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Friday, September 28, 2012

The Machine Girl Review


Check out my updated review here! http://thevagrantrises.blogspot.com/2016/06/updated-review-13-machine-girl.html

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A young woman seeks revenge on the son of a Yakuza leader, and anyone else that gets in her way, for the death of her brother.

Review: Let me begin by saying this film is definitely not for everyone as it's an over the top splatterfest that often revels in its cheap effects. The plot is simplistic but as equally over the top as the violence. The opening scene takes place after the events of the film as we get a cool intro to our beloved "machine girl," Ami, who is played by the yummy and super sexy Minase Yashiro! Half the reason to watch this film is to see Ms. Yashiro running around in the classic Japanese schoolgirl outfit for 90 minutes. I would say within the first three to five minutes as Ami rips some bullies to shreds with her machine gun arm, you should have a sense of whether this kind of cheesy violence is going to do it for you. From here we are told the events that led up to Ami's transformation as we learn she was taking care of her brother, Yu, after the suicide of their parents. Yu and his friend are being bullied by some douchebag, named Sho, who just happens to be the only son of a ninja-Yakuza clan leader. One day, Yu tries to defend himself from Sho and his cronies, and Sho decides to kill Yu and his friend. As Ami attempts to get justice, she is faced with overwhelming odds as she runs into the crazy family of one of the cronies and the Yakuza gang. It's at this point that Ami goes a little nuts and starts to kill whoever gets in her way until she is cornered by the Yakuza. To punish Ami, Sho's father, Ryuji, starts to torture her by cutting off her fingers; Sho's mom, Violet, annoyed by the "mercy" of Ryuji cuts off Ami's entire arm. Somehow Ami is able to escape and coincidentally is rescued by the parents of Yu's friend who was also killed by Sho. After Ami convinces the parents, Suguru and Miki, that their son was killed by Sho, they nurse Ami back to health, teach her to fight, and construct her precious machine gun arm. Eventually the Yakuza catch up to them and send a horde of ninjas which Ami and Miki dispatch of in many ridiculous ways, but Suguru is killed in the fight. With nothing left to live for but revenge, Ami and Miki decide to attack the Yakuza's headquarters. The Yakuza have assembled more cronies in the form of Sho's friend's parents (that's a mouthful). While fighting these "Mad Max" rejects, Miki is killed by Ryuji, Ami loses her machine gun arm and replaces it with a chainsaw arm, and Ami kills Ryuji. Finally, Ami is able to take on Sho who is cowering behind a bunch of bullied kids and guarded by Violet and her (now legendary) drill bra! Yes, a drill bra! Ami is luckily able to get Violet electrocuted on the bullied kids' piss, and then (finally!) kills that bitch Sho. The movie does kind of end abruptly as Ami plans to kill herself, but then hears a noise and poises to fight; obviously the opening scene implies Ami lived on as a makeshift superhero. Overall, it is a fun ride that never takes itself that seriously, and that makes it all the more enjoyable for me. The action is good and the pacing is smooth. The girls are all hot with obvious special attention to Ms. Yashiro. I really thought it was going to be dumb considering many of the kinds of films in this comedic splatterfest sub-genre, but this one was different and significantly better. I have a dubbed version, but I've seen a subtitled version as well, so it should be easy to track down. If any of this sounded entertaining, you need to check this bad boy out!

Notable Moment: Of course when Ami is fighting Violet and Violet reveals her secret weapon: the drill bra!

Final Rating: 7.5/10

So hard to find a photo of Ms. Yashiro fully clothed...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Seven Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Two detectives investigate a series or murders in which the killer is trying to make a statement using the seven deadly sins.

Review: This could quite possibly be the greatest crime thriller there is, and it is one of my personal favorites. There is a lot going on here far beyond the typical cat and mouse games that serial killers play in these kinds of movies. On the surface, the story is just about two detectives trying to catch a crazed killer using the seven deadly sins to represent each of his victims. In the subtext, we have a great social analysis of the way society has become and how people are in modern times. Through John Doe (perhaps Kevin Spacey's most haunting role), the killer, we experience much of the social commentary as he feels he can no longer interact normally with humanity anymore. Although he is obviously insane, some of the things he says and believes definitely make sense and make the audience question their own sense of morality. For example: all of John's victims were the living embodiment of the sin he used to kill them which leads to the point that you wonder whether maybe some of these people deserved to die (or maybe it's just me!). Also through John's diaries we learn some of his inner thoughts about how people are mostly bad or corrupted inside and it the illusion of society that keeps people at bay. Through his killings, and the course of the movie, you could argue his beliefs were vindicated. The film takes an interesting and unique approach to John Doe as we eventually learn next to nothing about why he's killing and who he really is. This sense of intrigue enhances the overall feel and tone of the movie making it that much more memorable. As for the other main cast members, Brad Pitt is really good as Mills, but I could easily imagine other actors playing the role. Morgan Freeman is perfect as Somerset with his usual "wise old man" routine, but there is more depth to it as he doubts himself and comes to questions his own beliefs in wake of the killings. I felt the dynamics of the two detectives playing off each other's personality is another reason why things seemed to work so well and the story had a realistic flow. Rounding out the cast is Gwyneth Paltrow as Mills' wife which she also does a good job, but, like Pitt, is nothing stand out. I did feel bad for her by the end though (of course). The other thing that makes this film so powerful is the incredibly dark and worn-looking scenery. You feel this sense of dread when seeing the grimy and gritty visuals accompanied by the disturbing and grotesque murder sites. Plus, it would seem as if the city is receiving perpetual rain or something! I do feel some of the murders could have pushed the limit a little more, but I suppose it was movies like "Seven" that set the groundwork for films like the "Saw" franchise. The ongoing mystery itself is highly engaging and you are on the edge of your seat as the detectives attempt to track down the killer. The action is great and the climax is fantastic leading up to a legendary ending that I often quote. I definitely recommend everyone seeing this film especially if you are a fan of any of the main actors as this is some of, if not, their best work. The mood, mystery, and intrigue are so great and this is one of those movies you don't just watch and forget; you remember this one forever!

Notable Moment: When Mills, Somerset, and John Doe are in the desert and a mysterious package arrives. "What's in the box?!"

Final Rating: 9.5/10

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yoga Class Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A woman, feeling her life is going in the wrong direction, decides to go to a mysterious yoga institute to rejuvenate herself.

Review: My lord this is an incoherent mess from start to finish! I still have no idea what I just wasted my time watching. The film is supposed to be scary (I think) and yet there was not a single scare to be seen; I would have even taken a few jump scares over what this film offered. The plot is that some bitchy chick is getting mad because her looks are fading, and she is being replaced on her "home shopping" show (if there's really a lingerie-selling show with models in Korea, sign me up!). She then runs into an old friend who looks really good and has become successful. The main girl wants to know the secret which is apparently going to some reclusive and mysterious yoga institute that belongs to a "legendary actress." Dropping everything in her life, the main girl finds the institute where she is told she will compete with five other bitches for the "prize" which will be unlocking their inner beauty (the only "prize" I know of is in Highlander!). The bitchy women are all told they must follow certain rules like not eating at night, no showering until an hour after yoga, no mirrors, etc. (are they mogwai?!). Of course the women break the rules and, I guess, suffer the consequences which are just hallucinations and large cuts; these hallucinations are supposed to be the source of scares, but they just come off as bizarre and nonsensical. I think one of the main reasons why I was getting so annoyed with this film is because all the girls are so bitchy, superficial, and shallow. You really want them to die and this film doesn't even satisfy that urge. The only likeable character is the main girl's boyfriend, who is conveniently doing a documentary on this legendary actress, and even he is just sort of written out of the movie at some point. At the end of the movie it is implied that this so-called legendary actress is just draining the energy of the women in order to sustain herself or something along those lines. Then we see a shot of the main girl escaping followed by some final scene of her at a subway where she sees each of the bitches looking better and then the film just ends! I guess we are to assume the actress controls their soulless bodies? That's the best I could make of the ending because it makes absolutely no sense! Like many shitty movies, this film is loaded with deadend plotlines that I believe were used for padding or the makers thought would be pathetic attempts at exposition. Why is this actress doing this shit? How does she know how to do this shit? How does doing yoga let you steal someone's energy, body, soul, or whatever the hell? What was the significance of the last movie she worked on, and why do we keep getting flashbacks to it? Why is the yoga instructor seemingly immortal too? Why is this actress still trying to get revenge over 30 years later? Wouldn't you do that like day one? Why are stupid moments supposed to be scary? How are jerky fast motion shots scary? Why did I read someone claiming this was one of the scariest movies they ever saw? Do they just have a deep fear of downward dog? Why did I waste my time?! Ahh!! Too many unanswered questions and too many stupid, senseless moments! Oh yeah, the lighting is so bad in this film I hardly could see what was going on half the time so that only exasperated how confusing and stupid everything felt! The only good things I can even say about this film are the acting was tolerable, the yoga institute did look creepy even if completely wasted, and some of the bitches are good looking. Do not waste your time with this one!

Notable Moment: Uh, maybe the beginning when we see the girls in the lingerie? There's seriously no scene that stands out.

Final Rating: 2.5/10

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Avatar Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: On an alien world, humans transfer their minds into "avatars" to interact with the indigenous people in order to gain access to a rare and valuable element.

Review: James Cameron has done it again! Okay, forget the hype and forget the backlack for a second and watch this film objectively like it's the first time you've ever heard of it. This is a great movie that takes so much slack for no reason other than, what it seems is, because it was popular and successful; I do see the flaws, but they are nowhere near as egregious as others would make it seem. Let's start with the most impressive aspect of this film: the visuals. I don't think I have ever watched a more beautiful movie; the world of Pandora is brought to life down to the smallest detail. If you didn't get the chance to see Avatar at the cinema, I feel sorry for you because you truly missed out! I typically don't like the gimmicky 3-D, but this film nailed it and revolutionized my expectations for what a real 3-D movie must bring to the table from here on out. You see branches rustling, bugs flying, dust floating, etc.; you are on Pandora! But any film can be nice to look at so let's look at the story: it is simplistic, and I do see the inspiration from other films. However, there is enough depth, character development, unique plot points, and action to round out any claims of being a ripoff. A greedy company destroying the indigenous people (the blue, catlike Na'vi) is nothing new to film (or real history for that matter), but I don't see it as a fault. I do wish we had more information about this company and what "unobtanium" is supposed to do rather than using it as a MacGuffin. But the thing I feel a lot of people don't understand is that stories like this are meant to focus on what the writer felt was most important; in this case, it's the characters. We see the film's perspective mostly through the eyes of our hero, Jake Sully. I know critics have knocked Sam Worthington's acting, but I think he successfully pulls off a washed up soldier who realizes there's more to life than what he believed. His relationship with Neytiri (played by the gorgeous Zoe Saldana) feels natural as we see months of their feelings develop and a certain degree of innocence to their love; I liked that we actually had a sense of development combined with a natural attraction rather than merely being told they love each other like a movie such as "Thor." The sense of betrayal Neytiri feels when she discovers Jake's original goal was to infiltrate the Na'vi, and the attempts for Jake to redeem himself feels so satisfying. All the other background characters are strong as well and enhance the overall enjoyment of the film; I loved Grace, Trudy, and Norm and was sad when some of them died. On the other hand, Quaritch, as the company's main lacky, makes an interesting adversary to our heroes. The fight between the human soldiers against the Na'vi is so awesome especially when the other animals that inhabit Pandora help the Na'vi in their struggle (since the Na'vi don't use technology). The final battle between Quaritch and Jake is especially intense. And who doesn't love to root for the underdog? Finally, the music, pacing, and direction all felt right; you never feel bored and you lose yourself within this 3+ hours film! Overall, this is a fantastic movie with so much imagination and creativity; it's a shame that some people feel resistant to like this due to various reasons or those who hate it just because they've heard others' criticism. For me, trust the majority on this one; there's definitely a reason this became the highest grossing film in history and why there was so much repeat business. Avatar gets so many things right and tells a universal story all audiences can lose themselves in. If by chance you've been skipping this one, finally break down and watch it! If you are hating this film, give it one more chance and be objective. This is one of those movies that sticks with you over the years, and I can't wait for the sequel!

Notable Moment: When Jake gathers the clans of Na'vi and reunites with Neytiri; it is a powerful moment and touching.

Final Rating: 9.5/10

Monday, September 24, 2012

Coming Soon Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After attempting to pirate a new, soon to be released, movie, a man finds himself being haunted by the film's antagonist.

Review: This is the rare case where the scares are absolutely solid while the story is lacking heavily in depth. The plot is actually pretty good and tries to work within familiar territory without treading old material, but it doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from the pack; there are some awesome concepts here though as I always love the movie within a movie plot element. In a nutshell, if you watch the haunted film "Evil Spirit," Shomba (the ghost in the film) will come and kill you; sounds a lot like Sadako/Samara from "The Ring," right? I do feel the writers worked around this plotline differently enough to not appear as a ripoff, and there are definitely some unique scares and awesome setpieces that are just as good or better. For example: you know Shomba will come out of the movie screen at some point, but, instead of just crawling out, they pull off an impressive effect whereby we see Shomba hanging from rope in the movie and then the film suddenly cuts out while we see the silhouette of Shomba still hanging on the blank screen. As for Shomba herself: she is frightening even though she sometimes has different makeup that creates an odd inconsistency. The movie begins with some people at an early screening of "Evil Spirit" biting the big one who turn out to be the production crew on said film (this will turn out to be important later). The main guy, Chen, and his co-worker, Peoll, try to pirate the movie with disasterous results for Peoll. Eventually, Chen watches the film too and is haunted but seeks aid from his (rightfully) angry ex-fiancee, Som. At first the storyline addresses the "based on a true story" aspect to the film, "Evil Spirit," as Chen and Som investigate who Shomba was and how much of the horror movie is real. This leads to an unexpected twist that the real life Shomba never died and is just at some hospital. In reality, the person that is haunting the film is the actress who played Shomba who actually died on set while filming the hanging scene; the makers of "Evil Spirit" decided to edit together their various takes with the actress dying and add it to the final cut (big mistake!). Unfortunately, the movie just kind of ends after this as Chen gets sucked into "Evil Spirit" and dies. We then see a closing scene of "Evil Spirit" getting a general release, a shot of Som dead, and the implication that Shomba will kill everyone. I do feel they ended strong with the closing, but there was not much of a climax to give us that deeper impact. We don't get a good enough feeling for these characters even though we get some weak, deadend plot points that I think were meant to be character development; for example: Chen and his drug abuse, Som and Chen's relationship breakup needed expansion, and no backstory of the actress playing Shomba (oh come on, give us a name even!). Considering how short this movie was, I wish they had not held so much back or took more time to give us backstory. Even though the scares are so great, the concepts and ideas show so much potential and originality, and the overall plotline is entertaining, it's such a shame there wasn't a better follow through or another dimension added to the characters or backstory; maybe they were anticipating a sequel or something? As it stands, this is a film that effectively creeps you out but leaves a shallow feelings; it just needed that extra bit of oomph to make it as memorable as "The Ring" or "Shutter." If you can find this one, it is definitely worth a view though for the scares alone.

Notable Moment: When Som sees the hanging Shomba at the end of the hallway and then the lights begin to go out one at a time as Shomba grows closer...

Final Rating: 7/10

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Lost Boys Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A recently single mother and her two sons move to the "murder capital of the world" and must contend with a gang of vampires.

Review: What do you get when you combine vampires, the two Coreys, and the 80s? Give up? You get cinema gold! Let me first address the things that don't work first, because this is one of those movies that sort of defined a generation and I love it. There are some questionable moments that can be forgiven understanding the era, but by today's standards are a joke (I'm looking at you pink pants/shirtless saxophone guy!). This movie is loaded with cheesy moments, but what 80s movie isn't? That's half the fun the majority of the time. And finally, I know some people are bugged by the ambiguity of the genre as it some times is too comedic to be scary and too scary to be a comedy or family horror; you do have to consider the two Coreys' fanbase at the time, but it all works for me. As for what this film has going for it: virtually everything else including that 80s magic I am always going on about! Unlike your stupid little "Twilight" shit, we have classic vampires with the many infamous weaknesses like garlic, holy water, wooden stake, etc. The entire approach to the vampires in this film are just the way I prefer them: evil, monstrous-looking, blood-sucking creatures of the night. The film does take the more modern-ish concept about drinking the blood of a vampire to turn you into one rather than the mere bite. This is an important plot point as the older brother, Michael, unknowingly drinks vampire blood. Michael, his wannbe girlfriend, and her brother (who looks like a girl) are all at this point where they have some vampiric abilities but won't completely turn until they drink someone's blood. This creates some interesting tension along with the introduction and aid of the Frog brothers who are self-proclaimed vampire killers. The Frog brothers are my favorite, and I especially love the classic montage scene of them and the little brother, Sam, gearing up to take on the vampires. Actually, any scene with the two Coreys talking to each other is great; that's Corey Haim and Corey Feldman in case you are still in the dark as to who I've been talking about all this time! All the actors do a fine job in this film as well with a special nod to Keifer Sutherland as the leader of the vampire gang. There are a lot of little nuances that truly enhance the tone of the film and most you won't even pick up on until a second (or more) viewing; for example, the awkwardness of the grandpa you brush off as him being weird, but you eventually realize he always knew about the vampires. The special effects are all pretty good, and there are some nice setpieces like the vampire's hideout. The pacing, action, and overall fun are as good as you could hope for. The ending even has a nice twist and the final shot ends on a comedic tone leaving you wishing for more. Unfortunately, we never did get a sequel until those laughable pieces of shit came out a couple years ago. In the end, this is a great movie only held back by some moments feeling dated and the genre confusion. If you're a fan of the Coreys, 80s movies, comedic horror, or just awesome movies, check this one out or rewatch it!

Notable Moment: When we think all the vampires are dead only to discover that Max was the head vampire all along.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Event Horizon Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: In 2047, a rescue team attempts to recover an experimental spaceship that went missing seven years prior and must contend with what the ship has brought back with it.

Review: Here we have another mixed bag of good ideas not executed to their best ability. Any fans of the video game "Dead Space" should be quite familiar with this film as I know it must have been a huge influence. The plot is pretty straightforward but tries to keep things interesting: some spaceship called the Event Horizon, using an experimental "gravity drive," bent space and time as a means of travel but disappeared for seven years. Now a rescue team is trying to recover it while simultaneously uncover the mystery of what killed the crew and why it came back now. The best thing this film did right was create a solid atmosphere keeping the audience on their toes. There are even some set pieces that you think will be used in a certain way only to never see fruition; I think it is a nice touch when the audience's expectations are toyed with. The basic concept is that the EH traveled into a different dimension (possibly hell) and brought back the evil in the ship much in the way you would imagine a haunted house. So the film focuses on this evil presence screwing with the minds of the rescue crew but any kind of primary goal makes no sense. This is where the film falls apart for me. If the ship is possessed by some evil force and wants more people, why did it take so long to come back? And no, it did not take seven years to finish up the first crew as we see from the ship's video logs; they seemed to die almost immediately (lightweights!). And why does it want more people...to torture them or something? If that's the case, why is it killing them all off before taking them back to this dimension?! Stupid evil being. Plus, like many of these "your worst nightmare" type scenarios, why are their fears always something so convenient for putting to film? This seriously bugs me; don't even tell me I'm the only one afraid of being eaten by a shark or something along those lines? It's always the same bull shit about losing a loved one or something lame like that! The other thing this film has going for it is a strong cast of actors. Even though we get some bare basics of a cliched spaceship crew, they make the most of what they have to work with; Sam Neill, Jason Isaacs, Laurence Fishburne, etc. all did a commendable job and brought some life to their characters. The pacing is okay and the gore and action were decent enough. I've read there was a much longer version, but it was significantly cut down after the first test audience. What do those idiots ever know? As it stands, this is good sci-fi horror despite a lot of wasted potential. The scares are okay, but it's the atmosphere and general curiousity of the direction that keeps you entertained. The ending is lame as well, but I suppose they wanted to either give the audience that final zinger or set up some kind of sequel. Regardless, this film is worth a view, but don't expect anything exceptionally scary.

Notable Moment: When the main crew uncovers the video of the Event Horizon's crew killing each other and mutilating themselves.

Final Rating: 6/10

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ghastly Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A young boy is taken in by his relatives after the apparent murder/suicide of his family while cliched antics ensue.

Review: This film really baffled me for a number of reasons: it made no sense, was too short, and loaded with cliches. There were two good things and one of them only lasted until the end of the film unfortunately. First, the atmosphere at the beginning is nice. It's not incredible, but what with the duel plot points of the police investigating the mystery and the main relatives trying to get used to the boy, Bin, it kept you wondering what was going on. Sadly, there was a certain point, I guess when they find some missing grandma/mom/aunt (I seriously could not understand her actual relationship to the main cast!) this coincides with Bin transforming into a wannabe Chucky or some other "little" killer-type. The other good thing about this film is the sexy sister, Yoo-rin, who is played by a K-pop singer, stage named Hyomin; if you recall back to my review of "White: The Melody of the Curse" I mention another super hot girl, Eun-Jeong Ham, from this same group called T-ara. To my great dismay we only have one real scene where they play up her "sexyness" and they idiotically kill her off screen in one of the weirdest and unexplained death scenes I've ever watched. The majority of the film she is acting like a brat and constantly being eyed up by the main girl's, Seo-Ni, husband who is also a total asshole. In fact, the husband has two stupid plot points that led nowhere: he seems to be attracted to Yoo-rin but they never act on this, and he had some weird debt collector issue that just disappears half way through (seriously, what the hell?). It's funny because they build up the husband being such a douche that you can't wait for him to die only for him to be killed off screen too! As for the mindless main plot, let me clarify what you are about to read is my understanding of what I watched which may not be accurate for shit. Bin's "parents" took him in because he was homeless or something only to use him in some spell I'm assuming to give birth to their own child? This "grandma" (or whatever) is some shaman that is able to do this. Some aspect of the spell involved cutting the kid's feet off and throwing him in some jar. Eventually the vengeful spirit of the boy possesses current version of Bin and exacts revenge on the "parents." When he is taken in by the relatives, he simply repossesses Bin to continue his rampage because he's an evil spirit now. Thus, zany antics will ensue. That's the gist of it...if I'm wrong, someone please explain this nonsense to me! Also, in typical K-horror fashion, the ending made no fucking sense whatsoever! Seo-Ni is supposed to be six months pregnant the whole film but you would NEVER guess that because she's so skinny. They imply the ghost somehow possessed her baby, but uh, okay...always end on a zinger I suppose. The film isn't terrible, and might have actually been good if it had made more sense.  Overall, this is just a mediocre film that never really got off the ground and lacks any scares or tension; most of the so-called scary moments are just more damn dream sequences! Ugh, I will break down and say it's just barely worth a view especially if you like T-ara and/or Hyomin since this was her film debut.

Notable Moment: When one of the detectives notices something in one of the crime photos, and they enlarge said picture to see the reflection of the ghost/killer in the victim's eye.

Final Rating: 5/10

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Resident Evil: Damnation Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Leon Kennedy travels to the fictional country of the "East Slavic Republic" to investigate uses of bio-organic weapons.

Review: I didn't want to touch on the RE franchise for awhile after how stupid "Retribution" was, but since this is one of the animated films and just came out of nowhere, I thought I'd give it a shot. Eh, it is a hit or miss the whole way through; sometimes it is fun and engaging, other times I'm just wondering why the hell is anything even happening. The first, and probably best, thing you will notice about this film is the amazing animation. There were times when the backgrounds looked so real and this impressed me a lot. The characters look great too, but they aren't as standout as the buildings and landscape. As with "RE: Retribution" I love me some Ada Wong. She's not as smokin' hot as Li Bingbing, but she looks better than she does in the games which is saying a lot; they put her in an attractive outfit seemingly on purpose and to my immature delight! It was also nice to see Leon return to form as the hero I like rather than that pitiful interpretation from "Retribution." Although, he is armed to the teeth yet is okay with practically giving away his arsenal to some punkass kid who steals it early on? Luckily they managed to turn that punkass kid from a wannabe Jar Jar to a character I was kind of sad gets killed. There is some nice banter between Ada and Leon (as usual), but I wish they would just get together instead of leaving it up in the air. I mean they keep pretending they don't like each other even though they got so close in RE2, and they keep saving each other when they could easily let the person die so get on with it! The main villain's plot is where the majority of problems lie as it is convoluted and feels empty. Some made up country is using BOWs in a civil war and Leon is trying to get to the heart of the matter. This is a decent enough set up, but then we get some nonsense about the resistance are infecting themselves to control some of the iconic monsters from the franchise like Lickers. Meanwhile the president of the country is a wannbe dictator who keeps indicating she has something up her sleeves, but there is never a payoff. This president has some underground research base with Tyrants at her disposal which made me think she would transform herself at the end into some big monster for a cool final battle...but nope. I would say this is a wasted opportunity which is further exasperated by the mild implication that the government was supplying the rebels with BOWs for no discernable reason. The ending felt cheap too because right when Leon is about to die the army just shows up to save the day and end the reign of the president. It kind of defeated the purpose of the film. I suppose this film was just meant to set up some events leading into the upcoming Resident Evil 6 video game, so I can forgive some shoddy writing as this is mere promotional material. This film was better than most of the live-action films, but it is still mostly a mediocre film. The animation is incredible, the characters are great, and the action is decent, but the story is weak, pacing could use some work, and it just lacked that extra oomph to make it memorable. RE fans should definitely give it a watch, but the unfamiliar should pass on it or those looking for a fix after watching "Retribution."

Notable Moment: When Ada fights against the president of the country and discovers she is quite the capable fighter.

Final Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Avengers Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Earth's mightiest heroes are gathered to track down the mysterious Cosmic Cube from the clutches of the Asgardian god, Loki.

Review: After temendous hype and a buildup that spanned five other films, the Avengers most certainly lived up to the promise of an incredible movie. You get everything you would hope from a big summer blockbuster: huge action, fun and beloved characters, clever and often humorous dialogue, and a thrill-ride adventure. There are quite a few battles here with many of the heroes even fighting each other. The pacing is spot on as we are never left bored and you don't notice that the film is well over two hours. I love all the members of the Avengers team, and I've always been a big fan of Captain America and Iron Man. Each character also gets quite a few chances to shine and adds something significant to the team's mission. I do wish they had included more members as the Avengers have had quite an illustrious lineup over the decades but this was enjoyable enough. With most of the characters having their own movie or cameo in another film, it definitely helped enhance the satisfaction of the team uniting. The audience has really come to know these characters over the last couple years so there was a natural flow to the film without having to delve too deeply into backstory. The actors all did an excellent job bringing these legends to life for the big screen; I must give special note to Robert Downey Jr. for not only playing Tony Stark so well, but because he practically is the character in real life. Typically I do not like too many comedic moments in my action movies, but with writers like Joss Whedon you knew the dialogue would be witty to a degree. There are so many lines that you would think would be corny but they just work and fit the tone perfectly. I only have two gripes where I wished the writers had pursued some other angle, but I think they may have intentionally held back for a sequel (which was heavily alluded to within this film). The first problem is using Loki as the sole villain. This was a wasted opportunity and, for me, took away from any tension because Loki was already single-handedly defeated by Thor; it's hard for me to imagine the team feeling threatened by a foe that one member already beat quite easily to boot. This film could have benefited from the addition of at least one new villain to spice things up even if they were a mere lackey of Loki. The other gripe is with the overly simplistic plot to "take over the world." The Cosmic Cube (called the Tesseract in film) has many extraordinary abilities and they could have done a little more with it rather than just opening a portal for aliens to invade. Eh, this is a small complaint, because it is still entertaining to see the aliens do battle with the heroes. In the end, this is a fantastic movie that is a must see if you're a fan of these superheroes. But seeing how this is one of the biggest films in history already, I'm sure everyone has watched this one by now!

Notable Moment: The second scene at the end of the credits with the group quietly eating. It is such a nice touch to such an awesome movie.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Hole Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Two brothers find a seemingly bottomless pit in the basement of their new home that brings their worst fears to life.

Review: You're probably tired of me saying "wasted potential" at this point, but here we go again! This film was so bizarre in the fact that it is the rare instance of a family horror film; at least that's how I interpreted it. The scares are so tame and hardly there, and nothing is too scary that a little kid wouldn't handle it. At the same time, there is this family adventure tone throughout with no sense of dread or even a sense of true danger; even the music has a certain childish vibe. The decision to make this kind of film really had me scratching my head. This oddity to the film world is probably why this movie was sitting on the production shelves for a few years and never got a proper release. But besides this unusual genre attempt, the movie is just loaded with cliches, contrivances, and probably a few plot holes. First, the "hole" itself makes absolutely no sense. It only appears if someone has a fear it can manifest, and when it cannot do this it is just piping and dirt inside. So where does it go the rest of the time? Why it exists, why at that particular house, how it works, what is the point, and any other lingering questions go completely ignored. This is especially frustrating considering the kids talk to the original owner of the home, and he is conveniently crazy and doesn't say anything! In fact, the entire scene with the house owner makes no sense and is absurdly stupid. The fears that the hole manifests are weak and highly uncreative; basically, all we get is a fear of an abusive dad, clowns, and a dead friend. There was a lot of potential here to create some awesome fears and bring them to life, but nope, and even the fears we see are pathetically toned down. There was also a plot element that almost implied the hole wants you get over your fears? Oh that's a relief, because I just want some weird portal into a hellish world to help me get over the loss of my dead, childhood friend! Thanks creepy hole! From beginning to end, this film just does it's best to waste its potential and feel like a ripoff of various sources like an "Are You Afraid of the Dark" episode (called "Tale of the Dark Music" if interested). The ending is especially stupid and contrived beyond measure to end on a zinger as the younger brother (idiotically) asks the mom what's her worst fear immediately after they all just overcame their fears! Oh yes, let's taunt the hole to hell in our basement! Overall, this is a rare, yet mediocre, trip into the family horror genre while offering up nothing but cliches and uninspired, childish scares. Don't go into this expecting much or, better yet, know fully ahead of time what it is exactly and maybe you will enjoy it more than I.

Notable Moment: When Julie hears someone crying in the bathroom and the lights go out. It was probably the best attempt at a scare but was still wasted.

Final Rating: 5/10

Monday, September 17, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: In this fifth entry, Alice finds herself in yet another "wonderland" as she must escape an Umbrella Corp. facility.

Review: To be honest, I have no idea what is going on anymore in these movies; wait, let me rephrase, I don't think the makers have any idea what is going on anymore. It's as if every movie they just throw into a hat characters and scenes from the video game series and whatever they pull out they find a way to work into the films. So all those characters we saw at the end of part four, they just leave out, unexplained, with the exception of one guy to kill off; this isn't new as they've been basically doing this the whole franchise. In exchange, we get a few more famous game characters to even out the ranks while mindlessly bringing back characters, probably to make the trailer look cool, rather than make any sense. Speaking of which, they couldn't even get our beloved characters right. Leon, from the RE2 and RE4 games, says something about ditching some little girl who thinks she's Alice's daughter; wow, how ridiculous considering he's the one character that spent an entire game trying to rescue a girl! How are there still this many Umbrella facilities in the world? How is there this much human fodder considering I thought humanity was all but dead by part three? So the facility can make clones...great, but why would it conveniently only make clones of people in Alice's life? And no, they were not cloned deliberately to screw with Alice because that plot point never even came up. We have random plot elements like the Las Plagas occur with no explanation unless you've played the games; even then, they just do whatever they want with the source material so now Las Plagas makes you like invincible? Probably the dumbest part to this whole movie is toward the end when Wesker, who magically survived part four, gives Alice back her powers. This is so dumb I can't even explain it! You write yourself into a corner with a character so powerful she can't reasonably be stopped, then write out her powers to ground the story back into reality, only to give her those powers right back?! Paul W.S. Anderson you fucking hack! I swear this film, and franchise for that matter, is so loaded with contivances, stupidity, and bad writing it makes me want to kill someone! But despite of all this frustration, I will admit the movie was entertaining and had a lot of cool action. My favorite thing was just seeing Li Bingbing play Ada Wong (probably the only reason I even rated this so high). Not only does she look so unbelievably sexy, she IS the character. I could not possibly imagine anyone else as the character now because she just works on every level. I'm not sure about the voice though, because her english was too good considering I know Ms. Li has an accent. Some are speculating she was dubbed, but her voice does sound like her usual but cleaned up somehow. Maybe she just really beefed up her english skills over the last couple years? In the end, if you like this franchise, then you will probably like this much better than the last entry. It is a solid action film if you are okay with virtually no story and definitely no story progression to the overall mythos. I prefer the games so to each their own. I had planned on reviewing the rest of the films to lead into this, but this plot is so annoying I can't bring myself to touch on the others for a while.

Notable Moment: When Ada and Alice must fight two giant "axemen."

Final Rating: 5.5/10

She IS Ada...and a sexy Ada at that!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Scary or Die Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A horror anthology featuring four, low budget tales.

Review: Typically I love anthology films, but this one felt really cheap and lacked any interesting stories. The wraparound was honestly the only worthwhile tale in the bunch, and it was a shame it was also the shortest. There are four aspects to the wraparound: the opening sequence which involves a zombie-like hand clicking on videos from a website called "scaryordie.com," the inbetween sequences in which the person clicks on each video which sets up each tale, a recurring zombie-like character in the background for each story, and the final segment that pulls it together. Essentially, the zombie-like woman was killed by her husband and is roaming the city trying to get back to him. Apparently her grandfather was some voodoo priest and cast some protection spell on her. Eh, it's interesting enough especially when compared to the rest, and I did like seeing the girl in each segment. The first story is the worst with some rednecks trying to kill illegal Mexicans crossing the US border. For some unexplained reason, the dead come back as zombies and the border patrol tries to keep them in check. It's really stupid and oh so pointless. The second story is a complete mess and predictable as hell; in fact, all these stories have really predictable twists and endings. Some lonely guy misses his dead wife and for some reason we see her ghost which has no relevance to the story. Then the guy sees some girl who looks like his wife, or whatever he thinks, get kidnapped and he rescues her. The next day or week or whatever (this story is so incoherent) the girl invites the guy over to "thank him." Well, it came as no surprise to me, the girl was a vampire and the guy that kidnapped her is a vampire killer. Long story short, no good deed goes unpunished. The third story was another case of wasted potential. It is too short and was actually starting to get interesting when it ended. Some hitman kills and chops up a guy and the body parts keep making noises in the trunk. There is a flashback that implies the guy the hitman killed was some kind of satanist or something to that nature. Before you know it, the dead guy has reformed and kills the hitman...the end! Stupid, right? The last real story is the longest and maybe dumbest of all. Once again, we have a total mess with all kinds of weird elements thrown together. Some drug dealer (with a heart of gold of course) is bit by a clown and then turns into some kind of monster clown; this is almost the exact plotline to a Dexter's Laboratory episode. There is some weird attempt to make things dramatic with a voice-over telling us the main guy's thoughts. Eventually the main guy saves his brother from the clown that bit him and eventually is killed by the police while stalking some kids to eat. The ending involves the guy's girlfriend now having a clown kid which you saw coming a mile away. This is an easy avoid unless you're a huge fan of anthology tales. I only rated this as high as I did because of the wraparound being somewhat creative. The acting, effects, stories, etc. all suck. They even used weak cgi for gunfire! This seriously looked like an amateur video you might see on youtube or worse.

Notable Moment: I suppose when the zombie wife came out of her crate...there really wasn't any scene worth mentioning.

Final Rating: 4/10

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010 remake) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Freddy is exacting revenge upon the children of the parents that killed him in this unnecessary remake.

Review: And now, we finally conclude the Nightmare franchise with this latest and most pointless entry. I will quickly address what little was done right here: the acting is decent, the atmosphere and set designs were impressive, more emphasis and exploration of the child molester aspect to Freddy's character, and, finally, the best thing going for this film is that it boasted the sexy Katie Cassidy. Everything else in this movie was either a failure, waste of time, or just plain stupid. Every scene this film tried to recreate it failed miserably at and could not even equal the quality of the original let alone come anywhere near surpassing it; it seriously annoyed me to see cgi used when the practical effects worked just fine the first time. There are many instances where the camera jerks suddenly with a lame effect that only further demonstrates the superiority of the original. I often found myself wondering "why" regarding many creative choices where this film had a chance to do something different or improve upon the original. Freddy, despite a respectable portayal by Jackie Earle Haley, looked pathetic. He is not scary at all, and I have no idea what compelled these idiots to apply cgi to his face rather than just makeup! They claimed they were moving away from the comical nature of Freddy from the sequels yet this Freddy is still joking around albeit with slightly edgier jokes. I would have preferred a totally different interpretation of the character to even warrant this remake. In fact, this film pretends as though it is going a different route whereby Freddy appears innocent and might genuinely deserve his revenge, but then they still decide to make Freddy a sadistic child molester/killer. Why did they even pursue this plotline at all if it was never meant to pan out? Was this meant to come as a shock that Freddy is a bad guy?! There were a few interesting nuances added to the Freddy character, but it's all wasted when the overall film blows. They didn't even have the sense to use the main Nightmare theme music except during the opening title screen; why oh why would you not incorporate such an iconic piece into the film more? The ending scene is so bad I was actually laughing the first time I saw it. Ugh, this movie just sucks! It felt so uninspired and you could sense it was just a cash-in since all the other slasher icons were getting remakes. They didn't even put in any cameos from previous installments or any real acknowledgements or fan service that could have made this waste of time more enjoyable. I probably rated this too high (thank you Katie Cassidy), but I would not recommend this to anyone who likes the original franchise. Yes, it's better than shit like "Freddy's Dead" but come on, what isn't? Stick to the original Nightmare or just do what I do and imagine 1, 3 and 4 as a trilogy and end it there.

Notable Moment: When Kris is all bloody and in a body bag taunting Nancy. This scene is similar to the original which was my favorite scene in that as well.

Final Rating: 5/10

Reincarnation Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: 35 years ago, a professor went mad and killed his family and guests at a hotel as part of an experiment. Now, with a movie based on the massacre filming, the results of the experiment are emerging.

Review: I really want to like this film more than I should, because it has so many original and interesting ideas but, unfortunately, fails to implement them. Let's start with what does work here: the music is awesome; it's so hypnotic and creates the right tone for the film. The acting and pacing are good and with the constant guessing as to what is occurring, you never get bored; there are surprisingly quite a few cameos by Japanese horror alumni which I love to see. It's always enjoyable to see the movie within a movie theme. I liked the idea of many ghosts rather than just the typical black-haired woman; I wish they would have explored this idea more though. The notion that the ghost of your past life is coming to haunt you is eerie and original even if it doesn't quite make sense. The twist at the end as each person realizes who they were in the past life is a nice touch, and I'll admit I wasn't expecting it. The entire concept of reincarnation in general doesn't get enough coverage in films so it was nice to see the subject given some attention here while trying to be innovative. As for the bad: the main problem with the film is due to the incoherent plotline regarding how this "experiment" by the professor is supposed to even work. The audience just doesn't know enough about how it is possible or why he even tried to do it. Some how killing a bunch of people will lead to their spirits recreating the event once they have all been reincarnated? Even if it were possible, what would be the point and why did the professor film it? I felt as though one extra scene explaining things more could have really made this film more memorable, tied things together, and this film could have easily been one of the greats. Furthermore, due to the confusing ending, you could just as easily assume everything was in the main girl, Nagisa's, head. There was evidence she was caving from pressure since this was her first lead role in the movie about the massacre, and also because if the events of the massacre were recreated, as we see depicted, wouldn't the director be dead? There were not enough scares or they were too toned down considering how much potential existed with so many ghosts running about. Lastly, there were many plot points that seemed to lead nowhere or were lost somewhere along the way, once again, demonstrating the wasted potential and incoherence. For many, these flaws can be a deal breaker since you will feel like nothing made any sense, but I appreciate the effort to do something new and original even if the ideas were not fully realized. Give this one a chance but keep your mind open.

Notable Moment: When Nagisa realizes that she really is the reincarnation of the professor and not his daughter.

Final Rating: 6/10

Friday, September 14, 2012

Freddy vs. Jason Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Freddy has grown weak and in order to use fear to regain his strength, he enlists the aid of the zombie-like Jason Vorhees to spread mayhem in his name.

Review: First, let me say I do not consider this film canon to either franchise in any way, shape, or form. Yes, we have the Freddy montage at the beginning, but they obviously ignore the events of part six (can't blame them there), and it just doesn't jive with the tone of the other films. Once again we have a mixed bag which would be expected considering this is more of a tribute to fans than anything else. The good: there is a definite respect to both franchises as each icon is given their fair share of time to shine; I did feel Freddy gets a little more attention which is why I decided to review it along with the Nightmare franchise. There are some cool ideas, concepts, and homages which enhances the fun for hardcore fans. The final fight between the two titans of terror is most certainly worth the price of admission and met my expectations for the most part; this film had been in production hell for at least 15 years. Having Jason essentially win the fight also made more sense since Freddy was never meant to be a tough guy and Jason is a giant brute. The bad: the acting is weak and sometimes horrendously bad. The characters are mostly stock and canon fodder which sucks because this would have been a nice chance to give the audience a better lineup. There was a majorly wasted opportunity here to use more cameos or connections to the past installments; wouldn't it have been so awesome to see characters from random movies that had survived to bring a little closure or even just background winks and nods?! But alas, they did not or could not pursue that route. Once again we have Freddy possessing someone! Seriously, enough with this shit! Jason's mind being trapped in dreamland didn't sit right with me since, at this point, we don't know what the hell Jason even is anymore. The approach here made it seem as if he's still the human killer, but the most recent films in that franchise would have Jason almost as a demon. It's also annoying to see Jason resurrected so easily considering how finalized his defeat appeared to be after part nine. All the camp and corny cliches can be forgiven since I'm sure many were written in deliberately even if some things like the stoner character were so annoying. Having the famous soundtracks swap in and out as Freddy and Jason did their thing was a nice little bonus. In the end, I feel this film fell short of the hype considering the build up and the fact that it had been in production for so long. It's not to say that this movie was bad, but it just didn't do enough to really make things interesting. Give it a view, but take it more as a fan appreciation than an actual entry in either franchise.

Notable Moment: At the beginning when Freddy is bringing the audience up to speed on his franchise and we get a surprisingly well done montage highlighting the imaginative franchise.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An aging Bruce Wayne, sensing the growing danger in Gotham, decides it is time to put the cape back on and fight crime after a ten year hiatus.

Review: For those that just can't get enough Batman, here is this new animated entry into a long list of animated films following the caped crusader. As a long time fan of all things Batman I was immediately removed from the film when I heard Bruce utter his first word with Mr. Robocop, Peter Weller, taking over voice acting duties for Kevin Conroy. Call me biased or whatever, but it is so hard for me to imagine anyone else voicing Batman, other than Mr. Conroy, despite the fact that I know many have given it a go. The story is interesting revolving around five plot points: a "retired" Bruce Wayne, Two Face having his face restored, Gotham City infested with a new and violent gang called the Mutants, a young girl aspiring to be the new Robin, and an ongoing build up to a mental patient growing more aware each time Batman is mentioned on TV which any observer would quickly realize is the Joker. As you can probably tell, there is a whole lot going on here which is a good thing but makes the plot feel disjointed. I wish they maybe would have focused on just two or three of these plot elements and left the rest alone, but, then again, this is based off a specific comic book of the same name. My favorite plotline is the aging Bruce as I like to see the struggle for Batman to still fight; this element brings more drama and intrigue to an otherwise known tale. The Robin and Two Face plot points are okay, but could have been done without or worked around. The Mutants were interesting and you could definitely feel that '80s vibe from them since I think the film is supposed to be taking place during that decade without actually saying it. Last, the Joker plotline was of course a welcomed bonus even if predictable. There is an implication that the reason why things like this keep happening in Gotham is directly caused by Batman and the need for villains to fight him; this is further emphasized by the fact that Bruce is obsessed and would rather die as Batman than retire as his normal self. There were two scenes that really annoyed me though which is part of the reason I lowered the rating: a scene where Batman uses one of the Mutants' guns, and the fact that his tank-like Batmobile was shooting bullets albeit rubber ones. I just hate the notion of Batman using a gun or even using something too similar; we even have emphasis of my point due to more flashbacks of Bruce's parents being killed in that fateful alleyway. The animation feels a bit off or maybe it was just their take on a more hulkish Batman that irked me; Batman should be slimmer since his specialty is speed and agility. I do have to admit this was a nice little tale that makes me forget about the incredibly disappointing "Dark Knight Rises." It also leaves you excited for Part 2 which is supposed to be out next year some time. I'd recommend checking this one out if you just can't have enough Batman.

Notable Moment: When Batman fights the leader of the Mutants in a fist to fist brawl in the mud to even out their speed.

Final Rating: 7/10

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wes Craven's New Nightmare Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The Nightmare on Elm Street films are merely movies, but the actors are now coming face to face with Freddy clawing his way out of the films.

Review: This is an extremely bizarre movie and perhaps the most oddball entry in the Nightmare franchise. We have the return of Wes Craven, the director of the original Nightmare, returning to rectify the pitiful ending that was "Freddy's Dead." Instead of picking up where six left off, we are now in the "real world" where Freddy is fictional and the actors, crew, etc. are just themselves; for example, Robert Englund plays himself, and Nancy from parts 1 and 3 is Heather Langenkamp the actress. Having lots of cameos from the actors and crew that worked on the previous six films was a wonderful touch which is half the reason I rated this film as high as I did. There is a certain surreal aspect to the approach, but, for the most part, it works okay. However, this is far from any kind of documentary as we quickly learn Freddy is trying to escape the movies and come into the real world. Basically, Wes tells us that some kind of evil force has enjoyed living vicariously through the Freddy films, and now that the films have ended and it has spent so much time as Freddy, it is trying to break free while in the form of Freddy. Freddy's appearance has been changed to reflect a more demonic persona, but I don't think it was a good idea or works all that well. The vast majority of the thrills and chills come from Freddy warping reality and killing some people as Heather dreams. There are a lot of good ideas here and quite a bit of originality, but it just doesn't work out in the long run. There is an annoying storyline about Heather's son seeing Freddy and fighting him with his stupid stuffed doll, Rex; yeah, get used to Rex because you'll be hearing a lot with that fucking doll! I am still baffled by the inclusion of this plotline as it is beyond stupid. There's a deadend plot point with Heather being sent letters from a stalker; allegedly the babysitter was meant to be the stalker, but since that was left out, it is just left ambiguous and feels like padding. Most annoying of all is this whole Hansel and Gretel theme that really does not fit in with Freddy, and this connects to how they actually defeat him; they seriously lock him in an oven and he just blows up with shoddy effects! Why must Freddy always die in the dumbest way imaginable in this franchise?! In the end, I suppose this film will leave a better taste in your mouth than that sad excuse for a film, "Freddy's Dead," but it still doesn't bring any satisfaction or further closure to the first six films. Finally, this is it people. Nothing else Freddy related connects to the primary franchise as I hardly count "Freddy vs. Jason" as canon and obviously the remake is useless. What a miserable way to conclude such an iconic franchise.

Notable Moment: When Heather is on a talk show discussing Freddy and the Nightmare franchise.

Final Rating: 6/10

Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait Review


Check out my updated review! http://thevagrantrises.blogspot.com/2014/03/updated-review-2-muoi-legend-of-portrait.html

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A writer, desperate for a new hit, hears a story about a cursed painting and vengeful ghost in Vietnam and investigates whether there is any truth.

Review: This is another mixed bag film for multiple reasons. For one, at first glance, you may think this is a really scary movie until you realize all of the scares were cheap, jump scares. There may be one or two genuinely frightening moments while all the rest are "dreams" from the main character, Yoonhee, which usually end with some shock value right before she wakes up; they even pull the infamous dream within a dream trick which only emphasizes how cheap the scares are. I will say this, to the film's credit, the jump scares are done well but could have been better applied so they weren't just dreams. There was even a bit of originality and creativity to these scenes which is why I was so disappointed they were just dreams; this isn't a one or two scenes kind of situation, I'm talking like 10 or more times! The other thing that really sucked was the typical K-horror cliches of an ending making no sense and the usual, weird girl on girl "friendship" even though we have confirmation the one girl, Seoyeon, liked some guy; it's hard to explain it all, but once you discover Seoyeon's intentions and the length she has gone to get revenge on the main girl you will wonder if there weren't more going on there. Speaking of Seoyeon's revenge, I did like how deserving she was to get it; she was gang raped by the guy she liked and his friends while one of her female friends filmed it. She was then further betrayed by Yoonhee who wrote a book about how big of a slut Seoyeon was. I really felt bad for Seoyeon and knowing her torment enhanced the story and made it feel more powerful. But again, why make the target of her revenge Yoonhee unless there was just a little something extra between them or perhaps I just can't wrap my mind around these "bonds?" The story is interesting enough as a woman, named Muoi, around 100 years ago had an equally tortured life and committed suicide transferring her vengeful spirit to a painting of herself that was unfinished by her lover. Basically Yoonhee is trying to find out how real this story is while creepy antics ensue. In the end, somehow Seoyeon has replaced Muoi's spirit in the painting and offered up Yoonhee's body for Muoi to possess in exchange that Muoi will exact revenge for Seoyeon. Eh, that's the best I could explain it, but it does not present itself so clearly in the actual movie. Overall, this is a film that may impress you on a single viewing despite its many cliches, but it is loaded with cheap scares and could have been one of the greats had they done a few things differently. Honestly, I really wanted to rate this film higher, but they just couldn't integrate the dreams to be an actual part of the film. Lastly, I did particularly like the joint effort from Vietnam and Korea together.

Notable Moment: When Muoi comes out of the painting of course. You knew it would come at some point, but it was done better than I thought it would be.

Final Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (aka part 6) Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Freddy is back for the "final" time to wreak more havoc and find his lost child.

Review: Saved the best for last my ass! Hey, I have an idea, let's take everything we know and love about this franchise and throw it out the window! This is, by far, the worst Nightmare film in the franchise, and I'm still probably being too generous with its rating. This movie is a total mess, complete failure, and mockery of everything that was once good about the franchise. Freddy has become full blown comedic, the dream world is shallow and unoriginal, and the tone is way off. The film begins by thinking its clever for skipping to the year 1999 as if this film really needed a futuristic setting (there is never any significance to this except to skip exposition). We have no explanation for how Freddy came back after part five or whatever became of Alice and her baby. Springwood, home of Freddy and Elm Street, has become a wasteland because Freddy has supposedly killed all the kids, they committed suicide, or moved away. Besides this being beyond stupid, it is made worse by the fact that all the parents are still running around pretending the kids are alive in a trance-like state; trust me, it is even dumber than it sounds. There is a pointless red herring plotline about one kid with amnesia who thinks he's Freddy's son only to realize that some therapist is Freddy's daughter. For some reason, Freddy wants his daughter to return to him so he can...kill her? Be a happy family? I really don't know, and I don't think the writers have a clue either. And speaking of this daughter drama: oh yes, please give us even more stupid backstory to a character we thought we knew especially when it will make no sense as far as continuity goes. None of the rules from the previous films are applied here; for example, when Freddy kills someone they are erased from existence. Many stupid moments occur that make no sense like when one kid is trapped in a video game dream and he's jumping all over a house Looney Tunes style. I think I roll my eyes during every scene in this piece of shit. Considering this was meant to be the last film, you'd think they would come up with a better way to beat Freddy than repeating what happened in part one! This ending scene is where the 3-D element came into play and it looks laughably bad. So Freddy's daughter pulls Freddy out of dream world, they fight in a hilariously stupid manner, and Freddy is blown up by a pipe bomb (yeah, I know, what a way to go out, right?). Ugh, what a pathetic and miserable way to end the franchise. What were they thinking?! For better or worse, the franchise does continue, but as it stands, this total piece of shit is the conclusion to the primary storyline of 1-6. So yeah, let that one sink in a bit. Nothing works, every aspect is inferior to the previous films, it feels uninspired, stupid ending, inconsistencies, contrivances, tone and atmosphere way off, and it just sucks! Freddy deserved better...

Notable Moment: The opening credits. The Goo Goo Dolls' song and opening quotes are better than this whole film, and I don't even like Goo Goo Dolls.

Final Rating: 3.5/10

Don't Click Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Two sisters are accidentally given a cursed video file in which every view brings you closer to death.

Review: For like the tenth time this month, we are faced with wasted potential and missed opportunities. I suppose this movie could be lumped into the category of "Ringu" ripoffs with a slight change to the formula. This film throws you off guard in the beginning, because there is a decent opening scare followed by a borderline comedic introduction to all the characters. I really don't know what they were going for with this opening, but many of the following scenes only leave more confusion; for example, there is a point when the two sisters are taking a bath together and one washes the other's back...say what?! These are older women mind you (only in Korea!). There's a major contrivance early on where some coworker of the younger sister discusses the haunted video file conveniently before the sister gets said file (we won't even go into how she knew it existed). This is further made ridiculous by the fact that the older sister's "boyfriend" coincidentally works at some censorship office (I really don't know) and just so happens to copy that exact file that same day! Oh come on! I did like the concept of the video file changing with each viewing, but it still led back to senselessness. It is never explained why 108 viewings is the magic number or the fact that we've seen ghosts haunt physical objects, but a video file? Eh, interesting idea in theory, but not properly realized in my opinion. The motivations for the ghost are paper thin as well. Allegedly someone caught the ghost's dad on video groping some woman and this tore their family apart. So she used some incantation to force herself to become a vengeful spirit after committing suicide. She was uploading all of this live, and that is supposedly how she came to haunt the video file despite the fact that this censorship company took down the video immediately. I guess somehow that makes a little sense but not really since why isn't this ghost going after the people that wronged her? The film is also padded with pointless plotlines that led nowhere like the younger sister being filmed dancing in her underwear, the younger sister becoming semi-possessed, the older sister and this "boyfriend" drama, and random, creepy text messages being sent to the older sister. Surprinsgly the ghost is hardly even seen, and we are instead shown POV perspective from the ghost like that is scary; when we do see the ghost she just looks human so what was the point? I know all of this makes the film sound so bad, but it is slightly above average. I would have rated it higher had a lot of these ideas been executed better, and if there weren't so many wasted scares. There was so much potential here it is kind of hard to believe they screwed it up so badly.

Notable Moment: When one girl who has watched the video in its entirety is being chased in a parking garage.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Freddy has returned to haunt a now pregnant Alice and uses her baby's dreams to get to Alice and her friends.

Review: Here we have reached the turning point as this entry is a definite hit or miss for fans of the franchise. We have Alice returning with her character altered from my perspective which immediately makes this film feel off. After Freddy is resurrected in yet another weird way, the film turns into typical Freddy-fare. Alice is pregnant and Freddy apparently wants to possess the baby or make the baby like him...the film was never fully clear. I don't think these plotlines can work with Freddy because he exists as a spirtual being in dreamworld not a physical being; they really should have learned from this mistake after part two! I would say the main problem was that this film did not offer anything different compared to the last two entries as far as imagination or creativity. The only real change comes from the fact that Freddy can get to Alice or her friends anytime her baby is dreaming rather than the individuals; although, I'm pretty sure I still remember seeing people ambiguously fall asleep. Sure, there are some decent deaths, but nothing feels new or innovative like it did in part three and four. There were some good ideas here but most just felt weak. This wasted potential was emphasized by the fact that this film was made less than a year after part four which could attibute to the sense of feeling incomplete. Plus, the characters weren't really kids anymore as they were graduating high school and dealing with pregnancy; something doesn't sit right with me and doesn't feel like a Nightmare movie. Once again, Freddy has a ridiculously stupid death as the "ghost" of the unborn son kind of looks like Freddy for a second and goes "bleh." I suppose it technically has something to do with unleashing the spirits of the dead kids to destroy Freddy much like part four, but my description sounds so much better! It's not to say this film is all bad as it is much better than two and the films that would come after this. I felt the comic book guy's death was a cool concept, and I was very impressed with the color scheme and visuals used for the segment. The use of the baby was okay in theory and an attempt to bring something new even if not executed to the best of its potential. The overall vibe did feel true to the Nightmare franchise which would be sorely missed in the upcoming sequels. The best way I can classify this film's place in the franchise would be: it's the worst of the better movies. So take that however you wish.

Notable Moment: When Freddy is first resurrected and he disappears into mist; it's a simple yet ominous looking effect that always stood out for me.

Final Rating: 6/10

The Possession Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A divorced father buys his daughter a mysterious box that contains a demon that seeks to possess her body.

Review: Here is yet another example of wasted potential combined with contrivances and cliches. My biggest problem with this film was probably its complete lack of originality. I think we know what to expect at this point: girl gets possessed slowly, starts to act weird, family and friends in denial, someone starts to suspect the supernatural, no one believes them until full blown possession, exorcisim is performed, film ends on happy note...oh wait, no it doesn't! Following this boring formula wouldn't even be too bad had it been done in a scary way or even with some cool twists or whatever. There were a few moments I really thought they were going to go in a different direction only to give me cliched material like how the parents are divorced in the most cliche manner, the daughter befriending the demon at first, throwaway victims to bolster the "tension" and pad the film, etc. The contrivances are annoying too such as the lone rabi that wants to help the father when no one else will. The other thing that kept bothering me were the hilarious moments when the movie thought it was being scary. For example, there would be shots of the possessed daughter standing with a supposedly creepy face; there was just something about the pose, the cornball nature of the scenes, and lame music playing that made me laugh each time it happened. There was a scene that was starting to feel original with some potential when the daughter was getting a MRI or something like that, but they wasted that with a crappy cgi demon face with the idiotic implication that the demon isn't just "in" her but literally inside her! The girl was also wearing this ring (to pathetically symbolize the possession to the audience as if we can't figure it out) in this machine which would have been a no-go in reality. They wrote out the mom's new boyfriend for no real reason; in fact, he is so pointless to the film I wonder if he was a character lost somewhere in script rewriters? The end is so stupid with that dumb Hollywood add on of a final shot to show it's not really over. Eh, this movie was typical mediocrity mostly due to some decent acting and a few interesting ideas depite being wasted. I would definitely pass on this one for now and watch something like the "Exorcist" in its place. I wasn't even expecting much and this film managed to let me down.

Notable Moment: When the possessed Em is running around in the morgue; there was a nice touch with the red lighting.

Final Rating: 5/10

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Freddy is back to finish his work from part three and start killing a new group of kids.

Review: Despite Freddy's defeat being definitive in part three, he returns in the most ridiculous manner possible to keep on killing; a dog pisses fire and he comes back! From the get go, this film seems like it will be really dumb, but it's one of the better Nightmare movies. I did love the death of Freddy in part three, but I kind of envision a trilogy between part 1, 3 and 4. At this point in history, Freddy was exactly the icon the world had come to know and a far cry from the horror of the first Nightmare, but I still have a place in my mind for this joker incarnation of Freddy. Once again, the scale has been increased with more imagination and creativity with the dream world. There are quite a few memorable moments and some of the best highlights of the franchise are from this movie; for example, the movie theater scene is amazing! On the other hand, this was the beginning of the gimmicky deaths as each dream had to have some lame connection to the character rather than just a creepy dream world. The survivors from part three are back and get killed early on; it did kind of annoy me they got a new actress to play Kristen as I hate messing with my sense of continuity. The new lead, Alice, has a sort of mastery of her dreams, and she gains the traits of her fallen friends; it is similar to the dream powers in the previous movie but with a slight tweak. I do like their approach to this as most of Alice's friends have a trait that can enhance her ability to fight Freddy (even if they are cliched as hell) such as intelligence, strength, martial arts, etc. There is a nice touch in the fact that Alice is very shy and lacks confidence, and she becomes stronger to avenge the deaths of her friends while also discovering who she really is deep inside. The final fight against Freddy is immensely entertaining as we see Alice fight him head to head using all the abilities she has gained. Unfortunately, we have yet another stupid death of Freddy; I like to just tell people he looks in a mirror and dies! The defeat has something to do with a nursery rhyme about the "Dream Master," and I suppose Alice's willpower is what defeats Freddy combined with the spirits of her friends ripping Freddy apart from the inside. It still feels lackluster to me. For those who only ever saw this franchise in passing, this tends to be the one a lot of people remember scenes from so even if it was bad, it sure was memorable. This is one of the best entries so I'd recommend this one highly despite some flaws, the ridiculous nature of many of the scenes, and the transformation of Freddy from scary to the one you root for.

Notable Moment: When Alice removes all the photos that had been covering her mirror and sees the real her.

Final Rating: 7/10

Ousama Game (aka King's Game) Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A classroom of students are sent text messages demanding they do various tasks with the penalty of failure resulting in the student being erased from existence.

Review: First, let me say I believe there is another film called "King Game," so hopefully there is no confusion here. If you recall back to my review of "Yo-Yo Girl Cop" I mentioned a Japanese company that features female idols called Hello!Project. Well this film's actors are primarily comprised of more girls from that company. Unfortunately, they are not really from the group I like called Morning Musume (although there is at least one confirmed cameo from them); it sucks too because I really wish they would do a horror movie featuring those girls, but I suppose any progress is fine. I'm actually not sure if this would even be considered a horror and more just a thriller or suspense. This film had a heavy "Death Note" vibe for those who may be familiar with that franchise, but it's not a ripoff by any means. The film does a good job at keeping you wondering what is going on and what is the point of this "game." There are quite a few red herrings which, I'll admit, threw me off, but the revelation of what is occurring is extremely disappointing and made the red herrings completely irrelevant. The more I think of it the more nothing makes any sense by the end; I would have rated this movie higher if not for the ending. In a nutshell, the "King" issuing out the commands is in fact the lead girl with no memory of her actions. However, this leads to many plot holes and/or contrivances. The way she became the king was to keep winning previous games; at a glance that makes sense until we realize there must still be someone above her giving her these powers not to mention a king existing before she won the first game. Furthermore, if the king can do anything, why is this considered a curse and she has no control thus still giving the impression she is not the king? There is also a plot point about how the king deliberately left clues to make the students betray each other. How is the main girl doing any of this? The fact that she has no memories just means someone is controlling her actions which negates this whole being the king plot. Ugh, I don't even want to keep thinking about this because it makes no fucking sense! One more thing that pissed me off was the casual nature of some of the characters; if you saw people being erased from existence knowing you might be next, would you really be joking around? Okay this makes it all sound bad but it's better than I make it seem. The plot is intriguing until the end, the girls are mostly all cute, there are some original and cool concepts here despite a failure to truly execute them, and it successfully keeps you guessing until the end. Overall, it's a slightly above average film with a lot of wasted potential ruined by a cheap, senseless ending.

Notable Moment: When a large chunk of the class is erased simultaneously. You kind of sensed it would come though.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The last of the Elm Street kids are haunted by Freddy at a mental hospital and aided by Nancy and a doctor.

Review: Not only is this film a much more faithful continuation of the original than part two was, it is superior in virtually every regard. For me, this is probably the second best in the whole franchise nearly rivaling the original in quality and imagination. Instead of all the stupid nonsense that was going on in part two, this film goes back to Freddy trying to kill the children of the parent's who helped burn him; we discover these characters are in fact the last kids Freddy has left to kill. The finality is emphasized by the fact that Nancy has returned to help the kids fight Freddy by gaining better control of their dreams; it was definitely a bonus to bring back familiar characters. Although a bunch of the kids are forgettable fodder for Freddy, we do a get a sense of who the others are through their dream powers; I always liked the geeky kid, Will, with his Dungeons and Dragons wizard powers. This plot element changes things up a bit as we have more elaborate dream scenarios and more imaginative encounters with Freddy. In fact, Freddy is doing much more here with his dream abilities which is the best part to it all. They even make note that Freddy has become more powerful which is why he can do these things now; this attempt to explain away continuity errors garners extra points for me. The thing that is so great about this film is that they saw what one and two had done with the material and tried to take things to a new and higher level, think bigger, and get outside the box of what the audience's expectations would be. However, there are some flaws obviously. This was the beginning of the Freddy we all imagine as a wise-cracking joker giving the audience a one-liner before each kill; for some they prefer this incarnation of Freddy, but I still appreciate the original concept better. There are also quite a few contrivances, and, for better or worse, we learn more about Freddy's origin. Again, it breaks down to preference as I like Freddy just being an evil child molester rather than "the bastard son of a thousand maniacs." Overall, the dialogue is witty and memorable, the acting is mostly good, the effects were imaginative despite some flaws, the story provides a wonderful expansion on the mythos while never taking away from the original, and the ending is satisfying and could easily serve as absolute closure to the franchise if need be.

Notable Moment: When each of the kids reveal their dream power during therapy.

Final Rating: 7.5/10