Quick Movie Review: Army of Darkness (1993)

In Army of Darkness, I found myself laughing more and wanting it to end less than the previous two films. But much like Evil Dead II, the comedy lacks character and individuality. There are different types of comedy–all sorts–but these films aren’t quite sure of which type they are. I’d say the closest it comes to is satire. However, it doesn’t satirize the aspects that it should be half the time. And although the humor is more apparent and deliberate in this movie, I still wasn’t laughing out loud as much as I wanted to.

Overall, this film is actually enjoyable for me, compared to the other two which are more eye rolling than anything else. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and the tone is a little less intermittent. I love how Ash finally becomes the hero that we’ve wanted him to be since the very beginning. He is cooler than ever and chock full of great one-liners. But with that said, I still can’t seem to get attached to his character as much as I want to.

As it’s not so much a horror as it is an action-comedy, Army of Darkness should still please fans of the first two films.

Twizard Rating: 67

Quick Movie Review: If I Stay (2014)

After watching such gems, like The Spectacular Now, which hit the nail of teenage romance right on the head, we become picky about what we want to see in terms of that genre. And while comparing the relationships in the two films and trumping one over the other, it’s hard to take the love story between Mia and Adam as serious. Not that they don’t deserve our attention, but much of it seems superficial–at least at first. The cliches are abundant and their relationship doesn’t get real until almost an hour into the movie. But it’s never a natural build-up. Instead, the issues arrive very abruptly–which I guess can happen when two lovers are living in a state of plutonic bliss. Then once it does delve deeper into their romance, it feels like it’s running around in circles, not really tapping into the long distance struggle as much as it could. 

But maybe I just keep getting annoyed with Adam (Jamie Blackley) as a character. He is created too easy to like. Everything he says is “perfect” and “suave” and we aren’t really allowed to form our own opinions about him, rather than seeing him as perfect at first, while unveiling his flaws as the film progresses. But each of his “flaws” (in quotes because they’re never ever stressed) are always quickly forgotten about due to a romantic gesture he does a couple scenes later.

The overlying plot of this film is two people being in love, yet each wanting to follow their respective dreams which would bring them further apart. Given that it’s based off of a book that aims towards preteen and teenage girls, If I Stay definitely does present these ideas with a mature outlook. However, it doesn’t present ENOUGH aspects of this struggle to really understand what’s going on in the character’s heads. Everything is apparent and on the surface. Although, the performances–especially that of Chloe Grace Moretz–make the inner and outer struggles way more convincing. 

Although more mature than its target audience, If I Stay is predictable as ever and may succumb to cheap teenage angst that may have you rolling your eyes. However, how the two plots interlock is very unique and satisfying in the end, and the beautiful songs make for an entertaining film at the very least. And while it did evoke misty eyes, I just wish the plot didn’t feel so repetitive.

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: When the Game Stands Tall (2014)

It may be full of cliches and corniness, but you can’t help but love this movie’s heart. It stays true to itself and its story the whole time and never overuses its elements. The film’s theme of not being about the individuals, but about the team, is displayed no better than during the credits when it doesn’t pamper us with a “where are they now” segment. 

While the balance between each subplot could have been a little bit smoother, the way the film starts at the end of one season and transitions to a newer squad come the following season is unique. If you don’t know the story you won’t see where it’s all going–although that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get predictable at times.

It’s more spiritual than your average sports film, but never comes off as preachy. While it takes notes from Coach Carter (my favorite sports movie) it keeps its own identity–which is unavoidable when talking about a true story that’s as unique as this one.

A lot of the time movies like this come off as pseudo-insightful, but this one is a lot deeper than you’re going to expect. And the story never gets buried under the fluff. Sure I agree that it could have had a better title, but When the Game Stands Tall is moving for anyone who was a part of a sports team.

Twizard Rating: 90

Quick Movie Review: Evil Dead II (1987)

While an improvement on its predecessor with a better backstory, I still found myself shaking my head quite often. Why is every character in these movies so annoying? They’re always acting dumb and irrational. And although some of you may argue it, I don’t think it’s as intentional as you think it is. I know this “sequel” is supposed to partially be a comedy but it evokes more eye rolling than laughter. Although I do appreciate a good slapstick, the gore is constantly taking away from whatever humor is being presented.

I’m still not on board with this series, however, the art and effects are still very impressive and I enjoyed the creative call-back ending.

Twizard Rating: 59

Quick Movie Review: Get On Up (2014)

I love James Brown’s music as much as the next guy, but let’s face it, he really wasn’t that great of a person. He may be one of the most influential 20th century artists, but he was selfish, had a huge ego, and didn’t seem to care about anyone in his life. But unlike most stories where the main character develops and realizes his mistakes, James Brown in Get On Up never seems to. He never changes his ways. And unlike most biopics, this one fails to really take a stand on whether or not it wants to glorify or vilify its main character. But it’s not like The Social Network or Goodfellas where it feels intentional. And in the Jobs biopic, although we may not have liked the protagonist a whole lot, there was no doubt that the purpose of the movie was to glorify him. Here, it seems as if the filmmakers never made it a conscious decision. They want us to love the guy–it’s obvious–but instead they focused too much on just telling a story.  

The main issues lie within the pacing. It just spits events at you instead of letting them happen naturally to the surprise of the audience. The drama is often rushed too quickly to get to the characters’ reactions sooner. This may have been done to shorten the runtime, but it makes us subconsciously belittle these events in our heads. 

And while Chadwick Boseman is an absolute genius as James Brown, the character’s demeanor is frustratingly unpredictable. He doesn’t develop or learn much of anything–but of course this isn’t the film’s fault. If nothing else, it tells the story of Brown and explains why he was how he was. It accurately portrays the rise and fall of the man, but isn’t as big as it could have been. It chooses to glorify him over showing that he really just spiraled downward to the end. Then, during the last 15 minutes, it makes the movie all about Brown’s relationship with Bobby Byrd, which seems like an afterthought after the filmmakers realize that this was the only redeeming factor about this guy’s life.

It’s an entertaining film and the music is expectedly great, but it’s Boseman that makes you like this movie.

Just because someone is influential doesn’t mean we must rush to make a biographical film about them. I mean, Einstein still hasn’t received the proper treatment. But nonetheless, it happens quite often these days and we should just think of them as a quicker alternative to a book.

Twizard Rating: 82

Quick Movie Review: Cantinflas (2014)

You really really want to like this movie. And you’re never far from it. With cameos by Chaplin and Sinatra, this film has the nostalgic period piece potential that we all saw achieved by 2011’s Hugo. But here I wanted to laugh more and I wanted to learn more about the man himself. While it did provide depth into Moreno’s issues with his marriage and friendships, it could have expressed the inner struggles he had with his identity and trying to separate himself from his alter-ego character. I would have liked to see them juxtapose Moreno’s Cantinflas with Mario, the man. It failed to give Cantinflas the depth he deserved. 

I like what they did with the back and forth between English and Spanish, but the pacing was a little TOO quick and a lot of details get lost in the story. It would have almost been more effective if they used more linear storytelling, while still concluding with Michael Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days.

While it also acts as an insightful commentary on the studio system, it partially neglects this B plot, turning it into just another unfulfilled element. However, I do applaud the consistently corny tone–which parallels Cantinflas’ whole demeanor. It demands that our attention be brought into the film universe and provides us with a convincingly vintage feel.

Although it may look nice and the plot points provided are intriguing, the rushed storytelling, in turn, leaves us with the anticlimactic 3rd act, where you leave wanting to feel more fulfilled than you end up feeling. 

Twizard Rating: 73

Quick Movie Review: The Evil Dead (1981)

I’m not a huge fan of the horror genre. I like the unique ones, but the ones that exist purely for shock and awe are useless to me. The Evil Dead definitely falls into that category. Don’t let its legacy fool you. Full of bad editing and gore for gore’s sake, this movie borderlines pointless for me. There’s never any surprises, and the characters besides Ash are annoying and never learn from their mistakes. I start off interested but never feel satisfied with the unfolding of events and the unfulfilled plot elements.

The movie just drags on and the plot is stretched way too thin. They even attempt to waste time at the end by elongating the deaths of the creatures. Most of the film is either boring or gross. The only time it gets slightly interesting is when Ash is all alone towards the end. 

I will say that the art was pretty good, especially at the end, but overall the concept is empty and the movie never gives us a reason to worry about the fate of the characters–other than the fact that the music tells us too. I understand that The Evil Dead is supposed to be a cult classic and all, but I just didn’t get any fulfillment out of it, nor a whole lot of laughs. And it leaves me asking the filmmakers why Ash doesn’t get possessed along all with the others.

Twizard Rating: 48

Quick Movie Review: Born Yesterday (1993)

Melanie Griffith, as Billie Dawn, executes the role with such integrity. So convincing as she makes the film hers. But as a film, it just doesn’t fit in well with the era. It feels as though they lifted a 1950 film and forced it to fit into 1993. They tried making a non-90s film but didn’t pull out all the stops–or any stops, really. It just felt unexplainably awkward during most scenes.
However, the film wasn’t intrinsically bad. It was actually quite enjoyable. The characters are likable, the themes are sincere, and the dialogue is snappy. 
A lot of the time it even overcomes its sloppy direction and confused narrative, but those faults are never forgotten about and a few times distracting. The setup is on the border of boring and the tone is intermittent. It also never fully commits to any of its antagonists, and even slips up a couple of times with Don Johnson’s character, Paul. 
Born Yesterday is one of those films that is enjoyable and possibly forgettable at the same time. It means well, but could have been a better remake. And although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, I wouldn’t be against watching it again.
Twizard Rating: 73

Quick Movie Review: Sin City (2005)

Extremely engaging and technically stunning, Sin City encapsulates you in its world and, when it’s over, makes you glad that it was all just a dream. Some may wonder if the film would still be as entertaining if it weren’t for the attractive visuals. But for me, as great as it looked, it was still the stories that I was enthralled by the most. Nonetheless, i couldn’t stop watching, and when the stories all tied in at the end I was overwhelmingly pleased. 

The script is so deliberate and moves effortlessly throughout the well-paced story. And the direction is so well orchestrated as well. The performances are hit or miss, but all work for each respective character. While I’m not terribly partial to the shock-value stuff that Rodriguez is so well known for, I was able to see past it since the narrative was so captivating.

Although too graphic for many, Sin City immerses you in its fiction and demands your attention as you never see what it has in store for you around the corner.

Twizard Rating: 96

Quick Movie Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

The Expendables series would be like if Sylvester Stallone invited you to a party that he has every so often at his house. You want to go because you know it’s gonna be like a who’s who of action stars there. However, you have to drive 2 hours and 6 minutes to get there, and when you arrive there’s no music and no drinks–just everyone standing around watching these action stars talk to each other. In the moment it’s great and you can’t believe that you’re there experiencing all of that. You listen to their stories, and laugh as they poke fun at each other. But after it’s all over, you realize that you didn’t talk to a single one of them. You didn’t even take any pictures. You’re not sure if you’ll remember anything that happened other than the fact that you were there and they were there. Nonetheless, it was still pretty cool when you think back on it.

If you’re a fan of 80s and 90s action films, you will enjoy yourself here. But when it comes down to it, it’s just not a great movie. We come to see all of these huge names in one film, and leave wanting them all to be used a little better. The script is bad and the acting is mediocre, but it is entertaining nonetheless. It’s occasionally slow in the first hour or so–not including the enjoyable Wesley Snipes-focused 1st act. But we love how it keeps us laughing and continues to laugh at itself. 

While the acting is expectedly average, Mel Gibson steals the show. And the thing that this film does the most right is giving him a good amount of screen time. His character and Stallone’s character used to run together until there was some sort of betrayal or something (it wasn’t terribly clear). However, the script fails to let us feel that tension or to sense any deep-rooted emotions in order to give the drama between the two any significance. But let’s face it, the only reason why you sit through these films is to see all of these guys in one place–not for the stories. It’s the only thing that’s keeping it from getting a February release. 

Better than the first, but not as good as the second, The Expendables 3 is a great idea on paper. It could even be a great idea on the screen, but much of the plot is confused and meandering. What made the last one better was its dark tone and a sense of urgency in the premise. Throw in a nice twist towards the end and it satisfies the audience’s needs. In this one, nothing caught us by surprise and it seemed like there was more focus on cramming everyone into the film. If done right, it would have felt much more relaxed and natural. 

Overall, the pacing is frustratingly uneven and Wesley is underutilized, but The Expendables 3 never takes itself too seriously and that’s why we keep coming back.

Twizard Rating: 67