17 December 2009

In Short: Vampires, Romance, Aliens, Dramedy,

During the long period of time where I neglected to review basically everything I watched due to the sole reason of me simply not being 'juiced' enough to think let alone write about some of these flicks, I watched plenty from the good to the really bad, though most of it wasn't stellar filmmaking. Now a majority of these movies I saw a while ago, so some of the details may not be so vivid and detaily. My apologies. So this is basically just a simple overview of my general impression without specifics. Besides, not like they're really relevant now: if you wanted to see the movie, yah did; if you didn't, yah didn't. Or are just waiting for DVD/Blu-Ray and are reading a few more reviews in which case this might actually be relevant...

Aside from plenty of school work and website building (nothing fancy, just had to construct school-related websites for poets and media industries - a world of yippie), most of my free time has been spent watching TV programs. They've become quite addicting. With the release of Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 2, I was close to skipping school every day until I finished the series; and I've recently become addicted to The Big Bang Theory, watching both seasons within two weeks, however fast Netflix could ship 'em. So in the midst of my TV show watchin', I've viewed a few movies, but c'mon, let's be frank: with a few exceptions, movies haven't really warranted the "must-see" label.

Moral of the story: I got lazy, I dislike school, and I love me some Big Bang Theory.

Cast: Gianna Jun, Allison Miller, JJ Field
Writer: Chris Chow
based on the movie "Blood: The Last Vampire"
Director: Chris Nahon
Asmik Ace Holdings, 91 mins., 2009

Heavy on the blood and effects, light on the substance that makes a movie worth watching. Surprise #1: 97% of the movie is spoken in English! And here I thought I was popping in a full-on Japanese production complete with some English subs, but alas, not necessary! Surprise #2: this flick is gory. It's not to an insane amount a la the Saw movies, or Hostel for that matter, but it's very gruesome cartoonyish blood. [Make sense?] Similar to Kill Bill, a simple slice to the flesh will result in massive buckets of blood spilling or sprinkling outwards like a rain fall. Surprise #3: the CG effects are really dodgy. Fake-y looking and far too reliant on said fakey CG work, The Last Vampire loses a few points from me for that, but I can't shake off the feeling I think it was a deliberate move on their part.

Honestly, I'm unsure of what type of tone the filmmakers were trying to conjure. The bad CG effects nearly scream 'deliberate' that I half want to say this movie falls under the category of a satire of the vampire story, but it's directed with such seriousness I'm hesitant to call it such.

In Blood: The Last Vampire, there's yet another one of those top-secret organizations only a few key people in the universe know about. This particular organization, dubbed "The Council", assists Saya, a half-human half-vampire sword-wieldin' gal who seeks revenge on Big Bad Demon Onigen for the murder of her mentor some many years ago. Along the way, she meets up with American gal Alice who also wants to kick some vampire ass to avenge the murder of her father.

A good waste of a hour and some change is the best way to sum up The Last Vampire viewing experience. Is it one of the better, awesome revenge-kickass-vampire films of the last decade? A world of nah. But it is fun, and Ms. Miller is pleasing to the eyes, and there's some awesomely bad performances from a group of English actors. The final, 'climatic' battle scene doesn't tread any new territory; Saya's background is unsatisfying, as is the stilted, unenthusiastic 'I-just-got-paid!' performance of Ms. Jun; and the script is far too familiar. Really, these days, it just seems no one tries to do something different with a concept. I get it - original ideas are a rare breed these days, and if they do get made, they're circulating around independent theaters and aren't very publicized. But making a tired formula movie without trying to spice it up with something really cool or 'movie defining' is just rather lazy. The most interesting thing about it is a rain-soaked vampire melee that's more awesome sounding than it is realized.

It's cool that it was made with a mostly American cast with English dialog, but the end product is just the tired same formula thang. But like I said, fun was had. So sit back, order a pizza, drink some Dr. Pepper (I'm their unofficial sponsor), and let the party begin.

Cast: Chris Massoglia, John C. Reilly, Willem Dafoe, Salma Hayek, Ken Watanabe, Josh Hutcherson
Paul Weitz & Brian Helgeland
Based off "Cirque du Freak" by Darren Shan

Director: Paul Weitz
23 October 2009
Universal, 109 mins., Rated PG-13

News flash: vampires are all the craze these days. Stephenie Meyer did a number to tween and teenage girls with her Twilight Saga book series, which was then adapted into a million dollar movie franchise; HBO and The CW adapted The Sookie Stakhouse and The Vampire Diaries books for TV to huge ratings success; merchandise ranging from a Edward vibrator to a Twilight Christmas tree and Tru Blood drinks are all the range. So it makes sense that Universal Pictures - and for that matter, any company - would try to adapt a successful supernatural book franchise. Others that were Harry Potter imitators inevitably failed (The Spiderwick Chronicles), but Universal had the inclusion of vampires in the title and plot as a sure-fire money maker. And thus, they acquired the rights to the Cirque du Freak series by British author Darren Shan, and adapted the first three novels of a 12-part saga for the big screen.

The Vampire's Assistant presents a idea that interesting (and apparently not in the novels), but it's done in the same redundant, un-imaginative way that one really oughta wonder if the director's heart was in it [which, according to interviews, it was]. Sorry to go off on a warparth for a sec, but I think it's something that needs a moment: a lot of these fantasy/fun movies these days don't have a sense of creativity; it feels very much like a formula, a 'going-by-the-motions' kind of thing. It's almost like there's a ginormous lack of effort put into these movies, like everyone involved just threw their hands up and reasoned 'whatever, it'll make some big bucks anyway.' Not only do the actors seem unenthusiastic, but the script typically comes off something rushed and uninspired or remotely original, with classic and redundant lines of dialog, underdeveloped characters (basically everybody), and true lazy directing. And the sad thing is that I read interviews with these directors and they seem genuinely enthusiastic to be behind the camera on this picture. Then why do these movies so often feel uncared for?

Weitz at least throws in some creativity to the mix as far as cinematography is concerned. As Darren begins to harness his supernatural ways, or the editing style of the circus freaks near the beginning, there seems to be a want to make things look visually beautiful, a important factor in films that some book-to-movie directors who aren't helming Harry Potter seem to care little about. The Vampire's Assistant fails with the writing, and I speak in a general sense (it's been over two months since I saw it, so the specifics are a little fuzzy); it's near 99% predictable dialog. However, the high point, as I said somewhere in the beginning of this review, is a certain plotline that I find fascinating: (spoiler warning for future viewers) Darren and his best friend Steve become enemies, and thus must face each other. These two best friends are cast, by 'fate', to battle one another until the end of this vampire war. It's a cool concept that I really hope gets some good material in some future movie.

The acting in this movie is best left unmentioned, although I will quickly add that the cast of Twilight have a contender for 'worst performances in a major motion picture', as Cirque's teenage lead Massoglia is as monotone and stiff as one, I imagine, views Keanu Reeves. Oh, and Salma Hayek cracked me up every second she was onscreen - horrible, but hilarious. Judging by the unspectacular box office gross, I doubt the saga of Darren Shan will see similar treatment with future installments (if any), which is a shame, because the story of Cirque du Freak is actually quite interesting. If anything, this movie works as a good promotional tool for the 12-part series.

For a movie with a relatively chunky running time for a kid flick, there's a lot happening but very little that actually deserves being reviewed. There's a extremely, extremely lame attempt at a love interest. There's the way-too-caviler 'hey, I'm gonna be a vampire! Isn't 'dat kool?' attitude to this 16-year old boy's transformation to a being of the undead. There's the big climatic battle that also sets up for a never-gonna-happen sequel. And then there's the sense of bewilderment that for a book series that is so rich with material, this is the rather disappointing movie we get in return.

The Vampire's Assistant doesn't tread any new ground, and it isn't anything grandiose. But it is a fun flick for anyone who hasn't read any of the books; otherwise, this movie is absolute blasphemy, like Episode I was to Star Wars fans and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Indy lovers. Worth a check when it hits DVD.

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Batement, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Jean Reno
Writer: Jon Favreau, Vin
ce Vaughn, Dana Fox
Director: Peter Billingsley
Release: 09 October 2009

Universal, Rated R, 113

The very idea that Kristen Bell (TV: Veronica Mars) was in a bikini for 40% of a movie's running time is a automatic ticket purchase. The great cast line-up only further solidified my movie anticipating excitement! That's why it was rather disappointing that the movie hardly could live up to the interesting premise. Once again, the 'best' laughs were featured in the trailer, leaving all the deep and not-needed emotional baggage and lack of any really good LOLers a big surprise. Yes, the promise of attractive female leads in bikinis sold me the ticket - the Universal (?) marketing department did their job well - but at least deliver a movie that's really worth my time.

Looking back, I would have to say the movie starts breaking apart by the last 40 minutes - it's around that time utter seriousness, and a ridiculous Guitar Hero 3-min 'ad', ruin a otherwise okay movie. I will give credit to the screenwriters, however, that there was a sense of jeopardy with some of these relationships; but that credit is nearly canceled out by the shamefully lazy conclusion they slapped on to make this one of those 'sweet comedies' (as in: joke, Hallmark 'ahhhhh' moment, joke, another Hallmark 'ahhhhh' moment, repeat)

Now before I move on, take a look at that cast list two paragraphs above. Go on, take a lookie. One would conclude, with the talent being paid, that the film would have no problems eliciting a hoot and giggle, let alone create characters you can really, truly honest-to-Jebus care about. There is one relationship that particularly got my attention - Dave (Vaughn) and Ronnie (Akerman), a couple so down to earth and relatable I nearly wished all the other characters went away and we could simply concentrate on these two. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Joey (Favreau) and Lucy (Davis) is a couple that is obnoxious from frame one all the way to the conclusion, which is entirely unsatisfying. In fact, the finale is poorly written and unsatisfying. It's one of those particular scripts where by the film's conclusion you don't feel as though the characters deserve their ending, they didn't earn it, even with all the trials they went through at Eden.

Overall, an entirely skippable comedy/drama that misses the mark far too often to make it a worthwhile, entertaining flick to watch, which really sucks because I was rooting for it. Perhaps with the impending DVD/Blu-Ray release, I'll give it another go, as I'm sure my disappointment overshadowed the plenty positives.

Cast: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, J.K. Simmons, Ben Affleck, Kristen Wiig
Written & Directed: Mike Judge

Release: 4 September 2009

Miramax Films, 92 mins., Rated R

Getting more publicity than its worth for being the newest production by Office Space director Mike Judge, Extract is a little dramedy that rises upon it's okay script with stellar performances from everyone involved: the always great Jason Bateman (Hancock), J.K. Simmons (I Love You, Man), Mila Kunis (TV: That 70's Show), Ben Affleck (Dardevil), Kristen Wiig (Whip It!) and Clifton Collins, Jr. (The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day). All of these actors were absolutely 100% on their A-Game: Simmons was as lovable as always, although I wouldn't have minded a more prominent role; Wiig was beautiful; Bateman kept to his regular ways, but at least he branches out his abilities more-so than his Arrested Development co-star Michael Cera; Kunis doesn't have too much of a opportunity to shine, but anything's damn better than Max Payne; but it's Affleck that steals the show every second he's on screen.

It's been a long while since I saw it, but I the general sentiment was this: funny at some parts, annoying at others, a all-around OK movie, but definitely not worth the $9.50 ticket apiece. By the time of this writing, Extract is making it's way to DVD, where it's doubtful it'll make the Office Space-home video-esque cult classic, but should get a look at.

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, Will Patton
Written & Directed: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Release: 06 November 2009
Universal, 96 mins., Rated PG-13

Memory does not look back fondly to The Fourth Kind. A sci-fi thriller heavily publicized as a documentary reenactment of 'actual events' in Nome, Alaska, this flick is a hell lot of nothin'. Truth be told - Fourth Kind wasn't high on my 'to-see' list, but it was playing at a convenient time (biked to the mall, went to the local theater at a whim, and voilia, Fourth Kind), so I gave it a shot. Ladies and gents, I wasn't expecting a movie that would freak the frak out of me like Paranormal Activity did, nor was I looking for a movie with a intelligent script, but with, at least, something good. Unfortunately, it failed to deliver even that.

From the opening moments with actress Milla Jovovich lookin' right at the camera and professing her status as a actress reenacting these 'actual case studies', I knew this movie was doomed. The annoying camera rotation was ticking me off - I wager this is how moviegoers felt watching Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen this summer. And then the movie began. If there was such an award for 'Most Establishing Shots of Mountains in a Movie That's Not a Franchise', The Fourth Kind would win, hands down. More time is spent with the camera up in the sky (and zoomed up at a owl) than with our leads, and its' not to create a 'the aliens are watching us' feeling, it just seems to come out of laziness to make adequate transitions. And then there's the performances which are completely phoned in. Jovovich was probably preparing herself for the fourth Resident Evil movie, and the other guys were possibly contemplating their future careers in the television landscape (which isn't necessarily a band thing).

The movie tries to work as a supernatural suspense film. It does not accomplish this. Suspense is attempted by cutting in-between 'actual' hypnosis sessions and the dramatized reenactments. Not so much. Frustration, freakiness, and fascinating is meant to come out of the blurry, scratchy moments of the tape when something actually happens. Partially; particularly the 'possession' moments moreso than anything else (i.e., a hostage situation that goes wrong). That was a genuinely freaky moment, especially the talk about Sumerian and the "I am...God" moment - chilling (spoiler?). There's also a shot of a owl watching the camera as it moves across a driveway for about 40 seconds that sort of creeps you out, but that's about it.

Fourth Kind is a exercise in futility. Not matter how much you wanted it to be good and enjoyable, it just couldn't deliver. The script, which, if this was based off 'actual case studies', shouldn't really be considered a script, is rather rubbish. The dialog, the cliched characters, the lack of considerable tension throughout the film, and a lack of keeping audience attention through it's long, long running time - I can't recommend The Fourth Kind as a viewing choice of any kind: Netflix, Watch Instantly, Redbox, or a group riff track. Just skip it.

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jaime Foxx, Leslie Bibb, Viola Davis
Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Director: F. Garry Gray
Release: 16 October 2009
Overture Films, 109 mins., Rated R

Some friends and I were discussing Gerard Butler and his re-emergence in 2009 as a actor who was nearly everywhere you turned around, but until Rob Pattinson's ability to haunt your dreams, Butler made you want to kick some ass and take names. Mom got into the conversation and offered this little bit: apparently from some TV talk show, Butler described his career right now as such: "I make two types of movies: the ones with my shirt off in which people try to kill me, or the ones with my shirt on which are really sappy."

Guess what category Law Abiding Citizen falls under.

Buildings blow up, people die, and Gerard Butler plays his awesome, cool demeanor every step of the way. Big-time lawyer Jamie Foxx attempts to reason with the man, but see's him more as a opportunity to get his name out their more. None of the characters are really all that appealing, but out of the bunch, Butler undoubtedly takes the lead. Cunning, manipulating, brilliant, and persuasive, Butler plays this betrayed man very, very well. A decade after watching his wife and child killed, Butler makes a choice to show the faulty system the law works under and expose humanity's waste. Luckily for him, he's quite a wealthy man so he can accomplish a lot of crazy shisha.

I'm not sure if we're particularly supposed to root for someone, but Jamie Foxx never grabbed my attention, sympathy, or understanding. His character wasn't brilliantly written, I'll grant him that; but Foxx's performance was also strikingly off to the extent I was never quite sure I ever bought this role as anything but phony. So when I say Butler kicks ass, I mean that he positively OWNS this movie, and for that reason alone, Law Abiding Citizen is a recommendation.

You already know what type of movie this is, and you can pretty much guess the film every step of the way. But it's enjoyable, and actually punches some real surprises. Absolutely give it a shot; I might even buy the bugger when it hits home video.

Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Eckhart
Written & Directed: Brandon Camp

Release: 18 September 2009
Universal, 109 mins., Rated PG-13

I hardly remember this Jennifer Aniston/Aaron Eckhart rom-com, but I recall my disappointment that it wasn't anything more than your typical, redundant, paint-by-the-numbers movie that didn't take full use of the caliber of actors they had at their disposal. I'd say rewrite the bloody script to better suit these people. Eckhart has some moments to shine, particularly a cool sequence in which he burns his feet trying to persuade a man not to leave one of his seminars.

Right, let me back up a bit: Eckhart plays this Dr. Phil-like guy who basically says the same things every other self-help therapy doctor dude spills, and Aniston is one of those hottish gals who pick the wrong guys and is free spirited. Eckhart's character is also emotionally burdened with the death of his wife, and feels he is to blame and thus can't confront her family or attend her funeral (not spoiling anything; it was in the trailer). Naturally, these two characters spark a connection. Maybe romantic, maybe just friends-with-benefits, but a connection apparently worth making a movie about.

How my watching Love Happens came about was mom really wanted to see a chick flick, and she was paying. So, why not? At the very least, I get to see Eckhart play another emotionally damaged character who is completely lost in his pain. That's interesting, that's worth making a movie. The resulting movie with the unnecessary but perhaps company-forced romantic element just feels uneven, like it really doesn't know what it's trying to be or what it wants to say other than 'open up, goofballs.' In the end, it's a okay flick, but entirely skipable. No career defining performances or a script to blow one's socks off, Love Happens just simply happened, and left unnoticed.

16 December 2009

EDITORIAL - Gots Me Some Monsters

It's finals week here at Century College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and I just completed my Intro to Mass Communication final at 7:45 AM (those who know me know that the EARLIEST I get up is 9:00 post-high school) and I'm tired and cranky because I haven't eaten anything. I'm in the school computer lab, watching me the two latest episodes of the now-canceled Joss Whedon series Dollhouse on Fancast, and purusing through some blogs since Facebook's rather dull at the moment. And what do I find? Well...

The first railer for Kadokowa Daiei's New Daimajin series. As a sorta fan of the 1966 'DaiMajin' franchise, featuring a giant stone God brought to life by pissed off villagers to frak up some evil warlords, I'm intrigued. However, this trailer makes this new series (mini-series? actual series?) just look horrible. As far as I can tell, there's witches with supernatural powers, a motorcycle chase that looks just as bad as it did in "Godzilla: Final Wars", and a man dressed in a Kamen Rider-esque outfit. The actual Daimajin smashing was kept to a unsatisfying minimum in the trailer. In fact, the majority of the trailer featured footage from Daiei's big franchises - 'Yokai Monsters', Gamera, and 'Daimajin' - as well as sporting off the new Blu-Rays for said titles (well, with the exception of 'Yokai'). And judging from the reaction at the Monster Zero message boards, others aren't exactly receptive to it either, although some are also maintaing the 'wait and see' approach. I guess I'll reserve absolute judgment until I watch a entire episode (whenever that may be), but for right now, thumbs down, Daiei; thumbs down. (Really, how do you mess up a concept of a giant stone god exacting some vengeance?)

Ray Bradbury's 'The Foghorn' gets filmed. But, of course, not in America. In 2007, Daisuke Sato and his band of SPFX teammates actually filmed the 1953 Ray Bradbury short story. And boy does it look impressive. The sad part? It probably won't get released on DVD in any format, apparently due to legal rights. Sato explains: "There is actually a problem with the copyright of the original, and so that is why we haven’t yet released it to the public. But if there is enough demand for it and a lot of people want to see it, then we’ll definitely release it. If we do, it will be as a DVD or online.” He also said English subs will be avaliable. For the uninformed, 'The Foghorn' was the basis of the Ray Harryhausen-visual effected The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, which then became one part of a vast series of inspirations to Tomoyuki Tanaka which eventually resulted in 1954's Godzilla. And yes, I dig the Godzilla series; wanna row? According to Monster Island News, fan demand might help see this flick through distribution. Well, I'm voicing my opinion now: I want it on DVD damnit, or at least avaliable online to order/watch. This is one piece of daikaiju filmmaking I definitely, really super duper wanna see. Perhaps a special screening at this year's G-FEST?

23 November 2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Taylor Lautner
Adapated for the screen by Melissa Rosenberg
Based on the novel "New Moon" by Stephenie Meyer
Directed by Chris Weitz
Summit Entertainment, 130 mins., Rated PG-13

Go see New Moon! Featuring a revolutionary performance by Kristen Stewart in which she limits her lip biting to TWO scenes and delivers every emotional line of dialog in a monotone, forgetful and delirious voice; multiple redundant conversations with two broody boys basically repeating the SAME conversation of two scenes ago; a female protagonist who is the exact opposite of a role model for young girls - going anti-social, suicidal, suffering nightmares, and sorta turnin’ druggie just because a boy in your life goes bye-bye; a iTunes playlist of unspectacular, emo songs to perfectly compliment a equally emo movie; two leads whose kiss appears to be as awkward and painful as a lobster clinching ones private parts, but doesn’t nearly amount to the painfulness of an audience member having to watch it; and finally, a bunch of guys who take their shirts without any reason whatsoever.

Yes, my opinion on The Twilight Saga: New Moon means jack shooters, because this juggernaut is gonna rank in some Revenge of the Fallen bucks, sirs. There’s not a day that goes by that the Twilight merchandise section in my store doesn’t get eye-goggled by a bunch of teen gals, or someone picks up one of our $29.99 cardboard cut outs of our dear beloved Eddie. Er, Edward, I mean. [But Edward sounds so edgy and oldyish; for the sake of bromance and a less broody sounding protagonist, I’m calling him Eddie] But dang nabbit, I sat in the theater and watched this 2 hour and 10 minute movie, and I gots me some things to say.

First off, a plot summary! Not like anyone who reading this doesn’t (probably) already know the story’s plot, but what the Edward: a few months after the romantic events of nearly dying by a crazed ex-O.C. cast member and having your boyfriend constantly wanting to kill you, Eddie and Bella are keeping it cool. Eddie still walks in slow motion, and still doesn’t know about the centuries old invention of a hair brush. But sadly, all the time Bella spends with Eddie ostracizes her from her other buddies, including Jacob Black, the resident Indian dude with long hair who is dying for the opportunity to ask this gal out. Luckily for him, a near fatal birthday surprise at the Cullen house sends Eddie & family packing, afraid they might cause harm to the deer little lass…

No need to fear, because Bella’s so distraught, she goes out of her way to self-inflict some hurt. She rides on a motorcycle with some random tattooed dude in town, she jumps off a cliff, and attempts to learn how to drive a motorcycle (with the all-too-innocent help of Jakie, who by no means has a unsubtle crush on our lead actress and totally loves Eddie) all to achieve a “rush”, as in freakishly seeing apparitions of Eddie that look even more freakier than Eddie looks like in real life! (shudder at the thought) The funny part is that Ghost Eddie keeps coaching Bella to do things a girl of regular everyday intelligence would know, but this being Bella, she needs it told to her by her ghostly hubby; there’s just some moments that are just too darn funny.

Well, the last half hour of the movie kicks into overdrive as Bella’s extracurricular activities (read: cliff jumping) leads Eddie to believe his long lost love is…lost, and intends to show off his glowly, sparkily self to all of Italy, thus exposing his kind, and hopefully get killed by his good Vampire clan buddies the Volturi. Sadly, Eddie lives, Bella and Eddie are reunited, and all is good and the world.

Oh, and there’s another crucial element to New Moon: a love triangle! During Eddie’s departure, Bella begins to use her friend Jacob as a distraction, sorta leading him on without any intention of following through (biotch). But things get really complicated as it is revealed Jakie is going through “some changes.” Changes, as in, gaining the ability to transform into a giant, cute puppy with a mighty growl complex. In summary, Eddie leaves Bella, Bella sad, Bella uses Jacob for distraction, Jacob fancies Bella, Bella loco, you won’t like Jacob when he’s angry, Bella-Eddie-Jakie triangle.

Here concludith New Moon, the much heralded superior successor to Catherine Hardwicke’s 2008 adaptation Twilight. My opinion: the first was better, but I get why Hardwicke probably wouldn’t be suitable to helm this pic; she’s not all that familiar with special visual effects, although director Chris Weitz (brother of Paul Weitz who helmed the equally disastrous but much less entertaining Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, which really does showcase some of the most bland performances in the history of Harry Potter-cashin’Ville) has some experience with his less than stellar The Golden Compass some while back, though most notably for making Nicole Kidman actually look hot. New Moon is longer than the first, and plays more or less like a extended episode of some teen series where a woman is split between two really bad guy candidates with a monster-ish psychopathic tendency, but has to choose one of ‘em. Anyway, sorry about the detour, but Hardwicke was at least able to get some deep emotional pull from the story and the actors, something that is saddeningly absent from this picture, despite being a far more emotional story!

Right off the bat, I’ll bring up some things I liked: the very first shot of the wolves in the trees was very, very cool. Actually, it wasn’t cool; it was quite frightening, really. I thought that visual would have made a pretty cool horror flick. The chase after Victoria in the woods as she’s jumping about and using the trees to her advantage as the Wolfies run after her as some well timed music plays: that was good. Plus, the moment where she sticks her head out of the water – e-e-r-i-e!!! There’s also a wolf fight between one of the sorta villainy dudes from the first one and said wolves – it’s quite cool, although I wish it was extended longer. And, er, I guess out of all the main character performances, Taylor Lautner was the, um, “best.”

One particular, no-brainer awesome performance comes from Michael Sheen, choosing not to freak me out today with his scary eyebrows (a la Forst/Nixon), who plays the main head honcho in charge of the Volturi, a vampire organization that is basically The Law. Sheen appears to be having a absolute blast, as he waves his hands around, shows off some pretty red eyes, and is overall completely charismatic as he talks in a slow, deliberate voice. I would rewatch these last minutes over and over because Sheen is just mesmerizing to watch. And the sight of Eddie getting his ass handed to him is just too good to ignore commenting.

Now, a question that’s been puzzling me: is there a particular reason that once a member of Jacob’s fan club finds out they’re a wolf-in-name-only, they choose to go about their day without their shirt? I’m frankly surprised we didn’t see a grocery store scene where he had his shirt off, or going to the public bathroom with his shirt off, or even helping an old lady across a street…shirtless. Is it a ‘one-with-wilderness’ thing? I get the obvious female eye candy thing, but logistically: um, why?

For the bad stuff, I’m not going to spend a gazillion hours chronicling every non-Oscar-level moment in this movie, or I’ll never get done. The jist is: Kristen Stewart doesn’t act in this movie. In the first, there were moments of a genuine performance. In New Moon, I honestly can’t tell you, pinpoint, or possibly surmise any scene where she changed her ‘performance’ even one iota molecule or whatever. The same monotone, zombie-ish performance that is somehow lacking compared to Rob Pattinson (shudders). Pattinson is as pale as ever, and totally digging his ‘totally hot self’, but never once conveys a sense of being a remotely interesting or likable person. Speaking of which, the ‘lovers’ are about the most blah, uncharismatic group I’ve ever seen. Whenever they kiss, it really looks like Pattinson is constipated, and Stewart is just bopping her head back and forth with her lips outstretched to get the scene completed. Both of them look like they’re in actual physical pain! Sure, Eddie really wants to kill Bella and suck her blood dry, but where’s the tiny wincy hint of romance? There’d probably be more chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Christopher Lee, though who’d ever wanna watch a scene with those two together..

And this brings us to Taylor Lautner, the dude who spends at minimum an hour of running time shirtless, broody, longing, and possibly really trying to improve his acting ‘skills.’ To be fair, Lautner is a pretty likable guy, and has the short end of the stick. The majority of girls are goo-goo ga-ga over Mr. DcDreamy & Perfect-o Eddie, so it probably takes a bit for the gals to accept him in lieu of constipated Pattison. I don’t have much to say about Taylor, but good luck sir. You were one of the least annoying aspects of the movie, although you had some pretty bad performance moments yourself, but I’m rooting for you in the next two. And good luck with Breaking Dawn, because apparently that’s going to be a doozy.

I read the first Twilight book before it became a national phenomenon, and never really got into it enough to read the second, so I’m watching these movies with a fresh eye. The plotline itself, the devastating effects of a breakup with ones ‘true love’ is definitely interesting and worth exploring, but the way it’s presented, it’s a little unfortunate. Bella wakes up with night terrors for months and becomes entirely anti-social. This is the bit where I could go into Bella being a horrible role model for young girls, but that’s been brought up so many bloody times and is on the verge of being as annoying as Stewart’s presence in a movie, so I’ll skip that for now. Interesting idea, just wish it was presented in a different light. The idea of Jacob and how he nudges his way in-between her and Eddie is also interesting, as well as his “dark passenger” (hehehe, oh I crack myself up).

Good ideas, it’s just the story, the way it was presented…I just don’t like how it was written, I guess. How Bella reacts, and the shell of a person she becomes after Eddie’s departure… Gah, is all I can say without getting too into it. Gah! Gah! Guh!

I ragged on New Moon a lot in this review; and for that I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. It just reads so well as Mystery Science Theater potential there were just some things that couldn’t be left unsaid. Overall, New Moon is a ‘good’ movie. Fine, well crafted, good cinematography; music composition and selection could use a little work, and the ‘actors’ could use quite a lot of work. But nonetheless, I’m dumb enough that in June 2010, I’ll be one of those people sitting in the theater Kit Kat bar in one hand and a Dr. Pepper in the other ready to immerse myself in a third helping of Eddie, Bella, and Jakie. Until then folks, vote for Team Jacob! (I kid, I kid; no really, don’t vote, at all)

16 November 2009

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly, Clifton Collins Jr., Julie Benz, Peter Fonda
Written & Directed by Troy Duffy
Release date: 31 October 2009 (limited), 13 November 2009 (wide)
Stage 6 Films, 117 mins, Rated R

The saints…are coming, the saints…are coming

Back in May I discovered a movie that people have been going ga-ga over for a decade. 1999’s “The Boondock Saints”, the debut of writer and director Troy Duffy, went largely unnoticed by me, uninterested in the bland covers and furthermore unaffected by the ginormous hype surrounding the flick the past few years. It wasn't until someone sat me down, popcorn in hand, and forced me to watch it; and wouldn't yah know it - within the first 6 minutes, I knew it was a movie that I not only loved, but would be owning in the very immediate future (and I did; bought the Steelbook DVD edition the day after). And, as luck would have it, I found out that a sequel was already in development and would probably be out by the end of the year! (it was)

So, moral of the story, wait 10 years to really get into a much loved movie because by that time a sequel will probably already have been made or be out really, really soon.

Anyway, the day has finally arrived, and "Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" premiered at my local Marcus Theater (much to my utter surprise when surfing through the theater's website; I thought I was going to have to practice patience and wait for the eventual DVD and Blu-Ray release), and [duh], I raced my butt over there right after my lovely Intro to Mass Communications class (read: the media's evil).

The movie begins in a familiar fashion – Duffy’s much treasured fade in and outs accompanied by vocal, chanting-ish music (then followed by some rock music; if nothing else, “All Saints Day” serves as a good jukebox). In Boston, a priest is killing in a manner resembling the Saints, the vigilante group that disappeared without a trace eight years before after the public murder of mafia crime lord Yakavetta. The murder reaches the Saints – Connor and Murphy McManus (Flanery, Reedus), living the peaceful life in Ireland with their Da (Connolly). Immediately, they suit up and travel back to Boston to execute everyone involved in the murder, and cause some “gratuitous violence.” Along the way, they meet up with Romeo (Collins), a spirited kick-ass kind of guy who believes in the Saints and find them just and wants to be a member of the gang; plus he has a few connections that could be useful.

Meanwhile, Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Benz) is on the trail of the Priest’s killer, along with Agents Duffy, Dolly and Greenly. Similar to eight years ago, things get major bloody. It's revealed that the murder of the priest is connected to Concezio Yakavetta (Nelson), son of Joe Yakavetta (said crime lord the Saints executed), who wants the Saints dead out of revenge. But things may not be as they seem, as there's another layer to the killing that no one predicted.

First off: excitement levels were OFF THE CHART walking in and sitting in the theater.
It’s quite evident everyone involved had a bloody BLAST making this flick, and it shows, but unfortunately there’s a overarching feeling that Duffy & Co. are trying too hard to rekindle the awesomeness of the first one.

Returning as the McManus brothers, Flanery and Reedus seem giddy as ever to come back, although they look a tad weary than ten years before. Billy Connolly has a expanded role as their Father, and even factors into the story during its final 30 (although, seen in Godfather Part 2-ish flashbacks, we get a history lesson of Papa McManus, and boy is it good). Basically, just don't mess with this guy - or the family for that matter. Newcomer Clifton Collins, Jr. joins the boys as Romeo, providing more of the funnies as well as a lot of kick-assery. One particularly funny sequence with his character is when he's trying to think of a good final line after a shoot-out. And as for Julie Benz - well, not her best performance, looks a little freaky, frankly. Sirs, if you're interested in this gal, may I refer you to her stint on Angel, specifically the entirety of season 2: to say her every performance in every episode was flabbergasting would not be an understatement.

There are also three surprise appearances that brought a smile to my face; one of them is far too juicy to spoil, but I will say to that one question all "Boondock" fans are asking, it’s a yes, but for a limited time, but it was absolutely awesome. There’s also a cameo from a deceased character that brought a very man-macho moment to the picture (near the last half hour when shit really began to hit the fan), and the appearance of a actor that surprised the hell outta me for being in this. That’s Paul Johansson, infamous for his portrayal as the deliciously wicked Dan Scott in The CW’s “One Tree Hill”. I haven’t been this surprised or giddy about a surprise starring role since Scott Patterson (Luke on The CW’s “Gilmore Girls”) graced the screen in “Saw IV.” Johansson plays the edgy FBI Agent who takes over the Saints investigation and is basically just a hard-ass, something he can do quite well.

You want action? "All Saints Day" has action galore. Although it takes about 30 to 40 mins. for the Saints to do what they do best, it's not until the last 30 really that the action is totally completely awesome. A group of maybe 20 people coming down on the Saints, guns ablazing; the Saints trying to break into a building, inspired by a crazy idea from a movie one of them had seen; a fun and quick bar duel, etc., etc. More action than the first, but sadly not as, well, fun. At least, there wasn't that sense of joy for most of the movie that I felt with the first one; there was more or less of my brain thinking, '2 guys versus 10 of these dudes? How are they NOT shot even ONCE?' But, whatev - hold onto that suspension of disbelief.

As for the script, and basically the whole reason the movie exists: well, it's alright. To start off, I'm going to bring up a point I didn't even think about until I was reading some other reviews. Film.com reviewer mentioned the rather dumb reason the boys go out of retirement and go back to Boston to exact some revenge; indeed, they knew of the priest, they didn't know him personally nor was he important in some way. So, in that respect, the MacGuffin sort of didn't work all that well. There's plenty of callbacks to the first movie, a lot of trying to rekindle the flare that worked so well before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't (although the dream sequence with a deceased character was sorta fun).

I did enjoy the sorta possible theme of that whoever the brothers associate with, they put in harms way; but these people make their own choices, and they believe in them and what the boys are doing is good and right, so they continue on regardless of the perils. It's little nuggets like that which I enjoy in vigilante movies that sadly goes mostly unnoticed here.

The interesting thing is that after all the anticipation, I don't have too much to say. The performances were good, the script was good, the music was okay, the editing alright (could be tighter); basically, it was all good. There does seem a sense of overindulging, like Duffy thought himself invincible to a long-ish feel to his movie and possible flat jokes (there's a sorry few), and a lot of music, enough to the point that I thought 'why not make this a music video?' I really don't want to rag on the flick, nor do I wish to cast it in a negative light - there are areas of improvement, but it was, overall, a fun movie-going experience and worth the wait.

So, in the end, “All Saints Day” had its ups and downs, boasts action galore, one helluva movie soundtrack (I’ll have “The Saints Are Coming” stuck in my head for at least two weeks), and the potential of a third installment (fingers crossed, and hopefully another 10 years won’t elapse). Actually, speaking about a third picture, the Wikipedia page mentions a interview with Duffy and Connolly about said third movie, with a tentative working title of "Boondock Saints III: Saints Preserve Us". Duffy & Co., count my ticket already bought.

15 November 2009

Batman Portraits of Evil: Silent Night

Starring Craig Deering, Joe Korbel, Katie Diedrick, Tom Skobel,
Adrianna Lombardo
Directed by Craig Deering & Allen Murphy
Screenplay by Kyle Bridges
Evil Iguana Productions, 32 mins., 2009

I remember a little over a year ago perusing through YouTube trying to find anything and everything Dark Knight, even a new TV spot that has at least a half-second of new footage that would give me a little better clue as to what to expect from this sure-fire orgasmically awesome sequel to an already orgasmically awesome franchise rebooter. Well, there wasn't much of those, but there were already plenty of spoofs and parodies online. One of the more famous and watched is the much loved "Interrogation Scene Spoof" (it's truly a classic, and kudos to everyone involved in that), but there was another one that made me go hehe-haha quite a bit as well: called "The Dark Knight Trailer Spoof", it was one of the funnier of the spoofs (I'm sorry video creators, but there's just some so-called "spoofs" that just feel more awkward and less funny than a episode of The Office [both versions]), and was created by a rather oddly named group: Evil Iguana Productions. Well, luckily their group name was weird enough that it stuck in my head.

Fast forward to this evening. It's the week of release for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and me being sick of the love-fest and
goo-goo-ga-ganess over Edward and Jacob, I wanted to escape the frenzy and watch some much-needed Twilight spoofing. I had recently watched the SNL Taylor Swight "Firelight", which was amusing (I loved the hell outta Swift mimicking Stewart by her constant lip biting) but not all that stellar. Unfortunately, the majority of Twilight spoofs online didn't deliver, either.

However, my watching of the "
New Moon Trailer Spoof" from good ol' Evil Iguana Productions led me to a Megavideo link of something called Batman Portrait of Evil: Silent Night (and I honestly thought it was Batman fighting a evil Santa Clause, a la the Silent Night, Deadly Night flicks). A 32-minute flick, credits included, with the Joker, Commissioner Gordon, Batman, and a house seige set on Christmas Eve? Count me in. And considering it's a fan-made project with a small budget and a couple of Batman-lovin' enthusiasts...it's pretty damn good.

Gotham City, Christmas Eve. Batman's on edge, worried about the Joker's whereabouts after his break-out of Arkham a little over a month earlier, waiting for the deranged psychopath to strike. Commissioner Gordon shares a drink with a fellow officer giving her the good news of her promotion. But the happy stuff ends there, as the Joker and his lackeys invade a policeman's house, holding his wife and two children hostage. Throughout the night, the Joker attempts to break the policeman's sanity, forcing him to make life and death decisions and undergo torture, all to prove a point. Anyone can break; all it takes is
one. bad. day.

If the last line sounds familiar, it should. Much to my happiness and therefore kudos to the Evil Iguana crew, there's lines and quite a lot of inspiration originating from Alan Moore's
The Killing Joke, a Joker-centric tale that has him forcing Gordon to undergo torturous trials in an attempt to make him lose his sanity and morality.

Moving away from the spoof genre, the folks at Evil Iguana instead conceived their own script using existing characters and created a engaging 32-minute movie with some impressive performances and tight script.

First up, acting wise - it's great. Director Deering plays double duty reprising his role of Joker from the trailer spoof, and even improves upon it. Freakishly emulating Ledger's Joker rather well (and by far better than the majority of YouTube videos I've seen of people trying to do the role justice), complete with the trademark voice and that thing Heath did with his lip. Considering that the Joker is front and center throughout the film's running time, maintaing the Joker's threat and creating an performance that would keep the viewer involved is paramount, Deering did fantastic. There's several moments that I loved, but one that was quite hilarious involved the Joker sitting in front of a picture.

As husband and wife, Tom Skobel and Adrianna Lombardo were quite good (although Lombardo looked quite young compared to her gray-haired hubby), particularly Skobel as he's mentally being broken down by the Joker's antics. Blow after blow, Skobel nicely conveys this man's descent to lunacy. Lombardo has limited screentime, sadly, as she's quite pretty. Writer Kyle Bridges channels a little Leonardo DiCaprio-
Departed-ish with a New York accent as Commissioner Gordon; a solid performance, but sadly unable to fully emulate the awesomeness of Gary Oldman (my apologies, I'm just totally diggin' what Oldman's done with the character).

This being a Joker film, Batman's not a important part of the story, and is thus noticeably absent through most of the movie. And although it was great seeing Batman, he could have been exercised from the film entirely, and I wouldn't have minded. So, basically, all around greatness.

The script is brilliant and beautiful. By beautiful, I mean it works on many levels. Thanks to the great performances and the wonderful script, the tension is all there; I'm sitting in front of my computer wondering what the Joker's going to do next. He's unhinged, loco, ready and willing to do
anything. When Lombardo's children are taken away, I'm worried; when the Joker picks up a present, my heart's beating faster because I wanna know what he's going to do with it (hehehe, oh the result). The dialog's great, the idea is exceptional. It's just...well, it's bloody dandy, folks.

In fact, the only real negative thing I can say is that they far over-use James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer's scores for
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Yes, that music does help create the appropriate atmosphere, and yes they are using Heath Ledger's Joker as a inspiration, but that doesn't mean other music can't be consulted (I'm looking at you, too, fellow movie makers).

I know I may seem awfully giddy for a simple fan-made project, but out of the multiple low-budget movies I've watched on YouTube, none have grabbed me, impressed me, and kept me as enticed from beginning to end as
Silent Night did. You may not find it as pleasing and marvelous as me, but this entire 32-minute short felt like a continuation of Christopher Nolan's film, and I know it would happen in a hundred years, but I would LOVE for something like this to be brought to the big screen for reelz. Just, y'know, check it out, see if you like it. At the very least, give Evil Iguana Productions a look through, I know you're guaranteed a laugh.

09 November 2009

Trilogy Pack: The Evil Dead


This summer, as I was waiting for
Drag Me to Hell to start, I sat ready to watch a horror flick by the guy who I know as “the director of the Spider-Man trilogy”; others folks, however, were watching “from horror director Sam Raimi, director of the Evil Dead trilogy”, eagerly anticipating Raimi’s return to the horror genre after his superhero detour. Up until recently (like, tonight recently), I never watched any of the Evil Dead movies. Of course, I knew plenty about Ash and his chainsaw-wielding arm, and I heard that the Evil Dead sequel was more or less a bigger budgeted remake of the first, and that the third film was set in the past. As to why the franchise was so revered and loved by countless fans that will defend Raimi no matter what because of these movies, I hadn’t a clue.

Now, a hour or so after watching the trilogy back-to-back at my local second-run theater ($8 for all three movies, not counting concession purchases), I appreciate Raimi’s trilogy, and I get why so many people dig the franchise, but as to fallen in love with it – nah, not yet; perhaps a few more viewings of the second or third, and I just might fall in love (the sorta funny thing is that I’ve owned the first two on DVD for three years, and haven’t watched ‘em). But I get one thing for sure: Bruce Campbell’s status of Awesomeness.

It was a frakkin’ awesome experience being in a packed theater with a bunch of equally-minded nerds and horror hounds watching the trilogy (as opposed to the nearly desolate reception the recent 1978 Halloween screening had at the Mall of America), and the Plaza Maplewood was even awesome enough to throw in a couple oldies trailers: the only ones I can remember at the moment were Krull, the teaser for Alien, Night of the Living Dead, and Army of Darkness. That made me super giddy. The last time a theater showed vintage trailers was four years ago, when my local Marcus location showed the previous five Star Wars trailers preceding Revenge of the Sith.

As most would-be interested parties have probably seen the Evil Dead trilogy, I’m not going to go in-depth, deep-in-specifics, but just give an overview of my general thoughts concerning the flicks.

Bruce Campbell
w. & d. Sam Raimi, 1981

The first, the beginning, the Big Kahuna, Bruce Campbell’s big starring vehicle, Raimi’s first horror flickaroo – and we’re presented this with a washed out, red-tinted, hair-and-crackling 35milimeter print that was just painful to watch, and listen to. Obviously not the most ideal way to see the first of a ‘cinema classic’ trilogy, but the audience reactions to the screen more than made up for it [besides, it was fun watching the missing frames create quick edits; for example, a dude sitting on the ground gets up faster than Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan getting out of Dodge in Episode I, and I’m sure only a few people will get that reference).

Well, first and foremost, I can say this wasn’t what I expected. I guess all the hype surrounding Army of Darkness made me think this was more akin to that, but it isn’t so much. It’s dark, very independent looking, not so greatly scripted, not all that greatly acted (though I wager that’s part of the gem of the flick), and it’s really, really messed up. By messed up, I mean particularly the finale, that featured some pretty dodgy but inspired stop-motion claymation, and was quite grotesque. For some reason, this stuff irked me more than any of the Saw flicks.

For an independent feature, it's still quite impressive. There's a little bit of lag time where nothing really happens, and the suspense sadly isn't all there, but once shit hits the fan (aka the last twenty minutes), you just forget about all the not-so-stellar stuff. Oh, and one final thing: holy frakkin' crap, look at how YOUNG Bruce Campbell is! I'm used to watching this dude as the clumsy Autolycus, the King of Thieves in Xena and Hercules, and to me, THAT was a young Bruce. At any rate, Evil Dead was still a cool movie, but in comparison to the other two, it definitely ranks the lower slot.

Bruce Campbell
d. Sam Raimi, 1987

Raimi and Campbell must be nuts, because Evil Dead 2 is just INSANE. Just when something got weird (Ash slicing off his hand, and it subsequently taunting him), it got even more freakin’ weirder (the entire house talking, laughing, and eventually Ash crackin’ up about it). And the sequence near the beginning when the naked headless female body gets up from the grave, dances around, makes sexual positions, and then has the head roll back on? That was one of the most messed up things I have ever seen, and if anyone was stoned watching the flick in the theater, I'm sure that probably blew their mind. As I said above, the sequel gets a lot of “grr” for being basically a remake of the first movie, but I was rather surprised at how little it felt like it; yes, it basically is the first movie all over again, but there’s so many things that separate the two that it feels distinct.

The character of Ash becomes more of a parody than anything else, being thrown into anything and everything imaginable, beat the hell up, and completely loses his bonkers. Actually, he’s like Jack Bauer thrown into a horror situation, but minus the intense seriousness and gun. The first film concluded with Ash once again the target of the thought-to-be-destroyed resurrected demons, and no matter his attempts, he’s always dragged back to that bloody house. This film follows that with Ash unable to get away from the house, and his problem gets more complicated with the arrival of four more people, one of them the daughter of the Professor who started this whole mess (who looked like the Gay Harden woman from Frank Darabont's The Mist, but I was wrong). Together, they battle resurrected old dead ladies (her reveal was a hilarious scene with Ash locked in the cellar), fight the woods, and Ash gets the bad end of the stick once again when he's sucked into a portal that brings him back into the time of Arthur.

Y'know, I feel really bad for Ash. This guy goes through Hell (not to mention what happens in the next movie; which, by the way, had awesome foreshadowing earlier in the story, complete with an hilarious one-liner on Campbell's part), with basically every part of his body getting sliced into, ripped up, jabbed, thrown into a wall, etc., etc. And yet he's basically indestructible. No wonder there's Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash comic series - I gotta remember to pick that up. The franchise might not be half as fun if it wasn't for the audience wondering what new catastrophe's going to happen to him.

Impressive cinematography (the one-shot in which the Evil follows Ash through the houses' many rooms and doors is very cool), funny dialog, great kill-off characters (way better than anything the Friday the 13th franchise has yet to produce), and an helluva awesome ending. Pretty damn good, sirs, pretty damn good.

Bruce Campbell
d. Sam Raimi, 1993

Out of the three, Army of Darkness probably receives the most attention, and I get why. Epic, funny, fun, cool, action-y, imaginative, and attractive girls; what’s not to like? Plus, it boasts one helluva awesome looking poster. Once again, Raimi retools the ending of the previous film into something similar but simultaneously different, and that sort of caught me off guard. Evil Dead 2 concluded with such a strong finale with of kick-assness, it felt a little weird to sort of wipe the slate clean. Anywhoozles, Ash (Campbell) has been transported back in time via this portal that was meant to exile all the Evil in the forest – which it did, but just brought it to a different time. So Ash is captured by Arthur and some other Knights, thought to be a bad guy conspiring with Arthur’s opponent Henry, but some believe Ash to be the prophesied one that will bring peace to the land. Ash doesn’t so much care about the peace-bringing bit as much as the whole going-home part, which is possible but only by ownership of a Necronomicon book. So Ash stays (plus the presence of a rather attractive woman I'm sure plays a part in that), and basically he inadvertently (in a rather funny scene that shows the importance of correct pronunciation) jump starts the Apocalypse, which leads to another awesome full-out war.

The best way to compare this would be Hot Fuzz meets First Knight. The humor and action of Fuzz mixed in with the ancient Arthurian tales of Knight come together to make one helluva awesome movie with a brilliant concept: demons in midevil times, and a 20th century man with a chainsaw hands comes to kick some demon ass! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

As with any mythical movie, there's gotta be a battle scene, and Army doesn't disappoint. Boasting one really awesome Bad Guy, Ash kicks some serious ass, beats the hell out of some bad guys, and (of course) gets the girl.

The film’s final minutes were a blast (keep in mind, this was the theatrical release, not the director’s cut). First off, it was GREAT seeing Ted Raimi onscreen; as a loyal fan of
Xena, Warrior Princess (don’t laugh, it was a damn good program), it was marvelous watching Joxer the Mighty grace me with his presence once again. And Ash getting his shotgun, putting bullet into bullet into the demon, freakin’ SWEET! Total Awesome Fest if ever I’d experienced it.

And then the movie was over, the audience got outta their seats and headed home, and the Plaza mentioned something about “join us next year for this again.” So, here’s hoping they do the Trilogy again, and here’s hoping I have time off work to attend.

All in all, I didn’t fall in love with the franchise, but I enjoyed my time. The Evil Dead movies are completely nutty, freakin’ hilarious, highly imaginative, wonderfully casted, and – as the best compliment possible – one hell of a enjoyable time in the theater. Kick-ass job Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Ivan Raimi, and everyone else involved in the production of these flicks. So, fellow movie lovers who, like I recently, haven’t seen the Evil Dead movies, would I recommend them? If you dig horror movies and corny, cheese ball fun, absolutely.

27 October 2009

Geek Bits 003

Attention Riddick fans (the few of you left in existence, including myself), Fast & Furous actor Vin Diesel has been updating his Facebook page with a update regarding the next Chronicles of Riddick installment. Basically, writer/director David Twohy delivered "a really great script." So, hopefully, Universal will get their butts in gear and finance the picture, Twohy and Diesel will officially be on board, and maybe in a year and a half (okay, two years) we'll be seeing the third live-action Riddick adventure! I'm sorry, I'm just giddy; Riddick is 'da bomb.

Mark 13 August 2010 on your calendars, sirs, because that is when Warner Bros. plans to unleash the 13th Friday the 13th flick to theaters! (well, if you're counting Freddy vs. Jason as a Friday film) Considering the mammoth $40 million opening for the 2009 reboot, this was probably sort of a duh. No info (yet) on writers or a director, but I wager an announcement will be forthcoming. 2010 is shaping to be quite a horror year: Nightmare on Elm Street (view trailer & a pic of Freddy), Halloween 3D (if the Weinsteins choose to go ahead with that), and now Friday the 13th Part 2.2. [Bloody-Disgusting]

Because you asked for it: Universal Pictures is ready to pump out American Pie presents: Book of Love, the seventh American Pie movie, and the fourth American Pie presents release (aka 'direct-to-video title'), on DVD & Blu-Ray on 22 December. Watch the HD trailer here. Once again, Eugene Levy will reprise his role as "Jim's Dad", aka Noah Levenstein, and this adventure takes place ten years after the first flick (which did, in fact, come out ten years ago) with a new batch of virgin teens (one lookiny strikingly similar to Jonah Hill) trying to reconstruct "the Bible." As a personal lover of the Pie franchise (they're my Breakfast Club; I'm biased), I will more likely than not check it out, hope futilly that the writers got their game back and decided to make the story about the characters than the boobs, though the trailer isn't too promising. And, once again, there will be an Unrated cut (along with a Rated), though both cuts will be avaliable on the same disc, so luckily if you're renting it, one will be able to watch the Unrated cut without having to Blockbuster it or buy the flick.

Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass have a new flick coming out next year that can best be described as Jason Bourne in the Middle East kicking ass and taking names. Called Green Zone, the trailer is up, and it's definitely one helluva enticing movie. Action, intrigue, and Greengrass' trademark camera style are all present. Coutn me one as one of the audience members March 12th.

One of those awesome action flicks I've rented a gazillion times from the library but never actually watched, Smokin' Aces, is getting a sequel dumped onto the Direct-to-DVD circuit. Smokin' Aces: Assassins’ Ball is making its way on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download on 19 January 2010. For cover art, plot synopsis, and features, check out BeyondHollywood.com.

Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day hits (limited) theatrical release on Friday, and 5-minutes of the flick (more precisely, 5:22) is now online. Naked butts, the introduction of Julie Benz (TV: Dexter), and kickass music. I am so totally there. Only sucky thing: All Saints Day isn't premering anywhere around White Bear Lake, Minnesota, so I'm screwed. Suckage.

And finally, low-budget independent horror flick Paranormal Activity (working on a review as we speak...er, read) dominated the box office October 23rd weekend, knocking Saw VI out of the #1 spot (first time for a new Saw release). Saw VI pulled in $14.8 million during the weekend, and Paranormal Activity achieved greatness with $22 million, making its gross revenue to date $62 mill. Pretty good for a roughly $10,000 budgeted flick.

28 August 2009

In Short: Disney Singer, 'Funny' Comedian, Traveling Naked, and Angry Man

School is back in session, and my time to write reviews or update this blog is becoming increasingly more strained (not like I updated like an insane lunatic with massive amounts of free-time anyhow), so I've decided to give a few recent viewed movie's a critique in a short manner, right down to the nitty gritty and throwing away all the blubber that makes my reviews. So, without further ado, I write about the much-anticipated Hannah Montana: The Movie, Tony Scott's remake (this is no "re-imagining", this is a blatant, uninspired remake) of The Taking of Pehlam 1 2 3, the tiem flux love story that reminds me why I'm in love with Rachel McAdams: The Time Traveler's Wife, and finally, Judd Apatow's third dramatic comedy Funny People that is really one of those "love it/hate it" flicks.

starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana
written & directed by Judd Apatow
Universal, 136 mins., Rated R

Earlier this year, Seth Rogen also starred in a non-Judd Apatow production called Observe & Report, a comedy that a large amount of the general public found hilarious. Me? Not so much. The only reason I bring this up, is that I'm suffering through the same thing. It also happened with the much-praised about Adventureland (publicly and proudly advertised as "from the director of Superbad"). Judd Apatow's third movie (great Gatsby, only his third?) is an interesting one, and I completely respect what Apatow was trying to achieve with it; there's some great performances, and there's one ginormous tud. When the movie ended, I was left with a feeling of, 'Why did I just watch that movie? What was the purpose?' Perhaps it's that the marketers advertised this as a comedy, whereas it is undeniably a drama where its main characters are comedians, I would have understood and liked it a little more. And speaking of comedians, I never once smiled, smirked, chuckled, or laughed during their "stand-up" routines. If I were a ginormous company such as Facebook hiring a famous comedian/actor, I sure as hell wouldn't pick friggin' George Simmons. Luckily, Seth Rogen's Ira does a far better jobs with the jokes.

As it stands, Adam Sandler (who I used to have respect for and actually laughed with his movies) as main character George Simmons gives THE most annoying acting job of his career, never once making me laugh, chuckle, or smirk. Not only is his character unlikable (67% deliberate), but the guy's voice is so damn irritating in the flick I sorta didn't mind if he didn't get better. In fact, even when he's saying Ira's pretty good jokes, they come off as 'holy-crap-shut-up-dude' annoying. However, there are some career highs for many people in the creidts: first and foremost, Seth Rogen gives his second best performance to date (Pineapple Express is still The Empire Strikes Back of comedies, hands down), bringing on the chuckles where no one else could; and Eric Bana (Troy), who completely stole the show during its final act as Leslie Mann's new husband concerned about George's resurfaced presence in her life (Mann being George's ex-wife, see).

The idea of Funny People is an interesting one, and with an (mostly) good cast, he could have made a good movie. But honestly, the script sucks. The last half with George's ex-wife and the on again/off again relationship they form was sorta dumb and half-assed and, well, felt like an entirely different movie that would be far more interesting. I wouldn't mind knowing about the life of a comedian, but there's so many unlikable qualities about George that I find it hard to root or give a damn for the poor bastard. But even though I didn't really dig Funny People (or Knocked Up for that matter), I'm still sorta looking forward to Apatow's next flick.

starring Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus
written by Dan Berendsen
directed by Peter Chelsom
release: 10 April 2009
Disney, 102 mins., Rated G

There's really no effort evident in Hannah Montana's theatrical debut; similar to Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, it felt very much like a by-the-numbers, mundane and uninspired screenplay with the mandatory cheesy lines and acting required in a Disney flick. The lines between the life of Hannah Montana and that of Miley Cyrus is becoming even more blurrier, as Hannah's life is beginning to interfere with Miley's and is straining her friendships and family (prompting one friend to say "I'll never forgive you!" only to totally forgive like nothing ever happen and not even apologize for her lameness). As a brilliant solution, Papa Cyrus whisks Miley back home to her country roots, and it's there that she gets off her high horse and as a 'consequence' a romance blossoms with a clean-shaven, annoyingly cute boy who is helping out the family.

More or less a big screen production of music videos placed between cringe-inducing dialog which, I'm a little embarrassed to say, did result in a chuckle or two. And I'm also a little embarrassed to say that some of the song ain't that bad. Yeah, the movie's not great - didn't really expect it to be - but there's maybe two songs that might just be worth havin'. Oh, and there's a named cameo of Taylor Swift. Highlights: there's one badly done, unoriginal 'funny' gimmick where Miley runs and changes between two simultaneous dinner dates; there's the moment where Miley reveals herself as Miley and not Hannah Montana, and a young blond girl cries out for her to be Hannah Montana again after Miley does one of her own personal songs (taken out of context, it sounds mean, but in the spirit of the movie, it's one of those 'Awww, shucks' moments).

I'm sorry to say it's not going to be on my Christmas list this year, but it was a fun, if entirely forgettable and cheesebally way to waste a hour and a half. But, c'mon Disney, put some effort into your products! There used to be a time when Disney movies were something to be eagerly anticipated, to sit down in the darkened theater and expect something of actual quality and substance with a damn good script riddled with great characters, endurable cheesy moments, and overall funness. Bring that back.

starring John Travolta, Denzel Washington, John Turturro
written by Brian Helgeland, David Koepp (uncredited), Morton Freedgood (novel)
directed by Tony Scott
release: 12 June 2009
Columbia, 106 mins., Rated R

The real draw of this movie is to watch Denzel Washington play a character he's played thirty times over; a character that never gets old and never loses your attention; a character he plays really, really, really well. He's the draw because he's charismatic, tough, able to play "good cop/bad cop", and is just a damn good actor. Co-star John Travolta just isn't Vincent Vega anymore, and I've never really liked anything Tony Scott's done (Alexander was a jumbled mess; Domino and Man on Fire became more or less endurance factors than anything else: just how much can a person stand this acid-looking, quick-cuts that would make the Saw directors get massive boners?). In fact, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 wasn't one I was going to see theatrically, but it was the third in line at the nearby drive-in next to District 9 and The Ugly Truth, so why not see it, y'know?

The basic plot is that a train, Pelham 1 2 3, gets jacked by Travolta's mysterious Ryder, who thinks himself threatening by yelling "motherfucker!" at the end of nearly every sentence. Ryder ends up being in communication with Walter (Washington), a train dispatcher currently under investigation for taking a bribe in Japan. During the course of one hour (the time Ryder demands a sum of $10 million), Ryder and Walter share oh-so-fun time together as Ryder forms a really clingy bond to Walter, and makes Walter reveal the truth as to what happened with this Japanese bribe business. The movie has moments of intensity, thanks more to Travolta and Washington more so than Scott's kinetic, quick-cut camera frenzy that he's grown an annoying fetish for. Performance-wise, not Travolta's best or Washington's greatest moment, but they both do well enough to make the paycheck worth it.

There's a unnecessary dramatic car zoom-zoom through the city to get the money at the destination in time, unnecessary camera nuttiness, crappy music, and all around not all that suspenseful of a movie. Apparently the movie cost over $100 million to make. Um, where did all that money go, folks? The movie looks low-budget and feels like a rushed production. Maybe Scott spent most of the money on its hideous color schemes? If you've exhausted your Denzel Washington collection and have no interest in watching Glory, this is a nice time waster with a good amount of slightly above-average moments to make it worth a viewing.

starring Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams
written by Jeremy Leven & Bruce Joel Rubin, Audrey Niffenegger (novel)
directed by Robert Schwentke
New Line Cinema, 107 mins., Rated R

"Pretty good, mate!" That was my quasi-Vinnie Jones/Eric Bana proclamation that The Time Traveler's Wife is actually a worthwhile romance movie to check out. Fantastic performances from both Bana (who, as written above, was the absolute highlight of Funny People) and McAdams (a woman so very lovely and thank the Lord she's coming out of hiding since her 2005 surge), and a competent, coherent, and twisty screenplay by Leven and Rubin make The Time Traveler's Wife an endurable movie for both men and women and simultaneously pretty interesting to watch. Let's break it down this way: manly geeks get to analyze the "correctness", shall we say, of the time/space continuum while girls can ga-ga over McAdams and her tribulations whilst gawking at the hotness of Eric Bana (girls, see Troy).

Henry is burdened with a genetic disorder that allows him to time travel, and it's one sure-fire of a pain: he basically has no control over it, and the really sucky thing is that clothes don't so much time travel with him. But on one breezy afternoon, he runs into this stunning woman at his place of employment, named Clare (McAdams) who knows everything about him. Apparently, it's in his future that he meets this woman as a little girl on several occasions and striked up a bond, and eventually resulted in Clare falling head-over-heels in love with the guy. Romance blossoms, but once all that lovey-doveyness fades away, there's the stark and haunting loneliness that comes with being the soul mate of a man not in charge of his life...

My only real complaint is that the believability factor of all these relationship steps happening in such quick speeds is a little low. Here's this guy, Henry, who hasn't had time for a relationship, but once this girl says she's ga-ga for him, he warms up to her and eventually falls in love. It more or less comes off that Clare is a convenience for him moreso than an actual romantic partner, at least from my viewpoint. Nevertheless, once the pre-wedding part of the relationship is over with, the movie picks up considerable speed, and the script and actors are in perfect harmony, and the flick becomes one of those engrossing movies you can't take your eyes off. The downbeat but predictable ending is absolutely right, and I loved the fact that due to the wonderful time travel device, there's a brief indication of Clare's future which is oh-so-lovely. A dramatic romantic sci-fi-y movie that does most everything right, I'd say Time Traveler's Wife is definitely worth a few hours of your time.