BBB HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

In this special Halloween episode of Beers, Beats & Bailey, Matthew Bailey and Ricardo Medina talk about the third seasons of “Black Mirror” and “Halt and Catch Fire”, the documentary “HyperNormalisation” and our individual Top 5 favourite unconventional horror movies.

SPECIAL SPECIAL THANKS to José Sinetto for providing this episode’s opening and closing tracks: “Symphony of the Night” and “Windows Shut (Trip-hop instrumental version)”

–  Matthew

BBB Famous Video, OITNB Season 4, Septembers Of Shiraz, Central Intelligence, ID4 Resurgence REVIEWS

As the 1st anniversary of BBB (YAY!) draws near, we review Kanye West’s controversial music video “Famous” and the fourth season of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black”, along with “Septembers of Shiraz”, “Central Intelligence”, and the sequel EVERYONE’S been waiting on for the past 20 years: “Independence Day: Resurgence”.

 

–  Matthew

BBB – Some BS Movies, The Angry Birds Movie, TMNT: Out of the Shadows, Warcraft REVIEWS

Along with a few crappy comedies, “The Angry Birds Movie”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” and “Warcraft” managed to pique our interest. We share our thoughts on these movies in this episode of Beers, Beats and Bailey.

 

– Matthew

My thoughts on “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

transformers-age-of-extinction-poster

 

June 25th 2014. Argentina defeated Nigeria in their World Cup match. The music world acknowledged the fifth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX’s “Fancy” continued its battle over the airwaves for the title of official summer song of the year against Chris Brown and Lil Wayne’s “Loyal”. I had a Mario’s mini-Hawaiian-special pizza for lunch and washed it down with a medium Coke (talk about eating healthy).  Oh, and “Transformers: Age of Exploration”….oops, I meant “Age of Extinction” came out as well!

 

Yes, ladies and gents, three years after the debacle that was “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (one of the worst movies I saw in 2011), action director extraordinaire Michael Bay and executive producer/ iconic filmmaker Steven Spielberg  gives us yet ANOTHER installment in their metallic ass-kicking, explosive-detonating, blowing-money-fast….ing, live-action “Transformers” movie franchise. Now if you ain’t up on thangs, “Transformers” is based on both the Hasbro toy line and CLASSIC TV cartoon series of the same name. The first “Transformers” movie, which came out a mere seven years ago, delivered incredible visual effects, well-crafted sound design, human characters that the audience can care about, BAD-ASS robot characters that the audience can root for (whether Autobot or Decepticon), a somewhat cohesive plot, genuine moments of fun and humour, and of course, SUPERB action sequences. The second and third Transformers movies (“Revenge of the Fallen” and “Dark of the Moon”) however gave us incredible visual effects, ear-numbing sound design, human characters that the audience didn’t give a shit about, walking piles of garbage masquerading as BAD-ASS robot characters that the audience couldn’t root for (since it’s hard to discern who’s Autobot or Decepticon), incoherent plots, failed attempts at humour and of course, mindless action sequences.

 

Like its three predecessors, “Transformers: Age of Exemption”….oops, I meant “Age of Extinction” is a commercial success. It already passed the $400 million mark in the global box office, and is expected to hit $600 million by the end of the July 4th weekend. However, like “Revenge of the Fallen” and “Dark of the Moon”, it has been the target of negative criticism, with many critics and viewers making mention of its long running time, redundant action scenes and muddled plot. But after years of making mindless action movies, Michael Bay seems to be the least bit concerned with what critics think of his latest film. When asked about the critics in a recent interview, Bay said, and I quote: “They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate. They’re still going to see the movie!”  Ironically, his statement couldn’t be more true. I knew I’d probably loathe this movie with every ounce of my being. I knew I shouldn’t have spent my hard-earned money to see it in 3D. I knew I should’ve stayed home yesterday afternoon and watched the Netherlands vs. Costa Rica World Cup quarter-final match (I did watch the Argentina vs. Belgium match though). But nope. I left the house, went to the nearest movie theater, paid $38 for a ticket, got a pair of cheap-ass 3D glasses, paid for an extra-large bag of popcorn and extra-large cup of Pepsi (talk about eating healthy), got an extra-large bag of popcorn and two small cups of Pepsi because the concession stand ran out of extra-large cups (no comment), and sat through “Transformers: Age of Enlightenment”….oops, I meant “Age of Extinction”

 

And now the moment at least TWO of you were waiting for! Here’s my review of one of the most highly-anticipated movie releases of the year; the “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”, “Jaws the Revenge” (maybe), “Batman & Robin” (could be), “Fast & Furious” (yeah, I hated the SHIT out of that movie), “Underworld: Awakening”, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (in 4D!!!) – or any other unnecessary Part 4 of a movie franchise that you can think of –  of 2014: “TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EMPIRES”… you know what? Fuck it! Imma just shorten the title! “TRANSFORMERS: AOE”!!!!  There! That’s much better!

 

Four years has past since the cataclysmic ‘Battle of Chicago’ (i.e. the final confrontation between the Autobots and Decepticons in “Dark of the Moon”). An elite CIA unit called Cemetery Wind (sounds like the name of a rock band, doesn’t it?). headed by agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), are assigned to hunt and destroy the last remaining Transformers. Assisting the unit is a vicious Transformer bounty hunter by the name of Lockdown (voiced by British actor Mark Ryan, who previously did the voice for the archaic Autobot Jetfire in “Revenge of the Fallen”). Meanwhile, in Texas, struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Marky Mark of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch) and his mechanic friend Lucas (T.J. Miller) purchase an old truck so they can strip it for parts and make enough money to send Cade’s 17-year old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) to college. Unbeknownst to the three Texans, the truck is actually a badly-injured Optimus Prime (voiced once again by Peter Cullen).  Also unbeknownst to the trio is that Cemetery Wind caught wind (get it?) of Optimus’ presence and transportation to Yeager’s home, so with the help of Lockdown, they pay Cade, Tessa and Lucas an impromptu visit. Optimus comes to the trio’s aid, kicking ass in the way you’d expect a gigantic bot hiding in a barn to do and getting them to safety in the way you’d expect in a Michael Bay movie. Explosions, characters running away from explosions, car chases and dialogue spoken during car chases (“We gotta lose them in that cornfield”). Awww yeah! That’s that shit right there!

 

Now imagine for a minute that you’re Michael Bay. Yes, YOU! Now let’s say you weren’t interested in making another Transformers film. I mean, you’ve done three of these films before, and you’re tired. You want to move on and do something else, like “Bad Boys 3”, “Armageddon: The Reunion” or “Pearl Harbor 2”. But the higher-ups want a brand-new Transformers film trilogy, and they wanted you, and ONLY YOU, to get the ball rolling. Why? Because you’re Michael Bay, and NOBODY wants to see a Transformers movie NOT directed by you. So you set out to make the biggest, baddest Transformers movie ever conceived by a human being. You throw everything onto the screen – even the kitchen sink! You get a new cast. You get new Transformers. You add beloved characters from the animated series to get the fanboys hyped up over another Transformers film (*COUGH*Dinobots*COUGH). You expand the universe of the Transformers themselves from the original trilogy. But here’s the problem. YOU’RE MICHAEL BAY! Moviegoers by now know exactly what to expect from your films. If you don’t do that, your films won’t make $100 million dollars on its opening weekend. And with an ego as big as yours, you couldn’t give a rat’s ass what the critics have to say about your movie.

 

Herein lies ONE of the problems with “Transformers: AOE”. Structurally, it has the same narrative set-up as the previous films. Human hero is saved by a bot from getting killed by a bot in Act 1; a hodgepodge of sub-plots involving government secrets involving the bots and some device of great significance to the bots that the human hero has to get before the bad bots and the bad government guys get to it in Act 2; and BAYHEM (Michael Bay’s version of mayhem. This is a real term! Google it if you think I’m lying) in Act 3. In other words, this movie is the same ol’ same. I will admit that the plot of “AOE” is more interesting than the dreadful “Dark of the Moon”, but within the context of the film, it gets more and more convoluted when you really think about it – even when your brain is on the floor somewhere by the entrance of the movie theater making a bloody mess.

 

The main sub-plots include a corporation that creates its own Transformers (by means of a molecular metal called….wait for it………wait for it…….TRANSFORMIUM. You may stop reading and facepalm yourself at this point) for the simple reason stated by Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), the head of the corporation, that humans don’t need Autobots anymore; Lockdown himself, who kills Transformers as mercilessly as the gun that protrudes out of his face (believe me, it may sound silly, but it looks freaking AWESOME) allows him to, but has his own elaborate plan for Optimus Prime; and a device called a “seed” (the film’s MacGuffin) – with the power to wipe out life on Earth – that seemingly EVERY bad guy in the movie is trying to acquire. Now I get that Michael Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger (who, not surprisingly, wrote the scripts for the last two Transformers films) were trying desperately to add substance into their already-stylized movie, and expand the Transformers universe wide enough to warrant two more films in this new trilogy. Had they cut out at least ONE of these sub-plots from the script (more particularly, the Joshua Joyce one) and left it for the next film, they would’ve had a tighter, more cohesive story. But nope. This is a Michael Bay movie. Bigger…or should I say….bloated is “better”, right?

 

Which brings me to the second problem with “AOE” – and this is the point that EVERY review of this movie will mention: the length! HOLY SHIT is this movie long!! It’s not as long as “Pearl Harbor” (183 minutes), but with a running time of 163 minutes, this movie is literally a mental exercise in tedium. Action sequences play out longer than necessary, from the film’s first chase scene to the grandoise, seemingly ENDLESS battle scene in the final act.  Non-action moments play out like filler, with story arcs that you don’t give a shit about, and characters that you try to give a shit about, but CAN’T – and not because it’s a Michael Bay movie and you’re not expected to care about anything other than the action sequences, but because their dramatic needs are forgotten, and ignored, within the grand scope of the film.

 

Take the two main characters of the film: Cade Yeager and Optimus Prime. Cade starts off as an inventor who wants to send his daughter Tessa to college. His flaw is the over-protective attitude he has for his daughter (who, like all young female co-stars in Michael Bay films, looks REALLY HOT), which reaches a fever pitch when her purposeless idiot of an race car-driving Irish boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) shows up. Unfortunately, this bit of character set-up is blown to bits once the action starts.  These bits are collected in the film’s filler moments, but are blown up once again when the action commences. The same goes for Optimus Prime. Hunted and hated by the very same humans he defended for THREE MOVIES STRAIGHT, Optimus starts off as being physically battered and emotionally frustrated. Even when he re-unites with his buddy Bumblebee (and thank goodness there’s no Shia LaBeouf yelling “BUMBLEBEEEEEE!!!! OPTIMUUUUUUS!” in this movie) and teams up with some new Autobots, he still harbours hatred for the humans who killed his Autobot brethren. Like Mark Wahlberg’s character, Optimus’ character set-up is pretty interesting, but once the fireworks begin, it stops being interesting. Matter of fact, it doesn’t even exist. In other words, characterization is ultimately sacrificed for flashy, large-scale action sequences – to the point that when the smoke clears, you really don’t care about the characters involved in all the Bayhem. Hell, you don’t even care about the DINOBOTS in this movie. “AOE” reduces these popular characters into primal beasts that Optimus and his team have to subdue – just so the Autobots can ride them like cavalry horses into battle during the film’s last twenty minutes. But hey, bloated is “better”, remember?

 

So what was good about “AOE”? Well, the spectacular action sequences, impressive sound design and PHENOMENAL visual effects are worth the admission price. I liked the bits of personality (both in appearance and character) given to the new Autobots (like the rotund Hound – voiced by John Goodman – the most memorable Autobot in that group), and I was very impressed by the way they worked together as a team in the second act. Lockdown was a decent antagonist, both in his menacing demeanour and battle tactics, although I couldn’t shake the fact that he reminded me a lot of the Winter Soldier character from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. With the exception of T.J.Miller and Jack Reynor, most of the performances were good, especially from Mark Wahlberg who, despite his two-dimensional character, really stood out as a better leading man in a Transformers film than Shia (“”BUMBLEBEEEEEE!!!! OPTIMUUUUUUS!”) LaBeouf.

 

In the end, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is EXACTLY what you expect it to be – only bigger, longer and louder. It is WAY better than “Revenge of the Fallen” and “Dark of the Moon”, but it is in no way superior to the first Transformers movie.  If you enjoyed the last two movies, you’ll enjoy the hell out of “AOE”. If you only enjoyed the first film (like I did), then you’ll be disappointed as hell by “AOE”. As a mindless, action-packed popcorn movie, it works, but the punishing length, monotonous action scenes, ideologically incoherent narrative, shameless product placement (Lamborghini, Bugatti, Victoria’s Secret, Bud Light and OREO…..WTF??!!!!….anyone?) and facepalm-worthy dialogue (like Nicola’s “There’s a missile in the living room!” line for example) WILL challenge the viewer’s patience. While it isn’t THE dumbest film I’ve seen in 2014, it is definitely the most entertaining dumb movie I’ve seen so far.  Nicola Pentz said it best (in one of the most unintentionally HILARIOUS lines I’ve heard in a movie all year): “You can’t keep spending your money on junk”. So true. So true. Talk about eating healthy.

 

MY RATING: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars (“THAT SHIT CRAY!”)

 

– Matthew

(Un)intentionally bad movies – Godzilla (1998)

Before I even pay my $35 to watch the No. 1 film that I’m hyped about for 2014, I decided to look back at a film that remains one of the most memorable summer blockbusters of the 1990s – for better or worse: 1998’s “Godzilla”. Directed by Roland Emmerich, and released during the heyday of late 1990s Hollywood films, “Godzilla” is the American re-imagining of the iconic Japanese film monster of the same name.  And though it made a shit-ton of money in the box office, it was critically panned (with many viewers and critics rating it as one of the worst movies of the 1990s) and dismissed by fans of the Japanese Godzilla franchise of the mid-1950s to early-1990s – and the entire country of Japan as a whole. 16 years from its release, was this film  “bad meaning bad” or “bad meaning good” like Run DMC sang in “Peter Piper” (If you don’t know that song, YouTube it. Don’t worry. I’ll wait)? Let’s find out….

 

godzilla-1998-poster

 

GODZILLA (1998) –  After the sudden attack of a Japanese shipping vessel by a colossal sea creature, Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (played by Mr. Ferris Bueller himself, Matthew Broderick) is called upon by the U.S. military (immediately after starting his research on radiated earthworms in Chernobyl) to investigate. After spending roughly 15 minutes of runtime globe-trotting (giving the film a “Meanwhile, in this part of the world” set-up similar to that of “Independence Day”….and “The Day After Tomorrow”….and “2012” – also from Roland Emmerich), the creature itself (let’s call him Godzilla – for argument’s sake) chooses New York City (labelled in the film as “THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS” – I shit you not) as his newest stomping ground. Niko’s involvement with the military catches the eyes of both a pretty TV newswoman by the name of Audrey (Maria Pitillo) – who just so happens to be Mr. Worm Man’s ex-girlfriend – and a French Secret Service agent named Phillippe Roache (Jean Reno, star of the CLASSIC 1994 action film “Leon: The Professional”). Along with a cameraman (Hank Azaria), a military leader (Kevin Dunn), an anchorman (Harry Shearer) by the name of Charles Caiman (I SHIT YOU NOT – the dude’s fucking name is Charles CAIMAN. Charles…..CAIMAN (Caiman latirostris), Mayor Ebert (more on him later), these three characters must team up (before the film’s end) and work together if they are to survive the monumental onslaught of….. GODZILLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAI’ll stop now.

 

Now I’ll confess: I did appreciate “Godzilla” when I first saw it in 1998. It was a summer movie and as such, it delivered “everything” a summer movie in the 1990s was designed to deliver. And it was from Roland freaking Emmerich, the guy who brought out the SPECTACULAR (and admittedly cheesy) alien invasion sci-fi adventure “Independence Day” – a film that I still genuinely enjoy – two years ago. But with “Godzilla”, I felt the same way I felt when I walked out from “Batman & Robin” the year before: a tad bit underwhelmed. I knew that there was something wrong with the film, but my teenaged mind was unable to figure out what it was. Until I watched it on cable a few years after and realized that this movie, to quote Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura from “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” (ANOTHER movie that I was unaware of how much it sucked ass back in 1995)…..is RE-E-E-E-EEEEEEEEALLY not good.

 

First off, the titular character. How big exactly is Godzilla? In one scene, he leaves a gigantic footprint on a New York street, yet in another scene, he fits himself snugly inside of a SUBWAY TUNNEL!! But for some weird reason, he finds himself incapable of entering the Park Avenue tunnel (which, according to Google, is LARGER than a fucking subway tunnel) where our heroes make their escape. He has the ability to breathe fire, but he only applies that skill ONCE in the film! And why does his iconic scream sound feminine? Then again, that may be due to the fact that Godzilla’s ASEXUAL. No, ladies and gents, that’s not a spoiler alert. This is a major plot point in the film, and one of the main things that viewers – myself included – remember the MOST about this film. And yes, ladies and gents, it is one of the film’s biggest slap to the faces of everyone who calls themselves Godzilla fans. Secondly, the creature design. Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking sci-fi summer blockbuster “Jurassic Park” in 1993 presented its dinosaurs in full detail, mostly at daytime, adding to the sense of realism the film created for its audience. Godzilla is shown ENTIRELY at night time, with shadows and rainfall used in a failed attempt to hide the crude visual effects of its design. And speaking of rainfall, “Godzilla” is right up there with more superior films like “Blade Runner” and “Se7en” as movies with constant rainfall, since about (roughly) 7/10th of the film consists of rainy scenes.

 

Thirdly and fourthly, the actors and acting. The film’s talented cast do their best with the script given to them by writer Dean Devlin (who also wrote “Independence Day” and Emmerich’s Civil War epic “The Patriot”), but even they look and sound terribly awkward delivering its corny, clichéd, laughably bad and facepalm-worthy dialogue. Take these two lines from Hank Azaria, for example, when he enters into the Madison Square Garden: “He trashed the Garden. Oh, man! NOW I’m pissed!”; “WHOA! This is where the Knicks get showered and everything”. Matthew Broderick is miscast as the film’s protagonist. Now I get that the writer and director of “Godzilla” didn’t want some muscle-bound action hero going toe to toe with a mutated lizard. Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) from Spielberg’s “Jaws” (the first summer blockbuster ever made, and still one of the greatest), for example, was leagues apart in character from shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw). But even Brody managed to confront and conquer his fears of the ocean, and defeat the shark – BY HIMSELF – in the end.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, there are “Jaws” references in this movie, the most obvious one being this line of dialogue: “We need bigger guns”. Now that’s fucking clever!

 

Matthew’s character Niko is the film’s “voice of reason” and the one to root for/relate to – even if he has absolutely NO chemistry with Maria Pitillo, and even when by the film’s conclusion, you give one less fuck about him. And he does offer helpful advice to the military in understanding Godzilla. But he neither conquer his fears (whatever they are, they aren’t stated and/or justified in the narrative) nor perform any heroic act in regards to defeating the creature. When he’s not running away from Godzilla, he stands, weirdly, in awe, as if seeing a big-ass lizard run through the streets of New York more than five times isn’t enough. And speaking of awe, there are a number of ludicrous moments where characters stand still – as opposed to RUNNING – as Godzilla lumbers towards them . Clearly they haven’t seen that much Giant Monster Movies during their childhood, or they would’ve remembered the golden rule: When you see a giant creature doing damage around you or running towards you, RUN LIKE A BITCH!!! But back to actors. Two years prior, Will Smith (who proved he had the chops to star in an action film with Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys” in 1995) rose to worldwide stardom with his charismatic, relatable and alien ass-kicking lead performance in “Independence Day”. And Jeff Goldblum (who also starred in “Jurassic Park”) played the scientist who used his intellect to help Will Smith’s Air Force character defeat the aliens. Now Jean Reno’s military-trained character of Phillippe Roache is way more badass and takes more initiative than Niko. Unfortunately, he’s more prominent in the third act than in the first and second, his character is uninteresting and undeveloped, and he’s French. So why didn’t Emmerich cast Jean Reno (who proved that he can do action films with “The Professional”) as the lead and Matthew Broderick as the co-star, you ask? Because ladies and gents, this is an AMERICAN remake of a Japanese film! Why the hell would you cast a French actor as the lead in an American remake of a Japanese film?! That’s just DUMB!!! Hopefully, you get my point.

 

And now for Mayor Ebert – played by Michael Lerner (star of such films like “Elf”, “Mirror Mirror” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”).  Emmerich, I guess, probably figured that the perfect way to get back at iconic film critic Roger Ebert (RIP) for ripping the shit out of his 1994 sci-fi flick “Stargate” in his equally legendary movie review, would be to have an actor play a farcical version of him (right down to the white hair) – in this case, an incompetent Mayor. There’s even an advisor to Mayor Ebert named Gene (Lorry Goldman). I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you can figure out the relation between Ebert and Gene. In his review of “Godzilla”, Ebert felt that he was let off lightly, as he “fully expected to be squished like a bug by Godzilla”. Now that’s saying something.

 

Regardless of its ginormous flaws in acting, visual effects and title character, “Godzilla” still delivers moments of silly summer movie spectacle that one expects from a Roland Emmerich film. The musical score by David Arnold and Michael Lloyd is banal and bombastic (in one moment, it even rips off the late film composer Bernard Herrmann’s terrifying score from “Cape Fear” (1962), but it fits well with the film’s “end of the world”-like tone. There are some decent-looking action sequences that will either thrill audiences or make them laugh their asses off, like when the military uses Army helicopters to overpower Godzilla, only to demolish a slew of buildings – like the fucking CHRYSLER BUILDING, believe it or not – in their wake. And the story, while overlong and peppered with non-Godzilla, pseudo-dramatic moments which could’ve been sent to the Recycle Bin of a Windows 98 PC during editing instead of being left in the film’s 138 minute running time, is still entertaining and far from boring.

 

Overall, Roland Emmerich’s “Godzilla” fits within the category of So-Bad-it’s-Good Movies, along with Movies with Constant Rainfall like I mentioned earlier.  It is highly disappointing by “Gojira” standards, but it still makes for dumb summer movie fun – especially if you’re inebriated. “Godzilla” serves as a prime example of 1990s Hollywood glitz and grandeur, where films got bigger in scope and scale, and filmgoers’ brain cells diminished summer after summer with every loud, explosive, visual-effects laden blockbuster movie thrown at them. It’s also an example of how popular musical artistes (at that time) were exploited…oops, I meant persuaded to use their music to draw audiences into watching a crappy film. Like the song “Come with Me” from Diddy formerly known as Puff Daddy formerly known as P-Diddy. Check out the video below – and feel those brain cells getting smaller and smaller, while Godzilla gets physically bigger and bigger. Gotta love the 90s!

 

 

MY RATING: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars (“That shit cray!”)

 

– 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.

 

 

sharknadolarge

 

“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 – “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…

 

 

HanselGretel-Poster-IMAX-610x956

 

“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”.

 

 

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness

 

“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

Movies I should have watched before the world ended – “Ted”, “The Watch” & “Killer Joe”

As I promised both of you on Tuesday, I’ll be reviewing the “movies I should have watched before the world ended” (i.e. December 21st 2012, if you really believe in that shit). TRANSLATION: for the next few days until December 20th, and before I get into any Christmas-spirited movie-watching, I will watch and review some of the movies that I should have seen months ago, but didn’t get a chance because I was pre-occupied with other things (*cough*waiting for DVD-rips and BR-rips of these movies to show up at my favourite torrent site*cough). Also on Tuesday, I stated that I’ll be reviewing three films under the same genre. And today’s genre is: (drumroll please)…..

 

COMEDY! Yaaaaaaaaay. But mind you, they’re not your ordinary comedies…

 

The first involves a talking teddy bear, the second deals with an alien invasion and the third is so incredibly fucked-up that you wouldn’t look at KFC chicken the same way again. Or eat it for that matter. Oh, and one more thing before I begin. As this is a special review, and as an early Christmas gift from me to you, I’ll forego a long-winded intro, and get straight into the meat of the matter. Capisce? Good. Finger-licking good!

 

God, again with the chicken references! SHIT! Anyways, let’s waste no time.

 


Ted-movie-poster

 

“TED” –  Now if you look at the top of the poster, you’ll see the following words: “the first motion picture from the creator of Family Guy”. If you look underneath, you’ll see the names Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis (who plays Meg Griffin in “Family Guy” – and unlike Meg, is a HOTTIE in real life!), and Seth MacFarlane. He’s the creator of “Family Guy”, you know. Now, if you look underneath his name, you’ll see the name “TED”. As you’ve realized, the name is in green. Do you know why? ‘Cause a teddy bear smokes weed in this film. And we’re walking…..we’re walking….

 

I’m sorry. That was just me trying to imitate an American tour guide. But all jokes aside, “Ted” focuses on John Bennett, a lonely kid in Boston who gets a teddy bear for Christmas in 1985. After wishing on the proverbial “lucky star” that his teddy bear (which he calls “Ted” of course) can talk, it actually happens on the next day. Cut to 2012 and John (Mark Wahlberg) is working at a rental car service, enjoying his relationship with Lori Collins (Mila Kunis), his girlfriend of four years, and is still best friends with Ted. Matter of fact, the three of them regularly hang out with each other. Yes, ladies and gents, in the world of “Ted”, everyone acknowledges the fact that a teddy bear can walk and talk. And the film presents this aspect rather well. With the number of interactions Ted has with the human characters in the film (and they’re quite hilarious), you begin to see him more as an individual and not just a CG-created character. But anyway, without revealing any spoilers, problems arise when Lori continually reminds John that he’s an irresponsible 30-plus year old who’s still attached to a teddy bear – even though they regularly smoke weed, watch TV, and talk a LOT of shit! And throughout the film, John wrestles with the decision of letting go of Ted for the sake of spending the rest of his life with Lori.  The acting in “Ted” is well-done, especially from Mark Wahlberg who proves that even though he’s been playing bad-asses on film for the last five years or so (which helps in forgetting his Marky Mark days), he can still be funny. Seth MacFarlane, of course, steals the show as the foul-mouthed, sex-minded Ted. At times, Seth does sound like Peter Griffin from “Family Guy” and it threw me out of the film quite a bit. Also, similar to “Family Guy”, the film’s script both cites and takes shots at celebrities, TV shows and movies. They even do the “segment” thing from “Family Guy” where a character says something about a past event, and then you see the event for yourself. Oh, and Mila Kunis is given a considerable amount of dialogue – which is funny, because I couldn’t help but remember Peter Griffin delivering his famous line to his daughter Meg: “Shut up, Meg!” And yeah, at times, Mila does sound like Meg. The script itself is fresh and well-written, though it is admittedly inconsistent in its pacing. But thankfully, this is a minor setback due to the huge amounts of laughs in the film, and a strong chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Ted that’s always fun to watch. In the end, “Ted” is, honestly, one of the funniest films of 2012! If you’re a fan of “Family Guy”, then you should have a blast with this film. If you’re not a Family Guy fan however, and you’re looking for a film to put a smile on your face, then give this one a look. It’s raunchy and vaingloriously R-rated, but it has its heart (or battery) in the right place.

 

The_Watch_-Movie_Poster

“THE WATCH” –  The first time I saw the trailer to “The Watch” (which was originally titled “Neighborhood Watch” but got changed after the shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin in Florida by a neighbourhood-watch member), I could have sworn it was a standard comedy. The use of the Dr. Dre-produced banger “Still D.R.E.” in the trailer whetted my appetite for the film.  But when I read in an online review that it was a sci-fi comedy, I was like “BITCH PLEASE” (that’s another song produced by Dr. Dre, in case you were wondering). And when all the bad reviews started rolling in, I avoided seeing the film on the big screen. But still, I was curious. Was it that bad? Actually, it’s more disappointing than bad. Set in Glenview, Ohio, Ben Stiller plays Evan, an active participant in the community and owner of a wholesale store. After the security guard working at the store is savagely murdered, Evan decides to organize a Neighbourhood Watch to find the perpetrator and stop him from killing anyone else in the town. Only three persons show interest: a construction worker named Bob (Vince Vaughn), a high school dropout trying desperately to be a cop even though he failed all the exams named Franklin (Jonah Hill) and a kooky Brit named Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade).

 

While investigating the security guard’s murder, they discover a device of alien origin. When they realize it’s a weapon, they use it to blow shit up (including a poor cow – WTF?!!)  in a montage set to N.W.A.’s timeless “Straight Outta Compton”. And this is one of the problems with “The Watch”. Now I must admit – the soundtrack KNOCKS! And you will be nodding your head and throwing your hands in the air and waving them like you just don’t care (by yourself) to these songs. But most of these songs feel out of place, like the use of “Straight Outta Compton” in the aforementioned scene. There’s even a scene where a kid is thrown into the police department by the four Neighbourhood Watch members – and “The Next Episode” is playing in the soundtrack. So the geniuses behind “The Watch” are really going to use a song sung and produced by two rappers (Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg) who have expressed their hate for the police during their careers in a scene where a kid is sent to the police?! REALLY?!  And the script? It’s blatantly unfocused, lazily-written and unevenly paced. The film is supposed to be about the Neighbourhood Watch trying to stop an alien invasion, but instead the alien aspect of the story is overshadowed by unnecessarily long moments involving the four main characters. One scene involves Vince Vaughn pissing in a beer can. Another scene has Vince stalking the Facebook profile of his teenage daughter Chelsea (in an eye-rolling sub-plot involving Bob failing to comprehend his daughter’s independence). And another scene has Vince and Ben Stiller talking about testicular disease. Funny? Not to me. Necessary to the story? I’m still fucking wondering. And don’t get me wrong. Ben, Vince, Jonah and Richard are gifted comic actors, and they work well together. But their talents are wasted in a totally unfunny script. I did chuckle a few times, but really, I didn’t even laugh once while watching this film. Ultimately, “The Watch” ends up being a “Men in Black”-knock off (with vulgar dialogue and graphic violence thrown in for the sake of its R-rating) than anything else. The presence of Ben, Vince, Jonah and Richard, and the soundtrack of the film, are enough for you to sit through this film once. But believe me, you will forget about it hours after you’ve seen it. Long story short, “The Watch” is light years away from perfect.

 

Here’s the “Neighborhood Watch” trailer I was talking about – which is WAY better than the actual movie!

 

 

Killer-Joe-Movie-Poster

 

“KILLER JOE” –  And now the moment both of you were waiting for:  my long-awaited review of the dark comedy “Killer Joe”.  Now, due to its limited release in the U.S., I was unaware of the existence of this film until a good friend of mine tagged me on its trailer via Facebook (gotta love the social-stalking network of Facebook!). Since then, I was intrigued by the film, and I couldn’t wait to see it. Months later, and a few hours ago, I finally watched “Killer Joe” and it’s been stuck in my head so far (even while I write). And I fear it’ll be there until New Year’s Day – which is a compliment on the film’s part. The film opens with Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch), a Texan drug dealer who’s in a shitload of debt. He goes to his deadbeat loser of a father Ansel Smith (Thomas Haden Church) to get some money. Ansel lives with his new wife Sharla Smith (Gina Gershon) and Chris’ younger, nubile and naive sister Dottie (Juno Temple).  Chris and Ansel hatch up the perfect scheme to pay the debt – kill Ansel’s ex-wife (i.e. Chris’ and Dottie’s biological mother) and collect the life insurance. But they don’t want to get their hands dirty. So they decide to hire “Killer Joe” Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a police officer and part-time contract killer. Chris agrees to split the money among himself, Ansel, Sharla and Killer Joe, but Killer Joe isn’t quite convinced that he’ll get all of the money owed to him. A proposition is made: once the insurance comes through, Killer Joe can take Dottie as a retainer.

 

Upon the film’s release, “Killer Joe” was slapped a NC-17 rating for graphic depictions of sex and violence. But because of William Friedkin’s (the director of the Oscar-winning action film “The French Connection” and the ‘scariest horror film of all time’ “The Exorcist” – two controversial films in their own right) battle to keep the film’s objectionable content intact, the film was released in both its original version and a R-rated cut (with four minutes omitted from the unrated version). Luckily for me, I saw the NC-17 cut! And I must say, without revealing much, that  the four-minute sequence is one of the most fucked-up things I’ve seen in a Hollywood film this year! As I mentioned earlier, you WILL NOT look at KFC chicken the same way again after you see this film. There’s a reason why a piece of meat is on the film’s poster with blood hovering over it. I’ll leave it at that. But thanks to William Friedkin’s sharp direction, the superb performances throughout, and the overall dark tone of the film, this scene comes off as shocking, and watchable, and funny (but in a truly messed-up way). And this is where “Killer Joe” shines. The film goes beyond its story of murder and easy money and offers a fascinating, albeit disturbing, look into the dark side of the trailer-trash characters presented on-screen. Accepting that Chris (along with Ansel and to a lesser extent, Dottie) shows nothing but contempt for his mother (who’s revealed to be abusive to him in the past) is one thing, but having a grown-ass man lusting over a young woman like Dottie is something else entirely. And speaking of grown-ass man, Matthew McConaughey delivers the BEST performance in his career so far as the title character. He is terrifying, creepy, deviant, and quite funny (but in a truly messed-up way). His performance in the film alone deserves an Oscar nomination, but I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen due to the NC-17 rating. In any case,  “Killer Joe” is arguably one of the most provocative and entertainingly twisted films I’ve seen in 2012. Be forewarned: this film is definitely not for the faint of heart. But if you have the nerve, the stomach and the will to laugh and be amazed at the insanity of it all, then you will be rewarded with an unforgettable movie experience in”Killer Joe”. Brought to you by KFC!

 

MY RATING:

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

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

“KILLER JOE” –  4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)

 

– Matthew

THAT SHIT CRAY! – “Project X” (2012)

 

Ah, the found footage movie. The one genre that you can rely on for non-realistic stories done with natural authenticity, realistic acting and of course, queasy shaky handheld camera shots. And who doesn’t love to watch a movie with a lot of shaky-cam shots, especially on a big screen? Anyhoo, this film genre, which was revived in 1999 with the highly-overrated horror mockumentary “The Blair Witch Project”, has become rather popular during the last five years. It spawned some hits like the BRILLIANT 2008 sci-fi thriller “Cloverfield” and the impressive supervillain film “Chronicle”, and some misses like “Apollo 18” and “The Devil Inside” (two films which I REFUSE to watch).

With the commercial successes of “The Devil Inside” and “Chronicle” in January and February respectively, it was rather surprising (or not, depending on your view of Hollywood) that another found footage film, this time from Warner Bros., would be released in March. Out of a lack of ideas (and creativity), this film was given the ominous name “Project X”.  Honestly, when I first heard about this film, I could have sworn it was about some fucked-up medical experiment or some shit. I would have never imagined that it was about a house party that gradually descends into hell.

 

Not surprisingly, “Project X” was bashed by a number of critics who called it “tasteless”, “unlikeable”, “unpleasant” and “loathsome”. And who can blame them? They’re adults (and most likely, parents), and they were forced to watch 87 minutes of teens getting drunk and high, having sex, and running wild. However, some critics praised the humour and the out-of-control nature of the film. There were even attempts in the United States to stage parties similar to the one depicted in “Project X”.  Due to property damage, police intervention and, in one case, a fatal shooting, these copycat parties were epic failures.

 

So the question remains: Is “Project X” a morally damaging representation of the 21st- century American teenager or is it simply an attempt to create the party movie to END all party movies? Whatever it is, there’s no denying that the film is anything but a cinematic flop. With a budget of $12 million, it made a worldwide total of $94.7 million in the box office. And it’s currently nominated for three awards (Best Comedic Performance, Best On-Screen Dirtbag and Best Music) in this Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards.

 

But then again, who gives a fuck about the MTV Movie Awards?! I mean, do you need a music video network that hardly plays music videos to tell you which movies are the best, or most popular for that matter? Besides, you and I both know the film that will win this year anyway, whether we like it or not (*cough*Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1* cough*).

 

Damn, this is going to be a tough movie to review.

 

PLOT

Thomas has just turned 17. Since his parents are gone for the weekend, Thomas’ friends Costa and J.B. decide to throw a birthday party for him at his house. If the party is successful, the trio will become three of the most popular guys at their school.  Thomas, being the protagonist, is reluctant of hosting a party of unimaginable magnitude at his house. But of course, the plot of this movie dictates that this party must take place, or else we won’t have a fucking movie! And since all three guys are horny motherfuckers (especially Costa who constantly talks about sex), they need a social event of some sort in which they can successfully lose their virginity. And so, our story begins.

 

Cut to nighttime, and the party has begun.  The music is pumping, alcohol is flowing, and everyone is having a great time. Even Thomas’ dog is involved in the partying, and in one scene, is tied to a bunch of balloons. Two underage boys are hired as security guards for the night. And yes, they take their jobs WAY too seriously! After the first hour or so, more people arrive to the party. Even though Thomas, Costa and J.B. are having a hell of a time, they’re still finding it hard to maintain control of the party. Very soon, shit gets completely out of control. Activities increase in carnality and chaos. Ecstasy pills are ingested, beer bottles and windows are smashed, everyone’s either getting laid or wasted, and even a midget is forced inside an oven (I shit you not!). The party spills out into the street, getting more and more chaotic by the minute. By then, the police, news helicopters and even a SWAT team arrive to stop the revelry. With the party spiraling out of control, will our heroes be able to get things back to normal? Or will they lose their virginity in the county jail? And will they play LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” in the film? These life-changing questions will be answered in (cue movie-trailer guy voice here) – “Project X”.

 

Oh, and I forgot to mention that all these events are filmed by Costas’ friend Dax. He lives alone since his parents have disappeared. That’s the only info that’s given about him. Creeeeeeepy.

 

CHARACTERS

Thomas – Thomas Mann

Costa – Oliver Cooper

J.B. – Jonathan Daniel Brown

Dax – Dax Flame

Kirby – Kirby Bliss Blanton

Alexis – Alexis Knapp

 

MY THOUGHTS: When a film begins with 2 Live Crew’s self-explanatory sex anthem “We Want Some P***y”, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the point of the film is. There’s even an early scene where Costas asks a Latin guy about his expectations for the party. The guy responds by saying: “Get high, fuck bitches”. In a later scene, when Costas finally comes to terms with the destructive outcome of the party, Costas foolishly says: “I only wanted to get some p***y”.  And this is clearly the main theme of “Project X” – getting laid without any thought of the consequences, however disastrous and fucked up they might be. Really?!

 

With a one-track minded film like “Project X”, it’s easy to pick out the bad aspects of it.  For one thing, the film isn’t genuinely funny. Yes, there are some funny moments (like the aforementioned scene involving Thomas’ dog and the balloons), but these are mostly sight gags. The viewer is forced to laugh because these moments are so ridiculously absurd, and not because they were written to be funny. Speaking of which, I highly doubt there was an actual script written for this film. The acting is aight for a found footage film. You pretty much believe that Thomas Mann is unsure of his place in life (He’s probably thinking “Will I get another acting role after Project X”?), and that Oliver Cooper is an annoying asshole in real life (and should win the MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Dirtbag), and that Jonathan Daniel Brown is the new Jonah Hill (theSuperbad Jonah Hill, not the 21 Jump Street “clone” of Jonah Hill).  But you don’t feel for or connect with any of them. All they’re concerned about is having sex and becoming popular. Then again, nobody really gives a shit whether they get laid or not. The main reason why anyone would watch “Project X” is the party.

 

And the party itself is one of the two redeeming factors of “Project X”. The tagline for the film reads: “The party you’ve only dreamed about”. And it is! Thanks to the clever tactic of shooting the film in hand-held, you feel as if you’re in the middle of the party! A lot of “oh shit” and “what the fuck” moments take place within the party, but you just can’t help but watch these events unfold with your eyes wide open, your jaw on the floor and your head nodding to the music.  And speaking of music, let me get to the second redeeming factor of “Project X”. The soundtrack to this film FUCKING KNOCKS! The music ranges from hip-hop bangers like Eminem’s W.T.P. and Jay-Z & Kanye West’s H.A.M. to club hits like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix)  and Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness (Steve Aoki Remix) (which was deservedly nominated for Best Music at this Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards). The selected songs work perfectly, making the experience of viewing this film a lot more enjoyable than it actually is. Whoever hand-picked the songs for “Project X” deserves a pat on the back! Not a handshake and definitely not a round of applause. Just a pat on the back.

 

As I mentioned earlier, “Project X” is really a hard film to review. At first glance, it’s both a feel-good party movie and a fun coming-of-age teen comedy. But then it gradually becomes dark and disturbing as social misbehaviour is added into the mix. But maybe it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously in the first place – which I do understand. But this proves to be difficult when the whole film is meant to look like actual real-life footage. Personally, I felt that the film reveled too much in its own debauchery, anarchy and misogyny, making it less satisfying as it could have been.  Though I want to rate this film as “See it if you really want to (2 1/2 stars)” or even “I want my money back (2 stars)”, I can’t. As I knew this film would be mindless and really fucking stupid, I will give it 1  1/2 stars. But since the film lived up to its promise of a party movie to end all party movies, I could only think of one quote to describe”Project X”. This quote is provided by Jay-Z and Kanye West from their hit song “N****s in Paris”: “THAT SHIT CRAY!”

 

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM?  Honestly, the world won’t end if you don’t see it. However, if you do see it, keep in mind that it’s crude, tasteless and mean-spirited, and will offend you in some way or another. But if you really don’t give a fuck, and you just want to see topless chicks making out with each other, and guys getting drunk just so they could dance like epileptics, then by all means, watch “Project X”. But whether you do or not, make sure to get the songs from the film’s soundtrack. I didn’t say BUY the soundtrack album. These songs are essential to your music collection, and are guaranteed to rock the party (if you ever plan to host one) for years to come – or at least until police in riot gear arrive at your house complaining about you “disturbing the peace”. And that’s definitely CRAY!

 

MY RATING – 1  1/2 out of 5 stars (“THAT SHIT CRAY!”)