Dark Skies

Low budget horror strikes again!

For this newest horror offering, we are introduced to Daniel and Lacy Barrett (Josh "not the baseball player" Hamilton and Keri Russell) along with their two sons: Jesse and Sammy (Dakota Goyo and Kadan Rockett). The film paints the family as a normal suburban family in a typical suburban neighborhood. Director Scott Stewart really tries his hardest to try and have this neighborhood and family resonate with the audience. As stated, he tries. Too hard.

To add dramatic tension to the film, Daniel has been unemployed for multiple months and that puts a strain on the rest of the family. The sons communicate via walkie-talkie (I wonder if those will provide any pay offs) while Daniel and Lacy struggle to find a way to pay for their very-nice house and all those fancy things that struggling families in films somehow are able to live with.

One night, strange things begin happening within the house. Pictures begin disappearing, items in the house are moved around and other small things. Daniel believes that one of their sons is responsible for the ballyhoo occurring in the house. Both sons deny causing the mischief so Daniel decides to activate the security system in the house (you know, with all income that Daniel has coming in).

Eventually, each member of the family begins experiencing signs of some trauma which leads to Daniel and Lacy seeking out the opinion of alien specialist Edwin Pollard (The always entertaining J.K. Simmons). Edwin informs Daniel and Lacy that he believes that the Barrett family is being visited by aliens. Unknown as to what they exactly want, the Barrett family must band together for the sake of their family.

As sarcastic as part of the review has been so far, the film is not all bad. Yes, director Scott Stewart does really try to hammer home the "normalcy" of the Barrett family. Some actions by the family members; Daniel lying about getting a job that he didn't, for example come off as being there for no reason than to just add some drama and tension. And speaking of Daniel, Josh Hamilton's portrayal is one of the worst performances I have seen so far this year. Josh Hamilton's performance comes off as stiff and wooden and hinders the film.

On the plus side, there are some decent set pieces, especially in the first half of the film. The slow build and setup of the plot does work in the film's favor. Once Edwin Pollard shows up and provides the details that he does, Dark Skies almost turns into a home invasion film as the Barrett family has to bunker down and try to defend against the onslaught of what is happening to them.

Which leads to the ending. The film builds through the home invasion and just as we are about to get to a resolution, the film shifts to a hallucination sequence followed by what actually happens. The ending feels somewhat rushed and unfocused, though could have been much worse.

And speaking of much worse, you certainly can do much worse than what this film offers. The film does not re-invent the wheel, but some interesting set pieces and mostly good acting keep this film afloat and worthy of being checked out.



Despicable Me 2

The onslaught of animated films continues with this sequel.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I wasn't the biggest fan of the first Despicable Me. I found the first film cute enough, but the film was never as evil as the main character was supposed to be nor cute enough that the film moved me in any way. The film was better than a lot of low-rent cartoons that have graced the screen but didn't hold a candle to most Pixar films that found a really good balance of heart and humor.

Evil villain Gru (Steve Carrell) has given up his evil ways and has now resorted to making various jams and jellies with his ever-frustrated gadget man Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand). Gru has become well-adjusted as a former villain with his three girls; Margo, Agnes and Edith (Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher and Dana Gaier). When Agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) with the Anti-Villain League is ordered by her boss, Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) to bring Gru in to work undercover, Gru struggles with his current life and that of returning to his past.

Once recruited, Gru and Lucy work undercover inside a mall as bakers while looking out for a supposed super-villain who is hiding within the mall. Gru immediately notices Eduardo Perez (Benjamin Bratt) whom he believes was once El Macho, the most macho of all villains. As El Macho apparently perished in the most mach death ever, eyes turn to other patrons in the mall. As Gru is away, Margo begins to notice boys; Eduardo's son, Antonio (Moises Arias) in particular while Gru's array of Minions begin disappearing.

If you liked the first one, this one feels like a solid continuation. The humor and heart feel the same, though I did enjoy Benjamin Bratt in full-on and somewhat-Al Pacino-like (funny considering that Al Pacino was initially cast and provided the original voice of Eduardo). The Minions still annoy me for the most part and the new voice additions of Steve Coogan and Kristen Wiig really don't provide much to the film. Wiig's role is to be the romantic interest while Steve Coogan is pretty much wasted in a small role.

Even though the feeling is that this is on par with the first film, I think Despicable Me 2 slightly improves over its predecessor. Some of the jokes were funny and Benjamin Bratt did infuse the film with some funny, if stereotypical, Mexican humor. This is a mixed bag of a film, but as a children's film, this does the trick and most adults would find this enjoyable enough.

The bottom line I guess, is that Despicable Me 2 is enjoyable enough.


Upstream Color

This film may provide my shortest review to date.

From writer/director/editor/basically every job associated with this film, Shane Carruth (Primer) comes an impossible to explain tale about two persons: Kris (Amy Seimetz) and Jeff (Shane Carruth) who find themselves brought together by forces that they do not understand. Along their journey, they will share experiences, relive moments that never happened and stumble across pigs. Lots of pigs.

This is a film that really would take a couple of pages to describe, and by the time you have described what the film is about, you have ruined the whole movie. I don't want to ruin the whole movie for anyone curious about this film, so what I have given you is all the plot you will get. Either see the movie, or just cheat and go read the Wikipedia page with the plot breakdown.

This film is nowhere near on par with Shane Carruth's first effort: Primer. What we have instead is a film with some big ideas, but Shane Carruth isn't able to convey his ideas as well as was done in Primer. Here, the film feels somewhat more forced and also provides an ending that the film did not earn. What is set up as a relatively dark, science fiction film is then let down in the last 5 minutes by a happy ending that really undermines what came before.

The performances in the film are solid, especially with the low budget of the film. Shane Carruth is able to get good performances out of his female lead, and also provides a good supporting role. Carruth's directing is very good and makes good use of his locations on a limited budget along with providing some very good shots. The score is also well done and provides a good sense of mood when required.

This is just a really hard film to review as the material is dense (as would be expected) and also is more of a conversation piece than review fodder. Even though the film is very uneven, the run time never really dragged and  the movie did move along at a good pace. Some ideas and executions within the script do hold the film back, but as this is an original film, I certainly am happy to see something that doesn't end in a number.

I recommend the film, but also be sure to know what type of film you are in for.



The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Did I find a film that was worse than Movie 43? No, but damn if this film didn't try.

An interesting idea is undone by a our lead character, Burt, (Steve Carrell) being such an unlikable character that even if he was written well (he isn't) his personality turns you off to him and you really don't care about his failing career and whether or not he can return to glory (spoilers: he does).

After being inspired by renowned magician Rance Holloway, (Alan Arkin) a young Burt tries his hand at simplistic magic trick in elementary school. While perfecting his magic in school, Burt meets another school outcast, Anthony; the two becoming good friends and magic partners.

Flash-forward to the present: Burt and Anthony, now known as Anton Marvelton, (Steve Buscemi) are headlining Bally's Hotel with their large-scale magic tricks to dwindling audiences. Owner of Bally's, Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) begins looking at new avenues to boost sales while Burt and Anton grow apart. Just in time for them to separate, we get wacky and extreme magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) who continuously pops in and out of the film as a somewhat antagonistic and rival magician to Burt and Anton's act.

This film is an utter mess with no likable characters to side with, save for Anton. Of course, as Anton is the only sympathetic character in the film, the writer and director decide that Anton needs to disappear (see what I did there?) for most of the mid-portion of the film. What we are left with is unlikable Burt falling in love with a wanna-be magician Jane (Olivia Wide) while Steve Gray keeps showing up and really acting like he is in the wrong film.

As most people seem to think Jim Carrey may be the best thing in this film, he is more of an anomaly than something that actually elevates anything in this film to good. The character really doesn't come into direct contact with Burt and mainly is a side-story where Steve slightly intersects into Burt's life and then leaves it.

There really isn't much to say about the film. This really is a misfire from all angles: filled with awful performances, terrible writing and some of the most obvious "gags" of the year. Thankfully, Steve Carrell has the Despicable Me franchise, so he can shake this film off like a case of fleas.

Hopefully Jim Carrey, on the other hand, will have more luck with Kick-Ass 2.


Honestly, this review has been mostly written for the past month or so, but it's taken me this long to finish it. It just makes me sleepy. Where's Mark Buffalo when you need him?


Movie 43


So much talent. Why? I mean, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Kate Winslet and Uma Thurman aren't hurting for money are they? There's no real way to review each skit in this film as there are many and I don't have the time or energy to do all that.

So odds are this film will be looked back upon 30 years from now as a comedy classic that I didn't get. Don't care. Funny comedy will always be seen the first time out of the gate. And from what I saw, this was a film that appeared to have no concept of what makes a comedy.

Balls on the chin? Check. Making guacamole with your over-enlarged breasts? Oh, yeah. An IPod designed to look like a naked woman? Why not. Black guys with large penis jokes? Absolutely. Gratuitous swearing just becuase? Fuckin' A. Gerard Butler as a leprechaun who loves to threaten others' balls? Heck yes. Oh, and how about a skit dedicated to a woman wanting to be pooped on because that means someone loves her? Damn straight.

What ever happened to a good ol' pie in the face gag? It worked in Blazing Saddles.

Whatever, most of the skits are very lazy and rely on trying to offend rather than make the audience laugh. I've seen a lot of gross things, nothing in this movie made me laugh uncomfortably or uncontrollably. I think I sneezed more times than I laughed. Then I laughed at the sound of my sneeze because my sneeze sounds were funnier than anything in this film.

The one thing I will give this film, is that a large portion of the big name actors brought into this film do give their all. Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry standout as not really caring what comes from their reputations (in Halle Berry's case, she's already done Catwoman, so why not) and just going for it. Unfortunately for them, the material lets them and all the actors down.

If there were some skits that got a lukewarm reaction from me, I would have to say the ones I thought were less bad were: the aforementioned Hugh Jackman skit only because of how hard Hugh goes for it, a couple very predictable skits, one involving Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber as parents who homeschool their kid and Terrence Howard playing a basketball coach in the 1950's. Lastly, James Gunn wrote and directed a skit involving Elizabeth Banks, Josh Duhamel and an animated cat. None of these skits were home runs, but they were less bad.

I understand what the filmmakers were trying to do, but comedy is art and you need to understand what makes comedy work. The persons involved in this film don't understand that. When you just try to shock the audience, it comes off as cheap and never works in small doses, let along an entire feature-length film.

I don't know, I really don't have much more to say. I need something to take my mind off this film.

Ah, that's better.



The Last Stand

Arnold Schwarzenegger's triumphant return to starring in a big action film brings us The Last Stand. After mainly ten years away from starring roles, is it worth the wait? Depends on your mood.

Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) is a former Los Angeles police officer who has resigned himself to the quiet town of Sommerton Junction, Arizona. Trying to leave his past behind, Ray along with his police force: Sarah Torrance, (Jaimie Alexander) Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzman) and Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford) keep the peace in the quiet town.

During a prison transfer of international drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), headed by Federal Agent John Bannister, (Forest Whitaker) Cortez escapes from custody and takes Federal Agent Ellen Richards (Genesis Rodriguez) hostage in Cortez's personalized Camaro ZL1. Now, Cortez, with Richards, races his car towards the Mexico border in an attempt to flee. The only thing that stands between Cortez and freedom is Sheriff Owens and the residents of Sommerton Junction.

After a fairly quick setup, The Last Stand dips in terms of pacing. Throughout the middle portion of the film, we alternate between Sheriff Owens beginning to realize something major is happening, Cortez and his amazing car doing amazing (yet unrealistic things) against a plethora of some dumb law enforcement officials and Forest Whitaker sitting around and yelling.

Once all the pieces finally connect, the actual last stand is pretty entertaining, if standard. Arnold Schwarzenegger leads his deputies along with town drunk Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro) and Lewis Dinkum, (Johnny Knoxville) the local crazy man with access to unlimited weapons.

The Last Stand is shot with energy by Kim Ji-woon and all parties involved, with the exception of Forest Whitaker, appear to know the type of film they are in. Schwarzenegger is the lead, but does let the other characters have their moment in the action. The main problem I had with the film is, for a majority of the film, the bad guy is driving in a car. The car is cool and all, I guess, but there is nothing very exciting for the majority of the film involving the main bad guy. Instead we are relegated to Cortez's henchman, Thomas Burrell (Peter Stormare, rocking a special accent) and the hijinks that he and his associates are doing in Sommerton Junction.

This Schwarzenegger film is forgettable but also harmless, which is more than I can say for such films as Collateral Damage and The 6th Day.



If you read my review for the first film, and judging by my review numbers, you haven't, then you know I wasn't the biggest fan of the original V/H/S. The film is beloved though, which means the obligatory sequel was created. Is it better than the original? Yes. As I did with my review of the first film, I will review each story individually then give an overall grade for the whole film.

Tape 49:

The wraparound for this film is slightly better than the last one. Instead of douchebags doing stupid things then just randomly going to a house, we have a slight (and I use the term loosely) reason for following two private investigators who are searching for a missing student. This time there is plot about the vhs tapes located in the student's house, but because the plot requires it, the two investigators don't truly listen to the plot. The wraparound has a somewhat nice touch but is then done in by a confusing ending and a shallow final shot. Were we really given a thumbs up?

Phase I Clinical Trials:

A man who suffered an eye injury in a car accident and undergoes a procedure backed by "the government" wherein he receives his sight back, but has a recording device permanently recording in his eye. How and why is this normal guy receiving this government project? No clue. He goes home and then begins to see ghostly figures that may or may not be real. Enter a female character who knows all and provides him with just enough plot detail to try and survive. Some decent atmospheric shots and scares and done in by too much plot and a character that I really didn't care about. Not awful, but there was plenty of room for improvement.

A Ride In The Park:

A cyclist with a camera mounted on his helmet stumbles across a woman who has been attacked. The attackers show up as the man tries to help the wounded woman, but it's too late. The wounded woman then returns to life as a zombie and we are thrust into a first-person zombie story. I personally found this to be the most entertaining story of the bunch. The gore is solid and there is a surprising amount of dark humor to be found regarding certain story elements that I wont go in to. Not a scary story, and a short one to boot, but this story does sacrifices story and character for taking us on a zombie story that we haven't seen exactly done the same way.

Safe Haven:

Probably the most ambitious story of V/H/S/2, a documentary film crew sets out to Indonesia to interview the leader of a cult. While the interview is on-going, the leader and his members begin to exhibit strange behavior that will put the lives of the documentary crew in jeopardy. This is the longest story of V/H/S/2 and the one that tries to give a full 3-act structure. As time puts some restraint on this film, this is a very ambitious tale that probably could have worked as a full-length feature. Some inconsistencies near the end including a "kitchen sink-style" third act kept me from making this as my favorite story, but I appreciate the effort and all that was done for this tale.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction:

Which brings us to this tale. I was hoping that the stupid title might have shown some humor and fun in an over the top-style alien film. Nope. Just aliens coming down to abduct some people on a lake house. Nothing special at all and the aliens go from speedy abductors to lumbering-type aliens depending on whether the plot calls for a jump scare or a suspenseful scare. Either way, nothing really about this story works. And if all abductions happen like the way these aliens do, then we would know all about them as these are the loudest aliens in the history of aliens.

Anyway, this collection of short films is a better overall package than its precedessor. The quality, overall, is a step up and even the wraparound wasn't AS dumb as the first one. I still can't quite recommend V/H/S/2, but I recommend it more than the first one.


Now You See Me

You know what I saw? A waste of talent.

From hackmeister Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans) comes a film that thinks it is so smart that it will talk down to you and tell you that you're stupid and nowhere near as smart as the film you are watching is. If you've seen any film like this, you will be heads and tails much smarter than this drivel.

Honestly, this is my third time trying to write this review after it has been deleted multiple times. I have spent way too much time trying to get this review out than this film deserves. This is my shorter review of the film as I really don't want to have to rewrite this damn thing again.

Magicians, The Four Horsemen: Daniel Atlas, (Jesse Eisenberg) Merritt McKinney, (Woody Harrelson) Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) are approached by an unseen figure. One year later, they are performing a magic trick in Las Vegas where they rob a bank in France and make it literally rain money on the audience. In the crowd for the trick are The Four Horsemen's benefactor, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and an ex-magician who debunks tricks, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).

As robbing a bank is a federal crime, FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes is assigned to the case with Interpol Agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). The audience spends most of the film with these two characters because if we spent the bulk of the film with The Four Horsemen then we would know all the twists that were coming our way.

Unfortunately for the audience and director Louis Leterrier, these twists are so obvious and predictable, than anyone who has seen any film will know where Now You See Me is heading way before we get there. The film tries its hardest to be clever, but no matter how many twists of over the top camera movements that are thrown our way, its all just smoke and mirrors to try and cover up a bad script and an overall bad film.

The biggest issue is the waste of talent this film attracted. Most notable for being wasted are Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. Michael Caine especially, is wasted as the very rich benefactor. In the second half of the film, his character practically disappears while Morgan Freeman basically has one purpose in the film. And speaking of one purpose, Dave Franco's Jack also serves only one purpose and literally felt like the writers had nothing to give this character except for his one purpose. Just a waste.

You're smarter than this film thinks you are. Don't be like me and giving in to seeing the film.


As an aside, here's a picture of Mark Buffalo. Much more entertaining.


Domestic Box Office Prediction - June 14-16 2013

Ok, so I picked a really bad week to try and predict the box office with The Purge earning way more than expected. Live and learn I guess.

This week, 2 new releases come forth including one of this Summer's largest offerings: Man of Steel. From director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and producer Christopher Nolan (who has been mentioned more than the director, I might add) is the newest attempt at bringing Superman to the big screen. After the somewhat failure of Superman Returns, Warner Bros. brings a new reboot starring Henry Cavill in the title role.

There appears to be more buzz surrounding this reiteration of Superman than Returns and superheroes have never been more of a hot commodity than now. The posters and trailers have varied from slow-build to all-out action, which should appeal to the masses.

Along with the name recognition, a lot of promotion has focused on Christopher Nolan as part of the project. Linking his name and The Dark Knight trilogy will certainly add more viewers, though his influence is substantially low compared with The Dark Knight trilogy. With Marvel and their superhero films making a constant profit, Superman and the decades of good will that it has amassed, will certainly bring Warner Bros. good news.

The other new wide release, trying to get a jump start on Man of Steel by opening Wednesday, is the ensemble comedy This Is The End. From writer/director/star Seth Rogen and writer/director Evan Goldberg comes this end of the world comedy that features many regulars from the Rogen/Goldberg stable including: Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Jay Baruchel. The story revolves around the aforementioned actors playing fictional versions of themselves at a party just when the apocalypse happens.

Riding a wave of solid reviews (currently 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and a slate of known actors, this R-rated film should skewer towards the younger, male crowd. Already taking over $7 million dollars, this film should have no trouble securing second place over this weekend, obviously behind Man of Steel.

Beyond those films, the rest of the holdovers will struggle to grab the crumbs from Man of Steel and This Is The End. Last week's champ, The Purge, should fall considerably after mediocre word of mouth hit. Like most horror films, a steep plunge would not be out of the ordinary. The Internship should continue to bomb as reviews for the film have been terrible with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn wishing that it were 2005 again.

My prediction for this week's top 5 are:

Man of Steel - $147.2 million
This Is The End - 41.4 million
The Purge - $12.1 million
Now You See Me - $11.6 million
Fast & Furious 6 - $11.2 million


Domestic Box Office Prediction - June 7-9 2013

Been a while since I last updated the site, and as usual, I do apologize. As movies for me have been hard to come by lately, I am going to offer my box office predictions each week. As I know nothing and am not, "in the know" as they say, odds are I will be way off. This is just something for me to blog about and see how far off I can be on box office predictions when I try.

Kicking off my first attempt at providing a box office prediction is a slow week in the middle of the Summer movie season. 2 new wide releases are opening and neither will make for a record weekend. Opening in 3,365 theaters, you have Google: The Movie The Internship. Directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Cheaper by the Dozen) the film stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as new hires within Google. The commercials have shown a film that appears to be tired and lazy and really only about promoting the true star of the film: Google.

Vince Vaughn has had a rough couple of years at the box office. The last 2 films that he has top-lined: The star-studded "comedy" The Watch and Ron Howard's misfire The Dilemma both tanked at the box office. Vince Vaughn has plenty of hits within his resume, but unfortunately, most of those films were early on his resume. The good news for Vince Vaughn is that his last hit was the PG-13 comedy Couples Retreat, which has the same rating as The Internship. The bad news is that Couples Retreat was four years ago.

Owen Wilson finds himself in the same boat as Vince Vaughn. Box office hits have been really hard to come by lately. Not even releasing a film in 2012, we have to go back to 2011 to see Owen Wilson's box office track record. Cars 2 was a hit, but with that film being a Pixar film, it would have made money with or without Owen Wilson as the star. Midnight in Paris was a moderate hit (especially for Woody Allen standards) but was not setting the box office on fire. The remaining 2 films from 2011: The Big Year and Hall Pass were quickly forgotten and disappeared from the box office as quickly as they arrived.

Both Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson need a hit, and I'm sure this looked like a can't miss idea. Re-team the duo from Wedding Crashers, direct them by a director who makes safe films with big returns, and this would be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, this film is not 2005 and The Internship will struggle to make it's $58 million dollar budget back domestically.

The other wide release is the small-budgeted, but high-concept; The Purge. With only a budget of $3 million dollars and starring Ethan Hawke, The Purge tells the story of a futuristic America, where one day of the year, all crime is legal for a 12 hour period. Ethan Hawke plays a family man who must survive The Purge with his family as citizens try to attack them in their home.

Coming from hit producer Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes producing company, the small-budgeted film lacks the usual pizzazz of Summer fare, but offers the audience a different type of film as counter-programming. Ethan Hawke is coming off the similarly-produced Sinister, which became a solid hit over the Fall of 2012, and may help The Purge over perform even more than it already will. I would look for The Purge to contend for the box office lead against stale holdovers and the limp-looking The Internship.

Beyond the new releases, the remaining holdovers might hold better than past weeks due to the weak competition. Now You See Me might hold the best as the numbers during the week show the film doing solid business. Now You See Me will again contend with Fast and Furious 6 while After Earth will plummet after its disappointing opening weekend and bad word of mouth.

My prediction for this week's top 5 are:

The Purge - $19.7 million
Now You See Me - $17.7 million
Fast and Furious 6 - $17.3 million
The Internship - $16.2 million
Epic - $10.3 million

I know I will be way off, but this is just something fun. Hope you enjoy it.