Wednesday, October 18, 2017

[Review] The Babysitter

Netflix's The Babysitter is a proud trash-horror flick that I somehow hated and loved at the same time.

Cole (Judah Lewis) is an elementary school kid that often that gets picked on. The only bright spot in his life is his cool, hot, and too-good-to-be-true babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving). That is until one night when Bee invites a bunch of her friends over after bedtime, and Cole witnesses an extremely jarring event that...involves butcher knives and satanic rituals....

Let me be clear, this is not a good movie. It's almost impossible to buy into any of it, but it's also hard to look away. The whole thing feels like you're watching an extended horror version of the "Stacy's Mom" music video. Every single thing in this film is injected with a shot of cheese, a dose of kitsch, and a giddy smirk--from the obnoxious and juvenile characters, to the exaggerated blood splatter and gore, to the horrendous dialogue. Some lines are so bad that they sound like someone's haphazard excuse to incorporate unfunny Facebook statuses and tweets into a movie script.

But as the manic story progresses, it actually becomes really fun to watch Cole utilize his desperation and resourcefulness as he attempts to weasel his way out of this nasty situation. Everyone involved in this film seems to be having a blast. And while The Babysitter isn't the type of film that I'm going to shout about up and down the block, it did help get me into the spooky (and silly) spirit.

( 6.5/10 )

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

[Review] The Foreigner

The legendary Jackie Chan stars in The Foreigner, a Taken-style thriller that hits most of its marks but leaves you with the feeling that it could've been a lot better.

After his daughter is killed in an explosion orchestrated by a faction of the IRA, Quan (Chan) decides to take matters into his own hands and track down the bombers himself. Oh yeah, and he happens to be a highly skilled and dangerous Special Forces veteran.

While the film lacks the exquisite shots and sly humor of say, John Wick, it's still the type of dark horse story that you pump your fist for. Things begin on the slower side, but it's more of a calm before the storm--you know--just a matter of time until Chan releases his fury in the form of fiery warning pops and gritty fisticuffs. Chan, now 63, is impressively still doing most of his own action stunts, but his dramatic chops are pretty good here too--he's weary, solemn, and relentlessly determined. Pierce Brosnan also checks in with a solid turn as a crooked politician with questionable ties. But unfortunately, the film's subplotting gets way too convoluted, bringing the movie down like a wasted dud while also taking focus away from the film's main draw.

The Foreigner is definitely a brand of rainy Saturday afternoon cable fare, but at least you can count on Jackie Chan to deliver those sweet moments of revenge.

( 6/10 )

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Monday, October 16, 2017

[Review] Happy Death Day

Marked on the calendar as this year's Friday the 13th main attraction, Happy Death Day is an unexpectedly entertaining slasher flick with a swirl of déjà vu icing.

After a wild night, Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up in the dorm room of a friendly guy named Carter (Israel Broussard, who kinda reminded me of Craig from Degrassi) and promptly takes the so-called walk of shame back to her sorority house. Later that day, she encounters a mysterious baby-mask-wearing knife-wielder (and you thought you'd escaped The Boss Baby!) and is abruptly murdered. In case things weren't already weird enough, Tree then wakes up right back where she started! From there, she must figure out what the hell is going on--in Live. Die. Repeat. fashion.

Each sequence is more intense and crazier than the previous one. The script, through repetition, snowballs a big amount of laugh-worthy comedy. And because every scenario is slightly different (sometimes jarringly different), the narrative becomes predictably unpredictable, if that makes any sense. The tone evokes a streak of late '90s/early 2000s vibes, and fittingly, the picture is laced with bubblegum colors and filmed with the gloss of a Britney Spears music video. Jessica Rothe gives a really good central performance, especially considering how her character is put through the ringer, and then some.

If you aren't too cynical or nit-picky, Happy Death Day serves up a slice of kitschy horror that you'll have legitimate fun watching. It certainly brings a whole new meaning to "Surprise!"

( 7.5/10 )

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

[Review] Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Back in 2015, Kingsman: The Secret Service snuck in as a surprisingly fun blast of mirthful action and witty spy genre tactics. Its sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle aims even higher, but it can't help but fall short of the freshness of its predecessor, despite packing as much spectacle as possible.

After the nifty Kingsman headquarters are completely destroyed, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) travel across the pond to America (Kentucky, specifically) and team up with an allied organization called the Statesman that includes cowboy Channing Tatum (!), in order to take down a criminal enterprise led by a Devil in a Red Dress-ed Julianne Moore (!).

The good news is that the film retains a clever sense of humor, and its SMASH, BOOM, POW brand of action still has a lot of spunk to it. This series has a tendency to get cartoonish, which is actually refreshing, but sometimes this installment goes a little overboard. The plot also feels cluttered and choppy compared to the slick focus of the first one. And is it just me, or has the lead character always been a bit on the bland side? Luckily, the supporting cast is strong. In addition to the aforementioned, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry join the rodeo, and as the trailers suggested, Colin Firth returns as Harry--though not quite as you'd expect. But unfortunately, most of them go underused.

With that said, Kingsman: The Golden Circle does have its charms, and there's a decent amount of enjoyment to be had in this franchise. And honestly, it's difficult for me to fault a movie that opens with a car chase set to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy".

( 7/10 )

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Friday, October 13, 2017

[Review] Super Dark Times

Kevin Phillips' remarkably striking directorial debut - Super Dark Times - is a somber and hectic loss-of-innocence thriller that definitely isn't kidding about its title.

Set in '90s suburbia and steeped in nostalgia and teenage hormones, Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) are prototypical best friends in high school (the film opens with them watching a fuzzed-out Spice Channel) - that is, until a shocking and gruesome accident (it'd be a spoiler to go into detail) followed by an impromptu cover-up sends their lives spiraling out of control.

The film is both wondrously and ominously shot, and it captures a pitch-perfect tone, evoking the likes of Stand By Me, Donnie Darko, It Follows, and "Stranger Things". But there isn't anything abstract or supernatural going on here. The ugliness of reality hits hard. Very hard. Anxiety, paranoia, panic, and regret permeates throughout the story, and it all feels as heavy as the sky falling. The narrative has the type of gripping momentum that makes the duration fly by. The cast is of full of newcomers, and they're all sharp with impressively natural and convincing performances.

It's immensely intriguing to see how the whole thing plays out. I was engrossed until the bitter end. Director Kevin Phillips is certainly one to watch, so catch this one on VOD as fast as you can.

( 8/10 )

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