Tag Archives: Tony Shalhoub

1408 (2007) Review

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Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains supernatural themes & violence
Cast:
John Cusack as Michael “Mike” Enslin
Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin
Mary McCormack as Lily Enslin
Tony Shalhoub as Sam Farrell
Director: Mikael Håfström

A man who specializes in debunking paranormal occurrences (John Cusack) checks into the fabled room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. As he settles in, he confronts genuine terror.

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I heard about 1408 for some time, I knew it as a horror movie based on a Stephen King book that starred John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson and involved a specific hotel room. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect from it, though I did notice some reactions to the movie to be a little mixed. I actually ended up enjoying it, even if I wouldn’t exactly call it a great movie.

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The setup of the movie is pretty simple, and the plot moves at a reasonable pace, really picking up from the moment that lead character Mike Enslin (played by John Cusack) first enters Room 1408. The story is pretty fun and kept my interest, especially with the mystery of the room even if by the end it doesn’t live up to its potential and build up. The movie does fall into some typical clichés of the genre and doesn’t surprise too much. With that said, I can say it very much feels like a Stephen King story, for better and for worse. It’s not scary but it is suspenseful and creative as everything is thrown at Enslin and he tries to figure out what to do next. I can’t tell whether some of the scenes are intentionally funny or just unintentionally funny, but some scenes were so over the top that I had fun with them, and not necessarily in a bad way. A particular scene involving a very agitated John Cusack and a mini fridge does make me feel like there was some self-awareness while making the movie. At the same time, there are some genuinely effective scenes, especially in the second half of the movie. I should point out that there are two versions (and apparently somehow three endings) of the movie. Strangely enough, the director’s cut is now the version of 1408 mostly on display for people to watch on Blu-ray and streaming services. Also strangely enough, the theatrical cut ending ended up being superior to the director’s cut. While I liked the initial idea and different direction of the director’s cut ending, ultimately the execution just ends up being really nothing and was unsatisfying. The ending in the theatrical cut, while seemingly less dark, was actually a lot more effective; sadly, you’ll probably only get to see that version if you have the DVD copy of 1408. So in saying that, directly after watching 1408 (it’ll no doubt be the director’s cut), I would recommend looking online at the theatrical cut ending.

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Much of the movie belongs to John Cusack, it’s basically a one man show for him and he does very well. His character is a strong sceptic about ghosts and hauntings as a writer, who is confronted with so much while inside this room and it’s very entertaining to watch him. He’s super into his scenes and embraces his character and all the emotions he’s tasked with delivering. Much of his acting can be hilarious at points, but I think that accompanies the tone of the movie very fittingly. On a side note though, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if Nicolas Cage was in the role instead simply for the over the top insanity scenes (that aforementioned mini-fridge scene certainly felt like a moment right out of a Cage film). Samuel L. Jackson is second billed in the cast but wasn’t in the movie much. However, he’s very memorable and good as the manager of the hotel who warns Cusack’s character about the dangers of staying in Room 1408.

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One of 1408’s strongest aspects was the direction from Mikael Hafstrom. The look of the movie outside of the hotel (and especially during the day) looks a bit off, but otherwise the film looks really great and is shot and composed well. Some strong atmosphere and tension are created early on, and again it shines particularly in the scenes in Room 1408. I don’t think the scares were particularly good, some the jump scares are honestly rather lame and ineffective, but the atmosphere and mystery portions of the film were good. The editing at points can be a little uneven but nothing movie breaking.

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1408 does have its issues and I wouldn’t place it as the top tier of Stephen King film adaptations, but I think it’s pretty good. The intriguing and entertaining story, the solid direction and the committed lead performance from John Cusack come together to make a decent horror movie. Don’t expect something at the level of like The Shining, but I do think it’s a movie you might have a lot of fun watching, worth a look.

Men in Black 2 (2002) Review

Time: 88 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tommy Lee Jones as Kevin Brown/Agent K
Will Smith as James Darrell Edwards III/Agent J
Rip Torn as Chief Zed
Lara Flynn Boyle as Serleena
Johnny Knoxville as Scrad/Charlie
Rosario Dawson as Laura Vasquez
Tony Shalhoub as Jack Jeebs
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) and Jay (Will Smith) reunite to provide our best line of defense against a seductress who levels the toughest challenge yet to the MIBs mission statement: protecting the earth from the scum of the universe. While investigating a routine crime, Jay uncovers a plot masterminded by Serleena (Boyle), a Kylothian monster who disguises herself as a lingerie model. When Serleena takes the MIB building hostage, there is only one person Jay can turn to — his former MIB partner.

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Men in Black was such a hit when it came out back in 1997, inevitably it would be getting a sequel. However, Men in Black 2 just didn’t live up to the first movie and really pales in comparison. It’s not terrible by any means, and it’s still rather entertaining. After watching the first two movies in one night though, you can clearly see the downgrade.

With the (spoiler alert) ending of the previous movie with Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) having his memory erased, the sequel really needed to bring him back, it really does undo a bit of the impact from the ending of the first movie. However, it was kind of inevitable, the paring of Kay and Jay (Will Smith) is what made the first movie especially good and stand out. The plot is about Kay having to remember certain things, even after regaining his memory of himself. The plot in the first movie wasn’t fantastic by any means but the plot in this movie just feels rather underwhelming in comparison, like they’re just backtracking and isn’t really that exciting. Much of Men in Black 2 recycles many of the stuff from the first movie and doesn’t do anything too special. While there was still quite a bit of humour that I liked, some of it didn’t feel as fresh. Not that it’s a massive downgrade, it’s just a cut below how funny the first movie was. The previous movie is just under an hour and 40 minutes long, surprisingly Men in Black 2 is less than 90 minutes long, and it really feels like it. While it doesn’t even need to be like 2 hours long, it could’ve had more happening in it, because as it is, it felt a little empty.

The best part about this movie unsurprisingly is Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Their chemistry is still just as good as in the first movie and they worked well, especially with the dynamic between them. Rosario Dawson is a great actress but despite her having a somewhat important role in the movie, really doesn’t get to do much unfortunately. She’s not bad at all but is just sort of a plot device and nothing more. The villains of Men in Black are a little weird but mostly work, that is to say that 2/3 of them work, and the missing third is from Men in Black 2. Lara Flynn Boyle plays some shapeshifting alien seductress with tentacles, who takes the appearance of a lingerie model. It’s just painful watching her on screen, Boyle really doesn’t have anything to do here except act threatening and sexy, really among my least favourite parts of the movie. Also, Johnny Knoxville is here for some reason and I really would’ve preferred that he wasn’t. Oh and also Michael Jackson shows up at one point for some reason.

Barry Sonnefeld returns to direct and one of the things going for the movie is that it still feels like a Men in Black movie, even if many of the other aspects are weaker than the first movie. The visual effects in the first movie were a little dated but even the weaker effects were at least entertaining in a campy way. With the sequel, somehow the effects have aged much worse, embarrassingly so. I guess they wanted to go bigger, and certain action scenes are bigger and involve larger things happening, but as you can probably already tell the effects on them don’t look particularly good. I’ve seen worse for sure though, and after a while you can get over it.

Men in Black 2 wasn’t that good, while it doesn’t do anything particularly terrible (outside of the effects), it feels like a rehash of the previous movie, only not done quite as well. I probably do like it more than most people who’ve seen it though. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are still good and there are some entertaining bits to it. If you’re a fan of the first movie you might like the second one, worth giving it a shot at the very least.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Review

Left to right: Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, and Donatello in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, from Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium Level Violence
Cast:
Johnny Knoxville as Leonardo (voice)
Pete Ploszek as Leonardo (motion capture)
Alan Ritchson as Raphael
Noel Fisher as Michelangelo
Jeremy Howard as Donatello
Megan Fox as April O’Neil
Malina Weissman as Young April
Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick
William Fichtner as Eric Sacks
Tony Shalhoub as Splinter (voice)
Danny Woodburn as Splinter (motion capture)
Tohoru Masamune as Shredder
Whoopi Goldberg as Bernadette Thompson
Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Spawned from a lab experiment gone awry, teenage terrapins Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael live in the sewers beneath New York. Although their rodent sensei, Splinter, advises against showing themselves above ground, the justice-loving, pizza-eating brothers can’t stand idly by while evil Shredder and his minions terrorize the city. With help from intrepid reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her cameraman (Will Arnett), the Turtles set out to save New York.

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I wasn’t excited for this film for a number of reasons, first of all I’m not a big TMNT fan and second of all, Michael Bay produced it and at this point it’s not even worth trying to expect good things coming out of him at this point (Though I heard 13 Hours was pretty good). However despite all that this movie really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There are some decent action scenes and I wasn’t really bored throughout this movie. However, it’s still not a good movie and has almost all the elements that made Transformers such a failure.

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The film focuses more on April O’Neil, which I think is a pretty big mistake. It’s like how the Transformers movies focussed more on the human over the Transformers. I don’t know why Michael Bay keeps having movies focus on the humans instead of the titular characters, humans aren’t the most interesting characters when the movie has giant mutant turtles. Also the tone was a little too serious, it had the tone of a Transformers movie, that’s the vibe that I got throughout the movie. I don’t know much about TMNT but I do know that they usually have a lighter tone. Also I felt that the story wasn’t very strong, I didn’t particularly care about what was going on, I was just enjoying the action when it was happening.

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Megan Fox isn’t a very good actress but she was fine in her role, she didn’t distract as much as I thought she would. The performance that surprisingly annoyed me more was Will Arnett, whose sole purpose was to be the comic relief. Shredder, the main villain of the movie is the most generic villain you could find, even Doctor Doom in the last act of Fant4stic wasn’t this roughly put together. The reason was that William Fichtner was going to be him before the casting backlash which resulted in some random faceless guy with no personality being Shredder. William Fichtner was pretty good in the movie but there was no real payoff of his character because of the production change.

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Even though Michael Bay produced it, his fingerprints are all over it. The action scenes are fun to watch but they are very Transformers esque and are very over the top. A lot of people have talked about the designs of the turtles, and yes they do look a little badly designed. It’s not so much the body design I have a problem with, it’s that the heads looked a little messy. From the trailer of the sequel, the designs do look better so at least Bay and others are listening to the feedback.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it’s by no means a good movie. It does have some fun action scenes but at the same time it felt like a Michael Bay movie with it’s over the top action, annoying humour and a story that’s not very interesting. I don’t think you really need to see the whole movie, the main plus of the film is the action. Everything else is fine or straying into bad territory. The sequel, Out of the Shadows, actually looks pretty good and has potential to be the TMNT movie that fans want. It probably won’t have to try that hard to be better than this movie, this movie wasn’t bad but it felt quite mediocre overall.