Thursday, June 30, 2011

Leftovers of the Dead: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Please don't drag me into the debate!  Should zombies run?  Should they shamble?  I really don't care.  Either one is scary in its own way.  This debate comes to us due to 28 Days Later and today's film- the 2004 remake of Romero's 1978 classic.  This is the film that put Zack Snyder on the map, a feat continued by 300 and Watchmen.  What stands out about this film- other than the running zombies- is that a lot of things are changed.  This is no carbon copy remake, just with CG blood and better make-up.  The core of the film remains intact, but a lot of changes were made to freshen it up.  Since you all know the plot and because I don't want to spoil the film too much, I'll give you a basic overview, show you some sights and point out the changes.  Get out your zombie bike as we attempt to get some cardio on the...
* Instead of the cops, our lead hero is a nurse, who has to flee when her husband is turned.  She joins a cop (Ving Rhames) and others, heading to the Mall for safety.
* Our heroes get inside, but conflict arises between them and the Mall Cops.  They are less Paul Blart and more Observe & Report.  In other words, they don't play around!
* Director Cameo!  Snyder is the second guy from the left, protecting the President from zombies in front of a green screen...I mean, the White House.
* We get a trio of Dawn of the Dead (1978) cast members.  First, Tom Savini is the local Sheriff, which is a big change from being a biker!
* Scott Reinger shows up as a General.  Fun fact: he's the Prince of Ghor by blood.  Look it up.
* Finally, Ken Foree shows up as a Preacher who says that the 'End is Nigh.'  Considering that this was the last good remake of a Romero film, he was right!
* Things don't go well for our heroes.  I thought that playing Richard Cheese's cover of 'Down With the Sickness' would solve everything!
* The zombies are running and they are quite angry.  Rawr.
* The film also includes a Post-Credit ending that feels tacked on...because it was.  As a bonus, watch a precursor to Romero himself went to 'shot on handheld.'  The End.
Purists be damned- this is good!  The plot- as I said earlier- remains largely-intact.  The key changes make the movie feel a bit different, while still allowing you to think of it as a remake.  I like that too much CG blood wasn't tossed out there for silly effect.  While I'm still a purist, I like the angry infected.  I kind of like how there is no real explanation for the zombie uprising, save for the whole 'when there is no room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth' bit.  As a Writer, I would appreciate an actual explanation.  That said, most films make up stupid reason for zombies- see Zombi 4, Night of the Living Dead 3-D- so I can respect them not bothering.  The tone of this movie is interesting, as it tries to balance the somber moments, the tragic moments and the 'oh shit- zombies' moments.  The balance is a bit off at times, however, especially with characters like Matt Frewer- who would later be in Snyder's Watchmen- who is just there to die tragically.  Immediately following this, the film cuts to the people playing around in the mall to the aforementioned Richard Cheese song.  That wasn't jarring at all, thank you.  If you like action and zombies, check this movie out.  If you hate remakes, still give this one a shot.  By the way, the only way for zombies to travel is on horseback.  Take us away, barely-explained zombie baby...
Next up, the final Romero remake (for now).  This 2008 film botches pretty much everything and just slaps you in the face.  Stay tuned...

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Ninja (Part 1)

Poor Bastards of Cinema in an action film?  Get out.

In 2009's Ninja, the villain of the film is trying to fly from Japan to New York to confront our hero.  Unfortunately, the plane is sold out.  There is, however, someone walking by with one though...
This guy picks up his ticket and goes towards the terminal...
Being the master of subtlety, the evil ninja shoots the man with a poison dart.  Yeah, that's subtle.
The man dies in the middle of the terminal, as the ninja drags him off to the bathroom.  Is there no security here?!?
Oh, you're wearing the man's glasses.  That will apparently get you through security at both this Airport and JFK International.
So this guy's only crime is having a ticket for an airplane and vaguely-looking like the villain?  Geez.

Up next, a second Poor Bastard comes from Ninja.  It's wrong place, wrong time for him.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Leftovers of the Dead: Night of the Living Dead 3-D (2006)

Was this really necessary?  I mean, honestly?  The 1968 film Night of the Living Dead is considered by most to be a classic (I thought it was alright) and, due to a Copyright mix-up, has been available as a Public Domain film for decades.  On top of that, the film spun out a series of films, as well as a spin-off of that series, many remakes of those films and even a confusing side film that has nothing to do with anything.  Oh yeah, they also did a remake of it in 1990, making this the second remake!  So what's new here?  For one thing, no cast members are involved in this production (as far as I can tell).  Secondly, this is the 'modern' version of the tale, although they still cop-out on the cell phone thing.  Finally, this film was made in effect utilized about four times in the film.  Way to make people get headaches for almost no reward!  Prepare for the horror of blandness that is...
* Our lead heroine is pretty proactive here, a trait carried over from the 1990 film.  Her brother, however, doesn't die in the graveyard.  No, he leaves her to die and drives off.

* There's no black guy in the film.  I mean, I guess it's not a requirement, but replacing him with a Southern hick feels like an intentional thing.

* A whole sub-plot involves Sid Haig, since he's the biggest star here.  Unfortunately, this leads to the film's biggest problem...
* Pointless 3-D Shot!!!!
* They explain the zombie outbreak.  They do a half-ass job of it, but they still do it.  Haig's mortician has a fear of fire- ha ha- and stopped cremating the bodies.  In addition, he took in 'military stuff' in the big pile, leading to zombies.  Lame!

* Oh yeah, they watch Night of the Living Dead on television.  That's so stupid!
Pointless 3-D Shot #2!!!!
* In a shocking twist, Haig turns on your surviving heroes.  Why?  To feed his zombie father, who has been that way for two years.  How does nobody know about this?!?

* In a weird twist, our heroine just sort of gives up on life and dies.  Why?  This outbreak is localized.  Just leave and...never mind, you're dead.  The End.
Pointless 3-D Shot- FINAL!!!!
Is there any need for this movie?  The plot for this movie is mostly the same as the original, save for a lot of stupid changes.  Why did they explain the outbreak if they didn't have a good answer?  Why did they do the 'keep the same names, but change the characters' trope?  Why did the plot have to involve pot farmers?  If you wanted to make a 3-D version of the film, why not just do a real remake?  Instead, we got a bunch of stupid scenes tied together with a loose version of Romero's plot.  This movie just sucks- plain and simple.  If you want to see a colorized version of Night of the Living Dead, track down one of the 80 colorized versions.  If you want to see an updated version, watch the 1990 remake.  If you want to see how much worse a Romero film can be, watch this one.
Up next, an actually-good remake of a Romero film.  See the film that furthered the nerdiest Internet debate ever.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lost in Translation: Fantastic Planet

A weird animated film made its way to the United States in the 1970's.  In France, however, they decided just to freak everyone out with this poster...
Yeah, these guys are in the film, but wouldn't some context be nice?  You can't just throw crazy aliens out there and expect us not to ask any questions!

Next up, Dracula strikes out at America.  Unfortunately, he showed up a year too late.  Stay tuned...

Monday, June 27, 2011

VHS For The Win: Alien Seed

You know what I love?  Cheap box art with updated pictures to exploit the new-found star-status of their leads.  Speaking of which...
Oh my God- the disembodied head of Erik Estrada is telling me to look away!  Must...look...away!

Next up, Asia gets shocked.  Will it be as interesting the second time?  Stay tuned...

Leftovers of the Dead: Flesheater- Revenge of the Living Dead

Just who do you think you are, Bill Hinzman?!?  Most notable for playing the first zombie to attack in 1968's Night of the Living Dead, Bill has had a hit-or-miss career.  He appears in many low-budget films- including this one- but never really broke out into a major movie star.  In fact, he only has two Directing credits on IMDB and the other one is for a film called The Majorettes (future review, no doubt).  In the middle of this, he decided to make a starring role for himself as, well, a zombie.  That's the only thing you're famous for, so why not?!?  The key thing to note is that Bill is credited as the Writer, Director, Producer, Editor and Star of the film.  What- you couldn't find time to do the Catering or write a 'kicking piano score' for the film too?!?  The film has a non-existent connection to Romero's series- the fact that Bill is in it.  Does that mean that House II: The Second Story is related to Friday the 13th, since Kane Hodder is in it?!?  Mind you, Zombi Holocaust is sometimes known as Zombi 3, since it also has Ian McCollough playing the same part he did in Zombi II, so dumber things have happened, I suppose.  The plot is simple- zombies get loose and kill people.  There are a couple interesting thing to note about this film, however, aside from its false connection to the series.  To find out, you're going to have to keep reading.  Get a fresh meat tenderizer as we prepare for a dinner date with the...
After a series of blood red credits showing Bill's bony mug, we see some 'teens' going out for a hayride and an overnight stay in the Woods.  This is one weird kegger!  After that lame introduction, we see a farmer move a rock.  He sees part of an etching, so he uncovers the dirt.  Seeing a full symbol, he digs it up more, uncovering a coffin.  He digs all of that up and finds a warning not to open it, but does so anyways.  He finds a zombie (Hinzman) inside, who promptly kills him.  I suppose you're wondering why I went into that much detail there.  It's simple- the movie shows you every freaking second of this!  Seriously, five minutes of this film is wasted on the reveal that everyone could see coming a mile away!  Hinzman wanders around for a bit and kills another farmer (the guy who was driving the tractor) and chases our heroes, now joined by the fresh zombies.  They flee to a farm house, but it's too late for one pair who get killed while off having sex.  Really breaking the mold, huh Bill?  Two of the 'teens' get there too late- stopping to help a wounded comrade- and are locked outside by the official 'jerk' of the group.  It's just as well, however, as the ones inside are killed within about ten minutes.  That's right- thirty minutes into the film and everyone we've ever met is dead.  Where do we go from here?
The answer is simple- lots of random death.  That's right- this is Poor Bastards of Cinema: The Movie!  Among our random victims are...
* Two cops called to the farm where our original heroes bit the dust.
* The home of a woman getting ready to send her kids out trick-or-treating.
- Side note: at least one of the kids that gets killed (the girl, I think) has the last name 'Hinzman.'  Real nice, Bill!
* As a bonus, the sister is also there to die, but only after she partakes in a pointless shower scene.
* A party full of random people also dies after meeting our remaining heroes (the two that were locked out).
After all that random death, what is next?  As it turns out, Bill's plan is to just blatantly rip-off Romero some more.  The townspeople get together, arm themselves and go zombie hunting.  That's the point in having all those random people die and become zombies, I guess.  In the worst bit of plagiarism, our two heroes are shot by two of the men while walking around.  Subtle!  The confusing part is that Bill actually got the same two actors who shot the hero in the original film to cameo here.  You can call it an homage, but I won't!  With all of the zombies dead...or, rather, more dead, all is well.  Of course, we get an Epilogue showing a man digging through the rubble of a house, only to be killed by Bill.  That's right- it's sequel-bait and it's built around the Writer/Director/Producer/Editor/Star.  You can't be killed off in your own movie, Bill?  The End.

I want to be a star, dammit!  The plot of this film is so basic that I could have just guessed it without watching it.  Zombies show up, people die and nothing ends very happily.  The only 'twist' in this movie is that it throws out a ton of people to die, instead of just one big group.  The problem, of course, is that there is a reason that people do it the other way.  This way, there is no real drama about the characters, as we only meet them for a few minutes before they die.  Night of the Living Dead works in a lot of ways because it has a steady cast of people who act off of each other for a long time before they start to bite the dust.  Much like Cemetery Gates, I just have no time to care about these random victims!  The characters just become one-note- i.e. Drunk Guy and Insecure Girl from the party- or there for shock value- i.e. the two kids.  By the way, I'm not sure whether I should be upset or impressed by your killing the kid characters off.  I've never been of the mindset of 'kids must always survive, no matter what' but I also think that you did this just to get attention.  Considering that I only discovered your movie 23 years later, thanks the trailer being put on a different Shriek Show DVD, I'd say that your plan failed.  The bottom line- zombie film completists/historians will be intrigued by the idea of this movie, but the execution is not that good.  It's a generic zombie film that is notable for trying to latch on to a famous franchise.  At least bring something new to the table like the Return of the Living Dead series did, even if it's not always good!
Next up, I get into the remake territory with the 3-D remake of the original Romero film.  Will it be better with pointless 3-D shots and a plot full of more holes than the zombies themselves?  Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Review in Pictures: The Last Lovecraft- Relic of Cthulhu

Can you laugh at Lovecraft?  That is the question raised by today's film, an independent film from 2009.  The first thing to note is that this story is very accurate to the Cthulhu mythos- at least as far as I can tell.  There are a lot of films out there that get it right- 2005's The Call of Cthulhu- and there are a lot of films that get it wrong- 2007's Cthulhu.  There are a bunch of bland ones like Dagon as well, but they are not worth a lot of mention.  Where does this one fit?  Like I said, the filmmakers are clearly fans and mixed in the old with the new.  You get many familiar names and places, albeit mixed in a blender of modern disbelief a la Shaun of the Dead.  In fact, that's a pretty good- if hefty, for some- comparison to make.  This film manages to balance the tone throughout, however, giving it a slight edge for me.  I don't want to spoil too much of this film for you, so this is a, big shock, Review in Pictures.  As a side note, I've been meaning to do this review for about a month, so I hope you bear that in mind.  Get out your bleak, family pictures as we try to find...
* Right off the bat, we see the film begin at Miskatonic University.  You could have used yellow font or something, since you can barely read the name though...
* Two men are killed at sea- ironically, they appear to be a C-List Pegg and Frost- and one of them becomes Starspawn, Cthulhu's lead general.  His goal- unleash the Old One!
* Confronted by a man from the University, our hero is told a tale of Cthulhu's might.  This.  Is Awesome. In.  A.  Can!
* "I can kick more military ass than the Decepticons," says Cthulhu, driving all those in range mad.
* Hey look, fish monsters in a Cthulhu film.  As a bonus, it's not a dream!!!
* Their only hope is to be joined by this Brian Posehn-looking guy.  The world is screwed!
* A sea captain in the desert- why not?!?  He's a surprising hero, which is what they need right now.
* That giant squid monster is tearing the place apart.  You should probably do something.  Oh yeah, save the world too.
* In an Epilogue, our heroes journey to a set of famous Mountains.  I hope they find Guillermo Del Toro there!  The End.
A movie that actually cares about the source material- GASP!  The plot of this movie is silly, fun and actually kind of neat.  It's simple- Cthulhu is waiting to be unleashed and only one guy can stop him.  The idea hinges upon a unique aspect of being in Lovecraft's bloodline, hence the character's importance.  The film does a good job of actually explaining all of this, as opposed to that other Cthulhu film which never explained a damn thing!  One key thing is that the movie is a mix of horror and comedy.  As someone who really does not like horror-comedies- i.e. Severance, The Cottage- I can tell you that this film is good.  The balance is struck just right, making the situation still seem dire at the right times and making you laugh at the right times.  Is it perfect?  No.  It would be nice to see some of the digital effects done better, although the suits and masks look great.  If you like Lovecraft, you owe it to yourself to check out this movie.  It shows that people with a small budget, a dream and heart can make something good.  If I can help get this film more exposure, I'll be quite happy.
Next up, The Asylum is back to haunt my dreams in the first of 6 movies this month!  First up, there's Snakes on a Train- sigh.  Stay tuned... 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lock Me Up!: Journey to the Center of the Earth (2-D)

This was bound to happen sooner or later!  The Asylum made their version of the Jules Verne tale in 2008 to coincide with the release of a bigger budget, 3-D version (see yesterday's review).  Is their version good?  Obviously, the answer is 'no.'  Is their version related to the theatrical release?  Again, the answer is obviously 'no.'  The bigger question is this- is their version remotely-related to the classic tale?  No.  Not even in the slightest way.  Seriously, the only thing that they have in common is a trip to the center of the Earth.  The 'star' of the film is Greg Evigan, who you would probably know from Tekwar.  If not, you're most people.  To see what this mess is all about, read on.  Take a trip with me as we go on a...
There are no tunnels, chasms or the like in this film.  No, in this film, the government is experimenting with a device that will teleport people behind enemy lines.  They decide to test it with an all-lady commando unit, why not?  One thing to note is that one of the women in the group is the hunter's daughter from Alien vs. Hunter, marking Re-Used Actor/Location #1 of the film.  #2 shows up quickly as the General comes in to check out the project and he's...Zacarias Mossaui from The 9-11 Commission Report!  Get him- he's a terrorist, not a General!  Seriously though, that's random!  The group prepares to test out the device, so cue silly glow effect.  They end a generic field.  Wait- this is the same place from The Land That Time Forgot, marking Re-Used Actor/Location #3.  This place also served as some of the locations in King of the Lost World, but I won't throw it in as #4...yet.
Our heroines run into some trouble pretty quickly as they learn that they are in the center of the Earth.  In the land- which apparently has sunlight- at the Earth's core, there is a T-Rex.  Logic?  I mean, I get that it's in the story too, but why?  This thing takes out one of the women as the others flee.  There is also lava here, which actually kind of makes sense.  Back on the surface of the Earth, Evigan and company figure out what happened.  The signal for teleportation got stuck halfway on its trip, trapping the group in the center of the Earth.  That's pretty silly, but I guess I can't fault you for that.  I can, however, fault you for the latter half of the plot involving a woman scientist (Alien vs Hunter's Dedee Pfeiffer aka Re-Used Actor/Location#5) coming in with a device for boring to the center of the Earth.  Here's a question- why were we teleporting people again?  You could argue that it's easier, I suppose, but the movie proves that theory wrong!  By the way, there is a giant spider- with Alien vs Hunter's body model (#6) - minus the person part- running across the same fields from Alien vs Hunter (#7).  Why didn't they work in the barn too?!?
It's a race against time!  Come on, time!  Go time!  In all seriousness, Evigan and Pfeiffer race towards the center in their boring machine, which is a pretty apt name for the plot!  Ha ha ha- forced irony.  In the center, our heroines manage to take out the spiders, but at the loss of more life.  It appears that the blond girl from Alien vs Hunter is dead thanks to some flash editing, but she isn't.  They manage to save her as Evigan launches their ship out of a volcano.  That would be cool in any other movie, you know.  The group reunites and rushes to the teleporter, which will work when Evigan puts the missing part in it.  It sure is lucky that you brought it, since your vehicle was kind of a one-shot deal!  More spiders show up, including a super-duper one (which is substituting for the giant ape, I guess) as the group rushes for the exit.  The blond girl dies from her spider bites, rendering her rescue entirely-pointless.  The teleporter activates and they escape.  The day is for the baby spider that hitched a ride.  The End.
Please toss me down a chasm!  The plot of this movie is a silly mess.  Why is this titled like it has anything to do with the Jules Verne tale?  It's about an errant teleporter that sends people to what also happens to be the center of the Earth.  It's like making a film where a kid gets trapped in Jurassic Park and his parents go in to save him.  Oh right- that was Jurassic Park III.  Where was I?  Oh right- this stupid movie.  The bottom line is that this is a cheap, cash-in.  You could argue that the Brendan Fraser movie is a cash-in for a profitable series of films based on the Verne novel, but it's not cheap!  This film re-uses locations, actors and just generally feels cheap.  A lot of people have made generic, uninspired films based on Verne's novel.  This just happens to be one of them...only made by The Asylum.  Do I recommend this?  Kind of, but only to the kind of people who can endure this Direct-to-DVD crap.  Take us home, General Terrorist...
Next up, I take a look at the remakes and assorted films of Romero's Dead series.  First up, a film Written, Produced, Directed by and Starring a guy who was in Night of the Living Dead- just because.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review in Pictures: Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D

In the past, you can't see straight!  This 2008 film stars Brendan Fraser and is an update of the classic Jules Verne tale.  This is not to be confused with the non-3-D version of the tale made-for-TV or that other non-3-D version made by The Asylum (see tomorrow's review).  Basically, what I'm saying is that this is a very popular tale to make.  It harkens back to 2005 when we saw War of the Worlds by Steven Spielberg, The Asylum and some guys in England with no money.  Good times.  As an unrelated side note, 2008 saw the release of The Asylum's War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave.  Coincidence?  Yes, actually.  One important thing to note is that this film was released in 3-D, but I watched the 2-D version.  For those of you with glasses handy, here is the title card in 3-D though...
* Our opening scene has a man chased by a dinosaur.  Does it matter?  No.  It's all a dream sequence.
* Pointless 3-D scene!  On the plus side, it's at least a throwback to House of Wax...
* Seth Meyers makes what is essentially a two-scene cameo here.  He's a smug bastard...and that's it.
* Our heroes end up in a cave and riding the rails.  Does this scene feel familiar to you at all?
* There are incandescent birds in the center of the Earth.  I just thought that you'd like to know that.
* The center of the Earth is Shangri-La?  Kind of.  Unfortunately, Fraser's brother- who he was looking for- is actually dead.  How un-PG of you!
* Apparently gravity works differently in the center of the Earth as our younger hero leaps across floating rocks.  Sure- why not?!?
* You can't have a Journey to the Center of the Earth film without a T-Rex.  You can, however, have it without a giant ape though...
* While I won't spoil much, the climax involves lava not being able to burn through rock (what made the holes then?) and launching our heroes!  The End.
Peril in 3-D!  The plot of this movie is decent, although they make some odd choices.  Fraser going on the journey with a young companion is neat, sure.  However, he takes his nephew all the way to Iceland to find his brother, who vanished about a decade earlier.  For one thing, that's really risky to the nephew.  Secondly, did you really expect to find your brother alive?  If not, you're setting this kid up to go on a dangerous trip AND to see his dad's corpse!  Closure is nice, but not so much when it's a bloated mound of flesh.  Aside from that, you get a good adventure that has action, fantasy and lots of stuff to look at.  As a narrative, it's a bit 'meh' for me.  If you want a nice, family-friendly film, you will have a good time.  If you want a crazy version of the film, check out the 1978 film (link below)!  Punch your hand off, Brendan.
Next up, The Asylum gets their shot at Jules Verne.  Of course, that just means more re-used sets, actors and T-Rex models.  Stay tuned...