Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review: Looper (2012)

“This time travel crap, just fries your brain like an egg.”

Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt
Writer: Rian Johnson

Looper could have been a hard science fiction movie that turns as many people away as endears itself to, it could of also been a stupid action movie that never lives up to it’s potential. Instead we get a movie that at its heart has some simple yet hefty themes that raise it above a lot of movies. Accessible yet different.

Brick was a fantastic film and showed that Rian Johnson was a writer/director to watch. I’ve yet to see the Brothers Bloom, but with Looper it obvious that this man is talented, and is definitely a filmmaker that will be regarded as one of the best in the future. He manages to create an intricate world and yet never get bogged down to the detriment of the character driven story. Rian also has a great eye and always has a good grasp on how to allow the scene to flow.

Of course none of this would have mattered if it wasn’t for the actors, all which hit the right note. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as young and old Joe respectively, manage to be both alike and yet different in small enough ways. Both actors had to really walk a morally grey line, and if ether one failed then the movie would have failed. Emily Blunt as Sara also does a fantastic job as a mother who has to be strong for her child Cid and yet is fragile inside.

All the effects in this movie look great, with the cityscape being a wonderful mixture of the current and what could be in our future. Funnily enough what you would think would be the biggest SFX (the time travel portion) is done rather simply, and when you think about it, it makes sense. There are also little visual touches across the board like clothing, vehicles and weapons that just make the world richer.

Honestly Looper is worth the time, it’s a science fiction story that’s a character driven piece and not trying to wow you with pretty visuals that mean nothing. The acting is strong and it’s great to see Bruce Willis using the acting muscle I knew he had. See this movie now, right now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: V/H/S (2012)

“I like you.”

Directors: Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West and Adam Wingard
Starring: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes and Adam Wingard
Writers: Simon Barrett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Nicholas Tecosky, Chad Villella and Ti West

I try really hard not to get over excited for a movie as the hype can sometimes be greater than the product. With V/H/S I couldn’t help myself as it was a horror anthology and it was found footage. So I bit into the hype and low and behold, came out of the movie slightly underwhelmed. But seeming that different directors and writers took on different portions it’s not really fair to judge all of them the same, so I’m going to break down each section as there were some things that did live up to my expectations.

Tape 56/Main Story Arc: Four men break into a house having been paid to find a VHS tape. Thinking they are going to make easy money, instead they find countless VHS tapes and realise they need to go through each one. Each tape watched leads to one of the stories. As a connecting story it’s a good idea however it falls short thanks to two problems in my eyes.

First off the four characters are the worst type of human beings, who I couldn’t wait to get their comeuppance. Before their break in to the house, we see them attacking innocent people, destroying property and trying to trick a girl into having sex on camera. The other problem is except for the beginning there is really nothing to the story and the events just seem rushed.

Amateur Night: When I started watching this story I honestly wanted to be like Kanye and toast all the assholes. Three guys rent a motel room and go out to party. One of the men Clint is wearing glasses with a hidden webcam to record the debauchery of the night. They pick up two women and find out that sometimes predators can be preyed upon.

I will admit as the story progresses Clint does show signs of being less of an asshole as the rest, but I cared for Lily (Hannah Fierman) more. In just a small amount of time, Lily comes across as sympathetic, and manages to keep this sympathy going even when certain weird things happen later in the story. It’s impressive and Hannah Fierman has to be the best actor out of the entire movie, without her this segment would have meant next to nothing.

Second Honeymoon: Two people go on a second honeymoon, terrible things happen. This particular story has even less to it than the main arc of the movie, but at the same time it’s extremely focused and more successful. I like the fact that it comes, does its story quickly and moves on. I think that this story actually shows the potential of a horror anthology done with found footage. Segments can just be these slices of creepy footage.

However there are problems. It’s a problem I’ve said several times in this review already. The male character in this movie starts off quite the asshole and yet again I just didn’t care. So while I could appreciate how tight this segment was I just didn’t care. You know I’m getting kind of tired of saying asshole but there you have it.

Tuesday the 17th: Four friends go into the woods, however things aren’t all what they seem and thanks to a killer on the loose, these kids will never forget their adventure. This is the first segment that doesn’t have some high calibre assholes in it. But that’s made up by having the main character being a complete and utter evil bitch. I won’t get into any more details as that will actually spoil the story.

So instead I’ll get into probably one of my most favourite things in this movie. There is a particular effect that uses tracking problems to incredible creepy effect. Yet again can’t get into it, but needless to say this is a filmmaker using the VHS technology to incredible effect. I would love to move on while on a high point but this segment also has the worst acting in the entire movie. Acting in the Room may have been better.

The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger: By this point in the movie I hadn’t hated the watching experience but I was feeling extremely disappointed. This was the turn. We get a sympathetic lead in Emily (Helen Roger), a creepy premise with shades of body horror, good acting and a great use of webcam. Goodness this was a great segment that got under the skin.

Not only was I creepy but the tale of Emily is heartbreaking. Whoever was in control of this segment managed to get so much information through to the audience in such a short amount of time. The effects are also creepy with some of the scares being minimalist but effective.

10/31/98: Finally we get to my favourite segment of the entire film. Main reason would have to be the four leads are actually good guys. Yep, finally the guys get some nice representation, which was a welcome reprieve from most men in this film coming off as horrible humans.

Story is simple; four guys on their way to a Halloween party go to the wrong house. There they are faced with an out of control situation. All four leads come seem like normal people and in the beginning are very likeable with their friendly chemistry. Effects are also absolutely brilliant with a great balance of CGI and practical tricks. There is also a unique way of using the camera. One of the guys is dressed as a Nanny Cam so his bear costume has a camera in it.

After finishing this segment I was very happy as this was really what I was hoping for. The film also wraps up the main arc before this is played so the movie ends on a high note.

V/H/S has some great moments, and at the end of the film, great segments, but it is surrounded in hype that this movie can not live up to. There is also an undercurrent of men being despicable. I was relieved that in the end we got some characters to cheer for, whether that was Emily or the four men from 10/31/98. It is worth to check this film out, just dial down expectations. I’m also hoping that a sequel with all new directors is made. There is definite room for a franchise.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quick Movie Review: Vol 31

Tis been a while since I did one of this quick reviews. Recently I’ve been trying to do full reviews but I’ve racked up an impressive lists of movies to reviews and do one review at a time is a little slow. Not only that but some movies really don’t deserve a full review. It’s not that they are bad, just nothing of importance to really talk about. So welcome back the quick movie reviews. I’ll try not use these all the time.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

Straight to DVD release from DC, this tale is that particularly memorable. If you’ve read comics you know where everything is heading, and for those who haven’t then this is a short distraction. The only real star voice actor is Summer Glau as Supergirl. Credit to Ms Glau she did a great job and maybe if they ever do another live action movie around the character Glau could be tapped to act again.

All the other voice actors are what you’ve come to expect from these types of movies, solid if not excellent. Chances are if you’re a comic fan then you’ve probably watched this not. For those who aren’t I can see this movie as a nice distraction for parents and kids to watch together.

Species 3 (2004)

Straight to video sequels often mean quick cash in for a fading franchise, the quality of which is never a high factor. Species 3 is an absolute crap fest, the acting is atrocious and the story just screams of a script with nothing to do with the actual series, but it’s been redone to fit. As such the movie makes no sense in relation to the first two movies. Sure the first two weren’t the best by any standards, but you can at least keep a consistency. It isn't helped that there is no real clear idea of who's the bad guy and who's the good guy, the film just comes of as a confused mess with no idea with what it wants to do. What's worse is there is a complete waste of Natasha Henstridge in this movie, but then I don't blame her for wanting to depart really quickly. Honestly just avoid this movie, it’s just bad.

Morlocks (2011)

It’s a SyFy channel original movie, so you know that screams of quality. A bastardised version of the time machine, the only real links to the story are a time machine and the creatures called Morlocks. File this away in the ‘Science Screws Up’ science fiction genre. In regards to bad movies, there is a chance for having a sliver of enjoyment.

Managing to get through this movie was made easier thanks to two Stargate Atlantis regulars, David Hewlett and Robert Picardo. They manage to make even the worst crap bearable, but this was a struggle for them as the dialogue they need to deliver is god damn horrible. Watch if you are into so bad it’s good type movies, especially with the SyFy seal of approval.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Resident Evil Retribution (2012)

“I'm kind of enjoying this.”

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory and Michelle Rodriguez
Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

By now you’ll know if you want to go and see this movie so this review is a little redundant. If you are a fan of the series you’ll probably like this movie, if you never got into the series then you probably won’t like it. Finally if you never watched a Resident Evil movie but are interested, then you should really start with the first as things might be a little confusing otherwise.

So at the end of the last movie the heroes had their backs against the wall, and doom seemed inevitable. Upon hearing that this movie had been green lighted, I wondered how they would be able to write around this little problem. With the news of old cast mates rejoining the movie, maybe this was all an elaborate Umbrella Corporation hoax, maybe Anderson was about to go for the ‘it was a dream gambit.’ Without giving too much away let me say that Anderson didn’t really write around the problem but got a semi truck and smashed through the wall. Sure I was left wondering how the hell that just happened, but there was a way for them to get away.

It’s weird to say this with the fifth movie in the series; surely I would have said it sooner. But Resident Evil Retribution just seems like a tired old horse that needs to be put down. It was showing it’s age in the forth instalment but with 3D and some nice visuals I still think it managed to still be a worthy instalment. This one seems to be repeating itself, right down to reusing dead characters. It turns out a waste of time, but it was still nice seeing Rodriguez and Fehr again. It isn’t until right at the end that an exciting idea is introduced.

This may seem like I hated the movie. Far from it. I have a soft spot for the Resident Evil movies, and even if I think it may be time to stop there were things that I enjoyed. Kevin Durand plays one of my favourite characters from the RE game series. His take on Barry Burton was awesome. Shawn Roberts as Wesker continues to make me smile. Let’s not pay attention at the fact that he shouldn’t be alive, but he plays Wesker with such a slimy touch it’s wonderful. Milla is also always dependable, and the action does look pretty, sure there is an overuse of slomo, but I would rather that than not see the action.

So there it is a quick sum up for a movie that you’ve probably already made your mind about. Oh two more things. Johann Urb and Bingbing Li were terrible has Lean and Ada. Their reads were really off sometimes. Oh and the 3D was unnecessary. Okay I guess I’m now done.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Outside the Cinema: Paragons of Podcasting

So many podcasts out there in the world and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to listen to. You think about a topic and there are probably at least four podcasts about it. When it comes to things like comics, movies and most of the things I like; that normally multiplies. It can be daunting to a person looking for a starting point. I thought it was probably time to quickly delve into a podcast that not only got me listening to podcasts, but gave me the inspiration to start writing this blog.

While I love films in general, I do have a soft spot for slashers, exploitation and well really bad cheesy horror and science fiction films. It was by chance that I stumbled on to Outside the Cinema, a podcast/webcast that features many a cult movie. The show is brought to life by Bill Fulkerson, a man who not only has a passion for cult cinema, but has an ear for sound quality which lends the show a level of professionalism not seen in many podcasts. However I didn’t truly become a rabid fan of OTC until the original co-host stood down and Chris Bricklemeyer took over.

(From Left) Chris, Rev Scott and Bill. Who's Reverend Scott you ask?
I'll leave that as a surprise for those who tune in.
In Bill and Chris you have two lovers of film but coming from different places. Bill loves the type of movies they cover and has a lot of knowledge on the subject of Giallo, Blacksploitation and other sub genres. Chris on the other hand hasn’t watched as many of these old movies, long forgotten by the main stream, and it is through him that a new listener with no idea about what black gloves means to Italians, masked individuals or Rudy Ray Moore can hitch their wagon to. With two people who share a passion but come at it from a different perspective, it allows the listener to get a well balanced view on the movies.

Up to 241 episodes that doesn’t include the now defunct OTC Live and special editions, the boys have been around for a good chunk of time and the fact that they are still going at such a consistent rate is a testament to the professionalism that they bring to this project. Given that time it would be a lie if the show hasn’t hit some lows, but that’s normally thanks to the unreliable nature of some internet services from awards sites to hosting sites. But no matter what Bill and Chris manage to get through it all. Maybe a little battered, a little bruised and possibly with someone’s head adorning their house spikes, but still up and ready for round two learning from past mistakes.

The type of movie reviewed at OTC
A typical show will have a top six list of someone’s devising and two reviews; there is banter in-between and some feedback. It’s a full show and normal takes a little over two hours in total. That might be a bit of a commitment for some people, thankfully with each section broken down there is a way to listen in bite size chunks. Also with the playful nature of the two it is never a chore to listen to.

Of course this is all sounding like a paid for ad, and I would be a liar if I said OTC is perfection personified. For such lies I believe one would be destined to be killed by some lame horror icon like Killjoy. With that threat ever looming let me say that most of the show’s flaws would come down to a matter of personal taste. I know the things I’m not to fond of are loved by others, so the only real way to find out would be to listen to a few episodes and figure it out for yourself.

At the end of the day you need to ask two questions. Are you a fan of movies? Want to find some more obscure films? Then OTC is a podcast that deserves your time. Both Bill and Chris put a lot of time and effort into this show, and it is one of the best podcasts out there, this even includes professional podcasts that are in it for money. I guess Outside the Cinema is just one of those things that proves that cash is no real substitute for passion, because those who are passionate will always find a way to outdo those who are just in it for the money.

Facebook Group Link Here
Website Link Here
Or search for them on iTunes

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Simon Sez (1999)

“Stupid bee! You're just a fly with a stinger on your arse!”

Director: Kevin Elders
Starring: Dennis Rodman, Dane Cook and John Pinette
Writers: Andrew Miller and Andrew Lowery

There are movies that seem to be born from the devil’s backside with the sole intention of destroying the very fabric of your sanity. Simon Sez is such a film. Strutting into my life it proceeded to take a crap in my brain, showing no mercy for my well being what so ever. Pretty much I could end this review here and you would hopefully get the idea to avoid this film at all costs, but surely there was something of value here? Something I could find to justify watching this.

Well acting is a devoid wasteland of people hamming it up to painful levels. Dane Cook is a blight on this movie and I wanted him to die a very painful death. He’s not funny, he’s not a good actor, and he brings nothing to this movie. Jérôme Pradon as the main villain Ashton is pretty weak. He’s going for over top quirky villain but instead of being someone who we laugh with, we laugh at. That’s not good for a villain who’s supposed to be threatening. The less said about the tech monks the better. Surprisingly Dennis Rodman isn’t that worst and could have been a decent action star if relegated to mostly direct to dvd releases. Also Emma Wiklund as The Dancer shows some impressive action chops if not acting skills. Wow that’s two positives in a row.

Forget the plot, someone’s someone get his daughter kidnapped and villain wants evil mcguffin to do some dastardly deed. What ever story might be there is destroyed by the horrid and annoying characters. If there is anything to be salvaged from this movie is that some of the action isn’t that bad, but honestly you can find better stuff with characters that don’t offend. Still some credit needs to be given.

This is a horrible mess of a film and has some okay points but is brought to the bowels of hell thanks to some of the casting. If you are a Dane Cook fan then have at this film, but anyone else should avoid. Go watch Mr Brooks if you want a film that actually gives us a decent Dane Cook performance. Simon Sez this review is done.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Valentine (2001)

“You brought me upstairs to show me your penis? How sweet!”

Director: Jamie Blanks
Starring: Denise Richards, David Boreanaz and Marley Shelton
Writers: Donna Powers, Wayne Powers, Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts

With the likes of horror movie giants such as Halloween and Black Christmas, there has been a lust by movie studios to make horror movies tied to holiday’s in the hopes of hitting another great combo. Father’s Day, prom nights, thanksgiving (or was that just Eli Roth fake trailer); there are heaps of movies out there. So does this movie make Valentine’s Day a day to be fearful of?

Well not really. As the movie progressed I just didn’t have much sympathy for the main characters. They seemed like very shallow people, who while not disserving of their fates, didn’t really help themselves. The killers back story is also fairly stupid. While school bullying is traumatic, and what he went through is one of the worst forms of that, I’ve met people who’ve gone through worse and haven’t decided to become killers. Still horror movies have made killers, kill for less so I guess I can’t give Valentine too much crap. Oh until the end game is revealed. Then the motivations make no damn sense.

Acting wise no one really stands out, yet at the same time it’s not that bad. Most of the problems with the character come from scripting and dialogue. Out of the core females I like Marley Shelton (Kate) the most. Which is a good thing considering Kate is the lead character. Oh and I might as well mention David Boreanaz. He was okay as Angel in the Buffy series and his own but I’ve never been a big fan, he just never seems to really hit the right note. In this movie yet again, I can’t put my finger on it but he just seems off. And not in that red herring way, in that he’s not a good actor way.

As for all the blood, gore and slasher like escapades it’s okay. Nothing really to write to the haunted home about, horror hounds will be bored and others will not be scared. If you are after holiday themed horror movies there are better ones out there. Not good, not bad, this just exists in the weird in-between zone.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: The Expendables 2 (2012)

“Six pounds of pure plutonium is powerful enough to change the balance of the world. Imagine what five tons will do.”

Director: Simon West
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme
Writers: Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone

When I watched the first Expendables I had some fun but was ultimately disappointed. I think this was mainly thanks to the editing. All these fights, and old stars kicking ass and I had trouble watching the thing. Whether this could be levelled in Stallones direction, it doesn’t matter as a new director might finally give me the movie I’m after.

Well I kind of got what I wanted. Stallone attempted some cool things with the first movie, but I just don’t think he really got a handle of it all. Simon West goes the other way and doesn’t really bring anything to the table. But he’s competent and at least this time the editing flowed better with the movie and while hectic you could see all the action happening. And it is now at this point I become a squealing fanboy as everything else was just damn awesome.

One of the biggest improvements story wise was the movie just leapt moving from one set piece to the next without taking the long periods of self reflection the first one did. As a celebration of the action icons of the past this is exactly how it should be. The story still has moments of navel gazing, and old timers feeling the weight of time and choices but this sequel balances this with the hardcore action and over the top violence.

Now onto the stars of this movie. Each actor is basically playing a glorified version of themselves, all the parts they’ve played rolled into one. Basically take a look at all the actors and if you like the list you’ll love this movie. But it’s not fair to leave it at that without singling three of my favourites. Dolph Lundgren steals a fair few of his scenes, and it was great to see him have a bigger part. I so want to see him and Jet Li do a buddy movie. Love or hate Chuck Norris the person, I have a fondness for Chuck Norris the action star. I loved watching his movies and seeing him here was great. His character in this is born from all the Chuck Norris memes on the internet, in fact they even manage to cram one of the Chuck Norris jokes in this movie. Finally there is the MVP of this movie, a man who isn’t playing an amplified version of himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. The villain of the movie called Vilain (get it) and he’s just a bad ass. Smooth, psychopathic, able to jump kick Stallone’s head off. He’s everything you could want in a bad guy and I wish he was in the movie more.

Action is jam packed into this movie, and there were plenty of moments that I was cheering. Truly this was the movie that glorified the magnificent cheese of past action movies. Gauging from the audience’s reaction everyone was into the movie. It was also nice to see everyone get an action scene for audiences to cheer for. It did make me miss Arnold. However there was a downside to some of the action and that were the CGI blood effects. It wasn’t so much the over the topness of the effects but they really did look bad. What ever happened to using fake blood and a pump? Oh and i'm not sure if this was a problem with my cinema's print, but the quality was pretty bad with it being exceptionally grainy and low quality.

Expendables 2 was much better than the first. It got the balance better between action and reflective moments, with it realising that it needs to embrace the cheese. Just from the cast you should be able to figure out if you want to go along. If you were put off a little with the first movie, give this a go. I honestly can’t wait for the third movie. Time to bring on the CAGE!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review: Total Recall (2012)

“If I'm not me, then who the hell am I?”

Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Bryan Cranston
Writers: Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback

Get your ass to mars! See you at the party Ricter! Get ready for a surprise! Line upon line of cheese and yet the original Total Recall manages to stand up to the test of time. Well maybe the SFX might be a tad dated but still the movie is solid over the top fun. Now I never thought I would ever say this about an Arnold Schwarzenegger but in the wake of watching the new remake, the original is a actually subtler and more thought provoking. So how does the remake fumble the ball? Read on.

Douglas Quaid is a factory worker who isn’t happy with his life. He then hears about Rekall, a company that can implant false memories in a persons mind and have them live out fantasy’s they never could otherwise. The procedure sets off a hidden personality and everything he thought he knew comes crashing down around him. Cut to action scenes and evil baddies being evil.

The biggest problem with Total Recall is when it tries to ape the original it really does suck. References don’t work, scenes seem out of place, and it really made me yearn for the original. However when it does its own thing, and introduces new ideas it really starts to gel and it had me paying complete attention. There is a genuinely good movie here hampered by being a remake. This remake also tries to play things rather seriously, and yet at the same time tries to be a fun action movie. These ideas don’t work, the reason why the original was fun, was it embraced it’s cheesiness.

Colin Farrell does not help this movie at all. I like the man, when he does weird characters he really does shine and have a lot of talent. But in the lead roles he always comes off one note. Honestly he would have worked better as the villain. Speaking of villains this is where the movie shines. Kate Beckinsale plays Lori, the agent sent to keep an eye on Quaid and then chase him down. She is an evil menace and comes across as a competent villain that could easily kick your ass. Her roles in Underworld really do her no favours as she has to play Selene very cold. Kate really needs to do more roles like this as it shows she is very capable. Bryan Cranston is great, but never given much to do. DAMN IT HOLLYWOOD, give this man a bigger role already, I’m sick of him rocking up in movies shining for two minutes then disappearing. While a fan of Jessica Biel, she isn’t really given much to do. Oh well I guess I’ll have to see her do a good job in The Tall Man movie.

Plot wise the movie is actually a lot simpler than the original. Any question of what is real is given some lip service right at the end, but quickly moves ahead before the audience starts thinking too much. The movie is more concerned with action and looking pretty. And while the action seemed a little long and not very impactful, everything looked awesome. Future worlds always interest me, and this was pretty impressive, a nice blend of ideas.

If you are a fan of the original be prepared to be disappointed, but there is actually some good things about this movie and it’s hard to dismiss it out right. Got a few hours spare, and want to watch a good looking science fiction movie with some awesome villains then this movie could be for you.