Well since I am new to the BlinkinBlogs family and there really hasn’t been a proper write-up for many of the films currently in theater, I thought I would provide a little Reel Rhino guidance.
I try to make an effort to see all new releases as they hit theaters, so that I may give up to date and properly timed reviews of what’s playing.
I have reached back to the beginning of February and dipped into the Reel Rhino Review well to bring you this, by any standard, excessively long single post. Hopefully you can use it as a resource as needed. It is a veritable BUFFET of film.
I started with the most current and worked my way backwards through time, with respect to release dates. The reviews for Insidious, Source Code, and Sucker Punch are a bit longer since they are some of the newer releases…the rest are just briefs for your convenience.
Now go grab a blankie and some hot chocolate, sit back, and enjoy the read.
REVIEWED THIS POST:
Insidious – 3.5 Horns
Source Code – 4 Horns
Hop – 3 Horns
Sucker Punch – 4 Horns
Limitless – 4 Horns
The Lincoln Lawyer – 4 Horns
Paul – 3.5 Horns
Mars Needs Moms – 4.5 Horns
Battle: Los Angeles – 4.5 Horns
Red Riding Hood – 2 Horns
Rango – 4.5 Horns
The Adjustment Bureau – 5 Horns
Take Me Home Tonight – 3 Horns
Drive Angry 3-D – 3 Horns
The Tempest – 3 Horns
INSIDIOUS: 3.5 of 5 Horns
I am a bit of a horror buff and I am especially fond of the first entry into the SAW franchise. The same James Wan who co-wrote and directed that first SAW, directed Insidious. And who was the co-writer for Saw? That would be Leigh Whannell, the sole screenwriter listed for this effort. Whannell is an actor as well, and he portrayed poor, unlucky Adam in the first Saw. He shows up again in this film and his character subtly adds a welcomed bit of humor in an otherwise straight horror film.
INSIDIOUS is INSIDIOUS. Or so the ads have been telling us! The film follows a family led by actors Patrick Wilson (Josh) and Rose Byrne (Renai), with two sons and an infant daughter living in a beautiful old home. Of their children: Dalton, Foster, and “Baby Girl” Lambert, we become mostly concerned with Dalton, who falls into an unresponsive state after suffering injuries in a fall in the new home.
This quickly devolves into a Poltergeist-like scenario calling on a little used convention in supernatural storytelling. I won’t share that convention here as to keep your viewing experience fresh, but I found it a creative use of a supposedly true phenomenon. Lin Shaye stands in for the classic Zelda Rubenstein, reprising of sorts the TANGINA character from Poltergeist. Shaye’s Elise conveys creepy in a different, but none the less successful manner. Her assistants, Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) bring a bit of the feel of the original Ghostbusters in their demeanor. Their presence is appreciated, if for no other reason than GHOSTBUSTERS remains my favorite film of all-time and while they add some laughs, it isn’t celebrated, but rather is subtly presented.
Leigh Whannell and Lin Shaye
The film really takes off after offering the main theory of why Dalton is in this pseudo-coma, defying any medical explanation as he seems perfectly healthy otherwise. Now, some will argue that jump scares are a lazy cliche in horror films, but I disagree. Scare me however you will, and I will enjoy it! Wan offers some great scares and by a mile, his dark imagery captures a perfect ambiance in this film. And to make a more complete horror experience, the tone of the film is enhanced exponentially by having a creepy kid at the center of the story.
Early in the film, things seem to be occurring as you would expect with a straight haunted house type thriller. The house they use is great and Wan delivers this portion in excellently paced fashion, building tension very slowly.
But this story for all its good, struggles to find an acceptable resolution in the final 20 minutes. For our climactic sequence, Wan choose a minimalistic approach, which suits the material. But for a visual medium, I think the overall quality of the film suffered.
Wan is a very talented visual artist. It was evident in SAW and it is evident here. But that said, there is an unintentional humorous parallel that will be drawn between the main baddie in Insidious and a popular baddie from a recent trilogy in sci-fi/fantasy saga.
The story struggles at the conclusion, but overall, I was entertained and take from this film the merit that I described earlier. Reel Rhino says: Insidious is worth seeing, bring a change of shorts for the jump scares, and relax knowing that INSIDIOUS has received a watchable 3.5 of 5 horns.
SOURCE CODE: 4 of 5 Horns
Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens. We meet Captain Stevens as a confused helicopter pilot, who wakes up in the body of a stranger, riding a commuter train towards Chicago. This train we find out in fairly short order, has previously exploded and Captain Colter has been sent into the electronically captured memory, or SOURCE CODE, of one of those killed in the blast. His mission: learn more about the event to stop a subsequent bombing planned for that same day in downtown Chicago.
His handlers are Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright). Both are, in my opinion, very watchable in all of their films, and the same holds true here. Please calculate in the fact that Farmiga is rather underused for her talent level and that Jeffrey Wright is channeling mad scientist as if he was written as some crazy Bond villain.
Colter is sent to the beginning of the 8 minute sequence multiple times throughout the film. He is sent into the body of a school teacher who in real life was contemplating a relationship with a young lady, also on the train, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan).
With each trip into the source code, Colter gains some bit of sympathy for Christina and the other passengers, all of who perished in the train explosion. The chemistry between our leads is a bit disjointed as a facet of the story, but it is forgivable for those few moments when Gyllanhaal and Monaghan emotionally engage one and other. Monaghan’s cheerful demeanor portrays young love in a very convincing manner.
As revealed in the trailer, Colter wants to try and save them all. An honorable notion, but is it metaphysically possible? See the film and find out.
This is a film worth seeing. I wasn’t blown away in the same way I was by Jones’ MOON, but this was a very enjoyable film. It is competent film making that should satisfy an adult audience craving for watchable sci-fi.
Duncan Jones takes fresh faced writer Ben Ripley’s words and crafts them into an original sci-fi tale that is surprisingly similar to those films previously made on the writings of Phillip K. Dick. I look forward to more original work by Jones and in a world of remakes and sequels (many of which the fanboy in me will come to love), I say we have plenty of space in this world of cinema for original work.
HOP: 3 of 5 Horns
I saw Hop as a part of my exercise in attempting to see all new releases throughout the year. Hop received plenty of hype, in the form of TV spots, huge stand-ups at the theater, and Internet site billboards. The movie is a live-action film, with a load of CGI, almost pushing into animated fare at certain points throughout. While this film made a run at creating a legacy character for the Easter season, I think it fell just a little short. The movie lacks the adult sensibilities that have been welcomed in so many other movies of this type. This movie was rated PG, but it just as well could have been G. This was a pure kids movie, and I gave it as high a rating as I did because the children in the theater really seemed to like it. I guess as a reviewer of film, I have to remove my personal bias when possible, and rate these pictures of their own merit. Hop was portrayed by Russell Brand and he falls in with the live-action character played by James Marsden. The movie is harmless and the kids will likely leave the theater smiling, but in general, it seemed wholly uninteresting.
SUCKER PUNCH: 4 of 5 Horns
I love Zach Snyder’s visual style and the tone of his films. By a mile, you can call me a Watchmen apologist, because I love that movie, giant blue penis and all. I think that Snyder gave us the best possible Watchmen we could get, and while there are flaws, he shot for the moon and in my humble opinion, hit it!
Snyder gave us visionary looks into the world of Frank Miller’s 300, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and most recently treading into new filmmaking territory for the director, the animated feature, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.
Here is my plea for your forgiveness of Sucker Punch. Yes, this movie is a 15 year old boy’s wet dream. This movie is a video gamer’s paradise. This movie throws everything at you and more. The story is sometimes hard to follow and when it is all said and done, there will be some plot points you on which you are unclear. But…
How absolutely original is this film? Zach Snyder both wrote the screenplay and has the story by credit. This is his baby. It is ORIGINAL MATERIAL and this is something that we need more of in this “same old story” era of the Hollywood world.
But wait Reel Rhino, some of those visuals were kind of rehashed from other material, weren’t they? Were those Orcs? Dragons? Nazi Zombies? Yes, they were! But the sum total of the visuals in this film and the original nature by which they were all presented make this film as a whole, combined into something wonderful. (P.S. For another great trip into the world of Nazi Zombies, See Also: DEAD SNOW).
I am (mostly) not a fanboy, but I know what I like. This film is no Star Wars. It is no Lord of the Rings. It is no Indiana Jones. But it is a film that is yet another early entry into the career of a filmmaker who shows signs of the greatness that the likes of the creators of those older great series.
The visuals in this film are fantastic. I am so happy he decided on IMAX but passed on 3-D. This film was dark and with 3-D, things almost get too dark. The tone was perfect, the subdued colors sublime.
To the film…Emily Browning is Baby Doll, and boy is she ever. I don’t mean that in too much of a sexist way, but she really is a cutie. Baby Doll’s mother dies and in the first few minutes of the film, her step-father attacks and kills her sister, and the blame is put on her. She meets up with a merry band of misfits which is basically a compilation of hot, 20-something young actresses who are paraded around in school girl costumes. No complaints for those visuals from this filmgoer!
These girls are corralled by Dr. Vera Gorski, who is played with very strange Eastern European accent, by Carla Gugino. I like Carla Gugino. She is a beautiful woman who takes on very risky and adventurous roles.
When Baby Doll arrives at the home, within a very short while, the movie becomes a fantasy world film, set within the mind of one of our characters. Most of this film exists in a “not-as-smooth-as-Inception” dream within a dream within a dream kind of deal.
The home is set up as an escort house of sorts where the girls dance for clients and make money for their boss, Blue, who is the primary baddie in the film.
There is a trigger that occurs throughout the film that sets in motion the bad-ass action sequences you saw in the trailers and which drew you into the theater. These are the several mind-blowing scenarios that push into the realm of video-game style action….yes, placating the 14 and 15 year old boys everywhere, by scantily dressing hot young 20-somethings and having them absolutely kick ass!
Jon Hamm has a cameo in a key role to the film but by far, the best thing not in fishnet stockings or school girl skirts was Scott Glenn, credited as only “Wise Man.”
I loved what was great about this movie, but I will also be the first admit, where it fires mostly with a bang, I felt it ended with a fizzle, primarily due to a rather unclear resolution and choosing to end in the so-called real world, rather than in one of the visually stunning “dream sequences.”. I forgive the end for what came before it. Zack Snyder may not have the Spielberg or Lucas or Jackson touch just yet…but he is working on it. Keep it coming…keep it coming.
You know what he has lined up next, right? SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL…directed by Snyder, produced by Christopher Nolan. The thought gives me chills, and while I was one of the few who enjoyed Superman Returns and forgave Brandon Routh’s wooden turn as Clark Kent as homage to Christopher Reeve, I am super duper excited for this. Superman made under the wing of Christopher Nolan, that can’t be bad, right? Hey, Nolan is my favorite director of the moment and while I say that he is great, his filmography isn’t that deep and he isn’t that old! I love that these young bucks are tearing is up and I see them as a new revolution in fantasy, saga-rich film making. I’m not talking Dungeons and Dragons kind of stuff…even though there was some of that in Sucker Punch, but I mean a George Lucas/Steven Spielberg kind of renaissance….those guys and the likes of D.J. Caruso and JJ Abrams are some of the best we have for making our dreams come true.
LIMITLESS: 4 of 5 Horns
Limitless was a fun Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller and while a bit in unpolished in some areas, I feel it held up from start to finish. Keeping with my recent theme of originality, why wouldn’t this story be worth watching? In our culture of drug use, both legal and otherwise, a tale of a superdrug that allows you to access the untapped parts of your brain strikes me as brilliant. As the film is made in a wholly competent manner, with subtly visual clues indicating when you are travelling with “old” Eddie versus the new and improved Eddie. The most important lesson here: Bradley Cooper can act. I haven’t ever doubted that, but apparently he needed to convince the world. He has been great in all the jerky but lovable roles (see also: The Hangover, The Wedding Crashers) so why wouldn’t he be good in this. Hey, I even found ALL ABOUT STEVE remotely entertaining with a rather touching ending.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER: 4 of 5 Horns
I had a root canal the Friday before the Sunday I saw this flick, my cheek all sorts of throbbin’. I definitely was not in the right mindset to see this movie. I walked out a little disappointed and a little sleepy. After further reflection, I promoted The Lincoln Lawyer to a 4 from a 3.5. I may see it again in the theater, but more likely I will wait for BluRay. McConaughey is in top form and this film is loaded with great character actors. The ending plays out like something on par with a cheesy Lifetime movie…it actually made me awkwardly think of the ending to one of my all time favorites, Fletch. The ending be damned, the movie is enjoyable and I think with another viewing or two, I will really find a place in my rotation for this flick. I do think I will be more favorable to that other Lincoln movie…Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter…but that will be a story for another day.
PAUL: 3.5 of 5 Horns
I loved the references this film delivered at every turn! It was pure fun to see all my favorite movies from the last thirty years to be used very organically within the dialogue of this film. That said, there was just something missing. I can’t explain it, but it missed that spark that made me love it. I enjoyed the F Bombs a plenty and the alien dong references. Kristen Wiig is subtly funny as hell and overall, the supporting cast is fantastic. I predict with additional viewings, I will love this movie! (See also: Anchorman.)
MARS NEEDS MOMS 3-D: 4.5 of 5 Horns
There is much more heart in this film than I expected. I mention below the watchability of Dan Fogler…he pleases in animated form as well. Don’t miss the credits as the secrets of the making of and mo cap methods are revealed. And don’t worry, while Seth Green is created as portraying Milo, the lead, he does so only in movements and mo cap. Milo is actually voiced by an unknown voice actor who does true justice to the youthful vigor needed for this passionate young man. Yes, if you want some serious brownie points, go with your mother. You will hold each other during the tender scenes near the end of the film and you will feel better as a human being!
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES: 4.5 of 5 Horns
This is an action-packed thrill-ride that at its center has real heart. The movie looks and sounds stellar. I am not crazy about the $4 up charge for AMC’s ETX Theater, but I would have paid double that for the crisp look and feel that the ETX delivered for Battle: LA. Don’t believe the hype! This movie is fun and Aaron Eckhart is a talented actor around who this Summer Blockbuster-worthy flick is built. Yes, there are many cliches afoot here, but come on…this movie’s fantastically adrenalin-charged scenes make up for the stuff that is rehashed from similar previous films. I respect any sci-fi film with this kind of scope, that lives in the daylight rather than in the shadows of night. This movie is something like ALIENS, on earth, and under the bright of day. ALIENS is the superior film by a mile, but Battle: LA holds its own!
RED RIDING HOOD: 2 of 5 Horns
What was most upsetting about this film was the promise that the concept of this film showed. I would have thought someone would have realized the acting by the B-players came off as excessively wooden and some of the cliche film making techniques would relegate this film to a campiness that is way too short of the fun that usually accompanies camp.
RANGO: 4.5 of 5 Horns
This kid’s flick ain’t really for kids, folks. It is a fantastic film that is rich in characters. It is not to be missed and while there are enough interesting visuals to keep the kids semi-happy, the adults will really see the humor and the depth that this film has to offer. Johnny Depp himself has become somewhat a cliche of wild-type character films, but he does Rango true justice. Even though we rarely get to see Depp in anything but wild eyed and crazy, that range adds to Rango in the best possible way. In most animated films, it is hard to look past the voices to see the characters. In this film, these characters live and breathe on their own. I challenge you to pinpoint any of the talent behind the voices, outside of Depp and a very obvious Timothy Olyphant-astic. This film is a pure animated spaghetti western disguised as Nickelodeon fodder. You will have a great time at this movie!
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU: 5 of 5 Horns
I absolutely loved this movie! It was made with the highest of production values and the city of New York is a palpable character in this film. Matt Damon is stellar (as always) and Emily Blunt is clearly established as one of Hollywood’s finest young actresses. Don’t agree with me? Go see this movie. Yes, it is high concept and it is full of rich characters with roots in the oldest of human literature. It is based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by a legend in Science Fiction, Phillip K. Dick. I have heard complaints that this is more a romance than a sci-fi, but I disagree. There is such thing as a romantic sci-fi. The sci-fi is overt. The romance is overt. The message has been decried by some as corny, but I loved it. See this movie in a theater with a great big screen and digital projection…you won’t be disappointed.
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT: 3 of 5 Horns
There were several excellent experiences that came with seeing this film, and the movie wasn’t one of them. The movie was only okay and I laughed a bit, but it seemed like this film wanted to be more of a drama when it was presented in previews as a blow out comedy. Dan Fogler was pretty awesome and I think that for some of his mild obnoxiousness, he is quite watchable in anything he does. Topher Grace was a bit lackluster and while Anna Ferris was completely competent, this role was much straighter than her usual fare. I very much liked Topher’s lady, Aussie actress Teresa Palmer who I last raved on, writing on Sorcerer’s Apprentice review last year. All in all, there were some laughs, and hopefully with future viewings, I may find this a funnier film than in this outing.
DRIVE ANGRY 3-D: 3 of 5 Horns
This is a B-movie with Blockbuster sensibilities. That said, it still falls short of something really worthwhile. The film was shot in 3-D, which means the 3-D scenes are actually decent. Nic Cage is standard Nic Cage, which I don’t hate, so that’s alright if you don’t hate Nic Cage. Amber Heard is a bad-ass hot mama who gets pretty deft at dealing hurt. William Fitchner is as always, enjoyable, as is his turn as the hammy straight man in hell’s Accountant, set out to recover the escaped soul in Cage. There are some decent moments, especially the tongue-in-cheek laughs to be had by the movie’s graphic sex scene. I think they were thinking about MY BLOODY VALENTINE’s naked 3-D scene when they shot this. The main baddie is played by Billy Burke, perhaps best known today as Charlie Swan in The Twilight Saga, Burke is suitable for the role and his delivery fits the over-the-top B-movie feel. Like I said, not great, but moderately fun. Go with friends or see it in a crowded theater and if possible, be 5 or 6 beers deep. It will help.
THE TEMPEST: 3 of 5 Horns
Yowza…I fell head over heels in love with Julie Taymor’s ACROSS THE UNIVERSE in 2007. It is a wonderful movie if you haven’t seen it. I was never really a Beatles fan, now I am. Thank you Ms. Taymor. Now, if you could only please explain The Tempest to me, I would be most obliged! The Tempest is a visually beautiful film that contains a story I had quite a hard time following and ultimately understanding. Near the end of the film, when I sensed a major conflict or showdown of sorts approaching….roll credits. I fancy myself a fairly savvy guy, but I was a little bit in the dark on this one. It is based on William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, which is famously his last work in which the monologue by Prospero (actually Prospera in the film, played by Helen Mirren) is said to be Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage. Maybe the Cliff’s Notes is the key to my understanding? Oh how my High School English teachers would be disappointed 🙁