If you would have told me back when the first one hit theaters that we would be on a third sequel by now there was no way I would believe you. But if there is one thing that Hollywood has taught us it's that any cash cow will get a sequel. Heck...even those that aren't cash cows get sequels. I just saw a commercial the other day for "Wrong Turn 5". Really?? But let me get back to the franchise that does matter...
Finally a "Paranormal Activity" that goes back to present time. Kinda. In this one, it's been 5 years since the disappearance of Katie (Katie Featherston) and Hunter (Brady Allen). Turns out they have moved into a suburban neighborhood next to teenage Alex (Katheryn Newton) and her family. And as usual, she starts witnessing strange events the moment Hunter (now known as Robbie) stays with Alex's family for a little bit while his mother recovers from a mysterious illness.
Let me first say that I once again was upset that the trailers showed us a thing or two that wasn't in the movie. Heck, even the movie poster does that (as it did in the last two). The one good thing "PA4" had going for it was there wasn't nearly as much left out of the movie as "PA3" had. In fact, the creepiest scenes from the movie weren't even eluded to in the trailer which was a plus for this one. That already gave it a leg up.
I think the kid they picked for Hunter/Robbie could have been creepier. Since the kid would have had to have been nearly a social hermit, it would only stand to reason that he should b creepy. They made him a little strange. However, in this day and age, strange is cool. That's why Alex's boyfriend (Matt Shively) was jocking him so hard at first. It's a little hard to feel too spooked out by a strange kid. But you make him creepy and you've struck gold. It could have been something simple too like just not have him talk at all. That detracted from the horror factor just a bit.
The biggest thing that annoyed me about this installment was how the video footage was used. Alex notices something is off in the house so comes up with the brilliant idea to have her boyfriend rig it so various computers around the house record constantly. But yet it appears they never follow through to watch the video to see exactly how strange things are getting. If they had, maybe they could have been a little more proactive about avoiding the inevitable. But of course that wouldn't make sense to do that since it's a horror film that is predicated on stupidity to help inspire fear.
Which brings me to the finale. And I will try not to give too much away here. But why would you run to a place that has already proven to you in a short amount of time to be trouble and potentially dangerous when you are in need of help? Even a scared person would have more common sense than that. However, again I realize it was necessary to get us to an epic ending. And the conclusion to "Paranormal Activity 4" was just that. After 2 average endings in the last two, they finally give us something on par with the classic conclusion of the first film. The final minutes of this flick are some of the best you will ever see in a horror film.
One thing I was worried about the most was losing the experience of viewing this movie. I had seen the last three in an Ames theater, midnite showing, surrounded by college kids. Jumpy college kids. It helped make the film more enjoyable. This time around I got immature high school kids with a handful of them that didn't know how to shut up. I still soldiered through able to appreciate the cinematic experience. It just took a little more effort to tune out the morons.
It's probably best for the creators of the "Paranormal Activity" franchise to quit while they're ahead. Too bad they're not though. They've already been greenlit to proceed with the fifth installment. Someone there is probably thinking they can keep milking this and make "PA" a Halloween staple like "Saw" had done for years. And folks will keep buying into it. Myself included. But I just can't seen the quality getting any better.
My rating: B
Every now and then I will come across a passing that would largely be inconsequential to the masses. Only a select few would recognize the individual. Usually because the part they played in pop culture seemed so minuscule. So small, in fact, that there haven been some cases I had late obits because I didn't find out about the passing until months later. That's not the case this time around.
Former "Last Dragon" actor Leo O'Brien passed away last Sunday with cause of death undisclosed. He was 41-years-old.
Although they haven't announced the cause of death yet, it was known that he had somewhat of a checkered past following his role in "The Last Dragon". He was most recently shot three times in 2011 over a dispute over a chair. Yes...you heard me right. Over a chair. He survived that only to leave us this year.
Now for those of you who aren't familiar with the name, Leo played the little brother in 1985 cult classic. The one who was much more hip than his martial arts expert brother Leroy (Taimak). No clue if he ever had any other roles (too lazy to IMDB it). He didn't need any. All you have to do is say what part he was and any movie fan worth their mettle would know him. Just to be on the safe side, I used this pic so you could see not only what he looked like more recently but also Taimok. Again, for those that don't know any better, Taimak is on the left and Leo is on the right.
Rest in peace, Leo.
"Glee" was already a godsend as far as I'm concerned. The only thing that could have been better for a Swing Choir geek (although over the years it has now come to be known as 'Show Choir') like myself was for somebody to make a movie too. I certainly didn't mean a "Glee" concert movie either. I still haven't seen that. I can't get into concert movies unless it's MJ, Prince, the Tempts in their prime or New Edition. I meant a musical of sorts. Then along comes this one.
"Pitch Perfect" is about Becca (Anna Kendrick) who's that girl that would rather sing to her headphones than in front of a crowd. But when she arrives at Barden College, an eager glee club coed convinces her to join their struggling a capella group. It's not long before Becca discovers how cutthroat and conniving the worlds of a capella competitive singing can be.
You know you are in for something "special" when we see at the very beginning they actually have commentators for the annual collegiate a capella competition. Played by the always reliable Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. I would find out later that Banks produced this joint which explained why she was in that role. But just the fact that they had commentators was killing me. Who were they possibly commentating to??
The other thing that was cracking me up was that this college had not only one competitive a capella group but three! I've been out of school for so long that I'm not sure if that was even possible. Would there really be that much of a demand? Apparently at this school there was. And it's a good thing too because the interaction between those different groups battling for a capella supremacy in their school was hilarious. It's as if they were rival gangs but instead of having rumbles (yes...I used the word "rumble") with weapons, they had vocal battles.
Adam Devine was straight KILLIN' it as Bumper, one of the leaders of the rival a capella group known as The Treblemakers. There was nothing sexy about him at all yet you couldn't tell him any different. He just knew he was the business. He carried on like being a member of an award-winning show choir automatically translated into cool points.
Equally as funny, and I would venture to say even more upstaging, was Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy. Yes, she is called Fat Amy. And her reasoning about why she calls herself that (which you can see in any trailer for the flick) is just a small sample of how funny she is. I knew from her small part in "Bridesmaids" that she would do even better in a larger role. She proved it here. Even with the large part she had I was still hoping she would have had more screen time.
I can't imagine anyone who isn't a Show Choir geek would find "Pitch Perfect" that entertaining. It does have a limited appeal with a rather specific audience. However, I thought the same thing about that first "Step Up" movie and they're on their 4th or 5th one of that one now. Although I don't see two or three sequels to this one, I am satisfied with the one they did make. Even with its minor flaws it's still Swing Choir on the big screen and I'm good with that.
My rating: B -
I recently gave my youngest son his own photo shoot. No, not because that was his birthday present either. He just told me that he wanted one since I was doing Elijah's senior pictures. G ended up having several great shots to choose from which didn't surprise me at all. What cracked me up was when I let him pick out the ones he wanted as prints. This one was first on his list. Why? Because, in his own words, it made him look buff. So that's how this particular shot was chosen for his birthday post.
He turned 12-years-old yesterday. I would have (or perhaps "should have" is a better way to say it) done the post on the actual day but there was just too much going on. Even with requesting time off so I could extra time to celebrate with him. I ended up not even getting off as early as I wanted thanks to 2-hours of my day wasted dealing with an irate customer. But I wasn't going to let that spoil G's day.
I had been running out of things to do for G as presents for him. Starting with his grade card. I was going to offer him $10 for each 'A' he brought home. Then his first progress report came in showing that he was carrying an A average. His lowest grade was a A-. That was $60 right there! Good thing I hadn't yet announced the $10 per 'A' thing yet. He was good with just getting an ice cream treat at Braum's. The actual report cards come out Monday so I may still make good on my original idea.
What really impressed me was a conversation I had with G when I picked him up the other day. He reminded me that grade cards were coming out soon as if he was clearly looking forward to it. Then he told me that he's in the process of bringing his grades up. Dude is already carrying an 'A' average. That's the kind of ambition I'm talking about. You can't teach that.
He also recently revealed that his other goals are to join the chess club at school and start football. They couldn't be two more different objectives but I'm diggin' both. Well...at least the chess club one. I had totally forgotten that I was his same age when I joined the chess club at Norwalk. It lasted all of about two weeks. I got tired of beating everyone. True story. I even gave the teacher a run for his money although I couldn't beat him.
Now G's choice of football is something I'm not 100% gung ho about. They take their football DEAD serious down here. It's not s sport...it's on obsession. I certainly don't want it interfering with his grades and/or studying. Then there's also the fact of the whole recent head trauma phenomena going around. The last thing we would need is for a big hit to damage that Valedictorian-bound mind.
His birthday present was easy. I asked him what he wanted and he directed me to a site online that had Marvel Legends action figures. It would have been nice to get the Nick Fury one so he could have some diversity in his collection. They just wanted too much for it though. Instead he went with Deadpool and Hawkeye. The two of those together were still cheaper than a video game so I was good.
Less than one year and I will have my last teenager. Claude had mercy...
It has been a minute since I had visited Ain'tItCoolNews.com. It used to be a frequent stop for me when I was on a kick of constantly watching movies. I still remember when I used to do two a night. Well that's been years now and what was once an almost hourly visit has turned into maybe a weekly visit. But I still get the Twitter updates from the site's front man. Which is why "Dredd" popped on my radar after I thought there was no way it ever could.
In yet another flick set in the future, "Dredd 3D" takes place in Mega City One which is a violent metropolis where criminals nearly rule the streets. Crime has gotten so bad that the only force of order are urban cops known as "Judges" who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner Dredd (Karl Urban) is the cream of the crop so he is tasked with the challenge of breaking in a new rookie (Olivia Thirlby). As if that wasn't bad enough, their first assignment puts them in a locked down project-ish building run by the drug kingpin Ma Ma (Leanna Headey).
There were two reasons I originally had no desire to see this one. The first being that the original "Judge Dredd" was absolutely HORRIBLE. So bad that I'm sure few of the folks reading this don't even remember it. It's when Stallone was on his sci-fi kick and he tried to take on the project. It was one of those flicks that was campy when it wasn't even trying to be. The other reason is that the trailers for this one did not impress me one bit. But then again, that could be because I still had such a bad taste in my mouth from that Stallone version.
But the reviews for "Dredd 3D" were off the charts. How in the world could that be?? I had a sneaky suspicion that the the 3D had much to do with it. Which meant I would have to see it in theaters in order to fully appreciate it. And as far as the effects were concerned, they were dead on right. I wouldn't go as far as to say that this one was one of those movies that was made to be seen in 3D in the same vein of "Avatar". I have yet to see another one that powerful. However, it was clear that the shots in this one were specifically designed to maximize a 3D viewing.
The key theme of the movie was a drug called "Slo-Mo" that had gone rampant. One that when taken causes the brain to view everything in extremely slow motion even though everything still happens in real-time. So whenever someone took that drug, they made sure there was always something flying in the air. Blood..bullets..water...something. And each and everytime it really seemed as though that scene was occurring inside the theater with you. As if you could reach out and grab those elements that were floating slowly in front of you.
The problem, as you can probably guest from the names I've listed before, is that there wasn't a lot of star power driving this one. That normally wouldn't be an issue if the unknowns can act. They were decent. Don't get me wrong, I've definitely seen worse, but I've also seen better. That put these folks right at average. Which means if it wasn't for the 3D action that excelled so much, this movie would be passable at best
I can confidently say the glowing reviews I had seen on "Dredd 3D" were pretty inflated. The 3D was incredible but wasn't so breathtakingly astounding that it made the movie amazing. It made it worth watching in a 3D theater. If you wait for this one to get to dvd, you might as well not even waste your time. Unless, of course, you have one of those 3D televisions. Then you might find it somewhat enjoyable.
My rating: C
It's rather ironic that this news should come in the heat of the football season. Even more so that it should happen to be someone who had a reputation for being one of the toughest guys around both when he did play and years later. But even those folks are human and have to leave eventually.
Former NFL player and actor Alex Karras passed away in his Los Angeles home Wednesday after suffering from kidney disease, heart disease, stomach cancer AND dementia. He was 77-years-old.
The interesting thing is Karras was part of a group of more than 3,500 players who are suing the NFL for failing to properly warn them about the long-term effects of concussions. Many of them may have some valid points. However, I could do another whole post on that alone. I'm just not so sure how you could possibly associate kidney disease, heart disease and stomach cancer to a concussion. Maybe the dementia, but dude seemed to be doing fine all the way up to his 70s. Would a football career of more than 40 years prior cause that? But I digress...
Karras also had the distinction of having an Iowa connection with me. He played college ball at the University of Iowa. I had forgotten all about that until I started seeing his obits everywhere. It's just too bad he chose that school instead of the much better well-known football powerhouse in the state: THE Iowa State University. Yeah...I said it.
Karras mad a name for himself for my generation when he would play the father in the sitcom "Webster" in the 80s. I have to be honest and tell you that I never watched a single one of the shows all the way through. Emmanuel Lewis kinda' freaked me out a little bit. Or maybe it was because I thought they were just trying to get another version of Gary Coleman. But in a time where cable was very limited, we knew all the network shows no matter how good or bad so of course everyone knew him.
What always sticks with me about Karras was his role as Mongo in the epic "Blazing Saddles". I never watched him play a single down in the NFL and it was years before he would hit network television, but none of that mattered. He was able to get a minor role in one of the funniest movies ever known. Not to mention be a part of one of the most memorable scenes ever. He could have played in as many sitcoms and/or movies that he wanted to after that and it wouldn't have mattered. He will always be Mongo to me.
Rest in peace, Mr. Karras.
I still feel bad that I never saw the original before viewing this. At least not in its entirety. It was pretty much a hood classic that was a different type of blaxploitation flick that was popular during those era. I saw pretty much all of them yet slept on this one. Well there's no way it was going to happen with the remake. And especially not with it being Whitney Houston's last film.
"Sparkle" is the story of musical prodigy, Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) who has ambitions of being a star with her two sisters (Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter) during the Motown-era. It's a struggle for her as she balances a new romance with their manager, Stix (Derek Luke) as well as her extremely religious mother (Houston) who had done everything possible to make sure her youngest doesn't go down the same path she did.
One thing I do recally about the original is that the part depicted by Mike Epps in the update was markedly different. Instead of a sellout comedian who didn't have the ability to crossover to the Black audience, Satin was a pimp in the 70s version. I personally think they should have left that is. Yes I know that the whole pimp thing was bigger in the 70s when the original was released, but it also would have a stronger punch (no pun intended) if he was an abusive pimp that had corrupted Sparkle's sister rather than an entertainer. Although it oddly seemed to work with him as an entertainer also.
Something that did bother me about Epps' portrayal was that he seemed to both be trying too hard while also not trying hard enough. I instantly got the feeling that he felt obligated to bring across the same type of dramatic performance as Eddie Murphy did in "Dreamgirls". The problem was that his character wasn't developed as well and that Epps simply doesn't have the chops (at least yet) to pull off something like that. Although I will give him props for an admirable effort. There were some scenes that fell short that could have been attributed more to poor direction on director Salim Akil's part rather than solely on Epps.
Jordin Sparks was the other wild card with this one. Epps was already established so we knew he could handle his own; however, Sparks biggest achievement up this point was winning "American Idol" years ago as a teenager. How was she going to handle a leading role in such a powerful remake? Not too shabby at all. In fact, I would venture to say that she was more convincing in the role of a bright-eyed borderline naive teenager than Irene Cara was in the original. Not to mention that her singing was incredible. Remember that moment that Jennifer Hudson had in "Dreamgirls" with "And I Am Telling You" that pretty much shut the movie down? Well Sparks had that same moment with her joint "One Wing". Good thing it was at the finale. Even better that it was far enough away from Houston's song that it didn't upstage her.
Make no mistake though, "Sparkle" was all about Houston. It didn't matter that the plot wasn't about her and/or her character. The movie would not have been as big as it was without her presence. Houston and her production company originally secured the rights to remake "Sparkle" in the mid-1990s and had chosen Aaliyah as the lead. Then her untimely death in 2001 put things on hold until recently. Houston made sure it still got done making an excellent choice with Sparks as the replacement.
As for Houston's acting ability in this one? I can't lie...it was a little strange seeing her in a maternal role. I'm still not sure after watching it if the way she was looking was largely in part due to the make-up or just the fact that she does look tired from the years of substance abuse and hard years she had been through. Whatever the case, it worked. I dare any true Houston fan to find fault with her rendition of "His Eye is on the Sparrow". It didn't matter that it wasn't as powerful as the classic Houston we knew from her early years. The fact was that that whole scene provoked so much emotion. It was as if we were watching her deliver a personal testimony while also being extremely surreal knowing that one of the most incredible voices of our time is no longer here with us. Rest in peace, Whitney.
The only major problem I had with "Sparkle" was something that I felt was a pretty significant plot hole. These three girls are sneaking out to perform at night because they know their mother wouldn't approve. I can buy that they get away with it on the regular if their mother was a deep, deep sleeper. However, when they get to the point where they are blowing up so big that they're opening up for Aretha Franklin, how does the mother still NOT know? There had to have been some friend and/or acquaintance that would have brought it to her attention long before she just happens to see them on national television.
Overall, "Sparkle" held up nicely as a stand alone film even if you haven't seen the original. It wasn't an easy task at all given the fact that it automatically draws comparisons to "Dreamgirls". Although it would seem similar on the surface with the story involving a girls singing group in the 60s, the stories could not have been more different. Thanks to a solid cast with Houston as the cornerstone, it was a story that was so well told it's guaranteed to keep you enthralled. So much so that it supplanted "Avengers" as the best movie I have seen this year.
My rating: A