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Tuesday: Real Steel

Real Steel is entertaining during the fight scenes, otherwise older audiences won't be fooled by the tacky dialogue and characters. However, younger viewers are sure to have a blast with this one.

Real Steel
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I recall a teaser trailer being released almost an entire year before Real Steel was set to be released. It looked very interesting and I was excited to check it out. However, the more that was released about the film, from the trailers to the images, I became less and less excited. The teaser felt a lot like an intense action movie that involved robots. Once the full length trailer was released, it shed its real colors, which were signs of a family movie. That's exactly what it ended up being. There's nothing wrong with that, but I wish that the teaser trailer didn't mislead audiences as much as it did. After it was released on the big screen, I had no interest in paying the full ticket price to see it, so I waited a while after Netflix had plenty copies of it. While watching this I was trying so very hard to not compare it to other movies, but it borrows so much from other films that it's difficult to keep from the comparisons.

In a future world where flesh-and-blood boxers have been replaced by towering mechanized fighters, promoter Charlie Kenton reconnects with his estranged son, Max, to convert a discarded machine into a World Robot Boxing contender. Anybody who has ever seen a Disney film knows how the relationship between Charlie and Max is going to turn out. The story clearly takes Rocky and throws Transformers-esque fighters into the mix. I'm not sure if I'm the only viewer who thought this, but I found Charlie's son, Max, to be extremely irritating from the moment he appeared until the credits were rolling. The story is advertised as being a big robot fighting movie, but that often takes a backseat to the relationship between a father and his son. I personally never found myself caring very much about either of the characters, making all of that running time feel a bit useless. However, the dialogue is solid and the screenwriter is successful in creating a great amount of excitement from the fighting sequences to other troubles that Charlie is forced to face, such as a man he owes money to. If you can get past the annoying character, Max, and a lot of tacky attempts to make viewers have emotional connections to the characters, the script is actually decent.

A huge selling point for Real Steel is Hugh Jackman in the role of Charlie Kenton. While I don't care very much for his clichéd role, he delivers a solid performance here. Without him in this role, I doubt that audiences would be able to even have any connection to the character. He does a good job with conveying the role. It isn't Jackman, Dakota Goya, or any of the other actors' faults that the characters and dialogue are quite wooden and tacky, but everybody pulls his or her own weight. Evangeline Lilly is convincing as Bailey Tallet. Kevin Durand isn't in the film very much, but he's successful in playing the complete tool, Ricky. There aren't any truly memorable performances here, but they're all solid in the given feature.

The strongest asset Real Steel has is in the visual department. The Oscar nomination in the Best Achievement in Visual Effects category was earned. All of the robots here look absolutely fantastic. The action is terrific. The CG work could have easily come off as cheesy if they weren't done right, but they most certainly were done correctly. When Charlie and Max's robot is fighting, one cannot help but become absolutely engrossed in the battles. No, they aren't on as big of a scale as Transformers, but they're done marvelously for taking place in a stadium. The robots are able to fight in different mode, which are voice recognition, shadow mode (the robot copies the human controlling it), and by controller. It's interesting to see all three different modes of fighting. The audio is a reference-grade track. The dialogue is never difficult to hear from the center channel and the action that unfolds in the front stage comes across aggressively. The surrounds create a large amount of ambiance and are really amped up during the robot boxing sequences. Even though this isn't the strongest movie in the story department, the visual and audio departments are both extremely impressive.

I suppose that it's quite clear that I didn't find Real Steel to be that strong of a film. However, I could see the targeted audience being much more interested in the plot. The action scenes between the robots are very entertaining and will prove to be for all age groups. The remainder of the movie utilizes the positive messages on trust, faith, family, and friendship, similar to any Disney movie you've seen recently. The visual and audio departments dazzle beautifully, so if you intend on checking this one out, be prepared to be completely immersed. Despite the awesome special effects, it doesn't fully make up for the plot and connections between characters. The attempt with cheesy dialogue between Max and Charlie actually pushes us farther away from the characters. Real Steel is entertaining during the fight scenes, otherwise older audiences won't be fooled by the tacky dialogue and characters. However, younger viewers are sure to have a blast with this one.

My Rating = Three Stars

Next movie: A Dangerous Method

Thursday: A Dangerous Method

Those who are interested in the story or psychology itself will find this worth seeing at least once.

A Dangerous Method
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The human mind is so intricate and mysterious, which is why there are so many books and movies that revolve around it. Psychologists from many years ago up until now still have many questions and different theories continue to be developed. Surprisingly, David Cronenberg has decided to pick up the torch and attempt to tell a story that abandons his usual violent form of filmmaking and create something more philosophical. I wanted to approach the film A Dangerous Method will as little knowledge as possible. I felt as though this is the type of movie where it's much stronger when the viewer is taken by surprise about many of the plot details often given away rather quickly in the trailers and clips. With a powerhouse of a cast, is A Dangerous Method successfully able to convince the audience of its insight?

Sigmund Freud's relationship with fellow psychology luminary, Carl Jung, is tested when Sabina Spielrein, one of the first female psychoanalysts, enters their lives. I have always found the detailed theories of psychologists such as Freud to be extraordinarily intriguing. A Dangerous Method certainly brings some complicated themes that are found in such theories. A couple of the characters have a similar amount of depth to them. By that, I'm speaking about Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein. For some reason, I found Sigmund Freud to be extremely thin here. I found him to be much less interesting than either Jung or Spielrein. His character is very straight forward and there isn't very much behind that. From what's shown on the screen, only the tip of the iceberg is displayed from both Jung and Spielrein. There's a lot more to both roles that we aren't seeing here, which can be interesting at times. It allows the audience to have abstract images of how these individuals interacted. The testing of the female patient quickly turns into something more than a doctor and patient relationship. I would have liked to see that role for a longer period of the movie. I found the tests that were being conducted to be very interesting. As expected, this is a dialogue-driven feature. A Dangerous Method transforms from a movie about psychologists and their studies to the filmmakers giving us theories regarding these characters, his or her conditions, and his or her errors. Once the film focuses more on that, I started to lose a bit of interest. From there on out, a lot of the picture felt a bit disconnected. Those interested by psychology are sure to enjoy the first portion of A Dangerous Method, although it soon turns into something a bit flat.

That powerhouse of a cast that I mentioned puts on one hell of a show. The female patient, Sabina Spielrein, is played by Keira Knightley. Her performance is extremely unsettling and unnerving. A Dangerous Method truly displays her range of talent. This is a very impressive performance that should have received much more attention than it did around award season. Michael Fassbender is Carl Jung. I've been a fan of Fassbender's for years. However, this is a very different performance for him. Despite that, he does a marvelous job at being a believable Carl Jung. Even Vincent Cassel has a small role as Otto Gross. As always, he's able to be convincing as ever. Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud. He's a fantastic actor, as he has shown on numerous occasions, I don't feel that he pulled off Sigmund Freud. I'm not sure if it was the dialogue he was given or if he simply was miscast, but it simply didn't feel natural. Not to say that he did a bad job, but the casting choice didn't work for me. Ultimately, the cast is superb at bringing A Dangerous Method to life, with the exception of one role.

Those expecting something bold won't find that here. A Dangerous Method is subtle filmmaking. The first act of the feature works very well, but falls apart a bit as the running time goes on. David Cronenberg definitely took a step out of his comfort zone and did a decent job. The movie comes with its flaws, but is a solid effort. The psychological aspects of the motion picture are engrossing, to say the least. I just wish that we could have seen more of that and less of some of the repetitive conversations taking place between some of the characters. The acting is great and feels convincing. The costumes and set designs are marvelous, as well. I had to let this one sit for a little while in order for me to form an official opinion. I wasn't sure what to really think after it ended. A Dangerous Method is good, not great. Those who are interested in the story or psychology itself will find this worth seeing at least once.

My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

Next movie: The Cabin in the Woods

Saturday: The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods comes highly recommended to all moviegoers who even slightly enjoy the horror genre.

The Cabin in the Woods
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Horror fans worldwide were feeling angry when The Cabin in the Woods continued to be pushed back. Due to financial issues, the studio that owned the film kept it locked up in the vault, not to see the light of day for quite some time. Finally, Lionsgate bought the movie off of them. This had me, along with other moviegoers who were anticipating its release, jumping up and down in excitement. I was slightly worried before the screenings started being shown as to whether or not it would really stand up to my high expectations. It easily did. Get ready for a film to change horror movies for this generation.

I saw The Cabin in the Woods without knowing anything about it. This is the best way to check it out, therefore I don't want to spoil anything for you guys. It's very difficult to give a synopsis of The Cabin in the Woods without spoiling everything. The most you need to know about is that it's about five friends going to a secluded cabin and they become in real trouble without any cell phone signals or communication to the rest of the world. Sounds extremely cliché, right? Well, just as everything seems predictable and old, the story twists and turns into something completely out of the box. When explaining everything generally about this movie, everything sounds very much like everything we've seen in a bunch of different horror movies. Believe me when I say that this is so off the map and original. The horror genre genuinely needed a new idea that wasn't a prequel, sequel, or remake. Writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon deserve a lot of praise for this screenplay. Sure, it's not going to win any Academy Awards, but it's successfully able to mix horror, suspense, and comedy into one movie. It never takes itself too seriously and never tries hard at anything. It seems to just flow. The running time goes by at the blink of an eye by how fun this one is. I realize that I'm raving about everything in this department, but The Cabin in the Woods deserves it. The characters are all cookie cutters, but then all of a sudden, there's a bit of a twist. The roles seem to have changed between the bunch as to who seems to be the smartest in the group with the most common sense. This is usually the 'virgin'-role who seems to be the brightest, correct? Well, that's not the case here. The Cabin in the Woods doesn't have quite a perfect script, but it's definitely is strong. There are plot holes here and there, but you won't be thinking about that since you'll be too busy having a blast watching this. If you're expecting something as well-written as an award-winning movie here, you won't get that, but it gives horror fans what we've been asking for for so long. A movie that can bring fear, laughter, and tension to a theater all at the same time. Not to mention there's a nice surprise cameo at the end that fans will enjoy. The last portion of this movie is sure to have horror movie followers smiling in absolute joy in his or her seat.

Fortunately, the cast here recognizes that this movie isn't meant to be taken seriously. His or her performances are given accordingly. Kristen Connolly is Dana, the 'virgin' character. While she isn't the brightest of the group when trying to find an escape route or when innocently exploring old items in the cabin, her acting is just fine. Chris Hemsworth is Curt, the jock. Audiences most know him as the superhero Thor, although this was filmed long before he had that role. He delivers the character well and proves to be talented beyond that one character. Anna Hutchison is the promiscuous one who will have male viewers drooling during scene of dancing in front of a fire. Fran Kranz is good as Marty as he fits the role and Jesse Williams is Holden, whom we see the least of. Richard Jenkins is even in The Cabin in the Woods. As always, he does a great job I don't want to give the cameo away, so I'll leave that to your surprise. The performances are good for what the movie is. None of them take the production too seriously and are able to keep the traditional horror movie elements, yet add many tweaks to it.

When creating a horror movie with a lot of buzz, nowadays that means making a PG-13 rated flick. Thankfully, that isn't the case with The Cabin in the Woods. This is a full-fledged rated R feature and it's clear that the filmmakers are proud of it, as they should be. The last act especially brings a large amount of blood and gore. The cinematographer and director have teamed up together wonderfully in order to create an impressive atmosphere. Horror fans will appreciate all of the small references to classics such as The Evil Dead. The visuals are all great. The jump scares are placed well, so make sure that the theater you go to has a strong sound system. This is a film you want to see with the sound cranked up loud. However, the CG work that's present is shoddy.

I walked into the screening hoping that The Cabin in the Woods would be all I was anticipating for all of this time, and it was. This is a very well-made horror film. Those who enjoy the genre should be supporting it by going to see this in theaters this weekend. I guarantee that anybody who even slightly enjoys the genre will find this to be well-done. It offers everything that moviegoers have been wishing for a film of this nature to. It isn't a remake, prequel, or sequel, but a purely original story that really shines and shows its original roots. Hopefully this inspires other filmmakers to make more original features instead of the re-imaginging of other filmmakers' works. As I've said, reading up on this too much will spoil the excitement that it offers. I suggest not reading further than this review. I tried to filter myself as much as possible to not ruin it since even telling the full plot will spoil the fun of discovering while viewing. The final act of this film is a horror fan's wet dream. The Cabin in the Woods is tense, intensionally funny, and is true horror. Don't pass this up and go check it out this weekend in theaters. It comes highly recommended to all moviegoers who even slightly enjoy the horror genre.

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: The Three Stooges