Hacksaw Ridge Review

 

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There are so many things that are great about Hacksaw Ridge that I didn’t know where to start. Here’s how good Hacksaw Ridge was, people were applauding once the movie was finished. While I didn’t applaud, I was with them. I have never heard that at my local cinema before. It’s a war movie that glorified the human spirit.

Andrew Garfield plays Desmond T. Doss who is a Seventh-day Adventist and enlists for w
ar duty during the second world war as a medic. The problem is that Doss is a conscientious objector  to firearms and wants to save lives instead of killing. So it follows the true story on how he saved more than 70 lives during the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge.

Everything that was great about Hacksaw Ridge I think draws down to director Mel Gibson. He has helped the careers of every actor on the set with this movie. Every actor had a career peak that has sort of gone by the wayside and Gibson has put them back on the map at least in my mind.

Not a Single Bad Performance- Not Just the Actors

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The intro to Vince Vaughn’s character as he goes into Full Metal Jacket mode.

As a matter of fact, everyone did a great job, from the grip to the director. The script-writing was so brilliant that they even thought about passing one-liner that 99% of movies don’t pay attention to. Every line no matter how small and insignificant had some humanity or humor in it. By the end, you really feel like you know every single character.

To achieve the goal of making every character meaningful needs not just a great script but great actors too. Gibson gets the best out of Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Rachel Griffiths, Teresa Palmer and so many others that it is just so enthralling to have such an ensemble to bring their best foot forward and have so much chemistry that I struggle to see how it won’t win awards for best ensemble
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Hacksaw Ridge firmly rests on Andrew Garfield’s shoulders. I think it’s tied with The Social Network as his best performance yet. He is so faithful to this character who is a conscientious objector to guns and fighting, yet enlists in war as a medic. He brings heart and enthusiasm to his performance to such an extent that I yearned for his triumph.

There were also nice surprises too. Vince Vaughn is a really funny guy in Hacksaw Ridge. The scene where his character is introduced as a military Sargent yelling at the Privates at their dorms was straight off Full Metal Jacket. His insults were so funny compared to the weird situations that arose. He was also good at parts where he needed to be dramatic. It’s been so long since I have seen him this funny or dramatic.

Oh so Violent and Oh so Good!

That explosion is just the beginning. It’s Mel Gibson in his comfort zone

Finally, I have to praise the make-up and the stunt work for the final act in the movie. I must warn you, Hacksaw Ridge is more gory and violent than most war films that I know. I thought it would be because Gibson has also directed movies like The Passion of the Christ. The violence was hard to watch but immersive as well. The make-up guys and stuntmen did a very good job at pushing that envelope between extreme violence and exploitation.

Before watching I thought the movie was going to be great but not at that level. This movie beat Captain America Civil War,it beat Zootopia, and it even beat The Revenant. It is up there with some of the outstanding indie films that I have seen this year and I certainly didn’t expect that. I think it’s solidly in the tier 2 position on the best war films ever made ****3/4

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Cabin Fever (2016) Review

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Cabin Fever is one of the laziest movies I have ever seen. It feels as cheap as the movie poster that it’s advertised upon. I wrote in my review of Oujia that it was a pleasantly surprising like a four-year-old who colours in a picture inside the lines with shading. Cabin Fever is like a kid who couldn’t be bothered to colour the picture in their colouring in a book so the mother photocopied the image and claimed it was their child’s work.

Yes, that paragraph is more allegorical as it seems. You see Cabin Fever is a remake of Eli Roth’s own movie shot-for-shot from a director called Travis Z. That should ring alarm bells. It’s even worse considering Roth’s original was a terrible movie in the first place.

Because of that, I don’t mind spoiling the whole movie for you. This movie is about a group of teenagers that rent out a cabin by a lake. Throughout the film there a people bleeding all over the place, which is the fever hinted at in the title (the blood looked like paint). Slowly, the teenagers get infected and most of them die until the main protagonist realizes the disease exists solely in the water.

Warning: Basic Film-making Errors Abound

Now aside from the blatant ripoff of Eil Roth ripping off his own movie, you also have to see the DVD menu of this movie (Yes I rented. I do things old school) On the DVD menu it has the same picture of the woman weeping bleed but with the cottage and the colours are washed out (not to build the suspense. It just looks bland). The only option I could select is “Play Feature”. That’s right. No “Set Up” no “Special Features” and not even “Scene Selection”. Just “Play Feature”. If “Play Feature” the only option it begs the question “Why is there a title card in the first place”

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I am not kidding. This is a screenshot of the title card. I have never seen a title card so cheap-looking and tacky.

The way I have described the setup for this movie sounds attractive for the people who are into campy “so-bad-it’s-good” movies. If only it were that interesting. That’s because Cabin Fever is made just competently enough that there are no intentional laughs in its cinematic ineptitude. The acting is atrocious, yet it is so bland that I couldn’t laugh at it, The “scares” in the movie are not scary at all, and the music is always amplified when a “scary scene” comes up. The only reason I could identify there was a scary scene was because of the music.

Oh and speaking of music, Cabin Fever puts loud distorted music with no build up. Sometimes it was during scenes where the sketchy characters were exchanging dialogue. The music was muffling out the sounds and the words the characters were making. I went for the subtitles, but wouldn’t you know there are no subtitles available.

The Causalities

Cabin Fever is the laziest movie of the year. No question. It’s even lazier than comedies where the actors improvise. It’s even lazier than Norm of the North. This movie is not scary, nor entertaining, nor is it written well. It even goes so far to somehow mess up the sound and it’s too lazy to even have “Scene Selection” on its title menu. It is such a terrible cash grab from Eli Roth and he even failed at that. This movie only grossed approximately $40,000. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Cabin Fever is one of the rare films where absolutely no one wins and everyone loses. It is a void-like abyss. There is nothing on the screen to like and it’s not even because it was too gory (The gory scenes looked so fake that I didn’t care). Cabin Fever has gone beyond the realms of terrible and has made itself irredeemable in the lazy film making atrocity that was passed off as a theatrical release -***

The Conjuring 2 Review

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Written by Nelson Cumming

The Conjuring 2 is a rare movie that will be loved by many viewing circles equally. Director James Wan has a little bit of the Hitchcockian psyche in terms of the spirit and enthusiasm in making horror movies and experimenting with them.

The reason being is because Wan did not go the ABC route of a horror story. While The Conjuring 2 is linear, it changes the order of things that kept it interesting and fresh. One of the things The Conjuring 2 does is great character development before the final act. While I think it’s generally bad for movies to do this, Wan made it believable.

Like Ouija: Origin of Evil, the movie revolves around a little girl called Janet who gets possessed through playing with an Ouija board. Even though Madison Wolfe is good at playing Janet, The Conjuring 2 does not solely rely on her to make The Conjuring 2 as good as it is.

Instead, there is a cast that all have good parts to play that added to the story. Most important were paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively) who, along with a journalist Maurice Grosse, are the only people who believe the family’s story of a demonic spirit. Because of the shared belief system, the relationship between the characters grow. Wan, as I have already mentioned, lets this play out.

The other great thing about The Conjuring 2 is it never runs out of ideas. A horror movie at 130 minutes is rare and there are about seven horror scenes that are almost like set pieces. Each scene was different and they went in between five and ten minutes making every scene feel like a story in of itself.

The movie was really scary because of Wan’s deliberate offbeat timing. He knows the spots where you expect the scares to come and does the jump scare a couple of seconds later. That way when I started to relieve myself, thinking nothing scary happened is when Wan strikes us.

The only real problem I have with the Conjuring 2 was pacing issues. The first 40 minutes is a mixture of good horror scenes interspersed with a boring plodding story development. At 130 minutes, the filmmakers could have easily cut 20 minutes off. It would have been a cleaner, tighter film.

Overall I cannot put much crap on The Conjuring 2. The last hour was incredible. I cannot believe just how well it was made with the way James Wan did it. Wan is confident in his abilities and it shows on the screen. It is a great film for Halloween if you pass the 40-minute mark. ****

Ouija: Origin of Evil Review

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Written by Nelson Cumming

It’s pretty rare that a horror movie franchise does not contract the disease sequelitis. Not only does Ouija: Origin of Evil improve on the original but it beats it by leaps and bounds. The one thing that sprung into my head while watching Ouija: Origin of Evil was how predictable, yet how scary the moments were. If you are the niche demographic that likes horror movies and you like demonic possession on a little girl but without the torture porn and the splatter you will find this movie great to watch.

As flippant as that idea sounds, Ouija: Origin of Evil doesn’t resort to lazy jump scares or crappy acting. When I saw the set design and the acting and the selective camera angles it become obvious that the makers cared about what they were making. It was like watching a 4-year-old not only colour in the lines but also got the right colours in the right places. You think “This is amazing, normally their drawings are crap” I had a similarly surprised reaction when I watched this movie

As I have already mentioned, what makes it odd is that it follows nearly every horror cliche in the book right from the setup. The setup is this family who makes a living being fake fortune tellers. After deciding that getting an Ouija board as a good prop do things start to go wrong.

To say that this is a madhouse would be saying something. 95% of the scare scenes relies on the little girl called Doris played by Lulu Wilson. She was absolutely fantastic. She has trumped Neel Sethi from the Jungle Book as the best child actor of the year. The variety of things she says will make you feel bad vibes all around. If you look at her eyes you will know something is wrong. It sets up the suspense.

 

 

 

 

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The girl in the foreground is the film’s centerpiece played by Lulu Wilson. This shot is the beginning of the action as the Ouija board is playing for the first time.

 

They have shot this movie so well. Even though the thrill rides are the suspense and the scares but there are certain, specific camera angles, set up pieces and Easter eggs. It shows the filmmakers cared.

The movie pays homage to the 1960’s (the time of the story) by showing the old Universal logo, the old title card and even the cigarette burns on the top right-hand corner of the screen (Signifying to a projectionist to change reels) I looked up at the projection window to see if a projectionist was there despite the fact it was all digital. It felt so authentic.

Finally, I love the way the movie builds. It starts off as slightly unsettling before it goes on into full on scare mode by the climax. The build is what makes the pay-offs work in this movie. If you see the jump scares by themselves, they look really hokey and stupid. The movie will have it’s moments where you know they are kicking it up a level and the best was still to come. That is what helps make a good movie

Aside from a crappy predictable ending and minor pacing issues, I gotta admit Ouija: Origin of Evil is great. By the climax, I was cowering in my seat but I was man enough not to scream! What didn’t leave me 10 minutes after watching it were the chills running down my spine. ****1/4

Green Room Review

Green Room is one of the best thrillers of the year.

Written by Nelson Cumming

In his second directorial effort, Jeremy Saulnier has created something as old as the hills but something unique. Green Room is a thriller/horror movie that is incredibly graphic and brutal which is a rare compliment because it’s supported by great storytelling, tension, and acting. Green Room just left me in intrigue and suspense nearly the whole way.

Green Room is set in the sketchiest places imaginable. A heavy metal band, who struggle to make money perform at a neo-nazi venue. At the end of their set, the band witnessed a grizzly murder in a small confined room. When the event organizers realize what they have seen they attempt to kill the band members. The band members barricade themselves in the room and that is the set up for the cat-and-mouse game that ensues.

The most surprising and enjoyable aspect to “Green Room” is the performance of Patrik Stewart who plays the leader of the neo-nazi group. Everything he says is either witty, chilling or immersing. Yes that comes with a good script but the way he says all of his lines is flat, cold yet calm. He delivers with a great amount of controlled evil that I greatly respect it, especially since his role is a substantial departure from all his previous work.

The other things that worked are the jump scares and the gruesome scenes I previously mentioned. They made me wince and cringe. In the case of Green Room, making me wince and cringe were good things. It made me more invested in the story. There was just the right amount of gruesome for a good horror movie and it didn’t go on exploitation as a lot of horror movies do.

The main flaw that Green Room has, like many other horror films, is the use of old cliches. Without going into too much detail, you know the moment the protagonists leave the safety vessel bad things will happen. You know if the leader of the protagonists says that the group should split up bad things will happen. I saw a couple of scenes (not most) toward the middle where I knew how the scene was going to end. Given that Green Room dies nearly everything else right, the complaint can be easily mitigated. But it does prevent Green Room from being one of the very best of the year.

Overall, Green Room is a great effort from everyone involved from the actors, the set designers, the scriptwriters, and director  Jeremy Saulnier. This is easily one of the best horror/thriller films of the year with great intensity and action ****1/2

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

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Written by Nelson Cumming

I had watched Green Room prior to seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane. Both of them are really good thrillers and both are comparable to each other. I saw both at the correct time and setting (midnight with the lights off) and both were engrossing in its suspense. 10 Cloverfield Lane has a lot of good things going for it.

Explaining the premise and the story would be very complicated without spoiling it so this is going to be very vague. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has just left her husband with the ring on the chest of draws. As she drives away, a car collides with her in an accident that leaves her unconscious. When she wakes up, her leg is chained to a wall in a bunker that Howard (John Goodman) has built.

When John Goodman is on, he is Awesome

The main crux of the movie is the motivations of John Goodman’s character so I’ll just say there are leanings to suggest that he is a good person that is protecting Michelle “from the outside” or if he has sinister motives to her and Emmit (John Gallagher Jr.) a neighbour that Howard lets in the bunker to protect him “from the outside”

Which is what makes John Goodman so brilliant is that he keeps you guessing. At times I thought he was charming and at other times I thought something was wrong with him as he is an obsessive compulsive conspiracy theorist. He has moments in 10 Cloverfield Lane that make him unsettling and unpredictable. Those moments are the high spots in the movie. The best scene involves a game of charades between him, Emmet and Michelle. He alone makes this movie.

The last 15-20 minutes: uhhh…

Goodman alone was so good that for thirty minutes in, I thought 10 Cloverfield Lane was going to top Green Room. That was until the last fifteen minutes.

The last fifteen minutes has been debatable for those who have seen 10 Cloverfield Lane whether it was a good ending or not. I thought the ending was underwhelming. The ending didn’t fit well tonally with everything prior to it. It’s almost completely rooted outside to the movie’s internal logic. I believe it was just a way to set up a sequel and not a suitable conclusion.

Nevertheless, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a good thriller with great memorable moments and has a great performance from the great John Goodman but because of the ending, I believe it is inferior to Green Room. 10 Cloverfield does achieve what a thriller sets out to do: To immerse us through jarring intensity ***3/4