Gravity is a Warner Bros. release written by Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron, with collaborations with George Clooney, and is directed by Alfonso Cuaron.
NEVER LET GO
a review of the film ‘Gravity’
The review does contain spoilers
Films have often taken to space before hitting it with various angles and different approaches. Each attempt tried to do new things, but something was missing- the steady realism that often is needed with such adventurous films. Add on top of that the fact that the true amount of suspense isn’t there the entire span of the film, sure, Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey were both suspenseful films, they are also films more than thirty years old. The closest we’ve come to a full on suspenseful space adventure in recent years could very well be Apollo 11, but it had comedic undertones that often overwhelmed the dramatic structure.
Gravity, on the other hand, is a very good lead in the category of suspenseful space films of modern times. Though it is only an hour and thirty one minutes long, that’s just enough to make you lose your breath and have your jaw drop. In a very shocking (and beautiful) film, we are shown that you can contain a constant state of suspense while toying with various human emotions in a way that is almost frustrating.
Gravity is written by Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron, with collaborations by George Clooney, and is directed by Alfonso Cuaron. The film follows a medical engineer on her first mission to space, joined by a veteran on his last mission to space. The two (there is a third, but let’s put him aside for the moment) are repairing a satellite when something goes horribly wrong.
First off, this script is wonderfully written. Following an original story, we are given a lot of character history strictly through dialogue, something that I adore when done right. The comedic undertones come in and out with the character of Matt Kowalski as he tells humorous anecdotes about his various travels throughout Earth. Then, later, we learn about Ryan Stone’s history and past traumas through dramatic and cleverly written dialogue to provide an emotional undertone. The sheer speed that it can jump from lighthearted to terrifying is something worthy of wondering on.
The opening of the film is simply beautiful. That can be said without lying at all. The steady one-shot of Earth as we move towards the satellite is stunning, then as the camera starts to spin and turn to show all the characters (all three of them by the by) we start to get comfortable. Every little detail in this film is vital, because in the background we overhear of a disaster on a Russian satellite, but it’s not urgent. Well, not urgent until all hell breaks lose during a scene so suspenseful you just might forget how to breathe.
Tragic events lead Ryan Stone to be stranded all alone in space with limited oxygen and absolutely no idea what to do. Luckily Matt Kowalski has survived as well, and the two team together. It’s frustrating at times watching the two work together, but you must remember that they’re in space and gravity seems to be working against them.
Working science together into the plot, Kowalski makes a plan to boost them back to the satellite to gather supplies before the space rubble comes back in ninety minutes. But they move so slowly that they don’t quite make it on time. If the visuals don’t instantly impress you, then the action scenes will leave an impact on you. To put you into the middle of it all, during most of the action scenes we are given a first-person perspective of what Ryan Stone sees (and hears) as she is thrown around, knocked into objects, and generally tries to hold onto whatever she can before she floats into the emptiness of space.
There were times when it would be too much for me to watch, and I’d be overwhelmed by the sheer viciousness of it all. There is no doubt that this film isn’t ruthless, in fact, it’s probably one of the most vicious films to come out this season. The amount of trouble Ryan has to go through is enough to make even the most skilled astronaut double think the end result. The only real thing she holds onto is the memory of her now dead daughter and the hope that she will make it back to Earth to copy Kowalski’s crazy antics.
One of the best action sequences within the film has to be at the Chinese satellite as it catches on fire. The cinematography during that sequence captures the chaotic stumbling of Ryan trying to translate the instructions of things while the walls are slowly engulfed in fire. To add to it, she also has to suit up, find the space pod, and launch it before everything explodes and that rubble joins the already orbiting Russian debris.
But it’s not just about the action in this film, the film touches ground with some of the best emotional scenes of the year, pulling out great performances from each actor in the film. The scene I’m mostly talking about is when Ryan Stone is floating around in the Chinese space pod and contacts Earth, only to find herself lost in another language and helpless. As her oxygen runs out, she desperately tries to explain herself to a man who has no idea what is going on at the moment. I will not lie, that scene touched me and made me cry, and all it was was pure dialogue.
The metaphors within the film are also smartly written out as well, the most present of which is the “fetus” metaphor when Stone arrives at the Chinese satellite and strips her clothing. The wires wrap around her stomach as she curls into a ball, Earth providing the backdrop. What does it mean? Think about a fetus for a moment, a fetus grows into a baby, then is born. Once it is out, it has to learn to walk, eat, move around, breathe, and basically everything that is vital for life. In a very similar way, Ryan Stone is a fetus. She is ready to be born, and once the satellite is engulfed into flames, she is forced out and begins her transition to be born again. (the final shot of the film is a prime example of this)
The second of which is the visit from Kowalski in a scene that literally shocked me. That entire bit took less than a few seconds in real time, but inside of Ryan’s head, it takes the better part of five minutes. That is also a turning point and a crucial plot point within the film. In an interesting turn of events as well, it was the bit that George Clooney wrote, because it was initially not supposed to happen in the first cut of the film.
From the beautiful and terrifying opening to the extremely emotional ending, Gravity really shows that films can be equally tragic and stunning at the same time.
With Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone, we’re given a side I’ve rarely seen of Bullock. The majority of the film is of just her, I’d say out of the ninety one minute running time, eighty of it was just pure Bullock by herself. Does it work? Yes, oh yes. She pushes even herself to new heights giving off a performance of a woman who is forced into a situation she isn’t ready for. Hallucinating and low on everything, Ryan Stone needs to find resources to survive. Only, Ryan Stone isn’t anyone special. I find this important because she’s not an action hero or some super genius. She’s just an average woman who went through space training and barely passed. This gives her a level of realism that makes the film that much more relatable. And since she isn’t this overly worked character, it makes it that much more harder to watch everything that happens to her during the course of the film. It makes sense to end the film where it did, because the story was just about her in space, so why ruin it with something taking place on Earth?
Supporting her is George Clooney as Matt Kowalski, the smart and witty veteran astronaut who is on his last mission. His job is to oversee the team, but when disaster strikes, he then takes responsibility over Ryan Stone. Clooney was charming in the role, but stern as well. A good example of this is when he is trying to attach himself to Stone, and when she starts to panic, he scolds her, but jumps immediately into a funny story about New Orleans (which he never finished sadly). Though Stone is the “hero” of the film, Kowalski is as well. In a bold move, he sacrifices himself for Stone, and later provides just enough inspiration to get her to Earth. Not much more can be said about a man who is hardly in the film, but this much can be said: of all the actor’s thought of for the role, I am very glad it was Clooney that was chosen.
The supporting cast isn’t very large, in fact, the only other cast member that is in the film is only really there for no more than five minutes before he leaves. The rest are voice-overs provided by Ed Harris, Orto Ignatiussen, Phaldut Sharma, Amy Warren, and Basher Savage.
Everything in this film worked very well together, and it is a film that I believe any film student should see. It is an important piece of cinematic art, and I am proud of its success. Normally this is where I would put the “if you like this” section, but I won’t this time. Do yourself a favor and watch this film, you’ll thank me later.
Also, to further your experience with Gravity, be sure to check out the short film Aningaaq. It most likely can be found online and serves as a companion piece to the film. It’s short, but equally as amazing as the feature film which inspired it.
Twelve Years a Slave is a Fox Searchlight release directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley, while being based on the true story of Solomon Northup; starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nicole Collins, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Brad Pitt.
INSIDE THE PLANTATION
a review of the film ‘Twelve Years a Slave’
History hosts a series of dark events that have happened, even in the most beautiful of all societies. Now, not saying that the United States is entirely beautiful (though most of it is), it stills holds onto a very dark past. Unfortunately, it is a past that is recent, so the pain still lingers around certain parts of the country. Are historical films made to remind people of how far we’ve come, or to show people the shame of our past? I believe that it’s a mix of the two. Some are made to show the brutal honesty of what we used to be like, others are made to provide an insight to what happened or to add a layer to what we may know. A film like this, though, seems to be running its course.
How many films can be made on this topic before certain concepts are reused? Sure, there are hundreds of stories to tell, but most of them follow a similar pattern. It is the unfortunate truth that there are only so many films about slavery that can be made before audiences will start to turn their back on even that. Does this make this film bad though?
‘Twelve Years a Slave’ is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, directed by Steve McQueen and with a screenplay by John Ridley, the film takes its material from the novel written by Solomon Northup himself.
As you can correctly infer based on the title, the film follows a man who is a slave. Or, for the matter, he doesn’t start off that way. The story unfolds out of order, starting off somewhere in the middle of his time as a slave, and after a while of showing his terrible life, it jumps backwards to draw a parallel to what it was before. A storytelling style like that is always welcomed in my opinion as it forces an audience member to think about why it was done like that, and where we are now.
The story jumps back to before he was a slave and shows everything that led to that unfortunate event. But, even then, it jumps around. It’s like a marble spinning in a circle down a pipe. It has one destination, but it doesn’t take a direct route to reach it.
In a way, it works. I got the impression that us, as an audience, were supposed to feel as Solomon felt- confused and lost; nothing made sense to him, so why should we be spared? In another way, it doesn’t work. Because of the already large jump backwards in time, to do the smaller loops forwards and backwards created a very confused feel to the film, not allowing the time to have an audience member fully appreciate what they were seeing. Instead, that time was spent trying to understand that in one moment we were in the present time, then the next moment we were nine years in the future, and the next close to thirteen years in the past. The film utilizes time cards at the bottom of the screen, but only once, and that is after the opening credit sequence.
But once the film sticks to a time period, we are allowed to understand the underlying beauty of the story. There isn’t a whole lot happening with the script, but the visuals are what give this film most of the attraction. Big landscape shots give us the location, while the tighter shots of trees and nature give us the beauty of the area. The colors are nice and warm most of the time, often the biggest factor in setting the mood during a scene.
At times, the film is hard to watch. The way certain scenes were filmed allows for the violence to be built up, and to provide examples on the aftereffects of such violence, we were shown that as well. Among the numerous brutal scenes was one I found hard to watch where Solomon is hanged, but not far off of the ground so he spends the entire day slipping around in the mud barely holding onto his life. The approach to scenes like that was careful, but in the end, it shows the truth. Sometimes the brutality of the film comes from no where, like during one of the dance scenes or during one of “cotton counting” scenes. The honesty is there and evident, and it helps to show as a painful reminder that, as humans, we show little to no mercy at times.
Unfortunately though, the script falls flat a large portion of the time. The thought behind that is to make the free African Americans have a more sophisticated talking style, and the slave African Americans have a very slow and broken talking style. The logic is great, but the sophisticated talking style is sometimes entirely unbelievable. Even the white characters in the film didn’t speak in such a way, making it even more obvious how hard the screenwriter was trying to give a divide with the two. If it had been more subtle, the script would have succeeded, but unfortunately, it’s the weakest part of the entire film.
That does not mean that the acting is bad, because the most talented actor can do wonders with a bad script. That is the cast here, as we are given a very talented cast that works their way around the writing. There are, however, bad actors in this film, but they are few, so the damage is not done on that regard.
Similar to Quentin Tarantino’s slave-turn-bounty hunter film ‘Django Unchained’, this film can be divided into chapters. The three plantations are how I chose to divide the film up, each section showcases a different section of Solomon’s life as a slave. That isn’t the only thing, visually, that this film borrows from that film. A lot of the slave violence felt borrowed from ‘Django’, as well as some of the flashbacks to Solomon’s wife back at home. I am unsure of which film was filmed before the other, but seeing as how ‘Django’ came out a year ago December, while this film was shown off at the Toronto Film Festival this year (August or September, I believe), it is probably the case that this film borrowed similar ideas. It’s not a direct copy, which is great, but sometimes I was reminded of the things that stood out in ‘Django Unchained’. A small bother.
But aside from the flat script and borrowing of scenes from other sources, the film still manages to tell a powerful story. The build-up of events works at the pace they have set, as well as the climax of the film feels well deserved. The ending helps make this film worth the watch, and during the credits, it makes me think about how far we’ve really come in this country, and how far we still have to go. The film does a solid job with getting an audience member thinking, as well as feeling a lot of the pain that was felt all that time ago with Solomon’s tragic life.
In the lead role of Solomon Northup is Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor who touches all the bases of a character going through hell. We first see him, after the opening sequence that is, as a happy man. His skin tone is bright and he looks clean and healthy. During each stage of his life, we see all of that change. Not just his skin tone and health either, but the actions he takes and the way he speaks changes as well. By the end of the film, we see a broken man, giving the film a great character arc that is painful to watch. The actions he takes, and doesn’t take, slowly kill him on the inside, and no amount of make-up could have portrayed it better than the actor did himself. Is it award material? I see that he might get a nomination for his performance, seeing as he was a great choice to play the role.
The rest of the cast gets jumbled up though, so I’ll try my best to keep it organized according to plantation.
Paul Giamatti plays Freeman, a man who takes slaves from one place to another without anyone noticing. Because of his screen time, it’s hard to say exactly how well he did, but he did provide a lot with the time he had. He was evil, and if he had been around any longer, he might have been mistaken for the villain. But yet, he also played a sly talking man who has a generous way with words to make any situation feel right.
As Master Ford, the first plantation owner we pay a visit to, is Benedict Cumberbatch who plays the role with a slight ease. His voice seemed to be forcing the Southern accent at times, but in the low whisper he can do, the accent felt right at home. He doesn’t undergo an arc of any sorts with the screen time he holds, but he plays the calm in the storm. He controls the situation and provides his slaves with a welcoming place to be a slave. Yet, he is firm as well when he needs to be. Thankfully, we don’t see him do anyone harm, but we do get to see him lash out at a person which shows that even the nicest of people are capable of being threatening.
The next role might be the one I am thinking of, but yet, it might not be. The cast of this film was rather large, so I will review the person I am most likely thinking of. And that’s of the role of Rachel, played by Nicole Collins. The role is that of a woman who loses her children and falls into despair. She did not do a very good job at delivering her dialogue, and most of the time she was crying, it felt fake. Her role was one of the few that I couldn’t grasp as being realistic. Even the dialogue written for her felt forced and overly dramatic which detracted from any scene she was in. Thankfully, her screen time runs low like most of the actors in the film.
Also a part of the Ford Plantation is Tibeats, played by Paul Dano. The role he plays in this film almost directly mirrors that of what he played in the 2011 film ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, making it feel as if I have history with him already. He offers up to be one of the many antagonists this film holds, but the last time we seen him it doesn’t feel right. There is no conclusion to his character, no correct goodbye. Just him walking away to a horse, then nothing else for the rest of the film. It’s good, in a way, that there is no finality with him, but some dialogue about him at a future date would have been interesting and a nice touch.
From there we get Master Epps, played by Michael Fassbender. This is, without a doubt, the main antagonist of the film. Just standing still offers up a chilling figure, and when sitting down he has a hidden rage behind him. The role was written correctly to offer up a nice and dramatic sort of villain that is harsh over the smallest of details. Some of the scenes with Fassbender are borderline creepy seeing as at any moment, he could snap and go on a rampage. Wonderfully played, he offers a nice surprise for those who view this film.
As his wife, Mistress Epps, is Sarah Paulson who plays off of the evil that is Master Epps. At times she forces the audience to wonder who really is in charge while still giving off her natural beauty. The role she plays is wicked, and it is a shame that there is no finality with her either. She is on screen one moment, and gone the next. To have her around more would offer up more suspense and create a genuinely spooky atmosphere. Paired with Michael Fassbender, the duo work wonders.
Brad Pitt also appears in this film as Bass, a peaceful Canadian traveling around the United States. The scenes with him feel almost too short, but perhaps that was done on purpose. He is the only nice white figure in the film, save for, of course that figure at the end who arrives with the sheriff. But he is also one of the only characters to have a naturally flowing talking style that doesn’t seem absurd or out of the ordinary. In this case, the less of Brad Pitt we saw, the more thankful we were when we saw him.
On the Epps Plantation is Patsey, played wonderfully by Lupita Nyong’o. Her calm and mild mannered appearance are just the top layer to her, the middle being a more stern and quiet person, with the bottom being a desperate being. The changes she makes during the course of the film offer up more than enough reasons to nominate her for a supporting actress award given that she is the real reason that I consider this film to be a tear-jerker.
The rest of the cast served nicely as additional and supporting characters, giving the film the life that it needed, and offering up some surprising comic relief that comes and goes far too quickly.
So if you like dramas, historical films, an emotional payoff, or Steve McQueen, then this film is for you. If not, then I’d recommend giving it a try anyway. It’s not a film to be crazy over, but it portrays our history in the brutal way that we needed.
'Insidious: Chapter 2' is a Film District release directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, with Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, and Barbara Hershey.
INTO THE FURTHER
a review of the film ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’
WARNING: This review does contain spoilers.
Only a few months away from the release of his horror film ‘The Conjuring’, we are given the next James Wan directed horror film, this one continuing the story set up back in 2010 with the surprise hit ‘Insidious’ which confirmed the fact that you do not need violence to tell a very scary story, as well as you do not need a fancy budget as well. Eager to watch the sequel to the film that ruined my life, I arrived at the theater early with a friend, and soon, the film started.
There is something you need to know about this film before you watch it, or, if you’ve watched it already. You need to, absolutely need to, watch the first film first. You cannot assume that you know what will happen because that is not the case. There have been way too many people writing reviews for this film based strictly on this one film, while not having seen the first film. If that sounds confusing, then just watch the 2010 film, then watch this one after. It’ll become more clear.
‘Insidious: Chapter Two’ is a film directed by James Wan and is written by Leigh Whannell, the same duo who brought the first installment to life in 2010. They pick the story up during the events of the first film, namely, they start when Elise dies. The story shows the after effects of her death, and how it isn’t just a simple accident that has happened. It has real consequences that not only effect those who are living, but those who have died as well. Why? Because something got out of the Further, the fictional other realm that was established in the first film and is more clearly defined in this second go-around.
‘Chapter Two’ seems to play off of everything that we liked most in the first film, and go into more detail with it. This film opens up explaining an event from the first film that was skimmed past- Josh losing his memory of his childhood and all of his pictures being removed from his life. The suspense during that scene is kept up pretty high as things in the distance keep showing themselves briefly. The memory of the thing that haunted him in the first film is present as we learn that she (the Woman in Black) is in the house with them at the moment. But something happens, some odd event that causes Elise, who is present in the 1986 set sequence, to panic and wake Josh up.
What is it? The film goes on raising a series of difficult questions, and reminds us even of questions never answered in the first film. But here is where this film succeeds strongly: It answers them all. They might not be so plainly answered, but they are touched upon and an explanation is given out for each occurrence.
The difficulty with this film is that it directly follows the first film, picking up with Elise’s death. The entire first film was a slow and steady build up of scares and shocks, so when the second film starts, the scares are already at their highest. The rest of the film is about putting the scares back to a minimum. That means you get right into the middle of the heat as things start off bad (pretty bad) and calm down to “Did you see that reflection in the far distance?” It’s hard to get used to at first, but offers a nice release at the end when both films are drawn to a close.
We are shown the after effects of Elise dying, namely, the police investigation that opens up against Josh that puts him as the prime suspect in her murder. Crazily shot sequences and transitions last seen in James Wan’s ‘Saw’ help move us from the Lambert House from the 2010 film to Lorraine’s House as first introduced in the opening sequence of this film.
The night Elise dies is the same night the Lambert’s move to Josh’s mother’s house in Los Angeles, a few miles from everything they left behind. But even then, on the first night, things are going bump. That is partially explained above, also explained with the fact that something is living in Josh’s body that isn’t human. For those who saw the first film, we know it is the Woman in Black who has possessed his body and left his spirit in the Further to rot.
With the suspense kept up so high at the start, it’s hard to appreciate the smaller things. Foster, the boy who is not an astral projector, can actually act. He has nice moments with his mother, Renai, and his grandmother Lorraine. But the whole time we can see Josh’s slow mental decline as the spirit in his body is falling apart and decomposing the human body with it.
Think of, if you will, Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ how Jack slowly became insane. That is how this film deals with Josh. The first film was a paranormal matter, this time it’s more domestic. It touches home in more ways than one with how spousal violence is portrayed- not just the physical stuff but the verbal abuse as well.
The writing gets more clever when Carl, an assisting paranormal researcher who studied with Elise, comes into play to help Tucker and Specs uncover the truth about what really happened that night. This is where the explanation of everything begins. The rest of the film, about the last hour and twenty minutes at least, is spent explaining every little detail from the first film and onto the second as well. We learn the history of the Woman in Black, as well as meet her mother. We learn that the Woman in Black is actually a man, and he was forced into crossdressing by his deranged mother who is a mix of the Black Dahlia and La Llorna.
We go back and revisit events from the first film including the night the house alarm goes off, as well as how everything came into play in the first place. The most clever of things, however, is when Josh visits himself in 1986 and causes his memory to vanish. Introducing the fact that the Further is a timeless place was a nice move on the side of Wan and Whannell who kept the series from going in a bad direction, or from having it end up cheesy and under-thought-out. In making it so, though, they have brought into play a whole realm of questions that just can’t be answered in one film.
It is to my belief that there is a short film Wan and Whannell made and released to Facebook shortly after the release of ‘Chapter Two’ that focuses more on explaining the Further, but I have yet to see it. But for this film, everything they explained made perfect sense. Overthinking it all will cause the most confusion and should be avoided.
The finale of the film is what confused me the most. I did not think it was the ending due to how anticlimactic it felt. We have Josh in the real world attacking his family, which is fine. But in the Further, we have Josh (the real Josh) attacking the Woman in Black and her (his) mother in a duel that lasts all of a minute. In the first film, the duel was more of a chase sequence, but it offered a finality that made me and other audiences relax. But this time around, the final fight consists of things being tossed to the ceiling, then Elise hitting the mother with a rocking horse. It makes sense that that would happen, but to have more of a struggle would have added the final touch the film needed.
And, after all, killing the mother did bring the real Josh back to his body and back to his family. And now that they’re all back together again, the story is done. That is the point of the film, to draw a close to the story and answer the questions.
The biggest scare for me, though, wasn’t the deranged mother attacking Renai or the Woman in Black in the closet, it was what happens at the very end of the film.
For those who have seen the first film, the ending will make a lot more sense. If you paid any attention during both films, the ending will make a lot more sense. If you did not pay attention, the ending will seem dumb and pointless. I have seen far too many respectable movie review sites that have said that the ending did not make sense in any form of the word. So below, I will explain the ending and show to them that the ending is perfect, and terrifying.
So, if you don’t want the ending spoiled, do not read below. However, you did just read the review that clearly has the words SPOILER at the top, so I take it you do not mind.
The ending shows Tucker and Specs knocking on the door of a woman’s house, and the woman and husband answer. While they are talking, a little girl shows up and mentions that there is a woman standing with them. That woman is Elise in spirit form who is now helping Tucker and Specs destroy all the ghosts and such that escape the Further. They are at this house because something is wrong with their daughter, and this all started after her car accident left her in a coma. She is awake now, but something followed her.
The very final shot of the film is of Elise with a panicked face, close to screaming. We do not see what she sees, but we hear what it is. For the observant, or those who pay attention, it is the same noise that Lipstick Face Demon made in the first film anytime he was around. The same shot was used to introduce him to us (it was also Elise who spotted him then too), so it is safe to assume that he finally made it into the real world through the body of a teenage girl. Not hard to follow, but there are people who completely missed it.
Reprising their roles in this film is the entire cast from the first film, including Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert, Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert, Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert, Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert, Andrew Astor as Foster Lambert, Leigh Whannell as Specs, and Angus Sampson as Tucker. We are introduced to a new cast member of Carl, played by Steve Coulter.
The cast works wonderfully with each other, playing off of the emotions that one another are putting out. Some of the stronger scenes include most of the cast with each other, including the basement fight at the end, or the trip to the Parker Crane house.
Story wise, this film is rock solid. It is a more story driven installment to the series. Some of the scares could use some work, but it held up a massively creepy tone throughout the film that was nice to see. The camerawork is in the same style that James Wan has become so good with, and the music by Joseph Bishara adds nice touches to the more “quiet” scenes in the hospital, or even, the middle of the night.
This was a great film to catch in theaters, and proof that the sequel to a hit film can be just as good as the original.
So if you like horror movies, movies with a great twist, a good storyline, ghosts, classic cinema, Los Angeles, James Wan, a family drama, or a thriller, then this film is for you. It is an intense film though, so it is not recommended for just anyone to watch. If you could handle 'The Conjuring', though, then this film will be just fine for you.
Also, if you live in California, Universal Studios has an annual Halloween event at the park that takes place after hours that brings some of the best horror movies, tv shows, and albums, to life. This year they have two ‘Insidious’ based experiences- the VIP Experience that offers a paranormal investigation of the world-famous Universal Studios backlot, and the maze ‘Into the Further’ that recreates the events of both films in terrifying detail. The event runs until November 3 of this year.
'You're Next' is a Lionsgate Pictures release written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard that stars Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, and Margaret Laney.
BEHIND THE ATTACK
a review of the film “You’re Next”
In very much the same way that James Wan’s ‘The Conjuring’ brought back a nostalgic feel of films made in the 1970’s, this film, “You’re Next” brings back the feeling of a film made in the 1980’s. But this is not a film based in that era, which makes it that much more impressive.
You’re Next is written by Simon Barrett and is directed by Adam Wingard and follows a very stereotypical sort of plot. In fact, there isn’t anything in this film that isn’t stereotypical. We’ve more or less seen it all before, and that is just the very thing that gives this film a fresh new feeling. Told in a similar style to Wes Craven’s ‘Scream’, ‘You’re Next’ takes the slasher genre of horror and finds new ways to make it fun again, while still playing around with the things that made it great to begin with.
What does that mean? Well, this film follows a married couple that invites their children to the summer house in the forest to celebrate the anniversary. But soon they find out that they are being hunted, and attacked, by people wearing animal masks that have a love for violence. While creating this film, Adam Wingard was aiming to create an icon with the animal masks, to try and recreate what John Carpenter did with his iconic horror film‘Halloween’. And it more or less did the job. The animal masks were creepy and stood out more than anything in the film. They created a foreboding sort of feel whenever something was walking in the background.
The film jumps right into it, going for a crazy opening sequence that moves at a slow pace, but the suspense is constant. The audience sees something that the character’s do not, and in doing so, just pouring a drink is life-or-death. The film approaches violence in a very cautious and mild-mannered way that gives it a nice sort of feeling. We do not see the ax cut her stomach open- we simply see the ax move towards her stomach then cut to a different angle where we see blood splatter. This reassures the 80’s vibe of the film that later comes back with the music choices.
The steady pulsing of instruments was mostly popular in the 1980’s and isn’t quite used as much anymore. So to hear it is to associate it with that era of film. Now, when earlier stated that the film is something we’ve seen before, that is true. In a clever way, we are told who the killer’s are almost right away. And for those who are unobservant, we are then later shown who the killer’s are just in case you missed it. Why? It’s not the purpose of the film to give you a twist about who the killer’s are, it’s why. The entire film builds up to the question and gives off a nice release as to why. I do admit, I did not see that twist coming, and it was partially due to how into it all I was.
The family is being hunted and are being killed off one by one in gruesome ways, but one of the family member’s isn’t who she says she is. She is, as we find out, not at all who she comes off as. Think of it as if Sydney from Scream ended up fighting Ghostface, because that’s kinda how it ends up. The tables turn and we aren’t sure who the villain’s are, or who the hero is supposed to be. It is a nice way to keep the horror genre fresh and full of surprises.
And for those who are a fan of the horror genre, the jokes that are thrown into the mix are actually funny. Though this film isn’t overly comedic or at least mostly funny, it does offer some nice relief during the more suspenseful times.
Some of the problems, as any film will have them, come with the villains. The lack of history on them is common, but during the last portion of the film, we are supposed to feel some sort of feelings towards the villain’s and know a little about them. That is, after all, what the film hints at but refuses to help the audience with. The problem is very minor when stacked against just how good the film ends up to be, but to have a little more hinting at how they know each other would be helpful. They offer most of the comedic relief surprisingly enough, but not in a bumbling sort of way that most films end up doing.
The film stars Sharni Vinson as Erin, the main character who is just as deadly as she is beautiful. Her ability to switch from in pain to hunting is flawless, and her touching monologues are well written for her. She adapts a whole new persona for the role that clearly shows, allowing the audience to fear for her, while cheering her on with everything she does (or doesn’t) do.
In the supporting roles are Nicholas Tucci as Felix, the creepy younger brother; Wendy Glenn as Zee, Felix’s creepy girlfriend who sulks more than anything; AJ Bowen as Cripsin, Erin’s boyfriend who is a lovable older brother to Felix and holds a charm even when terrified; Joe Swanberg as Drake, the cocky middle brother who shows off more than he is able to defend himself; and Margaret Laney as Kelly.
So if you like horror movies, scary films, blood and violence, dark comedy, a female heroin, and a great twist ending, then this film will be for you. A caution though, this film does have a lot of scary moments in it, as well as a lot more violent parts, so if you are weak of stomach, then do not watch this. I just hope more horror movie writer’s and director’s take a hint from this film and James Wan and step up their game.
Kick-Ass 2 is a Universal Pictures release written and directed by Jeff Wadlow, based on the comic series created by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., that stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
BALLS TO THE WALL
a review of the film ‘Kick-Ass 2’
Every year, the expectations for the next super hero movie grow more and more grand, up to the point where even ‘Man of Steel’ is being put-down because of the approach to the legendary hero. Major motion picture studios are trying to find the best way to bring an innovative and new story to the mix while still applying the same logic that has existed in the super hero genre since the 1940’s. So the follow up to the 2010 super hit ‘Kick-Ass’ has to be so much more than just an average sequel- it has to be spellbinding, explosive, and knock down more barriers than previously done.
When it was announced that Universal Pictures would be picking the series up from Lionsgate Pictures, the reactions were mixed, and the anticipation slowly started to grow. Universal is keen to having large action scenes and dramatic plots. But a few weeks before the film was set to release, the film hit headlines, but not in a good way. Actor Jim Carrey (who stars in the film) put on his twitter that he cannot support this film and the massive amounts of violence that it has. This put fear into the viewer’s hearts that the film would end up becoming censored, but low and behold, the studio executives did not budge. But is this sequel really that violent, and how many changes were made to this film compared to the 2010 original?
‘Kick-Ass 2’ is written and directed by Jeff Wadlow, while being based off of the comic book series created by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. The story picks up a year or two after the end of ‘Kick-Ass’ with Mindy in high school, and Dave still trying to find a place in the social rankings around the campus. Mindy and Dave still talk, but their suits have been hung up to dry, well, for Dave at least.
That is where the film hits its first problem: Dave has sworn never to be Kick-Ass again for the sake of his family (what is left of it anyway) and his girlfriend. So when it’s time to don the suit again, we have to go through the origin story all over. It’s tiresome and feels very repetitive, often losing the humor that it tries to throw at the audience with silly gags and jokes. And once Dave is ready to put on the suit again, he’s forced to put his knowledge to the test with a scene that is an almost replica of his fight in the first film outside of the diner. Only difference is he’s dressed as a pimp (that part was funny), and he’s being watched over by Hit-Girl, the very one who trained him all over again.
So while we’re getting a repetitive story with Dave, we get an all fresh story to follow with Mindy. We get a lot more history on this character which is vital for drawing an audience closer to her. But it doesn’t last long before her story starts to feel oddly similar to another story. No, not one from a super hero world, but one from the mind of Stephen King. Mindy trying to go through the day to day life of high school feels eerily similar to that of the story of Carrie, which is due out as a film adaptation later this year with the very same actress in the lead role. Maybe it can’t be helped that the two stories follow each other so closely. After all, high school sucks.
In a very rushed sort of manner, we’re introduced to the villain, or, rather, re-introduced. We’ve seen him before, but the last time we followed him he was Red Mist, the awkward and misguided super hero turn villain from the previous film. He’s given motive this time as to why he should be a villain, but that whole scene feels rushed and almost as if it is trying to draw humor from the morbid. The first film drew humor from violence, while this time around it’s very sexual in nature. This is fun, but it brings a very different tone to the mix, one that takes getting used to.
So now we have all the ingredients: a villain, a hero, and a motive to start the violence. How violent does this film become? On a scale between Insidious and Evil Dead, this film is MacGruber in nature. It’s actually not that violent at all. Sure, there are ultraviolent scenes, but they hardly last or show anything. It’s more like a set-up to the violence that it eventually shies away from in the end.
With all of this repetition and mimicking that the film does, is it really worth your time? I’d say yes, it is. While the first portion of the film is drawn out and rushed at the same time, the audience is treated to two very amazing action sequences: one that ends up on a freeway with some crazy stunts and camera work, the other taking place in a secret lair that everyone knows about. It’s almost too bad that they appear during the last thirty minutes or so of film.
While the action during the first portion is similar to the first film, we are treated to some rather touching moments between the characters where they explore their sexuality (and introduce the first fully gay super hero to the cinema world), or try finding out who they really are inside. It’s just odd pieces of humor and a rushed story that makes it almost easy to miss these touching moments.
And while the film has an extremely different tone and story telling style than the first film, it’s not entirely bad either. It’s this director’s vision of this world and what he brought to it.
Reprising his role as Dave/Kick-Ass is Aaron Taylor-Johnson who is just as awkward as he was the first time around. His charm is better though, and with it comes a sort of swagger that shows he isn’t scared of much. Except for little girls, dogs, and the occasional cross-dressing mega villain. While the story progresses at a very rushed pace, he seems to take his time, and, towards the end, gives off a really emotional performance that the series isn’t used to.
Back again as Mindy/Hit Girl is Chloe Grace Moretz who sure has grown since the last time we saw her as the little and adorable hero. Unfortunately most of her dialogue is odd and out of character, as well as some of the things she does (mostly her cheerleading tryout). The film doesn’t treat her kindly either by making her seem almost naggy and unimportant, while in the end, she’s the most vital character to the series next to Kick-Ass. Her stunts are the best in the film, as well as her fighting, but when you look at how often she got to do those things, it’s not very much.
A change to the cast that was hard to get used to was to the role of Todd who is now being played by Augustus Prew instead of Evan Peters. It’s hard to say he did a good job in the role considering how well Peters did in it, but Prew brought what he could to the mix. The rest of the cast is how it was previously, with Morris Chestnut as Detective Williams, Clark Duke as Marty, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Chris/The Motherfucker, and Garrett Brown as Mr. Lizewski.
Joining the cast this time around is Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes, John Leguizamo as Javier, and Donald Faison as Doctor Gravity.
While this film isn’t as grand or spectacular as the first film, it still is a fun and enjoyable adventure with a team of awkward super heroes and the people they hook-up with. So if you like super hero movies, action films, adventures, high school drama, Jim Carrey, violent sexual humor, gritty violence, and a twist ending, then this film is for you. If not, then wait until it gets a rated edition and enjoy the visuals.