Monday, March 29, 2010

3 Reviews, including How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon

After finally managing to wrangle my son into the van, my wife and I managed to catch a Sunday afternoon screening of the latest 3-D Animated film for kids. Because the Pup doesn’t like to wear the glasses and my wife gets dizzy, we only managed to catch the film in regular 2-D and I sat back with a little package of nachos in order to avoid the stomach tearing effects of the popcorn my son regularly purchases for these little flicks. This is your fairly standard little “coming of age” story set to a Viking background and featuring a beautiful display of animated dragons. It was a satisfying afternoon film, something I’d probably wind up buying for both my wife and son to catch on a lazy evening at home but I’m not sure where else I could take the review.

Honestly, it’s not a bad film and I had a lot of fun watching it. But it was pretty much a “paint by numbers” story that didn’t try too hard to be much more than what it was, though the animation was absolutely top of the line and the action sequences were extremely well conceived. There were a number of moralizing points the story tried to make, and it pretty much succeeded on all counts without being too preachy or offensively condescending. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

4 out of 5.

Shadow Hunters

“Moonlight”, “Daylight”, and Jubei are three ronin Samurai who sell their swords for the sole purpose of foiling Ninja schemes and protecting the Clans from the confiscatory practices of a corrupt Shogunate. When a distant mountain family is threatened by the “Shadows” (ninja operatives for the Shogunate), the three swordsmen ride in and deliver sword slinging justice in bloody geysers of furious vengeance! They are tasked with accompanying a Clan Samurai as he presents a document bearing the Shoguns’ seal that guarantees possession of the fiefdom to the mountain family. The tale of each Ronin unfolds throughout their journey, so we understand precisely why they hunt the shadows and why they’ve accepted their station in the order of things as lowly “wavemen.”

Another furious chambara release from the folks over at AnimEigo, Shadow Hunters is a fairly standard sword epic with colorful characters and fantastic martial arts. Look, I just really love these movies… they might not be for everyone. There are a ton of other films who take the same cues and similar action sequences, from the Lone wolf & Cub series to Zatoichi. Shadow Hunters ranks up there with some of the best, and I look forward to watching additional films in the series. The DVD is packaged pretty nicely with some additional liner notes in the subtitles, including explanations on some of the terminology and historical annotations for events at the time. We also get a few trailers for additional AnimeIgo “samurai cinema” releases.

4 out of 5.


I swear I caught this film at some point in the 80’s, but completely forgot anything at all related to the story or any scene involved. This is an almost entirely uninspired rehash of several plot points found in “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” when an aging actor passes away and his body is stolen from his gimmicked death trap of a mausoleum. There is very little to set this film apart from the hundreds of mind-numbing low budget horror releases at the time, and yet Frightmare must have had something going for it because I had not once considered throwing my remote control through the screen. In point of fact, my wife actually found she was somewhat engaged by the films primary antagonist and kept tuning in from her WoW game to take a gander.

3 out of 5.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

VLOG Session #1

Smash Cut and The Caretaker (Sasha Grey Vs. Jennifer Tilly)

Smash Cut

David Hess is absolutely brilliant and hilarious in this loving homage to the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Down on his luck after the recent critical and commercial failure of his latest horror film, Terror Toy, a depressed director (Able Whitman played by Hess) seeks solace and inspiration from a local strip club and drunkenly wrecks his car. He suddenly finds inspiration in the broken and bloodied corpse of his female companion, using her body to shoot in a scheduled scene before realizing he needs more blood and more parts in order to complete his masterpiece! The director moves from victim to victim, creating a trail of dead bodies and the greatest masterpiece of his career. With a plot inspired by “Color Me Blood Red”, the story continues to find one homage after another to additional films from The Godfather of Gore with the introduction of Private Detective Beaumont (obviously based heavily on Abraham Gentry, from The Gore Gore Girls), music from “Blood Feast”, “Color Me… “, and a number of gags and scenes lifted from one exploitation film after another.

Hess owns this movie entirely, chewing up dialogue with perfect comic timing and playing a much lighter part than I’ve often seen him in. Often pretentious and presumptive, his character is an artiste and justifies all his wretchedness as a devotion to his art. At the same time, there’s certain gleeful sadism in his character and he absolutely relishes in the violent acts he commits. I’m going to say that this is the best I’ve seen David Hess since “Last House on the Left”, it’s a role that I’m in awe of and one that he seemed to have a great time performing.

There’s also a stand out performance from Sasha Grey as the investigating reporter and sister to the directors’ first victim. She’s a straight woman foil to the outlandish antics of both Hess and Detective Isaac Beaumont, and she stands up to both male leads and threatens to steal away the film at times. In fact, I honestly think that Grey was much more endearing a character than the largely over-played Beaumont as portrayed by Jesse Buck. Lacking the dismissive and somewhat abusive nature of the original character, the Detective came off as less charismatic than his predecessor and often played second fiddle to the other leads.

But, as long as we’re talking about great performances, I can’t forget to mention Michael Berryman as Hess’ erstwhile producer. He doesn’t get nearly enough screen time in this exploitation gem. This is a man who purchases his own golden figure award in order to feel like he’s really truly participating in the Hollywood dream of big productions but doesn’t have a clue about the films in his own vault. Berryman wears a bad wig, penciled in eyebrows, and constantly worries about the image of his company and where the money will come from to pay for his next major production.

“Smash Cut” is brutally violent and hilarious, featuring a bizarre blend of good and terrible special effects, with over the top and utterly entertaining performances. If you enjoy the films of Herschel Gordon Lewis, if you enjoy the work of David Hess, or if you’re just curious to see Sasha Grey in a mainstream film than I highly recommend and support any rental or purchase of the film! This is the movie many horror fans are going to want to have sitting on their shelves for an entertaining evening with friends.

5 out of 5.

The Caretaker

Jennifer Tilly might be a little bit typecast as the annoying ditz a few years past her prime, but she’s also very GOOD at playing the part and comes off as the most entertaining portion of this largely generic slasher film. Three teen boys decide to ditch their school’s Halloween Dance and drag their dates to the old melon orchard and scare them with a story about obsession and murder, little realizing that the Caretaker has returned. After some fairly standard scares and the realization that a killer is stalking them, the teens panic, their wholly inappropriate teacher (Tilly) arrives, and events begin to spiral out of control as the teens are picked off and eliminated one by one. Despite the lack of any real horror or effects gags, the campy script calls for a lot of uncomfortable laughs with some good one-liners and a number of goofy moments. In addition to Tilly, we also have a small appearance from Judd Nelson as the protective father of one of the teenage girls. There are a lot of movies far better than this one, but it’s worth a quick rental when you’ve pretty much exhausted your list or come across it on a boring afternoon or late night bout with insomnia.

3 out of 5.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Universal Soldier / Dante's Inferno anime reviews

Dante’s Inferno:

This is not an adaptation of the classic poem.  I’ve read a number or reviews from people who thought that this was what they were going to get, and they were all sorely disappointed. If you’re expecting me to review this movie based on my own experiences with the poem or based on my historical knowledge of the time, of Dante Alighieri, or any of that kind of stuff than you’re also going to be sorely disappointed.  I am well-read enough to have gone through the poem in my teenage years, but it isn’t one of my favorite nor was I renting this movie with an expectation that it would be a faithful adaptation.  Truth be told, the poem itself is a largely rambling description of the things Dante imagined within the nine circles of Hell.  And while it may have inspired the video game upon which this movie is based, the poem is a separate entity unto itself.

With that said:

Dante’s Inferno is a journey through hell for a Crusader seeking to rescue his one true love from the depths after her soul is claimed by Lucifer.  He is led through the nine circles of Hell by the poet Virgil, where he comes to face his own sins and the burning souls of those he has known in life.  At the end of each level he is forced into combat with one of Hell’s minions, using a hell-wrought scythe stolen from one of the demons he slays at the Gate.  The story is told with ultraviolent animation from several different sequence directors blends a mix of styles, with artists from America, South Korea, and Japan working to adapt the tale provided in cut scenes from the new video game from EA.  There’s no reinvention of the wheel, and most of the film pretty much bogs down with the over-wrought cries from it’s main protagonist as he calls out “Beatrice!” while charging through one violent encounter after another.  I would have been flipping out as a teenager, but the script becomes somewhat tedious after the first several screams and then just grates on your nerves when you see some of the obvious turn approaching.

The different animation styles blend well enough together.  Each canto is pretty much represented by a different artist, with some stylistic changes between the different studios as Dante is presented with long hair, short hair, mutton chops, different builds, and a variety of different artistic changes.  He does, however, consistently wear a red cross stitched across his chest and a veritable crown of iron that could be seen as a helm, a metal band, or some such variation.  Other characters feature similar variations in their appearance.  The project is a major support for a video game that brings on the grue in tidal waves of blood and gore, and that’s all it ever sets out to be.  Perhaps it may inspire some younger genre fans to pick up the occasional classic or research the history of the Crusades.  Not very likely, but it might.

3.5 out of 5
Worth a look.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration

The original Universal Soldier is largely thought of as a Terminator rip off, cashing in on the success of T2 and promoting itself as a vehicle for the action star antics of Jean Claude Van Damme.  There have been several direct to video sequels, a theatrical follow up some years later, and now a new direct to DVD film featuring the two headline stars of the original film.  JCVD reprises his role from the original film in a sequel that pretty much ignores any of the prior sequels; no mention of a daughter, no mention of other Uni-Sol projects, and no retirement for the Luc Deveraux character.  In this film, Luc is one of five original Uni-Sol’s still in commission.  He is taking part in an experiment to rehabilitate and rejoin society.

A terrorist kidnaps the teenage children of a Russian president, occupies and threatens to detonate the reactors at Chernobyl, and threatens the world with massive nuclear fall out if some 200+ political prisoners are not released.  A doctor responsible for the Next Gen Uni-Sol project works with the bad guy, and the military sends in the four remaining Uni-Sols to try and free the hostages, disarm the bomb, and defeat the Next Gen standing guard.  The whole movie is a nonstop action blitz as MMA star Andrei Arlowski fills the role of the Next Gen soldier tasked with basically wiping out his opposition.  Van Damme is called in with everything goes south, and we find out the mad doctor has a surprise twist of his own with a cloned and upgraded copy of the original films’ Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren).

Unlike the original film, Lundgren isn’t really given much of a chance to develop his character or do much of anything.  There are some scenes that show a glimmer of the psychotic inability to conform that led to Scotts’ breaking free of his programming in the original film, but there’s none of the back story to explain why he behaves or thinks the way he does in this film. I had always thought that Lundgren’s performance in the original film actually saved it from being a total waste of time and that he made a terrific villain. Sure, the whole premise may have been meant to cash in on the T2 action movie trend, but it wasn’t nearly as bad some of the other dreck I’ve seen in my life.  In a surprising twist, it’s actually JCVD who manages to captivate some of the drama for his Luc Deveraux character.  Confused, lost, and unable to understand the glimmers of emotion running in the back of his head, Luc only seems at peace when he’s at the violent peak for which he was created… but his own nature seems to reject. But, like Lundgren, Van Damme isn’t really given enough screen time in this movie to develop a wholly cohesive storyline behind his character.

Too many things happening at a break neck pace, wrapped up with some great martial arts action and explosive combat. Unfortunately, not enough time is spent on providing a solid focus for the audience.  In the midst of the political division between the terrorist and the mad doctor, we also have a “normal” recon commando heading into the lion’s den to ferret out information and maybe locate the hostages, the personal struggle with JCVD, and the kidnapped teenagers attempting to make their own stands. The thing is, I wanted to see a little more out of the characters, a little more out of the script, but I’m also satisfied with what the director delivered anyway.  This movie was pure octane explosive action with some of the best martial arts choreography I’ve seen in a long while.  The stunts were top notch and we saw a good blend of striking combined with an interesting blend of grappling, a much more subtle form of the art that doesn’t see a lot of great cinematography as a result. The crew manages to overcome the limitations most action choreographers find with grappling styles.

Universal Soldier is a satisfying snack to pass the time with, but you’re not going to find much in the way of meat and potatoes. Worth a look, though.

3.5 out of 5.

Monday, March 8, 2010

General yapping about Internet Media, 2 mini-reviews, and a full fledged RIP on one film.

So I spent some of this weekend watching a few things off my Roku-player, including a couple of Netflix movies. So I’m watching some sketch comedy shows, cheaply produced parody programs, and review-based shows that give rundowns on upcoming products on tech and fandom. There’s a ton of stuff out there that I think people simply aren’t aware of, alternative forms of media and entertainment that have developed through the internet instead of relying on corporate sponsorship with broadcast television. These are largely “labor of love” projects designed to get out there and be available for the people who look for it, but a growing list of companies have recently added their brief sponsorship to the programs with brief tags instead of elaborate time wasting commercials. To be frank, I think these companies may be on the cutting edge of finding cheap commercial advertising in a troubled economy.

Personally, I’d love to develop some sort of movie-hosting format internet show but I can’t honestly think of a format or style I’d like to go in. Also, Netflix is so readily available for a cheap monthly subscription that I can’t honestly believe someone would rather watch me introduce, discuss, and run skits on the same movies they might more easily be able to watch through Netflix. A lot of people know how much love I have for the Horror Host format, but I don’t really have the degree of personal faith in myself to do something with it. There are also several ‘net shows devoted to the art of burning some of these movies in comedic styles with only brief cuts and long-winded rants on everything from the effects, the scripts, to the acting and cheapness. Not a dismissal on what these hosts do, because I love spoonyexperiment and thatguywithglasses, but I don’t really want to mock the things I love so much as share an appreciation for them with others. Then again, I also love doing the mocking thing on occasion, especially when something warrants that mocking as you’ll read a little later.

Anyway, I doubt most of my faceless readers really want to bother reading about my lack of creativity. Here are my thoughts on some of the films I’ve been watching through Netflix, and maybe some of you folks will check them out when you get the chance or opportunity.

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls:

This one is a cheap little French import that virtually hits every note on the Exploitation check list. Three teen girls are poisoned by contaminated milk during an elaborate plot involving blackmail, prostitution, illegal chemical dumping, extra-marital affairs, and rampant environmental terrorism. They rise from the dead in order to exact vengeance upon all the individuals guilty of bringing about their deaths through their actions. We get some gruesome scenes here as the girls devour, stab, drown, and stab their victims. But remember that check list I mentioned? Run down that list and start checking off the graphic violence, sexuality, bad dubbing, wretched acting, and brutal production values and let your sleaze flag fly.

4 out of 5.

Severed: Forest of the Dead

Somewhat rambling and one act too long, Severed is standard “zombie” fare with a chemically altered moss managing to mutate the sap in a tree and infecting both loggers and protesters deep in a secluded forest. My early inclination was to avoid this movie, because I didn’t really have an interest in seeing some obvious demonization of the logging industry, but this film actually surprised me by avoiding a lot of the preaching you might expect and to spread the guilt around a little more and blur the lines of right and wrong. Collecting the standard cast of characters (rich kid, responsible father figure, rebellious girl, smarmy scientist, eager hero, and other somewhat likeable zombie bait) and sending them out to run through the woods while zombies chase them is as entertaining as it sounds. We get some good gore, a few elaborate traps for the zombies, the expected sacrifice plays, and betrayals, all leading up to a finale that suddenly falls flat because they seem to tag on an additional twenty minutes where the main cast suddenly joins together with a wholly new set of survivors from some “Other” logging camp on the other side of the mountain. All in all, not a bad film but there is better on the horizon. A standard zombie movie is like pizza… even when it’s not great, it’s still pretty good.

3 out of 5.

Truth or Dare

*blink* Okay, I can’t talk about this film without spoilers. I could give you a review, but nothing I could say in the context of an honest review would give this film any justice and I just want to yap about it a little. So here’s your only warning, big spoiler alert, and then you’ll get my rating.

Low Budget films are a labor of love for many of the cast and crew involved with the production. It is sometimes a misguided or badly put together labor that struggles to make the best out of their limitations. Even in the lowest rung of low budget travesties, you can see the passion someone had for developing the final product and giving you the most amount of bang for your buck. “Truth or Dare” is a bold and daring attempt to be one of the most horrible things ever caught on film. This is one of those “So bad it’s funny” films that stretches the boundaries of the absurd and tosses “implausible” out the window in an explosive result that may just threaten the sanity of its viewers. This is the kind of film that sets out to emulate magnificent success formula of “Troll 2” by extending itself as an exercise in endurance and a test of wills. So you’re going to have to stay with me a moment before I get to the premise for this shockingly awful monstrosity that Netflix believed would earn four stars from the Madman.

Mike is your average milquetoast sort of nervous wreck of a man whose entire existence seems to revolve around his wife and his work. Some years earlier, Mike had a nervous breakdown and has been in and out of institutions for quite some time when he returns home early and finds his wife and his best friend in carnal knowledge. The incident sends Mike on a tailspin that leads our protagonist to drive his car out to the beach and have several flashbacks to the clues that his wife may not have been a one man kind of gal, with a fantastic synthesizer soundtrack repeating the same heavy-handed theme throughout the entire film at various points. So Mike flashes back… and forth… back… and forth. He kind of wanders down to the edge of the beach, where the water actually manages to just barely reach up to his feet but never comes up with a surprise wave that flushes over his footwear… not a major impact on the film, but something I thought was actually noteworthy. He keeps flashing back… and forth… and back… and forth. He comes to some sort of a conclusion after he remembers playing Truth or Dare with a group of kids in middle school. Young Mike was played by one of the Backstreet Boys, I kid you not! He heads out, continuing to drive aimlessly. He picks up a hitch-hiker and starts to have delusions surrounding that old child-hood game of Truth or Dare, carving out his own tongue and thumb that miraculously grow back after a 13 month stint in the local sanitarium. PAY ATTENTION!!!! The tongue and the thumb GREW BACK!!! He was wheeled into the sanitarium without either and he’s wheeled out with the ability to speak with perfect enunciation and an opposing digit on both hands. Mike is a loonie, but he gets released from the Sanitarium long enough that he’s able to sneak back into the house of his ex-wife and kill his buddy before getting slashed by the chick and stumbling out to the front yard. He lies on the ground, clutching his bleeding gut, while some extras stand by and mumble out dialogue about calling for an ambulance and then an officer shows up just in time to tell the people milling about that we’re all going to wait for the ambulance. And we wait. WE ACTUALLY WAIT FOR THE AMBULANCE!!!! No no no no no.. I’m not done! Don’t stop reading yet!

Five months later, back at the Sanitarium: Mike is wheeled into an empty room where he’s asked to wait while we get some expository dialogue between his doctors. You see, the lunatic is having delusions and these delusions are intruding on his reality while… DID HE JUST STUFF A GRENADE DOWN SOME DUDE’S MOUTH?!?!?!!! Yes, back in the room, Mike is playing Truth or Dare with some imaginary friends… at least they might be imaginary and part of a delusion, but we’re not so clear on it. He’s already whipped out a big ol’ Rambo knife and dared one guy to cut off two random limbs and the other guy has a grenade shoved in his mouth. Mike? Oh, he accepts his own dare and he starts to cut off his own face with the knife… CUT OFF HIS FACE WITH THE KNIFE!!! So we flash forward a few more months, maybe years, I don’t know… I’m not really in the mood to keep track when we have some orderlies discussing the new copper mask that Mike is refusing to take off. I guess Mike now has Pac Man Fever, because the funky copper mask comes off as this big yellow lump of clay cut in a circular pattern with a wide line for the mouth and two small slits for eyes. Let’s just cut this a little shorter than the movie actually wound up doing, because Mike manages to break free of the sanitarium and go on a killing spree that includes the use of fully automatic guns, chainsaws, vehicular manslaughter, a machete, A FREAKIN’ MACE, and this thing never seems to freakin’ end! It just goes on and on and on….

The cop is back! The guy who earlier called for an ambulance seems to be in charge of the manhunt and he tries to track down Mike and put an end to his psychotic rampage. It is only through the grotesquely moronic antics of his overweight and overbearing partner that we even begin to suspect that he might just be the most qualified officer on the force, because this guy is NOT Columbo by any stretch of the imagination. So while Mike drives around in the same car he stole at the beginning of his killing spree, snatches some weapons from a storage shack rented in his name (The ONLY storage shack on what seems to be a dirt road dead center in the middle of freaking NOWHERE!!!), slaughters pedestrians with a variety of bizarre weapons, and pretty much just heads over to his ex-wife’s house with hopes of finishing the job he got caught doing a few months back… the police manage to NOT set up any road blocks or patrol his old neighborhood or do anything worth while to stop him. They do, however, manage to burn down the old shack after NOT confirming whether anyone is in there and they also manage to catch the town drunk in the blaze and than shrug off his accidental death at the hands of an utterly incompetent officer in a too tight floral shirt exposing the girth of his stomach for the world to see. And, boy, did that cop screw up badly… he MIGHT have derailed the whole investigation! Sure, he killed the town drunk by unnecessarily setting blaze to some badly manufactured shed in the middle of nowhere, but that’s nothing compared to the valuable time and resources lost in putting out that blazing shed no bigger than an out-house.

In one of the most hilarious moments of the film, Mike pulls up to the curb and gets out of the car in order to arm himself up with a variety of weapons that include nunchucks, a machete, a chainsaw, knife, sub-machine gun, and… wait for it… an IRON MACE! So an elderly lady comes waltzing up and starts yapping about his rudeness and wanting him to leave and some other nonsense. She’s just yapping away at him, and Mike is staring at his old house with this big copper mask on his face and a variety of hardcore weaponry hanging from his personage. He whips out this huge iron mace, glances at the woman, and brings it SMACKING down on her head. Obviously made out of some sort of foam rubber, the mace just bounces off and the actress collapses as the scene cuts to show that she’s lying in a sudden puddle of blood. The movie is finally coming to some sort of conclusion because there’s no way he’ll just be sent back to the lunatic asylum after all this, right? He stalks up to the house and heads right into … a trap! His doctor from the asylum is waiting for him in the running shower, and he just blasts away with his gun until Mike falls in the hall. The doc heads out, calls for the wife to come out… but she’s dead already! Mike is up, he kills the doctor, and… and… the police show up! And they warn him to put down his weapons… and they bring him back to the asylum.

There! I spoiled the whole movie for you! You don’t need to watch it, you don’t need to waste your time, and you don’t need to do anything if you don’t want to do it because I’ve just told you all the important moments of the film unless you want to see particular death scenes. This movie isn’t some labor of love, it isn’t some strange ode to the bad movies of a bygone era, this is the bad stuff straight from the tap and there isn’t anything left to do but watch it for yourself or don’t. Just because I told you what happened doesn’t in any way ruin the shocking surprises this movie has in store for you, because you shouldn’t be watching this thing with that sort of expectation. You should be reading this and thinking, “This sounds so terrible, I have to see if it’s true… is this really what happens?” You’re thinking about that grenade in the mouth and you’re wondering, you’re thinking about the implausible series of events wanting to know if there’s something I missed, and you want to endure this film as a test to your own will. That’s what these movies are for! They are tests to the indomitable will of the human spirit and the boundaries of the human mind. Truth or Dare? I dare you to watch this movie.

2 out of 5.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Black Dynamite and Bitch Slap, a double feature in the Mad Mark GRINDHOUSE?!?!?!!

Black Dynamite

Michael Jai White is the titular hero in this throwback parody to the blaxploitation films of days long gone by. But, honestly, that's just way too simple of a description for what was one of the most entertaining, intelligent, and hilarious films I've seen in a long long time. It was such a whiplashing change from some of the crap I've been reviewing that I'm finding it a little hard to focus my thoughts on writing this review! White not only acts but is the primary creator and writer for this over the top action comedy. Take every single hero from those films in the past, throw them in a blender and send them through a strainer that leaves only the most awesome aspects and you have Black Dynamite. He's a tough, no-nonsense, martial arts bad ass who used to be a CIA agent sometime after a rough tour in vietnam and he now spends his time protecting the abused ho's from their pimps while cleaning up the neighborhood and pleasin' ALLLL the ladies. He's got a rhyming sidekick, the help of the black militants in the area, and a righteous woman who ain't no fool for that sly wink and sexy smile of his. And after The Man kills his brother, gets the neighborhood orphans hooked on smack, and then try to kill him and a couple of his friends, well that just sets Black Dynamite on the path of righteous vengeance with a martial arts fury that can NOT be stopped! He's takin' his fight to The Man, and I mean ALL ... THE ... WAY!!!! BOOYAH!!!

Okay, seriously, this film has one of the single most hilarious and awesome finale's I've seen in a long time. Black Dynamite faces off against the mob, the police, the CIA, Kung Fu Treachery, crazy bitches that need some slappin' down, and he does it all with a fresh soundtrack that seems straight out of the seventies or late sixties with funk guitar and lyrics that describe precisely what's happening on the screen. There are so many random moments in this movie that help it find it's mark straight and dead on, from dropping boom mics to misspoken dialogue, to cut scenes that suddenly replace actors and stuntmen, that I found myself laughing until my sides split. Unlike some films, Black Dynamite doesn't focus on these hilarious moments... instead; they happen, and you're left wondering if you just saw what you thought you saw, and you laugh a few beats after the moment. One scene, in particular, has a couple of thugs shooting at Dynamite and then trying to make their getaway. They leap into the car and reach to shut the door... but the sudden drop in weight got the door stuck up on the curb, so there's a split second where the thug is yanking on the door, and in the next cut he's driving off. HILARIOUS!!!! But let's take a moment to look at the unbelievably fantastically beautiful dialogue... and I QUOTE:

O'Leary: We heard about your brother's death and we don't want you running around turning the streets into rivers of blood.

Black Dynamite: Then tell me who did it and I'll just leave a puddle.

That's Black Dynamite in a nutshell. So if I haven't convinced you of the fact yet, you best get your ass out and wrangle yourself a copy before this bad muthaf****er comes over and pimpslaps your ass into the china cabinet, fools!

5 out of goddamn 5, BITCHES!


What the holy hell happened to my bad luck with movies? Did I step on a damn leprachaun on my way home from the drudgery of work? Okay, this didn't even sound all that good from the outset as three vixens are looking to dig up some secret score out in the desert. A pyscho ex-con, a stripper, and a bad ass cold hearted bitch with a secret past just kidnapped and tortured some crooked cop who happens to work for the mysterious and deadly "Pinky" in order to find the stash of diamonds in the aftermath of some terrible incident several months earlier. We get to see some of the story in elaborate "green screen" flashbacks, building up to the inevitable cat fights, betrayals, all wrapped in over the top sex and violence with strange characters and a twisted sense of humor. It's so gratuitous that I couldn't stop laughing or cheering as we'd see the "ladies" perform a few slow motion teasing grinds with their bodies mere moments before the action would kick up and wrench the violence up with balls to the wall intensity. Bitch Slap never stops to apologize for a single bit of it's cheesy dialogue or try to be something more important than the campy sleeze grindhouse throwback that it was meant to be.

Another 5 out of 5? WHAT THE HELL?!?!?!!

Am I in a good mood or something? Why am I giving such great ratings for these movies? Dangit... this is all your fault, Cabin Fever 2... if you hadn't sucked so bad I'd have probably paid more attention to the faults in each of these features. But no, you had to suck so badly that you probably ruined my whole taste in movies!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Five BEST Werewolf films (in my opinion)

1. An American Werewolf in London:

When he and his friend are caught on the moors by a mysterious beast, David wakes up in the hospital and learns, from the ghost of his dead friend, that while he survived he would also carry the curse of the beast with him unless he could manage to kill himself. Believing himself delusional, David awakens from a number of feverish nightmares and also establishes a relationship with his nurse. But as the first month comes to an end, David becomes the beast and tears through the city of London. Never before or since has any movie studio truly managed to capture the pivotal transformation scene quite as stunningly as this film from the 80’s. It is one of the most gruesome, heart-wrenching, bone splintering scenes ever caught on film and it succeeded in delivering the much needed punch to the gut that this story required. David is a victim and he’s a nice enough kind of guy that the audience sympathizes with his plight and we pray he can somehow find a way to rid himself of the curse.

2. Silver Bullet

Examining the curse from another end of the spectrum, Silver Bullet is about a small town terrorized by the looming threat of a werewolf as it stalks the people and children. One boy, crippled and bound to a wheelchair, manages to inflict an injury on the beast one evening and escape. The injury allows the boy and his sister to investigate and discover the true identity of the beast, drafting their largely irresponsible uncle to help them survive the beasts coming attack. This movie is packed with tension and honest horror, with a fantastic performance from both Corey Haim and the films Werewolf Antagonist. If you haven’t had a chance to check this one out, do yourself a favor and go for it.

3. The Wolfman (original)

The original Universal classic still holds up well and really sets the foundation for many of the werewolf films that have come later. A fairly good and decent man is cursed to become a killing machine by the light of the full moon, spreading fear and terror throughout the small county.

4.Ginger Snaps

A lot of my horror friends will probably find it odd that I’m including this more recent film on the list, but I truly think it’s one of the more fantastic twists on the Werewolf tale. Two close sisters are somewhat stunted and outcast from the world around them. When one is cursed, her body begins to go through all sorts of changes and needs that the other sister finds strange, confusing, and frightening. Growing further apart as the full moon draws close, one sister becomes desperate to find a cure while the other begins to bask in the glory of her transformation.

5.The Craving

Waldermar Deninsky as played by Paul Naschy, and I have yet to find a better film with this character. If I do, maybe it will be replaced.

I obviously can’t end this little piece without talking about a few more issues with the Werewolf Genre film. I don’t include movies like Underworld, Van Helsing, or Monster Squad on the list because while they feature the savage beast of lore, they aren’t really “werewolf” movies. They’re used more as a foil or servant to the Vampire villains in those films, often playing second fiddle or hero to a worse evil. But one more film that I think I should talk abut is the one film I think is probably the most overrated Werewolf movie. There are some spoilers here.

The Howling.

I’ll debate this issue with any fan who thinks differently, but I think “the Howling” is one of the worst werewolf movies ever put together for the purpose of a franchise and a stand-alone story. The premise seems interesting enough, having a little weekend commune reveal themselves to be a pack of werewolves who get together and howl in the woods… but the way the story is put together has never made much in the way of sense to me. Dee Wallace is this reporter, she’s tracking a serial killer, she meets him in a theater, he’s a werewolf, he attacks her, the police shoot him and she takes the advice of her psychologist to attend his weekend getaway. There are so many questions that never get answered and I’m never quite certain what the whole point of the story was supposed to be; Invasion of the Werewolf snatchers? You see, the killer escapes the morgue and hides out at the same commune camp run by the psychologist, the reporter is joined by her gigilo husband, there’s this wild woman in the woods, there are all these random folks who happen to be werewolves, some production assistants look deeper into the place and discover the secrets, and Dee Wallace does a little bit of screaming along the way and ultimately winds up getting bitten at the near end, turns into a wolf on public television, and then gets shot. Were they trying to get her to become a wolf, and why? Was there some sort of master plan in the long run or what? Why did the killer pick her to go wolf on in the beginning of the movie and why would he then blow his cover of being DEAD just for another shot at this random reporter girl? Why did the psychologist bring her out to the commune when his werewolf buddy was presumed dead? Nothing ever makes sense in this movie… sure there’s a clear cut narrative, a story that begins and ends, but there are no answers because we’re tossed great special effects in place of any sort of reasoning.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Two reviews: Percy Jackson and Cabin Fever 2

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

I’d wanted to catch this film a little earlier, but circumstances conspired to continually throw different obstacles in my path. Lack of time, a screaming child, and the events just sort of piled up until my wife and son decided to just see the film without me. They were enthusiastic about it and both insisted that I needed to see it with them again, so we once again set out to see the film and FINALLY managed to catch a Sunday matinee that was neither too full nor too empty. I sat back, dipped my fingers into some popcorn, guzzled back some fruit juice, and let Chris Columbus transport me into another world where the Greek Gods walked and their children struggled to rise as heroes.

Percy Jackson is a young teenager struggling with a restless nature and growing dyslexia issues. Raised by a single mom and her abusive husband, Percy has an obvious affinity for the water and is accompanied by a best friend we later learn has a stronger connection to Jackson than we originally understand. Not knowing of his true birthright, Jackson is blamed for the theft of Zeus’ lightning bolt and chased by mythic creatures as he attempts to find the gate to Hades and rescue his mother. Along his path he must overcome various challenges accompanied by friends both new and old. Jacksons’ trials are based on the classic mythologies, as are the solutions.

I had a blast with this movie. It wasn’t too violent, wasn’t too childish, it was just some classic storytelling in a modern setting and it worked. There’s a place for CGI-rendered effects when they aren’t used to beat the audience over the head, and Columbus manages to use the technology as an accent to what is already a great story. Jackson is a great hero, rising to the defense of his mother in the face of an abusive of father or stepping into the depths of Hades without the usual sense of bravado. This is a hero who acts because he has to, not because he’s some sort of “chosen one” picked out of a hat to serve the forces of good.

4.5 out of 5.

Cabin Fever 2

Wow. Okay, some spoiler alerts are on but you’ll note how little they actually matter, much like the rest of this unbelievably terrible follow up to the original Cabin Fever.

This rancid piece of dog meat fell in my mailbox through some random trick of fate. With a running time of one hour and roughly twenty minutes, director Ty West manages to drag the film through a meandering pace that makes the viewer feel more like he just went through some sick four hour epic and never seems to actually take you anywhere. The opening moments of the film give us a taste of things to come as the disease ridden survivor of the last films’ infectious flesh eating virus manages to drag himself up out of the river creek, wander through the woods with his flesh getting raked off his body and blood splattering everywhere and this goes on for several long moments with the kid gasping for breath as he stumbles and trips his way to the main road where he’s unceremoniously plowed down by a high school bus. This sounds so unbelievably cool, but the staggering, running, tripping, and ripping gets so unbelievably tiresome that we simply stop caring by the time he hits the road that we’ve already become desensitized to anything that could happen and the rest of the film plays out in the same way. Considering that this same character was pretty much dead by the end of the first film anyway further illustrates the utter pointlessness of having him pop up again, but this whole movie is a series of pointless blundering and incoherently terrible decision making.

The rough plot has the infectious water get delivered to the local High School on the night of the prom while our erstwhile deputy from the first film kind of plays out his own sub-plot on the sidelines. The film would have been better of if they had developed an entire story around the deputy’s investigation and irresponsible antics, but they seemed more like a tag on in order to establish familiarity with the original film than anything else. We’re kind of expected to start caring about the stereotypical teenage crowd, but there isn’t a single truly likeable character in the bunch as they all come off as whining little brats who make a fairly big show out of drinking the water and then sharing deep soul kisses as a matter of setting up for the big bloody vomit finish that isn’t so much foreshadowed as it is dragged in front of your eyes with a big “ain’t I the coolest???” sign propped up next to it. Ty West manages to wring out any sense of shock or horror that comes with the fantastic visual effects through pointless dialogue, pointless wandering, and a staggering ability to stack scenes that never have any real pay off or contribute in any way to the story as a whole. Even as the story winds down to a climax, we’re treated to an additional ten minutes or so of sophomoric bathroom humor as a dangling plot thread is wrapped up in yet another meandering and ultimately pointless close to a film.

Director Eli Roth put enough distance between himself and this travesty that he seems rather free of the responsibility for this unbelievably terrible sequel. Cabin Fever 2 manages to unseat the gadawful wretchedness that was House of the Dead with this crap fest of a film, proving that there’s always some way to scrape beneath the bottom of the barrel to discover brand new levels of suck and awfulness if you just try hard enough. Ty West should be ashamed of himself, because it takes an unbelievable amount of wretchedness to craft a scene that requires one of its main characters to squeeze excess pus and blood from his nether regions in graphic detail and still make it a boring moment in this bag of snot. After having watched this movie, I feel as though I might actually be willing to endure the two hour epic of suck that is Transformers 2… I might even buy tickets to an early screening of the next Michael Bay-directed travesty to cinema, possibly even grant a viewing for one of Uwe Bolls’ more recent debacles just to build myself back up to watching something halfway decent. Movies like this are more likely to push me into a bottle than all the economic misery in the whole world.

2 out of 5, because the special effects were amazing and I’d feel guilty for not pointing out this one small thing that was actually done right even if the direction, story, and build up around each gag were miserable failures of epic suckage.