Monday, December 13, 2010

3 Reviews!!! Voyage, House, Operation:Endgame.

Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I fell in love with Narnia during the Third Grade. Our teacher had assigned “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” as required reading for that year, followed by a series of writing assignments that explored mythology in other cultures. They were fairly basic assignments, but I was instilled with a love for fantasy that continues to this day. After devouring the first book in the series, I dove head first into the entire series and have often returned several times over the many years to reread the stories of C.S. Lewis. I know there’s a chronological disturbance with “The Magicians Nephew” and “The Final Battle” is not exactly one of my favorite books, but when it comes down to the nitty and the gritty… “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” is probably the most intimate and introduces my favorite character in the series. It begins to tell the tale of a doubting, petulant, and arrogant young boy named Eustace as he joins cousins Lucy and Edmund on one of their adventures to Narnia.

That’s right, faceless reader. My favorite character in the series is also the character that has received the largest number of complaints, including a claim from our local paper that child abuse advocates would probably like to smack him across the face. But it’s not about who he IS, it’s about who he is becoming and the choices that are laid out before him. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is about choice, temptation, and redemption. Oh yes, the strong Christian themes are here and I am just fine with that little oddity in modern cinema. Maybe this is where “Voyage” becomes a little harder to swallow for the public? It is no secret that Fantasy and Theology aren’t precisely great partners, with large Christian fundamentalist groups taking their numerous stands against D&D, Heavy Metal Music, Horror Movies, and the Harry Potter franchise. Additionally, large numbers of Fantasy film fans are tired of feeling pilloried by that same fundamentalist community and aren’t eager to feel the pangs of Christian Spirituality mixed with their Minotaur’s. No character is as great a symbol of intolerance AND salvation as that of Eustace, creating an extremely polarizing character for any potential viewer. Oh, the places we could go with a character study on him… but let’s just focus a bit more on the movie, shall we?

Lucy and Edmund return to Narnia and aid Prince Caspian in his quest to find Seven Lords that were once loyal to his father. His uncle had them banished to some Islands off the coast of the mainland. A growing evil has taken root near the border to Aslans’ Country, threatening the islands as villainous slavers force people there to make ritual sacrifices. Unlike the previous entries, Voyage is much less epic of an adventure and focuses more on the personal struggles of the ships crew as they travel from one island to the next in a desperate bid to seek out the Lords, their swords, and stop this growing menace. The special effects team really outdoes their previous entries by showing a certain degree of restraint and saving the most stunning visuals for when they will count the most. Indeed, the sea serpent is probably one of the most frightening and horrific things I’ve EVER seen on the big screen and it promises to give me nightmares for years to come.

5 out of 5. Definitely one of the most worthwhile films of the year for me.


I have found the Holy Grail! In my quest for the weird and the bizarre, I have delved into visions of the nightmarish and the perverse. I have seen the brutal, the strange, and the beautiful and the politically charged to the nonsensical whimsy of madness. I have seen just about everything there is to see in the world of cinematic art, forgetting some and endlessly haunted by others. But nothing holds a candle to the simple bizarreness of this unique “horror” import from Japan. In what may seem like a simple enough story, nothing could ever prepare you for the oddball lunacy that is unleashed with a viewing of “House”.

Gorgeous is a young teen girl whose family vacation is ruined by the appearance of her fathers’ fiancée. Rather than allowing the woman to join them, she sets out to visit her Aunt in the country and brings along a group of friends with a bizarre list of nicknames. Kung-Fu, Fantasy, Mac, Melody, Sweetness, and Prof are excited to be spending time together with their beautiful friend and have absolutely no idea that the girls’ Aunt harbors a deadly secret. With that said… THE FREAKIN’ HOUSE STARTS EATING THEM!!!! No, no no no no no… not eating them, really, but kind of yeah. Okay, it starts to devour them a few pieces at a time but they’re still alive… so we have randomly floating limbs, screaming teenage girls, geysers of blood, a mewling cat, furniture that hops around and attacks people, and people getting turned into bananas after drinking soup with bears. I’m not sure what the heck is going on at any point in this movie, except that this is by far the weirdest film I’ve ever seen. Things happen for no apparent reason, people spout out lines of dialogue that make NO sense… and then more things start to happen. And I’m staring at the screen with the distinct impression that someone else HAS to be watching my response, because this movie is MESSED up.

This is it…. This is the strangest movie I’ve ever seen. I decided to watch some of the extra’s on the DVD, but once I saw the name Ti West my brain sort of folded in on itself and wrapped into a tight little knot. This guy starts talking about the movie as if he’s EVER made a decent film in his life and I’m trying to figure out why this even matters… when I remembered that there are journalists and reviewers out there who will swear by House of the Devil as being the greatest horror movie of the past five years. I looked at this movie and tried to figure out why Ti West, the man who films a girl refilling her glass of water multiple times, has any sort of say in regards to this film. And I listened to him speak… at the end of the day, his comments could be regarded as this: “This is the strangest movie I’ve ever seen. It’s like a childs nightmare.” Congratulations, doofus! You state the obvious…

This movie deserves 4 out of 5. The Ti West commentary after the film in the special features seems perfectly nonsensical with regard to the rest of the film. It’s like asking Eli Roth to do an interview on the special features portion of “On Golden Pond” because Cabin Fever took place in a cabin near a lake. I don’t get it.

Operation: Endgame

Two government assassination squads are forced to kill one another in this extremely dark comedy. The basic premise introduces “Joker” to his new assignment, a covert operations assassination team devoted to furthering the interests of the U.S. government. Their opposing squad, set up decades earlier, is also devoted to furthering the interests… so it’s never really clear where their major differences lay, save that they both work as top secret cover operation squads on the fringe of legality. The events of the film coincide with the change of administrations, the aftermath of an operation gone wrong, and orders to shut down all operations and destroy all data related to their activities. Joker is a seemingly innocent bystander caught up in events, desperate to find a way out of the facility before the entire place is flooded with hot napalm and fiery death.

As much as this film REEKS of political propaganda, the story is actually really good and could have worked with just about any change of political power. As it is, we are often brought into current events with snips of public speeches from “then” newly elected President, Barack Obama. Steve Cordell, “Daily Show” regular, is heavily featured as a middle-aged and extremely burned out senior agent struggling with alcoholism, regret, and the impending psychological breakdown of a man in his line of work. All of the characters are homicidally insane, except for two lackeys left to monitor events on video feeds. Zack Gaffigan, Ellen Barkin, and other cast mates round out an interesting ensemble in the tradition of “Heathers” and ‘Very Bad Things” with characters holding secret plans, grudges, and orders for one betrayal after another.

3.5 out of 5.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jingle Belles Burlesque Show! Review?

Jingle Belles Burlesque at the Paper Wing Theater

Burlesque? What does that even mean these days? It’s a turn of phrase that conjures Betty Page imagery with tassels and jazz, maybe a little bit of the old vaudeville comedy, your general hodgepodge collection of talents focused around teasing dances and a fair number of naughty bits. For an odd-ball like me, it’s a big seller in attracting my attention and luring me in to a theater with a promise of something a little different. The Paper Wing Theatre plays host to a wonderful Christmas show featuring the proud traditions of Burlesque, complete with audience participation and awesome dance routines that run the range from naughty to silly to intense and just about everything else in between. Let me make this clear... Burlesque is NOT about stripping! It's a show that features dancing, playful teasing, and comedy.

My wife was roped in from the word “go” and was very eagerly anticipating the event. We wanted to rush the theater with a crowd of friends, all of us prepared to hoot and holler in support of the brave folks who would most certainly face a bit of a chill at the very least. But, friends mostly pulled out and we set forth on our journey for the opening night performance with my brother-in-law as an initiate to the theater’s atmosphere. We were met by my dear friend, Remo D, and his wife with whom I settled down in front row while my wife and her brother hovered behind us by a few rows. So we were all good and settled when the show began and our hostess hit the stage with a quick explanation of what “burlesque” was going to be all about and just what we might expect from the performance this evening. She introduced us to her cast, four women, two men, her stage crew, and Santa “The Pole” Clause.

The dancing was incredible. The opening number did everything it needed to do to introduce the audience to the show they had paid to see as a two dancing dolls were wound up by a very excited Santa. Each performer was featured in a number of signature pieces suited to the personalities of their characters; A teasing glove strip, the mixture of a poisonous love potion, a cute “fan” dance using gift boxes and ornaments for props, and a balloon dance featuring audience participation that even included yours truly popping a balloon. The intensity of a brutal tango number sent a hush through the crowd and a little shiver down my spine as the ladies told their story… passion, defiance, obsession, confusion, need, and desire building in each step and turn. The men were certainly not excluded from the festivities as “Lance Lightninghorse” found himself the victim of an amusing stalking that should be seen before being described. All of them were terrific numbers and the performers deserved all the applause, the hooting, the hollering, and the cat calls they received from their audience.

There were a number of sketches and singing bits, including an ode to “Bulemia” from Lightninghorse and a couple’s big decision regarding the “expansion” of their relationship. Continuing running gags between Santa and the Hostess made for a number of hilarious moments and male co-host “King” was a trooper when dealing with vocal enthusiasm from the audience itself. And, in one of those instances that went beyond simple audience participation, the “stage boy” found himself cheered and “encouraged” as he quickly went to work before and after a number of performances. All of the performances led to a fantastic finale that took the roof off with a great song from our hostess and the antics of her mischievous cast.

It’s a cold season. The Paper Wing offers warm entertainment with delicious hot drinks and a great cast of enthusiastic performers. Instead of shoveling out cash for the same old Hollywood theatrics that’ll wind up on a $10 DVD in three months, spend the evening in Monterey and catch this special Holliday engagement while it lasts. Experience something different with a great crowd. Happy Holidays!

5 out of 5.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

2 Reviews: Potter and Robogeisha

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

We have come a long way from where the series started; the relative safety of school and the guidance of both teachers and peers is gone and “The Deathly Hallows” forces a level of maturity on our lead characters that each actor rises to fulfill. Potter’s story has always been that of the classic Hero Quest and these are the darkest times within his path. Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters have come into power, forcing Harry to become a fugitive. We travel the length and breadth of the English countryside with visits to homes and neighborhoods within the Wizarding community, but mostly on the run through the vast European Wilderness. As always, he is accompanied by childhood friends; Hermione and Ron. Their quest to discover the horcruxes are darkly mirrored by Voldemorts’ own mission to obtain one of the objects of the “Deathly Hallows”, characters in a faerie myth passed down through the generations.

While many are praising the work of both Potter and Hermione, I thought Ron was the ultimate glue holding this film together and his presence also became the most heroic as he overcame feelings of his own doubt. He owns every scene and constantly provides an emotional connection with the audience as the most “human” of all the characters. Harry is the chosen one, Hermione is extraordinarily gifted, but it is Ron whose family is in constant danger and whose abilities are notably limited when faced with the dangers of their quest. We have a large host of well known Brits providing their talents in a number of limited “cameo” roles, but the story really is about these three young teens coming to grips with being alone in the world. Limiting their interaction with periphery characters becomes necessary, but the little peeks the audience gets into other lives and events does a good job of explaining just how alone they are.

I haven’t been this satisfied with the Potter series since The Chamber of Secrets. It ramps up the action, the suspense, and brings the story outside the relative safety of Hogwarts without the idea that Dumbledore will ride in at any moment to save them. More than worth seeing, this film is also worth seeing on the big screen for the absolutely stunning photography and brilliant European countryside.

5 out of 5.


The Japanese “Gore” films are a sub-genre within a sub-genre buried beneath another sub-genre and require a certain taste in very strange things, a pseudo-punk mentality, and the ability to wrap your brain around imagery dedicated to the soul purpose of blowing out your optical nerves. The plots usually don’t make a lot of sense… they’re sort of threadbare storylines designed to set a hero against a band of colorful villains. They sort of throw in a cacophony of buzzing saws, fountains of blood, and severed parts flying across the screen while bizarre body modifications are used in an aggressive twist. Limbs transform into waving phallic tentacles, razor filled mouths open wide in the middle of stomachs, and so on so fort in the midst of combat scenes. Robo Geisha isn’t quite “Tokyo Gore Police” or “Machine Girl”, but it is far better than the abysmal “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl”. The splatter punk outrageous comedy is ramped up with armpit blades, secret martial arts “geisha techniques”, and cybernetic implants complete with acidic discharge of bodily fluids.

The bitter rivalry and competitive relationship between two sisters takes center stage in the classic retelling of “My Brothers’ Keeper”. The two women are training to become Geisha, with the eldest sister well on her way to a successful career as the younger is forced to live in her shadow. They are kidnapped by an evil iron corporation with designs on world domination, or perhaps world destruction, and they are trained and modified throughout their imprisonment. The sisters betray one another, support one another, and receive a number of cybernetic implants designed to create better killers. We’re treated to a series of screaming, crying, battle stances, posing, and long-winded introduction of tertiary characters. These fools just as quickly die off in order to fill up a good hour’s worth of time before things start to get REALLY strange. One of the sisters makes a startling discovery, sending her into conflict with her creators and leading to the ultimate battle to save Tokyo from the corporations’ depredations! Yeah, we get a lot of fan service and plenty of grue to satisfy the bloodlust, but this film is just flat out WEIRD. Buildings come to life as giant robo-Kaiu designed to wreak havoc and step on hapless victims and smear them across Tokyo.

I’m not so sure I could really recommend the movie to others, but if this is your cup of tea then have a watch. It’s not a waste of time, at the very least. If it sounds like something you might like, you should probably check out the previously mentioned films in similar style. Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police are far better entries into this bizarre series of sub-sub-sub-genre work, better stories, acting, and effects and just as likely to leave you scratching your head. Robo Geisha is more like the least interesting in this selection, good enough to waste time with but not quite the feast of utterly strange Nippon extremism I’ve become accustomed to over the years.

3 out of 5.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen


After the tragic results of the first film, I swore I would not pay a single dime toward viewing a sequel. I would go out of my way to avoid Michael Bay films. The horrid filth of the first film could never lower the bar any further than it had. It took a simple premise (giant robots that can transform into vehicles battling one another over a MacGuffin device) and managed to vomit forth a brutal masterpiece of dizzying and nonsensical narrative that never failed to crap all over any storytelling medium. So I took the high road and just decided that I would lay down not one single penny… but then my wife decided to watch the film while I was on the computer in the same room. Add this terrible mistake to her insistence that Star Wars really isn't all that great and her lack of understanding the pure awesomeness that the film brings to this world. This black hole monstrosity of awfulness managed catching my interest enough to wonder what the hell was going on and how the hell they would justify this meaningless stream of filth. I discovered that the bottom of the well hadn’t even been scraped in the original movie. Things were about to get a whole lot worse.

To be fair, one of my biggest complaints about the first film was a lack of on-screen robot bashing. It was all stuff we heard in the background while human actors would give reaction facial expressions. Learning from his mistakes in the first film, Michael Bay manages to incorporate a few more big-robot battles into this farce when he isn’t shoveling bathroom humor down our gullets with a gleeful disregard to human decency. The constant barrage of explosive sound lets up only long enough for the racial stereo-types to glare with the light of a thousand suns and sear their impressions into even the densest of skulls in the frat-boy acumen for which Bay has built a career. Only slightly less grating on the nerves is the presence of the films lead, a punk kid who has made it his personal mission to become the next … something? I don’t even know what he’s supposed to be. I’m not holding my breath. Megan Fox poses and sort of slinks her way between set pieces, reminding everyone who pays attention that the only real female presence in this testosterone laden clusterbang is a vapid doll incapable of delivering even the slightest line of dialogue with a degree of emotion. Her own feminine charms not-withstanding, we do get the surprise delivery of another transformer in human female guise… which simply BEGS to question why they would bother transforming into cars if they could disguise themselves as normal humans. But we’re not going to bother exploring that concept… or the ability to immediately teleport to any other location the planet. Yeah, that’s thrown in there too for no apparent reason. Look, I could tell you about all the things that fail to ever make the slightest degree of sense, but that’s the entire movie. None of it means anything! They go from point A to point A and nothing ever seems to get accomplished.

So let me tell you about something good. This film, for all its terrible dialogue, lack of focus, piss poor direction, obnoxious narrative, and the formless gear, piston, metallic clanging forms that PASS for Robots this film has a bright shining beacon of goodness. This movie has an AWESOME soundtrack. It has the kind of music that makes you think you are watching something FAR better than it is, something that is heroic, daring, a little scary, and epic in scale. When Optimus rises for battle, you almost forgive the script for the deaux ex machina that brings him back into the conflict… you almost forget that you can only barely tell which transformer is which in the formless jumble of gears that clash against one another, so you sort of know when to cheer and when to jeer. The music is so incredibly good. It’s purely the only redeeming quality of this horror show.

The wonderful thing about a bad movie is that is as capable of inspiring the same passion that a good movie is likely to inspire. For as much as I’m sickened and disgusted by this awful travesty in film making, I know that someone else will make a fantastic film down the road that will inspire me to write something of great praise and worthy regard. I love the storytelling medium of film and I’ll continue to see tons of crap in the hope that I will one day find another great film that inspires me to the same thrills and chills of countless other movies. I can still throw Raiders of the Lost Ark into my DVD player and get all giddy to the adventures of Indiana Jones, or cheer the exploits of Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy, or I could cry my eyes out to the Lord of the Rings and realize that there are still GREAT films out there and that people are still making GREAT films to this day. Maybe I’m being too hard on this brutal assault on the medium… the box office certainly seems to indicate that I’m wholly wrong. The last truly great theatrical film I saw had a dismal return, indicating my lack of connection with the general populace on the whole. I am a niche audience.

0.5 out of a possible 5 for this crapfest.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

3 Reviews: Doghouse / 30 Days (sequel) / Alice in Burtonland.


I saw a preview for “Doghouse” a few years back, just before its initial European release and long before U.S. distribution would land this film in my mailbox. Danny Dyer was heavily featured in the trailer and I had just discovered his particular “charm” after his performance in Severance. In “Doghouse”, Dyer hits familiar notes as the egotistical womanizing jerk in a troupe of British mates taking a holiday trip to the small village of Moodley. Their goal is to distract best friend “Vince” from his recent divorce through drink and rough-house drinking in a small town atmosphere away from the city life the boys were usually living. The seven mates arrive in the town only to find it a near-barren wasteland nearly devoid of life and split up to wander around. Things hit the fan when they’re attacked by the blood-crazed cannibalistic female residents of the town… the “Zom-birds”, if you will.

Okay, that’s the premise of the film. What this film is really about, however, is a grown man coming to terms with his own maturity and recent divorce. He has done everything the right way for so long, only to wind up losing his wife because she’d grown “bored” with their life. He is frustrated and angry, he feels as though all women hate men, and his buddies are all coping with different stages of their own lives. So he and his buddies run from one hiding spot to another, chopping, stabbing, burning, and otherwise behaving in a rather ungentlemanly manner to the towns’ female zombie residents. Because, what this film is really about is a bunch of goofy blokes getting attacked by female “zom-bird” slags.

Brit-slang and dry wit humor blends with a decent amount of prat-fall gags and gory F/X. The verbal interplay remains consistent between the characters, each character seeming like lifelong mates out for a weekend jaunt away from their spouses. While Dyer may own most of the film, he’s in strong competition with the extremely likeable and nerdy heart of the troupe, Matt. Mikey, desperate to please and impress his blokes, also rises to the occasion time and again. The movie is funny and kept me entertained from start to finish with a group of loveable goofballs. Even the misogynistic Dyer comes off as redeemable when all is said and done.

4.5 out of a possible 5.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days

A story has a beginning, middle, and an end. The original film featured a fairly standard ‘siege’ premise when the Alaskan City of Barrow faces a month without sunlight and the hungry assault from a clan of vampires. We followed Eben as he made difficult choices and struggled to save the people he loved from a terrible fate. We had a beginning as the sun set and Eben was unable to help his estranged wife catch the last flight out of the city. The people of Barrow settled in for a harsh month and a mysterious stranger had disabled communications with the outside world. The middle came in a wave of hunger as the vampires took to the city, slaughtering and killing with reckless abandon. Eben struggled to keep his family and friends safe from the harsh cold and the unrelenting horror that stalked them. And he faced the end of his story, but for that you should see the original 30 Days of Night and probably stop reading this review. That’s the end of the story.

But with any successful property, there’s always an attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle. Attempting to expand the tale beyond its fitting end, Dark Days continues to follow Stella in the aftermath of her survival against the undead. She has published a book about her experiences and is touring the country to spread her tale, to create a wider awareness of the vampires’ existence. She’s caught the attention of the undead and a number of people who are actively hunting the monsters. Lured by a promise to disrupt their ‘system’ by killing the vampire known as “Lillith”, Stella once again does battle with the undead and makes several startling discoveries.

Actually, it’s not all that startling so much as it’s just lazy writing. We find out that vampires who burn in the daylight can be reconstituted, completely destroying a number of scenes from the original film. Lillith is about as threatening a vampire as can be when she has almost no lines and pretty much struts around the screen and stares people to death… there’s no depth to her character and she completely lacks the menace of the first films lead vampire. Heck, she isn’t even nearly as threatening as the first films child vampire. Added to the growing list of problems is the introduction of “Dane”, a “Good Guy” vampire who is somehow able to curb his thirst and attempts to help Stella and the new Scoobie Gang track and hunt down the undead. In the wake of her towns’ destruction, Stella has become a chain smoking, booze swilling, teeth-clenched grumpy pants “tough girl” semi-hero straight out of central casting. One of the best parts of the film features the death of a fellow hunter when he turns, leading one of the cast to say “We’ve never had to kill one of our own.” Stella flippantly mentions that you get used to it, to which I’m looking back at the events of the first film as Eben did all the dirty work while Stella sat around crying. What, precisely, is she supposed to have gotten used to? And what’s with the attitude?

Dark Days does feature a number of good gore effects. On its own and ignoring the back story of the original film, it’s a fairly good vampire hunter film. But when you compare it with the original, or when you look at it as a continuation of the characters struggles, it fails on an epic level and reminds you that a good sequel should always respect the original films ending.

3 out of 5.

Alice in Wonderland

What, precisely, was wrong with the original story of Alice that Tim Burton felt the need to only sort of and kind of address its original premise with this supposed sequel to the original story? It is never billed a sequel, of course… it is presented as a wholly new vision to the original Lewis Carroll story as presented time and time again throughout the years. It is designed to look like Alice, it is designed to feel like Alice, but the original story certainly didn’t leave enough room for a headlining Johnny Depp to chew up the mess of dialogue and deliver Carroll’s poetry in a dreadful hodgepodge of semi-European dialect accents and drunken Captain Jack slurring. And yet Depp goes out of his way to out-weird himself in full make-up while Burton forces the cast and crew into one poorly designed green room effect after another in an attempt to recapture the same exact vision he’s already brought us time and time again. It’s like Burton just takes a weird story, adds more weirdness to it, grounds it with the same thematic presentation of EVERY single other film he’s ever made. Take a deep breath, try to relax, and enjoy the film for what it is…

Alice is a young girl who might very well be mad. Her father disappeared some time ago, possibly dead though we never really find out the truth of it. He might have just gone mad himself, and his former estate is now owned and run by a family friend whose own son is preparing to propose marriage to the young Alice. He’s well-to-do, of course, and everyone expects the girl to accept because it’s only sensible and everyone does the sensible thing in a sensible world… except for the one single outsider that Burton continues to place in all of his films, leaving that one person to deal with the hostility and persecution of a normal world again and again and again! I FREAKING GOT IT WITH EDWARD SCISSORHANDS YOU TIRED HACK OF A … .deep breath. Enjoy it for what it is. So, Alice the loon takes off right after the proposal and chases the Rabbit into the hole and goes through the motions… again, it seems. We’re told that she’s doing all of this again by the residents of Wonderland, who are all familiar enough with Alice to hope that she is the right one. You see, this isn’t just a remake of Alice… it’s a sequel, I suppose, though they didn’t ever say it was going to be a sequel… GARGHGHGHGH!!!! Because the original material isn’t weird enough? Because WHY?!?!! I’ll tell you why… because Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter, and Mrs. Tim Burton needs more screen time to weird up the theater with her bizarre British mannerisms when she’s really just a tired old slag!!! ARGH!!!! Deep breath!

The movie isn’t bad… it’s just nothing we haven’t already seen, and nothing we haven’t already coped with, and nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland when all is said and done. It’s a hodgepodge collection of random elements from the story swirled around to tell the same exact story Tim Burton made famous with Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, and countless other fantasy adventures. Fans are going to enjoy the work because it’s the same thing he’s done over and over again, but I couldn’t stop marveling at how magnificently he managed to work in more and more screen time for both Depp and his own wife. The Red Queen and the Mad Hatter were important to the story, but didn’t have near the presence they happen to carry in this reworking of Carrolls original story. So, to be fair, it’s neither incredibly bad or awfully good… it’s another Tim Burton movie in a glutton bundle of Tim Burton films.

2.5 out of 5

Monday, November 8, 2010

2 Reviews: Centurion / Night of the Demons (remake!)


The legend of Rome’s Ninth Legion has survived for centuries. They were purported to have disappeared into the mists of the Scottish highlands, never to be seen again. Historians have long since disproven the story, but it makes for some stunning material with which to weave a dramatic story. Writer/Director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) asks what might have happened and manages to create a thrilling adventure. Early in the story, a Roman soldier (Michael Fassbinder) is captured by the Picts after a successful raid on his outpost. The Ninth Legion manages to rescue the escaped prisoner and then walk into an ambush. Nearly wiped out to a man, the soldier leads a rag tag group of survivors on a daring rescue of their stalwart general. Things do not go according to plan and the troupe is forced to run, harried by the Picts in the aftermath of their unsuccessful rescue.

The film starts off quickly enough, but seems a little clumsy for the first several minutes. The Legion are not heroes, they are soldiers on a mission. The Picts are defending their homeland. It becomes difficult to identify with the Romans. They are portrayed as arrogant, bullish, and bloodthirsty. They are the invaders of a land, and we start the film by seeing them in a terrible light. Their enemies and the films primary antagonists seem far more sympathetic at the start. We get the gory goods from Neil Marshall, but the man is no slouch at telling a story. What seems clumsy at first actually comes together later as roles become reversed and we see the Romans as vulnerable and desperate. We see the Picts become set on the hunt, sadistic in their own cruelty, and vicious to their own people. Fassbinder grows into the role of the “Centurion” of the title, leading his adopted men through the terrible winter wasteland of the Scottish hills in a desperate attempt to evade his pursuers. This is yet another terrific film from one of the most talented directors of our time and something

The harsh winter cold seeps into the marrow of the film, allowing the viewer to imagine how the land itself is rejecting the presence of the Romans. Swirling gray clouds shift and swirl constantly, threatening to break open with a frozen snow or rain. The terrain is jagged, uneven, and difficult and we feel each stumble and fall as the men scramble to reach safety. Hardcore traditional effects generously splattered with blood were shot on location. The battle scenes are brutal, with limbs savagely ripped or chopped off and faces painted in tortured agony.

I definitely urge my readers to check out if they get the opportunity.

4 out of 5.

Night of the Demons

Remaking “Night of the Demons” is actually a pretty good idea. It’s a little known cult classic with a great many faults but a terrific little Halloween Night premise. There’s a strong enough fan following to provide instant interest, but just enough wiggle room to do something a little different and possibly improve on the original source material. So it actually came as a surprise to me when I rented the remake and discovered the depths of an epic failure that so brutally scrubbed my brain with its utter lack of anything worthwhile to bother with the time it takes to actually watch this trash. I’m at a loss of where to begin, because this movie doesn’t just fail in simple direction, acting, or special effects… it leaps into the worst CASTING decisions to possibly plague such a wretched little project, promotional material that puts forth its’ best effort in displaying the vapid lack of thought from a single person on the cast or crew, and even a location that boasts the least eerie “haunted house” to ever grace my screen.

Shannon Elizabeth, a person who seems very sweet and gentle, is terribly miscast as the vampishly sensual “Angela” upon which most of the film relies in order to provide a degree of menace. But you’ll notice that Elizabeth is described as both “sweet and kind” which makes her attempts at “vampishly sensual” seem awkward at best and just flat out clumsy at worst. It’s usually at “worst” when she attempts to slink her way across a room or intimately wrap her arms around some future victim. But; there seems to be a genuine love for the genre work in her excitement for the role, so I feel badly about ragging on her performance. Honestly, I don’t think it was her fault. This terrible casting decision pales in comparison to Monica Keening and co-star Edward Furlong. Neither actor shares the slightest shred of chemistry with the other but we’re supposed to believe that their failed relationship will provide the emotional anchor their characters need. Furlong is just plain hard to watch while Keening is flat and terrible as the films main protagonist. She sucks the excitement from a scene and makes several unsuccessful attempts at sarcastic dialogue in order to maybe come off as cool or snarky. Attempts made, and epic failure achieved. Just about the only redeeming thing about this movie comes from the brief cameo made by Linnea Quigley, a feature performer in the first film.

The story is something like this… Angela rents the old manor house with a foul reputation in order to throw a wild Halloween party. The police shut the party down because she’s charging each person an entrance fee and she forgot to get a permit, leaving her high and dry. We also have a number of subplots that eventually lead to several other guests becoming locked into the property until morning, and then they find some bodies in the basement. Angela begins to turn into a demon and spread the infection… oh, man, this actually sounds like it’s not so bad when I describe it. I’m not doing you any justice… so let me be frank: We had about thirty minutes of character development that never went anywhere and achieved absolutely NOTHING in the way of making this a better story or movie. The characters were bland and meaningless, random faces to be splattered with blood or some other fluid. The demons incomprehensible weakness to “rust” became utterly ridiculous with an actual attempt at logical explanation through dialogue… what?!?!!! You hit them, they burn, end of freakin’ explanation! The roguish thug hero of the first film is replaced with an incomprehensibly pathetic drug dealer who gets introduced with one of the most long-winded back story scenes that never EVER meant anything with regards to the rest of the story. And, in case you missed it, he makes certain to keep explaining why he’s freaking out over and over and over again until you simply stop caring. Oh, boy does this movie suck.

The director offers a pre-taped introduction filmed at and for the San Diego Comic Con, promoting the film as a “Punk Rock” horror flick that includes the first demon anal sex scene. I’m not kidding. That’s what he chooses to focus on for promotional material in this flick and he delivers on precisely that promise, but even THAT comes off as just flat out boring and uninteresting. Really, the whole movie is an exercise in tedium with interesting concepts that never really work.

2 out of 5

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reviews: Lost Boys (The Thirst) and "Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl". MORE...

Lost Boys: The Thirst

The Frog Brothers are back in the latest Lost Boys film, reuniting the first films vampire hunting duo for battle against the Undead. Edgar Frog is out on the skids, no longer so gung ho about delivering massive awesome death to the undead. He struggles to make ends meet by selling off his comic collection, scrap by scrap. Just as the bank prepares to foreclose on his property, Edgar is hired by a vampire-romance author to track a vampire rave and rescue her brother from the clutches of the evil DJ X. There’s a little bit of story with DJ X using Vampire blood as a drug in order to transform a literal army to do his bidding. This is a simple follow-up story featuring a spin-off on characters from the first movie and it’s not exactly going to set the world on fire… but it’s precisely the kind of story the fans of the original will most likely want to see. Edgar takes center stage, Alan returns, and the rest of the movie has some fun with itself and with modern vampire mythos.

Corey Feldman is spot on, once again, as Edgar Frog. It’s a role he created and it’s one that the actor seems to enjoy having fun with. He’s joined by Jamison Newlander, reprising the role of Alan Frog and eagerly hitting the right notes for a return to form. A flashback reveals the reason for Alans’ absence in the previous film, a forced transformation into the very thing they hate has driven a wedge between the brothers Frog. Having survived for the past several years on animal blood, Alan keeps himself away from temptation and he’s become very bitter. Sam Emerson is also gone after the results of “The Tribe”; so Edgar recruits some new help in the form of a reality show Hunter and a clerk in the local comic book store. We get a classic “bug Hunt”-style film with the good guys hunting vampires in the sub-basement of an abandoned meat-packing factory.

There’s plenty to gripe about with the film, however. The raving vampires are extremely one-dimensional and DJ X is little more than a footnote to the rest of the film. The Vampires are fashioned after the 30 Days of Night shark-teeth monsters, there are obvious allusions to Twilights’ author in Edgars’ employer, and there were far too many “flashbacks” to the original films bonding moments between the brothers and Sam. Gratuitous scenes of sex and violence are to be expected, but seemed very out of place with the tone of the film. The pacing of the story staggered a little bit around the middle, but eventually found it’s footing in the finale and with its’ awkward tongue-in-cheek humor. There was an obvious desire to stick with a lot of the formula that worked in the first film, a good number of lines rehashed for a follow up story.

3.5 out of 5.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

I have spent nearly half the day attempting to recover my senses. I’m trying to shape a cohesive thought, write an honest opinion, and offer my dear faceless readers a fair and objective view so that they are capable of making an informed opinion before watching this movie. I don’t know if that will be possible. My brain is a pile of mush, having been brutally dragged through the blood geysers, flying body parts, and lunatic characters of “Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl”. The Japanese import of this film includes some of the most bizarre scenes imaginable, taking direction from previous Japanese Gore-comedy films like Tokyo Gore Police and Machine Girl in order to raise the bar a little higher.

This movie is f’ed up! Look, I tried to be professional… read the above paragraph, because it sounds like I’m still a little sane. But no, I’m sorry, that’s not the case here. This movie is twisted and bizarre and I don’t honestly know if it was good OR bad. I just know that it was, and I’ll never be able to un-see that which I have seen. Vampire Girl, a new transfer student, is in love with one of her classmates and tricks him into tasting her blood. Her interests are opposed by another school friend, whose father is secretly a twisted scientist seeking to bring life to the dead… while dressed in Kabuki make-up. Surrounding this bizarre love triangle are a series of characters including a “wrist-cutting” club, the “Dark Girls” club, Igor the janitor, and a school full of potential victims, peeping tom teachers, and a seductive school nurse. The gore is way over the top and flatly ridiculous. But if you think the strangeness ends there, you are sorely mistaken… a totally twisted soundtrack mixes show tunes, fusion jazz, and playful ditties that completely warp the mind.

This skull-fucked movie isn’t going to get any star-rating. It goes right next to “Meet the Feebles”, which means you watch it and YOU take responsibility for that decision. I won’t take the blame and I am definitely NOT going to take the credit if this sort of thing spreads any further beyond my eyes. You want it, well it’s not so hard to find anymore.

Riff Trax: House On Haunted Hill (Fathom Event)

Not so much a review in this case… I decided to take a night to myself and headed off to the theater for a Riff Trax special event. Fathom Events tends to rent out space in a number of theaters across the country for simulcast promotional bits featuring the Opera, huge concert recordings, anime films, lectures, and other things. It’s kind of a special treat for people who pay some attention to these sorts of promotions… in this case; it looks like it was me and one other couple for the Riff Trax event. The boys from MST3K have been doing this performance tours for a number of films, riffing movies and shorts from coast to coast… and I love a good movie riff as much as the next guy, though probably a little more.

They opened their show with some good riffs on Instructional Video shorts, featuring a grocery witch and a talking paper bag. The talking bag was probably the most frighteningly funny thing I’ve ever seen, and I dread the day that wood pulp takes over the rest of the world with its awesome might. This poor film never stood a chance, and I almost feel a shred of sympathy for the makers… but then I remember all the school shorts I had to sit through and those unholy monstrosities can rot for all I care! I saw my first real autopsy in a school health class… what kind of sick monster decides a graphic depiction of cutting fat encrusted arteries is good learning material for middle school? You want to tell me that???

Then they went to the main event and I finally got to see Vincent Price on the big screen for the first time in my life. Price and all his mustachioed glory with the little quirks and grins and that highly distinguished voice trilling through dialogue that can’t help but sound far more respectable than it really is when he speaks it. The film was a classic schlock-fest seen in hundreds of Horror Host variations, quite possibly over-riffed if such a thing were possible. But I wanted to take another trip to the “House on Haunted Hill” to have a quick look-see, gander through the colorized rooms and admire one slow pan after another from William Castle as he belted out a good feature-length story with only an extremely small number of gags. I love Castle films, so I would’ve seen this if the guys weren’t riffing… but as it was, I was laughing until I cried. And then I got a headache and they wouldn’t stop cracking jokes, and I was in tears, and my head was pounding, and they JUST WOULDN’T STOP!!!!

The show came to a close at well past the two hour mark and I was clutching my skull, hoping for a blessed end to the horrible torments inflicted through the gift of laughter. I chuckled and guffawed and even gave a donkey-like “HEEEE-HAW!!!” at some point in the evening, giving wonder to theater mates who muttered that I had to be crazy or inebriated, but of course I was not the latter. That always leaves the former, but you all knew that already. So let me close this brief commentary that I enjoyed the Riff Trax event and hope to see some more as time warrants. Now presently and next… Midnight and the Genetic Opera!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Let Me In

Owen isn’t a happy kid. His parents are getting a divorce, he’s bullied at school, and he has no friends. When his mother isn’t stuck in the bottom of a bottle, she’s far too busy to notice the crumbling child left in her care by a father we never really meet. The harsh New Mexico winter brings a steady snowfall and a new neighbor, Abby. The strange girl walks around the snow without shoes and is cared for by a secretive father. As a friendship blossoms between Owen and Abby, a series of grisly murders begin to haunt the city. Unlike the original film, “Let Me In” doesn’t obscure the real menace… Abby is a vampire. She’s a monster from very early on in the film and this adaptation drives home the absolute horror in this tale. And that’s where this film differs from the original Swedish version. It’s not fair, but it is extremely difficult to watch “Let Me In” without comparing it to the original Swedish adaptation of “Let the Right One In”. The announced remake, even if it was going to mark the return of Hammer Studios, had already set my mind against the film and I wasn’t even going to give it the opportunity to let me down. I had no idea how wrong I was going to be proven when I stepped into the theater.

Vampires are monsters. Let me make this clear for you, dear faceless reader… Vampires are undead monstrosities that need to survive on living blood. They do not sparkle, they are not super heroes, and they do not woo the teenage love interest and buy sports cars and vacation homes for fun and leisure. They feed and they hide from the light of day because it will kill them. They keep their identities a secret because ignorance is their greatest weapon. They exist for as long as they continue to feed and they are slaves to this hunger. Abby is a cute little kid, but the thin disguise shatters and we see her for the monster she is. Blood and gore drip from her chin, her eyes are blackened by feral hunger, and she quickly decays without the source of her strength. We don’t have exceptions to the rules; we don’t have arrogant monsters proclaiming their immunity to movie magic. We do have a dyed in the wool hardcore vampire unable to enter people’s homes without invitation, weak during the day, and fearful of discovery. It’s the devotion to traditional horror that sets “Let Me In” apart from the pack or recent trendy vamp flicks or teenage angst horror. The introduction of a potential “Vampire Hunter” character also gives the film a twist that I thought the original lacked. The police officer is brilliantly played by Elias Kotas and provides a much needed “human” touch to the story.

There is a brilliant use of focus and lighting in order to obscure features and isolate certain images. In many cases, the obscurity itself is isolated to show a sense of separation and seclusion between the characters. The director breaks with traditional expectations in order to capture difficult imagery, including a gruesome car crash sequence filmed entirely from a stationary position from the backseat. The films only real failing comes with the CGI sequences, somewhat out of place given the look of the film. But even that failing isn’t enough to detract from the whole of the story. Hammer is definitely back on the map!

5 out of 5.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Frozen

Shot on location during a harsh winter month, Frozen is the story of three young college students stuck on a ski lift. The perfect series of mistakes are made, leaving the three kids up on that lift without hope of rescue for at least a week. And while it sounds like a simple story, I know what might be running through your mind as you read this: All the ways in which this couldn’t possibly ever happen, all the things you would do if you were in this situation, and writer/director Adam Green obviously had the same thoughts you had. This is a simple story, but its telling will rip your nerves ragged and leaving you wincing and near tears. This is hardcore and it will not stop tearing at you once these kids are stuck, ripping at your heart and your soul as you see them make mistakes. The simple act of touching becomes harsh and vicious when frostbite sets in, and then the unflinching burn from a relentless sun simply beats down on them all day long. There is no merciful reprieve for our main characters; no clever till turn of chance and opportunity that lands a pizza on their laps. They are stuck and time is working steadily against them.

Two boyhood friends regularly take the mountain ski trip in order to get away from the stress of their school life. They’ve made this trip on dozens of mountains, sharing jokes and camaraderie in the way so many men have. They’ve been bound by a lifetime of familiarity and experience. But now the girlfriend of one of the two wants to tag along wants to learn how to ski, wants to spend time with the man she loves and share in his experiences. This is a triangle dynamic where two people hide their resentment of one another for the sake of their one point of common concern. So as much as this film is about three people facing the rigors of nature, this is also about a group dynamic that seems destined to crumble from the very beginning. The acting is unbelievably intense with an unbelievably deep performance from Sean Ashmore that finds greater strength than we think him capable of at first.

Look, going any further with regards to this film will spoil it for any future viewer. I’ve seen many horror films, as my blog attests. I love the genre, from the gory and sometimes comedic to the serious and oftentimes disturbing. “Frozen” falls into the latter category. My nerves were shot through with panic, fear, and pure horror. I was left a ragged little ball of tear-stained misery by the end. Green presents a film that is intimate and personal with a kind of horror I rarely ever find in this day and age. He drives a proverbial fist to the gut, yanks you back by the hair, and spits on what is left of your dignity with a cocky smile and dismissive drop to the ground. That damn Green just has a knack for doing sadistic things to my mind, I think.

5 out of 5.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2 Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird & Pig Hunt

Joheunnom Nabbeunnom Isanghannom

“THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD” is set during the Japanese occupation of Korea and northern Manchuria with all the trappings of a traditional “spaghetti” Western. The Good (Woo-Sung Yung) is a fairly straight laced bounty hunter on the trail of a number of outlaws. The Bad (Byung-hun Lee) is an outlaw and assassin with a checkered reputation for cruelty. He is sent by a crooked employer to steal back a map from the Japanese representatives of a bank in the northern mainland. His plan to rob their train goes awry when another outlaw hits the Japanese train car first, introducing The Weird. Yoon Tae-Goo (Kang-ho Sung) is a fairly comedic loser pulling a number of small jobs when he manages to get his hands on a coveted map. The rest of the story involves a race to secure the map and find the “treasure” to which it leads. The three main characters are pursued by Korean Rebels, the Japanese Army, and outlaw criminals hoping to cash in.

Though we have three main characters, it’s really The Weird who stands out as the heroic scoundrel with his eye toward the prize. A mysterious past and a bizarre reputation for survival seem a little hard to believe as you watch him stumble across one good fortune after another. His fumbling across the desert toward his goal and the consistency to which he seems to fall one step behind everyone else seems to prove the adage that fortune favors the foolish. Stunt work highlights the antics of the Good. He swings and leaps from rooftop to rooftop, rides herd on the entire Japanese army, and blasts away at the thuggish outlaws with his trusty rifle. “The Bad” is a sadist, murdering friends and foes alike to fill the emptiness within him. He has little interest in the map, however. He pursues the Fool for a past slight, a loss that has not been forgotten in a great many years.

Dealing the goods on Asian-style action cinema, THE GOOD sets the mythic Western on fire with a number of inspired twists on familiar sequences. The classic train robbery, a visit to a house of ill repute, and cowboy style vigilante justice takes a step toward the East. The Japanese occupation is reminiscent of America’s own Civil War period and the Cavalry charges from Army outposts. A blend of traditional “Moricone”-inspired themes play throughout the film with a number of soft jazz themes and disco twists. The amazing soundtrack builds on the already wonderful action sequences and creating an atmosphere that settles this western firmly in the East. Director Ji-woon Kim (Tale of Two Sisters) continues to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with for future releases.

4 out of 5.

Pig Hunt:

Joining the “After Dark” festival and Sam Raimi’s “Ghost House Releasing”, Fangoria’s Fright Fest is this years Halloween series of “independent” horror releases coming straight to DVD for major distribution. James Isaac’s (Jason X, Skinwalkers)“Pig Hunt” seemed the most promising title in the bunch; a crazy blend of backwoods horror and monster animal stalking. John Hickman’s (Travis Aaron Wade) uncle used to take him hunting as a boy, so the young man decides to pay a visit to the old cabin and bring along a bunch of friends for their first hunting trip together. Once in the woods they hear the story of “The Ripper”, the monster pig that may have been the cause of his Uncles’ death. The premise introduces a couple of San Francisco “city slickers” heading out for a weekend hunting trip. John brings his girlfriend along, they run across some backwoods hippies, a pair of redneck brothers sharing a troubled past with the films lead, and a mythical Hogzilla type of monster who randomly stalks and kills various characters. The promotional material promises a gory horror comedy DVD, but only manages to get one of those adverbs right. The film is certainly gory, but even that does not save the film from its many faults.

Pig Hunt, how do I approach thee? You have all the makings of a wild and crazy backwoods horror comedy, complete with colorful characters and a soundtrack by the legendary Les Claypool. Why, then, do you waste nearly an hour of your precious film stock with the characters walking through the woods? I understand that they were trying to build some sort of tension, but it never really pays off. Some of the “Boys” don’t like the girlfriend (Tina Huang), the redneck brothers don’t like the main character, the girlfriend feels a little out of place, and none of it makes any real sense. The group dynamic seems to have no real reason to be angry with one another, even going so far as to explain the Redneck brothers’ history and then blowing it off as a somewhat meaningless childhood accident. The truth is, these people are just tense and frustrated and maybe a little spoiled. The more time spent on building tension, the more we realize that these people have no reason at all to be tense with one another except for the fact that the story requires it. A little tighter cut would have probably done much more to drive the film forward, but it just sort of meanders along to the catchy music and delivers a bunch of gory kills between scenes of dialogue.

As far as the Fangoria Fright Fest goes, Pig Hunt delivers a fairly standard little bit no more or less exciting than the average direct to DVD feature. I didn’t find anything special, but the film delivers on gore with a few decent performances outside the completely bland main characters. The Redneck brothers come off as one part creepy and another part common sense intelligent, making it hard to tell if they were supposed to be villains or not. This is one where I’m bound to find a couple of people thinking that I’m insane to have not liked the film, but the truth is that I just didn’t find it all that interesting.

2.5 out of 5.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

REPO! The Adventure Continues...

My love for "The Genetic Opera" is certainly no secret. It was one of the most anticipated movies of the year for me when it came out, I drove well over two hours and into the heart of Berkeley in order to catch it on opening weekend, and it's become a staple diet of cinema to share with friends. My wife and I both consider it one of our favorite adventures and even she, who is not a fan of gore, enjoys the music and spectacle of the opera. So I kind of jumped a little for joy when the local Paper Wing Theater decided to run a live performance and a friend of mine was lucky enough to join the cast. I knew I'd be going, I definitely picked up tickets when I got the chance to swing by and meet him, and I was definitely eager to see what they would do with the presentation. I had to miss opening weekend... I had to miss the following weekend... but I finally managed to swoop in for a front row seat in the splatter zone, my wife and I dressed as satisfied Geneco customers.

First, let me get to the heart of a very serious rumor that may be going around. I did not actually cry during the final duet between Shiloh and her father. I was leaking precious hatred and violence fluid through my optical nerves. I did not openly weep at the heartbreaking performance of Allison Bojorques because everyone knows that my heart is pure iron ore and I am a manly MAN! With that said, I hope these horrible rumors come to a brutal and quick end and that no one even thinks that this young womans' performance came anywhere close to having any such effect on me. With that said, I think the Paper Wing Theater found pure titanium with her performance because it would have completely blown away any person of lesser fortitude than myself. AS it was, I sat rooted in my chair without a single real tear flowing down my cheek. Shivers along my shoulders and down my arm were clearly coincidental.

The blood did flow from open wounds, splattering knives, and a sadistic display of bone, organs, and human suffering. Driven forward with a live band performance, the opera unfolds as pitch perfect Graverobber introduces the world we've been transported to. A world where all people should fear the legal assassin, the dreaded Repo Man. Do not for one moment mistake my admiration for Shiloh as any sort of dismissal for the rest of the cast. This performance, quite frankly, may have ruined any future viewings of the DVD in my collection. Blind Mag's voice was haunting, the Largo brothers shared incredible chemistry, and Rotti's voice simply COMMANDED attention. But the story really does rely on a duel performance from Nathan, The Repo Man. One part a caring and loving father, the other a monster and villain without remorse. L.J. Brewer pulls it off fantastically and you absolutely know which is in control at any given time. We get all the best music from the theatrical release in addition to a number of songs that only barely appear, if at all, in the film. I held off this long in mentioning Amber Sweet for only one reason... probably one of the best songs performed was Ambers "Blame Not My Cheeks". It's an odd moment of campy levity, and Amber is AWESOME throughout the whole show. Quite honestly, I think Ambers' character is an extremely important counter to Shiloh and is an extremely risque performance as a result. Bravo to the whole cast, all the smaller parts I may have glossed over... the Surgery Sluts, those who testified, those who died... fantastic! AWESOME!!!

Look, I have every intention of catching this show again. I'm hoping to drag more people with me, in chains if necessary. I don't want to have to resort to that tactic... I don't want to drag folks in at the end of my hook, don't want to tie them to a chair, don't want to pry their eyelids open, but I'm not entirely well in the head.And I assure you, even if you do see a slight measure of dampness around the eye area, those will not be tears. I don't know what excuse I'll come up with next time, but I'm sure it'll be another doozy.

I'm pumped. I was going to wait until tomorrow morning to write this review, but it's now 4:28 AM and I'm still wired from the show. I went to work all day and did the Office Drone thing until my eyes were aching... but now I can't get to sleep!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Moments after the last Hatchet film ends, Hatchet 2 opens with Marybeth managing to escape from the clutches of Victor Crowley(Kane Hodder). Danielle Harris replaces Tamara Feldman as our heroine whose encounter with Crowley reveals horrible family secrets. She looks for help from Reverend Zombie(Tony Todd) and a group of local hunters to return to the swamp. They prepare to hunt a ghost that no one really believes in. What follows is a blood-soaked, balls out, gory ride through the Louisiana Bayou! Adam Green is completely unfettered by the MPAA in this film and every splatter, tear, and rip comes through without interference and in all its horrid glory.

Green manages to assemble one of the best casts in order to present his story. He pops a number of genre vets in front of the camera for various moments, looking for a cheap giggle before hitting you with a genuine laugh in well timed dialogue. He manages to deliver good gory fun throughout the film. After collecting the group of colorful characters together, Green systematically one ups himself with one violent kill after another as he eliminates the hunters and narrows in on Harris and Todd. There are hatchet deaths, the belt sander returns, the biggest chainsaw ever wielded by man, and the bodies pile up as buckets of blood are liberally splashed around in glee. I don't want to spoil anything, but everytime I thought that Green couldn't possibly top himself the man would virtually rip my jaw out and deliver another gruesome horror bit of candy for my eyes. I had high expectations for this film as the first quite literally knocked my fucking boots off, so there was no way I was going to be forgiving if this thing didn't live up to the hype. Green took my expectations and shattered my goddamn skull with the heel of his boot, laughing sadistically as I cried in a puddle of my own blood and piss.

Tony Todd manages to snatch one of the most interesting characters he has ever played, a voodoo con-man with insidious designs on the swamp of Crowley. Todd goes over the top in his presentation, a spooky drawl and fluttering hand motions dismissed as so much bullshit by the people that know him. But beneath the goofy con beats the heart of a true scumbag who uses peoples low expectations of him to trap them in a truly insidious plan from the very beginning. Tony Todd's haunting voice narrates the twist on Crowley's origin that the first film only began to touch on, a backstory that presents a death bed curse and answers the question regarding Victor's mother. Another surprising performance gives some emotional depth to the role of Crowley's father, also played by Hodder. R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface) and Tom Holland (Director of Fright Night and Childs Play) join the cast in pivotal roles. Parry Shen also returns, brother to the first films' tour guide.

5 out of 5... and more. More more more! This film finally sated my bloodlust, the first film to do so since Dead Alive! Incredible gore and a special effects team that deserves all the praise they are likely to get. Slasher nastiness pushes the envelope and raises the bar.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Expendables, Evil Aliens, The Losers, and Witchville reviews and thoughts

The Expendables:

Balls to the freakin’ WALL!!! Big booms, big bangs, blood, guts, gore, and a healthy delivery of sarcastic quips peppered liberally with more bullets than you can shake a stick at! Sylvester Stallone continues to prove that he’s a relevant source for action entertainment with his latest blockbuster film, “The Expendables.” Gathering a cast of action film stars that includes Bruce Willis and the Governator (Each guy pretty much stopping in for the perennial cup of coffee) is a daunting enough task, but Stallone manages to throw together one of the best “Buddy” team pictures in a very long time. They just do not make them like this anymore. Stallone is a veteran soldier who’s seen a bit too much action, struggles to get by, and looks for some sort of connection within himself. Jason Statham is the hot shot British merc whose recent romantic troubles remind him that his life is far from normal. Jet Li is the dutiful friend and soldier lamenting the need to feed his growing family. Randy Couture reads “self-help” books and attends regular therapy sessions to explore his “issues”, while Jay Crews is the big man who loves big guns. The odd man out, however, is Dolph Lundgren as a drug addict riddled with psychosis on the verge of finally breaking after too long of a life spent on the edge. The group meets at their garage, where Mickey Rourke handles the day to day operations and focuses on various artworks (Tattoo, decals, painting, etc.). Stallone succeeds in creating a fantastic group dynamic between the films Mercenary Force, a group of men who seem straight out of the pages of manly “sweat” pulps of the 70’s and 80’s. In addition to the cast of Mercs, Stallone also brings in former Pro-Wrestler Steve Austin to assist a megalomaniacal ex-CIA operative played by Eric Roberts. Also, providing some more martial arts action, Stallone employs B-Action star Gary Daniels with a Fu-Manchu to stand in Austins’ shadow.

I know they’ve had a number of “Buddy” merc team films this year, including the A-Team, the Losers, and on and on… but those are modern day big budget soopah Visual effects. This movie was straight up practical in almost every way, with some gut wrenching fight sequences utilizing honest martial arts and wrestling instead of the “Matrix” wire work and CGI that the big studios are drowning in these days. Stallone delivers a smash mouth film and doesn’t let up from the get go. Bodies are blown in half, heads pop like melons, and on and on. It’s a throwback to the way films were made in the Reagan era, with all the glory and ultraviolence ramped up to an eleven on the volume control.

The story follows the men as they take a job from Bruce Willis; kill the Dictatorial leader of a small island nation off the coast of South America. The usual blend of twists and turns, including betrayals In addition to handling the job, some of the men are also dealing with personal issues back home. Charisma Carpenter plays the love interest for Statham, Lundgrens’ demons come up to haunt the team, and the turnstile door of Rourkes’ love life adds comedic flavor to a tragic anti-hero. Lots of action, practical effects, a good number of very gory gags, and fantastic performances from a number of the actors involve elevates this movie from a typical actioner to one of the biggest coup de grace of an era I’ve long been missing. Lundgren and Rourke are fantastic in their roles, with Statham adding the usual charm and caustic wit he brings to a number of his characters. Stallone offers excellent direction for an afternoon popcorn muncher.

4.5 out of 5.


I’m the kind of guy who actually enjoys a number of the Syfy Channel movies, going out of my way to watch them when I get a chance or order them through Netflix if I do manage to miss a few. But the truth is that this godawful title for a film inspired nothing short of a casual smirk in disinterest. Lazy Sunday afternoons with a back ache and a general feeling of lethargy is often enough to change my mind, however, and I flipped through a large number of channels before settling on this schlockfest at the very beginning and sticking it through the whole way. No real name actors, plenty of hokey effects, and a synthed out soundtrack brings me right back to the 80’s once again! So the story became rather predictable and the production values were fairly cheap, but I was raised on “Hawk the Slayer” and “Sword and the Sorcerer” as the epitome of Fantasy Film in a childhood that was bereft of a Rings trilogy. And in that vein, Witchville has a solid story and takes itself seriously enough to warrant more than a passing glance.

A Prince returns to his kingdom after the death of his father. He quickly discovers that plague, famine, and a pestilence have been plaguing the lands for some time. Let’s make a short story even shorter… the captain of the Guard is sent to retrieve the prince and bring him home. The Prince is a reckless drunkard lout who hangs out with the Captains younger and far more reckless brother. The three men quickly discover that a coven of Witches, led by the Red Queen, are responsible for the foul curse that has spread throughout the land. They join forces with a mad Witch-Hunter and track the witches to a small village… hence the title, I assume. They don’t spend much time in the village, the majority of the film taking up the journey to it and the protection of the Princes’ kingdom afterward. Such as it is, the title of the film was a real bad plan. There were witches, there was a village, but it doesn’t really work as a “Witchville” sort of thing… I mean, I at least hoped for a Who’s On First moment, but nope!

Some blood, bad CGI, and sword play round out this mediocre effort for a decent matinee flick. The guy from Eragon shows up as the Captains younger brother, fights, gets beaten up, tortured, and that’s pretty much it so far as big faces. Some guy from the band of 300, some other dude playing the Prince, and you get the picture.

3 out of 5.

The Losers

DC-Vertigo titles are for a “mature” audience, which usually means we get a couple of cuss words thrown around while people die and do outrageously inappropriate things with one another in the fantastic cause of pushing the envelope. They have a couple of well known titles, including Hellblazer, Sandman, and Swamp Thing… but mostly, Vertigo excels in obscure titles like “The Losers”. If you’re not familiar with the comic series, don’t feel bad… I only barely remember ever seeing the title on the wall of a local comic shop a few years back, and I honestly had no interest in picking it up. And when it came out in the theaters, my interest was only mildly elevated. Honestly, it looked like some director wanted to emulate the frenetic editing and terrible yellow filter lighting of the dread Michael Bay School of making movies.

But I’m a man of modern means and “The Losers” was honestly my cup of tea from the description, pretty much a roller coaster ride through the pulp sweats of the 70’s and 80’s. A military team of five crack specialists is betrayed by their CIA handler, so they’re out for revenge. It doesn’t get more basic than that, and they find the means to deliver said vengeance when a femme fatale walks into their lives and provides them with intel and funding to get the job done. The rest is all testosterone pumping action with an interesting performance from “Lost Boys” alumni Jason Patric as Max, the CIA handler turned Evil Global Terrorist. The rest of the movie is standard paint by numbers action formula with too much flash editing and an entirely useless special F/X shot of the “doomsday” weapon in action.

3.5 out of 5

Evil Aliens

HOLY BLANKETY BLANKS!!! This British import film tears the familiar pages from a number of low budget gore-masters and develops an entirely unique brand of twisted wackiness in this slapstick horror comedy. This sick film is going to become a cult hit in short time, featuring alien probes, alien pregnancies, dismemberments, crucifixions, and buckets of gore dumped across the screen. It’s the kind of movie you watch with a group of friends and laugh until your sides are splitting. The vomit inducing gags are hilarious and cringe-worthy at the same time… look, you already get the gist of what I’m telling you here so you don’t need me to spell it out for you.

The host of a “Mystery”-type haunted tales hunting ghosts and monsters type of show gathers a skeleton crew in order to film a local woman deliver her sad tale of extraterrestrial pregnancy. No one who works on the show actually believes in “aliens” or any of that rubbish, save for the one fanatic brought in as a “specialist” on the subject. Very quickly, the cast and crew find themselves under siege alongside the pregnant woman and her three brothers. The aliens are sadistic monsters and the film crew really isn’t much better as the two forces slice, dice, chop, and surgically mutilate one another in a nasty bid for survival.

5 out of 5.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ass Kicking Reviews including in depth thoughts on TNA's HArdcore Justice PPV.


When Mark Millar hit the scene with a number of edgy renditions on classic and wholly original titles, it wasn’t long before his work was bound to hit the silver screen with some sort of adaptation after another. He has a feel for the pulse of a jaded youth culture and a negative outlook that would make Nietzsche proud. There’s a strong influence from Alan Moore in his approach to stories, especially in the finale portion where all things are brought to a head. He really started to gain a name for himself with his work on the Ultimate Avengers, notoriously having the Hulk perform acts of sadistic torture for the sure joy of it while also turning Giant Man into a wife beater, forcing Captain America to dwell within his anachronistic tastes, making Thor an environmentalist, and on and on. So, for those of you who know me, you probably realize that I’m not a fan of his work. “Wanted” saw a world ruled by Supervillains where a young man is chosen to carry the mantle of his Assassin father, and ultimately becomes no better and no worse than just about any other super villain with a psychotic fixation on abusing the world around him. He followed that independent title up with “Kick Ass”, a story about a milk-toast kid who decides to don a costume and play vigilante in the modern world. This wretched story sends you home with the same moral as “Watchmen”, that the people who want to do right in this world are sick and twisted people who should be put in a funny farm.

The movie removes a number of the more disheartening elements from the comic and delivers a fairly psychotic dose of ultra-violence played up with heroic themes. After the death of his mother and a life that pretty much drones on, a teen boy decides to don a costume and become a vigilante in order to fill some sort of a vacuum in his life. While he tries to tell us that there were no major events, no sudden catastrophes, no special reason for donning the costume it becomes apparent that he’s not really all there in the brain and this sudden break came after a series of lifes’ disappointments have threatened to swallow him whole. It doesn’t take long before the audience is let in on the fact that he’s not the only game in town, and the teen eventually meets the crime-fighting duo of “Hit Girl” and “Big Daddy”. The duo have been waging a personal and extraordinarily violent war with the city’s lead criminal empire, not so much acting the part of costumed vigilantes as they are purely psychotic serial killers.

The story depicts all the mental problems and insecurities that would drive most of these people to pursue these lives, but we’re too often asked to put aside the nagging disgust that rises when “Big Daddy” shoots his own daughter to get her ready for their mission. It tries to be “funny’ but often comes off as uncomfortable, and the fight scenes are far more vicious than you would have imagined from the commercials or ad campaign when the film came out. Another problem is that the films’ lead character doesn’t really do much and often comes across as a somewhat clueless putz, fawning over his romantic interest and narrating line after line of meaningless diatribes in order to sound hip and throw around comic book references. By comparison, the character of “Hit Girl” virtually steals the movie out from underneath the lead, Big Daddy is one of the best performances from Nicholas Cage in a long time, and even the awkwardly diabolical “Villain” comes off as a more endearing character than the lead.

4 out of 5, but I’m not even sure it really lives up to that rating. I’m torn on this film.

Gamers (spoiler alert)

Not to be confused with “The Dead Gentlemen” production or its sequel, “Gamers” is actually a mockumentary documenting the lives of a generic gaming group celebrating their 25th anniversary of gaming with one another and hoping to break a record on total hours played. Featuring cameos and bit roles from several established “stars” in Hollywood (John Heard, Olivia D’Abo, and William Kat amongst some few others).

Look, all five guys are portrayed as alternately stupid, socially awkward, obsessed, and infantile. None of the men have decent jobs, none of the men are shown to be in a steady relationship, and none of the men seem to have any sort of a life outside of their small little fantasy outing for a few hours on a given Saturday night. And, of course, the game acts a source of embarrassment for some of them and taken far too seriously by others. It’s actually a fairly insulting sort of a film and seemed more than a little bitter toward a hobby that many perfectly well adjusted people play on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, the end of the film finds the group breaking up in order to explore what else life has to offer them and somehow automatically become (somewhat) successful in their lives. All they had to do was give up their hobby, of course! Things like this kind of irk me, because these are people whose lives were messed up long before and after the discovery of a game. Perhaps the game actually helped them find connections and friendships they wouldn’t have otherwise? No… they just weren’t athletic or handsome or whatever, so they wound up with an RPG instead.


2.5 out of 5.

TNA: PPV Hardcore Justice

Let’s be honest… it was an ECW pay per view with TNA footing the bill. And the honest truth is that I’m glad it was precisely what it wound up being. I was really depressed for my birthday, dwelling on things best left alone, when I had a friend convince me to order the PPV and give it a go. I thought that maybe it would be a couple of guys from ECW and a couple of guys from TNA, but it was honestly just a start to finish ECW show with all the bells and whistles. The show was a solid salute to the old promotion, hitting all the familiar notes with some impressive build up and a “101” lesson in how to book wrestling shows and angles.

The FBI, Kid Kash, Simon Diamond, and Johnny Swinger opened the show with a good comedy match that featured dancing, goofing off, and a decent amount of work from the matches lead workers (Guido and Kash). It wasn’t much in the way of showing what ECW was made of, but it provided a light-hearted opening to the PPV. Kash and Guido were wrestling like this was an opportunity to show Dixie Carter that they could both still go and the rest of the crew actually did their best to put over the two men. Tony (Marma)Luke took an especially nasty bump from Kid Kash and got spiked into the mat with a double underhook piledriver. Nice stuff.

We then followed up with a number of testimonial features from the performers of yesterday and today, talking about the influence of the promotion and providing commentary on their memories. These kind of things played throughout the show. Al Snow, Steven Richards, and some members of a club dressed in Blue whose name was not allowed to be put to use did a good backstage bit where Snow did what he does best.

Too Cold Scorpio Vs. CW Anderson: A much more serious match with plenty of stiff shots on the part of both men. They’ve both been working, primarily, in Japan for the past ten years or so. And it’s the fairly traditional clash of styles… one a technician on the mat, the other an aerial high flyer. Both men worked a solid match with Scorpio hitting the Tumbleweed for a finish.

More video packages. I'm not going to bother giving the break down on all of them.

Steven Richards vs. PJ (Justin Credible): Credible doesn’t seem all that interested in being at the PPV and somewhat phones in a performance. Kind of makes me sad to think of this guy as washed up, but I think his confidence is frankly shattered beyond redemption and he figures he’ll never step up his game again. Richards, on the other hand, is a rising star in TNA and does his best to get a good match out of Credible. Unfortunately, the whole thing kind of comes to a bizarre end when Sandman hits the ring post match to dish out a beating on PJ with the Singapore cane. What’s worse is that this is the only appearance from the Sandman for the night, and it was kind of pathetic all around.

Brother Runt (Spike Dudley), Al Snow, and Rhino come down for an ECW classic 3-Way Elimination style dance. Good match with solid work from all three guys. Al Snow showed more than just a little of what he’s still capable of. The guy doesn’t look his age at all and hit a number of impressive moves before elimination by Runt. Great comedy bit with a triple down, with Runt and Snow trying to get each other DQ’ed and Rhino finally picks up the win after nearly cutting the Runt in half with a GORE GORE GORE!!!!

Chair Swingin’ Freaks hit the ring and call out any tag team… and they get a “Well…. Well…. Well… “ in response. Team 3D hits the ring with Tye-Dye and Joel Gertner for the traditional Brother Gertner opening poem. Bubba reminds the Freaks, one Axl Rotten and one “Kahoneys”, that no one is paying to see them “wrestle”. So we get a South Philly Brawl, which is just another way of saying a classic ECW rules “Hardcore” plunder and broken furniture match! This match was awesome, hilarious, and everything that’s missing from wrestling in this day and age…. It was FUN!!! Lightsaber duel hit the high point of the match with a flaming table in the finale.

Afterwards, familiar sounding music hit the arena and out come the Gangstas and a whole set of brand new plunder. They beat up everyone… and then they hug, celebrate, and head backstage. Not a very well-booked ending, would have rather seen them as part of the match in whole than for a quick little intro like that. But New Jack, Mustafa, JB, and So-Cal Val have a good little bit backstage after the match that I found fairly interesting.

Raven vs. Dreamer: Ultimately, the only real angle leading into this PPV was the end of a long running feud between Raven and Tommy Dreamer. They threw everything into this match, using their build up time to remind the fans of what has gone before and just what this feud was all about. So there was a lot riding on this match so far as writing, booking, and performing. Dreamer and Raven aren’t in their prime any more, they’re both in their late 30’s and early 40’s with two careers stacked with injuries. Despite the limitations, both men brought us back to the mid-90’s with a fantastic brawl. Best match of the show by far, which is actually a little surprising given the Main Event.

RVD vs. Sabu: Sabu shaved his head?!?!?!! Unlike the previous two men, RVD still seems to be in the prime of his career… but he’s really the only one who is. It would have been smarter to build a larger story around this match, putting some heel heat on Sabu and giving the ECW original freak a real platform to perform. AS it was, both men gave a solid performance but lacked any real psychology or story to build… on it’s own, the match would have been a solid one on one. As the Main Event to a Pay Per View?

Post match the performers hit the ring and gave a last call send off to the fans and one another, giving me warmth and comfort for memories I feel special to have shared with a number of like-minded individuals. But those are years long past… and that’s a little hard to swallow on a birthday.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Several Reviews: 1st Week of August.

Green Lantern: First Flight

I decided that I needed a little break from the usual rough and tumble gore in order to give this animated feature from DC a chance. Several classic comic book characters have been receiving some rather decent animated adaptations on direct DVD in recent years, so there’s a fairly solid track record that this movie wouldn’t be gank. Unfortunately, the general fan base consensus had pretty much written off this movie and left it in rental limbo for me without much of a desire to skip ahead and give it a go. It was on my list for a long time and had some time longer to go before I decided to shuffle up the list and give it a viewing despite several warnings to the contrary. To be honest, I’m glad I did.

The film plays fast and loose with Hal Jordans’ origin, puts the Lantern into an early conflict with Synestro, and is forced to prove his worth as a member of a the Green Lantern Corps.. The film sort of plays out like an animated version of “Training Day” with Synestro in the Denzel Washington role, a bad cop with a good reputation taking on a rookie partner in the form of Hal Jordan. The two men try to track down a nefarious crime lord in possession of the dread “Yellow Substance” that is the only weakness to the Green Lantern power rings. We find out that Synestro isn’t exactly on the side of the saints as Jordan slowly proves his worth and gains the respect of his fellow Lanterns.

The animation is good with solid action pieces and fantastic attention to detail. The voice acting puts me in the mind that perhaps Michael Madsen should actually BE cast as Kilowog at some point, but everyone else sort of falls to the wayside and pretty much phone in their performances. The script is decent, but no where near the level of writing many fans would have come to expect in following up the much more ambitious Brave New World project from a few years back. But with the upcoming live action film on the way, First Flight is a good prep toon for young fans to whet their appetites and maybe get into the fan boy spirit of things. And this is where I think a lot of reviewers have the film wrong… if they were expecting an edgier sort of “Batman”-esque feature, they’ve entirely forgotten what it is to be a kid and watch cartoons on Dad’s lap.

3.5 out of 5

*prelude Note*

The MPAA doesn’t always make a lot of sense to me. As an “industry run” ratings board, they are given a lot of leeway to make some fairly bizarre choices with absolutely no oversight on precisely what they do or by what criteria certain movies are judged. There’s a fantastic documentary on the MPAA called “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” and features a number of film comparisons, the reason for the boards’ initial existence, and closes with a revelation on the identities of several people involved with the MPAA. Ultimately, however, the MPAA is beholden to no one and they continue to cast ratings in ways that make very little sense to the viewers. I could do a whole rant about the MPAA and their utterly ineffectual existence with the day’s modern technology and means of distributing information regarding film content… but this is all actually a prelude to my review.


I’m not certain where the hard-R rating came from on this creature feature, unless maybe a few cuss bombs were thrown about a little too carelessly. The violence isn’t especially graphic, though it features several insects blowing up in white-gooey messes and spewing webs and such. It’s actually a fairly tame movie with some decent comedy, and a PG-13 rating probably would have guaranteed this film saw at least a slightly larger theatrical run… as it is, the film looks doomed to DVD shelves and late night Syfy Channel reruns before it will ever gather any sort of cult following. Despite the lack of B-movie theatrical experiences, video store desperation purchases, and the recent boom of big budget films available on demand through our cable or computers… I do think that B-Movies are an important aspect of the cinema culture, so it’s with that spirit and that sentimentality that I offer this review of “Infestation!”.

Archetypical wise crank “Cooper” wakes up inside a webbed cocoon and immediately comes face to face with a giant insect in the opening moments, only to discover that the entire city is overrun with these strange creatures and everyone has been asleep for more than two days. He starts to wake up other people, pieces together some of his missing time, and then sets out to return home to his fathers’ bomb shelter with a rag tag group of “survivors”. Fairly typical giant monster infestation story with a good number of gross out effects, the survivors are picked off but the human deaths are really not all that gruesome and most of the splatter comes from our insect buddies. The film does bring a rather haunting visual when we learn that some of the people are being transformed into “gatherers” for the insect queen… sprouting insect legs, looking fairly zombi-rific and carrying food to the hive.

The rating for this film, in case you missed it, kind of irks me. It’s a hard R film with a PG-13 mentality, the sort of film that introduces “creature” films to a younger audience while also entertaining the classic creature fan. It’s not like I would take my kid to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I have no problem with taking kids to see Gremlins. And that’s the kind of film “Infestation!” is; a fun little action horror comedy with wise cracks and only a little bit of emotional gravity. The grue is a punchline, a splattered bug on the windshield or a victim carried off into the sky and maybe dropped a good distance away so he bounces off a few roof tops. There’s a small fear factor, just enough to make you shift in you chair at a young age but with just enough humor to keep you laughing as the gags build up.

4 out of 5.

7 Mummies

The low point for the week features a number of convicts escaping into the desert with a hostage female guard and a couple weapons. Cutting the excessively long story short, they wind up in a town straight out of the old west where it’s rumored that gold can be found. Wow, even this shortened explanation is taking too long… shorter story shorter, the townsfolk are zombies controlled by mummies, of which only one of them is of any real significance. People die, people live, people run through the desert with really bad cinematography and the rest is z-grade nonsense masquerading as something more than what it is.

2 out of 5 with an extra half point for Danny Trejo’s cup of coffee walk-on role.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Maniacs, Hulks, and Sci-Fi Classics: Tons of Reviews to be read and believed!

2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of a sequel to 2001 Maniacs, with news trickling through the websites about various attempts to develop the films story and casting difficulties. The project still remained within the capable hands of the films first director, Tim Sullivan, and that was all the promise a fanboy like me really needs. He promised more comedy, more blood, more grue, and when it came time to deliver he rushed his cast together and shot at a breakneck schedule in order to deliver on that promise. So, 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams hits the store shelves in a direct to DVD market that was frankly thirsting for some fresh blood.

Returning to the cast are Granny, Hucklebilly, and the two brothers. All four manage to steal just about every scene they’re in with psychopathic delight in the roles they were already familiar with. Granny, especially, manages to focus her character on more than just the occasional insane laugh or slapstick comedy by providing a sort of depth and emotional stability to the rest of the cast. The gory gags splatter the screen with due regularity and we even get a re-imagining on the infamous “Barrel Roll” scene from the original 2000 Maniacs that had been notably absent from the remake. But that’s about as far as the remake goes in satisfying any expectations.

Most notably absent from the original cast is Robert Englund as Mayor Buckman, who is replaced by horror veteran Bill Moseley. But this just isn’t any Mayor Buckman, this is George W. Buckman (GET IT?!?!?!!) and we are reminded of this fact with just about every appearance that Bill Moseley makes in the film. It’s a gag they repeatedly hit us over the head with, along with many more gags to come! Racial and cultural stereotypes strut across the screen with varying lisps, speech impediments, physical attributes, prowess, and on and on and on… some of it humorous, most of it insulting, and none of it really well done. Moseley lacks the charm and natural boyish humor that Englund brought to the role, taking the role in a far more slapstick villain direction as he rants and raves to one of his most disappointing roles to date. Moseley is capable of better and I don’t quite understand his failure in this film. Also notably replaced was the role of Harper by Skinny Puppy lead singer “Ogre” who lacks even the slightest shred of Southern Gentleman dignity that had been brought to the role by Guisseppe Andrews. With his black locks and eye make up, Harper comes across as a gothic poser rather than the ghost of a vengeful Gentleman displayed in the first film. Ahmed Best also joins the cast with little effect and stereotypes are filled out with the laughable performance from the character of “China Doll.”

I haven’t even started on the premise, which immediately jumps the shark by developing a scenario in which our proud and vengeful Southern Cannibal ghosts are forced to pack up and head out on the road. A chosen number of Happy Valley residents hop on a bus and scour the North in order to fulfill their debt of 2001 victims. So we get an opening montage of travel photos of the clan mugging for the camera before we meet our new cast of would-be victims. Celebrity sisters touring the U.S. in a camper are supposed to be heading into the southern state of Georgia (where Happy Valley is supposedly located) but make a wrong turn and end up in Iowa. There they decide to film their “Georgia” episode with the Happy Valley Travelling Jamboree… Oh dear god, why not just pop them in the real Happy Valley to begin with? I guess budget concerns forced the film to progress with little more than pop tents for location shooting? If you think that would be the end of your questions, you’d be horribly mistaken as you simply can’t lose yourself in the film as one moment after another makes you want to throw your hands up at the screen. The cheapness and rushed quality of the product continues to spiral around the toilet as we sink further and further into lazy writing, terrible puns, uncomfortable casting choices and moronic stereotypes. Director Tim Sullivan had a great many hurdles to overcome in bringing his vision to DVD and while the film occasionally delivers, the whole thing felt rushed and unpolished.

3 out of 5, barely.


Back in the late 80’s, you couldn’t throw a tennis ball in a video store without hitting a movie that featured Steven Guttenberg. His boyish charm and playful manners brought tremendous success to the Police Academy series, Short Circuit, and numerous other projects at the time. He popped up sporadically in a number of other projects in the 90’s, but the Guttenberg brand had pretty much gone past it’s expiration date and rendered the talented actor to large obscurity. When I saw his name attached to this low budget Indy horror project, I threw this baby to the top of my rental queue and waited for the Guttengerg Express to bring me to a new location.

Guttenberg’s appearances are mostly bookends to most of the films’ narrative. A serial killer is on the loose, dubbed the “Convenience Store Slasher” by the media. Steve is the delivery driver for several stores within Los Angeles and makes his appearance when he chases off an abusive john for one of the local “ladies” in the neighborhood. By that point, however, we’ve met most of our main cast of characters... several below average folk who work in a run down convenience store and a call girl who works the nearby corner. The store crew often get together for a poker game in the late evening and it seems the aforementioned “slasher” may have overheard them chatting about the terrible things they would do if they had a chance to cash in on the reward.

Largely a typical slasher film, the movie operates within the confines of a single location and comes up with a number of gruesome effects sequences. It was interesting to see Guttenberg in action and he still has a lot of his boyish charm and quirky humor. While having him in the film was actually the big seller for me, the rest of the cast manages to win over the audience with their unabashed sleaziness and underdog representations of society’s underbelly. Then again, I may be reading too much into the film and it’s not nearly as good as I thought it was… who knows? I actually thought it was a pretty fun little project and definitely worth the time I took to watch it. It was Gutten-riffic!

4 out of 5.

Galaxy of Terror

A number of Roger Corman’s classic projects are seeing new DVD distribution releases this year, including this somewhat obscure gem from the 80’s. Corman is the B-Movie king and he makes no apologies for blatantly ripping off several big budget Hollywood blockbusters and throwing them into a hodgepodge formula to eke out profits and often give younger film makers an opportunity to hone their craft. Galaxy of Terror was an early design project with a lot of influence from a much younger James Cameron and it featured a rather fantastic cast of future and past talents within the business. The film found notoriety through the inclusion of a rather graphic and risqué scene featuring the demise of a character beneath the crushing weight of a thrusting giant maggot.

The starship Quest is sent on a rescue mission to a distant planet where the crew discovers an ancient pyramid. After finding some of the remains of the crew they’ve come to rescue, some of the Quests’ crew members begin to face their own horrible deaths. There are a number of fantastically gruesome effects, especially for such a low budget affair. The story holds up against the test of time and the film is still relevant today.

*Special Featurette* The first disc includes a special featurette about the making of the film with a retrospective look back from Corman and members of the cast and crew. Notably absent, though much regarded (both positively and negatively) was James Cameron whose perspective on one of his earliest projects would have made an interesting tidbit in and of itself. Especially interesting was the actual and very real shame and dismissal of the film from the Writer and Director, who both felt the movie was beneath them and were surprised that it had any sort of a following. Other members of the cast and crew have much fonder recollections of the film and stories surrounding it’s production. Robert Englund, who constantly proves he’s a class act whenever I watch these features, puts the film in proper perspective as an open doorway for him to find better projects and learn more about his crazy profession. He actually ends the featurette, however, with a personal story regarding the film… attending an art exhibit and having a rather haughty and distinguished film critic approach him after he’d done a number of films, call him by name, and commend him for his work on Galaxy of Terror.

I normally don’t talk about the featurettes and extra stuff on a DVD but felt that it was warranted in this case. Galaxy of Terror has a warm spot in my own heart because it acted as an early introduction to films of the bizarre and twisted nature for me. I was very young when I first watched this movie at a friends house, but it left such a strong impression on me at the time that I’ve seen the film a number of times since. I’ve actually made friends with people through this movie as well as many others. It’s not the best film in the world, but it’s a fun little trip and I love it a lot.

4 out of 5.

Planet Hulk

Based on a successful Marvel storyline in The Incredible Hulk series, “Planet Hulk” starts off with the big green monster hurdling through space in a rocket ship. A recorded message from Earths’ mightiest Heroes explains their decision and the giant winds up crash landing on a rock populated by several warring races. Imprisoned, enslaved, and forced to fight within the Gladiatorial pits for the amusement of the Red King, The Hulk quickly earns the respect and admiration of the planets’ population.

With kids’ gloves fully removed, The Hulk smashes and rips through several monsters, aliens, and robots before the final act sees him take a stand against the Red King. The brute struggles with his own identity in this film as Bruce Banner never makes so much as a token appearance, and we find out whether Hulk is the savage monster Earth believes him to be or if there’s something more within him than a desire to crush and smash and break everything around him.

3.5 out of 5. (Very good!)

Summer’s Moon

Whether I’m writing about a good movie or a bad one, there’s always a sort of passion that drives me create a dialogue within a proper context. Summer’s Moon hits all the right chords for a film that should shock, appall, and ultimately sicken the casual viewer but lacks any sort of passion in pulling it off. The whole project seems a little bland despite the psychotic sickness that unfurls, and that becomes the films’ ultimate failing. It doesn’t really revel in its sickness and ultimately struggles to NOT be what it is: A grindhouse exploitation film. The script is decent, but the films execution comes off as dull and passionless. It’s a shame because there are some really good elements in this movie, but it just isn’t a lasting worthwhile experience.

2 out of 5.