Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for March, 2011

Sucker Punch… Say it isn’t so…

The reviews are in… and ‘No’ I haven’t read them, but I did look at Rotten Tomatoes to get a brief overview of what the general opinion is… and the general opinion is that Sucker Punch isn’t what we’d hoped for. It currently has a paltry 21% approval rate after 131 reviews. Although an alleged 82% of users want to see it, the movie was beaten to the U.S. top spot in it’s opening week to ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2’. I’ll find out next Wednesday when I go to the preview screening for the Australian release.

Happy Birthday Michael Winterbottom

Director, Producer, Writer, Editor… One man movie industry. He’s fearless and not afraid to turn his camera onto subjects most Hollywood film makers would run a mile from… Check out his television work on the ‘Cracker’ series, documentary work on ‘The Road to Guantanamo’, feature work in ’24 Hour Party People’ and ‘The Killer Inside Me’ as well as producer for the new BBC series ‘The Trip’.

REC ****½

See REC before you read this review, see REC anyway…

TV presenter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo are shooting a segment for a Spanish TV show ‘While You’re Asleep’. We see everything from the point of view of Pablo’s camera for the entire film.

Angela and Pablo are partnered with Manu and Alex, firemen working with a local Barcelona fire crew. For the first few moments of the movie we see Angela look around the fire station, interview the guys and play some basketball. Then finally there’s a call, a woman needs assistance in an apartment building. Not what Angela was hoping for but at least they get to go along for the ride…

At the apartment they are escorted upstairs by the two cops who are already in the building. The firemen break down the apartment door and find the elderly woman covered on blood. She suddenly attacks the policeman in charge and takes a huge bite out of his cheek and neck. Alex restrains her as the others run downstairs with the injured policeman. Angela tells Pablo to “tape everything”

As they try to get outside they discover that the building is in lockdown and a voice from outside informs them that the building has been quarantined. Suddenly Alex’s body hits the hall floor with a bloody thud. They run back up to the womans apartment and the policeman shoots the crazed woman as she runs at him. As they all look for an exit they are informed again from the voice outside that the building is quarantined and if they try to leave they’ll be shot.

Angela interviews the residents, one of whom is a young girl, Jennifer, who’s sick with a fever as was her dog Max who’s at the vets…

A health inspector enters the building to take blood samples from the now dead, police and fireman. During the procedure the bodies spring violently to life and attack everyone in the room. Then, all hell breaks loose and your nerves will be shredded.

The movie is all done at a frenetic pace and you don’t have any time to catch your breath.

There is some incredible footage in the apartment as things are ramped up even further. This is not going to end well. The use of night vision on Pablo’s camera during the finale reminded me of ‘The Descent’… in a good way.

The hand held camera is done far better than in ‘The Blair Witch Project’ or ‘Cloverfield’ and is much more believable due to the TV show premise. However, apart from the camera work, REC has nothing else in common with those movies, it is far better than either of them and in looking for a comparison the only one I could think of was ’28 Days Later…’ which is high praise indeed.

The cast are all excellent, their reactions to what’s going on appear believable and we really buy into their situation.

The effects are done incredibly well; visually the infected look great and there is more than enough blood to satisfy most horror fans blood lust. But it is the audio effects that are a standout, the howls and screams are unnerving, especially in the darkened shots.

However this really is the director’s film. Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza are the co-directors and on this evidence I’ll see anything they do next. The film clocks in a fast-paced 75 minutes; it looks great, is incredibly well executed and has the balls to ramp up the tension and take it to the films climax.

REC was remade in America as ‘Quarantine’ with Dexter’s sister Jennifer Carpenter in the lead role. It has been derided on certain horror themed sites as a tame, pale imitation of REC, but it is pretty good and worth watching… after you’ve watched REC of course. Quarantine has added 14 minutes to its running time but these moments are mainly spent introducing us to the characters and fleshing out their personalities. Although still hand held, the camera work in Quarantine is clearer than in REC, I know in some quarters that’s a big deal. I won’t write a review of Quarantine as it will be so similar to this but less satisfying.

Quality: 4 stars

Is it good: 5 stars

Bundy-A Legacy of Evil *

The movie opens with Ted killing someone then jumps forward to him in his cell awaiting the chair. A news reporter outside the jail tries to explain who Ted Bundy really is: “you’ve gotta go back a few years to really understand who he was”… Erm, okay… Cue flashback…

Oh dear, I think they’re trying to give us a back story or, God forbid, an understanding as to why little Ted grew up to be big bad Ted. We start with little Ted reading gruesome comic books intercut with him scouring black circles repeatedly with thick crayon; all this happening with his broken home family bickering in the background. Rubbish.

Jump forward to 1966, teenage Ted is studying law at Wisconsin University with his older girlfriend, Stephanie, their relationship is a ‘secret’… through some lame montage and awful music we see them have some ups and downs until Ted ejaculates in his pants and misses a dinner date with her parents (they are unconnected events!). Stephanie dumps him and Ted doesn’t take it too well… “You’re immature she tells him”

Ted reads his family history at the public records office… the file is stamped: ‘Illegitimate’ Ted doesn’t take that too well either.

Cue Bad Ted, killing someone in the desert. To the movie’s credit the killing is not played for gratuitous kicks, it is brutal and bleak, we never see the blows land and the scene is played without music and all the more disturbing for it. We feel for the victim.

In 1971 Ted has job as a counsellor at the Seattle Crisis Centre. He has a ‘gift’ to talk to the callers says one of his co-workers. Of course he does, he’s far more fucked in the head than any of his depressed callers, their issues are nothing compared to what’s going through his demented mind.

Another montage with another lame song, this time though we see bad Ted  kidnap and kill his next few victims, Ted is getting better at it… the director isn’t.

1973. Ted is working for Senator Ross Davis in Washington State. If you think about it, Ted’s perfect for politics, a missed opportunity there perhaps. Ted then meets up with Stephanie in San Francisco, cue another lame song montage. Ted proposes to her over dinner, she’s so happy; obviously Ted doesn’t mess up his trousers anymore. Ted excuses himself to go to the bathroom and doesn’t return. We then have to watch the longest time lapse scene EVER watching Stephanie wait for him… For a movie based on the life of one of Americas most prolific, notorious and allegedly charming serial killers you’d think there were more interesting scenes to show… This is followed by yet another lame song montage of Ted driving around the desert. I can handle the scenes of violence but these songs would drive anyone to murder.

Anyway, Ted falls asleep in his car, is hassled by the ‘man’ and arrested… for the first time. He escapes through the air vents.

Jump forward to 1978, Ted loses it big time and kills two girls in their dorm beds. On his way home Ted kills again.

Cut to Ted speaking to some reporters outside a courtroom; he’s been charged with the 1978 dorm murders and is going to be representing himself in court… Ted’s such a good lawyer that he’s sentenced to death in the electric chair.

In his cell the Warden tells him: “You’re whiny and immature Ted” Ooh, full circle ‘n’ shit…

Directed by Michael Feifer, the film looks and generally feels like what it is, a cheap exploitation movie. Corin Nemec is not at all believable, Bundy was supposed to be intelligent and charming. If he was anything like he’s portrayed here he’d have been arrested a lot earlier. Kane Hodder as the Warden is okay but should stick to wearing a hockey mask.

If you want a well told Bundy story, look out for TV movie ‘The Deliberate Stranger’ (1986) starring Mark Harmon, yes that Mark Harmon from NCIS, I know he’s a terrible actor but he’s DeNiro when compared to Corin Memic. That movie doesn’t treat us like idiots and is very good.

You should also buy the Nothing’s Shocking CD by Janes Addiction and listen to the track: ‘Ted, Just Admit It’ because it”s excellent.

Quality of Film: 1 out of 5 stars

Is it any good: 1 out of 5 stars

Top 10 Zombie Movies

I’ve just finished watching the excellent AMC television series: ‘The Walking Dead’  and it got me thinking about which zombie flicks I should watch again (and again for one or two selections). Then I thought I should list the ones I’m going to watch and why they’re the best of their kind, no cheap schlock… haven’t seen ‘The Video Dead’ for ages.                                                                                      Firstly though, what constitutes a ‘Zombie Movie’..? Well, for this list zombies are strictly categorized as the dead returning to life. So that means no possessed bodies which unfortunately means no ‘Evil Dead’, work of genius that it is. This also negates the amazing ‘REC’ which is a dubious omission due to its religious iconography (there will be a full review of this modern classic soon). No scientific experiments gone wrong, unfortunately that means no ‘Re-Animator’ another fantastic movie… and also no rubbish CG dead from “I Am Legend’, a movie I had high hopes for when reading an Empire set visit report a few months before the release date.                                                                      

Anyway, into the list. 10 to 1…

Zombieland (2009).  They are having a blast and it’s obvious that this was    made by big zombie flick fans. Great fun, excellent zombie action and the   best cameo of any movie EVER..!  

Day of the Dead (1985). George Romero’s excellent      follow up to ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Not as fully appreciated on its release, it has since become regarded as a classic in the genre.

 Dawn of the Dead (2004). Now I was prepared to HATE this movie as I love the original so much. I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. Apart from the shopping mall setting it  bears little resemblance to the original and has one of the best opening  sequences that I can recall. 

Zombie flesh Eaters (1979). Also known simply as ‘Zombi 2’ This is from Lucio Fulci, the Italian schlock master. Best remembered, and rightly so, for the splinter in the eye shot and a zombie vs. shark encounter. Classic.

             Braindead (1992). Also known as ‘Dead Alive’ Before he became respectable and slim, Peter Jackson made a couple of fun, blood-splattered movies in the late 80’s and early 90’s. On this evidence he should do a ‘Sam Raimi’ and knock out another one for old times’ sake.

Shaun of the Dead (2004). Great zombie action, loads of gore and bloody hilarious. The film also has more in common with Romero’s early zombie work than any other with its smart look at modern city life before and after the arrival of the dead.

Return of the living Dead (1985). Featuring the first fast moving zombies, plenty of gore, nudity and some hilarious interaction between the humans make this a perfect beer and pizza night-in movie… “Braaaaiinnsss”

Night of the living Dead (1968). George Romero’s original zombie classic. Don’t watch the updated extended version as the new bits are crap. Also stay clear of the remakes and colourised versions. Why would you watch them when you can put this on..?

28 Days Later (2002). Well I kinda have but haven’t really broken my aforementioned rules with this one. I know the dead have  been infected by the ‘Rage virus’ but come on, it’s so fucking  fantastic that to not have it on the list would render the list pointless.  The  sequel is okay but is never going to make it onto a top 10 list… unless it’s a   sequels list… maybe.

 Dawn of the Dead (1978). An all time classic. The only film on the list that would be in my greatest movies of all time list. A group of survivors hold out against the zombie hordes in a suburban shopping mall. Greatest zombie movie of all time.    

 So there you have it, it’s up for discussion. There are rabid fans out there who would fill the list with cheap Italian zombie knock-offs like ‘City of the living Dead’, ‘Burial Ground’ and ‘The Beyond’… and they’re fun. Some swear by classic chillers like ‘I Walked with A Zombie’ but this list is for those who want to have a good night in, quality zombie action with a pizza nad beers.

I’ll be posting a huge review of the series soon, complete with comparisons between the amazing graphic novel by Robert Kirkman and Frank Darabont’s take on it… I just want to watch it again first.

The Thaw **

The film opens with a home video recording of Val Kilmer as Doctor David Kruipen rambling on about ‘sacrifice’ and ‘making a difference’ and how he’s ‘rediscovered what that all means’

Cut to a shot of a bug-like parasite crawling in and out of the forehead of a woman we’ll soon know as Jane… Cut to an opening titles mash-up of bugs, parasites, riots and politicians gesticulating to a voice over about global warming.

These guys are a research team in the Canadian Arctic. They tranquilise a polar bear for no apparent reason and lament that it has no food as the ice has receded. They then discover that the bear was chewing on a half buried carcass of a mammoth, exposed by the aforementioned receding ice… in case you missed it, global warming dude!

        Val’s estranged daughter Evelyn and 3 research students, Adam, Freddie and Lin head on up by helicopter to the research station only to find it empty… and it smells, of the now dead rotting polar bear. Ben the helicopter pilot poses for a photograph with the bear and is bitten by what they all think  is a flea…

Back to the field, Jane shoots Val before driving back to the helicopter where she’s discovered by Evelyn. Meanwhile Lin, has been bitten all over by ‘fleas’.

Jane is now spewing what looks like diarrhoea and Evelyn is just stopped by Ben before she tries to give Jane mouth-to-mouth! And she’s the smart one! Jane dies. They discover that Jane wasn’t trying to leave in the helicopter but was disabling it, stranding everyone there. Freddie who has a ‘phobia’ of bugs starts to freak out… uh-oh, this can’t end well…

By now Evelyn has worked out what’s going on, she decides to quarantine the base. Freddie’s not happy about this and freaks out some more, he sweats a lot and shoots the radio.

Their idea of quarantine isn’t so good, they put Jane’s body in a sealed room with the bear, good; but leave Lin, who’s now crawling with bugs, in an unlocked room next door. And poor Ben, who was bitten first is wandering around with bugs in his arm… he has a solution though, chop it off. This admittedly is the best scene in the movie and handled quite well.

After that there’s more running around, Freddie sweats some more, Adam is protests about Freddie’s behaviour and Evelyn decides to burn the facility and wait for the helicopter to arrive… But there’s more…

Basically ‘The Thaw’ isn’t all bad. It really wants to be ‘The Thing’ which it clearly isn’t, or ‘Slither, or even ‘Splinter’ but it’s not as good as any of those. Admittedly it looks   like it was shot on a much lower budget than those movies however the isolation isn’t believable, the characters are wandering around as if there’s a chill in the air rather than acting as if in the Arctic. The bugs are done quite well for CG in a horror film apart from one scene where they’re swarming over the carcass of the bear.

The eco-threat is very heavy handed and rather than adding to the film feels more of a distraction. The director, Mark A. Lewis, hits us over the head with this shit, we get it dude, global warming is bad; just concentrate on building the suspense and getting better performances out of your actors and you’d make a better movie.

It could have been much better, a good idea wasted.

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars

Is it fun, suspenseful, worth watching… 2 out of 5 stars.

Elizabeth Taylor R.I.P.

A slight change of tone today, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. But it would be remiss to not acknowledge the passing of one of the last great Hollywood stars. With all the off-screen drama that turned her life into a living soap opera it’s easy to forget that Elizabeth Taylor was a really great performer. She’ll probably be remembered on the news footage all day today with film clips from Cleopatra but she was great in ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’, ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’, ‘Under Milk Wood’ and ‘Giant’… and she was HOT..!

Review: Battle: Los Angeles **

 A week or so ago I submitted the following answer to an online competition on a well known movie magazine website: “Because Los Angeles is such a horrible city and I’d like to see it destroyed” The question being, in 25 words or less why should you win a ticket to a preview screening of Battle: Los Angeles? A bit much maybe, probably not as I was sent a ticket within a few days.

So I went to see another big, dumb popcorn movie, laden with special effects shots of landmarks being destroyed… about time as we haven’t had one of those for a few months.

Set a few months into the future in August of this year, meteorites crash to earth in the ocean near several major cities. It’s soon apparent that they are alien landing craft part of the first wave of invasion.

The aliens have taken over their other world targets, but L.A. still has a chance as for some reason these aliens are intent on a ground attack and have no air support..!!! Even though they’ve flown across the universe to attack earth, for its water apparently, maybe… who really cares? That’s not important, what is important are our heroes.

Enter our heroes, a group of marines led by Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) who is retiring due to his entire platoon having being wiped out during his last mission, issues there perhaps? Stay posted. His commanding officer is fresh out of officer training… oh, okay… I hope he can handle actual combat and not lose it. One of the marines in the platoon is the Brother of a marine killed in the aforementioned disastrous mission… oh dear, how will this end?

Their mission, to save some civilians trapped in a Police station in an area of the city that will be bombed within 3 hours… that’s the plan you see, as the aliens have no air support and are coming in over land from the ocean, we’ll bomb the shit out of them.

So it’s all set up: a small group behind enemy lines on a mission against the clock…   

Our heroes are soon ambushed and few guys we never got to know are killed. A rookie kills an alien and the team meet up with intelligence sergeant Santos (Michelle Rodriguez) her own platoon has also been wiped out. Seriously if you’re not a well known actor, don’t go to war!

Anyway, our heroes find the Police station and save the civilians, but no, the helicopter they called in to rescue them is shot down. Anyway, no time to ponder, our heroes capture an alien, cut it up to find out how to kill it (It’s at this point in time that Bridget Moynihan delivers the best line in the entire film, to say anymore would ruin it for anyone wanting to see the movie) they steal a bus and plan to drive back to safety… well, not before a load of action, killing more aliens, losing the last few unknown actors from their platoon, changing their plan and discovering how to bring down the ‘aerial’ drones… Wait a moment, what do you mean by ‘aerial’..? I thought the aliens had no air support..? Moving on… There’s more action, our heroes save the civilians and are granted some rest… but no, they head back into action to save the day… but not before those ‘issues’ from earlier are raised. It’s time for some talking and it’s here that the film falls into more cliché territory with some awful dialogue between Nantz and his remaining crew. It slows down what to be fair up until that point has been a pretty fast paced dumb fun action flick. There’s the big finale to come but you can probably work out what’s going to happen. Although not much mention is made of how they’ll combat what surely must be some gigantic spaceships hovering just outside of our atmosphere…

The effects are good but so they should be on a $70million dollar budget; the alien spacecraft look great, the aliens look ridiculous. The script is a grab bag of a lot of what we’ve seen before although to be fair, the actors do well with the awful dialogue. The camera work is handheld and may be off-putting for a lot of people. It looks like director Jonathan Liebesman has tried to make it look like ‘Black Hawk Down’ or ‘Battle for Haditha’ but this clearly isn’t as good as those films. He was previously responsible for the awful ‘Darkness Falls’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’ which was a well shot but pointless film. Next up is a sequel to ‘Clash of the Titans’ and on this evidence he’s perfectly suited to it.

In comparison to similar alien invasion movies; it’s not as good as Transformers (which in itself isn’t a compliment), but better than the awful Transformers sequel, better than Skyline, but it did have seven times the budget… and certainly not in the same league as the excellent District 9.

Was it worth it? Well, I did see it for free, so yes. Oh, and after seeing this I make no apologies for my ticket winning statement about L.A.  

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars

Was it fun: 2½ out of 5 stars

A Night of Horror International Film Festival

For those of you in Sydney, do yourself and the local film industry a favour and get along to one of the events at this years ‘A Night of Horror Film Festival’

In an industry that seems to be constantly struggling to get local product made, film makers in the horror genre have always managed to get there work out there… and turn enough of a profit to enable them to make another project. This could be down to the passion of the film makers, the quality of their work or the demands of the marketplace… more than likely it is a combination of all three. 

In it’s fifth year, the festival is great fun and low key, no ego here… check it out here Good luck to everyone involved.

The Human Centipede *½

‘100% Medically Accurate’ so it says on the cover… 100% Medically Bullshit more like…

Lindsay and Jenny are two US tourists in Germany, their car breaks down in the countryside so they decide to walk around through the woods (off the road of course) until they come across a house where they’re drugged by a mad surgeon… This guy is THE poster-child for any awareness campaign for kids not trusting strangers. However the girls, who to be fair (for a moment or two) are hesitant, take a glass of water (drugged) and awake to hear the mad doctor explain his plans to turn  them (and a Japanese tourist) into the world first ‘conjoined triplets’ or human centipede.

As a horror film it’s a bit slow, repetitive and not very horrific, especially in comparison to the recent spate of horror from the UK, Europe or Asia*. However as an exercise in eliciting disgust and revulsion it works fairly well in one or (number) two places… not hard to work out what these scenes will be even without seeing the movie. The problem is it doesn’t go far enough to gain a hard-core horror cult status but is too repellent (the trailer has it all basically) to attract the curious and/or casual DVD renter. I can see people in the store picking it up, making a few comments about it and putting it back.

It is played more for sadistic laughs than gross out gore… not necessarily a bad thing. Especially as Deiter Laser is so over the top in his portrayal as Dr. Heiter that it’s hard to take the film seriously. Why the cops don’t arrest him on sight is a mystery. It’s a 50’s B movie style of delivery that is both hilarious and annoying. The girls are annoying until their mouths are sewn onto an anus from when on they deliver the fear and emotion well and the Japanese guy is excellent in comparison to all the other performances.

The film owes a lot to David Cronenberg’s early work in its idea and aim but nothing to him in intelligence, tone or delivery. Tom Six (writer and director) is probably one to watch. If he gets better he could be an excellent addition to the horror ranks… and to be fair to him he has come up with something far more original than the usual tortured-locked-in-a-basement horror of recent years.

Not as disturbing as it promised but worth a viewing… and I’ll see the sequel. The t-shirt and cap are better than the movie.

*recent examples see: Martyrs; Inside; Mum & Dad; Eden Lake; Rec.; anything by Takashi Miike.

Is it good: 2 out of 5 stars

Is it fun: 1 out of 5 stars

Piranha 3D ***½

If you loved the trashy horror boom of the early 80’s, then Piranha 3D this is a movie for you.

From the opening shot of Richard Dreyfuss on a small fishing boat drinking ‘Amity beer’ and singing ‘Show me the way to go home’ it’s obvious where the film makers have taken their lead and stolen their plot… although to be fair the plot is stolen more from Jaws 2, rather than the original.

Dreyfuss dies before the opening titles after an earthquake opens up a tunnel between the lake and a previously ‘sealed for a million years’ underground lake releasing thousands of prehistoric piranhas.

All this isn’t great timing for small town police Chief Elisabeth Shue as she has thousands of high school kids headed to her lakeside town for summer break. Her older son has to look after his younger siblings and will miss out on the fun… he doesn’t, the kids are at risk and in the middle of saving the townsfolk, Shue has to rescue her kids from the shark, sorry, piranhas…

With the inclusion of boobs (a lot), full nudity (more than expected), horrible teenagers you want to see die (most of the cast) and all in tacked on 3D. It sounds crap but works so well… if as mentioned you love early 80’s trashy horror…

Directed by Alexandre Aja who appears to be one of the more stylish of the new breed of horror directors; Pirahna is a step back in the right direction after the woeful ‘Mirrors (2008)’.

Aja showed with Haute Tension (2003) and the remake of ‘The Hills Have Eyes (2006)’ that he has style and although not exactly substance, he can construct an enjoyable horror film. With this, his fourth horror feature he’s managed to deliver the popcorn movie of the year.

The piranha attacks are great fun, tons of blood and guts thrown around and excellent mangled prosthetic bodies being dragged from the lake at a rapid rate.

The 3D is ok, they manage to throw attacking fish, gore and breasts at the screen at regular intervals and it is done with a sense of frat house humour.

It’s a great movie to watch with a bunch of mates, especially if you just want an escapist 90 minutes of unapologetic dumb fun.

(SPOILER ALERT) The added ‘bonus’ of seeing the (Jerry O’Connell in over-the-top fine form) sleaziest character’s penis being fought over, eaten and vomited up by a couple of ravenous piranhas is tacky, totally unnecessary and therefore totally hilarious.   

Is it any good: 3 out of 5 stars

Is it any fun: 4 out of 5 stars