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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

[7.75/10] Super 8 (2011)

Super 8 (2011)

Full review: J.J. Abrams' long-anticipated 'mysterious' project "Super 8" has finally arrived, and while it delivers everything it promises in terms of sheer entertainment, it hardly exceeds expectations, due to an unsteady pacing, lack of true originality, and a disappointing conclusion. Оbviously a reminiscent of 80s sci-fi classics such as "E.T." and "Gremlins", "Super 8" definitely captures the essence of this cinematic period, and has this nostalgic feel about it, that we all love. It's a story about true friendship, young love, family issues and passion for cinema, with a sci-fi spin that is intended to be the main focus of the story, but somehow ends up on a second place, because of the genuine relationship and the strong interaction between the characters, and their 'real life' stories. The acting from the engaging young cast is definitely one of the film's main strengths. Joel Courtney is incredibly likable as the main protagonist, Joe, and greatly combines juvenile curiosity and enthusiasm with bravery and determination. Elle Fanning is sweet and innocent, but at the same time she acts very maturely for her age, plus she shares great chemistry with Joel. Riley Griffiths shines as Charles, and Ryan Lee is as adorable as he's hilarious, and delivers arguably the most memorable performance of all the kids. Kyle Chandler appears a bit stiff at times, but overall he does a fine job as the bold deputy sheriff and caring single dad, Jackson, and Ron Eldard gives a surprisingly great performance as the troubled Louis. The rest of the supporting cast deliver decent performances, with no real standouts or weak links. In terms of visuals and technical qualities, "Super 8" is pretty satisfying to say the least. J.J. Abrams' direction is typically solid and often imaginative, though at times it feels a bit unsteady and maybe too influenced by Spielberg's style. The grainy, murky, exquisitely muted cinematography suits both, the time period and the mysterious atmosphere of the movie, and the production design is quite authentic, if not exactly first-rate. The creature itself is rather disappointing - while its CGI design is pretty slick, it seems a bit overdone, and not particularly memorable. However, the rest of the special effects are impressive and quite flawless, with the 'train crash' sequence being the most jaw-droppingly spectacular moment and, hands down, the visual highlight of the film.

Overall summary: Despite some pacing issues and a rather anti-climatic final act, "Super 8" is still an engrossing, well-crafted and highly atmospheric sci-fi movie with heart, that proudly pays homage to Spielberg's classics, but will hardly be considered as one of them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

[5.75/10] Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)

Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)

Brief review: In 2007, Spanish horror phenomenon "[Rec]" blew us all away. A year later, a shot-by-shot US remake called "Quarantine" emerged, and it was surprisingly solid. Then, two years ago, "[Rec]" creators delivered a fantastic sequel, that went in a completely different direction than expected. In 2011, Sony finally bring us their "Quarantine" sequel, that for better or worse, has nothing to do with "[Rec] 2". On one hand, its original script differs it vastly from the Spanish version and makes it unique, but sadly on the other hand, "Quarantine 2: Terminal" is just 'more of the same', only that this time the zombie virus breaks out on a plain, instead in a building. "Q2" is far from terrifying, and yet it's tautly-paced, suspenseful, and has a few startling, jump-of-your-seat moments, especially during the attack scenes. Despite the film's limited budget, first-time director John Pogue does an adequate job behind the camera, yet still, "Q2" has 'straight to DVD' written all over it - the acting is atrocious, the cinematography is remarkably poor, the make-up and gore effects are obviously cheesy, plus, it's not shot in a POV style like its predecessors, hence, it's less effective. On a positive note, the terminal setting is grim, creepy and incredibly atmospheric.

Overall summary: Although it's cheaply-made and nowhere nearly as inventive as the original sequel, "[Rec] 2", "Quarantine 2" still stands on its own, thanks to its original concept, plus, its tense atmosphere and fair amount of gore should leave most horror fans satisfied.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

[7.50/10] The Tunnel (2011)

The Tunnel (2011)

Full review: This ambitious Australian project, called "The Tunnel" is the probably first ever movie in cinematic history, that was 100% legally released through BitTorrent, and of course for free. Another interesting fact is, that you can buy one (or more) frame from the movie, only for $1 AUD. So, go visit the official website, buy a frame for yourself, download the movie, and watch it! Shot in a moc-doc style, "The Tunnel" revolves around a News crew, who get more than they bargain for, when they head into the catacombs under Sydney, Australia, to investigate a government cover-up. In the same fashion as "The Blair Witch Project", "The Tunnel" leaves almost everything to imagination, as it doesn't use buckets of gore, creepy images or cheap scares to frighten us, but instead, it relies on the unpredictability and the mystery behind the story, and mostly, the fear of the unknown. On one hand, this is a clever strategy, as you know that, 'scary' is what you CAN'T see, but on the other hand, it's rather disappointing, since the director does not provide us with a single decent shot of the mysterious creature throughout the entire film. There's only one shot that lasts for about a second, and from what we can see, the creature is not nearly as frightening as Niña Medeiros from "[Rec]", for instance. Despite that, and the fact that the climax is almost non-existent, "The Tunnel" is still a constantly-tense and thoroughly effective moc-doc, filled with thrills, chills, many jump-of-your-seat-moments, eerie sound effects and ominous visuals. The underground settings are as atmospheric as they're appropriate - the abandoned tunnels beneath Sydney are dark, creepy and pretty claustrophobic, and knowing that there's no way out, will surely make you feel uncomfortable. Carlo Ledesma's direction is taut, solid and competent, featuring great angles and tons of shaky, yet well-handled camera movements, accompanied with crisp editing. Another strength of the film is the great acting by the largely unknown Australian cast. Bel Delia gives a genuine and very believable performance as the bold and brave journalist, Natasha. She conveys real fear and panic through her body language and facial expressions with such an ease, it's fascinating. Steve Davis delivers the second-pest performance as the charismatic cameraman, who also narrates the story, along with Natasha, and who's involved with the cinematography as well. The supporting performances are great, with Luke Arnold being the most memorable as the sympathetic Tangles.

Overall summary: Atmospheric, incredibly tense and utterly claustrophobic, "The Tunnel" may not be the scariest 'found footage' horror movie you'll ever see, or as innovative as its online campaign, but it's certainly one of the most finely-crafted and realistic mock-docs ever made, despite the lack of an actual climax.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

[4.50/10] Hall Pass (2011)

Hall Pass (2011)

Brief review: In 2011, the widely-known Farrelly brothers bring us another one of their sex-oriented comedies, but unfortunately, their latest film "Hall Pass" is not nearly as good as their cult comedy hit "There's Something About Mary", nor is very funny. It's just outrageous, but in a bad way. The script, obviously written by a bunch of idiots, has tons of stupid sex jokes, gross situations and ridiculous lines. Certain moments prove the script's idiocy - the 'poop on the golf course' scene and 'poop in the tub' scene are both utterly disgusting, however, the most shocking scene in this impudent comedy features a long penis shot of a naked, horse-hung black man, whose 'instrument' is only five inches away from Owen Wilson's face. It's very unexpected, yet somewhat amusing. Speaking of Owen Wilson, he does a fairly decent job as the flirtatious, yet loyal husband Rick, while Jason Sudeikis is rather annoying as the horny best friend of Rick, Fred. Both, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate are charming and incredibly likable as the open-minded wives, who love their husbands, despite the fact they know they're morons, and the supporting cast is pretty forgettable, except for Nicky Whelan, who's truly eye-candy as the alluring coffee-shopper.

Overall summary: Although it has its moments and features an incredibly engaging female cast, "Hall Pass" is a tasteless, vulgar and often embarrassing comedy full of infantile characters, that desperately tries to be funny, but it's clearly forced, and fails to deliver many laughs.

Monday, June 20, 2011

[9.25/10] X-Men: First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Full review: Five years after the entertaining if rather disappointing installment, "X-Men: The Last Stand", British director Matthew Vaughn delivers a 'kick-ass' prequel that brings us back to the origins of our favorite mutants. From the intriguing opening sequence to the spectacular, action-packed final act, pretty much everything about "X-Men: First Class" works so well, you'll find yourself arrested by its utter brilliance, both visual and conceptual. The story is complex and multi-layered, yet well-paced and far from confusing, and although it may seem familiar to the fans of the franchise, Matthew Vaughn somewhat finds a fresh way to sell the same message we've been hearing since the beginning. This installment also introduces many new interesting characters/mutants, we haven't seen in the previous three films. Furthermore, "X-Men: First Class" is a pure visual extravaganza, as it features tons of eye-candy shots, stunning settings, first-rate special effects and stupendous action sequences. The authentic, yet stunningly impressive production design of the movie is definitely one of the highlights - the 60s era is represented quite perfectly, and in a very stylish sort of way. Vaughn's skills behind the camera are more impressive than ever before, and as a result his direction feels fresh, energetic and bold. "First Class" is, unsurprisingly, heavy one CGIs, and thankfully, those are slick, polished and pretty flawless, as are the 'difficult' make-up effects. The action scenes are precisely-staged, flashy and thrilling, without being overblown and messily-edited. The performances are also one of this film's main strengths. The uber-talented James McAvoy gives a convincing and extremely passionate performance as the witty and geniusly-clever Charles Xavier a.k.a. Professor X. However, it's Michael Fassbender that steals the entire show as the charismatic Magnito. Even though Fassbender plays a half-villain, he's so likable, and his presence is so strong, you can't take your eyes off of him, while he's on the screen. Who could imagine that the harsh and uncompromising Magnito has also a soft side?! Jennifer Lawrence also shines as the unpredictable, yet extremely charming Raven, and Nicholas Hoult delivers in his role as the young scientist-turned-beast, Hank McCoy. The supporting performances range from decent to very good, with Kevin Bacon being the best, and the otherwise gorgeous January Jones being the weakest link.

Overall summary: Thanks to its fantastic cast, strong script, dazzling production design, and director Matthew Vaughn's visual creativity, "X-Men: First Class" is an absolutely brilliant prequel, that ranks right up there with the best installment in the franchise, "X2: X-Men United", and proves to be a first class indeed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

[3.50/10] Beastly (2011)

Beastly (2011)

Brief review: Loosely based on Alex Flinn's 2007 novel of the same name, "Beastly" plays like a modern version of Beauty and the Beast, but instead of paying a tribute to its source material in a refreshing sort of way, the movie ends up being a laughably cheesy romance, crafted with zero imagination whatsoever. Pretty much everything about "Beastly" feels contrived, rushed, fake and downright ludicrous, due to its uninspired and horribly-written script, full of countless cliches, absurd situations and lame on-liners, and Daniel Barnz's incompetent, lackluster direction. Even the moral message of "Beastly" that says 'It's the inner beauty that matters', feels dated, hackneyed, and way far from modern reality. Aside from some luxury indoor settings, and a couple of pretty shots, "Beastly" is nothing-to-write-home-about in terms of visuals - it's ugly inside and out, just like its main character. The make-up effects are quite poor as well, and as a result, the 'beastly' Kyle looks more like "300"'s Xerxes, rather than an actual freak. The acting is also atrocious. Alex Pettyfer is the new Hayden Christensen - good-looking, yet dull, lifeless, and lacking in acting skills. Vanessa Hudgens is pretty mediocre, while Neil Patrick Harris delivers in his role as the blind teacher, Will.

Overall summary: Dull, poorly-written and terribly-acted, "Beastly" is not only one of the worst movies of 2011 so far, but also one of the cheesiest romantic stories ever put on film. It's so bad, that any cheap TV version of "Beauty and the Beast" would be more worth-seeing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

[5.50/10] Paul (2011)

Paul (2011)

Brief review: Directed by the "superbad" Greg Mottola, and written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who also star in the film, "Paul" is an 'alien' comedy that promises to be a lot of fun, but it falls short of its potential, due to its ludicrous and often cynical script that delivers less laughs as expected, and a surprisingly unimaginative execution that makes it even less interesting. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost share a good on-screen chemistry as usual, and yet their collaboration is less effective this time around. Paul, on the other hand, is the true star of the show. Even though he has a lot of bad 'human' habits and a cocky behavior, Paul is still pretty likable and funnier than Pegg and Frost put together, plus his CGI design is pretty flawless. Kristen Wiig is also hilarious in her role as the sexually repressed Christian-turned-ribald, Ruth. The movie also feature some surprising cameo appearances from Sigourney Weaver and Jeffrey Tambor, but this marvellous cast can't make up for a weak script that offers lots of predictable jokes. Sadly, "Paul" is also pretty unappealing, visually, as the director uses plenty of boring locations, such as desert roads and US countryside wilderness. The special effects are passable, but they barely add anything to the visuals.

Overall summary: Despite its cool premise, a couple of clever ideas, and Simon Pegg / Nick Frost always successful collaboration, "Paul" is just a mildly funny and unimpressively-executed sci-fi comedy about a humanized alien that smokes pot and loves Marvin Gaye..

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

[8.25/10] Hanna (2011)

Hanna (2011)

Brief review: Although it has a couple of dull moments, and a few rather unnecessary scenes, Joe Wright's latest flick is a fast-paced, intense and fantastically-crafted thrill ride, that delivers the goods. "Hanna" is nothing short of captivating, visually, due to Wright's dynamically versatile, yet sophisticated direction, the beautifully washed-out color palette of the cinematography, and the various stunning locations used in the film. Furthermore, "Hanna" 'sounds' as cool as it looks, thanks to Chemical Brothers' original music score, filled with intense electronic beats that prepare the viewer for action. Speaking of action, "Hanna" is not only wonderfully-choreographed, but also creative and edge-of-your-seat thrilling. Acting-wise, "Hanna" succeeds vastly because of its top-notch cast. Saoirse Ronan is a true force of nature in her difficult role as Hanna, who discovers the world for the first time. Her sweet, innocent look contrasts with her daring, fierce spirit, and despite her superhuman strength and abilities, Ronan is thoroughly believable as the title character. One of the finest actresses working today, Cate Blanchett, delivers an outstanding performance as the cold-blooded Marissa, and the insanely underrated Eric Bana gives another solid performance as the bold, protectful father of Hanna, Erik.

Overall summary: Thanks to its unique premise, brilliant execution, impressive variety of settings, and Saoirse Ronan's show-stealing performance, "Hanna" is not only a true breath of fresh air into the genre, but also one of the most clever and spectacularly entertaining action thrillers of the past few years.

Friday, June 10, 2011

[5.75/10] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (2011)

Brief review:
Based on the popular book of the same name, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" is a sequel to last year's successful hit, and it's brought by "Flushed Away" director, David Bowers. The original film was one of 2010's most pleasant cinematic surprises, and, for better or worse, this sequel is pretty similar to its predecessor, except that it lacks the wit and the cleverness, and it's only half as refreshing. However, it maintains the good-natured spirit of the first film, plus, it's more family-oriented, which makes it appealing for adults as well. The engaging cast delivers the goods. Zachary Gordon is at the center of attention yet again, and he 'owns' his delightfully sincere character, Greg. Devon Bostick is way more likeable as the mean older brother than he was in the previous movie, and the super-cute Robert Capron gives an adorable performance as Greg's best buddy, Rowley. Even though David Bowers's direction is crisp and lively, he doesn't shine with great skills behind the camera, the way he shines as a director of animated features, so he'd better stick with CGI animations. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" hardly boasts any technical qualities, other than its vibrant, saturated cinematography and brisk editing.

Overall summary: While not nearly as funny and witty as the original, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" is a charming, fairly decent and nicely-acted sequel, that provides passable entertainment for its target audience of youngsters.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

[7.00/10] Unknown (2011)

Unknown (2011)

Brief review: After his underrated gem, "Orphan", Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra brings us his latest thriller, aptly titled "Unknown". Set in Germany, it tells the story of Dr. Martin Harris, who awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity, and now he sets out to prove who he is, with the help pf a young woman. As tense, as it's constantly gripping, "Unknown" offers plenty of thrills, twists and turns along the way, and it keeps you guessing until the very end. However, the movie is a bit too implausible to be taken seriously, and it suffers from a messy script and an outdated concept. The lack of originality is compensated by solid performances from the actors involved. Liam Neeson turns in a great and very believable performance as the confused doctor, who struggles to get his true identity back. Diane Krugerdazzles as the bold and fearless, yet loyal stranger, Gina, and she just steals the show every time she appears on the screen. The snowy backdrop of Berlin is 'cold', yet stunningly-atmospheric, and the stylish, bluish cinematography reflects the dark and mysterious mood of the film. Collet-Serra's direction is a bit muddled in places, yet competent enough, offering lots of dynamic camera movements and crisp editing.

Overall summary: With its intriguing premise, spot-on execution, and strong lead performances by Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger, "Unknown" is a tense, unpredictable and thoroughly engrossing thriller that delivers, despite its confusing narrative and lack of believability.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

[8.00/10] Kung Fu Panda 2 [3D] (2011)

Kung Fu Panda 2 [3D] (2011)

Full review: 2011 finally bring us the long-awaited sequel to one of the most enjoyable and visually-stunning animated features in cinematic history, and while "Kung Fu Panda 2" doesn't exceed expectations, it very well satisfies them. The story, though overly familiar and utterly predictable, is hugely entertaining nonetheless, and moves along at a nicely brisk pace, without wasting too much time on introducing the brand new villain and the other new characters, plus, it fits well with the plot of the first movie, especially the part telling the story of baby Po. The script is funny, clever and witty, and it provides many laughs along the way, as well as plenty of hilarious situations that our favorite characters create. However, the most impressive thing about this sequel is the animation itself. Not sure if it's because of her Asian origins, but former assistant designer Jennifer Yuh does an incredible with her directing debut of "Kung Fu Panda 2". Yuh certainly has an eye for detail, a great sense of visual style, and overall, she shows an incredible creativity as a director. Thanks to her competence and previous experience, and animators' astounding skills, "Kung Fu Panda 2" is nothing short of dazzling, visually. The CGI scenery of ancient China is as exotically-exquisite as it's accurate, featuring glorious mountains, stunning cities and beautiful bamboo forests and waterfalls, plus, the amazing use of 3D adds to the overall marvellous look of the film. Just like in the predecessor, the action sequences are one of the film's highlights - they're dynamic, flawlessly-choreographed and thrilling to watch, and arguably better than most fights in any live-action movie. The characters are wonderfully-designed and thoroughly engaging, with special mention goes to baby panda, Po, and the newly introduced characters, Shen and Soothsayer. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the voice acting, as I saw the dubbed version of movie, but I bet the fantastic cast involved has done a great job.

Overall summary: Although it hardly surpasses the delightful awesomeness of the first movie, "Kung Fu Panda 2" is a more-than-worthy sequel, that fascinates with an enjoyable story and charming characters, and stuns the viewer with its first-rate animation, splendid visuals and absolutely great use of 3D.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blogfest: It's All Fun & Games!

My great friend Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting yet another awesome blogfest, and this time, it's all about fun & games. Even though I'm not much of a video game junkie, I decided to list the three most favorite arcade video games from my childhood. Yes, from my childhood. :) Check them out below, and I hope they will bring back good memories to you.


1. Street Fighter II

As a true martial arts geek, I've always liked fighting games, therefore "Street Fighter II" is my favorite video game of all time! I've played it hundreds, if not thousands, of times and each time was better than the last. Vega from Spain was my favorite fighter of them all, and I was literally obsessed with him.


2. Mortal Kombat II

Another fighting video game? Hell, yeah! :) "Mortal Combat" was very fast-paced, a bit difficult to play, and way more violent than "Street Fighter", but what the hell.. it was fun! :) Raiden was my very favorite character, and I just loved playing with him.


"Tumblepop" had virtually everything you could ask for in a simple arcade video game - it was entertaining, exciting, catchy, colorful, vivid, and a true joy to play. I loved every bit of it, plus, I was UNBEATABLE! :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

[4.75/10] The Ward (2011)

The Ward (2011)

Brief review: Obviously, legendary horror director John Carpenter has ran out of ideas, as his latest horror film is not only lacking in originality and cohesion, but it shamelessly borrows ideas from many other movies, such as 2003's shocker "Identity", Jaume Balagueró's "Fragile", and, believe it or not, this year's "Sucker Punch" (without the action). Furthermore, "The Ward" also suffers from identity crisis - it tries hard to be a ghost story, a drama, and a mystery thriller all at once, but it fails miserably in its attempt to be all that, and instead, it ends up being a big fat mess, that barely makes any sense. Add to this a couple of spooky images, tons of cheap jump scares, unsympathetic secondary characters, and an anti-climatic twist ending, and you'll get "The Ward". I wish I could say that John Carpenter is back in top form, but sadly, his latest movie proves the exact opposite - the direction is surprisingly sloppy, the editing is sub-par, and the visuals, while atmospheric, are hardly impressive. The extremely underrated Amber Heard is this film's only strength - she give a confident and pretty solid performance as the confused, yet bold Kristen, determined to solve the mystery behind the ward, but the poorly-written script doesn't allow her to truly shine.

Overall summary: Despite Amber Heard's utterly convincing performance, and a few tense moments, "The Ward" is just a mediocre, messy, and unimaginative horror thriller, that delivers only a few chills, and fails to live up to its director's greatness.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Numerous QuickRatings PART 9: Poor-to-Decent 2011 Movies

The Dilemma (2011)

QuickRating: The movie mostly relies on its talented A-list cast, but a couple of decent performances can't compensate for the lack of ideas, originality and laughs, and as a result, "The Dilemma" ends up as yet another uninspired, unfunny and instantly forgettable comedy, that shouldn't been made at all.

My Rating: 4.25/10

Exorcismus (2011)

QuickRating: Although it features some truly creepy and disturbing images, and a believable and more-than-convincing performance by the promising young actress Sophie Vavasseur, at the end of the day, "Exorcismus" offers nothing new or even remotely original to distinguish itself from all the other exorcism-related horror flicks.

My Rating: 5.25/10

The Eagle (2011)

QuickRating: "The Eagle" boasts plenty of gorgeous settings and impressive visuals, but unfortunately, the film is neither as spectacular, nor nearly as epic as expected, plus, it's let down by Channing Tatum's unsurprisingly dull performance and Kevin Macdonald's unimaginative and somewhat unsteady direction.

My Rating: 5.25/10

From Prada to Nada (2011)

QuickRating: This modern-day interpretation of "Sense and Sensibility" may be slightly ridiculous, and full of tired cliches, but "From Prada to Nada" compensates with an amusing script, enjoyable story, and likable characters, and manages to turn itself into a guilty pleasure type of chick flick that many girls (and boys) would enjoy.

My Rating: 6.00/10