Monday, August 31, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A teen under house arrest believes his neighbor may be a serial killer.
Review: This is one of those films I like for weird reasons. Although this is a good movie regardless, I mostly enjoy that lazy, lounging around feeling from the main character, Kale. I think a lot of people can relate to that summer boredom you have in between the even more boring school time; it makes you want to veg out in front of the TV, or, I guess, your computer nowaday. Does this make sense? Probably not--oh well. The other aspect I have to acknowledge is that this is one of the few instances where I can tolerate the insufferable Shia LaBeouf. I have a long list of people I would absolutely love to punch in the face, and he's reasonably high up there.
The story is, more or less, a combination of "Rear Window" meets "The 'Burbs." I don't know how, but these plot elements work well together to create a decent thriller that has a certain lighthearted nature. For example, one minute Kale is worried about the neighbor, Mr. Turner, being a killer while still taking the time to plot his revenge against some brats in the neighborhood. By the way, the kids looking at porn while their mom remains clueless was thoroughly amusing. I have to address that the house Kale lives in is fucking amazing! I guess they can afford the house, because Trinity is Kale's mom? The romance is undeniably stupid, but I suppose I can get behind a girl next door story. I might have fallen in love too if some hot chick who was killed by Kayako comes over my house and says let's get pizza. Finally, the friendship with Kale and Ronnie felt somewhat believable even if they made Ronnie as annoying as they could get away with. Can you believe that dude was 28 when this movie came out (playing a 17 year old)?! That Asian advantage, I tell you.
As for my problems with this film, besides LaBeouf, you have to admit that ending was pathetic. There are many story elements that go nowhere like the whole subplot with the cop. Why did they even bother if that cop was going to be one of the few people that dies? We needed more resolution in that regard. Everyone overlooking Kale's blatant stalking is questionable, and the love interest, Ashley, being cool with it was ridiculous. Mr. Turner comes off as brazen for someone supposedly trying to not get caught. Also, why did he snap all of a sudden at the climax? The cops were on his side and Kale was looking at jail time, yet, Mr. Turner decides he must kill everyone and feebly attempt to cover it up? Uhhh...okaaay. That's about as contrived as it gets. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this film worked better without it's main plot of the serial killer. Go figure.
Despite a great dislike for LaBeouf, this is still an entertaining flick. You have a respectable thriller that does keep you wondering where it's heading. The lighthearted nature keeps things fun and makes it more accessible to everyone; this could pass for a family movie depending on the age of the kids. There are certainly flaws, and the imdb rating is way too high, but this is a lot better than you'd expect. The ending is disappointingly moronic, but the main plot is at least wrapped up in a satisfying way. Overall, this is the perfect movie to close out the summer (or to begin it).
Notable Moment: That ridiculous ending shot. Yeaaaah...because who doesn't creepily film their best friend making out with their girlfriend?
Final Rating: 6/10
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A high school decides to perform a play that was responsible for a student's death 20 years earlier.
Review: The reviews for this movie have been scathing, to say the least, but was it really that bad? Ehh, yes and no. I was mostly able to overlook the film's shortcomings until that ending. Arrrgghh. That fucking ending--it's easily one of the most contrived twists I have ever seen. I imagine, if you were already bored, the ending was probably going to make you flip a table due to its absurdity. Those on the fence, like me, were firmly pushed over the edge by the blatant disregard for logic. With that said, I do feel it's still not as bad as many reviews make it out to be, and it's certainly not the worst found-footage film I've watched.
The story isn't all that complicated. Twenty years earlier, this school put on some play, supposedly called the Gallows, and a kid was actually hanged during the production. In the present, they're redoing the play, for whatever reason, and some of the kids want to get out of the show. You realistically only have 4 main characters, Reese, Ryan (grrr), Cassidy, and Pfeifer. The first three go to trash the sets the night before the show, and they run into Pfeifer while there. It quickly turns into "Grave Encounters" as they can't escape the school. The ghost of the boy who died, Charlie, begins to pick them off in the slowest way possible. As they run around the school trying to escape, Reese discovers his dad was originally meant to have Charlie's role. This makes him borderline suicidal as he thinks the ghost wants retribution for taking the place of the dad. By the end, everyone dies except Pfeifer, but I'll go into more detail a little later.
Let's go over what worked first. The best aspects going for this film were the atmosphere and use of a school for the setting. The eerie, dark corridors are unsettling as you have no idea what might jump out. The school's stage as a set was also welcomed as many different areas were able to be utilized effectively. As for the ghost, I thought he was decent looking and his appearances were minimal enough not to overstay his welcome. He is a bit too Jason-esque, considering Charlie wasn't that intimidating of a kid, but okay. Killing people with a noose might feel kind of lame, but the whole executioner and gallows combo didn't bother me. You'd have to be quite the hard ass not to admit a few of the scares were decently implemented...even if most were jump scares. Finally, the effects are surprisingly well done considering the budget restraints.
As for the film's faults--hmm--where to begin? Let's start with Charlie's death...who the hell builds a working gallows for a play?! And not once, but twice! Oh, I know, we idiotically built a working gallows that killed a kid 20 years ago, let's build another one! The main characters are soooo fucking annoying especially that son of a bitch with my name. Their acting wasn't anything to write home about, but, considering they're amateurs playing themselves essentially, I don't hold it against them. However, the contrivances, baby, oh the contrivances; every single scene appears to introduce a new one. The entire plot of the movie is arguably a contrivance since the only reason Charlie is able to get revenge was because Reese pointlessly tried to wreck the set. Now, for that precious ending...Pfeifer greatly implied to be Charlie's daughter?! HAH! And no one knew who her mother was? No parent/teacher conferences? If that weren't pathetic enough, they had to include a scene of Charlie killing the police. So his spirit can leave the school? And what the hell, they summoned his spirit through voodoo or magic or some shit? Oooohh good lordy! You are absolutely killing me here. That entire last scene felt beyond forced considering this film is barely clocking in at 70 minutes (not counting credits). The studio was probably like, this is a fucking hour long movie--add filler!
I understand people really hate this movie, but it's merely mediocre. I'm more disappointed than anything. The early build up made it seem like the ghost would attack during the actual play performance and all manner of chaos would ensue. Imagine that shit: they're acting out the play when Charlie's ghost appears on the stage and starts killing people. The audience tries to frantically escape, but they're locked in. The ghost starts stringing people up in the rafters as he closes in on those he feels wronged him. Then we could have a revelation regarding the circumstance of the original hanging (there was tampering or something). Now that would be an epic horror movie! Instead, we get an isolated tale regarding a handful of characters running around in the dark; you know, business as usual for found-footage. Overall, there are things I liked and a lot I didn't like. I'm going to be more lenient since the production values looked high, there were good ideas, and they even had a hint of originality. This doesn't mean I can ignore the ridiculously stupid ending, cascade of contrivances, and infuriatingly stupid main characters. I wouldn't recommend this movie unless endings don't make or break a movie for you. Knowing how important the ending is to most people, I simply feel the casual viewer will not be as forgiving and won't care about the other things I see as positives.
Notable Moment: When Cassidy is killed. The tension is pretty good, and I liked the Michael Myers trick of slowly materializing in the shadows.
Final Rating: 5/10
Monday, August 24, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: The worst biological weapon of all time escapes as zany antics ensue.
Review: For those keeping score, this is the fifth entry in the collection with "Bloody Murder." I have to say, this collection keeps blowing my mind. What the hell is this shit?! If someone has the tolerance to put up with all 8 of these movies in a row--wow--more power to you. I cannot stomach more than one a month, and this "film" solidified that fact. If you ever wished to see someone's home movie turned into a feature length film over the course of a decade, your prayers have finally been answered. So, yes, this was an indie movie that began in 1989, filmed further into the '90s, and finally completed and released, supposedly, in 2000. You should realize this fact ahead of time without being told, but imdb did affirm this outlandish truth. I can respect the ridiculously low budget and amateur mistakes, but, come on, why bother? My sisters and I made a "horror" movie when we were kids too, and I would NEVER, ever, let anyone see that abomination. Hey, look on the bright side, it still managed to be better than "Howling VII" and "Asian School Girls" so it has that going for it.
The story is considerably dumber than you'd think as the government has created the perfect bio-weapon: a little kid in a cheap, Halloween costume. I absolutely love this scenario. The laboratory, if you can call it that, is hidden in an abandoned house with literally one person overseeing the entire project. The absurdity is quite astonishing if you think about it. I especially liked that this dangerous bio-weapon is fed and experimented on with no form of restraint. That's a good one. SURPRISE, it escapes. At this point, it should become apparent we are dealing with VHS picture quality and submarine audio. Not that this story makes a lot of sense to begin with, but, if there were a few details to miss, I couldn't understand half of what anyone said. You'd honestly have an easier time communicating with a cup and string.
Anyway, the government sends three whole people to deal with the bio-weapon, moronically called "the carnivore." Coincidentally enough, some horny teens decide to visit this abandoned house thinking it's haunted. The vast majority of this film then entails the antics of the government goons driving and the teens doing stupid shit. Feel free to fall asleep if so inclined; you won't miss much. The characters are all painfully annoying, when you can understand their dialogue that is, and, yet, this film chose to only kill off three of them. That fact makes me laugh. For whatever reason, one of the government goons wants to save the carnivore especially after it starts talking. Oh for the love of fuck. I have no idea what it was saying but oh well. One of the government goons does kill the carnivore, but this film has the audacity to have a sequel-bait ending. Really? It took you 11 years the first time...you thought this would be a big enough hit that we'd see a "Carnivore 2?!" That's adorable.
I can't blame the makers for trying to create this shit. If I was an amateur director in 1989, maybe I would have wanted nothing more than to create a movie too. However, I can blame the distributor for believing there would be a market for this trash. I may have got this shit in a collection, but you can buy this movie separately...if you want. Although there is no version of Earth where I could give this film a rating above a 3/10, I will acknowledge it's not as torturous as some of the other trash I've reviewed. It's just boring more than anything. Sure, you have the laughable story, potato picture quality, fishbowl audio, horrendous acting, and pathetic set designs, but it was soooo low budget I can't completely fault them. Would I recommend this? HELL NO! But are there worse movies out there? Definitely.
Notable Moment: When that first scientist dies. I love his nonchalant reaction to dying. "Oh...no...I've been stabbed with a syringe that will kill me. Oh...no...my day is ruined." Oscar worthy.
Final Rating: 2/10
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A wounded samurai seeks shelter at a temple inhabited by an immortal warrior.
Review: I really want to like this movie, due to the interesting ideas and cool fight scenes, but they make it so hard when nothing makes sense and there is enough padding to fill a couch. On one hand you have a claustrophobic atmosphere accompanied by a curious mystery. The approach feels reminiscent to an old, Japanese ghost story, and this aspect thoroughly invests you in the scenario. When the action scenes do finally pick up, they're well done and employ a certain level of originality. On the other hand, however, we are offered little backstory on what is happening. The movie is extremely short so it's not as though they didn't have the time to explain things. Speaking of which, the short running time is loaded with filler material such as long stares, shots of a character "thinking," and taking advantage of any instance where a scene's time can be stretched. Realistically, there was enough material for an hour special on a TV show; it would have excelled better in that regard. The entire experience reminded me of "Ju-on: The Curse 2" whereby it's a cool movie, but the deliberate padding borders on unforgivable.
We are placed right in the middle of the action as two wounded samurai show up at a shrine or temple or whatever the hell it was supposed to be. We are never told what led up to this circumstance which you'd think would bring the story full circle or something. At the temple, they meet a suspicious woman right before the one samurai apparently dies, and the main samurai passes out only to be strangely resurrected later. When the samurai awakes he is greeted by a man and that woman--both acting shady as hell of course. The man explains to the samurai that he cannot leave since the terrain is treacherous in the rain and that there is a creature called Aragami out there. Eventually, as their conversation grows darker, the man reveals he is this creature, Aragami. Admittedly, we do get a backstory on Aragami as he reveals he always knew there was something not right about himself. He came to realize he had superhuman abilities and immortality, but he's grown wary of life and wishes to know death. The dilemma is that Aragami wants to be killed in battle by a superior opponent which is near impossible due to his extraordinary abilities. This is when things stop making sense since they imply the samurai has hidden potential yet they've also made him immortal through a kind of magic--feeding the main samurai the liver of the dead samurai. Ehhh, I don't know.
The samurai and Aragami fight a few times as we see Aragami's abilities firsthand. This part worked well since the samurai tries different tricks, and Aragami has collected weapons from around the world and not just Japan. The banter between the two characters is amusing at times as well; occasionally I thought this was a comedy. One thing I didn't understand was, if both men were immortal, how exactly could they die to regular attacks? For example, Aragami stabs his sword through the samurai's chest and it instantly heals. Later on, this same thing happens but Aragami believes the samurai is dead? Whaaaat? Making less sense, a divine light or an alien spaceship appears and all of a sudden the samurai has become more powerful than Aragami. I guess he went super saiyan or something. And again, Aragami is dispatched with by a simple stab to the chest--why did this kill him? Now, as a supernatural being, the samurai is told he must stay at the temple by the mysterious woman. Seriously, what the hell is she? The ending scene shows a new challenger to the samurai hundreds of years later preparing to fight with an arsenal of guns. I don't mind that ending at all, but we are left never understanding anything. Who or what is the woman? If Aragami was born a human, why would he magically become supernatural? What is the deal with the samurai and his dead friend? What battle did they come from? If the samurai always had this potential in him, why did the woman need to feed him the magic liver? If they're immortal, why can some regular attacks kill them while others have no effect? Ugh.
I don't want it to sound like this movie sucks when it is well above average. It just has glaring flaws that drastically hurt the final product. There are simply no explanations and the filler shots add anywhere from 15-25 minutes to the running time. There's no excuse for this. This isn't to say they had to spoon-feed the story to the audience, but there needs to be a balance between what is explained and what's left ambiguous. I appreciate the ghost story vibe, but, this is an action movie realistically, so the point is moot. I will applaud the actors for carrying the film with only two out of the five having major speaking roles. I'd still recommend checking this out--you may enjoy it significantly more than me if you don't even notice the padding or can appreciate it. Overall, a cool movie hindered by a lack of scope.
Notable Moment: When the samurai and Aragami fight in the dark, and the room is lit up by the sparks from the swords clashing.
Final Rating: 5.5/10
Monday, August 17, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A tabloid reporter becomes obsessed with a story about a serial killer pretending to be a vampire.
Review: This film receives a lot of undeserved hate, but is it really that bad? Sure, it suffered from a debacle of a release worsened by the fact that it came out during the era of "Scream" ripoffs. Despite that, it has great atmosphere and was original in a lot of ways. The ball is certainly dropped toward the end, however, it does work poetically if you don't overthink it. After all, this movie was based on a story by Stephen King and remains relatively faithful. What were people really expecting?
The story follows the slimy and sleazy tabloid reporter, Dees, played perfectly by Miguel Ferrer; Mr. Ferrer excels in the role and you love to hate the character. Tabloids aren't what they used to be, which is good, but they were an amusing phenomenon for decades. This film tries to display the worst aspects of it and how the bizarre stories can get under the skin of the people in the industry. Complementing Dees is the naive and inexperienced Katherine, played by Phoebe Cates' twin sister, Julie Entwisle. I'm joking about the twin sister aspect, but, seriously, who was this woman and what happened to her? Ms. Entwisle did two movies the same year (1997) and disappeared off the face of the planet. Did Phoebe Cates kill her? Was Phoebe Cates inventing an alter ego? Does anyone know anything?! Anyway, Dees refers to Katherine as "Jimmy" which is supposed to be a play on Jimmy Olsen. Amusing. The two spend much of the movie clashing over who will headline a story about a serial killer posing as a vampire--the Night Flier as he's called.
The moody nature of the mystery is presented well enough as Dees goes from each murder location in the pursuit of finding the killer. The story shows us how this case is getting to Dees and making him a bit obsessed. Unfortunately, it's too obvious from the onset that the killer is a real vampire rather than saving that reveal for the end or keeping things ambiguous. Considering we are shown glimpses of the killer and various flashbacks, they could have hidden the truth if they wanted to. Eventually Dees, momentarily working with Katherine, discovers where the Night Flier is during a killing spree. Idiotically confronting the killer, Dees does learn he is a real vampire, but the vampire somewhat likes Dees due to his sleazy nature. However, the vampire doesn't want any stories about himself published. Unable to leave well enough alone, Dees demands for the vampire to show him what he actually looks like; the vampire goes a step forward and gives Dees some of his blood to drink. This apparently drives Dees crazy as he hallucinates various dead people from the film, and in the area, as coming after him. Grabbing an ax, Dees starts hacking away at his imaginary attackers when the cops show up. They blow Dees away and Katherine spins the story so as that Dees is credited to be the Night Flier--he made the front page after all.
When it comes to the ending I can understand why it would be considered stupid. I mean, come on, the evidence would obviously clear Dees' name fairly easily. His whereabouts alone are accounted for during a few of the Night Flier's kills. Speaking of which, wouldn't the Night Flier kill more people? Or is this over? I don't know, the ending never bothered me since it had an ironic humor to it especially when Katherine is referred to as Jimmy even on the tabloid cover. What I liked was the originality of meshing a tabloid coming to life with classic vampire lore. I don't understand why the vampire needs a plane or why he's doing his killings now, but he looks Dracula-esque, sleeps in dirt, can hypnotize people, and has an intriguing backstory that is hinted at. Plus, Dees is just a fun character to watch run around talking shit and having virtually no shame whatsoever. Something about the way the story elements are pulled together works.
Is this movie for everyone? Probably not. It is somewhat forgettable, but I've always enjoyed it. It's one of those movies I remember watching a hundred times over the summer both alone and with friends. Setting that aspect aside, however, the film does succeed with its atmosphere, originality, and engaging mystery. On top of that, the music is pretty cool and Mr. Ferrer kills it with his portrayal of Dees. On the other hand, the vampire can come off as inconsistent and the ending is a hit or miss--possibly ruining the movie for some viewers. For whatever strange reason, this has become a rare DVD so I'm not sure what would be the easiest way to track it down. I'm sure it's on youtube or something.
Notable Moment: It's not a single moment but all the instances that refer back to Stephen King's other works and lore. Many are kind of subtle which makes it all the more fun to pick up on them.
Final Rating: 6/10
Is Julie Entwisle really Phoebe Cates or is Phoebe Cates actually Julie Entwisle? Dun dun dun!
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: In an overpopulated future, a detective uncovers a horrible truth while trying to solve the murder of a board member from a shady food conglomerate.
Review: This is one of the few movies I would surprisingly not mind if it received the remake treatment. Not because it has lost its resonance, but because it could use a few modifications and polish to make it timeless. Having the distinction of being one of sci-fi's most hellish dystopias, this film serves less as a vision of the future and more of an exaggerated warning regarding numerous worldwide issues. You may be wondering if there's really a difference, but I don't think anyone imagined this as a plausible scenario--just food for thought. There were definitely a few missteps like not having computers or any real advanced technology in this future (it's supposed to be 2022). Plus, a future of endless '70s fashions, looks, colors, and styles? Umm, no thanks! As disturbing as this future may be, the structure is imagined from a naive point of view. Come on, the trick to controlling the masses is giving them the illusion they're in control. You can't have a harsh reality prominently on display with no means of distracting the people. If it were only so easy. None of this is to say the film is bad, as it's quite awesome, you just need to understand its place in the sci-fi pantheon. It's goal is more focused on getting the viewer to think rather than imagine a horrifyingly possible reality.
So what does this world look like? You have overpopulation levels to the point where you have to step over people in any dwelling or in the streets. To give you an idea of what we're dealing with, apparently (according to wikipedia) New York City's current population is roughly 8.5 million and in the movie it's over 40 million. The animal life and vegetation of the planet have been virtually destroyed with the implication that the world's temperature is permanently elevated. There is even a misty cloud in the air at all times similar to smog minus the cars. The people survive on synthetic, cracker-looking food supplements, in varying colors, provided by your trusty Soylent company. You also need food vouchers as most things are rationed. There is massive unemployment, poverty, and the people are unclean--with little water to go around and hardly any electricity; air conditioning is a mere pipe dream. People drop dead left and right with little care or value to human life. In fact, there are euthanasia centers that are heavily frequented by old people wary of the world. If you riot, probably over food shortages, they will scoop you up in dump trucks and not give a shit if you die. Of course, the most disturbing aspect is the film's twist and revelation that "SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!" So the final icing on the cake is that the excess people are being fed back to the masses. YUM! It's not all doom and gloom though...if you're rich that is. The rich live in lavish and isolated areas where they can eat "real" food and enjoy their, uhh, "furniture." The precious "furniture" are sexy girls who do, I guess, whatever you want, but you have to take care of them. I typically don't care for '70s-era girls, but the ladies in this film are hot! And best of all, you get Atari-esque video games! Fucking PC peasants--Atari 2600 master race!
Besides the unique spin on the future, this film succeeds in numerous regards. First off is the gravitas of Charlton Heston and the rest of the cast. The cornball romance may be shoehorned in at the last second, but I absolutely love Mr. Heston's Thorn character. He's such an asshole, but he's clever and has enough charm to be likable. The banter between the characters is priceless as well. The overall mystery would have kept you guessing quite a bit back in the day, but, unfortunately, the twist is too well known today; however, this doesn't take away from the film at all. The general social statements, messages, and themes are not too preachy or pretentious; they try to tell the story in a succinct manner rather than dwell on artsy bullshit. This doesn't mean that certain aspects of the film aren't throught-provoking as you will probably spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on what you've watched. Given the ending, this is particularly of interest since it's ambiguous if humanity will even care that Soylent Green is made out of processed human meat.
I get the impression that this is one of those instances where, despite a lot of people hearing about the twist, most of the under 40 crowd haven't taken the time to see the actual film. The pacing can be a little slow at times, which is common for the era, but I would recommend checking this out regardless. The running time is short so the action and mystery should keep you thoroughly invested. It has its flaws, like the perpetual '70s style, but most of this can be forgiven and doesn't deter from the overall experience. It's not as deep or visually stunning as something like "Blade Runner," but it's definitely still a sci-fi classic worthy of attention. As long as you understand these expectations and limitations, I think you will be pleasantly impressed by the story and its dark depiction.
Notable Moment: When Thorn is doing half detective work/half ransacking of Simonson's apartment. Thorn is such an asshole but I can't help being amused nonetheless.
Final Rating: 7/10
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: The ghost of a fast food mascot seeks revenge by killing the children of his tormentors.
Review: Not going to lie, the burger on the poster looks tasty! Umm, other than that compliment, there's really only one worthwhile aspect to this film: Leighton Meester. But even her hotness is ruined since Ms. Meester is supposed to be some kind of hipster-forerunner bitch. I guess this movie is supposed to be comedic, but it fails miserably in that regard. There were, maybe, two legitimately funny jokes where you might crack a smile and the rest of the time, if you do laugh, would be at how eye-roll-inducing each idiotic scene is. Oh, haha, your killer's name is Horny the Clown. Oh my god, no way, your characters are doing stupid shit while high?! I never saw that a million times before--so fucking HILARIOUS! Actually, the best gag, as lame as it is, was probably the detectives' names being a play on cheese and crackers (Chase and Crockers); that should give you an idea of the level of comedy gold we're dealing with here.
The story is about as shallow and moronic as you would expect. Some time in the '60s or '70s (I was hardly paying attention at that point), a bunch of kids tried messing with this dude on his birthday, but he accidentally was burned to death. The dead guy just happened to be the mascot for a fast food chain as well as being the son of the owner. Since he was turning 18 when he died, he has decided to kill the children of his tormentors in a similar fashion. Luckily for him, all his tormentors conveniently had children at the exact same time so that they would all be 18 during the same week. The supernatural aspect of the killer is ill-defined and inconsistent; one minute he's teleporting and the next he has to get through a door or stopped by a bullet. They also keep putting all of his actions in seizure-inducing fast motion--please stop. The deaths are weak with minimal gore which is disappointing since you want to see these annoying characters carved up like a pumpkin. In fact, the characters are among the most annoying of any movie I have ever had the displeasure of watching. If I weren't falling asleep and taking breaks half the time, I would have been driven crazy by these annoying assholes. Finally, the ending is plain retarded. That's pretty much the only way to describe it.
The idea of a killer Ronald McDonald is interesting, but this movie doesn't convey it properly. I can appreciate the parody aspects and satirical portrayal of the burger joint, however, the film never fully commits to comedy horror. If this weren't horror I would say the intended demographic was small children or, I guess, the pothead crowd. Ms. Meester is very attractive but those early hipster designs are simply not flattering on her. Overall, the story is stupid and nonsensical, the editing is atrocious, the dialogue is painful with punchable characters delivering the lines, they skimped out on the gore and killed people off screen, the ending is pathetic, and, worst of all, it fails monumentally to be humorous. Other than the enjoyment I receive from watching movies about food, there is little entertainment to be had here. Avoid like mad cow disease.
Notable Moment: When Morgan Spurlock pops up for a little cameo. One of the few amusing moments.
Final Rating: 3.5/10
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A man realizes his utopian society is actually an oppressive regime that has removed any meaning of life from the people.
Review: For once, I did read this book back when it first came out in the early '90s, and I thoroughly enjoyed it--one of my all time favorites. When I heard that this movie was announced I simply rolled my eyes. Can you really make a movie out of "The Giver?" Well, apparently you can, and it turned out about as lame as I anticipated. Ughh. Admittedly the movie has a decent plot, as the book is naturally interesting, but they changed far too much; only the bare bones of the plot remain intact. Stuck in development hell for years, they clearly altered the movie to reflect a "Hunger Games-esque" style as most YA adaptations have. The problem is that this is not, at all, what "The Giver" was striving for with its message. The book is a philosophical tale presented in a way children can handle--questioning the great mysteries of life, what it means, and how are choices and knowledge shape us. Instead, the film version reworks this material into standard dystopian fare with emphasis on romance and action. No.
In fairness, I can understand why plenty would enjoy this movie. As I mentioned, the story is naturally intriguing as you want to know how this world came to be. The pacing allows for a gradual realization of the truth in a way that will keep audiences engaged. The look and design of the sets turned out about as well as I would have liked despite a severe downplay on the bikes. I was impressed with how they approached the inability to see color concept--that was one of my bigger worries. One actual improvement was the inclusion of a few scenes that were darker and better captured the tone of the book. I suppose the ending could be considered better to some. It definitely wraps things up more concisely and in a more pleasing manner to the average person. Ehhh, that's about all I can say positively.
I'm just going to run down the changes and things that were driving me nuts. First up, Taylor Swift. I think that speaks for itself. Second, Katie Holmes. Okaaaaay, with that out of my system, let's move on to the real gripes. The beginning is way too rushed considering how short this movie is and how much extra bullshit was added. The beginning of the book is fun as we learn about this world, the characters, and how the innocent exterior masks a dark truth. This is all brushed over so they can spend more time on a love story that didn't even exist in the book. Hooray! I know, let's also imply it's a fucking love triangle to boot with "subtle" stares from a jealous Asher. These characters (in the book) are supposed to be twelve years old for fuck's sake! Speaking of which, none of these actors look the part in any conceivable way. I don't get it, did they think having children in the roles would make it less serious? It doesn't matter, because, as much as I love Jeff Bridges and his passion for the book, he is not the Giver; truth be told, he would agree. And Meryl Streeps' character is far too prominent for a practically nonexistent role added to the plot; uhh, we don't need an overlord villain in every single one of these kind of movies. I get that some people may like this ending, but it was intolerably stupid. The last 30 minutes were pretty much completely made up! I prefer the uncertain fate for Jonas and the baby, but, even if that ambiguity bothers you, are you going to tell me a giant memory shockwave is better?! How about arguing over Fiona's made up execution? I can just picture the studio saying we gotta have Asher redeem himself! Good lord.
In the end, I gave this film a higher rating than it deserves since I can understand my own bias; if I went by how much this movie ruins the book, we'd be at the 4/10 range or lower. They changed too much, made shit up, and simply used the book's plot in a husk form to draw ideas from. Trying to be objective about this, I can see the positives and realize the movie tried its best to stand on its own merits. People unfamiliar with the material will probably be receptive and appreciate the general plot and presentation of the book's themes. The actors do their best even if none look the part they're supposed to be playing. I guess if you've never read the book or were even aware of its existence, you may enjoy this. If you read the book, it's probably 50/50 whether this will annoy you or not.
Notable Moment: When Jonas and Fiona slide down that giant archway. Yeaaaaah, lightly sticking your foot out will bring you to a comfortable stop. Uhh...I'm pretty sure they should have died!
Final Rating: 6/10
Thursday, August 6, 2015
WARNING: Some stories mentioned may be too disturbing or (probably) too stupid for sane people to imagine actually happening. Also, never jog alone...
I don't know how often I will make posts like this, and I know this has nothing to with movies, but I wanted to discuss some bizarre shit I've seen lately. Maybe others can share their stories with me!
First Occurrence--The Howling: What motivated me to finally type this shit out was what I saw this morning when I went running with my sister. Actually, all these stories are while I'm out running. Although it was close to 5 AM, it was still dark out when we heard a big dog barking. My sister nonchalantly points to the roof of a house and...there he is...a big ass dog barking and howling atop a roof. Whaaaaat? A dog...sitting on a roof...just hanging out at five in the morning. Surrrre, why not, right? He looked like the beast from "The Sandlot." I'm like, is this supposed to be someone's equivalent of an alarm system? Is he a weredog? Did he fly up there? There was a window, I'm assuming he came through, but it was closed when we went past. I mean, who the hell leaves their dog out on a roof for the night?! Dafuq?! This was a three story house by the way, although, the dog was on some kind of alcove of the second story. When we came back, the dog was gone so I'm assuming the owners heard us talking or the dog flew away. I just imagine some kind of "Salem's Lot" situation with a vampire dog trying to knock on the window. I wanted to get a photo so bad, but, alas, I have no physical evidence.
Second Occurrence--Dead Tired: This time it was closer to 4:30 AM when I drove to my sister's house, and I noticed, what looked like, a dead body lying half in the street and half on a driveway. This idiot was probably high or drunk or both and passed out, amusingly, face-first in the cement. We debated about whether or not we should call the police, especially since we knew he had no association with the people who owned the driveway he was lying in. I much preferred the poking with a stick approach, but he did appear to be breathing. Hmm, not sure if that was a good thing or not. As with most of these weird situations, I find myself cracking up with laughter. We decided to go on about our merry way since there are a few unsavory types who he probably was with at one point. Though, why would they leave their friend, associate, satisfied customer to rot in the street? Regardless, this imbecile disappeared by the time we came back. Goodnight, sweet junkie, and flights of meth sing thee to thy rest.
Third Occurrence--The Freaks Come Out At Night: This one isn't so much a story as just a collage of the random lunatics I see. First up is Slender Man: a random tall guy always skulking about in a shady way. Not sure where he comes from, or where the hell he is going, but he looks suspicious as fuck. Next up, Bernie, the town drunk: I have no clue what this guy's story really is, but that's what I call him. I like to imagine the conversations he has with the police when they scoop him up each night--it's almost sitcom-like. This old guy loves to run around shirtless in the middle of the night. Then there is cameraman: what's he really trying to film, huh? Hell if I know, but he popped up out of nowhere one day. One of my favorites is crackhead extraordinaire, Sharon: likes reading, long walks on the beach, and sitting on the sidewalk with no shoes on while picking her scabs. What a sweetheart. I'll be sure to add to this list in the future!
Fourth Occurrence--It Follows: And to close up my little tales...for now...we have the curious case of annoying, relentless blood-sucking bugs. Bugs usually are attracted to me--whether it's something in my blood or my scent--they will try to bite me over anyone else. In this particular instance, a bug would not stop following me! This probably sounds really stupid, but you need to imagine this thing was chasing me for miles! I kept running and running, and, if I stopped for a second to catch my breath, this bitch was buzzing in my ear. You kind of had to be there, but, I assure you, it was out of the ordinary for sure. I couldn't kill it either since I had nothing to hit it with, and it was flying around too fast to swat with my hand. I know, I live such a troubled life. Just thought that would be an amusing finale to this quartet of bizarre and idiotic tales of terror.
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: Vacationers, sailing off the coast of Spain, find themselves stranded by a storm and seek help at a weird town inhabited by aquatic mutants.
Review: A few things to clear up first: Lovecraft did write a story called "Dagon," but this movie is oddly not based on it. Instead, this is a loose retelling of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." Then why isn't that the name of this movie? Well, because the movie doesn't take place at Innsmouth either. You love it, right? Besides, I'm sure they figured "Dagon" sounds like a scarier movie title. Regardless of all the title shenanigans, this isn't the worst adaptation of Lovecraft's work, but it certainly isn't the best. The core of the story remains intact, but there are drastic changes throughout the entirety of the film. For me, this is another guilty pleasure. The look of the film reminds me of a higher end made for TV movie, but there is something so relaxing about a film with the sound of rain falling for a soundtrack. Maybe it's something primal--I don't know--but the abundance of rain in this movie lulls me into a watery slumber. Ehhh, it's hard to explain.
The story focuses on a guy named Paul as he is vacationing with his girlfriend, business partner, and the partner's wife; they are sailing off the coast of Spain. Paul is having strange visions of a mermaid version of the wife from "Witching and Bitching." You know, she was rather cute in this movie--in a creepy kind of way--and you get to see what she's working with...if you know what I mean. In fact, Paul's girlfriend is cute too and also gives us quite a show of her--ahem--assets. Anyway, a storm suddenly rolls in and their boat crashes onto a rock pile. Paul and the girlfriend, Barbara, seek help at a town nearby that just happens to be full of mutant freaks. To make a long story short, the town was dependent on fishing during a time when the supply was dwindling. A man came along and managed to sway the townspeople to pledge themselves to the god-like being, Dagon, in exchange for fish, gold, etc. As time went on, the people grew crazy and began to make sacrifices to Dagon. As a result of this pact with Dagon, the people slowly turned into fish/human hybrids that could live forever; this actually goes along with a Lovecraft race known as the Deep Ones.
As you may have guessed, these people don't take kindly to outsiders and start to kill everyone. Paul is a bit annoying since he runs away like a bitch a lot. The townspeople are weak as fuck since they're in a state of transformation; many can't even run or walk. Paul should have been like, "Hey, I'm in Spain...time to go Leon Kennedy on their asses!" I know I would have. Eventually Paul comes across the girl from his dreams but is unnerved by the realization that she is also a mutant. After finally killing a few bitches, with a ton of help mind you, Paul finds Barbara being sacrificed to Dagon. Unfortunately for poor Barbara, Dagon wants his women when he wants them and rips her body from her bound arms just when Paul thought he saved her. The dream girl begs Paul to stay with the townspeople since it is revealed he is one of them, and the dream girl is his half-sister and destined lover. Umm, thanks, but no thanks! Paul tries to burn himself alive, but the dream girl intervenes--throwing the two of them into the water. Able to breathe through gills he's sprouted, Paul suddenly embraces his destiny and swims toward Dagon's lair with his dream girl as the film ends suddenly. Well, I guess there wasn't any other way to wrap this up.
Overall, this isn't that bad of a movie. It has its moments, the pacing is solid, the girls are cute, the makeup effects can be good at times, and I absolutely love the rainy scenery; it's raining during, roughly, 80% of the film's running time. On the other hand, there is a cheap feel to the production, the acting is questionable at times, and this telling deviates quite a bit from the source material. If you're a fan of Lovecraft, I think you can still appreciate the effort that was put forth, but don't expect it to be a direct presentation of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth;" and it certainly has nothing to do with the real "Dagon" story. As for casual viewers, this will probably come off as a forgettable monster movie with a few silver linings strewn about. This used to air on TV all the time, but I would recommend tracking down the unedited version if you're feeling so inclined to watch it.
Notable Moment: When Barbara throws Paul's laptop into the ocean. Bitch, you wouldn't have survived long enough to be eaten by Dagon if that were my laptop!
Final Rating: 5.5/10
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: An aspiring actress is willing to do anything to get into the film industry.
Review: It really pains me to accept, but this movie started off amazing and completely falls apart by the end. Hell, as stupid as the ending was, the theme music during the credits was so badass I almost went right back to enjoying the movie! The potential--oh man, that potential--was nearly endless up until, maybe, the last 30 minutes when the downward spiral became irreversible. Were they like, hey, this movie is indie, better get all artsy and pretentious to maintain our cred? You can certainly look at this film from either a literal or figurative sense. I am going to take things in the literal sense as I don't want to delve pointlessly into the meaning behind the transformation, whether it was real or imagined, or what each little thing was supposed to say. I'll leave that up to the critics who take themselves way too seriously.
In case you don't know, there have been rumors for decades regarding what goes on behind the scenes in Hollywood. You have accusations of pedophilia, rape, murder, tons of closeted individuals, prostitution, and, of course, satanism...just to name a few things. Most importantly, there is a newer notion that most famous celebrities have sold their souls for fame or are possessed in some fashion. You can look this shit up online if you're curious about how far the rabbit hole goes. This film attempts to depict this phenomenon in an up close and personal fashion. The main character, an aspiring actress named Sarah, is the type of person who would do whatever it takes to be famous--whether it be giving supernatural blowjobs or violently killing all her friends! I will give the actress playing Sarah, Alex Essoe, a lot of credit for pulling this role off; she successfully presents an unhinged, narcissistic weirdo with no dignity or integrity. While this is fiction (OR IS IT?! dun dun dun), it's not hard to imagine dreamy-eyed hopefuls who would kill to be famous especially in today's selfie culture. Ms. Essoe encapsulates that image perfectly.
One of the best features this film has going for it was the awesome soundtrack. It definitely sets the tone well, and a lot of horror films have been stepping their game up in this department. Makes me very proud! Another commendable quality was how engaging and moody the atmosphere is at the beginning. You know something is not right, but you're not sure where the story is heading; for example, there are tiny hints such as pentagram-like symbols branded onto the casting agents. I do think they still played it safe with how these sleazy and shady Hollywood types could be. The film obviously implies they do have supernatural powers, but we don't understand anything--we have to use existing rumors in reality to fill in the gaps; if I have to leave the confines of the story to grasp it, you fail at telling a competent story. This is kind of ironic since the film emphasizes the notion of "show, don't tell." I'm not saying they do a poor job in this aspect, they simply leave too much to the imagination when we needed at least a few answers to draw a reasonable conclusion.
As for the ending dropping the ball...essentially, I would have liked an explanation regarding whether Sarah was possessed by a demon, or whatever, or if she simply had an internal evil awakened. The transformation also came off too sci-fi--she looks more like an alien in her final form than a demon. Furthermore, the film doesn't end in a way that has meaning or resonates with the overall implications. Sarah wants to be a star--is she one or not after all of this? A better conclusion would have been to show that this was her origin and end it with her maybe having an interview as a famous celebrity now. Would that have been too cornball? I don't know but at least it would wrap everything up by stating that this is what it truly takes to become famous in the industry. For all we know Sarah will simply be discarded like, presumably, many before her. There is even a subtle line about the company trying to make a comeback. This would imply they need specific people to make this all work. Okaaaay...now what? What is the goal? If the companies can lose power, how do they manage to keep all this shit they do under control?
I don't want it to sound like this movie is bad, because it's quite good, but it veers off into nowhere-land by the end; the ending usually makes it or breaks it for casual audiences. I do want to emphasize that this is the main flaw in the film...if you can get past that, the rest is surprisingly well done, put together excellently, and deals with a subject matter ripe with potential. The music is cool, the style and cinematography are solid, the acting is good, and the story keeps you intrigued. This is definitely worth investing your time in, but be well aware of how disappointing the ending can possibly be and with little answers provided. You can easily draw a conclusion, but the ending is so vague almost any theory could be feasible.
Notable Moment: When the one girl gets her face smashed. Come on, we hardly knew this character--she didn't deserve that brutal of a death!
Final Rating: 6/10
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: While in a Skype chat, teens are forced to admit their crimes or they will be killed by an unseen force.
Review: This is yet another new horror movie that has audiences divided; you either love it or hate it. For me, I was pleasantly surprised by the story and how suspenseful it managed to be. I think a lot of the hate is due to the characters being spoiled brat teenagers and the use of annoying social media sites (which are, admittedly, a blight to humanity). At a glance, this film does appear to be pandering to the ADHD crowd of braindead zombies, but, I assure you, that would be a gross misconception; a good example of that kind of trash would be the retarded "Scream" TV show. This film, however, takes itself quite seriously and digs deep into the horrible things people will do to one other. If you think this movie glamorizes these dumb social media sites, or the drones who frequent them, you're way off. You just need to get past the surface level of the film's opening, which does parade shallow characters, but they are slowly, and methodically, dismantled by their killer with sadistic glee. Hell, I'd say this movie is a bitch-slap to that ADHD crowd and presented subtly enough that they wouldn't even understand it!
If you've watched the trailer you essentially understand the general premise. The film is told from the perspective of an open laptop and the events transpire through the usage of various websites and computer programs. It might sound lame or even pretentious, but they work with it quite well and the events have a flow that makes sense in this context. In fact, a lot of the ideas feel original and innovative. The story focuses on a girl who committed suicide the year before after a video of her shitting herself made the rounds of the internet; she couldn't take the bullying and harassment that followed especially when most of it was coming from her so-called friends. I do like how they handled this aspect since it wasn't overly preachy, and they left certain details to the suicide vague enough to draw various conclusions.
Eventually the main girl, Blaire, and her friends are drawn into a Skype chat with a mysterious user claiming to be the dead girl. It shouldn't be a surprise that the killer is supernatural considering the original title was intended to be "Cybernatural." It would have been nice if they kept it ambiguous in this department, but, let's be honest, there was no way to make the events unfold without plot holes if it weren't a ghostly killer. It was already a ridiculous stretch of the imagination that all these characters are home alone and have no siblings--so I can overlook directly stating that the killer is really a ghost. Regardless, the teens try to act tough and are full of typical bravado as you would expect until the killer starts to do things they can't explain and reveal their dirty secrets. Before you can even scream for Sam and Dean to save the day, the characters start to get picked off one by one in rather creepy ways.
With each subsequent death, the secrets revealed progressively become darker and more fucked up as you realize these are horrible people. You will definitely be rooting for the ghostly killer...I know I was. Speaking of which, the killer is really funny! The ironic emoticons, the sarcastic jokes, and the general toying with the teens was a delight to behold. Assuming the ghost really was the dead girl, she either would have been awesome in life or she became one twisted bitch in death...in the best of ways, of course. One important aspect in highlighting how big of assholes these people are was the ease to which they betray one another. Blaire is definitely the worst of the bunch so it should come as no surprise she was saved for last to be killed; she's a lying and cheating bitch who certainly got what she deserved. And seriously, if your girlfriend has, on the ready, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Tumblr, Forever 21, Teen Wolf, Pinterest, and fucking Jezebel, all while using a Mac...uhhhh...dump her...IMMEDIATELY. Those are the kind of red flags that should have your spidey sense tingling.
By the end, everyone is killed off until Blaire remains--holding back one last secret. So, beyond petty bullshit, Blaire also cheated on her boyfriend, tried to cheat more to see if it "was a fluke," betrayed the suicide girl's trust as long time friends and knowing she was molested, betrayed everyone as they were being killed by the ghost including her boyfriend, pretended to be fake accounts trolling the suicide girl, knew what everyone else was doing to this girl and found it funny, but she was the person who set in all into motion and was the cameraman all along. And she still claims to be a good person! Wow. What a little sweetheart. In the film's final shot, Blaire hears something in her room when the laptop is suddenly shut. Keep in mind, this is the audience's perspective so it comes shockingly. But, instead of ending it right there, they do throw in one last shot of a corny-looking ghost getting Blaire. Ehhh, they might have been pushing it, but I jumped a little when the laptop shut as I was not expecting it at all. Either way, it made for a satisfying conclusion to the events. One last thing to mention was a cool subplot where Blaire reads a blog about not answering messages from the dead. This adds a layer of mythology to the film reminiscent of J-horror and their endless array of urban legends. They've said there will be a sequel so I'm hoping they explore more about this blog and maybe make this a kind of ongoing phenomenon.
It's tough to say whether or not someone will enjoy this film since a lot of that enjoyment may depend on your tolerance level for social media. If you can overlook that grievance or appreciate it altogether, this is a surprisingly original film with a lot of good ideas. Sure, there have been similar films but there is enough new ideas presented to keep you interested. Plus, you can't deny that this film was trying to experiment and offer audiences a new experience whether or not you think they failed to deliver. They created a successfully ominous tone and kept you thoroughly engaged with the mystery. The nuanced details add to the value of repeat viewings as you may want to catch those as well. There are plenty of problems, and some obvious continuity issues, but I don't feel they are to the degree others make them out to be. I'd recommend giving this film a chance and go into it with an open mind.
Notable Moment: When Blaire and Adam reveal that each was sent a paper that, when shown to someone else, would kill the other individual. When they were trying to describe what was printed on the paper, it definitely hypes up the curiosity.
Final Rating: 7/10