Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The timeless Christmas tale of a selfless man shown what life would have been like had he never been born.

Review: Now we come to, what is probably, the best Christmas movie of all time. Although I prefer "A Christmas Carol" more, I must admit that no film interpretation can match "It's a Wonderful Life" in terms of quality and storytelling. The characters are compelling, the situations are moving and inspiring, and the core theme, of appreciating what you have, is universal. In fact, the basic principle--of seeing a world where you were never born--has been adapted by other films and stories without even including Christmas as a plot point. This has been such a cherished classic for countless millions that, at this point, what can someone really add to the dialogue? The only thing that comes as a surprise to me was that this was not successful upon release. Different time, different tastes I suppose.

Looking at the characters, we must, of course, go over George Bailey: the man who sacrifices his dreams to help everyone else achieve theirs. James Stewart captures the role brilliantly and adds such a layer of depth like no other. While George is meant to be the every-man, he's more than that--he's what every person should strive to be. This is easily Mr. Stewart's greatest work among a long list of incredible performances; there is a lot of subtlety as well with little side comments and expressions you pick up on with repeat viewings. Complementing George is his wife, Mary, played by the beautiful and talented Donna Reed. Mary is actually the one who coordinates saving George, and she is always standing by his side no matter what. She also comes off as a real sweetheart and rebuilds their entire house while taking care of 4 kids! Another thing worth noting about these two characters is how intense and passionate their romance comes off as. Hate to say it, boys, but they definitely do not make 'em like they used to. Not be outdone, the supporting cast are all great too. Even though some characters only have minor appearances, the film successfully makes them memorable and likable. When they all come together to save George at the end, try and tell me you don't at least hold back a tear? The levels of endearment are off the charts with this cast.

As for how the story comes together, you sometimes forget that only 20 minutes or so involve seeing the world from the perspective without George; the contrast leaves that much of an impression on the audience. Likewise, I often forget how funny this film can be when it's not focusing on the lifelong struggle of George. I mean, there are subtle jokes, but then there are moments of sheer comedic brilliance. The way the story is presented, coming full circle, is perfect, and the emphasis on friendship, family, and love is universal--it is what makes this film such a classic. Most people can relate to these circumstances and the themes resonate deeply with them. The Christmas setting highlights this as well, but it didn't even need to be there for this film to be categorized as legendary status. Nowaday, I understand the religious aspects and etiquette of the time period may be hard for some audiences to wrap their minds around, but, come on, get a grip on reality. If you can't sit back and enjoy a movie like this, your head may be a little too firmly placed up your ass.

If you haven't watched this movie yet, what are you waiting for? This is quintessential holiday viewing. The movie is a tad long, but the pacing is steady, and you are engaged with the story and by the characters. Everything people love about Christmas is captured while also putting heavy emphasis on the human condition in a general sense. No matter the time or space, audiences can relate to the themes and apply it to their lives. More so, in an age of selfishness and zero accountability, the message of this film is more important now than it was at release. I cannot recommend checking this film out more highly. And if you have seen it before, now is a perfect time to revisit it!

Notable Moment: There are so many memorable scenes, but I think the best, yet amusing, is when George turns down Potter's offer to work for him. Besides showing us George's strength of will, I love how Potter's crony finally gets acknowledgement. He's just been lurking, silently, the whole time.

Final Rating: 10/10

Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Thirty years after the Galactic Empire was defeated, a new band of heroes must fight to save the galaxy.

Review: If you are an ADHD, everything is a 1 or 10, kind of "fan" then the short and sweet of my review is: this film is good but not great--a fun, yet, generic excursion back to that galaxy far, far away. "The Force Awakens" is heavily flawed but manages to be better than Episode I and II, slightly worse than Episode III, and nowhere in hell close to the original trilogy. If you are not seeing red after these statements, then continue reading! In one respect, the, so-called, trolls are going overboard, exaggerating the worst parts or simply angry that this has been successful. On the other hand, the mindless drones singing the praises of this film are the reason why mediocrity continues to be more profitable than substance. I'm wondering, have they dropped the "Episode VII" moniker altogether? It's not on the posters, wikipedia, imdb, etc. If they have dropped calling this the seventh film, that makes me feel better as this is more of a remake than a true continuation of the saga. The one thing that does make my blood boil, however, is knowing how hard Disney intends to milk this beloved franchise. Can't wait for "Yoda: The Padawan Years" to hit theaters.

The Good: Don't get me wrong, there is more good in this film than bad, but so much of that can be attributed to the natural magic of Star Wars and not necessarily anything unique to "The Force Awakens." Don't we all love to see lightsabers, the force, weird aliens, the Millennium Falcon, etc.? That sensation when John Williams' score blasts, and you're seeing a new, opening credit scrawl for the first time is exhilarating. Just to see further adventures in this universe is a thrill unto itself. Beyond the natural fun-factor, the tone is captured reasonably well. Jar Jar Abrams' involvement certainly worried me with talk of flashbacks and ridiculous camera angles Lucas would have never used. But those concerns were alleviated as the cinematography was in a vein similar enough to Lucas; likewise, the flashback(s) was done reasonably well. The new characters are presented better than I expected with the exception of two that I will go into later. The dynamics between these characters were amusing, and their mashups with the original cast members were handled well enough. There was clearly an attempt to ignore anything prequel related, and, in a way, I think that helped keep things simple and to the point. The usage of, predominantly, practical effects was a wonderful return to form I've been missing. I don't know how else to explain the positives since the production value is high, and we all knew a SW movie was going to look and sound awesome.

The Bad: Fair warning, my thoughts may or may not be coherent from here on out. First and foremost, this is a glorified reboot without having to actually go through the trouble of remaking the series. The main plot line and events parallel the original trilogy far too closely. But this is also done in an annoying manner where it's like Jar Jar Abrams is winking at the audience--as if he's constantly saying, "Hey, remember when that happened? Or what about that? Remember how cool that was?" More so, every character in this movie is simply an equivalent from the original trilogy. I mean, come on, they even had a Yoda-esque character dishing out cryptic words of wisdom. Likewise, just because you replace R2 with a new droid doesn't change the fact that he's the same exact character with the same damn plot line from episode IV. I almost force choked someone when I found out they needed to destroy ANOTHER Death Star! Don't let the idiotic name change fool you. Is the third time the charm?'s blown up in almost the same exact fucking way! I found it insulting that they made another cantina scene except this lacked any heart, imagination, or originality that was contained in the original. As people have been screaming from the rooftops, yes, Han dies in the most lackluster manner, unfitting for such a cherished character; the setup to the scene was done decently though. How did Poe survive and get off Jakku? Speaking of which, if you want to give us Tatooine, just give us Tatooine. I love how hyped Phasma was in promotions yet she's nothing more than a shit version of Boba Fett who did even less and appeared to die. Yet another utterly pointless addition that I bet will come back to life as miraculously as Poe did. How did the Yoda-wannabe get Anakin's lightsaber that Luke lost at Cloud City? Can't wait to hear that contrivance. Why did you name the emperor-wannabe something as dumb as Snoke? Not even Darth Snoke? This guy better have one helluva backstory to explain why he's a legitimate dark side user yet remained completely absent in the original trilogy.

More Bad: Sometimes it felt as though they learned nothing from the prequels' mistakes. As such, you get plot lines like R2 losing the will to live like Padme or some shit. And, sure, he's not dead but he's in a depressed coma which is retarded since he's a droid! Seriously, who thought not having Luke in the movie was a smart move? He pops up for the last 30 seconds of the movie and literally has no lines! Why is he in hiding anyway? His pupils died and now he's become emo? I'm not buying it. It comes off as a lame attempt to turn Luke into a cross between Obi-Wan and Yoda as he will probably end up dying in the next movie or two after guiding Rey. Why is there a group called the Resistance to begin with if the New Republic has established control again? What are they even resisting? Technically, it's the First Order that's resisting republic control, right? I know I'm not the only one who thought there was more romance between Finn and Poe than Finn and Rey. I don't even mind that they say Finn could wield a lightsaber due to Stormtrooper training, but how are you then going to say Finn was simply a janitor on the Death Star 3?! Is he a skilled fighter or not? There was just something missing with the final was shallow somehow. It's like, oh shit, a new Death Star let's swoop in and destroy it no problem. It felt more like policing than defeating a major threat to the galaxy.

And the Ugly: Let the hate flow through you! Rey and Kylo Ren are the two worst things about this movie. Rey is too powerful for the first entry, and they are trying so hard to pander by making her this tough. I mean, she doesn't need saving while everyone else does, is a master mechanic and pilot, can master force powers the moment she learns the force is real, and, worst of all, defeats Kylo Ren in their first encounter! Hey, Jar Jar Abrams, I think you forgot to put her in heels while doing it too. Sure, it's hinted Rey was trained by Luke as a kid, but how much lightsaber training would a little kid have experienced? Apparently more than enough to take on a sith equivalent who has been steadily training. How is Kylo supposed to be a threat if he's already beaten? How is Rey supposed to grow if she's starting out at Jedi Master levels? This is shit writing at its finest. The original rumor I heard would have been infinitely better. Finn fights Kylo and seemingly dies, Rey gets a rage boost and hurts Kylo--causing him to kick her ass, then, right before dying, Luke saves them by schooling Kylo. That would have worked from a story perspective so much better in developing Rey, Finn, and even Kylo as he would realize he's no match for Luke. By the way, this would have given Luke an actual role in this movie as well as an epic intro deserved of Luke. As for Kylo himself, he's such a whiny little bitch like prequel Anakin except with, admittedly, better acting. Why, oh why, did they not keep his mask on all film long? He looks like an even bigger bitch when he's not wearing that Darth Revan-wannabe mask. Plus, you take the time to establish how strong Kylo is with the opening battle yet make him appear pathetic by film's end? The handling of Darth Maul's fate was a complete debacle, but that is how you properly present a villain as a challenge for your heroes.

This might have been my hardest review to ever write as there was a lot to digest while I don't want to go off on endless tangents. If you're wondering why my rating is kind of high for a movie I've mostly listed negatives toward, it's because the basic story principles behind Star Wars are so great that their incorporation alone is noteworthy. I'm also more harsh and critical, because I adore this franchise, its mythos, and its characters and hate to see them casually mishandled in this manner. The experience is shallow and uninspired, but the film is more than capable of providing casual entertainment and enjoyment. With all things considered, I did enjoy "The Force Awakens" mostly because it was Star Wars, however, I cannot deny the tremendous levels of disappointment. This isn't to say there aren't plenty of good ideas, because they are there, and the production value is certainly topnotch. Realistically, this movie was not made for fans similar to me. It was produced to appeal to the widest audience possible, in the most consumable format possible, while completely catering to the current whims and tropes of film making rather than trying to become timeless like its predecessors. Even the dialogue is written in a modern format that will not hold up in the long term. Love it or hate it, this movie will not stand the test of time no matter what you think. The original trilogy played upon age-old archetypes that resonate with people no matter the era or society. This is the sugarcoated, popcorn flick version of those archetypes mixed with flavor of the moment story ideas.

Notable Moment: I'm not going to lie, seeing Admiral Ackbar again was amazing. But, come on, all these stupid winks and no fan service with an "it's a trap" reference?!

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: You know the routine at this point...another family starts recording--you guessed it--paranormal activity.

Review: I wanted to review this film when it came out, but, as it turns out, this is actually a Christmas movie. They also advertised this as the last entry, but will it truly be over? I don't know, but I can tell you this wraps up absolutely nothing! The only thing you will learn from this movie is what was Toby's endgame for the franchise...which has got to be one of the dumbest schemes ever depicted. Like, the plan is so unbelievably ridiculous and preposterous my mind is having difficulty comprehending the sheer implausibility of it all. Other than that fiasco, this is business as usual for the franchise. Eh, it's better than shit like part 2 or "Tokyo Night" but nowhere near part 1 or 3. Honestly, what was anyone expecting at this point?

First I will explain how this entry connects to the overall plot and then I'll run down Toby's moronic plan.'s Christmas 2013 as a new family, 3 years prior, moved into Katie and Kristi's grandma's house. They conveniently stumble across an old box that contains VHS tapes that cover various segments of part 3 and the following years. Along with the tapes is an old camcorder that has been modified to show, what I'm guessing is, the ghost dimension...because reasons. At this point, the little girl of the family immediately starts to see Toby and communicate with him--seemingly possessed to some degree. We see much of the same shenanigans we are used to in this franchise except now we see Toby who appears to be made of chocolate fudge. I'm glad they cleared that up since I was craving brownies. Despite hard evidence that crazy shit is happening, no one really does anything above and beyond the actions of previous characters. Toward the end, some priest does help them perform an exorcism that doesn't defeat Toby. All it does is make Toby's CGI go apeshit as he kills everyone except the mom and possessed little girl. These two escape through a magic portal that leads to 1992. I'm not making this up...bear with me here. The mom runs into Katie and Kristi, as young girls still, who explain that Toby now has a physical body. We only see Toby's legs as he picks up the mom, kills her, and roll credits. Sigh.

Toby's ingenious plan: make deal with useless flunkies from a witch coven. Groom brainwashed children to bear you yet more children. Seek out specific male baby from one witch's family tree by possessing the mom of said child. Fail at this task and pointlessly possess the sister in order to steal male baby physically. Give male baby up for adoption and let him age to a young boy for the lulz. Kill adoptive family so that you can claim their virgin daughter as a sacrifice for the boy. Now, send boy back in time to 1992 to hang out with his mom and aunt, when they were children, for the extra lulz! Okay, now you seek out a female child, despite having many already at your disposal, except you do none of the things you did with the boy. Screw with this girl's family until she is sent back in time to 1992. Take blood from the boy and girl and VOILA! you've got yourself a human body...somehow. Finally, you profit. REALLY?! This is what shit you give us?!

How exactly does this time paradox work anyway? So human Toby is running around while demon Toby is doing stupid shit? If he already knows how these events turn out, why did he fail the initial possession of Kristi? What is the connection to 1992? Toby has been running around for 23 years now and hasn't done shit? Wouldn't Toby's actions post-1992 have a chance to fuck up the timeline? If Katie and Kristi remember a fire in 1992, what was the point of letting them live normal lives after this? Who was this guy doing all the brainwashing? Let's assume "grandma" wasn't even a family member, and every character in this franchise has been brainwashed, how do they find these people and pull this nonsense off? What was the point of the magic camera if everyone connected to Toby can already see him? Why does Toby have to keep amassing power to act...didn't he already do it enough like 5 times? What happened to Katie? Why is having a physical body better than possessing someone? I could keep this up all day...fuck this shit!

Time travel, man...time travel. Remember when this franchise was simply supposed to be about a realistic haunting? Look, this isn't as bad as you would imagine until the ending rolls around. I was enjoying it up until the last 10 minutes or so despite the inherent flaws with all these sequels. However, it's hard to deny how outlandish this plot line has become, and I wouldn't blame anyone for avoiding this shit like the plague. The Christmas angle helps make it more enjoyable this time of year, but it might come off as a cheap ploy to add padding to the story. If you've been following all the sequels up to this point you might still get something from this. On the other hand, this might be what kills it for you.

Notable Moment: When we see the ghostly Santa. Umm...who was that exactly? They didn't give the impression that was Toby so...

Final Rating: 5/10

Friday, December 18, 2015

Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Jack Frost is back, and this time his revenge takes him to an island getaway.

Review: Understanding this film is fairly easy-- simply take everything positive about part one and remove it. Now, I obviously went easy on the first movie due to its over the top nature, but it's as if they were not trying at all this time around. That amusing charm and humor is gone and replaced with cheap ass effects, terrible film quality, and nonsensical ideas. Probably the most egregious offense is the lackluster defeat of Jack Frost himself. I didn't even realize he was fully defeated, because of how feebly it was presented. There was a fun-factor to part one that was sorely missing, and this effected the entire experience as a whole.

The movie starts off with some shady company wanting the remains of Jack Frost, for whatever reason, and digs him up. They proceed to unceremoniously kill off "idiot" who inadvertently resurrects JF. Oh come on! At the same time, the sheriff from part one is struggling to move on from the killer snowman experience so he, his wife, and two characters from part one head off for a tropical Christmas wherever; there is something about a wedding, but this is inconsequential. They hype up the newer characters, but most get killed right away. JF looks like complete shit, and they clearly lacked the budget to handle their own premise. The kills are stupid, the jokes are lame, and JF has magically grown immune to antifreeze. For no discernible reason, however, when JF is hit with antifreeze it makes him multiply in a terrible "Gremlins" wannabe way. The only way to save the day is with bananas. Yes...bananas. Supposedly the sheriff's DNA was mixed with JF's, and the sheriff is allergic to bananas so...there we go. At the end, just as JF is going to kill the sheriff's wife, the sheriff pops up with a banana arrow that instantly kills JF. It took me a while before I realized they were sticking with that single banana as the final blow to JF. Pitiful. During the credits there is a scene with JF attacking a ship in a terrible "Godzilla" reference but whatever, dude. There was never a part 3 so that cliffhanger is never going to be realized.

I don't blame them for wanting to continue on despite an obviously shrunken budget, but the passion and fun is clearly absent. Instead of so-bad-it's-good this is plain bad and hard to sit through. Most of the amusing aspects of the first movie were ridiculous, but they successfully made the events feel natural given the context. Here, they couldn't replicate that formula, and the setups are forced in the worst of ways. I mean, the main characters see JF killing people and still think it has nothing to do with JF? What? Or no one questions why a snowstorm is hitting a tropical island? There is a big difference between being funny with the material and being completely retarded. This movie deserves an even lower score than I'm giving it, but it did have one slightly redeeming moment...well, redeeming for me at least!

Notable Moment: Some random, hot Asian girl appears out of nowhere, strips, and then dies immediately. Not sure what was the point, or where the hell this girl was at since the beginning, but ALL movies would benefit from the inclusion of such a scene (minus the dying part preferably) even if it makes absolutely zero sense in the context. Like, imagine how much better "Lord of the Rings" would have been if they just randomly cut away from Frodo to a poolside striptease?!

Final Rating: 4/10

Monday, December 14, 2015

Jack Frost (1997) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A serial killer, mutated by an experimental acid, seeks revenge against the small-town sheriff that arrested him.

Review: First order of business: try not to confuse this "Jack Frost" with the 1998 film starring Michael Keaton; apparently a good portion of the general public can't tell the difference simply by looking at the cover. Anyway...this is a movie about a killer snowman so I think you know the levels of cheesiness we will be dealing with. More so, the story and shenanigans easily launch this into so-bad-it's-good territory. Somehow the makers balance amusing kills, original ideas, and over the top scenarios with just the right pacing to make it fun. Rarely can a cornball horror movie successfully revel in its own campy setup, and come out entertaining in the process, the way "Jack Frost" is able to do.

I'm just going to list the zany antics that happen in no particular order. The most notorious scene from this film is a pre-"American Pie" Shannon Elizabeth getting fucked to death by Jack Frost. Apparently someone working on the film wondered "where's the carrot" in that scene. Yes...where indeed. The sheriff's dumbass son tried giving his dad cookies filled with antifreeze. Of course that turns out to be JF's weakness, but is this kid special? Speaking of which, they have a reoccurring character hidden in a lot of the scenes simply called "idiot." The best part of this character is he doesn't even care that a killer snowman is running around, and he got a special thanks in the credits! JF has a nearly endless variety of snow-related jokes that are so stupid they're funny; I mean, he just randomly blurts out shit like "don't eat yellow snow" for no reason. What kind of divine intervention would create a situation where JF, about to be executed, passes through the same little town where he was caught at the exact moment a truck crashes into the transport carrying an experimental acid? Does that sentence even make sense? Probably not. Oh well. I like when that one random bully appears just to get killed in the most implausible way imaginable. They want to go sledding on the town sheriff's driveway? Whaaaat? JF is blown up in an explosion and almost immediately recovers, but he's scared of blow-dryers with the longest cords known to man? By the way, the priest using his blow-dryer in a blessing manner is awesome. Obviously you have to watch the closing credits--the added jokes make the entire film that much more entertaining. Finally, who the hell were all those weirdos hiding out at the town hall? I think we even hear a goat at one point. Ehh...there are no words...

It should go without saying, but this movie is not for everyone. I'm not even saying it's good--simply, it delivers exactly what you would expect and then some. However, unlike movies that turned out to be hilarious shit unintentionally, this is one of those times where they knew exactly what they were doing. As Todd Howard would say: it just works. The fun the cast and crew were having is almost palpable in each increasingly ridiculous scene. The snowy, Christmas tone is decent, the kills are good, and the balls to walls nature of the story works wondrously. If you love holiday horror, you need to check this shit out immediately.

Notable Moment: It seems all anyone remembers is the rape scene, but I die of laughter when that kid is decapitated by a sled and the head goes flying in the air.

Final Rating: 6/10

Bonus: The only other thing I want to mention is I wrote a story, when I was, around, 8 years old, simply called "The Killer Snowman." The plot is remarkably similar to this movie except my story was made anywhere from 1991-93. Maybe they were trolling a little kid? In my story a kid made a snowman that was splashed with a chemical after a car accident. After that the snowman began killing people I knew in real life since I often would include my classmates in my stories. This is something my friends and even my teacher liked, but I would probably receive therapy for it nowaday. Toward the end, the snowman was absorbing all the snow in the area to make himself a giant on a rampage. Eventually he was led to a foundry where he was melted. That's it. Hey, I didn't say it was great--what do you expect from a little kid?! I wrote a sequel as well, but I can't remember what happened in that one. All I can vaguely remember is the snowman was resurrected somehow after part of the snow didn't melt. I now plan to file a lawsuit against whatever a Frost Bite Films, LTD. is supposed to be.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A secretive excavation project reveals that the real Santa Claus has been frozen inside a mountain.

Review: Slowly covering films from across the globe, the addition of this movie adds Finland to the list. I've noticed "Rare Exports" on all kinds of holiday horror lists, as well as general Christmas lists, so it is gaining a bit of a cult following. After finally giving it a watch, I don't think I understand what the buzz was all about. Sure, it's a cool little flick, but it's not that good. The primary disappointment for me was the lack of a payoff to all the story's buildup. More than that, it's as if they weren't completely sure of how to handle the material. It's too dark to be family friendly yet too whimsical and lighthearted for horror fans. I don't know...maybe I expected too much.

If you completely stripped away the elements that take this to the R-rated level, you have a fun tale that spins the Santa Claus myth. The wonderfully snowy landscapes, the look of a traditional and timeless Christmas, and a tolerable, child main character all work wonders in conjunction. As it turns out, Santa was an evil creature that tortured bad children, and, I suppose, ate them. Centuries ago, people grew tired of this shit and managed to freeze him in a lake. These people then encased him inside a giant ice mountain or the mountain formed around the ice tomb or something. This all works quite well, and the mystery surrounding the plot is captivating. In fact, the ominous nature of the opening scenes are done amazingly well. When the main characters investigate the dig after Santa has been freed it felt straight out of "The Thing" in the best of ways. Although the characters have numerous comedic moments, they all run around with rifles and looked hardened; this helped in making it feel believable that these guys could handle themselves in this situation. Speaking of which, the actors perform admirably, successfully adding a certain charm to their characters. Once more, I have to applaud the notion that the main kid is not super annoying, but he did test my patience from time to time. Other than these facets, all I can say is the buildup is excellent up to a point and the cinematography was topnotch.

I'll admit, the film didn't really falter until it was all said and done, and I had time to digest the plot. Frustratingly, they keep hyping Santa's final reveal and complete escape from the ice, but it doesn't happen. As such, some of the events don't even make sense once you realize Santa didn't do anything in the movie; it was only his elves. There should have been a big spectacle at the end against Santa or at least have him escape right as he's blown up. Just something! Instead, he's simply blown up anticlimactically without any struggle. The actual main adversary of the film are the elves who make no sense. Where did they come from? Were they frozen with Santa? Were they always living in the area? This needed answering as it's too crucial to the plot to be left ambiguous. The other strange part that stops this from becoming any form of a classic was the handling of the male-only cast. Now, I'm not saying a movie needs females--especially considering how much "The Thing" influenced the plot--but this film straddled that disturbing line and crossed it at one point. We see a gratuitous amount of hairy dicks swinging in the wind, a scanning shot, from head to toe, of the main kid in his underwear, as well as excessive time spent with this kid in his underwear. What the hell? Imagine this done with an all female cast--scan shots of a little girl in her underwear and nothing but tits flapping around by the end--and try to tell me audiences would just shrug that off? Factor all of this in with the ending of how they domesticate the elves into liking children--this is like a pedophile's wet dream or something. If this film stuck with pure horror I would simply accept it as the bullshit that comes with the territory, but this is a fairy tale-esque Christmas movie for fuck's sake!

I can see the appeal of this film, but it lacked that special something to make it great. The first 30 minutes or so are fantastic--the story moves along with steadfast pacing to pull you in. However, once you realize what's happening, and see the resolution, it's disappointing. The potential to be so much better was there, but, as it stands, it's only an above average experience. I appreciate the polished visuals and amusing dialogue, but the inability to seal the deal leaves you unsatisfied. I would still suggest checking this out, but do not expect to be blown away. Also, understand that this is not kid-friendly in the least and far from a casual Christmas movie. Knowing all of this, with your expectations in check, you should have a good time.

Notable Moment: When all the kids are being carried around by the helicopter. How did none of these kids freeze and/or die?

Final Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

To All a Goodnight Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Two years after a prank gone wrong, a killer dressed as Santa seeks revenge on a sorority.

Review: At a glance this may appear to be nothing more than a ripoff of "Black Christmas" meets "Prom Night." However, it would appear many classics actually are the ones to rip this movie off. I know, I can't believe it either, but, unless they are lying about the release date, it's true. Now, while "Black Christmas" does predate this film, the rest do not. You have elements of the aforementioned "Prom Night," "Friday the 13th," and even something like "Scream." Maybe ripoff is too strong of a word since this film is definitely on the flimsy side and is inferior to every movie I'm mentioning; perhaps, influenced by this film would be the better proposal. I'm just surprised I've heard so little about this movie and most reviews do not mention these comparisons. Maybe they assume this came afterward?

The story is cliche, of course, but many of these ideas would have been original at the time. Two years prior, on Christmas, a bunch of sorority girls are doing the worst prank ever until this one girl falls off a balcony. With her apparent death, we cut to "present day" where the story picks up very fast; it comes to a near screeching halt shortly after though. Which girls were involved with this prank also appears to be completely glossed over when it's supposed to be crucial to the plot. For whatever reason, a good number of chicks stay at the sorority for Christmas, because this is a movie after all. You should be able to guess who the killer is within the first 10 minutes unless you're blind. They mindlessly show the killer caress a photo of the dead girl only to follow up with showing the individual who has that photo! Ingenious. But don't worry, there is more going on than you'd imagine.

The scheme at hand is that, I guess, the leader of the sorority has arranged for some guys to stay for the holiday as well. Ehhh...these chicks are not worth it, but our survivor girl was cute and another girl had this whole Fergie thing going on (oh, you know...busted face but amazing body). The killer begins to make short work of the fodder until the most bizarre thing happens: the night ends. Whaaaat? Is it Christmas or what? What killer begins a holiday massacre and quits midway? This is a good time to mention that crazy Ralph gets killed. No, that's not me being facetious, this movie actually has a crazy Ralph character before F13 did it. The worst cops known to man get involved in solving the case with one of them saying "everybody's a suspect" just like a certain Randy character we know and love.

The next night, the killer puts back on the Santa suit and gets to work. The shenanigans shift into overdrive with each kill, and, surprisingly, the kills are decent in this movie. Three things that do detract from the film heavily at this point are the "Scooby Doo" music, questionable pacing, and reused scenes especially a shot of the killer walking upstairs (give it a rest with the creaky steps). When only a handful of characters are left alive, we come to learn the obvious: the house mother was the killer, and the girl that died was her daughter. The house mother does this whole Mrs. Voorhees thing until she falls off the same balcony that killed her daughter. That's not the end of things though. You might be wondering about how this middle-aged woman was overpowering everyone and, seemingly, teleporting. Well, surprise, surprise, we have two killers on our hands! One of the cops was the husband of the house mother--obviously the father of the dead girl--and he was the one doing things that seemed impossible. They manage to kill the second killer too, with a crossbow to boot, and the movie ends with the leader of the sorority singing like a lunatic on the balcony. Umm...okay then.

I thought this would be nothing more than another killer Santa story, but it turned out to be more interesting than I imagined. I wouldn't go as far as to say this is a good movie, but, considering how unknowingly influential this has been, it's definitely worth a viewing. In fact, with some tweaking to the pacing and importance of the initial prank, this could have been a 6/10 easily. Is this essential Christmas horror? Not a chance. The Christmas aspect is practically insignificant, however, this should be classified among essential horror viewing as a whole. If you're a slasher veteran this will come off as no big deal, but this movie deserves a noteworthy place within the horror pantheon.

Notable Moment: There were so many ridiculous moments, but I guess the best would be when Fergie and the pilot are chopped up by the plane propeller.

Final Rating: 5/10

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Darkest Night (2012) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After showing up for a Christmas dinner with the family, an engaged couple witnesses zany antics of the highest order.

Review: This holiday season is not off to a good start. First, I found out Riho Sayashi is abruptly leaving Morning Musume by the end of the month. Then I hear they are cancelling "The Soup" after all these years. Finally, and definitely the worst of all, I sat through this piece of shit movie! At first I was excited, because it appeared this was an Asian horror movie with Christmas being crucial to the plot. It didn't take long to realize that Christmas was nothing more than a bullet point to broaden interest in this disaster. I'm willing to overlook quite a bit of shenanigans when it comes to low-budget films, but this was some next level, insufferable bullshit. Typically I'd want to laugh at trash of this caliber, but they were taking the material far, far too seriously to even have fun with it. Needless to say, this was painful to get through. Well...on the bright side, at least Riho said she plans to learn English! Oh, did you expect something positive about this movie? Yeah...there won't be much of that going on here.

Hold on, I'm just reading that tagline. The price of eternal eternal death? What the fuck are you talking about? My goodness. So what the hell is happening in this movie? I don't know, dude--something about a family get-together on Christmas to introduce the main chick's fiance to the family. This is actually supposed to be a found-footage film to boot so you can commence rolling your eyes right there. Supposedly there was a cult in France that moved around the world before settling in the Philippines, and somehow this family is connected to it through magic or whatever. I'm not even going to call this a Filipino movie. For one, I doubt the Philippines would want to be associated with this shit, and also because the filmmakers, by their own account, intended to shoot in Malaysia to begin with. Anyway, everybody dies in ridiculous ways while the end goal is to...ummm...come to think of it, what was the point to anything?

I'm just going to rant the many problems so try to make sense of what you can. Here we go: You set this at Christmas and yet there is no evidence of the holiday? Just because the characters say "Merry Christmas" doesn't mean jackshit. Speaking of which, who the hell thought introducing, like, 15 characters at once was a good idea? Who the fuck was anyone?! When these people are dying it's hard to give a flying fuck when I have no idea who they are or what they're relationship is supposed to be! I love how the camera boy just happens to be autistic and never says a damn word. Oh, but his POV can change at any given moment impossibly? Plus, how convenient this kid catches every important scene as if he's teleporting all over the place. No one reacts normally to this kid either as if it's perfectly normal to be filmed constantly with a supernatural camera. If your starting premise is this mind-numbing, why would you proceed further? But the footage we are seeing has been edited? By who, some retarded journalist? Well, whoever did it didn't understand how to keep things concise, however, they took the time to score shit music to highlight the laughable scares?! By the way, what the hell were they using for the audio equipment--a fucking tin can and string?! I can't hear half the dialogue...not that I wanted to though. How the fuck can there be a flashback in found-footage?! What, the ghosts edited that shit in? Did you seriously try to set up one of the worst sex scenes ever depicted? It's hot as fuck in the Philippines, they are in the woods, they know an autistic kid is filming them, the girl says the guy never even noticed her until now, the girl admits she's still a virgin, he strips randomly for her as a "surprise," he's seemingly her damn cousin on top of this, and she's like, "okay, let's do this." WHAT? jktdyghp. That's my face slamming into the keyboard.

This movie is utterly HORRENDOUS! The acting is pitiful, the sound is unbearable, and the script was clearly written in crayon on the back of a Denny's placemat. The only remotely positive things I can say are that the main girl was very attractive, a few actors were at least trying, and I'm cutting them a little slack for the obvious inexperience in film production. However, they're losing those points right back for having the cast and crew write their own wikipedia page and adding fake reviews to imdb. And the shameless tactics from these people trying to defend their film--which is sitting, generously, at a 3.5 on imdb--is embarrassing. Trying to claim people are judging it more harshly for being made in the Philippines? Get the fuck outta here. All films stand on their own merit regardless of who made them. And, as it stands, the only true Asian horror films with Christmas are "The Present" from "Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater," and, to a lesser extent, "Ju-on: White Ghost." Avoid this movie like a lump of coal in your stocking.

Notable Moment: When that demon baby is born. This was so painfully stupid it nearly brought a tear to my eye from all the laughter. Almost.

Final Rating: 2.5/10

Friday, December 4, 2015

Scrooged Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A TV executive experiences the Dickens treatment while preparing to air a live broadcast of "A Christmas Carol."

Review: Every year at Christmas time Rika and I gather around the fire and pop in some version of "A Christmas Carol." Well...that's how it happens in my fantasies at least! This year it's going to be "Scrooged." Unlike most interpretations of the classic story, this film establishes different characters and situations in an attempt to update the tale. Humorously, the 1988 setting has already dated it more than the original 1843 publication. I mean, there's nothing quite like a scene where a character is discussing "your basic top-of-the-line Pioneer VCR." Psh, that's a good one. Nowaday, someone would open that same gift and be like, "what the fuck is this shit?!" Beyond a mere change to the characters and setting, this film may be one of the first to make "A Christmas Carol" still exist in the universe. Meaning, the characters experience the same fundamental story yet they are fully aware of the events of "A Christmas Carol" and react accordingly. It's surreal in a lot of ways, but it doesn't deter from the timeless themes.

A big part of enjoying this movie is whether or not you're a fan of the comedy style of Bill Murray. As far as this film goes, I think he does a fantastic job with many subtle jokes and, seemingly, improvised lines. There were numerous moments where I picked up on a joke I had never noticed until this viewing, and I've watched this film quite a few times. Not to be outdone, the rest of the cast turn in fun performances along with the assistance of countless cameos. The banter between characters can be especially amusing with Mr. Murray's quick comedic timing. For the most part, the story line remains loyal to the source material except when the changes are necessary. This makes the use of the television environment helpful to add a lot of creative setups like parody commercials. One of the best moments was at the end when Mr. Murray is breaking the fourth wall--asking the movie theater's audience to participate in the ending song; this is done amusingly well too.

The only drawbacks for me would be the annoyance of a few characters; the Ghost of Christmas Present especially needed to be punched. Obviously plenty of jokes fall flat in a film like this, but the gags succeed more often than not. The vision from the Ghost of Christmas Future needed more time as that is supposed to be the darkest, most life-altering moment. I also feel the film went down an overly sentimental route at the end that, somewhat, goes beyond the realm of the original's message. Sure, a happy message of love and all that jazz is great, but, come on, son. Finally, there was a bit of a horror element that would be severely toned down in today's little bitch world. This isn't a negative for me, but I figured I would mention it in case someone is confused that this isn't a kid-friendly version of the story.

While this may not be the truest interpretation of "A Christmas Carol," it is one of the funniest and most enjoyable. Mr. Murray turns Scrooge into more of a sarcastic and egotistical asshole than the typical greedy miser and it works. Although the dry humor can sometimes conflict with the over the top nature of certain scenes, the overall film comes together wonderfully. If you understand what you're getting yourself into, and realize this is an adult version of the story, you should have a good time. I definitely recommend checking this one out this season as it's more than worthy of being a holiday classic or even a traditional viewing.

Notable Moment: There are a lot of great moments, but I want to go with a scene they probably left in on purpose. After Frank throws water on the waiter he imagines is on fire, Frank slips on the water. Given the complete wipe out of Mr. Murray, I get the feeling that was not intended to happen.

Final Rating: 7/10

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Christmas Horror Story Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Intertwining stories tell the tale of a Christmas gone horribly wrong.

Review: I thought this could, potentially, be the Christmas equivalent of "Trick 'r Treat," but, alas, it fell well below expectations; I was really looking forward to this one too. The stories just aren't interesting and have terrible resolution whereby you aren't even sure if they're over or not. The cause for this confusion is the shoddy editing employed to give the illusion that the stories interlock...but they don't really. Each story only has one character that crosses over to another story--creating more of a chain rather than a cohesive universe--and these characters are not presented in an essential way either. With that said, there is one saving grace that stops this film from entering complete mediocrity, and that is the final twist regarding how the wraparound connects to the main story. Finally, I've ordered the stories by the point in which they end, and I've simply declared the DJ cuts with William Shatner as the wraparound; this should make understanding the film easier. Also, I've given each segment a title so you know which one I'm specifically discussing. Okay, let's dive in, shall we?

Wraparound: There really isn't a lot to these cutaways except that William Shatner is probably reading his lines off a script out of camera view. Maybe that's not fair...this performance had way more heart than pieces of shit like "American Psycho 2" that's for fucking sure. All you need to take from this segment is the character Norman hating Christmas and the buildup to his shenanigans at a local mall. Early on, you will realize the cuts to the other segments are pointless as the stories didn't need to be broken up in this fashion. They could have had each story depicted in their entirety with only cuts back to the wraparound as an interlude. As I said, this isn't "Trick 'r Treat," and the stories do not have a noticeable connection, crossover, or buildup that needed inter-spliced shots from the other tales.

Segment 1: Changeling: This is probably the least Christmas-y of the bunch. Oh, sure, there are presents, a tree, etc., but you could drop that background dressing and it would have little effect. In fact, I could say that about pretty much all the stories. Anyway, a family decides they will sneak onto some guy's land and cut down a tree. What really makes this stupid is that the dad is a cop, and they mention this fact! The dumb son disappears, and, when he's found, he's acting like a complete weirdo. The parents don't question this bizarre scenario properly at all. I was hoping the kid would be an alien, but, as the title I've added explains, he's just a shapeshifter or changeling if you will. This segment is plain weird--the most disturbing aspect is when the changeling is seemingly molesting the mom. Granted, I've seen waaay worse, but, given the established tone of this film, that's going over the line. Making this story all the more ridiculous is the guy who owns the land with the tree; he tracks down the family and wants the changeling back. When the mom manages to bring it back, after the husband magically dies without a peep, she ends up shooting the guy who owns the land. I guess as a thank you, the changeling returns the son. Uh huh. This will obviously be the first story where you realize the stories are going to end without you fully knowing when.

Segment 2: Virgin Mary: This could have easily been the scariest, but it failed...HARD! Three teens decide they will sneak into their school on Christmas Eve to investigate the one year anniversary of two kids being murdered. Yeaaah, because that's a good idea. This couldn't wait until after Christmas? It's not like anyone would know when you filmed. So how does this story connect to the others? Well, the teens watch a short video of the dad in the changeling segment, being a cop, as he investigates those murders. You see what I mean about the tenuous connections? So the teens are making their own documentary or something until they realize the principal is still roaming the halls. Ducking into a door, they become supernaturally locked in the basement where the murders took place and begin to hear and see shit. Supposedly this school used to house unwed mothers or whatever, and the ghost is one that killed herself for some reason. The ghost wants her baby to be born nonetheless and possesses the girl of this group in order to make her try and fuck one of the guys. They try to make a connection between Jesus and the ghost supposedly immaculately conceiving, but it's seriously brushed over and unexplained. By the end, the ghost seemingly succeeds as the girl becomes pregnant, and you also realize the ghost was the killer of the first two kids since they wouldn't cooperate. Eh, the ghost looked kind of scary, they tried to have a more serious connection with Christmas, and there were good ideas. Too bad it didn't make sense and went in the worst direction possible. I'm mostly mad they had one of the original victims as Asian and wasted a chance to have a Kayako-wannabe running around! Nobody else wants to see the Saeki family Christmas special?!

Segment 3: Krampus: This was definitely the worst of the bunch. Not joking--I'd rather watch Mr. Shatner ham it up all day than to watch this. First off, the connection is that the daughter here is the girlfriend of one of the guys in the virgin Mary segment. This tale involves a family visiting their estranged aunt, because the dad clearly wants money from her. The idea of Krampus is like the opposite of Santa and going after bad children. In fact, so many movies and stories are involving Krampus out of the blue. This concept has been around for hundreds of years, and yet now filmmakers are acknowledging it? Oh well. The family are assholes and incite the anger of Krampus who begins to kill them. When the daughter is the only one alive, she manages to kill Krampus which reveals it was actually the aunt's groundskeeper. The aunt claims that Krampus is a force and can possess anyone full of hate. When the daughter realizes that the aunt was cool with her family dying, she allows herself to turn into Krampus and kill the aunt. Well, at least Krampus looked cool so there's that.

Segment 4: Santa vs. Zombies: This segment seriously saves the entire film. Besides reveling in the over the top nature of the plot, the final twist leaves the audience with a sense of satisfaction that made the experience feel worth it. Yes, zombies are played out and overused nowaday, but it'll make sense by the end. Maybe after a bad batch of cookies from Mrs. Claus, the elves turn into zombies and try to kill Santa. Fighting his way through the horde of undead elves, Santa is determined to make Christmas still happen. He comes to believe Krampus must be behind this evil plot which, of course, Krampus does show up for an epic showdown. But right as Santa is about to kill Krampus we see that Krampus is just some guy and that Santa was Norman from the wraparound. With each cut to the wraparound, they kept mentioning how Norman wasn't checking in and that there was a hostage situation at the mall. As it turns out, Norman was hallucinating the entire story whereby he saw himself as Santa fighting zombies which were just shoppers and probably kids. Not wanting to believe the truth, the cops are forced to shoot Norman. The entire film closes out with the DJ getting drunk and speaking nonsense about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" song. I definitely did not see that twist coming, and it was very cool and creative. I was already enjoying the cornball nature of Santa fighting zombies, but this added a layer of depth to the story.

I should probably emphasize that, although the stories are mostly bland, the production value is respectable; there is a polished look to everything. Had the stories not been butchered with cutaways and edits, and simply told normally, I would have bumped this up to a 6/10. As it stands, I'm already giving it a higher rating mostly due to the final twist that comes out of left field to save the day. I'll admit, the disappointment factor is playing a big part in the rating so maybe others will enjoy this more than I. Overall, there are better Christmas horror movies out there and significantly better family movies that's for sure. If you want to give this one a try, be my guest, but keep in mind that the stories are boring and slow-paced, the interlocking aspect does not come together meaningfully, and, if the final twist can't blow you away, this may be considered a total failure to some.

Notable Moment: When the changeling is standing down a hallway, creating a kind of silhouette, and all you can see is the glowing eyes. Not a bad effect at all, but the story still sucked nevertheless.

Final Rating: 5.5/10