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Saturday: Playback

Playback is an absolute mess that shouldn't have even been made. Skip it.

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There's so much generic horror crap floating around out there right now that it's an absolute disgrace to the genre. Films such as these are the reason why the horror genre is looked down upon by some of the bigger entities, such as the Academy. These flicks insult the intelligence of the audience and leave us feeling like we have wasted our time and may even turn some viewers away from horror for a while. Well, Playback is another one of these movies. Whether you're an adult, a teenager, or a pre-teen looking for some horror no matter how bad it is, Playback still is a waste of money for both the studios and paying moviegoers. The small redeeming qualities are so minor that they only make an appearance a couple of times for less than ten seconds.

Harlan Diehl slaughtered his family, capturing the deed on video. When students learning about the case watch the tape, they unleash a powerful evil. They become pawns of the malevolent force that threatens to destroy them and their small town. We've all heard about a videotape that has supernatural powers and is able to reach out and kill people. The Ring is a good example of a well-made film based upon such subject matter. However, Playback takes a little bit of a quick turn away from that. Instead, it possess one of the guys to watch the tape to begin murdering to finish his work. Horror movies don't get much more generic and uninteresting than that. All of the characters are irritating and no viewers will want to see any of these characters make it through to the end. Quite a few of them make some of the dumbest decisions a human being could possibly make. Playback constantly attempts to be scary with jump out scares and such. However, they all fail. The small redeeming qualities I mentioned earlier are during the scene where the main character, Julian, is in the video rental store and speaks with a friend about how film captures souls. The plot concept has always intrigued me, although it handles the idea very poorly. The film takes it much too literally and leaves us with a very laughable story that never feels even slightly exciting. The ending is extremely horrendous, as it ends as tacky as it possibly could have. This screenplay should have ended up in the trash can instead of the hands of actors on a set.

When it comes to the acting, it would be unfair to expect anything more than mediocre acting. The script is pretty bad, but I don't believe all of the blame should be placed upon the dialogue. These are simply no-name actors who have difficult getting even slightly into character. I was surprised to hear that Christian Slater would have a supporting role. However, Slater is fine compared to the rest of the cast, although that isn't saying very much. His role isn't a big one and is only on screen for a short amount of time, but his acting is at least alright here. The remainder of the cast desperately needs some more acting lessons in order to learn how to act without overdoing it. It takes all of the believability away from the characters, although the script doesn't exactly help them out. The blame falls on both the dialogue and the actors in this flick.

When it comes to the budget, I was aware that the film was made on a relatively low budget. For the most part, the movie looks acceptable. However, some of the make-up used, especially that on Quinn, who become possessed, looks very cheesy. For those looking for a high-definition transfer, you won't find that here. However, it looks decent for a flick that barely received a theatrical run. It was released in only a few of theaters and then went straight-to-video. The audio quality is suitable for the type of horror movie it is. There's a lot of gimmicky jump scares, so expect quite a bit of the movie to be soft with dialogue and such and then everything getting really loud for the "scares." Audiences actually get to be immersed a bit here with some ambiance coming through the surrounds. The most disappointing aspect of this audio track is most certainly the bass. It's sloppy and is far too reserved for a movie that's supposed to rely on loud sounds.

Those of you who enjoy having bad movie nights, you have hit the jackpot. This is one of the worst horror movies I have seen in a while. It takes every horror cliché and amplifies it to irritating proportions. The story isn't interesting or scary at all. There's absolutely nothing scary or creepy about this movie. It attempts to use the gimmicky jump scares to "scare" us, but that falls flat on its face. The acting is under mediocre and you'll find yourself face-palming quite often from the dialogue delivery. The visuals are alright for a movie such as this, although I expected a better sound design for something that's supposed to be relying so much on the audio. The closest this movie gets to having a redeeming quality is in the video rental store scene and then the concept is taken so literally that all of the possible fun that could have been there has been ripped out of the flick. Playback is an absolute mess that shouldn't have even been made. Skip it.

My Rating = One and One Half Stars

Next movie: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Sunday: We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin isn't necessarily on my top 10 list for 2011, although it's a well-crafted film that comes recommended to those who can handle the material.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
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We Need to Talk About Kevin has a theme that isn't particularly new, although it's interesting. Parents are supposed to love their children no matter what, but what would you do if your child was a sociopath? Most parents say that their child can be rude or completely disrespectful to them at times, but what if those children actively had an immense hatred for his or her parents? It's surely a dark and touchy subject that films and literature tend to avoid, although We Need to Talk About Kevin approaches it head on without sugar coating any of it. The movie received a lot of positive buzz after it was released, but is it really worthy of the praise it has received?

Eva's relationship with her son, Kevin, has been difficult from the beginning. When the 15-year-old boy's cruel streak erupts into violence, Eva wonders how much blame she deserves for his actions. The film tells the story of Kevin growing up from the day he's born until he's an older teenager, all of which is told from Eva's perspective. Those who are aware of how typical Sundance-type films are made will know the style of the script here. The dialogue is well-written and the characters have all the depth they require. Viewers will constantly feel a great amount of sympathy for Eva as she has a sociopathic son and a clueless father, named Franklin. He's an extremely irritating character since you will want to slap his character in the face over and over until he understands what's going on. I found the melancholic personality of Eva to be very intriguing as we got to learn so much about the character. However, I became tired of seeing Kevin topping what he did the last sequence being the main purpose of a large portion of the movie. He continues to do psychopathic things and Eva is the only one to notice any of this behavior. It definitely becomes aggravating to watch such clueless people as Franklin. By the time this movie ends, you feel absolutely drained. The movie is successfully unnerving and upsetting, although there are some scenes that feel as if their only purpose is to be shocking. The ending of the film is unbelievably depressing. You'll see it coming from early on, although it still is just as heartbreaking as it would have been if it was unexpected.

The biggest reason why We Need to Talk About Kevin was so highly praised was due to the acting. Tila Swinton is in the role of Eva. This is one of the strongest performances by a female lead for all of 2011. I'm absolutely shocked that she didn't receive an Oscar nomination or win for this performance. She delivers such an emotional and heartbreaking performance that you can't help but develop even more sympathy towards her character for everything she endures throughout this story. John C. Reilly has quickly been becoming in more and more serious films overtime, although I'm not sure how I feel about it. While I thought that he was fine in comedies, I can't take him seriously in a role such as this. He plays Franklin, the clueless father who doesn't catch onto Kevin's issues. Ezra Miller is Kevin as a teenager. He does an absolutely fantastic job at making you despise his character in every single way possible. He's able to deliver even looks and expressions that deliver such evil that it makes the viewer feel even a bit uneasy at times. The acting by Tilda Swinton is still a standout and it's too bad that she didn't receive the recognition that she deserved at the Academy Awards.

Another element seen in Sundance-type flicks is that they have the same atmosphere. There are often quite a few sequences shot handheld and a lot of long, drawn out scenes that appear to be random to general audiences. As expected, all of the above are here. The handheld isn't as noticeable or bothersome as seen in other flicks, but I noticed it in a couple parts of the movie. There are definitely a lot of drawn out sequences to be seen here. A lot of scenes linger a while after something happens and the viewers are there waiting for the cut to the next scene. There are times where this is effective and other times where it feels a bit too drawn out. An example would be a closeup on Kevin's eye as he looks at a bullseye target as the camera lingers on that for quite a while. Otherwise, the audio department is rather reserved here, although it still works. The dialogue is easy to hear as its centered in the center channel. However, there are portions to this sound design that are very nice effects that spread through to the surround speakers. This allows for the soundstage to open up beautifully and the audience to be utterly immersed in the movie.

Despite the fact that there were a lot of positive reviews for We Need to Talk About Kevin, the movie isn't for everybody. I believe that this is a well-made piece of film, although it's not something that's enjoyable to watch. It's heartbreaking, unnerving, and even a bit difficult to watch at times. However, the script is well-written and the acting is absolutely captivating. Tilda Swinton deserved an Oscar for this beautifully crafted performance. The visuals are exactly what you'd expect and the sound design has been mixed well. This is well-made, but I wouldn't recommend this to everybody. if you're able to stomach how depressing this flick really is, then I advise you check it out. I don't see myself revisiting it, although it's definitely a motion picture that deserves to be watched. We Need to Talk About Kevin isn't necessarily on my top 10 list for 2011, although it's a well-crafted film that comes recommended to those who can handle the material.

My Rating = [star descr] Stars

Next movie: Anatomy of a Murder