Saturday, April 29, 2017

13 Sins Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Right before his wedding, a man is fired from his job yet becomes embroiled in a dangerous game where he can win a life-changing amount of money.

Review: So this is the remake of "13: Game of Death" though it may also go by that same title...yes, confusing. Regardless, this is almost as good as the original, and, in fact, could have surprisingly surpassed it if it weren't for a few blunders. However, something extremely important on the plus side is that this film actually toys with your expectations if you've watched the original. Meaning, when certain challenges are recreated they do not necessarily unfold in the same way, opening up new possibilities. Likewise, the challenges are not straight copies as there are a few new ones to keep you interested if you're intending to see both. Also, there is definitely a distinct, aesthetic difference which does make watching the two films feel unique enough that you could almost--almost--imagine this as a sequel rather than a remake.

Improvements: I prefer the drama between this set of characters since everything feels more personal. The original tried hard to get you involved with Chit's life, but I don't think the director achieved that level of investment from the audience. Here, the lead, Elliot, feels more personable, and we can understand his motivations. At the same time, he doesn't fully embrace the evil path the game takes a player on in the way that Chit did. I don't know, some might consider that wimping out in comparison, but I usually want my leads to succeed and it's harder to cheer on selfish lunatics. Another commendable distinction is expanding on the other characters to build up the lead. The original pretty much only had Tong, played by my girl Achita Sikamana. Her role was fundamentally useless except to unravel exposition for the audience. Here, the secondary characters play significant roles in both the game and fleshing out Elliot's life. This is especially important toward the end when we realize who Elliot was competing against in the game; it is a bit predictable once you learn there is a second player, but it did help add drama to the mix. As for the challenges was amusing to see the game masters becoming more involved with the challenges and altering them on the fly. Again, the challenges are tweaked in such a way that you will be expecting certain outcomes similar to the original but then they're changed up; specifically, the clothesline challenge is altered in a way that directly messes with viewers of the original. This adds a layer of excitement since not only are the filmmakers changing the story beats, but they are presenting them in a way that will still entertain those familiar with the source material. Finally, the ending as a whole is lackluster--for different reasons than the original--but it does try to establish closure despite it being a cliched happy(ish) ending; no sequel-baiting here.

Downgrades: Out the gate, wasting the opportunity to make this a spinoff or sequel to the original was beyond idiotic to the point of being unforgivable. Would it really have been so hard to include a line about a game in Thailand or show a picture of Chit?! Seriously?! What would have been perfect is if they had a scene with Tong still trying to track down the game masters. And using similar challenges wouldn't even matter since we could simply assume the game masters use the same shit over and over again to entice people into the early stages of the game. Argh. Anyway...I hated the way they establish that these games have been going on for like hundreds of years and resulted in major catastrophes or events like the JFK assassination. Yeaaaah...okaaaay. And those games in the past were done through--what--fucking carrier pigeons?! And how would anyone even know the games were really taking place if you're one of these insiders with the game masters? It's just too implausible and nonsensical to try and explain the game in this manner. Not saying a stupid fucking little kid running the show was better--they're both incredibly moronic and disappointing reveals. Finally, the twist with the brother is so unbelievably predictable that you're hoping, no, praying, that it's a red herring. It's not even a bad twist--the execution simply wasn't there.

For the most part, the two films are comparable in terms of production quality, acting, and pacing. It's really just down to a few story aspects that shape which is the better film. To me, I give the higher rating to the original for coming first and, hence, needing to put in more work story-wise. This doesn't mean "13 Sins" isn't still a decent flick in its own right--because it is--it merely means that for every improvement made there were corresponding changes that don't work. If only the filmmakers made an association with the original we could have had something exceptionally special on our hands. In fact, this aspect would have turned this into a damn franchise with games taking place in different countries and maybe have the general public start to realize something is wrong. Oh well. I do recommend checking these two films out, but watch the original first and imagine this is a sequel.

Notable Moment: When a sexy nurse pops up out of nowhere for no real reason. Yeah, she's loosely connected to a challenge, but I guess someone on this set knows the way to my heart!

Final Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

13: Game of Death (aka 13 Beloved) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A man down on his luck is offered a chance to win a fortune as long as he completes thirteen, increasingly dangerous and humiliating challenges.

Review: While the general premise of a death game isn't entirely original, this film takes things up a notch and questions what wouldn't people do for the right price? The thing that works in this story is that the challenges are wholly unique from one another--each testing certain facets where sane people might draw a line from a moral perspective. Or, if you've already committed to a certain number of heinous deeds, would you feel justified in continuing onward? I really love when a movie can get people thinking...unfortunately, the payoff at the end is disappointing with a stupid revelation, unanswered questions, and some shameless sequel-baiting. However, to heavily compensate for this disappointment, we have the appearance of one of this blog's patron saints, Achita Sikamana--otherwise known as Natre herself from "Shutter." She's looking a lot more normal here, but I'll take what I can get since this chickadee doesn't act much. Probably too busy running around Thailand freaking people out.

The story focuses on a guy named Chit just as his life is falling apart financially; his car has been repossessed, his bills are overdue, he's just been fired from his job, etc. Receiving a mysterious call, Chit begins a series of questionable challenges to earn money with each subsequent challenge offering more money than the last to correspond with the difficulty of completion. There are rules though which include Chit not being able to tell anyone about the game which means his friend/semi-love interest, Tong (played by Ms. Sikamana), is left to figure out what's gone wrong on her own. The film hints that many of the challenges are based upon events in Chit's life which begs the question of how anyone could possibly know these aspects. We could easily speculate, but I'm gonna call bullshit on a lot of it unless you want to introduce a supernatural level of omniscience.

With Chit accomplishing more and more deranged and disgusting challenges, he becomes unhinged, so fixated on the prize that he abandons who he truly is. Hell, he's come this far--eating a fly and shit...beating and killing several people--why stop now, right? After wreaking havoc across the city, Chit is lured to a strange building where he must confront his final challenge: murdering his own abusive father. Of course we know Chit will regain his humanity at this point, but that's when the film decides to fall to pieces. We come to learn that Chit's father was also playing his own game whereby killing Chit was his 13th challenge. Likewise, Tong finds the "mastermind" of this shit which is just some fucking stupid little kid. Yeaaah, okaaay. There is a short that connects to this film, called "12 Begin," but, believe me, it doesn't fill in any of these fucking holes; if anything it adds more confusion to the mix. To make matters worse, just when you're hoping for some kind of definitive conclusion, we are shown Tong waking up--god knows where--and this one cop is there, implying he will work with her to uncover the people behind this game. We don't even figure out how many people are watching this show and to what end. With a story like this, and given the longer running time, I think the audience is owed a degree of closure better than that. Who knows, maybe one day we can get a proper sequel with Ms. Sikamana returning.

Overall, this is a fun and engaging film if you aren't too grossed out or unnerved by a few challenges. I know a lot of sites list this as a horror, but, realistically, this is an action-thriller. It is probably longer than it needs to be, however, the pacing is on point with Chit jumping from challenge to challenge in just the amount of time to keep things entertaining. At the same time, Chit is a sympathetic character despite his actions to the contrary. I can certainly imagine the average person eagerly doing what he does if offered the right amount of money; probably would do it for less too. Of course, the main draw for me is Achita Sikamana since I so rarely get to discuss her beyond her role as Natre. Now, there is a remake, which I will cover as well, but I'd still recommend checking this out regardless.

Notable Moment: When all the bikers are decapitated by the wire clothesline. The CG is a bit shoddy on the one guy, but this is probably the most devastating of the challenges.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, April 22, 2017

It (1990 original) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Seven kids made a promise to reunite one day if they failed to kill a supernatural entity. Now, 30 years later, IT is back!

Review: Technically "It" is a miniseries, but who the hell is going to put up with an hour+ of commercials these days?! Nah...I simply view this as one long ass movie and so should you. However, I do find myself usually watching just the first half and saying bye bye once the second half begins. Realistically, the heart of the story lies with the children and how they cope with It and his many forms. The adult portion is boring and the acting is significantly weaker. As for how this rendition compares to the does faithfully stick to the main story beats yet everything is watered down; it's like the PG-13 version of the book's events minus the sci-fi elements like Maturin and the idea that It came from space (sorta). I'm okay with these changes, because, well, did anyone really expect we'd see 12 year old Bevy fuck 6 boys in a sewer?! On a side note to this, it's annoying in the movie when Eddie says he's a virgin, because I'm like, "Uh, did you also forget the time you fucked Bev?" Okay, this shit's getting out of hand.

Part 1: This is where the real meat and potatoes of the story is at. In fact, this IS the story. I know...who am I to question Stevie King, but, seriously, this is what the book should have only been about. The idea of the kids fighting against It--this nightmarish entity that is every fear come to life-- all the while taking place in the '50s is utterly amazing. On the other hand, a bunch of borderline-senile yuppies in the '80s trying to take on It is lackluster. Anyway, yes, the portion dealing with the kids is awesome as they slowly come together as a group--The Loser's Club--and we see the ways It messes with them mostly in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Obviously everyone remembers Tim Curry's over the top performance as Pennywise since it pretty much freaked out the entire '90s generation. The whole clown image achieved what Mr. King was striving for, tapping into some kind of innate fear that clowns emit while simultaneously amusing children. The film successfully projects this fear through Mr. Curry's performance; though, it's important to know that the scares are light throughout the film.

The child actors are surprisingly great, easily outshining their adult counterparts. While some are better than others, their fear felt believable as well as their bond of friendship feeling strong. Watching the kids try to grasp what It is and how to possibly overcome him is cool to see; it's understandable why they would drop It's cosmic origins in order to establish a more magical, supernatural creature for simplicity's sake. The best aspect--though not emphasized enough in my opinion--is that It can only be hurt and killed because the kids believe it's possible. In It's true form, the deadlights, it cannot feasibly be hurt let alone killed especially in a physical confrontation. But because It takes on a physical form to scare and eat kids, he actually opens himself up to defeat and possibly death due to his own arrogance. This is why the kid portion just works...the childlike innocence and untapped, fantastical imagination makes their approach to the situation engaging and It's use of movie monsters, and other creatures against them, terrifying. At the end, once they believe It is dead, the promise between them is a powerful scene and where things should close out. Maybe it's just me, but when this half ends I can easily turn the DVD off and have peace of mind.

Part 2: Okay, so I don't completely hate this portion, but it lacks the magic present in the first half. The characters have grown up to be bland cliches, and their lack of belief in what's happening gets old FAST. The Pennywise form barely appears, and you begin to notice plot inconsistencies that are bothersome. For instance, why can't It just fucking kill the Loser's Club?! It is shown to have the ability to kill adults who don't even believe in him. Likewise, It is shown killing a bunch of other kids yet couldn't seal the deal with them. And why didn't It just let the Bowers gang kill the kids? I suppose you could argue he wanted to eat the kids or kill them personally, but, goddamn, that was dumb as fuck considering It helps the Bowers gang a few times.

I think what bugs me about this half is that only about a day passes in the story whereas the first half is over the course of months--giving time to flesh out the characters. We don't get a handle on these guys which is not helped by terrible bouts of acting from the likes of Bevy for example; you gotta laugh at her dialogue when trying to say "why is It so mean?" Basically, the characters come back to town, remember a little, and rush off into the sewer with virtually no game plan of killing It permanently. Meanwhile, It is being a little bitch and can't do shit except say "turn back before it's too late" as if that isn't completely advertising "I'm a scaredy little bitch." Then what is this big final battle building toward? The worst-looking giant spider ever. Not to mention, if you saw this on TV, you spent nearly 4 hours building up to It dying within a couple minutes to pretty much nothing. What is the point of being a giant spider if you can't do shit? And after that weak defeat, we get a quick wrap up of the characters and B-B-B-Billy-boy gets his wife back. The end. There just wasn't any passion for the storytelling or something.

Overall, you're getting two, completely different tonal experiences. The first half is a coming of age story with childlike innocence pitted against fear manifested into reality. The second half is about a bunch of conveniently successful, middle-aged crybabies who refuse to accept the situation and drag their feet until they stumble upon a big spider. As a whole, things do work quite well, yet the first half better captures what the book was trying to convey. More to the point, the first half is the crux of the story and where the real heart is at. The commercial break points are annoying, however, the production value and use of dark atmosphere is admirable given this was TV of 1990. The original "It" is certainly worth a viewing, but it's best to understand the shortcomings and realize that the scare-factor has been greatly exaggerated by those, seemingly, traumatized by clowns after their initial viewing. Still, you can't deny that this film is quite quotable one way or another.

Notable Moment: When Bill is looking at the picture album and Georgie's photo winks and begins to ooze blood. Probably the best scare in the movie and the music accompanying this scene is great.

Final Rating: Part 1 - 7.5/10
                        Part 2 - 5.5/10
                        Overall - 6.5/10

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Void (2017) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A police officer, along with the skeleton crew of a hospital, must contend with a strange cult and the creatures they seek to unleash from a hellish dimension.

Review: It feels as though I've been waiting for "The Void" for an eternity, but, finally, YES(!!!), a movie lives up to my expectations. Think of this as a combination of "The Thing," "Prince of Darkness," and "In the Mouth of Madness" fused together to create a new, original sick and twisted abomination. Except, what would have made all those movies even better? Ellen Wong as the icing on the cake! "The Void" demonstrates that, not only can you still make a high-quality film on a paltry budget, but how sorely practical effects are missing in today's film industry. Here, the monsters feel real, threatening, and they look great to boot. On top of that, the story is atmospheric and just that right level of abstract horror to make Lovecraft proud. Man, had this actually come out in the '80s it would be at legendary status by now.

The film gets the ball rolling immediately as we are jumping into the events already in motion. The main character, Carter, is on a routine patrol when he finds an injured man running from pursuers. Taking the injured man to a hospital, Carter must deal with his estranged wife who works there. Shortly thereafter, one of the nurses kills a patient, and the building is surrounded by knife-wielding cultists. After being stabbed by one of the robed weirdos, Carter envisions a bizarre world I will refer to as the void. It would appear that the doctor at this hospital has been performing supernatural experiments on people in order to make their bodies ready to merge with the void. This process creates all manner of tentacled-monsters and other freakish aversions to reality. With the cult members trapping everyone in the hospital, the staff--along with a father/son duo and the remaining patients--must contend with the monsters inside. One of the best parts is when Ms. Wong's character, Kim, is trying to lead Carter and crew to the morgue to rescue his wife, but they realize the hospital itself has transformed similarly to the creatures. Something that really surprised me was that they kill off the wife (sorta). Another cool twist is that this pregnant chick at the hospital was in on the plan and is carrying the doctor's demon-child. Once the doctor has undergone his own transformation, he intends to unleash this baby--which is a giant, bull-sized monstrosity--into the world, unlocking a gateway to the void. However, Carter manages to throw himself and the doctor into the void very reminiscent to the ending of "Prince of Darkness." This closes the gateway...for now...with the only people surviving being Kim (yay) and the son from the duo. The final shot shows Carter, and his wife (somehow alive), stuck inside the void. I'm assuming this was included to hint at a possible sequel which I would absolutely love to see happen.

 Just a taste of the void.

What works tremendously well for "The Void" is the cinematography and special effects. The design of the void itself is grand in both scale and scope, and the filmmakers capture their vision spectacularly especially when considering the budget limitations. The film will genuinely make you feel as though there really are forces in the universe beyond comprehension, and they are right at the edge of crossing into our world. And you don't want those abominations to get too close to you or you become one! Speaking of which, the creatures look fantastic; this is what you get when you mix heart with talent. Sure, there are limitations, and clever lighting is used to hide flaws, but that's how you effectively utilize your budget. I can't believe I've read people criticize these tactics as if cutting your effects altogether is considered more favorable?! The special effects crew have my fullest respect for what they were able to accomplish. Likewise, the music was cool too, however, it did lack a certain '80-ish vibe.

As for the story and characters, I was very impressed by the mythos that was established. There are lots of unanswered questions, but you are given just the right amount of hints and explanations to be satisfied. The pacing definitely helped to engage the audience with these events since things move quickly while still able to show the characters off along the way. True, we could have used more backstory, especially with the father/son duo, but I'm okay with what we got. I'm just glad my girl Ellen Wong made it out alive yet again. As with "Silent Night," it's like they want to kill her character off but spare her because Ms. Wong is too lovable. Besides, ALL movies are made better by a sexy Asian nurse. Finally, I was surprised by how much I liked the doctor villain; his taunting somehow made the events more pressing.

Look at that fucking smirk...oh yeah, I'd love to be a patient at this hospital...monsters or not!

As much as I enjoyed "The Void," I will admit there are certainly flaws that need addressing. While you don't need hand-holding with everything, the ins and outs of how people become these monsters are too shaky. Experiments? Yeah, sorry, that's not cutting it. They could have simply said the void warps reality itself, but that's not clear. Considering the short running time, there was room for some 'splainin' to do, Lucy. Likewise, Carter and his wife needed more fleshing out as to what is going on with their relationship and the drama with their baby that died. I mean, is this why Carter sees the void when others see hallucinations? Come to think of it, why didn't Kim see anything? Why are the void's hallucinations inconsistent? Honestly, the film's flaws are more plot nitpicking, however, one, legitimate detriment is that, frankly, part of the originality is cheapened by how much it is inspired by other films. For me, I see the film as 50/50: original to homage ratio. I see this ratio being much different depending on the audience which could hurt some fans' impression. If any of that makes sense...

Overall, if you're a fan of John Carpenter on any level or just love the glory days of '80s sci-fi horror, then "The Void" will deliver the goods. The usage of practical effects combined with imaginative designs allows for nightmarish creatures to come forth. The entire concept of the void itself is cool and opens up all manner of directions to interpret the story. From the moody lighting to the ambient music lurking in the background, the filmmakers capture that sense of dread where you are wondering what's right around the corner. While there are too many unanswered questions by the end, there shouldn't be anything that completely pulls you out of the story. I definitely recommend checking out "The Void" and maybe--just maybe--we will get a sequel that can expand on things further.

Notable Moment: When Carter first sees visions of the void. Such beautiful and ominous imagery, but, damn, this is disturbingly similar to the kinda shit I dream about especially the giant pyramid-looking thing. I'm unsettled since I've dreamed of these things for decades...

Final Rating: 7.5/10

The last thing I'll touch on is sequel potential since I'm left wanting more. With so much going on in the peripheral, the filmmakers could branch out in countless directions. It was never said the doctor led the cult so we could explore more about who they are and where they came from; that siren needs addressing for sure. It's also unclear how widespread this chaos was considering Carter lost contact with dispatch. Maybe make Kim and the son run into more shenanigans as they leave the hospital or those two could attempt to free Carter and his wife. Or if they need to keep things simple, say that something escaped out of the void during the short period that the gateway was opened, and Kim and the son reluctantly must stop the monsters from spreading.

Stir of Echoes 2: The Homecoming Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After awaking from a coma, and returning from war, a man attempts to get back to a normal life but is haunted by ghosts.

Review: As far as unnecessary sequels go, this surprisingly wasn't too bad. In fact, it started off with some decent ideas and scares. Unfortunately, the story goes off the rails in the last 15-20 minutes or so with a moronic final twist and lackluster resolution. I was almost about to forgive that nonsense, however, the deciding factor of lowering the score came down to the downright disrespectful representation of the previous entry. Whoever had the idea to include the son from part 1, Jake, and make him a nutcase (with no mention of his parents), needs to get beat! Didn't even have the decency to get the original actor either. Terrible.

This time around we follow Rob Lowe as the main character, Ted. Teddy's story is that he's traumatized after the war in Iraq and can't forgive himself for accidentally killing some family and this little girl who got blown up. I'm really surprised they had the balls to actually show the little girl getting blown up too. Bonus point...? Too fucked up? Oh well. Anyway, this same blast that killed the little girl put Ted in a coma, and, when he awakes, he can now see ghosts. The scares are a bit cliched and predictable, but they're effective nonetheless. I was more annoyed with Ted's insufferable fucking wife than any kind of predictability. This bitch is too fugly to deserve Rob Lowe, and it was extremely satisfying that they had sense enough to kill her off. Fuck the ghosts, I would have killed her just for all the trash talking she does. As for Jake's cameo...he's just there to look crazy in one scene and explain to Ted that he needs to drink orange juice and do whatever the ghost wants him to do. Now, the film does make you believe the ghosts haunting Ted are that family from Iraq, but, we come to learn, it's actually just one guy who Ted's son killed and wants revenge. The ghost family is just there as a red herring or maybe they're hallucinations created by guilt? It's up in the air. As to the real ghost, it wants to control Ted to kill his own son, but, instead, he, thankfully, kills the dumb wife and gets his son arrested. The film closes out with Teddy suddenly in some hospital, or whatever, still seeing that fugly bitch wife but no final zinger mercifully. Ahh...happy endings. Though, that moronic song made up for the movie keeps playing over the credits! Argh.

I don't know what I was expecting from this movie. It has its moments, and is pretty good up to a certain point, but it's hollow somehow--like, it lacks any kind of heart in the film making; it's hard to explain. The production does look cheap, but the actors do try to take the material seriously which helped a lot. I suppose the biggest fault is that this entry feels completely unrelated to the first movie. That bullshit cameo from Jake was meaningless and could have already been in the script and merely tweaked to create a link between both stories. If this were on TV one day, I'd say maybe check it out if you're bored, but don't waste your time seeking it out unless you love Rob Lowe.

Notable Moment: When Ted hugs some random little girl thinking she was the one ghost. I don't know if everyone on set seemed to understand the comedic implications of this scene especially given the wannabe creepy music. It's even funnier because the girl seemed to like it...well...who wouldn't want Rob Lowe for a dad?!

Final Rating: 5/10

Friday, April 7, 2017

Stir of Echoes Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After being hypnotized, a man is haunted by the spirit of a girl that allegedly ran away from home.

Review: This is yet another underrated horror movie that fell under the radar due to poor timing. Coming out barely a month after "The Sixth Sense," and with an extremely similar premise, "Stir of Echoes" had a huge shadow looming over its head. While the story here isn't on par with "The Sixth Sense," it does pursue more scares and a tighter pace. Unfortunately, there is one major drawback to the experience: the characters do not react normally to the predicament they find themselves in. Something else worth noting is that this is based off a book by Richard Matheson who is most famous for writing "I Am Legend," but, to me, he's one of the core writers for "The Twilight Zone." It's just interesting how seemingly unrelated things tend to connect.

On the positive side for "Stir of Echoes" we must start with the commendable usage of scares. While the ghost could have used a more decayed makeup design, she does her job effectively. Sure, there are a lot of jump scares, but there are also great set pieces like the movie theater scene. What I really love is the way the story is set into motion to begin with--with the main character, Tom, being hypnotized as his means of being able to see ghosts; it's not something that's explored too often. Speaking of our lead, the role of Tom is probably one of Kevin Bacon's better performances; the guy nails unhinged quite well. The other actors are not bad too, but, I'll admit, the little kid is skating back and forth between that fragile line of annoying and acceptable. Finally, the tone and atmosphere are great--there are plenty of creative techniques used to give the film that classic ghost story vibe. The film isn't very faithful to the source material, but it does successfully capture the kind of mood older ghost stories established.

As for the negative I mentioned, the characters simply do not have a normal response to anything. It's actually really fucking annoying after a certain point. For example, Tom is going insane trying to find the ghost's body--meanwhile, the wife, Maggie appears to accept this reality of ghosts being real yet she keeps wondering why Tom is acting strange?! It's like every scene is setting up the same reaction of discovering that ghosts are real over and over again. Same with the little kid able to see ghosts. The characters keep looking at him like he's nuts despite knowing the kid is one session with Bruce Willis away from saying "I see dead people." C'mon, son. Then we have contrivance moments like some random cop conveniently explaining everything. Plus, I can't forgive an alleged musician like Tom not recognizing "Paint It Black" from the goddamn stones! Seriously? Needless to say, there's a reason why this film was not held in the same regard as "The Sixth Sense."

Overall, this was one of the last, good, ghost stories made before the remake train took over the horror genre. You have fun scares, a creative story, and engaging characters to captivate you while offering up a mystery to unravel as you go. While there are considerable flaws that do detract, "Stir of Echoes" can still match up with it's contemporaries like "The Sixth Sense" and "The Others" quite readily. I know a lot of people have forgotten about this movie, or never knew it existed to begin with, so I'd recommend giving it a view as it's definitely worth your time.

Notable Moment: When Tom sees the ghost inside the movie theater. Although it's technically in his mind, and would have been amazing if done in reality, it's still an awesome scare with great execution.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Last Action Hero Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A glorified fanboy is magically pulled into the fictional world of his favorite film franchise.

Review: I remember when I first saw "Last Action Hero" in the movie theater and had to practically lie down in my seat since I was in the front row right under the screen. Good times. Anyway, this is truly one of the most underrated movies of all time. I still can't believe the kind of shitty reception it received at release with bad reviews and becoming a major flop. Not sure if audiences didn't get it or what was the problem, but LAH does so many things right that it's unfortunate it failed as tremendously as it did. I mean, this is essentially a less edgy version of "Scary Movie" except designed for the action genre. And yet "Scary Movie" and its imitators were quite successful. Oh well.

I'll go over the problems first since that will more than likely address the reasons for failure. The story is probably more comedic than it needs to be with numerous goofy ideas that don't necessarily work or make sense. Admittedly, there often will be a joke that you will just roll your eyes at or say "whaaaat" in response. The shakiness with the tone probably contributes to the awkwardness of these jokes since the film can't decide how adult it wants to take the material. Connected to this, and no fault to the filmmakers, Arnold hadn't done anything since T2 which was an entirely different beast in comparison. In other words, expectations may have been too high with fans expecting something similar; after all, Arnie had done comedic roles prior and those were well received. I guess another point of contention would be the degree to how annoying the kid character, Danny, can be. For me, he's perfectly fine, but it's not hard to imagine Danny-boy annoying the living fuck out of some audiences. Finally, the scale and scope of the events are smaller than they should be. This is supposed to be a fictional universe brought to life and yet there are only a handful of sets and characters despite the big budget. That level of epic-ness is severely lacking.

With that business out of the way...let's address why LAH is criminally underrated. As I already alluded toward, this film perfectly parodies the tropes and cliches of the action genre (especially '80s action and Arnie's own work); things like the impossible amount of damage characters typically shrug off, the villain never staying dead, someone always being close to retirement, etc. Plus, at this time in film, there were very few instances of a character mentioning other movies and applying what he knew effectively; this is why I refer to Danny as a fanboy. Speaking of other movies, LAH both homages other action flicks and makes direct references to them which includes many cameos from actors--some even in character like Robert Patrick dressed as the T-1000. Hell, Arnie does double duty playing himself and mocking his own life--you gotta appreciate that shit! Then we come to this whole notion of a movie within a movie which is fun unto itself. Charles Dance plays such an awesome villain too that I wanted them to explore more of his potential with the ticket's ability to go to any movie. As such, this plot point was amazing and something that would've been fucking phenomenal had they had a chance for a sequel to delve deeper into what the ticket can really do. Of course, the appearance of Ian McKellen playing Death was a huge plus (by the way, "The Seventh Seal" is a fantastic film). One aspect that was cool--yet not fully realized--was this whole reaction from Slater when he comes to the real world. They sort of hint at how his life has been manipulated by writers yet they don't fully explain how these parallel worlds can work. Still, it's a fun idea in theory. Overall, the basic premise of jumping into different movie universes was a brilliant idea. It's not wholeheartedly original, but the way things are presented is certainly unique.

If you haven't watched "Last Action Hero" in a long time, or even since its release, I'd suggest revisiting it with an open mind. I hate to get pretentious, but the story was ahead of its time in a lot of ways and I don't think audiences back then understood the themes depicted. Arnie turns in his typical performance but in the best of ways. The running time is a tad long, however, the pacing is surprisingly well done to accommodate. If you're a big fan of '80s/90s action movies you will further appreciate what LAH was trying to convey through its parody elements. While the film certainly has its faults, it didn't deserve the sour reception it received. More so, the film delivers exactly what was promised with nods and homages that demonstrate the filmmakers love for the genre and film itself. You can't go wrong there.

Notable Moment: When Danny and Slater go to the video store. Besides having a bunch of hot chicks, it reminds me of the good ol' days of VHS.

Final Rating: 7/10