Keep Your Shirt On for This Action Flick





          Yesterday, September 23, 2011, four, yes four movie launched into the theaters each tempting me to break from my studies and take a look at what they had to offer.   My assignment for this weekend was Abduction starring Taylor Lautner.  Was this a decent movie or just another excuse to see Lautner take off his shirt?  Read on to find out.


The premise for this story is that Nathan (Lautner) is living a wonderful life with his two parents.  However, one fateful day a group of men kill his parents and destroy his home sending he and his girlfriend Karen (Lily Collins) on an adventure, as they try to avoid the CIA and the Russian Intelligence.  This is really all I can say without ruining any major aspects in this tried and true plot.


I’ll start this review by saying that trailer was more action packed then the actual movie.  Rather than seeing Lautner wield a gun and do some awesome martial arts, a majority of the action involves the teenage couple mainly eluding the henchmen.  Various chase scenes, both car and on foot, are shown throughout the movie, and are interspersed with repetitive dialog and occasional, albeit brief combat scenes.   As a result, action lovers or even semi action lovers will be disappointed with what this movie has to offer.


So you may be asking, “Robbie if the story was bad and the action was not very good, what was good about it?”  Well the two biggest strengths of this movie were the soundtrack and the suggestion of a plot twist.  The soundtrack for the most part provided more of an adrenaline rush than anything interlacing fast paced techno tones with hard core guitar.  The combination of the two styles gave half of the chase scenes their character.  Perhaps the biggest reason I stayed though was that the film kept suggesting there was going to be some plot twist, or underlying motif to the reason Nathan was being chased.  Although they told you the reason he was being hunted, the acting and plethora of shady moves kept hinting there was something more.  I’m here to tell you that there is a very minor twist that really wasn’t worth the long wait. 


The only other things I can say about this movie are the following.  First Taylor Lautner fans are going to go gaga over watching their favorite werewolf smolder and pout throughout the whole movie.  He still delivers the same monotone dialog that he made famous in his teenybopper career, but this time keeps his shirt on to actually act.  Regardless teenage girls and other big fans will not mind as they scream in delight, while those who don’t will enjoy watching him get owned in a few scenes.  Guys will be happy to see the cute Lilly Collins throughout the movie, and may even enjoy her acting as much as I did.  I have to applaud the camera work as well as they do a nice job of capturing what little detail was in this movie.  Finally fans may have seen Sigourney Weaver in the trailer, but like so many cameos these days, her star appearance is few and far in between.


Lautner may have finally escaped his werewolf days of Twilight, but he hasn’t really traveled that far outside of the role.  The promise Abduction had shown in the trailers was grossly overrated.  A shallow plot, overabundance of chase scenes, and lack of twist really disappointed me.  My final rating for this movie is a 4.0-4.5, and I strongly suggest everyone wait for Netflix to see this film. Tune in next time for another review by yours truly.

A Germophobe’s Nightmare and an Epidemiologist’s Dream



So what comes to mind when you think of a disaster movie?  Is it gigantic alien invaders?  Is it volcanoes exploding and flooding the land with lava?  Or is it the world ending in some fiery, cosmic, or overpowering natural force way?  Regardless we’ve seen various movies that have tried to destroy the human population in flashy, explosion filled ways.  However, one movie that released this weekend called Contagion has decided to approach the threat of human extinction in a different way.  Was it worth it?  Well read on to find out.


Okay let’s face it, when I first saw the trailer I couldn’t help but think that this movie was going to be nothing more than a boring and overdramatic remake of the movie Outbreak.  About thirty minutes into the film however, I was proven wrong as the tale unfolded into something much deeper.  As the trailer pointed out, the plot of Contagion centers on a mysterious virus that suddenly appears in a few random cases, making the doctors think that it’s nothing more than a common virus.  The opinion soon changes however, when cases across the world come pouring in and many people begin experiencing the symptoms.  Soon the experts begin working out a solution to the virus causing the disease, but the fear and paranoia filling the general public begin causing major problems, which could be even deadlier than the virus.


However this tale is really split into two different scenarios one involving Matt Damon and his family and the other on Lawrence Fishburne and his team dealing with the silent killer.  Both of these tales were, too my surprise, actually pretty interesting with their pace and drama balanced to a healthy level.  Perhaps what made this movie come to life was the great acting by Fishburne and Jude Law.  The two actors played the head of the health team and the weasel journalistic respectively, fighting each other to the vary core.  While one is trying to pool all his resources into combating chaos, the other continues to increase it with his articles.  As the two combat one another, the rest of the supporting cast, most of who are on Fishburne’s team, attempt to do their part in surviving in the panic filled world.  I’ll mention here that Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle fans will be happy with the roles played by these starlets, while fans of Damon and Paltrow will be disappointed as their roles are much more diluted and calmer than what we’ve seen in the past. 

Now although the acting was good, the biggest factor that gave this movie character was how the crew made your imagination fill you with fear.  The combination of the camerawork, layout of the scenes, and dialog all combined to create a believable scenario about a world caught up in an epidemic.  Instead of the flashy explosions, scream filled close-up death scenes, and high speed outrun natural disaster scenes, the virus instead silently travels across the world and you don’t know who it’s going to strike next.  As a result, I was caught up in suspense at hoping my favorite characters would not succumb to the virus or be taken out by someone plagued with fear.  Regardless despite not being able to see the killer, the virus may in fact be one of the scariest killers I’ve seen in a long time.


The other factor that I thoroughly enjoyed were the realistic steps and actions portrayed in this film that were used to combat the epidemic.  The science, governmental laws and regulations, propaganda, and many other factors I felt were pretty accurate, and I was able to follow and understand what they were doing.  I’m not going to lie that my favorite parts to this movie were the scientific explanations about the virus, which I was able to understand, but lets face it I’m a geek.  Regardless I’ll warn you that people who don’t like science or bureaucratic processes will not like these scenes.


Now lets get to the weaknesses of this movie that I wish to share with you.  The first thing is that this movie is very sad at parts and people who don’t like depression will want to avoid this movie.  The movie is not afraid to show the dying victims up close and personal, which can either tug at your heartstrings or make you sick.  Germophobes as well will want to stay away from this film, as their fears will only be amplified by some of the focused shots of the victims leaving the virus on various surfaces.  I guess the only other weakness I can say is that for an action-thriller, which this movie is classified as, there is not a whole lot of action.  Again there are no high-speed chases, suspense filled acrobatics and climbing expeditions, or giant CGI natural disaster attacks.  Those looking for said characteristics should choose another movie.


Contagion is one of the better disaster movies I have seen in a long time.  The good acting, well angled shots, and ability to use the audience’s imagination to paint the fear kept me deep into the movie and kept me surprised through most of the movie.  However I do have to say that the focused portrayal of death and the emotions that came with it were not my cup of tea.  As a disaster movie this film gets a 9.5-10, but as a movie overall I would say somewhere around a 7.5-8.0 will do this movie justice.  So until then I welcome constructive criticism and hope you have a fun time at the movies!

Apollo 18 Bringing Back the Creepy

Also releasing this Labor Day weekend is the science fiction thriller Apollo 18.  Over the past few months, I rolled my eyes at the trailers expecting it to be a lame attempt to revive the aliens on the moon series.  However, I did have to give this movie props for being a diverse horror film amidst a sea of vampire, demon, and ghost flicks that have plagued the movies for the last few years.  The question is did this movie deliver on the fear and suspense?  Read on to find out

The premise for Apollo 18 is that documents and video footage for the fictional mission of Apollo 18 have been leaked on the internet.  Thanks to some rigorous editing, the film that the audience is watching has been able to be created; at least that’s what the opening titles say.  Over the next hour and a half, the journey of the astronauts is documented as weird things begin to happen during the moon.  What will be the outcome of their perils?  Well you’ll have to go see the movie if you want to find out.

However before you get up and run to theater let me give you some insight into the movie.  I’m going to start by saying that Apollo 18 is one of the first thrillers to actually give me the creeps in a long time.  Instead of delivering the creeps via over exaggerated demons, invisible forces dragging people across the floor, or bloody, scream filled scenes, Apollo 18 uses the art of imagination to create the fear you experience.  A majority of the horror comes not from seeing the creatures that plague the moon, but from the various sounds and acts that give you the catalyst to paint the horror yourself.  Combine this with the eerie, desolate, and creepy silence of the moon, and you have a horror flick that really gets under your skin. Some of the camera work also captures the terror at the best angles, especially in some of the astronaut’s faces as they face the terror of the moon.  Although the premise of the movie is pretty cheesy, I do have to give it props for giving me the chills.

Unfortunately there are some problems in this movie that really bring it’s score down for me.  The first is that a majority of the camera work is glitchy, spastic, and distracting, depriving one of any real detail to the film.  Although it’s supposed to show the astronauts’ struggle, the camera work is Blair Witch Like perspective is really annoying.  The second weakness is also related to the camera work as well, in that they really don’t reveal the aliens very well.  There are a select number of scenes that give you a brief look at the creatures, but one still wonders what a lot of the detail is by the end of the film.  A third weakness is that this movie is depressing and those who don’t like dark natured movies should avoid.  The depression adds to the terror on some level, but it really can bring your day down.

I really can’t go into much more detail about this movie, so I’ll have to wrap it up now.  Apollo 18 has finally brought the eerie horror back to the screen.  Unfortunately the weak plot and spastic camera action just can’t save this film from being a mediocre film at best.  Thus I give Apollo 18 somewhere between a 5.5-6.0 and is worth more of a watch at home than in the theater.

Jaws and Teenager Slasher Combine in Pathetic Way




Despite the sheer diversity in species that inhabit this world, Hollywood seems to have an obsession with making movies about hungry, killer sharks.  Ever since Jaws debuted nearly 40 years ago, the flood gates for shark movies seemed to have been permanently forced open, allowing countless films to be made, most of which fail to come even close to Spielberg’s classic.  Today the latest shark disaster, Shark Night, hits the screens in all of its gore filled glory.

For those who haven’t seen the overplayed trailer, Shark Night revolves around a group of Jersey Shore like teenagers taking a vacation out to an island mansion for a weekend getaway from their college studies.  What starts out as a fun filled trip soon turns into chaos as Malik (Sinqua Walls) has a rough encounter with a bull shark.  However this first attack is only a mild beginning as the sharks become more aggressive and fear begins to take its toll on the teenagers.

I’m going to come right out and say it, this movie is essentially Jaw meeting a teenage slasher film.  Unlike Jaws, Shark night has traded plot for gore filled, teenager devouring, and CGI shark action.  The acting of the victims is pretty weak for the most part, essentially focusing on incredibly shallow characters that have no morals and eventually evolved into hyperventilating chickens, with the exception of a few characters willing to tread the waters.   Despite their best intentions, a majority of the scenes in this movie amounted to nothing more than a predictable sequence of chases, pointless swimming, and eventually scream filled death that is classic of a Scy-Fy original movie.

Although the plot had a little more character than what I had gotten from the trailers, it still wasn’t enough to save the movie.  One major weakness to the plot was how predictable the series of events was.  From the moment we were introduced to the characters, I was able to predict who was going to die, and essentially how each one was going to meet their end, that is how each one was going to get eaten.  You may be asking, “Well was the explanation for why the sharks were there in the first place good?”  The answer to that question is no.  In fact I believe the explanation to the sharks was one of the worst plot twists I have ever seen, more laughable than respectable.  Again I wasn’t expecting much of a plot, but to throw in such a twist was just pathetic to me.

Now there are some positive aspects to this movie, but I’ll admit now that they are incredibly shallow positives.  One positive is that the CGI work, albeit not the even close to being the greatest captures the shark movement quite well.  The facts that the characters spout out about the sharks are also accurate as well and can teach the audience a few things about sharks, if they actually care.  The soundtrack for this film had some catchy beats that are sure to please most modern audiences today, mainly fans of rap and hip-hop.  Fans of blood will also be happy with this film as the bayou waters become stained in red by the various attacks. Finally, although the acting is weak, both male and female audience members will be happy with the eye candy most of the cast provides, as they parade around in their bikinis bathing suits.  Yeah I told you these positives were pretty shallow.

To wrap this review up, Shark Night is a movie meant to kill time and provide some very cheap entertainment.  Fans of constant shark attack violence will not be disappointed by this generic film, but those looking for a seemingly decent plot and suspense filled survival should avoid this film at all costs.  Shark attack films may be getting old, but surely the modern movie industry can do better than this.  Overall I give Shark Night, which should not be seen in 3D, a 2.0-2.5, and recommend waiting for it to come out on the Scy-Fy channel.  As always provide me with some feedback and let me know your opinions and criticism for becoming a better writer.

Are you Indebted to This Movie?






In a summer where the movies have been filled with action hero movies, crude humor comedies, and predictable romantic comedies, one film has shown promise of breaking the mold.  For the last three months, trailers for The Debt have shown promise of a decent spy film returning to the theaters, hopefully bringing some well-developed drama to the table.  Now that the film has finally arrived, I paid a visit to the Alamo Theater to see if the film delivered.  Read on to find out my thoughts.

For those who haven’t seen the trailer, the Debt is about three secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren), Stephan (Tom Wilkinson), and David (Ciarán Hinds) as they tell the story of their mission in Berlin.  The movie is filmed as a series of flashback where their younger counterparts, played by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington respectively, act out the mission to find Doktor Bernhardt (Jesper Christensen).  As the mission continues to play out, the spies’ psychological profiles soon are challenged by the mad doctor.  Thirty years later, the audience gets to see the results of the mission and what their decisions have rewarded them with.

For once I am happy to say that the trailer was representative of the movie.  The only thing that was different from my trailer interpretation was that the mission was the two worlds were not as integrated as I had expected.  The first fifteen minutes of the movie provide a quick introduction into the modern life and introduce some unanswered questions that immediately pull the audience into the film.  The next hour then focuses on the past, as the younger counterparts enter Berlin and go on the hunt for the mad doctor.  Here is where I will say that the cast and crew of this movie did a fantastic job creating a covert mission.  Unlike some of the other spy films we have seen, The Debt trades explosions, car chases, and gun fights for a more realistic take on being a secret agent.  The planning, the practice, and the commitment to their fake lives are incredibly believable and one can’t help, but get roped in to the character.  The pace of the mission is still pretty fast and the clever spy maneuvers are executed at just the right times to keep one into the film.

Eventually though we fall into the drama of the film as complications to the original plan begin to take their toll on the characters.  As their psyches begin to wear down, the background of the characters begins to develop and their morals and characters are soon revealed.  Here the pace of the movie slows down considerably as the drama soon turns into a dragged out sequence of repetitive shots that wear thin on one’s patience.  Yes there is a lot of great information, and the well written dialogue is delivered brilliantly to add an extra emotional layer to the film.  However, I eventually grew bored of the repetitive information and began wondering how long it would be until the movie either ended or moved on.  Eventually the twist to the plot came, surprising me in the process, and soon brought Mirren and company back into the picture.  Here the answers to the question I had throughout the movie are revealed, and the pace picks up once more.  Mirren for the most part drives the rest of the movie and fans of the actress will be drawn into the last twenty minutes of the film in deep suspense.

My main problems with this film center on the pace of the film.  Although the mission was exciting and suspense filled, the dramatic change in pace during the second half of the flashback really bored me.  The constant repetition of the information, and the constant dwelling on certain events grew annoying with each passing mission.  Fans may also be disappointed in the fact that the movie focuses primarily on Rachel’s story, which wasn’t a big issue for me.  The ending as well was a little dragged out for me and there were a few times I was ready for the film to be over with, despite me being a big Helen Mirren fan.

Overall The Debt is a solid spy film with a lot of great character development thrown into the mix.  The superb cast, quality acting, intriguing questions, and suspense spy actions are all nicely integrated into this movie.  Unfortunately the dragged out plot and slow pace during some parts of the movie are weaknesses the cast should have worked on, as well as better balancing in the elderly actors.  My review for this film is a somewhere between a 7.0-7.5, and recommend this film to anyone looking for great character development.  Check back next time for my reviews on Apollo 18 and Shark Attack.