Upcoming Reviews: ORIGINAL VS REMAKE (4/29 - 5/5)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 2:36 PM | Posted in

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Fright Night (1985) vs Fright Night (2011)
The Thing From Another World (1951) vs The Thing (1982) + The Thing (2011)
Låt den rätte komma in (2008) vs Let Me In (2010)

Ghost Town (2008)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 6:22 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.5/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

GHOST TOWN (2008) - David Koepp

Every "ghost" movie is always about some supernatural spirits coming back from the dead to haunt the main characters. This is all formula already. However, this was indeed taken a step upwards when M. Night Shyamalan came along with The Sixth Sense, introducing the characters' own viewpoints that they "see dead people." What if you have a character who can see dead people, "and they annoy him?"

Ghost Town is a dramedy that stars English comedian Ricky Gervais in his first leading feature-film role as Bertram Pincus, a misanthropic dentist who dies unexpectedly, but is miraculously revived after seven minutes, and discovers that he now has the "annoying" ability to see and talk to ghosts. The film follows Pincus as he encounters a young widow (Téa Leoni) and her recently deceased ghost husband (Greg Kinnear). The stakes begin to get raised comically as more ghosts annoy Pincus by asking him to help them with personal business that was left unfinished when they died.

Ricky Gervais' humor is consistently well-executed throughout, almost as if Ghost Town is a showcase for Gervais' talent. Hilariously, his accent fits with his selfish personality, how he is the most anti-social human in the town. Gervais has successfully passed the "audition" to intrigue the American audience. He is smart-mouthed, witty, and the jokes throughout Ghost Town are briskly paced and well placed, the very opposite of sporadic humor, which I despise. In spite of Leoni not having a steady style of humor, her charm is enhanced by the very presence of Gervais. In addition, their screen duos are spontaneously delivered, in a good way, almost as if the two leads are improvising their lines. Kinnear plays Gervais' foil with great precision. In a way, they are similar, yet they are also very different. They are both jerks, even to each other. But deep inside their hearts, they are the same, similar to an apple and an orange. They are different but they are both fruit at the end of the day.

The best part about Ghost Town is that it triumphed in avoiding the mainstream comedy that the recent years have somehow been attached to. The comedy is light, but its simplicity in filmmaking and narrative helps it achieve exactly what it was made to do: Touch our hearts while entertaining us at the same time. Best of all, director/writer David Koepp did it with great intelligence and attentiveness. One of the most common movie genres that get mutilated is the romantic comedy genre. Yes, Ghost Town is considered a romantic comedy. Here, the film looks through the old formula and comes out with the right answer. It reminds us why we love romantic comedies in the first place, from the very beginning with Frank Capra's It Happened One Night to recent years with You Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally. But above all, Ghost Town reminds us that there is nothing wrong with formula filmmaking -- as long as it is done with wit, style, and heart.

In conclusion, Ghost Town is a great film. It touches on clever comedy as well as sentimentality without pushing the limit and making it appear labored. Nobody knew that Ricky Gervais can play a lovable leading man, but here it is clear evidence that he has done it. Despite its concept and technicality being extremely simple like an independent film, Ghost Town stands as a well-made award contender that deserves its audience, perhaps a wider one. The tone is funny and is briskly paced, a perfect narrative for a comedy, especially a romantic comedy as well as a dramedy. In the end, Ghost Town delivers. You will find yourself delightfully laughing and affectionately crying at the same time. It is the unexpected joy of the year, a quietly original film.

Spirited Away (2001)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 5:34 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.7/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

SPIRITED AWAY (2001) - Hayao Miyazaki

Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation and film studio founded by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, both are amazing directors. Simply put, Studio Ghibli is the Japanese hand-drawn version of Disney's Pixar. Miyazaki is the most well-known director in this studio. He was most renowned for his endless amount of creativity and imagination. He created a world of giant mutant insects in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. He built a floating castle in Castle in the Sky. He created one of the most memorable anime creatures in modern society in My Neighbor Totoro. He chronicled the experience of a young witch in Kiki's Delivery Service, the experience of an Italian WWI fight ace in Porco Rosso, and the journey of a prince in a magical forest in Princess Mononoke. And now, he has taken our familiar tale of Alice in Wonderland and produced one of the most creative animated films ever made: Spirited Away.

Spirited Away follows ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino who, while moving to a new neighborhood, becomes trapped in an alternate world inhabited by spirits and monsters. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and escape back to the human world.

Without question, the first thing that stands out in Spirited Away is its aesthetically hand-drawn animation. To this day, it is the first and only hand-drawn animated film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The animation is dazzling, extremely colorful, and amazing to look at. With the help of Miyazaki's imagination, the world of magical creatures range from simple talking frogs to wandering transparent ghosts. In fact, every time you re-watch the film, you are guaranteed to find something new in the image. There is an endless spectrum of extraordinary wonders throughout Spirited Away and is arguably the strong point of the entire movie.

However, the creativity of the film is also its weakness. In spite of its countless amount of visionary monsters, there is simply too much of them. Despite the film being designed to impress the eye, the inventiveness blinds the eye from seeing the actual storyline. Though I am not criticizing the plot on its own, I am criticizing the narrative, the pacing and execution of the plot. Overall, it is well-crafted, however there are too many elements that distract the viewers from the entire crux of the film. Halfway in, I forgot that Chihiro was trying to get back home. At the same time, I forgot caring about her as well, overly occupied with the wonders of Miyazaki's astonishing mind. Nevertheless, the list of characters are captivating and entertaining enough to push the tale forward. The dialogue is smart with an amusing atmosphere throughout and the film in its entirety still bears magnificent entertainment.

The most common viewpoint on the Studio Ghibli franchise is "Spirited Away is the greatest film of them all." Though I adore the innovation of the Oscar-winner, I strongly oppose this opinion. Spirited Away is a great film, but its avoidance of simplicity prevents me from selecting this as the best. Simplicity is the greatest storytelling form of engagement. Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky both excelled this field. With their narratives intelligently executed, they are superior to Spirited Away. However, based on imagination, Spirited Away takes the cake.

In conclusion, Spirited Away is one of the most imaginative movies I have ever seen. The animation is breathtaking and gorgeous to look at, the characters lovable, and the inventiveness astounding. Though its premise appears similar to Alice in Wonderland or even The Wizard of OzSpirited Away has combined the simple idea of "girl lost in another world" with Japanese culture and created a richly visual film. Even though the narrative lost its way similar to Chihiro halfway in, Spirited Away, without question, will keep you enthralled from beginning to end. Like the critics' consensus, "[Spirited Away] will leave viewers a little more curious and fascinated by our world."

Sideways (2004)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 4:27 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.6/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

SIDEWAYS (2004) - Alexander Payne

I wrote a quote once: "Movies are portals that invite us to new worlds and dimensions that compel us to fall in love and refuse to return to our reality." But sometimes it is essential for us to watch movies that study humanism, traits that we as audience members have in our daily lives. Director Alexander Payne invites us to explore the themes of human behavior through his Best Picture nominee Sideways.

Sideways is an independent film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (losing to Millionaire Dollar Baby). It was based on the novel of the same name at the same year. Combine the original societal story of Rex Pickett's novel with the dark humor and satirical style of Alexander Payne and Sideways comes in as an engaging and entertaining "dramedy."

Sideways follows Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti), an unsuccessful writer, a wine-aficionado, and a depressed middle school English teacher, who takes his soon-to-be-married actor friend and college roommate, Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church), on a road trip through Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Miles wishes to relax and live freely for a week while his friend desires one last sexual fling. The film chronicles these two men's experiences as they encounter Maya (Virginia Madsen), a waitress at Miles's favorite restaurant, and her friend Stephanie (Sandra Oh), an employee at a local winery.

The film from a technical basis is surprisingly rudimentary. The cinematography is plain and simple, and there is not much emphasis on art direction here. However, the simplicity is what makes Sideways an intelligent narrative. Though the visual appeal of the film might bore viewers, the dialogue is witty, the jokes funny, and the screenplay as a whole excellently written. In fact, Sideways won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, winning over the renowned Paul Haggis, writer of Millionaire Dollar Baby as well as Crash.

Paul Giamatti is a terrific actor, one of the most underrated of all time. Here in Sideways, Giamatti has pulled off probably one of the greatest performances of his entire career. He is the most well-casted actor here and what communicates to us the most is the help of his physical appearance. Miles is frustrated with his life and he displays it consistently throughout the film. I spoke before how the greatest technique in acting is naturalism. Giamatti not only expressed naturalism here, but he also defined naturalism. He is one of the most realistic characters in recent cinema and convinces the audience better than anyone else. He constantly speaks fondly of the red wine Pinot noir, while despising Merlot. The wine, symbolic in its image, connects to Giamatti's character very closely. After I finished Sideways, I am eager to try Pinot noir as well as Merlot.

Thomas Haden Church plays an actor in this film. Though Church is not the most attractive actor to play this role, his appearance is the spitting image of his character's personality, a playboy who cannot control his human needs. He is full of fun, the exact opposite of Paul Giamatti, who is no fun at all. This contrast creates one of the most intriguing "bromance" chemistries since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh both play unique female characters in this film. Commonly seen in other films, minor female characters are emphasized on their attractiveness and their seductiveness. Here,Sideways never stressed on the good looks of Madsen and Oh, but rather the charm of their hearts and soul. Their personalities are what appeal to the audience and not their loveliness. They are elegant on the inside, not the outside, and with the help of marvelous dialogue, Madsen and Oh play two female characters just as realistic and natural as Giamatti and Church. Sideways bears an excellent cast, all performed wonderfully. Each character has their own story to tell, even when the film's main story is Giamatti's. With practical characters, Sideways successfully studies the behavior of Americans. 

Every film has two ends of the scope. One end is the technical side, consisting of cinematography, lighting, art direction, costume, all the hands-on elements of a film. The other end is the  theoretical side, consisting of themes, motifs, symbolism, characterization, and other analyses of other abstract subjects. Sideways excels in the second half of the scope. However, the film never attempted to deliver a complete message about the themes. The movie is only a trip to explore these topics, not to say something about it. It raises debatable arguments without making an argument itself. Although this approach is entirely admirable, I probably would have enjoyed the film as a whole more if it begins with an intention to deliver a moral and execute it well with a good "beginning-middle-end" narrative. Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny that this study of American humanism stands out as an aesthetic piece.

In conclusion, Sideways is a noteworthy film, probably one of the smartest and most well-written independent films I have ever seen. Similar to the power of the indie genre, Sideways strives with strong characterization, engaging humor, and charm. Though I believe the film could have been bolder and more daring, Sideways is a special occasion in which we can understand the way we live our lives and discover ourselves. If one thinks about it long enough, the reasoning behind the film being called Sideways will slowly unfold. It is a clever technique of delivery. Finally, be sure to occupy yourself with a nice bottle of wine during the film. You will need it afterwards.

Apollo 18 (2011)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 7:05 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 2.5/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 4/10

APOLLO 18 (2011) - Gonzalo López-Gallego

Throughout the years of the movie industry, many "found footage" movies have been continuously made. By now, it is unwise to make another one, unless one has a terrific idea with a well-written script. Apollo 18 comes forward as an ingenious idea that came to be terribly executed. It is similar to being given an aesthetic golden spoon and then using it to cut a steak.

Apollo 18, 19, and 20 are the most recent landing missions in the chronicle of Moon missions. Unfortunately, all of them were cancelled before ever being launched. Apollo 18 is a fictional film that stresses on the idea that the cancelled Apollo 18 mission actually landed on the moon in December 1974 but never returned, and as a result the United States has never launched another expedition to the Moon. Like The Blair Witch ProjectApollo 18 was shot in a "found-footage style," made supposedly as the lost footage of the Apollo 18 mission.

Warren Christie portrays Pilot Captain Ben Anderson while Lloyd Owen portrays Commander Nate Walker, the two men operating the lunar module Liberty. The film chronicles the experiences of the two men as they slowly encounter what appears to be a hostile alien species hiding on the Moon. Based on Apollo 18, the aliens are the "reason we've never gone back to the moon."

Unlike other found footage films like The Blair Witch Project or even Paranormal ActivityApollo 18 suffers from a big problem, that a majority of the footage cannot be comprehended, not from the elemental sense but in the literal sense. Most of the footage bears the "I have no idea what I'm looking at" tone, whether it is because of static or simply unclear images. Is it a moon crater? Is it the module that the humans are operating?

However, the biggest flaw in Apollo 18 is the narrative. The film is 86 minutes long, yet I can guarantee the movie will feel two hours long. The plot does not escalate until halfway in, in which finally the film found the way to capture our attention and possibly our interest. The worst element of the film that makes the pacing feel even more boring is the imagery: two men in astronaut suits walking very slowly. At their floating pace, the film becomes undeniably tedious. The suspense is gone, without any tone or intensity. Similar to the Moon itself, Apollo 18 bears no atmosphere. From the New York Magazine, the film is just "[86] minutes of dead air."

The two lead performances are fine. They are not the most convincing but they are enough to push the plot forward. However, if observed from the literal sense, the two leads would be the worst astronauts ever. People like Ben and Nate are to be trained professionally on how to react to unexpected situations. These are government-funded operations yet somehow the two astronauts react like men from our neighborhood. Even though the characters are written like this to connect to the audience more, it is simply illogical to execute the storyline with these kind of characters. Unless one knows nothing about the space program, Apollo 18 will find extreme difficulty to captivate the audience.

On the contrary, if pushed past the suspension of disbelief, Apollo 18 is superior over a fair amount of other found footage films. When its plot finally begins to intensify, the film narrowly carries an eerie mood. The premise is intriguing, the effects are decent, and the last ten minutes are impressively satisfying. However, that is not saying much. That is like saying World War II was "better" than the Vietnam War. In the end, they are all bad.

In conclusion, Apollo 18 is as boring as the landscape of the Moon itself. The pacing is exceedingly faulty and the editing itself is fragmented. The suspense fails to kick in until halfway in, and the film in its entirety feels long even at 86 minutes. That being said, Apollo 18 catches up a little near the end, but in the overall picture, it fails from all technicalities necessary to make a good movie. But in simple words, Apollo 18 is bad in ways that you expect it to be bad, but not in the "quantity" you expect it to be bad, at least when it is compared to other lame found footage films. By the way, in the same year as Apollo 18's theatrical release,Transformers: Dark of the Moon was released as well. If Apollo 18 was about the two astronauts encountering Decepticons in "found footage" form, now we are talking.

Upcoming Reviews (4/22 - 4/28)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 10:54 PM | Posted in

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Apollo 18 (2011)
Sideways (2004)
Spirited Away (2001)
Ghost Town (2008)

Devil (2010)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 3:02 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 5.1/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

DEVIL (2010) - John Erick Dowdle

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil walks bout like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." - Peter 5:8

There is a story about how the Devil roams the earth. Sometimes, he would take human form so he can punish the damned on Earth before claiming their souls. The ones he chose would be gathered together and tortured as he hid amongst them, pretending to be one of them.

Devil centers on Detective Bowden (Chris Messina), a recovering alcoholic caused by the hit and run death of his wife and son. Meanwhile, five strangers board an elevator, which becomes stuck between floors just shortly after starting. The five strangers are: Vince McCormick (Geoffrey Arend), a mattress salesman known for his frauds, Sarah Carraway (Bojana Novakovic), a pathological liar, Ben Larson (Bokeem Woodbine), a temporary security guard with a history of violence, Jane Kowski (Jenny O'Hara), an old female thief, and Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), a mechanic. The film follows Detective Bowden as he investigates the situation, marked suspicious by Ramirez (Jacob Vargas), a security guard who grew up listening to the stories of the Devil's presence on Earth. As the plot progresses, the film slowly suggests that one of the five strangers is the Devil himself.

Devil is written by M. Night Shyamalan, which by now is regarded as one of the most self-destruct directors of the past decade. Though his name is on the brink of ruin, Shyamalan gives a loyal nod to past thrills written by Agatha Christie, especially her 1939 novel And Then There Were None. The movie's concept is based around the Devil's Meeting, supposedly a premise that the Devil is in fact on Earth to test evildoers by tormenting them. Consequently, the idea of being stuck in an elevator throughout an entire film is radically common. Hollywood Reporter calls it, "[Running] fresh out of ideas." Though the storyline bears little originality, it is exceptionally done. The pacing is brisk and raises the stakes while delivering suspenseful moments to the audience. It is a nice combination of tension and mystery.

The cinematography is done by Tak Fujimoto, who worked with M. Night Shyamalan on several of his past films, including The Sixth Sense and Signs. Here in Devil, Fujimoto delivers a spectrum of engaging shots, from dollies to sudden zoom-ins. Along with precisely executed direction, Devil conjures effective atmospheric moments that resemble the good times of Shyamalan's direction.

Devil is directed by John Erick Dowdle, who previously did the American remake of [REC] called Quarantine. With the help of an extremely talented cast, Dowdle fleshes out every character to perfection. The film successfully uses paranoia and suspense to keep the audience entertained. The tone and atmosphere is handled exquisitely, as if Dowdle is "Sixth Sense" Shyamalan. The movie in its general image resembles the minimalism presented by Phone Booth and Buried. It is edge-of-your-seat thrills from beginning to end. Just like SignsDevil is about the atmosphere and dread between normal characters in which supernatural events start to unfold. It is a group of the ordinary encountering an element of the extraordinary. Furthermore, Devil's characters are fully developed.

In this critic's experience, not a single face in Devil is seen before, yet their performances contain excessive maturity. The key to each brilliant performance in Devil is naturalism. No matter how minor the characters are, all figures convey their personalities accurately, responding to events exactly the way their types of characters would. The real question about these actors, though, is how come Hollywood rarely chooses these people to be in movies. We get "hot muscular guys" and "hot girls" but no enthralling performers? It amazes me that a film like Devil can come along and capture my attention faster than most of other horror movies by using a series of unfamiliar faces.

In conclusion, Devil is an enjoyable film. It fluently merges thrills with mystery. The performances are engaging and the atmospheric context is well maneuvered. It is undoubtedly a low-budget film whose impact can be greater than it appears to be. It is also one of the greatest minimalist films that are recently made. Now if only M. Night Shyamalan can make another movie like this. Forget The Lady in the Water andThe Happening. Direct another movie like Devil. It is small scale that delivers exactly what it promises, perhaps even more.

Push (2009)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 2:02 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 2.2/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 1/10

PUSH (2009) - Paul McGuigan

From the director of Lucky Number Slevin… comes a convoluted disarray of noisy cacophonies.

There are 9 types of super-humans in this movie:
1. Watchers, who have the ability to foresee the future
2. Movers, who have the telekinetic power to move objects
3. Pushers, who have the ability to implant thoughts
4. Bleeders, who have the ability to emit high-pitched sounds
5. Sniffs, who have the ability to track people
6. Shifters, who can temporarily alter the appearance of an object
7. Wipers, who can temporarily or permanently erase memories
8. Shadows, who can block the vision of Sniffs
9. Stitches, who can heal or unheal anything

Push centers on a group of people born with these various superpowers who band together to bring down a government agency called Division that uses a dangerous drug to enhance their powers to create an army of "super soldiers." The film follows Nick Grant (Chris Evans), a Mover, Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning), a Watcher, and Kira Hudson (Camilla Belle), a Pusher, fighting against the agency led by Agent Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a Pusher that killed Nick's father.

Confused yet?

To be straightforward, Push suffers from the most tangled plot ever made in years. The premise of the film opens with much promise, immersing us into the crowded streets of Hong Kong. Join that with admirable cinematography and the movie looks alluring. Push was entirely shot on location, providing an organic atmosphere to its content. It is curious to integrate men with super powers with asian fish markets and bamboo scaffoldings. The colors are vibrant and the appearance is stylish. However, as we all know, appearances can be deceiving. I was first intrigued, and then I was bewildered, and then I was clueless.

I always stress on the fact that no matter how good-looking a film is, it all boils back down to the story and the script. Words cannot describe how dimwitted the dialogue is. In addition, the action sequences bear little sense and commitment. The majority of the scenes of intensity contains people pointing guns at each others' heads without ever pulling the trigger. The narrative, surprisingly for this kind of movie, drags. How does it drag? Because we as audience members are constantly questioning what the characters are actually doing. Push attempts to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's classics by pushing forward a MacGuffin, a plot device in which the protagonist is willing to do anything to pursue, but with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered to be so desirable. The drawback here is that Push reveals exactly what they are after, the drug. Mentioned before, the program Division undertakes all obstacles to retrieve the stolen drug. Furthermore, the drug was somehow said to bring down Division, causing the main characters to search for it too. In simplicity, the storyline of Push tries to be an episode of Heroes. However, what Push attempted instead was to squeeze the entire season of the show into a running time of two hours.

Chris Evans, known as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, plays one of the most formulaic male leads in an action film. Despite his skills being a Mover, his human character is as vague as the film's logic. The chemistry between Evans and Fanning work at times and they incredulously drive the plot onward better than the contrived romantic chemistry between Evans and Belle. Speaking of Belle, her facial expressions are crippled to a limited amount of looks. If she played Kristen Stewart's sister, I would undoubtedly stand up and say, "I'm not surprised." Dakota Fanning, despite the film's ridicule, gives the best she's got. Though her performance in War of the Worlds is far superior, Fanning successfully communicates her thoughts to the audience. The cast in general treads on water. Every actor looks right and fits in the settings perfectly, but the execution of their personalities vanishes once they start talking.

In conclusion, Push is one of the worst films I have ever seen. Nothing is explained before it is presented. The screenplay is a jumbled mess of familiar content, cliche and formulaic, and even delivered more terribly than others. The film as a whole is beautiful to look at, but I must be "pushed" to understand the entire narrative. From the Los Angeles Times, one would wish to "run into a wiper by the time the credits roll."Push takes no breaks, trotting along without a rhythm. What is left is simply a film that goes at a breakneck pace and does not care about any other variables that apply. To quote Mark Keizer, Push "basically acts like it has to go pee. It just wants to just get it over with."

Attack the Block (2011)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 5:49 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011) - Joe Cornish

Let me ask a question: What do you get when you combine Neil Blomkamp's District 9 with…. Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead? You get Joe Cornish's Attack the Block.

Attack the Block, Joe Cornish's directorial debut, follows a street gang who encounter a hostile alien species and must work together to defend themselves. The film revolves around Moses (John Boyega), the leader of the gang, along with a nurse (Jodie Whittaker) that the gang mugged just before the invasion.

The film is produced by Big Talk Productions, known for producing Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. If any of these three films have already been viewed and praised, then the humor style of Attack the Block will appear as familiar. The jokes are witty, relying on the power of the screenwriter to amuse. Though half of the jokes center on the subject of smoking and weed, the hilarity of the gags bank on canniness, unlike the misfitted humor found in other comedies such as Pineapple Express.

The characters this time are a unique group of anti-heroes, different from the average monster movie. Though their literal lives are dismissive, their personalities are still inevitably lovable. The vulgarity, the foul language, none of that applies into the formula anymore. The entire cast in this film is unfamiliar, actors who I have never seen before on screen. However, Boyega bears a similar impression as Denzel Washington, making his character come across as being more sophisticated and mature. Whittaker plays an entertaining supporting role and her character realism adds a diversity to the chemistry of the group we follow. The greatest aspect of the gang of thugs in Attack the Block is how the script eases us deeper into their characters, how they are more than just a pack of nobodies, how there is more to them than they appear.

The "confined" setting of the block drives the plot forward in this movie. It sets up excitement and entertainment for the battleground. Here, the environment is a part combat zone part funhouse. It is diverse enough to provide shrewdness and inventiveness to the script, making Attack the Block one of the most original alien films made in a long time.

The alien designs in this film are simplistic yet memorable. They have no eyes, similar to the xenomorph Alien in Ridley Scott's Alien. Their fur is as dark as a vacuum and their teeth glow a neon blue in the dark. With a beast-like behavior, the aliens in Attack the Block are the meanest and toughest creatures seen in a while.

From a filmmaking standard, Attack the Block is a very simple movie. The budget is predictably low and the qualities of the image appear something college-level, which is not a bad thing, by the way. The narrative is briskly paced, enhancing the situations fluently by increasing suspense and intensity, raising the stakes as the plot progresses. The film as a whole is extremely effective in what it aimed to accomplish. It nicely treads on the line between comedy and horror. Though it is die-hard funny, it is also exceptionally gory. Nonetheless, the violence no longer scares due to the comical atmosphere throughout the piece, similar toTremors or even Fright Night.

In conclusion, Attack the Block is an extremely entertaining film. It comes forward as another reinvention of the alien genre, joyfully referencing another science fiction classics as it moves along. It is a straightforward story about an ordinary gang trapped in something extraordinary, turning their hood into an alien war zone. The film is well-paced and well-acted, fabulously imaginative that makes itself equivalent to a cult classic. It is a delightful approach to the alien genre and results in a movie that satisfyingly justifies the time spent watching it. From the words of Peter Travers: "This movie wants and needs to come at you like a beast in the dark. Allow it."

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 9:14 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.2/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) - Drew Goddard

"Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story, think again."

I do know this story, formulaic and cliche beyond all comprehension. All slasher films have followed this path. Ever since Carpenter's Halloween, slasher cults like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th all suffer from a "Been there, done that" tone. It is a series of differently crafted chocolate cakes in a cake factory. In the end, they are all the same. Then one year director Wes Craven decided to satirize the slasher genre with his own cult classic Scream, a film so successful that it spawned three sequels. The most recent entry, Scream 4, came out last year. Now we are given another film that claims to be self-aware, giving us the poster tagline "You think you know the story." Fair enough. I do know the story and I am ready to think again. However, when I walked into the theater expecting a strawberry cake out of the chocolate cakes, I was given a strawberry cake covered with a layer of lemon, sprinkled with Oreos, topped with a cherry, and assisted with twenty cupcakes with each one having its own flavor. In other words, I did not expect what I was given in the end. Nevertheless, that was one delicious dessert feast.

The Cabin in the Woods follows two technicians, Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) preparing for an unknown operation, one out of several taking place around the world. On the other side of the narrative, five college students -- Dana (Kristen Connelly), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchinson), Marty (Fran Kranz), and Holden (Jesse Williams) -- drive out for a vacation to the cabin in the woods, while the two technicians keep an eye on them using hidden cameras. Despite its context being "stalkerish," at least the film already steps in as what Spill.com calls "a game-changer."

Jenkins and Whitford play a great comedy duo, comparable to Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones from Men In Black. Despite the vulgar language, their characters are undeniably fun and exciting to follow. Unlike the majority of the character groups in slasher films, all five college students here pulled off terrific performances. Chris Hemsworth, previously seen in Thor, convincingly compressed his dominating stance into a minuscule student with less intimidation. All characters are fully loaded with witty humor, cleverly written. However, the supreme performance in The Cabin in the Woods is from Kristen Connelly, an actress who I have never seen before. Furthermore, before I began writing this review, she did not have her own Wikipedia article. Even though its movies in general are mediocre, the year of 2012 is a showcase for new unfamiliar faces. First the entire cast in Chronicle, and now this. Connelly is sensational. Her facial expressions convey better than words, a unique delivery that most actresses these days either are unable to do or choose not to. For a long time, I have not expressed sympathy for a female character screaming in a horror film. Connelly here, as attractive as she is persuading, delivers one of my favorite female leads in a horror movie since Sidney Prescott in Scream and Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Fran Kanz, in simple words, is the new Woody Harrelson. If Harrelson is Jerry Lewis, then Kranz is Jim Carrey. The generality of the script's shrewd dialogue belong to him, presenting a spectrum of jokes, making Cabin in the Woods one of the most entertainingly funny horror movies ever, even better than Fright Night.

The film, despite its entertaining factor, is excessively violent. There is blood. A lot of blood. Following the tradition of emphasizing gore and violence to scare, The Cabin in the Woods does not shy away. However, being unique and aesthetic, the context of the violence bears an engaging element different from everything else we have ever seen. The exhilarating rush of the film drives the ridicule of everything else into an adrenaline-charged piece that helps us remember the reason why we love watching horror movies in the first place.

Now for the story. It is extremely arduous to explain the power of the narrative without spoiling it. All I can say is it is one of the smartest yet weirdest movies I have ever seen, and I mean that in a fantastic way. In daily jargon, here is a brief response to the story: "Out of all the things you expect to happen in a horror movie, the things that happen in The Cabin in the Woods are the *last* things you will ever guess."

In conclusion, The Cabin in the Woods is one of the biggest surprises I have ever seen in movie history. However, surprises are usually based on our expectations being exceedingly low and then we realize how remarkable the movie is. This film's element of surprise is more than that. It is bold, pushing to develop a new dimension to cinematic horror. It is a Tetris game demanding the game itself to be played in 3D. It is a Pac-Man game that demands fire breathing as an ability. In a way, the film is a masterpiece. It fluently combines humor with suspense, a hybrid of everything we love about horror and entertainment. In a positive manner, the initial reaction of this film boils down to seven words: What the f*** did I just watch? What The Cabin in the Woods did to the horror genre is identical to what Shrek did to fantasy folktales. It takes everything we were familiar with, puts it all in a blender, and serves us the final product in a spittoon. Ever had dinner served that way before? After watching The Cabin in the Woods, I can proudly say, "Bon appetite."

Upcoming Reviews (4/15 - 4/21)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 2:51 AM | Posted in

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The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Attack the Block (2011)
Push (2009)
Devil (2010)

Spider-Man (2002) vs Spider-Man 2 (2004) vs Spider-Man 3 (2007)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 2:43 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
SPIDER-MAN RT Critics Rating: 8.9/10
SPIDER-MAN 2 RT Critics Rating: 9.3/10
SPIDER-MAN 3 RT Critics Rating: 6.3/10

SPIDER-MAN Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10
SPIDER-MAN 2 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10
SPIDER-MAN 3 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 5/10

SPIDER-MAN (2002) - Sam Raimi
SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) - Sam Raimi
SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007) - Sam Raimi

Spider-Man is one of the most popular and commercially successful superheroes in the world of Marvel Comics. He bears super strength and agility, the ability to cling to most surfaces, shoot spider-webs, and "spider-sense," all similar traits of a real spider. His real identity is Peter Parker, a teenage high school student raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, having to deal with the normal struggles of adolescence.

The film adaptation was stuck in what was called "development hell" ever since the 1980s. Before Sam Raimi, the film was originally considered to be directed by several others including Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands), Chris Columbus (Harry Potter 1 & 2), and David Fincher (Seven).

The film follows Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) with his love interest Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), the son of Dr. Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe). During a field trip to a genetics lab, Peter is bitten by a genetically engineered spider, thus giving him the superpowers we know today. As we follow Peter's experience in becoming Spider-Man, Norman Osborn tests a new performance-enhancing chemical on himself. The chemical succeeds in increasing his strength, however causes Norman to develop a maniacal alter ego, the Green Goblin.

Tobey Maguire is miscast. There is no way around it. However, this does not mean he was a dreadful actor in this film. Spider-Man's greatest strength as a film is the experience development that Maguire goes through. He practices his web-slinging, his wall climbing, everything. We follow him as he slowly becomes Spider-Man. His hands are now sticky. He now bears perfect vision. The film does a pleasant job in displaying Maguire's emotional reactions to his newly given powers. Although, his powers to leap across rooftops appear too fake, with no physics nor weight. After the death of Uncle Ben, Parker's character becomes better to follow and we learn the classic moral "With great power comes great responsibility." Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Willem Dafoe all do not disappoint anyone who values the original comic books. Even though Mary Jane Watson was actually not the first love interest of Peter Parker, Dunst portrayed her character perfectly, though the character chemistry between Dunst and Maguire appears contrived. However, this contrivance is only present within moments of dialogue. The "upside-down kiss scene" was well-done, cinematically pleasing and brings about the right effect due to good pacing from earlier. There is not much to say about Willem Dafoe. In every movie that he is in, he pulls off another fantastic act. From Platoon to Mississippi Burning, Willem Dafoe could have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor here in Spider-Man.

The biggest flaw with Spider-Man is surprisingly, the design of the Green Goblin itself. Instead of being able to display signs of intimidation like an actual villain, the Green Goblin's "mask" is handicapped on one facial expression. The only thing we are given is Dafoe's maniacal voice, which loses its effect due to the Goblin's laughable face. The Goblin could have been a much deeper and interesting character. Here, he is one-dimensional, plain and flat. Made up of over 500 pieces, the Green Goblin was simply poorly designed, hilarious to see when punched away over a far distance, seeing his grin as he swings his arms in the air.

Sam Raimi was known for directing the Evil Dead movies. He was a horror movie director. Handing a film likeSpider-Man over to him would be a little "inadequate," would it not? Indeed. The overall atmosphere of the film still bears a sense of horror to it, a feel of delirium. However, this trivial effect could have been worse.Spider-Man could have been directed by Tim Burton instead. Raimi's true problem here is handling action sequences. None of them here are memorable nor stylish in any way. In addition, they barely build tension when they should have. Spider-Man as a whole appears to be an experimental film for Sam Raimi. He seems to have tested with this movie on what works and what does not work for an action movie. Surprisingly and pleasantly, Sam Raimi took what did work and enhanced it in the sequel Spider-Man 2.

Two years after the events of its predecessor, Spider-Man 2 focuses on Peter Parker's struggle on managing his personal life as well as his duty as Spider-Man. On the side, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) becomes Doctor Octopus after a failed experiment and the loss of his wife.

Unlike other superhero movies that only bear the formulaic plot of "hero vs villain," Spider-Man 2 takes the idea of superheroes to a new level by throwing our superhero into the world of reality. The film contains more than just our familiar conflict, but also a "man vs society" conflict. It effortlessly combines visual effects and a humanity story, moving both of them nicely along in parallelism. Speaking of visual effects, they are amazing here. Dock Ock's four robotic arms move with a supernatural life, reacting and responding, moving and attacking, almost like the arms themselves are characters. Combine that with a terrific performance by Alfred Molina and a fully fleshed out character within a script and Dock Ock is twice the villain the Green Goblin was in the predecessor.

Every character's personality that we have seen before become complete full circle here. Sam Raimi, with the help of screenwriter Michael Chabon, did what a sequel needs to do: Progress the familiar characters up a step. Take what we have seen before and "mature" them using a new conflict. Every good sequel in the movie industry contains this. James Cameron has done this before in the second Terminator as well as the second Aliens. Disney's Pixar has done this with the Toy Story 2 also.

Spider-Man 2 exhibits the true flaw of superhero movies. They stress on the superpowers too much, leaning away from the human characters behind them. Superman never emphasized Clark Kent once, making his appearance monotonous. Batman also never underlined Bruce Wayne. Michael Keaton was remembered as the perfect Batman, never the perfect Bruce Wayne. Many moviegoers these days now refuse to watch superhero movies. However, here, Spider-Man 2 is more than a superhero movie. It is a real movie, with cinematic qualities and a well-paced narrative, a superhero movie that will make superhero movie-haters love or perhaps yearn for.

Three years later, Sam Raimi somehow decided to add in a plethora of visual effects and remove a good story. Before I explain the movie's plot, I want to first stress that Spider-Man 3 has basically four villains total. Four villains in one movie. Spider-Man 3 follows Peter Parker and his life as Spider-Man with his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson. Harry Osborn still seeks vengeance for his father's death, and Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), supposedly Uncle Ben's real killer, falls into a particle accelerator that transforms him into Sandman. In addition, an extraterrestrial symbiotic crashes to Earth and bonds with Peter, forming the "Black-suit Spider-Man" and influencing his behavior negatively, creating a relationship issue among him, Mary Jane, and a new character Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). When Peter abandons the symbiote, it finds refuge in Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), Parker's rival photographer, creating the iconic villain Venom.

Starting with the first villain, Harry Osborn seeks revenge on Spider-Man after discovering that he was the one who was responsible for his father's death. Avenging his father, Harry is now the New Goblin. Despite his villainy design being intriguing, Harry Osborn still bears the familiar tone that we have already seen in the first movie, though this time the glider is "cooler." However, his entire character soon enough becomes contrived and also suffers from a severe plot hole.

Aunt May and Peter Parker later learn at the police station that the actual killer of Uncle Ben is Flint Marko. The authorities knew this information since Marko was in prison but somehow decided to not inform the family in the first movie. When Flint Marko escapes and falls into the particle accelerator 30 seconds before it is schedule to move sand around in circles, it appears that the scientists operating this could not buy actual security cameras to witness the experiment or block possible escapees from randomly falling in. In addition, no fences were applied either. The Sandman, again like the Green Goblin, is a one-dimensional villain. Furthermore, he appears to use his powers so quickly after gaining them. Somehow he does not need to practice, something that took Parker the entire first movie to handle and something that Octavius took the first half of the second movie to get used to. The sand powers thus are not "attached" to the human character, and he might as well remain a sand monster throughout than showing his human face. He just effortlessly uses his sand-powers of invulnerability, forming objects, and….. flying too.

Eddie Brock's character is never fleshed out and Venom appears extremely late. In fact, Venom was never shown in the theatrical trailers of the film. Even though the villain was nicely designed as the antithesis of Spider-Man, he was presented too late and was rushed too quickly. In addition, the physical appearance of Venom is a bit too minuscule, a huge disappointment for fans of the original design.

The biggest problem with Spider-Man 3 is the script. There are simply too many variables occurring. Nearly five conflicts occur at once throughout the film. It is messy and labored and forcefully squeezed through. From the words of renowned film critic Roger Ebert, "There are too many conversations and street crowds looking high into the air and shouting 'ooh!' this way, then swiveling and shouting 'aaah!' that way." The pacing and editing of the film is excessively wheezy. In a superhero movie, the film needs to develop the hero's character while developing the villain's character so they can finish in a climactic final battle. Here, there are four villains, and the film is forced to try to develop all four. This results in the movie jumping among characters two minutes per character. In the end, none of the characters are developed and we can no longer care for anybody.

In summary of comparing all three films, Spider-Man 2 is the finest one out of all. The first film is more exploratory, finding on what works and what does not. Director Sam Raimi has taken what he was skilled at previously and applied it even stronger here in the sequel. Unfortunately, he lost it all in the third film. In simple words, Spider-Man was good, Spider-Man 2 was spectacular, and Spider-Man 3 was disorganized and disappointing, despite the third being the most successful in terms of box office.

However, director Marc Webb has come along to reboot the franchise with the upcoming film The Amazing Spider-Man. Giving loyalty to the original comic book's name, The Amazing Spider-Man appears to tell the other side of Peter Parker's story, a re-adaptation of Raimi's trilogy. Replacing Maguire as Parker is Andrew Garfield, previously seen The Social Network and replacing Dunst as the lead female is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, previously portrayed by Howard. However, it has been only five years since Spider-Man 3 was released. Is it really necessary to "remake" it now? Hopefully "The Untold Story" will prove us wrong. What I am seeking the most in July from The Amazing Spider-Man is Andrew Garfield. His performance in Social Network was astonishing and I am curious to see how he will deal with Peter Parker, hopefully better than Tobey Maguire, because even though he tried his best, he "bugged" me, pun intended.