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Member's Reviews

Monsters, a review by Jon

4 out of 5

Like Val Lewton in the 1940s, Gareth Edwards could be accused of pulling a fast one. Lewton was influential in creating cheap b-movies with evocative titles that were actually intelligent character pieces. Likewise Monsters is severely lacking in actual monster action and cannot be dismissed as a basic crowd pleaser. Instead a very real present day world that is dealing with unusual “creatures” merely forms the backdrop for a road movie as photo-journalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) chaperones his boss’s daughter Sam (Whitney Able) through the Infected Zone of Mexico and back into the US. Actually, even the road movie is a cover for what boils down to a romance, a trick Hitchcock would frequently employ.

Lewton? Hitchcock? These are the fathers of modern genre cinema! Who the heck does this Gareth Edwards think he is? As a debut, Monsters is incredible. As Neill Blomkamp did with District 9, Edwards brings special effects experience and a genuine talent for film-writing on a shoestring budget, but even so, that doesn’t account for his ambition.

Monsters has been compared to District 9, but apart from the loose premise (alien discovery leads to uneasy human tolerance of new species), that film is very much classic comic book material. It’s also reminded people of Cloverfield, but Monsters isn’t hooked on a gimmick and doesn’t treat its characters as lively monster munch. Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist stands as a finer example of using monsters as a backdrop for the human condition, however Monsters is distinct for its optimism. While it lacks set-pieces and gore, the detritus of fights with the creatures litter the route and create a sombre atmosphere. If anything, the film it reminds me more of is The Road. Again, I must stress the more optimistic tone though.

Edwards has used real locations (albeit with occasional CGI retouching) and the story benefits ten-fold from that authenticity especially as he has a style similar to Cinema Verite. Mexico looks war-torn and you would swear an emotional moment following a street party in a village while the community mourn their dead is absolutely real. Toward the end, they make their way through a destroyed empty town which looks incredible. McNairy and Able’s understated performances are perfectly judged, especially considering there isn’t a single set-piece that distracts your attention from them. Throughout this is their story and theirs alone.

It does have its moments though, particularly a nervy river scene where an obvious opportunity to mimic Jaws is sidestepped beautifully. For actual footage of the creatures, there are one or two fire-fights, but the money shot is wisely saved until the end. It’s magnificent and strangely beautiful, while also underlining the films only real problem. I think it’s a biggie: Monsters would be a better film without the monsters at all. If this were a war-time drama the exact same couple with the same backgrounds could have a similar journey, meet similar people and it might be better, more affecting for it. You could argue it would be over-familiar, but the emotional link between the misunderstood creatures (they are only aggressive when attacked by military) and the couple is so clumsily handled it borders on embarrassing. Science Fiction is usually metaphorical, but it just doesn’t work when it has to be forced.

It feels like Gareth Edwards is a genuinely talented film-maker who perhaps started this project from an urge to use his own well practiced special effects in an authentic setting, but didn’t realise when his natural talent for writing drama sidelined his sci-fi premise and it became a crutch that needed forcing back in to be relevant. Still, as mistakes go, it’s a noble one!

Don’t expect a gritty Jurassic Park thrill-ride, but go in with an open mind and there is much to admire. Monsters is a masterful film that demonstrates a more effective, restrained use of CGI than any of its contemporaries, from War of the Worlds to Cloverfield, while having a grasp of cinematography and editing so confident it could rival a political thriller like Syriana and lends the premise a “this could actually happen!” vibe. Ultimately it just isn’t exciting enough to support there being monsters at all and the heartfelt science fiction feels awkward. Still, hell of a debut and such a bold attempt at reshaping a genre, it could yet turn out to be a milestone. I look forward to seeing what Gareth Edward’s next project is because he’s capable of anything and could have a lot of mainstream directors running scared.

(From Monsters **** on December 1st, 2010)

Member's Reviews

This Means War, a review by Dragonfire

This Means War

I wasn't really sure about seeing this one at first, but ended up deciding to see it when I had the chance.

FDR and Tuck are best friends and CIA agent partners.  They get stuck on desk duty when a mission goes wrong.  Tuck uses the time to sign up for an internet dating site.  He ends up going out with Lauren, a woman still getting over a breakup.  Her friend Trish signed her up for the site.  She also meets FDR and ends up dating both men.  When they discover that they are both seeing her, they say they will let her decide who she is more interested in, but they get competitive and start trying to sabotage each other. 

My expectations weren't that high before seeing the movie, so maybe that is why I ended up liking it overall.  It does get silly at times and certain things are predictable, but it is also fun and entertaining.  The plot could be stronger, but it does manage to work.  Some of what happens isn't that believable and the guys go to some rather extreme measures to spy on each other when they are with Lauren.  Some action turns up in a few scenes, mostly because of the spy stuff popping up and causing a complication. 

The characters are mostly interesting and likable overall.  They could all be developed a bit more.  The acting is fine. 

I enjoyed this movie overall.  It does have some issues, but it is a decent romantic comedy with spy movie elements tossed into the mix.  It isn't a movie for everyone.

I did get a longer review posted at Epinions.

This Means War

(From This Means War on June 11th, 2012)

Member's TV Reviews

Tom's TV Pilots marathon, a review by Tom

     Azumanga Daioh: Class Album (2002/Japan)
IMDb | Wikipedia

ADV Films (United States)
Length:650 min.
Video:Full Frame 1.33:1
Audio:English: Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

In Miss Yukari's English class, every day is an adventure.

First off, there's the airhead teacher herself. She may have graduated from high school, but she sure hasn't left. And with the arrival of two transfer students - a ten-year-old prodigy and a space cadet - it's going to be an intersting class! Between handling enormous assignments, dodging murderous volleyballs, and eduring endless rivalries, summer vacation should serve as a welcome break for the weary student - unless your teachers come with you! Getting through three years alive with this motley crew is going to be an adventure!

Azumanga Daioh
1.01 Miss Yukari
Writer: Kiyohiko Azuma (Original Material By), Ichiro Okouchi (Screenwriter)
Director: Hiroshi Nishikiori
Cast: English Vocal Cast), Jessica Boone (Chiyo Mihama (voice)), Kira Vincent Davis (Ayumu Kasuga (voice)), Mandy Clark (Tomo Takino (voice)), Nancy Novotny (Koyomi Mizuhara (voice)), Christine Auten (Sakaki (voice)), Luci Christian (Yukari Tanizaki (voice)), Tiffany Grant (Kaorin (voice)), Hilary Haag (Chihiro (voice)), Andy McAvin (Mr. Kimura (voice)), Chris Patton (Male Student 1 (voice)), Greg Ayres (Male Student 2 (voice)), Monica Rial (Additional Voice (voice)), John Gremillion (Additional Voice (voice)), Allison Sumrall (Additional Voice (voice)), Bubba Callahan (Additional Voice (voice)), Sami Mikasa (Additional Voice (voice)), donaldo (Additional Voice (voice)), Japanese Vocal Cast), Tomoko Kaneda (Chiyo Mihama (voice)), Yuki Matsuoka (Ayumu Kasuga (voice)), Chieko Higuchi (Tomo Takino (voice)), Rie Tanaka (Koyomi Mizuhara (voice)), Yuu Asakawa (Sakaki (voice)), Akiko Hiramatsu (Yukari Tanizaki (voice)), Sakura Nogawa (Kaorin (voice)), Koji Ishii (Mr. Kimura (voice)), Akane Omae (Chihiro (voice)), Hiroyuki Yoshino (Ohyama (voice)), Naoki Yanagi (Male Student (voice)), Ryoko Nagata (Female Student (voice))

One of my favorite anime series. The first episode is a good introduction to the characters. And this series gets better and better later on.
You can find my series review here. This review is a little outdated though. I mentioned having only read one manga so far. This is not true anymore. I have read a lot more now. I also mention that my current avatar is based on a character from this series. This is still true. I still use it to this day.


(From Tom's TV Pilots marathon on March 26th, 2011)