Saturday, 30 April 2011

Reykjavic Whale Watching Massacre AKA Harpoon (2009)

This movie has the dubious honour of being Iceland’s first “splatter” film, according to the initial promotional campaign, but is it actually any good? Yes it is.
The plot sees a bunch of people (a real mix of nationalities and character types) going on a boat to do some whale watching. After a little bit of attempted rape and hostility between those on board, an accident sees them left out in the middle of the sea, quite helpless. Thankfully, help does arrive. And by help I mean that someone takes the group from their boat to another boat, where torture and death are the main catch of the day.
Like many films of this nature, Reykjavic Whale Watching Massacre (also known as Harpoon) gets by more on the strength of it’s thrills and bloodletting than any major plot twists or character moments.
The cast – particularly Pihla Vitala and Nae – all do pretty well but we know that people are just being set up to be potential victims. We are shown enough to make them more than just background characters but not enough to traumatise us if/when they are messily killed off.
Júlíus Kemp does well in the director’s chair, keeping the pace notched up a gear (the film clocks in at just under 90 minutes) and showing some moments of nastiness without going well into the realm of the excessive. It has a nice balance to it that should keep horror fans well pleased.
Writer Sjón Sigurdsson does a good job of making everyone involved an individual and providing some entertaining twists and turns. There’s a very enjoyable “fake-out” near the start of the movie and the development of one particular character is so rewarding that it makes up for the loss of anyone else you may have favoured. Not everything works – the Frenchman is far too annoying to care for and some people are far too selfish though I realise that they’re also terrified at the same time – but most of it is certainly good enough to stop you from picking apart the plotholes while the cast try to escape their perilous fate.
With an appearance by Gunnar Hansen and a couple of moments during the end sequence that bring to mind a number of classic horror movies, Reykjavic Whale Watching Massacre manages to both trawl it’s own patch and also follow in the wake of others. A job well done.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Food Of The Gods II AKA Gnaw (1989).

It’s been a while since I’ve seen The Food Of The Gods but what I remember about it was that it was full of varied, hokey effects and still ended up being a lot of fun. It was a standard Bert I. Gordon film, something that screamed Mr BIG in every frame featuring overgrown, dangerous animals.
Food Of The Gods II is very much in the same vein, though it’s more obviously ridiculous for most of it’s runtime (as hard as that may be to believe).
This time it’s mainly rats that are growing far too big for their boots (or whatever the shoewear choice of rats would be . . . . . . . . if they wore footwear) and everything goes horribly wrong thanks to those pesky animal rights activists trying to teach a lesson to those pesky scientists yet again. There’s also an overgrown child who swears at people and a dream sequence involving sex and worryingly large hands. You have to see it to fully appreciate the imagery.
With a cunning mixture of rat-like stuffed pillows and normal rats being given the run of various miniature model sets, Food Of The Gods II ensured that it would never receive an Oscar for it’s visual effects but, like it’s predecessor, it’s a bit of fun that doesn’t pretend to be anything else. In fact, there are more than a few moments that almost feel as if director Damian Lee and writers Richard Bennett and E. Kim Brewster all did their best to make everything just a little bit more laughable, whether it’s just the dialogue on it’s own or the upbeat synth music that accompanies some scenes really not searching for upbeat synth music.
The cast must have known what they were getting into, surely. Jackie Burroughs would get into more rat-related trouble many years later with her wonderful performance in Willard but here she’s given very little screentime and is overshadowed, both metaphorically and literally, by a petulant child. Paul Coufos, Lisa Schrage, Colin Fox, etc are all simply okay but not really memorable enough in amongst the giant rodent carnage.
There is a small part of me that wanted to rate this movie higher for the fun factor it supplied (isn’t that the way with so many of the movies that I watch in my favourite genre?) but I am going to try and be the tiniest bit sensible today and go with 

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Shogun Assassin (1980).

Edited together from three of the Lone Wolf And Cub movies, Shogun Assassin is a bit of a mess and shows signs of the hatchet work done but it’s also hugely entertaining thanks to the fact that the Lone Wolf And Cub movies are hugely entertaining.
Robert Houston takes the directorial credit but as everything’s essentially already been done for him in the original movies it only seems fair to credit the good stuff to Kenji Misumi.
The basic premise of the movie concerns a great samurai warrior (Tomisaburo Wakayama) who has been betrayed by his Shogun, losing his wife as a result. He wanders the land with his kid in a pram (babycart) and is hell bent on revenge. God help anyone who gets in their way.
Throw logic and common sense out the window and prepare to have a lot of fun if you watch Shogun Assassin. It has plenty of decent action beats, plenty of over the top arterial spraying, a lunatic super ninja woman with a lunatic laugh and some great swordplay.
Purists may, quite rightly, criticise the fact that all the movie does is butcher the superior originals. I’ve yet to see those films but this movie has made me want to definitely seek them out so that’s a good thing.
If you want to see the kind of kick-ass, blood-spattered action that influenced Kill Bill but don’t want to dive in with both feet to this particular subgenre then give Shogun Assassin a try – you won’t be disappointed. Unless you don’t like fun . . . . . . . and who doesn’t like fun? 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Scary Movie (2000).

Most fans know by now that Scary Movie was the original title for Scream, which provides the main target for this parody.

Most fans also know, I hope, that Scary Movie isn’t all that good. Oh, it’s certainly not the worst (that would be Scary Movie 2) but it’s a horror comedy superceded by movies like Student Bodies, Bloodbath At The House Of Death (reviewed in this blog just last week) and even Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday The Thirteenth, in my view.

The plot? Well, it’s essentially the plot of Scream mixed with a liberal sprinkling of moments from I Know What You Did Last Summer. And a Budweiser advert. And the obligatory, for the time anyway, Matrix gag.

The cast is a real mixed bag. Anna Faris is quite a delight and a wonderful, natural comic talent. I also really like Regina Hall even though her character is often annoying as hell. Jon Abrahams? He’s not bad but not all that great either. Cheri Oteri is pretty funny as Gail Hailstorm. Then we have two of the Wayans brothers. Marlon Wayans is, quite possibly, THE most irritating character to be included in a comedy movie ever while Shawn Wayans wrings a few more laughs out of numerous jokes questioning his character’s sexuality. Kurt Fuller gets some decent moments but the rest of the material is very much hit or miss.

The direction by Keenen Ivory Wayans simply allows for the parade of obvious gags and hammers home everything for fear of leaving any of the material seeming too subtle.

It’s no surprise to see the Wayans brothers names in the script department either but, more tellingly, the big warning lights should start flashing when you see the names Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Never mind the numerous comments about Michael Bay being the so-called antichrist or The Asylum being responsible for the very worst in movie entertainment, Friedberg and Seltzer between them tried to kill off comedy movies with their lame attempts at humour and this is where it all started. Well, the two first worked together on Spy Hard, but that had a title song by Weird Al Yankovic and was actually decent in places so let’s give that one a pass.

Despite the many things going against it (the irritating characters, the unfunny cast members, Friedberg and Seltzer), Scary Movie has just enough going FOR it to still make it a mildly amusing spoof. Faris is the biggest bonus but there’s also the simple fact that the riff on the most famous Scream sequences ARE pretty funny. So it gets by. Just. 


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Husk (2011).

Scarecrows are scary. The clue is in the name. That’s why they can make effective characters in horror movies. Just check out the brilliant Dark Night Of The Scarecrow or even that freaky, fantastic moment in House Of 1000 Corpses.
Which brings us to the failure that is Husk, written and directed by Brett Simmons. Some people have enjoyed the movie and I can only assume that it’s thanks to the inherent creepiness of scarecrows (and, admittedly, one or two moments of genuine creepiness stuck in the middle of the dross).
Husk tells the story of a bunch of kids who crash their car and end up trying to get help. They head for a house that they can see in the middle of a cornfield but it turns out that there is danger hidden behind those rows of corn. A creepy old house in the middle of nowhere. Creepy scarecrows that seem a lot livelier than they should be. It all adds up to prime horror material.
Or, at least, it should.
Writer-director Simmons takes any potential and squanders it with a cast of characters making stupid decisions (and played by people who don’t do enough to make themselves all that appealing), the inclusion of one of the group suddenly having psychic visions so that we can all find out just how this situation arose and a number of moments and plot devices that draw comparisons to other, better movies.
C.J. Thomason is the only cast member who comes out of everything relatively unscathed. Wes Chatham is hampered by playing an idiot, Devon Graye has to deal with those psychic visions, Tammin Sursok is simply the one female of the group and Ben Easter doesn’t have enough screentime to make much of an impression.
Thankfully, the scarecrows are scary when shown onscreen and there is at least one decent idea in the script that manages to elevate a couple of scenes to something bordering on the very good.
It’s just not enough though. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

10 things that would prolong my lifespan in the movie world.

1) I would never, ever believe a woman who was totally out of my league would chat me up and want the pleasure of my company for any reason other than a) framing me for a crime b) killing me in cold blood or c) killing me in cold blood and framing me for a crime.

2) If ever being chased by a car I will remember the main things that nobody else ever remembers. A car has a much wider turning circle than a human being (you could just keep running in a tight circle less than a foot from the front bumber and that thing would never hit you) and, more importantly, I would get OFF the fucking road rather than keep running in a straight line in front of oncoming automotive death.

3) I would stay away from anyone who is making the transition from TV land to the big screen. They're normally part of a cast being murder death killed.

4) I'd avoid Texas.

5) A coward may die a thousand times while a hero dies only once but the cowardly deaths are not actual, physical expirations. I'll take those odds.

6) In the event of any major disaster, I will not put myself close to someone about to retire, about to get married, in love with a pregnant partner or desperate to redeem some past mistake.

7) Headshots all the way, hell yeah.

8) If someone ever asks me "what was that noise?" I would reply by saying "why don't you go and check while I stay here with my back against the wall, my gun at the ready and the door barricaded?"

9) I'd never, ever go anywhere that doesn't allow me to get a signal on my mobile phone.

10) I'd never change my name to Michael Biehn.

And that is how I'd ensure my survival. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh yeah.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Before the review, my mind does this.

Anyone keeping up with the damn story may have noticed that I haven't written a section of my "Resonance" story for a while. Well, that's because I have a) lost my few notes that I had on the thing and b) had plenty of other stuff to fit in here.
But today was going to be a "Resonance" day . . . . until I realised that I'd lost those notes.
Instead I have to give you the ten mental notes that I will be filtering through my mind before writing out my full review on Flickfeast for Battle: Los Angeles.

1) Oh, it starts amid some action and then moves back in time to before the action started. This IS just like Skyline then.

2) Aaron Eckhart has resigned from the military and it's his last day? Oh, he's not going to be best pleased then.

3) Really? They're REALLY giving us this bunch to root for? The leader who has resigned, the guy planning his wedding, someone kissing his pregnant wife goodbye and the young 'un who was allowed in after his momma signed the permission slip. They all need the namebadge "Dead Meat".

4) Yayyyyyyyyyyy, it's the guy who plays Hoyt from True Blood.

5) Okay, this has been going on for over half an hour now and I just keep thinking that if I put on Independence Day while playing Call Of Duty I could have the exact same experience.

6) Hmmmm, nice to see Michelle Rodriguez stretching herself by playing a tough chick handy with a weapon. Oh wait, that's who she plays in EVERY FUCKING MOVIE SHE EVER DOES!!!!

7) Is that woman Ashley Judd or . . . . *checks IMDb* . . . . . . ohhhhhhhhh, it's Bridget Moynahan. Why does she look so much like Ashley Judd nowadays?

8) Shit. I was just telling my fiance all about Hoyt from True Blood being in this film but not for long and then I saw him again. This means that I have no idea who the disposable soldiers killed off earlier in the movie were. I don't even remember Hoyt's name. I'm calling him Private Hoyt.

9) I like Aaron Eckhart. Usually. I guess I can see what the intentions were with this film but to make things so full of jittery-cam and then ladle on more cheese than any gung-ho wooha America flick is unforgiveable.

10) I kinda want the aliens to win.

So, I hope to get this lot in some order before you ever see the full review but, hopefully, that can give you some idea of my thoughts on the movie just now.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bloodbath At The House Of Death (1984).

It's quite funny to think of how the rather poor Scary Movie films (the first was okay, the second dire and sue me but I actually quite liked 3 and 4) and Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday The 13th (which I always preferred to Scary Movie anyway) were both inferior to material that had beaten them to the post over 15 years ago. I am referring to the wonderful Student Bodies and the equally wonderful Bloodbath At The House Of Death.

Although Bloodbath At The House Of Death is a bit more of a typically British affair (thanks to the helping hand of Barry Cryer in the script department and a cast including the likes of Kenny Everett, John Fortune, Gareth Hunt and many other big names from the world of 1980s UK telly) it's also a highly rewarding film for horror fans familiar with the type of movie being referenced.

First and foremost, it's the haunted house movie being spoofed with the likes of The Haunting and The Legend Of Hell House most obviously referenced. However, those involved cast their net a bit further than that. Heck, even the opening titles tell you that it's Thursday 12th August, 1975, and then go on to say . . . . . . give or take a day.
Aside from those mentioned, we also get the legendary Vincent Price in a small but highly amusing role, Don Warrington, Pamela Stephenson, Sheila Steafel and Cleo Rocos. Everyone goes along with the fun and there's a special joy in hearing Vincent Price replying in his own inimitable style after being told to "piss off".

The script isn't perfect, by any means, but it remains very amusing and a nice mix of the sharp and the stupid. Characters provide exposition in an obvious manner commented on by others, people lose count when trying to explain the gory events that happened years ago in the titular house, there's a comedic satanic ritual and much more to enjoy.
The plot? I haven't gone into any great detail because it was kind of covered when I mentioned The Haunting and The Legend Of Hell House. A bunch of scientists go to a house that was the scene of a bloodbath many years ago and the scene is set for another potential night of death.

Director Ray Cameron, who co-wrote the thing with Cryer, doesn't do too badly although the style of the thing sometimes feels like an extended TV skit as opposed to a movie. What I must go out of my way to state, however, is just how well the movie does in the last 20 minutes or so, mixing some genuinely creepy atmosphere and scares with a few more laughs. Something that the Scary Movie franchise hasn't managed in any of their outings to date.


Friday, 15 April 2011

Singapore Sling (1990)

Take a mix of classic noir and niche pornography and then stir in plenty of enjoyable narrative moments where the fourth wall is broken and you have Singapore Sling.
The movie starts with a mother (Michele Valley) and daughter (Meredyth Herold) digging a grave for the chauffeur that they’ve just killed. While this is happening, a detective (Panos Thanassoulis) is about to pass out in his car from a bullet wound in his shoulder. But his voiceover gives us a bit of explanation first – namely, he’s after a woman named Laura who may already be dead. 
We then move on to see mummy and daughter engaging in some nasty sex, quickly learning that nothing is really taboo for them. When the detective finally gets to their door he is taken in to be used by the pair in both physical and mental games.
Writer-director Nikos Nikolaidis is now a new favourite of mine. Okay, I’ve only seen this movie but it’s a great one. The script is witty and sharp, though there are many dialogue-free moments dwelling on the more physical aspects of the material, and the whole thing looks gorgeous in black and white, also making a lot of what’s onscreen slightly more palatable.
The world of the characters is both vaguely sketched out and yet detailed enough to make everything bizarrely believable while also leaving much to be pondered – just how did these bizarre games begin? How do the women keep their lifestyle? The two wander around their home like some distant relatives of Norma Desmond who never managed to become famous.
Michele Valley and Meredyth Herold are both superb, portraying people who are clearly quite mad but doing so in a way that’s hugely entertaining and overly theatrical. Panos Thanassoulis, for the most part, plays someone who is quite passive but does well amidst such fireworks.
I guess I should give an idea of some of the stronger content here. There’s incest, water sports, vomiting, fruit as a masturbatory aid, some scenes very much like sploshing (if you don’t know what that is then there is no way in hell that I’M telling you) and more. Which is why the next sentence is going to seem very strange.
The movie does, at times, somehow still manage to be quite an erotic experience, despite the extremes of the sexplay on show. Perhaps that says more about my mental state than anything in the movie. There are, of course, many aspects of the material onscreen that are offputting and slightly disturbing but there’s also a quality and style to everything that makes it easier to accept that these are adults playing with adults and to be more tolerant of what’s going on.
Certainly not for everyone, and I expect some people to give me funny looks after their viewing experience (if they ever see the thing), but it’s a very good film that I am now a big fan of. Oh, and fans of Laura should find a little more to enjoy, the movie appears to reference it in a number of ways. Which I think is a good thing.


Thursday, 14 April 2011

Taxidermia (2006)

A movie that follows a rather twisted narrative thread, concentrating on three males (each one descended from the other) who all have certain peculiarities.
Things begin with Morosgoványi Vendel (played by Csaba Czene), a military man who is so horny that he’s aroused by a pig carcass when he’s not lying back and shooting fire from his penis or trying to use a hole in a shed wall as a masturbatory aid while he watches women frolic around.
Move forward to Morosgoványi’s son, Balatony Kálmán (played by Gergely Trocsanyi). Balatony is a champion speed-eater who starts to lose his edge when he falls in love with a female champion.
Then we have the final part of the film watching Balatony’s son, Balatony Lajoska (played by Marc Bischoff). Balatony Jr. spends a lot of his time looking after the morbidly obese Balatony Sr. and then hurries home to continue pursuing his passion for taxidermy.
Director Gyorgy Palfi, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Zsofia Ruttkay based on short stories by Parti Nagy Lajos, does a great job here, decorating the unpleasant material with plenty of style and skill.
This is not for the faint of heart. The first section has some crazy sexual content, the second consists of many gross moments centred around the speed-eating (which includes a hell of a lot of vomiting) and the third and final section builds up to . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  well, I’d better let you find out for yourself.
The acting from all concerned is very good (it’s only my ignorance stopping me from naming a number of the supporting players here) and the main characters are always watchable even if they’re not all that likeable. There’s something mesmerising about just how far from the norm their peccadilloes are, something that somehow carries you through the grosser moments right up to an ending that is as intriguing as it is hard-going and, ultimately, slightly preposterous.
Taxidermia is not a film to recommend to many people, it’s not something that many will end up enjoying but it’s never less than interesting and I was impressed by the succession of uncomfortable images. If you’re intrigued, and of strong enough stomach, then give it a watch. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead (2006).

Just who the hell would even contemplate seeing a movie with this ridiculous title? Me, that’s who. Me and many other Troma fans were salivating in anticipation as this film was being made. Was it worth the wait? Hell yeah.
The absurd plot is all about an American Chicken Bunker being opened on the site of an ancient Native American burial ground. This is being protested by a lot of people, including young Wendy (Kate Graham), a young and passionate lesbian who used to go out with Arbie (Jason Yachanin). Arbie still has feelings for Wendy and, in an attempt to win her back, he decides to . . . . . . . . . . get a job in the Bunker. The employees are set to go, the protestors are protesting, the General (played by Robin  Watkins) is due to arrive and there’s also the little matter of the atmosphere being packed full of the angry spirits of Native Americans and maltreated chickens. Far from finger licking good.
There should only be two types of audience for this movie. Horror fans willing to give it a go and Troma fans. Nobody else need bother checking this one out. It’s completely bonkers, contains plenty of gratuitous nudity, even more excessive gore and a number of nasty moments involving faeces. It’s also got director Lloyd Kaufman in a relatively small but amusing role, some great songs and a refreshing lack of political correctness that will no doubt offend those who love to be offended.
Daniel Bova, Gabriel Friedman and Kaufman himself all contributed to the insane script so it’s clear that they all need serious therapy. In the meantime, I’m happy as long as the results are as daft and entertaining as this.
The acting, especially for a Troma picture, is actually pretty good. The two leads are especially enjoyable while Watkins is great as the General and Joshua Olatunde stands out as Denny, the manager of the Bunker trying to deal with one bigger problem after another.
It’s often juvenile and overboard with the gross content (did we really need to see someone’s censored backside as they sit on a toilet trying to evacuate their bowels?) but it’s also actually quite funny in places. Whether it’s just a little gag like “I know it's fattening, but I love the skin” or a hilarious riff on the U.S.S. Indianapolis speech from Jaws, the script actually provides a LOT of laughs. And that’s without mentioning the multitude of enjoyable visual gags.
I know that there are plenty of people who won’t believe me, and plenty of people who will never even watch this movie (which, in the majority of cases, is probably for the best), BUT if you’re a bit twisted and amused as much by the lowbrow as you are by the highbrow then you may just want to give this a go and find yourself enjoying it as much as I did. 

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Re-viewing the viewings I didn't review.

I've been very busy lately watching a LOT of movies. Which is great. That's my favourite thing in the world.
However, I had been keeping a running note over the past few months of any movies that I'd watched that I hadn't written reviews for (either here or on Flickfeast or on IMDb, where I go by the name of tyler-and-jack . . . . . . IF you're ever wanting to see my opinion of a film over there) and I went back today to check off some titles from the list as I finally had some spare time to chip away at the backlog.


That's not one or two here and there, that's bloody loads. More importantly, some of those films have already faded thanks to the sheer excess of movies I watched during one extended period of time so now I have to RE-view them before being able to review them. But it will be worth it in the end. I like to at least give the appearance of someone who knows what he's talking about when reviewing a movie and it would just do no good at all to try and review anything that I couldn't remember. In fact, it would do no good as a practical review and it would be unfair on anyone who read the damn thing as some kind of pre-viewing precis.

There are some titles that will never fade - sadly, these include all 3 Open Season movies and almost a dozen killer croc flicks (damn you Lake Placid 2 for polluting my retinas, damn you to hell) - but there are others that are so disposable they will always fade soon afterwards, movies that I should have known to review at the time, movies I don't necessarily want to sit through again.

But I will.

Because, deep down, I love it.

It's certainly a big lesson learned though.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Social Network (2010).

Before The Social Network was released it was one of the few movies in 2010 that I knew I just didn’t want to miss seeing at the cinema. Everything just seemed to be in place for the making of a modern classic. A cracking script by Aaron Sorkin based on a book by Ben Mezrich. David Fincher directing – the guy has done no wrong thus far in his career, in my view. Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones, Max Minghella and Armie Hammer in the main roles – all may not be household names but I’m a huge fan of Eisenberg and the cast list signalled something aimed directly at those who had been making the most of Facebook since it’s creation.
I went to the cinema and something amazing happened, something that has been happening less and less frequently in the past few years. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was absolutely blown away by the whole thing and engrossed from beginning to end.
There’s no doubt that certain liberties have been taken with the truth here and there (indeed, Mark Zuckerberg would try to convinve everyone that almost the entire movie is a complete fiction) but this is a barnstorming interpretation of the events that saw Zuckerberg (played, brilliantly, by Jesse Eisenberg) create Facebook and upset a number of people in the process, including the Winklevoss brothers (both played by Armie Hammer, with help from Josh Pence) and Zuckerberg’s best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).
Structurally, the movie starts with the evening that saw the genesis of what would eventually lead to the creation of Facebook and then moves on to show the two major depositions that Zuckerberg is involved in some time later before hopping back and forth between the most important moments in Zuckerberg’s professional life, including his involvement with Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake as the man who created Napster).
What ends up surprising most people when they view The Social Network is just how enjoyable and interesting it all is, quite an achievement considering it’s really the ultimate “nerd made good” tale interspersed by some legal wranglings in a boardroom. Computer programming and depositions do not make for exciting cinema but Fincher spins gold here thanks to the performances, the script so sharp it could be used to provide a clean close shave and his mastery of the camerawork mixing with an unusual, and highly impressive, soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Eisenberg, it must be said, is playing someone who comes across as quite unlikeable but he does it brilliantly, portraying a man as bored and frustrated as he is intelligent. Garfield is more than his equal and when the two are working with, and sometimes against, each other it’s just a double helping of superb acting. Hammer and Minghella are both excellent but it’s worth, perhaps, specifically mentioning how good Justin Timberlake is for those doubtful of the singer’s talent. His portrayal of Sean Parker has the cockiness and showbiz-grin that you’d expect but also changes as we start to see the paranoid, sneaky little man behind the dotcom assurety. Rooney Mara plays Erica Albright, a girl who makes a massive impact on Zuckerberg’s life, and she does very well with her limited screentime. There are plenty of other people in the cast and my not mentioning them is in no way a slight on their performances, it’s simply that this film is full of the right people in the right roles doing the right stuff.
I could go on and on but I fear I’ve already spent too much time rambling like a rabid David Fincher fanboy (which, I suppose, I am). This is another cinematic masterpiece from one of my favourite directors. 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Primal (2010).

A group of people head out into the middle of nowhere to study an ancient rock painting and things end up going very badly for all involved when it turns out that the painting may well be a warning against something in the area that can change people and turn them into pointy-toothed savages (hence the title). That’s the basics of the plot.
Primal gets a lot right but also gets a few things wrong (not really surprising considering that it’s director Josh Reed’s first feature – though do check out the enjoyable short, Rattus Pistofficus, that he made - check it out here). It helps that it’s premise is a good one – like a mix of Cabin Fever, Demons and the “Darkness Falls” episode of The X-Files.
The acting from everyone involved is simply okay. Nobody stands out as excellent but nobody stinks up the place either, it’s only a pity that the actual onscreen characters weren’t actually deserving of much time. The group members seem to spend it’s whole time bickering with each other before making a number of inexcusably stupid decisions. Thankfully, Zoe Tuckwell-Smith does well enough as Anja that you want to root for her and Damien Freeleagus is likeable as the group joker, Warren. And Krew Boylan was cute, which also helped.
The script, written by director Reed from the story by himself and Nigel Christensen, is to blame for those character moments so I can’t really praise it that highly but it does a better job in the early scenes showing the individual members and how the group dynamic seems to be set up.
The second half of the film features a number of shots that suffer from poor lighting (yes, I know that we’re following action taking place in a wild wooded area but we should still be able to see what’s going on) and a rather confusing number of shots that don’t help us to keep track of which character is in peril from which other character.
And then there’s a final 10 minute sequence that may have many laughing at the ridiculousness of it all but that I just went along with. It helps that things lead to a fun punchline at the very end of the movie.
There are some enjoyable moments of madness here, and the special effects are pretty well done, and that’s what helps get Primal back to the stage of something a bit above average. It tries to be a little bit different but also falls into many of the traps that the genre has (a lack of logic, characters being far too stupid, etc). I still applaud it for trying something a bit new though.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes (2010) AKA Paranormal Entity 3.

N.B. This review has been updated since more information has become available, including the fact that over here in the UK the movie was eventually released as Paranormal Entity 3: The Exorcist Tapes.

It's another rip-off from The Asylum, this time trying to mix The Exorcism Of Emily Rose with The Exorcist with The Last Exorcism, and it's another one of their better outings, though not actually a great film.

Much like Paranormal Entity (their rip-off of Paranormal Activity), this movie works because the central concept is pretty solid. It's simply showing an exorcism from footage that the film claims is real. Doctors argue with priests and try to get to the root of the problem as young Anneliese gets worse and worse and things get increasingly dangerous for everyone involved.

I had a quick browse around for information on this movie and couldn't find anything. Not. One. Thing.

Even on the website for The Asylum itself there are no cast or crew members listed and  I can only come to the conclusion that they think people in the big wide world will actually believe that the footage shown is real.

Some of the events depicted almost get into scary territory (the lead actress, Nikki Muller, playing Anneliese does her best with the physical side of things and there's a moment of genuine creepiness near the end with Anneliese moving out of a wheelchair to terrorise someone) but things are undermined by the bad acting from the majority of the cast and the terrible German accents.

Without enough detail and authenticity to actually convince as a "real" event, the movie has no major selling point. It also gets quite dull in places because of the many scenes featuring just black backgrounds with actual audio from the real exorcism being played over the top (which you can listen to on YouTube if you're interested) and the many other scenes focusing on nothing more than the priests and doctors arguing over the best way to treat Anneliese. But at least the lo-fi approach helps to gloss over the usual gamut of failings that The Asylum movies usually provide.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Seven stylish facts.

Oo-errr. My mate J Luis Rivera (who blogs here at W-Cinema) tagged me in this seven stylish facts thingummajig.
No pressure then and no worries, despite the fact that I am rarely stylish and can't always count all the way up to seven. It doesn't matter. It's just nice to be picked by J Luis, despite the fact that I now share the same problem he had when it comes to thinking of who to tag for the next lot. Because that's the rule - you get tagged and you write your piece and then tag seven more.
I guess I'll keep things movie-related, with perhaps one or two diversions to keep a bit of variety here.
Here goes nothing.

1) Most of my friends, both on the worldwide web and in the web of the wide world, know that I'm a horror fan and I think I should take this opportunity to thank the babysitters that my parents hired when I was a young scamp. One in particular, whose name I can't recall, used to enjoy getting to raid the vinyl collection and making mix tapes of Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Nilsson, etc and would, to get some peace and quiet for this, allow me to sit up and watch the Hammer horrors that would be gracing the TV schedules late at night. The bright red blood, the buxom bar wenches, the noble Sir Peter Cushing - all of these things seared themselves into my mind and took root to stay always within my inagination. To this day, The Creeping Flesh remains one of my very favourite horrors thanks to my childhood memory of it.

2) From Hammer horrors to scary TV films (Don't Go To Sleep was terrifying to me back then and remains one I am anxious to rewatch) to sharing the enjoyment of a modern classic that my mother loved (Halloween), I was soon in the habit of trying to stay up late whenever I could to watch whatever would scare the pants off me. A Nightmare On Elm St. did just that, as did the original Dawn Of The Dead, which saw me being caught in the morning for having left my lamp on all night. This did not go down well with my mother but once the fear had dissipated and we were in the cold light of day my biggest worry was not being allowed to view these terrors ever again. Have you ever seen John Carpenter's The Thing? Scary, gory stuff eh. My first time watching it, however, was on a 6-inch black and white screen on the kitchen TV/radio gadget. While eating a chicken curry. Despite the lack of colour and lack of decent screen size I STILL almost threw up.

3) As you get older you get more and more friends and contacts, you start stretching fingertips around the world in many different ways. Which is why I was able to get a VHS copy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre back in 1992. I finally saw this classic horror and was suitable blown away by it. But, more importantly, it led me to have conversations with people that went like this:
"Ohhhh, if you're a horror fan I have The Texas Chain Saw Massacre if you ever want to see it."
"That would be awesome. You want to borrow Reservoir Dogs? It's still not getting released here yet."
Etc, etc. Happy days were here to stay.

4) This new-found access to movies fed directly into my, already large, appetite for consuming everything film-related that I could. Back in those days when I would get my yearly copy of Halliwell's guide or Leonard Maltin's and go through them with a highlighter. Hell, I even started writing attempts at full movie reviews when I was much younger using just pen and paper (remember them, kids?) but it was never any good because of the space required just to keep things alphabetised in different ring binders.

5) Bit of a spanner to throw in the works but the last few years, especially, have seen me being a lot more upfront and honest about having bi-polar disorder (except I had it back in the day when we just called it manic depression) and it's a horrible thing when you're battling against it. It never really goes away and makes you feel that things are about to go horribly wrong even when everything is great. Do movies help this? Sometimes, yeah. Nothing like a great comedy to chase the blues away or some superb action to get the blood pumping and provide some distraction from the mundanity around us now and again. But, for me, it's the reviewing and discussion afterwards that helps even more. A schedule is always good for those who suffer from depression, keeping busy and keeping in a routine can prove to be enormously useful. Which is an additional reason for me to write my reviews and post them online for chat and generally sharing happy joy joy, because it makes me feel good.

6) I write something for this book and it contains many other essays written by some of the coolest people I've ever had the good fortune to know, all thanks to the internet and me looking for somewhere to bitch about Darkness Falls.

7) I was going to always keep things calm and simply a hobby when it came to the movie viewing and review writing but my fine fiance convinced me to accept the offer made to me by Robin from Flickfeast and that has led to some amazing movie-related experiences in the past year since I've been trying to act a bit mature and professional (oh yeah . . . . I said it . . . .  so nyah nyah nyahhhhh). I've been to my first horror movie fest, I obtained a press pass for EIFF 2010 and was able to get a chat with the friendly Paul Andrew Williams and I've been able to get a first look at some great movies. Oh, there are some not-so-great movies now and again but that's always the way.

I hope that was okay, sorry if it disappointed you J Luis (you managed to write more and keep it much more movie-centric). I'll just end now by trying to tag some other folks, maybe not seven though.

My tea and cake buddy Alice -
Mad Anna banana -
Emma Hutchings asking you to Suspend Your Disbelief -

and I think that's me.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Just One Of The Guys (1985).

A light, high concept comedy from the 80s, Just One Of The Guys still has some fans to this day and it’s certainly miles away from the worst that the decade ever gave us.
Joyce Hyser plays Terry Griffith, a girl with everything. She does well at school, she has a prize catch of a fella, she is popular and she doesn’t really want for anything. Except for a way to have her journalism taken seriously. When her article is passed over in favour of others, Terry starts to consider that she is not being taken seriously because she’s a girl. To prove this, she masquerades as a boy, with the inevitable complications that ensue.
Just One Of The Guys is one of many, many mildly amusing comedies from the 80s that is as forgettable as it is passable. Directed by Lisa Gottlieb, and written by Dennis Feldman and Jeff Franklin, it has nothing to make it a movie that would ever be anyone’s favourite.
The cast are all good enough. Hyser may not convince when wearing her male disguise but she’s sweet and easy to root for. Billy Jayne gets a lot of great little moments as the annoying younger brother revelling in his sister’s complicated fraud. Clayton Rohner is acceptable as the nice guy oblivious to Terry’s growing feelings for him and William Zabka is a great bully, easy to loathe from his first moment onscreen.
While the whole movie centres around Terry’s charade it actually doesn’t make the most of the premise (with one scene in the school gymnasium changing rooms proving to be the best when it comes to mixing the awkwardness of the situation with the comedy) and plays out, for the most part, like any other 80s teen movie featuring two friends who have to tough things out when one falls for the other.
There’s a surprisingly gentle approach when it comes to mixing the bawdy in with the more rom-com moments and that’s a bonus, particularly for a movie from this era, but it’s just not enough to elevate it above the average. Okay, maybe it’s just ever so slightly above average.


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000).

The fifth instalment in the Hellraiser franchise is actually a return to form, a solid horror thanks to it’s mixing of the puzzle box ethos with a standard detective storyline. It may not be quite in the neo-noir mould but it comes close and is all the better for it.
Craig Sheffer (the guy you could rely on to play a rat bastard in the 80s if James Spader wasn’t available) plays Detective Joseph Thorne, a man who takes money from wallets he finds at crime scenes, has sex with hookers while his wife and daughter sleep at home and generally struts around like the cock of the walk. His partner, Detective Tony Nenonen (Nicholas Turturro), is his partner, he’s not a bad guy but he’s also not as smart as Thorne. When Thorne wakes up in a motel room beside a slaughtered hooker he drags his partner along to help him cover up any evidence that he was there. Something strange is going on. Something linked to a puzzle box and some underworld character known as The Engineer. Thorne is determined to catch this guy despite the warnings that if you hunt The Engineer, The Engineer ends up hunting you. Things get increasingly dark and insane as Thorne gets closer to his target.
Directed by Scott Derrickson, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Harris Boardman, Hellraiser: Inferno does what the better Hellraiser movies do so well. Instead of aiming for the easy, cheap, slasher-style thrills that parts three and four went for it maintains itself as a movie aimed at adults. Yes, it has the gore and nastiness in there but it also has a certain intelligence and doesn’t feel the need to bring Pinhead onscreen every few minutes just to make a smartass comment.
The other big plus that the movie has is the cast. Sheffer is very good in the lead role, Turturro is okay as his partner and the great James Remar is the great James Remar. That covers the three main leads but all of the supporting players also do well.
The visuals, the dreamy horror, the new cenobite variations, all of these things are done justice and occasionally mix the sexual with the masochistic in a way close to the original two movies (especially the gruesome scene in which Sheffer is dreaming that he is being lusted over by two strange females).
It’s a real shame that people may miss this one because of how poor it’s predecessor is because Hellraiser: Inferno is one of the few sequels that actually deserves to be seen by fans of the franchise. Seek it out if you haven’t seen it already.