Double Feature: Black Mountain Side (2014) & Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Time for the next Double Feature! We’re moving right along with the B selections. The first is a Shudder pick, Black Mountain Side and the second is a movie currently on Netflix called Berlin Syndrome! Let’s check it out!

Black Mountain Side (2014)

Black Mountain Side

Director (and writer): Nick Szostakiwskyj

Cast: Shane Twerdun, Michael Dickson, Carl Toftfelt, Marc Anthony Williams, Andrew Moxham, Timothy Lyle, Steve Bradley

At a cold, desolate, northmost outpost in Canada, an archaeological discovery is made. A specialist arrives Nov. 1. Strange things happen. All contact with the outside world is down. – IMDB

Black Mountain Side is a slow burn indie horror film. I think its important to grasp all those elements because the first half is one that is slow and quiet. The setting itself in the Canadian North makes it a unique setting to say the least. The first part does a good job and laying out the land of how communication and its cast of characters are all there and their purpose in this archaeological dig site and the outpost itself. Paced by its calendar execution in chronological order of what happens on what day and how much time has past is a decent way to give a sense of progress.

At the same time, the lay of the land itself and the things that happen does get intriguing once actual things start snowballing and the pacing picks up a little more. Thing is, it does feel like there’s not enough that happens in the first half to have the second half make up for it. Its not only that issue but also the fact that it doesn’t use its isolated landscape or give each of  the character’s dig site as a decent area to create more suspense. The suspense is mostly in the unknown. While that does create a lot of questions, its ending relates heavily to a better executed film recently with a similar premise, The Ritual.

That’s not to the say, the premise here doesn’t have potential. Its mostly execution issues that becomes most of its downfall. Its a very slow-burn film overall, and takes patience to get through the first part without a lot of things happening and just building up foundation and setting up the scene to have a better quarter and the ending is also not exactly one that I’m quite fond of (although I won’t talk about it too much to avoid spoilers). Its sad because the Canada’s Great North has a lot to offer as a setting and its a shame that its not used more.

Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Berlin Syndrome

Director: Cate Shortland

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthias Habich, Emma Bading, Elmira Bahrami, Christoph Franken

A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave. – IMDB

While Berlin Syndrome’s premise isn’t exactly groundbreaking, what it does is execute a good abduction thriller. Berlin Syndrome tells the cautionary tale of an Australian young woman who travels to Berlin and ends up having a holiday romance with a young man who ends up abducting her and trapping her in his apartment to keep her by his side. It manages to balance a good level of obsessive romance, fear and danger as well as dependence and some deeper psychological thriller elements.

One of the best elements in Berlin Syndrome is in its characters and of course, the two leads that take on the respective roles. Teresa Palmer takes on a great role as the female lead and possibly the first time that I’ve seen her act in her native accent and not an American accent. Its rather refreshing plus, her character as Clare is not a damsel in distress but full of survival. Even when it feels like she is stepping down from conflict in the situation, she is always quietly looking for the next step and adapting to her situation. Her character has a bit of complexity. Just like Max Riemelt as Andi who plays the abductor and obsessive lover who wants to keep her there and yet his character is full of psychological elements to consider as more is revealed, there is a depth to his character and why he does it as well as his dependence on the relationship even with his priorities in life outside of his secret life of having an abducted girl at his home which shows the different sides of him with family and his job and the mental struggles he may be having to keep his life in control.

Berlin Syndrome is a pleasant surprise. Its always great to find movies like this kind of hidden gem that gets tucked away. It was packed a good balance from great execution to the rather one location element and the abduction as well as the relationship dynamic and changes from the start to finish between Clare and Andi as well as the characters development. All done really well and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet.

That’s it for this B double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?

Double Feature: The Blair Witch Project (1999) & Blair Witch (2016)

As we seem to be trying to catch up with all the horror movies that we’ve missed which are highly talked about, we end up checking out 1999’s found footage film The Blair Witch Project and following that up with the 2016 sequel called Blair Witch. Let’s check it out!

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

blair witch project

Directors (and writers): Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

Cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

Three film students vanish after travelling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind. – IMDB

The Blair Witch Project was a big deal in 1999. For one, it marked possibly a start to found footage and had a lot of discussion over its use of the “shaky camcorder” as a first person view into a situation. Watching this film for the first time, its definitely been one that I’m glad to cross off my list. While the movie itself might not be quite as exciting as what others have made it off to be, there are still some good elements to it and it mainly has to go to the found footage elements and being able to use that to build up the location and atmosphere.

The first part of The Blair Witch Project is where it somehow falls a little short. The three characters themselves are a little annoying as the three film students and the first part focused a lot on them doing this documentary and going into the woods and then arguing a lot. Its when strange things start happening like waking up to piles of rocks or other signs that the movie starts to get intriguing and unsettling. Its honestly all down to this location and its creepy stories that revolve around it that the unknown factor becomes what drives the horror in this forest that they get lost in and the camera and darkness makes it every bit more sinister, isolated and empty.

I’m sure at this point, a lot of people have seen this film before so there isn’t any spoilers but I’m still going to try to keep it spoiler-free. The best part of this film is how it executes the scares and what is presented and what isn’t presented. It manages to amp up the horror a lot by what isn’t there and the anticipation of what could happen. To be able to do that is one element of the film that earns a lot of good points.

Blair Witch (2016)

Blair Witch

Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry

After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his vanished sister Heather, James and a group of friends head to the forest believed to be inhabited by the Blair Witch. – IMDB

From the way that The Blair Witch Project ended, its hard to imagine that it was meant to have a sequel even if there is a lot of space to explore especially since it left a lot of things in the dark and having somewhat of an open ending. However, the only way a movie in the current horror scene could have happened would probably be to give us the big reveal, which I honestly was a little skeptical about whether it would take that path and that it would possibly destroy the imagination that it was being built up as in the first one. Of course, it did end up taking that path and it was one of the things that made it disappointing.

To call Blair Witch a bad movie wouldn’t be accurate. It still uses its wilderness environment and builds from the lore of the previous films. The bigger cast gives the room to have more eyes on the surroundings but still give the mystery. It also gives some locals to help give a little more idea on what makes people fear the forest so much and the Blair Witch stories and what mysteries seem to be linked to it. With all this, it manages to have some smoke and mirrors and then also create a good deal of jump scares.

What does fall a little bit of messy bit here is the reveal of the “Blair Witch” and the somewhat end-game that it was going for. At the same time, it added a lot of little things that would happen that didn’t happen in the first movie, making it feel like the whole Blair Witch stories had somehow evolved from the first movie and the over a decade time that has spanned between the movies in the story line into sometime much more intricate with night and day in play while still keeping some of the little things. Its hard to say which I appreciated and didn’t appreciate being added in.

Overall, Blair Witch is an okay sequel. It has a lot of shortcomings and really doesn’t live up to all the tension that the first one built and relies more on the jumpscares. Because this found footage is much more modern, there is less of the found footage elements felt here and some things that might not add up as much in technicalities. It does try to work on the lore and give more substance although the thing that disappointed me the most was the somewhat goofy witch design. It felt a little like some low budget horror game monster, which is always a little disappointing. It had built up to probably be more horrifying from what it can do than what it looks like.

That’s it for this double feature of Blair Witch franchise!
I know I’m missing a movie in the middle but from my research, its not too important in the continuation from the first to the 2016 version. I’ll see if I can catch it at some point. 
Have you seen the Blair Witch films? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Child’s Play 3 (1991) & Child’s Play (2019)

Welcome to the second half of the Child’s Play double feature. If you missed the review of the first 2 movies, you can find it HERE. I’m know that I’m missing a few other movies between Child’s Play 3 and the 2019 remake/reboot (whatever you want to call it). Either way, this is the pairing that I’ve gone with. Let’s check it out!

Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Child's Play 3

Director: Jack Bender

Cast: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Travis Fine, Dean Jacobson, Brad Dourif, Peter Haskell, Dakin Matthews, Andrew Robinson, Burke Byrnes

Chucky returns for revenge against Andy, the young boy who defeated him, and now a teenager living in a military academy. – IMDB

I’m not going to lie that Child’s Play 3 is the one in these four movies of the franchise that I feel is the foggiest as I’m writing this. In some ways, it feels also very similar to the first film mostly because Chucky employs the same schemes to try to get back his life. In reality, if there is anything to truly appreciate about Child’s Play is that its killer doll has one goal (or well, 2): to get back a human body and to track down Andy. In this one, he uses his same schemes towards another young boy but unlike before, Andy is now a teenager and uses every way he can once he finds out to protect the little boy.

Child’s Play 3 is okay. It is third in a franchise and changes the setting to the military academy. There’s still a lot of people that fall into the trap that Chucky presents. At the same time, it is also quite predictable to watch. In some ways, its pretty on par with the sequel however still lacking the quality of the first one. Perhaps, its just that the freshness of the killer doll elements is not changed around as much. Its really a question of whether Chucky will succeed in his ploys.

Child’s Play (2019)

Child's Play

Director: Lars Klevberg

Cast: Gabriel Bateman, Aubrey Plaza, Trent Redekop, Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio

A mother gives her 13-year-old son a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its more sinister nature. – IMDB

As we get remakes and reboots of all the horror films of 80s and earlier, everything is just spilling back onto the scene and its a great time to revisit those original films, like in the case of this one where this 2019 remake was the reason that I even started watching Child’s Play in the first place. 2019 Child’s Play is very much set in the present as it turns Chucky into a corrupted AI turning him into a malicious killer doll. In concept, this is the way to translate this film into the current technology and times.  Its not quite as satisfying in goal especially since the malicious AI plot is done rather frequently in current horror or thriller films. What gave Child’s Play the edge of a voodoo and actual human soul transferred into a killer doll gives this one less purpose perhaps. I just wonder if there was no comparison of the original and we took this solely as a standalone film, would it have seemed better in the world of corrupted AI film.

The general expectation of a remake/reboot is that it will not be quite as good as its original. In the case of Child’s Play, its just too easy to figure out. Instead of having some well-built moments and some creepiness, here it falls into a lot of predictable jumpscares. It succeeds at startling momentarily sometimes but in terms of being scary, it just doesn’t quite get there. Its not a horrible movie though and still quite at par with the quality of the second and third movie.  Its a rather lackluster movie experience. There are pacing and execution issues. Although the AI element is done alright. Set in another circumstance, maybe it would have done better. 

That’s it for this double feature!
I feel like Child’s Play franchise (at least the four that I’ve watched so far) is not really my cup of tea. The first movie does well and then the next 3 are all pretty much at the same level of rather indifference

What are your thoughts on the Child’s Play franchise? What’s your favorite movie of this franchise?

Double Feature: The Last Witch Hunter (2015) & Bait (2012)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of the odd and ends paired up for this one as we look at 2015’s action-fantasy The Last Witch Hunter and 2012’s Australian shark film, Bait, which is coming up in a Movies and Tea’s After Hours 4th Shark Week choice. Before that, I’ll do a little review here since I do love talking about creature features and shark films a lot.

Let’s check it out!

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

The Last Witch Hunter

Director: Breck Eisner

Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Rena Owen, Julie Engelbrecht, Michael Caine

The last witch hunter is all that stands between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history. – IMDB

While The Last Witch Hunter wasn’t well-received, I’m not going to lie that I still had hopes of it being a fun watch. Vin Diesel has a reputation to be cast in certain roles and in certain types of characters. In the case of this film, its something along the lines of past movies like Van Helsing which I actually enjoy quite a bit. With that said, there are glaring issues with the movie as its mostly a mindless entertainment and incredible amount of fluff. Its story is not that deep even if it tries to pull out some twists which honestly doesn’t execute all that well and if you think too much about it all, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Not to mention, there isn’t a whole lot of actual witch hunting so it has a little dragging feeling.

However, being as objective as I can be and fully noting all its flaws, The Last Witch Hunter is for people who enjoy the generally more one liner sort of anti-protagonist if you will that Vin Diesel plays. Not to mention, there is a good cast here with a somewhat cameo appearance of Michael Caine and a supporting role by Elijah Wood and a female lead with Rose Leslie. They all do bring something more to this film. The Last Witch Hunter is understandably not liked by its general viewers and there are a lot of issues with it, not to mention that its pretty forgettable but as a Vin Diesel fan, it still was a passable movie experience. Not something to rewatch but it had its fun moments.

Bait (2012)

bait

Director: Kimble Rendall

Cast: Xavier Samuel, Sharni Vinson, Adrian Pang, Yuwu Qi, Alex Russell, Phoebe Tonkin, Martin Sacks, Alice Parkinson, Lincoln Lewis, Damien Garvey, Cariba Heine, Richard Brancatisano

A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building – along with 12-foot Great White Sharks. – IMDB

There are a lot of shark movies. So many of them are just really bad B-movies. As sharks as the underwater predator becomes such a constant use, its easy to be a little desensitized and pickier about how its used and what type of scenario to toss at the characters. In the case of Bait, while it doesn’t do a lot of things that are new, it still has quite the hook of creating a one location movie with a great deal of characters and different types of relationships: family, romance, work. Its set during a tsunami that traps its characters in a underground supermarket primarily setting it within a flooding supermarket and parking garage and two sharks circling those waters while alternating between the two locations to figure out their way out before the dangers surrounding them takes them down, both shark-related and not.

With that said, Bait does a lot of good execution here. One of its best things is using a top down camera to capture the underwater shadow of the shark location which gives the audience more knowledge than the characters and builds tension. At the same time, it doesn’t reveal the shark a lot and just uses the point of view of its characters to create the tension of the unknown, giving the sharks a much more quiet predator that will ambush them. The shark elements here are done pretty well.

If there’s anything to probably criticize a little, it would be its characters which are plentiful so the survival rate is fairly high. That’s not a bad thing but with a movie like this, deep characters usually are already hard to create especially when its a balancing act to not bring in too much petty drama and keeping in sight the bigger problem at hand, like survival. The characters are very basic and don’t really stand out. But then, let’s be honest, I’m not expecting deep characters in a shark movie. Maybe its just my expectations are low to start with and I’m just looking for a thrilling time. On that level, Bait delivers pretty well. Although, I would have liked the shark reveal a little later, just to give it more mystery but there is enough moments to make it pretty exciting to watch.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Dog Soldiers (2002) & Hell House LLC (2015)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of a horror double feature as we start bouncing between Shudder and Netflix more (so more horror in the horizon..a lot more). The first to appear is a pairing of one movie that I’ve been wanting to watch the finally go on Shudder, Dog Soldiers and the second is a random choice by my husband, the first of three movies called Hell House LLC. Let’s check it out!

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Dog Soldiers

Director (and writer): Neil Marshall

Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness. – IMDB

Werewolf movies are rather hard to come by and its nice to see that here and there they do come up even if a lot of times, it sometimes still feels a bit lacking. Dog Soldiers has my praise for tackling this subgenre in horror films but at the same time, the movie itself is something of a slow-burn. It plays up on the unknown of who is hunting them and why this military team is at the location at the time and that takes a lot of time to build, probably longer than I’d have wanted.

There are some decent scenes and yet, while the script tries to give all the characters something more, its main players do dial down to 4 of the characters especially when they end up trapped in the house. The two military exercise leaders of sorts is Sean Pertwee’s character Sergeant Wells and Kevin McKidd’s character Private Cooper who takes over when Wells ends up injured rather seriously. The next two is a woman who lives in the area and knows of these odd events happening played by Emma Cleasby as a character of Megan who gives them a lot of the information as she saves them from the wilderness  while the last is a Captain who won’t talk about what happened but was involved in the last attack that killed his team pretty much.

Dog Soldiers itself has a decent premise. The story its trying to tell and the way they want to add in the twists and answer all those mysteries. Even some of the attack scenes and werewolf designs, despite its budget, still works alright. The biggest issue here dials down to execution where the first half seems to lag a little and when the reveal happens and things get serious (even though there were attack scenes and other scenes before that), it seems a little late in the game making the second half definitely stronger than the first.

Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC

Director (and writer): Stephen Cognetti

Cast: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Jared Hacker, Ryan Jennifer Jones

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened. – IMDB

Found footage films are always a somewhat interesting horror genre to see. They usually all reliant on the execution and finding how to create the right atmosphere. With Hell House LLC, its the first in what is now a 3 movie franchise. We’ll be looking at the other 2 later on as a double feature. This is an independent movie and yet somehow, found footage films are usually still very good with a smaller budget. This first movie does a great job in its execution and especially in using its cameras and background to have this lurking horror atmosphere. There are a few little jumpscares here and there but they are also very effective.

What does shine here is in the premise of looking back at this documentary that five crew members have joined together for their next haunted house tour in this abandoned hotel called Abaddon Hotel located in a small town . It shows the entire lead-up through the surveillance cameras and other filming cameras that document the whole making-of up to the night of the malfunction. It uses its lighting and darkness pretty well and also builds a decent lore with the story of the hotel and its previous hotel owner. It all makes sense but lacks enough information to keep it a mystery and how these characters one by one change in their own ways and it becomes a question of whether its because of the hotel and whatever seems to be haunting it or just the haunted house weighing down on them for other reasons. 

Overall, Hell House LLC is a strong found footage film. It has enough of a creepy factor and helps itself by having all these mysterious stories and how it brings in different horror elements in the background. There’s a change in the characters as well as the entire haunted house deal making it have a lot of opportunities to play with these suitable horror elements to appear amidst the haunted house props that also play well with the whole premise. Its one location makes Abaddon Hotel a worthy horror setting. Its definitely worth a watch if you  haven’t seen it yet!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

Double Feature: Mean Girls 2 (2011) & Geostorm (2017)

Welcome to Double Feature #2 of 2020. I’m going to stop counting at a certain point (probably the next one). This pairing is probably the two least liked movie that I’ll put together but hey, why not, right? The first is the (not so) long-awaited sequel to Mean Girls, a whole 7 years after the original. The second is a disaster film which I watched on New Year’s with Gerard Butler in the name of Geostorm which I remember bombed pretty hard at theatrical release.

Let’s check it out!

Mean Girls 2 (2011)

Mean Girls 2

Director: Melanie Mayron

Cast: Meaghan Martin, Linden Ashby, Donn Lamkin, Claire Holt, Diego Boneta, Patrick Johnson, Maiara Walsh, Nicole Gale Anderson, Jennifer Stone, Bethany Anne Lind, Tim Meadows

The Plastics are back in the long-awaited follow-up to the smash hit Mean Girls – and now the clique is more fashionable, funny, and ferocious than ever. – IMDB

Its a fairly certain statement here that no one particularly wanted a sequel for Mean Girls especially when the entire cast had changed. Plus, the Mean Girls thing isn’t exactly something that can merit a sequel. Apparently, my non-creative mind was right because Mean Girls 2 was incredibly predictable and while it changed its characters and the lingo, it was pretty much the same kind of story as Mean Girls but just more mild in its bad deeds. The Mean Girl wasn’t threatening, the new girl that turns bad with power also isn’t all the innocent or whatnot. The whole scheming with friends plot line is all been there done that.

There’s a lot of unnecessary sequels out there and Mean Girls 2 definitely fits into that category. Mean Girls was great the way it was with its one movie as it covered what it wanted to express properly. There’s nothing new that they can add to the content in its original, making Mean Girls 2 quite less impressive especially if its the same structure, showing the same issues that occur in a different decade in the tough high school environment. I can be forgiving about the cast here as I think they did what they could with their flat characters, its really more the mentality that I don’t support that everything at some point or another needs a sequel. Sometimes, you can just leave things alone.

Geostorm (2017)

Geostorm

Director (and writer): Dean Devlin

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Amr Waked, Adepero Oduye, Andy  Garcia, Ed Harris, Robert Sheehan

When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate starts to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock for its creator to uncover the real threat before a worldwide Geostorm wipes out everything and everyone. – IMDB

Disaster films are never really meant to be some award-winning masterpiece. Its just a fun little romp with a lot of explosions and illogical concepts and some overdone action pieces. Geostorm got a lot of crap and lost a lot of money for the studios and its pretty understandable. I mean, Gerard Butler projects haven’t really been all that great in its last few offerings so for myself, it was like I was expecting it to be really good. Perhaps its the low expectations going in or the New Year’s alcohol hasn’t left my system but Geostorm wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

Geostorm tries really hard to add suspense and also tries really hard to be different. Where it misses its mark is in a lot of the overuse of drama and the whole brothers story that gets dragged into the mix. Gerard Butler is Gerard Butler which is pretty decent as he has some alright moments. The story itself has some issues here and there. I’m not a very knowledgeable science person so I don’t go and question too much about the whole technology they are talking about and whether it makes sense because it probably doesn’t if you dissect it.

Honestly, I’m not trying to defend Geostorm. Its just an average disaster movie. There are some funny moments here and then some moments that really stretched the imagination which they chalked it up to the family communication code or whatever. But hey, I always kind of like the charisma that Gerard Butler brings to movies (even the bad ones) and then we get a short role from Daniel Wu and Hong Kong scenes and I have a soft spot for that. The mystery of it all was pretty obvious where they would place the twist. Like I said, nothing too special here. Its just pretty average and I can see how some would think its below-average even. Like I said in the beginning, I’m pretty forgiving for disaster movies but if you aren’t, then just skip this one.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: John Wick (2014) & Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (2014)

And we’re ramping up on some of these double features. I’m trying to boost up some of the movie reviews especially since I’m trying to catch up on a lot of movies available on Shudder before I take a little break from subscribing to their streaming service. I do love their selection and they constantly are coming up with movies from Fantasia in the past few years that I had to miss due to scheduling conflict. Regardless, I’m going to try my absolute best to get through as many as possible.

I promise you that I never plan these things out so well but hey, apparently, I landed on a 2014 double feature. Why not, right? So, first one is catching up on John Wick, which everyone has been telling me to especially since its been a bumpy road for my Keanu Reeves love that has definitely faded quite a bit in the recent years, especially with the horrible Knock Knock that I wanted to roll under my car a few times if I had an actual physical copy of it. I heard John Wick is fantastic and it feels like its more in the Keanu Reeves element so I’m looking forward to it. Then its time to start the Shudder trek and go for a treasure hunt adventure in Kumiko The Treasure Hunter. It seems from what I’ve seen, its not exactly horror so I’m not sure why its in Shudder but hey, its been on my to-watch list for quite some time so I’m expecting some incredibly slow-paced indie film style. To be honest, I have no idea what to expect but it has this odd yet intriguing thing about it.

Without further ado, lets just jump right in!

John Wick (2014)

John Wick

Director: Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick

An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that killed his dog and took everything from him. – IMDB

John Wick is one of those movies that I sit down and right away its obvious that its going to be a fun little ride to the end. Keanu Reeves has had a few down moments but this is definitely one of those great moments that I loved him for. Him as John Wick is truly in his own element. Its a simple story about revenge and it was about John Wick’s loss and while it felt like it wasn’t a big deal to others, he lost everything that was worthwhile.

Its one of those films that build on its character gradually. When the movie started, it was just about this tired man who lost his wife and then gets broken into and steals his car and killed his dog. But as we pan into these other characters, we learn more and more about John Wick. First that he is a person to be feared and then how he got that title and finally, it gradually through the many scenes showed up his true focus and competency. Its builds and paces itself well. It didn’t need a lot of dialogue and fit the story perfectly because sometimes being about to see what is unsaid is a truly great performance in itself.

john wick

The characters whether it was the longer staying ones or the cameos all were memorable characters. Michael Nyqvist was great as the bad guy here taking his role to a fantastic new level that made him very fun to watch as well. Unfortunately, I did miss that he had passed away last year but learned about while researching the film a little further. He had done some great roles and this one included. John Leguizamo had a cameo role and I like that guy a lot ever since I saw him in Moulin Rouge. He has such a stand-out presence.

john wick

Overall, John Wick was a fun and thrilling ride from start to finish full of action and one liners and great performances through and through. The story was never too complicated and that fitted in exactly the focused character that John Wick was portrayed as while showing off how incredibly fantastic he was as a hitman. The soundtrack also was so awesome, accentuating every action scene.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

Director (and co-writer): David Zellner

Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, David Zellner, Shirley Venard

A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money. – IMDB

Right off the bat, lets just say that Kumiko the Treasure Hunter is definitely an indie film experience. Its fairly slow paced and honestly not a whole lot happens. We follow around this oddly introvert Japanese woman who believes in the based on a true story Fargo’s hidden treasure to fill her life goal to find it. Is it a journey to find meaning in her life? Theres something deeper in this story that pulls me in but yet, it feels like theres not a whole lot going for it because it feels empty and then maybe that is what Kumiko feels as her emotions are more connected to her pet bunny Bunzo than even her own mother. However, the story itself is quite unique and surprisingly, the more I think about it, I feel like there may be more to discover. Writing it up now, the intriguing elements of this story is in Rinko Kikuchi’s performance no matter how little she says, her actions and her expressions define her character and keeps us wondering what she will do next as he focuses on getting to her treasure.

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

I can’t say I am a huge fan of the movie or that I get whats going on completely and maybe it merits a second viewing. While I acknowledge the great performance of Rinko Kikuchi and the uniqueness of centering a story on someone actually believing the based on true story movies that general movie viewers (myself included) may have become skeptical to, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter has some good moments and some well shot scenes but its definitely not for everyone. It requires a lot of patience to get through, but if you enjoyed A Ghost Story, this one might be right up your alley in terms of pacing at least. A bit of mixed feelings towards this one for myself.

Thats it for this 2014 double feature. A contrast in so many ways.
The first is action packed and the second is slow paced execution.
Have you seen these two yet?

Movies and Tea #1 – Shopping

Welcome to the Booth! Elwood and I just released the first episode of Movies and Tea, our new movie podcast. The structure of the show is divided into seasons where each season we take a look at different directors and their works. The first to kick off this debut season is Paul W.S. Anderson and his directorial full feature debut, Shopping.

Head over to our blog to check out the podcast!
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Movies and Tea

Kicking off our first season looking at the films of director Paul W.S. Anderson starting with his debut film Shopping

Released in 1994 to a mixed critical response and much distain from the BBFC Paul W.S Anderson’s Shopping gave a pre-apocalypic vision of an unanmed British city in which the recently released joyrider Billy (played by an impossibly young jude law) and his best friend Jo (played by Law’s future ex-wife Sadie Frost).

Here they set out to leave thier mark on the city along the way clashing with Jonathan Pryce’s authoritarian chief of police and Sean Pertwee’s rival gang leader Tommy in what could have been seen as sparking the revial of the british independent scene had it not been eclipsed by the release of Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave the following year.

Join us in the booth as we discuss this debut aswell as looking at the rebel girls…

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Double Feature: Astro Boy (2009) & When in Rome (2010)

And we’re back with another double feature!

In the neverending quest to catch up with Netflix and diminish the outstanding titles on my Netflix list before they vanish from selection, I’ve decided to choose movies primarily already on the list whenever I watch something which lead me to trying out a new way than the normal alphabetical approach and that’s to choose a common factor between films, mostly director or actor/actress in whichever role. I honestly don’t know how long this can go for but from the preliminary test, I have at least 20 movies drafted in so we’re in for a ride. I’m liking this new way as it gives variety.

This time will be a lovely Kristen Bell double feature with Astro Boy and When in Rome!

Astro Boy (2009)

Astro Boy

Director: David Bowers

Voice Cast: Freddie Highmore, Charlize Theron, Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Bill Nighy, Kristen Bell

When an android replica of a boy is rejected by his aggrieved creator, he goes off to find his own identity in an adventure that would make him the greatest hero of his time. –IMDB

While I can’t hate on animated films. Astro Boy really is quite average. Back when this was announced, I had my doubts and I was also travelling when it came out so I never caught it in theatres. A lot of the story here is quite generic and its not very exciting. However, the art is quite nice plus the world is very pretty with lots of colors. The characters are brought alive by its immense talent behind the voices. Kristen Bell does a great job but we also have Bill Nighy as the scientist and Nicolas Cage as the dad and of course, Donald Sutherland as the villain. During that time, Freddie Highmore had a lot of these kid roles and he does a fantastic job as Astro Boy. It may be average but in all its generic and predictable moments, it still has a few decent fun and funny moments.

 

With that said, Astro Boy could be a fun movie for a younger audience. It has a lot of science-y fun and brave kids and takes in the parents angle. Plus, its not terribly long running at about 90 minutes which is always nice because it keeps the pacing decent.

When in Rome (2010)

When in Rome

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Alexis Dziena, Kate Micucci

Beth is a young, ambitious New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love. However, on a whirlwind trip to Rome, she impulsively steals some coins from a reputed fountain of love, and is then aggressively pursued by a band of suitors. – IMDB

I’m pretty forgiving with romantic comedies. They are really just silly and funny sometimes. There has been widely a shortage of good ones and When in Rome honestly doesn’t do much for itself. Its quite ridiculous in parts and I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes at everything. However, When in Rome has some charming characters. Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel are incredibly fun to watch together and separate. The premise is really where things are a little odd and shaky. Just take a look at the cast, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett are all fantastic as the enchanted lovers chasing after Kristen Bell and they offer some pretty comedic moments. Its always a good time to watch Dax Shepherd and Kristen Bell as they always do these roles and can get the whole not into each other thing really well. When in Rome just seems like it doesn’t have anything special about it other than its charming cast. But then, you can always watch this charming cast in other movies they’ve done better roles for making this one seem not so appealing.

Overall, Astro Boy and When in Rome fall in the very average range. I’m still a fan of Kristen Bell and its definitely not her issues that makes for the downfalls of these two selections.

Have you seen Astro Boy and/or When in Rome?
What is your favorite Kristen Bell film?

Horror Marathon: Saw VI (2009) #horror #Saw #SawVI #Franchise

Moving along with quite well with the Saw franchise and we are at the 6th movie. Its becoming wildly apparent that this is one long story that can’t be really reviewed by part however, we will try.

Lets go!

Saw VI (2009)

Saw VI

Director: Kevin Greutert

Cast: Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Peter Outerbridge, Shawnee Smith, Athena Karkanis

Agent Strahm is dead, and FBI agent Erickson draws nearer to Hoffman. Meanwhile, a pair of insurance executives find themselves in another game set by Jigsaw.-IMDB

NOOO!!! Scott Patterson’s Agent Strahm is dead. He was my highlight in the last two movies. At least he died pretty epicly, sort of.

I never thought that I would say this at this point in the franchise but the sixth movie breathed some life back into the franchise. However, since the last two movies, I haven’t been able to watch any of the first victims/games because its just incredibly disgusting. Gore and torture porn doesn’t normal bother me a lot but its probably the watching back to back of them that has caused a decrease tolerance. So, I was pretty nauseous in that first part because the sound effects made me also imagine what was going on and I have one outrageous imagination. And actually because of that beginning, I went into this sixth one quite bitter and angry for this opening direction. Lets just say I’m fed up of the gore which doesn’t make sense because this is what I had originally thought Saw franchise was all about.

Saw VI

To be fair, Saw VI is quite good. In terms of the direction of the story, it starts lining up with Jigsaw’s last game in his will and reveals the answer as to other person or people involved. The question at this point (and before) is always how do these people caught in the game relate to Jigsaw? How did they meet and what bad things have these people done? Jigsaw’s captives are rarely people who have done nothing and here is where this film excels. The story itself highlights Jigsaw’s mentality in spades about the morality and ethics. The backstory of everyone’s involvement is what links all the movies together but this story really brings out the why for Jigsaw’s action especially when his mantra is cherish your life and yet the guy caught in the game is stuck in making decisions to essentially use his formula on the people he knows and make him question his choices. What I did like the best was actually the way Saw VI manages to keep its tension and momentum and really keep us guessing to the end which was quite a twist. Good job on the switch in director to Kevin Greutert who seems take the gore a little too seriously still manages to balance it well enough in the psychological department to make it work.

Saw VI

While I do praise this instalment and had a good bit of enjoyment from it, which is surprising considering I was angry at it when the movie started, there are still flaws. It mostly goes down to our character making predictable choices. However, it might just fall into how well we know Jigsaw’s puzzle concepts particularly under time crunch blended with the guy in the game who does a decent performance. Or maybe, its just my expectations are so low that it didn’t matter anymore so there was more enjoyment because of that.

Overall, Saw VI does a decent job here. It makes the The Final Chapter (which we know is a lie since theres a new movie out in a week or so) a little more promising. How will they end it?

Did you watch Saw VI?