the place instead of precisely timed bursts. There were only a few scenes that slowed down enough for the SFX tea to use animatronics instead of computer generated dinosaurs. That being said, the action scenes were well done. The last battle was one of the best of the entire series and had me actually on the edge of my seat. All the dinosaurs were rendered beautifully and the film was actually pretty violent. One death scene in particular was especially gruesome. It involved basically being repeatedly dragged around and eaten by two dinosaurs. I’m shocked that got through the censors considering this film is rated PG-13. The SFX team did a great job.

The acting

This is a case where the efforts of few trumped the many. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard knocked it out of the park. Chris Pratt should basically be in everything as far as I’m concerned. He’s the Harrison Ford of this generation. He’s funny, endearing, physically built, and just melts into every scene his is in so naturally that it draws you into the movie better. Bryce Dallas Howard’s transformation towards the end won me over. I was reminiscent of Noomi Rapace in Prometheus where, once the shit starts to hit the fan, a true horror actress blossoms out of nothing. The dirtier Howard got in the film, the better and more believable she got. The rest of the cast was very meh, but I enjoyed the two leads so much that it didn’t matter. Now let’s get to my biggest gripe with the film, and ultimately the reason I didn’t love the movie…

The Script

The movie went from boring to “WHAT THE FUCK AM I WATCHING?” so fast that my head spun. There were so many peppered in jokes that weren’t funny that I started to get embarrassed and covered my face. There were cliche kiss scenes, predictable dialogue, and the near cock tease of character development before an untimely death. I won’t name the characters, but there are at least two that have completely unnecessary character development that leads straight to a death. You can’t do that. That is Game of Thrones type shit that I get so frustrated with. I’m not saying you can’t kill a character. I’m not saying that every character that dies has to have no back story. They way they did it in the film though, was just so silly. Let’s just say that the same reason I hated Bane’s death in The Dark Night Rises is the same gripe I have with the two main characters who die in this film. At least give them something special to go out on except a death scene cut right to another action piece.

I also had a huge problem with how they used the raptors.

*this might get spoiler-y*

Raptors are feared dinosaurs in every single film about dinosaurs that has ever existed. This film treats them like dogs. It LITERALLY treats them like dogs, complete with obedience, loyalty, and feelings. I’m sorry, but Raptors don’t have fucking feelings. They don’t get sentimental about a character who feeds them. Hell, if the film showed us that Chris Pratt raised these fuckers from birth it’d be one thing. The film made it a mission to point out that every single dinosaur on the island was genetically created and modified by scientists. These things should have only two functions, which actually gets pointed out in the film…eating, hunting, and fucking. That’s all. No fucking memories of when Chris Pratt threw rats at us and used his clicker thingie to get us to chase goats. Fuck that. That’s stupid. The fact that they actually have full on conversations with each other…and another specific dinosaur…is just stupid. I’m not talking about dinosaur language. I’m talking about literally at one point one dinosaur looks at another and says “thanks for fighting with me. It has been a pleasure” while the other dinosaur responds “the pleasure was all mine.”. That’s how it was shot. That’s how it was conveyed. I literally threw my hands up and said aloud “what the fuck is going on?”

Look, I don’t expect Scorsese or Kubrick when I go see a film about a dinosaur amusement park. The film was fun and was filled with action and Chris Pratt. That alone is worth your 13 dollars. I could not however get over the stupid jokes at inopportune times, the cliche “every Michael Bay has these” moments of dialogue and kiss scenes, and the complete misuse of terror inducing velocoraptors like they were dogs. Trevorrow seemed to change his mind constantly throughout the film about what kind of movie this was going to be. The plot was all over the place, trying to be funny one moment, while switching gears on a dime and expecting the audience to be terrified. It’s a mess.

Yet, the film is making a shit ton of money. There will be more. I hope they find good writers but as long as Chris Pratt is involved, I’ll go see it.

Also, Bryce Dallas Howard ran away from gigantic killing machines in heals. Enough said.

2.5/5





Film Review : I Origins (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 52%
Metacritic Score – 57/100

Directed By – Mike Cahill
Starring – Michael Pitt, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling, Steven Yeun, and Archie Panjabi

A molecular biologist and his laboratory partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it.

The fan made trailer above was include instead of the official trailer because it doesn’t give away the entire film like the official one did. I just wanted to point that out.

Wow. Emotions guys…lots of emotions right now.

You can just sign me up now to watch anything that involves Zal Batmanglij, Mike Cahill, or Brit Marling. Anything. I don’t care what it is. They make films with such an emotional punch to them that it doesn’t matter if there are some glaring scientific plot holes/inconsistencies. I’m not watching a Ted talk. I’m watching a movie. I can be a little hypocritical of this ideal sometimes however, especially when discussing zombie films. I guess what it comes down to is if there is a powerful story going on, I could give two shits if the science adds up. Cahill’s previous film Another Earth falls into this category. The likelihood of an identical Earth appearing in our solar system seems improbable but the story of Brit Marling’s character makes that film special.

This is why I loved I Origins.

Michael Pitt plays a scientist trying to create a human eye from scratch to prove that intelligent design is false. Brit Marling plays his lab partner. Honestly, this really doesn’t matter until the second half of the film, and I’m not going to spoil anything by describing why. The first half of this film is where the money is at. It’s what sets up the emotional gut punch that is delivered at the end. Pitt falls in love with Sofia, heartbreakingly played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey. Their relationship and where it takes them was masterfully written by Cahill. I cared for these characters. I cared for them a lot. Sofia is this free spirit who may not fall into one religion, but believes in the spirit and soul of human beings. She is the perfect contrast to the scientific ideals of Pitt’s character Ian. Cahill tells their story with passion and great attention to little details in relationships. It also helps that both Pitt and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey had wonderful chemistry and impressed me with their acting.

The second half of the film is more of a mystery that needs to be solved. The premise of the film, that our eyes can be scanned and used almost as fingerprints, doesn’t really get explained too much which is where it probably threw a lot of people off. I didn’t need explanation. It was just enough to get me on board emotionally.

This is why I love films like this. They take a science fiction idea, which more often than not creates a unique environment, and then on comes the feels. Upstream Colour hit me the same way. There will always be room on my film collection for films like this. Like most films I love, I can’t really explain much more than I already have. I Origins is a science fiction film that goes light on the science fiction and really heavy on the ol’ heartstrings. The exploration of humanity and the mysteries that go along with that are what really made me love the film. I highly recommend it.

4.5/5



Double Review! : Coherence (2014) and Starred Up (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%
Amazon Instant Watch

Directed By – James Ward Byrkit
Starring – Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugo Armstrong, Alex Manugian, and Lauren Maher

Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.

This is going to be one of my shortest reviews. Why? I am not going to ruin the privilege of seeing this film as blind as I did. All I knew going in to the film was the IMDB plot summary above and that it was a sci-fi film. That is all you’re going to get too. I didn’t add the trailer. Don’t watch it. It gives too much away. The film is currently on Amazon Instant so if you have Prime you can watch it for free. If you don’t have prime, find it on VOD and pay for it. You won’t be disappointed if you love sci-fi and mindbending movies.

I’m pretty much going to end it after this. This certainly isn’t a masterpiece. It is however a film with a completely unique story and consists mostly of improvised dialogue and low budget film making that is both impressive and promising. The acting splits between amateur and really good. Baldini and Brendan are the standouts here. I hope they do more things.

See the film. See it.

4.5/5

IMDB Score – 7.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%
Amazon Instant Watch

Directed By – David Mackenzie
Starring – Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend, Sam Spruell, Anthony Welsh, David Ajala, and Peter Ferdinando

A troubled and explosively violent teenager is transferred to adult prison where he finally meets his match – a man who also happens to be his father.

Well, Jack O’Connell is going to be a fucking star. He’s already breached into the public eye with his role in “unbroken” but this is the film that he shines. He’s a powerhouse. He’s a wrecking ball. Think Tom Hardy in Bronson. It’s that good of a performance.

Starred Up isn’t a pretty film. It’s ugly. The brutality behind the violence is troubling to watch at times. It’s a hard look into the British prison system. For those who grew up with Oz and Shawshank Redemption, this is going to be different for you. Guards aren’t always right around the corner and when they are, they don’t usually have the upper hand. There were many moments in this film that made me confused as to who was really running the prison. Fights break out and are left unattended for minutes. Assaults on guards don’t really end too bad for the inmate. In fact, it’s like getting the shit kicked out of you is almost a daily hassle, for both the inmates and for the guards. Enter Eric Love, a 19 year old kid who is as explosive as they come. Right from the get go he is rubbing oil on his body in preparation for guards bursting through his cell door. I told you it’s like Bronson. Starred up however is a bit less theatrical than Bronson. It’s a realistic view at just how fucked up it can be in prison. It sheds light on how far prison officials are willing to go or how blinded they can be that there are people in those cells that need help. Its eye opening.

A lot of the film is a bit hard to understand. I don’t mean story. I mean I had problems getting through the mumble mouth cockney jargon that these prisoner conversed in. It really is a whole other language but I got through it without the subtitles. I’m proud of that. Ben Mendelsohn, who is fantastic in this by the way, plays the father of Eric and at times is completely non-understandable. That Mendelsohn though. He’s been acting like that since Animal Kingdom. I don’t want him to change. He’s always a menace whenever he’s on screen and I love it. The relationship between father and son is interesting in prison. You can’t always take peoples shit, including your fathers in fear of looking weak, but you also need to look out for your son. I think this is the main focal point of the film for me. The relationship between father and son here is handled beautifully and comes full circle by the films end. There is also a great sub theme by which a young anger management counselor, played by Rupert Friend, tries to get some of the more violent and angry inmates to calm the fuck down. Those scene were like Dead Poets Society except instead of poetry we’re dealing with pure insanity filled rage.

The film is a wonderful look at a different kind of prison system. It is brutally violent at just the right times and features powerhouse performances by O’Connell and Mendelsohn. Watch out for Jack O’Connell. He’s looking like the next Michael Fassbender or Tom Hardy.

4.5/5




Two Film Review : Interstellar and Birdman

You may be wondering why I’m lumping these three films into one post. Well, fact of the matter is that both Interstellar and Birdman need second viewings from me to really get into full review mode. I have pretty laid out opinions on both but I don’t think I could justify a full post for each one without having seen the film a second time.

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Christopher Nolan
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Josh Stewart, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher race, and fucking finally, Ellen Burystn

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Okay, I need to get this out of the way first. I saw this film almost three weeks ago. If you have not seen this film in a REAL IMAX theater with 70mm film, please do so. It will most likely be one of the last times you will seeing something this new be projected on film. The projectionist in me had a field day with this one. I was privileged to be able to see this at the Lincoln Center IMAX which is one of the largest screens in the country and most likely the world. Regardless of your opinion of the film, it’s something to be seen in 70mm before film goes the way of the 8 track and seatbeltless vehicles.

That being said, I didn’t particularly love this movie. I didn’t really hate it either. What I ultimately came to was a feeling of mild satisfaction mixed with utter bewilderment. I’ve been a fan of Nolan from the beginning. I generally believe The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige to be some of the best films of the decade. Interstellar marks the second film in a row from Nolan that not only failed to meet my expectations but seemed to lack in the screenwriting that characterized his earlier films. This was just a mess story wise from beginning to end. In fact, parts of it nearly ruined the whole thing for me.There were instances in the film where decisions were made at the blink of an eye, huge decisions, LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS, MADE AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES OF THOUGHT. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is the worst father ever. What he does to his daughter in this film is just atrocious. I hated his character for like 40 minutes after this happened. There is also huge jumps in timeline. Basically Matthew McConaughey goes from farmer to in space in like three days. Sure, he was a NASA fighter pilot a long ass time ago, but you don’t get trained for space in three days. You just don’t do it.

The dialogue was also pretty bad. Anne Hathaway delivers a monologue in the middle of the film, about love, that nearly had me puking in the auditorium. It came off so cheesy and forced that I couldn’t stand it. A big character reveal in the middle of the film also progressed in a way that could be seen a mile away. This character also forgets who he is and ruins pretty much everything. The end of the film, which will be talked about for some time as it is very “2001”-esque, kind of muddles the entire thing for me. Like, I get where they were going with that. I get how unimaginable space can be an how it works, but to put it all together like that just seemed like Nolan was trying to be more profound than he needed to be. I don’t like throwing around the word pretentious often because I think that it insults creativity, but the end of this film teetered on being a bit pretentious. Also, the BIG emotional reunion end the end of the film, the one that the audience has been waiting for the entire three fucking hours, was over in like four sentences. Seriously, fuck Matthew McConaughey’s character in this movie. He’s the worst.

What did I like? First off the acting was pretty top notch. Matthew McConaughey was in full form as he has been for the past two years. There are a few scenes in this movie that really struck a chord with me emotionally and that was all on MM. Michael Caine continues to be sad Michael Caine and that’s okay because the man is a true legend and makes my eyes water every time he is sad. The voice acting from Bill Irwin, who voices the robot TARS, was a wonderful addition to the cast and might have been my favorite character. The robots were awesome by the way. At first I thought they were too weird but then I really got into the functionality of them. The action and space sequences were gorgeous to watch in 70mm. It made the effort to see this is IMAX all worth while. Also, Mackenzie Foy can act. That girl is going to be big if she continues acting.

Overall the film just wasn’t up to what I thought it was going to be. As far as space movies go, I enjoyed Sunshine and Solaris much more but there were definitely some great reasons to see the film. The camera work, the acting, the practical effects mixed in with CGI, all made this a film to see. It just happened to be a mess in the story telling department that may get better with a clearer viewing but I’m not holding my breath. Nolan gets points for doing it in film though. I’ll give him added points for that.

3/5

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

What a show. I don’t particularly know what the show meant or if I was 100% into it, but what a goddamn show.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the film is shot in a way that looks like one long take. You can tell where the edits are, but the film chugs on like an engine through the entire run time. It didn’t come off gimmicky. It came off glorious. The fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was able to keep every single frame of this movie gorgeous as shit while still maintaining the longness of the shot is a true thing to watch. The film also had this rhythmic drum fill that permeated the entire film from start to finish. It was like a heartbeat, getting faster and louder as scenes unfold into chaos. It was such an opposite kind of feeling from the rest of Iñárritu’s work that it almost made me forget who made the film. His previous movies are all filled with depressing situations and heartbreaking performances. I laughed out loud in this film. I was having a fucking ball. The whole cast pretty much had be heaving. Well, maybe not Emma Stone’s character, but she was still sassy enough to give me a chuckle.

The acting is top notch. We’re going to see at least two major award nominations from this film. Keaton is the star. He is in nearly every scene and completely solidified himself as “back in form”. The film goes into a meta sense as I realized just how alike Keaton and his on screen character Riggan were. Both are actors who portrayed superheros in the 80s and have been away from the spotlight for some time. Both are trying to make a comeback and in the case for Keaton, he does, in a big way. The guy just hit it out of the park. Edward Norton steals every scene he is in. It reminds me a little of when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder because he was so goddamn funny. You could make the case for Melissa McCarthy as well but I don’t find her funny. Norton is going to complete that triangle. His character of Mike is so out of his mind that it can only be achieved by Norton, who is himself a lot like his on screen character. He was hysterical and also hammered in the scene chewing jobs just as well. Everybody else was fitting for their role. Emma Stone could sneak in the Oscars but honestly I felt her performance to be a bit overdone. Galafianakis was on point as always. I’ve considered him to be one of the best underrated actors for a while now. Watts finishes the top of the line up as she always does. She’s a professional and it shows.

The only reason I didn’t shower this film with praise is because there are so many subtleties in this film that I just can’t grasp them all right now. The ending left my head spinning a bit and there was a lot of dialogue I missed the meaning of because the film was rolling by my face at a million miles an hour. Will this affect my rating? Not really. It just makes this review a little shorter than usual.

See this film. It’s something that you’ll be thinking of for a long time and itching for a second viewing. I may have to see this again before it leaves theaters.

4.5/5