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Evil Dead
Evil Dead
DVD ~ Jane Levy
Price: $4.99
121 used & new from $0.25

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gory but lacking any real scares, May 22, 2013
This review is from: Evil Dead (DVD)
Stephen King once wrote that if a horror writer knows he can't scare the reader, then they should go for the gross out. In EVIL DEAD, essentially the 5th version of this film from producer Sam Raimi, director Fede Alvarez takes that advice to heart and foregoes any real scares and instead goes for gnarly gore drenched scenes.

And that's not all bad. See, we've seen this all before. From IN THE WOODS, to the original THE EVIL DEAD and it's two direct sequels, to DRAG ME TO HELL, Raimi has gone back to story of a group of people being tormented by demons (and being possessed by them) time and time again. When you add to those films the comic books, video games, and Japanese tribute films (RINGU prime among them), it was going to be hard to truly scare anyone with this tale.

That being the case, Alvarez wisely just cuts to the quick. From the very first scene EVIL DEAD lets the audience know that they will be watching a hard R gorefest roller coaster ride. This newest version of EVIL DEAD has basically the same plot as the original, but is shot like the aforementioned DRAG ME TO HELL and moves at a lighting pace.

This is certainly a big budget version of the slapdash original which was shot on a shoestring. Everything from rain machines to a professional cast (lead by "Suburbatory"s Jane Levy) to lots of gruesome makeup effects, to the excellent musical score by Roque Baños, has a Hollywood polish. The camera work is slick and the film is well lit - a very well produced film top to bottom.

Of course, some of the original (and sequel's) charm came from Raimi pulling a movie out of a hat using not much more then a few props and a bucket of blood. He did so in part with some of the most original use of editing tricks and sound effects ever done in a indie film. Not a whole lot of either in this remake. The original also had a much stronger sense of fantasy and a willingness to draw out a scene in order to get a good scare.

The scares in this version mostly come in the form of RINGU-esque silhouettes of victims of possession. Creepy, but nothing as scary as the original. Director Alvarez had a real opportunity for a particular character's story to generate real terror - she's detoxing even as she knows an even worse terror is coming - but no one will believe her. This could have been played for all it's worth, really milking her very real reason for wanting to leave and her friends continuing to make her stay. Instead we get a quick (albeit cool) trick with a mirror and not much more. This version of EVIL DEAD simply does not take the time to generate any real feeling for these characters - we simply don't know them very well and they act stupidly at almost every important juncture of the story.

EVIL DEAD is also hurt to a degree by gaffes and other "only in Hollywood" moments. There's a nail gun that somehow works without a compressor (and has endless nails); a 30 year old chainsaw is made to work using 30 year old gas during a rain storm; the kids don't immediately leave the cabin when it's clear something has gone terribly wrong there. Between the gaffes, the gore, and the idiot actions of the teens/twenty something cast, it's quite a bit like an 80's horror movie...

Which of course it's a remake of. This version of EVIL DEAD is far better then the weak remakes of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, but isn't anywhere near as original (or scary) as Rob Zombie's remake of HALLOWEEN. Still, it's great to see any Hollywood movie as brutally gory as this (there's even f bombs), and it manages to pay tribute to the original without being slavish to it. In the end this version of DEAD acts as a gritty, fun Halloween party movie. I'd think teenage viewers would absolutely love it (esp if they had never seen the original), and that counts for a lot in my book as teens are clearly the target audience.

BOTTOM LINE: 3.5 "If you get to a cabin that has burned up bodies and a Satanic bible you should probably leave" stars out of 5


The Lords of Salem
The Lords of Salem
DVD ~ Sheri Moon Zombie
Price: $10.99
68 used & new from $3.14

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A near homerun for Zombie, May 22, 2013
This review is from: The Lords of Salem (DVD)
Part art house, part grind house, and part bad acid trip, Rob Zombie's latest film LORDS OF SALEM swings for the fences but comes up just a bit short. What might have been a home run instead was perhaps a ground rule double in baseball terms.

SALEM starts off decently strong - shot in the actual town of Salem, we immediately begin a day in the life of weird looking Goth hipster lady in her 30's who's a DJ. One day she gets a crazy record at the station and when she plays it, all hell breaks loose.

Part of why this film is simultaneously fascinating and frustrating is that in parts, it works like a pure horror film. Long hallways and longer dolly shots straight out of THE SHINNING and original HALLOWEEN (strangely enough) help set up some legit scares that could have kept rolling for the entire film as the story, set up, and performances are all pretty good. The film is helped immensely by the wonderfully over the top music by John 5, who provides some of the best musical stabs since JAWS.

But inter cut all through the movie are dreams and dreamlike sequences - including an insaneo witch scene to start the film - all of which are super weird... but not scary in the slightest. Gross and grotesque yes, scary no. Which is too bad, 'cause this thing had potential to be one of the scariest flicks ever made.

In many ways it's like THE DEVIL'S RAIN or even EGE's own WITCHUNTER in terms of basic story structure (there a coven of child murdering people trying to summon Satan himself). But LORDS OF SALEM is certainly better then both those films in terms of cinematic style - Zombie is really coming into his own, developing a true style as a film maker. That's a good thing, right?

Yes and no. In SALEM, Zombie tries to cram one too many cinematic styles for one movie. He jumps between Kubrickian scenes in a huge theatre, then a witch burning shot that could have been out of a 60's era psychedelic flick like PSYCHOMAINIA. Zombie goes for the gross out or the grotesque when he was getting plenty of scares without them. It's stylistic as hell for sure, but if the film was a bit more straight narrative I think Zombie could have squeezed even more horror out of this film. As it is, there's some bits that try for disturbing but come out as somewhat short - even comedic. Think South Park's ep called "Christmas Critters" and you get the idea.

Styles aside, there were some small but important bits of realism he could have gotten, but didn't. For instance, we see her doing her zany radio show with her 2 friends early on in the film. All sorts of wacky sounds emanate, in typical shock jock fashion. Which would be fine if they showed anyone hitting a button to make it happen, or an engineer in the background. It just seems to be magically happening. Seems a small detail perhaps, but after the 10th wacky sound blasting over the speakers you have to wonder what supercomputer is making all the noise happen. That same radio station seems to be huge for a town of some 40,000. Possible perhaps, but a little unlikely.

Likewise we never really get to know the main character at all before it all goes wrong, and because the character is so weird looking to start with (she's got tats everywhere,blond dreads, and really bad taste in clothes), it makes her fall a lot less great then it might have been, knocking some wind out of some drama in the process. You do care about her, but I think if Zombie had spent just 10 minutes with her character to start the film, it would have helped that feeling even more.

All that said, Zombie made his flick. It's not what anyone else would have done, but that his part of his brilliance. It's an incredibly watchable film and it has a wonderful cast, including Sherri Moon Zombie as the DJ and Bruce Davidson as a sort of Van Helsing character. The music as I mentioned before is outstanding and the camera work is super crazy. The movie meanders from time to time, allowing itself far too many excesses in terms of dream sequences, but ultimately makes up for it with an ending that's simply awesome. It's so weird and awful it hurts - but in a good way. A truly great last 2 minutes of this movie makes up for so questionable decisions earlier.

In the end, it's not a home run.... but it's damned close. Call it a three run triple up the gap and to the wall of crazy town.

BOTTOM LINE: 4 "Never and I mean never take acid before watching this movie" out five stars.


Oblivion (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)
Oblivion (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Tom Cruise
Price: $12.96
85 used & new from $6.29

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slick but mostly souless scifi romp, May 22, 2013
Epic, slick, and at times a little lost, OBLIVION is a well meaning scifi flick that takes too many wrong turns telling it's tale.

Part MATRIX, part TOTAL RECALL, director Joseph Kosinski's tale of a future earth destroyed by alien attack (aided in part by their destruction of the moon). In the very first minute of the film we're told in a voice over that while humanity won the war (by using nukes), the planet is now a barely recognizable radioactive wasteland. The few people left are essentially mechanics for huge water processing plants meant to help reestablish humanity on the moon Titan.

Tom Cruise's character is plagued by strange dreams of earth before the invasion - an earth he never saw. These dreams are apparently brought on by the mind wipe he must go through to ensure that if captured by aliens, he can reveal no vital information. Otherwise he seems content in fixing battle robots meant to destroy the few remaining alien stragglers and having loveless sex with his outpost partner.

So much of this film's strategy is based on a slow reveal of a great secret. Without getting in to details, it's a form of storytelling I've been been overly fond of - the flashback. While it basically works (there's no doubt that all's not as it should be, right from the start), I can't help but wonder what might have been if this film was told as a linear narrative.

And that's because Cruise is never really able to emotionally attach to anything or anyone in the movie, despite a mighty effort to do so. The story is told in such a disjointed way that one spends more time trying to figure out what the mystery is as opposed to really caring what happens to the people in the story.

Now if the script were more witty in it's dialogue or if the music was better, perhaps this style of film making would have worked better. But the script is as plain a white bread - absolutely bland and perfunctory. The music is worse - while electronic band M83 (Anthony Gonzalez & Joseph Trapanese) strive for something grand & epic, it comes off a bland version of Daft Punk's TRON: LEGACY score. That's ironic as Kosinski also directed that otherwise very bland film. OBLIVION absolutely screams out for a classical score like John Barry might have done, or something as far out and passionate as Vangelis, but instead is as generic as you're likely to hear in a major movie.

Put simply, there's very little heart or soul in this film. The effects are clean, crisp, and largely excellent, and the acting - while not stellar - is certainly good enough. As are the sets, costumes and the like. In the end Kosinski seemed far too occupied with the twists of the road as opposed to why he's on it in the first place. That coupled with bland lines and music really helps limit what could have been a much more thrilling film. One other huge negative - there's really only about an hour's worth of story here (at least as Kosinski tells it), yet OBLIVION is over two hours long, and that is the kiss of death for me.

BOTTOM LINE: 3 "They blew up the moon in VAMPIRELAND too!" stars out of 5


Looper
Looper
DVD

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SCANNERS + TIMECOP = good fun, January 7, 2013
This review is from: Looper (Amazon Instant Video)
I had little expectations walking into LOOPER - the ad campaign was pathetic - but by the time it finished, I was blown away. This has been a great year for scifi & fantasy and LOOPER's a big reason why. Mix in equal helpings of BLADE RUNNER, SCANNERS, and TIME COP (plus a little WITNESS for seasoning) and you get a styled, original film that never bores. While we've seen everything featured in LOOPER before in other films, we've never quite seen it put together quite like this.

As written and directed by Rian Johnson, LOOPER never hesitates in it's far out plot - it's set in 2044 and the time travelers come from some 40 years later - so much so that the time travel gimmick becomes very believable (a very hard trick to pull off). That's partly because there's plenty of other hardcore scifi gimmicks - rayguns, flying cars, and psychic powers - also make appearances. Despite all the chances for missteps, Johnson's direction is crisp and never chooses style before story, instead letting the action dictate the camera work.

The film's helped by a great cast - Bruce Willis is great of course, but so is Jeff Daniels as a mob boss, as is Joseph Gordon Levitt and Emily Blunt. Very solid, very professional performances all the way around. None of them get overwhelmed by a story that could have very easily turned into a farce.

Far out plot aside, this movie works quite well as a detective story. It also plays on our expectations of what we want from our Hollywood stars. The music, camera work, costumes are all top notch. Makeup plays a big role, as Levitt wears a "Bruce Willis" nose that doesn't always work, but that about the worst thing I can say about this otherwise must see flick.

4 "Sweet! I didn't see that one coming" stars out of 5


House at the End of the Street
House at the End of the Street
DVD ~ Jennifer Lawrence
Price: $8.98
24 used & new from $3.00

12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 1st there are kisses, then there are knives, December 5, 2012
HATE is a fun thriller aimed primarily at teens. Plot's pretty standard fare - a teenager girl (Jennifer Lawrence) and her bitchy mom (Elisabeth Shue) move to an upscale neighborhood populated by uptight douches (in the parlance of our times). We find out in the first 5 minutes that they could only afford the house because the was a gruesome double murder next store - a young girl murdered her parents in cold blood. The girl escaped without ever being found... and is of course rumored to haunt the nearby woods.

The killer's younger brother (wonderfully played by Max Thieriot), who only survived because he was at his aunt's house at the time of the murders, has moved back into the old house. Soon, the girl and boy meet and hit it off. Mom doesn't like the kid, and neither do most of the townies, but he's a sweetheart. All of this pretty much spelled out in the trailer. The film, while not terribly stylistic (if you had to take a shot for every "Dutch angle" you'd soon be very drunk), is well done enough that we care about what's happening. The acting is quite good by all (Jennifer Lawrence proves that she's not just a hot chick with a bow and arrow) and the music doesn't club you over the head.

HATE isn't a horror movie so much as it's a thriller and teen melodrama. It largely succeeds at both goals, and I'm sure younger teen viewers would dig this film a lot. You see - and again this is in the trailer - the boy is taking care of his deranged sister. Weird and kinda spooky, but it definitely establishes the boy as a caring guy - you can see why another lonely person would like him. Great and all, but after about 65-70 minutes, I started looking at my watch as teen melodramas aren't exactly my cup of tea anymore. Basically, I was starting to hate HATE...

Well it's right about then that HATE kicks it into overdrive, making some balls out moves that immediately take the film in an entirely different direction. I guessed what was going to happen, but only about 2 minutes before it did happen. Not too shabby for a flick like this. I'd say more, but think of this as a sort of horror version of CRYING GAME (and in fact, Stephen Rea actually has a cameo in the film) where the plot twists really are half the movie. So while it's not great - there are some mighty big continuity errors and gaps of logic - the film tries to cover it's bases, and a well acted original story is always welcome. Don't run out to see it, but see it before someone ruins the end for you. Critics have hated this film, but on this one, believe the 80% plus audience approval rate. It's a good flick.

BOTTOM LINE: 3.5 First there are kisses then there are knives out of 5


The Apparition
The Apparition
DVD ~ Ashley Greene
Price: $4.00
129 used & new from $0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The poster looks scary anyway, December 5, 2012
This review is from: The Apparition (DVD)
So Joel Silver heard that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was making a lot of money, so he tried his hand it, letting first time director/writer Todd Lincoln actually do the dirty work.

Oy. Right off the bat, the film can't decide if it's a POV flick or straight narrative. We start off with a title card saying the film we will watch is a 70's era "lost footage" film of a ghost experiment gone wrong, then a more modern version of the same thing (hard to know exactly because the film never tells us) where a girl is snatched into darkness by what I guess was a ghost, then we move forward a couple of years to see a douche and a hot girl living in a huge mansion in the desert. This all happens in about 10 minutes, and there is no apparent link between any of the 3 time periods. And no, there is no reference back to the title card which said it would be a movie set in the 70's. One of the worst beginnings to a movie of all the times. I mean, MANOS THE HANDS OF FATE bad.

Like all films which have tried to combine the POV stylings of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT with old fashioned film making (good lighting, dollyshots, cranes, etc), THE APPARITION super fails. Neither style is scary in the slightest as executed in this junk heap, and while the film mostly settles on straight narrative, by the time it does you just don't care. CHERNOBYL DIARIES actually scarier and more effective using this style, and that saying something because that movie crapped the bed.

Speaking of crap, it cost Silver/Time Warner $17 mil to make this piece of poo, so it will never have the indie charm and re-watchability of an Ed Wood movie or BIRDEMIC. Nope - this is just a big stinking waste of money and time. The music is God awful and while the editors try to save it (in fact, I think the whole first ten minutes was done from re-shoots and lots o re-editing), but it's so heavily cut in a failed attempt to be stylized that simply becomes laughable.

Think GHOSTBUSTERS meets PARANORMAL ACTIVITY but without any laughs or scares. Or anything. It's a like a 14 year wrote it, forgot about it, then found again after he graduated film school and made it as is. Just about the least scary film you'll ever see (equal in it's awfulness to the dreadful remake of SOMEONE'S WATCHING ME). It's a little like FLATLINERS but with a much dumber script and ZERO actual style.

The only redeeming quality about the film is Ashley Greene as Kelly. She's like the pretty version of Kristen Stewart that can act a little... but certainly not enough to actually save THE CRAPARITION.

BOTTOM LINE: 1 oh my God I thought I was going to see THE POSSESSION but hit the wrong button out of 5


Men In Black 3
Men In Black 3
DVD

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brolin rules in this decent 3 try, December 5, 2012
Well, it's most of the MIB clan back together (Rip Torn must have lots of money - or wanted too much of it) for this 3rd installment of the now 15 yr-oldish franchise.

The first movie was goofy as hell, but had a lot of charm - most of which came from snappy dialogue and the chemistry between Tommy Lee Jones and the then relatively new to the big screen Will Smith. Fast forward 15 years and the chemistry is still sorta there, although any sort of freshness from the writing or basic story has long gone stale. The first quarter of this newest movie isn't very good - bad jokes, a disinterested Jones (Tommy Lee just there for the check it seems), and a lost looking Smith don't make for cinematic gold.

Things do pick up a bit when Josh Brolin (as a younger Tommy Lee) finally arrives on the scene as Smith travels back in time. These two have more of the chemistry you remember Smith and Jones having in the original. Brolin's just great as Jones - at times, it's was hard to tell if it was Tommy Lee doing ADR, or just a great impersonation by Brolin (it's all Brolin).

Nothing very original about the script and almost every opportunity for some jokes about the racism of the '60's are just passed up. The only set of jokes based on the fact that Smith is a black super cop from the future are the most obvious kind (he gets pulled over in a stolen car). Too bad, because with Smith, there could have been some very good BLAZING SADDLES moments - none of which are allowed to happen.

As it is, it's kinda cute when they go back to the late 1960's (although the time period actually feels more 1950's), and we get to see Bill Hader as Andy Warhol. There's a surprising amount of sentimentality near the end of this film - as though Barry Sonnenfeld knows this is the last ride on this particular spaceship - and it proves to be this film's saving grace in what is otherwise a very bland and corporate flick.

It's fun enough to check out for MIB fans.

BOTTOM LINE: 3 Brolin rules outta 5


Dredd [3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UltraViolet]
Dredd [3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UltraViolet]
DVD ~ Lena Headey
Price: $9.49
99 used & new from $4.23

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some yummy ultra-violence!, December 5, 2012
What can I say besides that I loved it - DREDD 3d is DIRTY HARRY/MAGNUM FORCE and BLADERUNNER all wrapped up into one yummy package of ultra-violence. DREDD takes place in some post-apocalyptic future where there is only one massive city left, and that city is (barely) kept sane by a force of super cops who dispense justice with the barrel of a gun. When Dredd and his rookie cop partner are called to the toughest ghetto in the city, all hell breaks loose. Taking place in one massive building, the plot to DREDD is every cop's worst nightmare and it meant that the tension never stopped growing throughout the film.

Karl Urban - as usual - is great as Dredd. That he can play Bones McCoy to a tee one minute in STAR TREK, then the ass kicking Dredd the next is amazing. Somehow even with a helmet on the whole time, he manages to tough and funny at the same time. Just a great performance.

The production value was top notch - the music (Paul Leonard-Morgan) was great, the gore was great, the tone great, costumes great, and the direction (Pete Travis) rock solid. Just about one of the grittiest, toughest ass scifi action films ever made. Tough as DIRTY HARRY tough.

Speaking of HARRY, there's some wonderful tributes to MAGNUM FORCE, both in terms of plot and music. And stealing from/paying tribute to MAGNUM FORCE is all right in my book. All in all, it's one of the must see movies of 2012.

BOTTOM LINE: 4 It's judgment time stars out of 5


Dredd [DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet]
Dredd [DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet]
DVD ~ Karl Urban
Price: $5.00
20 used & new from $4.00

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some yummy ultra-violence!, December 5, 2012
What can I say besides that I loved it - DREDD 3d is DIRTY HARRY/MAGNUM FORCE and BLADERUNNER all wrapped up into one yummy package of ultra-violence. DREDD takes place in some post-apocalyptic future where there is only one massive city left, and that city is (barely) kept sane by a force of super cops who dispense justice with the barrel of a gun. When Dredd and his rookie cop partner are called to the toughest ghetto in the city, all hell breaks loose. Taking place in one massive building, the plot to DREDD is every cop's worst nightmare and it meant that the tension never stopped growing throughout the film.

Karl Urban - as usual - is great as Dredd. That he can play Bones McCoy to a tee one minute in STAR TREK, then the ass kicking Dredd the next is amazing. Somehow even with a helmet on the whole time, he manages to tough and funny at the same time. Just a great performance.

The production value was top notch - the music (Paul Leonard-Morgan) was great, the gore was great, the tone great, costumes great, and the direction (Pete Travis) rock solid. Just about one of the grittiest, toughest ass scifi action films ever made. As in DIRTY HARRY tough.

Speaking of HARRY, there's some wonderful tributes to MAGNUM FORCE, both in terms of plot and music. And stealing from/paying tribute to MAGNUM FORCE is all right in my book. All in all, it's one of the must see movies of 2012.

BOTTOM LINE: 4 "It's judgment time" stars out of 5
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 22, 2013 10:12 AM PDT


V/H/S
V/H/S
DVD
Price: $2.99

20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A few strong segments in otherwise weak film, December 5, 2012
This review is from: V/H/S (Amazon Instant Video)
V/H/S is the latest first person/found footage style film that is dominating horror right now. This film is billed as the scariest thing ever of all time. Let me put that rumor to rest right now - while there are a few effective segments, most are so poorly done that laughter should be the most common reaction.

V/H/S is like the animation classic HEAVY METAL in that there are several separate segments directed/produced by different groups of people. As in HEAVY METAL, the V/H/S segments are related in tone and genre and its also clearly aimed at teenagers and early 20-somethings.

But unlike METAL, V/H/S doesn't have a plot device interweaving between the different stories to link them together. Instead it uses what amounts to a "master tape," which is supposed to be the result of one group of kids video taping the other various tapes once they find them.

The end result is something like TERROR TRAIN or TALES OF TERROR, except much more uneven. It's pretty clear that the various directors (9 in all I think) had different skill sets and perhaps different budgets as the effects are also very uneven between the various stories. The segments aren't helped by the video meant to link them all up - it's poorly acted and the characters go through a series of "No one would ever act that way, ever" moments that would make any teen slasher movie from the '80's proud. The success of this "master" segment is crucial to whatever chances this film had of something more then a mis-mash of unrelated stories, but unfortunately it's one of the worst.

Which is too bad because there are 3 effective segments. One in particular is quite good. But at over two hours long, this movie needs a serious pair of scissors. There's maybe 45 minutes of quality stuff, maybe a half hour of barely watchable footage, and 45 minutes of God-awful first student film quality crap. Almost worse then including footage which should have been cut, V/H/S doesn't even have the sense to leave the best 3 segments for last. The faux VHS effect doesn't help things either, as the segments are obviously not shot in that now ancient format (if they all were, it might have actually helped).

Still, for all its many flaws, it does try hard. It's filled with violence and nudity and one really good story. That will probably be enough to make it a hit with teens who have finally grown tired of torture porn.

BOTTOM LINE: 2 they should have hired a real editor out of 5 stars
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2013 11:26 PM PDT


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