Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Pick # 3 "Mickey's Christmas Carol"

Well, due to the sheer amount of Holiday related goings on lately, I haven't blogged in a bit. However, I feel compelled to still share the final of my Christmas picks-- "Mickey's Christmas Carol." This is one of the Holiday specials that seem to have dropped off in popularity since I was a kid. This used to be shown every year, much like the Rudolph and Frosty cartoons, but when I asked my nieces if they had ever seen it they said no. I rectified that during a night of pre-holiday babysitting and they loved it. It's got a lot going for it-- Scrooge McDuck is a great Disney character who is rarely used, and it was produced in 1983, so it's an honest-to-God hand animated movie! None of the CG crap that floods the animation market these days.

So, here it is-- A few days late, but still a great movie. And what I've posted is the entire film (about 25 minutes) so If you haven't ever seen it you can watch it in entirety right here. Just make sure you watch it before Disney sends a letter threatening the lives of my family if I don't remove it from my site. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

DVD Review: "Black Sheep"

For many years Horror movies have often contained comedic elements. In fact, there exists a sub-genre within horror films that purposely push the humor to it's extreme. Director Peter Jackson's classics "Bad Taste" and "Dead Alive" certainly fit into this category. And Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead 2" is perhaps one of the most recognizable horror films of all time. However, the trick with this type of film is knowing how to temper the horror with the comedy to create a genuinely scary film, that also makes us laugh. First time Director Jonathan King's "Black Sheep" certainly has the concept and genre detail down, but the overall product still lacks some of the the charm of it's predecessors.

The story follows Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) as he returns to his family farm after being away for many years. He soon discovers that not only is his older brother now running the farm, but he has secretly begun genetically mutating his sheep. His experiments have transformed the animals from mild mannered grazers, into blood thirsty monsters. Now it's up to him and a pseudo-Peta protester that he found trespassing on the farm to stop the sheep before they overtake the country. Did I mention that Nathan suffers from severe Ovinophobia, or fear of sheep?

Director Jonathan King took full advantage of the beautiful landscapes of the New Zealand farm on which the film is set, which gives it a tremendous setting, and a truly big-budget feel. The film makes no attempt to be taken seriously, nor should it; It's a horror/comedy from the start. However, I feel American audiences are sort of left out of the main joke of the film-- the fact that New Zealand is a land where the sheep outnumber the people 10 to 1, which makes the premise of the film all the more humorous.

There are plenty of bad one liners, ridiculous jokes and gross out set-pieces to keep fans of the genre happy. Though, the scenes dealing with the film's main monster were suspiciously dark, prompting me to wonder whether that was a conscious decision on the part of the director to hide special effects that weren't exactly impressive.

Originally released as a double-bill, playing alongside UK horror film "Severance", this one will no doubt find a long life on the shelves of video store "cult classic" sections far and wide. Though not quite as over-the-top as the films that seem to have inspired it, "Black Sheep" is well worth the viewing, especially for fans of the horror/comedy genre.

Score: 3 out of 5

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's on my Christmas List this year...

Each year, about this time, I get the question from my wife, "What do you want for Christmas?" As I get older, it gets harder and harder to think of things that I really want, that are realistic to ask for. Well, as ideas for gifts that I would like this year come to me, I'm going to post about them for two reasons:

1.) I hope that my wife finds my blog at least interesting enough to give a look once in a while, so maybe she'll get the hint.

2.) It's fun to talk about what I want for Christmas.

So, the first thing that came to my mind this year is this 5 disc Collector's Edition "Blade Runner" HD-DVD.

Read the complete details about the set here. But believe me when I say, it is going to be awesome.

And at $27.99, I don't feel bad asking for it (unlike the super deluxe edition, which costs a whopping $40 more! That's right, $70 just for that steel case!)

DVD Review: "The Reaping"

At a time when so many classic horror films are being remade or "re-envisioned", it's refreshing to see an original screenplay like "The Reaping" get made. However, one can imagine why a studio would opt for the in-the-bag success of a remake after witnessing the third act of a film disintegrate as badly as it does in this one.

The film is about college Professor Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank), a lapsed Christian whose area of expertise is debunking supposedly divine occurrences, or miracles. She's contacted by a man from a close knit, bible belt town who believes that their river, which has turned red, has actually turned into human blood. Believing this to be the beginning of the biblical ten plagues, he hires her to come investigate and hopefully find a satisfactory explanation of this phenomenon that will calm the people of his town.

As is the case with many original horror movies, the setup for this film is very interesting. The first act was great, with Swank's back story being revealed through some quite interesting flashbacks and subtle exposition. The second act was also decent, introducing the young girl whom the town believes to be the source of their troubles. However, it seems the burden of proof for a horror film is the third act, which is to say, how well it can wrap up the ending. What usually occurs, and has certainly happened here, is that the filmmakers throw in everything that they can, visually and story-wise, often causing it to become awfully convoluted and hard to follow.

Tonally the film started off in the same vein as a film like "The Wicker Man." There was clearly something going on behind the facade of the quaint, peaceful town. However, the amount of borderline cliche elements that pull the storyline in several directions at once stretched the film a bit thin by the end. The story would have benefited from choosing one direction and sticking with it, rather than borrowing elements from other films that led to it's becoming a mash-up of hackneyed horror conventions. The film had a solid concept, but ultimately it falls short in providing a satisfactory conclusion to the story, leaving the viewer feeling slightly cheated, and slightly more confused.

Score: 2 out of 5

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"Speed Racer" pics look bad... real bad.

Ever since I found out that the Wachowski Brother & Sister would be behind the new "Speed Racer" film, I've kept it at arm's length. I mean, these are the guys who defined the term diminishing returns with a little ditty called "The Matrix Trilogy."

After seeing these pictures from the work-in-progress film, I can see that my doubts were justified. These pictures look like psychadelic, uber-digital, retro garbage. Now, there wasn't much of a chance that I'd see this and/or like it, but now that is a definite. Decide for yourself.

Click the pictures to enlarge.

Withersin Magazine Update

I've been officially added to the staff of Withersin Magazine as the "staff reviewer", thanks to editor/publisher Misty Gersley. I'll be contributing film and book reviews to the website and print magazine. If you are so inclined, meander over to their (or, i guess now I can say our) website and check out my reviews.

You'll find my writing under the "Reviews-->Films " section, and you'll also find some info and a snazzy pic of me listed under the "About Us" section. And hey, if you can stretch your alligator arms over to your wallet, maybe you could buy the next issue at you local Barnes & Noble. C'mon, help a brother out. Just kidding.

Check out the site here.

Christmas Pick #2 - "Home Alone 2"

Two more of my favorite holiday films to watch this time of year are "Home Alone" and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York." No matter how old I get, or how many times I see these films there are just a few parts that never, ever fail to tickle my proverbial funny bone.

For me, the unsung hero of the second film has always been Fred Krause, or as he was known in the film-- Officer Cliff. In his one and only credited screen performance, Krause delivers his lines with such emotion and desperation, I just can't help but crack up when I see it.

(Pictured: Krause, snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor nod in 1992.)

The scene may be completely unbelieveable, and a recycled joke from the first film, but to me it's like a fine wine-- it's only gotten better with age.

This one's for you, Cliff. If you say you weren't smooching the Hotel Concierge, then damn it, I believe you.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

DVD Review: "They Live"

"I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass-- and I'm all out of bubblegum."

That memorable line of dialogue pretty much sums up the attitude behind John Carpenter's 1988 film "They Live." Following in the long tradition of horror film-as-social commentary, this film is Carpenter's indictment of Reaganomics, the yuppie movement and conspicuous consumption of the upper class in the 1980's. Though the film's message is delivered with all the subtlety of a slap in the face, it's still a fun and entertaining watch from beginning to end.

Freelance construction worker Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in New York City as a stowaway on a cross country train. He is able to find work on a construction site, and even finds housing in a camp of other poor/homeless/vagrant types. Before long he realizes that this camp is the base of a movement that is out to bring down the government, who they've discovered are working in conjunction with alien beings to control the minds of the masses via subliminal messages.

The basic plot is genuinely creepy, reminiscent of the best of television shows like "The Twilight Zone" or "The Outer Limits." And the aliens of the film, who show their true form only when viewed through inexplicably powerful sunglasses, are actually really creepy looking. Though I was impressed with the make-up and effects of the film, I was somewhat disappointed with the overall treatment of the story.

Pretty creepy looking aliens, right?

This could have been a true classic, on par with other great "Aliens among us" stories such as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Instead it's a classic of a different kind-- a cult classic. The film is chock full of great one-liners and enough hammy acting to keep even veteran B-movie fans satisfied. Also, there is a fight scene in the film that can only be matched in length and ridiculousness by Peter Griffin fighting a giant chicken on "Family Guy."

If you're a fan of John Carpenter, Alien movies, B-movies or any combination of the three, you'll enjoy this film. While it's not exactly Hitchcock, don't forget who's on the cover-- Rowdy Roddy Piper. What you're going to get is an ass kicking good time with lots of laughs thrown in for good measure.

Score: 3 out of 5

Sunday, December 2, 2007

It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Now that it's officially December, I'm getting pumped for the holidays. That means I get to watch all of the Christmas movies that I wait all year to see. "Christmas Vacation", "A Christmas Story" and "Scrooged" are up there, but there are so many more. I'm going to post a few of my favorite scenes from these films throughout the month, and I'm starting it off with this very strong entry. Enjoy!

NOTE: I've included the subtitles for this one so you can fully appreciate the dialogue in this scene.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mr. Rocks' Magical Soapbox

I try my best not to let my blog be just a dumping ground for all of my personal rants that nobody would want to hear in real life. However, once in a while something irks me to the point that I feel compelled to write about it. Today, that something is the film "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium."

This film bothered me from the moment I heard it's title. Magorium is not a name-- anywhere. Nowhere on this planet is there anybody with the name Magorium, which means that the character's name was just a rhyming device necessary to create a supposedly clever title. If we're making up names, why not call it "Mr. Shmarehouse's Wonderful Warehouse" or "Mr. Tralabishment's Incredible Establishment?"

Secondly, this is yet another in Dustin Hofman's growing line of awful selections of film projects. What is happening to the brains of his generation of actors. Most of the main stars of the 1970's (Pacino, DeNiro, Hoffman) are now choosing absolute nonsense films, effectively ruining their legacy. I have not seen this film, and never will, because to view even one frame of Hoffman's asinine appearance makes me want to either punch him, or myself in the face.

What has happened to children's entertainment these days. I don't mean overall-- that is just too big a topic for this blog. I mean in terms of decent children's feature films. Between this one, "Nanny McPhee" and "High School Musical" I can see why kids are growing up so fast these days-- it's no fun to be a kid anymore. Give them something on par with "The Goonies" or "The Monster Squad"-- something that actually engages them-- and maybe they'll stay around in the basement watching them over and over like I did when I was a kid.

Okay, rant over.

Trailer: "Funny Games"

German filmmaker Michael Haneke, director of the 2005 thriller "Cache", has quite the cast for his new film. In his U.S. debut he directs Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as a couple who are the unfortunate pawns in the twisted game that their neighbor ("Last Days" Michael Pitt) has devised. Their objective-- stay alive. The neighbor's objective-- win the game.

This one kind of snuck up on me. I hadn't heard anything about it and it actually looks quite good. If done well, it has the potential to be a modern take on the great film "Straw Dogs." Maybe that's setting the bar high, but with the caliber of this cast, I'd say the odds are in the film's favor.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mad TV - supporting cast = Frank TV ?

After having funnyman(?) Frank Caliendo crammed down my throat in every other commercial running on TBS, I decided to give his new show "Frank TV" a shot. After all, I like impressionists, especially those who can supposedly do hundreds of spot-on impressions. The problem with that is, after the 8 or so main impressions that Caliendo displays on his commercials, the rest just aren't that good. Hell, even some of his marquee impressions are just okay.

First thing's first, and I may be a jerk for saying it, but Caliendo is a stocky guy at best. Sure, that fits the persona of some of his characters, for instance, Doctor Phil. However, when you're trying to sell Caliendo as an Al Pacino or as the entire cast of Seinfeld, it does nothing to help his act that he is about 100 pounds heavier than the people he is impersonating.

Having said that, some of his voice impressions are quite good. His George W. Bush is probably the best I have ever heard. And of course his John Madden is good, if only as a complete and utter caricature. But he obviously relies heavily on these two impressions, and they are wearing thin quickly.

After having watched two full episodes of the show, I cannot see how TBS possibly expects this show to sustain any amount of freshness given Caliendo's rather limited stable of good impressions. His particular type of comedy seems better suited to skits on Sunday football telecasts and Fox's poorly rated "Mad TV."

In the word's of Caliendo's "John Madden":
"Here's a guy who hit the jackpot and better cash his checks before TBS gets the ratings in or BOOM he's gone."

Monday, November 26, 2007

I've chosen a side...

One of the traditions of a couple who are getting married is to exchange "wedding gifts" on the morning of your wedding day. Until I was actually about to get married I had never heard of such a thing. It's a good thing I did, though, because my lovely new bride saw fit to present me with an HD-DVD player on the morning of our nuptials. In my shock it didn't even occur to me that my choice in the next-gen high def movie formats had just been made for me. Like a sandwich that was made by your Mom, everything is better when someone else does it for you.

I know how I am, and I would have bellyached about "which format should I buy" forever, instead of just getting the sack to just dive in and make a choice. Well, that choice has been made and I am having a ball with the new format. As of yet I only have Peter Jackson's "King Kong" to tinker with, but the difference in picture and sound is clearly evident. I also have several freebie HD-DVD's from a mail in rebate coming to me, and believe me when I say I am anxiously awaiting them.

Do I know whether or not HD-DVD will win the format war in the end? No. But now that I actually have one of the formats that are at war, I look at it this way-- If HD wins in the end that's great, I'll be ahead of the game. If HD loses out to Blu-Ray, that's fine too. I'll get myself a Blu-Ray player and stock up on all of the HD-DVD's that everyone will be unloading on the cheap. Now that's what call a win-win, buddy.

(Pictured above is the actual player I have. It's the XBOX 360 HD-DVD Drive. )

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Honeymooners

I just got married and I'm off to the Bahamas for a week. I'll be back Sunday with a sunburn and a hangover. Until then, enjoy Thanksgiving and save me some Turducken.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lost Web-isode #1 "The Watch"

So, apparently we'll be getting some new "Lost" snippets over the next few weeks. I wasn't even aware that these weekly interstitials were coming out. After watching this one I have to say, I'm not impressed. First off, the production value is pretty damn low. It looks like it was shot on the fly with a digital camera. And the music was definitely just pulled from the generic "Lost" soundtrack, which smacks of fan film. I spent the whole 3 minutes waiting for a punchline, because it looks like an SNL digital short that would be making fun of Lost. Hopefully this isn't what they are all going to be like, because if so that would be a letdown.

Here is where I would normally tell you to check it out for yourself below, but Disney pulled all of the YouTube versions of the clip so I can't host the actual video here. What a pain in the ass. However, you can go here to see it at the official site.

DVD Review: "Severance"

Sometimes advertising can taint the expectations of moviegoers before they've even seen a film. The tagline for "Severance" is as follows: "It's The Office meets Deliverance." Not only does that set the bar awfully high for the film, but what about those people who don't particularly like "The Office" or have never even heard of "Deliverance?" Such is the case with the marketing of "Severance", which is an original, well written thriller.

The film follows a group of office workers who embark on a team building retreat in the mountains of Eastern Europe. However, these people don't work in just any old office, they're employees of Palisade Defence, one of the biggest weapons manufacturers in the world (think Halliburton). Without giving away any major plot points, the idea behind the story is that someone or something wants these employees to pay for the sins of their company, and they must try to survive on their own in the middle of nowhere, with no means of calling for help.

Marketing "Severance" by likening it to other films/TV shows does it a disservice, especially in terms of it's originality. The script is intelligent and funny, yet the levity never undermines the elements of horror and suspense that make this a pretty thrilling film. My suggestion is to watch this film with no preconceived notions and you'll find it's a quality horror film that got somewhat lost in a market flooded with mediocre films.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Here is the trailer--

Sunday, November 11, 2007

DVD Review: "Sicko"

The following is taken directly from the text of one of the greatest speeches in American history, Dr.Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech:

"White men refuse to believe negroes have come to this hallowed spot to engage in the luxury of police brutality" *

What's the matter? That doesn't sound like something Dr. King would have said? Hmm. Well he did, in fact, say every one of those words in that speech-- he just didn't say them in exactly that order. But, according to the Michael Moore logic of picking and choosing contexts, this is fair. So should I set off to make a documentary claiming that Martin Luther King viewed police brutality as a luxury? The answer is no. The same is true for Moore's making a documentary about the American healthcare system.

Moore has always been very selective in choosing only statistics and "evidence" that support his claims. With no regard for presenting truth, he bends and shapes whatever research makes it look as if his point is valid. Problem with that is, the film that results from such discriminatory practices is tantamount to a propaganda film. Propaganda or not, at least his other films were somewhat entertaining to watch. The same cannot be said for this one.

"Sicko" is yet another in Moore's ever growing oeuvre of films that are a patchwork of cheap, sensationalistic, and often patronizing editing tricks. At this point I feel like I don't I need to highlight the hypocritical aspect of Moore's films and persona. Instead I'll use a visual aid to illustrate one of his editing tricks that may slip by someone who doesn't know what to look for.

In this scene, notice how whenever Moore has the bullhorn to his mouth, the scene is cut away. He is never shown on camera talking into it, and the voice that is supposed to be coming out of it is obviously dubbed from a studio recording. Just one of the many tricks he uses.

Score: 1 out of 5

*(I pulled the text of Dr. King's speech from this page.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Withersin Magazine

As of today my movie reviews are being published on the website of the literary magazine Withersin. The magazine is described as "a fresh and intelligent change of pace. A new genre in literature; exploring an unconventional side of the human condition." They have a lot of fiction, non-fiction and reviews--most leaning toward the horror genre. Check out the site, it's pretty cool. And while you're there don't forget to checkout my reviews here.

Monday, November 5, 2007


As of Monday November 5th I will be entering into a one week long fast of mostly every kind of media I am accustomed to. That's right-- no movies, no television and no internet. I will, however, access the internet for Grad school purposes only. I'm doing for several reasons, not the least of which is that I need to devote more time to my own career-related writing. Also, I do have a Wedding coming up, I think... I'll have to check on that.

Anyway, starting today, I will be out of commission from popular media for exactly one week. I'm not saying it will be easy, I'm not saying I'll come out alive... I'm not saying you care, but I'm going to try. See you in a week.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trailer: "Wanted"

I was a fan of Timur Bekmambetov's Russian mega-hit "Nightwatch." I've yet to see the sequel, "Daywatch", which was just released to DVD this week. Now he is back with his American debut in the form of "Wanted." He was able to attract some heavy-hitters, in terms of Hollywood stars. Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman-- not too shabby. However, with very similar films such as "Shoot 'Em Up" not exactly lighting up the box office of late, one wonders whether there is an audience for this type of over stylized action film right now.

Don't get me wrong, I love these films, but everyone knows that the genres come in waves that ebb and flow. Just look at horror-- not too long ago nobody was making horror films; Now they are the hot ticket. Regardless, it looks pretty fun, and James McAvoy was great in "The Last King of Scotland", though this isn't exactly the role I saw him in following that film.

Anyway, I'll have 2 tickets to "Wanted", a large popcorn and a soda, and that's all I'll expect to get out of this one, which is fine by me.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to anyone kind enough to stop by and check out my thoughts. If you're planning on watching any horror films, this is the time of year to do it. Here are five of my favorite horror films to watch at Halloween.

1.) Halloween - Well, I mean c'mon, its "Halloween". Seriously though, this is one of, if not the best horror movie ever. I love it-- however, do yourself a favor and steer clear of any version with the name Rob Zombie on it.

2.) The Shining - This one may not appeal to the younger, more desensitized, "torture porn" horror fan, but it's a terrific film nonetheless. While not an "in your face scares" type of film, it maintains a truly spooky atmosphere throughout.

3.) The Nightmare before Christmas - This one works for both Halloween and Christmas, but since there are so many quality Christmas films out there, I usually watch it in October. Also, if you get the chance-- this film is now in Imax 3D theaters. Check it out.

4.) In the Mouth of Madness - Being a huge John Carpenter fan, this is one of my favorite films, period. However, it's also one of the films that scared the shit out of me as a kid. It's a great film that usually gets overlooked as a quality horror film.

5.) A Nightmare on Elm Street - I would say that all of the Nightmare films are fun, but only the first one is worthy of a Halloween night viewing. It's the birth of one of the all time great villains in horror cinema. And it has an absolutely classic last shot!

There you have it. If you want a creepy, spooky film for tonight look no further. All of the titles are linked to their respective IMDB pages, so click away if you want more info on any of them. Otherwise, enjoy the Holiday and if you're giving out candy this year, make sure it's something good-- don't be the guy giving out Mary Janes and Necco Wafers! Happy Halloween, Bitches!

Monday, October 29, 2007

DVD Review: "Hostel II"

Eli Roth's 2005 film "Hostel" takes some getting used to. In fact the first time I watched it I dismissed it as gratuitous, unnecessary and an altogether awful film. It wasn't until I watched the film again, with the commentary on, that I gained a different respect for the film, and it's director. Roth is an intelligent, well informed filmmaker who pulls from a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of horror films to try to surpass what the masters of the genre had done before him.

With the release of Roth's sequel, "Hostel II", I was expecting a slightly deeper exploration into the minds of the kind of men who choose to take part in the Elite Hunting Club, the company that provides the films victims. Instead, what I got was a sort of retelling of the first film, in which the guys from the first film were replaced by girls in this one. And the men who have paid for the chance to murder these girls? They are given a slightly larger roles this time around, though with nowhere near the amount of character depth that would truly flesh them out.

This film is yet another example of unnecessary horror film sequels. It joins "28 Weeks Later" and Rob Zombie's "Halloween"** as films that not only do nothing to further the story of their predecessors, but also lessen the impact of the films on which they are based. Would I recommend "Hostel II"? No. I say, if this film looks like something you're interested in, watch the original. I'll even go one further and say to only watch the original with Roth's commentary on. His excitement and detail over the film and it's production outweigh the performances of the actors anyway.

Score: 2 out of 5

** I know that Rob Zombie's Halloween is not actually a sequel, but you get the point.


I can't say much for the current generation of "Saturday Night Live" players, because I don't watch the show enough to give a fair evaluation. However, if these short skits are any indication, the show may be on an upswing. These are absolutely hilarious.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

DVD Review: "The Tripper"

It seems that horror films with a political slant are becoming a new niche genre. With David Arquette's "The Tripper", Kevin Smith's upcoming "Red State" and the newly announced "The Ripper 2: The Burning Bush", they seem to have caught on. One can only hope that they will learn from the mistakes of this film and improve what could be an interesting sub-genre.

To state it simply, David Arquette is not a subtle man. In this, his directorial debut, a group of college-age hippies attend an outdoor music festival in the California Redwoods. Little do they know, a maniac who is obsessed with former President Ronald Reagan is stalking and killing them one by one. The concept is sound and, if put in the hands of a good director, could have been a very cool film-- especially if the antagonist was treated with any degree of seriousness. Unfortunately, this film was laid in the heavy hand of Arquette, who chose to take it more toward the horror/comedy genre. Trouble is, it wasn't very funny, failing to even taking advantage of numerous chances for great one-liners. And it certainly isn't scary. Creating a tense, scary movie takes skill-- a skill Arquette doesn't seem to possess.

What we end up with is a kinda funny, sorta scary debacle that would have never graced the silver screen of even one theater if not for Arquette's name being on it. I always feel that when a low budget horror film decides to go the route of "horror/comedy", it's usually a cop out. 9 times out of 10, the script is just not very scary and it seems like pushing the story to the absurdly funny makes up for it. Well, at least in this case, it certainly did not. To quote the man who inspired this film, "Facts are stubborn things", and the fact is: This movie stinks.

Score: 1 out of 5

View the trailer here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Trailer: "Repo: The Genetic Opera"

I've been hearing about this film for quite some time now. Before last night, the most I had known about it was that Paris Hilton is in it-- and that's enough for me to not take it seriously. However, during last night's Scream Awards I saw the full trailer and I must admit I am thoroughly intrigued. Could it be a complete piece of trash? Of course. But I will say this-- I am getting sick of the same old shitty horror movies that keep coming out one after another. I would rather see "Repo" than whatever new J-Horror flick gets an American remake (Regardless of how hot Jessica Alba is, "The Eye" will still be the same old shit.) A lot of message boards are saying "There's no way this will compete with Rocky Horror!" Well guess what? Maybe I'm in the minority, but I hate Rocky Horror, and I always have. Anyway, count me among those who will be catching this one in the theater.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

DVD Review: "Incident at Loch Ness"

Werner Herzog is a great director, and an enigmatic man. He has directed a lot of incredible films and attempted a few that notoriously ended up falling apart. One thing he has always done is strived to create interesting and unique cinema. Though he didn't direct this film, his persona supercedes any of its other elements and he is by far the main reason to watch the film.

This pseudo-documentary tells the story of Zak Penn (Screenwriter of "X Men 2" and "Behind Enemy Lines") attempting to produce the next great film by Werner Herzog. As they construct a production team, there seems to be conflicting ideas about exactly what type of film they will be making. Herzog is interested in the nature of myths, like the Loch Ness Monster, and why as a civilization we need to believe in them. Penn, on the other hand, has a decidedly more "Hollywood" type of film in mind.

It was quite obvious early on that this was not a real documentary. The story is told through the cameras of a film crew who is making a film about Herzog's life. They intend on accompanying him throughout the filming of this new film "The Enigma of Loch Ness." Problem is-- any sharp viewer will notice that the "candid" footage being captured during the shoot often slips into standard filmmaking techniques, such as shot-reverse shot in dialogue scenes. If there was only one camera, and this was shot on the fly, a shot-reverse shot could not happen. However, this didn't take anything away from the film as a whole, mainly because of Herzog himself. Whether it is his hypnotic accent, or the way he seemed to be the only one who truly wasn't acting, whenever he was on screen I was interested.

The film is certainly tongue in cheek. Director Zak Penn's character seems to be poking fun at the idea of a typical Hollywood producer, going as far as trying to hire a Playboy model as Herzog's official sonar operator. He also designed matching "Expedition Suits" for everyone on the crew to wear, bringing the feel of the film dangerously close to that of "The Life Aquatic." The film was funny, a little surrealistic and ultimately compelling. Even though I was in on the joke from the get-go, I was never bored. If you are a fan of Herzog, this is a must see-- even if just to see Zak Penn point a gun at him and exclaim, "Shoot this scene, or I'll shoot you." Good stuff.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Click here to see the trailer.

Monday, October 22, 2007

DVD Review: "Saw"

After the second and third films in the "Saw" series, I must admit that the Jigsaw act had started to wear a bit thin. However, in Hollywood, profit is paramount and these films bring in the audiences in droves. Now, with the upcoming release of "Saw IV", I decided that I should return to where it all began and re-evaluate the original film.

When this film was released, it wasn't expected to do much more than rent well on DVD. It had a meager budget ($1.2 Million) and no marquee star power. Much to the surprise of the studio, this film screened well. Here we are, 5 years and 3 sequels later and I still think they had it right the first time. In this case, the low budget worked for the picture. The emphasis had to be on the story, the acting, and of course the twist. In the sequels there seems to be a need to up the ante in terms of gross out traps for Jigsaw to subject his victims to. In the first film, there was no ante to buck up to-- no prior example for this to be compared to. I suppose that gave this film an edge, but the fact remains that it is still the best film in the series. The acting is kind of hammy and the story is derivative, but this is a horror film. All great horror films are influenced (read steal) from others. That's the name of the game. The major requirement is that you put enough of your own spin on it to make it different. This film succeeds there. It may be hard to see that now, in the age of the splat pack, but this film was something new when it came out.

If money wasn't as big a factor as it is in getting sequels greenlit, this may have been a one off picture. If that were the case I do believe "Saw" would be considered a classic in horrordom. As it stands, the status of this one is somewhat dependant on the amount and quality of the sequels. In my opinion, unfortunately, that does not bode well for the original. As long as the films are cheap to produce and make the audiences cringe, we'll be seeing annual iterations of "Saw" for a long time. Like they say, if it's Halloween, It must be "Saw."

Score: 3.5 out of 5

(View the trailer for Saw IV here)

DVD Review: "Planet Terror"

When "Grindhouse" was released last year, the trendy critique was that "Death Proof" was a masterpiece, and "Planet Terror" was just awful. The problem with that logic is that most critics are notoriously hard on genre films, especially those of the horror/sci-fi variety. If viewed through a horror fan's eye, this film has a lot to offer, from nods to other great horror films to terrific cameos from genre legends.

The film has a typical B movie premise. A Scentist (Lost's Naveen Andrews) has developed a chemical that turns people into mindless, brain-craving zombies. A group of deranged Military men, led by Bruce Willis, are after the scientist because they've been exposed, and the only cure after exposure to the chemical is a slow, constant supply of the chemical in concentrate. Needless to say, all does not go as planned and the store of chemical is released on the unwitting inhabitants of a small town. The story weaves several characters stories as they fend off zombies through the night in an effort to meet up and try to flee the country.

This is schlock on a grand scale, from the gratuitous gore to the stylized violence-- even a 5 year old kid is fair game in this one. If you're a fan of Zombie films, B films, or even just want to push the limits of suspension of disbelief and chomp on some popcorn, you should see this film. Whether or not the popcorn will stay down during the gory parts is another question entirely.

Score: 4 out of 5

Sunday, October 21, 2007

DVD Review: "Day of the Dead"

I am a relative newcomer to George Romero's "Dead" series. I had seen "Night of the Living Dead" while in film school, and I liked it. Within the past year I had also watched both "Dawn of the Dead" and "Land of the Dead." Though enjoyed them both, I began to suspect these films of producing diminishing returns. Upon viewing 1986's "Day of the Dead", my suspicions were proven correct.

The film was originally envisioned as the epic finale to what was then supposed to be Romero's trilogy of Dead films. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints and several other problems, this one didn't exactly have the epic feel he was going for. I think it was due in large part to the acting. I understand that zombie films aren't exactly scooping the cream of the acting crop, but these actors were distractingly over the top. I also found that too much time was devoted to the human characters and their struggle for dominance over one another. I was watching the film for the zombies, not the politics of who is in charge when everyone else is dead.

I will say that the film delivered in one major aspect: the effects. Special FX guru Tom Savini outdid himself on some of the more extravagant deaths in the film. Unfortunately the bright spots were just too few and far between. Overall, I would say that this film fits right in with my theory of Romero's films losing more and more steam as they go along. Hopefully his 2008 picture "Diary of the Dead" will be the boost he needs to get out of this two decade long rut.

Score: 1.5 out of 5

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DVD Review: "Battle Royale"

"At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed. At fifteen percent unemployment, ten million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The adults lost confidence, and fearing the youth, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act - AKA: The Battle Royale Act..."

That is the introduction to Kinji Fukasaku's 2000 film "Battle Royale." Based upon the 1999 novel by the same name, the story takes place sometime in the near future, when almost all Japanese teens have abandoned school. They've lost all respect for elders and essentially do as they please. The government creates an initiative to randomly choose one high school class per year to be kidnapped and taken to a deserted island. Once there they are fitted with electronic tracking collars, given survival packs and told that they have three days to battle each other to the death. If at the end of three days no winner is declared, they all die.

The film leaves something to be desired in terms of exposition and a thorough explanation of the so-called "BR Act"-- namely, what are they hoping to accomplish with the BR Act? However, the concept and delivery of the film's action make up for most of its rough spots.

Fukasaku's film seemed to have a strong socio-political message, however it was hard to decipher exactly what he was trying to say. The fact that there isn't an official U.S. DVD release didn't help, as I do believe the subtitles on my disc were sometimes incorrect. The music cues in the film were also a little strange. Some of the most dramatic scenes were made incredibly melodramatic by the overly emotional score. The strong point of the film was the "Lord of the Flies" inspired elements-- forcing friends to kill one another for survival is just a really hard idea to handle.

"Battle Royale" was very compelling and, though it left me with a few questions, the story was an interesting take on an established theme. If you can bear with the flawed subtitles and cheesy score, this one is definitely worth checking out.

Score: 4 out of 5

** This film has been tapped for an American remake, though given the the main theme of the film, and American audiences notoriously prudish sensibilities, I don't think it will happen anytime soon.**

Monday, October 15, 2007

DVD Review: "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon"

"Behind the Mask" is a humorous, behind the scenes look at what it takes for a man to raise himself to the ranks of the great cinematic horror villains of all time. While it falls short of its ultimate target, the originality and, excuse the pun, execution of this one make it worth the watch-- especially for horror fans.

The film follows Leslie Vernon, an affable, delusional subject for a documentary being made by 3 local graduate students. Vernon plans on returning to his hometown to claim vengeance on the townsfolk who believe that his mother had murdered him as a child. Part mockumentary, part black comedy-- the film eventually devolves into a somewhat traditional horror film when the graduate students come to the realization that not only is Leslie serious about being a mass murderer, but they have been a part of his plan all along.

While this one may have a hard time finding a larger audience, first time director Scott Glosserman made sure that at least horror fans would have a ball with the film. Horror veteran Robert Englund (Freddy Kreuger from A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays a supporting role, and if you look closely, Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees) even has a cameo. Never funny enough to be an outright comedy, never scary enough to be a true horror, the value of this films is in it's novel treatment of the horror film antagonist. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys comedy or horror and is looking for something different.

Score: 3 out of 5

Sunday, October 14, 2007

My Bachelor Party

Thanks to anyone who was able to make it out to my bachelor party. I had an awesome time, and I actually remember it, or at least most of it. For anyone who couldn't make it, please refer to the photo at the top of this post for my opinion. Just kidding. Hope to see you all at the wedding on 11/17/2007!

Friday, October 12, 2007

DVD Review: "28 Weeks Later"

Danny Boyle's 2002 film "28 Days Later" was the first film in the zombie genre that I recall featuring so-called "fast zombies", that is, zombies that don't react like the slow moving zombies of the George Romero films. Personally, I find this to be a much more scary, and more realistic depiction of zombies-- at least as realistic as the undead can be.

Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's sequel "28 Weeks Later" deals with the rebuilding effort of London in the wake of the first film's events. Essentially they had evacuated all of London, leaving the infected people to starve to death. After six months, they begin to repopulate the area, with the help of U.S. Armed Forces. What they don't realize is that some people who were attacked were not fully infected, and have become carriers of the virus. It's a decent setup, but I couldn't help but think that the use of U.S. Armed Forces as the occupying force in London wouldn't turn out to be more than a pseudo-political potshot at the American Military. After all, some of the most notable zombie movies are known to have socio-political commentary at their root-- just look at Romero's "Dawn of the Dead." Turns out I gave this film too much credit, because this one had no discernible subtext to it at all.

The pace of this film is not nearly as frenetic as the original. Being that it is about a group of survivors, led by a US sniper, eluding both the zombies and the Military who believe them to be infected, all of their movements are much more deliberate and tactical. There were a few decent scenes, most notably one which involves a helicopter mowing down a field of hapless zombies, "Dead Alive" style. But for the most part this was just a rehashing of everything we've already seen in the first film.

I'm not convinced that this sequel was necessary. It did nothing to further or enhance the story of the original. This is a sub-par entry in the zombie genre, offering nothing in the way of a new take or a diffrerent aspect of the genre. If the themes of this film grab your fancy, pick up the first film, "28 Days Later", as this one is better left on the shelf. And in case you are wondering: yes, it was left open to a sequel, one that will further sully the original's chances at being considered a classic. Pity.

Score: 2 out of 5

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Trailer: "No Country for Old Men"

The Coen Brothers look like they are back to form after a pair of films that were poorly received by both critics and fans alike. "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Ladykillers" were two of the worst films of their respective years. The Coen Bros. new film, "No Country for Old Men", looks like they've returned to their roots, to the likes of such great films as "Fargo" and my personal fave "Miller's Crossing." Now, I'm not completely sold on Josh Brolin in such a high profile role as the main character, but Javier Bardem certainly looks like he'll pick up the slack. I like the dark, twisted worldview that most of the Coens films have had, and this film seems to be no exception. This one has now become one of my most anticipated upcoming films. Check out the trailer for yourself here.

Save the cheerleader? Eh, if I get around to it.

I was late hopping aboard the "Heroes" bandwagon. I missed the first few episodes, and with serialized dramas that makes it hard to fully comprehend the plot. I was very excited for this show to come to DVD, as this is how I originally got up to speed with my favorite show, "Lost". With "Lost" I literally made it through the first season in about 3 days. I would watch 4 or 5 episodes at a time. With "Heroes", I don't know if it's the mediocre acting, the comic-bookish writing or the snail's pace at which the plot seems to crawl, but this show just isnt doing it for me. And believe me, I wanted it to.

Currently I am up to episode 15, and honestly. I'm in no hurry to finish watching. I attribute my lack of interest in large part to three characters in particular.

1.) Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey)-- This is one of the worst child actors I have seen since Jake Lloyd in "Star Wars: Episode I". He's another example of producers giving adult mannerisms to a child actor (ahem... Dakota Fanning) It doesn't work. This kid's nasal, whiny voice is topped only by his Jheri curl hairdo as his character's worst aspect.

2.)Niki (Ali Larter)-- Micah's Mom is one of the least compelling, worst acted characters in the show. Her story is contrived and is the one that I would be most eager to have cut from the show. And that whole "two different personalities in the mirror" effect has lost it's novelty. In fact it lost it's novelty when it was first developed sometime in the early eighties.

3.)Hiro (Masi Oka)-- I suspect that I may be in the minority here, but I find his character's high-pitch voice and innocent portrayal incredibly annoying. His is another story that is dragging on and getting very boring. I get it, this is your destiny-- so get to it already.

Basically, the only storyline I care about is that of Claire and Peter Petrelli. All of the other heroes just seem to detract from the interesting parts of the story. Maybe I am just spoiled from holding this show up to the bar set by "Lost." But I feel like I have been forcing myself to watch this show and like it. I have come to the realization that it is just okay. However, take what I say with a grain of salt-- I still watch "Saved by the Bell."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

DVD Review: "Dr. Giggles"

Keeping with the somewhat schlocky picks I've been reviewing lately, I chose Manny Coto's 1992 horror flick "Dr. Giggles." This one has quite a storied history, as it was released and subsequently taken out of print making copies of the film hard to find and thus very expensive to buy on ebay. Now, at last, it's been released on DVD as part of Warner Brothers "Twisted Terror" collection, proving supply an demand does indeed work, even for cheap horror flicks.

This film deserves billing somewhere between the trailers for Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving" and Edgar Wright's "Don't". That's right, I'm bringing up "Grindhouse" again. After all "Dr. Giggles" is absolutely, without doubt a grindhouse horror/comedy, complete with mounds of doctor-related one liners.

The antagonist, Dr. Giggles ("Darkman's" Larry Drake) is an escaped mental patient who believes that he followed in his Father's footsteps and became a surgeon. There isn't much more in terms of backstory offered, nor is it necessary. What this movie is all about are the one-liners the giggling doctor dipenses before he "operates" on his victims. The main character, Jennifer (Holly Marie Combs) has just enough high school pals for the Doctor to practice on before he gets to her and brings her home to his "office" for a special operation. If you're thinking this sounds similar in structure to the original "Halloween", you're not alone.

Overall, this is a fun slasher film. It's not very gory by today's standards, most of the more disgusting deaths take place just off camera; That's fine by me. Today's horror market seems more interested in the intricate details of what the innards of a murder victim would look like and less involved with creating what everyone really wants-- a great villain. Think about it, Freddy Kreuger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers-- they were all more important than the gore displayed in their respective films. While I won't go as far as to put Dr. Giggles in the pantheon of great horror villains, I will say he's enough of a character to make the movie fun. Grab a few friends, some beers and enjoy the cheesiness. Hell, I'm positive someone could make a drinking game out of this one.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

P.S.-- The DVD release of this film is very lackluster. It defines the term "bare-bones" having no special features, no trailers, no commentary and it doesn't even have chapter selection! That is very frustrating.

Monday, October 8, 2007

DVD Review: "Escape from L.A."

This year "Grindhouse" re-introduced, or at least tried to re-introduce film goers to the idea of exploitative, action driven films. Most people have long forgotten what fun a good, campy movie can be. After all, today films don't even make it past the script stage unless they have a bankable audience that the studios know will be there in droves opening weekend. One person who has never forgotten how much fun a good romp through post-apocalytic landscapes can be is John Carpenter. Snake Plissken, the hero in his classic "Escape from New York", may not have the cache that a Peter Parker or Jack Sparrow has, but by God he's got one thing they don't- Balls.

"Escape from L.A." is the sequel to Carpenter's aforementioned 1981 flick, this time with Plissken (Kurt Russell) being given the job of entering Los Angeles, which has now been turned into a prison-island, to retrieve a world controlling remote control MacGuffin. Along the way he must battle the L.A. underworld crime boss Cuervo Jones, who bears a striking resemblance to one Che Guevara. Helping him in this quest is a then up-and-comer Steve Buscemi, a "surfer dude" Peter Fonda and Pam Grier giving a turn as a transexual criminal Hershe Las Palmas.

This film is camp action at it's best. Make no mistake, Plissken is certainly written with tongue planted at least somewhat in cheek. Any writer who would write scenes where Snake both surfs on a tidal wave down Wilshire Boulevard and hang glides into a bombed out Disneyland and not cop to seeing the humor in it is lying. But the point is, it's fun. That's what it was meant to be and that's what it is. It's a popcorn flick and it's a damn good one. I had fun watching it, and if you were in the minority that enjoyed "Grindhouse", you'll most likely get your money's worth out of this movie. After all, it was only 5 bucks.

Camp Score- 5 out of 5

True Score- 3.5 out of 5

Friday, October 5, 2007

So that's what it looks like when a shark is jumped...

Season three of "The Office" has begun and through the first two, hour-long episodes several facts have become apparent. None is more evident than the fact that the quality of the show has gone down dramatically. Here are just a few reasons why I believe this is so.

1.) Jim and Pam are now officially a couple. The whole romantic, dramatic pull of the show was based upon the Jim/Pam unspoken attraction. Now that they are together, they are just Jim and Pam, a couple. It's much more boring and leaves a hole in the show where the taboo of Pam and Jim 's true feelings used to provide brief moments of emotion in an otherwise silly show.

2.) Michael is now apparently semi retarded. It's the Homer Simpson syndrome. People think it's funny that he is stupid, so they say "Let's push that to the Nth degree!" For God's sake, he drove his car into a clearly visible lake because the OnStar told him to. Into a lake, fully submerging his car. It just wasn't funny, and they need to bring it down a notch. Over-the-top comedy is great when it is used sparingly. Subtlety and classic in-office comedy are the bread and butter of this show.

3.) Not every episode needs to be an "event" episode. The first episode was the "fun run" and took place mostly out of the titular office. The second episode, while set mostly in the office, dealt largely with Michael visiting the offices of seven accounts Dunder Mifflin had lost in order to try to win them back with gift baskets. I'll save you the suspense- him and Dwight make asses of themselves and win back no accounts. I long for a self-contained office episode where not much happens except for the awkward, non-sequitur type scenes that had been the staple of the show.

All in all, I feel like the writers of this show have fallen victim to the trap many good shows do- they think anything they write now is gold. Well, let me be the first to say, it's not. Too much concept, not enough delivery for my taste. I am seeing more and more each day just why Ricky Gervais only let the original office go on for two years. He had said and done all there was to say, and knew when it was time to end it. That is an admirable feat. Hear that Steve Carell?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

BREAKING NEWS- Sweeney Todd Trailer hits; Goth kids en masse cream jeans. Read more below!

The trailer for the much anticipated Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film adaptation of "Sweeney Todd" has just been released. I have to admit that it looks damn good. It's a return to the darker, scarier Burton and thankfully far away from the likes of Willy Wonka.

So, I wonder when Burton is going to break down and just sexually assault Johnny depp in his trailer. Word to the wise, Mr. Depp, don't lay your drink down around Timmy. I'm just saying...

Anyway, the movie looks really cool and from what I understand every Hot Topic in the US is clearing shelf space for all of the pseudo-goth merchandise this one will spawn. Anyway, December 21st.... I'll be there. At the theater, not Hot Topic.

Watch the trailer for yourself here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

DVD Review: "Bug"

"Bug" is legendary director William Friedkin's adaptation of Tracy Letts' play of the same name. It's Friedkin's first film since 2003's forgettable "The Hunted", and his first horror film in over 20 years. Often times a play adapted to the screen encounters problems due to the fact that it was written to be on one stage, so there usually isn't much leeway in terms of setting. This actually worked in the favor of "Bug", and created a sense of claustrophobia to accompany the mounds of paranoia the characters go through. However, the film does have numerous other, fatal flaws.

It isn't often that a film will get to me enough to cause a physical reaction to sitting through it. For example, 1998's "Very Bad Things" was a black-comedy scream fest that absolutely gives me indigestion every time I see it. All that yelling and lack of a moving plot- who wants to subject themselves to that? I felt much the same way about "Bug". Everybody can remember a time when they have been cornered by a crazy person. Maybe you were at the grocery store or the mall, and you were approached and subsequently drawn into a conversation with this delusional person. I think I speak for most people when I say, in that situation, all that you really want to do is walk away from the person as fast as possible. Well, plunk down the 4 bucks to rent "Bug" and you've just given 2 such delusional people a captive audience for 2 hours.

The performances were over the top (and not in a good way) and the way in which Judd's character simply buys into the story about the "bugs" in her room is a little weak. Defenders of the film can play the "Was it all in her mind or was it real" card, because she is after all a depressed, delusional drug addict. But my response is, regardless of what was in her mind and what was real, the execution of the film did nothing for me but make me want to slap Judd across the face and tell her to snap out of it. Maybe that was Friedkin's point, who knows. What I do know is this film was equal parts frustrating and boring. And if you're looking for a scary movie, or even an entertaining one, keep moving because there's nothing to see here.

Score: 1 out of 5

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Review: "Hotel Chevalier"

After Wes Anderson's last film, The Life Aquatic, I had begun to lose faith in him as a director. His idiosynchratic style and musical cues had lost their novelty and the film wasn't much more than a group of eccentric caricatures thrown together on a boat. However, if his latest release, Hotel Chevalier, is any indication of what's in store for his forthcoming The Darjeeling Limited, consider me enthused.

Hotel Chevalier
is a 13 minute short film that serves
as a precursor to the new film. It looks as though Anderson has returned to the powerful, if melancholy tone that is always present in the undercurrent of his films. While he may look silly, Jason Schwartzman does a good job of not making his whole character a visual joke. And Natalie Portman is unbelieveably appealing, moreso than she has ever been on film. In reality, not much happens in the film, yet I found it completely engrossing. Reminiscent of something out of the French New Wave (then again, it is Wes Anderson), the time spent in room 403 was certainly not time wasted. It was just enough to whet the appetite of a teetering Wes Anderson fan and push me into the group who will be there for Darjeeling on opening weekend.

The film is currently available as a free download on iTunes, and is something I actually would have paid for. Here's to high hopes for The Darjeeling Limited.

Score: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

First Impression: Halo 3

I don't normally see myself as someone who can satisfactorily review a video game. I play them when I get a chance and I enjoy them, for sure. But to rate the merits of a game? I just feel like my likes/dislikes are very different than that of today's gamers. For instance, signing on XBOX Live to play Halo 3 only to be called a noob and be raped by much better gamers? Not my idea of fun. I play games like Halo 3 much more for the campaign, or single-player experience. Unfortunately, most games today are made with only the online gamer in mind. I'm happy to say that Halo 3 is not one of these games. I like it. I like it a lot.

One of my main gripes with sequels to really good video games is that they tend to want to fix what isn't broken. The basic gameplay is where the Halo franchise has always been strongest, and I'm glad to say, the core gameplay stays intact in the third game. The only changes made to the game are beneficial ones, like better weapons and more varied enemies. Also, the environment is much larger and more interactive in this next-gen iteration of the Halo series. Things like crates and objects that were stationery tableau in the first two games are now able to be moved and utilized to your advantage.

I have to mention that this game, especially in some of the enemy character models and one new weapon in particular, looks to have been inspired in some way by another uber-successful game. *cough-Gears-cough* But hey, that is fine. All great artists steal from other art, and video games are no different, I suppose.

All in all, this is exactly what I wanted Halo 3 to be. It stays great where it has always been great, and improves only upon things that deserved an upgrade. Kudos, Bungie.

Score: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Is there even an envelope left to push?

So this is the image I have seen 6 or 7 times today. It's for the movie "The Heartbreak Kid" and it seemed like every Septa bus I saw today had this poster plastered in its side. The fact that Ben Stiller is starring in yet another shitty romantic comedy is not what bothered me. It's the fact that the poster says "Love Blows". Are we really at the point where the ad campaign of a major motion picture is hinged upon such an immature, lowest common denominator, sexual innuendo? This is not the only film to use such infantile tactics. Here's a few other low-brow yuk fests:

1.) Meet the Parents/Meet the Fockers- One of the main, running jokes in this film is that the lead character's last name sounds like the word "fucker". Well, Bravo Gregg Glienna & Mary Ruth Clarke. You really hit the comedic motherload in naming that character. Who was your co-writer, a third grade playground bully? Gaylord Focker, referred to in the first film as Gay Focker. Let me emphasize that the gist of that "joke" is his name sounds like "Gay Fucker". Is there even a punchline? That one really bridged the gap between liberal Hollywood and close-minded homophobes. "Dude, his name is Gay Fucker! That's so messed up!" Indeed it is. I think I'll write a bland Rom-Com and name my main character Penis Fart Poop Head. Is that all it takes to pass for comedy these days?

2.) Mr. Woodcock- So in the title alone, there are two euphamisms for penises. And on top of that, Billy Bob is holding two basketballs over his crotch to signify, I suppose, his grossly oversized, swollen testicles? I mean just when you think you've seen the worst Hollywood has to offer, they out-do themselves. I guess they just assume dimwitted movie patrons will chuckle like Peter Griffin at the title and mindlessly fork over money to see this piece of shit. You know, there is a reason this film was held up by the studio from being released for over a year- because it was so awful. That 15 million total gross was well worth the 20+ million it took to make this one, huh?

3.) Balls of Fury- So, here we have another penis-laden title. And yet another testicular mock-up using sporting equipment. Hollywood is just rife with originality. This one looks like the one sports-related spoof that Will Ferrell turned down. On top of that, it's further proof that Christopher Walken will say yes to any piece of shit script that falls in his lap. This one isn't even worth it. If you pay to see it, I hope you choke on your goobers.

In conclusion, I hope I'm not coming across as a prude, becuse I'm really not. I simply find this type of childish marketing offensive. Honestly, what must these advertising agencies think of the movie-going public? Apparently their consensus is that the penis is the pinnacle of American comedy and we just can't get enough of it.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Review: Rob Zombie's "Halloween"

Remaking any movie, especially a movie as revered as John Carpenter's "Halloween" is risky business. If you stay too true to the original people will fault you for not adding anything to the story. However, if you stray too far from the original you will be crucified for ruining a classic film. What all of this boils down to is, your better off not remaking such a classic film, regardless of how you go about it.

Rob Zombie's previous 2 films were very polarizing. They are dirty, gory, in your face terror films revolving around a family of lunatic mass murderers. That may sound like the kind of director who would do "Halloween" justice, but Zombie's particular brand of filmmaking doesn't do much to distinguish his films from one another. In short: all of his movie are kind of the same schtick. Here is the formula...

White trash + Lots of cursing - subtlety - a good script = A Rob Zombie Film

Now I freely admit that his first two films have grown on me, though only after a few viewing of each. This third one, though, has tread upon hallowed ground. We are talking Michael Myers, here. I simply cannot go along with his vison for this film. Michael Myers is not 7 foot 5... he just isn't. The acting was especially bad (Young Micheal Myers, played by Daeg Farch, was unforgivable.) I think that this one should have been left alone as the greatest horror film of all time for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Zombie's movie holds not one single scary moment.

Will I see another Rob Zombie film? Yes. Do I have expectations that he will ever make a truly great film? No. His reputation and Rock Star frame of mind taints his filmmaking to such a degree that by it's very nature his work is tantamount to a rock video. Given his inclination toward fucked up families and gore, a more fitting remake for Zombie would have been Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's also worth mentioning that his constant use of horror icons in cameo roles has grown tired and distracting. Maybe if he would focus on getting better actors and not paying so much homage to older films, the quality of his own films will go up. Here's hoping.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Review: "Superbad"

** While this review contains no spoilers, it will be much better recieved if you have seen the movie.**

"Superbad" had a lot going for it in my book. It's about high school, it's from the camp of Judd Apatow, and it's got Michael Cena, one of the best parts of "Arrested Development." I'm not sure what I was expecting from this movie, but it didn't quite give me all that I wanted.

First off, it was confusing to me what decade the movie took place in. By the title, soundtrack and even some of the wardrobe it seems like the 70's- So much so, that I am willing to bet that at least one iteration of the script was based in the 70's, before the studio decided it would reach a broader audience if it were contemporary. The only real giveaway that it was set today is the use of cell phones.

Secondly, there were a few elements of the story that either didn't add up or had no payoff. Case in point: In the beginning of the film, there is a sort of bully set up for Seth (Jonah Hill), but as quickly as he is introduced, he's gone. The only slight payoff to the character comes late in the third act, most defnitely as an afterthought.
There are a few parts of the movie that seem to be set-pieces (think the "period" scene) that really didn't end up being as funny as I had hoped. Also, neither of the film's protagonist are portrayed as being stupid, so when Seth empties beer into laundry detergent bottles to bring them to a party, I couldn't help but lean to my buddy and wonder, "Now why would he do something so dumb?." Petty as they may be, these are the things that crept into my head on the ride home after the movie.

Having said all that, the movie was damn funny. More than that, it had a really nice character arc for the two main characters. For anyone who has ever awkwardly broached the topic of going to different colleges with your best friend, you'll immediately identify with the emotional heart of the film.

Overall, I did like the movie. Much like "The 40 Year Old Virgin", I think this one will get better with each subsequent viewing. While the term "Instant Classic" seems to be bandied about a little too loosely these days, this film may have potential- but I believe any movie should be out for at least 5 years before the word "classic" is ever applied to it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

DVD Review: "Vacancy"

I'm a fan of horror films. I will admittedly watch pretty much anything that comes out that looks remotely scary. When I saw the previews for "Vacancy" I was defnitely intrigued. Then the reviews started coming in and they were actually good reviews, considering the treatment horror movies usually get by critics. Now, it's out on DVD, and I was expecting a pretty damn scary thriller- I never quite saw this one as a "horror" movie. What I got left much to be desired.

It starts with a hackneyed plot about two unhappily married people (Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale) whose car breaks down and they end up at a creepy motel. Both characters are utter cardboard, with just plain awful dialogue. These early dialogue-heavy scenes sound like they were written by a college freshman- they give no depth or reality to the characters or their situation at all. Tack on an overly emotional back-story, and an unbelievably contrived ending and you've got "Vacancy."

I really can't stand when I 'm watching a movie and I can picture in my head it being pitched as two other movies put together. "Vacancy" seems like some writer thought, "It'll be like Psycho meets Hostel" Problem is, they've been done before, better, and so has just about everything in this movie. Sure, there were a few moments of intensity, but none that weren't given away in the trailer. Also, there are no real peripheral characters - just the couple and the bad guys. That doesn't leave much room for suspense.

Overall, this movie just didn't do it for me. It seemed like a paycheck movie for both Wilson and Beckinsale. Though, I guess it's worth a rental, if you put no credence into other people's reviews, like me.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Bonus- The director of this movie's name is Nimrod Antal... Nimrod.

Friday, August 10, 2007

5 movies that are grossly overrated

While I won't call this the "top 5" most overrated movies, these movies are certainly in the running. There are films that, for some reason, are just given a pass and what's more- they've gone on to become classics! Well, listed here are, in no particular order, 5 movies that need to be re-evaluated by society at-large because they are given just too much damn credit. Bear with me, this may be a rant...

1.) Scarface- Okay, now I know it's "cool" to like scarface. Every rapper has the posters, shirts, video games, etc. What I'm talking about is the film. As a film it is just not that good. As a matter of fact, I doubt all of the people wearing the shirts and hanging the posters have ever even sat through the entire film. They've heard "Say hello to my little friend" and "Cock-a-roach" enough times that they assume the movie is awesome. Ultimately it's the character of Tony Montana that is memorable, the rest of the film is downright forgettable.

2.) Ferris Bueller's Day Off- I'll admit it, I hate this movie. Comedy Central and TBS have both played it over and over until even the sight of it annoys me. It's just this generation's fascination with 80's nostalgia that has made this a "classic." Here is what I see when I look at this movie- Matthew Broderick is a jerk, his buddy with the Red Wings jersey is a crybaby and Jeffrey Jones (the Principal) is a pedophile. And the worst part of it all is that horrible sing-along at the end. Awful. Just awful.

3.) Boondock Saints- You know what, Troy Duffy? I saw Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance and whole host of other terrific indie crime films in the 90's. I'm guessing you did too, becuse you stole the best parts out of all of them and made a piecemeal, horseshit excuse for a film. If anyone is so inclined and would like to see a good film involving Mr. Duffy, rent "Overnight."

4.) Anchorman- This is another victim of the current "Random = Funny" phenomenon that has saturated the comedy marketplace, especially in anything involving Will Ferrell. A perfect example is the line- "San Diego. I believe it means Whale's Vagina." Is that funny? Really? And if so, can you tell me why, without using the words "random" or "out of nowhere"? I don't think you can. I don't want to have to force myself to laugh at a comedy because everyone else is. It just shouldn't be that hard.

5.) The Shawshank Redemption- That's right, I said it. "The Shawshank Redemption" is not nearly as good as it gets credit for being. It's a pretty good movie. Hell- it's a great movie! But ask 25 people on the street what there favorite movie is and I bet 15 of them give this as their answer. It's just too easy. Not to mention the script has voiceover throughout the entire story- come on, that's just cheating. It's number 2 on the top 250 list on IMDB, way ahead of films like "The Maltese Falcon", "Citizen Kane" and "The Third Man". Now that's just bush. It's bush-league.

Honorable Mention

The Usual Suspects-
I included this one because anyone who tells you it's really good has probably only seen it one time. If you watch it a second time, knowing the big surprise ending, it simply isn't that entertaining.