12.30.2015

The Unwatchables of 2015

Another year down, another round of my annual end of year lists. First up, it's time for my traditional list of the utterly unwatchable films of the year. These are the films I would never go out of my way to see, and some you couldn't even pay me to sit through! This year though, either the films are getting better, or my standards of what I'll sit through are getting worse. Truth be told, a couple of these I probably *would* watch if I happened to be bored enough.

 JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS

What on earth is this movie trying to be? One dash throwback to an 80's childhood remake, another speck of Josie and the Pussycats and finally a sprinkle of The Last Mimzy. This concoction seemed to not only repel me, but everyone else in America too as it became the biggest flop of the year. IMDB RATING: 3.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 19%

STRANGE MAGIC

I am one of the few people left on God's green planet who still seem to love George Lucas, but this film looks like a bizarre acid trip into the further most recesses of his crazy mind. Not sure if that's a place that even I want to visit. IMDB RATING: 5.7/10 Rotten Tomatoes rating: 16%

PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 
 

Yes I saw the first one, and as a result I won't touch this with a ten foot pole. Fool me twice would be shame on me. IMDB RATING: 4.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 5%

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER 

This has to be the most bizarre ensemble cast I've ever seen. Poor Michael Caine and Elijah Wood. Have your career's sunk so low you have to stoop to being in a movie with Vin Diesel?? IMDB RATING: 6.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 16%

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: 
THE ROAD CHIP

Gah! Who keeps giving these people money to make these movies?? IMDB RATING: 3.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 16%

MAX 

This looks like a Nicholas Sparks movie with a dog in the main role. No thanks. IMDB RATING: 6.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 36%

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3

Never have I ever touched this series, nor do I ever intend to. Let's hope it really is the FINAL sequence. IMDB RATING: 3.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 19%

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY  
Smutty Twilight fan fiction turned into a big budget movie. What a pitch! IMDB RATING: 4.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 24%

MORTDECAI

Truth be told, I would have watched this. But I didn't want to pay $10 to rent it to see if it would make my worst list. Now I shall just deem it unwatchable since 88% of critics did!  IMDB RATING: 5.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 12%

CHAPPIE

Terrible word of mouth has convinced me to stay far far away from this beast. But, if bored enough maybe I could be persuaded. IMDB RATING: 6.9/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 31%

That's all for this time. Am I totally wrong? Have you seen any of these and can vouch for them? Let me know! And come back for more enf of the year lists this week and next.

12.18.2015

The Forced Awakening

With hundreds of reviews written about The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the biggest franchise of all time, why read mine? No doubt you can find someone's opinion online to match exactly what you want this movie to be, or how you yourself felt about it--nevertheless, here are the thoughts of one girl who fell in love with the series when she was ten years old and has basically been obsessed with it ever since. Because of Star Wars, a passion for filmmaking began that led me to my path in college, and eventually my career as a video editor. Star Wars was a part of me, and I never have shunned it.... even when the world hated it. The prequels were a major part of my formative teenage years, and I was always willing to defend them to the death. A few years ago after studying film criticism and revisiting them, I finally came to admit their flaws...yet they still owned a place in my heart.

And then the news of Episode VII came along. The movie to right all the wrongs of the past. This was the movie to get it right; to bring Star Wars back into the hearts of the people. After a year straight of hype and anticipation, did it finally accomplish what it set out to do? For the mass public who turned against Star Wars and bemoaned how much they hated the prequels, the answer is yes, absolutely. For me? Stunningly to my absolute shock and bewilderment, not at all. To be fair, I had the highest of sky high expectations for this film.... but once the glowing reviews came out, I knew this movie was basically a sure thing. When the crawl came up I was delighted to be seeing a brand new Star Wars film once more, something that after Episode III, I thought would never happen again. Finally watching it at last, I kept waiting for the moment that I would fall in love with this movie...and it just never happened. Instead as I sat there, I felt myself feeling more and more detached. I couldn't shake the feeling that the whole thing was... well, forced.

That's not to say it doesn't have it's moments, nor that it doesn't show promise for where the series has yet to go (if they dare to deviate from the formula that is.) Prior to seeing the movie, I concluded that I would love the movie despite the trepidatious reviews of some critics, as long as the following three things happened. 1. I wanted to feel that there was a reason for this movie to exist, as Return of the Jedi already ended the series so perfectly. 2. I needed to love the characters.  3. I wanted to have fun.

Without getting into specifics, let me address how the movie measured up against my demands.  Earlier in the year I had read interviews by JJ Abrams where he mentions him and Lawrence Kasdan "trying to come up with the story." Watching The Force Awakens, it's incredibly clear that they were making this up as they went along, and when in doubt, recycled. Lucas's grand storytelling arcs are gone, and in their place is a pale imitation. As such, the story feels incredibly disjointed from the story threads of the other six films, other than reshashing several elements that worked in the past. Lines about trash compactors didn't get me giddy, they were just too easy. Everything was. The Force Awakens is not an organic or natural progression to the story of George Lucas's Star Wars that I knew and loved... instead, it's basically calculated fan fiction without a pulse.

Onto the characters. BB-8 was the breakthrough star of the film. I absolutely loved him and would have loved if he had been utilized even more. I thought John Boyega was fantastic as Finn and Oscar Isaac as Poe was great as well, but needed far more screentime. Daisy Ridley did well, but wasn't given quite enough personality as I wanted. She still somehow comes off as a blank canvas by the time the film ends. As for the old... Harrison is now grumpy ol' Han, but does most of the heavy lifting, while the other two members of the original trilogy trio get considerably less to do. And goodness gracious, couldn't they have tried to tone down Carrie Fisher's voice at all? She looked the best she could, but chainsmoker Leia wasn't exactly what I envisioned

As to whether or not I generally had fun? My reaction to The Force Awakens is undoubtedly the result of hype mixed with YEARS of hearing how terrible the prequels are. Because of these endless debates with haters, I can tell you the flaws those movies have by heart (and admit to them,) but I can also tell you the strengths that everyone conveniently forgets. In seeing a film so lovingly fawned over as The Force Awakens in "finally giving the world the Star Wars movie people deserve," I can't help but think "this is what you wanted the whole time? A remake?" Hurl all the insults you want at the prequels, but their stories were their own and they connected to the story of the original trilogy in a natural way, yet a different way. They didn't try to be the originals and everyone hated them for it. Their republic was night and day different than the Empire in IV, V and VI. But people hated that. So now we get more of the same. While The Force Awakens is technically a better made film Episode I, II or III (there are no poo jokes, barrage of CGI, silly dialogue or monotone delivery of said dialogue here) its obviousness at its reveals, and its over-reliance on what worked before rob it of all its integrity. It has, in a sense become "marvellized": bland, crowd pleasing, and like an episode of a tv series that has no meaningful arcs. My precious franchise has turned to the darkside. It's more machine now than man. Twisted and evil. But at least it will please the fans right? Because that's all that matters anymore. Just not this one.

With all that incredibly harsh ranting aside, I can't in my heart of hearts give this a negative grade. As I said, on a technical level this film gets a lot right, and in time, with my expectations out of the way it may grow fonder to me. But at this moment in time, I can't help but feel that the story of The Force Awakens is an incredible disappointment. A far more interesting and perhaps less obvious movie exists within the backstory of the film, so I can only hope that future installments explore that more and take bigger risks...but with the bosses in charge I can really only expect safe bets from here on out. And lucky for the huge majority reading this, that's probably just up your alley. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10

Addendum: I saw the movie again on Saturday, and enjoyed it much much more without the expectations that this was the second coming of Star Wars in the way. It still has some flaws that I cannot overlook, but I would in fact give it a half grade higher now and go with 8/10

For more of that initial reaction, check out my appearance on Baconsale below. Spoiler alert: I channel my whiney Skywalker to harp on a lot of things.

12.04.2015

Naughty or Nice?

You better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout, I'm telling you why. No Santa Claus is not coming to town... instead it's his bizarro German counterpart Krampus, who spreads holiday dread and misery as opposed to holiday cheer. There aren't many Christmas horror films out there...not to mention many Christmas horror comedies (save Gremlins), so director Michael Dougherty (best known for Trick 'R Treat, the horror indie that celebrates everything Halloween) takes it upon himself to bring the dark legend of Krampus to life. Mixing so many genres can often have the Nightmare Before Christmas effect, in making the viewer feel unsure of when to actually watch the feature in question, and thus finding themselves never watching it. Krampus though, for better or worse (depending on the viewer's opinion) boldly declares itself a Christmas film, and might just be that first and foremost.

The holiday horror comedy stage is set right from the get-go, as the credits show us the joys and terrors of the holiday season in the form of mass consumerism. We are introduced to one family who is celebrating Christmas on the surface, but they've all seemed to have forgotten the true meaning behind the holiday. After a particularly tense family dinner, a young boy named Max tears up his Christmas list of wishes for his family, believing that Christmas miracles no longer exist. As a result of this act of non-faith, the demon Krampus and his followers are summoned to teach this family a thing or to about appreciating Christmas... in a darker way than the usual ghost of Christmas past, present, or future usually goes about things.



The setup of the film is great. Krampus could easily seem cliched in the typical holiday family beginning, but Dougherty manages to transport you into this family's Christmas seamlessly enough that you get caught up in all the drama. The intrigue and mystery of what will happen next carry you along incredibly well, until midway through the film when it starts to be a little frustrating that the characters are acting too smart for the usual horror film scenarios. The middle portion of the movie I did find myself wondering when the good stuff was gonna start. But once the film does starts rolling, it's a real ride! Vague spoiler alert (highlight to read) The ending might seem a cop-out to some, but as it IS a holiday movie, I was much more forgiving... (end potential spoiler) That said, me and my pal Kent totally interpreted the ending in completely different ways, so it's anyone's guess as to what REALLY happened. The fact that such different interpretations occurred regarding the ending is honestly wonderful for such a film.

Krampus treads lightly on a very delicate line; it easily could all go wrong at any moment...and somehow it doesn't. Dougherty balances the act of being a horror film, a comedy, and a Christmas movie in a way that not many movies would dare attempt. Some might not think he pulls it off, but I thought Krampus handled all genres in such a way that they even manage to complement one another. The horror elements don't feel out of place in this dark Christmas fable, and neither does the comedy when things get downright ridiculous. Besides the Dougherty's directing, Krampus might not have been able to pull off this feat if it weren't for its solid cast. Toni Collette and Adam Scott are pretty much likable in anything, and David Koechner, if given the right material, can really shine. The young cast and all the supporting players are all good too. No one is given a ton of depth here, but everyone manages to shine and have a good time. They take the film completely seriously so you don't have to. Krampus plays things so straight which is bound to throw people off who are wishing for more horror or more comedy. But if you go along with it, it's a fun ride. EMILY RATING: 8/10