Halloween Marathon: Army of Darkness (1992)

Time sure flies by! Not to mention that this post is super behind. We are at the second last movie of the main features. To be fair, I didn’t really review a ton of movie like I used to and stuck to the main ones, mostly because I had some TV stuff and books and all that fun variety that you know you can get if you drop by here. Army of Darkness is the third film in the Evil Dead franchise. So far, its getting better just between the first and second one. I know some of you disagree with me and have a lot of love for the original. That is okay. I can understand nostalgia and all that lovely stuff. A few of you also told me that Army of Darkness is going to be a fun trip. And I believe you all because Evil Dead 2 was quite a nice balance and you all assured me of that as well.

Let’s check it out!

Army of Darkness (1992)

Army of Darkness

Director and co-writer: Sam Raimi

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Richard Grove

A man is accidentally transported to 1300 A.D., where he must battle an army of the dead and retrieve the Necronomicon so he can return home. – IMDB

 Army of Darkness is a turn in the franchise to something a lot more comedic than the previous two. Evil Dead 2 already started a little in the later bits of building up Bruce Campbell’s character, Ash and in this one, we see it much larger than life. Ash is thrown back into time. Funny enough that Evil Dead 2 ends with them cheering that they saved him but in this one, they chain him up and tow him off on a death sentence (pretty much) in suspicion of being part of the enemies. As clueless as always, Ash actually is pretty much fed up with all this nonsense with the Necronomicon and all these monsters it has unleashed and really just wants to get home. Army of Darkness sets up a great stage in mixing his future self into the 1300 A.D. I have to admit that I’m a sucker for movies that pull this trick of someone in the future falling into the past and all the adaptation of just the expressions and confusion of the modern stuff like his gun (aka his boomstick, for example) make it really entertaining.

Army of Darkness

My main issue with the first and half of the second is the character of Ash. However, he does shine in the third. He becomes rather different from how he was and that is great character development that needed to happen. In Army of Darkness, he becomes somewhat of a new hope eventually, after an obstacle or two. He becomes a tad caught up in this luxury he has gotten before having to jump back and man, those expressions and one liners just give his character a ton of fun charisma. Some things don’t always make sense in the scenario because if it was someone in 1300 AD, they may have taken whatever literally and not  understood but still, those moments are also funny. There is somewhat of a fun twist here rather than making it very scary and that is great.

Army of Darkness

Army of Darkness has a much  better pacing. Its fun and more lighthearted take makes a big difference here. There are still demonic monsters and some cute skeletons but in the end, it all adds up to an entertaining experience. Not only that, there are a few familiar faces. The one that I recognized right away was Embeth Davidtz who plays the lady here. Army of Darkness is a ton of fun. It is definitely the one that I would most probably go back and watch out of the trilogy. What has built to this one has been a rather grueling experience. It was different from what I had expected, both the good and the bad.

Have you seen Army of Darkness? Did you like it?

We are not quite done yet. There is still the 2013 remake of Evil Dead to visit.
That will be the finale of this month’s marathon on Halloween (aka Monday). 

Valentine Marathon: Mansfield Park (1999)

I’m kind of skipping ahead and hesitated a little before watching this one.  For some of you, you’ve been aware that I’m on The Classics Adventure, a new long-term project launched this year.  I finally got my first review for the first Jane Austen book yesterday.  That was for Sense and Sensibility. Finishing up my first book and waiting for the movie to be delivered so I could review it. I’ll probably try to get it in for this Valentine Marathon also, if all goes well (which it should). Either way, I’m all hyped up on Jane Austen and I already reviewed Pride and Prejudice a little while back right HERE. As much as I’d like to wait to watch this after I read Mansfield Park, I convinced myself to watch this because I’m testing out whether I like reading Classic novels first before watching the adaptation or whether the other way around makes things easier.

Rambling aside, lets check out Mansfield Park! 🙂

MANSFIELD PARK (1999)

mansfield park

Director: Patricia Rozema

Cast: Frances O’Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, Embeth Davidtz, James Purefoy, Sheila Gish, Harold Pinter, Victoria Hamilton

Due to her family’s poverty, her mother sends her eldest daughter, Fanny Price (Frances O’Connor), at a young age to go to live with her sister, Mrs. Norris (Sheila Gish) and the Bertrams.  As a little girl, she came realizing that she would possibly never leave Mansfield Park and be always viewed as lesser than her cousins.  The Bertrams never gave her much notice.  Thankfully, her imagination took her into books and writing fiction kept her company while her stay was also helped by the Bertram’s younger son, Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller) who befriended her upon her arrival.  As they grew up, Mansfield Park became her home and she got used to being unnoticed until the arrival of the siblings, Mary (Embeth Davidtz) and Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola).  Her beauty and wit brought on the attention of Henry Crawford while Edmund pursued Mary.  While Henry’s love was viewed well by everyone, Fanny had her doubts and challenges his truthfulness of those emotions.

mansfield park Mansfield Park carries a lot of character in this one.  Although there is no one that really has the whole big names attached to this production, there is a lot to love.  For starters, like many period productions/adaptations, the set is beautiful.  Mansfield Park and its surrounding estate, even Portsmouth and the trip and from carry such beautiful scenery and elegance.  I went into Mansfield Park, like many of my Valentine Marathon selections this year, and I fully expected to love it and it was for the most part, pretty awesome.  What makes Jane Austen ladies so lovable is the growth in the conflicts and situations they go through.  They also each have their certainty of whatever affection or emotion they have, which usually leads them to realize something more. In the hands of Frances O’Connor, who I’ve never seen anywhere before, she really captures that role.  Fanny Price may not be the centre of attention at Mansfield Park but Frances O’Connor’s portrayal of this role really gave it a lot of class and thought provoking moments and even at one point, I kind of hated how she dealt with Henry. Its kind of really brilliant that they had those inserts in the movie where she’s literally reciting a letter or something but she is talking to the camera.  Fanny Price is a lovely character in the Jane Austen world, I just can’t help to wonder if she may be more different in the novel.  I guess I’ll find out when I read it.

Mansfield Park

Moving on, I’m a little torn to say this because this may be where the movie lacks a little: Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund Bertram.  I rarely have an issue with the casting choices and I love Jonny Lee Miller.  Especially because he’s absolutely awesome as Sherlock in Elementary.  I was looking at his filmography and I’ve actually seen more of his roles than I even realized but although, Edmund is still a good character, I feel like there was something a little awkward.  He had okay chemistry in that whole building tension between them as friends but its just because it takes time to like Edmund and really appreciate his character.  Looking at this on a standalone character for Edmund, I can’t help but think that he could be a little more charismatic? But, maybe its because as a comparison, the appearance of Henry Crawford brings on so much charm that its overshadows his character.

mansfield park

Saying that, I think its time to take a look at Mary and Henry Crawford.  These two have this appealing appearance and they show how there really is no inner beauty to them.  They know how to look good and have a good place in society and all that pretty stuff, but when things don’t go their way, they are quite disrespectful in their personality.  They have a rather twisted way of living and they are actually pretty selfish for momentary pleasure.  And while these siblings are like that, Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz (who I’ve seen in other movies and enjoyed), they do a good job and being the contrast to say Fanny’s personality who is more reserved and Henry to Edmund’s.

Man, I’m going really into a character analysis that I probably will do for the book after I read it.

Point is, everyone does a fine job at their role in Mansfield Park.  The story itself and how its told actually gives Fanny a lot of appeal.  She is a really great Austen character. Although still rather strong-willed, she does have a lot of wit and her growth and choices gives her character development as well.  Although, it takes time to really appreciate Jonny Lee Miller’s Edmund appreciation, but his character is really well contrasted because of Alessandro Nivola’s Henry.  It has a good bit of romances and courting, some funny moments and some really nice self-reflection.  Its not exactly as great as the Pride and Prejudice movie (for example) but it has a lot of really great aspects as well 🙂 I’d definitely recommend it!

Have you seen Mansfield Park? Have you read the source material? What are your thoughts?

Europa Report (2013)

To some longer movie bloggers, you will probably remember Chris @ Film Hipster.  Sadly, he isn’t in our blogosphere anymore but before he left, I remember him being one of the first and few to review this movie, Europa Report and giving it a decent rating.  Now, I have a bad memory but that was why when I saw this on sale in Plattsburgh, I snatched it off the shelf.  A few weeks later, here I am, having watched this and pondered a little on what to write.

Lets check, shall we?

europa report posterDirector: Sebastian Cordero

Cast: Daniel Wu, Sharlton Copley, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Michael Nyqvist, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth  Davidtz

William Xu (Daniel Wu), James Corrigan (Sharlton Copley), Dr. Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo), Dr. Katya Petronova (Karolina Wydra), Andrei Blok (Michael Nyqvist) and Rosa Dasque (Anamaria Marinca) are some of the best astronauts from around the world and they are all commissioned to complete a privately funded mission to explore Europa, one of the Jupiter’s moon.  Their assignment is to extract sample and document whether there is life form there as they documented the existence of a vast amount of water under the icy surface.

Europa Report

I’m just going to keep the synopsis brief because in the end, this is a sci-fi thriller in its rawest form.  Its shot to be something like a documentary on the space crews ventures there: what happened and what they found. If I told you more, it’d just be pure spoilers and that would ruin the fun.

With that said, Europa Report is my kind of thriller (maybe its yours also).  The slow-burning type.  In the nothing happening, I felt something happening or just something that could happen in the unknown causing the feeling of uneasiness. Europa is unknown territory and as much as I loved space when I was very young some time in elementary school, I’m not very knowledgeable about these things anymore.  The scientists use big words and the visuals look authentic to those you would see in space magazines.  Fact is, I watched a bit of the special features afterwards and they did extract pictures from actual satellite shots of that area.  In general, space is a captivating topic.  We can see that with the success of Gravity.  This is obviously not as visually stunning as that but it has its only type of beauty to watch.

europa report 4

A lot of how the movie is featured is with its various cameras set on the spaceship.  All these cameras give us a perspective of their down times in their living quarters to up to the cockpit.  Thats the admirable part of this because we can capture a good idea of the set up of every angle of the spaceship and how everything works within the beginning part.  Thats important when the issues (which you know they will have) occurs eventually and they have to move about.  They also use close-up shots when the crew is sitting near the camera working to capture their reactions.  I feel that gives it a kind of familiarity and bond with the crew as they try to not only get through this mission but maybe prove something amazing in the process. The cameras emphasize on the limited space they have and the unknown outside as they approach Europa and this adds on the tension.

Cam E

Most of the actors aren’t very known to me but there are two familiar faces I’d like to point out.  One is Michael Nyqvist who played in MI:Ghost Protocol as the bad guy or you may know him from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as the journalist in the original Swedish one. As Andrei, he is a bit weird and is in his own territory where he just engineers and plays with this and that. The other actor is one of my faves in Hong Kong film industry is Daniel Wu.  To see him totally exercising that perfect English of his in an international movie makes me very proud, plus I have total faith in his acting.  Everyone has their part in the movie, even the supervisor (I think) of the mission sitting back on Earth played by Embeth Davidtz as she hears the updates from headquarters and recounts the events of this mission just like you would in a documentary.

europa report 2

There really isn’t much else to say.  Overall, Europa Report is a pretty awesome sci-fi thriller. It uses confined spaces in an spaceship and a mission into the unknown to search for possibility of lifeforms. Its six brave people who chose to face some problems and survive.  It may be slow but it builds up the tension very well.  The use of cameras observing the crew’s movement we experience the mission as if it actually happened. This one has just got a lot of style and I totally love it. And it has one of the best endings that I’ve ever seen. I don’t say that very often for a movie because most movies just mess up with a lazy ending but man, this one was a *GASP* moment.  If you are into this sort of movie, sci-fi/thriller/slow-burning, this might be a very good choice for you 🙂

Have you seen Europa Report? What did you think of it? Are you a fan of sci-fi/thriller?

The Hole (2001)

Another movie from my 8 movie pack that had Ritual in it! This one didn’t make the Shitfest either.  Consider me slightly disappointed although I never figured I would put a movie with Keira Knightley in there.  Let me say, this movie pack has a lot of misleading covers…

the hole posterDirector: Nick Hamm

Cast: Thora Birch, Desmond Harrington, Keira Knightley, Laurence Fox, Daniel Brocklebank, Embeth Davidtz

Four teenagers attending a British school are approaching the end of the school year.  They do not want to join the other students in going to the school field trip.  Through certain connections, they end up hanging out in The Hole, which is a previous underground war bunker for 3 days, until they go back to reunite and head home for good.  However, things go wrong and they end up getting locked underground for unknown reasons longer than expected.  Liz (Thora Birch) is the only one that escapes and makes it out alive. She has a psychologist Dr. Philippa Horwood (Embeth Davidtz) sent to try to get her to recount what happens to her and the others: popular girl Frankie (Keira Knightley), popular athletic Mike (Desmond Harrington) and his best friend Geoff (Laurence Fox), in the hole.

the hole beginning

I still don’t really get why this is part of the horror collection because its a psychological thriller for the most part.  Its not scary and after a certain point, I guessed what was the highest probable outcome.  However, the story concept itself was pretty good.  The opening sequence where we see a stumbling Liz, played by Thora Birch walking down the street then screaming into the phone at the school really builds the mood.  The setup of the story was pretty good.

the hole group

Thora Birch playing the sole survivor of The Hole among her friends is the main actress in this.  She has to retell the story and for the most part, we need to figure out who caused them to be locked in the hole in the first place, how did they get there, and who arranged it all for them.  What is the real story? She plays her part really well as the scared and healing teenager who is shocked from her friends dying in front of her one by one until she finds the way out.  However, some parts weren’t thought through enough to make it flawed and predictable.  We are able to the slip-up on her character portrayal which changes the feeling of the movie for the most part. In the second half, because the story is built better, Thora Birch’s character is able to shine through and make up for what the movie lacked.

the hole keira knightley

Playing opposite her are the other 3 friends. Other than Keira Knightley, I don’t know the guys that well but everyone did their parts really well. For the most part, the recount of the underground hole scenes were quite fun to watch.  Keira Knightley even flashes her breatsts (maybe that will interest you, maybe it won’t, just a random fact). Thats the extent of nudity that happens here! OH WAIT, there is also a completely naked Laurence Fox in the shower, but then I don’t know who he is so I didn’t really think that scene was necessary anyways.  However, as I was saying, they did do a good job in the respective parts.  Embeth Davidtz is also a bit more known as well.  I recognized her but couldn’t pinpoint where I saw her.  As the police psychologist, I did find her a tad stupid but I believe its a character design flaw.

the hole guys

The reason this took me so many days to write was mostly because I couldn’t really decide if I liked it or not.  I enjoyed a good part of it even though it was predictable but there was a part in the middle where I found it a bit blah.  It was missing something in the story and there were some parts that seemed either unnecessary or just didn’t seem to make too much sense. Although, is it a bad movie concept? Maybe if the script was written better, it would reach its full potential.  It does have the right idea for the most part!

Don’t get me wrong. Its a decent thriller.  It all depends if you figure out the ending before the big finale hits or not.  It has a good concept and convincing acting.  This movie did cost me 50 cents so the expectations were also really low.  However, I did enjoy it.  There was a part in the middle which felt a bit long but it was effective.  Thora Birch is definitely a great actress.  There’s sex, nudity, party and games and some screaming, crying, blood and death.  Its not perfect but definitely won’t be a waste of your time  if you ever decide to see it 🙂