Mini-Review Round-Up #4

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Inheritance

Rochelle Aytes in The Inheritance (Duly Noted)

A family reunion in the country quickly becomes something more insidious.

I use the word quickly above almost for the lack of a better word. There’s nothing quick about The Inheritance, it all takes far too long to unravel, too many things are played close to the vest and by the time secrets are spilled and the true intention starts to come out it’s too late to salvage it. The idea is interesting: it’s a generational tale going back to slavery and mixing in voodoo aspects, however, all the information finally flows in a barrage and then you get bad effects towards the end and truly anticlimactic escape. It all could’ve gone somewhere very interesting but never gets its momentum going.

3/10

Stake Land

Connor Paolo in Stake Land (IFC Films)

A post-apocalyptic world wherein vampires rule and it’s kill or be killed.

There is a lot going for this film from cinematography to score to a well-delivered, at times poetic, at times humorous narration by the lead Connor Paolo. Where Stake Land struggles some is in its pace. There are some potentially rather huge situations glossed over and a lot of time is dedicated to roaming the abandoned countryside. There is also a lot of great acting in this film. While it is recommended viewing it’s also nowhere near as good as it could’ve been.

7/10

Dream Home

Josie Ho in Dream Home (IFC Films)

A woman will do anything to get her dream home.

This is almost like two different movies entirely. I get how they connect but while I appreciate the bit of time traveling done by the narrative in the beginning, and the subtext at the end in the nice simple button, but I really just could not get into this one. The film goes out of its way to explain why this means so much to her and thus we identify but it all seems so superficial. It is rather suspenseful, the kills are great but it ends up feeling a bit vacuous. It almost would’ve been better if the film tried its hand at subtext more and didn’t get so cutesy with the whodunit. Instead, we eventually get all the pieces, put them in place and say “So what?” Sometimes I’d rather be confused and intrigued at times than lucid and unimpressed.

5/10

The Reef

Adrienne Pickering in The Reef (Image Entertainment)

It’s a shark attack movie.

Not to disparage it in the synopsis section but that’s what it is. It’s one in the Open Water mold and while the performances are good a very believable the film takes the concept of slow burn a bit too far such that it burns out. It becomes completely and totally uninteresting and after a while downright boring. There’s only so much of people treading water, or even swimming, that you can take before it becomes mind-numbing shark or no shark. The score does nothing to heighten the tension and there’s really no drama to the whole affair. I will grant that it’s more realistic than most of the goofy shark movies as of late and more interesting but it still doesn’t make it good.

4/10

Fright Flick

Allyn Carrell in Fright Flick (Breaking Glass Pictures)

The story is that of a series of murders on a film set.

One of the first problem this film runs into is that it’s about a cheesy low budget horror movie. It starts with a film-within-a-film and you’re thinking “Wow, is it going to be this terrible throughout?” The good news is no it’s not; the bad news is it doesn’t get much better. The gore effects are really strong, when the chips are down some of the performances are decent but the characters are pathetic and so are some of the performances at times, only some are consistently annoying throughout. A lot of the inconsistency stems from the direction just upload it on instant and watch the in-credits scene and you’ll see the confusion that plagues this film. The standout performances are those of Chad Allen and Allyn Carrell.

3/10

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Mini-Review Round-Up #3

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Ward

John Carpenter’s latest film goes inside a pysch ward and tries to unravel why its newest inmate is there.

There are portions of this film which are tremendously effective and as a whole I think this is a very good film. The tension builds and is maintained throughout mostly thanks to the very good cast that is assembled in this film. This is so rare in a horror film that it truly is a sight to behold. The film also incorporates a twist which is not wholly inorganic and does elevate the film and answers a few of the elusive questions it had posed throughout.

8/10

Heartbeats

Heartbeats (2010, IFC Films)

Director Xavier Dolan’s sophomore effort about a love triangle where a young man is the prize for a gay man and his girlfriend is a rumination on unrequited love and love in general.

I can see why this didn’t get the fanfare that his first film, J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother), did but in it Dolan proves himself to be a flat-out artist. He not only acts in it but directs it with a steady hand. The only things that hold it back is a conceptual/intellectual disconnect with how the material is rendered but there is an absolute certainty to how he does things. The cinematography is brilliant and vibrant throughout; the framing precise, the edit is good. The use of slow-motion is at times inspired and his affinity to source music rivals Tarantino. It’s not the greatest script but it is perhaps the best treatment that script could’ve gotten.

7/10

The Suite Life Movie

The Suite Life Movie (2011, Disney Channel)

A funny and silly sci-fi tale wherein twin brothers face off against a mad scientist.

I believe in judging everything on what it is and what its goals are. Therefore, a DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie for the uninitiated) cannot be judged against Citizen Kane. Each are doing very disparate things. Another caveat for those who will point out that this is a TV movie I’ve allowed them to be eligible before both for the good and the bad in my awards (Note: Only winners are linked to) therefore I should try and see a few each year or bar them and essentially the aesthetics are the same, the commercial break on streaming merely turns into a fade to black and then fade in.

Having said all that this film really works for what it’s trying to do and I was surprised that I enjoyed it quite a bit. Both Cole and Dylan Sprouse, who are no strangers to film acting, have far more naturalistic interpretations of their characters in this film than they do in a typical episode of the show. The film also manages to be rather self-contained and doesn’t require one to be overly-familiar with the show to enjoy and appreciate what’s going on. The mad scientist involvement is one not seen much these days but can definitely still be employed to great affect.

It’s funny, silly and even gets emotional with a point to be made. I’m not saying it’ll be in the year end fray but I was pleasantly surprised by it as it is one of the most enjoyable DCOMs I’ve seen in some time.

10/10

Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure

Spinning off from the High School Musical series, Sharpay movies to New York to try and make it on Broadway.

As opposed to the DCOM above this one for the most part misses the mark entirely. The High School Musical craze has come and gone and this is a perfect example of going to the the well one time too many. Sharpay, of course, starts this adventure off as cartoonishly spoiled and through the course of it will transform into a person who does things for herself and is a real person and has real emotions. It’s just one of a list of things in this film that’s asking a bit too much to be believed. The shame of it is that Tisdale is charismatic when just playing someone closer to herself but she’s rarely allowed to do that. The outlandish, ridiculous and wrong also overshadow a humorous and engaging turn by Bradley Steven Perry better known from his role on Good Luck Charlie.

There are things to like about the film but there are many more that will annoy you to no end. Hopefully, this is the swan song for the franchise because it really is running on fumes now.

4/10

13 Assassins

A group of assassins join forces to kill an evil lord in 19th century Japan.

There is a lot that is technically impressive about 13 Assassins. The cinematography is very impressive, some of the acting is very strong a lot of the make-up work is good. Other things just fall terribly flat. There are a lot of characters introduced at the start such that the film even includes titles to tell you who they are and the overall plotting is slow to unfurl. It leaves you wanting and begging for the “heist scene” so you know what the endgame is. Then the battle just goes on practically forever, such that after a while I really was no longer interested in the outcome only that the movie would in fact, as rumors had it, end.

5/10

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

This is actually one of the first films I saw this year and after a little research I decided that I would include it for consideration in the 2011 BAM race.

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is the story of punk rock icon Ian Drury over a long and tumultuous career.

This is a very unique and creative film and there are a lot of interesting narrative and directorial choices made throughout the course of it. Upon these decisions your opinion will hinge and they are totally open to interpretation some work, some don’t and some work with mixed results but at the very least there are chances taken in this film. What stands out most in the film are the performances of Andy Serkis and Bill Milner. Both are faced with enormous challenges in this film as actors and both succeed. Serkis has a massive arc to play and many different notes and Milner has to play his character from a youth and ages with him over many years quite impressively.

Aside from that it will introduce you, if you are unfamiliar with it as I was, to a lot of good music throughout.

7/10