Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blow in the New Year: Virus

You just have to love a film that its own Star thinks is shit!  Today's film is Virus, a 1999 film Starring Jamie Lee Curtis.  It's gotten a bit of notoriety thanks to Curtis talking about how she brought it to a party for Rob Reiner.  The guests were asked to bring embarassing/funny moments from their career.  She chose this one.  Out of all of the stuff she's been involved with- including Halloween: Resurrection, Christmas with the Cranks and My Girl 2-, she chose this film.  Ouch.  Can it be that bad?  The film came out in 1999, but didn't exactly make a major impact.  I vaguely recall that my brother saw it in Theaters, but that's it.  The film is about some sort of alien virus that hits the Mir and then a ship.  When a ship comes across it Alien-style, all hell breaks loose.  The big Stars are Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland and William/Billy Baldwin.  Nothing says '1990s' like a film starring Billy Baldwin.  So is this film really a stinker or is Jamie Lee just biased against this more than Terror Train?  To find out, read on...
Some big glowing jellyfish thing- I guess it's a ship?- runs through the Mir Space Station (timely!) and causes shit to happen.
Said shit- mostly blue lightning and explosions- is shot down to a tracking ship owned by Russians.  Apparently, the space jellyfish ship-thing waited until it was about to transmit data to...um...attack, I guess.
We cut to 7 Days Later and see a tiny ship dragging cargo through a storm.  This is apparently a completely-inconceivable bit of physics according to some nautical expert who updated this movie's IMDB Page.  Sailors have alot of free time, I guess.

The Cargo- which apparently was uninsured and leveraged against all of the Captain's money- gets lost and the ship is damaged.  Look what they find.
The ship appears to be dead in the water and bereft of life.  However, someone or something is watching them.  It also wrecks their boat- which was sinking anyways- and kills a couple of them.
After many 'let's wander around the ship scenes' (including one where they blatantly set-up the finale's escape), we see a weird robot-human hybrid body brought in.  It was apparently the husband of the ship's lone survivor (aka the only notable Actor among them).

Well, at least it only happened to the Russians and not...
 Uh oh!  Someone tell Keifer.  Not it!
The Virus finally takes the form of this freaky robot thing that is almost worth 'the price of admission.'  Given that I basically paid $1.50 for this DVD, it was worth it for me.  Your mileage may vary.
Hey- remember that Rocket-Powered Escape Pod- which all ships have- that they showed earlier?  Shockingly, they use it to escape!  I didn't see that coming forty-five minutes ago.
Oh shit- one last creature!  What is she going to...
Oh, it was a dream.  Well, I guess if you were in Halloween, you have license to rip-off Friday the 13th.  Right?  The End.
Eh, I can kind of see it.  Virus is nowhere near the worst film I've seen in my life.  Hell, it is not even in the Top 50.  The worst thing you can really say about it is that it's pretty formulaic.  The set-up is Aliens, while the whole 'stuck on a ship with a monster' idea has been done 100 times (at least).  One thing that is important to note is that the film came out before The Matrix, so the robot design is NOT based on that film.  You could try to say that it is based on the Comic, but this film is based on a Comic of its own.  Sometimes this just happens.  As for how the film is put together, it does very little to stand out.  I don't think that it's necessarily 'rubbish' like Jamie Lee Curtis called it, but I can see why someone might think that.  The Characters are all written in broad strokes, the pacing is odd and the only real appeal is the creatures.  That said, I did practical effects and there are some neat ones.  I love that the DVD promotes the Stars like Curtis and the F/X Team, but not the Director or Writers.  As it turns out, the Director is an F/X guy with only two other Credits.  One of them is an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and that 3-D Stage show of Terminator 2 in Universal Orlando.  Is that thing still running?  I'd love to know if the war between man and machine is still going on with Linda Hamilton at the helm.  It would also be nice to see Edward Furlong before everything went to shit.  In fact, Nick Stahl (from Terminator 3) is not doing great either.  Is that role cursed?  Oh right- the movie.  In summary, it's better than its reputation, but worse than it could be.  Right, Model Ship?
Next up, let's begin the New Year right.  That's right- Japanese Idols fighting Zombies in 3-D (only 2-D for me though)!  Stay tuned...

***Bonus: Since fellow Blogger Craig Edwards worked on this film, here's his credit.***
I look forward to seeing your name in a good film's Credits one day, Craig.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Yuletide Classics: Black Christmas (1974)

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart.  This year, you kill me and display me in a window.  Those WHAM songs sure are dark, huh?  Today's film is Black Christmas- the original version.  Why this one and not the 2006 Remake?  Well, I have to have somewhere to go next year, don't I?  Besides, it is more fun to see if I can get a rile out of Maynard, that wacky Austie.  So who doesn't know about Black Christmas?  Show of hands.  Okay, so a few of you don't know about it.  Christmas is the tale of a mysterious killer in a girl's dormitory who incites terror in a small town.  It is notable for being the first film to really exploit- for lack of a better word- a Holiday for a Horror/Thriller Film.  It preceded a number of great/famous Horror films like Halloween and Silent Night, Deadly Night.  There's an Urban Legend that John Carpenter's Classic started out as a Sequel to this film.  As noted by Bob Clark in a 2004 Interview, he worked with Carpenter on a film and they discussed the idea of a Sequel.  Clark said 'no,' but also said that they would have called it 'Halloween' if they did make one.  In Carpenter's defense, Clark says that he did write his own Screenplay and that the idea to do the film came from the Studio.  Clark does, however, say that the whole premise of When A Stranger Calls came from his movie.  He sounded a little bitter- not that I blame him.  So does the film hold up to modern scrutiny or is it just a dull, historical landmark?  To find out my opinion, read on...
A Dormitory is bothered around Christmas by a series of creepy, moaning calls from a stranger.  They're a bit worried.

Fun Fact: one of the people doing the calls is Clark himself.  Consider that the Director of A Christmas Story and Baby Geniuses did this.
In a shockingly-early (for the time, at least) moment, the unseen killer attacks one of the girls and chokes her with a plastic bag.  He subsequently displays her body in a window.

It's a bit of a conceit that nobody ever notices it through the window, regardless of how thick/glossy they may be.
Olivia Hussey is our lead/future Final Girl (before that was fully a Trope) and begins to get suspicious of her boyfriend's abrasive behavior.
Holy Randomness- Art Hindle is in this movie!  For a guy I'd never heard of a year ago, I keep seeing him in random places.  Weird.
John Saxon is the Inspector and he plays the role well.  It's a shame that the film's set-up lets him do not much more than act like he's in charge and talk on the phone.
As the body count slowly rises, Hussey continues to get calls from the mysterious stranger.  What is a girl to do?
Oh shit- someone killed Lois Lane.  If Injustice is anything to go by, shit is about to go down!
In The End, Hussey kills her boyfriend- since she thinks that he's the killer.  She's very traumatized by the whole experience.  Yeah, I would hope so!
As it turns out, however, he wasn't the killer.  The real one is still hiding in the Attic with his first two victims.  The Police haven't checked it yet, but they will soon.  The film ends there, however, showing that you don't always get closure.  The End.
It's a little slow, but it kind of works that way.  For a modern audience, it might seem tedious at times.  I get that.  I like to think of it as a product of its times and how films were made.  If you look at it that way, it's great.  Besides, let's be honest, today's ADD film audience could use a film that takes things slow and sets the mood.  We don't always need jump scares or creepy children.  The best part of the movie for me is the use of P.O.V. shots.  That works great with the music- mostly Christmas Carols- to set a nice, creepy mood.  A lot of people may ask for more gore or scares.  That's fine.  For better or worse, the 2006 Remake gives the killer back-story, has jump scares galore and a lot more blood.  Some people like it better- that's fine.  Until I actually watch the Remake, I'll hold my tongue.  If you're a fan of slow-burn, atmospheric Horror, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie.  It may not be everyone's favorite movie, but it does feature a guy that looks like Gene Shalit.  That counts for alot, right?
Next up, let me ring in the New Year with a Jamie Lee Curtis movie.  The only thing worse than the Y2K Virus is a film that everyone likes to forget.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

'Really- You're Copying This...Now' Cover Art: Alien Uprising

Moviestop is a major resource for Mondo Bizarro (Cinema).  I buy many films from them (many that I shouldn't) and it is also the first place where I usually see some ridiculous Cover Art to use.  On a trip last night, I found another one...

Alien Uprising is a film that I know little about (at the moment).  I do know that something about this Cover Art gives me Deja Vu...
Decent enough cover, even if shows very little to drag you in.  The so-so title doesn't help.

But what is it based on?  I'll let you figure it out...
Yeah, this 2013 Release rips off the Poster/Promotional Art for Hancock.  All I can ask is this...

Why?

Seriously, why?

Why now?  Why ever?  Weird.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Rare Flix: Young Sherlock Holmes

How did this one get to be so obscure?  Big name Director- check.  Big name Writer- Check.  Big time Movie Producer- big time Check!  The Director- Barry Levinson.  The Writer- Christopher Columbus.  The Producer- Steven Spielberg.  So what happened?  Today's film is Young Sherlock Holmes, a film that was clearly meant to lead to more.  Alas, it was not to be.  The film is a 'loving tribute' to Holmes and Watson, at least that's what they say.  I love that they do this TWICE in the film (one in the Intro and one in the Credits).  You really were afraid of the Conan Doyle Estate, huh?  Regardless, the film tells the tale of Holmes and Watson meeting for the first time- previous works be damned!  They must solve a series of strange murders/suicides in London.  The film is notable for a couple of reasons.  One of them is the film being the first to use a completely CG Character- suck it, Peter Jackson!  Will this film find a good middle ground between the good (although sometimes creaky) early Holmes films and the overly-stylized Guy Richie films?  To find out, read on...
If you are a fan of the Books, remember that this is not canonical.  All six people who would go to see a film called 'Young Sherlock Holmes' and be obsessed with continuity, your fears are alleviated.

I wonder if the Sherlock Holmes Porn film from 1975 has this same note.
A man seems to go crazy in a Restaurant and later at home.  He sees his house on fire and leaps out the window to his death.  I'm not sure why he thought he would have survived that in the first place, but whatever.
At Academy (see- I can talk British), we see Watson and Holmes meet for the first time.  They hit it off.

It's also worth noting the small, but vocal group of people who claim that 'Harry Potter' ripped off this film.  Just think of Watson as Harry, Holmes as Ron and Elizabeth as Hermione.  It doesn't help that Columbus wrote this and the film versions of a couple Potter films.  Could be, could be.
Here's the big moment.  This Priest gets shot with the 'imagine things' poison dart and sees...the Knight from the Stained Glass Mosaic in the Church trying to kill him.  He runs out into traffic (okay- one guy with a cart) and dies.

The other hallucinations have some meaning- the guy's food attacking him, a demon on his chest- but what's up with this.  Great effect though, thanks in part to an early work by John Lasseter.
Holmes, Watson and Elizabeth investigate the deaths and eventually find a giant wooden Pyramid built into a Warehouse.  I have several questions.

The real issue is that this is nearly the exact same bit from Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom (only with Egyptians)- a film made by Spielberg himself only a year earlier.  Really?!?
They eventually discover that the man who was obviously kind of evil is actually evil and seeking revenge on the people that desecrated the Tomb of his people.  As such, they try to sacrifice Elizabeth, since this has to be really derivative.
I won't SPOIL everything that happens- in case you really want to see the film naturally-, but I will reveal that they get almost no credit, since Holmes and Watson didn't become Detectives at 18.  Plus, it sets up Inspector Lestrad for the stories.
In a Post Credits scene, we see the arrival of...DUN DUN DUN!!!!
He even stops to raise an eye brow (now copyright of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) to tell you that he's evil.  Good luck with that sequel.  It's only been 28 years.  It took that long for Tales of an Ancient Empire, after all.  The End.
Well worth the time tracking it down, I think.  Viewed in a modern context, Young Sherlock Holmes can be a bit dated.  So much of what it was doing was new then, but has been done many, many times since.  Is that a cop-out?  Maybe.  The look is great, seeing London look like it should for the time period.  The story is solid, giving us good motivation for all of the people involved.  The special effects hold up quite well, especially the Stained Glass Knight.  They say that it took 4 Months to do, which is funny when you consider that it lasts about 15 seconds.  It makes you rethink how you've spent the last 4 months, huh?  In summary, the film is a neat little gem from the 1980s.  It looks nice and polished, even if there are some moments that are really derivative.  The one goofy part that really stands out to me is just what scares young Watson- anthropomorphic candy/donuts.  No, really.
Next up, I find the time to review a Christmas Classic.  Since Maynard doesn't like it, will then like it by default?  Stay tuned...

Lost in Translation: The Dark Knight

It looks all white and snowy, so let's just use that excuse to post this today!  Good thinking, me!

The Dark Knight was a blockbuster success bigger than anyone could have imagined.  Part of it was due to the mystique of Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker.  We can't ever say if it would have done better or worse if he was alive (since only one can logically happen).

Regardless, the focus was all on him for this Foreign Poster...
Giant Joker is on the loose!  It's like that Superfriends Episode where Toyman grew him, Bizarro, Captain Cold and Sinestro to 100-foot tall!  Given that this was the Japanese Poster, maybe they thought it would be too.

Could you imagine if something like that had happened in a Nolan film?  That would have been awesome!

I may be alone in that sentiment.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Winter Sucks: Frostbitten

Welcome to Lapland- zone of evil!  Today's film is Frostbitten, a Horror Movie from Finland.  I came across this film in kind of a weird, roundabout way.  Basically, I read about it on the IMDB Page for Lost Boys: The Thirst, since a major plot point from this film is pretty much stolen by that film.  To be fair, it's not exactly a mind-blowing revision of the concept, so it could just be a coincidence.  It is pretty much the exact same thing, only this film was made about four years earlier.  So what's the story?  Well, there are Vampires in Lapland (a region of Finland).  As it turns out, it relates to a mysterious Doctor, his experiments and some pills he has in his lab.  Let's just say that those pills end up in the wrong hand and shit goes down.  I won't SPOIL the whole thing, but I will give you a taste at least.  To see whether or not to defrost this film, read on...
The film begins some time ago (around WWII) with some German Soldiers going into a Cabin.  Unfortunately, they find unpleasant company there and...the movie stops telling you what happened there.

Yeah, they do get back to it earlier.
In the Present, a mysterious 'color-visioned' creature is on the loose.  What could it be?
We get to see a pair of Slacker Medical Aids, as well as a new Lady Doctor.  She starts to investigate all of the weird stuff, including the Specialist who only has one Patient- a woman who has been in a coma for over a year.

Well, at least he's not suspicious.
In Plot B, a group of (I Guess) College Students are planning to have a party.  Two of them are working at said Hospital, so it is kind of tied together.

They are going to need some drugs for the party, so what can they use?
Well, one of them comes across the pills and takes one.  He brings the rest to the party.

Unfortunately, the Lady Doctor takes the fall for this with the mysterious Doctor.
The guy starts to slowly turn into a Vampire.  It sure makes the dinner party with the girlfriend's parents- one of which is a Pastor- awkward.

Should I mention that he sees animals talking to him now?  He does.
The Doctor reveals everything.  Essentially, it relates to a mysterious girl and that bit from the beginning.  I won't SPOIL it all here though.
 Meanwhile, the Vampire Guy is on the loose.  He's not going to be the only Vampire for long, as the pills turns out to be vampire blood and there are going to be quite a few shortly!
The best visual part of the film is when you finally see the Doctor in his true form.  I won't SPOIL that either.

I also won't SPOIL who lives and dies at the Party.  You'll just have to watch the movie if you're so damn curious!  The End.
Honestly, it's worth going through the trouble to see.  Frostbitten is a bit uneven at points, I will admit, but the overall experience is really good.  The biggest problem is the pacing.  They do have to set a lot of stuff up- like the Party, the Doctor and the Characters- but they feel a bit flat at times.  If you make it through the early, slow points, you could get some good humor, gore and a generally-entertaining experience.  The spread-out plot could be a bit more cohesive- granted.  The whole thing, as I said, comes together pretty well in time and I won't fault it too much.  I like the Vampire make-up work alot here.  It's mostly done in pretty subtle ways, which is nice to see post-Buffy.  One concern with watching Foreign Horror Films is a disconnect in the humor.  There's not too much of that for me, but your experiences may differ.  I'd love to see how those horrible Madea films are seen over the World and if they have the same problem.  In summary, this is a nice hidden gem for you fans of Vampire Films.  Is it as iconic as stuff like Let The Right One In?  Not exactly, but it is a well put-together film that should satisfy something for those looking for something a bit different, while not straying TOO far from their comfort zone.  Take us away, sarcastic talking dog...
Next up, another Winter-themed movie that's older and more obscure.  Before he was Iron Man, he was...a bit player in lots of films.  Stay tuned...

A Post-Christmas Message

Christmas has now come and gone.  Was it good for you?

It is at this time that I feel the need to point out something for you to remember: while Santa may look nice and friendly...
He's not.
If you're a bad boy or girl, he will track you down and find you!
He can find you wherever you may hide.  You may not be able to see him, but he can see you.

Isn't that right, Massimiliano Cerchi?
Merry Post-Christmas...but watch your ass!