Archive for the ‘HT Schuyler’s Movie Reviews’ Category

Carrie Review

Posted: October 22, 2013 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

Carrie-New-PosterWritten by HT Schuyler

Rated 14A for strong violence, language and disturbing elements.

Directed by: Kimberly Peirce.

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort, Gabrielle Wilde, Portia Doubleday and Alex Russell.

Carrie was a 1976 film directed by Brain De Palma and was an adaptation of horror legend Stephen King’s first published novel. It starred Sissy Spacek as the titular character and Piper Laurie as her batshit crazy mother. It was a pretty damn good film and is still very much a horror classic. What does this have to do with this version of Carrie? Nothing. So for this reason I am going to do my very best not to compare this new film with the 1976 one because even though I like comparing remakes to originals, I find this film different in the sense that it feels more like a re-adaption than a straight up remake, so I will be fair and judge it as so. All this being said, is the film any good?

Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a young girl who is an outcast at her school. Apparently she attends Asshole Academy, because almost everyone seems to hate her for really no reason, other than the fact that she’s different. One day she experiences her period while taking a shower in the locker room, so all the girls start teasing her and from then on out hate her because she didn’t know what a period was. Carrie lives with her religious psycho mother Margaret (Julianne Moore), who mistreats her and locks her in a closet and makes her pray. As Carrie is pushed over the edge she starts to realize she has a bizarre power to make things move, and is forced to utilize these powers to their full effect when she is the victim of a twisted prank while attending prom.

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You’re Next Review

Posted: September 5, 2013 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

PHinv2eFvOSslq_1_mRated 14A for strong bloody violence and sexual content/nudity.

Directed by: Adam Wingard.

Starring: Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn and Joe Swanberg.

You’re Next is a film that caught my attention due to the high level of praise the film was receiving. Critics seemed to be eating this movie up. Critics, liking a horror movie? What madness is this?Nevertheless I was eager to see this movie just to see what all the fuss was about, yet I had pretty low expectations given what I’d seen from trailers and such. So, does the movie deserve all this hype?

The Davidson family all come together to celebrate their parents anniversary, and one of the sons, Crispian (AJ Bowen), brings along his Australian girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson). As the family argues around the dinner table, they come under and attack and their family reunion becomes a fight for survival, as masked men attack their home and kill them off one by one.

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Kick-Ass 2 Review

Posted: August 22, 2013 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

kick_ass_2_poster

Written by HT Schuyler.

Rated 14A for language, strong violence and sexual content.

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow.

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Morris Chestnut and Jim Carrey.

Kick-Ass was one of my favourite movies of 2010; it had great action, a clever plot, funny characters and dialogue, and overall was just a blast from start to finish. When I first heard that a sequel was on the way, I couldn’t help but be excited. But as more and more information about the film was revealed, my excited started to die down. For one, Matthew Vaughn was no longer returning as director, and instead director Jeff Wadlow was helming the film, director of the extremely mediocre Never Back Down. So that had me worried. Aside from that there were several recasts, underwhelming marketing and even Jim Carrey himself speaking out against the film because of its violence. With all these things in mind, I wasn’t expecting greatness from this movie, and all I really wanted was to have a good time with it. So, does Kick-Ass 2 indeed KICK ass, or can it KISS my ass?

After the events of the first film, Dave, AKA Kick-Ass (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is trying once again to live a normal life. He soon finds out that Mindy, AKA Hit-Girl (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is still going out and fighting crime, so pretty soon he decides to join, and before long he’s back on the street trying to fight crime. After finding out about a special team of wannabe superheroes called Justice Forever, run by Colonel Stars and Stripes (played by an almost unrecognizable Jim Carrey), Dave teams up with them to protect the city streets.. Together they fight crime as Mindy tries to lead a normal life, but soon their safety is tested as Chris D’Amico, AKA Red Mist (played by Christpoher Mintz-Plasse), returns as The Motherfucker, and plans to destroy the city and have his revenge on Kick-Ass for blowing up his dad in the first movie.

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The Conjuring Review

Posted: July 30, 2013 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

the-conjuring-poster

Written by HT Schuyler.

The Conjuring was my most anticipated film for 2013. It was getting great reviews from test audiences, has a great cast, sounded scary and above all else, was the latest film by James Wan, who is easily one of my favourite working directors. After it started getting many positive reviews my anticipation grew, and finally I stepped into the theatre and was ready to see what I was sure was going to be a great horror experience. So…was it?

In 1971, The Perron family moves into an old house out in the country with high hopes and lots of ambition. But soon things start getting freaky as clocks stop moving, apparitions keep appearing, and a collection of chilling events lead them to enlist the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) two paranormal investigator who go and inspect the house, only to notice many sinister warnings with insidious intentions, leading them to fear for the lives of the family members, causing them to take on their most terrifying and difficult job of their careers.

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HT Schuyler: The Bling Ring Review

Posted: June 20, 2013 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

The_Bling_Ring_OneTV_Poster_1_640x948

Rated 14A for language, sexuality and teen drug use.

Directed by: Sofia Coppola.

Starring: Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga and Leslie Mann.

The Bling Ring tells a story so absurd and bizarre it almost comes off as science fiction. A bunch of spoiled, intoxicated teenagers rob some rich people by simply walking in the house and taking what they wanted. What is even more baffling is how they got away with it for so long, without people even noticing their missing things or friends of the teenagers reporting them initially, but what is even MORE baffling is the fact that this is based on a true story.

Marc (Israel Broussard) is the new kid at his local high school in LA, a school which mainly consists of thieves, drop outs, troubled kids and overall just douche bags. There he meets Rebecca (Katie Chang), who takes a liking to him and the two or them start hanging out. But before long he notices her dark side, as she convinces him to rob houses with her, starting with friends then moving on to celebrities. Joining them is Nicki (Emma Watson), Chloe (Claire Julien) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga). What starts as a small activity soon becomes an addiction as they rob house after house, each one from a different celebrity. As their addiction grows soon the authorities get involved, and the movie depicts their rise and fall, with all the comes with it.

The film is displayed in a very gritty, realistic tone, and the acting compliments this greatly. Every actor portrays their character very realistically, seeming like real teenagers. This film seemed like a documentary at times because the acting is so realistic. Each character was selfish, absorbed, unredeeming and just overall a terrible person, and each actor plays it flawlessly. The most sympathetic character is the protagonist, Marc, and as you watch his journey from rise to fall you feel conflicted on his character, not sure whether to pity him or hate him for the situations he’s put himself in. Actor Israel Broussard does an excellent job with this character, and ultimately becomes the one person you feel for. Katie Chang’s character Rebecca is so crazy and driven in her motivations that she comes off as psychopathic and scary. Her characters goes through no transformation and very little development, but this just makes her that much more menacing and frightening, and becomes the one you hate and fear the most. Chang does a good job at portraying all of this, coming off as sweet yet sour, making her character really stand out. Emma Watson is the one in here that everyone is talking about, whether it be cause they’re a big Harry Potter fan, or because the trailers reveal Emma Watson’s character to be somewhat of a slut, which she is. Her character has a lot of comic relief, not that she’s particularly funny, but becomes her character is just so damn pathetic that you can’t help but laugh at her. She plays, for lack of better words, a spoilt bitch who is obsessed with style and her image. She really is the most unredeeming character out of all of them, and Watson does an excellent job. Breaking out from her typical “nice girl” label, she plays the character so well, really making a lasting impression and making you very excited for her character’s fall. Leslie Mann, an actress who is very hit and miss with me, actually does a very good job as Nicki’s mom, playing the sort of hippie, new age woman who is obsessed with The Secret and finding your inner self. Overall everyone does a good job, creating despicable characters you can’t really root for, but still enjoy watching.

The Good:

Before seeing this I had not seen any of Sofia Coppola previous films, a mistake I will soon correct, because the strongest thing this movie has going for it is the direction, shot very close, very realistically, and very unconventional. The film utilizes real news footage as well as other stock footage to give the film the more realistic feel, and it fits into the film seamlessly. Coppola took something that could easily have fallen into teen drama or raunchy comedy, but instead uses both those elements to make it into a crime film for the modern age, but instead of smart criminals or gangsters, the characters are shithead teenagers who get by merely on dumb luck. Marc plays the character who is introduced into the crime world, and then the story follows his rise and how that plays out, showing the characters living the life, enjoying their riches and non-stop partying, and then the inevitable fall. All these factors work perfectly, creating an interesting, entertaining and at some points even thrilling crime drama. The films premise, and especially the fact that it is based on a true story is just so mind blowing in how these teenagers were able to get away with all this for as long as they did, is just so engaging that it keeps you invested until the end makes you want to find out more about the true story once it’s done. Another thing I loved about the film is its message, the idea that all these celebrities are so absorbed in their life and own so many things that they don’t even notice they’re being robbed, and how these characters are constantly craving more and more things, wishing they could be these celebrities and live their lives, it almost becomes disturbing over how people crave these inanimate objects that ultimately mean nothing. I found that message to be very interesting and important, or at least that’s what I got from it.

The Bad:

Despite the story being very interesting and engaging, the movie itself does not necessarily have enough substance to fill the movie’s run-time. The movie is only an hour and a half but it feels shorter, due to the fact that the actual scenes with plot and story development are only about forty-five minutes. In the meantime, the run time is filled with scenes of the kids partying, doing drugs, smoking, and just looking at/trying on clothes. There are quite a few throw-away scenes that really serve no purpose but to fill the run time, which is unfortunate as it screws up the pacing and the film can become dull at moments as you’re waiting for something to happen. Also as I previously mentioned the character’s are very annoying and selfish on purpose, but their are moments where it just becomes too much and really takes you out of the film. While most of my flaws with the film are simply nitpicks, my overall complaint is just the lack of substance. The story is very interesting, directing excellent and morals that the film is trying to get across are great, but all of that combined does not really equal enough to justify a feature film, it would probably have worked better as a documentary or TV special. The added scenes to make this feature length seem very forced and ultimately add nothing to the overall film. The substance that is there is excellent, but the added scenes to drag out the film’s run-time are pointless are dull.

In Conclusion:

If you’re going in to this film expecting a fun, crazy teen comedy then you’ll be disappointed, as the film is actually very smart, artistically made and even deep at some moments. It is a very good film, but certain elements stop it from being great. I give the film an immense amount of credit for displaying teenagers in a realistic light, and the story that it tells is so crazy it becomes fascinating, but there is a lot of pointless filler in the film that really takes away from it, and stops it from becoming one of this years best. Ultimately, I still highly recommend this film, it’s worth seeing just for the story alone, and for Coppola’s great direction. Check it out.

7.5/10

the_great_gatsby_poster

Rated PG for sexual content, minor drug use and mild violence.

Directed by: Baz Lurhmann.

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Jason Clarke.

So before I begin I’d like to explain my relationship with this story, or should I say, lack of relationship. I have not read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name, and have not seen the 1974 film in its entirety, let alone the other renditions of it. The point of this introduction is to explain that my faults with the film are not directly from the story itself, as I’m sure the novel is great, but more from this particular adaptation, and how director Baz Luhrmann decided to adapt the novel to the big screen. How it compares to the novel I do not know, but I do know how it stands as a film on its own. How well does it stand? Well read on and find out.

Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is a young stockbroker who has just moved to New York, living in a small cottage beside an extravagant palace, owned by the rich and mysterious Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). One night he is invited to one of Gatsby’s famous parties, and soon he and the mysterious man become friends. Not long after their friendship begins he finds out that Gatsby is essentially using him to get to his hot cousin, Daisy, (Carey Mulligan) with whom he has had a past relationship. Only problem is, she’s married to the rich and pompous Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). So Gatsby starts seeing Daisy, they fall back in love, everyone gets drunk and parties, drama ensues and Luhrmann shoves another hip-hop song randomly in the film just for shits.

Despite what the marketing will tell you, Tobey Maguire is the real star of this film, with his character Nick Carraway literally carrying the story. The movie is really less about the love story between Gatsby and Daisy, but more about the Nick’s feelings of alienation and always being the third wheel in whatever situation. His story is overall pretty tragic, as he’s the only character who really cares about everyone, and is willing to do whatever is needed but is always overlook and not recognized. Maguire’s performance is excellent, capturing the moments of wonder, inner turmoil and ultimately despair and tragedy. He was by far the best part about the film for me, and I’ll get to DiCaprio next, but as far as I’m concerned Maguire stole the show, proving he is one of the most capable actors out there, playing a character so complex and experiencing so much, but still remaining that level of ignorance and innocence to the situations. Okay, that’s enough gushing over Maguire, now let me gush over DiCaprio, cause he’s beyond great. He plays the character of Jay Gatsby so well, and just absorbs the scenery and becomes the character, with subtle mannerisms, constant inner conflict briefly displayed by subtle body language, while still keeping a cool and calm appearance. He comes off as such a nice person, but still has that shroud of mystery about him, making him so much more complex that what is led on.

Joel Edgerton is another stand out, making his character a pompous dick, but never really going into cartoonish villain territory, and ultimately he becomes somewhat sympathetic during the end, making his character somewhat likeable, as he’s just doing what any real person would do in his situation, and becomes understanding and sincere. I mean yeah he cheated on his wife so he’s a douche for that, but she cheated on him with Gatsby so I guess they’re even. That brings me to Carey Mulligan. Now personally, I really like Mulligan, I think she’s a very talented actress and a rising star that is constantly surprising everyone. She’s beautiful, charming and very likable…in reality, not in the movie, here she’s annoying as shit. I don’t blame Mulligan, I blame the character, because honestly, Daisy is such a self-centred manipulative flake that I found it so hard to root for her. All she really does is complain about her lavish existence, wishing she could be with Gatsby, but because he’s poor she goes for the rich guy, but then once Gatsby returns and he owns more money than God she suddenly falls happily back into his arms…or does she? She still wants her husband but also wants to party and dance and then wants to go into town and then can’t decide between this or that but wait doesn’t she have a daughter? Not really adding her into the equation, are you? Also she knew Gatsby 5 years ago and was crazy in love with him, but didn’t think to connect that Gatsby to the one who throws crazy parties that everyone is always talking about? Really Daisy? Really? I know I sound like I’m being mean, but her character is such a poor representation of female lead characters, and I know it takes place in the 1920’s but she still could have had another defining feature other than just “that girl everyone loves”. Again, I don’t blame Mulligan, she did the best job she could with what was given to her. I blame whoever wrote the screenplay…which in turn would mean I blame Baz Luhrmann. Remember that, it’s going to be a common theme later on…

The Good:

As previously stated I loved the story of Nick Carraway, and how everything played out and came together for his character. While it may not be the main focus of the film, it’s always going on, you just need to look past the silly love story to see it. Also the three main male leads are all excellent, and I really praise their performances. Seriously, Oscar talk for them would be nice. There are certain points during the film when Lurhmann was off his crack and actually lets a scene play out, letting the actors do their thing, and I really appreciated that, and small moments like those when it’s not all about showing off how fast the editor can cut a scene where they actually develop plot, which is nice, because the story itself is very good. While I have many issues with the style this film decided to represent, I did really love the set and costume design, both of which are very well thought out, look gorgeous and make you feel you are in the 1920’s…that is of course until they start playing the latest hip-hop song by DJ Whatever-the-fuck. So, the moments of humanity and calmness to explore the plot are great, acting superb and set design and costume very well done and beautiful.

The Bad:

Oh…where do I begin? I know everyone loves Baz Lurhmann for his “style”, but personally, it’s that reason alone why I’m not a fan of his. He has this bizarre, A.D.D style of filmmaking, where it’s like he’s afraid to leave the camera on one thing for longer that half a second. Seriously, in the first 10 minutes the film had cut so many times I was getting a headache. Are people’s attention spans really that short that you need to be jumping from one thing to another so frantically that you hardly have time to figure out what’s going on? I understand during the party scenes that this is used to give you the sense of being there and what not, and that’s fine, it sort of works, but there are scenes where it’s just Nick and Daisy talking and it’s like the camera was having a damn seizure. Not every scene needs to be an action scene! Let the characters talk, develop, be on screen for long that the blink of an eye. IF ONLY BAZ LUHRMANN WOULD CALM THE FUCK DOWN then the drama and tension would be that much more satisfying, but as it stands it just feels…well, childish. So many scenes in the movie felt like a group of young school children putting on their first stage production of the novel, but before they went on stage they found their Uncles “special powder” and got coked out of their minds. The lines are rushed, the scenes too fast for their own good and the dialogue clunky and forced. Not to mention how over the top everything has to be, Gatsby reveals himself to Nick while fireworks are exploding behind him, for a guy who lives in secrecy he’s far from subtle. Now, luckily there is a point about halfway through the film when the movie does calm down and you are given a chance to actually become invested in what is happening, and I was thankful for that because I thought I was losing my damn mind.

Okay, time for the music. I know a big deal was made out of the fact that this period piece film was using modern day music for its soundtrack, getting a lot of very talented musician’s work playing during the film, but here’s my problem with that: I have nothing against the music itself, it’s fine, and they play some really great songs, what I have a problem with is the way they use the music. There are scenes where a modern song is just playing over what is happening, that’s cool, distracting, but whatever, it happens. What I don’t like is when characters are at parties or clubs, and the music playing their is modern day rap or hip-hop. Characters in this film are listening to music that hasn’t even been invented yet, it’s beyond distracting and overall pointless. There are plenty of good songs and music you could have used from the 1920’s to help set the tone and establish mood and all that, you don’t need a pop song playing! It’s just so beyond distracting and feels very forced, especially because the music playing seems like the last thing the characters would actually listen to. Luhrmann is trying so hard to make this movie “cool for the kids” for no real reason. Adapt the novel as best you can, you don’t need to make it “cool”, I’m sure it’s good enough as it is without you trying to make it appeal to the kids, he did the same thing with Shakespeare and now this. You don’t need an updated soundtrack to improve your period piece of a film, it really only exists to promote the artists and make the film more appealing for the kids. It would be like if someone redid To Kill a Mockingbird and had Scout and Jem dancing to deadmau5, it’s just unnecessary and distracting.

If The Cather in the Rye is adapted and Holden releases his angst by sitting around listening to the latest emo band, I’ll be fucking pissed.

So what is my point in all of this? It’s that the film is trying to be something that the source material is (assuming) not. The novel is about parties? Well bust out the DJ and let’s get a cool soundtrack to make it appealing. The novel is a romantic drama? Well that’s boring, let’s film everything so damn fast and hyper that the kids won’t be bored while we get this plot shit out of the way and get to the next music video. The novel’s overtones deal with societies consumerism and selfishness? Well let’s bring that in at the last minute to make a point before the end credits. The novel is a 1920’s romance drama? Well let’s make it in 3D for whatever reason. Look, I respect that the movie tried to do something new with the source material and Lurhmann is trying to make it as accessible as possible, especially for a younger generation, and you know what? If that was his intention, he did a good job. It’s fast, flashy, good music and has Leonardo DiCaprio, what more could the today’s generation ask for? The reason this didn’t work for me is because this is an adaptation of an classic novel that, I’m pretty sure, wasn’t THIS flashy and hyper, and probably had a lot more to say then this film is really trying to get across. The message is still there, but overshadowed by the rest of the confusion and fast paced events taking place. Style over substance, happens all the time, and is unfortunately the case here.

In Conclusion:

Despite my angry ranting, I don’t hate this movie. There is a lot about it that I like, I like the design of the time they live in, I love the subtext and message at the end, I love the acting, Nick’s story arc and some of the party scenes are well done. There is just so much about it that didn’t sit right with me. The hyper style of filmmaking, the out of place music, the director’s constant need to make this movie “cool and hip”, it just seems offensive in a way. I had similar problems with the Lurhmann’s Romero + Juliet, and I still have them here. The reason this film isn’t going to get the worst rating in the world is because I do actually recommend it to some degree. If you like style, the music and glamour that the film portrays, there is no way you’re not going to love it, and that’s fine, just because I’m a hard ass doesn’t mean everyone else has to be, and there is a lot to admire about the film, but it really won’t be one that I’ll look back on that fondly later on. Recommended if interested.

6.5/10

HT Schuyler: The Purge Review

Posted: June 8, 2013 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

thepurge

Rated 14A for strong bloody violence and language.

Directed by: James DeMonaco.

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge and Rhys Wakefield.

Okay, so I’ve had some issues with this movie before I even saw it. Why? Because I was constantly defending it. Everyone who saw that trailer had the same thought process: “Well that’s stupid.” And you know what? It is kind of stupid, the idea that for 12 hours you can do whatever you want and this somehow supports the American economy, seems absurd, right? But here’s where I get defensive; this plot, while it may be pretty out there, is no more absurd or stupid than any of those other dystopian future films. The idea that that emergency respond systems shut down for a night is no more crazy than say, The Hunger Games, where having a bunch of kids kill each other apparently keeps things, or Death Race, where prisoners get into bad ass killer cars and race/kill each other for the public’s amusement, or Gamer, where prisoners get into bad ass video game plot devices and kill each other for the public’s amusement. Now I know that the idea that one night of doing whatever you want magically solving all of the country’s problems is outrageous, and the idea that it fixes everything is pretty crazy, but the whole concept of no rules for one night a year really isn’t that crazy, compared to some of the other stupid ideas of the future there are out there. At least it’s doing something original, and for horror films these days, that’s pretty damn exciting. Alright, that was my own personal purge, now let’s dive into the film…

Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, a man who sells home security for people’s houses to protect themselves during the annual Purge, an event where all laws are forgotten for one night so people can release all their inner frustrations and hatred that they have built up throughout the year, must face his own personal nightmare as his young son Charlie (Max Burkholder) lets in a stranger (Edwin Hodge) to take refuge in their house from a gang of misfits (led by a polite yet crazy man (Rhys Wakefield)) who wish to cleanse their souls and kill him. They demand he return the man to them, only for the rest of the film to become a game of cat and mouse as James and his family try to survive the night, by whatever means possible.

Ethan Hawke seems to be on a house of horrors kick lately, with this and last year’s Sinister being about a normal man confronted with terror in their house, and he plays the role very well. He does the best he can with the material written, and has some beyond awesome moments towards the end when he gets to reveal his inner bad ass. Lena Headey plays his wife Mary, and aside from towards the end, she really just spends the entire movie looking scared and questioning everything her husband does. I would like to say her acting abilities were really showing here but unfortunately besides some great stuff later on she’s just sort of bare. The two kids played by Adelaide Kane and Max Burkholder do their job, but goddamn can they be annoying. The youngest child, Charlie, spends most of the night trying to get his family killed through his stupidity, and the daughter, Zoey, spends most of the night trying to get HERSELF killed through her stupidity. I suppose the acting was fine for what it was, but those characters were so tedious and annoying that anyone could have been playing them and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The “bloody stranger” played by Edwin Hodge is good for the most part, although admittedly he spends the first two thirds wandering around scared, but towards the end he also has some really great moments, especially a kick ass but also sort of touching moment with the family. The leader of the psychopaths that are after the stranger, Rhys Wakefield, is good at playing up the polite yet creepy vibe, but almost seems to overdo it and times and can even come off as comical in his bizarreness, not to mention certain character actions performed by him that seem very out of place and seem to only be there to add some extra “horror”.

The Good:

My first praise is obviously personal preference, but I really liked the concept. As bizarre as it may be I find it to be very original and well thought out. The movie doesn’t spend to much time explaining the politics behind the “Purge” and instead just uses it as a premise for the rest of the film, but at the end it actually has a lot to say and even ends on a questionable note asking audiences to think hard about the subject and events that took place, and what one would have done it that situation. The film has a surprisingly heavy message that I really didn’t expect walking into this, but was pleasantly surprised when it played out. While the first two thirds of the film are mainly set up, and very dull at that, the last 30 or so minutes of the movie were, to be blunt, fucking awesome. As overused the premise of people defending their homes is, I found this film did enough right with it to make it stick out, and some of the action scenes here are just straight up brutal. You see Ethan Hawke’s character finally snap, and begin his own personal purge, in a very violent and beyond entertaining level. The events that follow are so well done for a moment it made me forgive my previous complaints with the film. The movie also has some very tense scenes, and even some scary imagery, mainly due to the masks the intruders are wearing, but none the less it was effective. Though it uses tricks that have been used time and time again, the film was still very successful in delivery shocks, scares, moral dilemmas, and most importantly, entertainment.

The Bad:

As I previously stated, the first 50 minutes of the film are very dull…too dull. Despite the payoff being beyond satisfying, the build up is very slow, clumsily directed and times just really annoying. Most of the time is spent watching characters slowing search through their dark house with flashlights looking for someone, and it becomes old very fast and could have benefited from more things happening, at least something to keep the audience invested. I realize the attempt at building tension, but there is only so much tension you can build before you run out of substance. There is a certain event that happens early on that I won’t spoil because it doesn’t appear in any of the trailers, but it’s cool in concept at first, but once it’s done you wonder why it was even there and realize that it actually served no purpose except to give the daughter a bit more motivation, but really could have been taken out of the film entirely and it wouldn’t have changed the plot at all. Also the payoffs to a couple of key characters are very unsatisfying and even lazy in a way. A lot of films rely on the classic “deus ex machina” saviour device to get its characters out of sticky situations, but her the device becomes its own fucking character; seriously, basically every character at some points gets a deus ex and it becomes really annoying and once again, lazy, on the writer and director’s part. Laziness really is a key element that forms the negatives of this film, because it really had so much potential to do something with this really unique idea but ended up reverting back to the whole “home invasion” plot, which is fine, but you leave the movie really thinking it could have been more, it could have expanded on certain elements and still kept it’s tension and scares, but instead went for the same old same old in terms of plot points.

In Conclusion:

This is a film with a really great concept, some very smart morals and messages to get across, and some fucking amazing violent set pieces that really bring the film around, but when all is said and done, this is just another “home invasion” movie with a bit deeper of an initial concept than most. If you were one those people who dismissed this film right away because of its premise then stay clear, but if you thought it looked interesting it’s worth your time to watch, because the last third really is great, and the film has a lot of going for it, unfortunately it just has more going against it. Still, it’s worth a watch.

6.5/10

Now-You-See-Me-1

Rated PG for action, language and minor sexual content.

Directed by: Louis Leterrier.

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Mélanie Laurent, Michael J. Kelly and Michael Caine.

Four magicians, all with a certain set of skills relating to the act of magic, get called together by a mysterious hooded figure to form the “Four Horsemen”. Those magicians are Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (James Franco). Together they perform three acts, the first one gaining the attention of the FBI when their act steals over 3 million dollars from a French bank. They are then followed by Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and his Interpol partner Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), who will stop at nothing until he stops the Horsemen. Along the way they encounter Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) who is a magician debunker, who explains how magicians pull off their elaborate tricks. The film follows these characters as the Horsemen perform their tricks and the FBI get closer to uncovering their dark secrets, all leading to a big finale with an obligatory twist. So, that’s the premise of Now You See Me, now will you see it?

The film has a surprisingly large and talented cast, casting greats such as Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, and rising talents like Jesse Eisenberg, Melanie Laurent and Dave Franco. Sometimes with these large ensemble casts films there is problems with giving everyone enough screen time and developing characters with so many other ones to attend to as well, but for the most part everyone is given something to do and enough time to make an impression. That being said, some characters feel very forced in their motivations and eventual resolutions, and certain characters, especially Arthur Tressler (played by Michael Caine) are completely forgotten by the end of the film. Despite the marketing for the film, the main cast members that the film seems to be focusing on aren’t even the main focus. While the Four Horsemen are definitely the driving force for all the actions in the film, the real main character is actually Mark Ruffalo, and he does a great job at carrying the film. Watching him trying to figure out their schemes and his reactions to them getting the better of him are very entertaining, and he makes a great protagonist. Mélanie Laurent is great as always, but her character feels very underdeveloped and the forced love subplot they give her is utterly pathetic in it’s execution. The Four Horsemen themselves are all very good, bringing a great deal of charm, charisma and also mystery to their performances, really giving you the impression that they are indeed one step ahead of the audience. Morgan Freeman is great as always, I mean what more can I really say? He’s great as the smart ass know-it-all who makes fun of the people who he feels are inferior in the scene. He plays a very crucial role in the film and the pay off with him is unexpected and tense. Michael Caine is also great but as I said before, it would have been nice to see more of him.

The Good:

Louis Leterrier is a very competent director, and he brings a great deal of energy to the film. His fast paced direction and the witty dialogue compliment each other very well and the movie comes off as more of a heist film than a mystery one, with moments of comedy but also tense action scenes that are very impressively shot. There is a great scene with Dave Franco fighting two cops using tricks and wittiness to overcome his foes. It’s fast paced, fun to watch and very satisfying, especially with its conclusion and later pay off. Despite some annoyances with the amount of CG used, the scenes where the Four Horsemen are performing their shows are very entertaining, feeling like you really are at one of their shows, except you don’t get a lot of money at the end. The movie has a lot of really fun scenes with fast paced action, great conclusions and enough mystery to keep one invested.

Oh, and the soundtrack, composed by Brian Tyler, is very tense and awesome, really adding an extra level of excitement to the scenes.

The Bad:

As I mentioned earlier, their is a love subplot that really comes out of nowhere and honestly felt pretty out of place for the characters, which I know is not an uncommon thing in movies but here it really takes you out of the film and felt beyond forced. Also some of the tension in the magic scenes can be ruined slightly but the overuse of CG, especially when practical effects would have been much more effective and probably easier to do. The main problem I had with this film was the ending, which I won’t spoil of course but honestly felt like such an after-thought on the writers part, and was extremely out of character and seemed to only be there for the sake of having a twist ending. I could look past it but it really changes the way one had previously perceived the events in the film and just overall felt pointless.

In Conclusion:

While there is a lot I really enjoyed about this film, my overall issue with it is that it’s completely unremarkable. It’s entertaining, it’s a lot of fun, there are some great performances and it is very well directed, but at the end of the day it’s just a fun film that, while enjoyable as it may be while watching, it probably won’t be remembered as fondly as some of the others films this year. It’s not something one should rush out and see, but that being said, it’s still a good film, just not as memorable as some of the other films currently out. If you have no interest in this film then you can afford to skip it, but if you watched the trailer and thought it might be something you’re interested it, I would recommended it.

7/10

HT Schuyler: Evil Dead Review

Posted: April 13, 2013 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

Evil-Dead-Poster

Rated 18A for extreme violence, terror and gore.

Directed by: Fede Alvarez.

Starring: Shiloh Fernandez, Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore and Inca.

Evil Dead is a remake to the 1981 Sam Raimi “classic” The Evil Dead, in which a group of people visit a run down cabin in the woods, discover an evil book that ultimately unleashes a terrifying evil that consumes the characters and leads to a crazy, violent, bloody, and awesome mess. In Episode One of our show NO REFUNDS, PG and I reviewed the original Evil Dead trilogy, and for those of you who didn’t hear it I’ll just sum my opinions up by saying I very much enjoyed the original, and while I found it flawed I still had a great time and really respect it for what it’s done to the horror genre and how it created something so big out of so little. I ended up giving it a 7.5/10, which in retrospect seems rough, but while I enjoyed the film I found it very flawed at some points and couldn’t quite bring myself to call it great, though I still respect the Hell out of it. I went in to the remake with an open mind and decent expectations; it looked like it was really bringing the horror back to the forefront, the design looked great, and it was still utilizing practical effects, which I love. So with all this in mind, did the remake excel and soar, or did it crash and burn?

David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend (Elizabeth Blackmore) and his dog Grandpa (Inca), come up to David’s old family cottage to meet up with his old friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) to help his drug addict sister Mia (Jane Levy) quit cold-turkey and recover from her addiction. They discover that their family’s old cabin had been broken in to, and a witchcraft act has taken place in the basement of the cabin. Upon discovering a book covered in wrapper and barbed wire, Eric flips through the morbid pages with pictures of demons and warnings not to say a certain set of words, which he decides to say anyway, which unleashes a wave of EVIL which takes over Mia and eventually everyone else as David struggles to save his friends souls and hopefully his sister’s life.

The acting is….pretty damn bad. In fact, in the opening scene I was actually cracking up out how terrible some of the dialogue and delivery was. Shiloh Fernandez does a decent job and actually plays the hero quite well, but his character was written so poorly (as were the rest), that it became hard to really care for him as his character was just so dull. Jane Levy’s character Mia comes off as very interesting at the start, and you really wonder how her character is going to develop, but she doesn’t, and is unfortunately just as uninteresting as the rest. Lou Taylor Pucci’s character Eric does very little (aside from unleashing the EVIL) besides complaining and bitching at David for not taking the correct action, and getting the living shit beat out of him. Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore’s characters are so forgettable and under developed, (besides an awesome scene involving an arm…) that it seems almost pointless talking about them. Don’t get me wrong, they serve their purpose in the film, but they lack any emotional connection due to the poor writing and acting. In fact I wouldn’t even blame the actors too much, it’s mainly what was written for them which makes them so bland.

The Good:

I usually dislike when characters aren’t well written and bland, but here I give it a minor pass because it’s not the characters that are the star of this film, it’s the atmosphere and practical effects. The visuals are brutally effective. Terrifying and disturbing atmosphere, creative shots revealing the bleakness of the location and amazing gore effects. This film is nothing short of the term HARDCORE. The violence is top of the line. It’s brutal, plentiful, painful, and covered in blood from head to toe. It’s the type of horror violence movies always promised on the DVD case, only for me to take it home and watch it to discover it was actually lame. Movies this violent are so rare I honestly can’t remember the last horror film that was this violent. It literally RAINS blood at one point. The practical effects are incredible, and while they may not have gotten to me personally (due to my brain being desensitized to almost everything), they were still damn impressive. The audience was constantly squirming and shaking, pleading with the characters not to do what they were about to do, and cringing at the end result. The direction is also very good, providing many very suspenseful scenes and some genuinely creepy imagery. When the film picks up it really gets going and provides one over the top bloodbath after another, and without spoiling it, the ending, while I have issues with it, is pretty damn badass and awesome. The nods to the original film are constant and clever, some subtle, some not, and some that even create a reality out of an image that was only seen in the original. It also does a good job at staying true to the original while still remaining its own piece, as there are lots of little changes that contradict the original, establishing it as its own entity. The film is an utter pleasure to watch and simply enjoy the craziness and even absurdity in some moments. It’s better experienced with a crowd, but even on its own I could still see it being a fun watch.

The Bad:

When the film picks up it really excels, but unfortunately, like the original, there’s a decent stretch where it’s pretty darn dull. I do realize that certain scenes where there just to establish character, but with characters this weak it seems overall pointless. While staying in the vein of the original, they included the possessed taunting the living, and while I know this was meant to be scary some of the lines they said just came off as funny and ruined the tension previously established in the scene. There were times when the film would try so hard to do what was done in the original that it just came off as distracting, such as the haunting camera rushing through the woods and different little directing techniques, which look fine, but seem a little out of place with the tone and style which this film set-up. Throughout the film there is a sort of mystery in the audience’s mind (who is a fan of the original), as to who the survivor will be. Who will be the next Bruce Campbell type hero? And for the most part, I was on board for that, and everything that was happening made sense and was very satisfying. But then the ending came around. The film completely switches gears and I was a little upset with how it actually went, despite there being a fantastic set piece at the end. In a way it just seemed like yet another way to tie this film in with the original, including all the iconic imagery of it, which was a bit of a shame.

Oh, and I really hate it when a horror movie (or any movie) has a dog in it just so they can kill it off for no real reason. Yeah, spoiler alert but it’s a cliché that’s becoming really fucking annoying.

In Conclusion:

So, is Evil Dead “THE MOST TERRIFYING FILM YOU WILL EVER EXPERIENCE?” No, not really, but it’s still a total blast! While the film did try a little too hard to copy the original, I enjoyed many of the nods, and it’s still one of the most separated and creative horror remakes out there. The direction is great, visuals amazing and blood over the top and awesome. Yeah it’s not high art but it’s still a damn fun film that I would actually say is right up there with the original. I’m not saying it’s better, the two are different enough in style and tone that for what they both represent, they are evenly matched. This is one of the bloodiest and most extreme horror films to come out in awhile, and for that alone it’s a must see for horror fans.

7.5/10

P.S. There’s a scene at the end of the credits, and as bizarre and random as it may be it’s worth sticking around for if you’re a fan of the series.

HT Schuyler: Warm Bodies Review

Posted: February 21, 2013 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

warm-bodies-poster-ew-branded

Rated PG for language and violence.

Directed by: Jonathan Levine.

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton, Dave Franco and John Malkovich.

Like most horror fans, I love zombies. So, naturally, like most horror fans, when I first hear about this movie my initial reaction was: “What the hell is this shit? A zombie love story? Are you kidding me Hollywood?” But then I started looking into it. Jonathan Levine, director of 2011’s 50/50, a film I thoroughly enjoyed, was directing, and the trailer looked surprisingly good. It was going for a much more comedic approach and it seemed like it wasn’t taking itself too seriously. Then reviews started praising and defending it, so I thought screw it, may as well check it out. So does Warm Bodies breath new life into a tired genre or does it deserve a bullet straight to the head?

After some sort of catastrophic event that has left most of the world as mindless living corpses, a young zombie who can only remember his name beginning with the letter “R” (Nicholas Hoult) roams around an empty airport contemplating his existence. After a feast on a few young survivors, R finds himself falling in love with one of them, a girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer). He takes her back to his zombie lair and there they start to bond, become friends and ultimately fall in love. The more love R feels for Julie the more his heart starts to recover and the “warmer” his body gets, slowly making him human. As he starts to become more human so do the other zombies, which upsets a group of EXTREME zombies known as “Bonies”, who eat anything with a heartbeat, which R and his friends are slowly getting. So yeah, the plot is pretty damn absurd, but somehow it works, excelling on its simplicity. This isn’t a deep drama, it’s a simple zombie love story.

Nicholas Hoult carries the film, and does a really great job at it. His movements and actions as a zombie remain consistent and his transformation is done subtly yet effectively. His narration provides some comedic moments and helps explain the plot without becoming forced or annoying, and his character genuinely does go through an arc that makes sense. Teresa Palmer is also very good, playing the free spirited, wants-to-break-free-from-the-norm girl who is sympathetic and likable. Rob Corddry plays R’s friend M, who brings a surprisingly high amount of emotion to an undead character, and of all the transformations his feels the most genuine and heart-felt. Analeigh Tipton plays Julie’s friend Nora, who is basically just there for comic relief. She can be annoying at times but does her job and has some funny moments. Dave Franco plays his signature douche bag role, but is surprisingly good at showing emotion when the scene demands it. Last but not least is John Malkovich as Julie’s father, who is basically the leader of the resistance against zombies. Though for the majority of the movie he just plays the hard-ass dad, his scenes with Julie do become somewhat touching towards the end and their relationship seems to go through a subtle arc.

The Good:

Despite the films initial appearance as a sappy love story, the movie was surprisingly heavy in an aspect that I thought would be ignored, and that is the horror elements. The art design looks great and there are some genuinely chilling scenes. The zombies themselves don’t look all that scary but the “Bonies” are very creepy and there are some really great scenes with them. Even with some of the darker scenes, the movie also has a fair amount of fun in it, and does so effectively without becoming goofy or distracting. R and Julie’s relationship develops well and seems authentic by the time it has come full circle. The direction is excellent, and the film boasts some pretty good action scenes, as well as some good chase set pieces. The ruined and burnt world looks very nice, and is sometimes just downright gritty and harsh. The design of the world is as dark as you’d expect to see in a horror film, even more effective than some of the other zombie movies that have come out recently. The dark imagery reminds the audience that this is a lighter story taking place in a much darker world, and I found this played into the film perfectly. Though not as apparent as something like Dawn of the Dead, the film contains some pretty clever social satire towards the beginning, and while it doesn’t play a large part in the film it was still a nice touch.

The Bad:

The film is marketed not as a romance or even a horror movie, but instead as a comedy, and for what it’s worth I didn’t find the film that funny. There are a few good lines here and there, but nothing that really made it a comedy, which is fine, as I was enjoying the dramatic aspects of the film, it just could have done without the comedic tone and just stuck with the drama/horror aspects with a few moments of comic relief. The film takes awhile before the main plot even comes into play, and spends most of its time with just scenes of R and Julie bonding, so when the actual story does kick in, it feels a little underdeveloped. There are some moments throughout that seem really absurd and don’t really make sense within the context of the film, and some character motivations and actions towards the end that are very questionable and bizarre. The film can feel very slow at times because you are waiting for the real plot to kick in, but once it does and things start coming along it does flow a lot better. The film can be dull at times, annoying character actions and some bizarre twists along the way, but it never really took me out of the film or angered me.

In Conclusion:

While it never does fully go the extra mile, as it stands it is still a very fun, charming and I would even go as far as to say cute love story with great direction and some chilling and scary scenes. It is definitely one of the better supernatural love stories to come out in the past years, and as it stands now it’s the best zombie movie of the year. It has a little something for everyone, and while it isn’t high art or anything, it is still a very good little film that actually does something new with the genre, which alone is impressive. If you enter this film looking for some deep artist merit, you might be disappointed, but if you enter with an open mind and are prepared to embrace it’s bizarreness, then you’ll have a great time. Recommended.

7.5/10