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Feb 07 12

By Thomas Leupp

Chronicle, a dark sci-fi thriller about teenage superheroes, is a "found-footage" film, and it counts as one of the rare instances in which in which the increasingly prevalent – and increasingly maligned – technique is appropriately deployed, and not merely a cheap gimmick for manufacturing tension.

The story begins with Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a pale, saturnine lad, switching on a camera and declaring to his drunken father, who fumes outside his bedroom door, that he intends to "film everything." And so he does. Narrating in a gloomy, nasal drone, he documents the daily indignities of high school – being accosted by bullies, eating lunch alone on the bleachers – and crafts what by all appearances promises to be a smashing audition video for the Trenchoat Mafia.

Andrew's circumstances change considerably when he, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell, miscast as a cerebral egotist), and Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the school's reigning alpha male, chance upon a hole in a forest clearing that leads them deep underground, where they encounter something strange and otherworldly. Soon thereafter, the boys begin to manifest powers of telekinesis that would make a Jedi envious.

Rather than don spandex suits and hunt criminals, the boys do, well, what you would expect impulsive, judgment-impaired teenage boys to do: They play pranks on unsuspecting department-store shoppers, try to one-up each other with increasingly hazardous stunts, absolutely dominate beer pong competitions, and otherwise prove the perils of mating great power with great irresponsibility. (Their more prurient impulses, it should be noted, are kept safely within PG-13 limits.) This is when Chronicle is at its freshest and most compelling, enacting the mischievous daydreams of sci-fi-steeped youths.


Feb 07 12

By Matt Patches

There isn't much of a twist to The Woman in Black's haunted house tale: man goes to a creepy, old house, runs into an angry ghost, and mayhem ensues. That standard horror plot would be fine if the execution were thrilling, every scare sending a chill down the spine. But star Daniel Radcliffe's first post-Potter outing has less life than its spectral inhabitants, with impressive early 20th century production design, sharp cinematography and solid performances barely keeping it breathing. Much like the film's titular spirit, The Woman in Black hangs in limbo, haunting the quality divide.

ALTArthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is barely holding on in life, having lost his wife during the birth of their child and struggling to stay employed as a lawyer. To stay afloat, Kipps reluctantly takes on the job of settling the legal affairs of a recently deceased widow. Living in her home, the you-should-have-known-this-house-was-haunted-by-the-name Eel Marsh House, Kipps quickly realizes there's more to the woman's life than he realized, unraveling her mysterious connections to a string of child deaths and a ghostly presence in the home. Even with pressure from the townspeople, Kipps continues his investigation, hoping to right any wrongs he's accidentally caused by putting the violent Woman in Black to rest.

Radcliffe bounces back and forth between the dusty mansion, made even more forbidding by the high tides that routinely cut it off from civilization, and a town full of wide-eyed psychos who live in fear of the kid-killing Woman in Black. Even after losing his own son, Kipps' neighbor Daily (Ciaran Hinds) is convinced the "ghost" is a fairy tales, while Daily's wife (Oscar nominee Janet McTeer) finds herself occasionally possessed by her dead son, scribbling forbidding message to Arthur about future murders. Arthur wrestles with the two extreme points of view, but Woman in Black doesn't spend much time exploring the hardships of a skeptic, quickly slipping back into standard horror mode at every opportunity. When they have time to play around with the twisted scenario, all three actors are top-notch, but rarely are they asked to do anything but gasp and react in a terrified manner.

Director James Watkins (Eden Lake) conjures up some legitimately spooky imagery, leaving the space behind Arthur empty or cutting to an object in the room that could potentially come back to haunt our befuddled hero, all in an effort to tickle our imaginations. But like so many "jump scare" horror flicks, Woman in Black relies heavily on the "Bah-BAAAAAAH" music cues, obtrusively orchestrated by composer Marco Beltrami. A rocking chair, a swinging door and the reveal of a decomposing zombie ghost lady could work on their own, especially in such a well-designed environment as Eel Marsh House, but Woman in Black insists on zapping a charge of musical electricity straight into our brain, forcing us to shiver in the least graceful way possible.


Feb 07 12

By Thomas Leupp

You'd be forgiven for assuming Big Miracle, the new film from Ken Kwapis (He's Just Not That Into You, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), to be a made-for-TV movie. Its feel-good fervor and human-interest subject matter – the true tale of three whales trapped beneath the ice off the coast of Alaska in 1988 and the rescue efforts mounted on their behalf – certainly merit the Hallmark seal of approval, and its ensemble cast is littered with small-screen stars. But it opens this week not on the Discovery Channel or Lifetime but theaters – a few thousand of them, in fact. Perhaps that's the "miracle" of which the title speaks.

John Krasinski, taking care not to stray too far from his Office persona, stars as Adam Carlson, a Barrow, Alaska, TV newsman dreaming of the big time when a local boy (Ahmaogak Sweeney) arrives with a story that just might get him there: On the eve of their annual migration, a trio of grey whales have become marooned under the Arctic Circle's fast-forming ice sheet. Incapable of making the four-mile trek to open seas without running out of air, they cling to a shrinking hole in the ice, their only source of oxygen, as time slowly runs out.

No sooner has Adam filed his first report than Barrow is inundated with reporters, turning the plight of the whales into a media cause célèbre. A broad-based coalition is formed to free Fred, Wilma, and Bamm-Bamm, as they come to be nicknamed, bringing together such strange bedfellows as a headstrong environmental activist (Drew Barrymore), a scheming oil magnate (Ted Danson), a White House political operative (Vinessa Shaw), a native Alaskan tribe, and the Soviet navy.

Big Miracle is conceived an inspirational family film, and as such there are the usual array of heart-tugging scenes, but there's also an odd strain of cynicism that permeates it. Hardly a soul in the film, save perhaps for Barrymore's character, embraces the whales' cause with what might be deemed altruistic intentions. Krasinski's anchor eyes the crisis as an opportunity to advance his career, as does a rival reporter, played by Kristen Bell, who arrives on the scene shortly thereafter. Danson's oilman is seeking a public-relations boost, while Shaw's politico hopes to burnish the eco-friendly credentials of George H.W. Bush in advance of his presidential run. Even Krasinski's Eskimo sidekick makes a killing hawking souvenirs and accessories to visiting rubes. The whole thing ends up feeling like some kind of saccharine paean to the virtues of self-interest, a Hallmark special scripted by Ayn Rand.


Jan 31 12

By Thomas Leupp

In the cinematic desert that is the January-February movie-release schedule, one gains a greater appreciation for mere competence. And that's precisely what you'll get with Man on a Ledge, a mid-budget thriller with modest aspirations and genuine popcorn appeal. Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) stars as Nick Cassidy, a former New York City cop wrongly convicted for the theft of a prized diamond. After exhausting all judicial avenues for exoneration, he takes the unusual and seemingly desperate next step of planting himself on a ledge outside the penthouse of midtown's Roosevelt Hotel and threatening to jump. An NYPD psychologist (Elizabeth Banks) is summoned to talk him down, unaware that Nick harbors an ulterior motive. From his perch above midtown, he is secretly orchestrating a scheme to take revenge against the corrupt corporate chieftain (Ed Harris) who engineered his demise and prove his innocence once and for all.

Director Asger Leth, making his U.S. feature-film debut with Man on a Ledge, keeps the pace brisk and never allows the tone to stray into self-seriousness, which is crucial for a movie whose premise is so devoutly ridiculous. The script, from Pablo F. Fenjves, provides enough feints and twists to keep us engaged. Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez aren't the most believable of couples, but there's a screwball charm to their comic routine as amateur thieves charged with aiding Nick's scheme. (Leth can't resist inserting an entirely superfluous – but nonetheless greatly appreciated – scene of the criminally gorgeous Rodriguez stripping down to a thong in the middle of a heist.) Worthington makes for a likable populist protagonist, even if his Australian accent betrays him on copious occasions, and Harris' disturbingly emaciated frame lends an added menace to his devious plutocrat villain.


Jan 31 12

By Thomas Leupp

Liam Neeson is that rare breed of actor who grows more badass with age, who, at the cusp of 60, appears quite credible besting men 30 years younger – or anyone else foolish enough to provoke him. In The Grey – a macho man-versus-wild epic directed and co-written by Joe Carnahan – his foe is no less formidable than Mother Nature, in all her fury. She has met her match.

Neeson plays Ottway, a man whose sole job on an Alaskan oil rig consists of gunning down the occasional wolf that makes a run at an oilworker. (Fences, apparently, being in short supply in the Arctic.) Ottway is a hard, stoic sort, and one gets the strong sense that he tended toward irascibility even before his wife departed (for reasons not made clear till late in the film), taking with her his remaining purpose for living. He gains a new one, appropriately enough, when his flight home crashes down in the Alaskan wilderness, killing all but a handful of its passengers. Ottway, his survival skills honed in a previous life, emerges as the only person capable of guiding them to salvation.

Carnahan surrounds Neeson with an ensemble of familiar types, the most notable of which are Talget (Dermot Mulroney), the family man, Henrick (Dallas Roberts), the conscience, and Diaz (Frank Grillo), the jerk. They encounter the predictable male team-building hurdles, puffing chests and locking horns, before Ottway asserts himself as the Alpha Male. Figuring they'll perish before salvation arrives, they agree to make the perilous trek to the nearest human habitat, braving an number of dangers, the most fearsome of which are the ravenous "rogue wolves" that roam the landscape. (The film, shot in British Columbia in conditions that were apparently every bit as brutal as they appear on-screen, certainly looks authentic – both beautiful and ominous.)

When they aren't battling the predatory menace, the men have time – far too much time – to reflect upon their plight and its existential implications. The Grey would have been perfectly enjoyable as a straightforward survival epic, the "Liam punches wolves" movie promised by the trailer, but Carnahan is intent on imbuing the film with a philosophical poignancy wholly unsuitable for a film featuring lines like "We're in Fuck City, Population Five," and "We're gonna cook this son of a bitch!" – the latter uttered at the capture of one of the wolves. As a film, Carnahan's ponderous and heavy-handed tendencies leave The Grey feeling a bit overcooked.


Jan 24 12

By Thomas Leupp

According to official Haywire lore, director Steven Soderbergh chanced upon the woman who would become the star of his breakneck action-thriller one night while watching television. Which isn't entirely unusual, except that Soderbergh wasn't watching some obscure indie film or BBC miniseries, but a bout of women's mixed martial arts fighting. So impressed was he at the sight of Gina Carano, an American Gladiators alum turned cage fighter, that he had the Haywire script, from The Limey writer Lem Dobbs, reworked to accommodate her casting.

In the film, a conventional spy-gone-rogue tale made unconventional by its director and star, Carano plays Mallory Kane, a black-ops freelancer who seeks vengeance against her betrayers upon being double-crossed. Watching her in action, it's easy to see why Soderbergh was so enamored. Carano is a physical marvel: strong and agile, a skilled fighter and grappler with the face of a model and the shoulders of a linebacker. Having grown accustomed to waif-like action heroines played unconvincingly by the likes of Beckinsale, Jovovich, and Jolie, it's refreshing to witness an actress who can deliver a knockout blow – and take one – with some credulity.

And Carano kicks a staggering amount of ass in Haywire. In the film's many fight scenes, Soderbergh prefers wide angles and long takes, the better to showcase his star's talent for violence. There are no shaky-cam close-ups to cheat the action, and the sound is almost strictly diegetic, lending each of Carano's brawls (and they are brawls, messy and destructive) a brutal verisimilitude.

It's when the action stops in Haywire that Carano's deficiencies as an actress become apparent – she's wooden and flat, well beyond the requirements of her coldly efficient character – and so Soderbergh labors conspicuously to ensure it hardly ever does. When Mallory Kane isn't fighting, she's running, a fugitive agent scrambling to find out who engineered her downfall even as threats amass against her. Each lengthy pursuit is stylishly photographed from a variety of exotic angles (my favorite being an extended tracking shot of Carano, facing the camera, in the center of the frame, as if to say, "Jesus, would you look at her?"), Hitchcockian chase sequences to cleanse our palate in between the film's bloody skirmishes.


Jan 24 12

By Thomas Leupp

After sitting out most of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, the 2009 "prequel" to the Underworld saga, Kate Beckinsale returns to her trademark role as the face of the blockbuster action-horror franchise in Underworld: Awakening. The film finds Beckinsale's vampire heroine, Selene, waking up in a research facility after a dozen years in hibernation, whereupon she discovers that both vampires and lycans, the traditional adversaries of the Underworld universe, are now nearly extinct – "cleansed," as it were, by us good-old humans – and that her 12-year-old daughter, Eve (India Eisley), is imperiled. It seems that both the dreaded lycans and a mad scientist named Dr. Jacob Lane (poor Stephen Rea) are after the girl, on account of her special DNA.

All of which is meant to provide a serviceable backdrop for a good 85 minutes or so of relentless carnage, orchestrated with relish by the Swedish directing tandem of Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein and meted out dutifully by Beckinsale. Nine years after she first portrayed Selene, the actress appears as comfortable as ever in her familiar black leather as she carves through waves of monstrous creatures and hapless henchmen, performing the odd acrobatic feat to better position herself for the killing blow. The bloodlust occasionally pauses to allow Beckinsale a moment to emote over lost love or seek a fleeting bond with her offspring, but soon more CGI beasts arrive on hand, and the soulless slaughter hastily recommences. Gorehounds hungry for splatter will delight at the myriad ways Underworld: Awakening finds to depict an exploding skull (in fabulous, brain-bursting IMAX 3D!), but in the end, they're likely the only ones who'll leave the theater sated.


Jan 24 12

By Matt Patches

While Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan helped define the style of a modern day war film, it was his HBO mini-series Band of Brothers that truly captured the World War II experience. The multi-part saga dealt with every nook and cranny of the US military's involvement in the war, from large scale battles to intimate character details. The new movie Red Tails, developed and produced by Spielberg's Indiana Jones collaborator and Star Wars mastermind George Lucas, attempts to cover the same ground for the sprawling tale of the Tuskegee Airmen—albeit in a two hour, compressed form. The result is a messy handling of a powerful story of heroism. The good intentions make it on to the screen...but the drama never gets off the runway.

Red Tails assembles a talented cast of young actors to portray the brave men of the 332nd Fighter Group, a faction of the Tuskegee Airmen. The ensemble is reduced to a jumble of simplistic, one-note characterizations: Easy (Nate Parker), the do-gooder with a dark past; Lightning (David Oyelowo), the suave rebel who never listens to orders; Junior (Tristan Wilds), the fresh-faced newbie ready for a good fight; and the rest, a nameless group of underwritten yes men all with just enough backstory to make you interested, but never satisfied. Thankfully, with the little material they have to work with, the gentlemen excel. Rapper-turned-actor Ne-Yo is a standout as the quick-witted Smokey, overshadowing vets Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. (who spends most of the movie chomping on a corn cob pipe and grinning).

With the plethora of characters comes too many plot threads, and Red Tails stuffs its runtime with everything from epic flyboy dog fights, romantic interludes (Lightning finds himself infatuated with a local Italian woman), office politics, alcoholism and even a POW camp escape. If there was a true lead character, the movie may have succeeded in stringing the events together in a coherent narrative, but instead, Red Tails is choppy and uneven. The aerial battles, for all their CG special effects nastiness, are incredibly exhilarating, but when the movie's not tackling the intensity of a battle (which it does often), it comes to a near halt. That mostly comes down to history standing in the way—the crux of the story focuses on how segregation caused the military's higher ups to avoid utilizing the Red Tails in true battle. Meaning there's a lot of talk on how the team should be fighting, as opposed to actually doing it.

Director Anthony Hemingway tries to do this important historical milestone justice, but the execution flies too low, even under made-for-TV movie standards. Red Tails is a dull history lesson occasionally spruced up with Lucas' eye for action. The charisma of the the main set of actors goes a long way in keeping the film tolerable, but they can't fill the gaping hole where the emotional hook belongs. This is a movie about heroes, yet not once are the filmmakers able to pull off a moment that feels remotely brave. Which is unfortunate—as it's a story of the utmost importance.


Jan 17 12

By Matt Patches

A massive hit never ends at its own conclusion, for better or worse. Lost, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, The Blair Witch Project and other pop culture milestones spawned plenty of imitators of wavering quality that trickled on to screens until the phenomena tapered off. Joyful Noise, the new film starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, is one these auxiliary creative endeavors, a direct descendant of the cheeky drama/comedy/musical hybrid Glee. But instead of teenage issues and pop covers, Joyful Noise swaps in familial struggles, gospel tunes and a sizable serving of Christian faith. The combination results in a movie that lacks the jazz hand energy of Glee, but packs good-natured laughs to keep someone awake for its two hour duration. More "noise" than "joyful."

ALTMere minutes after the passing away of choir leader Bernie, Vi Rose (Latifah) inherits the position—along with a serving of negative vibes from Bernie's wife G.G. (Parton), who was hoping to take the job herself. The new responsibility is only the beginning of Vi Rose's troubles, as she attempts to balance her rebellious daughter Olivia's (Keke Palmer) raging hormones, her son Walter's (Dexter Darden) Asperger's syndrome, her husband's absence during a military stint and her own old school, God-faring ways. Hardships are whipped into further chaos upon the arrival of Randy, G.G.'s rambunctious, horny grandson, who shows up at rehearsal with an eye on Olivia and undeniable vocal skills. Randy's rock and roll edge is readily embraced by the group, but even with the national gospel championship on the line, Vi Rose isn't ready to toss tradition aside.

Joyful Noise is a mixed bag, sporadically entertaining when director Todd Graff (Camp, Bandslam) lets his two commanding stars flex their comedic muscles or belt soulful tunes. Latifah and Parton can do both with ease—Latifah has a natural charm, while Parton essentially fills the "kooky Betty White" here—but instead of letting the two fly, Graff breaks up the action with overwrought drama and bizarre side character stories. The script injects a lot of ideas into the picture—loss of faith, modernizing ideologies, coping with tragedy, sexuality under the eye of God—but every tender moment is fumbled. A gut-wrenching conversation between Vi Rose and her autistic son should have weight, and the actors do their best, but the material doesn't service the emotional complexity of the scenario. Instead, it opts to cut to a musical number. Another sequence involving the overnight demise of another character is even played for comedy, even when it causes one woman to question her beliefs.

Thank God for the musical numbers, which have enough energy to brush the flimsier moments under the rug. The Glee-inspired pop tune covers (Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," Usher's "Yeah"—both tailored with religious modifications) aren't nearly as interesting or powerful as the straight-up gospel songs. But unlike the tunes, Joyful Noise doesn't have rhyme or reason. A mishmash of played out character stereotypes, narrative cliches and enjoyable, but erratic music, the movie feels more like a cash-in than it should. Latifah and Parton are a sizzling duo, but the vehicle built for them is a clunker. As Vi Rose might say, the only way to have a great time at Joyful Noise is to believe. Really, really hard.


Jan 17 12

By Thomas Leupp

The nautical heist thriller Contraband is a remake of Reykjavik-Rotterdam, an Icelandic film from 2008 which, admittedly, I've yet to see. (It's curiously difficult to find stateside.) Presumably, there must have been something about it that was compelling enough to warrant the effort and expense of an American adaptation. Whatever it was, it didn't survive the no doubt complicated process of translating it into a proper Mark Wahlberg vehicle.

Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, once a legendary New Orleans smuggler but now happily law-abiding as a home-security contractor. The same, however, cannot be said of his punk brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), who runs illegal shipments for a tattooed hoodlum named Tim Riggs (Giovanni Ribisi). When Andy makes the unwise decision to dump his valuable narcotics cargo in advance of a Customs raid, earning the dreaded pay-up-or-die ultimatum from his unsavory boss, Chris tries in vain to intervene on his behalf, only to be rudely rebuffed. Which leaves him with only one option to save Andy's skin: One Last Job.

The director of Contraband, Baltasar Kormakur, actually starred in Reykjavik-Rotterdam – a piece of trivia which, unfortunately, proves far more interesting than anything found in his remake. It seems his familiarity with the material bred banality, if not necessarily contempt. His approach is a kind of Bourne-lite: the shaky-cam is restrained enough to minimize audience headaches, but the ultimate result is stultifyingly generic.

Essential to any successful Mark Wahlberg film, from Boogie Nights to The Fighter, has been to surround Wahlberg with more accomplished and versatile actors, thereby allowing him to focus on his core competencies of scowling, cursing, and otherwise radiating his unique brand of low-watt charisma. Kormakur assembled capable-enough performers for Contraband, only to saddle them with uniformly bland characters.


Jan 10 12

By Thomas Leupp

The opening credits of the found-footage excretion The Devil Inside include a helpful disclaimer advising us that the Vatican "did not endorse this film, nor aid in its completion," just in case we might be inclined to believe the Holy See were in the business of making schlocky horror flicks. One's heart goes out to Satan, whose involvement in the film is pretty clearly implied by the title, but who received no such disclaimer. Even he deserves better than to be associated with this dreck.

The pseudo-doc-style story centers on a young girl, Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade), whose mother, Maria (Suzan Crowley), murdered three people twenty years prior during what was later revealed to be an exorcism gone awry. Seeking to learn more about the tragedy that consumed her mother, Isabella travels to Italy, where Maria is currently housed in a Vatican-run mental hospital. The doctors prove frustratingly insensitive to her mother's affliction, causing Isabella to see out a pair of young renegade exorcists (Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth) for help.

Maria is one creepy bird, a frazzled cat-lady whose eyes blaze with penetrating, high-octane craziness even under heaviest of sedation. An early scene, in which Isabella meets with her near-catatonic mother and gently tries to ascertain whether her insanity is of the conventional or demonically-inspired variety, oozes tension as we wait for her whispered ramblings to explode into full-on Satanic mania. It's a terrifically fraught scene, by far the best in the film, and, sadly, the only point in which we ever come close to being scared.

The film proffers a variety of different narrative threads and chooses to resolve none of them. What happened to the English priest's uncle, or Isabella's baby? And what of that poor possessed gal with the hemorrhaging vagina? Was she ever able to get that under control? God only knows. Even crazy-eyes Maria, the film's MVP, makes an all-too-hasty exit, never to be hear from again after a half-baked exorcism attempt.


Dec 29 11

By Matt Patches

In the Land of Blood and Honey adorns the name "Angelina Jolie" across its marketing materials, but don't expect to see the seraphic starlet pop up on screen. Jolie makes her directorial debut with the Bosnian war film, a powerful drama that strives for realism in its use of homegrown talent, the setting's native tongue and graphic depictions of violence. The goal of the movie is apparent: the genocide committed across the Balkan region in the early '90s was all but swept under the rug, and Jolie is ready to unleash those horrific truths upon willing audiences. In the Land of Blood and Honey pulls no punches. The movie is terrifying and provocative, telling a conventional love story only as a way of connecting with the mainstream. War is ugly, and Jolie's film presents it truthfully.

Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) and Danijel (Goran Kostic) are two Bosnians in the beginnings of a relationship—one that is eventually cut short by the eruption of conflict. Danijel, a Serb police officer, is recruited by his militant leader father Nebojsa (Rade Serbedzija) to join the Serb Army, whose goal is wipe the country clean of Bosnian Muslims. He's eventually reunited with Ajla, after she's captured by the Serbs and incarcerated in a concentration camp. There she is subjected to mental and physical torture, serving the Serbs as they return from systematically wiping out her people and routinely being the target of their sexual abuse. Before finding himself whisked away on reassignment, Danijel clues Ajla into an escape route, which sends the prisoner on a journey through the war-torn country, in hopes of reuniting with her family, and possibly, Danijel.

While the Romeo and Juliet-esque romance between Danijel and Ajla adds to the weight of the situation, it never feels like the focus of In the Land of Blood and Honey. Rather than developing the complexity of the duo, Jolie uses her characters as emotional proxies, which works as a window into the unimaginable events of the war. Marjanovic and Kostic deliver compelling performances as Danijel and Ajla–both characters struggle with what they're romantic actions with one another mean to their respective causes—but even with their thread, the real drama comes from the world around them.

There's no safety filter on the gut-wrenching atrocities Jolie puts on display: lines of Bosnian Muslims stripped naked and executed, women seized by the Serbs and used as human shields, and hidden refugees sacrificing their own just to remain concealed. The film is shot simply, but the images speak for themselves. At times, the character/dialogue-driven moments feel more like necessary pit stops before the next harrowing sequence—even in introspective moments, like a scene in which Danijel contemplates and resists sniping a nearby enemy—but without them, the movie would lack the necessary truth of the final product.


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