Review: Insidious (2011)

Insidious (dir. James Wan, 2011) – A young couple seeks help for their comatose child trapped in The Further, a demon and spirit-infested realm.

Verdict

Bringing back atmospheric horror of the 70s, Insidious delivers rare effective scares.

4/5

Review

Spilling blood and ripping innards apart can get you for brief moments. But since the millennium began, horror movies have not sustained terror in their entirety quite like Insidious did.

Following the Splat Pack’s great ambitions, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannel revive the true unadulterated sense of the word ‘horror’. With Dead Silence, they abandon visceral violence for creepy ambience. With Insidious, they find temerity to strip the genre down to its early roots, making minimalist horror work for a modern audience.

The new masters of suspense pay careful attention to design. In the old-fashioned spirit of beloved 70s horror, the movie completes the nostalgic experience with font and sound. They take us into the dark realms of The Further, where a father will do anything to bring his son back.

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Review: Drive Angry (2011)

Drive Angry (dir. Patrick Lussier, 2011) – After his escape from Hell, Milton hunts the men who murdered his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter.

Verdict

High on absurdity and over-the-top violence, Drive Angry unexpectedly entertains with explosive action.

3/5

Review

Death grants no reprieve. A vengeful chase leads Milton (Nicolas Cage) to Hell and back, with the Accountant (William Fichtner) hot on his heels. Showing no fear and nothing to lose, both escapee and pursuer unleash Hell on Earth in their persistent quest.

With a title as absurd as its synopsis, it is easy to dismiss Drive Angry at first glance. But while grindhouse cinema has never quite appealed to the mainstream audience, any fan of wild thrills would be sorry to miss this exhilarating hell ride.

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Review: Rabbit Hole (2010)

Rabbit Hole (dir. John Cameron Mitchell, 2010) – A couple struggles to return to normalcy after the devastating death of their young son.

Verdict

The thought-provoking Rabbit Hole takes a sharp look into life and death, where heavy emotions linger.

5/5

Review

In a world where films succeed at the box office with explosive visuals on an immense budget and full-throttle speed, it is rare to find a lasting minute that truly connects on the emotional front. But to say that such poignant cinema is bygone will be to dismiss what John Cameron Mitchell has accomplished with Rabbit Hole.

In his latest effort, the Hedwig and the Angry Inch director brings visual allure and touching performances to the distressing subject of a child’s death. It is a difficult story, beautifully penned by adept writer David Lindsay Abaire. With his compelling words, the stage play finds new life on screen that will doubtlessly move.

Resonant words open up to an astute understanding of bereavement. In face of tragedy, the young couple brings out common struggles against covert grief that threatens to drive them apart.

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On Underrated Actors and Tarantino

Samuel L Jackson, Pam Grier, Christoph Waltz, David Carradine (rest in peace); the films of Quentin Tarantino has revived the quiet careers of many and garnered long-awaited recognition for others. Of recent, casting news for his latest venture Django Unchained has begun to surface, and keen interest has been placed on whom he will work with next.

Late night thoughts that usually render pointless had me wondering who I would love to see Tarantino work with most. Well, there is certainly one underrated actor in mind whom Tarantino could really shine some deserving light on: Sam Rockwell.

Moon
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics / Mark Tille

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Review: Limitless (2011)

Limitless (dir. Neil Burger, 2011) – A struggling author finds his muse in NZT, an experimental drug that invokes all of his potential intelligence.

Verdict

Style over substance, Limitless squanders narrative potential in hopes that its audience may use less than 10% of their brains.

3/5

Review

In Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, a mentally disabled man finds intelligence in science, only to see more than he should. Limitless revisits the classic story as a struggling writer abandons normality for instant intelligence. Success however comes at a price. When others seek the same, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) invites a life of dangerous escape.

His chase after perfection resonates with many. Ambition is universal as most desire to revel in respect, fame and riches. But does intellect truly equate to success? How will a sudden influx of knowledge change us mentally? How far will one go to retain it?

Unlike Algernon, Limitless superficially handles these possible implications. Barely brushing against topics of morality, the movie instead opts for fast-paced action. Perhaps the sci-fi label is a stretch. While science inspires the premise, action takes the forefront.

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Review: Sucker Punch (2011)

Sucker Punch (dir. Zack Snyder, 2011) – An attempted escape from the mental institute puts five girls in scenarios where fantasy and reality blurs.

Verdict

Stunning and refreshing, Sucker Punch presents a commendably unconventional effort that could do with a little more character depth.

3/5

Review

Imprisoned in a mental institution thanks to her stepfather’s bribery, lobotomy awaits Babydoll (Emily Browning). Her survival depends solely on her escape plan with four other girls. Behind the walls of the desolate asylum, she escapes into her imagination of a brothel’s grandeur that leads her deeper down the rabbit hole.

Director Zack Snyder’s multi-layer design provides a unique storytelling device with surprising coherence. Each layer imaginatively cross genres from sci-fi to horror, incorporating steampunk designs into fantasy backdrops. Heavy on escapism, the novel technique slips traces of video game elements into the visually-accomplished film.

On the surface, Sucker Punch looks no more than sensual fetish. But beneath all that leather are five strong female characters at the forefront putting up a fight for themselves.

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