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REVIEW – WORLD WAR Z

World War Z

4.0 out of 5

I am a huge fan of the Max Brooks’ novel World War Z.  It’s a great read, made up of interviews of people who survived the events of the Zombie Apocalypse.  It was a brutal look at the world, if indeed the dead had arisen to reclaim the World as their own.

When I first started hearing a movie was going to be made based on this novel, I was skeptical.  the novel felt more of a set piece for a TV mini-series.  The format just didn’t feel like it would play out well on the big screen.  Then I started to see the first trailers.

What I noticed is that it looked nothing like the book.  Fast zombies, lots of action sequences that were definitely not in the novel.  It looked like it lost the interview style pace of the book.  It left a bad taste in my mouth as it did with many fans of the book.

We also have to remember that this was a movie that was plagued with issues during production.  Real guns being kept on set which got  them in trouble in Hungary.  The writers not being able to come up with a good ending so others were brought in to fix it.  It felt like this movie may not get finished.

Fast forward to June 21st and it’s time for World War Z to be launched in theatres.  A movie I finally decided to see and just cast away any notion of the book itself and see if this movie can stand on it’s own as a good zombie flick.

The story is simple.  Gerry Lane is called back into action with the military when an epidemic breaks out turning the human population into these raging zombies.  His family gets to have refuge on an aircraft carrier while Gerry is out globetrotting looking for answers and hopefully a cure to end this.

This movie is pretty much action from the get go and doesn’t let up much through out the movie.  The action is intense and at times horrifying.  With every good zombie movie there should be jumps and scares throughout and World War Z does not disappoint in that department.  There were plenty of times that the audience were jumping and letting out screams.  This is a good sign when you’re sitting watching a zombie movie.

One thing to note about the film is the omission of gore and blood.  This goes to say that gore and blood doesn’t make a movie scary and one can have a decent zombie flick without the gory mess.  They wanted to have as little blood as possible to keep this a PG-13 rating, though the novel is definitely an R rated gorefest.

The director Mark Forster, known for Machine Gun Preacher, Quantum of Solace, The Kiterunner, hits all the right notes in an all out action zombie flick.  Forster paces the action almost perfectly and sets up some pretty intense moments.  He is able to intertwine some emotional moments as well throughout the movie. Some work nicely, others at times fall a little flat, but that doesn’t deter from the enjoyment of watching the Zombie Apocalypse go down.  The director gets decent performances out of his actors, though I think the best acting in the movie is done but the secondary performers.

This is Brad Pitt’s vehicle.  He stars as Gerry Lane.  An ex military man who gets thrown into this battle to seek out answers as to why this is happening.  Lane left the military to be a family man and lead out his life as such.  He fights tooth and nail not to go back, but in the end they make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Pitt is good in the action scenes but in some of the more heavier emotional scenes he came off a little amateurish.  He didn’t have that emotional punch to drive those scenes home and at times felt like he was phoning some of those lines in.  Though when push came to shove in the action he was right there hitting all the right notes and making those scenes seem believable.  If there is one thing World War Z taught me is that if you are going to survive some death defying situation have Pitt with you, that man survives events that no one ever should, but this is where the land of make believe comes into play.  It’s a movie, and when you’re in that playground, anything is plausible.

Mireille Enos from The Killing, plays Pitt’s wife Karen.  She does a good job ofr what time she has on screen.  Her role is a very emotional role and Enos portrays a protective mother and a wife who’s one an emotional roller coaster not knowing if her husband is going to come out of this alive.  Enos is a strong actress and shows it in this movie.

The other supporting players were top notch such as Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, David Morse, who plays the creepiest, craziest military prisoner I have seen in a while.  A good job at casting for these roles, because this is one movie where I felt the supporting cast carried the picture.

After the movie was over, there were some scenes that stuck with me that ended up not going anywhere.  I’m not going to spoil anything but there were a few scenes that seemed like they were going to be building blocks for things to come later on but were totally forgotten throughout the movie.  I don’t know if they were to play out later and were cut when re-writes came, but it felt like the writers were going to be taking these building points somewhere but didn’t.  In that aspect part of the movie does fall a little flat in that regards.

Overall World War Z, though after seeing the movie Z would have been a cool title, is a decent summer, popcorn flick zombie movie.  It’s intense, terrifying at times, and it a good fun romp.  Is it deep and insightful?  Nope.  It’s a movie that you can sit back, get ready for some action and just have fun.  Isn’t this why we go to the movies anyways?  To  have fun and to escape the real world for a couple of house and get taking on a ride no matter how far fetched it may be.

I give this movie 4 stars out of 5. I know, I know it sounds crazy.  But like Han Solo once said.  It may not look like much but it’s got it where it counts kid.  ‘Till next time my friends.

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REVIEW – V/H/S 2

VHS 2

3.75 out of 5.0

It’s been a short bit since the last time I sat down and watched a found footage movie.  This time it is the sequel the very well made anthology V/H/S, properly titled V/H/S 2.

The main story this time around plays out better than the last one did.  Instead of a bunch of hooligans going to steal a tape we have a private investigator looking for a missing kid when he and his girlfriend stumble upon a room full of televisions and VCRs with some tapes to watch.

Instead of 5 stories this time we get 4.  Does it make for a better movie?  Yes and no.  Three of the four are very well put together and make for a very intense, graphic, terrifying ride, but the second story in the anthology just falls flat, and in some ways I wish it wasn’t included.

“Phase 1: Clinical Trials” revolves around a man who lost an eye in a car accident and gets a bionic eye implant.  This eye performs like a regular eye but also transmits back what the person is seeing back to the doctors for data analysis.

After returning home this man starts to see strange events in his home.  He soon finds out that he is now able to see spirits and they are not at all happy.  A girl comes to visit him who had a procedural done to her ears when she was a child and she can hear the ghosts but can not see them.  She comes to warn him about what is going on.  This story makes for a very chilling supernatural story and plays out very well, especially in the audio department.  It’s a good start to what appears is going to be another fulfilling anthology of horror.

We now move onto story two, “A Ride in the Park”.  This is where we start to take a tumble.  This is just an average zombie story, which really doesn’t go anywhere and serve any purpose.  It’s graphic in nature but definitely not scary or terrifying.  I felt as if I was watching a bad student film and couldn’t help but laugh as this story went on.  This story really didn’t need to be in there and felt that it soiled what was a great anthology.

Story three was “Safe Haven”.  Think of this one as a Indonesian horror take on Waco.  This was a very unsettling story and terrifying.  Great use of sound and the acting was very well done.  This added to the intensity of the story and the full build up of what was to come.  Basically we have a man who is like an Indonesian David Koresh.  He has build a compound where he and his wives and children live.  He has promised them that Paradise awaits for them after they give themselves to the almighty.  He also said that when they pass into Paradise they will receive the blessing of immortality.  What plays out is a freaked out horror show, not only shocking in nature but shocking in the visuals.  This was a very chilling story and one of the best between both anthologies.

The last story of the anthology was “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”.  It’s pretty much what the title states.  Kids are having a slumber party and aliens show up.  The manner in which it happens is intense and also terrifying.  From the loud noise of the space craft, to the flashing flights, the tall grey aliens.  Everything starts off nice and fun, but soon turns bad quickly.

Timo Tjahjanto, the director of “Safe Haven” should be commended on doing an excellent job at making one of the best stories between the two movies.  He really knew how to work the camera and get the emotional responses needed from his actors.  Safe Haven I do have to warn is very hard to watch at times.  The graphic nature of the story is I think the most graphic of all the V/H/S stories.

The main story that plays out through the movie was called “Tape 49” and follows the private investigator team as they look for the missing student.  In the end they find out where he is and what has happened by watching a video on his laptop.  This story ties everything up nicely.

I was a big fan of the original V/H/S and this one ranks right up there with it.  Was it better that the first?  It definitely had more intense scares than the first but A Ride in the Park just brought it down some.  If that story wasn’t included it would have made the movie better than the first.

Overall though I give V/H/S 2 3.75 out of 5.  It does come highly recommended and if you do plan on seeing it, turn out the lights and turn up the sound system, you’re in for a treat.  Will there another V/H/S?  If they keep up the quality they have been putting out I do hope so.  ‘Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – THE PURGE

The Purge

3.75 out of 5.0

Unemployment is at a 1% low, crime is non-existent.  Life is good, well at least that is what we think.  The United States of America has given the people the right to commit crimes no matter how heinous for 12 hours one day a year.  This is known as The Purge.

This is allowed so people who have hatred, or anger towards people can lash out  and take out their frustrations any way they see fit.  Though weapons above a Class 4 ratings are not allowed and high ranking officials have immunity and can not be touched.  Everyone else is fair game.

This story is about one family’s ordeal through this torrid 12 hours and pushes them to their limits of morality and puts them in the situation we have seen before, the situation of how far would one go for their family.

Director James DeMonaco puts us into a night filled will extreme tension and brutal violence.  This is an idea that may seem good to some but definitely shouldn’t see the light of day.  His movie is lean, clocking in under an hour and 30 minutes and James DeMonaco uses every minute of it to weave a tale of brutality and makes you question yourself, ‘what would I do in this type of situation’.

The situation the family gets in starts when the son lets in a man searching for help during The Purge.  No one knows who he is or what he is doing in their neighborhood.  This brings on the group that are out to purge this man and go about their lives and pits the family in the struggle of do they keep the guy safe or let him loose to the purgers.  DeMonaco takes time getting here and really slowly lets the tension build.  This works very nicely because throughout the movie you can feel it building, like a pop that is slowly coming to boil.  When it hits it’s breaking point bad things happen.

DeMonaco doesn’t shy away from the violence either, especially in the opening title sequence that is littered with security cam footage from the years before purging.  The opening is brutal and very unsettling which sets the tone for the movie quickly.

The only really light hearted feel you get is after the credit sequence as the day is getting setup.  When it’s time for The Purge to start, the tone shifts into darkness.  The movie has many dark points and for the most part DeMonaco does a great job with pulling no punches, until the very end.

This is where the movie fell flat for me.  Everything was hitting the right notes and the viciousness of the evening is felt throughout the film until the ending scene.  I felt that DeMonaco pushed you to the mouth of madness and right at the last minute before falling in he pulls you back.  It wouldn’t have been the ending I would have chosen, though getting there, there were a few twists that I didn’t see coming.  I was pleasantly surprised when those twists came and thought the ending was going to go full tilt.

The acting throughout the movie was great.  Ethan Hawke as the father James Sandin, plays the part well and you feel that what he is doing is the right thing for his family.  Hawke usually always does a good job and this movie is no exception.

The mother Mary Sandin, played by the wonderful Lena Headey, is portrayed nicely on screen and Headey gives a good performance as mother who is conflicted about the whole purge night, and this comes across wonderfully in later scenes.  A very strong performance from a strong actress.

Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane play the children Charlie and Zoey.  Beautiful performances from both, especially from Adelaide who has the most emotional part between them.  The director did a good job getting strong performances from  the younger performers.

Rhys Wakefield takes on the role of the Polite Stranger who comes knocking on the door to claim the injured man the family has hiding in their home.  He is down right creepy in this role and really rises to the occasion as the main villain in the movie.  Though at moments he felt a little over the top, overall he played the part well.  The rest of the crew that made up his gang were equally as scary and creepy and added to the overall rising tension as the movie went on.

Edwin Hodge who has a wonderful TV career was cast in the role of the strange, the man who was injured and looking for a place to hide out the night.  He’s not in a lot of the scenes but the ones he was in were well done.

Is this a movie for you to see?  If you like dark, heavy, brutally violent movies then you should enjoy this movie.  If you are very squeamish then it might not be your cup of tea.  Overall it is a good movie and I can recommend it, with the caveat being the ending though you may even end up liking the ending.

Overall I give this movie 3.75 out of 5.  It would have scored higher from me but the ending kind of ruined it a little for me.  It is a good movie and gives good scares and it is a pretty intense night out to the movies.  ‘Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – NIGHT IN THE WOODS

Night In The Woods Poster

2.5 out of 5

I have been hearing some good buzz about this movie, since it is from the makers of  “Bronson” and “Monsters”, two movies that I absolutely loved, but after watching the movie I was left with a disappointing feeling.

This movie is another found footage horror film.  This time we have a couple and the girlfriend’s cousin exploring the Dartmoor’s Wistman’s Woods.  Legend tells of a mysterious figure who steals witches and hangs them from a tree in the woods.  Brody, the boyfriend starts to get a jealous feeling seeing how his girlfriend Kerry is acting around her cousin Leo.  Once in the woods and camp is set, night befalls the group sending them, and the viewer into a night full of terror.

The beginning of the movie has a note stating this was the footage that was found from this camping trip and was edited together to tell the groups story.  What starts off as a good tale eventually turns into a boring mess with a few scares near the end.  Like most feature length found footage film, there is so much footage used that really could have been either omitted or trimmed down to save time and tighten the movie better.  I thought there were many scenes that either went no where or just dragged the movie down and didn’t let it become the movie it was trying to be.  One thing the movie has going for it is the acting.  The performances are strong pretty much through out the movie, especially with the female lead.

Directed by Richard Parry who is mainly know for documentaries brings to life these characters and shows that he knows how to shoot stunning landscapes and is able to convey a realism with what is being showed on screen.  The film gives us a sense that this could very well be actual found footage of a band of explorers who got lost in these woods and were never heard from again.  Though there is one scene that really bothered me and that was when Kerry was all by herself and looking around for Leo and Brody.  There is a camera following her and shooting footage but we never know who that was.  It wasn’t Brody or Leo because at that time they were lost in the woods.  I thought that may add a little confusion near the end of the movie.

What Richard needed to work on was the pacing.  It started out good with the pacing, keeping things moving a long nicely at a good clip but once we get into the woods I felt that the pacing slowed to a point where the viewer is left waiting and waiting for something to happen.  This worked a little bit to the movies advantage when the scares came because it allows the viewer to let their guard down and then POW something happens and freaks you out.  The problem with that is that it takes a long while before anything like that happens.

Scoot McNairy, who was in “Monsters” and the upcoming “Argo” plays Brody, the boyfriend who loves to capture everything on camera.  McNairy gives a great performance of the nice guy who becomes obsessed with capturing everything on film and later on turns to the creepy side of life.  I really liked McNairy in “Monsters” and enjoyed seeing him in this film.  There is something honest in his acting on screen and this helps gives a genuine feeling to the characters he plays.  I can’t wait to see him in “Argo” as I’m sure he will give a spot on performance in that as well.

Anna Skellern from the TV series “Outnumbered” and “The Decent 2” plays Brody’s girlfriend Kerry.  Anna gives a very emotional performance especially near the end of the movie.  Anna’s character Kerry has a secret that she has bee keeping from Brody and it has to do with Leo.  Anna also gives a very honest performance and gives Kerry the realism needed to make the character and what is going on with the character believable.  Another strong performance from a great cast.

Andrew Hawley, recently seen in “Snow White and the Huntsman” plays Leo, the catalyst to what starts to happen between Brody and Kerry.  Andrew also brings the realism needed to make this character believable on screen and gives an honest performance.  The whole cast gives us their all and it really shows on screen and is definitely the movies strongest point.

This isn’t the worst found footage movie out there but it also doesn’t rank up there with the best of them.  It’s just below middle of the road for me and that really has to do with how the last act of the movie was handled.  The beginning really sets up something big and works well, but the last part just fell apart and I think really brought down the movie.  Yes I have to admit there were a few scares during the end but the question that remains is ‘will the viewer be able to stay with the movie long enough to get there?’  I really wanted to like this movie and like it a lot but I just walked away feeling more disappointment that enjoyment.

I give this movie 2.5 stars out of 5.  The strong acting and the decent directing keeps this movie afloat but not by much.  If you have a chance to see it and found footage is your thing then give it a shot, you might like.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – LIVID

Livid Blu-ray

4.0 Out of 5

A young nurse in training is being showed the ropes dealing with the patients she will be looking after.  The last patient is an old lady who is in a coma hoped up to a respirator.  Legend has it that somewhere in this house is a treasure but no one knows where or what this treasure is.  Later back at the local pub her boyfriend and her brother decide they will break in and take some of the treasure.  Her boyfriend is a fisherman and doesn’t want to die at sea like his father did.  He wants a better life for them and he sees this treasure as a means to an end.  Once  at the manor, they break in and start to snoop around the creepy old house.  What they find should have stayed hidden.

LIVID is a French horror film and is brought to you by the company that made the film INSIDE.  This film covers a few genres during the course of the movie, straight horror, ghost story, and also has some fantasy elements in there as well.  Everything about this movie is well crafted and put together for a very chilling and scary romp through one of the creepiest houses I have seen in a long while.  This film is very atmospheric and relies a lot on sound and creepy visuals to send chills down your spine and make your skin crawl.  The ending to the film is one I didn’t see coming and getting there is like slowly going through madness.  Definitely a movie to watch with the lights out and the sound turned up.

The movie is subtitled but the subtitles were horrible.  They were too literally translated and there were at times the dialogue didn’t make sense, though it wasn’t hard to follow.  What did make sense helped with the understanding of the story, and also through the visuals it wasn’t hard to determine what was going on.

The movie is both written and directed by the team of Alexandre  Bustillo and Julien Maury.  They have brought to life a very beautiful looking horror film.  It is well shot and very well directed.  The pair take their time telling the story to help building the tension and the horror in the scenes that follow.  It is a wonder to behold on screen.  I wish I could say the same for their screenplay.  As much as I did love the movie, there were holes in the story, and I found that to be the weakest part of the movie.  The characters were well defined and the story well setup but part of the execution lacked a little.  I found there were some things that were brought into light but left without any explanation whatsoever.  They know how to shoot a beautiful piece of work, they just need to work on tightening up their writing.

The acting in the film by the cast was good.  It wasn’t cheesy or over the top which made me happy when watching the film because it isn’t an over the top style of movie.  Nothing stellar to point out in the acting department just that overall the acting was solid.

The effects in the movie, what little there were, were good.  They fit the scenes well and didn’t look fake. A good job should be noted to the make up department for the wonderful facial makeup work.  Very low key and very creepy.

I was generally thrilled with the movie overall.  There were plenty of genuine scares and the creepy tension building up really added to the horror of the film.  With a better written story I think this could have been a 5 star out of 5 movie.  Definitely one to get to watch around Halloween time.

I give this movie 4 stars out of 5.  This movie will chill you and I think the ending will surprise you.  If you have a chance to see this movie do it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – MAMA

Mama Poster

3.0 Out of 5

We all like to be scared when going to a scary, or suspenseful horror movie.  “Mama” and movies like this, rely on suspense, building up of tension to bring on the scares through out the movie.  This movie doesn’t rely on gore or grisly deaths to shock the viewer, but tension and the illusion as to what one sees and hears.

The question is does this movie effectively do that for the viewer.  The answer is a double edge blade.  On one hand it does frighten, but more on a character level.  On the other hand which is the movie level I felt it falls flat.

The story for “Mama” is a simple one.  Two girls father comes home after killing two people at work and kills his estranged wife and takes the kids away.  They have an accident and their speeding car goes off the road and they take refuge  in an old dilapidated cabin.  The father decides he is going to kill the daughters there and take his own life, but an entity in the cabin stops them.

Five years later the girls’ uncle is still looking for them and his brother.  They are finally found and are brought home to life with their uncle and his girlfriend.  That is when trouble sets in.

Don’t be fooled by the advertisements.  This isn’t directed by Guillermo del Tor, he is an executive producer.  The movie is directed and partly written by Andrés Muschietti.  While Andrés handles the camera well through out the film, building the tension and trying to creep us, the movie-goes out, I feel that he takes too long to get where he needs to be going.  There are times when the tension is building and things start to turn creepy but end up falling flat because, if you have seen the many trailers for this film, you pretty much seen most of the big scare scenes.

What he does well though is give us a very intense and very frightening creature in the character Mama.  From the looks of the character, to her movements, to the character’s sounds, Mama is one frightening creature.  That works well throughout the movie which at least gives you some decent frightening moments, especially one very frightening scene near the end back at the cabin.

The movie though falls into the trap of building too slowly.  This in turn makes the movie start to feel very repetitive throughout the production and more than a few times I was checking to see how long we had left.  The crowd at the cinema that night was in the same boat.  I don’t think one person there, aside from my wife, reacted to any of the scare scenes that were added for jump effect.  This is where I feel that it fails as a horror film.  Some scenes and a character or two could have been trimmed or even left out of the movie, such as the children’s aunt.  I felt that her character was completely unnecessary and could have been written out altogether.  She has a scene later on in the film that made me groan and roll my eyes as to why it was even added.

Now the movie isn’t a total write off.  The acting was great.  Jessica Chastain from “Zero Dark Thirty” gives a great performance as Annabel the girlfriend to the uncle.  She’s almost unrecognizable with her jet black hair, tattoos, and eyeliner.  She’s a rocker at heart but stands by her man in his trials of bringing up these feral children they pulled from the woods.  You really feel for her throughout the movie because she’s pretty much left alone to raise these children that she really doesn’t want around.

The two children, Megan Charpentier as Victoria and Isabelle Nelisse as Lilly were terrific in the movie, especially Isabelle as Lilly.  She had a very cute but very creepy side to her as she was the one most attached to Mama.  Just by her facial expressions and eyes you could tell that something was terribly wrong with this child.  Her sister Victoria was the most developed of the two children and has the more serious part of the two.  Megan does a great job in portraying a child that is torn between family and the attachment that is waning with Mama.

The pace at the start of the film I felt was a little rushed but once it slowed down, it almost slowed to a crawl.

Over all I give his movie 3 stars out of 5.  It’s not a terrible movie but it just isn’t that great as a horror movie.  It needed more frights for the dollar, and ones that you couldn’t see coming.  When you go for scares and the audience isn’t reacting to them you have a problem on your hands.  It did take the weekend box office last weekend taking in 30 million so something seems to have worked in it’s favor.

If you plan on seeing this in the cinema, wait until a matinee, don’t rush in and pay full price.  If you elect to pass on it, at least rent it when it’s out on VOD or on DVD/Blu ray.  It’s definitely worth rental price, just not full theatre ticket price.  Till next time my friends