Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Criminal

Honestly, I have never in my life seen Kevin Costner act this well. I didn't even know he had this kind of performance in him. And, given that this movie lives or dies on how much we believe and feel for his character, I'm so glad he did the job he did. This action thriller has a "Flowers for Algernon" flavor to it, and it's really well executed. All the supporting actors were quite good, and the direction was tight and well paced. I am really surprised I liked this so much - hats off to Costner for this great performance. 4/5

Criminal on Netflix

Monday, February 20, 2017

Paranormal Activity 2

I've only ever seen the first in this series, so this was the next up on my list of horror franchises I've missed over the years. The second installment of this series was pretty solid. I normally spook easily with films like this, and I did jump a time or three during it. The acting was very solid, which helped propel the story along, and I liked that the script only hinted at motives to the haunting without really drawing them out. The half-knowledge of why this was happening made it more thrilling in my opinion. A solid film, I will be interested to see number three. 3.5/5

Paranormal Activity 2 on Netflix

In Cold Blood

This intriguing drama is a revered classic for a reason. It gives equal time and compassion to the killers, the victims, and those involved with solving and reporting the crime. This makes the film quite interesting because this type of storytelling allows us to see the motivations from all sides, which keeps a roundness and humanity to all the characters. The solid acting bolsters this view, and the direction is tight and unflinching. I greatly enjoyed this - highly recommended. 5/5

In Cold Blood on Netflix

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Green Inferno

I don't know, Eli Roth misses more than hits with me. Roth loves to dive headfirst into torture porn, and, after a while, it ceases to be shocking and is just annoying, and this film is no exception to that pattern. The sheer brutality of the violence here wasn't necessary to get the viewer to feel afraid and trapped. If anything, I became so disengaged by the violence that I started to tune out. The plot is so full of holes it's ridiculous and very hard to take seriously. However, I will say that the direction of the film is solid and the acting surprisingly good for this kind of film. Overall, I found this shock flick engaging but not really good per se. 3/5

The Green Inferno on Netflix

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

This is an extraordinary film in many ways, but, in others, it falls down. The depiction of combat PTSD is outstanding. The film's writers, one of whom penned the book this was based on, clearly know their subject well. However, the movie gets bogged down in overly broad characters, treatises about war, and questions about the nature of honor. Ang Lee's direction was lovely, but I have to admit it got overly floral in places. The pace was slow, but that I appreciated, save when it dived a bit too long into "why are we over there" questions. The acting was also quite good, especially from a largely unknown young cast. Overall, it was the very candid depiction of PTSD that won me over. I did enjoy this film, flaws and all. 3.5/5

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk on Netflix

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Final Destination 5

A very fitting end for this mostly good horror franchise. I feel like this will in fact be the end, as the story feels wrapped up to me. However, as I've said in reviews of previous chapters in this series, given the right script, it could go on forever. The acting and plot of this final chapter was much stronger than in FD4, and, while I think the gore remained a little too amped up, it was an apt sendoff. I enjoyed this series more than I expected, very solid films. Next up, the Paranormal Activity franchise! 3.5/5

Final Destination 5 on Netflix

The Girl on the Train

This psych thriller is excellent in the same way that "Gone Girl" was. The plot is intricate and cleverly spooled out to keep the viewer guessing until the end. Blunt was superb in the lead role, and I'm quite surprised she wasn't nominated for Best Actress for this. The music was also excellent and I was surprised that Elfman scored this - his work these days is far more subtle and intriguing than his early work I think. An excellent film, highly recommended. 4.5/5

The Girl on the Train on Netflix

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Last Tango in Paris

I realize this film is a classic, but I honestly couldn't stand it. I'm surprised I finished it I disliked it so much. The script made no sense at all to me. I don't know who these characters were or why they did what they did. The direction was just bad, and the music was worse. I've never been a Brando fan, and I found him nearly intolerable in this. The only saving grace for me was Maria Schneider, who I found beautiful and very compelling. She was much too good for this atrocious movie. 1.5/5

Last Tango in Paris on Netflix

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Final Destination

This fourth installment of the FD franchise was easily the weakest. Poor acting, weak script, and way over the top gruesome deaths that weren't needed. I did like all the instances of the number 180 in the film - I must have caught a dozen and I bet there are way more. I really hope the fifth and currently final chapter is far stronger than this! 2.5/5

The Final Destination on Netflix

Final Destination 3

This series is just getting better with each film. This third installment keeps the original story in the viewer's mind without being directly connected to it. With this type of storytelling, this franchise could conceivably last forever, which would be interesting to say the least. The acting is fairly strong for a teen-scream flick, and the violence was amped up without going completely over the top. I really liked the ending, and I'm very interested to see the final two films. 4/5

Final Destination 3 on Netflix

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Mechanic: Resurrection

I don't know why this film is billed as a sequel to "The Mechanic", as it bears very little resemblance to the first film. "Mechanic" was a great action film because it was grounded in a reality you could believe and feel yourself in. The characters were rich and well rounded, and Ben Foster brought his always incredible presence to life perfectly in it. This sequel is far more like a bad chapter of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise. It's dull, there are no decent characters to speak of, the logic of the world makes no sense, and the globe trotting never allowed the viewer to settle into the story. I'm very disappointed in this, it could have been so much more. 2.5/5

Mechanic: Resurrection on Netflix

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Final Desintation 2

I liked this second film in the FD franchise more than the first. The plot was tighter, the acting better, and the direction more cohesive than in the first film. I can see how this concept is ripe for sequels and spin-offs, but I hope the next three films hold true to the original story and not forget how we got into this world in the first place. I'm looking forward to getting more sequels next week. 3.5/5

Final Destination 2 on Netflix

The Birth of a Nation

I find myself in a quandary trying to describe and rate this film. It is a truly brutal and nearly impossible film to watch. The utter brutality and violence in it rival most horror films. What is most horrible, of course, is that it's real. This happened - perhaps not this story or this way, but the atrocities of slavery surely did. Nate Parker gave a stirring performance as Nat Turner, which, given he also wrote, produced, and directed this film, is quite an accomplishment. However, I would venture to say he stretched himself too thin. Parker's script rang hollow in many places and fell to derivative repetition time and time again. His direction, while outstanding in certain small moments, felt common and conventional through most of the film. I feel the film could have benefited greatly from a lighter touch, deeper characters, and more even storytelling. It was an great movie that could have been transcendent in the way "12 Years a Slave" was, and for that I feel a bit of sorrow. Nonetheless, it is a truly good film, albeit flawed. 4/5

The Birth of a Nation on Netflix

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sinister 2

I didn't feel this sequel was as strong as the original, and I didn't think the original was that great already. The acting by the kids in this film was strong, and the direction compelling. The story doesn't really hold water though, and I found myself lapsing in and out of attention through most of it. Just average for me. 3/5

Sinister 2 on Netflix

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Identicals

I didn't realize how hated this movie was until I saw pages and pages of one star reviews on Netflix. I don't think I've ever seen any film with this many one star ratings, but I found it more intriguing than most. To start off, the visuals are so gorgeous. Simon Pummell's visual style is breathtaking, and there are sequences in this film - the mirror room scene at the end most of all - that I think I will remember forever. However, the plot was very murky with almost no exposition or understanding of the bleak world in which this film resides. That is the reason most reviewers hated this film - it's nearly impossible to truly understand what's happening, because we are never given the rules of the world. It's just characters meeting and intersecting repeatedly with no real rhyme or reason to it. It's an interesting mix of "Upstream Color" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", but less clear. But I have to say that, muddy as this story was, I was so taken by the visuals and the acting of the leads that I can't give it less than three stars. I don't know that I would recommend it unless you are looking for a visual feast, but I did enjoy more than most. 3/5

Identicals on Netflix