The Hunter (2011) Review

Willem Dafoe is an actor who, despite his craggy features, can alternately play unconventionally handsome leading men as well as near-freakish villains. In Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter, Dafoe plays Martin David, a mercenary hunter who is hired by Red Leaf, a biotech company, to hunt down and obtain genetic material from the Tasmanian Tiger. The problem is that the the tiger is long thought to have been extinct, with the last known specimen dying in captivity in 1936. Red Leaf wants to obtain the exclusive rights to the Tasmanian Tiger’s genetic material as it could be worth a fortune if the animal could be cloned.

Martin travels from Paris to the Tasmanian wilderness posing as a scientist researching Tasmanian Devils. His presence in the small out-of-the-middle-of-nowhere town immediately is perceived as a threat by local loggers. Anyone who shows up from overseas tends to be working for the “greenies”, environmentalists who threaten to halt the logging industry and therefore cost them jobs. David’s lodging arrangements also give Martin pause as he’s given room and board with a woman named Lucy (Frances O’Connor) and her two precocious children, Sass (Morgana Davies) and Bike (Finn Woodlock).  Lucy’s husband disappeared while doing environmental work in the Tasmanian wilderness the previous summer.

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Review

In 2005, Christopher Nolan took over a Batman franchise that had been hobbled by the campy stylings of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. His initial entry, Batman Begins, featured an emphasis on realism and the dark psychology of the Batman character. In 2008, he improved on the formula with The Dark Knight, a fascinating look at the psychological codependence of Batman and his arch-nemesis, The Joker.  With The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan is faced with the unenviable task of living up to the two previous films in the series as well as concluding the story arc that he’s constructed.

The third film begins eight years after the events in The Dark Knight. Batman hasn’t been seen since the death of former Gotham CIty District Attorney Harvey Dent. Dent’s passing has led to the creation of the Dent Act, a set of laws that’s made it much easier for the police in Gotham to put criminals in jail. As such, the city has become free of organized crime and the streets are now considerably safer than they were prior to Batman’s arrival.

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Ted (2012) Review

When a friendless 8-year-old boy wishes his newly acquired teddy bear could have the ability to talk and be his friend forever, he probably didn’t think about the possible consequences of his actions. Of course, who would think such a wish would (or could) come true? For John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), that situation is all too real as he is now 35 years old, working a dead-end job, and living with Ted, his walking, talking, bong-smoking teddy bear.

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Piranha 3DD (2012) Review

Although the original 1978 Piranha was written off by many as a ripoff of the then-current Jaws, the 2010 remake earned a reputation for being completely over-the-top in the sex and gore department.  Thanks to a clever cameo by Richard Dreyfuss, numerous scenes of gratuitous nudity, and a gag involving a three dimensional severed penis, Piranha 3D somehow charmed itself into enough young, over-sexed hearts to earn a sequel.  And, of course, director John Gulager and writers Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunston, and Joel Soisson have taken all of those qualities — including another celebrity cameo — and amplified them.  That ought to make Piranha 3DD an even better movie, right? Not even close.

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Next (2007) Review

Based on Philip K. Dick’s story, “The Golden Man”, Next follows Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage), a man who was born with the ability to see two minutes into the future. The catch is that he can only see two minutes into his own future. He can’t tell what will happen to someone one else or see future events unless he’s personally involved with them in some way. Cris doesn’t like the attention his ability garners and makes his living as a small time lounge act in Las Vegas doing parlor tricks for bored tourists.

When Cris begins seeing visions of a woman named Liz Cooper (Jessica Biel) in his future, he’s confused. She is appearing to him much farther out than two minutes. He continues to try to pinpoint when she is appearing so he can meet her and find out why she is the only exception to the “two minute rule”. His quest to meet the girl of his visions becomes even more important after he foils a robbery at a casino.

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Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) Review

Martha Marcy May Marlene, the first feature film by writer/director Sean Durkin, tells the story of Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), who escapes from a cult run by the charismatic Patrick (John Hawkes.) We don’t learn much about Martha over the course of the movie’s running time. In fact, we don’t learn much at all.

Through a non-linear storyline, we flash back and forth from Martha’s escape from the cult to her days as a member, where she was known as Marcy May. We see how Patrick uses the other cult members to introduce her to their seemingly innocent way of life, which appears to revolve around farming and becoming independent of the outside world. We see Martha trying to adjust to life outside the cult in the opulent home of her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson,) and her new husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy.)

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Chronicle (2012) Review

Introverted Andrew (Dane DeHaan) lives with his alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and bed-ridden mother (Bo Petersen) in a bad neighborhood. Andrew has recently purchased a used video camera and has begun filming everything in his life, including his father’s violent outbursts and his daily beat down at the hands of bullies in the high school hallway.

Through Andrew’s camera lens, we see that he gets a ride to school every day from his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), who is his only friend. Matt repeatedly tries to get Andrew to socialize with other kids in school, especially girls. So, when Matt invites Andrew to a party at an abandoned barn, Andrew grudgingly accepts even though Matt tells him to leave his camera at home.

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Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) Review

About a year ago, I posted a review of The Human Centipede on this website’s YouTube channel. That film is notorious for being hard-to-watch due to the nature of its subject matter. Almost immediately after I posted that video review, people began asking me to watch and review a film entitled Salò. I had to confess that I’d never heard of it but I immediately began looking for information on the film.

What I learned was that Salò was a 1975 film about a group of teenagers who, during World War II, are kidnapped by four Italian facist leaders and subjected to all kinds of mental, sexual, and physical torture. I also learned that it was banned in several countries because of its content and explicit depictions of violence and sexual acts. At face value, this didn’t sound the slightest bit appealing. With so many other movies to watch, subjecting myself to two hours of that kind of material just did not warrant any further effort on my part and I put the idea to bed.

Then, about a two months ago, I ran across the film at a local used DVD store. It was a copy of the film released in 2011 by the Criterion Collection who, according to their website, “are dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements.” This sparked my curiousity again.

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Apollo 18 (2011) Review

Apollo 18 is yet another entry in the increasingly crowded sub-genre of film known as “found footage.” These are movies that ask the viewer to understand that what they’re seeing was filmed by the protagonists themselves. Most of these movies also ask the viewer to accept that the fate of those involved in the filming of said footage is unknown. And, of course, someone had to find it. (Hence the name of the genre.)

This time, the footage is from a secret mission to the moon which took place a full two years after the last “official” moon landing. The crew of Apollo 18 is carrying out what amounts to a black op for the Department of Defense. They’re supposed to be installing devices which can detect missile launches on Earth. (A moon-based system seems terribly impractical being that Earth-bound systems for this purpose had been around since the 1950s but I digress.) However, their communications are constantly interrupted by interference and what sounds like shrieking. Once the installation of the devices is completed, the astronauts make a disturbing discovery: They’re not alone on the moon.

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Cowboys & Aliens (2011) Review

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert with a wicked case of amnesia. On his right side, he has a deep flesh wound. On his left wrist, he is wearing what looks to be an iron bracelet of some kind. Before Jake can assess his situation much further, he is accosted by three unsavory looking men who seem to think there may be a bounty on Jake’s head. Before they can collect, though, Jake turns the tables on them using some finely tuned hand-to-hand combat skills.

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