A Quick Look: Phoenix Forgotten (1.5/5)

So I just got home from seeing the Ridley-Scott-produced and oddly titled Phoenix Forgotten, and while it’s not as boring as The Blair Witch Project (the film Phoenix Forgotten copied), it still sucked pretty badly. For example, it hit damn near every note that TBWP did. Instead of three college students getting lost in a Maryland forest while filming a documentary about a local supernatural legend in the late 90s, it’s three high school students getting lost in the Arizona desert while filming a documentary while looking for aliens again in the late 90s. And somehow Josh, Ashley, and Mark are even worse at filming a documentary than Heather, Mike, and Josh. Could PF not even come up with less obvious names? Instead of an invisible ghost shaking the tent, there’s the moans of aliens and the sounds of a flying spaceship. And some random bullhonky about Ezekiel’s Ring is inserted randomly into the movie to make it look deeper than it actually is. At least the trio shot on Hi-8 (or was it 35mm?). But apart from the movie’s threat being much more present and involved in the movie, everything that made TBWP what it is is present in PF. The acting is subpar. The direction is third-rate. The script causes the characters to make unrealistic decisions. The camerawork was vomit-inducing. The runtime was frustratingly short. And, most importantly, I was not scared or invested in the characters or story in the slightest. The only intense sequences in the movie were only intense because the surround sound in the theater was deafeningly loud. Hey, at least there’s no jumpscares. At least the characters in PF weren’t as unlikeable or gratingly profane. If you’re scared of bright lights, raining stones, nosebleeds, hair falling out, and a mixture of flashing lights, deafening noises, blisteringly fast wind, and an alien ship, you won’t sleep a wink tonight. Everyone else will have forgotten this within a few hours of seeing it. It’s just another TBWP copycat that got to the party eighteen years too late, and I’m giving Phoenix Forgotten a…

Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention this: what I described takes up only the last thirty minutes of the film. Yeah. The trailers are lying to you: the movie’s not actually centered on the three teenagers. Rather than treat us to an ungodly boring “slow-burn thriller”, we spend most of the movie in the present day. Josh’s younger sister Sophie is making a documentary about her brother’s disappearance. How original. She goes to her hometown and talks to her parents and Ashley’s parents, but not to Mark’s parents. She talks to some other townsfolk and decides to give up on her quest to learn her brother’s fate. Intersperse this with footage of Josh meeting Ashley, implication of a building friendship, and deciding to take their friend Mark with them to go explore the desert outside of Phoenix. This takes fifty minutes. At least this is actually filmed like a student documentary. And by that, I mean that the movie switches back and forth between the present and the 90s seemingly at random. It switches back and forth constantly in the first act, stays almost entirely focused on Sophie for the second, and completely abandons her in the third. It’s jarring and boring, but not nearly as boring as TBWP. But it’s not engaging or compelling. But then, another camera is inexplicably mailed to Josh’s school with a tape inside it in conveniently good condition after having sat out in the 100+ degree desert heat for who knows how long. On the tape is the last thirty minutes of the movie. Sophie is shoved to the side to make way for the painfully mediocre and generic climax of the movie. Which is a pity, as Sophie was the only character in the movie I could come even the slightest bit close to sympathizing with. Seriously. This entire movie has been building itself up as Sophie’s story. We begin the movie at her sixth birthday party when we see the Phoenix Lights. We’re introduced to the three missing characters because she’s the one investigating. We see every shallow and bland twist and turn of this mystery through her eyes, and in the third act, she’s tossed to the side. She is never seen again in the movie. Ever. What the hell?

But what’s the point? Why was Phoenix Forgotten made? What purpose does it serve other than to put another blemish on Ridley Scott’s career? What does this movie amount to, other than a particularly weak episode of The X-Files? It’s not as if the Phoenix Lights were a particularly scary or memorable occurrence or make for dramatic material. Phoenix Forgotten has no soul, no shelf life, no purpose, and will ironically be forgotten as soon as it leaves theaters, and I’m giving it a 1.5 out of 5.

A Quick Look: Get Out (3.5/5)

So I just got home from seeing Jordan Peele’s (of Key & Peele!) directorial debut, Get Out. When I first saw a trailer for this movie, it looked like it was going to be yet another one of those “Urmurgurd white pepol r eeeeevil” flicks that are now a dime a dozen. However, it not only got good reviews, but it was also a horror movie. Plus, it looked like a satirical horror black comedy that actually looked kind of disturbing. I figured I may as well check it out. I held my nose and purchased my ticket. And I am happy to say that this movie’s message is not “white people are evil”. This isn’t Assata Shakur’s wet dream. Thank heaven. While racism is a prevalent theme in Get Out, it is used as merely a plot point, and refuses to go anywhere near generalization. It uses racism as a platform on which to create a nice little horror flick. The trailers may have looked preachy, but the film is not. Not even close. While a little of the racially charged dialogue in the first act did get on my nerves somewhat, the movie dropped that gimmick as soon as we got into the second act.

Though I fully admit that Get Out is a good movie, I’m pretty sure that the source of this movie’s glowing reviews are mostly just white liberals desperately trying to virtue signal.

I need to point out something that annoyed me: the handful of silly and unnecessary jumpscares. I remember there being three, four, or maybe five of them. The most obvious one is this one. The second act is starting. It’s the first night Chris and Rose are staying at Rose’s parents’ place for the weekend. Chris wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to go outside and get some air. While he’s walking through the house, Georgina walks into frame in the background. Chris doesn’t even see her, but the soundtrack feels the need to insert a silly and unnecessarily loud instrumental sting. I don’t know if Jordan Peele had those put in the movie or if they were forced into the movie by Jason Blum, but they’re annoying and completely destroy any sense of immersion. Learn from this, Jordan or Jason.

I love the soundtrack, particularly the tracks “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga” and “Surgery Prep”. While they’re pretty unsettling on their own, when they’re played in context of the movie, they become legitimately scary. Find them on YouTube.

Now, I went into this movie having only seen the trailers, so the creativity of the plot caught me off guard. I love how the villains are not motivated by racism; rather, by the opposite. This is because Jordan Peele wrote this story as a showcase of the internalized “racism” of white liberals. I especially love that most liberal film critics didn’t even pick up on that, instead coming up with laughable explanations as to how this movie presents racism. I love that the movie not only shoves liberal reverse racism to the forefront with condescension toward and fetishization of black people, but also points out that black people can be racist too. I love how Jordan Peele, a black man married to a white woman, can have such a unique perspective on racial tension in American society in showing that racism cuts both ways. I love the contrast between the slightly awkward actions of Rose’s parents in front of Chris and the depraved creatures they really are. I love Rod and his comic relief. I rarely say that I love comic relief, but Rod is hilarious. The acting is actually pretty good, really nailing each character’s mannerisms. I love just how creepy the exchanges between Chris, Walter, Georgina, and “Logan” are, where you know something’s wrong with them, but you can’t quite place what it is. I love how the first half of the movoe presents the question of whether there’s something really wrong going on, or if Chris is just reacting to stereotypical racial tension. I love the constant sense of discomfort that you just can’t quite put your finger on until we’re already balls-deep and balls-to-the-wall. I love that for a slow-burn thriller, it was never boring. I love just how passive-aggressive the tone is until the movie totally flips the balls-to-the-wall switch. I love just how balls-to-the-wall it gets. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil the twist for you.

Unfortunately, I can only call Get Out a decent horror flick, because despite how original this idea is, it still matches other generic horror films in terms of structure. Its scare sequences still reek of studio bullcrap. And the climax, while balls-to-the-wall, just cannot manage to tie itself together. The exploration of various themes was not as thorough as was necessary.

Don’t get me wrong, Get Out is a good movie, and Jordan Peele has a bright future in Hollywood. But this movie has a few glaring flaws that prevent it from being better than it is, and I’m giving Get Out a 3.5 out of 5.

A Quick Look: The Eyes of My Mother (.5/5)

So I’ve been dedicating this weekend toward catching up on 2016 in horror, as I’ve been incredibly busy at work since November (this is why there’s been no new full-fledged reviews lately). I’ve watched The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Don’t Breathe, both of which were pretty good but not fantastic, and I’d give both a 3.5 out of 5. I then watched Under the Shadow, which was decent but not quite as good as I had hoped, earning a 3 out of 5. And then, unfortunately, I finished off the night with The Eyes of My Mother, which was so ungodly disappointing. This movie has a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been considered one of the best horror movies of 2016 by critics and audiences, and I cannot for the life of me understand why. Yes, I know that all the “true horror buffs” are going to get up in my face and shout, “Oh, you just didn’t get it! You should stick to movies like The Forest and The Bye Bye Man! The only horror movies you like are ones with jumpscares, and you find slow-burn thrillers boring! The Eyes of My Mother is more than a movie; it’s a work of art!” SHUT UP AND LET ME EXPLAIN.

The plot: Francisca lives an isolated life. One day, a wandering entrepreneur killed her mother, but she and her father subdued him and locked him in their barn. Francisca cut out his eyes and vocal cords, and kept him in the barn for years. Her father died later in her life, so she preserved his body. Years pass. Francisca has sex with the imprisoned man in the barn. He tries to escape, so Francisca kills him. Francisca brings a lesbian Asian woman home and also locks her in the barn and cuts out her eyes and vocal cords. Francisca kidnaps a baby boy, murders his mother, and raises the baby as her own son. Years pass. The son discovers the woman in the barn and frees her. The woman escapes and the police swarm Francisca’s house. Francisca is killed by the police. There. That’s the plot. That’s it. That’s all. It takes seventy-six minutes to tell this story. A story this lean and short should take thirty or forty minutes at most.

This movie certainly seems to act like it’s an artsy movie because it’s in black and white, it looks like it was shot for a few thousand bucks, and because it moves along like…no, not molasses; that’s too fast. Personally, I think that the only reason that every scene is so ungodly slow, with ten-second pauses between every sparse line of dialogue, every character undertaking his or her actions in such a slow manner, and every shot lasting thirty seconds longer than it should, is because without those ungodly long pauses, the movie would only come out at about thirty minutes. It doesn’t help that the events in this movie were summed up in so little time.

But wait, isn’t that exactly what David Lynch did with Eraserhead? Not quite. Here’s why Eraserhead worked and this movie does not. As slow-paced as Eraserhead was, it at least told a story. It developed the character of Henry and made us sympathize with him. It explored various psychological and sexual themes. Things happened. It took us on an acid trip through surreal sequences, dark humor, erotic and terrifying imagery, blurring of the line between dreams and reality, oppressively claustrophobic atmosphere and crushing sense of isolation, black and white cinematography that actually looked and sounded like a movie from the fifties, and a metaphorical story about the fear of fatherhood. It was never boring. More so; it was actually really scary. In The Eyes of My Mother, there is only one theme: loneliness. It set out to portray the lonely life of Francisca, and oh boy, it does so, to excruciating levels. We sit through seventy-six minutes of Francisca’s mundane life, and despite the movie’s pathetically short length, it painstakingly shows us every facet of her life in agonizing detail. Nearly nothing happens until the final few minutes of the film. Worse, the movie shows no emotion toward Francisca. Is she a tragic character, forever lost in the eyes of any sane viewer? She did lose her parents earlier in life and inexplicably morphed into a psychopath because of it. Or is she just another human, another speck of dust on the wind? I don’t know, and that just makes the movie even more boring. It doesn’t help that the movie spends absolutely no time developing Francisca’s character. Then again, Francisca herself is a blank slate. There is nothing there in that brain of hers. Worse, there seems to be nothing in her life motivating her actions. It also doesn’t help that she rarely has any expression on her face other than bored, and her acting is only slightly better. I think she showed actual emotion maybe three, four or five times in this movie, for maybe a minute each time. I get the feeling that she wasn’t supposed to be a sympathetic character to begin with, but what else are we supposed to do rather than sympathize with a character? We never get anything to go on, and are never allowed to see what makes her tick. Why is this? This does not an interesting story make. Worse, all the other characters are either mute or barely in the movie. The characters are always supposed to be the main focus of the movie, and when a movie deliberately refuses to make itself character- or even story-driven, it completely falls apart. Why would the movie even think of making such a fatal decision? I don’t know; because…”art”, I guess.

And the movie as a whole looks and feels so ungodly monotonous. Not only is ther absolutely nothing driving the plot forward, but the plot goes nowhere until the last two or three minutes, and the characters never evolve. Also, I know that this is supposed to be a horror movie, but there is nothing there that is actually scary. I know that this movie’s ability to elicit fear hinged on the allegedly graphic content and how Francisca processes the events around her, but there’s nothing there. The content isn’t even graphic; whenever something violent is about to happen, the movie just cuts past the potentially interesting events that could possibly wake the audience up. It cuts to the aftermath or cleanup of these events. Come on. Why was this how the movie handled its violence? Could it not afford it? Or was this decision made to be “artistic”? This just makes the movie look spastic and lazy.

Worse, rather than give us some nice cinematography, we instead get a black and white color scheme, eliminating this movie’s potential actual usage of color, painfully static and basic camerawork that at times forgets to use a tripod, and cheap sound design.

The ending. While the rest of the movie is painfully slow, the final scenes in the movie fly by so fast, wrapping up the movie in roughly two or three minutes. It might have been even shorter. This just makes the movie feel inconsistent. The ending feels like an afterthought; a footnote. It’s almost as if the movie almost forgot that it had to end.

Did critics and audiences and I watch the same movie? This movie has been showered with praise by both critics and audiences alike, and I cannot possibly understand why. I can cut the movie a little slack, as this is director Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut, but raising my score from 0 to .5 out of 5 is all I can give.

A Quick Look: John Wick: Chapter 2 (2/5)

So I just got home from seeing John Wick: Chapter 2, and while it’s better than its predecessor, it’s still not a good movie.

It lightened the hell up. The first John Wick was oppressively dark, completely humorless and joyless, and took itself way too seriously, much to the film’s detriment, as a stupid script and silly action sequences had no place in such an unhappy movie. Chapter 2 actually allowed itself to happen in the daytime rather than perpetually at night and/or in the rain. This felt like such a blessing. The cinematography was no longer dark and brooding. And Chapter 2 actually had humor. There were funny lines aplenty, and it felt wonderful to see the action sequences fully embrace the cheesiness. John Wick felt so cramped, but Chapter 2 actually allowed me some much deserved elbow room.

The action sequences were significantly better. They’re still not original in the slightest, and are still as ungodly silly as the ones in the first one, but Chapter 2 understands that its action sequences are silly and embraces it. I giggled with delight when I cringed at some of the gruesomely silly kills. The camerawork is a little shakier, but it adds to how fast-paced the fights are. They actually feel almost fun rather than boring.

The acting is much better…at least from the side characters. Keanu Reeves still sucks, but at least he’s awake compared to his dreary role in the previous film. Laurence Fishburne has a cameo in this, and it’s so surreal to see Neo and Morpheus back onscreen together. Where’s Trinity? Could you not get her? Laurence Fishburne embodies the quirkiness that Michael Nyqvist failed to do in the previous film. Ian McShane has more screentime, and he’s pretty decent. Common is here in probably his best performance yet in his piddly acting career. Peter Stormare’s cameo is actually pretty funny.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much where the good about the movie stops.

I am one of those rare people that watches action movies…for their story and characters. And when I can’t get invested in those, I can’t get invested at all. I understand now that the story is clearly only there to showcase Keanu Reeves in various action sequences, but come on. The story cannot be this thin. It’s barely there and is almost as nonsensical as the story of the previous film. When an Italian mobster shows up at Wick’s house, shows him some sort of marker, and demands that he kill someone else. Wick refuses, so the Italian mobster blows up his house. And then Wick inexplicably decides that he’ll kill the person anyway. It’s even sillier than going on a Biblical rampage because someone killed his puppy and stole his freaking car. It’s so ungodly stupid. So because Wick is a freaking nuke on a hair trigger and will just go around killing people for even the slightest of reasons, I have no reason to root for him. It’s not as if he had any character to begin with, but even if he did, I would have no reason to root for him anyway.

The villains are also even less interesting. It doesn’t help that the main villain and his man-with-breasts-trope henchwoman get barely any screentime and give even worse performances than Keanu Reeves. I barely remember who they were, let alone what their motivations were.

There’s nothing here except for reasons to get Reeves to the next action sequences, which are at least entertaining. Oh, and it’s both funny and bewilderingly stupid to see the fleshing out of this super-secret subculture of hitmen that apparently governs itself so well that it’s practically its own country. I laughed my head off after watching the hilariously overblown fight between Reeves and Common be brought to an abrupt end by them crashing through the window of the super-secret-subculture-owned hotel and being ordered to cease and desist.

This movie is nearly as dull as the first one. It’s just a silly rehash that thankfully has enough improvement over its predecessor to warrant a view. But just one. And I’m giving this one a 2 out of 5. Here’s to hoping the inevitable Chapter 3 will finally be good.

A Quick Look: John Wick (1.5/5)

In preparation for seeing John Wick: Chapter 2 later today, I watched the first one, and despite some decently crafted action sequences, it was really dull and really boring. This is incredibly disappointing, as I was expecting something at least somewhat good.

This movie’s lack of substance and unbelievably small feel is present right from the getgo. Who is John Wick? What makes him a likeable character? What even are his traits? Why would his wife marry him, a cold-blooded assassin? Despite losing his wife, I have no idea of this guy’s history. What made him such a ferociously good assassin, despite more than one of the action sequences contradicting that? Why should we feel for him when he gets a beagle puppy as a last gift from his dead wife in the only moment in the movie when I can tell that Keanu Reeves is actually trying? After 101 minutes with John Wick, Assassin Extraordinaire and James Bond wannabe, I have absolutely no idea who this guy is. Seriously, a dead puppy and a stolen car warrant a quest for bloody revenge. Wh-what? Huh? Oh-okay. This could have been great for a balls-to-the-wall dark comedy, but as a movie that takes itself way too seriously, the mishandled usage of this plot device is glaring.

Much like the other characters. I did a little research and determined that Michael Nyqvist as the villain was supposed to be the quirky foil to the stoic Reeves, but that was completely lost on me, and caused Nyqvist to be a little annoying. I have no idea why he would place a two million dollar contract on Wick to protect his son who he clearly has no love for in the one (I think) scene they actually share. Worse, his son Alfie Allen is one of those selfish, arrogant, entitled little shartheads that I could just punch in the face … had he actually been given screentime and character. What other characters were there? Oh, there was Adrianne Palicki, who is one of the contradictions of John Wick’s fame/infamy, as she kicks his ass for the first half of their fight. Ha; Keanu’s getting beaten up by a woman. What a pussy. Oh, so Keanu’s beating up a woman; what an asshole. (Seriously; do not EVER make your main character fight a woman and still expect me to care about him. It hugely negatively impacts his character regardless of the result.) Uh, there’s Willem Dafoe, who apparently is Wick’s mentor, or one of his buddies, or something.

The acting is subpar all around, save Reeves, who doesn’t even try. I’ve never liked Keanu Reeves as an actor, as he is dreadfully bland, and even in his supposedly emotional moments, he still barely even tries. And in John Wick, he’s just playing Neo again. All he needs to do is to drop a “I know kung fu,” or a “Whoa”, and he’d be playing the exact same character, except with a slightly darker and angstier demeanor. Thank God he can direct. Michael Nyqvist is the only other character who has enough screentime to leave an impression. While he was decently villainous in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and was perhaps one of a precious few saving graces of Abduction (you know – the one with Taylor Lautner), he just does not do very well in John Wick. As for the other actors, none were onscreen nearly enough to leave an impression. Well, some of the bit parts were done pretty decently, but that’s about it. Oh, and Theon Greyjoy was there as a plot device.

All I can say about the cinematography is that John Wick looks like a Bourne movie minus the infuriating overabundance of shaky-cam. It’s such a pity that every action movie is required to have its own visual style, as nearly every possible visual style has now been used, and that to even look good, an action movie has to rip off one or more tired styles. John Wick‘s style sinks into the mire of overdone tripe.

As for the action sequences everyone praises, I don’t think they’re done very well. Chad Staheleski is no Quentin Tarantino. He’s not even a Michael Bay. To justify that little tidbit: action sequences are what Bay does best. He’s legitimately good at crafting them. It’s what saves his movies from being any worse than they are. For example, the first Transformers is a guilty pleasure of mine. And those Transformer fight sequences are pretty damn impressive. But John Wick‘s are not. When I think of a good hyper-violent action scene, I think of the Uma Thurman vs. the Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill. Chad Staheleski is clearly trying to emulate that, but with guns rather than katanas. It’s really distracting. While Kill Bill‘s action scenes were stupid, over-the-top BS, John Wick is clearly trying to emulate it, but without katanas, and it’s taking itself way too serously.

The script at least handles its cliches in a way that is not as obvious or cringeworthy. But it’s still cliche as hell. At least better revenge movies like Death WishThe Crow, and the original Oldboy raised the stakes to an ungodly high personal level, but killing Wick’s puppy and stealing his car causes him to get super cereal and engage in bloody vengeance of Biblical proportions. Come on. Oh, and there’s this super-secret subculture of hitmen. They have their own lavish hotel with its own bar and swimming pool and strip club where these hitmen trade their own freaking currency. And as if this wasn’t head-scratch-worthy enough, John Wick’s own set of super-assassin skills barely register as competent when going up against his own kind. That’s just pathetic. A script as silly as this has no place in a movie that screams in your face, demanding that it be taken seriously.

And the worst crime that John Wick commits is that it’s dullIT’S SO DULL! It’s so boring! I was unable to become invested in the story or characters because John Wick himself is such a blank slate! I had no reason to feel any emotion at all toward what was going on except boredom! And even now, as I type this barely an hour after watching it, I barely remember any of it.

I have no idea how people were able to like this movie and clamor for a sequel, and I’m giving John Wick a 1.5/5.

The sequel had better be good.

A Quick Look: Patriots Day (5/5)

So I just got home from seeing Patriots Day, and it was pretty fantastic.

I remember when the Boston Marathon bombing happened. I was in my sophomore year of high school. I was hanging out in the band room at lunch. I pulled out my phone to check my Facebook, and it was full of articles about this bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured plenty more. I didn’t have time to be particularly affected, as I was just starting another week of school, but I did breathe a sigh of relief as the perpetrators of the bombing, a pair of Muslim jihadists from Chechnya named Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were taken down. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with the police, and Dzhokhar was hunted down and arrested a while later. I heard about the nationwide mourning. I heard of the nationwide bonding and newfound brotherhood. I wasn’t able to be as affected by this as I should have, as I had a crapton of schooling and homework to do. I’m sorry that I didn’t get as emotionally affected by the real-life events as I would have liked. But this movie belatedly reintroduced me to what happened, and I was able to feel the emotional attachment. Thank you, Patriots Day, for doing that. And thank you, the American judicial system, for sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his heinous crimes. That bastard absolutely deserves it.

Obviously, the Boston Marathon bombing is a very touchy subject, but just like the incredible Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg handles it in such a masterful way. It’s very much in-your-face and down-to-earth, and you feel like you’re right there in the moment as the events are happening, but best of all, it never feels exploitative.  When I first heard it was coming out, I was initially hesitant to see it, as I thought it was going to go super-progressive and be all hashtag not all Muslims. But when I actually saw it, I was surprised at just how apolitical it was. It wasn’t bashing the American people for being too quick to judge, but it displayed no views on Islam as a whole save for one mention that the Tsarnaev brothers besmirched the name of Mohammed. Good for it.

As I was watching this movie, I found myself really impressed by just how unique each character’s point of view was, from Mark Wahlberg to John Goodman to Kevin Bacon to JK Simmons to the actors playing the Tsarnaev brothers to even the other little-known actors I had never seen before. They all feel not only unique, but serve as puzzle pieces in this grand spectacle. The acting is phenomenal from even the no-namers. They all feel so real. They’re all just normal people that had their lives dramatically changed by the Boston Marathon bombings. While various scenes focused on various characters felt superficial and superfluous because some of these characters felt like they had no point, seeing how they all came together becomes all the more powerful. It’s emotional to see this twentysomething husband and wife be right there as the bombs go off, both lose one or both legs, be separated as the first responders arrive and taken to different hospitals, and eventually reunite. It’s sad to see this father (who also loses a leg) be separated from his son until much later. It’s especially sad to see this young security guard set up a date with a really cute Asian college student only to be killed by the Tsarnaev brothers. It’s legitimately intense to see the other Asian guy who was kidnapped by the Tsarnaev brothers, escaped, and informed the police, leading to the showdown that killed Tamerlan. It is so important to showcase the everyday American citizens who were actually there. These characters are so good, they transcend being characters and instead feel oh so real. It’s probably because they actually were. The emotional attachment is so there. While it’s not as if your tears are being suctioned out, you do feel that knot in your throat and the welling up of tears in your eyes. But the tears never spill over, as much as they threaten to. That’s how well Patriots Day emotionally affects you. It’s pathos at its finest.

I love the sequence leading up to the bombing itself. I love how the joviality of the citizenry is contrasted with the sinking feeling of knowing what’s coming. As the marathon runners race toward the finish line, the movie edits in security footage of the Tsarnaev brothers blending into the crowd and placing their bombs. And though we know that the bombs are going to explode any second, the moment they do still catches us off guard.

When films like this are made, you have to get down into the details and the grittiness of what is happening. And that’s what we see. We see blood. We see mangled limbs. It’s particularly disturbing seeing a dramatic shot of a handful of BB pellets fused together lying in a pool of blood.

And after the bombing itself, the movie focuses much more on the Tsarnaev brothers than it did pre-bombing. While just how evil they are is not shoved in your face, you very much feel the “these are very bad men” vibe. I love the dynamics between Tamerlan and Dzhokhar. Though they see each other as brothers and Dzhokhar sees Tamerlan as an example to follow, it’s very clear that these two lack any sense of morals. For example, the relationship they share is clearly very unhealthy. I even like Tamerlan’s wife. Though she seems like a legitimately nice lady, she turns into a horrible woman when interrogated about her husband and brother-in-law. She has been a willing accomplice and refuses to betray them. By the way, that’s Supergirl as Tamerlan’s wife. That’s quite a character change. As the authorities desperately try to find them before they strike again, and the Tsarnaev brothers attempt to get to New York to bomb Times Square, the movie becomes incredibly tense. The sense of fear is very much there.

Okay, I thought up some sort of spiel while I was driving home, and this very much ties into the movie. The American people deal with their own individual social, economic, political, and religious squabbles daily. But when a crisis occurs, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, we come together like no other nation does. We have such a sense of national pride. We don’t just have pride in our nation and her ideals as a symbol and an idea in and of itself. We have pride in the people that strive to live up to America’s ideals every day. Whenever crisis strikes, be it Pearl Harbor or 9/11, the American people unite in such a strong feeling of brotherhood that I have yet to see any other nation rival. Every American has his or her differences, but when the chips are down, all differences vanish. There are no Republicans or Democrats. There are no rich or poor. There are no black or white people. There are no Christians, Jews, atheists, etc. We are all Americans, and we will stand together as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. America is undeniably the greatest country in the world, and will irrevocably be the greatest in all of history. There has never been such a nation, and there will never be any like it, and I could not be prouder to be an American citizen. This is my country, land of my birth. This is my country, grandest on earth. This is my country, land of my choice. This is my country, hear my proud voice. I pledge thee my allegiance, America the bold. For this is my country, to have and to hold. And though all hell will strive to destroy what we are and what we stand for, so long as this sense of pride and unity remains, this nation will not perish from the earth. God bless America.

Oh, and Patriots Day gets a 5 out of 5.

A Quick Look: Rings (.5/5)

So I just got home from seeing Rings, and as expected, it was not only a pile of garbage, but it was an extremely pathetic pile of garbage.

Why such a belated sequel to The Ring? Well, for the same reason The Gallows was made: to capitalize off of those who were too young to see an earlier film in its genre. The Gallows was meant to capitalize off those who were too young to see Paranormal Inactivity, and Rings, of course, was meant to capitalize off of those who were too young to see The Ring. And later this year, Saw 8: We’re Too Dumb to Think of an Actual Title So We’ll Call It Legacy is coming out to capitalize off those who were too young to see the original Saw. But even regardless of that, it’s a horror movie. Gullible college students or those of college age will of course flock to the theater on a Saturday night to see a “scary” movie. They’ll scream at the jumpscares and text all their friends to tell them what a scary movie it was and that they should see it. Rinse and repeat. The typical college kid has no idea what makes a good horror movie, or a good movie in general. Because college kids are amazingly dumb. Trust me – I am one. I pay full price to go see movies I hate. Im totes smrt, like 4 reals.

I’m not surprised that this movie was delayed as many times as it was. The producers must have known it was garbage, so they decided to release it in the dead of February rather than around Halloween.

I think what made the producers the most uncomfortable was the leading lady’s atrocious acting. Her line delivery was so laughably off. Her inflections and emphases were so unnaturally placed, and though she did her best to hide it, her ungodly thick accent showed at the most inopportune moments. For nearly the entire first act, her awkward line delivery gave me the giggles. Seriously, this bitch’s acting (yes, I felt it was necessary) easily rivals Brittany Allen in Backgammon. I was not surprised, because when I did some pre-movie research, I learned that Matilda Lutz is not only Italian, but she didn’t even bother to learn English before she took on the role. She learned her lines phonetically. That explains everything. She literally had no idea how to act out her lines, because she had no idea what they meant. The rest of the acting wasn’t cringey, but it was still really bad.

Though I don’t regard Hideo Nakata’s Ringu and Gore Verbinski’s remake to be classic, visionary staples of the horror genre, I still very much like them, and would give both a 3.5 or 4 out of 5. Why do I differentiate between Ringu and The Ring? Because these two films are drastically tonally different. But Rings seems to have this heady, haughty, high-minded attitude when it comes to the original movies. It seems to be saying to them, “Move over, you geriatric f*cks! It’s time for the new generation to step forward!” Seriously, Rings is even less faithful to The Ring than The Ring Two.

Much less faithful. Especially when it comes to tone. While everyone knows The Ring started out with a slow, quiet prologue that explained the mechanics of the cursed tape and built up to a really scary end (it was a particularly effective short film in and of itself), this movie starts with the plane crash scene shown in the trailer. Yeah, Samara coming out of the plane’s cockpit computer is not at the climax; it’s the scene the film opens on. And this scene is terrible. The scene centers on three characters who have literally been created for the purpose of dying. It’s horribly shot, and once crap starts going down, the scene then shows off its stock action movie soundtrack. Yes, really. Samara climbing out of the cockpit computer is made of laughable CGI. Because that’s what a sequel to The Ring needed. And best of all, this opening scene is never mentioned again. It is completely independent of the rest of the film, has absolutely no reason to be there. It’s a facepalm-worthy scene that should have been cut.

Another way Rings shoves The Ring to the side is through its pacing. I kid you not, though the movie is nearly two hours long, the movie feels like eighty minutes. It is such an impatient, spastic movie. Part of what made The Ring scary was the slow pace. It was an almost Hitchcockian slow-burn thriller. The Ring was creepy and ominous and surreal and atmospheric rather than in-your-face and fast-paced. It took its time setting its story elements up. It took its time in introducing the characters. It took its time in establishing its dark and gloomy mood and tone. It was a film where a very gray color scheme actually worked. It took its time in building tension. But Rings casts that all aside for a story that’s very dull despite being fast-paced. It was so fast-paced that just before we got to the final scene, I was under the impression that the climax hadn’t even happened yet. I was convinced that this was just like the death of Brian Cox in The Ring, and the third act was just about to start. But no. The final scene occurs, and all I could think was, Wait, what? Oh, so we’re just wrapping up now. Okay. So one scene features the character Gabriel watching the cursed tape. He gets the Seven Days call from Samara, thinks nothing of it, and immediately starts tripping out. A fly crawls out of his reefer and flies over to the window and lands on it. Gabriel tries to smash it with his hand, but the fly phases through the window to the outside. And then the rain starts dripping upward. I then let out a loud fart. Either that, or it was me desperately trying to hold in my laughter. And Gabriel thinks nothing of this. I thought him watching the tape was going to lead up to something resembling Noah’s death from The Ring, but it didn’t. Huh. This is the exact opposite of The Ring‘s building of tension. The movie contained a countup timer from Day 1 to Day 7. Speaking of which, no such counter exists in Rings. By the end of the movie, you can’t tell if it’s been seven days, four days, one day, or twelve days. But as I was saying, barely any creepy stuff happens on the first day, and as each day passes, the supernatural occurrences get worse, building up the tension to almost palpable levels. At least, in The Ring. In Rings, we get days in which a ton of spoopy shart happens, but the next day, barely any creepy crap happens.

I love how ungodly silly the plot is (if you could call it that). The leading lady isn’t getting any calls from her boyfriend, so she drives all the way up to the college he’s at to find him. She goes to the dorm where he lives and goes through his possessions. She goes to the class where he’s supposed to be and he’s not there. Then she follows his professor up to the seventh floor (seven floors! seven days!), where she encounters this secret club of all the people on this college campus who have watched the cursed tape. Apparently they’re all part of an experiment by the professor to prove that souls are real.  These students all have countdown timers counting down from seven days. Instead of just making a damn copy and passing it on to someone else, the students all trust the professor to work out someone who can watch the video. And though these students and professor could clearly make sure there’s someone able to watch the video by the next day at the latest, the students have to wait until their final day, when the student they will pass the curse on to will show up and watch the video in the student’s last half hour before Samara gets them. Yeah. And after this other chick that the lead’s boyfriend knows drags her to her place and fails to get her to watch the video in time and gets hilariously killed by Samara (the lead is present for this, by the way. She’s just locked herself in the next room), this random jackass shows up at the chick’s apartment saying that he’s there to watch a video. And then her boyfriend shows up, and gives her the most laughable excuse: he didn’t answer her phone calls or Skype calls because he wanted to keep her safe from somehow watching the video. And then, with twelve hours left before Samara’s supposed to get him, the boyfriend goes to sleep. And then the lead watches the video, despite having just seen someone die because of the video. And then when she tries to copy her copy of the video, she can’t, because it’s a larger file than the one she got. Why? Because there’s an entire other roll of footage somehow hidden within the original footage that just now decided to show itself to her and only her because she’s special or something. There’s a movie within the movie. Wait, wh – I…can’t even. The sheer amount of nonsensicalities, self-contradictions, and stupid decisions speak for themselves, especially how she can watch the damn video on her phone later in the movie. Wow. I mean…sheesh. And then in the second half of the movie, almost all that plot is thrown aside in the name of the lead and the boyfriend discovering Samara’s backstory. Barely anything happens save for some screwing around until the climax. Samara’s scanty backstory is revealed, but the sense of mystery, tension, and impending doom is nowhere to be found, and even the overall mystery is over pretty quick. Padre Vincent D’Onofrio kidnapped a young woman, kept her prisoner under a church, and raped her. This is how Samara was conceived. Oh, and Padre D’Onofrio stole Samara’s corpse and is hiding it in his home. There. That’s it. That’s seriously all there is.

I also love just how much was given away in the trailers. See, when the lead gets her Seven Days call, she burns her hand on the phone somehow. She then somehow gets a pattern of dots on her hand. But the trailers give it away, saying that the mark means “rebirth”, even though the actual movie treats it as a big twist at the end. What? Oh yeah, and the end of the movie sees the lead possessed by Samara. Yeah, the shower sequences involving the peeling of skin and the long cord of hair coming out of the lead’s mouth happen at the end. Also, the trailers give out a lot of false information. I mean, seriously, a lot of what they show isn’t even in the actual movie. The lead seeing the video because it was sent to her in an email? Not in the movie! The lead wiping away a drop of water coming out of her webcam? Not in the movie! The lead having a circular scar on her back? Not in the movie! Vincent D’Onofrio (what was he thinking when he signed on to this movie?) saying that the mark on her hand is Braille for “rebirth”? Not in the movie! Samara grabbing the lead from behind in the mirror? Not in the movie! The lead waking up with her hands fused together? Not in the movie! The lead raising her arms in a church and having all the books float upward? Not in the movie! The lead’s mother cracking her head to the side? Not in the movie! The boyfriend trying to bash down a door but getting levitated backwards? Not in the movie! That poem about Samara? Not in the movie! The lead telling Vincent D’Onofrio about her video-watching experience? Not in the movie! Vincent D’Onofrio telling the lead that the mark on her hand is the mark of the Devil? Not in the movie!  Seriously, these are some of the most dishonest trailers ever!

By the way, the new footage for the cursed videotape was ungodly silly and stupid compared to either of the cursed tapes in either Ringu or The Ring! Those tapes were creepy! Rings‘s is just pathetic!

This movie was made for twenty-five million bucks. Where did all that money go? The movie as a whole looks like it was an amalgamation of the worst aspecs of made-for-TV and direct-to-video! The CGI in this movie is terrible, and it is obvious. CGI Samara, CGI bugs, CGI blood.

And, of course, Rings has to completely misinterpret what made The Ring scary by adding a ton of jumpscares. You see every one of them coming. Even when they’re loud noises heralding in the next cut, they are ungodly predictable. At least they’re not infuriatingly loud. The lead opens a door – a ghost woman jumps into frame! – the lead jumps back; the camera cuts back to where the ghost woman was, revealing nothing there. The lead looks on the floor – urrmurrgurrd a snek! – she jumps back; the camera cuts back to where the snek was revealing that it was just a cable.

The ending is hilarious. I don’t care that I’m spoiling it. Samara’s cursed video being digitized leads exactly where you think it’s going to go: the video gets uploaded to the Internet and goes viral! Urr nurr! Urpurcurlurpse!

There was this one scene in the movie that I really need to mention. The lead and her boyfriend are driving somewhere (I forget), and a bird flies into the windshield, cracking it. The lead makes the boyfriend stop, insisting she saw a bird. The boyfriend insists that there was no bird, and even points out that the windshield is not cracked. The lead gets out of the car and sees the bird on the ground. She points this out to the boyfriend, but then almost gets hit by a truck. I laughed my ass off in the theater. Several other theatergoers did so as well.

If you want to watch this movie as an unintentional comedy, then I beg you to do so. There is a lot to laugh at. You will laugh. You will cry. But you will mostly laugh at just how incompetent this movie is, and I’m giving this movie a .5 out of 5.