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Friday, July 31, 2015

Click (Indian 2010) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Nonsense. Sheer nonsense.

Review: Apparently India made, not one, not two, but, THREE remakes of "Shutter!" The other two are "Sivi" and "Photo," but all three were failures. I will note that I'm not going to review the other two movies since I couldn't find subtitled versions. Now, you may be wondering, why they would even bother with this three separate times? Well, the Indian film industry is complicated with huge, competing regions, of which, each remake was made independent of the others. Most foreigners only know about Bollywood productions, which is what this movie is, but there are many other internal industries besides Bollywood. At the same time, Indian movies do not--how shall I say--follow a narrative structure most people would consider the standard for film. Essentially, you have a lot of singing and dancing interspersed between scenes which completely ruins any atmosphere or pacing. Due to the nature of the industry, and how their films are marketed, it can be polarizing to foreigners experiencing it for the first time. For me, this is why I don't tap into that region's horror films since they are not my cup of tea to say the least. To each their own though.

So...if you ignore all the wannabe music videos strewn about, could this still be interpreted as a worthy remake? NO. This movie is absolutely HORRENDOUS! The film quality keeps dropping and rising--at one point it looked like a movie from the '70s. The special effects are weak and the cinematography reminds me of a terrible soap opera; the moronic camera angles and amateur lighting are painful to behold. I've never seen a movie honestly try to turn a little fishy swimming in its tank into a jump scare. That's a good one. Even a guy tapping on a window is meant to be, what, scary?! Little kids--suspiciously hanging out at a gas station in the middle of the night--making camera hand gestures are further demonstrations of the scares apparently. And here I was thinking the American remake was bad. That movie was just a terrible attempt to capitalize on "Shutter," but this remake couldn't even respect the source material. The American remake used minimal makeup effects for Megumi, but Ms. Okina took the role seriously. This Natre equivalent, Aarti, does have makeup on, but she looks heroin-chic with laughable black circles around her eyes. Aarti, as a character, is nothing like Natre in that social outcast way; she's mostly a regular girl who inexplicably goes crazy when the Tun equivalent, Avi, breaks up with her. Also, the stupid singing makes Avi seem like he really loved Aarti when Tun never really loved Natre. I can't imagine a more insulting tribute to Natre than this.

The Jane equivalent, Sonia, is really hot though. In fact, she looks a little too high maintenance for our dear Avi to manage and way out of his league. I mean, Avi is running around with a sweaty mullet that looks like a wig I want to rip off! The actors do not understand their roles for shit, but I doubt anyone on set understood what made "Shutter" work so remarkably well. This movie is too lighthearted and they painfully change it to make Avi more sympathetic. Imagine this is how things played out in "Shutter:" Tun doesn't take the photos of Natre when being raped, he tries to go to the police, and Jane ends up still loving him after she discovers the truth. Sounds stupid, huh? This movie didn't seem to think so. While they do try to recreate the scares, in the most pitiful of ways, they alter the story too much. I have no clue what they were thinking, but this is like the made for TV version of "Shutter" if we were in 1990.

The movie clocks in at over two hours--if you want to torture yourself for that long, be me guest. I needed many, many breaks to ease me through the ordeal. I was laughing though--quite a bit actually--but I get the idea that was not their intention. There is one scene in particular that had me tearing up with laughter due to the overwhelming levels of stupidity. Good lord. Needless to say, this movie is terrible from start to finish. All the remakes in the world aren't going to come close to touching the greatness that is the original "Shutter." If you want a proper experience, free of idiocy, stick to the Thai film and pretend the rest of the shit doesn't exist.

Notable Moment: When Avi and Sonia meet the ghost-photos guy. This scene is so ridiculously bad it could easily be misconstrued as parody. Must be seen to fully appreciate.

Final Rating: 2.5/10

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Shutter (American remake) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A married couple, staying in Japan, believes they are being haunted by a woman who disappeared after they ran her over.

Review: In a word: why? Although this isn't as disrespectful as the likes of that piece of shit "Halloween" remake, this movie was still utterly pointless. They don't do anything different with the material except move the setting to Japan. Again, why? Why not set it in Egypt or Russia or anywhere in the world? If you want all the characters to be Americans, then just set it in the USA. If you want to be faithful to the source, set it in Thailand; I don't get how Japan comes into play. Were they trying to offer up an Asian country audiences could wrap their minds around? The original movie didn't really have anything that screamed Thai-specific to me. I'm sure this won't bother a lot of people, but this is the root of the problem for me--it shows a lack of focus and some level of patronization to the audience.

So my dear Natre is gone and replaced by a girl named Megumi, played by the similarly named Megumi Okina. I'm not as annoyed by this alteration because at least Ms. Okina was Rika in "Ju-on: The Grudge." Not nearly as yummy as my Rika, of course, but, still, she's a known J-horror face. While I do buy Megumi as a Natre equivalent at a glance, she doesn't have virtually any makeup effects applied. Fine, they made her a little paler, wow, amazing. Natre looked like something out of a hellish nightmare--Megumi's ghost form could pass for a living person. Also, Megumi wasn't as clingy as Natre since most of her emotional problems stemmed from her father's death rather than being a social outcast. Lastly, taking the characters out of the college setting makes the rape less believable since these people are supposed to be business professionals at an office party?! That's a good one.

As for the rest of the cast, it's comprised of mostly non-Japanese people. Seriously, again with this?! Oh for the love of fuck. I'll give you an idea of how dumb this is: the Tun equivalent, Ben, has a friend that is implied to be a womanizer. When Megumi kills this guy, he's trying to screw, what appears to be, some Australian girl. Come on, son! Speaking of Benny-boy, this guy lived in Japan, seemingly banged a lot of chicks, dated Megumi, and, yet, came home and married the Jane character all in the span of like two years? Right. I will cut Joshua Jackson, who plays Ben, a little slack since he appeared to learn a moderate amount of Japanese for the role.

The story still plays out the same though with practically the same scares. I don't understand the point of remaking this if you're going to take that route. Either you want to localize the story...which they didn't, or you want to work with the material and make it different...which they didn't. One noticeable difference was that this movie takes significantly longer to get rolling; they still don't know who Megumi really is until the movie is more than half over. They did, however, make a slight change toward the ending in the most idiotic of ways. Everything about the decision making for this film baffles me. They did watch the original, right? They didn't just read wikipedia? The only thing this movie honestly did better was use superior film quality. I wouldn't even say the production value was higher since the original applied more effort and had ingenuity on their side.

I really just hate this movie, and it's yet another in a long list of movies I do not ever want to see again. It has no reason to exist and forces me to refer to "Shutter" not by its title alone but as "the original." I don't like doing that. In fact, I hate having to clarify a distinction in general when it comes to other shit remakes. This film is inferior in almost every single respect compared to, the one and true, "Shutter." Why anyone would waste their time with this trash is beyond me, but I cannot say with enough emphasis to simply watch the original.

Notable Moment: When Ben decides to inexplicably electrocute himself to death for whatever reason. Yeah...anything for the lulz I suppose.

Final Rating: 4/10

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Updated Review #9: Shutter (2004 Thai original)


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After a couple hits a woman, and flees from the accident, they find themselves seemingly haunted by the woman's ghost.

Review: For my 500th post I figured I'd cover something special, and this is a movie I've wanted to revisit for a long time; my first review only scratched the surface of the things I wanted to discuss. So...not only is this the best Thai movie, the best Asian horror movie, but it's the scariest movie of all time! As I've stated numerous times, this is my favorite scary movie and one of my favorite movies in general. It makes me happy to see more and more people discover this amazing film when it hardly receives the recognition it deserves. It certainly didn't help that critics, at the time, were especially harsh on this film seeing it as nothing more than the next entry in a long chain of "Ringu" wannabes. They couldn't have been more wrong. In fact, there is one, especially--how shall I say--infuriating review I once read that talked so much shit and kept idiotically referring to this as J-horror. You ignorant fuck! Makes me want to use their head for a bowling ball--not because they disagreed with me, but because they are paid to be stupid. Well...that escalated rather quickly.

I remember one night, in 2005, casually browsing through a list of Asian horror movies trying to find one worth my time when I stumbled upon an interesting enough plot line. The comments said the movie was really scary, but that's what people said about "The Doll Master" so I wasn't exactly taking that shit seriously. There I am, sitting in the dark, alone, around 1 AM, when I get a glimpse of Natre for the first time. To say that I was frightened during my initial viewing of "Shutter" is not the proper way to describe it--I had become unsettled. The entirety of the film I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was there. By the time the scene with Natre at the end of the bed showed up, I was like, "Okay I'm sleeping with the lights on!" Movies like this set my imagination on fire, and I'm freaked the fuck out. Except this didn't stop after a night...or a day...I was kinda creeped out for the week. On occasion, I still think about her lurking in the shadows. Natre haunts me for life!
This leads me to my first, and biggest, point: Achita Sikamana's awesome performance as Natre. She perfectly captures that creepy, obsessed, stalker-ish vibe. At the same time, she has a naturally, unusual face that is hard to describe. I'm not saying Ms. Sikamana is ugly--she just has the look of someone who would be standing over you while you sleep with a sadistic smirk; I mean that in the best of ways! Although, I've seen recent photos of her and she has developed (or always had) a slappable ass. It all makes sense now why Tun was interested! Anyway, the makeup effects are fantastic and complement Ms. Sikamana's facial features. They do change up the makeup throughout the movie which I suppose has to do with her rage making her look less and less human. In essence, Natre is one of, if not, the most scary ghost you could imagine coming after you. But this isn't to say that all there is to Natre is her scare-factor. She is surprisingly one of the more sympathetic antagonists out there, and, by the end, you will probably feel her revenge was justified. She may have been an outcast loser with emotional problems, but she was taken advantage of by the person she loved most, humiliated, gang-banged, and driven insane. Also, unlike other evil spirits with questionable motives, Natre doesn't involve collateral damage and goes as far as to help the Jane character. At the end of the day, Natre might be the scariest ghost out there, but she sticks to a purpose.

Ehh...I'd still, maybe, date her. She looks like a girl with a sense of humor.

Connected to Natre is the usage of the scares and the momentum of the movie. The pacing is solid as each scare increases in intensity leading up to a crescendo of nightmarish proportions. This aspect is where a lot of horror movies falter as they blow good scares too soon, but "Shutter" starts off slow, raises the stakes as it goes along, and then unleashes a relentless stream of scares at the climax. Setting aside the generic appearance of an Asian female ghost, the scares feel original, innovative, and with a lot of effort put into them. The film balances jump scares, set pieces, and outright terror effectively so as not to get boring. Yes, Natre remains the source, and you must be scared of her, but plenty of the scenarios would be horrifying no matter what you would substitute for Natre. The ghost photo concept is implemented to great effect as well; this movie isn't called "Shutter" for nothing (an obvious play on words though). The photography isn't simply a gimmick either as it has a certain relevance to the characters, the plot, and, especially, the final twist. Beyond that, the film highlights subtle plot details when referencing poignant facts about photography. This makes rewatching the film that much more worthwhile.

Not to be outdone by the scares, the story is strong as well. The film toys with you quite a bit as we slowly realize what is really going on and what motivates Natre. I thoroughly enjoyed the bait and switch at the beginning as you don't fully know Natre's connection to the characters. Those main characters, Tun and Jane, are likable enough and feel like any regular couple in a good way. The actors, Ananda Everingham and Natthaweeranuch Thongmee (yeah...I have no idea how to pronounce that), turn in respectable performances. Their journey of being tormented by Natre is engaging, and you want to figure out the mystery alongside them.

Don't mind me, the creepy Asian girl at the window.

Finally, it's the little details that set this apart from the vast array of Asian horror movies. The story intersperses moments of humor to lighten up the mood so as to lower your guard when the next big scare comes along. The film quality has a certain grain, I've mentioned before, that adds a visceral presentation to the scenes; it heightens the look, tone, and atmosphere for the viewer. The music, while typically focused on the ambiance, enhances the adrenaline rush during the best scenes. Another important factor, often screwed up, is in regard to the ending. "Shutter" leaves you satisfied and with a sense of closure which is atypical to most films' unnecessary inclusion of the final zinger bullshit.

Oh, hello there!

Overall, this movie is simply amazing. Everything about it just works--from the technical aspects to the engaging story. This is the kind of horror others in the genre should strive toward. Although many movies have a local flair or a cultural context, you do not need to know anything about Thailand to appreciate "Shutter" to its maximum potential; that's simply great, universal storytelling. The actors all shine with special attention to Ms. Sikamana for pulling off the creepiest woman alive (or undead). The originality and elaborate scares are sorely missing from the majority nowaday so it's refreshing to know filmmakers out there can still pull it off. If you love Asian horror, any horror, or have a passing interest in movies in general, I cannot recommend checking out "Shutter" enough. This is one instance where you should believe the hype. Just be very careful if you watch it alone!

Notable Moment: Natre at the end of the bed never gets old. This movie really didn't want you to sleep afterward.

 Hey, you never know, this could have made for great foreplay.

Final Rating: 10/10

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Collateral Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A taxi driver unknowingly picks up an assassin who is seeking out five targets in one night.

Review: I remember when this first came out, and I was thinking, "Tom Cruise as an old man killing people while riding in a taxi? No thanks." I eventually gave it a chance, and my early assumptions could not have been more wrong. This is an excellent thriller with engaging character banter between the two leads: Tom Cruise as Vincent and Jamie Foxx as Max. The two actors have great chemistry together that carries the entirety of the film. You feel as though Max and Vincent are both learning from one another as an almost, bizarre, friendship forms. There are also little details that make things fun such as when Vincent starts hitting Max after they crash toward the end; those nuances always win me over. The only major detractors to the film are the beyond contrived nature of the last target Vincent has to kill and a few other eye-roll moments.

The story follows Vincent arriving in LA as he's assigned to kill five targets connected to a trial. I still don't dig the old man-look on Mr. Cruise, but he still pulls it off only the way he can. Max, on the other hand, is a simple cab driver, yet, we see that Max has a lot of wasted potential and skills. The two cross paths after Max drops off a prosecutor that turns out to be that fifth target. This is, admittedly, the worst aspect to the film as we are to believe Max would not only pick up Vincent's last target, he would make a big enough impression with her to get her number, but also that this same taxi driver would pick up her assassin?! Come on, son. Anyway, Max is talked into helping Vincent whereby Max will take him to each location of the targets unknowing what Vincent plans to do with each one. Obviously it doesn't take long before the killings begin and Max gets caught up in the scheme.

Max represents a lot of people in that he had big dreams but settled into a routine and a life of mediocrity. His denial of this fact adds to his character development as he interacts with Vincent. Vincent, on the other hand, has a kind of philosophical approach to his killings. He doesn't really care about killing people since, to him, humans don't care about one another. The conversations the two characters have surprisingly get you thinking especially in regard to fake outrage from a random person being killed while ignoring mass murder around the world. Keep in mind, this is all delivered in the best of ways by Tommy-boy. With each kill, the two gain a better understanding of one another as Max is even saved a few times by Vincent. I know the one detective implies that perhaps another instance like this has happened, and Max may be set up to take the fall, but I just don't get that vibe from Vincent; I mean, Vincent might be the most polite killer there ever was. So, by the end, Max realizes the prosecutor is the last target and tries to save her as he's finally able to stand up to Vincent. The climax leads the three characters to a train chase with Max getting a lucky shot on Vincent with a gun he took from a cop. The ending is, again, kind of contrived as Vincent mentioned earlier about a person riding around for hours, dead, on a train with no one caring to notice. As such, Vincent's body is left to ride the train as well at the end.

This movie has you covered on a lot of bases: you have action, interesting characters, amusing banter, solid acting, and a strong story. There isn't much in the way of a big twist or final reveal, unless you count the identity of the fifth target, but you will be pleasantly satisfied with your experience. If you're a big fan of the main actors involved, this is a prime example of the range they're working with; Tommy-boy rarely lets me down. It's also a fantastic example of character chemistry and how to do it effectively. If you let this one slip through the cracks, due to the iffy nature of the trailer or characters, I'd recommend giving it a shot--it's a fun film that keeps you engaged from start to finish.

Notable Moment: When Vincent kills the "jazz man." It's somewhat of a surprise, and the small talk is amusing leading up to the kill.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sucker Punch (2011) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Girls in a mental institution live out fantasy adventures in their pursuit of real world escape.

Review: Now that this film has had time to simmer--and all the pretentious interpretations are out of critics' systems--we can take an objective look at the story. I remember not wanting to see this, being dragged to it, and hating every moment. Upon a second viewing, however, I've come to realize it's not that bad. It definitely has a polarizing effect whereby you either loved it or hated it, but a closer inspection left me with a meh feeling slightly enhanced by the beauty of the actresses. Considering the many interpretations I've read, you really have to be looking for what you want to see; there's not that much depth going on here unless you're telling yourself there is. It's just sexy girls living out an imagined adventure rather than showing the boring reality of their struggle. You can read as deeply into that as you wish, but this movie hardly possessed themes or interesting ideas that needed introspection. I'm sure some will use the typical "you don't get it" excuse, but, really, the flow of this movie is one mindless set-piece to the next with little in the way of story in between. As others have joked, the true sucker punch is when you realize this movie is not even close to what was advertised and you wasted your time and money.

The ladies in all their glory.

My interpretation of the film is quite simple--you can come at it from two angles: the film being in Sweet Pea's head or Babydoll's. Regardless of which character you go with, they're unreliable narrators. Their version of events are questionable to say the least. Even the alleged scenes of "reality" could still be in one of their minds. Beyond this fact, nothing else really matters as you will be grasping at straws to fill in the gaps. Most ideas are overt or intended to pull the "guess what it means" bullshit. The only subtle moment that wasn't completely pretentious was the little boy popping up with a connection to Sweet Pea. Who he was to her is about the only thing worth dwelling on. The individual fight sequences simply demonstrate their further attempts to escape the mental facility, but we don't learn much about the characters during, or in between, these scenes. And that's all I really have to say about the story's alleged layers of depth. Feel free to disagree.

The ladies as they truly are.

Where the film succeeds is, without a doubt, with the girls themselves. I don't know what alternate reality of 1960s Vermont has this ratio of Asian girls, but I like it! My favorite is Amber, played by the lovely Jamie Chung, followed closely by Blondie, played by Vanessa Hudgens. Of course I have to address Emily Browning playing my little Babydoll (must say little). While I really don't find Ms. Browning all that attractive, she is exceptionally hot as Babydoll. Abbie Cornish, as Sweet Pea, and Jena Malone, as Rocket, look better in other movies; too much eyeliner this time around or something. They try to keep you covered with pinup styles, schoolgirls, a little nurse action, lingerie, etc. One might even say it was pure pandering. In fact, this pandering extends into the action scenes with zombies, dragons, mechs, swords, guns, etc. It's as if they wanted to include everything and the kitchen sink! At a glance, this feels fun, but it's too fake--like someone who kind of understands what geek culture is about but doesn't fully grasp how to convey it in a meaningful way. This is both the coolest aspect to the film and one of its worst offenses. In an attempt to appeal to every kind of geek audience, they failed to depict any single aspect properly. They go as far as to try and guilt you like you're a weirdo for being into this shit. Don't shame or alienate your fanbase if you also expect to make money from them.

Uuhhmmm!

Why this film fails so epically is because of that whole sucker punch aspect. Congratulations, you've successfully led your audience astray in the worst of ways. Want a medal? This isn't a good thing if it makes people hate your movie. I don't know what people were expecting initially, but I at least expected a competently told film. They only had enough material for like 20 minutes so they padded out the movie with those action scenes. They're cool, but they're mere distractions that had the adverse reaction with audiences; instead of being dazzled, people were bored and rightfully so. The characters are bland and we don't even know why Amber or Blondie are institutionalized. As such, the whole mental institution abuse is tired as fuck. Plus, we never felt the stakes of the movie. The characters were getting beat up in the fantasy world, but that didn't translate into reality. But if they get hurt in reality that translates into the fantasy? Feels like they're making it up as they go. Lastly, the visuals were decent, but this is CGI hell.

Little...Baby...Doll

Overall, this could have been a million times better. I'm sure that the various controversies and interpretations were unintended side effects that the crew decided to latch onto as if intentional. The film spends too much time trying to impress with visuals while neglecting the characters and story. There is a distinct impression of pandering to the target audience while simultaneously insulting them. The experience is mostly average with the positives equaling the negatives, however, the raw sexiness of the girls pushes it slightly above average. It's not as bad as many make it out to be, but it's nowhere near a brilliant masterpiece as others would have you believe.

Notable Moment: Any and all times Dr. Gorski says "Babydoll." The ambiguous accent mixed with the milfyness that is Carla Gugino equals pure win.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pernicious Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Three bimbos, visiting Thailand, awaken a restless spirit bent on revenge as antics ensue.

Review: Typically I'd love the idea of an American film company working with a Thai one, but this was a complete debacle. I want to support these kinds of crossovers, but they make it so damn hard to do that. The main problem is that they hardly make use of Thailand as a setting; realistically, this could have been set anywhere. Sure, the ghost is Thai, but her spirit was trapped in a statue--it could have been in a museum or wherever when the ghost escaped. If you're going to make the effort to film in Thailand then actually incorporate the local talent to be crucial to the plot. There are seriously more white characters than Thai! However, that is all beside the point as the film is boggled down with glaring levels of idiocy and the characters are painfully annoying.

I'll give the film credit where it's due, they did have a unique ghost to a degree; the ghost looks like a living statue and is covered in gold. Though...a, seemingly, naked 10 year old running around impersonating Kayako is more disturbing than scary. Nevertheless, she doesn't pop up enough since this film decided it would be better if she possessed people instead. Ugghhh. Besides the ghost being somewhat interesting, the film does kind of acknowledge horror tropes and doesn't take itself completely seriously. This allows me to cut them a little slack as they knew many aspects were going to look or sound stupid. Although it wasn't doing much for me, they do try and play up the hottness of the bimbos by giving them sexy outfits and, occasionally, running around in lingerie. Ehhh...only one was kind of hot--they look too fake with a ton of clown makeup. You know the type. Come on, give us some Thai beauties to see! Hell, give me Natre--wait--on second thought, keep her.

Where the movie fails is in the nonsensical presentation of the ghost's revenge. Possessions, torture, and excessive gore do not fit the themes of an Asian ghost story. I also felt the ghost should have been male as that is what the legend is typically about (the female version is a lot rarer); those ghosts being a kuman thong and kumari respectively. And why the hell is the only person who knows about this legend the one girl's boyfriend? Maybe he should be the one visiting Thailand instead of her! Speaking of which, these chicks come off beyond arrogant, ignorant, and plain stupid. Bimbos. At least the ghost does acknowledge this when she claims one of their bodies permanently. The bimbos are supposedly coming to teach English yet don't know the Thai language or customs? This is the same idiocy from the likes of "Grave Halloween" where dumb foreigners visit Asia, act like disrespectful assholes, and get killed as a consequence. Mercifully, everyone does die, and it's implied that the boyfriend will too in the last shot.

I was intrigued by an East meets West ghost story, but they didn't convey said story properly. Random slasher elements mixed with a golden Kayako-wannabe simply won't cut it (pun intended). The look, feel, and tone were all amateurish when they could have made this genuinely creepy with the right angles, lighting, and cinematography. Having the music spike every two seconds wasn't doing them any favors either. We're in a tough position, because if we don't support this trash they won't continue to make attempts. But...it is undeniable trash. Overall, this is slightly below average with only a handful of good ideas salvaging it from becoming a complete trainwreck.

Notable Moment: I'll give them some credit for self-awareness with lines like, "Don't follow the creepy Asian girl!"

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Legend (1985) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The world will be plunged into permanent darkness if a forest boy and his friends don't recover a unicorn's horn.

Review: Before I get into this, I want to address the many edits there are to this film. Setting aside the minor, alternate cuts, the main two edits worth discussing are, what's referred to as, the "Tangerine Dream" version and the director's cut. Personally, I prefer the theatrical or "Tangerine Dream" version even if it is missing key scenes that provide better context to the overall story. Most seem to prefer the director's cut as it looks and feels more like a modern fairytale should. Ehh...I love Jerry Goldsmith, but the '80s music surprisingly created a whimsical tone better than his score. Besides, no edit of this film makes any goddamn sense! This is another mixed bag for me despite my deep fondness for this film since I was kid. Sure, it's fun and is one of the most visually stunning movies the '80s has to offer, but the scale and scope are all wrong while the story is a mess of incoherency.

Going over the positives, one must acknowledge the sheer awesomeness that was Tim Curry as Darkness. Mr. Curry breathes so much life into the character and completely steals the show. On top of that, his makeup effects are iconic and a thing of beauty to behold. I remember the first time I saw him when I was young and thinking that's not someone you want to fuck with! Another memorable aspect was the transformation of the princess, Lili, played by '80s babe Mia Sara, to the dark side. Not going to lie, I found Lili way more attractive in her evil getup. The other best aspect, as I alluded to, is the simply amazing visuals and cinematography. Every scene has such an attention to detail--it blows my mind. This is how I envision a magical world fully realized without bullshit CGI. I respect that they wanted to tell a different and original story; they certainly succeeded in creating the look of that world at least. Finally, I really enjoy that music from the "Tangerine Dream" edit! I'll admit, it's hopelessly intertwined with my image of this film--I can't bear to watch the director's cut without it; yes, I have a bias.

Sexy. But that unibrow...deal-breaker. Even the dark side must have standards.

As for where the film falters...you have got to be high out of your mind on 'shrooms to claim this made a lick of sense. Characters have little to no explanation for who they are, what they're capable of, or how they know anything. Everything is too matter of fact when this is supposed to be a brand new fairytale. Old stories didn't need as much context since they played on existing myths and legends known to the audience. And, come on, magic unicorns have all the power in the universe yet are weak as fuck?! Killing these guys literally puts the universe at jeopardy? Really? Hell, one kingdom, fine...even the planet, sure. But the entire UNIVERSE?! And if the stakes are this high, you need to have the scale and scope to match such an epic struggle. I mean, the movie is called "Legend" for fuck's sake. What do we get though--a couple elves, pixies, and a forest boy versus an ill-defined devil-guy and his handful of minions. Uhhhh...no. Plus, I've always loved how Darkness' two main flunkies (Blix and pig-boy) completely disappear from the script at one point; they do all the legwork and get no appreciation (womp womp). By the way, Darkness gets defeated way too easy. And where the hell did an opening into space come from--aren't they in a tree?! Believe me, I can sit back and just take it in, but one nonsensical plot point after another is hard to overlook. And, don't tell me it's just me, did anyone else notice Darkness gets a straight up bj from Blix at the beginning?! Pshhh, flunkies earning their keep.

As Darkness said, "What is light without dark?" Well, for everything good in this film, there is a corresponding badness. I can appreciate what they were going for, and the ambitiousness to bring that world to life is commendable. The characters are interesting and memorable even if we know hardly anything about them. I think they wasted Tom Cruise quite a bit here as he doesn't do much besides scream "Lili" a lot. There was endless potential to explore, but we really only scratched the surface by the time the credits roll. Speaking of which, the ending to the director's cut is lackluster, but the "Tangerine Dream" ending wraps things up in a more storybook-esque way. I do think this is a good movie, but it has never surprised me that it wasn't successful. This is an instance where I would like to see a remake that fully creates the vision the director, Ridley Scott, had. If you have never seen this movie, I'd stick with the director's cut, but if you love the '80s, you gotta go with that "Tangerine Dream" version all the way, baby!

Notable Moment: Essentially, any scene with Darkness in it. Tough to say which is the better performance from Tim Curry: this or Pennywise.

Final Rating: 6/10

Monday, July 13, 2015

Secret Window Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A writer is stalked by a man who claim's the writer stole his story as shenanigans ensue.

Review: I know...another Stephen King movie. This is kind of a guilty pleasure for me. I can't deny that the direction is terrible and the ending is utterly moronic, but I can still enjoy it from a certain perspecive. The problem is that the trailer sets you up for disappointment by making the film out to be a supernatural thriller. In actuality, I'd classify this as a mild excursion into suspense and an exorcise in incompetence. If anything, the only reason this film managed to have any success was because it was right after Johnny Depp's performance in the first Pirates film. You may be wondering, why do I like this movie then? There is something about the cozy, cabin in the woods and the sleepy nature to the main character, Mort, that I find engaging. The dude spends half the movie napping on a couch and it looks comfy as hell! It's hypnotic in a way. Though, the product placements were killing the immersion--what is it with fucking Doritos and Mountain Dew anyway?!

The film basically follows the plot of the original story it's based upon, but, ironically, the ending is where the real failure comes into play. I will explain why this is ironic, but, fair warning, this is going to make little sense. So...in the original story (the written one), Mort thinks a guy named Shooter is after him for stealing his story (a story about a story). As Mort once plagiarized a story in the past, this makes him appear guilty and with something to prove. At the same time, Mort is dealing with his cheating, bitch wife. In the worst of twists, we come to learn Shooter is Mort's split personality (commence eye rolling). In the original story, Mort ends up getting killed, but they stress that Shooter had actually manifested into reality. In the movie, Shooter is definitely not real, but Mort, instead, kills his wife and her dumb boyfriend. He then, I suppose, merges with Shooter's personality as everyone in town knows he managed to get away with murder due to a lack of evidence. Now, the irony comes into play since they keep bringing up how great the ending is and that it needed to be changed. Well, the movie did change the ending, and it was still stupid. In other words, Shooter wants Mort to change his ending since it was "perfect" before. It was actually stupid. The movie then changes the ending from the written story while still addressing that Shooter wants his ending changed in the movie's version. They also stress that the ending is better this way when it's not. Ehhh...am I even making sense? Probably not. And, come on, shooter...shoot her...uhhh...cornball as fuck. I am glad the movie did go with Mort killing his wife though--she definitely deserved it.

Is this movie worth your time? Not really. Unless you like Stephen King or Johnny Depp, or whoever, you will probably find this movie to be a big pile of meh. The ending is especially painful as it makes little sense. I guess Mort developed a split personality due to his guilt and feelings of betrayal over the cheating? Hell if I know. At least in the original story, Shooter was a character that came to life. However, if you are a weirdo, like me, and you somehow enjoy watching a movie with a character sleeping all the time...there's that!

Notable Moment: When Mort decides to start barking like a dog for no apparent reason. Why do I get the distinct feeling that idiocy was ad-libbed?

Final Rating: 5/10

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sleepwalkers Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A girl becomes the unwitting target of shapeshifters who need her lifeforce in order to survive.

Review: This is one of those movies where it's tough to pinpoint what the hell went wrong. The first half is actually not bad at all with interesting suspense, a cool theme song, and a promising plot. Then, out of the blue, the tone completely switches to cornball slasher where the sleepwalkers are dishing out one-liners and a guy was legitimately killed by an ear of corn! Maybe the story was too offbeat for the era, considering this was made in the early '90s, and they felt inclined to mimic the likes of Freddy, Pinhead, and the Leprechaun? I don't know--maybe Stephen King was fresh out of blow when writing the second act and winged it. If that weren't bad enough, we start to get all manner of shenanigans at the end with little kitties running about. I dare say, this probably should have been a horror/romance instead of whatever it's currently considered. The groundwork was definitely in place with the sexy Madchen Amick playing the main girl, Tanya. The sleepwalker, Charles, was even hesitating to kill Tanya, kept staring at her picture, and carved her initial into his skin. Stalker-ish, for sure, but this doesn't strike me as behavior done by someone who sees Tanya as nothing more than dinner. Ehh...still a better love story than "Twilight," am I right?

First up, we get only the faintest of explanations on what a sleepwalker is supposed to be. They're cat-looking shapeshifter-vampires who are only vulnerable to...cats. Whaaaat? The cats also magically sense sleepwalkers in the area and are drawn to them for no reason given. Sleepwalkers have various psychic powers and superhuman strength yet struggle to kill one high school girl? I mean, Charles can rip Otho's hand clean off, but struggles to subdue Tanya? Charles' mom takes on, seemingly, the whole town at one point while starving, and, again, struggles to subdue one girl?! The sleepwalkers need to feed on virgin girls. Why? The sleepwalker process doesn't really make sense. Male sleepwalkers drain virgin girls through a kiss, then the male bangs the female sleepwalker to transfer the energy? Okaaay...yet they still eat regular food? Whatever, dude. They imply that Charles took the form of a little boy in his last town which makes sense since the younger the girl the more likely she is a virgin. So, if Charles wasn't in love with Tanya, why would he even bother with high school aged girls?! I get Tanya is supposed to be a "nice" girl, as the movie keeps reminding the audience, but how did the sleepwalkers know she was a virgin? One of the dumbest moments in the film is when Charles and his mom could have easily killed Tanya but didn't for, what, the lulz?!

There is way too much build up to Charles and Tanya getting together just for him to turn crazy. Hell, Charles even says something about not wanting to kill her only minutes earlier! I don't understand why they would spend 45 minutes establishing this relationship if nothing was meant to come from it. In fact, their flirting is kind of cute, Tanya is a sweetheart, and Charles, while a bit obsessive, appears to want something more than this sleepwalker life as shown by the story he wrote. Speaking of which, why introduce that plot line at all? Was that an excuse to add Otho to the kill count or a weak attempt at exposition? It really would have served better to develop Charles and why he was originally reluctant to kill Tanya. Plus, Tanya was receptive to the story, and Charles genuinely appeared moved by that gesture. I know I'm focusing a lot on the romance aspect, but, seriously, this should have been a supernaturally themed romance with maybe some slasher elements. I'm not saying things had to end great between Charles and Tanya, but the transition to one-liners before and after kills was beyond moronic--ruining all the momentum that had been built.

I know a lot of people hate this movie, but it's more on the mediocre side than outright bad. There are good ideas, and the sleepwalkers had nearly endless potential even if it was squandered. The first half is fun with Charles trying to woo Tanya; by the way, she is far, far too dreamy to be a geek as the film implies. There are a lot of cameos strewn about which was another cool aspect, but no one really does much; this was especially disappointing with Mark Hamill as a sheriff for all of two minutes. On the other hand, the second half is laughably bad, the sleepwalkers make little sense with no explanations given, the effects are shoddy, and the film appears to be all too happy to drift into absurdity. I'd say it's maybe worth a view, but you should turn it off once Tanya and Charles go to the graveyard; just write your own fanfic ending from there.

Notable Moment: When Stephen King is whining to Clive Barker and John Landis at the graveyard. An amusing cameo if you can appreciate it.

Final Rating: 5/10

The enchanting Ms. Amick:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Junior (aka Engine Trouble) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Stupid shit...stupid shit everywhere.

Review: I don't know about "Engine Trouble," but that's what imdb claims the title is so I'll trust them in this instance. This is the fourth movie from that 8-pack with "Bloody Murder," and, I have to say, this was utterly horrendous. My sister's dogs were fighting and humping one another in front of the screen and that was significantly more entertaining. The film quality looked like it was made for TV in the '80s and the story was laughably moronic. I could feel every...single...torturous second of the running time as if I were a kid waiting for the last day of school to end already. If they at least weren't taking themselves seriously, this could have been entertaining on some, remote level. Instead, I think the creators humorously believed what they were making was actually good. That's really cute.

The story is about two lesbian-ish girls going on a trip or whatever...hell if I know. They come across a guy who has embraced his mentally disabled son's killer tendencies. I don't know who the fuck is on the poster for this shit, but that's certainly not who we see; he specifically wields a sickle in the film as well. The killer jumps around like he's Darth Maul or something as he slices and dices the main girl's "friend" along with random idiots used to boost the kill count. Everything looks and feel like pure shit with half the movie taking place in a shaking car. Hey, if the car's rockin', don't come knockin'! After the killer's dad captures the main girl, she is chained up as an offering for his birthday. Through shenanigans, the main girl tricks the killer into thinking she's his mom and gets him to betray his dad. The main girl then kills the killer in the most drawn out fashion possible. Before the idiotic main girl can escape she is killed by the dad who presumably takes over the killing duties permanently. The end.

Uggghhh...this was painful to behold. Movies this stupid will put you on suicide watch that's for sure. While it's not technically as bad as the likes of "Howling 7" and "Asian School Girls," it is way more boring. The only reasons I'm rating it a tad higher than that level of trash is due to a few acceptable effects and they had the bad guys win. Pretty much anything you can imagine that takes up time from your life, you would be better off doing that instead of watching this movie. 'Nuff said.

Notable Moment: The main girl is in the car. She receives a phone call from her friend who is screaming and dies immediately afterward. The friend's head then rolls off the roof. All of this supposedly happens without the main girl hearing it. There is also no sounds or commotion related to this death nor any conceivable explanation for how the killer and friend got on top of the car without being seen. If that weren't dumb enough, there is a sun roof open too. My...fucking...goodness...

Final Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

American Psycho 2 (aka American Psycho II: All American Girl) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Contrivances abound allowing a wannabe serial killer to fulfill her dream of joining the FBI.

Review: I would easily rank this among the worst sequels of all time--a complete embarrassment--disgracing the name of the original in the process. Obviously an unnecessary addition to the "American Psycho" legacy, I hate this moronic film with a passion. I vowed to never watch this abomination again, yet, here I am..arrrggghhh. To help ease me through the torture, I had to start playing solitaire and put back on "Lady in Red." But don't think that this shit is simply boring, oh no, it is insultingly stupid and makes my right eye twitch from homicidal rage. As many have realized, the script for this trash was once completely unrelated to "American Psycho," but they reworked it to have lame connections that surprisingly shit all over the first movie. Yeah, that's a smart idea. Clearly, someone did not want to keep their spleen after this!

So how does this pitiful story pay homage to the first film? Well, they start off by making the new killer, as a fucking little girl, kill Patrick Bateman. He was killed...by...a little girl? You know that part in "Batman" when the Joker wants a mirror? That's me after this revelation. FUCK YOU! From there, the story simply plunges deeper and deeper into idiocy. The ironic soundtrack that comprised the first movie is replaced with nobodies I would expect from direct to DVD puke. The killer, Rachael, is annoying, unlikable, and is only able to pull her scheme off due to unspeakable levels of contrivances. Rachael is one of the worst killers I could possibly imagine, and her kills have to be off-screen since she is a total lightweight and they knew it would look laughable otherwise. By the way, Mila Kunis plays Rachael, and, while I do like Ms. Kunis, this role is infuriatingly terrible. For whatever reason, they thought this plot would best be told from an overly comedic perspective with actual clown music playing during the climax. Fuuuuck. Rachael's plan is needlessly complicated and convoluted with questionable motivations. In reality, she would have been caught quite easily, but in movie-world she's apparently a genius. There are a few plot holes, those contrivances are in absurd quantities, and the ending will have you rolling your eyes incessantly. Surprise, she gets away with everything. Surrrrre.

Imagine everything that made the original interesting and take it away. Then add overwhelming levels of absurdity and idiocy that would make Uwe Boll blush. Finally, top that off with a story that insults the source material in the most disrespectful way conceivable. Even if you hated "American Psycho," you have to at least admit it was produced competently. This movie plays out like an angsty teenager's fantasy and makes about as much sense as well. Retarded, pointless, and going on at least 30 minutes too long...no one should EVER waste their time with this movie. Honestly, I just pretend this film doesn't exist.

Notable Moment: When William Shatner is hamming it up big time right before he dies. Only he could make the line, "Don't fuck with me," sound like a question more than a statement.

Final Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

American Psycho Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After returning some videotapes, a man's life turns upside down when he fails to secure a reservation at the prestigious, New York restaurant, Dorsia.

Review: Just imagine the smooth sounds of "Lady in Red" while reading this review--that should set the mood perfectly. So...off the bat, this is definitely going to be a love it or hate it experience for viewers. For me, I absolutely love it--another most quoted film. I get why this film can be polarizing to audiences, but this is some next level satire. Once more, I'll avoid the realm of pretentious interpretations since it has been done to death by critics in both the movie and novel form. Yes, it makes a statement about yuppie culture, the darker side of the '80s, and a general analysis of a narcissistic society; it's impossible to ignore those facets. But, when it comes to the film version in particular, there are other nuances to appreciate especially in regards to the subtly, twisted sense of humor. If you don't at least crack a smile throughout this film then--well--you're inhuman.

The first thing I want to look at is Patrick Bateman himself, played brilliantly by Christian "fucking amateur" Bale. Wow...in the words of that dork from the second Captain America movie: specimen. Has there ever been a prettier pretty boy? If I was to go gay for someone, it would probably be Patrick Bateman. Though, it would never work out since we have extremely different preferences for hot chicks...that and I suspect he would start gnawing on my leg like a lunatic. He better calm down with that shit if he expects to keep his spleen. I distinctly remember the process of this film being produced and how they wanted Leonardo DiCaprio initially to play Bateman; that would have been utterly horrendous. Back then, I didn't know who the hell Mr. Bale was, but I did know he pulled off Bateman better than I could have hoped. That artificial charm, narcissism, and shallowness--accomplished to perfection. Despite these traits, there is just so much more to the character that makes him feel surprisingly likable. You have to love the discussions about sappy '80s music, his insecurity when someone has a better business card, and the homicidal rage lurking just beneath the fake smiles. Even if you hate the movie, it's hard to forget Mr. Bale's dedicated and engaging performance. And he did kill that little bitch Jared Leto in this movie...come on, now. Hey, is that Ivana Trump over there?

Not to be completely outdone, the background characters are interesting as well. I especially love the scene when their doing coke in the bathroom at that club. The constant comparisons to each others' clothes and materialistic bullshit is amazing; you truly feel the paper-thin personalities and friendships. You can't talk about this movie without acknowledging the ridiculous need for the characters to have a reservation at some upscale and overpriced restaurant--especially the beloved Dorsia (they know me there). The reoccurring joke about no one recognizing each other never gets old especially when it leads to nearly endless zany antics. The police can't tell if a guy is genuinely dead, because these idiots keep associating other people with being that person. Speaking of the police, Willem Dafoe is such a creepy bastard here. The dude needs some mineral water (with lime) or something!

It wouldn't be proper if I didn't at least touch on the '80s aspect. Being a kid in the '80s was the best, however, being an adult in the '80s had a lot of drawbacks. Those hideous fashions, hairstyles, and everybody looked androgynous--what the fuck were they thinking? It was the decade of excess after all, and this film displays that notion overtly like a badge of honor. On the other hand, that soundtrack still makes me appreciate the '80s nonetheless. There's nothing quite like slamming an axe into a coworker's face while "Hip to Be Square" is playing in the background. Let's also not forget the philosophical reflection of "The Greatest Love of All" right before you're about to drop a chainsaw on a hooker. Mmhmm...it truly moves the soul.

Finally, let's look at that questionable ending. Did Bateman really kill anyone or was he simply losing his mind from all the coke and prescription drugs? Honestly, it's tough to say, but I think he at least killed Paul Allen. The rest of the kills don't fully align with reality especially when Bateman runs around the city shooting people. It's still possible some version of Bateman's delusions were true, but Paul's death may have simply been Bateman engaging in his fantasies at last and becoming unhinged due to the guilt (or lack thereof). The ending is certainly open to multiple interpretations, but I do understand why that could feel like a copout to audiences.

Essentially, this is one of those movies you may hear others rave about and not understand the appeal. It is an acquired taste, that's for sure, but I think fans are starting to appreciate the bizarre nature of the story. It's kind of like they pulled off a mainstream, art house film. While there is a ton to enjoy throughout, the single best aspect is certainly Christian Bale's stellar performance that brings Patrick Bateman to life in all his glory. I definitely recommend checking this film out or revisiting it since it has had time to find its place in cinema. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to return some videotapes.

Notable Moment: Speaking calm and casually, "Hey, Paul! AAAAAHHHHHH!!!" -Patrick Bateman, Vice President: Pierce & Pierce

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Double Feature: Demolition High and Demolition University Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A kid just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to foil various terrorist plots.

Review: Although these are really cornball movies from the video rental era, I kind of enjoy them for what they are. However, the real draw for me to revisit these two films was, of course, my darling Ami Dolenz. Unfortunately, she only shows up in "Demolition University" instead of both entries. Her character is, admittedly, kind of annoying, but I love to see my girl work nonetheless. For casual viewers, I don't imagine much entertainment to be had unless you're a fan of Corey Haim or like this brand of cheesy movie in general; I have always enjoyed the two Coreys though. This was during Mr. Haim's drug-filled days, but, surprisingly, he pulls off reasonable performances and out-acts the rest of the cast for the most part regardless. One more thing I want to address is that the addition of Alan Thicke in "Demolition High" was awesome. They really made a misstep by not getting him to come back for the sequel. Anyway, let's check these two films out.

Demolition High: As many have observed, this is, more or less, a "Die Hard" ripoff. You have fake terrorists pretending to be extremists in order to rob some cash-incineration plant. Mr. Haim plays a kid named Lenny who is the son of the police chief or whatever Mr. Thicke's character is supposed to be. Lenny conveniently avoids capture by the terrorists when they round up hostages at the school in order to stall for their plan to become complete. Speaking of which, the plan is pretty farfetched as they have a missile or whatever aimed at a nuclear reactor that they're using for leverage along with the hostages. Lenny uses Kevin McCallister-esque traps to kill the terrorists which is dumb since he could steal their guns. Oh, and the reason Lenny can do all of these things is simply because he learned shit from his dad and the mean streets of the Bronx. Right. Eventually, Lenny, in conjunction with the police and FBI, manage to beat all the terrorists and disarm their missile before they're all blown up. The ending is really lame with Lenny suddenly hooking up with the one chick who was pretty hot. One other thing worth noting is the main bad chick who people fixate on; she is hot, but her magically popping up alive toward the end is just like the dude who was hanged in "Die Hard." Despite the obvious budget limitations, and ripoff story, this was the kind of shit I used to watch in order to have more plots to my toy battles. It's not completely horrendous if you understand the dynamics of the rental store era, but it's not good by any means either.

Demolition University: I don't think this will come as much of a shock, but this was not as good as the last film. Sure, it has my dear Ms. Dolenz, but the terrorists were lamer and they missed a chance to play off the last installment; in fact, Lenny doesn't even mention the events of the last movie. This time around, Iraqi extremists and a rogue, black ops soldier steal a virus, or whatever, that they intend to pour into the water supply. In beyond contrived fashion, Lenny sneaks aboard a class trip, that happens to have Ms. Dolenz, and is going to the water plant at the exact moment the terrorists take it over. Once more, Lenny uses his little tricks to kill the terrorists with the assistance of Ms. Dolenz. The only major difference this time is that the terrorists turn on one another toward the end which kind of took away from the satisfaction of each getting killed. By the end, Lenny stops the virus from spreading, and they narrowly escape before the plant blows up. Ehh...predictable and lame, but it has the same kind of charm as DH. Ms. Dolenz does help brighten up each scene, but the bad guys were lamer despite apparent efforts to make them amusing as with DH. Really...this movie needed Alan Thicke!

Overall, you're going to get exactly what you expect given the time frame these movies were made. There is mild entertainment to be had and you could look at them in a so-bad-it's-good kind of manner. You also have a few B-actors mixed in to add a little flavor to the experience so there's that to consider. It's funny, I watched these movies when they came out back in the '90s, but I didn't recognize Ami Dolenz from "Miracle Beach." I guess I needed the genie outfit to truly seal the deal in my fantasies. Nevertheless, she is certainly the highlight here and the main reason I bothered to track these films down. If you're a big Corey fan, these may be worth it as well--just don't go into either of these movies with realistic expectations of them being good.

Notable Moment: In DH when the kids are reacting to hearing police sirens. Uhh...the school is already surrounded at this point and now you can hear something? Plus, there were already helicopters, a ton of gunfire, and a damn bazooka explosion they didn't hear! That's just lovely.

Final Rating: DH 4.5/10 and DU 4/10

Now that's some sexy Dolenz action right there!