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Posted on 5/26/12 04:37 PM
This movie is just terrible. The plot: Four idiots (Leo DiCaprio Lookalike, Gary Sinise Lookalike, Brunette Chick, and Blond Chick) decide to go on an "extreme tour" of a town near Chernobyl. They go with two fellow "extreme tourists" (Australian Dude and his girlfriend, Norwegian Chick) and their tour guide, Uri (the only name you will remember). Once there they are attacked and killed one-by-one offscreen by mutants you never get a clear look at.
This is not a found footage movie, although it looks like it. It's every bit as poorly shot and badly lit as one. This is one of the most poorly made films I've ever seen in theater. It's like they try to apply found-footage principles to a movie that isn't a found footage movie. And what are those principles? Murky, shaky, amateur cinematography. Sorry, incompetent camera work works in a found footage movie (where the footage actually is amateur footage), but in a normal movie, it's just incompetent.
The movie is boring for the first half. They try to establish characters, but they're so ridiculously bland and unmemorable that I don't even know why they bothered. It didn't make me care when they died. The one memorable character is Uri, their ex-Russian special forces tour guide, and he dies first. The film picks up when they get to the city, offering up some unintentionally funny moments such as when a bear turns up in a building (a jump scare that elicited laughter from the audience), and the big "shock ending" had me and my fellow movie goers simply laughing and then asking each other "why did they do that?" The "they" in that sentence can go for the characters or the filmmakers, in case you were wondering.
There are several moments where you will ask yourself "why the hell would they do that?" I know horror movies are sort of known for characters making dumb decisions, but it's reaches some pretty ridiculous levels here. On more than one occasion while the characters are walking in one direction, their Geiger counter starts going off. They realize that they are entering a dangerously radioactive area, but they keep going despite the fact that THEY DON"T NEED TO GO THAT WAY. If anything, more radioactivity is a sign that they're going in the WRONG DIRECTION to get out of the city.
Like I said, the mutants are mostly kept in shadows. "Less is more" can often work (as in Jaws or Val Lewton's movies), but here, it's just an annoyance. There's no real suspense or atmosphere because the characters are so bland and the photography is so amateur, so at the very least they could have supplied us with some The Hills Have Eyes style man vs. mutant action but, alas, they don't.
This is a bad movie. Not exactly a horrible one, but definitely not worth spending any money on. This thing was practically made for Netflix.
Posted on 4/15/12 11:37 AM
Forget about the bloodless, ball-less Hunger Games. This is an action flick. A bloody, violent, well-choreographed, bloody, clearly shot, cleanly edited, bloody action flick. Did I mention that it's bloody? This movie reminds you of what American action movies looked like before shaky cam and PG-13 ruined them for the most part.
The plot is actually somewhat reminiscent of such films as The Warriors and Die Hard. A group of police officers raid a fifteen-story building full of gang members in order to take in their leader. Halfway up, they are spotted and ambushed. The film follows the survivors as they try to survive the martial-arts-trained, machete wielding gang, which leads to some of the most impressive fight scenes ever choreographed, ever shot, and ever edited. It's amazing. It's revealed that the main characters brother actually works for the gang, which opens the door for some drama similar to John Woo's classic A Better Tomorrow.
The characters certainly aren't deep, but you quickly get a feel for all of the characters with a minimal of backstory and dialogue, which works very well here. Also worth noting, the soundtrack rocks.
I don't throw this type of praise around lightly, so you better believe me when I say that I think that The Raid will go on to be something of a classic action flick, up there with the likes of Die Hard. It's that good.
Posted on 4/06/12 09:57 PM
Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant is a flat-out masterpiece that you will probably hate. If you cannot handle violence, explicit drug use, or sex, do not watch it. If you think that every movie needs to have a clear-cut narrative and likable characters, do not watch it. If you want every movie to to spell out its message for you and not demand any digging on your part, do not watch it. If, however, you are capable of stomaching disturbing material (the film earns its NC-17) and are willing to follow a character who lives up to the term "bad" in every meaning of the word, then check it out.
Harvey Keitel is our title character - a drug-addicted, gambling-addicted, sex-addicted corrupt cop on the edge. He lets off drug dealers in return for drugs. He takes the loot from a drug-store robbery and tells the robbers to beat it. He's in way over his head in gambling debts. In the films most famous scene, he pulls over two underage teenage-girls driving without a license, He doesn't actually touch either of them, but what he does will stay in your memory for a long time.
A nun is raped. At first he doesn't particularly care ("Girls get raped every day, and now we're putting up 50 Gs just 'cause these girls wear penguin suits"), but soon the lieutenant (a Catholic) is drawn to the case. The nun knows who the attackers are, but refuses to name them because she forgives them. The lieutenant can't believe that. If they can be forgiven for their horrible crime, maybe he can be forgiven.
This movie is gritty. Made on a budget of just one million dollars, several scenes are shot in public areas without permits, to save time and money.
Harvey Keitel gives perhaps the greatest performance of his career. He's raw and honest and makes no attempt to soften the character. He's absolutely dedicated, even to the point of famously doing full-frontal nudity. Few actors would be willing to show themselves in this light. It's a fearless performance. He deserved an Oscar. The fact that he wasn't even nominated is one of the Academy's most ridiculous oversights in my book.
Ferrara co-wrote the film with Zoe Lund, star of his excellent 1981 thriller Ms. 45. Here, she plays a drug connection for our hero. Lund was a real-life drug addict, and she would eventually die because of it in 1999 at the age of 37.
Bad Lieutenant is not for the faint of heart. But those who can stomach it and approach it with an open mind will find it powerful and intriguing. Keitel's performance alone is worth recommending the film. But everything else comes together to make it a hard-hitting masterpiece that asks tough moral questions and resists easy answers. I can't recommend it enough.
Posted on 4/06/12 09:12 PM
Abel Ferrara's King of New York is a stylish, action packed gangster-thriller with an insanely good cast (most of whom were unknown at the time). The story is sort of a modern take on Robin Hood. Christopher Walken plays Frank White, a cool-headed gangster recently released from a lengthy prison sentence. Once released, White takes charge of his old gang, and goes about his old ways, but with the intention of using his profits to build a hospital in a poverty-stricken area of the city.
The cast includes an absolutely excellent Laurence Fishburne (credited as Larry Fishburne) a Frank's right-hand-man, Steve Buscemi in a very brief role as one of Frank's men, and David Caruso and Wesley Snipes as cops bent on taking down Frank.
The movie (which was booed during it's debut at the New York Film Festival and elicited several walkouts, including Ferrara's own wife) deals with a theme Ferrara would explore further in his follow up Bad Lieutenant: a bad man seeking redemption in a hostile world. Frank is a cold blooded killer, but if he can get this hospital built, he feels he can be redeemed.
King of New York is probably Ferrara's most stylish film, and it has some great action scenes and an excellent cast. Absolutely worth checking out.
Posted on 4/06/12 08:47 PM
Abel Ferrara's follow up to The Driller Killer is a major step up, and one of his best films. Working on a larger (though still relatively small) budget, Ms. 45 is more stylish and ambitious.
The film stars Zoe Lund (who would go on to co-write Bad Lieutenant with Ferrara) as Thana, a mute woman who is raped twice coming home from work one day. The first assailant (Abel Ferrara himself, in a cameo) gets away, but she manages to kill the second assailant. Traumatized by the experience, Thana takes the second rapists .45 caliber pistol and takes to the streets - using herself as bait to attract would-be predators and kill them.
For a little while, the film is a Death Wish style vigilante flick, with Thana blowing away sleazy guys who try to force themselves on her. But as the movie progresses, it soon becomes apparent that Thana is terrified of all men. At one point, she spots a man on a date with his girlfriend. She follows him home, takes aim at him, and you get the feeling that she really intends to murder this innocent man, until he gets inside before she can take a shot. I won't give away the ending, which takes place at a Halloween party, but I will say that it's a hell of a climax, and Robert Rodriguez paid tribute to it in Machete.
Ms. 45 is first-rate revenge flick and an excellent example of the sleazy 1970s/1980s New York genre of filmmaking. It's stylish, dark, and entertaining. Check it out.
Posted on 4/06/12 08:23 PM
Abel Ferrara's The Driller Killer has been called the slasher movie equivalent of Taxi Driver, which is sort of fitting. It's certainly not on the same level as Taxi Driver (it's an ultra-low budget grindhouse pic from a director whose only previous experience is a porno), but in it's own way, it stands out.
The plot: Struggling artist Reno Miller (Ferrara himself, under the pseudonym Jimmy Laine) tries to create his masterpiece, when a punk-rock band moves into the apartment next door. The band practices at all hours of the night, depriving Reno of sleep. Being driven to the brink of madness, Reno begins to murder homeless people with a power drill.
The movie, despite it's slasher movie title and some memorable death scenes, ends up being more of a character study than a straight-up slasher. Reno is in pretty much every scene, and Ferrara does a hell of a job putting you into this characters state-of-mind. Scenes such as one involving a skinned rabbit and a disgusting scene of Reno eating pizza stand out in particular.
The film definitely fits into the "sleazy exploitation" genre that was in it's heyday at the time, but it's also a character study, a gritty look at the underside of the New York City circa 1979, and an interesting window into the New York punk scene of the time.
It's a dark movie that some might find disturbing, but it's certainly worth a look for those interested in gritty indie filmmaking, exploitation movies, or dark urban character studies (such as Maniac or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
Fun facts - Abel Ferrara claims in his commentary track the a homeless man cleaning a taxi windshield near the beginning of the film is actually a pre-fame Bruce Willis. Ferrara sounds drunk or high during the track (he usually does), but you never get a good look at the bums face, so who knows?
The film is generally considered to be the film that inspired the "video nasties," a list of horror films that were banned in the UK in the 1980's. The reason the film was banned was actually because of its graphic cover, showing a man being drilled in the head.
The Driller Killer is in the public domain and can be watched legally for free on YouTube.
Posted on 1/18/12 06:48 PM
It's better than the second (not that that's saying much, considering the second is one of the worst films I've ever seen); if you walk in an hour and a half late, it's a pretty decent brainless action movie.
It's way, way too long. Bay pads this movie out with so many pointless characters and scenes, that if he wasn't arrogant enough to think that everything he shot was gold this film could have been a little over an hour if he cut all the padding.
WAY too many pointless characters, who are mostly comedic relief. There's no problem with a few comedic relief characters in a big budget action film. But over half of the characters here are here simply for comedic relief. In fact, let's list them: Beavis-bot and Joe Pesci-bot (Sam's annoying pet Transformers who are not, unfortunately, voiced by Mike Judge and Joe Pesci); John Turturro's bumbling former FBI agent and his effeminate assistant; John Malkovich's douchey boss character; the Wreckers, who sort of serve as the much less annoying, much less offensive substitute for Skids and Mudflap from the last film; Shia LaBeouf's parents, annoying as ever; and Ken Jeong, who plays Deep Wang (a double entendre referencing the role of "Deep Throat" in the Watergate scandal, and if you don't get the joke, he explains it for you and then repeats it five times). That's ten, off the top of my head. All of them are annoying, and all of them could be cut out and the film would still work.
Shia LaBeouf's character is totally useless and annoying. He spends the whole movie whining that he isn't getting recognition for saving the world twice (which he didn't do, he was just hanging out there when Optimus Prime did it in the other movies, because he's always been completely useless to the plot). Poor Sam Witwicky, living in a giant two story apartment with a super model girlfriend after receiving a full-ride Ivy League education. I can relate to his frustration. He seriously spends the whole movie whining about not getting recognition, screaming like a girl during action scenes, and generally just being an unlikable jerk to everyone around him, including the Autobots who saved his life countless times.
And he never belongs. He never does anything necessary to drive the plot forward or resolve the conflict. He's there, and they try to make him look like the hero, but in the end, the Autobots save the day once again and he hasn't done anything to contribute. It's pretty bad when the main character in you're movie, as well as most of the other characters, is completely superfluous.
Wasted talent. John Malkovich, John Turturro, Frances McDormand (Coen brothers regulars), Hugo Weaving, and Leonard Nimoy deserve better movies.
Michael Bays US military fetish is on full display here, with a generic inspirational speech near the end, sequences of the military gearing up in front of a sunrise (it doesn't matter when or where they are in a Michal Bay movie, if the US military is gearing up, it's in front of a sunrise), and some very Call of Duty-esque actions scenes in the hour long climax (which really don't matter, since they only kill two Decepticons out of a LOT, and the Autobots save the day).
The human's are stupid. The DECEPTicons promise that they'll leave the planet if the Autobots do too, so the humans, naturally, completely trust the DECEPTicons and try to exile the Autobots. And what happens when the Autobots leave? Holy crap! The Decepticons try to take over! Who'd have guessed!
The villains, once again, don't get enough attention. And I have a hard time taking Megatron seriously as a villain again after he was completely dominated with no problem in the second movie.
In fact, the Transformers in general don't get enough screen time. Few of them are given actual personalities, and with the exception of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, you can't differentiate between them in the action scenes. And considering the entire conflict and resolution revolves around them, that's pretty bad. Instead, we are subjected to the wacky, annoying, stupid, superfluous human characters for almost the entirety of the film.
Oh, man, this movie's a mess.
Posted on 1/18/12 06:47 PM
The Big Gundown is one of the best non-Leone spaghetti westerns. You got Lee Van Cleef, the same year as Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; an awesome Ennio Morricone score (Tarantino borrowed much of it for Inglourious Basterds, and you can see why); Tomas Milian as a Mexican bandito who prefers knives to guns (although he's certainly not above using guns); and great direction from Sergio Sollima.
The plot: Lee Van Cleef is Corbett, a legendary bounty hunter. Corbett visits a local powerbroker named Brokston, who gets him to hunt for a Mexican bandito named Cuchilo (Milan), who raped and killed a 12 year old girl (or did he?...).
Lee Van Cleef plays a similar role to Col. Mortimer in Leone's For a Few Dollars More, and he's still cool as hell. Milan is great as the Mexican bandit who, like Eli Wallach's Tuco from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, gradually reveals himself to be a more intelligent and complex human being than we initially took him for.
The film is well paced with plenty of memorable scenes and great action, and Cuchilo's propensity for knife throwing leads to one of the most preposterous- and, therefor, most awesome- mano-a-mano showdowns in a western. And with the details surrounding the rape and murder in question revealed, the person he's facing off against, and the epic Ennio Morricone score swelling, it's extremely satisfying.
Posted on 1/18/12 06:46 PM
S-P-O-O-K-Y. The best horror film I've seen in theaters in... I don't even know how long. This is one of my favorite films so far this year. Very scary film. I liked it more than the Paranormal Activity movies, and I actually liked them a lot. It's very much in the style of a 1970's/1980's haunted house film, like Poltergeist. It actually lets you get to know the characters and builds suspense, instead of just throwing a nonstop onslaught of jump-scares and loud noises at you. It's written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, the same team behind Saw and the underrated 1970s/1980s style revenge-thriller Death Sentence.
It's about a family who moves into a new house. Creepy things happen. One of their little boy falls off a latter and goes into a coma. That's all I'll say about the plot. I don't want to give away too much. There are genuinely surprising twists and you won't see the final act coming.
What I will say is that this movie is that Whannel and Wan do an unbelievably good job of building suspense and atmosphere.
I can't even describe how much I enjoyed this film. A genuinely frightening horror film that isn't a remake and focuses more on characters and suspense than jump scares and loud noises? Why can't more studios put out this type of film? Even the typically annoying Saturday evening theater crowd couldn't stop me from being afraid during this movie. And I'm not one who's easily scared by films. Highly, highly recommended.
Posted on 3/27/11 08:36 AM
Skyline is like a SyFy channel original movie, but no where near as fun. From the trailer and the poster, you'd probably assume it's an Independence Day rip off. You'd assume right. But it doesn't stop there, it also rips off War of the Worlds and District 9.
I didn't go into this with high expectations. I figured it might be funny in the SyFy channel so-bad-it's-good way. And if it wasn't, then it's probably just a decent alien invasion film that's been unfairly bashed b critics. It's neither. It's as bad as Mega Piranha, but no where near as much fun to watch.
The movie opens with the scene from the trailer. The couple is in the bed. A light shines through the window. The husband gets up and stares at it, and is put in to a sort of trance. His skin darkens and his veins show. Then we cut to the beginning.
We're introduced to our characters, and they're some of the blandest of the year. Jarrod and Elaine fly to Los Angeles for Terry's (a rap star and Jarrod's friend) birthday party. There we're introduced to a few other bland characters, including one's played by David Zayas (Angel from Dexter, Garza from The Expendables) and Brittany Daniel (the tranny from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia).
We follow them for what seems like hours before we finally get to what's shown in the opening scene. The spaceships emit a blue light that puts people into a trance, and then they're abducted. They show the spaceships doing mass abductions, sucking in dozens upon dozens of people at a time. I have to admit, this is impressive. The special effects in this movie are great, especially considering the budget. Unfortunately, the script doesn't live up to them.
They decide to try and get away, but a few of them are killed in the process.
The whole movie takes place inside two apartment buildings. The producers/writers described it as "'Night of the Living Dead' in a penthouse with aliens instead of zombies." I suppose this is an accurate description. But where Night of the Living Dead had suspense and interesting characters, this movie has dull characters and is, frankly, boring.
There's a scene where the aliens send a sort of tentacled probe onto the penthouse, while everyone tries to sneak around and avoid it. Sound familiar? That's because it's the exact same scene as the basement scene in War of the Worlds. Watching it made me think of how much I'd rather be watching War of the Worlds than this, and I didn't even care for War of the Worlds.
There are a few unintentionally funny lines that I'll tell you here so you don't have to waste $7 and an hour and a half to see them. There's a part where the military nukes one of the spaceships and destroys it. Luckily for the group, they're building is left unharmed, despite not being very far away. Aliens spill out and our hero says the line "They're not dead, they're just really pissed off." That got some laughs.
***SPOILERS (not that you should care about this crap movie)
Then there's a part where the David Zayas character is in the apartment. A giant alien is crawling up the side of the building. He turns on the gas and just before he lights it and sacrifices himself to kill the alien, he says the utterly brilliant line "Via con dios, you son of a b!tch!" That was awesome. Too bad he died, I'd like to see a series of action movies about this guy.
So that's Skyline. Bland and boring. I'd say "don't go and see it," but this review is a few weeks late. If you haven't seen it yet, save you're money for something worthwhile. If you have, that's too bad.
This is my first review. Any good?