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Survival of the Dead (2009)
I really enjoyed this movie.
Survival of the Dead impressed me. I have been reading a lot of negative reviews about this movie. I ordered the movie from Amazon's video-on-demand and plunk down some money to check it out (since no theater within a hundred miles was showing it). After spending about 90 minutes watching the movie I thought the money was well spent. Too bad this movie didn't get a wider release because I felt that it deserved one. I was put off originally by the film's trailer because the action seemed very amateurish and the sound effects were sub-par. All that was corrected in the movie.
Sarge, the US National Guardsmen from "Diary of the Dead" (featured briefly in the beginning of the film) laments about having to become a highway robber and a brief internet superstar. After a violent encounter with some demented local yahoos, Sarge and his squad head off to find a place of safe refuge. A beacon of sorts has been sent out on the web by Patrick O'Flynn, an islander who is in a bloody feud with another family (the Muldoons headed by Seamus Muldoon) over what to do with the living dead),
O'Flynn AKA Captain Courageous (along with his fellow outcasts) have became pirates and have been robbing those unlucky or foolish enough to head out to the dock. But Sarge and company foil O'Flynn's scheme and sail off on an abandoned ferry boat. O'Flynn manages to jump on the boat (after a brief and violent clash dispatches his "crew"). Without a destination, Sarge turns to O'Flynn who suggests that they head back to his home island and reclaim it for the O'Flynns. Out of options, will Sarge team up with O'Flynn and get involved in a clan war or will he and his squad continue to look elsewhere?
The social commentary is not as heavy handed as it was in Diary of the Dead but the themes of religion, Catholicism and fundamentalism are present along with the clash of old and new ideals. Another concurrent theme that appears in the Dead Series is the lack of cooperation and communication. Many people have complained about the lack of danger from the living dead. As the movies in the series continues it seems that they have become more of a nuisance instead of a threat whilst the real danger comes from amongst ourselves.
Poh wai ji wong (1994)
Love on Delivery
Love on Delivery stars Stephen Chow as Ho, a wimpy delivery boy who falls in love with Lily (Christy Chung) a kung-fu student. But her instructor Black Bear (Joe Cheng) has been trying to court her and butts heads with Ho. Black Bear challenges Ho to a fight, but the cowardly Ho ducks when Black Bear tried to punch him, hitting Lily instead. Humiliated by such a display of cowardice, Ho turns to a broken down kung-fu master Tat (Ng Man Tat) to teach him the art of fighting, But Tat's unconventional methods of training may not be as effective as they seem.
A funny and violent film starring Stephen Chow (who also wrote the screenplay). The beautiful Christy Chung co-stars (who speaks her dialog phonetically). The always interesting Ben Lam co-stars as Tuen, an invincible Karate master who believes karate is better than kung-fu and will do whatever he has to do to prove it. Jacky Cheung, Philip Chan and Billy Chow make cameo appearances as well. The wild fight scenes were directed by Ching Siu-tung (who also co-directed the film).
The film parodies Rocky, Rocky III, The Terminator, Garfield (aka Ga Fei Miao) and the Karate Kid series. Tat wears a wife-beater just like Miyagi, Chow tries to master the "crane kick" as well. A funny and more realistic version of the film as well. A couple of music videos are worked into the film as well (which are pretty funny). Remember, being a good fighter is not all about how strong you are but how to out wit your opponent.
The Outsiders (1983)
Stay gold Ponyboy. The Outsiders (The complete novel) review.
Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders is a melodramatic film based upon the novel written by S. E. Hinton (who also as a small role as a nurse). Like many middle school students I was forced to read the novel (which I thought was sappy and cheesy). Coppola's version is pretty much the same as the novel and he did a very good job of capturing the spirit of the film (perhaps too much). Filmed on location in Oklahoma. The actors in this film were a cast of unknowns. But afterwords many of them would go on to become stars (Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon) others would find success in the later years (Diane Lane, Rob Lowe) and some would score some big roles early int their careers and fade away to straight-to-video obscurity (C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez and Patrick Swayze).
Ponyboy Curtis is a "Greaser" a kid from across the tracks. He's always has his head in the clouds and unlike the other "Greasers", he seems to have a bright future if he would stick in head in books instead of hanging out with his buddies Johnny (Ralph Macchio), Two-Bit (Emilio Estevez) and Dallas (Matt Dillon). Pony's brothers Sodapop dropped out of school to work at a local DX with fellow "Greaser" Steve (Tom Cruise) whilst older brother Darrel (Patrick Swayze) has to take care of the family since the tragic deaths of their parents. Darrel is under a lot of stress of having to take care of Darrel and Ponyboy that he takes it out on Pony by riding him like a donkey and always jumping on his case. One night after staying out late, Pony and Darrel get into a scuffle causing Pony to runaway from home with Johnny.
The "greasers" are always in a constant state of war with the rich kids called "The Socs". Two members of the group Bob (Leif Garrett) and Randy (Darren Dalton) nearly come to blows with Ponyboy, Two-Bit and Johnny earlier at the drive-in but their girlfriends Cherry (Diane Lane) and Marcia manage to calm down the situation. Hours have passed since the confrontation but their still angry about their tiff with "The Greasers" and drive around drinking all night looking for trouble. They spot the two runaways and decide to continue the spat with some additional extracurricular activities. Will Johnny and Ponyboy be able to get out of this pickle? Why do the "Socs and "Greasers" hate each other? Is their any way to end this dispute before things get really out of hand?
An entertaining film from Coppola. His daughter has a small part (credited as Domino) and his nephew Nicolas (Coppola) Cage has a role as an extra (his Uncle turned him down for the role of Dallas). If you enjoyed the book then you'll want to get a copy of the Complete Novel version. This cut has additional scenes, new music (Most of the sappy and over dramatic music composed by Carmine Coppola has been replaced with 50's and 60's pop music) and an ending that's more faithful to the novel. Is it melodramatic? Yes, Is it sappy? Yes, even though it's laid on real heavy at times but it's still a good movie that will entertain you.
A ghoul baby, soured relationships and the horror of single motherhood.
Grace is about a thirty something Madeline who's married to some schlub named Michael, They have been trying to have a baby for sometime. Mike's mother Vivian wants to make sure Madeline has the kid in a hospital but she wants to have a midwife named Patricia (her old lover) deliver it. But before any of their plans transpire, a freak car accident leaves Mike dead and Maddy her unborn child in some serious trouble. A few days later her water (er red Flavor Aid) breaks and she's rushed to the midwife's place to have the baby. Expecting a still birth but a miracle happens and Maddy gives birth to a child that she names Grace. But that is when things get wonky. Throw in some strained in-law relationship, a jealous young lesbian, a ghoul baby and a single mother going batty and you have Grace.
A ho-hum film that pays homage to superior films such as the It's Alive trilogy, Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. I didn't care for the characters because they all seem annoying. The mother-in-law is the chief antagonist who schemes to snatch the baby. The ex- lover/midwife Patricia is creepy as she keeps tabs on her old lover and only cares about moving in on the now dead Mike's turf. In one scene she tries to rekindle the old flame a few days after the physically and emotionally exhaustive birth but gets cut off at the overpass and her young squeeze is VERY jealous of the attention that she gives to Madeline. The men in this film are nothing more than ciphers who are manipulated by the females in the film (i.e. Vivian and her hen pecked hubby and Mike who's nothing more than a warm body and bread winner).
I really didn't care for this movie. It looked promising but it felt rushed (only 78 minutes pre-credits) and it didn't care for the pay off. Recommended for a slow movie night or if it comes on TV.
A teen comedy disguised as a "zombie" movie that has more bore and snore than gore.
Zombieland is a mediocre movie filled with flat humor and dialog that sounds as if it was written by an 8th grader. The only thing that saves this movie from being a straight out stinker is Woody Harrelson but other than that it's just a dud. I didn't care for the protagonist, the so called "zombies", the silly "rules" or the two female characters. They're so annoying that I was wishing that the infected would kill them. The filmmakers tried too hard to be funny and when that happens it always end up pear shaped. I was expecting something entertaining, maybe in the vein of Brain-Dead or Shaun of the Dead. Perhaps I was asking too much. I have seen DTV movies that work a lot better than this. I just wasn't buying into anything the director was selling. The movie didn't work as either a horror film or a comedy.
The dialog was bad. I mean an adolescent must have wrote it. I didn't care for the pop culture references and the "hipness" of it. The overuse of movie titles, rehashing dumb clichés and the forcefulness of the situations was too clunky for me. The movie was obviously aimed for the late teen crowd because they're the only ones who will buy into this mediocre film and will think it's "cool". Real fans of zombie movies will not be amused by it. What I really can't stand are the "zombies". These are not the classic kind but the ones from Demons or 28 Days Later. They can run (I guess being infected gives you superhuman endurance and speed) and leap obstacles in a single bound.
The direction was flat. I didn't like the way the scenes flowed or the way the action moved along. One minutes it's like a music video and the next it plods around slooowly.... The big action set pieces seem like a pastiche of action movies. I know logic has no place in a horror movie but Wichita gets off like two dozen rounds out of her shotgun but doesn't reload once and when she's in a real pinch, she's OUT of shells. Another scene that sticks out is when Tallahassee is shooting through the grate that surrounds that carny stand. There is no way he can shoot out through it without killing or severely maiming himself.
Last but not least is the big "cameo". It's no surprise if you have seen the credit list. Bill Murray playing himself hiding out in his "mansion" out in Beverly Hills. Bill hasn't had a hit in years and I doubt he's still living the life (maybe the "high" life) like the way he did during his heyday in the 80's. He appears "wearing" zombie makeup and blending in with the rest of the dead. But truth be told if you read the celebrity blogs, he looks like that after hanging out at one frat party too many (that's another story). He really does play himself, hung over and shuffling around in a daze.
Overall, I wouldn't pay to watch this movie. Maybe when it hits CineMax in a few months or when you can rent it for a dollar at RedBox. If you love Shaun of the Dead (Yes I am comparing it to this movie because that's how the studio is marketing it) then you will not care for this one. But if you love the teen comedy crap that Hollywood seems to be churning out then you'll definitely want to see it. Light on gore but heavy on bore and snore.
Life Is Hot in Cracktown (2009)
A realistic look at life in the inner city.
Life is Hot in Cracktown (2009) is a movie based upon a collection of short stories written by the director Buddy Giovinazzo. The film follows four story lines: a man who works two jobs trying to support his family and move out of the inner city, a brother and sister who try to survive in a roach infested hotel, a pre-op transsexual who works the streets to make ends meet and a young hoodlum who lives an empty life with no future to look forward to. They are just some of the faceless people who try to make a life inside a poverty stricken ghetto. even though they have a bleak present, something inside of these people drives them to try and look for a way out of there lives and look for a brighter future.
I really enjoyed this movie. Most of the films I see about the inner city are full of cartoonish and stereotypical characters that you don;t care about. The people in this film are real as the person next door. I found a lot of the dialog and situations these people are faced with to be real and very authentic. Buddy Giovinazzo has come a long way since his first film (Combat ShocK) but he still retains the gritty realism and spirit of that film in his latest project. He seems to have a genuine feel for his characters and none of that pseudo-liberal guilt complex that similar films that come out of Hollywood have. No phony baloney middle class guilt trip here and I really appreciate that in a film like this one.
Halloween II (2009)
Rob Zombie's H2 out does the first film on all levels.
H2 (2009) is the second film of Rob Zombie's reboot of the Halloween franchise. He gives the film a much needed edge that was found in his previous films like The Devil's Rejects and House of a 1,000 Corpses. Zombie's surrealistic dreamscapes and brutal gory set pieces are on display. Instead of doing a straight forward redux of the sequel he brings forth his own nightmarish vision. The sequel picks up right where the first film left off. Laurie is having a very hard time dealing with the Halloween attack by Michael Myers that left her friends and family dead. Almost a year later she lives with her best friend and fellow survivor Annie. Her view on life is much different and her attitude towards it has changed as well. A therapist counsels her on trying to move forward with her life. But the calendar shows that Halloween is only a few days away...
I saw this at a midnight screening and the crowd was really into the film. Rob Zombie doesn't play around and try to stay somewhat to the original film. This is old school hardcore horror. I don;t know how it managed to get an R-rating but it did. I haven't seen a horror film this violent, brutal and squeamish in a long time. No sanitized violence in this one like a lot of the bland horror films that have been coming out of Hollywood recently. No kiddy stuff here, just a straight forward horror film that will entertain those who just love to get scared. Most of the cast returns in this film. Michael Myers has a new look to fit in with his character (but don't fret because he still has his mask). If you enjoyed the first Zombie Halloween then you'll want to watch it. But if didn't like the first one watch it any way because it's a lot better on all levels because I expected to see a hardcore horror film and I saw one.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
A mediocre effort from Tarantino. Nothing but a pastiche of films and silly sitcom dialog
I saw Inglourious Basterds at a midnight screening and I was unimpressed with the movie. Seems like Tarantino has run out of ideas and sharp dialog. He promised a war movie in the style of an Italian western. All I saw was a pastiche of Italian westerns, bad humor and long drawn out dialog that lacked any of his previous films unique wit. Being a fan of pop culture Tarantino peppers the script with a lot of it from the 30's and 40's (yes it seems really forced). If you have seen a lot of Italian westerns, then you'll know what you're in for. Long panning camera shots, close ups of eyes and even longer wide shots. The actions scenes are few and scattered throughout the film. What I really didn't like about the film itself was that it's too helter skelter. One minute it's serious and the second it's silly with a lot of inane dialog and boring chatter that took over ten years to write (according to QT)..
The characters were not that interesting. Shoshana (played by Melanie Laurent) is the main character and the film centers around her involvement in the underground. She come off cold and not all that interesting. Colonel Landa (Christoph Waltz) is the "Jew Hunter" but he comes off like a Teutonic Columbo (I kid you not) and really mugs and overacts for the camera. The Basterds (led by Brad Pitt as Aldo Raine) are marketed as being the central characters of the film. But their appearances are too few and far between. Pitt's character's accent and personality comes off cartoonish and it really doesn't work. Eli Roth is not a very good actor and his character "The Bear Jew"is very wooden. He's a good filmmaker who should stay behind the camera. Mike Myers guest role as a British officer is pretty bad and the audience was laughing along every time he spoke.
I wish the movie was made as a farce but I don't think that was Tarantino's intentions. He tried to make a "spaghetti western war movie". But it comes off like a real pedestrian effort that's caters to an audience that's not his. This film felt like his first ever mainstream movie. I was really stunned by how bad this movie is. The lighting is real annoying. I know Robert Richardson loves the whole "halo light" thing but it can be very distracting. The QT fan boys will fall all over themselves for this one because when he says jump they always say "how high?" I don't know how well this movie will do at he box office but what I do know is that he needs a hit big time to re coop the money lost for Grindhouse (which I really enjoyed). Tarantino used to fire on all cylinders, even in his so-so movies (Kill Bill Vol.2) but this one has my scratching my head going "what the hell did I just watch?"
Several of Tarantino's trademarks appear in this film such as "The Mexican Stand-Off", pop culture references (albeit 30's and 40's), a bare foot scene (QT has a well known foot fetish) and the n-bomb is dropped a few times in the film (don't ask how they managed to work that into the movie).
The Gold Rush (1925)
The Cinema of Charles Chaplin: The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush (1925) was a big undertaking for Charles Chaplin. A lot of his time and effort went into the production of this film. During pre-production, he tried to shoot in the Yukon but that proved to be not a sound idea. So he shot the opening scenes in Truckee, California using some local vagabonds as extras. Charlie Chaplin stars as a prospector who tries his luck looking for gold in the Great North. What he discovers is a lot of other things and a little something about the human condition.
A few memorable scenes stick out, one Chaplin starving up to a point where he has to eat his boot (made out of licorice), Chaplin and his companion hallucinating when they run out of things to eat, the iconic opening sequence and the ever famous dancing rolls. I have seen both versions of the film. One thing I didn't like that Chaplin did was that he tinkered with his films in the later years. He re-edited the film and added a narration and cut out several scenes. Despite the alterations, it's an awesome film.
Highest recommendation possible
The Cure (1917)
Charlie's Trip to a health spa!
The Cure (1917) was another one of Charlie Chaplin's shorts that featured a few members of his troupe. Charlie stars as a drunk who goes to a health spa. His day their is filled with all kind of crazy situations. The funniest one involves a burly masseuse who manhandles his clients. After witnessing the masseuse's style of massage, Charlie is a little more than reluctant to participate and the burly dude chases him all over the room very eager to give our hero a "treatment". Edna Purviance co-stars as well.
An interesting look at Chaplin as he assumes more control over his films. A few more of these shorts would lead him to direct, produce, write and star in his first feature length film.