The Collection: Movie Review

the-collection-movie-posterIf you haven’t seen the first movie, be warned that there may be spoilers ahead.

After Arkin (Josh Stewart) was taken by The Collector at the end of the first movie, the villain has set his sights on a new target. The girl’s name is Elena Emma Fitzpatrick) and she happens to be the daughter of a very rich widower (Christopher McDonald). While Elena was being taken, Arkin manages to escape from The Collector’s clutches but he finds himself unwillingly returning to his hideout after he is blackmailed into joining a “rescue team” led by the family’s security expert Lucello (Lee Tergesen) to save the girl.

In the sequel, The Collector has graduated from simple home invasion and torture to massacre as he ruthlessly and efficiently eliminates an entire club of partygoers to get to his target. On one hand, it seemed badass because it escalated the villain’s MO but at the same time, I felt it was a kind of showboating to employ the shock factor.

While the sequel tried to remain consistent with the first movie, it seemed determined to top the original by employing more props, special effects, victims and decapitated bodies that seemed a bit over the top since it was established in the beginning that there was massive manhunt being conducted against the serial killer, and yet the hideout remained untouched. The Collector’s operation also seemed very organized and well funded as he was able to turn an abandoned hotel into his very own torture chamber with no one the wiser. The amount of equipment within the facility was bound to be expensive and with no backstory to support it , it seemed implausible at best. Turning an old laboratory into his hideout would have been better for the story.

If audiences suspend their disbelief for a moment, they will again find themselves biting their fingernails as Group 1: Arkin and the mercenaries and Group B: Elena, try to find their way our of the maze of booby traps that The Collector has set throughout the building. While predictable, horror lovers will get more than their fair share of brutal death scenes and action scenes as there are some pretty tough characters (although a bit cliche) that were cast.

And forget character development, this movie didn’t intend for audiences to care about the characters at all and just went on to proceed with the hack and slash which was its main difference from the first movie. The second film relied on shock while the first took its time to tease and taunt with the audiences’ psyche before it delivered on the gore.

As a result, the characters in the sequel seemed a little too good to be true — too tough, too resourceful, too noble, too much of everything — well except for Arkin because he has solidified his position in the viewers’ minds in the first movie. After all he went through, he earned it like a badge of honor. For the rest, they were kind of meh, instead of kickass like they were supposed to.

All in all, the sequel had a bigger budget ($10 M) a bigger cast and a bigger story. It had good execution but somehow, I couldn’t help but feel like it was relying too much on flash rather than substance as it didn’t stay very true to the original concept of the film. Like the character of The Collector in Part 1 and 2. The sequel relied on quantity over quality (remember the torture scenes from Part 1?) and for this, it became the weaker version.

The Collector: Movie Review

the-collector-movie-poster Its one thing to be totally scared of a home invasion movie, but its a whole other thing to have a composite of a psychotic torture movie with a regular B & E. Such was the case for The Collector, which my brother and I first watched when it came out in 2009. After my brother found out that there was a sequel in 2012 called The Collection, I decided to watch it again, and boy was I just as creeped out, if not more, six years later.

Arkin is a twice convicted felon for theft trying to turn over a new life and earning his keep as a construction worker. But the straight and narrow seems to evade him as his wife gets in a bind with some loan sharks who threaten their family. Against his conscience, Arkin breaks into the home of the rich family he is working for, thinking that they were leaving town for a vacation. Unfortunately for him, another predator has marked the home as well and he has a mean taste for torture.

When I first watched The Collector, I was totally scared. This is the type of horror that has enough blood and gore to rival the Saw movies. Each booby trap was well thought out and intricately done and because of the small space that was the house,  it seemed even more scary and dangerous to move around, adding to the suspense of the film.

As if the implied threat was not enough to scare the living daylights out of audiences, the film also employed several very macabre, and graphic torture scenes for good measure, leaving no doubt that The Collector is not someone who should be taken lightly. He is totally psychotic and the fact that he never showed his real face to the audience makes him a more menacing figure.

As for Arkin, I believe this film should have catapulted Josh Stewart to superstardom. Despite playing an antihero of sorts because he has flirted with the other side of the law, there is a certain vulnerability to the character and a certain morality that makes the audience root for him. First off, his soft spot for the little ones shows his humanity, and even while he was indeed trying to rob the family, he risked himself time and again to go back and save the Chases. His nobility was further exemplified by the fact that he was trying to protect the little girl Hannah, even willing to sacrifice himself just so the villain would not get his hands on the girl. And the amount of pain that he endured — even I was willing to give him a medal of valor.

All in all kudos to the entire team behind this low budget movie because they really were able to make the most of the $6 million budget allotted to them for this film. It was well executed from start to finish, and did not seem formulaic despite the fact that it borrowed some of the premise from other films. It was able to maintain a sense of mystery and drama despite the violence and craziness that was prevalent throughout the movie. It managed to retain a sense of humanity and make a hero out of an imperfect man and that’s what made it such a huge success in my book.

Gone Girl: Movie Review

gone-girl-filmI’ve actually been holding out watching the Gone Girl movie until after I’ve finished the book but because my almost all of my friends have already seen it and I didn’t want to spoil myself from listening to their discussions, I decided to give in and watch the film on video. After seeing it, might I just say that I am wrung out like a dishrag — emotionally and intellectually drained from experiencing this film but I am completely blown away by the brilliance of the plot.

On their fifth wedding anniversary, former New York journalist and current bar owner Nick Dunn (Ben Affleck) finds his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing with telltale signs of intrusion in their house. He immediately calls the police to investigate the “suspicious circumstances.” Unfortunately for Nick, he becomes the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance and his actions serve only to incriminate him further with each day that Amy is not found. With Amy’s disappearance becoming fodder for the national media, Nick finds each aspect of his life scrutinized, and his imperfect marriage placed under a microscope.

I’ve already said that this film is brilliant and I’ll say it again. It is. BRILLIANT. This movie adapted from a Gillian Flynn crime thriller was the perfect basis for a film of this magnitude. First, it unravels like layers of an onion, there’s Amy’s perspective, delivered from her journal entries. And then there’s Nick’s side, which is depicted in increments of days from when Amy started to go missing.

The best part about the approach is that the film initially charms the audience into caring for the couple, in a sense get to know them and care about them. In so doing, it manages to get audiences to worry about Amy, and about Nick as he makes one wrong move after another. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike couldn’t have played their parts any better and they embodied their characters to a T.

Without having to give too much away, the uniqueness of this film lies in its ability to engage the audience emotionally — each scene seems to be dangling a clue right in front of the noses of the viewers which compels them to feel the frustration of the characters. The movie also engages them emotionally because the characters are so flawed and relatable that people will be compelled to root for them to get through whatever their issues are at certain points of the film. The film was intelligently written. The first half of the movie alone would have been the end of any other movie but Gone Girl went the extra mile and proceeded to shock audiences even further by the extent of what bitterness, deceit and even love can push a person to do. In a way, the film employed the same strategy as Amy in its presentation and it worked out just as well with every aspect of the execution. It just succeeds in pulling out the rug beneath the audience’s feet every single time.

All in all, director David Fincher truly did the book justice and for her part, author Gillian Flynn did even better adopting her work to a screenplay. Its an exploration of every single marriage cliche, but twisted into a dark and sinister take on control, trust and fear and what these can do to a relationship. This is a film that needs to be seen to be appreciated and it calls for a great big kudos to everyone involved. I just can’t say enough good words. I am overwhelmed.

Run All Night: Movie Review

run-all-night-movie-posterOne lesson people need to understand about Liam Neeson movies. Never mess with his family.

In Run All Night, renowned hitman Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) has to protect his estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) from his best friend and mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) after Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) dies indirectly because of Mike. With the entire police force and hired guns after Jimmy and Mike, father and son are forced to work through their issues to survive the night and save Mike and his family from certain death.

The plot seems formulaic from the beginning, especially since Liam Neeson is known for his iconic role of Brian Mills in the Taken franchise. Sure, there were some adjustments as Jimmy Conlon is a hitman, and Bryan was more of a Black Ops CIA type of dude but both stories basically involves Liam saving his on-screen children from the bad guys. While it would seem unoriginal, it was a great marketing decision to involve Neeson in this movie because his reputation alone guarantees that people will pay to watch him take on insurmountable odds and emerge victorious in the process.

Unlike Taken however, the characters of Mike and Jimmy had a lot of issues that gets in the way of working together to survive the night. While I could not fault the character of Mike for being surly and not trusting his dad (he had a ton of daddy issues), I could not help but feel annoyed that he would go out of his way to treat his father like dirt, especially since his dad was the only thing protecting him and his family from the baddies trying to kill them. I felt that the daddy issues really ate at the potential of touching family moments that made the Taken movies so relatable and effective. What I loved about this film was actually the dynamics between Jimmy and his bestie Shawn. Because the characters were played by top notch actors, the relationship had a certain depth to it that makes each scene between the duo so poignant and so gut wrenching — even their last scene was so emotionally charged despite the silence.

The action in this movie was nothing to scoff at. There were car chases. There were gunfights. There was parkour and hand to hand combat and there was a respectable body count at the end of the movie. Kudos to the filmmakers for the pacing and for keeping audiences on their toes.

All in all, Run All Night was a good action movie. True, there were plenty of times that audiences would get the urge to smack Joel Kinnaman for disrespecting Liam Neeson, but this does not affect the overall impact of the movie in its totality. Unfortunately, the film suffers in comparison to other Liam Neeson starrers because the premise was just too similar and the execution did not manage to surpass the awesomeness of previous films. But I guess it was a handicap that the filmmakers were prepared for going into production. And at the end of the day, they managed to come out with a good product so I shall not begrudge them a well deserved pat on the back.

7 Days in Hell: TV Movie Review

7-days-in-hellAfter the heartbreaking Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones, I was happy to learn that Kit Harington (aka Jon Snow) was going to star in 7 Days in Hell, a TV movie produced by HBO Sports. What got me interested in seeing it was that it was a comedy starring no less than SNL alum and Brooklyn Nine Nine’s lead joker Andy Samberg. All things considered, its a promising premise in itself.

7 Days in Hell revolves around a fictional week-long Wimbledon game between tennis bad boy Aaron Williams (Andy Samberg), adopted brother of Venus and Serena Williams who returns to the court after a failed bid in the Wimbledon 1996 finals, and Charles Poole (Kit Harington), a dimwitted tennis prodigy who is pressured into winning by his overbearing mother and the Queen of England. The film is made up of fake interviews and fake backstories about the two contenders in the sport’s longest game in history.

I had expected the film to be funny when I watched the trailer but I didn’t expect to laugh out loud as much as I did upon seeing it. While Andy Samberg is an expert in physical comedy, Kit’s subdued portrayal perfectly complemented Andy’s over the top style. But while the film was centered on their legendary match, surprisingly, they had limited interactions, and almost none outside the courts, which was a shame because it would have been nice to watch.

What I liked best about the presentation was that the film was trying to actually tone down the comedy and used an approach much like a documentary. The effectiveness of the comedy lied with the audiences’ knowledge that the interviewees were all spouting a bunch of balderdash. Kudos to director Murray Miller and screenwriter Jake Szymanski for their excellent work in making the ridiculous so entertaining.

I must also commend Serena Williams and David Copperfield for keeping a straight face when they were talking about Aaron Williams and his antics, even when it was bordering on the absurd (which was 90 percent of their script). Award winning actor Michael Sheen also committed to portraying the lecherous sports show host Caspian Wint, which was totally cool. Comedians Lena Dunham, Fred Armisen and Will Forte, also nailed their portrayal as resource persons in the documentary to no great surprise.

All in all, 7 Days in Hell was ridiculous through and through. It had no objective except for keeping the audience entertained with mindless comedy. It was garish, it was loud, it was over the top and totally unlike HBO. But that’s what made it so unique and so effective. It may not be for everyone but I definitely give it my seal of approval.

It Follows: Movie Review

It FollowsI’ve heard good things about It Follows. This was the reason I hunted down a copy in the first place to see firsthand what the fuss was about. Unfortunately, I’m not as impressed as I would like to be with his supernatural horror movie.

Jay (Maika Monroe)  is a rather popular teen who is is seeing a a new boyfriend named Hugh. Hugh seems normal enough but at times, he acts weird like he sees people who aren’t really there. Still, it doesn’t happen too often so Jay lets it slide and lets the budding romance prosper. After they do the deed, Hugh unexpectedly hits her with chloroform and ties her down to a wheelchair, when she comes to, he starts blabbing about passing on something to her via intercourse and now she must pass it on to someone else in the same manner. Long story short, if she gets killed by “it”, her supernatural stalker immediately goes after the person who gave “it” to her and continues down the line to its origin.

The film had a nice 80s horror vibe to and it had great camera shots. I noticed that writer director David Robert Mitchell utilized a lot 360 degree panning to establish the environment. In the beginning there was a pretty groteseque death to establish the premise of the story that looked promising. Unfortunately, it was a promise that did not deliver.

My problem with It Follows was that there was really no story progression — no attempt to find out what “it” was or where it came from and why “it” always came in the form of a naked or half naked person. Was it a curse borne from sexual violence, and was it being passed on via intercourse? The film seemed to have hit a snag in the storytelling and stopped at the point where Jay the the was trying to get rid of her mysterious stalker . For half of the movie, there was cliche after cliche about teens and sex and horror movies.

I don’t know if I missed the symbolism in the movie that critics were raving about but for me, the pacing was atrocious and the ending was such a copout that it was super frustrating. The lead stars were not relateable nor charismatic. I kind of liked Jay’s sisters, but there was really nothing that compelled me to root for Jay to live – nothing at all.

All in all, I was sorely disappointed with It Follows. It just didn’t work for me, except almost put me to sleep. It succeeded in building up the suspense but failed to produce a climax or an ending worthy of a decent horror. Too bad.

Phineas and Ferb Last Day of Summer: A fitting farewell for an epic animated series

Phineas and FerbI must admit — when I first heard that the Disney Channel was pulling the plug on Phineas and Ferb after five seasons, I was truly saddened by the news. I knew the studio was batting for an animated series that would make them competitive in the boys’ market like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon (this the move to partner with Marvel) but I believe that this was one of the Disney original series that deserved the most support from the studio because it stood for something original and reflected the values that Disney itself has worked hard to inculcate in its programming for the longest time. It encouraged creativity and adventure and taught kids that everything is possible, and that age and youth is not a hindrance to making the impossible possible.

When the channel announced the last episode of the show, aptly titled: Last Day of Summer, I was curious about how the show would approach its swan song. At the same time, a part of me didn’t want to see it because it meant goodbye. Okay, I’m a thirty something professional and I am hooked on this show. Not only do I watch it everyday. I watch it during its 6 pm and 10 pm runs. Phineas and Ferb episodes make me smile. every. single. time. I believe life is too short to begrudge ourselves small joys like this one.

Last Day of Summer involved a typical day in the Flynn-Fletcher household, but because school will start in 14 hours, Phineas and Ferb wanted to do something special — something big and awesome, even more than the usual. For Candace, the stakes are higher because its her last chance to bust her brothers before summer is over. Luckily for her, she meets Dr. Doofenschmirtz while returning Vanessa’s DVDs where she chances upon his do-over-inator, which has the ability to reset time to the day before, thereby giving her unlimited chances to bust her brothers. But eventually, the re-dos start to affect the time space continuum and time rips start absorbing random objects and people into an alternate dimension. Unfortunately for Candace, her brothers get sucked into the time rip and she must do everything to get them back and repair the fabric of time before the entire Danville ceases to exist.

There are a lot of things I appreciate about the Last Day of Summer. While there wasn’t enough of Phineas and Ferb to keep me well and truly happy, I loved the fact the special made Candace realize the value of her relationship with her brothers and helped her appreciate them and the time they spent together. I loved that Doof finally got one over Roger, and at the end of the day, he realized he needed to work on his relationship with Vanessa more. In truth, I love the episodes that focus on their father and daughter dynamic and this was a good way to illustrate Doof’s love for his only daughter. As usual, his interactions with Perry and Norm were super funny and entertaining. I don’t know  but despite being the show’s resident villain, I have always had a soft spot for the Doc perhaps because of his truly dreary backstories.

Candace and Jeremy

PUPPY LOVE. Jeremy tries to impress Jeremy

I liked that showrunners incorporated the show’s running gags and popular one liners every chance they got but still kept it fresh so viewers don’t feel like they’re watching just a mash up of the show’s best moments. I sort of missed Jeremy and Suzy in this episode because I felt they were a big part of the show not to be part of the finale. Still, they had scenes in the flashbacks so I guess that’s enough.

I admit that watching the last episode was a bittersweet experience for me. I couldn’t help but get teary eyed when the closing song opened because it spoke volumes about what the show meant to each individual that became part of the show. I’ve been following the show enough to see how creators Dan Povenmire (who voices Dr. Doof) and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (who voices Major Monogram) pour their creativity and personal humor into the cartoon and their energy seems infectious to each cast member and illustrator.

Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh

THANK YOU. Show creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh inject their infectious energy and own brand of humor to each episode. You deserve this full sized photo on this post. (Disney)

All in all, the finale managed to communicate the show’s appreciation for its audience and did the best it could to make the last episode as fun and awesome as each episode, given that it was only limited to 45 minutes. There were a lot of great songs and a lot of fun moments among the gang that became a fitting farewell for a show that managed to inspire kids to enjoy their own 104 days of summer vacation. Perhaps, not of the same magnitude as our favorite triangle headed boy and Ferb (my favorite character in the series, by the way), but in their own ways. Phineas and Ferb inspires kids to be kids and its a rare novelty these days when children and teens are too preoccupied with playing online games and apps in gadgets. I’m gonna miss the gang for sure.