FAR NORTH Review :: DRAMA :: 067

Posted in Crime, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , on 07/17/2018 by joycereview

Far North (2007)

Asif Kapadia’s film Far North (2007) was an interesting watch to say the least. The story is a unique one and (filmed in Norway) provided a setting and culture that many haven’t seen on the silver screen. When you pick up this title you’ll see that it’s a crime drama… therefore you know that something sinister happens on the ice, but what exactly, you’re not likely to guess.

PLOT
The plot of this story involves two women, Saiva (Michelle Yeoh) and Anja (Michelle Krusiec) living, presumably in the Arctic region of the Soviet Union (date unknown). Saiva finds a soldier named Loki (Sean Bean) frozen and near death. Their simple life is altered dramatically after this event.

THE REVIEW
One thing that you are able to recognize right away is that this isn’t your typical Hollywood film. And though this is something I typically enjoy, the pace was a bit slow and the information restrictive. While you learn that a shaman warned Saiva that harm will come to those around her, you learn little else – and nothing about Anja. You also learn next to nothing about Loki, which you think would have come up during long, cold nights.

While the movie was enjoyable, my main gripe is that there could have been more to the story and a lot more that you could have learned from the characters. Even the ending just drops off without a sense of closure. You might be wondering why I’d give this film a seven – relatively high mark for a film I have such a deep gripe about? The answer for this is that while there is a lot more that could have been added, deepening the story, there really isn’t anything else to see fault in.

Well…. one more… but that would be giving away a major spoiler. You’ll just have to see it for yourself!

Let us know what you thought of it in the comments.

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LIGHTS OUT REVIEW :: HORROR :: 066

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/07/2018 by joycereview

Lights Out (2016)

Light’s Out is the first film from David F. Sandberg, who after this, went on to direct Annabelle: Creation (2017). This story, based on Mr. Sandberg’s film short in 2013 (watch below) proved a hit although the reviews for the feature film are rather scattered.

The Plot
Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) must come to the aid of her younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) who is losing sleep over the creepiness and potential violence that resides while living with his manic mother Sophie (Maria Bello). The mother lives with a possessed spirit that haunts the her house in times of mental stress and is revealed when it’s “light’s out.”

The Review
Being the first feature film from David Sandberg, I’d like to start the review by applauding him. While I personally thought some of the acting was on the weak side, each actor had their strong moments. Additionally there were many more strong acting moments than weak ones. The only other negative is at the story could have been added on to, although the duration of the film makes it easier to keep the tension. Still, at a mere 1 hr and 21 minutes, something closer to the 2-hr mark would be nice.

The scares were steady, even starting off the film – which you don’t often see. They were mainly of the “shock” variety and came quite unexpectedly at times (as one would hope from a horror film). The director had several hurdles (it appears to me) while making this film. The obvious one is that for the possessed spirit to endanger any of the characters, he had to manufacture ways of keeping them in the dark (i.e. flashlights going out, candles flickering, etc.).

As someone who thinks that true horror films should all be R-rated (with only a few exceptions), he had another obstacle in that he kept it PG-13 – keeping gore and violence to a tolerable level per the studio’s guidelines. This is almost always a mistake. In this movie, it would have helped, but not to a great extent, in my opinion. The one thing that I think they did exceptionally well was that the characters reacted rather realistically to the situations presented… for example, something scares you, get a weapon… lights go out, check the fuse box, et cetera.

Online user reviews are always quite harsh – especially when it comes to horror. People have widely different tastes and, as such, many get scared/shocked/grossed out differently. Though purists will likely scoff at Lights Out, it is definitely a movie to give a try. I think it’ll surprise most.

Did you see it? What were you impressions of the film?

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Trailer:

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Original LIGHTS OUT Short (2013):

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Be sure to follow me on Instagram at @chencenter. Every third posted picture will be a new movie review! And be sure to comment.  We’d love to hear your take on the movie OR on the review.

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WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? REVIEW :: DOCUMENTARY :: 065

Posted in Documentary, Special Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/01/2018 by joycereview

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Fred Rogers was one of my first influences growing up. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a major part of me and my sister’s childhood (besides Sesame Street and our favorite, Reading Rainbow). As good as some of these other children’s programs were, none delivered more of a caring message as Mr. Rogers did – as he would always end his show with…

“You’ve made this day a special day just by being you. There’s no one in the world quite like you, and I like you just the way you are.”

My wife and I had the opportunity to see the first showing at the Aperture Cinema in downtown Winston-Salem Friday night. We managed to find good seating towards the middle of Studio 2, and although the space was fairly cramped and the screen a bit higher than it needs to be, we were able to physically “hold up” for the 94 minute running time. My wife Jennifer was adequately prepared to brave the movie with her new neck stabilizer.

99% ON ROTTEN TOMATOES

It was hard for me to rate this one. If anyone was to rate the documentary based on who the man was, and how important he was, it would obviously be a 10! It currently has a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes with only one critic holding out with a negative review.  Did this one critic want to merely stand out from the crowd or does he have some legitimate points?

MY TAKE

My take on this documentary is as such – It was an extremely moving film about the Fred Rogers, his television show and the impact that it had on society. It was also a refreshing film that reinforces all the positivity, love and kindness that seems so rare in our nation currently. There was a lot that you learned about Mr. Rogers, from his distaste for programs that encouraged violence and consumerism, to the insecurities that he had later in his career. The viewer was reminded just how amazing he was with children, how honest and sincere he was and how gently and simply he’d lead you along the path of understanding – whether the topic was divorce or even the tragic events of September 11th. After watching this great film, and you realize that the world will not likely see another quite like him… it leaves you wondering what Fred Rogers would think about the state of the world today – even though they try to tackle that tough question in the film. 

MY SCORE

Won’t You Be My Neighbor gets an 8-out-of-10 bear claws for a couple of reasons. First, is the documentary crafted in the best possible way with respect to the subject? My answer – Somewhat. Director Morgan Neville does a good job at weaving the various clips, behind-the-scenes and interviews from the early days of the show to today, but it felt that once we were getting to a deeper understanding Mr. Rogers, the direction moved elsewhere. And while the documentary styling was soft and simple – just as Mr. Rogers would have like it, it would also have been interesting to have known more about where and how Fred Rogers grew up, who his influences were and (even) how he handled the diagnosis of cancer that took his life at the age of 73. There is still a lot that Joanne Rogers (his widow) knows, that fans of his would love to know – and as much as we loved the show, we all loved and would have loved to know the man even deeper.

YOUR THOUGHTS

In all of my reviews I try to give my readers my honest thoughts and certainly why I rate the movie the way I do – not just a quick thumbs-up or thumbs-down and certainly not a lengthy description of the plot. That is far too dull and something you can easily pick up by watching the trailer.  However, I do hope you are enjoying my reviews, and they are inspiring you to check out a film or even re-watch one! Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a wonderful film that should be interested for all… but please give me your personal thoughts when you get a chance. I’d love to hear them!

ESSENTIAL NOTE BEFORE VIEWING!!!!

Don’t forget to bring some tissues. When we watched it, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house/theater… certainly including me (I’m such a softie!)

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CABIN FEVER REVIEW :: HORROR :: 064

Posted in Comedy, Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/29/2018 by joycereview

Cabin Fever (2002)

This review is not so simple to make. To movie critics, it is my opinion that this genre, “horror-comedy”, is the most troublesome to dissect. Take for example the amazing and hysterical, Cabin In The Woods (2012)- clearly a comedy. Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead 2 (1987) were horror films that introduced audiences to the not-so-serious, “campy” horror flick that some people try to successfully make. Obviously when juggling the weight of two genres, you may miss on both fronts.

Plot
A group of five college graduates; Paul (Rider Strong), Karen (Jordan Ladd), Marcy (Cerina Vincent), Jeff (Joey Kern) and Bert (James DeBello) rent a cabin in the woods and things go south when they begin to fall victim to a flesh-eating virus.

Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever (2002), now a cult classic, is certainly a film I enjoyed elements of and while some scenes and acting were cringe-worthy, it often feels like many of these were on purpose. Can you fault something performed or delivered poorly if it’s done on purpose? (See, The Room)

For instance, some of the dialogue is so bad it’s good. As a teenager in the 90s, the time period that this story takes place in, it paints a very realistic picture of the way kids talk.

Paul: “Why would you want to kill squirrels?”
Bert: “cus’ they’re gay.”
Karen: “Bert, don’t be a $&#ing retard.”

Sex…
Thank you Eli Roth and Cerina Vincent for adding the two sex scenes and the bath scene that are quite the stable of horror movies. And quite realistic too! Not only would this be what would really happen, but is what attracts many teenage horror fans – let’s be honest. As chauvinistic as it is, the “the nude girl” is kind of a staple and the “treat” to the viewer’s “trick or treat” night. Some people would learn from this… like Michael Bay walking away from Friday the 13th (2009) because there was “too much sex.” BTW, thank you (Winston-Salem native) Julianna Guill!

Gas Station scenes…
Perhaps the clichés of all clichés in the horror genre (besides teenagers in the woods) would have to be an eerie gas station stop. This movie was no exception and one of the highlights of the film. I won’t spoil it for you here… but watch for it!

In any respect, Cabin Fever is beloved by many, especially “splatter” B-film lovers. Director Peter Jackson liked it so much that he held three showings for his crew while filming Lord of The Rings. While it would be fun to watch with a group of friends, I doubt I’d watch it more than once. However, would I add it to my list of must-own horror flicks … this, most definitely!

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________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Be sure to follow me on Instagram, as every 3rd picture will feature a brand new Joyce Review. Also, let me know in the comment section if there is a particular film you’d like me to review. But first… let me know what you thought of Cabin Fever (2002)

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RED SPARROW :: ACTION :: 062

Posted in Action, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/20/2018 by joycereview

Red Sparrow (2018)

While it is true that Jennifer Lawrence makes any film better, she follows up her X-Men (2016) and Mother! (2017) films with a bit of a flop. Though an exceptional actress, it was the movie, not the actress that caused the tailspin.

PLOT
J. Lo plays Dominika Egorova, a ballerina-turned spy when her uncle sends her to the Russian Sparrow School. Her codename at one point is Katrina, a fairly obvious connection to her character in Hunger Games, Katniss. Anyway, as an untested secret agent, she is ordered to make contact with C.I.A. agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) in order to reveal the identity of an unknown Russian informant.

THOUGHTS
Though there are some surprise moments, the plot is a bit too convoluted and unrealistic. After being in the Sparrow School only 3 months, Dominika is sent on the secret mission for the State – whereby all that we see that she learns is how to accept and dismiss sexual violation and learn how to administer this sexual control to someone else. There are no other evidence that she is learning anything useful (except for one lock-picking class).

The first act is well-done and quite interesting however, by the time she leaves the Sparrow School the movie loses its luster, especially with the poor chemistry between Lawrence and Edgerton. Keep in mind that this was just as much of a writing problem as it was casting problem – I just don’t feel that Edgerton was the right person for the role.

Several of the cast members did wonderful job, most notable is Belgian actor Mattias Schoenaerts who played Dominika’s uncle Vanya, and Charlotte Rampling who played the Sparrow School’s matron. The wife and I had seen her since she played Doctor Evelyn Vogel in Dexter. Ciarán Hinds (best know as Caesar in Rome) had a small, yet well-played role as Zakharov, while actors Mary-Louise Parker (Stephanie Boucher) and Jeremy Irons (General Karchnoi) were quite poor. I like to give most actors the benefit of the doubt though as Parker’s performance might be rooted in poor direction and Iron’s abysmal Russian accent a result of not enough preparation time, that according to dialogue coach Erik Singer, is more often the case (especially in seasoned/veteran actors).

Overall, this movie is a hard pass and certainly not a movie that I will be adding to my home collection.

It get’s a (generous) 5 out-of-10 bear claws.

But what did YOU think?

Do you feel we were wrong in any aspect of this review?

Let us know in the comments below.

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GAME NIGHT :: COMEDY :: 061

Posted in Comedy, Crime with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/14/2018 by joycereview

Game Night (2018)

“Tonight we’re going to take came night up a notch.”

-Brooks

Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are a couple that came together over their love of games. Now, years later, they host game night parties with their fun (and often hysterical) group of friends. On one particular night, Max’s older brother Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler) joins them and, like he always does, goes above and beyond the norm. However, everything goes wrong when his mock hostage situation goes array.
There is so much to like about this movie! Jason Bateman is… Jason Bateman, but who doesn’t love him? Rachel McAdams plays his wife and does so with great zest. It seriously looks like she’s never had more fun making a movie in her life. The one-upper, older brother Brooks is played by Kyle Chander of Friday Night Lights and Bloodline fame. Both he and Rachel hold their own in these comedic roles.


Lamorne Morris of New Girl, plays friend Kevin and gives a stellar performance in every scene he’s a part of. Unsuspectingly though, many of the heartiest laughs come because of Max and Annie’s creepy cop neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons). Sometimes mistaken (before he made more of a name for himself) as Matt Damon’s twin (they are not related), Jesse has continued to impress the wife and I in all that he’s done (Black Mass, Hostiles, Bridge of Spies, and Friday Night Lights, etc). As an interesting note, he got engaged to actress Kirsten Dunst just last year (2017).While this is in no way a perfect comedy, it is highly entertaining, well-paced and written (Mark Perez). You can also add well-directed as Horrible Bosses (2011) director/actor/writer John Francis Daly adds to his list of achievements. John, one of the main stars of the cult classic Freaks and Geeks, does a great job behind the camera as well. John’s cameo as at the beginning of the film as the tavern’s Game Night questioner that asks the question “What’s the name of the purple teletubby?” … To which they answer together in unison, “Tinky Winky!” And the love connection was made!

There IS one cameo that would possibly be a spoiler if I mentioned it here – so please don’t go searching for it (unless you don’t care for surprises). In the film he goes by the name of The Bulgarian.

Let us know what you thought of Game Night?

How was our ranking? On point? Or way off? If so, why?

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Trailer:

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Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at ChenCenter.

Every 3rd photo is a brand new review. Or simply check back here from time-to-time. Either way enjoy!!!

 

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DEADPOOL 2 :: ACTION :: 060

Posted in Action, Comedy, Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/01/2018 by joycereview

Deadpool 2 (2018)

“Deadpool. That sounds like a franchise.”

Nearly every film falls short on the sequel and Deadpool 2 is no exception – but not by much!

In Deadpool we meet Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) a foul-mouthed mercenary that undergoes an experiment that leaves him with amazing, self-healing abilities and enhanced physical prowess. We learn quickly that this “Merc with a mouth” isn’t your typical superhero – often roasting his colleagues and screen stars with sarcasm, pop-culture references and insults. Like his actual comic persona, he occasionally is guilty of “breaking the fourth wall.”

“I may be super but I’m no hero.”

Deadpool 2 has all the same elements of the first, but this time they double-downed on the action and gore. They also added some new characters, including one, time-traveling terminator named Cable (Josh Brolin). Sister Margaret’s Tavern, a pub frequented by shady characters and mercenaries becomes HQ to a special team or “force” whose first directive is to rescue a misguided youth (Firefist) before he is killed and/or does something monstrous. Friend and bartender, Weasel (T.J. Miller) is hilarious…again, and new-comer, Domino (Zazie Beetz), many times, stills the show!


Deadpool movies are perfect for those of that relish with glee witty and racy remarks (especially those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s). Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) and director David Leitch (Deadpool 2) have similar styles, it seems to me, which adds to the continuity. They also keep with the same primary writers (Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick) but this time, instead going with a group effort like they did in Deadpool, they added Ryan Reynolds to the writer’s table.

The action, dialogue and story moves along quicker than the first and can be rather daunting to take it all in. Keep in mind that some people, not a lot, believe the opposite. While I won’t scoff…. I feel strongly that the action had more of the Hollywood effects element. And though Deadpool continues to flirt erotically and sometimes homo-erotically (like in the first) the sexuality seems a bit toned down, possibly with the studios expecting a younger crowd.


Be on the lookout for some surprise cameos and prepare yourself for a good time!

Let us know what you thought in the comments!!!!

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Trailers:

Deadpool (2016)

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Deadpool 2 (2018)

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