Fase 7 aka Phase 7
2.5 out of 5 stars
From Argentina comes this tale of urban paranoia set in a quarantined building. To get an idea of the film, imagine a talky and rather uneventful [REC] only with the flu rather than rabies. What is interesting about the film is that the subject matter (tenants of an upscale inner-city apartment building are locked down due to a potential disease outbreak) is ripe with possibilities – paranoia, mistrust, death, etc. However, the subject is handled so lightly - almost for laughs – that it loses any of its punch. There are some decent enough portrayals here, but it all is presented so clumsily that it’s just hard to take it seriously. Rentable… but it just doesn’t live up to its potential.
Fase 7 aka Phase 7
3 out of 5 stars
Ooooooooooo-k… This is a film that really needs to be addressed in two parts. While the story is reportedly based on real events, the first part - and make no mistake about this - is a softcore gay porn film. There’s some rudimentary setup about how the character of The Man has trouble meeting the right guy. Finally, he meets up with the character called The Flesh (for reasons which will make themselves known in the third act) and they make their agreement: The Man will kill and eat The Flesh. So after a lot of simulated gay sex scenes, we get to the riveting third act which is where the narrative shifts from softcore porn to full-blown gore film. Once The Man lops off The Flesh’s dick - and yes you read that right - things change dramatically (yeah, no shit!) What follows is some VERY graphic scenes of dismemberment and corpse worship that will have most of your reaching for your air sickness bags. The big problem in all of this is that, at no time, does the film or the filmmakers try to makes any sense of it all. At no time is even an attempt made to provide reasons for the events much less answers to why it all occurred. While it sort of begins as docu-drama, it becomes wholly exploitative, as if the film chooses to become the very thing it sets out NOT to be. The film itself is low budget and poorly acted with some of the WORST A.D.R. you’ve ever heard in your life. But acting and quality direction is not why one comes to a film called CANNIBAL. So, bottom line, is it worth renting? Well, sort of. Gore fans will dig the last act, but most of them will be so turned off by the first two acts that they will either give up on the film or break a finger on the Fast Forward button. So yeah, go with caution, friends. This one may leave a mark.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story
3 out of 5 stars
Think of ANY song from a Disney film and you’ve undoubtedly heard the work of Robert & Richard Sherman. The list of songs they’ve authored is that staggering. Sons Gregory and Jeff Sherman direct this comprehensive documentary on their father’s career and gives us insight into their estrangement. Mostly told via talking heads and archival photographs, the film is not only a document of some of the best music ever recorded… but it’s also a touching story of fraternal love and how the hope of reconciliation can fuel a person’s life. It’s funny how deep some of these songs go… and the documentary exploits this heavily by knowing how they strum so expertly on listener’s heart strings. It helps if the viewer is a Disney fan, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Heart-warming and informative, THE BOYS is a fascinating watch.
2.75 out of 5 stars
Director Robert Eggers brings us this “Colonial Satanic Panic” flick. Well-made and solidly acted, the film starts slow and never really picks up speed from there. More of a ‘mood piece’ than linear narrative, its tale of witchcraft and Satanism and how it affects one family is engaging (mostly, it’s you trying to figure out WTF is going on), but strip the moodiness and mystery away, its narrative just doesn’t ever really go anywhere. So, by the time you get to the wholly predictable ending, the audience just doesn't care. Nothing *resonates*. All in all, some spooky stuff happens, blame gets freely spread around, and then, characters act like nothing much has happened. But my biggest confusion lies in the popularity of the Black Phillip character. I simply don’t get it. In the end, THE VVITCH is a spooky little time-waster that looks nice, but ultimately leaves the viewer more confused than frightened. As this is Eggers’ films feature, I look forward to his next films – supposedly, it’s a remake of the classic silent film, NOSFERATU. Worth seeing, but… don’t believe the hype.
Helldriver (aka (Nihon Bundan: Heru Doraibâ)
3 out of 5 stars
Another splashy flick from Sushi Typhoon directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura (TOKYO GORE POLICE, VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, ROBOGEISHA, MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD) and starring Eihi Shiina (AUDTION). This time, we have a world overrun by “infected” humans and a mission to go into the land that had been abdicated to them in order to kill the primary zombie. If you’ve ever seen one of Nishimura’s movies, you’ll already know what you’re in for here. If not, imagine a GWAR show as seen through the eyes of early Sam Raimior FX legend Screaming Mad George and you won’t be too far off. The action is fast and furious… and pretty silly, but it is also damn amusing and fun. The acting (if that’s what you want to call it) is mostly made up of angst-filled screeds of exposition mixed with long, uninterrupted shots of people screaming. The whole thing plays like one of those tentacle manga as imagined by an eleven year old. “In-jokes” abound with references to everything from BLADE RUNNER to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to KILL BILL, but the proceedings never tarry long enough for the viewer to get bored by them. The film pretty much is fueled by its own kinetic energy and boy does this director like to see blood spray into the air. Yes, it ridiculous and, well… kind of stupid, but its is fun, wildly imaginative, and gory as hell. Recommended, but you might want to leave your intellect at the door.
2 out of 5 stars
Nordic horror cinema has come a long way… whether we’re talking DEAD SNOW, TROLLHUNTER, or this latest entry, RAGNAROK. The film is basically “JURASSIC PARK in the Netherlands with a giant snake” and it follows all of Spielberg’s award winner’s beats. The plot is VERY similar to JP as is the cast and there are very few surprises in its ~90 minute run-time. The creature is nothing to write home about – mostly CG and created with little thought to anatomical uniqueness. There are a few scenes of action and they may be a little too intense for the really little ones, but pre-teens and teens will love this. Oh, and all of the deaths happen off-screen, so no one will get too scared. An unimposing little time-waster, RAGNAROK, is nothing special, but it’s also not so bad as to be unwatchable. Flawed, but fairly innocent… ok for the kids as long as they’re not *too* young.
God Bless America
3.75 out of 5 stars
A welcome rewatch. Bobcat Goldthwait brings us another exceedingly dark film which focuses on a bizarre and new kind of family. After the critical success of his films (SLEEPING DOGS LIE, WORLD'S GREATEST DAD), Bobcat has carved out an odd little niche for himself: the darkly comedic tragedy. With AMERICA, Bobcat delivers his most scathing examination of modern life to date. The film's premise has been much discussed in the media (a terminally ill man and his teenage sidekick begin killing people who they deem "less than polite"). As this very funny killing spree continues (I mean, using a baby as skeet... c'mon!!!), Bobcat writes some terrific dialog and some VERY memorable moments. In the end, GOD BLESS AMERICA is undoubtedly too dark for most mainstream audiences, but those who can handle it will find the film an exceedingly rich plot of land here ripe for the tilling. GOD BLESS AMERICA is a terrifically satisfying bit of filmmaking which soon rises above its premise and succeeds in creating a film of surprising emotional depth.
95 Miles To Go
3 out 5 stars
This short (it runs 77 minutes) documentary follows comics Ray Romano and Tom Caltibiano (who also directs the film) as the make their way through a mini-tour of Southern states. Romano, on the surface, is a very down-to-earth guy… until we catch glimpses of him in unguarded moments when we see some definite neurosis (compulsion toward order, mensching at his travel companions, fixating on ‘being late,’ etc.). Still, it is interesting to get a peek behind the scenes of how a comedy tour works. Romano is imminently likeable (despite his flaws) and he’s funny even in an off-the-cuff way. Sadly, the film features very little actual stand-up… which is problematic. Enjoyable to watch, not too challenging to put on and do something else, 95 MILES is a solid, innocuous rental.
Get Him to The Greek
2 out of 5 stars
A painful exercise in ego starring the terminally unfunny Russell Brand. Propped up as a loose sequel to SAVING SARAH MARSHALL (another leaden “comedy” by writer/director Nicholas Stoller), this is an horrendous parade of clichéd bits and contrived situations. Throughout the film’s run time, Jonah Hill just sort of ambles through scenes looking embarrassed to be a part of the whole fiasco and Brand mistakes licking his lips and shouting for “acting.” Amusingly, the only reason to see this mess is for Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs who is consistently funny. Not worth the rental, but if it is on HBO or something and you have literally NOTHING else to do, see it for, of all things, Combs’ performance.
4 out of 5 stars
Lee Van Cleef (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, DEATH RIDES A HORSE) once again proves he’s The Man in this Spaghetti Western from 1969. Directed by Gianfranco Parolini (IF YOU MEET SARTANA, PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH) and costarring William Berger (KEOMA, 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON) and Ignazio Spalla (ANY GUN CAN PLAY, DON’T WAIT, DJANGO…SHOOT!), the film tells the story of a group of businessmen who rob an Army safe of $100,000 in order to buy some land which the railroad is planning to build on. Everything goes as planned until a gunslinger named Sabata comes along. From there, the film is basically the businessmen continually trying – unsuccessfully – to kill Sabata again and again. Genuinely fun and completely delightful, SABATA is one of those films many haven’t heard of… and the ones that have, haven’t seen it. More light-hearted than the Leone films, for example, SABATA showcases Van Cleef as a badass of the highest order. Berger plays the guy with the knowledge of the town. Ignazio Spalla is around to play the type of role made popular by Eli Wallach in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY or Rod Steiger in DUCK, YOU SUCKER. What sets SABATA apart is its pervasive sense of humor and Van Cleef’s preternatural ability to set up kill zones. The acting is spot-on. The action is both inventive and exciting. Fans of the genre should immediately add this to their list as should anyone who just likes a rollicking good time at the movies.
The Legend of Boggy Creek
2 out of 5 stars
Another one of those films many have heard about, but few have actually seen. In this case, THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, is a “docudrama” about a mythical “Sasquatch-like” creature haunting the swamps and countryside of Fouke, AK and the premise is a potentially rich one. However, the film itself is Rated G and feels more like a Disney nature film than a real film of horror. The print I saw was so bad that it almost looked like someone had shot a video of it off a movie screen. The transfer was dirty, muddied, and cropped beyond recognition. And then there’s the music… which is an odd collection of hillbilly gee-tar and harmonica caterwauling and not much else. The creature itself… is basically a man in a hairy carpet and not scary in the least. In the end, THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK is an anemic affair that little ones (especially those with an interest in ‘weird nature’) will dig. The overall tone is spooky, but never scary. I imagine if I’d seen this when it came out in 1972, I might think differently. But seeing it now, I can only feel disappointed.
2 out if 5 stars
I’d heard a lot about how bad this film is… and it is. Man, oh man, is it ever! But, no one can deny the CGI-fueled technological achievement evident in the film. That said… the plot is an inane mess; overly-sentimental, tawdry, and wholly ridiculous. I mean, you spent over 2 hours watching literally millions of people die (in spectacular fashion), but everyone cheers when John Cusack “makes it” and lives. So… we’ll set the misguided plot aside. Seeing this on Blu-Ray really is something and the disc makes a terrific demo disc to show off your new player. Just keep the sound down and the remote handy (with your finger glued to the Fast Forward button). So, ZERO stars for the plot. TWO stars for the CG FX. Rentable, but don’t expect much.
Survival of the Dead
2 out of 5 stars
Sometimes I feel the need to go back and look at films that I initially didn’t like just to see if I may have missed something; maybe I was ‘in a mood’ and that colored my perception of the film. Who knows? This is one of those examples. OK, so… that said. Off the bat, I’ll say that Greg Nicotero is the only reason to see this heavy-handed mess of a zombie flick. His work is, as as it is on THE WALKING DEAD, exemplary. The rest of it… oi! From the rickety script which features absolutely no character arcs of any kind, to how there's nothing close to believable dialogue here, and enough wild coincidences to border on the ludicrous… Well, I could go on and on, but you get the idea. To think… that George was so bereft of ideas as to dust off the old “Hatfields vs. McCoys” storyline… it’s embarrassing. While not cringingly bad as DIARY OF THE DEAD, it’s pretty close. The “message” of the film is driven home with a sledgehammer and, when we get there, it is utterly groan-inducing, and so, we really don't care. The zombies… well, they’re reduced to stumbling jack in the boxes that possess no real menace and tend to pop up exactly when and where they’re needed to showcase either some gore or to further the limping script. While this remains necessary viewing for any and all zombie film fans, let’s be honest… it’s simply not a great film - not even by Romero strandards. And it deserves to be. The zombie paradigm is ripe for a good storytellin'; one which offers a unique platform in which to construct a compelling and interesting morality play. Sadly, each and every opportunity for such things is squandered. Romero has been a visionary in the past, but his recent output just reeks of someone trying to cash in. There is no “vision” left in this visionary or so it seems if we are to believe what we’re seeing as of late. Still, I hold out faith that ol’ George will find his story - his white whale, if you will - and make something as relevant as NIGHT. DAWN, or DAY OF THE DEAD once again.
1 out of 5 stars
Lately, I just can’t catch a break. The only thing worse than a yappy horror film… is a yappy horror film populated with bad actors, self-indulgent direction, and a ridiculous script. Sadly, SUTURES makes both of those types of films look like CITIZEN KANE. With a plot that meanders and swings wildly between the barely believable to the outright silly, the film is simply without merit. Yes, it all looks ok, but not even the inclusion of Andrew Prine (CHISUM) can’t save it. There is, quite simply, nothing of value here. Skip this… rent ANYTHING else.
2 out of 5 stars
Director Eduardo Sanchez (BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and the highly underrated ALTERED) brings us this tale of spiritual possession… or… madness… or both? MOLLY is obviously a low-budget, but still competently made, film that is acted well and the film’s primary concept is a good one. The problem with LOVELY MOLLY is its script. As a viewer, we’re never quite sure what’s going on… which is ok in the beginning, but by film’s end, we should have a some idea of what’s happening, shouldn’t we? In MOLLY, we’re never exactly sure what is plaguing the main character. Is it the ghost of her dead, abusive father? Is it her own madness taking root in the real world? Who knows? The film’s narrative wanders all over the place (and its own interior timeline is all wonky as well) which leaves the viewer feeling unsatisfied. Normally, I like Sanchez. I REALLY dug ALTERED. Sadly, LOVELY MOLLY left me cold and uninterested.
The Wrong Guy
2 out of 5 stars
A thoroughly forgettable comedy starring Dave Foley (NEWS RADIO) and Jennifer Tilly. There are a few chuckles sprinkled around the flick, but... For the most part, it's a painful and tedious ride that thinks it's far funnier than it truly is. Foley has a hard time supporting the narrative on his shoulders and the rest of the cast appear as if they were just in the neighborhood and decided to help a pal out by doing a day onset. Again, there are a few funny bits, but they are just not enough to make the other 85 or so minutes worthwhile.
2 out of 5 stars
Chalk this one up to morbid curiosity. Danny Trejo in BADASS... It's like someone decided to make a Stephen Seagal film from the 80s only with an elderly Mexican guy as its star. The film is well... pretty bad. The script is ridiculous and Charles Dutton chews scenery like a man with rabies. It has a decent heart and it’s good to see Danny get work, but yeah... it's about as good as you think it's going to be. Rentable, just don’t expect much.
Percy Jackson and the Tale of The Lightning Thief
3 out of 5 stars
A 'dont ask me why, it was just on' rewatch. A begrudgingly given three stars. While it’s fun to watch literally shovels-full of money being thrown at the screen, this clumsy, rather predictable, and CG-laden introduction to mythology is aimed firmly at the ‘tween market. There are a lot of scenes of violence, but they are of the sanitized and bloodless variety. The film is heavily influenced by the Harry Potter series and it’s rather surprising it wasn’t a bigger hit. Perfect for your junior high schooler, it may be too scary for kids younger than that. Honestly, I thought this was going to be a LOT worse than it was. Look for Uma Thurman and Rosario Dawson both looking hotter than they have in years.
Flesh & Blood
2 out of 5 stars
This documentary is basically an ego piece for “artist” and piercer Steve Haworth who is credited as having invented “subdural implants.” The documentary is utterly skewed to prop up Haworth’s creeky ethical position and meanders its way toward its soap-operatic conclusion. While it is interesting to watch some of the suspensions shown, the focus shifts about midway through to basically who’s fucking who. The point of the narrative gets lost quickly and the viewer is never shown what drives the people who are into body modification and why. While the documentary is not wholly exploitative, it does walk that line pretty closely. Frankly, there are better documentaries about the body modification movement than this one.
3 out of 5 stars
An "against my will" rewatch. 3 stars BARELY. The plot of this spin on the vampire tale is kind of dopey and basically implodes under the weight of its own narrative by the end (think of how THE MATRIX all turned out and you‘re pretty close), but the look of the film is kind of cool and there are some pretty nifty FX sequences thrown in to keep your attention from wandering. The acting is better than you’d expect given how downright silly the proceedings are. The direction is pretty straight forward. Still… for all of its flaws and inanity, there’s something kind of endearing about the goings-on. Vampire fans will like the spin writer / directors The Spierig Brothers have given things. And, as I said, the FX have their moments. Rentable, but don’t expect too much.