Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsReleased: September 18, 2009. Directed by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Starring: Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Bruce Campbell. Runtime: 90 min.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is, I’ll admit, much better than I thought it would be. I had no interest in seeing it when it was initially released, because it sounded a bit too silly for my tastes. But then I realized the guys who are behind this movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, directed one of my favourite action comedies of the last few years, “21 Jump Street.”

So, I thought I’d give it a shot since it was playing on television. And, if I get the chance to see the sequel, I can – because now I’ve seen the original. The premise is simple, adapted from an apparently beloved children’s story written by Judi Barrett. I’m not sure if it’s a good adaptation or not, but the basic ‘I wanna be something!’ character arc is present.

The main character, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), has been inventing unsucessful, but sorta awesome, things all of his life – and that’s his dream, to be a revered inventor. His father (James Caan) disapproves of the choice, as he doesn’t understand his son as well as his late wife did.

He finally gets his shot with a machine that turns water into any kind-of food that you desire. He manages to inadvertantly launch his machine into rain clouds, after a run-in with the law, and it rains cheeseburgers. This puts the island below the ‘A’ of Atlantic Ocean on the map; even though the town was previously known for its sardines, until everyone realized they are gross. The mayor of the  town (voiced by Bruce Campbell) sees this as an opportunity to make Swallow Falls a real tourist hot spot; so he aggressively urges Flint to make it rain three meals a day. The news reporter, Sam Sparks (Anna Farris) who is in town, becomes a weather girl and takes advantage of this weather phenomenon.

While the delicious food makes the townspeople happy, the excessive use of the machine can dangerously mutate the food, but the shady mayor ignores Flint’s pleas to make it stop; by telling him the whole town loves him. As expected, chaos ensues – on the day when spaghetti and meatballs are the main course.

The premise is effectively simple, and allows really colourful scenery to happen. I like the animation a lot, even though the character design for Flint makes him look like an odd type of bird. The character design for the acrobatic police officer Earl Devereaux is truly clever. He is voiced by Mr. T, and he has a T-shaped bald spot. Bill Hader, Anna Faris and even James Caan aren’t particularly memorable. It’s a good thing that Mr. T, Bruce Campbell, Neil Patrick Harris and the purposefully irrtating Andy Samberg are there, because they balance out the voicework and make it better. Neil Patrick Harris plays the role of a scene-stealing monkey named Steve, who can speak through the invention of Flint’s. This film is silly and fun for the kids, and there’s enough clever humour to keep older folk mildly entertained.

Score70/100

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Evil Dead (2013)

Evil DeadEvil Dead

Release Date: April 5, 2013

Director: Fede Alvarez

Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas

Runtime: 91 min

Tagline: The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience

Evil Dead might not be the most terrifying film you will ever experience, but it is one of the bloodiest, most exciting and satisfying horror flicks in quite some time.

Five friends go up to a cabin in the woods that has sentimental value, as they’d camp there all the time as tykes. This time, they have a more serious agenda. Mia (Jane Levy) is a heroin addict who plans to beat the addiction. To help her, lifelong friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), who is there to offer support, deem it necessary to keep her at the cabin, so she doesn’t overdose again in the future. Another force soon keeps them at the cabin, when the friends find the Book of Dead (left by witches and father of a possessed girl who was burned alive) and unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. When this evil is unleashed, the friends get possessed one by one until one is left to fight for survival.

Cue the quick-paced plot, chainsaws, gross-out gore, gallons of blood, dismemberment, heroism and total awesomeness. The wickedly amazing good news is: It’s a great remake. It’s also a great individual horror film that stands well on its own two feet (and sometimes, one). It also stands fairly well being inevitably compared to Sam Raimi’s original 1981 cult classic.

This stays faithful to the original, but even when we think we know how this all plays out — there’s an admirable amount of wiggle room for surprise, and amazing plot twists. The original opts for simplicity where the central characters are merely taking a vacation for the shits and giggles, while these guys have a real purpose. They’re leading one of their best friends down a dirt road to sobriety, but litte do they know they’ll be leading her down a road of demonic possession. One thing that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and why this proves sometimes being simple can be better, is… Why choose that one childhood shacky cabin in the woods to help a friend get sober? Why not take her to a more secure friend’s house, a nice four-star hotel in the tropics, or, hmm… A rehabilitation facility?

Some of the decisions of the characters are really rather silly, but that’s expected in this day and age. Some decisions aren’t as silly as some of the characters in the original, like when the gal who was molested by the tree willingly went outside to ask “Who’s there? I heard you!” The way the demons were actually summoned is a very idiotic decision on one of the characters parts. Eric can hardly resist opening up the book because curiosity is just strangling him. Despite the multiple warnings from the book like probably a spell that was designed to give him a nasty paper cut, or actual warnings on the very page he reads a passage from, he still says the coveted words. Eric, if you’re so goddamn curious, just read the Latin in your head. It isn’t the time to practice a foreign language, especially not that of an ancient book with strange writings and demonic rituals in it. Granted, if he doesn’t commit the silly actions he does, none of the happenings of this great modern horror would happen.

This decides to take the terror trail and sometimes treads on some gross-out campiness. Fans of the original might think blood spewing all over the screen is funny (mostly because it’s pleasantly awesome), but others could be grossed out or find it cringe-worthy. The witty demons get some of the laughs, mostly the one in the cellar. It’s also funny when the possessed friends try to convince the unaffected that they’re normal and harmless, and they fall for the conniving demons, hook, line, and sinker. Fan of the original or not, one should not trust any of the effective false senses of security.

This doesn’t mean to be campy, this is a remake and it stands proudly on its own. Some of it is terrifying when the more primary characters’ lives are at stake, or like when one of the gals is being raped by a tree. It’s one of those horror movies that relies both on some effective pop-out scares and a wicked atmosphere. The sound of speeding wind when the camera is rushing through the forest is still very spooky and effective, and it gives a chill to the bone. One thing that is admirable about this is the director’s choice to use practical effects instead of CGI-effects. This rarity is great because this is an age with movies like Life of Pi or even Mama, where the latter’s villain is entirely CGI. The effects that the filmmakers achieve here are endlessly impressive. Fede Alvarez’s decision to use practical effects is a great one, and he seems like a director everyone should keep an eye on.

The characterization is good, where it focuses mainly on the brother-sister dynamic between David and Mia. She feels like David has not been there for her the past few years, and this sometimes anti-hero uses this to her effective advantage throughout the feature.

The petite central cast of five people carry the film well. Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore don’t shine vibrantly, but the real carriers of the film are the other three. Pucci’s good as the brain of the operation, Eric. Fernandez has some scenes where he acts terribly, but he has other scenes where he is able to do a good job of portraying a concerned older brother. Because of this, he evens out to be just kind-of forgettable. Jane Levy gets her chance to shine in every aspect of the word as a sometimes anti-hero, and always an all-around bad-ass. Ash would most definitely approve of her.

In a nutshell: As far as horror remakes go, this is one of the finest in quite some time. This film has cool effects, a woman being sexually assaulted by a tree with a sex drive (try telling that one to a therapist), demonic possession, beatings, stabbings, and the usage of weapons like exacto-knives, nail guns, and, of course, chainsaws. If that all sounds like your idea of a good time, check this out; it’s one of the best 80’s horror films made in the past five years.

88/100

Spider-Man 3 — A film review by Daniel Prinn – Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm.

Spider-Man 3

Release Date: May 4, 2007

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace

Runtime: 139 min

Tagline: How long can any man fight the darkness… before he finds it in himself?

Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm; and apparently Parker’s charm just had to flee, too.

Peter Parker is still your always friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, well… kind of. When a mysterious black entity bonds with Peter, he must deal with relationships, numerous villains, temptations, a huge ego and revenge.

Some of the film is entertaining, but this is forgettable. It sucks that they made the worst (it isn’t retched, or anything, though) of the trilogy the longest. It’s the darkest of the series, but it doesn’t work well.

The numerous antagonists, and some subplots of revenge, make the film very crowded. There’s Harry, the New Goblin, who’s still bent on avenging his father’s death; there’s Flint Marko, Sandman, who is actually an unknown part of Peter’s past which starts yet another subplot of revenge; there’s Eddie Brock (Venom), a photographer who starts a feud with Parker at the Daily Bugle, and who eventually swears revenge on Parker (I don’t know why, but I’m just getting this odd vibe [maybe my spidey senses are tingling] that revenge plays a huge role in this film); and there’s also the usual relationship problems between Peter and M.J., and Gwen Stacy now seems to be  throwing some moves in on Spidey. [Phew!]

Peter, Peter, Peter, where in the world did your charisma go? All of the charisma of this film went to the freaking maître d’ (a cameo from Bruce Campbell, star of the Evil Dead trilogy); I know the film isn’t supposed to be very charismatic, it’s supposed to be dark, which it is, but some of it doesn’t work. The unbearable part of the film where Parker is taken completely over by the dark entity is just so annoying, it taints my view of the overall movie. I’m not usually one for cockiness or a huge ego in the first place, and Parker isn’t even good at being cocky. Whenever, or if ever, I re-watch this, I’m going to use the fast forward button with pleasure through those scenes.

The positives are fairly limited. The film has entertaining sequences, and many solid performances. Whilst the sub-plots crowd the movie, they are, admittedly, interesting. Venom is the best villain of the series, but Grace doesn’t give the best villain performance of the franchise. (Who could beat Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin?) Venom is my favourite Spider-Man villain, and while I usually enjoy Topher Grace as an actor, he doesn’t work in this dark role. The villain does add some entertainment value to the movie.

Overall, it’s an entertaining ride with a crowded script. It’s a film that isn’t all bad, and the bad and good aspects balance out. It’s an average film, that is by no means horrid. Check it out if you like super hero films. 

60/100