Marter's Reviews

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:47 pm

The Invisible Woman
How often do you hear critics discuss production design, the sets, the costumes, and so on in movies that don't happen to be set in the past or future? Furthermore, how many of these aren't costume dramas or period pieces? There's no more consistent genre of film than either of these at getting compliments when it comes to the aesthetics of the production, and I have to wonder why that is. My likeliest guess is because critics would otherwise run out of things to talk about, as these films often blend together and fall into the category of "seen one, seem them all."

To that end, The Invisible Woman is a costume drama primarily set "some years" before 1883, and stars Ralph Fiennes (who also directed the film) and Felicity Jones as Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan respectively. In 1990, a book written by Claire Tomalin was published about a secret love affair between Dickens and this Nelly character, and there still isn't a substantial amount known about their relationship. The film does its best to fill us in on what could have happened, using the book as a basis.

The film is framed as mostly occurring in a flashback, as Nelly remembers events that happened in the past while attempting to keep her emotions repressed in the present. We get to see how she and Dickens met, how they began their affair, how it broke up his marriage, and so on. Most of the beats you'd expect from a film with this general arc get hit, and there are no real surprises that you'll encounter, except perhaps that it seems women are often the ones with more than one lover in these types of films, not the men.

Let's get it out of the way now: The Invisible Woman looks great, has fantastic costuming and production design, and from what I can tell is as authentic to the period as you're going to get. These films usually are. You watch them partially to be transported back in time to an era during which you were not alive. They have to set the stage, feel genuine, and look gorgeous. It's almost a redundant statement at this point, but I make it regardless.

Do you know what this movie doesn't have? Even a smidgen of chemistry between its two leads. That probably sounds odd considering we're talking about Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones, and it sounds odd to me even writing it, but it's true. You can't buy their relationship because neither actor seems to believe in it. They're much better apart. As solo acts or with people they're not romantically involved with, both actors shine. It's together that seems to kill any spark they have going.

The Invisible Woman has a repression of its emotions anyway -- how very British of it, I suppose you could say -- but when the characters are together, with nobody else there, we should be able to see something resembling love, or at least desire. From Jones, we see an admiration of the work of a great wordsmith, and from him, we don't see a whole lot. Their romance isn't believable and the film is tougher to get through than it should as a result.

In fact, because of this, I kept hoping that the "lovers" would go their separate ways earlier, so that we could explore their characters in a deeper way. Dickens in particular is a fully realized individual, a man who isn't quite larger-than-life even if he does, to some extent, crave the attention of the masses. He's a flawed man and exploring that is actually more interesting than his affair. Nelly, on the other hand, finds herself at her most intriguing when dealing with her family -- in particular her mother, played by Kristen Scott Thomas -- as she winds up the black sheep of an all-acting family and is pushed and pulled in different directions over the movie's duration.

The movie hopes to work on a couple of levels. First, as a retelling of events that probably happened, although not necessarily the way it depicts them. Second, as a compelling romance between a famous man and his previously secret lover. It works chiefly as the first, and falls mostly flat as the second. The repression might be the point, but it doesn't allow the film to work when it should; you need to let your guard down at some point.

There's also not much to watch for, which is a problem when you're making a film in a genre where films easily blend together. There's no standout moment, no unique visual aesthetic, or anything to keep us interested in a plot we've seen before, and characters who seem less interested in each other than lovers should be. Any enjoyment comes from the small moments and the performances -- often purposefully understated -- but many people are going to find this dull, uninteresting and in service of déjà vu.

Is The Invisible Woman a good or bad film? Can it be both? It has many moments of strength, but its central premise -- a romance between two real people we don't know much about -- doesn't have any power behind it, meaning the film as a whole is going to suffer. There are points of great acting, and the film looks great, but the repressed nature of the romance -- purposeful or not -- hinders any impact it can have. The Invisible Woman blends in with the rest of the pack and is only really worth seeing if you absolutely love costume dramas.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Sep 29, 2013 3:17 pm

Rush
By all accounts, the 1976 Formula One season was one for the ages, and if Rush is to be believed, probably the best one to ever occur. I know that it's all dramatized and I'm sure stretches of the film never actually happened in real life, but because of the way it goes about telling the story of that particular season -- and, more specifically, the two men fighting for the championship -- it's an incredibly compelling and thrilling experience.

The film's plot really begins in 1970, when the two men at its center, James Hunt and Niki Lauda (Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl), were both Formula Three drivers. After their first race together, they begin to develop a rivalry that they continue for the next six years. The men are polar opposites -- Hunt is a glorious shindig animal and risk taker, while Lauda is a calculating misanthrope who wins via technical proficiency and skill, but not reckless behavior. Of course, this sets up a rivalry with clear sides. Brawn vs. brains, to boil it down to its essence. Perhaps these men weren't quite so dissimilar in real life, but that's how they're portrayed here.

What Rush surprisingly does is not pick a side for you to root for. It's a very down-the-middle film, and it gives both characters a great amount of time in the spotlight, but doesn't portray them in any light other than what they are. Neither is bad, neither is particularly good -- they just are. There's no true villain, and if you find yourself cheering for both of them as it goes along, you won't be alone. The rivalry is strong enough that we don't need the film to decide who should win. It's impartial.

In fact, even though it might be Chris Hemsworth's face features most prominently on the posters and in the advertising, it's Brühl's character who gets the stronger characterization and more screen time, especially in the film's final half. This might sound like it contradicts my last statement about Rush's impartiality, but it really doesn't. Just because it spends more time with him and gives him more depth, it doesn't promote him or demonize the character played by Hemsworth. It just can't make the glorious shindig boy as interesting.

I'll admit straight off the bat that I'm not an F1 fan. Not NASCAR, either, I should point out. I just don't enjoy watching cars race around a track for hours, especially because we don't get the same type of drama and characterization that a movie like this brings to the fold. I mean, maybe the races would be more interesting if I knew the drivers, but that's not the case. Regardless, Rush made the sport interesting, and not just because of its characters.

It's because of the talent of the filmmakers. The director is Ron Howard, who has made far more good movies than bad, and he manages to make F1 racing exciting for anyone, even those without a vested interest in the sport. He understands how to get the adrenaline pumping, and while the racing moments are brief, they're thrilling. There's only really one lengthy race, and it's right at the end, after we've been with these characters for nearly two hours. Because we've seen into their lives -- and this is often not glamorous -- that final race means something and it becomes even more engaging because of this.

In fact, the only area of Rush that doesn't really work is the relationship that Hunt has with a woman named Suzy (Olivia Wilde). She shows up for just a few scenes, serves a singular purpose, and then more or less disappears, only appearing right at the end while watching the television during the final race. Conversely, Lauda's relationship with Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) provides multiple functions and actually alters his character, instead of just emphasizing certain traits that we already understand.

A lot of the success comes from the casting. right before the credits, we get a bit of video and some pictures of the actual James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and I struggled to notice that they were the real ones and not the actors. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl look a substantial amount like their real-life counterparts, and they turn in strong performances here. There are great strengths and weaknesses to each of them, and the film allows them for portray both sides to each character.

It's almost surprising to see that Rush was allowed to be released with an R rating. It deserves it, to be sure -- there's nudity, a bit of profanity, and a couple of injury scenes which will make the squeamish squirm -- but it easily could have been made into a PG-13. The movie is for adults, though, and will likely not be enjoyed for anyone under the age of 16, so seeing the R rating is something to be applauded, both on the part of Howard, who aimed for an adult film, and the studio, who allowed him to do that.

Rush is a great sports movie about a couple of rivals attempting to best each other in the sport of Formula One racing. It has two good lead characters played wonderfully by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, and it makes F1 exciting, even if it could easily be dull. It's engaging, adrenaline-pumping, and surprisingly impartial in its portrayal of the real-life story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:24 pm

The Poison Tree
Karen Clarke (MyAnna Buring) is first seen with her daughter, Alice (Hebe Johnson) waiting for her husband, Rex (Matthew Goode), to be released from prison, where he has spent the last twelve years of his life. The daughter has been told it was for tax evasion, the neighbors have been told he's been doing gardening overseas -- a believable story, I'm sure -- and we're told ... not a whole lot, really. At least, not early on. At the beginning, like most good thrillers, we're only given bits and pieces of the true story. In The Poison Tree, most of them are relayed through flashbacks.

In fact, for the first half at least, we're really given two stories to follow. The first involves Karen and Rex attempting to hide the whatever of their past from everyone else in their lives. The second is the flashback which will eventually lead up to the whatever that's being hidden. Every time a flashback would come to an end, I wanted more. That's part of The Poison Tree's success; it captivates and it wants you to constantly want more.

The flashback -- even when it wasn't directly leading to the big reveals -- is where most of the tension, most of the drama, and most of the fun comes from. In the "present day" scenes, the two leading characters are pretty much always on the same page. This is especially true of the first half. Karen takes charge in pretty much every aspect, and Rex plays along. Their daughter suspects and questions nothing. In the second half, this changes, but to say why would be to reveal too much.

On the other hand, the scenes taking place in the past involve more conflict. A third character, Rex's sister, Biba (Ophelia Lovibond), plays a large role. Karen meets Biba at an art expo, and is soon enough invited to move in with the siblings, who have a 24/7 glorious shindig mentality. They, children of a millionaire, have a mansion. Shortly afterward, each scene is filled with tension -- both spoken and unspoken, seen and unseen -- and you keep wondering to yourself when something's going to happen, and exactly what the characters are hiding.

And even once the big reveal -- we know early on there's been a murder, but who committed it and for what purpose are the real questions -- occurs, there are a couple of smaller ones which are actually more surprising. The "modern day" storyline also sees new elements introduced. Karen's getting weird text messages and phone calls -- somebody knows! -- and her family starts questioning her controlling personality and paranoia. The Poison Tree builds and builds and builds.

At which point, it ends, and you feel disappointed. While it's not exactly a twist ending, I couldn't help feeling let down by the way that The Poison Tree came to its conclusion. It feels abbreviated, and all of that tension and drama that it's built up to this point disappears. It doesn't go out with a bang; it finishes with a whimper. Thematically, I suppose it works just fine, but I wanted more.

The Poison Tree is a TV mini-series, which I thought I'd mention in case you thought it was a feature film you just happened to miss. When I mentioned distinct halves earlier on, it's because the project is literally chopped into two hour-long (with commercials) segments. Because of this, there has to be a mini-climax at the end of the first half, and it also has to function as a way to get audiences to stick around for the second half. I wish this didn't have to be the case, as it would have allowed for more even pacing and perhaps the ending to the second half wouldn't have felt like such a disappointment.

I was still quite engaged. The Poison Tree is a twisty tale of morality and interesting characters, even if they're not particularly deep. In fact, if the production has one big flaw, it's in the characters. They don't feel particularly real. They're more caricatures than real people. A trait exemplified, and amplified into a character in a mini-series. It feels like one thing defines each person, and while that makes them easy to identify and remember -- especially with a week-long gap between the first and second halves -- it doesn't make for compelling drama.

That's no fault of the actors, though. MyAnna Buring plays her character straight as an arrow, doing whatever it takes to make the best life for her family. Matthew Goode plays a brother who would do whatever it takes to protect his sister, as well as a husband who needs to stay out of trouble. Ophelia Lovibond gets most of the scene-stealing moments as the free-willed, immature sister whose mental state is a touch shaky. Hebe Johnson was the weak link, but when paired on-screen with these three, and in her first acting role (according to IMDb), that's forgivable.

The Poison Tree isn't exactly a smashing success, but for a low-budget TV mini-series, you can't expect greatness. It is a relatively engrossing thriller with a strong central mystery and some good acting from its three adult leads. It all leads up to an unsatisfactory conclusion, and its mini-series format leads to some weak characters and sloppy pacing, but I think it's worth sitting through.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:32 pm

The Messengers
The Messengers comes to us as a film that has no idea how to do anything original, so it rips off as many horror movies as were within arm's reach of the filmmakers on their most recent trip to the video store. From beginning to conclusion, you won't see a single scene or scare which will excite or frighten, and by the end of the constant barrage of jump scares ("boo" moments) will have many audience members pointing their thumbs at the ground in frustration, or accompanied with laughter. While The Messengers certainly tries to startle, it doesn't succeed.

What's funny about the lack of creativity is that the directors are the Pang Brothers, Danny and Oxide, who here are making their English-language debut. They made the Chinese film The Eye -- as well as its sequels - and both together and as solo filmmakers have some interesting works under the Pang name. It's like they got scared now that their main audience is American, and have created a clichéd and dumb horror movie that's completely devoid of anything worth seeing.

The film stars Kristen Stewart as a moody teenager named Jess, who is being forced to move to an out-of-the-way farmhouse in North Dakota with the rest of her family, which consists of: her father, Roy (Dylan McDermott); her mother, Denise (Penelope Ann Miller); and her mute younger brother, Ben (Evan and Theodore Turner, who are presumably twins, because I didn't know there were two different actors until the credits). The idea being that moving to the middle of nowhere will (1) solve the family money troubles and (2) reform the troubled teenager by removing temptation and separating her from her friends. "This isn't a punishment," Roy says, but why would he even say that? Turns out, there is a big secret ... that doesn't actually matter at all, and exists only to explain why once Jess starts seeing ghosts that her parents won't take her seriously.

There is one other important character, who comes in the form of a hired farm-hand named John (John Corbett), who is a nice man whose introductory scene has him shooting a pack of crows with a gun despite them being really close to Roy's face. Not creepy at all, Mr. Extraman. Er, John. My mistake. There's totally a not-spoiler reason for him to be in the film.

Most of The Messengers is spent building up toward jump scare moments which go "boo!" and do nothing more. Each one is telegraphed so poorly, meaning you'll always know when the next one is coming. The music gets quiet, the characters stop moving, and then there's a sharp jolt and a quick flash or cut to something that might not even be menacing or a danger to anyone. They startle but they don't evoke the sense of fear that one hopes for in a horror movie -- and because they're so frequent and poor they don't even startle all that well.

The Messengers is an incredibly silly film. The family dynamic doesn't hold a lick of truth, and watching the parents come up with more ridiculous excuses for not believing their daughter. And then, later on, the ghost story is ignored in favor of something else, which I will not spoil but it's a twist you'll probably have already guessed because it's not exactly difficult to figure out, as there's only one reason for an extra character to be included in what's essentially a "family" story.

Like most PG-13 horror movies, the rating does a disservice to the filmmakers, as it prohibits them from showing anything that might disturb younger viewers and push the content over the boundaries that the rating sets. There's no style, there's no single image that you need to see, and there are no actual scares. This is just a boring, flat movie which you should avoid seeing.

Try to figure out the plot after it ends. I couldn't do it. The reasons for most of the events don't make a lick of sense. And, at least in terms of the story, there's no reason for some of the things to happen. The aforementioned twist isn't driven by the story; you'll only figure it out if you're aware of the Law of Economy of Characters (Google it), whether or not you know that it has a name.

It's funny watching the actors in a movie like this one. All three adults are taking it as the joke that it is. None of them are any good, and are clearly here for the paycheck. Both Turners, Evan and Theodore, are fine as the silent toddler -- if only because a silent toddler is something of which we need more. Kristen Stewart isn't terrible in the lead, and is the one taking the project the most serious. It's kind of funny to watch her act scared, and everyone else restraining their laughter, but there you go. As a moody teenager, she plays her part fine.

The Messengers is an awful horror movie that is designed to "scare" (read: startle) those who are under the age of 12. If you are older than that, you have no reason to see this movie. If you aren't, I'm sure you can find another horror movie which will be more worthy of your time. This is a silly, poorly written, stylistically bare waste of time, and one that "succeeds" based on how frightened you are by jump scares. If they get to you, watch this film to be cured of that affliction.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Pararaptor on Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:37 pm

That's really disappointing. I loved The Eye.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:36 pm

Messengers 2: The Scarecrow
It's rather funny when one of the only "positive" quotes that the producers of the Messengers 2: The Scarecrow DVD could find was, and I quote, "Bloodier than the first one." For those who saw The Messengers, you might remember that it was a PG-13, teen-friendly psychological horror film. Blood barely came into it because it wasn't that type of film. Truthfully, Messengers 2 is much the same way, and I'm not even sure if it is bloodier. Either way, such a descriptor showing up on the front of the cover art isn't a positive sign.

You know how this story turns out, assuming you saw the first movie. If you didn't, it really doesn't matter, as Messengers 2 is a prequel and stands alone. The first one is also a terrible movie and you should avoid it because of its (lack of) quality. This one isn't quite as bad, even if it also isn't worth seeing. If you needed a reminder, The Messengers began by showing us how a family got killed, and ended with the killer turning out to be a man named John, who was a husband and father.

John returns as the protagonist here, although he's now played by Norman Reedus instead of John Corbett. How can you not afford John Corbett? Are you guys really that strapped for cash? Anyway, he's a farmer who is going through some really tough times. His crops are dying, crows eat what survives, the bank is threatening foreclosure, and his wife, Mary (Heather Stephens), may or may not be having an affair. However, he has recently found a scarecrow, which he found in the not-creepy-at-all hidden door in his shed, and has decided to put it out front, even though his son (Laurence Belcher) begs him not to.

His luck begins to change. The crows die. The crops prosper. The man from the bank dies. The man who was maybe having an affair with his wife dies. Oh, people are dying now. But it's working to John's benefit, right? And because he's the protagonist, we're supposed to accept this, correct? Wrong. It's not okay. To his credit, John isn't too pleased with some of these developments either, and the rest of the film centers around the scarecrow, John's desire to put an end to its reign of terror, and attempting to set up The Messengers.

At that last task, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow is a failure, as I think it completely neglected to complete what it wanted to start. Maybe I was just lost in the dullness of the proceedings, but I'm fairly certain it doesn't really finish the whole "John kills his family" premise, and barely even explains why he would do such a thing. That's the whole reason to make this film, and it doesn't even accomplish that goal.

What it does do is provide an adequate although terribly uninvolving horror movie about a scarecrow which can somehow kill anyone or thing that gets in the way of John and his farming. I'm not joking; that's exactly and solely what the scarecrow does. There's some mystery in regard to how much is in John's head and how much is actually happening, but in that previous sentence is the crux of the film. That doesn't make it bad, but it does make it almost impossible to take seriously.

Despite the decidedly different feel to Messengers 2 when comparing it to its predecessor, I couldn't help feel how derivative it also was. While it's not the ghost story movie of the first film, this is definitely a story that you've seen before. Luckily, it's told easily and simply and doesn't contain any unmotivated twists. That alone makes it better than the one in The Messengers, which was convoluted and confusing and its main twist had no reason to exist.

Messengers 2: The Scarecrow is rated R. That will probably please horror films, especially those who are sick of tame PG-13 flicks. The Messengers was one such PG-13 film, which was released theatrically and turned a profit. On home video, the rating is less important, and the R rating was given. What you get is a touch more violence, a little bit more profanity, and a couple of scenes of nudity. It's not a hard R like the really hardcore horror films, but it doesn't feel neutered down, either, which works in its favor.

None of the performances stand out, although at least the actors are taking the project a bit more seriously this time around. Norman Reedus takes the role played by John Corbett, and he does nothing to set the character up for what he would become. A slow descent into madness could have been achieved, but instead the character is one-note throughout, even with all the insanity surrounding him. Heather Stephens is better, although it could just be that her character was written with more care. Those are the only two actors who matter in this film; kids and neighbors show up but leave no impact on the memory.

Messengers 2: The Scarecrow is a better film than its predecessor, but that's really not saying much. If the last film was a D- then this one is a D+; it's an improvement, but that still doesn't mean it's worth seeing. It's an almost passable horror film that fails to do the one job it had: setting up The Messengers. It can't accomplish this and while it has a couple of good moments, it's not worth watching.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Oct 03, 2013 3:13 pm

Saw
Two men wake up in an old, run-down bathroom. They are shackled to pipes at either side of the room, and they both have no memory of how they got here. In the middle of the room is a corpse with a tape recorder in one hand and a gun in the other. Thus begins Saw, a twisted and captivating horror film that, if nothing else, will grab your attention and won't let you go, even if you have to, from time to time, look away from what's happening on-screen.

The first of these men is Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes), a surgeon who remains calm for most of the experience. The other is a younger man, Adam (Leigh Whannell, also one of the film's writers). He is more emotional. Over the rest of the film, the two men are going to have to figure out a way of escaping from the bathroom, as well as an attempt to determine exactly why they were put there, and who was behind it. A parallel story involves a police Detective, David Tapp (Danny Glover), also attempting to track down the man behind the abduction, which we later learn is the latest in a long string of murders.

There are a lot of flashbacks in Saw, and they eventually annoyed me. When the movie is at its strongest, it focuses on the mounting tension between the two trapped men, as well as their attempts to escape from the situation in which they find themselves. When it's setting up back story and showing us glimpses of previous events that took place, the constant exposition grows tiresome. I almost wished it would have gotten this out of the way at the beginning so we could get on with the real movie.

Saw is a movie that keeps you on your toes. It has a bunch of twists scattered throughout, a couple of really gory bits, and also a message, which is a little surprising. Yes, once we learn exactly why all of these people -- both the two leads as well as all of the ones that came before -- were put into these elaborate situations, you might just reevaluate the way you live your life. At least, that's what Saw's antagonist, "The Jigsaw Killer," who acts as the filmmakers' voices, wants you to do.

The method used by the Jigsaw Killer to teach his characters is to set them up in situations which will often force them into making a choice. Both Adam and Dr. Gordon find a tape in their pockets, which explains to them what they have to do. Dr. Gordon has to kill Adam before the clock strikes 6:00, or else his family -- consisting of his wife, Alison (Monica Potter), and his daughter, Diana (Makenzie Vega) -- will be killed. An earlier situation forced a character to kill a man and remove a key from his stomach.

There are a few moments of true gore. Unlike many horror films, the best of which allow for a viewer to conjure up images in his or her own mind, Saw does not skimp on the blood and guts. Even though it was filmed on a very low budget, this is a film that is as gruesome as they come, but only in a few short bursts. The suspense it generates for the rest of the time keeps it worth watching. The filmmaking style verges on becoming an art house picture -- although I have to wonder how much of that was done to help hide the low budget.

What I have to appreciate most about Saw is how fresh it feels, especially in comparison to many other horror films. The victims do the killings, the puzzles in which the victims are placed are elaborate and almost more interesting than anything else in the film -- assuming a writer was creative, one could create films based solely on the situations -- and a lot of the film focuses on solving the puzzle rather than scaring the viewer.

I wasn't a fan of the way that the killer functioned, however. You know that there are going to be twists in regard to who he is, simply because the camera is placed behind him to hide his face. If the camera is already near the killer, why not show him in his full glory? Because it's in service of a twist, that's why. Eventually, Saw tries to be too clever and feels like it contains one twist too many ... before throwing another three or four at us.

There are also problems with the two main actors. While this type of movie initially seems perfect for actors, because it allows for a raw performance that allows for an actor to go through the whole spectrum of emotions, it actually requires good actors in order for the performances to be good. While Cary Elwes, a character actor given a leading role, is generally okay, his American accent was very lackluster and the dialogue he was given wasn't great. Leigh Whannell was worse, and considering he was one of the writers, one would have hoped he could have given himself some better lines to say

Saw is a good movie. It is captivating, gory, creatively scary, and has a clear message that it tries to impart upon its viewers. It's also a fresh concept for a horror movie, and those don't come along too often. Is it perfect? Not even close. The overuse of flashbacks, the numerous twists which give the impression that it wants to be more clever than it is, and a couple of leading performances that don't live up to their potential keep it from being superb. It is, however, definitely worth watching, and I recommend checking it out.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:41 pm

Saw II
At least you can't really say that Saw II is "more of the same." Oh, sure, there are plot twists aplenty and numerous traps and puzzles to be figured out, but the basic story of Saw II differs from its predecessor. It does enough to make itself feel fresh, just like the first film did enough to differentiate itself from the rest of the horror genre. In hindsight the film might not necessarily "work," but it definitely does in the moment, and that's really all that matters.

There are two stories at work in the sequel to the implausibly successful Saw. The first involves a police officer, Eric (Donnie Wahlberg), in a battle of wits against the "serial killer," Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). Surprisingly, the man behind the elaborate death traps of the first film gets put into police custody early on in Saw II, although he has a trick up his sleeve: he has captured a group of people, put them in a home which contains poisonous gas, and gave them clues as to how to find antidotes in order to live through the ordeal. If they don't solve the puzzle in two hours, they will die. Eric has a son, Daniel (Erik Knudsen), who is trapped in the house.

The focus on these people is what takes up our second story. We cut back and forth between this diverse group of individuals and their attempts to not die and the one-on-one "discussion" between Jigsaw and Eric. Individually, both of these segments work. Eric has the emotion and Jigsaw has the brains, making the first part compelling, and the puzzles that Jigsaw uses to teach the other characters lessons could easily be movies unto themselves, simply because of how creative they are.

By joining them, not only do we add emotional resonance to the second story because of the first one, there's also a greater sense of urgency, a lot more intrigue to the wordplay, and the potential to add another twist into the mix, which Saw II uses to great effect. I found the breaks of straight tension given by the Eric-Jigsaw portions to benefit the one about the people trapped in the house.

It was nice to see more of Jigsaw in this film. In Saw, we mostly Saw him from behind -- his identity was being saved for a twist -- and we learned little about him. Saw II switches things up by having him confront us and give us long monologues in which he tells us exactly why he does what he does. We get his back story, his character motivation, and a creepy performance by Tobin Bell. This doesn't change the character from the earlier film; it fleshes him out and makes him even more sinister.

I should mention here that if you didn't like the small, gruesome bits of gore in Saw that you should stop thinking about seeing the sequel now. There is more gore, and there are more situations which will force you to look away from the screen. Some points in the film aren't necessarily gory, but they'll make you cringe, shake, or make you feel the need to vomit nonetheless. There are a lot of points when I had wonder whether or not living would be worth being put through such a punishment.

If there's one thing Saw II is exceptionally good at, it's making you think about what you would do given a certain situation. The film makes you continually question whether you'd be able to do something in order to survive, or if it would even be worth it. Would you jump into a pit of bloody needles in an attempt to find a key, and you only have a couple of minutes to find it? The first film did this, too, but with more people come more traps and more opportunities to put yourself to the (hypothetical) test.

More characters does pose a problem for the film. The first film didn't have well-written characters, and with more of them this issue is compounded and much more noticeable. Only the Jigsaw Killer has anything more than a single dimension, while most of the victims get a sole trait with which they are defined. Returning from the last movie is Amanda (Shawnee Smith), someone you might recall was a survivor of one of Jigsaw's puzzles and here is put through round #2. What an unlucky person.

Saw II, like its predecessor, also tries to be too clever at times, throwing twists upon twists at the viewer. Some of them are extremely effective, while others require a lot of stretching to find believable. And if you have to think about them that much, it's tough to call them effective, even in the moment. Most of the film will keep you on your toes, but steam begins to be let out of the engine by the time it comes to a conclusion, in large part thanks to the chain of events becoming a bit too much to handle.

Saw II might not be the breath of fresh air that Saw was, but it does enough differently from the first installment, as well as being extremely enjoyable while it's playing, that it's well worth your time. The two separate storylines work in tandem with one another to become something very effective, the puzzles and traps are just as creative as they were in the previous film, and the further exploration of its villain made the character more interesting. While it suffers from poor characters and an attempt at being too clever, I did enjoy Saw II and I recommend it to those of you who don't get turned away from squeamish material.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:57 pm

Gravity
20 minutes into Gravity -- which is incidentally around the time the first cut occurs; yes, the film opens with an exceptionally long take -- I figured this premise would make a fantastic short film. And, it did. At 20 minutes, I was so hooked that a fire could have broken out in the theater and I might not have noticed. It is so beautiful and so captivating that you find it hard to even blink. You want to stare into the vast abyss forever, and you want to watch the two leads, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, get to do the same.

Of course, they only get about ten minutes in before things start to go wrong. Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is on her first trip into space, while Lt. Matt Kowalski (Clooney) is a veteran. They're out on a spacewalk, fixing something that's ultimately inconsequential. They receive a transmission which claims debris from a Russian satellite is coming their way, and they have to abort. They're not fast enough, and wind up the only survivors of the destruction this debris causes. Their shuttle is destroyed and more satellites are destroyed in a chain reaction, meaning they have no contact with Mission Control. They are alone in space.

This all happens before a cut, remember. This occurs in one take, or at least it gives the appearance of being one take. We probably won't find out until Gravity reaches home video, assuming that its release comes with bountiful special features. The opening sequence of Gravity is perfect. It will go down in history as one of the must-see opening scenes of all time.

And this is before Gravity starts to get really intense. It's fascinating and beautiful at this point, but it's not particularly thrilling. You know that the characters have to survive the initial debris crash, so you never think they're in considerable danger. It is, however, beautiful and well-staged. What follows is a quest for survival, particularly for the Bullock character (who winds up alone for most of the film), and an almost nonstop pacing which is filled with so many thrills that you'll struggle to not feel physically exhausted by the time it's over.

Or, at least, you'll feel that way if you haven't been taken out of the film by how silly it winds up being. It has to continue to contrive new situations for its lead character to survive -- Murphy's Law is in full effect -- and it gets a little ridiculous by the end. Everything goes wrong, and it does so at such a rapidity that you have to start laughing at it. Unfortunately, that can really take you out of the proceedings, and is Gravity's only real problem.

Don't get me wrong: The film still works, and it works really, really well. But being taken out of the moment -- which is so important when it's a film set in space -- hurts its potential for effect. If that happens, you sit back and appreciate its beauty, wonder exactly how they made each shot, and ponder how realistic the film truly is. To that middle point, I recommend you sit through the credits and pay attention to the different jobs listed. There will be many you've probably never seen.

Gravity wants to do a few things. It wants to give the illusion that its lead actors truly are wandering through space. It desires to provide a touching human drama, brought through in the characters' fight for survival. And it hopes to thrill you from start to finish while captivating your senses through its filmmakers' eye for shot composition. To most extents, it does all of this wonderfully. It's only when it continues to throw new issues at every turn at its characters that it becomes almost too silly to take seriously.

It does make you feel like its characters are truly in space. The way that they float around, the way that the objects around them move -- it all gives the appearance that the film is occurring in space. It might do this better than any other movie that has yet been released. The 3D enhances this, as random items and debris move around the protagonists. The vastness of space is wonderfully created, and it has been so lovingly crafted, with such detail, that you won't find a single moment that isn't gorgeous.

And, at its core, is Sandra Bullock, who is a shoe-in for a Best Actress nomination. Yes, like many I scoffed at the idea of Sandra Bullock alone in space for 90 minutes -- it's more like 65 minutes, anyway -- but she pulls it off, going through not only the range of emotions one might expect but doing so with the camera often so close to her face, all while participating in extremely lengthy takes and many scenes which seem to be physically demanding.

Gravity is a phenomenal visual experience, a great drama, exhilarating from start to finish -- assuming the constant barrage of plot contrivances don't bug you or make the film too silly for you to take -- and is actually one of the few films that benefits from 3D. It will lose something on home video, too, even if I can't wait to see how many of the scenes in the film were created once it gets its home release. I recommend seeing Gravity in 3D and at the cinema. You'll be really glad you did.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:05 pm

Saw III
The first two chapters in the Saw franchise aren't going to be considered to be laugh-fests by too many people, but it's with Saw III, which functions as the emotional conclusion to a trilogy, that a truly grim tone has been attempted. The darker, moodier music, more graphic violence, and darker, emotional themes make it feel this way. It keeps with the Saw tradition in that it's still a brutal horror film with quasi-philosophical sequences, but it takes itself more seriously this time around.

I cannot say for sure whether or not this is a direction that worked better. A more realistic approach can be seen as more boring. The traps, puzzles, and "games," as the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) likes to call them, are less exaggerated, and more about the lead character's moral compass and not about how gruesome they can be, although a few parts of the film are, as you'd expect, downright painful to watch. The lesson that must be learned this time around is how to forgive those who have done you wrong.

That aforementioned lead character is Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a man who lost his son a few years ago to a i can't even ejaculate driver, watched that man get a grand total of six months in prison, and whose focus in life has been in seeking vengeance -- without actually doing any of the "seeking." He wants vengeance, tells everyone he'd kill the murderer if they ever came face to face, and essentially ruined his entire life brooding over the death of his son. Jigsaw saw this (somehow), and decided that he needs to be taught how to let go and forgive.

Like Saw II before it, this third installment has two stories. This other one involves Jigsaw lying on his death bed, finally succumbing to his cancer. As revealed in the last film, Amanda (Shawnee Smith) has now become partners with the man who put her through two trials, and she is now taking care of him. They've captured a doctor, Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), who is forced to try to keep Jigsaw alive until Jeff finishes his trial. If she can't, the collar around her neck explodes. This premise results in an open-brain surgery scene that will either please or disgust, depending on who you are.

I suppose whether or not you'll really like Saw III depends upon why you are watching it in the first place. If you like the twists in the plot, the lessons that the characters have to learn, and the constant tension that they're able to keep up for the majority of their running times, then you'll still probably like this one. If you're here to see a bunch of one-dimensional characters get killed, you'll want to go watch a slasher film, or perhaps Saw II again, because you won't really get that here.

You will see some deaths, including a particularly gory (and slightly disappointing, depending on which characters you've grown to like) ending. As Jeff goes through his trials, he comes across three people in torturous situations. He is quite often not the one being put in danger, which is a departure from the earlier films. It's these people, each of whom impacted his life earlier, whose fate he has to decide. Here is where most of the scenes which might make you look away appear.

It's nice to see the character growth from the first film to this one. Jigsaw has become stripped of all mystery and is now hours away from death. Amanda is now the main threat, and the film explains that she was actually behind many of the events that Jigsaw would physically be unable to perform. Finally, we get that explanation. I've been waiting for it since part way through the second film. Some twists at the end are revelatory and this is the first time in the series that these don't feel like they're trying to be too clever.

The story continues to be implausible, and with each film, the connections between all of the characters and their stories grows less likely. But I can't say that I don't like it. All of the reveals feel like true reveals -- you're not likely to guess most of the things that happen in this film -- and they help keep things interesting. They also make you want to rewatch the film, and the earlier ones, in order to see if these twists hold up after closer inspection.

Surprisingly, one of the things holding Saw III together are the performances, especially in the second, non-Angus-Macfadyen-led, story. The trio of Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith and Bahar Soomekh makes for the best threesome of actors in the whole series, and because their story is the most emotional, this is crucial. Several scenes of length dialogue exchanges are extremely intense, and become even more thrilling than some of the "games" the characters must play.

Saw III isn't the best of the Saw films, and I'm not even sure if it is better than either of the first two chapters, but as a slight departure from the series' formula, as well as a strong emotional conclusion to a trilogy, it is very effective. It might be too "realistic" for some viewers, and it might still be too graphic for those who aren't a fan of gory scenes, but if you've enjoyed the previous two Saw movies, you'll definitely want to see this one.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:44 pm

Saw IV
It is with Saw IV that I have finally started to tire of the series. Perhaps it was that I was emotionally spent by the time the third installment -- which was a solid conclusion to a great trilogy -- or maybe it' that the two most interesting characters of the series are now dead, even though Saw IV attempts to convince us that even in death, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, appearing in a bunch of flashbacks) can still perform the duty of teaching people the meaning of life through torturous devices and puzzles.

The main storyline of Saw IV involves one of the few remaining supporting cast members from the earlier films, Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent), being put through a series of trials, much like Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) was the last time around. Daniel has been neglecting the rest of his life in an attempt to locate a couple of the police officers that have died in the series thus far, and the lesson that Jigsaw wants to teach him is that he can't save everybody, no matter how hard he tries -- and that he most certainly shouldn't mess up his own life in an attempt to do so.

Daniel has to go from location to location and either save, kill, or put another character to a test similar to his own. The problem is that, save for the first test, there isn't a whole lot of tension in his story. He is rarely put in harm's way, and the people who wind up being tortured -- and that's essentially all that they have happen -- have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film. They show up, they are tortured, and then they never get mentioned again.

In fact, in a couple of cases, Daniel doesn't have to do anything in order to proceed. He could just grab the next note, go to the next location, and continue on his way. Because of this, any tension generated, of which there is very little, feels forced and fake. If it could all be avoided, there's no way it's going to wind up costly. It's true that this is intentional and that it goes to serve Jigsaw's message (you'll see how at the end of the film), but it doesn't make for a thrilling experience.

The second story -- because the Saw movies need two parallel stories now, apparently -- involves a couple of FBI agents attempting to track down our actual protagonist, as well as figure out more of Jigsaw's origins. Most of that information comes in the form of both flashbacks and exposition during interrogations with Jigsaw's ex-wife, Jill (Betsy Russell, seen in a cameo in the last film). This story is DOA and never becomes interesting. It's a good thing it's the secondary plot or the film as a whole would be a complete waste of time.

I think the main problem here is that this is all familiar content that isn't done as well as it previously was. I've already mentioned that Daniel's story is basically a re-tread of the ordeal that Jeff went through in the last movie, but the FBI story is also similar to, well, all of the police stories from the previous films. There isn't anything new here, and save for a few reveals at the end -- a Saw trademark -- there's nothing that you need to see, even if you're a big fan of the franchise.

Even the traps, puzzles, games, or whatever you want to call them aren't terribly fresh in this film. The idea that people can be taught lessons by being put through situations which require mental and physical turmoil could easily be enough to carry the series. It's a brilliant idea and if there's enough creativity from a writing standpoint, these would be enough to satisfy much of the audience. There isn't any creativity this time around, and the only gruesome part comes right at the beginning, and happens to a corpse.

Keeping with Saw tradition, Saw IV attempts to be too clever at the end, although this time it's without any explanation. Characters from previous movies appear and sometimes aren't even given any dialogue. If you're not one of the initiated -- meaning you've watched at least the second and third film; it's funny how the first one is the least important in regard to the overarching plot, isn't it? -- you'll get little out of these reveals.

Saw IV has shown that the writers have simply run out of ideas. There is nothing here that we haven't seen before. A once fresh concept has now grown stale. Each Saw film has been released a year after the previous one, and while that wasn't a problem after three films, the fourth has shown that this production method isn't sustainable. This is a cash-in movie, and I can't support its existence. If it was at least fun like the earlier chapters, I would be okay with the cash-in mentality, but it simply isn't. It's dull.

Saw IV is not a good movie. I enjoyed all three earlier installments, but this is just a bore from start to finish. It's not scary, it's not thrilling, and it's not even creative. About the only thing that the filmmakers needed to do correctly was provide us with some innovative traps and puzzles, but they couldn't even do that. Most of the film is a rehash of earlier chapters, and what's new isn't worth seeing. It's for the die-hard fans only, and they'll probably reminisce at the better, earlier films in the series.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:57 pm

Saw V
I was ready for the Saw series to be finished after the third film. The fourth felt like a cash-grab. This fifth installment, which also doesn't need to exist, comes across like a celebration -- a "Greatest Hits" of the franchise thus far. One of its many storylines involves a character visiting the locations of some of the most memorable scenes, and having revelatory flashbacks that explain how things "truly" were. "Truly," at least until another film comes out and tells us that we still didn't know what was going on.

Does it matter anymore? If Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) had another apprentice -- Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), which is what we learned at the end of the last film -- who cares? All it does is allow for more sequels, and have the first three films' legacy tarnished. I don't want a Jigsaw imitator; that's why they killed off the one who was being prepped to take that position. Now we're learning that there was another one? Why? So that the studio can keep making their $10 million film that is guaranteed to rake in $100 million at the box office.

For those who still care, one of the stories of Saw V involves FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) going from place to place and somehow "re-living" the events in earlier films, but with the added knowledge that Hoffman was Jigsaw's little helper for the entire time. Hoffman, meanwhile, is continuing his master's legacy, by both showing us why he took on the job, letting a new "game" play out, and also trying to cover his tracks and eliminate Agent Strahm.

That game goes back to the roots of Saw II. There are five people, all of whom are connected in some way -- although more tangentially and unclearly this time, as the writing has taken a drastic dip in quality -- who are going to be put through trials and tribulations in order to escape with their lives. The ones this time around are more down-to-Earth, and quite frankly not that impressive. There's an art to some of the puzzles in earlier Saw films, sadistic as that might sound, but these ones could be made by a high schooler.

Of course, the lack of flair to the traps is explained away by the lesson that the characters have to learn. I don't really want to ruin it, but suffice to say that it's something that high school sports coaches attempt to teach their players. Or, you know those movies about outcasts banding together to overcome the odds? It's kind of like that. This is how far the Saw movies have fallen. They haven't necessarily been the smartest films, but they used to be better than this.

They're not scary at all anymore. Saw IV wasn't scary and neither is the fifth film. There's a little mystery work, but most of the "horror" scenes are spent putting the victims through torturous situations which involve the loss of blood, limbs, and possibly life. Once Jigsaw died, it seemed like the writers gave up. Even though the now-famous character "planned" this film's game, it's not the same. The behind-the-scenes creativity is gone, and the film seems obligatory, made because it makes money and not because anyone wants to do it.

The storyline becomes more convoluted with each new chapter, too, which isn't a point in its favor. How many more times can we revisit the same scene, with only a slightly different look, and with a touch more information? When does it become too implausible for even the most devoted fan to wrap his or her head around? And when can we just do the prequel so that Tobin Bell can be in the whole movie? It seems that we're headed in that direction anyway, as random, meaningless flashbacks attempt to include the actor as often as possible.

In some ways, despite having that "Greatest Hits" sort of feeling, Saw V also comes across as a film that exists to set-up a sixth movie. Not a whole lot is actually accomplished in this chapter, save for attempting to establish Hoffman as a true villain (which it doesn't actually do very well). It's transitional, hoping that we'll accept this new villain over Jigsaw -- despite acting just like Jigsaw, I guess -- so that future films don't have to keep linking back to the earlier ones.

None of the actors manage to leave a mark, save for Bell who could probably play Jigsaw in his sleep at this point. Both Mandylor, who reminded me of a worse Sylvester Stallone, and Patterson are completely flat, and the victims of the game don't get to live long enough or do anything that doesn't involve screaming in order to turn in performances that matter.  The good actors are all dead at this point.

Saw V is a bad movie and even if you liked the earlier movies in the franchise, it's hard to see anyone getting terribly excited about it. The traps aren't creative, the story is convoluted and confusing, the acting is nothing impressive, there's no actual horror, and there's very little reason to even watch it, save for the completionists out there who have already seen 1-4. Once the roman numerals start reaching this high, it's rare that quality is still of the greatest importance. Saw V is an obligation, made to make money and nothing more.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:52 pm

Saw VI
Six films in and the Saw franchise is still going strong. Or, it is when it comes to making money. The films are made cheaply and are almost guaranteed to make back 10x their budget, giving the studio a very impressive profit. I can't blame anyone involved for continuing to make Saw sequels, and I can only hope that the money made by them goes to fund projects that the filmmakers are actually passionate about, instead of the passionless drivel that the series has now become.

I say this, and yet I also feel like Saw VI is the best film in the series since the third one. That isn't to say it's especially good, but at least it moved at a good clip, has some interesting puzzles, and had new scenes featuring two of the only strong characters in the film -- Amanda (Shawnee Smith) and Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), if you've forgotten. If only it didn't ruin and contradict Jigsaw's motivation from previous films. How do you miss the point of your own series, especially once you're on the sixth entry and the producers overseeing the project have been the same for each chapter?

The main story this time around involves an insurance executive, William Easton (Peter Outerbridge), being put through one of Jigsaw's "games," which you'll recall involve making sacrifices of the mind and body in an attempt to rehabilitate a victim who has been living life wrong, according to Jigsaw. These are often very bloody, and in the last couple of films have felt like they existed just to torture their victims. That's less the case this time; I can see the logic behind each one of them.

The parallel story, because there must be a parallel story (or several), has now-Lieutenant Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) attempting to outsmart his fellow officers of the law by trying to frame now-dead Agent Strahm as the apprentice to the Jigsaw Killer. Of course, Hoffman is now the one carrying out the murders single-handedly -- we've seen this for two films now -- so there's no debating on our end whether or not he's the villain. He just has to try to hide that fact from everyone else.

Now, we've known for a while that the victims of the Jigsaw games have been targeted. At the beginning of each puzzle, a tape plays that tells the victim why he or she has been chosen, and what the rules of the game are. That reason is generally because the person has either not been living life to the fullest, or because they've been the direct cause of many other people. This time around, it feels more like personal revenge, which to me seems to contradict Jigsaw's general philosophy.

That, if nothing else, is the main reason I didn't like Saw VI as much as I could have. The life lessons of the previous films have at least kept the series having a consistent theme. That isn't here. Instead, I couldn't get it out of my mind how the character of Jigsaw was completely butchered. This doesn't seem like something he would do, or at least, not for this reason. Mr. Easton makes a good target, being someone who continually denies people of insurance coverage and directly causes many deaths, but because of some flashbacks, we know that it's more personal than that.

There are some interesting puzzles and traps this time around. Some of them are physically demanding, while others require William to question his own policies and decisions he's made in the past. You can actually see how, in this film, the trials that he's going to be put through might actually change his outlook on life. In the last couple of films, they have been brutal for the sake of brutality and sadism.

I think part of the reason I liked this film more than IV and V was because it brought back my favorite character, Amanda, for a couple of new flashbacks. Isn't it always kind of fun when a previously dead character, one who had more potential and personality than anyone else in the series, to get a few more scenes, even if they're just flashbacks? The series hasn't yet resurrected any of its characters, and while Tobin Bell has continually been filming new scenes for additional back story, he was really the only one.

Saw VI also had Costas Mandylor coming into his own as the villain. It seemed as if in V the franchise was trying to begin distancing itself from Jigsaw, and hoping to establish Hoffman as the new bad guy. It tried but failed. This is a more successful attempt. I began to see him as a threat, especially during some of his creepy scenes when interacting with the police. He's not Jigsaw, but he's getting there, I suppose, even though the character has a whole is far less interesting.

I'm not sure if I'd call Saw VI "good," but it's definitely "better" than the last two installments in the yearly franchise, and if you've sat through the previous five films, you'll definitely want to see this one. It has a good pace, creative and interesting puzzles, ties up some loose ends, and has new scenes with Amanda, so that might make you happy. The main problem I have with it is the way it contradicts the character of Jigsaw, which has been established over the course of five previous films. Still, this is definitely a better Saw movie than the last couple of them.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:57 pm

Saw 3D
After Saw VI, it seemed like the franchise was beginning to turn around. A relatively good installment had been released after two pretty terrible ones, and there was now hope that it had been righted and could potentially have more good chapters. However, it appears that much of the interest in the series had died by this point, as it was far less successful at the box office, only making back six times its budget, instead of the usual ten. The studio decided that this decline was enough to stop the franchise, so Saw 3D is the promised end of the Saw series.

It's a shame that the long-running movie franchise is going out with more of a whimper than a bang. Saw VI wasn't bad at all, and worked well at tying up most of the loose ends. This one exists to give us some more gore and completely wrap everything up in as expedient a fashion as possible. It doesn't really work, and it also winds up introducing new twists which further convolute the overarching storyline. Why couldn't this one just be a prequel? I've been waiting for that for a while now.

This time around, the man being punished is someone who claims to have survived one of Jigsaw's puzzles before. Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) has been selling a book that details the events that took place when he was captured by Jigsaw. We never witnessed this. Want to know why? It never happened. Given how sprawling the series is, one would assume we'd have already seen pretty much everyone who was put through the "games." Bobby is a fake, and now he's going to get punished for lying to the world.

Of course, we know that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, appearing in a couple, but not many, flashbacks) is long dead. He has been since the end of the third film. Taking his place has been Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who finally came into his own in the last film. Hoffman in this one has vowed revenge on Jigsaw's ex-wife, Jill (Betsy Russell), after she tried to kill him in the last film. Meanwhile, there's a new detective, Matt Gibson (Chad Donella), who is trying to bring Hoffman to justice.

You can see how there's a lot going on. It's too much. Too many new elements are introduced, and it doesn't allow the film to wrap everything up neatly and with enough time for closure. There are so many loose ends that need to be tied up -- six movies worth, as a matter of fact -- and introducing new ones while trying to close all the open doors is just far too challenging a task for the filmmakers. It's not fair. Prior to Saw VI's "poor" box office returns, two more sequels were planned. They were merged into one and the result is a terrible mess.

In addition to the story being a complete train wreck, the actual film used to tell it is almost unwatchable. There's nothing enjoyable this time around, and most of the traps and puzzles exist for the sole purpose of being gory. The film returns to the roots of the fourth and fifth installments, I suppose, except that this one is even worse than them because of how poor the story is.

The only plus, I suppose, is the inclusion of a character from the first film, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). Remember him? If you don't, he was the one who cut off his own foot in hopes of escaping Jigsaw's trap. He only gets a few scenes, and his appearance adds even more stupidity and confusion to an already muddled film, but I did like seeing a familiar face. It was welcome, especially because many of these new characters are just so awful. Dr. Gordon wasn't great, but his character was written better in one movie than some of the other ones have in four.

Save for the characters who have already been established -- and "established" in this case means "they have been in earlier movies" because the only character who has any sense of depth and is still alive is Hoffman -- there isn't a single memorable person in this movie. The performances are universally poor, the characters aren't written well at all (they aren't coming back for an eighth film, anyway), and I can't say I cared about anyone being put through the Jigsaw traps. It just didn't matter anymore.

Even though three of the last four films in the Saw franchise have been really bad, I still think the series, on the whole, has been a success. The first film did something different, the second and third ones expanded upon that, while the sixth was almost a return to form. It goes to show that when the passion is there, and when the writers think up some clever traps, such a simple concept can be successful for a long time. It's only with laziness and convolution that the Saw movies started their sharp decline in quality.

After seven films, the Saw series has come to an end. Or, at least, that's what we've been promised. I hope that's true. It's impossible to deny that three of the last four films have been terrible, and that's just not a good ratio of success. This might just be the worst film of the franchise thus far, and while it probably could have been finished after the sixth film, at least it's done now. Saw 3D is a whimper in the overall scheme of things, and I recommend seeing it only if you are someone who needs to see every film in a series that you start.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:57 pm

Romeo & Juliet
Cards on the table: The 1968 version of Romeo & Juliet directed by Franco Zeffirelli is a perfect adaptation of the play, a fantastic film, and if you are, for some reason, too lazy to read the play, this is the version you should see. It is timeless, beautiful, and easily accessible even today. There have been a bunch of adaptations -- many of which have been seen and remembered by very few -- of William Shakespeare's tragedy, but the '68 version stands out among the crowd.

I mention this right off the bat because you need to know where I'm coming from when I review this 2013 adaptation of Romeo & Juliet. Prior to seeing it, I could see absolutely no reason for a new version to be made. We have a perfect version of this story set in the period and setting for which it was written. We've also had an awful modern adaptation courtesy of Baz Luhrmann. What could this new film, which is set in the proper Renaissance period, do differently in order for it to be worth seeing? What justifies its existence?

Well, as it turns out, there actually is something that this Romeo & Juliet does differently from all of the films that came before it: its filmmakers have altered the original dialogue written by Shakespeare. Yes, many of the big lines are there in their entirety, and most of the film at least sound Shakespearean, but much of the dialogue has been slightly altered. That's this movie's claim to fame: its writer, Julian Fellowes, thinks he is a better writer than William Shakespeare.

I suppose I can understand the logic. A lot of the members of the PG-13 crowd are going to be forced into reading the film in school, and at that age it's tough to focus on something you're not used to. I've been there. Nowadays, kids just go on Sparknotes and read a "translated" version anyway. So, in order to make the film an easier watch for the children, many lines have been altered -- dumbed down, so to speak. If its hope is to draw in teenagers by being a more approachable version of the play, I guess it's successful.

But for the adults in the crowd? This change might range from unimportant to offensive. It certainly doesn't improve the dialogue, which is what a change should hope to do. Perhaps it makes it easier on the actors, although that doesn't come across, either. The lead roles, especially, play out like they're bad actors in high school. Neither of them really get the essence or the emotion in the lines. They mostly monotone their way through the script, occasionally swapping dispassionate kisses with each other.

Is there point in even setting up the plot? Doesn't everyone know Romeo & Juliet by now? In short: two teenagers from warring families fall in love. Romeo is played by Douglas Booth, Juliet is played by Hailee Steinfeld, and neither of them proves anything of worth in this film. Steinfeld is especially bad, mumbling her lines in an attempt to keep us from noticing that she really can't do a consistent English accent. There's also a complete lack of emotion in both actors, which is weird considering the play is full of pure emotion.

This is also one of the cheapest looking Shakespeare adaptations you can see. The costumes are generally fine, if unspectacular, but the sets are so sparse and while some of it was filmed on location. the interior shots very much look like sets. And there's one scene that's so noticeably different from the rest that I'm inclined to think it was shot entirely in front of a green screen. The film only had a £15 million budget, but it looks cheaper than that.

To be fair, it all moves at a good pace, and the general story structure works as well as it always had. You're never bored while watching it, and even though it plays for just south of two hours, it doesn't feel long. I'm inclined to attribute that more to Mr. Shakespeare than the filmmakers, but I suppose they could have completely ruined the play's pacing, too, but didn't. Nothing superfluous was added, and nothing substantial was removed. It's efficient and probably looks good on paper, but add in the details and it greatly suffers.

Some of the actors aren't terrible. The actors are all the veteran ones. Paul Giamatti plays Friar Laurence, Lesley Manville is the Nurse, Damian Lewis is Lord Capulet, Natascha McElhone is Lady Capulet, and Stellan Skarsgård is the Prince of Verona. All of the actors I just mentioned are either just fine or genuinely great in their roles. They get Shakespeare, they understand how the dialogue works, and the casting is fine. But almost all of the younger actors seem so awkward saying these lines, and their demeanor is too modern, creating an odd mix. Maybe it would have been best to forgo the Shakespearean-type dialogue altogether if you're already going to change it.

2013's Romeo & Juliet fails in many ways. It changes the original dialogue written by William Shakespeare, it gets poor performances out of its two leading actors, and it looks far cheaper than it should. It moves at a good clip, if only because the play's plot wasn't significantly altered, and the supporting cast is fine, but that can't overcome all of the film's issues. The 1968 version is perfect. Go watch it instead.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:15 pm

Asylum
Take a clever premise and do absolutely nothing with it but create a generic slasher, and you have a good description of Asylum. Here is a movie which insulted me at every turn because of the way it continued to ignore an original and interesting idea in favor of dull and uninspired death scenes. When your villain is a dead, crazy doctor who makes his victims hallucinate terrible moments from their childhood, one might think these might influence the kills. But, alas, that would be too much work and require too much intelligence.

The film stars Sarah Roemer as Madison, a new college student who had a disturbing childhood. She saw her father kill himself, and this was after years of his mental illness completely messing up his life and the life of his family. So, obviously this type of illness might or might not be inheritable. She sometimes sees things, too, although we're left to wonder whether or not they're hallucinations. Things get even weirder when we learn that her college dorm is part of a building that used to be a mental asylum, in which Dr. Burke (Mark Rolston) had some unconventional methods to curing his patients, prior to being killed by an uprising.

Because good doctors never die, it turns out that Burke told his killers that he'd find a way to come back and kill each and every one of them. I suppose this extends to anyone with a traumatic childhood, for some reason. Maybe it's just because Dr. Burke is evil, but his reasoning for killing the students makes little sense, even at the best of times.

Madison has made some friends before the killing begins, and these friends are the stock characters you expect to see in a horror movie. There's the jock, the nerd, the promiscuous one, and so on. They're all victims-in-the-waiting, ready to be have their throats cut at any moment. Each one has had something bad happen to them at an earlier stage in life, and we learn about it prior to their death. Burke reenacts a scene from their life, and then stabs or slices the life out of them.

Now, doesn't this seem like a waste of potential to anyone else? You have the ability to tailor your death scenes to the specific weakness of each victim. You can create absolutely horrifying ways to kill all of the people in the movie. And yet, all that happens is a little buildup followed by a throat slash. Yawn. Add that into the muddled logic behind the victim, some shallow characters -- although who expects horror victims to be deep? -- as well as poor writing and acting, and you've got a forgettable slasher not worth discussing any more.

The end.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:12 pm

Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is a sloppy, messy, and none too scary movie in which camp counselors are killed by a murderer we only see at the end, for reasons incredibly short in logic. It's not a movie with large production values, it's been shot in a way that makes you wonder who among the crew had held a camera before production began, and it doesn't even have terribly creative deaths. In almost every area you can look for in a film, it doesn't succeed.

Here is how the first 70 minutes of the picture play out. Camp counselors, both male and female, are abandoned by their leader, who goes into town for supplies. Left to their own devices, they do what you'd expect: they play games and they have sex. Meanwhile, someone is watching them from the woods, and every now and then, this figure -- who aligns us with his/her point of view via POV shots -- kills one of them. That's it. We watch these teenagers fool around by the lake and the woods, and then we watch them die, one by one, at the hands of someone we don't see for the majority of the film.

It would be fruitless and likely impossible for me to describe all of the teenagers for you. I can't remember them well enough to do that, and the film does such a poor job of characterizing them that they all fall into two categories: (1) male, or (2) female. That's the extent of the differences between them. The vast majority of them will wind up dead anyway. These deaths usually occur in the form of a knife to the throat, because creativity is something that would be too much work for the filmmakers.

In addition to characters who all seem similar, the dialogue written by Victor Miller is absolutely awful, and it's delivered poorly by almost everyone involved. It's like all the actors knew that nobody cared what performance they turned in, so they decided to act as poorly as they could. Combine that with the cringe-worthy lines they're given and you're going to be in for a lot of painful scenes. You might just want the characters to die so you can stop listening to them.

With these types of movies you want the audience to at the very least not hate the lead characters, and at best we should empathize with them. Even indifference would be better. As long as we're still getting scared, because the director understands how to create tension and atmosphere, it shouldn't matter. What you don't want is ones that we hate, but that's what happens here. The paper-thin characters exist to be killed, and we watch them get killed because we have nothing better to do. Such is life.

There are, admittedly, a few fun moments scattered throughout, but they do little to make the 90-minute running time not feel a whole lot longer. You know how you can watch a trailer a dozen times before getting bored, but after doing so, it loses its appeal? Friday the 13th is a lot like that. Once you've seen the first few deaths, some of which happen off-screen due to budgetary issues, you've basically seen them all. At that point you're just waiting to learn who's killing the kids, why he or she is doing it, and if anyone will survive.

I suppose you get the answers to all of those questions. If nothing else, there's little ambiguity to Friday the 13th. You find out who the killer is in the last 20 minutes, you are given motivation, however silly and ridiculous the reasoning and logic might be, and there's only one person whose fate you aren't quite sure of. That leads to one of the only shocking parts of the film, and perhaps the only scene you're going to remember more than a few minutes after the film ends.

What positives can one take from Friday the 13th? The musical score is quite nice, and while it's not quite as impressive as the one in Halloween a year prior -- which this film desperately wants to be -- it's nonetheless one of the least amateur aspects of the production. There's that one good jump scare at the end, and the characters can all scream with the best of them. There are also a couple of clever edits here and there, although with such ugly cinematography, they might have just stood out because they actually looked like they were done by someone who had worked on a movie before.

Friday the 13th is a bad movie. It's not scary, it's not well-shot, its plot is bare-bones, its characters are cardboard and spout terrible lines of dialogue with the worst delivery they can, and the deaths aren't even that creative. This is a movie where you sit down and watch people get killed for 70 minutes, and then you're given a terrible motive for that to have happened. You'll forget the majority of the picture as soon as it ends, assuming you remain awake for its entirety.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:12 pm

Machete Kills
Machete was a great action movie with a message. It, a throwback to the grindhouse movies of the '70s, featured Danny Trejo in the leading role and had him and a colorful cast of actors go through a simple yet poignant plot involving racial tensions and immigration issues in the southern states of America. It had a purpose, and that it had over-the-top, gory kills on top of that made it something that's well worth seeing.

Machete Kills, by contrast, doesn't have much of a point other than to get together a more colorful cast of actors and have Machete (Trejo) slice through an incredibly large number of people in order to stop the bad guy from executing his slightly more complicated but sillier plan. The message is gone. The bad guy -- the actual one, who shows up with about 30 minutes left, not the one the film wants you to think is the bad guy, even though you know he isn't -- is crazy but he exists so that Machete can kill a bunch of people. Charlie Sheen is in the movie for maybe five scenes and he delivers the line that best sums up the film: "Machete kills. That's what he does."

The plot: Machete is hired by the President of the United states (Sheen, here listed as "Carlos Estevez," his real name) to head down to Mexico and stop a "revolutionary," Mendez (Demián Bichir), from launching a nuke and starting a world war. Spoiler alert, not that it's a surprise: Mendez isn't the real madman. That role goes to Mel Gibson, who shows up with a half hour to go and declares that he's taking us all to space.

Most of the film takes place in Mexico, though, as Machete attempts to get Mendez to the border while there's a $10 million bounty on each of their heads. Oh, and a group of girls from a brothel are chasing them. So is someone named the "Cameleón." And pretty much everyone ever. It gets to the point of ridiculousness, which is likely what the film is going for. But it doesn't work because we get overwhelmed with characters who sometimes stick around for a couple of scenes at the maximum.

Actually, Machete Kills feels rather disjointed, as if its first 2/3 was directed by one person, while the final 1/3 was done by another. This is odd, especially when you consider that Machete actually was directed by two people -- Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis -- while Machete Kills was done just by Rodriguez. Few of the characters amount to much -- some disappear and reappear with little reason or motivation -- and the plot's twists and turns, while predictable, also take the story and tone in a completely different direction.

Machete Kills' worst crime, however, is not having an actual conclusion (okay, second worst crime; Jessica Alba is killed off in the opening scene and that's just not a good way to go about making a movie). It opens with a fake trailer for its sequel, Machete Kills Again ... in Space, which I was hoping was a joke. It's almost as if that was thought up first, and then the filmmakers had to figure out how to get Machete into space. That would explain the film's left turn at the two-thirds mark. But despite having a trailer for the sequel, whether or not we get one depends on how well Machete Kills does at the box office. The conclusion of the story hinges on a sequel, and we don't have a guarantee one will ever happen.

"You're overthinking it," someone will inevitably say. "It's a dumb action movie and you should just sit back and enjoy the action." And that's somewhat true. Machete had something to say, but that doesn’t mean its sequel needs to. The problem with this is that the action isn't anything we haven't seen before. Machete slices guys up, pulls out intestines, and slices more guys up. It's not creative or a breath of fresh air like the first film.

And Machete has also become kind of a dull character. His deadpan demeanor worked fine for one film, but in this one all of the secondary characters are so much interesting than he is. The problem comes from them not sticking around long enough before another two are shoved in their place. The uninteresting main character can work with a strong supporting cast, but when most characters are limited to two or three scenes, that cast can't hold Machete up.

The grindhouse feel isn't even that prevalent this time around. Save for a couple of really poor special effect moments and the opening scene which just steals the "feature presentation" slide from, well, Grindhouse, you wouldn't even know that this is supposed to be a send-up of '70s grindhouse cinema. It just looks like a bad 2013 action movie. Over-the-top, sure, but nothing really all that absurd.

Machete Kills is a bad movie. Not an intentionally-bad-and-therefore-it's-good movie; just a bad one. Its action isn't terribly impressive, its plot is both predictable and convoluted, while making the film feel disjointed as soon as the real villain shows up, its supporting cast is infinitely more interesting than its hero, and it doesn't even properly end, meaning in order to find out the end to Machete's story, we have to hope that it makes enough money for a sequel to be justified. There is no point to this movie other than to watch Machete kill people. That's it. For 100 minutes. Yawn.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Oct 12, 2013 3:27 pm

Friday the 13th: Part II
The one undeniable truth of the movies is this: If a movie makes an exorbitant amount of money, and has even the remote possibility of a sequel, it will receive one. Such is the case of Friday the 13th: Part II, which takes place five years after the original despite being released a year later. The hope being, I wager, that the characters will forget the plot of the first film, but we'll have a vague recollection and can sense familiarities. Go back and watch the first film before this one and see if "familiar" or "more of the same" comes to mind.

This film opens by removing the one remaining character from the previous film. She -- name isn't important because nobody in the series thus far has enough character for me to remember a name -- is traumatized by what happened at Crystal Lake in the first film. She's then killed. It turns out that Jason Voorhees didn't like seeing his mother killed at that film's conclusion, and he's decided to take that into his own hands. Yes, he was supposed to have drowned years ago, but that's unimportant. He's alive and he kills the survivor in the film's opening scene.

We then move to a spot on the same lake as the first film, although in a slightly different location and with a different cabin. A group of camp counselors have arrived for a training program -- because it requires two weeks of training to be a camp counselor -- even despite the legend which claims that Jason Voorhees is wandering around the forest and just waiting to end the lives of anyone he encounters, because he has mommy issues.

Of course, the legend is true, and Jason subsequently begins killing all of the counselors-to-be. It actually takes a significant amount of time longer in Part II for the killing to begin, because the filmmakers try -- gasp -- to bring depth and personality into the characters. There are scenes included solely in an attempt to help us differentiate each character from the others, although this mostly comes in the form of them having one specific trait. One's in a wheelchair, one plays video games, one has a dog, etc.

They are eventually systematically picked off and killed. I can't remember who goes first and who goes last but almost all of them die. This film feels almost identical to its predecessor. "Camp counselors go to a lake and are killed by a person with a knife" just about sums up the plot. But this one at least put in a little more effort. It was directed by Steve Miner, who produced the first film and presumably thought it could be better, because he made it again, just slightly improved.

What is better about it? Well, it doesn't look like it was shot by someone who only has a small understanding of how to hold a camera, so that's better. The cinematography doesn't look quite so amateurish, and there's a clarity that wasn't in the last film. Some might dislike this, as the grungy look can sometimes be appealing to horror fans, but I find it ugly and unappealing -- but not scary, which is what the horror films aim to be.

It has better motivation for its lead character, too. Jason comes across as a hurt man-child, not as a psychotic person who doesn't understand what letting go is. We're not sure exactly what his deal is, and without that explanation, we try to fill in the blanks, which can be more frightening than if the film were to bare all for us. Jason also gets to do a couple of creative things that his mother never attempted -- double death via spear being one of the highlights -- and imagination is something to be applauded in these things.

Unfortunately, the characters are still there simply to be fodder for the killer, the dialogue they're given to deliver should embarrass anyone who has ever written a single word on a piece of paper, and their performances are nothing to write home about. I didn't actively hate as many of them this time around, and indifference is far better than hoping they die, but they're certainly not strong characters. At least I could tell them apart this time.

The film is still relatively dull, and I couldn't help a desire to fall asleep while it was playing. While it's an improvement over the first installment, you can only improve a flawed premise so much. The kids go to a lake and get killed. You need actual characters for this to matter, and an idea of how to build atmosphere and tension in order for it to scare us. Without these elements thrown in, the whole idea is bound to fail.  It's clear that the filmmakers don't want to put in that much effort. As long as they have sex and gore, much of the audience will be happy.

Friday the 13th: Part II isn't as bad as the first film, although I'd hesitate to call that a recommendation. It still falls into the "bad" category, as it's not terribly scary or suspenseful, and you're not going to care about much that's going on. But it has been shot in a significantly nicer way, there is a touch more creativity to the proceedings, the killer is more ambiguous and therefore more frightening, and I could tell the characters apart, even if it didn't matter who was getting killed at the time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:56 pm

Friday the 13th: Part III
Change "lake" to "farm" and "camp counselors" to "random teenagers" and you can apparently attempt to make a movie seem new to an audience. These are the only changes made by the filmmakers from Friday the 13th: Part II to Part III. Oh, and there's absolutely no reason for the killer, Jason (Richard Brooker), to be slicing up all of these teenagers, save for the fact that he's now the serial killer of this franchise, and the only actual link between the films.

Part II was a marginal improvement over the first chapter, as it was shot nicer, had an ounce of creativity, and actually made an effort to differentiate its characters. It was directed by Steve Miner, who produced the first film and went on to also direct this one. I took a guess that he was unhappy with chapter #1, and took the director's chair to fix what he didn't like. With this film, he proves that perhaps that was a fluke. This film is just as bad, if not worse, as the franchise starter. If it wasn't a Friday the 13th film, it would have sat on shelves and hopefully never would have seen release.

The film opens up with a poor framing device. A couple is going about their daily, after-dinner business, and then Jason kills them. There was also a rabbit there, who is the most sympathetic character in the series. I hope he made it out okay, although we don't find out. This couple has no relation to the rest of the plot, and the only thing this opening kill sequence shows us is that Jason is on the move. If he stayed at the lake at least he could claim territorial protection as his motive. Now, he's killing because the plot requires it.

Who are his targets this time around? A group of teenagers vacationing at a farm. Or a cottage. Or whatever word you use to describe it. There's a barn with hay but there are no horses, and I tell you this because the film makes a point of explaining it to us, even though it doesn't matter. The area is clearly not lived in anymore, which would explain why there are no horses, but never mind because we need to fill time with meaningless babble.

Before long, people wind up dying. The teenagers have interactions with each other, and I suppose some of them are in relationships and some aren't, but it once again is unimportant. They're all here to be targets for Jason's knife. There's also a motorcycle gang for some inexplicable reason -- okay, I can explain it: a couple of characters upset them with motive at a gas station -- and that just adds three more targets for Mr. Voorhees. I couldn't care less about anyone in this film, save for that rabbit.

If you're hoping for some creative kills, you'll want to keep looking. The vast majority of deaths occur in the same way: a knife to some important part of the body, like the neck or heart. Jason knows what works and what doesn't, but the problem is that it's boring, especially if you've already sat through two of these things. You've seen the vast majority of this film already in the earlier installments of the franchise. You have little reason to watch this one.

Then again, isn't that what fans of these films want? A new locale, a new crop of characters, and the same killer? If the film had interesting death scenes it might be worth watching for the initiated. Fans aren't likely to care too much about characters you care for, dialogue that doesn't make you want to cry, or acting that's any good -- if they didn't, they wouldn't be fans, as the earlier films had none of that -- so if the elements that are necessary exist, then it might be okay.

I should mention that Friday the 13th: Part III has been released in 3D, so expect the cinematography to reflect that. There are a few moments scattered throughout while things will try to stick out of the screen at you, because why would the filmmakers want to attempt any sort of immersion in a horror movie? Any delusion of atmosphere is removed as soon as this happens, and if you ever start settling back in, you can be sure that you'll be taken back out as soon as another one of these shots pops out at you.

The problem with all three of these films is that they're rather dull. You see the same thing over and over again, and there's nothing there to hold your attention. We see more of Jason this time around, as he finds an old-school hockey mask and therefore is more photogenic -- I posit that's the logic here, but I don't know -- but he's less menacing when we see more of him. The same is true of the villains in almost all horror movies. When we know where they are and what they look like we can mentally handle them better. They're less scary.

Friday the 13th: Part III is a terrible film in a series that's not very good. It re-hashes moments from earlier chapters, does nothing original for itself, and absolutely ruins any attempt at immersion by presenting itself to us in 3D and needing to use that effect every now and then. The acting is bad, the dialogue makes you cringe, the kills are dull, the killer is seen far too much, and the entire experience feels at least an hour too long, even though the film only plays or 95 minutes.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:19 pm

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Subtitled The Final Chapter, the promised last installment to the Friday the 13th franchise won't disappoint, assuming you're completely willing to forgive all of its shortcomings. And, if you're a fan of this series, then you're quite clearly okay with doing just that. Considering the kills are relatively creative this time around -- at least, compared to the first three chapters -- I can see how some audience members could view The Final Chapter as the best of the series.

The film once again takes place at Crystal Lake, which is where Jason Voorhees' mother was murdered, and he was supposedly drowned. Obviously, the latter wasn't the case, as Jason has served as the antagonist for the last two films. The Final Chapter involves two groups of people -- a family and a collection of random teenagers -- all being slaughtered by the serial killer the film hope's we love to hate, or hate to love, or some combination of those two words which hasn't yet been thought of by man, but nonetheless exists.

The family: a mother, daughter and son, who have apparently been living relatively close to the lake for quite some time. The teens: a group of indistinguishable people who exist to glorious shindig , have sex, and be killed, generally in that order. It would be entirely possible that the same actors have been used for the teenage roles in all of these films, and I wouldn't have noticed. Save for the second movie, there's been no attempt to allow us to tell them apart from the others. You can't care about them as a result.

I suppose you have to give credit to director Frank Zito, writer Barney Cohen, and whichever producers allowed them to get away with the content they've put into this film. The Friday the 13th films have always been violent, but this one tops the lot of them. It's also got a significantly larger amount of nudity. The exploitation elements of the franchise have been increased for the quote-unquote final chapter. Is that a natural progression, or just a bunch of filmmakers who wanted to see what they could get away with?

The kills are gorier and slightly more creative, too, which will satisfy. The gore has always been there, but the franchise has largely been devoid of inspiration when it comes to killing its characters. Jason usually just cuts them up with a knife. There are some differences this time around, and that helps keep things fresh. I don't want to spoil any of them -- even if you know everyone will die, I don't really want to ruin the fun of the kill -- but there's some ingenuity in this film that we haven't previously seen.

Much of the earlier chapters' faults are still present, which is what continues to keep The Final Chapter from being worth seeing, unless of course you've already been initiated and are a fan of what you've already seen. The characters are all still paper-thin, the dialogue is laughably bad, the acting might be the worst that the franchise has seen -- having a child in one of the leading roles might be the reason for this -- and, like the last film, we see way too much of Jason for him to be anything near scary.

It says a lot about the series that The Final Chapter opens with a highlight montage of the best moments, and almost all of them look the same. None of it scary, none of it is fun, and there's nothing to appreciate, save for the blood effects created by makeup artist Tom Savini. In fact, if there's one thing that I've overlooked in watching these films, it's the job he's done with the gore. Granted, he only worked on the original and on this one, but I have no doubt he helped those working on the middle installments, too.

The film isn't exactly a success. It doesn't quite come to the "heights" of the second film, but it does succeed the other chapters in a series whose best installment might be considered passable. If you like these things, this will be one you'll want to see. If you don't, it's not going to even come close to changing your mind. I still maintain that the good version of these films will give you reason to care, and there's none of that to be found here.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is better than the first and third movie in this series, but only because it brings some creativity to the kills. That's quite possibly the only thing that it does better than the other chapters, but that's almost enough. I've gotten tired of seeing Jason cut people with a knife; as evidenced by the film's opening montage, that gets boring really fast. If you want good acting, writing, plot, or scares, you'll want to pass this film by. If you're already a fan, you'll have a good time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:27 pm

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
I think, finally, after five movies, I've started to get won over by the Friday the 13th franchise. That, or worn down; I'm not entirely sure which and I don't know if that distinction is one that I wish to make. If I told you I actually had some fun with A New Beginning, the fifth chapter in the hack-and-slash horror series, I would be saying it seriously for the first time. The other movies have ranged from downright awful to just about passable entertainment. This one steps up to actually being watchable and almost recommendable.

Essentially, the film does what it needs to do and does it with an occasional wink at the audience. This is a funnier version of Friday the 13th, and I appreciated it for that. It's still violent, and has perhaps some of the best kills in the franchise -- at least for a little while -- but its director, Danny Steinmann, knows the whole idea is silly and advises us to take it all laughing. We've seen this basic plot play out four times prior, so this self-aware approach helps to freshen things up a bit.

A change from the earlier installments is that there's a central character this time around. I think this might be the first time I've (1) managed to remember a character's name and (2) almost cared about him or her. The protagonist is Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd), whom you'll remember from the last film, where he was a little kid and wound up killing Jason Voorhees, the serial killer of the franchise since the second movie. Now, he's grown up and suffers from any number of mental issues caused by the trauma inflicted on him earlier.

He's first seen being transported to a new institution, one in which there are no guards, restraints, or regulations. It's run by a guy who believes that in order to help patients, they have to be given freedom similar to what they'd have in the "real world." This allows for us to see a whole host of mental patients, and like Part II, we can tell them apart because of a specific personality or aesthetic trait. One stutters, one is always wearing headphones, one's a kid who is there because his grandfather works there, etc.

Murders start occurring. You're watching a Friday the 13th film, so you had to expect that. Tommy sees visions of Jason, but they're just hallucinations brought on by his earlier trauma. Or are they? People are actually dying, and we see Jason killing them even if Tommy isn't anywhere near the scene, so who gets to decide what's real and what isn't? The filmmakers use this technique to trick us every now and then, and it's effective at doing that.

The first few kills in the film are quite inventive. Or, they are in comparison to most of the others in the series, which usually come from Jason, a knife, and the knife being stabbed into a squishy, vital body part. This one sees him actually use different methods, at least at the beginning. There's some mayhem in the middle in which all he does is stab his victims, but that's only for a brief period of time. For most of the movie, the deaths aren't done in a fashion we've seen before in this series, and that's to be appreciated. There are only so many stabbings one can see before it gets boring.

And despite the film not taking place anywhere near Camp Crystal Lake, having an actual protagonist, and far more adults getting killed than in prior installments, thematically A New Beginning has more to do with the original film than any of its sequels. I don't know if many people will care about that -- I barely do -- but at least it's another argument in favor of this fifth chapter.

The acting is also not quite as bad as it has been before, and the dialogue at least sounds like it's been written by someone who has had human interaction at some point in his life, so those are both positives that I'll easily take. Perhaps this is because many of the characters aren't "normal" -- many of them are mental patients, after all -- and this makes them easier to write from the perspective of the screenwriters, or maybe it's because it took three of them -- Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, and our director, Danny Steinmann -- to finish the screenplay.

A New Beginning still isn't scary, but I think I've finally come to terms with the fact that the series is never going to be. There is the occasional jump moment, but sustained atmosphere and tension just don't seem to ever be something that the filmmakers are striving for. I'd like that to be the case, but it just doesn't look like it's going to happen. We're here for the kills, and not to be scared, I guess. Could we have both? Probably, but I've accepted that likely won't happen.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning might just be the movie to endear me to this franchise, assuming that any future chapters are just as strong as this one. It has creative kills, an actual lead character who gets sympathy points because we've seen him go through what has to be a traumatic experience, a supporting cast we can tell apart, dialogue and acting that doesn't seem entirely unnatural, and enough tongue-in-cheek moments to keep things funny. I enjoyed A New Beginning.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:11 pm

Friday the 13th: Part VI -- Jason Lives
It took five films for me to, at least somewhat, get into the spirit of the Friday the 13th franchise. That chapter finally found the right formula to making one of these movies worth seeing. What we need, in order of importance: (1) Creative kills, so we're not just watching the same thing over and over again; (2) characters we can tell apart; (3) dialogue that doesn't make us want to plug our ears, delivered in a way that seems at least moderately natural; (4) and a touch of humor, noting how silly the whole premise is. If it also had a sustained sense of atmosphere or tension, it would elevate itself to something genuinely worth watching, rather than appearing good in comparison to earlier movies in the series.

With Jason Lives, we've taken that 4th element, the humor, and elevated it to the most important position, while also forgetting about most of the other ingredients to making a successful Friday the 13th film. Yes, Jason Lives is funnier and more self-aware than any of the other films in this series. That doesn't necessarily make it better, especially when it still has a kill quota to fill.

The film begins at silly and then takes it to another level as it proceeds. Its opening scene involves Jason having been dead for years, only to be resurrected by a metal rod and lightning. Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Mathews), protagonist of the last film, wants to cremate his body but winds up bringing him back from the dead instead. Now, Jason wants revenge, and is about to kill seemingly everyone in the town of Crystal Lake, which has been renamed "Forest Green," in hopes its townspeople will allow true events to fade into myth.

But, with Jason back, we have to do the whole thing where he kills random people, many of whom are unrelated to the plot, while he searches for the protagonist, Mr. Jarvis. Most of the time, he does it with a knife, just like he's done for the majority of the last four installments. There are a couple of creative moments, but for the most part, you've seen this movie before.

And that's something that the filmmakers know, so they include a bunch of in-jokes, meta-humor, and even a couple of times when the film breaks the fourth wall. It's like they're just as tired of the formula as you are, so they make mention of it. That's funny. If there's one Friday the 13th that's intentionally funnier than it is scary, Jason Lives is it. The film have never been scary, but save for the fifth one, they've not had much humor to them; any time you laugh, it was because the film was so bad that you would be unable to stifle the snickering.

It's also more action-packed than earlier entries. There's a car chase, a shootout or two -- and, yes, Jason (who is now a zombie) stabs a bunch of people. Eventually, the plot brings us to a summer camp at the lake where it all started, and there are actually children at the camp this time. This is where the film's fiery climax occurs, and if the final showdown scene doesn't make you appreciate the filmmakers' flair for gorgeous shots, you need to reevaluate what you think looks nice.

In fact, despite the decidedly tongue-in-cheek nature of Jason Lives, it actually has some of the more iconic moments of the franchise. A shot of Jason standing on top of a recently flipped over motor home is probably the image I'll take from the film, although the aforementioned climactic battle is up there. The films following the first have all been shot relatively well, but this is the first time that the framing is so strong that you could take a still image and be impressed.

The acting isn't altogether awful, and the dialogue maintains its not-being-awful quality from A New Beginning. I couldn't tell you who anyone was apart from the main character and perhaps the daughter of the sheriff who befriends him for reasons that don't matter, but their brief interactions are relatively fun and completely harmless. And, you know what? There's actual character growth from movie to movie when it comes to our lead, Tommy. When's the last time that happened in this franchise? (Hint: never.)

Friday the 13th: Part VI -- Jason Lives is a sillier version of films we've already seen in this series, but its sense of humor and winks at the audience allow it to be watchable. The filmmakers know how ridiculous the franchise has become, and they make nods toward that. That doesn't excuse the lack of discernible characters or the unimaginative kills, but I'll certainly take a less serious take on what we've seen before than a serious one that winds up exactly like earlier entries.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:21 pm

Review Pontypool.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:38 pm

Maybe someday.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:39 pm

Friday the 13th: Part VII -- The New Blood
It's not that often that franchises reach seven installments, especially in the span of 8 years, but that's exactly what the Friday the 13th franchise has done with The New Blood, entry number seven into a series about a man slicing people up with a knife because of various reasons. For me, the series turned a corner with the fifth film, as it and chapter six were actually relatively enjoyable. I was hoping that trend would continue, but, as I'm constantly reminded, hope is a dangerous thing which often lets you down.

The film takes one idea from its last two predecessors and gives us a central character upon whom we can focus. She comes in the form of Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln), who kills her father with telekinetic powers in the film's opening scene. No, seriously. She's played by a different actor (Jennifer Banko), but after she and her father have a fight, she uses previously dormant psychic powers to collapse the dock he's standing on and send him into the depths of the lake they live right beside. And what a coincidence that this lake is Crystal Lake, the one Jason, the franchise serial killer, was left at the bottom of at the end of the last film.

Some years later, and Tina has been in a mental hospital for a while. She gets to return to her house at the lake under the supervision of her doctor and mother. After another fight, she goes down to the lake an inadvertently uses her powers to break Jason free of the chains and big rock that kept him underneath the water all this time. Now, he's wandering around the forest, waiting to kill anyone he encounters.

And that doesn't just include Ms. Psychic and the two adults. As we've learned in earlier movies -- primarily the fourth, I think -- there are other houses near the lake, and if the primary one is home to a family, the second one has to have partying teenagers. That's the case here, as a bunch of teens show up to celebrate a birthday. Most of them wind up dead. Spoiler alert for a movie franchise in which the majority of characters to ever appear in the earlier six installments have died.

Apart from the inherent silliness of the girl having telekinetic powers -- and this is a series which had its antagonist revived via lightning -- The New Blood is as serious as they come. The last two films had a tongue-in-cheek approach to their subject matter, which was beneficial because it poked fun at a concept I'd grown tired of after the first couple of movies. This one takes it back to the straight, narrow, and not at all funny. I missed laughing with the film; I wound up just laughing at this one.

We go back to the franchise roots by having terrible acting and dialogue, for one. All of the characters blend together in a mosh of clichéd lines, paper-thin personalities, and romance which can only be called that by virtue that some of them have sex. Even the telekinetic girl, Tina, fits right in. Save for the fact that when she gets emotional, she can make things fly with her mind, she's as dull as they come. The power only actually matters in the final few moments anyway.

The deaths are all routine, too. Jason wanders around, he stabs people with a knife, and then he moves on to his next target. And he even had a chance right near the beginning to kill Tina, but decided against it. I thought perhaps he was thankful that she allowed him to go kill more people, but then the climax involves a chase around houses and the general area between Jason, who never runs, and Tina, who tries to further slow him down by hurling whatever object she encounters at him.

How can people find this fun? Watching Teenager #76 stabbed in the same was as #75, #74 and #73 can't be that enjoyable, can it, especially if 80% of the teenagers preceding these four were also killed in the same way? I mean, I'm all for killing off characters with a serial killer if there's a reason and/or ingenuity to the deaths. When there's neither of those things, how enjoyable can it be? A highlight reel from this film could just be one stabbing and that would be it, because you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Friday the 13th: Part VII -- The New Blood is a terrible movie and an entry into this franchise that was unnecessary. It's a dull slasher movie in which the killer stabs people a whole bunch. Yawn. The telekinetic storyline was ridiculous and didn't match the serious tone of the rest of the film, and it didn't even help to define the central character, who blended in with the other nameless, faceless teenagers waiting to get a knife to the stomach.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:37 pm

Friday the 13th: Part VIII -- Jason Takes Manhattan
At this point in the Friday the 13th series, we're really grasping at ways to (1) bring Jason Voorhees back from the dead and (2) tangentially relate the film to the others, actually giving Jason Voorhees a reason to kill everyone involved. This time around, there's only one character who has a vague, possibly fictional relation to the masked killer, and apparently it's been totally okay for Jason not to go after her all this time.

This one character is Rennie (Jensen Daggett), soon to be a high school graduate, who, along with a bunch of other graduates, gets to embark on a cruise ship bound for New York City. I suppose that's where the subtitle Jason Takes Manhattan comes from in this eighth installment in the almost decade-old Friday the 13th franchise. Disappointing probably everyone who would want to watch this movie, Jason, and the surviving members of the cast, only get to New York after more than two-thirds of the film have already passed. For most of the film, we just get to watch Jason hack and slash his way through various teenagers on a ship.

That's not completely fair. There are a few adults, too. None of these people, save for Rennie, have any relation to Jason. That makes the film lose something. And with the film set on a ship, there's not a whole lot of variety to either the locations or the kills. Once you see the first couple of deaths in the film -- Jason uses his signature knife, like he usually does -- you've seen them all. Jason Takes Manhattan brings nothing new to the table.

We also get shown a bunch of jump scares that come in form of Rennie's hallucinations. She sometimes sees a little boy, she sometimes sees Jason, and she also has a fear of water. Why? Well, you'll find that out in the form of a revelation in the third act, which promises to link this one character to Jason. No prizes for guessing earlier than the film wants, because it's not at all surprising and will make more than one palm be slapped against a face. Of all the twists in the franchise, this is by far the worst.

Do you know what could have saved the movie? Jason actually being in Manhattan. The boat scenes are formulaic and after we've seen the first few moments, it gets boring really fast. But, once we're off the boat and wandering around a new environment, the film starts to pick up. Watching Jason sulking around New York is actually quite enjoyable, and some of the scenes where "normal" characters see him and try to interact with him are humorous. Sure, it's not scary -- and what happened to Jason's M.O. of "kill everyone in sight"? -- but it's at least something different.

And at this point in the franchise, doing anything in a different way is appreciated. We've seen a lot of these scenes, kills, chases, etc. before. It's hard to come up with something new after seven previous installments. Changing the location to a claustrophobic ship didn't work particularly well, and got dull really fast, but New York? New York has an endless amount of possibilities. You can find new things on every street. Promising that with the film's title and then not delivering is the biggest sin it could commit.

We also have to deal with insufferable drama involving an uncle, teacher, other students, and so on. It's written in such a way that we're not going to want to pay any attention to it, and in fact might hope that some of these characters wind up getting a knife through their chest. When the drama winds up taking priority over, you know, attempting to survive Jason's onslaught, something is very wrong. You don't let personal feelings ruin a chance at survival.

This might be the most confusing film in the franchise yet, in large part because of the tangential connection between Rennie and Jason which is hidden for most of the film, but also simply in terms of not always been aware of who is where. The editing and the cinematography don't allow us to always have a proper sense of time and space. It's just a poorly shot and edited production, and it's that lack of quality which rubs off on the whole project.

Friday the 13th: Part VIII -- Jason Takes Manhattan could have been worthwhile if it had stuck to its title and actually set the film in New York. By setting it on a ship, you limit your killer and characters by that setting, which is small and doesn't provide an outlet for creativity. The poor cinematography and editing make navigating the ship confusing, and because of hallucinations you're never sure what Jason's doing. When we get to Manhattan, the film picks up, but it's far too little and way too late to salvage this wreck of a movie.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:12 pm

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
After Jason Takes Manhattan essentially lied to us right in the title, what do you expect from a movie titled Jason goes to Hell: The Final Friday? Do you expect it to truly be the "Final Friday," especially after we, with this release, have five installments after the "Final Chapter"? Do you think Jason goes to Hell, and that's where most of the film takes place? My dear reader, that would require a larger budget than a studio is willing to give a Friday the 13th movie. Essentially, the title is nothing more than something somewhat clever to draw in a viewer.

In practice, Jason goes to Hell barely feels like the type of Friday the 13th film we've come to know (and love?). The Jason Voorhees, the hockey-masked serial killer, that we've seen murder dozens of people is in the film for only a few minutes. In the first scene, he's brutally gunned down after falling for an FBI ruse. I assumed at this point Jason was going to Hell, but, alas, this isn't what happens. Instead, a coroner tasked with examining his remains gets a little too close to his heart and winds up possessed.

Essentially what we're doing here is a version of The Thing, where Jason goes from location to location and takes over a new body every so often. There's only one scene where we're not sure which body is currently Jason's -- the film doesn't want to test those waters -- and the ones he's done with decompose a very short time after, but the basic idea is the same. He murders people in possessed bodies, all while looking for someone, or someones.

See, it turns out that, like we all thought, Jason cannot be killed by a normal person. For some reason, the only person who actually has the knowledge of how he can die is a bounty hunter, but I'll spoil it for you anyway. Only a Voorhees can kill him, and only a Voorhees can create him again. In order for Jason to return to his "true" form, he needs to find either his sister or his sister's child. Presumably, after that, he'd kill them, because they're the only ones who have the ability to kill him.

I've always thought of Jason as a relatively boring killer. He's always got a single reason for killing, and he mostly just kills anyone he encounters while looking for the person or persons he wants dead. He kills primarily with a knife, he can't speak, he just walks at anyone he's chasing, and he is impervious to most attempts to even knock him down. Now, we get a little more reason to his immortal nature. I'm not sure if removing that touch of mystery makes him more interesting or less frightening or both.

It might ruin any loose continuity the franchise used to have, too. How does it make any sense that one man -- and only one man -- can unearth the power behind Jason's immortality? Why is a sister we've never before heard of just now being introduced? How does Jason talk at one point? (Seriously, he does!) How were people able to kill him earlier, leading to his multiple resurrection scenes? Is asking these types of questions the most redundant and pointless thing I've ever done? Quite possibly.

There are a couple of fun scenes and kills scattered throughout Jason goes to Hell, but I think some of the fun is lost when it's not Jason -- or, at least, someone who looks like Jason -- doing the killing. What point is there to a Friday the 13th movie when it's just some random guy slicing throats? I mean, Jason's not exactly an interesting villain but at least he's got films upon films to back up his legacy. What does Random Joe #2 have? Nothing, that's what.

I laughed a few more times during this film than I had during the last couple of Friday the 13ths. Some potshots are taken at other similar slasher films, and there's some meta-humor in regard to the genre. The film was produced by Sean S. Cunningham, who directed the very first chapter in this saga, and he's probably gotten just about as tired of it all as I have, and likely some of you have. So, he gets a few laughs in by winking at us. Or maybe it was the director, Adam Marcus, who did this, but at age 23 at the time of filming, he probably hadn't even seen all of the other entries.

Oh, yes, and the film ends with one heck of a cliffhanger. Assuming you're a horror movie aficionado, or at least have a working knowledge of the slasher genre, the film's final shot will leave you filled with glee, or at the very least it might shock you. It's the type of conclusion that you and anyone else you watch the movie with will cheer. And then the discussion will begin. I won't spoil it, but there's one central question you'll be discussing.

Jason goes to Hell isn't an offensively bad Friday the 13th film, but it also isn't an especially good one. The kills are sometimes fun and the in-jokes are amusing, but the Jason we've come to know is notably absent for most of the proceedings, the new mythology introduced here brings with it a ton of questions and plot holes that will never be filled, and if you were hoping to see Jason fight his way out of Hell, you're going to be incredibly disappointed.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:02 pm

Carrie
Any remake of a horror classic -- and make no mistake about it, Brian De Palma's Carrie is a classic -- is going to come under a lot of scrutiny and will be automatically dismissed by some due to being unnecessary. Such is the case with the remake of Carrie, which updates the setting but is more or less a scene-for-scene retread of the original. Both films are considered adaptations of Stephen King's novel, and while this film had the opportunity to be more faithful to the source material, that wasn't the direction taken.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the plot goes something like this: Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is an unpopular, bullied girl at high school. She doesn't understand how to fit in and is ignorant about most things girls her age know because of her mother (Julianne Moore), a religious fanatic. And by "fanatic," a more judgmental -- but possibly more appropriate -- word you could substitute in would be "nutjob." Carrie is subjected to mental and physical abuse and has been mentally stunted due to growing up in this household.

So, when she has her first period in the gym locker room, she has no idea what is happening to her, and is then tormented further by her classmates, who even go so far as to upload a video of her freaking out online. One of the girls, Sue (Gabriella Wilde) feels bad about this and sets out to make things right. Another one, Chris (Potia Doubleday), hopes to make things worse, setting up a devastating prank to be pulled off at prom.

One important thing to note: Carrie has telekinetic powers. In the original, these powers manifested themselves whenever emotions came to a boil. In the remake, Carrie actually learns to control her powers relatively early on. She takes delight in being able to move things with her mind. This could be used to take things in a new direction. I was interested to see how the climactic prom scene would play out in this new version. But, for the most part, this is ultimately a distinction without a difference, as pretty much everything happens just as it did in the original.

Which is to say that the bullied, repressed Carrie finally gets to take revenge on those who mistreated her in a rage that can only be believed after you've seen it. The breaking point is reached, emotions boil over, and the ensuing carnage is a sight to behold. At least, it was in the original, where there's no sense that Carrie can control her telekinesis. Here, we've seen her have complete control, so the prom scene and subsequent "I didn't mean it" don't have the same type of power.

It's no longer about someone being pushed too far; it's about someone sick of being mistreated and deciding to do something about it. Or, it should be, but then the film tries to keep the same type of tone as the original and it just doesn't work. We get mixed messages. Part of it different from the original, but that gets contradicted by later scenes. It's like the filmmakers wanted to divert but weren't sure how so they only went halfway and the result is something that doesn't really work.

This won't likely matter to a lot of people. You're here to see some high school bullying and then the bullies getting their comeuppance in the third act. You get all that. The bullying is cruel -- and the updated setting allows for a couple of new takes on how bullying occurs in a high school setting -- and the payback is crueler. While the original Carrie still holds up, CGI allows for some more creative kills that just couldn't have been done in 1976.

Despite this, there's a noticeable lack of energy to pretty much everything that happens in the film. I found myself nodding off even if there wasn't anything "wrong" with most of what was on-screen. The actors are fine, the pacing is duplicates De Palma's film, and there isn't a whole lot to dislike about it. But you don't feel anything while it's happening. It's generic, I guess is the word I want. There's no unique vision brought to the material. Its few changes are ultimately inconsequential, or just go to water down the original, which brings back the question "What's the point?"

Well, apart from the gore and a touch of profanity, this is certainly a safer, more kid-friendly version of the story. If you wouldn't let your 16-year-old see the original, this one is probably safe. The male gaze isn't as prevalent this time around -- which makes sense, considering the director is Kimberly Peirce, a woman -- meaning you won't feel as uncomfortable while watching it (although that added to the original's effect, didn't it?). And you get to see Judy Greer do really well as the gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin, and it's always fun to see Judy Greer in a non-comedic role, isn't it?

The Carrie remake is unnecessary but not altogether bad. It's a watered-down, more easily accessible version of De Palma's film, basically. It occasionally attempts to divert but these changes wind up being contradicted by other aspects of the film, leading to tonal inconsistencies. It's all competent and you're unlikely to have a bad experience watching it, but I can't shake the feeling that you're far better off watching the original. It's a horror classic for a reason.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:03 pm

Jason X
Back in 1993, Jason Goes to Hell was released. It had a similar premise to The Thing, but basically it was just another slasher movie for Jason Voorhees to slice his way through. It (spoilers) ended with the promise of a crossover between the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. Fast-forward to 2001 with the release of Jason X, a movie with a similar premise to Alien, and that crossover still hadn't been realized.

I suppose it makes sense for Jason X to take place in the future. That way, it can't mess up the continuity of the iconic shot where Freddy's claw is seen taking away Jason's trademarked hockey mask. If you start the film in 2010 and freeze Jason until 2465, then you have years to work with before the freezing occurs. And, hey, if you really want to stretch it you could have Jason escape from cryostasis, go kill a bunch of people, and then return in the same spot he previously was. It would make about as much logical sense as the rest of this series does, and would be hilarious for a campy sequel.

Yes, most of the film takes place in the year 2465, and, like Alien, occurs on a space ship where some dangerous thing begins slaughtering the crew. Instead of some alien creature, it's Jason Voorhees. Jason, along with one of the people who tried to imprison him, is thawed out, presumed dead, and then goes missing. People start being killed, and it's up to the crew to (1) try to kill him, (2) try to escape, and/or (3) die. Most of them don't make it to the credits.

A touch of social commentary is added in when one of the crew members wants Jason because he'll fetch a large sum of cash on the black market -- and the same type of thing happens early on, in the "present," when a scientist played by none other than David Cronenberg says a similar thing; the point being, I guess, that the future isn't much different from the present -- which officially makes this the most thoughtful Friday the 13th movie. It at least has something on its mind other than killing.

It also has a bunch of funny moments. The type of humor that parts five and six had returns here. This is a campier, sillier, more self-aware movie than most of the other installments. Because the series is almost exclusively full of bad movies, when the filmmakers tell you not to take it seriously, that works to their picture's advantage. If they're largely playing it for laughs, and you're going to laugh regardless, it's far better for you to laugh with it, at its encouragement, than at its lack of quality.

You'd be surprised that the future doesn't bring with it too many interesting ways to kill a man. Perhaps it's that Jason is dead-set in his old ways, but he's not particularly interested in taking advantage of futuristic weaponry. He doesn't even use his knife all that much in this film; he's more liable to bludgeon someone to death with his hands than he is to stab them in the heart. There are a couple of creative moments, but nothing that you'll remember a few minutes after the film ends.

Jason X is well-paced, provides plenty of kills, has enough camp to make it enjoyable, and provides an interesting transformation for our antagonist in its final third. It's nowhere near scary, and it's because of that fact that the Alien comparison can only be taken so far, but it's a slasher movie set in space and it takes a character who has been the villain for eight previous movies in a place and time he hasn't previously had to deal with. That's a go-for-broke approach and I have to commend the filmmakers for it.

The result isn't necessarily a complete win, but at least it's something. This is a more action-oriented Jason film, which fans might not appreciate. The special effects are also nothing special, although given the film's rather small budget (although at least 4x larger than that of any previous installment), that's to be expected. And it still doesn't really have any characters who don't have less depth than a piece of cardboard.

While Jason X might not be the film that Friday the 13th fans will want -- especially after the cliffhanger the previous chapter left on -- it's a campy, funny, action-packed slasher which has a little bit on its mind and enough fun to make it watchable. Is it good? No, but neither are any of the other 9 films in this franchise. You have to look for small victories in a series which spans 10 entries, and this is one of the better Jason movies you can watch. They say it's tough to follow up a series once it heads to space, but if this is the type of production the filmmakers can come up with, I'd be okay with the franchise continuing.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Oct 21, 2013 2:12 pm

Friday the 13th
The last time that Jason Voorhees graced cinematic screens across the country in a film in his own franchise, it was in 2001 with Jason X, the tenth film in the Friday the 13th series. Made on a budget of just $14 million, the film didn't do terribly well at the box office, and save for a crossover with Freddy Krueger, the character wouldn't appear again until this film, a reboot, retooling, remake, reimagining -- it's definitely a re-something, okay? -- of the original 1980 Friday the 13th.

Well, it's a remake before the title card, or at least, it does a small skit which resembles that original film's ending. We see Mrs. Voorhees tracking down the last poor camp counselor, only to find her head swiftly removed from her body. This time, though, we see Jason watching the decapitation and actually going to his mother's body afterward. Fast-forward to present day, and some teens are camping out near Crystal Lake. They're all either killed or presumed by us to be killed. "That was quick," I thought, before realizing the title card hadn't even yet been shown. Yes, we get a compact Friday the 13th film before the actual feature starts. How generous.

In the actual reboot part of the film, a group of teenagers head to a cabin by the aforementioned lake to party and hang out for the weekend. Meanwhile, a man named Clay (Jared Padalecki) is going around town looking for his sister, who was one of the victims in our short prologue scene. All he knows is that she's gone missing; we figure there's a good chance she's dead, but we're not entirely sure. We never did see her throat get sliced open.

Soon enough, people start dying. This is a slasher movie, and while we already got a full movie's worth of deaths before the title card, we're about to get a bunch more. Jason senses that people are walking around on what he deems to be his property. He can't stand for that. One by one, the teenagers are picked off, and we basically watch the generic Friday the 13th storyline play out from there.

There are a couple of differences one will notice right off the bat when it comes to Friday the 13th. The first is that the filmmakers have actually attempted to make this new one scary. Perhaps that ideal was there for the first couple of films in the series, but they never even approached being frightening, in large part because many of them were awful. The successful movies of the franchise are the ones that looked upon the concept as a big joke. This version treats the premise seriously but actually builds and maintains a relatively strong sense of atmosphere, meaning the jump scares are more effective and the entirety of the final two acts are quite tense.

Part of the reason that works is because Jason has been slightly altered. He's no longer the lumbering, brain-dead character he used to be. This one is smarter -- he sets traps for the characters -- and more agile. He runs! I mean, do you understand how important that is? That the character can actually chase you down a hall, and you can't avoid death because you can walk relatively fast? It's scarier this way, trust me.

Most of the staples from the Friday the 13th series remain. Teenagers, lots of drinking, a moderate amount of sex and nudity, and people getting stabbed with a big knife. There's not a lot of innovation to the deaths in this film, but there are a lot of them and they're far more violent than they were three decades ago. If you're a gore lover, a couple of the kill sequences in this Friday the 13th will make you jump with joy. If you like to avoid copious amounts of blood, stay far away.

I suppose the real problem the film has is that, from a creative standpoint, it's dead. Jason X might not have been good, but it was funny and took the series in a new direction. This one returns the franchise to its roots, I suppose, but is that really where we want to be? We've seen so many films set around Crystal Lake, and they're all pretty much the same. We could have done something new with a reboot, but instead we find ourselves right back where we started. The original film wasn't even any good. Important in retrospect for the slasher genre, sure, but not good.

I'm happy to report that the dialogue didn't often attempt to make me cringe. For the most part, the teenagers talk at least somewhat realistically, and for the most part I could tell them apart. They generally separate into small groups, which means that one-on-one discussions can take place and you can also follow which character is which by looking at where they are and who they're with. It's a simple but effective technique.

Is Friday the 13th a great movie? No, but how good could a reboot of a generally bad '80s slasher movie be? This is a competent movie which improves in most regards over the majority of the ten (solo) Friday the 13th films that came before it. It's moderately scary, Jason is a more effective killer, you can tell everyone apart, there is plenty of gore, and the dialogue didn't force me to hope the characters all got a knife to the chest. All in all, it's not a bad attempt at rebooting the franchise.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:57 pm

A Nightmare on Elm Street
Now here is a premise. A serial killer exists who only kills his victims while they're dreaming, and he does just that from inside of the dream. He might not even exist in the real world, but he is sentient and deadly inside of the dream world. He can also jump from dream to dream, pick a target and follow him or her through various phases of being awake and asleep, and has a menacing metal claw hand. Oh, and because he does everything in a dream, all of his superhuman-like characteristics are easily explained away. Dreams also provide perfect locations to set kill sequences, as they're not bound by logic. This idea is a filmmaker's dream (pun intended).

It's used to great effect in A Nightmare on Elm Street, which has the killer, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), attempting, and in the majority of cases, succeeding, to kill a select group of teenagers. I won't get into why, because that's not revealed until rather late in the film. The film opens with a dream sequence in which Freddy almost slices up a young woman, and from there we watch the teenagers attempt to stay awake or fight the killer of in their sleep.

There's a leading character, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), who spends a large amount of time trying to figure out who is doing the killing and for what reason. She also wants to protect herself and her boyfriend, Glen (Johnny Depp), especially after her friend, Tina (Amanda Wyss), and Tina's boyfriend, Rod (Nick Corri), both wind up dead. She knows only that they all had a nightmare involving this burned-all-over man in the ugly green and red sweater.

What elevates A Nightmare on Elm Street above a braindead slasher movie is its thoughtfulness and intelligence. You're actually given a bit to chew on as it progresses, and director Wes Craven even plays some mind games with the audience. You'll be thinking about the expectations you have from the film, and then you'll be surprised. What's a dream? What's real? Is the character currently awake or sleep? Often times, you won't be entirely sure.

It also features a small sampling of characters, none of whom are particularly stupid. Horror movies are notorious for not having the brightest leads, but by having only four lead teenagers -- two of whom die quite early on, leaving just Nancy and Glen -- allows for characterization and makes the potential death of either mean something. The characters don't have to be written in such a way so that they all die because we don't have too many to work with in the first place. This gives us reason to care.

In fact, its lead character of Nancy is smarter than most anyone you find in these sorts of films. She's more Sigourney Weaver than Jamie Lee Curtis, I guess would be a good way to phrase it. She goes on the offensive, she figures out how to avoid an almost certain death, and when it comes time to lure Freddy out of the dream and try to trap him, she has multiple backup plans. How refreshing is that? If Alien didn't exist, Nancy might make more lists of the smartest and toughest female horror movie leads.

Even despite a relatively low death count, the film is ripe with scares and gruesome moments. While it might not have a lot of bodies stacking up, the ones we do get are generally quite bloody, and there are many scenes in which death is a real possibility. These moments are generally quite creative -- being in a dream allows the filmmakers that kind of freedom -- and the film is actually kind of frightening. Freddy can pop out from anywhere, even when the character thinks he or she is awake, due to the premise.

The writing is quite believable, and the teenage characters, Nancy in particular, are given real-world problems. From fighting with significant others to dealing with parents, the film might not offer a wholly realistic view of teenage years but it does a decent enough job. The acting comes across as natural, save for Englund, whose Freddy is a sick and memorable killer, sure to remain engraved in the minds of many of the people who watch the film. He's terrifying simply by being on-screen.

A Nightmare on Elm Street was made for just over $1 million, but it has a very polished look to it. It doesn't appear cheap, even with all of the dream sequences taking place in various locales. It is beautifully shot, for what that's worth (likely not a lot), and its score, while sparse, is eerie and works well with the material. The gore is plentiful during the killing scenes, so if you don't like seeing a ton of blood appear all at once, you're likely not going to want to see this movie.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a smart, scary, atmospheric horror movie with an absolute gem of a premise. The "killing people in dreams" idea allows for logic to be thrown out the window, and also opens endless doors for creative kills. We don't question what takes place in dreams, after all. It has a great leading character, a memorable and freaky villain, a script which doesn't pander to or insult the audience, and the film actually gives you a little bit to think about on an intellectual level. It's a success on pretty much all accounts.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Oct 23, 2013 3:55 pm

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge
A Nightmare on Elm Street was released to rave reviews and a great deal of success at the box office, so it was only logical for a sequel to be released a year later. That's what the Friday the 13th movies were doing, so it only makes sense to follow suit. Hence, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, which features none of the original cast apart from our killer, played by Robert Englund, even if it does make mention of the events from the previous film.

The time around, we're five years in the future. The Walsh family has moved into the house that used to be occupied by Nancy and her mother. The lead is Jesse (Mark Patton), a teenage boy who has been having strange dreams since the move. He has a more complete family than Nancy: there's the father (Clu Gulager), the mother (Hope Lange) and the little sister (Christie Clark). This allows for a touch of insight into the teenage world, as Jesse is rarely happy with his family. It probably doesn't help that he hasn't been getting a lot of sleep as of late.

Jesse's made friends with the neighbor girl, Lisa (Kim Myers), and if you can already see a budding relationship, you're not alone. Jesse is a bit of an odd kid, but Lisa takes to him and doesn't let go, even after he freaks out for no reason. She senses something's wrong, I guess. And because we get to see some of Jesse's dreams, we know what that something is. Freddy Krueger (Englund) is back, and he's causing Jesse all sorts of mental anguish. He is not, however, trying to kill him.

Instead, Freddy has decided that a better way to use Jesse's body, instead of as a pincushion for his claw hand, is to posses it and cause it to kill a bunch of random people. Why? Probably because if these random people didn't die, we wouldn't have a movie. "You've got the body; I've got the brains," he proposes to Jesse. People die in wakeful states, even if sometimes the surrounding environments seems rather dreamlike. This is a departure from the last film, and limits the potential of the original's premise.

Setting all of the Freddy scenes in dreams allowed for him to be a more powerful killer, someone who isn't bound by the logic and rules of the real world. It also permitted the filmmakers to come up with whatever area they wanted the dream to take place in, as long as they could fit it into the budget. Having Freddy take over Jesse's body means none of that can happen -- at least, not without us questioning it. How, exactly, some of the things in this film happen is still beyond me.

The victims this time around are also less important to us. One set-piece involves "Freddy" invading a pool party, and a couple of people get sliced up during this scene. We had no relation to these people -- not even a name -- so their deaths come across as meaningless and unimportant. That's part of the problem with the lead character vanishing whenever the deaths occur; the only characterized individual is out of harm's way. It's especially true because Robert Englund replaces Mark Patton whenever he's in "Freddy Mode," which means we're relatively sure nothing bad will happen to him. An unimportant character can't kill Freddy.

The film isn't scary, either, in large part because the only characters we care about are never put in harm's way. The lead is the one performing the murders, so he's not in any danger, and his girlfriend comes face to face with him as "Freddy" a couple of times and makes it through unharmed. There's also no sense of atmosphere, which was a moderately important component of the original. We are also never given much to think about, which is a shame because the first movie was smarter than your average horror film.

By separating the dream sequences from the death ones, the filmmakers lose a lot of the creative freedom they had with the original idea. As a result, a lot of the kills in Freddy's Revenge happen the same way: slicing up the victim. Sure, there are a couple of interesting deaths, like the way the gym teacher kicks the bucket, but they're outdone by repetitive hacking and slashing. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge is a disappointing follow-up to what was one of the best slasher movies to ever be released. This one shot itself in the foot from the get-go by neglecting to use the potential left for it with the original's premise, instead taking Freddy in a different direction which limits creativity. As a result, the film is less interesting and less intellectually stimulating. It also isn't scary and provides little in the way of suspense, since we know the protagonist will be fine right up until the end.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Oct 24, 2013 3:16 pm

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
The filmmakers must have realized what a bad idea the last Nightmare on Elm Street movie was, because we're back to dreams and nightmares in this third chapter in the franchise, Dream Warriors. Returning are a couple of members of the cast, as well as series creator Wes Craven, who co-wrote and co-produced this installment. Perhaps having him on-board was a good idea, because this film takes the series back to the roots laid out in the first film, and is much, much better for it.

This time around, the majority of the film takes place at a hospital, and once again centers around a group of teens who have a collective dream about being haunted by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who pulled this same stunt in the first film. The difference being that this time around, there are far more teens, and they can all be in the same dream at the same time. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), heroine of the first film, is also back and ready to help the teens fight off their tormentor.

There are too many teenagers to mention. That's one of the ways that Dream Warriors falters in comparison to the original. That one was so focused on what wound up being just one lead that we could sympathize with her plight. This time around, the cast consists of a group of teenagers who often have no discernible trait. Okay, one's in a wheelchair and one wants to be an actress. Those are some deep characters, movie. There's also one, Kristen (Patricia Arquette), who has the ability to pull them all into the same dream. She's kind of important that way.

By taking us back into the world of dreams, creative freedom is unlocked. The last film, Freddy's Revenge, tried to change it up by setting all of the deaths in the "real world." That limited what the filmmakers could do with the death scenes. This one gets even crazier than the first, with some sequences that you need to see in order to believe that they happened. It has some great special effects, too, and doesn't seem at all hampered by what's still a relatively small budget, even if it's the largest of the series thus far.

We move away from the teenagers at times in order to have Nancy, now a psychiatrist-in-training, and Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) discuss the situation and attempt to find out more about Freddy. Yes, we learn how Freddy came into being in this film, which doesn't make for a terrifying villain. The more you know about the thing that haunts you, the less scary it is. The same is true of the more you see it, and we see Freddy a great deal in this film.

He's changed a bit from the last film. He talks more, and is funnier. His back story also makes him more sympathetic, even if he is a child murderer. Dream Warriors has some creative deaths -- Freddy often morphs into real life objects and uses them to kill the victims; they're asleep but he lazily makes the dreamscape the same as the real life area -- and it's not at all dull, but it's also no longer scary. The first film had moments of real terror, and while we might get more creativity this time around, it's less frightening.

It's kind of nice to see that Nancy is still willing to combat Freddy face-to-face. So many horror victims are reactionary, while she -- and most of the cast of this film, once she convinces them of the best outlook -- is proactive. Of course, it comes down to entering a collective dream and trying to deal with Freddy once and for all. Or should they try digging up Freddy's earthly remains and moving them to holy ground? A mysterious nun suggests the latter, so that becomes a subplot.

There are some great individual moments in Dream Warriors. One in particular involves the line "the bastard son of a hundred maniacs," which deserves to be included in every movie from this point forward. Yes, even in children's movies. Especially in children's movies. Could you imagine? Anyway, even if you won't care much for the teenagers in the film, you'll be able to savor some of the creativity shown by the filmmakers in many of the scenes.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors takes the spirit of the second film and ignores it completely in favor of the roots established by the original film. It has many moments of creativity, some innovative and very impressive special effects, a slightly different take on Freddy Krueger, and far too many indistinguishable characters for any of them to matter. It's also not at all scary, and it really could have used a central character to latch onto. Still, I'll take this over the last chapter 100 times out of 100, as this one doesn't attempt to stifle an ingenious premise.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:16 pm

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
For the first time in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, I felt compelled to look away from the screen. One particular death scene finally caused me such a level of discomfort that I didn't want to watch it happen. And while I don't want to spoil what it is, suffice to say that it involves appendages being bent in ways they're not meant to bend. I'm not sure if that's supposed to make you want to skip or see A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. It probably depends on what type of person you are.

The film also marks the first time that Robert Englund, the man behind the latex and ugly sweater of Freddy Krueger, receives top billing. This time, it's "Robert Englund in ...," which is kind of neat. It does seem like he has now become the star of the series. He has to, though, doesn't he? I mean, we're four movies in and he's been the only constant factor throughout. None of the original cast is still alive, and this film even begins by killing off the three survivors from the third chapter, Dream Warriors.

However, in order for installment #4 to have anything to do with the other films, we need some sort of tangential link between them. That link comes in the form of Alice (Lisa Willcox), who has befriended Kristen (now played by Tuesday Knight, not Patricia Arquette), the girl from the last movie who has the power to bring people into her dreams. Before Kristen dies, she brings Alice into her dream and transfers that power to her. Now Freddy, killer of people while in their dreams, has a new method to find victims.

See, like most teenagers, Alice knows other people. Freddy uses her as a portal into the dreams of her friends and then kills them. I wouldn't think too hard about how all of this works, as I don't think the filmmakers gave it too much consideration. Alice also, for some reason, absorbs personality traits from Freddy's victims. Again, trying to make sense of why any of this happens is wasted brainpower. You're just supposed to sit back and enjoy, I wager.

The problem with this basic setup is two-fold. First, all of the supporting characters exist literally just to show off their designated personality trait so that when they die, Alice gets it. One kid practices martial arts, while another's personal mantra is "mind over matter." That's all there is to these people, and while it means we can tell them apart, they exist just so that when the inevitable Alice v. Freddy showdown occurs, we'll know why Alice has transformed from a rather quiet individual into someone capable of going toe-to-toe with Mr. Serial Killer.

The second part of the issue is that the inevitable showdown doesn't even really require Alice to use most of these traits. She gets her fist fight, sure, and that's about as fun as it can be, but the conclusion winds up being based on none of the things Alice has absorbed from anyone else. It means that all of these things have gone to waste, and that the film tried to justify its body count with this method but didn't really think it all the way through. But, hey, that's better than not even trying to give these characters a reason to be here except as cannon fodder, right?

Freddy Krueger is the main draw of the series at this point. His punny, taunting method to killing is so different from most other slasher villains, and that's one of the things that elevates the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Every time Freddy appears, you're unsure of what he'll do, or how he'll do it. He is instantly watchable, and Robert Englund still looks like he's having a good time behind the latex face.

The Dream Master has a significantly larger budget than any of the previous Nightmare on Elm Street films, and it shows through in the effects, which are top-notch and rather intoxicating. The film isn't particularly bloody, but it aims to gross you out instead of overwhelming you with gore. It's successful. Bodies transform into more gruesome characters, that death scene I mentioned earlier made me want to turn away from the screen, and there are more than a couple of scenes which are uncomfortable viewing, to say the least.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master might not make the most sense and might only be tangentially related to the other entries in the series, but it's worth seeing anyway because of the effort put into the kills, the visual effects, and Robert Englund's work as Freddy Krueger. At this point, there's not a whole lot to of intellectual stimulation going on, but at least there's enough innovation to the proceedings to keep them from getting dull.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:17 pm

All is Lost
Because it was released just a couple of weeks after Gravity, it's hard to not think of the space movie when watching All is Lost, even if a more apt comparison might be "a stripped down Life of Pi without a tiger or philosophical lessons." Both films involve a single person's quest for survival against elements beyond control. Gravity put a female doctor up against the vastness of space, while All is Lost puts an elderly man against the harshness of the ocean. Both have no communication with other humans (after a certain point in the film, anyway), and both have to use smarts and training to survive.

The premise for All is Lost really is that simple. One man, played by Robert Redford, winds up being lost at sea and having to fight against a continually leaking ship (and life raft), treacherous weather, and a lack of supplies. If Gravity was the "Hollywood" version of the story, All is Lost is the "art house" one. There's almost no dialogue -- which thankfully means no extraneous back story -- it moves at a much slower pace, and it relies even more heavily on its lead actor.

If what you want in a movie is to feel as if you're trapped at sea in a leaking ship, you should watch All is Lost. The film does such an impressive job at making you feel as if you're right there with Robert Redford. It speaks highly of both the filmmakers and Redford himself that a movie without much dialogue, score, or big, showy moments can be so captivating and exciting. The scope is limited and you won't see too many "wow" moments, but you'll find it tough to look away for most of the time it plays.

It does, however, get a little tiring after a while. I criticized Gravity for having a Murphy's Law idea of plotting, and that doing that for over 90 minutes eventually strains credibility. All is Lost doesn't suffer from this as badly, as it does actually permit breaks in the action, but the nightly torrential downpours and other acts of nature did get a little silly after a while, although nowhere near enough to ruin the film.

There were points in All is Lost when I felt like I hadn't blinked for about 5 minutes. Some stunning shots and scenes fill this picture and the immersion is manages to provide is incredible. You get lost in its proceedings. Surprisingly, the filmmakers didn't decide to also have shaky, seasickness-inducing, cinematography. You don't feel as if you're on a rocking boat, but you do feel as if you're right there with Redford. It's just that you're somehow floating a couple of inches off the ground and don't have to deal with the constant swaying.

All is Lost moves at the pace of its protagonist, who is a man in his (presumably) 70s, given that Redford is 77, even if he doesn't look it. Redford's character never does more than walk to where he needs to go, he takes his time looking for a solution, and then does his best to rectify the situation given what he has on-hand. It might not be truly realistic, but it feels like it is in the moment, and watching a mostly silent, elderly protagonist manage to carry a film like this is fantastic.

And because of the performance turned in by Redford -- one of the best of his career, which is no small feat -- the film also works as a quiet drama. Scenes of Redford doing nothing but staring into the endless sea surrounding him or eating one of the last cans of beans he has reveal more about his character than a monologue could, and it's all because of how strong an actor Redford is. Seeing him slowly recognize of the film's duration that there might be no way to survive this ordeal is heartbreaking.

The film has been stripped of almost all "movie moments," by which I mean that it feels realistic and doesn't contain any moments which stretch that. You don't have, for instance, 77-year-old Redford fighting off a shark with a wooden stick -- although I'd be remiss not to mention that sharks actually do appear in the film. This is a thinking man's film. If you like films like The American and Drive instead of those like the Bourne series and The Transporter, you'll like All is Lost.

And even without much of a back story or more of a point than "this guy wants to survive," there is a bit of social commentary. His trip is initially disrupted by a loose crate filled with shoes. Later, he is ignored by a ship carrying more of these containers. The little man is too unimportant to be noticed by the corporations. Or maybe that's looking at it too much. The film is more about the will to live and the strength of the human spirit, and will be thought of most for these things. The potential to be looked at deeper is there, though.

All is Lost is a powerful tale of the human spirit. It is wonderfully filmed and performed. Robert Redford will be nominated for all of the acting awards for which he is eligible, and he'll likely win a lot of them. He's that good here. It might not move at a quick pace but that doesn't mean that it isn't thrilling from start to finish. This is a smart and engaging survival film and I recommend giving it a watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:17 pm

The Counselor
I feel like I should have learned something from The Counselor. It contains far more dialogue than the trailers are letting on and most of that dialogue is smart, sharp, and purposeful. So, I find myself asking, why have I been left so intellectually blank? I think it might be because in just a single viewing, The Counselor is too much. Its plot is basic enough even without any real exposition, and what little of that there is drowns in this insightful dialogue about the human condition -- except that's all over the place, meaning you have to focus and take in too many points. None of them stick.

The overall plot is basic enough. A lawyer (Michael Fassbender), referred to only as "the Counselor," decides, out of greed, to try out drug trafficking. He's only using it as an investment -- he puts money in and assuming everything goes right, he gets an exorbitant amount back at a later date -- and doesn't plan on getting his hands dirty at all. He now has a wife (Penélope Cruz) and perhaps she provides some motivation as to why he wants more money. In this venture, he's joined by a couple of veterans in the business, Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt). Reiner also has a girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who may or may not have her own agenda.

That's the general idea. These three men attempt to finance a smuggle operation, and at one point things go wrong. They then have to deal with the consequences. If the film has one constant idea, it's the exploration of the consequences of one's actions, and maybe a condemnation of greed. There's far more to be gleaned from it, but on a single viewing you're going to be hard-pressed to get more out of it. This is the type of film that a student of the medium would re-watch several times to try to figure out if it's all meaningless, pseudo-intellectual babble or if it all has a point. The pause and rewind buttons would get lots of use.

What I will say at this point is that the film is not terribly thrilling and for all its smart dialogue it will bore a lot of people. These are all interesting, rich characters, but they all speak in ways that do not sound human, as if their lines were being written by someone unaware of how people communicate. They lose credibility and when the film is almost exclusively them talking, it's tough to sit through its two hours.

I saw this with full knowledge that the screenplay was written by Cormac McCarthy, one of the greatest living American authors. While his works have been adapted to the screen by others in the past, this is the first time he's written something with the sole intention of it becoming a feature film. And, meaning no disrespect, I don't think he quite got it. Make no mistake, the film is filled with interesting ideas and concepts, but few of them are given enough time to stick in the mind of the viewer and without almost any exposition, the plot kind of gets lost in the shuffle. It's needlessly confusing and is far too often forgotten about so two good actors (or a good actor and Cameron Diaz) can talk about whatever idea McCarthy wanted to convey in that particular scene.

Or, perhaps -- given that this is a film directed by Ridley Scott -- the version of The Counselor hitting theaters is a butchered one. That's happened before with Scott's films, and it could very well be the case that once it hits home video, The Counselor could have another 30 minutes added to it in order to make it clearer and help reinforce some of its main points. Here's hoping.

There are also a couple of scenes of shocking violence. You get a couple of deaths and they are bloody. The plot, what little of it there is, contains a couple of twists that you'll only not see coming if you've fallen asleep by the time they occur. And that's even with the muddled method the story is presented to us.

Some actors are able to deliver dialogue like this and make it believable, thus carrying the movie. Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt are such actors. What a talented cast the filmmakers assembled for this film. And the actors I just named all turn in fine work. Fassbender in particular turns in what is just another strong performance in what's becoming a large list of them, and considering so much of the talking involves his character, that's crucial.

I took a cheap shot at Cameron Diaz earlier and while that might be a bit harsh it's also true, especially in a film like this where much of the plot rests on her character. She's supposed to be this calculating, manipulative, scheming woman. And when she doesn't have to talk, Diaz is fine for that. But she can't deliver the philosophical-heavy dialogue without it sounding hilariously awful. She was miscast.

The Counselor is the type of film that demands multiple viewings, just so that you can get your head around exactly what's being said, the importance of that dialogue, and how it relates to everything else (if it even does). It will benefit from home video, where pausing, rewinding, and jotting down particular lines will aid in understanding. It's not action-packed, it's not thrilling, and it's far too unfocused with its philosophical perspectives to work well on a single viewing. It's never truly dull due to its intelligence and interesting characters, but it's a really tough film to recommend. Consider me of very mixed opinion until we find out if a longer, more comprehensive version will hit store shelves in the months to come.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Oct 26, 2013 4:38 pm

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child
When the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street movie was released, it appeared to be stretching itself thin of ways to keep its villain, child murderer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), around, relevant, and with reason to continue killing. He's the only staple of the series thus far, with everyone else having been killed off or forgotten about. That film introduced a new protagonist, Alice (Lisa Wilcox), who is also the lead in this film. Has anyone made it through alive in more than two films in this series?

Anyway, the film opens with Alice having now graduated from high school, and she's made a couple of new friends in addition to her boyfriend, Dan (Danny Hassel), who also survived Freddy's last killing spree. She thinks that she's put an end to Freddy for good, but has a dream in which he's reborn. Freddy only appears and kills people in dreams, remember, so this terrifies her. Later, her boyfriend is in a car accident and dies. Alice knows Freddy was behind it, but nobody else believes her until other people also start turning up dead.

"But wait," you say. "If Freddy can only kill people in dreams, how did Dan die in a car crash. He must have been awake while he was driving. And how did Freddy get into his dreams anyway?" Good questions, reader. Well, from what I can gather, Dan actually did drift asleep while driving, meaning he was dreaming and therefore susceptible to Freddy's wrath. As for how Freddy got out of Alice's dreams and into Dan's -- she has the power to share dreams, but she wasn't asleep at the time -- that's one of the central mysteries of the film and takes a bit more explanation.

It turns out that the "Dream Child," of the title isn't there just for fun, nor is it referring to Freddy, despite what the opening scene hopes you believe. Alice, as we later learn, is pregnant, and from that you'll probably figure out exactly how this happened. If you don't, the film will explain it later on anyway, but it's not a very well-kept secret.

The Dream Child moves along at a brisk pace and you're unlikely to question its logic while it's playing because what's on-screen will hold most of your attention. That's not to say that the film is any good, but from a visual sense you won't be bored. Much of this fifth Nightmare on Elm Street plays out as if it is a tech demo, something to show off the visual effects and not much more. In fact, that might have been exactly how the death sequences were conceived. "What looks cool and what can we do within our budget? Huh? Who cares if it makes sense, Johnson?"

It's true that the film looks great. This is a darker Nightmare on Elm Street, at least aesthetically. There's often less lighting, there are more Gothic settings, and the dreams almost exclusively occur in dark areas. There aren't any beaches this time around. Add in some touchier subject matter, like teenage pregnancies, overbearing parents, and eating disorders, and you've got a film that shouldn't be a lot of fun to watch. And with a horror movie, that could work.

It doesn't work, though, because the script played many of the scenes for laughs. From Freddy's puns to over-the-top deaths, it's almost like you're supposed to be laughing for most of the film. It's almost as if the director, Stephen Hopkins, and the writer, Leslie Bohem, never communicated. She was going for a funnier version of A Nightmare on Elm Street, while he wanted to take the film in a darker direction. The result is an uneasy mix of styles, and while that's kind of fascinating, it doesn't make for a good film.

Also -- and I'm nitpicking at this point because there's nothing else to talk about when it comes to this film -- what happened to Alice's absorption powers and the skills she gained in the previous movie? In that one, she inherited whatever dominant personality trait a person who died had. She learned martial arts, learned a new personal mantra, and was tempted to smoke. Here,s she's bland Alice, and that whole ability has been completely forgotten about. That was a clever -- although ultimately rendered pointless -- ability to justify all of the secondary characters getting killed off.

The film also does its best to make Freddy less of a scary character. When you get more details about a monster, it becomes less frightening. Your mind can process it more easily. We get a bit more back story to Freddy in this film, and it just doesn't accomplish anything but making an already not terribly terrifying character even less fearful. This is especially true when he never even tries to harm our protagonist, citing that he needs her.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child is a special effects showcase, meaning there's always something to look for on-screen, but nothing much else. It's a visually and thematically darker film -- at least from the director's eye, but on paper it seems like it wants to be played for laughs. It makes for an uneasy and silly watch. It ignores continuity from previous films, is already stretching the way Freddy continues to be alive and kill people, and provides little reason to watch it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by owyn_merrilin on Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:54 am

It's nuts how fast the last year has gone. Seems like yesterday you were reviewing the Final Destination movies.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Oct 27, 2013 5:11 pm

Tell me about it.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

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