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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014
The first Saw is really a whodunit. The next six are all about the "why".

Few filmmakers can claim a successful cinematic franchise. Fewer still have one based on their own original idea. So what does it say about horror maestro James Wan that he has not one, not two, but three wholly unique and undeniably profitable scary movie series to be proud of. Most recently, the Australian auteur delivered The Conjuring, a $20 million dollar revisit to old school ‘70s fright that netted nearly $320 million at the box office. With such numbers have come a prequel, Annabelle, and the inevitable sequel.


Before that, Wan was also responsible for the ingenious and devious dark ride, Insidious. Part One arrived in 2010 with little fanfare and fewer expectations and wound up bringing in almost $100 million in turnstile receipts. Part Two made even more money ($161 million) before the filmmaker turned things over to his partner in creepshow crime, Leigh Whannell (Part Three arrives in 2014). But before there was the subtle scares and throwback mentality of these two properties, Wan and Whannell rode a wave of rave reviews for a little something called Saw.


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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
As long as it avoids anything closely resembling the real world, Ouija works. Not as horror, but as a cautionary example as to why "gotchas" don't necessarily equal scares.

Welcome to the world of stupid horror, terror where the failed fear comes out of the character’s single digit IQ actions, not anything remotely realistic or relatable. It’s a place where no one ever turns on a lamp, where already scared individuals walk blindly into pitch black areas carrying only notoriously unreliable flashlights, where the police are never called or investigate very mysterious deaths, and where information is parsed out it narratively beneficial drips and drabs.


It’s a place where a house someone has lived in for years contains an easily discoverable secret room that no one has come across before (wouldn’t a home inspection and a title/blueprint search for tax/insurance purposes cover that?), and where clueless characters walk right into supernatural traps, clearly never learning their lesson the first 15 times around.


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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
That's some view... of modern marriage.

So… a man runs away from an impending avalanche, leaving his wife and two young children behind.


That’s it. That’s the basis for this talky, incomprehensibly narrow minded “view of modern marriage” being touted as some brilliantly enlightened masterpiece. Indeed, Force Majeure (Latin for “superior force”, though typically translated as “unavoidable accident”) is making the arthouse rounds in preparation for an end of the year run at the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar next February and what an over-praised pile of yellow snow it is.


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Friday, Oct 17, 2014
Even with all its XXX gimmickry, Nymph()maniac remains grounded in character. From someone like Von Trier, we'd expect nothing less, and we even get a lot more.

Did we really need more? Did we really need to see a graphic self-abortion, male genitals in all manner of pre/post sexual release? Did we need more conversations between title “subject” Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg in the present, Stacy Martin in flashback) and her Good Samaritan “therapist” Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård)?


After viewing Lars Von Trier’s director’s cut of Nyph()maniac, packing at least 40 more minutes of provocative button pushing, the answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!” Those already inclined to dislike the film won’t find anything new to reverse their opinion. Those who found the director’s dissection of the fantasies and failings of a life devoted to sex interesting will be pleased with the additions, if not 100 percent convinced of their necessity.


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Friday, Oct 17, 2014
It's the brutality of Saving Private Ryan without the jingoistic flag-waving, the one-two punch of Clint Eastwood's Greatest Generation epics sans the strident moralizing.

As it rattles through the countryside, its defensive armor pocked by dozens of mortar and bullet marks, one can tell that Fury has seen its fair share of fighting. As a tank trying to clear a path to Berlin for Allied troops during the final desperate days of World War II, it’s also safe to say that there’s a suicide mission quality to the crew’s purpose, even with assurances from Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) that he will keep them safe.


So far, he’s been more or less successful. While he recently lost his side gunner, our hardboiled hero has managed to keep the low IQ likes of mechanic Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal), driver Cpl. Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), and artilleryman Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf) alive. They’ve all been overwhelmed by the recent loss, making newcomer Norman Ellison’s (Logan Lerman) acclimation into this group all the more difficult.


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