Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gringo, El (2012)

Director: Eduardo Rodriguez
Notable Cast: Scott Adkins, Yvette Yates, Christian Slater

There always comes that time in any cult film fan's life when he or she, must debate at whether a film is 'good.' It's an oddly well versed term that often doesn't describe the feelings generated for a person by a specific film. This is the debate I've held for at least a week since I caught "El Gringo". The film is enjoyable as hell with its over the top style, charming lead in Scott Adkins, and rather goofy concept...but its still an ill conceived and often hollow watching experience. So is the film 'good?' The answer is much more complicated than a yes or no, because it is both in the case of this After Dark Action release.

An unnamed man (Adkins) finds himself on the run when his fellow cops are gunned down in a set up. He survives the ambush, takes the money used for the drug buy, and hightails it to Mexico to see if he can make it to his dream vacation. Unfortunately, he stumbles into a run down town where the residents are intent on keeping him there with their corruption and a fellow cop West (Slater) is hunting him down.

"El Gringo" feels like a B-grade action film that went straight to home video. I guess that's fitting since its brief and limited theatrical run was very limited in both those areas. It doesn't help that the film is built on some very shaky foundations either. The plot runs at a very cliche 'by the numbers' pacing and our characters are about as deep as the kiddy pool for toddlers. Half the time I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be invested in either the plot or characters or if I was supposed to laugh at the ridiculousness of their two-dimensional build. Beyond our hero, I couldn't care less for its weak romantic build or the police betrayal whodunnit back story as the motive for all of this action. Not even a normally fun Christian Slater saved that plot line. It was like piecing together a very run of the mill action script that failed to really invest its viewers.

On the other hand, this was one of those movies that fucking kicked its way to being enjoyable with charm and style. I use the term kicked, because a major one of those aspects happens to be leading action star Mr. Adkins. The guy is somewhat of a cult icon already having worked with classics like Jean Claude ("Assassination Games"), as a villain ("Undisputed II"), and on his own ("Ninja") and a film like this certainly carries the screen presence he brings to the table. It would have been nice to see some of the odd running jokes really take off in the film including his somewhat gained dog partner which could have been gold in a film like this, but seems underused. Despite some missed opportunities with the protagonist and his lacking depth, Adkins is perhaps the biggest selling point.

Another solid point is the action of course. If it wasn't, a film like this would be a massive waste of time. Adkins is a stellar martial artist and the director utilizes some Guy Ritchie inspired style to really make the most out of these sequences. Whether our hero is beating in heads to get his satchel of money back on the street, having a fist fight with a cowboy in the desert, or double barrel blasting his way out of a trunk...the action is awesome here. The finale is a bit of a let down as our building duel between Adkins and Slater seems to dwindle out rather quickly, but beyond that its solid.

"El Gringo" is not a great film, by any use of the term. It's even a stretch to call it good. What the film does succeed at is entertaining. The director's quirky style of intense angles and odd moments brings out the charm for the intense action and strong use of Scott Adkins charm. It's not a film for those who critique harshly as it will be hard to get over the film's obviously cliche and poorly written flaws, but enjoy it for its B-grade action awesomeness and its worth the watch.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grey, The (2012)

Director: Joe Carnahan
Notable Cast: Liam Neeson

There are certain actors that I simply follow because they are awesome. Liam Neeson certainly falls into this category. He can be an amazing actor. He can be awful too although I still don't think "Star Wars Episode I" was his fault, but he is always kicking ass and taking names. That's why watching a pack of wolves and the Alaskan winter try to survive Neeson had to be seen. My hopes were not up considering it was a man vs. nature film and those tend to all follow the same formula, but the stellar direction and the charming manliness of Neeson kick this film up to the next level and make "The Grey" a must see for any cult film fan.

Ottway (Neeson) has had a tough time lately. He pines for his lost wife and finds no comfort in killing the wolves that attack the drilling team up in the harsh climate of Alaska. What he doesn't realize is that his plane ride home, along with all of the other men, is going to be cut the ground. Now a handful of survivors must take the advice of Ottway to try and survive the wilderness. It's not only the cold and lack of resources that are coming for their lives...but a pack of hungry wolves seem intent on their demise too.

The gun is just a nice way for Neeson to kill someone.
It is really hard not to enjoy this movie on some level. It's pretty simple as it doesn't pull a lot of plot twists to trick its audience. The way that director Carnahan takes it at a straight forward pace with only splashes of artistic merit allows it to do its thing and not worry about being something that its not. This is a very respectable way at going about the film. It's man vs. nature and despite some odd almost horror like methods concerning the wolves, it very much embraces that fact. Only to the film's benefit.

"The Grey" really embraces its details in ways that don't feel like its bombarding you with irrelevant information. Just the way that the setting is built with the snow, wind, and desolation instantly throws one into a panic mindset along with the characters. This great build of atmosphere (with a clever score that really uses space to its benefit) is pushed to extremes with believable characters that feel, for better and worse, like real people tossed into this horrible situation. Neeson certainly carries the flick - if I was in a bad situation, I would follow him to hell and back without a single second thought - with his great depth to a simple character, but he is massively supported by a great secondary cast too. Love em or hate em, these guys make you feel like you're there with them. It works so well in this way.

Occasionally, the film wants to meander a bit. The wolves make a great antagonist for the film, but it feels like they are filled with more malice than what would be realistic. Not that wolves wouldn't want to eat you in that situation (I hope to never find out), but its as if the conflict is sometimes forced and it feels a bit out of place for a film that stresses a very real environment and characters. It makes for an exciting film, I have to admit. It cooks the pace up to boiling at times and despite my skepticism of the idea, it works.

Don't go into "The Grey" expecting some clever artistic look at the man vs. nature genre (it has its merits particularly with how his memories of his wife and dad play out as a thread right to its controversial ending), because the film plays out much more simply than that. It's graciously effective at building pace and atmosphere even if its somewhat forced and fans of Neeson are going to eat up that character with mouthfuls of smiles. Not for everyone, but it was much better than I would have ever expected.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ju-On: White Ghost/Black Ghost (2009)

Director: "White Ghost" - Ryuta Miyake, "Black Ghost" - Mari Asato

BLOODY NOTE: Normally I would review each of these hour long films separately, but the consistency that they display between the two a lots them the same rating. They have the same strengths/pitfalls and any differences will be mentioned in the review. So don't flack me for it.

It might surprise some of you to know that the massively successful "Ju-On" series originally received its start on television and despite two great theatrically released films and a series of remakes for the US under "The Grudge", it was only fitting for the franchise to celebrate its 10th anniversary by heading back to where it started. Thusly, we were given two short films under the "Ju-On" moniker as "White Ghost" and "Black Ghost" which take the general concept of the theatrical series and give us two stand alone stories. The quality of these films are hit or miss, but considering they were made for TV its hard not to be somewhat impressed with them.

White Ghost: When a teenage girl begins to see ghostly images of her elementary school friend, she begins to unravel the ghastly events of what happened to her when her brother brutally murdered the entire family and hung himself.
Black Ghost: A struggling family is pushed to further limits when their teenage daughter begins to succumb to odd psychological issues. The doctors are torn about what to do and only a woman with spiritual powers suspects that a begrudged ghost is living in the girl.

If only "Curious George" were a frightening ghost film of this caliber.
My initial reaction to the films was "Oh my, does this look like a made for TV movie." The films have a very cheap look that probably reflects the true budget of these pseudo-spin offs. Just don't let this look bog you down. And while you are at it, don't let anything about the budget get in the way of what the films does well - this includes the hit or miss acting and the some of the lackluster special effects. The acting can range anywhere from atrocious to surprisingly effective depending on the extent of screen time and story while some of the special effects are hindered by the budget including an obvious mask on the old White Ghost and the odd paint/CGI to make the girl in the second film black. This leads to a few moments of unintentional humor (the bright basketball that the ghost carries in the "White" or the odd scream/gurgle collapse of the teenage girl in "Black") that could have been avoided. Despite these flaws though, both films succeed at the the things that are needed for them to work.

Atmosphere. Suspense. Dread.

"Holy SHIT! This is made for TV?!"
For made for TV films, both "Black" and "White" are insanely well directed to promote smart storytelling and atmosphere. "White" mimics the first "Ju-On" with relative effectiveness in how it jumps between characters and time frames to make a rather simplistic supernatural tale much more effective in creating mystery and dread for the characters. We spend the entire film concentrating so much on the details to put it altogether that the scares seem to leap out of nowhere. Even though "Black" takes a much more conventional manner with its story telling (far more streamlined and focused on a few specific characters rather than the slew of the "White"), it still builds a fantastic sense of dread that one feels like they are holding their breath. For TV films, both are quite heart pounding and scream inducing.

The eternal question is answered: what's in the duffel bag?
There is a lot to derail these films and the constraints of budget and solid casts do hinder the films more so than one would hope. Considering that both films were made for TV though, each one does a very impressive job at building great terrifying sequences of mystery and fear whether its the repetitive spooks in the opening of "White" or the exorcism of "Black." For that, I highly suggest fans of J-Horror or the "Ju-On" films take a gander at these immediately. They certainly aren't great due to some lacking money and unintentional humor, but man...these films still make it hard to sleep at night.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (2012)

Directors: Neveldine/Taylor
Notable Cast: Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, and a cameo by Christopher Lambert

I would hardly consider myself a Ghost Rider expert being as I have never really read any of the comics, but I did see the first film and I know that it was quite the atrocious little piece of celluloid. When they announced that the crazy Neveldine and Taylor would be making the second film in the franchise though, it was hard not to feel my pulse race and the sweat pour down my face. Perhaps I was just reliving the "Crank" films again, but I was pumped. It also happened to be written by David S. Goyer which means it could rock or suck (the latter referencing "Blade: Trinity"). Needless to say, if there was a group to get Ghost Rider back on track - it was these folks.

The time of a prophecy has come. A child is being hunted by the Devil himself for a ritual that would make him all powerful even on Earth and the clock is running out. A French religious man Moreau (Elba) has done all he could and failed. Now his only hope to save the child and save the world will be placed into the hands of a rogue cursed man. A man cursed to stalk evil endlessly. A man whose alter ego includes a flaming skull and fiery chains. Moreau must find the Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze (Cage) before its too late, but will the tortured and corrupted angel within Blaze consume them all before he can save the day?

"Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance" is a step up above the first film. Then again if it was worse, that would make it one of the worst films ever made and it isn't. That being said, the film is also very far from being all that good. It still lacks cohesion of elements and styles that bogged the original one and sometimes Neveldine and Taylor forget their focus and start taking tangents with characters and story. What "Spirit Of Vengeance" does have going for it is the fact that its entertaining as hell. That's something at least.

I'm just as confused as you are Mr. Cage. I am. Truly.
The largest obstacle that "Spirit Of Vengeance" has to overcome is it's PG-13 rating. It really struggles with this. Neveldine and Taylor are known for their spastic and often offensive films - did you see "Crank" and "Crank 2"? - and this sequel really wants to go to those really violent and dark places. It can't though and quite often its obvious that their hands were tied in pushing the edges of the film into new territory. It gets away with a few things in its style to get around the violence with some great dark atmosphere and visual cleverness including an awesome scene where Ghost Rider takes a massive digging machine to gorge out some arms dealers. It doesn't stop the film from pushing forward with some great action sequences though with a stunningly awesome car chase finale and some fantastic new dark art design to mirror the tones of the film. If anything, it was hard not to enjoy the film for its renewed faith in staged action set pieces.

Beyond its stronger atmosphere and action though, "Spirit Of Vengeance" tends to fall into the same prat falls that its predecessor succumbed to. The balance of darkness and mainstream friendliness is misguided and the script likes to do a few odd things that create unintentional humor. On one hand, the plot and characters are simplified down for a more straightforward film that allows the action and visuals to become the focus. On the other hand, the film seems too simplified and lacks a humanity to connect to for Blaze and his cohorts. The connection between the child, his mother, and Blaze seems rather forced and underdeveloped while the film takes some odd twists for the sake of padding it out. This includes (and it pains me to say this) a rather pointless and padded detour to some French monks with a cameo from the legendary Christopher Lambert. Although there is some important plot triggers in these moments, they seem unnecessarily drawn out.

Cue Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' For You".
These derailing script moments are only worsened by a hit or miss cast. Although Elba once again steals the film from his leading actors (he also had a brilliant secondary role in "Prometheus"), the rest are unacceptably cheesy and poorly crafted. Cage is once again a bane for the character as his uneven performance lacks the depth needed to sell it and our two villains (although better than the villains in the first film) once again fail to invoke fear. When Carrigan turns into Blackout it gets fun, but beyond that its straining to try and believe any of it.

There was a lot of hatred for "Spirit Of Vengeance" when it was released and I don't necessarily agree with that. This second film in the "Ghost Rider" series is bad, but at least this time I had fun watching it with its better crafted action and stronger sense of style. It's rarely consistent in anything (where the hell did those animated moments of poor narration come from? And where did they go half way through?), but considering its poor foundations it had something going for it. Honestly, I enjoyed this film much more than I should have and I foresee this one gaining a cult audience down the road.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Let The Bullets Fly (2010/2012)

Director: Jiang Wen
Notable Cast: Jiang Wen, Ge You, Chow Yun-Fat

There has always been pride in watching odd films here at Blood Brothers, but there is something so distinctly unique and flabbergasting about "Let The Bullets Fly". A style and wit so subtle and bombarding at the same time that I was inclined to watch it a row. One thing is for certain and that is "Let The Bullets Fly" will not be for everyone. I stress this wholeheartedly, because this is a very strange film. I also stress that one should see it to believe it and not hold any disregards about the film. Let it embrace you with its quirky plot, lightning fast dialogue, and let the bullets fly a while.

The time is 1919. The place is South China. The country is in a state of growing pains as it transitions into a new age and the intelligent bandit leader Pocky Zhang (Jiang Wen) is looking to take advantage of that. When he derails the train of an upcoming governor Ma Bangde (Ge You), he takes him as a counselor in a plan to make himself the governor of Goose Town. When he gets to the small town though, he discovers that his intentions and style of making money go head to head with local mobster Master Huang (Chow Yun-Fat). Now they must play a game of violent chess against one another to see who will remain the king of Goose Town.

Things could be worse...the train could be completely under water.
Initially I went into "Let The Bullets Fly" thinking it was going to be an action packed period piece of mobsters and lawmen. I was wrong. Oh, was I ever wrong. This film is not that simple. The action is there with plenty of gun toting and occasional mayhem of vehicular combat (including a train that flips ass over teapot into a lake), but the true highlight of the film is its increasingly ridiculous and off kilter script. When the action does commence, its a nice break from its dialogue heavy character drive, but it's rarely the focus here.

Chow Yun-Fat out of his usual quiet hero role as the villain of the film.
The script and all of its larger than life characters is what makes "Let The Bullets Fly" the brilliant film it is. Director/writer/lead actor Jiang Wen portrays a deeply torn and insightful bandit leader and governor hopeful with subtle vigor and fast intentions. He handedly could carry this movie on his own and (we could only hope) delivers a fantastic character that could be franchised on. This is matched by a slew of amazingly fun and heartfelt secondary characters including the smarmy and lying counselor 'Old Soup' and the villainous crime lord Huang played with intensity only known to Chow Yun-Fat who sheds his normally introspective self for the role. The rapid fire dialogue and clever word play (even with translation) heightens the ridiculous plot and the film begins a series of events that will leave the audience as confused and intrigued as the characters involved when the bandit and the mobster begin their outrageous game of chess in Goose Town.

Unfortunately, his lower half is in a tree nearby (that's not a joke either).
With its subtle satire on politics, business, and the moral gray of good vs. evil, "Let The Bullets Fly" takes it all with an eye for the slapstick and impressive writing that leaves the viewer craving more. This was one of the rare films that takes its concept to all levels of extremism without ever losing sight of the final product and its fully worth the watch.

 Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Clan Of Amazons (1978)

Director: Chor Yuen
Notable Cast: Tony Liu, Ching Li

After seeing the fun if not cheesy "The Duel Of The Century", it was only the fan in me that had to go and search down its predecessor "Clan Of Amazons". It took some time, but finally the elusive film found its way into my watching queue. Although it has many elements that were repeated to stronger effect in its eventual sequel, "Clan Of Amazons" remained a rather fun detective film focusing on the mystery of finding the evil Embroidery Bandit and how it reflects through various elements of society. Unfortunately, the film also lacked many aspects that make a great kung fu film and thusly undermined the entire experience.

Lu Xaiofeng (Tony Liu) is known as one of the martial arts' best investigators. He thinks outside of the box and has the right connections to get to the right people. This is why a renowned officer seeks his help on a new case. A mysterious Embroidery Bandit has been stealing mass amounts of wealth and leaving a trail of blinded individuals in their wake. The clues are sparse and the danger is high. Particularly when his investigation links the thefts to a secret society of highly trained and vicious women...

Really the one thing that sells "Clan Of Amazons" is Tony Liu as the charismatic if not completely impeccable Lu Xaiofeng. Liu owns the role of Lu Xaiofeng with high end class and a screen presence that keeps the viewer glued to the screen. Although he is far from as arrogant as the character would become later on, watching him work his magic of logic and pull various side kicks to odd places to meet odd connections is quite entertaining. It's like watching a version of Sherlock Holmes in a different time period with different circumstances and this alone sells the film.

Beyond that though, I found the film to be rather...boring. Yes Tony Liu is entertaining to watch, but the rather formulaic Chinese mystery plot progression can be drawn out and predictable. They go to this guy. He dies. They find a clue and go to this lady. She dies (or disappears) as the mystery deepens. Wait! There's a clue and it points here to this guy. Let's go there! Oh man, he might be the bandit though. He is telling us to go here. Let's go! It get's to be a little overwhelming as it throws in a slew of characters who really only appear once or twice as the movie moves on. Half the time if a character popped back up, I wasn't sure quite who it was or how they fit into the puzzle. Multiple viewings would help strengthen this, but who has time for that when there are so many other Shaw films to watch?

To add to the mixed feelings I had about "Clan Of Amazons", I was massively disappointed with the lacking fight sequences. The film does decent enough with the brief spats that fit into the plot, but they are brief and often seem to be irrelevant. It isn't until the finale, with a massive sword fight that goes from a trap house to a swashbuckling boat sequence, that the film really embraces its martial arts choreography. By then though its almost too late to really get the film moving with the action set pieces.

There is much love for "Clan Of Amazons" out in the Kung Fu fan's world and to a point I understand why. Lu Xaiofeng is a fantastic character and the mystery of the film is fun. After that though the film tends to really flounder with its overly complex execution of characters and lacking kung fu set pieces. Perhaps if I had seen the films in their true order, I would have enjoyed this one much more. Be as it may though, the sequel "Duel Of The Century" is just improved all around.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, June 18, 2012

Killjoy (2000)


I feel completely violated at the moment. Why you ask? Because a no-talent ass clown named Killjoy just had his way with me ensuring I'm going to have to be sitting on a doughnut pillow for the rest of the week in order to heal. I just don't understand why all these clownsploitation horror films of last decade are so damn bad. Clowns are scary right? Well 9.9 times out of ten it doesn't translate into a scary movie with "Killjoy" being a complete incompetent 'joy killer' instead.
Taking place in inner black gang territory in an unnamed city, "Killjoy" opens with a 'nerdy' high school student getting the shit kicked out of him for hitting on a gang leaders bitch. This of course gets his ass killed but not before he brings his demonic clown toy "Killjoy" to life  to get revenge on all the thugs. The problem is Killjoy doesn't stop with his killers, but continues to murder anyone else involved in the nerds life.
Pennywise he is not...
The clown character of "Killjoy" is nothing but a lame, carbon copy of Freddy Krueger with a dose of Pennywise from Stephen King's "It" as he tries to be scary but all his mega lame comedic one liners causes the doofus to fall flat on his big ass red nose (the worst being the line "That's how you bust caps motherfucker" as he spits out bullets to kill a thug).  The character of Killjoy will NEVER go down in the annals of history among the likes of Freddy and Jason and for that I thank the horror gods every day.
Much like the audience, this character gets beaten to near death due to the films sheer ineptitude
The look of the film is nothing more than a small step up from a homemade movie. Not "Secrets of the Clown" bad, but close and if you have had the displeasure of seeing that hunk of shit then that is a scary comparison indeed.  Everything about this film is bottom of the barrel (of monkeys?) as the non-existent production values, sophomoric acting, mundane script writing, laughable computer effects and incompetent directing ensures the film will be a total bore to the senses. And seriously how did B-movie icon Charles Band get suckered into executive producing such a shit-fest?
Black Magic + Demonic Clown Doll = Shitty Movie
"Killjoy" is nothing more than a less-than-routine would-be slasher in which someone thought up by quickly writing up an outline on a cocktail napkin while getting drunk with some buddies at a strip club. I'd say it's by-the-numbers but even that's too much 'praise' for such a hunk of worthless crap. Absolutely no thought went into writing such a banal 'horror' film and the killer clown shtick has been done death, and much better. It's hard to imagine that such a lifeless horror film would end up mutating into a franchise, with two sequels and a third in the works. Seriously, what the fuck?!
 Written By Eric Reifschneider

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Now They Call Him Sacramento (1972)


Mimicking how "A Fistful of Dollars" revolutionized the style of the Spaghetti Western, a little film in 1970 called "They Call Me Trinity" rejuvenated the floundering genre by introducing the first buddy comedy formula into the mix.  The two "Trinity" films were huge successes as audiences lapped up the new comedic approach to the genre of this of course opened the floodgate of imitators, with the similarly titled "Now They Call Him Sacramento" being one of the many but thankfully not one of the worst.
Sacramento, with the aid of a big burly guy disguised as a priest and a small Mexican called Tequila, foil a train robbery and in turn decide to keep the bandits' money for themselves. While deciding what to do and how to split the dough, they take some downtime in a small town that just happens to be the headquarters of the bank manager that set the whole train operation up. Can Sacramento and his duo of friends defeat the banker and his gang while at the same time defending a beautiful woman's land from foreclosure before becoming members of the local graveyard?
The unbeatable Terence Hill and Bud Spencer team-up... whoops... wrong duo
There's no hiding the fact that "Now They Call Him Sacramento" is a direct result of the popularity of the "Trinity" films as it is a direct carbon copy, from the plot to the comedic approach. Hell you could change the name from Sacramento to Trinity and you could have yourself a bona fide unofficial sequel. Hell even the comedic duo of Michael Forest and Fernando Bilbao is a direct knock off of the Terence Hill and Bud Spencer buddy system, right down to the big burly guy using Spencer's trademark head bopping to knock out thugs.
"What?! I get to play Trinity?! NO! A guy named Sacramento... ahhh close enough"
What makes "Sacramento" not as funny or entertaining as the Trinity films is the lack of chemistry between our two leads and it's obvious these two would never go on to have the blooming career of our beloved Hill/Spencer team-up. Our fifth wheel team-member Tequila (the Joe Pesci of "Lethal Weapon" if you will) also tends to grade the nerves and the love interest for our title character is a complete waste and adds nothing to the film other than a pretty face. Still all is not lost as there are still plenty moments in the film to get a snicker out of the audience, especially the third act in which our duo literally destroy an entire town.
Is it just me or is this the manliest pose for a gang ever?
I went into "Now They Call Him Sacramento" expecting a "Trinity" rip-off and that's exactly what I was dished up and that expectation is probably what helped me enjoy the picture. If you are a Spaghetti Western fan that enjoys the comedic tones of the "Trinity" films then I see no reason why you shouldn't find some enjoyment out of this obvious knock-off. The film is on DVD in a few different releases but the best is the release by Dorado films. The transfer is Full Frame but I never once felt I was missing anything on the sides of the picture so perhaps it was actually shot in this 1.33:1 ratio.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Piranha 3DD (2012)

Director: John Gulager
Notable Cast: Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, Katrina Bowden, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, David Hasselhoff, Gary Busey

For those of you new to the site or for those unaware, my review of "Piranha 3D" wasn't exactly all favorable. The film was full of cheesy and gory goodness, but the blend of seriousness, horror, and humor didn't quite catch my fancy like it did for some. Thusly when I criticize "Piranha 3DD" for being a larger offender in the same category know that it means a lot. And the film doesn't even have the great gore or charm to smooth it out either. So if the film is meant to be gory, funny, and ridiculous and it fails at all three...take a wild guess at what the reaction is going to be.

It's been a year since the prehistoric piranha busted up the party at Lake Victoria and memories quickly fade. When a new adult themed water park sets their sights to open though and begins pumping water from a mysterious underground lake filled with piranha spawn, the trouble begins to brew. It's up to the owner's marine biologist daughter Maddy (Panabaker) and her admirer (Bush) to get together enough evidence to get them to shut down the park before it becomes another blood bath.

Easily one of the best scenes...which is saying quite a bit.
To be perfectly honest, my hopes were actually quite high for this one. It's got great cameos and director John Gulager's "Feast" franchise is a surprisingly fun and offensive series. All one needs is lots of fun gore/deaths and a ridiculousness to its plot and this film should be awesome. Ironically, besides a couple scenes, this film has none of that. It's ridiculous in really odd ways, it's rarely funny, and the gore seems rather subdued for a film of this variety. Literally, "Piranha 3DD" has nothing going for it overall.

The water slide...OF DOOM.
Granted, the film does have its moments. Gary Busey and the flaming cow for the introduction sets some high standards of low brow comedy and Ving Rhames' charisma smothers the screen with humor and shotgun legs. In fact, the cameos seems to be the only thing that work. Beyond that though, the film struggles. Our teen leads for the film are horribly written, far too serious, and grating when it comes to more strenuous acting, there is absolutely nothing about the film that is horrifying unlike the original one where Aja was able to inject some sort of tension into the film, and despite some extreme attempts at death sequences (again a flaming cow and a rather awkward sex scene gone wrong mid way through the film) the lacking gore/special effects and the lacking extremism of the finale leave campy horror fan in me scratching my head in bewilderment.  Truthfully, I found nothing to really count for the positive sides for this movie.

Rhames is riding shotgun...and we don't mean the passenger seat.
Unless you are a fan of massive amounts of women going topless as a setting for a horror movie, "Piranha 3DD" damn near falls flat on its face for every other element. It has its moments of fun (Christopher Lloyd is always a hoot to watch for his weird characters) and a pretty silly ending that had me smirking, but getting to those moments was frustrating and confusing. For a film where all you need is to 'gratuitous' everything, this film fails to deliver. It slowly circles the drain of its own plot hole riddled script, drowning all the great things that made "Piranha 3D" work to begin with. How could a film go so wrong with so little it needed to accomplish?

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott
Notable Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce

After a distasteful decline in quality for the "Alien" franchise over the last handful of films (this is looking at you "AvP" and "AvP:R"!), when Ridley Scott finally announced his long awaited prequel there was much rejoicing. The man who defined good science fiction in the late 70s and early 80s would return to salvage the series he helped create from straight to video hell. The result is "Prometheus", a film that distinctly carves its own science fiction path while still maintaining many of the elements and themes that made the original "Alien" an instant classic and one that has lasted in quality to this day.

When two scientists Shaw (Rapace) and Holloway (Marshall-Green) discover a link between ancient civilizations that points to our creation from other worldly beings on a distant galaxy, the Weyland Corporation sends out a massive research ship Prometheus to investigate. What they find on the planet though, is nothing what they thought it was and they are not left with answers to questions...but fear for the future.
"I feel like there is something behind us watching!"
Without giving away too many spoilers about the details of "Prometheus", I'm going to try to convince you just how awesome this movie is. I know, I know that there have been lots of mixed feelings about Scott revisiting the franchise and what he has done with it. Just like any film I always recommend that you see it for yourself before giving it final judgement. For those who faithfully read though, trust me when I say that "Prometheus" ably gives us the same dreadful atmosphere and thought provoking themes while never coming off as a "Alien" knock off.

"I always wanted a holographic ball to play with!"
This atmosphere that's concocted for "Prometheus" is done with the expert eye for detail by Scott and the amazing acting from its cast. Noomi Rapace amazes in the lead role while Fassbender and Theron give uniquely detailed and subtle work of their own. With such strong leads and an amazing secondary (seriously, Elba is right up there with the main names of this film), "Prometheus" has all the elements to really work well. These executions are partnered with stunning design elements that both replicate many of the sets and styles crafted in the first two "Alien" films and create their own with how the new 'creatures' evolve and form familiar shapes that fans know and love. The execution of "Prometheus" is just outstanding.

You know shit got real when you find yourself splattered in blood and only wearing gauze.
Occasionally, the script felt like it had some rather blatant plot holes in it. Some of them were ones that had to be sacrificed for pacing (the film is that damn epic by the end of it) and others felt like it was intentional since the film does leave significant moments underplayed for its open style ending. Although at times I felt as if these holes were a little too obvious, upon further reflection it felt like it created a deeper mystery and atmosphere that the film utilized so well and I eventually overlooked them as part of the artistic merit of the film. It never over explains itself and allows the audience to interpret it as they will. A chancy move that paid off in this instance and one that worked in the first "Alien" film as well.

"Prometheus" is going down as one of the best modern science fiction films in my book and there's no doubt about that. It's easy to see why some picked apart the film for its minute detail mishaps and rushed pacing of the script (I mean its been hyped for a decade or so), but for this reviewer that was all easily overlooked with the almost flawless execution on screen with stunning visuals and deep subtle acting performances. Sorry that this review feels a little light on details and specific scenes, but this is a film that needs to be seen to be appreciated for all of its tricks and plot twists. This Blood Brother highly suggests repeated viewings! An instant modern classic.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Snow White And The Huntsman (2012)

Director: Rupert Sanders
Notable Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron

As a proposed introduction to a film trilogy, "Snow White And The Huntsman" does an admirable job at doing just that. It creates its setting, that being a realistically drawn fairy tale if you will, and it sets up its characters. Of course there are many loose ends left dangling on the film that were more frustrating than not and the movie seems to find its focus wandering a bit much, but "Bella And The Thor" does succeed in many ways that were unexpected - including on a visual side and with its actors. It's far from being a great film, but its quite enjoyable and definitely seems like the start of something bigger and better.

When an evil queen (Theron) usurps the strong and valiant King of a large kingdom bringing with her death and generally icky evil, his daughter Snow White (Stewart) is imprisoned for a future reason that the queen's dark magic can see. This doesn't stop the elusive Snow White from taking advantage of opportunity and busting her butt out to make her way to the exiled Duke's castle to rally troops. The queen quickly sends out a drunken and broken hearted huntsman (Hemsworth) to get her back, but its not long before the two team up to get the princess to her destination.

When talking about "Snow White And The Huntsman" the most obvious of its quirky and impressive traits rears up in the form of its visual style and smooth effects. It's quite obvious that first time feature length director Rupert Sanders has a style for commercialized pizzazz. He throws in all kinds of kitschy camera angles and soaring camera shots to really establish the setting while he distinctly blends the fantasy and realistic moments with smooth transitions. This is highlighted by the film's high gloss CGI effects that work for some pretty stellar moments in the form of a forest troll attack and the various black magic tricks that Evil Queen Theron throws out. Even the costuming and set design are of the highest quality (I foresee this film winning an Academy Award for costume design just for the awesome raven feather outfits for our villain) and any fan of the artistic design side of film making is going to want to see it all in its glory.

"My name comes AFTER Kristin Stewart?!?!"
Even outside of its visual flair, "Snow White" has some solidarity in its execution. It's focus pulls away from the main female character (despite being the main protagonist that truly drives the action) and it gives some great motivations and depth to the overlooked characters of lore. The huntsman and the evil queen both get some much needed character arcs and give the film its own take on the classic tale and both easily become highlights.

Now that I've briefly evaluated what made "Snow White And The Huntsman" a fun and artful film, it's time to really dig into why this film falters overall. Firstly, despite some of the fun that it has taking the focus away from Snow White and placing it on her guardian and the villain - the film feels like it tries to cover way too much in way too little time. The huntsman gets the shaft as a character in the third act (despite another charming performance from Hemsworth who trades in his Thor hammer for a huntsman ax) while the dwarves and the childhood boyfriend William feel like misguided after thoughts of dangling threads for characters. It's quite obvious that many of these elements are to be tied up and strengthened in the upcoming sequels...but that doesn't mean that the lacking touches of detail don't irritate for this film.

"Where's my mighty hammer? Oh sorry. Wrong character."
Secondly, "Snow White And The Huntsman" has this weird middle portion of the film that both drags and confuses. It has this strong narration to kick off the film and rather epically built finale, but there is this 45 minutes in the center of the film that seemingly bottoms out. It has a rather out of place and very fantasy driven epiphany sequence with fairies(?!), one eyed mushrooms (?!?!) and a giant tree elk (?!?!?!) that drastically feels out of sync with the realistic tone of the first and last acts. It also tends to really kick through the classic 'apple' scene that seems forced despite its wonderfully artful setting.

Paint primer. Does wonders for the skin.
Thirdly, the acting of the film is significantly hit or miss. Both Hemsworth and Theron simply own their roles to give the film depth and substance. The rest? Meh. Kristin Stewart remains her hefty breathing self, gawking open mouthed as she runs around for most of the film looking confused. I know Stewart is a draw due to the "Twilight" crowd and the film is PG-13 (another little thing that seemed to hinder its true potential), but she draws nothing close to an emotion from me. To top it off, the stunningly well cast dwarves are massively underused. Seriously go find the casting for the elves on IMDB and tell me that they shouldn't have stolen this movie with every one of their scenes. It's almost an atrocity that such great actors would be given so little to truly work with.

In the end, I have a love/hate relationship for "Snow White And The Huntsman". I loved the style of the film with its realistic tones and darkness that envelopes its classic story. The depth added to the huntsman and the evil queen earn it at least some respect for taking it in new directions too. It's unfortunate that so many elements were left undisclosed and untapped (for the sake of making sequels) and that the overall execution and flow of the film seem hit or miss. Otherwise, this might have been the big surprise film of the year. As is I'll definitely see the upcoming sequels for its story and style, but my hopes won't be up for great films.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, June 11, 2012

Double Game (1977)


AKA "Violent Turin"

Good 'ol George Hilton, now that's an Italian cult actor fans can count on! It seems that 99% of the Italian films he appears in are good. From Spaghetti Westerns to Gialli but what do we exactly have here with "Double Game"? A Poliziotteschi film? SWEET! I love this genre! Too bad this films falls in the remaining 1% as this is far from being a good Euro cult treat thanks to the film really lacking any style or real substance.
Hilton plays a typical "Dirty Harry" inspired cop that is fed up with the rising crime in the city of Turin. Robberies and murders are on the rise and Hilton and his Charles Bronson/David Caruso hybrid ginger partner are sick and tired of putting in long days to ensure the crime doesn't get any worse. Thankfully a vigilante known as "The Avenger" is on their side by knocking off bad thugs in the middle of the night.  Should they call New York to make sure Paul Kersey hasn't relocated to Turin?
"If I were you I'd watch one of my other films instead"
George Hilton is a great actor and it's a damn shame all the his character is so one-dimensional and superficial. It's not just his character but the whole damn cast is a drag with no-one to lead this dreary script to a worthwhile conclusion.
"Silence! You'll wake the audience!"
Italian Poliziotteschi films are known for stylistic directing, violent action and /or enthralling stories. "Double Game" strikes out on all three accounts. First of all Carlo Ausino is one of the most un-stylistic directors to emerge from the country give the film a dreary, boring look about it not aided by its sluggish, lifeless plot with a predicable ending that people could guess before the film even starts. Sure there is some violent scenes but the audience just might be asleep by the time they show up.
"Was you're father by chance Charles Bronson and your mother David Caruso?"
"Double Game" is better known in Europe as "Violent Turin" tricking people into drawing connections to such other similarly titled Euro Crime entries as "Violent Rome" and "Violent Naples". DO NOT be fooled into thinking "Double Game" is going to be as good as those far superior examples of the genre. If it weren't for the draw of star George Hilton, "Double Game" would have fallen into obscurity much like it's sequel "Tony: Another Double Game". I can't say I regret seeing the film (I'm a sucker for rare Italian cinema) but "Double Game" is only for the most forgiving fans of the genre.
 Written By Eric Reifschneider