A Cure For Wellness (2017) Review

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A young man is sent to a wellness institution in the Swiss Alps in order to retrieve a colleague. When he gets there he discovers that those who are admitted into the institution don’t want to leave. It isn’t long before he finds himself admitted and discovering the dark secrets of the building.

A Cure For Wellness is a movie that keeps your attention from beginning to end. And this is a huge deal because the movie is nearly two and a half hours long, so I was really worried I would get bored. Throughout the movie, some secrets are gradually revealed until it all leads to the final reveal. The story is really engaging but at the same time one of its biggest flaws is that it feels very bloated with so much going into it. It all fits, but the problem is they could have made it much more simple instead of trying to add all of these different ideas in the plot. The fact that it felt the need to add so many plot points and devices is what causes it to have such a long running time. And while even though I didn’t find it boring, it was a very unnecessary length. So much of it could have been taken out. A good chunk of the movie is our lead wandering around the facility and playing detective. This is an example of what could have been taken out, along with the fact that they could have simplified much of the backstory. I respect it for trying to play it smart and make all of the plot devices fit into the story, but in the end, a much more simple and straightforward story would have sufficed better. While the twist is fairly interesting, it is way too over-thought in how to make it work. It got to the point where I almost thought the deer that caused the accident for the lead to be admitted into the facility was part of the whole thing. I don’t want to trash it too much though because it does try to be different than, for example, Shutter Island. And at some point it seems like it’s going be exactly like that one. But to its credit it does what it can to be really different from movies of its type. It’s really weird, makes you think about what’s going on, what will happen next, and just what the hell you just watched. But plain and simple, it just tries to play it TOO smart for its own good. But for me personally, what I liked most was the amazing atmosphere and cinematography. It’s so beautifully filmed with amazing scenery, and just a gloomy and often chilling atmosphere. It’s by the same director of The Ring (Gore Verbinski), so it really captures the same gloom and dread feeling of that movie. The facility itself is also a great character in itself and the production design of it is as beautiful and haunting as the cinematography. In terms of acting, I really haven’t cared for Dane DeHaan, and he’s not any better here. He’s very bland and has this very unlikable demeanor about him, the character isn’t very likable either, and I feel that can go either way whether it’s DeHaan’s fault or the character. Jason Isaacs however turns in an excellent performance as the film’s villain. For a majority of the film he has the calm exterior, but you know inside there’s a monster waiting to show itself. So when that happens at the end, Isaacs lets it all out. Mia Goth stars as the mysterious character named Hannah whom is considered a “special case” by Isaacs’ character. Goth captures the mysterious Hannah in a way that leave us wanting to know who she is, while even being unsure of herself. Not only does she portray Hannah’s mysteriousness well, but she also captures how damaged Hannah is and how trapped she feels within the confines of the facility.

A Cure For Wellness is a beautifully filmed and directed movie with a fresh story, some good acting, but the script overdoes itself just for the sake of not trying to be simple, which would have worked better. It gets props for being thoroughly engaging for its lengthy (but unnecessary) runtime, but it definitely could have trimmed much of its content.

3.5/5

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XX (2017) Review

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XX is a horror anthology film featuring four stories written and directed by four different women. In the first story “The Box” it tells the story of a young boy who meets an elderly man on a train with a box, the old man shows the boy what’s inside and afterwards the boy begins to starve himself, leaving his parents worried about what happened that day. “The Birthday Party” is about a mother who is trying to throw her daughter the best costume birthday party ever, however she finds her husband dead and now has to try dispose of the body before the guests arrive. “Don’t Fall” follows four friends who go camping in the desert, but after coming across weird rock paintings the friends find themselves dealing with demonic forces. “Her Only Living Son” involves a woman who discovers her son is developing odd and disturbing behavior as he’s about to turn eighteen.

The latest anthology horror film is particularly special because it proves that women are just as capable of directing horror films as men are. The talented women at hand do just that. Each story is really well-directed, even if some of the stories aren’t exactly the best written, but they do an excellent job of bringing their vision of the story to life and how it’s presented. Like most anthology horror films, this one is a mixed bag. “The Box” (written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic) has an extremely interesting premise and I was invested the whole time, sadly it ends with a pretty unsatisfying ending where nothing is really revealed. “The Birthday Party” (written and directed by Annie Clark)  was hands-down my favorite entry. This one is definitely the least horror-filled and is instead more of a creepy black comedy. Melanie Lynskey plays the lead and she’s no stranger to playing odd characters, but Lynksey is excellent here and provides very great comedic moments with pretty minimal dialogue. The story in general is one of the better dark humor stories I’ve seen and it made me almost want to rewind this segment and watch it again. “Don’t Fall”  (written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin) was the strongest of the stories in terms of being an actual horror film and really made wish it was a little longer. It offers a very creepy setting in the nighttime desert setting, and the imagery of the demon released is super well-done and creepy. The friends are pretty likable and come off as realistic in how they joke around with each other and the overall interactions. So you do care for them. Angela Trimbur proves in this segment that she is totally capable of being the main girl as opposed to always playing the slutty party animal best friend, so here’s to hoping other horror directors see what she’s capable of doing. Sadly the weakest story was Karyn Kusama’s “Her Only Living Son”. I was really looking forward to Kusama’s because I absolutely loved her previous horror films Jennifer’s Body and The Invitation. But this one just came off a very basic, predictable, and pretty boring. You can see where Kusama’s vision is at, but it just needed a stronger script, and truthfully the acting wasn’t that great. Between each story are weird stop-motion-animated segments. In general they’re really well-done and set the odd and weird mood for the film, but in all honesty, they weren’t particularly necessary other than to be fillers to extend the runtime.

XX doesn’t follow full-on horror anthology tropes, but it does a fine job of mixing it up with weird, creepy, and humorous ones. Some are better than others or end up being missed opportunities, but they’re all wonderfully directed and fit well together. Not only does it show the abilities of its female directors, but it shows the potential of under-looked actresses like Melanie Lynskey and Angela Trimbur and what they can bring to the table.

3.5/5

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The Great Wall (2017) Review

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Two warriors on a hunt for black powder encounter the Great Wall of China and end up having to help defend the imperial city from a hoard of green monsters and their queen (this is supposedly what they were REALLY trying to keep out).

I wasn’t a fan of this movie at all. The trailers caught my attention and it seemed like it would be an at least entertaining movie. I mean, from the people behind Pacific Rim and the recent Godzilla movie, and amongst other Warner Bros. and Legendary films, you at least expect that. This turned out to be one of the most bland and boring action/adventure films I’ve seen. There is just no substance to the movie whatsoever. It goes from a battle with the big green lizards, to the characters talking about strategies or developing trust with each other, and then back to the battles. This is legitimately the whole movie in this repeating process. The fight scenes are decent, but even those are lacking and structured the same. Visually the movie is really nice, I can get past the CGI lizards (as hard as it is), but when it comes to the violent deaths and blood, it’s pretty ridiculous and would have fared better with looking less CGI in that respect, essentially an R-rating would have at least helped make the blood and violence look decent. As mentioned above, this movie is very bland and boring. Besides being repetitive, there’s just nothing to the story whatsoever, nothing and nobody is ever explained or given enough background. This resulted in me not really caring about the characters. So it says something when you are rooting for the monsters to just kill anyone off. In actuality, the only appealing character is hardly given anything to do until this character dies near the end. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but there were so many instances in which I was thinking of the movie Mulan and comparing the lizards to the Huns trying to get into the city and attacking the emperor, Matt Damon is basically Mulan, and the Asian woman would be the Chang character. It all fits when you think about it. Along with nothing being developed in the script (the characters and barely the lizards), we given humor that is so forced that it becomes annoying really fast. And finally, the acting is just pitiful. I admit I’m not the biggest Matt Damon fan (aside from Good Will Hunting and the Bourne films), but even I could tell he was half-assing this movie and not feeling it. The same goes for the rest of the cast including Willem Dafoe (who really had no purpose in this movie whatsoever). But the worst of all was Tian Jing as the strong female Commander. She provided nothing to the role and had zero emotional depth except for when she plays the overreacting female who gets her “trust” broken. Suck it up buttercup, that’s life. But then she gets proven wrong two minutes later and tries to play it cool like she never overreacted in the first place.

Had this been rated R and they used less CGI for the blood and violence (and possibly no horribly CGI’d monsters), a much stronger and non-repetitive script with substance, as well more lively performances from the cast, this could have been better. Pretty visuals and okay-ish action scenes can only do so much for a movie. But even those didn’t keep me from wanting to fall asleep or check my watch constantly.

2/5

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5 Good Movies To Watch On Valentine’s Day

That “romantic” day of the year is tomorrow. Some of you may be going out for a romantic dinner and maybe a movie (more than likely guys will be dragged to Fifty Shades Darker), and some may just have a nice night at home with dinner and could watch some better (or at least slightly better) movies.

Valentine’s Day

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First there’s the obvious choice, Valentine’s Day. A whole bunch of romantic-comedy storylines combined into one. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not my personal favorite rom-com. It had some good stories like Julia Roberts’ and the funny one of them all featuring Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace. Even if I’m not crazy about it, it is the obvious choice and pretty perfect watch for Valentine’s Day.

How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days

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Another rom-com that is perfect for the romantic holiday is How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. To me this is the ultimate romantic comedy (along with The Proposal) because it really has something for both male and females. It has the romance for the women and the good comedy for the men. Then of course you have the eye candy. But what really sets it apart from most rom-coms is that it focuses on both sides of the spectrum and captures both males and female in a relationship in this battle of the sexes film. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey both have really strong chemistry and do really well with the comedy.

A Walk to Remember

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If you’re looking for a straight-forward romance to cuddle up with to your loved one, you can’t go wrong with A Walk to Remember (unless you’re a die hard Notebook person). It has a very endearing love story between two young people from different worlds. It’s cheesy, but it’s a very cute cheese, and it thankfully came out before all of the tragic romances (aka Nicholas Sparks films) became old and tired. As far as tear-jerkers go, it’s one of the best. And Mandy Moore and Shane West are terrific.

Valentine

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Or maybe you’re like me and would prefer to watch a horror movie involving this holiday. Valentine is a pretty fun slasher film, especially if you’re a man who has bitter feelings on Valentine’s Day or if you’re vindictive woman against sexy and snobby women, then this one may be for you. It’s about a group of friends who begin receiving threatening Valentine’s Day cards from a masked killer whom they start to think was a classmate they humiliated at a Valentine’s Day dance in high school. Sounds fun right?

My Bloody Valentine

Whether you choose the traditional slasher original film, or the trashy and gory remake, you can’t go wrong with either for a fun time. They’re both about a killer dressed in a mining outfit who terrorizes a small town on Valentine’s Day, killing anyone who celebrates it. As I said, the original is pretty straightforward with just a mild amount of blood, but still good fun. The remake follows the same story but has some changes to it, and has plenty of nudity and gore added to this version.

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Havenhurst (2017) Review

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Jackie (Julie Benz) is a recovering alcoholic who loses her daughter in an accident due to her drinking. In an attempt to start over, as well as figure out what happened to her missing friend Danielle (Danielle Harris), she moves in to the large Havenhurst gothic apartment building under the management of the rule-oriented Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan). As Jackie lives there, she begins to uncover dark secrets about the buildings history and what happens to the tenants when they don’t live up to building’s rules.

The film starts out with the most disappointing cameo since Katherine Isabelle in The Girl in the Photographs. And this is quite probably worse. It’s worse due to the fact that this is Danielle Harris we’re fricken talking about, and she gets a measly 3 minutes or so of screen time before she dies, and the scene itself could have been really good had it been longer, but even worse, much of those 3 minutes are shown in the trailer. Mini rant done. Havenhurst actually as a really good set-up for itself. We have a very nicely constructed and creepy setting with some good set pieces, along with a good mystery to it. The lead character is likable, even though she has the most overdone backstory ever and clearly she has to do something to redeem herself for her past. But despite that you do care for her. The supporting characters aren’t really well-developed, but they’re painted as naturally shitty people, so it’s not exactly a big loss. The history revealed about the building is actually fricken cool. I admit I knew nothing much about the real history that was borrowed to use towards the story of this movie, but upon some google searching it’s very interesting. So unless certain elements leading up to the reveal stand out to you that you may know where it’s going, it’ll be a nice treat for you. But sadly once this is revealed, it doesn’t go much further with it. Which really is a huge shame, because for such a big reveal you really want it to go into that area more. This goes hand-in-hand with the overall motive. There’s not much connection between the reveal and the motive behind that disappearances that I could tell. Unless I missed something in my googling, then my bad. The death scene do have some pretty nice blood and gore images though  but doesn’t get too carried away with them.

Julie Benz turns in a well-done performance as per usual as the lead, which in turn does help in making the character likable and sympathetic, because I feel that given to the wrong actress, she could have half-assed it and made you not give two shits about Jackie. Fionnula Flanagan does a fine job as well, but I wish she could have been given more eerie moments involving her character than we got, because as she she displayed in The Others, she sure as hell can be creepy. And then in her minuscule role, Danielle does as well as she possibly can and at least we get her scream we all know and love.

Havenhurst has a great setting and set pieces and good performances, and is given a solid reveal, but it’s a huge victim to not reaching the potential it could by going further with this reveal.

2.5/5

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Don’t Hang Up (2017) Review

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Sam (Gregg Sulkin) and his best friend Brady (Garrett Clayton) get their kicks out of prank phone calls and recording them and are put on their blog. But these are typical prank calls. They’re actually very menacing and dark prank calls. The first scene depicts them pranking a mom (Sienna Guillory) home alone with her daughter, and the two boys convince her there is a mad man in the house and that her young daughter is in danger. When Sam’s parents are out of town, Brady comes over and the two commence with their pranks as well as drinks. However, they get a call of their own from a madman who knows what they’ve been up to and decides to have some fun with them. The two then find themselves as well as those they care about in danger.

Don’t Hang Up is actually a pretty fun teen slasher film. It’s has elements of Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls, but with a modern and tech savvy twist. The whole is set inside the one house and it does a great job of putting you inside of it with the characters with their sense of paranoia. Now it sure as hell doesn’t match up to the scares of the aforementioned films, but for what it is, it does a hell of a job of keeping your attention waiting to see what will happen next, and some generally well-constructed suspenseful moments. The cinematography is often really well-done too with some of the camera techniques reminding me of how Panic Room was filmed. The two leads aren’t exactly the most likable because of how really mean-spirited the pranks are, but as the film does progress, you do develop some attachment to them and their bond. There are some inconsistencies in the script like how the killer tells them they are to not hang up, but there are many times where they do hang up and the killer doesn’t pay much mind to this like he does when they do it the first few times he calls. Like I mentioned, the movie is really engaging from beginning to end, and besides the prank calls, it does a good job of making these two come off as real teen boys in their behavior and dialogue. Unfortunately what hurts the movie is the extremely predictable ending. I was honestly really disappointed that it went that route.

The acting is pretty decent. Gregg Sulkin does really well and probably gives more than he really needed to in the role. He shows the side of his character that gets kicks out of the pranks, but knows when enough is enough. But more than anything he does an excellent job of showing the fear and terror his character feeling. Unfortunately Garrett Clayton turns in a less than good performance (in terms of emotions). In all actuality it’s his character should be having the biggest emotional reaction (as his parents are being held hostage by the madman) but instead he fails to really deliver any genuine reaction. Emotional-wise Clayton lacks, but he does well with his comedic moments of being the typical teenage douchebag. In her smaller role, Sienna Guillory (known for being Jill Valentine in the Resident Evil films) makes her small screen time worthwhile.

Don’t Hang Up is a fun often thrilling movie that does really well with it’s one location and developing the two leads as well some fine performances, but the predictable ending unfortunately hurts it from being the solid horror film I wanted it to end up being.

3.5/5

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Fifty Shades Darker (2017) Review

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Following the events of Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) has left Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) because of his twisted desires. But upon reconciliation, the pair try to start out fresh; meaning no rules, no contract, no crazy sex abuse. Just a pure vanilla relationship. Just when things begin to be going well, people from Christian’s past threaten to tear them apart.

Let me start by saying I hated the first film. I thought it was a pure garbage film with no purpose or real story. The sequel is a major improvement over the last film. It’s not a trashy sex film with no substance. This movie plays out much better as a film and story. We actually see a struggle between our two leads not only from the outside forces, but just general relationship aspects. The struggles come from Christian’s fears of becoming close, and Ana’s struggles of trying get Christian to open up. Surprisingly it does a good job of presenting all of this. When the outside forces come into play it adds a lot more intensity to the story. Of course with it being Fifty Shades, there are sex scenes. And compared to the first film with sex scenes that are complete garbage, the sex scenes in this one feel real in the sense that hot and steamy without being ridiculous. Some of Christian’s “toys” come into play, but again, they work more in a kinky sense and not twisted abuse. While Shades Darker may be an improvement over the last film, it’s still far from being considered a GOOD movie. There is a lot of this movie that is super cringeworthy that makes even the most real romantic movies gag. So much of the romantic scene are laughably ridiculous, and even down to the dialogue is just terrible and tries to be cute, which will only work for the most easily swooned. It’s sad that if this wasn’t part of an overall crappy trilogy and the if the script was stronger, this actually could be considered a good film.

In terms of acting, Dakota Johnson turns in a really good performance. She was decent in the first film, but she has so much more to work with in terms of her character in this film that she can really break out. While she and Jamie Dornan have better chemistry this time around, it’s Dornan that once again proves that he may have the looks and some charm, but he is a very one-note and wooden actor. The always talented Marcia Gay Harden provides really the best performance in the movie and offers the more heartfelt and even humorous moments as Christian’s mom. Eric Johnson is the new addition to the trilogy as Ana’s obsessive boss and really delivers in the creepy role. And speaking of creepy roles, Bella Heathcote plays Christian’s previous submissive, whom has since had a mental breakdown and becomes obsessed with Christian and wants Ana out of the picture. Bella totally gets screwed over with her role, she does an amazing job with what she has, and when she finally gets a chance to do something, it’s over very quickly. Then we have Kim Basinger, who turns in a performance more wooden than her clearly plastic surgery screaming face.

Fifty Shades Darker is an improvement over the last film in different respects, but it still suffers from pretty poor writing and dialogue, and another effortless performance from Dornan.

2.5/5

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