Open Grave

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District 9’s  stars in this 2013 zombie flick with a great beginning which unfortunately fast fizzles.

Sharlto (John/Jonah) horrifyingly wakes with no recollection of who he is only to find himself trapped in a deep mass grave.  Once he escapes, he finds a group of other humans with the same mysterious “amnesia”.

The group, uncertain of who they are, why they’re there and who to trust begin to explore their surroundings.  They soon find zombie-like humans whom they have to fend from.

What lets this film down most is its unrealistic plot lines and intentions of the characters, who seem more concerned with “finding answers” to who they are rather than with the clearly more important issue, staying alive and away from the zombies.  The characters’ actions become forced and we are left wondering “why would they do that”.  It is the usual trap a lot of B-grade horrors fall into, like the classic mistake of characters running up the stairs instead of out the door when fleeing from the villain, in the case of ‘Open Grave’, the characters were running toward the zombies instead of away from them!

Unlike his stellar performance as Wikus in ‘District 9′, Sharlto Copley’s portrayal as the confused protagonist-who-may-also-be-the-antagonist is far from convincing.  I can only pinpoint it down to his over-the-top American accent.  His emphasis on pronouncing words with an American dialect made the emotion and motivation behind those words feel lost and unconvincing.  -Resulting in John/Jonah, whilst being the main character, became the most unbelievable of the group.  When the main character feels fake and contrived, all is lost with the rest of the story.

6/10

 

 

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Between Us

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Another underrated film, ‘Between Us’ is a very cleverly written film based on the play by Joe Hortua.

With a very small but strong cast, including:   and , the story centers around two very different yet similar couples, Grace and Carlo (Stiles and Diggs) and Sharyl and Joel (George and Harbour) and their very realistic and turbulent individual relationships.

Grace and Carlo are two happy newlyweds who visit their much wealthier married friends, Sharyl and Joel, but what started out as a fun catch up over dinner, turns very quickly into an awkward and uncomfortable time in the wealthy couple’s Nebraskan mansion, as Grace and Carlo witness the relationship meltdown of Sharyl and Joel, of which the couple soon admit to their pending divorce.

The film then continues to flick back and forth between the past (the night of the catch up dinner) to the present, when some years have passed due to an unexplained result of the two sets of couples becoming estranged.

In the present, we are shown a much happier and still married Sharyl and Joel, make a surprise visit to Grace and Carlo’s tiny New York apartment.   Grace and Carlo, once the epitome of a perfect couple have deteriorated to the angry and resentful state they once witnessed with Sharyl and Joel.

Carlo admits to Joel that he and Grace are struggling financially and soon the two couples release their bottled up malicious true feelings about each other which results in yet another fiery fight,  however this time, it’s couple versus couple, with the opponents being Sharyl and Joel versus Grace and Carlo.

My only gripe about this very well written and crafted film is the end.  It comes about too abruptly and never really resolves the real reasons behind the tension that caused the two couples to become estranged after the first catch up dinner.

Nevertheless, this is still a near perfect film in terms of conflict and drama, which focuses solely on character and dialogue instead of sets and locations.  A must-see for aspiring writers.

9/10

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Blast from the Past – ‘Legends of the Fall’ (1994)

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If you’ve forgotten the beautiful story that lays in the film ‘Legends of the Fall’, it’s time to revisit it.

It’s the unforgettable tale of three brothers, Alfred (), Tristan () and youngest, Samuel ().  The three are reunited in their secluded Montana home with their father, Colonel William Ludlow (), when Samuel brings home his beautiful new fiancee Susannah ().

As they talk of the war in Europe, Samuel decides he needs to help despite the wishes of his war veteran father.  Responsible older brother Alfred also agrees to enlist, leaving family favorite Tristan, going along only to watch over his younger brother.

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After Samuel is killed in the war, Tristan and Alfred come home to a lonely Susannah.  A woman that has seemed to captivate the heart of all the Ludlow brothers, however her heart remains with just one of them, Tristan.

But the innate wildness within Tristan coupled with his guilt surrounding Samuel’s death, makes it difficult for him to fully commit to Susannah and during his absence from the home, Susannah eventually settles with Alfred.

As the story surpasses the many years of the Ludlow’s lives, we see that Susannah becomes the girl that first brought the brothers together, only to tear them apart by the end.

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With perfect performances by the entire cast, Legends of the Fall will have you in tears over the events endured by the captivating characters.  A story which reads like a classic fairytale, only one that is realistically complicated, damaged but still so charming at the same time.

10/10

 

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Robocop (2014)

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, from ‘The Killing’ stars as Alex Murphy, the cop who almost gets killed by a car bomb, offered a second chance at life by becoming ‘Robocop’.

This remake is definitely impressive, from its high-tech costumes and sets to its non-gratuitous action scenes, however it’s the realistic dialogue and characters that really make this film feel believable and fresh, no matter how familiar you are with the original 1987 film.

Giving human empathy to Dr. Dennett Norton (played by Gary Oldman), the doctor who “creates” Robocop, we see how the Doctor struggles with the many scarily invasive mental and physiological adjustments to Alex/Robocop.

Michael Keaton plays the fitting villain,  Raymond Sellars and  does well in becoming the strong yet sympathetic wife of Alex, Clara Murphy.

The writing and the actors make you care about them throughout the film, you feel you understand their motives, whether they be hero or villain.  The emotional factor of this remake is what sets it apart from the usual blockbuster action flick.

Nothing seems too staged or contrived, the characters act on legitimate reasons and we enjoy following and anticipating their journey because of it.

8.5/10

 

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Friends with Better Lives

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Since we haven’t had one in a while, here is a new TV pilot review.

CBS brings a semi-unique odd-ball ensemble cast for the comedy series ‘Friends with Better Lives’.

James Van Der Beek stars as Will Stokes, the recently divorced friend.

Ex-model Brooklyn Decker stars as Jules, the carefree single friend who gets engaged in the pilot episode.

Majandra Delfino stars as Andi, the married friend with her stable husband Bobby, played by Kevin Connolly.

Lastly, Zoe Lister-Jones stars as Kate, the single, neurotic, power-woman friend who bares a striking resemblance to ‘2 Broke Girls’ actress Kat Dennings.

Following the much loved and hilarious series ‘Don’t Trust the B—- In Apartment 23′, also starring Van Der Beek, I was tempted to give this new series a go just for the James factor.  But two seconds in, I quickly realize ‘Friends with Better Lives’ is simply and unfortunately no comparison.

The humor is forced, perhaps due to the line delivery, but probably more so with the writing.  Instead of finding humor within the situation, the writers have succumbed to penning mediocre jokes for the characters.

While the characters all have their individual quirks, none of them can really stand out on their own except for maybe Kate’s character.  Her character is actually unique and strong enough to be funny just by being in the room, whereas the other characters are so bland they are heavily reliant on their one-liners.

Basically what unfolds in this pilot episode isn’t interesting enough or funny enough to go into great detail, to sum it up, each character goes through some type of relationship dilemma, which either gets resolved or just re-sets their relationship status for future episodes.

Friends with Better Lives is a passable way to kill time if there is nothing else on television, but don’t expect to be in hysterics or to be hooked for more.

4/10

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