Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jury Duty (1995)

Starring: Pauly Shore, Tia Carrere, Stanley Tucci
Directed by John Fortenberry

“Jury Duty” is a movie that is loosely based upon "12 Angry Men," and centers around a loser who is selected for, you guessed it, jury duty, and holds up the deliberation in order to take advantage of the nice hotel where he is staying during the course of the trial.

Yeah...this movie sucks. One of the biggest differences between the 1957 classic (which can be seen on television in one scene and is used as a minor plot device) and this film is that the former is a drama while this is a comedy. The other big difference is that the former starred Henry Fonda, one of the best actors of all time, while this one stars Pauly Shore, who should not even have an acting career. Now all that being said... why was this made? Did they really expect people to pay money for this? Very little of this movie provided any humor, and the few times I did laugh, it was mostly due to the fact that the gags were so pathetically unfunny by nature that they actually became funny by default, if that makes any sense at all.

Now to be fair, I am being lenient in terms of my criticism, because as bad as it is, I did not feel like I was "harmed" by it. I would compare it to something like "Dude, Where's My Car?": it is not funny, but you are aware that you are seeing something stupid and are just watching it for the sake of wasting your time. That being said, at least "Dude" had a catchy title and had the sensibility to come up with its own weird story line as opposed to trashing the legacy of a movie of far superior quality.

Therefore, I do not recommend this film.

Monday, May 24, 2010

12 Angry Men (1957)

Staring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley

Directed by Sidney Lumet

"12 Angry Men" is a film, based upon the teleplay of the same name, in which a juror tries to convince his colleagues that the case that they are assigned is not as clear-cut as it appears.

This is simply a classic. Nearly all of it takes place in the same jury room with the same twelve angry (and not so angry) men discussing one issue: the guilt or innocence of a boy charged with murder. The fact that this movie can still keep you so interested, and with only a bare minimal amount of emotional cues (i.e., music) is an achievement in itself. However, the real reason the directorial debut of the great Sidney Lumet (who as of this writing is still alive at age 85 and to my knowledge is still technically active) remains a cinematic jewel after all these years is because it makes you think, not just about the story, but about the meaning of a fair trial, the imperfections of the legal system, and other eternally relevant and important issues in a way that is both artful and powerful.

The cast is lead by Henry Fonda (one of my personal favorite actors), who is perfect as Juror Number 8, the man who is very calm and appears harmless, but holds a strong belief in the principle of equal protection under the law, despite enormous peer pressure from those who say he is fighting a losing battle, at least at first. I also like the main antagonist Juror Number 3, played by Lee J Cobb. I found it amusing how he would go on these rants before realizing that he has contradicted himself. Despite being very one-sided, however, he makes some valid arguments and he is later humanized when it becomes clear that his judgment is based on legitimate emotional stress rather than ignorance.

The rest of the cast is also very strong and they are all shown to have very distinct personalities instead of just mirroring the personalities of the leaders of the two opposing sides. Despite the fact that we learn a little about each of them, they are never mentioned by name while they are in the room, only by their jury numbers, which emphasis the point that it is the issue at hand, not their personal lives, that is at stake. Incidentally, one of my few problems with the movie occurs at the very end when two of the jurors mention their real names; I know they were pointing out that it was amusing fact that they spent so much time arguing with people whose names they did not even know, but I would rather have not known who they were. Still, that is a pretty small, almost worthless, complaint when considering the rest of this great film.

I strongly recommend it.

Review: Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Director: Rick Rosenthal
Starring: Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Katee Sachoff, Brad Loree

Well, well, well. What comes to mind when I say Busta Rhymes? The Halloween franchise? Holy shit, me too! I mean, why would you think anything otherwise? They go hand in hand, a perfect match, like peas in a pod.

Honestly, I just have to laugh at this movie. What was the creative process like? "Hey, guys, wouldn't it be FUCKING AWESOME if we had Busta Rhymes in a Halloween movie? And wouldn't it be even better if Rhymes...beat up Michael Myers in the climax? That's a winner right there. Cinematic gold, really." No, seriously, someone tell me how that ever seemed like a good idea. Watching that part is just completely surreal and strange. It isn't godawful, but...just really weird. This is what they chose to end the whole series on? This is what they thought would be a fitting conclusion to the Halloween name? Well, that sounds like the product of a long weed smoking session to me. Let's get started.

I don't even think the premise behind this is that bad. It involves a reality TV show sent into the Myers house to 'uncover why he was crazy.' It would have served as a nice bit of closure and add some intrigue after Michael Myers' death, if not for two big problems this movie has. The first is the fact that Myers isn't really dead. Yes, apparently in H20, the guy Laurie Strode killed was not Michael at all, but a fire fighter guy who Michael switched clothes with...and crushed his larynx so he couldn't tell anyone what happened. That's a pretty big stretch there. Couldn't you have just left it on a good note with H20, which basically was the only movie since the second one to feel like a real Halloween flick? I guess they really must have needed more money. Oh yeah, and they actually kill off Laurie Strode in the first ten minutes of the movie. Let that bit sink in a little before you read the rest of this review. Just let it sink in.

The second is that they never actually find anything that leads to any answers. I know the show was set up so that the kids would get scared and it would look good for TV, but...still, wouldn't it have been a better movie if there were some actual secrets revealed? The direction and acting in this isn't near as bad as Halloween 6, so it's just a shame the plot suffers so much.

The cast is pretty standard. You get an equal number of girls and guys, mostly egomaniacal weirdos...but Zoe Sachoff from the second White Noise movie is in it too, what a surprise. And the lead girl is your typical shy but still headstrong when she needs to be type. Only here they were capitalizing on the rising Internet use of that time, as the lead girl has an e-boyfriend she text messages often throughout the film, and it turns out he's a junior high kid at a Halloween party, watching her on the internet, as it is an internet broadcast. A lot of these scenes are pretty filler, but it gets pretty cool at the end when he's helping her avoid being killed by texting her Michael's whereabouts in the house. That's a pretty inventive idea.

But that's about as far as this film goes in regards to quality. The characters are mostly boring and dull, the kills are pretty unmemorable and the movie actually seems way too short, oddly enough. And Busta Rhymes, too. I'm no expert on rap music, but I do know that his performance here is annoying as hell. Seriously, dude, can't you go five minutes without sermonizing, acting like you're God and chewing up the scenery? It's obnoxious as hell. And to top it all off, we get the ending. After the cops and the press arrive in their usual timely manner right after everything is all over, Busta talks to the press and says first that Michael Myers is "not a spinoff, tie in or celebrity scandal"...right, that's why this movie exists; because he's NOT any of those. And then he says he's "done dancing for these cameras"...like he's pretending to not love the celebrity spotlight, being a rapper and all...hah. That is rich. What a dumb movie.

Review: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

Director: Steve Miner
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michelle Williams

Well, anything would look good after the awful Halloween 6, but it turns out that H20, the seventh installment in the Halloween name and the sixth about Michael Myers, is actually a good movie. Or, at least as good as a Halloween sequel that isn't the original can be.

One of the things this has going for it is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is a powerhouse of an actor, and always great to watch in whatever he's in. I was pretty surprised to see him here, but again, he does a really good job. Especially paired with Jamie Lee Curtis, who still has what it takes to scream and act scared with the best of em; truly a Scream Queen for the ages. It really says something when a pair of actors can take a film so far, but even the side actors are good. It really seemed like they were trying to make a good film here instead of just cashing in for another fuck-ride on the Myers-train again like the last three movies felt like increasingly more and more. It's cool that they actually did make it exactly 20 years after the original 1978 movie, too. Props for that.

So the basic story is that everything from Halloween 6 has been completely retconned, thank god, and that Jamie Lee Curtis now lives up north at a fancy boarding school where she is the principal, or something. Her son, played by Gordon-Levitt, has been sheltered his whole life because his mom is afraid that Michael Myers would come back someday. This leads to actually some pretty alright character depth, as we see the conflict between them building up to the horrifying realization that maybe she was exactly right to be afraid for her son, as Myers returns to start slashing.

Now, a few of the kills are on the lazy side and seem like they were just written in to move the plot along rather than to create suspense. But that's just because the eventual climax is really good. The setting is kick ass, to boot, with the boarding school looking really elegant and mysterious, allowing for a lot of suspense once the night falls and it is deserted. It's something new for the series and it works well. The final fight scene between Curtis and Myers is pretty intense, and it really leads to some kick ass chases and shadowy suspense that serves as a good epitaph to the series. As she cuts off his head at the end, that should've been where it ended. That should've been the very end to all of it. It should have been a trilogy with the first two, and then this one, if they so insisted.

But unfortunately they made another one after this. Grumble, grumble, grumble...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Review: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Director: Joe Chappelle
Starring: Donald Pleasance, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan

Sequels. They're the bane of any movie lover's existence. Sure, every once in a while you get a good one like Terminator 2 or the Back to the Future sequels, but a lot of the time they're just made to cash in on the original's success and are not made with the same kind of strokes of brilliance that the original film was. Then sometimes another one is made. Then another. Then another. Then another, all until the series is sucked dry and left to die like a festering corpse in the desert. What a horrible chain of events. And what better to epitomize this raping of creativity and artistic vision than by looking at the complete lack of anything salvageable that is Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

I know what you're thinking: How can a slasher series have any creativity or artistry to rape in the first place? Well, this movie is so bad and so odious in its stench that it manages to do so even when there was already a lack of those things. How low can you go? Well, this movie goes lower!

What a vile film this is. What a complete and utter failure. I don't even know where to start. The shoestring budget? The lack of any likable characters? The godawful acting? A blank, empty line would sum up everything this pile of ass did right, and for what it did wrong I'd have to write several paragraphs of this kind of raving. So let's just...go ahead and try to get this over with, lest it haunt my nightmares forever.

We start off with the main girl from the last two confused movies being dragged kicking and screaming into some dark chamber where she's strapped to a table and they take a baby out of her. Apparently this is the direction the film has decided to push on us. Yup, an evil cult centered around Myers and his...evil-ness, I guess. She escapes with the help of a blonde chick who tries to get her out, but is subsequently killed by that old indestructible force of nature Michael Myers, who still isn't tired of trying to kill off his family. This guy has more of a one track mind than a train headed for a brick wall.

Only this time we get a back story. Apparently, this is what they came up with, quoting Wikipedia:

Michael has been marked with Thorn (or Thurisaz), a runic symbol that druid astronomers claimed was originated from a constellation of stars that appear on Halloween night from time to time (whenever it appears, Michael appears, explaining why Michael appears a few number of years after he's been in a near-death-experience). It is an ancient Druid curse that represented a demon that spread sickness and caused mad destruction on druid tribes. In order to prevent the tribes from dying, each tribe had to inflict the curse on one child from each tribe...

Yeah, because that sounds so much like something I'd want to see in a Halloween film. How did we even go from a movie with almost no plot in the original to a movie with a huge, suffocating WALL of it like this? Admittedly the idea is alright, but...it's Halloween! This is like trying to add Shakespeerean drama into a Nightmare on Elm St. movie. Maybe if this was directed by John Carpenter or someone who actually understood how to make a good horror movie or a good movie at all, it would be excusable and even welcome, but...this movie is the cinematic equivalent to a goat's rectum. So you can guess how well it goes down.

Then we're introduced to our main characters. Relatives of the Strode family who adopted Laurie, they live in the Myers house. The father is an abusive asshole who is so one-dimensionally angry and grouchy that I actually think he is zero-dimensional. I seriously can't even make jokes about this guy; the movie makes them all for me. He shouts at everyone and everything, slaps and insults his own family and I don't think I've ever seen a character more worthy of being murdered in a slasher movie, ever. The mother is a complete joke and a push over, letting everyone step all over her and push her around. Yeah, because nobody has any depth to them as characters. Everyone is just black or white, with no in-between area and no reason or motivation for anything they do. Every person can be summed up with one word adjectives and bam! You have your movie. God, what a load. The lead girl is completely faceless and unmemorable, as is her son, who is supposedly the next heir of this Michael Myers curse thing, except I don't give a rat's ass. It's really kind of hard to do that when we're barely given any reason to care about these morons in the first place. I've sat in wading pools less shallow and substance-less.

Oh, and at the bottom of the barrel lies Tommy Doyle, the little boy who was being babysat by Laurie Stode in the first movie. He's grown up into a paranoid nutcase who inexplicably knows all about Michael and has all the answers to everything in this movie, and I suddenly hate this movie that much more. The acting, oh fuck, the acting...is fucking horrible. It doesn't help that this movie has some of the worst lines ever ("Michael Myers is the right man for me," on the radio show, and the narration in the beginning that says that Halloween is a night of mayhem only because of Myers...) but the acting is just intolerable. Nobody is believable, nobody has any emotion and nobody delivers their lines with any conviction at all. It's an acting student's worst nightmare! You could get a pair of fleas to act better than half of these assholes. You could get...Romanian midgets with cranial deformations to act better. This is awful! This is torture!

And how about Donald Pleasance? Well, in his first scene we see him talking to an old colleague who says it's great for him to be away from everything and be retired. Loomis agrees, and then the colleague says that Loomis should...come back to work. Did anyone ever actually proofread this script? Not to mention that Loomis actually agrees, again. Despite the fact that he's been doing it for four straight movies now, I guess the studio was just that strapped for cash that they needed to get the poor old goat to go at Michael again. Even though I'm pretty sure he does nothing in this movie anyway, so whatever.

Poor Pleasance. What a godawfully atrocious last movie role this was. You can see his career dying with him every second he's in this movie. Every line he says is painstakingly labored and sluggish, completely forced and slow, and he just really sucks. I'm sorry I have to say that, but...there you go. Damn you Halloween 6, do you know no bounds of wretchedness? Do you have any mercy at all? You made me say Donald Pleasance sucks! My soul is forever scarred.

That's it, I'm wrapping it up. The movie plods along with what I think is a clear example of no direction - maybe Akkad and his cronies were out for lunch or something while the camera was on; who knows. It's boring, stupid and completely unexciting. I don't even think Uwe Boll could come up with something this horrid. Nothing sticks out except for the absolutely atrocious acting and the destruction of Donald Pleasance as an actor.

What a flat out horrible experience. I haven't hated a movie like this since I don't even know when, but I am not exaggerating any of this. It's stupid, it's wrongheaded, it's got no sense of direction, the acting is horrible, the lines are horrible and it undoes everything the Halloween series ever did that was good. No, seriously; fuck this shit! It's some of the worst cinematic drivel out there. If there is a movie hell, this movie is burning in it forever. And rightfully so.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Staring: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Directed by Kevin Reynolds 

Robin Hood is once again brought to the big screen in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” as he attempts to save the helpless from the evil Sherriff of Nottingham with the help of Maid Marian and his loyal companions.

This is a stupid movie. I am glad I saw the Errol Flynn version of "Robin Hood" before seeing this one because it allowed me to understand that the producers were trying to channel that movie while attempting to insert a more "modern" way of looking at the legendary tales. Well, they failed. It tries to do a balancing act between playfulness and being epic, and it just does not strike the right tone. There is a fair amount of slapstick in it, most of which falls flat.

Despite a having a good cast, the script does not do them justice, though to be honest there is some question over whether they deserve it. I like Kevin Costner, but he cannot pull off being Robin Hood. His acting is really poor in this film: he does not have posses any sense of wit and does not bring any sort of inspiration to the character. As a matter of fact, I hardly anyone had a really good performance in this film. For instance, Morgan Freeman plays a Moor named Azeem, a new character who does not appear in past versions of the stories. Like Costner, this is the first time I have seen Freeman in a bad role; he is very flat and spends most of his time talking about his Muslim faith in a way that has little to nothing to do with the plot. It would have been better if he were left out altogether. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (she was Tony Montana's sister in "Scarface" in case you wanted to know) plays Maid Marian by being a bitch for the first half of the picture and spends the second half screaming a lot. Christian Slater also plays Will Scarlet as a bitch as well and even though his character is featured in the original tales, you kind of wish he was not after Slater is done with him. King Richard actually is almost written out of the film until the last five minutes, but after seen the actor who plays him (SPOILER ALERT: he is licensed to kill), I think it was probably best that he took this small-uncredited role rather than ruining his legacy by dragging himself through the whole picture.

The one exception to this heap of disappointment was Alan Rickman, who would have been perfect as the Sheriff of Nottingham if the script were better. As he does in most of his movies, he plays a character that can best be described as a brooding, sarcastic, smart-ass. However, he becomes more over-the-top as the film progresses and he has the only funny lines even if they are stupid (my personal favorite: "I will cut your heart out with a spoon!"). He almost saves the whole thing, but the previously mentioned flaws and the ridiculous finale simply fail to make this picture worth watching. Therefore, I do not recommend it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Staring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains
Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley

"The Adventures of Robin Hood" is about the famous noble-turned heroic outlaw who fights for those who cannot defend themselves. He does battle with the traitorous Prince John (Claude Rains) and his right hand man Sir Guy (Basil Rathbone), courts the lovely Maid Marian (future "Gone With the Wind" actress Olivia de Havilland, who as of this writing is still alive at the age of 93), and saves the livelihoods of his fellow Saxons with the help of his many allies, which include the likes of Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles) and Little John (Alan Hale, Sr.).


This film is, simply put, a classic. It tells a straight-to-the-point yet eternally engaging story of the legendary figure. Errol Flynn does a fantastic job playing the title character that portrays him as an adventurer who is quick on his feet both feet both physically and intellectually. He brings forth the perfect example of a hero who, as mentioned in the summary, fights the bad guys, wins the lady, and saves the day, and he is aided by a very impressive supporting cast. The other star of this movie is the scenery; the costumes are so colorful and full of life you cannot help but admire them. Not surprisingly, given the fact that this film was made in 1938, there are a number of aspects that are a bit cheesy and silly by today's standards, both in terms of dialogue and action. However, the famous climatic battle between Robin Hood and Sir Guy is still fun to watch because of the amount of energy and effort that the actors put into the scene, which is also brilliantly choreographed. Overall, it is an enjoyable film to see and I recommend it.

Review: Sorority Row (2009)

Director: Stewart Hendler
Starring: Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis

It's good to know that horror movies are still stupid in this day and age. I mean, this is a movie that basically expects us to believe a plot that goes like this: Sorority sisters want to get back at guy for cheating on one of them. Sorority sisters give the guy some roofies to let him date rape her and he does it without questioning even though she is his girlfriend and he shouldn't have to do that. The girl fakes her death to scare the guy into...being sorry for what he did, I guess; it never really comes up again anyway. When they're faking it and trying to "decide what to do with her," one of the girls brings up the fact that the air in her lungs won't let her sink to the bottom of the lake. This leads to the boyfriend stabbing her through the chest with a tire iron to...let the air out, I guess, thus killing her for real.

They dump her body into a mine shaft with only a smidgen of consideration. It's good to know that killing comes as easily as cheating on one another to these kids.

So, let's recap: date rape drugs lead to tire irons through the chest. We're off to a smashing start here. I will say that I kind of enjoyed this movie anyway, even for all its stupidity, as it is a very tense film during the middle segments and the scantily clad sorority girls are fun. The kills are creative and gory as hell and it moves along without boring at all. And the killer's weapon is really cool - a bladed tire iron thing. It just looks badass. Somehow it remains pretty entertaining even when it is dumb as a rock.

Like there's one scene where the girl goes to see her psychologist and he's handcuffed to a bed. You figure that one out. And then she starts taking off her clothes in the bathroom before they're both murdered...thankfully; I didn't really want to know what that was about.

Or how about the scene where the killer advances on the Asian girl's boyfriend? He sure lets the guy scream and call for help at the window for a while. And the guy had a perfect chance to throw that chair he threw at the window at the killer, but...he didn't...for some reason. Well, that's some true Darwinian natural selection for you! Did I mention the guy spends the whole movie peeking up girls' skirts and trying to make them flash him to get tickets to get into the party? Yeah, real winner of a human being right there.

I really was enjoying this up until the end, when the film pulls the ultimate cliche and has the main girl's seemingly nice boyfriend turn on her and become like every other psychotic jerk in these movies. Apparently HE was the killer all along! But...that makes no sense at all! Why do directors and writers constantly think this twist is scary? It's not. It's not scary because he's just a skinny suburban white guy with perfect teeth and gelled up hair. There's nothing threatening about him, and what is his motivation? That he wanted to kill everyone so that she could have a better life and escape from the clutches of the sorority? A bit extreme there, guy, and the character isn't written well enough so that I'd believe it for a second. What a load.

Nobody in this movie has any semblance of human logic. And that includes the writers. Seriously, how am I supposed to believe this stupid plot? Well, I guess whatever you have to do to get the blood flowing and the kills kicking up, but still. It shouldn't have to stretch things so much in order to get a decent slasher flick on screen.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Gothika (2003)

Director: Matthieu Kassovitz
Starring: Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Charles S. Dutton, John Carrol Lynch

Do you ever wonder what happens to horror movie heroines after their ordeals are over? Because I do. In movies like this, about a young woman accused of murdering her husband and her trial to figure out what really happened...don't you just wonder what they do after the credits roll, when their whole lives are destroyed and everything they know has been completely screwed to all hell? Because I'm pretty sure it wouldn't end with a happy alternative rock song like Gothika does.

This movie is just cruel, is what it is. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to gain from this? A normal young woman is married to a guy who secretly made horrific torture porn snuff videos underground in some remote shack in the woods before she was possessed by a ghost and slaughtered her own husband with an ax? Frankly, all this movie really is is a test of the human will. Cruel act after cruel act is pushed onto the poor woman. Imprisoned in a mental hospital, unfairly judged by people she was once esteemed by, repeatedly sedated, locked up and looked down upon, and all because the vengeful ghost of a girl that her husband raped and murdered is trying to get revenge; don't you hate when that happens? And that's not even counting the rising horror when she finally figures out what her husband was really up to on those late nights when he didn't come home from work on time. I mean good god, what's next? Are you going to have her legs amputated and have her be raped by a crazy Vietnam veteran? It doesn't seem that far off, movie. It doesn't seem that far off!

I will say that this movie is not that badly put together on the surface. The colors are nice, the setting is creepy - although so archetypical of this kind of psychological horror that it almost looks like some kind of parody - and the effects are good. But what's the point? It's a sideshow gallery of misery. Yes, I get that there is a "meaning" to what is happening on screen, but it's not like this stuff hasn't been done before. And the whole core of the movie just comes out to being something that I didn't really feel justified in watching at the end. I didn't feel like any modicum of justice or revenge or anything had really been exacted.

Or was the movie supposed to be some kind of atonement because Halle Berry's character "didn't know how to listen" to her patients? Well, that plot just isn't elaborated on enough.

Gothika tries, but falls short of the mark. And let me remind you that it decided to sum up all of its emotional and mental stressors with a happy, soothing alternative rock tune over the end credits. I think this movie needs to see a psychiatrist more than the characters in it; it's so confused. Watch at your own peril, for all you will really get out of this one is a lot of pain and a little confusion.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell

So the long awaited Iron Man 2 is here, and what do the geniuses at Hollywood have in store for us this time? Well, I have to say this is a bit of a step down from the first one, even in spite of all the bells and whistles and the longer length. This is a movie that tries REALLY hard, to the point where I don't really want to come down on it too hard for its faults, but they are there.

Iron Man 2 just tries to do way too many things at once. It's trying to be like The Dark Knight with its multiple plot threads, but really it isn't near as well articulated. It kind of comes off as a mess, with too many of the threads being a bit dull and just not really that entertaining. As much as I don't want to sound like a shmuck who only wants instantly gratifying action scenes and explosions, but...yeah. Yeah, that would be a big help in this movie! The first one had a lot of down-time without action, too, but there I found it pretty interesting. Here there are about five or six different plot lines going on at once, all very boring, businesslike things that just don't engage me that much. That's the best, most simple way I can put it. None of the characters are that likable, and the ones who are don't get enough screentime. And it just isn't all that memorable, without any kind of defining moment that people will think about and say 'that's Iron Man 2.' It doesn't really have anything like that.

I do appreciate the effort that went into this, as it's clear that this was no half assed effort. They spent a lot of money and you can see a lot of it on screen, with big effects and explosions and really cool looking suits. At the end we do finally get a good fight scene with a really cool setting in this nature-dome place of Stark's, and that is almost worth seeing this movie for, as it really does pack it all: good scenery, witty dialogue, great lighting and colors, and above all, good action. It's a shame it's so damn short.

In the end they simply tried to take on more than they could handle with this. This movie has some fun moments, but at the end of the day, a lot of the stuff going on didn't interest me that much, and I wish they had stuck to a more focused and concise story. This was just OK.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: The Children (2008)

Director: Tom Shankland
Starring: Eva Birthistle, Hannah Tointon, Eva Sayer, Jeremy Sheffield

What a delightfully fucked up romp this was. The Children is a very bare bones movie that poses a simple but effectively terrifying question: would we be able to kill our own children?

Well, The Children surely does a bang-up job of answering that.

See, this isn't really a movie about storytelling, or about intricate characters. It's just about threatening every perception you have of reality and how our familial structures work...and then stabbing you in the eye with a goddamned pitchfork. What a screwed up movie! And it's deadly enough to strike terror into the heart of anyone who could possibly relate to another person on a human level at all. Everything about this movie is backwards. Nothing makes sense, nothing is right...it's just backwards. It's twisted, wrong and all kinds of flat out insane.

It doesn't even seem that bad at first; at first it's pretty innocuous. The families seem pretty down to Earth and they talk and act like regular families would. They're having fun and preparing for their New Years festivities. Okay. This isn't bad, right? It's all okay.

But why is the uncle flirting with his seventeen year old niece? That's the first warning sign right there, along with the little kid playing with the xylophone by the window, oblivious to everything else. It's the uncle flirting with his niece that really gets to me, though - it sums up everything about this movie. It's this angular, perverted sense of wrong. It seems to leak from every pore. It's all very secretive and dishonest in a very dirty way, and soon every character and every situation starts to seem like that.

The rest of the film's extravagances could almost be said to be some weird metaphor for just how fucked up all of our families can get at times, or at least this particular one. Really, it's just one festival of depravity after another. There are no explanations given, no big cover-ups or back story expositions. The kids just start killing people. It becomes a madhouse, and then you realize that none of the characters were ever likable in the first place - it was all a careful ruse. The gore is horrific and actually really realistic, never feeling over the top. It always looks completely real, and you really wince whenever someone gets hurt. Pins through eyes, bones protruding through skin and rakes to the face are all featured here in gruesome clarity.

This maniacal concoction of furious, screaming blood and gore is just too much. It is so barbaric and so thoroughly cold and terrifying that it literally sent chills down my back as I watched it - more than once, It made me feel frozen where I sat. I think the best thing about this is that it's a complete 180 degree reversal of the usual set-up for this kind of thing: Unlike The Shining where it's a crazy father trying to pick off his own son, it's the kids who are doing the killing this time. How are you even supposed to respond to that? How would any parent even approach this situation? It's not a question answered easily, and the movie does it anyway.

The Children is one of the rare modern horror movies that distills all the bullshit and delivers on a promise of unadulterated terror. It is simply horrifying in every way. Uncomfortable for the viewer, completely unhinged from any kind of restraint...this movie is just completely sadistic. What a sick fucking movie. See it at your own risk.