[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 15 – Cloverfield (2008)

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Annable

Screenplay: Drew Goddard

85 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.

 

Damn, this movie drove me crazy with its marketing. Seriously, I was one of those people.

Cloverfield is presented as found-footage from an incident that took place in New York City in 2008 in which a large creature terrorized the city. We are mostly filmed by Hud (T.J. Miller, How to Train Your Dragon, Deadpool) who is at a going-away party for his best friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David, In Your Eyes, LBJ). While there, Hud and the rest of the party witness the beginning of the attack and flee the party into the streets of New York. Hud joins up with Marlena (Lizzy Caplan, The Interview, Allied), Rob, his brother Jason (Mike Vohel, The Help, The Case for Christ), and Jason’s girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas, Evil Dead, TV’s Gotham) in an effort to seek shelter and hopefully find Beth (Odette Annable, The Unborn, TV’s Pure Genius), who left the party earlier after a fight with Rob.

People don’t give enough credit to director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In). Over the last decade, he has crafted several films that should be classics of their respective genre, but have largely gone unnoticed or underappreciated. Cloverfield often finds itself lost in the mostly unimpressive found-footage subgenre, but its characters are developed, its visuals are striking, and its pace is excellent. At a tight 85 minutes, Cloverfield doesn’t let up.

Drew Goddard (The Martian, TV’s Daredevil) put out a real nice screenplay with mostly-sharp dialogue, although there are times where his dialogue gets a little too expositional, and T.J. Miller is forced to give that exposition, which isn’t a strong point in his performance.

Overall, Cloverfield is an experience like no other. This is a film that deserves to be seen and have more recognition, and maybe it will with the success of the Cloververse that I still don’t really understand. If you don’t get motion sickness, you just might enjoy the ride.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 1 – This is the End (2013)

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Director: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson

Screenplay: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

107 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.

 

Here we are yet again. Another year has gone by and we arrive at my favorite month: October. I love celebrating my favorite genre with you all and I’m so excited to continue the tradition. This year, I thought we’d start off a with a lighter fare and take a look at the horror-comedy This is the End.

L-r, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen in Columbia Pictures' "This Is The End," also starring Jonah Hill.

In this film from directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (The Interview), each actor portrays a fictionalized version of himself, so know that going in.

Seth Rogen is very excited to see his best friend, Jay Baruchel (TV’s Man Seeking Woman, Million Dollar Baby), who has just flown in for the weekend. As the two trade stories, get high, and play video games, Seth suggests a party over at James Franco’s (TV’s 11.22.63, 127 Hours) house. There they meet up with Seth’s other acting partners Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Danny McBride (Your Highness, Aloha), Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express, Hot Tub Time Machine 2), and Michael Cera (TV’s Childrens Hospital, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). As they party away inside, outside a cataclysmic event begins as the world ends all around them and they are forced to survive in the house as demons and death surround them, attempting to kill them all.

What a strange setup for a film, and surprisingly enough, it works better than most comedies that dip their toes into the supernatural. The film playfully uses elements and staples of a film like this such as possession, cannibalism, sin, forgiveness, insanity, paranoia, and death so carelessly (in a good way) that I can see why this offensively hilarious look at the end of days doesn’t garner as much love as other films from this cast.

I love that the cast here is able to poke fun at themselves, either playing against type (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) or playing exaggerations of themselves (Danny McBride and James Franco). The most important part is that they respect the conceit and the material and embrace it for the comedy.

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Directors Rogen and Goldberg take some big risks in the film and it pays off gloriously. It isn’t a slight on the these kinds of movies but an homage to them and a critique of fame in today’s society. And it’s really freaking funny. The cameos alone make this film a worthy comedic gem, but the way the movie is structured give it something wholly unique: a style like no other. See this movie before the apocalypse actually happens.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview, click here.

The Interview (2014)

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Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco

Screenplay: Dan Sterling

112 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.

 

Last year, a film was made, one that almost never saw the light of day thanks to terrorism. In the course of a few days, buzz around The Interview skyrocketed after a threats were made to Sony concerning its release. Theaters around the country pulled the film and refused to show it. It was a sad day to be an artist in America. It didn’t matter what kind of art was pulled, the fact that we were afraid to express ourselves showed more weakness than I could have imagined.

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But then, Sony came to the rescue. They released the film on online platforms. You can’t bomb online platforms (well, the danger was still there). Youtube released it. Netflix released it. Then, stores put it on shelves and we proved to the evils of the world that we are not going to stand for it (cue the inspirational battle hymn). Well, anyway, that happened, and it helped cement The Interview in the annals of American film history, but there was still one unanswered question: was the film any good?

In The Interview, the new comedy from directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (This is the End), we follow Rogen as Aaron Rapaport, producer for the talk show Skylark Tonight, featuring his friend Dave Skylark (James Franco, 127 Hours, True Story). The show is a fledgling one, more of a witch hunt show searching for shock and awe rather than inspirational or interesting television. That is, until they get an interview with Kim Jong-Un after finding that the dictator is a fan of the show. The two are then enlisted by the US government to assassinate the world leader during the interview and save countless lives (that’s right, it does bleed controversy).

The performances by the two leads are goofy and a little stupid, the cinematography looks cheap and a little stupid, and the pacing is way off. It’s a little stupid. With all that, the film does have its charms, but I do struggle to remember a moment where I laughed out loud. There were a few “that’s funny” moments but no guffaws. I wanted some damn guffaws.

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All in all, does The Interview deserve to be remembered the way it will be? Probably not. I found it to be a goofy somewhat comedic romp with little true substance outside its controversy.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Neighbors (2014)

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Director: Nicholas Stoller

Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco

Screenplay: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien

97 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout.

 

I thought the trailer for Neighbors was too good to be true, and while in some ways, it did feature a lot of the best material, the movie itself was a laugh riot. It’s my review next.

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Neighbors features Seth Rogen (This is the End, The Interview) as Mac Radner, who along with wife Kelly (Rose Byrne, X-Men: First Class, Annie), have just settled in at home with their new daughter. Unfortunately for them, they have new neighbors, as a fraternity has just set up shop next door, and leader Teddy (Zac Efron, 17 Again, That Awkward Moment) is about to seriously complicate Mac and Kelly’s lives in his quest to create the biggest party ever and end up on the fraternity wall of fame in this new film from director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, The Five-Year Engagement).

This film immediately appealed to me with a somewhat unique take on the feuding neighbors concept, and with two complete opposites as Rogen and Efron, as well as the comedic additions of Byrne and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie), I thought this movie might actually have something to it. To my satisfaction, I was right. The film, featuring increasingly absurd acts of war upon each other, features some of the funniest lines and gags of 2014. I had a few moments of complete laugh attacks.

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Stoller has nearly mastered the type of films he makes, and Neighbors is no exception, with a tight plot structure and the envelope-pushing battles of old versus young, it has the laughs to become a repeat-viewing film. I know fans of Seth Rogen’s films will find a lot to like here.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

(Seriously, that whole condom thing. Yuck.)

[Oscar Madness] Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

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Director: Rupert Wyatt

Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Andy Serkis

Screenplay: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

105 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense and frightening sequences of action and violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out of nowhere. Seriously. Who would have thought that his franchise was coming back in such a big way. After a fizzled-out franchise of films and television series, a failed remake from director Tim Burton, and a decade of silence, Rise of the Planet of the Apes just sort of showed up, and I’m thankful it did.

Will Rodman (James Franco, 127 Hours, The Interview) is trying to cure Alzheimer’s. His father Charles (John Lithgow, TV’s 3rd Rock from the Sun, Interstellar) has the condition and it is accelerating. The current possible cure is ALZ-112, and Will is in the process of ape testing. When Bright Eyes, Will’s star test subject, tragically passes after complications with the substance, Will comes across a baby chimp in her cell, her recently born son who comes to be known as Caesar (Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Arthur Christmas). Will takes Caesar home and trains him, as Caesar was born with ALZ-112 flowing through him, making him progress at an alarming rate. As Will’s life becomes more and more complicated through his illegal theft of the chimp, Caesar becomes more and more aware that this world is the world of humans, not apes, and he wants to change that.

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The plot of this movie nicely takes real-world problems and a franchise decades old and revives it for today’s world without tarnishing the story that came before (to be noted, this is a reboot and kind of a prequel to the original film and not the Tim Burton remake). It takes the problems that we are dealing with and forms it into a cohesive and interesting bit of science fiction.

Franco’s performance isn’t the strongest in the film, I didn’t really believe him to be smart enough to synthesize a cure for Alzheimer’s. Then again, he doesn’t. Altogether, it is his relationships in the film to Caesar and his father that build the warmth for these characters.

Andy Serkis is the winner of this film and deserved top billing for the film, as without him, the impact would not have been felt as much. His nuanced and subtly tragic work as Caesar is beautiful, and the digital effects work only furthers an already incredible performance. The way Caesar interacts with John Lithgow’s character provides us with a slightly warped but wholly touching American family.

The screenplay,  from Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (The Relic, Eye for an Eye), does a nice job of not creating villains, there are very few villains in this film and it allows you to understand many of the core characters internally and empathize with their choices.

Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist, The Gambler) behind the camera also provides a lush environment of great camera work, and the flow of the film is very smooth.

I just needed to end on the CG work, which sought to work together with their motion capture performers to create characters as opposed to just creating stock but cool looking apes. It deserved its nomination to be sure.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great way to jumpstart a franchise, and should serve as a course on how to reinvigorate a property rather than just churn out a remake. Bravo.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

December 2014 Preview

 

Well, folks, 2014 is winding down, and as perusual, we have a ton of major films coming out now to cap off the year nicely. Let’s take a look at them today, and remember, I have not seen these films and my predictions come solely from early reviews, trends, Oscar buzz, and my abilities as a film reviewer. I’m pretty good at predicting success or failure based on a lot of factors, and I merely want to provide you with a solid bit of info to make your holiday choices well.

 

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The Pyramid

We discussed The Pyramid before, and I have high hopes for it, but personally, I feel as though the studio decision to drop it at the beginning of December is not something I feel great about. While December is a great month for films, a horror film release during this time is almost as much a death notice as sending it out in January. I like the story about a group of archaologists studying pyramid ruins only to be hunted by something alive in there intrigues me, and I like the work of first time director Gregory Levasseur, who penned previous horror films like the remakes to The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors, so it may stand tall, but I’m pretty on the fence with this one. That being said, horror movies are a lot of fun in theaters, are they not?

 

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Wild

Jean-Marc Vallee is riding high off the success of last year’s Dallas Buyer’s Club, and it would seem to be continuing with the Oscar buzz connected to Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of the same name, chronicling her journey of over 1100 miles hiking to come to emotional terms with tragedy in her life. Reese Witherspoon won’t be taking the Oscar for her portrayal this year, but I’m hearing that she is on the short list of possible nominees. This seems like a definite win, from the adaptation by famed writer Nick Hornby to the many performances being universally loved.

 

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Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott and I have a strained relationship. I love his skills as a director, but every director’s cut he has ever had has disappointed me beyond belief, so in that way, I like that he is a studio man, and doesn’t get final cut. His new film, based on the works of the Bible, features Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton, looks epic to be sure, and the Oscar buzz for its technical achievements cannot be ignored. I think Ridley Scott has crafted a unique look at these events, and after a year of unique visions (Noah) and Christian pandering films (God’s Not Dead), Exodus will likely divide moviegoers. I’m all in, but not everyone will be.

 

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

I mean, C’MON! It’s the friggin’ Hobbit! I loved The Lord of the Rings! I love the previous Hobbit films. How can this not be an event film? I get the first feelings of huge critical acclaim for this finale to the Middle-Earth Saga. The previous Hobbit releases were less loved than their decade-old brethren, but I think director Peter Jackson is ready to cap off his saga the right way, delivering a truly epic experience.

 

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Annie

I’m just going to say this one.  NO! There. Annie getting a remake didn’t bother me much, until I saw the cringe-inducing trailer. This film likely had its heart in the right place, but it will be awful.

 

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The Gambler

Mark Wahlberg has had an interesting career. He does big Oscar films like Lone Survivor and The Fighter, and then he has Pain & Gain and Transformers: Age of Extinction. So what is The Gambler? A lit professor has an affair with a student and then gets involved with a loan shark in this film from director Rupert Wyatt and writer William Monahan. I think this film will be more towards The Fighter, which is good. I like Wyatt’s directing and I love Monahan’s writing, so I have some good vibes.

 

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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Here we are, at the end of Robin William’s esteemed career. This is the last film of the famed performer and if we can look back at the previous two Night at the Museum films, we can say that we are looking at a lot of fun. Don’t expect a perfect night, and understand that it won’t be an original masterpiece (even the first sequel retreaded the same waters as its predecessor), but I’m not thinking bad.

 

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Big Eyes

So Tim Burton’s newest film doesn’t look like a Tim Burton film. The true story of Margaret Keane and her husband during her explosion as an artist seems like a good place to take filmgoers. There are nuances of Burton’s style here but this is wholly new territory and I can respect that, and with the great work previously seen from Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, I’m actually pretty excited for Big Eyes.

 

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The Interview

I guess no controversy is bad controversy, right? The Interview is literally a movie about an undercover assassination of Kim Jong-Un. And it is a comedy with James Franco and Seth Rogen. Yes, those two sentences are related. There was so much controversy surrounding this film when it had its first trailer release that I wasn’t sure the film would ever be released, but here it comes, just in time for Christmas. I’m sure it will have the right laughs and I feel like I need to see it just to understand what the hell this was all for, but tread carefully people. Sometimes studios push controversy to cover a disappointing finished product.

 

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Into the Woods

Disney’s star-studded adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical bringing together a cadre of fairy tale creatures in a dark and stunning atmospheric wood seems to be bringing the good buzz. There was definite controversy surrounding whether Disney’s version would contain some of the darker aspects of the original musical brought me out a bit, but I’m hoping that Rob Marshall’s directing and the incredible Meryl Streep can keep this film rollicking.

 

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Unbroken

The last major film on our list is Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, is a true story of Louis Zamperini who was a POW in World War II after being hailed for his skills as an Olympic runner previously. Zamperini’s intense story of survival is already garnering a ton of Oscar buzz so I have good feeling abound. See this one. I know I will be.

 

 

So there you go. And here you go:

 

Best Bets: Wild, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Big Eyes, Unbroken

Likely Drops: Annie

On the Bubble: The Pyramid, The Gambler, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Interview, Into the Woods

 

Remember these are not set in stone, sometimes a film can surprise (in both directions) and you may seem something I did not. Enjoy yourself and Happy Holidays!

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