Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Retired Extremely Dangerous.


So Bruce Willis is a retired CIA agent, who knows too much and has to be killed, along with Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich (Helen Miren joins up later). We are not sure why they must be killed and it doesn’t really matter, I guess it does, but even now I don’t remember why – something about the VP and some rich guy.

Whatever, the story isn’t the big point of this movie – based on a DC comic that I never read (or heard of) – it’s kind of like The Losers, its more about cool characters that do cool things. Unlike The Losers, these characters are retired, which is kind of neat and introducing all the characters was the best part of the film.

John Malkovich was the best by far, his paranoid, gun-crazy attitude was like a retired Murdoch (from A-Team), but it isn’t paranoia cause they really are after him!

This was a fun and enjoyable movie if nothing else. The story was predictable and didn’t really do anything interesting, they are good, the others are bad and that’s it. Karl Urban plays the CIA agent who is after them and you just know he will turn good in the end – this isn’t even a give-a-away, unless you have never seen an action film in your life.

The other problem is that besides Willis and Malkovich the others are just “old CIA agents” – they are not very distinct from each other. I mean any of their dialogue could have been spoken by any of them and it would still make sense. Like in A-Team if BA said “I love it when a plan comes together,” we know it wouldn’t make sense cause he is not the planner, that was Hannibal. In Red any of them could have said any of the lines cause they were not distinct enough from each other (except Willis and Malkovich).

Anyway it was a fun movie, a possible buy on dvd – if I get the urge to see it again, check it out for a few laughs.



Saturday, October 16, 2010

The one you know

M. Night didn't direct this one, he just came up with the story and produced it. The guy who directed Quarantine directed this one. So, the question is, does this one continue M. Night's descent towards Uwe Boll territory, or what?

So, in case you don't know, Devil is about these 5 people trapped on an elevator, and one is the devil. We learn that there's this old legend that the devil will come down to Earth in human guise, torture people, and then kill them. Only people who deserve it though, and that's where our trouble begins.

Firstly, the movie has a nice concept, but it's flawed. Due to the fact that we are not to find out who the devil is until the end of the film, then the devil can't kill in broad daylight in the elevator. That leads to all the kills happening in the dark, complete with the gruesome sound effects. The lights come back on, and someone is dead. Now, like I said, for the movie, that makes sense, but it doesn't make much sense if you think about it. If you're the devil, don't you want to take out everyone as soon as possible? If the devil had, he might have got away with all the souls! (more on that later...)

Oh right though, it's because he's psychologically torturing his prey! Right? Err, wrong. This is the laziest devil in history. Other than giving a woman a scratch in the side, this devil does nothing. All the torment they go through is stuff they caused themselves. I guess the devil was tormenting them by trapping them in an elevator? But that's pretty weak. I want a vicious devil, not a lackadasical one!

At the end, one of the guys repents for his sins (they're all bad, but not murderer or rapist bad...more like insurance fraud obviously, the devil couldn't get more souls more worthy of punishment, like say, death row), and the devil then can't take his soul. Wha? So that's it, you just have to apologize for your sins and the devil can't do anything? Okay, I'm sorry I ever hurt anyone in the my life. Okay, now the devil can never get me! WHAT? Who thought of this? To make it worse, the crime this guy perpetrated (and it was an accident, not pre-meditated) was against this cop (he killed the cop's wife and son), and the cop, after 5 years of drinking, and almost ending his own life, finally finds the guy who offs his family...and he forgives the guy, too! Wow! Everyone seems to be in a forgiving mood for a movie called DEVIL!!!!!!

And what was with that guard? The narrator of the movie? One guy dies in the elevator, and he starts telling the cop "It's the Devil!!!" What? Who does that? I mean, I know M. Night is Mr. Exposition now in his movies, but c'mon, you expect me to believe one person dies in the movie, and he's like "It's the Devil, my Mother told me this tale!"???

I didn't hate the movie, though. There was good spookiness in the film, and it is interesting to try and pick the devil out of the suspects, though I singled out the culprit pretty easily. You're also sort of wondering who is going to die outside the elevator, and some people do die. The concept, like I said, is neat, and the filmmaker was smart enough to keep the movie short, so as to not expand the existing plot holes.

That said, this movie was ok. There's problems with the storyline, and the devil is too easily recognized for it to work effectively as a mystery, especially to people who have watched tons of mysteries and plot twists. I will say it was a nice attempt at a claustrophobic horror movie, but at the end of the day, it didn't quite live up to it's promise.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

- Stephenstein

The Mummy (1959)

From the back of the DVD box: “In Hammer Studio’s vivid 1959 Technicolor reincarnation of The Mummy, screen horror icon Christopher Lee wraps on the moldy gauze bandages and emerges as the tormented Kharis, an avenger stalking the hills and bogs of Victorian England to track down archeologist John Banning (Peter Cushing) and other desecrators of his beloved Princess Ananka’s Egyptian tomb.”

Another great Hammer rejuvenation of a classic franchise. I love mummy movies, and this is pretty much what I think of when I think of Mummy flicks. This ain’t some cheap normal guy devoid of bandages. Lee sports the bandages through out the movie. He’s a friggin’ juggernaut too, an unstoppable force in all of his door busting, metal bending, crushing strangulation glory. Cushing is as good as ever as an archeologist slowly realizing that the curse of the tomb is real.

I was never bored with this one. It’s the classic definition of creature feature. And the colours are vibrant and pop off the screen, especially during the ancient Egypt flashbacks. This is what Mummy movies should be. I was always disappointed that the newer Brendan Fraser flicks were so adventure-oriented. When the hell did Mummy movies turn into Indiana Jones rip-offs?? Hollywood should make more Mummy movies like this one. They won’t, but they should.

After this, Hammer made three sequels, almost having nothing to do with each other: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), The Mummy’s Shroud (1967), and Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) (which didn’t have a traditional wrapped-up mummy in it).

4 out of 5.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Horror of Dracula (1958)

From the DVD box: “Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, Britain’s Premier masters of the macabre, bring the Horror of Dracula to vivid, full-colour death in this retelling of Bram Stoker’s spellbinding vampire tale. Dracula (Lee), a centuries-old nobleman damned to an eternal half-life, travels from his native Transylvania to London. In the lurid nightlife of his adopted city, he finds new victims. He also finds Dr. Van Helsing (Cushing), a scientist who becomes the Count’s implacable foe in a deadly game of bat-and-mouse.”

This is the first of Hammer’s successful Dracula movies, teaming Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing respectively. Batman fans will also recognize Michael Gough (Alfred in WB’s 1989 to 1997 Batman films) as the brother of vampire victim Lucy. Christopher Lee starts out charming when he welcomes Jonathan Harker into his castle, but pours on the menace when he is revealed to be the vampire scourge Count Dracula. I love when Dracula is choking Van Helsing toward the end of the movie and a vague smile begins to slowly creep across the Count’s face when he realizes he’s winning the fight. Cushing is terrific as Van Helsing. He has a cool, calm demeanor compared to the panicked victims around him since the character has studied vampirism all his life and is intimately familiar with the creatures to the point of clinical coldness.

Dracula looks his best when ample amounts of blood are dipping from his mouth, complete with bloodshot eyes. It’s a classic look and is best done with Christopher Lee. Dracula’s defeat in the end is spectacular and very graphic. Note that I said “defeat” as, even though it looks like a death, we all know there are eight (count ‘em – EIGHT!!) Hammer Dracula films after this one.

Zippy pacing, great gory effects, terrific cinematography, and cool characters (like Van Helsing and Gogh’s character Arthur that you want to root for, and Dracula who is undeniably evil and terrifying) make Horror of Dracula a real treat.

4 out of 5.


The Hand (1981)

Michael Cain stars as Jon Lansdale, a comic strip artist who creates the weekly exploits of a Conan-ish character called Mandro. He loses his hand in a gory accident (the scene doesn’t skimp on the gore), and the hand is never found. Jon’s shaky marriage results in separation with Jon’s wife taking their daughter away for a bit. Jon gets a metal hand to replace his old one (it has the crushing force of Bruce Campbell’s hand from Army of Darkness), he gets increasingly depressed about losing his old hand, gets a job teaching at a University and has an affair with one of his students. Jon also experiences black-outs and murders start happening around him. Could it be the disembodied hand? Could Jon be murdering people without knowing it?

I enjoyed this movie. Being written and directed by Oliver Stone, this shows a very playful side to the director who went on to do stuff like JFK and Nixon. There’s a great scene where Michael Cain argues with the replacement writer of Mandro that Mandro is an action character, after seeing the changes the writer has brought to the character such as introspection and angst. “You don’t cut the balls off of Superman!” Cain yells. With this scene, Oliver Stone predicted the shape of things to come 20 years later with audiences demanding realistic, watered down fantasy with an emphasis on “themes” and “massages” rather than actual fun.

As for the movie itself, the disembodied hand is depicted as killing the victims in the movie (including Oliver Stone himself as a homeless man). You’re supposed to be left wondering if we’re watching Cain’s version of events from his head, or if the hand really is going around killing people that Cain’s character secretly hates. By the end, it’s still not really clear, but I vote that the disembodied hand is real. If it’s not, Cain’s character also has that super-strong metal hand that’s thrown in for good measure.

By the end of the movie, I felt like I witnessed the birth of a new franchise character. Had the film been successful, I’m sure we would have seen the countless sequels that accompanied stuff like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween at the time. Michael Cain would have been one of the horror heroes of the period and Oliver Stone’s career would have probably been very different. But alas, it was not meant to be.

4 out of 5. Really good movie. Well written, well shot, well acted (especially Michael Cain), great Stan Winston special effects.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Deadly Friend (1986)

Continuing on my horror movie binge, I dug out Deadly Friend out of my shelf. This was directed by Wes Craven in a time where he claimed his bitter divorce was affecting his work, resulting in a shoddy movie (I can’t remember where I saw this, it was on some show about horror movies). Deadly Friend took forever to come onto DVD, which it did a couple years ago. Before that, it was destined to be the long lost Wes Craven movie.

Well, despite what Craven himself might say, I really like this film. It has its flaws, but it’s not shit. Paul and his mother are new to some suburb somewhere. Paul’s a whiz kid who has built a robot with artificial intelligence. Anyway, Paul befriends a girl next door, Samantha (Kristy Swanson), whose father regularly abuses her. Paul encounters other denizens of his neighborhood, like the crazy lady who barricades her house and brandishes a shot gun, Elvira Parker (Anne Ramsey of Goonies and Throw Mama From The Train fame), and the local, snot-nosed biker toughs. Elvira destroys Pauls robot when they trespass on her lawn, and later Samantha is killed by her abusive father. So, Paul decides to rebuild his robot with Samantha’s body(!). Bloody revenge, Kristy Swanson looking as hot as she can in frumpy 80’s clothes, and awkward robot movement/acting ensue.

I really like the typical 80’s movie version of suburbia that was so pervasive in that decade. Everyone knows each other, kids play outside, there’s a golden hue to everything somehow – I like all of that. The robot itself is really cool for its time. Kinda looks like a 5 foot version of the TOMY robot toys of the period. Seeing Anne Ramsey is always cool. That voice and face cannot be matched. Her death in the movie is the infamous basketball to the head death, for which this movie was known on the internet for some time before the DVD was finally released. Her head explodes with the force of the ball and she runs around literally like a chicken with its head cut off. The father’s death is pretty damn good too, as far as these kinds of movies go.

On the down side, there are long drawn-out scenes that seemed unnecessary and could have been trimmed (like Paul and his friend retrieving Sam’s body from the hospital which you can fast forward through – we get it, they have to sneak in and get the body, we know they’ll succeed otherwise there would be no movie). Other than that, Kristy Swanson should sue her “mime coach” (as its credited in the end credits) for her laughable, arms outstretch, robot acting. It’s horrible. And what’s more, her hands are in the Vulcan “live long and prosper” symbol for the whole movie, supposedly mimicking the original robot’s pincers.

Anyhoo, this movie is worth checking out, especially if you like horror.

3.5 out of 5


The Reptile (1966)

AMC has taken to showing old Hammer horror movies on Friday nights, sometimes stringing four or five together in one night. I’ve tried to catch as much as I can. The other night they played The Reptile, a unique film in that the main monster was female (Hammer sometimes tried to stray away from the all-male sausage factory the world of monsters can sometimes be) and the monster wasn’t a vampire or other traditional beast.

The film opens with a man being attacked and killed (complete with puffy face, fothing mouth and blackened skin) by . . . something. His brother Harry Spalding and Harry’s wife Valerie arrive at the house of the dead brother sometime later. Harry is intent on finding out what really happened to his brother as other mysterious murders take place in the small village. Eventually, Harry finds out that the next door neighbors, Dr. Franklin and his daughter Anna, are prisoners of their own Indian servant who worships a snake cult and turns Anna into a half woman, half snake, determined to bring pain and chaos into the world.

As with most Hammer movies, the film unfolds as a mystery which eventually leads to the pay-off of seeing the monster, and then follows through for another 30 minutes with the story. I found this one kinda slow in the beginning (save for the kill in the beginning), introducing lots of characters that will eventually be fodder for the snake woman. When we finally do see the snake man (because there's another snake dude before we see the snake lady), it’s pretty pumped. The hideous face and flexible, realistic monster make-up come out of left field. The monster looks so good, it almost looks like it belongs in another movie. I don’t think they made any more Reptile movies beyond this one, which is a shame. The misty, secret, underground cave where rituals are performed to create the snake lady, images of cages full of bunnies, kittens and puppies on which the snake lady feeds, and the snake lady herself were enough to carry the film and make it a welcome change of pace from the usual vampire fare. But it takes a while to get to these things.

3 out of 5.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not in 3D

Well, I refused to see this one in theatres, just because of the 3D garbage. I hate 3D. It's a gimmick, and I hate gimmicks, especially lame gimmicks, and 3D is in my opinion, a lame gimmick. So I waited, and caught this one elsewhere. I like the Resident Evil franchise, I own all the movies, so I wanted to see this one. Just not in 3D.

So what's new? Well, let's start with what's old. Alice and her clones are back (the clones don't last too long, unfortunately). Claire is back, and is joined by her brother, Chris (and you fans of the game franchise know who he is). K-Mart is back in a small role, as well. The zombies are still there, and Albert Wesker is back (he's the main villain now, and yeah, it only took 4 films to make him the main villain, but then again, they were too busy dealing with the various freaks).

This one starts off where the last one left off. Alice storms Umbrella's Tokyo base, and then heads to Alaska for a less than hopeful discovery. Then she ends in Los Angeles with Claire, where there's a bunch of new people to run into (including Chris), zombies to fight (including an Axeman who is a dead ringer for the terrifying Ax guy in Silent Hill), humans to fight with (Kim Coates is the resident jerk in this one), and at the end, when the credits are rolling, an old face returns, setting up who the main villain would be in the next movie (hint: this character was last seen in the 2nd film).

So how was it? Good. I wouldn't say I liked it more than part 3, but that's for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I was disappointed that the clones were wiped out fairly quickly. Okay, I know logistically, they can't have multiple Alice's running around the entire film. Okay, fine. Then why even introduce the idea? Then right at the beginning, they have Alice lose all her powers. Once again, this is because she can basically just create an earthquake, and wipe out everything, and it really doesn't matter in the rest of the film if she has the powers or not (Milla is still badass), but once again, then why bother? I'm not a fan of people losing powers, especially characters who are the main heroes.

I was disappointed by the last fight in the film, too. They set up Wesker as this unstoppable, superhuman guy, who took out both Claire and Chris, after fighting them both at the same time. Milla, though? De-powered Milla? She doesn't fight Wesker, the final boss. She just shoots him a couple of times in the head. That's it. That's the extent of the final confrontation between him and her. Big deal. They could have got anyone to do that. I wanted a big superhuman fight, not Kill Bill 2! Now, it's set up he can return in the next film as well, but if that's the extent their going to use him, then he might as well have stayed dead.

I did still like the movie, though. The action is pretty good (and you can see it all, so that's a plus). Milla uses a variety of weapons (swords, explosives, machine guns), and she's the same, Milla is the rock of this franchise, and as long as they have her, you're going to do okay in these films. The supporting cast is the usual assortment of stock types (the arrogant schmuck, the buff, but logical dude, the guy whose good with machinery), and the majority of fighting is relegated to enclosed spaces again (Umbrella's Tokyo Base, a Los Angeles prison), so if you're a fan of action taking place in small, enclosed locations, than you'll like this movie.

That's about it. It's Resident Evil, so you all know what to expect. It was a decent effort in the series, and I am curious to how 5 will play out.

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars.

- Stephenstein

Better than a Gladiator


Well, I've liked every Neil Marshall film I've seen to date (Dog Soldiers, Descent, Doomsday). I also own every Neil Marshall film to date. Why? Because Neill Marshall likes movies, and he knows what audiences like about movies: great characters, intense scenes, good action, interesting premises, and cool storylines. He came out with this little film here, and no one saw it because it got a limited release. For shame Hollywood. For shame.

For those who don't know what this movie is about, it's about the Romans and the Picts. The Romans had this vast empire, but were having problems in Northern Britain, where the Picts were located. They were fighting back against the Empire, so they had to do something about it. Cue the 9th Legion, their most feared battalion. Led by Dominic West's General, and sent by Paul Freeman (Rene Belloc from Indiana Jones), these guys run into resistance. Eventually, Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) tries to lead the survivors of the massacre back to freedom, and that's where the fun really begins.

Now, let's take what we know about most war films. Let's say Steven Spielberg is directing a war film. The Americans are the good guys, and the Nazi's are the bad guys. The Americans are noble, altruistic apple pie types, who fight for liberty, justice and the American Way. The Nazis are evil, child-murdering, remorseless bastards who would kill their own mother for a dime. Sound familiar? Yeah, this movie isn't that. It's war as it really is. There's no good guys, and there's no bad guys...there's just brutality, and in this film, there is a LOT of brutality and gore.

I guess Fassbender is the one true good guy in the movie, even though he's on the side of the Romans, who aren't so good. I'm talking about stabbing your friend and leaving him to die to the wolves so you can survive bad. Then again, the Picts aren't much better, and actually display similar behaviour to the Romans. They decapitate their quarry, they scare and outcast their own people, they fight the Romans, but the odd thing is, they are the Romans in some twisted way. It's neat stuff, and definitely not your run of the mill war movie.

I have to touch on Olga Kurylenko. She was in Quantum of Solace (or Quantum of Sol-ass, if you will), and really didn't show much in the film. In this movie, she's probably the most feared and fearsome character in the film. She's a mute Pict tracker and hunter, and whoo-boy, is she lethal. Ask the poor guy who tried to assassinate Paul Freeman who scary she is. The thing is, you hate her through the film, because she's just so brutal, and so relentless, but her back story is so terrible, you kind of feel sorry for her, even though you want her dead at the same time. It's a really unique feeling.

Be warned though, there's gore galore in this film, and it doesn't flinch from showing you the gruesome details. I can see a lot of people not being able to stomach some of what they see, but hey, Neill Marshall has already demonstrated he has an unflinching mondus operandi in all things bloody, so just know who you're getting into.

Problems with the movie? I guess the only thing I can say is, because all the characters are real, and not completely good or bad, you're kind of left on the fence about who you're really rooting for in this film. Fassbender is the most likeable character, but even he has his flaws -- you get the sense that he can be just as brutal and unforgiving to his opponents as the rest. While this is a fresh take on this sort of film, it also compells the viewer to ever so slightly not give a damn who ends up dead. That's a small critique though, considering how really good this movie is.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars.

- Stephenstein

The Social Network

My wife and I saw the much hyped The Social Network last night. The two others on this blog were instantly pissed at this movie the first time they ever saw the trailer. I was indifferent. I knew what kind of movie it was going to be. It was never going to be “The Facebook Movie” with enterprising young men making a web site while encountering funny, endearing high jinks along the way. I knew it was going to be how this Mark Zuckerberg guy, “founder” of Facebook, is a douche-bag who steamrollered over his friends to become famous, rich and successful.

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a wunderkind, who along with his roommates and best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield – the next Spider-Man, don’t ya know), all go to school at Harvard. Zuckerberg (with help from Saverin) shows his prowess at the internet by creating an offensive site that garners 24000 hits in a few hours, catching the attention of two enterprising students, the Winklevoss brothers (both apparently played by Armie Hammer, who was to be Batman in WB’s now dead JLA movie). The Winklevosses (Winklevi as Zuckerberg calls them) have an idea to make a site similar to Freindster and MySpace but more exclusive and they need Zuckerberg’s help in building it. Zuckerberg agrees, but then goes off and embellishes the concept, creating the site himself and blowing off the Winklevosses whenever they want to meet with him to discuss the site. They get pissed when it’s launched without them and becomes instantly popular. That’s lawsuit #1. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg uses Eduardo Saverin’s help to bankroll the site, spending his money on servers, staff, etc. Enter Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the man who brought the music industry to its knees with Napster before being deluged by lawsuits. He sees potential in Facebook, bedazzles Zuckerberg with visions of how rich and famous the site can make him, and convinces Zuckerberg to axe Saverin (Zuckerberg’s one true friend in the world) and disavow any knowledge of Saverin being a co-founder. That’s lawsuit #2.

I actually liked this movie. I didn’t think I would. Let’s get into what’s good about it. First, it’s pretty slick looking. They got an actual good director, David Fincher, to helm the project and it’s got a style and rhythm all its own. Characters are introduced with clever scenes that show exactly what their personalities are, and the film moves at a brisk pace. The soundtrack is wicked too. It sounds like a cross between a horror movie score and Tron. You’d have to hear it to see what I’m talking about.

As well, the acting is very, very good. Jesse Eisenberg creates a vile, sometimes sympathetic character in Mark Zuckerberg. He so desperately wants to be “in” and liked. Facebook is totally an extension of this guy. Timberlake is good as emperor of douche-bags Sean Parker. He plays the character like the tempting devil it is. Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin is set up as the most likable character. I don’t know if that’s true to real life or not, but it works here. But the two characters I really loved were the Winklevoss bros. Holy crap, man! Are these dudes based on real life people? They’re these two 6 foot 5, blond, muscular jocks who regularly compete in rowing competitions and constantly wear suits and ties and talk in restrained tones and eloquent language befitting a Harvard student, which flies in the face of the expectation that these guys would be tough, muscle-head jocks that punch first and ask questions later. They have some of the best lines in the movie. When one of the Winklevosses wants to go to Zuckerberg and confront him directly as to why he’s blowing them off, he’s asked why by a friend, to which he responds “I’m muscular, athletic, 6’5, and there’s two of me!” Later, when the Winklevosses are being persuaded by a friend to fight Zuckerberg in the media for control over Facebook, one of the brothers says that would look bad. When asked how bad, he says “Like dressing up in skeleton costumes and chasing the Karate Kid bad!” I couldn’t stop laughing. These dudes are the best, and I can’t imagine that the real guys are as pumped as this.

Now for the bad. First off, when the movie ended, my Wife said, “That’s it??” When all was said and done, it didn’t seem like a worthwhile story to tell. It’s your typical “dude steps on everyone dear to him on the way to the top and is left with no one, living with regret and pining for companionship.” Yep, that’s basically it. It’s a good thing they got Fincher to direct and Aaron Sorkin to write in order to make all this at least entertaining. As well, there are two simultaneous lawsuits being shown throughout with the events leading up to Facebook and the two lawsuits told as the bulk of the movie in flashbacks. At first, this is actually a little confusing, but once you get used to the people involved with each lawsuit, you can tell those scenes apart.

Beyond all of that, it’s still decent entertainment. I loved the first and last scenes. They really sum up the character of Mark Zuckerberg (at least, according to the film). In the first scene, Zuckerberg is condescending to his then girlfriend, implying that she’s stupid and isn’t popular enough, and she breaks up with him, saying that he will probably go through life thinking girls don’t like him because he’s too nerdy, but it’s really because he’s an asshole. In the final scene, Zuckerberg talks to a lawyer (played by Rashida Jones) and as she leaves, she tells Zuckerberg that she doesn’t think he’s an asshole, she just thinks he tries really hard to be an asshole. Zuckerberg's a little stunned by this and, on Facebook, attempts to “friend request” the girl from the first scene. She never responds. That’s probably what I liked best about this movie. Through the Zuckerberg character, The Social Network is really making fun of the insecure, teeny-boppers who make up the bulk of Facebook’s membership.

3 out of 5. Watch only if you’re curious. And for the Winklevoss brothers. They're frickin' awesome.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Omen (1976)

Gregory Peck plays American Ambassador Robert Thorn who, while on a trip in Rome (and on June 6 at 6 a.m.), becomes the proud papa of a baby boy – or so he thought. The baby is stillborn, Peck is upset (the mother apparently doesn’t know!), and a Minister offers to switch the dead baby for one that’s perfectly alive (born on June 6 at 6 a.m.), saying “Your wife will be none the wiser!”. Reluctantly, Peck agrees, and so Peck and wife raise this boy as their own, naming him Damien Thorn. But mysterious deaths start occurring when Damien is 5, sending Peck on a journey of discovery and death that leads to the uncovering of a vast conspiracy. You see, some in the church believe that the boy is the son of the devil who has been sent to earth to destroy mankind, and will do anything to make that prophecy in the book of Revelations come true.

Despite some silliness in the premise, The Omen was a huge deal when it came out in 1976. In a time when studios still segregated their releases (big star-powered releases in white areas, blacksploitation in black neighborhoods, sexploitation in gritty, urban centres, and all movies cascading from limited release to wide release only if they were hits), The Omen was one of those few cross-over movies that was so successful, it attracted audiences of all types. Non-white audiences and rural audiences ventured to the rich urban areas to see what all the fuss was about, and as a result The Omen was a huge financial success for its time. Beyond that, Jerry Goldsmith’s score went on to win the Oscar for best original score, and is mostly responsible for all the choral chanting you hear in most scores today (especially in trailer music). As well, and most importantly to me, this is the movie that landed Richard Donner the gig to direct Superman.

Watching The Omen 34 years later, it hasn’t aged terribly well. The movie really picks up steam an hour in (it’s an hour and forty minutes), but I’ll get to that in a bit. First off, as I said before, the premise seems odd. Why would Peck’s character agree to switching his baby for some strange newborn he doesn’t even know the medical history of?? Audiences in 1976 apparently didn’t seem to care. Also, I’ve seen many films where someone is supposed to be some sort of prophesied anti-christ, destined to destroy the world, and then nothing happens beyond a few “accidental” murders here and there immediately around said anti-christ. Nothing on a global scale. Humanity doesn’t suffer, is not enslaved, and is never in any real danger. That’s my problem with these Omen movies. You know, there are four in this series before they remade it. In The Omen II, the kid is a little older, some deaths heppen, and the movie ends. In the The Omen III: The Final Conflict, an up-and-coming Sam Neil plays a grown up Damien Thorn who still doesn’t do much. In The Omen IV: The Awakening, the devil is apparently disappointed with Damien’s performance in the last three movies becaue a new anti-christ is born, this time as a girl. She only lasts one movie, so I don’t think she was terribly successful either.

Aside from all of that, I really liked the second half of this film. That’s when Robert Thorn teams up with this photographer who sees visions in his photos of foreign objects slicing and dicing the subjects in his pictures, foretelling their deaths. There’s a neat impaling death, a cool decapitation, and Damien’s adoptive mother suffers not one, but two very high falls. Damien’s nanny turns out to be some sort of devil worshipper with a really mean dog (whom Peck fights in the final act). Robert and this photographer travel to the Middle east to uncover the truth about Damien, revealing that he is in fact the anti-christ, born under a comet that appeared on the opposite side of the world from where the Star of David appeared (and there’s other stuff about Jews returning to Zion, a Roman empire of sorts building, etc.). Robert, after a lot of coaxing, is then convinced that he must kill his five-year-old son. As you can see from the next three sequels, he doesn’t succeed.

Those final 40 minutes did a good job in setting up an atmosphere of foreboding and really saved this movie for me. Plus, Gregory Peck as the conflicted Robert Thorn is awesome. Just his face and old-world no-nonsense male attitude are cool (nowadays, we have frickin’ Michael Cera and his ilk, representing the wussification of the male in cinema).

The Omen is worth a peak nowadays, if only to glimpse at 70’s era apocalyptic paranoia, coming from a time where people really thought the world was coming to an end (the nuclear arms race, cold war tension, the oil crisis of the 70’s).

3 out of 5.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Give'r - The life and times of Terry and Dean.

Turn down the suck – FUBAR.

I know this is an old movie and I saw it in the theatre when it came out, but I thought it would be good to review it here, since part 2 just came out.

I feel that the 2 films are basically one long film and one that is worthy of praise. You see when fubar came out people thought that Terry and Dean were real people. About half way through the movie I realized they were not, and was a bit disturb at how real they seemed.

I mean the movie is shot in a documentary style (or mocumentary, if you will) and the dialogue and characters seem real. Maybe it was like a Borat or Bruno – where the leads are actors and they encounter real people – I don’t know, but whatever, it really seems real to me.

This brings up a very important issue, if they are real, then whatever happens to them, good or bad affects you in a way. Like if you know you are watching a show, then it doesn’t matter cause everyone is an actor, but this film is done so well that you believe them as real people and feel sorry for them. They are morons, but you have spent time with them, and got to know them, they are your morons. And no matter what you may think of them, you have to kind of like them. They don’t hurt anyone, they don’t really do much damage, they are just headbangers. This is their lifestyle for better or worse. And even though they fight with each other, they are good friends.

The first film turns serious at the half way mark when Dean gets cancer in his testicles. At that point I had a feeling this film was fake and I had no doubt it was fake when the director died on camera – which would never be shown in theatres – what snuff films in the mainstream? Anyway the film get serious and I actually felt bad for Dean. He beats the cancer and is able to continue on with his life.

The films serious moments are book ended by some of the funniest lines in film. The “Turn up the good, turn down the suck,” line is just classic now, and the “You can shit in mouth line,” line is the funniest moment ever! Plus Dean’s plan B is great - “give’r” – “you go out and work hard, you give’r” – makes sense to me!

The film ends on a high note as Dean has beat the cancer, but what happens to them afterward?

I don’t need a duck – FUBAR II

Give’r again – we catch up to Terry and Dean a few years after part one, they still mention their buddy Tron (who in the first film couldn’t go party with them cause his girlfriend wouldn’t let him), well Tron has since dumped her and is working on the pipe line in the north. He is a party animal and has grown his beard nice and long (hoping to appear in a Viking film I guess), it is said that Farrell (the director who died in the previous film) is watching over Dean’s testicle in heaven (a fact that is confirmed when we see the ghost of Farrell), and even the doctor comes back!

This time around Dean’r and Terry have been evicted and need to get jobs, Tron offers them jobs at the pipeline, but it’s one of those cases where Tron probably thinks they wont take him up on his offer, but Terry is thinking to the future and is maturing a bit so he and Dean drive up north to take the jobs. One of the best moments in the film is when they pick up a hitchhiker who says he is protesting oil companies and how they pollute the water and how oil kills ducks – to which Dean replies, “I don’t need a duck,” the funniest line in the movie. They also tell the hitchhiker that he wouldn’t be getting a drive now if there wasn’t any oil, and if he feels so strongly about it he can go out and push the car – which he does, and then they take off on him! So much for your big stance against oil companies! Hahaha.

When Dean and Terry show up to get jobs, Tron is stunned and then is forced to give them jobs. You get the impression he doesn’t want to be associated with them – they are only fun at parties. Anyway I wont give away what happens, but I really liked this movie!

It started off a bit crappy with an eviction party where they destroy Terry’s house – but that was only a quick set up for more fun and a few more serious moments, which I actually thought were really well done. At one point I was feeling really bad for the guys and I was kind of like when did this turn into a drama!

But that is the mark of good writing and good characterizations that I can feel happy and sad just as Terry and Dean do.

I take these 2 films seriously, sure they are fun and wacky, but they are really well made movies that are enjoyable on more than just a level of stupidity you find in the Jackass crowd, which I hate btw. The difference? Well at no point in time are Terry and Dean supposed be heroes or people to look up to. This film also shows consequences to their behaviour and its not fun. Unlike something like Hangover which shows the same kind of dumbass attitude, but shows no consequences to anyone’s actions.

These are real movies.

Turn up the good and check these out.



Monday, October 4, 2010

They will take you.


I really enjoyed this rollercoaster ride of a movie. I wasn’t aware that Hollywood could actually produce a good one of these – revenge/get your kid back etc film.

Ransom was just ok, Man on fire was a let down, and the Death Wish movies have already had like 4 or 5 sequels, and no one but me would remake the Exterminator series, so it was up to good old Liam Neeson to come through and he did – BIG TIME!

This was 100 times better than the Thomas Jane punisher movie in terms of getting revenge. Liam just really kicked ass and wasn’t taking any prisoners!

It took about half an hour for the girl to be taken – a lot of screen time devoted to a set up we know is coming (it’s in the title!), so I was a bit like “what the hell”, but then she is taken and from that point on, the movie is in overdrive mode. It never slows down for a second.

Great action and a lot of fun. Liam actually worked really well as a man of action!



Teachers beware.


Dolph Lundgren ex soldier, fighter, bad ass, ass-kicker, ranger, navy seal, etc retires and takes up teaching high school.


If Dolph Lundgren was my teacher I would be pretty scared. But alas, kids still misbehave etc, even though Dolph could kick them to the moon with one shot.

Whatever, bad guys come to the school after hours to exchange money for drugs or something – I don’t remember – but the villains are the biggest bunch of rudy-poo asswipes I have ever seen. I have never been more pumped for Dolph to kick their asses – which he does, but not enough for my liking, but anyway, Dolph is keeping some kids after school and they all team up on the villains.

Great fun if you don’t take it seriously. I suggest ordering up a pizza, getting a few pals over and sitting back with a cold beverage (your choice) and popping this one in for a good time!



A little over 3 years.

Anne of the 1000 days.

The film chronicles the life of Anne Boleyn, one of Henry the 8ths wives and how she resisted his love to the point that drove him mad, only to finally give in and then be hated.

Really well made movie with emotionally charged performances. You will get right into this movie from the moment it starts and you realize that at the half way point, the movie begins again.

It starts with Kathryn Boleyn sitting on the throne with Henry, he is eyeing Anne and Kathryn gets upset and leaves. After a lot of trying, Henry finally gets Anne to love him and when she finally returns the love, he turns his eye on Jane – thus the same scene repeats, with Anne sitting on the throne and Henry eyeing Jane, with Anne leaving the room.

I hope I am not giving away the plot here since this is based on history and I’m sure some of you on here watch the Tudors, which is based on this story, or even read Shakespeare’s play.

Anyway, this was a brilliant movie and deserving of 10 Oscar nominations.



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hammer Dracula: Vampires As They Were Meant To Be

I’m getting into a horror movie vibe as Halloween fast approaches. I dug out some of my Hammer movies on DVD and decided to watch a couple of their Dracula movies. When Hammer started doing reinventions of popular Universal classic monsters in the 60's, Dracula became their most popular character with audiences demanding more Christopher Lee as the dreaded Count in movie after movie (depending on who you ask, there are about 9 Dracula movies – not all of them feature Dracula or Christopher Lee though). The two I decided to watch were Dracula Has Risen From the Grave and Taste the Blood of Dracula.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave is the fourth in the Hammer Dracula series, after Dracula (a.k.a. Horror of Dracula), Brides of Dracula in which Christopher Lee did not appear, and Dracula: Prince of Darkness where Christopher Lee does appear as the Count, but does not speak. In Risen From the Grave, Christopher Lee does speak. This film features one of my favourite vampire hunters, Rupert Davies as the Monsignor. His authoritative facial expressions are awesome. You can believe that he’s this virtuous man of god that fears no devil as long as his faith is strong.

After Dracula desecrates a church by committing murder there, the Monsignor investigates and sees that everybody stays away from the church. When he asks the villagers if Dracula is dead, they’re not sure, so he goes to investigate Drac’s castle with a drunken priest. But when the priest panics, runs away and falls onto a frozen moat, he bleeds into the cracks of the ice where Dracula happens to be frozen, encased in the ice. Dracula tastes some of the blood and, well, you get the picture. I liked this one, the Monsignor is cool, especially with that giant, golden cross strapped to his back (on which Dracula is empaled in the end).

In Taste the Blood of Dracula, an antiques dealer is shown to have witnessed the impaling death of Dracula at the end of Risen. He collects Dracula’s cape and his blood, which has been turned into powder. Three foolish, rich, old men looking for a thrill are coaxed by a rich, spoiled devil worshipper into buying these Dracula items. He leads them into a ritual to bring Dracula back, but the three bolt in fear at last second, jeopardizing the ritual. The servant dies as Dracula is reborn (Christopher Lee again). Dismayed by the death of his servant, Dracula swears vengeance upon the three men and sets about killing them one by one, biting a couple other girls so they can do some of his evil bidding.

This one is cool. It has a shovel death, some classic Dracula-hypnotizing-girls action, great shots of Lee in the cape coming out of shadows or silhouette, and a lot of good Lee dialogue, delivered in that great menace which made him famous in the role. Whenever he kills one of the men, he snarls “The First!” or “The Second!” and keeps a tally. Dracula is defeated, while fighting the heroic couple of the story high up in a church, by backing into a stained glass window depicting a cross (oops!) and falling, dissolving into dust. This was followed by Scars of Dracula, which I don’t have, Dracula A.D. 1972 (catapulting Dracula into the “modern day” at the time, instead of Victorian England where the other movies took place), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (where Dracula is still in the 70’s and is CEO of a corporation that is secretly funding a satanic cult determined to wipe out all life on earth), and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (an interesting movie taking place in the 1800’s again where China is battling their own vampire plague lead by 7 golden vampires. The Chinese recruit Van Helsing (Peter Cushing reprising his role from earlier Hammer Dracula movies). But Van Helsing soon discovers that the lead Golden Vampire is possessed by none other than the spirit of his old nemesis Dracula.).
Anyway, these old Hammer pictures can be a little quaint looking nowadays, but I still love them. They're classic and the Dracula movies, especially, really outlined the character as this horrible concentration of evil and plague upon the world that can spread easily, moreso than the Universal movies (though I love the Universals too). And Christopher Lee was a great Dracula. This ain't no romatic, teen dream vampire. Dracula would kill your family and your dog with no hesitation or qualm. He's pure evil, as it should be.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave 3.5/5

Taste the Blood of Dracula 3.5/5


The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Let me see if I can explain this one. Christopher Plumber is Dr. Parnassus, a man who “won” the gift of immortality from the devil (who masquerades as a man called Mr. Nick). However, Parnassus still aged even though he was immortal, so he foolishly made another deal with Mr. Nick that any child he fathered would belong to Mr. Nick when they turned 16. Now, Parnassus’ daughter Valentina is on the verge of her 16th birthday, so Mr. Nick struck a new arrangement: Valentina can stay with whoever wins five souls first. How does one win souls? Through the Imaginarium, a gateway into Parnassus’ mind where a visitor can live out their fantasies. As well, a visitor would be tempted by Mr. Nick whereby the Nick can take the visitor’s soul, or the visitor would be tempted by Parnassus toward some sort of positive enlightenment and Parnasus could claim that soul as being “won” by him. So, Dr. Parnassus travels around with his side-show attraction (the Imaginarium), accompanied by a little person (Vern Troyer), slight-of-hand expert Anton (Andrew Garfield), and Valentina. Along the way, they run into a man left for dead named Tony (Heath Leger – you were wondering where he’d fit in, eh?), a mysterious man with amnesia, who becomes a boon to the traveling show by attracting more people into the Imaginarium. But there may be something far more sinister to Tony than meets the eye as Parnassus struggles to win more souls than Mr. Nick in the Imaginarium.

Whew, well despite my awkward explanation of this film, there’s way more too it than that and it actually does all make sense. The story is a kind of an epic tale about vivid imagination in a world that doesn’t listen anymore. That theme is hit upon time and again in the movie which I found fascinating. Parnassus insists that the world “rule itself” and there are numerous examples of imagination “enlightening” visitors in the Imaginarium, and references to people losing their grip on reality by not embracing imagination, fun and wonder.

Of course, the shadow befalling this entire film is the untimely death of Heath Ledger. All of his Imaginarium scenes are shot with other actors portraying the Tony character (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell), employing the idea that Tony’s appearance shifts whenever he’s in the Imaginarium and Heath Ledger is Tony’s “real world” appearance. This idea of shifting appearances is awkwardly introduced in the first scene where a drunken brute chases Valentina into the Imaginarium and becomes another person. But it sort of makes sense for the Tony character since he’s revealed to be hiding various secrets from Parnassus’ troop. Depp, Law and Farrell represent the different guises of Tony, I guess. It hangs together way better than I expected.

Some minor quibbles I had with the film: one of the main characters dies toward the end and nobody seems to care. I recall this kind of thing happening in other Terry Gilliam movies, but it was still a little jarring in this one. As well, Tony is seen helping Parnassus and even directing unsuspecting visitors to the Imaginarium away from Mr. Nick’s temptations, showing a lot of virtue in the character. Yet toward the end the audience is expected to believe that Tony is this horrible villain that steals money from children’s charities from around the world (or something like that), to the point that we’re expected to root for Parnassus when he has a final confrontation with Tony, outwitting him and killing him. I know the charity thing is hinted at in various parts of the film, but it still seems like a weak, cheap and quick way of turning Tony into a villain for the simple reason of providing an ending for the story, and the buy-in for the audience to then invest emotionally in Tony being a villain worthy of being killed seems to come out of left field.

Still, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is an inventive, unique film and all of the scenes in the Imaginarium are pretty creative and provoke a feeling of wonder. The story is definitely different than your usual fare and it all makes sense in its own way.

4 out of 5.


Let the Right One In (2008)

Everyone seems to be dying over this Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In. The remake is generating buzz for actually being better than the original (and it’s not the first new Hammer movie btw, I thought it was). I finally caught Let the Right One In. A young boy named Oskar living in an apartment complex is constantly troubled by bullies at school. He fantasizes about revenge but never really does anything. A young girl seemingly his age named Eli moves next door and corpses start popping up around the snowy landscape of their neighborhood. Eli, of course, is a vampire and gets her seeming father to drain victims’ blood for her. When he’s caught, the girl has to kill victims herself. She eventually befriends the boy and he starts covering up for her and she starts looking out for him.

This is an alright movie. Maybe I have Attention Deficit Disorder, but I found it really slow. It’s two hours but felt like three. I get it – she’s a vampire and is reluctant to befriend anyone as a result, he’s bullied by three kids which is shown in multiple scenes, the boy is troubled by the bullying so he acts out revenge with imaginary bullies in his head. I get it. I really do. So don’t show me 5 or 6 scenes showing me this stuff. What, were they padding for time or something? When stuff does happen, it’s pretty cool, like one woman becomes a vampire after being bitten and these cats attack her which was a neat scene. Then she spontaneously combusts in huge flames when in the hospital as someone foolishly opens the curtains to let in some light. The final scene where the boy finally gets some revenge is cool too, but all of this is few and far between.

I found it amusing that for all the vampire attack scenes (of which there are a few more than mentioned above, and with an appropriate amount of blood), to me the most suspenseful and terrifying stuff was when the bullies torture Oskar every so often. You never really know what they have in store, and when they beat him or whip him with a cane, or when Oskar decides to inflict some pain of his own, it’s actually pretty horrific and a little unexpected, and you shake your head at the bully tactics some kids use even in real life. These scenes were more affecting then the 4 or so attacks that Eli inflicts. Was this intended?? Because it seems like more time and clever editing was devoted to the bullying scenes than the vampire attacks.

All in all, Let the Right One In is serviceable vampire entertainment. You do get a bloodthirsty vamp and more than a few gore shots. But you have to sit through the boy meets girl stuff, which is the bulk of the picture. I’ve seen the relationship between Oskar and Eli described as “terrifying” in some reviews, maybe because it’s two kids with a promise that murder will erupt from their friendship. But for me, I already know that the movie is about that, and the film doesn’t offer anything beyond what you’re expecting from that scenario. As I said, the bullying stuff is probably the most horrifying thing in the movie to the point that when the bullies finally get their comeuppance, it seems fantastical and deflates the suspence of their a-hole bullying tactics. You be the judge.

3.5 out of 5. This will probably be remembered for about a year as a result of the remake, but will flame out soon enough.