Paranormal Activity is a small movie created in the similar tradition of The Blair Witch Project. It tells the story of a young couple that is continually haunted by a demonic spirit. The entire movie takes place in their own home. It is basically a mock-home video, just like Blair Witch. Paranormal Activity begins with the boyfriend, Micah, setting up cameras around his home in the hopes of capturing the spirit on film. What he ends up capturing is more than he intended, I’m sure. The whole movie is created from the footage these cameras picks up.
Paranormal Activity was created by a man with no filmmaking experience and two actors with no previous acting jobs. The director, Oren Peli, filmed it in his own house with only a budget of a mere $11,000. Until a few weeks ago, not many people had even heard of Paranormal Activity. Leading up to its release, it had one of the most unique marketing campaigns ever heard of. The film was shown on 13 colleges campuses. The filmmakers then told the audiences to “demand” the film be shown in their hometowns or other places in the U.S. The buzz surrounding the movie grew from there.
Paranormal Activity is effectively scary because of how real it seems. Throughout the whole movie, you forget that it is just a movie. It truly seems like this really happened. For one thing, the whole “home video” feel adds the most realism. Second, the two main actors, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, are nobodies so this gives the film that extra boost of authenticity.
This movie easily makes it into my own list of the top 10 scariest movies of all time. By the end of the film, I had my hands on my face, my toes were crunched up, and I didn’t even realize I had been holding my breath until the credits started rolling. I walked out of the theater shaking for a good ten minutes. This movie will scary the hell out of you! See it! I give Paranormal Activity an A+.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
In Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Kevin James plays the title character: an obese mall cop who does not necessarily hate his job but aspires to do more. To add insult to injury, he certainly does not get any respect from the mall’s store employees. That is, except for Amy, Paul Blart’s crush who runs a kiosk in the middle of the mall. When the mall is taken over by a band of robbers, Paul Blart decides to take the initiative and sees the robbery as an opportunity to stop the robbers himself and earn respect for himself and to win Amy’s heart.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop is not what you would expect and the trailer certainly does not do the film any justice. The movie is funny at times but is destined to be forever known as a flash in the pan. It lacks the in-your-face quality of such recent comedy hits as Superbad. Unfortunately, the funniest parts of the movie are the ones that poke fun at Kevin James ever-growing weight. Honestly, I feel bad for the guy because he rinds me of Chris Farley in the sense that he is a comedian who gets most of his laughs from jokes directed toward his extra large stature.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop is much funnier and more entertaining than I ever expected. However, as I said earlier, it will be nothing but a flash in the pan. I give Paul Blart: Mall Cop a B-.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was scrutinized mercilessly by the media. Its only redemption was becoming the 6th high grossing film of all time. I’d say the critics didn’t really have much of an influence on the public, wouldn’t you? As much as I loved POTC2, I admit that the film had its weak points, namely the multiple confusing plotlines. The buzz surrounding this third, and possibly final, installment in the Pirates franchise has been relatively better than its predecessor. At World’s End has been criticized for being just as confusing at the second Pirates film. Some have joked that the film should have been called “At Wit’s End.”
At the end of Pirates 2, Jack Sparrow is dragged down to the depths of Davey Jones’ Locker by the Kraken. Now, in Pirates 3, Elizabeth Swann, Will Turner, and the rest of the gang decide that they must join up with the mystic Tia Dalma along with the once villainous Captain Barbossa in bringing back Captain Jack.
AWE picks up almost right where the second one left off. The gang is in Singapore trying to release Will Turner from the clutches of pirate lord, Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat). Hold on, let me gather my thoughts. Okay, I am going to try to explain the movie as simply as possible. After releasing Will, the gang travels under the direction of Barbossa to the edge of the world to bring back Jack from the Locker.
A good portion of the almost three hour long epic is spent in Davey Jones’ Locker trying to locate Jack. Skipping right through the details (if I told you everything then you wouldn’t want to see the movie, now would you?), jack is brought back to the real world. Upon returning from Jones’ Locker the crew finds out the Davey Jones has recently joined forces with the evil Lord Beckett and his band of misfits (aka the Royal Navy) to find and wipe out all remaining pirates on Earth. Jack and company figure that the only way to prevent them from doing so is to gather up at the pirates from around the world and fight for their right to continue to pillage and plunder. This is where is must stop summarizing the film or else I will give away too much. I can tell you, however, that the film does leave room for the possibility of a fourth Pirates film.
Unlike Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End has several strong redeeming qualities that somewhat overshadow the extremely confusing storylines. Yes, plural- storylines. It would seem as though there were 10 different stories taking place within the one film. Anyway, I left the theater mesmerized by the grand scale of the whole film. The makeup, costumes, number of extras, and especially the special effects and locations seemed so overwhelming and real that many times I lost myself in the movie and having to bring myself back to reality by reminding myself I was, much to my disappointment, not one of Captain Jack’s shipmates. The overall scope of this film completely surpassed the scale of the first two films.
Another redeeming quality of the film was the amount of real human emotion the actors were able to portray so perfectly. The love story between Will and Elizabeth, to me, was the strongest and most interesting aspect of the whole film. By the time the cast had come back from their brief hiatus to film the rest of AWE, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley must have taken acting lessons. Every other movie I have ever seen either of them in, including Pirates 1 & 2, I wondered how they ever got a job in the movie industry. Pirates 3 is the first time both of them were able to break out of the typecasting ways and become true performers.
The third and final aspect of Pirates 3 that stood out was Han Zimmer’s score. He had previously created the music for the second film (not the first). Of course the now famous Pirates of the Caribbean Theme is thrown into the mix but for the first time the music finally seemed to live up to the scope of the film itself. It has a certain epic, grand quality to it.
If I had to rank the three Pirates of the Caribbean films in order from best to least best (notice I don’t say best to worst) I would easily put the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl, at the top of the list. Second would be this summer’s At World’s End. Finally, I would place last year’s Dead Man’s Chest at the bottom franchise. I have to call these films part of a franchise and not a trilogy because I can only hope that the world’s favorite pirates will return to make Pirates of the Caribbean 4! I give Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End a B+.
Precious tells the remarkable story of a 300-pound 16-year-old girl growing up in 1980’s Harlem. The girl, Claireece “Precious” Jones, lives with her physically and verbally abusive mother, played by comedian Mo’Nique in a disturbing performance guaranteed to earn her an Oscar Nod. Precious goes to a school where the only time her peers pay her any attention is when they are barking at her. As if all her school and home abuse isn’t enough torture, Precious is also illiterate and pregnant with her second child, the result of being raped by her own father. She is reluctant when her principal informs her of a special school where she can get the special attention she needs. As the film progresses the audience follows Precious as she learns to read and write. Through her writing we learn her innermost thoughts and feelings about her mother, her children, and dreams.
This is a movie that I recommend for almost everyone. At times, it is extremely difficult to watch. Each time Precious’ mother yells at her, every other word out of her mother is a vulgarity or an insult that stabs not only at the heart of Precious, but even the toughest audience member. Equally vicious is the physical abuse Precious endures. One of the most terrifying moments is when Precious is running away from her mother with her newborn child in her arms and her mother hurls a television at her.
However, the point of the film is not to glorify the hardships Precious is forced to face but rather the way she is able to rise up and become determined to make something of herself and be a better mother than her own. Every time something bad happens to Precious, she transports herself to a dreamworld. Each time, her vision is of herself as someone famous living a luxurious life. These dreams are her way of taking herself out of the moment when being beaten, raped, or yelled at.
There is no doubt that Precious is going to be nominated for, and win, many honors this awards season. This particular story is fictional but it is important to remember that so many people in the world are essentially living the abusive life that Precious does in the film. Hopefully, those who are actually going through this kind of stuff can watch the film or read the book and be given even the slightest bit of hope for themselves and their own future. Also, if anyone is interested in seeing Mariah Carey redeem herself for Glitter, the classically horrendous movie she made in 2001, see Precious. She actually gives a pretty decent performance. I give Precious an A all the way.
Predators was thought, by many, to be a reimagining of the original Predator movie (1987) however it is actually a sequel, or Predator 3. In fact, it even references the first film as the “incident” that occurred in Guatemala in 1987. In this outing, there is much more mystery trickled throughout. You never really know how or why the humans were placed on the foreign planet that the predators inhabit. The humans don’t have a clue either. All they know is that there are huge, disgusting beasts trying to kill them and they need to stay alive any way possible.
As mentioned earlier, Adrian Brody has never been thought of as a macho tough guy. I am sure I was not the only one who scoffed at the idea when it was announced he would be playing the hero in Predators. At first, he comes across as trying to play Batman as Christian Bale. The unnecessarily deep, scraggly voice isn’t fooling anybody. Once you get into it, and especially once the finale arrives, Adrian Brody is a very believable hero with the ability to take down a bunch of crazy predators.
The characters are rather empty. The writer tried to add some sort of a backstory to each character but to no avail. Personally, besides Brody’s character I did not care if any of the humans died. The predators themselves are totally awesome. There are a couple new predators whose look shows a variation of the old predators. They look more primal and prehistoric. You can tell these predators have been on this planet for a long time.
I would recommend this film for anyone who is a fan of the first two films, especially the first. It is a throwback to the original but it is also clearly a Predator film for a new generation to enjoy. I give Predators a B.
Public Enemies follows Dillinger as he robs banks, outruns the FBI, and falls in love with a beautiful French woman (Marion Cotillard). Christian Bale stars as Melvin Purvis, the man tasked with catching Dillinger.
Public Enemies director, Michael Mann, filmed this movie beautifully. The whole 2½ hour long movie is done with handheld cameras. There is even a sequence where a violent shootout takes place at a cabin in the woods. During this scene, a number of the shots seem to be shot with an everyday home camcorder. While many people would hate this inventiveness, I found that it helped draw me in more. The shots with the camcorders blew my mind because it made me feel as though I was actually involved in the firefight. For anyone who knows Michael Mann movies knows that this kind of shooting style is not out of the ordinary.
Speaking of Michael Mann, it would be outrageous not to acknowledge the striking similarities between Public Enemies and Mann’s classic action flick, Heat. For instance, both movies have a protagonist (Al Pacino in Heat and Bale in Enemies) who has decided to make it their personal mission to track down and catch an elusive bank robber (Robert De Niro in Heat and Depp in Enemies). Another huge similarity is the fact that both movies include a large-scale shootout outside of a bank in broad daylight in the middle of a busy street.
Johnny Depp gives an amazing performance, as always. One thing he does in this movie that I cannot ever remember seeing him do before is actually cry. It was very refreshing because many times Depp plays a tough guy and that’s it. In Public Enemies he portrays a tough guy who also happens to have feelings.
I just want to make one quick observation about Christian Bale. It seems that ever since he became the new Batman he acts as though he doesn’t care about any other movie he makes. He has acted the same way in all his movies over the past several years. His time on screen has just become monotonous.
Overall, I loved Public Enemies. At times it was slow but the superb acting by Depp and Cotillard made up for most of the boring scenes. It was a combination of the acting, the cinematography, the period costumes, music, and dialogue that made Public Enemies the wonderful period piece it is. I give it a solid A.