31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 29 – Monsters (2010)

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Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able

Screenplay: Gareth Edwards

94 mins. Rated R for language.

 

Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) is living proof that anyone can make a movie, even if they have to play multiple roles, which he did, as director/writer/cinematography/production designer/visual effects on the film. But how is the finished product?

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Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy, TV’s Halt and Catch Fire, 12 Years a Slave) is an American who has been hired to escort his boss’s daughter Sam (Whitney Able, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, A Walk Among the Tombstones) from Mexico across to the U.S. The only way to get there? Go through the “infected zone” where alien creatures have taken over in a world where humans have adapted to the idea that they are no longer the dominant species on Earth.

The visual effects on the film, which were made on a single computer with store-bought software, are terrific. Director Edwards commands his film and doesn’t settle for less than great. As for our story, there isn’t much of one. I don’t think he realized how much the plot would have to fend for itself here, and the plot is nothing new.

McNairy and Able have great chemistry (they were dating at the time) but they just don’t have much to do. There is a lot of needless exposition of the characters that doesn’t make them very compelling. I’d rather learn about the world that has been built.

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Monsters is a pretty incredible film for its backstory, but as far as entertainment goes, general moviegoers won’t find much to love here. Filmmakers like myself love the idea that one man can be so driven by his need to create, but the film itself is less than remarkable.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, click here.

Taken (2008)

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Director: Pierre Morel

Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Holly Valance, Katie Cassidy, Xander Berkeley, Olivier Rabourdin, Gerard Watkins, Famke Janssen

Screenplay: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

93 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language.

 

There was a time, not too long ago, when Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, A Walk Among the Tombstones) was not thought of as an action star. Think about that. Think about it.

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Bryan Mills (Neeson) is a retired CIA agent who spends his time in solitude while trying to build a relationship with daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, Lockout, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2). When Kim wants to go to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy, TV’s Arrow, Monte Carlo), Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen, TV’s Hemlock Grove, X-Men) is fine with it, but Bryan has his reservations. When his fears become true and Kim and Amanda are kidnapped in Paris, Bryan’s old CIA skills rise up and take over as he heads to France to find his daughter and get her back…and get revenge on those who took them.

Taken was a bit of a surprise for me. While I liked Liam Neeson from his work in Batman Begins and Schindler’s List, I never thought much on the one-man army concept working for him. I was wrong, and am happy for it. This is a nonstop thrill ride of immense proportions. Neeson kills it as Mills, and director Pierre Morel (From Paris with Love, District B13) keeps the film rollicking along. It isn’t perfect, but it is one of the better films to be dumped during the dry season for action films.

There isn’t anything truly special about the cinematography or the editing, the music is pretty nice but nothing amazing, and the direction isn’t going to win any major awards, but the film is still a fun time carried by a veteran performer and his ability to win fans over.

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Taken is pretty great, but not entirely well-made. See it for Neeson. See it. For Neeson. Yeah.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Earth to Echo (2014)

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Director: Dave Green

Cast: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt

Screenplay: Henry Gayden

91 mins. Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language.

 

Earth to Echo kind of just appeared in the middle of the year and I didn’t know what to think of it. It appeared on the surface to be E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial all over again. It was.

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Earth to Echo is all about three friends: Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Astro, TV’s Red Band Society, A Walk Among the Tombstones), and Munch (Reese Hartwig, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) in their last week together before their suburb is wiped out to make room for a highway extension. When their phones start acting wonky, they decide to follow the pattern being created which leads them to a mysterious alien creature they call Echo. Now with the help of cute fellow student Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), they must help Echo avoid the government agents trying to get Echo and help the alien get the pieces of his ship together to get him home.

The film is presented in found-footage as a youtube documentary from Tuck. The idea is interestingly presented and for the most part looks the part, though there are several moments when Tuck’s camera is just a bit too perfectly centered on the action.

As far as the pacing goes, this film kind of drags on. Not a whole lot happens and when it does, I found myself saying, “Spielberg did it.” He did. He did do it.

The special effects are neither awful nor great and do little to drive my interest, and the lead child actors are passable enough for some, I imagine, but did not invest me.

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Earth to Echo is a fairly okay film with a fairly okay presentation. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I more of less existed during its viewing. Then it was over. I doubt I’ll remember it past this year. Thank God for blogs right?

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

September 2014 Preview

I just want to get this out on the table. I have not seen any of the films on this list. This is only an assumption of the films’ merit based on the information I have on them. But, I should point out that I have a pretty good knack for this kind of stuff.

 

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Before I Go to Sleep

This is the story of Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, Paddington), who gets into a car accident which causes her to have deep memory loss. She awakens every morning with memory loss. Then, one day, the memories flow back to her, and she questions the nature of the car accident and what really happened. I can see this movie trying to do the kinds of things that Memento got away with. The problem being that this film would really have to have a unique style, and from what I have seen, it isn’t really there.

 

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The Identical

Twin brothers (both played by newcomer Blake Rayne) are separated at birth and lead different lives. One of them becomes a famous singer, the other struggles between his love of music and his place in his family. This movie puts a lot of faith in Blake Rayne, and he doesn’t have the ability to carry this movie. It has a nice supporting cast in Seth Green, Ray Liotta, and Ashley Judd, but can it carry? Probably not.

 

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Mary Kom

This is based on the real-life Mary Kom, a female boxer of Indian descent. I’m not saying this film will be great. I’m not saying it will be bad. I’m saying it will be meh. The plot should be very interesting, as Kom had a very interesting life, but the crew isn’t anyone memorable.

 

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Horns

I’ve been waiting a long time to see Horns, from the incredible horror film director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D). It also happens to have some really good source material with the novel by Joe Hill. Daniel Radcliffe rounds out this crew starring in the film as Ig, short for Ignatius, a man who awakens one morning to the discovery of two large horns protruding from his head that give him dark thoughts and powers. Horns has the potential to be the standout horror film of the year, and a great way to get into the mood for Halloween.

 

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Ned Rifle

Ned Rifle is the third film of a trilogy. No, I actually knew very little about the previous entries before discovering this third film. The first film is Henry Fool, and the followup is Fay Grim, and the the trilogy follows these same characters. Ned Rifle is the son of Henry Fool and Fay Grim, and this is the story of Ned trying to murder his father. From the footage I have seen, I wouldn’t mind watching this trilogy, but I would say watch the other two and if you like them, I have very good feelings about Ned Rifle.

 

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Dolphin Tale 2

Wow, this movie looks terrible. I mean it, really bad, but then again, I have been saying that about the first film for a while now. If you enjoy Dolphin Tale, you will probably still buy a ticket and have a good time, but I’m going to tell you that you are wrong.

 

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The Drop

I just want to point out that this is a beautiful poster. If the film is even partially as good as its poster, I’ll get chills. This is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, and like everything else he touches, it will be good. Lehane is known for his crime stories and thrillers, and chances are, the plot will have some difficult and disturbing turns along the way, but this is worth the ticket money. It also contains the final performance of deceased actor James Gandolfini.

 

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No Good Deed

Don’t see it. See The Drop!

 

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The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner has the ability to be the next Hunger Games. It is the story of Thomas, a young man who awakens in a maze with several others without any memory of what exists outside the maze. Together with the other maze runners, he must escape the maze and discover the purpose. Someone see this and tell me how it is. I’m feeling good.

 

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This is Where I Leave You

This seems like a good one. We have Jason Bateman and Tina Fey leading a breakout cast full of interesting personalities as four siblings return home to sit Shiva after the death of the family patriarch. Honestly, it just seems like much more interesting dramedy concept than I have seen recently.

 

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Tusk

I’ve already spoken about my thoughts on this movie. It has so many talented people adding to it. I just have no idea how a movie like this is going to work. This is a risk.

 

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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson hunts a kidnapper…

I’ve gotten into this habit of understanding that Liam Neeson kicks ass. Not all of his films do, but Liam Neeson kicks ass nonetheless. In order to properly decide the merit of a Liam Neeson, look at the release date. Non-Stop came out in February. Not great. A Walk Among the Tombstones releases in September. I’m thinking a hit.

 

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Finding Fanny

Finding Fanny is a road trip movie, and a pretty generic one at that. Skip.

 

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The Equalizer

Damn, I loved watching the television series The Equalizer. That series was awesome. Denzel Washington is perfect in the role Robert McCall, an ex-spec op who wages war on the Russian mob. Antoine Fuqua knows this kind of film and it is going to rock. I’m pretty sure.

 

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Believe Me

This is the tale of a bunch of college students who fake a church group to use donation money to pay their student tuition. Man, this movie is going to piss people off. I have nothing against the subject material, but I have seen footage and am doubtful about the technical aspects. It doesn’t look very cleaned up. I’m leaning on skip.

 

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The Good Lie

No. Nope. I don’t think so. Probably not. No.

 

So there you have it. Here is a final tally.

Best Bets: Horns, The Drop, This is Where I Leave You, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Equalizer

On the Bubble: Before I Go to Sleep, Ned Rifle, The Maze Runner, Tusk, Believe Me

Likely Misses: The Identical, Mary Kom, Dolphin Tale 2, No Good Deed, Finding Fanny, The Good Lie

 

As before, these are the tools. Use them however you wish. What do you think of this month’s releases? What do you want to see most? Let me know!

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