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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Best Animated Flicks of 2012

It's time for my first top list of the past year, so click on the picture above, or THIS LINK, and check out my article "Best Animated Flicks of 2012", featured on my monthly column in White Cat Magazine. See if you agree, leave a comment, and tell us what was your favorite 2012 animated film.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

[7.50/10] American Mary (2012)

Brief review: The Canadian twin sisters, Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska, take indie horror cinema to another level with their latest blood-soaked gem, "American Mary" - an unexpectedly brilliant feminist horror story of revenge, that also explores human's twisted mentality and the perverse desires of people obsessed with the idea of being unique, by turning themselves into monsters, literally. Soska sister's original script cleverly mixes visceral and psychological horror with unsettling sense of realism, outrageous gore and dark humor, and that well-balanced combination of elements leads to an impressive end result. Due to its sick, demented nature, "American Mary" may be a bit too bizarre and revolting for mass tastes, but those willing to see something different, will appreciate the film's bleak uniqueness. Soskas' latest isn't scary, and it's not meant to be, because the story is already shocking and grim enough, so the film doesn't need any additional gimmicks to give you the chills. Sure, being a surgeon horror, there's lots of blood, guts and cut-off body parts, but none of it is over-the-top or too in-your-face. "American Mary" does not look like a low-budget indie film. Soskas' stylish direction complements the film's gloomy tone, which is captured through the use of low lighting and gritty cinematography. It wouldn't be as effective, without Katharine Isabelle's disturbing, yet captivating portrayal of Mary - a gifted surgeon, who's also a sick-minded freak you don't wanna mess with at all.

Overall summary: More nasty than scary, cold, yet sleek in atmosphere and look, and definitely disturbing, "American Mary" is a superbly-crafted and highly original horror movie with feminist undertones, grim sense of humor and grotesque gore, that every genre fan should see.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

[6.75/10] Mama (2013)

Mama (2013)

Brief review: Produced by the visionary director Guillermo del Toro, "Mama" is Andrés Muschietti's debut full-length feature, based on his own '08 short of the same name. The good news is, "Mama" is arguably the best January horror release since 2010's "Daybreakers", but the not so good news is, it doesn't break any new ground in terms of originality. Even though the plot can't really escape the ghost story cliches, the movie still succeeds in capturing the viewer's attention, due to the finely-written script, and the intriguing story that not only makes you constantly wonder who is Mama, and why is she so overprotective and evil, but also provides you with all the answers towards the end, leaving you satisfied and without any question marks in your head. Also, the half happy, half sad ending of the film is pretty emotional, and the perfect bittersweet conclusion to the story. "Mama" is frightening as well, and not in a cheap way. The solid scares are only a couple, but the suspense is consistent, the movie's eerie atmosphere is utterly effective, and Mama herself is creepy as hell. Sure, the editing is questionable, and that affects the overall pacing of the film, but Muschietti's accomplished direction, slick cinematography, and stylish color palette make up for that. Jessica "The Chameleon" Chastain does a phenomenal job in an untypical role that proves her versatility, but it's Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse that steal the show, with the latter being absolutely sensational.

Overall summary: Sinister, atmospheric, solidly-acted and technically-polished, yet slightly incoherent and not particularly original, "Mama" is an above average ghost story, that manages to deliver thrills, chills, high entertainment value as well as touching and effective climax.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Casino Movie Mistakes

Casino movies have inspired generations to try the beauty and excitement of real and online casino’s for decades. From the first Oceans 11 film to the more recent James bond Casino Royale they all use casinos as the perfect backdrop when filming multi-million dollar blockbusters. This being said, they do occasionally make a few mistakes, but which Casino movie mistakes are the best?

Security is always important to casinos whether it’s your online password or safety on the premises. So when James bond is given a simple 6 digit code the least he can do is remember it. The international man of mystery has been a super spy for years now! So remembering the simple code should be easy, except when he enters his password for the casino he presses ****47 but when he is giving someone his password he tells them it ends in 3 and 7. Caught you out there, James. During the same movie James and villain Dimitrios are have a game of poker, Dimitrios carries a lucky token around with him, but during this scene the token moves from shot to shot with terrible continuity. If all this talk about casinos have gotten you in the mood to play yourself then download here to experience the variety of slot games and other casino related games like blackjack, roulette and poker offered by online casinos.

The brilliant 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven describes the journey of 11 men trying to rob a casino; the beautiful casino houses a nearly unbreakable volt. In order to break into the shiny volt they hide a small gentleman in a trolley and wheel him in. Unfortunately for the film crew the volt was a little too shiny and you can see all of the camera equipment in the reflections. The flawless cast are all handsome and beautiful and the Hollywood heartthrob that is George Clooney is perfect throughout, or is he? Next time you watch the movie be sure to watch how his hairstyle constantly changes throughout.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Favorite Martian Bloghop

My dear blog buddy Maurice at The Geek Twins, along with L.K. Hill, Jay and Just A Dash of Geek are hosting this super-cool bloghop, called "My Favorite Martian", where we have to to share our favorite movie alien, whether Martian or not. I found the idea to be quite original and creative, so I jumped in with no second thoughts.

Now to the point... There are hundreds if not thousands of aliens in history of cinema, so it was kinda hard to narrow it down to just one. No, actually it wasn't. There's one particular alien that I adored from the first minute I saw it, and that all-time favorite alien of mine is...

Call me crazy, but I honestly think that The Engineers from Ridley Scott's 2012 sci-fi gem "Prometheus" are truly genius creations, and not just in terms of design. They excite me, they scare me, they make me feel small and insignificant, they make me respect them, they might be the fathers of our species... who knows?! I'll try to further explain why The Engineers left such a big impact on me, using very little words and some images, that speak for themselves. At least I hope they do.

Impressive human-like physicality, pale, almost luminous skin, creepy face... if that's not intimidating, I don't know what is.

They created us, and then they realized they made a mistake. I don't blame them. The world that is today kinda proves they did.

Just look at him! Doesn't he scare the crap out of you?
This guy gives me the chills. I'm not joking.

The Engineers exude might and power, and they can easily 
take control over us. I freakin' love that!

© 2012 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved. Prometheus

Saturday, January 19, 2013

[7.25/10] Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Brief review: Adapted from Matthew Quick's novel of the same name, "Silver Linings Playbook" is yet another winner from gifted director David O. Russel, who brought us the near flawless boxing drama "The Fighter" back in 2010. Although a bit overrated in general, we can't deny that Russel, who also wrote the script, has adapted the story in an excellent way, balancing the bipolar nature of it with ease and true sophistication, without sucking the delightful quirkiness out of it. Sure, it's intentionally moody, but the story which brings together two flawed, and mentally disturbed characters, with very similar struggles, has an edge that most rom-coms are lacking these days, successfully avoiding the cliches. The film's witty verbal fights, awkwardly amusing situations and 'full throttle' anxiousness contrast beautifully with the Russel's gentle direction, as well as the vulnerability of the two protagonists. Speaking of characters, those are definitely the driving force of "Silver Linings Playbook", as well as the cast that plays them. Bradley Cooper does a stellar job in a rather unusual and unexpected role for him. He embraces the lunacy of his sympathetic character to the fullest, and the end result is great. Most talked-about actress of 2012, Jennifer Lawrence, is every bit as good, if not better as the tough cookie, Tiffany, and they both share a genuine on-screen chemistry. Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver both give superb performances, without which this film would never be the same.

Overall summary: As honest and outspoken as its lead characters, if overlong, and slightly overrated, "Silver Linings Playbook" very cleverly balances comedic and dramatic elements, delivering laughter, sincere emotions, sharp dialogues and quirky romance to its viewers.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

[4.00/10] Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Brief review: Almost 40 years after the release of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and half a dozen remakes, sequels and prequels, director John Luessenhop brings yet another entry in the already tired franchise, that is more of a late sequel, rather than a proper reboot. Do we really need one? Not really. Since this film is not a reimagining of the original, and it tries to add new elements to the story in order to stand out from the other installments, thankfully "Texas Chainsaw 3D" does not necessarily feel like a 'cinematic deja vu', but on the other hand, that doesn't mean it succeeds in its attempts. The story still feels forced and often nonsensical, and the unsurprisingly hackneyed script is filled with overused slasher cliches. Also, the little twist in the end is ridiculously impausible, and doesn't help the movie either. In this one, one of the biggest horror icons, Leatherface, is not the grimly intimidating masked killer we remember, but a big, clumsy and dull guy, running around with his chainsaw turned on. "Texas Chainsaw" fails to keep you on your toes as well, for the fact that it is lacking in any sort of tension and suspense. Sure, the gore is there and very in-your-face, but the death scenes are crafted with zero imagination, or creativity. Alexandra Daddario saves it from being an utter disaster, by playing a likable protagonist, that exudes decency. However, the other characters are very stereotypical,  and act illogically most of the time, and that makes you want them dead.

Overall summary: Neither as scary as the original, nor as entertaining as the 2003 remake, "Texas Chainsaw 3D" attempts to freshen up the franchise with very little effort, hence, it ends up being a generic sequel, relying mostly on the gore, that has no actual reason to exist.

Friday, January 11, 2013

[3.25/10] Sadako 3D (2012)

Sadako 3D (2012)

Brief review: Do you remember Gore Verbinski's horror masterpiece "The Ring", and the equally as sinister original Japanese version it was based on, called "Ringu"? Well, Tsutomu Hanabusa's "Sadako 3D" is sort of a sequel to the latter, but sadly, an unnecessary and terrible one. Although it wears the title of "Ringu"'s central character, this film reveals absolutely nothing about the origin of Sadako - there's no back story, no proper explanation, nothing... just a dumb, heavily contrived plot that makes no sense at all, and tons of cheesy CGIs. It plays more like an "updated" version of "Ringu" rather than trying to be creative, and bring something new to the table. And no more TVs and VHSs, guys! Sadako is more contemporary now, and she comes out of LCD monitors, plasma screens and iPhones. Sure, over the last ten years, technology has developed tremendously, so this "update" is understandable, but the whole 'cursed video' story got lamer and way less effective. Having said that, the worst thing about "Sadako 3D" is not the flat storyline, or that the film is lacking in scares big time, but the fact that the creators dared to destroy arguable the creepiest character in history of horror, by taking away all of the skin-crawling creepiness out of Sadako, and presenting her as your average ghost seeking for revenge. Hanabusa's direction is amateurish at best, the cinematography is bland, and that combined with the lame, made-for-3D special effects gives the film a dull look.

Overall summary: Daft, contrived, sensationally un-scary, but above all completely unnecessary, "Sadako 3D" is J-horror at its worst, not only because of its ridiculously cheap execution, but mainly because it ruins one of the creepiest characters ever, and makes it look lame.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

[9.50/10] Django Unchained (2012)

Brief review: Three years after the phenomenal "Inglourious Basterds", mastermind Quentin Tarantino shows us yet another different side of him with "Django Unchained" - a controversial  spaghetti western, riddled with subtle irony and a confronting mixture of originality and absurdity, that plays more like a spoof on slavery, rather than taking its subject matter of racism seriously. The answer to how is Tarantino capable to create a 165-minutes-long movie, full of many overextended scenes, that is still hugely entertaining every step of the way is: compelling dialogues, and tons of wit and playfulness. Yes, talkiness is this film's main strength. "Django Unchained" is also filled with over-the-top violence, outrageous manga-like gore, and exciting, almost shocking blood-soaked gunshots. Every single shooting location is chosen with flair and discernment, the smooth cinematography and warm color palette give the film a stylishly western-ish look, the intentionally clumsy super-quick zooms à la Shaw Brothers add edge to the already impressive camera work, and the fact that the film is being shot in an anamorphic format on 35 mm film, adds further authenticity and roughness to the visuals. Every performances her is award-worthy. Jamie Fox does a solid job as the slave-turned-bounty hunter Django, Christoph Waltz's delightfully nutty performance is simply amazing, Samuel L. Jackson delivers easily the best supporting performance of 2012, and all the tiny cameos are just fantastic.

Overall summary: Although certainly not the best movie in Tarantino's impressive career, "Django Unchained" is nevertheless a stylish, wittily-written, blood-filled, and wildly enjoyable near masterpiece of a spaghetti western like no other, which is destined to become a classic.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

[8.25/10] The Impossible (2012)

Brief review: Brought by the creator of "The Orphanage", Juan Antonio Bayona, "The Impossible" is a based-on-a-true-story disaster drama, and also the director's first English-language effort. Ironically enough, Bayona achieves pretty much the impossible, not only by delivering one of the most technically-impressive films of the year, but also by telling an emotional story about hope, faith, fear, and despair, but above all the power of human spirit. "The Impossible" isn't all about the disaster itself, but the terrifying consequences of it, and one family's struggles and their fight for survival The film is filled with horrifying images of destruction, pain, suffering and sorrow, that are so devastating at times, they might bring you to tears, but the constant tension, suspense and anticipation of what's about to happen, save the film from being purely depressing. Visually, "The Impossible" is impossible to fault, really. If you thought the Tsunami sequence in Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" was amazing, wait to see the one in this movie. The big Tsunami overflow is so effective and perfectly-executed, it makes you wonder how did they actually manage to accomplish that, and make it looks so incredibly realistic. Same goes for the scenes showing the destroyed environment after the Tsunami. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are both convincing and brilliantly believable in their difficult roles, but it's Tom Holland, that really makes a big impression with his truly inspiring powerhouse performance.

Overall summary: Devastatingly heart-wrenching, powerfully-acted, terrifyingly realistic and technically flawless, Bayona's "The Impossible" is a disaster film at its finest, one that manages to keep you one the edge of your seat from start to finish, as well as move you deeply.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

[5.50/10] This is 40 (2012)

This is 40 (2012)

Brief review: Judd Apatow's long-anticipated sort-of-sequel to 2007 comedy hit "Knocked Up" is finally a fact, but was it worth the 5-year wait wait? No, definitely not. Unfortunately, the story about a dysfunctional family, whose juvenile members can't deal with each other, is pointless from the beginning to the end, and barely contains any big laughs, due to the witless, egocentric and clumsily-written script, that is supposed to be funny, but it isn't. Sure, the movie has its moments of amusement, and the constant verbal fights between the characters are somewhat entertaining, but truth to be told, "This is 40" is genuinely funny only when it  really get down and dirty, which is hardly a compliment. Worst of all, for a comedy revolving around family dynamics, "This is 40" has no likability factor, no moral, and no heart... at least not a big one. Besides, it's so long and stretched out, at certain points you start to think that it's never going to end, which isn't a good sign for sure. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are both charming, and decent actors, and they do an okay job with the immature maretial they have to work with, so it's not their fault that the characters they play behave like 14-year-olds, instead of 40. Also, as terrible as it may sound, the kids in the film are loud, noisy, and downright obnoxious, and that makes them very hard-to-like. Sadly, the film barely possesses any noticeable technical qualities, and Judd Apatow's lazy, uneven direction doesn't help "This is 40" either.

Overall summary: Overlong, annoyingly whiny, often nasty, and pretty much pointless, if still moderately funny and watchable, thanks to its charming leads, Apatow's sort-of-sequel to "Knocked Up", "This is 40" is too aimless and self-indulgent to make you care for its story.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

[7.75/10] Rise of the Guardians [3D] (2012)

Brief review: Based on William Joyce's book series "The Guardians of Childhood, "Rise of the Guardians" is DreamWorks' latest feature, which turns out to be of those animated flicks, that can be equally enjoyed by the kids and their parents, thanks to its solid story, high entertainment value, and eye-popping visuals. David Lindsay-Abaire's cleverly-adapted script mixes up mythological and fantasy elements with huge amount of wit and juvenile innocence, in order to provides us with an engaging storyline with never a dull moment, that is as kind-hearted and affecting, as its briskly-paced and action-packed. Moreover, the film's moral beliefs are so pure and sincere, it will make you feel like a happy kid, who still believes in Santa Claus, Easter Rabbit, Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and even Jack Frost. "Rise of the Guardians" is crafted with vivid imagination, and that shows through the vibrant animation, impressive use of color and remarkable attention to detail. That being said, some of the characters' design, particularly the human and the human-looking ones, isn't the slickest you'll ever see, simply because their faces look a bit waxy. The other characters, however, are beautifully-crafted, especially the Tooth Fairy and the baby fairies, which are the cutest little things you'll ever see. The use of 3D in this one is downright jaw-dropping, and arguably the best in any animated flick ever created. The voice acting is spot-on for the most part, breathing life into the lovable CGI characters.

Overall summary: Energetic, lively, imaginative, full of fresh ideas, and definitely worth-seeing in glorious 3D, "Rise of the Guardians" not only astounds with its vivid, colorful, and richly-crafted animation, but also has heart-warming morality and magicality, that will win you over.