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    Review: Evil Dead (2013)

    Evil Dead isn't a scary film. Evil Dead is a bloody, disgusting, extremely well-made crowd-pleaser that will satisfy not only the gore-junkies; but the teenager audience who sadly hasn't had enough films like this.

    Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival

     Evil Dead is being touted as *THE* film to see for a pants-shittingly good time and for lots and lots of blood. While I can personally attest to the fact the film isn't exactly scary, spare a few really well done jump-scares, it gives bloody a whole new definition.

    The story follows the original film's pretty well. 5 friends in a cabin, they accidentally summon demons, shit goes wild; but 2013's Evil Dead certainly does a better job of getting you into the characters who, while not Shakespearian by any stretch, do a decent enough job of getting you emotionally involved, with the key emotional core in the film is the relationship between Mia (played by a beautiful and deadly Jane Levy), a drug addict who is using their family's old cabin as the site of her cold-turkey quitting experiment, and her brother David (the sexy and sympathetic Shiloh Fernandez) and it makes it a lot easier to care for those two than Bruce Campbell and his girlfriend's awkward and loveless relationship.

    But no one is going to see Evil Dead for the character-driven emotion, are they?

    Fede Alvarez, Uruguayan director making his first "Big Hollywood" film honors the material,fought tooth and nail with the studio to try and make the film with as much practical effects as possible, a move whch really elevates the film to another level in terms of technical and aesthetic presentation.
    The gore is chunky and red, the effects and prosthetics are on a whole other level of believability. Evil Dead is THE best looking horror film in years and will make your stomach curl at all the raw dismemberment, painful execution, and viscous mutilation.

    Alvarez is also a pro behind the camera, making the film look better than most Best-Picture 'noms. The lighting and camera-work harkens back to not only classic horror; but injected with a definite "new age" style that will cement Alvarez as hot commodity in not only the horror industry; but all across the spectrum.

    The film is a definite crowd-pleaser, and if you're into the whole "movie experience". The crowd I saw it with gasped and screamed, which is one of the first times I've seen a film impact it's audience that much in a while. If you have a free slot this weekend (and a strong stomach) you need to see Evil Dead because let's face it, no matter how awesome 3-D Jurassic Park is, THIS is the movie everyone will be talking about.


    Review: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'

    Honestly, after a 9-month delay, numerous re-shoots, an extensive conversion to 3D, with who knows how many sets of eyes looking at this thing, no one thought to state the obvious:

    "Good lord, this is a piece of shit."

    To say G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a bad film is an understatement.  It's an awful movie.

    Horrible plot (if you even want to call it that), choppy editing, and - of course - absolutely atrocious acting sans Adrianne Palicki (hey, she knew exactly how to play the role).

    I'd get into the story of the film but even that is probably a waste of time.  Let's just say one of the villains from the first movie (if you actually saw it) infiltrates the White House to disguise himself as the President of the United States.  From there, he sets up the G.I. Joes on a bogus mission to kill them off, with only three surviving (The Rock, Palicki, and some guy who somehow makes his living as an actor named D.J. Cotrona...seriously, this guy looked scared shitless every time he was on the screen).

    So back to the plot (?), after the remaining G.I. Joes realize they were set up, the vow revenge against those who killed their team (Channing Tatum was smart to ask out of the movie after about 20 minutes).

    Basically, the rest of the film follows the good guys taking down the bad guys with a 15-minute cameo by that sell-out known as Bruce Willis and an Asian and Black ninja (one who can't speak a word of English, the other who shouldn't be allowed to speak a word of English in a movie).

    So yeah, the about sums up G.I. Joe: Retaliation; a beyond painful to watch film.  Though I will say the ending does make the promise of 3rd entry.

    I take that as a threat.


    Review: G.I. Joe Retaliation

    When GI JOE: RISE OF COBRA came out all the way back in summer 2009, after the credits rolled I thought:

    "What the hell was that, because that was awesome"

    To my dismay, it seems not too many people were totally satisfied with Rise of Cobra, mainly with it's handling of characters. I thought it was a big stupid mess that was quite literally a live-action cartoon come to life, and I hoped that tone would stay the same for it's sequel, Retaliation.

    GI JOE: RETALIATION is hard for me to describe.

    On one hand:

    The action is top-notch, the costumes and cerography are spectacular, and the special effects are superb (unlike moments in Rise of Cobra where the movie looked lie a SyFy movie from 2004).

    Retaliation's fresh cast of characters is wholly welcome, as well as giving returning characters new life, mainly Cobra Commander who finally gets to be the ultimate badass everyone wanted in the first film, now thankfully without Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

    The movie itself plays out almost like a bunch of really rich cosplayers got together to make a fan film, from Commander's helmet and persona, to the totally fucking badass Snake Eyes v. Storm Shadow fight, to the crazy vehicles and gadgets that scream GI JOE.

    The writing in Retaliation is like Shakespeare compared to the first film, and even if it's not, the actors all bring their characters and world to life fantastically, with the stand-outs being Friday Night Light's alum Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye, Byung Hun Lee as Storm Shadow, and Jonathan Pryce, playing Zartan playing POTUS.

    Now, on the OTHER hand:

    The film lacks a certain something, and I'd almost be willing to say it's the cartoonish stupidity of the first film. While I mentioned earlier this looks a big budget fan film, that's also it's problem.

    The story is good; but it seems to be caught up in trying to play itself like a serious political thriller AND a ridiculous action movie. Some plot-parts seem to drag on, and that might be because for about 30 minutes Jaye, Roadblock, and Flint don't really do anything except some espionage which is never quite intense enough to work.

    Character development is also almost nowhere to be found except, ironically, with Storm Shadow, which worked out very well.

    Speaking of casting, RZA as Blind Master was....well, strange, and that's about the only way I can describe it.

    All in all, RETALIATION, despite some pacing and tone missteps here and there, is still loud and fun to watch, with a good-looking cast, and some amazing visuals, the movie is a fun popcorn experience, while never reaching the pure child's play of the first film, this gives hope that by GI JOE 3, they'll have it nailed.


    "Olympus Has Fallen" Revew


    That seemed to be the constant word going through my mind while watching Olympus Has Fallen (originally entitled, White House Taken, but changed to not confuse audiences with the other White House takeover movie coming out in June, White House Down).

    Sure, I understand from an audience's perspective that a film like this is suppose to be popcorn entertainment and not in any way 'impact' you on an emotional level.

    The problem though is that the filmmakers behind Olympus Has Fallen didn't seem to get that memo and try to make it impactful, try to hit on an emotional level.

    That's where the film suffers.

    Rather than letting a film like this be what it is, it goes for a cross between Air Force One and Die Hard; both those films actually engaged you while caring about the characters involved.  I really didn't care much for anyone in the film even though at many times it was obvious you should have (cringeworthy overacting by an unrecognizable Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense).

    For those not familiar with the plot, OHF centers on former team lead of the Secret Service, Mike Banning (Gerard Buter), who gets the boot after a tragic accident involving the President of the United States, Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart).  Many months after this event, a routine visit to the White House by representatives from South Korea turns out to be an invasion by North Korean terrorists, turning the President and his cabinet into hostages.  Banning - who now conveniently works right down the street at the U.S. Treasury - makes it into the President's home right before the place is completely taken over.  This obviously leads to the premise of 'Die Hard in the White House' where Banning is the only man to save the day while communicating with America's remaining leaders at the Pentagon (led boldly of course by the always reliable Morgan Freeman as the House Speaker).

    If there's one thing OHF has going for it, it's the action set-pieces.  From the initial attack on the White House, to the gun battles that take place throughout the film, director Antoine Fuqua knows how to handle special effects (though you could tell the film was obviously rushed out with some very poor CGI).

    One thing to take note of as well is the main villian, played by the go-to Asian actor for a bad guy in Rick Yune (The Fast & the Furious, Die Another Day).  I'm not much familar with why he seems to always take the same type of role in these big-budget action flicks, but it's obvious he knows what he's doing as you can't help but hate the SOB.

    Overall, OHF is your type of movie if you're looking to kill an hour and a half for some mindless action.  Just be aware, the film will try to take itself way more seriously than it's capable of being, which might leave you with a feeling of bland when leaving the theater.

    Rating: 7 out of 10 (at best).


    "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" Review

    Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events.

    ~Adrienne Rich~

    In the case of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,  his journey into the past  is complicated by awkward pacing, hard to endure speeches riddled with mediocre comedic touches, and haphazard action. Barely able to peek out of the epic shadow that is The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, An Unexpected Journey struggles to spread out 1/3 of a rather small novel into almost three hours of 48 FPS 3D. Get comfortable in The Shire, because there are two more films being squeezed from this book.

    Nostalgia draws you into film right away with a hypnotizing combination of familiar music and the presence of Frodo (Elijah Wood) and the elder Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) engaged in family oriented banter in The Shire. However, once there, it takes Peter Jackson 45 minutes to convince Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) the young to shout out "I'm going on an adventure!" and run out of the safety of his Hobbit villiage. During this time there is singing, eating, and the cleaning of plates; as Fili, Kili; Oin, Gloin; Dwalin, Balin; Bifur, Bofur, Bombur; Dori, Nori, Ori; Thorin Oakenshield, and Gandalf attempt to convince Bilbo to man up and hit the open road with them.

    Martin Freeman is fantastic as Bilbo. He's charming and sincere, but plays the character with a twinkle in his eye as he attempts to prove himself worthy of the journey to this group of battle tested dwarves. Jackson allows you plenty of time to get to know the characters due to an extensive amount of dialogue which seems to act as "rest areas" for all the strolling, wandering, and roaming. When there is action, and there is quite a lot, it seems to drag on a little to long as if you're replaying your favorite video game after you've already beaten it.

    Ian Mckellen is his usual stalwart self as Gandalf. He's imposing and endearing with a little bit of that elderly crankiness that we've come to know and love. Although it did occur in a couple of instances during the LOTR Trilogy, Gandalf seems to conveniently disappear via stage left only reappear to save the rest of the crew from the most dire of situations. This occurs an annoying four times within the film. Reminds me of ancient Greek plays where one of the Gods would appear in a cloud and solve the human's problems while wrapping the story up in the neatest way possible.

    The special effects are mind blowing, some of the best I have seen this movie going season, and the groundbreaking frame rate was not a problem. The best way to describe it is an LED television on steroids with an adrenaline shot. Although the high gloss experience does somehow transform even the on location shots into something that looks like a Los Angeles sound stage. The picturesque valley of Rivendell will unhinge your jaw and the Goblin Mountain Lair is dark and never-ending. Speaking of special effects, am I the only one growing tired of Gollum? A riddle off between Gollum and Bilbo was especially drawn out and tiresome.

    It's hard to not wish for the grandeur and spectacle of the LOTR Trilogy when persevering through The Hobbit. The slow motion close ups of Theroin with wind blowing through his hair against a sunset almost seems humorous when compared to the importance of one of Aargon's speeches.  "I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall, nor our people fail." Therein lies the difference, Peter Jackson presented the world of The Lord Of The Rings as important and worth protecting, while The Hobbit seems like a parody of the world he meticulously created and cared for.

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