The Hunter is a solid thriller about Martin, a skilled mercenary who is hired by a company to hunt down a rare
Tasmanian tiger wanted for it's genetic material. The film is decent but really struggles by inserting far too many thematic elements into the story structure
which in turn makes the film feel conflicted at to exactly what it's trying to say. Is it a film about
the Hunter's awakening and transformation into a paternal figure or a man vs. nature thriller, is it a film about corporate greed, or just a murder mystery involving the death of a father and husband to the family which Martin stays with while in Tasmania. I think it's more so about Dafoe's transformation but the film never goes deep enough into this cause of all the other plot lines. The film needed to be moodier, more reflective and atmospheric than it actually was, and while towards the end we do get more of that, it's too little too late. There are things to like about the film: Dafoe's great performance, per usual, or a few surprisingly charming/intimate scenes between the Dafoe and the children of the home where he stays, but I think it's a film which could have been much better if not for missed opportunities. Oh, and what a waste of Sam Neil's time really, he needed a bigger more intricate role!
A solid mystery/melodrama which follows Shelly, a young actress on vacation. On her arrival in a small town, she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery where a man, Richard Trevelyan, has just been acquitted for the murder of his wife, much to the dismay of the townspeople. Lighting Strikes Twice uses Shelly as a window into this world, slowly revealing more and more details about the character- relationship dynamics of the town. Up until the last 20 minutes or so of the film, we are still learning new, important details about characters, including Shelly, which add mystery and intrigue to who was ultimately responsible for the death of this Richard Trevelyan's wife. While I didn't completely buy the relationship which quickly forms between Shelly and the acquitted man, it serves its purpose and in the end and doesn't hurt the film. Visually the film has a few stand out scenes like when Shelly first arrives on a stormy night and is met through the window by the acquitted man, with a beautifully haunting composition. Another sequence later, where Shelly talks with Mrs. Nolan, a woman who was a mother-figure to the acquitted, has a great visual composition as well, where we see the paternity which exists between these two characters with a strategically placed self portrait of Richard Trevelyan. In the end the film is far from perfect, but it has a nice tone of ambiguity as we the viewer really have no idea who is responsible for the death of Richard Trevelyan's wife up until the very end.
Tim Fehlbaum's Hell takes place in the not so distant future where our greatest source of light and warmth, the sun,has rebelled against us, scorching the earth to the point which all that exists is a barren wasteland. Marie and her little sister Leonie are headed towards the mountains with Philip, a somewhat trustworthy man. Rumors suggest that water may still exist in the region but on there arrival they are ambushed, forcing them to fight for their lives. Featuring a contained story that spends time with its characters, Hell starts off very strong. The time neccessary is spent to develop these characters, at least enough to the point that the audience genuinely becomes invested in their struggle. When the three protagonists meet these mountain people, who serve as the main protagonists, the film loses a lot of its luster. The story feels less contained, outgrowing the suspense and tension it had build up early on with many familiar horror tropes that really hurt the film's ability to be distinct. That being said, Hell deserves praise for the way it portrays its antagonists as people who are just trying to surprise. They aren't painted as complete monsters but rather people who are simply trying to maintain their way of life. There is a scene towards the very end of the film that really captures this notion that these people are not very different than Marie and Leonie, having family and loved ones themselves, they just are willing to do more heinous acts in order to survive. Another aspect I liked is that Hell doesn't feel a need to go into torture porn levels of gore, opting instead to leave the gruesome horror up to the viewer's imagination, which more so than no amplifies the horror. Hell is not a great horror film by any means, with the second half of the film becoming very lazy from a narrative standpoint, but it does enough things right to make it a serviceable horror film.
Luciano is a man who lives a modest life as a fish market salesman. The father of three daughters and husband to a loving wife, Luciano is a charming man who lives life to the fullest. When his daughters convince him to tryout for the reality show "Big Brother", Luciano begins to spiral out of control becoming obsessed with the idea to the point that it begins to warp his entire reality. Matteo Garrone's Reality is a commentary on the nature of fame and celebrity. When we first meet Luciano he couldn't be less interested in being on Big Brother but the closer it becomes to being reality the more frantic and obsessed he becomes. Simply the possibility of fame and fortune drastically changes this happy man into a completely obsessed individual intent on celebrity status. Garrrone's Reality raises an interesting commentary in that regard, almost arguing that ignorance is bliss while exposing the dark nature of fame and obsession. The aesthetic of the film is very bright and vivid in a way that beautifully clashes with the rather dark and tragic nature of Luciano's decent into utter-madness. Of everything, the score of Reality is a truly under-appreciated element of the film, while simplistic, it really aids in giving the whole film a fairytale type tone which is both light but sinister. Matteo Garron'e Reality is a somewhat comedic, somewhat tragic story about the power of obsession and how quickly they can become the same thing.
Teenage pals Tracy and Gene have just graduated high school and have approximately one week left of freedom before the start of college. Deceiving their parents about their true intentions, the duo pack up a van, labeled the Meat Wagon, and hit the road in search of sex prior to facing the responsibilities associated with Adulthood. I wasn't sure what to expect going into Renen Schorr's Blue Summer and I was certainly surprised to find that this was essentially a skin flick of the 1970s. For much of the films running time the characters and situations are all rather flat and uninteresting, merely used as a paper thin narrative device to buoy the film in-between sex scenes. Basically this film is pretty standard smut for the time but it does have a few transcendent scenes which are surprisingly poignant. The scene with the older woman is surprisingly effective, as we see the regret of her actions mere minutes after her and Tracy make love. When her son arrives home, who happens to be roughly the same age as Tracy, it shatters the eroticism which had been created from the sex scene. Blue Summer is definitely a bi-product of its time creating a nice time capsule of the carefree early 70s, with a breezy vibe that personifies the decade of love. Besides being clearly a low-budget endeavor, Vincent gives the film a nice aesthetic with some nice compositions and lighting choices that certainly support the film as more than simply a skin flick. In the end, I just grew too tiresome of the sex scenes, frequently hoping to experience more of the poignant moments which pop-up throughout the sexually charged narrative. 5.5/10
After losing his legs nearly two decades ago, Wong Po-yen seeks vengeance on the son of the Prince who was responsible. This man, Tuan Yi, is an earnest scholar who lacks martial arts skill. One day he leaves the confines of his palace to see if he can survive outside the walls without martial arts skill. On his journey he meets Mou Wan-ching, a masked woman who kills nearly every man she comes across. She spares Yuan Yi's life because he helps save her sister, Cheung Ling-ar, and the two embark on an epic journey where they fight all sorts of mystical foes. Hsueh Li Pao's The Battle Wizard is a convoluted, martial arts extravaganza that delivers plenty of nonsensical fun. The narrative of the film is a complete mess, strung together by action set pieces and various mystical folklore. Essentially we learn that Tuan Yi and Mou Wan-Ching are long lost siblings, with the same father and separate mothers. This sets up the finale as a family affair which pits Wong Po-Yen against the two siblings. Honestly if you are going into a film like The Battle Wizard expecting a riveting narrative something is wrong with you as Battle Wizard provides pretty much everything you'd want in the genre. From the brazen special effects, to the over-the-top acting, The Battle Wizard is an endlessly entertaining experience. We have characters with the ability to shoot snakes from their hands, a man on metal stilts, a red dragon monster, fire-spitting, a hilariously cheap-looking gorilla, and all sorts of other cheesy but fun creations. The Battle Wizard is an acquired taste but if you like this sorta thing there is no reason you should miss this film.
After the events of the first film, Kick-Ass finds that he has inspired a citywide wave of masked contributors, all who want to help clean up the streets. Mindy (Hit Girl) and Dave (Kick-Ass) are both in high school now and they've decided to team up in their crime fighting antics. That's until Mindy's strict parental guardian makes her promise to hang up the uniform and try and be a normal 15 year-old girl. With Mindy navigating the treacherous waters of high school, Kick Ass joins a crime fighting team known as Justice Forever. Things are going well until Chris D'Amico (Red Mist) becomes "The Mother Fucker" a devious super-villain who assembles his own team intent on getting revenge on Kick-Ass for the death of his father. Jeff Wadlow's Kick Ass 2 is an another entertaining and unique superhero movie that brings a nice marriage of self-awareness and ultra-violence. This film follows pretty much the exact same blueprint of he original and if you liked that film you'll enjoy this sequel. The film is very uneven when trying to establish its message and overall much of the emotionally beats and drama fail at eliciting any feeling out of the audience. My favorite aspect of Kick-Ass 2 is the juxtaposition of high school antics with fighting crime, as Mindy realizes how high school bullies can be just as evil and deceitful as the criminals in the real world. Kick-Ass 2 is nothing special but I personally enjoyed it more than the first film because it doesn't waste as much time getting to the entertaining parts. While no one can replace Nicholas Cage's great performance, Jim Carrey's small role in the sequel is certainly fun as I found myself wishing he has a bigger role.
Since exiting high school Gary King's life hasn't exactly gone as planned. Gary lives alone in a small apartment where he spends his days drinking his life away. In an effort to return to his glory days, Gary ropes his four best friends from high school into accompanying him back to New Haven, in an effort to once and for all conquer the Golden Mile - 12 pubs/12 pints. On their arrival in New Haven things just don't seem normal as the men soon discover the town they grew up in has been invaded by aliens. Edgar Wright's The Worlds End is another solid comedy/drama following in the vein of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in delivering a clever take on the tropes of a popular genre. The Worlds End is essentially a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers using these tropes to create a clever comedic experience . Like the other films, Worlds End does a great job of touching on some weighty dramatic topics, like alcoholism, while never losing its comedic edge. The action is very well shot and the stakes of this story are definitely felt but the film never forgets its characters are drunk throughout the nights events which leads to a lot of great comedy. In the end, if you like the other the films from the Pegg/Wright/Frost pairing there is no reason you wont enjoy The Worlds End, another smart comedic parody that still manages to touch on some surprisingly poignant drama.7.5/10
Grace has dedicated her life to helping underprivileged youth who find themselves lost in the system. She is very committed to her job and even falling in love with Mason, her co-worker, but deep down she still struggles with her own demons. Destin Cretton's Short Term 12 is a delicate drama that effectively transports the viewer into the world of a foster care facility. Destin Cretton drew inspiration from his own life when writing Short Term 12 and it really shows in just how genuine and authentic everything about this film feels. Much like Grace, our main protagonist, Destin Cretton cares about every child in this film, exploring their problems and giving each character great dimension and depth. Personally I found the character of Marcus to be particularly compelling. He is the toughest and strongest character on the outside but as we come to realize through a brilliant scene he is just as terrified and timid on the inside. I really liked how the environment in Short Term 12 never feels stable with happiness, sadness, and tragedy blending together in the lives of these individuals. Short Term 12 is like an emotional punch to the gut many times over but it never feels the least bit forced. Cretton doesn't feel the need to spoon-feed the viewer every lesson instead opting to let them shine through naturally which in turn makes the film much more poignant. A lot has already been said about Brie Larson's performance and it's all justified as she gives a phenomenal performance that is layered and complex. Short Term 12 is without question one of the best films of the year, giving a poignant and honest portrait of the foster care system from the underprivileged children to the people who are so desperately trying to make there lives better.
Mitchell and Carter, two life-long friends who haven't spent too much time together as of late, venture out on a road trip in an effort to reconnect. While driving through the barren desert their car breaks down, leaving them stranded on an isolated road. As the time passes the two men begin to confront each other about their life decisions, leading to brutal results. Kevin & Michael Goetz's Scenic Route is a sadistic take on the "do what you love" ideal, which finds two friends' contempt towards one and others life decisions boiling over into brutality. Much of the film is spent with the two characters bickering at each other and Scenic Route really gets to the core of these two characters capturing their doubts, beliefs, dreams, hopes, and desires. On the surface each man couldn't be more different with Mitchell being married with a child, and Carter being an unemployed writer, and yet, they both feel hopelessly lost in their current lives. There is a nice dichotomy between these two men, with one being stuck in arrested development while the other has nothing at all to show for himself. There relationship is elliptical, with the two men going back and forth between antagonistic and compassionate until the viewer begins to realize they are really the same type of person, they just chose different paths. I'm not sure I bought the relationship completely, as I think the film could have done more to develop the two characters connection but it's apparent that the director is able to create an atmosphere. Kevin & Michael Goetz emphasize the environment these two men are trapped in with the desert winds and harsh sun slowly wearing down Mitchell and Carter. Scenic Route is an intriguing film that features a pretty fun ending but while its ideals are certainly interesting, it relies a little too much on expositional dialogue at times.
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