Friday, 20 October 2017

31 Days of Halloween: Paranorman

By Brett Haynes 19/10/17

Ever since The Nightmare Before Christmas, stop motion animation has become more and more popular. The studio that has made leaps and bounds regarding stop motion animation is LAIKA studios. The studio that bought us Corpse Bride, Kubo and the two strings and two modern Halloween hits Coraline and Paranorman. I was slow to the Paranorman bandwagon but now I’m differently on.

Paranorman has slowly become a must watch around Halloween. Our main character is Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is a horror fan and lives in the small town of Blithe Hollow, which is the site of a famous witch-hunt 300 years ago. Norman also has the ability to speak to dead people who seem to be his only friends.

Norman connects better with the dead like his grandmother (Elaine Stritch) then those around him including his family. His Dad (Jeff Garlin) thinks Norman is an embarrassment while his mother (Leslie Mann) tries to be more supportive. He also has a self-absorbed sister (Anna Kendrick). Its not much better at school where he gets picked on by school bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) while his only friend is the fat kid Neil (Tucker Albrizzi).

When Norman crazy uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) reveals that the towns legendary witch curse (which the kids are doing a play about at school) is real and is about to be broken, he ask Norman to stop it. Its up to Norman to save his town from the witch’s vengeance as well as the small mindedness of his fellow town folk.

The film is a child friendly tribute to the horror genre. Norman ringtone is the theme from The Exorcist while his friend Neil shows up wearing a hockey mask. For a kid’s movie, it’s pretty damn creepy. The tone is done so well as it tries to talk about the uncomfortable topic of death as well as the concept of fear making people do things they wouldn’t normally do while also being fun.

 It also uses emotion really well. This has a lot of funny moments but when it needs to it’s not afraid to be sentimental. Not to give too much away but the third act is some of the best-written use of emotion I’ve seen in a kid’s movie in a while. That is helped by the incredible voice cast they have to play these characters. From Casey Affleck as Neil brother to Anna Kendrick. No one is phoning it in and everyone brings there A game.

Paranorman use of colors as well as its cinematography makes this one of the better-looking kids films. This is a beautifully made movie as well as humorous and touching one. These are characters you actually do care about and are rooting to succeed. So if your looking for something sweet and fun to watch this Halloween, you can’t go wrong with this new Halloween classic.

Images owned by LAIKA

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The Foreigner

By Brett Haynes 19/10/17

Score: 7.5/10

The Foreigner is Jackie Chan big return to western cinema pitting him against Pierce Brosnan. While the trailer makes this out to be a Taken style revenge story, what audiences may be surprised with is a lot of this film is more of a political thriller then an action film. To the films credit they manage to blend the action and politics nicely.

Adopted from Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel The Chinaman, its updated and set in modern day London and Belfast, the film starts off with a terrorist attack in London, which kills the daughter of a local Chinese restaurant owner Quan Ngoc Minh (Chan). Taking responsibility for the attack is a new group calling themselves the Authentic IRA, a group of angry young people from Belfast. With no other family left and set with a particular set of skills, Quan makes it his mission to find the names of the bombers and goes after former IRA member and now British government official Liam Hennessy (Brosnan).

Hennessy is tired with the IRA of the past but has worked to build and maintain peace over the last 30 years. Though Hennessy is playing both sides, aiding the British with information while also keeping his pockets full with IRA money. His strong connection to the IRA see’s Quan start an explosive crusade to scare him into revealing the bombers even though Hennessy may just be as in the dark as Quan is.

The Foreigner is directed by Martin Campbell whose previous works include Goldeneye and Casino Royale. It also helps that he has such experienced actors as Chan and Brosnan as his leads. Both actors give possibly the best performances they’ve given in years. Brosnan presents Hennessy with a Bond style swagger of confidence as a corrupt politician who feels more like a Bond villain. Chan is the complete opposite presenting a more quiet and somber performance, which is something we’re not use to seeing in a Jackie Chan film.

For a lot of the Foreigner the action takes a back seat to the political game of cat and mouse that is going on between Hennessy, the authentic IRA and the British government. Fortunately that is actually the better part of the film. Watching Brosnan as a corrupt and sleazy politician trying to secure his political position by any means possible is intriguing. The action scenes are there and they are a lot of fun to watch as Quan takes out all of Hennessy men in no time. Its understandable that audiences may be a little angry after seeing the trailer, thinking this was going to be more of a Taken style film.

The film also suffers from having to update the source material for the modern day. When the book was first released the IRA was still a big thing. Now days, they are forgotten to history replaced by ISIS and others. So here we have several scenes where characters have to explain the IRA and its connection with Britain before moving on with the plot.   

The Foreigner is a nicely directed and acted film that sees’ Martin Campbell get the best out of Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan. The action scenes are a lot of fun to watch especially the scene which see’s Chan Quan fight a group of Hennessy men in a small Belfast Bed and Breakfast which is the best action scene in the film. The blend of political intrigue and revenge plot don’t always blend but for the most part the film manages to pull it off.

Images owned by STX Films

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

31 Days of Halloween: Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

By Brett Haynes 18/10/17

Image result for Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 poster

So last Halloween I looked at the original Nightmare on Elm Street so it only makes sense that I take a look at the remake this year. I’m not surprised that Nightmare on Elm Street got a remake because like it or not Freddy Kruger is now an official horror icon up there with the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein and just like Dracula and Frankenstein who have been rebooted more times then we can count, it was more a question of when not if.

The rebooted Nightmare on Elm Street came out 26 years after Wes Craven first film hit cinemas. Back then Freddy Kruger stalked and killed his victims in their dreams and was the king of nightmares. As the series went on, Kruger tone changed from the creepy boogieman to a comedic one-liner along with the tone of the franchise. So similar to my last review, this reboot was also released by New Line Cinemas and Platinum Dunes, which I learnt is backed by Michael Bay which actually explain a lot.

Unlike the Friday the 13th reboot, this one actually sticks more to the original. We still focus on Nancy (Rooney Mara) who along with several other kids are having nightmares about a man named Freddy (Jackie Earle Harley). We don’t have to wait to long before our first death, as one of the kids kills himself at a diner within the first ten minutes. As the film goes on and more and more people die, Nancy slowly realises that Freddy is real and that all the victims have a connection.

Image result for nightmare on Elm Street 2010

One thing I will give this film credit for is its use of colours and transitions from reality to the dream world. The best use of this is when we see Nancy falling in and out of Freddy realm as a pharmacy aisle turns into Freddy’s boiler room or when Nancy friend Kris (Katie Cassidy) falls asleep in class as the room around her just turns to ash.

While the film is visually appealing it lacks any momentum or build up of tension throughout. The film also suffers from something I like to call Ghostbuster Syndrome. This is when a reboot tries to be its own thing but is forced to put in certain scenes or phrases just because they were in the original. This really does hurt this film a lot. Not just because they’re not as good as those from the original film but also because it completely stops the movie to show you this scene. Its like the film is saying ‘remember this from the original, you liked it then, you’ll like it now’. Scenes like Freddy hand rising up from between Nancy legs while she in the bath or the famous Tina (Kris in this version) death scene, which is a lot more graphic, then the original. Neither compare to the original film.

The new stuff they do put in for the most part really does work. The idea that Freddy might have been innocent before his murder is a clever idea, though they don’t explore this enough. There is also the idea that Freddy isn’t just restricted to Elm Street in this version but can go anywhere, which makes the character even that much more scary. I think my favourite inclusion is the fact that all the victims are connected and all knew Freddy when they were younger. It’s got a more personal feel to it. These ideas do work but are never executed or dived into as well as they could have been. 

Image result for Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 Cast

This version differently wants to make Freddy a lot darker and more vicious then Robert Englund version. Jackie Earle Harley does pull it off though his make up while giving his skin more of a burned look never allows him to truly be expressive. While Freddy past is mentioned in the original, here they go into great detail about what he did to these kids. Remember this is a Michael Bay backed film so don’t expect any great psychological account of child abuse or the trauma it causes, though I call bullshit on the fact that they can’t remember anything. If what he did was really that bad, they would remember something. Hell there’s even a scene where one of the kids has scratches on her back. 

Unlike other horror films, the teenagers are actually all pretty good likeable characters. The stand out is Rooney Mara as Nancy who is a fine choice as the artsy, shy and distant student. Her love interest Quentin (Kyle Gallner) is suppose to be like Johnny Depp Glenn from the original except he doesn’t get sucked into a bed. He is actually a more hands on character who unlike Glenn believes Nancy and helps her fight Freddy.

The Nightmare on Elm Street reboot has got a few things going for it. The visual display is pleasant while the acting is pretty good all round. It does suffer from not knowing whether it wants to be its own thing or a remake and that hurts it. When it does try something new, it never goes through with it. Lets face it; if you’re going to take a trip into Freddy world, stick with the original.

Images owned by New Line Cinemas.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

31 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th (2009)

FRIDAY THE 13th (2009)
By Brett Haynes 17/10/17

Back in 1980, Friday the 13th kick-started the legacy of Jason Voorhees, the hockey wearing serial killer who stalks and brutally murders teenagers who venture into Camp Crystal Lake. Over the years, the Friday the 13th franchise has seen Jason leave Crystal Lake heading to New York and even space. In 2009, New Line Cinemas and Platinum Dunes decided to reboot the franchise. What we got is a dull and misguided film that is nothing but cliché characters and unimaginative kills.  

The movie opens cramming all the information we need about Jason mad mother into a short prologue. It’s revealed that she is killing the camp counsellors because of the death of her son who turns out isn’t dead and is in turn killing to avenge her decapitation. Like most of these shitty horror remakes, after this we get a bunch of kids who head into Camp Crystal Lake and camp for the night. Two of them go off exploring while another two start making out and the last does something else (I can’t remember).

As expected Jason kills them in very gruesome ways. Among the missing kids is Whitney Miller (Amanda Righetti) whose brother Clay (Jared Padalecki) heads to Crystal Lake to look for her. Surprisingly Whitney survives her encounter with Jason and is being held captive in an abandoned mine. Clay search brings him across a group of the most unlikeable college kids who are spending time at a lakeside cabin. Among them is Jenna (played by The Flash Danielle Panabaker) who decides to tag along with Clay as he continues looking for his sister.
First it’s clear from a lot of modern retelling of classic horror films from 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street to 2012 Carrie, that it’s nearly impossible to make a classic better. You can make an ok film like Rob Zombie 2007 Halloween but your never going to surpass the original. In Friday case, it never even gets close. It has nothing that made the original so good.

Jason is just a big thug who granted was like that in the original franchise but here you could replace him with any other thug and you wouldn’t be able to tell. The moment Jason picks up his classic hockey mask is given the attention it deserves but that’s really the only moment of excitement you get.

The film is completely lacking in atmosphere, suspense or tension. The deaths are so unimaginative that they get boring after a while. Apart from Jared and Danielle who seem to be the only two likable people in this film, everyone else is your typical college horror movie cliché. They enjoy topless water skiing, excessive drug taking and playing a lot of drinking games. Put them together and you have a group of characters purely here to be killed off. You remember nothing about them; I can’t even remember any of their names.

The Friday the 13th remake is unnecessary and gets nowhere close to the original. It adds nothing to the franchise and completely misses what made the original such a classic.

Images owned by New Line Cinemas

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Monday, 16 October 2017

31 Days of Halloween: Happy Death Days

By Brett Haynes 15/10/17

Score: 7/10

From Edge of Tomorrow to 12 Dates of Christmas, a lot of films have ripped off the concept of Groundhog Day, some doing it well while others not so much. In fact this isn’t even the first Groundhog Day rip off of the year, that being the YA film Before I Fall. Happy Death Day is one of those films that do the concept well making a fun and enjoyable dark comedy.

The film centres on a sorority student named Tree (Jessica Rothe) who is having a typical day of being selfish and snobby before someone in a baby mask murders her at the end of her day. Tree doesn’t stay dead though waking up to relive the same day knowing everything that’s going to happen. She goes through the day trying to avoid being killed again only to be knocked off a different way. Once again the day starts over and so on and so.

This continues and while it might get annoying for Tree, it’s actually quite entertaining for us. Happy Death Day is more of a comedy then an actual horror movie, as it never goes out of its way to scare you. There no over the top jump scares or anything like that. Its just watching Tree get killed in crazy ways over and over again. It’s a simple premise, which is executed rather well. They do throw in a few little changes to the typical GHD formula.

While Tree wakes up after each murder she also carries the injuries from that previous death as well as gets weaker every time. So while she has unlimited lives, she may only have a certain amount of time before she stops waking up. It’s a clever way to allow us to cheer for her deaths while also wondering if this one will be the one that breaks her.

My one real complaint with this film is that for a slasher film, there is very little slashing in it. Being a PG13, I understand that you couldn’t go to over the top but as soon as she gets killed we cut away back to her waking up. No blood or anything, it’s sort of a cope out.

Its lead actress Jessica Rothe who gives an amazing performance carries this movie. Going from the mean girl to learning her lesion, Rothe manages to capture every emotion and helps to give us a reason to care about this character. The fact that this slasher film actually gave its characters actual development instead of just killing them off is something it should be credited for.

Happy Death Day is a dark witty playful comedy, which is sure to keep you well entertained. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but adds enough to it to make it it’s own thing. If your looking for something horror related to watch this October, this is sure to do the trick.

Images owned by Universal

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31 Days of Halloween: Paranorman

31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN PARANORMAN By Brett Haynes 19/10/17 Ever since The Nightmare Before Christmas, stop motion animation has bec...