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Tuesday: Apollo 18

Apollo 18 is not only dull, but is surely one of the worst films of the year.

Apollo 18
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The found footage genre has taken on an entire audience on its own. This attracts the attention of so many viewers due to the fact that it creates a more eerie atmosphere. It certainly feels more realistic when its shot on a handheld cam as if the characters were making a home movie. Apollo 18 plays off of this success and attempts to be as successful as films shot in a similar style, which are The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Cloverfield. The initial teaser trailers came across as interesting, but none of them explained very much about the plot. Once a full length trailer was released, I had a strong feeling that it would crash and burn. After finally seeing Apollo 18 as a rental, I'm glad I didn't spend money to see this on the big screen.

If you buy in to official statements, Apollo 17 was NASA's final manned mission to the moon. However, now found footage of a secret Apollo mission that had taken place the following year proves otherwise and explains why we haven't gone back. Apollo 18 contains a rather disappointing script. The trailer essentially shows all of the action that takes place in the entire film. There aren't very many exciting, creepy, or scary moments to be seen. Even though the running time is only 1 hour and 27 minutes, it feels as if the pacing moves at the pacing of a slug. It takes quite some time for anything to happen. I found myself bored out of my mind for a majority of the movie. The key element to these type of movies is for the audience to actually care about the characters. This is never fulfilled. The screenplay attempts to tell the personal stories of the main characters, but it simply isn't enough. Simply telling a backstory of somebody doesn't deliver any depth and doesn't create sympathy. Since this is a film about found lost and found footage, the ending is automatically given away. Even for those expecting big jump scares will be disappointed. Unless you get terrified of someone opening his eyes and yelling at the camera, you'll find yourself quite bored. It doesn't take very long for Apollo 18 to spiral into a dull mess and it doesn't recover.

One of the few smart choices made by the filmmakers was to choose an unknown cast. If audiences were to see big names in a film such as Apollo 18, it would take away the atmosphere. Even though the dialogue given to these actors is absolute garbage, the acting is suitable for this style of filmmaking. It's not ground-breaking, but it's fine for what it is. This is true for at least the beginning of the movie. Once chaos is unleashed on the moon, the acting gets worse alongside the script. Some of the delivery of dialogue is extremely laughable. Don't expect to see believable acting here.

Since this is found footage, audiences should be aware that this isn't going to have a high-definition look that most recent films boast. Instead, it's shot on a handheld camera with a large amount of grain, scratches, and pops. However, it does accurately represent the atmosphere. Apollo 18 contains primarily different shades of grays. The creatures aren't really shown, except for a few very quick glimpses. From the simple concept of how they stay hidden, it already ruins any eeriness that could have come from these creatures. Similar to the video quality, the audio is lackluster. The bass is hefty in a couple scenes, but the surround speakers are relatively silent the entire flick. The dialogue comes through clearly as the actors are never difficult to understand.

Was I expecting the best found footage film around? Absolutely not. I was hoping for at least an entertaining B-movie. The initial look at the teaser trailers definitely gave it that potential, but the film never reached that. The script is a disaster, the dialogue is tacky, the acting isn't very good, and the pacing is sloppy. I'm not surprised that reviews weren't released until the movie's debut. Apollo 18 is undeniably disappointing. Even with low expectations, this is sure to be a real letdown. This is not only dull, but is surely one of the worst films of the year.

My Rating = One Star

Next movie: The Artist

Thursday: The Artist

Whether or not you're interested in silent cinema, the film comes with an easy recommendation.

The Artist
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Film continues to involve year after year. Many filmmakers are attempting to make movies bigger and bigger to the point where it's almost unbelievable how different it is from only a couple decades ago. The Artist observes the past of Hollywood. However, this isn't the only movie of 2011 to tell a story of silent movies. Hugo references back to this type of filming, although The Artist tells a story through this time period as if it was the present. It tells the transition from silent to film with sound. However, not many audiences in modern times are interested in seeing a silent film. Once it was nominated for 10 Oscars, I knew that I should see it. I had heard about the buzz for a while, but it didn't sound like much more than a gimmick that the Academy would undoubtedly fall for.

Taking place in Hollywood, 1927, a silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion. Meanwhile, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break. While there are many black and white films I highly enjoy, there aren't very many silent movies that I can say I have seen and have kept me engrossed. The Artist is obviously extremely different from anything else you'd expect to see in modern times on the big screen. The story is put together quite well. The two lead characters are both incredibly lovable and I felt attached to them rather quickly. As the film continues, the pacing suffers a little bit. However, it most certainly picks itself up and becomes highly entertaining again. Another issue I have is that there are portions that become repetitive. Yes, the dog that appears often on the footage is absolutely adorable. The problem is that the dog performs the same 'jokes' over and over. I don't remember the last time I've seen a dog play dead so many times in 1 hour and 40 minutes. The ending is predictable, as expected, although it's all about what leads up to the finale. Overall, it's an enchanting story that kept my attention from start to finish, even when it slowed down a bit. Even without hearing dialogue from our leads, I found myself more invested in the characters than I have in many modern flicks that do contain audible dialogue.

A lot of the credit goes to the actors for the characters being so personal. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin. He's absolutely phenomenal and very convincing. I wouldn't be surprised to see him take home the Academy Award for Best Actor. He clearly dominates this role. Bérénice Bejo performs as Peppy Miller. She's quite incredible herself. She has many more exaggerated expressions and actions than Dujardin's role has, but she acts alongside him in a marvelous fashion. Bejo may also take the Oscar gold for Best Actress. Even though neither of these actors could express the characters through dialogue, tone, and delivery, they master the roles. You don't see performances such as these very often, so I highly appreciate them when I get the opportunity to witness them.

It appears that many critics and especially the Academy have praised The Artist to no end. I wouldn't be surprised to see the film win most of its ten nominations due to how much the Academy has been talking about it. I walked into the theater trying to keep an open mind, but I felt that it still seemed a bit gimmicky. Well, despite my biased feelings walking into the movie, I still highly enjoyed what I saw. The script is very well written, with the exception of it slowing down around the middle and how repetitive it becomes at times. The acting is superb on all levels and is sure to impress all moviegoers. The Artist is a charming picture that deserves recognition, but I still don't find it to be strong enough to win Oscar for Best Picture, despite the fact that I wouldn't be surprised if it did due to all of the buzz. Despite my feelings towards people overhyping movies, The Artist still is a strong piece of cinema. Whether or not you're interested in silent cinema, the film comes with an easy recommendation.

My Rating = Four Stars

Next movie: The Woman

Saturday: The Woman

The Woman is a dreadful movie that I recommend staying far away from.

The Woman
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Mainstream moviegoers and hardcore horror fans hold a very different opinion on torture porn. A lot of the general population claim a lot of movies are torture porn when they really aren't. However, many horror fans believe that none of these films fall into this category and that it's a very different subject. Well, The Woman certainly does deserve the label of torture porn. It originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it stirred up quite a bit of controversy. A man apparently shouted out during the screening calling it garbage and misogynistic. This created a lot of interest from many moviegoers. Whenever controversy surrounds a movie being disturbing, this unusually attracts many moviegoers. Director Lucky McKee is known to have disturbing content in his work. I enjoyed McKee's May, otherwise, I have not been a fan of either of the movies they have been involved with. However, I was still interested in checking out The Woman to see if it is worthy of whether or not of the high amount of controversy.

When hunter and backwoods lawyer Chris Cleek brings home a feral woman he found lurking in the woods, he locks her in the shed and orders his family to actively participate in her "civilization." They take to the task with varying enthusiasm. The more The Woman resists the family's attempts to make her human, the farther away the family gets from true humanity. Doesn't this sound familiar? Sure, a few of the story elements are swapped around, but the general concept and some major events are very similar to other movies such as Deadgirl and The Girl Next Door. To put it simply, everything from the plot to the characters are distasteful. To be honest, I don't see McKee's attempt of making this movie have components to show power in female roles. The entire flick does nothing but try o shock the audience time and time again with treating The Woman, the daughter of the family, the wife, and the school teacher like dirt. He can call it social commentary all he wants, I call it misogyny. For a movie that promises to be brutal and unflinching, it doesn't come close to the disturbing content seen in other recent flicks. When there isn't very much shocking content, what does that leave us with? A flick trying way too hard to shock the audience. Mainstream audiences will find this upsetting, but hardcore horror fans will find this to be nothing compared to other recent movies. From the beginning to the end, there are no characters to feel attached to. While I was rooting for the mother in the beginning, that soon disappeared after her character proved to be useless and weak. The feral woman is over-the-top, yet a letdown. The role has a few brutal moments, such as biting off a finger, but I expected a much better revenge sequence than what is provided. It felt that The Woman overcame her imprisonment too easily. To put it simply, the script is a mess. It starts off poor and only goes downhill from there. I found myself laughing at quite a few lines of dialogue and then realized that those scenes weren't meant to be funny. I simply don't understand who would fund this screenplay.

Nobody should be expecting excellent acting out of this. Even with the genre considered, with a screenplay such as this, it isn't fair to expect anything good out of this cast. The most effective performance is by Sean Bridgers as Chris Cleek. He's the most despicable character, as he's meant to be. The feral woman may be primitive and from the wild, but who is really the uncivilized monster? He represents the character just as he should. I enjoyed Angela Bettis's acting talent in other movies, such as May, but she really doesn't do anything. I don't understand what made Bettis choose to portray such a meaningless role. The rest of the acting is amateurish and gets extremely horrible at times. As I mentioned, if you still end up watching The Woman, you shouldn't' be expecting good acting from this.

I can't imagine The Woman being too difficult to film. There aren't too many sequences that require gags. Even the appearance of the flick is extremely tacky. It looks as if it's a home movie at times. The cinematography is absolute garbage. Horror movies have always been known to be able to create an eerie and well-crafted atmosphere on an extraordinarily low budget. The Woman continues to fail. The gore effects look just fine, but the overall look of the flick is what will turn off a lot of audiences. The score and music utilized by the filmmakers can heavily change the atmosphere of the entire story. The one used in this flick is strange. All of the music is strange and doesn't seem to fit. This has got to be a choice purposefully made by Lucky McKee, although I don't think this risky choice paid off. The strongest part of the visual effects department of The Woman is the make-up used on the primitive woman. Her looks are definitely convincing.

As one could easily tell by what I have written above, I didn't enjoy The Woman. From the initial buzz that I heard from the Sundance Film Festival, I was curious to check it out. However, it ultimately left me feeling highly disappointed. There aren't very many redeeming values about this flick. The best thing to be said about The Woman is the performance given by Sean Bridgers as Chris Cleek. The entire concept of the picture is strikingly similar to some other movies that have been released over the past few years. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that what occurred at the Sundance Film Festival was setup in order to promote the movie. It certainly doesn't deserve the controversy it has stirred up. I doubt many audiences will be happy with this one whether they're looking for shock value or an overall good horror flick, this just leaves you feeling pissed off that you wasted your time on it. The Woman is a dreadful movie that I recommend staying far away from.

My Rating = One Star

Next movie: Shark Night