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Big Hero 6  (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
Big Hero 6 (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
DVD ~ Ryan Potter
Price: $18.90
33 used & new from $15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A fluffy, marshmallowy Terminator, February 24, 2015
The animated short "Feast" that plays before "Big Hero 6" is like an extra helping of dessert before the main course arrives. Directed by Patrick Osborne (animation supervisor on "Paperman" and animator on other Disney films like "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Bolt"), "Feast" is the story of a young Boston Terrier puppy who is discovered on the street by a man. The man feeds the canine dog food, which snowballs into the man just giving this dog the most unhealthy food imaginable like bacon and eggs, spaghetti, and pizza to this dog; usually piled on top of its kibble. Over the years, the dog develops a taste for its master's bad eating habits but the man eventually meets a woman and falls in love.

As their relationship blossoms, the dog's special treats become nonexistent. The dog gets upset and turns its nose up at normal food. The man and woman eventually go their separate ways, which triggers a new era of incredibly unhealthy junk food once again. But the dog realizes how unhappy its master is so it takes matters into its own hands to fix things. "Feast" is adorable and amusing and is one of those genius animated shorts that uses nearly no dialogue.

The hereditary brilliance both Hiro and Tadashi share is almost unbelievable. Why would anyone need to go to college if they were already that intelligent? Their peers are quite the characters, especially Fred who seems to run on nothing but whimsical dreams of becoming a comic book monster. Maybe it's a way to hone a skill they already possess or because it's just something that seems fun and Hiro has all that cash from bot fighting he needs to blow through anyway.

The animated sci-fi adventure has the typical superhero film formula: you're introduced to their family and supporting characters, something tragic happens to somebody close to the protagonist, the hero falls into a funk and relies on his friends to snap him out of it, they discover a masked super villain using the hero's technology, and they must form a superhero team to save the day. "Big Hero 6" embraces those superhero roots and just rolls with it in the best of ways. The film is extremely funny when it needs to be (the fist bump will never be the same), heartbreaking when it's crucial to the storyline, and exciting throughout.

Baymax is the heart and soul of the film. The method in which Hiro is able to teach the robot certain things without it ever questioning its main objective is reminiscent of John Connor teaching The Terminator 90s slang in "Terminator 2." Baymax's drunken-like antics when its battery gets low is sure to get a lot of laughs. The perspectives used while Hiro is riding Baymax as they rocket through the sky is very similar to what was used in "How to Train Your Dragon 2" as Hiccup rode Toothless into battle. These really dynamic camera angles are able to put the audience directly into the action to make them feel like they're riding on the back of a superhero.

"Big Hero 6" seems to combine a ton of elements from some of the greatest sci-fi, action, and superhero films out there into one incredibly fun film suitable for the entire family. Besides "The Terminator," "Iron Man" and "The Avengers" come to mind and the villain has this Doctor Octopus aura about him. "Big Hero 6" is sensational and imaginative animation that will cater to any age.

No Tears for the Dead [Blu-ray]
No Tears for the Dead [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Jang Dong-gun
Price: $26.98
4 used & new from $19.98

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing action in atrocious packaging, February 19, 2015
South Korean filmmaker Lee Jeong-beom is capable of creating gripping and intense action thrillers featuring absolutely breathtaking violence and noteworthy performances. His previous film "The Man From Nowhere" is exceptional for these reasons alone. Maybe it was the four year gap between directorial features or that "No Tears for the Dead" has an absolutely horrendous English language dub, but it seems like Jeong-beom has lost the ability to stand firmly as a competent writer and director of South Korean cinema. It's as if filmmaking is represented by a ship that never slows down and is constantly catching momentum. Jeong-beom no longer has the sea legs to ride said ship and flounders about as he attempts to fight back the urge to leap overboard every chance that he has.

In addition to a dub track that rides on your last nerve, the dialogue is also atrocious. Gon is very cold and dislikes every person he comes into contact with solely because he has mommy issues stemming back to his childhood. He tells someone to "get the f--- out of his face" because they smell like garlic. Mo-gyeong relies on alcohol and prescription drugs to dull her grief and her doctor compares dealing with so many patient's pain to menopause. When asked why Gon is siding with his target he replies that he's just tired. It becomes painfully obvious that the screenplay is just lacking genuine dialogue.

It isn't like "No Tears for the Dead" is this brilliant foreign film that suffers from a poor English dub. The dub track certainly doesn't help matters, but the overused conspiracy storyline is too convoluted for its own good. There is a double cross in the film that makes no impact because the audience never has the chance to care about anything going on. You're too distracted by Mo-gyeong's daughter's awful voice that sounds like a 35-year-old woman trying to be cute and a "touching" scene being utterly annoying because of the irritating way that Mo-gyeong cries. It doesn't help that Gon decides to be the creepiest hitman ever by just lurking around for days and watches Mo-gyeong sob herself into a puddle of momentary comfort.

Besides a rather bloody sequence that opens the film, it takes over an hour for more violence to actually kick in. A glorious 3-minute sequence featuring messy action with exploding heads, severed fingers, sliced Achilles heels, and an endless array of bullets rolls out a blood red carpet and welcomes you to the second hour of the film. The concluding half of the film is pretty much all of the action you could ever want in a film like this. The action itself can be compared to Hong Kong cinema at its best, especially from the 80s and John Woo films in particular. There are moments where the film allows you to catch your breath as a viewer, but then decides that making you wait an hour for the main course is long enough and finishes in brutal fashion. The final scene of the film is a little confusing since that last scene in the elevator seems rather decisive over the fate of a certain character. It's as if this last segment was added just to show that Jang Dong-gun is capable of crying and showing emotion.

The excellence of "The Man From Nowhere" will easily trigger interest in Lee Jeong-beom's follow-up feature. What's interesting is that "The Man From Nowhere" is about protecting a little girl and "No Tears for the Dead" is finding retribution for a little girl that was killed. Lee Jeong-beom is more than capable of crafting exquisitely violent action sequences that are completely breathtaking, but all of the bloody violence in the world can't save a muddled story, horrid dubbing, and horrendous dialogue. South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun seems to be doing the best with what he's given, but his awful haircut can't help but help but give the impression that he looks like a South Korean version of Paul Reubens. "No Tears for the Dead" has some of the most satisfying and jaw-dropping action any film could ask for, but the other factors of the film are so weak that they fail to make as much of an impact or any sort of impact at all other than severe irritation.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 19, 2015 9:44 PM PST

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Price: $12.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obscenely and brutally shaken, not stirred, February 13, 2015
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" has done something revolutionary. This is a film that introduces a clothing line to cater toward all of the gentlemen out there, but it does so simultaneously with the film's release. It doesn't have a wave of successful momentum to fall back on. This is banking on financial success and famous faces to sell expensive menswear. It was very unusual seeing a screening kick off with a sponsor for a clothing line for the film we were about to see, but it's likely something we'll see more of in the future.

The opening credits are also a bit different. Everything that pops up on-screen before the "Kingsman: The Secret Service" logo appears is the result of an explosion. The rubble from that explosion bounces off the ground and onto the screen to form the credits. It's a little detail that makes something extremely simple very eye-catching.

The villain of the film is Richmond Valentine, who is played by Samuel L. Jackson. What distinguishes this role from the other memorable characters Jackson has played throughout his career is that not only is he physically repulsed by violence, but Jackson portrays Valentine with this incredible lisp. Valentine is essentially a sociopath with genocide on his mind for his own personal gain and the character is given this ridiculous and amusing twist because of his lisp.

The film itself has the same bite as "Kick-Ass," which was another collaboration between director Matthew Vaughn and comic book writer Mark Millar. At its core, "Kingsman" is about gentlemen stepping up and becoming spies so there's this element of proper behavior, spectacular hygiene, and looking one's absolute best at all times. But then there's that Mark Millar twist to the writing that throws a plethora of vulgarity and raunchy humor to not only make the film hilarious but more human and relatable, as well.

What's interesting is that if you just look at the action sequences without really thinking about it they seem really dynamic and spectacular. They speed up and slow down in a way that allows you to process everything that's occurring much like the action in "300," but it flows in a unique way. If you dig a little deeper, the action sequences seem like a homage to the action in the Timur Bekmambetov directed action film "Wanted," which is also based on a comic Mark Millar wrote. But the "Freebird" church sequence is just exceptional and worth the price of admission alone. Colin Firth reportedly did 80% if his own stunts and his work looks to have really paid off. This is really violent stuff that capitalizes on jaw-dropping moments to stroll from one victim to the next.

This is the feature film debut of Welsh actor Taron Egerton and he handles the role brilliantly. Egerton slides into the role of a punk kid with ease yet makes his uphill struggle sympathetic and interesting. His ability to do parkour results in a pretty great scene in the film, as well. Colin Firth is also just the definition of a gentleman who reels you in with all of the knowledge he's gained as a spy over the years. Even when Firth curses, he seems to do it in a polite way that is laugh out loud funny. Firth is practically a bonafide action star by the end of the film and would give John Wick a run for his money.

"Kingsman: The Secret Service" politely and eloquently clobbers you with undeniable wit, frantic yet unflinching action, and extremely adult but uproarious humor. Experiencing this film is like putting an R-rated spin on your favorite James Bond film or obscenely asking for Grey Poupon while you bash someone's face in.

Brotherhood of Blades [Blu-ray]
Brotherhood of Blades [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Chang Chen
Price: $12.96
25 used & new from $7.00

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intense action that lacks satisfaction, February 13, 2015
The moral of "Brotherhood of Blades" seems to be that money is unable to buy happiness. Those powerful and hungry enough to achieve luxurious wealth are the crooked, tainted, and evil individuals who make it impossible for the average working person to climb the corporate ladder. But this film deals with three men who are so desperate to reach that one big goal most would spend their entire life attempting to attain that they'll literally do whatever they possibly can to come to it this instant and that's one of the reasons the film plays out the way that it does.

Shen is in love with Zhou Miaotong (Liu Shishi), a young woman bound to a brothel and her paying customers. Shen is determined to buy Miaotong her freedom. Lu has been trying to get a promotion to help out his ailing parents yet is told that he doesn't make enough money to bribe the right individuals to get his name in the running. Finally, there's Yichuan, who coughs up blood in his phlegm the entire film. In between falling in love with Zhang Yan (Ye Qing), Yichuan is constantly stalked and mocked by Ding Xiu (Zhou Yiwei), a swordsman who studied under the same master as Yichuan and blackmails him around every turn while claiming to know his terrible secret. Once confronted by the three destitute assassins, Wei offers 400 taels of gold as a means to keep him alive. A desperate situation becomes life threatening after that proposition.

The camera is expertly positioned throughout director Lu Yang's wuxia action film. Not only does the camera seem to capture all of the action taking place, but it makes you feel like you're tagging along with a group of assassins on a dangerous mission or leading the way and looking back at who you're traveling with depending on where the camera is placed. The film's use of slow-motion is rather unnecessary. Everything involving horses or water is shown in slowed down to a crawl without much of a payoff.

The special effects are also completely fruitless. Most of the blood in the film has been digitally added in post production and is very obviously noticeable. The first big action sequence uses this effect so poorly that it almost looks 8-bit and somehow added in with a Nintendo Entertainment System. It gets more tolerable as the film progresses, but it's not a good sign when you find yourself rejoicing when actual red liquid is splattering on the wall an hour and a half in instead of disappearing in mid-air.

If you can get past that, the action is rather fast paced and enjoyable. The wuxia utilized in the film is subtle and similar to how it was used in "Ip Man." You can identify when wires are being used, but people aren't flying around all crazy like an old school Jet Li flick. The storyline gets a bit baffling in the final act and the actions of certain characters are too perplexing for their own good. Miaotong is so unstable and while the film tries to explain why she behaves the way that she does it just doesn't seem very logical. The Ding Xiu character is also kind of bizarre. He begins as this supporting character that seems to be channeling Toshiro Mifune and is very much a villain, but almost completely evolves into the exact opposite by the time we reach the end of his character arc.

The ending almost feels like it's purposely trying to frustrate the viewer. It's cryptic in the sense that everything is completely straightforward one minute and for nearly the entire film and then it just switches gears during the last two minutes. Heaven is either riding horses with your brothers in slow-motion in a field full of flowers or the fate of a certain character is just left entirely up in the air. Shen, Lu, and Yichuan give off this Rain, Thunder, and Lighting from "Big Trouble in Little China" kind of vibe. Whether that's worth rejoicing or not resides solely on how much you enjoyed John Carpenter's cult classic action film from 1986.

"Brotherhood of Blades" shows promise early on. A good conspiracy can always ignite a stagnant story and the action in the film is swift, intense, and impressive. But the feeble special effects really take you out of the action at times and the conclusion is a bloated misfire. Films are so much more simple when they start off good or bad and either escalate or deteriorate from there. They always seem to be more disappointing when they start off promising and snowball to lackluster mediocrity.

Jupiter Ascending (Blu-ray)
Jupiter Ascending (Blu-ray)
DVD ~ Mila Kunis

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The fanciful tale of an intergalactic toilet cleaner, February 7, 2015
There's this foreign factor of late 80s/early 90s cheesiness heavily sprinkled throughout "Jupiter Ascending" and it's as awkward as it is impressive. Maybe it's the presence of spasmic and overly colorful visuals, the way Channing Tatum roller blades in the air, or Balem's dragon/dinosaur henchmen that gives the film this "Super Mario Bros." meets "The Last Starfighter" kind of tone, but the Wachowskis delayed sci-fi actioner slips on its visuals like a barrel full of banana peels more often than not.

The action sequences suffer from a similar issue. As soon as the film triggers interest with something exciting the scenes immediately become too busy and have too much going on to process properly. Everything is so flashy yet unimpressive because of it. Imagine if George Lucas remastered and made a special edition of the "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" animated series from the late 80s like he did with the original "Star Wars" trilogy and you can visualize just how disappointing this is given the Wachowskis back catalog. One chase sequence in particular lasts around seven minutes and took seven months to shoot, but feels like it tries to cram too much into a short time period and ends up being extremely messy visually.

The acting is completely inconsistent, as well. Channing Tatum is even more one-dimensional than expected and seems like he's just there to be eye candy. On the other end of the spectrum is Eddie Redmayne who either barely speaks above a whisper or screams at the top of his lungs without warning or reason for doing so. In between the two is Mila Kunis who is nothing more than a sarcastic twit who makes bad decisions over and over again. Lastly, there's Sean Bean whose performance isn't exactly memorable but is noteworthy for the fact that it seems to break a long gestating curse regarding the fate of the characters he usually chooses to play.

"Jupiter Ascending" can be visually engaging at times and bends and warps the boundaries of space quite efficiently, but its storyline is very familiar, its special effects are more cluttered than Michael Bay's "Transformers" films, and is massively inconsistent as far as performances go. The film is so overloaded with "holy crap," glow in the dark regenerative goo, flying lizard henchmen, an out of place "Wayne's World 2" wedding, and a female who chooses to clean toilets over everything else that you hardly have the chance to enjoy the little things this sloppy sci-fi film has to offer; like Terry Gilliam's brief cameo. "Jupiter Ascending" is more of a motivational video for janitors and housemaids everywhere than a satisfying piece of entertainment.

Two Days, One Night [UK import, region 2 PAL format]
Two Days, One Night [UK import, region 2 PAL format]
DVD ~ Marion Cotillard
Offered by Cinema Cornucopia
Price: $44.99
3 used & new from $44.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Marion Cotillard illustrates her emotional prowess, February 7, 2015
"Two Days, One Night" is a very fascinating and genuine drama. It allows the audience to take a neutral standpoint and see the big picture from both the point of view of a mother who will face financial hardship without a job and the other employees who are relying on a new bonus to support their families. As Sandra makes her route door to door, the viewer gets to feel the compassion, the anger, the utter confusion, and whatever other emotions boil to the surface solely because Sandra is standing on their doorstep and asking for another chance.

You gain access into Sandra's life and see how this experience is beginning to eat at her existence. The entire incident makes Sandra weak and fragile as she slowly swan dives back into her sickness. Her time of need has her relying on medication more than the average person and it comes to a head at a pivotal scene later on in the film. Even though a good portion of the individuals need the bonus just to make ends meet, Sandra's journey is somewhat enlightening as it reveals just who her friends really are.

This film has a story that revolves around how actions not only affect you but everyone else around you. While it seems completely inhuman for a company to force employees to choose between such things, the truth is that this is what the world has evolved into as far as keeping your job is concerned for some people. Facing economic hardship is something that affects everyone; no matter what part of the world you live in.

Seeing how it affects Sandra and hearing how her relationship with Manu is struggling makes the entire experience all the more relatable. Depression is something just about everyone can sympathize with and as you witness Sandra continue to climb out of the cynical pit her life has thrown her into you also observe the obstacles in life that knock her back down, she even slips on occasion, and loses the desire to keep trying. But the important thing is she continues to get back up even when the odds are stacked against her.

"Two Days, One Night" is an incredibly powerful film. Jean-Dardenne and Luc Dardenne have birthed this overwhelming hour and a half overflowing with raw, human emotion. Marion Cotillard has taken on one of the most challenging roles of her career and has delivered a performance that is extremely rewarding. Sometimes it's not about conquering that unsurpassable mountain of depression and cynicism. Sometimes discovering who you can count on to help push you to that next goal you need in life is enough to overcome such hardships. That mindset of uncertainty yet continuing to endure is captured beautifully in "Two Days, One Night."

A Most Violent Year [Blu-ray]
A Most Violent Year [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Albert Brooks

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A very wearisome commotion, January 23, 2015
"A Most Violent Year" is J.C. Chandor's portrayal of a mafia power struggle in the early 80s. Each party can be considered guilty because nearly every one of them has something to hide. So who can be trusted and who is telling the truth? That's the predicament that Abel faces. In addition to Abel's financial woes, a district attorney named Lawrence (David Oyelowo) has decided to investigate him at the worst possible time. Abel's wife Anna is also at his throat about not keeping his family protected and threatens to take matters into her own hands. In other words, Abel is a lone wolf against every pack in the area.

On the positive side of things, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain are outstanding. Isaac shows this incredible amount of determination when the odds are undoubtedly stacked against him. Even when the task seems impossible, all Abel can say is, "I'll take care of it," and he usually does to the best of his ability. Chastain portrays a stubborn woman who is still trying to put her family first while washing her hands clean of the family business. When the two get together in a room by themselves it's often explosive or so quietly calm that it's like walking on eggshells before accidentally stepping on a landmine.

The rest of the film feels very elongated. Nobody ever really comes right out and says what Abel's business is and it takes a good 30 minutes to discover fuel is a key component to his success. The wild card of the film is a truck driver who works for Abel named Julian (Elyes Gabel). Julian is the first driver to be mugged. He's injured from the mugging, recuperates, and then gets into a shootout on the interstate his first day back on the job. He spends a good chunk of the film running from the police. His motives are completely unclear as Abel seems mysteriously calm about the entire situation. However the segments in between Julian's side story are rather uneventful. Seeing Abel train new recruits and watching a birthday party ruined by a search warrant doesn’t exactly contribute to the "most violent" part of the film's title.

Abel is trying to keep things as methodical and logical as he can, but Anna is so impatient about everything and entirely ruthless at her core. In reality, watching Abel scramble to find new financial backers two days before the deadline is rather uninteresting. There is a ton of drama and uncertainty in "A Most Violent Year," but very little payoff. A gun is fired once in the entire film and there isn't anything there to thrill or excite you. The story is equivalent to taking the longest way to a final destination while visiting every shop along the way. However those shops aren't really important and the destination is still reached despite a few hiccups. Imagine reading a choose-your-own adventure book where you still get to choose where you want to go, but all of the adventure is just completely absent in every way.

"A Most Violent Year" is similar to "Eastern Promises" in the sense that it seems to be building towards something that never materializes and is therefore disappointing because it lacks a climax and most of J.C. Chandor's crime drama is painfully dull and too comfortable in stagnant skin. It's as if the film is attempting to mine for oil, but can only strike oily discharge. That oil tries to blend with the usually compelling water of the crime genre for a satisfying conclusion but it never mixes properly. The film attempts to shake an enticing experience into its audience, but is never able to stir a proper response. "A Most Violent Year" is equivalent to drawing a gun on an unsuspecting victim and pointing it at them for over two hours before lowering the gun and eating a box of stale, saltine crackers instead.

American Sniper (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)
American Sniper (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)
Price: $22.99

7 of 59 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Destroying the hand that feeds, January 16, 2015
The biographical film is overly sentimental and corny early on. It feels like you witness all of Chris and Taya Renae's dating life throughout the entire first half of the film and it's just incredibly sappy and unnecessary. Bradley Cooper put on more than 40 pounds of muscle for the role of Chris Kyle and it shows. Cooper is believably Texan and quite massive. He has this aggressive intensity in his performance that allows the audience to realize just how passionate he was about getting this film made. It's a shame it feels like such a waste in the long run.

The underlying message of Clint Eastwood's film is that wars change people. The brotherhood between soldiers is thicker than blood. These men have often seen and experienced horrific things that most people can't even dream of, so their bond is very strong and unlike any other. Small talk amongst the soldiers is also a big part of "American Sniper." When the first half of the film isn't about Chris and Taya Renae dating, it's usually just a few American guys out in Iraq attempting to cope with being away from home. It portrays just how close soldiers are, but it also becomes a little tiresome. It seems heartless and inhumane to think that a man can lose every part of him that made him human because of a war and yet he's still like one of the guys when he's around other veterans; that's what "American Sniper" seems to illustrate.

The film is obviously based on a story that actually happened. Chris Kyle was murdered in 2012, so it's not only a fairly recent story but one that hits close to home as well. After viewing the film you can't help but wonder why in the world anyone would want to make a film like this though. It's an extremely noble thing to fight for one's country. Chris has constructed a legacy that will likely live on forever and the people he helped were likely changed for the better, but the real issue is the message the film portrays.

After nearly shutting himself off completely after his last tour in Iraq, Chris got psychiatric help. In the film, it seems like he just gets to the point where he can really start helping people; especially the ones that he understands like soldiers who were permanently injured from the war. Chris just gets back to a point of normalcy and has a breakthrough moment where he's doing something that helps his brothers when his life is taken away. The film ends on that note and seems to portray that you're betrayed right when you try to help someone and are the most vulnerable. Why would anyone want to portray such a discouraging message? The story the film is based on ends this way, so choosing this particular person and this specific story backs you into a corner but the real question is why? While the story of Chris Kyle deserves to be told it seems like a very depressing journey to make every film loving individual take just for the sake of highlighting a decorated war hero.

"American Sniper" seems like it's trying so hard to be this year's "Zero Dark Thirty" and it just isn't. The film is closer in tone to "Act of Valor," which despite its persistence to be an honest portrayal of the Navy SEALs was a complete entertainment-lacking dud. Bradley Cooper's devotion to portraying Chris Kyle accurately is admirable, but "American Sniper" is a bittersweet experience. Here's this truthful story about a man who was extremely skilled on the battlefield, did a lot of good for his fellow soldiers, and made his country proud but it's as if this entire Broadway play was performed on a stage of irrelevancy. At the end of the day it was all for naught and what good can come from shining an insignificant spotlight on that?
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 26, 2015 6:10 AM PST

Price: $12.99

43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Constructing a polished Ouroborus, January 9, 2015
It's pretty rare for a science fiction film to catch you off guard these days, especially films that utilize time travel as a plot device. Unless you've read the short story "All You Zombies" by Robert A. Heinlein, which the film is based on, then prepare for the unexpected with "Predestination." The film begins with being introduced to a character with the simple desire to bring the criminal he has been chasing for years to justice. After you've become somewhat comfortable with that character, the film shifts gears and throws an unpredictable monkey wrench into the works; another character with a complicated back-story who is driven by the withered clinch of vengeance.

The Spierig Brothers, who you can thank for films like "Daybreakers" and "Undead," have crafted this sci-fi enigma that is absolutely just as incredible as the story The Unmarried Mother shares. The first half of "Predestination" is just storytelling; sitting in a bar and listening to an unbelievable story while drinking booze and shooting pool, but then the bartender's mission kicks in and the time traveling aspect suddenly throws you for a loop. These characters are connected in a way that is just outstanding. Even when you think you have it figured out another little piece of the puzzle is revealed to take you by surprise.

Ethan Hawke is this determined machine of an agent, who does what he's told and does it well. Meanwhile Sarah Snook is someone who has been defeated at absolutely every turn and has given up on pretty much everything. Their paths intertwine in a way that isn't completely mind-blowing, but is certainly impressive. Going under the knife seems to be an ongoing theme as does clawing one's way to their predestined fate. Destiny for some is laid out in a straight line. The past, future, present, and whatever consequences of the events in "Predestination" are perfectly shaped into an extremely well-molded circle.

"Predestination" isn't as action packed as "Edge of Tomorrow," but its story is just as intricate. The film is easily as satisfying as the just as equally well connected Spanish film "Timecrimes." With an elaborate storyline that is laid out for you to enjoy every little twist and turn in time and strong performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook, films as good as "Predestination" should be required to kick off each and every new year.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2015 9:42 PM PST

Horns  [Blu-ray]
Horns [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Price: $8.99
32 used & new from $6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Daniel Radcliffe saves an uninspired dark fantasy film, January 6, 2015
This review is from: Horns [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
"Horns" is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King's son Joe Hill. This was one of the few times that the book had been read by this critic and a familiarity with the source material was actually present before seeing the film; a rare occurrence since finding the time to read is practically impossible anymore. However, like most of director Alexandre Aja's other filmmaking ventures, "Horns" shows promise early on only to squander anything remotely promising during its closing minutes.

After his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple) is murdered, Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is the prime suspect for her killing. The entire town, including his own parents, believe that Ig is guilty but he swears he's innocent. Ig's older brother Terry (Joe Anderson) and his best friend and lawyer Lee (Max Minghella) seem to be the only two peoplein town that believe Ig isn't at fault. Drowning in a pool of his own grief and cheap booze, Ig awakes one morning to find that he has horns growing out of his head.

Alexandre Aja has become acquainted with featuring exceptional gore in his films. The horror film "High Tension" was the first film to really get people talking about him, but the French director has mostly done nothing but remake films; "The Hills Have Eyes," "Mirrors," and "Piranha 3D" are all remakes. "Horns" is Aja's first adaptation and it manages to squeeze in one really bloody headshot just to remind you of who's at the helm.

Daniel Radcliffe deserves the most credit for trying to make "Horns" a worthwhile experience. The English actor puts on a very believable American accent and his performance is nothing short of brilliant. His screen presence is undeniably mesmerizing as his passion and determination bleeds through with every word he speaks, every ounce of alcohol he drinks, and every curse word he throws at the rotten predicament he finds himself in.

The rest of the cast isn't as complimentary. Juno Temple is pretty decent as Merrin, but Temple has made a name for herself playing troubled girls who get naked in front of the camera; so it's nothing special. Joe Anderson's line delivery is abysmal. His dialogue is delivered in this stiff monotone that is just nerve grating. However, the chimerical drug sequence he's a part of is one of the highlights of the film. The other big culprit is Max Minghella. Minghella is obnoxious in a way that his character's actions are more annoying than his actual performance. Lee is ridiculous once the climax of the story is revealed and Minghella is outrageously silly at his best because of it.

The greatest moments the film offers are the ones involving Ig and the individuals that succumb to the hypnotic nature of his horns. The horns unlock this unbelievable ability of allowing Ig to hear how people really feel about everything. There's no restraint and no filter; these are everyone's dark, sinful, and yet completely desirable secrets that are now at Ig's disposal. Ig unleashes everyone's demons around him by simply talking to them. The scenes that play out are often humorous in nature, but they never shy away from the film's hellish atmosphere.

It's very easy to get caught up in the story of "Horns." It's a fairly intriguing whodunit tale that keeps you guessing while adding this supernatural twist. Every lead seems to send Ig back to the drawing board and it leaves you wondering just who could have killed Merrin, but logic and its absorbing nature are completely destroyed once Ig takes off Merrin's necklace in the final ten or so minutes of the film. Things just get overly campy without warning and it's completely unexpected. It ruins everything the film had going for it. The film never really has the viewer feeling the compassion readers may have had while reading the original novel. It's as if the humanity of the tale is lost in translation.

"Horns" digs into a mystery that is well worth discovering every clue and following along to the bitter end. Daniel Radcliffe gives an absolutely incredible performance that the dark fantasy thriller doesn't really seem to fully appreciate. But the ludicrous ending derails the film from what was otherwise a gripping mystery thriller.

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