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.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Legend Of Fong Sai Yuk, The - 3/5

As a person that has grown up with America's image of Jet Li (I don't agree that he has to be paired with rapper's every other film - but alas that's how I know him) going back to his early films from China is a bit of a stretch for me. Particularly "The Legend Of Fong Sai Yuk", as this film has a bit of that comedic side that I don't necessarily pick up on.

The film is about a young man who falls in love with a the daughter of a wealthy government official type (off hand I can't remember exactly what) and finds out that his family is involved with a secret society that is out to start up some shit. Being of course the lead role of Fong Sai Yuk, Jet Li is again a man that can constantly kick ass and is rarely challenged in his awesomeness.

I'll give it to this film though, it has some very interesting and well put together fight choreography. There are a few battles that just simply astound. The fight in the courtyard on the heads of the crowd. The fight with the governor on the little bridges over the water. The final fight where part of it takes place under a wooden stage. There is a lot of pretty stellar martial arts going on in this movie and its by far the reason to watch it.

My largest complaint is the odd humor of the film. I have never in my life wanted to see Jet Li in drag and after seeing this film I never want to see it again nor claim that I ever did. But I'm sure some of you out there will find the 'comedy of errors' style humor in this film funny, but it just made me want to see a slightly more serious film. There are a few special effects moments that were laugh out loud funny (although this time unintentionally). Watching an obviously fake and poorly built horse fly from a dock to a ship in the beginning was one moment that I can never erase from my brain but I almost had to stop the film I was laughing so hard. This is just one moment of many where some of the special effects are little dated.

This film was all right when it comes to martial arts films/Jet Li's catalog, but too many odd moments in the film ruin what seriousness of story and action it had going for it. It's worth a watch just for the fight scenes honestly and that's what I recommend. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Infernal Affairs II - 5/5

When I first found out that "Infernal Affairs II" was a prequel to the first film, I thought that doing a film on the lives of the two moles and how they came to be where they were was an interesting concept. With its odd kinetic style, the first film was intriguing and overly amazing. The deal with "Infernal Affairs II" though, is that it wasn't anything like I expected but just as good as the first.

Oddly enough, a majority of this film has to do with the relationship and rise of Anthony Wong Chau-Sang's inspector character and Eric Tsang's Sam within the triads. A portion of the film has to do with our moles, but they seem to be there mostly to move other characters forward whilst showing their rise within the ranks. At first, I thought that this was somewhat of an odd choice, but in the end it probably works out better then it might have otherwise. We get even more tricky relationships between individuals (as in how Sam's wife has this odd connection to his mole) and even more story building that allows even more depth to the original. It almost makes this one even more epic.

The style of filming is different too. The original film had a feeling of chaotic fate and crumbling of the worlds, but this one moves at a slow burn pace focusing on the building situations within the world of the characters. This film might be more comparable to the "Godfather" then most with its epic storytelling and feeling of transitional phases with the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

Acting wise, since this is a prequel we don't get our two main guys from the first film, but their younger counterparts whom do the job nicely. The real acting comes from bit players in the first film Tsang and Chau-Sang whom really make this baby cook. Particular nod goes to Tsang (whom before the first "Infernal Affairs" I had only seen in more comedic roles) as we get some pretty impressive back story and acting chops to go with it.

"Infernal Affairs II" is a whole different beast then its predecessor, even though its just as good. All around this is just a monster of a film, relying on the in depth storytelling to carry most of its weight. It will definitely make you want to go back and rewatch the first film. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, August 14, 2009

Grudge 3, The - 3/5

This first straight to DVD sequel of the Americanized franchise, has its hits and its misses but ironically comes off with a better feeling than its theatrically released predecessor the very disappointing "Grudge 2". So on the whole this one was a lot better then I would have imagined this series going once it started going straight to the home theater systems, but its a far cry from its origins or even the remake at that.

After watching "Splinter" I was still a bit cautious about Toby Wilkins as a director, as he tended to use the shakey camera a bit too much on that one. This time around though he does it pretty straight forward and none of that bs. He tries very hard to replicate the Japanese directors that made these kind of 'ghost' films creepy, and occasionally he does make it work but more often then not it feels far too American and watered down to make the cut. He does a decent job though.

The big surprise for me was seeing Shawnee Smith in none of the acting was great (most of it was good enough to get the job done) but anytime you throw Shawnee Smith in there I'm happy...not that she does a great job either, as a bit part how could she develop anything, but just having her in there makes this movie a little more special.

As for the storyline, I guess this is a pretty solid sequel in the sense that they kept it very much in the continuity of the series. None of this 'let's take it somewhere else' they tried with "2", so it makes it feel a little more legit. They tried to keep it's Japanese roots within the story by adding in the sister of the scary ass Ghost lady into the mix (her name escapes me at this moment) but her role is pretty paper thin by the end and when it comes to climax crunch time she pretty much just gets annoying. Good effort with the Japanese thread but in the end it felt far too forced for this one. The ending was a little bit of too open for my tastes as they build this 'we can finally end the curse!' a bit too much when we all know this is a franchise now, and there's no way they are going to end it now. Hope that it doesn't spoil it for you, but for those of you that wanna cry there is another twist at the end that you might like.

It was a fun watch but nothing to write home about. Definitely better than the second film (which to me was like grating nails on chalkboard) but the series is slowly losing those elements that made the original ones (and to some extent the first American one) such a surprise and great film experience. Bring back the subtlety and bring back the thought provoking approaches to a relatively simplistic idea and then I'll be fully happy again. Otherwise I will continue to follow the series but without too much enthusiasm. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider 

My Bloody Valentine 3D - 3.5/5

Alright folks, here it is. The remake of the cult classic "My Bloody Valentine"! I avoided it to begin with due to its 3D hurricane advertisements, partially cause I plain and simple don't enjoy many 3D films and the source material is pretty much shit. Now the original film had its moments but overall was hindered by horrible acting and sub par directing. This one however, had many more good moments, gave homage to those good moments in the original but mostly created a new world for Harry Warden to terrorize.

When going into this film one must understand that this is, still, indeed a slasher horror film. So the three things one will get in a slasher are: a) loads of gore b)loads of nudity and c)loads of creative deaths. So if you are going to watch "My Bloody Valentine" for its submersive plot twists and in deep character work then look elsewhere. It's not found here. Pretty straightforward throughout (the big twists come from the 'whodunnit' type guessing game towards the end) but otherwise its based on those 3 slasher requirements. And seriously, it gets those 3 items out of the way quickly. Right from the get go there is extensive gore and killings to establish the plot point that 'Warden is a very brutal killer and these our are main characters'. And soon after that there is a solid 10 minute scene of full female nudity - so if you want kids to watch it you might want to hold off for 10 years or so. By the time the actual story gets moving they've already hit the slasher requirements leaving all those starving horror fans satisfied and ready for some kind of thinking.

The film moves at a pretty quick pace which did wonders for the relatively simplistic story telling. I watched the film in its 2D format (did I already mention that 3D just doesn't float my boat?) so many of the obvious pulls at 'shit that flies at the audience' seemed cheesy at times but they made it fit with the story enough it didn't make me roll my eyes as "Friday The 13th Part 3" did.

So I did enjoy the film quite a bit by the end and it beats the hell out of its source material which although considered a classic is far from being even remotely good. Pretty solid slasher but don't expect it to boggle your mind or even challenge you at all. Enjoy it for what it is (just remember the 3 things!) and you will have a good time. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

S. Darko - 3/5

So I honestly thought that there was no way in hell one could conceive a sequel the to the amazingly awesome "Donnie Darko" but since Hollywood deems it necessary that everything either needs a sequel, prequel, or remake then I guess this was the best possible solution. That and I'm a sucker for franchises.

Needless to say I did not have high expectations for "S. Darko", being as it was straight to video and the complexity and 'have to watch it a billion times to even catch everything' side of the first film, this was going to be a long shot. But, in the end, I was definitely on the pleasantly surprised side of the fence for this one.

Fans of the first film (and you HAVE to see it to even begin to crack into this one) are going to find a lot of things to love about this one. It does keep it pretty faithful to the style and approach of "Donnie" with its use of music from the era (this time its the 90s!), the slow and fast motion shots and lots of wacky shit, I still can't wrap my mind on what the hell that glowing feather really is, and of course, the rabbit from hell. I was curious to see how they made the rabbit fit in this time as it was so situational specific for "Donnie" but without giving away spoilers, they made it work.

At times, I felt "S. Darko" tried almost too hard to be like the first film and it had some almost predictable moments due to that. We know these films have that hidden Sci-Fi time travel aspect, but this time its almost just mushed into the story rather than unraveled out again...(one of my big complaints is that it takes Donnie extensive brain blows to figure out how to make time travel work and yet in this one it seems like child's play and anyone can do it).

Bringing back Ms. Chase as S. Darko was a pretty sick move and considering how well she pulled off this film I was thoroughly impressed. as for most of the other parts, they were done well but not to the high expectations this man had. I wanted them to delve more into the Preacher character and explain that sub plot a wee bit more but I understand that they probably didn't have the budget to fully flesh that one out. Otherwise props to Ms. Chase for a job well done.

I have to say that I did enjoy this film quite a bit. Being a "Donnie Darko" fan from the beginning (before it blew up and went all Hot Topic and shit!) this did fill my craving for some more wacky hidden Sci Fi work. It was far more clever of a sequel then I was expecting and here's to hoping they make a few more that deliver like this one did! 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Drag Me To Hell - 4.5/5

Here it is. The return of the Sam Raimi to the coveted Horror genre. We all know (and if you don't then you should probably just move on from this review) that "The Evil Dead" franchise is one of the greatest of all time and to finally have Raimi return got me very excited. And it all paid off in the end!

Granted, I know there is going to be a majority of people out there that 'won't get it'...Raimi's style is simply that way. And his style is by far the most apparent thing about "Drag Me To Hell". The quirky camera work, the ambient suspense, and the very unique 'voice' that he adds to all his films is far more up front then his more mainstream work like "Spiderman". This is what truly made this film a great watch and fun from beginning to end. The story isn't all that unique (although Gypsy witches are fewer and far between now that vampires are all the hype) but the quest that Alison Lohman goes on to rid herself of this curse is fun to follow and the scares are abundent.

My true surprise though that came from "Drag Me To Hell" came from Raimi (and brother Ivan who co-wrote the film with Sam) and how the film managed to work around its more mainstream PG-13 rating. Of course, he couldn't do the ridiculous gore he had before, but there are plenty of great gross out moments (including lots of body fluids!) and more then enough ridiculousness. When a goat possessed by a deity calls you a 'bitch' - now that's awesome. But besides the gross out moments the scares are great. There are tons of jump scares that use everyday elements and don't seem, pardon the phrase, dumbass scares. It's a nice change of pace to see a Horror film succeed with creepy and jump scares that isn't a remake of an Asian film.

On the acting side, Lohman does what is needed and carries the film quite well where the big surprise comes from Justin Long. Normally, I can't stand Mr. Mac in films (there are several Apple placements in the film concerning him that made me laugh) but he does a solid job as both voice of reason and some joking moments. I was impressed.

So if you are a Raimi fan, then this is A MUST SEE. If you are a fan of unique filmmaking and great directing then I also must advise this for watching. If you don't catch the dark humor then this might be a massive let down for you, otherwise its on the list for best films of 2009.

Fans of Raimi will instantly recognize when his car appears too! 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Lord Of Illusions - 3.5/5

For the most part, I believe this film to be quite underrated. Yeah, its pretty much right in the middle when it comes to Clive Barker films: not as good as "Hellraiser" but better than "Nightbreed", but there are a lot of great things that happen in this film. Unfortunately, this film has an almost too epic for its own good storyline and thusly tends to brush over things too quickly for my tastes too.

Now I've been a Clive Barker fan for years. Whether its his writing, directing, or painting I think he is quite brilliant. Unfortunately, its his directing that tends to be the lesser of the three as he tends to be hit or miss even for the die hard fans. "Lord Of Illusions" is an example of such. Great enriched storytelling that is hindered by some cliche moments and borderline cheesiness. If one is able to get around these elements (although the love making scene still has some of the most cliche and hilarious music ever!) then one can see some of the better parts including some of the ideologies within the story about death and the difference between magic and illusion.

Bakula surprisingly is able to carry this film on his back but its the cult favorite Kevin J O Connor that pulled me in most of the time. His character of Swann tends to be underdeveloped in the script (technically he isn't the main character) and although it leaves a lot of his decisions in shrouds of mystery, there are some moments where one thinks "why" a bit too much and it detracts from the film. This goes with almost all the characters though. As a film fan, this is somewhat frustrating.

As I said earlier, this film is almost too epic for its own good and although it carries a lot of weight in its concept (the philosophical statements and struggles with Nix at the end make this feel as a bit anti-climactic in the suspense and horror sense but very interesting in the 'let's talk about the the end of the world and afterlife' sense) much of the film tends to be dragged out a bit.

I almost wanted this to be a mini-series of sorts. Yeah, most mini-series that are based on horror writers tend to suck (I'm talking to you Stephen King!) but this needed way more time to delve into characters and concepts. I still love this film but I wanted it to be so much more then it could ever be. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Friday The 13th (1980) - 3/5

Let's time travel shall we? Back to the early 80s when things were changing. It was a whole new decade with a whole new generation of film goers and with that ideology comes a change in film. For the most part one can look at the original "Friday The 13th" as a sign of new things to come within the Horror genre. Perhaps not the first 'slasher' of its kind, one can easily tell that "Halloween" or even "Psycho" were influences for films of this type, but this film went on to inspire and change the way that Horror could be perceived.

Upon its release, it received high ticket sales despite the severe critical backlash. Even watching it now almost 30 years later, one can see why it was influential for its time but one can also see its many many faults. With that, I must say that I have some very high respect for this film. Perhaps not in the usual sense, but this was pretty ballsy for American cinemas at the time (okay perhaps it wasn't "The Exorcist" or even Italian films for that matter) and despite some very weak links I find that I enjoy this film no matter how many times I watch it.

For starters, this film has some of the poorest character development and plot build for any kind of film. Despite the brilliant twist ending, that most of you already know but I still won't spoil it for the others, this film is about the killing and not about even caring all that much for the teenagers. Most of them are idiots and probably deserve to die for lack of character depth. But the film is very focused on this fact and delivers it swiftly. For its time, the special effects had to have been awesome, despite being an independent film with a fairly low budget, and the cleverness of the deaths is something that would inspire legions of films later on.

One aspect I still have issues with isn't the story or the somewhat cheesiness that time has give the film, but Cunningham's directing. One can easily tell that he is new to the craft and his later films would show a much better director. He tends to bog down flow of the film and he has a very un-inspired 'let's just shoot it' style for this one. It doesn't help that he doesn't have a good script to work with, or great actors either (despite Kevin Bacon of course whom's character is essentially a pile of rocks in flesh) but he does nothing to help it either.

And despite all of these flaws of poor film making its still hard for me not to enjoy this film. I still watch it every 13th that falls on a Friday and I still enjoy it at the end. Its far from great but I have respect for it (in a sense) and will always find myself draw to it. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Hellraiser (1987)

Director: Clive Barker
Notable Cast: Ashley Laurence, Clare Higgins, Andrew Robbinson, Sean Chapman, Doug Bradley

Whenever there are discussions about some of the most iconic horror films and franchises, it's notable that Hellraiser and its various sequels may be mentioned, but usually towards the end of the list. The degrading quality of the franchise is something of a trick though as the original Hellraiser is not only spectacular, but it still retains significant impact. Clive Barker's directing debut is a whopper of a film (it helps he wrote it too) and there are plenty of things to admire about this low budget masterpiece of atmospheric weight and horrific, meaningful gore.

Spiral - 3/5

I was definitely hoping for more from "Spiral". It was impressive to see the range of films that Adam Green could pull off (the reason I got this was it was from the director of "Hatchet" one of the best off beat Horror films I've seen in a while) and he does so with some pretty stylistic charm that makes him a director I will continue to follow in the future.

Unfortunately, the story wasn't has 'thrilling' or 'mysterious' as I thought it would be. There is a few Hitchcockian moments, I thought multiple times through the film that it would have been better in black and white, but overall it just didn't have the edge that it could have. The twist at the end was rather predictable and not all the twisty, but getting there had some great moments.

I was also rather impressed with Joel Moore in particular. All of the actors did far better than I had expected and even the best friend/boss guy had some great subtle moments particularly towards the end, but Moore impressed me. His awkward and social irrelevance made you really feel for him so that by the end when he was breaking down it was somewhat of a crisis for the viewer too.

I'm not going to go too in depth on the film as it is a mystery film and I don't want to spoil it. I will say that this isn't going to be for everyone. It's very slow moving with lots of character building through what would be seen as idle conversation (part of the Hitchcockian vibe I got) but it works in the end. The jazz music choices were wonderful and added a very cool layer to the film that many viewers might overlook. It's a nice touch.

I just wish that this film had a little more of a unique ending. It really was somewhat anticlimactic and easily guessed. Otherwise the film was a pleasant surprise and recommended for at least one viewing. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Laid To Rest - 2.5/5

Coming into this film hearing all kinds of hype like "one of the best new horror films in years", there was a lot riding on this one. The story sounded very interesting and the killer with his silver skull mask and very cool knives (as seen on the cover) just made me want to love this movie already. But alas, a few flaws in the film itself prevented it from being anything but a low budget slasher in the end.

Here's the good. Director Robert Hall does everything he can with the budget he has. This is pretty damn low budget and he uses some nice directing work to make a lot of the moments more interesting then they should have been. He gets some mad props from being clever with his work. Also on the good side is the gore effects. I'm guessing the majority of this film's budget must have been pumped into the special effects as these are top notch works of classic horror. Whether its slitting throats (he tends to saw blade them in this one), fake dead bodies, or stabbing someone through the side of the skull it all looks ridiculously real and its perhaps the biggest highlight in "Laid To Rest".

On the other side of the fence, I was so completely frustrated with the script and poor acting (especially from the main actress who made me want to kill myself pretty early on with her poor attempts at acting like she lost her memory - seriously she can't remember the term funeral home and calls it the place with the dead people?? What the fuck?!). The script lacks a lot of logic and ends up being almost comedic at many moments. The characters make decisions that any normal person would think is just down right daft. I found myself not involved with the story but wanting to take the general concept, which is VERY good, and rewrite the shit out of it. Robert Hall...loved your directing but you should probably stay away from writing for now.

As a horror fan for a long time, I really wanted this to succeed. Great concepts and some solid directing just couldn't right the poor script flow and poor acting (for poorly developed characters anyway). This might end up being a kick ass franchise if they get some solid writers behind it and perhaps a larger budget. A disappointment in the end. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday The 13th (2009) - 4/5

I was shocked by how much I liked this movie. I mean, its still not great, but its a slasher and a remake in one bundle so I was expecting complete garbage. When Micheal Bay starts producing Horror films I tend to get a little nervous but one can't go too far off the beaten path with this franchise (did anyone actually like Jason IX or X?).

Believe it or not, this film has more character development and plot then a majority of the "Friday The 13th" franchise. Yeah, I said it. Not that I really cared for any of the characters, sans Padalecki as the concerned brother and protagonist, but it did. And the plot, although still pretty weak, is stronger then a lot of the earlier "13th" films put together.

Besides actually have something for depth (depth is probably a reach for a term I wanted) in the plot, its really Nispel that keeps they baby afloat. The acting is there and its fine but nothing that is going to keep me thinking about the film afterward. You have all your cliche slasher characters (slutty girl, arrogant dickhead guy, 2 random side characters usually a couple or going to be couple in film, token black and Asian people, female and male protagonist) so there is nothing new there. I liked the prolonged opening before the title sequence with the 'other' group that had many people confused in the theater (one girl ahead of me asked if the film was over) and some of the approaches to light and swift camera movements kept the movie flow going.

Most of my complaints of the film tend to be story induced and have to do with the many twists of the film. So prepare: SPOILERS AHEAD! As a fan of the franchise, there was many moments that didn't feel 'Jason' for me. The underground tunnels that the police had no idea about, the fact that he keeps the girl chained in his lair (I know they explained it as 'she looks like his mother' but really? That makes Jason seem like a serial killer rather than an animalistic little boy trapped in a monster), and his rather stealthy approach to everything. Its small things really, but as a franchiser I was concerned. That and the ending doesn't make a lick of fucking sense. Really, get rid of the evidence? Not a smart move kids!

In the end, I enjoyed this film quite a bit. Yeah, it has lots of cliche slasher motifs in it (lots of weed, needless nudity, and plenty of clever kills) but really its what someone going to "Friday The 13th" wants. Recommended for fans of the franchise to pick out all the elements from the first 4 films of the series, but a pretty solid slasher on its own. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen - 1/5

Perhaps, just perhaps I expected too much from "Transformers 2". I know that already says a lot considering that I didn't even like the first film, but honestly this is pretty bottom of the barrel even for Michael Bay standards.

I'm not sure, what I wanted from this film - I does suffice my man needs for explosions and lots of dirt flying from various robot fights and blowing up monuments - but beyond that I would consider this a clusterfuck.

When you develop a film you want to remain everything to be viable in the 'world of the characters'. That is, does it make sense within the context of the film. "Transformers 2" contains almost no logic whatsoever even considering its a film about giant fighting robots. Hell, even the connections of the first film are forgotten. Like, can the government really cover up a giant robot war in the middle of Los Angeles or for that matter the destruction in China at the beginning of this film? Gas explosion? That's a lot of witnesses to pay off and a lot of information to cover up for multiple continents. If this is supposed to be 'realistic' in that sense then this doesn't make the cut. I could literally go into all the illogical story elements that plagued this film from beginning to end but that would require thousands and thousands of words and perhaps an entire book to explain the plot holes that this film falls into. Honestly, this film has a story that is a giant plot hole in itself. Why can Transformers look like people now? Why does Sam go to 'robot heaven' when he dies? Why are there so many fucking robots that have been around FOREVER and we've never even had a clue? Trying to think about it after watching it made my brain hurt enough I had to medicate myself. So just assume that if you are going to see it its better not to think at all and just tranquilize yourself with alcohol or hit yourself with a brick enough times that the plot holes don't matter.

My second criticism of "Transformers 2" has to do with the humor. Almost all of the humor is about the equivalent of "American Pie" dumbed down. I could due without the 'mom eating weed brownies', the 'jive talking twin Transformers', the random humping of everything (whether its dogs or mini robots whatever), or the grandpa Transformer that farts out parachutes. It all seemed so childish to me (and yet probably not appropriate for young kids too). It made the film feel even less 'realistic' then it could have.

Seriously, I could go on for HOURS about all the things that I hated about this film. Even for a film about fighting robots I felt bored and angry with it. Seriously, 2 and a half hours of this and I wanted a pay off. Yeah, I got some good special effects and some pretty solid fights (although the Decepticons go through a lot to bring Megatron back to life and he disappears half way through the film just like every other Transformer...seriously) but the story, the acting, and the directing are all BY FAR horrid. If you are a fan of Transformers or have a sense of humor above that of an 8 year old then I advise skipping this one. I only recommend this to the die hards and they will be disappointed. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Unborn, The - 2.5/5

Dammit dammit dammit. As much as I have been enjoying Platinum Dunes' horror remakes ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Friday The 13th") I was really hoping this one would actually stand on its own as a film. I mean, Goyer writes and directs, the production is slick as shit, and Gary 'fucking' Oldman has a role in this: this had potential! Unfortunately, it rarely lives up to that potential.

Storywise, I don't know a whole lot about Jewish demons and/or wandering spirits that want to invade our world but it was an angle that I was willing to go with and for the most part it does work. It allows some pretty cool and creepy imagery to seep into the story (things with upside down faces? AWESOME) but it's explanation and eventual climax in the film's exorcism scene seems over explained and at the same time, far too ambiguous for me. They go to long lengths to explain how 'Barto' is coming but leave out extensively explaining the why. I would have been happier if both elements were only hinted at rather than explaining one and leaving the other dry. Not to mention the 'twist' at the very end was pretty obvious throughout the film I thought. Maybe I just thought they made it far too obvious.

As far as acting goes, main lady (girl...whatever) Yustman does a decent job carrying the film but her later performances tended to drag on a bit. More or less she is the damsel in distress for the film and I was hoping for her to come out and become this strong person by the end but she ends up just running for her life and never 'really' fighting back (I don't count stealing a book from the library as a trait of being tough). Gary Oldman only shows up half way through and although his character is given jack shit for depth he still ended up stealing the show. I was disappointed how they treated the 'basketball coach/exorcist' character in the film and how he is written off by the end. I wanted to see this guy and Oldman team up and kick some possessing ghost ass! But alas it does not happen.

Goyer as both a writer and director has some good moments but overly fall prey to the rather poorly developed script. He makes the creepy imagery work like a charm and he does what he can with actors, but his dialogue and flow to the film is rather flawed. Interesting ideas are developed but never fully fleshed out. His hit or miss work on "The Unborn" was perhaps my biggest complaint of the film.

What this film wanted to be was a modern day "Exorcist", but lacked the great character work and focus of said film. "The Unborn" had some great potential behind it but never came to fruition. Recommended to horror fans mostly for the creepy scenes and somewhat fun ideas. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider 

Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li - 1/5

Man oh man. Seriously, if Capcom wanted to reboot the Street Fighter franchise they could have done better. It was a good choice in story (Chun-Li's story is a pretty straight forward one and would transfer to film well) but then they decided to change the story and as a fan of the series that just irks me. She's a professional pianist now instead of an Interpol agent? But that's just the tip of the iceburg on this one. There are plenty of things I disagree with on the story front including how Bison is portrayed and how the fight between Chun-Li and Vega lasts a whopping 30 seconds (that was a rivalry that was massively built upon and Vega is supposed to be this massive kick ass assassin whom is beaten fairly easily). It was a disappointment to fans of the series I'm sure.

I also thought that the fact that Klein and Bloodgood were essentially useless subplot. Yeah, it shows that Bison is being followed by police forces but their characters as shallow and the odd sexual tension between the two was rather poorly developed and displayed. Not to mention, that anytime they were onscreen I wanted to kick in my TV screen. Their characters and performances were just annoying. Plain and simple.

I was impressed with Kreuk though I must say. I can't say I've ever seen "Smallville" and I know many people were unable to see past her role from that, but as a person that has never seen that show I thought she was a good casting choice for Chun-Li. I just wish that her character was a bit more deep then it was. As a title character of the film, one would think she should be focused on a bit more and allowed to develop. But no. That doesn't happen. To top it off, she also has one of the worst voice over tracks I've seen since "Blade Runner". The narrator parts are just awful. Poorly scripted and for some reason they just stop about half way through the film. Good idea to keep the flow of the film going but just really poorly used I thought.

"The Legend Of Chun-Li" suffered from a lot of bad choices. The directing is pretty bottom of the barrel, the casting is very hit or miss, and the editing is pure shit. This film probably sounded good at the board meeting but once it went into actual production it feels as though they might as well forgot about it. There are far too many flaws with script, behind the scenes, and on camera. Yikes!! Even a boom mic makes an appearance in the film! This is 2009! That should never happen anymore in theatrically released films! Seriously this is one of the worst films of the year in my book. Some decent fights (not the one with Vega) and Robin Shou (in a comeback role since "Mortal Kombat!!!) couldn't save this sinking ship. Only watch for a good laugh. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - 4.5/5

I'm not sure what it is about Hellboy, but I'll be fucked if these films don't just hit all the right buttons! The first film was one of those that despite its flaws, I find myself watching again and again and for the most part "Hellboy II" is of the same way (although slightly better than the first).

Is it a great film? By all means no, its cheesy, its ridiculous, the plot moves at the speed of light and defies pretty much all logic...but - and here's the awesome part - none of that matters. In the world of Hellboy, sit back enjoy the riveting characters, the above and beyond absurdity, and the epic story line that defies all of what science teaches.

If you haven't seen "Hellboy" then definitely go back and watch that one before experiencing this one. This one is pulls heavily on the back story and character development from the first film so if you haven't seen it characters and relationships like that of Hellboy and his fiery girlfriend are going to seem pretty confusing. But if you have, hold onto your seat as you are going for a ride.

The story of "Hellboy II" is absolutely absurd in almost every way imaginable. But its cleverness and resistance to seem too serious (as how the film portrays Tooth Fairies for example with their big grins and ferocious appetites) makes up for it and makes every moment enjoyable. As if the awesome story wasn't enough, every character is pretty badass too (including the new villain Prince who gives Deacon Frost a run for his money as one of my favorite comic book villains). New developments for Abe and his love torn heart give the film new areas to explore character and story wise and its a nice addition to an already pretty beefy story.

If there was one complaint about the film it would be how they treated the pregnancy issue of the film. Although it was well played, I could have used a little more reluctance from characters and some of the issues that would have plagued the new mother and her decisions about the pregnancy.

Del Toro does it again and makes a film that is fun to watch with some great tech work from the directing and special effects. This is already a franchise I will follow until the end. Bring on "Hellboy 3". 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Eye 2, The - 2.5/5

It's no secret that I have fallen in love with The Pang Brothers. They are perhaps one of the modern greats in directing, let alone in the Horror genre, and despite some flops in the collection, (cough) "Forest Of Death" (cough), their style will always keep me coming back for more.

So when I finally got a hold of a copy for the second "Eye" film, entitled "The Eye 2", I was ecstatic. The first film is one of the best ghost films I have ever seen and despite its watered down remake, I still love the original. So here comes #2, with Pang Brothers once again in the director's seats (but not the writing ones) and I have to admit that by the end of the film I felt quite a bit of disappointment.

"The Eye 2" has quite a bit going for it. The awesome visual style, a very subtle and impressive main actress, some great score elements, but the overall approach in its story (and story itself) is sub par. It's not a sequel to the first film, firstly, its more along the lines of 'another woman who is able to see the dead' instead. It starts off solid about her attempted suicide and how that ends up allowing her to see the dead, but the overall story that it develops into (without giving to much away it ends up being the story of your average Soap Opera) just feels awkward and uninspired. Not to mention that the approach to the story feels chunky and sporadic. The story jumps scenes, moves in zig zags, and just has very little flow. It works at times to jar the viewer, but mostly just frustrated me to no end. This aspect of "The Eye 2" undermines most of the good elements of the film including the Pang Bros' insane visual approach.

It was a fine Horror film, and perhaps still a cut above most Americanized ghost stories, but compared to the first film and some of its contemporaries it just lacks the balls and flow to create a solid film. It's good, but far from great. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider 

Eye 3, The - 1.5/5

After the disappointing "The Eye 2", I was ready to see what "3" had is store for me as it had a very promising premise. A bunch of kids decide one night that they should use this book of rituals to try and see a real ghost. Okay that part seems pretty cliche, but after the fun and games they start to disappear one by one from the various hauntings around them. Now we're talking! Give the Pang Brothers a synopsis like that and this should be awesome!

Well, if you couldn't tell from my rating, "The Eye 3" is anything but awesome. It has its awesome moments (the subway scene with the floating umbrella, the glass message, or the hide and seek scene) but overly, this film is a pretty massive let down.

The Pang Brothers still have this keen visual eye that allows them to build atmosphere and suspense when they want. It's pretty obvious that they didn't want to on this film, as it has almost none of the what I come to expect from their films. It's a departure from the series (although it does explain how the three films are tied together) in both feel and approach. This film has far more comedic elements then scares as the first 30 minutes of the film feel more parody of "The Eye" then actually a ghost horror film. Even after a very awesome scene with a guy riding an elevator with ghosts (them Pangs love their elevators!!) it moves into a weird 'possession/dance off' with local break dancers that made me want to turn off the movie and watch TV. What the hell were they thinking?! Build all this suspense and it pays off with a dance competition?! Fuck that noise!

Not only does the comedy of the film never pay off, but it also promotes this unfocused feeling of the film. The overall story is solid but this film lacks goal and focus majorly. Half the time I'm not sure what the characters are thinking or why they are doing the shit that they do. Towards the end they find their goal to be finding their missing friends (which could have been a goal about 45 minutes earlier) but even after they have their goal they end up running in circles (and farting to kill a ghost...seriously) like the 3 Stooges instead of pushing forward with the plot.

Even the good suspenseful hauntings were underused and never paid off in the full aspect of the film. This film felt like a Nickelodeon "Are You Scared Of The Dark" episode instead of a classic Pang Brother feature. It's too bad really with the promise of a descent story and awesome directors. Hopefully, the fourth film of the series that has yet to be released will return the series to its former glory.

Don't bother with this one. 

BONUS RANT: In its original form, this film is referred to as "The Eye 10" (as the poster indicates) or "The Eye Infinity".  Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to call it "10" or even the less idiotic "Infinity" for that matter? It makes much more sense to call it "3" since its the third film in the series. Even the American version of the this film seems to correct some of its mistakes by re-titling it.

Written By Matt Reifschneider 

Speed Racer (2008) - 3/5

Firstly, I must ask why so many critics had such high expectations from a "Speed Racer" live action film. Did anyone actually think that the cartoon was worth its weight in film? Was the show originally anything more than a shitty cartoon? I guess others had greater nostalgia memories of "Speed Racer" than I did, thusly making this film utter shit. But, in all honesty, this film did exactly what it set out to do (for the most part) and that was bring a pretty simplistic story to life and make a live anime inspired film.

Granted, there are still some issues that I have with the film as a whole. A) despite some fantastic casting choices the dialogue of the script leaves a bit to be desired (compared to the cartoon though this is solid gold writing) and B) if the Wachowski brothers really wanted to make a children's film then perhaps they should have left the adult material at home. Not that it had tons of nudity or hellacious cursing but some of the plot elements about corporate takeovers or stocks is just going to fly over kids' heads. That and the way that the film was structured (particularly the opening series of flashbacks) is rather confusing to younger viewers.

Other than the odd balance of 'kids movie/adult film", I thought that it was quite enjoyable. It looks like Seasame Street hurled on the screen at times (they had to have patented a few new colors for this film I swear) with its bright vibrant take on life, but it does build this correlation between live action and its cartoon predecessor and its beautiful at times and it worked for me. The acting was fine (considering its horrid dialogue) and I wish some characters had a bit more to their depth (Trixie anyone?) but the film was already over 2 hours and thusly I understand their hesitance already.

It was a fun watch (I had the pleasure of seeing it on Blu Ray for its vibrant look it was wonderful) and I laughed a bit. Watching it with my 10 year old niece allowed me to hear her take on the film and gave me a perspective from a kid which helped a lot to hear her laughing or asking questions and I recommend seeing this with some youngsters. Was it bad? Yeah. Was it as horrible as everyone thought? Not that I could tell. Perhaps I was just in the mood to go along for the ride with the Mach 5.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Jet Li's Fearless - 4/5

"Fearless" is Ronny Yu's true directorial masterpiece (although I do love "Freddy Vs Jason" but its hard to call that any form of masterpiece). Loosely based on the life and rise of Huo Yuanjia, whom is somewhat of a legend in Chinese Martial Arts for those of you who didn't know, this film has a lot of things to love and little to criticize.

Firstly, Jet Li as Huo Yuanjia is a great casting choice. Not only is he bank in the box office (at the time of release particularly), but he is a true martial arts master, and a great actor. This is one of his better performances in his catalog (compared to "Romeo Must Die" its fucking gold) and the story itself is wonderfully told and expressed. I do recommend seeing the Director's Cut for its massive amounts of additional scenes that add lots of great subtext, although the opening and closing modern day debates are a little left field, but that's a small complaint. Overly, its a wonderfully told story of a man rising from the ashes to learn life lessons in how to live and seeing the bigger picture. The supporting cast is also stellar with particular note to the subtle work of Shido Nakamura as the Japanese fighter at the end, whom steals a few of the scenes.

The choreography is also quite stellar with many fights ranging from pillar topped cliffhangers, fist fights aplenty, and some dazzling sword play. Not perhaps the most unique and impressive fight scenes in some of these films ("Hero" still has some of my favorites) but they compliment and move the story nicely along.

Some of my main complaints come with the pacing of the film and its quick time shifts. Although this film has to take place through a variety of stages in the character's life, some of the transitions might have been a little smoother. The film is practically built on full on 'acts' like a theatrical performance would be. His childhood, his rise and fall as teacher in the city, his learning time in the village, and his return to ring. Each section is wonderful at what it does but some of the transitions between them tend to either happen too quickly or jump to far. It's perhaps my one complaint on the film as a whole, and with its epic story its rather small in the end.

"Fearless" is one of Jet Li's best films to date and a must see for any Kung Fu fan. Beautiful backdrops, top notch acting, and stellar story full of nicely laid out fight scenes make this a necessary watch. Definitely one of my favorite Martial Arts films made. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Stendhal Syndrome, The (1996)

Director: Dario Argento 
Notable Cast: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann

Don't get me wrong, Dario Argento is one of the most mesmerizing directors of our time, using all of his talents to craft some of the most memorable films from essentially some of the worst writing on the planet. The same goes for a good majority of his films including "The Stendhal Syndrome". Featuring his daughter in the lead role, this one tends to be one of the films many overlook in his catalog which is the reason I decided to take a look at this one.

Once again, this film is a split for me. Great directing, beautiful locations, and some great subtle acting from Asia tries to balance out a story that tends to jump a bit too much and suffers from some basic predictability. Thusly making it a visual feast but harsh on some of its depth and storytelling.

The film starts off with some great suspense and great visual tricks. For the first 20 minutes, this film will wrap the viewer in a blanket of confusion, horror, and awe as we follow Ms. Asia into an art gallery and through an odd reality/dream sequence which leads to the first of some pretty shocking scenes in the film. As police woman/anti-rape agent Ms. Asia (whom has a unintentionally funny to pronounce name of Anna Manni) searches for a serial rapist/killer only to have to endure some sick twists and situations, this film really cooks for the first half. Great suspense, some horrific scenes, and this odd dreamlike quality make the first half of this film a must see...unfortunately, about half way through the film takes a turn for the worse and becomes a rather cliche thriller. I won't give away the ending, but to say it was pretty obvious to me is an understatement. This predictability undermines the latter half's suspense and drama as it becomes a film we've all seen before. The only thing that saves the last act is Dario's keen eye for nice visual shots.

Acting wise, Asia is definitely the star here (duh!) and most of the supporting cast just get the job done with smile, or grimace, on their faces. I must say that I was impressed with the actor portraying the serial rapist/killer as he tended to steal the show with his unusually everyday looks but creepy as hell personality. At the moment when he gives her the 'razorblade smile', and no that's not some clever wording, I was at the edge of my seat yelling "oh you sick fuck!" very loudly cause he did nailed that performance.

Overall, "The Stendhal Syndrome" was a pretty descent film in the catalog of legendary Argento although it had a pretty lack second half and some of the script was borderline 'what the fuck?' moments. But, the first half in itself could have stood on its own and been a masterpiece and is worth the price of viewing this film at all. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider