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Chris’ 10 Most Anticipated Summer Movies

10 May

I look back at the young naive Chris of five months ago and wonder what led me to make the list of my anticipated movies of 2011. I think I had a lot of caffeine pumping through the bloodstream and was probably highly unstable coming down from the holiday season.

Now, that the spring air is clearing my head and I have a little bit more granularity on films coming out this summer, I present to you this list of my Top Ten Anticipated Summer Movies:

10. Everything Must Go (Release Date: 14 May, 2o11)

Synopsis from IMDB:

When an alcoholic relapses, causing him to lose his wife and his job, he holds a yard sale on his front lawn in an attempt to start over. A new neighbor might be the key to his return to form.

Chris’ Take: Will Ferrell returns to what seems like a similar role to Stranger than Fiction. Rather than the loud and brash character that he normally plays, he will be shifting gears to play the understated, yet desperate man. The film had trouble finding a distributor, but now that it is about to make its release it is receiving rave early reviews (90% on RT). While it may not end up being my favorite movie this summer, I certainly have hope that it will bring back the dramedic style that Ferrell showed a knack for in 2006.

Trailer:

9. Larry Crowne (Release Date: July 1, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: After losing his job, a middle-aged man re-invents himself by going back to college.

Chris’ Take: Who doesn’t like Tom Hanks? He is probably one of the most genuinely likeable guys in Hollywood and his knack for comic timing is uncanny. While he has been in some bad movies recently, overall everything he touches seems to at least end up in “decent” territory. Another plus, is  that he is getting in the director’s chair again, a place he hasn’t been since That Thing You Do!, which was just a downright enjoyable experience to watch. There is a downside for me to this movie though: Julia Roberts. She is never really bad in her movies, it’s just something about her….

I don't know what it is about your face, but if you don't fix it...I'll fix it for you.

Trailer:

8. Fright Night (Release Date: August 19, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: Teenager Charley Brewster (Yelchin) guesses that his new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Farrell) is a vampire responsible for a string of recent deaths. When no one he knows believes him, he enlists Peter Vincent (Tennant), the opportunistic host of his favorite TV show, to help him take down Jerry and his guardian.

Chris’ Take: I think Scream 4, wet my appetite for horror movies that know how to have fun. While too many of them get old, I think I will be ready by the time Fright Night hits theaters. The remake of the 1985 cult classic will hopefully not only pay its respects to the original, but will take its style and update it. I think the cast is intriguing, bringing in Colin Farrell to replace Chris Sarandon as the vampire Jerry Dandridge. I am interested to see if Farrell has as much fun with the role as Sarandon seemed to have.

No Trailer Available

7. Super 8 (Release Date: June 10, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the strange phenomenon.

Chris’ Take: J.J. Abrams certainly knows how to market his films, shrouding them in mystery so that half of the audience in the theater is only there so they can stop staying up at night wondering what the heck that random trailer they saw was about. He also makes pretty good films to boot. What I like about Super 8 is that it looks like it wants to return to the coming of age adventure tale that made films like The Goonies and E.T. so popular, memorable and appeal to all ages. While it still is unclear what the movie is about, it is an original script and not a remake, reboot, adaptation or sequel, which already garners some points in my book.

Trailer:

6. Thor (Release Date: May 6, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: The powerful but arrogant warrior Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.

Chris’ Take: The trailers for this film looked cheesy and somewhat campy, which is why it didn’t even come near my most anticipated movies for this year earlier. With all the buzz and great early reviews (and there are a lot of them), this film rapidly shot up my list.  I was afraid that this film, especially with how little audiences seem to know about the character, would just merely be tossed in as a stepping stone to The Avengers. However, all the raving about this film hints that it could be this year’s Iron Man.

 Trailer:

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (Release Date: July 15, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: The end begins as Harry, Ron, and Hermione go back to Hogwarts to find and destroy Voldemort’s final horcruxes, but when Voldemort finds out about their mission, the biggest battle begins and life as they know it will never be the same again.

Chris’ Take: I think at the beginning of the year my anticipation for this film was much higher, but the first one did not age well in my mind. I know I kind of liked it, but at the same time I thought it could be so much more. Now, while I will definitely be part of the droves that show up for this one, I am not as excited about it, because since the first and second parts were filmed at the same time, they probably have the same tone. Films that do that tend to either maintain their level of success, or their level of ineptitude.

Pictured: Ineptitude

My hope is that the swan song of the Harry Potter films will be the exception to that and improve on the first part.

Trailer:

4. Captain America (Release Date: July 22, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.

Chris’ Take: This looks like it will be one of the more ambitious superhero films, in both special effects and storyline. Captain America is hard to take seriously because as a comic book character he almost grew into a caricature of the patriotic era during World War II, even if he wasn’t meant to be. That is not to say that he isn’t a great character, but that just became my perception, and a couple of months ago it dimmed my desire to see this film. Now, watching the trailer and seeing him come to life, be taken seriously, and have Hugo Weaving playing Red Skull…

And the fact that they stayed true to the look without using fruity tights.

I am amped about it and look forward to seeing a classic character revived(cue the Team America theme song).

Trailer:

3. The Tree of Life (Release Date: May 27, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: The story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence.

Chris’ Take: While this film topped my list at the beginning of the year, but hipsteresque rumblings from director Terrence Malick and actor Fiona Shaw have dropped it from the #1 spot. Shaw said this to Empire Online, “I can’t tell you what it’s about because it’s about everything.” Sounds pretty ambitious, but a little bit too ambitious. That is not to say that I can’t wait to see the result, because the trailer moved me like no trailer has moved me before. Malick apparently let some of the actors write their parts for the film, based on general ideas in his head and let them pick where they wanted to film it, then molded what they came up with into his overall concept for the film. Sound confusing? Yeah, I am not sure I quite know how that works, but  the heart that Malick poured into it, and the originality of the style, is enough to boost this past several special effects riddled summer spectacles on this list.

Trailer:

2. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Release Date: Aug 26, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.

Chris’ Take: Guillermo Del Toro is one of the best directors in the business, and even though he is not at the helm of this film, his touch is all over it. Troy Nixey, is under Del Toro’s tutelage for his feature film directorial debut and it looks like a good old fashioned haunted house story. I am disappointed to see Katie Holmes in the lead, but I have a hard time believing Del Toro would attach his name to anything that wasn’t at least “decent”. I mean, did you hear his strong words while on tour with the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World DVD release troupe? As some of you know, Pac and I are avid fans of the horror genre and I think this has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best, to come out this year.

Trailer:

1. X-Men: First Class (Release Date: June 3, 2011)

Synopsis from IMDB: In 1963, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend… and future archenemy.

Chris’ Take: This was the only comic book movie to make my list the first time around, but it was only somewhere in the middle of the pack. After the second trailer, which I will show below, I am brimming with joy to see a retro version of the X-Men franchise. Even though we know where the characters will eventually end up, there is still that desire to see the beginning of the complex relationship between Professor X and Magneto (or Charles and Erik). Also, Bryan Singer is returning to the director’s chair after the franchise was chewed up and vomited back on the screen by Bret Ratner and Gavin Hood. I don’t know if it will pull it off, but I want this film to be the redemption of the film series and return the X-Men back to their former glory.

Trailer:

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Top 15 Alien Invasion Movies

11 Mar

To celebrate the release of Battle: Los Angeles releasing in theaters today, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of the best alien invasion movies ever released.  Ranging from horror to action to even comedy, these fifteen films (we couldn’t limit it to just 10) represent the best that hollywood has to offer when it comes to alien invasion.

15. Signs (2002)

Kicking things off on this list is M. Night Shyamalan’s last halfway decent film. Certainly not any great achievement in film, or the alien invasion genre, but it was effective and better than a lot of other efforts. What was different about this film than others on this list, is that it brought a sense of claustrophobia to the alien invasion, making the characters’ world smaller and smaller until it seems like there is no way out. Most invasion flicks try to show devastation on a massive scale, but Shyamalan smartly sticks to making this a very character driven story and pulls it off for the most part.

By character driven, I mean it drove its lead actors to eventually go insane.

14. The Faculty (1998)

Mixing alien invasion with 1990’s teen slasher, The Faculty is a very underrated and often overlooked movie when talking about the teen slasher.  Written by Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer) and directed by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk ’til Dawn, Sin City), The Faculty is a well written and well-directed horror film with a unique and entertaining concept, Despite the genre and the incredibly cliche movie poster.

This film’s story is enhanced by a cast littered with current future stars of its time including: Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Salma Hayek, Famke Jannsen, Christopher McDonald, Usher Raymond, Jon Stewart, and Elijah Wood.  As an added bonus for those of you watching the film as a repeated viewing; see how many Terminator franchise references you can pick up on, there are quite a few.

Pictured: Dr. Edward Furlong

13. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Sci-fi seems to work best when it fights the system. While this film is not very subtle about it, in the 1950’s it took a lot of grit to criticize society. In 1951, The Day the Earth Stood Still brought a new tent pole for the science fiction genre, even if now its special effects look like they would be fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Subtlety wasn't invented until the 1960s

To me, this was like the Citizen Kane of science fiction, great in its time, changing the genre forever, but it still has its flaws in story and acting. The updated version fails to have the effect that the original did, even with spectacular special effects, because its overt environmental message is no longer considered cool or subversive; all the guts that made the first one so great were removed.

12. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

B-movie entertainment at its best, Killer Klowns… is a 1988 horror film that follows a town as they are being invaded by aliens disguised as clowns.  This film never deviates from its identity and is humorous and entertaining the entire way through.  Killer Klowns from Outer Space has develop a cult following over the past 20+ years and rightfully so.  Despite being a product of the 1980s and having a paltry 2 million dollar budget, the film has more camp in its story than it does in effects, and the costumes are actually quite terrifying, especially if you are afraid of clowns.

Good luck sleeping tonight

11. War of the Worlds (2005)

This version of the classic H.G. Wells story made the list because even if there is almost no depth to it, Stephen Spielberg sure knows how to make an exciting film. Sure, Tom Cruise is not convincing as a guy that works on the docks.

Hey guys, after we are done this back breaking work maybe we could head down to the local bar establishment and get some glasses of beer.

Ok, Dakota Fanning is annoying as hell and I would have been content to watch the aliens eviscerate her into an ashy mist, but man this movie looks cool. While normally excessive use of special effects means that something gets lost in the story, Spielberg still was able to make the story cohesive, even if it wasn’t anything spectacular.

10. Monsters (2010)

The alien invasion in Monsters is more of just a backdrop for the rest of the film.  The aliens are barely seen on-screen and are nothing more than a device that drives the plot.  This film focuses almost solely on its two main characters and their relationship as they travel through an infected zone in Mexico back to the United States.  The success of this film is driven by the two lead actors and the chemistry they have as their on-screen relationship develops.  A disappointment if you are expecting an epic invasion piece or a horror film as the title may suggest; but the cinematography and delivery of this film’s story is incredibly impressive considering the paltry budget that constrained it.

(If you want more on Monsters, check out the Weekend Film Recommendation from March 4, 2011.)

9. War of the Worlds (1953)

War of the Worlds banked a lot of its success off the popular trend of alien films in the 1950’s. What makes it better than the other films in that era is that it really tried to set itself apart from the others by breaking away from the stereotypes (i.e. saucer shaped UFOs and garishly clad aliens) to really bring a sinister new look to the alien invasion film.

Well...sinister for 1953.

The film, for as good as they could in 1953, really developed one of the first epic-scale productions of its time. Writer and Director, Barre Lyndon and Byron Haskin, took some creative liberties with the story, but they made sure they were good ones, which only added to the mystique of this famous story.

8. District 9 (2009)

While there is some debate as to whether this truly is an “alien invasion” film, you can make arguments on either side, but there are enough elements to include it in this list. Completed on a very modest budget, Neill Blomkamp burst onto the cinema industry with a sci-fi masterpiece. His special effects were superb for such a low-budget and gave the film a very real feel. Plus, as mentioned earlier, it used the sci-fi genre as a platform for a subversive message, just subtly enough that it didn’t get in the way of the story. Blomkamp also benefitted from a great performance by Sharlto Copley as the protagonist and all those elements combined to garner a Best Picture nomination in 2010.

7. Mars Attacks (1996)

One of the two pure comedy/satires on this list, taste dictates which of the two is more deserving of the higher ranking.  Less popular and far less acclaimed (51% on Rotten Tomatoes as opposed to 91%), Mars Attacks is the sleeper of the two.  Tim Burton’s most underappreciated work, probably because it doesn’t look at all like a Tim Burton movie, this film is laugh out loud funny all the way through.  Aside from Tim Burton, Mars Attacks features an incredible ensemble cast featuring:  Glenn Close, Annette Benning, Pierce Brosnan, Danny Devito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Tom Jones (yes that Tom Jones), Jim Brown (yes that Jim Brown), Natalie Portman, Pam Grier, Ray J (yes that Ray J), Christina Applegate, Lukas Haas, Jack Black, and Jack Nicholson.

And possibly an uncredited Johnny Depp

6. Men in Black (1997)

Men in Black parodied a lot of the films already mentioned in this list and featured the great comedic chemistry of loudmouth Will Smith and deadpan Tommy Lee Jones. The film was a box office and critical success, spawning a disastrous sequel and another sequel coming soon. What it lacks in suspense, it makes up for with witty one liners and delightful sight gags, and it still manages to pay homage to some of the sci-fi greats. The gadgets and special effects used were pretty cool as well and made for several toys that every kid wanted for Christmas.

5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

The 1978 remake of the 1956 classic, this version updates the classic with more chilling suspense and a stellar cast.  Donald Sutherland is the headliner here but there are plenty of other names and faces you might recognize including Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright, and Robert Duvall in an uncredited role.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a chilling horror film about alien pods invading and taking over the human race creating drones devoid of emotion.  Not only known for its horror and unforgettable closing sequence, …Body Snatchers provides both humor and satire giving the film added depth.

4. Independence Day (1996)

This has become the film that immediately comes to mind when someone thinks of an alien invasion film. Utter devastation, iconic and ominous imagery, cheesy one liners and speeches that will be parodied for years to come.

Bill Pullman, the most inspiring and reckless president of all time.

While by no means a “great” film, it encompasses all the elements people look for when they go to a summer blockbuster. Roland Emerich somehow knew how to make everything work and use static characters in a good way to create a film that is just plain fun.

3. Superman II (1980)

Superman II may seem out-of-place on this list, but it certainly is worthy of ranking #3 among the best alien invasion movies of all time.  The follow-up to Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, this film follows Clark Kent/Superman as he grapples with his immortality and falling in love for Lois Lane.  Meanwhile, three Kryptonian villains led by General Zod (the alien invaders) escape from the Phantom Zone and come to Earth looking both to rule and to destroy Kal-El.

Featuring Christopher Reeve as Superman, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, and Terence Stamp as General Zod, Superman II is considered by many to be the best superhero movie ever made and the best film Richard Donner never made.  The Richard Lester credited theatrical version is the easiest to find and is a good film, but Superman II really belongs to Richard Donner and Mario Puzo.  If you can track down the Richard Donner cut released to DVD in 2006.

The Superman movie Richard Lester actually directed

2. Predator (1987)

The predator is an alien invader/warrior inhabiting the Central American jungle, that is until Arnold comes along.  Almost 25 years after this movie was released, the predator is now a staple in American pop-culture with the film spawning 4 franchise sequels (Predator 2, Alien vs. Predator, AVP: Requiem, and Predators).  None of those films come close to the original that blends both action/adventure with horror and suspense to create one of the best alien invasion movies ever.  Arnold delivers better in this film than any other mainly because he doesn’t ham it up with one-liners or cheap jokes, and an identifiable supporting cast including Carl Weathers (Rocky) and Jesse Ventura rounds out the action mix.

1. The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter is horror genius and this film is one of his best, and coincidentally tops the list of best alien invasion films. It does not accomplish this through devastating large cities or cool technology, it does it through disturbing make up and sheer cut-the-tension-with-a-knife paranoia. While this was not the original, but a remake, it certainly took the premise and ran with it. He combines the elements of sci-fi and horror so effectively that it leaves the viewer in awe. The ending, which I will not spoil, still leaves the audience left with the feeling of dread hanging over their heads and weighing heavy upon them. If you haven’t seen it is definitely worth a viewing…or two.

More than half of these movies are currently available on Netflix Instant (click on each title to add to your instant queue):

Top 5 Memory Loss Movies

15 Feb

by Chris Petersen

With Unknown opening this weekend, I decided to reflect back on some of the best films featuring protagonists suffering from memory loss. While the amnesic character seems to be a cliché on soap operas, there are several films that take the idea and create some cinematic magic. Here is Fezzik to jog your memory about the Top 5 Memory Loss Films:

He'll try not to jog you too hard.

5. Mullholland Drive (2001)

David Lynch is known for mind bending films and this is one of his best. While you may be frustrated watching this for the first hour and a half, the last half hour or so will delight you as you try to put the pieces together in the maze that is the lead heroine’s mind. Naomi Watts really shines as the naive Betty Elms, a young actress trying to make her way in Hollywood, who takes in a movie star that is struggling from amnesia due to a car accident. Lynch knows how to create confusion and creates tension through flashes of disturbing images, mirroring William Friedkin’s style in The Exorcist.

Nicolas Cage went uncredited.

While the film did not do well in the box office, it received status as a cult classic after its DVD release.

Trailer:

4. Total Recall (1990)

Total Recall focuses on the journey of Doug Quaid (or is it Hauser?) who tries a virtual reality implant tosimulate a trip to Mars. However, when they try to put it in him, they find he has already had a similar procedure done. This discovery sets off a high pace, futuristic adventure mystery that causes him to question his own reality.

Paul Verhoeven directed this sci-fi masterpiece in his “not yet gone crazy” period, but there were definitely hints of it in this film.

Those hints didn't fully reveal themselves until this.

Verhoeven crafted the adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story into an intricate study of reality versus illusion, while creating what Roger Ebert called, “One of the most visually arresting sci-fi movies in a long time.” It also helps that Schwarzenegger is at his action best as well. There is a remake currently in the works starring Colin Farrell.

Trailer:

3. The Bourne Trilogy (2001 – 2007)

I decided to include all three as one because they would be taking up a lot of this list otherwise. The first film, while not the best, was really where the amnesia comes into play. In the other films it provides a nice backdrop, but isn’t nearly as much of a mystery as the first one. The series centers around Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) who is found floating in the water and can’t remember how he got there. He slowly finds out that he is a government assassin that is pursued by his agency for going rogue.

 The Bourne Trilogy  has reached cultural icon status as a study in the European action film, dizzying hand held camera use, and amnesic protagonists. While these aren’t the deepest films on this list, they are some of the most entertaining, especially the final installment, The Bourne Ultimatum. There are apparently more films to come, but whether they will star Matt Damon and whether they will tarnish the memory of Bourne is yet to be seen.

Trailer:

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

I cite this film as one that really sparked my passion for film. It combined elements of visual innovation and a heart wrenching story. Jim Carrey plays Joel Barrish, a man who undergoes a memory erasure procedure, after he finds out an ex-lover (Kate Winslet) had him erased from his memory as well. While it is easy to predict where this story will lead, it doesn’t take away from its final impact. Charlie Kaufman wrote a brilliant screenplay and Michel Gondry adapted it to the screen with a vigor for visual flair.

A visual flair that all but disappeared in The Green Hornet.

Trailer:

1. Memento (2000)

While Eternal Sunshine is a better overall film, within the genre of memory loss films Memento takes the cake. Christopher Nolan‘s second directorial effort was based off a story by his brother, Jonathan, and it really put him on the map. Lenny (Guy Pearce), suffers from a rare condition that inhibits him from creating new memories. When his wife is murdered, he uses an intricate system of tattoos to remind him of clues to find her killer.

When this film gets brought up, the narrative style is the first thing that sets it apart from any other film…it plays out backwards. I remember when I saw this, I was  trying to explain to people what that meant and they just don’t get it until they see it. Nolan sets up the story brilliantly and, like all great memory loss films, we are presented with an unreliable protagonist that causes us to question everything that we see. Once we reach the end it all adds up to not only the best memory loss film, but arguably the most innovative narrative of all time.

Trailer:

Top 10 Religious Horror Films

28 Jan

Today marks the release of a film that both writers of this blog included on their Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2011 list. To commemorate the release of The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue, we’ve decided to compile a list of our top ten religious horror films.  It is yet to be seen if The Rite has the merit to crack this list, but if after seeing it you feel compelled (by Christ or otherwise) to seek out similar films we’re her to help you out.

End of Days (1999)

You would never expect a religious horror top ten to include Arnold Schwarzenegger and there may have been a few other films we could have chosen for #10 on our list, but despite his starring role in this film, End of Days is an entertaining blend of action and horror.   As the millennium is ending Satan (Gabriel Byrne) comes to NYC to find himself a bride, because everyone needs a new year’s kiss.

And to forever curse the NY Mets

The only man who can stop him is a cleverly named Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger), an ex-cop who no longer believes in God due to the murder of his family.  If Cane can keep Satan from scoring until the millennium, then the world is saved – if not, it’s the end of days.  It’s what you would expect from an Arnold film, glaring themes and motifs, lots of violence, and of course one-liners like “You’re a choir boy compared to me, A CHOIR BOY!” 

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

This is one of those films that barely made the list, but is certainly worthy of note. The film received mixed reviews, but really brought a new twist to the genre. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on true events and is one part exorcism film, and one part courtroom drama. The two of these mix well and are supported by strong performances by Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, and a young Jennifer Carpenter.

I still contest that the characters she plays are possessed by the Devil.

It had been a long time since new life had been breathed into an exorcism film, and this was like a breath of fresh air. It has its faults, particularly with pacing, and the fact that it doesn’t conjure up a whole lot of scares, but the scares it does provide and the questions it raises, stick with you long after the film is finished.

The Prophecy (1995)

Whenever someone mentions this film about a war between the angels, Christopher Walken is immediately brought up and how great his usual detached and off-kilter performance is. But, on top of that, the film effectively delivers a compelling religious tale about angels and demons steeped in biblical lore. Walken is great, but Viggo Mortenson, who plays Lucifer, surprisingly delivers one of his more interesting performances. Many people have tried to capture a war between the angels on a much larger scale:

And failed.

But somehow, this B-Movie format seems to out-class bigger productions. The film spawned several sequels, which were nowhere close to this caliber, and most went straight to movie hell: direct-to-video.

The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

Some could argue that this is merely a thriller, but there are several horrific elements present within the film. For one, there is Mary Ann’s (Charlize Theron) descent into madness, several times demons reveal themselves, gruesome murders, and Keanu Reeves trying to have a southern accent. There are several references to the famous epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton and they weave themselves in to create the overarching premise for the story. Al Pacino is at his eccentric and yelling best, charismatic and slimy. 

This was actually just Al Pacino's reaction to what his career looks like after this movie.

I suppose he was just doing that to counter Reeves’ inability, but overall it had a great story and was disturbingly beautiful at times.

Children of the Corn (1984)

Any film that becomes parody on an episode of South Park (The Wacky Molestation Adventure) has at least reached cult status, and at the very least warrants a viewing.  Based on the short story by Stephen King, Children of the Corn follows a young couple as they go to the town of Gatlin to report a murder.  Shortly after arriving they soon discover the town is void of adults as the children have murdered every adult in the town, forming a religious cult led by a boy preacher named Isaac.  If you believe that nothing is scarier than deserted, run down mid-west and Texan towns, imagine them all populated with ginger children wanting to sacrifice you.

Absolutely Terrifying

Children of the Corn spawned four sequels but none of them come even close to the original, and though this film is now over 25 years old and the final sequence is very dated graphically, the rest of the film still holds up and delivers the chills.

 
Se7en (1995)

This was the second film on the list that could easily qualify as something other than religious horror. But, like The Devil’s Advocate, there are several elements of horror to be found within the film.   The film opens with a grisly death of a rather obese man, and burned such a terrifying image into my head that it makes it difficult to watch The Biggest Loser.

I never want to eat again.

But, it doesn’t stop there, every murder that occurs there is a new and innovative way for someone to die that just doesn’t go away. Add to all that Kevin Spacey’s eerie performance as a man who clearly didn’t understand the Biblical concept of loving your enemies, and the shocker of an ending, you have not only one of the best horror thriller films, but one of the best films in the last 20 years.

The Omen (1976):

When his wife has a stillborn child, the American ambassador to Italy,Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), is encouraged by a priest to instead take an orphan child as his mother died in childbirth.  Without telling his wife, Robert agrees.  Several years later they relocate to London and Robert starts to believe that his son is the literally the spawn of Satan and he soon comes face to face with a biblical prophecy.

Though it was remade in 2006 starring Liev Shreiber and Julia Stiles, the original holds up much better due to its gothic rather than glossy feel.  Like Halloween, which was released two years later, a lot of the terror comes from what is not shown on-screen and left up to the viewer to put together themselves. 

Stigmata (1999)

The second film on this list to feature Gabriel Byrne, this time as a catholic priest who’s role at the vatican is to investigate devout miracles.  He is sent to Pittsburgh to speak to a woman named Frankie (Patricia Arquette), an atheist who supposedly is showing signs of stigmata, the physical wounds Christ endured during the crucifixion.  At first Father Andrew (Byrne) is skeptical but quickly comes to realize that there is much more to her affliction than meets the eye.  Torn between helping her and his duty to the Catholic church, Andrew starts to question the beliefs of his religion and consider the implications this occurence may have.

Like Se7en and The Devil’s Advocate, Stigmata greys the line between horror and thriller.  While ripe with religion and even possession like many exorcism films, Stigmata’s primary focus isn’t to terrorize its audience but rather to force them to question their beliefs in God and religion.  Still, there are enough horrific images and themes in this film that it more than qualifies for this list.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Directed by Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby chronicles a young couple’s move to Manhattan.  The husband, Guy (John Cassavetes) is an aspiring actor and he and his wife Rosemary move into a gothic Manhattan apartment despite warnings of strange occurences within the building.  After Rosemary and Guy befriend Roman and Minnie Castavet, and Guy begins to spend more and more time with them, Rosemary begins to have strange dreams and become suspect of those around her.  After becoming pregnant with Guy’s child, Rosemary’s paranoia grows until she concludes that her neighbors and even her husband are a group of witches who have a plan for her soon to be born child.

Keep it as far away from Roman Polanski as possible

I’ve been told that this movie is much more terrifying for women to watch than men, and given the nature of the content I don’t doubt it.  Despite that claim, Rosemary’s Baby is a chilling tale full of tension as the Rosemary’s paranoia grows and ultimately comes to a climax.  Though the film is now over 40 years old, its reliance on story for the horror rather than visual shock and awe allow it to maintain its value over time.  Mia Farrow delivers a fantastic performance and was nominated for a Golden Globe upon its release, and her counterpart Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her portrayal as Minnie.  Not many horror films can boast Academy Awards…

The Exorcist (1973)

There was almost no way that this film couldn’t be #1 on this list. It is the best and most shocking religious horror film. It was the first horror film to get nominated for Best Picture and so scary and disturbingly innovative that televangelist Billy Graham swore that there was a demon living in the celluloid reels. What is not great about this film? The performances are strong, the production was incredible and fraught with drama, and the look of the film is iconic and unsettling. William Friedkin did a great job creating unsettling moments outside of the exorcism, deliberately placing unexplained disturbing images throughout the film to create unrest in the viewer. This is the film that every exorcism film tries to match, but none of them come close. Not only is it the best religious horror film, but there are strong arguments that could claim that this is the best horror film ever.

 Click here for some awesome Exorcist Trivia!

Quick Take: The 10 Most Buzzed-About Sundance Films – Fandango.com

20 Jan

Today kicks off the annual Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah. Last year gave us such films as The Kids are All Right, Winter’s Boneand Blue ValentineAttached is the link for some of the films this year that are generating the most buzz. You can also visit the official Sundance Film Festival Website, also listed below. Enjoy!

The 10 Most Buzzed-About Sundance Films – Fandango.com.

http://www.sundance.org/festival/

Chris’ Most Anticipated Films of 2011

6 Jan

2011 is here, and with that comes a slew of sequels, remakes, etc., but also the promise of some truly fantastic films. Unfortunately,  as I wrote this list, I realized that there are very few independent films on here for me to generate some buzz about. This list is comprised of films that I know of that are coming out this year and it is pretty scant so far. I have my reasons for each of them, most of them having to do with the directors, so if you all disagree with me, feel free to express your opinion in the comments.

10. Paul

Release Date: March 18, 2011

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman

Director: Greg Mottola

Synopsis from IMDB: Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: It is good to see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, one of the best comedic duos, back on screen together. Plus, you add Greg Mottola (Superbad) to the director’s chair and a dash of Jason Bateman playing a sardonic government agent and it looks like it will be comic gold.

9. The Rite

Release Date: 28 January, 2011

Starring: Anthony Hopkins

Director: Mikael Hafstrom

Synopsis from IMDB: An American priest travels to Italy to study at an exorcism school.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: Yeah, I know, it looks like another exorcism movie.

But wait I thought....

But, with Anthony Hopkins playing a dual role as both teacher and possessed, I hope he can recover from his appearance in The Wolfman. I am really only looking forward to this to see what he can do as someone possessed by the Devil. My hope is that it will be an even more disturbing Hannibal Lecter-ish character, but that is aiming really high.

8. Sucker Punch

Release Date: 25 March, 2011

Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis from IMDB: A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: This was my first reaction to the trailer:

Whaaaat?

But then I let it settle a bit and came to the conclusion that Snyder is one of the most visually inventive directors out there and it looks like he will have a field day with this one. Since its source material is critically acclaimed, I am not that worried about the story either. I think this will be an exciting film to see in the theaters, but I will probably only need to see it once.

7. Water for Elephants

Release Date: 22 April, 2011

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Reese Witherspoon

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis from IMDB: A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a traveling circus as their vet.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I do not like Robert Pattinson, but I really like the other two starring actors. I also think this film will have visual flair and will be one of the more beautiful films of the year.

6. X-Men First Class

Release Date: 3 June, 2011

Starring: James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Kevin Bacon

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis from IMDB: Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-MEN.

Trailer:

No Official Trailer Available

Chris’ Take: I was completely disappointed with the last two X-Men films, but there is hope yet again for the franchise with Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) taking control of the director’s chair and Bryan Singer, the man who made the first two films some of the best superhero adaptations, producing. I think this film will return to some of the grit that made them so likable in the first place.

Oh yeah, and Kevin Bacon.

5. The Green Hornet

Release Date: 14 January, 2011

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou

Director: Michel Gondry

Synopsis from IMDB: Following the death of his father, Britt Reid, heir to his father’s large company, teams up with his late dad’s assistant Kato to become a masked crime fighting team.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: When I first heard about this, I didn’t give it a second thought. Seth Rogen transports his vulgarity spewing every man character, whose charm is rapidly wearing out, into another vehicle. But, a little comment from Michel Gondry after Comic-Con got me thinking I might want to see this. Apparently, at Comic-Con the die hard Green Hornet fans didn’t think it stuck to the source material close enough and Michel Gondry essentially said that it was because he wanted to make a good movie. I have a lot of faith in Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my all-time favorite films, so I hope he can inject his skill into a flimsy idea.

4. Sherlock Holmes II

Release Date: 16 December, 2011

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris

Director: Guy Ritchie

Synopsis from IMDB: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson try to outwit their fiercest adversary, Dr. Moriarty.

Trailer:

No Official Trailer Available

Chris’ Take: The first installment was witty and the pace was perfect. I really enjoyed that it got past the cartoonish version of Holmes and spent some times showing some flaws. Guy Ritchie is a great director for this as well and while I am disappointed that Daniel Day-Lewis won’t be playing Moriarty, I am interested to see what Mad Men’s Jared Harris does with the role.

3. The Muppets

Release Date: 23 November, 2011

Starring: The Muppets, Jason Segel, Amy Adams

Director: James Bobin

Synopsis from IMDB: Kermit the Frog and his Muppet pals put on a show to save their theater.

Trailer:

No Official Trailer Available

Chris’ Take: I grew up with the Muppets and one of the few Christmas movies that I can struggle through is A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. I am glad to see someone like Segel taking this over, since he has a great respect and love for The Muppets, as witnessed in this clip from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

James Bobin is a great pick to direct as well and he is teaming up with Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords to make the music, which should be a good combination as well. There have been a lot of rumored cameos as well. Here are just some of the names that might be attached to the project: Emily Blunt, Jane Lynch, Jack Black, Ed Helms, John Krasinski, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mickey Rooney, Billy Crystal, and Lady Gaga.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Release Date: 15 July, 2011

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes

Director: David Yates

Synopsis from IMDB: The end begins as Harry, Ron, and Hermione go back to Hogwarts to find and destroy Voldemorts final horcruxes, but when Voldemort finds out about their mission, the biggest battle begins and life as they know it will never be the same again.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I almost fell asleep during that last one, but I am sure this one will keep me awake as the series comes to an end. There really isn’t much to say about this that most of you don’t already know, except for why this isn’t #1.

1. The Tree of Life

Release Date: 27 May, 2011

Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw

Director: Terrence Malick

Synopsis from IMDB: The story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I don’t think I have ever seen a trailer as breathtaking and captivating as that was. Based on that alone this is my most anticipated film of the year. I just hope the emotions captured in the preview can be stretched out for the duration of the film.

Some of you might notice a distinct lack of some superhero films on here, which based on the rumors flying around the web, you might think I would put on here. While I do look forward to seeing some of them, namely Green Lantern and Captain America, I think that the Marvel films will be more of a bridge to the Avengers project and will lack focus and direction. I hope I am wrong since I am a sucker for superhero films, but I can’t say that I expect much from them.

Because this is all they expect from me.

What are some of your most anticipated films of the year? Share them in the comments.

Chris’ Best/Worst Films of 2010

4 Jan

Everyone seems to have their own opinion about what the best and worst films of the year were, and in that regard I am no different. This post comes with the disclaimer that these are only out of the films that I have seen. Unlike the Golden Globes, I don’t want to give films credit based on buzz, even if the chances are that they are pretty good.

 

If you're nominating Golden Globes on name recognition alone, I am surprised Valentine's Day didn't make the list.

 

 

Here are some of my favorite films from this year:

10. True Grit

While this film was good and featured great performances, specifically by Hailee Steinfield, the update seemed unnecessary overall. The technical aspects of the film were great, but failed to find any substance beneath the surface. Jeff Bridges played John Wayne’s classic and Oscar-winning role with bravado, but really only blended into the film rather than stood out like The Duke did. Still, The Coen Brothers definitely know how to make a film, there is no doubt about that.

 

9. Let Me In

The success of this film hinged heavily on the strength of its young leads (Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee) and they came through in spades to deliver a vampire film for adults and people with more than an I.Q. of 75. Richard Jenkins, one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood, also gives a strong performance as the protector of Moretz. I was thoroughly impressed with this film overall, and while I cannot comment on how it compares to the Swedish original, it still stands on its own as one of the best of the year.

8. Megamind

The first of two animated films on here, this was one of the most underrated films of the year. It did decent with the critics, but failed to find a strong fan base, even with the most spectacular 3D on display this year (that I saw). The script was strong and Will Ferrell and David Cross had an outstanding rapport and made this quite a treat for those that took the time to see it.

7. Toy Story 3

This ranking might incite some rage by people who think that should win best picture, and they have quite a following. To those people I say, wait…what? Pump the brakes here. This film is good, don’t get me wrong, but it is nowhere near Best Picture quality. It is entertaining, but lacked some of the humor of the first two and while it was in 3D, it did nothing with it other than jack up the prices of admission. Sure, it brought a tear to the eye of many as we said goodbye to some old friends, but in the end, the overall depth was far short of anything that should win top honors. Again, don’t crucify me, I liked it, it made this list, but I enjoyed so many other films more than this one.

6. The Other Guys

Will Ferrell definitely had some dud comedies in the last couple of years.

 

I'm looking at you Semi-Pro.

 

 

But, The Other Guys almost makes up for them and, like a lot of Will Ferrell films, gets better after repeat viewings and line quoting sessions. Mark Wahlberg made a great jump to comedy this year in both this film and Date Night, and he provided an intense foil to Will Ferrell’s bumbling. It was nice to see Ferrell tone it down a bit as well, letting Wahlberg share the spotlight. I couldn’t justify putting this film in the Top 5, but it was one of my favorites this year.

5. The Town

Ben Affleck is a decent actor when he really buckles down, but he is an incredible director and makes it seem easy. He compiled a great cast for his sophomore directorial production and wrote a superb script to boot, with fully fleshed out characters and realistic dialogue. He seems to bring out the best in everyone around him, even an unlikely Blake Lively, who you could barely recognize as a drug addict. High praise to Affleck and I hope that he stays behind the camera more often than not.

4. Inception

Christopher Nolan garnered the most buzz this year, releasing one of the highest grossing original productions this year. He brought a breath of fresh air to the summer season, which was bereft of entertaining films that aren’t dumbed down for the popcorn crowd. Nolan salvaged the summer blockbuster and paved the way for other budding directors to get the funding they need for their original projects, rather than having it shelled out to worn out sequels and reboots which flopped. This is another film that die hard fans argue should win best picture, but while this grand film succeeded technically and in the “that was so cool” department, it didn’t have the depth to move it any higher than the other films that round out the top 3.

3. The Social Network

When I wrote my article about The Five Most Anticipated Films of the Fall Season, this one didn’t even get honorable mention. I thought it looked like a film that was geared at trying to bank on the facebook craze. Man, was  I wrong, and I owe it to Pac for getting me into seeing this on. This scathing portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of facebook, and the people that surrounded him on his meteoric rise, provided one of the most intriguing characters on screen this year, even if some of the “facts” were a bit fabricated. David Fincher should at least get a nomination for directorial work and Aaron Sorkin should get recognition for his smart screenplay adaptation as well.

2. Buried

I kind of saw this film by accident, after my fiance and I’s car broke down in Maryland. We ended up being in the wrong place at the right time and caught this hard to find film in the theater. My eyes were glued to the screen the whole time. I had heard about the premise of this film online and really wondered how they could film a whole movie inside a coffin (and I mean the whole movie). Ryan Reynolds carried the weight of this film on his shoulders and in the dim light portrayed the utter desperation of this man buried alive and held for ransom. I expected it to be intense, but I didn’t expect the strong emotional aspect of the film and it stuck with me for several weeks after watching it. I encourage everyone to see this film, unless they are extremely claustrophobic.

1. Black Swan

This was one of the most hyped films of the year, sporting a notable cast (Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassell, Mila Kunis) and a director, Darren Aronofsky, at the top of his game. I expected to be a little disappointed, but instead was completely captivated by this film, the only psycho-horror-ballet-thriller that I know of. Natalie Portman should definitely win Best Actress after this and I can forgive her for taking on lighter fare for a little while after this, which must have required her, like her character in the film, to be completely immersed in the artistic process. High marks for Barbara Hershey and Vincent Cassell as well, and a tip of the cap to Mila Kunis for their performances as well. It was beautifully dark and infinitely entrancing.

Movies I Wish I Had Seen for this List:

127 Hours

The Fighter


Worst Films

10. Due Date

Not a bad film necessarily, but come on, RDJ and Galifianakis can do better than that. If you want to see a funnier Todd Phillips road trip film, I suggest Road Trip.

9. Alice in Wonderland

Disappointed is the best word to describe my opinion about this film. Burton did a stellar job with the visuals and completely flopped developing a compelling story and Johnny Depp was more annoying than entertaining as the Mad Hatter.

Pardon me, sir, but could you spare some crack?

8. Predators

Adrien Brody as an action star is just not believable. The film had one of the best openings of the year and then dissolved into increasing ridiculousness and idiocy. If they knew mud was how they could beat them halfway through the film, why wait until the end, when they are almost all dead, to try it?

7. The Wolfman

Who would have thought that a film with great actors and a great premise would be one of the most boring films of the year. Please don’t bring this back…ever. I finally found an Anthony Hopkins film that I didn’t even enjoy watching in the least. I was hoping that day would never come.

6. Get Him to the Greek

I am still confused at how this film did so well with the critics. I was really excited about this sequel that wasn’t a sequel. It had great writers and a given chemistry between its two leads. But, it failed on just about every level, meandering for punch lines and a point for an hour and a half.

5. The Last Exorcism

I am going to repeat the joke that many people said about this film, let’s hope the title is accurate. While the film started off very well, the ending left a bitter taste in my mouth and the entire audience at the theater seemed disgruntled.

4. Valentine’s Day

How did they get this cast? How? This was by far one of the dumbest films of the year. This film was not funny and it wasn’t romantic. Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner were the worst on screen couple I have seen in a while.

 

Okay, maybe not the worst.

 

 

3. MacGruber

I am always hoping SNL films will do well because I like the show, but they keep giving more ammo to people to hate them. This film was no different. I loved MacGruber on the show and got really excited about this film coming out, especially with Jorma Taccone directing and some serious talent associated with it. However, the gags were dumb and overly vulgar and the film made absolutely no sense. I was sorry to see Ryan Phillipe and Val Kilmer get tied up in this one.

2. My Soul to Take

Why did Wes Craven decide that this would be the film to make a come back with? Why not wait for Scream 4? I have serious doubts about the already shaky premise of the fourth installment after watching this piece of cinematic excrement. Not only did it have the worst story and terrible acting, it had pointless 3D that wasn’t even used. The one part that might have been cool to watch in 3D, wasn’t in the film, only in the preview. I think I died a little inside when I watched this film.

 

Well, at least no one can claim the title was false advertising.

 

 

1. The Last Airbender

M. Night Shyamalan, what happened to you? He is an easy target for this film and should be. He has plenty of money, why not wait and pick his projects more carefully. Why not hire someone else to write his scripts? Why not choose a better, less offensive child actor to play the lead? Why not bring a little bit of depth to your characters instead of putting cardboard cut outs around razzle dazzle special effects? I seem to recall a young director who said that he wanted to shy away from special effects anyway. Mr. Shyamalan, please refrain from directing any movies for at least five years and stick to helping people out with the Night Chronicles, because Devil was 10 times better than anything you made in the last 8 years.