Review of Cube (1997)

1 Apr

cube

Cube (1997) is a Canadian sci-fi/horror/mystery film.

Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cypher (2002), Getting Gilliam (2005)).

Written by Vincenzo Natali (Nothing (2003), Splice (2009)), Andre Bijelic and Graeme Manson (Lucky Girl (2001), Orphan Black (2013 TV)).

Starring: Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett, Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson.

We open to a guy going through the cube rooms like he owns the place, until he’s suddenly slashed into pieces by a trap.

Then we switch to a whole group of people, who seem to have been there for a short while, but they already know that they’re in deep shit. They’re stuck in this structure, consisting of a lot of large cubes. Some of these cubes contain traps, so they have to figure out how to get out, without getting killed.

"Looks like my friday night. Only it would be my basement floor. And those would be dead prostitutes."

“Looks like my friday night. Only it would be my basement floor. And those would be dead prostitutes.”

At the start of the movie you know nothing about these cubes, so you learn with the characters, who are also clueless about what is happening. The cinematography also adds to this feeling. At first there’s a lot of handheld, kinetic shots, that make you feel just as disoriented as the characters, but later on the shots become more steady.

The special effects are pretty good for a low-budget movie, sliced up guy, face melted by acid, that type of stuff. But the most impressive special effect is selling the structure they’re in. It is almost mind-boggling that they only had one actual fully constructed cube. But with minimalistic, but smart adjustments it achieves the needed effect with flying colors. However, there is some bad 90’s CGI, but it is used sparsely enough to be forgiven.

The mystery begins as slightly confusing or frustrating, but very soon settles as very intriguing. And the movie doesn’t ruin it, by providing answers that were not needed.

The dialogue at times is pretty bad, there’s no denying that. It’s horribly overwritten and since it’s low-budget, the inexperienced actors just can’t handle such wordy lines. But at least the characters themselves are multi-dimensional enough as they’re written, relieving the actors from struggling to add what isn’t there.

Definitely, one of the best sci-fi films of the 90’s, proving Vincenzo Natali as one of the most adept genre directors out there. Splice, his latest, slightly inferior sci-fi horror movie being a proof of that.

Overall, it seems like a long Twilight Zone episode, which is a compliment, verging from light horror to mystery to high concept sci-fi. Recommended.

"The movie is about as close of an adaptation of this as Battleship was of the game."

“The movie is about as close of an adaptation of this as Battleship was of the game.”

Review of Capone (1975)

18 Mar

caponeCapone (1975) is a crime/drama/biographical film, loosely based on the life of Al Capone.

Directed by Steve Carver (Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), Big Bad Mama (1974)).

Written by Howard Browne (The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), Mission: Impossible (1966 TV)).

Starring: Ben Gazzara, Susan Blakely, Harry Guardino, Sylvester Stallone, Harry Guardino, John Cassavetes and others.

So here’s a Roger Corman produced Al Capone biopic. It is about as accurate as Death Race 2000 was a prediction of the year 2000.

Doesn’t happen so often with American movies, I was pleasantly surprised to see Vilis Lapenieks, a director of photography from my small home country, Latvia, appear in the opening credits. Had it been the closing credits, I would be unpleasantly surprised, because the movie excels at looking totally bland.

In the first scene I noticed that the sound editing was not so great, often the background noise cuts with the shots, it is a bit jarring, but it either improved later or I got used to it, so I wasn’t that bothered by it. It’s far from Birdemic levels of sound direction incompetence.

It sort of is a biopic, but it explores Al Capone’s life as much as the original Scarface. I would have liked if they had spent a little time developing and showing more Capone’s backstory and character, instead of instantly throwing him in to rapidly climb the mobster career ladder by punching and shooting select people.

Also there’s very little sense of passing time because they don’t really manage to make Ben Gazzara look much younger in the earlier scenes.That is not to say Gazzara is bad here. For this larger than life portrayal of the person he is ok. He achieves a convincingly menacing performance, selling the simmering anger even when he is smiling and being polite. Since he’s not provided with any redeeming qualities, he serves not as a complex anti-hero, but a one-note villain pushed into the protagonist’s position.

At times he seems to be drifting through the movie only to engage in instances of outbursts of rage, otherwise taking a step back to various mob dealings, that I failed to care about. Some of the scenes are delivered just as plot progressions being explained, leaving the viewer uninterested and distanced.

If you, like me, decide to watch this because Sylvester Stallone is in it, be aware, he appears pretty late into the movie and is not featured as prominently as you might imagine. He briefly manages to breathe some life into the movies, but it’s pretty much a lost cause.

"Wow, Stallone playing Al Capone? That should be interesting!"

“Wow, Stallone playing Al Capone? That should be interesting!”

 

However this is not at all surprising because it is after all a Corman movie and could be classified as exploitation (mobsploitation, if you will), than an actual historical retelling. But the problem is that it takes itself too seriously, no doubt inspired by The Godfather films.

So it’s not cheesy enough to be entertaining as a B-grade gangster flick. I kept tuning out during the dull dialogue scenes and not getting excited at the repetitive drive-by shootouts. At some points even using footage from another movie, which is of obviously lower, both sound and image quality.

Overall, this is a shitty gangster flick, that except for Sly being in it, fails to have anything remarkable about it to make it worth watching. Not recommended.

"That's right, smile, Ben. One day, I'm going to be the reason people watch this movie."

“That’s right, smile, Ben. One day, I’m going to be the reason people watch this movie.”

Review of Rear Window (1954)

10 Feb

Rear Window 1954 posterRear Window (1954) is a thriller/mystery film, based on a short story “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (The 39 Steps (1935), Torn Curtain (1966)).

Written by John Michael Hayes (The Trouble with Harry (1955), Iron Will (1994))

Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr, Frank Cady, Ross Bagdasarian and others.

We follow a middle-aged photographer played by Jimmy Stewart. His whole leg is in a cast, so he’s reduced to sitting in a wheelchair inside his apartment, looking out his apartment window the whole day. It’s the 50’s, they didn’t have cable yet. He overlooks an inside yard and the building across it.

There’s only a small alley that leads to a street so there’s barely any feeling of the world outside this apartment block. This adds to the claustrophobic and intimate mood of the film. If that’s all you see all day, than you might start feeling like there’s nothing outside your field of vision. The obvious sound stage look in that way helps the film. But soon you forget its fakeness and start seeing it as this weird surreal contained snow globe of a world.

To be fair, the building across have a lot of stuff going on, there’s not one single apartment where something peculiar isn’t happening and people rarely close the curtains. And one day the photographer becomes pretty sure that what he is witnessing is a murder. As the movie progresses, he tries to figure out what is happening and how to convince others, that he is not going nuts, cooped up in his apartment.

"I'll just hang this huge fucking telephoto lens out my window. Nobody's going to notice."

“I’ll just hang this huge fucking telephoto lens out my window. Nobody’s going to notice.”

The photographer has a girlfriend played by Grace Kelly. She wants to marry him, but he is apprehensive, because she comes from a different social background and they have colliding lifestyles. He rejects her and at first you’re glad that he does, because they really don’t have any chemistry and just feel like a forced couple. But later on, the girl gets interested in his little investigation and they sort of open up to each other. Which is kind of messed up if you think about it.

Jeff, the photographer isn’t that nice of guy either. After all, he snoops, he assumes, he is a dick to basically everyone he comes in contact with. Even his girlfriend he starts treating better only after she becomes involved in his unhealthy obsession with his neighbour. Jimmy Stewart is very well cast, he’s good at combining being essentially a nice guy with a selfish fast-talking dick. He was in the 40’s and 50’s what Jeff Goldblum was in the 80’s and 90’s.

Another exploration of their relationship is just the vast array of people in the apartments across, they symbolically represent the ways his life might turn out, depending on how he chooses to proceed with their relationship.

From a filmmaking standpoint this is a great set-up, because it allows the movie to be entirely subjective, being from the point of view of a single person and the building across is like a movie screen, where something horrible is happening, you wish to intervene but you can’t. Since Hitchcock was a master at manipulating with the viewer, this is a perfect canvas for him to work on. Another great aspect is how the movie conjures a fear of the possibility, that someone might look straight into the camera and see Jimmy Stewart looking at them and in a way see you, the viewer. You beg for the fourth wall to stand.

Overall, a great murder mystery with multiple layers, showcasing Hitchcock’s brilliance. Probably, one of his best movies. It’s just excellent filmmaking, hard not to enjoy. Definitely recommended.

"What? Rear Window? Never heard of it."

“What? Rear Window? Never heard of it.”

Review of The Dead Zone (1983)

7 Feb

dead_zone_xlgThe Dead Zone (1983) is a thriller/fantasy/horror film, which is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King.

Directed by David Cronenberg (Shivers (1975), Cosmopolis (2012)).

Written by Jeffrey Boam (Straight Time (1978), The Phantom (1996)).

Starring: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerrit, Martin Sheen, Herbert Lom, Sean Sullivan, Anthony Zerbe and others.

So here’s another one of the four thousand movies based on a Stephen King novel. When I watched the film I had just finished reading the book and my interest level for it couldn’t be higher. So it was hard avoiding comparisons, which is both good and bad as it always is when you’re watching adaptations of literary works you’ve read.

A young Christopher Walken plays the protagonist John Smith, who in the novel is a very normal guy, which is something you can’t say about any character played by Walken ever. He doesn’t look as sinister as when he got older, but his speech pattern alone makes him a more odd and arguably interesting character to follow. Yes, he might be miscast, but I never complain about seeing Christopher Walken in a movie, because he as always gives an excellent performance.


I can’t tell you how much I love this clip.

The story concerns an English teacher who gets into an accident, goes into a coma and then wakes up with a psychic ability. Of course this is half the book, because King likes to set up every character and its mother before something starts happening, here it is all the first act. A lot of character lack the depth, but you can’t do that in a movie and have a sensible running time.

They change around the way the accident happens and other details to shortcut between the main plot points and I have to admit that mostly they do a good job, since it would really slow the movie down, had they left all the extraneous shit in. Where I wished they had spent a little more time is the exposition, because it feels rushed and establishes neither the relationship John had before the accident or the lengthy period he spent in coma very well.

One aspect, which I wish they had included as it was, is the implications on the moral level, with Johnny’s mother’s obsession with god and insistence on Johnny being on a mission from god. They do allude to this, but the connection with his mother is left out. But at least the theme of Johnny being a messianic character still clearly shines through.

The movie builds suspense pretty well and it is basically a supernatural thriller and not really a horror movie. One of the best aspects is how the movie moves past the supernatural element, because it is important only as a set-up and for the plot points, which themselves illustrate. Also the plot is polished and structured better and with more sense. For example a section of the book which was just a serial killer murder mystery out of the blue, here doesn’t get so much attention and just advances Johnny’s character, is cool and moves on.

Another performance worthy of notice is Martin Sheen as a two-faced politician, who has a big ominous role in the future of the world. He is great and unlike Walken is perfectly cast as this despicable character.

From the direction stand point, it is a bit cold and detached, doesn’t seem David Cronenberg really was all that into making this movie, since there’s very little of his signature style.

Overall, definitely one of the better Stephen King adaptations, both in quality and faithfulness. I really liked it. Recommended.

"Who wants. To LEARN some English? Today..."

“Who wants. To LEARN some English? Today…”

Review of Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012)

9 Dec

tumblr_mcqe04RoYK1rrllfeo1_500Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012) is a historical horror/action film, that is produced by The Asylum, a film studio specializing in mockbusters.

Directed by Richard Schenkman (The Man from Earth (2007), The Pompatus of Love (1995)).

Written by Karl T. Hirsch (Green (1998), Clown (2005)), J. Lauren Proctor and Richard Schenkman (Flower Girl (2009), Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God… Be Back by Five (1998)).

Starring: Bill Oberst Jr., Kent Ingleheart, Jason Vail, Debra Crittended, Bernie Ask, Canon Kuipers, Chris Hlozek, Richard Schenkman and others.

Is there really any better way to learn about American history than from a movie that depicts a dead president killing zombies.

Bill Oberst Jr., who is playing Lincoln is really good. The performance would fit just as well in a serious movie. Spielberg’s Lincoln could have him playing the lead role. It wouldn’t be as acclaimed as Daniel Day-Lewis, who is loved by everyone, but he could do it.

It is almost sad that a great performance like this is wasted on a silly B-movie. But I suppose in some oscar-bait piece we wouldn’t get Abe driving his scythe into the skull of a zombie, while yelling „Emancipate this!”.

For the budget the production value is pretty good. You can tell it’s cheap, but it tries to have a style. Which is more than most The Asylum movies have going for them.

The dialogue is also some of the best I’ve heard in an Asylum movie. Sadly, some/most of the actors aren’t really able to deliver it convincingly.

Lincoln gathers a group of people to go and… well, fight zombies, I guess. In this group of people there is a black guy named Mr. Brown. Obviously. The plot is kind of confusing, I don’t know if I must have some previous knowledge of American history, but I seriously doubt that the problem lays there.

As usually Asylum uses CGI in their movies and here we get some CG blood and it is kind of sad that even in a B-movie today, we have to watch the shitty looking CG blood spurting about, since it used one of the main attractions of  B-grade cinema that we got to see some realistic practical effects. I guess it’s easier to put in some cartoon violence afterwards. But judging by the really unconvincing fake facial hair on everybody, I doubt there was a great potential for any special effects artistry.

This is probably the best Asylum movie I’ve seen and not even in the so-bad-it’s-good category, more in the low-budget-we-did-what-we-could pretty competent B-flick. It would be unfair to compare it to Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, the blockbuster this is mockbusting.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. Of course it’s not a good movie, but as far as The Asylum goes, this was one of the best ones they can offer.

"I feel like going to theater, you're coming with me John 'not Wilkes Booth' Wilkinson!"

“I feel like going to theater! You’re coming with me John ‘not Wilkes Booth’ Wilkinson!”

Review of The Final Conflict (1981)

25 Nov

The Final Conflict (1981) is a horror/thriller film, the third film in the The Omen film franchise.

Directed by Graham Baker (Alien Nation (1988), Beowulf (1999)).

Written by Andrew Birkin (Joan of Arc (1999), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)).

Starring: Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon, Lisa Harrow, Barnaby Holm, Mason Adams, Dick Anthony Williams and others.

Once again we follow Damien Thorn, who now is 32 and the CEO of Thorn Industries, one of the most powerful corporations in the world. Don’t be fooled by thinking that the movie is set in the future. It is set in 1982, so since 1976 when Damien was about 5 he has grown up really fast.

After getting hypnotised by a dog, the US ambassador to Great Britain commits the most elaborate suicide ever and guess who gets appointed in his place? Our friendly neighbourhood Damien. So the movie is basically about his rise to power, while a bunch of people try to get in his way, only to suffer horrible deaths.

It is revealed through concrete scientific evidence that some sort of star alignment crap suggests the second coming of Christ. Not on Damien’s watch, he’s going to kill every child born on a specific date. Oh, but guess what, his right hand man has one of them Christ-children, so we get a subplot that matters very little.

The scenes where the astronomers are figuring out how stars mean that they should bring back crucifixions, introduces one of my big disappointments. The score suddenly contains some distinctly 80’s sci-fi themes. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it is not mixed in with the classic, huge Jerry Goldsmith chanting parts, that are common in The Omen series. It’s just two clashing styles.

The themes and implications the movie brings up are quite interesting, sadly they’re not really explored as much as one would like. You have to think of how you would act if you knew you are destined to be a great, powerful man and something threatens this. You can identify with Damien’s paranoia, his ability to not view himself as entirely evil, since his path of life was chosen for him. I don’t want to say that his actions are reprehensible or character not despicable, but there’s a fine line to walk when your protagonist is the villain.

The movie is in a way a precursor to slasher movies, where they make sequels that progressively glorify the villain, who is the returning character on another adventure, and makes the innocents less innocent, less interesting and less likable. We don’t want the evil to be victorious, but we have started to care about Damien and he has almost become a tragic figure. To be fair, he has a lot more personality than the average slasher villain, but the connection could be made.

And yes, the good guys here come off as silly and worthless. And when we see Damien walking around, creepily charming the pants off of everyone, it is hard not to take the wrong side. If good is so boring and uninspiring, why not root for evil? That’s a fine question, that, sadly, I don’t think the movie asks intentionally.

Damien also isn’t built up as all that evil. His rise to power is quite slow. He is just a CEO of a big company, but he doesn’t seem like the most evil one even amongst real-life ones. He has a romantic interest, sure, he’s a bit rough with her in the bed and makes her son his right hand ‘young’ man. But that just doesn’t seem that bad. He’s like some mafia godfather, who doesn’t even do his own dirty work most of the time.

The worst part is probably the ending. It is well built up and it seems there will be this epic Good vs. Evil stand-off, but it’s the most anticlimactic thing imaginable. It’s just nothing, there’s no spectacle, nothing. The Omen ‘trilogy’ ends with a faint stabbing sound.

The best part about it is Sam Neill’s performance as Damien. He is really good, exuding dark charisma. Managing to look like a youthful millionaire playboy, but at the time pulling off the sinister undercurrents of the son of satan, now fully aware of his power and purpose.

Overall, I would say that the previous movie was more reliant on the novelty deaths, so if nothing else, this is better than that and Sam Neill is awesome. Still, not a worthy sequel to the original. Not recommended.

“Last night I semi-raped your mother. We are going to have so much fun today.”

Review of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)

20 Nov

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012) is a fantasy/romance/adventure film, the fifth film in the Twilight film franchise based on the series of novels by Stephenie Meyer.

Directed by Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011), Dreamgirls (2006)).

Written by Melissa Rosenberg (Twilight (2008), Step Up (2006)).

Starring: Michael Sheen, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Maggie Grace and a shitload of other good-looking people.

Here we are again. Thankfully, for the last time. Please, even if they decide to do some shitty spin-off, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Unless it is about Aro. I want to see a movie about him.

I don’t know where to start talking about this, because I don’t want to. The series as a whole has been an incredible journey through bad female role models, bad acting, bad effects and bad filmmaking in every other way. A year ago we saw the first part of the adaptation of the fourth novel. It was one of the most boring movies I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen Heaven’s Gate, Titanic and Alexander‘s final cut. It dragged like shit. If you pressed your ass against the floor, had some diarrhea explosion and then tried to blow it along the floor, using your mouth, it would be a more or less acurate representation of watching that movie.

To be fair this movie was way less boring. I still got bored, but I could see the simple-minded fans, who like the blank characters, enjoying the ethnical stereotypes, idiotic plot and the horrendous special effects.

We start off with Bela Lugosi waking up as a vampire chick now, all her senses have heightened, so she hugs Squidward with her Hulk-strength and then decides to go hunting for deer, doing weird faces and feral noises. She almost kills some cliff-climber, who doesn’t look down to see her jump away in a humourously frozen position doing an arc over a canyon, one of the many special effects in the movie done by a 5-year-old with Down’s Syndrome. Just donate the money, don’t make them work for it.

Then she remembers her baby, which is the most fucking creepy thing I’ve ever seen. Now she’s kind of pissed that Sixpack has ‘implanted’ her baby, so he’s destined to bang her. Him saying „It’s not like that!”, when it is exactly like that doesn’t sit well with Bela Lugosi, so Kirsten Stuart tries to do something she hasn’t done before. Emotions. Sorry K-Stu, A for effort, but F for looking like you’re face and voice doesn’t understand the concept.

After this, Sixpack goes to show his six-pack to Bela Lugosi’s dad, Charlie Movember. Sixpack for some reason thinks that taking off his clothes and turning into a cartoon-wolf would somehow explain his daughter’s absence. It doesn’t. Like at all. Charlie Tom Selleck is the saddest character ever. Every scene is him saying „Fuck it, no one is telling me shit, there’s no reason for me to be in this movie, I’m just going to grow my fucking moustache until someone decides to actually give me something to do.”

So basically Eddie Van Paleface and Bella Van Blankface have their horribly deformed child. It seems she’s ok, except for Sixpack’s  pedophile curse, being half-vampire and having this disgusting CG face. It’s uncanny beyond the valley of death. I wanted to turn away every time I saw it. 10 actresses play their daughter. So they all (or at least 9?) have CG faces. It is insane.

And that is not the only awful effect they have. They’re all rubbish. Almost every scene takes place on a set. There’s a shitload of blurry matte paintings, green screen as shitty as they get. Having people wave their arms in front of a green screen, and then replacing the background with a sped-up footage of a forest is not an effect I should see in a 100+ million dollar movie.

The movie starts as an unfunny fish-out-of-water comedy with Bella Lugosi discovering her abilities, having PG-13 extreme close-up sex and ironically having to learn to act human. Then it transforms into a superhero team forming movie, where vampires from all over the world are gathered. They all have various superpowers and represent stereotypes, eurotrash Russian guys, red-haired Irish ones, an Egyptian (might as well be Indian) who is the last airbender, yet conveniently forgets to use his abilities during the final battle and even some Amazonians and later Brazilians dressed in loin-clothes and face-paint.

They need to gather this team of vampire X-men, to protect them from Volturi, the evil vampires, who want to kill Squidward and Bela’s daughter Jailbait, because they think it’s a full vampire and not a half-ling that will look like a full-grown woman at the age of 7, when Jacob is going to fuck the living shit out of her unstable pre-school psyche. For some reason they manage to gather this team from every corner of the earth during a couple of months or something, while the Volturi are travelling from Italy. What is taking them so long? Are they taking the bus?

The plot they devise to protect the little CG-creep is so stupid and involves so much unnecessary details, which does not make sense when they have a chick, who can tell the future. I guess these vampires don’t get wiser as they get older. Just like the wolves keep looking completely awful as the movies go on.

I do have some good things to say. Since the love triangle is resolved, the movie is a lot less annoying, since characters actually have some motivation. The actors seem more comfortable. Chicken-Stu attempts emotions, Bobby Patterson at times seems to enjoy himself and Squidward laughs when Betty is kicking the mexican’s ass. And the mexican gypsy is somewhat likable, since he’s moved on and is saving his sixpack for Charlie Brown Moustache and his 8-year-old granddaughter.

Another thing I loved was Michael fucking Sheen. He acts so over-the-top flamboyantly gay, I almost felt like being prison-raped and loving it. I think he knew exactly what he was doing and joyously screeching at the sight of the abomination that is the little half-vamp Renesmut, is something he did specially for me the desperate anti-fan, who somehow failed to feel the tone of scenes despite the constant bombardment soft rock and score telling me what to feel.

So yes, the ending that involved the most decapitations you’ll ever see in a movie, Michael Sheen’s constant mugging, mincing and overacting, while masturbating in his pocket and leaving the unconvincing love-triangle in the dust made the movie barely, but bearable. Despite the ending introducing a cop-out twist, some deus-ex machina and Beige saying „No one’s ever loved anyone as much as I love you, Squidward.”, which is an outright lie. Turning it into a B-movie was the right choice.

Overall, it was better than the previous Twilight movies, but that’s like saying a kick in the balls is better than a paper cut on the tip of your penis. Some might disagree, but most will agree that both are pretty bad. I would never recommend this movie to any sane person. But let’s rejoice, it’s over.

“Oh my, Carlisle, you’ve been working out, haven’t you? And that neckerchief, a feast for eyes, you are.”

Review of Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

14 Nov

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) is a thriller/action/crime film, which is a remake of Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).

Directed by Jean-Francois Richet (Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008), Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 (2008)).

Written by James DeMonaco (Jack (1996), Staten Island (2009)).

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, Ja Rule and others.

The original had a „cold open” of sorts, that set-up the possibility of action in a movie that was more slow-paced, this time we open with a completely frantic scene, with our main character played by Ethan Hawke in an undercover operation, which doesn’t turn out so well. Some time has passed and we see him arriving at a police precinct on the New Year’s Eve, as it is about to close and relocate the personnel.

Then we see a shoot-out in a church, after which Laurence Fishburne is arrested. Soon he has to be transported and the two groups of people who will have to meet at some point are set-up. On the prison bus, there’s four inmates being transported, one of them being John Leguizamo going into his over-the-top neurotic mode. Some shit happens along the way so they have to stay in this half-abandoned police station.

When the new year comes, suddenly everyone’s new year resolution becomes to stay alive, because they get attacked by masked men and the people inside the precinct are left to try to hold them back. They even manage to make them more inhuman by having them be hidden behind thick ski-masks, due to the storm outside. But then they decide to add a decent, yet very unnecessary twist to who the attackers are. I liked the almost supernatural quality they possessed in the original better.

The movie does have some kinetic energy and interesting visuals, like a bunch of lasersights sniping through the windows of the precinct, a cool mexican stand-off, involving like 10 people and almost everyone who dies for some reason gets shot in the head.

Yeah, I know, since the original was in a way a loose remake of Rio Bravo, it is forgivable that they made another remake, but there’s really nothing that the movie brings, that validates its necessity to exist. It’s just pointless, it doesn’t change enough to make it fresh and really interesting and only updating it a bit doesn’t make much sense, because the original wasn’t all that dated.

The score was disappointingly bland, not even worth comparing to Carpenter’s iconic synth-drone theme.

The acting also isn’t that great, to be fair in Carpenter’s version the acting wasn’t the best part either, but it was also a low-budget film, with relative unknowns, who were acting western parts in a modern-day setting. Here we have amazing actors (not all of them, there’s Ja Rule, after all) with huge experience, but the acting is just as unconvincing.

Overall, might be enjoyable, especially if you haven’t seen the original, but even then I don’t think it’s really worth bothering. It’s conventional, some good actors pop up, at times entertaining, but ultimately a waste of time. Not recommended.

PIctured: The most jolly movie rape scene ever.

Review of Damien: Omen II (1978)

11 Nov

Damien: Omen II (1978) is a horror/thriller film, it is a sequel to The Omen, set seven years after it.

Directed by Don Taylor (The Final Countdown (1980), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)).

Written by Stanley Mann (Conan the Destroyer (1984), The Mouse That Roared (1959)) and Mike Hodges (Get Carter (1971), Pulp (1972)).

Starring: William Holden, Lee Grant, Jonathan Scott-Taylor, Lance Henriksen, Robert Foxworth, Nicholas Pryor, Lucas Donat and others.

They know how to make us remember the first movie. We start with the over-the-top score blasting, we’re on a beautiful location and you think that this might be more of the same arguably good movie.

Seven years have passed between the first movie and this, so Damien isn’t just a grumpy tyke. Now he’s a frustrated teenager, living with his adoptive family and trying to act as a real boy. You’re not fooling anyone, Pinocchio. Ok, actually Damien is fooling everyone, except his aunt, who’s making a fuss about it, so she’s put down by the dark forces. With dark forces I mean a crow looking at her ominously.

Damien goes to some kind of military academy with his cousin/brother. There they meet a new platoon officer played by Lance Henriksen. He doesn’t get to do much with the role, but it’s at least nice to see him. Later on he informs Damien of his destiny.

Jonathan Scott-Taylor plays Damien quite well, both managing to make him intimidating and tragically frustrated. He really doesn’t seem to have a solid understanding of his abilities for most of the movie and acts evil more instinctly than consciously. When Damien realises his purpose in life, he is quite distraught and it makes you feel sympathetic. I wouldn’t really want to find out I am the antichrist, seems like a lot of responsibility.

If someone is closing in on Damien’s dirty little secret, they can expect a visit from the friendly neighbourhood hell-crow pretty soon. But don’t let the death of suspicious aunt fool you. He doesn’t just stare at everyone. As we learn from his next attack, he’s going to actively try to harm you, leaving his staring contests exclusively for old ladies.

The crow-attack effects are quite well done, it’s no Birdemic: Shock and Terror, though. The problem is that after a nicely done crow pecking a woman’s eyes out, we see her walk in front of a truck only for us to behold something that suspiciously looks like a „love-doll” dressed in her coat, get run over. It seriously looks like a student film special effect.

Soon another problem becomes apparent with the crow attacks, but actually concerns the movie as a whole. It takes a step back from developing characters and moving the plot along and 40 minutes in, it’s still not clear if the movie is building up to something or are we just going to watch various novelty deaths of people who don’t like Damien, most of the time involving the goddamn crow.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the set-pieces are really cool, like one, that takes place on a frozen lake, but there comes a point, when new characters keep being introduced, just to be killed a couple of minutes later. The movie seems to be just a bunch of death scenes, somehow stringed together by the actual plot.

Yes, the first one had death scenes, but they were inventive, but sparse and mostly happened to characters I cared about. Not to mention that The Omen was a far more intelligent movie, that actually played on the psychological terror, while this is a B-grade exploitation version of the first film, relying on cheap set-ups and impactless pay-offs, pretending to have more substance than it actually does. Also it seems to abandon some of the more interesting ideas of the first one.

Overall, it’s not awful, but it tries to replicate the first one without really understanding what made it good. Using a shitload of death scenes as a safety net. Not recommended.

Pictured: The curiously snake-headed antichrist, looking just like Damien Thorn. Or any other doughy faced innocent looking kid.

Review of Splice (2009)

5 Nov

Splice (2009) is a horror/sci-fi/thriller film about gene splicing experiment not going as expected.

Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube (1997), Cypher (2002)).

Written by Vincenzo Natali (Nothing (2003), Elevated (1997 Short)), Doug Taylor (The Carpenter (1988), They Wait (2007)) and Antoinette Terry Bryant.

Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac, Brandon McGibbon, Simona Maicanescu, David Hewlet, Abigail Chu and others.

We see two scientists, who seem to have created these two CG creatures, which are revealed to be the combination of multiple species into one being. So yes, that’s what you get, you mix various species and get this blob of flesh that doesn’t seem to be very useful other than a scientific curiosity.

But of course it is. The scientists want to apply this gene splicing technology to humans, because it would provide incredible medical breakthroughs, but the corporate heads don’t approve this. It is reverse case of what we usually see in movies that try to push the idea of corporate greed, making the businessmen become reckless with the slightest possibility of profit. Here we have the scientists who are obsessed with their project. Similar to the mad scientist movies we don’t get so often anymore, like Frankenstein or The Fly.

The movie has a very slick visual style, some shots done with the use of such a wide-angle lens that it is almost fish-eye.

Our main characters are a scientist couple, played by Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody. From the first few minutes they have a great dynamic, are likable and believable. The chemistry is there, both literally and figuratively.  Nowadays there’s an odd lack of scientists in science fiction, which this movie provides in spades.

The couple decide to fuck their sponsors and go ahead with the creation of a humanoid creature. From it’s „birth”, it becomes clear, that things have gone at least slightly wrong. The creature goes through various stages switching from practical effects to CGI, the practical effects are done great, it’s Greg Nicotero after all. Then we settle on a combination of the two, which looks pretty decent.

What is the most interesting part about it, is that as the experiment progresses and the creature evolves and grows, it starts getting kind of disturbing and you can’t help, but question the ethics of things like this. Maybe this message is a bit on the nose, but it doesn’t hammer it all that much, except you start feeling uneasy watching the relationships that are forming between the characters.

And it does get really creepy, the horror element works so well, because by the time a real threat starts forming, you care a lot about the characters and it terrifies you psychologically. It’s not a slasher flick so there’s not a body count running through the movie, it’s more about the build-up, because you just know that something horrible is going to happen eventually. The suspense keeps you interested, while all the exposition and character development is happening.

Both Polley and Brody do really great jobs, but special nod should go to Delphine Chaneac, who portrays the creature in its full-grown form, it’s a very physically demanding role and she delivers. Selling the horrors of parenting, growing up and changing and science gone wrong.

It has been somewhat poorly received by general audience, some people complaining that it was disturbing and offensive. For me it’s one of the better horror films of the recent years, mostly due to it being delightfully disturbing without trying to shock people. Those were shocked? Well, in my opinion they’re pansies, who should do some research on what they’re watching.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot, I thought it was gripping, thrilling and twisted. Vincenzo Natali is a sci-fi filmmaker worth looking out for. Recommended.

Starring: Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody as young Professor Snape.

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