Sorority Row, Review By Case Wright


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Horror can make a political statement, it can make you reflect on your status in society, or it can just entertain.  The first two types are good, but it’s also nice to just have fun! “Sorority Row” written by Josh Stolberg & Peter Goldfinger and directed by Stewart Hendler is a 1990s throwback.  It had a real “I Know What You Did Last Summer” feel to it.  Honestly, the reviews are not fair to this film.  A lot of people want horror to be all things, but it’s supposed to be fun too.  So, just relax and have a good time.  Also, it doubled its money, which is what a movie is supposed to do- especially horror. It’s one of the few genres left that can produced by mere mortals.

What I liked mostly about the film was the writing.  It had a lot of great humor without it being campy. I’ve gotten to know Josh Stolberg on twitter the script has quite a bit of his personality: clever and quick-witted.  I especially enjoyed Jessica (Leah Pipes).  As a man who went a Greek dominated college, she was very realistic.  Her character and one-liners gave the story a mix of comic relief and reality.  I practiced Criminal Law for waaaaay too long and I can tell you that even honest people can turn to something wicked if they feel threatened.  People will invariably choose themselves over a possible life ending punishment.

The plot is similar to the original House on Sorority Row: a prank run a muck.  The girls belong to Theta Pi and they to love to party, prank, and get murdered.  Garrett a brother of the Sister “Chuggs” cheated on Megan another Theta Pi, which is not okay! So, the sisters have her fake an overdose so that Garrett believes he killed Megan.  The sisters: Jessica, Ellie, Cassidy, Claire, Megan, and Chugs are all in on the prank are a little too convincing because they make Garrett believe that they need to hide Megan’s body in a mine shaft or their lives will be ruined.  The sisters say they have to get rid of the air in Megan’s lungs or she’ll float back up. So, Garrett takes the initiative as a true go-getter and uses a tire iron to stab Megan to death.  Jessica decides very quickly that they need to hide Megan’s body for real.  When Cassidy refuses to participate, they wrap the corpse in Cassidy’s coat and throw it down the mine shaft.  Jessica really thinks fast on her feet.

I don’t know about you, but I think Jessica would be good marriage material. Hear me out: she’s determined, quick-thinking, has a college degree, and is ruthless to protect her goals.  Also, Cassidy tried to be all above it, but as Jessica said- “you could’ve called the police, but you didn’t!”  Agreed.  You don’t get to benefit from something wicked and then look down on everyone else.  Jessica made her choice and stuck to it.  She made a good point as to protecting everyone’s future and ran with it.  Cassidy kept Hamletting over her bad choices.  Do it or Don’t.  Jessica, don’t listen to the haters.

All seems fine a year later.  They’ve all moved on except for Garrett who has become a wreck over his humiliation and accidental murdering.   Then, they all receive a threatening group text on their very old timey looking phones- 2009 was just ten years ago and these phones look like museum pieces.  Sorority-Row-Megan-s-HERO-Cell-Phone-1.jpg

This technology allowed for some extra suspense because reception and tech wasn’t that great then; therefore, the characters can be cutoff from help.  I really think horror shouldn’t be set any time after 2009 because it’s just too easy to get help now.  This lack of tech added a nice layer of suspense.  The text sender stalks and murders them one by one.

The kills were pretty clever: an electrocution, death by chardonnay, tire iron throwing, and a good ol’ fashioned stabbing or three.  It also had a fun twist at the end like the 1990s horror films of my youth.   I recommend this film.  Read my past reviews- I don’t just recommend anything.  I’m an iconoclast and can tell you that this was a lot of fun. Happy Horrorthon!

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Trailer: Big Hero 6 (2nd Official)


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Big Hero 6 is the next offering from the Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Pixar has the reputation of being the top animation house within Disney, the last couple years have seen the Walt Disney Animation house taking most of the glory. First, there was the surprise hit Tangled which was soon followed up by Wreck-It-Ralph which was both a success with critics and audiences alike. Then last year we saw the unstoppable juggernaut that was Frozen.

Frozen was originally thought to be a weak offering due to a weird marketing campaign, but it soon changed both critics and audiences minds when it came out in November 2013. From there on it just stayed in the weekly top 10 box-office for months.

Now we have Big Hero 6 which brings one of the more obscure Marvel Comics properties to the big-screen. This film looks to take the characters from the original comics, but the story itself looks to be something wholly original. So, fans who have been waiting for either Pixar or Disney to create an animated film using more recognizable heroes from Marvel’s massive library will have to wait just a bit longer.

Big Hero 6 will make it’s premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival on October 23, 2014 with a wide release on November 7, 2014.

Trailer: Big Hero 6 (Official)


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Walt Disney Animation has always lagged behind it’s more lauded older sibling Pixar Animation. Yet, in the last couple years it’s more than held it’s own with it’s two most recent releases with Wreck-It-Ralph and Frozen. Will third time be the charm as the studio is set to release the first CG-animated feature that was greenlit after Walt Disney bought Marvel Comics over 6 years ago.

Big Hero 6 is loosely-based on the same comic book title from Marvel Comics. It tells the story of one Hiro Hamada and his sidekick balloon man….robot who must team up with an eclectic group of other would-be heroes to save the fictional city of San Fransokyo from a mysterious villain.

Big Hero 6 is set for a November 7, 2014 release date.

Trailer: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Official Teaser)


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Hard to imagine it’s been 9 years since the original Sin City hit the big screen. It was a comic book adaptation that many thought wouldn’t work, especially how Rodriguez envisioned it to be slavishly loyal to not just Miller’s dialogue but also his unique art style.

The original film’s success quickly ramped up rumors that a sequel was already being planned using the second graphic novel in the Sin City series. Rodriguez himself stated he wanted Angelina Jolie for the role of Ava Lord, the titular “Dame to Kill For”, but after years and years of delay the role finally landed on Eva Green‘s lap (not a bad choice and one I fully support).

So, we’re now going back to Basin City for more tales of booze, broads and bullets in this hyper-noir film that should be loved or hated in equal measures by those who have followed Frank Miller’s career. Once again the directing duties have been split between Rodriguez and Miller. Here’s to hoping that Miller has learned how to be a much better directer after his last film, The Spirit, tanked.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is set for an August 22, 2014 release date.

Quick Review: Premium Rush (Dir. by David Koepp)


I have a love / hate relationship with David Koepp.

Loved The Shadow, Stir of Echoes, Angels & Demons, Panic Room, Jurassic Park and The Lost World (even to see him get eaten by a T-Rex while running down a busy street). I hated War of the Worlds (I’m sorry, but there’s no way Justin Chatwin’s character could have made it through that film), Mission: Impossible and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Sometimes he hits the mark, and other times he misses.

Premium Rush falls somewhere in between. I really don’t have a whole lot to say about it. It’s mostly very good, particularly the bike riding scenes, but overall, the story could have been a little stronger and Michael Shannon (to me, anyway) felt really out of place here. It’s one of those movies where you pluck your brain out of your head and place it in the seat next to you. As long as you don’t give the movie too much thought and just enjoy the ride that’s presented to you, you’ll do just fine. At only 90 minutes, it moves very quickly and you’ll find yourself at the end before you really know it. I’ve seen this type of film before with Thomas Michael Donnelly’s Quicksilver, starring Kevin Bacon and 1993’s Airborne, directed by Castle Producer and former X-Files alum, Rob Bowman.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the best bike messenger around. He’s so good that he rides a ‘fixee’, a bike with no brakes, no sets of gears other than the basics and where the pedals always move (no cruising). Weaving in and out of traffic, he makes his way through each delivery with lots of style. There are these decision points that happily reminded me of both my bike riding times and motorcycle ones where Wilee has to find the next available angle to ride through. Scenes like that help to keep the action moving, when it happens. Premium Rush also showcases some great areas of Manhattan as they travel around. It’s a great looking film in that sense, with low cuts of bike wheels and jumps, but again, you’re either riding through the city and hoping they don’t hit, or you’re off the bike waiting to find out if they’ll jump onto another one again.

Basically, the story is that Wilee is given a special package that he needs to deliver, and a corrupt cop is on his tail, played over the top by Michael Shannon. That’s all there is to it. Get the package where it needs to go. Levitt does well in the film, as does Dania Ramirez and Aasif Mandvi. If there’s anyone in the movie who didn’t quite gel with me, it would be Michael Shannon. Shannon’s a good actor, and he’s not bad here, just really animated. It felt like a role that would have been better suited for Willem Dafoe or someone strange like that. I never felt any kind of fear or even worry when Shannon was around. He came off more like a bumbling crook in a film like Baby’s Day Out”, than someone who really needed what Wilee was carrying.

Koepp is getting better at directing, but some of the writing is a little off. The film suffers from the same problem that Green Lantern had with it’s climax or Tron: Legacy did with some of it’s parts. You have a few scenes where it could have been stronger had things moved in one direction, but then veers off. The impact just isn’t as great. I won’t go into detail on what they are, but for me, I saw a few things that could have been changed (or at least one in particular).

Overall, Premium Rush is a fun film that may get you wanting to ride after seeing it, but just don’t ask a lot of it. Just get your popcorn, sit back and enjoy where it all goes.

Trailer: The Man with the Iron Fists (Official)


One thing that seemed destined the moment RZA (with his hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan) arrived on the scene in the early 1990’s was him finally making a martial arts film. Not just a martial arts film, but a wuxia kung fu film that he and the other in the Wu-Tang Clan had watched as kids and cotinued to obsess over as adults. RZA’s own brand of hip=hop was infused with many sound bites and track beats from the classic kung fu flicks of the 70’s and 80’s. Even the group’s name was taken from one of those very kung fu classics, Shaolin and the Wu-Tang.

Now RZA has teamed up with genre filmmaker Eli Roth to make his dream to a reality with the upcoming martial arts film The Man with the Iron Fists which RZA has directed from a story written by both him and Roth. It also stars RZA (making him a triple-threat in this production) with Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, Jamie Chung, Daniel Bautista and MMA fighter Cung Le. The fight choreography was handled by renowned martial arts fight choreographer Corey Yeun.

The first official trailer has now been released and it’s in awesome Red Band which shows just a hint of how ultra-violent the film will end up being. All I can say is that near the end of the trailer we get eyeballs!

Review: Sucker Punch (dir. by Zack Snyder)


There have always been films through the years which will garner extreme reactions from its audiences. These reactions will always take two sides on the film. People who see these films will either love them or they will hate them. There is to be little to no middle ground reaction when it comes to these films. In 2009, we had James Cameron’s epic scifi Avatar which had two sets of fans. Those who loved it to the point that it transcended simple fandom into something these people thought as important. Then there were the vocal minority who absolutely hated the film. Whether both fans were right in their opinions was (and continues) to be irrelevent. All that mattered to these people was that they’re right and the other side was wrong.

2011 is entering it’s second season and a film finally arrived which seem to have elicited the same sort of reaction from people who have seen it. Sure, there’s some who saw it merely as entertainment and left it at that, but there’s a growing rift between those who loved the film and those who hated it. The film which seem to have caused this is the action-fantasy film Sucker Punch.

To say that Zack Snyder’s latest visual extravaganza would create discussion amongst filmgoers would be an undertstatement. Sucker Punch has arrived to much genre fandom fanfare. This was a film that seemed to take genres from all corners like scifi, fantasy, anime and manga and mashed them all up into something new and serving it up to the legion of fans who love those very things. Zack Snyder has made his reputation as a filmmaker as a visual artist. His entire filmography from the Dawn of the Dead remake all the way up to his adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel Watchmen have all been very strong visually. His grasp of narrative structure continues to grow and improve but it’s always been his handling of dialogue which has tripped him up.

Sucker Punch is a tale within a tale about a young woman we come to know as Baby Doll (played with an almost angelic quality by Emily Browning). The film opens up with the curtain rising on a theater stage and we soon become witness to a dialogue-free opening sequence of the events which transpired to bring Baby Doll to the Lennox House mental institution. This entire opening sequence is a great example of Snyder as a master of creating a montage of striking visuals sans dialogue with only music to break the silence. It helped that the music chosen to accompany this scene was a haunting rendition by Emily Browning herself of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)”. Just like in Watchmen‘s own intro title sequence, Snyder was able to convey the beginnings of the story without the need for dialogue and do it so well that we as an audience understand fully all that’s transpiring on the screen.

Once this prologue ends we move onto the main setting of the film where Baby Doll gets put into the care of the Lennox House’s resident boogeyman in the form of Blue as played with slimy charm and panache by one Oscar Isaac (last scene chewing up the English countryside in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood). The audience sees what Baby Doll sees as Blue gives her the tour of the facilities which finally ends at the “Theater” where all the female patients act out their problems and fears through the guidance and help of Doctor Gorski (played by the lovely and return Snyder performer, Carla Gugino).

The first 15 minutes of this film was pretty much a basic set-up of what Snyder will use as his blueprint for the rest of the film. All the different levels of fantasy Baby Doll will imagine and inhabit throughout the film is rooted deeply in this initial sequence of events which begins the film. The clues as to who the story is truely about could be found in this intro if one was paying attention to the film instead of being distracted and mesmerized by the visuals Snyder crafts to start the film. While it won’t become apparent until the reveal at the climactic events of the film. Once all are the cards were revealed, so to speak, the beginning of the film begins to make sense. From the curtain rising, the silent film-like scene to begin and the narration to open things up, all those give a hint to what the answer to the question the film’s narrative really asks: “Is what we’re seeing truly real or is it all just fantasy?”

Sucker Punch becomes a sort of a trip down the rabbit hole a la Alice In Wonderland once the film establishes Baby Doll’s predicament upon arriving at the Lennox House (she’s to be lobotomized in 5 days). The film moves from the gray and depressing confines of the Lennox House to the fantasy world centered on a burlesque establishment where Baby Doll is an orphan sold by a decadent priest (the form her stepfather takes in this fantasy) to Blue, the proprietor of this house of ill repute where orphaned young women become burlesque dancers and worst to the clientele. It is in this place we meet the rest of the gang Baby Doll will befriend to help her try to escape the place and thus avoif the “High Roller” who will come to collect her in 5 days.

The film shares something similar with Christopher Nolan’s Inception in that both films deal with different levels of reality or fantasy (depends on how one sees the different worlds shown in both films). Where Nolan’s ideas seem more rooted in what he would consider as more grounded to reality as much as possible Snyder goes the other way and takes the leashes off of Baby Doll’s imagination. This third level Baby Doll goes to as she begins her dance to distract the men of the burlesque house is her mind unfettered and where she’s not helpless but has power not just to protect herself but do so better than the men who inhabit this fantasy world of steampunk zombie soldiers, orcs, dragons, alien robot machines and many other scifi and fantasy tropes which define geek culture through the decades.

If there’s one reason to watch this film it would be just to bear witness to Snyder letting his imagination as a visual filmmaker take over. Some people may not like this and want a strong, structured narrative to balance out the visuals. I, too, would’ve liked to have seen something stronger in terms of story and plot, but there are just instances when the visuals are so striking and wildly imaginative that one just marvels at the scenes unfolding on the screen. If any, Snyder as a visual artist helps prop up the weakness in the story. Snyder would’ve served this film better if he went even further and turned Sucker Punch into an avant-garde silent film of the digital age. That beginning in the film just unfolded so strongly despite no dialogue that the rest of the film could’ve been done in the same manner and be the better for it.

Which brings me to what was the film’s near fatal flaw. A flaw that many of the film’s detractors have taken as the rallying cry to denounce the film as horrible and Snyder as a hack. The interesting thing is that these same people were also the ones who had been praising of Snyder prior to this film. Even those who begrudgingly gave Snyder his props for having some semblance of talent because of the very handling of the visuals that he has now have become much more vocal about how they always knew Snyder was never that good.

I would say that Snyder is not the second coming of Ridley Scott as some of his supporters have anointed him or is he a hack filmmaker who is all flash and no substance. I think he’s somewhere in the middle and still finding his true voice as a filmmaker. I’ve always seen Snyder as being weak when it comes to handling the slower scenes of dialogue and most visual filmmakers tend to be the same when starting out. The dialogue seem to get in the way of what they really want to do and tell the story through striking visual sequences. They’re like painters who don’t need words to convey the emotions they wish to convey. Sucker Punch I believe suffered from Snyder trying to combine his strength on the visual side of the equation with his handling of story through the dialogue which he still hasn’t mastered. If someone else had written, or at the very least, fixed and strengthened the script, I do believe that the film wouldn’t be getting so ripped and trounced by those who had been so excited to seeing one of Snyder’s personal projects.

The performances by the cast ranged from good to just being there. There really wasn’t anyone in particular who performed badly. Everyone from Emily Browning to Oscar Isaac all the way to Abbie Cornish did well enough with the material they were given. Oscar Isaac as both Blue in the insane asylum and as the pimp in the burlesque house did particularly well playing up the fun role of the villain in Baby Doll’s different levels of reality/fantasy. Of the ladies in the film I must point out the performance of Jena Malone and Abbie Cornish as sisters in the second level. While we only get a glimpse of Cornish’s Sweet Pea character in the Lennox House, once in the burlesque setting she becomes the anchor by which the rest of the women in the cast held onto. Jena Malone as the younger sister Rocket who still dreamed hopes of escape was a nice complement to Sweet Pea.

So, we have a film in Sucker Punch which seem to have strength on one side of the filmmaking equation and a major weakness on another. This is the kind of film that I would, in the past, have dismissed as another attempt by Hollywood to pander to the geek crowd with its mash-up of different scifi and fantasy imagery. But this time around I actually enjoyed the film both in a visual sense and how Snyder was able to play with the audience’s personal observations about the themes his film is trying to explore. It’s these very themes which have split audiences into two camps. While the gender politics and stereotypes people have brought up in discussing this film have made for some lively debate I refrain from adding my views on it in this review. I think I’m not well-qualified to debate such discussions.

For me, Sucker Punch succeeds more than it fails because Snyder didn’t play it safe with how he wanted to make his film. He was able to tell the film’s story through the different visual styles for each world the cast played in and did it quite well. While most of the time I wouldn’t give a film a pass for a weak narrative and average dialogue with this film I felt like the experience one gets from experiencing the visual canvas Snyder continued to paint with from beginning to end was enough to balance out the negative. It’s really a film that one must experience for themselves and make their decision on that experience instead of listening to other’s opinions (both good and bad) about the film. One may end up hating the film like some, but then again they may end up like me and forgive Snyder for trying to reach for the sun and failing to do so, but at least tried to with panache instead of playing it safe.