Wednesday, December 23, 2009

V For Vendetta - 5/5

Well, I'll be damned. This film could have turned out horrid. Seriously, there are so many elements that could have come across as ridiculously cheesy and idiotic. A story about a man whom spends a solid portion of his life planning for a single event taken from the pages of history to repeat and help set a Britain of the future on a new path. Really? All right McTeigue, hit me with your best shot.

Truthfully, there is still a nice layer of 'other worldliness' to the film that makes it over the top, but it only counter balances some of the great seriousness of topic. It's based on a graphic novel so of course some retention of 'comic book' elements will remain. But with solid as brick wall writing through political and philosophical ideologies with a sense of culture and a clever style and eye from director McTeigue, this film comes off as anything but brilliant. It's this balance of fantasy and reality that makes this a film of universal appeal and yet pure film entertainment too...a potent and perfect combination.

I have to give props to the acting too. Of course the story and the directing are superb as mentioned before, but stunning acting from all parties makes this all the more real. For an extremist terrorist, its hard not to love V in all his elusive and brilliant foresight in this film. Hell, the actor and character have to work with a stationary mask the entire film and still with body language and proper use of voice work we feel as much for him as we do for Natalie Portman (whom gives one of her best performances here too). Even the supporting cast is sick good with Stephen Rea and Stephen Fry stealing a good portion of their scenes with more subtlety then the script should have needed. Again, it was a brilliance of balance.

For a film that is well over 2 hours, this baby flies by when its on and it sticks with you for weeks after watching it. The interesting moral choices made and brought forth in the script (like my violence necessary for peace?) and some of the great character work concerning fear, death, and life this is not only a riveting watch, but an amazing thinker of a film.

This is one of those classics that will forever remain on my list of amazing films. It's thought provoking, edgy, and yet never misses a beat to entertain. One of the best films of balancing I've ever seen. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Gate, The - 4/5

They just don't make movies like this today. There was this 'thing' about the 80s where you could make a movie that was both immensely campy and still ridiculously awesome at the same time and never have to apologize for either. It's one of the reasons I miss the 80s style film and the reason that "The Gate" is such a classic in the genre.

Left at home with the parents gone for a weekend. If you were an 11 year old boy and his slightly older teenage sister, what would you do? Throw a party? Check. Stay up late? Check. Open a gate into Hell? Check. Cause that's what these kids do when an old tree is removed from the backyard and unleashes a series of off the wall/weird as fuck events that threatens to overrun the world with midget demons, visions of terror, and a giant 2 story old world God snake demon. Plot isn't going to be too intense, but its fun to just ride shotgun on this trip into Hell on Earth.

"The Gate" is a fun film. Watching this, its hard not to smile the entire time. I mean watching Stephen Dorff as this 11 year old kid obsessed with launching small plastic rockets and wanting to impress the teenagers just makes me smile. The idea that they learn about the gate to hell and how to close it from the booklet folds of a vinyl Heavy Metal album from "Sacrifyx" makes you smile. The off beat humor (sometimes very dark like with the dog situation and Terry's mom) makes you smile. Hell, even the damn solid pre-CGI special effects is going to slap a big ass grin on your face. Those little demons are both cute and utterly terrifying. It takes talent to ride that line. That's what "The Gate" does best - it has fun the entire time it plays out. Since it's having fun with itself, its almost guaranteed that you are going to have fun too.

Still, its not a perfect film. The logic jumps can be a little large. 'Hey guys, I know we just had to run and hide for our lives...but I thought I would invite the boys over for a party. Surprise! Wait, you want us to leave? Be real, Al!' Damn that part was a little much. And for the most part the film tends to be a little dated for its own good. The plot point of the plastic rockets tends to be a thing of the past a bit too much (although I know they still exist) and the Heavy Metal Satanist pull could work nowadays but not quite as easily. I was relatively surprised with the acting though, which sells some of it, particularly from our three main kids with specific nods to the older sister. Color me surprised indeed.

With all in all, said and done (what the fuck did I just say there?!) "The Gate" is just a fun film that succeeds on far more levels than it probably should have. The special effects are whack, the relatively simplistic story spins itself nicely, and the acting works for what it needs. Not to mention it takes a few chances that become very memorable concepts and scenes. The tiny demons and the ending King Demon make for impressive plot ideas. "The Gate" works...I kinda didn't want them to close it at the end. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Jennifer's Body - 3/5

It's hard for me to review this movie. Partially because I'm not sure how to write this review. Should I review Jennifer's Body as a horror film or should I review it under the eye as a teenage pop culture film (similar to say how Sixteen Candles was in the 80s). I mean it didn't quite garner a lot of momentum in either direction but its a combination didn't quite mix either to be a great horror comedy. Thus, I'm as torn on how I like this film as the film itself is on what it wants to be.

On one hand, it definitely has this satirical side to it that is definitely there to poke fun at the youth of today. On this side of the film, it actually works quite well. The extreme conditions of both, essentially cliche, characters and even the ridiculousness of the events surrounding them (the supposedly satanic band was perhaps my favorite part of the film considering how non-satanic they were) create this almost fairy tale morality tale that worked for me. The humor was a bit hit or miss, I'm not sure I caught some of the references since I'm no longer of that age, but I understood what they were shooting for.

On the other deformed hand, this film does have its fair share of problems. Both Fox and Seyfried struggle with their acting (the former mostly due to the fact that we actually have to sympathize with her character and watch her grow far more insane with time) and Needy's (Seyfried) voice over narration lacks a lot of charm that could have made that element fun. The pacing lacks in a bit of places, and it meanders into a few tangential places where the metaphors and symbolism don't quite work like they might, and even though the over the top story works for the majority of the film, it falls flat at the end with the climax and eventual battle between the two leading ladies.

The film does ooze a bit of charm here and there and its satirical approach to the genre and story did it wonders from being the teenage horror film it could have solely catered towards. Jennifer's Body definitely could have been a better film, as it does suffer from careening a bit too far into the modern teen horror market particularly towards the end, but it has some great moments. For me, Jennifer's Body sits right in the middle of the ranking. Not great, but not bad either. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Perfect Getaway, A - 3.5/5

Thrillers aren't my usual type. Most of them have great performances and nice tension but usually fail when it comes to originality and payoff. Which is where I am torn on "A Perfect Getaway".

When I thought about it after the movie, it didn't come across as all that original. Two couples on vacation in Hawaii become cautious and paranoid of each other when they find out that there is a killer couple stalking the Hawaiian islands. Really? That's all you got for me? The general concept lacks a bit of zeal. Luckily, most of that is made up for by some pretty legit performances and some stylistic directing (not to mention the beautiful landscapes of Hawaii for a backdrop).

Of our four main characters, it was not surprising to see that Milla Jovovich was the weakest link. She did a fine job but I also think her character development got the shaft when it came to the film. Most of her arc comes in the form of black and white flash backs in the final act of the film, so that it feels rushed and somewhat forced. Whereas, the Timothy Olyphant character has a wonderfully developed back story to match his surprisingly solid acting ability. He is such a talent that just has some of the worst roles out there that he may never get the credit he deserves (hopefully the upcoming "Crazies" remake does him justice) and essentially he carries a lot of this movie on his back.

Maybe I'm the only one out there that felt the twist at the end wasn't all that surprising. I mean, the story tries very hard to make everything a 'red snapper' that I thought it was pretty simplistic to just move the other way. The film does try very hard to make the mystery of the film larger than it really is. Not to give anything away (its the point of a Thriller isn't it?) but if you watch this, than think about the clues they send you.

"A Perfect Getaway" is one of the better Thriller's I've seen in a while, just carried on through the charm or our actors/characters and through Twohy's pretty stylish take on it. The flashbacks seem to be a bit much (they also tried very hard to justify the twist when it didn't need all that much) and the overall story isn't all that original. But this film definitely has a charm to it. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Boondock Saints, The - 4/5

"Now, you Irish cops are perking up. That's two sound theories in one day, neither of which deal with abnormally sized men. Kind of makes me feel like River dancing." --Smecker

When I first saw "The Boondock Saints" back in the day, I instantly fell in love with it. It was an American Guy Ritchie style movie, about underground dealings, mob wars, and of course self righteous Irish brothers whom decide to deal justice in their own way. The movie is quirky, vulgar, and instantly charming. It's hard not to fall in love with it.

Now some decade later, I recently watched the Blu Ray version of the film and found that despite its charm this film is slightly flawed. Of course, I still massively enjoy the film. I enjoy its insanely smart Tarantino-esque dialogue and randomness of characters. I enjoy the great acting of all people (although Dafoe still steals this movie for me and had he not been in it, this might have been more along the lines of an 'okay' film) and I enjoy the cleverness of the action sequences (as told by Dafoe's character Smecker). The characters are instantly charming and so is the tale of vigilante justice in the name of God - whether you agree with the means or not. And I'm always down with some good old fashioned gun toting violence in my movies.

But upon my recent viewing I discovered that not is all green in the land of Oz. I find that I disagree with Troy Duffy's choice of pacing and some of the structuring of the film. I know that the film is already well over 2 hours but I seriously could have used another half hour or hour of script depth and structuring changes. I just seemed to 'jump' a bit too much for my tastes. For example, I felt that Smecker, as a character is left hanging - he reaches an epiphany towards the end but it never pays off. We get nothing from the rest of him at the end of the film. It just jumps to 3 months later randomly at the end and leaves the whole situation unfinished. So suddenly Il Duce changes up and there is no repercussions...seems a little like they were just trying to wrap it up quickly by the end and I felt a little left out.

In the end though, this is still a very good film and I admire its tenacity of film making. It deals with issues bigger than the story itself which is nice and I can't argue with how charming it is. I'll be damned if this isn't one of the most charming films to come out in the last 20 years. And for that, it makes up for most of its flaws. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Slaughter (2009) - 2/5

This film was a good case of waiting for something to happen...and waiting for something to happen...and waiting for something to happen...and YAY! Something's happening! And its dragging on...and dragging on...and on...all right. Let's end this...nope...not yet...okay...maybe...nope.

You get the point. For "Slaughter", another one of After Dark Horrorfest III's 8 Films To Die For, it was a test of patience. Although I appreciate a good suspenseful tale full of character development and tension building drama, this had almost none of that...well at least none of it that really worked. We spend a lot of time getting to know our main lady Faith and her fucked up life as she tries to run away from it and stay with a new found friend on her family farm. Although by the time shit starts hitting the fan in the third act, I had already tired of the premise. Just as things start getting good at the starts to just...keep going. What feels like a climax turns out to be another half hour of film of an oddly placed power struggle between two women whom don't do anything that makes a lick of sense. We build and we build and we build for this? Damn.

But alas, the script may have had its cliche moments and sputtering pacing, but even some of the choices in the film were odd. The acting was hit or miss and so was the directing. Some solid moments sprung up here and there, but missed opportunities (like really building tension around the Slaughterhouse would have been nice) and missed focuses just undermined what was happening in the film.

I can't state that this was a bad film, per se, but it definitely wasn't good. It just missed out too much on some great elements that were hinted at in the script (some supporting cast screen time would have been nice here or there) and wasn't able to carry the film on the premise. It was just a very trying watch on my patience. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Frighteners, The - 4.5/5

"When a man's jawbone drops off it's time to reassess the situation." --Judge

Is it just me or is this film massively underrated? Yeah, sure its not "Lord Of The" Fucking "Rings", but this is perhaps the last 'true' Peter Jackson film out there in my opinion. It has classic Jackson all over it: dark humor, fucked up sense of humanity, lots of tongue in cheek Horror elements, and a solid dose of 'what the fuck'. All of which lead to a great film and entertainment experience.

Perhaps most people just don't understand this film. I guess I could get where people don't find it funny at all...but I, for one, find this film ridiculously funny and outrageous. From its clever and witty script (with amazing quotable lines like "I'm an asshole...WITH AN UZI!") to its odd concept of a con man with the ability to see the dead that hires two ghosts to help him con people this film is an essential in the dark comedy spectrum. Super violent, super over the top, and super funny can't even begin to describe how much fun I have watching this film.

So not only is the script a prime example of 'awesome', but the casting is top notch too. Michael J Fox nails his role as the con man with a heart and odd sense to save humanity from death, Jeffrey Combs steals the movie as a quirky (and might I add fucked up) FBI paranormal investigator with ticks and over righteous sense of justice, and even the fairly minor role of Busey as the killer is ace. Not a weak casting in here.

Throw in a some great behind the scenes work of Jackson (as I mentioned before, this being what I consider the last 'true' Jackson work) as he makes this baby memorable with awesome over the top camera shots but just enough seriousness to make it a stable suspense film too. This is my fav film of his (although "Dead Alive" comes in close second) and it stands up the test of time nicely.

I can't praise this film enough. If you like dark comedy or any of Jackson's work prior to "Lord O The Rings" then definitely check this won't be sorry.

"Sheriff! You are violating my territorial bubble." --Dammers 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dying Breed - 3/5

I must first say that the cover of this film is very poor. I usually try not to judge a film by its cover but talk about misleading. Definitely no martinis present in this film. But besides that...

Considering how many good things that there could have been in "Dying Breed", I felt a little let down. The premise was a pretty solid one that could have led to some very suspenseful and gritty moments, but alas the film tends to have a pretty standard 'cannibalistic community from hell' feeling throughout. Lots of potential and very little solid execution.

I will say that I was impressed with some of the performances in "Dying Breed" though. Nathan Phillips as Jack had some great moments of douche bagness and although you come to hate him pretty earlier its his comeback moments that had me by the throat. The main guy and main girl also both had some great moments although compared to Phillips they seemed a bit flat by the end.

I wish that the film had a slightly better flow to it then it achieved. It starts off with some great character work but there is a mid section of when they first get into the forest on their own that just died for me. It seemed to drag on a bit longer then it should have and by the time the true Horror aspect of the film comes along I was kind of dead to subject.

I'll try not to give too much away but I also felt that the ending of the film rushed a lot of the loose ends together without a lot of logical thought. It pulls a "Lord Of The Rings" and ends like 6 different times after the climax of the film (which ended up being pretty lack luster for my tastes) and it made me numb to the subject.

"Dying Breed" had a lot of great things that could have happened throughout the story, but a fairly straight up directing job and some poor story flows hindered the cast from showing off their solid acting chops and letting the story unfold in a more natural pace. Still a good effort (especially for the Horrorfest catalog) but definitely far too cliche for a cannibal hick community film for it to reach new heights. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Spirit, The - 2.5/5

"I'm gonna kill you all kinds of dead." - The Spirit

Perhaps I'm just a sucker for bad movies that know they are ridiculous, but I loved this movie. Of course, as I'm sure most of you have heard by now - "The Spirit" is not a good movie. Far from it actually. There are massive loop holes in story, the acting is over the top (thanks to Mr. Jackson for the majority of the film), and comic approach to its filming is even above and beyond outrageous. But it all accumulates into an experience of shear absurdity that I found myself smiling the entire film and laughing openly at moments.

Despite the film understanding that it is just completely out there and embracing the fact that it didn't have to 'make sense' all of the time there are some pretty hefty flaws that bring it down. The flow of the film is very chunky in it's presentation and there are massive jumps that will come from left field. At first I was very hesitant at this but eventually I just accepted the fact that this film was going to go this way and it was fine then. Also, there is a mixture of humor and action that doesn't always work. The scene with The Spirit hanging from the building was an exercise in "what the fuck" moments and didn't really work for me. But for the most part one just has to except that this film isn't meant to blow people away. And all of these flaws don't look so abysmal.

If you like comic book movies, just make sure that you don't go into this one thinking its going to be serious and deep. It has some moments of that nature but overall just have fun and enjoy your 2 hours of ridiculousness. I found it fun just to watch The Spirit and Octopus banter - which is actually the majority of the film. So sit back, and leave reality for a few moments and take "The Spirit" in. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

From Within - 4/5

I was taken back by this movie. I mean, the third set of releases for the 8 Films To Die For has been a lot better in quality overall, but most of them tend to not live up to their conceptual uniqueness. But for the first time in this series (perhaps behind "The Broken" for me) this film actually was able to adhere to its concept very well.

There are still some aspects of the film that didn't quite hit the nail on the head, but overall this was a definite win in my book as a Horror film. It's not perfect but it tries damn hard and I respect that.

"From Within" is about a small Jesus loving town that suddenly comes under a rash series of suicides that are blamed on the local outcast family (because they believe in some sort of Paganism instead of Jesus) and hell starts to unravel.

Of course the supernatural element of the film that makes it a pretty solid creepy film is the 'curse' that makes the people commit suicide - the death scenes are actually quite impressive. The person sees their doppelganger (with white eyes and odd veins in their face) and their evil cursed twin is the one that makes them kill themselves despite their own will. Very cool concept and it was pulled off masterfully in my opinion. Very horrific scenes and great special effects made it work damn well.

But even with this well pulled off supernatural side of things, perhaps the best (and most horrific side) of "From Within" is how the film pulled off the Jesus loving town folk whom decide to take matters in their own hands in the name of God. It's your pretty average tale of religion gone hardcore, but great acting from the supporting cast and some great writing in dialogue just makes it work so much better. The scene with the main character's (ex-) boyfriend and his father the pastor of the church is pretty damn riveting as the pastor tells him that God wouldn't condone the uprising and his son essentially calls him weak in faith. Yeah! Good character trait flaws make a great story! Loved it!

Of course, as I said, this isn't a perfect film. Some of the acting tends to be a bit bland. The supporting cast does some great work, like the religious zealot of an ex-boyfriend or even the cousin Sadie whom appears randomly at the end of the film. It's the main ones that tended to be a bit wishy washy. Elizabeth Rice as the main character Lindsay is okay at best and gets better through out the film, but she seems a bit unaffected by all her friends dying. Ehhh, give me something a bit more. And Thomas Dekker (now somewhat famous for the failed "Terminator" TV show) gives us an over tired and too vague son of the hated family. He tries very hard to be 'subtle and apathetic' which just comes off as shitty acting. It's like he saw "Donnie Darko" and thought 'Geez I can do that too!' and failed at it. But they got the job done in the end.

I was just overly impressed with "From Within" maybe a bit too impressed at the end of the day, but I liked that movie. Its one of the best for this series so far, and if the next few I have yet to watch match this one then I'll be a happy camper. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Voices - 2.5/5

What we have here is a classic case of unfocused film work. Which is sad really considering that if the story could have straightened itself out a bit more and focused on the journey towards the conclusion instead of odd red herrings and off beat moments, then this would have been one pretty awesome movie.

As it is, this film has some pretty solid acting and strong visual presence and attack. On these two elements this film is probably sitting at a 4 or 4.5 out of 5 instead of 2.5. Conceptually the story is very interesting as this young woman slips into an ever increasing paranoid state of being where all of her family and friends want her dead. This in itself is a clever take on the 'duel personality' twist that so many films use, but the film tends to bog down the story with useless back story and odd tangents.

For example, we get this family tree sort of this where the young girl goes off to visit an old friend (or family member I suppose I never could figure it out). This section of the film was interesting on its own with the story of the young man and his wife, but in the context of the film it was practically irrelevant to anything in the story except for paranoia and to show her interactions with her 'mysterious' friend. Otherwise it was pointless and a waste of film and time. It was beautifully told and shot but completely off the map according to the story. The same goes with the supernatural elements. What the fuck is that red gooey person and why do they show up? Visually, its bad ass but again completely irrelevant to the story and never explained.

This odd flow of film and lack of attention to moving the story forward made this film a lot worse then it should have. With the talented actors and talented eye of the director this should have been a very impressive film, but alas, it comes off as being misguided and meandering. It's a shame really as it had so much potential. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Director: Alan Smithee (Kevin Yagher) [reshoots by Joe Chappelle]
Notable Cast: Bruce Ramsay, Doug Bradley, Valentina Vargas, Kim Myers, Adam Scott

"Pain? How dare you use that word? What you think of as pain is a shadow. Pain has a face. Allow me to show it to you. Gentlemen, I... Am... Pain."

Well, well, well. In the words of Pinhead at one point in the third act of Hellraiser: Bloodline, "I cannot die. I am forever," and that certainly describes where the Hellraiser franchise is going. With this fourth entry, which is supposed to serve as sequel to the previous entry and an endgame for the series, all is feeling a little drawn out and a little over run with mediocrity. As with this movie too. A little long and a little drawn out despite the fact that even with credits it comes in at slightly under an hour and a half. Fans of the series might enjoy it as it somewhat returns to the thematic roots of the first two films, but it still suffers from a massive amount of flaws to hinder it from being a true return to form.

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)

Director: Scott Derrickson
Notable Cast: Craig Sheffer, Doug Bradley, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar, Nicholas Sadler, Noelle Evans

"Ah, the eternal refrain of humanity. Pleading ignorance, begging for mercy. "Please, help me. I don't understand."

I would like everyone to stand up and give Hellraiser: Inferno a hand. Come on now. Okay, well maybe you may not agree with me, but I think this is what the Hellraiser series should have been! Forget all this slasher shit with Pinhead from Hell on Earth and Bloodline as the series attempted to water down its concept for mass consumption. Forget all of the ongoing threading of the last four films about the history of the box and its future and lets focus on what made the first film memorable and scary. Hell and the people that invite it into their lives. Because this one gets back to basics folks, and despite being the first in the series to go straight to DVD, I feel this one is the truest to the aspects that made the original Hellraiser such a watch. A gem of the series.

Deadgirl - 4.5/5

"You never forget your first time" --tag line for the film.

There is something to be said about controversial film making. For the most part, I enjoy it because I'm glad that somebody out there is willing to push the limits on an art form that is notoriously 'made to please a wide audience'. So I'll watch a lot of controversial films just because someone had the balls to make it. Which is one of the reasons I watched "Deadgirl" - the critical hype from the Horror fans was pretty astounding and yet I've read reviews from film goers that claimed this to be 'just an excuse for porn' or 'sick people would only like this movie'. So of course, I had to watch it.

To say this film is disturbing is an understatement. Honest to God, I was disturbed greatly by this film and it takes quite a bit to do that. It did though. But it was also riveting and one of the best made independent examinations of the human nature I've seen in film this year.

On the surface to those who can't get past the premise, this is a movie about two outcast kids whom while exploring an abandoned mental institution find a 'deadgirl' in a sealed room of the basement. One quickly becomes grotesquely obsessed with the girl while the other is repulsed and their friendship comes to breaking point as the obsessed teen starts to use her as a 'sex slave' for his amusement and the amusement of his other friends. Shit hits the fan and all comes to a head, when things start to unravel and get out of control as they discover their own dark and light sides of humanity. So if you have pretty strong morals, or are just easily disgusted to think that any human could do these things, then check that at the door otherwise you cannot handle this film.

Story wise, this is the most original and compelling zombie movie I've seen in a long time. This does to zombies what "Let The Right One In" did for vampires earlier this turns it on its fucking head. Bravo...Sarmiento and Harel took an over cliche and overly poor sub-genre of Horror and made it socially relevant again. Bravo.

And all the other technical aspects of the film are superior. The directors come across as young Cronenbergians of the genre, the acting is decent and Mr. Obsessed spiral into the darkness is brilliant to watch, the special effects are superb, and the editing is only to match. As a fan of independent Horror, this is some of the best there is on a technical side.

So if there is one zombie film to see so far this year, I'm still going to have to see how "Zombieland" does, then I'm going to have to recommend this one. This is not a treat of the cinema though and it will have you sitting in a state of shock for most of the film as these people sink to all new lows, so if you have a weak stomach for gore or just dark subject matter you might want to skip it. I, for one, was both disgusted and completely riveted by "Deadgirl". 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Cobra - 1.5/5

"You're the disease, and I'm the cure."

Don't let the star rating of one and a half fool you. This movie is awesome. So awesome in fact, that the film makers decided to not include story lines. Or plot devices. Or character development. Or acting. Or for that matter, any sense at all. Thusly, making this one of the best (worst) 80s action films from this glorious time of ultra violent action movies.

So what we have with "Cobra", is a renegade cop nicknamed Cobra whom is part of the 'zombie squad' which is the last line of defense and a section of police force that work on the boundaries of the law. A serial killer with henchmen...err...whatever they are...are killing tons of innocent people with little rhyme or reason and they have now targeted poor Ingrid (yes, that is Brigitte Nielsen's name in the film) for seeing one of the killer's face in their most recent attack. So Cobra is here to save her from potential and slash induced death.

Honest to God, that is pretty much the extent of the plot in the film too. Summed up in about 2 sentences. To say that they don't delve too deep into the story is an understatement. I'm not sure what this axe wielding game really wants, but according to the face of the gang (Shao Khan...I mean X File Alien Bounty Hunter...shit I don't know his name) they do it cause society sucks and they are the hunters. Sounds like half assed motive to me! I like it! Needless to say, Cobra picks a fight and ridiculous amounts of gun firing, car chases, and explosions ensue.

What's even better then the shallow and vague story is the shallow and vague dialogue. There are some great one liners that don't make a lot of sense, I'm still trying to figure out why Stallone says "You have the right to remain silent" before pouring gas in a guys face and lighting him on fire as it the line has nothing to do with the action he does, and most of the attempted character development feels completely out of place. The random romantic interest scene comes out of the blue. It's actually quite hilarious instead of dramatic.

Of course, when you watch a movie like "Cobra", are you really there to see great characters and tension filled plot? Absolutely not. I'm here to see shit go boom and guys go splat. And that's what this movie does best. Whether its extended car chases, a gun fight with a thousand and one motorcycle gang members at a rural motel or a man struggle over a knife in a metal working factory then this movie nails it. Of course it doesn't have to make sense, like risking hostages to sent in Stallone to talk to a killer or even the reason he carries a machine gun throughout the film, but then why would it. That would just ground it to reality.

If you love 80s action then this is a must have. It's an awful attempt at film making but a glorious achievement in action. No story, no acting, and horrid 80s rock soundtrack make this a must have for my collection. Perhaps not yours, but definitely mine. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

12 Rounds - 1.5/5


This is an action movie for those of you who don't watch action films a lot. Or perhaps for those of you whom just like watching a fire truck run into cars for about 10 minutes straight. Either way, "12 Rounds" isn't all that good and could have been titled "12 Action Movie Ripoffs In One".

It's not like I had the highest expectations from this movie. Seriously, its a John Cena movie. It's made by WWE films. Was I expecting brilliance? No. But I was expecting it to be somewhat original and I definitely didn't get that.

I think that Renny Harlin was trying to make a statement: 'See! I could have directed "Die Hard With A Vengeance" too!' because the majority of this film rips on that concept. Foreign terrorist/genius takes on blue collar cop in big city to make him go through a series of ridiculous tasks so that he could take revenge/steal shit. Wow. Really? That's pretty much word for word conceptionally. What makes these two films different is that "Die Hard III" was actually fun to watch and this was just sad. I had nothing of any sort of feelings towards Mr Fisher (Cena) or his girlfriend, whom steals the show with her awful acting. And with an unmemorable villiain whom looks like a Richard Gere "The Jackal" rip-off, this one tops the charts with stolen ideas.

On the plus side, the pacing of the film is pretty good and some of the action sequences were solid...although I could have used a bit actually gun fighting as most of this film is based on that 'run Hero run!' concept of action. Let's make cars go boom and buildings go boom and elevators go boom and helicopters go boom and girlfriends go boom and even for one scene water go boom. So even the action is a bit repetitive for an film like this.

Maybe I was expecting a bit much from a film like this. I mean, originality? Nobody does that anymore anyway. And "12 Rounds" verifies this idea. Shit, it doesn't even trust the audience to remember its story for the duration of the film (how many flashbacks of the girlfriend's face do we need to remind us why he's doing all of this?) so why would I expect it to be original. Only for Cena fans. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lake Dead - 1.5/5

"That's how you fuck family" - John Lake

This is the last of the 2nd series of '8 Films To Die For' for me to watch and what a hell of a way to end it. This is perhaps the worst of the bunch (its neck and neck with "Nightmare Man") as its pretty much a blatant rip off off of a solid handful of better slasher films out there.

The story revolves around some sisters that inherit a Lake Motel (clever name!) when their Grandfather passes away. And by passes away I mean gets shot in the face with a shotgun in an intro that is both horribly acted and has pretty poor special effects. Of course, this intro is just a nice dabble of the shit to come in this one, and while the story and characters that come next might make you think your about to watch a somewhat decent low budge Horror film, in reality it just rips on some classics and ends up spinning uncontrollably into a tale spin of disastrous proportions.

Honestly, this is awful acting (particularly by the secondary characters like Bill and that random female friend that tags along just for the film to have some nudity and a random forest sex scene) that tries to pull a sub-par script out from a sink hole of a film. The story is your basic 'incest driven hillbilly slasher family' that's been done a billion times before and a billion and one times better, and nothing sans some interesting camera shots saves this from being a complete waste of my time. Hell, half the time the story didn't even make sense and the stupidity of the script (really? A fucking twisted ankle and your down for the count?!) made me feel as though they thought I was as dumb as the 2 Leatherface knock offs characters named Cain and Abel. Yeah, seriously. Cain and Abel. I know.

I could really just tear this one apart at the seams if I wanted to but I'm done with it. I'm going to post my review and then I'm going to forget I saw this at all. Blank my memory of this work of shit. This is just a warning for those of you out there that are interested. DON'T BE. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Heroes Of The East - 4/5

When I want to watch a great Martial Arts action flick, I have no further to go than Dragon Dynasty. Since I started to really delve into the Kung Fu film catalog (starting about 2 years ago), I have found through this company so many great titles of both classic and modern works of Asian action. One of them being "Heroes Of The East".

Granted, one could have hoped for a slightly more in depth tale of betrayal, revenge, or even your standard war story from this one, but its rather fun and simplistic plot of a young Chinese man and young Japanese woman getting married and accidentally creating a feud between the two cultures where he must fight off some of the best Japanese Martial artists is a breath of fresh air when it comes to some of the extremities of stories in the genre. Its just enough story to thread together extensive fighting for the last half of the film and it worked for me. Is it the greatest story ever told? No. But it works for what it does.

As for the fighting scenes themselves, its hard to dislike this film at all. There are so many styles on display here and so many interesting matches that even though the story might only be there to lightly thread together and set up these matches, it doesn't really matter once it starts moving. We get all kinds of awesome shit including ninjitsu, hand to hand combat (karate, drunken boxing - my fave! - and even some judo), sword fighting, small blade fighting (including sais, you don't see that often), spear fighting, and even chained stick fights. Its a Goddamn buffet of Martial Arts madness! And every fight is unique and memorable! We might as well have skipped the first half hour of story and just went here and it wouldn't have changed this film hardly at all.

Even though the story is pretty weak, this film still ranks high on my list just for the sheer amount of cool style fights it has. Honestly, this film knew it wasn't the most brilliant picture and it played it pretty honest and up front. I appreciate that. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wrestler, The - 5/5

"The only place I get hurt is out there. The world don't give a shit about me." --Randy 'The Ram' Robinson

I just finished my first viewing of my much highly anticipated "The Wrestler" and I must say that although the film was quite different then I had envisioned it in my head, I was completely enthralled with it. From beginning to end, I couldn't pull myself out of the film and that says a lot.

Although there were plenty of comparisons to the classic "Rocky" film made when this first was being hyped, I found that although on a somewhat surface level the comparisons work, much of this film is far darker and more gritty then "Rocky" ever was. Despite the 'fun' and 'ridiculousness' that Pro-Wrestling should hint at in the story, "The Wrestler" is far from being fun or ridiculous as we watch Rourke portray a man trying to find life in a real world and dealing with the struggles that come with a tragically flawed hero.

I was worried that my 80s hero, Rourke, would end up disappointing me with his work here (I'm always cautious about hype especially when it has to do with heroes of mine) but the film is centered on him and he ably carries it the entire time. The massively underrated Rourke finally seems to be catching some of the limelight he has deserved in his career. Granted with lots of praise for the supporting roles (which I found interesting since both Tomei and Wood actually have very little screen time but use it amazingly) its a combination of Rourke's interaction with them that makes this film amazing on all levels of acting.

I must also praise Aronofsky with his almost documentary-esque approach to filming this bad boy. It's down in the dirt realistic take worked wonders for the story and its presentation and his use of music throughout the film was brilliant. Whether it was those 80s arena filling Hair Metal anthems or the final song by Springsteen, I was just amazed with how the songs added all new levels to the feelings and heart of this film.

I'm going to say that "The Wrestler" now has my vote for best film of 2008. It worked so well on my emotions and nerves that this is a film I could watch a 100 times and never tire of it. If there is one movie you see of 2008, make it "The Wrestler". 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

5 Deadly Venoms, The (1978)

"You've just asked me "When will it end?" Well let me tell you: Once an evil deed is done, then it never ends... it goes on and it goes on forever." --Scorpion

Director: Chang Cheh
Notable Cast: Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Kuo Chui, Lo Mang, Wei Pei, Lu Feng, Ku Feng

So I finally got around to picking up the ultra-cult classic "Five Deadly Venoms" when Dragon Dynasty released their beautiful version of the film and I must say that it deserves a lot of the praise it gets. Of course, being from 1978 and part of an era where Kung Fu films were very cheesy, if you don't like the style of film then this one probably isn't going to change your mind. If you can put that all aside though (I think it takes a true fan to overlook the little things like odd sound effects and horrid dubbing) this is a masterpiece of Martial Arts film making.

This move is known as EYE POKE!
Based on the idea of a school where five masters were trained, each in a specific style of combat based on venomous animals: Centipede, Gecko, Toad, Scorpion, and Snake, and let into the world, their master sends his latest student (who isn't fully trained) to clean up the mess he created with his students. This leads to a small town where the five venoms and the prodigy meet up to find a missing treasure and settle the score. On the outside the story sounds a bit basic but the way that the film goes about it is a nice turn of events. Using lots of dramatic elements like betrayal, coercion, and civil manipulation the 6 students begin a path that leads them down a road where collision is the only option.

Halloween came early this year.
Shot with a pretty standard Kung Fu style from the 70s and limited on budget, most of the focus on this film is placed on the story and character interaction. The thriller side of the film is quite fun (whose working with who, who will survive, and who the fuck is the Scorpion are all repeated asked by viewers) with lots of tension built between the characters. I wasn't so sure about how the prodigy student was really going to fit in by about half way through the film, but he gets his time nicely in towards the end.

As for the Martial Arts aspect of the film, most of the action is done hand to hand style but watching the various styles combat each other is quite fascinating and impressive. The final fight is one that could be studied for a long time with its pretty quick pace and non stop Martial Arts finesse.

"Ugh. His armpit is sweaty..."
This is a Kung Fu film that is beyond itself for its time. The story is clever and driven and the action compliments it perfectly. There is a reason that this is a classic and it deserves its attention. With a remake (supposedly) on the way perhaps it will generate a whole new fanbase with this film.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Shoot Em Up - 4.5/5

"Oh my God, that is twisted! That sick son of a bitch! Oh, that sick son of a bitch suckered us again!" --Mr. Hertz

If one could take every action film cliche and jam them all together into one hour and twenty minutes of film, then that's about as close as explaining what "Shoot Em Up" is like. Granted, there are many people out there that do not understand that this film is MEANT TO BE BAD and taken with a nice firm tongue in cheek. For those of you who do not understand why this film is amazing then you never will. Don't bother. For those of you that do understand what it is to have a movie that is brilliantly (and in this instance - awesomely) bad, this is a must see/must own/must crave type of film.

The premise is simple. Random and societal outcast man (whom has ridiculous amounts of gun and combat training) gets caught in a political and gang related conspiracy, which involves him saving a lone child with the help of his ex-prostitute lady friend from high amounts of bullets, explosive settings, and betrayals. Sounds like a pretty solid and unfounded action story line to me. Don't worry about it making too much sense as its mainly there to weave together lots of gun fighting. Needless to say that even though the story is practically irrelevant to the film, its a nice treat to the person that saw all those awesomely bad 80s action films...ala me.

As if a ridiculous story wasn't enough, the action is the true bread and butter of this film (if you thought it was going to be otherwise then slap yourself twice and reread the title of the film). Whether its some outrageous gun toting action (with lots of random lackies going down just like any good action movie), the random sex/gunfight sequence, and one of the most entertaining car chases I've seen - with a high flying ending! - this film is full to the brim with action. Ironically, for being a film that's borderline spoof, the action is some of the best I've seen in a long time in American film. Honestly!

Then there is the brilliant casting. Clive Owen owns as Mr. Smith and delivers the action and amazing one liners with so much seriousness that its hilarious. Not to mention having his arch nemesis cast as the ever changing Paul Giamatti. When they exchange words the writing is brilliantly awful and one is going to love every minute of it. From now on in my reviews I wanted to have a quote to begin it from the film, but this film has some many memorable and great lines that it was hard for me to pick just one!

If you couldn't tell, I can't praise this film enough. It worked on every level for me and it pulled off one of the greatest action films in the history of film while doing it with a solid lack of taste and class. This is a must have!

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Forest Of Death - 1.5/5

After I discovered the Pang brothers, I have eagerly sought out whatever I could find that they had even touched. Although they have had some missteps ("The Messengers" comes to mind) they have almost always had something in their sleeves to impress me. Until I watched "Forest Of Death".

The more I think back on this film the more I question its integrity on all levels whether it be writing, acting, music, or directing and I find that I become even more saddened with these thoughts. How could a film that taps into some very interesting subject matter with the Pang brothers at the helm go so incredibly awry?

Honestly, there is not much to be praised after watching this one. The story has almost no flow to it, it doesn't even attempt to distract the viewers from its odd leaps in logic and shifts in direction, and to top it all off it was completely BORING. Yipes!

And there were some moments that I enjoyed (particularly the third act when the Detective and Botonist go on their rescue mission) but the lead up to the climax was poorly developed and then the ending left me with a great deal of 'what the fuck?!' moments that I became so confused I no longer could tell if this was a science fiction film about talking trees, a murder who-dun-it mystery, a ghost story, or for that matter an alien flick. I was messed up by the time the credit began to roll, and that's never good for me.

I'm not sure what the hell happened to "Forest Of Death", but as a Pang brothers fan even I advise skipping this one. Far too cheesy and absurd for even the most open-minded horror film goers.

I guess now I'll just have to go back and rewatch "Re-Cycle" or "Diary" to feel better. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - 3/5

So the almighty Wolverine is now released from the confines of having to share screen time with the rest of the X-Men to...share screen-time with other X-Men? Alright, I suppose that Mr. Jackman did pretty much have to carry the film on its own and I did have a mighty fun time watching it, but Wolverine is far from being lethal in the claws.

I guess I'll start with the good. For those of you that have been Wolverine fanatics since the inception of the X-Men film franchise then this is going to fit you just fine. It's full of your favorite hero sitting in the grey area of good and bad and going on a quest of vengeance against those you want to fuck with his life. Some great action sequences (including the three way slash fest at the end that was pretty awe inspiring) make this movie move on its way quickly and with relative ease. And story wise, its hard to argue with the choices they made for this film release. And really this film starts off nicely with some montages depicting the brothers (Wolverine and Sabertooth) as they fight alongside one another. But after the first act the film tends to fall into a middle of the movie slump where it clunks along and either drags out some pointless plot elements (the fight with Gambit looked awesome but had essentially did nothing to move the story forward at all) and just flies through others with little means of explanation (ergo the entire relationship between Wolvie and Kayla). And this is my biggest complaint on this film.

As for acting, there was some standout work here. We all know that Jackman has Wolverine down pact by now, but Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth had me fucking hooked. His part psychotic, part charming, part all out badass portrayal just nailed it for me. And everytime he was on screen I wanted more. In fact, I could have done with just a Jackman vs Schreiber on screen at all times and been even happier with the result. Especially since, those bastards screwed over Gambit for me. Mr. -I-get-an-actor-that-isn't-dark-at-all-and-loses-his-accent-one-scene-after-he-appears. Bastards. At least they (at first) nail Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds. Who then just gets the short end of the script stick towards the finale and after his initial 10 minutes of awesomeness.

I guess even after all my nitpicking, I did have fun watching the movie. Full of acting and lots of awesome claw fighting makes a good movie watch any day. It's not a great film by any means (although most anything beats the trainwreck that was X-Men 3) so go into with a light heart and don't take too much seriously. Then its going to be a good time. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Crank 2: High Voltage - 2.5/5

I have yet to actually decide if I liked "Crank 2". I mean, if you get the idealism that is behind the "Crank" franchise, then I'm sure you will at least understand where "Crank 2" is going to be going - which is beyond anything you might actually expect. Over the top doesn't even begin to describe how ridiculous this film is.

Which is one of the reasons why I loved and hated this film. I loved the fact that this one said "fuck you" to every convention that has been established in film. Cohesive storyline. Out the window. Fluid motion from beginning to end. Not so much. Continuity. Maybe...if you consider long lost twin brothers and heads being kept mechanically alive as keeping the continuity between films steady.

I liked the fact that this film didn't want to be confined to any idea at all. In fact, there was no sense of self censorship for the sake of sanity at all. Why not have an extensive sex scene in the middle of a horse race track or a Godzilla fight scene between two of the characters as represented as other men in costumes made to look like said characters. Hell, anything goes on this one and it has a charm about.

But that charm was also its downfall as by a half hour into the film I was already so overwhelmed that I sort of mentally checked out. I needed a commercial break (and as a movie guy that is RARE). I'm sure I will like this film even more as it comes to home video as I can take it a bit more at a time, but in the theaters I was a bit overwhelmed.

Again, if you were a fan of "Crank" then I'm sure there is plenty to love in "Crank 2". Otherwise you might want to skip this one. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Star Trek (2009) - 4.5/5

To say that I was scared of this film doesn't even begin to describe my hesitation for a franchise 're-boot'/prequel for one of my favorite franchises of all time. But, as my star rating would indicate - this film is what a modern "Star Trek" film should be.

It's a combination of modern filmmaking with all the elements that make "Star Trek" shows so fascinating. The high budget special effects and very awesome action sequences are going to keep those new watchers busy in awe at the scale of the film (even the credits must have cost a couple million in fucking CGI funds) but most of the aliens were done with make-up and costume when available (sans the some what ridiculous 'monster' chase on Delta Vega which is the one scene where I felt like they tried a bit too hard and is perhaps my one complaint about the film).

Casting wise, again I was worried that they would screw with me with Mr. Pine as James T. Kirk, but alas his days as a romantic love interest in teeny bopper flicks seems to be long gone and he gives a pretty solid performance. Quinto as Spock worked very well for me and that includes the entire cast. At times I felt Bana was underused as the villain, Nero (he had moments but I wanted them to really bring out his 'working man on a vengeance craze a bit more).

In the end though, it wasn't all these great new elements that made this "Star Trek" work. It was the little nuances for the fans that made so delighted. When the parachuting scene came up I laughed so hard at the third guy wearing the red suit - if you are a Trekkie then you know why I would laugh. The fact that they included Kirk's 'cheating' the system subplot into the film delighted me to no end as that was my one extreme hope for the film. They kept all the quirks about the characters intact (including the ever vigilantly down trodden McCoy) all the while not making any of these elements too blatant that non Trekkies are going to wonder what they missed.

So my final word has to be that of massive praise for this film. The story also allows for this re-boot to fly its own direction (a whole new reality anyone?!) and this could be the beginning of a beautiful new franchise. It was so much fun I didn't want to leave the theater even after it was done. J.J. won me over again. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Perkins' 14 - 3/5

With each year in the After Dark Horrorfest, the films get a bit more unique and satisfying. Although many of them still suffer their flaws, I find I have lots of respect for a majority of the releases. This includes "Perkins' 14". This is a film where conceptionally (like many of its peers this year) the film is far greater than its actual performance, and although it definitely could have used a few fixes here and there, is pretty solid on the watch.

"Perkins' 14" deals with a police officer father whose son had been abducted 10 years prior in a string of 14 missing children cases that was never solved. As he continues to deal with his loss (and demise of his family situation) a strange encounter with jailed man named Perkins unleashes a series of horrific events that rocks the town to its knees and brings the father one step closer to finding his lost son (and the other 13 children).

Pretty cool concept eh? I think so too and honestly its the one reason to really watch this film. It's concept is very clever and pretty unique. The first half of the film focuses on the father figure and his family as it tells the story of the missing children within flash backs. The acting is decent all around, although some scripting issues tend to forego and around what could have been some even greater moments. In fact, that's where most of my problems with "Perkins' 14" come into play. There is a lot of build up in the first half with lots of hints towards these things that Perkins did to the children and who he was, but the last half of the film tends to feel like a rushed together zombie flick that never answers a lot of questions.

For example, a large plot device that was built up was Perkins' connection with the judge and his release from jail. But it never explained why this mysterious monster of a man would have this connection or why it was so very important. It simply gets lost in the chaos of the second half. There are many very interesting plot points that are ignored this way and as an intelligent viewer I felt let down that they didn't quite give me what I wanted to see/hear. It felt like a cop out of giving us more for the sake of 'letting us make up our own minds'. I wasn't buying it.

Other than most of the odd plot movements and choices, this was a pretty solid film. Some odd choices and some moments that could have been built up (some of the deaths are just sort of written off at the end and the emotional aftermath wasn't ever really shown) hindered the second half even more than it could have been. I wanted to know more about Perkins and his connections to everyone and I wish they would have built him up a bit more as a major player. Too bad really, cause had they done that and fixed a few flaws here and there this would have been a modern classic with its concept and pretty solid elements. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, August 28, 2009

Halloween II (2009) - 1/5

I'm tired of giving Rob Zombie the benefit of the doubt. His first two films were nice little homages to his influences and as an upcoming film maker I forgave many of their flaws and odd moments. Even his remake of "Halloween" I was able to let some things slide...that's what you get when you remake a classic. But "Halloween II" is unforgivable. Your time is up Mr. Zombie. No more free passes. No get out of jail free cards. You have been in the business long enough you should know better. And yet, "Halloween II" is perhaps one of the most horrifying movies I have seen in a long time. And I'm using the term horrifying in all the worst senses of the the word.

Where do I begin? I guess with some of the good things.

One half star goes to Brad Dourif whom has always been a badass (and underrated actor) and will remain a badass even with this film on his resume. He is the only actor in this film that I actually enjoyed and felt ANYTHING for.

One half star goes to Zombie uses the original "Halloween" theme at the end of the film.

That's all I can pretty much say about the good things of "Halloween II". Yipes. Let's hit up the 'issues' that I had with it. I'll try to surmise it down into nice little quick blurbs.

Firstly, this film didn't make a lick of fucking sense. Nope.

I appreciate that he tried to throw in some nice symbolism here and there but most of it ends up being lost in the shit storm of a script. It tries so very hard to make sense, but it fails on most levels. I'm not even sure who was actually seeing Myers mom by the end and if or if not she was actually a ghost that lead her children to insanity (which doesn't at all link up with how she was in the first one) and I felt a little betrayed that Zombie felt the need to actually spell out the white horse symbolism for the audience. Really? Living Dead Girl video shoot was over a long time ago. Nice try though. Not to mention that character arcs (what little there were) didn't actually arch as much as jump through the film, particularly with Lorie and her final moment when she leaves the shack - which honest to God - had the audience laughing at this final symbolic and powerful scene. IT CAME OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE!!!

Not only did none of that make sense, but I was never sure where the story was even going. The ending seemed plausible but how they got there was a fucking train wreck plodding script. Zombie might have actually got worse at writing since his last film. It was juvenile at how many times the word "Fuck" was dropped and most of the characters were pointless and poorly developed. Did we really need a murder scene at a strip club when the characters where essentially completely from left field and had no relevance to the story or the audience? Nope. Hell, Zombie even managed to take Dr. Loomis (McDowell) and make him a pointless character, whose subplot not only has no affect on the main part of the film, except his book, but also has one of the worst redemption changes in the history of film. Christ, I'm getting worked up just thinking about all of this!

I'm done rambling for now. Rob Zombie took a major dump on film for all of us and decided to call it "Halloween II". And the worst part of all of this is...he even tried. There are so many moments where he tried to make it all work out. He tried to make a sensible plot. He tried to make Myers scary again. He tried to make us feel for Lorrie. He tried and he tried and he tried. And failed every time.

"Halloween II" = Epic Failure.

No more benefit of the doubt Zombie. You need redemption now.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)

Director: Anthony Hickox
Notable Cast: Terry Ferrall, Paula Marshall, Kevin Bernhardt, Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, Ken Carpenter, Peter Atkins, Eric Willhelm

This is a love it or hate it film. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth has this odd  and very devout following (even apart from the rest of the series) and for a variety of reasons it splits many fans. I, for one, am not a fan of this one as I feel that it changes a lot of the heart of the story and what Hellraiser was originally about in the intent of broadening the concept of the film and adding in a lot more mainstream appeal. Many fans do like it and truthfully there are many things to like about this one, but for me there are too many flaws in it and it conceptionally doesn't work for me as a film within the Hellraiser universe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rocknrolla - 4.5/5

A return to roots. That is what "Rocknrolla" is, and it was just the film I wanted to see from Guy Ritchie. Since the absolutely magnificent "Snatch" the man has been absent from film (not literally, it just that he hasn't done anything that was 'his') and so now that he returns to the field of underground crime in London, it's a nice homecoming. "Rocknrolla" gives it justice too.

Story wise, this is a nice weaving and interlocking piece about crooked accountants, street wise thugs for hire, land mongols, and sneaky fucking Russians. Oh and of course, one rock star named Johnny Quid. The story is a bit less extreme than some of his other films having to do more with land and court manipulation than heists and killing, which gives the film its own flavor that I appreciated. I suggest watching the film a good 2/3 times to sort out the various characters that make their pop ins and to catch what is being said (I must also suggest subtitles with their thick accents). It can seem complicated but honestly once you are able to put it all together it works beautifully. Guy Ritichie has struck gold once again in the writing department.

As for directing, Guy Ritchie's quick cuts, extensive monologues, and overall hyper kinetic style wins the day. It helps when the story is clever and the characters are awesome, but his style never wears thin (although the odd slow motion and blurring sequence with the chase scene between Butler's One Two and the Russian War Criminals took some getting used to).

I have to admit though that this is perhaps the least humorous of his gangster films. Although it has that charming dry and quick wit that is always present in his films most of the humor comes from the rather quirky and awesome dialogue (and some of his just amazing monologues). The humor is there and hopefully you can catch it, but its not always there and this is perhaps is most straightforward film for this series. It still rocks some damn good quotes ("Daddy! Nice wheels!" or my personal favorite "My hat is deep and full of magic. I got rabbits, handkerchiefs, and ladies of the pole drinking Black Label. I got smoke machines, bubble machines, I even got love marines, and still the hat goes deeper. All right? But there AIN'T no mothafuckin' dry ice.").

This is Ritchie's best film since "Snatch" easily and although it doesn't top that glorious film it comes damn close. If you enjoy British humor and clever writing than this is a must have. Otherwise it might some a bit pretentious to you.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Batman: Gotham Knight - 3/5

This was definitely the most interesting and creative take on the Batman legacy that most of us have come to accept and love. Although I am not into Anime (the only other Anime I have ever seen in its entirety is the "Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie" and I had that on VHS as a wee kid), the animation was unique for each story and very good almost the entire time. Combining Anime and Batman at first seemed a bit odd to me but "Gotham Knight" worked it out very well.

Story wise, it was interesting to see these different short stories and how they tied into one another towards the end. It was a ballsy sort of idea that worked for the most part. I could have done with a bit more tie in's between some of the stories as most of them are pretty on the surface and/or fast quips that reference the other stories. It paid off when it happened but I could have seen it done more.

It was interesting to see the takes on Batman's look and actions. By far my favorite was the final section with Deadshot and how it tied in a lot with some of the earlier ones but some of the takes on Batman were a little odd to me. The story with Croc and Scarecrow felt the most like a traditional Batman story but the animation had a weird size shifts in it and I wasn't thrilled with their portrayal of Killer Croc.

Overall, this was an interesting take for fans of the Batman although I don't know if I'll be watching it repeatedly. I suggest this for fans only (mostly due to non explanation of characters and what not - if you don't know the story then you will be lost). I wish it was a tad more cohesive as a whole but it worked nicely. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inglourious Basterds - 5/5

To say I'm a Tarantino fan might be jumping the gun. He has made some amazing films for sure, but "Death Proof" was only mediocre to me and "Kill Bill" (although I do enjoy anything that homages old school Kung Fu films) was overzealous and a little bit too scatter shot for my tastes. So when I saw the trailers to "Inglourious Basterds" I didn't know if I should keep my hopes up or not. The man did create "Reservoir Dogs" and that in itself is pretty sick. In the end, I don't think it matters what expectations I had because this film blew most of them to shit (almost like some of the violence in the film!). This is Tarantino working his best stuff in a long time.

This was still a bit different then I expected. In all honesty, I figured it was the editing in the trailer that caused some of the humor. All of his films have an odd sense of humor in them, but I didn't realize this film would be so Goddamn funny. Not funny in a normal, oh that's ridiculous funny, but funny in a sense of 'oh my that's violent and awkward funny'. It hit all the right buttons with me though and I was rolling in my seat more than once. I have to give props though at the balance of seriousness and humor this film strikes as it practically is perfect in almost every sense. Warning though: if you don't extreme violence or disregard for human life then you might want to think twice about seeing this. In the theatre, it took the audience a good half hour to finally get that there was funny things going on. And I'm sure that reaction is pretty common.

Now if you aren't a fan of Tarantino's style, then this film isn't going to change that opinion. It's definitely his kind of film. He loves to create conventions of theatre (that is establishing a continuing theme or repetitive ideology within the confines of the film) and then shatter them. For example, Mr. Sam Jackson makes a narrator appearence a few times in the film but its not an established reoccurring aspect nor is is lead up to. His voice just kind of shows up twice and is gone. Just like Tarantino though, he makes it work and it never detracts from the film experience.

Acting wise, we get some awesome things going one here. Obviously, as it was built in its campaign, Brad Pitt is fucking awesome. He steals the film the entire time he is on screen and rightly so. It's hard not to smile and laugh at him even when he is scalping Nazis. It's an odd idea but seriously it happens. Eli Roth had some good moments but I wished his character would have appeared more (although there are plenty of characters abound to film the time) as his "Jew Bear" status is pretty awesome in idea even if we only get to see it in action a few times.

All in all, this is Tarantino's best film since "Pulp Fiction" in my book. It's a pure experience of art as film without losing the 'entertainment' factor that many artsy films forget. Best film of the year thus far!

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Splinter - 4/5

Anytime the cover of a horror film states that it has a 'best beast of the year' within its confines then damn right I'm going to have to see it. And...that's how I ended up seeing the film "Splinter".

It's a pretty impressive little horror film that's for sure. I loved the idea that it focuses on a small (that's right FOUR people!) group as they try to fight back against a very brutal and monstrous beast as it tries to turn them into its next dinner. I was excited for the smaller group because in 'monster films' when the cast is a bit more extensive many of the characters have shoddy builds and end up being waiting cadavers for the monster instead of the viewer becoming engrossed. So with only four we get some pretty solid character developments (with the running convict character eventually stealing the film with his intense work and surprise character arching towards the end) and it makes the film more satisfying.

The beast itself is definitely award worthy in concept (I'll try not to give too many of the major plot devices away here) and it rivals on the sheer brutality of changing with that of John Carpenter's The Thing in his acclaimed film. It was almost sinisterly fun to see what the hell it does in the film and how it reacts (and for that matter move) to its prey. Definitely the highlight of the film.

My one major complaint about "Splinter" would be the split personality of the directing. Wilkins does a great job at building suspense at times, like with the very intense standoff between the police woman and our heroes, but when it comes to showing off the monster he changes to a quick edit stye that gives a sense of intense nightmarish moments but ends up showing us less of the monster itself. I wanted at least one or two scenes that didn't necessarily move that quickly during an 'attack' or 'encounter' and allowed us to see the beast for what it truly was.

By the end though, I did enjoy "Splinter" quite a bit. I almost want them to build a franchise out of this one (I am a sucker for franchises even if they turn to shit 3 or 4 in) as this could be one monster that would make a pretty solid comeback. If you are a low budget horror fan then this is a definite watch. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (2009)

Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
Notable Cast: Michael Sheen, Rhona Mitra, Bill Nighy, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux

I finally caved in. Although I enjoy the Underworld series as most people seem to considering its continued box office numbers, I have many issues with the films themselves so I kept putting off watching this prequel. Seriously, I know how this one is going to end (we all saw the clips in the first films) so why rush to see a film I already know about? Could the Underworld series really produce a decent prequel? Luckily, Rise Of The Lycans is better then I hoped while fixing a few issues that arose in previous entries. It still suffers from a few problems that keeps it from really soaring, but it still comes off as a pleasant surprise.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

Director: Tony Randel
Notable Cast: Ashley Laurence, Claire Higgins, Kenneth Cranham, Imogen Boorman, Doug Bradley, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford, Barbie Wilde, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, William Hope

"We have such sights to show you." This time Pinhead's threat from the first film Hellraiser isn't an idle comment. This time we are actually shown some of the sights that the Cenobites have concocted up. Honestly, Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a good companion piece to the first film that really builds on the mythos of the entire "puzzle box from hell" with a slew of new characters and a twisty second half that will have you guessing to the end. Hellbound is not perfect, but it works and it even grows on the viewer with repeated viewings.

Returning from the first film is Kirsty, our fairly unlovable heroine, and this time she's stuck in a mental institution while the police and everyone else tries to figure out what the fuck actually happened to her family. Of course, she tells them her demonic fairy tale but no one believes her except soon to be villain and head of the wacko-basket, the devious Doctor Channard.