Monday, April 11, 2016

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) review


     It's always good to discover a hidden gem in the world of horror, as too many lackluster rip-offs and low-budget failures make up the genre today. The Taking of Deborah Logan is an underrated horror film that, though is quite derivative, borrows from all the right places. At some parts, the script flops and the plot's many twists don't add up, but for the most part, this is an all-around creepy, well-acted, and exciting horror film. At least it's better than a lot of the poor excuses nowadays.

PLOT: Mia (Michelle Ang) and her camera crew venture out to document the life of Deborah Logan (Jill Larson), a woman suffering from the early sings of Alzheimer's disease. Deborah's daughter, Sarah (Anne Ramsay), has been staying with Deborah as her disease begins to drain her memory. As the crew gathers footage for their Alzheimer's special, strange things start to happen to Deborah and the people around her. Her disease starts to spread faster, her tantrums start to get more violent, and unjustifiable occurrences start to take place in the family household. The crew slowly moves from documentary mode to investigative mode once these occurrences begin, causing them to uncover some serious mysteries about Deborah's life and former clients. As clues are slowly uncovered, Deborah's condition seems to escalate from Alzheimer's patient to the possessed. The plot is a very cool idea. The whole "found footage" aspect isn't so fresh anymore, but the more specific details make the film seem real unique. It's a documentary gone wrong in the most haywire fashion. Who goes to film an Alzheimer's documentary and expects to get caught in a story of possession? It's a found footage film meets a paranormal investigation. Neither idea is fresh, but combining them has seemed to work in the past.

ACTING: The performances in this film are actually quite great. The star of the show was definitely Jill Larson as the possessed Deborah Logan. Larson portrays Logan's descent into madness and possession in such a way one would get chills. Fully-expressive facial contortions, powerful speech, and accurate motions define the frightening change in Deborah. Larson's interpretation of Deborah sinking from hopeful housewife to evil spirit is quite shocking, believable, and amazing. The rest of the cast was pretty excellent too, with other impressive performances by Anne Ramsey as Sarah, Michelle Ang as Mia, and Ryan Cutrona as Harris. Everyone else played off the drama and trauma created by Deborah in the film quite well.

EFFECTS: The visual effects in this film weren't the most realistic or well-polished, but they were definitely creepy and interesting. The several freaky incarnations of Deborah are quite frightening to look at though obviously fake. What wasn't too obviously fake, however, was the cringe-inducing simulation of the medical procedures Deborah had to go through. Those could make anyone feel uncomfortable because it feels so real and that's rather unsettling. The effects did fail in certain parts, but for the most part they inspired some pretty freaky and occasionally cringe-inducing effects.

OTHER CONTENT: The Taking of Deborah Logan is probably one of the most underrated horror films of its time. Though there are a lot of flaws, it still manages to excite and creep out the audience. The filmmakers used the proper techniques to distribute the scares among the steady-building suspense the film contains throughout. It builds up suspense and then delivers satisfaction to the audience through small scares until the pot finally boils over near the end. The film is in no way unique, but it knows how to put plot and horror elements to proper use. Most of its scares and situations seem derivative of other works (The Exorcist, Grave Encounters, The Last Exorcism), but they all seem to fall together just right when combined. However, that does also create a few plot twists that don't add up. They twists start to get so preposterous that they run together and begin to make less sense. The filmmakers borrowed the situations well, but didn't tie up all of the loose ends or account for the baggage left by borrowing these situations. The script is also pretty bland and poorly written at parts near the end of the film, but for the most part, everything's rock solid. The film does have a lot of flaws, but it takes what it finds and puts them together in such a way to make exciting entertainment.

     The Taking of Deborah Logan deserves a lot more credit than its gotten thus far. Though it's very derivative and preposterous at times, the film takes the elements its given and puts them together quite nicely, exhibiting a very talented cast and building suspense and excitement up to the frightening end. This film provides some truly creepy imagery and succeeds in grabbing its audience and holding their attention tight as a rope in tug-of-war. Sometimes one just has to give a film a chance and consider what its up against, which is what made this film such a pleasant find in terms of horror.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Trip to the Moon (1902) review


     Clocking in at only fifteen minutes, A Trip to the Moon is more of a short masterpiece than a film. However, its significance in time and the sheer creativity of the show earn it just as much, if not more, respect than most films throughout history. The short, silent picture is a masterpiece of its time, delivering just as much fantasy and awe today as it did back in its original days- thanks to the gift of film preservation.

PLOT: An enlightened astronomer plans a casual trip to the moon with some of the townspeople. The astronomer and others build a torpedo-shaped rocket and launch him into space. The rocket touches down (in the man in the moon's eye, no less) and the astronomer is then encountered with some strange aliens. There isn't a lot of substance to the plot, as it is very short and basic. However, what the creators and performers were able to accomplish with props and costumes at that time in history was quite amazing. Film hadn't become as broad and accessible yet, so this was a special show to see in its day. It's still special now, thanks to the miracle of film preservation and the creativity of the entertainers.

ACTING: Though there isn't anything to say about speech in the film, there is a lot to say about the performers. The performers wide-spreading gestures and sporadic movements really brought the film to life. A film doesn't need the medium of speech if conveyed accurately through emotion, which these actors achieved ultimately.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: I'm not sure what the original music played aside this film was, or if there even was music, but either choice would have been better than the background music that Netflix provides with the film. The music on the Netflix stream seemed too modernized and dark compared to the overall tone of the film. It almost ruined the film for me, as it distracted from some of the intended emotions of the film. If it had remained preserved accurately, things would have been better.

EFFECTS: The special effects were amazing for their time. Back in this time, the best effects one could achieve would be the result of impressive stage crafting, camera tricks, and good costume design. A Trip to the Moon achieved all of the above, with well-defined costume design and impressive camera tricks. From the iconic shot of the face in the moon to the alien encounters, this film was an effects marvel for its day. The classic effects still bring a very imaginative tone to the film, whether presented in black-and-white or retouched color.

OTHER CONTENT: Though this film is old, silent, and short, that in no way suggest that it's lackluster or insignificant. The guys in the film industry had this preserved for a reason, and that's because it's still an entertaining work of art and one hell-of-a-show to watch. If one just puts his or her mindset into that time, one would realize just how amazing and significant this film is to the industry. Thinking of how the performers put on this show as intricately as they did is the true whimsical fantasy, for this took a lot more hard work than some basic CGI today. Personally, I love the old-time feel this film has, with all of its camera flaws and different ways of achieving fantastic effects. It's 100% authentic. (Still don't agree? Watch Hugo.)

     A Trip to the Moon a. k. a. Le Voyage Dans la Lun is classic work of cinematic art, capturing the same wonder and fantasy today for different reasons. The film is well-preserved for the most part, excluding the addition or re-cut of the background music. Some people should leave aspects like that alone. Some things are better in their raw, cinematic state. Either way, this film marks a significant point in film history and still sheds honor upon these well-deceased performers.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Scary Movie 3 (2003) review


     The Scary Movie series hasn't been good since the first installment, which this addition proves. Though it is an overall improvement over the previous sequel, Scary Movie 3 still falls to the same juvenile and ridiculously unfunny standards. The movie does succeed, though, in its laugh-out-loud moments and some decently clever jokes. It's like everything's the same, but more polished with more experienced writers.

PLOT: Since the events of the previous installment, Cindy (Anna Faris) has become a newscaster on a sexist TV network, and Brenda (Regina Hall) has become an elementary school teacher. As usual, strange things have begun happening in town, from alien crop circles popping up out of nowhere to a killer videotape circulating around town. Cindy finds her way into this tragedy when she watches it herself. Now she must battle the forthcoming evil with her new love interest, an aspiring rapper named George (Simon Rex). The plot is just as typical as the previous movies. The filmmakers take the main plotlines of several films, add a few jokes, then blend them together. In this one, Signs, The Ring, and 8 Mile are primarily being spoofed, causing their plotlines to intermingle together. Had the films been evenly parodied and the jokes been more well written, this would have been a great piece of satire. However, only a few moments are able to bust through the hilarity barrier.

ACTING: The performances in this movie were about the same as the first for the most part. Anna Faris and Regina Hall returned as their original characters and did about as well as usual- just as sarcastic and dim-witted. A couple of characters were introduced in this addition that were decently humorous. These characters were Mahalik (Anthony Anderson) and C.J. (Kevin Hart). The duo played well off each other and their running gag was quite humorous. Other decent performances come from the likes of Charlie Sheen, Queen Latifah, and the late George Carlin.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The soundtrack was pretty much rubbish ultimately. A few obscure rap songs, a couple original rap battles, and a few sheds of composed score make up the entirety of the soundtrack. Nothing much can be said about this one other than the fact it's bland and mediocre.

OTHER CONTENT: Most of the movies in the series are pretty terrible, but this one was kind of in the middle. This one wasn't the worst but it definitely wasn't the best. This one had almost as many juvenile, unfunny, and awkward jokes as the last one, but this one also actually had a few laugh-out-loud moments. A couple of well-timed one-liners and cleverly parodied situations keep this addition from being entirely devoid of laughs. Most of the running gags failed, but the select few that didn't were definitely worth the screen time.

     Scary Movie 3 is a parody not entirely devoid of laughs, but very sparse. A few jokes with good timing, clever spoofing, and quotability made their way past the hilarity barrier, but for most jokes, everything was so juvenile and underdone that it came off as unfunny. This, however, is in no way the worst in the series or the best. This one simply didn't do anything truly significant or entertain well enough to be considered satisfying. It's not bad enough to kill you within seven days of viewing it, but it might want to make you be abducted by aliens to flee.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Scooby-Doo (2002) review


     The live-action adaptation of Scooby-Doo is nothing short of wasted potential and pure annoyance. The all-star cast is let down by stereotypical script-writing and the fresh plotline is burdened by stale jokes and gags. Watching this as a child was always enjoyable, but, like most goofy movies from my childhood, it became less funny and more juvenile the more time passed. It still fills me with a bit of early-2000s nostalgia, but it fails superbly as a stand alone movie.

PLOT: Scooby-Doo and the gang have been solving mysteries for as long as they can remember. One day after solving an average mystery, the crew gets into an argument, causing Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and Velma (Linda Cardellini) to go off on their own. Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby are left on their own with the Mystery Machine. Some time down the road, the gang is tracked down and coincidentally put on a flight to Spooky Island, a theme park with a dark mystery behind it. Those who visit Spooky Island come back as angry, near-mindless zombies, according to the eyewitness account of the island's owner, Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson), and he invited the mystery gang to get to the bottom of it. However, this mystery isn't just hunting down some clever man in a mask. The monsters on this island are very real, weird, and threatening, testing the wits of the reunited mystery crew. The plot has a fairly unique twist compared to the previous Scooby-Doo animations as these monsters are real and not just men in masks. The mystery also messes with the timeline of Scooby-Doo in a way seemingly clever for the time. It has now, however, faded into annoyance. If not for the bland and juvenile jokes, the plot would have had potential. But I guess that's how one entertains children, right?

ACTING: The performances in this movie are really terrible for the most part. Each actor and actress plays their part to fit the character's stereotype so closely that its ridiculous. The only performance that showed the character any respect would be Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, as he matched his personality without annoyingly stereotyping him. Rowan Atkinson's role was an interesting one as it was a bit more tame and comprehensive than his previous performances in Mr. Bean and Black Adder. It was an interesting change, but definitely not significant enough to save the casts failures. The only other attempted saviors in the cast would be Isla Fisher as Mary Jane (for she wasn't too terrible) and the nostalgic cameo appearance of Sugar Ray.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The soundtrack is mainly made up of early-2000s era rock and rap, like Sugar Ray, Simple Plan, Baha Men, Outkast, and (of course) Shaggy. It adds to the nostalgic feeling of the time period but compared to now just seems rather mediocre.

EFFECTS: The special effects in this movie are very dated and buggy compared to today's CGI standards, but for the time, these effects weren't too bad. The creative design of the monsters is the best effect of the movie, but due to the mediocre Scrappy Doo and the ghost protoplasms, that isn't enough to save the movie in this field. Most effects are very bland in appearance and cheap-looking, but the creatures get points for nostalgic, early-2000s creativity.

OTHER CONTENT: This adaptation of the classic show is still a childhood favorite of several late nineties kids and early millennials, but if one were to look at it outside of the calming nostalgia, one would notice that it's really terrible as a stand-alone movie. The jokes and gags become stale and juvenile, making the animated show look more clever and worth wasting time to watch. This movie did have a lot of potential as a children's film, for if it were done right, it could have become one of the more respectable children's films. However, the plot's potential was dashed aside for stereotypical leads and cheap jokes. The only things keeping this movie worth a watch is the nostalgia factor that some kids have tied to it, such as I to a minute extent.

     Live-action adaptations of children's shows don't always go down in film history. In fact, the majority of them completely miss the mark. Scooby-Doo is a surefire example of that. Plot is forgotten for cheap jokes and lazy leads. However, what would one expect in a film made to primarily please a bunch of eight-year-olds? The movie does have some nostalgia for the early millennials, but that's the only significance this movie holds. If not for that connection, Scooby-Doo would be remembered only as a classic cartoon.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) review [Revisited]


     Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom is whimsical, awkward, and nostalgic enough to create a warm, childlike love story driven by adolescent fantasy. The many skilled performances and distinct characters suck the audience in and takes them on journey through waves of charming, childlike wonder. Anderson personifies the emotional impact of the nostalgic charm of a young adolescent love story.

PLOT: On a peaceful, suburban island in 1965, two twelve-year-olds fall in love and become pen pals. Eventually, Sam (Jared Gilman), the unpopular, orphan boy scout, and Suzy (Kara Hayward), the neglected child looking for an escape, meet up in the wilderness and run off on an adventure all their own. The two lovebirds travel all over the island, finding out new things about life, the world, and each other, all the while being tracked by several parties. Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton) and the rest of his scouts have set out to find Sam and bring him back, while Suzy's father, Walt (Bill Murray) and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) search for Suzy. The two have the time of their young lives as they flee the island from adulthood and responsibility. The plot is very well thought-out yet basic at the same time. The plot is mainly an awkward, childlike love story, but the several twists and turns as well as the moments of intimacy between the two adolescents make it work. The audience is left intrigued yet surprised and cheerful yet awkward - just as the spirit of this film suggests.

ACTING: One aspect that kept the audience hooked deeply into the story is the expert performances from the all-star cast as well as the young leads. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward did fantastic jobs as the infatuated main characters, Sam and Suzy. I believe no young actors could have portrayed these two adolescents as solidly and fittingly as these two. Aside from the young leads, the all-star cast was pretty fantastic. Bruce Willis did a great job at his calmer role of island cop, Captain Sharp, and Bill Murray played his part excellently as the cranky, disappointed father, Walt Bishop. These two in addition to the quirky Edward Norton as Scoutmaster Ward did fantastic jobs with their unique and more serious and subdued roles. Other shining performances also come from Tilda Swinton as the Social Services worker, Frances McDormand as Mrs. Bishop, Jason Schwartzman as Cousin Ben, Harvey Keitel as Commander Pierce, and Bob Balaban as the Narrator. Every big name actor and actress in this film plays a more obscure and subdued role, almost to ironic conditions for some roles.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The soundtrack and score behind Moonrise Kingdom is just as elegant and flowing as the film presents itself. A collection of classical and quirky compositions make up the majority of the soundtrack, adding a touch of elegance and whimsy throughout the film. The soundtrack also makes the use of some well known artists, like country master, Hank Williams, and elegant composer, Alexandre Desplat.

OTHER CONTENT: The elegance and whimsy through which Wes Anderson crafted this masterpiece is a fleeting emotion not often accurately captured through the movie medium. This film represents the lovesick romances each of us has probably experienced with someone in our childhood. The human race's perception of relationships in an adolescent mind is the subject matter of this film, and Anderson captures that fleeting, nostalgic emotion as tangibly as a butterfly in a net. There's just the right amount of charm, awkwardness, innocence, and nostalgia to bring a wise mind to tears. Anderson captures this accurately from proper casting and script-writing to the elegant score and smooth cinematography. Each shot has a clear, colorful focal point and is smooth and almost Kubrickian in its favor of long, clean shots. Ultimately, Moonrise Kingdom is an anthem for the spirit of adolescent fantasy and relationships, told in an elegant yet basic way.

     Some films attempt to go beyond expectations and catch an entirely abstract emotion on film. Not many filmmakers succeed, and those that do are truly skilled. None other than the quirky Wes Anderson achieve the capture of the fleeting spirit of inexperienced youth, especially in such a smooth and personal manner. An enthralling cast of characters help in capturing the audience's attention and the quirkiness of the junior love story anchor them to the screen, filling them with both joy and awkward intrigue. Moonrise Kingdom is as full of whimsical spirit as light- pleasantly warm but passing much too fast, leaving little trace that it ever existed in the first place.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Small Soldiers (1998) review


     Small Soldiers is a nostalgic trip back to the nineties, personifying the same general fascination with toys and future technology in that decade. The movie is a gem for its short-lived children's franchise and offbeat feel, which helps teach a bit of a lesson in the end. However, the movie is definitely not one of the greats and very dated compared to today's standards.

PLOT: In the nineties, the race for making the best toy was a real battle. So many different new and era-unique toys had been created thus far. This movie plays with that idea by introducing two new toys set to war against each other: the Commando Elites and the Gorgonites. The Commandos were seen as the patriotic heroes while the Gorgonites came off as weird aliens with strange attributes. The Commandos instantly became more popular. However, what the public doesn't know is that the Commandos have been programmed a bit too well with authentic military technology. A young boy named Alan (Gregory Smith) buys a whole set of Commandos and is surprised when they spring to life and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to killing their programmed rivals, the Gorgonites. However, the Gorgonites have also sprung to life, but just for the sake of survival and not for war. The two toy races end up in an all-out war that Alan, his friends, and his family get caught in the crossfire of, as the Commandos are hell bent on achieving their goal. The plot is very unique for the most part, stealing only the idea of toys coming to life. The idea of putting them at war in a live-action environment is what made it seem fresh. The plot for the most part was executed as well as it could be, with the humor and events feeling a bit more offbeat and dark than they need to be. However, it puts this dated gem on the corner of being a cult classic. This movie even had a short-lived toy franchise around the time of the movie's release that faded out real quick. Ironic, isn't it?

ACTING: The performances in this movie aren't too spectacular or too bland either. The actors do their jobs as they should. Gregory Smith does a decent job as Alan, the young hero, and so does Kristen Dunst as his love interest, Christy. Other honorable performances come from David Cross as Irwin Wayfair, Phil Hartman as Phil, Tommy Lee Jones as Commando Chip Hazard, and Denis Leary as Gil Mars. No extremely stellar performances, but these guys all do their jobs as well as they possibly can.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The score is pretty run-of-the-mill for the most part but the soundtrack has a lot of different selections from many different artists, including the likes of Queen, Billy Squire, and many others used throughout the movie in many different ways.

OTHER CONTENT: This movie was great entertainment in its time, especially for its target audience. As a child, I loved this movie and everything about it. Now, it takes me back to that time but doesn't seem to hold up to today's standards. It's a period piece in its own way, as it represents the nineties. It has the offbeat humor, childish innocence, and cheap effects. The Commandos and the Gorgonites look like real toys moving and interacting with the exception of certain scenes of action where the effects look very dated. The movie was really fun in its time, and is still fun if you remember it that way. However, it seems quite bland and stale to today's standards. It hasn't aged well, unless you tend to be an over-enthusiastic nineties nostalgia kid. In which case, this is a classic to reserve and remember. The lesson taught was impressive though. Through the Gorgonites, the movie teaches not to judge a person by their strange appearance but their heart, which was a nice lesson to learn at the target audience's age.

     Small Soldiers is a very overlooked gem of nineties entertainment, but is only good for that much. The movie is a trip back to the simplicity and quirkiness of that decade, but grows stale when compared with today's standards.The brief franchise and idea were nice parts of my childhood that I'm glad existed. However, their time is passed, but what a time it was and what a lesson was learned. Everyone just wants to be accepted and at home, man or Gorgonite.

Poltergeist (2015) review


     Most horror remakes these days grow to be trashed by Hollywood flair and jump scares. The remake of Spielberg's Poltergeist just barely falls short of that. The modernized remake adds little to what the source material provided back in the eighties, but what it does add is supple for the general public. Some creepy imagery and new quirks keep the movie from completely failing.

PLOT: Eric (Sam Rockwell) and Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) Bowen are moving into a new house with their three children when, as in the original film, strange things start to happen. As the family gets established in their new house, electric anomalies start occurring and things start to happen on their own. As time goes on, things get stranger and stranger until the youngest daughter is sucked into a vortex leading into the spirit world where she stays trapped. The family goes to seek help to defeat these malevolent spirits and recruit the help of two different, rival paranormal investigators. As in the original film, the family and crew must pull the daughter out of the spirit world existing due to the house's location above a sacred burial ground. The main plotline is pretty much unchanged from the original film, which would be nice if the producers would have dedicated to some of the scarier parts of the original as well. They try to add too many generic changes like cheesy jump scares and alternate situations loosely based on those that happened in the original. The movie tried to be its own entity, which it is in a bad way. It's the bland remake everyone wasted their hype on. If people had expected a small homage to the film in place of something brilliant in the horror world, the movie's reception would have been more reasonable.

ACTING: The performances in this movie are for the most part pretty bland. The roles are let down by unenthusiastic acting and unfitting roles. Sam Rockwell, though talented in some of his previous media, was a terrible fit for the father in Poltergeist. None of the other cast really adds any spirit to the movie except for maybe Jared Harris and Jane Adams as the rival paranormal investigators, Carrigan Burke and Dr. Brooke Powell. They were decent in their roles, but maybe that's because the characters felt fresher and not defined by too much of a previous standard. They kept the plot a bit more interesting in its changes.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The score composed by Jake R. Sanderson isn't anything too fresh. The score just does what it needs to, which is adding suspenseful and creepy music to the background.

EFFECTS: The effects here are hit-and-miss for the most part. Some of the more basic effects were pretty well done, like the clown doll and electricity effects. However, some of the effects were just the trippy equivalent of overused CGI. For example, the spirits inside the vortex were a cool concept to add, but the effects made them look extremely fake and over-polished. The effects of the vortex itself were probably the best in the movie, as they were at least visually pleasing.

OTHER CONTENT: For the most part, it may sound to the audience like I'm trashing the Poltergeist remake entirely. For the most part, it does have a lot of flaws to the close eye of a horror buff. However, it does add a few new views on certain aspects of the movie. Modernizing the film was good in relation to the use of technology. It made the whole "haunted house" effect feel a bit more definable. Also, the remake adds some truly creepy imagery in parts. Though not as frequently freaky as in the first film, the imagery still does present a feeling of uneasiness, especially in relation to any scene with the clown doll. The movie also doesn't take too long to pick up and get the action rolling, which isn't so bad. It captures the audience's attention at the beginning and does its best to keep the audience hooked while establishing little sections of background story. This remake actually does have a few successes compared to all of its flaws, which its why it's not a completely bland adaptation of the classic. The remake is pretty generic yet entirely its own entity, rising and falling in several different aspects the original had all together.

     In today's world, it's so easy to ruin a classic with a terrible remake attempting to recreate movie magic. This remake of Poltergeist is one step above that. It isn't too terrible, but it isn't too great either. The movie tries to establish itself as its own entity but for the most part fails. So much things were done wrong, which actually makes the things done right stick out. Some new creepy imagery and modernized views keep the movie from completely bombing, as well as the fairly frequent scenes of action. The movie is worth a watch, but probably only one. For these filmmakers, that may be frightening enough to give up or give it another try in the horror world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Vacation (2015) review


     Some things in life just can't be replicated, as proven by the lackluster, Vacation. The movie fails at all of the standards Chevy Chase and his original crew set back in the glory days. The jokes are more generic, crude, and unfunny with little cleverness to them compared to what could've been. However, the movie didn't completely miss its mark, with a few one-liners, cameos, and perfromances that prevented it from downright sinking.

PLOT: Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is all grown up with a wife named Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two children. One day, due to the apparent family's falling apart, Rusty decides to take his family on the age-old trip to Wally World, though no one really wants to go. Regardless, the family packs up in a foreign rent-a-car and begins the worst yet most eventful road trip they'll ever have. Along the way, the family comes runs into many obstacles including old sorority games, a "hot spring", and an intimidating trucker tracking them the whole way as well as many other comedic misfortunes. Through this road trip, Rusty helps to restore the family's happiness as well as his dying love life with his wife. The plot is the same as the fist National Lampoon's Vacation but executed with a less creative and less clever way. The twists and turns are just as crazy, but not nearly as funny or original in comparison with most raunchy comedies of the modern age.

ACTING: The performances at heart weren't too bad. The lousy writing is what made them seem sour. Ed Helms actually does a pretty great job as Rusty Griswold, giving it his all to channel his inner Clark Griswold. Helms tries but is let down by a bad screenplay. Same goes for most of the actors. However, one additional aspect that helped save the movie was the brief cameo appearances by Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo reprising their classic roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold. They didn't completely save the movie, but they made it a little less low quality.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: There's nothing too special about the score or the soundtrack, which consists mostly of pop and rap songs with a few different covers of the National Lampoon's Vacation, "Holiday Road."

OTHER CONTENT: This movie was just a cheap attempt at re-capturing and re-vamping movie magic of the past. The Vacation movies were great in their time, instilling clever laughs into each themed vacation. This addition is the exception, as expressed even by the intentional fourth wall break near the beginning. This movie is supposed to be treated as its own entity, and that's what made it truly fail. Everyone goes in expecting a new Vacation adventure but instead gets another raunchy comedy with gross humor and more mature jokes. The movie does have its occasional one-liners that inspire a chuckle or two, but for the most part, the movie is a crude and generic mess trying to take the place of something more clever. It's not bringing honor to the franchise, just changes that no true fan wanted. It's all hit-or-miss at best.

     The new Vacation is anything but a break from the norm. The jokes are adapted to a more modern audience and the majority fail due to over-raunchiness and bad screenplay writing. The movie tries to retain its name by replacing old traditions with new events but fails to do anything but sink into the predictable field of modern comedy. So much acting and story potential is just squandered, as way more could have been done. I guess some people just don't get the point when told to leave something like this alone. Its time is now clearly passed.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Deadpool (2016) review


     Deadpool lives up to the hype built for it, easily earning its place as one of the best superhero movies of the year as well as one of the best comedies. With a superb screenplay, rich yet tasteless jokes and gags, a fitting lead, and a surprising amount of story, this film brings its titular hero to life and becomes a little more than your run-of-the-mill modern comedy or superhero flick.

PLOT: Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is man of little moral sense and a darker outlook on life. He works doing underground jobs as a sort of "hitman" in a shady bar. One day, things start to change for Wade when he meets the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who is in every aspect like him and dedicated to pleasing him. Though things seem to look good for Wade, his "brief commercial break of happiness" ends when he's diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. Wilson, in desperation of a cure, takes a shady offer from the bar that promises a cure in the form of becoming a superhero. Wilson regrets this decision when the offer turns out to be a scam that puts him through hours of torture, disfigures him, and makes him invincible. At this moment, Wade Wilson abandons his identity, flees from Vanessa in fear of rejection, and takes on the identity of Deadpool: not a superhero, but an entity that cares about very little with an abundant sense of humor. The movie primarily takes place when Deadpool is hunting for Ajax a. k. a. Frances (Ed Skrein), the man who disfigured him. The plot and the backstory are both extremely excellent, adding a bit more personality and experience to the character of Deadpool. The backstory adds to the overall effect of the movie and establishes itself as more than just the comedy most people expected it to be. They use the story to bring Wilson's character sympathy, empathy, and depth in addition to making him the comedy relief. This adaptation fully succeeds in bringing Deadpool's character to life through story, as assisted by a dedicated lead.

ACTING: The acting in this movie is pretty fantastic and well fitting, especially with Ryan Reynolds as the titular lead, Captain Deadp- oh sorry - just Deadpool. Reynolds is a dedicated, fitting, and well-rehearsed actor for the job of Marvel's funniest superhero, or anti-hero, if you do prefer. I don't believe another actor could have shown the role more life or clever care than Reynolds. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, with the best being by Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, Ed Skrein as Ajax/Frances, and T. J. Miller as Weasel. Each part was very well done, keeping Vanessa an interesting love interest, Ajax an intimidating villain, and Weasel awkwardly comedic. All performances were great, even if overshadowed by Ryan Reynolds.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The score seemed to be your standard action movie music for the most part, with the addition of a couple humorous original songs, but the soundtrack is pretty diverse. The soundtrack includes a wide variety from light stuff like Juice Newton, Chicago, and WHAM! to more modern stuff like Flo Rida, DMX, and The Black Keys. The soundtrack is just as familiar to most of the audience as in most Marvel movie soundtracks, which is always a positive in my book. If everyone knows the songs, everyone will buy them or the soundtrack!

EFFECTS: The special effects in this movie were pretty smoothly done. From the painful scene of Wade Wilson's transformation to the smooth metallic look of Colossus, these effects are high quality as they can be for something purely, heroicly fictional. They compliment the action real well too.

OTHER CONTENT: The main aspect that kept the movie afloat was its clever screenplay and script. The jokes are just clever, tasteless, and fourth-wall shattering that a film critic will comment about in on their blog in a positive way. What, can't break the fourth wall on occasion? In all seriousness, the jokes are very well written, dirty yet satisfying and clever yet silly in a way that only Deadpool could pull off. The only problem I seemed to have with the movie (which may actually be what the makers of this movie intended) is that it felt too short. The audience was delivered with a lot of backstory, but the action only last for a short time in comparison. It made the whole movie feel shorter than it should have been, even with its nearly two-hour runtime. However, the filmmakers may have done this to get the audience more ready and in anticipation of the potential next Deadpool movie. Aside from this slight malaise, the movie is a very fitting and respectable film portraying the fourth-wall breaking hero the comic book nerds all love (for the most part).

     The movie we've all been waiting for from our favorite antihero is all we have expected it to be, even though we are left wanting so much more. Ryan Reynolds plays the role better than anyone ever could have, with fantastic support from the rest of the cast. This treat was almost everything the major fans could have dreamed for. I guess we can all keep dreaming for the second one, right?