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449 reviews in total 
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"Dead Set" (2008)
Why isn't this more available in the U.S.?, 24 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Given the stunning success of "The Walking Dead" over the past several years, someone's really missing a trick not getting a quality Region 1 release into the pipeline. Yes, I've learned there's an all-regions edition out there, but I don't believe it's been distributed widely, and in any case it certainly hasn't been promoted very well. "Dead Set" is a fine, fine little apocalyptic adventure centered on the travails of a reality-TV cast and crew beset by ravenous zombie hordes ala "28 Days Later." Yep, we've got "zoombies" here, but strangely enough, despite being a purist who distinctly favors Romero-style shamblers, I didn't have a problem with that. The acting is solid, especially lead Jaime "Made in Dagenham" Winstone and primary antagonist Andy "Kick-Ass 2" Nyman, the plot and pacing quite good (ignore the ADHD namby-pambies who whine that the set-up is too long), and the production values of a piece, especially for what is essentially low- budget TV. Any zombie fan worthy of the name should enjoy this one, and, yes, I'd love to see a follow-up of some kind. Recommended.

Halloween (2007)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Horrifically bad from start to finish..., 24 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...and I don't mean that in any sort of cutesy, punning, ironic way whatsoever. I've pretty much about had it with the naked emperor of sleaze, the pretentious hack that calls itself Rob "The Devil's Rejects" Zombie. Never mind the money-grubbing effrontery of remaking an iconic horror movie, Zombie has seen fit to utterly destroy it. "He ain't no Carpenter, he ain't no Cronenberg, he's just a-hackin' along," sung to the tune of the Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime." Yeah, I know that doesn't scan perfectly, but you get the idea. Zombie is a hack, pure and simple, and a tedious, repetitive one at that.

Take a perfectly good premise, then ruin it with a lot of low-class unnecessary back story, cast a slew of genre actors (including a talent-less wife) who wouldn't turn down a paycheck if their lives depended on it, sprinkle with a dose of unimaginative mayhem and gore, strip away all the innocence and charm of your supposed heroine and her friends, season with a rasher of "oh, c'mons!" and gaping lapses in logic, hire on tech support so enamored by your charisma that they won't call you on your mediocre script and pedestrian direction, and poof! You've got a bankable product that the ill-educated, tasteless masses will suck right up like a dog eats its own vomit.

I look forward to the day that Rob Zombie gets called out in public for the perfect example of Sturgeon's Law that he is. I actually saw his repugnant "Halloween 2" before this one, and not only refrained from commenting on it here because I didn't want to dirty my keyboard, I also swore not to bother with this wretched mess. I'm damn sorry I went back on my own word. Won't happen again. Zombie is hereby on my no-watch list for good.

The Dead (2010)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not entirely without merit, but..., 17 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...obviously "The Dead" didn't set any worlds on fire, nor did it attract all that much of an audience, at least judging by its relative dearth of attention here on the IMDb. I'm not surprised. Written, directed, shot and edited by a Brit brother team of no great renown, "The Dead" suffers from a fairly mundane script with the debatable highlights of a unique setting (at least for zombie movies--and I may be overlooking an Italian gut-muncher or two), some old-school production values (practical fx instead of CGI), and a lead who had a bit part in "Saving Private Ryan." That ain't a lot, but it helps lift "The Dead" just a tad over its lesser brethren.

As mentioned, it's the script that keeps this one from being memorable. You've seen and heard all of this before, and usually in better films with more interesting characters in more interesting situations. "The Dead" sports a few too many tedious sequences of traipsing the wilds for its own good, and not enough genuine storytelling. You see this sort of thing all the time in amateur films on YouTube; it's irritating in a full-length motion picture. The Ford Brothers have some talent, but they need to refine and polish it. I won't write them off on the basis of this one misfire, but they definitely need to step up their game.

Genre viewing only, and the cheaper the better.

Life of Pi (2012)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Whatever flaws this film may have..., 14 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...are joyously outweighed by its sheer visual brilliance and embrace of life and love. Being a translation of a novel means "Life of Pi" can be, at times, a bit confusing perhaps, but the overall narrative remains strong, and the protagonist is such a rich, well-defined character that the viewer can't help being drawn into the story. I won't belabor things; others have done that quite nicely elsewhere on this site. Let it simply be said that this is a film that any cinemaphile will enjoy, perhaps even despite whatever prejudices or predilections they may suffer. I can't comment on the 3D, since I saw it flatscreen, but when I get the opportunity to see it that way, you can bet I will.

Highly, highly recommended.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Sad to see Ms. Lawrence attached to such a stinker..., 14 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...and even sadder to see that it apparently turned a decent profit, which will only confirm the Hollywood suits' low estimation of audience intelligence. Sporting a disappointingly derivative script, cardboard characters, uninteresting dialog, and pedestrian camera-work, "House at the End of the Street" will quickly sink into the obscurity it so richly deserves but for the charm and talents of Ms. Lawrence. Without her presence, it would have been an abject failure; as it stands, it's merely another example of Sturgeon's Revelation. The less said about it, the better. Sad as well to see Elisabeth "Leaving Las Vegas" Shue consigned to such dreck, although it's at least a step up from swill like the remake of "Piranha." 'Nuff said; you've been warned.

Hiding (2012) (V)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Almost unremarkably mundane..., 1 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...but having received such short shrift here on the IMDb, it deserves at least one more comment/review. With "made for TV" stamped all over it, it's little surprise that "Hiding" went straight to video; it contains absolutely nothing that demands a big-screen presentation. "Hiding" is make-work all the way, presumably to showcase newcomer Ana "Los Americans" Villafañe (although how she's merits an "introducing" is beyond me, given her resume) and give a lot of 2d-tier people something to do. I'll give props to DP Danny "Blood Ties" Nowak for decent camera-wrangling and lighting, and to rising star Jeremy "Peter Pan" Sumpter for putting the integrity of his resume at risk.

The primary failure of "Hiding," of course, is the utterly unsurprising by-the-numbers script that offers up some occasionally witty teen banter and little else. The characters, though not as stereotypical as one might fear, are mostly shallow and under- developed, and the plot is banal and full of holes. Does the witness protection program really leave its charges utterly marooned and isolated and sticking out like a sore thumb with blatantly faked records that even high-schoolers can ferret out? Does a subject like Jo actually take a Spanish class when she's already fluent and been instructed not to reveal it? And do trusted authority figures really reveal key private information to smarmy strangers?

No matter. If one of the principals in the cast flips your switches, I suppose you could do much worse than this inadequate teen thriller, but you'd likely have to be fairly easy to please. Anyone looking for quality film entertainment should give this one a pass; they won't miss a thing.

Monsters (2010)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not too shabby for a debut feature film..., 18 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...from a guy with a CV based primarily on visual effects, "Monsters" suffered at the box office due to limited release and a lack of brand- name stars. Nonetheless, it's well worth a watch on the idiot box, thanks to an unassuming little script that refuses to pay obeisance to acne-ridden teenage testosterone, some very nice DP work by the production's auteur, and solid performances from the aforementioned unknown leads, Scott "Argo" McNairy and Whitney "you've seen me in Maxim" Able.

At core a road movie romance, "Monsters" sports a climactic peak likely to be unique to most viewers, and it fits the tone of all that's preceded it quite nicely. The final ending to the film seems almost unnecessary, perhaps even tacked on as a sop to those who need some sort of a twist to justify their experience. No matter; it's not enough to derail things. Writer/director/production designer/cinematographer Gareth Edwards has put together an impressive lo-fi movie, and I for one will be looking forward to seeing how he handles the upcoming Darabont- penned Godzilla project, assuming that it overcomes current legal battles. Meanwhile, one could do much, much worse than time spent with "Monsters."

Excision (2012)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Surgery usually leaves a scar or two..., 14 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...and "Excision" is no exception; tyro auteur Richard Bates Jr.'s feature debut---expanded from his identically titled short four years earlier (and, yes, it would have been nice to have had that as a DVD extra)---is a decidedly uncomfortable peek at a seriously disturbed young woman's descent into homicidal psychosis. I am unsurprised that it failed to find theatrical distribution as it is by no means a feel-good film. It leaves the viewer feeling somewhat abused, much like films like "We Need To Talk About Kevin" or "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" do.

Bates' mostly tight script, some nice lensing by Itay "movin' on up" Gross, excellent art direction and production design, and a cast loaded with brand recognition all combine to concoct a psychodrama that transcends its lo-fi nature with a sure hand. Complaints are duly noted elsewhere as to the general unlikability of the protagonist, and they're hard to argue with, but I still found this demented character study to be compelling. I'll throw AnnaLynne "90210" McCord a round of props for her excellent portrayal of a femme psycho-geek, even as I reiterate how much I'd like to have seen what the original short's actress (Tessa "Grey's Anatomy" Ferrer) did with the character (mostly to see if she could subsume her natural beauty as effectively as McCord did--extra major props to the makeup crew!). Tracy "The Tommyknockers" Lords deserves mention as well for playing the straitlaced mother way against type. Various other notables appear, lending much credence to the project; maybe their casting was a deliberate ploy to gain "cult" recognition, maybe not. It certainly didn't hurt the tone of the film.

"Excision" topped off a week of under-the-radar films and was by far the most successful of them overall. If you like stuff like "May" and so on, you'll enjoy "Excision."

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A canine short of truly compelling..., 8 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...but nonetheless praiseworthy, writer/director Scott Leberecht's debut feature ought to surely lead to bigger and better projects, not just for Leberecht, but his leads as well; without their solid portrayals, "Midnight Son" wouldn't have worked nearly as well as it does. This one reminded me of "Zombie Honeymoon," another lo-fi genre feature that managed to transcend its budget.

Zak "Zombie Strippers" Kilberg plays the heliophobic protagonist with just the right touch of pathos, while Maya Parish usually keeps up with him as the smitten love interest. A variety of well-established (Tracey "I Spit On Your Grave" Walter, Larry "Deadwood" Cedar, and Juanita "Meet the Browns" Jennings) and contending (Jo D. "Next Day Air" Jonz, Arlen "Final Destination 5" Escarpeta, and Kevin "The Amazing Spider-Man" McCorkle) character actors lend extra authority to the proceedings. One might question the likelihood of the misbegotten romance (Parish is noticeably older than pretty boy Kilberg), the back stories aren't terribly well fleshed out, and a few of the plot devices feel forced (cf. the crooked hospital worker with a secret), but overall "Midnight Son" plays nicely. It may not be as memorable as its obvious (and superior) progenitors like "Near Dark" and "Vampire's Kiss," but it does the job with no shortage of heart. And, thankfully, it makes no attempt to lampoon or even acknowledge that sparkly vampire potboiler that dealt such a noxious blow to the genre. Recommended.

Prometheus (2012/I)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Coulda, shoulda, woulda..., 25 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...but didn't, mostly thanks to a script that yearns to live up to the 3D surcharge but can't quite cut it. I'm sure "Prometheus" looked great in the theaters, no doubt, but the story is too boneheaded at times to allow significant willing suspension of disbelief. Most anyone reading this already knows what I'm talking about. Although the story provides a genesis, of sorts, for the "Alien" chronology, "Prometheus" concerns itself with loftier conceits while ignoring a lot of common sense and natural laws along the way. The cast is fine, with Michael "Band of Brothers" Fassbender a standout as the morally ambiguous android, and Noomi "The Girl With..." Rapace as the dauntless heroine destined for a sequel likely to be just as loaded with "oh, c'mon!s" as its progenitor. The less spent the better, but worth a watch if only for the meticulous production design and special effects, basically a B-movie with an A-budget. Charlize "Monster" Theron groupies will not be sated, but neither displeased. Ultimately, "Prometheus" promises fire but settles for routine sci-fantasy with top flight visuals.

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