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Tuesday: Piranha 3DD

Piranha 3DD is an absolute waste of time, even as a rental.

Piranha 3DD
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In Summer 2010, Piranha 3D was released. I found it to be a fun cheese fest with a lot of entertaining carnage. Once the inevitable sequel was announced, I was excited to have some of the same summer fun that I had with the first one. Well, the title Piranha 3DD explains the movie perfectly. There's a lot of nudity in the first film, but it had a lot of gore and tacky fun that kept audiences hooked. Well, this sequel takes a completely different perspective on it. Given the fact that the writers who penned Saw IV, V, VI, and VII wrote this sequel, I expected something even more gruesome and possibly even a slightly darker take on the story. Instead, it takes the comedic aspects of the first and amplifies the humor and nudity, yet allows the violence and the fun to be shoved out of the way. I'm not surprised that Dimension Films released this in extremely limited release and primarily provided the film over video-on-demand.

A hungry pack of piranhas escape from a water source into a water park's opening day. Once the park fills with people, it's far too late to stop the carnivorous fish from scoring an entire park full of food. The idea to move the piranhas to a water park was a concept that made me skeptical from the start. I would have preferred for these fish to hunt elsewhere in a large body of water. However, there are some scenarios that could have given Piranha 3DD a claustrophobic atmosphere, although that's never utilized. Instead, the opening of the water park isn't until the final moments of the flick. The ending of the first one made me excited to see these fully-grown piranhas in action, but they aren't anywhere to be found in this film. The majority of the movie follows characters around the water source getting picked off one by one. If you thought that the characters were stupid in the first flick, then you're in for a real treat here. These are some of the dumbest characters written for a film. As the piranha 'plot' is running along, there's an underdeveloped romantic sub-plot here. This is introduced in the first few moments of the feature, it isn't addressed much at all throughout, and then it attempts to make-up for it within the final few seconds of the flick. It feels incredibly forced and it shouldn't have even been there to begin with.

It's been previously mentioned that this is primarily a comedy, which is completely true. While Piranha 3D is more of a horror flick with comedy elements, the sequel is much more of a comedy and dropped everything that made the first one a horror movie. It just so happens that this is more violent than your average comedy. This feels like one of the biggest rush jobs. Piranha 3DD runs barely over 80 minutes, not even reaching an hour and a half, yet it manages to feel so much longer. The film drags along for almost the entire running time. I could manage with a script that ended up being "so bad it's funny," but it's not. This is just bad. I don't care about having relatable characters, but it's inexcusable that everything that made Piranha 3D so much fun was dropped for the sequel. The ending is so ridiculous that I couldn't help but bury my face in my hands and ask myself why I wasted the money to see this.

I can see it now, a large amount of wannabe actors attempting to get a role in this. No self-respecting actor would pick this up after reading the dialogue they would need to speak. Danielle Panabaker was fine in the remake of Friday the 13th, and she's fine here. Given the dialogue, she isn't as horrible as some other members of the cast. Fortunately, the cast understands that this wasn't meant to be taken seriously, so they performed accordingly. The rest of the cast is filled with a bunch of no-names, with a few exceptions. These are David Koechner, David Hasselhoff, and Christopher Lloyd. Koechner and Lloyd are enjoyable, as they usually are, although they have such a small amount of screen time that it doesn't even matter. Hasselhoff plays himself, but has a few of the only funny jokes to be found in this flick. For those wondering, there are three characters that return from the remake. As expected, they also have extremely small roles here that they aren't anything to be excited about. The performances range from absolute garbage to simply mediocre, then again, who cares about the acting for a flick such as this? Not me.

Despite the fact that some audiences complained about the CG fish and other effects seen in Piranha 3D, I thought that they were fine. However, Piranha 3DD makes you truly miss the visuals in the first one. I watched this on-demand in 2D, although the film was natively shot in 3D, unlike the first one. Watching it in 2D, you can tell that there's a lot of gimmick shots aimed to shoot out towards the audience. The technology should be used to create depth, not just have objects fly out towards us. The piranhas themselves look extremely different from the first one. I prefer the CG ones seen in the previous flick to these. Now, to make onto the carnage. This is one of the primary reasons why people even want to see these movies. Piranha 3DD is violent, but not nearly as gory as the remake. As mentioned, a lot of the horror elements are gone, along with the extreme amount of gore. There's a lot of nudity though. Straight men looking to see a lot of naked women are sure to be pleased with this sequel, as the majority of this film is filled with naked women swimming and running.

I bet you're sitting there surprised with how much I tore this movie a new one. Piranha 3D isn't even close to perfect, but it's just a fun flick that knows exactly what it is. Piranha 3DD took everything that I enjoyed about the remake and removed it. Is all that's left is nudity and a horrible sub-plot of the relationship between the two main characters. This could have been a fun guilty pleasure, but it fails at almost everything it attempts to do. It seems to be confused with what type of flick this is supposed to be. While it's supposed to have comedic elements placed within, since it's meant to be cheesy, it isn't supposed to be the entire film. The roots of the original and the remake are horror mixed with B-movie cheese. There are some movies that are extremely fun to watch due to the fact that they're so bad. This isn't the case, it's not only bad, but it drags for the entire running time and never seems to get up and running. It ditched one of the most exciting plot developments leading to the sequel, which was the adult piranha. There are a lot more baby piranhas and not even one adult one. Hopefully Dimension Films ends it here, since the next sequel has been set up for the piranhas to be able to walk on land. Piranha 3DD is an absolute waste of time, even as a rental.

My Rating = One Star

Next movie: The Woman in Black

Thursday: The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black is your average PG-13-rated horror feature.

The Woman in Black
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Before the release date of The Woman in Black, I was intrigued by the marketing campaign of the film. The majority of modern horror films are marketed to appear as polished and clean as possible. However, most of these flicks end up being stale and simply rehashes of everything we've seen before. Instead, the studio decided to give it a throw-back feel to it. Posters and images were being released that really caught my attention due to the fact that Hammer-esque advertising was being utilized. I'm personally a fan of these older features and I found it interesting that it was being used once more. As reviews started popping up, my interest began to decline from the bashing coming from quite a few critics and moviegoers. While The Woman in Black doesn't present any groundbreaking new material, it's an average PG-13 horror flick.

Dispatched by his boss to an isolated seaside village to tie up a recently deceased client's affairs, a young London lawyer finds himself in a community grappling with dark secrets and a haunting presence with a sinister agenda. As the film begins, we see one of the clips that was featured in the trailer of the three girls seeing something and following it, as they fall out the window to their deaths. This beginning sets the mood for the feature. After this opening scene, the film takes a while to really pick back up. We learn a little bit of what Arthur Kipps has awaiting him at his home while he's out on this business trip. The final two minutes are the sole reason for showing any of these sequences, which leads to it feeling a bit unnecessary. Even after Kipps arrives at the village, there's a lot of scenes of the townspeople staring at him through their windows and going out of their way to avoid him. The screenplay is a bit repetitive to show us that he's an outsider and everybody has noticed it. Don't expect to be even slightly creeped out until Arthur reaches the house that the entire village fears. Once we reach this house, we're treated to a bunch of jump scares to appeal to the pre-teen crowd. The entire point of jump scares is to take the audience by surprise, not to provide a loud sound and sudden movements at every predictable moment possible. Well, this is exactly what The Woman in Black does. The film continues to transition between Arthur going to the house and back to the village, as he continues to make this trip over and over again. I won't spoil the reason why Arthur is being outcast and what the relation is with the creepy house, but it's exactly what you would guess. This is an average horror story that we've seen millions of times.

Every moviegoer should know who Daniel Radcliffe is. He's been playing the title character in Harry Potter throughout the entire series. This is his first film since being in that franchise. I really wasn't sure what I would think of him in any other role. When actors play a character for so long, it sometimes becomes difficult to see them outside of that character. It has happened countless times in Hollywood, such Linda Blair from The Exorcist. Surprisingly, Radcliffe is fitting as Arthur Kipps and he has easily shed the characteristics of Harry Potter and has proven that he can continue to be cast in different roles. The remainder of the cast is fine, although Radcliffe is the star here. This isn't anything that will warrant any awards, but it's worth noting that he's able to be more than just Harry Potter, and that's saying a lot.

Visually, The Woman in Black has some of what I wanted, but doesn't embrace it quite as much as I was hoping it would. From start to finish, this feature is very gloomy and dark. What I was hoping for was for the house to become a character all its own. This has been accomplished in flicks such as The House of the Devil, upon many others. Unfortunately, this isn't entirely pulled off here. While the house is eerie, it never takes it to the next level. I would have liked to see more of the house with more suspense in the dark and ominous house instead of predictable jump scares. As for the woman in black herself, she's primarily composed of CG work. Given the way that the film was marketed, I was hoping for everything to be practical. She looks a bit too cartoonish for my tastes in quite a few scenes. It takes a lot of the scare-factor out of the film. The Woman in Black could have had some absolutely marvelous visuals to make this house come to life, but it never completely worked. Fortunately, the cinematography is great and the house is creepy in the scenes where things aren't randomly jumping out with loud sounds accompanying them. The sound mixing is a completely different story. The dialogue is centered in the front stage and is never difficult to understand. There's a lot of surround work here, which successfully creates an atmosphere. The bass is tight and deep, so you might want to turn down the audio from your reference level as this is a loud flick.

After all of the successful marketing, The Woman in Black falls for every genre cliché you can possibly think of. The screenplay has a lot of issues and the pacing isn't quite as smooth as I was hoping it would be. It ultimately feels longer than the actual running time, which actually isn't even that long at all. Daniel Radcliffe is surprisingly decent outside of the Harry Potter universe. The biggest disappointment here for me is the way the visuals are utilized. Instead of simply creating tension and making the hair stand up on the back of our necks, there are a lot of jump scares for the pre-teen audiences. If you were hoping for this to return to the days of Hammer horror, you won't find it here. Those expecting great cinematography will find that here though. The Woman in Black isn't bad, but isn't very good either. This is your average PG-13-rated horror feature.

My Rating = Three Stars

Next movie: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Saturday: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an entertaining vampire flick that should be seen on the basis of that alone and nothing else.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
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To all of those who are on the same side of me, vampire movies have been coming out far too frequent ever since the trash known as Twilight was released. While I think that the bloodsuckers should have time away from the silver screen to recover, it doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon. However, I do miss the old vampires that used to dominate such features with violence. The last vampire film to really capture my interest is 30 Days of Night, which returned us to the time when vampires preferred to rip out throats than sparkle and confess their love. Based on a book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is now being presented on the big screen. The title alone sounds very silly, but this film doesn't hide anything for a bigger box office. What you've seen in the trailers and TV spots is exactly what you get here. The feature provides summer fun and a lot of slow motion.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over the nation. He makes it his mission to eliminate them all. As mentioned, the story is exactly how it sounds. This is a story about a president being a vampire hunter. Those expecting a serious plot aren't going to get it here and should just move along and watch something else. The feature is told from the perspective of Lincoln and begins as he's a young child and has his first encounter with a vampire. As he grows older, he meets another hunter who teaches him how to kill the bloodsuckers, but only for reasons of justice and not vengeance. A very interesting thing I found is how Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is able to take a completely ridiculous story and somehow intertwine it with actual historical events. Otherwise, the remainder of the story is exactly what we've come to expect from summer action flicks. It's paper thin with a lot of sequences that stretch reality extremely far, but who would expect anything more from a film titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? The same goes for the characters. They're as thin as they come. However, this is actually a good thing. This movie is meant to focus upon the action sequences and funny plot elements, not to develop characters. This script is absolutely absurd, but it has created a summer flick that's actually a lot of fun with pacing that makes the film fly by.

While some people might actually try to take this plot seriously, others might do the same with the acting. I could easily tell that these actors knew exactly what this was and not to take it seriously. Benjamin Walker is Lincoln and successfully brings the character to the silver screen. Dominic Cooper is perhaps the nicest of treats here as Henry Sturgess, the man who teaches Lincoln who to become a hunter. I'm a fan of Cooper's past work and he's believable in his role here, as well. Girls, and some guys, are sure to like what they see from him. Another actor I've enjoyed in other features is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, playing Mary Todd Lincoln. She's solid in the role and is convincing every time she's featured on the screen. There aren't any bad performances here, as none of them took this too seriously. There aren't any performances here to rave about, but they're very acceptable, given the type of movie this is.

The trailers and TV spots promised us visuals that would look fantastic once they reached the big screen. Well, they didn't lie to us. From start to finish, I could tell that there was a lot of effort put into the special effects. This was also clearly shot knowing that it would be in 3D, as there's constantly stuff flying out towards the screen. I'm not sure if it was just the screening I saw the film at, although some scenes looked a bit overly sharp at times and overly soft at others. However, the remainder of the film was crystal clear. As for the 3D effects, I'm not a big fan of the gimmicky feel of things popping out at me from the screen, but if you are, then you're sure to have a great time with this one. However, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter provides more than just that with the extra dimension. There are some sequences where the film presents some truly well-shot 3D. Such scenes include dust particles in the air, smoke going across the screen, and Lincoln spreading vampire blood with his axe. During these sequences, there's an incredible amount of depth to where it feels as if one could walk through the picture. During these portions, it feels less like a pop-up book and more like an immersive experience. While I'm sure that the 2D version would be fine to check out, this is an experience that's more exciting to be had in the 3D format. My only complaint here is that the slow motion is way overused and becomes repetitive, as it often does in modern action flicks.

I generally dedicate one paragraph for the visuals, although I felt that it needed two in this case. Those of us who miss vampires seen in films such as 30 Days of Night will be pleased to know that the ones seen here are similar to those. While they can hide behind the face of humans, can become invisible, and are ultra-strong and ultra-fast, they're able to show their true form. The actual vampires are ugly, vicious, and seek to drain humans of their blood in any way possible. Abraham Lincoln's fight sequences with the vampires are exciting and a lot of fun. While I wouldn't classify this as being as violent as 30 Days of Night, it still has some moments where there's quite a bit more violence than what we're used to seeing in a vampire movie within the past couple years. Hopefully filmmakers forget about the crappy Twilight "vampires," if you can call them that, and bring us more vampires that are looking to kill and obtain their blood rather than sparkle in the sun and be in love.

I haven't read the book, so I'm reviewing this based upon the film by itself. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is truly what you make it out to be. If you're going to be critical about the plot, characters, and other elements, then you should just avoid this one from the start. However, if you're looking to simply have mindless entertainment with some awesome visuals, then you should have a great time. Of course, the plot is absolutely stupid and almost nonexistent and the characters are paper-thin, but that's exactly what this was meant to be from the start. The visuals are beautiful, although there's a bit too much slow motion for my tastes. This is a flawed action flick, but at least it's an incredibly fun flick. You could end up doing a lot worse than this with some other flicks that are currently out in theaters. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an entertaining vampire flick that should be seen on the basis of that alone and nothing else.

My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

Next movie: Albert Nobbs

Sunday: Albert Nobbs

Albert Nobbs is as boring as they come. Skip it.

[movie title]
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Another year, another set of films to be made on the basis of Oscar-bait. That's exactly what Albert Nobbs is. This is when movies are made with the sole intention of winning Academy Awards by capturing the interest of the older age groups, since that's who compose most of the voters. This is done by generally creating a period piece with signing on some fantastic actors. However, what are great actors if the story isn't even able to capture the interest of the audience? Despite the fact that the trailers made me roll my eyes in boredom, I still decided to give this a fair chance, as I should with any movie. If you agree with everything I've said thus far, then you're sure to feel the exact same way about the ultimate product that Albert Nobbs offers.

Albert Nobbs has disguised herself as a man while working as a butler in a posh 19th-century Dublin hotel. However, she reconsiders her charade when a handsome painter arrives on the scene. From that plot alone, it sounds a lot like Oscar-bait doesn't it? The film is told from the perspective of Albert Nobbs. After receiving advice from the painter, Nobbs finally decides to act on her feelings for her co-worker, Helen. This is supposed to be a character-driven feature that displays the thoughts, actions, and how they affect and ultimately change how they behave. Well, this is at least how it's supposed to work in films such as these. To be blunt, it feels as though the film doesn't go anywhere. There's a lot of drama between the characters and people double-crossing others, although it feels like a soap opera with a bigger budget. Character-driven plots are supposed to make us like and support the protagonist, but I didn't find myself backing even one character. The characters that are even slightly enjoyable are in such small supporting roles that they don't receive enough screen time to even care too much about. Albert Nobbs is predictable and the ending is dumb. The dialogue isn't poorly written, but the characters are such an issue and the plot isn't interesting enough to hold the audience's attention.

After trashing the screenplay, you may be wondering why I gave this 1.5 stars. Well, one of the reasons is because of the acting. Oscar-bait must always have at least one star performer on screen. Glenn Close is Albert Nobbs and does a great job in the character. Close is very convincing in the role, it's just a shame that the character herself isn't very interesting. While she did a great job, I still don't believe that it warrants an Academy Award nomination. Mia Wasikowska continues to be underrated as she plays Helen. I've enjoyed her work and she rarely ever seems to get noticed by many people. She most certainly deserves more recognition. These are the two standout roles of Albert Nobbs, although I still don't believe that any Oscar-nominations were warranted in the acting department.

Visually, the film comes as plain as you'd expect it to. However, it also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Achievement in Makeup. Honestly, Glenn Close is one of the most terrifying people I've ever seen under make-up. Despite the fact that young children may have nightmares from seeing Close in this makeup, it's ultimately successful for the character. Jokes, yet honesty, aside, you get exactly as you predict from Albert Nobbs. The visuals are rather plain and the audio design is mediocre. The dialogue is a bit soft at times, making it difficult to make out some dialogue. To compensate, you should turn it up a little louder than you're used to in order to ensure you can hear the dialogue. The surround channels are extremely reserved and it often feels like a stereo track.

Some of you may believe that I'm being a bit harsh, but after this movie ended, I couldn't help but feel angry. Films such as these shouldn't be rewarded Academy Award nominations when their sole intention was to win awards. The story is boring and doesn't ever really go anywhere and the characters are unlikable. When a character-driven drama has neither, that's a horrible thing. Visuals don't matter too much for these movies, although you won't find anything more or less than you're expecting in that department. Even after having my thoughts of not wanting to see this after seeing the trailers, I still gave it a fair shot to surprise me. However, I will never understand the praise some people gave this flick and most certainly don't comprehend how the Academy appreciates films such as these. Albert Nobbs is as boring as they come. Skip it.

My Rating = One and One Half Stars

Next movie: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close