TIFF 2013 Review: Intruders

Intruders“Intruders” is a taut thriller from South Korea that is one of those movies that is much better if you see it without many spoilers. It takes that simple Cabin in the Woods horror premise, and writer/director Noh Young-Seok has a lot of fun with it. But not quite as much fun as Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods,” mind you. There’s an overlapping news commentary throughout that comments on a brewing war between the two Koreas, but I won’t go into it. (I think that’s what the news was about – all I remember it was political.)

This film has a lot of surprises. It might stay close to my heart because it was the first movie I ever saw that was part of a film festival programme. If I just saw it at the theatre, I still would have liked it. It’s immensely entertaining. It has plenty of scares and it’s an edge-of-one’s-seat experience. It’s great for that. It also has plenty of great laughs, if your sense of humour is dark. I like the type of Young-Seok’s type of humour.

Intruders 2His characters are simply characterized. There’s a funny comic relief character who is friendly and oddly insistent. There’s a timid writer who is the main protagonist that goes to an isolated lodge to finish a screenplay. When he begins to feel relatively terrorized by a duo of hunting locals, he jumps at the chance to rent a room out to a small group of skiiers. It went from one person at a cabin in the woods, to the traditional five. It always interests me to see American horror tropes have a cultural cross-over. This film makes it unique, as it blends solid thrills and black comedy. The way Young-Seok gets laughs is simple, yet so effective.

I’ll let you be surprised for the rest of the experience. I liked the characters. I laughed, I didn’t cry, and I almost jumped a few times. It’s a fun experience. I have a few nitpickings about the ending – but eh, what can you do? Young-Seok achieves what he sets out to do; he puts his small cast in a  blisteringly cold village, and everyone involved seems to be enjoying themselves. The tension-building is impressive. The finale drags a bit, making it feels like a movie that is over 100 minutes, rather than 99 minutes it actually is. Those are my minor complaints.

Intruders 3It was an interesting experience to watch the film with the director sitting in the audience. It was a great gesture that everyone was really kind to him and applauded his film. I don’t usually applaud after films at my local theatre, but the applaud was deserved. Well done, Young-Seok. It’s a fun film that’s rarely as obvious as it seems.

Score77/100

The Last of Robin Hood – TIFF 2013 Review

Released: September 6, 2013 at Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland. Starring: Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning, Susan Sarandon. Runtime: 94 min. 

The Last Of Robin Hood“The Last of Robin Hood” chronicles the final months of Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline), the iconic Robin Hood star and well-known ladies man. During this time, he had a romance with the under-age starlet Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), his last love, and he was her first. Susan Sarandon portrays the world’s worst Mom, Florence Aadland, who agrees to go around with Errol and her daughter so the press doesn’t think anything fishy is going on.

The tale is told in a stylish and entertaining manner. Beverly and Florence’s personality clashes are interesting. Florence is willing to do just about anything to get the spotlight shone on her, while Bev is completely indifferent about fame. Fame is Flo’s dream, not Bev’s. This lifestyle is shoved onto Beverly. Flo lost her leg in a bad car accident when she was younger. I theorize that Florence would have liked to eventually pursue an acting career, but couldn’t because her prosthetic leg held her back. No matter the case, she is the world’s worst mother.

Beverly is also one bad actress. When Beverly is on-screen shooting a movie, it’s hilarious because during her one shoot, she’s absolutely terrible – but Dakota Fanning’s performance is good. You can tell when she’s acting well, and acting purposefully bad. As her father says in one powerful scene, Bev cannot act her way out of a paper bag. The father is portrayed by Patrick St. Esprit, who is effective in one scene. Sarandon brings it to her role, and it must be challenging to portray a mother that pretends to make sacrifice after sacrifice for her daughter, but it’s mostly just what she wants.

The romance between Errol and Bev might be controversial because of their age difference, but it seems real, and makes for an interesting subject. Kevin Kline is the perfect choice for Errol Flynn, and it’s interesting to learn all of this about the original Robin Hood. His performance, and the rest of the primary cast, elevates the film to a whole new level. It’s stylish and there’s a decent amount of comic relief. This is an enjoyable passion project from directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. It’s never boring, but the content is repetitive. Much like “My Week with Marilyn,” this bio pic is light on just about everything. It’s good that way, but it doesn’t help it stand out.

Score74/100

Eight Crazy Nights (2002)

Eight Crazy NightsReleased: November 27, 2002. Directed by: Seth Kearsley. Starring (voices): Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Jackie Sandler. Runtime: 76 min.

One can really feel the Christmas cheer of this movie. Too bad it’s incredibly flawed. The musical numbers are dumb, yet catchy. The humour is also stupid, but sometimes very funny.

The movie follows Davey Stone (Adam Sandler), the Ebenezer Scrooge of his town. He hasn’t liked the holidays ever since his parents died when he was a kid. He is a wayward citizen who is always getting into trouble. As a way of getting out of jail, he has to do community service under the watchful eye of referee Whitey Duvall (also voiced by Adam Sandler), who is often taken advantage of, and not really noticed. That doesn’t help his cause, as he is trying to win the local award for the most generous citizen. Whitey lives with his sister Eleanor (also voiced by Sandler), who Davey must bunk with after his trailer burned down.

The story is basically about a guy trying to become a better man. Rob Schneider is the narrator who chimes in with comments that are what most are thinking while watching. But his constant narration also is an ode to the movie’s poor storytelling. It also is quite annoying when he laughs at his own jokes.

The animation is good. The character designs feel reminiscent of “The Iron Giant.” Adam Sandler voices most of the primary characters, so if you can tolerate him, you might like this – it’s triple the Sandler dosage, even if the movie’s only 76 minutes. This is one of those movies where some viewers might say: “This is so stupid, but why am I enjoying so much?” I was one of those when I was younger, but not so much now.

It is funny in parts. But it always dumb; and the emotional aspects of the movie rarely ring true. It’s too bad, really, because the movie could have been much more successful, if only the filmmakers were not so obsessed with jokes involving almost all of the bodily functions.

Score: 50/100

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007)

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & LarryReleased: July 20, 2007. Directed by: Dennis Dugan. Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel. Runtime: 115 min.

Adam Sandler is a real master of mediocrity. He enlists the help of his friends, a crappy buddy director, and usually a few crappy screenwriters. Usually. “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” doesn’t buck most of those trends.

The plot follows firefighter Larry Valentine (Kevin James) who gets a scare from a day on the job, and enlists the help of his buddy Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler), his best friend/town whore, to marry him so Larry can receive the domestic partnership benefits. Problems arise when the state get on their case, and are suspicious of their true intentions.

Dennis Dugan does nothing to buck that aforementioned “crappy director” trend. I mean, he’s okay here, since he directs the one action sequence in a burning building well. That’s something different for him. One trend is partly bucked: the crappy screenwriters. The screenplay is still silly, but Oscar-winning screen-writer Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”) very surprisingly is one of the three writers on board. It’s admittedly stronger than most of Sandler’s movies, and I can only assume it’s because Payne is on-board.

The sentimentality is sincere, but the chemistry between everyone isn’t awesome. This situation just isn’t believable, especially the fact that the screenwriters believe the gay community might actually hail these characters as noble heroes. The two main characters aren’t likeable enough. Jessica Biel is only okay, but everyone is phoning in their performances. Sandler is playing Sandler. There are some big laughs, but not enough by the third or fourth viewing.

Rob Schneider shows up as an Asian minister in yellow-face, so I guess it can’t get any more offensive than that. The movie’s predictable and all that, but it’s watchable, but be warned – some will be mildly offended throughout. One would think firefighters would be more likable than this, especially Dan Aykroyd. Nope, not really. It’s too long for this type-of hoax, and there are only a few big laughs to leave the bland taste out of your mouth. Young teens will be entertained, and I guess it does have some entertainment value, but I’ve officially worn it out.

Score: 63/100

Box Office Predictions: September 6-8

The only new nationwide release this weekend is “Riddick,” the third in the franchise. It’s been nine years since the last Riddick movie, so I wonder how many will be making it to the theatre to see this one this weekend. “Pitch Black” has gone on to become a bit of a cult classic, but I don’t think that’s the case with the first sequel. I learn this one is a lot more like “Pitch Black” than the sequel. “Pitch Black” opened to $11.577 million, while “Chronicles of Riddick” opened to $24.29 million. Movies similar to this open to $14.295 million. Nine years is way too much time between sequels, but I think this could win the weekend and do a solid $26.16 million.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. “Riddick”: $26.16m
2. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”: 12.6m
3. “We’re the Millers“: $10.2m
4. “One Direction: This is Us”: $6.7m
5. “Instructions Not Included”: $6.3m
6. “Elysium”: $5.5m
7. “Planes”: $5.2m
8. “This is the End“: $3.76m
9. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”: $3.3m
10. “The World’s End”: $3m

Happy Gilmore (1996)

Happy GilmoreReleased: February 16, 1996. Directed by: Dennis Dugan. Starring: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen. Runtime: 92 min.

“Happy Gilmore” is a silly sports comedy, which is its purpose; but God is it funny. Sandler plays the titular Happy Gilmore, a hockey-player-turned-golf-player because he has a wicked slap shot, but he can’t exactly skate so well. He takes his hockey skills and places them on the golf course, even if he has a hard time tapping the ball in sometimes. To help him with that is a love interest, Virginia Venet (Julie Bowen), and a former golf pro, Chubbs (Carl Weathers) to teach him how to improve on his game.

Happy’s motivation to join the golf tour is his grandmother, who hasn’t paid her taxes in years. Due to that, she loses her home – and in order to get it back, he’ll need some money.

Adam Sandler 11

Fights with Bob Barker and other golfing patrons, distracting patrons yelling “Jackass!”, the villain, Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), and endless product placement for Subway certainly makes this a satisfying and memorable Sandler movie. Oh, and then there is Ben Stiller’s turn as a crazed worker at the retirement home Gilmore’s grandmother stays at.

“Happy Gilmore” is a sweet, if entirely predictable sports comedy, and one of my favourite golf movies, even if it’s not in the same league as “Caddyshack.” It is still both Adam Sandler’s and director Dennis Dugan’s strongest comedies. I find myself laughing at this every time, no matter how many times I watch it.

There are solid chuckles throughout, and truly hilarious scenes. People will, of course, like it a lot more if they enjoy Sandler’s brand of comedy. This character gets very angry, which makes the title ironic. He’s a nice guy who means well, even if he’s generic to a fault. He is one of Sandler’s best characters. Wouldn’t it have been awesome if Sandler’s “Anger Management” movie was a sequel to this?

Score83/100