Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) Review

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Studio Ghibli is no doubt the “Feel good” studio. Almost all of their films are awe-inspiring fantasies or small stories that remind you of the good things in life and give a warm feeling inside. Now this is nothing new of me to say or for anyone to say for that matter, but it bears repeating because even with one of their most controversial works, Howl’s Moving Castle, I still get that Ghibli charm I just can’t get anywhere else.

Howl’s Moving Castle is the fantastical tale of hatter Sophie who after being saved by the mysterious wizard Howl gets cursed by his nemesis The Witch of the Wastes. The spell manifests itself by aging her tremendously and she decides to travel to Howl’s moving castle to see if she can get turned back. There she meets an annoying fire demon, a child apprentice and, of course, the mysterious and childish Howl. Sophie and Howl soon develop a romance, but their love seems in jeopardy as the country’s war escalates further and Howls involvement and demise seem inevitable.

Howl’s Moving Castle‘s quality is contested by fans because while it’s a good movie… it’s really not as good as other Ghibli works. At least thats my theory, and there’s evidence to back it up. Howl’s has strong characters, animation, and sound, far above most animated features, but it’s convoluted story weighs it down for people and prevents it from hitting that Ghibli standard.

I absolutely love the characters in Howl’s. It takes a while for you to get invested in them, but once they start acting as a family you can’t help but feel attached to them and really appreciate not only the individuals, but the cast as a whole. Even Billy Crystal’s Calcifer the fire demon, who’s pretty annoying for a good chunk of the movie has a hint of charm to him at the end of the movie. The aging dog that enters in the second half and the speechless scarecrow Turniphead both have a distinct personality despite a lack of lines and screen time. There’s just something about this ensemble and their chemistry that works for me and makes me want to see more.

The animation… do I even have to say it? It’s fucking gorgeous. It’s Ghibli and Miyazaki for christ’s sake. Everything from the character designs, backgrounds, and animation itself is high quality and meshes well. I really liked the design of the castle itself and it added a steampunk element that fit in this magic/science world. There are moments where you can tell that the animation jumps in quality so for an anime junkie who will notice that kind of thing it’s rather jarring, but for the average viewer it’s sure to not be a problem.

The soundtrack is standard Ghibli fare and rather unnoticeable which I guess means it did it’s job, but what I really want to talk about it the dub. I love the casting choices for the Disney dub and it’s probably one of the best out there. For the most part it’s unknown actors, but there a few celebrities in this cast. Christian Bale plays Howl and he does a fantastic job. I wasn’t sure he’d be able to pull of the more boyish aspects of the character, but he did and admirably at that. It’s a character archetype in Japan that has no real translation in the West and changes were made so if you’re a fierce loyalist to the original you may have problems with it. Billy Crystal, as I said before, plays Calcifer and does a fine job at that giving it that annoying touch without breaching into Jar-Jar territory. THE Lauren Bacall plays The Witch of the Wastes and she’s, of course, fantastic. She has this disney villainess quality about her, but it really works in this context. The rest of the cast is great too, but if I had any gripes it’s that the actress that plays the young Sophie has an accent that doesn’t match up with the speaking mannerisms of old Sophie and when they switch back and forth it’s quite distracting.

I suppose we should get to what doesn’t work… Howl’s Moving Castle is an extremely ambitious film in that it tries to juggle several different themes and plots. It unfortunately doesn’t succeed and the two aspects that end up suffering the most are the romance between Sophie and Howl and the war subplot. Now I understand the war subplots point of existing, that being to add a little tension and action to what would have been a rather quiet movie, but it could have been implemented better as it just pops in and out and there’s very little involvement or context with it. Sophie/Howl’s relationship gets pushed to the background while all this other stuff goes on and while you get a sense that their relationship is developing, there’s a lot of stuff I wish we could have seen to clarify it. One other fatal flaw of this film is that towards the end of the movie the plot just… goes all over the place. I’m not entirely sure how half of it worked or even what happened as the film tries to cram a lot into the last half hour and it doesn’t really take the time to explain properly. Everything’s jumbled and messy until the last two minutes where everything’s tied up in a neat bow, with too much convenience for my tastes.

I’ve said this about a lot of movies lately, but Howl’s Moving Castle is a ton of fun. It’s got a great mix between dark and light content as well as just enough maturity to keep an adult engaged while still keeping that childhood innocence for kids to enjoy. I thoroughly enjoy the characters and concept, and while I know there’s story flaws, who cares? If you know what you’re getting into and you let yourself get taken away by the characters, the weird pacing and underdeveloped story won’t matter to you (as much). A rottentomatoes rating or my recommendation really doesn’t do this movie justice as this is one film where I truly believe you must form your own opinion about so please check it out.

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Review

Martin Scorcesse is a legend of the cinema and I am so delighted to have seen one of his movies in theaters, kind of like how I’m excited to see a Was Anderson movie in theaters. Leaving my fanboy love at the door, I must however concede that The Wolf of Wall Street is not his best movie. That being said, it’s still an amazing movie. A little long, but excessively fun nonetheless.

The Wolf of Wall Street is told from the perspective of Jordan Belfort (Leo Dicaprio), a stockbroker who climbs the ladder of success when he starts his own trading company. The not-so-legal hobbies of him and his coworkers, paired with the not-so-legal practices of his company get the attention of the FBI. And so we see the arc of Belfort as he becomes engulfed with money, drugs, and sex leading to his imminent implosion.

TWOWS follows a LOT of Martin Scorcesse’s cliches. A lot. Imagine Goodfellas mixed with… well again Catch Me If You Can (Even though thats Speilberg). Matthew McConaughey acts as the mentor/rule-establisher. He tells the audience the rules and once the main character breaks them, we know his descent will begin a la Goodfellas. We have the New York centered main character and his big-haired brunette sassy wife, as well as the iconic use of narration and the very intentional use of music. Now these are all cliches yes, but they still make a fantastic movie, so no real complaints here.

TWOWS has one big thing going against it for me. It’s really fucking long. At 2 hours and 55 minutes, this movie is a real endurance test. Thats not to say it feels overly long, in fact it feels shorter then 3 hours, but after a while you do really feel the length. Scorcesse has this interesting style with these biography movies, in that he structures them to be a collection of vignettes that compound onto each other to create this arc. There are subplots that come in and out, but ultimately we hop from scene to scene like each is it’s own episode of a TV series. This is what really helps the movie along, because it keeps the pace brisk. Theres no need for long connections and establishment we just hop into the middle of the action and let the narrator fill in the rest.

Narrators are rarely used these days, at least not continuously like Scorcesse uses them and I really enjoyed it in this mostly due to the actor behind it: good old Leo Dicaprio. He does a fantastic job in this movie. He really is the character and in fact most of the people in the movie do the same. Jonah Hill is unrecognizable as Jordan’s right-hand man and he definitely deserves the Oscar for his performance.

Speaking of Oscars, let me say that this is definitely a far better competitor for the best picture award then American Hustle. While Hustle had energy, this has energy, and charm, and a sense of uniqueness due to the director at the helm. I still don’t think it will win, partially due to 12 Years a Slave being a thing, as well as the elephant in the room that will put off a mainstream audience and the old, rich, white conservatives running the Academy: It’s excessiveness.

TWOWS is balls to the walls insane. Literally. It has no qualms about what it’s showing, because it all fits perfectly into the world we’re looking at. There are no less then 2 orgies in the movie, copious nudity and sex, drugs, violence, language, offensive language and crude jokes. However… it’s god damn fun to watch. Scorcesse has the amazing ability to seduce us into the crazy backwards worlds of delightful sin he shows us and by god if I wasn’t cheering for the main character all the way. Some people won’t be able to handle it and thats fine, but there may be a few hesitant folks that are swept away by the story and characters and will be able to let it slide.

TWOWS breaks no new ground, does nothing innovative or technically spectacular. It’s just a damn good movie from damn good director and by the gods will I watch it again and again. I’m so excited for the DVD to see all the extra vignettes that Scorcesse couldn’t quite fit into the movie. I have high doubts that it’ll win, but if it does I’ll be one happy fanboy. Check this flick out in case by some small chance you weren’t going to already.

American Hustle (2013) Review

On Friday I saw a Scorcesse double feature, but only one of the films was directed by Martin Scorcesse. The other, American Hustle, was directed by David O Russell, and boy oh boy does he want to be Scorcesse. It’s almost sad really, because maybe if he had taken a few more liberties with this movie, American Hustle could have been something truly great, not just pretty good.

American Hustle is the “true” story of a con man (Christian Bale), his mistress (Amy Adams) and their arrest by the FBI. Rather then go to jail for a long ass time they work with Special Agent Asshole (Bradley Cooper) to ensnare a few people in similar cons. Their first victim is a New Jersey Mayor (Jeremy Reiner) who take a “donation” from their fictional Sheik in order to build up Atlantic City. As their deals go on they realize that they can not only ensnare this mayor, but Congressmen and Mafia bosses too! The game is afoot Watson!

As I stated before, Russell really wants to be Scorcesse, using shots like Scorcesse, characters like Scorcesse, music like Scorcesse, and DeNiro like Scorcesse. Not a bad thing per say, but it’s really noticeable and gives a feeling of unoriginality to the movie that it really shouldn’t have. So while the directing style may be similar to Scorcesse, the story is actually more akin to Catch Me If You Can mixed with Oceans 11. That’s not a bad thing, in fact the movie is fairly well written, with plenty of emotional and intense scenes. The movie doesn’t really get going until about 30 minutes in, but it’s certainly not boring as the charisma of the actors keeps you engaged. What didn’t work for me, and this is something that bothers me about a lot of the twist-ending-con movies, is that the twist at the end isn’t preceded by any indicators whatsoever. It’s like reading a mystery book and the killer is a person we’ve never met before, meaning the audience couldn’t figure it out on their own. American Hustle‘s twist is out of nowhere and it feels like a trick, because you had no clue. It’s a fine line to walk and it’s more a pet peeve then a true criticism of the movie.

This is an Actor/Character driven movie and an effective one at that. The characters are all rather unique and by the end of the movie you’re quite attached to them. Bradley Cooper’s character in particular was rather interesting to watch as his arc led him down a darker and darker path, but not in the stereotypical way. Reiner was a joy to watch, as his mayor was honourable and corrupt all at the same time. Louis CK also has a small role as Cooper’s boss and his is great! It shows that his acting range is a little wider then just a fat comedian dad and I’m excited to see his future film projects. Bale, Adams, and Lawrence are all great of course, but the drama between them was a little eye-rollingly stupid at times and the end was a little too neatly wrapped up for my tastes.

Since this movie is up for some Oscars and that’s pretty much why I saw it I should probably address a few of the categories it’s up for. The production design is absolutely amazing and it definitely should win. It truly feels like the 70s without missing a beat. Christian Bale is pretty good as the lead, but I don’t think he should win over Leo. Amy Adams certainly holds her own in this movie, and pulls off all the emotional twists and turns her character goes through. Jennifer Lawrence was believable in the role despite her age, but her performance was just kinda… meh. It didn’t strike me as particularly oscar worthy, even if it was really good. The editing… is meh for an oscar-nominated movie. There were a few continuity flaws, so hopefully there was a better movie, but I’m just being a prick now.

American Hustle has everything going for it. The budget, the actors, the director, the soundtrack, everything. However, unlike most great films, it fails to become more then the sum of its parts. It’s no Goodfellas, or The Godfather, or even The Sting. It’s a damn good movie, don’t get me wrong and I’ll say right now that everyone should go see it, but it fails to be anything more then just good. Let me emphasize that I’m not criticizing the movie for not being perfect, I’m just stating my reasons for why it shouldn’t win Best Picture.

Enough negativity! American Hustle is a fun movie! It doesn’t take itself too serious and while it is a emotional drama, it’s also a very funny movie. The witty writing and the charismatic acting makes it hard not to enjoy the fun adventure these characters are on. The whole movie has this energy to it thats hard to ignore, and it almost makes up for a lot of the flaws in it… almost. You may not have a best picture winner awaiting you, but you certainly have a film worth the outrageous ticket prices. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Act of Killing (2013) Review

I rarely review documentaries and there’s a very good reason for that. I don’t watch that many documentaries. It takes either a great doc or a topic I’m very interested in to get me to engage in a documentary and those tend to be rare. However, since 4 out of the 5 Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Feature are on Netflix, I thought I’d give them a go. First up is The Act of Killing, a debut film for director Joshua Oppenheimer.

The Act of Killing documents the making of a film about the 1960s hunt for Communists in Indonesia, but what’s intriguing is that it’s made by the gangsters who tortured and killed said Communists. Our main subject is Anwar Congo, a man who undergoes shocking personal growth concerning the atrocities he’s committed as he reenacts them for the film. Thats not all to this film as in the background we see the truth behind the corrupt government, ignorant and afraid populace, and the paramilitary groups that rule the streets.

Let me start off by saying that this is probably the most important documentary to come out this year in terms of its subject matter. It’s a topic not previously sensationalized by the media like The Square, a look at something we already had inklings about like Dirty Wars, and it’s definitely not a small film like Cutie and the Boxer (Keep in mind I haven’t seen these yet, these are just broad statements based on trailers/plot summaries). It provides a shocking look into a topic we in the West know little about and it shows it with honesty and with the consent of the subjects. They offer up this info very willingly and their image is like an afterthought, but the image they want is very much the truth of what they are. It’s a brilliant examination of crimes both past and present and how one society can be so fucked over by itself.

On the other hand… this is really slow. It’s very slow for the purposes of letting it’s images sink in, but for me at least the themes and ideas were very basic and didn’t need the considerable time given to them. What really dragged the film down from a story perspective is the plight of the subjects and the making of their film. Watching these blundering fools stumble through filmmaking just isn’t that interesting to watch and only occasionally are important monologues with interesting stories placed over them. These people just didn’t engage me as interesting subjects. Anwar’s growth as a person was still amazing to watch and especially towards the end of the movie do we get a real resolution and feeling of accomplishment, but the whole “second act” is a drag to watch. For me at least.

I would be absolutely fine with this winning Best Documentary, but I think it’s appeal to a mainstream audience is limited. Despite the paradox, I must conceit that you should absolutely watch this movie, even though you won’t really enjoy it. It’s a shocking examination of cruelty and self-proclaimed sadism in the real world. This isn’t a horror movie, or a mob movie, this is real life and I think everyone should see this to understand the kind of dark things that are actually out there. As stated before The Act of Killing is on Netflix Instant.

Planet Hulk (2010) Review

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Unlike Spider-man or Batman, Hulk is one of the trickiest characters to get right in not only comics, but any medium. He’s incredibly popular and is no doubt a unique character, but writers never seem to know what to do with him. How does one deliver the pure destructive badassness that audiences want to see while also creating a complex and interesting plot? It seems to me that the biggest detriment to constructing a good hulk story, until recently, is his lack of intelligence. It’s hard to have good dialogue with a raging monster whose vocabulary solely includes “SMASH!” Bruce Banner is usually cruelly mishandled as well, but thats beside the point. It seems Hulk works best in groups where he can react to other characters and serve as the ultimate weapon. Looking at his movies, the first Hulk film was insufferably boring and the action scenes were just stupid, while The Incredible Hulk was better… if not still boring and stupid. Planet Hulk may indeed be the best Hulk film out there… for what it is and tries to be.

Planet Hulk, based of the comic storyline of the same name, is the rather unusual tale of how Hulk gets shipped off Earth by the other superheroes who are tired of fighting him. Hulk, of course, smashes the shit out of the spaceship he’s on and that causes it to veer off course and crash-land on the planet Sakaar. There Hulk is imprisoned and force to fight in a gladiator ring, along with other rebels, for the entertainment of the planet’s dictator and his subjects. They band together in order to not only survive, but to also right the wrongs of The Red King.

Yeah this is a weird one to adapt, considering it has nothing to do with what people usually think of when they think Hulk. Bruce Banner doesn’t even appear in this movie, but it’s unusual setting does prevent the continuity baggage that Hulk usually has to deal with. Thats not to say that there’s no continuity as other superheroes do appear, if only briefly. What made the Planet Hulk comics work and become extremely popular was that Hulk was slightly more intelligent then usual (for no explained reason), his healing ability which had been creeping into the comics was fully exploited in cool ways, and the setting/story was beyond anything that had been done before. The Planet Hulk storyline was a long one, spanning about 25 issues if I remember correctly and the film does a good job of covering the basic plot points, if in an extremely simplified way.

This movie as I said is fairly simple, with about the intelligence of the Young Justice cartoon series or really most of the other superhero animated movies out there. Despite it’s more childish story, there is a good amount of gore and death in this movie (albeit alien cartoon gore), so the distinction must once again be made between mature content and storytelling. This movie, just because it has a little gore is in no way mature like some people may claim it to be, rather it just has some (slightly) mature content. It’s storytelling is still geared to an audience of 10-15, so if you plan to watch this with your kids keep in mind that while they will enjoy it, they should be able to handle the rather dark scenes. Most kids can, but show a touch of caution. Thats not to say that adults can’t watch this, because let me emphasize that this is a FUN movie. It shows about the level of badassery we got from Hulk in The Avengers, which is impressive comparing it to the other Hulk entries.

The animation is not too bad, certainly not Madhouse level, but it gets the job done. I like the style it’s done in, as it sacrifices detail without losing the general look of the comic. The voice acting is good as most of the key players are veterans in the field. Hulk is slightly miscast in my opinion, but it won’t bother most people. Marvel’s animated movies have never been that great compared to DC’s animated movies, but this one certainly is on par with the likes of Wonder Woman or Green Lantern: First Flight. If you’re looking for a fun movie that doesn’t require much thought, or if you’re looking for a good time with your kids then Planet Hulk is just the thing for you. Hopefully future Hulk moviemakers will take a few lessons from this movie and “Keep it simple, stupid!” Planet Hulk is available on Netflix Instant.

The Expendables 2 (2012) Review

Last decade brought us the reboots of 80s classics like Transformers and GI Joe, and it seemed that the internet as whole was awash in 80s nostalgia. In the 2010s though, we’re onto another decade: the 90s. This 20 year cycle really has an impact on pop culture, since corporations want to appeal to that 28-38 year old crowd that now controls the majority of the consumership. They of course use artifacts from their childhood (ages 8-18) to attract their nostalgic attention and now that the 80s people are getting in their 40s it’s time for the 90s kids to take the reigns. We already have seen a Pokemon anime reminiscent of the original games, rereleases of many 90s games, and plenty of 90s pop culture being smeared across the internet like a reoccuring nightmare. So it seems only fit that Stallone’s pet project The Expendables would try to tap into that 90s action movie nostalgia that that controlling demographic has. The original was an adequate film, with a good amount of fun inserted into it’s action, but it was dragged down by Stallone’s ego and inexperienced directing. The Expendables 2… now that’s a different story.

The Expendables 2 is the remarkably simple story of Stallone and his team who are hired by CIA operative Bruce Willis to track down a package in a safe. On the mission they’re intercepted by Jean Claude Van Damme, who kills Liam Hemsworth and steals the package. Out for revenge, Stallone’s crew tracks down Van Damme with a little help from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris.

Now I went through a long tirade to basically come to the conclusion that Drag Me to Hell was a decent and fun film. Let me cut to the chase here and say that The Expendables 2 is a more then decent and extremely fun movie! There may be plot holes the size of the explosions, and realism and physics that make Adventure Time look like a Ken Burns documentary, but god damn it this movie’s fucking fun. It’s everything from the 90s action films you could possibly want, including the great one-liners. What helps Expendables 2 transcend just a 90s rehash is that it’s aware of its origins and plays them up for very effective comedy. It’s a fine line to walk, but Expendables pulls it off mostly due to its genuineness.

It has the stars to back up the lines and it has the effects to back up the storyline. This movie solved the shitty action sequences of the first one by putting director Simon West in charge and he chooses the far more effective steady shots that showcase the action more then cut around it. The effects are top notch, even if there is some shitty CGI blood here and there. Again, it’s hard to care since you’ll be surprisingly engrossed in the story even if you can see every twist and turn from a mile away.

It’s a film that just happens to work through the very careful balance of all the right factors. It plays up it’s premise in the right way, pulls in the serious moments and lets loose the comedy all at the right times. Expendables 2 is a must see for anyone who’s disappointed in the recent works of it’s stars and it’s must viewing for anyone burned by the awful Die Hard 5. It’s no masterpiece of course, but these films rarely are, especially in this decade. If you like your action more serious, then stay away, but if you’re up for some popcorn-chewing fun, then strap in and suit up. The Expendables 2 is available from Netflix Streaming, and all the usual online movie places.

Exorcist 2: Mini Review

Maybe one day I’ll come back to this, but for now…
This movie is sooooo boring. The pace is slow as molasses and the script decides to ignore a little thing called plot in order to concentrate on the Director’s fancies, be they locusts or metaphysics. The performances are terrible, with the exception of James Earl Jones who has little to do. The soundtrack consists of screams and chants that make you want to pull your friggin hair out. The effects so far seem non-existant as this director stoutly refuses to show anything beyond an occasional vision. Everyone acts inconsistently, even within a scene and the dialogue is just clunky and stupid. I’m turning this movie off, I’m gonna watch some anime instead.

Drag Me to Hell (2009) Review

Sam Raimi is considered a master of horror, but he’s done relatively little to contribute to that title in the past decade. He’s been busy with the Spider-man trilogy and that Oz movie, but he did return to his roots in 2009’s Drag Me to Hell. A odd mix of both modern and classic Raimi, this film stands as a unique and unusual specimen that demands to be examined.

After denying an old gypsy woman an extension on her mortgage, Christine finds herself cursed to have her soul taken to Hell after 3 days. Now in a desperate race against time, Christine must overcome the supernatural forces that are playing with her before their final deed, all the while fighting to keep the things she values most in life, being her job and her boyfriend.

Sam Raimi is most well known for the Evil Dead trilogy, where he mixed over-the-top horror with campy comedy to varying degrees and results. Now the one to really examine in contrast to this film is The Evil Dead, which managed to be over-the-top while still being creepy and a little scary. Drag Me to Hell tries to hit this same balance and while it does to an extent achieve it, there’s just something off about it. As I was watching it I tried to figure out what wasn’t working for me, and I think it’s that Drag Me to Hell is lacking charm. It doesn’t have that kind of charm that the Evil Dead trilogy has or that his other works have. Even Spider-man has a charm to the first two films, but this one, while it has a little, is just missing that. It seems too self-aware that it’s campy and silly, almost like it just got done watching the Evil Dead films. That may just be speculation on my part and not matter to anyone else, but I thought I’d try to explain why this film didn’t work particularly well for me.

Alright enough of that flitting around, lets get to the actual meat and maggots of this movie. Sam Raimi has for all intents and purposes created one of the most unique horror movies of the 2000s. His blend of horror, comedy and even just good writing was sorely lacking last decade and even nowadays. He somehow manages to take cliches that we’ve seen and present them flat-out and then shortly thereafter show something you’ve never seen before. It’s an awkward blend that will turn some people off, but will excite most horror fans.

The acting is fine in this movie, not anything to write home about, but it’s a step up from the wooden performances of many a horror production. The score is some weird blend of horror and the soundtrack to Spider-man, but it’s ultimately quite good. The effects are really good… when they’re practical. The CGI in this movie is godawful, even for it’s time. It’s probably a good thing that this is such a cheesy movie, or those scenes would be incredibly distracting.

Drag Me to Hell doesn’t strike me as mandatory watching in any way, or something even worth buying. However, it is definitely a unique watch and will serve as quite refreshing for those weighed down by the found-footage dredge. If there’s one thing I can say about Drag Me to Hell it’s that it’s fun and really that’s all that matters. It’s a reassurance that Raimi can still do horror, granting that he’s given a low enough budget. Also to anyone interested in lighting, this serves as a great pallet of very basic, but effective lighting techniques. Drag Me to Hell is available to buy/rent from iTunes, Amazon Instant, and Google Play.

Devil’s Due (2014) Review

If there’s one bit of knowledge you should pick up from the following review it’s this: NEVER GO SEE MOVIES IN JANUARY. It’s a dumping ground of all the movies the studios didn’t want to release in the previous year or have no better time to release the rest of the year. Looking at the chart on Rotten Tomatoes there are only one or two movies released this year that have a score above 50%. So far this year we’ve had the Asylum-wannabe Legend of Hercules, the horrendously unfunny Ride Along, the hispanic bore-fest Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the Godfrey-Hoed 47 Ronin, and coming up we have the doomed I, Frankenstein (which I’m sure will follow in the footsteps of Dylan Dog and Priest as being a not too bad, but horribly cliched movie that ruins a great premise) and That Awkward Moment where men act like assholes… like every other comedy these days. So Devil’s Due already has that going against it, let alone the fact it’s yet another found-footage film and that it seems to be a remake of Rosemary’s Baby. However, does it manage to scrap it’s way to excellence despite these handicaps? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. No.

Devil’s Due is the story of a newlywed couple who finds themselves expecting after the wife is impregnated on their honeymoon by a mysterious cult. The next 9 months quickly become a nightmare as they’re plagued by the wife’s unusual violent outbursts, telekinesis and lust for blood. The conspiracy deepens as they seem to be followed everywhere and people in their lives seem to disappear, leaving the husband on a desperate search for answers (filming all the way).

Found-footage/Mockumentary is a style of filmmaking that has exploded into the horror community and very slightly into other genres, mainly through the independent movement. Found-footage is absolutely dirt-cheap to make and they turn regular horror movie profits, which is why studios love them so much. Many horror fans despise them for being slow and anti-climatic with terrible acting and effects. My argument back is that most horror movies have terrible acting, a good chunk have shitty effects, and for the first 50 years of horror the movies were slow-paced. I actually like a few found-footage movies, like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and to a certain extent Paranormal Activity 2 and 3. While I had great experiences viewing them for the first time they all have no re-watch value. Chronicle, which isn’t horror, but still a film I thoroughly enjoyed, is probably the only one I would go back and watch again for the purposes of actual entertainment. Mockumentary’s a film-style I can respect if a) it’s just a style and their are no in-story cameras (Chernobyl Diaries) or b) if they have cameras in the story and use them properly (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity). Devil’s Due doesn’t fall into either of these, with a myriad of inaccuracies that on their own are the nitpicks of a film nerd, but combined create a lack of believability in the story (which is the whole point of found footage). There are tons of camera angles that shouldn’t exist, but do because the director said so. The cameras all look the same with maybe a filter thrown on, despite being radically different models. The husband even mentions that the tape is gone despite the fact the movie is clearly shot in digital HD. If you’re going to be found footage, make the effort to be found footage. There was no reason this movie needed to be found footage other then the fact that the writers couldn’t come up with anything original and scary enough for the studio to put more money into it.

Now since we can pretty much ignore acting or effects and just assume they’re shit, lets go to the scares shall we. The most important part of a found footage movie are the payoffs of all the build-up and suspense the relatively slow paced rest of the movie creates. At least thats how it’s supposed to work. Devil’s Due is slow paced alright, letting us watch the marriage and honeymoon of these fairly boring protagonists. I understand the theoretical purpose behind this as it’s intended to get us invested in these characters, however it’s completely ineffective as the only defining characteristic the guy has is that he likes to film stuff and while the girl actually has character and is interesting to watch, it doesn’t matter since she gets possessed and becomes the antagonist. Let’s contrast this with Rosemary’s Baby, where Rosemary is in a similar situation, except she has her faculties the whole time and it isn’t until the end where she loses it. The mother here goes bat-shit insane half-way through the movie and we might as well be watching The Exorcist from that point. Well except for the fact that The Exorcist was scary, and this movie is inept at building any tension or suspense to make it’s frequent jump-scares anything more then cheap tricks. The film relies almost entirely on jump-scares and the rest of it’s fear tactics involve breaking a window, eating raw meat and a hilarious scene where a bunch of kids get thrown around like a scene out of Chronicle. It’s hard to describe why there appears to be no threat here and yet there is in movies like Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch, but rest assured you have nothing to be scared of when watching this film except for when you look at your watch and discover just how little time has passed.

A colleague of mine who I frequently disagree with on movies stated that Devil’s Due is nowhere near as bad people make it out to be and that it’s actually worth a trip to the theatre if you’ve run out of December releases to see. While I think it’s true that this movie is not the worst thing ever made and that it doesn’t deserve the 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes it has right now, it’s nowhere near worth the current $12 movie ticket price. If anything this movie is just blatantly mediocre and with a different director it could have actually been an interesting take on the devil baby storyline. As it stands though, there are plenty of movies far more worth your time if you’re interested in these themes, but if you really are curious about this movie then just wait until it hits Redbox. If you do want a devil pregnancy story then I recommend the slow but effective Rosemary’s Baby or even the first season of American Horror Story and if you want a found footage movie then check out, if you haven’t already The Blair Witch Project, the oft forgotten The Last Broadcast, and if you don’t want horror then Chronicle. Before I resign my keyboard for this review I would just like to emphasize that you should really hold off going to the theatre until February as odds are your viewing experience will be less then pleasant. Thats not to say all January releases suck but there certainly is never an Oscar winner among them.