[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 13 – Exists (2014)

Director: Eduardo Sanchez

Cast: Dora Madison Burge, Samuel Davis Roger Edwards, Chris Osborn, Brian Steele, Denise Williamson

Screenplay: Jamie Nash

81 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some violence, sexual content and drug use.

 

Found footage will never really go away; there will just be good ones that surface in the pile of trash. Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project, Lovely Molly) is quite well known for really creating the found-footage subgenre, or accidentally stumbling across it. He and Daniel Myrick proved that the concept can work, and then he tried some other stuff, and then went back for his next project: Exists. Sadly, this one didn’t stumble into greatness. It merely stumbled.

Five friends have set out on an outdoor adventure in east Texas. Brian (Chris Osborn, #REALITYHIGH, A Close Divide) and Matt (Samuel Davis, Last Flag Flying, Cabin Fever) have an uncle Bob with a cabin that they can stay at. When they hit something with the car, only to find nothing outside, the group ventures by foot to the cabin. The group enjoys their time at the cabin for the entire next day before finding themselves hunted by something. Something big. Something angry. Something out for revenge.

For a film that never hides the fact that it’s a movie about Bigfoot (Brian Steele, Terminator: Salvation, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), this film sure likes to keep Bigfoot at bay and hidden for most of the film. I mean, I get it, you are trying to do the Jaws thing and keep the monster hidden. So then why have it on the poster? Why get a terrific company like WETA to do your creature effects? Why do this and then deliberately obscure the creature. When filmmakers take use of shaky-cam, the creature comes off looking like a hairy dude in a suit. It only looked good when we finally see it on film.

I found many of the characters in the film to be poorly written with no character development whatsoever. I didn’t know these characters. I wasn’t invested in them. I didn’t care if they lived or died.

Now I definitely got more engaged in the film when the first half was done so that I could actually get to the meat of the story. The second half of Exists is still better than most of The Blair Witch Project. It just still isn’t very engaging.

I just didn’t love Exists. To me, Sanchez just falls back on making the same movie here that he made before. And that first film wasn’t that good, and this isn’t good. Nothing is good about this. The creature design is amazing, and the film someone finds its footing far too late into its run time, but it just doesn’t have the chops to climb out of obscurity.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick’s The Blair Witch Project, click here.

[#2015oscardeathrace] Selma (2014)

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Director: Ava DuVernay

Cast: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Stephen James, Wendell Pierce, Common, Alessandro Nivola, Keith Stanfield, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dylan Baker, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey

Screenplay: Paul Webb

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Glory” by Common, John Legend) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

Selma is the story of a key moment in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr (David Oyelowo, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year): the fight for the right to vote. King has tries to get help from President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins, The Grand Budapest Hotel), but to no avail. His wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo, TV’s Zero Hour, The Purge: Anarchy), would hope to keep him out of harm’s way. But in Selma, Alabama, a woman named Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple, The Butler) can’t even get registered to vote. King takes his civil rights movement to Selma in hopes of swaying Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth, TV’s Lie to Me, Pulp Fiction) to let them vote.

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While the film Selma isn’t perfect, it does contain some of the more perfect casting and performance work of the past year. David Oyelowo is the spitting visage of the late Dr. King. He has the look, he has the voice, and he has the mannerisms down to a science. Tom Wilkinson plays the former President filled with self-doubt and delusion. Rapper Common (TV’s Hell on Wheels, Smokin’ Aces) gives one of his best roles as James Bevel, as does Wendell Pierce (TV’s The Wire, Parker) in the position of Reverand Hosea Williams. We also get some great turns from some major Hollywood players, like Martin Sheen and Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), in small roles to elevate the craft of the other actors to something truly great.

Director Ava DuVernay’s camera is more stoic than static, offering what feels more like a live docu-drama than a sweeping picture, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did mess with the flow slightly.

I really enjoyed the song “Glory” from Common and John Legend that plays over the closing credits. It displays a plethora of African-American cultural music from the time of Dr. King to present day.

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Ava DuVernay’s Selma is a film that must be watched, if only for the powerful messages it conveys. I honestly did not know as much about this facet of the Civil Rights Movement, in particular the events in Selma, Alabama, and so I found the film engaging and shocking at times, and definitely worth your time.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

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Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst

Screenplay: Anne Rice

123 mins. Rated R for vampire violence and gore, and for sexuality.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

I always find it intriguing when a non-genre director of merit gets involved in a horror film or something with supernatural elements, as if Martin Scorsese got up one day and decided to direct the next Star Wars. When Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Byzantium) decided to direct the adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, I’m sure it shocked some people. After all, this doesn’t happen often, but I think he proved that when it does happen, it can be a magical thing.

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Interview with the Vampire follows Louis (Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds, Fury) a man of means and a wonderful family back in the 1700s. When Louis is bitten and turned by a vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise, Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow), he learns the details of his life from his new sire and, through his recollection of the past to patient listener Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater, True Romance, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1) in present day 1994, he recounts the tragic details of his 200 years of death.

Damn, such a great movie, and twenty years haven’t hurt it. It still looks stunning, in part due to its tremendous set design, for which it was nominated for an Oscar. Tom Cruise is at his top form here as the infamous Lestat. This is the kind of role that Cruise should go for more often. I find that much of his work harkens back to Mission: Impossible style action-thrillers (which work sometimes) but I feel like taking chances offers up some pretty amazing work. Brad Pitt as Louie is another performance where you actually forget who is playing the role, but I think the big winner here is Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) as Louis’ new sire Claudia, forced to live forever in the body of child. She just steals those scenes where her mind has developed but not her body. She is forced to watch as her partners Lestat and Louis practically salivate at the sight of a nude woman in all her sensual glory.

That’s the reason someone like Neil Jordan would take on a project like this. It has depth. Its characters are not presented as one-dimensional flat cardboard cutouts. These are really people, or undead beings, portrayed by those who have learned the craft, and Jordan takes these talents and puts them to good work, showcasing a veritable Forrest Gump of the undead. This is a film with wit, charm, blood, and sex. It has a lot of things going for it, including a great script from the novel’s author Anne Rice, who “adapts” her novel instead of just putting the same story on the screen. Rice understood where changes need to be made, and she did.

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Watch this movie if you love horror movies. Watch this movie if you don’t. In case I need to be clearer, watch this movie. Please.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 9 – Fido (2006)

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Director: Andrew Currie

Cast: Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, K’Sun Ray, Henry Czerny, Tim Blake Nelson

Screenplay: Robert Choniak, Andrew Currie, Dennis Heaton

93 mins. Rated R for zombie-related violence.

There have been many “boy and his dog” movies, but there has never been one like Fido, an overlooked zombie movie from about 8 years ago. It takes place in an alternate past, where some time around the 1950s, a zombie outbreak occurred, and was quelled. In the aftermath, a company called ZomCom was created, among its many creations were collars used to domesticate the zombie menace and essentially enslave them to do menial tasks and become like pets. Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray) and his family just got a new zombie of their own. His mother (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix, Pompeii) is all for it. His father (Dylan Baker, Spider-Man 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) is not. As a status symbol of their community, the zombie, named Fido (Billy Connolly, Brave, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies) grows an unlikely friendship with Timmy, and trouble ensues.

It is difficult to classify a zombie movie as cute, but this one is. The environment is as though we never stepped out of the 50s, but we also get the addition of zombies as domesticated animals. It is a unique environment, and one that we are unlikely to see again. The strong acting performances from Moss, Baker, and Connolly are what carry this movie. We also get a great supporting turn from Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Kill the Messenger) as Mr. Theopolis, the next door neighbor whose relationship with his zombie may not be politically correct, even in this world.

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As it comes down to it, Fido is a fabulous movie and one that doesn’t leave you for some time, the goofy premise and strong acting chops make this a satire worth remembering.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

The Lego Movie (2014)

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Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman

Screenplay: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

100 mins. Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

 

The Lego Movie has a simple enough premise: an ordinary everyday man (mini-figure?), Emmet (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, next year’s Jurassic World) discovers that he may actually be the Special, a Master-Builder who can save the Lego world from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell, Step Brothers, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), who plans to unleash a weapon known only as the Kragle. Joining Emmet in his quest is Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games, Walk of Shame), another jealous Master,a Lego-ized Batman (Will Arnett, Despicable Me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), a cyborg pirate named Metal Beard (Nick Offerman, TV’s Parks & Recreation, 22 Jump Street), a princess unicorn/kitty (Alison Brie, TV’s Community, The Five-Year Engagement), a hyper-active astronaut (Charlie Day, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Horrible Bosses 2), and a wizard with a prophecy (Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption, Lucy). Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, A Million Ways to Die in the West) is Good Cop/Bad Cop, an unhinged enforcer working for Lord Business is hot on their tails.

This movie shocked me by how much I enjoyed it. After it began raking in the big bucks, I assumed it was at least something of merit, but originally, I laughed it off. I had seen toys/board games turned into really bad movies before, and I just knew that this would be one of them. After all, do Legos have a plot? Not really. In fact, they are meant to be a tool for imagination in a lot of ways. Little did I think that this would be the resounding theme of the film.

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The breakout voice work here is from Pratt, Arnett, and Neeson. The former two for their great comedic timing, and the latter for his ability to play straight-laced with absolutely wacky. I can tell from this performance that we will see a lot more headlining from Chris Pratt in the future (and that isn’t all that much of a prediction with Guardians of the Galaxy just recently released and Jurassic World on the way for 2015).

The cinematography in this movie is astounding. Get a look at this visual perfection. The Lego-style brick animation looks very stop-motiony and mixes perfectly with the lush landscapes in a very unique way that I’ve never seen before.

The music is another major win here. This score is very mechanical and, forgive my pun, building the entire story in a way that just pumped me up for the action and mayhem still to come. Let’s not forget the song “Everything is Awesome!” I could probably spend another article just analyzing this incredible piece that not only is very catchy, but also adds an entirely new dimension to the story.

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What more can I say? The Lego Movie is absolutely astounding! From the Octan references that harken back to my childhood to the overtly meta-storytelling we could get from Writer-Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, I cannot recommend this movie enough, both for children and adults, it works on just about every level, and it just so happens to be one of the best films of the year. Look for it in the Best Animated Feature category at next year’s Oscars.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s The Lego Movie? Was Everything Awesome? Did the film just not snap together for you? Let me know!

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