Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chappie (2015) review


   Chappie has great special effects, a surprising amount of charm, and a surreal approach to the editing and execution, but the acting is hit-and-miss, there's barely any character development, and the plot is both preposterous and way too familiar.

PLOT: Sometime in the near future in South Africa, a company named Tetravaal arises and invents a strong, robotic police force ideal for taking down crime rates and the gangster underground. One day, the inventor of the robotic police, Deon Wilson (Dave Patel), invents a sort of robotic consciousness that can give these robots feelings and the potential to be human. When he presents this idea to Tetravaal's leader (Sigourney Weaver), however, she shoots it down and disregards it altogether. Deon, being confident in his abilities, attempts to sneak out a badly damaged robot with intentions to fix it up and run his consciousness programming on it. In the process, however, Deon is ambushed by small group of thugs containing gangster, Ninja, his girlfriend, Yolandi (Yolandi Visser), and their foreign friend, Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo). These thugs capture Deon and his robot and force him to program the robot to fight for them in their gangster wars, though Deon's new consciousness program forces the robot to have to learn slowly, like a child. With only a few days battery left on the robot (whom they name Chappie), a major heist coming up, and a jealous coworker (Hugh Jackman) out to shut down Deon's project, tensions are high in teaching Chappie how to be both a gangster and a scientific marvel. The plot has great potential and is executed fairly well, but it has a couple fatal flaws that set it away from being truly great. For one, the plot is way too familiar. The ideas of robotic cops and street education have been overdone greatly and don't add anything too fresh to this movie. Also, the plot twists just end up making the plot itself so preposterous and unrealistic that it veers into very spacey territory. The plot had potential, but it just ended up being wasted.

ACTING: The performances in this movie weren't all really solid. The majority of the performances were truly hit-and-miss. Some actors were excellent in their roles while others made you question why they were chosen for their parts. The best performances came from Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore, Dev Patel as Deon Wilson, and Sigourney Weaver as Michelle Bradley. The addition of veteran actors really helped this movie succeed performance-wise but only by a little. The rest of the performances were good in some parts and mediocre in others. It almost feels like the actors only acted right in the parts they wanted to. Sharlto Copley also did a pretty good job as the voice of Chappie.

SCORE: The score was pretty good, but the soundtrack was pretty horrible. The great Hanz Zimmer conducted the score for the movie, which was pretty fantastic in the dramatic and action-packed parts. The soundtrack, however, consisted mainly of mediocre-sounding rap and hip-hop songs, more than likely done by Ninja himself.

EFFECTS: The special effects were probably one of the best parts about the movie. The effects seemed fairly realistic at certain points in the movie. The robots looked nice and real for the most part and the explosions were pretty nice. If there was a big budget for this movie, it went mainly into the special effects and the big name casting.

OTHER CONTENT: This movie had two other prime factors that helped it succeed just a little more than it should have: its unexpected charm and its surreal editing. For a movie about robotic cops and gangsters, Chappie had a surprising amount of unexpected charm, from teaching Chappie how to be a human to seeing him become a true gangster. The charm inspires a lot of humor, which keeps the movie from truly sinking. Also, the editing in this movie made it seem so much more possible and surreal, like the beginning scenes where the robots were on CNN. However, with these great pros comes at least one more great con. This movie's character development, except for Chappie himself, was rather pathetic. From the start of the movie, we're just thrust headfirst into the main plot with possible main characters we're just supposed to be expected to know. The only true backstory we get is that of the robots themselves, and even that's minimal.

   Chappie wasn't a terrible movie, but it wasn't one of the greats either. The special effects, veteran actors, surprising charm, and surreal editing kept the movie from truly sinking, but the familiar and preposterous plot, hit-and-miss supporting cast, lack of character development, and terrible soundtrack kept it from becoming one of the greats. I would watch it again, but it's nowhere close to one of my favorites.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

AC/DC: No Bull - The Directors Cut (1996) review


   For any true AC/DC fan, this concert film is a wild treat. It's not as fantastic as their show at Donnington, but its definitely a close second with the band putting on one hell of a show.

This concert film covers the entire show in Madrid, Spain, from the 1996 Ballbreaker tour, from the opening notes of "Back in Black" to the closing rock frenzy of "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)". The band definitely puts on one of their best shows to date, with Angus, Malcolm, Brian, Cliff, and Phil at their wildest. In this show, clearly, Angus is the star of the show, letting out some monster solos, acting crazy as he can, and sweating himself to near death. Not to say the others didn't rock out, with Brian's wrecking ball stunt (long before Miley trashed the idea) during "Ballbreaker" and Phil's constant smoking through all of his best beats. The show is clearly one of the best they put on, falling barely short of their concert performance, Live at Donnington. The only reason this didn't reach the same heights as Donnington is because they focused more on the outward show and a little less on their sound. If Donnington hadn't come first and set their performance standards, this would have definitely been one of their best performances.

   It doesn't reach the same heights as their show at Donnington, but it's still a damn good show with the band at their near-best and Angus at his wildest.

Monday, June 22, 2015

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) review


   This half crime drama and half Grindhouse type horror movie proves that when two great minds come together, gold is made. With excellent performances by an all-star cast, campy special effects, hilarious dialogue, and intelligent plot execution, From Dusk Til Dawn makes its place as an instant classic in the horror world and in both Quentin Tarentino and Robert Rodriguez's fantastic film canon.

PLOT: Wanted bank robbers Seth Gecko (George Clooney) and Richard Gecko (Quentin Tarentino) have plans to travel into Mexico to flee the law and continue their lives without bother. To help on their journey across the border, the Gecko brothers take a vacationing family hostage, including faithless pastor, Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) and his children, Kate (Juliette Lewis) and Scott (Ernest Liu). Once across the border, the unlikely posse stops at a shady bar and strip club open from dusk until dawn, known as the Titty Twister, whose main customers turn out to be more than expected. The customers turn out, unbelievably, to be vampires thrown into a frenzy by the scent of blood. Now the Gecko brothers, the Fuller family, and their new bar friends, Sex Machine (Tom Savini) and Frost (Fred Williamson), must fight their way through the night until the sun comes up at dawn. The plot is unique and very excellently executed. The switch from Tarentino's crime drama to Rodriguez's vampire flick is obvious, but fun to watch. The whole movie is a lot of fun and excellently thought out for the movie that it really is.

ACTING: The performances in this film are not only supplied by an all-star cast, but they are also excellently and professionally done. Clooney and Tarentino made a charismatic, professional acting team creating a presence of a stoic older brother and a loony younger brother as well as an epic criminal team. Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis also did a great job creating a very real family with issues to work out, as well as Ernest Liu in his first role. Everyone in this movie did a fantastic job of performing, from the leads to the supporting cast, including movie veterans Cheech Marin, Salma Hayek, Tom Savini, and Danny Trejo (who would later come to play Machete).

SCORE: The soundtrack and score in this movie was excellently crafted, signalling the many mood changes with rockin' artists. The soundtrack contains the music from rock greats, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and The Blasters while also introducing the bar bad, Tito & Tarantula with excellent action score by Graeme Revell. The soundtrack is probably one of the best, among the ranks of Pulp Fiction and Dazed and Confused.

EFFECTS: The special effects in this movie are cheap but fun. The effects are made to be cheap and campy, bringing on a familiar Evil Dead-esque feel. They aren't professionally done, but they do their job in securing their type as a Rodriguez exploitation film.

OTHER CONTENT: This movie succeeds as both a crime drama and Grindhouse horror film. The two great directors, Quentin Tarentino and Robert Rodriguez, come together to make greatness. Almost as if they split the movie in half, you can tell when one man's vision ends and the other man's begins. Along with tall of the achievements this movie has scored for me, it also brings home excellent dialogue from sarcastic jokes to clever references. The movie is also affected by very professional direction and editing, bringing out the color in everything. This movie, to say the least, is a lot of fun to watch and a treat for horror fans. However, it wasn't made to be perfect. It's not a movie for everybody and it really isn't made to be taken seriously. I really like the movie, but it's not a milestone in cinema, just a treat for fans everywhere.

   From Dusk Till Dawn is a treat for Grindhouse and Tarentino fans everywhere, blending horror and drama together in an engaging, fun, campy movie experience with expert acting, an awesome soundtrack, and a pair of geniuses behind the wheel.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) review


   Standing as a grave improvement over Godzilla's Revenge, this movie has a lot more potential to be a great monster movie. However, the movie focuses too much on an overly-preposterous plot and less on the monsters that made the franchise famous, also with a handful of awkward, unnecessary faults in plot execution.

PLOT: After Godzilla destroys Mechagodzilla once more, a group of scientists scavenge the ocean to find all of his scattered parts and discover the dinosaur, Titanosaurus, who's control was harbored by traitorous scientist, Prof. Mafune (Akihiko Hirata), and his cyborg daughter, Katsura (Tomoko Ai). As it turns out, these scientists are actually aliens seeking revenge on Godzilla and the human race, and they're planning on rebuilding Mechagodzilla to ensure dominance over Tokyo. Unless Godzilla steps in and beats the two opposing monsters, Tokyo may be doomed to alien domination. The plot is truly quite preposterous. The writers couldn't leave the plot with the threat of Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla but had to include a nonsensical story for alien domination. The plot, though preposterous, had some potential. However, the possible potential was squandered on too little of the monsters on camera and too much of the drama with the aliens. Katsura, and Prof. Mafune. It makes no sense to focus on a nonsensical plot when one could focus on the action.

ACTING: The performances in this movie are actually pretty okay. Even the American voice dubs are pretty good and well-matched. Unlike Godzilla's Revenge, the American voices matched up to the Japanese mouth movements more accurately and didn't sound so overdramatic. The best performances and voice dubs come from Tomoko Ai as Katsura and Akihiko Hirata as Prof. Mafune; they didn't do too bad. The acting isn't the saving grace of the movie, but it makes it a bit easier to watch.

SCORE: The score in this movie isn't anything special. You get a few dramatic, action themes but nothing unique.

EFFECTS: The effects in this movie were a tad cheesy at times, but suited the movie overall. The flame effects, monster costumes, and blood effects were pretty cool for your basic Godzilla film, only if that's all you tend to expect.

OTHER CONTENT: This Godzilla movie had the potential to become something great but wasted away on the plot and various awkward quirks. Some scenes were awkward, unnecessary, and unintentionally funny. If not for these fatal flaws, this would be a great Godzilla movie, especially with the always-entertaining monster fights that brought in and closed out the movie.

   All this movie ended up being was wasted potential. The performances were good, the monster fights were entertaining, and the concept was excellent, but they over-exaggerated the plot and left out the pieces to making the movie most worthwhile.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Godzilla's Revenge (1971) review


   As with most older Godzilla movies, this addition to the franchise is not to be taken seriously. The plot twists, voice dubs, and overall motion of the movie is cheesy and laughably bad. However, with the older Godzilla movies, that is only to be expected. The traditional monster effects and monster fights were pretty entertaining to watch at the least.

PLOT: Young schoolboy Ichiro (Tomonori Yazaki) has been dealing with a couple pressing struggles in his school life, such as his parents always being busy and bullies teasing him on his way home from school. Ichiro also idolizes the monsters on Monster Island, including the great Godzilla. After a rough day at school, Ichiro takes a nap in his older friend's, toymaker Inami (Eisei Amamoto), office. While asleep, Ichiro fantasizes himself on Monster Island seeing the many monsters fight each other. He also meets in his dream Godzilla's son, Minilla, who is also dealing with bully troubles from the other monsters and he can't quite get brave enough to face them. Ichiro has these dreams constantly, encouraging him to be brave, and with the local bank robberies going on, that may be just what he needs to avoid danger. The plot is very juvenile, but if done right, might have been fun to work with. However, the execution of the plot was very poor, with awkward dialogue, the traditional, over-dramatized fight scenes, and unnecessary plot twists that make very little sense. Something could have been made out of this, but instead, it leaves its entertainment factor up to laughter.

ACTING: The performances in this movie, both physical performances and the voice dubs, were quite terrible. With unrealistic motions, unfitting voice dubs, and annoying performing vocals, the performances literally create the stereotype of the old Godzilla movies to be off-sync. There was no saving this section of the movie.

SCORE: The score, though unfitting, was actually quite nostalgic. It gave one the feeling of watching an old monster movie, which this was. I didn't have too much of a problem with the soundtrack/score.

EFFECTS: The special effects were cheesy, as usual, but not too awful. If you like Godzilla and its lore, then it would be satisfying to see all of the many monsters, no matter how unrealistic or cheesy the costumes may look. I thought the all of the monster effects were actually pretty good except for the costume for Minilla. Godzilla's son should have looked more threatening and a little less like a worn-out Barney costume. If Minilla wouldn't have been so lazily done, I would be completely satisfied with the visual effects category.

OTHER CONTENT: Everything about this movie proved that the generic Godzilla movie has bad voice-overs and cheap costumes. However, the one thing that inspired a bit of pure entertainment value from this movie was the many monster fights not including Minilla. It's always fun to watch Godzilla beating up another clueless monster, usually brutally to a pulp. This movie is laughably bad and fun to watch only as ridicule. If you're a die-hard Godzilla fan, maybe this movie would fit you. Otherwise, prepare for a terrible treat.

   Most Godzilla movies are cheesy and only entertaining for a laugh. This movie is no exception. Awkward, juvenile and cheesy are just a few words to describe the feel of this movie. Though pretty terrible, I would rewatch this movie just to laugh or to mindlessly drool over the Godzilla fight scenes. My only source of real hate in this movie: Minilla.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956) review


   The film that started off the whole monster franchise may be a bit dated, bland in parts, and suffering from poor storytelling, but it remains a key point in the atomic age horror films as well as a nostalgic trip back to where it all began.

PLOT: Young American businessman, Steve Martin (Raymond Burr), is traveling to Tokyo, Japan, for overseas business when he realizes that strange things have been happening around him, including the random sinking of a Japanese ship, other disappearing ships, and retellings of a monster named Godzilla from the nearest island's locals. As Steve looks deeper into the story of this monster, he finds out that it indeed does exist and may be a prevalent danger to Tokyo and its citizens. As he also figures out, Godzilla is a result of an H-bomb mutation bent on destruction. While Godzilla terrorizes, Steve and his allies must come up with away to defeat the monster and preserve Tokyo. The plot is an interesting premise marking an important point in atomic age history, but its execution is let down by poor, non-creative, bland storytelling. It had potential, it just needed to be acted on more professionally.

ACTING: The performances in this film were nowhere above decent. Raymond Burr did a subpar job of weary American, Steve Martin. He could have done better, but his work in here suited the film just fine. None of the other performances really stood out to me, however, they were just as ordinary as Barr's. There wasn't anything to get extremely excited about.

SCORE: The musical score wasn't real unique or important. A few dark themes signaled the appearance of Godzilla or a dramatic scene change, but they weren't anything to download from iTunes, metaphorically speaking.

EFFECTS: The visual effects, like in most older Godzilla films, are cheap and quite dated. The slow-moving, almost-inanimate monster seemed everything but scary. However, the stop-motion effects, though dated, seemed rather cool and innovative compared to the rest of the visuals. If the whole film's budget had gone into visual effects, the monster might have inspired a few more scares in its audience.

OTHER CONTENT: This film may have many problems, including blandness and outdated methods of filming, but there is some worth in it. Besides starting off the whole Godzilla franchise, the film itself is a nostalgic trip back to the atomic age fears and beginnings of the creature feature era of horror. The film isn't exciting, but it is fantastic with the legacy it has left. It only takes a spark to create a fire; this is that spark.

   Godzilla's debut isn't the best monster movie or atomic age horror one would ever see, but it still holds a place in horror and film history. Though bland, its nostalgic charm helps it claim a place in the horror hall of fame.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

An Update: Where I've Been

   Hello fellow critics, bloggers, and followers! Sorry I haven't been posting lately but life has been getting very busy. Just since last October, I've went through the death of a close family member, the taking of major school tests, the breaking down of my car, and even a move across the country from Mississippi to Michigan, which I am still in the process of. However, it is highly likely that I will be able to start posting more frequently again. With a summer vacation, no job as of right now, and fast internet and film accessibility due to my location, I should have a lot more time and resources to start watching a ton of film again and taking the time to review and critique each one of them

   I missed writing reviews. I really did. It became one of my main hobbies for the longest times and I'm glad to be back. I just hope I don't neglect it again. Stay tuned for more film review as I will post!

   Check out my new review of the new summer blockbuster, Jurassic World, while you're here. I recommend it:

Jurassic World (2015) review


   This breath of fresh air to the once-dead franchise was a fun, surprise-filled trip into a modern look at the Jurassic Park premise. Skilled performances, killer special effects, thrilling fight scenes, and an overall feeling of nostalgia almost overrule the movie's slight predictability and uneven pace.

PLOT; Scientists have attempted to revive the dream of a living dinosaur park, as attempted many years in the past. Young dino-enthusiast Gray (Ty Simpkins) and older, unenthusiastic brother, Zach (Nick Robinson), are sent to this new park to spend some time with their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a big boss over the park. Claire informs the supervisors of the park that they have genetically engineered a new dinosaur, crossbred between a T. Rex and a classified dinosaur. The new dino is terrifying, intelligent, and fierce. As expected in a Jurassic-themed movie, the dino breaks out and starts to wreak havoc on the park's staff and guests. It's up to the staff, including Claire and dino-trainer, Owen (Chris Pratt), to contain the situation and save the people and the park, but twists and turns are around each corner. The plot contains the same beloved premise as the rest of the Jurassic movies, but adds some fresh, thrilling cliches and styles to help modernize the franchise. Though exciting, some parts of the movie seem utterly predictable. Though still fun, these cliches run the movie straight into summer blockbuster-popcorn thriller territory.

ACTING: The performances in this movie are pretty great. Though the characters themselves are of a stereotypical type, the performers themselves are excellent at what they do. The best performances in this movie would have to be from Chris Pratt as raptor-trainer Owen, Bryce Dallas Howard as Aunt Claire, Omar Sy as raptor-assistant Barry, Vincent D'Onofrio as conniving Vic Hoskins, and Irrfan Khan as big boss Simon Masrani. All performances, even the extras, were pretty well done, but these few stood out in securing their roles. 

SCORE: The musical score to Jurassic World is pretty epic and nostalgic, bringing back the traditional Jurassic Park theme music and adding some intense action music to the thrilling fight scenes. The great Michael Giacchino steps up to compose the music for this movie, and as usual, he does a fine job of the sort.

EFFECTS: The special effects in this movie were fantastic. The CG dinosaurs in this movie looked awesome and very close to real in detail. From the T. Rex to the raptors all the way to the water dino and the new dino, every one looked awesome. Even the aftermath of the fights and attacks looked amazing thanks to the modern effects.

OTHER CONTENT: This is probably going to be one of the best summer blockbusters of the year. Aside from the previously-mentioned pros, the movie contained thrilling scenes of high-energy dinosaur fights, twists and turns around every corner, and an overall feeling of nostalgia for the fans of the beloved franchise. The fight scenes had me on the edge of my seat, as well as all of the unexpected twists. This movie sparked a bit of nostalgia for myself by referring to the previous films in all the right places. However, the movie had a couple of minor flaws that deterred my viewing experience, such as the predictability in some scenes I mentioned earlier and the uneven pace. One minute, everything's moving in fast, high-energy fashion, while the next, it's dragging out every little step or precaution taken. It's not a major problem, but it is noticeable. The movie, overall, was pretty great, but still a standard Hollywood blockbuster.

   This movie was still really great to see. The acting, plot execution, effects, feelings of nostalgia, and high-energy action scenes definitely drew me in, but the movie is still just your standard Hollywood blockbuster, with some predictability and an uneven pacing. Recommended!