Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Evil Dead (2013) (R/91 Min.)

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Do you remember, as a teenage girl, going to slumber parties and staying up late watching scary movies and getting in trouble who knows how many times because of all the screaming said movies elicited? No? Well I do. And I loved it. I could watch anything or read any scary book and sleep like a baby. Friday the 13th? A Nightmare on Elm Street? Please. Stephen King? Yawn. Oh wait. I said “anything”, didn’t I? I meant almost anything. One movie from my formative years stuck with me. To be more specific, one scene from that movie stuck with me and can still send shivers down my spine just thinking about it. Unfortunately, after all these years I had forgotten what movie it was. I only remembered that scene. Tonight…I remembered the movie.

I went to the pre-screening of Evil Dead. It was another freebie and made me glad of two things. One, I didn’t have to pay for it and two, there were a lot of people there so I wasn’t sitting in the back row of the AMC Crossroads with nary another soul in the theater. I know that hard core horror fans will probably roll their eyes or laugh at my reaction to this film but it can’t be helped. I am proud to say that I didn’t cover my eyes even once during the entire movie though. Okay, so it’s not as pride-inducing when I remind myself that the only reason I didn’t is because we were told ahead of time that they might be filming the audience reaction and I didn’t want to be THAT GIRL. So, I clenched my hands around my purse and settled back (sort of) for the show.

Evil Dead is a remake of a movie of the same name that came out forever ago. Or 1981. It’s about five twenty-somethings who go to a VERY remote cabin to help one member of their group go cold turkey off drugs. From drugs? Anyway. She dumps the drugs down a well and begins the - what can only be super fun - withdrawal experience. While exploring a funky smell in the cabin, the guys stumble upon a Book of the Dead and, despite its being encased in barbed wire (!!!), one of them opens it, reads it and accidentally summons a demon. Creepy things starts to happen and everyone blames the main character’s fears and seeming paranoia on her desire for the drugs. Boy, were they wrong! This is a movie about possession. Not something someone owns. More like someone being owned. Have you seen those movies where an evil spirit sort of floats in to a person’s body and takes over? Yeah. This movie’s not like that.

This movie wasn’t just scary, it was gory. And then some. Fortunately for me, they took it way WAY over the top. Several parts were funny scary. Yes, it was gross but you couldn’t help but laugh. Those scenes may have saved my bacon. I needed the levity in the midst of the madness. The audience helped a lot too. One woman in particular kept things light by yelling at the screen like I do when watching movies at home. On more than one occasion she entertained us all by yelling, “Do NOT turn around!” A man somewhat close to her was heard to say, “Oh, heck no.” Okay so, I cleaned it up a little bit. It made me laugh and got me through. If the woman who sat in front of me could have, I think she’d have crawled in to the woman sitting next to her she was sitting so close. I hope they were friends.

Except for the bad acting at the very beginning of the movie it wasn’t too bad. They so needed someone else to play the dad. The opening scene was supposed to be scary but ended up cheesy. The initial scare wasn’t that scary either. I think it was supposed to be a sudden make-you-jump scare but…not so much. There were several instances in which I felt they were trying to do the same but I managed to not be startled. That is not bragging. That’s a lack in the film. Some people in the audience jumped or yelped at those times but it didn’t affect the audience as a whole. Those few moments aside they did include a scare or two. I did notice, during the credits, that my legs were shaking. I couldn't figure out why for a second and then realized I was having muscle spasms. Apparently I wasn't as unaffected as I thought.

I seem to be talking around everything while trying to not give away anything. Let’s talk about some of the characters instead.

The main character is Mia, played by Jane Levy. She’s the reason I wanted to see this movie. I DVR Suburgatory every week and thought it would be interesting to see how she handles horror. She handled it well. Her maniacal giggling was funny and spine-tingling at the same time. She got to be all kinds of creepy. That scene that I can't get out of my head??? It happens to Mia. I'm just sayin'.

Shiloh Fernandez plays Mia’s brother, David. David’s been kind of an absentee brother so we didn’t see a whole lot of love between the siblings but he’s trying. A couple of things happen that make you want to smack him for not double checking but that’s so typical in horror movies. Kudos to him though for his creative use of duct tape.

Lou Taylor Pucci plays the siblings’ mutual friend, Eric. I mention him only because, aside from Mia, his poor character went through the most trauma. Having said that, I should also mention that he totally deserved it. Pay attention to the holes on his face. Sometimes they move. Whoopsy. I’m also pretty sure that the doorknob keeps moving in the scene in which Eric goes to check on Olivia. I could be wrong.

The other two characters either didn’t get enough play or just didn’t affect me as much as the first three. Natalie’s (Elizabeth Blackmore) initial response to her peril caused a titter or twenty but her moments of glory involved so much spraying of blood and other ridiculousness that it became comical. I didn’t care much for Olivia, played by Jessica Lucas. And “that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

We were told that this movie was not yet rated but according to IMDB it’s rated R. I’m not sure how else anyone would rate it. Do horror movies ever get an X rating? If so, I’m going nowhere near those films. The same person who said it wasn’t yet rated also said that it’s inappropriate for children. That really is the best word for it. No child should see this movie. At. All. If you liked the original Evil Dead you’ll probably like this. If you like scary movies, you’ll probably like this. If your favorite kinds of movies are like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, you probably won’t like this. But then again…

Having mentioned sleepovers at the beginning of this post I should also mention that if you are a young person and are susceptible to nightmares after watching horror movies and you attend a slumber party at which this film is on the list of the night’s entertainment I would recommend calling your mom to come pick you up. You’re not going to be a happy camper. You may get teased later but I’d rather deal with teasing than what happens with an over-active imagination when the lights go out. If you’re the adult at said party, plan on not sleeping. There will be screaming.

If you’ve never seen any of the original movies then what happens after the credits, more than likely, won’t mean anything to you. If you have seen them, stick around.


P.S. One question for those of you who’ve seen this…does anyone else find the movie title placement in the poster a tad amusing? Just me again? I can live with that.

P.P.S. I would like to state, for the record, that I completely outgrew being unaffected by Stephen King books. It would take a lot to get me to read one now. No, thank you very much.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Croods (PG/98 Min.)

the croods photo: The Croods the-croods_collage_zpsff192249.jpg

I WAS IN AN ANIMATED MOVIE!!! Okay, so not literally but I’d hardly gotten past the opening credits and I was already a member of the family. I was so drawn in to (no pun intended) it that I only visited the theater a couple of times during the film and that was caused by several kids’ laughter. They loved it! I have nothing negative to say about The Croods and I’m already ready to see it again.

The Croods is about a prehistoric cave family whose father/husband/son-in-law protects them by keeping them in constant fear. One day they are forced out of their cave and their lives are changed forever.

I went to the 3D showing - even though I usually don’t notice the effects - and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve never wanted to be artistically talented so badly in my entire life. All the effects were pretty amazing. From the family itself to the different animals to the plant life; it was all just so cool! Oh! And someone must like elephants because there were several different elephant type critters. I think I saw at least 4.

Moving along. Allow me to take a moment to introduce you to the family:

First there’s the dad, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage). Grug’s entire life seems to be spent protecting his family; whether they like it or not. He’s a good guy. He just tries too hard.

Next there’s the mom, Ugga (Catherine Keener). She’s the keeper of the peace who tries to help Grug see what’s right for the family.

Then there’s the grandma, Gran (Cloris Leachman). This woman is a little spitfire. Literally, at one point. They picked the perfect person to be her voice. I could totally picture Cloris as the live action Gran.

Next up is Thunk, the son (Clark Duke). Poor Thunk. If this guy doesn’t manage to find a smart girl to take care of him he’s in a mess of trouble. Or he’ll just live with his parents his entire life.

Randy Thom is the voice for Sandy, the baby girl. This kiddo is every parents’ nightmare. She is in to EVERYTHING!!! And then some. She sticks whatever she can get hold of in to her mouth. Who cares that it’s a giant flying bug. Yuck!

Rounding out the family is daughter Eep (Emma Stone). She’s tired of living in fear; not being able to leave the cave whenever she wants. She just knows there’s more to life. And she is very much the stereotypical teenager.

Not members of the family but still very important to the film are Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and his pet sloth, Belt (Chris Sanders). Guy is truly living life and encourages the Croods to do the same. Belt is his trusty sidekick. Belt was also the cause of quite a bit of the kids’ laughter.

I don’t need to break this down because I think it is fine for pretty much everyone. But I will anyway. There was no cussing, no sex/nudity (doy!) and no drinking/drugs (again…doy!). There was violence but there always is in animated movies, right? I don’t think any of it was particularly gross. ParaNorman was way scarier and if your children were okay with that they should be fine with this.

I recommend this for pretty much anyone. Unless you hate animated movies. Then don’t go see it. I’ve already told mom and dad that they need to take PT to see this as soon as possible. There is a teensy little extra after the credits. It’s cute but I’m not sure if it’s worth the wait. I’ll let you decide.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen (R/Approx. 130 Min.)

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I should have hated (okay, greatly disliked) this movie. Not exactly what movie makers want to hear, I’m sure, but still. I should have. Yet I didn’t.

Olympus Has Fallen is about a terrorist take-over of the White House. The President has been taken hostage and only one man, a man who he probably feels let him down before, is in a position to get him out.

That’s about as cut and dried as I can get it. It sounds like a fun story, right? It’s sort of Die Hard meets Cliffhanger meets Taken meets 300 meets The Departed meets The American President. Minus the romance.

If you’ve seen the movie The Departed you might have some idea of why I shouldn’t have liked this movie. I was almost ill by the end of that film due to all the killing; especially the shots to the head. Olympus gave it a run for its money. The violence was so over the top but it didn’t bother me as much as the other did. Maybe I’m becoming numb to it. I hope not.

I hate ever having to say SPOILER ALERT but the following 2 paragraphs do give a small glimpse in to a couple of scenes. I don’t think it will ruin anything for anyone but I felt the need to put it out there just in case.

So, why should I have hated it? It was so completely unrealistic. But it’s a movie!!! I do understand that but the lack of reality was a tad offensive in some cases. Who could possibly be offended? Let’s start with the US Military and Secret Service. How dumb do the producers think these people are? Yes, our service men and women have been known to sacrifice their lives for their country but I found it very hard to believe that they were forced to do some of the things they did. You cannot sit there and tell me that the acting President is going to trust the inside man for all the intel he’s providing and then not listen to him when he, oh so fervently, warns him about a ginormous weapon that could be a danger to the soldiers being sent in to rescue the elected President. Also, and I know this is kind of vague, you should NEVER put all your eggs in one basket. You’re really going to trust the fate of the nation to a small number of human beings without some kind of overriding authority? I don’t think so.

As for the Secret Service…I strongly believe that if their fellow agents were being gunned down right in front of them and there was absolutely no way to stop the slaughter, they were not going to run out in to it too. It was a major (needless) 300 moment. They would have regrouped and come at it from a different angle. And I am going to take a risk here and believe that the agents have a set protocol for a reason. They do their job the way they’ve been trained and stick to it no matter what the President says. Otherwise, what’s the point? The President doesn’t feel like going to a secret cave when the country is under attack? Super. The President wants to decide who joins him in said cave? Oh well. Okay. Because he’s the President. The agents should just go with those whims. Right? Ummmm….no. And who on earth would put the President AND the Vice President IN THE SAME ROOM during this kind of crisis? Maybe I give them too much credit but I don’t think so. I’m worried about the country and any President if those protecting us are really that boneheaded. Having said that, the movie wouldn’t have gone the way it did had the agents not been so malleable.

Another thing I loved/hated was the foreshadowing. I knew the sparring match at the beginning was going to be useful later on. I knew we’d see the drone again. I knew the discussion between the First Son and the agent was going to come in to play at some point. I knew something was going to happen to the dog. So, I was right about at least one of them. The one I absolutely knew was going to happen didn’t. That was just a cheap shot. I know I won’t be the only person to expect the same. There was also one instance in which I wish they had used foreshadowing. Or maybe it ended up on the cutting room. Or maybe they just didn’t think of it. It involved the bad guy and the bad girl. I was expecting a Cliffhanger kind of relationship between the two of them. I was wrong.

Finally, a little technical criticism. The sound was wonky. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it wasn’t loud enough in parts. Usually I have to cover my ears during parts of action films but I didn’t have to at all this time (thank goodness) and some of the dialogue was really hard to hear. Just the rustle of popcorn bags covered it up and no one in the theater was being excessively noisy with their concessions. And at least one line seemed to have gotten dorked up in the editing process. Something Gerard Butler said kind of skipped. Whoops!

I considered not talking about any of the characters but I feel I must. At least a few of them, anyway.

Gerard Butler is Mike Banning; ex-Secret Service and the “inside man”. He got to play the action hero with the gooey inside. So the latter was only in a couple scenes but it was still there. I liked him in this movie. Then again, I’ve liked him in every movie in which I’ve seen him. There were parts of his character, though, that seemed to be lacking. The scenes with his wife (Radha Mitchell) almost didn’t need to be included. They didn’t do anything for the story except introduce someone who might worry about him. I wonder how many of Radha’s lines were left on the cutting room floor. I think they should have also played up Banning’s friendship with the First Son (Finley Jacobsen) more. But they didn’t. So there. Speaking of Finley…he was way underutilized. I did love his character’s call sign though.

Aaron Eckhart is President Benjamin Asher. I know he’s played many roles but I will always see him as Harvey Dent/Two Face. So I’m a Batfan. I thought he was going to have a bigger role in Olympus but he didn’t really. He got to be the loving husband for a little bit. He got to be the pal dad for an even shorter amount of time. What we saw most was the “you’ll-have-to-pry-this-nuke-from-my-cold-dead-fingers” side of him and there wasn’t even much of that. Once again, there had to have been so much more left in the cutting room.

Morgan Freeman is the Speaker of the House/Acting President. I don’t know if it’s in his movie contracts or what but there’s just something about Mr. Freeman that says, “I’m not going to look like an idiot.” Even though I didn’t agree with one or two of his decisions in Olympus it was hard not to respect him anyway. I would vote for him for President. At least I know his State of the Union addresses wouldn’t be boring.

Dylan McDermott is Agent Forbes and his character made me angrier than anyone else in the movie. Not only was he predictable but he didn’t stick to his guns, so to speak. I completely disagree that Forbes would have done what he did and then changed his mind at the last minute. He would have gone down fighting. Oh so frustrating!

I’ll end the character comments with Melissa Leo. What I couldn’t stand her for in The Fighter I loved her for in Olympus Has Fallen. She plays the Secretary of Defense and she is a tough old broad. Please excuse the “old”. She is involved in one of the violent scenes and I wanted to cringe for her but she was just so “bring it” that I cheered for her instead. I was a bit angry, though, that her bravado was banked by an order from the President. She was later involved in a scene in which I just barely stopped myself from covering my eyes. Oh the thrill of it all.

Olympus Has Fallen is rated R for a reason. Well, for two really. The cussing and the violence. There’s no need to break it down any more than that because that’s basically all there is. To say it’s violent is putting it mildly. The carnage was spectacular. I don’t mean that in a positive way. And they were not biased about who was affected. Some of the shooting scenes went too quickly to see exactly who all was hit but we saw it later in the hospital scenes. After the violence, the cussing seems almost unmentionable. Almost. It happens. And quite often. Please please PLEASE do NOT take children to see this movie. I’d be okay if PT never saw it.

If you liked any of the movies (except The American President) mentioned at the beginning of this post you’ll probably like Olympus Has Fallen. If you don’t like violence stay far, far away. I had a bit of trouble getting past the things previously mentioned but still ended up liking it. This probably isn’t anything I could watch repeatedly. I’d definitely watch it again but with Spike just to listen to him moan about the ridiculousness of it all. My only request for this film? Fix the sound and take another look at the cuttings. You left a few things out.

There was nothing after the credits at the pre-screening so head on home and discuss how you could have made this so much better but liked what you saw anyway.