R100 (2013)

Directed By: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Written By: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Takasu, Timoji Hasegawa, Koji Ema & Mitsuru Kuramoto

Cinematography: Kazunari Tanaka
Editor: Yoshitaka Honda

Cast: Nao Omori, Mao Daichi, Shinbu Terajima, Hari Katagri, Ai Tominaga, Eriko Sato, Naomi Watanabe, Lindsay Hayward

An ordinary man with an ordinary life joins a mysterious club. The membership lasts for one year only and there is one rule: no cancellation under any circumstance. The man enters into a whole new exciting world he never before experienced where crazy love goes wilder and crazier. Is it an illusion or is it real? Welcome to the world no one has dared to explore until now!


The first act of this film is interesting, yet quickly becomes infuriating. As it introduces and lays the groundwork but then there seem like long scenes of repetition, long takes, and boredom.

The dominatrix scenes at least offer up what looks like random one-sided action scenes. Where we watch the main character go through many types of torture from various Dominatrixes and they each have a different specialty. That they come off almost as action hero henchmen or villains themselves. 

The film from time to time offers commentary by the film audience seemingly verbalizing what the actual viewing audience watching the film is probably feeling or thinking or wanting to say and pointing out flaws. While also giving the film a meta element and thus another layer. 

Once we get to the second act the film picks up as it doubles down on the out-there elements. Where the film comes off where it was already supposed to be more comedic. 

Until we get to the over-the-top third act. Which involves more action, fantasy, and chases that feel more convenient while still keeping its odd quality about it.

I really tried to get into the film And it’s a ridiculous premise. I will admit it was a challenge and while I can certainly say it’s different. I can’t say it was very enjoyable.

The film tries to break down a lot in explications and randomness. What is supposed to be comedic introduces randomness that constantly makes the film non-coherent and fully self-contained. Yet the first half still feels a bit monotonous. Even as it constantly aims for absurdism. 

Even as the film’s title reveals an inside joke. You know that it has a constant sense of humor about itself. In Japan, R18 is a rating that means no one under 18 is allowed to see it . As they will not understand the film. So this film’s title being R100 means it’s so disturbing that no one or at least no one under the age of 100 should watch it. As they won’t understand it. Which one can see? 

Grade: C

2 GUNS (2013)

Directed By: Baltasar Kormakur
Written By: Blake Masters
Based on the boom! studios graphic novels By: Steven Grant
Cinematography: Oliver Wood
Editor: Michael Tronick

Cast: Denzel Washington,Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton,Edward James Olmos, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Robert John Burke, Fred Ward, Patrick Fischler

Two hardened criminals get into trouble with the US border patrol after meeting with a Mexican drug lord, and then revelations start to unfold.


The film is fun though it is always predictable and you know how it is going to turn out. Though luckily the film keeps us on our toes and interested to see how we will get there.

Didn’t know that the film was actually based on a graphic novel. Though Mark Wahlberg is more an old hat at taking on roles originated elsewhere and in graphic novels. Denzel Washington not so much. 

 The twists and turns are appreciated to keep the film lively and drive the story forward.

The action sequences are impressive. You can tell the two stars are having in with the material, maybe even then the audience. As each doesn’t stretch too far in their roles and falls back to their charms and talents.

This is the type of film where the plot comes off as an afterthought. Though complicated this film seems more invested in the chemistry of the two stars and how much they can interact as superstars. As well as an emphasis on action sequences and who comes out on top in them.

A buddy action comedy is only tougher, involving more death and violence. With two Movie stars, you normally don’t see Co-Starring in each other’s Films. Which is really what brings the audience to this film more than the actual story. 

Shocked, the movie isn’t directed by a frequent collaborator for Denzel Washington Antoine Fuqua. As it has the same polish as his films but lacks the drama needed for one of his films. 

Paula Patton seems more here as eye candy with a surprising amount of nudity. She does set the movie forward. Between this and the movie FLIGHT, Denzel Washington being involved with younger women and having nudity brings one back to the films of yesteryear though admittedly gratuitous, but so much of this film already is still stylish. 

This film is almost like a veteran movie as most cast members are recognizable and here more to chew the scenery but at least they come off as they are having fun. That energy extends to the viewer and makes this film entertaining while you take none of it seriously 

It’s not god’s gift to make a decent action thriller with a bunch of intentional laughs. At least the movie offers an intriguing story that does hold the audience’s interest other than having the two stars teaming up or battling one another amongst the more ridiculous elements. It has suspenseful moments. 

Though honestly if you are a fan of either or both of the stars of this movie. You will like it thus making it criticism-proof in the long run. Especially when the film is better down than expected

Grade: B-  

PLUSH (2013)

Directed By: Catherine Hardwicke 
Written By: Catherine Hardwicke & Arty Nelson 
Cinematography By: Daniel Moder 
Editor: Julia Wong 

Cast: Emily Browning, Xavier Daniel, Cam Giganet, Thomas Dekker, Frances Fisher, Dawn Olivieri, Brandon Jay McLaren, Elizabeth Pena

Mourning the loss of her brother/collaborator, a young rocker struggles to write music while juggling a jealous husband, two kids, and a mysterious new guitarist who will stop at nothing to become the most important person in her life.


How the mighty have fallen, once upon a time Catherine Hardwicke was one of my favorite new directors with the films THIRTEEN and LORDS OF DOGTOWN I believed her to be a great new voice in filmmaking. Then she directed TWILIGHT an already practicing franchise. That would lead to bigger ad better things and her being more in demand. After that film, she still stayed making films centered around youth with films such as RED RIDING HOOD and THE NATIVITY STORY although this film really lends itself to a new low. I don’t know what attracted her to making this film because nothing about It is revolutionary or even interesting. It tries to be so many things or at least tries so many different subjects that it clearly struggles with an exact definition and seems lost, inauthentic and Worse a poseur. While it tries to have a punk rock ethic.

It has a horror ending and beginning. Though in between it plays like an erotic thriller set in the rock n roll music box that is barely erotic and the songs are pretty bad. Though give the film a soundtrack billed to itself.

The sex scenes are thankfully brief, but plentiful. The eroticism only is risqué and general serves it’s purpose in one scene. Even the opening scene really has nothing to do with most of the film until near the end and still offers little explanation.

It doesn’t help that Xavier Daniel and Emily browning have little of any chemistry together on screen. So it’s hard to believe her falling for him at all. There is also a scene where he directs a music video that is really bad and comes across as a student experimental film that we are forced to believe that everyone includes the band who are barely featured in the video thinks is genius. We also never even get to know the rest of the band members who are treated like bored guns though we are supposed I believe this band has been together for 10 years yet act no closer than new co-workers

There is even a sex scene thankfully not focusing on the main actors that feel unnecessary and just out there to spice things up though ends up more awkward and comedic than erotic or purposeful.

The film is predictable especially when we get more and more involved in the case her journalist husband is writing about for VANITY FAIR? Do we think this has anything to do with the rest of the movie for a reason? Of course. Do we think the foreshadowing of showing a ring that before her brother OD’s will come back later on in the film?

Now the film has a modest budget so it can’t all be glamorous and I am wondering is that why one death is more talked about rather than shown. Plus the film talks about the success of the band but never gives is a scale of their popularity are they actual stars trying to make a comeback or a successful indie band. As it seems they mostly play rock clubs instead of big concert venues. The lead singer seems to have money though not a lavish lifestyle. More modest than anything.

In fact, if they are an indie band it is one of the few things the movie did right by showing them as more modest and not millionaires with tons of paparazzi following them.

This film isn’t even good as an erotic thriller level, Like the ridiculous types, you would see late night on cable that was at least fun as they knew what they were. Here everything that feels ridiculous though is treated with utmost seriousness. I won’t even go into the third act reveals.

I was lured by not only director Catherine Hardwicke but also star Emily Browning. She is definitely earning a reputation with me at least of being a good actress, but only in it seems subpar movies as she is usually the best thing in them and I applaud her willingness to be fearless a tale chances on screen. I only wish it was for better films. Not only with this film but also SLEEPING BEAUTY and SUCKER PUNCH. 
I can admit to keeping coming back to her films partially as she has a haunting beauty and I will admit maybe I have a screen crush on her. Though it is harder and harder to look forward to films she is in. Luckily she has LEMONY SNICKET: A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and GOD HELP THE GIRL that are good and decent films that show her talent even the guilty pleasure THE UNINVITED.

Evan Rachel Wood was originally cast in the lead role but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and Emily Browning was cast. Which was the same thing that happened with the film SUCKER PUNCH only Browning was replacing Amanda Seyfried. 


I only hope better and beyond for both director and star

Skip it.

Grade: F

NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN (2013)

Written & Directed By: Katrin Gebbe
Cinematography: Moritz Schultbieb
Editor: Heike Gnida 

Cast: Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl, Gro Swantje Kohljof, Daniel Michael

The young Tore seeks in Hamburg a new life among the religious group called The Jesus Freaks. When he by accident meets a family and helps them to repair their car, he believes that a heavenly wonder has helped him. He starts a friendship with the father of the family, Benno. Soon he moves in with them at their garden plot, not knowing what cruelty is there to come. True to his religious belief he stays with them although the increasing violence by Benno is torturing him. Tore is fighting the torment with his own weapons. So a dangerous struggle between libidinous actions and altruism begins. Inspired by true events.


This is a film that took me by surprise. I only heard about it recently.

This is a horror tale that sneaks up on you in the worst way, in plain sight. As it seems like a drama at first. As it isn’t a horror film Filled with slashers or any supernatural evil.

It all boils down to being a movie about faith about a character who has an unwavering faith and no matter how bad things get beloved he is being tested for a higher purpose. He encounters a man who is a sociopath and just so filled with hate and evil that he makes it his mission to try and get him to stop believing and take out His anger on him whenever frustrated.

Even if he hadn’t encountered this teenager the sociopath would bring those around him down and finding these victims might have saved others from his terror.

The Second half of this movie is brutal and upsetting. So that once the film is over you feel dirty or somehow stained from the experience.

The teenage character believes he has to accept these punishments. To save others. So they are safe but by witnessing it hopefully, they will finally be brave and strong enough to run away. As the family seems to stay with him out of survivor’s syndrome. Some prove to be just as evil as accomplices who just need a bit of a push or to be led into that behavior. The teen sees the main character as a challenge eventually instead of being afraid and realizing how disturbed this guy is.

It also doesn’t help that the sociopath is obviously jealous of the teen in a few ways. Especially when it comes to his teenage daughter. 

He sells to prove him wrong. As the teen stays true to his faith and religious convictions that ultimately he seems he can never defeat. Even as he seems hell-bent on trying to punish him for his beliefs. Truly showing strength of conviction. Leading the movie to some dark and disturbing places.

What is upsetting about this film is that it is supposedly based on a true story and also it’s a. Martyr tale that is upsetting as there is no comeuppance. So no sense of justice and no emotional or tension release. 

What is scary is the terror through the movie is so matter of fact. That sets the tone. As there is nothing necessarily heightened. It is all in plain sight. Little by little, we can tell something isn’t right. It stays believable

The wife tries to say that nothing has been right since the teen got there. Though things seemed already a bit off. The addition of him only adds an adversary for him to lord over and make a slave maybe just for his faith or showing him up in a brief random meeting in the begging getting his car to work. 

Though at times the cruelty comes out of nowhere like selling him off, if only for extra income. It infuriates the audience when he has a chance to escape but see’s all of this as his mission. 

It’s filmed more like a docudrama, though it can feel like torture porn. To get there seems to be a point to it all. 

The acting is spot on and believable. No performance rings false. 

There is some hope at the end but only born out of tragedy. As all around are made into an accessory. Very disturbing. This plays like a Michael Haneke Film that tries to mix with a Lars von Trier movie, but those films can come off as natural. This seems cruel to be cruel. Sadistic and just when you think there will be somebody to save him or some hope. It shows how cruel that world and environment are.

Grade: B

WORLD WAR Z (2013)

Directed By: Marc Forester 
Written By: Damon Lindelof, Drew Goddard & Matthew Michael Carnahan 
Screen Story By: J. Michael Stracynski & Matthew Michael Carnahan 
Based On The Book By: Max Brooks 
 Cinematography By: Ben Seresin 
Editor: Matt Cheese & Roger Barton 


Cast: Brad Pitt, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Ruth Negga, Daniella Kertesz, Mireille Enos, Ludi Boekin,

Life for former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane and his family seems content. Suddenly, the world is plagued by a mysterious infection turning whole human populations into rampaging mindless zombies. After barely escaping the chaos, Lane is persuaded to go on a mission to investigate this disease. What follows is a perilous trek around the world where Lane must brave horrific dangers and long odds to find answers before human civilization falls.


Now let me start off by mentioning I avoided this film like the plague when it first came out. As A fan of the book watching what they had done seemed like a travesty. Especially once you see the what are supposed to be impressive zombies and they looked more like cartoons.

It would be easy to write this film off as just another zombie film and only zombies as it is in and can take the place of whatever villain and plague you need and can easily be faceless and not insulting. This film already had a hard road ahead of it has to deliver a PG-13 rating which isn’t easy especially when dealing with zombies, which usually require gore and graphic violence.

The film I have to say isn’t the book, but it’s not as bad or embarassing as I thought it would be. In the book, we examine from different perspectives the oncoming zombie plague and is more dramatic as we get into personal history and the history of this particular apocalypse. Here we have Brad Pitt trying to find the cause but also a way to stop the plague. While having a bunch of axiom scenes. Luckily it’s not the action epic it could have been with him as line warrior. Though throughout the film he is the smartest and toughest guy in the room. The film tries to stay true somewhat to the book as he travels he questions and finds out more information about the plague.

While the film is thrilling with a bunch of good action set pieces. it’s hard to get really involved or scared when half of the scenes feel like you are watching a video game. Zombies by the hundreds disposable, but threatening when one on one. Yet obviously digital like half of the blood spilled. So it never has that level of reality needed. In fact, the only moment that felt real was the pharmacy scene and when brad Pitt thinks he might have been infected and is ready to commit suicide if he begins to change within the next 60 seconds.

I even liked the obligatory scenes of him checking in and protecting his family, giving him added incentive to come back home safe.

The film feels a bit epic and brings more of a thriller element into many of the Action sequences, Rather than just tons of shooting and bullets. They feel dramatic and important rather than just throw away material that is there just to look cool. It is truly what saves the film from just feeling like a video game adaptation almost. The film has an urgency, but not an unrealistic one

Director Marc Forester impresses as he seems to grow as a director with each film. Here he shows adeptness at big scenes of action with an element of thrills and chills. Showing he has come a long way from QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

Originally, the film had a different ending: the plane lands in Moscow rather than crashing in Wales. The passengers are rounded up, and the elderly and sick are executed. Gerry is drafted into the Russian army. An unknown period of time passes, and we see Gerry fighting the zombies. He realizes the zombies are weak in the cold. The film ended with him getting back to the USA and leading a D-Day like invasion against the undead on the Oregon coast. The ending that was used instead made the movie less brutal and ended it with a glimpse of hope

Why Brad Pitt would see this as a franchise? I have no idea though maybe with the bulk of the book and its stories he envisioned epic films exploring the landscape which would seem to fit more as a miniseries.

Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard rewrote the screenplay in the middle of the production to create a whole new different third act.

This seems to be a studios idea of a zombie film, destroying them without more decapitations instead of more shooting in the head. Just like instead of the zombies feasting on humans they just want to bite and infect. The film feels more like a modern apocalypse film that happens to involve zombies and works on a grand global scale to involve all cultures. Instead of a small story in a limited location. It’s nice to see a bigger zombie tale.

It would be too easy to label this as a trend and cash in, this film actually seems thought out and smarter than it should be. I mean, I can honestly say I wasn’t bored and rarely rolled my eyes. A good popcorn film

Grade: C+

ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013)

Written & Directed: Nicolas Winding Refn 
Cinematography By: Larry Smith 
Editor: Matthew Newman 

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Tom Burke


I couldn’t wait for director Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to DRIVE. In a weird way, this is kind of what I expected and hoped it wouldn’t be.

The Film stays in his style. A little story to speak of, Ryan Gosling is like a mannequin as he is silent mainly expressionless, and feels like a stand-in for a character. He also stares a lot which if you have a crush on him is great. The film is over-indulgent and pretentious. I still liked it but wouldn’t call it good. It’s a revenge tale and an eastern western with despicable characters and the villain is murderous but honorable. Ryan Gosling seems to be a pawn. Though it does have a stillness and slow-motion without an actual slow-motion effect in-camera.

I liked the production design and the camera work. It becomes obvious with each new film that Refn doesn’t really care about the story or plot. It seems for him to be all about moments and having the central figure be kind of a surrogate for him and his fantasies. Though I will say his films have a fetishistic quality to them. Which does well as his characters are plainly one-dimensional which makes them simple to figure out, but it seems like some of the actors namely its lead thinks there is something more to him.

I believe he has an overabundant amount of skills to make a film vividly and well, but like other directors who excel at visuals, it seems recently they have a hard time telling a contained sort without it seeming to leap into indulgence. Nicolas Winding Refn when listening to his interviews about his films makes them sound so Interesting and symbolic then when you see them, you feel lost like everything in it means something though never fully explained. Allowing you to read into it what you will. He reminds me of an abstract artist though his work is more understandable where there is supposedly an idea behind everything or at least a theme yet he leaves you to figure it out. Or it’s based on some theme he thought up that you never really see or figure out fully.

It doesn’t help that though he is a little extreme the supposed villain of the film is the character you like the most as he seems to be the only one doing the right thing.

This film is filled with morals and codes every main hacker seems to live by one of the ones who don’t seem to get slaughtered.

As most of the film is silent as far as dialogue, The score by Cliff Martinez is heaven-sent as it set’s the mood of the scenes and it seems of the character as they trail through this neon wasteland. The score accompanies them and is more of a guide than the script or action on-screen at times.

The film is shockingly violent for the audience high not the director if you follow his work. Though shockingly this is one of his least violent as most of his films deal with lurid lifestyles that have the promise of violence they are usually lightweight in the gore department except for Valhalla rising. Though in his films he treats violence as an everyday normal thing at least to the characters.

Kristin Scott Thomas has the best scenes as the cruelest mother ever put to film who is heartless through and through. Crystal, Julian’s mother, is modeled after Shakespeare’s character Lady Macbeth and Fashion Designer Donatella Versace.

The film sets up a strange oedipal situation that is never clearly defined but slightly disturbing.

The action that sets this whole film in motion seems rather random we never get to know the reasons the action took place, maybe it was living high on the hog he felt he can do or have whatever he wanted. Maybe his soul had grown so empty he needed to do vile things to feel alive or top himself. Either way, a senseless act leads to swift and complicated justice and sworn revenge though we more see it from the crooked side.

Nicolas Winding Refn included karaoke in the film because he found out that, unlike in the west, karaoke was almost religious for Thai people.

Nicolas Winding Refn got the idea for the film while his wife was pregnant with their second daughter. He felt very existentialistic and felt he had much anger and violence in him, but did not know how to let it out. Suddenly he had the idea that the definite person to hold all the answers to existential questions and life’s problems where God and imagined himself having a physical fight with God.

Nicolas Winding Refn got the idea for the film while his wife was pregnant with their second daughter. He felt very existentialistic and felt he had much anger and violence in him, but did not know how to let it out. Suddenly he had the idea that the definite person to hold all the answers to existential questions and life’s problems where God and imagined himself having a physical fight with God.

The film rationalizes their acts by seems to let the audience forget head are horrible people. The only one with partly a soul is gosling’s character. He seems ambivalent and sedate through most of the film and lots of closes up’s on his hands. He seems more forced into seeking revenge hen actually wanting it. The. As he sees the tolls of it and how deep he Is getting, he starts to question his role in all of this. This is all in the film but the film seems to go out of its way to be vague. Luke Evans was originally cast in the lead role but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with the Hobbit. Ryan Gosling replaced him.

Ryan Gosling looks good in his minimalist wardrobe, but not much is asked of him, his long lingering gazes and stares are how you feel in the audience hoping there is something on the horizon to save the film. There is a bunch of symbolism, filters ad neon to represent the mood and underworld out in the open.

I did enjoy that the fight scene wasn’t the unbelievable epic we are lead to believe will happen. It’s brutal and one-sided. I have to admit it’s a guilty pleasure that I would watch again just for the surreal craziness that seems to be going on, just not explained.

SPOILER

It was Ryan Gosling’s idea to open the stomach of Julian’s dead mother. He had it after director Nicolas Winding Refn asked him if he’d rather smile or cry after Julian’s mom’s death. He replied that he’d open her uterus to see what’s inside.

SPOILER END

There is something very haunting about the film. It is original and unforgettable in many ways both positive and negative. Needless to say, i am sure many people want to see this. Trust me no rush.

GRADE: C

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)

Directed by: Martin Scorsese 
Written By: Terence Winter 
Based on the Book “The Wolf Of Wall Street” By: Jordan Belfort 
Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robie, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Shea Whigham, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti, Aya Cash, Christine Ebersole, Ethan Suplee,  P.J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Jake Hoffman, Rizwan Manji, Thomas Middleditch, Fran Lebowitz 

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stock-broker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.


This film at heart is more of a dark comedy than a drama. Yes, it’s based on a true story and there are many victims in this tale who barely get any attention. As the film’s protagonist is the con-man who ripped them off, but the film feels like no matter what it wants us to root for him and feel for him overall.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his best performances and one of his out-and-out funny comedic performances. As we have never seen him this loose and open in a performance. that truly astonishes

 It’s not only him the film is filled with recognizable actors playing real-life people but while they are characters and three-dimensional they are also played so big that they come off naturally more comedic. Even though their crimes hurt many. As Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, and Jon Berenthal all have their times to shine and at least a scene to highlight. 

At a certain point, they are doing so many illegal things that you can barely tell what is right and what is wrong. As the business they build seems to get off on debauchery and the film treats it as both revelatory letting us participate In The mayhem and experience the 1980’s excess but also giving us enough details to see it as a cautionary tale and see the harsh aftermath for some.

This also is Margot Robbie’s debut and introduction to the public as a sex symbol. Just as Charlize Theron made her debut in the movie 2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY. Here at first, you notice Ms. Robbie’s looks then you notice she is actually quite a good actress and one of the memorable ingredients to this movie. 

Now this tale could have been told in a smaller way but just like the main character it must be told larger than life and feel rather epic in size. As it is a rare film where we kind of root for the bad guys. Even if we know they are horrible. As we have been following them from the beginning and in essence living the life of excess with them in the film. So that even when we see them do bad things we have a weakness for them and want to see them succeed even at the expense of others. 

The film feels like a crime spree as it is episodic as we are taken throughout the crimes and how the businessmen stay afloat and the deals they have to make to keep laundering their money and stay on top. The film even follows their international adventures that open up the film to be more global and have more consequences. As they have their overseas adventures. Even with the law on their tails embodied by a character played by Kyle Chandler who seems to be incorruptible and always right behind.

The film even though his character later In The film asks if it is worth it. Being honest and in the straight and narrow. Still having to scrape by when you could easily turn a blind eye, do the wrong thing, and live in Luxury. 

This is the most electrifying and energetic director Martin Scorsese has been with a film. Also, his first film has come close to a comedy since AFTER HOURS. Though the film condemns the characters. The film also has a lot of fun with them. Leaving behind plenty of classic moments. 

The film gets to glorify and highlight the 80’s and 90’s excess and over-the-top nature of business and the stock market. A kind of juvenile version of the movie WALL STREET, but just as powerful and memorable. Only here do you see more behavior outside of the office than necessarily the more business side. Which marks the film all the more attractive. 

In the end, even for a somber tale,  the film is a good time. A misogynistic fantasy that offers what happens after you wake up from the dream and have to pay for it. As the film presents its a tale with the highs like being on drugs but then eventually you have to come down and sober up and the pain of what sobering up feels like. 

GRADE: A

THE FROZEN GROUND (2013)

Written & Directed By: Scott Walker 
Cinematography By: Patrick Murguia 
Editor: Sarah Boyd 

Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, Dean Norris, Gia Mantegna, Brad William Henke, Curtis Jackson, Kevin Dunn, Radha Mitchell, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe


Alaska Trooper Jack Holcombe believes Robert Hansen is a serial killer who abducts young girls, tortures and sexually assaults them, then kills them. But Holcombe doesn’t have enough evidence to get a search warrant for Hansen’s premises. Holcombe knows that one victim, Cyndy Paulsen, somehow survived, so he decides to seek her help, but he finds that she’s now a junkie with trust issues. Holcombe has to earn her trust; meanwhile, Hansen is still hunting and killing girls.

The film luckily offers not as many Nicolas cage cliche freakouts as he plays his role here more straight and narrow.

John Cusack is the surprise here even though He plays it straight which might turn a typical audience away from the film as it isn’t going to have the payoff that is expected. He doesn’t really get to shine until the last act of the film. Before it is purely facial and physical. That makes you wonder if he is just a face to inhabit the Villain.

We follow not only the detective, but the killer a little less would have been nice to see the killer’s day-to-day life and see if it particularly tortures him like an addiction or if he had any questions about his actions.

We also follow the survivor played by Vanessa Hudgens as she tries to go on With her life with plenty of bumps along the way as the case isn’t publicized and she isn’t some celebrated victim or even protected. In fact, as she was previously a prostitute no one really takes her too seriously, and now has to go back to a dangerous lifestyle that got her nearly killed in the first place. She gives it her all, again might have been nice to see her try and go straight it get a better life. It’s strange but telling of the film’s quality and the changing face of distribution that while the film has a high caliber cast and director of today and not so long ago this film never made it to theaters and instead premiered on direct to DVD/streaming.

Though it’s off-putting funny when she begins to talk street-tough all of a sudden with a pimp. But at least she gives it an honest try and does not go into cliche. Though the bonding of the characters would have been nice gradual over time instead of exposing history all in one scene.

50 cent (credited under his real name Curtis Jackson) is also one of the film’s producers. Is getting to be a better actor playing the smarmy/seamier type of roles. Though his appearance is more of a surprise.

Though due to the casting we already know when the killer is and what we are to expect. It’s only in his they catch him. It’s less s thriller than trying to finally get him and for her to testify. Though in scenes with his family. You sense darkness and vitality about him.

The suspense comes in towards the third act. As it finally gets thrilling. As there is some before that but it truly intensifies in the last act.

The film taking place in such a remote land. Help make the action feel small scale even though tawdry. And as the film sticks to more of the real-life story. The film is absent of scenes of hunting or chases or even graphic violence. More focusing like a LAW & ORDER episode on catching the killer before he kills again. Rather than seeing his violent actions. Maybe as it is based on a true story they could only go with known Information and not flesh out the characters that the story could have had more than one would expect. The film doesn’t seem to break out of its own procedural ways. Should feel a bit bigger or more meaningful to a degree. The film keeps your interest but never truly engages you emotionally

In the final scenes, the suspense is felt as Cage gets frustrated as no evidence can be found. Which questioning him and keeps getting updates and upset. That is when the film manages to get a reaction out of the audience.

The film reminds me of the early days of so-called serial killing investigations. Before they were known to the general public. The hard work out in so that research was there and available for the private investigation Barely and at times In the film that comes in time and again. The ending hammers home the tragedy of the story for all of its entertainment

Grade: C

BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2013)

Written & Directed By: Peter Strickland 
Cinematography By: Nicholas D. Knowland 
 Editor: Chris Dickens 

Cast: Toby Jones, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Susanna Cappellaro, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, Chiara D’anna

A sound engineer’s work for an Italian horror studio becomes a terrifying case of life imitating art. 


The film didn’t sound like anything amazing. In fact, it sounded more like a trick of a movie, like an M. Night Shamalayan films get labeled as more about spectacle and showing off than story, characters, and general enjoyment. Word of mouth leads me to give it a chance

This film throws you off so much that it makes your mind explode with ideas for possibilities at every turn.

It’s a film that shows a love for the magic, mystery, and technology of cinema and its making. Giving the audience insight into sound and foley artists while building a story around it. Then the film plays around with it to throw you off course. Leaving it up to you and your own interpretations as to what is going on.

It takes what could have been a simple premise and manipulates it and plays with it so much that you always have a feeling of dread. The film always makes sure that you never feel comfortable leaving you to wonder at times have things been lost in translation?

The characters seem like stock from a horror film at times then just seem like characters of the period it portrays. Female characters go from seeming plain and innocent to exotic creatures of mystery and depth. Characters go from seeming mysterious to comedic and or pathetic.

You can look at the film in many ways dark comedy might even be one of a mystery.

The film also feels like a film that could have been made of that period as it recreates to become a homage to that era and it’s filmmaking. It’s like a mix between David Lynch and Francis Ford Coppola but having a style, character and voice all its own.

To me it seemed almost to be a better version of the recent film BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW strived to be.

This definitely would be a good film to watch with INLAND EMPIRE and/or MULHOLLAND DRIVE and BARTON FINK only this film is more compact. It manages to make so much out of so little.

I was shocked at how much this film surprised and delighted me. This is really a standout film and Toby Jones is noteworthy as his character is so timid and awkward and the people at the studio he works at so mean, rude and obnoxious, but insists he is the rude and ungrateful one constantly.

I don’t want to give away too much of the films plot as it has plenty of surprises for the audience that are best to discover and truly contemplate.

My only complaint is that there isn’t a scene where Toby Jones totally gets to lose it. So that there is a release of emotions, but since this film is built on tension for the most part that would let the audience off, and clearly that is not this films intention.

GRADE: B+

AFTERSHOCK (2013)

Directed By: Nicolas Lopez 
Written By: Nicolas Lopez, Eli Roth & Guillermo Amodeo 
Cinematography By: Antonio Quercia 
Editor: Diego Macho Gomez 
 Cast: Eli Roth, Andrea Osvart, Ariel Levy, Natasha Yarovenko, Lorenza Izzo, Nicolas Martinez

After an earthquake erupts in Chile, tourists discover that a neighboring prison in the area collapsed in the event, and all surviving criminals managed to break free. Soon they learn that the most terrifying thing, more threatening than Mother Nature, is what she created.


The film was originally rated NC-17 but had to be cut and re-edited in order to get an R Rating.

Now, this film could have easily gone the wrong way and been schlocky. The longer the film plays and you watch the more impressive it becomes as it truly shows you the terror and danger of the various situations, while setting up a time limit as an impending doom worse than anything they encounter physically and personally might becoming.

The film feels at times to just be punishing its characters just to do it. While it’s no torture porn. It’s quite cruel but maintains a certain reality while also following certain genre rules and tropes.

No one comes out of the film clean. They all end up becoming victims in some way, shape, or form.

The first act sets up the characters as we get to know them and see them enjoying their vacation setting up group dynamics, Relationships, and friendships. It works as act 2 and 3 then unspools and we feel more of a connection to the characters. We find ourselves caring about their fates. It feels like a continuation of co-writer, co-producer, co-star Eli Roth’s other horror films. Where a trip to a foreign locale, We see the fun and pursuit of sex that often backfires and leans towards comedic. Then all of a sudden moves into horror pretty quickly. Here it feels like a more mature version of it. I have to give both credits. I feel he is growing his talent more and this helps represent a newfound maturity. It shows.

None of the leads is completely evil or completely good. They do what they have to do to survive.

The film does reek of a B-Movie aesthetic at times. Mainly due to the disaster aspects.

There are no sacred cows as the film sets itself up pretty early, That anyone can be taken out and killed. This helps throw the audience off as you never are quite sure how far it will go nor what can and can’t happen. Just general randomness Through many challenges no one great villain just has to survive. No stalking monster though the tsunami warnings give the characters incentive to rush the experience and keep moving while working against the calamities.

The film shows what can be scarier than a natural disaster is the citizen’s reactions.

Of course, the casting of Eli Roth in the lead and him being a producer and co-writer. He will be accused of having this film be just another extension of his ego or just another project for him to star in. A vanity project almost as he has cameoed in his films and in others. Though the film doesn’t leave him in a heroic light. He does fine with the material

What sometimes disturbs me in films is that whenever it is more of a minority culture. When things break down. They are always shown as looters, Gangs, and rapists. Whereas Caucasians are usually the heroes or the victims. Rarely do we see them along as the ones going crazy and being just as bad unless it’s post-apocalyptic. Where they are the organized villains, part of a hierarchy. Here it happens in a foreign locale and directed and co-written by a native of Chile where it is filmed

Nicolas Lopez who I am a fan of ever since seeing the preview of the film PROMEDIO ROJO. 9 years ago and then finally seeing it last year. He has a vision and while the film includes a scene of the thing I hate most in films (Rape) it’s not as graphic as it could have been or still disturbing.

This is a bleak downtrodden tale that I have to say I found exceptional than what I thought it would be or easily could have become, truthfully the preview made this film look like a SyFy original film. Thankfully it’s much better.

It’s a movie to seek out more if you are a genre fan.

 GRADE: B