House on Haunted Hill (1999)

house on haunted hillHouse on Haunted Hill

Release Date: October 29, 1999

Director: William Malone

Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs

Runtime: 93 min

Tagline: Evil loves to party

Read this review to the tune of ‘White Christmas’. Enjoy!

I’m dreaming of a good horror movie
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the screenplay shines
and audiences scream in fear
at the scary things on the screen

I’m dreaming of a good horror movie
With at least one released each year (this isn’t it)
May your scares be scary and fresh
And may all your horror movies be fun

I’m dreaming of a good horror movie
With at least one released each year (this isn’t it)
May your scares be scary and fresh
And may all your horror movies be fun

Yeah, so, House on Haunted Hill is a really sloppy remake of an apparently entertaining campy 1959 horror classic. The concept is great, and it really wasted any potential it had. The twists are lame and the dialogue is crappy, and really everything about this isn’t exciting or particularly terrifying. It’s really just strange and irritating. Geoffrey Rush couldn’t even make the best of the rough source material offered to him. In an age where horror movie remakes rule the genre, this isn’t anything special.

40/100

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Monsters, Inc. (3D) (2001)

Monsters, Inc.Monsters,  Inc. (3D)

Release Date: November 2, 2012 (3D Re-release: December 19, 2012)

Directors: Pete Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich

Stars (voices): John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi

Runtime: 92 min

Tagline: Monsters, Inc. : We scare because we care

Monsters, Inc. is the fourth film that Disney is re-releasing in 3D (along with The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo) and the second for Disney’s Pixar. They are a studio that knows how to use the modern 3D visual effects with fine moderation. It seems as if they only visually enhance the best action scenes in a major way.

A city of monsters called Monstropolis centers around its power company, Monsters, Inc. That said power company generates the city’s electricity by scaring children half to death – they go into the human world and the more they scare the children, the more power they generate. The top scarer is James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), the lovable and cuddly big blue guy. At least, he’s lovable to his friends in the monster world – he’s the fuel for nightmares in the human world. He and his little green bowling ball buddy, Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) are the perfect dream team and the best of pals. One day, Randall (voiced by Steve Buscemi), a chameleon-like bogeyman leaves a door in the factory on purpose to steal the child he scares and use her for sinister purposes. However, Sully gets in the way – and the small child, Boo, wreaks havoc in the monster world and may just drive a wedge between the relationship of Sully and Mike. Will they be able to return Boo home and avoid Randall by all means?

The concept for this film is one of the most original for animated features to ever see the big old silver screen. While the children of that world are afraid of the big old monsters hiding in their closets every night; those monsters are terrified of an adorable girl in piggly wiggly tails and even a human sock that has an interaction with their skin. It’s very clever and fun. While the concept may be somewhat edgy for a family feature, it turns out to be fan-freaking-tastic.

It’s helped out by its fast pace, visually great action sequences and laugh-out-loud comedy. The comedy is astounding for the children, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable for older audiences. Everyone can really relate to this, as we as children would check under our beds before we sleep or ask our parents to inspect the closet for bogeymen (heck, I even look under my bed now from time to time – and I don’t even have a closet door any longer).

It is fairly surprising that one can so easily relate to this feature, as it is a simply refreshing and brilliant story about monsters who are terrified of little children, and vice versa. It also brings much truth to the “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” That is especially true for one monster, George, one who constantly gets mauled by the Child Detection Agency.

The story is great and it’s an overall splendid feature, but the real charm is in the voice performances. Goodman and Crystal convince us that they might as well have been friends for life, and the other chemistry is fine. Everyone involved does a great job, especially Mary Gibbs who voices Boo, and I’m pretty sure the only coherent word of English she utters is “Kitty,” the nickname she assigns to Sully. She is also a young girl who, unexpectedly, changes the factory and the hearts of a few select monsters for the better. You know, There are more powerful things that the sound of children screaming.

In a nutshell: Monsters,  Inc. is one of the most original animated features to see the light of day, and it is one of Pixar’s best. It is really a treat to be given the opportunity to see this in theatres again, and just a few months before the much-anticipated prequel.

100/100

This Is 40 (2012)

This is 40This is 40

Release Date: December 21, 2012

Director: Judd Apatow

Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox

Runtime: 134 min

Tagline: The sort-of sequel to ‘Knocked Up’

What a great step up from 2009’s Funny People.

It may not be the best feature for a family movie day this holiday season, but it’s a great choice of comedy to see with a few buddies. It’s certainly a better choice than The Guilt Trip. It’s good enough to see with your mother, that is if you’re mature enough to sit through a sex scene or some other inappropriate content.

This follows the relationship of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) five years after the events of Knocked Up (don’t worry folks, Katherine Heigl isn’t in this). As expected, their relationship is still facing a lot of issues. Their two daughters don’t enjoy each other’s company and Pete’s father Larry (Albert Brooks) is always asking for money while they’re facing some financial troubles themselves. Pete’s band (Graham Parker) for the record label isn’t selling that well, and the sexy employee (Desi, portrayed by Megan Fox) is probably stealing from them. Will the pretty couple overcome their problems and stick together through thick and thin?

Probably. It’s a Judd Apatow flick, and it’s around the holiday season, so it has to be feel-good. It usually is, albeit numerous conflict. Though, it’s Apatow and he has the fine ability to write in a stellar amount of humour to their long list of issues. It is a comedy, right?

While it is hilarious through and through, the issues that offer voids in their relationship are sometimes loud and obnoxious. There’s hardly a second where either Pete and Debbie aren’t wanting to bite off each other’s heads or their oldest daughter, Sadie (Maude Apatow), isn’t telling to the youngest daughter Charlotte (Iris Apatow) to take a hike. Preferably on Mt. Everest. The conflicts are vast – but the characters are great and they’re brought to life with each charming comedic presence. There has to be conflict, though, as this is an honest observation of what being a parent is all about.

The conflict between the two daughters is mainly irritating, but it doesn’t mean it gets in the way of enjoyment. At least, that much. It’s sadder than anything. Sadie is just going through those tough teenage years and she doesn’t have the time for a younger sister always bothering her. Charlotte just wants a little attention and she’s adorable, so she should just give it to her. Unfortunately, each sibling knows how hard that has the tendency to be.

It’s nice to watch Pete and Debbie try to overcome their differences because it’s a ride that doesn’t overstay its welcome, thanks to the real charm of the cast and the great incorporation of large and hearty laughs. This feature is around for the right time of season because Christmas is all about coming together as a family.

Pete and Debbie try their hardest as parents, but they’re not perfect. They also blame some of their troubles on their own parents for being such screw-ups. Pete’s pretty upset by his father for making him lend him $80, 000 over a few years – and Debbie’s upset with her own because he, Ollie (John Lithgow), is hardly there for her. This conflict is attacked during Pete’s big 40th birthday celebration. There, the great Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd fight over the sexy Megan Fox.

Those supporting characters are awesome, but the real scene-stealer is the great Melissa McCarthy, playing a potty-mouthed and angry mother who goes a little crazy after Pete and Debbie offend her and her son.

While this is driven by pure and fresh comedy, the not-so subtle conflicts make it feel a bit too over-dramatic in areas. Though, Apatow does have to get the point across somehow. The film is a perfect analysis of how a family should try to overcome their differences and stick together, in this modern society that has really high divorce rates. Oh, and get through it during a mid-life crisis, especially. The message does get across finely with many laughs and conflict, and an advertisement or two for iPhones, other apple products, and TV’s Lost. It’s entertaining through and through, and your face may just hurt a little in more than one scene. It’s no Knocked Up, but it’s a satisfying little sort-of sequel. It finishes as the third best comedy of the year, just behind Ted and the best of the year, 21 Jump Street.

80/100

December 21-23 Box Office Predictions

Monsters, Inc. 3D

Monsters, Inc. 3D

Plot: Monsters generate their city’s power by scaring children, but they are terribly afraid themselves of being contaminated by children, so when one enters Monstropolis, top scarer Sulley finds his world disrupted.

Why pass up the chance to see this again in theaters? In 3D? And about six months before the upcoming prequel? It’s a great chance and it’s really a great animated feature. One thing that’s great about Pixar re-releasing movies in 3D is that they use the 3D effects in moderation. They don’t make it gimmicky, they just make the visuals much better.

M.I.3D Box Office Prediction (Wed-Sun): $16, 000, 000

The Guilt Trip

The Guilt Trip

Plot: As inventor Andy Brewster is about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime, a quick stop at his mom’s house turns into an unexpected cross-country voyage with her along for the ride.

This might as well be Due Date, but instead of buddy-then-best-friends Galifianakis and Downey Jr., it’s mother-and-son Streisand and Rogen. It looks generic and very familiar, but it might turn out to be a decent enough comedy for the holiday season.

T.G.T. Prediction (Wed-Sun):  $9, 500, 000

Amour

Amour

Plot: Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple’s bond of love is severely tested.

This looks like a feature that tests the relationship between two old folks. It looks really good, too.

Amour Box Office Prediction: $60, 000

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

Plot: A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.

It looks like one of the best films of 2012, helmed by the great and capable Kathryn Bigelow.

Z.D.T. Prediction: $112, 000

On the Road

On the Road

Plot: Young write Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their life indelibly.

Who’d pass up the chance to see Kristen Stewart express good acting abilities for once?

O.t.R Prediction:$45, 000

The Impossible

The Impossible

Plot: An account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.

T.I. Prediction: $186, 000

Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away

Plot: Set in suburban New Jersey the 1960s, a group of friends form a rock band and try to make it big.

N.T.A. Prediction: $6500

This is 40

This is 40

This is 40

Plot: A look at the lives of Pete and Debbie after the events of Knocked Up.

T.i.40 Prediction: $14, 000, 000

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

Plot: A young woman is entranced by an Aerialist. When they fall into the dreamlike world of Cirque du Soleil and are separated, they travel through the different tent worlds trying to find each other.

It may offer an interesting experience for those who want something different from the usual holiday season Oscar flicks.

C.d.S.: W.A. Prediction: $2, 800, 000

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher

Plot: A homicide investigator digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims.

J.R. Prediction: $18, 900, 000

Top 10 Box Office Predictions

Title/Prediction/Studio/Rotten Tomatoes Score

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey/ $45, 000, 000/ Warner Bros./ 65%
2. Jack Reacher/ $18, 900, 000/ Paramount/ 61%
3. Monsters, Inc. 3D/ $16, 000, 000/ Buena Vista/ 96%
4. This is 40/ $14, 000, 000/ Universal/ 49%
5. The Guilt Trip/ $9, 500, 000/ Paramount/ 36%
6. Rise of the Guardians/ $6, 000, 000/ Paramount DreamWorks/ 74%
7. Lincoln/ $5, 900, 000/ Buena Vista/ 91%
8. Skyfall/ $5, 000, 000/ Sony/ 92%
9. Life of Pi/ $3, 800, 000/ Fox/ 89%
10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2/ $3, 000, 000/ Summit Ent./ 48%

The Guilt Trip (2012)

Guilt TripThe Guilt Trip

Release Date: December 19, 2012

Director: Anne Fletcher

Stars: Seth Rogen, Barbara Streisand, Kathy Najimy

Runtime: 95 min

Tagline: Get ready for one mother of a road trip

Around the holiday season, there is usually that one memorable, smart and fresh comedy that everyone is dying to see. Then there’s sometimes a comedy like The Guilt Trip, one feature that isn’t quite as ground breaking or memorable.

Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is an innovative organic chemist who is about to go on the road to sell his product called Scieoclean, a new cleaning product that’s so safe, you can drink it. The credits open to Andy’s mother, Joyce (Barbara Streisand), calling and leaving him about forty-two messages. He stays at her house for a few days, getting prepared for the big road trip. Joyce tells Andy about a boy she knew back when she was a young woman on the prowl; and Andy gets the sudden idea of making these two folks reunite with each other all these years later.

That plan involves inviting her along for the eight-day drive. Along the way, they listen to some nasty audio book, gamble, try to take care of business, run into a conflict or two, and eat a steak the size of a poodle. The majority of which is revealed in the film’s trailer.

The Guilt Trip is a satisfying nibble (if you’re not expecting much) at expressing family-connectedness this holiday season, but it’s a disappointing bite because it hardly offers any big laughs. However, that is not surprising to the majority. It is obvious that this will have a premise as tiredsome and old as someone’s great grandmother. Indeed, as one may have guessed, it’s the same predictable old familiar tale that follows the old road trip formula to a tee.

However, it is fairly bearable. It isn’t anything great or remotely memorable, but it’s an okay ride to go through the motions in the passenger’s seat with for the eight days of holiday cheer (Streisand might as well just be spending Hannukah in the car). The only reason it isn’t horrible is thanks to the two stars. They’re the real charmers that can keep you holding on.

The mismatched pair create some fine chemistry. Chemistry meaning on-screen chemistry, not any of Andy’s organic chemistry experiments. While they’re not the greatest pair of all, they make the experience better than it would be without the two. They are the focal point of the film, because it feels as if any other performer in the film is just there for a cameo performance. Is the chemistry so real that Joyce might have actually given birth to Andy, which we’re supposed to believe? Not really, but I’d believe that Joyce could have adopted Andy when he was a little toddler. In that way, the chemistry isn’t perfect, but it really is the highlight of the picture.

Their chemistry is off toward the beginning, but it’s supposed to be. This film is supposed to express how the relationship between a son and mother can grow over the week’s time they spend together. Andy seems so annoyed with her mother half the time, that it gets to a point of irritation. However, this is understandable because Joyce has an over-bearing personality. The initial emotional void of sorts in their relationship toward the beginning starts to vanish and they come closer together. Just the way a predictable holiday season flick like such should be. Who wouldn’t want to spend eight days in a little clown car with their mother?

All in all, it’s a usually fun flick that offers a few somewhat funny jokes (but it’s about a laugh every five or ten minutes, maybe), but it’s extremely familiar, and the comedy is just more of the same. Anyone who’s a fan of a good road trip will enjoy it than others, though. The two primary characters are only all right, but they’re brought to life by the charming presences of Rogen and Streisand. The film relies heavily on those two stars, and they do carry it. Everyone else is just there for a scene or two (including some stars like Kathy Najimy, Adam Scott, Yvonne Strahovski and Colin Hanks). The Guilt Trip is aimed at older audiences, so young people may not find all that much pleasure with this. Seth Rogen doesn’t show any crude humor in this, so it’s a nice change to see him in this sort of role. You are to blame, Dan Fogelman, for making this really familiar, and making the dramatic scenes some of the least memorable of the feature. Some of the most memorable scenes of the film are a few miniature scenes during the end credits.

50/100

Dec 14-16 Box Office Results

If you missed any of my reviews of the movies in the Top 10 Box Office, just click the link on the title and it will lead you right to it!

Top 10 Box Office, The Results (Estimates)

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: $84, 600, 000

2. Rise of the Guardians$7, 100, 000

3. Lincoln$7, 000, 000

4. Skyfall: $6, 500, 000

5. Life of Pi$5, 400, 000

6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2: $5, 100, 000

7. Wreck-It Ralph$3, 200, 000

8. Playing for Keeps$3, 100, 000

9. Red Dawn$4, 261, 000

10. Silver Linings Playbook$2, 100, 000

My Box Office Predictions (Title/Prediction/Off by(+/-))

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey/ $97, 500, 000(+) $12, 900, 000

2. Rise of the Guardians/ $8, 400, 000(+) $1, 300, 000

3. Lincoln/ $7, 250, 000(+) $250, 000

4. Skyfall$8, 750, 000(+) $2, 250, 000

5. Life of Pi/ $6, 800, 000(+) $1, 400, 000

6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2/ $7, 600, 000(+) $2, 500, 000

7. Wreck-It Ralph$4, 000, 000(+) $800, 000

8. Playing for Keeps/ $4, 600, 000(+) $1, 500, 000

9. Red Dawn/ $3, 250, 000(+) $1, 011, 000

Other Predictions

24. Save the Date/ $62, 000(+) $58, 245

I was off by a grand total of $23, 969, 245.

My reviews of other films in theatres

Argo

Chasing Mavericks

End of Watch

House at the End of the Street

Killing Them Softly

Looper

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Seven Psychopaths

Sinister

Taken 2

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit -  An Unexpected JourneyThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Release Date: December 14, 2012

Director: Peter Jackson

Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

Runtime: 169 min

Tagline: From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends

A curious Hobbit of The Shire, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is confronted by the magnificent wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), who wonders if Bilbo would enjoy going on a great adventure. The quest is to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Bilbo soon joins Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Amitage). They must gander through Middle Earth, fighting the likes of Goblins, Orks, and many other creatures. Their mission is to get to the East where the Lonely Mountain is, but the Goblins and Orks are close on their tail. Bilbo learns how to muster up enough courage that he didn’t even know he had, with a little help from the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis).

Mostly everyone knows that Peter Jackson (director of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) is a fairly innovative director. This time, he shows his innovative side by being the first person to film using 48 frames per second (f.p.s.). While it is an admirable experiment, it is mostly a needless one. The visuals have the tendency to get very distracting, even though the screen is very clear. However, the visuals are nonetheless beautiful and usually not that bothersome as other critics might say. It might deserve a second watch in a 2D regular 24 f.p.s. screening.

Everyone also knows that his features are usually lengthy (like The LOTR Trilogy, or his remake [more like new film altogether] of King Kong). He gives us another awesome, but long, adventure back to Middle Earth. He writes it with help from three other writers, including the also legendary Guillermo del Toro (writer/director of Pan’s Labyrinth) and it is adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. All the writers express that they are not afraid to insert some silliness and foolishness into a great Middle Earth fantasy story. However, they insert some jokes so relentlessly, that you may forget that any of the story is intended to be serious. Usually, though, it isn’t bad – and you just can’t help but laugh and have a good time. Especially when the great Gollum shows up. There’s an exuberant amount of comedic dialogue inserted in that specific riddle scene shared between Gollum and Bilbo, but it also makes for one of the greatest scenes in the film. This time around, some of the more talky scenes are the best; while the action sequences are simply visually stunning and intense, but the material we’ve seen before outweighs the new and fresh content.

I am unsure of how faitful the writing is to its source material, but the fun that the cast and writers had making the film is definitely present. The writing is very smart; and the introduction of Old Bilbo putting his journey into writing for Frodo is a perfect touch for any fan of the adventures of Middle Earth. The antagonists (like the Pale Ork or the nasty looking Great Goblin) are also fine and the backstories for some characters and the plot lines are great.

There is never a dull moment in this feature, but there are some scenes that could have been so not over-the-top. When Bilbo, Gandalf, and company, visit the land of Rivendell, the introduction of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) is just too over-dramatic. Sure, she’s beautiful as anything, but it didn’t have to be over-done like that. Also, when Saruman (Christopher Lee) does his brief cameo, the audience (those who have seen Lord of the Rings) will feel a certain loathing because we know what this character will do in sixty years. Often enough, the problem with prequels is we know some good characters will turn evil (like Saruman) or we know some will survive. SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE LORD OF THE RINGS Like we do with Bilbo and Gandalf. END OF SPOILERS. It may take away from the suspense, but it’s all about knowing how they survive. The reappearance of certain characters (like Galadriel, Elrond, Gollum, Frodo) will be a treat for any fan of Tolkien’s magnificent universe. However, it’s a little difficult to get emotionally-invested with the new characters like we did the first time we saw the older characters.

There are just too many dwarves to keep an eye on. Thorin Oakenshield, the leader; Ori, the one with the slingshot; Balin, the charming elderly one; and Bombur, the chubby eater, are the ones that really stand out. If any dwarves decease, the viewer may feel sad for a minute, but it’ll soon wear off because there are many others. All share the same traits, and it feels as if the writers took traits from Gimli and Legolas (some dwarves are archers) and lent them to the new dwarves. The majority feel, unfortunately, expendable. They are just a little too alike, or don’t say much. Bilbo is both a new character, and an old one. Those who have seen Lord of the Rings are familiar with the older version of him. Now, we are introduced to the young Bilbo, before he learned all the life lessons or even left The Shire. He is great, and the fact we get to watch him grow is a scrumptious treat. Martin Freeman is the perfect actor to play him, as is the casting of the dwarves.

The first installment of a new Middle Earth trilogy is much like The Fellowship of the Ring; not a lot happens. They only complete a small amount of the journey, and upcoming antagonists and ones that are going to appear again in the series are established. However, please don’t forget that the story will all come together in the end of the trilogy. For what it is, it is a great experience, and there are enough action scenes to probably keep you satisfied. Though, some of those said action scenes are a little familiar. Am I complaining, though? Not particularly, because it’s still fun.

As a stand-alone feature, this is an awesome adventure-fantasy film. Compared to the likes of The Lord of the Rings, it is simply satisfying and usually visually stunning. Some of it is familiar, the visuals are distracting, and the dwarves are a little too alike. However, there is never a dull moment – even when one moment is over-dramatic. The cinematography, the visuals, the writing and the performances are stellar. The silliness is very enjoyable, especially the scene shared between Bilbo and Gollum (and Precious, of course). Simply put, this is the beginnings of a fine, new Middle Earth trilogy.

75/100