Review: Evil Dead (2013)

Evil-Dead-2013 Shut up and deal with it. That’s not really how I feel but that’s how the movie feels about you watching it. This film does its own thing and doesn’t apologize for a single second and that is a large part of why I absolutely loved this movie. Let me start off by saying I’m not usually a fan of gore and watching innocent people die for no decent reason. That kind of thing tends to turn me off to modern gore fests like the Saw series. That and terrible writing trying to pass as legitimate art. That kind of nonsense has ruined modern horror as they either try to drown you in gore or creep you out with a piss poor story filled with half-baked characters hamming it up for two hours. This kind of thing is why Cabin in the Woods exists. In fact if you’ve seen that great film you’ll be hard pressed not to think of it in the beginning of Evil Dead… but that goes away fast enough.

Evil Dead is obviously a remake of the Sam Raimi classic indie horror film. A movie so bad it’s good. A classic horror story about teens in the woods awakening an ancient evil which goes about trying its best to kill them. The 2013 remake is the same but now there is a real budget involved. What they do with the budget is amp up the gore-tastic details to the N-th degree.  No, really, this is one amazing gore-fest with blood and guts and vomit and tendons and dear lord! I would usually hate this but the film just revels in it in such an over the top manner it’s hard to take it seriously. This wins me over as these characters are true horror film caricatures. I don’t get wrapped up in caring about them so their hideously gross ends manage to make me look forward to each new dismemberment.

Speaking of the caricatures the casting was…well ok enough. The only real stand out is the only one that matters. Mia, the lead female, is the one that gets possessed early in the film via the classic tree raping scene. Jane Levy is a cute and attractive actress but when it comes time she manages to crank up the creepiness with such ease it’s rather disturbing. I can’t get one scene out of my head where she’s just talking to her brother. She’s completely freaked out and looking at him at an odd angle with her face slowly getting close to his while shaking just right. She looks absolutely insane and I couldn’t help but cackle with glee at the sight of her talented madness. Her performance sells the majority of this film so I have to say she was perfectly cast.

The story itself is still in line with the classic but there are a few new twists and turns just to keep you on your toes. You’ll love the similarities but will also enjoy not entirely knowing what comes next. Oh yes, and the “Evil-Vision” does make a few appearances early in the movie. Again I smiled happily as we were sent zooming through the woods with that freaky sound effect in the background. However it doesn’t persist as much as the original and that’s fine. Over use would make the whole film teeter off into absolute goofiness. I think that’s another reason I love this so much. This movie rides that razor’s edge between horror and goofy gore-fest.

I had an absolute blast watching this movie. It even made me talk back to the screen which I rarely do and trust me I was not the only one doing it. I honestly can’t think of anything that brings this movie down for me. It delivered a great old fashioned horror film with over the top gore, ridiculous situations and caricatures you were excited to see put through the ringer. Get out there and see this as soon as you can. Don’t be afraid to tell these guys how stupid they are to go into the basement. It’s all part of the fun.

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Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz-the-Great-and-Powerful This is the film 3D has been waiting for. Unfortunately no one told this to the writers. Have you ever wondered how the Wizard got to Oz has amassed so much power? Well Disney has decided to tell us that tale with cult favorite director Sam Raimi at the helm. Just how does a simple carnival magician put aside his greed and womanizing ways to become the Great and Powerful benefactor of a land of enchantment?  Now I don’t want to tell you just how much of the Land of Oz’s origins are revealed because I don’t want to spoil anything but I will say that we get a bit more than the trailers let on. We also get a lot in between that we could do without.

Let me just get this out of the way… this movie is BEAUTIFUL! From black and white opening to full coloring closing this movie is a spectacle to behold. I’m not a big fan of 3D as I believe it is over used on movies that don’t need it or were never meant to be 3D. However this time I reveled in it just as Raimi clearly did while making it. Just like the original Oz film we start in the land of monochrome. To emphasize the difference the backgrounds are very flat which stands out in a very cool way in 3D. Think Monty Python animations in 3D as in we have multiple two dimensional planes playing with our eyes. It’s just a ton of fun. But then we eventually get to Oz and it switches over to full color and and I simply have no words for how beautiful this place looks! Thankfully Raimi does reel in the wonderment so we are not distracted the whole time but when it’s time to stun us he does so with style! Raimi is just the perfect director for a 3D movie. He knows when to let it help the story and when to have things pop and fly about to really make you feel the film. There is one shot that comes to mind where wooden spikes are jutting at Mr. Oz and it was just GREAT!

However I need to calm down before I just slap five stars on this movie because of the eye candy. I need to talk about the story we are given. The film loses an awful lot of points because the story really isn’t that complex. It doesn’t need the two hours we have to tell this tale and therefore it’s severely padded and drags on in many places. To help that along we do get a few twists. There is an obvious one in the beginning and then a later twist that upsets the first twist that I honestly didn’t quite see coming. This movie reeks of red herrings.

So we have a pacing problem. One thing that can fix that is interesting and lively characters. This is the Land of Oz! We shouldn’t be able to throw a yellow brick without hitting a few dozen of those, right? Right? Dammit, no. While Dorothy got a fun crew together that introduced themselves through uplifting songs that stay in your head your entire life we get a couple of almost interesting characters that introduce themselves by… being there. Oz comes along, helps a couple of characters and they stick with him. Just two. And they really aren’t very interesting at all. The first, a small flying monkey voiced by Zach Braff, should be incredibly helpful but honestly spends most of his time dragging around Oz’s bag or carrying the second member of the group a tiny porcelain girl that never gets a name. She is more of a hindrance aside from one small role in the end of the film. Oh, and they don’t sing. No one does. I feel like this film would have really benefited by filling this time with some song and dance but the only time that happens our hero shuts it all down.

So Oz, the man not the place, is played by James Franco. In the beginning he does an amazing job as a douche bag carnival magician but as the film goes on and he discovers himself he acts more and more like James Franco and therefore less interesting. And while I really want to speak about our main villain I also don’t want to spoil the big twists. Let’s just say the villain doesn’t work and that due to the person they chose to fill the role. While I’m sure that person had fun it just isn’t a good fit in the slightest.

In the end this movie is frustrating. The visuals pump this movie through the roof for me! But the story and pacing and characters drag it way back down.

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

With 5 years separating the final Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, Sony received unabashed grief for their idea to scrap the old and reboot the universe. From every corner of the nerd-verse we heard how this was a terrible idea and was a total waste. This response was rather odd to me considering how much people loved the new Christopher Nolan Batman movies that were created after only 8 years from its previous series. The internet is an odd place that facts and rationales don’t always go over well, but I digress.

The Amazing Spider-Man (TASM) is a retelling of one of the most familiar superhero origin stories we know. Boy gets bit by spider, boy gets powers, boy’s uncle dies, and boy becomes hero. This is so familiar that my mother could probably recite it and I know she has never even seen the Spider-Man movies. With that being the case why even bother telling this story again? Just start with him already performing adventures and get right to the stuff we want to see. I think it was important to take another stab at how Peter Parker came to be. The director, Marc Webb, takes some leeway with Parker/Spider-Man’s origin by modernizing him and making his teen angst rooted in the lack of knowing his parents. Webb is careful not to dismiss the powerful presence that Uncle Ben and Aunt May play in Peter’s life, which was something that I was afraid was going to happen. Parker’s parents are used more as an emotional MacGuffin to get the plot moving. Both Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Fields) bring real depth to their characters. Unlike in Sam Raimi’s interpretation were they felt very campy and like placeholders. When Uncle Ben dies you actually feel a sense of loss for Peter, and you get to see Garfield actually emote! With the culmination of his parental loss we get to the making of a hero.

When Marc Webb, who is most famous for his work on 500 Days of Summer, was selected as the helmer of this reboot I was skeptical. How does a new director go from a quiet anti-romcom to big budget superhero movies. However, it's those emotional quiet moments that Webb really shines. The ability to capture teen awkwardness between Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) was great to see. The onscreen chemistry between the two was a nice relief from the very wooden acting of Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire. I think the amount of thoughtfulness in developing their relationship is what really made it work.

So now that the boy has his powers what does he do with them. Well, he does what Spider-Man is suppose to awesome. The practical web swinging used in the film is stellar. The acrobatics used by the character are really shown off and look pretty flawless. There are a few times where the CGI fails slightly but these are few and far between. When Spider-Man is onscreen his suit shines and so does the action. When he is taking on the Lizard/Kurt Conners (Rhys Ifans) things move very fast but deliberate. The fight scenes are pretty intense and they feel like a battle out of the comics. Spider-Man is constantly making quips while sliding, flipping, and jumping to avoid being defeated. Ifans’s Lizard is my least favorite portion of the movie. I think the CGI was good, but I didn’t think he needed to speak. I think the Lizard is more effective as a wild animal persona. Other than that he was played well. The Lizard’s ultimate plan was pretty lackluster, but so are most plans of evil villains in these comic book movies. Even with something so highly regarded as Batman Begins, the master plan is just silly. This is the nature of comic books being translated to the silver screen.

Overall, TASM is a great ride and is the best Spider-Man movie we have to date. With a great cast headed by Andrew Garfield this is an entry that has emotion, energy, passion, and action. Webb does wonders in breathing new life into the all but familiar character. This year we have seen Marvel’s blockbuster, The Avengers, set the bar pretty damn high. The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t reach that bar but it gets points for trying. For a movie that tons of people didn’t want, TASM manages to not only meet the, unfairly, lowered expectations but far surpass them as well.

Spider-Man is back!

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