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Tuesday: Dark Tide

You won't find anything other than disappointment with this shark flick

Dark Tide
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Ever since Jaws was released, many filmmakers have been attempting to recreate that tense magic that has terrified moviegoers worldwide to go into the ocean waters. However, the extreme majority of them are absolute failures. They always end up being either tacky or simply not scary. One of the only efforts to surprise me is The Reef, which managed to keep me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Despite the fact that I know that most shark flicks are bad, I continue to watch them. I've always had a fascination with sharks, so I still enjoy checking these films out. I continue to have hope to find more gems that will give me tension and fear, which true shark movies are made out of. With Dark Tide being released, I tried to hold my expectations low, but I still was interested in giving it a chance. The distribution rights were purchased, but the studio clearly very confident in its success as it only is receiving a video-on-demand and a limited release.

Kate Mathieson is a shark expert whom has been hesitant to go back into the water since the tragic death of her mentor. She was once known for being able to swim with Great White Sharks without the protection of a cage. An old partner and boyfriend, Jeff, convinces her to face her inner demons and get back in the water with the fiercest of predators. As the teaser trailer and full-length trailer was released, I already had a strong feeling that Dark Tide would feature not only a simple plot, but one that never really shines. That's exactly what happened. I continued to wait for Dark Tide to pull me in, but it never truly managed to do so. The beginning of the movie attempts to develop some of the backstory of Kate and Jeff, but the conversations are extremely cliché with the outcomes being predictable. Once the father and son who are paying Kate and Jeff a large sum of money enter the story, the movie especially starts going downhill. Both of the characters are irritating, however the father is especially annoying. This is one of the many flaws of the movies, that we're left with no characters to root for since they all get on our nerves at one time or another. The pacing is a big issue here. There are times that the motion picture moves along at the pace of a snail. Long periods of time with no action and lame dialogue. While there is some interesting information about sharks that audiences that don't know much about the species will find informative, that's the most that this screenplay offers. The final act of Dark Tide is when the action kicks in, but the PG-13 shark violence doesn't make up for the let down, that is almost the entire film.

As the film was being advertised, the studio tried to milk fans of the main actress since she won an Oscar a while ago. The cast consists of Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez, Ralph Brown, Mark Elderkin, and Luke Tyler. Berry is enjoyed by many audiences, but I find many of her performances to be overrated. In addition, her choices in roles have been extremely poor. I'm not sure why she has been starring in such disappointing flicks lately. One would never guess that she has won an Academy Award by watching her performance as Kate Mathieson. Many different mediocre actresses could have played this character and conveyed the same skill level as Berry. Olivier Martinez is alright as Jeff. None of the performances here are good, but it's always disappointing to see a bad performance by an Oscar-winner. It feels as if she simply didn't try or put any effort into her character in Dark Tide.

There are a few different routes a filmmaker can take when creating a shark film. Two directions are that they could create it digitally, as they did in Shark Night, or use stock footage, as it was done in The Reef. Everybody who has seen CG sharks have witnessed how much of a disaster that can be, especially when one is trying to provoke fear. The stock footage featured in The Reef was very convincing and well-placed. Dark Tide opted to go the stock footage route with a few scenes of bad CG sharks. There are quite a few times where it was all too obvious that it was stock footage and not actually happening, while the CG scenes just looked bad. During such sequences, it definitely comes off as being cheesy. The rest of the visual department is actually solid. Some of the underwater scenes are actually quite breathtaking. Despite the fact that I watched this on-demand, the audio still proved to be decent. The dialogue was never difficult to hear and the surrounds were constantly active with atmospheric sounds.

My review should be quite clear that I didn't enjoy Dark Tide. I didn't expect very much from it and I was still disappointed. One of the only reasons why I even gave this a shot is due to the fact that it involved sharks. There isn't much interesting about the story and most certainly not anything regarding any of the characters or the acting. The visuals are actually pretty good, with the exception of the stock footage. The pacing should have been much quicker. The film is actually relatively short, clocking in at about an hour and a half, although it feels like much longer due to the fact that it moves slowly. It takes a long time for anything to happen and once it does, it simply doesn't make the wait worth it. Dark Tide isn't worth checking out, even for those interesting in sharks. I suggest either revisiting Jaws. However, if you're interested in seeing something more recent, then I suggest The Reef. Otherwise, you won't find anything other than disappointment with this shark flick.

My Rating = One Star

Next movie: My Week with Marilyn

Thursday: My Week with Marilyn

This is a motion picture about not only moviemaking, but also true love and the hardships of trying to find oneself.

My Week with Marilyn
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Marilyn Monroe is a timeless icon. She will never be forgotten by the world no matter how much time passes. Over the years, there have been many films made about Monroe, her life, both personal and public. However, no matter how great a screenplay is, the movie can absolutely fail if the right role isn't performing as Marilyn Monroe. Since she's the central character ad there are so many levels to her character, if each one isn't captured correctly, the entire motion picture will become an absolute mess. This was my primary concern when seeing My Week with Marilyn. There's so much that can go wrong with the performance as it's most certainly an extraordinarily difficult role to capture in the correct light. Has Michelle Williams mastered Monroe or does she drag the movie down to the point of no return?

While filming a movie in England, Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe slips away with a young Brit for a week of self-discovery and frivolity. The story that ensues is based on the real-life memoirs of Colin Clark, once assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier. My Week with Marilyn offers a very simple and predictable plot that all audiences can see coming from miles away. However, don't allow that to sway you from viewing this. The screenplay has its issues, but it accomplishes so much that I haven't seen in very many motion pictures about Marilyn Monroe. Even though it takes place from the perspective of Colin Clark, the audience is able to witness the personal life of Marilyn and how she was in public from the point of view of behind-the-scenes. Those who are looking for more of a documentary-feel of how she was in public will be sorely disappointed. My Week with Marilyn explores primarily how Marilyn Monroe was off of the sets and underneath the make-up. Earlier into the movie, the tone is easy and playful. The further we get into the running time, we encounter a bunch of Marilyn's emotional issues and sentimental scenes that actually work and don't come off as tacky. The dialogue is intriguing. Despite the fact that this film is dialogue-driven, my attention was placed fully into this feature. The script is overall well-written.

This leads us to one of the most crucial elements of a film such as this, the acting. Michelle Williams performs as Marilyn Monroe. I've been a fan of hers for a while now, however I wasn't sure how she would fit that role of Monroe. Well, to put it simply, she nailed it. She truly captures the character and is able to touch on many different emotions and execute them to perfection. She has added an extreme amount of depth to the character that perhaps hasn't even been seen in cinema before, but we've all read about. This is a beautifully rendered performance that couldn't have been better. Williams deserves the Oscar nomination she received for the role, however I would have liked to see her take home the statue. Eddie Redmayne plays Colin Clark. He gives a solid performance and creates a convincing attachment with Williams. They have chemistry on screen that is undeniable. Kenneth Branagh is Sir Laurence Olivier. He also delivers a very good representation of his character. Branagh also received an Oscar nomination for the character, although I haven't heard many people discuss his performance when speaking of My Week with Marilyn. This is an exceptional cast oozing with talent.

This is a motion picture about not only moviemaking, but also true love and the hardships of trying to find oneself. My Week with Marilyn offers a variety of different emotions throughout as it ends up being sentimental, tragic, humorous, and enjoyable all at the same time. The script is solid and the acting is fantastic. Michelle Williams was clearly the correct choice for this role. This movie isn't for everybody, but it was surprisingly better than I imagined it would be. Those who are interested in Marilyn Monroe as a person, and not just an entertainment icon, will find this movie to be rather intriguing. My Week with Marilyn is a recommended piece of delightful filmmaking.

My Rating = Four Stars

Next movie: Young Adult

Saturday: Young Adult

Young Adult isn't for everybody, but is a well-crafted character study that dares to be a bit different and does a damn good job at it.

Young Adult
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The initial reaction I received from the trailer of Young Adult was another awkward comedy written by the creative Diablo Cody. I believe that the trailers misled a lot of audiences, which led to very mixed reactions. Everybody was expecting a hilarious comedy, but saw something completely different. Yes, Young Adult has humor in it, but not the type of comedy that one would expect. It's dark comedy that is occasionally utilized as comic relief and used even more often to show the horrific reality that the lead must face. There's a large amount of talent not only in front of the camera, but behind it as well. As mentioned, Diablo Cody penned the screenplay, who wrote films such as Juno, and is directed by Jason Reitman. He has directed motion pictures such as Juno and Up in the Air. Fans of these two filmmakers will most likely understand what was trying to be accomplished.

Taken aback when she received a letter from an old boyfriend announcing that he's just had a baby with his wife, divorced fiction writer Mavis Gary decides to return to her small hometown and reconnect with her former lover. Sounds quite a bit like a romantic comedy, doesn't it? Well, you would be incorrect by thinking that. This is an intensely close character study of a depressed and narcissistic alcoholic who cannot get over her ex-boyfriend from high school. She's completely delusional as she thinks that her old boyfriend, Buddy Slade, is unhappy with his wife and newborn child and would want Mavis back. Moviegoers might be surprised with how unlikable her character is, but that's the point. The audience is meant to somehow like a completely unlikable character. However, her role is so explored that I felt as if I genuinely know her and somehow found quite a bit that I liked underneath all of the horrible personality traits and emotional issues of Mavis. The screenplay written by Diablo Cody is great. The dialogue is spot on and has delivered a lot more depth than one would have imagined from simply seeing the trailer or reading a synopsis. There's a lot occurring underneath the surface. This isn't your typical movie of this genre, so don't expect it to play out like one. The ending isn't very joyful and we're hit in the face with the reality of Mavis Gary's character. The humor is well-placed and doesn't hinder the emotional pacing of the film.

When I mentioned that there was talent in front of the camera as well as behind it, I wasn't kidding. Charlize Theron delivers one of the best performances of the year as Mavis Gary. She definitely got snubbed for an Oscar nomination. She captures the essence of the character to perfection. Acting doesn't get much more natural than her performance here. Starring alongside her is Patton Oswalt as the man who she made fun of back in high school, but spends a lot of time with him once she arrives back in her hometown. He's very good as Matt Freehauf. I feel that he's a bit underrated as he hasn't received very much buzz. The chemistry displayed between Oswalt and Theron is so convincing that we forget we're even watching actors interact. Patrick Wilson is pretty good as Buddy Slade as he fits the character quite well. There aren't any mediocre performances here. Each and every actor here pulls his or her weight. However, Charlize Theron most certainly shines the brightest here. She might not be the most likable character, but she delivers sky high.

Those who understand Diablo Cody's style are sure to appreciate Young Adult. However, those who aren't used to her work will be left confused with what they just watched. The main character is despicable, but there's meaning to it. By the end of the motion picture, we learn so much about the role that it feels as if we know her in person. The dark themes punch you in the stomach and leave you breathless, don't expect a light and airy comedy. This is a well-composed character study that is definitely effective. The acting hits all of the right notes and most certainly deserved more attention during award-season. I understand how Young Adult received mixed reviews. Not everybody either fully understands or appreciates having an unlikable character put on screen for us to learn about. This could have easily been an absolute disaster, but Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman, and the cast somehow made it all work out. Young Adult isn't for everybody, but is a well-crafted character study that dares to be a bit different and does a damn good job at it.

My Rating = Four Stars

Next movie: The Raid: Redemption

Sunday: The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption is one hell of a fun ride that I can't wait to experience again.

The Raid: Redemption
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There have been many attempts to combine martial arts flicks with horror elements in America. They have created utter failures time and time again. After hearing about The Raid: Redemption, my interest was most certainly piqued. It's an Indonesian film that has been getting a large amount of buzz around the horror and film festival communities lately. Now that it has finally reached America, it currently is in a very limited release in theaters. Thankfully, it was playing at a theater not too far from me. As i was walking into this one, I thought about everything that has been said about it. I started to think to myself whether or not my expectations were too high. It's never a good feeling to be so excited for a motion picture and be utterly disappointed. My decision was to keep my expectations exactly where they were, which were high. To put it simply, they were met.

When an elite SWAT team goes after a drug lord holed up in Jakarta's most notorious tenement building, they find themselves trapped and forced to fight their way out through brutal gangsters loyal to the kingpin they were trying to assassinate. Any fans of the horror or action genres are sure to find this plot very interesting and to hold true potential. The filmmakers decided to waste no time as the story jumps into the action fairly quickly. Before that occurs, we get a little bit of a backstory in terms of whom they are trying to assassinate and the few main fighters' backgrounds. Once the brutality begins, it doesn't let up until the credits start rolling. Those looking for an action flick with character development will not find that here. However, The Raid: Redemption offers so much tension that it will leave viewers with his or her eyes glued to the screen and their fingernails digging into the armrest. The action sequences are insane and just as you're thinking that the one seen cannot be topped, the next fight scene does! The screenplay isn't perfect, but it's pretty solid compared to the majority of movies from this genre. The story goes deeper than just the drug lord as it also involves conspiracies and subplots. The amount of beatings these fighters can take are just as one would imagine, very unrealistic and ridiculous. Don't expect to see anything realistic when it comes to the fighting sequences here. Just be prepared for some insanely brutal fighting scenes that will leave you with your jaw dropped. Since The Raid: Redemption is from Indonesia, the actors aren't recognizable to me. However, the cast handles the material well. While there aren't necessarily standout performances here, the overall cast is good. They're convincing enough in their characters for us to become invested in the SWAT team and root for them.

When action filmmakers try to put style over substance and fail with the action sequences, then there's nothing left for us to enjoy. However, The Raid: Redemption has a good balance, yet still delivers on every level with the action. To use one word to describe the visuals here, it would be brutal. The stunts are exceptional and much better than American martial arts flicks. Fortunately, director/writer Gareth Evans wasn't afraid to pack this full of grit, gore, and carnage. The Raid: Redemption pushes a lot of limits and leaves us with one hell of an impressive show. One of the most important things is that it never becomes repetitive. There are a lot of different stunts and the violence is constantly showing different heroes with different fighting techniques fighting his way through each level. The camera work is great, as well. This could have easily turned into a hand-held disaster, but it's never difficult to tell what's going on. The audio is excellent, so make sure to see this one with a strong audio system. The music composed by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Joseph Trapanese fits the gritty atmosphere. I enjoyed it so much that I bought the album. To be honest, I'm a bit surprised the film passed through the MPAA so easily with an R rating. This is one of the most violent martial arts movies I've ever seen.

The Raid: Redemption deserves the positive buzz. To put it simply, I really enjoyed this movie. By the end of the movie, you feel beaten up yourself from how intense this movie gets. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true that this film exhausts you by the time it's over from how much it involves the audience. Needless to say, this isn't for the younger audiences, so leave the kids at home. If you can stomach the grotesque nature of this motion picture and enjoy martial arts and action flicks, The Raid: Redemption comes with a high recommendation to you. The film offers everything any action/martial arts fan would ever wish for. With the exceptional stunt work and incredibly violent fight scenes, we're also presented with a worthwhile plot and decent acting. This movie left me so excited, it had me wanting to see it again. I'm sure it sounds like I'm exaggerating how good this movie is, but if this is a genre you really enjoy, you'll see that I really am not. Those who aren't interested in this type of motion picture, stay far away. The Raid: Redemption is one hell of a fun ride that I can't wait to experience again.

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: The Adventures of Tintin