Friday, September 30, 2011

REVIEW: The Toxic Avenger (1984)

Directors: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Starring: Mitch Cohen, Mark Torgl

A classic shlock flick from the early 80s that is pretty much about as cartoony and over the top you can get. The hero runs around in a burnt tutu and has a deformed head, and yet he is absolutely charming, relatable and personable. For all its eccentricities and idealism the movie provides a very realistic view of how people ignore the little guys just because they’re not as good looking or if they don’t fit in for whatever reason. The Toxic Avenger was created because a bunch of rich, overzealous bigots humiliated and scorned some poor kid, who had done nothing to them at all. And he hits bottom, and after that he rises back up and starts taking vengeance for those who can’t defend themselves. And even then he is tormented with burdens of grief, because he’s a good person, and even in the ridiculous ways he kills people, he feels bad about it afterwards. That’s really charming, and adds a depth to this that modern movies attempting this style don’t seem to have.

He befriends a blind girl who can’t see his disfigured face and thus has no problem at all loving him unconditionally. It’s a trope that’s been done before and since, but it works for the story, and provides some simple, sweet romance to balance out the terrible gore. I’m not sure the depiction of blind people is entirely PC, but hey, this is a movie where a deformed man in a tutu shoves robbers’ heads into deep-fat fryers, so I guess I can’t complain…

The bad guys have no such remorse. They’re cartoon caricatures of cartoon caricatures, the absolute worst people you can imagine multiplied by 50. They ride around and hit little kids on the street for no reason! They’re set up to be the most despicable people you can imagine, so you feel good when the Toxic Avenger kills them. It works.

Oh, and there’s also the mayor, who is fat, evil, corrupt and loves massages. He starts a hate-campaign against the Avenger because he killed off a few of his goons. It almost works, but the Avenger rips his guts out in front of the crowd, so…yay? I don’t know, this is my only caveat with the movie. The Toxic Avenger is obviously opposed to the mayor’s hate-crusade and even has some supporters. But he RIPS OUT THE MAYOR’S GUTS in front of the crowd! Wouldn’t that, I don’t know, raise some suspicion or something? I think so! But I’m probably thinking about it too much.

This movie works because it’s funny, fresh, vibrant and enjoyable, and even with some graceful social commentary beneath, too! It’s a delightful romp that will captivate and entertain anyone willing to set aside their serious-faces for an hour and a half of vicious, violent gore and wacky comedy. A really entertaining flick. Go see it.

REVIEW: P2 (2007)

This review is dedicated to the parking lot at the Citrus Club of Orlando Florida, which caused me so many grievances.

P2 is a movie that for some reason, people seem to think isn’t that bad. I mean, really? Have I stepped into some kind of alternate universe or something?

Director: Franck Khalfoun
Starring: Wes Bentley, Rachel Nichols

I couldn't fit it in in the information box above, but this was produced and written by Alexandre Aja, who also gave us Mirrors. Dude, you made an awesome flick with High Tension. How do you continue giving us this low-rate slop?! It's seriously sad. TRY HARDER.

The movie begins with a cheap jump scare that actually flashes forward and shows us a random moment from an hour into the film. Is there a point to it? Nooooooo. Then we see our main character is a stuck-up blonde lady named Angela who works in some unspecified office doing some unspecified thing that I’m sure is important enough to ditch her family for. Will this isolated and friendless aspect of her character be elaborated on or made important later? Noooooooo.

Then we get those tired scenes in every lame horror movie where we’re introduced to the characters who will die later on for no story-purpose other than because they’re going to die later on. Isn’t that wonderful? In one corner, we’ve got generic businessman-guy in a suit who hit on the main girl while she was drunk! He comes into her office to apologize, but she’s rude and dismissive to him, so he leaves. Endeared to our main character yet? I am. In the other corner, we’ve got the Helpful Black Guy, a character type that peaked 25 years before this movie came out when Stanley Kubrick made The Shining.

And oh, hey, it’s that idiot from American Beauty! He’s playing the movie’s killer and delivers an over the top performance that isn’t funny enough to really leave an impression, nor scary enough to make any real tension either.


So she’s about to leave but then her car doesn’t work, so American Beauty-guy has to help her out, whines about how she isn’t thankful enough for stuff, and even asks her to come to eat dinner with him. Thinking his career went downhill when he appeared in Ghost Rider, Angela says no like any sane person would. She calls a taxi, but misses it and can’t get outside in the span of 2 seconds, so the taxi drives away! Excellent service, I say! I bet that guy gets all the tips.

And of course, like any good office building, there are no emergency escapes and no other ways out. This is all just a really contrived and silly set-up for her to go back down to the garage and get kidnapped by American Beauty-guy, whose real name is Thomas. You know, the funniest thing about this character to me is that it’s pretty much the exact same character as American Beauty, only a decade later. Like if the kid from that movie grew up and was just as screwed up as he was back then, only now with the burdens of a layman’s job on him to make him even crazier.

Frankly I think he's past his prime. After his big 'plastic bag in the wind' speech he pretty much went downhill...

She wakes up in a skimpy dress that pretty much reveals the only reason anyone would ever willingly watch this, her boobs. They’re constantly emphasized to look as big and round as possible, so you know the filmmakers had no actual ideas; they just resorted to the lowest common denominator. If you can’t have an interesting story or scary moments, just show some tits! That’s really about all you ever need to see in this movie. Everything else is just window-dressing.

The real star of the movie - her cleavage!

And why on Earth does Thomas dress up as Santa Clause when she first wakes up? Hur hur hur, he’s just that wacky I guess!

So they bore us some more with an overlong scene of him forcing her to sit down at dinner with him while he makes idle chitchat that’s about as endearing as a jackhammer to the head. Then he handcuffs her and takes her outside to murder that guy who hit on her while drunk at the Christmas party. She won’t do it, so he just goes and beats him up himself, and then rams him into the wall with his car a few times! And Angela is afraid of this guy? By golly I can’t see why! By the way, I love this dialogue here:

Thomas: You did fuck him, didn’t you? LIAR! (He says this right after he brutally murders a man…something doesn’t add up there…it’s like if Bernie Madoff got mad at someone for not giving him the correct change at the grocery store.)

Oh yeah, and he also screams at her uncontrollably and it becomes clear that he’s not mentally stable at all. I do love the extensive background checks this building does on its parking garage employees. I mean, the guy’s about as subtle as a glowing neon sign saying I’M TOTALLY NUTS!!! I really doubt he’s never had any kind of serious blemishes on his record before now. It’s just impossible.

And this whole thing is just contrived as hell. This plan could have gone wrong any number of ways. She could have actually left early to go see her family on Christmas eve. There could have been someone else working late. Someone could have come to visit her unexpectedly. Yeah, I know he apparently stalked her for months, but even then, it’s not like this guy is all-omniscient or anything. He couldn’t possibly have known for sure that he would get every little aspect of this plan working correctly. He's like the MacGuyver of contrived stalker plans.


Then we travel through horror cliche country! Like this dumb scene where of course she drops the phone right out of her reach, and then scrapes off a fingernail right after, resulting in some icky body-gore…that’s two dumb clichés in one! Seriously, why does every horror movie these days have scenes like these? It’s just dull writing and you know what’s going to happen anyway. She’s going to pick off her fingernail and it’s going to zoom in on the blood and the audience will be grossed out, and it’ll all be so boring I’d rather bash my head against a wall. And the cell phone thing? Seriously, you’re going with that? That’s so old it might as well be put in a museum of horror movie clichés.

And to add insult to injury, she tries calling out and screaming for help, but then an old crazy woman who happens to be walking by at the same time starts imitating her, ensuring nobody will listen. Gee, movie. Why don’t you just have somebody try and come save her, and then have a plane fall from the sky on top of them, right as they’re about to reach her? THAT’S ABOUT THE ONLY GODDAMN THING YOU DON’T DO!

So Thomas chases her around some more and she locks herself in an elevator. He responds to this quite normally, by filling it with water from a hose to try and drown her. He also throws the dead body of the helpful black security guard we saw for 2 seconds earlier in the movie into the elevator. And I guess we’re supposed to care? Yeah, so glad they didn’t show us his death! Great way to make the audience invested! Christ. This film constantly builds up scenes that could potentially be good, but keeps ruining them with poor set-ups, stupid dialogue and confused direction.

Somebody's all wet over this whole kidnapping thing...OK, horrible joke, but really what else do I have to work with?

Oh, and I just love this scene!


More of Thomas dancing to Elvis songs while watching Angela on the TV screens, please! Note the sarcasm. It’s just like the famous scenes of the Silence of the Lambs killer dancing in drag…except here it leaves no impact and is mostly just silly.

So she gets out and finds an ax, which she gets out of its glass case and starts smashing cameras with it. Great! Finally something smart! Maybe we’ll actually get some real conflict now that Angela is actually able to fight back! So what are you gonna do, movie? What’ll it be? This is your final chance.

Angela goes into the guard station where he was before, and doesn’t find him there. Instead, she finds a TV playing a videotape of him fondling her while she was unconscious from the beginning of the movie. Why? Did he just feel like jerking off to it and then decided to leave in the middle? Did he know she would come in and be distracted by it? Well, anyway, being the smart person that she is, Angela will ignore this and keep her guard up…

…OR she could smash the TV, scream, and then see some police coming in and get distracted! Thomas then comes in and tazes her until she faints. So she had an ax and STILL couldn’t do anything worthwhile? Come on! It was so easy! All she had to do was find him, hit him with the damn thing, steal his keys and go. This is just way, way too stupid, even for this movie! But hey, anything for a 90 minute runtime, right?!

SHE HAD AN AX! HOW HARD COULD IT BE?!? Aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhh!

And then we get some dumb, long and drawn-out scenes of the cops moseying around and doing nothing – but they do have suspicious looks on their faces, so there is that! This movie has more padding than a pillow factory.


Angela kills Thomas’s dog as it tries to attack her, which prompts this golden line of dialogue:  “How could you kill a poor, defenseless animal? YOU’RE REALLY STARTING TO PISS ME OFF!” I know Thomas is crazy and everything, but this is just second-grade level writing. I seriously can’t tell whether this is supposed to be humorous or not. If it is, well shame on you for not making the rest of the movie as funny, Aja. If it isn't, well I can't say I'm surprised.

So then they chase each other around in cars for a while, they crash and Angela handcuffs Thomas to the car, intending to leave him there…until he calls her ‘cunt,’ and then she turns around and lights him on fire, killing him. Yup, after everything he did to her, she was ready to just let him live and possibly come back for an even worse sequel. But calling her a bad name? HOW RUDE! She walks out into an (admittedly nice) shot of snowy New York and we see exactly where this whole journey has led us…a blank, cold, foggy miasma of nothingness.

This was a hard one to review because there simply isn’t much to say about it. It’s not terribly made and the acting, while not great, isn’t exactly anything I can make fun of, either. The reason this movie doesn’t work is because it’s a poor premise in general, and is executed poorly. They had a limited number of things they could do with the shut-in setting and the very small number of characters, and so they ended up filling the movie with padding and scenes that just plod along with only the most minimal kind of impact. It’s filled with every poor cliché the genre ever had, scrapes the bottom of the barrel for even the most pandering jump scares out there and contains mostly nothing worth talking about. So yeah, next time you’re thinking of watching a horror movie…don’t pick this one. In fact, if this is your only option, just go read a book or something instead.

All images copyright of their original owners.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

REVIEW: Miner's Massacre (2002)

It’s a movie about a miner going on a massacre, isn’t that an apt title when you know the plot? I think so. I can’t think of anything else to write in this part so let’s just skip to showing the DVD box cover and the usual info:

Director: That guy who made the 7th Friday the 13th Movie
Starring: Generic white people!

"You scared the shit out of me!"
-John Leguizamo Stand In #2 (He's being very literal here...)

This gem of a movie begins with an explosion followed by the title, delivered in cheap looking mid-90s dated computer animation, so you know this is gonna be a timeless horror classic! The actual film itself begins with a guy sitting in a cabin. How exciting this is already; how drawn in I am with this riveting set-up! I guess he really wanted out of this movie fast, though, as he gets killed off quickly by the movie’s ‘miner’ killer…

Oh no, not that guy!! He was my favorite character!

Then we get an extremely poor transition as the swipe of the killer’s ax cuts into someone chopping up onions. She’s one of our main characters, but after the movie ends I still have no clue what her name was, or what her personality was supposed to be. All we know is that she talks to her mom on the phone, has a bland boyfriend and gets packages with tiny gold nuggets in them from her brother. This leads her to deduce that it’s TIME FOR ADVENTURE!

Then we cut to some other characters, one of whom looks kind of like John Leguizamo, and the other who is his girlfriend or something, who argues and whines about everything. I bet she’d be best friends with Bridget Fonda’s character from Lake Placid! She complains that she wants to use a bathroom, but also complains when they find one – yes, it’s in a place that looks like the gas station from Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, but damn, this chick is just NEVER HAPPY!

I especially love this one scene where we meet this crazy old guy who works at the gas station. I can’t even decide what to make fun of here. The fact that the girlfriend openly mocks and is rude to the guy with no reason to be other than that she’s a one note character? Or when the John Leguizamo stand-in has a conversation with the guy alone? Yeah I think I’ll go with that one. The guy tells him this story about the miner-killer of the movie, The Forty-Niner, who apparently cursed his gold, and anyone who tries to steal it will be killed, or something like that…

"Here, wipe your ass with toilet paper I pulled out of my back pocket; that's sanitary!"

The Leguizamo stand-in wants to buy this wanted poster from the guy, who says it’s invaluable and a family heirloom, only to change his mind two seconds later when offered 40 bucks. Allow me to bash my head against my desk in frustration. Oh and the killer gets gas station man right after; I guess his worth in the movie went down to nothing after giving us an info-dump…although we’ll have several more info-dumps later on, so who really knows.

So the couple drives some more and we get some more idiotic arguing about nothing that goes on for way too long, and by the end of it I mostly just want to stab both of them. We cut to some other jackasses screwing in a car! Oh the suspense! What position will they use?

Keep your mouth like that long enough and it'll get stuck that way

I love this conversation right here:

IDIOT GIRL: All you care about is money! (With no reason whatsoever for saying this…)

IDIOT GUY: Hey, we all have our passions in life. Mine is money. Yours is…taking your clothes off.

Is she offended? Yes. Will that stop her from screwing him at least two more times in the rest of the movie, utterly without any purpose? Of course not! Women don’t have any complex feelings or depth! They just want to have sex all the time! Didn’t you know?!

So they all meet up and have great conversations that establish what awesome characters they all are! Nah, just kidding, they bicker and whine about nothing and wander around aimlessly. Leguizamo stand-in meets this chick and flirts with her openly, even in front of his girlfriend. OK, it’s time to put on my psychologist glasses and analyze this.

Come take a seat on my couch.

The Leguizamo stand-in is clearly a rotten piece of dog turd for flirting with another girl so shamelessly in front of everyone else including his own girlfriend. However, can you really blame him when his girlfriend nags him all the time over every little thing, and doesn’t seem to have a compassionate bone in her body? My conclusion is that ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE WORTHLESS RETARDS! GOD. THEY DESERVE EACH OTHER ACTUALLY. *sips wine and sits back against satin armchair* Ahhhh.

So the girlfriend leaves and gets killed by the killer, even though I don’t think she had any of the gold or a reason for it. I think the killer just found her as intolerable as we all do. Score one for the Forty-Niner, oh yeah! Oh and the two jackasses who were screwing in the car now go and screw in the barn, amid several torrid and unfunny sexual puns…yeah, I guess their libido is higher than the national debt right now.

They find some gold but can’t carry it all because it’s about to get dark by then. So they go into the woods and party! So yeah, more sex and stupid dialogue! What a shocking plot twist! All I have to say about these scenes is, juxtaposing scenes of people having sex with a guy taking a shit…is a really really bad idea, and whoever wrote that scene should be shot point-blank.

"Oh, I love you, I'm glad I went to that terrible party my sister dragged me to, cause otherwise we'd never be in the blandest of bland white people love we are in..."
Yeah, real nice transition - they just cut right from the above scene to this. Isn't that romantic?

The sheriff of the town catches the Leguizamo stand-in in the woods and chases him around with his (the Leguizamo stand-in’s) pants down from trying to take a dump. Why didn’t the sheriff just approach him rationally and, uh, NOT act like a crazy serial killer? Uh…LOOK, CHEESE!

This is apparently the costliest cheese in the world, Pule Cheese. There, you learned something today! You're now smarter than the people who made this movie.

So then the one guy who loves money suspects everyone of conspiring with the sheriff and pulls out a gun, saying it’s business now, oooh. There’s no motivation for him to do this beyond that one line earlier in the movie about how he loves money. That’s some of the worst writing I’ve seen since Blackout! Second graders could write more realistic characters! He gets in the car, tries to drive away with all the gold, but collides with the killer, and everything bursts into flames for no damn reason. Must be those Firestone tires again.

Then the gang meets Karen Black, a veteran actress who has no place in this film. She tells them the same crap about the killer that we already knew, and then uses her magic powers to give us a dragging, inept 5-minute flashback that is about as scary as a Cabbage Patch Kids doll. We see that the miner kidnapped some blonde girl, threatened people in an over the top and silly manner, and bit off his own fingers and spat them at people. Wait, what?

The dreaded finger catapult spit attack, mastered by none other than the Forty-Niner.

That’s…really strange! Why did he do that? He has a weapon, for Pete’s sake; why couldn’t he just have used that? He doesn't even consider it! His first thought, his very first instinct, is to bite his finger off and spit it at the guy attacking him, no joke. That’s the most random, out of nowhere way to attack somebody I’ve ever seen! He runs around and shouts that he’s cursing his gold for anyone else who ever tries to take it, and since we already knew that, this whole scene was more useless padding, hooray!

So in the real world again, we see the gang mobilizing and doing a bunch of really boring stuff which amounts to basically just blowing him up. The gang is happy and gets ready to go home the next day when the sheriff picks up a stray piece of gold and gets killed immediately after touching it, even though that was never how it worked before. Then the movie ends, and I think we’ve all learned a lesson from this movie. The lesson is that you shouldn’t let the director of Friday the 13th part 7 direct a movie. Ever!

Yeah, this was stupid. It’s really, really poorly written, the characters are cardboard cutouts (well, that’s an insult to cardboard manufacturers around the world) and the story is stupid and makes no sense. It’s pretty much just your average every-day bad 2000s horror movie. It’s a dime-a-dozen slasher that will appeal to no one simply because it doesn’t do anything particularly well. Maybe this was supposed to be a comedy-horror or something, but to be honest that wouldn’t really save it anyway. What more can I say? It’s a bad movie and you probably wouldn’t have seen it anyway, but at least you got a review out of it! Until next time, folks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)

Okay, after doing two reviews featuring themes that included the Holocaust and 9/11, plus another mini-review that advocated selflessness in order to save the world, I feel like I need to lighten up a little bit for my next post. So what do we have lined up this time?

*looks at list*

GOD DAMN IT!!!!!

Starring: Deborah Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas, Vic Chao, Sean Lawler
Director: Jack Perez (as Ace Hannah) (yes, I would change my name too)

*Sigh* Shall we begin...?

Oh, good, the cast is getting prepared as well.

The movie starts out in the ocean with a bunch of scientist looking at whales with the help of a helicopter and a submarine. We are then introduced to one of our main characters, Emma MacNeil (singer Deborah Gibson) who is such a scientific genius that she cannot apply the same fingernail polish for both of her hands. Anyway, the whales freak out all the sudden and the helicopter up above crashes into the iceberg, supposedly because of the chaos at hand, but personally think the pilot just wasn't very good. Anyway, the iceberg breaks up, causing two creatures to get unleashed.

In the next scene, it shows a bunch of Japanese on an oil rig. Suddenly, a Giant Octopus attacks and...that's it. No build up or anything; it just does.

Later on, in what is probably the funniest scene in the movie...well...see for yourself:

Okay, where to start...

It's true, real sharks, including Great Whites, have been know to propel their entire bodies into the air in order to catch their prey, but come on, this thing is practically flying through the sky! And why the hell is it going after a plane anyway? It doesn't have anything better to catch in the water? How can it even know that there is a plane up there in the first place?! The whole scenario is just so stupid you can't help but laugh at it!

(Yes, I realize the irony of making fun of a plane crash right after writing a review of United 93. No, I don't feel bad, because that was a serious film about a real-life national tragedy; this is a fictional film about...a Mega Shark and a Giant Octopus. Yes, I feel better about myself too).

A big chunk of this movie is devoted to MacNeil, who later teams up with her old college professor Lamar Sanders (Sean Lawler) and a Japanese scientist named Dr. Seijia Shimada (Vic Chao), as they try and find out about what these creatures are. Ummm....now this is just a guess, but...I think they are a Mega Shark and a Giant Octopus...just throwing it out there...

So why are these creatures roaming around in the present day? Other than the fact that their iceberg was broken up by the whales and the bad pilot and such at the beginning of the movie, so there really isn't any mystery about that at all?! Apparently many creatures such as these have been enclosed in the ice caps for millions of years, but are now being set free because they are all melting, leading to MacNeil to say that this is humans' "comeuppance" for global warming. That's right! Global warming is to blame for all this! So next time you decide not to recycle or buy a hybrid, you deserve to be eaten by a giant prehistoric monster!

SHAME!!!

SO, after learning about this little inconvenient "truth," the team is arrested and placed into the custody of Allan Baxter (Lorenzo Lamas), who has a pony tail despite being in the Navy, is racist, and acts like an overall douchebag. This character bores me. NEXT.

So they agree to help the government to try to stop the monsters, but only if they are not killed because they want to study them. Great, these things are costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property damage, but we can't kill them because the hippies want to study them! Well, that plan fails, and the shark makes a giant hole in the Golden Gate Bridge.
Wow, what great CGI effects. They're about as realistic as those original masterpieces made on Syfy.

Well, they finally decide the octopus and shark need to go (guess for the hippies, destroying San Fransisco goes too far) so they come up with a plan to get them to meet up with one another to destroy each other using certain smell senses. How did they come up with this? Because MacNeil and Shimada figured out they are both pretentious snobs who love they ocean a lot, and they have sex in the storage closet when they were suppose to be working on stopping the creatures. Umm...fine, whatever works for you guys!

Anyway, the scientists argue their plan will work because they are sworn enemies that hate each other so much that the destruction of the other is more important than their own survival. That...makes no sense! With the exception of humans, no animal, past or present, acts that way! And even with people there is some sense of a need to survive despite being forced to live with a dreaded enemy! That's how we made it out of the Cold War! Why the hell are these guys any different?!!! And if they really hate each other so much, why did they go their own separate ways after being freed from the ice berg at the beginning of the movie?!!! Stupid, stupid, stupid...!!!

Okay, I'm sick of this, so I am going to tell the rest. Spoilers ahead...not that you care. The teams encounters a bunch of problems trying to get the octopus and shark to meet each other. Most of it is filler, but there is one part here that stands out: while being chased by the shark, the guy in charge of directing the submarine (I don't know the actor's name, fortunately for him) freaks out and points a gun at the commanding officer (Dean Kreyling), saying he was going to get them all killed.

Oh, I'm sorry, this isn't an actual scene. I think this is just director Jack Perez during the time when he was talking to the actors about starring in this film.

Umm...okay, movie, you did a nice job of ripping off "Crimson Tide," but I'm afraid you have a few holes in this little scenario. First of all, why does that guy have a gun on him in the first place? Isn't that against protocol? Second, he is upset because his C.O. is going to force them to crash the sub, but everyone would otherwise get killed by the shark. So what difference does it make? Aren't you kind of dead anyway? At least with him in charge you have a shot. Third, if you aren't steering the sub and no one replaces you, aren't you kind of increasing your chances of dying?! The answer to all this: it ends in less than five minutes so it doesn't really matter. SUPER!

Okay, I'm getting tired of this. Let's wrap this up...,

When the creatures finally meet, they battle each other for about five minutes. It's called Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, and they fight for five minutes during the whole film, with most of the shots having such bad lighting that they end up looking like this:

Way to destroy my expectations, movie! I was really hoping for...well, not much, but I am still pissed off!

Well, just as the brilliant scientists predicted, they then kill each other off as planned and sink to the bottom of the ocean. The group celebrates and then set out on another adventure (they planned to make a sequel to this?!). The last scene shows the creatures continuing to fall into the depths of the sea, dead as can be...

...OR ARE THEY?!

Yes. Yes they are. So that last shot was entirely pointless. Symbolic of the whole movie, perhaps?!

This movie...is pretty much what you expect it to be based on the title alone. The acting is mediocre at best, the characters are bland, the CGI effects are horrible, the plot makes no sense and is given a half-assed environmental message to make it seem deep (sorry, I guess that technically counts as a pun), and worst of all, it's just plain boring. The monster movies of the 1950s featuring Godzilla and others were by no means great pieces of cinema, but they were at least kind of fun and had some creativity put into them. And when they had an anti-nuclear war or other environmental message, they usually tried to be subtle about it by working it neatly into the plot. By comparison, this movie just seems soulless and more like an excuse to make a cheap buck than trying to entertain anyone.

This goes without saying, but I do not recommend it!

I do not own the copyrights to these images or links; they are being used for entertainment purposes only. Please do not sue me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

United 93 (2006)

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, so I thought it would be appropriate if I marked the moment by reviewing a film that chronicles the events and to this day remains one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. I saw the movie a while ago and so I tried to watch it again to refresh my memory. Unfortunately, because of technological and timing issues, I was only able to watch the very beginning of it. So if some parts of this review appear to be little uneven or if I say something that does not quite match up with what actually happened, I apologize ahead of time. Like the producers of this film probably knew, not everything you try to create can be perfect, so you just have to go with what you have hope that it turns out for the best. So without further ado, here is "United 93":

Directer: Paul Greengrass
(I have decided to keep the cast anonymous to preserve the feel of the film)

The film focuses on the flight of United 93, which was hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists, but was briefly retaken before crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.

I do not really need to go any further with the summery since we all know what happened on that day. The reason why this film is still worth watching, however, is because its point of view of the tragedy is subtle and yet intense at the same time. It does not glamorize anything and it does not feel contrived at all. In other words, it does not feel like a typical Hollywood production.

Humanity is a big theme in the film. When it first starts, it shows the soon-to-be hijackers praying and preparing for their last day on Earth. It soon becomes apparent that, while their is no sign that they will abort the mission, they are clearly very nervous. You have to give credit for being able to make the terrorists look like flesh and blood human beings and yet not overdoing it to make them sympathetic. We are then shown others who are going to board and they are shown to be, well, human as well. Just normal everyday people going about their daily lives, not knowing that they are about to be written into the history books. Sadly, they will not be there to seen it.

The technical aspects of the film are also well done. It is shot semi-documentary-style, which only adds to the down-to-earth feeling it emulates. The music is also present, but not overwhelming. Most importantly, it mainly focuses on the passengers themselves, with only occasional breaks that shows us the FAA as it tries to deal with the chaos that develops. We see passengers as they too attempt to understand what is going on, discover what is happening in New York and Washington, and ultimately what they must do to put a stop to the men who are set to destroy the Capital Building.

As I mentioned in the introduction, it would have nearly impossible to get everything right, though they do a really good job. It should be noted, for instance, that Ben Sliney, who was the FAA National Operations Manager on September 11th (his first day on the job, if you can imagine that), plays himself in the film. The only big thing that seems to stick out is that apparently there is a man depicted in the film by the name of Christian Adams who is seen as an appeaser even though in real life he was nothing like that. Again, it has been a while since I have seen the movie, so I cannot personal vouch for either side. Needless to say, if you make a film about September 11th, it is bound to get some criticism no matter what, fairly or unfairly. My personal opinion, however, is that this film, whatever its flaws, is a great piece of work because it manages to capture the mood and the raw emotions that were felt on that day: the shock, the panic, the confusion, the grief, even the (bittersweet) triumph. The ending, which occurs right as the plane and the people on board meet their final fate and we all see coming, is nonetheless very gripping and powerful, though there are no real words to truly describe it.

This film is excellent. Whatever films are made about the attacks in the future, this certainly sets the bar very high. If you feel very strongly about the 9/11 attacks and do not have the will to see it, I certainly do not blame you. But if you are willing, I definitely recommend it.

For the last time, I am sorry I could not give a more elaborate review of the film; it was just beyond my control. However, I still wanted to do something to commemorate the anniversary (even if it is a little late), because I was a child in September of 2001, and like so many other people of my generation, it was a turning point in how I viewed the world and life in general. For better or for worse, the events changed everything and while nothing can really explain all that transpired from that day, this movie at least helps put things in perspective and shows that, despite the tragedy, that we can always hope foe a better tomorrow. Yes, I know this all sounds a bit corny, especially after that "Captain America" bit I did recently, but it is the truth. And in the end, that is really the best I can really offer.

The image and links above do not belong to me. They are copyrighted by their respective owners and are being used for entertainment purposes only.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

REVIEW: Deadfall (1993)

You might notice I haven’t posted much lately on this blog. Well, that’s simply because the last movie I saw was so bad, so pointless, so horrendous in every way, that I could not sum up my feelings in any conceivably literate way until now. Yes, folks, this is Deadfall, the most half-assed and hackneyed concoction of soggy, tired film noir clichés ever conceived of before Black Dahlia came along about 13 years later and raped all of our minds. But at least this one has Nicolas Cage! Cage is really the only saving grace about this at all, as the rest of the movie is just pure garbage in every way. Introduction enough for you? I think so.

Director: Christopher Coppola
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Some Other Assholes

The credits show us a few things – the director is Christopher Coppola, it’s starring Nicolas Cage and Talia Shire has a part in the movie as well. Is this just a Coppola family reunion? Well, after watching it, you’ll wish they had some of the other Coppolas helping out; you know, like Francis Ford or Sofia. Maybe they would have made this at least a little bit watchable. But let’s just get started with the actual movie before we’re here all day.

The film starts off with some idiots in suits who obviously were late to the bargain bin theater production of Grease driving around. Then we get an incredible change of pace when the same idiots in suits going into a warehouse and pretending to be hardcore gangsters making a sting operation. Yeah, because I’m sure this slop will make me forget Paul Newman and Robert Redford in The Sting, right? Christ. Two minutes in and already I’d rather be watching an M. Night Shyamalan picture. That’s a new goddamn record.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the narration, delivered in perhaps the most unfitting manner ever by the worst protagonist in cinema history, Michael Biehn, who plays our main character Joe. Seriously, this guy has all the charisma of your average coma patient. He’s about as interesting as a piece of wet toast stuck to a cat’s backside…wait, actually I think that would be far more interesting that Michael Biehn’s narration!

Then a shoot out starts when the bad guys figure out they’re being played. I love how these morons are just firing randomly into the dark; isn’t that always an indication of great gunmanship?

"If we keep shooting blindly at the dark, SURELY we'll get things done!"

So in an act of true mastery of the craft, Joe accidentally kills his business partner and father in a shoot-out. Yeah, better try actually learning how to aim next time, you twit. I seriously don’t know how they expect us to take this even remotely seriously. Oh boo hoo, you screwed up; deal with it you little pisshead.

And what’s this? A scene of him crying in his room leaning against the bed like a little pussy? Allow me to extend both my middle fingers in your direction, movie!

Seriously, I'm not trying to downplay a horrible tragedy or anything but this is just so poorly done, and the movie just throws it at us without trying at all to make us care what happened.

So then he finds out he has to go see his uncle Lou, who’s played by the same actor because they were too cheap to get anybody else, and blah, blah, blah, it’s all very boring and dated-90s-like. It’s mostly just incredibly silly and ridiculous. It’s the antithesis of anything resembling captivating film noir. I mean, it’s less gritty and realistic than a game of CLUE.

Then he meets Nic Cage, who has a name but that doesn’t matter anyway; you’ll just call him Nic Cage so who cares? He mumbles a lot, wears a stupid wig and mustache and seems to never take his sunglasses off…so yeah, almost the same character as in The Vampire’s Kiss. He even has a stupid accent again.

Nice porn star disguise Nic.

But to be fair, his character is at least doing something, which is more than can be said for anyone else in this horrendous nonsense. They go to some bar and do stupid stuff and somehow Cage has a really hot girlfriend…yeah, not buying it; sorry movie. No girl would ever date this guy. I’m half expecting throughout this whole thing to discover that Cage’s girlfriend is actually some kind of transvestite, or something. ANYTHING! ANYTHING TO MAKE IT MAKE SENSE!

Then there’s one scene where they swindle a bartender out of some money? Why? Do the bartenders of the world really have too much money to where you have to play Robin Hood and steal from them? Bravo, Cage, you’ve officially become a true anus of a human being.

So yeah then we see even more implausibility when Cage’s girlfriend starts inexplicably flirting with Joe! Why? Just to get the plot to move forward, because when you can’t think of any ideas in your measly head to vomit out, show some sex scenes:

How much money do you think they had to pay her to have sex with this guy? Doesn't really seem worth it to me.

Watching these two pieces of plastic try to have sex is almost as bad as watching them try to act. I can’t think of anything less arousing short of, well, watching Nicolas Cage and the girl do it. Eugh.

But Cage almost gets killed in a bar after doing some coke, comes home and almost kills her. These scenes are some of the most entertaining in the movie, which really just means they don’t make you want to gouge out your eyes watching them. But Cage is very entertaining, with a truly over the top and insane performance that you can tell he had fun with. I mean, the rest of the movie is so glaringly awful, he probably knew it, and just decided to throw care to the wind and give the most ridiculous performance he could muster. He just didn’t give a crap. At one point he’s literally just shouting gibberish; no actual words at all.

That's his 'I just ate a really sour lollypop' look.
"I will SWALLOW THE CAMERA WHOLE!"

She throws him out, so his next logical path is go to find his employer Uncle Lou, tie him up and threaten to kill him with boiling hot water. He almost does, but then Joe comes in and kills Cage by shoving his face into the boiling water instead. No. No, movie; you can’t do that. YOU CAN’T KILL OFF THE ONLY CHARACTER MAKING THIS MOVIE ENTERTAINING! My heart has been broken. We still have 40 minutes of this to sit through and now the only character making it easier is dead?! What kind of sick bastards created this?


Oh. Oh yeah…well, the only proper thing to do is stop the movie and hold a funeral for Nicolas Cage. Proceed:


OK, now that we’re done with that, let’s go to the bar for drinks.


Now we can…wait, what do you mean I have to finish the review? Haven’t I suffered enough already in the name of entertaining the masses today?!  Well damn. Guess I might as well; I mean what else am I going to do tonight? Go out and have a life?

The movie continues with some awful scenes that try to be deep and serious film noir but mostly just come off as a big fat joke, as Joe narrates some more in a tone of voice that would better fit a children’s elementary school book reading session. Truly this is what Robert DeNiro aspired to when he made Casino, right? This narration is about as credible as Roger Rabbit narrating over Dark City would be.

Joe goes to meet Charlie Sheen, another human sewer-slime who Christopher Coppola dredged up to be in this movie. Sheen mostly talks in a low, almost unintelligible monotone, and treats us to long, agonizing scenes of the two of them playing the world’s most boring game of billiards ever. We never see him in the movie again, and so I mostly just wonder WHAT THE HELL THE POINT WAS. GOD. THIS MOVIE IS LIKE SITTING THROUGH THE INSANE RAMBLINGS OF A BRAINDEAD MENTAL PATIENT WHO JUST WATCHED A MARATHON OF OLD CRIME MOVIES. It’s asinine!

Some more stuff happens, it’s revealed that Joe’s father never died and the whole thing was an incredibly contrived set-up that could have easily gone wrong at any time, and the whole thing ends on a whimper with more of that ear-raping narration. Oh what a treat. This movie is so bad that I can’t even accurately sum up how bad it is. No insults I could make up would really describe it. This is so terrible, so lacking in plot or any kind of good characters or atmosphere, and so wrongheaded that all I can do is just…sacrifice it to the God Nicolas Cage, who sits upon his throne still, laughing at all of us mere mortals. Let this crap burn forever in the fires of Cage’s wrath and greatness, and let it never again tarnish our Earthly plane!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Debt (2011)

Starring: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain
Director: John Madden

Well, the summer has come to an end, and with it, the summer blockbuster season. So everyone is either sad (it brought us "Super 8") or breathing a sigh of relief (it also brought us "The Smurfs"). But if you are a film buff such as myself, it is simply a changing of the seasons as we head into the fall and see the "serious" movies (i.e. "the ones you are supposed to like"). One of the first ones up is tiled "The Debt." Here is the original trailer for it:


Apparently the film was expected to come out in early August, but there was a lot of behind the scenes tension between the producers so they struggled to make the deadline. As a result, the final product ended up being an ill-conceived compromise that no one liked.

So it was completely revamped and this was made instead...

Based upon the Israeli film of the same name, its about three members of Mossad who are put in charge of capturing Dieter Vogel, a Nazi war criminal who is living in 1960s Berlin. However, they soon find out that capturing a Nazi war criminal is not as easy as it sounds. Events go awry and it comes back to haunt them more than 30 years later.

This film is very well done. A mixture between a political and psychological thriller, it follows three people as they come face to face with a monster and it becomes questionable as to who is the real hostage in the situation. The Mossad agents cannot simply kill the guy and then go about their merry way; they have to capture him, get him out of Soviet-controlled East Berlin and then send him to Israel where he will face justice. In order to do this, they have to get up close and personal with him. That job comes down to the only female agent, Rachel Singer, (played in her younger year by Jessica Chastain). Since Vogel is now working as an OB/GYN, she poses as a woman who claims to have fertility problems and needs his help. That's right: she has to get inspected by a Nazi gynecologist, who during the war was known as "The Surgeon of Birkenau," and was responsible for experimenting on millions of children in ways that lead to their horrible, agonizing deaths. Awkward...

The highlight of the movie is Vogel, played by Jesper Christensen. He is...well, evil. Very, very evil. He is not one of those people who is simply misunderstood and turns out to be a flesh and blood human being when you meet him. He is just downright despicable, has no redeeming quality, and deserves everything he gets and more. However, the Mossad has to be professional about the whole situation. When their get-away plan falls apart, they hide out in an apartment building where they keep him tied up, taking turns feeding him, shaving him, etc. He repays their diligence by being as difficult as possible, behaving like a fussy five year old. He also makes a number of highly disturbing comments about how weak and selfish the Jews were during the Holocaust and remain the same today. Did I mention that Singer lost her mother during the war and fellow agent David Peretz (played in his younger years by Sam Worthington) lost his entire family because of the Final Solution? Yeah, try dealing with this guy when you have that kind of tragic personal history! I do not think that Christensen will win an Oscar for his role since the Academy might be reluctant, for the second time in three years, to give the Best Supporting Actor award to a guy who played a sadistic Nazi, but he at least deserves to be nominated.

The focus of the film is basically about unfinished business. While the three are cheered in the present day, it becomes clear that something happened three decades ago that they are not proud of. As the mystery unravels, it shows what it is like to hide the truth for the greater good but also what kind of problems it can cause for those who bear it. The fact that these people are already saddled with the burden of living in the shadow of one of the worst events in human history only adds to the emotional pull of the story.

The film is very solid. The acting by Chastain, Mirren, and everyone else is strong (I have never been much of a fan of Worthington, but even he manages a convincing performance), the transitions between the two time periods is handled very smoothly, and it even has a few good actions scenes. It is just good all around. Okay, fine, the ending was kind of dumb. Not from a story-telling perspective or anything, but the way it is executed. I cannot go into too much detail without spoiling it, but let's just say that it is supposed to be this big dramatic scene that will draw a conclusion to the misery that has haunted the main characters, but it ends up looking unrealistic and kind of silly. But as I said, it does not ruin the story itself, so I can forgive the movie for this relatively minor error. Oh, and the scene with Mirren in the newsroom at night also dragged on a bit, but that is not worth complaining about that much.

Overall, I enjoyed it. For those who are wondering, it is not as quite as good as "Munich" but that is a little unfair since, despite the fact that they have a similar subject matter (and Ciaran Hinds happens to be in both of them), they are different movies in terms of their focus. Either way, it is a good way to start off the Oscar season and a good film to watch at any point, period. I recommend it.

I do not own the image or links above. They are copyrighted by their respective owners and are for being used for entertainment purposes only. Please do not sue me.

A Message From "Captain America: The First Avenger"

This is a little different from the normal stuff posted on Cinema Freaks, but I need to get some things off my chest. I saw "Captain America: The First Avenger" last month. I am not going to do a full-fledged review of it because TH already did one and I agree with most of what he said him. However, I wanted to touch upon a particular aspect of the film that had an effect on me.

There was one theme that really sticks out after seeing "Captain": selflessness. Steve Rogers is rejected by the Army five times before he can successfully enlist. He then does everything in his power to win the war and save the lives of his comrades, risking his life on a number of occasions. But he is not alone in his actions. Peggy Carter stands in front of a car driven by a Nazi spy, shoot at it repeatedly and is almost hit by the vehicle before Rogers forces her out of the way. Those who are doing their jobs still manage to go above and beyond the call of duty. Howard Stark, despite being a very wealthy civilian who is the biggest defense contractor for the government (and supplying half the genetic code for his initially egoistic son, Tony Stark a.k.a Iron Man) violates military regulations by personally flying over enemy territory to drop off Rogers in order to save 400 Allied POWs. Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones' character), despite being of an advanced age, leads a charge into the headquarters of Red Skull (who says that this is no country for old men?). Even the minor characters seem to get in on the act. When Rogers tries to apprehend the Nazi spy I mentioned earlier, the villain throws a kid into the water in an effort to divert his attention. However, the kid quickly stops Rogers from aiding him, shouting out that he can swim and does not need assistance. Seriously, how many other movies can you think of where a kid says "It's not a big deal, I got this covered! Now keep chasing after the bad guy!" Not enough, I tell you!

These actions and feelings in "Captain" due to the fact this was taking place during World War II, where everyone had a sense of common purpose. Granted, "The Good War" has always had a tendency to be romanticized by the general public, but given that this is a superhero movie, this can be excused and you cannot help but get caught up in the unabashed red-white-and-blue patriotism on display. Despite this fact, we have and still see a lot of the bravery depicted in the film that actually takes place in real life. In a scene that is shown in the trailer, Tommy Lee Jones throws a fake grenade among his troops to test their dedication and while the rest scatter, Rogers jumps on it without hesitation (Jones then walks away saying he's still too skin). This scene is actually very similar to an 2006 incident in Iraq where Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis jumped on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. Tragically, this one was real and he died when it exploded; he was posthumously given the Medal of Honor. The end of the film also mirrored real-life. I will not spoil it, but I will just say that it has similarities to the heroics that took place on September 11th (the tenth anniversary will be shorty upon us). I do not think that either of the comparisons were intentional and people might be offended that I am drawing parallels between real-life deaths to what happened in a summer popcorn flick based on a comic book hero. Comics, particularly back in the Golden Age, set high moral standards for everyone to achieve. But while they may have been and are more idealistic than realistic, as we have seen, some people actually live up to those standards. And even for those who do not, the heroics that take place in both popular media and reality can still be used to remind people that they can overcome great obstacles in order to achieve a level of greatness and improve the world around them.

Now, a lot of you will read this and think: wow, The Observer is really preachy, what has he ever done to make a difference, all this stuff is not going to happen, blah blah blah. I admit that I am a realist; I believe people are naturally self-interested and that to ask for them to be unselfish is very impractical and presumptuous. I also by no means the most generous person around. So why am I doing this? Because I am looking at what is happening in this country and this world right now, and I believe we are right at the moment of something happening that will change how we live and who we are, and if we do not adapt in a certain way, we are going to be in serious danger. But I am optimistic enough to think that we can get threw it and be better off as a result of it, and selflessness can help lead the way.

Now that is an ideal to aspire to.

I do not own the image above. It is for entertainment purposes only. Please do not sue me.