The Awakening (2011) – ★★★★☆

The Awakening is a smart, literate, old-fashioned ghost story.
The Awakening is a smart, literate, old-fashioned ghost story.
Rebecca Hall takes on the supernatural in The Awakening, a surprisingly effective, atmospheric ghost story set in England shortly after the first World War.

Hall plays Florence Cathcart, a professional skeptic who’s become famous for debunking supernatural phenomena and exposing charlatans in England in the wake of the war and the Influenza Epidemic. The film’s opening title—a quote from the fictional Florence—states “this is a time for ghosts.”

Continue reading

Goon (2011) – ★★★☆☆

Brothers in arms.
Brothers in arms.
Goon is a charming buddy/romance/sports flick that takes surprisingly nuanced looks at male friendship, relationships, family, and hockey, and manages to avoid the common pratfalls sports movies often fall into.

Sean William Scott is likable as a bouncer named Doug who is stuck in a dead end job, while Marc-André Grodin almost steals the show as a brooding, oft-injured hockey star and Allison Pill—costar and writer Jay Baruchel’s real life ex—stars as Doug’s love interest. Liev Schrieber also has a small but important role as a longtime hockey goon named Ross “The Boss” Rhea.

Continue reading

One For the Money (2012) – ★★☆☆☆

Katherine Heigl doesn't know how she ended up in this movie either.
Katherine Heigl doesn’t know how she ended up in this movie either.
One For the Money is a disappointingly dull adaptation of the wildly funny, wildly popular Stephanie Plum series penned by author Janet Evanovich—the 20th in Evanovich’s series is due out in November of 2013—that somehow manages to sap all the fun out of the plucky heroine.

One For the Money sticks to the “script,” for the most part, with few alterations, and follows Evanovich’s heroine as she turns to bounty hunting to make ends meet. The problem for Stephanie is she’s not very good at the job and she’s just been assigned to bring in a former cop lover, Joe Morelli.

Continue reading

Cinderella/신데렐라 (2006) – ★★☆☆☆

Cinderella is a yet another dark look into the South Korean psyche.
Yoon-hee makes Joan Crawford look like a good mother.
The South Korean obsession with beauty, perfection, plastic surgery and poor parental figures is on full display in this somewhat uneven horror film that draws very loosely from the famous fairytale of the same name (and I do mean loosely). Cinderella is a yet another dark look into the South Korean psyche.

The movie deals with a teen girl named Hyeon-su, and several of her friends, all but one who have had plastic surgery performed by Hyeon-su’s talented surgeon mother. The girls who have had the surgery are haunted by a ghost girl in a blue dress who wants her face back.

Continue reading

The Evil Twin/전설의 고향 (2007) – ★★★☆☆

Two sisters, one mysterious bracelet, and a rapidly growing body count.
Two sisters, one mysterious bracelet, and a rapidly growing body count.
The Evil Twin is another in a long line of stylish Korean horror films that touches on familiar territory, such as relationships between sisters, jealousy, good and evil, doubles, and guilt, though maybe a tad less successfully than its better-known predecessor, A Tale of Two Sisters.

The Evil Twin employs a non-linear timeline as it jumps from “present day” to flashbacks of the protagonist So-yeon’s childhood and back again, and also follows multiple characters as the storyline—and the central mystery—unfolds.

Nothing in The Evil Twin is quite as it seems. One moment, So-yeon is docile and kind; the next moment she’s wearing a knowing smirk that hints at something dark just beyond the surface. And what exactly is So-yeon’s mother keeping from her?

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Sisters/장화, 홍련 (2003) – ★★★★☆

A Korean Gothic.

“A great work of art is like a dream; for all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is always ambiguous.” — Carl Jung

A Tale of Two Sisters is a successful, popular horror film that came out in the early 2000s and was the first major South Korean contribution to the Asian horror movement.

The film, which was inspired by the ancient (oft-filmed) Korean folktale 장화, 홍련 (Janghwa, Hongryeon/”Rose Flower, Red Lotus”), transports the wicked stepmother, emotionally detached father, and the victimized sisters of the original tale to a contemporary Korean setting—and gives it a gothic twist.

Continue reading

Sunset Boulevard (1950) – ★★★★★

“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Sunset Boulevard, a genre-bending (and defying) Hollywood classic, tells the tragic story of Norma Desmond, a washed up silent picture star, and Joe Gillis, a failed second-rate screenwriter.

The film opens infamously with a dead body floating in a swimming pool, as Gillis narrates from beyond the grave, telling of the events that lead up to his untimely death.

Continue reading