BBB EPISODE 2 – Lil’ Dicky “Professional Rapper”, Drake – Meek Mill beef, “Rick and Morty” & “Bojack Horseman” TV show reviews, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” & “Southpaw” movie reviews

In the third episode of BBB (Beers, Beats, Bailey) and the second three-part podcast in this series thus far, fellow hip hop head / TV show binger / film buff Ricardo Medina and I discuss the highly entertaining album “Professional Rapper” from comedian/rapper Lil’ Dicky, the beef between hip hop artistes Drake and Meek Mill, as well as review the hit adult animated sitcoms “Rick and Morty” and “Bojack Horseman” and the movies “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and “Southpaw”.

 

PART 1: Lil’ Dicky “Professional Rapper” & Drake – Meek Mill beef

 

 

PART 2: “Rick and Morty” and “Bojack Horseman” TV show reviews

 

 

PART 3: “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and “Southpaw” movie reviews

 

 

– Matthew

BBB EPISODE 0 – “Inside Out” & “Terminator Genisys”

For the first episode of A Legally Black Blog’s official podcast series Beers, Beats & Bailey (BBB for short), I, along with fellow movie-critiquers (not a real word, I know) Ricardo Medina and Michael Richards, talk about the new animated film from Disney/Pixar – “Inside Out” – and the latest entry in the “Terminator” franchise – “Terminator Genisys”. Enjoy, and feel free to like, share and leave a comment or two.

 

– Matthew

 

Double Feature……well, sort of – Nymphomaniac (Volumes I & II) (2014)

RANDOM DISCLAIMER: The films in today’s review contain scenes of strong sexual content that should NOT be viewed by persons under the age of 18. So if you’re in that age bracket, DO NOT scroll this page to the end until you see the words “worth checking out”, then proceed to download these films, watch them behind your parents’ backs, and then blame ME for telling you to watch them when you get caught. You understand, right? I don’t want to be accused of something that I……hey, are you even listening to me?! W-what are you doing?! Don’t you DARE scroll down this page!!  Don’t do it! I’m warning you……No no no no no NO! HEY!!! HEYYYYY!!!! Goddammit.  Anyhoo, “Nymphomaniac”, or “NYMPH()MANIAC” as it’s creatively titled, is a two-part drama written and directed by the (in)famous Danish director Lars von Trier, and the final entry in his “Depression Trilogy”, preceded by the controversial “Antichrist” (a film which I have absolutely no intention of watching any time soon thanks to its disturbing-ass, graphic-ass content hinted in its trailer) and the apocalyptic “Melancholia” (a film that I had the unfortunate luck of viewing the first AND last ten minutes of – since that was ALL that was shown of the movie – during a lecture at my alma mater). And the funny thing is, it was a lecture on film criticism. What the first and last ten minutes of a film I never saw in my fucking life had to do with film criticism is beyond me. Yet here I am, criticizing movies for you folks. Moving along……

 

 

The cast includes, as you can see on the poster below doing their best orgasmic, “Are we really getting paid to do this shit?” facial expressions, Charlotte Gainsbourg (who also starred in “Melancholia” and “Antichrist”), Stellan Skarsgård (who all of you “Avengers” fans should recognize as Dr. Erik Selvig), Shia LaBeouf (who all of you “Transformers” fans should remember as the guy who frequently yelled “OPTIMUUUUS!!! BUMBLEBEEEEE!!!”, Stacy Martin and Mia Goth (both making their feature film debuts), Sophie Kennedy Clark, Jamie Bell, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen, Uma Thurman and Willem Dafoe.

 

After an attention-grabbing 2013 marketing campaign involving brief video segments of the film released online, posters of the film’s characters in orgasm (like the one below), and an explicit international trailer, “Nymphomaniac” was released in its original, five-hour cut on Christmas Day (of all days!) in Denmark.  For its UK premiere on February 22nd 2014, the film was divided into two volumes. Before the US premiere of each volume on March 21st 2014 and April 18th 2014, they were released last Thursday on Video-on-Demand. And so begins my review of the final segment in the “Depression Trilogy” – a trilogy that, prior to my viewing of this segment, I only saw a trailer of one film and the opening and closing ten minutes of another thanks to some boring-ass lecture that I barely learned shit from. I give you my review of “NYMPH()MANIAC”.
Nymphomaniac-Poster-02
NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUMES I & II – Our story begins on a cold night, when an old man named Seligman (Skarsgård) discovers a beaten-up woman named Joe (Gainsbourg) lying on the damp street of a dark alleyway. Seligman takes Joe to his apartment, tends to her wounds and questions her about her bruised condition. Instead of a straight-forward response, Joe proceeds to recount the major events of her life prior to her assault. Her long-ass story (Seriously! It’s LONG…..ASS) begins from her realization of her own sexuality from a very young age and continues with her sexual encounters as a teen (played by Stacy Martin) into her adulthood. Almost all of these encounters are random, and are based solely on carnal gratification.  Y’see, Joe is what the old folks call a nymphomaniac (WORD?!!!), a woman with excessive sexual desire, and in the film, she’s shown having sex WAY more than anyone else. Ever since her very first sexual encounter with a young man named Jerôme (LaBeouf), she’s been desiring for….and getting quite abundantly up until the assault….the DIZZNIT (That’s Snoop-talk for “penis”, by the way). Throughout Joe’s shocking account of her nymphomaniac life, Seligman makes observations of many events in Joe’s story that are based on mathematics, psychology, philosophy, history and religion, among others. The entire narrative is divided into eight chapters, the titles of which originate from Joe’s own observations of items in Seligman’s apartment and themes that pop up during their lengthy conversation. And as Joe speaks and Seligman listens intently, the viewer witnesses first-hand how Joe’s hyper-sexual condition systematically destroys the lives of those around her, including her own. Notice that I didn’t mention the word “love” in the above synopsis. The sole tagline for the film reads: “Forget about love”. And it’s this absence of love – save for a few faint hints – in “Nymphomaniac” that has already divided viewers. The IMDB page for “Nymphomaniac Volume I” currently has a shit-ton of negative reviews posted on it (look at the first two pages if  you think I’m kidding. One reviewer even called “Nymphomaniac” the “worst film since ‘Showgirls’ (1995)”. DAAAAAAAMN SON!), most of which expressed heavy criticism of the “borderline-pornographic” sex scenes in the movie. If pornography was meant to entice, arouse and stimulate the viewer, then the sex scenes in “Nymphomaniac” are the complete opposite. These scenes – and truth be told, there are a fucking LOT (of fucking) that cover the span of Volumes I and II – display sex in a raw, primal, almost animalistic manner. They also fearlessly highlight Joe’s (both the teen and adult version) downward spiral in her addiction.

 

 

The explicit sex scenes in this film can easily be compared to that of the 3-hour-long, NC-17 rated French romantic drama “Blue is the Warmest Color” (or “Adele: Chapters 1 & 2” which would’ve made a great title for a future double album from British recording artiste Adele), which I watched, along with “Nymphomaniac”, last weekend. Yep, I certainly had a busy weekend, that’s for sure. Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos (AWESOME SURNAME), who play a young lesbian couple, express their passion for each other in the film’s intimate, and equally-talked-about, scenes. Their lovemaking is ravenous, sensual and emotional, miles apart from the raw, lustful and almost-emotionless intimacy present in “Nymphomaniac”.  Léa and Adèle’s characters are genuinely in love with each other, while Joe (both the teen and adult version) ,shows the least bit of emotion, save for two characters, for her sexual suitors. They exist to satisfy her carnal needs and nothing more. Simply put, the characters in “Nymphomaniac” are fucking, and not making love. Understand that and you understand this movie.

 

 

The two characters that Joe somewhat has feelings for are Shia LaBeouf’s Jerôme (her first suitor- turned-husband) and Mia Goth’s (Shia’s current, real-life girlfriend….Ain’t that some shit?)  ‘P’, which is just one of the ‘names’ given to the side characters in Lars’ script (Sophie Kennedy Clark is B, Uma Thurman is Mrs. H, Jamie Bell is K and Willem Dafoe is L). Even more interesting is that each of these letter-coded characters make a significant impact – usually negative – on the life of Joe. Sophie’s ‘B’ is introduced in Volume I as Joe’s (Stacy Martin) sexual partner-in-crime, and in a memorable sequence, are shown on-board a subway train, looking for men to have sex with. Uma Thurman’s Mrs. H verbally accosts one of Joe’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) random partners in another memorable scene, and arguably the best “Nymphomaniac” had to offer. Love, in that case, is replaced by emotional comeuppance. Jamie Bell’s K is the literal aggressor in Joe’s sadomasochistic relationship in Volume II, and participates in the film’s most disturbing, and brutal, scenes. Willem Dafoe’s ‘L’ is a shady businessman who hires Joe for her new-found skills in sexual submission and ‘P’ is his next prospect in Joe’s position. Mia Goth’s character starts off as a naive, doe-eyed understudy to Joe, and later becomes her first lesbian lover. But still, there’s no real love involved. P’s attraction to Joe, like Jerôme’s, is solely based on sex, and their relationships are based on sexual gratification. More ironic is that both relationships conclude with emotional, and physical, comeuppance.  Joe’s life revolves around her own nymphomania, and as a result, she is incapable of giving love – and getting it.

 

 

As you have gathered, “Nymphomaniac” is heavy on ideas. It touches on a number of thought-provoking themes, some of which will intrigue viewers (like the comparison of seeking a sexual or life partner to fly fishing – lure, bait, all that fishing shit) and others that will infuriate viewers to the point of disagreement (like the “forbidden” inner sexuality that each of us possesses, but are unable to act upon thanks to society’s rules, morals and mores). The film also boasts some great performances (especially from Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgård), unique, provocative imagery, great musical selections from Johann Sebastian Bach to Rammstein (yes, THE Rammstein! “Du Hast” (remember that shit?!!) Rammstein!) and innovative usage of cutaways to visualize the points made in Charlotte’s and Stellan’s long, LONG conversation. And yes, the film’s scenes of explicit sexuality and nudity do stick out…..heh heh…and not like a sore thumb. These scenes will make your jaw drop, your eyeballs bulge out of your eye sockets, and your fingers reach for your keyboard as you update your Facebook status over what you just saw.

 

 

Like many other films in Lars von Trier’s catalogue, “Nymphomaniac” isn’t meant to be appreciated by the masses. Some viewers will find themselves disgusted, shocked or even bored by the film’s strong sexual content. Others will find themselves uninterested, confused or even bored by the film’s profound, thematic content. But for the open-minded, courageous and those willing to think with their brains and not with their nether regions, “Nymphomaniac” is indeed worth checking out. Admittedly, it’s not as incredibly groundbreaking or controversial as it sets out to be, and I wouldn’t imagine the most die-hard of Lars von Trier fans calling it his finest work, but I can guarantee that it will be debated and deliberated (especially the film’s…..ahem…..“happy ending”) for days to come. And viewers will certainly remember “Nymphomaniac” as THE breakout film for Shia LaBeouf. I mean, the guy clearly graduated from digging holes in “Holes” to *wink wink nudge nudge* DIGGING…..well, you get the idea. And after four years of sexual suppression courtesy of the “Transformers” trilogy, who could blame the guy? Michael Bay must be so pissed off at him right now.

 

MY RATING (for the ENTIRE film): 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Worth a look”)

– Matthew

“Satan’s Daughter”/ “Trinidad and Tobago World War II Diaries”

satansdaughter

 

The first time I ever heard of “Satan’s Daughter” was a few weeks ago when my mother saw its TV spot during the nightly news broadcast. Last Wednesday, I saw the poster for the film, placed oddly enough on top of another poster with the words “Trinidad and Tobago World War II Diaries” displayed in large text (as you can see above), in the “Now Showing (Port-of-Spain)” page for the Movie Towne multiplex website. Advertised as a “local horror movie/documentary” in the synopsis, this was one of the few rare moments in Trinbagonian film history where two local films were billed as a double feature. The last instance I can remember was the pairing of “The Panman” (1997) and “Bacchanal Time” (1978).  Curious, I looked at the trailers for both films on YouTube. While the World War II documentary intrigued me greatly, the horror film – or at least what I can decipher from its shoddy trailer – didn’t.  Skeptical but still curious, I made the bold decision to watch and review this double feature- BY MYSELF, with the intention of making my fellow readers aware that these local films exist, and uncovering the worth, if any, that these films possess.

 

I did exactly what I set out to do. I went to Movie Towne, paid TT$50 (normal price) for my ticket and stepped inside the cinema which ran the two films. Upon entering, I realized that I was only one of four individuals inside the actual cinema. I shrugged off this realization, and reminded myself that people nowadays are more interested in Hollywood films like “Carrie”, “Escape Plan” and “Gravity” instead of local film entertainment. Sure enough, the lights were turned off and “Trinidad and Tobago World War II Diaries” (Jeez, why didn’t the distributors shorten that fucking title?!) began.

 

The intro was exactly what the trailer presented: the archival footage from a WWII naval battle, the clearly-added-post-production-sound-effects, and of course, composer Alan Silvestri’s heart-pounding musical piece “The Chase” from his movie soundtrack to the CLASSIC example of 1980s cinematic BAD-ASSERY known as “Predator” (Like I wouldn’t fucking know the music from the scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger yells “RUN! GO! GET TO THE CHOPPAAAAAAH!”. Come on! Besides, I grew up on “Predator” anyway! “Predator” for life,, bitches!!!). But “T&T WWII Diaries” (See? Now that’s easier to type!) was actually a very well-made documentary. In a nutshell, the film showed the history of Trinidad & Tobago’s involvement in the Second World War, from the British West India Regiment and Trinbagonian navigators working for the Royal Air Force, to our oil industry which helped fuel the Allied war machine. The interviews (mostly from surviving participants of WWII) are very informative, and the use of archival footage used in the film (both video and audio), while extensive, is impressive, The cinematic sound design was distracting at times (like the instances where loud stereo sound effects were added to low-to-medium-level mono sound in the archival footage), but it was still quite effective. But even more interesting is the fact that the documentary looked and felt like it was made for TV. And why shouldn’t a documentary like this be shown on television? It’s about a topic in our history that many people, myself included, aren’t fully knowledgeable on. And it’s a shame that not many Trinbagonians would get to, or want to, see it.

 

And then something happened. About a half-hour into the film, the end credits started rolling up the screen, and the male narrative voice-over informed me that this important topic in Trinbagonian history will be continued in the “next episode”.  Assuming that the entire documentary was a two-part affair, and further assuming that “Satan’s Daughter” was actually shorter than I originally expected, I eagerly anticipated the “next episode” of “T&T WWII Diaries”. For my 5 seconds of patience, I was rewarded with……..”Satan’s Daughter”. First of all…….THE FUCK?!! Why would you raise my expectations of witnessing what happened next to the Trinbagonian soldiers in WWII, and then throw it all away for the sake of a horror movie?! Secondly, why would you screen the FIRST PART of a documentary in the first place when you already have a feature-length horror film lined up? Was this an attempt from the distributors to showcase – or show off – the great “strides” they’ve been making in terms of local film entertainment, or was it just a clever marketing ploy to get patrons to pay their hard-earned money to watch a film so COMPELLING that they must be inclined to sit through it in its entirety (“T&T WWII Diaries”), only to cut the film short for the sake of a film that honestly, no one gives a shit about (“Satan’s Daughter”)? But I digress.

 

The haunted house “horror” film “Satan’s Daughter” deals with a “Ghost Hunters”-like film crew of six Americans (three male, three female – you know…..the usual) who arrive to Trinidad (called St. Germaine throughout the film’s narrative) to explore a legendary haunted house. Transported by one of the locals (famed comedic actor Errol Fabien who plays ‘Yani’) to the site, the film crew set up webcams in nearly every area inside and outside of the house. Why this house in particular, you ask? Well, you see, one of the male crew members is actually a descendant of a French baron who owned the home. From what I gathered from the opening voice-over narration that was edited so sloppily (as if the narrator reading his lines too fast weren’t annoying enough, one line would fade out at the last word, and then another sentence would start immediately at that fading out), the French baron fell in love with one of his female slaves. That slave was actually a succubus (or “La Diablesse” – i.e. a popular character of Trinbagonian folkore – as it’s sometimes called in the film), who kills the Baron in his bed during their sexual escapade. The elderly curator of the house, played by veteran actor Errol Jones who does his best Vincent Price impersonation (“The kitchen…………is in the back”; “”I’m……….going now”; “I don’t come out after dark” ) and supposed stepfather (I think) of one of the two blonde-haired women in the crew, warns the Ghost Hunters about an evil presence (the “La Diablesse”) in the house. On the subject of blonde-haired women, that one, in particular, is very, VERY pretty. And as an added bonus, she can hear the voices of spirits, sense the presence of spirits and is knowledgeable about the mannerisms of spirits. With those credentials, it shouldn’t be too hard for her to get a boyfriend. Anyhoo, for the sake of this review – and because I forgot her fucking name in the movie – I’ll call her “Spirit”. From the moment the film crew arrives to the house, weird shit takes place. Satanic objects are discovered in different areas of the house, the La Diablesse (in spirit form) is spotted outside roaming about, and (as you’d expect in a haunted house movie) the crew members are attacked, one by one.

 

“Satan’s Daughter” looks like a mid-90’s direct-to-VHS movie. I’m not bullshitting you here! The colours are washed-out, the cinematography is flat, the acting is uninspired, the actors, with the exception of Errol Fabien and Errol Jones, either try way too hard or don’t try at all to act, the camerawork is amateurish and the visual effects (’cause what would a great haunted house movie be without flashy visual effects? *COUGH!*“The Conjuring”*COUGH!*) are lame as fuck! Even SyFy Original Movies, terrible as they are except for their unintentional humour, have better VFX than this film does. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example. A group of local men sneak inside the house, while the “Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated” find themselves in different areas of the house, and in danger of being attacked by the La Diablesse. After one of the men is grabbed by the legs by the La DIablesse, and dragged into the nearby room, the others quickly exit the house. And when I say quickly, I mean at 2X speed. But with the fuzzy colours and overuse of shadow, you probably wouldn’t have picked up on it – that is, if you were willing to suffer through this movie. Anyhoo, the men jump into a car and drive off – also in 2X speed. When the car reaches the end of the road, it suddenly explodes. And when I say explodes, I mean EARLY After Effects explosions that’ll make even a novice VFX artist laugh his/her ass off!  And on the subject of cheap special effects, the movie itself is so cheap that nearly every opportunity to truly scare and disturb the audience is wasted on quick-cut montages of distorted imagery (which also serve as transitions during most of the film, by the way). First and foremost, distorted imagery that’s confusing and disorienting doesn’t equal scary. I’m just saying.

 

What “Satan’s Daughter” tried to do was combine the haunted house horror sub-genre with that of the found footage sub-genre (which was revolutionized in “The Blair Witch Project” (1999) and since then, mercilessly exploited in films like the “Paranormal Activity” franchise). The film is a series of pre-Windows 98 computer-generated scenes from the perspective of camcorders and webcams, all of which add to the already-90s direct-to-VHS look and feel that it presents. Even the dialogue feel like something out of a shitty, late-night cable horror film. Here’s a few examples: “So what exactly is a zombie?”, “You’ll become Satan’s whore” and my personal favourite (and the one that I can relate to) “Do we have scary yet?”. And just like a shitty, late-night cable horror film, there’s even a few nude scenes thrown in for the hell of it. All three women….yes, even Spirit, are shown in scenes of nakedness.  Ahhhh yeeeeeah! What’s a haunted house horror movie without some naked female flesh (*COUGH*”The Conjuring”*COUGH)?

 

“Satan’s Daughter” is idiotic, boring, witless, non-frightening, unintelligible and unnecessary. The fact that it was shot in Trinidad makes it bad.  The fact that a bargain-basement rap song plays in the end credits (which was a huge slap to my face) makes it worse. And the fact that “Paramount Studios” (I SHIT YOU NOT! Seriously! I’m not lying here!) appears twice in the end credits makes it……even more bizarre than it already is. The “Ghost Hunters” episode (which I suspect was the inspiration for this film) where they came to Lopinot, Trinidad, to look for “jumbies” is QUALITY ENTERTAINMENT compared to this piece of cinematic shit! And that’s a show from SyFy! Imagine that! And while you’re at it, imagine greater.

 

THE LAST WORD: When the lights came back on after the end of “Satan’s Daughter”,  there were only two persons inside the cinema: myself and an elderly man. As we silently exited the cinema, I considered asking the man to share his thoughts on what he saw. But I could tell that he was, like me, unspeakably disappointed, so I chose to forego that undertaking. Keep in mind, ladies and gents, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would hate the LIVING DEAD out of “Satan’s Daughter”, but I still spent my time and money watching it. I had hoped that the “T&T WWII Diaries” documentary would have been worth at least half of the ticket price, but it didn’t even add up to more than a third thanks to its discontinuance. Minutes after I left Movie Towne, I found myself deliberating on the fate of local film, in relation to the “double feature” I had sat through. As I mentioned in my recent review of “Escape from Babylon”, there are “local film naysayers” out there. They’re the ones who bash, scoff at, and turn a blind eye on local films because, simply put, they believe that local films aren’t entertaining or appealing enough to them.

 

Four local-made feature films  (“Home Again”, “Escape from Babylon”, “God Loves the Fighter” and “Between Friends”) have been released this year, each with considerable success. But when a movie like “Satan’s Daughter” comes out, and the obviously poor critical reception reflects the piss-poor attempt at making an entertaining and appealing film, and a meaningful, informative documentary about our country’s history is unashamedly used as a LURE to attract naive moviegoers to watch local films in late-October, then what would those moviegoers say when they realize they’ve been deceived? Will they dismiss the film as a pathetic local horror movie and continue to support local film, or will they give up on local film entirely and become naysayers themselves? And what about the advertising? “Satan’s Daughter”/T&T WWII Diaries” wasn’t advertised as much as the aforementioned feature films were. Matter of fact, many people are STILL UNAWARE that these movies even exist! Can this be blamed simply on poor advertising, or is it another reflection of the film’s “poverty line”?

 

But look at the Hollywood film industry. There’s hits and then there’s flops. It’s inevitable. But Americans will still spend their time and money on movies, good, bad or so-so, not just because these movies are marketed and advertised better, but because the people are aware of the power and value of film in their lives. Our film industry is still in an embryotic state. A “Godfather” or “Seven Samurai” or “City of God” won’t happen overnight, but there is still the hope and possibility that our films will be appreciated and revered throughout the world – and most importantly, in our country. Like Hollywood, there’ll be good films, bad films and so-so films in our film industry’s future, but I believe that eventually, it will develop into something greater than anyone, local film supporter and local film naysayer, would expect.

 

In closing, I continue to ponder on the future of local film. Will there be more flops than hits? Will we continue to support Trinbagonian cinema, or dismiss it every time a local film misses the mark? Only time will tell. But until the day “T&T WWII Diaries” is shown in its entirety on local television, or screened during another film festival, and until the day “Satan’s Daughter” finds itself in the ninth circle of hell, and even beyond that, I WILL continue to support local film.  As before, take my criticism as you will, and please feel free to discuss.

 

MY RATING:

(INDIVIDUALLY)

“T&T WWII Diaries” – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie…oops, I meant episode)

“Satan’s Daughter” – 1 out of 5 stars (“Of course it sucked”)

 

(AS A WHOLE) 2 out of 5 stars (“I want my TT$50 back!”)

 

(UNRELATED) “Predator” – 4 out of 5 stars (“‘Predator’ for life, bitches!!!“)

 

– Matthew

Double Feature – “The Conjuring” (2013) & “Sharknado” (2013)

Now before you start singing the “One of these things is not like the other….” song from Sesame Street after observing the line-up for today’s review, let me explain. I had intended on writing on “Sharknado” earlier (matter of fact, I saw it two weeks ago, and had planned to review it with  “Pacific Rim” and “Atlantic Rim”), but life got in the way – as it always does.  After reshuffling my schedule, I made the decision to include “Sharknado” into today’s write-up alongside the new haunted house horror flick “The Conjuring”. So before I express my innermost thoughts on “Sharknado” before my brain explodes, let me forego the traditional explanatory introduction and get right to the action.

 


the-conjuring-poster

 

“THE CONJURING” – New year, new haunted house/demonic possession/exorcism movie based on a true story. Ah, Hollywood. You never cease to amaze me. Okay, that was a really shitty way of starting this review. But seriously though, EVERY YEAR, there’s ALWAYS a horror movie about a haunted house or a demonic possession or an exorcism. Usually, it’s based on a true story, or inspired by true events.  And believe me, it’s something about the phrases “based on a true story” or “inspired by true events” that scares the bejesus out of the casual moviegoer. “The Conjuring” is the latest offering in the “true story” sub-genre of horror films and it’s directed by James Wan – the guy responsible for the twisted brilliance that was “Saw” (2004), the aight “Insidious” (2011), the hopefully good “Insidious: Chapter 2” coming out this September, and the it-better-be-great-or-else-I’ll-burn-the-fucking-theater-down “Fast and Furious 7” slated for release next summer.  The story, set in 1971 Rhode Island, centers on Edward and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson from “Watchmen” and Vera Farmiga from “The Departed”), husband-and-wife paranormal investigators  who probe the disturbing events occurring in the farmhouse of Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) and their five daughters.

 

Now I’m rather hesitant when it comes to watching horror movies in the theater. No, I’m not the type to scream orders at the on-screen characters (“RUN, BITCH, RUN!!!”, “HE GON’ KILL YOU!!!”, “WHY THE FUCK DID YOU OPEN THAT DOOR?!!”) or throw my popcorn in the air after each and every jump scare. Personally, there’s not that many horror movies nowadays that are worth paying full admission price to see.  But truth be told, “The Conjuring” is a rare exception.  First of all, the movie was rated R by the MPAA for sequences of disturbing violence and terror. Not gratuitous nudity, not sexual content, not even graphic violence. Disturbing violence and terror.  In other words, it’s rated R for being SCARY!  That itself sets the movie apart from the number of recycled, rehashed-formula horror flicks that come out yearly.  “The Conjuring” relies on old-school scare tactics, as opposed to generic scenes of blood, guts and dismemberment (no, I’m not referring to this year’s remake of  “Evil Dead”), to freak out its viewer.  Fortunately, these tactics are clever and effective in jolting the viewer and aren’t reduced to cheap jump scares like those in your typical horror flick (“There’s something behind you!” *CUE JUMP SCARE MUSIC* Oh, it’s just my cat Pussy!” – You know, typical shit like that).  I found myself highly impressed by the film’s old-school, circa-1970s look and feel, from the cinematography handled by John R. Leonetti and modeled by James Wan after 1970s horror films to the yellow-coloured scrolling text of the film’s opening disclaimer and title. The performances are strong, especially from its leads Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The script by Chad and Carey Hayes (who also penned the lame-ass 2005 “House of Wax” remake, which is ONLY memorable for Paris Hilton’s EXCELLENT death scene. Seriously. I can’t remember ANYTHING else from that fucking movie) is well-written and evenly-paced. The sound design and musical score also deserves credit. My main gripe, however, with “The Conjuring” was that (spoiler alert…..sorta) some the scares in the first half of the film were already shown in the film’s trailer. So when I saw them again on the big screen, I couldn’t help but wish I hadn’t seen them earlier, or had them revealed to me initially. But despite that, I truly enjoyed “The Conjuring”. It’s a smart, entertaining and creepy-as-hell haunted house/demonic possession/exorcism movie based on a true story that’s living proof that old-school scares are still effective in this day and age. And believe me, after you see this movie, it will resonate with you long after you leave the theater. True story.

 

And now the moment the two of you were waiting for……or at least I’d like to imagine you did.

 

 

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“SHARKNADO” –  In the year 2013, there has been quite a number of moments that changed the way we look at television: the shocking climax of the “Rains of Castamere” episode in Season 3 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, the death of a few key characters in AMC’s zombie survival series “The Walking Dead”, the revelation at the season finale of ABC’s “Scandal” that I heard about, but never saw since I haven’t even started watching “Scandal” yet. Yes, I know, SHAME ON ME!  Anyoo, there is one other moment that deserves to be listed in terms of the most memorable TV this year…..at least to me, that is: the climax of SyFy’s latest foray into intentionally bad cinema “Sharknado”. I won’t get into full detail about this scene, but I will say it involves a gigantic shark, an older Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) from “Beverly Hills 902010” (REMEMBER THAT SHIT?!!) and a chainsaw. Even if you haven’t seen “Sharknado” in its epic splendour, you may be familiar with this scene – whether you saw a clip of it on TV, or saw a GIF of it online. But following the showdown between the chainsaw-wielding Ian and the gigantic shark, is a certain Jonah-from-the-Bible-inspired moment that made me lose my fucking mind!  That moment defied everything at that point: logic, gravity and common sense!  When I saw it, I instantly threw my hands up, left the room where I was watching the movie and LMAO’d over what I just saw! It was truly the FUNNIEST, INSANEST, most jaw-dropping, oh-no-they-didn’t, are-you-fucking-kidding-me, how-high-were-these-people-when-they-made-this-shit moment I have ever seen on television.  If HBO has its infamous “Red Wedding” sequence from “GoT” to be proud of this year, the SyFy channel has that moment from “Sharknado”! I shit you not!

 

About the movie? Well, it’s produced by The Asylum (SIDE NOTE: in my previous reviews, I mistakingly assumed The Asylum as a VFX company. In fact, it’s a film studio and distributor. So for providing that wrong information, I humbly apologize). It stars Ian Ziering as Finley “Fin” (Yeah, I know. Funny, right?) Shepherd, an ex-surfing champion turned L.A. beach bar owner who parted ways with his wife April (Tara Reid), daughter Claudia (Audrey Peeples) and son Matt (Chuck Hittinger) thanks to a divorce.  Fin hangs out with his attractive employee Nova (Cassie Scerbo), his best friend Baz (Jaason Simmons who played Logan Fowler on “Baywatch” – REMEMBER THAT SHIT?!!), and an old drunk named George (John Heard). One day, off the coast of Mexico, a tornado swallows up a school (I believe that’s the correct term. I could be wrong) of sharks. In L.A., the threat of Hurricane David (the first of its kind to hit California) looms over our fearless foursome.  When the hurricane does hit, flooding occurs in various parts of Los Angeles. Fin, with the help of Nova, Baz and George, sets out to rescue his family from harm. Soon enough, FIn reunites with his family, and together they ward off sharks of different varieties while seeking shelter. As you may have guessed, the sharknado (of course, I’m referring to the weather phenomenon. For other uses, see Sharknado (disambiguation)) reaches within seeing distance of our heroes, and now they have one shot to stop it (i.e. the tornado) /them (i.e. the sharks) from destroying Los Angeles and biting/swallowing/providing a healthy source of seafood for its denizens respectively. How will they accomplish this, you ask? Ask Matt, Fin’s son: “Instead of waiting for live sharks to rain at us, we’re getting into (that) chopper and throwing bombs into the tornado, blasting those bastards to bits!”.  Thanks, Mr. Exposition.  Dumb ass.

 

“Sharknado” has EVERYTHING you expect from a SyFy Original Movie: shitty script, shittier visual effects, one-dimensional characters, unintentionally bad dialogue and of course, gigantic animals that kill for no reason other than the fact that it’s a “horror film” and they’re supposed to be killing machines.  But what makes this film special is the absolute ABSURDITY of its premise alone. SHARK-NADO?! A TORNADO with SHARKS inside it? Fucking absurd, I know! Then again, if a house can find itself in the wonderful land of Oz thanks to a tornado, then I guess SHARKS can find themselves suspended in mid-air in the middle of Los Angeles. Sigh. Only on the SyFy Channel.  But despite its slap-you-upside-your-head=for-saying-it-with-a-straight-face premise, “Sharknado” is, shockingly enough,  a VERY ENTERTAINING TV movie.  And honestly, when’s the last time you saw one of those? The movie is fast-paced, the laughs are both intentional and unintentional (which is very surprising for a SyFy Original Movie), and the ridiculousness is non-stop. Even the editing is laughable. In an early beach scene, bright exterior shots are inter-cut with darker ones. There are numerous cutaways of gushing water – clearly done to cover up the film’s already-tiny budget ($1,000,000 according to IMDb). The acting is bad (especially from Tara Reid who still can’t act for shit) – and the dialogue spoken by these actors is even worse. But the dialogue is so funny and so WTF, that you won’t care about bad acting. Here’s two examples. In one scene, Fin is driving through flood water with Nova, Baz and George. Nova notices a shark in the water. “That’s a tiger shark”, she says. Fin asks “How do you know that?”. Nova responds “Shark Week”.  I was literally in stitches when I heard that line. Seriously!  In a later scene, Nova tells this gut-wrenching……….ly story to Matt about how her grandfather died at the hands….oops, I mean teeth….of a shark. “They took my grandfather. That’s why I really hate sharks”. Mr. Exposition, seeking a response to console the poor girl, says: “Now I really hate sharks too.”. Funniest…..response……EVER!!

 

And what’s a review on “Sharknado” without the sharks themselves? The only thing realistic about the sharks is the footage shown during one scene where a shark finds itself in the pool of a retirement home.  These sharks find themselves capable of breath, even when they’re suspended in mid-air in a fucking tornado, they drop out of the sky at will, they use flood water to smash their way through windows and devour human beings and die easily by handgun bullets and shotgun blasts provided by Nova who’s amazingly skilled in using a shotgun (though it’s never explained how).  One issue I had with this movie was the lack of non-Caucasian characters. There was a female Chinese surfer who calls Ian Ziering’s character “grandpa” in an early scene in the movie. And there was a black man in one of the retirement home scenes in the final act, but unfortunately he’s placed far in the back, and shot out-of-focus that you’d easily miss him. Apart from those two individuals, the rest of the cast is primarily white. Even J.J. Evans from “Good Times” had some screen time in the 2011 SyFy Original Movie “Super Shark”. J.J. fucking Evans! Kid Dynomite! Anyhoo….

 

“Sharknado” is, by far, one of the best worst movies I’ve seen all year.  Who knows? After a couple more viewings, it may find itself in my upcoming “Top 10 Best Movies of 2013” list. Ah, who I am kidding? It’ll easier find itself in my “Top 10 Worst Films of 2013” than anything else. Then again, I’ve been meaning to add a “guilty pleasure” segment to my best and worst movies lists – so maybe (I’m not guaranteeing anything) “Sharknado” will be my guilty pleasure movie of 2013. If I could rate “Piranha 3D” (not to be confused with “Piranha 3DD” – i.e. the worst movie of 2012) as my guilty pleasure movie of 2010, then why not “Sharknado”? Time will tell.  This movie truly changed the way I looked at television, and it changed the way I looked at sharks. And tornadoes for that matter. It’s far from scary, far from intelligent and far from boring. Unless you genuinely abhor everything SyFy Channel, you should check this movie out as soon as you can.  Like Lifetime’s “Liz & Dick”, “Sharknado” is a certified so-bad-it’s-good cult TV movie. And with a sequel in the works, you’ll be hearing about “Sharknado” for a long time to come. Now if only Animal Planet can muster up some competition.

 

MY RATING:

“THE CONJURING” – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)

“SHARKNADO” –  1 1/2 out of 5 stars (“That shit cray!”)

 

– Matthew

Double Feature – “Spring Breakers” (2013) & “Only God Forgives” (2013)

While you two are still waiting for what I may have to say about the SyFy Channel’s latest magnum opus “Sharknado”, I’m going to take the time to tackle two films I’ve been dying to see this year: American filmmaker Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” and Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives”. Released in March, “Spring Breakers” stars Selena Gomez in her first “breakthrough” adult role which, alongside her radio single “Come and Get It”  which came out one month later, and which I personally think is a VERY fucking annoying song ……yeah, I said it…. represents her maturity as both a singer and actress. It also stars another ex-Disney tween star: “High School Musical’s” own Vanessa Hudgens, whose song for the “Spring Breakers” soundtrack, weirdly titled “$$$ex”, is even more fucking annoying than “Come and Get It”. But it’s short….and it has a catchy beat, so that counts for something, I guess! Ashley Benson (from some TV show called “Pretty Little Liars”), Rachel Korine (the 27-year old wife of the film’s 40-year old director Harmony Korine….hmmmm), Southern rapper (and one of the worst in the rap game right now, in my honest opinion) Gucci Mane, ex-WWF wrestler Jeff Jarrett  (playing a preacher, of all things) and everyone’s favourite Oscar-nominated pothead actor James Franco also make appearances in this movie.

 

“Only God Forgives”, not to be confused with Miami rapper Rick Ross’ previous full-length LP “God Forgives, I Don’t”, NOT to be confused with the 1967 spaghetti western of the same name, is a French-Danish co-production shot entirely in Bangkok, Thailand. It marks the second collaboration between Nicolas Winding Refn and Hollywood actor Ryan Gosling, the first being the EXCELLENT neo-noir crime thriller (and one of my favourite movies of 2011): “Drive”. It also stars Kristin Scott Thomas (star of “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “The English Patient” and last year’s “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”), Tom Burke, Gordon Brown, Byron Gibson, Vithaya Pansringarm, Ratha Phongam and Kovit Wattanakul.

 

So were they worth the three combined hours invested into them? Let’s find out!

 

 

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“SPRING BREAKERS” – Selena Gomez (whom the common man won’t get shit from – even if he wants it! Dumb-ass song!) plays Faith (funny they should name her that), a college student and devout Christian. Faith and her three childhood friends (also college students) Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brittany (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) set out to go to Florida for Spring Break. Upon arrival, they get involved in a number of wild beach parties, all involving drunk guys, topless chicks and BANGING music! When they’re not partying, they drink, smoke, ride scooters, get bored, call their mothers to tell them they’re doing fine, and even get the chance to sing Britney Spears’ debut single “(Hit Me) Baby, One More Time” a capella-style. After getting arrested for partaking in an indoor party full of booze, drugs and sex, Faith and her friends are bailed out by  “Alien” (James Franco). “Alien” is a gangsta rapper, and like the real rapper Lil’ Wayne, he believes himself to be “not from this planet, y’all” – hence the alias. But don’t let the pre-“Dutty Rock” Sean Paul-like braids (before he upgraded to a fucking Mohawk of all hairdos) and platinum grill fool you. Alien is the rare case (even in today’s rap game) of a WHITE gangsta rapper who lives the “thug life” he raps about. Yes, this dude makes his money by drug dealing and armed robbery. For him, it’s all about “making dat money” and nothing and no one will get in his way of getting it – not even Big Arch (Gucci Mane), Alien’s drug-dealing rival. Anyhoo, Alien gets closer to the foursome, much to the discomfort of Faith. She fears something terrible will happen. And as expected, something terrible DOES.

 

“Spring Breakers” is that type of movie that you’ll either like or hate. Well, I’m proud to say that I’m one of many who really liked the hell out of this movie! I found myself glued to the screen from start to finish, which I blame on on the film’s vibrant visual style and no-holds-barred approach to its subject matter. It takes you on a hazed and hallucinatory journey through the debauchery of Spring Break festivity, while exposing its dark, rotten core. To the untrained eye, “Spring Breakers” looks like an extended montage of excessive partying, sleaze, sex and violence – but it’s more than that. In essence, it’s really about the seductive allure of the American Dream, but presented as a fantasy that we all would like to see come true, even though, unfortunately, it changes instantly into a nightmare. We all desire happiness and freedom. Most of us would kill for the opportunity to do whatever we want, without any objection or opposition. And I will admit, being a hip hop head and all, I oftentimes desire the mansions, cars, clothes, money and women that rappers express their desires for in their songs. But at what cost? Does it mean endangering yourself and others? Does it mean doing something that you don’t feel comfortable with? “Spring Breakers” asks these questions, and leaves it up to the viewer to find the answers. The casting is impressive (even from the lead actresses – Shocking, I know!), with James Franco taking the lead of best performer. His “Alien” is crazy, creepy, comical and quite captivating, and James Franco incredibly invests himself into the character (at times, you’ll even forget you’re seeing Franco). Stealing every scene he’s in, he truly embodies of the dark side of the American Dream.  The story, while simplistic, is consistently vibrant and well-paced. With its psychedelic visuals alone, “Spring Breakers” deserves the title of “cult classic”. It’s self-indulgent, outlandish and hedonistic, but at the same time, it’s bold, provocative and thought-provoking. And it is actually worth checking out. You may like it or you may hate it – but you certainly won’t forget it!

 

 

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“ONLY GOD FORGIVES” – When I first saw the trailer to this film, I was hyped! I loved the colours, the music, the violence, the mere fact you had no clue what the hell was going on, EVERYTHING! And I loved “Drive”, so “Only God Forgives” had to be just as good, if not better. Then, about a month or so ago, I was shocked to hear (via a YouTube movie reviewer) that the movie was BOOED at the Cannes Film Festival. Booed, I tell you! Was the movie so bad that the audience had no choice but to express their outrage by booing? Or was it too avant-garde for that same audience to comprehend it? Well, I’m proud to say that it’s kind of a mixture of both. And yes, lady and gent, if I were one of the audience members at Cannes at that time, I would have BOOED my fucking lungs off this movie as well!

 

“Only God Forgives” is, without a doubt, one of the best-looking bad movies I’ve seen in a long time! Yeah, I said it! BAD MOVIE – and not “bad” meaning “good”. Props go to cinematographer Larry Smith for making every shot look like a professional photographer’s wet dream. Striking visuals aside, this movie is a torturous exercise in patience, with no reasonable payoff. It involves the attempt of Julian Thompson (Ryan Gosling), an American who owns a Bangkok boxing club which is actually a front for a drug-smuggling operation, to find the persons involved in his brother Billy’s (Tom Burke) death. Billy, as presented in the film’s inciting incident, is a creepy bastard who brutally murders a 16-year old prostitute, for no reason, before surrendering to the police. Lieutenant Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), rightfully nicknamed the “Angel of Vengeance”, informs the victim’s father of her death, and allows the man to exact his revenge on Billy. Julian and Billy’s mother Crystal arrives to Bangkok to identify her older son’s corpse. Afterwards, she asks Julian to kill the men responsible for the death of his brother, which, oddly enough, he refuses to do. Crystal meets some guy called Byron and organizes a hit on Chang. The “Angel of Vengeance” survives, and goes on a quest to find out who set up the hit. This leads him to Julian, who’s (probably) dying to take his frustration out on the man who oversaw the death of his dear creepy bastard of a brother.

 

Now I’m not a huge fan of Nicolas Winding Refn. Honestly, the only movie I’ve seen from him is “Drive”, but even that isn’t motivation enough for me to seek out his earlier work. That being said, I expected to see the same aspects I loved about “Drive”: great plot, great visuals, great acting, great characters. All I got unfortunately were great visuals. “Only God Forgives” is a joyless, uneven, slow-paced, incoherent and unrewarding film experience. And an overly self-indulgent one at that! The film feels more like “Hey, look at me! I’m Nicolas Winding Refn. I made ‘Drive’ with Ryan Gosling! Look what I can do!”, while throwing image after image at the screen, as opposed to “Hello. I’m Nicolas Winding Refn. I made ‘Drive’ which was a GREAT movie starring Ryan Gosling! Watch me make ANOTHER great movie!” and using a well-written and coherent story to connect these images together. On the subject of acting, Ryan does little of it. He doesn’t do anything except stand, sit, walk, run, punch, get punched and stare at a person or persons for long periods of time. And he has this mopey, depressed and bored facial expression throughout the entire movie! I am not bullshitting you! Ryan Gosling maintains this face throughout the entire movie!

 

 

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That is some Madam Tussauds Wax Museum-type shit right there!

 

The main characters in this movie are so detestable and heartless, that it’s hard to relate to, or connect with, any of them. Even Ryan Gosling’s Julian is far from a great hero – or antihero for that matter. In one scene (which resembles a number of scenes in the same setting), Julian is at a nightclub (check pic above) staring boringly at one of the prostitutes. He then notices two men sitting on the other side of his table. Apparently, they’re looking at the girl the wrong way, and Julian’s offended. He viciously slaps one of the guys around, and drags him across the floor by his lower lip. Then a jump cut occurs, and Ryan’s sitting in the gym at the boxing club – still moping, still staring forward, like nothing happened. In other words, Julian’s actions in the previous scene are left unjustified. And that’s the main problem with this movie. While I expected a high level of violence in this movie – and there is, to a disturbing degree  – I expected with it some justification and motivation for these violent acts. For example, what’s the justification behind Lieutenant Chang’s use of a sword (concealed behind his back, in case you were wondering) in the film’s major scenes?  Even if it’s made apparent that he’s a lone wolf within the police department, and follows his own code of ethics (like a Thai samurai or some shit), why does he feel the need to chop, slice and stab his enemies? ‘Cause he has a sword?! And where’d he get that sword in the first place?! As the standout character in the movie (yes, Vithaya Pansringarm outshines the host of the fucking movie – for better or worse), he, off all people, deserved some sort of justification and motivation for his actions.

 

Kristin Scott Thomas, who, according to Wikipedia, combined elements of Lady Macbeth and Donatella Verace to play Crystal Thompson, is the worst character in the bunch. She’s rude, despicable, shockingly vulgar, and an overall creepy bitch. In a dinner scene in the middle of the film, Crystal compares the size of her deceased son’s penis to that of Julian’s (What the fuck?!!). She’s usually presented in stylized slow motion, either walking or sitting down. In one of the film’s pathetic attempts at being avant-garde, Crystal sits in a nightclub, puffs on a cigarette and stares at three Thai bodybuilders. Why? I have no fucking idea! Weirdly enough, there’s lots of scenes of characters staring and gazing into the camera. Whether it’s a club scene where police officers stare at Lieutenant Chang singing a Thai love song on stage (and he’s not that bad of a singer – or should I say, the guy who probably lip-synced for him) or Julian staring lifelessly at a prostitute playing with herself in front of him (Seriously, what the fuck?!!), staring contests abound in this movie. There are a few positives however. The hit on Chang was shot and edited very well, the fight scene between Chang and Julian was well done (though the outcome was VERY disappointing), Cliff Martinez’ (who collaborated on “Drive”) musical score fits well with the bleak, haunting vibe of the movie, and Chang is a BADASS – and a mean, scary son of a bitch as well!

 

I flat-out HATED “Only God Forgives”.  Viewers will find themselves cringing at the senseless violence, rolling their eyes after hearing the short, soulless spurts of dialogue blurted out by the actors, or falling asleep altogether. Apart from the impressive visuals, there’s nothing of worth for me to recommend a viewing to anyone. If you haven’t seen “Drive”, see it as soon as you can. It’s a masterpiece compared to this movie! If you have seen it, watch it again and pretend this movie doesn’t exist. “Only God Forgives” is one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, and will find itself at the end of December on a particular list on this blog dedicated to bad movies. Like Rick Ross, Cheech Marin in “Machete” and Terence Hill said before: “God forgives….. I don’t!”

 

MY RATING:

“SPRING BREAKERS” – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)

“ONLY GOD FORGIVES” –  2 out of 5 stars (“I want my money back”)

– Matthew

Double Feature – “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” (2013) & “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013)

“Star Trek”, created by the late Gene Roddenberry, began as a campy 1960s TV series and grew into a franchise and worldwide phenomenon, cementing itself permanently into the realm of  pop culture. After 6 TV series (3 of which are hailed as some of  the greatest shows to grace the television screen: the original “Star Trek”, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), 10 movies (seriously!) and a slew of video games (NONE of which I ever had the luxury of playing), the essence of Star Trek seemed only to exist in its ever-faithful fans, nicknamed the “Trekkies”. But after the valiant efforts of rejuvenating film franchises like the Batman series (i.e. “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” in 2005 and 2008 respectively) and the James Bond series (with “Casino Royale” in 2006) proved rewarding in the box office, it was only a matter of time until the “Star Trek” film franchise got the opportunity to be rebooted for a new generation.

 

Like over 60% of the world’s population (give or take), I truly enjoyed director/producer/writer J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the “Star Trek” franchise back in 2009. Not only was I wowed by the extraordinary special effects, fast-paced action and ‘popcorn movie’ fun that the film delivered, but I was impressed by the excellent casting of its actors, great characterization and the film’s emphasis on alternate timelines which helped connect the events in this reboot with that of the original series. And after four years of patient waiting, Mr. Abrams returns to the director’s chair of the Starship Enterprise to produce and direct the second chapter of the Star Trek reboot: “Star Trek Into Darkness”.  But with the surprising success of the first film, was its sequel worth the wait?

 

Only one way to find out….

 

OH RIGHT! I almost forgot! I have to talk about “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” first! Awwww maaaaan!

 

Like over 90% of the world’s population (give or take), I saw the trailer for this film last year and thought to myself: “You have got to be fucking shitting me!”. The words “Hansel & Gretel” and “Witch Hunters” should not be in the same title, I told myself back then. After the releases of “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” films last year (which technically told the same story, even though the latter took a dark approach to the source material – you can read my review on both films here if you like), it only seemed fitting (I’m being ironic here, folks) to take an already dark fairy tale about two kids being fattened by an evil witch into an action fantasy shoot-em-up (No, I’m not being ironic!). Co-written and directed by Tommy Wirkola (some dude from Norway), and released in glorious, money-sucking, brain cell-frying 3D by Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MTV Films (the fuck?!!) and Gary Sanchez Productions (founded by comic actors Will Ferrell and Adam McKay)(also – the fuck?!!),  the film generally received negative reviews. This was fairly obvious since (a) it was released in January – where the dregs of a full barrel of money-making Hollywood films are disposed into theaters; and (b) the name of the movie IS “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”!

 

So why am I writing on witch hunters instead of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” (2009)? For one thing, I had intended to review both Star Trek films, but because there were a number of pre-summer blockbuster season films that I wanted to write on initially, I chose instead to focus on one film currently showing in theaters alongside one that I missed out on – or one that I saw, but didn’t get the time to write about it – earlier this year. Secondly, talking about it now saves me the hassle of talking about it – and watching it – later on this year. Thirdly, and quite honestly, you don’t need me to go into lengthy detail as to why the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek film was so great, when all you’re itching to find out is if the second one is worth it or not. And finally, “Hansel & Gretel” appeared online this week on one of my favourite streaming sites. So fuck it, what did I have to lose – apart from 90 minutes of my life? Anyhoo…

 

 

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“HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS” –  “Hansel & Gretel: Witch-Ass Kickers” (not the real title) opens with a young Hansel and Gretel being abandoned by their father in the forest. They come across at a Tim Burtonesque-like gingerbread house, and as you would expect, they go inside  – only to be captured by an evil witch who wants to devour them. The siblings outsmart the witch, and they get to stab and incinerate (Daaaaaamn!) their ‘witchy’ captor in the process. 15 years later, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are leather-wearing, gun and crossbow-toting, expletive-spouting badasses who kill witches for a living. They arrive at a town, and learn that a witch named Muriel has kidnapped some kids to sacrifice during a ritual that will take place during the self-explanatory Blood Moon. Muriel, by the way, is none other than Famke “Honestly, all I did in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ was scowl, talk evil and act bitchy” Janseen who played Jean Grey in the first three X-Men films. A mysterious woman accused of witchcraft (Pihla Viitala), a local fanboy knowledgeable in Hansel and Gretel’s exploits in witch hunting (Thomas Mann), and a troll named Edward ….yes, I said it….A TROLL NAMED EDWARD….who works for Muriel the witch, get themselves involved in our heroes’ journey to stop Muriel and save the kids. And that’s the movie – in a nutshell.

 

“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is every bit as ridiculous as the title suggests. The characters are underdeveloped, the story is unintelligent and the action sequences that the film boasts are uninspired. Yet the film always manages to remain self-aware of how ridiculous it is, making the experience of watching it more of a guilty pleasure than a chore. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play their two-dimensional characters well enough, and Famke Janseen relishes herself in her ‘witchy’ character as she spits cartoonish lines like “We….will be…invincible” and “I go by many names. None of which you are worthy of pronouncing”.  Yeeeeeeah. Thomas Mann’s (who starred in last year’s exercise in teenage partying and implied anarchy “Project X”) character isn’t given much to do. The only thoughtful thing he really does is offer a bowl of porridge to an injured Gretel in one scene, followed by his delivery of the film’s most facepalm-inducing line: “Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right”. And here we go…. ONE…TWO….THREE….*FACEPALM!!!*. The action scenes, like I said, are uninspired, with nearly all of them shown in snippet form throughout the film’s trailer and most of them relying on fake-looking blood effects. The final action sequence, which made up for the rest of the seen-that-in-the-trailer-already events of the first and second acts, was easily the best thing about “Hansel & Gretel”. It’s every bit as over-the-top and bad-ass as the entire film should have been.  The make-up effects and production design get individual points, and the decision to use an actor in an animatronic suit to play the troll instead of “simpler” computer graphics worked for the film. Ultimately, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is light years FAR from great, but it’s really not that terrible of a movie. I can see this film becoming a cult classic in the next ten few years or so, with audiences looking past the piss-poor story and lack of characterization and enjoying the one-liners, weird characters and scenes involving Hansel and Gretel chasing witches on foot through the forest (why a witch would RUN away from his captors before jumping on a broom or scaling up a tree to escape danger is anyone’s guess).  And in time, the film may find itself ranked among the great cult classics like “Labyrinth” and “Army of Darkness” (their influences do resonate on “Hansel & Gretel”, by the way).  But for now, the world won’t end if you skip this film. If, however, you’re still curious about it, I strongly suggest watching it with some popcorn and a bottle of rum nearby. But before you do, accept these words of caution from Gretel herself: “Whatever you do, don’t eat the fucking candy”.

 

 

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“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” –  Previously on “Star Trek”, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) became the Captain of the USS Enterprise starship, and together with communications officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana), navigator Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin), chief medical officer “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Simon Pegg), helsman Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) and everyone’s favourite half-human, half-Vulcan First Officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto),  they blow shit up, kick alien ass and not to mention, boldly go where no man has gone before. In this latest outing, Kirk is called to action, following the bombing of a Federation-based building in London, and a vicious attack on the Starfleet Command building in San Francisco. The perpetrator is a former Starfleet agent, and EVIL sonuvabitch, named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).  The tragic outcome of the attack on Starfleet Command leaves Kirk with a personal score to settle with John. And so, Kirk leads his crew members on a manhunt for John – a manhunt that will forever change the lives of the crew of the USS Enterprise.

 

Before I begin this review, let me make this clear: I am NOT a Trekkie! I do remember watching parts of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV series as a child, wondering how in the hell Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton) was capable of seeing through that visor covering his eyes, why the hell Data (Brent Spiner) was so emotionless (I had no idea what an android was back then, folks) and what the FUCK was up with Worf’s (Michael Dorn’s) forehead. Oh, and I was amazed by the voice, sheer awesomeness and bald head of its lead actor, Patrick “Why did they cast me at the last minute for ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine'” Stewart. And no, I haven’t seen all of the Star Trek movies, and as far as I’m concerned, I probably never will. I may not be a Trekkie, but even I know that with the exception of the first film -1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (criticized for its slow pace and over-reliance on special effects) and the 10th film in the franchise – 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis” (i.e. the proverbial final bolt in the franchise’s proverbial coffin which was immediately shot into proverbial orbit as part of a  proverbial space burial after its proverbial crash-and-burn in the box office), the even-numbered films are better than the odd-numbered ones. And it’s the even-numbered films (“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and “Star Trek: First Contact”) that I enjoyed as opposed to “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” that I skipped, “Star Trek Generations” and “Star Trek: Insurrection” that I forgot about, and “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (*COUGH*Worst Star Trek movie ever made*COUGH) and “Star Trek: Nemesis” that I regretted seeing.

 

With that being said, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is a really, REALLY fucking good movie. Seriously, it is! Similar to its predecessor, “Into Darkness” has a fast-paced story, dazzling visuals (and lens flare – OH MY WORD! the lens flares are in full effect in this film) and spectacular action sequences. The acting is great throughout, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (whose potent chemistry – which, at times, bordered on subtle ‘bromance’ – served as the heart of the previous film) stepping up their individual fucking game with two of the film’s best performances. But alas, they’re out-shined by Benedict Cumberbatch who delivers the most memorable performance in the entire movie. Benedict, who, honestly, I never heard of until I saw him play Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s highly-intelligent modern mystery series “Sherlock”  (which was recently Americanized into the CBS series “Elementary” – a show I have yet to watch), is cold, brutal and menacing as John Harrison. He truly brings the darkness into a film that chose to call itself “Star Trek Into Darkness” without a fucking colon in-between the words. But despite the action scenes, flashy special effects and stellar acting, the day belongs to J.J. Abrams, who once again, delivers a solid directorial effort with this film. He never allows the action and visuals to overshadow the characters and story, and as such, the main characters are given an amazing level of depth, and the story is much layered than you might expect. There are moments of drama that will keep you enthralled, and moments of emotion that WILL tug at your heartstrings. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself shedding some tears (man-tears if you’re a guy) with this film. Also, there are particular references to the original series and a couple of Star Trek movies (I’ll only give you one clue – they’re EVEN-NUMBERED  😉 ) that should appease the Trekkies out there, and encourage the non-Trekkies (myself included) to actually get themselves involved in the Star Trek franchise already!

 

Now I know this movie won’t be for everyone: if you truly dislike the Star Trek franchise, or if you’re one of the veteran Trekkies who hated the shit out of J.J. Abrams’ reboot of “Star Trek”, then this film will do little to change your mind. But if you loved the reboot, and you’re looking for a summer blockbuster/sequel that will entertain you mentally and move you emotionally, then “Star Trek Into Darkness” is definitely worth your time and money. And it’s possibly the first “best movie” for 2013 – so you should get on board the USS Enterprise immediately and boldly go where no movie so far this year has gone before! Live long and prosper.

 

MY RATING:

“HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS” – 1 1/2 out of 5 stars (“THAT SHIT CRAY!”)

“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” – 4 out of 5 stars (“SEE THIS MOVIE”)

 

– Matthew

Double Feature – “Pain & Gain” & “Iron Man 3”

“Pain & Gain”, the 10th film by the “author of action”, “trailblazer of thrill rides” and “ejaculator of explosions” (Yeah, I just made those up), Michael Bay, marks his return to R-rated territory since the 2003 guilty pleasure of a mindless action movie “Bad Boys II”. It’s written by the collaborative duo of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (in case you actually give a shit who wrote the script for a Michael Bay movie), the screenwriters behind the “Chronicles of Narnia” films and the underrated and very entertaining pre-Avengers film “Captain America: The First Avenger”. The cast of “Pain & Gain” includes Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in his third (THIRD, I tell you) movie this year, Anthony Mackie (a.k.a. the last guy to lose to Eminem in the gritty rap drama “8 Mile”, the only black character I could remember from Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning war thriller “The Hurt Locker” and the last guy I’d ever fucking expect to play Tupac Shakur in the Notorious B.I.G. rap biopic “Notorious”), Tony Shalhoub (famous for playing the O.C.D.-diagnosed detective Adrian Monk in the TV series that I still wished was martial-arts related: “Monk”), Rebel Wilson (fresh from embarrassing the shit out of herself with a slew of fat jokes on the recent MTV Movie Awards) and veteran actor Ed Harris (who played the villain in Michael Bay’s 1996 film “The Rock” which still remains his crowning achievement and my all-time favourite Michael Bay movie). As the poster for the film clearly states, it is based on a true story. Like we haven’t heard that before (*COUGH*in almost every demonic possession horror film to come out during the last five years*COUGH)!

 

“Iron Man 3”  is the first post-Avengers movie since…..DURRHH!! last year’s box-office smash “The Avengers”.  That’s all I have to say for the moment.

 

Besides, I have a LOT of shit to talk about concerning these movies, so brace yourself for a long-ass review. But first……

 

 

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“PAIN & GAIN” –  Set in 1995 (HEY! That’s the year “Bad Boys” – Michael Bay’s first feature length movie – came out! WOOOOOOW!!) Miami (HEY! That’s the same place “Bad Boys” and “Bad Boys II” were set in! WOOOOOOW!! Okay, okay. I’m done. Jeez!), “Pain & Gain” opens with the introduction of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a bodybuilder who works at the Sun Gym. Daniel is obsessed with self-improvement and the American Dream. He idolizes fictional characters like Scarface and Michael Corleone (from “The Godfather”) just as much as he idolizes his own muscle-bound body. And like Scarface himself, he wants the world – and everything in it. But since this movie is based on true events, and we all know how Scarface ended up, he’ll just settle with money and success. Anyhoo, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), a self-made businessman, joins the Sun Gym. While training Victor, Daniel observes his rich lifestyle – and the scantily-clad girls surrounding him regularly – and begins to envy it. Y’see, Victor is a rich bastard (and not in a good way, mind you) and this forms the catalyst of Daniel’s master plan: kidnap Victor, torture him and extort him for his riches. Of course, Daniel can’t do this job alone, so he brings in trainer Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie)  and ex-convict Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) to assist him in his nefarious mission. For the American Dream that they desire in their own individual way, these three bodybuilders embark on a path of lies, schemes, debauchery and violence – a path that will forever change their lives and those around them.

 

“Pain & Gain” is rather tricky to figure out. From the premise of the film itself, and the flashy trailer that came out before the film’s release which, I must say, succeeded in getting me hyped for another Michael Bay movie since 2011’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon which was not inspired by the Pink Floyd album “Dark Side of the Moon” even though listening to that is much more rewarding than sitting through that piece of cinematic horseshit again”, I was under the impression that it was, in essence, a dark comedy. I mean, beefed-up bodybuilders kidnapping, robbing and murdering people for money? And it’s based on a true story. How could that not make for a good dark comedy? Problem is, while the movie has its moments of sharply satiric humour and dark, serious content, it hardly blends the two properly. In one minute, you’re either laughing your ass off or facepalming yourself off the stupidity of Wahlberg’s, Johnson’s and Mackie’s characters, and in the next minute, something violent takes place and you’re reminded that these people are, in their own individually ridiculous way, selfish, despicable individuals – and, dare I say, fucking assholes. And it becomes a huge challenge to continue laughing at, and rooting for, characters who torture, kill and botch their way to wealth.  In a sense, this film takes a true story and gives it the Scarface/Godfather treatment. In other words, the audience is supposed to root for the bad guy, because he’s a bad-ass and he’s ballsy and he fought hard to attain everything he ever wanted.  But even Al Pacino’s Tony Montana and Michael Corleone characters had morals, values and a rigid code that they broke when necessary. For every decision they made, whether good or bad, they thought about it carefully, and there was a reasoning behind these decisions. It wasn’t like “Oh, let’s kidnap this guy, and torture him for a week, just so he can sign over his money to us, and we’ll be rich. And by the way, when we do get the money….we gotta kill him”.  

 

Now an argument could be made that “Pain & Gain” isn’t meant to be taken seriously in the first place (since the actual case that inspired it is downright preposterous) and you’re not supposed to root for the protagonists anyway since they are bumbling idiots. And the film itself does revel in its own preposterousness. The over-the-top characterization, vibrant visuals, and constantly-moving camerawork create a sense of hyper-reality to this real-life situation. But it tends to exaggerate itself so much that it’s really hard to take anything seriously, which, in turn, contradicts the “based on a true story” aspect of the film. It contradicts itself so much that it had to remind itself, and the viewer, TWICE that it is still based on a true story. But despite all that, I was entertained by “Pain & Gain”. The acting was good for the most part, especially from Dwayne Johnson, Tony Shalhoub and Ed Harris, who plays the private detective Ed DuBois who tracked the three douchebag dipshits down in real life. Michael Bay’s directorial style is still as energetic and stylized as before, and it’s guaranteed to satisfy the Michael Bay purists out there. And while it is unevenly paced at times, and too long for its own good (clocking in at 2 hours and 9 minutes), the film is far from boring. In short, after four years of directing gigantic robots that leap out of planes and transform into vehicles which somehow manage to find their way onto a fucking road, “Pain & Gain” is a worthy return of Michael Bay into the R-rated action world which made him a legend, for better or worse. If you’re one of the many who despise his movies – even “Bad Boys II” – then this film will be a PAIN in the ass for you. But if you’re a fan of his movies, then you’ll GAIN (see how I did that? Heh heh heh.) two hours’ worth of brutal, insane and self-indulgent fun with enough over-saturated visuals and low-angle 360-degree camera rotations to keep your brain stimulated. Yes, I said “brain”. Don’t leave it at the door, like you normally would with his films. Keep it in your head for this one. Trust me.

 

Or you can spend a few more dollars (for 3D glasses that you may or may not get the opportunity to carry home, depending on the stickiness of your fingers) and see this instead….

 

 

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“IRON MAN 3” –  Following the events in the “Avengers” film, millionaire playboy/super hero Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) suffers from insomnia and panic attacks. He keeps himself busy by re-building and refining his Iron Man suits, which puts a strain on his relationship with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Meanwhile, a terrorist named the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) orchestrates a string of bombings in the United States. Tony’s best friend Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), formerly known as War Machine but now assumes the new title and armour of the Iron Patriot,  tries to warn Tony of the Mandarin’s presence, but to no avail. However, when an associate of Tony becomes badly hurt after a Mandarin-related bombing, Tony wises up, and publicly vows revenge. The Mandarin takes him up on his offer, and responds by destroying the holy fucking SHIT out of his home! Luckily, Tony survives, and undergoes a journey of realization and redemption that will determine the futures of both Iron Man and the man underneath it.

 

If you haven’t heard the news by now, “Iron Man 3”  has divided fans of both the Iron Man movies (more the first one than the second) and the comic book source material. Why, you ask? Because there’s a specific moment in the film … or should I say twist …. where something unexpected happens. To prevent any future threats of assassination and/or ass-whoopings, I’m not going to tell you what that moment is and when it occurs. But I can safely say that when that moment takes place, it’ll be up to you to either accept it as part of the story that will indefinitely make sense in the end, or stop caring about the story all together. At the end of the film, you’ll either be part of Team I STILL ENJOYED IRON MAN 3 DESPITE THE TWIST or Team FUCK IRON MAN 3! TWIST THIS, BITCH! (team names are subject to change). Personally, I accepted the twist, and it didn’t deter me from enjoying the rest of the film. But I will admit it took a lot of guts for the creators of this film to pull this stunt, and for Marvel Studios to sanction it, but they must have been aware that it would piss the hell out of many dedicated Iron Man fans. And the last thing you want to do is piss off the very same people who spent money on watching your films. But like the series finale of “The Sopranos” (which I finally saw, in case you were wondering why I mentioned it), I expect this twist to be the subject of much debate for weeks – hell, MONTHS – to come. Let’s just hope the kind folks at Marvel Studios don’t attempt a stunt like that in their future films. I’m just saying.

 

Anyhoo, about “Iron Man 3”. Replacing Jon Favreau in the director’s chair in this latest outing is Shane Black, writer of the buddy-cop action/comedy classic “Lethal Weapon” and writer/director of the FANTASTIC neo-noirish crime comedy film “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (which also starred Robert Downey Jr.). And he does a terrific job with “Iron Man 3”. Like “Lethal Weapon”, the film shifts tonally between comedy and action. Moments of seriousness shift consistently with moments of genuine humour. On the subject of humour, “Iron Man 3” is, by far, the most humourous of all the Iron Man movies so far, with most of the hilarious quips delivered from…who else….Robert Downey Jr. Once again, he pulls off an excellent performance as the sarcastic and narcissistic, yet humanely vulnerable and sympathetic, Tony Stark. And on the subject of Tony Stark, like “The Dark Knight Rises” that preceded it, “Iron Man 3” has more moments of Tony Stark and less of Iron Man. This, of course, will infuriate those who expected to see more Iron Man, but at least you’ll be given a chance to see the man behind the suit, and how he’s able to handle situations, big or small, without the use of his armour. As expected, the performances by the cast rarely disappoint (especially Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Kingsley who literally steals every scene he’s in) and the dialogue, as expected from Shane Black, is sharp and witty. Not to mention, the action sequences are SPECTACULAR enough to justify seeing the film on the big screen – and in 3D. And the story, while it falls under the weight of its own plot points at times, is well-written and well-executed by Shane Black himself.  SIDE NOTE: There’s a brief moment in the third act  between Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle which resembles the buddy scenarios of both “Lethal Weapon” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”. With Shane Black’s skills in writing buddy movies, maybe he should do a “Hawkeye & Black Widow” movie in the future. ‘Cause let’s face it – even B-list Avengers deserve a fucking movie as well!

 

In the end, I enjoyed the hell out of “Iron Man 3”. Even with the aforementioned and now infamous twist, it delivered a superhero film experience with laughs, action and a surprising amount of heart. While 2008’s “Iron Man” still remains the best in the trilogy, “Iron Man 3” is a considerable improvement over the slightly disappointing, but still entertaining “Iron Man 2” (2010). Like I said earlier, the twist in the film will decide whether you’ll enjoy the film or not, so proceed with caution. But if you’re willing to accept the twist, or at least let it slide until the ending credits, then you should enjoy this latest film entry into the Marvel universe. But if you have seen “Iron Man 3”, refused to accept the twist and have already commenced the condemnation of everything coming out this year from Marvel Studios (even the upcoming X-Men sequel “The Wolverine”), then there should be a spot for you in Team FUCK IRON MAN 3! TWIST THIS, BITCH! The team name is still subject to change though.

 

MY RATING:

“PAIN & GAIN” – 3 out of 5 stars (“It was aight”)

“IRON MAN 3” – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)

– Matthew

Double feature – “Evil Dead” (2013) & “The Host” (2013)

With Michael Bay’s “Pain & Gain” and Shane Black’s “Iron Man 3”  hitting theaters on April 26th and May 3rd respectively – both of which I’m eagerly anticipating (yes, even Michael Bay’s film) – today’s post will focus on two Lilliputian (in comparison to the big-ass lineup of summer movies starting from next month) films that are in theaters right now.

 

“Evil Dead”, from Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, is both a reboot of the CLASSIC 1981 horror film “The Evil Dead”, and loose continuation of the Evil Dead film trilogy which includes….you guessed it…. “The Evil Dead”, 1987’s “Evil Dead II” (one of my all-time favourite movies – in case you were wondering) and 1992’s “Army of Darkness”.  This is Fede’s first feature film thanks to Sam Raimi (the director of the Evil Dead trilogy, the “Spiderman” trilogy and this year’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful”) and Ghost House Pictures who discovered him after his very impressive 2009 short film “Ataque de Pánico!” (Panic Attack!) shot to instant popularity on YouTube. I put a link to the short film at the end of this post, so feel free to check it out afterwards.

 

The second film on today’s post is “The Host”. Fortunately, it’s not a remake of the highly overrated, but very, very good 2006 South Korean sci-fi/horror/family drama (not particularly in that order) of the same name. Unfortunately, it’s not a remake of the highly overrated, but very, very good 2006 South Korean sci-fi/horror/family drama (not particularly in that order) of the same name. Instead, it’s the latest film adaptation of a novel written by Stephenie Meyer, writer of the ridiculously popular “Twilight” young adult books which – as everyone over the age of 12 knows – were adapted into the ridiculously fucking popular, and popularly defined as “fucking ridiculous” “Twilight Saga” movie franchise. Now I haven’t had the ‘privilege’ of watching the final film in the franchise (2012’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2” ), and believe it or not, I would like to review it in the future. Mind you, I’m not a fan of the franchise at all. Two years ago, I added “Breaking Dawn Part 1” to my list of Worst Movies of the Year.  But I’m still curious as to whether “Breaking Dawn Part 2” is or isn’t “the BEST Twilight movie yet” as stated in the “REALLY?!!”-inducing TV spot for the film, which, as you would expect, was shown as a textual quote by an individual (most likely imaginary) whose name was shrunk small enough for a 4:3 screen that it’s literally hidden in the After Effects-designed clouds behind the text.  Anyhoo, after the Twilight movie franchise was buried came to an end in 2012, and MTV stopped giving a fuck about it (to the point that it wasn’t even nominated for Best Film at the recent Video Movie Awards), Hollywood began scouring the New York Times Best Seller and Amazon’s Kindle Store lists for the next best novel. What they found was Stephenie Meyer’s “best-selling” (at least I think so) adult novel “The Host”.  But with Meyer herself producing the film, and acclaimed director Andrew Niccol both writing and directing it, “The Host” should be a gigantic leap forward from the “Twilight” movie franchise, right? If only it was.

 

And now I’ll like to do some reviews, if you don’t mind.

 

 

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“EVIL DEAD” –  After an impressive post-title opening shot that eerily resembles the one from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece “The Shining”  (which, if you’ve been keeping score, came out one year before Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead”), our story begins with a group of friends on their way to an old cabin in the woods: school teacher and resident dumbass Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), nurse Olivia (Jessica “HELLOOOOOO NURSE!” (remember that shit from ‘Animaniacs‘ ?) Lucas), David (Shiloh Fernandez), his recovering smack addict of a sister Mia (Jane Levy), and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). This vacation of sorts is actually an opportunity for Mia to kick her life-threatening drug habit, and for her brother and loved ones to assist her in the process. Upon arrival, the group discover a book wrapped in a black trash bag and bound by barbed wire. Eric, school teacher and resident dumbass, removes the wire and the bag, and learns that the book is the Naturom Demonto (or Book of the Dead). Within the pages of disturbing Satanic artwork  in the book are a number of red-inked scribbled warnings, the first one being “LEAVE THIS BOOK ALONE”. Of course, Eric, school teacher and resident dumbass, continues reading, and he even recites a specific passage aloud which summons demons to the cabin. Like I said –  DUMBASS!

 

And…..people start dying.

 

Those familiar with Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” will be pleased by the film’s many visual and thematic nods to its source material, like the twisting-and-turning camera movement through the woods (which still looks fucking awesome in the original film), the creepy-ass make-up design and the gory violence. However, the story is radically changed, and the wickedly-bizarre humour from the original film is completely removed, which will infuriate some die-hard fans. Fede Alvarez’s directing is excellent in “Evil Dead”, and he does a great job in incorporating practical special effects in the film, as opposed to CGI, as part of the film’s tribute to the low-budget, but still effective, effects that made the original film a cult classic. The violence in the film is brutal, excruciating and sadistic, and the gore level is raised to an absurdly extreme level in this film. The horrific moments in the film are intense, disturbing and even disgusting (one character is subjected to bloody projectile vomit – that sorta looks like fruit punch – in one scene).

 

But even with an ear-splitting usage of sound design (jarring silence followed by booming noise is the technique of choice used in the film) during these moments, “Evil Dead” is admittedly not that scary.  And you don’t feel the least bit concerned for these characters to feel scared for and with them. This has mainly to do with their lack of characterization. All the characters aren’t developed well enough for the viewer to completely give a rat’s ass whether they survive or not. And the acting, which was aight by horror movie standards, doesn’t help. As a result, you’ll wind up rooting for the five protagonists to die in the worst ways imaginable – which is a lot more fun than it sounds, if you’re like me. But somehow, despite its flaws, I found myself enjoying the film way more than I expected. And in my honest opinion, it’s one of the more better horror movie remakes to come out in a long time, unlike films like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” which put Leatherface, Jason Vorhees and Freddy Kreuger respectively to fucking shame! The film’s strengths and flaws will put off some people – and believe me, “Evil Dead” is not for everyone. If you’re a gore-hound and you love extreme violence in your horror movie palate, you’ll enjoy the hell out of this movie. If you’re looking for something original and generic-proof in that same palate, then you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re looking for an ambitious and near-successful attempt at recreating the relentless feel of a classic horror film – in this case, the grueling terror that made the original film a staple of horror movie cinema – then you should definitely check out “Evil Dead”. It’s certainly not “the most terrifying film you will ever experience” as indicated by the film’s poster, but it comes close enough.

 

 

host2

 

“THE HOST” – Written and directed by Andrew Niccol (director of such films like the thought-provoking “Gattaca” (1997), the darkly ironic “Lord of War” (2005) and some film starring Justin Timberlake called “In Time” (2011) that I have no intention of watching any time soon), this film stars Saoirse Roman (star of Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” – another film that I have no intention of watching any time soon – and the excellent action drama “Hanna”)  as Melanie Stryder. Melanie’s one of the last remaining human beings on planet Earth. Y’see, a benevolent race of alien parasites called “Souls” have assimilated almost all of the Earth’s human population, thereby eliminating wars, crime and other negative aspects of human history. THANK YOU, BENEVOLENT ALIEN PARASITES!!  Anyways, the rest of humanity (i.e. those not assimilated by the aliens) are on the run from the Souls. Melanie is captured by the Seeker (Diane Kruger) and infused with a “soul” called the Wanderer. Apparently, the Wanderer was a rebel back on their home planet. It’s never fully stated what it was rebelling against (or maybe they said it when I…ahem…had my eyes closed), but the fact remains that the Wanderer must regain its memories so the Souls can locate other rebels. Yeeeeeah. Anyhoo, the Wanderer, now inhabiting the body of Melanie, is conflicted by Melanie’s subconscious. In other words, the Wanderer can see flashbacks of Melanie’s life and hear Melanie’s voice talking to her. Later on, the Wanderer meets a group of human survivors, one of whom is Melanie’s boyfriend Jared Howe (Max Irons). As the Wanderer interacts with the humans, she falls for Ian O’ Shea (Jake Abel). And now we have a love triangle (technically a love square  if you really analyze it) between the Wanderer/Melanie, Jared and Ian.  Ah, a love triangle involving a person who wants to be something she’s not. Kinda like that one with the guy who was a vampire, the girl who loved him and wanted to be a vampire just like him even though he didn’t want to bite her, and the werewolf who couldn’t find any other girl in the town to have pups with than with the aforementioned girl, and, of course, loved to show off his abs.  Yeah, kinda like that one!

 

The idea of an alien entity living inside you, sharing your thoughts, memories and emotions, and desiring to be a human being like you is a very intriguing concept for a film. And “The Host” touches on these concept periodically, to the point where you say to yourself: “Goddamn! That’s a really interesting concept!”.  Unfortunately, the novelty of being amazed by this concept wears off very quickly throughout the course of this film. Instead of fully exploring the boundaries of the abovementioned concept, “The Host” dilutes itself with tepid, eye-rolling moments of teen romance, which usually conclude with unintentional humour. Take the following scene for example: In a later scene, Jared (who’s aware that Melanie is inhabited by the Wanderer) tries to express the passion he still feels for his girlfriend. Melanie, in turn, doesn’t want the Wanderer to fall for him, so she continually warns her (by mentally nagging the SHIT out of her)  not to fall for Jared. He tells Melanie/Wanderer “If I can kiss her, then I can kiss you”, and then plants a hot one on her lips. Melanie (still mentally nagging the shit out of the Wanderer) yells: “No! What is he doing?! Stop it! Stop now!”. The Wanderer pulls away from the kiss, and punches Jared in the face! Jared responds to the sudden attack by saying: “You hit me for kissing you…… I love you!” Ladies and gentlemen, and Twi-Hards far and wide, THIS is what passes as emotional tension in “The Host”! You were warned.

 

As she plays the film’s most interesting character, Saorise Roman brings a much-needed sense of complexity and dimension to “The Host”. And she achieves a rare cinematic feat by playing both the best and worst characters of the film: the sympathetic Wanderer and the annoying-as-fuck Melanie. I am aware that Melanie is the conscience of the Wanderer, but does she have to whine, nag and bitch at everything everyone says and does in the movie? Of course not. Yet she does, and because she does, I instantly stopped giving a shit about her. But for better or worse, she makes the most of the film’s sloppy, poorly-written script, even when she has to deliver some of the film’s most cringe-worthy lines. The jaw-droppingly terrible “Kiss me like you want to get slapped” is a major example of the dialogue that will, if it hasn’t already, secure this film into the annals of bad movie history. Andrew Niccol’s directorial skills pale in comparison to his previous work. The cinematography is nothing worth marveling over and the shot compositions are static with little to no camera movement. Oh, and I forgot to mention: this movie is fucking BORING!!! For two hours (yes, it’s THAT fucking long), hardly anything emotional, important or memorable takes place. And I will admit: I slept during certain parts of the film. Yes, it’s THAT boring! And the worst part about “The Host” is that despite the film’s slow pace and lack of anything exciting taking place, there was no emotional payoff. When the end credits started rolling, I felt nothing for the film’s characters because they weren’t interesting to begin with. Matter of fact, I felt nothing but anger for wasting two hours of my life on that piece of shit! “The Host” is a pathetic attempt to cash in on the success of the “Twilight” movie franchise, a pathetic attempt to get audiences over the age of 13 to sit through two hours of brooding characters, bad dialogue and a poorly-executed premise, and a pathetic attempt at intelligent, emotionally-moving storytelling in general. If you love the book, stick with that and skip this movie. If you never read the book, and have no intention of doing so any time soon (like me), skip this movie.  Better yet, watch the South Korean film “The Host” instead of this bullshit. However, if you have trouble sleeping at nights, and you’re looking for a sleep aid that won’t leave any side effects, then I recommend you watch “The Host” (the American one, that is). Before the first hour is up, you’ll be sleeping like a baby. And when you wake up, you’ll forget you what the movie was actually about. Which I will from this point onward. Thanks, “The Host”. And thank you, benevolent alien parasites!

 

MY RATING:

“EVIL DEAD” – 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Worth a look”)

“THE HOST” – 1 out of 5 stars (“Of course it sucked”)

 

As promised, here’s the link to the “Ataque de Pánico!” short film. Enjoy!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dadPWhEhVk

 

– Matthew