Jumpers Will love it, Others will Find It Old

  This October has been full of horror movies, and this weekend brings yet another one fills the theaters.  The movie this week is Paranormal Activity 4, the latest installment to, for some reason, a popular movie series in the modern day spook features.  Why there have been three sequels to this 2007 film, I don’t understand, but regardless I’m here to report to you on whether or not it’s worth a trip to theater.  So read on my fans as I hopefully give you some insight into Henry Joost’s film.

Surprise, Surprise this movie is the same as its predecessors, which means all camera and very little plot.  However, rather than getting another movie focusing on Katie and Kristi’s life, the director decided to pick a random family to fill the camera for an hour and a half.  Now for teenage guys, this is going to be a good change as Ms. Alex (Kathryn Newton) is a very pretty sight, but for those wanting more backstory on Katie, well you’re out of luck for most of the movie.  No matter who is on camera though, the acting on this movie is simple and rather plain.  Most of the acting involves nothing but screaming at the camera or having very simple conversation.  I guess it fits with the documentary approach these films use, but that still doesn’t mean the acting is anything remarkable, or worth notice.

I’m sure some might be saying, “You idiot I go to see these movie to jump out of my seat and scream in fright.”  Well let’s talk about that next then.  Once again, Paranormal Activity is filled with numerous opportunities for people to get scared out of their wits.  The movie is another collection of stationary cameras, Mac computers in this film that are set in various rooms where the haunting will take place.  At first, the movie is rather boring as nothing really happens other than a cat going on a nightly exploration.  However, in due time the directors work to try and make the audience jump, with loud sounds disturbing the intense silence, someone getting dragged off the bed, or someone suddenly appearing on the screen.  Not a fan of or not really affected by jumping?  No problem, PA4 also adds creepiness to the mix, with subtle movements in the background, whispering monologues to no one in particular, and numerous other disturbances that somehow have a way of keeping fans coming back for more chills. Now for me I really wasn’t scared by the film, because the scare tactics are the same as the previous three installments.  While there is still an air of creepiness in the quiet cul de sac house, their methods have grown stale, cold, and may soon start growing mold.  For other audience members though, the scare factor is still holding strong, as countless screams and comments filled the theater.  There were even a few members who almost hurt themselves from jumping so high.

So what helps make this movie stand out?  Well there are a few things that might help you decide whether it’s worth a trip to the theater.  For one thing the creepiness just doesn’t apply to the invisible man named Toby.  PA4 also has the two boys Robbie and Kyle creep you out.  Robbie in particular had a skin crawling stare that seemed to penetrate your core.  His unnatural silence, added something more that help creep out the audience further.  Combining Robbie with the antics of the invisible demon was a good choice to help keep the scares fresh, but sadly it’s not enough to keep the say it was worth a fourth movie.  Some other things to mention was the clever use of the Xbox Kinect camera as a tool to show off the spirit haunting the house, which kept the audience gasping.  Other positives to the film, was again some subtle hints that you need to keep an eye open for, some tie ins to the previous films, and even a little bit of a twist that can blind side you if you don’t think.

I’ve reported the positive so let’s talk about a few other negatives.  Again this is a Paranormal Activity film so it’s a rather simplistic film.  Audience members like me who know when the scares are coming, will be bored by this film except maybe watching the other audience members react to the scares.  The twist I mentioned is not that hard to figure out if you keep everything in perspective, and try to understand why this random family is being subjected to terror.  However for the one big twist, there are numerous plot holes that the movie left unfilled.  The origins of one of the characters, exactly who or what the demons were, and what happened in a few of the scenes.  Throw this in with the tired scare tactics, and you get some hard penalties to this film.

Is this movie worth a trip to the theater, or even worth seeing?  Well it really depends on the type of audience member you are.  Viewers like me who know how to determine when scary things will happen, are good at putting two and two together, and can’t stand plot holes are going to want to skip this film, as it may be boring.  However, if you haven’t gotten tired of the same scare tactics and are still wanting more paranormal plot, then this movie is right up your alley.  Where does it stand among the other three, well for me probably slightly better than three and close to par with two.  For me though I have to say Redbox is the best option.  My scores for this one are:

Horror:  4.5-5.0

Movie overall:  4.0

 

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No Argo from me, I would see it again

                Another weekend arrives and so too comes another round of movies.  To start things off I went with my friend to see Ben Affleck’s newest film entitled Argo.  Not only does Mr. Affleck star in this movie  but he was also the producer and director of the film as well, which has me worried he’s following in Stallone’s footsteps.  Regardless, for those who haven’t seen the trailers playing the last four months, Argo focuses on the Iranian crisis, in which 60 American hostages were held hostage by the Iranian public.  Six of the hostages, played by numerous people, escape to the Canadian ambassador’s house, where they hide from the radical soldiers.  To help get these six out, the government sends in Tony Mendez (Affleck) a CIA specialist who has a crazy idea to get them out, produce a fake movie with the fugitives being the crew of the movie.

So what can I say about this movie that is based on a true story.  The answer is a lot of things, starting with the visuals of the movie.  Argo’s setting is well put together, taking a combination of three worlds and blending them into an amazing blast into the past.  The hectic streets of Iran, the busy high and mighty world of Hollywood, and the stern, secretive halls of the CIA building are captured in very minute details.  What does this mean to the audience?  Well for me it helped pull me into the movie, helping me feel that I was a part of 1970/1980 world.  Complementing the detailed settings is the integration of news clips from this time, blending them smoothly into the modern day filming.  Instead of overdoing the news clips though, Affleck sparingly used these clips at just the right moments, my favorites being the Jimmy Carter addresses to the public.  However, the setting and edition can only do so much, but none of it is possible without good camera work, and Argo does indeed have that.  The visual crew managed to choose just the right angle to capture the emotions of the scene helping to bring out the chaos, intensity, and torment that filled the crisis.  As a finishing touch, the grainy filter helped add a little edge to the film, making the movie seem like a live documentary.

Although the camerawork was impressive, the acting was also another component that helped bring the movie alive.  Affleck did a nice job playing the CIA agent role, using his lady pleasing scowl to mirror his intense nature.  Bryan Cranston who played Mendez’s boss was also well done, as Cranston’s strong face and rough voice gave the character an edge that promoted challenge and driving force.  As for the hostages, well they definitely looked the part with their 70’s hairstyles and aviator glasses, but aside from some occasional spurts of dialog their facial expressions did most of the talking.  My favorite actors had to be Alan Arkin and John Goodman, the two movie men who were the backbone of the Argo project.  Both of these seasoned actors were hilarious, essentially a real life Statler and Waldorf who were happy to insult almost every aspect of the Hollywood world.  My buddy and I couldn’t help, but laugh as the two ridiculed the politics and laziness of the movie magic world, constantly working the system of corrupt agents and lawyers who were looking for a quick buck.  The dynamic duo delivered there incredible dialog perfectly, adding another level to help the words strike home.  These two may have made up a large percentage of why I enjoyed this movie.

Argo has a lot of other qualities that make this a movie worth watching.  For the older generation who lived through this event, the adapted story will most likely be nostalgic, especially the riots and new clips of incidents.  Drama lovers will get their fill as well, as just about every group in this movie has some type of issue or struggle they have to overcome.  As for suspense, well that really doesn’t come till about the final thirty minutes of the movie, but once it arrives you may find yourself at the edge of your seat, (unless you remember the reality of the situation).  People who enjoy making fun of countless systems will also be entertained by this film.  As stated earlier, Goodman and Arkin’s characters basically throw Hollywood under the bus, from getting contracts to designing a fake story.  Those who love seeing government agencies getting shot down and made fun of, are also going to enjoy this film as well.  While it’s not like a typical comedy where the actors say lines that are targeted at the government, Argo instead uses the setting to make fun of it.  When Affleck demands action, the big wigs instead say they have a meeting scheduled or say that’s not allowed.  The writers also threw a couple of quick dialog jabs in there to help bring some diversity to the humor, which also brought on some laughs.  Of course those that are easily offended by such humor, or greatly support our political system’s endeavors are going to be less amused.  I’ll also take this time to say that those who don’t like seeing humans painted as monsters/animals are going to be angry at this movie as well.  The combination of camera work and acting show the darker side of humans, and I’m sure there will be news stories of people offended by the portrayal of both Americans and Iranians.  The only big error I can mention on this movie is that some editing could have been done about halfway through to make the movie a little shorter.

Needless to say I enjoyed Argo a lot, and encourage you to see this movie in theaters, or at least catch in on Netflix.  My scores for this film are below

Drama/Thriller:  8.5

Movie Overall:  8.0 

Perfectly Balanced, Though Still Predictable

My second review for this weekend has to do with Anna Kendrick’s latest film entitled Pitch Perfect.  For those who haven’t seen the trailer, Beca a new college student has arrived at Barden University due to the insistence of her father.  Her college career starts off rough, but soon get recruited into the ranks of the Barden Bellas, an a cappella group led by Chloe (Brittany Snow) and Aubrey (Anna Camp).  Soon Beca, along with a handful of other songstresses, will work to not only try to overcome their testosterone heavy counterparts the Treble Makers, but also overcome their own struggles as well.

Ever since I saw the trailer back in the summer, I had my doubts that this movie was going to be anything entertaining.  Despite my skepticism though, I actually enjoyed this movie enough to see it twice in the same night.  So what made this movie so entertaining for me?  Let’s start with the story.  Although the main plot is still a girl takes on a world tale, Pitch Perfect’s plot is kept entertaining by the subplots intertwined within it.  While Beca plays a keystone that connects these mini tales, many of the other characters are pivotal in these side stories.  Love, competition, fear of losing control, and a few other issues all arise in this movie, which I feel will entertain most movie goers.  As a warning though, audience members who want a little more twist and surprise in their story are going to be disappointed with this plot.  Almost every ending or outcome can be seen coming a mile away that made many of the audience members go oooohhhhhh.

The plot wasn’t the only thing that was delivered well in this film though.  The next big strength of this film is the incredible array of comedy.  Unlike most modern day comedies, this film had a balance of comedy styles to keep the laughs rolling.  Sarcastic comments, well timed one liners, awkward situational comedy and many other tools kept me laughing the whole movie.  However, it is not just enough to have multiple comedy styles to keep the movie entertaining; the movie must also balance the amount of time each style is on screen.  Surprisingly this movie did just that, the sarcasm was not overdone, the disguised sexual limericks were placed at key moments, and the situational comedy was only used sparingly so that the cast didn’t look like clumsy fools.  Despite the balance though, there were two things in particular I enjoyed the most above the rest.  The first was some of the clever insults at modern day entertainment, such as shows like Glee and Modern Family.  I applaud the writers for poking at some of the overdramatic situations in these shows, and hope to see some similar styles in a possible sequel to this film.  The second thing I enjoyed the most was surprisingly Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) who was perhaps the driving force for most of the comedy.  While Wilson’s characters are normally annoyingly stupid for me and spout random one liners that just don’t affect me, this movie was much different.  Amy’s dialog had a mixture of well-timed insults, over dramatic delivered lines, and of course some stupid comments that will keep the audience laughing.  But Amy’s words aren’t the only thing that keep the humor coming.  Amy also has some mannerisms, dance moves, and other actions that will have you in stitches.  Everything about this character is random and unpredictable and you never quite know what is going to happen next with her open book nature.  Throw in the other characters, some of which are incredibly beautiful, that she interacts with and you have perhaps one of the most entertaining characters since the sister in Bridesmaids.

I guess the other thing to talk about in this film is of course the film’s songs that most likely grabbed your attention.  It may surprise you that I actually enjoyed some of their covers, as both male and females were able to skillfully blend their voices to make a toe tapping number.  This movie covers many genres, but leans a little more towards the hip hop numbers that younger audience members will know.  I enjoyed the mash-ups in particular, as the directors manage to put a nice spin on songs that alone I wouldn’t have listened to.  The dance numbers that were mixed in were also enjoyable, as the performers moved, swayed, and glided across the stage to some good choreography, though most of their moves paled in comparison to the Step Up genre.  Another thing that I appreciated was that it was not just one person singing the song, cough Lea Michelle in Glee, but rather many of the characters had a chance to show off their pipes.  While many might be looking for one singer, this reviewer likes to see groups unite and keep the songs fresh and upbeat.  Finally, the music was selected more on entertainment rather than expressing emotion, which is what I wanted to see in a competitive singing movie.  That’s right folks when the characters sing it’s not because they are feeling sad about not getting a solo, but instead because the song fits in a competitive category.

Okay to wrap this up, Pitch Perfect is indeed one of the more fun movies I’ve seen in a while.  With diverse and balanced comedy, entertaining numbers, good acting by many, and for me pretty girls with gorgeous smiles, many movie goers will not be disappointed.  I strongly recommend you go see this film and laugh your pants off at this feel good movie.  My only concern is that the popularity and vague ending might spur on a sequel that will be rushed and a mere shell of this movie, but that’s a bridge to cross later.  My scores for this movie are the following:

Comedy/Music:  8.0-8.5

Movie Overall:  8.0

Please leave constructive criticism to help me improve my writing.

Neeson Is Still Deadly, But The Movie Has Less Bite

 

I’ve been gone for a while so I apologize to those looking for my reviews.  However, I am back with my latest review on Liam Neeson newest film, Taken 2.  Surprised to see a sequel from an already great movie?  So was I and I was also a little disappointed to hear Hollywood make a sequel of an already complete story.  What were my thoughts on this movie?  Read on to find out

What is the story for a movie about a girl being kidnapped and an elite operative father going into the underworld to find her?  Simple another tale of kidnapping and rescue, with a little vengeance thrown into the mix to help find a justifiable, though cheap, reason for a sequel.  Yet the directors decided to throw a “twist” into this movie to barely escape robbing us of a good tale and that is the mother and Liam Neeson are kidnapped.  Some difference huh?

You might be saying, I go to see these movies for other reasons than a story Robbie, I go to see it for Liam Neeson because he is the man, the action of a fast plot, or in some cases to see a hot girl.  Will I get my money’s worth if I go for those things?  I’m happy to share my opinion on that, starting of course with Liam Neeson.  As you might have guess, Neeson once again plays the role of a stoic warrior with a mad set of skills, whose only weakness is a soft spot for his beloved daughter and wife.  His ability to transform from a gentleman into a killer still impresses me and the fact that he can say so much with little dialog is a skill I continue to admire.  Thus if you’re a fan of his previous movies, where he pretty much pays the same character, you are going to love him in this movie again.  However, something that was a little fresh in his role was a little humor mixed into his limited dialog.  It wasn’t the lines that were funny, but more of the delivery of the lines that had me chuckling.  His reaction and facial expression as he spoke these awkward lines helped deliver a punch to a rather dry dialog, which may not be what you’re going for in this movie, but is worth mentioning.

I suppose I should talk about the action for this movie though, as this series banks its success on adrenaline pumping scenes.  Well my friends, you’re in luck, this movie still has the qualities that made the first film so memorable.  Car chases, gun fights, and some martial arts are all mixed into a heaping combo of high octane action that will have young boys screaming wow, and Neeson fans clapping in their seats.  The directing staff did a nice job integrating the physical skills of a special ops agent, a.k.a Neeson beating the crap out of a bunch of terrorists, with the more subtle and calm skills of a tracker.  Just like in the first film, fans will most likely be saying Neeson is still a bad @$$ as ever, and shouldn’t’ be messed with.   Unfortunately there are a few flaws to the action.  The first is the jumpy camera work that is present throughout this whole movie.  While it is not the worst I have seen, many scenes were too jumpy or not filmed in the best manner to catch the most detail.  It might have been to bring a little chaos and intensity to the scene, my thoughts were more the camera crew had too much red bull and wanted to make the audience feel the same.  On top of that, the action is not as creative/intense as it was in the first film.  The urgency and suspense that kept us hooked into the film, was very diluted in this installment and the fact that most of the bad guys were not as sinister, evil, or threatening had me a little disappointed.  The result of this new direction is essentially the same action from the first movie, with a little less bite to it.

What else can I say about this movie?  Well for one thing the actress who plays Kim named Maggie Grace, is just a pretty as ever.  Instead of being the victim who is absent for most of the movie though, she instead has some guts that makes her worthy successor to her father’s skills, which could possibly motivate the producers to make Taken 3 I fear.  However, the additional screen time means more chances to view her beauty, something I think many male audience members will love.  Moving away from Kim though, the movie is a decent length and pace so that the already shallow plot does not become boring.  The musical score for this movie is also worth noting, as the orchestra work that plays during his gallant battles helps add that hope inspiring touch that helped pull me into the movie.  Unfortunately the ending to the movie was a little bland for me and a little boring to tell the truth.

Taken 2 is a decent sequel for the modern age.  Neeson fans will still enjoy seeing him kick bad guy butt, while remaining calm, cool, and best of all not overacting.  Without the suspense or urgency of the film though, the movie really lacks a key component to keep fans as in to the action.  My scores for this movie are below:

Action/Drama:  7.5

Movie Overall:  7.0-7.5

My suggestion wait for Netflix or Redbox before seeing this film, unless you need your fix of Neeson for the month.  So until then this is Robbie K signing off and reminding you to enjoy the movies.