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Day the Earth Stood Still, The (2008)

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The Day the Earth Stood Still (click for larger imageReviewed by Nomad

Starring Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith

Directed by Scott Derrickson


The Day The Earth Stood Still is a cautionary tale to the nth degree. While in past films, our haphazard treatment of the planet we call home has led to nature attacking us with storms, earthquakes, floods and ice, Day presents a more direct threat. We’ve been watched for years as we evolved from a primitive, warlike race into a primitive, warlike race with better toys. In the original film of the same name, the message from a visiting alien was firm and simple. Change or die at our hands. In this re-imagining, the message is shortened to DIE. We are here to save the Earth … from you.

Keanu Reeves plays a stone faced Klaatu, unaccustomed to his human body and dismayed by the erratic and destructive nature of human kind, straight-man-ing his way through this film with no sign of emotion whatsoever. This leaves the bulk of the feeling to be conveyed by Jennifer Connelly as Helen Benson, a scientist who sees the government making all the wrong moves and aids Klaatu in evading them. Unfortunately, Connelly is not allowed to smile in this film (big change for her) so her looks are confined to concerned and … emphatically concerned. Sooo … for emotion we fall back to Connelly’s onscreen son played by Jaden Smith, who seems to be the only character allowed to emote! Connelly is given a moment or two but it seems she’s been reserved to play opposite Reeves, who is barely acting at all, or rather acting like he’s not acting at all. It gets confusing. This leaves little Jaden to steal the show, proving he’s got the chops for bigger and better things. As it stands, his character is incredibly unsympathetic as he calls his mother by her first name, ignores her every request and insists Klaatu would be better off as a smear on the pavement. Nice kid.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (click for larger imageWe’ve got an emotionless alien, a dour faced female lead and an angry cute kid. Not much is left in the likability category! It’s not that their acting was executed badly in this film. I’m certain they were doing exactly what director Scott Derrickson asked of them. The problem with this is the plot. With unclear lines as to who is the enemy — the U.S. government who shoots first and asks questions later at Gitmo or the alien “visitor” who has essentially come as the universe’s appointed executioner for the human race — the best we can hope for is a strong human story to make up our mind for us or at least create empathy for both sides. Neither is achieved here. In the original, we had a very likable Klaatu who suppressed his annoyance with human beings in favor of learning why they do what they do … or feel they need to do. He spends time among humans to get a look from the other side and this information is invaluable in his decision to spare the puny humans. This alternate view is all but cut from the film as Reeves is left to learn of the human experience through Benson mostly struggling to love a son who seems to have no use for her. Not a very pretty picture.

The government spends the majority of the film trying to destroy the invader’s glowing orb and dismantle the eight-story G.O.R.T. robot (who by the way does little to nothing in the film). Klaatu spends the bulk of his time fleeing the government while his machines begin their destruction of the earthlings via a cloud of robots that eat anything in their path like a swarm of techno locusts. You are left sitting in your seat wondering why the hell they keep remaking movies that are perfect to begin with.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (click for larger imageThis brings me to an essential question. Why does Hollywood love clouds destroying things so much??? Do they get a discount on that computer program? Do they think we’d quickly grow bored of a giant robot shooting eye lasers and swatting jet fighters from the sky??!! Instead, the climax of this film sees the robo-cloud from the trailer eating its way across N.J. Always New Jersey … the world’s kick ball. More than one yawn escaped my body as I fought slipping off into dream land, called there by the monotone voice of Klaatu, who would be perfect on those subliminal self-help CD’s. Never was a movie with explosions so quiet. Also missing from this film is any sense of tension. Without the larger human element displayed in the original, there is no one to stare toward the sky in equal parts awe and horror, no children to grip their parents in fear and no mothers running through the city hoping to get to their children before the world ends.

Cinematically, Day offers nothing jaw dropping or highly original. We’ve seen an orb shaped alien thing in Sphere (still a painful memory), a human alien doing amazing things in Starman (oddly, slightly less painful) and countless cloudy destroyers as seen in Fantastic Four 2, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Mummy and even The Never Ending Story (which had edgier scenes than this film.) The effects are just fine, but it is a case of nothing new under the sun and no new way of presenting it. In fact, this is the theme of the film. The acting is fine, but what they are being told to convey is pretty flat. We know all of these actors can bring more to the table. Even Reeves, who gets lambasted more often than not, can at the very least be fun to watch. No such luck here.

With a one-note story to play out, nothing will save you from catching some Z’s unless you’ve got one of those theaters where they cut the heat and freeze you into paying attention. I’m sure it will come as no shock when I recommend you hit this link and buy the original film, recently re-released. It has a better story, more likable characters, remains intelligent throughout and is vastly superior to this new school, rung out, bleached version … which is funny to say when compared to a black and white film. Fox has sucked all the color out of The Day The Earth Stood Still. IRONY!!

2 1/2 out of 5

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.43 (7 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 4.14 (14 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.41 (17 votes)
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