Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sick Nurses Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A ghost seeks revenge against those that killed her in a night full of shenanigans.

Review: Okay, this is yet another movie about to be taken away from Netflix streaming. I definitely should think up something special to refer to these movies as...but what to call it? Anyway, this isn't exactly a film worth crying over the removal. Now I'm not saying this is anywhere remotely as shitty as "Episode 50" was, but it's certainly not a good movie either. The main problem is that this movie doesn't really have a story. It's kind of hard to explain unless you watch it, but you simply get one segment after another of the ghost slowly killing a nurse with little understanding of what's going on until the end. And even by the end, there are still a ton of unanswered questions leaving the audience in the dark.

To start things off we have the murder of the one nurse that becomes a ghost. There are six other nurses and the main doctor who are apart of a scheme to sell dead bodies and that one nurse was going to blab on them. Don't even worry about the dead body plotline since it's nothing more than a huge ass contrivance to have the dead girl's body hanging around for the end scene. Forget anyone's names and stick with this: there's one nurse that loves eating, one obsessed with fitness, one obsessed with her looks, twins, and one that is the doctor's chickadee and sister to the dead nurse. Eh, they try to make the nurses sexy, wearing random outfits I don't think would be acceptable at any hospital, and they are cute, but they don't really have the look I prefer. Besides not wearing proper attire, the nurses also appear to just lounge around together doing whatever they want. I thought this is a hospital? Where are the patients and staff? Am I missing something? After participating in murder just a week ago, they're already joking about the dead nurse coming back to haunt them...which of course she does. I'll give the film credit in this regard, they don't play around as the ghost pops up and gets to work almost immediately. The makeup on the ghost is--umm--interesting to say the least; she's like a reverse Kayako or something with all black skin. I wouldn't say she's all that scary, mostly due to shitty lighting, but she does come off quite intimidating which is good enough I suppose. I mean, there are a few cool moments when she comes off creepy, but too often she's seen just standing in the open. Her powers are kind of all over the place as she can pretty much do anything with special attention to controlling the victim's bodies. The deaths are long and dragged out, but they aren't anything memorable; however, the nurses are all bitchy so their deaths do feel satisfying. In fact, only one nurse was okay and she is spared by the ghost, but she decides to commit suicide anyway for some reason. I should note that the ghost comes to each nurse at the same time; this is why they keep cutting to a clock and so little time is supposed to be passing.

The only story aspects we learn are that at one point the dead nurse was dating the doctor and the sister stole him. The sister is also pregnant which kind of connects to the story but not crucially. The doctor spends a lot of the movie roaming around reminiscing which is pretty much the only way the story does move forward. There's something going on with an award ceremony the doctor went to, but I have no idea what the hell that was all about since it was just filler as far as I can tell. At one point the doctor starts remembering some guy that we learn was his gay lover. We finally learn the main twist of the movie was that the ghost nurse was actually once that gay lover who got a sex change. What? That really makes no sense, but I'll go with it for a moment. The ghost appears to the doctor in a wedding gown and tries to approach the doctor when the seemingly dead chickadee burns the body that, like I said, was conveniently kept around. This appears to destroy the spirit for good, but then the ghost is suddenly born from the pregnant chickadee except the ghost has reemerged in the original male form. Then we get a scene during the credits of the nurses all playing at the beach. Umm...okay. Yeah, let's consider a few things. If the doctor is bi, why would it matter what gender his lover is? If the doctor is gay, why would he want the sister? Actually, we see a scene of the doctor kicking it to every nurse at one point. We could assume this seduction was how he was able get everyone to go along with his scheme with the dead bodies, but we don't know shit about anyone's motives. Plus, let's say your the chickadee for a second. You know your brother got a sex change to be with the doctor and you want to date that doctor? Huh?! I think most women would realize that's a mess you don't want to sort out. And did all the other nurses know she was a tranny too? They don't appear to know, but that leaves us wondering how long any of these people really knew each other. I'm sure they thought this would be a cool twist, but there is a huge ass gap in the plot that needed filling.

I know this may sound worse than it is, but the movie can be entertaining. I really liked the music as it added a nice somber tone as the ghost was deserving of revenge; and it also helped to show the ghost was reasonable by sparing the one twin nurse that said she was sorry and that was genuinely against the murder. Likewise, it was nice that the ghost had a few chances to stand out in a landscape full of Sadako and Kayako clones. The pacing is good with the action beginning from the start and not letting up until the end. While the twist wasn't thought out enough, it is somewhat original and unpredictable. But, like I said, most of these cooler aspects are cancelled out by the sheer pointlessness of everything. We don't know shit about what's going on or why and are meant to merely accept the situation at hand. If there was a stronger story and we knew the characters a little better, I think this film had the potential to be significantly better. Oh well. I'd say missing out on this one won't be a deal breaker, but if this sounds intriguing to you you may find it a bit more enjoyable than I.

Notable Moment: When the nurse that loves eating decides to eat a donut in mid-stride of brushing her teeth. What the fuck? No one is that hungry.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Episode 50 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Two stupid teams of paranormal investigators annoy the living fuck out of me.

Review: Once more I tackle a movie saying bye bye from Netflix streaming. I should turn this into a segment or something since this keeps happening. Typically this would be the point where I would complain that Netflix needs to add more movies instead of deleting them, but, in the case of this movie, they're doing the world a favor by getting rid of this shit. My fucking god I HATED this movie! I kept praying for Rika to put me out of my misery as I had to take at least four breaks to gather my composure and force myself to continue. I can't even think--the stupidity of this movie is overwhelming my cognitive abilities. You see that kind of creepy movie poster? That artwork is seriously hundreds of times better in quality than anything going on with this garbage. Arrrgh. Ughh. Aaaahhh! Why...

The story is a shameless ripoff of "Grave Encounters" with tidbits of numerous other films thrown in for no reason; like, was adding a Kayako-clone really necessary in this instance? In a nutshell, two stupid teams investigate a haunted sanitarium or whatever and dumb shit happens. Something about a demon, a serial killer, an idiotic ritual, a gateway to hell, and a dying tycoon wanting to know if hell is real. Hell if I know and definitely don't care. This has got to be one of the worst editing jobs I have ever had the misfortune of viewing. You will probably have no idea what the hell is going on for the majority of the film due to the abominable editing. I thought this movie was supposed to be found-footage style, but it is not consistent at all and at one point it's like they say "fuck it" and stop. Plus, why do we keep getting cuts back to testimonials? Who cares what these fools think...aren't they supposed to be tormented by the ghosts at this point?! The fuck? The acting is unforgivable with horrendous delivery and overacting out the ass; the allegedly dramatic moments are the worst and border on suicide-inducing. The special effects are about as shitty as you would imagine. They appeared to put some work into the look of that Kayako-clone, but then they completely waste her in favor of displaying the most cliched looking demon.

I don't know what else to say. The movie is a mess from start to finish and fails in every aspect; I can't put it any more plainly than that. If I had worked on this film I would be completely embarrassed. There are worse movies out there, no doubt about that, but this movie took itself so seriously with the cornball music and attempts to be dramatic. I was laughing a few times over the sheer shenanigans, but, more often than not, I was just annoyed. This didn't even come close to the so bad it's good territory which makes it that much more insufferable. With its merciful removal from Netflix I feel like the evil spirits are being cleansed so I will take solace in that. If by chance someone should come across this movie on a whim, do not waste your time! It's like "Jumanji:" Netflix is burying the movie and may god have mercy on your soul for digging it back up.

Notable Moment: That final shot of, what I'm presuming is, Jack's dead body. I absolutely love the chocolate syrup blood with no wound to be found. Are you fucking kidding me here?!

Final Rating: 2.5/10

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Haunted Universities Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An anthology of connected tales regarding school hauntings and the mysterious coroner cleaning up afterward.

Review: We don't get a lot of anthology films that try to interlock the stories, so this was definitely a nice change of pace; in fact, the only other movie I can think of off the top of my head was "Trick 'r Treat." Unfortunately, the attempt to connect the characters sort of falls apart at one point and turns things more into a makeshift wraparound. While there are good ideas here, and a bit of originality, the overall experience gradually becomes disappointing with each passing story. The interconnection does not alleviate the problems either as that tangent to the story is weak and serves as mere transition scenes. However, the last story does bring things around nicely even if completely changing the tone in the last act and falling short of its potential.

To start things off we are introduced to a few characters ahead of time, but don't get your hopes up that this will be anything remotely on par with "Trick 'r Treat." The main character you need to focus on is the female coroner who can allegedly see ghosts. I suppose we are meant to assume she sees the stories unfold in her mind when showing up at the crime scenes to mop up? I really don't know about this aspect, but, honestly, I was just annoyed with the character in general. She's trying too hard to be stoic and is lazy as fuck; every time you see her she's either talking on the phone, staring aimlessly, or sitting on her ass while her co-workers are doing everything. Why would they hire her? To fill a quota? This was a huge ass wasted idea as we could have had some creepy shit like the "Final Destination" coroner or just a character that had a purpose. She doesn't even say anything interesting for all her stoicism. I'll get back to her later for the last story, but just keep her in mind as she is popping up between each story doing the shit I just mentioned.

Segment 1: Thugs come to beat up a lackey believing he has been stealing their drugs and/or money. This was actually really funny as they all start brawling right in the middle of the street with a bunch of onlookers and random people joining into the fray. Eventually the thugs capture the lackey and his girlfriend and demand the lackey take them to the drugs which happens to be at his university. While en route, they mention a haunted bathroom in the school that everyone fears to go toward. Being the tough guys that they are, the thugs want to see this for themselves. Almost immediately on path to this bathroom, ghosts start to appear and attack the group of four. As the group becomes trapped, and is almost prodded toward the bathroom, the lackey, his girlfriend, and one of the thugs end up dying to avoid the ghosts. The main thug ends up in the bathroom where he comes face to face with the primary ghost who, of course, promptly kills him. Not too sure how a building this haunted would still be inhabited, but I guess I can accept it for the time being. I do have to say, one of the ghosts looked excellent with impressive makeup effects, but sadly they didn't go to as much effort on the rest. Regardless, there were some good scares in this tale and this made for an excellent way to start things off.

Segment 2: For this tale, I really don't know how much of this is real or what, if any, cultural context would have been needed to properly understand the premise; I love Thai horror movies, but I'm not going to pretend I know a great deal about the country's history. Anyway, a girl, who is the granddaughter of a military leader who executed students on the campus years prior, is semi-bullied by current students who are still bitter over the incident. The girl doesn't feel any sense of guilt which annoys the class leader, or whatever, and he takes her to an allegedly haunted elevator where students were executed and the stories claim the elevator is stained red from their blood. They tell her to go in and of course she sees creepy visions, but apparently to the onlookers she passed out before going in the elevator and it was in her head; the girl decides to avoid the elevator like the plague from then on out as she sees visions from then on. One day she is tricked by bitches into getting back on the elevator alone as she sees the execution of the students first hand--experiencing their pain and suffering. Eh, there's something about the girl then trying to reunite the ghosts of two of the students, but then we learn the main girl had died herself. Fuck, I don't know. Coroner girl sort of sums things up for us on this one, but it ends with the implication that the main girl's ghost is still wandering around pointlessly. This was probably the weakest entry for me, and it felt a lot like an episode of "The Twilight Zone."

Segment 3: I think this segment was trying to be funny...or at least I hope so, because I couldn't take it seriously. I mean, it starts off with a dorky student in med school fantasizing about filling a cavity for the hot chick in class while she slowly pulls up her skirt. Good one, dude. Unfortunately for the dork, he wakes up from this dream screaming like a little girl right in the middle of class with everyone, including his hunny, laughing at him. In case you couldn't tell, the dork is a complete and utter fucking wimp, and the tale will continue beating that idea into your head until the end. After discovering his friend borrowed an assignment to copy, the dork is scolded for turning in the paper late. Of course he takes this revelation like a bitch and can't say shit back; this "friend" is really annoying and I am pissed he didn't die. Now, you may think the dork's hunny will play a part in the tale since she too was yelled at, but I guess they forgot about her. The dork and his so-called friend try to make up for things by promising to fill in at the hospital on a holiday when the staff is shorthanded. Unbeknownst to them, they learn the role they're filling in is for the morgue attendant. Of course our dear little dork is losing his shit as his friend keeps scaring him and ditching him to be left alone for long periods of time with the bodies. They miss a lot of opportunities to do something cool with this setup and stick to the typical bullshit scares you would come to expect. By the end, the dork has gone apeshit when the dumb friend tries to scare him once more. The dork goes to stab the friend, but out of nowhere a ghost saves the annoying friend...and that's the end. You stupid ghost! Why would you save that idiot?! That's like if Jar Jar was about to be killed and the Emperor, of all people, saved him. The fuck?!

Segment 4: Now we come to the last entry and the story about the coroner girl. I don't know what to make of this setup, because I get the idea that the coroner is a lesbian and that her roommate is her girlfriend but the movie keeps this oddly vague. Well, okay. The roommate is trying to cyber with some dude one night when he threatens to kill her after she teases him too much. Later, while coroner girl tries to sleep, the roommate goes out for snacks or something when she is harassed by some losers but seemingly rescued by one of the characters we saw earlier in the film who says he'll take her home; it's some dude that the thugs warned not to mess with. Meanwhile, cyber boy shows up to coroner girl whining as she realizes he's their neighbor. Eventually cyber boy crosses paths with the roommate and the guy that picked her up as we learn the two men know each other and are serial killers; well, at least the tough guy is, but cyber boy is his protege. We majorly shift tone as the roommate is brutally beaten, raped, and murdered. The two killers then go to take care of coroner girl when they are interrupted by a really cool and scary looking ghost of the roommate. But before things can become really interesting, the killers run away and that's about it. Coroner girl, being the lame psychic she is, senses something is up but only finds the snacks the roommate went to get. The movie then ends with us realizing that the person coroner girl has been talking to in between each segment is the roommate's ghost as she has finally tracked down the killers. Pst, you're a fucking ghost! How hard can it be...maybe if you'd get off the phone you could pull it off! My god. To make the closing all the more asinine, the killers pick up the ghost intending for her to be their next victim and they don't recognize it's the roommate?! They never even give us a proper death for those two goof balls to boot. This was supposed to be sentimental or something but it felt like a total waste to me. The story itself was good and the ghost looked awesome, but the conclusion is shallow and we are left wanting more closure.

Overall, these were some decent stories although they we're stretching things with the "haunted universities" aspect; it was more about the coroner girl seeing ghosts than the schools themselves. There was consistency between the quality of the tales that worked nicely, but I felt the first segment was the hands down winner. I liked the makeup effects on a lot of the ghosts which seems to have become a staple in Thai horror. But, to be fair, a lot of the scare factor was coming just from the look of the ghosts with really only one good setup also in the first segment. There were a few missed opportunities to work more creatively with the material presented, but they did still manage to pull off some original concepts. I would say this one is worth looking into since I was having more gripes with the technical aspects and disappointment with story execution than anything else. Meaning, others may appreciate the segments more than I, and I can take that into consideration. It's on youtube, so it's easy to check out.

Notable Moment: In the first segment when the thugs are trying to find the haunted bathroom. I liked that the elevator kept stopping on each floor with the creepy ghost getting a little closer to them with each stop.

Final Rating: 6/10

Monday, May 26, 2014

Oculus Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A woman, with the reluctant help of her brother, attempts to prove a haunted mirror was responsible for the deaths of their parents when they were children.

Review: You know, it's been a while since I've been this impressed with a horror movie, but it's definitely a good feeling. While I wouldn't say this movie is as scary as it could have been, it more than makes up for this with an awesome story loaded with original ideas and concepts. I should mention that this film is based on a short film, from the same director, called "Oculus: Chapter 3 - The Man with the Plan;" this was most certainly a great indie short so check that out too if you're interested. Anyway, this is one of those rare instances where I think the director not only realized their vision but exceeded it splendidly. However, as highly as I am rating this film, there is one major detractor, which I know can make it or break it for a lot of people, that is the ending is painfully predictable. Honestly, by the 30 minute mark you should clearly know how this is going to end unless you were hoping against hope they'd pull a switcheroo on you at the last second.

The basic premise of the film is that there is a haunted mirror, called the Lassar Glass, that has been passed from person to person for at least 400 years with each owner meeting terrible and suspicious demises. The storyline feels reminiscent of an allegedly true tale proposed in "Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction" regarding a mysterious "hooded chair" that killed whoever sat in it and was also passed down through the ages. I also liked that they stress that there wasn't a true origin point for the mirror as no one knows where it came from, thus, allowing the audience to let their imagination run wild with speculation. The main characters are Kaylie and Tim--siblings who had their childhoods ruined by their family's encounter with the mirror ten years earlier. As the film begins, the adult Kaylie, played quite well by Karen Gillan, has arranged circumstances to reacquire the Lassar Glass just as Tim is released from a psychiatric institute. The film's structure can be a bit confusing, but it eases you in gently as it cuts back and forth between the present and flashbacks to the original incident. From the onset, the atmosphere and tone are great as we are given tidbits of information to pique your interest like a crack in the mirror.

To sum up the past events, the mirror slowly possessed the parents leading to their deaths with Tim appearing to be blamed for murdering the father; this is the reason he has been institutionalized. Tim has grown up thinking everything with the mirror was just a story in his head as a means to cope with a horrible situation all the while Kaylie has grown obsessed with the mirror and its history. The contrast between the two is cool and allows for even the audience to doubt the validity of a supernatural source for a time (but I'm glad they didn't keep things ambiguous). Kaylie is driven by a promise the two siblings made as children that one day they would destroy the mirror to avenge their parents; this aspect felt like "It" but in the best of ways. Before she destroys the mirror, Kaylie wants to prove that it is supernatural in order to exonerate her father of the crimes he's accused of. She concocts an elaborate plan to film and force the thing inside the mirror to show itself through various means. Since she knows the mirror can control electronic devices (meaning no calls for help), she has created a self-described "kill switch" if all else goes wrong with an anchor on the ceiling that will slam into the mirror if it's not manually stopped each hour. It's kind of hard to properly describe her setup, but it looks cool and was a clever way to deal with a haunting we don't usually see. I should also address that Kaylie's obsession is a great plot device when the average audience goer is probably going to claim "just break the mirror!" She doesn't just want to destroy the mirror, she wants it beaten on her terms which sort of makes her a tragic hero. Regardless, the mirror is not easily damaged, as you will learn, making it debatable whether she could have simply smashed it.

Now, we've seen haunted mirrors and cursed objects before, but there is an interesting approach to the way they present the mirror you may not initially expect. In essence, the mirror feeds off the surroundings as it gradually gains the ability to manifest ghostly apparitions, warp reality, and make you see whatever it wants you to see. The film really emphasizes the manipulation of an individual's thoughts when in proximity of the mirror as it wants its victims in a helpless and brainwashed state. The scares, while present and amazing when they happen, are not as in your face as other films in the genre. Instead, this film takes a more subdued and psychological approach leaving the audience questioning what's happening and with an increasing sense of dread. And I'll tell you right now, sadly, we don't see anything directly come out of the mirror all Sadako/Samara-style; it wouldn't have hurt but might have felt cliched. This isn't to say that we don't see some creepy and memorable shit. The mirror likes to manifest demonic versions of its previous victims with special attention to a woman that bled to death; you'll be seeing a lot of that particular apparition with her glowing eyes. With that said, it is never explicitly explained what is the deal with the mirror. Is there an original ghost, is it a demon, or is it something forged in the pits of hell? The only things we can say for certain is that whatever resides within the mirror can be destroyed and reacts animalistic in order to defend itself. That crack dealt to the mirror was amidst the initial struggle the siblings had against its control, but it can typically make you hallucinate that you're hitting it when in reality you miss. Whatever the entity is, it's undoubtedly malevolent in nature...I think this is yet another instance we needed Sam and Dean on the case!

By the end, Kaylie and Tim cannot tell reality from illusion any longer as the film masterfully blends the flashbacks with the adult version's hallucinations. We see the story come full circle as the events from 10 years ago start to reflect the current encounter with the mirror. Both hauntings, so to speak, are interesting in their own right and you kind of get two tales for the price of one. I guess I can spoil what happens, but, hell, you could have probably guessed it just by what I wrote. So...unable to tell if what they're seeing is real or not, Tim tries to set off the anchor the moment he thinks he's in full control of himself only to realize Kaylie has been manipulated into standing in front of the mirror to intercept the hit. Yes, I know, predictable as hell, but it's still presented well enough. The final scene is of the police showing up and arresting Tim who is screaming that the mirror is responsible with a final shot of a demonic version of Kaylie added to the list of forms the mirror can take now.

I'm actually hoping people will skip some of my spoilers and just watch this movie since it's more than worth it. The tension, tone, mood, and atmosphere are each spot on; I genuinely felt engaged and on edge the whole time. The acting is good from everyone even the little kid versions you may think will be annoying; the kids surprisingly handled the haunting in a greater stride than I would have anticipated. The scares are effective and most felt original with even a few innovative tricks. The approach to dealing with the haunting and how the mirror operates was creative and gave the film a unique feel; I pretty much loved all aspects to the story and its presentation. The only downsides are that there could have been more scares and utilization of the movie's awesome concepts, especially when considering the film short had moments left out, and the ending is far too predictable. These flaws don't bother me excessively, but they can't be ignored when a disappointing ending can completely ruin a film for some. Suffice to say, I definitely recommend checking this film out at the first opportunity. With as much shit that has been coming out in recent years, it's refreshing each time a quality film is still produced and its even more shocking when there's a lot of originality to boot.

Notable Moment: When the bleeding ghost slithers freakishly back into the shadows only to immediately emerge at the door. Definitely a great effect and original scare tactic.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Ramblings of Ryan Volume 3

It's been a while since my last one, but here goes another regular blog post. I've had a few things on my mind I want to bring up so let's dive in.

First, let me laugh at the fact that I still haven't covered that "Battle Royale" review. Pst. One day, I promise. I just really hate BR2 that much! Something I've been considering to cover was a complete rundown of "The Twilight Zone" series; like, I would do a review for each episode individually. I'm not sure how I would break that down, but I want to have it separated from the regular reviews. One problem though...I'm too noob-ish to figure out how to do this! Anyway, I'd probably do a couple episodes a week with maybe just a paragraph or two a pop; nothing special or fancy but merely something fun to review. Another thing I want to do is another top 10 list, but I'm not sure what to cover. Best sequels? Best franchises? Scariest scenes? Most annoying characters who weren't killed?!

Since it's the end of the TV show season, for the most part, I might as well address a few things in this regard. I know I intended to mention this before but any of you DC fans out there should be watching "Arrow!" They're really bringing it with season 2 without too much cheesy drama you'd expect from the CW channel. I love all the little references and winks to the DC universe. There's eye candy for the ladies and eye candy for the guys so it works on most levels without the audience needing much of an understanding of the larger DC universe at hand. This leads me to the fact that they're introducing a show based on the Flash next which I'm hoping will be as good as "Arrow" has been thus far. The other show I wanted to mention was "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series." I know what you may be thinking: "A show based on the movie?" I'm not going to claim the show was on the level of the film, but it's first season was surprisingly entertaining. The two actors filling in for George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino perform admirably and the story is changed enough to keep you guessing what direction they will take. Of course I need to address the elephant in the room though: Salma Hayek's character, Santanico. Look, there are very few women on the planet that could equal Ms. Hayek's sexiness at her peak especially with the notorious snake dance. The actress that takes on the role is named Eiza Gonzalez and she's still pretty hot herself, but she's nowhere near as buxom or curvaceous as Ms. Hayek. She did her best and it was a hard act to follow; even she described Ms. Hayek's body as "intimidating" (that's an understatement my dear). Needless to say, they greatly expanded the Santanico character which was wonderful, because all she originally did was look hot as fuck and then die almost immediately. I'd say give this show a chance, but if you're already annoyed with the changes from the get-go then forget it.

For comparison (sorry to whatever website I took this from!):

Moving on to the next chick trying to fill in the role of a curvy character...seriously, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman?! I know I'm late to the debate, but after a recent photo of Ms. Gadot working out was released I could not stop laughing. Are you shitting me here?! Wonder Woman is an amazon with godlike abilities while simultaneously possessing the idyllic female form. Ms. Gadot on the other hand is a twig, and I don't see her bulking up anywhere enough to pull this shit off. And don't give me that fucking Heath Ledger as the Joker shit people keep bringing up. Actors impressing an audience with their performance is the exception not the rule. This whole Superman Vs. Batman idea is looking worse and worse, but here's hoping I suppose. I'm indifferent as far as Ben Affleck as Batman goes, but like my friend said, "He already ruined Daredevil might as well do it to Batman." And for realzies with Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor?! Eh, I guess if they go for the sheer intelligence aspect of Lex it might work somehow. But come on, the voice actor for Lex on the "Justice League" cartoon, Clancy Brown, looks more menacing! And let's not forget we've only just established Superman in "Man of Steel" and we're already prepping for a Justice League movie? I hope I'm wrong and this turns out amazing, but this looks like a shipwreck in the making.

Alright, now I'm going to completely shift gears and get semi-serious for a second. Cue unusual, angry rant! I believe the time has come to address a certain issue that annoys me greatly when it comes to discussing Asian horror movies. There is a certain segment of the English-speaking fanbase that watches these movies and are complete retards--or fanboys/girls if you're wanting to humor them. They lack any sense of objectivity and "love" every fucking movie that comes out without thought. These people are posers who do not necessarily care about film, or horror, or even Asian movies for that matter--they're desperately trying to find some niche that can define them and provide a lame sense of belonging. Look around the internet, they really aren't hard to come across. I'm bringing this up because reading comments/reviews about a few films recently were driving me crazy...more than usual. I really don't understand how someone could watch pieces of shit like "Haunted Changi," "Yoga Class," and "The Doll Master," and the first word that comes to mind is "amazing." Really, dude? REALLY?! My point is that this makes finding information on foreign films hard when you can never get a realistic idea of the film's merits with fools hailing every movie as the next "Ringu." Thankfully, imdb usually has reliable ratings in these situations since there are real people to cancel out the maniacs who only like these movies because they're "Asian." Take a deep breath here--believe it or not, not every movie that comes out of Asia is amazing. And trust me, if there is anyone who absolutely loves Asians and their movies, it's me (in case it wasn't obvious), but I'm not a mindless fanatic and will always be as objective as possible. Okay, rant over.

That was too much anger...must compensate somehow. I know. Rika, are you getting ready for summer? Yikes...I see!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Memento (2000) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A man with anterograde amnesia attempts to seek revenge against the mysterious assailant he believes killed his wife and gave him brain damage.

Review: Now we come to one of my all time favorite movies and easily one of the greatest movies of all time, "Memento." Simply: wow! Few words can describe the sheer awesomeness that is this film. I have to give immense credit to Chris and Jonathan Nolan--top-notch writing of the utmost caliber. But, beyond an amazing story, every facet of the production was perfect and exactly what they were striving for; I'd go as far as to say they accomplished significantly more than what was intended. This is how you properly execute your ideas all the while implementing creative and interesting film techniques that leave the audience completely awe-inspired. There have only been a handful of films over the years that touched me so deeply and this is one of them. I cannot fathom walking away from this movie feeling anything other than astonishment, and it says a lot that I still get that feeling each time I see it.

I won't spoil too much about the story, because I believe it is better watched than explained and it's kind of hard to explain anyway. Essentially, we see the events of the film told backward while simultaneously provided narration from the main character, Leonard, played magnificently by Guy Pearce. Leonard has anterograde amnesia which is a rare condition that leaves an individual with the inability to form new memories. Meaning, all the knowledge you possess up to the point of the brain damage is retained, but you cannot gain anything else. Obviously this makes functionality in life difficult and the film explains this in great detail with Leonard using notes, photos, and tattoos to help him maintain focus. I've always found the subject of anterograde amnesia fascinating, and I would encourage anyone even mildly interested in the subject to explore it more deeply since it is so rarely documented. Anyway, Leonard was injured during an assault when two criminals broke into his home, raped and killed his wife, and left him for dead with the brain damage...or so he believes. Leonard is obsessed with seeking revenge on one of the criminals that escaped since the other was seemingly killed in the struggle; the police don't believe there were two criminals. The presentation in the film is key as each scene ends where the prior scene began. For example, the first scene of the movie shows Leonard killing someone, then the prior scene shows what led to this and ends right before the first scene had begun. Hopefully that makes sense (just watch the damn movie!). You're, maybe, a couple minutes into the film before you find yourself completely engrossed in the action and it does not let up until the glorious conclusion. There is a wonderful mystery and the audience is pretty much as confused as Leonard (in a good way) up until the end when all the pieces of the puzzle finally come into place. I cannot stress enough the amazing way the story unfolds and how the audience is provided just enough information to string you along between each new twist. We get all kinds of excellent themes along the way like the importance of memory, the way memories can be manipulated, the delusions we convince ourselves of, what is absolute truth and do we want to know it, and how much can you trust someone...or yourself for that matter. There's some heavy shit here, Doc! To add icing to the cake, there are multiple ways to interpret the conclusion, and the events of the film itself, with a lot of the answers coming from the morally ambiguous Teddy character, played perfectly by Joe Pantoliano.

What can really be said that others have not already addressed about this remarkable film? It's always easier to tear into shitty films, but when you're dealing with a movie this good it's as if all I want to say is "I love it" and call it a review! The acting is perfect, the music is hypnotic, the editing was/is award winning, the pacing is great, you are enthralled by the mystery wanting so desperately to have the answers, and the story is incredible especially in its original and creative presentation. Suffice to say, the entire production and every facet of the film making process is exactly how you would imagine a legend to be. I don't throw around 10/10 ratings often, but this time it's rightfully deserved. If you haven't watched this film yet, you're seriously missing out. I know it may sound like I'm overly hyping it, but once in a long while a film does measure up to its hype. I cannot recommend checking this one out any more strongly.

Notable Moment: At the end when Teddy is explaining everything. You truly feel Leonard's anguish as he realizes his memory is incorrect. Or you can subsequently choose to believe Teddy is lying, and we can never know the truth. Ahh this is why I love this movie!

Final Rating: 10/10

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Horror Stories 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A girl with psychic powers figures out the mystery behind unusual insurance claims in this anthology tale.

Review: Man, I had such high hopes for this series after the first movie, but it's already let me down. I know it may be hard to come up with original stories to tell, but, come on, these tales were bland as hell. Okay, it's not that the stories are inherently bad, but they feel uninspired and one is a flat out ripoff. They also missed an opportunity to continue with the first film's wraparound; which was odd since the girl from that segment is in this movie, albeit, playing a different character. I should also mention the first movie had more stories as well which was yet another disappointment. It's like they were trying to mirror the experience people felt when watching "VHS 2" or something. Oh well, let's take a look, shall we?

Wraparound/444: I did like the idea behind this segment--with a weird girl working late at an insurance company when her boss wants her to use her psychic abilities to get to the bottom of troublesome cases. But let's be honest, no one would hire that girl especially in Korea; her attire and look reeks of wannabe Lisbeth Salander. All that happens is the boss gives her a claim and she is supposed to tell him what really occurred. In between each story we see, what appears to be, demons encircling the boss while he deals with a nagging family. I don't know what the hell was supposed to be going on, but at the end Lisbeth says something about the boss committing fraud and then they try their best to reenact the ending of "Drag Me to Hell" as the boss is suddenly dragged away. The girl mumbles to herself like this isn't the first time she's done this as she mops up blood they left behind. Uhh okay. I guess that makes sense in some far corner of oblivion. Well, this wasn't the worst segment so there's that.

The Cliff: This is probably the best tale although that's not saying much. The problem here was mostly missed opportunities to capitalize on a decent premise. Two guys, who appear to be friends, go hiking as a kind of tradition after investing some money. When they go to take a photo on top of a mountain they fall over but land on a ledge. The two begin to squabble quickly since the movie jumps to the 4th day immediately. It's the shit you would expect with them arguing over personal stuff, paranoia, and a lot of drama with a Snickers bar. The nicer friend ends up dying trying to get the candy bar as the douche eventually is rescued after seeing visions of his dead friend. At some point the nice friend's magical twin brother appears out of nowhere and doesn't believe the douche's version of the events. The douche realizes that when he fell off the cliff he actually pulled the nice friend with him rather than both going over at once. The twin brother claims he wants the douche to escort him to the cliff to pour the nice friend's ashes out which the douche goes along with. When they get there, there are no ashes in the urn but inside is a Snickers bar. The twin then pushes the douche off once more to that same ledge and says that the douche had stolen money from the family which led to their dad committing suicide. The story ends with the ghost of the nice friend apparently coming to get the douche. There was maybe a little too much going on in this segment making things feel rushed. The ghost felt forced and the twin idea was dumb, but I did like the creativity and the twists were nice.

The Accident: This is the segment that feels most like a ripoff; I mean, we've seen this tale before and done better numerous times at this point. Basically, three stupid girls are drinking and driving when they of course crash. Do I even need to explain that they conveniently cut away right before the collision? The girls try to find a phone on the road but it's destroyed. Then they see a light coming from a home in the distance and try to make it there with their injuries. Along the way they see zombie-ish people all the while hearing voices that are of course the family and hospital workers. Yeah, in case you couldn't tell, they're dying and in a purgatory-state with everything in their heads. They get to the house and it's some kind of shrine with an old man who looks like a monster at one point. The main girl eventually wakes up in the hospital as she realizes what is happening, but it turns out she has died anyway. The visuals look good, but we've seen this same tale too often and they did not add anything different.

The Escape: Once again, the last story turns out to be the worst. For some reason they decided to add a comedy tale and it is beyond stupid. I'm sure some may find humor in it, but I sure as hell did not except for one lone shot. The premise is that a new teacher, who is a total wimp, is utterly humiliated on his first day; apparently he also works at a school in dire need of a "Battle Royale." When considering suicide and wimping out, the teacher talks to a girl proclaiming to be a satanist who gives him a spell to go to a different world...I guess where he's not a wimp? After going through the elaborate ritual, the man does end up in the hellish world but it looks the same except inhabited by monsters. Suffice it to say, they try to make things funny, but I'm not laughing. The man wants to leave, but doesn't know how, so he magically can call the satanist girl for help. Satanist girl talks to her friends that made it back from the world and explain the most ridiculous and over the top ritual to get home which involves drinking your own piss among other things. When the teacher is almost back, about to perform the last part of the return ritual, and finally gaining confidence from the experience, one of the satanist's friends reveals that that particular ritual only works for girls. The segment ends with the dude dying or whatever as he sends a pic from hell to the satanist. Again, the visuals are great, but everything else not so much. I did like the girls randomly cursing in English though.

Overall, I'm severely disappointed. I was hoping they would step their game up and surpass the first film, but I suppose that was expecting way too much. The stories aren't even that original and the one that is original turns out to be terrible. The quality looks good, and I could tell they put a lot of effort into the production, but they should have been focusing on the quality of the tales first and foremost. I don't know if they will continue on with this series, but, if they do, they need to compensate big time for this fuck up. I guess if you're bored you could give this one a try, but there are way better anthology films out there including the first "Horror Stories."

Notable Moment: During the last segment when the one teacher is yelling at the students. I liked how one girl jumps through a window to get to class. It was a nice touch that was actually amusing in a tale trying way too hard to be funny.

Final Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One Missed Call (American remake) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Idiots are killed after receiving a phone call from the future.

Review: Screw it, I take back what I said about this movie being decent. This fucking sucks! It's like they didn't even watch the original movie and winged it after someone explained it to the writer over a campfire. What on earth were they thinking?! "Well, why don't we replace all the practical effects with shitty CGI...that scares the kiddies, right?" I only wish I were born with more hands so I could punch everyone involved at the same time. To make matters worse, this remake was created after the entire franchise had run its course in they had added insight on how to tell a proper story and learn from the mistakes! Should have consulted me and Rika on how to do things correctly. Thankfully this movie is universally hated, but, in truth, it's nowhere near as bad as that "Shutter" remake; every time I think about that movie my hands tremble with homicidal thoughts dancing on my mind.

You know things are bad when the film begins by trying (and failing) desperately to pander to those aware of the original with an Asian-ish look to the first victim's house and calling the cat Luna. The first chick dies pathetically with the audience thinking, "umm, okay," like this is supposed to make sense. Plus, I just love how the little kitty gets killed. What, the cat got a fucking call too?! We get a lame setup for our wannabe Yumi, named Beth, as another friend gets the cursed phone call. Oh yeah, they changed the ringtone and it's not creepy at all. Beth is nowhere near as charming as Yumi and her mama drama feels tacked on more so than in the original. Our wannabe Yamashita, named Jack, doesn't strike me as someone that concerned with his sister's death...but the movie sure wants you to think he is. Now, when you get the call, you see retarded CGI visions, that are meant to be scary, up until you die. The deaths don't feel like a ghost is doing them as much as they appear to be rejected "Final Destination" ideas.

Blah blah blah, pointless drama, blah blah blah cursed phone calls, blah blah blah stupid friend ends up on TV. Natsumi's death was awesome in the original and worked so well, because it was believable that it would air on Japanese television. The same cannot be said for American TV which would never air something like this and definitely not live. Who cares though because they completely bumble the scene and it looked terrible. As before, Yumi...ahem, Beth gets the cursed call and turns into a whiny, panicky bitch which was the opposite of Yumi. Jacky-boy figures out the origin of the curse traces back to Marie (amazing they kept the one English name) and her two daughters Ellie and Laurel which are the equivalents of Mimiko and Nanako. They also explain that all the dumb CGI visions had to do with shit at Marie's house. No wonder your kid is crazy, you're giving her disturbing toys and bugs to play with! You already know what's going on so let's move on as nothing scary happens anyway. They realize Marie was at a hospital when it burned down so Beth goes in alone and, again, nothing scary happens. You know, the whole movie feels rushed when it comes to the best parts and yet they focus on stupid shit. Go figure. Jacky-boy arrives and the two dick around until Beth finds Marie's body in a vent. Admittedly, Marie's dead body did look cool, and I did like the way she came to life; too bad she looks like a Cenobite reject.

Beth gets CGI cried on and that's all it takes to get rid of the ghost of Marie. Jacky-boy and Beth go home and Beth tries to be all flirty for some reason. Big shock, Jacky-boy learns it was Ellie that is the villain. I love the ridiculous, over the top, spoon-fed "evil" look to Ellie with her wearing all black and a hoodie. Compare this to Mimiko who actually did look innocent and wore a girly dress. After Beth clearly sees someone in her house, she says, "whatever," and goes downstairs to answer the door. Because this movie does not know how to create tension, it is just Jack. Then there's another knock and Jack gets stabbed through the peephole. Uhh, Jacky-boy didn't get a call, but I guess he and the fucking cat shared one. Meow. Then we see more CGI and I'm starting to get scared because all this CGI is hurting my eyes. When Ellie goes to kill Beth--you're gonna love this--the ghost of Marie comes back and stops Ellie by putting her back in the phone! Oh goodness gracious. Then the movie ends all of a sudden with the phone ringing again with Beth walking the wrong way to the shower. Well, at least the movie was short, right?

As you can tell, this movie sucks. The only good moment in the whole film is Marie coming to life and that's over in less than a minute--not even exaggerating. They rushed the events, put zero effort into the scares, the characters are inferior, changed up the good ideas and worsened the bad ideas, and couldn't even explain the rules of the curse properly. I was going to give this movie an even lower rating, but it makes me laugh too hard...hell, I'm laughing right now! Unfortunately, I don't think many saw the humor in the situation the way I can. If you simply want to complete this franchise, don't bother. There's nothing new added, and, if you saw the original, then you've watched this movie too.

Notable Moment: When Ellie puts on the hoodie. Seriously, I was face-palming and laughing.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Missed Call: Final Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A bullied girl uses the cursed phone calls to seek revenge on her classmates while they're on a trip to Korea.

Review: Remember how part 2 disregarded most of part 1? Well, this film decides to disregard both movies and make up its own rules. Hell, you mine as well, right? Actually, some of part one's ideas do carry over, but the continuity is totally shot and only one aspect of part two is acknowledged. I never would have imagined that the first movies' themes were this complicated that writers couldn't continue it properly. Keeping everything in mind, this is a slight improvement over the last film. The story is mainstreamed and the action is faster but at a cost of losing scares. Although I like the lack of convolution and more focused approach, there is this cheap feeling to the production and most aspects are noticeably inferior. Luckily, to somewhat make up for this, the main girls are cute and help ease the dumbing down of the plot whereby you could just tell they tailored the story to be accessible to those who did not see the first two movies.

So what are the new rules and what carried on from the last two movies? The new way things work is that people are randomly sent the cursed calls from the same class. The ringtone is still the same, but I would say the calls are more like text messages. When someone is called they have the option to forward the curse to another person once only; this means that the first caller has an option but the forwarded person is toasty toast no matter what. The time between the deaths are quick--like a matter of minutes--but it seems to vary inconsistently as a contrivance. As far as what storyline aspects carried's essentially just the ringtone, the basics of the curse (like the candy), and Mimiko. Li Li is off hanging out in Kayako-land I suppose. Nothing else is touched on so don't expect more concerning Yumi, Takako, Kyoko, or even anyone mentioning Natsumi's death on TV. In fact, only one character knows about the curse and he's in Korea! Oh come on. Finally, the only aspect of part two that is touched on is that shit about answering the second call to get killed instead of the original victim. I should also mention that Karen Oshima, who has been playing Mimiko all this time, must have had like a huge growth spurt over the years, because they had to pull off some next level hobbit shit on her. You see closeups of her face, but they have a little kid double for faraway shots; you can often tell Ms. Oshima is on her knees in multiple shots (that doesn't sound right). Hey, I'll give them some credit for shooting around the same actress rather than replacing her like other movies would.

The story begins by introducing us to Asuka, played by Maki Horikita, who is the bullied student out for revenge; I've mentioned the cute Ms. Horikita multiple times now, but I think I'm down to only one horror movie of hers left to cover. Something funny worth noting is that the dub is hilarious when it comes to pronouncing "Asuka" as the English voice actors each say it differently and none correctly. There is bullshit about Asuka having a friend that hung herself, named Pam, but I'll tell you now that it is painfully obvious Asuka and Pam are one and the same. Because of all the bullying, Asuka, nicknamed (s)Pam, tried to kill herself by hanging but it simply put her in a coma when a school staff member found her. Her spirit then conveniently teams up with Mimiko without a real explanation of how this is possible. Working through Asuka's computer, the two send messages to the classmates which are the cursed calls. When someone dies, their photo becomes warped in the class portrait Asuka has.

The main character, Emiri, played by the beautiful Meisa Kuroki, and her classmates go on a trip to Korea where Emiri has a deaf boyfriend-ish-guy, named Jin-wo, waiting to meet up with her. I'm not going to lie, I really liked Emiri and Jin-wo's relationship; they're so cute signing back and forth. I wish this would have been its own movie so it could have more time spent on it! Anyway, I don't know what was the point of this trip, but they gave everyone cell phones to stay in contact which works as a wonderful contrivance. It's not long before the first person gets a cursed call which is accompanied by a photo of the girl hanging similarly to Asuka. Again, this is yet another contrivance so the characters will make an association between the curse and Asuka that wouldn't have worked any other way. Eventually a bunch of kids are killed as the characters figure out the rules of the curse along with Jin-wo explaining to them that he's the only that's heard of the curse before. He claims to know a violinist that let his girlfriend die when he could have intervened; this will be mildly important later. The deaths in this movie are a mixed bag of some looking cool and some looking terribly bad.

With the classmates beginning to turn on each other, as they don't want someone to forward the curse to them, Emiri tries to contact Asuka, believing she awoke from her coma. Asuka of course explains that she is behind the deaths and expresses there will be more as she wants revenge on all of them. Jin-wo shows Emiri information about Mimiko in an attempt to understand what's going on. This is dumb, because if it is so readily known that Mimiko is behind the curse, and this has been going on for years, why is everyone in this movie so oblivious to this fact?! Plus, I love that Mimiko's death is online and magically the nanny-cam can show different angles! Later, after more banter with Asuka and Emiri, we learn that it was actually Emiri that was bullied first and Asuka took her place in order to protect her; the two were best friends at one point as well, but Emiri regretfully accepted Asuka's position as the bullied one. This is fucking hilarious...the two hottest chicks are supposed to be the two most bullied?! Is the OMC universe connected to the "Eye of the Beholder" episode of "The Twilight Zone" or something? Emiri has one more conversation with Asuka where she somehow reaches the comatose version and awakens her. Apparently Mimiko was partially influencing Asuka's thoughts, but this is not explained at all. I should probably throw out there that during all of the main events more students are being killed, but they're insignificant fodder and their overacting sucks.

Jin-wo concocts a plan to defeat Mimiko, and the curse, permanently as they believe Mimiko is working inside Asuka's computer. He thinks if they can get enough people to spam Asuka's computer with emails it should crash the system and destroy Mimiko. Umm, sure, I'll go with it...I guess. This part is super corny with people gathering around the world to do their part in messaging Asuka's computer, but it borders on so bad it's good. Asuka walks all the way home from the hospital without anyone stopping her and apparently has no parents too. Emiri and Asuka magically can see each other through computers as they try and reconcile, but Mimiko teleports them to their school after sending Emiri the cursed call. Asuka is confronted by the ghosts of those that she feels guilty for killing as she accepts death at the hands of Mimiko. Before Asuka can be killed, Emiri says she wants to take her place just as the computer is finally crashed by the bombardment of spam. The two girls are teleported back to where they were and Asuka's computer humorously blows up--seemingly Mimiko is defeated along with her curse. Jin-wo and Emiri eventually share some sweet words before Jin-wo says this is goodbye. Emiri then realizes he was actually the violinist from his own story about the dead girlfriend. Jin-wo steals Emiri's cell phone and decides to be the last victim of the curse by answering her phone in her place. Uhh, isn't Mimiko defeated? Isn't the curse over? Oh I get it, this is somehow connected to Li Li, right? Jin-wo dies and spits out a piece of candy. Fuck you! This makes no sense. What exactly is killing Jin-wo? If it's still Mimiko then she's not defeated. If it's Li Li, then the curse is nowhere near over and why the hell is she giving people candy now? Oh hell, Li Li is out there no matter what the fuck happened to Mimiko! Was no one thinking about the idiocy of this scene? Whatever. The final shot is of Asuka taking a catatonic Emiri to the ocean as they once promised each other. The the franchise. Not sure how this is a happy ending or even satisfying. The curse is obviously not over but okay. Yatta!

You know, I really wish they would have went back to the basics with this movie and dealt with Mimiko properly. They should have made an effort to explore her character and make her defeat more personal. If I were tasked to make one more movie, I'd have it about Nanako overcoming the evil of Mimiko and releasing her spirit. However, I would have also continued with the possessed Yumi plotline anyway, but that's neither here nor there. The ending to the TV show worked better as a finale since it implied the curse spread all over the world. Overall, this is a mediocre, cash-in followup trying to appeal to the broadest audience without any consideration to its own lore. There are shoddy effects, contrivances, and plain stupidity. On the other hand, there are some decent deaths, the music is great toward the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the cheesy romance plotline, and Ms. Kuroki and Ms. Horikita serve as excellent eye candy. Since the story didn't bastardize the material as much as part 2, and because there are more fun, so bad they're good, moments, I have to give a few extra points. It's not the ending we deserve, but perhaps it's the ending we need.

Notable Moment: When they find the one girl dead in a dryer. This was an interesting and brutal death. If not this scene, then when that computer blows up like it's the Death Star.

Final Rating: 6/10

The lovely Ms. Kuroki:

And Ms. Horikita looking way too serious:

Monday, May 12, 2014

One Missed Call 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A journalist, trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious phone killings, discovers the curse may have a different origin than originally believed.

Review: Sometimes sequels strive to surpass the original. Sometimes sequels want to merely cash-in. And sometimes sequels want to be completely retarded as is the case with this movie. Forget everything you knew and loved about the first movie, because they disregard as much as they could feasibly get away with. I really don't understand what they were thinking. I can tolerate taking a series in a different direction but not at the expense of trivializing the original in favor of a nonsensical plotline. No wonder the most they ever made it up to was part 3; they milked the cow too hard, too soon, and it had mad cow disease.

First, let's address what gets forgotten and/or written out of the plot. None of the characters return except the one skeptical detective who doesn't do much and is pathetically killed off screen. Want to know what became of Yumi and Yamashita? Well, apparently Yamashita was simply killed after the last scene in part one. Yumi then went running around Japan for a year, doing nothing it would seem, until she dies out of the blue. The sad part was that you don't even see this, you only hear about it, and we have no idea what killed her. Wasn't she supposed to be possessed as we clearly see? This movie says nope. Mimiko simply brought out the inner evil in her. Psh yeah, okay. That's why her reflection in a mirror was Mimiko, she talked like her, and had the same candy? Nah, that's just a coincidence when you awaken someone's magical inner evil. They do mention Natsumi's death on live TV, but they downplay it like people barely remember it and one of the main characters conveniently didn't watch it. Okay, you don't have to watch something to be aware of its existence and that shit would be big news all over the world...not something you half remember only a year later. Anyway, Nanako is never seen or heard from again. As for the exploits of Mimiko, I'll get to her later.

The main story is a fucking mess so I will try and explain it in a way that makes sense. More people are being killed in a manner similar to part one whereby you get a call from the future when you die; the same ringtone is there too. But they've modified the rules a bit conveniently. Now you get your death call again while in the process of dying. This, of course, will become important since if someone else answers that second call they die instead. The detective from part one notices that there's no candy in the mouth of these victims either. After her friend dies, the next person to receive the call is a girl named Kyoko and she is accompanied by her love interest Naoto. However, the main character of the movie is a woman named Takako, played by Asaka Seto, who is better recognized as Misora from "Death Note." Also, whoever wrote up the wikipedia page for OMC2 needs to get punched, because Takako is a journalist (she even says this) not a detective! I'll note now that Takako has weird headaches connected to the death of her twin sister when she was a child.

The movie feels off from the beginning, but it still held promise up to a certain point. From here on out, we cross into shitacular territory and never return. Takako talks to Mimiko's grandma who swears she always knew Mimiko was a monster. Right, because Marie didn't realize it nor did anyone who knew of the family up until her death. And where was this bitch at when it came to taking care of Nanako, huh?! Then they pull a Freddy and swear Mimiko is the bastard child of a rape on Marie. Oh for the love fuck! I'm cringing for realzies here. To make matters worse, Mimiko's grandfather somehow killed the rapist and went to prison for this. Then when he got out he went crazy and lived in Taiwan. If you think any of this is leading to some huge twist, it isn't--you're just becoming well acquainted with contrivances.

Blah blah blah, Takako, Kyoko, and Naoto all go to Taiwan to figure out what's going on especially after they learn the new victims that didn't have candy died with the stomachs lined with coal specific to a mine in Taiwan. Actually, I should mention Kyoko coincidentally overheard a bullshit story before they left, while walking down the street, about a girl with her mouth sewn shut. Oh how fucking convenient that a random chick walking down the street can foreshadow for the audience. She was hot as hell though...she should have been the lead. Takako finds Mimiko's grandfather's body clutching a cell phone, and, through another fucking contrivance, Takako's estranged husband, who just happens to live in Taiwan, explains that the cursed phone calls were happening in Taiwan long before in Japan. My god, how many times am I going to write "contrivance" and "convenient" before this nightmare ends? Rest assured, there are plenty more ahead! Also, the estranged husband got the cursed phone call too as an attempt for the movie to annoy me further.

To make a convoluted story short, once upon a time there was some little girl named Li Li who allegedly cursed people with death who messed with her. After many deaths, the town's people decided the only way to deal with this situation was to tie the girl up, sow her mouth shut, and bury her in a mine. Hmm, makes sense to me. I mean, duh, of course you sow someone's mouth shut that you are already going to bury. You have to make sure they look extra creepy for when they come back as a ghost! What this means is that at some point Mimiko was apparently a victim of Li Li or was meant to be--the movie isn't quite clear on this. Uh, no. Let's just humor it and say, yes, Mimiko was killed by Li Li. Why would Mimiko then come back as a killer ghost too? And conveniently uses the same M.O. to boot? Plus, the ringtone was specific to Mimiko's story, so why would Li Li use it too? Arrghh. Even dumber, they completely minimalize Li Li's power by saying there was a disease going around and perhaps she simply sensed it, therefore, keeping her degree of evil ambiguous.

With time running out, Takako, Kyoko, and Naoto go to the mine where Li Li was buried and are fucked with by both Li Li and Mimiko although the two do not appear to be working together and are never shown interacting. We realize that Takako's twin sister appears to have been a victim of Li Li although it is not explicitly explained. Takako eventually ditches the other two in order to be with her estranged husband when he's about to die; for some reason he doesn't die though. Kyoko and Naoto try to escape the mine after finding Li Li's burial location but she torments them. They soon discover some kind of transmitter was built above the mine thus explaining why the ghost uses the phones. When Kyoko is about to die, Naoto intervenes and answers her phone to take the place of her death. I'm so glad they added that convenient change in the rules in order to have a pointlessly dramatic scene between two characters I want to die.

If you thought that business about different skies made no sense in part one, wait until you see this ending. After Takako and Kyoko meet at a hospital, they act like things are fine for some reason. Uh, the curse is still fucking going ladies--you guys didn't accomplish shit! Takako goes to her little hubby and only finds a video camera while Kyoko is told that they found two bodies at the mine instead of just Naoto. Takako watches the footage and sees herself killing the hubby and verifies this by finding his body in the tub. Then Takako remembers being killed by Mimiko at the mine and that she had actually received a cursed phone call without realizing it. The movie ends with Takako smiling like a dumbass as she spits out a piece of candy in her mouth. Uuuuggghhhh. Fuck it, I'm not even going to bother explaining why this is stupid as I believe the ludicrous nature of it all speaks for itself.

Wow, way to drop the ball. The only thing they really succeeded at with this movie was cancelling out the events of the first one. The story makes so little sense and is confounded with a nearly unlimited supply of contrivances and idiotic decisions. We are also left with many unanswered questions that appear to serve as plot holes; on top of that, we have multiple continuity errors unless we are meant to readily accept the sheer implausibility of the contrivances. I wanted to give this film a lower rating, but, in all fairness, the production was high and there were still a few decent scares; I really liked the moment with Mimiko/Li Li/whoever lurking behind Kyoko's friend. Overall, this fact makes the film fall into the mediocre category; things started off well enough but takes a nosedive all too quickly into the realm of stupidity--a place to which there is no return. Honestly, any fan should stick with part one and forget this thing even exists.

Notable Moment: When they first learn about Li Li's town and a little boy materializes out of thin air to talk shit and then disappears just as suddenly. Well, thanks for that, kid. This scene is laughably bad, but the dubbed version is worse.

Final Rating: 5/10

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Updated Review #4: One Missed Call (Japanese original)

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After her friends are killed, a woman finds herself as the latest victim in a curse that passes from cell phone to cell phone.

Review: I remember watching a UK produced documentary about Asian horror, and they discussed how this movie was a flat out remake of "Phone," but I have never heard that again. I don't see how they could reasonably be compared since the only connections are with the use of cell phones and the typical cliches. Also, there is a book version (just $1000 new on Amazon!), but I don't know which came first in this regard. Oh well, as I've stated before, I find OMC to be vastly superior and obviously it's popularity far exceeds that of "Phone" considering this had a TV series, two sequels, a dubbed version, and a Hollywood remake. The reason why this film easily ranks amongst the Asian horror legends is because it's genuinely scary and implements a cool story with well executed ideas. But it does have its flaws like the slow start, contrivances, and that nonsensical ending that I still can't understand to this day; hell, they didn't even know what they were going for which is why they ditched it for the sequel.

The story follows Yumi, played by the notorious Kou Shibasaki (although I prefer her real name, Yuki), as she uncovers a curse that spreads through cell phones. In retrospect, Yumi's personal storyline is a bit contrived with her studying psychology and having childhood trauma that never gets a proper explanation but conveniently connects to the film's events. I mean, her mom was abusive, her grandmother committed suicide seemingly, and we don't know anything about the dad. As for the curse, it works whereby you receive a message from the future in which you die and then, at that specific time, you are killed by the ghost with someone in your contact list being the next person selected to carry on the curse. The deaths are various, but the victims always hear a suction sound and have a piece of candy in their mouth afterward. I should also note that the ghost has a certain trickster nature to her that will make a lot more sense by the end.

We begin things with one of Yumi's friends receiving the first cursed call after reporting that she had just come from a funeral. The ringtone is creepy with a noticeably distinct sound that is wonderfully easy to hum along to when this movie scares a friend. There are a few moments of shenanigans at the beginning that I'm not quite sure what they mean. Like, why do we see the ghost have her hand around Yumi and the ghost seemingly in the bathroom? Was the ghost always interested in Yumi or something? That issue never gets cleared up, but it does add to the tension I suppose. Anyway, Yumi's friend is later killed mysteriously with her severed hand dialing another friend's number setting up the same circumstance with a future phone call. This time Yumi is there first-hand to see what appears to be a supernatural force killing the next friend. Freaked out, Yumi stays with her best friend, Natsumi, as Natsumi is the next to receive the call. Sadly for dear Natsumi, she gets a text photo showing the ghost coming for her that gradually moves forward in the photo as the days pass closer to Natsumi's time of death.

Obviously the police don't believe in any of this, but somehow the media gets wind of the story and wants to have Natsumi on a live show where they will bless, exorcise, or whatever the hell, the poor girl. Up to this point things were going a deliberately slow pace but from here on things pick up. Yumi talks to a guy that had been lurking in the background, named Yamashita, who explains that his sister was one of the first victims of this curse and she had a candy in her mouth when she died, thus, catching his attention. When Natsumi goes on the show, it is pretty much a spectacle at her expense with no one taking it seriously but her. When the ghost finally does come for Natsumi it is on live TV. I loved this aspect! We always have these movies where people face ghosts and monsters but never get real help. OMC decided to up the game and have someone go on live TV to escape the ghost and still get killed. After Natsumi, quite literally, loses her head, Yumi is of course the next to get the cursed call.

Not wanting to go out like a bitch, Yumi and Yamashita investigate the origin of the curse and find a link to Yamashita's sister dealing with a missing woman, named Marie, and her two daughters, one who died recently. Supposedly Marie was abusing her kids which led to the older daughter, Mimiko's, death. The two visit the family's apartment and Yumi finds a photo of Marie that looks like the ghost...who makes a nice little appearance. I have to say, is it really intelligent to list the names of the household above the door to your apartment? That's just inviting trouble in my opinion. Yamashita talks to the surviving daughter, Nanako, and finds out the creepy ringtone was the theme music for some old kid's show. Yumi decides to go alone to the burned down hospital Marie worked at since her time is running out. This is the point in the film where a lot of scares come in great succession of one another; I like the ghost walking on the ceiling best of all though. Yamashita eventually shows up as they find they are trapped and time is almost up. Yamashita notices another phone in the room as he discovers the rotting body of Marie clutching her cell phone. Yumi draws the idiotic conclusion that Marie's ghost was killing people because she wanted to be found. Oh Yumi, what am I going to do with you? Then the best moment of the film occurs as Marie's dead body springs to life with great makeup effects. Marie tries to kill Yumi, but Yumi has flashbacks of her own mom and sobs like a baby until the ghost of Marie gives up out of pity and goes off to Kayako-land or something. With that, the curse does appear to be over for good as the police wrap things up. There was also some bullshit moment where Yamashita sees the apparent ghost of his sister talking gibberish about different skies, but I have no idea what that was all about.

Since you know this isn't the end, Yumi goes home as Yamashita and a detective meets up with Nanako again. Yamashita is shown a tape of Mimiko being the one that was abusing Nanako and that Marie seemingly let Mimiko die from an asthma attack in order to take Nanako to the hospital. Nanako says that when Mimiko would hurt her she would always give her a piece of candy that is the same one that had been in each victim's mouth. Although it is not explicitly explained, the Marie-looking ghost we saw was Mimiko dicking around as she began the curse by killing Marie, then Yamashita's sister, and so on. Mimiko of course comes after Yumi as she somehow possesses Yumi. Not entirely sure how that's happening but okay. Yamashita shows up and is stabbed by the possessed Yumi who says she will take him to the hospital in the same manner Mimiko would do with Nanako. We then get a shot of Yamashita saving Mimiko from death which I guess is merely a dream...hell if I know. Yamashita wakes up with the possessed Yumi waiting to hurt him more as she seductively spits a piece of candy into his mouth and wields a knife behind her back. Damn, Mimiko, calm down! The movie ends with a shot of the sky and a song that has lyrics resembling the nonsense Yamashita's sister was saying when she appeared. I'm assuming the cycle of abuse is supposed to continue, but where is the hospital staff and what is this shit about different skies?!

OMC proved you could take a formula, that was already getting tired back in 2003, and spin the material into something original and creative. Overall, there's much to love with this film; the interesting ideas work well even if a few make no sense. I especially loved the concept of having a character get killed on TV; though, shouldn't we have had a followup scene discussing a frightened public that saw this go down? The makeup effects are impressive, the music is nice especially the ringtone, the mystery keeps you interested, and there are memorable scares. The first time I saw this movie I was really unnerved and that's why I ranked it in my top 10 list. This is a must-watch if you're a fan of Asian horror as this is one of the foundation films. However, as much of a classic this may be, be wary of the ending's implications, the contrivances heavily strewn about, and the slow start.

Notable Moment: When Marie comes back to life in the tub. I was really freaked out the first time I saw this, because she looked like she was blending into the background.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Phone Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A journalist, in fear of reprisal for one of her articles, discovers her new phone number is cursed.

Review: In the past this was movie was often regarded amongst the legends of Asian horror, but I do not agree with that assessment. Side note: since when was the word "amongst" considered outdated and spell check says it's not even a word? I guess I'm just an old fashioned kind of guy. ANYWAY, it's not that this film is terrible, but it tried, and failed, to tackle too much while not even succeeding in bringing about any real scares or a coherent story for that matter. There are highlights and some good ideas, like the intrigue regarding the mystery, but everything else is a mess from start to finish. Perhaps the biggest gripe is that the story comes off as a lame drama more than a true horror film which is disappointing. Back in 2002, when the Asian horror boom was big, I can understand the novelty of this movie, but it does not hold up to repeat viewings nowaday and it certainly does not hold a candle to the likes of "Shutter," "Ringu," or the "Ju-on" franchise.

Right from the beginning, they severely mishandle the story. You have the main character, Ji-won, played by the lovely and similarly named Ji-won Ha, who is a journalist working on an expose regarding an under-aged sex ring...or something along those lines. You think this plotline will play a significant role to the story, but don't get your hopes up--it works merely as a huge ass contrivance. In essence, Ji-won faces backlash for the article and is forced to change her number and lay low at a friend's house until things die down since there's a stalker after her. Here's an idea...turn off the fucking phone, hun! My god, you will be pulling your hair out by the 30 minute mark by how many times you hear the same ring tone going off. Keep in mind this was 2002 and already we have a character who can't live without a cell phone it would seem. Well, apparently Ji-won still receives disturbing phone calls with her new number, accompanied by pointless visions for whatever reason, but she attributes this to the stalker; the ghost also went super saiyan 3 somehow which may explain her incredible power level.

There's a completely nonsensical plot point about Ji-won's friend's daughter going crazy from her blossoming Electra complex. There are some disturbing moments regarding this, but it's best to see them for yourself like the girl trying to make out with the dad. The reason why this is happening is because the girl answered Ji-won's phone one time when the ghost was calling and now she's possessed...I guess. I've touched on this bullshit before, but, seriously, how can a ghost simultaneously be spreading a magic phone curse while possessing someone? At least the little girl doing the acting really brings it and sells me on the bullshit. If this weren't weird enough, they had to add an extra layer of convolution by explaining that Ji-won donated her egg to her friend in order to allow the kid to be born in the first place. Again, this barely connects to the plot making it feel contrived; I swear, it was simply added to have more "dramatic" scenes of crying and moping. On top of that, the little girl disappears from the plot entirely at one point exasperating the contrived nature of it all. Okay, back to that whole stalker fiasco--Ji-won is nearly killed but the stalker idiotically is killed by the ghost calling. This scene is, really bad. Besides the fact that Ji-won does not strike me as someone with the upper body strength to pull herself up from a ledge with one hand in the snow on a wet rail, why would this crazed stalker stop in the middle of killing Ji-won to answer her phone?! What was the plan with that? "Hello, your friend can't come to the phone right now, she's about to go to hell." Uuuughh. Fucking contrivances. Oh yeah, it's also Christmas pointlessly so...merry Christmas! That honestly got a laugh out of me it was so unexpectedly stupid.

What was this movie about again? Oh right, ghost in the phone. After seeing stalker boy die, Ji-won finally looks into the mystery and realizes everyone who has had this phone number has died after reporting similar haunting experiences with that super saiyan 3 ghost. Then we learn the first owner, who is the ghost, was some nutcase the movie wants you to feel bad for named Jin-hee. Jin-hee had a secret boyfriend who got her pregnant before kind of playing her out. It really isn't hard to guess the boyfriend is Ji-won's friend's husband which means that the possessed daughter really wants the dad. The movie is very thorough in showing us the fine details of this lame affair revealing that Jin-hee is a crazed, obsessed, stupid little girl, but people seem to feel bad for her character for some strange reason I can't fathom. She's also a huge bitch, and I would have killed her too! Ji-won confronts the husband regarding the obvious murder, but big shock, it was Ji-won's friend that actually killed Jin-hee! Wow, couldn't see that coming. Ji-won's friend gradually caught on to her husband's cheating and tricked Jin-hee into meeting her. When the two argued, it was actually Jin-hee that tried to kill the friend first and she defended that makes her the villain? And enough with the crying over everything! It's not that sad. The room where Ji-won had been sleeping is actually where Jin-hee's body was stored in the wall. Hmm, who would have known that some Korean housewife was a skilled mason and electrician. Because the friend has lost her mind, she decides she will kill her husband, who I assume did die since we never see him again, and burn Ji-won along with the newly discovered body of Jin-hee. I know you allowed me to have a kid and are my best friend and everything, but I'm going to burn you alive for no reason...that's what friendship is all about people! The friend of course dicks around long enough for Jin-hee's body to come to life, which was admittedly cool, and kill the friend. Well, that's that. I guess the curse is over? Oh wait, Ji-won had to hold on to the phone long enough for a staged scene of her throwing it into the ocean where it starts to ring. Umm, it's the number that was actually haunted but okay--anything to separate a pretty girl from her god forsaken cell phone is a good thing I suppose.

Okay, in all fairness, there are a lot of good aspects to this movie. The acting is well done, the music is excellent, there is cool imagery especially with snowing shots, the mystery is mostly intriguing although predictable, and Ji-won and her friend are easy on the eyes. But none of this can excuse the complete nonsense going on with the story that unfolds sloppily with plot points that go nowhere. They should have taken gold five's advice and stayed on target. The ghost was also not scary and her appearances are spread thin as well. This movie is realistically a predictable drama, with special attention on the cliched love triangle, while being boggled down by filler and limply throwing a ghost into the mix. Overall, there are way better Asian horror movies out there from this era and after it. They had a good idea with the haunted phone number, but they did not execute it effectively as "One Missed Call" was able to. I'd say this movie is worth a view just to see what you're missing, but completely ignore those claiming this is on the level of something like "Shutter." Psh, give me a break.

Notable Moment: When the ghost comes out of the wall. I mean, it really wasn't hard to see it coming, and you don't even see her face, but it stands out nonetheless.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Peter Parker struggles to pursue a normal life while facing the dangers of being Spider-man.

Review: I may have been a bit lenient on my review of the first film, but I'm not going to be as forgiving this time around. With that said, for the love of Rika if I read one more review saying "Spider-man 3" was better than this I'm going to go super saiyan! I fucking LOATHE SM3 with a passion! Believe me, SM3's reputation for being complete and utter shit is well founded; a dancing Peter Parker...need I say more? Anyway, it's not that this movie is bad, but it feels shallow somehow. You have decent action and the pacing is perfectly fine, but the love story is bland, the villains felt forced, and things felt rushed despite the long ass running time. There also appeared to be no attempt to up the stakes when compared to the first film; nothing felt improved or refined to tell a better tale.

Let's go over what worked this time around. Spider-man, as well as, Peter Parker felt more like their comic book counterparts in this series than they did in the Raimi trilogy. I get the impression that this Peter is genuinely good at science and is intelligent beyond mentioning, in passing, that he is doing well in school. At the same time, the goofball nature to SM and Peter is maintained especially when battling the villains; a good example was him wearing the fireman's hat when knocking out Electro. The manner in which SM fights and carries himself is truer to how he should be. Another thing I definitely liked were the easter eggs scattered about the film that alluded to other villains and SM mythology; the ending scene is awesome for this! Also, does this mean they're trying to set Felicia up as Peter's next love interest? Hell, was that even meant to be the real Felicia? The pacing is great, as I mentioned, and you do not realize how long this movie truly is; they balanced action to drama well, but the quality of that drama and action is debatable. Finally, there were some good ideas on the direction to take the franchise, but I seriously hope they will be stepping up their game after this movie.

Alright, let's tear into this. The whole Peter and Gwen romance is terrible! Did we really need all this back and forth about "I love you," wait no, "I can't love you 'cause reasons." Plus, that cliched lovable stalker shit only works in the movies. I wish they had handled their relationship better considering it was well known ahead of time that Gwen was going to die. Speaking of which, I know it was supposed to appear Peter was sad for a long time, but it felt sort of shoehorned in at the end with Peter already over it. Connected to this problem is the rushed nature of all the other characters in the movie. They had the time to flesh out Electro more, but you can seriously establish everything you need to know from the trailer alone! He was a loser who idolized Spider-man until a freak accident gave him powers...then he's instantly an over the top supervillain just like that. As for Harry/Green Goblin...what were they thinking? Way to force a friendship plotline between Harry and Peter out of nowhere. Maybe it's me, but I need more than one scene establishing their friendship in order to take it seriously. In fact, everything about Harry was stupid right down to him magically being sick and his transition to a villain. These events should have filled their own movie and they further detract from Electro who was beaten extremely easily as it was. Then we have the drama with Peter and his parents...uhh, so now we are to believe some insanely improbable series of circumstances led to Peter becoming Spider-man?! And the funny thing is, this plot line of Peter coming to terms with his parents kind of went nowhere and did not contribute to the overarching story. More annoying for me was that Aunt May seems pointless and there is almost no mention of Uncle Ben. Honestly, there was too much going on that they should have divided up a lot of these ideas between two movies and there could have been potential for it to come off natural. Other than these glaring mistakes, there were still nuances that felt stupid like SM able to lift a car with ease; yeah, uhh no--maybe with the symbiote.

My hopes weren't exactly high for this movie, so I can't say I was disappointed, but I did think it would be better than this. There was a lack of focus and they tried to put too much exposition into one movie in order to already establish the next one. I get that they want a clear differentiation between this franchise and the last one, but, at the same time, you don't want to walk into the same pitfalls as that franchise. On the other hand, this film is nowhere near as bad as people are making it out to be; it's actually decent and a good representation of the Spider-man character. It has the levels of entertainment you would expect from a superhero movie and does end on a strong note. If you're already a big SM fan, I think this will satisfy you, but it feels weaker than the last movie in numerous regards.

Notable Moment: At the end when we see various prototypes that greatly imply the Sinister Six are planned for the third film.

Final Rating: 6/10