Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Waxwork II: Lost in Time Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Mark and Sarah must travel through time in order to find evidence of the supernatural to clear Sarah of the charge of murdering her father.

Review: This film pretty much mirrors the formula of the first one right down to the ending being the only good part while the rest is boring and stupid. However, this movie is even longer, more torturously boring, scattered funny moments, and the ending is nowhere near as entertaining. The production value is also significantly lower than the previous movie with cheap looking settings and less special effects. The story was already farfetched, but becomes even more ridiculous which takes away a bit of the fun from the first movie. The film picks up immediately where part one ended with the waxwork burning down, the zombie hand escaping, and Mark and Sarah outside. Annoyingly, the actress playing Sarah has been replaced, which I hate, although I can't blame her for not wanting to return. They conveniently get in a taxi that happens to be strolling by a burning house at like two in the morning. The hand tags along and eventually follows Sarah home where it kills her dad followed by her destroying the hand. Sarah is then charged with the murder, but she chooses to idiotically blame the killing on the zombie hand and blabs about the whole waxwork fiasco as if any sane person would believe such a claim! For some inexplicable reason, Mark believes they need to find proof of the supernatural to prove Sarah's innocence so they go to Sir Wilfred's house hoping he has some artifact or whatever. Through the magic of contrivances, Sir Wilfred has left a recording explaining how Mark can travel through time using some compass-esque device all the while there is some lame "Alice in Wonderland" allusion that doesn't quite fit the themes established. Mark and Sarah throw caution to the wind and begin this pointless time traveling journey. As with the first film, they become characters within the timelines they jump into that pays homage to famous horror movies. The difference with this entry is that they retread things already mentioned while not really having a focus as the first did with iconic villains. For example: they deal with Frankenstein again while also going into a wannabe "Alien" universe which would make no sense considering the context. I thought they spent far too much time on certain villains the first time, but this movie spends even more time in each of the universes to the point I kept debating to turn this shit off. I'm not exaggerating how boring it can get watching these cheap ass sets and effects. Well, at least they had sense enough to include Bruce Campbell in a small role! Almost none of the gags are even close to being funny either. At some point Mark and Sarah end up in the worst interpretation of medieval times I could imagine where we learn Mark is destined to be a "time warrior," or some stupid shit like that, chosen by God. Apparently, history was full of these battles and time can still be altered by the forces of evil. Meaning, even though we know evil did not consume the world during medieval times (hah that's debatable), if Mark fails to stop some sorcerer, time could potentially be altered allowing evil to win. Supposedly Mark's grandfather and Sir Wilfred were time warriors and presumably the band of heroes at the end of the first film were as well. The sorcerer plans to turn himself into the King of England or whatever, but Mark manages to unravel his plan which leads to a final battle almost as great as the first film. As Mark and the sorcerer fight, they keep jumping from horror movie to horror movie which is awesome considering they include the likes of "Godzilla," "Dawn of the Dead," and "Nosferatu." Once more, why couldn't this concept be the focus of the film rather than the boring shit we get?! Well, these scenes are fun, but it isn't as extravagant as the first film and nowhere near as creative. Once everything is resolved, there is only enough energy to send Sarah back to the present with yet another zombie hand they managed to get ahold of. Of course this clears Sarah of the murder charges because this is a stupid movie. It then ends with Sarah getting a letter from Mark 800 or so years later giving her the compass device telling her to come back to him. Uh, so what was the point in clearing her name if she's just going to spend time in the past anyway?! God this movie tests my patience. I think the main reason why this film fails is because it was trying to relive the glory of an '80s movie but it was made during the early '90s which is probably the worst era for horror films. Dear lord this movie blows, and I cannot stress enough how boring it is! You'd think they'd improve over the first one but hell no. I usually like cheesy horror movies, but you have to hold my interest. This was not interesting and it reminded me of the thousands of direct to video fuckers that flooded local rental stores in those days. Bad acting, worse effects,  bad direction, not funny, and wasted its potential to satirize the many great films it touched on. If you liked the first one, perhaps you will like this, but if you disliked the first one, as I did, you will hate this.

Notable Moment: Once again, at the end when Mark is fighting through different famous movies. This was probably the premise they wrote the second movie's script around!

Final Rating: 3.5/10

Waxwork Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A madman needs victims to bring his wax creations to life.

Review: This is one of those movies that could only come into existence during the '80s. The plot is farfetched and borderlines on stupid more often than not, but it has an awesome conclusion that almost makes it worth the effort to sit through. I know this is supposed to be comical, but the jokes come off as moronic while never accomplishing a full parody. Actually, had they straightened up the script, made the first hour watchable, this could have been legendary. The film does pay tribute to iconic and famous movie villains from the black and white era of cinema but is nowhere near an homage as the likes of, say, "The Monster Squad." We see the usuals like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, etc. while also throwing in the likes of Romero zombies, B-movie aliens, the Invisible Man, etc. that work to expand the tribute. But because only a handful get screen time, it's not on the level or scale I think they were hoping for; likewise, the villains look cheap as hell and weren't given the attention needed to make them stand out. The story is that some guy has stolen 18 artifacts connected to 18 of the most evil beings in the world and is using them to open pathways of time to lure in unsuspecting victims. Essentially, each wax display represents a villain and the main bad guy, Lincoln, played by the great David Warner, needs to kill someone in each display's little time portal in order to bring the villain back to life. For some reason they won't come to life unless all 18 victims are assembled simultaneously though. The main character, Mark's, played by Zach Galligan of "Gremlins" fame, grandfather collected the artifacts first, but Lincoln killed him and stole the artifacts to create the waxwork. I should note the waxwork is just some house in the neighborhood, which is pure shenanigans, but I suppose it's remotely plausible. Lincoln easily brings idiots to the waxwork by simply asking whoever passes by the house to come in. Once inside, everyone always has a reason to touch one of the displays which pulls them into said display where they become certain characters meant to be killed by the villains. Once the person is killed, they become a part of the display and one more piece of the puzzle is completed. Of course Mark notices this and through his grandfather's friend, Sir Wilfred, they uncover Lincoln's plan. Mark and his little love interest, Sarah (who has this whole '80s hot thing going on), try to burn down the waxwork, but they get pushed into the final displays. Mark realizes that if you don't believe in the magic, and pretty much don't act like the character you become, you are unharmed by the displays which allows him to escape his display. He then helps Sarah escape her display only to discover that two more of their stupid friends arrive and become the final two victims. This is the best part of the film when all the displays come to life including the resurrected victims of the villains. Oh yeah, somehow this whole process will unleash evil that will destroy the world or whatever. Luckily for Mark and Sarah, Sir Wilfred and a band of unnamed heroes arrive to do battle against the displays in one hell of a final battle! This is cool and what the whole film should have been about! I especially loved the part when Mark asks Lincoln why he wants to destroy the world and he casually says, "Somebody has to." Brilliant! Amidst the chaos the waxwork becomes ablaze in fire and everyone dies except Mark, Sarah, and the severed hand of one of the zombies as the film ends with a lame cliffhanger of sorts. Obviously I only rated this film as high as I did because of the great climax, but I would have gone much higher if the whole film could have been of that caliber. So many scenes drag on unnecessarily which makes it so boring at times. Characters are inconsistent in behavior, even Mark, when they bounce between wannabe rich kids and cliched slasher fodder. Certain films would have probably made better choices to be the highlighted displays that a victim gets pulled into. The comedy just wasn't funny, and I can appreciate a lot of the movies they are poking fun at; although, there were stray jokes that were genuinely funny like the kid thinking someone put acid in his drink again. If you're a big horror fan you will probably love this movie, but I can't recommend a movie simply for it's ending. If by chance you see it on TV or something, then just watch the last half hour or so. Now this is the kind of candidate worthy or a remake to fix the mistakes while still keeping what was best.

Notable Moment: At the end when all the displays come to life at the same time. It was probably the idea that the movie was written around which would explain why it was so cool and the rest of the movie sucked.

Final Rating: 5/10

Horsemen Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A detective finds himself on the trail of killers who believe themselves to be the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Review: Wow, what a promising premise ruined so profoundly through a pretentious story loaded with endless stupidity. This could have been something really awesome, but instead comes off as a pathetic "Seven" wannabe. I mean, come on, it's the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for god's sake (hah puns)! How can you screw up such an intriguing concept when it practically writes itself? The main problem with the film is that it feels disjointed as if there are many gaps, deleted scenes, or some kind of problems between the scenes interrupting the story's flow. There are discrepancies with the running time so there very well may be an uncut version somewhere out there in limbo or the film could have been unfinished and was rushed to completion with scenes missing. The story focuses on Aidan Breslin, played adequately by Dennis Quaid, a detective that focuses on dental forensics who is first called to a scene in which an entire set of bloody teeth are arranged on a tray, in the middle of a frozen lake, with the words "Come and See" written on four trees. Later, Aidan is called to a murder scene of a woman with the same phrase written at the crime scene, and the woman is strung up an in elaborate device that is seemingly custom built. There appears to be impressions on the carpet revealing that there were four killers present, the wounds on the woman were meant to kill her slowly with surgical accuracy, and that she had been pregnant with the fetus being removed. Honestly, this kill is the only decent thing going on in this film so they were wise to place it at the beginning in an attempt to lull the audience into a false sense that they might actually be watching a good film. The moment you see the dead woman's adopted daughter, Kristin, played excellently by Ziyi Zhang, it is unbelievably obvious she is one of the killers. Thankfully, this fact was understood and Kristin confesses fairly early on seemingly because she felt bad for killing the fetus unintentionally and because she wants to antagonize Aidan. Honestly, the highlight of this movie is whenever these two talk since Ms. Zhang is able to pull off the crazy angle quite well. I've read others complain about Ms. Zhang's English, but I thought she sounded fine. I also felt she was kind of sexy for a killer...I've really got to stop loving all these bad girls! She is somewhat sympathetic since she had been molested her whole life by her dad while the mom was presumably idle and so she decided to kill the mom and set the dad up to go to jail and live with his suffering; that's my explanation of what happened since the film is annoyingly unclear on the details. Before this, there had been another murder, but it didn't use the same hanging device but it did have the "Come and See" line written only three times though. As you may gather, most of the bull shit in this movie comes off as obvious plotlines that you know will be investigated later so it removes a lot of the mystery along the way. To cut to the chase, this second murder victim was actually one of the horsemen and since the other horsemen were angry he wasn't emo enough for them they killed him. The next victim is another horseman who was mad his brother couldn't accept he was gay, so he kills himself in front of the brother that he has strung up on one of the hanging devices. In typical emo-loser fashion, he figured this would be the best way to hurt his brother. Silly emos, get a grip and learn to cope with reality! Aidan finally realizes maybe someone wanted him on this case all along since it all began with those little toofies! Oh, you think?! Now, this whole movie, we are given embarrassingly obvious hints that Aidan's son, Alex, is the leader of the horsemen. Alex has been super emo since his mom, Aidan's wife, died and basically all he wanted was to make Aidan...uh, I guess, sad? We don't really get a legitimate reason as to what the goal was because Alex plans to kill himself in front of his weird internet followers. This is another aspect that feels left out big time. We only get a slight mention of the website that you learn Alex has created to unite emo bitches. At the same time the horsemen were somehow gathered through some therapy session that is glossed over. Essentially, the most important part of the film, the very reason why everything is happening, is the least explored part of the story! Oh, and Alex is in the final hanging device even though there seems to be no conceivable way he got himself into it without help. In the end, Aidan tries to console the whining little bitch boy as we cut to Aidan at his home reassuring his other son that everything is fine and that's just how it ends. We have no idea what became of Alex, what the hell was the point of all this, and how the fuck did they think this was going to end the world?! Maybe there was supposed to be more with the internet site like other emo bitch boys would kill themselves after Alex, but there is no mention of this. Grr, I don't know what the hell happened here because under all the contrivances, obvious twists, plot holes, pretentious preaching, stupid choices, and shenanigans, there was a decent story that went completely wasted. I wanted to like this film, but I knew they were on the wrong track when they didn't make Death the leader of the horsemen. Hello mother fuckers, "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat upon him was Death, and Hell followed with him!" What's more badass than that?! And only Death is ever named as a horseman, the rest are just ambiguous. There are good ideas in this movie for sure, you are engaged even if you can predict everything that will happen, and the acting is decent for the most part. Maybe I was expecting it to be more on "Seven's" level if it's going to copy its approach. It's just barely worth a view, but you have to understand ahead of time what you're getting yourself into or you will be sorely disappointed as I was.

Notable Moment: Any of the times when Aidan is interviewing Kristin. The banter between the two is the best part of the movie and even this didn't come to a satisfying conclusion.

Final Rating: 5/10

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tamara Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The school outcast is killed during a prank and resurrects as a sexy demon.

Review: At first glance this may appear to be a "Jennifer's Body" ripoff, but actually it's more likely "Jennifer's Body" ripped this film off. In a lot of ways this is a tribute to '80s slashers with the classic plotline about a bullied teen accidently killed during high school hijinks. However, instead of a masked killer, the bullied teen comes back herself to take care of the idiots that wronged her. Obviously the heart of the story is the titular character played well by the alluring Jenna Dewan. I thought the Tamara character was looking pretty damn cute even in her dorky form, but good lord can she work a skirt in her undead form! It's so weird, I've seen Ms. Dewan in many other works, but she never looked so vivacious as she does in this film; she's even a throwaway character in "The Grudge 2." Anyway, Tamara is hated for whatever reason by her peers with the exception of a new girl, molested by her creepy, drunken dad since her mom died, and pretty much has a shitty life. It definitely helps that Tamara is a sympathetic character since it makes it easier to enjoy her revenge. The only things she has going for her are her intelligence and the support of her English teacher, Bill Natolly, played by Matthew Marsden, who encourages her to do an expose on the drug abuse of the football team. Obviously those douchebags don't like that and 3 of them hatch a plan to humiliate Tamara as revenge once they learn she has a crush on Bill. Luring in the new girl who likes Tamara, Chloe, with her boyfriend and some random audio/visual geek, they set up a party at a hotel with Tamara being filmed in the adjacent room. Basically, they trick Tamara into coming to the hotel where she thinks Bill is waiting for her and they will presumably have sex. Unbeknownst to the bullies is that Tamara had invoked a witch's spell to make Bill fall in love with her. I get that they wanted to create a contrast between Tamara in life and her resurrection, but seeing her strip down to lingerie (me likey!) in the dorky form only showed how no one that hot would be the school outcast! I should probably note that a movie like this would have seriously benefitted from exploiting its concept more for fan service, but there's no nudity (oh come on!). So once the jig is up and Tamara sees that Chloe was involved (which she was not aware of until she saw the footage of Tamara), she goes ballistic and attacks Chloe. In the struggle, Tamara hits her head on the side of a table and seemingly dies instantly. In typical "I Know What You Did Last Summer" fashion, the group agrees they have too much to lose by going to the police so they decide to bury Tamara's body; they threaten to turn on Chloe with the filmed fight if she confesses as well. The group attempts to carry on as usual until Tamara shows up very much alive with a brand new attitude, killer body, and sexy outfits galore! The group thinks Tamara must have merely survived the injury and try to avoid her despite her constant antagonization. Well it doesn't take long before Tamara starts to kill people in the group using her various new powers; she can gain control of a person with a touch and make them do and see whatever she wants. At the same time Tamara attempts to woo Bill more than ever making it very difficult for Bill to deny her when she comes on to him so seductively. Seeing that Bill resists despite her bodacious new looks, Tamara seeks to eliminate the source of the resistance, Bill's wife. For some idiotic reason, the bullies throw a party in which Tamara crashes intending to kill the last of her tormentors now that her dad is toast. Hilariously, Tamara makes two of the football players have sex as revenge while enthralling one of their girlfriends. Chloe and her boyfriend try to gain Bill's aide but the enthralled girlfriend alerts Tamara who sends the two lover boys to kill Bill's wife. Meanwhile, they discover that Tamara was resurrected by her love spell which binds her life to that of Bill's life meaning that she lives as long as Bill does. Once Bill's wife kills the lover boys, she is taken to the hospital where Tamara attacks, enthralling the staff to do her bidding, which leads to Chloe's boyfriend dying. Finally, Bill, his wife, Chloe, and Tamara all meet on the hospital's roof in which they attempt to reach the real Tamara inside. Tamara confesses she could have controlled Bill if she wanted but chose not to (which was a nice touch). As Tamara fails to control Chloe, she realizes what she has become and begins to whither. However, the evil is too strong, and Bill realizes the only way to end it is to kill himself which he does as he pulls Tamara off with him in an embrace. For some reason, the final scene shows the enthralled girlfriend stealing the spell book Tamara had used for whatever unknown reason...maybe to resurrect Tamara yet again. I definitely liked this film more than I probably should have. Maybe it was the sexy Ms. Dewan, the throwback vibe, the fact that things were never taken too seriously, or that Tamara was a likable villain, but I did feel this was a good movie. It's not great by any means with some lame effects, weak acting, and many stupid moments, but better than average. If you get the chance to check this one out, it's worth the time but don't go expecting much. Also, if you aren't the type to be amused by a hot girl in a short skirt, I'm sure you will think this film has significantly less to offer than I...but that's just how I roll! God, this would have made for one hell of a porno! Hmm...maybe I should get writing?

Notable Moment: When we first see Tamara return to school after being buried. So sexy!

Final Rating: 6/10

Ms. Dewan when in her demonic form:

Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Some emo bitch boy wants to rebuild the world using butterflies or some shit like that.

Review: Oh dear lord this film was painful to sit through. It's extremely hard for me to believe that this nonsense was a single script because there seems to be like half of two different movies missing here. If you dare watch, you will understand what I'm talking about. There's just a sense of emptiness and that a big part is missing. Needless to say, the story is a complete fucking mess and borders on pretentious at many times. Tony Stark aka Iron Man, is launching some spy satellite supposedly to help monitor criminal activity with association from S.H.I.E.L.D. You'd think with an opening premise like that they would make the movie more about an ethical debate or that the bad guys planned to hack it or whatever...but nope. Instead the bad guy, Ezekiel Stane, wants to use the power of the satellite to spread his technovores or something like that; Ezekiel is the son of Obadiah Stane aka the Iron Monger. The technovores are some kind of organic machines that seem to be able to do whatever Ezekiel wants including giving him his own super armor or blowing shit up. Since Ezekiel has embedded the technovores into his body, it gives him great powers but also affects his mental state making him believe he's some kind of god. At first much of this doesn't seem so bad, but that's until the many contrivances, plot holes, and sheer stupidity appear. First, we see a band of minions attacking the satellite launch site using their wannabe Iron Man armors. Tony and War Machine eventually kill them all, but they hype up Ezekiel pointlessly since it makes it seem like their an organization only for it to appear Ezekiel is working alone. So who the hell were these goons, why do we never hear mention of them again, when was Ezekiel working on their armor since he has no real lab, and considering how that bitch boy talks, he would not associate with them nor would anyone follow such a pretentious douchebag? Anyway, Ezekiel has ample opportunity to kill Tony but chooses to seemingly kill War Machine instead...uh okay. Once this is done, S.H.I.E.L.D. wants Tony to help them, so they decide to hound him and come close to killing him many times?! Tony enlists the Punisher's help since he wants to track down who would have access to such advanced technology. This is the best part of the film, but I should mention the action scenes are good in the movie (even if they're pointless filler), it's just that the story is unbelievably stupid, nonsensical, and boring. Once again, agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. attack Tony nearly killing him; this really is one of the most annoying aspects to the film. So after losing the first fight, Tony figures somehow because he knows the identity of the enemy is Ezekiel this will somehow allow him to win! Big shock, Tony shows up and immediately gets trapped by the dumb technovores. After a ridiculous explanation for his motivations, Ezekiel loses control because the technovores suck and we needed another lame contrivance to keep the story rolling. Also, Ezekiel seems to have an imaginary friend that makes no sense. Honestly, listening to Ezekiel talk is so painful because he's trying so hard to be philosophical but failing so epically. Now that everyone is with S.H.I.E.L.D. it shouldn't be a surprise that Ezekiel breaks free and starts to kill more people. Oh yeah, you learn War Machine isn't dead but clinging to life which will serve as a huge plot hole later! Butterfly bitch boy begins to lose control of the technovores as they have their own goals all of a sudden? I really don't know. Ezekiel turns into a giant monster that Tony must fight and, once again, he's about to die when War Machine appears out of nowhere! Okay, it's one thing for him to magically have the strength to fight, but where the hell did a new armor for him to use come from?! They just brush it off at the end and say the technovores repaired him! Really...the fucking technovores?! The same idiotic technovores that killed you?! Nice deus ex machina! And what, they rebuilt your armor too while simultaneously trying to destroy the world with some newly found artificial intelligence? Ugh! Keeping with the senselessness, the Ezekiel monster is about to kill War Machine when it conveniently goes through a metamorphosis. Oh, I get it, like a butterfly! Oh wait, it turns into a big marshmallow instead! Yeah, that makes perfect sense. So the marshmallow attaches itself to a building and is somehow using the satellite to spread the technovores into all technology or some shit like that until they just use the satellite to blast it all away or whatever...I don't even care! Blah blah blah contrivance blah blah blah plot hole blah blah blah prententious. The end! This movie sucks so much ass it's hard to believe how it was greenlit! How can you go this wrong with Iron Man?! Was production rushed to coincide with "Iron Man 3" promotions? Other than a few decent action scenes, some of the voice actors, and the beautiful animation that is utterly wasted, there is nothing good about this film. The story is laughably stupid and will infuriate you with how little sense it makes! The contrivances and plot holes are unbearable and, once again, this a film plagued by incessant boredom. I think I may be too generous with some of these ratings. This is definitely an easy pass, and I recommend only renting if you're a huge Iron Man or Marvel fan. Anyone else, stay clear. Ahh, I'm so tired of typing the fucking word "technovores!" Fuck the technovores!

Notable Moment: The few scenes with the Punisher since I liked their approach to the character.

Final Rating: 4/10

Dead Silence Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The ghost of a ventriloquist haunts a town and seeks revenge on the ancestors of those that killed her.

Review: Of all the overlooked horror movies out there, this has got to be the best of them. Not only is this movie incredibly scary but has a solid story while keeping it simple and straightforward. This film comes from some of the crew that worked on the "Saw" films just as many of the better recent horror films, like "Insidious," have been from the numerous crew members from the "Saw" franchise. Unlike those films, this one managed to fall through the cracks probably because it was marketed weird, and because, at first glance, dolls don't seem too scary. Well, let's face it, most movies about dolls pretty much fucking suck, but thankfully the real source of the scares comes from the ghost that owned the dolls, Mary Shaw, played nightmarishly by Judith Roberts. Mary Shaw is freakish looking with one of the most disturbing makeup applications I have ever seen; she was supposed to have doll features added to her body after death according to her will. I assure you, Mary Shaw will leave a lasting impression on you even when the movie is over even if it's the only thing you remember afterward. She's just flat out scary as hell and there are multiple sequences that highlight this fact. However, I should mention there are moments when Mary Shaw goes CGI and of course that sucks ass. The dolls are not completely outdone as there are still times they shine and even creepily add a few scares of their own such as the case with the clown doll. But when you have Mary Shaw coming after you, the last thing you'd be worried about is some little dolly turning its head when you look away. I should mention Mary Shaw's approach to killing is to rip out your tongue and this lets her absorb your voice to mess with others later. The focus of Mary Shaw's attention is on the main character, Jamie Ashen, and the Ashen family for that matter, since his family and others killed the crazy bitch. Apparently Mary Shaw's revenge won't be complete until she's killed the entire families of those involved in her death which is close to completion by the time of the movie. We don't get a great feel on the Jamie character except that he's a rich kid sent away from the town, called Ravens Fair, when one of the dolls is delivered to his apartment and Mary Shaw kills his girlfriend. I will say this, while Jamie comes off as a dumbass, he sure is brave as hell or is he brave because he's too stupid to be afraid? The other main character is detective Lipton, played hilariously by Donnie Wahlberg, who is following Jamie because he doesn't believe dolls killed the girlfriend (who would?). I wish so much he was named after his "Saw" character because that would have been amazing, but, anyway, what's up with Mr. Wahlberg playing a cop in virtually every role?! There are a few other background characters used for fodder, like a mortician, while we come to learn Mary Shaw's ghost lives through her, more than a hundred, dolls; therefore, you have to destroy the dolls to end the curse. Oh, there's one little catch to our dear Ms. Shaw, you have to scream for her to be able to kill you; think the shenanigans of "Darkness Falls" where you had to look at her face. So Jamie burns Mary Shaw's doll collection, discovers the body of his relative that set the story in motion when he made Mary Shaw mad, Lipton gets killed during the escape, and we learn that Ms. Shaw killed Jamie's girlfriend because she was pregnant! After destroying Mary Shaw's favorite doll he left at his father's mansion, Jamie uncovers the final twist to the film, that his father had been dead all along and was being used like a dummy by his newest stepmother who is, somehow, Mary Shaw's greatest creation: a living doll. Eh, I love the dad being a dummy part, but the stepmom thing was farfetched and mostly unexplained. Overall, the story plays like a twisted fairy tale while keeping the pacing steady with lots of genuine fright and not just jump scares. The makeup effects are among the best, the music is effectively haunting, and there was a great deal of creativity even if not entirely original. The twists and turns to the story were cool even if the ending leaves you a bit perplexed. I highly recommend this as it's one of my favorite horror movies and because there's a strong possibility you haven't watched this one yet. Seeing Mary Shaw is reason enough to give this one a try and you will probably get the little nursery rhyme surrounding her stuck in your head!

Notable Moment: Although not the most scary moment, when Mary Shaw emerges from behind the corpse of Michael Ashen. It is a powerful shot, and that look on her face as she appears to sit up from nowhere is creepy.

Final Rating: 8/10

Sunday, April 28, 2013

When a Stranger Calls (remake) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A babysitter is stalked by an illusive killer that harasses her through repeated phone calls.

Review: This is that rare instance where a remake could have easily surpassed the original considering how dated and lame that movie was for me. Instead, we get endless filler to turn what could have passed for a half hour TV show episode into a full-fledged waste of time. In fact, the original film was based on a short film, which is essentially the first third of the original's premise, and then the remake only chose to recreate those aspects of the story. To make matters worse, the plot itself is just a famous urban legend in the USA, so you really feel the lack of originality! The film clocks in at 87 minutes with the credits which realistically means the running time is approximately 80 minutes. Then we have a good 10-15 minutes of bullshit character building that is a weak attempt at masking the filler with lots of pointless scenes used to drag out the suspense supposedly. Bonus characters are added to the film as mere padding and to bolster the already low body count. If we take out all these tacked on factors, we're looking at 30-40 minutes of a normal movie; in other words, the film lacks any real substance. Since the background characters are so insignificant to the story, the whole plot rests on the shoulders of our lead, Jill, played by the beautiful Camilla Belle. Unfortunately, Ms. Belle could not carry the film even though I kept hoping she'd be able to. I've seen many of Ms. Belle's films, and I know she can act better than this. It's like she was bored the whole time even when she's supposed to be scared. Every line of dialogue was delivered so poorly it was hard to take any of it seriously. Her movements and facial expressions were good and she did appear genuinely frightened, but there was some kind of disconnect with the character; I have to believe some of this must be the director's fault. As for the stranger, he is completely mishandled although I'm glad they did not go the ridiculous route the original went in. I think my biggest problem with the stranger was that he was not intimidating enough; he literally doesn't do a thing until the last 10 minutes of the movie which is unforgivable! Considering they've decided to make the phone banter the heart of the film, they should have made it more interesting rather than dumb breathing, and the occasional line about the children. Though, I did really like the whole line with 'What do you want?'--"Your blood all over me." Another weird aspect was that there appeared to be multiple red herring possibilities as to who was the stranger...well, at least, I think that's what they were going for or was the padding more blatant than I'm thinking? I should note that one of the many pointless characters was Jill's friend played by the sexy Katie Cassidy; if only Ms. Cassidy could have been the stranger! All of this talk of a "stranger" just makes me think of the Dave Chappelle joke about giving yourself "a stranger" (just look that bad boy up!). Annoyingly the stranger is not a character we see in the film nor do we get a motive for why he fucks around other than that he's just a crazy killer. The tension that is created between Jill and the stranger is noticeably weak considering how easily Jill becomes scared. It's like they didn't understand that tension builds gradually so they just decided to write in that Jill was scared for no discernible reason. Ugh, you know you have a shitty movie when the highlight of the film is the house used for the setting; that house is pretty damn impressive! In the end, there is nothing worth mentioning with this film, and it's certainly not worth anyone's time unless they love the original and just want to see the remake or are a fan of Ms. Belle since this is her show. This is television level of drama dragged out needlessly through padding that will do nothing but infuriate the audience. Damn it, even the ending scene was a combo of filler and idiotic zinger shit you know I'm tired of seeing! Uninspired, bad acting, bad direction, and most of all, boring filler. An easy pass.

Notable Moment: When we see the stranger lurking on the ceiling beams, but the scene could have been done so much better. Imagine that the stranger keeps breathing heavy during the phone calls. He makes a final call where he does nothing but breathes heavy and we see a close-up of Jill. Jill hangs up the phone but is momentarily baffled because she keeps hearing the breathing anyway. The camera slowly pans upward and we see the stranger lurking on the ceiling over Jill's shoulder; use lighting to make the stranger's eyes appear to glow. Jill is startled as the stranger drops down eerily slow. Instead we get the best moment of the film completely wasted in a fraction of a second.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Ms. Belle looking wet and wild!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Haunted House Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Yet another forgettable parody of "Paranormal Activity" and other recent horror films.

Review: Oh lord here we go again. I think it went without saying that this movie was going to suck ass, but I had hoped there would be at least some decent jokes. While I'll admit there were a few parts I smirked during, and even one chuckle, the majority of the time I kept thinking about how lame, pathetic, and outright idiotic most of the gags were. Obviously they touched on material people have been making fun of for years, but, besides this, they let too many stupid jokes drag on and on to the point it became torturous. And when these shitty setups play out, they bring the pacing to a grinding halt. One scene that was beyond stupid was when they were trying to communicate with the demon, or whatever the fuck it was supposed to be, and the entity spelled "ghost" wrong and the characters acted like this was the funniest thing. I realize they wanted to reach the lowest denominator of idiots that lap this shit up, but even this level of mediocrity should be insulting to anyone. The biggest flaw was the very premise itself whereby they made the focus of the film's story based around "Paranormal Activity." At this point in the game it's way too late; I mean, this year we're coming up to "Paranormal Activity 5" for god's sake! It is way past the time to move on and use some new material as the focus. There's been quite a few decent horror films since PA that could have been used as the focus such as "Insidious" and "Sinister." Was this garbage shelved for a couple years or something? One of the main reasons why the first "Scary Movie" was even halfway decent was because it had the entire horror genre to draw upon. By "Scary Movie 3" audiences realized they had exhausted the genre and were relying on only recent films while the jokes had become pathetic and the gimmick had run its course. Even though they are following PA's storyline, we don't really get a concise plot. I know it's ridiculous to ask for a plot to a stupid parody movie, but it was completely senseless because they were simply recreating the famous scenes but there wasn't really a reason for why this was even happening or any reasonable sense of transition. The acting was at least tolerable which is surprising, because I can't stand Marlon Wayans and he's the main character. Accompanying Mr. Wayans is Essence Atkins (gotta love that name) as his girlfriend; she has this whole sexy milf thing going on which did help. She does a slightly better job probably because she's given better material to work with, and I liked the little nuances to her facial gestures; she at least understands there's more to comedy than the delivery of lines, over the top screaming like a girl, and ass shots. There are a bunch of background characters mostly played by other semi-famous comedians, but all of them are misplaced and wasted. These characters each have some stupid ongoing joke about them that continues throughout the whole film so if you don't find what they're saying funny the first time, prepare yourself to see the same joke play out many more times! In the end, I don't really know what to say anymore, because this film offers absolutely nothing new whatsoever even in the niche parody-horror department; just about every film they tried to make fun of has already been touched on. The actual funny moments are spread far too thin to make the film even in the mediocre, rental category. While this isn't the worst movie this tired genre has produced, it is by no means worth anyone's time except on the off chance you're a fan of one of the actors involved.

Notable Moment: When Father Doug arrives with emphasis on the scene of him showing off the "ladies" of his congregation.

Final Rating: 4/10

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dark Skies Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After many strange occurrences around their home, a family believes they may be receiving visits from aliens.

Review: I have to give this film some credit, it's extremely hard to make an effective horror movie using aliens, and they almost pulled it off. If you think about it, aliens should be a much scarier plot device than they are, but because we imagine how advanced a race would have to be to come to this planet, we simply assume they would want to take over so it always drifts into the sci-fi/action realm. Likewise, the look of an alien has to be a certain degree of intimidating, while unnerving at the same time, or it will appear as a monster-movie which is technically horror but instills a different impression on the audience. Balancing these factors is not an easy task by any means. This film decided to take a slightly different approach implying that the aliens are so advanced they do with humans as they please much in the way humans experiment on lab rats (and with the same lack of concern or consideration); I don't support such shit by the way! Furthermore, the aliens interact with the characters in such a way that it is more reminiscent of ghosts and demons with a focus on the dread the characters feel to create more of the scary scenes. Unfortunately, the main thing that holds this film down is ridiculous contrivances, illogical decisions by the characters, and stupid, unnecessary cliches. We are introduced to the typical Hollywood, suburban American family consisting of two arguing parents and two sons with one being the pain in the ass, as always, and the seemingly "different" one. Well, it shouldn't come as much of a shock that the family has lame drama with money issues and the one son being a teenager; I should probably note how annoyingly distracting this son's, named Jesse, stupid Beiber hairdo is! Apparently the aliens like to fuck with people a bit before abducting them as the family witnesses all manners of shenanigans. I get that they wanted there to be a gradual buildup to the scares, but let's face it, this was too similar to a haunting; in fact, why didn't the family ever suspect ghosts? I think this may have been a big problem for other viewers because of shit like the father setting up cameras around the house to record any (paranormal) activity. It just felt copied when they should have been setting themselves apart to show a differentiation between aliens. This isn't to say there weren't plenty of decent and even good scares. As you know, I'm a major fan of subtle scares which there are a few scattered about with the aliens lurking briefly in the background of a scenes. When a film can add little details like that, it at least offers an incentive in going back for a second viewing which is more successful than the many pieces of shit who fail to understand these tricks to movie-making. Eventually the mom, named Lacy, believes that whatever strange events are happening are due to aliens and wants to meet with some "expert." I'll give you one guess what the father's reaction was? Yup, you guessed it, deny anything is wrong and make up stupid excuses! Could his reaction have been any more stock?! At one point the dad, named Daniel, finally catches the aliens on camera after a night they visited the family. Overwhelmed by how the aliens could be doing this, Daniel finally agrees to meet with this so-called expert. For the sheer sake of exposition purposes, the wannabe expert lays out everything you need to know about what's going on except the "why" yet he contributes even more contrivances to the plot. Basically, the historic "Grays" that people have claimed to have encountered are the ones behind this, and they plan to abduct the member of the family they first made contact with. The family believes this to be the youngest son, Sammy, since throughout the film he has been shown to talk to the aliens, had been drawing them, and appears to be the one most affected. Well if you know jack shit about horror films, it is painfully obvious that Sammy is not the one they want, but it's in reality our beloved little Beiber bitch boy, Jesse! Come to think of it, the film mostly drops the ball in the last 20 minutes or so. You have a predictable twist followed by the huge contrivance that the aliens immediately abduct bitch boy right after they talk to the crazy expert further exasperated by the idiocy of how the family tries to combat the aliens with a shotgun and some plywood! So, the aliens show up, easily bypass the pathetic defenses as the family acts like imbeciles, takes Beiber bitch boy (probably to study his hair), and the film ends with Sammy hearing Jesse screaming on a walkie-talkie which apparently the aliens helped boost the signal to Earth at the convenient moment that Sammy picked up his battery powered radio 3 months after leaving it "on." Yeah, they didn't think that one through too well. But come on, you HAVE to end on a fucking zinger! Everyone knows that! You know, it's funny because I actually thought for a second that they might end the film with one of the ballsiest endings I had ever seen. Because when the aliens come they, for some reason, make Jesse imagine he's having like a LSD trip. Earlier in the film Jesse was getting high with a friend, and I thought, "Oh shit, are they going to say the whole movie was just a bad trip?!" That would have been beyond stupid, but it would have been pretty damn ballsy. Hmm, maybe I'm on drugs myself to even think this? Overall, this film has decent scares while trying it's hardest to make aliens feel creepy. The acting is good with some solid performances, and the pacing keeps you engaged. However, there were so many stupid moments and the film does fall apart at the end even though there were some decent final scares. This is definitely worth a view, but it helps to understand the writer followed a typical haunted house formula and merely inserted aliens to it. The film isn't too bad, but it could have been so much better.

Notable Moment: When Lacy hears Sammy talking to someone in his room only to find a large, dark figure lurking over the bed. Very effective scare.

Final Rating: 6/10

Thursday, April 11, 2013

L: Change the World Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: With only 23 days left to live, the world's great detective, L, must stop a terrorist group's plan to destroy humanity with a new virus.

Review: Well you knew they weren't going to leave well enough alone since there was at least one avenue left to milk this franchise with this film serving as a prequel, sequel, and sidestory simultaneously. See, that's the thing about "Death Note," it is a solid story meant to have a finite conclusion, and I my respect for that fact makes me love the series all the more. This film feels more like a cash-in than a legitimate attempt to bring anything new to the story. In fact, this entry cheapens the first two movies in a way by implying that L moved to write his name in the Death Note because he wanted to resolve the case in this film more! Are you fucking kidding me?! When this movie had first been announced I thought they were going to explore more of L's history and how he became "the world's greatest detective" but instead all we get is L running around trying to stop a lame plot to destroy the world. It's almost as if they knew it was going to be impossible to outdo the creativity and scale of dealing with the Death Notes so they were like "the world will be destroyed oh no!" How dramatic. The other annoying aspect was they advertised many of the cameos of the past characters as if they would serve a real purpose to the story which they most certainly do not. Watari and Misora appear briefly in the beginning of the movie as we are shown the case L tackled right before dealing with the Kira case. Misa and Ryuk pop up to deliver like two lines each unnecessarily except so they can use them in the trailer. As for Light, he is listed in the credits, but I'm guessing only because they had footage of him on surveillance playing on a monitor in the background. Realistically, the only person who should have been in this movie was Mr. Yagami but oddly he is not here or even mentioned; given the predicament L finds himself in, I would have thought he'd ask for his help or at least have a throwaway line mentioning that Mr. Yagami was still grieving over Light or something. The story is simplistic enough: some mad scientist working with a small, bio-terrorist group wants to destroy humanity with a new virus because humans are evil (yeah, real original). The problem is that they have the virus ready and tested, but they don't have a cure since they intend to survive and rebuild humanity with intelligent people. This mad scientist, named Dr. Kujo, is played by Youki Kudoh (she has this whole crazy milf thing going on with her) who some may (or may not) recognize from her appearance in the highly controversial episode of "Masters of Horror" in the "Imprint" episode. In fact, a lot of the cast are J-horror alumni which is somewhat unusual. Oh well, I welcome it since it's one of the better aspects to this movie. Anyway, Dr. Kujo is actually "K" which means she was/is a protege of Watari just as L was/is. This is another weird aspect to the film because the movie franchise never addressed the story regarding Wammy's House which is where all these lettered geniuses come from; this is further exasperated by the fact they bring up the B.B. Murder Case which involved the character "B." K's lab partner had created a cure for the virus but upon learning of K's plan he forced her to kill him and his research, which is witnessed by his daughter, Maki. Earlier, "F" had discovered the groups plan to use the virus and found a boy who is immune to the virus and sent him to L not long before Maki arrives setting up L to babysit two brats. Well, antics ensue as Maki infects herself, which K wants to capitalize on, as L tracks down a scientist that can use the boy's immunity to create a cure which of course he does. Maki gets captured because she's dumb, and K intends to fly to the USA to spread the virus through Maki's infection but of course L stops K and her goons; I should probably mention how completely stupid K's flunkies are, because they feel like comic book villains and try their best to look it as well (one of them is kind of hot though). Maki just does whatever and the boy is brought to Wammy's House where he is named "Near" which is an extremely loose interpretation of the actual Near character. The film ends with L just walking off into the sunset which is completely asinine because we already know how he dies and it would have been mere hours after after this! This movie also makes the final scene of "Death Note: The Last Name" seem odd because why would he go back to the old headquarters and just hang out? Wouldn't Mr. Yagami have acknowledged L's shenanigans when he saw L only seconds before he died?! Uh, I give up. What can I say, the only conceivable reason to watch this film is if you're a fan of "Death Note" and an even bigger fan of the L character since this is just a fan-service for those who can't get enough of him. I will admit, Mr. Matsuyama has perfected his performance of L and is able to act out his nuances and mannerisms flawlessly; this is probably the single, strongest aspect to the film. Even though I've been knocking this film all along, it is kind of entertaining, and I do enjoy seeing more of L. I simply would have preferred a backstory of L or even his first case to show how he learned the ropes and made some mistakes. The stupid terrorists are lame movie-of-the-week rejects and a different case for L to solve would have been preferable. Also, the most ridiculous part of the film is that we already know how it will resolve because we know L, and the world for that matter, were around on the 23rd day that L died on. If you miss this entry to the franchise, don't feel as though you're losing out. While it was a cash-in, it's worth maybe a rental. Finally, I should note the only reason I even rated this as high as I did was because of L himself and realistically if I had no idea who he was, I would have rated this film much lower.

Notable Moment: When L is reading over backed up cases and trying to solve as many as he can before he dies. I must give a lot of credit to Mr. Mastuyama for all the dialogue he had to deliver in different languages throughout the film.

Final Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Death Note: The Last Name Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The cat and mouse game continues as L closes in on Light, but Light is aided with a new ally and hatches a plan to finally write L's name in his Death Note.

Review: I may be in the minority here, but I feel this entry is much stronger than the first film. Even though both films take certain liberties with the material, I didn't mind some of the changes this time around whereas I didn't like most changes in the first film. But let's start with the negative changes since there are fewer of those and because they are mostly nitpicks of a fanboy. I won't beat around any bushes, L "winning" is the biggest change to the entire story even compared to the changes in the first film. This fundamentally alters the fabric of the story itself in such a way that it can easily rub fans the wrong way. But if you think about it, Near and Light's mistakes are what defeated him in the anime/manga, and they didn't want to drag the films into all of that so I can see why they simply chose to allow L to be the victor. And let's face it, I'd much rather see L defeat Light that those little posers: Mello and Near! At the same time, L's loophole that he uses to escape the effects of the Death Note I think are questionable. Eh, I try not to think too hard about it since I suppose it may work, but I feel a Shinigami should have more sway over the notebooks than whatever a human would write. The cartoony look to the Shinigami continues as Rem looks much worse than Ryuk does; you'd think there'd be some improvements between films, but I suppose they were shot around the same time. Something I forgot to bring up with the first movie, what's up with making one of the task force members a woman? I mean, seriously? I didn't think Japan would try to be so politically correct as to pull the same bullshit Hollywood would do. Imagine if something like "Little Women" decided to change one of the sisters to a brother, would that fly well with audiences? Maybe that was a bit of an extreme example? I can never tell! Whatever...fuck you Kirsten Dunst! And the female task member is completely useless (as are all the task members when compared to their anime/manga counterparts respectively) so what was the point exactly? Hell, Sayu does more than any of them combined! Light's death was downplayed for some reason as Ryuk casually writes Light's name and the emphasis of his death is weakened. Him mumbling some shit to his dad is not how the "god of the new world" would have done it! Finally, the pacing is rushed a bit too much as the story comes to a conclusion quite unexpectedly, but it still felt satisfying. Now for what worked well: I'll go right back to it, L winning is a welcomed change. I was honestly shocked when I saw L appear because he obviously died in both the anime and manga. Like I said in the last review, toying with the expectations of the viewer makes checking out each of the 3 mediums worth it since they tell different tales. The strong acting from all the players continues with Mr. Matsuyama killing it with his portrayal of L and Mr. Fujiwara giving a strong performance as Light. I should note that the background characters were all stronger this time around without as much overacting from extras. Even though we briefly saw her in the first film, Erika Toda does a remarkable job in bringing Misa Amane to life. I actually prefer this incarnation of Misa the most since she feels more tragic, less pathetic, and more sympathetic; the anime version in particular comes off annoying quite often. Playing up why Misa worships Kira so much enhances her character whereas her motivations are more of a footnote in the anime/manga with more focus on obsessing over Light. This is probably a good time to mention how sexy Ms. Toda is in this role! The same goes for Sayu and Takada! I'm also aware that I just complained about the addition of a female character while applauding hot chicks! Anyway, speaking of our dear Takada, I also liked the change to her character since she too was less pathetic and actually seemed a bit dangerous and even evil; I suppose the idea was that they would merge her regular character with a combination of the Yotsuba Group goons. The real Takada is an interesting character, but I never liked her devotion to Kira as it felt more of a contrivance to keep the plot moving. Lastly, I greatly appreciated the resolution to some of our characters which we definitely did not get in the anime/manga. The anime just ends with Light dead and the implication that Misa was killing herself. And don't even get me started on the epilogue and the bonus of the manga and whether that is even canon. But yes, seeing the Yagami family and Misa going on without Light was depressing, but helped the story go out in a positive way as you wonder whether the world was better with or without Kira; for some reason snowfall in Japanese films always feels so whimsical. Overall, the story is great even if there are many changes. I can understand not all fans will appreciate these alterations in the same way I do, but it still makes for an interesting watch. The acting is great and the characters feel real which sucks because it makes me dread the impending American remake and how bad they will probably screw it up! The pacing does feel rushed and the effects needed a touchup, but, for the most part, this is a truly solid retelling of the Death Note tale. I obviously recommend this strongly for those unfamiliar with the franchise, since casual fans identify more with L anyway, but the anime and manga are superior. Regardless, track down the first episode of the anime if possible and try not to get addicted!

Notable Moment: When L is walking around Light's college in a ridiculous mask followed by the shenanigans as Misa appears.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

Maybe it's just me since I'm a weirdo, but I think Ms. Toda looks even hotter with demonic eyes!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Death Note Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An idealistic genius finds a supernatural notebook that causes anyone whose name is written in it to die.

Review: You may recall me touching on this franchise briefly in my top 10 TV show episodes review. Based off the incredible manga, "Death Note" is one of my all-time favorite franchises out there! From the moment I read the first chapter in the Shonen Jump magazine I was intrigued, but it was the anime that had me addicted. While the movies are good, I do want to point out that the anime gives a more complete story while exploring the characters significantly more thoroughly. The story was/is so original and creative that it captivates and enthralls the audience in such a way that you await more entries with enthusiastic anticipation.

For those unfamiliar with this fantastic series, the plot is that a brilliant high schooler (he starts in college for the films), named Light, played by my favorite Japanese actor Tatsuya Fujiwara, discovers the Death Note: a supernatural notebook that will kill anyone whose name is written in it. Also, the Death Note has various rules in order to use it properly which contributes to aspects of the story through its limitations and powers like needing to know a person's name and face; the Death Notes actually belong to beings called Shinigamis which are like Grim Reapers to westerners. Once Light discovers the authenticity of the notebook's power, he takes it upon himself to rid the world of evil as he sees it. Light is accompanied on his journey by the notebook's shinigami, Ryuk, whom is invisible to anyone except those who touch the notebook. Ryuk makes for a great foil to Light often giving him a false sense of security and offering moral insight on Light's decisions. As Light's body count skyrockets he catches the attention of the public who suspect someone is out there doing all of this, thus creating the alter ego: Kira. Likewise, the police around the world suspect that all these deaths are more than a coincidence which leads to the introduction of L, the world's greatest detective, played perfectly by Kenichi Matsuyama. L is a mysterious genius who uses his vast intellect and adeptness for logic to determine that Kira is in Japan. In an awesome display of bravado, L stages a television broadcast in the Kanto region of Japan pretending it is broadcasting worldwide in order to challenge Kira to unknowingly kill a body double who was a prisoner scheduled for execution. Confirming L's suspicions, Kira must be someone living in that portion of Japan which narrows down the list of suspects considerably. This is one of the highlights of the whole franchise as it establishes how great L is while setting the stage for the cat and mouse game between Light and L as Light tries to kill L and L gets closer to uncovering the true identity of Kira. The head of the task force to investigate Kira is, in fact, Light's father which leads to L's next clue, because he has concluded that whoever Kira may be has access to police records a regular citizen would not. So while L and the task force work together, L quietly has enlisted the FBI to investigate those in the Kanto region with access to police files and their families. With some aid from Ryuk, Light realizes he's being monitored by the FBI as he hatches a plan to eliminate all the FBI agents. I never understood why Light was so hasty to get rid of the FBI agents, but I guess he assumed they'd catch on or he hoped he'd kill L in the process or something. Through an elaborate scenario, Light discovers the identity of the agent following him only to prepare his next scheme to use this agent, named Raye, to unwittingly write the names of the other agents on paper from the Death Note. Unbeknownst to Light was that Raye's fiance, Naomi Misora, had been following Raye suspecting his strange behavior because she too was a former FBI agent. Misora suspects that Kira must have been one of the people Raye was following and quickly determines that individual to be Light. At the same time, L discovers that the timetable in which Kira kills fits that of a college kid's schedule. L also suspects Light because he was the only individual being investigated by the FBI that fits the personality of Kira. This leads to surveillance cameras being installed in Light's house as Misora confronts Light revealing she believes he's Kira. Using an infamous bag of potato chips to hide a TV to supply him with names of criminals to kill, Light manages to throw off L while he devises a plan to uncover Misora's real name and eliminate her. The film comes to a climax as Light uses the Death Note to heartlessly sacrifice his girlfriend, Shiori, in an attempt to clear his name and to force Misora to kill herself. Since few would believe someone could be so evil, and because none of the investigators know how Kira is able to kill so easily, they believe Light and even want his help on the investigation. However, L remains skeptical and suspects the potato chip ruse. We finally see that a character lurking in the background receives her own Death Note as the film ends with L and Light about to square off in the ultimate battle of intellect.

Now, while I enjoy the films for their own merits, there were aspects to the story and production that I feel are weaker that the anime/manga that is worth mentioning. Eh, I can see why they chose to make Ryuk in CGI since his character would have been hard to create as a costume and makeup, but the CGI could have been better and looks too cartoony. Although Mr. Fujiwara does a great job playing such an interesting character, it is sometimes hard to overlook that ridiculous hairdo he has in the two films! The film plays up the angle that Light feels the justice system has failed and that only through him can a just world be created. I prefer the anime's implication that Light could not accept that he was a murderer like the people he hated so he reconciled this fact by convincing himself that his murders were acceptable because he was the "god of the new world." In fact, much of Light's arrogance and megalomaniac tendencies were toned down, and when major scenes from the manga/anime arose, his change in personality felt out of place. However, since the film's tried to create their own image of Light, I can understand their approach to make him more widely sympathetic rather than tragic. Obviously Misora's character is all messed up and exaggerated since they needed to create some kind of breaking point to split the films up. It just sucks because Misora's death is one of the darkest moments in the series and gave us a glimpse with how far Light had already fallen by that point. The addition of Shiori was weak and unnecessary since we don't need her to explain to the audience that Light's actions are bad. Besides the fact that Ryuk and L cover this aspect, Light's morality and actions are meant to be studied by the audience to determine how you feel personally; we don't need someone constantly saying what he's doing is wrong.

Setting aside my complaints, this film stands alone strongly, able to touch on the major plot elements from the earlier parts of the manga/anime. Its changes are acceptable and can give audiences more of a reason to follow the different mediums of Death Note since they each have different paths and aspects they emphasize more than the others. The acting is solid as the beloved characters are brought to life splendidly, but some of the extras do overact when dying of the heart attacks. The pacing does feel rushed at times, but they have a lot of material to cover and even then the film is two hours long which you will not even notice.  But of course, the main highlight of the film is the compelling story, edge of your seat thrills, creativity and originality. I highly recommend watching these films, but I would say start with the manga or anime first since they will give you better insight in regards to every facet of the story.

Notable Moment: When the detectives first meet with L and see his quirkiness first hand.

Final Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Storage 24 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A group of people become trapped in a storage facility at the same time an alien creature has seemingly been unleashed.

Review: Ugh, I'm running out of ways to say this, but, yet again, we have tremendously wasted potential. When I see a good movie I think of all the great things that happened. When I see a bad movie I usually laugh at how pitiful it is. But when I see a mediocre film, all I can think about is how much better things could have been whether it be with the story, presentation, or direction. I guess I'll start off with the good things again since I'm falling into a pattern here: the single best aspect to the film is the alien itself. Now, I do wish they had left it more ambiguous whether or not it was an alien or not since that could have made the ending feel more like a twist, but I suppose it's forgivable. I mean, with the setting being a storage facility, they could have made it seem like someone locked it in there or it was an experiment or just whatever. Likewise, I did think a storage facility was an interesting and somewhat original choice for a setting and added some good ideas even if they weren't fully utilized. Anyway, choosing to make the alien with practical effects was a wise decision and the creature effects did look pretty good. Unfortunately, there were many sprinkles of shitty CGI that takes you out of it. For some reason they also decided to make the mouth completely CGI which is a huge distraction from an otherwise solid costume and makeup. I don't know about anyone else, but you may be getting the idea how much I hate CGI especially since 90% of the time it looks terrible. The acting was believable enough despite some shoddy moments, but I felt the characters were dealing with the situation far too casually until a radical shift toward the end. The pacing was good since we had a light introduction to the characters and then immediately jumped into the action. There was this '50s B-movie vibe that I felt was a nice touch even if it was completely unintentional; it's hard to explain, but there was just something to the presentation that felt like a throwback, or I could be dreaming. Lastly, the ending was a cool final touch as the cast barely survives the encounter with the alien only to realize a full-fledged invasion is underway. As for the bad or just mediocre aspects to the film beyond what I've mentioned: the worst for me was no point to the alien whatsoever. Let me clarify, the alien didn't seem to have a goal or purpose except to run around and pick people off sporadically. When you consider the ending, it's like uh, okay, what are you doing wasting your time, buddy? Why does the alien kill people so slowly instead of efficiently like an invading soldier would? Why is it confused by toy dogs and other bullshit? Shouldn't it already know what to expect from humans? We could look at it a different way and assume that the aliens are invading in order to find the specific alien that's terrorizing the characters, but that seems a bit of a stretch, and I don't want to give the script more credit than it's due. Although it is worth noting that it's implied the alien escaped from a downed plane and is hiding out in the storage facility; doing a shitty job hiding that's for sure. The other major detractor is that the characters suck, plain and simple, and the movie doesn't even have the decency to kill the one character I wanted to die most of all! That's virtually unforgivable in a horror film. The drama is that the main guy, Charlie, has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Shelley, for no discernible reason, and he's going to the storage place to pick up his stuff with his best friend, Mark. Charlie is mostly likable, but he's such a whiney bitch and far too forgiving of Shelley especially after she tells him how little he means to her. This should come as no shock, but Shelley is dumping Charlie for Mark with whom she has been cheating on Charlie with; seriously, easing up on the shifty-eyes might have made this slightly less predictable. Mark is presented more as the bad guy and we are meant to pointlessly sympathize with Shelley for whatever reason. Nice try. While Mark gets what's coming to him, that dumb bitch Shelley lives! Are you fucking kidding me?! Thankfully, they had the sense to let the best looking and nicest girl, Nikki, played by the sultry Laura Haddock, live; now why couldn't she have been the hero? It was also so weird when Mark suddenly shifts into crazy mode and doesn't care if anyone lives. I felt like a little bit of the writer's life was seeping into the story...wait a minute! Mark...cheating...sad, emo boyfriend...did Tommy Wiseau write this?! Eh, couldn't there have been more to the characters than this cliched lover's spat? It would have been cool if the storage facility was actually the alien ship or maybe make someone punch the alien and say, "Welcome to Earth!" Oh wait. Overall, this isn't necessarily a bad film, it's just bland and offers nothing we haven't seen a million times at this point. This is one of those circumstances where you can watch the trailer and you pretty much watched the film. I'd say watch this movie if you feel so inclined, but it is incredibly forgettable and could have been so much more.

Notable Moment: When the alien is running along the storage walls. It's a decent looking effect, makes for a nice trailer shot, and successfully makes the alien appear intimidating.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Infection Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An understaffed hospital is given an unwanted patient that appears to be infected with some new, horrible disease.

Review: I struggled with how to approach this film because it is not only weird, but it has a message that doesn't necessarily belong in a horror film or at least in the manner it was presented. This film is actually an expanded version of an episode from the "Tales of the Unusual" TV show which you may recall my review of the movie for that particular show. Essentially the heart of the story, or at least the meaning, is a societal critique of Japan's healthcare system. I never saw the episode itself, but if it's anything like this movie I'd hate to see a cheaper version. While I can appreciate the attempt to reach the audience, there was no subtlety or deeper meaning to be pondered. We are shown an over the top scenario of the characters being unfit, overworked, and underfunded. The film tries way too hard to beat this fact into your head that it's almost's like, "we get it!" The only thing the audience is left to wonder about was some monster or whatever running about which is supposed to represent a number of things while the "infection" itself is meant to represent guilt; the problem is this is also painfully obvious without much to speculate about. If the goal is be social commentary, you can't spell things out so clearly or else you mine as well just do a documentary or a "what if" scenario rather than a monster-movie approach. Furthermore, the story should have focused on the monster more because that would represent the discord of the healthcare system appropriately, but this is mostly overshadowed by the guilt aspect which has less to do with bad healthcare and more to do with poor judgement given the circumstances of the characters. I don't know how to fully convey it, but they just should have chosen a different path in which to explore these concepts like a drama. This is not to say the film is entirely bad as it does get some things right. The mystery is played up interestingly even if it all leads to nowhere-land. I do prefer the minimalist approach to the effects when they knew they didn't have the budget to back up said effects. There are some nuances and details that I appreciated from many of the actors that made the characters feel more real; likewise, the acting is decent from most while a bit idiotic from others. But the best part about the film was the incredibly attractive nurses! You know, I seem to constantly find myself praising nurses and schoolgirls! What can I say, I am a man of predictable tastes. Anyway, the nurses were definitely a highlight as they helped ease my way through the boredom. On the other hand, this film fails in numerous regards beyond the story elements I've already addressed. There are virtually no scares and a decently creepy-looking hospital set is wasted tremendously. There are multiple throwaway plotlines that were clearly used for padding since they amount to absolutely nothing. There is one character in particular that was added for no clear reason except as a transitional shot; he never contributes to the story, and there seems to be a buildup to something only for him to suddenly appear dead. Even though this is supposed to be some kind of monster movie, you would not imagine how boring and slow the pacing is with the action spread far too thin. Finally, the most egregious offense is none other than a nonsensical ending! You have probably noticed my loathing for shitty endings, and how much they influence my rating, and this ending felt like an afterthought. We are left to wonder if anything we have watched actually happened only to be thrown for another loop as we are then left to wonder what the fuck is happening plain out. For a film that barely attempted to disguise it's meaning, you'd think they would then provide a straightforward ending to leave you focused on the greater implications of the themes but nope. With the good and bad weighed I suppose this film worked out to be in mediocre territory. I like the outside the box presentation, but other than that, there isn't much on the positive side unless you want to drool over the nurses. This film suffered from a lack of focus, lack of horror elements and scares, and an unnecessarily stupid ending. I'd say it's worth a view if you're remotely interested in the plot, but understand what you're getting yourself into. This probably should have stayed a TV show episode since it simply does not work as a full-length film.

Notable Moment: When the head nurse is lurking in the shadows unbeknownst to one of the younger nurses. It's the only remotely scary moment, and given how late it comes, I'm too bored to even care!

Final Rating: 5/10

Two of the better looking nurses: