Tag Archives: horror

Prometheus: Blu Ray Review

Prometheus is available on Blu Ray + DVD + Digital Copy on Oct. 9, 2012. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox


With a classic sci-fi/horror like Alien (1979), any movie associated with it will be viewed under extreme scrutiny. Luckily, Prometheus separates itself from the original by focusing on the science, while adding elements of horror to spice things up.

In Prometheus, a scientific discovery leads to a galactic exploration in an attempt to find the origins of humanity. As with many sci-fi flicksm, What they discover when they reach their destination is nothing close to what they expected.

Legendary director Ridley Scott, with the aid of writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindeloff, takes us on a journey that explores man’s greatest mystery: Where do we come from? Both director and writers achieve an incredible level of thought provoking ideas. However, they also left a lot of unexplored venues which prevent this movie from reaching the stratospheric acclaim of its predecessor.

Michael Fassbender is phenomenal in his role as the multi-layered android. Alongside him, Noomi Rapace shows equal skill in manifesting her character’s emotions (very reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in 1979). While the rest of the cast is great, Charlize Theron completely lacked everything that was required to make her performance memorable. Mind you, it is hard to be memorable when your character appeared to be tacked on haphazardly.

For the Blu Ray + DVD + Digital Copy release, this movie is absolutely reference quality material, featuring breathtaking video and immersive audio. Special features include two entertaining audio commentaries: One from director Ridley Scott and one from writers Jon Spailhts and Damon Lindelof. There’s also a plethora of deleted/alternate scenes (with optional commentary), many of which deserved inclusion in the final cut, and a set of mini featurettes called The Peter Weyland Files. This last set serves as a great character development addition that is worth watching before viewing the film. If you’re looking for the 3D version and behind the scenes featurettes, pick up the four disc edition.

You can also download the Second Screen Movie App, which allows you to sync your tablet or smart phone with the movie and dive deeper into the film and its creation.

Bottom Line: This is a must own Blu Ray for fans of the movie and the sci-fi genre alike.

Movie Grade B+
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 124 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1


Check out The Engineer walking around Downtown Toronto:



The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under: Blu Ray Review

The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under on Blu Ray + DVD combo available on August 21, 2012. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Thirty-five years ago, Disney’s animation studios delivered an original tale of two mice risking their lives to save a kidnapped girl from the clutches of a cruel woman. Thirteen years after the success of The Rescuers, Disney delivered one of its first sequels to an animated film in The Rescuers Down Under. For The Rescuers three and a half decade anniversary, both films have been included in the Blu Ray + DVD combo release.

The Rescuers is such a hit simply because it veers away from what so many other films do—talk down to children. Instead, it delivers a darker story everyone can enjoy. Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart work magic together as the unlikely pair of mystery solving, lovable rodents.

In The Rescuers Down Under, the adventure is brought to the other side of the globe where Bernard and Bianca must stop a ruthless poacher in the Outback of Australia. All new characters and phenomenal animation make this sequel a fun ride. Story wise, it just falls short of the first film – But not by much.

This Blu Ray release looked far better than I thought it would on my 60” television and sounded surprisingly good as well. Included you’ll find a wide array of special features to enjoy: “Peoplitis” a deleted song, “Someone’s Waiting For You” Sing-A-Long, and The Making Of The Rescuers Down Under. On top of those, Disney has also included “The Three Blind Mouseketeers” – Silly Symphony Animated Short, and the best feature of all “Water Birds” Disney True Life Adventure. This last feature is a fun video about real birds in nature and how they differ from each other. A must watch for wildlife lovers!

Bottom Line: You and your children will have a blast delving into these timeless mysteries alongside two heroic mice and their companions.

Movie Grades: The Rescuers: A-/The Rescuers Down Under: B
Blu Ray Grade A-

Runtimes: The Rescuers: 78 minutes/The Rescuers Down Under: 78 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1


ParaNorman: Paranormal fun

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as the “parNormanly” gifted in ParaNorman. Courtesy of Alliance Media


Like Cole from The Sixth Sense, Norman has the paranormal ability to speak to the deceased. Norman’s story differs as he tries to help the friendly ghosts break an ancient curse that threatens to destroy his town and its inhabitants.

ParaNorman pioneers new and innovative techniques in stop motion animation taking on massive sets and action packed sequences never seen before in this medium. It also tells a heart-felt story combining laughter, horror and poignant social commentary regarding the way people are treated when they don’t fit the “norm” (hard not to pun).

Chris Butler and Sam Fell successfully bring Butler’s massive dream to the screen. The movie powers forward with wonderful pace, only slowing down at stirring moments to deliver their impactful message.

The talented Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road, Let Me In) delivers a solid voice-over performance alongside his cast members. There are only a few moments when the dialogue suffered from feeling read and not acted.

Speaking of the visuals, you’re in for a real treat with easily one of the best stop-motion animation experiences you’ll ever have alongside Coraline. On top of that, you’ll definitely want to immerse yourself in the palpable 3D option that really helps draw you further into the already first-rate film.

Bottom Line: Without a doubt, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth from ParaNorman.

Grade B+

Runtime: 93 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: Yes


Jaws: Restoration adds beauty to the terror

Catch the fully restored Jaws at TIFF Bell Lightbox starting June 29th. Courtesy of Universal Pictures


It is said that a fear of sharks is primal in most human beings. With masterful direction and one of the greatest musical scores, Steven Spielberg’s original run of Jaws terrified audiences and induced unprecedented phobias among moviegoers. Thirty-seven years later, this classic horror has been given a much needed restoration from the original beaten up stock and the results are impeccable. Rather than explain it all to you, I’ll let the professionals give you the scoop in the video below.


Simply put, the restoration makes the movie look like a period film shot today. They’ve also avoided any George Lucas style digital “upgrades” to replace any of the practical effects. While present day audiences have been desensitized to brutal violence, Jaws still manages to wrap you in a blanket of fear. Not something many horrors of today will be able to claim 30 years in the future.

The only problem with this movie is the lack of knowledge about the behavior of sharks during its production. Peter Benchley, author of the novel the movie is based on, has mentioned he would have never written the book had he known about the real behavior of sharks. This is important for all those who treat the fictional film as a source of facts.

With that in mind, you’ll want to treat yourself to a magnificent example of filmmaking. The Hitchcockian influenced direction from Steven Spielberg is brilliant, as is the editing by Verna Fields and the performances from Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss.

Bottom Line: Jaws’ flawless face lift deserves to be revisited by every fan of great cinema.

You can find the restored re-release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto or in select local theatres on June 29th.


Madison County: DVD Review

Eric England’s latest horror is Madison County. Courtesy of eOne Entertainment


Do you remember that crazy time in your life when you enjoyed killing people and nothing could stop you – Not even five whopping blows to the head with a shovel? Ah, the ridiculous moments never cease when filmmakers think, “This time, nobody will notice these nonsensical, unexplainable, super-human-like events.” It was blisteringly apparent Writer/director Eric England clearly thought this when he was making Madison County.

This Texas Chainsaw Massacre wannabe tells the story of a group of teenage friends who trek out to interview an author who has information on a bizarre set of murders which an entire town appears to be involved in.

Eric England’s screenplay needs a lot of work. It reeks of plagiarism from past films and follows many of the thoughtless characteristics that infects the audience with the ever tiring eye-rolling syndrome. Then there is his direction, which serves only to spook those who scare (extremely) easily.

The positive that can be drawn out of the entire affair are the performances that felt more natural than corny. Jonna Sotomura, Natalie Sheetz, Matt Mercer and Colley Bailey did a commendable job with their characters considering the handicapped source material.

For fans of the Screamfest 2011 sellout movie, the home release delivers solid picture and audio quality. On top of that, there are a couple of special features to enjoy, including the Q & A from Screamfest! and Audio Commentary featuring Writer/Producer/Director Eric England, Producer Daniel F. Dunn and Actor/Producer Ace Marrero.

Bottom Line: You won’t find anything scary in this movie unless you’re frequently frightened by your own shadow. At least the home release delivers what it should.

Movie Grade D
Blu Ray Grade B-

Runtime: 81 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Joanna Sotomura is terrified in Madison County


Prometheus: A step below greatness

Logan Marshall-Green, Noomi Rapace, and Michael Fassbender star in Prometheus. Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox


It’s difficult not to become completely encapsulated in an epic horror/sci-fi the likes of Ridley Scott’s Alien from 1979. With the standards set from that film, any movie associated with it will be viewed under extreme scrutiny. Luckily, Prometheus separates itself from the original by focusing on the science and adds elements of horror to spice things up.

In Prometheus, a scientific discovery leads to a galactic exploration to find the origins of humanity. What they find when they reach their destination is nothing close to what they expected.

Ridley Scott, the once legendary director, has returned to where his major success had initialized with classics like Blade Runner. With the aid of writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindeloff, Scott takes us on a journey that explores man’s greatest mystery: Where do we come from? Both director and writers achieve an incredible level of thought provoking ideas and thrilling storytelling. However, they also left a lot of unexplored venues which will prevent this movie from reaching the stratospheric acclaim of its predecessor.

Casting for this movie hit an almost perfect score with an excellent ensemble of actors to portray the various archetypes. Michael Fassbender is yet again phenomenal in his role as the multi-layered, intriguing android. Alongside him, Noomi Rapace shows equal skill in manifesting her character’s emotions (very reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in 1979). While the rest of the cast was great, Charlize Theron completely lacked everything that was required to make her performance memorable. Mind you, it is hard to be memorable when your character appeared to be tacked on haphazardly.

The cinematography is beautiful, but the musical score lacked atmosphere to really provide punch to crucial moments.

Scott’s use of the added 3rd dimension works phenomenally. The entire film viewed through 3D glasses delivered the most realistic “looking through a window” effect to date. Definitely worth the additional cost.

Bottom Line: No matter how great this film appears to be, the nagging flaws keep it from becoming an epic classic.

Grade B+

Runtime: 124 minutes
IMAX: Yes
3D: Yes


Man on a Ledge: Blu Ray + DVD Review

Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks star in Man on a Ledge. Courtesy of eOne Entertainment


If you were wrongly accused of a crime and sentenced to 25 years in jail, how far would you go to prove your innocence and bring down the people who set you up? Nick Cassidy goes the ultimate distance venturing out onto a 21st storey ledge in order to prove his innocence.

Not without its faults, Man on a Ledge manages to provide a thrilling ride with its suspense and amazing cinematography.

With only a documentary under his belt, director Asger Leth alongside veteran cinematographer Paul Cameron (Man on Fire, Gone in Sixty Seconds) take us to dizzying heights and keep us on the edge of our seats for almost two hours as we watch the story unravel. The pace of the film is tight, but there are definitely a few unnecessary comedic relief moments that deserved a Karate chop in the editing room.

After years in the business, Australian born Sam Worthington’s acting is very hard to appreciate due to his very distracting and pitiful American accent. Elizabeth Banks, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie and the rest of the cast range from decent to good.

In the Blu Ray + DVD combo pack, you get a solid presentation of the film both visually and orally. On top of that, there is an excellent “The Ledge” featurette that takes you behind the scenes to explain how they managed to film acrophobic (fear of heights) scenes. They’ve also included a feature length commentary with actress Elizabeth Banks.

Bottom Line: While not perfect, there’s still an adrenaline pumping ride worth experiencing in this home release.

Movie Grade B
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: Approx. 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1


Chernobyl Diaries: Worth the ride

OLIVIA TAYLOR DUDLEY as Natalie, JESSE McCARTNEY as Chris, JONATHAN SADOWSKI as Paul, DEVIN KELLEY as Amanda, DIMITRI DIATCHENKO as Uri, NATHAN PHILLIPS as Michael and INGRID BOLSÖ BERDAL as Zoe in Chernobyl Diaries. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


Twenty-six years ago, the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster struck the Western portion of the then U.S.S.R. and parts of Europe claiming thousands of lives and infecting even more with cancer. Almost three decades later, the man behind the hit Paranormal Activity creates a horror involving the remnants of the abandoned radioactive site. Are you game?

Chernobyl Diaries takes you along with six tourists who bravely, or foolishly, take an unofficial tour of the abandoned city. Things take a turn for the worse and they find more in the city than abandoned buildings and cars.

What is interesting about the movie is its attempted original concept from Oren Peli. Peli and two co-screenwriters pieced together a situation that makes you feel as if it could possibly happen. Sure things aren’t perfect, but their screenplay does provide a fun suspenseful scream-worthy ride.

Choosing first time director Bradley Parker (a visual effects artist for films like Fight Club) was a wise choice. Parker uses handheld camera work throughout the movie, but never gets carried away with shaking the camera resulting in a theatre full of observers suffering from motion sickness (hope the makers of the next Hunger Games movie are taking lessons).

Finding talent most people will not recognize has become a trademark for Peli’s movies. Considering what was asked of them, the cast did a fairly good job with the script and the amount of action involved.

In the end, this will not provide the fright-fest Paranormal Activity did, but it does take you on journey you’ll find unsettling the first time around. After that, you’ll find the replay value takes a dive off a towering cliff.

Bottom Line: Worth watching once if you’re in the mood for a creepy scare.

Grade B-

Runtime: 90 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No

DEVIN KELLEY, OLIVIA TAYLOR DUDLEY, and JESSE McCARTNEY


The Innkeepers: Blu Ray Review

Ti West's latest horror flick is available on Blu Ray May 1st. Courtesy of eOne Media


Time has not been kind to the horror movie genre. While there seems to be a cult following, most would agree that horror films are without a doubt some of the worst films to have ever been made. The Innkeepers manages to avoid the garbage heap but keep your expectations low.

In horror specialist Ti West’s (The House of the Devil) latest movie, a pair of workers at an Inn (that’s going out of business) try to find signs from the spirit world only to find more than they bargained for.

West managed to impress with his great use of camera movements instilling a chilling sense of unease. His script, however, could use a few re-writes as some of the dialogue lingered on the strong side of smelly cheese.

Surprisingly, the acting from the two main actors, Pat Healy and Sara Paxton, is pretty good this kind of movie. Sara Paxton manages to make the funny scenes believable and keeps the “corny meter” from reaching dangerous levels. Keep an eye out for 80’s star, Kelly McGillis (Top Gun) as well.

However, the real star of the movie is provided by the original score of Jeff Grace (The House of the Devil). There’s a palpable eeriness to his work, which acts to enhance the unnerving vibe of the movie. The only failure lays in the over emphasized bass tones seemingly used as cues for the audience; unfortunately it was more distracting than anything else.

Special features included in the Blu Ray release include two commentaries with various cast and crew, as well as a fun The Innkeepers: Behind the Scenes featurette.

Bottom Line: Fans will be happy to own this home release, but everyone else should make due with a rental for their night of fright.

Movie grade C+
Blu Ray grade B

Runtime: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1


The Moth Diaries: Made for TV, not the cinema

Sarah Bolger stars in The Moth Diaries. Courtesy of Alliance Films


Are movies that premiere at a film festival automatically given a higher stature over films that do not? The answer is a resounding no, and The Moth Diaries, which premiered at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) last year, is a perfect example of this.

In this movie, a teenage boarding school student is losing her best friend to a new girl suspected of having supernatural abilities.

It’s hard to believe that filmmakers and studios automatically feel the need to lower the standards of their work depending on their target audience. Most every aspect of this movie is mediocre at best.

The cast of adult actors playing teenagers, including Sarah Bolger, Lily Cole, Sarah Gadon, Valerie Tian, and Melissa Farman either received poor direction or they simply can’t act. Either way, there is no connecting with the characters or their dilemmas.

Mary Harron (American Psycho), who wrote and directed the movie, could have done a much better job adapting Rachel Klein’s novel. More or less, the entire story is a “paint by numbers” portrait of teenage drama with a weak horror twist.

In the end, this film would find a better home in the made for television genre rather than a feature film.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a higher dose of entertainment from a superior film, check out The Craft (1996) and keep your distance from this movie.

Grade D-

Runtime: 82 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No