Thursday, January 31, 2008

Review: The Namesake (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Mira Nair
Written by: Sooni Taraporevala (screenplay) Jhumpa Lahiri (novel)
Genre: Drama
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sexuality/nudity, a scene of drug use, some disturbing images and brief language
Released: 9 March 2007
Starring: Irfan Khan, Tabu, Kal Penn, Sahira Nair, Zuleikha Robinson, Jacinda Barrett, Brooke Smith, Rupak Ginn, Tanusree Shankar, Sabyasachi Chakravarthy, Dhruv Mookerji.
Plot: American-born Gogol, the son of Indian immigrants, wants to fit in among his fellow New Yorkers, despite his family's unwillingness to let go of their traditional ways.

Rating: 8/10

My Thoughts: A name we all have a one, but many of us don’t know why we have it, or better yet what history does it carry. They say every name or namesake has it’s reasons. And The Namesake shows us just that, a powerful and greatly moving film of learning and understanding ones past, the film takes us to both past and present showing us two incredible individuals, a father who gives his son a name that means so much to him that no one will ever truly understand why, and a son who doesn’t relies just how important his name is to his father. the namesake is a touching and emotionally moving film that you will appreciate. I must admit I knew nothing about this film but the fact that it starred actor Kal Penn in it and it wasn’t a comedy, but man was I glad that I didn’t know much about this film because for me it was an incredible adventure that had me sold with in the first five minutes of the film, the on location filming was beautiful, showing you the beauty that is India and the cinematography was so beautifully done it should get an Oscar nomination. I am however greatly surprised it didn’t because such movie like this should never get unnoticed.

Also the namesake gives us a look into both American and Indian culture and the rebelliousness of children from there parents, like for example; Ashoke and his wife, Ashima are married by there families instead out of love, and yet over time they learn to love each other and become soulmates, and there son ,Gogol and daughter, Sonia who rebels from the old traditional why of marriage of being married off to another Indian, by it’s culture overall but slowly by slowly there son Gogol begins to fallow his Indian cultural roots as do many after they hit maturity, which I found to be beautiful and somewhat poetic in it’s message, which says in life we all must take this journey of self discovery in one’s self and in one’s culture before becoming fully free and shine into your own light.

The story is about Ashoke Ganguli (Khan) and his son, Gogol Ganguli (Penn) Ashoke experiences a horrible tragedy as a young man while reading a book by Nikolai Gogol, which through this tragedy he later will use the author’s name as his son’s namesake, while his son however does not know of that part of his father’s past desires to change his name because how stupid it may sound and because he is laughed at for having such a name like Gogol, and the more and more he tries to rid himself of this name the more he is reminded what it means to be named after this author, and ultimately learning the truth behind the mystery of his name.

As for the acting, well I can tell you now I was greatly impressed with Kal Penn because in this movie he shows a more mature side and that he’s more than just another actor sticking to the boundaries given to him, and if you ask me I liked it because after seeing him in films like, Van Wilder, Harold & “Kumar Go to White Castle, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, I thought oh his end is near, even his small role in Superman Returns I thought was somewhat laughable, and than he did the horrible Epic Movie which I thought would without a doubt be the end f his career, but after seeing him in The Namesake I must admit he made a magnificent comeback with an outstanding performance.

As for the rest of the cast, actor Irfan Khan did a fantastic performance Ashoke Ganguli that most both powerful and hart warming, and even though this is the first film I’ve ever seen him in I will be looking out for other films by him and looking forward to future film by him as well, and actress Tabu who plays Ashima A. Ganguli was great, her performance was beautifully done, not to mention her beauty is only matched to that of her voice which is wonderful, also of course actress Zuleikha Robinson does a fantastic job in seducing the audience with her deadly good looks and her great acting, I first seen her co-star along side Viggo Mortensen in Hidalgo which was an ok movie, not the best but certainly not the worst, just ok, but than she really showed she is an actress that is willing to go the limits in a role, see Rome Season 2 to see what I mean and than you’ll understand, and last but not lest Sahira Nair does a nice performance as Gogol’s sister, Sonia, and though her role in this film is small she still manages to do her part, as well as being this brother sister relationship with actor Kal Penn that feels real.

Final Say: overall this movie was greatly enjoyable and worth watching again sometime, though my only problem was the running time which for your information is 2 hours and 2 minutes, I felt it should have been just a little longer as for me this story was over too quickly. But other than that I highly recommend it.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Review: Rambo (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Written by: Sylvester Stallone and Art Monterastelli
Genre: Action / Drama / Thriller
MPAA: Rated R for strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language.
Released: 25 January 2008
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Reynaldo Gallegos, Jake La Botz, Tim Kang, Maung Maung Khin, Paul Schulze, Cameron Pearson, Thomas Peterson, Tony Skarberg, James With.

Plot: In Thailand, John Rambo (Stallone) assembles a group of mercenaries and leads them up the Salween River to a Burmese village where a group of Christian aid workers went missing.

Rating: 9/10

My Thoughts: Many people have said actor Sylvester Stallone was done for, an actor that’s long past his prime, but after viewing Rambo I say defiantly, I say this old dog has still got some fight in em and damn it I say we give it to him, first Mr. Stallone pulls off a stunning comeback in 2006 with Rocky Balboa , and than blown away with Rambo which many people laughed at the idea of a 62 year old John Rambo kinking it old school style on a bunch of bad guys. Well I have to say to that is it looks like Mr. Stallone got the last laugh as Rambo has gotten some nice reviews by moviegoers all around and is doing pretty good at the box-office with $18,203,876 in it’s opening weekend, taken the movie cost only $50 million and is rated R by the MPAA which I can’t understand how they gave it only an R when movies have done less than what they did and got worst. But I guess I should be thankful for it getting only an R and keeping all the good stuff in, but the thing that I guess I’m still having a problem with is the fact that such a good film like this only gets a second place to a shitty excuse of a film like Meet the Spartans! That to me falls hard in the WTF! Category, and shame on you, if you in anyway helped the movie become number 1 at the box-office or even think about seeing it in anyway, if so than I hope Chuck Norris pays you a visit at your home and roundhouse kicks you in the head! but enough about that crappy movie and back to the review.

Okay so like I said Rambo is a nonstop action flick that never lets up, but besides all the gore and the 200+ body count in this movie I think the part that got to me the most was the realism to this film like the story for example which is involving the current problems going down in the country Burma with such things like genocide, gorilla warfare, kidnappings which is very well putting fear into the population of the country, and by putting this into the film makes John Rambo seem real and make the feel overall even greater, plus like I said with the action not letting up well this move goes all out with extremely graphic kills. Like in one particular scene in the movie involves a women only seconds away from being raped by a solder and right from behind the gut Rambo grabs him by the neck and brakes the guy’s windpipe and while the guy is still alive but unable to scream Rambo slowly rips the guy’s neck open while making sure that the last thing the guy sees is that women as he feels excruciating pain before he dies, and that’s just one of the kills in this movie! Now if you liked the description of just that one scene from the movie than I can guarantee you’ll love this movie overall.

The movie is basically about it’s been 20 years since our hero John Rambo has been in war, and lives a very quiet solitary life in a small village with locale villagers in Thailand, and like all things in time our hero is forgotten and is aged but he is happy to be out of trouble and just living his life, but when a group of Christian aid workers asking for his assistance in providing a passage into Burma so they can bring aid to the small village he refuses but eventually agrees letter word is brought to him that it’s been almost two weeks and the Christian aid workers never been heard from now he is ask to provide passage into Burma again, but this time a group of mercenaries hired by the church's reverend, but what they don’t know is the Christian aid workers is being held captive by a military group of over a 100+ solders, which means it’s time for our hero to come out of retirement and kick some major ass.

Now there has been some debate over Sylvester Stallone acting in this because he doesn’t really give any expression except from one which is rather cold looking, but to me it works very well because he is suppose to be Vietnam vet that has seen way more war time that any man should have (Rambo 1, 2, and 3) and after all the years and years of killing how do you expect him to even have an ounce of the man he once was? The answer is you can’t because Rambo like any other human in that situation would be damaged beyond repair from such a life of violence, so for Sylvester Stallone to so that was fantastic, but that’s just my opinion.

As for the rest of the cast; Julie Benz who some you may remember her from her days on the once hit TV show Angel does an okay job playing as, Sarah, one of the Christian aid workers and the only one who could convince Rambo in helping them in the first place and only main reason why he would go back to help them, and although it’s never said or confirmed she and Rambo kind of have this moment between them. First time actor Maung Maung Khin did a great job playing, Tint the commander of the militant squad in Burma which I was impressed with because he sure did such a great job in making us hate him so much. And of course actors Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Reynaldo Gallegos, Jake La Botz and Tim Kang do pretty nice jobs in this film playing as the mercenaries and even though their roles were rather small it still help add to the movie overall not to mention each and everyone one of there character’s were uniquely different in everyway, and of course actor Paul Schulze is great playing as Michael Burnett, the leader of the group of Christian aid workers, who I found to be greatly annoyed with throughout the film, but than again that how his character was made to be to all an all it worked out magnificently.

Final Say: Rambo is without a doubt going to be noted down as one of the best action/sequels of 2008, and better yet looks it’s only the beginning of the year the supposed bad luck quarter for films all around and already have I seen three great films (Cloverfield, Juno and Rambo) that all deserve to be called great. I highly recommend.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 28, 2008

Review: There Will Be Blood (2008) [Reviewed By David Dominic DiMichele]

There Will Be Blood-

**** Out of ****
Directed by:
Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul F. Tompkins, Dillon Freasier
Release: January 19, 2008

The first fifteen minutes of Paul Thomas Anderson's widely controversial and thematically charged There Will Be Blood is silence, except for the haunting and harrowing score by Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead. The stark and dry landscapes of the west during the turn of the 19th century (1898 we pick up) provide us with a miner and a couple of his partners mining the dry grounds for silver. Anderson starting this sprawling epic in this oddly manner shows dividends not only to his directing ability but also on his approach to the film which spans three decades. It reminded me of the first twenty minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey: as the apes are fussing around with what they have; bones and rocks. They amuse themselves while an eerie silence and some unnatural music play up the untouched territory of the stark and dry landscapes that engulf them. It's only when they wake up and find something they weren't looking for: a black rectangle of an object. It alters the way the apes think and go about their everyday activities. In There Will Be Blood we get the same exact set-up but with humans and a different kind of object. Here, the miner Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) accidentally stumbles upon oil. Lots of it. This oil will not only change his life and bring him riches but will also bring him ambition, corruption, and extreme hatred. Let's not forget about the big one: Greed.

Plainview is bred differently than everyone else in the movie. He does whatever he wants, says whatever he wishes, and acts the way he wants to. Nothing short of what his darkened, black heart desires. From 1898, and jumping to 1911, the transformation of Plainview is massive. Once digging for silver and minerals, he now finds himself ordering his men around, dealing with huge deadly machinery, setting up camp on family's properties, and becoming greedier by the minute. Now, his profession is an oil man and running a so-called "family" business with his 12-year-old son H.W. (Dillon Freasier). After being tipped off that there's a whole ocean of oil under the Sunday family ranch in Little Boston, California he thrives on the opportunity to capture oil and the weakened family that owns it.

Planning a quail hunting trip with his son just to get inside of the Sunday ranch is genius of Plainview. When he gets in deep enough he strikes with an offer that has the feeble father of the ranch going gah-gah over, while his son, the estranged, extremist preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) starts to question the offer. Knowing what's under their ground Plainview begins to get hungry for oil and land. He utters in his brooding and cocky voice to the town's real-estate agent: "Why don't I have this, or this?" Before you know it Plainview becomes almost untouchable as he owns pretty much all the land in his foresight. Like a snake charming the crowd, Plainview charms the citizens of Little Boston and promises such great turn-arounds in their community, and other communities that felt his wrath, but when he feels comfortable around people he lets them know: "I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people." Most people include his son, step-brother, all the town of Little Boston, and maybe even himself.

There's one theme in particular that Anderson explores here and it really struck me like a drill bit strikes oil. It was the church that Eli Sunday runs. Often it's said that the people who act religious really aren't. False prophets. I see this trait offered in Eli. Anderson views him as an over-the-top, freakishly scary, evil kind of cult preacher. His congregation seems to be full of lost souls just attending his sermons because they think that it's right. He has his hands wrapped around them and even the all the town, and when Plainview comes around he literally makes an ass out of Eli. The tow form a heated rivalry that results with both of them making an ass out of each other. Solely due to the fact of money and power that fuels both of these people's lives.

With little ties from Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil!, Anderson shapes a movie that is full to the brim with such ambition and a film that's beyond epic proportions, it's monumental. He locks in on one specific matter and person and the vice that binds the two never let's its grip loosen by any means. The land that cinematographer Robert Elswit captures and the scary-real sets that production designer Jack Fisk creates for us is a world of man devouring man, which is by no means a world for anyone less than Daniel Plainview's status. We see what happens to the weak beings and the faint of hearts. Anderson doesn't acknowledge any women in the movie because he knows that they're not significant in this world that's shown to us on screen and the relationship between father and son resonates with such deep meaning.

Elements from such classic films like Chinatown (John Huston's character), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Fred C. Dobbs doesn't trust anyone with his gold findings) and of course Citizen Kane (Charles Foster Kane buying everything he can, resulting him walking like a zombie through his enormous mansion). Kane looked back on "rosebud" and dwells on the lost innocence, Plainview, on the other hand, remembers a huge house during his innocence that he loved to look at and hoped to live in it, now, older and greedier, he looks back on it and it makes him sick.

The music runs throughout the entire film it seems, fusing each scene together at such a high level of intensity that we're waiting for something to explode and we get that in a classic-in-the-making climax. Paul Thomas Anderson easily creates the year's best movie and Day-Lewis easily delivers the best performance of the year as he portrays a vicious, venial, egotistical, charismatic mad man. There Will Be Blood is based on issues of the past but don't look past the fact that it rings true in today's day and age where everyone is simply out for themselves.

Review: Cassandra's Dream (2008) [Reviewed By David Dominic DiMichele]

Cassandra’s Dream-

***1/2 Out of ****
Directed by: Woody Allen
Release: January 26, 2008
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Clare Higgins.

Woody Allen only solidifies his place in the thriller genre with his newest London gripper Cassandra’s Dream. After a couple of years dabbling in the “upper-class” society, he focuses on the “lower-class” and how desperate one can get for money. His Match Point from a few years back really gave him a new poison potion for filmmaking. Years of making his quirky love tales, and over-the-top comedies, he finds himself more at home with these dark and serious tales involving tightly knitted families. After a few production delays, Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream is well worth the wait.

Our premise boils down to one simple thing: a life of lies. Two Blaine brothers are in desperate need of money. Ian (Ewan McGregor) is part owner of a little restaurant with his father. He wants to start businesses of his own though. A dashing sexy actress named Angela (Hayley Atwell), who can be seen as some what of a femme fatale, only increases his need for money. Lies of all sorts come out of his mouth and he even borrows Jaguars from his brother’s garage he works at to drive her around and impress her. Now his brother Terry (Colin Farrell) is a mechanic by day and, on the down low, a gambling, pill popping, booze drinking addict by night. Only his brother knows of his severe gambling problem, not even his sweet caring girlfriend (Sally Hawkins). Yet, he seems happier than Ian even though he’s a degenerate gambler whose luck ranges from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. He owes loan sharks 90,000 pounds and his job can’t pay for that.

What I loved about this film is the way our two brothers want so badly to get out of the gutter and into the good life. It’s such an exact character diagnosis that Allen puts on screen. While they are in the gutter they seem happy. When the movie opens the two brothers are ecstatic when they have a chance to by a nice little wooden sailboat. They name it Cassandra’s Dream after the dog who won a race for Terry. It’s the only sign of happiness we see from the two. The rest of the movie they’re carrying a massive amount of weight on their shoulders contemplating their offer given by their rich Uncle Howard (the great Tom Wilkinson). Family loyalty and values is what he beats into their heads. Uncle Howard turns out to be their puppet master.

Uncle Howard has such a huge array of businesses he owns. The thing is though he built his empire on lies and cheats. Ian and Terry go to him in need of money but he counters the offer by asking them to take out a fellow business partner who may know too much about Uncle Howard’s flaws and lies. This scene when he tells them this will stay with you. It’s that good.

Unlike Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, similar film about desperate brothers, Cassandra’s Dream offers Ian and Terry a tempting decision. They are nice guys; always conning their way to get what they need, not what they want, to get by but never once did the word murder cross their minds. In the other film the two brothers are evil and they come up with the idea to kill. Woody Allen offers us up two normal Joes and how far they will go for a good lump of money. Most of all they seem like “real” brothers. Always willing to offer the other a helping hand when needed even if they don’t have the money, this proves to be the key to the film to show their strong bond they have for one another.

In the end it’s how each brother moves forward after the decision they come to make. The entire middle half of the film to the end is solely a study based on how they come to reason with the decision they will make. One can’t sleep and goes on a guilt trip while the other lives life to the fullest extent. The ending is only suitable because this film isn’t based on nobody else except for the two brothers. Allen spotlights Ian and Terry the entire film that when the ending does come we don’t care about nobody else’s reaction. Allen puts “real life” into these characters and they do what any sane person would do after and before the matter is over.

Oh, the Woodman and his knuckle balls! Most movie goers will find it hard to believe that there’s a movie out so early into the 2008 season that contains gripping thrills, unnerving tension, and high wire emotion that results in leaving its audience upended. You can’t deny a good film, or a great one for that matter, just because of its release date. We should be jumping with joy because Allen is generous enough to present us with such a good and satisfying film. You can call me a sucker for Woody Allen films but most of all call me a sucker for a good fulfilling film when I see one.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Review: The Great Debaters (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

The Great Debaters
Review By: Kelsey Zukowski
Starring: Denzel Washington, Denzel Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Forest Whitaker, Jermaine Williams
Directed By: Denzel Washington
Written By: Robert Eisele
Released: 2007
Grade: B+

Denzel Washington had a great year in 2007 with The Great Debaters being released with in a month of another great success of his, American Gangster. Washington not only had a major role in the film but directed it with a raw feeling of truth. The Great Debaters takes place in 1930’s Texas and is based on the true story of Melvin B. Tonson, the professor and advisor of Wiley College’s debate team.

Melvin Tolson (Washington) is a very rigid professor, but an even tougher couch. With a new year it is time to hold auditions for this year’s debate team. Many people audition but only four people actually make it, two of them being alternates. The team is made up of Henry Lowe (Parker), Samantha Booke (Smollett), James Farmer Jr.(Whitaker), and Hamilton Burgess (Williams). Henry had just recently came back to school. He would really be happy with just reading books all day long and expanding his knowledge, which shows in his intelligence. Samantha is the first girl who has been on this debate team and that is a role that she really had to fight for. She probably has the most impulse to argue what she believes really matters. James struggles quite a bit as he is thriving to be the one debating rather than a researcher. This chance means so much to him and he is thriving to be on the spotlight.

Melvin puts them all through training and facilitates them with the tools they will need not just for success but to raise awareness. The team does very well, winning every debate against colleges all around the country. This becomes particularly noticeable when they beat the previously reigning best black college. This even brings the attention of Caucasian colleges. At first they seem to be at somewhat of a disadvantage as the minority race. The students argue for change though and they continue to defeat their opponents. Melvin is at the debates supporting them, but he ends up having some problems of his own. He is working with the white farmers in town forming a union. The sheriffs department is very suspicious of him. They attack the secret meetings and later they even arrest Melvin. Controversy is setting in around him and the students of the debate team that manage to stick together have to learn how to make it on their own. The stakes are high as they are now up against Harvard for the national title.

Denzel Washington does a terrific job as the strict, controversial, yet very influential teacher and coach. The injustices that have been done to African-Americans really drive him to discourage things like that from happening again. Denzel Whitaker was actually named after Denzel Washington and it is clear that he is very capable of being a quality actor like Washington. His character of James was the youngest on the team. He had so much passion even though many upsets went along with this. Forest Whitaker played James’ father very well. He does seem to be too hard on him during much of the film and unable to understand how important the debate team is to his son. We realize that this is just because he wants the world for him. He just wants James to be protected from the many terrors of the world. In the end, Mr. Farmer has nothing but pride for James. Nate Parker and Jurnee Smollett have great chemistry together. They fall in and out of love and back again. It comes to be more than just an attraction though. They have the same type of desire for the bettering of mankind as a whole. When they do fight it is just because of the pressures and conditions they are under making them more likely to clash.

The most chilling scene in the film comes when Melvin is driving the team to their next competition. It is late at night and most of the students are asleep. They come across a horrific scene of a man not only hung but also burnt at the stake. The dead corpse hangs limp as it has been reduced to the cheering of an angry mob. Torches surround it by people with joy and hate simultaneously in their eyes. As soon as their car is spotted the mob comes after for them because he sees that they are African-Americans. The car is attacked and they barely make it out of there alive. This really screws with the kids’ minds. They pose questions of who that man on the stake was. What did he do to get treatment like that? Did he even do anything at all or was it just because he had darker skin than they did? The reality of the situation is that they live in a society where something like this can happen and nothing may be done about it. Murder can be gotten away with yet some minor mistake can be punishable by death. Growing up in a world like that where you are at the disadvantage can make you afraid to even live. This just pushes the characters to make others realize that the world needs to be made more fair for everyone.

The Great Debaters is a very intelligent film that explores the value of knowledge among young people. It shows what encompasses debating, but doesn’t resort it to a hobby. It is the start to improvements for everyone in the world. Many times Caucasian opponents agree that there is not equality or fairness for different races, yet they say, “Now is not the time for change”. The film challenges that by saying yes, now is the time for change. It will always be the time for change and to fight for what is right. The longer you wait, the more comfortable people get with things and the harder it is to move away from those thoughts that have become instincts. Although, the film takes place in the thirties and things have improved immensely since then it is still relevant because knowledge, truth, and discussion is what will spark the opportunity to have the liberties that should not be denied of anyone. Overall, the story was very touching and a huge amount of emotion resulted in this very well done film.

Review: Juno (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Jason Reitman
Written by: Diablo Cody
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Released: 25 December 2007
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language.
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, Eileen Pedde, Rainn Wilson, Daniel Clark, Darla Vandenbossche, Aman Johal, Valerie Tian.

Plot: Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.

Rating: 9/10

My Thoughts: So after hearing nothing but good things about Juno I decided to check it out, after all it is nominated for 4 Oscars so what could I lose? Well let me tell you this movie was fantastic, it was cheesy but in a good way while at the same time being intelligently funny, plus what I thought was the best part was the fact this film takes a rather risky chance involving teen-pregnancy, talks of abortion, and putting a child up for adoption. Three topics in our country (United States) that seems to be taboo, but by taking this risk the filmmakers proved that sometimes taking risks is what makes a movie all the more with it to see, which of course was a nice change for once. Juno is film that shouts out girl power all around while not offending it’s male audience, in fact it keeps both men and women fairly entertained by nonstop laughter and a sweet heartwarming story that will make both gender fall for this film, Also Juno make a great date movie for all ages, may you be a couple that 16 or 61 this is for you, And not to mention the cinematography was beautifully done in an art-house style that works so nicely for the film as well as it’s soundtrack which consists of Indy rock that works great.

The storey is about Juno Mac Guff (Page) a 16 year old teenager who gets pregnant from her long time best friend Paulie Bleeker (Cera). but refusing to become another victim of her circumstances she looks over her options, like abortion, raising the child as a single teen parent, or adoption. Unable to go through having the child aborted she decides the alternative choice, adoption and looks for a family that will raise her child the best way possible.

The acting was wonderful. Ellen Page did a great performance as Juno by making her character a mixture of witty, funny, and downright straightforward. She is a blunt individual who isn’t afraid to speak her mind loudly and proudly, she has proven that she is without a doubt an up and coming star. Michael Cera did yet another great performance, much like Superbad he makes his character dorky, geeky and somewhat shy, which I (and I know I‘m not alone here) can relate to. And I was happy to see Jennifer Garner back acting in such good films like the Kingdom and now Juno, for a good while now I thought her career was coming to an end because ever since she married Ben Affleck her career had gone for good to bad to almost ugly, but after seeing her act in The Kingdom, and Juno I happy to say I think she’s coming back! As for Jason Bateman, I will admit I have never been a fan of his work, no reason really, I just never cared for his work, but I will say he does a fairly nice performance in Juno, so I will give him that. Allison Janney also is great in this movie as Bren MacGuff, Juno’s wiseass stepmother who I couldn’t help by like because she is both hard and supportive at the same time and also has quite a few funny moments with actor J.K. Simmons who by the way is perfect for the role of Mac MacGuff, Juno‘s father who is loving and always in support of his daughter no matter what her decision is.

Final Say: Juno is a charming, and warm hearted film that will make you laugh and for some cry. The only problem I had was the dialogue because I don‘t think many teens talk as they do in this film, although I could be wrong since it‘s been a few years since I was a kid. ’laughs’ but if you can get pass that than I d say this is a near flawless film the should be seen on the big screen. So I leave you with this short quote that you wont understand until you see the movie “ That ain't no Etch A Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be undid, Homeskillet”. I highly recommend it.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Review: Zodiac (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: James Vanderbilt and Robert Graysmith
Genre: Crime / Drama / History / Thriller
MPAA: Rated R for some strong killings, language, drug material and brief sexual images. (also director's cut)
Released: 2 March 2007
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr. Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Richmond Arquette, Bob Stephenson, John Lacy, Chloƫ Sevigny, Ed Setrakian, John Getz, John Terry, Candy Clark, Elias Koteas.

Plot: Based on the Robert Graysmith books about the real life notorious Zodiac, a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco with a string of seemingly random murders during the 1960s and 1970s.

Rating: 9/10

My Thoughts: From 1969 to the mid 1970’s one name has terrorized and put fear into the faces a of generation, that name is Zodiac, there has been a great deal of films based off of the Zodiac killer but none of which have managed to do the true story justice, until director David Fincher came along to tell us the accurate story of one the most elusive serial killer’s the west cost has ever seen, as told by the ex-cartoonist and author of the critically acclaimed book “Zodiac Unmasked” Robert Graysmith and his findings over the years investigating the murders.

Zodiac keeps you on your toes the hole way wandering what will happen next while blowing you away with an outstanding plot that is possibly the most accurate based on a true story telling I’ve ever seen, plus the cinematography is so beautifully done it had me smiling just looking at it, and an a soundtrack that is filled with a fantastic collection of memorable songs from the 60’s and 70’s, Zodiac is a must see film that if I had seen last year I would have had this one in my top 10 films of 2007. But than again it’s good that I waited till now to see it because I got to see the director’s cut, which is simply a 10 out of 10 in my book, and that’s rear because in all my years of watching movies I‘ve only given a small hand full of film a 10 before.

The move fallows the actual accounts as documented by the eyewitnesses the police and the press. The story manly focuses on cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal) and Inspector David Toschi (Ruffalo) and there collective evidence on Zodiac throughout the 60’s 70’s and 80’s and there relentless determination to try and uncover the true identity of the Zodiac and catch him.
Now movie is filled with an all-star cast that works magnificently together. Jake Gyllenhaal really comes out and shows us that his acting is more than Oscar worthy. Plus Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic in this movie, I swear the man may be a re-recovering drug addict, but let me tell you this, I may not like the man and his bad life choices, but as an actor I have nothing but the utmost respect for him, and it was great seeing actor Anthony Edwards back on the big screen because he’s a great actor that isn’t given the work he greatly deservers, not to mention one of the main stars Mark Ruffalo who I must ad mite has had a pretty rocky career over the years with a few hits and a lot of misses, but manages to turn it all around with this outstanding performance, not to mention Brian Cox a man that I swear every movie he’s in turns out to be Oscar worthy, also does a great performance, and John Carroll Lynch who plays Arthur Leigh Allen the lead suspect in the Zodiac investigation manages to give a performance that is both strong and somewhat fearful as he give that stone cold stair into the camera that will make some of the toughest flinch when looking into his eyes. Elias Koteas also does a pretty good job portraying Sgt. Jack Mulanax, one of the cops in the Zodiac investigation. And last but not least the beautiful ChloĆ« Sevigny does terrific performance as Robert Graysmith wife during the 70’s.

Final Say: Zodiac was a magnificent film that I greatly enjoyed, it is both chilling and highly entertaining. I highly recommend the directors cut to own on DVD.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Review: Cloverfield (2008) [Reviewed By C.S. Kiyabu]

Cloverfield: 9/10
"My name is Robert Hawkins. Seven hours ago, something attacked the city…"

Plot: Robert Hawkins is moving to Japan. Brother Jason Hawkins and girlfriend Lilly Ford throws him a going away party. Close friend Hud Platt records it all with a handheld camera. Hud likes Marlina Diamond who’s invited to the party by Lilly. Lilly also invites Robert’s long-time friend/one time love Beth McIntyre to the party. Beth brings a date which upsets Robert, who argues with her before she storms out. Jason and Hud try to gather info on what happened and calm Robert down… Oh yeah, then a big fucking monster shows up and attacks Manhattan Island!

Critique: So I went into this movie trying to get over my pure hatred for "The Blair Witch Project", which in my book, is the worst film ever made by mankind. It brings on pure disgust every time I hear its name spoken. It has bad camera footage, horrible acting, pathetic suspense scenes and a laughable ending. It scared me because I did not want that bias hatred leaping over from "Blair Witch" to "Cloverfield" at all. I wanted a clear head when going into this film and I wanted no interruptions what-so-ever. Sooooo much hype and sooooo much viral marketing has revolved around the production of this film that I've had nothing but mixed emotions both good and bad, going in. So with that in mind, I went in.

So there I was sitting in a theater room and the lights were dimming. Roll on the opening! It plays out like a simple homemade movie. The characters are introduced, the tables are set and the beginning plays on as planned. It’s hard to discuss their acting at this point because I’m already drawn into it as if they aren’t characters at all, but actually regular people filming a homemade film for their friend. This helped me to forget about it being a movie altogether.

The party is, in my opinion is one of the best events of the film because it serves as a power-point for all of the characters. We get to meet each and every one of them, we get to interact with each and every one of them and we get to feel each of them out and grow a connection to them, whether they are Robert, Jason, Lilly, Marlina or even Beth. By the time the city is hit, we are already deep into the belief that we’re watching live events unfold here. The reactions are surreal, the acting is spot on and the belief system is set. Bring on the madness. The initial attack is very well written and produced and the soundtrack, the soundtrack is just pure and raw. I loved it. It’s something that you must watch with a surround-sound system, it’s just a necessity.

What I really enjoyed was the mystery surrounding the monster that even if you read spoilers online and already knew what to expect of the monster, you were still drawn to how mysterious and suspenseful the monster’s time on-screen was. I enjoyed the various news briefs that Hud recorded, showing the media’s reaction to the event. It helped that sense of realism. I also thought the multiple spores or mini-monsters that were attached to the monster were a very nice touch and helped play out an extremely short lived, yet effective subway scene. The quarantine scene also played out very effectively and had me questioning the outcome even in my sleep that night. Not that this entire film didn’t have me questioning each and every scene I came across.

The visual effects were, like the soundtrack, very well done and played out like a feast for the eyes. The shots of the city on fire and in ruins were downright surreal. Unlike corny big-budget popcorn flicks where we see Manhattan destroyed, time and time again, this film actually plays it out from the citizen’s point of view. And lets just say; it works. The shots of the Brooklyn Bridge had a very 9/11 feel to it, where people were just afraid for their lives and were trying to get out of Manhattan as quickly as possible. It was very well produced. I also enjoyed the military aspect of the film. I’m a pro-military junkie, sorry I am. I just love the raw firepower of the United States Military, I just do. This film helped display that quality very nicely, even though we could have seen more of it.

But yes, I do realize that the focus wasn’t on the military, but on the people in which the camcorder was being operated by. So in the end, did I enjoy this film? Yes. Do I feel that it’s the greatest monster film of all time? No. But I do think that the viral marketing champagne for this film helped our overall experience of it on a very high level. Without it, Cloverfield would be just another movie. What that champagne also did was generate an addiction and a cult following. This is a film that I am sure people will still be talking about many years from now. Or at least until a sequel with better answers is made, that is. To say the least, I recommend this film to any and all fans of the monster-movie genre, and also to anyone with an open mind and a lot of free time for discussion, there after.

Actors/Actresses: Brought to you by J.J. Abrams and Directed by Matt Reeves, this film stars; Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Brian Klugman, Anjul Nigam, Margot Farley, Kelvin Yu, Liza Lapira, Lili Mirojnick & Odette Yustman as Beth McIntyre.

Final Say: "Don’t get sucked in. Once you see this film, you’ll be addicted to the vass marketing behind it and you won’t be able to stop discussing it. A great film ensues with the addition of extremely well designed viral selections that’ll leave you asking questions for a long time to come. And trust me, you will."

Overall Rating: 9/10
Copyrighted © 2008 - CsK Review.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Review: I Am Legend (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Written by: Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman
Genre: Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
Released: 14 December 2007
Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson, Willow Smith, Darrell Foster, April Grace, Dash Mihok, Joanna Numata, Samuel Glen, James Michael McCauley, Marin Ireland, Pedro Mojica, Anthony C. Mazza, Steve Cirbus, Emma Thompson.
Plot: Robert Neville is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable, and man-made. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. For three years, Neville has faithfully sent out daily radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But he is not alone. Mutant victims of the plague -- The Infected -- lurk in the shadows... watching Neville's every move... waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind's last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But he knows he is outnumbered... and quickly running out of time.
Rating: 9/10

My Thoughts: Okay so I got to see I AM LEGEND on opening day. I know what your gonna say. Why take so long to write a review??? Well it’s because I been oh so busy with the holidays just around the corner and haven’t been able to get a round to it. Hell I haven’t really been able to watch a lot of movies this month and this is the last month in the year so usually I try to watch as much movie as possible, but that’s just not happening this year. So anyway, yeah I saw it on opening day, now let me tell you that I have read the book to I AM LEGEND which is written by Richard Matheson.

And there have been two other movies that are based on the book as well. The first version being “The Last Man on Earth (1964)” starring Vincent Price. And the second version being “The Omega Man (1971)” starring Charlton Heston. And now this version which makes it the tired time now starring Will Smith. All three movie are really good, but none is close to the books original story which I’ve read by the way. But before I go more into the films review, I want to say that a lot of people talk so highly about the book and many make it out as this masterpiece.

Well I’m gonna come out and say it, I did not care for the book! I kind of found the book to be too depressing, and the ending left me saying what the fuck! So when I heard about this movie being closer to the book than the two previous films I keep saying to myself; please oh please don’t end like the book did! But I was greatly empress with how the outcome of the movie went, and the direction Director Francis Lawrence took it.

So the story is about in the very near future a doctor creates a virus that can cure cancer and a list of other big diseases in our lifetime forever. But this cure comes with a price, one that the hole human race will pay for. The virus started to change people into a vampire like monsters that feed on flesh and blood. One man was appointed to stop this virus before it spreads all over the world. That man is named Dr. Robert Neville (Smith) a brilliant military scientist who is based in New York city, or also known as ground zero. The plan was simple, cut off Manhattan island from the rest of the world and stop the virus while it was isolated to one location. But the brilliant doctor could not find a cure in time and the virus managed to make it off and spread across the planet. Know three years has passed and Robert Neville managed to survive somehow because he is immune to the virus and spends his days getting supplies and trying to find a cure. While spending his nights just trying to make it to the next day.

Now one of the things I liked was the movie has a strong and deeply emotional take on the story, you see that with every passing day being the only none infected human being left in New York takes a toll on him, you see that he is slowly loosing it, and that the only thing holding him together is the promise he made that he would make things right and find a cure, and his dog, who is the only thing left connecting him to his family. One of the other things that I liked is the major differences between the book and the movie and the take on it overall story, now major differences are usually a bad idea, but in this case it was great. For example the book takes a very scientific stance, where as the movie takes a very religious stance. Also the ending which I just loved, I found it to very satisfying compared to the books ending, which didn‘t settle with me to well because I found it to be a little too depressing. Now there was two things I did find to be a little displeasing. The first is I felt the movie was a little too short with a running time of only 101 minutes from start to finish, I felt that a movie as epic as this should have run longer (nothing shorter than two hours at lease) than it did, but since the director manage to still pull off telling the story and keeping it strong in that short of time I’ll let it slide. The other problem was the movie’s tagline “The last man on earth is not alone” is a little misleading. But I wont say how because it will ruin the movie for you, you’ll just have to watch and see what I mean for yourself. Now as for the acting, Will Smith is magnificent as Robert Neville mixing some light humor with a powerful and emotionally dramatic performance that will have you drooping tears from your eyes.

Finale say. I greatly enjoyed this movie and can’t wait to see it again someday. I hope you see it and enjoy it as much as I did. But remember if you didn’t read the book than watch the movie first and than read the book so you can decide which one you like better. Otherwise you might not want to see the movie if you think it’s just like the book. I highly recommend.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 21, 2008

Review: Death Sentence (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Ian Jeffers and Brian Garfield
Genre: Drama / Thriller
MPAA: Rated R for strong bloody brutal violence and pervasive language.
Released: 31 August 2007
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, Jordan Garrett, Stuart Lafferty, Aisha Tyler, John Goodman, Matt O'Leary, Edi Gathegi, Hector Atreyu Ruiz, Kanin J. Howell, Dennis Keiffer, Freddy Bouciegues, Leigh Whannell, Casey Pieretti
Plot: Nick Hume is a mild-mannered executive with a perfect life, until one gruesome night he witnesses something that changes him forever. Transformed by grief, Hume eventually comes to the disturbing conclusion that no length is too great when protecting his family.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: I just saw Death Sentence in theaters the other day and I must say that not only did it meet my expectations but it exceeded it. Now most of you who see this film will probably think to yourself that you seen something like this before, well that right you have because Death Sentence Is the original sequel to “Death Wish" (1974) which starred Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey. But because Brian Garfield the author of the book Death Wish hated the movie so much and all the sequels that followed he said that he would never sell the rights to Death Sentence, but low and behold it seems that he changed his mind and sold it, but from what I’ve heard he made a deal that this time around he would be greatly involve in making the film unlike the past Death Wish movies.

So to make sure that the movie could be as good as the book some miner changes had to be made with the approval of Garfield of course. the changes were instead of the storyline taking place in Chicago it takes place in South Carolina and the movie has no connection what so ever to the Death Wish films even the character’s name isn’t the same, they changed the character’s name from Paul Kersey to Nick Hume played by Kevin Bacon (Mystic River) who does a extremely good job playing Nick Hume a man who’s a big shot executive that lives the good life with a loving wife named Helen (Preston) and to wonderful sons Brendan (Lafferty) and Lucas (Garrett). Life seemed good until one night when his oldest son Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) is killed right in front of him as part of a gang initiation ritual for an urban gang’s newest member and since the legal system can’t really do anything due to the fact that he is the only witness to his son’s murder the killer is off the hook but not for long because as sooner as the guy is set free Nick (Bacon) avenges his sons death by killing the guy who killed his son, but doing in his sons killer does not go without consequence as he soon finds out the guy was more important than just a simple newbie the gang and now the gang as declared war on him and his wife and son.
Now what I liked was the way the movie was made; the beginning has this warm happy family feel to it than your given this sad dramatic feel which quickly turns into this dark gritty film style that screams the movie Saw all over it. But you know what? It works and man it works really good. Another thing I liked about the movie is as you watch the film you see as Nick (Bacon) a man that did nothing wrong in his life slowly fall down the dark path of vengeance. So before I end this review I must tell you that the cinematography is great, the acting was terrific and storyline overall touch me in a way that left me with a question that I keep asking myself over and over again after watching the movie, If you witness a loved was killed right in front of you how for would you go to avenge them? For me, I keep coming to the same conclusion over and over again; I would kill the ass holes who did it even if it meant I would die too.

Finale say. I really enjoyed Dteat Sentence a lot, it was a heart pounding rollercoaster ride that never lets up. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes a good Drama / Thriller.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Review: Sweeney Todd (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: John Logan and Stephen Sondheim
Genre: Crime / Musical / Thriller
MPAA: Rated R for graphic bloody violence.
Released: 2007
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener, Ed Sanders, Gracie May, Ava May, Gabriella Freeman, Jody Halse, Aron Paramor, Lee Whitlock.

Plot: Sweeney Todd a.k.a Benjamin Barker returns to London after being sent away by Judge Turpin with the help of a sailor, Anthony Hope. He opens a barber shop above Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pie Shop were she sells "the worst pies in London." With the help of Mrs. Lovett, Todd tries to rid of all the people who have ever done him wrong and hopes to be reunited with his daughter, Joanna, who is now Judge Turpin's ward.

Rating: 9/10

My Thoughts: So I saw Sweeney Todd the other day. And I must say that I was impressed with it greatly. But before I go into the review I must first point out that this is nothing like the original stage version. This is Tim Burton’s take on Sweeney Todd, and all those who’ve seen director Tim Burton’s previous films know what kind of level he likes to take movies to. But if you don’t know that I’ll say this. It was dark and extremely disturbing. But in a good way. Mixed with a little dark humor and romance. And just down right gruesomely bloody all around. This was like watching a masterpiece being unveiled right before my very eyes. Few movies I can say have fill me with such a mixture of emotions in such a good way.

The story is about a man named Benjamin Barker (Depp) who was the best barbers in all of London, and married to one of the most beautiful women in all of London, Lucy (Kelly) and live happily with there newborn daughter, Johanna (Wisener) . But when Lucy’s beauty is seen by Judge Turpin (Rickman) he has Benjamin Barker arrested and imprisoned for crimes he never committed, nor tried for. Put after fifteen years or so pass Barker makes it back to London in hopes of finding his wife and daughter. But to his shock he is informed that in his absence his wife poisoned herself to death, and his now fifteen year old daughter is under the wardship of Judge Turpin who is also planning to woo her in to bed with him. Now Benjamin Barker is driven to such level of madness that there is no way coming back. Now he has become a barber again in London and changed his name to Sweeney Todd and plots his revenge on those who did this to him one shave at a time with the help of his newfound friend Mrs. Lovett (Carter) who owns a bakery downstairs of Sweeney Todd ‘s barber shop. And agrees to help him get read of the bodies after killing them, by putting them into pot pies and selling them to people in the bakery.

Now like I said earlier this movie was outstanding, great singing and great acting that just sums up to a fantastic performance all-around. Johnny Depp gives the character Sweeney Todd a much deeper and sinister look and feel, and proves that he is as good a singer as he is an actor, not to mention Helena Bonham Carter who was frightfully beautiful and a wonderful singer as well giving the film a sense of dark humor that is twistedly funny in a psychotic kind of way. And Alan Rickman fantastic in the role of Judge Turpin giving the character this real feel of villainy, why is this? Well it’s because some actors are meant for some roles. Some are meant to be a hero while others are meant to be villains, and Alan Rickman is just one of those actors that is great as a villain. And Timothy Spall did a great performance as Judge Turpin’s lackey, Beadle Bamford who you just love to hate. Also newcomer Jamie Campbell Bower did a surprisingly great job playing as the young and still wet behind the ear sailor, Anthony Hope who falls madly in love with Johanna. But as good as everyone’s music performances I have to say that Jayne Wisener had the best voice out them all and being a newcomer herself was also a big surprise for me, but I must tell you if you liked the play than you may or may not like the movie. But if you didn’t see the play or you are just a downright Tim Burton fan than you will love this movie and want to see it again and again.

Finale say. This was probably one of the best movie I have seen this year alone with a few others. And what a great way to end the year too, with a blast of a movie like this! I highly recommend!

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Review; The Lookout (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

The Lookout
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher
Written & Directed By: Scott Frank
Released: 2007
Grade: B+

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has clearly become a success as an actor. He has had breathtaking performance after performance. Gordon-Levitt has taken over the world of independent films through movies like the truly unbelievable and moving, Mysterious Skin, as well as the very intense Manic and Brick. Gordon-Levitt takes a walk outside of the independent movies and opens up to a bigger audience with his newest film, The Lookout. It’s all for the best too. As many people as possible should be able to view his talents. He chose a good film to do this with too. Writer/Director, Scott Frank was very dedicated to this project and spent nearly a decade on it. Plus he got help from outstanding directors, David Fincher and Sam Mendes.

Chris Pratt (Gordon-Levitt) had it all in high school. He was the star of the hockey team. Even during his first game, he shined and spent the next three years living to his potential. He had great friends and a great girl. His senior prom should have been a highlight of the last four years, a chance to have fun with all those he was close to. Unfortunately, fun is the last way that that night would be described as. He wanted to impress his date, Kelly (Laura Vandervoort). On their way to prom, Chris shuts off his lights. Suddenly, little glowing lights emerge everywhere. It is a beautiful sight, but the beauty ends quickly. The car crashes, two lives are lost, and two others are shattered.

After the accident Chris was in a coma. When he woke up he didn’t remember anything. 4 years later, he is still struggling to remember what happened. He remembers just before it and after, but the most he knows about during are just unclear pieces. More than anything, he just wants his life back. Now he is living in a run down apartment with his friend, Lewis (Daniels). Lewis is a sarcastic blind man that can seem a little harsh at times although in the end he proves to be a true friend to Chris. Chris isn’t too close with his family. His best family relationship is probably with his sister. His dad gives Chris some money, but it doesn’t keep him very stable. Chris’ father acts like everything is a competition. Parts of Chris’ mind still seem to be gone so this just seems to cause more problems between the two of them.

Chris isn’t happy with his life. Lewis and him have talked about opening a restaurant, but it still seems kind of far-fetched. One night at a bar he meets Gary (Goode). Apparently, he dated Chris’ sister in high school. They start talking and they end up becoming friends. Gary also introduces him to Luvlee (Fisher). She was a former stripper and was in the same graduating class as Chris in school. It turns out that Luvlee was quite a big fan of Chris and even remembers the first hockey game he played for the school like it was yesterday. They quickly connect with one another. Between, Gary and Luvlee, Chris starts spending a lot of time at their place. Chris begins to trust Gary. Gary tells him that he is better than the life he is living. He thinks Chris should be living in a better place. He doesn’t think he should depend on things like a janitor job at a bank and his father. Gary is convinced that Chris won’t go anywhere with this job and that the only reason his father gives him the money he does is to control him. Chris is dared to ask his father for $10,000 or even a thousand. Gary tells him that his father wouldn’t give it to him. Gary says that if Chris wants his life back he needs money, because money is power. The proposal to get this is a bit drastic though. Gary proposes that they rob the bank that Chris works at. Chris doesn’t know what to think about this. He knows that he is unhappy with his life, but he isn’t sure if this is the answer. Chris goes back and forth and finally decides that he wants to go through with it. He takes measures to set up the robbery. However, things change. Chris realizes that he just has to work his way up in the world, and he will have a life that he can be proud of. However, he may have figured this out a little too late. Those that he thought were his friends have turned on him and have Chris scared for his life.

The cast made us connected to the characters. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the wronged and lonely man very well. He captures the tragedy without just being a pity case. He makes it in to something beautiful that should be examined and once you look at it, you just can’t look away. Jeff Daniels did a good job as the blind friend too. To capture this well he went to the Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center in Kalamazoo. Daniels studied and observed their actions and things the blind use on a daily basis so he could add this to his character. By the way he looked in the film and his sense of humor he reminded me a lot of “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski. I almost didn’t recognize Matthew Goode. He dropped his accent from Chasing Liberty and added a much tougher exterior. His character reminded me of a gang leader, which makes sense since he was in prison and planning a robbery. He befriended the lonely Chris. He introduced her to a girl he ended up liking a lot. He gave Chris hope for a better life and getting his old one back, which is what Chris wanted more than anything. Chris was smart enough to know that he couldn’t give him his life back. There was no changing the past. However, the things Gary said to him, became convincing and he wanted the things that Gary was promising him. However, he turned on him and wasn’t really a friend at all. Isla Fisher is also a lovely addition to this cast. She brought Chris back to his prime. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and her had great chemistry too; they seemed to really appreciate one another.

The Lookout makes you question who you can trust. Was Gary ever Chris friend in the first place or was he just using him the whole time? Gary causes Chris to almost turn on Lewis. Despite this, he is still there for Chris in the end and almost loses his life because of his bravery and loyalty. It even seems like he can’t trust his father. Chris ends up asking him for the money and he is denied it. Chris feels like his father should be there to help him unconditionally. That seems to be part of the reason why he gives in to what Gary wants, as a way of sticking it to him. We are shown what happens when this trust is betrayed through suspense and a climax of character. Chris reaches this climax through his writing he keeps on a notepad. There are just bits and pieces on each page. We were there with him as he wrote them and are there with him now that he is looking and re-comprehending them. His thoughts often aren’t as clear as they once were, so it is like we are in his mind at this moment.

Another important thing The Lookout does is examines life. What defines life? Is it when it looks like everything is going good for you? The main character is very lucky that he is alive. Two others were killed that night, yet he feels like he doesn’t have a life. He feels like he isn’t the real him, that person was killed in the car crash. That night will never go away, but Chris learns that it will haunt him until he lets it go. He has to be okay with it and move on with his life. The accident was a tragedy, but sometimes, good things can come from that. You just have to live your life and work to have the best one you can.

Review: Sleepaway Camp Trilogy [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Sleepaway Camp
Starring: Felissa Rose, Jonathon Tierson, Christopher Collet
Written & Directed By: Robert Hiltzik
Released: 1988
Grade: B+

Our story begins with a young girl named Angela (Rose). She loses her family in a horrible boating accident. So she is sent to live with her aunt and her cousin, Ricky (Tierson). Her aunt always wanted a girl and soon becomes very protective of her. When Angela turns 14, her aunt sends her and Ricky to Camp Arawak, where Ricky has been before. Ricky fits in very well with the other kids unlike Angela. She is shy and awkward. Many of the other girls are very outgoing and especially flirtatious towards the boys. Angela is pretty much the exact opposite and so is an easy prey. So she gets picked on quite a bit. Ricky does try to look out for her as much as he can though. There is one other person who seems to like her, one of the boys named Paul (Collet). He is a nice boy who is taking an interest in Angela. She likes having someone there who isn’t against her. The two of them get closer through out their time at camp. This just makes the other girls jealous and makes Angela more of a target. Plus, Paul is getting mixed signals. It seems like they have a connection, but Angela won’t even let him touch her or get anywhere near her. He gets confused with one of the other girls. It doesn’t help matters that during their whole time at camp, people have been getting killed. There is a murderer in the area, but the head of the camp doesn’t want anyone to know this. He knows that everyone will just want to go home if they think they are in danger. Who knows, no one may ever want to come back to the camp if this gets out. As the bodies start stacking up though, it gets harder and harder to hide.

Sleepaway Camp could easily be mistaken for a rip off of Friday the 13th. They both take place at a summer camp, in which murders take place by a killer in the woods. However, it is not the same film and the quality it possesses on its’ own is something to recognize. It is thoroughly entertaining. While all the characters aren’t likeable the ones you‘re supposed to like are. You care about Angela, Ricky, and Paul. Those that are meant to be nasty characters succeed in their goal; causing conflict and in turn relief when they are killed.

One of the best things about this film is the deaths. They are very brutal, just watching them almost causes you pain. When I first saw this, the first death was especially painful for me. The first one includes the essential burning of a body to the point of death. When I watched that man get burned to death, it was too much for me to watch. Most deaths, as gross as they may be, are easy for me to view. This one really got to me though and served as a very brutal way to start out the deaths. They continue down this path. One of the worst ones is with one of the girls who tends to get around with the guys. The killer shoves a curling iron inside her. What really makes Sleepaway Camp such a good movie though is the ending. The ending is a complete shocker. It is a terrific twist and goes against all common suspicions.

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers
Starring: Pamela Springsteen, Renee Estevez, Tony Higgins
Directed By: Michael A. Simpson
Written By: Fritz Gordon, Robert Hiltzik
Released: 1988
Grade: C+

A new movie: a new camp. Now we go to sleepaway camp at Camp Rolling Hills. Things went badly enough with Angela (Springsteen) as a camper just imagine how things will go wrong when she is a counselor. She has changed her last name so no one knows just who she is. She seems to have a problem with everyone. As soon as she has any conflict with anyone that is pretty much the end of them. The one person she actually seems to like is Molly (Estevez). Molly even comes to Angela for help at times. Most of the campers just make fun of her. This is understandable since Angela seems to be extremely strict with the campers. She tries to stop any nudity and the boys and girls getting very close at all. Molly is one of the less outgoing girls though. Her and one of the nicer boys of the bunch, Sean (Higgins) start spending a lot of time with one another. The only problem is that Molly isn’t the only one who likes Sean. The most flirtatious of the girls likes him too. She is worried about it because Molly is pretty inexperienced sexually and this other girl is very experienced. She really likes Sean a lot and the two of them have a connection. Turning to Angela for advice was a mistake though. Involving Angela is just asking for trouble. It isn’t long before everyone at camp sees the true side of her evil ways. She even captures Sean and Molly when they find all of the bodies she has hacked up.

This is definitely way cheesier than the first film. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it’s bad. It is good regarding the kills. The deaths seem to be the most creative in this film. One of the most grotesque deaths is when the cheerleader who Molly fears will take Sean from her is killed. Her entire body is shoved inside the toilet of an outhouse. She is drowned in there. Before she dies, she is gasping for air and covered in leeches and other bugs. It does feature imitations of horror legends, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Two of the boys dress up like these killers in hopes of scaring Angela. The Freddy Krueger version is the more realistic of the two. Angela intervenes though and these two among many others are killed. It just seems like this was filler since they couldn’t think of anything original to put in though.
The part where the cheesiness of the movie suffers is through the killer herself, Angela. In the first one, it was a mystery of who the killer was. When we found out it was shocking. Now we know who it is, so the element of surprise is gone. Angela really isn’t made to be scary through the way that she acts either. She is laughing, smiling, and making corny jokes before, during, and after she kills people. Also, the reason why Angela is supposed to be killing is to get rid of those who she thinks are bad people. It may start out like this, but it doesn’t end like this since almost everyone at the camp ends up dead. Many of those people didn’t show any bad qualities at all, they were just killed for the sake of being killed. My one last problem with this film was the ending. It was pretty disappointing after having such a great ending in the first one. There really is no ending in Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers. Molly manages to get away after Angela thought she was dead. It seems like she is going to get away. She then runs in to Angela and the end. We have no conclusion and the film suffers because of it.

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland
Starring: Pamela Springsteen
Directed By: Michael A. Simpson
Written By: Fritz Gordon, Robert Hiltzik
Released: 1989
Grade: C-

Angela (Springsteen) is back at it again. She has disguised herself and has a fake identity as an inner city girl named Maria. She has now become a camper again. The camp leaders have changed the name to Camp New Horizons. They are hoping nothing is mentioned about the murders that took place at Camp Rolling Hills. Their goal is to merge the upper class with the lower class. So they find campers from all over the country of both of these classes. Once they get to camp, they are divided in to 3 groups. Angela works her way through these groups until she has killed everyone. Her main worry is one of the counselors, Mr. Whitmore. He is a police officer, the same one who arrested her after her first set of killings at Camp Arawak. Also, he is Sean’s father and when Angela is mentioned among some of the campers, he says if he ever comes across the one responsible for his son’s death that he would kill her. Angela is just trying to trick and kill everyone she can before anyone can stop her.

This is the worst movie of the three. It is just the same thing we have gotten from the first two just at a lesser quality. The characters are all very stereotypical. All of the upper class campers act prissy and all of the lower class campers act like they are thugs. Most of the kills aren’t even that great. There is one that is ridiculously funny. Angela buries one of the counselors in the ground, covers her in dirt than kills her by lawn mowing her. This is far fetched and for a complicated task like this it would be very easy for a victim to get away. It seems effortless in the film though, it is like the victims aren’t even trying to live, just screaming like idiots. There is another death that could have been good. Angela chains someone to a tree, supposedly for foreplay, than drives in a truck attached to the tree, stretching the body until it bursts. This was done better in the original hitcher. Here we have to assume what even happens. It seems like it doesn’t even matter how these people die anymore or why they are dying. It is just being done and the sooner they get done the sooner the makers can be done with the film. Unfortunately, it leaves us the same way; the sooner the movie is over, the better for the viewer.

The quality of the Sleepaway Camp trilogy is the same in numerical order as it is in descending order. The first is the best by far. It has the campy feel of Friday the 13th with having its’ own originality especially through the ending. By doing this it creates tension. By having characters we care about and characters we dislike, it is a good transition keeping us amused through out everything that happens. The second one has the most comical deaths, although the killer is no longer scary, but laughable. The third is just the same old thing. By this time we are tired of it and there seems to be no rhyme or reason anymore, just mindless unrealistic killer. I highly recommend Sleepaway Camp to all horror fans. The second one can be fun with lowered expectations, but the third is best to just steer clear of.

Also: the star of the first Sleepaway Camp, Felissa Rose, will be making an appearance on Horror Movie Radio on Sunday, January 20th. You can listen in at

and you can call in and talk to Felissa at: 646-716-7438