Saturday, May 31, 2014

Quick Review: Grand Piano

After Maynard's less-than-favorable review (see here), I was in no rush to see this.  Fast-forward to Memorial Day and my brother decides to watch it.  Okay, I guess I will see it after all.
Piano tells the tale of Elijah Wood's concert pianist.  After having a panic attack and not finishing a show 5 years ago, he is back to try the same peace.  It was, after all, written by his Mentor.  He is also playing it on the man's Piano as well.  Pressure much?
To pile on, he gets a threatening note on his sheet music.  This is confirmed when a man- who is obviously John Cusack- shows him that his threat is real via the red dot of his sniper rifle.
The pressure and stakes raise as Wood tries to find some way to call for help while being watched.  The presence of the man's henchman- Alex Winter...the hell?!?- makes this even harder.
Unfortunately, this film gets sillier and more ridiculous as it goes on.  You just keep going 'What?' 'Huh?' 'How?' as it goes on.  So much promise...but at least this Poster is cool.
I wanted to give this film a real good chance, in spite of what I read about it.  The film should be great.  To me, it feels like a mix of Opera, Dario Argento's The Card Player and Phone Booth.  The way it looks- while aping Argento alot- is nice and it looks very polished.  The problem is just that it falls apart under scrutiny.  The menace is a bit silly as you start to think about it, the villain's plot is weird and Wood's ways to seek help is a bit odd.  There are other little things here and there- like how his piano part in the performance has long gaps in it- that just make you question things.  Oh and that Ending...just no.  I found it a bit funny too that Cusack appearing was treated like some sort of surprise, since nobody can recognize the voice of this guy who has been a movie star for 20+ years!  A plot like this could have worked great as either a Short Film- just cutting to right before the performance- or with more set-up to make the late-film revelations seem less silly.  Clearly the complaints from folks like me are not bothering Wood or the Director...
In summary: A neat idea to start with.  Not so clever ideas to keep it going and to make it reach full run-time.  Rent and decide for yourself.

Godzilla Comics: That Time That Godzilla Fought Thor, The God of Thunder

While Godzilla is not the tops in Theaters- damn you, Superheroes!-, I think that I can still milk this for one more Update.

Wait- did I type that 'out loud?'

Anyhow, in the battle you saw some of last time, Thor arrives to help stop the rampaging monster.
Put the hammer down, Thor!
More than just fighting, however, Thor showed that he could work to protect us mere mortals.  If you don't save this building, what will Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet at the top of?
 You can do it, Thor!
While Thor didn't ultimately win the fight (whoever really beat Godzilla in the long run?), he would show us a decade or so later that he was up to the task of fighting a giant lizard.
Thor wins.  We win.  Plain and simple.

Oh and just for the record: I have not seen the new Godzilla film.  I did, however, donate to the Kickstarter to let Rifftrax do a Live Riff of the 1998 Film (now with a stretch goal to do Anaconda in October!).

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New Crap?: Patrick- The Evil Awakens

Apparently this was deemed necessary.  In 2013, the folks over in Australia decided to do a Remake of Patrick.  The 1978 film tells the tale of a comatose man who hides some superhuman powers behind his still facade.  While a bit dated in presentation, it is still a Classic.  The 1980 Italian Rip-off/Remake (Patrick Still Lives)...not so much.  Was this necessary?  Why do you need to do a Remake?  Historically, they work when the technology has improved greatly (e.c. The Ten Commandments, The Wizard of Oz), when the film feels different...but in a good way (e.c. The Thing, The Fly) or when it just goes 'balls out' (e.c. Piranha).  In contrast, Remakes that don't work are repetitive (e.c. the Platinum Dunes films), Remakes in-name-only (Earth vs. The Spider, Teenage Cavemen, Thirt13n Ghosts) or are just plain disappointing (Village of the Damned, Children of the Corn, Silent Night).  Other than the addition of CG and some slight aesthetic changes, this film is mostly the same.  The real question is this: is it good?  To find out the answer, you'll just have to read on...
Instead of showing us what Patrick did right in the beginning, this one gives us the *sigh* Opening Kill Trope.  There is SOME pay-off to this later, although it is stupid.

That is a tricky thing though: the hook of Patrick was seeing the powers revealed, while it is obvious in a Remake.  I guess they had to do something...but this wasn't it.
In an odd change, the regular Hospital is now a private Hospital in what appears to be in the middle of nowhere near a cliff.  It's more spooky...and silly.  Trade-off?
We still get our usual heroine, now with a boring back-story involving an estranged man.  It is *yawn* so exciting and *yawn* riveting.
She meets Patrick in his own private room- as the rest are lumped together in a Hall- and she makes sure to comment on how his muscle tone has been retained.

You're a real Nurse right?  I mean, people do wear outfits like that on Halloween.  Just a thought.
Anyhow, the Doctor- that evil guy on Game of Thrones- is doing all sorts of experiments on the comatose and has a deadline.

Didn't Robin Williams do this like 20 years ago?  Given this film's propensity for toothless Jump Scares, this one is about equally as scary.
You want to know whether or not this film 'jumps the shark' or not?  Well, here's your answer...

Patrick uses his telekinesis/telepathy to long-range access the Nurse's computer and check out her Facebook page.  So, in summary, YES!!!!
Bonus shark-jumping points for using a power from Patrick Still Lives- telekinetic superheating of objects!  Seriously, he superheats 'I'm Going to Die' Friend's phone and it starts to melt into his car seat!

He also controls the engine, the steering, the brakes and the seat-belt switch simultaneously to drive the car off of a cliff.  It makes you wonder what Professor Xavier could do if he went off the deep end!
We eventually get the flashbacks to Patrick's earlier killings- no SPOILER since this is a Remake and it is in the Plot Synopsis everywhere- near the end.  Why?, drama?
To really amp up the ridiculous, Patrick communicates with our heroine via text message.  Patrick has the mindset of a 17 year-old girl, apparently.

If you don't know how this ends, I won't SPOIL it for you.  Enjoy the disappointment fully.  The End.
If you don't know the original, it could be worse.  As it stands on its own, it is a good premise bogged down by the execution.  The film is full of many of the cliches and ideas that hurt modern films.  You get about a dozen fake-out jump scares- joy.  You get about half a dozen Scenes of people just wandering around in dark hallways- yea.  Oh and, of course, the Opening Kill Cliche- always great.  Without SPOILing what they are/when they happen, we also get a few too many 'Something crazy happens...oh, it's a dream' bits.  Does anyone like those?  Having said all that, the uses of Patrick's powers are often neat, even if they make you scratch your head quite a bit.  I've already said my peace on this, so you get the idea.  As far as this being a Remake goes, it mostly just flips things around.  What little it does new is just kind of silly.  I still recommend the Original over this one for a particular reason: this one feels dated.  It is chock full of modern Horror cliches, while having an overall plot that feels like something out of the 1960s.  The Original, while made in 1978, feels as timeless as possible.  I will give this film credit for one thing: the return of withered man from Lifeforce!
Next up, I return to one of my favorite punching bags...I mean, Actors.  With a cadre of D-List Stars, can the ponytailed one shine?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Delayed Reviews: Born to Fight (2004)

It has taken me forever to get to this underrated kick-fest.  Today's film is Born to Fight, a Thai Film that was kind of lost in the shuffle.  For those of you who missed it, here is a quick run-down of the Thai Boom in America that started about ten years ago.  Ong-Bak was a surprise hit in the United States- thanks to some great viral marketing- and many similar Films.  Some of them, like Dynamite Warrior (part of my collection), got just a video release, while others got released in a wider, theatrical market.  Amidst those films was Born to Fight, which is an in-name only Remake of a 1989 film by the same Writer/Director.  It faded a bit shortly thereafter after The Protector (which is in my collection) and has only since come back with The Raid films (the first of which is in my collection too).  Fight features many of the same people behind Dynamite, including its lead.  The film tells the possibly-real tale of a small Village that fought back against outsiders who came in to use them as political pawns.  It is mostly a set-up for big, dynamic action scenes- for better or for worse.  I rented this film long ago and actually bought the 2-Disc DVD from an unlikely source- a Thrift Store.  You may laugh, but I also got my DVD of G.I. Joe: The Movie, Daredevil (the Director's Cut) and my Blu-Ray of V.I. Warschawski from one as well.  After all of this time, does the Film still hold up?  To find out, read on...
In the opening, two Cops try to do an undercover job, but the Boss figures out who they are.  This sets up much shooting and action.
If you thought that The Matrix: Reloaded (and Dhoom) had a monopoly on truck-based fight scenes, you were wrong.  These Stunts are rough and were hopefully worth the pain to the Stuntmen.
Our hero catches the villain, but his Mentor dies in an explosion.  Being a Mentor in these Films is the just below Being The Lead's Brother, Being Chuck Norris' Girlfriend and Being One Day Away From Retirement on the Asking For Death Scale in Cinema.

Well, that and being the black guy.  Since there is none of them in this film, the Mentor bites the dust.
Our distraught hero goes with his Sister on a goodwill mission to give sports equipment to a rural village.  It is here that we get some subtle foreshadowing like showing the skills of our athletes and letting us see their super-hard soccer balls.
A group of militants show up out of nowhere and kill many of the people.  They take the village hostage and make demands: the release of the previously-captured villain.

 If you ever wanted to see Die Hard 2 in a Thailand Village instead of in an Airport, you are...really specific in your goals.  Kudos?
Our main hero- as a Cop- fights back first and drives the Village to work together.  It is certainly an easier sell to the people who are NOT in the front lines.

Fight!  Fight!  Fight!
Almost everyone in Town (save for the Extras) gets a chance to shine.  One lady shows off her 'Gymkata,' while this young girl actually kicks some notable ass!
The whole thing with their wicker-like soccer balls comes into play when they are used as weapons.  Seriously- a fight scene built around soccer balls.

Who says that having one leg precludes you from action?  Not Zach Gowen, that's for sure.
I won't SPOIL all of the crazy stunts and crashes, but I will tell you that the villains are taken care of quite definitively.  The End.
There's not a lot of substance here, but it is fun.  The film certainly doesn't aim to be a grand, epic movie.  The goal: set up action scenes and deliver.  In that regard, it certainly works!  People get kicked, people get tossed off of moving trucks and one guy gets exploded (see above)!  As the Credits show, most of what you see on film is what actually happened.  You see them practice the big falls and crashes, but there is no CG here.  The action is great and the tone is worth mentioning.  In our films, we usually get a nice, happy wrap-up.  In films like this (and The Raid), there are real, emotional consequences and nothing feels like it is just 'wrapped up neatly.'  It is certainly a bit jarring if you are new to these kinds of films.  Now, in all fairness, the film itself is nothing special.  The villains have little motivation and this is all just a set-up for the action.  It is an amazing coincidence that the guy who arrested the villain just happens to be in the Village taken hostage as a set-up for his release!  Holy random chance, Batman!  If you go into the film expecting fun and over-the-top action, you will not be disappointed.  If you go into the film expecting a really-serious plot and characterization, you will be.  I will leave you with this bit that has no context that could truly explain it...
Next up, let's get back into *new* territory with...a Remake.  Okay, the Film is new, even if the source material is from 1978.  Stay tuned...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Lock Me Up! (Holiday Edition): Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark

I support our watching shitty Asylum Films!  I'm a Patriot!  I certainly didn't just use this as a flimsy pretense for watching something that was already in my Queue- that's crazy talk.  Today's film is Mega Shark versus Mecha Shark, a title so silly that it doesn't use proper grammar.  Yes, it should be Mega-Shark vs Mecha-Shark- I'm just a stickler for this stuff.  Obviously that is not the biggest issue with the film, but it is the first one that got me.  The Plot involves a new Mega Shark- mostly just called Meg (are you listening, Writer of the Book 'Meg?')- showing up and threatening the World, or so we are told.  This film feels like it was written for a budget twice as big as the actual budget.  An Asylum film with a low budget- get out of here!!!  With this new threat, the U.N. borrows an idea from Toho- giant robot!  Instead of using the Robot Suits from Attack From Beneath, they make a shark robot based on the designs of T'ilk and that blond lady from Law & Order.  Can Science defeat Nature?  To find out (without SPOILERS), read on...
In the intro, two guys are towing a block of ice to Egypt because...drought?  Is it any wonder why we are running out of ice in the Arctic now?
The ice cracks- since the water is way too warm- and a new Shark appears.  Despite just reappearing for the first Sequel, the old one is dead...I guess.

I won't SPOIL what happens next (too much) since it is just so silly.  This sums it up though.
Thanks, newspaper.  I love how you explain what they couldn't show, slip in that the original Shark is dead AND somehow have multiple pictures of the new Shark underwater.

Bonus points for anyone who can spot that this fake paper is made in California and contains The Asylum's URL on it.
After showing Model 1 in testing with the pair, we see that the Military has already made a Model 2.  That's...sudden.

Oh and they make a point about it not having Nukes, thanks to the U.N.  Thanks alot, Superman IV!
Model is so powerful.  How powerful, you ask?  Well, it has FOUR Cooling Fans.

Seriously though, are those supposed to be something else?  Because, you know, they are cooling fans.
This film really struggles against what little budget it has (which appears to just be to add scars to the Mega Shark).  Case in point: the Piloting scenes.

Poor Elisabeth Rohm has to slowly lean from side-to-side to simulate the thing turning in the water.  So sad.
In an attempt to copy the most famous part of the Original film, we get another plane scene. just silly and I would love to see the faces on the folks at Mythbusters when they see this.

I don't say this often, but 'You are trying too hard, Asylum.'
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Debbie Gibson films all of her Scenes (save one) in this lab talking 'on the phone.'  You are literally phoning this in.

I'm probably the only one curious, but is she still boning that Scientist from the original film?
I won't SPOIL the Ending for you, but I will give you this weird and out of context shot to tide you over.  The End.
This is sometimes-fun, sometimes-boring crap.  The Story has promise, but it seems to fight itself the whole time.  It stops and starts being interesting so much that I think that I have whiplash.  Silly bit with the sharks and a sub fighting- over quickly.  This is book-ended by long, tedious scenes of the couple talking.  You guys are making Exploitation, right?  This thing is so awkward when it should at least be hilarious.  It is the kind of thing that I want to watch and laugh alongside with it.  If you want a great example of what's wrong here, there is a giant exposition dump about an hour in.  While recovering from an injury, Rohm has a speedy flashback which establishes that she had a kid, the kid got sick, the kid died, she became a drunk and then she got back to work.  That happens in roughly 90 seconds.  Holy crap- what was that shit?!?!?  If you want to see a giant monster fight a giant robot version of itself, I'd recommend Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. or even King Kong Escapes over this for the most part.  It has ridiculous moments, but they are not enough.  Even the Egyptians are over this, as shown by their non-reaction to the head of the Sphinx being knocked off...
Next up, the proper update planned.  This Thai Remake has lots of kicks, punches...and more kicks.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Night of the Lepus (Part 1)

Wow, this one is a long-time coming...for many reasons.  I have actually owned this Film for years and watch it almost every Easter.  When I rewatched it this year, I paid more attention to these Poor Bastards and was going to induct them.

Well, I am now.

Night of the Lepus, as you may know, is about killer rabbits in the West.  Giant, killer rabbits.  Dig it!

Early in the movie, we get this Truck Driver who stops to check his load...
He's got company- cute, deadly company.
'I'm in a film about WHAT?!?!?'
The next day, the Sheriff finds him and...yeah, I'd say that he's dead.

Or, to quote a famous line, 'He was dead five minutes ago.'
So who was he?  A Truck Driver.  No name given, no name asked.  What a pointless death.

As a side-note, there is a later Character in the Film (who is attacked, but not killed) that looks ALOT like this guy.  I was a bit confused.  See for yourself...
Up next, the second group of Poor Bastards.  They have even less set-up than this one!  Stay tuned...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Indy Flix: The Cinema Snob Movie

Now you too can learn the Secret Origin of The Cinema Snob.  For a big chunk of you, your response may be 'Who?'  Fair enough.  Internet Celebrity Status is a random and fickle one.  You can be super-famous to one person, while unknown to others.  To be fair, that can be somewhat true with actual Celebrity Status, based on time and location.  True story: I mentioned Vincent Price to a lady at my old job and she said 'Who?'  I really wanted to slap her, but I'm far too nice for that.  I punched a baby instead.  Anyhow, he's famous to a certain niche of people, myself included.  Apart from being an Internet Film Critic (the best job ever), he is also an Independent Filmmaker.  Since I got two of them- the previously-reviewed Paranoia and this one-, I will do my second review.  The Cinema Snob Movie is about...well, you figure it out.  It is a somewhat Meta Film that spews out more Film References in two hours than I do in about three weeks.  Granted- I got most of the people/movies mentioned, but I still feel like less of a nerd now.  Thanks, movie!  I won't SPOIL most of the crazy and weird moments, since, well, they are less effective then.  To find out just how a man finds a job in which he reviews Caligula II, read on...
Craig is an amateur Screenwriter who wants to turn his latest work- a Grindhouse Film called Black Angus- into reality.  A Snob, however, refuses to help him fund it.
Him and his friend find a new backer- Internet Celebrity The Spoony One-, but it turns out that they still need permits.
The plan- have Craig impersonate a Cinema Snob and get in the good graces of the man.  He comes up with the perfect cover identity...
Hmm...let's try it again.
That's better.  So he infilitrates the group and has to suffer through them over-critiquing Being John Malkovich.

Even to me, these people are insufferable.
Things get bad when members of the group are getting killed by an unseen killer.  Dig the low-budget gore!
The Cops, naturally, start to investigate these related murders.  Craig and the love-interest (also the Wife of the man they need Permits from) decide to investigate the crimes like in Giallo Films.

Oh and for the record, Dario Argento over Lucio Fulci for all-time!  You bet on the wrong horse, characters in the Film.
Craig sets about trying to solve the case with all of his...non-detective skills as the body count.  My detective skills notice a promo poster for often-mocked Spielberg Film 1941 in the background.
Can he solve the crime?  Can he get his Film made?  Will this set-up a Video Review Series (with no storyline)?  To find out, watch the movie.  The End.
It is good and definitely shows some promise.  The Story is simple enough, but that's fine for an 'origin story' like this.  I will note again how much of the dialog is just people mentioning a movie or someone in a movie.  Like I said, I got alot of them, but it started to turn into 'This was also a thing.'  I did like the Snob's fake name being 'Vincent Dawn' though.  Any Bruno Mattei fans out there?  I will say this: the Acting is not super good and the thing looks somewhat cheap at times.  To be fair, it is.  I haven't watched the VLogs on his Site about how the Film was made, but I know that it wasn't a big-budget affair.  There are things that make more sense when you know some of the stories.  For example, Spoony doesn't live in Illinois, so he just shot while he was there.  That helps explain why his latter Scenes are in a room all by himself and just talking on the phone.  It doesn't bother me all that much.  If this Film is a sign of what Brad and company are going to do in the future, it is certainly a good one.  While the low-budget feel and name-dropping dialog isn't for everyone, I had a good time.  I will now enjoy some [Label Covered] Alcohol...
Up next, I revisit a Thai Remake that has Fight.  If you can fight with one leg, you're a bad-ass!  Stay tuned...