29 August 2014

BLOOD VALLEY: SEED'S REVENGE (2014) + SEED (2007)

BLOOD VALLEY: SEED'S REVENGE

German Title:
Seed 2 - The New Breed

Canada / USA, 2014
Director: Marcel Walz

5,5/10








The sequel hardly anyone wanted. The sequel hardly anyone asked for. The sequel that... well, that is surprisingly better than anyone expected (or is it just me?). 7 years after Uwe Boll's "Seed" came out (Review below), German filmmaker Marcel Walz (the hack behind last year's unwatchable found-footage dreck "Raw") somehow came to the conclusion that it's high time for another 'seedy' gorefest. Boll thought so too and ended up producing it.


The result is a stupid and pointless, but actually pretty decent and diverting bloodbath, radically different from its predecessor and more in the vein of desert-slashers like "The Hills Have Eyes (remake)", "TCM 1+3" or "Rest Stop", following 4 girls on their way home from a bachelor party who fall into the trap of
Max Seed and his family.

From the very beginning (Seed fucks a hot black-haired chick with a pistol), you realize that Walz's "Seed" is a completely different movie that has nearly nothing to do with Boll's "Seed". Gone is the bleakness and gloominess of the original, replaced with a grimy and gritty atmosphere, packed with gorgeous gore
and lovely ladies.


I love the movie's structure which is similar to the non-linear narratives of Quentin Tarantino's early masterpieces ("Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction"), jumping back and forth between scenes and events that occur over two days. This narrative works for at least two thirds of the movie and is responsible for a good amount of tension and suspense.

There's lots of blood and gruesome torture (cruzificion, cut off fingers, intestines pulled out, various stabbings), many cool Nevada settings, a quite powerful score by Klaus Pfreunder and a fun cast, consisting of hotties like Christa Campbell ("Drive Angry"), Annika Strauss ("La Petite Mort"), Natalie Scheetz ("Madison County") and horror legend Caroline Williams ("TCM 2", "Stepfather II")...


...but there's also a god-awful perormance by c-movie gypsy Manoush, a horribly inane storyline including nonsensical and pointless religious elements that totally make no fucking sense, a convolited and frustrating ending, a few nods to the original that are simply laughable, some poor camera work and, worst of all, the new look of Max Seed (this time played by the immensely overrated Nick Principe) which is plain ridiculous and far from being creepy.

Overall, "Blood Valley: Seed's Revenge" is a decent watch. Lower your expectations and enjoy! Recommended to gore-hounds and desert-slasher fans.


Thanks to Chris Clare (October Coast PR) for the screener!



SEED

Alternate German Titles:
Seed - Und Sie dachten er wäre tot! / Seed - Zurück aus dem Jenseits

Canada, 2007
Director: Uwe Boll

4,5/10








I'm far from being one of the notorious Uwe Boll haters. Yes, he made some serious rubbish during the first half of the 00s ("House of the Dead", "Alone in the Dark"), but since then, he gradually became better and better, and films like "Rampage", "Postal" or "BloodRayne: The Third Reich" prove that he's actually a quite decent filmmaker.


"Seed" could have been way better if Boll wouldn't have tried so fucking hard to shock the shit out of the audience. I mean, yeah, it's a rough and brutal movie, but... hell, it's about a slightly super-human maniac who killed 666(!) people within 6(!) years, gets sentenced to death by electric chair, survives the electrocutions, gets buried alive, digs his way out of the grave and continues his "work". With a premise like that, it's really, really hard to take it any seriously. Would have worked as a spoof, but not as a deadly serious serial-killer/slasher flick.

There's some damn good stuff in here, like all the time lapse decay/decomposition scenes, the eerie look of Max Seed (well-played by regular Boll-collaborator Will Sanderson), and, of course, all the excellently gory kills, especially the infamous 5-minute-scene where Seed hammers a woman's head to pulp. Even though the use of CGI gore is very obvious, it's still a rather disturbing, but somehow impressive scene. Not-really-actor Ralf Moeller gives a surprisingly neat performance (the scene where we get to see his character reading the bible is hilarious), the dramatic score is superb (composed by regular Boll-collaborator Jessica de Rooij) and I love the skeleton-in-a-chair jump-scare
that pays homage to "Psycho".



Unfortunately, many parts of the movie are way too slow and dull, for example the drive to Seed's house and the entire sequence inside Seed's house, both scenes could have been so much better if shorter and more fast paced. The screenplay is a bit of a mess, Boll's direction is aimless and rather haphazard, there's lots of awful lighting and nearly all of the actors give performances that are either laughable or simply bad, especially main actor Michael Paré who is completely unable to carry the movie, and Andrew Jackson who seem to have absolutely no idea what he's doing here.

There's no need to go see "Seed", but if you're in the mood for a dumb and mindless, but somehow entertaining gorefest, you should give it a try.

Wiki ~ Imdb

SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE

SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE

USA, 2014
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante

2/10











Last year's "Sharknado" (review here!) was a real blast and undoubtedly one of The Asylum's best movies so far, that's why my expectations towards the sequel were pretty high. Unfortunately, "Sharknado 2: The Second One" is as lame, lazy and disappointing as its shitty title.

Too me, it felt as if no-one involved was eager to make another "Sharknado",
so director Anthony C. Ferrante and screenwriter Thunder Levin just made the same movie again. Only differences: this time it takes place in New York, and it's packed with cameos by has-beens and TV hosts
(Kelly Osborne, Perez Hilton, Billy Ray Cyrus...), as well as with countless advertisements for Subway or CitiBike.


Gone is the silly and over-the-top humor of the first one. Sharks are once again everywhere, but their appearances are all predictable and unamusing. There's almost no scene that is memorable. It's all the same over and over again. Shitty CGI. Ha. No logic. Haha. Chainsaws, tool and swords. Hahaha. *yawn* We've seen it all before. The first one made me laugh like crazy, but the second one didn't entertain me, didn't made me laugh at all.

I enjoyed the performances Ian Ziering and Vivica A. Fox, and as far as I remember, there were at least a few lines that made me chuckle ("Two of my friends were killed. I almost destroyed Los Angeles. And, oh, yeah... I got eaten by shark. How much fun do you think that was?"). Apart from that, I hated absolutely everything about this shark turd. No interest in the upcoming threequel.

28 August 2014

"I'm a Loser baby, so why don't you... erm, write about me?" - The Ultimate LOSERS Blogfest

Now look at that! 4 of the funkiest bloggers of America, Ireland and Austria teamed up for one gargantuan blog post about a movie that is now a bit more more popular than when it came out and bombed at the box office in 2010: "THE LOSERS", the movie adaptation of the 1970 comic book series of the same name.

Irish sweetie Karina Bamber from Mundane Rambling, Texan badass Daniel Hernandez from Random Mexican's Movie Reviews, West Virginian movie-freak Cindy Prascik (FB Blogger and Random Mexican co-writer) and my humble self, we all took our turn on "THE LOSERS" and scribbled it down for your enjoyment (or annoyment).



Review by: Maynard

THE LOSERS

USA, 2010
Director: Sylvain White

3/10











At minute 36, this is what two of the main characters say to each other:
"This is a classic." - "Yeah, this is a classic piece of shit."
Okay, they're actually talking about a car, and no, I don't think that "The Losers" is a classic piece of shit, but... *sigh* IMHO it's definitely a classic piece of lame, lousy, loserish cookie-cutter action rubbish.

Based on the DC comic book series of the same name (that I obviously have never heard of before), "The Losers" follows a group of black-ops mercenaries who plan their revenge on their former employers who betrayed them and set them up for death. Sounds like a lot like "The A-Team", huh? Well, actually it's more like "Ronin" meets "The Expendables", and of course, the original 1970s "Losers" comics were created long before the "A-Team" TV series.


Nevertheless, the box office failure of "The Losers" (Ha Ha!) can definitely be blamed on a) Joe Carnahan's 2010 feature adaptation of "The A-Team" which was released shortly after, as well as to b) the still-massive popularity
of the "A-Team" brand.

 Even though it performed below expectations, "The A-Team" (which was released in June 2010) earned about 180 millions world wide
(Domestic: 77 millions),

while "The Losers" earned only about 29 millions worldwide
(Domestic: 23 millions)
.


I unexpectedly enjoyed the hell out of "The A-Team" and I consider it one of the better action-related films of the last few years - but "The Losers" expectedly annoyed the crap outta me. My goodness, now this was really poor. I already gave up after the opening: oh-so-tough-and-cool guys playing silly card games and dropping mom jokes, Ram Jam's "Black Betty" (what an original song choice... yawn), a helicopter full of kids explodes (I don't like kids), a burning Teddy bear (boo hoo), cock-fighting etc. Director Sylvain White ("I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer") just can't decide between fun popcorn movie, grim revenge thriller, over-the-top comic-book insanity or action-drama. Tone and script are all over the place. The characters aren't likable at all...

...and that's just the first 15 minutes.


I have no idea how I made it through the goddamn rest. No idea how I survived Jason Patric ("The Lost Boys") as one of the worst and most unbearable movie villains in history, or Chris Evans ("Captain America") as unbelievably unfunny prankster, saying lines like "These Hot Dogs are delicious!" in a way as if he has never eaten a Hot Dog before. There's tiring amounts of oh-so-cool slow-motion sequences, oh-so-comic-book-like overlaid text and other annoying, unnecessary gimmicks that seem to be in the film only to distract the viewer, so that he doesn't realize how stupid the whole thing it is. There's also hardly any tension, hardly any atmosphere, way too many super-dull dialogue scenes, some really bad choices of music (I fucking hate Journey), the action scenes are rather uninspired and the screenplay is a fucking mess. There is no flow, no coherence. Just a succession of scenes strung together in a... let's say, quite haphazard manner


Hottie Zoë Saldana and the cool-as-always Idris Elba deliver solid performances, same for Jeffrey Dean Morgan, though I think he's miscast and not exactly the best choice for this role. A few of the more action-packed scenes were quite enjoyable (like the one with the helicopter or the rather diverting finale) and although I hated Jason Patric's character, I chuckled at him saying "It's like giving a handgun to a six-year-old - you don't know how it's gonna end, but you're pretty sure it's gonna make the papers."

Yet, overall, this was sooo not my cup of tea. "The Losers" lost me early on and I spent the majority of its run time in a state of annoyment.

Wiki ~ Imdb



Review by: Karina

"The Losers" appeared on our screens in the summer of 2010 and although it did not set the Box Office on fire it has been regular in my 90min DVD rotation. This is probably a backhanded comment when you learn what else is in the rotation.

I have been called out as a lazy blogger in the past and it is a fair statement.
The depth of my laziness runs much deeper than that as I am also a ridiculously lazy film viewer too. This is why a film like "The Losers" gets so much attention from me.

PLOT: After a helicopter full of children are killed during a covert mission in Bolivia, “The Losers” led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Clay try to find the Max (Jason Patric) the man who is responsible for their deaths. Their mission is funded by the mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana) who also wants to kill Max. The group tracks Max down in LA as he is about to buy four snukes from a group of terrorists.
END PLOT


"The Losers" is based on a set of graphic novels written by Andy Diggle which I read prior to seeing the film. The novels are thoroughly entertaining and should have easily made the jump from book to screen especially when Peter Berg, a favourite of mine, is involved. Alas, something didn’t quite work out. 

The original novels were for adults. There was bad language, blood, humour, death and sex. The films were watered down to a 12A and lost most of the key ingredients which would have set it apart from "The A Team" which was also released that summer. The 12A rating does the film no favours and the attempts to make the characters rating friendly make them almost unrecognisable – there is a throwaway line about Aisha’s childhood ear collection but this ear collection is actually a big part of Aisha’s dangerous and let’s face it,
slightly deranged, character.


All of the characters are underdeveloped but do tick off the list of stereotypes required to make an ensemble action flick – we have the leader (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the love interest (Zoe Saldana), the computer geek (Chris Evans), the driver/MacGyver (Columbus Short), the silent sniper (Oscar Jaenada) and the betrayer (Idris Elba). The characters may be weak but the cast do have chemistry which helps to cover over the flaws. 

Any film with Chris Evans will draw me in but in 2010 there was interest in Jeffrey Dean Morgan who was still on a high after his brilliant performance as The Comedian in "Watchmen" and we must not forget his tenure as “parent of the year” John Winchester. It has not gone unnoticed that Morgan’s career has stalled and some of the supporting cast have gone on to become major A-List success. 


Unfortunately one thing the chemistry of the cast could not hide was the awful Max (Jason Patric). Max’s sense of danger came from his calculating intelligence but Jason Patric overacted like crazy and turned Max into a cartoon character. Patric appeared to be aiming for confident business villain but it was all a bit handbags at dawn.

Max’s evil deeds include shooting an umbrella lady in the head and laughing at a really short man but his main plot thread involves buying four snukes from terrorists for a shitload of money and a Ducati. I could be staring down the barrel of a snuke or “giant vibrating Easter Egg from hell” and I still couldn’t take my impending death seriously. On paper snukes may seem more original than nuclear or chemical weapons but on the big screen it simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t help that “Four Snukes and a Ducati” sounds more threatening as the latest hipster band than the terms of an illegal arms deal. 

The action is standard fare but appropriate for the rating. Instead of seeing the burning bodies of twenty kidnapped children we see a singed bear. This pretty much sums up the film. It was a wasted opportunity. 


I know "The Losers" is an average film, and worse than that, it is a poor adaptation of a legitimately good set of graphic novels. There will be those who see the film as a mess that more often than not misses the mark and I won’t be able to launch into a staunch defence of The Losers as I agree with them. On its own merits, "The Losers" gets 5/10.

BUT

As mentioned above I can be a very lazy film viewer especially when it comes to choosing a DVD. I don’t apologise for picking generic 90min films when I have had a hard day. We all do it. "The Losers" fits that bill perfectly which is why I thank it for being familiar, comforting and for not requiring too much attention or effort. On the basis of me having a bad Tuesday "The Losers" gets 8/10.




Review by: Daniel

My original review of "The Losers" (see here!) gave it a B- which should probably have been closer to a C or C+. I honestly can’t contest any of the myriad of issues the film, Jason Patric, has or it’s unfortunate release date that placed it near a better film with roughly the same concept. Still, there’s something about this silly movie that makes it utterly watchable.

Easiest answer is the cast. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Zoe Saldana have some great chemistry together each bringing the right amount of cool to the characters. I’m still a tad bit perplexed that Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t more of a star, he’s got a gruff kind of charm to him that translates well on screen. Saldana meanwhile seems to have just resigned herself to working behind makeup or via motion capture. Personally I think with the right material she could be an incredible action star which is kind of impressive since she probably weighs about 90 pounds soaking wet.


Chris Evans may not be believable as a computer hacker but the guy has always had some great comedic timing. I always kind of thought Evans was destined for superstardom ever since Not Another Teen Movie so it’s fun to look back before he hit it big with the "Captain America" role. 

Round out the cast with Idris Elba, who probably should have been the actual villain instead of Patric, and you have a film filled with lots of solid actors making a subpar film watchable in spite of itself.

C+



Review by: Cindy

Dearest Blog, with this entry I shall claim membership in one of the world's most exclusive clubs: "People Who Love the Losers".

Spoiler level here will be off the charts, because you've had four years to catch up with this. If you haven’t seen it yet, read no more until you have! (But, seriously, what are you waiting for??) After being framed for mass murder in Bolivia, an elite Special Forces team hooks up with a seductive con artist to clear their names and get back home to the U.S.


Dear reader(s), you know me well, do you not? I like testosterone-fueled action flicks. Bonus points if they're based on comic books. Double bonus points if they make me laugh, too. "The Losers" ticks all the boxes for me.

Let's start with this gifted and gorgeous cast, shall we? The leader of our merry band of misfits is Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Haunted by betrayal and the resulting loss of young life, he is single-mindedly bent on revenge against Max, the mysterious man who set up his team. Roque (the dashing Idris Elba) is a headstrong demolitions expert who often questions Clay's leadership. 


Communications specialist Jensen (Chris Evans) and transportation coordinator Pooch (Columbus Short) trade insults and provide the movie's best comic relief. Finally, there's Cougar (Ơscar Jaenada), a sniper whose silent charm nearly steals the whole show. Aisha (the glorious and perfect Zoe Saldana) is a local woman who offers her assistance to the team...but with her own agenda, of course. The cast is rounded out by an amusingly deadpan Jason Patrick as Max, and Holt McCallany as Max' clueless right-hand man, Wade.

"The Losers" features non-stop action from the outset. There's a fair bit of carnage, but the tone is mostly light...quite an achievement considering the movie opens with 25 kids getting blown up. An early hotel-room fight between Morgan and Saldana is hotter than most sex scenes. There's a nice comic feel to the film, with beginning and ending credits done in comic book-style art, and changes of venue announced in big, sweeping lettering. The movie keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with plenty of twists, turns, and double-crosses, and, at a quick 97 minutes, it's smart enough not to wear out its welcome.


Three specifics I feel are noteworthy in the annals of movie history: Wade's spectacular death by airplane engine, Zoe Saldana wielding a bazooka (*swoon*), and Chris Evans showboating his way through an a capella version of Journey's Don't Stop Believin'. Finally, The Losers reiterates the age-old movie message that nothing--and I mean NOTHING--good ever happens around those dockside container yards.

"The Losers" clocks in at 97 minutes, and is rated PG13 for "sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality, and language."
I took a peek at my original Losers review after writing this one. While I hadn't yet adopted the Weasley rating system at that time, I hit pretty much all the same notes as this one, minus the spoilers. In 2014, of a possible nine Weasleys, I'm pleased to give "The Losers" eight. It's a wild ride with an eminently likable cast and plenty of laughs along the way, and I remain so, so sorry there isn't a Losers 2 on the horizon.
Until next time...GO PETUNIAS!

Ready for Black Friday at Wal-Mart!!



Thanks for reading! :-)

26 August 2014

THE FORBIDDEN GIRL

THE FORBIDDEN GIRL

Germany, 2013
Director: Till Hastreiter

3/10











Ignore the misleading cover - this movie is NOT about possessions, exorcisms or levitating girls. "The Forbidden Girl" is actually a ridiculous mix of very-old-school horror and 'romantic fantasy', telling the story of a fundamentalist pastor's son who falls in love with a girl who has weird connections to an old castle, inhabitated by ghosts, witches and vampire-like weirdos. Imagine a low-budget hodgepodge of "Rebecca", "Suspiria" and "Livid" mixed together by Ulli Lommel and you may get the idea.


The basic story is good, but it was written and told in a bland, foreseeable and,
at times, really ridiculous way. The tone is all over the place, constantly jumping between uber-serious and distractingly and/or unintentionally funny. Half of the screenplay is plain stupid, while the other half makes not much sense. Oh, and the direction is really bad and completely unconvincing. I have no idea what Till Hastreiter ("Status Yo") wanted to achieve. A witty horror-drama? A dark ghost-romance? An over-the-top fantasy-comedy? Whatever he had in mind, it totally doesn't work in its final form.

There's also lots of bad-but-bearable gimmicky CGI effects that reminded me of Dario Argento's "Dracula 3D", many cheap and silly-looking visuals, as well as some really poor use of day-for-night filters. At least, the cinematography is adorably gorgeous (Tamás Keményffy) and the music is also pretty nice (Eckes Malz, "Aimée & Jaguar").


The characters are all either super-silly or plain implausible; the acting ranges from pretty okay to pretty awful. Jytte-Merle Böhrnsen's performance is much, much better than her horrid acting in "Lost Place", and it's obviously also trés cool that we get to see her naked quite often (hot body!). As for the rest: Jeanette Hain tries hard to make her lame role a bit less lame (and succeeds!), Klaus Tange tries hard to give a convincing semi-gay, quasi-Aryan butler-maniac (and fails), and main actor Peter Gadiot... he's just unbearable.

Even though it's more than 100 minutes long, it flies by and didn't bore me. I give it that. Other than that, "The Forbidden Girl" is too stupid to be taken seriously. Not recommended.

Imdb 

Thanks a bunch to Kelly Williams (Greenleaf + Associates) for the screener!

SLEDGE (2013)

SLEDGE

USA, 2013
Directors: Kristian Hanson
& John B Sovie II

0/10










Just when you thought it doesn't get any worse than "The Nailgun Massacre" or "They Don't Cut The Grass Anymore", something like that comes along and proves that it DOES get even worse, at least when it comes to
no-budget slasher dreck.

Ignore the badass cover, "Sledge" is an utterly worthless piece of stupidity, made by no-budget filmmaker Kristian Hanson who (according to the press release) claims that "The overall idea of "Sledge" was to make a horror film that I would want to see." That's good! That's commendable - but please, next time you make a film for yourself, just keep it to yourself, especially when it's as unwatchable as this concoction of unbearable nonsense.


"Sledge" follows a group of uber-unlikable characters who go to the woods to drink, to fuck, to wank and to talk about drinking, fucking and wanking. Holy campfire, I definitely wouldn't wanna be trapped with them in an elevator. Every single one of them is a pain in the arse, and the whole fucking time,
we get to hear crap like:

"How many guys has she been with?" - "36. Well, actually, including you, 37.
If we talk about mouth-banging, that numbers is well under the thousands."
// "I was standing outside your tent, jerking off. - "You're a pervert." - "Guilty." // "That teacher was a jerk. He almost failed me. I had to end up doing extra credit just to pass." - "Yeah, you mean blowies."

Ahahaha. Blech. It goes on and on and on like that.

Thank god, there's an oh-so-mad masked killer out in the woods, waiting to kill them all. Unfortunately, it's the dumbest, ugliest and uncoolest killer in history. Swanson claimed: "I wanted to pay homage to the greats like Jason, Freddy, Leatherface and Pinhead but put my own personal spin on it with my type of inappropriate humor."
Yeah, uh-huh. All we got is a crappy-looking copy of Leslie Vernon, constantly laughing (ahahaha), talking utterly unfunny, unamusing rubbish like "We all go a little mad sometimes, cockbag.", "Your good buddy Nash tastes like some good beef jerky." or "What's up, fuckers?"
Ahahaha. Really funny, guys. To hell with that crap.


When "Sledge" tries to be original, it fails so goddamn hard, it's just ridiculous. It's basically a film-in-film, shown on TV, presented by a horribly unnerving puppet called Assly, watched by an unsympathetic girl who's constantly eating popcorn, bitching about how much she loves AND hates the movie ("Cool one-liners... so unrealistic.") or just talking to her Ex on the phone ("Yeah, I'm going out to a bar that you never heard about before 'cause its new."). There's also several oh-so-eerie quasi-age-old folk songs that totally don't fit in, a fat guy who thinks he's good in playing a complete retard (probably because he's also a retard in real life? No offense!) and a fake-trailer for a fake-movie called "The Amish Paradise" that is sooo bad, it's... *sigh* I'm at a loss for words.

The editing is okay, but the camera work / cinematography is so unbelievably unimaginative, it hurts, Most of the the gore effects are veeery shabby, the direction is plain terrible and based on my comments about the characters, you get a good picture of how good the acting is.
Overall, annoying and aggravating. Unnecessary and expendable.
"Sledge" is pure garb-edge. Ahahaha.


Imdb

Thanks to Clint (October Coast PR) for the screener!

25 August 2014

R.I.P RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH

RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH, one of England's finest filmmakers of all time, has died at the age of 90 after being in bad health for quite some time.

He is probably best known for his epic biographical film "GANDHI" (1982) which won 8 Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Director), and 6 Golden Globes (including Best Foreign Film and Best Director).

Other famous and still-popular directorial efforts are the war-drama "A BRIDGE TOO FAR" (1977), the Broadway musical adaptation "A CHORUS LINE" (1985), the Apartheid drama "CRY FREEDOM" (1987) and "CHAPLIN" (1992), the biographical film about Charlie Chaplin's life.

In terms of acting, he is best known for his intense roles in "BRIGHTON ROCK" (1947), "THE GREAT ESCAPE" (1963), "THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX" (1965) and "10 RILLINGTON PLACE" (1974), as well as playing Santa Claus in the 1994 Remake of "MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET".

Attenborough wasn't exactly a horror-genre-type, but hey: to horror fans, he will always be John Hammond, the man who brought the Dinosaurs back to life in Steven Spielberg's "JURASSIC PARK" (1993) and its sequel "THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK" (1997). Also, in 1978 he directed the terrific, but underrated and little-seen horror-thriller "MAGIC" (1978), starring Anthony Hopkins as shy ventriloquist who goes completely mad.

Rest in Peace, Richard Attenborough.
1923 - 2014


24 August 2014

LUCY (2014)

LUCY

France, 2014
Director: Luc Besson

6/10











After spending the majority of the last 15 years with directing arthouse stuff and weird animation flicks, as well as writing screenplays for countless action films (nearly all of them produced by his film company EuropaCorp), action godfather Luc Besson ("Léon", "Nikita", "The 5th Element") is finally back with an action film that wasn't just written, but also directed by himself: "Lucy", a bizarre blend of Besson-esque action and trippy science fiction, following a young woman who transforms into a god-like Übermensch after getting in contact with a synthetic drug that increases the use of her brain capacity from 10% to 100%.


Holy shit, now THAT was weird. I'm still not sure if this movie was good or bad,
but it's pretty unique and it was rather entertaining too, even though the sheer stupidity and heavy use of the "10% of Brain"-myth in Besson's script turns large parts of "Lucy" into a silly and ridiculous rubbish-fest that is very hard to swallow.
What starts out a typical Besson-revenge-romp, ends up as bonkers and super-silly sci-fi absurdity.

All the nods and references to great sci-fi classics and other films feel strange and don't help making the movie more intelligent: there's the white room and a variation of the digital rain from "The Matrix", prehistoric men and monolithic objects from "2001: A Space Odyssey", and (perfectly pointed out by The Cinema Snob) some kinda "human dissolving" that looks a bit like various Sandman-scenes in "Spiderman 3". Also, the 20% Lucy is basically John Travolta in "Phenomenon", while the 100% Lucy is an amped-up version of Johnny Depp in the god-awful "Transcendence".


Thank goodness, it's a visually fantastic flick, and it's rather well-directed too. Thierry Arbogast's ("The Crimson Rivers") cinematography is simply marvellous, Eric Serra's ("Léon") is pumping, powerful and amazing as always, the editing is top notch and the effects are all very well done. Scarlett Johansson proves once again that she is the absolute best female actor from Hollywood at the moment, delivering another pitch-perfect performance, almost as great as in "Under The Skin". Morgan Freeman is solid as always
[though, it's totally like what the Random Mexican wrote in his review: it feels as if he just "(...) walked over from the set of Transcendence"], Amr Waked is amusing and Min-sik "Oldboy" Choi is simply badass.

"Lucy" might be stupid as hell, but it's fun enough to give you a somewhat great time at the theater. Just turn your brain functions to 0% and enjoy ;-)

A Windy Double Feature: TWISTER + INTO THE STORM

TWISTER

Working Titles:
Wind Devils / Catch The Wind

USA, 1996
Director: Jan de Bont

8/10








Legendary Dutch I-wanna-be-like-Paul-Verhoeven filmmaker Jan de Bont has only directed 5 films in his career - and... well, only 2 of them were good... like REALLY good: one was "Speed", the other one was "Twister", one of the most entertaining action romps of the 90s and also the absolute best Tornado-themed film ever made, following a group of storm chasers during a wild tornado outbreak across Oklahoma. Two of them are on the brink of divorce, but they eventually must (re)join together to perfect "Dorothy", a data-gathering instrument they once created together.

I heard there are people who don't like "Twister" - oh, blow me. How can one NOT like it? "Twister" is great fun; action-packed, tense and entertaining from start to finish. I've seen it on the big screen at the age of 16 in a theater packed with people who were all crazy and hyped for this film - and thank goodness, "Twister" blew us all away. Seeing this film together with such a crowd - damn, an unforgettable experience, almost as memorable as seeing "Jurassic Park"
or "Con Air" for the first time.


Yes, it might be a bit stupid, it doesn't have much story and the script is quite mediocre - but seriously: who cares about such trifles when everything else is just awesome? I mean we get to see lots of super-intense and breathtaking chase scenes, action sequences and moments of utter madness, like the infamous storm-cows or the hilariously insane scene where a tornado hits a drive-in theater in the middle of a "The Shining" screening (Then I'll huff and I'll puff...).

Aside from a handful of cheap-looking CGI, most of the effects still look plain awesome; nearly all tornadoes look real and scary as shit. De Bont's direction is spectacularly amazing, cinematography and camera work are simply excellent (Jack N. Green, "A Perfect World"), an intriguing and stunningly effective musical score (Mark Mancina, "Speed 1+2") and a really fantastic cast with terrific chemistry that leaves nothing to be desired.


Bill Paxton as "play it cool" storm chaser ["4 is good. 4 will relocate your house very efficiently."], hottie Helen Hunt as super-obsessed, super-witty storm chaser ["It was windy." / "Cow. (...) 'Nother cow."], the uber-gorgeous Jami Gertz as semi-philistine psychologist ["When you used to tell me that you chase tornadoes, deep down I thought it was just a metaphor."], Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his very first roles as super-amusing "Barn Burner" ["Meg's gravy is famous. It's practically a food group!"], and many, many more fun performances by Cary Elwes, Alan Ruck or Lois Smith.

"Twister" is epic 90s awesomeness in perfection. They don't make 'em like that anymore, even though they try (see below)...




INTO THE STORM

Working Titles:
Black Sky / Category 6

German Title:
Storm Hunters

USA, 2014
Director: Steven Quale

3/10






"Into The Storm" (am I the only one who thinks that the German title "Storm Hunters" fits so much better?), is NOT what some may call a spiritual sequel to "Twister". No, it's actually more in the vein of god-awful made-for-TV storm films like "Metal Tornado", "Ice Twisters" or "500 MPH Storm", with the difference that it was made on a much higher budget (50 million bucks!).


Even though the trailers looked ridiculous, there were two things that made me curious about it: the fact that it's a found-footage/mockumentary-style disaster-film, and the fact that it was directed by Steven Quale, the man behind the excellent "Final Destination 5". While the ff/m angle was interesting and also very well made, Quale's direction was just terrible. Same for the ludicrous screenplay by John Swetnam, the man behind... ugh, "Step Up All In"...

Utterly stupid characters (college douchebags, retarded rednecks...) whose behaviors range from laughable to are-you-fucking-kidding-me???, stumbling through Michigan ghost towns, chasing and filming a bunch of killer storms whose behaviors is at times as villainesque as a Kaiju (Twist-Zilla?). There's not much tension, hardly any atmosphere, no chemistry between the characters, and actually, the whole film seem to consist of only two kinds of scenes: storm scenes and scenes where uninteresting people driving around, talking about this and that for what feels like hours.


The storm scenes are all brilliant, especially the highschool destruction, the final tornado which seems to be as big as a fucking town and even 'eats' a few planes, and, of course, the super-hilarious fire tornadoes. Everything else is dull or annoying. The scene with the drowning kids? The flying tank-car? All the time capsule bullshit? Meh.
No. "Into The Storm" wasn't the violent and unforgettable storm I expected, it's just a light breeze that no one cares about.

CHILLERAMA

CHILLERAMA

Alternate Title:
Chillerama: The Ultimate Midnight Movie!

USA, 2011
Directors: Adam Green, Joe Lynch,
Adam Rifkin & Tim Sullivan

6/10







For whatever reason, I completely missed this flick when it came out in 2012, even though I was quite excited about it when I first heard of this project. Now that I've finally seen it (Thanks Andi!), I can wholeheartedly claim that I haven't missed much. It's a fun flick, but nothing essential.

"Chillerama" is an homage to the drive-in exploitation cinema of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s (a bit in the vein of films like "Matinee" or "Popcorn"), consisting of various episodes centered around the closing night of America's last(!) drive-in theater, directed by Adam Green ("Hatchet 1+2", "Frozen"), Joe Lynch ("Wrong Turn 2", "Knights of Badassdom"), Adam Rifkin ("Detroit Rock City", "The Nutt House") and Tim Sullivan ("2001 Maniacs 1+2", "Driftwood").


First segment "Wadzilla" is a spoof on classic huge-monster-attacks-city films like "The Blob" or "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", featuring a giant sperm(!) that goes on a rampage through New York City. It's goofy and silly as hell, packed with hilariously bad special effects and lots of great appearances by genre legends like Ray Wise, Lin Shaye and Eric Roberts. Unfortunately, it tries way too hard to give you some kinda retro-feeling and ends up being so fucking over the top, I was rather annoyed by it. Also, main actor Adam Rifkin's performance is just terrible.

Segment #2 "I Was A Teenage Werebear" is a ridiculously amusing gay musical-parody of beach party and rebel movies with nods to "Grease" and "The Lost Boys", following a closeted kid who meets a gang of weird leatherboys who are actually homosexual, bloodthirsty "Werebears". Even though I actually really, really dislike musicals, I really, really enjoyed this super-funny mini-musical. It's a tad too long and lenghty, and although the songs are all rather earwormy... well, 3 instead of 5 would have been enough. Doesn't matter. Make-up and special effects all look terrific, and the performances of pornstar Sean Paul Lockhart, Thomas Colby, Gabby West & (again) Lin Shaye are all fun. Werebeartastic!


Third Segment "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein" is easily the best of the crop, combining Nazisploitation with elements of black-and-white horror classics like "The Golem" or "Frankenstein", featuring an uber-over-the-top version of Adolf Hitler trying to create a super-human killing machine, but accidentally creating an undead anti-nazi rabbi-zombie called "Meshugannah", played by Kane "Jason" Hodder! Holy shit, I laughed my ass off. Everyone in this segment speaks completely normal German, except Hitler (wonderfully played by Joel David Moore) who speaks an outrageously funny mish-mash that sounds more like Polish crossed with Klingon. Settings and effects look marvellous, Green's direction is excellent and Kristina Klebe delivers the absolute sexiest Eva Braun ever.
Sehr gut!

Everything else before, in-between and afterwards belongs to one extensive wraparound framing-segment called "Zom-B-Movie", giving us a 'sexual zombie breakout' amongst the drive-in theater audience. This was a very mixed bag, partly because it's much too long, at times much too dull and features way too many characters, partly because it tries way, way, WAY too hard to satisfy film-geeks & nerds by dropping sooooo many movie-references, it's more frustrating than fun.
I love the badass black-and-white-and-blue opening (Robert Rodriguez & Gris Grimly eat your heart out!), the outrageously funny mini-segment where director Fernando Phagabeefy introduces his newest feature "Deathification" ("From the visionary mastermind behind such notorious cinematic works as 'The Cunting Death', 'Salo 2: The Next Day', and of course, 'Rosemary's Picnic Table'."),
as well as the fabulous-as-always performance by Richard Riehle. Everything else was too tedious and rather tiring.


"Chillerama" is solidly entertaining trash-fodder for a movie night with lots of alcohol and popcorn. No more and no less.

21 August 2014

MINE GAMES

MINE GAMES

Alternate Title:
The Evil Within

USA, 2012
Director: Richard Gray

9/10








Just when you think that no one dares to make bold, unusual and/or baffling mainstream-anti-mainstream genre films anymore, a gem like that comes out of left field and completely proves me wrong - and quite rightly, I must say.

"Mine Games" (puntastic title!), the second feature film of Australian filmmaker Richard Gray is an intriguing, mesmerising and mind-boggling mystery-chiller about time loops and time paradoxes, following a group of friends traveling to a cabin in the woods. Shortly after arriving, they discover an abanonded mine nearby and decide to explore it. What they find down in the dark tunnels is clearly not what they expected, and before they realize the vast extent of their discovery and what impact it has on their own lifes, things start to change in indescribable ways and become life-threatening for all of them...


It's hard not to give away any spoilers, but try to imagine Christopher Smith's "Triangle" combined with the highly underrated "YellowBrickRoad", add some "El Ciclo" and some "C is for Cycle", and you probably get the idea what kind of film this is. There might be a few plot holes and several illogical plot points, but the movie as a whole is so well-crafted and well-developed, I was shocked about how excellently it played with worn out horror clichés and my expectations, as well as being entertaining AND mind-fucking at the same time.

At first, all the teenagers seem to be either unsympathetic or at least completely clichéd. However, over time, they themselves (or at least their behavior) changes radically, and you realize that the director and the screenwriters (Michele Davis-Gray, Robert Cross & Ross McQueen) successfully tricked you, because what looks at first as your average unoriginal teen-slasher, slowly transforms into a different beast and draws you into a microcosm that is somehow connected to the Ouroboros and the Aurora Borealis - I'm not shitting you!


The movie starts out slow, but slowly progresses to become more and more tense, especially after we entered the mine for the very first time. The last half hour is at times so suspenseful and so stunningly paced, I was really out of my mind, repeatedly asking myself "What the fuck is this??" Director Gray did an amazing job by creating a slightly sophisticated little low-budget headscratcher that is unlike everything I've seen over the last few years. Kudos to the subtle, but intense and eerie score by Alies Sluiter ("Summer Coda"), the gorgeous cinematography by Greg De Marigny, lots of uncanny-looking underground locations, and a colorful cast, consisting of rookies and up-and-comers like Briana Evigan ("S. Darko"), Rebecca Da Costa ("7 Below"), Julianna Guill ("Altitude"), Joseph Cross ("Lincoln"), Rafi Gavron ("Snitch"), Ethan Peck ("Nothing Left To Fear") or Alex Meraz ("The Twilight Saga")

I'm aware of the fact that "Mine Games" isn't exactly for everyone. Gore-hounds will be frustrated because the marketing makes it look like a slasher movie, fans of straight mainstream horror will probably find it too confusing
but if you're open-minded, if you're tired of the same old supernatural- and/or exorcism-related films, and/or dig a couple of the films I mentioned at the beginning, then you just have to check out "Mine Games". You might love it as much as I did.


Wiki ~ Imdb

I admit: the original "Mine Games" artwork (see above) is a tad awkward, though it's far more interesting than some of the other artworks. The first one looks like "Reeker" entering the "Cabin in the Woods". The second one could be a new "The Descent" flick. The third one amusingly reminds me of the old "Rawhead Rex" VHS covers, and the fourth one is just stupid.

(Fun Fact: in America, "Mine Games" was supposed to get released under the title "The Evil Within". "Title-change press releases" already made their rounds when suddenly the publishing company decided to change it back to "Mine Games"! Good move :)


Thanks to Clint (October Coast PR) for the screener!

20 August 2014

Interview with director JORDAN BARKER ("Torment", "The Marsh")

Got the chance to do a little interview with Jordan Barker, director of this year's home invasion highlight "Torment" (Review here), as well as the Forest Whitaker-helmed ghost chiller "The Marsh" (Review here). Have fun reading!

--How did you come to direct "Torment"? Have you been involved in the creation of the script?
We received "Torment" through a submission by Michael Foster's agent. We were just going into pre-production on our first film under the Gearshift Films banner, "Home Sweet Home", French Director David Morley's follow up film to "Mutants". I was looking for something to direct and "Torment" struck me right away with its unique iconography. The look and feel of "the family" was right there from the first draft.

--How did the casting go? Did you get the actors that you wanted?
We were very fortunate to have investors and partners who didn't pressure us to cast the film a certain way. That meant that we could really take our time and find just the right actors for each and every part.

--How was it working together with "troupers" like Katharine Isabelle & Stephen McHattie, and youngsters like Peter DaCunha & Amy Forsyth?
I expect that anyone working on one of my films bring their A-game and certainly was not disappointed with Katie. She is on the top of her game and was right there with me in the trenches. McHattie was a treat to work with even though he was only with us for a few days. Peter's resume is longer than most people twice his age and it shows on screen and discovering someone like Amy Forsyth will continue to be one of the best parts of my job. She is someone to keep an eye on in the future as I know she is headed for great things.

--To me, "Torment" looks and feels like some kinda Home-Invasion Best Of - and I mean that as a compliment :-) What were your main inspirations, influences etc.?

Well thank you very much! I don't think we were cognizant of really trying to pack the movie full of home invasion tropes. I hadn't really followed or been watching a lot of "home invasion" films even. For me, everything comes back to story and atmosphere. I like that some people say they see some John Carpenter influence in my work as I grew up on horror from the late 70's and early 80's.

--The ending of "Torment" suggests that there could be a sequel in the future. Would you be interested in continuing the story of that sadistic family?
In life our family stories are serialized. Today we are getting married, tomorrow it's divorce, a bar mitzvah, a funeral.  I thought it would be need to structure the film this way, to tease at what is next. I think there are plenty of stories to tell, but we will have to wait and see ;)

--I got to see a Filmax-produced screener of "Torment". Is this the final cut, or will there be an alternate version of "Torment"? What about alternate / deleted scenes?
I'm actually not sure what the Filmax screener was but I know the film has now been released in many territories and it contains the final cut. Their is a really cool behind the scenes featurette on the DVD.

--Who came up with the title "Torment"? I think it doesn't fit the movie very well.
The script was titled "Torment" when I picked it up and it kind of stuck. I thought it was a good fit for the journey that our characters were on. Curious to hear some alternatives if you have any.

["Torment" sounds like torture-porn, at least to me. How about something more subtle, like "Family Values" or "Intrusion"?]

--How much has changed for you since "The Marsh (2006)" (which I think is your best-known
and most successful film so far)?
"The Marsh" was such a huge experience for a young filmmaker. Here I was, just having released a teeny tiny micro budget film and giving direction to Forest Whitaker. Of course, he hadn't quite won his oscar yet, but that was right after our film. I'm working on my own voice as a director and being more involved in the writing of my films.

--Most of your films were shot in Canada, except your last film "Duress (2009)" which was shot in America. How was it shooting a film in America compared to shooting in Canada?
A company bought the rights to "Duress" and then went bankrupt, so there was nothing we could do but watch as it collected dust on a shelf year after year. Shooting in LA was actually tough for us in that people aren't as film friendly as you'd imagine. I suppose too many people are aware of why you should never rent your house out to a film shoot etc. There is a lot of red tape, and for the most part, I understand why, but as budgets get tighter, filmmakers need to be more creative and receive help wherever they can. This is not an excuse to be unprofessional and we, as an industry, have to make sure we are even more responsible.

--Are you a horror buff? What are your alltime horror favorites?
I was watching Horror way before I should have been. I snuck a copy of "Poltergeist" into the VCR at my Grade 3 birthday party.

"The Exorcist", "Halloween", "Poltergeist", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
& "A Nightmare on Elm Street".

--Any plans for the future?
I have a really cool sci-fi project that is about to get dusted off and loved into production.

Thank you, Jordan!


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