Archive for category Movies

Movie Mayhem – Rings

It’s been 12 years since Samara last haunted cinemas, and it doesn’t seem much has changed. Those who watch Samara’s mysteriously creepy video are sentenced to death in seven days, electronics distort images of those who have been marked, everyone still waits until the very last minute to attempt to show a copy to someone, and communication is still nonexistent. That last example is the most frustrating. It’s a tactic a lot of writers (myself included) use in order to add suspense to a narrative, usually so that they can drive home an effective twist. After all, characters will only act on the information they’re provided, so when someone needs to go in a certain direction, omission (or the falsifying) of information leads them to where the writer needs to take them. However, director F. Javier Gutiérrez uses this tactic so blatantly in Rings, the third chapter in the remake of Japan’s Ringu, that the “twist” ending becomes nothing more than a manufactured attempt to prompt another sequel.

rings

Rings — Directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez; Starring Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki and Vincent D’Onofrio

The film starts in typical horror fashion, introducing us to characters that are nothing but fodder to reintroduce the audience to Samara and her killer video. A passenger on a plane (Zach Roerig) is sweating bullets because he knows he only has a few minutes before his time is up. I’m not sure exactly why he chose to be on a plane at this particular time. Perhaps he thought Samara wouldn’t risk the lives of others to kill the one she’s after? Maybe it was because he didn’t think she’d find him 30,000 miles in the air? It’s never explained, and the ensuing crash is only ever mentioned one more time in the whole movie. And other than the man’s VCR with the tape embedded inside ending up at a swap meet, which would have happened regardless of where he died, the whole scenario is wholly inconsequential.

Cut to that very swap meet, where Gabriel (Johnny Galecki, looking like Leonard Hofstadter being haunted by Sheldon Cooper’s ghost after murdering him in his sleep), a professor of biology, purchases the VCR and watches the tape. We don’t find out what happens to him right away because the movie jumps once again to a beautiful young couple, Julia (Matilda Lutz) and Holt (Alex Roe), who appear to have walked right out of a sappy Hallmark card. At this point I was excited to see where the film was headed, as it seemed it might be following the tape from person to person to see how it effects their lives in short vignettes. This idea definitely would have given the franchise a fresh new direction, possibly even leading back to Noah, Naomi Watts’s young son in the first two films. But no, Gutiérrez chooses to fall back into familiar territory, sending Julia on a wild goose chase that may very well contradict some of the history set up by its predecessors. (I can’t confirm this, as it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen either of the Ring films.)

The first instance of communication errors occurs six weeks after Holt leaves for college. The two had agreed to call every day, so when Holt stops communication altogether, Julia understandably gets worried. After a horrible dream starring Holt and Samara and a weird call from a college acquaintance (Aimee Teegarden), Julia quickly heads off to find out what happened. It turns out, Gabriel is one of his professors and he’s been running an experiment with Samara’s tape to find out if souls are real and what happens to them when the body dies. Not the most ethical of experiments (someone will eventually have to die), but one that could have been much more controlled. Gabriel hires “tails” for his subjects to pass the Samara torch to, so it would seem that these tails would be in place before anyone watches the video, which isn’t the case, causing the subjects to run scared when time starts to run out.

Knowing this information, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for why Holt would have stopped calling Julia. I understand why he would stop Skypeing (what with the distortion of video it would have caused), but why disappear completely? Had he simply come up with a cover story and told her before beginning the experiment that he wasn’t going to be able to call her for a week, everything that happens could have been avoided. But yet, in an effort to “protect” his girlfriend, he inadvertently gets her tangled up in the whole mess.

Upon Julia’s arrival, she decides to become Holt’s “tail,” watching the now digital version of the video and saving her love from his ultimate fate. But when she goes to make her copy, it’s discovered the new video is larger than the previous one. It seems a new section has been somehow embedded into the footage. How is that possible? I don’t know, but Samara’s rules have been broken plenty before, so why not now. Just go with it. The new footage appears to be of events that transpired after Samara’s body was moved to a small town that all but died due to her presence there. Why this small town? Let’s go find out.

I can’t go into details, as the answer to the question may be a bit spoilery. All I can say is that it leads to more events and a twist ending that could have been avoided. When Julia first got her “seven days” call, the phone left a scar on her palm that two characters (Gabriel and a mysterious cemetery groundskeeper played by Vincent D’Onofrio) are able to decipher the meaning. But neither tell Julia or Holt. Why? Because the answer is too significant to the last five minutes, and if they were to tell them, different actions would occur to keep it from happening. So, like those who watch Samara’s video, they simply hope to end things themselves at the last minute. Maybe some day, someone will get smart; but that would mean getting creative and changing things up, and I don’t see that happening as Hollywood continues (or reboots) this young franchise.

My Grade: C

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Next week, new movies include Fifty Shades Darker, John Wick: Chapter 2 and The LEGO Batman Movie. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.

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Movie Mayhem – A Dog’s Purpose

With so many distractions vying for a person’s attention, including a bevy of social media platforms, a mess of gaming apps for smart phones, and an overload of binge-worthy television, movie studios have had to alter how they advertise their films. From teaser trailers to teasers for teaser trailers, studios have tried everything this side of making an actual great film to vie for your attention. In so doing, they have opted to throw anything and everything into their trailers regardless of whether it spoils a twist that would have been better had viewers been able to live that moment while watching the actual film. (I mean, how would people have felt had Twentieth Century Fox revealed that Darth Vader was Luke’s father in the trailer for The Empire Strikes Back?) A recent film that did it right was Split — entice, excite and save the big surprise for the actual movie. A Dog’s Purpose, on the other hand, is an example of what not to do, which is reveal every major plot point in the trailer and leave nothing for the audience to discover. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Split

M. Night Shyamalan came onto the scene in 1999 with The Sixth Sense, an explosive film that blew the minds of most movie goers with one of the most shocking, clever twists in movie history. This quickly made his name synonymous with the big twist, setting a bar so high for himself, it was going to be near impossible to vault it. And though his next two films, Unbreakable and Signs, both delivered in one way or another, the quality of each consecutive film continued to drop until he hit an all-time low with the unwatchable mess, The Last Airbender. It’s no wonder he dropped out of sight for three years before returning with After Earth, a movie that refrained from promoting Shyamalan’s name in any of its marketing. Two years later, he took the reigns of his career by teaming up with Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions to formally reinvent of his brand. And if 2015’s The Visit was a return to form for Shyamalan, Split, his new psychological thriller, is the stamp that should reignite audience adoration for such a fascinating filmmaker. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Best and Worst of 2016

For various reasons, my goal for 2016 was to attend less movies, hopefully avoiding the bad in favor of the good. And though I did skip some movies that in years past I probably would have gone to because they were there, the inevitable stinker still crept into my viewing addiction. And at 107 movies, I only saw 3 less than I did in 2015 (though those three would probably have ended up on my worst list). So much for that resolution. But, with 58 movies graded at an A- or above, this year’s crop still managed to be on the higher end in one way or another. So, what were some of the most awe-inspiring (and some of the stinkers) from the past year? Let’s find out.

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Movie Mayhem – Nocturnal Animals

As the credits started rolling for Nocturnal Animals, a slow burn thriller that puts aggravation to the test, the response among my fellow patrons tended toward, “Well, that was a waste of two hours.” The sentient, I believe, was in regards to how writer/director Tom Ford (based on the novel by Austin Wright) ended his unusual study of pain, regret and the power of grief, which left a very open-ended nuance to an otherwise stellar interpretation. From what I can gather, Those who were quick to judge the ending simply wanted an entertaining time at the movies. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as there are plenty of films out there that can be watched (where viewers receive a clear-cut, and usually happy ending), a film like Nocturnal Animals must be ingested. That is to say, the film’s message isn’t presented on a silver platter with a nice, clean bow; it’s up to the viewer to discover the subtle clues to find their understanding of the material. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Moana

Disney Animation has always been a roller coaster of a company, rising to the peaks of imagination for a few years only to dip into the valleys of banality for a few more, then returning to the top once again before dropping and… you get the idea. Before the most recent uptick in creativity, the last peak era was between 1989 and 1995, when some of the greatest Disney films outside of the original run of films were released (including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King). Somewhere in the late-90s, though, Disney began to falter once again (yes, there were some decent films, but nothing on the scope of the previously listed behemoths), giving way to a much more creative endeavor known as Pixar, which stole every bit of Disney’s once dominant thunder, even as Disney distributed those very same Pixar films. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Edge of Seventeen

Hailee Steinfeld came out of nowhere back in 2010 to deliver an extraordinarily layered performance in her first major film, True Grit. Since then, she’s managed to carve out an interesting career in a variety of films that run the genre gamut from science fiction to comedy in both indie and major studio offerings. She’s more than capable of bringing heightened power to any role while at the same time staying hidden in the background. Not classically beautiful, yet far from ordinary plain-Jane, Steinfeld sits somewehre in between, conveying a commanding beauty while digging deep into the trenches, unafraid to get dirty within the cracks of her vulnerability. She commands this attitude perfectly in the coming-of-age drama The Edge of Seventeen, the study of how an invisible high school student can only find their place when they stop looking to be like everyone else and start looking at what makes them unique. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem — Hacksaw Ridge

I’m not afraid to say it — I’ve been a fan of Mel Gibson since Lethal Weapon. I’m not going to say everything he’s starred in has been solid gold, but up until now, there hasn’t been one film that he’s directed that I haven’t thought was an extraordinary piece of cinematic artwork, and that includes his mostly underrated feature directorial debut, The Man Without A Face, a small, poignant study in a relationship between a man and his student that bravely explores how that type of relationship can be taken out of context, but one that helps each person heal in different ways. Gibson’s newest directorial effort, Hacksaw Ridge, adds to his unique repertoire, proving once again that no matter how you may feel about the man personally, there’s no denying his intellect when it comes to capturing the heart of a story and conveying it in the most genuine way possible, holding true to the convictions of who he is as a man and what he believes as a Christian. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Inferno

I really enjoyed Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code when it first came out in 2003. The writing was solid, with interesting characters, an intriguing plot and an excellent mix of intrigue, exposition and action. When the movie adaptation was announced with Ron Howard and Tom Hanks teaming up once again, I was excited to see what the would do with it. Their vision didn’t disappoint, encapsulating everything that made the book enjoyable in two and a half hours. With the combined success of both the book and the film, a prequel (based on Brown’s original Robert Langdon novel, Angels and Demons) was quickly put into production. Since then, Brown has released two additional sequels in the Robert Langdon series, The Lost Symbol and Inferno, which, for some reason, was picked for adaptation before its predecessor. And because I did find Angels and Demons to be a decent thriller, my expectations were high for the third go around into the world of symbologist Robert Langdon. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Storks

“Where do babies come from?”

For a long time, many parents have dreaded that very question from their younglings. One of the most well-known answers may well be, “The stork.” Where this little white lie originated is actually pretty fascinating once you start reading up on it (beginning with Greek mythology, where storks actually stole babies, to Hans Christian Anderson’s folktale, “The Storks,” about delivering babies to families with good children and dead babies to those with bad children… old-school fairytales — gotta love ’em!), but regardless, it’s used now to quell a child’s imagination until they’re old enough to know the truth. Storks, the new animated tale about this very topic, takes this interesting idea and creates a very lovely, imaginative story that dives deep into some well-meaning and effective metaphors. Read Full Review

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