The Canal (2014)

The Canal (2014) – IMDb

The Canal is one of those effective mood pieces. It’s stuck between horror and thriller about a man uncovering a ghostly mystery from a century ago. I would like to keep this review short for I feel this is a movie I don’t want to give too much away. I overlooked this movie countless times since the original cover on Netflix suggests a B movie that was unsatisfactory and boring. Although, some reviews claimed this was rather good, so i took a risk in playing this film and sacrificing 90 minutes of my time. The Canal is deviously unexpected.

The story is somewhat a cliche in the horror/thriller department but it definitely makes up for brood atmosphere and a terrifying conclusion. Without trying to give too much away, this movie is in close relation with the movie Sinister. I found horror movies to either end not well and obscure or really well but either tragically or with contentment. This is the latter, but it left me jaw dropped and I had my hand over my mouth. This is not common in my movie watching, believe me. The movie is slow but the unexpected graphic scenes and the mystery will keep you hooked. There are no real jump scares but this is where the atmosphere and eeriness creeps in. Towards the second half, it just becomes increasingly unnerving.

Like I said, I did not expect this Irish film to be as effective as it was. When you think you have it all figured out, you get hit with a curve ball. The Canal is subtle, even in the writing. I enjoy finding movies like this, from which ever continent it’s from. The film’s ending, it left my hairs sticking up, and if a movie has that kind of power then I recommend this to be viewed, by horror fans, thrill seekers, mystery hunters, or loners looking for a good scare sitting in the dark like I was tonight. 

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Bargain Bin 2

Many times a movie can slip underneath your nose and you may never have caught a whiff. Bargain Bin is an accumulative set of movies I found underrated or hidden gems. Movies I’d like to bring attention to. You may have seen one, or a few, before but I’d like to dig inside the bin and discuss what we find. Perhaps, you may have found your next ‘Movie Night’ entertainment.

Today, I have a selected list of Animated features that may fancy your itch for something light and fun. And at the same time, being captivated by the artistic worlds the stories are surrounded by.

Watership Down (1978)

The movie opens beautifully with a tell-tale backstory of the Watership Down‘s folklore, then transitions to our main characters Hazel (John Hurt) and Fiver. After a vision, the rabbits decide to move away from their warren to escape the evil humans tearing down their land. What follows is a perilous journey, testing each other’s strengths and wits. Beautifully told and masterfully hand drawn. The film can be quite gruesome at times, with images of blood and flesh tearing; it is said this is the most violent PG film ever made. But it’s balanced by the serene landscape and a fateful bird “[perfectly] landing” some dorky comic relief (if only there was more of it). Watership Down became an instant favorite of mine.

PS: The locations you see are actually based off the map the author, Richard Adams, put in his book. Also is based on some real locations in Hampshire, England.

Song of the Sea (2014)

A film i recently watched and had to tell the world about. This is a movie that could rival Ghibli Studios. The animation and the music was just captivating. Literally. When not much was happening and I got up to get a snack, my eyes were still on the screen. Song of the Sea serenades us a bedtime story inducing lucid dreams. This is one of those moments when a family will look back on and say “remember when we watched-“. A magical movie that reminded me similarities that strung to Spirited Away. I knew nothing of this movie, and i suggest you keep it that way and let yourself become enchanted.

PS: Nominated for best Animated movie of the year. I’d like to also point out the backstory of Irish folklore is very interesting. And a selkie is my spirit animal.

Pom Poko (1994)

Three of my childhood years was spent in Japan, this was when i was exposed to the wonderful world of Ghibli. Since then I have grown up watching these films and I have to say, Pom Poko is one of THE most underrated films i have ever seen. Written by legendary Hayao Miyazaki, tells a story of raccoons trying to save their land from the humans who continue to deforest their home. They’re no ordinary raccoons though, these are shapeshifting raccoons. And they will fight to survive; whether that means they put on a psychadelic, full-on trip-out show to strike fear, or simply blend in. I found myself laughing at some of the going ons because it’s actually quite funny. Yes, Pom Poko took me by full surprise.

PS: Hayao Miyazaki is no stranger to telling stories about ‘humans and their deforestation for their industrial greater good’, Princess Mononoke anyone? Pom Poko is just a little more comical.

Ernest and Celestine (2012)

Another animated feature that became an instant favorite of mine. Ernest and Celestine is a French film, in English, delivering the laughs and, i must say, is quite cute. When Celestine befriends the bear, Ernest, which is taboo, they must depart from the city life, but not without the marshmallows. The authority says other wise hence they have unfinished debts to be repaid. I truly cared for what happened between the newly found friendship as they found they are not that different at all. This movie had me laughing at the expressions being made and other situations, all making me fall in love with the genius behind this creative animation. Simply one anyone will enjoy.

PS: Anyone get a flashback to Totoro when the mouse started poking the bear?

Mary and Max (2009)

Mary and Max is a sweet story about long distance friendship. Based on a true story, Mary lives in Australia and writes to her friend, who she has never met, Max, who is living in a New York apartment and is diagnosed with asberger’s syndrome. They send each other letters about their private lives and sometimes a box of local goodies. The stop motion animation is fun and the different color schemes when bouncing back and forth between Australia and New York really adds to the whole experience; giving each other separate moods. Sometimes the subject matter can be dark or unexpected but it’s hard not to care for their friendship and hoping that they one day meet. I enjoyed this movie, lending me a good few chuckles which lead to a near tearjerking end.

Chef (2014)

Chef (2014) via IMDb.

Ah, Chef. Man, if this isn’t in my top 5 (there are a lot of movies out there) then it’s in my top 10 for sure. The music, the vibe, the characters, and the story kept my interest throughout the entire film. Like it was promising me an authentic cuban sandwich by the end of it. Every time  food was being stirred, boiled, or fried I just wanted to reach through the screen and snatch it. I could smell it.

Jon Favreau has a fun and deliciously enjoyable film. By far a favorite of mine that has been cooked up from his mind. It’s about friendship, love, family, and the changing world around us. The best way to display this was between the father and son. The father: lonely, out of touch with the world and self-centered. Then his son: who needs his father and helps him rekindle a lost flame and discover the power of social media. Their bond is the perfect link between the old and new. And the storytelling is so dynamic leading one place to the next. I honestly didn’t know what to expect first time round, but really enjoyed it. Second time i fell in love. It gave me warm happy feels with a smile that resisted giving in. Especially when the food was on screen, I’d say that was the star of the show.

Everyone bounced off each other so well. You’d believe you just walked into these people’s lives for a split second to see it turn for the better. I loved it. It was made with so much love and passion. Everyone involved seemed to have fun making this as well. The dynamic flow of the film and the character interactions left no dull moment, just one tasty pleasure after the next.

Someone once asked me if i were to have made a movie, what movie would it have been? I didn’t know how to answer at first, but now, now I have found it. Did you smell it? Or maybe you started tapping your foot to the music? It’s Chef everyone. A nicely blended fiesta for everyone to dig in. Make a meal, grab a friend, poor some wine, and enjoy, my friends.

BTW: This movie is similar the French film called Le Chef. Although that film follows more along the lines of Ratatuoille. Le Chef is worth checking out when given a chance.

Spring (2014)

Spring (2014) – IMDb

From the minds of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson (Resolution) comes a fantasy tale of love disguised as a creature feature. Spring is a different movie and is similar to Richard Linklater’s talkie, but romantic Before trilogy with a monster twist. The movie is set on the coast of Italy, a beautiful setting with a labyrinth of brick roads. Age old buildings tower above the white cliffs overlooking the ocean with a taste of vino and smell of greenery in the air. This is where our protagonist, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), escapes from drama in the U.S. of A. after his mother passes, and he loses his job. He arrives in Italy and makes some quick acquaintances who help him to a few drinks and some fun.  Suddenly, Evan meets this beautiful ‘goddess’ of a woman, Louise (Nadia Hilker).  She is beautiful. If she told me she was a 2,000 year old mythical goddess, I would believe her. Louise is a man’s fantasy come true, inviting Evan to come away with her when they first meet. As easy as he could take her up on this offer, he simply wants to sit down and have a drink with her, get to know her more.  However, love has a way of ‘transforming’ things.

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker have wonderful chemistry. At first, you can sense Evan wants this girl, whether it’s lust or love; and you can sense Louise being distant with him, but still likes his close company. The dialogue between them feels like we’re listening in on a conversation between two complete strangers who found a connection. The writing is authentic and quirky, and each character has their own characterized way of speaking, even the smaller roles. Spring is a slow paced movie, but is still ever so engrossing with the dynamic writing, beautiful scenery, and the unfolding of the mysterious, pretty lady’s dark, inner secret. The move is not scary, naturally. It has horror elements and themes, and the climatic monster reveal is both shocking and peculiar.

I blindly purchased Spring due to it’s interesting setting and plot, and after from what I heard, and instinct was telling me, we found each other at a local Best Buy as fate has brought us. I enjoyed this movie and the connection between the two leads. Lou Taylor Pucci is a well rounded actor. I have seen him in a few flicks now and find find his talent underrated. In Spring, he is charismatic and very likable as Evan, even funny; same goes for Nadia Hilker’s role. Although, I watched a special featurette where the makers felt the ending was premature, so they went out and shot an extended ending with their iPhones. To be honest, I was happy with the original ending and thought the new one turned Evan into an unlikable character.

Anyways, Spring is a unique film. It’s labeled horror, but it’s different and not what you’d expect. If you’re expecting something like Species or The Howling, then this might not be for you. If you want something fresh, change of pace, like HoneymoonI do recommend it as a date night movie. Spring stands out from the rest of the body horror/creature feature flock, possibly becoming a cult classic.

Honeymoon (2014)

Honeymoon (2014) – IMDb

This movie is quite unnerving, especially if you stick around until the end. Honeymoon starts slow, showing you how these two newly wed love birds, Paul and Bea, are affectionate towards one another. You watch their relationship and can’t help but care about their blissful existence. Movies usually start after development about twenty some odd minutes in, and it’s somewhere after these twenty minutes things begin to change. You feel this change in relationship, in the atmosphere. It goes from happy to eerie and to downright creepy. Honeymoon isn’t a horror that’s all in your face and relies on bloodshed and heavy special effects. Although, where there is in small doses, it makes all that much more effective. The movie is more psychological since you watch this mystery unravel through Paul’s eyes, watching his new wife act so oddly, like a stranger, and like him, neither of us really know what’s going on.

The movie begins with Paul and Bea discuss their wedding and proposal to the camera. It’s light, funny, and maybe some could relate. Next, they arrive at their honeymoon cabin mountain side next to a lake in a small community with almost no one present. They are a happy couple and we’re happy for them. The writing seems genuine and handles the events that unfold with care. It is slow but not boring. Something is going to happen and you almost don’t want it to, however, one night changes their lives forever. That’s when things become really interesting and creepy. The slow pace helps us ease in to the mood and the shock value is increased.  Honeymoon is a slow burn mystery that becomes increasingly unnerving and leaves you feeling anchored at the bottom of the lake’s bed.  Rare finds like this makes movie viewing worth while if you don’t want a film to attack your senses every five minutes. It’s a worthy find if you catch it before it catches you.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014) – IMDb

Are you happy? What is happiness to you? Hector, a psychologist, sets out on a grand adventure around the world searching for the meaning of true happiness, something his nice and tidy life seems to be missing. During his meetings with his patients, he just hears their stories and problems but not listening. He eventually comes to the conclusion, with help of a psychic who is a patient, that he must undergo a journey for himself and bring happiness to his bland life. But if you have the woman you love and your day follows the same routine, pattern by pattern, day in day out, and you are safe, what more would you want? Hector and the Search for Happiness isn’t just about us watching Hector on his spiritually awakening journey to the corners of the Earth, but perhaps it’s him who takes us and shows us there is more out there to understand and be happy about.This is a turn for comedic British actor Simon Pegg, making this rather more mature and thought provoking than his other features, although still consisting a fun and humorous trip.

Hector seems to be trapped under something heavy he doesn’t know and we don’t. Only we find out in the final crucial, unexpected scenes when everything comes to a point. Hector still has a sense of innocence like a child inside him, refraining him from living his life. The movie has little bits of cartoonist transitions that are playful and come as an unexpected joy. He starts off from China to Africa and finally the United States, taking notes on what is happiness. He asks a variety of people who are surrounded by money, sex, and poverty. This also allows it too become an emotional journey for our protagonist. Hector is swept with love in all sorts of colors, also experiences fear but only to overcome it, and making us laugh, even out loud, throughout the movie.

Hector and the Search for Happiness was a surprise for me, normally i know what I’m about to watch but I chose this on the whim. It’s a thought provoking and heart warming movie that can even change your life! (given to a certain degree.) There is a lot to love, learn, and be happy about. You just have to search for it and let it find you. The cameos were also fun to see and be interacted with. I enjoyed this movie, not a dull moment. If I were able to travel like Hector or even for FREE, no one would see me again. I’d backpack to the Himalayas all the way down to the sandy beaches of South America and around the world for another go. Until i came to my unexpected end to an expansive, chaotic life I learned to love.

Extra: Simon Pegg was a character in The Adventures of Tin Tin and he has posters and books of Tin Tin in Hector’s office which was cool to see.

The Raid 2 (2014) – IMDb

via The Raid 2 (2014) – IMDb.

Like the rest of the audience who has seen The Raid: Redemption, I was excited to see the sequel The Raid 2: Berandal. When I first found out it was showing at a local theater in my territory for a limited time with few showings to offer, I just had to get a ticket. I walked in the dark, empty theater which the movie has just begun and grabbed my seat, looking at the screen the whole way. Once I sat, a voice to my left says: “out of the whole theater you had to sit next to me?” I didn’t even notice someone was there, the man moves and I say “my bad”. I just wanted to see this film with the best seat. This epic, bloody and complex film Gareth Evans, writer and director, originally conceived before The Raid 1.

The first movie is much simpler than the second. It was straight forward with amazing fights and stunts. The sequel takes off just moments after, already introducing a major villain. We’re then brought to the attention our hero from the previous movie, Rama, that he’s being sent in to the underground world by a secret organization who seeks out corrupt cops. He is to help a dangerous gang member, Uco, who is in jail and earn his trust so he is accepted into their clan on the outside. Once he earns their respect and trust he is to cut the head off the snake so the gang wars will come to an end. But it becomes more than what Rama was expecting, he is caught into a web of distrust, betrayal, and an all out war. The beginning of The Raid 2 is a bit confusing at first, you’re introduced to a number of characters and backgrounds. It’s a little hard to keep up because of the pace it is presented but eventually you move on after the first half hour with a deadly brutal fight scene in the muddy courtyard inside the jail.

The movie doesn’t kid around when it comes to violence, neither is it shy. It is raw and can rival the darkest of horror. It’s an all in your face, no holds bared, adrenaline pumped two and half hour movie. I felt bruised and exhausted after the first movie which was an hour shorter; this one has more to offer as to do with the storyline, which is somewhat reminiscent of The Godfather series. The Raid 2 is relentless in depicting violence but the choreograph is superb. Most notably is the kitchen scene which is Gareth’s favorite, and mine, too. You can feel the momentum and impact in all the fight sequences, they have a way of feeling dynamic. No fight scene is used just to have a fight, everything has lead up to that point where there is reason to fight and makes it feel that more impactful. Much like Gareth’s directing which is also dynamic, it flows with the story and movement of the characters like a punch to the face or grinding a head to the wall. I do have one suggestion, or minor complaint, with all the brutality in the air I was looking for a different fight scene to change pace. There is a scene which leads outside from a club to the snowy streets. The tempo is slowed for a little and our character is faced with another villain, The Assassin. The snow is falling, you still have the dark atmosphere, but the brutality persists. I was hoping for this scene to have a beautifully crafted fight in the snow, without an overdose of blood shed and a ballet like fight. It may sound corny but wish Gareth switched the fighting style. A death like that should be beautiful not torn away meaninglessly. Although, the car chase sequence is awesome and increases the heart rate and is well shot.

Other than the Assassin, two icons have emerged here as if ripped from a comic book. You have a deaf mute, Hammer Girl, who wields two hammers and delivers heavy damage. And her brother Baseball Bat Man who carries a bat and his trusty baseball. The two together are the most interesting characters here who could have their own movie covering their background. Which Gareth Evans did discuss during the awkward Q&A in the special features. Either way, their child-like manners don’t get in the way of them hammering down or hitting their victim from afar with a baseball.

There is a lot that happens in The Raid 2 , although a little confusing first time round, it has a good storyline with unforgetful fight sequences. It’s either just as good as it’s predecessor or better, up to you, but I think it’s just as good. Gareth Evans has filmed a very dynamic and visually artistic action-gangster-epic. He has kept most of his crew from his past couple projects; you will notice stuntmen and characters reprised, and some even from his segment in V/H/S 2 (which was quite shocking and down right creepy). I like it when sequels are different from the first and can still entertain, keeping things fresh. I look forward to the next installment, hoping it will bring a little more to the table. The first two had a dash of subtle dark humor, but very little, perhaps the next Raid will provide more and add some emotional depth. What do you think?