Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

TMNTTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  

Dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, and Whoopi Goldberg


101 Minutes

Paramount Pictures

Rated PG-13


By Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)


Leaving the theater a young boy asked his older brother this question, “What does Cowabunga mean”? The older brother responded, “Something old people use to say”. Nostalgia plays a large motivating factor for the newly reimagined “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” directed by Jonathan Liebesman. While some elements like characters and situations may feel similar, everything else is supersized and hyper stylized. Those looking to relive the fond memories from opening night in 1990 will be disappointed if you approach it with this attitude. This film, at times funny and wildly action packed, is for a new generation of fans to embrace.


April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a fearless investigative reporter relinquished to report on supplemental pieces of boring news. New York City is being overrun with crime and corrupted from a syndicate known as The Foot Clan led by Shredder (Tohuro Masamune). April, wanting to find a break into legitimate journalism, stumbles onto activities by the criminal group who are thwarted during a robbery by four teenage brothers who happen to be mutated turtles that know the art of the ninja. April’s life is placed into the dangerous path of Shredder after she begins to investigate her past and the origin of the Ninja Turtles.


The original “TMNT” has grown over time as a cult classic. The zany image of human actors in upright turtle costumes held an eccentric sensibility. This new version has bypassed the practical effects for motion capture computer graphics. While this allows the Ninja Turtles room to jump higher and hit harder, they don’t resonate as effectively as the Apes from “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” which is another mo-cap film. This is partly due to the narrative, which foregoes moments of development for heavy-handed action theatrics. But that should be expected in this kind of film, especially considering that it’s produced by Michael Bay. The action is immense with all manner of outlandish set pieces. Unfortunately they all feel like the Transformers could substitute for the Ninja Turtles.


The chemistry between the Turtles, when it’s just them on screen, is funny and charming. Most of the laughs coming from Michelangelo’s many passes at April and one especially funny scene involving all four in an elevator during a crucial moment. It works best when they banter between each other, like brothers would, and are given time to display the bond that has kept them together. Unfortunately the story is centered on Megan Fox’s character April, which takes away from the emphasis on the title characters.


The easy pass would be this film is another failed reimagining. But regardless of how someone familiar with the original film and cartoon may feel, this version of “TMNT” is not for you. This is an adaptation for a new audience of young people. Unfortunately it is filled with a bombardment of confusing imagery and head shaking derivative narrative. The flaws are easy to pick out; instead, enjoy the quality time with the youth discovering this piece of pop culture cinema for the first time.


Monte’s Rating

2.00 out of 5.00


Guardians of the Galaxy - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

guardiansGuardians of the Galaxy  

Dir: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close


by Monte Yazzie of The Coda Films


It’s always fun to cheer for the underdogs. The motley group of heroes in director James Gunn’s adaptation of the lesser-known Marvel Comics property will have you cheering with satisfaction. The superhero film has saturated the movie market with mixed results of comic sequels and reboots, though Marvel has been on a role recently with two quality offerings for the summer, “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. Mark it three because “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the best of the exemplary group, blending great characters with a none-too-serious comedic tone for an impressive visual joy ride.


Peter Quill, an outlaw with the self-referenced moniker of Star-Lord, has been making a life away from his existence on Earth scavenging for rare artifacts. With a smart-alecky attitude Quill finds himself captured and sentenced to a space prison after he steals a mysterious orb, which was also being sought for by other outlaws and some particularly bad Marvel universe villains. Quill reluctantly unites with four other outlaws vying for the orb, a self serving assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an intimidating giant bent on revenge named Drax the Destroyer, a tough talking raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and his steadfast treelike bodyguard known as Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Though not the best example for the definition of “team”, they must join forces to defend the galaxy from destruction at the hands of a powerful being known as Ronan (Lee Pace).


There is a lot going on, with a wealth of different characters, but Gunn doesn’t overwhelm the film with unneeded exposition. Instead he keeps his focus on the primary Guardians, working the chemistry between characters, which takes them from a group of individuals with self-gratifying ambitions to a cooperative with a defined purpose. It happens quickly, perhaps too quickly, but it never seems unlikely for the group that is battling their own individual tragic influences. Gunn, who also co-wrote the script, understands the dynamics of the comic and utilizes the characters with a lighthearted approach. However in a few moments the tone turns serious, subtlety adding effective substance to their collective journey.


The comedy is consistently quick-witted, assisted largely by Chris Pratt’s seemingly “off the cuff” performance. There is also a nice turn by Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, a brut of a man whose literal interpretations offer some laugh-out-loud moments. Not to forget Zoe Saldana’s turn as Gamora who consistently offers something interesting to her performance even when it’s done through green makeup. Still, amidst these great performances, at the core of the story is some unexpected heart from two unlikely characters, Rocket and Groot. Underneath the abrasive attitude Rocket is the epitome of the group’s collective outlook; a group of underachievers dealing with personal regrets and loss but are still compassionate and inherently heroic. And Groot, a walking tree who only says three words, is the beating heart of the film.


James Gunn gives this superhero film a unique personality with unabashed comedy and underlying emotion. It can be difficult for a comic book film to find an identity, most having a tendency to look and feel similar even with unique heroes. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a wonderfully envisioned world that takes a straightforward approach at presenting the elements and characters of the comic book genuinely, giving the film a uniquely immersive quality. Director James Gunn has fashioned one of the best Marvel adaptations to date.


Monte’s Rating

4.50 out of 5.00



Lucy - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie


Dir: Luc Besson

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, and Min-sik Choi


By EuropaCorp

Rated R

90 minutes


By Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)



Luc Besson, throughout his entire career, has had an affinity for his female heroines. From “Leon: The Professional” to “The Fifth Element”, Besson has crafted unique action films with female characters who encompass all manner of strong qualities. Whether the forced resilience of Mathilda or the abused innocence of Leeloo, Besson has always made femininity beautiful, complicated, and the clear dominant gender. With “Lucy” Besson has eliminated the obstacles, giving his female lead control of everything. Whether this all works coherently in the film is another story entirely.


Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is in the wrong place at the wrong time during a bad deal with terrible people. Like an animal being stalked and hunted, Lucy is dragged and drugged by a group of men led by a bloody handed tyrant named Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi); she is forced into being a drug trafficker, the transport being her body. The drug, an altered genetic narcotic, is broken inside her body by some forceful men wanting to take further advantage of her. The drug coursing through Lucy expands her cerebral potential, giving her power beyond reason.


Besson utilizes numerous styles and genres in arranging “Lucy”. Science fiction attributes are continuous amongst the usual impressive action setups and crime film influences but also some interesting narrative applications. At one point Lucy is dragged into dangerous participation with some unsavory characters. While the men slowly move in and surround her, Besson intercuts nature scenes of lions stalking prey. Subtle? Not really, but that doesn’t seem to matter at this point, it’s just an interesting way to strip the story down to basic functions of human behavior.


The narrative incorporates a simplistic theory of complicated material explained by Morgan Freeman who is playing Professor Norman. Freeman has an uncanny ability to make even the most illogical statements seem reasonable, and his skill is very much needed with the narrative here. The extraordinary ability Lucy develops becomes so outlandish that anything more fundamentally based would immediately derail the story. Though once the story navigates into these far-out realms, Freeman’s character does a decent job of tour guiding the science into a comprehendible hypothesis. Scarlett Johansson is again good; her performance handles the hyperkinetic storytelling Besson is known for. Johansson is versatile, switching from a reluctant girlfriend into a dominating superhero of sorts with ease. The narrative has difficulty keeping up with the advancing elements of Lucy’s enlightenment, and this has a tendency to make the pacing uneven.


Luc Besson builds his action films with less emphasis on narrative and more on character development that accommodates his unique action visions. With “Lucy” Besson has crafted his mightiest female force. It will be interesting to see where he takes his feminine characters next. While the film lacks the intellectual coherence of other, better science fiction films it makes up for it with creative style and imagination.


Monte’s Rating

3.00 out of 5.00

The Purge: Anarchy - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

PurgeThe Purge: Anarchy  

Director: James DeMonaco

Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, and Zoë Soul


It’s difficult to turn back once someone wielding a weapon screams the phrase “RELEASE THE BEAST”. “The Purge: Anarchy” expands the world introduced in the first “Purge” which mostly composed a tedious home invasion film. This time the depravity of a society that is given the opportunity to commit all manner of crime, including murder, for 12 hours is taken to the streets of Los Angeles. Director James DeMonaco somehow finds restraint, making a film composed with all manner of interesting exploitation inspirations and some keen observations about society yet unfortunately still has difficulties finding a way to play within the boundaries of the rules it creates.


The film follows a few different groups of people a few hours before the start of the annual Purge. Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are on the brink of a breakup while on their drive home. After an intimidating encounter with some eager Purge participants, the couple’s car curiously breaks down. Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) are preparing their home, in an apartment complex, for protection. Barricading the doors and trying to ignore the color commentary on the news, their apartment is attacked. These four people, unprepared and hunted, are rescued by a lone protector (Frank Grillo) looking for retribution of his own. Their goal is simple, survive the night.


Writer/Director James DeMonaco moves this sequel into a more socially satirical realm than the first film that was mostly reserved for moments of cheap scares and a violent game of cat and mouse. Expanding the realm to explore how society copes and fails when rules for moral conformity are relinquished creates some interesting avenues of survey. The analysis of the wealthy upper class is the most deliberate; the Purge is portrayed within this class with delusional fascinations of luxury to the extent of an auction for rich families to bond in the thrill of the hunt for humans. The more interesting view comes when DeMonaco presents how society has turned on itself. The film indicates the culmination of aggression towards the controlling social power with displays of attacks against those in positions of influence. Still the poor are defenseless, forced into hiding, and those unwilling to participate are lost in a world which operates on rage. All of them waiting for the Purge to one day find them.


While the narrative offers more stimulating undertones it still has difficulty making sense of the system it establishes. Why aren’t people more prepared? Why are people out on the streets hours before the yearly apocalypse? Yes, this is overthinking the point of the film but it’s too obvious to ignore. If one were going camping it would seem necessary to prepare with kits and supplies, why wouldn’t this logic apply for the yearly Purge Day? The character decisions, on both sides of the assault, are hindered by idiotic judgment calls. It all serves to move the film toward the unsurprising climax, which wastes the depth explored early on.


“The Purge: Anarchy” is filled with genre influences clearly from “Escape from New York” and “Assault on Precinct 13”. These are great films to emulate and this sequel is a definite step ahead of the first “Purge” film. Still the film struggles to maintain the tension of the event and sustain the interesting elements of social commentary.


Monte’s Rating

3.00 out of 5.00


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

apesDawn of the Planet of the Apes  

Director: Matt Reeves

Starring: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, and Kodi Smit-McPhee


“Dawn” is a fitting word to describe the second installment of the “Planet of the Apes” films. Whether the transition from ignorance to understanding, or the state of light invading darkness and alternatively the resistance of darkness to light, are explored throughout director Matt Reeves’ excellent “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”.


The film is introduced with a quick montage of information explaining what has happened since the end of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. In nearly ten years a deadly virus has spread killing off a majority of humanity, leaving the world in anarchy and violence. The Apes have escaped into the woods outside of San Francisco and have created a colony led by the advanced Caesar (Andy Serkis). A small group of disease immune humans remain in the city though they are without power and low on fuel resources. The humans, desperate for electrical power, invade ape territory and are met with resistance by Caesar and company.


Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is a father and subsequent leader of the journey into Ape territory to save his group of surviving humans. Malcolm and the powerful Caesar are basically the same character. Two men that are both the leading hope for their communities though they are mostly trying to make a better life for the family they have. Seeing them on two different sides of battle makes for an interesting dichotomy. Caesar loves humans, being raised by a human father figure (James Franco in “Rise”) and allowed to live in the same environment as them. Malcolm has seen the worst in humanity and finds the Apes “remarkable” in their advancements. Both men are from worlds filled with fear and hatred for each other. In scenes were Caesar and Malcolm interact there is mutual respect and most importantly for both, trust. The trust between Caesar and Malcolm is met with hostility by both sides but especially from Koba (Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s hostile second-in-command. Koba was an experiment when captive, sliced and cut for the benefit of science. Koba wants revenge and Reeves builds towards the inevitable altercation against Caesar with exceptional tension. These small moments of interaction, both physical and psychological, give depth to the narrative. The original 1968 “Planet of the Apes” composed reflections of the social and political tensions of the time. “Dawn” also echoes this theme however in a darker perspective. The future here has been consumed by hatred that continues the prevention of resolution and humanity’s response to “difference” evokes chaos; a societal outlook that proposes the outcome of continued discrimination and intolerance.


Andy Serkis may not be the most recognizable name, or face, but his contribution to film performance has been nothing short of remarkable the last decade. Contributing performances through CGI that gave life to Kong in “King Kong” and Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings”, Serkis brings brilliant emotional content to these digital characters. His composition of Caesar is both sympathetic and powerful, a performance impressive to watch. The remaining cast, both human and ape, also contributes finely to the film. The use of non-verbal expressions to communicate relationships between characters gives the cast plenty to work with, even in very limited roles for some of the actors.


It’s rare for a summer blockbuster to propose thought provoking subject matter amidst the bombardment of action extravagance and forced development. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is both highly entertaining, action packed, and provocative; a credit to Matt Reeves for asking more from what is ultimately a genre film.


Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00


Savaged - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie


Dir: Michael S. Ojeda

Starring: Amanda Adrienne, Tom Ardavany, Ronnie Gene Blevins, and Rodney Rowland


95 Min

From Raven Banner Entertainment

By: Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)


Revenge films are one of the gold standard subgenres in horror, especially ones with female protagonist committing all manner of gruesome violence against the people, usually men, which have assaulted her. Director Michael S. Ojeda crafts his version a little different, this time with a supernatural twist that involves the possession of a deaf, and left for dead, woman by the spirit of a Native American warrior who is seeking revenge. Ojeda doesn’t try to reinvent the genre but instead makes a vicious and inventive film that is a recent standout in the oversaturated category.


Zoe (Amanda Adrienne) is on a road trip across the desert making her way to an eager boyfriend. Zoe, who stops to take pictures of the landscape, witnesses a young Native American man running for his life from a gang of men chasing him in a truck. Zoe intervenes, trying to get the young man into her car, but is halted by the murderous group who kill the young man in front of her. They kidnap, brutally assault, and bury her in a shallow grave. Her body is found by a medicine man who brings her back from death, however she does not come back alone. The vengeful spirit of an Apache warrior has possessed her body.


These kinds of films have the potential to wane into exploitative territory rather quickly. Some promptly moving away from the slim narrative purpose into full-blown movements of gore and violence. “Savaged” isn’t much different in this regard; the violence turns sadistic and brutal before the 10-minute mark of the film. However, director Michael S. Ojeda shifts the narrative by utilizing other subgenres of horror to assist in transitioning the customary revenge film into one with zombie and spirit possession conventions. What would have otherwise turned routine and monotonous becomes an inventive morphing of familiar themes. Zoe turns brutal, attacking her attackers with stereotypical Native American weaponry, bows and arrows and tomahawks. While these demonstrations walk the fine line of cultural sensitivity, insulting Native American typecasts are still prevalent even in big budget productions but here the offensive material is utilized to further condemn the antagonists that have wronged both Zoe and the spirit.


Amanda Adrienne may not look intimidating but her performance will deem otherwise. She turns from helpless to hardened convincingly but also commits physically to the demanding tasks. The remaining cast, all men and mostly villains, are given minimal amounts of character development. Besides Marc Anthony Samuel, who plays Zoe’s boyfriend Dane, most of the remaining cast is nothing but hate filled scoundrels.


“Savaged” takes a very common genre theme and attempts to do something different with it. While nothing is necessarily surprising, the film is paced well and has enough genre attributes to keep the horror enthusiasts appeased.


Monte’s Rating / 3.50 out of 5.00


Nothing Bad Can Happen - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

nothing-bad-can-happen-posterNothing Bad Can Happen  

Dir: Katrin Gebbe

Starring: Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl, Swantje Kohlhof


110 Minutes

From JunaFilms


Reviewed by Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)


A pulsating score threateningly introduces a young man led towards a lake. The music grows more ominous as the camera moves in and out of focus finally finding the young man forcefully submerged beneath the water. This aggressive action isn’t meant for dangerous intentions but instead portrays the Christian ceremony of baptism. This introduction is just a piece of the relationship director Katrin Gebbe is trying to convey between unwavering religious faith and volatile nihilism. It’s a subject matter that is initially handled with keen subtlety but progresses into distracted blatancy. Gebbe, sure footed along the way, attempts to explore an interesting aspect of religion in “Nothing Bad Can Happen”.


Tore (Julius Feldmeier) is in a church where members are known as the “Jesus Freaks”, a youthful group who dress in punk apparel and conduct contemporary worship services in industrial settings. This is his family; not much is known about his past besides the presence of medical seizures that render him helpless. Tore, who isn’t shy about sharing his faith, invites a skeptical man named Benno to his church. While at the service Tore is overwhelmed by a seizure and Benno rescues him. Tore is given recovery in Benno’s home with his wife and two children. Tore is treated as part of the family at first but things turn depraved as Benno unleashes his own “tests” of faith.


Gebbe is tackling difficult subject matter with equally difficult imagery. This leaves opportunity for criticism, both justified and unjustified, but also confusion concerning the qualities demonstrated by the faith based community. Tore’s journey is one that transitions from diligence to carelessness. His staunch belief in the involvement of God in his everyday life, depicted in an early scene where the power of prayer fixes a broken down vehicle, is a guiding principle that grows with each test of will. Gebbe utilizes faith to forward the progression of Tore’s battle with Benno who is initially accommodating towards his devout beliefs. However, it’s an artificial reaction for Benno who instead implements trials that torment the steadfast diligence of the young man. It begins as intuitive questioning but progresses to physical violence, one altercation leading to another, before Gebbe moves into more torturous and vicious territory. It’s a transition that abandons the restrained nuances involving the proposed inquiry of what it means to be faithful. How much will Tore endure to show his allegiance to God? Through the continuing and escalating gruesome presentation, Tore’s faith is rendered a naïve attribute.


In Pascal Laugier’s equally challenging film “Martyrs” the suffering for insight is forcefully implied on the subject. However in Gebbe’s film Tore willingly commits to the torment, led towards reasoning by his own interpretations of the situation. Whether misguided or divinely directed the film never straightforwardly takes a position, though the debate will be made that it leans one way depending on your stance on the subject matter.


“Nothing Bad Can Happen” is a difficult film to watch. Initially director Katrin Gebbe guides the film with subtle observations on the polarizing aspects of religious belief. Unfortunately, the thought provoking subject matter is skewed by an overindulgence of shocking elements.


Monte’s Rating

2.50 out of 5.00


Deliver Us From Evil - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

deliver usDeliver Us From Evil  

Dir: Scott Derrickson

Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale, Sean Harris


118 Minutes

Rated R

From Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Screen Gems


By Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)


Horror films run in cycles of popularity. Whether slasher, zombie, or vampire, these subgenres have produced spotlight films and have also worn-out their welcome with an overabundance of less noteworthy copiers. Director Scott Derrickson, who’s recent “Sinister” surprised, doesn’t have an extensive catalog, but his film “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was an early contributor to the popularity of this specific genre theme. “Deliver Us From Evil” shines with talent but unfortunately buckles underneath an over dependency on unsurprising scares and an identity that feels lost throughout.


Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a New York police officer struggling with the day-to-day atrocities he encounters. He begins to investigate a series of gruesome and unexplainable crimes involving a group of soldiers and a mother who tosses her child into a lion’s den at the zoo. Sarchie is offered assistance from Father Joe Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), an unconventional priest who explains to Sarchie that demonic forces are at work with these crimes. Together they investigate the mysterious crimes, leading them to an intimidating face of evil.


Derrickson approaches the film from an interesting point of view, utilizing the detectives to uncover the gruesome supernatural details. It begins as a crime procedural, investigation of locations and interrogation of suspects that are targeted as responsible for the devious deeds. While this is a clever method in an exorcism film, it doesn’t always yield coherent results but rather serves as a convenient way of easily moving the narrative towards the desired scare. The officers make idiotic decisions and, regardless of the obvious signs, continue to doubt what they see in front of their own eyes. They are not being asked to believe in the work of the supernatural by means of blind faith but are rather offered clues that are visibly in front of them, which they constantly deny. Though the film is influenced by the actual paranormal cases investigated by Ralph Sarchie while he was a police officer, the film still feels lost in what direction it wants to take, design and narrative wise. The ending is chilling and quite satisfying with both startling visuals and an aggressive, assaulting tone that feels more suitable for the subject matter proposed before it.


Eric Bana and Édgar Ramírez both handle the dramatic elements well. Bana is a conflicted cop who tries to keep separate his personal and professional life but is slowly losing grasp and merging both identities with emotional outbursts. Ramírez is a priest who is also on the struggling verge of relapse into a life that almost destroyed him. These two characters compose a nice balance of the struggle to remain devoted, in different capacities, to the path they have decided to lead. It’s unfortunate that it takes so long for them to finally have meaningful scenes together instead of the forced exposition given to merely introduce more genre startles with flashlights pointed into dark places and the occasional "what was that?" comment.


There is a significant amount of recognizable horror film influences utilized throughout "Deliver Us From Evil". Whether the obvious influence of "The Exorcist" or the designs of other recent fright films like "Insidious", Scott Derrickson tries to combine the successful qualities of all these films throughout his own. Unfortunately it only makes you want to watch the films that offered the guidance.


Monte's Rating

2.25 out of 5.00


Coherence - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie


Dir: James Ward Byrkit

Starring: Emily Foxler, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendan, Elizabeth Gracen, Lorene Scafaria, and Hugo Armstrong


89 Minutes

From Oscilloscope Laboratories

By Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)


“Coherence” is a puzzle of a science fiction film. Director James Ward Byrkit mixes his film with a little bit of both science fiction and horror; a passing comet that hints at the introduction familiar to many zombie and alien invasion films, “Twilight Zone” storytelling aspects, and the psychological effects imposed on a group of friends forced into survival mentality. It’s not hard to identify the plethora of genre films that embody these narrative elements on display. It’s impressive that all these qualities are found in a low-budget first feature that mostly takes shape in one location.


A group of friends gather for dinner the same night a comet passes Earth, this renders power outages and loss of cellular service. A house down the street still has power and a couple of the guys from the group decide to investigate. Byrkit doesn’t spend much time satisfying the horror movie clichés, aside from unusual noises, but instead builds tension with the characters at his disposal. The focus aptly remains on the psychological stresses of the group who move quickly from assessment of the situation to application of the theories they build. These ideas are surprisingly well formed with science, both central and fringe, found in a textbook that assists in the discovery of the secrets brought on by the anomaly.


As the night progresses the story transitions into more puzzling territory as the group separates and the attention keys on the most compelling character in the group, Em (Emily Foxler). Foxler is the standout performance of the group; her character is a former professional dancer who is conflicted with a past that passed her by. This reference to the past plays a key theme in the film’s structure, which utilizes science fiction standards to find the parallels between time and humanity. Whether it’s the straightforward explanation of Erwin Schrödinger's paradoxical thought experiment involving the state of being, alive or dead, of a cat or the imposed confusion utilized by Byrkit in the portrayal of the characters to one another, the film simply moves from one thought to another.


The film makes no apologies for being complicated. The mystery transitions often, shifting focus from character allegiances to a race against extinction. With so many different twists the film becomes lost in the misperceptions it promotes while building towards the finale. This unfortunately makes the ingenious puzzle lose some of the initial intrigue that Byrkit carefully formed throughout the film.


“Coherence” is a low budget thriller at its core, one that is infused excellently with creative science fiction conventions. “Coherence” explores more than just surface genre standards while also attempting to examine the dynamics found in personal identity and human relationship. While the film doesn’t exactly find a place to finish that is as satisfying as the progression throughout, it’s definitely worth a watch for genre fans looking for something different.


Monte’s Rating / 3.25 out of 5.00


The Signal - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

signalThe Signal  

Dir: William Eubank

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cook, Beau Knapp, and Laurence Fishburne


Rated PG-13

95 Minutes


By Monte Yazzie with The Coda Films


There is a moment in William Eubank’s science fiction tale “The Signal” when he corresponds the desolation found along a road trip with the idea that though we may feel isolated there is more going on in our vast world. This journey for three college students feels ill fated from the beginning, a mystery that is handled deftly and formed with tension surrounding the uncertainty of young adulthood. Through seamed flashbacks that display the burgeoning love of Nick (Brenton Thwaites) and Haley (Olivia Cook), the crossroads of their relationship is introduced. Nick is suffering from a progressing physical disorder that requires the assistance of crutches. His girlfriend Haley is moving to a different school across the country but wants Nick to commit to a long-term, long-distance relationship. Battling insecurities both physically and emotionally, Nick is unsure of his future.


“The Signal” does a great job of masking its appearance; if it weren’t for the telling trailer it would be difficult to figure out what kind of film was playing out. It starts out like a horror film, spinning intentions in the early portion of the film with cryptic and sinister purpose. After a full break-up between Nick and Haley a side trip is planned to confront a hacker named Nomad, who has been threatening Nick and his friend Jonah (Beau Knapp) since they left college. What they find is a dirt road and an abandoned house with high tech equipment in the basement. The group is blindsided and taken captive in a decrepit research facility. A man (Laurence Fishburne) in biohazard uniform conducts a series of tests on Nick, who is separated from Jonah and Haley. Eubank holds the mystery until this point adding a creative twist of intervention for Nick, one that is unexpected and shifts the film into the realm of science fiction. Unfortunately after an impromptu escape the film loses the positive emotional conflict established in Nick and his aversion to change, both controlled and uncontrolled, in his life. A drawn-out and incoherent finish, amidst slow motion action pieces, is substituted in place of closure or otherwise for the characters.


The performances by the cast are effective, a nice change seen with recent genre films. Nick, given shape by flashbacks displaying his physical ability and sturdy relationship with Haley, is offered the emotional heft of the film. Brenton Thwaites succeeds in carrying the weight, which makes it regrettable that his character was somewhat slighted in the finish. Laurence Fishburne is good in a calmly menacing role, the entire time in a biohazard suit that only reveals his face.


Good science fiction blends concepts of fantasy with humanistic and societal qualities. It’s visible early on that director William Eubank, who shows his talent throughout, was shooting for this goal. While “The Signal” doesn’t always meet its lofty ambitions, it is still an intriguing attempt.


Monte’s Rating

3.00 out of 5.00


Edge of Tomorrow - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

edge of tomorrowEdge of Tomorrow  

Dir: Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, and Brendan Gleeson


Rated PG-13

113 Minutes


By: Monte Yazzie  from www.thecodafilms.com


Tom Cruise knows how to make an entertaining film and director Doug Liman understands action film storytelling. Combine these two consistent artists in a film and you are bound to have one entertaining experience. “Edge of Tomorrow” is a smartly designed and skillfully constructed science fiction thriller, with good performances from the two leads.


Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a high level recruiter for the military and the new war against alien invaders known as mimics, who have the ability to reset time, giving them the advantage of being a step ahead in warfare. Cage, a non-combat officer, is stripped of his rank by an overzealous General (Brendan Gleeson) and placed in a ragtag group known as “J Company” for frontline defense in the impending first assault. Cage doesn’t make it very far on the battlefield, dying within minutes but in the process killing a mimic that bleeds on him and gives him the ability to reset time. On a learning curve with his new power, Cage enlists the help of a respected soldier named Rita (Emily Blunt) in an effort to defeat the mimics.


Cruise was good throughout the film, starting the story as a privileged officer in the military who had an aversion to blood and had never used the weapons he promoted. But by the end he was a hardened expert of combat, motivated by the needs of humanity over his personal fears. It was a shift that Cruise handled with ease. Emily Blunt was enjoyable to watch, wielding a massive combat sword with an attitude that challenged most manly military stereotypes. She was best when paired with Cruise; mostly kicking him around during training sessions and repeatedly killing him so she could reset the day, it became fairly humorous after awhile.


The narrative was complicated, but not confusing. Liman kept the story nicely paced up to the final act, which changed tone and unfolded too predictably. The battle sequences were in the style of Liman’s past films, a mix of frenzied handheld perspectives awash with a grey color palette. Liman constructed a maze-like battlefield with explosions from nearly every direction that was an impressive display even with the unneeded 3-D gimmickry. The initial battle, that would again be replayed more than few times, was dizzying and exciting.


The CG aliens were in a constant state of hyper movement, reminiscent of the chaotic transition seen with the conversion from machine to robot in the “Transformers” series, and it became cluttered when mixed with Liman’s distinct action design in some parts. The artistic design of the futuristic weaponry was reminiscent of the first person shooter game “Unreal Tournament, though the gore was much less. The restraint, in regards to violence and the many deaths of the lead character, were handled subtly with a camera pan or an intentional edit.


While the movie incorporated elements from some familiar sources, most notably “Source Code” and “Groundhog Day”, director Doug Liman kept the story easy to follow and the action exciting to watch, making “Edge of Tomorrow” an unexpected summer surprise.



Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

X-Men: Days of Future Past - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

xmenX-Men: Days of Future Past  

Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage and Halle Berry

Directed by Bryan Singer


From Twentieth Century Fox

Rated PG-13

131 minutes


The “X-Men” films have always been an interesting addition in the comic book film world. While most superhero films have one extraordinary figure, the X-Men are a wealth of exceptional people who are otherwise shunned by the bulk of society. They compose two very identified factions, one being protectors of mankind to promote their coexistence and other being survivalist looking for the advancement of their own kind with zero regard for humanity. It becomes a reflective mix of political and social commentary. Bryan Singer returned to the director’s chair and successfully combined the journey to the past established in “X-Men: First Class” with the characters that started the whole franchise fashioning a worthwhile summer popcorn film.


It’s the future and mutant-hunting machines called Sentinels are defeating the X-Men. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) devise a plan to send the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past to motivate their past selves into an alliance to change the future, one that involves the participation of the now self-sufficient Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and her motivations for Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the inventor of the Sentinel program being offered to the U.S. government.


Focusing the transition of the storyline on the sturdy shoulders of Hugh Jackman, and his time weary Wolverine character, was a great choice. The character, already solidified in the franchise history through his stand-alone films, had an established relationship with every character, which made the chemistry work between the past and future teams. Peter Dinklage was a great antagonist, his motivations were none too complicated but instead were reasoned as a strategic move for humanity. In one exchange he complimented the powers of the mutants, in a way envious of them, while at the same moment discussing his intrigue for experimenting on them for his Sentinel program. In this film the mutants were unified against a common foe, making the character Magneto (played by both Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender) embrace a whole new level of complication. Fassbender, in a calm and monotone presence, particularly blurred the line of Magneto’s true motivations and was consistently enjoyable to watch on screen. Some characters were unfortunately shorthanded screen time and relinquished to glaring stares at far off foes, the overpopulation gave a few great actors only minor occasions to shine.


While the narrative may seem complex the film did a great job of never feeling confusing but instead remained interesting in ways that other comic book films struggled. Most try to incorporate a steady amount of action; this film had some stunning sequences, in particular an exchange with speedy character Quicksilver (Evan Peters) amidst a perfect choice of music, but it was far more restrained than other films and instead forwarded the story with character altercations that were more for development than extravagance. While the time travel aspects began to fall apart in the finale, amidst back and forth transitions between the future and past, it was not enough to hurt anything established before it.


“X-Men: Days of Future Past” organized a great ensemble of characters familiar to fans of the X-Men chronicle. With the addition of a good script and solid performances from leading characters, this film is the comic book experience to beat this summer.


Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00


Witching and Bitching - Movie Review

witching and bitchingWitching and Bitching

Directed by: Álex de la Iglesia

Starring: Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, and Carolina Bang

Director Álex de la Iglesia has been making his brand of satire filled stylistic dramas for the past twenty years, yet he is still relatively unknown stateside. “The Last Circus” and “800 Bullets” are his most recognized works but it may be the frenzied “Witching and Bitching” that draws the most attention from genre fans looking for something different.  With a blend of melodrama meeting horror, de la Iglesia produces a bizarre and humorous excursion.

Jose (Hugo Silva) is a struggling father trying to make the best for his 8-year-old son Sergio (Gabriel Delgado). Unfortunately Jose’s idea for making a better life involves a daylight robbery of a jewelry store with Sergio playing accomplice along with his partner Tony (Mario Casas). Things don’t go as smoothly as Jose would like but he narrowly escapes capture in a cab and takes the driver Manuel (Jaime Ordóñez) hostage. The group is in retreat to a remote border town called Zugarramurdi. But freedom becomes more complicated as the town they enter is home to a coven of witches.

From the beginning moments the attitude of the film is rather playful, as the group of robbers are dressed in all manner of extravagant costuming. The beginning heist is filled with comic moments that range from slapstick to jeering banter. De la Iglesia has a knack for crafting grand displays of scenery full of interesting imagery while also composing rapid-fire exposition that surprisingly compliments the story. In one scene during a hectic and violent getaway the four characters bicker about their lives and relationships amidst gunshots and car crashes, it’s a great action sequence but an even better introduction to the characters.

Once the opening assault is over the film steadies as the group escapes to a border town known for being a home to witchcraft. It’s at this point that the film turns into something different, less crime and more horror though the comedy remains. While this transition isn’t bad the contradicting decisions the characters begin to make threatens to derail the momentum established early. Jose is a father making terrible choices for the sake of his son, but when the film needs to lead the characters further into the realm of the witches Jose suddenly forgets about his son. It’s ruins the development of his character along with the camaraderie of the group.  The spectacle continues, too much, into an effects heavy ending that feels out of place for the rest of the film.

Álex De la Iglesia is an accomplished director and it shows early with “Witching and Bitching”. At its core the film is a melodrama about the varying dynamics of relationships between men and women. Set amid the perils of criminal activity, the collapse of companionship, and the threat of witches, de la Iglesia’s film skips around as much his frenzied editing style. While this unconventional style may not suit every fan “Witching and Bitching” is still amusing and funny enough to warrant a watch.

Monte’s Rating

3.00 out of 5.00

Godzilla - Movie Review


Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-John, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn


Directed by Gareth Edwards


From Warner Bros. Pictures

Rated PG-13

123 minutes


Review by Monte Yazzie



The most iconic of monsters returns to the big screen in Gareth Edwards’ larger than life “Godzilla”. Edwards, director of the unexpected though satisfying “Monsters”, pays proper homage to the legendary Gojira, once he finally makes an appearance. Focusing more than past incarnations have on character development, Edwards’ rendition may not be consistently packed with action, but once the “king of the monsters” tramples front and center, it’s something impressive to behold.


Godzilla is a secret to the world, hidden in history under nuclear testing done by the U.S. in the Pacific Ocean that was actually an attack on the monster. The film introduces two scientists, Dr. Seriwaza (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), who are investigating a massive mine in the Philippines where two large insect-like pods have been discovered. In Tokyo, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) are working in a nuclear plant that sustains deadly damage during what is said to have been an earthquake. Fast forward a few years and Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the son of Joe and Sandra, is on military leave with his family in San Francisco when his father is arrested for trespassing in Tokyo. Ford picks up his father and they soon find themselves detained in a research facility that is investigating strange anomalies reminiscent of a past secret.


The Godzilla mythology, originally presented as a global warning against nuclear production after the destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was born in 1954 by director Ishirô Honda. The original film wasn’t overlooked but instead familiar elements were utilized that allowed for a great setup that introduced the film. While Edwards delicately handled the lore, his film was much different than most of the titles in the long running series, focusing extensively on narrative and character developments in this version. The story was interesting at first mostly due to Bryan Cranston’s turn as the vigilant Brody, providing a sincere and strong performance even though he was only given minimal screen time.


Whatever incarnation of Godzilla you appreciate most, it’s the monster that you want to see. It was near 60 minutes before the title character made a full appearance on screen. Most of what was seen initially was glimpses of a massive tail being dragged through wreckage or spines peeking through water, it helped in building excitement but those looking for carnage will need patience. Once Godzilla made his impressive visual appearance, accompanied by that iconic roar, it was easy to justify the wait.


Unfortunately the story began to drag after the first full scale encounter as routine plot devices took over as scientists and soldiers who planned for the protection of population and shaped the nuclear strategy aimed at stopping the colliding monsters. Additionally, the story of Ford returning to San Francisco to save his family felt forced, though Elizabeth Olsen was given a few moments to shine. When the final battle commenced in San Francisco, the imposing visual aspect took hold. Whether it was the parachuting soldiers against the massively scaled Godzilla or the destruction heavy battle finale, the film came together to give the audience what they came for.


While this Godzilla may feel more like a supporting character than the leading star, director Gareth Edwards’ utilized an exceptional visual presence and attempted to add some interesting character and narrative attributes which made “Godzilla” a worthy entry into the monster genre.


Monte’s Rating

3.50 out of 5.00


Only Lovers Left Alive - Movie Review

only lovers Only Lovers Left Alive


Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, and John Hurt


From: Sony Pictures Classics

Rated: R

Reviewed by: Monte Yazzie

Director Jim Jarmusch has made a career of examining people and the idiosyncrasies they embrace. Whether it’s the journey of three imprisoned men in “Down by Law” or the account of cab drivers from different parts of the world in “Night on Earth”, Jarmusch has the skillful ability of forming fascinating characters that serve the story. While Jarmusch has explored numerous genres, “Only Lovers Left Alive” is his first endeavor into the realm of horror and the subgenre of vampire mythology. What Jarmusch accomplishes with this moody piece of cinema is another achievement in his already impressive career.


Taking place in the nighttime desolation of both Detroit and Tangier, Eve (Tilda Swinton) is a wise and sympathetic vampire who has survived longer than most of her kind. She is in an enduring married relationship with Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a cynical musician whose existence amongst a changing humanity has brought despair into his world. Blood is life and, though they have evolved away from the usual means of human consumption, they drink it from goblets and treat it like a fine wine. All the while observing and scrutinizing a world that is simply beneath their time journeyed experience. Nevertheless the world they are trying to separate themselves from seems to be invading their lives in a destructive way.


For a film about vampires there is very little to consider horrific. While the genre characteristics are in accordance with the well-known lore, like the usual blood drinking and sunlight avoidance, those elements are mostly used for assisting atmosphere. The horror extremes are replaced with multilayered conversations spanning a centuries worth of knowledge and are delivered in a gushing philosophical form from two timeworn vampires. Their discussions are a mix of insightful social commentary, comical diatribes about history, and deliberately ordinary remarks about everyday life. These characters are what keep the momentum moving when the film, which at numerous times, slows to a stationary scene of two people talking. This, in less seasoned hands, could turn into a confused mess but Jarmusch makes nearly every second absorbing.


Like most of Jarmusch’s films character development takes precedent, and Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are impressive in the leads. Swinton, always entertaining to watch, gives Eve compassionate and understanding attributes, while also being susceptible to love. Hiddleston is a gloomy mix of emotions, depressing and self-defeating but also hopeful because of his cherished Eve. John Hurt makes a welcome cameo as Christopher Marlowe, the same person associated with Shakespeare. Marlowe is a vampire who is the local blood provider for the more civil ones of his kind. Hurt is great, offering some of the films most memorable lines concerning his famous history.


There is a certain amount of commitment needed to make it through this film, which will undoubtedly split some viewers wanting more plot developments or genre fans looking for more intense influences from the horror aspect of the story. Still, “Only Lovers Left Alive” may be one of the few vampire films, from the bulk of oversaturation seen in recent years, which will be remembered as one the exceptional films of the genre.


Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

The Sacrament - Movie Review

SacramentThe Sacrament

Directed by Ti West

Starring:  AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, and Gene Jones

From Magnolia

Rated R

Reviewed by Monte Yazzie

The Sacrament” isn't necessarily a horror film but that doesn't make it any less horrific. Ti West, a genre standout who directed the slow burning throwback “Innkeepers” and the dread filled “House of the Devil”, directs his sixth feature which is reminiscent of the events that transpired during the Jonestown Massacre in 1978. Creatively handling tension and mystery in this film, even though the subject matter may be familiar to older audiences, West builds and molds the film into a deeply affecting piece of cinema.

Patrick (Kentucker Audley) receives a letter from his estranged sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) who has taken refuge in a religious commune known as Eden Parrish. Patrick brings along his friends Sam (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg) who are journalists working for Vice, the real journalism company known for their immersive pieces. The three men travel to an undisclosed tropical location and are met at the gates of the group built community by armed guards and resentment from its members. Sam wants an interview with the reclusive leader known as “Father” (Gene Jones), but quickly realizes the true extent of Eden Parrish’s control.

West employs a documentary style for this film. This hand held, motion heavy style has been commonly used in horror for “found footage” films. West separates “The Sacrament” from some of the sloppy trappings of “found footage” by utilizing the journalistic merit of Vice and shaping an impression of a documentary through onscreen written narrative and interview style edits. Though some scenes are still quite frantic with motion, the modified method works in gradually building tension from scene to scene. By the time “Father” appears on screen, amidst an entrance fit for a rock n’ roll band, the atmosphere is tautly apprehensive. Making the interview between Sam and “Father” gripping and spellbinding in the same manner as the first encounter of Clarice and Dr. Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs”.

West explores the depths of extreme religious devotion, pointing the camera on the diverse members of the community as they respond to questions of their past and their guidance by “Father” towards salvation. For the first 45 minutes, the film is dedicated to examining people, never offering the validity of deceit or honesty. It’s an effective technique used to twist the mystery that anyone familiar with Jonestown will likely be anticipating. While the film does a great job of character building and slowly manufacturing the narrative tension, once the chaos begins the film turns visceral with a few scenes that will undoubtedly be too intense for more sensitive viewers. It’s a jarring change that is necessary for the film, though for a few moments amidst the staggering disorder the film diverges into an overlong chase and evasion sequence that seems out of place.

Ti West continues to grow as a filmmaker, displaying with “The Sacrament” the ability to venture away from straightforward genre horror and examine the realistic terror that exists in the world.

Monte’s Rating: 4.00 out of 5.00


Resivent Evil: Retribution Trailer

Film Synopsis The Umbrella Corporation’s deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh eating Undead. The human race’s last and only hope, Alice (Milla Jovovich), awakens in the heart of Umbrella’s most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex. Without a safe haven, Alice continues to hunt those responsible for the outbreak; a chase that takes her from Tokyo to New York, Washington, D.C. and Moscow, culminating in a mind-blowing revelation that will force her to rethink everything that she once thought to be true. Aided by newfound allies and familiar friends, Alice must fight to survive long enough to escape a hostile world on the brink of oblivion. The countdown has begun . .