Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quadrilogy: Wishmaster 4- The Prophecy Fulfilled

March and this series both come to a close today, so let's get this over with.  With Wishmaster 3, some schmuck named Chris Angel (not the magic guy) took over.  The man has a total of 8 works to his credit as a Director (counting these films), but over three dozen as an Editor.  Not to sway your opinion early, but nearly all of those for DVD Special Features such as 'The Story of Hudson Hawk' and 'The Folk Art of Scrapbooking.'  So yeah, after doing these two films, that's what he turned to and still does to this day.  Oh and he was also the Editor for Ancient Warriors, which is a slightly-lower gig still.  What drove him to this level of mediocrity?  Find out in my review of...
The film begins with a sad attempt to trick you into thinking that you're watching the first one again.  Think I'm exaggerating?  Why else would they make their opening title card split up (one saying 'Wishmaster' and the other saying 'The Prophecy Fulfilled?'  Oh and they also re-use that bit of opening narration by Angus Scrimm, only with fire blasting behind it this time.  Subtle, movie.  Oh right, the story.  A young couple goes to a new house they bought and has slightly R-Rated sex.  Giving us a pointless shot of your heroine's breasts within three minutes- classy.  After this, they fade to three years later and we find the couple still together...sort of.  You see, something happened in the time-skip and our male lead is now paralyzed.  I told you not to go riding with Christopher Reeves!  Yes, I do feel bad for that joke.  The woman is going to meet with their tall, dark and handsome lawyer, who tries to make a pass at her.  His plan involves giving her a music box that has, you guessed it, the ugly, red gem in it.  She breaks it, the Djinn kills the lawyer and takes over his form.  Way to reuse the transformation effect from Wishmaster 3, guys!
I feel dumb having to even explain this to you, but here goes.  The Djinn needs 'the freer' to make three wishes in order for him and his people to take over the world.  Seriously, guys, even Michael Meyers went after different people in the family line besides the sister!  Trying his best to make the change incredibly obvious (she still doesn't figure it out), the Djinn acts completely different when she sees him the next day.  He tricks her into making a wish, but does it in the worst way possible.  You see, the husband is paralyzed due to a motorcycle accident and they're waiting to get paid.  He makes the man cut his nose, ears and face-off before he sends in the forms to settle.  Just a note: that would not be legally-binding.  Also, make note of how his nose remains on his body in the shot after it's 'cut off.'  The husband is mopey and emo since he feels like she doesn't love him and merely pities him.  Meanwhile, she goes three years without any sex, so I'd say he's a bit wrong.  At dinner with the lawyer, a woman gets caught in an off-hand wish to be kissed.  Random guys grab her and get all 'Al Gore' on her.  In a funny note, two women kiss her as well, but do it with all the passion that someone saves for their grandmother.  You can't be too taboo, huh movie?  A second wish is granted restoring the husband's ability to walk.  Oddly, he's still an emo jerk.  Prick.
Things get all emotional and dramatic with the couple, so let's skip it.  The gist of it is this: he thinks that she loves the lawyer/Djinn, but she really loves him.  In a moment of weakness, however, the woman makes an off-hand wish to be able to love the lawyer for who he really is.  This causes him to get all sappy, but still sort of evil towards everyone else.  They introduce another new element: the hunter.  He's there to stop the third wish from being granted, but dies in only his third scene.  Thanks for nothing, plot thread!  The genie refuses to grant the third wish, which pisses off his Djinn cousins (another new addition).  After he kills the woman's friend for no good reason, he picks a fight or two with the husband and kills a bouncer for no reason.  In a twisted note, he turns a man into a pimple on a stripper's ass after he indirectly wishes for it.  In this film, everyone says 'I wish,' which sounds really awkward.  After a freaky dream of being raped by the Djinn, the creature finally reveals his intentions.  He screws with her for a while and chases her, but ultimately corners her.  He allows the husband to wish for a sword to kill him with, which ultimately backfires on him.  The husband is stabbed, but the Djinn gets shoved into the exposed blade sticking out of his torso.  Everyone is dead, save for our heroine and the day is saved.  Hurray?
This movie is most assuredly not good.  The plot is silly and very over-dramatic.  The whole lost love and tragic marriage thing is wrung out for every ounce of pity.  It's all a bit ridiculous for a movie about a killer genie and angels coming out of statues to save the Earth.  In many ways, it's like the 'parent's death' sub-plot from Wishmaster or the 'I was in an accident' sub-plot from Wishmaster 3.  However, in those films, it serves no purpose and is ignored for most of the film.  This time, there's no escaping this crap!  It's all very maudlin and forgettable.  They re-use a lot of the same crap from the first film, including the oddly-gray suit for the Djinn.  Seriously, why did they change the suit?  I get that maybe they didn't own the old one, but you can copy it.  Did they buy the film license, but not the suit license or something?  It's another dumb, distracting thing in a movie full of them.  There are some good moments in here, but it's not enough to make the film bearable.  The DVD is full of extra crap that serves no purpose, which is a fitting thing for this bad movie.
Next up, I need to escape this crappy, horror series and get something better.  I wish for a completely different movie than the usual!  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quadrilogy: Wishmaster 3- Beyond the Gates of Hell

After the bit of repetition that was Wishmaster 2, my expectations were not high for the third film.  Of course, then I learned the whole story.  Evidently, every person involved in the original (including the man that played the titular villain) had abandoned ship.  This is certainly not an encouraging turn of events.  I guess I should look up: they got Sean Connery's son to be in it.  Then again, I did not care all that much for the first two films, so maybe this could work out for the best.  Find out in my review of...
The film begins with a young woman having an horrific flashback.  It all has something to do with a car wreck and explosion that killed her family.  I'm already getting that 'familiar feeling' thanks to this.  You see, one of the pointless sub-plots of the original Wishmaster involves our heroine feeling guilt for not being able to save her parents from a fire.  Did it add anything?  No and neither does this.  Our heroine is a college student who seems to have everything going his way.  Of course, she stumbles across a puzzle box (way to steal from Hellraiser, guys) that houses a big, red gem.  You all know what's going to happen, right?  The Djinn is released and kills the Professor (Jason Connery), taking on his form.  His plan is, you guessed it, to make the woman make three wishes, allowing him to take over the world.  The only people more predictable than this Djinn are Pinky & the Brain!  Of course, the movie has to reach 90 minutes, so we have to have a bunch of stuff with her classmates.  Do I care?  No.
One of the few things that really changes this time around is how the creature plans on forcing her to make the wishes.  Basically, he puts people around her in peril & only her wishes can put a stop to their anguish.  In the big face-off in the college's chapel (obviously, this isn't a state college) he puts a curse on a woman with anorexia.  While she vomits up her organs, the woman wishes for her pain to be he kills her.  For her second wish, she recalls a tome she read earlier about how the only thing that can defeat a Djinn is an Angel.  By the way, recall that opening monologue from Wishmaster about how men, angels, demons and Djinn were separate?  Well, that's not true anymore.  Also, Djinn change colors when they die between second and third appearances.  That last part is not canon, but I defy you to find another reason for the change.  So yeah, our heroine uses her second wish to summon the spirit of the Archangel Michael to battle the Djinn.  It takes over her boyfriend's body and battles the evil creature with a sword it can just make appear.  A fairly-good fight occurs as the movie proves that the Wishmaster suit can actually move.  Score one for practical effects!
The rest of this movie just sort of meanders about, not sure where it wants to go.  Despite doing well, our heroes flee.  Our heroine's friends get killed in dramatic ways (one is thrown into a horned helmet on the wall, another is eaten by guinea pigs...kind of), while she wanders around with the angel.  To save on the budget, the Djinn spends nearly half of the movie in Jason Connery form, but will also randomly transform at times.  Is there a point?  No.  Michael/boyfriend does really well at times, but also sucks at others.  The Djinn is supposed to only have powers related to giving wishes, but I guess he can just also kick-ass without a pretense too.  Sure- why not?  One decent scene involves the Djinn riding on the hood of our heroes' car before getting himself scraped off.  You couldn't just turn the wheels into chocolate or something?  On the rooftop, it finally decides to use his powers and freeze the Angel in place.  Our heroine tries to commit suicide (I guess she didn't see Part 2), but is saved by the his own sort of way.  Using the Deus Ex Machina sword, however, she stabs Connery/Djinn and falls to her death...but gets resurrected by the angel.  Thank you, false drama.
So yeah, this movie is not good.  It has some interesting ideas with all of the Angel nonsense, but it doesn't really make sense.  A note to filmmakers: you can't rewrite the rules in the third film!  Of course, this stuff would still be pretty dumb even if it was logically part of the canon, since there is no third option besides Heaven and Hell (I'm not counting purgatory, since it's more of a lobby).  A lot of the wishes in this movie are sort of cheats to, as our villain tries to make everything literal.  A woman mentions not wanting to have her heart broken, so he makes it explode.  Incidentally, let's stop and consider something for a moment.  If every wish is to be misconstrued or turned against you, why would he summon the spirit of Michael?  It's like 'I'm going to cheat every time, but not this time...for some reason I'll never explain.'  This movie is stupid and can't make the most of it's premise.  There are decent effects here, but that's not enough.

Next up, March comes to an end with a bang.  Oh wait, it's just another Wishmaster film- now with Djinn rape.  Stay tuned...

Great Moments in Race Relations: Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers is a film that definitely polarized a lot of people.  Some people think that it is a mindless film about bugs blowing up and guns being fired.  Other people point to it as a great example of satirizing the bravado of war.  Which one is true?  That's a debate for another day.  Instead, I'm here to talk about the casting...

People often forget that this movie is based *loosely* on a story by Robert A. Heinlen.  In it, the main character is named Juan Rico.  Yeah, it's not Johnny.

In fairness to the filmmakers, they ignored so much of the book, why not just ignore that too?  I mean, they turned a male soldier that appears in and dies in the first chapter in a female love interest & literally combined two random characters to make NPH's character.

Also, if they had gone ethnically correct, you know that they would have cast Freddie Prinze Jr.  Do we need another polarizing, sci-fi film with him in it?

Up next, a look at the Mortal Kombat series and their love of 'whitewashing'...and then some.  Stay tuned...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quadrilogy: Wishmaster 2- Evil Never Dies

In the wake of the first film, what should our expectations be set at?  Should we expect a solid, follow-up to a decent, albeit flawed, horror film?  Should we expect a terrible, piece of shit that makes us want to gouge our eyes out?  Well, we're not to that point yet.  Instead, we've got a legitimate follow-up story-wise, but also a sign of exactly how much this series really has to offer.  Is it a good sign or a bad one?  Find out in my review of...
The film begins with a group of robbers breaking into a museum and taking a bunch of shit.  One of those items just happens to be that gaudy gem that houses the Wishmaster himself.  During the escape attempt, a cop shows up and shoots one of the burglars.  In retaliation/self-defense, the woman shoots the cop.  The man sends his lady away moments later, which means that she misses the gem breaking and freeing the creature.  He shows up first as a head with legs on it- a nod to 1981's The Thing, perhaps?- and destroys the dying form of the man.  He takes on his old, human form and runs into some more police.  Showing the series' early signs of lazy writing, he prompts the officer to phrase his request to 'freeze' as a wish and turns the man into an icy block.  Instead of killing more, however, he lets himself be arrested and takes all of the blame for the crime.  Back at home, our heroine feels bad about killing the cop...which she should.  I mean, I know that this is supposed to make her be conflicted and all, but she is a robber who shot an innocent man in the line of duty.  How is she good again?
To help deal with her angst, she consults an old friend who just so happens to be a Catholic priest.  This guy is built like a linebacker, so I guess that there is supposed to be more under the surface.  After he confession to him, he- along with her- is a bit surprised to learn of someone else taking the fall.  In prison, our Djinn friend is making some allies and enemies.  Most notably, he pisses off a Latino gang, which is led by severely-typecast Robert LeSardo (aka the drug boss from Nip/Tuck).  Oh and one of his henchman is Carlos Leon (aka the guy who knocked up Madonna in the '90s).  This group has a lot of people in it, including a pair of cliched martial artists. Really, movie?!?  In addition, the head guard (Dracula 3000's "Tiny" Lister) gets rubbed the wrong way.  The first of them gets dealt with in time.  The enforcer picks a fight with our Djinn in the laundry room and is tricked into wishing to see a real fight.  This allows the creature to turn his two henchmen against him- not that they are aware of why it's happening- and for the Djinn to kill him with the laundry press.  During all of this, both the priest and our heroine visit with the Genie, who makes his plans pretty clear.  He wants 'the freer' to make three wishes.  Yeah, they're doing that again.
After disposing of Lister in a very anti-climactic way, our villain makes friends with a Russian gangster who also behind bars.  Using his powers and some trickery, the pair escape from prison and go to the man's boss.  The boss doesn't trust the man and, in return, gets his face morphed into that of his sworn enemy.  After all that goes down, the Djinn takes over the gang and confronts the woman.  He forces her to make her two wishes, but she escapes before the third one.  But, Alec, you say, why doesn't she just kill herself and put an end to this?  Well, they thought of this and she's apparently immortal until she makes the wish.  Yeah, that makes no sense.  I almost forgot the movie's extra sub-plot: the Djinn must collect 1,001 (subtle) souls.  How can you get that many?  How about going to Las Vegas...or a cheap substitute.  He lets his powers loose in a casino run by Bokeem Woodbine (you again?!?).  Our heroes show up and try to stop the villain, but don't exactly do a good job.  The priest gets put up on a cross to 'be like his idol' and our heroine must make a hard choice.  Of course, she just pulls out a similar trick to the last movie and the day is saved.  Really?!?
This movie is not terrible, but it definitely could be a lot better.  The problem here is repetition and a lack of ideas.  They set up some interesting stuff with the new location (prison) and a new goal (gaining 1,001 souls).  The problem is that this is very much a sequel and makes no bones about it.  Our original villain (in human form) is back and does his job with the usual flair.  You do get a feeling that he's phoning certain parts in more than he did before.  Of course, I can't talk about the acting without mentioning "Tiny" Lister.  The man has only acted well in one film (his cameo in The Dark Knight) and that record remains unbroken here.  Let's talk about the special effects though.  On one hand, I love that the Wishmaster design is made up of practical effects, but it seems even more unrealistic than in the last film.  The CG stuff is not that bad, but it's minimal and, let's be honest, this film is not old enough for that to give it much of a boost.  Stick with the original folks...if you must pick one.
Next up, a new team takes over the series now and brings college.  Why must you remind of Ghoulies III, movie?!?  Stay tuned...

VHS For The Win: The Haunted

I'll be honest: I have no idea what this movie is or what it's about.  However, based on this box art, I really want to find out...
What could this movie possibly be about?!?  We've got a telephone booth, a man on fire and a snowy mountain.  Is this the film that finally crossed over two classics: Spontaneous Combustion and Doctor Who?!?  I must know!

Next up, a box art design that combines more random cliches into one pile.  Does it make sense?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stock Footage Hell: Wizards of the Demon Sword

A couple notes real quick: I'm skipping Trancers 6 for now and I'm retitling this segment.  One will be addressed in the future and the other will not.

Wizards of the Demon Sword is basically a knock-off of the Deathstalker series made by Fred Olen Ray.  For those who don't know, Deathstalker is a knock-off of Ator, which itself is a knock-off of Conan, Beastmaster and Krull.  Good company, huh?

The reason why it's being mentioned here.  It makes a very dubious use of stock footage from a pretty infamous, public domain film: Planet of the Dinosaurs.  Oh and it does so three different times!

1. Our hero and heroine are wandering around until they see some 'dragons.'  Those consist of a shot from Planet involving some non-threatening Stegosauruses eating grass.  Really?!?

2. Our hero is giving a big, pompous speech about how he slays dragons and such.  Naturally, they cut to stock footage of the T-Rex exiting its cave from Planet.  Why not?

3. For pretty much no reason, they cut to a shot of one of the Camposauruses standing around.  Our hero throws a knife and kills it off-camera.  Do they bother to show you the knife hitting the thing or any other shot?  Nope.

This does beg the question though: did the movie shoot take place in what is clearly Arizona/New Mexico because it was cheaper or to match their stock footage (which, in fairness, it does)?  Either answer is bad, but one is definitely worse!

Up next, the Trancers 6 semi-review promised.  It is going to be worth the wait? Stay tuned...

Quadrilogy: Wishmaster

So many film series' try to make it big.  I could spend months talking about these guys and, to a certain extent, I have.  Case in point: Critters.  They got four films out- all with different locations- but never really broke into the hearts and minds of America.  You know what also got four films?  The Wishmaster series!  These films were made in the last '90s to early '00s and were attempting to become the next Nightmare on Elm Street series.  Last time I checked, that film series had seven films, a spin-off film, a television series spin-off and even an Indian rip-off.  This series- not as much.  Success isn't everything though, so let me give this series a fair chance.  Part one -obviously- sets everything up.  As a bonus, it's supporting cast is full of people you may not recognize, but you should.  This is...
Our story begins with a long, silly narration by...Angus Scrimm.  That's odd, but okay.  It's all about people being born from fire, genies not and blah, blah, blah.  The film proper begins with a flashback to ancient Persia.  Is that a good start or a bad one?  Anyhow, some crazy shit is going down and a bunch of people die in freaky ways.  One guy gets morphed into a wall (an effect that became popular in the series) & another one had his skeleton burst out of his skin and bit a guy!  This awesomeness cannot last, however, as the plot intervenes and sets up the events to come.  In a nutshell, the Emperor's adviser turns out to be an evil Djinn (aka Genie) and gets trapped in a big, red gem.  Cutting to present day, we get a statue arriving off of a boat.  The owner turns out to be...Robert Englund.  As the winch begins to lower down the item, his lackey runs over to complain about how they're jostling it too much.  That man is...Ted Raimi.  Aw shit, you know what that means!  Sure enough, Ted is crushed by the falling statue when, of all things, a guy spills his drink on the console.  This reveals the big, red gem from earlier and Englund takes it to a museum curator's assistant to have it appraised.  While looking at it, she accidentally drops it when it turns hot- that's a bit odd, don't you think.  The guy covers for her and uses some sort of laser system to scan it, only for the evil Djinn to come out and take on human form.
The man/creature has a very simple- but obtuse- goal.  He has to find 'the freer' (a term you will hear a lot in these reviews) and make her use her three wishes.  The switch-up: when she does so, all Hell will break loose on Earth.  Why?  They actually never quite explain that in any great detail, but I can live with it.  His human form goes around wreaking some havoc by offering other people wishes.  He grants a bum's wish to get back at a rude drug store pharmacist (a bit eerie, since a friend of mind is training for that job) by killing him.  He also stops by a police station while trying to find information on 'the freer' (see- I told you).  A cop comments in an off-hand manner that he wishes that they could catch a suspect in the act.  This prompts our genie to give the man super-strength and allow him to kill several cops.  When the cop sees our villain pawning off some information on the lady, the Djinn grants the man more strength.  This allows him to rip the lower half of a cop's jaw off!  Damn!  Oh and he gets shot 50 times and dies.  During all of this, our heroine is depressed about the man's death, since they were sort-of/sort-of-not a couple.  Boo-hoo.
While our heroine begins to look into the legend of the Djinn, he gets ever closer to her.  A stop at an art exhibitor's manor leads him to be confronted by a cop played by...Kane Hodder.  He tricks the guy into wishing that the Djinn could walk through him and gets turned into a glass door.  He gives the guy $1 million dollars, but does so by killing his mom in a plane crash.  Finally with enough information, the Djinn confronts our heroine.  He tricks her into using two wishes, but she gets away before a third can be made.  Thanks to a minor sub-plot with her sister, she goes to a party at Englund's house.  The Djinn tries to get in, but is stopped by...Tony Todd?!?  Okay, this is getting silly.  He kills him off by using a vaguely-worded wish & puts him in a glass tank like Houdini.  Once inside the party, he sets loose a ton of crazy kills/wishes.  Some high-points: a woman turned into glass and a harp string ripping the head off of a guy (played by the director, apparently).  Oh and Robert Englund gets turned into a monster.  Our heroine flees...some more and finds that our villain can summon statues to life.  A bunch of them kill some guards and corner her.  She finally makes her wish and wishes that the statue was never broken, putting an end to this film with a Deus Ex Machina.  Hurray.
This movie has its moments, but is really not that good.  The premise is unique and they do some interesting stuff with it.  The problem is that it's pretty one-note.  The whole thing has a straight-forward A-to-B premise, but likes to stall along the way.  Most of the sub-plot stuff (whether it involve the Djinn information or the sad stuff) just feels like filler at times.  Do we need three scenes explaining how Djinn's work?  Apparently, since we are just that dumb.  Thanks, movie.  The acting is pretty decent and the horror heavies do their usual level of acting in their cameos (good or bad).  To its credit, the special effects are not that dated (although the bit with Hodder seems silly) and there is some real creativity.  Now, does this feel like a set-up that needs three more films though?  No.  Of course, they made them anyway, so you get to 'enjoy' them with me.
Next up, we get Part 2 in the series.  What does it bring us this time?  If you said, the same basic plot, but with the Russian mob, you would be right!  Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blockbuster Trash: End Game (2010)

A title says a lot about a movie.  For example, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension tells me that I'm getting a weird-ass movie.  Likewise, Blood Sucking Freaks tells me that I'm getting a very bad date movie (well, unless it's with a Suicide Girl).  That brings me to today's film: End Game.  What does that title tell you?  It tells me that I'm getting something very generic.  Case in point: when I saw this on the shelf in a video store, it was next to a second film called Endgame.  Two films are in New Releases with the same title- bad sign.  This film is the acting debut of pro-wrestler-turned-walking-thumb Kurt Angle.  He left the WWE for a lighter schedule, tougher competition and chances like this.  In hindsight, you were a dumb schmuck, Kurt.  This is...
The film begins with Kurt Angle in a seedy hotel room with a prostitute.  Way to shed the image quickly, Kurt!  He actually talks dirty with her (ew!) and has sex with her after he handcuffs her.  Incidentally, this film never shows anything, despite it casting a reality star as a stripper.  I'm just telling you that now, folks.  Anyhow, he kills her and we segue to the police investigating the crime.  Since this is very low-budget, the police consist of one uniformed officers and two detectives (one of whom is our hero).  They talk about how they don't know anything about the crime (he left no evidence in her, apparently), but they do know that she has a sister.  Said sister (Survivor's Jenna Morasca) is being interviewed by a fat-looking detective that is definitely not Kurt Angle's character in disguise.  You know how I know?  Because he has his hat down!  He hits on her and then leaves, which is just before the police show up.  She tells them about the mysterious man and they immediately assume that it was the killer.  Good disguise, Kurt!
The film from this point on meanders a bit with our heroes, villains and ancillary characters just doing stuff.  Kurt goes in disguise to the sister's funeral, but nearly gets nabbed by the lead detective within about a minute.  You're about as much of a master of disguise as Dana Carvey was!  Since his wig and glasses did not work, our villain decides to do a bunch of crap without a disguise on.  We see him in his daily life as Brad Mayfield where he goes home with an office worker (leaving an obvious trail to himself) and kills her the next day.  Of course, this is after they have sex (off-screen) and he does a little monologue in front of some stage lighting.  He pretends to be some other guy while dressed as...himself *sigh* and meets up with the stripper sister.  Things go well and she fails to notice that he uses the same, odd pick-up line here that he did before.  What's the point of repeated dialogue like that if only I get it?  I'm not in the movie!  Around this time, we get a bunch of drama with the lead detective, including some marital strife and an off-screen affair with the stripper.  Wait, we haven't had the killer taunt the detective yet?  Ah, there we go.
Despite everything that's happened recently (including a sub-plot that I'm glossing over), our heroine falls for the bald, serial-killer who owns- you guessed it- a houseboat.  Things go well until she finds pictures he took of the victims and goes to flee.  Unfortunately, Kurt is there to pimp slap her while wearing a t-shirt for a TNA PPV that he was on.  Fourth Wall anyone?!?  In addition, we get a scene where a SWAT Team busts into Mayfield's house- since he was the one last scene with a missing person.  He eludes capture by punching out one armed SWAT guy with a single hit.  Before the finale, we get a long and pointless sub-plot involving the detective learning about Mayfield's past.  Thanks, filler!  Our killer makes his big move against the detective by...dressing up as a clown, punching out his wife and kidnapping his 'special needs' child.  The man finds out what happens and tracks down Mayfield's boat.  We get a silly day-for-night transition with him before he gets to the boat.  He unties the stripper, but gets held-up by Mayfield.  In our anti-climax, however, the stripper just shoots Mayfield once.  Just to add some silliness, the cop decides to retire and hands the houseboat over to her.  Um, she doesn't own that!
Yeah, this movie is pretty bad.  It looks and feels very low-budget and doesn't really offer all that much bang for your buck.  In a lot of ways, it's an updated version of Don't Answer the Phone, in that it follows the killer as he commits his crimes and you know the whole time.  Of course, that movie's not all that good, so you could have aimed higher, guys.  As far as the acting goes, Jenna gets one or two good scenes of emoting, but they come off as 'soap opera' more than 'good acting.'  The cop is pretty listless and offers about as much to the role as Asia Argento did in The Stendhaal Syndrome.  Angle, to his credit, is pretty good.  Mind you, I mean that he plays an intense killer with a sadistic streak well.  In fairness, anyone who knows anything about Angle knows that he is pretty damn intense in real life.  This is the man who complained about being pulled from a televised match because he had tore his groin muscle the day before!  One fun and awkward note for you: Jenna was working for TNA too, but got fired/left before this film came out.  Do yourself a favor and stick to real crime dramas.  This is only worth it for Angle and that's not enough.
Up next, I begin my four-part look at the Wishmaster series.  First up, the original film that stars nearly every horror heavy minor roles.  Stay tuned...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Larry Cohen Week: Pick Me Up (Masters of Horror)

We close up a week of Cohen films with a film made for Showtime's Masters of Horror series.  There has been some debate about this series online, as it includes people who are either not thought of as pure horror directors (Cohen, Dante, Landis) and people not thought of as 'masters' (McGee, etc).  Regardless of that, some damn good stories have come out of this show in its short, two season run on the network.  Is this one of them?  Will this match up to the latter works of Dario Argento or the great stories by Joe Dante?  Find out in my review of...
The film begins with a group of people taking a bus through the woods.  There is a bunch of them on board, but the only one of note is our heroine (Fairuza Balk).  She is your atypical punk woman who is also trying to fit in with society.  It's a weird mix that few people can pull off- she's one of them.  The bus breaks down and they all wait around for it to be fixed.  Around this time, a truck driver (Michael Moriarty) pulls up and offers some of them a ride into town.  Most of them say 'no,' although an older woman does go with him.  Our heroine decides that she doesn't want to wait around, so she wanders off towards town on her own.  A bit after she leaves, a young drifter shows up and plays nice.  Unfortunately, that act does not last long and he kills the people who stayed.  The highlight: decapitating the driver with the sliding door on the luggage compartment!  Afterward, he leaves and heads towards the town as well.  Along the way, he gets picked up by the anti-Scooby Doo gang: a group of punk rockers in a black van.
Once in town, Moriarty keeps up his nice-guy act for a while and actually woos the woman.  In a scene right out of Q, he actually plays the piano and sings.  Why couldn't he work that into more films again?  Eventually, he kills her though.  Aw.  Our heroine ends up at a hotel for the night, which is also where the hitchhiker ends up.  He ends up being one shared wall away from her torturing the punk girl (having already killed the guy).  Of course, she misinterprets that to be them having sex.  She leads a screwed up life, I guess.  To cut a short story (about 60 minutes) short, she ends up in the clutches of Moriarty in his truck.  As it turns out, he is really a serial killer that picks up random people off of the side of the road.  While driving along the road, he picks up the hitchhiker, who is also a serial killer.  Have you ever thought that you were having a bad day?  Try ending up in the clutches of two different serial killers.  Since this is recent (2006), I won't spoil the ending for you.  Sorry, you'll have to rent/buy it like I did!  The End.
This movie/show is good and even manages to do well in spite of Cohen having no hand in the writing.  Very often films don't do well when a person who usually writes and directs only does one.  Case in point: Cop Out (speaking performance-wise and not content-wise).  In this case, he does a very good job with the story and does it with his usual flair.  If you don't know, the Masters of Horror series were made on location in Canada with a small budget (somewhere around $1 million).  For some people, this might be a problem.  For Cohen, however, this is old hat.  He works well within these constraints and puts out a damn tense thriller.  It's not going to be a break-out film, but it is very entertaining.  Considering some of the Low-Budget Horror dreck that gets put out, we should count our lucky stars that we got two Seasons of this show to make it clear how it is really done!
Up next, Blockbuster Trash brings us the film debut of Olympic Gold Medalist and wrestler Kurt Angle.  Who does he play?  A serial killer who likes to play dress-up.  Stay tuned...

Lost in Translation: Christine

The Stephen King film has sort of become a lost genre of cinema, since we've mined nearly all of the 'gold' from those 'hills.'  Let's take a look back at how Poland interpreted one of his tales...
Um, that's a bit creepy.  I don't remember that thing having a mouth in the movie.  Thanks though.

Next up, Poland gets another turn at bat.  This time, they get two chances to hit a home run with a sci-fi/horror classic.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Larry Cohen Week: The Stuff

We continue our look at the work of Larry Cohen by discussing one of his most commercially-viable films to date.  I would have discussed Q: The Winged Serpent, but I've already done so on my old site.  This one involves a brand new substance coming on the market and promising to be a bigger thing than Crystal Pepsi and New Coke combined!  Of course, given that this is a sci-fi/horror film, you just know that there is more to it than that.  Fortunately, we have Michael Moriarty on the scene, making one of his first appearances in a Larry Cohen film.  For those not 'in the know,' Moriarty is to Cohen what Depp is to Burton, at least in the last twenty years.  Their work together includes Q, this film, Return to Salem's Lot, It's Alive III (future review) and tomorrow's M.O.H. review.  In the audio commentary for It's Alive, Cohen jokes about his Irish-American acting troupe, of which Moriarty would become the figure head of.  If there was any doubt to the closeness of the two, let this film be your example.  This is...
The film begins with some pretty blatant marketing for this new product.  What is it?  It's The Stuff.  What's The Stuff?  Well, I can tell you what it's not: colorful, solid or full of fat.  That's right- this yogurt-looking stuff has 0 fat and 0 calories, making it the perfect treat for any meal.  Hell, the only thing that it's missing is the functionality of a floor cleaner!  Certain groups don't trust this, however, and hire our hero (Moriarty) to find out the source of it.  For those who keep track of the weirdest jobs ever given to a film hero, add The Stuff to that list.  In a nutshell, Moriarty is a corporate espionage agent whose job it is to find out the secrets that slip by the FDA and that the food companies want to hide.  Unfortunately, our hero is a complete and total jerk too.  I guess that comes with the territory, but it doesn't exactly make him the most likable guy in the world.  The narrative jumps suddenly to our other hero: a young boy.  Much like the young man from Troll 2, he suspects that something is up with the food that his family is eating.  Fortunately, his plan to stop them does not involve targeted urination of food!  He does all he can to stop his family from eating the goo and actually smashes up a display of it at a store.  That's not how you make friends!
The trail of the bizarre and mysterious food leads Moriarty to the South and brings him to a very unlikely ally: Garrett Morris.  Morris plays the former owner/figure head of a cookie company who went out of business thanks to The Stuff.  Who's going to eat the weird, fatty fluff on cookies when you can eat weird, non-fatty fluff on everything else?!?  The duo try to find out what's going on with this crap in the area where it appears to have come from.  The pair run into some trouble from some...zombies?!?  Um, okay.  This apparently has something to do with The Stuff and it makes people lose their damn minds.  A big chase ensues and Moriarty makes his escape in one direction while Morris makes his in another.  Back at home, the kid continues to avoid eating The Stuff and finds that his family is starting to get kind of freaky.  They try to force-feed him The Stuff, but he escapes.  This leads him to a big open, strip-mining area which has truckloads of The Stuff coming from it.  Okay, I'm beginning to suspect that maybe this is not food that I should eat!  Some zombies try to get him, but he is aided by Moriarty.  Thanks for joining the two stories, Larry!
Things only get weirder from here, folks!  Once they escape, the pair meet up with a woman who can help them out.  This proves useful when a batch of The Stuff latches onto Moriarty's face!  Fortunately, she has the perfect cure: lighting his head on fire!  Yeah, I'll just deal with it on my own, lady.  Thanks but no thanks!  Things are getting really bad, so there's only one thing left to do: call in the military...which is somehow run by Paul Sorvino.  Fun fact: his daughter has a cameo in the film since, as Cohen works, she showed up one day to visit.  We get a mini-battle between some military and some zombies, but let's not focus on that.  Instead, let's focus on the big showdown at a radio station.  The plan: to transmit a warning message to the American people a la the end of War of the Worlds.  While Moriarty goes into the studio, Garrett Morris shows up again and transforms into a crazy monster.  The girl is nearly killed by him, but the day is saved.  In the film's epilogue, the company heads behind the release of The Stuff are confronted with their creation and forced to eat it. To drive home the anti-Capitalist motif, we get two scenes for the ending.  First, a company makes something called The Taste, which is a mix of The Stuff and a bunch of ice.  Second, a group of people shown selling The Stuff on the black market.  Dun dun dun!
This film is good and really epitomizes the kind of film that Cohen makes- good or bad.  The characters are weird, the setup is strange and the whole thing plays out in a very odd manner.  The whole concept of killing alien yogurt is only something that he could have come up with.  As a bonus, you get Moriarty doing his usual, great performance as a character that you really should not like, but can't help it.  For example, his character in Q is best described as a mix of 'Joe Pesci in Goodfellas and The Cowardly Lion.'  Of course, this film lacks a scene of Michael playing the piano, which is a downside in my book!  The effects are pretty good and work as part of the story.  Fun fact: one big effects scene makes use of the same spinning room used for Johnny Depp's death in A Nightmare on Elm Street.  If you can accept the silly idea of the plot, you can have a good time here.  Does it break the mold or redefine cinema as you know it?  No.  Is it good fun?  Yes.
Next up, we jump ahead about 20 years to a modern Cohen film.  This one involves serial killers, Michael Moriarty and that chick from Return to Oz.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Larry Cohen Week: Special Effects

This film is not a horror film per say, but it is a solid thriller with some gruesome death in it.  The key thing that makes this movie interesting is that the plot is extremely-layered and full of numerous things that challenge the conventions of typical film screenplays.  I know that makes it sound obnoxious and pretentious, but it isn't.  It's hard to explain without talking about the whole I'll do that.  This is...
The film begins with a woman being confronted by a man in her apartment.  He is trying to get her to come with him, but she refuses.  She seems to relent and prepares her bags...only to escape out the window and leave.  Who are these people?  Why are they fighting?  Wait and see, dear readers.  The woman goes to the loft of a film director (famous play-actor Eric Bogosian) to get cast in his next film.  The man is not in a good spot, however, as he was just fired from his last film, due to it going over-budget.  He promises her a role in his next movie, but only if she sleeps with him.  She does this without question, which makes her an immediately-likable character.  Moments later, he chokes her to death in bed and has the whole thing filmed for posterity...or state's evidence.  In fairness to the film, this guy is like a crazed Cecil B. DeMille (yes, there is a distinction), so this makes sense.  The body is dumped out in the street and, not surprisingly, the excited boyfriend who just showed up in town is a prime suspect.  It probably doesn't help that he was last seen yelling at her as she drove off, huh?
The brief bit of mention that the director gets for being the last non-killer to see her is inspiring and leads him to make a new project: the story of the woman's death.  Of course, his version of the events is a bit different and less incriminating.  Using his Hollywood mojo and some film-style bribery, the man convinces the police to give him 'key details of the crime' for his screenplay.  How?  By offering them all parts in the film and Executive Consultant credits.  Oh, but it gets better!  The man even convinces the police to allow the prime suspect to star in the himself!  Thanks to some conniving and trickery, he doesn't realize that the screenplay fingers him as the suspect.  How does he do this?  He offers the senior detective a Producer's credit on the filim!  Our hero begins to suspect that something is up (you think?!?) and looks into the man.  Here's the thing: the lady was his wife and recent mother.  However, she got the urge to go to Hollywood and be a big, movie star.  On that urge, she left Kansas (a bit cliche, I know) and her new family.  He knows that everything that they are saying about him is bullshit, but how can he prove it?
The shooting schedule and demands get even worse.  It's bad enough that he's playing himself in a fictionalized story of the death of his wife.  First, the director only shows him the daily shooting script and never lets him see the ending he has planned.  Second, the director wrote in a love scene between him and a woman playing his wife.  It would be less awkward if he went to a funeral and knocked over the casket!  It would be less awkward if he was at his own wedding and had sex with his the front of the ceremony!  Of course, the evil director just wrote this in to watch him twist in the wind & he relishes every moment of it.  Given a little bit of freedom as an actor, the man breaks into the director's big loft and discovers a hidden film projector.  He plays what is on the reel, which turns out to be the video of the director killing his woman.  Just because the film needs more drama, the director comes home while this is going on and the man has to hide.  In his haste, he actually causes the 16mm reel to set on fire, destroying all of his evidence.  His hiding place proves to be insufficient and a fight ensues.  Eventually, he knocks the director over a banister to his death, making all of this moot.  The man flies home to Kansas to be with his kid and, as one final hurrah for insanity, the Detective's Producer credit flashes on the screen!
This film is good, but it is certainly not for everyone.  The whole thing is built around a very strange and elaborate premise that may be hit or miss for some people.  The story itself is pretty simple & flows naturally.  Bogosian is great as the crazy and eccentric director, which is probably helped by his pretty famous cocaine problem during this time period.  While I don't recommend drug use to aid a performance, the man's own does add a certain manic charm to it all.  The rest of the acting is pretty ho-hum, but they spend plenty of time with their star.  The poor lead gets some good screen time, but is really more of a means to push the plot forward than anything else.  What this movie accomplishes is a very weird sense of self.  Look back at this for a moment: the film is about a director making a film about a murder he committed (and filmed), but turning the events to be about the innocent man- who is playing himself in the film within a film- being guilty.  How crazy is all of that?  Suck on that plot, Tropic Thunder!  The fact that the whole thing ends with an implication that all of what you saw was also a movie is just icing on the cake.  This thing is worth a look for any crime thriller fans.
Up next, Larry Cohen directs a film about aliens trying to invade the Earth with yogurt and Garrett Morris.  Plus, the ADA from Law & Order is a complete dick!  Stay tuned...

Syndicated Incorporated: Robocop- Resurrection

We're getting into the home-stretch here and the plot is not getting any simpler.  For those who need a recap, here's one...

* OCP controls the city and a (more) corrupt executive has taken over by killing the board.  He is planning to introduce the SAINT program to control every building in the city.  Robocop's old partner was killed in a battle between Robocop and a crazed, gun-wielding thug named Bone Machine.  He was brought back to life as a second Robocop & battles our hero.  They join forces, however, and fight back against OCP.
Our story picks up right there as Robocop is injured, requiring Robocable (that's his name) to go into a five minute fight scene.  He blasts a lot of cops, but they are wearing entire suits made out of kevlar (pretty much) and just get knocked down.  The tech thieves take Robocop to their lair and, upon his return, Robocable is defeated with...sledgehammers.  An Evil Dead effect shows up and scares them away, however, and reveals himself to be...that guy from every syndicated sci-fi show you've ever seen.
The man reveals himself to be a former scientist for OCP who went a bit crazy.  He re-programs Robocable to fight for him.  Meanwhile, the women restore Robocop to prime operation condition since he saved the lead woman's daughter.  Over at OCP, the new CEO is a bit crazy and puts SAINT into operation, even as it kills a window washer by accident.  Eventually, they find where Robocop is and send their troops to attack.  When they get there, the bad guy shows up as well, running down one of the cops in his de-stealthed truck.  Ouch.
This leads to a big battle between Robocop (plus two of the women) and the cops.  The blond bad guy kidnaps the little girl from Part 2 since *gasp* he's her father.  He steals her away during the fight because she's...a robot or something.  It's odd, okay.  How do the other women do?  They get shot and die.  Oh yeah, I should also mention the brief showdown between Robocop and Robocable.  The latter fires two shots at the woman and Robocop intercepts the bullets with one of his own.  See for yourself...
Yeah, that makes sense.  Anyhow, the cops get defeated and Robocable gets revenge on the cop from Tekwar by blowing his hand off and smashing his head in with a hammer.  The evil man tries to use some data hidden in his daughter to make some sort of EMP attack, but is stopped by the woman.  The only one left around is Jason Murphy, who has a bit of breakdown when he learns about his dad's existence as Robocop.  He manages to talk his son down from detonating an EMP bomb, but OCP ends up thinking that our hero is dead.  To be continued...
This is a definite improvement over Part 2's obsession with flashbacks and weird plot continuations.  This has a lot more action, if even the plot gets kind of freaky.  It's what the miniseries has been building up to and makes me optimistic for Part 4.

Up next, Part 4 and the conclusion.  Who will live?  Who will die?  Who will get the 'Lucas treatment' this time?  Stay tuned...