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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: August 2012

Friday

August Ratings Roundup

Cinematic Katzenjammer:
Highest: Se7en, 9.7/10
Lowest: Piranha 3DD, 1.6/10

IMDB:
Highest: Se7en, 8.7/10
Lowest: Piranha 3DD, 4.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes:
Highest: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 9.8/10 (98%)
Lowest: Piranha 3DD, 1.4/10 (14%)

For a look back, check out past roundups:

Aug 31: Being Flynn

"Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet. Sensing trouble in his own life, Nick wrestles with the notion of reaching out yet again to his dad."
Directed by: Paul Weitz, Rated: R, 102 minutes

Being Flynn is a pretentious piece of crap that tries way too hard to tell some glorious coming of age, daddy-issue filled story. It features two incredibly unlikable characters that you can't sympathize with at all and throws every thing it possibly can at you in order to get that reaction.  It leaves you wondering if Robert De Niro's career is indeed, completely dead at this point, and if the man even has anything left in him. The film is a story about writers, a topic that for some reason has a harder transition to film than others, and the end result is usually genius (Barton Fink, Adaptation) or absolutely awful. Being Flynn falls under the latter category and is honestly a struggle to get through. 

His badass level is completely depleted. 

The movie follows Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) and his life in Boston. After losing his girlfriend and his job, Nick begins working at a homeless shelter, helping to feed and clothe those less fortunate. He falls for a girl named Denise (Olivia Thirbly) and the two seem to hit it off. After eighteen years of not hearing from him, Nick receives a phone call from his his estranged father, John (De Niro), who is a completely unlikable racist who hates black people and homosexuals. John needs some help and Nick picks him up, only to discover that his father just wanted the favor and nothing more. The two part ways soon after. After hard times fall on John, he enters the homeless shelter Nick is working at and the two, in a way, reunite. John reveals to Nick that he' been working on a "masterpiece" and this his novel will be published and he'll be rolling in money. Nick is a struggling writer himself, and as he talks to his dad more and more, he finds inspiration to write poetry. However, his dad doesn't stay around the shelter too long as he's kicked out for acting up (he's a violent son of a gun), and the two again part ways. 

Angry grandpa muscles don't make you likable, Bobby D. 

As I wrote the synopsis above, I began to realize how poorly the film was put together. The story's a mess, combining a rather unsatisfactory "reunion" of father and son with flashbacks to Nick and his mother (Julianne Moore who's just there... because). While the plot isn't complicated or anything of the sort, it's just too all over the place to really be coherent. There's very little substance to the plot and any character development is only seen at the very end of the film, and even then there's not much there. It's ironic that a story about writers would turn out so inconsistent and the screenplay is by far, the weakest part of the film. Robert De Niro does a decent job as John, but like I stated several times, his character is so unlikable you kind of grow to hate him. Sure, he has signs of crazy and he may not be completely right in the head, but it still doesn't excuse a large part of his actions throughout the movie. Paul Dano, who seems to be type-cast as the "self-loathing, whiny writer" just doesn't fit in the film. I loved the guy in Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood but his career is getting too repetitive and annoying for me to really care about. 

His neurotic-ness is turning into a weird combination of sleeze and desperation. 

Being Flynn is not worth the watch, even if it's a movie you catch on TV (for free). It's simply too much of an irritating portrait of characters you could care less about and tells its story in such a chaotic fashion that nothing emotional really sticks. By the film's conclusion, you've lost any interest in what's going on and you're actually hoping that it comes sooner than later. You'd also think that a film like this would at least have a great soundtrack, but not a single song is memorable, which is a shame because all the songs are from Badly Drawn Boy, a great band in its own right. Being Flynn is a skip. There's much better ways to end your summer than sitting in front of the TV and watching this flick. 

The Good:
the fleeting moments of Olivia Thirbly and the charm and sexy she brings to any movie
The Bad:
a story that's packed full of nothing and lacks any real substance to elicit any positive emotional response
The Ugly:
two very unlikable lead characters that seem to continually out-do each other in that department, making it way too easy to not give a damn about them

Overall: 3.5/10

Trailer:

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Follow Friday: French Toast Sunday


The last day of August brings us another edition of Follow Friday. This week, I wanted to highlight the great people over at French Toast Sunday, one of my favorite movie blogs out there. The staff consists of six very different individuals who come together and create a wide variety of articles, from all sorts of lists, reviews, a podcast, and even a unique feature where they pair up a brand of beer with a particular movie. As you can imagine, it's all so much fun. There's so much going over at FTS (I call it that because I'm cool), that you can literally get caught up for hours reading all the material on the site. French Toast Sunday also has one sexy layout that screams "We're a legit movie blog!" and as most of you can tell from some re-working I did, I tried to emulate some of their icons (imitation is illegal, emulation is fine, ask Stephen Colbert). So get your asses over there if you haven't already and check out the incredible work going on and the joyous wonders of an amazingly named website. 


Past Fridays:
Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights
Two Tickets For...
Two Dude Review
Film Flare

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Thursday

Aug 30: Pixelschatten

"Pixel (Ben Gageik) is a 22-year-old small-town blogger: Everyone can read about him and his friends online."
Directed by: Anil Jacob Kunnel, Rated: NR, 85 minutes

The tagline of Pixelschatten is "Our Life is Online" but the question it poses is "What happens when we get too connected"?. In a time where everyone is connected, finding your place in the world is harder than you'd think. With everyone having access to any and all information at their fingertips (the internet), it's harder to impress. In this ever and constant changing world, it's even harder to stay relevant and meaningful. The film is one of the most honest looks at the lives of today's twenty somethings and paints a portrait of a generation that shares the similar struggles of those in the past, but has the technology to record every moment of it. 

Every... single... moment. 

The film follows Pixel, a young man obsessed with his blog, Pixelschatten. He records everything with a video camera and discusses everything with his many readers. As time goes on, his blog becomes his 'gimmick' and the driving force behind his every day interactions with his friends and his girlfriend, Suse. Pixel seems to have lost the ability to connect with his friends and the fact that nothing he experiences is kept secret frustrates them. Pixelschatten was once popular with all of them, each excited and eager to read each day's posts and watch the videos. But, as time has gone on, it seems that everyone but Pixel has grown out of it and leaves him struggling to figure out where to go with it, if anywhere at all. He knows that continued posting on the blog will result in losing those closest to him but, when even the thought of stopping comes to mind, he feels lost and alone. 

Speaking from first hand experience, blogging can be as ridiculous as crack... but without the weight loss. 

Pixelschatten is much more than a series of events captured by an avid blogger with a decent sized audience. At its heart, the film focuses on the relationships between these individuals and the connections between them. The film is brutally honest in these depictions and the realism is incredible to watch. The movie is filmed almost entirely in the first person perspective and makes the audience feel as though you're part of the group. As Pixelschatten grows into a much larger group effort than that of just one man, those watching the film are participating in each video, post, and song. You share in each drink and each party and it's because of this that makes the film feel more natural. You would assume that a filming technique like this would hinder the movie, but it makes it much more personal and unique. It's fitting that a film that details the day to day life of a particular person be filmed in such a manner, as every bit of the movie is from his perspective. This showcases the fact that his transition from blog life to real life has completely  faded. 

Pixelschatten also uses (very) quick peeks at the actual blog, and after each event we see its followers' comments and reactions

Pixelschatten is a small German indie flick that's much larger than its budget. It tells a story that's incredibly relatable to the point of almost being tragic. The film is very reminiscent of the 2006 British gem, Cashback, another somber, yet energetic coming of age tale; as well as Enter the Void, for the use of the first person point of view. The visuals of the film are remarkable, and seeing young filmmakers experimenting with the camera and in post-productions leaves you hoping that the future of movies will continue to impress. The talent in front of the camera leaves you hopeful as well, with terrific performances by all of the actors, especially from Zora Klostermann who plays Suse. She's beautiful, but in the natural "I know that girl!" kind of way and again, this adds to the realism. 

A girl in a movie you'd actually have a chance with. 

I would highly recommend this film, especially to anyone who writes on a blog. With the internet how it is now, anyone can write about their lives and thoughts in a very public forum. Most of the time, the discussions fade off as something else becomes the "new thing", but for the few of us that continue writing, day in and day out, it really does become a large part of our lives. I can honestly say that I have had plenty of moments where I bite my tongue or hold back a thought that's in relation to my blog, because I am aware that not everyone around me wants to hear about it. With Pixelschatten, Pixel does not have that same filter as every word muttered and every thought that comes to mind must be recorded for the masses. It's easily a route many writers can find themselves wandering down and it really does effect the real life connections you already have. In a digital age like the one we live in, it's fairly easy to lose grip on reality and Pixelschatten not only highlights that "phenomenon" but also reminds us that the real connections, with real people, are one of the strongest things we have. 

The Good:
the fact the movie is a little indie film and doesn't reek of self-righteous 'snobitude'
The Better:
a near-perfect examination of real lives through an actual first-hand perspective that lets you connect completely with these strangers
The Best:
knowing that even though we get connected, plugged in, liked, shared, tweeted, and upvoted, nothing beats a fun time with real friends

Overall: 8.8/10

Trailer:

I was extremely lucky enough (and honored) to be given a screener of this film from the actual filmmakers (a first for CK!), so unfortunately it's not the most accessible film right now. However, I strongly suggest following the film on Twitter and even demanding it locally through Tugg. It's a great film that so many of us caught up in the blogosphere can relate to and I truly believe it needs to be seen by a lot of people. Please share this with friends! For more information relating to Pixelschatten, check out the official site here

You can also check out my Q&A I did with the writer/director, Anil Kunnel, and the star, Ben Gageik. Here's the link

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Wednesday

Aug 29: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

"Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London."
Directed by: Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt, Rated: PG, 88 minutes
Aardman Animations has always been a leader in animated movies, creating imaginative films with hilarious characters. Each one of their films is a work of art and watching it leaves you baffled at the time and effort put into making such a thing. With The Pirates! Band of Misfits, all of those glorious visuals are there with equally impressive sets and decorations but there's really not a lot else. The story's way too messy, throwing in as much as possible, just as quick, and while there are a handful of laughs, it's really not as entertaining as any of the Wallace & Gromit movies (or shorts), or even Chicken Run, both properties of Aardman. It's really disappointing too, because this film packs one hell of a voice cast and sets up a world with so many possibilities. 

I'm afraid to revisit this "classic", thinking my naive younger self just loved it because of the talking chickens. 

The Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) has always wanted to win the Pirate of the Year Award. Each he, he tries his hardest to outdo his rival pirates but always comes up short. His pirate career has become a sort of joke in his "community" and he knows that if he can't win it this year, it's the end of pirating for him. So The Pirate Captain sets out with his loyal crew in hopes of amassing the most booty possible and thus winning the highly coveted award. After several failed attempts at looting passerby ships, The Pirate Captain comes across Charles Darwin's (David Tenant) ship, who recognizes that the Pirate's "parrot" is actually the thought to be extinct Dodo bird and tells the Captain that riches could be had with presenting the bird at a science convention in London. Of course, London is hope to Queen Victoria, pirates' most feared nemesis, and you imagine that sneaking into the England capital to present a bird is a rather difficult task. Thus, you have the majority of the plot for The Pirates!. There's much more that happens, but it all jumps from scene to scene very quickly without giving the audience enough time to relish in the beauty on the screen. There's so much going on in each scene, with attention paid to the smallest of details, that it really is a shame more time isn't spent in each location. 

Just one of about a hundred different scenes... in a 88 minute movie. 

With pitch-perfect stop-motion animation from Aardman, The Pirates! is saved from being another run-of-the-mill kids movie. Each scene is a joy to watch and makes you respect the film-making process even more. At times, you forget you're watching something animated as the backgrounds and scenery look so realistic. However, it's very disappointing when the story can't keep up with such visuals. It's an even bigger shame because this film had to have taken years to make and at no point in the process did the animators and/or screenwriters realize it needed something more. The voice cast, however, is superb, and each of the actors involved had to have an absolute blast filming their respective parts. Along with Grand and Tenant, Martin Freeman, Salma Hayek, Brendan Gleeson, Anton Yelchin, Jeremy Piven, and even Al Roker provide their voice talents, with most of them not even being recognizable as they really go out of the box with their characters. Had these actors been given a little more room to play with, I feel The Pirates! could have turned into a much more entertaining movie. 

To give you an idea of how "contained" it all is, Salma Hayek has about two lines in the entire film. 

While I would not go as far as telling you to avoid the film, The Pirates! is nothing to get too excited about. It's funny, yes, but only in it's few moments of genius (because they really are genius). Unfortunately, those few moments are almost immediately throw overboard with a very messy story that jumps around way too quickly as though it needed to be molded into something you could present to a low-tolerance, weak patience-filled child. Aardman has always been known as throwing in plenty of adult jokes and references, and while The Pirates! has a couple, it never embraces that style we're used to seeing. 

The Good:
superb visuals that shows how far you can really go with stop-motion animation
The Bad:
a messy story that tries too hard to appease the little ones...
The Ugly:
...while nearly forgetting about the adult fans that helped build the studio

Overall: 6.4/10

Trailer:

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Tuesday

Letterboxd: A Visual of the Films You Watch


For a quick post, I wanted to share with all of you Letterboxd, a social-networking site where you can mark the movies you've seen, include reviews, make lists, and more. While the social-networking aspect of the site hasn't quite blossomed into anything too interesting yet, I personally use the site as a nice visual for the films I review on here. It's cool seeing all of the posters (in order) for all of the movies I've watched and a nice add-on to my year-long adventure. Below is the link to the list I've created showcasing what I've watched. It also will give you an idea of what the site is capable of, and if you find it to be interesting enough for you, sign up! I'll be glad to follow you and check out what you've seen. Also, as a note of encouragement (as it could seem tedious), you can import all of your IMDB ratings and what not over to Letterboxd, so everything you've marked and scored won't be in vain. 


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Aug 28: A Shot in the Dark

"As murder follows murder, beautiful Maria is the obvious suspect; bumbling Inspector Clouseau drives his boss mad by seeing her as plainly innocent."
Directed by: Blake Edwards, Rated: PG, 102 minutes

I hate to admit it, but I've never seen an entire Pink Panther movie and the only part of Peter Sellers' career I've seen is Dr. Strangelove. Yes, it is very embarrassing (being a movie blogger and all), but after much constant recommendation from a friend, I finally decided to A Shot in the Dark, the second Pink Panther flick, a chance. And, as you could assume, I really enjoyed it. It's packed full of laughs, an abundance of sexual innuendos (those were the best in the 60s), and a handful of surprises to keep you wondering how it's all going to end. 

Mystery. Intrigue. Wits. And a whole lot of fun. 

The film follows the hardly capable Inspector Clouseau (Sellers) and his trials and tribulations as he attempts to discover the identity of a serial killer while trying to win the heart of the gorgeous Maria (Elke Sommer). As the bodies keep piling up, Maria is clearly seen as the prime suspect as she keeps ending up with the murder weapon in her hand, but Clouseau refuses to beleive someone so beautiful could do something so wrong and continues to look for the murderer, completely frustrating his superior, Commissioner Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom). As Clouseau and Maria get closer, more bodies begin piling up around them, and they go from one ridiculous setting to the next. From nudist colonies to an over-the-top dance bar/restaurant, Clouseau seems to bring death wherever he goes. It's hard talking much more about the movie then giving much away, but the entire film is an adventure in its own, full of slap-stick humor and genius comedic situations you could only find Sellers in. This is his second outing as his now iconic Clouseau and arguably his best (or so I read). It's an amazing reminder of how great comedy was and is one of the best showcases of Sellers' talent. 

Sexy and funny. 

The humor in A Shot in the Dark is so simple, yet brilliant. Ridiculous situations with people falling over one another ceases to be entertaining, as long as those involved in the humor are talented enough to bring it home. Director Blake Edwards does a great job at capturing every nuance of the humor as well as each gag. Sellers is arguably one of the greatest comedians of all time and his channeling of Chaplin, Keaton, and other silent stars, while mixing in his own unique style is absolutely perfect. He's one of the few people in the world you can watch for hours and stay entertained. His timing his dead on and his facial expressions and gestures give so much life to a very incapable inspector. The best part of the film is certainly Sellers and it's a shame there aren't more comedians like him these days. Making people laugh is timeless, and even the older stuff works (for the most part, even more so). I don't quite understand why we have what we have in Hollywood right now. 


I would highly recommend this film. As I mentioned, I had not seen any of the Pink Panther movies in their entirety, but after watching A Shot in the Dark, I feel I must track them down and watch them immediately. The film is the perfect reminder of old Hollywood, and it's featuring of great, elaborate sets, 'foreign' locations, and practical effects is a joy to watch. I'd also like to point out that the women of the past give the women of the present a run for their money in the looks department. Every single woman in pre-1970s movies seems to be her own kind of stunner. It's then disappointing when you look them up and see what they look like now... But, regardless, go watch this movie and love every minute of it like I did. And remember that there's a history to the cinematic world. Just because a movie was released decades ago it doesn't mean it's not good or even relevant to today.

The Good:
seeing an older movie and being reminded of the magic of the movies, when everything was 'real' and the people genuinely entertaining
The Better:
Elke Sommer... she's so damn hot
The Best:
Peter Sellers in the role that made him famous and watching him do what he did best- make us laugh

Overall: 9.0/10

Trailer: As I could not find a quality trailer, here's a great clip from the film

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Monday

As You Watch: Episode II- Dick Tracy


My recent podcast I started with Bubba from Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights, Joe from Two Dude Review, and Vern from Vern's Videovangaurd has been incredibly fun recording. This time around, we have a logo, a theme song (thanks to The Jelly Project), and a little more confidence and energy to it all. This week's feature film was Dick Tracy, but we also discuss the DVD releases (Battleship, Think Like a Man, The Lucky One), as well as Lawless and The Possession, two films hitting theaters this week. To wrap it all up, we discuss our three favorite underrated gangster flicks and play our game, The Battle of Wits. We're actually taking turns hosting the actual podcast on our respective blogs, so this week head over to Bubba's site and check it out. 


Listen Here


Episode I can be found here

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Aug 27: Muppet Treasure Island

"The Muppets are back into action in another movie based on a novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Kermit the Frog and his colleagues go on a warfare against ruthless pirates."
Directed by: Brian Henson, Rated: G, 99 minutes

Muppet Treasure Island is hands down my favorite Muppet movie. I saw it in theaters when I was  seven and have since seen it probably close to a couple dozen times. It has a special place in my heart and every time I watch it I'm constantly smiling and singing along with all the songs. To some surprise, I'm actually not the greatest at quoting movies (never have been), but to give you an idea of how much I love this film, I can almost quote it word for word, it's that special. In fact, this movie is what turned me on to the Muppets and it's been quite one hell of a relationship since. 

So perfect... So fun

The film is a re-telling of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, Treasure Island, and incorporates our favorite felted friends into the story. Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) is a young boy who inherits a treasure map from his pirate friend, Billy Bones (Billy Connolley). As he has no means of acquiring a ship, Jim enlists the help of Fozzie Bear, the son of a shipping tycoon, and becomes a cabin boy on the Hispanolia, a ship captained by Kermit the Frog. The ship's cook, Long John Silver (the perfect Tim Curry), befriends Jim and welcomes him on board as a true sailor and explorer. Of course, Tim Curry is never what he seems, and it turns out he's a pirate looking to not only start a mutiny, but steal the treasure map and the eventual gold. Kermit and crew become aware of his dastardly plot and plan to send Silver and his henchman, but Silver kidnaps Jim. Thus, Kermit, Gonzo, Rizzo and company must make their way to the island, save Jim and stop Silver from taking the gold that's rightfully theirs (kind of). While the plot is familiar, the Muppets inject a whole lot of energy and fun into the story and even add some ridiculously catchy songs. As it is a norm for Muppet flicks, the characters wink at the camera and let you know that it is indeed a movie. Each nod towards the audience is an unexpected (but expected) surprise and leaves you even more entertained, knowing full well that it is indeed a true Muppet movie. 


Similar to other Muppet movies, Gonzo and Rizzo provide an almost in-movie narrative, with tongue-in-cheek remarks

Besides the Muppets themselves, the highlights of the film are Tim Curry and the soundtrack. Curry is clearly having so much fun in the movie and he relishes in the fact he not only gets to work with Kermit the Frog, but the fact he gets to play one of the greatest villains in literature history. He's terrific as Long John Silver and every time he's on screen, you can't help but smile at how amazing he is. Along with his presence, he has one hell of a voice, and each song he sings in this memorable soundtrack makes it all even better. From "Shiver My Timbers" to "Sailing For Adventure", the soundtrack can be sung over and over again. As I mentioned, I know the words, I sing along, and I love every minute of it. Unlike most Muppet movies, this one is rather contained and doesn't feature as many cameos as their previous outings, but when you have Curry as the "star", there's very little more you need. 


Look how much fun he's having! 

As you can tell, I would highly recommend this film. Chances are (if you had an awesome childhood), you've already seen it. But the film is so damn good I implore you to revisit it and see how good it's actually stayed. The humor is for both adults and for kids and in that, the funny parts actually grow up with you. With a great soundtrack and an even better cast, Muppet Treasure Island is a must watch for all ages, genders, races, creeds, and species. 

The Good:
seeing our favorite Muppets in another movie, based off the classic book
The Better:
memorable songs that you can't help but sing along with and that even linger in your mind for days afterward
The Best:
Tim Curry... where has this man's career gone!? 


Overall: 9.3/10

Trailer:
I couldn't find a great trailer for the movie, so I included the first song from the film. 

Like this review or the blog in general? Let your friends know! Like it on Facebook,Tweet itReddit it, Pin it, or even shout it out your window!

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Sunday

The LAMBcast: The Most Anticipated Movies of the End of 2012


As most of you know, I'm a (proud) member of the LAMB (Large Association of Movie Blogs). Every week, a handful of members get together for the LAMBcast, a podcast where movies are the discussion and a whole lot of fun is had. Luckily, I was able to record an episode where we discussed our five most anticipated movies of the rest of the year. Hosted by Dylan Fields of Man, I Love Films, and accompanied by Sebastian Gutierrez of Films from the Supermassive Black Hole, Nick Jobe of Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob, and Kristen Lopez of Journeys in Classic Film, I had a hell of a time recording. The discussion was a nice reminder of how many good films are coming out later this year and I'm sure you'll agree with some of the most excited-about movies, and I'm sure you have your own as well. 

Listen here:

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Aug 26: The Amityville Horror

"A family is terrorized by demonic forces after moving into a home that was the site of a grisly mass-murder"
Directed by: Andrew Douglas, Rated: R, 90 minutes

Melissa George is a sexy woman. She's got curves and "attributes" that make her incredibly attractive. However, for some reason or another, she consistently plays characters where she's perpetually in distress, crying or screaming and losing sight of her children. While I can't go out on a limb and call her a great actress, it wouldn't hurt to see her smile once in awhile. With The Amityville Horror she continues this pattern to a rather annoying effect. It's a remake of a film that wasn't even too great to begin with (surprise!), and follows every horror cliche in the book. What makes it watchable is the performance of Ryan Reynolds (who I have continued to praise even through all his hate). As he completely loses control on his life and his family, it's creepy as hell to watch.


One of the twelve times Melissa George has actually smiled. 

George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) find a beautiful home in Amityville, New York. It's huge, it's on the water, and it has everything they could ask for in a home to raise a family. They even manage to buy the home at a ridiculously low price, to much concern of George, who questions why something so great goes for so cheap. Soon after moving in, the Lutz family begin encountering strange things throughout the home. Magnets rearrange themselves on the refrigerator, George begins hearing voices, and blood seems to seep through the walls. Clearly something is wrong with the home and Kathy finds counsel in Father Callaway (Philip Baker Hall), who tells her that the home was the scene of a grizzly murder just over a year ago. Ronald DeFeo killed six family members one night after hearing voices telling him to do so. As George has become increasingly distant to the family, Kathy noticed he had taken refuge in the basement, where he too has said to hear voices. Fearing the worst, Kathy believes her kids are in danger around George and she must find a way for all of them to leave the home and save George from a quasi-possession before it's too late. While this story is incredibly familiar to most horror movie watchers, this really is where a lot of those cliche possession stories began. The Amityville Horror is based off of an actual murder that happened in 1974 and while the film tends to monetize off of the crime, the actual events are still ridiculously creepy. As for the film, it never really captures the fear of the real-life danger the house is said to hold, but it still has a handful of creepy moments that leave you a little unsettled. 

Wondering about the actual murders unfolding is creepy as f**k. 

The best part of the film is Ryan Reynolds' George. Witnessing him slowly lose grip on reality and spiral into a creepy state of rage is eerie to watch. I have always been a staunch supporter of Reynolds and enough though the film isn't terrific by any means, I feel his performance lifts it out of awful. It's also worth noting that The Amityville Horror is a rare kind of horror movie in that it's actually rated R. As opposed to the horror movies that come out lately, that are rated PG-13 to bring in a larger audience, this film embraces its R rated and in doing so, has much more blood scares than anything else. As George loses his sanity, he begins seeing visions of ritualistic murders that happened in the basement of the home, and each sequence is cut with a psychotic energy and flashes of blood. 


Yes, it suffers from the "little creepy girl" cliche... 

The Amityville Horror is worth a watch, in my opinion. If you really think about the story behind the actual event, the film tends to be much creepier than just a stand alone movie. Sure, there's not a lot going on throughout the film, and the ending is quite disappointing, but the idea behind it all makes the movie even more uncomfortable. The film is a remake of the 1979 film of the same name (which wasn't really great in its own right), and it's tough to argue which one is better. As fall approaches and a horror obsession sweeps in through your open window, The Amityville Horror would be a decent movie to watch as the autumn chill crawls up your spine. 

The Good:
Ryan Reynolds performance
The Bad:
a story that doesn't really have a lot going for it...
The Ugly:
...and wondering where it could have gone had it actually had the balls to do so


Overall: 6.3/10

Trailer:
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Saturday

Aug 25: RocknRolla

"In London, a real-estate scam puts millions of pounds up for grabs, attracting some of the city's scrappiest tough guys and its more established underworld types, all of whom are looking to get rich quick. While the city's seasoned criminals vie for the cash, an unexpected player -- a drugged out rock 'n' roller presumed to be dead but very much alive"
Directed by: Guy Ritchie, Rated: R, 114 minutes

A Guy Ritchie film is always a unique film, combining high energy with wild characters and even wilder situations. RocknRolla is no exception to that fact and while it's not Ritchie's strongest outing, it still proves incredibly entertaining. Sure, the plot can be a little confusing at times as there is so much going on and so many different people in the film but, once it's over, you don't feel like you missed anything. Hell, a painting at the central part of the story is just a MacGuffin to move the plot forward. Once you realize that, it's all easy riding from there. Ritchie is a master of dialogue and RocknRolla features wise-cracking, genius writing that makes the characters even more enjoyable. The film can be quoted just as much as his other films and has equally memorable moments. 

The lack of Mickey is disheartening. 

The film follows Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), a mob boss who has control over the real estate in London. The Wild Bunch, a group of criminals named OneTwo (Gerard Butler), Mumbles (Idris Elba), and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy), look for a way to make money quick and turn to Lenny for help. After Lenny f**ks them over, the Wild Bunch look for a way to get back at him. Uri, a Russian developer who Lenny owes quite a lot of money to, agrees to help Lenny with his real estate business and gives him a painting to hold for "good luck". Unknowingly, the Wild Bunch steals Uri's money while Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell) steals the painting. This piece of art shifts many hands throughout the film, including Stella's (Thandie Newton), a smart woman who knows the books as well as the streets, and even a couple of junkies who pawn it off for a "fix". As each party attempts to get away with the money or the painting, Lenny seeks revenge against the Wild Bunch and will do whatever it takes to get it back. If the list of actors wasn't impressive enough, the film also features Jeremy Piven, Ludacris, Marc Strong, and Karel Roden. 

I would totally watch a movie following just these guys and their "shaky" music-producing careers. 

The best part of the movie is the cast. Butler, Hardy, and Elba easily carry the film as the Wild Bunch and the chemistry the three have together is so entertaining, you can't help but wonder how close they are in real life. After 300, Butler kind of faded into the romantic comedy and super (stupid) drama worlds, so seeing him in a legit comedy caper (with a good amount of action) is so much more refreshing. Idris Elba, who as I have stated needs to be in so much more, constantly exudes his "cool factor" and Hardy, as Bob, is more hilarious than you can imagine. The situations that play out with him and Butler are not only surprising, but so entertaining. However, the man who steals the show is Toby Kebbell as Johnny. He's quite the eccentric character who doesn't seem right in the head but still seeks his revenge on Lenny. Hands down, Johnny has the best lines in the film and his jumping from coked out "philosopher" to violent criminal is perfect. I've mentioned how much I've enjoyed Kebbell in my Dead Man's Shoes and Wrath of the Titans reviews, and with RocknRolla, I'm even more surprised why he's not popping up everywhere. 

RocknRolla follows a familiar formula for Ritchie fans but does it with such gusto and pizzazz you can easily accept it as it's own original movie. The film is just too fun to hate and I would highly recommend it. While it's not as good as Ritchie's previous outings, Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, it's another great edition to his filmography. It's also worth noting that the film ends with a tease that the Wild Bunch will be back for a second movie and certainly leaves you wanting more. The film has been out for four years though and Ritchie is busy with the Sherlock Holmes franchise, so any hope for a sequel may be futile. 

The Good:
a phenomenal cast that's clearly having fun making the movie, and I can only imagine are dying to come back for a sequel
The Bad:
a story that's a little too messy...
The Ugly:
...and a conclusion that leaves much to be desired 

Overall: 7.5/10

Trailer:

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Friday

Guest Review- The Frighteners

So Ries Murphy, a Marine in the United States Military took some time out of his "Fight of the Good Fight" to write another review for The Cinematic Katzenjammer (He wrote a review for The Trip back in July). I forgot to post this along with ParaNorman as the two films share a similar plot, but better late than never right? 

The Frighteners is a strange movie. I liked it more than this review will properly convey, but I’m reluctant to say it was a good movie and find myself instead more willing to say that it wasted an hour and a half of a boring afternoon quite efficiently. It was a popcorn movie without the popcorn, but maybe that’s got less to do with the film and more to do with my diet. Like my questions surrounding some of the film’s more gaping plot points, I guess that one will have to go unanswered.

The film follows around one Frank Bannister, played by the always-awesome Michael J. Fox, who has quite the interesting job. He and a trio of ragtag, somewhat stereotypical spooks, go around town bringing mayhem and madness down upon whatever unwitting soul Bannister may have issues with. The best part is, he charges these people for his services as an exorcist and thus manages to live the highlife in an old yellow beater powered by ectoplasm and a house he never quite finished that drips rainwater into overflowing buckets set on the concrete floor.




The plot thickens once the Grim Reaper shows up and starts killing people, and I think this is where the film finds its feet the most. The Reaper sequences are undeniable and...well, frightening. Not so much in the “BOO” factor, but more in the idea of it. The Reaper kills indiscriminately, crushing people’s hearts in their chests, ripping the faces off ghosts and killing them for good, cutting favorite characters in half, and pressing out from underneath wallpaper like an overgrown cockroach from the “War of the Coprophages” episode from The X-Files


Now, let me just say that from the opening credits scene I realized two things - the first being that this film’s special effects were going to seriously underwhelm me, and the second being that the tone of the film would never quite find a rhythm that was consistently awesome. Before the naysayers and the feel gooders make some comment about the film being made in 1996 and the tone of the film being its best qualities...no. Here’s why.

The Frighteners is actually directed by Peter Jackson, the same guy who turned the special effects world on its head and then sent it spinning with The Lord of the Rings franchise, and was produced by Robert Zemeckis, the same guy who’s been the driving force behind a laundry list of films that were visually arresting, if not much else. (I’m skipping Forrest Gump with that one.) James Cameron’s The Abyss and John Carpenter’s The Thing were released 10 and 17 years earlier, respectively, and both had special effects that left The Frighteners in the dust. The Frighteners is yet another example that lackluster CG does not age well, especially when pitched against films that do use it effectively, like Jurassic Park


1993.

The overall tone of the film ranges from the cartoony and the comedic to the surprisingly dark and disturbing. Make no mistake, the funny moments are funny and the scary moments are scary, but unlike Drew Goddard’s recent The Cabin in the Woods, or Ron Underwood’s 1993 cult classic Tremors, the thematic siblings don’t mix very well here. Instead what we’re left with is Casper meets Silent Hill, with Michael J. Fox in the middle acting brilliantly, somehow managing to shine like the star that he is.

Still, the film has some great parts - namely, the chemistry between Bannister’s sidekick ghosts, the undeniable menace of the hooded Reaper which terrorizes the town, the eerie soundtrack done perfectly by the great Danny Elfman, and the twist that we sort of see coming. The story is interesting, involving a haunted hospital and haunted house, a seriously messed up FBI agent who can’t figure out if he wants to be comic relief or a serious villain, and some surprisingly tender moments. So well done there.

All in all, I’d say The Frighteners is worth a look if you like Michael J. Fox, if you like ghost stories, and if you’ve got an hour and a half you want to kill. It’s a fun ride that has more plot holes than a hunk of swiss, but in the end you feel like you saw something you’ll remember. Go for the ghosts, stay for the Fox, and bring some popcorn. Unless you’re like me. Then bring a pack of playing cards to neurotically shuffle while you watch.



THE BOTTOM LINE: You’ve seen worse. And it’s got Michael J. Fox in it!

Overall Score: 7/10



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