Review: Devil’s Knot

Devil's Knot

The West Memphis Three have been the subject of several documentaries in recent years. The Paradise Lost trilogy by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky documented the trial of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin, and their eventual release from prison. Amy J. Berg’s West of Memphis, co-produced by Echols himself and Peter Jackson, shed more light on the 1994 trial, and resulting prison sentence that lasted just over eighteen years.

All evidence that can be brought to light, has. Interviews have been conducted, evidence resubmitted, and it has all been thoroughly documented over the past twenty years. It would stand to reason that Atom Egoyan’s dramatic retelling of the trial would shed new light on the events that took place in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993. At the very least, that it might add a new perspective. Unfortunately, it does not. Would you like to know more…?

Review: THE HOBBIT: The Desolation of Smaug

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I had a full moment of clarity about why the people who don’t get these movies just don’t get these movies. An elf was talking to a dwarf in a dungeon under a palace carved out of a tree. It all seemed perfectly sensible to me, even the somewhat taboo elf/dwarf romance that was budding, but taken from the outside it’s outright madness in a lot of respects. It was madness made perhaps more digestible by the wartime pomp and circumstance of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but this new, lesser trilogy is, in its own, around-the-corner way, more like mainlining both Tolkien and Jackson in equal measure. There’s no on-ramp for the uninitiated here.

Which is a long way of saying that those who didn’t like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (or, heaven forfend, The Lord of the Rings) won’t find anything in The Desolation of Smaug to curb their distaste. It’s long as fuck. It’s a wholesale embellishment upon a relatively slender tale. It lacks the clear(er) narrative thrust of, well, a trilogy made out of an existing trilogy. And to an even greater extent than the first Hobbit film, Desolation has trouble locating Bilbo – the titular Hobbit going on an unexpected journey across the desolation of Smaug – as its main character. He disappears for what seems like days at a time.

Desolation has, roughly, twenty principal characters. It can’t successfully juggle them all, or even most of them. (For love or points, name a single scene in which Ori or Bifur are featured. In fact, name a single time Bifur even speaks.) The action centers for the most part on Gandalf and Bilbo and to a greater extent Thorin, and at least in the latter case, this is an improvement; Richard Armitage’s sullen dwarf hero is a dab more compelling this time than last.

Much of the film seems like a reaction to the reaction to An Unexpected Journey. The day-glo cartoonishness of the first film’s troll encounters and Temple of Doom runs through Goblin Town have been replaced by a muted (nearly to the point of black and white) visual palette and grisly goings-on. There are no songs. The story carries us from the Beorn episode through the gang’s first encounter with Smaug in the Lonely Mountain, and it does so rapidly. I was strongly reminded of the theatrical cut of The Two Towers, which also seemed to skip over niceties like character beats and breathing space in favour of hitting its running time. I expect the Extended Edition blu-ray of The Desolation of Smaug to be a belter.

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Review: Antisocial

Antisocial

I‘d written Antisocial off from the very beginning. A predictable plot line, horrendous acting, mediocre cinematography, poor sound editing – It had the makings of a truly magnificent pile of crap. Then I hit the 35-minute mark. Antisocial is an exhausted premise with a tired and clumsy twist. However, it packs some interesting punches, managing to escape being a complete waste of time. Ultimately, it’s a mediocre film with a heart of gold.

After Samantha (Michelle Mylett) is unceremoniously dumped on a public video chat, she slinks away to a New Year’s Eve party with some friends. Licking her wounds, she deletes her account on the social media platform responsible for her humiliation, TheSocialRedRoom.com. Once the party gets started, so does the mayhem, as news breaks of a series of violent crimes and deaths related to cyber bullying. Progressively, it becomes clear that some kind of cyber disease is spreading, turning people into crazed zombies. The group barricades themselves in their home, hoping that should keep the infection at bay. It doesn’t.

The message is clear, and it’s old, boring, and predictable. Social media and social networking sites are bad. They turn our brains to mush, isolate us more than they connect us, and are facilitating the propagation of a society of self-absorbed, self-indulgent, mindless, egomaniacal teenagers and twenty-somethings. We get it. Would you like to know more…?

Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Screenplay:  Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, and Steve Zahn.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 117 min.

Dallas Buyers Club

A clear Oscar contender, Dallas Buyers Club continues Matthew McConaughey’s recent streak of monumental roles. A moving film that focuses on the AIDS epidemic during the late 1980’s, it manages to captivate if only moderately. While it delivers some of the best performances in years from McConaughey and costar Jared Leto, it lacks a clear focus, and struggles with pacing. Though it is compelling, it doesn’t manage to carry its own weight.

Though not a biopic, the story centers on antihero Ron Woodroof. A blue collar Texan electrician, misogynist, cowboy, homophobe, and drug addict, Woodroof finds out he’s become HIV positive. Likely due to one of his many conquests, he is thrust into a world he’d never imagined he’d become a part of. Given the looming prognosis of 30 days to live, he refuses to admit defeat. “Sorry, lady,” he shouts to his physician, Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), “but I prefer to die with my boots on.” Venturing across the border for healthier alternative medication to then toxic AZT, he proceeded to bring them back to Texas in order to help others like him: the sick and dying without a shot in hell.

It’s an excellent film, but Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t seem to have a clear point. Ron Woodroof’s story is a compelling one, but this isn’t a biopic. It touches on the toxicity of AZT, the first U.S. Government approved HIV treatment, but only as a plot device. Similarly, it introduces the drug abuse and latent homophobia that ran rampant when AIDS became an epidemic, but never forms a dialogue on the matter. All of these factors come together to form a touching, and entertaining film that winds up blindly trying to hit a strong point, and ultimately missing. Would you like to know more…?

Review: Europa Report

Europa Report (2013)

Director: Sebastián Cordero

Writer: Philip Gelatt

Producers: Ben Browning, Matt Levin, Michael Maher, and Jeremy Kipp Walker

Starring: Christian Camargo (Dexter), Embeth Davidtz (Mad MenSchindler’s List), Anamaria Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), Michael Nyqvist (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium), Dan Fogler (Fanboys), and Isiah Whitlock Jr.

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running time: 90 min.

 

Caught between straight science fiction and a monster flick, Europa Report is about a team of scientists sent to one of Jupiter’s moons in search for signs of life. Shot in the found footage style with elements of a documentary film, it hopes to bring our infinitesimal significance in the universe to the foreground of scientific discovery. Unfortunately, through melodramatic editing and poor choices involving the inclusion of cheap thrills, Europa Report looses its focus on a pertinent topic surrounding scientific discovery today: the insignificance of human life compared to the discovery of the cosmos.

Filmed in conjunction with the real life discovery of bodies of water on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa Report sits on the fringe of fiction. A scientific journey into the not-too-distant realm of possibility, it positions itself early on as an exploration of the value of human life in the face of the infinite abyss of space. Would you like to know more…?

Review: Je Ne Sais Quoi

Je Ne Sais Quoi poster by Keegan Wenkman

Director: John Koch
Writers: John Koch
Starring: Dave Andrae, Victoria Nohl
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: approx. 90 min


In the midst of summer blockbuster season, it’s nice to head in the direction of the “dustier” corners of the city and find cinema that is of the slightly more independent fare. Or in the case of Je Ne Sais Quoi, extremely independent fare. It’s quite a treat to get away from the lowest common denominator crowds at the multi-plex and take in some true art that’s not only enjoyable, but also inspirational for its heart and indie spirit.

I have to admit right off the bat for being a bit biased towards this film. It is shot entirely on location in my home city of Minneapolis and the fact that the cast and crew are also natives of Minneapolis of course raises my brows maybe more than the next guy. Still, one must look at a film objectively as possible and gauge it on its merits, not necessarily how close it sits to your heart. And I have to say, Je Ne Sais Quoi works really well throughout most of its running time. It’s got some hints of technical problems and first time screenwriter-itis, but all in all most enjoyable and funny.
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R3 Review: The Happening

Director: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, The Village, Lady in the Water)
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Producers: M. Night Shyamalan, Barry Mendel, Sam Mercer
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 91 min


Another debate filled, joint review from a few of the contributors here at RowThree.

Synopsis: A mysterious breeze of air brings about mass suicides to an unexpecting east coast. We follow one small group of people as they go on the run; desperately trying to survive, while simultaneously attempting to solve the mystery as to why this could be happening.

read all of our reviews below…
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Review: The Incredible Hulk

Incredible Hulk poster

Director: Louis Leterrier (Transporter I & II, Danny the Dog)
Writers: Zak Penn, Edward Norton
Producers: Avi Arad, Kevin Feige, Gale Anne Hurd
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 114 min


How much can really be said about The Incredible Hulk? Bruce Banner’s version of Mr. Hyde is about as brainless as it gets. With sub-par acting, seen-it-before action sequences and cameo/throw-back gimmicks, most of my in-theater time was spent thinking about which movie to sneak into next.

Bruce Banner (Norton) is a man on the run from the military. He hides a secret genetic code within his blood that John Hurt and the rest of the military command want to use as the ultimate biological weapon. Banner, meanwhile, is hiding out in a third world country trying desperately to find a “cure” for the gamma ray induced defect in his blood; which, when his heart rate goes above a certain point, causes Banner to morph into a raging, angry, green beast that can “toss a forklift like it’s a softball.”

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Cinecast Episode 88 – Strangers and Old Friends

cinecast_promo.jpg


This Episode:
Serena Whitney from horrormovies.ca adds some life to the show and chimes in on The Strangers review (that does get a bit SPOILERIFIC). Also a brief discussion on where the horror genre is and where it’s going. And like a good girl, Serena gives her thoughts on Sex and the City. Also some DVD choices and other nuggets…

Unwrap the complete Show Notes (fairly image and trailer heavy this episode)…
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