Tuesday, July 31, 2012

REVIEW: Trespassers (2006)

So, what happens when you have no budget, actors that you stole from your next door neighbor’s backyard porno shoot, action scenes you can’t see because everything is dark, camerawork that looks like a drunk person did it and a script likely written on the back of a Burger King napkin, all complete with a plot only thrown in at the last fifteen minutes? Trespassers! I really don’t know what else to say about this, so I’m just going to jump right into the fun! And oh what fun it's going to be...

Director: Ian McCrudden
Starring: Cigarette Butt, Evil Overlord Chicken

We kick off with our main hero, cigarette butt:

This movie's fetish for extreme close-ups is disorienting enough, but this has got to be the silliest one in the whole movie. Why do we need a close-up on the cigarette? Is it going on a great adventure? If so, I'm sure it will be a more interesting one than what we're going to see in this movie...

And one of our other minor-ish characters, Tyler, played by close-up camera shot #3 out of about five billion and twenty-seven. We also see some great stock shots of people surfing on waves, probably lifted off a commercial for sunscreen or something. I'm sure if you look closely, you'll see the airbrushed-out logos for whatever company this movie stole these shots from. At night, Tyler and his girlfriend maybe have sex, or they could be just looking for their lost car keys; I don’t know, it’s too hard to see anything really.

CAR KEYS! Without them how will we drive away from this movie after we're done moving around in a tent and vaguely touching each other sometimes?!

Then they get killed off by poor lighting and shaky camera effects in the dark. Yes, that is literally what kills them. No, I am not exaggerating for the comedic purposes of a review. Or am I?!

Also I’m so glad we can’t see anything during any of the action scenes in this movie. I think seeing things in films is overrated. It just smacks of mainstream pandering and commercialism. True films rely on atmosphere and the implication of things happening for the viewer’s mind to process, rather than spelling it out for them like they’re two year olds, and showing them actual action. And that's why Trespassers is a good movie!

So anyway, we then get introduced to our real main characters, Colin, who wears a white cowboy hat that I think the makers of [Insert Generic Cowboy Porno Here] forgot to get back from him:

There’s Ashley and Rose, who are about as generic as female characters can get and talk about almost nothing but guys the entire movie:

And then there’s this guy, who they only call Lucky, and who I think is half raccoon:

Lose the eyeliner, you retard. You look like the vomited-out spawn of a thousand emo kids circa 2004. But then again this was a 2006 movie...if it was 2012, he'd probably just have a plaid shirt and skinny jeans and big thick glasses even though he doesn't really need them!

They’re getting ready to go when they run into the Generic Best Friend character Javier, who likes to run out in front of cars apparently, even when he could just have stood on the side of the road and waved. This character I am pretty sure was one of the director’s friends, because otherwise I don’t see a purpose having him in the movie…

So the team is off and they drive and drive for a long time, without establishing anything that would make them likable. Lucky continuously flirts with Rose even though she doesn’t reciprocate or give any indication that she’s ever going to. Lucky really has no character aside from just being a weird pervert – isn’t that just great? He’s like Pepe Le Pew. Hell, he even kind of looks like him!

They keep on driving and bickering and what not, and honestly, I have to wonder after watching some of these scenes: how long until they get killed off? I mean, most movies at least try to have SOME form of humor or something to make the characters at least watchable, but this? This has nothing so far! Just endless whining and bickering from these people who you’d be embarrassed to be seen with in public if they weren’t so good looking!

Like take this one scene – the girls get back from a two-second detour into a bar for shots (yeah, THEY know how to have fun!) and find out that their car is gone and Lucky with it. Two seconds later, they find him getting beat up by some guys because he tried to heckle one of their girlfriends, thinking she was a prostitute. Did he think he was going to get laid in the five minutes before they got back on the road again? Jesus Christ, dude. Keep it in your pants a little longer at least! And is it bad that I was really rooting for the guys heckling him to kill him?

Then they see a chicken on the side of the road:

See? A CHICKEN! I'm pointing this out to you because, apparently, the film couldn't have survived without this close-up shot...which establishes that yes, a chicken is indeed a chicken. Unless the movie is actually trying to tell us something...like, perhaps, that this chicken is actually the evil mastermind behind everything!

...and after a silly and pointless scene where Lucky jump-scares the girls in the bathroom, they see some guy eating the chicken…or rather we hear them say  that’s what happened, because it’s too dark to see what actually went on, probably because that’s just how good this movie is! Afterwards, though, the film ruins that brilliantly suspenseful scene with some dialogue that I think a fourth grader could have written better.

JAVIER: Now, now, you can’t understand [eating a live chicken] until you’ve been in their shoes…
ROSE: No, if I was starving, I’d just grow some vegetables!

You’d grow some vegetables. Right. Because that just happens instantaneously and totally is a short-term solution for starvation…can somebody please just kill this girl? We do get this gem of a line from Lucky, though: “I’ve heard of sucking cock, but this is something else!” That’s actually a little bit funny.

In the car, Colin and Ashley talk about some boring crap about how he doesn’t want to go back to school because he got a new construction job offer instead. What’s this, character development in my shitty slasher/monster/whatever horror film? TAKE IT AWAY! The film apparently listened to me, because none of this is ever mentioned again. Ain’t that just the best kind of character development? The kind where it feels like they just said at the last minute, “Oh, wait, we’re supposed to make people like these characters before we kill them off? OK, throw in a three-second scene with no screaming or tits in it. There we go!” Ha ha ha…I feel my brain melting as we speak.

They finally arrive at the beach and Lucky begs Rose to flash him. She says no but then for some reason gives in, telling him to turn off the camera he has, which he doesn’t – and this is an important plot point, durr hurr hurr, spoilers! Why did she even flash him to begin with? Because…the movie just needed an excuse for tits. Maybe the director had a crush on that girl or something. Lucky goes and jerks off by himself until he sees something strange on the camera. Instead of going straight back to the others, he gets killed off! Yay! Or maybe I was supposed to be sad…

I mean seriously, you come on a trip with these "friends" of yours and then spend the whole time jerking off - WHO DOES THAT? Oh yeah, this guy.

…no, I stand by my first reaction.

Afterwards, we see Rose flirting non-stop with the other guys, because being a catty bitch to one guy for perving on you and then turning around and being a slut to the other guys in the group makes sense, doesn’t it? I guess you’d call this character a total waste of breathing space. If only we could actually see more of her death scene later on…oops, did I spoil that for you? I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

After that, the movie remembers that it was supposed to have a plot. They split up into groups of two, so Javier and Ashley go one way while Colin and Rose go the other, still bickering about relationship problems the whole time. Friends going missing, mysterious monsters in the wild…and relationship problems. Truly these things are all the same level of importance! In one scene, Rose asks Colin if he wants to skinny dip, right as she’s putting her clothes back on from before. Did anyone even bother telling the writer that he was drunk off his ass while writing this?

In another scene we see Ashley and Javier talking to a local Mexican couple at some diner, where the dialogue is all in Spanish with no subtitles, so suck it, Americans! This movie’s too cultured for you. It’s got other languages in it!

Ashley says she understood part of what they were saying, about the monsters that come out at night, but it turns out the monsters come when called, and they kill off Javier with more shaky-cam dark shots that you can’t see any of. Back at camp, Colin is now on his own and he meets back up with Ashley. She tells him the whole story of the monsters – huh? I thought she only understood PARTS of the story! But now she just recites the whole thing in incredible detail…either she’s the biggest liar in the world, or this movie just blows. Verdict’s still out on that front.

Was it that hard to check this in editing and make sure you could see everything? I just don't get this movie's philosophy of not being able to see the action. Maybe there's some good atmosphere in this! But you'd never know, since this whole thing is about as obscure as a lost 1970s disco record.

Anyway, the story goes that a long time ago, this cult led by a Marilyn Manson-esque figure called El Gringo came to Mexico and tried to “live off the land,” but quickly found that there wasn’t enough to live off of. I guess planning and geographic knowledge wasn’t their strong suit. So the El Gringo guy started secretly kidnapping children from the local villages and feeding them to his followers. They found out and proceeded to do the rational thing – cut El Gringo’s eyelids off and bury him in a hole to face the sun forever. Which…makes them better than him HOW exactly? I really don’t see how that’s a good solution. What kind of justice is that? It’s so oddly specific, too…they don’t just stab him in his sleep. They actually torture him and then leave him for dead in the middle of nowhere to go blind. That's pretty harsh. But hey, it still beats a bunch of idiotic teenagers having sex with his corpse and making a secret cult out of it. That would just be silly...

And…somehow I guess this all means that people can turn into zombies now. Makes sense to me! Let’s have a finale full of more shaky cam too-dark nonsense, followed by a finale where they run into El Gringo and, I guess, get turned into monsters afterwards. But we’ll never see any of that, because the movie is over and sentenced forever to no-budget horror hell!

Mostly this was just kind of a shamble. It had potential, but was ruined by the annoying characters and the fact that you couldn't see anything during the action scenes. But I guess there is something to be said for the fact that the camerawork in this was better than in Silent House. And my biggest disappointment about THIS was that the El Gringo character was behind everything, as opposed to the evil chicken from before. Don't worry, my poultry overlord. I know you survived being eaten somehow. And your army awaits your magisterial return.

Only the lost hero Cigarette Butt can save us now!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

REVIEW: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

I really hate this movie. I hate it so much, you could fill a book with all the reasons why. If you had watched every single movie on the face of the Earth except for this movie, and watching this was the only way you could save your mother from a pack of rabid wolverines, I’d say you’d better start trying to find some other alternative! This is seriously like the Batman and Robin of Freddy Krueger movies, or rather of 80s slashers in general. You think the remake was bad? Try The Dream Child on for size!

Director: Stephen Hopkins
Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox

I mean I just don’t know what the hell they were thinking with this. I’m not saying the other Nightmare movies were great or anything, but they were at least inventive and had some good kills here and there. This is like the series was given an enema by a blind, psychotic homeless man and then left to die on a roadside somewhere, surviving only on terrible jokes and even worse ideas for ‘serious’ moments.

If you like being entertained or even retaining your brain cells, this isn’t the movie for you. But if you like having your senses and intelligence insulted every second of a movie, well, then you’re in for a treat, as this thing is the equivalent to being kicked in the ballsack by a steel-toed boot while a toddler screams in your ears at the top of his lungs!

The movie begins with Alice, one of the characters from the previous film, taking a shower, because that’s all blonde girls do in slasher movies, take showers. The water turns steaming hot and instead of just opening the door and getting out of the shower, she instead stays there for several minutes trying to turn the water off. Prime example of natural selection here, people! Unfortunately this dumbass bimbo is our main character for the rest of this cinematic nuclear bomb.

Our heroine's first idea to escape was NOT the doors but instead putting herself further into the boiling hot water...truly one of the brightest young heroines ever.

Then she runs out to find she’s in the old mental hospital where Freddy Krueger’s mother was raped by the inmates all those years ago. She wakes up to some guy we don’t know yet asking if she’s OK, who then turns into one of the inmates and starts strangling her. Dream within a dream! Great twist, guys! She wakes up for real and it’s time to graduate from high school, even though I’m pretty sure the writers of this movie, mentally at least, never graduated from pre-school.

Also, I love the implications of this movie’s main cast. Alice, the lead, was previously in the last film, where she was a member of a different group of friends, all of whom got killed off. How do you think the process went for her to make new friends to surround herself with? How many people do you think were like “hmm, the last group of people to hang out with this chick all randomly died within a few days of each other? Maybe I should reconsider”? Might’ve been in your best interest, body count. Might’ve been in your best interest…

Seriously, kid, do you look at yourself in the mirror before you leave the house in the morning, and if so, how do you NOT cringe with shame and dismay?

So Alice, while on her way to work, gets sucked into another dream, this time watching Freddy born as a little demented claymation baby, who goes into a church and finds his Freddy costume and then turns into the real thing! His first line is “It’s a boy”…I really think this is a movie that would highly benefit from having a silent killer, who doesn’t talk at all. It’d be better than any dialogue these writers came up with.

The fact that they got Robert Englund to say half his lines in this amazes me. I am thinking he was blackmailed, or maybe he just had outstanding debts. Poor guy.

And aside from that, what, are these people just narcoleptic or something? Falling asleep on your way to work? Get some sleep, you moron! It only gets worse, too; like the movie thinks high school graduates are senile old drunks who can’t stay awake for longer than a second. But I guess that is true for some of them…

Stupidly, she calls her boyfriend to come pick her up and when he leaves, he gets killed by the Fredster, in one of the strangest displays I’ve seen outside of Megadeth’s debut album cover:

Attack of the horrible claymation zombie robots!

It’s a poorly done scene that drags on too long and isn’t funny or scary. But if I singled out this scene alone for that flaw, I’d be a pretty big hypocrite. Then we see another friend get fed to death and turn into a Garbage Pail Kid on steroids; truly this film knows what Freddy fans want – CGI better fitting of a Rankin Bass Christmas special.

Who looked at this and thought it needed to be put on film for the world to see? I honestly wanna know. There is no conceivable way this was the work of a sound, rational, non-perverted mind. It had to be the brain-mash of some pedophile, or maybe a sick fetishist who the world would just be better off without.

After that, resident comic geek Mark gets sucked into Freddy’s nightmare world somehow, it’s not really explained or fitting with how the other movies worked, and Alice “draws” herself in after him…as a red stick figure like something a three year old would draw. That’s supposed to make her go inside the dream? Does she have special powers now like in Dream Warriors? Movie, if you can’t have a coherent plot, just…no, don’t exist at all in that case, actually.

Inside the house she finds a little kid who she figures out is her unborn son…somehow. The next day, after saving Mark the comic geek from imminent doom, she goes and figures out that Freddy is haunting everyone through her unborn child, an idea so stupid that I feel less intelligent even writing it down here. If he’s in the dream world…why hasn’t Freddy just killed him yet and gotten it over with? We’ve seen in the other movies that he thrives when people are afraid of him – and clearly, by this point, Alice is afraid of him, and the others are getting there too. So why does he still need the bullshit with the kid? It’s just needlessly confusing and doesn’t make any sense with the typical storyline.

Were they even trying? I think I already know the answer to that one.

Then we see another problem with this movie, the fact that Alice constantly freaks out and tells everyone around her that Freddy is out to get her, with no proof, so she just looks insane. But then later she puts on a completely normal front and tells her dead boyfriend’s parents that she’s capable of raising the baby herself, COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF WHY THEY’D THINK OTHERWISE. Gee, it’s not like you rave and rant like you belong in a padded cell and constantly burst into hysterics and over-dramatic whispering about Freddy all the time, is it? Oh, wait. You do do that! That’s like me being surprised I can’t get a date while constantly not shaving, not bathing and speaking only in sexist jokes. It’s stupid writing and even dumbass slasher movies should try harder than this.

And seriously, seriously, they expect us to be invested in this plot in the first place? Take a step back, guys. This is a movie that tries to have serious talks about a character’s pregnancy...


...in between scenes like this:

That is shit! I mean what am I supposed to take away from this? Freddy haunts an unborn child in the womb…IT DOESN’T EVEN SOUND LIKE A REAL MOVIE PLOT! It sounds like a shit-ass-awful Saturday Night Live spoof! Whoever came up with this might as well have just written ‘WE DON’T CARE’ on a big white sign and hung it up behind the actors instead of the set pieces. It’s all but written out in bold at this point. Hell, they're practically revelling in how bad they're sucking right now!

Ugh, so where were we? What, so that kid who can’t stop drawing comics gets sucked into a comic book for his death scene? Color me surprised! Are you going to tell us that fish live in the water next? He gets shredded to ribbons and while I’ll give the movie a little bit of props for a mildly creative scene, it’s nowhere near what the series could do at its peak, and mostly comes off as jokey and inefficient. And I thought it sucked!

Then we get the big final confrontation where Alice and her unborn son and Freddy square off. Freddy gets attacked somehow by the maniacs who raped his mother in Alice’s dream – don't read too much into it; the lack of sense being made will just render you a drooling invalid in the corner, blood shooting out your eyes – and then his arm falls off and turns into a bunch of spiders for no reason. And witness the astoundingly good character of Alice, who has faced horrible, literally nightmareish ordeals, yet is STILL afraid of spiders:

Add that to the great stupid horror faces file...and SERIOUSLY, tell me you don't smack your forehead so hard, that your hand goes through your head at that! "Oh, I'm Alice, I can fight Freddy the nightmare super-powered demon of the underworld no problem, but SPIDERS?!? They're just so icky!" GAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!

Freddy gets his arm back anyway and now it hangs off him like a broken action figure, and he runs like a cartoon character with athlete's foot. So then you get stupid scenes like this, which would be shockingly bad if they weren’t just meeting the low, low standards the film has already set…

And you also get scenes like this, which aren’t so much stupid as totally idiotic AND incomprehensible, and these ARE shockingly bad because you didn’t even think THIS MOVIE could get so horrendous:

What am I looking at? There’s some half-assed plot about how Freddy was “living inside” Alice, but that’s never given any time to be explained, nor does it make any kind of sense in the first place. How? Why? Would explaining just go against your philosophy of not having anything that retains the audience’s faith in the art of cinema? I don’t get it.

So apparently, and I’m not kidding here, all they needed to do was reverse both Freddy and Alice’s son to infant babies, and then have them absorbed into their mothers’ bodies as little glowing energy balls! Wasn’t that the first thing you thought of as a solution to this movie’s plot? I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched a film and thought “man, this could be fixed really easily if they just psychically turned one another into infants and then had their mothers absorb them into little energy balls in their wombs again”! It’s just a classical storytelling device.

Yet another of the great, classic images put forth by this film. I am just in utter awe...of how little dignity and scariness there is in this shit.

We then end on an image of our surviving cast sitting outside on a nice sunny day with Alice’s baby finally born, completely ignoring the deaths of all the poor saps whose only crime was to be friends with Alice. We also see the little Nightmare on Elm Street girls in the distance, watching and beginning their little song – what does it mean?! It means there is no God, because there are still more sequels after this one.

If cinema had an ass, this would be it. I can’t even tell you how awful this is, and how little sense it makes. It manages to take the simple formula for a Nightmare on Elm Street film and somehow make it absolutely unbearable. The bar is low and they still miss it; I really don't think this could get any more pathetic. There's no atmosphere to this, there are no scary scenes and the idea behind the premise is about as laughable as it gets. If you want to see the worst that this series can produce, go check it out, but if you want to keep your sanity and not spend the rest of the day wanting to punch a hole through something, stay FAAAAAAR away from The Dream Child!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies truly have taken the superhero movie genre and – maybe redefined isn’t the best word – more like “done something entirely new” with it. Nolan’s movies aren’t the be-all-end-all, and some people won’t gel with their often dark and intensely gritty tones, but he created this really engrossing world of Gotham City that I think is just fascinating, despite how many times things get blown up in these movies. Seriously, don’t the bad guys in these have any other plans than just blowing shit up? I guess not.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman
Website: www.thedarkknightrises.com

But the inimitable footprint of Nolan on the superhero movie-genre remains, as he took a silly concept formerly relegated to campy action movies and injected it with some very compelling and relevant themes as well as a killer sense of atmosphere and style that made them feel kind of like graphic novels come to life, they were so intricately woven and jam-packed with action and dialogue. Some people laud (or bash) these films for trying too hard to be realistic, and I say – what? These movies were realistic? With ancient cults of black-hooded martial artists and deranged clowns who, despite supposedly not planning anything, had leagues and leagues of henchmen planting bombs strategically throughout the city for days and days on end? Please. They were darker, sure; grittier, definitely, but realistic? These two movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, were cinematic forays into the modern graphic novel. They had multiple parts to them where issue breaks in normal comics would be, lots of characters with complex relationships and were very long and detailed – like graphic novels are!

And now we have The Dark Knight Rises, the much ballyhooed and long-awaited third sequel to this trilogy and the final end to it all from Nolan. It’s hard to really sum up how I feel about this in a succinct manner, so I’ll have to go into a lengthier detail about it. I liked parts of it, but there were also some notable downgrades in quality from the previous two films. There were moments where I was completely invested and then others where I was taken out of the movie by something silly and Hollywood-esque that just felt out of place. The scope was magnificent and the length was fully supported by the gala of material Nolan crammed in, but it felt a bit spread-thin and disjointed, without the cohesive and singular impact of The Dark Knight.

I guess one of the most notable departures in style this one has is that it’s more comic book-y than the other ones. The other films had very mature and well-reasoned dialogue about 98% of the time that really did well to establish character, along with the superlative acting and Nolan’s own creative vision. This one sacrifices a little of that depth in lieu of a much more streamlined cinematic style of dialogue more in common with The Avengers or maybe Iron Man, although the complexity of the story and the acting still manage to save the writing/dialogue from completely falling off the map. Instead of the cuttingly dramatic edge some of the dialogue in The Dark Knight had, here we get more calculated witticisms and consciously humorous lines made to elicit a giggle from the audience, as if to offer a break from the suffocating darkness of the main plot. It’s not all bad, but I miss the more well thought out writing from the other movies, and there are some parts of this, mostly near the end, where I actually cringed at how melodramatic and silly it got. Not many parts, but the few there were made a sour impression.

One more comic book-y thing about this movie is the change in story-type. Batman Begins’ plot was very much in the vein of a stylized Asian action flick for the first half and then switched to a more traditional superhero origin story, albeit done up with a more complex emotional tone for Bruce Wayne’s character as well as some nice, gritty shots of Gotham City that elevated it above the norm at the time. The Dark Knight took things to another level with its high-speed and high-tension crime movie plot, and the intricacy of that combined with the typical Batman brooding and the Joker’s philosophy and insanity made for a movie that was staggeringly complex and layered to the point of being exhausting to watch at times.

This one is longer, and one of the longest Hollywood flicks in any recent memory, but it’s also less complex in the way I wanted it to be, in the way of the intricacy of the plot. There is a lot crammed into this movie and perhaps I missed a few things, but my overall impression was that it was streamlined in the storytelling department too, or rather just a bit too sloppy to be called endearing. Where The Dark Knight was interwoven with tons of themes and sub-plots that all added up to the film’s rather crushing overall themes of chaos, order and loss, this one is a lot broader and stretched thin to the point where it’s more like a bunch of discordant parts running simultaneously against one another. Things are explained too fast and sometimes get lost in the huge running time. Maybe with further viewings this will seem less of a problem, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is a big step back from TDK’s masterful unity. While the scope is grandiose, the details in between are rushed and rather sloppily written in at times.

Another gripe I had was some of the new actors Nolan got on board. He’s had a great run of picking unlikely actors and making great performances out of them – see Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger. So when I heard he was casting Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, I was like “OK, I’m sure he’ll be able to get the very best out of this rather unfitting actress and make it totally believable, right?” Not right. I guess Hathaway isn’t too bad, and she mostly seems interested and energized, but she’s just so cleaned up and cutesy for a role like Catwoman. When you see her in Selena Kyle’s run-down urban apartment, all dirty and ghetto, you don’t really buy it. This is a girl more at home in a fancy penthouse suite, not in some low-rent flea-bitten hole in the wall. And I’m sorry to say this, as it seemed like she was really into it, but she just lacks the necessary grit and cunning to be Catwoman. She’s too nice and too sassy and just seems out of place. A shame – it could have been done so well.

The real disappointment for me was Joseph Gordon-Levitt as this new character Detective Blake, a young guy with a strange connection to the long-missing Batman. This character could have been kind of cool…when he first showed up I figured he’d be doing something Dexter-esque like trying to discover the mystery of Batman and his real identity, but the real payoff is pretty mediocre, and as a character he’s mostly just kind of annoying and douchey. The acting is typically decent, and Levitt never turns in an outright bad performance. The problem is the writing for his character, which is probably the worst this movie got overall. He is just way too preachy and the writing for him seems like something out of a 90s anti-bullying PSA. Like they tried for ‘Boy Scout’ and ended up with ‘Captain Planet reject.’ Very disappointing from the usually quite subtle and efficient Nolan.

The regular cast is all good, though. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne gets a lot more screentime here and he does really well, even though the absence of Heath Ledger’s Joker and the Rachel character makes this whole thing feel like a rock band without its famed lead singer, but hey, nothing we can do about that. Bale performs with the necessary dramatic flair and seriousness and hits all the right notes. His Batman is maybe my favorite one yet in these movies, as he seems older, more experienced and yet also more haunted, like the Batman that gained fame in the comics. That was one thing this movie did very, very well; it really gave you a Batman that was hardened and chiseled by his experiences and thus seems all the more conflicted as to why he’s even doing what he’s doing. And for a character who dresses up like a big bat, to make us contemplate his motives and psychology this much is a big accomplishment.

Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon isn’t as prominent as he was in the previous film, but he still does good, and the same goes for Morgan Freeman’s Lucious Fox. Michael Caine as Alfred is on-point as usual, despite a very poorly done scene at the end of the movie which I can’t spoil for you here, but I’ll excuse that because, hey, it’s Michael friggin’ Caine. You can’t argue with him even when he’s given poorly written lines to say in the context of incredibly rushed scenes. He’s just that good.

You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned Bane yet, and that is because he is probably the film’s biggest asset overall. Tom Hardy was an odd choice, but DAMN does he deliver in this role! Bane in the comics was a calculating, bloodthirsty genius, and he broke Batman in every sense of the word. That character is about as well represented here as I think we’re likely to get in any near future, and although I would have liked a tiny more of the conflict between them in the way that Batman and the Joker had in the last one, Hardy absolutely DOMINATES on screen every scene he is in.

He steals the show. He’s got this really odd warbly Irish-accented voice like some old circus ringleader with a curly mustache, and at first it sounds funny, but when you hear that voice thundering out of the darkness of a dank, poorly-lit sewer lair, or when he’s beating the living daylights out of you…you’ll come to find it unsettling pretty quick. He moves effortlessly like a man who thinks he deserves to have his own moons orbiting around him, and he has this eerie fanaticism and charisma about him that just makes it seem like he really, truly believes everything he’s saying, and would die for it, with it on his lips in his last breath. Everything about him is just incredibly imposing and intimidating. Some of the scenes, like his one-on-one fight with Batman, or one where he addresses a football stadium, are the best in the entire film. A magnificent performance.

The scope of this thing is incredibly massive and covers a lot of different elements of this huge story, and while I mentioned earlier that sometimes the writing was off, I was always entertained by how big and immediate everything felt. At near three hours we get a lot of material, and the film covers a lot of ground in many locations. I really felt the danger the people of Gotham were in, and when the climax rolled around I was totally invested even despite the lame lines and a few trite clichés that Nolan is obviously above in his other movies. It’s so massive that you can’t help but be invested. And Nolan’s penchant for great car-chase action scenes is in full force here – not to be missed.

The ending is nice enough, if a bit rushed – like Nolan was thinking he had to wrap up the film really fast because it was already too long. It’s a happy ending, and that’s refreshing after the brooding last two movies, but at the same time I wish it was fleshed out more and had more emotion to it than it did.

Really what this movie accomplished was that it pointed out what was so good about The Dark Knight. The faults of this movie really bring to light the fact that The Dark Knight was a one of a kind thing, a special film that doesn’t come around more than once. Nolan’s combination of hard-assed political crime thriller and darkly epic superhero myth was spiced with the right kind of writing and dynamic to make something singular and fresh, which sadly wasn’t replicated in its sequel. A few of the best moments of this borrow from The Dark Knight more than I like to really admit to.

So The Dark Knight Rises was a disappointment, if an incredibly ambitious and sometimes engrossing disappointment. There are some moments of this that are stunning and fully encompass the epic scope Nolan was going for, and others that are oddly weak or rushed. This was not a half-assed movie and a lot of effort was put into it, and for that it is worth a viewing no matter what your final opinion of it is. So in the end, it was a beautiful and intriguing disappointment and something worth watching and talking about despite its weaknesses, because it really did have some very good, meaningful scenes and themes of pain and fighting through the pain. It’s a movie about a city in the throes of rebellion and political uprisings and doing what’s right even though people may not appreciate it – typical superhero themes and carried with dignity here.

I wish this was a stronger film, but it’s an odd paradox in that it is a disappointment worth watching anyway, just because of the massive effort put into it, and because it follows such a great duo of films. The writing was lacking and the plot could have been tighter, and those things were its more concrete and basic flaws, but this was mostly a failure of over-ambitiousness - it didn't totally work because Nolan consciously over-extended his reach in trying to make something more epic than The Dark Knight. But that kind of failure makes it more interesting to watch (as opposed to a mere failure of mediocre writing and loose plots), for the creativity and zeal of its creators in putting it together. So this wasn’t the masterpiece I wanted. But I think it still merits a watch. Give it a try anyway.

Image copyright of its original owners, I do not own it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

REVIEW: Red Mist (2008)

Several years ago, I reviewed a movie called Shrooms. It was one of my first reviews and helped shape the way I do things on this blog now. But little did I know that the director of Shrooms came out with another movie just a year later, and it is called Red Mist! Who am I, after all, to deprive you of the works of a man who gave you a film with a talking cow in it? Let’s see what ole Paddy Breathnach has been up to since the last time we caught up with him...

Director: Paddy Breathnach
Starring: Arielle Kebbel, other people maybe

We start off with a bunch of medical students joking around and acting like jackasses, because hey, why bother having characters who are in any way likable or human at all? The lead girl is Arielle Kebbel, most famous for being in the holocaust of all things holy and good, The Uninvited – seriously, send this girl some flowers! She plays a girl named Cat. Her thing is that she’s independent and tough and doesn’t want a boyfriend, the last one being by far the most important aspect of her character, because 99% of women don’t have personalities outside of their boyfriends and relationships! So in this respect, Cat is a good character.


She and the rest of the jackasses go to some bar and exchange some dull dialogue trying to set her up with some guy, but she’s too tough to fall into a man’s arms right now, preferring instead to wait until the third act of the film to do that. This lasts until the crazy janitor guy, Kenneth, comes over and tells them that he knows they’re doing illegal drugs and threatens to go tell on them like a five year old, so they invite him back in and goad him into doing those drugs with them until he has a seizure from the blinking lights and goes into a coma!

Ah yes, don't YOU remember when YOU left comatose creepy janitors on the side of the road when you were in grad school? What, you don't? Oh...well I'll shut up then.

Then we get those tired scenes from every shitty-ass horror movie like this where the characters debate whether or not to tell the authorities – are we supposed to be invested or something? “Oh, I might actually have to face consequences for the stupid things I did? The horror!” Shut up Red Mist, you’re neither compelling nor relatable here. Oh, I forgot, and for some reason they all call him “Freakdog,” because that’s a sensible insult, right? You might as well have just called him “poopy pants,” like a proper two year old. But I guess this does serve as a poorly done way to shoehorn in a serial killer catchphrase, and it is better than anything My Soul to Take could come up with, so there is that.

Cat thinks about telling the authorities but eventually decides she doesn’t want to risk losing her scholarship either, and so she does the sensible thing and just starts pumping him full of illegal experimental drugs! Wait, what?

Yes, apparently that’s the conclusion this girl draws when she feels bad about something – just play God and use the person you feel bad for as a guinea pig. Truly a wonderful example of human decency this girl is! How do you even come to the conclusion to do this anyway?

Oh, and there’s also this guy:

He’s some kind of older doctor who works in the hospital and constantly acts like he’s a villain in a spy movie, constantly too serious and too over dramatic for this kind of performance. He’s supposed to be a doctor? Seems more like a disgruntled corporate lawyer than anything…

So yeah, if you can’t tell by the fact that I’m just rambling on now, the movie doesn’t have much substance. There are a lot of scenes of the characters talking about the same things over and over again. “Oh, we should tell the authorities, this is serious!” “No, we could lose our scholarships and reputations!” “Okay, but first let’s have this same conversation five more times!” AHHHHHHHHH!

What’s that? We’re in a horror movie, we’re forty minutes in and there aren’t any horror elements yet? That is completely asinine. Let’s fix that right away! So I guess the ghost of Kenneth the comatose tattletale janitor can possess peoples’ bodies for a few minutes now and make them kill other people, all because of Cat’s experimental drugs. He does this to the night security guard aaaaand one of the girls gets the axe:

Back up a minute though – he can jump into peoples’ bodies because Cat gave him a weird combination of drugs? What the hell? It’s very, very stupid and even worse because it’s so damn poorly explained! Is he some kind of supernatural voodoo person already? Or are the drugs supernatural? MAKE MORE SENSE YA DAMN MOVIE. Gosh. My whole week is just ruined because this movie doesn’t have a logical sequence of events!

So the one guy who has been a total jackass and the ringleader of the “protect our reputations by covering up the dead guy” club the whole movie…continues to be a total jackass! Surprised?! This whole character, and every other character like this in every other movie like this, is a plot-hole. I’m really supposed to believe that this guy, this heartless, petty whiner, is going to be a doctor someday? A doctor? Whose main priority is caring for patients and saving lives? I’ve met rocks with more affection for the human race!

Luckily for him, he gets killed off during a kinky sex scene in the janitor’s closet! Well, to be fair, that's how I'd want to go.

He thought he was just getting kinky bondage sex, but he got kinky bondage having-whisky-poured-down-his-throat...you gotta take what you can get, I guess.

What’s next, another scene of them standing around talking about how they have to keep the secret and blah blah blabbity blah? SKIP IT! We then get a Paddy Breathnach trademark from Shrooms in a death scene shown off screen, something not done as much here as in Shrooms, but annoying all the same, because it looks pretty damn gruesome and intriguing:

Uh, yeah, sorry to interrupt your candlelit slit wrists seance, but...you're kinda dead.

It’s the Paddy Breathnach way; just skip over anything that may have been interesting to watch and use the ‘what you don’t see is scarier!’ excuse. Because that’s good filmmaking, right?! Why are you running the other direction?!?

OK, so then we get some black-out where Cat wakes up in her underwear in a sleeping bag in the woods…? What…why…oh, screw it; if you expected this thing to start making sense now, you’re probably of the same descent as the director. We never get a real explanation for this scene, and even when she finds her clothes strewn around in the trees and her phone, with a convenient video on it to show her what happened…well, vaguely anyway. We don’t get to see much of it except that, apparently, SHE was possessed by Kenneth the tattletale janitor ghost guy! Which…mostly means nothing.

"I didn't get enough Likes on Facebook! Sob!"

We then see that Kenneth the tattletale janitor ghost is a pervert as he makes this other girl strip down to her underwear and cut herself with broken mirror shards! I wonder what Keifer Sutherland has to say about that!

She tried so hard but they just wouldn't pick her to be the extra in Marilyn Manson's new video...

Then Cat gets arrested for the murder of her kinda-sorta-boyfriend whatever guy, and the cop doesn’t seem to see anything weird about the fact that this girl and everyone she knows have been killing each other off lately…I guess he graduated from the Barney Fife school of police work. She splashes hot coffee on him and then runs away.

She ends up going to the hospital to kill Kenneth by turning on strobe lights to activate his epilepsy – which somehow still works even though he’s comatose… - and also strangling him and unhooking him from his life support. Uh, bit of an overkill there, girl – you coulda just unhooked him from the life support you know! Would have been easier and you wouldn’t have wasted so much energy. I mean sheesh. From the way this chick is going on, you’d think she was actually just a figment of Emily Browning’s imagination the whole time.

And ironically enough, this movie ends with Arielle Kebbel back where she belongs in a mental hospital, just like in The Uninvited! And because she was in that movie that I hated so damn much, I HATE THIS ONE TOO! Grrrrrr, hatred! There were maybe one or two scenes that worked in this thing, but most of it was just boring, and seriously confusing as to what the hell its premise was supposed to be about. None of the characters are likable and at no point do you really feel much empathy for them, so it just falls flat. All in all, would have been better with a talking cow in it; that’s my final verdict.

All images are copyright of their original owners and I do not own any of them. Also, all talking cows are copyright of their original owners, especially ones that are hallucinations brought on from bad 'shroom trips.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

REVIEW: Lake Placid 3 (2010)

It’s summertime again and the sun is out and the water is cool. Now everyone can relax and go outside and---wait, what do you mean there’s a debilitating heat wave afflicting the whole country? Well, shit. I guess I’ll just have to sit at home and review another stupid movie about a crocodile, because that’s all I got in the summertime. This is Lake Placid 3, a movie about a lakeside Northeastern town afflicted by a terrible wave of CGI alien crocodile attacks that will rock the town to its very core…actually, nah, it’s just kinda silly.

Director: Griff Furst
Starring: Colin Ferguson, Yancy Butler

Yes, Lake Placid, that immortal and long-standing epic series about killer crocs and…well, not much else except idiots who go out onto the lake and get munched on. It’s a perfect series for a summertime drinking session with your friends, although unfortunately I will be completely sober in reviewing this turkey…but I will be done with this series forever, for real, after this, so there is that to look forward to!

This movie starts out with something completely original by having two kids hitching a ride with some guy in the back of his truck. They get out and the guy says it’s a bad idea because they might get lost and horribly killed…because he read the script, I guess. Then we see where all the money for this movie that was supposed to be used on the CGI went – getting this chick to strip for the camera:

Doesn't she have nice hair? I think so.

They have sex in the mud and he starts to get bitten by the crocs under the water, a fact which this clear genius of a girl does not notice at all, because your boyfriend's "OH MY GOD I'M BEING EATEN" face is exactly the same as his "orgasm" face...good to know! They both get killed off because I guess the director's "pay them to have sex" fund ran out too early. Yay for opening kill morons!

After that we see some family looking at the lake house where Betty White lived in the first movie – WHAT, CONTINUITY? Oh, it doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the movie at all? Phew. Saved again by bad sequel clichés. We almost had a real story there! They talk about selling it, but decide to wait until the housing market gets better – HA HA HA! So hilarious!

But I digress. We then fast forward two years for absolutely no reason. I mean seriously, what purpose does this serve? I mean other than to fit in with the timeline of the other movies, being that it wouldn’t make sense for this to happen right after the first movie when the second one is in between the two. Wait, what is this? Why am I trying to rationalize things in this movie?!

The family from before is exactly the same except now the kid has longer hair and looks like the illegitimate child of Carrot Top. The dad is a forest ranger who wants to stop people from hunting elk and the mom is a real estate agent, and they both leave their son with this chick who I swear just walked off the set of a bad satire-comedy like White Chicks or something, and she even has a stupid little Chihuahua dog she carries around with her while she smokes cigarettes inside and screams at Spanish soap operas. So it’s really no surprise that the kid likes to run off and go feed crocodiles:

Just like his great-aunt Betty White, it runs in the family.

He runs out of meat and gets caught shoplifting from the supermarket because he was trying to steal more to feed to them. I mean seriously, I know he’s just a bored little kid but come on, you’re telling me he has NOTHING BETTER TO DO than feed crocodiles? Maybe he should try buying ghosts on the internet. That’s a real kids’ hobby that’s all the rage these days!

Eugh...even seeing this again makes me feel unclean...remind me never to reference this movie again in any review ever again.

Anyway, we get some story about how these dumb college kids are wandering around in the woods trying to go camping. They pretty much have no personalities except for the fat perverted kid who does nothing but hit on the blonde girl even though she shows absolutely no interest in him…lovely to have such realistic characters. They all meet up with the dad and the sheriff, who is played by Michael Ironside, and actually seems more awake in this than he did in Highlander 2…that’s pretty hilarious.

"Hey, I'm a real actor. Don't you patronize."

The kids all go and jump in the water with bikinis on and we see more of the director’s personal funds in action:

Bikini Girls on Ice had more dignity.

And let’s take a look at some of that great character buildin’ dialogue:

TARA: I don’t think he’s I’d have sex with him funny, just I’d set him up with one of my fat friends funny.

Right, I think that’s enough – because people who are fat automatically have lower standards and deserve people worse than everyone else! Lake Placid 3 is just so smarty-smart-smart.

After that the fat asshole who was taking pics of them while they were changing gets eaten by a crocodile as punishment; oh yeah. Ellie walks around with this other dude Aaron and they mostly exchange putrid dialogue that amounts to this:

AARON: Have sex with me!
ELLIE: No, I want to find my friends who are missing!
AARON: …Have sex with me!

Blegh. Anyway, did I not mention the THIRD story going on here? Because you can never have too many plots in a Lake Placid movie. This one involves Yancy Butler playing a woman named Reba, who takes people on hunting trips for money. She’s teaming up with a bunch of rednecks and a college kid named Brett, who wants to find his girlfriend who’s apparently out in the woods somewhere. It turns out the girlfriend is Ellie from before, who apparently thought he was cheating on her and so just went off with some other guy without even talking to him. Real catch, she is.

Ugh, this is boring - let's see some good ol' croc head-eatin' action the way only Lake Placid can do it:

There's no way it would be that clean of a bite in real life and it looks really cheap - yup, this sure is a Lake Placid kill!

Brett starts to shout Ellie’s name at the top of his lungs, not realizing that it could probably attract crocs, which it does! One of them gets Butler herself and begins to drag her away, so he shoots at it and somehow only hits her, because a huge crocodile is really difficult to aim at I guess…and afterwards, despite being shot and bitten by a croc, Butler is able to walk around perfectly fine! Oh. Well she does limp a little and has her teeth constantly gritted. So I guess it’s realistic…

Yancy Butler: she can take a lot of shit.

At the house, same thing again as the dad and Michael Ironside the sheriff get caught in their car while trying to escape, as a croc relentlessly attacks them! The mom for some reason can't hit the thing even though she's like six feet away and it's the size of a small car...

...so she does the sensible thing and whips out a friggin' chainsaw!

That's awesome, you gotta admit. Even if she does screw up and end up dropping it...shut up, let me enjoy this!

So somehow Yancy Butler and Brett get into a discussion about their love lives when he accuses her of not knowing about a normal love life because she doesn’t want to go off all gonzo-style into the woods at night with killer crocs running around JUST to save his girlfriend when they don’t really know where she is! Butler promptly replies by shouting at him and putting him in his rightful place – okay, this chick is seriously the best thing in any Lake Placid movie. She’s totally a badass!

They all end up in the Betty White cabin and Brett pulls a gun on them to go out and find Ellie, which he does:

This was the film's true point, a love story between estranged boyfriend and girlfriend...how romantic.

Unfortunately for Romeo and Juliet here, death is right around the corner as a croc unceremoniously finishes Brett off. And I don’t think anyone cares, sooooo…moving on. The surviving cast drives into town to escape the crocs and for some reason decide to hide in the grocery store, where the crocs find them just a few seconds later of course. Why not just leave town? However it does result in a grocery store themed horror scene, featuring crocodiles running through the store aisles and knocking shit over, that's still better than The Mist.

The finale is honestly the best part of the film, featuring the dad actually INSERTING HIS CREDIT CARD into a gas pump to buy gas, then spraying the croc with it while his son pulls out a lighter so they can light the damn thing on fire! That. Is. AWESOME.

Credit card ACTION! Go!
I love that it shows the gas price and gallons going up like it would with a car, while it's in the croc's mouth. This has got to be the BEST way to kill off a killer croc I've ever seen.

What would they do if the kid didn’t have that lighter, which he got from the babysitter at the beginning? I don’t know. BUT WHO CARES? This was a great finale to a silly, silly movie. Sure, most of it kind of dragged, but it was so stupid it was endearing, despite a few really shitty characters here and there. And man, am I ever glad I am done with these Lake Placid movies! I just don’t know how much more I could take! But I’m glad to finally say that I’m done wi----


No images, videos or crocodiles in this post belong to me. They are all copyright of their original owners.