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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: May 2012

Thursday

May 31: Paper Man

"A washed-up writer forms an unlikely friendship with a teenager from Long Island."

Paper Man is a fine display of how off-the-rocker a man can become when a bad case of writer's block completely overwhelms his life. The man is certainly not the most likable, by all means, and even comes across as rather creepy, but with the film's heart and imagination, a lot can be forgiven. Paper Man is a fine example how a little indie film can be saved by a star-studded cast and makes you wonder how bad it would have turned out if a bunch of no name actors experience self-loathing, middle age frustrations, and an odd fascination with a rare game hen. Starring Jeff Daniels, Emma Stone, Lisa Kudrow, Kieran Culkin, and Ryan Reynolds, the film certainly surprises. First time directors Michele and Kieran Mulroney are incredibly lucky to have such talent in their directing debut and I strongly believe without the cast, Paper Man would be a very, very, sub-par film. 

I mean, who else but Ryan Reynolds could play Captain Excellent?

Yes, Reynolds is in a cheap superhero suit every time he appears in the film. He actually plays Richard's (Jeff Daniels) imaginary friend that he has had for his entire life. Richard is struggling with so many aspects of his life (career, marriage, etc.) and his only friend, Captain Excellent, seems to be the only constant throughout his mid-life super crisis. When he moves into a new house in a little town, he meets Abby (Emma Stone), a teenage girl he hires to babysit, even though there is actually no child around. You'd think this would be a red flag of creepy, but Abby goes along with it, even gets paid, and the two begin a rather awkward, but cute?, friendship. As Richard continues to struggle writing a new book about the last bird of a species, he learns to grow up (again), find courage in himself and his work, and even let go of a friend who's stuck around for way too long. 

Even if we all know he'll never truly grow up

Paper Man is good, but it is nowhere near incredible. It never escapes the fact that it is, indeed, a low budget indie film and while it has a hard time avoiding certain cliches, it still is very entertaining. It is as heart-warming as it is quirky and odd. Jeff Daniels is terrific as Richard and makes me wonder why the man has not been in a lot more. Emma Stone shows she can definitely act and is much more than a raunchy comedy queen. Ryan Reynolds, as always, is hilarious, and the few moments he graces the screen are not only memorable, but very absurd. He now has, I believe, three superheroes under his belt and I can only assume he's begun a fine little collection. I would definitely recommend Paper Man, especially if you're a writer or just someone struggling to find some creative inspiration. 

The Good:
The entire cast that saves a plot that could have turned ugly had it starred other people
The Bad:
the film's plot is a little hairy, as are the characters, especially Richard, who comes off as a little too creepy
The Ugly:
wondering how many first time filmmakers never get the opportunity to have such great actors starring in their directing debuts

Overall: 6.8/10

Trailer:

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Wednesday

May 30: Tangled

"The magically long-haired Rapunzel has spent her entire life in a tower, but now that a runaway thief has stumbled upon her, she is about to discover the world for the first time, and who she really is."

Disney has had an iffy last decade or so. Never capturing the magic of the past, the studio has seemingly struggled to make another classic. However, things are very different with Tangled, as it is an amazing return to form for Disney and quite the adventure in itself. It has great voice-acting that fit the characters perfectly and cute, comical animal sidekicks (a deadly chameleon, Pascal, and a horse, Maximus, who thinks he's a dog). The film is genuinely funny (no stupid pop culture parodies and song "covers" a la Alvin and the Chipmunks) and incredibly beautiful. The animation is amazing and actually has the first Disney princess, Rapunzel, to be rendered in 3D. 

Aw, look at the little chameleon. 

Tangled follows the story of Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), the timeless damsel locked away in a tower. However, instead of waiting for her prince or whatever, she's kept "prisoner" by her adoptive step-mother who kidnapped her when she was a baby. Rapunzel actually has magical glowing hair that has the power to give youth back to her mother whenever she sings. Her mother is a really greedy and selfish b**ch and keeps Rapunzel locked away so she can essentially live forever. When Flynn Rider (Chuck's Zachary Levi), a thief on the run, stumbles upon Rapunzel's tower, he's blackmailed by the long haired girl into taking her to the castle's annual lantern festival. The two escape the tower and head out on a road-trip adventure through the land, escaping thieves, Rapunzel's awful step-mother, and the royal guard. Tangled is not your average princess story and has a lot more going for it than frilly, pretty dresses and whatever else little girls like. 

Yes, Flynn is shocked that boys can enjoy this film too. 

If you can't tell, I would definitely recommend Tangled. My one complaint is that the scale of the film isn't as grand as one would expect as the story is rather contained in a small area. But you could also look at this as a strength, as the film never bloats into over-the-top nonsense and focuses a lot on the great characters at its core. Tangled is worth a watch and reinvigorates Disney and shows that more soon-to-be-classics can still be made at timeless studio. 

The Good:
the fact the film is actually funny and earns quite a lot of laughs
The Better:
two central characters that are written perfectly and have voice actors clearly made for the roles
The Best:
a reminder that Disney still has mojo and can produce quality films again

Overall: 8.4/10

Trailer:

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Tuesday

May 29: Get the Gringo- 150th Review!

**REVIEW #150**
"A career criminal (Gibson) nabbed by Mexican authorities is placed in a tough prison where he learns to survive with the help of a 9-year-old boy."

Get the Gringo is a fine example of Mel Gibson's ability to kick ass. Yes boys and girls, he still has it in him. Forget his racist rants and drunken tantrums. Forget his domestic abuse and his seemingly abandoned Australian accent. He is still an action star and Get the Gringo proves it. I can only assume this film didn't get a large release because of Gibson's personal life issues and bad public image but it really deserves one. It has a great story, fun action, and a rather unique (yet entertaining) setting. It's a lot like Lethal Weapon, set in Mexico, but instead of Danny Glover as his partner, Gibson teams up with a 10 year old boy with a "magic liver". 

Oh, I forgot to mention the clowns...(yes that's Gibson)

The story follows Gibson's unnamed character who's a career criminal that finds himself locked up in a Mexican prison. The prison, however, is not your usual Shawshank and is actually its own, self-contained town called "The Pueblito", run by a crime lord and his thugs. Living in the prison is a kid (again, no name) and his mother. Gibson runs into the kid and the two bond over cigarettes and a drink (no, really) and he finds out the kid's previously mentioned "magic liver" is the perfect match for the crime lord who is slowly dying from liver problems. Because of the important organ, the kid is watched like a hawk and thus Gibson's new friendship with the boy raises a lot of red flags. A bunch of shit goes down (including a badass shootout in the middle of the prison) and Gibson finds himself owing a big favor to the crime lord. He's sent out of the prison and Mexico altogether, and has to track down and kill, surprise, another crime lord in the US (played by the creepy awesome Peter Stormare). The film blends action, chase, spy, and hit-man elements into a somewhat over-the-top ride that really keeps your attention.

With the awful luck Gibson's character has, you can only assume his boy Jesus left him out to dry and die in Mexico.

I would definitely recommend Get the Gringo. I saw a trailer for it awhile ago and have been waiting for my chance to watch it and it really did deliver. Sure, parts of the film are very formulaic and predictable (even cheesy at times) but the entire thing has so much style and clever writing that it's faults are easily forgivable. The film does have a lot of the dialogue in Spanish and I found some of the subtitles a little difficult to read, but even the missed bits don't hinder the story. Get the Gringo can be found on demand as of now, and I am not sure of a DVD release date, so it may be hard to watch. If you can, track it down because it's very much worth your time and a semi-nostalgic reminder of Mel Gibson's ability to kick ass. 

The Good:
great combination of action, drama, and comedy that turns a could be disaster into something you want to watch
The Bad:
knowing that Mel Gibson probably doesn't have many of these (if any) left in his "talent" 
The Ugly:
Mexico prisons, even if they are the "world's shittiest shopping mall"

Overall: 7.5/10

Trailer:

Also, please feel free to comment on any (and every) post. This time of the year is rather difficult when it comes to Netflix and DVD releases and I could use some suggestions of what to watch. I'll reward comments with virtual high-fives and fist-bumps, as well as an empty promise to change your life. 

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Monday

May 28: Take Me Home Tonight

"Four years after graduation, an awkward high school genius uses his sister's boyfriend's Labor Day party as the perfect opportunity to make his move on his high school crush."

Take Me Home Tonight is by no means a great movie, but it is still very entertaining. It's biggest strengths are the cast, led by Topher Grace, and the soundtrack, which features songs from Duran Duran, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Pete Townsend, and of course Eddie Money whose song the movie gets its title from. While the film does have many cliches (one last party, chasing girl of his dreams, over-the-top horndog best friend, daddy issues, etc.), it still has its own unique charm. Although nowhere near the quality of American Pie, Knocked Up, or The 40 Year Old Virgin, it is still one of those raunchy comedies that has some heart. 


And anything Demitri Martin has a part in is worth watching.

Topher Grace plays Matt Franklin, a recent MIT graduate who can't figure out what he wants to do with his life. He works at Suncoast Video, hangs out with his best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) and twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris), while obsessing over Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer), the girl he didn't have the balls to ask out in high school. Of course, Tori comes back to town and invites Matt to the party of the year, hosted by Wendy's dumbass boyfriend, Kyle (Parks and Recreations' Chris Pratt and also Anna Faris' real life husband). Matt takes this as some happening of fate and decides to try and make something happen after pining over the girl of his dreams for years without doing anything about it. Throw in some grand theft auto, a giant ball, and a baggie of cocaine and you can probably put together the rest of the plot (it's obvious, right?). Sure, the whole story has been done plenty of times before and is very predictable, but it still has some very funny moments as well as some surprise cameos. 

The cast also made this amazing music video. 

I'd recommend Take Me Home Tonight just because it's a movie that is clearly aware of what it is, but has a hell of a lot of fun with it. It's no groundbreaking comedy but it's worth a watch. The characters are not deeply developed but the great cast does the best they can with what was written. And, for me personally, after That 70s Show, I'll watch anything Topher Grace is in. Take Me Home Tonight is a good example of a movie you can put on to have playing in the background and then find yourself really watching after ten minutes or so. It's mindless, it's fun, and it is certainly much better than any recent Adam Sandler film (which, sure, isn't hard to be, but still.. give it something). 

The Good:
an excellent cast and awesome nostalgic soundtrack 
The Bad:
a story incredibly predictable and far from original
The Ugly:
a reminder that the 80s is probably the greatest decade in the history of movies and that it will never be beaten or duplicated, but remade and raped

Overall: 6.3/10

Trailer:

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Sunday

May 27: Black Death

"Set during the time of the first outbreak of bubonic plague in England, a young monk is tasked with learning the truth about reports of people being brought back to life in a small village."

Black Death is a terrific little film that flew completely under the radar when it was released in 2010. Starring Sean Bean, had this film been released after season one of Game of Thrones, I am sure this would have seen a wide theatrical release. Unfortunately, it did not, and it is a shame because many people will go without seeing Black Death. There are very few films set during the time of the bubonic plague and when one comes around on the rare occasion, I'm always hoping it will be something good. I mean, a pandemic that brought nearly 100 million people to an early, painful death provides plenty of material to be used for all sorts of films. Black Death does indeed focus on this ravaging of Europe (duh, it's the title) and instead of being a run-of-the-mill swords, knights, and bloodshed movie, it actually has one hell of a story that leaves a lot to be thought over and discussed. 

Plus, it has a pretty badass poster. 

Black Death follows the story of a knight named Ulrich (Sean Bean) who leads his men on an expedition through the contaminated lands of Europe, seeking a village rumored to have not only been able to avoid the plague but, holds a power to bring the dead back to life. Ulrich enlists the help of Osmund (Eddie Redmayne), a young monk who knows the area and can be a valuable guide through the harsh swamp lands that surround the village. As Ulrich and his party reach the village, their faith in God is tested, and all is not what it seems as everything takes a wicked turn into unexpected territory. Black Death has many twists and turns throughout it's seemingly straight-forward story. The film reminds me a lot of The Wicker Man, with paganism and Christianity playing a large part of the plot and showing that evil ways do not necessarily elude those with good intentions. 

It's actually pretty creepy...

I would definitely recommend Black Death. It has plenty of style AND substance and is a great look at how far people can go when it comes to what they believe. The entire film is bleak, as the title references, and the director, Christopher Smith, does a great job at capturing it. Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne give great performances, as does the supporting cast, and each character is developed well enough that you care about their outcome. The film is no masterpiece but it does tell a good (although depressing) story and is much more than a regular hack-n-slash ironclad flick you see in the bargain bin at Walmart. 

The Good:
a dark, meaningful story that shows faith in God can be stronger (or weaker) than the cold steel of a sword
The Better:
a great cast lead by the always amazing Sean Bean
The Best:
a film that actually tells a story of the bubonic plague very well and with the depressing, dark atmosphere it... deserves?

Overall: 7.4/10

Trailer:

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Saturday

May 26: Beetlejuice

"A couple of recently deceased ghosts contract the services of a "bio-exorcist" in order to remove the obnoxious new owners of their house."

Beetlejuice is a classic, hands down. It is Tim Burton at his best and a nice reminder of how good he used to be. Yes, used to. I don't care what anyone says but Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory suck. They are loud, creepy, obnoxious messes with way too much color and way too much Depp. Yes, I said it. Burdeppon needs a break. But moving past that, let's talk about Burton's first "relationship" with Michael Keaton (Burk? Keabur? Beaton?). First, Beetlejuice that lead into Batman (f**k yes) and then finishing with Batman Returns, this duo was three for three in the awesome department. And it all started with Beetlejuice, an incredibly creative ride through a colorful underworld with equally creative characters and one hell of a performance from Keaton. 

He's a conman Joker with the hygiene of the Bubonic Plague (hehe, I love that shrunken head dude)

Beetlejuice follows the story of the Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) who, after discovering they have died, seek a means of haunting the Deetz family, the new owners of their house, who plan on ruining it with atrocious decorating and remodeling. After several failed attempts at scaring the Deetz's away (including a memorable dinner table scene featuring dancing and calypso), the Maitlands reluctantly hire Beetlejuice (Keaton) for help, who advertises himself as a "bio-exorcist" or, in a sense, an expert ghost. It turns out, however, that he's just a dirty, horny, old ghoul who looks out only for himself and will do whatever it takes to get out of the underworld. The story is incredibly original and its execution is so imaginative and over-the-top (the good kind) that you can't help but love it. It's a dark, dark, comedy and its twister humor mixed with equally twisted special effects and character designs give it a very macabre charm. 

I mean... look how f**ked up (yet cute) that is. 

Chances are, you've already seen Beetlejuice as it was quite the hit when it premiered in 1988 and even spawned a cartoon that lasted nearly 100 episodes. It's one of Burton's best and most creative films. It has incredible special effects that create extremely unique characters, creatures, and ghouls and is really the first sign of Burton's fascination with death and the afterlife (see: everything else he does). The best part of the film is definitely Keaton's performance and one of the biggest faults with the film is that he does not have enough screen time (only 17 minutes). They recently announced a true sequel to the film that will return Keaton to the role and I can only hope that Burton doesn't find a way to squeeze Johnny Depp into it, and really makes it a true sequel, faithful and respectful enough to the original.

The Good:
a clever, original story that can only come from the world's most obscure visionary 
The Better:
creepy, terrifying, and entertaining special effects that have their own "flair"
The Best:
Keaton delivering one of his best performances of his career and how he steals every second he's on the screen

Overall: 8.2/10

Trailer:

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Friday

May 25: Maniac

"A psychotic man, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in NYC, kills young women and takes their scalps as trophies. Will he find the perfect woman in photographer Anna, and end his killing spree?"

Maniac is an incredibly f**ked up movie. The only reason I watched it was because I found out it was being remade with Elijah Wood as the star. After watching Maniac, Wood is in for one hell of a performance and it will definitely be like nothing you have seen him in before (except MAYBE as Kevin in Sin City). Maniac is what would happen if Alfred Hitchcock ignored the story and the masterful directing in Psycho, and made a festival of blood and gore with the feel of a grindhouse flick. 

Birds! Birds! Birds! Fly My Feathered Fiends!- the lost Hitchcock film we'll never be able to see. 

Maniac follows the story of Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) who roams the streets of New York City killing men and women because a voice tells him to do so. The voice comes from a seemingly second personality of Zito, who is his mother telling him to kill because he/she won't love him like she does. I think? The entire story screams Norman Bates from Psycho and Zito even uses female mannequins (with his victims scalps nailed on top) as a replacement for his mother. When Anna, a photographer, enters Zito's life, he feels she may be the answer to his problems and hopes to have a genuine relationship with her. Spinell does a great job in the title role and is genuinely disturbing, mumbling to himself and breathing heavily as he hunts down his next victim like a predator stalking his prey. I'm hoping that when he was alive (he died in 1989), Spinell was a nice guy because he's naturally creepy looking and Maniac definitely uses that to its advantage. 

Just imagine that face being the last thing you see as he slowly strangles you to death, his sweat dripping down onto your face and the sounds of him grunting echoing through your ears

Maniac is incredibly violent. The special effects and makeup were done by the legendary Tom Savini, who even makes a small (but important) appearance in the film. There is a very memorable scene with a shotgun that, although not for the faint of heart, is done incredibly well. Maniac will make you feel uncomfortable, claustrophobic, and very disturbed and, quite frankly, is the reason I would recommend it. It's not a masterpiece, by any means, but it's a nice look back at what the horror genre was in the 1980s. 

The Good:
incredible effects by Tom Savini (seriously, look here, the guy is a legend, and quite the actor)
The Bad:
very little plot and dialogue, leading more to a series of over-the-top violence than anything else
The Ugly:
knowing a film like this could never be made today and wondering how the remake will even come close to the brutality of the original

Overall: 6.8/10

Trailer:

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Thursday

May 24: Stake Land

"Martin was a normal teenage boy before the country collapsed in an empty pit of economic and political disaster. A vampire epidemic has swept across what is left of the nation's abandoned towns and cities, and it's up to Mister, a death dealing, rogue vampire hunter, to get Martin safely north to Canada, the continent's New Eden."

Stake Land is not your ordinary horror film. In fact, I wouldn't even fully classify it as horror, minus a few scenes. It's much more of a character driven drama that just happens to be set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by vampires, cannibals, and a cult called The Brotherhood. It's a rather serious film (sometimes even too serious) and focuses much more on the characters and their struggles than it does the gore and blood baths (or glitter) you'd expect to see in a vampire movie. It really catches you off guard as being something much more than you'd think it would be and, while not without its faults, turns out to be a pretty good movie. 

Of course, it still has it's true horror moments. 

Stake Land follows the story of a boy named Martin (Connor Paolo), who survives a vampire attack on his family only because he's saved by a man simply called Mister (Nick Damici). Mister, as it turns out, is some freak of nature awesome vampire hunter who knows how to kill them and does it well. Mister takes Martin under his protection and together they decide to travel north to New Eden, a place said to be a sanctuary in a world of chaos. They travel through a destroyed America, that looks eerily realistic to what you might see if some sort of war or disease broke out. This is the film's biggest strength as the setting itself haunts you, with each new environment having its own character unsettling atmosphere. As the two journey, they run into trouble with The Brotherhood (who control most of the land), and also stop at small settlements, trading for supplies with vampire fangs, a new currency for a new world. It's in these little pockets of populations that Stake Land continues to show how things really may play out come a similar situation (minus the vampires). 

It's a blue collar glimpse to the end of the world. 

Overall, I would recommend Stake Land. It's not without it's faults, as the film, at times, takes itself way too seriously and you feel like you're watching a melodramatic vampire soap opera. Martin has a voice-over throughout the film and, while it does add to his character development, it can be rather distracting at times. Although much, much better than most cheap budget horror films, Stake Land does suffer from the occasional God-awful line of dialogue as well. However, with such incredible settings, environments, great makeup work and effects, and a soundtrack that strings a constant unsettling feeling throughout, Stake Land is definitely worth the time and money. 

The Good:
an overall eeriness to the film that really gets under your skin and disturbs you
The Bad:
the film trying to hard to be more of a drama than it is
The Ugly:
again, minus the vampires, it shows a creepy world that may actually come into place if some catastrophe were to happen

Overall: 7.2/10

Trailer:

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Wednesday

May 23: 13 Assassins

"A group of assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill an evil lord."

Look at these facts for a moment. 13 Assassins is a 141 minute film. The first 70 minutes build up the story and give background to the 13 samurai who vow to kill an evil warlord. The last 71 minutes however, is completely non-stop, epic, over-the-top, violent, stylized action with swords, bows, and explosives. I have never seen an action sequence that lasted this long before and it's what heightens 13 Assassins into greatness. Not to mention, this epic battle pits 13 samurai against about 400 soldiers. It's as though the fight with The Bride vs. The Crazy 88's in Kill Bill was multiplied by five and lasted four times as long. 

Less Uma Thurman and more badass Japanese actors with much cooler names than Uma Thurman. 

13 Assassins is actually a remake of a 1963 film of the same name. It follows the story of Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho), who is recruited to gather a small group of warriors to track down and execute the evil Lord Matsudaira (Gorô Inagaki). Matsudaira is related to the past and current shogun of Japan and in his position has abused the powers by murdering, raping, and pillaging all for entertainment. We see how particularly evil he is in one scene when he chops the legs, arms, and tongue off of a woman simply to have her as a "play thing" to keep him amused. Shimada knows how badly Matsudaira needs to die and he recruits 11 honorable samurai and one aloof thief to help him kill the tyrant. They lay siege to a village, where the Matsudaira is said to be traveling through, setting up booby traps and explosives awaiting his arrival. Once he and his army arrive in the village, the 13 warriors unleash an attack. As previously mentioned, this battle is the majority of the film and it is absolutely glorious. 


The film is similar to a beautiful painting splattered with blood and manliness. 

I would highly recommend 13 Assassins. Directed by Takashi Miike (who directed one of my favorite horror movies- Audition), the film blends his usual over-the-top style with a good chunk of realism and heart. Most of the characters are very well developed and, in a short time, we learn a lot of their backgrounds and reasoning for joining the fight. The choreography in the action sequences is masterful and so much is happening at once that you can't help but wonder how long it took to film. Even though there are definite comparisons to the Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai as well as a handful of other samurai movies, 13 Assassins still stands on its own and shows you that the genre is not dead. Watch it.

The Good:
a fairly developed story in a movie you'd think would be more blood and guts than plot
The Better:
realizing that a samurai movie can still be more than just an over-the-top joke riddled with ridiculous cliches 
The Best:
having the story conclude with one of the best (and longest) action sequences I have ever seen

Overall: 9.0/10

Trailer:

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Tuesday

May 22: The Woman in Black

"A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals."

The Woman in Black is a fine example of what is wrong with horror movies these days. With every single scare accentuated with loud noises and even louder music, the film tries way too hard to frighten you with pop-out scares than it does with genuine horror. It's a shame, because WIB has a great story, pretty good acting, and one hell of a setting. It's very frustrating when an incredible set, terrifying house, and one creepy location are completely misused. It's like if the hotel from The Shining was used as the setting for a Paranormal Activity movie. 

Wait, never mind. That would be bat shit mind f**k creepy as sin. 

The Woman in Black tells the story of a a young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Harry Potter), who has to go to a little village to settle the accounts of the Drablow family at Eel Marsh Estate. It is there he discovers a woman who haunts the village, seeking revenge for her lost son who was taken away from her. It is said that whenever someone sees her, a child will die, as she takes away from others what she valued most. Kipps tries to uncover the mystery behind her death and reunite her with her son, but fixing a haunting is a lot harder than simply reversing an Avada Kedavra spell. And, although Daniel Radcliffe does a fairly good job in the role of Kipps, it is incredibly hard to see him as someone other than Harry Potter let alone a father of a four year old. 

After Voldemort, simple hauntings are mundane and trivial. 

The Woman in Black is a run-of-the-mill horror film that could have been much better than it is. I'm tired of watching a scary movie and only being startled, never genuinely afraid or uncomfortable. When a film is not confident in itself to be that kind of horror film and relies heavily on the jump out-pop-out-oh-shit moments, it tends to fail. I would recommend The Woman in Black for its setting and atmosphere alone. It's made very well (minus the scares) and the story is told well, with very little dialogue. It's a large leap from the Harry Potter films for Radcliffe and having his performance as the focus of the film shows he may have what it takes to be more than a boy wizard with a scar on his forehead.

The Good:
a very creepy setting that's captured beautifully with a camera
The Bad:
the film is very predictable and lacks any genuinely terrifying moments
The Ugly:
the use of music and sound effects to scare, rather than truly disturbing moments and completely abusing this tactic

Overall: 5.8/10

Trailer:

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Monday

May 21: The Tree of Life

"A family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence."

So, after months of putting it off, I have finally seen The Tree of Life. I have had it sitting in my room forever, never really finding the time to sit down and watch it, knowing it's a rather heavy experience with a lot of "what the hell is going on?" moments. I decided to just give it a go, popped it in the Blu-ray player (yeah, fancy), and sat back for two and a half hours as I watched one of the most beautiful, yet confusing, films I have ever seen. Directed by the ever elusive Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life is both a film packed with symbolism (I think?) and meticulous crafting. 

And there are dinosaurs! I know! I have no idea why either!

The Tree of Life is a story of how the world began, starting at The Big Bang, taking a quick stop in the 1950s to focus on a family, then jumping to modern day, followed by the end of the world. So much happens and every single scene is shot as though it is its own work of art. As we travel through time, we witness nature at its beginnings and the eventual evolution of life. There really is no story to these scenes and the bulk of the plot is what happens when we see the O'Brien family (patriarch- Brad Pitt), struggling with their own problems. Every member of the family is cast perfectly and the acting is amazing, especially by Pitt and his sons. Jack (Hunter McCracken who also wins best name ever) is the eldest son and the primary focus of the story. His struggles with his over-authoritative father (Pitt) are the main conflict, and we see Jack becoming a man of his own. His encounters with friends, his brothers, his faith, and his family all leave much to question, as the tribulations seem so minuscule to the fact we're also on a journey through time. I think that's the point however, and that love conquers all?

Holy Hell does that not look like the spitting image of Pitt hanging off his shoulders?

The Tree of Life is an experience. Similar to Enter the Void (review) and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the primary focus is on the visuals with very little dialogue. Every shot is gorgeous and the cinematography is mind-blowing. Malick has a reverence to his story and for film itself, and his approach to film-making is incredible. Malick's visuals and special effects are accompanied by an equally amazing soundtrack and, if time traveling is this beautiful, I would love my own Tardis and/or DeLorean. The Tree of Life is a must see, but must be watched with an open mind and a lot of patience. 

The Good:
a unique movie experience that has much more meaning and symbolism to be understood in one viewing and leaves a lot to be discussed
The Better:
incredible acting by the entire cast, with noteworthy performances by the three brothers, Brad Pitt, and Jessica Chastain
The Best:
mesmerizing special effects and visuals that are heightened by an equally tremendous score 

Overall: 8.6/10

One of the best trailers I have ever seen:

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