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441 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This is the sort of trash..., 29 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...that makes me seriously question my local library's video acquisition policies. Irredeemably bad in virtually every respect, I hesitate to mention any names involved whatsoever, for fear of possible loss of my immortal soul. All of them should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Let's just say that stuntmen should never be directors, Vin Diesel lookalikes should stick with being body doubles or anything else that keeps them out of public view, and bimbo actresses should always be seen and never heard. Also, Michael "never saw a paycheck I wouldn't take" Madsen and Armand "me, too" Assante should immediately retire from the business before they lose their own immortal souls. This is crap with a capital C and if anyone reading this actually goes out and buys, rents, or even steals/downloads it, well, it's your immortal soul, fool, and I hope you enjoyed it while you still had it. I almost never slap a "1" on a film, but this one surely deserves it for the absolute waste of $7m dollars it represents.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
You don't need me to tell you how inconsequential this is..., 29 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...since if you're here reading this, you likely already know. Somehow a no-name tyro director and his backers lured Bill "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" Moseley and pint-sized scream queen Danielle "Halloween (2007)" Harris into heading up an otherwise equally no-name cast in an utterly uninspired direct-to-DVD slasher film. This is Sturgeon's Revelation all the way, folks, with minimal redemptive value, in one eye and out the other. Be assured, there is nothing "haunting" or in any way shocking, horrifying, or scary contained within "Blood Night..." other than the sheer banality of everything that takes place, and the lack of verve and style with which it is executed. Moseley's performance is the worst I've ever seen him do; why he accepted the role is beyond me (maybe he's just tired of playing psychos). Harris does what she can after waiting half the film to make her entrance, but there's only so much credence one can lend to a 30-year-old woman playing a college freshman (and never mind that none of the rest of the cast look like the teenagers they're supposed to be). The script is sophomoric at best, without an ounce of wit or originality, the dual-DP cinematography is competent but uninteresting, and you've seen gore fx and general mayhem like this done a thousand times before, and usually better. The stronger of the actresses (including Harris) wisely avoid nudity, the rest of the cast is undistinguished, and the less I have to say, the less you have to bother reading. You've been warned; this is boredom viewing only, fit only for indiscriminate adolescents with nothing better to do with their time, another strike against my local library's video buyer.

Another Aardman plasticine triumph..., 26 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...which, although it fails to solve the riddle of which came first, the chicken or the egg, nonetheless fits its 80-minute running time as smoothly as an egg in its shell. Nick Park and Peter Lord, the heart and soul of the illustrious Aardman Animations, deliver another superb piece of stop-motion entertainment, this one a riff on "The Great Escape," only it's chickens trying to escape their rubber-booted owners and the threat of a chicken pot pie machine. It's great stuff, nicely written, and gorgeously conceived and executed, pardon the pun. The only thing I thought was sadly lacking was a "chicken crossing the road" joke, and it's possible I just missed it. Eminently worth a rewatch. And another...

"I told you they was organised."

Chronicle (2012)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A showcase for a slew of young turks..., 15 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...said up-and-comers being tyro director, Josh "The Kill Point" Trank, writer, Max "I am my father's son" Landis, and lead actors, Dane "Lawless" DeHaan, Alex "Carrie (2013)" Russell, and Michael B. "Red Tails" Jordan. In a tale that riffs on ancient Greek admonitions about hubris and the Judeo-Christian equivalent, "pride goeth before a fall," "Chronicle"'s three high-schoolers discover a strange artifact that transforms them into superhumans (powerful telekinesis, flying, relative invulnerability). The results are eventually tragic, although the film ends on a note of hope and redemption. The trip along the way is refreshingly well done, an examination of the nature of the superman without the embarrassment of comic book adolescence. No spandex costumes, no crime-fighting, adventure-seeking nonsense, just a thoughtful examination of Lord Acton's famous adage, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," which he expanded upon thus, "Great men are almost always bad men." The "found footage" presentation makes it immediately accessible, especially since there's a notable dearth of shaky-cam so often associated with that conceit.

I note with interest that the trinity of leads all have biblical names closely associated with the New Testament: Stephen (Steve) was an early Christian martyr, while Andrew and Matthew (Matt) were Apostles of Jesus. Coupled with Andrew's interest in Tibetan mysticism and Matt's eventual journey there, along with Andrew's dramatic arc akin to a male version of "Carrie" ramped up a few orders of magnitude, this can't be accidental. References to folks like Schopenhauer and Jung highlight Andrew's ultimate belief that he has become an "apex predator," thus making the tragic finale all the more inevitable.

Still, despite a satisfying close to the story (which I will not spoil), there's plenty of wiggle room for a sequel, and given that this brisk (running time less than 75 minutes by my DVD clock, not counting credits) sci-fantasy made a very handsome profit, I have little doubt there will be one. We can only hope that Landis gets to script it. Recommended.

Thoroughly effective low-rent lycanthropy...., 8 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...and despite its failings, still one of my all-time favorite werewolf movies, Joe "Piranha" Dante's direction and John "ditto" Sayles' script are a hairy blend of E.C. Comics and a certain post-modern sensibility; this time the wily shape-shifters congregate at a rustic seaside retreat run by a new-agey shrink (Patrick "The Avengers" Macnee) who brings our heroine (Dee "The Hills Have Eyes" Wallace) there to ostensibly deal with the PTSD (as we millennials now call it) she's been suffering after an attack by one of the colony's more recalcitrant members (Robert "This was my foot in the door!" Picardo). Naturally the good doctor has an unorthodox sort of therapy in mind, and ultimately things don't quite work out for our lead, or her hubby (Christopher "in real life, too!" Stone), or a co-worker (Belinda "I'm yet another Dante regular!" Balaski), and ultimately the not-so-good doctor and most of his lupine cohort. The film is chock full of in-jokes & genre character actors, seasoned nicely with magnificent fx work from Rob "where am I now?" Bottin, and topped off with a requisite nubile femme fatale. It was a complete breath of fresh blood for a cinematic monster staple, paving the way another genre favorite, John Landis' "An American Werewolf in London." Both films have ardent fans to this day, and truly one is hard-pressed to say which is the more successful in accomplishing what it sets out to do. I tend to favor the more polished Landis film, but "The Howling" remains a quirky pleasure. It's hard to argue with a genre classic that includes the likes of Dick "Bucket of Blood" Miller, Slim "Dr. Strangelove" Pickens, Kevin "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" McCarthy, Kenneth "The Thing From Another World" Tobey, and John "count 'em!" Carradine. Highly recommended.

Addendum: and where, oh, where *is* Rob Bottin now that we really need him?

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A classic 80s horror comedy..., 30 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...that holds up extremely well after three decades, writer/director Jon "Animal House" Landis' dark homage to and update of Universal's 1941 "The Wolf Man." The main twist from a straightforward doomed romance tale centers on continual warnings from the lead's dead friend that he must kill himself or wind up as a murderous monster. As in the original, things end unhappily ever after.

Its box office perhaps ran afoul of the prior release of Joe Dante's "The Howling" and Michael Wadleigh's "Wolfen," but that didn't keep Rick Baker's magnificent makeup effects from winning that first categorical Oscar (against contender, Stan Winston, for "Heartbeeps"), nor has that kept it from being the most highly regarded of the three. Truthfully, I enjoy all three, but this is the one I revisit the most often.

Ignore the curmudgeons; the acting is fine. David "I'm a Pepper!" Naughton provides his doomed hero a winning innocence, and Griffin "After Hours" Dunne is perfect as the undead friend, while Jenny "Logan's Run" Agutter charmingly embodies the tragic love interest. The rest of the cast is of a piece, including John "Fatherland" Woodvine as the inquisitive doctor, Brian "Alien3" Glover and David "Pirates of the Caribbean" Schofield as secretive townsfolk, and even Frank "The Dark Crystal" Oz in a somewhat rare human appearance. The only "bad" actors are the ones in "See You Next Wednesday," the smutty film-within-the-film, and they're meant to be that way. And it still amuses me that Landis has gotten away with that ribald trademark for so long, and that so few people know what it really means.

Never mind that; so many talented people helped make this film a genre milestone. Elmer "too many to pick just one" Bernstein's moody snippets of underscoring, the aforementioned Rick "you have to ask?" Baker's groundbreaking fx, favored Landis collaborator, Robert "Thriller" Paynter's aces camera-work, superb production and art design, and (of course) Landis' brilliant selection of pop songs to accentuate mood (forget that he didn't get everything he wanted; what he got worked beautifully, from the melancholy intro of Bobby Vinton's "Blue Moon" to the edgy jangle of CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" to the ironically conclusive Marcels doo-wop "Blue Moon" bouncing a stunned audience through the credits before it can recover from a quick and utterly---though totally foreseeable---tragic ending). Sweet! There's almost nothing I don't love about "American Werewolf in London." I can't imagine that the impending remake can possibly improve on it, although I'll no doubt give it a fair chance to try. The original will always be with us regardless. If you haven't seen it yet (though truthfully, I can't imagine that, either, if you're bothering to read this blurb), do. You won't regret it.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Unsettling, unsparing, and somewhat unsatisfying..., 19 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

..."We Need to Talk About Kevin" is primarily a showcase for the exceptional talents of Tilda "Orlando" Swinton and a breakout performance by Ezra "Californication" Miller in a somewhat artsy examination (based on a much more satisfying novel) of the age-old nature versus nurture dichotomy of child rearing. It's a noble attempt, and surely a feather in the cap of long-dormant Brit auteur, Lynne "Ratcatcher" Ramsay, but the transition from page to screen can't quite capture the nuances of the source material. Despite the bravura cast, fine lensing by Seamus "The Avengers" McGarvey, an apt score from Radiohead guitarist, Jonny "There Will Be Blood" Greenwood, and all around production values that make full use of a pared down budget, "...Kevin" can only substitute an artful highlight reel of events (presented mostly in flashback) for the densely-written proceedings of an epistolary novel. As a result, much of the complexity of the protagonist/antagonist relationship is lost, as well as those between the mother and her husband and daughter. Much as most film adaptations of Stephen King's work suffer from the loss of internal monologues and interior storytelling, so too with "...Kevin." I'm unsurprised that it was a box office dud; the subject matter is old hat in this day and age, and "...Kevin" doesn't have the supernatural hook of forebearers like "Rosemary's Baby" or "The Omen," or even the once-upon-a-time shock value of "The Bad Seed." School massacres have devolved into dime-a-dozen headlines that fade faster than it takes to bring the perps to trial, and of course in these post-WTC/Internet beheadings/Norway/Aurora massacre times, the travails of a reluctant mother and her murderous offspring apparently don't really draw a lot of sympathy or interest.

Nonetheless, Swinton fits her role to a tee, as does Miller, and the two younger versions of Kevin are pretty impressive as well. John C. "Casualties of War" Reilly fills in as the hornswoggled dad; even if the role is vastly reduced from the book, he does what he can and does it well. Altogether, there's still much to like about it, and it's well worth a watch, if only to enjoy the nervous thrill of feeling "there but for the grace of God go I."

An auspicious debut..., 17 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...that nonetheless falters in the wake of a half-hearted script, "Martha Marcy May Marlene" benefits as much from Elizabeth "Silent House" Olsen's impressive performance as it does anything else. Ms. Olsen is perfectly cast, her doughy prettiness an apt fit for Martha, the proverbial calf led to slaughter that has somehow managed to break free from the killing floor. One can easily imagine her cranking out cult babies left and right as she spreads maternally while drawing more and more damaged young women into her leader's clutches. That her character instead summons the wherewithal to escape those clutches lends wonderful power to the proceedings; even as we yearn to shake this dazed and confused little cow out of her soporific paranoia and wretchedness, we marvel at the strength it took her to get away from the hell into which she'd fallen. If only she'd been able to maintain that gumption in some effort to seek further help; I half expected her to either dumbly return to perdition or perhaps let herself sink into the lake next to her sister's vacation home when she spied the apparition of her recent oppressor.

Point being, Ms. Olsen reveals herself as a talent to watch, far more interesting than her currently more famous sisters. The rest of the cast are no slouches, either. John "Deadwood" Hawkes delivers another well-inhabited character as the Manson-ish cult leader; I never cease to be impressed by his abilities. Likewise, Sarah "American Gothic" Paulson and Hugh "Black Hawk Down" Dancy as Martha's estranged sister and her husband trying to deal with the sudden reappearance of Martha's damaged goods, along with Brady "Funny Games" Corbet as the sleazy, vacuous agent of Martha's entrapment in cult life, provide strong foils for Ms. Olsen's descent into helplessness. Truthfully, the entire cast is as capable as one could ask.

In the end, though, it's the script that renders the film less than the sum of its parts. Its substance is too derivative (the cult and its leader too Manson-like for their own good) and a little too sketchy as well, Martha's backstory is almost non-existent, as are the details of the cult she's joined. For lack of a better term, everything's too facile. How do these people survive, how do they get by? What motivates them to stay together, never mind their malevolent dictator's supposed charisma? No doubt the writer/director's intentions were to raise these questions (among many others) and purposefully leave them to our collective imagination. All well and good, but it reduces the film to an inadequate character portrait, one that leaves us sympathizing far more with the frustrated sister and husband than the sad little heifer who managed to escape the axe. And that, I think, is distinctly not what auteur Durkin wanted.

At any rate, "Martha Marcy May Marlene" remains a strong calling card for its creator and its star, ripe with promises of greater things to come. I deem it worth a watch by anyone interested in the flowering of young talent, even it if has little in the way of repeat viewability.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
In one eye and out the other entertainment..., 14 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers *** pretty much the nicest thing one can say about this fourth installment in the fangs-and-fetish franchise that is "Underworld." Kate "Pearl Harbor" Beckinsale once again assays what will forever be her signature role as the vampiress warrior in form-fitting black. Despite the guidance of her auteur husband, Len "Live Free or Die Hard" Wiseman, her performance takes her nowhere she hasn't been already, and the slipshod four-author script remains ample evidence of why this make-work project failed to generate much box-office excitement for any but the franchise faithful. Tons of action, loads of CGI and gore, the lure of 3D (yay!), and of course the tantalizing lure of Ms. Beckinsale's lethal dominatrix-in-disguise; you'd think that the prized audience of adolescent-to-30something males would have slavered all over this one. Apparently, they did not. So much for insatiable testosterone.

It's interesting to note that IMDb voting has declined both qualitatively and quantitatively as the franchise continued, yet the much smaller female contingent consistently scores it better (to the tune of a full half point) than the Y-chrome cadre, most likely due to the strength and self-confidence of Beckinsale's heroine. I find that somehow refreshing. Perhap the cause of female empowerment has actually won some inroads into entrenched paternalism and misogyny.

No matter; back to the film. As always, it's the script that drags this installment down into the ranks of dispensability. As almost always, multiple writers: questionable results. The key loss, I think, was Danny McBride as lead scripter; I'd be interested in finding out why he parted ways with his co-creation. I've always treated the series as a guilty pleasure at best, in which style surpasses substance (and often only due to a sheer deficit of the latter), but it held a certain campy charm that has finally dissipated in this recent entry. The finale assuredly promises a future installment, but I can't say that I'm anticipating it. I'd rather see what Wiseman has done with the retread of "Total Recall," and that only barely.

Late-night boredom and/or fanboy viewing only.

Could have been much better..., 4 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...but still of interest to genre fans, if only for the brief interview sequences with Martine "Dr. Jeckyl & Sister Hyde" Beswick and Ingrid "The Vampire Lovers" Pitt and whatever snippets of old film you haven't seen yet. Beyond that, this is standard TV filler, albeit presented under the auspices of Elvira "and who among us isn't amused by her auspices?" Mistress of the Dark, with no repeat viewability whatsoever. The commentary is uninspired, the information presented is routine, and in the end one wonders why it was put together in the first place, unless perhaps to promote the "Alien" quadrilogy (note this is a Fox production...hmmmm!) Dispensible, but worth a watch (for free) if you have nothing better to do.

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