Category Archives: Movie Review

A Nightmare on Elm Street

When a teen boy kills himself late one night inside an all night diner, in front of his girlfriend, after having not slept for days, no one knows it yet but Freddy Kruger has just made a comeback.

At the teen’s funeral his girlfriend Kris falls asleep and encounters herself as a child standing in front of the grave. When she’s snapped awake she notices a photo of her and Dean, her boyfriendย  from when they were five, which is odd because she is sure the two of them had only met in high school. Kris is positive that something strange is going on but no one seems to want to talk about it. No one except for Nancy, a waitress at the diner who also witnessed the apparent suicide.

After Kris’s mother is called away on a flight, her ex Jesse climbs into her bedroom window to see how she’s coping. Frightened by recent dreams, Kris asks Jesse to spend the night with her. Kris is afraid she is having the same dreams that Dean was having, dreams so terrifying that they caused him to kill himself. Only, Kris isn’t convinced these are ordinary dreams since Dean kept repeating โ€œYou’re not realโ€ over and over again just before slicing his throat open. Kris thinks something in his dream caused Dean to kill himself and is worried the same thing could happen to her. Her fears prove to be correct when she encounters a burned man with a bladed glove who tortures and murders her in her sleep, causing her to die for real.

Jesse wakes up in time to witness Kris’s horrific death and decides he’s not sticking around. He knows what it looks like and that no one would believe that Kris was killed in her sleep. No one, except of course Nancy. Jesse warns Nancy that something strange is going on and that whatever she does, she mustn’t fall asleep. He then takes off only to be apprehended by the police. Once inside a cell, try as hard as he might Jesse just can’t stay awake any longer and is confronted by the burned man with the glove who proceeds to kill him too.

Nancy realizes something strange is going on and she and her friend Quentin know they need to figure it out soon or they’ll be the next to die. After doing some digging the two find photographs of the kids from when they were five. Everyone is in the photo including Kris, Jesse, Dean and several other kids. When they confront Nancy’s mother they learn the awful truth, or at least part of it. Nancy’s mother confirms that all the kids had known each other when they were little since they all went to the same preschool. She tells them of a man named Fred Kruger who worked as a gardener at the preschool who had been accused of molesting the children. She tells Quentin and Nancy that Fred had taken off before he could be arrested and that the parents decided not to tell the kids what had happened so that they wouldn’t have to remember such horrible events in their childhood.

While trying to track down the other kids in the photo Nancy learns that every one of them had died horribly in their sleep. When the two confront Quentin’s father, the high school principal he reluctantly fills them in on the gory details. Turns out Kruger hadn’t escaped after all. In fact all the parents had decided to take the law into their own hands and burned Kruger alive, even though they weren’t sure whether or not he was really guilty. Quentin fears that Kruger has somehow found a way to enter the kids dreams to kill them in retaliation for causing his death for a crime he was innocent of.

Nancy and Quentin feel Freddy drawing them to the old preschool and the truth. Now all they have to do as stay awake, and alive, long enough to find it.

Well, at least we now know how to actually kill Freddy. Just stick him an an awful remake. For a movie about a guy who kills you in your sleep I had a hell of a time keeping my eyes open.

I wanted to like this version of A Nightmare on Elm Street, really I did, especially as it stars Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy. I absolutely loved Haley as Rorschach in Watchmen and he was actually not a bad Freddy… He just wasn’t all that scary either.

Maybe I’m getting stubborn in my old age of 35 but to me Robert Englund will always be Freddy Kruger. Apparently during this reboot of Elm Street they wanted to make Freddy more frightening by taking away his personality. Freddy without his one liners and innuendos just isn’t Freddy. Sure, some of the quips are still there but lets face it, it’s not like Freddy gets a whole lot of screen time in this one.

This version seems to be more about the kids and let’s face it, there isn’t a Johnny Depp in the bunch. Depp, as many will recall, got his big break by being slaughtered by Freddy. While the kids are alright you really just don’t end up getting emotionally invested in them and ultimately don’t really give a shit when they die. Heck, even their deaths aren’t all that interesting.

Oh and one final note. If you really want to kill Freddy, here’s a hint… DON’T. Freddy is only powerful in the dream world and only has access to the dream world when he’s dead. That means every time you ‘kill’ him, he’s just gonna keep coming back. If you want to stop Freddy, pull him out of the dream world into the real world and keep him alive. Have him tossed into an asylum in a nice comfy padded cell and pump him so full of Thorazine that he can’t even remember his own name. Freddy’ll have a pretty hard time killing kids in their dreams while he’s laying in a puddle of his own drool. Nightmare over.

A Nightmare on Elm Street stars Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz and Clancy Brown and is currently playing in theaters.

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Shutter Island

Set in 1954, US marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck Alue are headed to Shutter Island, insane asylum and home of America’s most dangerous and mentally disturbed criminals.

The two marshals have been called to the island after the escape of a patient, Rachel Solando, who had been convicted of murdering her three children by drowning them in the lake behind her house. There seems to be no way that the woman could have escaped since not one person had noticed her leave her cell and even if she had escaped she had apparently done it without even wearing shoes. No one believes that she has left the island considering the only way on and off the island is a ferry that only travels back and forth to the mainland twice a day. Teddy discovers a clue however when he finds a note hidden in Rachel’s cell stating ‘the rule of 4’ and ‘who is 67’.

As the investigation continues the two marshals gradually notice just how strange everyone on the island is acting, right down to the guards and even the doctors themselves. It’s obvious the inmates have been coached as to what to say since every one of them keeps saying the same thing as each other. All that is except for one female inmate who scrawls a cryptic message in Teddy’s notebook, ‘run’. Teddy begins to grow suspicious and suspects a cover up, at the very least there is a secret being hidden on Shutter Island and Teddy thinks he knows exactly what that is.

Teddy believes that the inmates on Shutter Island are being used as lab rats in experiments involving mind control. Using a tip from a Shutter Island survivor, Teddy is determined to prove that not everything is as it appears to be and that those running the asylum are even more dangerous than those imprisoned inside. Teddy better watch his back though because it looks like the doctors are on to him and will do anything to cover their tracks, even going as far as trying to make Teddy believe he’s insane.

Here there be spoilers:

Shutter Island is an alright movie, I did enjoy it. There really is only one problem, I had it pretty much figured out in about an hour. You see, the premise of Shutter Island isn’t exactly new. In fact if you happen to be a geek (like me) you have probably already seen this exact same scenario on such shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Frame of Mind (where aliens try to convince Riker he’s an asylum inmate and not commander of the USS Enterprise) or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Normal Again (where The Trio use demon venom to try to convince Buffy she is a patient in an asylum and not a vampire slayer) or Smallville, Labyrinth (where an escapee from the Phantom Zone tries to convince Clark he’s a patient in an asylum and not an alien from Krypton) or Charmed, Brain Drain (where The Source kidnaps Piper and tries to convince her she is an inmate at an asylum and not a witch)… I think you get the idea.

In fact the only real twist in Shutter Island is that Teddy Daniels actually is a patient in an asylum and not a US marshal, well at least not since he killed his wife for murdering their three children. Turns out Teddy is actually Andrew Laeddis, the man who he had blamed for killing his wife in a fire. The grief of losing his children combined with the guilt of killing his wife caused Andrew to break with reality and everyone on Shutter Island was involved in an elaborate role play in hopes of playing out his delusion and bringing him back to reality. I guess you could say the real plot twist in Shutter Island is that there isn’t actually any conspiracy at all.

As I said, Shutter Island is a good movie, the acting is great and there are a couple of nice cameos by the likes of Jackie Earle Haley and Elias Koteas but if you’ve ever encountered one of these plot devices in the past you’re not going to have a hard time figuring it out here.

Shutter Island is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas and Patricia Clarkson.

Shutter Island is slated for DVD and Blue-ray release on June 8th 2010.

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Jake Sully has just been given the chance of a lifetime, unfortunately it has come at the cost of his brother’s life.

After Jake’s brother is murdered in a mugging, Jake is recruited into the ‘Avatar‘ program in his place. The Avatar program, funded by The RDA corporation, is a program in which scientists merge human DNA with that of the locals from the planet Pandora, known as the Na’vi to create Na’vi clones in order to communicate with them. Jake’s brother had been scheduled to ‘pilot’ one of the clones and it was feared that his clone would be rendered useless until Jake, being his brother’s identical twin and therefore exact DNA match was signed on to take his place.

The scientists of the Avatar program wish nothing more than to explore Pandora, collecting samples of the indigenous plant life and to open peaceful communications with the Na’vi people. The RDA corporation however have far more sinister motives for being on Pandora. Pandora just so happens to be a rich source of unobtanium, a metal worth far more than gold. The RDA also have a security team, Sec-Ops which consists of thousands of ex military solders who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later and who have little regard for the inhabitants of Pandora.

Most people involved with the Avatar program are reluctant to use Jake considering Jake is a paraplegic ex marine with absolutely no Avatar training. Jake soon proves his value to the team however when on his first outing he makes contact with one of the Na’vi, Neytiri, the daughter of the chief of the local tribe. At first Jake’s only interest is learning what he can of the Na’vi in order to report back to Colonel Miles Quaritch, the superior officer of Sec-Ops so that RDA can devise a plan to remove the Na’vi from their village inside the Hometree, which just happens to sit atop an extremely large deposit of unobtanium. Things become complicated for Jake when he finds himself falling in love with not just Neytiri but with the Na’vi and Pandora itself.

I’m of two sides when it comes to Avatar. The visuals are of course stunning, there is no doubt about that. Everything from the landscape to the Na’vi is so realistic and lifelike that it just makes you believe that such a place could actually exist. The Na’vi are beautiful as well as enchanting and the viewer has little difficulty cheering for these underdogs. Even the love connection between Jake and Neytiri is sweet and sincere.

My only real complaint with Avatar is the entire human race.

Avatar takes place in 2154, that’s 144 years from now but according to James Cameron, not only do humans not evolve into a kinder more intellectual species… we get worse. I understand the message behind Avatar, really I do but to think that out of thousands of humans stationed on Pandora only five, FIVE actually have an ethical dilemma about slaughtering an entire sentient species that just so happens to be able to speak English, is unfathomable to me. When Sec-Ops is burning down Hometree and setting the Na’vi alight with it, why does only one person say ‘fuck this, this isn’t what I signed on for’?

Is the message of Avatar that the human species is doomed to being little more than Neanderthals? Even after another 144 years are the majority of humans still going to have the ‘Kill em all!’ mentality? Will we never grow into the peaceful species I hope we could be? Sure it may be naive to think that humans could ever live in peace but think about just how far we’ve come along already. Yes there is still war, yes there is still poverty but there is also social awareness, there is compassion, there are organizations such as Amnesty International and UNISIF whose goals are to spread awareness and compassion and to stop suffering around the world.

I guess what I’m saying is that even though I enjoyed watching Avatar, my vision of the future of the human race differs greatly from that of James Cameron. I guess only time will tell whose vision holds true. To quote John Lennon, ‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…’

Avatar stars Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Giovanni Ribisi, C.C.H Pounder, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, Laz Alonso and Wes Studi and is avialible on DVD and Blue-ray on April 22 2010.

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The Fourth Kind

After the brutal death of her husband while the both of them were in bed together, psychologist Abigail Tyler (played by Milla Jovovich) decides to return her family to Nome Alaska for a fresh start. Things aren’t easy, her son has grown estranged from her and her daughter now suffers from conversion disorder, also known as hysterical blindness, as the result of witnessing her father’s death.

Abigail hopes to just move past the tragedies in her life by burying herself in her work. An odd coincidence comes to her attention when several of her patients all claim to be seeing the same white owl watching them from outside their bedrooms in the middle of the night. Each patient is plagued by nightmares and Abigail decides to hypnotize one of them with disastrous results. After being forced to remember what has been happening to him the patient refuses to discuss it but later that night decides to murder his family and then kill himself.

It is not until she hypnotizes another patient that Abigail begins to suspect what is actually going on in Nome Alaska. She begins to believe that the people of Nome and maybe even she and her family are being abducted by aliens. Of course the authorities don’t believe her, despite some rather convincing video evidence and she isn’t even sure herself until she hears a recording of herself being abducted. The recording, made while Abigail had fallen asleep while taking dictation, is filled with her screams of terror. It has also captured the strange voice of someone who is speaking what sounds like ancient Sumerian.

Everything becomes far too real for Abigail when the police place her under house arrest sure that she had something to do with her patient’s murder-suicide. They also hold her responsible for her other patient breaking his back during a second hypnosis session, leaving him paralyzed. When her daughter goes missing and no one believes that aliens were the ones who took her, Abigail decides that she must go under hypnosis herself in an attempt to make contact with the aliens and get her daughter back.

Set as a mockumentary, The Fourth Kind claims to be a recreation of actual events that had happened in Nome Alaska during 2000. Going so far as to show ‘actual footage’ of events side by side with the recreated scenes throughout the film as well as providing narration in the form of an interview with the ‘real’ Abigail Tyler the film goes all out trying to turn viewers into believers. There was even quite an elaborate viral campaign on the internet providing ‘real’ information as ‘proof’ of the films authenticity.

I don’t have cable, which of course means that I can’t see movie trailers unless I go searching for them online. This means that I had little information on The Fourth Kind aside from the occasional bits found on the web. I didn’t even know about the viral campaign or that The Fourth Kind was being touted as ‘the real deal’ and I think this was a good thing. It seems that many viewers were angry that they had been ‘duped’ by The Fourth Kind and thought that what they would actually be seeing is actual footage of real alien abductions mixed into an authentic recreation.

This of course makes me wonder if it has actually been that long since The Blair Witch Project, a film which also used the premise of being the ‘real deal’. In fact doesn’t anyone remember Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, a broadcast that many people believed was an actual news report about the Earth being invaded by Martians? Lets face it, if there was actual footage of people being abducted by aliens it’s highly unlikely that it would end up as part of a feature film. More than likely such footage would be confiscated by the feds and everyone involved would be ‘dealt with’.

I rather enjoyed The Fourth Kind. Cleaver storytelling mixed with interesting blending of both ‘real’ and recreated footage, the film actually gives the feel that maybe, just maybe what the viewer is seeing could be true. It’s a movie that allows you to put away the skepticism for an hour and a half and just go with the flow. It doesn’t matter if the story is real or not, it’s entertaining and that’s enough for me.

The Fourth Kind is now available on both DVD and Blue-Ray.

For being an entertaining way to spend an afternoon I give The Fourth Kind four smiley guys.

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Come one, come all and bare witness to the wonders of Doctor Parnassus’ amazing Imaginarium. A doorway into the very mind of Doctor Parnassus, the Imaginarium allows people to step into their imaginations and experience them in ways they never thought possible. To step into the Imaginarium is to be transformed forever but whether it be change for the better or for the worst remains to be seen. You see, it’s not only Doctor Parnassus who holds sway over the Imaginarium, there is also the evil Mr. Nick to contend with.

Over a thousand years ago Doctor Parnassus (played by Christopher Plummer) had been a monk charged with the responsibility of keeping the world existing by continually telling the story of the world. It was believed by his order that if they were to ever stop telling the story the world would cease to exist. When Mr. Nick (played by Tom Waits) pays the monks a visit he challenges their beliefs and forces them to stop telling the story of the world by magically sealing their mouths shut. When the world does not end after all Parnassus assumes that it is because there are people all around the world telling stories and as long as those stories are being told the world will continue to exist.

Believing this to be a ‘weak hypothesis’ Mr. Nick asks Parnassus if he is a betting man and so begins a thousand year gamble between the two. Throughout the centuries Parnassus and Mr. Nick make wagers on who can collect the most souls with Parnassus winning the first wager in which he is granted immortality. Sadly immortality comes with a high price and after hundreds of years Parnassus finds himself a broken shell of a man in a world no longer interested in imagination.

Here in the present, Doctor Parnassus is the leader of a destitute traveling theater troupe consisting of Percy, a fellow monk and loyal friend (played by Vern Troyer), Anton, a young apprentice (played by Andrew Garfield) and Parnassus’ daughter Valentina (played by Lily Cole). Parnassus now spends his days drinking and telling his daughter tales of his past and how he met and had fallen in love with her now dead mother. The worst part is that in order to have Valentina’s mother fall in love with him he had asked Mr. Nick to grant him youth and mortality with the price being the soul of any of Parnassus’ children upon their sixteenth birthday.

As Valentina’s sixteenth birthday approaches Parnassus is granted one last chance to save his daughter. A final wager between Parnassus and Mr. Nick, a race to be the first to collect five souls, shall determine the fate of Valentina. Things look hopeless, that is until the troupe rescues Tony (played by Heath Ledger), a man hanging from a bridge who claims to have amnesia. There is more to Tony than meets the eye but has he been sent by providence to help Parnassus and his daughter or is he merely a pawn of the evil Mr. Nick?

I had been waiting to see this movie ever since I first heard it was being filmed. Of course the fact that The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus had been Heath Ledger’s last film before he died had a lot to do with that. Thankfully, as sad as Heath’s passing was this film stands as a wonderful tribute to a gifted actor.

The movie is full of charm and whimsy and is unmistakably a Terry Gilliam production. The tale of a man who foolishly continues to gamble with the devil, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is fun yet bittersweet as it is Heath Ledger’s final film. The use of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to represent the many faces of Tony while inside the Imaginarium not only saved the film, it could have easily been originally written that way.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is slated for DVD and Blue-Ray release on April 27th 2010.

An absolutely wonderful film I give The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus five very happy smilin’ dudes out of five.

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