Carl Ellsworth

Carl Ellsworth

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The Last House on the Left (2009) Review


Weak
Nearly 40 years ago, quasi-hippy filmmakers Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham were looking to make a name for themselves (and a little cash, if possible) in the thriving New York exploitation scene. Working with some intent distributors, they adapted Igmar Bergman's Virgin Spring for the drive-in, and a grindhouse classic -- Last House on the Left -- was born. With its memorable marketing campaign ("repeat to yourself... it's only a movie... it's only a movie) and direct, documentary style, it had impact and import during a crucial time in post-modern American cinema. As with several of Craven's past projects, Last House has now been remade for the post-millennial crowd, and that's too bad. This tedious, tepid update offers none of the original's brutality or energy.

It's time for summer vacation and the Collingwood family -- doctor dad (Tony Goldwyn), teacher mom (Monica Potter), and daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) -- are heading to their isolated lake house for a little R&R. Sadly, the teenage girl will soon run into escaped killer Krug (Garrett Dillahunt), his son Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), the equally unhinged Francis (Aaron Paul), and gonzo gal pal Sadie (Riki Lindhome). Along with her buddy Paige (Martha MacIsaac), Mari will be tortured, abused, and left for dead. When the criminals show up at the Collingwood home looking for lodging, it's not long before the parents find out what happened... and when they do, the tables are turned and no one is safe.

Continue reading: The Last House on the Left (2009) Review

Disturbia Review


Good
Disturbia is a critically vulnerable film at the outset. Its task is an audacious one: "YouTubing" Hitchcock. Who isn't disturbed by the prospect of D.J. Caruso (Taking Lives!) helming a Rear Window rip-off for the MySpace generation? In the role of Jimmy Stewart: The talented if somewhat untested Shia LeBeouf. Grace Kelly: Sarah Roemer, a bit player in the woeful The Grudge 2. Gulp. Instead of a telescope, we get about four sets of binoculars, video cameras, mobile phones, and some outrageously sophisticated computer surveillance equipment. Instead of the poignantly crafted Miss Lonelyheart and the frustrated composer of Hitchcock's film, the neighbourhood offers for our voyeuristic pleasures the bikini-clad girl next door and a group of prepubescents with a penchant for porn. There is so much wrong before the film has even begun.

The film's beginning will not allay your fears. Kale (LaBeouf) and his dad (Matt Craven) are fishing. Knee-deep in a lake and surrounded by mountains, they share a particularly cheesy father-son moment. We see that he's not just Kale's father, he is his friend. The relationship is so clichéd and the setting so cloyingly idyllic, that one wants to run for the (admittedly beautiful-looking) hills. However, before you go to switch off the Hallmark channel, Caruso offs the dad in a car accident just brutal enough to forgive what came before and dissolve some preconceptions. It's a pretty good move (although not quite Janet Leigh in the Bates Motel shower) and sets us up for a film that effectively handles and plays its audience.

Continue reading: Disturbia Review

Red Eye Review


OK
Horror director Wes Craven has had his share of hits and misses. His strongest work encompasses the iconic (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and the ironic (Scream). His weakest outings give the genre a bad name (Deadly Friend). Red Eye, his latest effort, shows that while he may not drive your fingernails into the armrest like he used to, he still knows how to grab your attention.

The film begins with Lisa (Rachel McAdams), a driven professional, on her way to board the eponymous flight from Dallas to Miami. When the flight is delayed, she meets Jackson (Cillian Murphy), who, after some clumsy flirting, gains her trust. By apparent coincidence, they end up seated together when the flight finally takes off. Unfortunately, Jackson turns out to be part of a conspiracy to kill a Homeland Security bigwig and Lisa is a key to their plans. Jackson tells her that if she doesn't help, a man is waiting outside her father's house, ready to kill him.

Continue reading: Red Eye Review

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