December 31, 2013.

This blog is now closed. After three years and 311 posts, I have decided to end this blog. I have enjoyed watching the films, reviewing them, and interacting with global readers.

If you are interested in contacting me, you can do so by commenting on any of the posts. The blog will remain live on the web.
Thank you to all the readers for your comments, ideas, and thoughts. They were helpful, stimulating, and enriching. This is Alene, signing off.

July 7, 2013

The Purge (2013)

When it’s over, a very interesting concept that is handled poorly. The year is 2022. The Purge happens once a year for 12 hours, when every criminal act becomes legal, including murder. The goal is to allow members of society to act out their aggression without consequences, purging their rage and anger. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his family are prepared for the night with a state-of-the-art security system, but their safety is jeopardized when James’s son (Max Burkholder) disarms the house to help a stranger, who is running from a group of masked purgers. There are seven perspectives on The Purge, depicted by the four family members, the stranger, the leader of the masked purgers, and you – the viewer. The film addresses a lot of morality issues, where viewers cannot help, but ask themselves what is right and wrong, while criticizing the foolish and questionable actions each character embarks. Even more worthy of discussion is the post-purge effects on individuals and a community. How will you see your neighbor, or friend, or colleague after The Purge? Director/Writer James DeMonaco’s intent to scare the viewer is plausible, and some creepy scenes reinforce this aspect, but what starts out as a promising thriller turns into a stereotypical film about home invasion, a lesser version of Panic Room (2002). The difference between the two films is that Panic Room uses intellect whereas The Purge uses guns. The main problem is believability – in the script and in the characters. The dialogue is dry, and the words do not reinforce character development. The family characters are boring and quite stupid, as their decisions go against common sense in the simplest manner. Hawke and Lena Heady (wife, Mary Sandin) do their best to work with the material they have, but it is slim pickings for them. I think Purge would benefit from some originality in its storytelling. Perhaps, make the Sandin residence appear as a house on the outside, but a fortress on the inside with trap doors and secret hideaways that will make the invaders wish they had left the Sandins alone. This is not too far-fetched since the family is wealthy. On the note of wealth, I have to wonder why the family did not go on vacation during The Purge. They certainly have the money, but I get it – if they did, there would be no film. So, why not make the Sandin family poor folks, without money to travel or a fancy security system, who are simply good at hiding, but get caught!

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

Monsters University (2013)

When it’s over, so this is how Monsters become Scarers.  Disney’s prequel to Monsters Inc (2001) has Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) meeting at Monsters University, where they are competitors and not the best of friends. The film has all the elements of classic college comedy films – the fraternities, the rivalry, the friendships.  And most important, the film touches on the fears and aspirations of what the future holds, something all viewers can identify with regardless of age, monster or not. There are plenty of laughs to satisfy the young and old, mostly taking place in the Scare Games scenes. The Scare Games is a competition between various fraternities and sororities to determine which team is the scariest. Two scenes in particular are: (1) the Toxicity Challenge, where potential Scarers have to race through a dark tunnel and avoid being stung by urchin-like balls, just like monsters have to avoid “toxic” toys and clothes in the children’s rooms; and (2) Hide and Scare, when the participants have to hide in a house from security, in the same way a Scarer has to hide from children's parents. As I am watching this film, I am wondering, Where do the writers get these outrageously clever ideas? With three creative minds (Dan Scanlon, Daniel Gerson, and Robert L. Baird), the outcome is funny, smart, and meaningful. Monsters University is a monster treat.

My rating: 4 out of 5