Category Archives: Theatrical Reviews

Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Review: 2016’s Suicide Squad is probably one of my least liked in the DCEU brand. There were a lot of great ideas behind it, but ultimately it’s potential was wasted with a poorly constructed plot and bad editing. But one thing that truly stood out as a saving grace for the film was without a doubt, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. There is simply no denying that she stole the film with her larger than life performance as the character, which generated major demand for more Harley Quinn in the DC Universe. For a while the potential of a solo Harley Quinn movie seemed very promising, even a Joker/Harley film which would have seen her fabulous emancipation from the clown prince of crime. But alas, none of those panned out quite as hoped. Instead, we got “Birds of Prey: & the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn.” A mouth full, for one, and almost nothing to do with the actual Birds of Prey. But that isn’t to say Birds of Prey is by any means a bad movie. It does have it’s pros and at it’s core, is quite entertaining. However, it is also a very problematic film, which I will elaborate on later in this review. 

Let’s get started by addressing the acting here, which is largely well done! Mary Elizabeth Winstead is amazing as Helena Bertinelli aka Huntress. I would dare to say that her portrayal as the character was perfection. And while at first glance one might argue that she doesn’t dress like her comic book counterpart. Her counterpart from the source material was usually reduced to eye candy outfits that left very little to the imagination as where Winstead’s take has the character donning tracksuit look that comes off as tactical and more combat-like. And overall it just looks amazing as fuck if I may say so. My favorite scene with her happens in the 3rd act during the Funhouse raid. It’s probably one of the best moments in that sequence and it honestly had me thinking “she is one badass motherfucker!”. Winstead owns the role, there is absolutely no debating it. However, it Is somewhat disappointing to see her presence in the film being somewhat small. Initially I had my doubts about Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary, but thankfully they were proven wrong. Smollett-Bell brought a new take to the character that was both fun and fresh. And even though she doesn’t wear the character’s signature fishnet stocking, Smollett-Bell totally rocks the gold pants like a freaking badass! I also liked Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain. It took some time warming up to her take on the character, but once I did I enjoyed it a fair bit. 

Moreover to some of the other performances like Ewan McGregor, who I think did a fine job portraying infamous gangster Roman Sionis. Although there is a something done to the character I was kind of furious about, but we’ll get back to that topic later when I point out the things I did not like. But I digress, McGregor really immerses himself into the role and becomes this short tempered, easily set off type of gangster that is determined to get what he believes is his by right. McGregor is a seasoned actor and it’s evident here with the quality he pours into his performance. Margot Robbie once again shines bright like a diamond as Harley Quinn. It’s almost as if the character and herself were destined for each other. The only complaint I have with her performance is that there were a few instances in which she over does the Brooklyn accent. Which was a little annoying, but it’s a minor nitpick that can be easily overlooked. But I digress. Robbie has a lot of fun with Quinn this time around and some of it pretty damn amazing, especially with the choice of color pallets they went with in the cinematography. It’s really colorful like earlier we see Quinn blow up the Ace chemical plant as the ultimate “fuck you!” to the Joker in a drunken rage for dumping her and throwing her out into the streets. This platter of colorful shots is seen again later on in the film during the police station raid, in what I consider the film’s best moment. Harley basically goes in with a teargas gun and it taking on the cops with gas and glitter grenades. The scene is colorful and hilarious, and I adored the slapstick sense of humor that was incorporated into the action sequence. Now I would be doing the film a massive disservice if I didn’t mention the film’s soundtrack, which is pretty amazing. Love or hate the movie, you cannot deny that the soundtrack is on point and kicking all kinds of ass. 

Now that I’ve said everything I loved about Birds of Prey, and it was a lot great stuff to unload. Now I have to talk about the things I did not like. And here is where things may get a tad bit controversial. Some may agree. And some may outright lambast me for saying it. But the film’s overall tone handle’s the topic of toxic masculinity all wrong by painting literally every male character in a negative light. Seriously, you will not find a single male character in BoP that is in any way good towards women. The film portrays all men as sexist, violent towards women, or having violent tendencies. And are untrustworthy towards women. I get what message BoP was trying to get across with this narrative. But the way it went about it was all wrong. Yes showcasing toxic musicality and the violent patriarchal system of misogyny against women is something that is deserving of being told on the big screen. But not all men are trash, which is something the film failed to grasp in it’s plot. A great example of praising feminism and putting patriarchal misogyny on blast is 2017’s hit Wonder Woman, and 2019’s Captain Marvel. Both films showcased the uphill battle women face in a man’s world, but also portrayed male allies. Men who did not look down on the opposite sex, but rather respected them as equals and fought alongside them in the good fight against evil. This is storytelling done right, sadly a memo that BoP must not have received during it’s developmental phase. Which while I’m on the topic of it’s development, whoever chose the title of the film really needs a demotion. “Birds of Prey: & the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn” is simply too long of a title. To be frank, I don’t think the movie should even be called Birds of Prey as none of the Birds are formed together until the very last 15 – 20 mins of the film. Nor do the birds really get ample time to shine since Harley hogs the spotlight from start to finish. A more appropriate title for the film would have been “Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey.” Which is ironically similar to what the studios went with after it’s opening weekend. But to be frank, it’s too little, too late. 

I love actress Rosie Perez, she’s a very talented actress that is highly underrated in my opinion. She  a good match for the role of Renee Montoya. However, the way the plot portray’s the character was irksome. In the movie Montoya is seen as a joke in the GCPD. No male cop respects her. And her own boss basically steals every single bit of credit that rightfully belongs to her. This does the source material of the character a great disservice. In both the comics, novels and even animated series Montoya is viewed as a highly respected member of the GCPD. Often at times she is considered as one of Commissioner Gordon’s right hand LieutenantEven taking charge when Gordon himself is out of commission for whatever reason. Yet, here theres no indication that she and Gordon are even colleagues as she doesn’t work at the main station nor is he even referenced. This is the first time Montoya is given time to shine on the silver screen and her debut is massively botched not by Perez by any stretch, but rather by poor writing. Which is another thing. Early on WB made it clear to fans that BoP would have an LGBT+ presence in a really big way. Yet, moviegoers were queer-baited with a scene so short it lasts for maybe 1.5 seconds. A literal blink and you’ll miss it early on in the movie. And as for Montoya? The only indication made that she is a lesbian is through a voice over done by Margot Robbie as Harley in one scene when referring to Montoya’s ex girlfriend who happens to work in the Gotham City DA’s office. The characters have zero past romantic chemistry between them and the only thing suggesting that they once dated is a the voice over. In my opinion, the studios likely did this to avoid issues in certain markets. Which is honestly a lazy cop-out. Which is a running theme you will notice with BoP. It has a plethora of brilliant ideas but never quite follow through with them to be great. 

Another example of queer-baiting that the film mildly suggests that Victor Zsasz and Roman Sionis might be gay, or bisexual at the very least. But beyond hints and suggestions, just like the Montoya fiasco BoP never quite settles on it. Which is a real shame because it could have worked. But more on Roman Sionis, for those who aren’t aware, he’s a mid tier villain in the Batman rogue gallery and is most notorious for his signature black mask, hence the name Black Mask. But we don’t really get to see him in the mast a whole lot here. In fact, he doesn’t done the mask until midway into the 3rd act, for which he is seen wearing for mere portion of the climatic final battle sequence in the funhouse. After that he, surprise surprise, takes the goddamn mask off! Really? That’s like Bane taking his mask off after wearing it for a mere 5 mins. Or Joker deciding to take a wet wipe to the face because he can’t have all this makeup on before his big showdown. Which while I’m on the topic of Joker. McGregor does a fantastic job as Sionis. But he never quite achieve’s the presence of main villain in the film. Because even though he isn’t at all in the movie. Joker casts a massive shadow over the entirety of the film. From members of the BoP continuously bringing up his name, to Sionis and his gang to the officers of GCPD. Joker is literally everywhere in this movie and at the same time not. And it’s hard to take the threat of a big bad gangster like Sionis seriously when you’re constantly asking “I wonder what Mr. J is doing right now?” Or “Where is the Joker’s gang in all this?”. I’m no fan of Leto’s Joker. To be frank, he’s my least liked incarnation of the character. But considering this film is a direct sequel to Suicide Squad, it’s a damn shame we didn’t true closure to the Harely/Joker arc that began in the former. 

Final Verdict: BoP is a lot of things. It’s wild and full of stylish creativity that it deserves credit for. What it was really trying to be was a fun lighter tone answer to the dark gritty nature of Joker (2019). In some ways it succeeded, while in other ways it failed. I’ve bounced back and forth wether or not I liked or hated BoP. There is no true short answer. Because there is enough stuff in BoP that I absolutely loved, but also there were stuff I really hated. All in all, BoP isn’t a terrible movie, but it isn’t the masterpiece that it could have been. It’s still a watchable film, if you keep expectations at it’s lowest. 

Rating: 6/10

In Retrospective: The Transformers Series


Summer is in full swing, which means only one thing; Blockbuster season at the box office! Among the many releases during this time of the year are popcorn flicks. You know the type. Massive explosions, hot girls in skimpy outfits, angled camera shots, larger than life villains, and a story that is so mindlessly ridiculous that you’re better off just checking your brain at the door. And when it comes to popcorn flicks of a larger than life magnitude there is no better master of the art than filmmaker Michal Bay. Here I review the latest installment of the Transformers franchise Transformers: The Last Knight, as well as examine the franchise as a whole and highlight where it went wrong.

Over the last decade, the Transformers franchise has gained a reputation for all the hallmarks that make a summer blockbuster. Love them or hate them you can’t deny that the films have made a tremendous impact on the summer movie season, particularly at in box office numbers. However, the latest installment, Transformers: The Last Knight has performed quite poorly both domestically and abroad in certain key markets when compared to its predecessors. Domestically this is the lowest grossing film in the series. It has also seen a significant loss in its audience during its second week in several prominent markets. A small loss is acceptable and usually happens anyway, but not by a huge percentage. While the TF series gradually spiraled downwards regarding the quality of writing, it has always proudly embraced its reputation for being a sure cash grab at the box office with each film making more or as much as its previous installment. But one could argue that despite its repeated success over the years the series has flouted in a box office bubble of its own design. And like any bubble, it’s only a matter of time before it pops and everything comes crashing down.

While some people say the franchise as a whole has been total garbage, I argue that it hasnt. At least not entirely anyway. I still remember the opening day the first Transformers movie was released. It was 2007, Bluray and HD DVD were locked in a heated battle for dominance over the physical media market, Paris Hilton spent 23 days in jail, Britney Spears shocked the world by shaving her head. And the final installment to author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ was released. 2007 was quite a year for controversies, scandals, and entertainment. But among those was awaiting a sleeping giant in the form of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. Despite some unsureness, TF proved to be a success both commercially and critically. It had a decently well-written plot that had a layer of depth but was also simple enough to be relatable by the majority of moviegoers. There was enough action to knock your socks off six ways come Sunday. But more importantly, it gave us characters that we connected with in some form. TF delivered on all the right elements in the right timing to connect with its audience for its time. All was right in the world, and for once a live action movie based on a kid’s product was a success… But then TF: Revenge of The Fallen was released. And thus so began its descent into eternal damnation.

Revenge of The Fallen took everything that was great about the first TF movie and essentially defecated all over it. Instead of growing and evolving these characters we were given an inferior plot that mostly shadowed by a mind numbing amount of action and cheap humor, followed by an excessive amount of fan-service of Megan Fox in suggestively angled shots. Then, of course, there were those stereotypic Autobots meant for tung and cheek laughs but ultimately came off as very offensive. What made it worse was that the film’s plot centralized around the relationship of the two lead protagonists and their attempt to repair their damaged relationship. Only to see it meant for nothing in the next sequel when actress Magen Fox was suddenly replaced by Victory Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Dark of The Moon due to some poorly worded choice of words by Fox at the time.

Her replacement was meant to continue the franchise without requiring her involvement, but instead signified a grim outlook on the cute and sometimes awkwardly corky courtship that began between the protagonists in the first TF. While DOTM was by no feet a great film, it was still a slight improvement from ROTF. And in my opinion, the franchise really should have concluded there with a complete reboot to overhaul the franchise back to its grassroots given some time… But nope! We got “Age of Extinction”; a sequel with no reason to exist except to pump out more bucks at the cinema.

Suddenly Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky was out and replaced with Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager. And look, I’m a fan of Wahlberg. There are quite a few of his films that I hold in high esteem. But a Transformers film is not one of them. That was a huge miscast by the studios in my opinion. Terrible acting, mundane plot and an over excessive use of explosions and female objectification. Simply put, Age of Extinction is 2 hours and 45 minutes of my life I will never get back again… And so finally this brings me to the main course of this article, TF: The Last Knight. The latest installment to what has come to feel like a never ending road of bad decisions for the franchise. For a film like “Transformers,” where Optimus Prime is a prominent figure featured in every trailer and poster, we end up seeing very little of him. The majority of Prime’s screen time are scenes already shown in the advertisement, which is a damn shame considering he is supposed to be the leader of the Autobots and the poster-child to the entire franchise. Not featuring your main face of the brand in the film would be the equivalence of a Batman movie that featured no Batman. Or a Spider-Man movie that didn’t even involve the web-head. Simply put, it’s a friggin bad idea! Instead, we are given an over abundance of Mark Wahlberg. Even Isabela Moner, who was given a strong presence in the advertisement as the new fresh face of the franchise was under-utilized. It is disappointing considering there was a great opportunity to use her character to connect viewers to someone they could relate to.

My only assumption to justify this travesty of a film, and greater tragedy of a franchise is that they either A: thought the audience was too stupid to comprehend a real story and character development. Or B: chose this as the least worse possible choice out of a slew terrible ideas. Which I certainly hope they went with the latter in this scenario. But I digress. One can only hope that TLK is the last of the franchise. But sadly it is not likely. And it is very plausible the franchise won’t be dead and done for many more years to come.

Review: The Mummy (2017)

Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Written By: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson.

Genre: Action/Horror/Fantasy

Plot: An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

Reviewed by Clifford Kiyabu (The Doctor)

Rating: 5/10

Shared universes are all the rage among moviegoers currently, so it’s only fitting that the film industry would as well too. This, of course, is partly due to the success of Marvel/Disney’s MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and more recently Warner Bros’ DCEU. Despite the bombardment of criticism the franchise has received by critics (pre-Wonder Woman), it has still proven to be very lucratively pulling in well over $2.9 billion to date at the worldwide box office. Ultimately, it is the moviegoer, not the critic who decides its fate. But I digress, just about every major studio in Hollywood has joined in on the current trend in some compacity may it be by entering a partnership with another competing studio or starting a shared universe of their own. Which brings me to Universal’s Dark Universe, an extended universe which serves to reboot all of their classic Universal Monsters with a more modern take on them. Yeah sure the idea does sound somewhat intriguing to hear, but in all honesty, there hasn’t been any real demand for it.

Despite all the negative reviews published on The Mummy, I still went in with a relatively open mind. And as a credit to the movie, I actually got some entertainment out of it. Likewise, I also had some grievances, too. The Mummy commits quite a few cinematic sins. Most notable is the lack of character development. It seems as though most of these characters are launched into the plot with very little development. Now that is not to say there is zero character development here, of course, there is some, just not enough to give us any real clear cut vision behind some of these character’s motivations and hints as to where their developing agendas lie. It also has a problem with delivery and execution on humor. Yes, it is first and foremost a horror/action. But it also attempts to tap into the same formula the Brendon Fresher Mummy films succeeded with when mixing action-horror with a subtle touch of humor. The problem here is unlike the Fresher films which came off as charming and engaging. This flick, however, comes off as dull and out of place. A good example of this comes directly from my experience. There are a few particular moments in the mummy that I felt were crafted to incite the audience into a roar of laughter, or at least a few chuckles at best. Instead, my theater room was so soft that the sound of a pin hitting the floor could be heard from across the theater room. It was during these moments during the movie that I would recall the long-running gag on the animated series Family Guy in which a lone ostrich sat in the stands giving a single sarcastic “HAHA!”.

Moreover, I felt an issue that kept coming up in The Mummy was its chemistry. More particularly the chemistry between Tom Cruise and the impressive Annabelle Wallis. Both of them are great respectively on their own, but as a pair, I wasn’t feeling it. Their romance felt more manufactured than organic. And that is, in my opinion, a major mistake when trying to establish a sense of history and weight in your characters. However, despite all the problems I’ve pointed out about The Mummy, and I’m sure I could go on about it even more. I honestly felt that some critics were a bit harsh. And I especially believe that some of that stem from the constant reminder that it truly wasn’t all that long ago that we got the last Fresher installment. Yes, it’s been nine years since The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) was released, and yes I guess that is considered a long enough gap of time to warrant a full reboot to the franchise. But it doesn’t change the fact that the impact of the previous films still lingers in our minds. It also had a lot riding on it for being the flagship film of the Dark Universe. Which caused a lot of raised eyebrows considering that there were last minute reshoots made for another Universal film called Dracula Untold (2014) which was originally meant as the official launch of the Dark Universe, but was later extensively downplayed when The Mummy was in development. There is no doubt that some felt rubbed the wrong way by this sudden change of direction, especially since Dracula Untold was a success at the box office for Universal. And despite its problematic plot holes and over the top cheesiness, despite all its flaws, it was still a somewhat decent popcorn flick.

But I firmly believe there is still hope for this franchise that nobody asked for, and it will depend on the steps Universal make in the upcoming years. Especially with its next installment. Right now the franchise is at a critical crossroads point. Some might argue that the franchise is already dead on arrival, but while that might be the case from a critical viewpoint. Money speaks louder than words. And right now The Mummy is sitting on a $377 million intake at the overall box office and still counting. It is also one of the largest box office openings in history for any Tom Cruise film in the European market. And the movie hasn’t finished debuting in the Asian market yet, so it’s world wide box office numbers is expected to continue growing as time continues. While The Mummy isn’t something I would recommend to see at the cinema, it is by no means the worst film of 2017.

Fear, Inc. (2016) Film Review

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Starring: Lucas Neff, Caitlin Stasey, Chris Marquette, Stephanie Drake, and Abigail Breslin

Written By: Luke Barnett

Directed By: Vincent Masciale

Grade: A-

Like most horror fans, Joe Foster (Neff), the lead character in the smart, surreal, and sadistically fun horror comedy, Fear, Inc., finds himself so hungry for a good scare this Halloween season, but feels constantly let down. Every haunt he goes to seems so predictable and not nearly real enough. After consuming so many gory, disturbing horror films and visiting haunts that put millions of dollars in to effects and art design to put you inside a hellish world, after a while it can lose the impact and feel like you’ve seen it all. How do you really outdo it? Especially some of these immersive horror theater experiences or even extreme haunts where you can get physically and possibly emotionally scarred? How far can you go in making a simulated living nightmare real when you know it is staged? Fear, Inc. plays with the question of what it would take for such a desensitized horror fan to really be immersed and believe in a personal horror coming alive around him and just how horribly wrong that could go. It’s quite an amazing feat just how many times the film pulls you back and forth between the mentality of this is real and this is just a masterful bloody, cruel illusion and all a part of the game. The end game is completely unpredictable, perhaps the real illusion our characters experience is control and any sense of safety.

Fear, Inc. is incredibly written, acted, and directed film,  especially being the first feature film by director Vincent Masciale. It has such a vibrant tone and energy I guarantee will be the fuel to the fire horror fans crave. I’ve been rather disappointed by a lot of horror films in the past few years and Fear, Inc. was really a breath of fresh air. It teeters between being pure horror homage fun and making you so invested in the horrors before you. It really is horror comedy perfection. The creators list Scream as one of their favorite movies and what they were looking to create something in a similar vein, they completely nailed it. There are about as many horror movie and genre movie references in this film that one could possibly fit, while still being its own unique story with relevant intriguing exploration on the current climate of the immersive horror theater and extreme haunt world.

The film is colorful, fun, witty, psychological, and most importantly is horror with a purpose. Horror comedy can be a very tricky thing to pull off, but Fear, Inc. excels at this too. The comedy doesn’t overpower the horror; you are utterly invested in it all. You care about the characters and are in the same position as them, enjoying it, but also realizing at a certain point this has to be real and you are horrified and fear for them greatly as the horrors unleash and the fun horror fanboy’s fantasy world and the grim, shocking reality collide and clash again and again. We are affected by this mind fuck just as much as Joe is so we are really experiencing this all through him, getting us to question what we would do in his shoes.

There’s some very interesting questioning of what crossing the line is with horror simulation, which I think is an equally fascinating and terrifying subject. It also questions would anyone of their right mind really want to be pushed so far to experience even seemingly real torment? And what type of person does a company like this attract, the people that willingly sign up to invoke real fear and a power play over someone in an environment where in a way they have permission to do this because the client “wanted this”. The nature of what Fear, Inc. as a company does is a bit different than extreme haunts, but it still is very obviously in the same realm and exploring it and inherent themes in their own way. With haunts and simulation experiences becoming more and more real, where there isn’t necessarily the safety net of thinking “Oh nothing can really happen to me, it’s all a show” if one seeks out an extreme enough production, Fear, Inc. tackling and really exploring these themes from many different angles is very interesting and offers great substance to the film. In fact, I think this subject matter is really its saving grace in retaining its individuality and having its own voice. Being an homage to so many horror films it would be easy to lose its identity, but I think it’s key that by the chosen subject matter, it manages to have it’s own identity and be its own surreal macabre journey.

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Things of course are pushed to the extreme here and you do need to suspend some disbelief that all this could be pulled off and the victim would perceive it a certain way, whether it’s fake or real. It’s well worth it to suspend that disbelief and play along, to lose yourself in the madness of it all. The one thing I wouldn’t have mind being dug in to more was this concept that this company made custom scares. I think it would have been more interesting to dive in to that client’s personal most crippling fears. I didn’t get a sense that anything that happened was Joe’s greatest fear he was being forced to face. Most of it was homages to all of his favorite movies and was fun for him to play and be a a part of it until of course things got a little too real. In some ways that limited his vulnerability and didn’t focus on fear itself as much as I would have liked. I think it could have been even more dark and fascinating, questioning the very nature of fear and how our own fears say so much about us and can push something out of us.

Hearing people who really do enjoy going to the most extreme haunts in the world, where they are being physically hurt and they come back again and again, this is why they say they do it; because it allows them to understand something about themselves and who they are in the face of true fear. Touching on that would have made the film that much more relevant, wise, and important I thought it might go there when I read “custom scares” were a part of the plot, but that would have just been a different way to go about it. Personally I think that could have propelled the film to greatness, but I totally respect that wasn’t the story they were quite looking to tell. Instead they took ones’ horror fantasies and twisted them on the person to show the devastation it could bring once it became more than a game. It was simply a different approach so I don’t have any real issues with this. As is it was quite an enthralling story.

fearincbreslinfear656The cast was absolutely incredible. Abigail Breslin, one of my favorite young horror starlets, had a great cameo in the opening that gave us a taste of what Fear, Inc. was all about. It was an intense, yet fun classic horror scene and let us in on the secret that this is not a game you can quit. Lucas Neff as the horror loving Joe was perfect. He nailed all of the comedic timing, he was loveable and relatable, and at times a bit insane, yet still realistic, for how much he relished in being the star of his own horror film by the hands of Fear, inc. Yet when it called for it the emotion and fear was there just as strong. I’ve been a fan of Chris Marquette’s for a long time and it was wonderful to see him in this as Joe’s right hand man and fellow horror buff, but much more cautious and the voice of reasoning. There were some great buddy moments between the two, but Marquette certainly held his own as well, especially when you consider the back and forth between supposed fiction and reality and how at times his character was on a different psychological playing field than the audience even realized.

This if my first time seeing Caitlin Stasey outside of The CW’s Reign and she was just as strong and at home in the horror realm with great emotional range. Patrick Renna (most well known for The Sandlot and The Big Green) brought his A creep game and the instigator for the warped world of Fear, Inc. to come in Joe’s life in the first place. There were a number of fun chilling moments with featured genre actors like Naomi Grossman and Maria Olsen. Really every actor gave a great performance, no matter how small the role was, which just made it feel like it was all that much more real and a compelling fight for your life adventure you could get lost in.

The film’s pacing really was a great strength as well. It gets higher paced and intensity as it goes on, eventually being a whirlwind of enticing meta slasher chaos. Yet it also takes its time and lingers on moments that deserve it. The escalating terror isn’t immediate of course, but the first act of the film doesn’t drag for a moment either. There was no one moment where I wasn’t totally engaged in the film. We spend time with our characters and really get a chance to connect and love them as well as just sit back and enjoy the wonderful horrorphile talk that really touches on the genuine love the characters, the audience, and clearly the writer and director feel for the genre, which really gives the film an infectious spirit that makes it an admirable horror entry among the likes of Scream and The Cabin in the Woods. This is a film not to be missed, it’s very much a film for the horror fans.

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Review: Within These Walls (2015)

MV5BMjE3MDYyOTQwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgxNjY0MTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Directed by: James Tucker
Written By: Kelsey Zukowski (screenplay) & James Tucker (story)
Starring: Kelsey Zukowsk, Laura Godown-Mortensen, Felissa Rose, Marv Blauvelt, Jessica Rogers, James Tucker, Kate Atack.

Genre: Horror

Plot: A prisoner in her own home, a captive in her own body. Assaulted and trapped with no one to hear her cries for help…and knowing no one will believe her if they do. This is the terrifying reality Alaina finds herself in when she moves in to the house her mother died in. At first she thinks it’s the loss of her mother that is haunting her, but she is soon shown it is something far more malicious and unrelenting. The spirit taunts her as it invades her body, mind, and soul, completely trapping her. Alaina has to fight for answers on what really happened to her mother if she has any hopes of survival. She must find a way to endure this monster who lives and breathes to rob her of her sanity as it demands a savage hold on her.

Reviewed by Clifford Kiyabu (The Doctor)

Rating: 8/10

My Thoughts: What is it about the paranormal that sparks our curiosity? It is in our very nature as human beings to be drawn to the unknown… To bask ourselves in that which we don’t understand. Or is it the thirst for answers that pulls us in? Or is it something else? What happens when we stare deep into the abyss in search of answers and something stares back?

Directed by James Tucker and written by Kelsey Zukowski comes Within These Walls (2015). A haunting and chilling tale of a young woman’s endurance to unearth answers behind her mother’s death. Her search leads her down a dark and turbulent path of both physical and mental torment. Her only hope for survival is to endure and persevere.

WTW combines both classic and modern horror in a disturbingly delightful way while also setting its own artistic mark in the indie-horror genre. There’s no denying the film has qualities that are inspired by such cult classics as The Entity (1982), but by no means does it have similarities to it, nor does it rely solely on the inspiration. No, it relies on its own originality, which is wonderfully displayed in the writing, directing and performances. It’s a breath of fresh air in my opinion. Many horror films today (even in indie-horror) rely too heavily on shock value to carry itself rather than allow the story do its job, WTW however focuses on the actual plot to guide the film rather than cheap chills and thrills to keep viewers interested. Which in a sense has also become a signature of MS Zukowski’s style of writing. Anyone whose read her previous works know that everything has its purpose, nothing in place is there for mere shock value or cheap eye candy. WTW proves that good horror doesn’t require A-List actors, a superior budget, or even an over the top production to be astonishing. All that is needed is a cast and crew whom are passionate about the work and are dedicated to the art of filmmaking.

Where the directing and writing is impressive without question, the performances by the cast also proved to live up to expectations. Kelsey Zukowski performance as Alaina Olsen is amazing. You feel her pain, her torment… her struggle. You want to see her fight through it all to beat the odds. This is largely due to how fluent Zukowski comes off in the role and how well she’s able to project her emotions in the role. Marv Blauvelt and Laura Godown-Mortensen, who played Alaina’s parents were fantastic. Both actors share a form chemistry with the lead actress on screen that comes off as natural and honest.

Final Thoughts: WTW proved to be as amazing and fascinating as it was disturbing. I believe in the saying less is more, and in WTW’s case, the less you know going in the more you’ll get out of it. I highly recommend.

Life Itself (2014) Film Review

Life Itself Poster

Roger Ebert is the person who first got me to both understand and love movies. His words spoke to me greatly and got me to see movies as something more, to let them really have an effect. His words flew off the page and allowed me to experience so much through them. That was when I really learned the power of words, because his words changed my life. I clung on to that and wanted nothing more than to express the same understanding in such a beautifully vivid way. Since then I have always reveled in the challenge of putting together the puzzle pieces of thoughts and emotions after a film ends and it’s left a mark on you one way or another. Ebert awakened something in 14 year-old me, something that has become such a vital part of me. He inspired me then and he only inspired me more throughout time. Ebert touched so many lives, some I’m sure he realized, while some of these people he never met. Life Itself will offer closure for those of us who he had this impact on. It’s a heartfelt goodbye and one more chance to remain connected to this one of a kind film critic and man. The film reminds us how lasting his impact will remain through his memory, his work, and his infectious spirit. Even viewers who may not be Ebert fans will get a captivating story of one man’s legacy and they’ll begin to understand why many of us regard him so highly.

Life Itself is everything a film on legendary film critic, Roger Ebert’s, life should be. It’s gripping, honest, heartbreaking, inspiring, and even has comedy sprinkled throughout, matching Ebert’s wit. Most importantly it’s a movie that really hits you and makes you feel such raw intense emotion. Ebert held the classic films in high regard and was very analytical with a film’s technical and intellectual aspects, but what was even more important to him was the unique experience that a particular movie held and what it made him feel. Life Itself truly is an experience; one with gut-wrenching emotion on many different levels throughout.

Siskel & EbertThe film hits all angles, not just on the emotions and thought it invokes in the viewers, but showing us so many aspects of Ebert’s life. We are taken from Ebert’s childhood, becoming an editor by age 15, to getting a job at the Chicago Sun-Times right out of college and falling in to the open position of film critic 5 months later. The film follows his life as he became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize and reflects on more troubling times like his battle with alcoholism. Life Itself spends the bulk of the time on Siskel & Ebert and the love-hate relationship between the two critics that might have initially been more hate, but over time stemmed in to a mutual respect and adoration for one another. Siskel’s replacement, Richard Roeper isn’t mentioned at all in the film however nor is there a single interview with him, which does feel a bit odd. I would have liked them to touch on this stage in the show and Ebert’s life, but for whatever reason they excluded this from the film.

The film wonderfully showcases just how large of an impact Ebert had on so many people’s lives, a few mentioned in the film include Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, and Errol Morris among many independent filmmakers who credit Ebert for drastically changing their careers and touching their lives. Scorsese talks about how he was at such a dark, low point in his life, ready to give up when Siskel and Ebert presented him with an honorary award at The Toronto International Film Festival, which he sites as a major turning point that drastically changed his life. Ebert saw the artistry, talent, and depth in Scorsese’s films, although he wasn’t always a fan of every film and didn’t hesitate to make clear just what he expected from him as a filmmaker. Scorsese says that at times Ebert seemed to recognize something in him that it took him years to discover about himself.

Life Itself is a very honest film. We are shown the true impact of Ebert’s outlook on film and the bigger picture, but we also see both Siskel and Ebert’s ego and relentless arguing (on and off screen) among their other flaws and complexities as individuals and together. Ebert didn’t want to portray anything but the truth about his life with this film. In an email to the filmmaker, Steve James, Ebert writes, “It would be a major lapse to have a documentary that doesn’t contain the full reality. I wouldn’t want to be associated. This is not only your film.” I think most of us will only respect him more for this. We are shown each chapter in Ebert’s life mostly in chronological order with various levels of Ebert’s fight with cancer weaved throughout.

LIFE ITSELFEbert sites his wife, Chaz, as the main reason he was able to go on fighting and still have such joy inside of him even when so much of the life he knew was being ripped away from him. Chaz is right there with him every step of the way with nothing but love and encouragement. We see a lot of lighthearted moments between them, clearly embracing each moment with the other and determined to keep the other’s spirits up. The film goes in to Roger and Chaz’s story, from when they met and how their love flourished from there. They saved each other in a way and their love is evident and completely heartwarming to witness.

There are so many wonderful little moments in Life Itself. It’s difficult to watch Ebert in the hospital and witness the struggle he faced. Some of these moments are the most touching though. This shows us his true character by allowing us to see him at his worst and there still being such a life to him. He never lost his love for film or his passion for writing and sharing that treasured cinematic experience with others. You can tell how much it killed him to leave his show, something that had become such a constant in his life for so long, but he didn’t let that defeat him. Ebert turned to his blog as his outlet and to his readers that were on this journey with him as the viewers of this film are. He acknowledged how difficult everything he was going through was, but we see such a spark of excitement when he got the chance to watch a film again. He explains how writing allows him to go in a zone, to escape from his troubles, and put his energy and spirit in each shot of a film he took in and each word he typed thereafter.

I’ve always respected that Ebert didn’t have the cynicism or prejudices towards certain film genres like other mainstream film critics. He still had a way of appealing to the masses. Ebert had such a vivid and emotional response to movies that you felt that much more connected to him, almost as if you experienced the film through him. He judged films for what he saw in them and what they made him feel even when it wasn’t a popular opinion or what others expected of him. Ebert was also fiercely loyal to the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago as a whole, which is nearly a character in the film itself. As he became more and more prolific he was given job offers left and right for the most well respected publications in the country. No matter how much money was thrown at him he never even considered it. He found his home and his colleagues were his family, there was no reason to look elsewhere.

Ebert could appeal to film scholars just as much as the average American; his reviews connected to people, spanning all ages and walks of life. A very important part of this is that he had a genuine love of cinema which is wonderfully celebrated in Life Itself. He wanted to like a movie going in to it and he was the first to recognize it when a film presented something of value, whatever it might be. He fought for the films he believed in. Ebert made friends with many filmmakers he respected, yet wouldn’t let these friendships cloud his judgment and his responsibility to give his audience an honest review. His voice would never falter or be compromised.

This made his work and perspective stand out from others, gave a new life to film critics, and even spawned a wider appreciation for film. This genuine love and voice that became such a vital part of Ebert never left him no matter how grim things became. He couldn’t talk, eat, or walk, yet he still lost himself in the movies and his craft again and again. In the film Ebert says that in his last year through his blog he became a stronger writer than ever. Most people would have lost the energy and drive, lost the passion, questioned why fictional character’s problems and the world they lived in mattered when their reality seemed so hopeless as their world was quickly ending. It would be so easy for him to flee from a medium that could likely remind him of his pain and suffering rather than giving him a way to fight through it. Not everyone is Roger Ebert though. His passion only became stronger, giving him something to hold on to dearly. He kept on writing and threw so much of himself in to it. Whether you admire Ebert’s writing and perspective as much as many did or not, his relentless determination to keep up with his passions, diving in to them even further, and letting his voice linger on for all those that cared to listen as well as for himself, is one of the most inspirational things I can think of considering all that he was up against. Ebert lost the ability to use his voice in one sense, but he never let his literary voice die. He had great strength and never lost that. Witnessing this is truly breathtaking. Life Itself is a moving cinematic experience I highly encourage all to engage in.

“The soldier of cinema, a wounded comrade who cannot even speak anymore but he soldiers on. That touches my life very deeply.” – Werner Herzog in Life Itself

Life Itself Roger Ebert

 

Review: Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Directed By: Jeff Wadlow
Written By: Jeff Wadlow (screenplay), Mark Millar (comic book) & John Romita Jr. (comic book)
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Clark Duke, Morris Chestnut, Jim Carrey, Lindy Booth, Augustus Prew, Olga Kurkulina, John Leguizamo.

Geren: Action / Comedy / Crime

Reviewed by: Mike Huntley (The Dark Knight)

Grade: B+

After the somewhat success of 2010’s superhero movie Kick-Ass, plans for a sequel quickly came up. Now, I’m not sure what all happened, but Lionsgate who distributed the first film dropped the sequel so Universal picked it up. Then, Matthew Vaughn couldn’t come back to direct due to scheduling conflicts so he just stayed on as producer. Co-creator of Kick-Ass, Mark Millar, decided on Jeff Wadlow to write and direct Kick-Ass 2. It was obvious due to the ending of the first film that McLovin’s character Chris D’Amico would be the villain in the sequel. Excitement really kicked in when Jim Carrey was announced. It’s been a long time since Carrey has been in an awesome movie and plus he has been in over the top superhero movies before with The Mask and Batman Forever so he seemed like the perfect person for a film like this. Unfortunately, Carrey didn’t like the violence in the film and publicly tweeted on Twitter that he didn’t feel right in promoting the sequel. Critic and audience reviews have been all over the place. But, this is a comic book world that is not for everyone. Kick-Ass is only for those who can handle over the top cartoonish violence and dark humor. If that ain’t your cup of tea then you have no business watching either film. So, is Kick-Ass 2 the sequel that we have been waiting for? In my humble opinion, Hell Fucking Yes!

Dave Lizewski has been wanting to become Kick-Ass again after spending some time just being a normal teenager. So, Mindy trains him to become a tougher crime fighter. Unfortunately for Dave, Mindy decides to hang up being Hit-Girl due to her guardian Marcus wanting her to have the life she should have had all along. Mindy tries to hang with the mean girls and the Heathers of her new High School, but quickly finds that being a normal teenage girl is almost as hard as being Hit-Girl. Dave on the other hand is dumped by his girlfriend Katie when Katie thinks that he is cheating on her with Mindy. So, Dave puts on the costume again and joins up with fellow superheroes like Dr. Gravity, Colonel Stars and Stripes, Night Bitch, and his buddy Marty who’s now Battle Guy and they form their own JLA known as Justice Forever. Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico wants revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his Dad so he decides to become a supervillain known as The Motherfucker and starts his own Legion of Doom. Now it’s an all out war in New York between Justice Forever and The Motherfucker’s army of supervillains.

I’ll say it now, Kick-Ass 2 rocked hard! I loved it. Now, was it better than the first film? Yes and no. Where the first film shined better was by having a much better villain. While Frank was a great foe, Chris/Motherfucker is not but his army sure as Hell is. Mother Russia was probably the best villain of the movie. That was one tough woman! She’s basically the Kick-Ass world’s version of Bane. That fight between her and Hit-Girl was insane. But, The Motherfucker with his S & M bondage costume was lame yet the kinda lame where I can laugh at for being so stupid.

I thought Kick-Ass (2010) had much better character development than Kick-Ass 2, but loved the escalated development of Mindy/Hit-Girl in this. It kinda reminded me of Spider-Man 2 where Peter Parker decided to quit being Spider-Man because it became too much and tried a normal life. I know some complained that this section of the story went into a Mean Girls/Heathers direction, but you know what? I was okay with that. I liked how these popular bitches were almost just as villainous as the dudes that Hit-Girl would fight and kill on the streets. And Mindy’s way of getting revenge on them was both gross and hilariously genius. If I could pick one thing about this sequel that I hated though, it would be the portrayal of Kick-Ass’ girlfriend Katie. She just came off as a fucking bitch in this movie. Now, I can understand how she could maybe get the idea of Dave cheating on her with Mindy, but she could have at least up front asked him about it instead of slapping him and calling him a rapist. And then she is out of the movie! What the fuck? They don’t even resolve this conflict? But yeah aside from a lame main villain, this was the big issue I had. I do kinda think they had too many characters to focus on, but at least they were interesting and didn’t annoy me.

I do like that Kick-Ass and his Dad had a better father/son relationship in this film unlike the first movie. Mr. Lizewski is very concerned about his son and doesn’t want him to be Kick-Ass anymore. And then there’s Justice Forever. These people are probably my favorite part of this sequel. Basically Kick-Ass has his own Justice League. It was just really cool seeing all of these people in costumes that looked goofy yet fun to wear. It’s like when you’re a kid and want to dress up as Batman or Superman. Colonel Stars and Stripes was awesome. I loved him telling the other members to watch their language and to not take the Lord’s name in vain. And how about the swear jar where Mindy had to put money in every time she cussed and then you see the jar at the end of the film and it has over flowed with cash?

The film was definitely a little darker than the first film in the violence department. This is the perfect example of escalation besides The Dark Knight. By dressing up in a costume, it inspired others to do so and when Kick-Ass killed Frank D’Amico, it inspired Chris to become a villain.

I love the final battle at Motherfucker’s lair especially the fight between Hit-Girl and Mother Russia.

The direction by Jeff Wadlow was not bad I thought. Although, I would have preferred Matthew Vaughn. But, Wadlow makes the experience fun.

The acting was fine. Aaron Johnson still kicks ass as Kick-Ass. Chloe Grace Moretz is still great as Hit-Girl/Mindy. Due to the way this film ended, I hope the next film will be a Hit-Girl movie. Fingers crossed. I sincerely think that Moretz could carry a film with this character. Clark Duke was fun as Marty/Battle Guy. McLovin was a lame villain as The Motherfucker/Chris D’Amico. I’ll take Mother Russia over this douche. Lindy Booth was hot as Hell as Night Bitch. I haven’t seen Booth in a film since like 2005 so it was great to see her again. Jim Carrey was awesome as Colonel Stars and Stripes. Definitely one of Carrey’s best performances. It’s a shame that he thinks so negatively of the film. John Leguizamo was good in his small role as Chris’ bodyguard Javier. Donald Faison who I haven’t seen in awhile was great as The Atom wannabe Dr. Gravity. August Prew who played Todd and replaced Evan Peters was just forgettable. Bring back Peters! Lyndsy Fonseca was wasted and turned into a bitch no less as Katie. What happened to that sweet girl from the first film? And Morris Chestnut was okay as Marcus.

Overall, Kick-Ass 2 was a very awesome sequel yet just lacked a few small things that made the first movie great. It’s a definite must watch if you loved the first film. If this is your type of superhero saga then welcome to Justice Forever and if not then, “HAHA! There’s a dog on you’re balls!”

Review: Words Like Knives (2013)

Directed by: Travis Legge
Written by: Kelsey Zukowski
Genre: Short / Drama / Horror
MPAA: Not Rated (But does contain mature content not suitable for young viewers)
Released: 2013
Starring: Kelsey Zukowski, Michael Wexler, Melissa Revels, Myke Wilson, Valerie Meachum, Michael Dilacova.

Synopsis: Words Like Knives is a dark, discomforting, and surreal psychological horror that focuses on a young girl’s inner turmoil as she tries to dismiss horrendous rumors that are being spread about her.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: They say rumors and knives are one and the same; both with an edge as sharp as it is deadly and those who weld it can strike without notice. The only difference between the two is while a knife can only kill us once, a rumor can kill a thousand times over… in the old nursery rhymes they teach us “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, sadly in today’s age words can in fact hurt you, and in some cases, do for worse imaginable. What the children of yesteryear lacked was social networking, but in the cyber age of Twitter, Facebook and instant messaging, bullying and malicious rumors run wild and ramped, leaving no corner untouched by its poison. Today you’re an innocent princess, an honor student, and loved by many. And then tomorrow you’re a slut, a whore, and the scum of the earth… and treated like a leper by those you thought you could count on… there’s no going back from the life changing damage caused by a fictitious rumor that began with something as simple as “I heard”, or “did you hear?” And even when everything is said and done, the horrendous lie remains polluting your life, and forever poisoning the minds of others with doubt in you. Because the thing about rumors is once enough people hear it, it takes on a life of its own, and the lines between truth and lie fade away.

Written by Kelsey Zukowski, and directed by Travis Legge, “Words Like Knives” is a dark psychological drama which bring forth the disturbing nature of bullying front and center, and portrays the abuse and horrid scrutiny many have to live with because of the cruel intentions caused by others. Zukowski’s screenplay is dark and disturbingly surreal, and at times, unnerving to watch. And coupled with Legge’s own brand of atmospheric style behind the camera, and the result invokes such raw emotion teeming from its cinematic pores. You cannot help but feel some level of mixed, raw emotion as you watch; it invokes a sense of emotional disturbance so brilliantly… Upon finishing my viewing of WLK, I was left provoked in thought, thoughts filled with many questions, questions only another viewing may shade light on… after I allowed it to sink in a bit, I eagerly drank in the film once more, and upon my second viewing I found the writing of WLK to be far more complex than originally thought from my first viewing, it’s not as simple as black and white, and the further I looked into it I discovered how multi-layered it is. I also found myself noticing details I hadn’t picked up on during my first viewing, which made the second viewing all the more enjoyable and worth the watch.

As for the acing: While I enjoyed the film and its narrative a great deal, the acting was a hit with a few misses, but generally I enjoyed the cast overall. Kelsey Zukowski delivered a star stellar performance in the leading role of Emma, she displayed a level of professionalism that was both daring and forthcoming of her, and is a perfect display that proves she can do more than talk the talk. In short, as both an actress and writer, Zukowski is arriving. Michael Wexler and Valerie Meachum delivered spot on performances as Mr. and Mrs. Price. What I found most impressive was how both actors handled themselves on screen, body language plays a big role to a great performance, and both actors showed a good display of that. Melissa Revels who played Madison, did fairly okay, although there were certain instances where I felt the delivery was underdone. But nothing that was by any means hindering to her role. My only issue with the acting came from Michael Dilacova and Myke Wilson. Both actors clearly gave it their best shot, and I commend them greatly for it, but I just wasn’t feeling their performance like I ought to. In my opinion, it felt like both actors were holding back…

Final say: Words Like Knives lived up to expectations and then some. While the nature of the content in the film is suitable for a mature audience, I recommend mature teens view WLK at least once, as many who have suffered the effects of bullying will find relation to this dark psychological horror. I highly recommend it!

Review: The Night Never Sleeps (2012)

Directed by: Fred Carpenter
Written by: Michael A. Lovaglio
Genre: Action/Drama/Crime
MPAA: Not Yet Rated (But does contain Nudity, Violence, Language, and Rape)
Released: 13 July 2012 (USA)
Starring: Dan Brennan, Eric Roberts, Russ Camarda, Armand Assante, Robert Clohessy, Stephanie Finochio, Jose Hernandez Jr.

Synopsis: Set in New York City and written by career cop Michael Lovaglio, “The Night Never Sleeps” follows the journey of New York Street Crimes Sargent Thomas Cavanaugh (Dan Brennan) during the course of one night as he and his partners Rourke (Stephanie Finochio) and Jablonsky (Robert Clohessy) hunt down murderers of one of their task force.

Review: 7/10

My Thoughts: George Orwell once said “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because tough men stand ready to do the violence on their behalf.” When the sun sets and the average working stiffs clear out, the animals come out to play. The drug dealers and prostitutes, the muggers, the peddlers and psychos, the streets become their playground, and all that stands between us and the injustice that lurks about are those whom put others before themselves.

Written by career cop Michael Lovaglio, “The Night Never Sleeps” follows the journey of a New York Street Crimes Sargent investigating a murder linked to multiple crimes which is quickly spiraling out of control during the course of one unfortunate night. Every officer’s worst nightmare is encountering that moment, that one defining moment on the force when the bad escalates into the unimaginable… For Sargent Thomas Cavanaugh (Dan Brennan) tonight will be that night. Similar in tone and narrative of the crime dramas of the 70’s and 80’s, TNNS offers an honest look at the gritty and morally corrupt streets of the big apple after hours. I’m not going to lie to you here: I’ve seen so many crime/cop dramas over the years, especially dealing with New York that the crime genre itself no longer strikes me with the level of appeal like it once used to… but I digress; Michael A. Lovaglio’s screenplay was something I found quite intriguing. It doesn’t try to be bigger than what it is, nor does it attempt to give you some kind of hidden message; it’s straightforward and to the point. It’s a story about vengeance and redemption of past mistakes, it’s about a cop going the extra mile and doing what must be done to put an end to madness, adding that with Fred Carpenter’s blunt gritty film style and the results were the perfect combination for a classic cop drama.

The film is mostly split between officer Cavanaugh (Brennan) and Iceman (Camarda). What’s interesting is how opposite these two are: Cavanaugh is a dead to rights honest cop just trying to keep the sickos and scumbags off the streets the best way he can, though his methods on how to deal with crime could be viewed by some as a tad bit extreme as for as procedural protocol dictates. Still, Cavanaugh has his reasons. However, Iceman on the other hand, has no reasons; he’s not killing for money or the drugs, though those are bonuses for the line of work. He murders, steals and rapes simply because he can, and because he can, he will. The level of extreme that Iceman’s personality tip toes on was a fine line between anarchy and madness. What I admired most about the film was the atmospheric tone it had, the brute honesty in the way it presents itself on screen, from the blunt unadulterated rawness of the city, to the way each and every character is presented on screen; it’s very alluring to get lost in the moment at times. Now mixing that with the composed work of jazz musician Vincent Nigro, “The Night Never Sleeps” is an impressively well done movie. My only real complaint with this movie was that a few scenes weren’t entirely needed and only slowed the pacing down a tad bit in certain areas.

As for the acting: the acting is where the TNNS really excels. The cast consisted of some fine veteran actors of the 80’s and 90’s both mainstream and indie which included the talents of Robert Clohessy, Armand Assante and Eric Roberts, whom did magnificent in their performances. Their presence added a touch of nostalgia that was very much appreciated. Dan Brennan, the film’s lead, did a fantastic job as officer Cavanaugh. Having seen Brennan in “The Video Guys” and “Maggie Marvel”, I already knew what to expect out of him performance wise. However, I was really impressed to see him pull off a less comedic-more serious character role for a change; it was different yet enjoying. I’ve heard of stuntwoman Stephanie Finochio by reputation for her remarkable work on so many different projects over the years, but TNNS is the first time I got to see her performance as an actress. And I must say, she handled herself on screen pretty well as Officer Rourke, her and Brennan definitely have good on-screen chemistry going as partners.

Robert Clohessy did pretty well as Detective Jablonsky, his performance was well done for the role. Now anyone who’s watched their fair share of films from the 80’s and 90’s will easily remember Armand Assante. Armand, whom is classically known for his tough guy roles, did great as Inspector Romanelli. He brings a sense of authenticity to the film with his tough as nails New York attitude. Eric Roberts proved satisfactory in the role of slumlord/pimp Hector, the thing about Eric as an actor, is he fully enjoys playing the part of the bad guy, you can see he’s most comfortable being the villain to a degree where he embraces the role entirely. His performance was noteworthy.

But the main attraction for the film was Russ Camarda, who delivered an extraordinary performance as Iceman. I found myself fully engulfed into the film every time Russ’ character appeared on screen, you loved to hate him and hated yourself for wanting to see more of him in the film. His actions are irredeemable and unforgiving. The Iceman is a strong representation of, in a lack for a better work, humanities’ dark side. Now adding that with Jose Hernandez Jr. performance as Vargas, Iceman’s laid back business partner, and the end result is a yin & yang style character chemistry that blends well together.

Finale Say: The Night Never Sleeps was a very enjoying film; while it did have its fair share of flaws, mostly dealing with pacing issues, it was still a well done film all things considering. I recommend it.

Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

The Cynic here, with my first truly ‘negative nancy’ review of the year. Not because this film was the first one thus far to rub me the wrong way, but because it was the first one to actually upset me enough to want to bitch about it. So here goes, read it or not, it’s your choice.

Critique: Before I begin, allow me to explain that I am a huge Fanger. I love vampire novels, stories, movies, TV shows, and I love them to death. So when I find one that just completely fucks up the original lore and makes the myth itself into a joke, I challenge it to no end. This was the case (dare I say, ‘war’) with the Twilight franchise. It turned the vampire lore into a big pathetic gay joke that even George Takei himself cringed at the sight of. Oddly enough, that was NOT the case here. Other than the vampires walking around in direct sunlight with no explanation to that effect whatsoever, I didn’t really find all that much to complain about regarding the lore/mythos of Vampire.

No, what I did find to complain about here was pretty much every single thing else in this film, from the history, the story, the pacing, the special effects and more importantly, the visual effects. Honestly, was this film shot on camcorders? The visuals were God awful. It was like I fell asleep and dreamt this movie, it was that bad. So where to begin? Where to start, and what to discuss? I guess I’ll save the best for last, so let’s go with the first thing on my list; The Story. It was horribly written, period. It was just not well planned out, which isn’t asking much seeing as were it got its source material from, but still. It should have been handled better. I didn’t feel the presence of Lincoln and who he was until well after he became President, which was damn near half way through the movie.

And the story between Mary Todd and Abraham was just horribly put together. They were the most important people in each other’s lives, and they turned her into a side character only allowed to show up just to acknowledge that she was still alive Hell, Mary Elizabeth Winsted was the only breath of fresh air in this film (and that’s not just because I think she’s totally beautiful). The backstory on the vampires were poorly written, and though it wasn’t a complete foul up on the lore itself, I feel like they just gave the quick history lessons that it did to get past it and move on to the rest of the movie, which was a total failure right there, because when you watch a vampire movie it’s not about the action, but about the history of said vampires. You don’t gage the kind of characters they are by the people they present themselves to be in the story NOW; you gage the kind of characters they are by the history in which they’ve lived from their first kill to their introduction in the story. That was completely absent here, and it was clearly noticed by a Fanger like me.

And fast forwarding through the whole of the Civil War just to show off Gettysburg? That was just a horrible choice by whoever wrote this and made me feel like they thought me an idiot that wouldn’t recognize any other Civil War skirmishes other than the main ones. Anyway, let’s move on to the next thing on my list that plagued me; the Special Effects. There isn’t much to say here other than; it sucked. It totally and completely sucked. And when that vampire threw a fraking horse at Lincoln, I swear that every single person in the theater must have heard me laugh my ass off. It was just, that whole scene was horribly, horribly done. I honestly do not understand how movies are made these days. How can certain movies with little budget end up with amazing special effects, while other films with huge budgets give birth to such garbage? Seriously, I don’t get it.

Next up… demanding to know exactly why they chose to make this film using footage that made it look like it was all shot on 1980s camcorders. Yes, next up is the Visual Effects, people. Suffice to say; it fucking sucked, and unless I kept my eyes completely open as wide as possible and continuously drank from my drink, I would have thought myself asleep having a nightmare that I was watching ALVH instead of Brave, playing right next door. Unfortunately, every time I slapped myself I realized that nope, I was still awake and still here watching. Did they do it to get that classic 1800s feel? Maybe try and take us into their little twisted world where one of our greatest Presidents was in fact, a man who only became the Commander in Chief to slay a few hundred southern vampires? No? Whatever the case, it was a piss-poor choice and I did not like it.

Alright, I need to close because I’m only finding more disgust here. So with that, I give you the last straw, the main complaint, the one thing that just made me cringe with shame; the History of Abraham Lincoln. First the book, now a movie, soon to be common knowledge by young folk who will grow up to write essays in high school that’ll be read by teachers who will crap themselves then quit their jobs out of a loss of respect for mankind and their fellow Americans. To think that this – a movie – could have that kind of impact, downright terrifies me to no end. I’d spew some line about Abraham Lincoln rolling over in his grave, but someone might end up commenting back that he might not be in there, because he could be a vampire. Yeah, go fuck yourselves.

My Final Say (that will never, fucking, change): 4/10