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246 reviews in total 
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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A campy pastiche of Mad Max ripoffs, 5 April 2015

The plot: A post-apocalyptic bounty hunter goes on the defensive when a bounty is issued for his head and his ex-lover comes to collect.

I didn't realize that this was directed by the same person who did The Last Lovecraft. If I had, I probably would have skipped it. Still, it was better than that horrid film, even if only marginally. I'm a sucker for exploitation films, post-apocalyptic films, and especially exploitative post-apocalyptic films, so I figured this would probably appeal to me. The concept does, but the film... not so much. If you're like me, nothing that I say about this film will discourage you from watching it. However, it's not really worth your time if you're looking for something more than a campy pastiche of Mad Max ripoffs.

The first big problem is the humor. I guess if you liked The Last Lovecraft, you'll probably find this hilarious. It's immature, shallow, and not very witty at all. There a few entertaining moments, but they seem to arrive almost accidentally amid the assault of failed jokes. Like the warmed over Sarah Palin jokes from Iron Sky, this film does attempt to pander somewhat to left-leaning audiences, but there's absolutely no substance it. You could probably find wittier humor on The splatter is somewhat amusing, and there are quite a few scenes of decapitation. If you are endlessly amused by gratuitous violence, there's always that saving grace. The hero's sidekick was just plain horrible, though. It reminded me of forced quirkiness of Six String Samurai.

The second major problem is that the camera is constantly trying to have sex with the female star. It's downright distracting, and if you're more interested in watching a film than you are in ogling a moderately attractive B actress, this is going to be a slog to get through for you. Acting, characterization, plot -- pretty much everything comes in a distant second, if that. This isn't a deal-breaker, and it's kind of what one would expect from an exploitation film, but normally there is at least some pretense toward telling a story. This film seems mostly to be an excuse to shoot fanservice from a comic book. It's not terribly surprising to find that the director and writer previously collaborated on making exactly that.

The third and possibly biggest problem is that everything in this film comes from another film. If you've sat through more than a few post-apocalyptic films, then it's likely you'll feel a constant sense of deja vu. Sure, I guess you could call it homage if you're feeling kind, but how badly do we need another low budget ripoff of The Road Warrior? I mean, sure, I'll keep watching them as fast as Phase 4 Films, Lionsgate, and other direct-to-video distributors can keep pumping them out, but maybe a bit of originality would be nice in a while. I can't help but think that Roger Corman could have done more with this high concept premise, and it essentially gets discarded in favor of Mad Max homages until the climax.

If all you want is to ogle a B actress in a post-apocalyptic film with some good if derivative action sequences, then this is a good choice. In fact, it's probably a great choice. If you're looking for anything else, skip it.

"Marksmen" (2013)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Art is fine, but the story is terrible, 31 March 2015

The plot: In post-apocalyptic Texas, a rugged loner from a techno-atheist society discovers that the religious fundamentalists from a nearby city are planning an attack.

If all you want is post-apocalyptic cowboys, then you might enjoy this. For everyone else, I think it will be kind of underwhelming. It's a complete rehash of every post-apocalyptic film or video game that you've ever seen. The art is pretty nice, but the voice work, dialogue, and story are all terrible. Just about everything is stereotypical, overdone, or both. For example, the lead voice actor speaks in a ridiculously over-the-top Clint Eastwood-style growl. I guess if you're a teenager, you might find the themes pretty deep, but it's unlikely anyone else will. Given the rating, I think this was probably aimed at kids. So, I guess maybe check it out if you want a story about post-apocalyptic, atheist cowboys who never curse. Otherwise, skip it. Just watch Mad Max again instead.

Young Ones (2014)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A post-apocalyptic Western, 2 March 2015

The plot: After a catastrophic drought, a man and his two teenaged children attempt to survive in a post-apocalyptic society.

I wanted to like this more than I did. Everything about it seems like it would appeal to me. The problem is that I got a bit bored during a few slower parts of the film as I waited for the predictable plot to catch up to where I knew it was going. That's not a deal-breaker, but the scenes were telegraphed rather overtly early on, and anyone who's familiar with this sort of story can probably predict most of the film after twenty minutes. That said, it successfully avoided several annoying clichés in post-apocalyptic films: cannibals, biker gangs, raping all the female characters, and characters who do more yelling than talking. I was glad to see a post-apocalyptic film that was more concerned with characters than gratuitous elements such as these. Don't get me wrong: I love gratuitous exploitation films, but it's nice to have something a bit more restrained every now and then.

I would hesitate to truly recommend this film to fans of post-apocalyptic science fiction. There's certainly much to enjoy if you're starved for good entries in that genre, but it's nowhere near as good as The Road, which was a near-masterpiece. Certainly, the mood and atmosphere of that film was missing, and if you're looking for a truly bleak and depressing story, you won't find it here. This is a more traditional Western story in which a family survives in a near-lawless frontier. If you're more a fan of Westerns than post-apocalyptic films, then I can see how you might enjoy this more than I did. Even so, I think that you'd be better served by watching old Sergio Leone films. You won't get robotic mules, but you'll get much better cinematography and pacing. I can't remember a time when I was ever bored in a Leone film.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A low budget thriller that is pretty much what you expect, 15 November 2014

The plot: On the day that he is fired, an idealistic paralegal witnesses a professional killer murder one of his former coworkers at a legal firm.

I guess the setup isn't too original, but that's fine with me. I'm always up for a thriller in which a witness is hunted down by a hit-man. The plot is vaguely topical, and it should appeal to those who rail against "big pharma". The setting is law firm engaged in legal action against a giant pharmaceutical company, and there is occasional commentary about corruption in the pharmaceutical industry.

There are a number of minor problems with the film, but I don't think any of them make it unwatchable. If you're more interested in entertainment value than originality, and you're forgiving of plot holes, I think you could do worse than this. The ending has received a bit of criticism here, but I thought it was perfectly fine. However, if you're the kind of person who wants every single plot element fully resolved, I can see how that would annoy you.

There isn't any gore, nudity, or excessively harsh language, and the violence is fairly restrained. There isn't really all that much atmosphere, but Mindhella and Feild do a decent job. For a direct-to-video thriller, I'd say it's about what you might be expecting: flawed but watchable, unoriginal but entertaining.

Evacuate Earth (2012) (TV)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Cheesy and preachy propaganda for spacetravel enthusiasts, 29 August 2014

Can the human race create an arkship that will allow a selected number of refugees to escape a doomed Earth? Apparently so, according to this documentary. The thought experiment involves a roving neutral star on a collision course with our solar system. We've got 75 years before Earth is destroyed, and we must reorganize society, revolutionize our manufacturing capacity, and maintain social order in the face of certain doom for all but a few lucky people.

It's a rather mixed bag, but the concept is definitely intriguing. The worst problem is that this documentary is laughably bad. The dramatic sequences are probably the weakest element; they are horribly melodramatic and very poorly acted, but I suppose they have a certain "so bad it's good" charm. The science is actually better than I expected. I guess if you're a stickler, there will probably be several issues that you can't forgive. For example, as the neutron star approaches Earth, there really isn't much gravitational effect. They do discuss this, but it generally doesn't happen until pretty late in the scenario. Seems a bit unlikely to me. Then again, I slept through most of my physics lectures.

Anyway, as the Earth adapts to this threat, we face several critical questions. Each of them are answered rather quickly and simplistically, perhaps to make way for more dramatic sequences. The balance was all wrong. A few well-placed sequences to underscore the drama would have been much better than the constant use of stock footage, melodrama, and bad CGI. Also, I really don't know that I agree with their story-based approach; I would have preferred something a bit more analytical. They could have asked and explored really deep questions instead of repeatedly showing people unconvincingly panicking in the face of bad CGI. For example, society could go in several different directions, such as dystopian or utopian responses to the threat. It seems as though the creators of this documentary had a specific vision for humanity, and they weren't really interested in exploring any other ideas. I'm not saying that I necessarily disagree, but it's kind of intellectually lazy and preachy.

All in all, this is propaganda for spacetravel enthusiasts. If you're one of them, you'll probably love this, as it will reinforce all your beliefs and congratulate you for forward-thinking vision. If you're not an enthusiast, then you'll probably find it cheesy and preachy. The intriguing questions are answered unsatisfactorily, and any entertainment value is strictly unintentional.

Raw and low-budget character study of a vigilante, 7 August 2014

The plot: After he turns his life around, an ex-con turns vigilante to protect his neighborhood from drug dealers.

I walked into this film not really knowing anything about it, so I expected that it would probably be an urban-themed update of Death Wish. When I saw the Phase 4 Films logo, I lowered my expectations significantly, as Phase 4 has become infamous in some quarters for distributing backyard productions. The production values are actually a bit more raw and low-budget than their usual fare, but it sort of works for the gritty story. The film itself is more of a character study than an outright thriller. It's not exactly Taxi Driver, but it's got significantly more depth than I initially expected, especially once I saw the Phase 4 logo.

The camera work is a bit frenetic during the action scenes, and I think people who were expected bloody carnage may be a bit disappointed. There's more atmosphere -- a strong sense of approaching dread -- than there are scenes of vigilante justice. You can tell that Earl, the protagonist, is conflicted about his path, and the scenes of quiet, angry contemplation were fairly well done for a low budget film. Earl's girlfriend begins to tell him about her day, and he sits there in his car, stewing over a minor incident in which a teenager casually disrespects him. Eventually, Earl gets out of the car while his girlfriend is in mid-sentence, confronts the teenagers, and then tries to smooth things over with his girlfriend. It's obvious that he's going to have to make a decision about his lifestyle soon. Earl is an angry man, and you're never quite sure where his anger is going to lead him.

Earl is an interesting guy, and I was never bored. I'm not quite sure to whom I would recommend this film, however. What it lacks in exploitative violence, it makes up for in depth. I suppose, to some extent, you might compare it to John Sayles' work in low budget exploitation films, elevating them to higher levels. It's also got some elements of early Spike Lee or John Singleton urban dramas, and if you miss those, maybe you'll enjoy this.

ETXR (2014)
17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Shallow New Age nonsense about a techno DJ, 2 June 2014

The plot: A DJ receives extraterrestrial messages through his bland and generic techno music.

I'm not the biggest fan of techno, but I do like it. I was a bit skeptical of the plot; any time you get a synopsis like this, it usually means you're in for 75 or 80 minutes (these are B movies after all) of bland and generic music and a throwaway plot wrapped around it. This was no exception, but it did seem to have airs toward at least aiming a bit higher than the usual horror comedy or hipster drama. There's some talk of extradimensional telepathy, collective consciousness, and transcending to a higher plane of consciousness, but, really, it's all just meaningless mumbo jumbo that doesn't affect the film's plot at all.

This is a fairly shallow, by-the-numbers thriller that unfolds exactly like you think it will. There's one or two sort of trippy scenes, but they're kid's play compared to experimental films or art-house mindscrews. I was hoping for more along those lines, and I was left disappointed. Instead, it played out like the stereotypical paranormal thriller, where the government, big business, and terrorists are obsessed with taking the revolutionary, pseudoscientific invention away from a brilliant but quirky scientist. This time, we also get a techno DJ and his apparently useless friend along for the ride, too.

The invention itself was somewhat interesting, but it turned out to be a huge MacGuffin, a plot device that exists only to drive conflict between the people who own it and the people who want it. Characters constantly talk about how important it is, how it can change everything, etc, but it never really does much of anything throughout the film. For a film that teases you with rather weighty metaphysical questions (such as "How would society change once you force it to a higher state of consciousness?"), there really isn't much to this film. It seems more interested in playing bland techno, showing two girls dancing with each other, and low-budget special effects.

If you're expecting something wildly original, intelligent, or mindblowing, I think you're just going to be as disappointed as I was. If you walk into it with low expectations, a fondness for mainstream dance music, and a desire to see bad actors make out with each other, maybe you'll enjoy this more than I did. I can see how this might become a cult film among fans of raves, but that's about it. Anyone else is probably going to be unimpressed.

Buck Wild (2013)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Troma-inspired idiocy set in Texas, 2 June 2014

The plot: Four friends go on a hunting trip in Texas, only to run up against Chupacabra zombies.

Well, there isn't a lot to say about this film. It's pretty stupid, but I was still amused by some of the scenes. Much of the humor depends on your being an immature, easily amused film nerd. If that's you, then you might like it, too. Just be aware that it's not really action-packed or fast-moving. Despite the bizarre premise, it's not really the most original horror-comedy ever made. It clumsily adopts and mocks every cliché the writers could think of, though not on a terribly intellectual level. It's quite inhibited compared to Troma's sheer insanity and gleeful offensiveness, but there's definitely a bit of inspiration from that infamous studio.

Normally, my tolerance level for these films is quite low, but this one had just enough stupidly amusing scenes that I stuck it out. Also, I liked the end credits song. If you like this sort of nonsense, then I suggest you check out DeadHeads, another recent zombie comedy that was similar in some ways.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Cheesy Humanoid Underground Dweller, 24 May 2014

The plot: A naive reporter finds a bigger story than she was expecting when she visits a underground homeless camp in the abandoned subway tunnels of New York City.

This is a very low budget film. Unfortunately, it's not one of those inventive independent films that makes up for its lack of budget with bold, new ideas and a maverick spirit. Instead, it's pretty much what you'd expect from a direct-to-video Danny Trejo film: a cool villain, a weak story, and a bit of violence. For some people, that will surely be enough to carry the entire film, but if you're not a Trejo fanatic, you can probably skip this one.

The biggest problem is that the homeless people generally don't look very homeless. I'm not saying they have to smell like urine and mumble incoherently, but these people are way too pretty and healthy for me believe that they've actually suffered. One of them has what looks like a brand new guitar. I'm not even sure that I could afford that guitar. You don't have to go all method and make the actors live in a homeless community for a week, but more realism wouldn't have hurt.

Some of the characters were pretty cool. Of course, I liked Danny Trejo, and, of course, he played a badass villain. He was sort of interesting: part ubermensch, part cult leader, and part Occupy Wall Street protester. I'm not sure how well all those things mix, especially when he'd segue from discussing the plight of the homeless to some Nietzsche-inspired rant about how the weak deserve their plight. Still, for Trejo fanatics, it's enough to make the film watchable, and he delivers it with his trademark hostility and danger. As soon as he enters, it's easy to believe that he's the most dangerous man in any room.

The rest of the characters weren't so interesting. Most of them were underwritten and depended on cultural archetypes to give them weight: the crazy homeless guy, the burnt-out ex-cop, the pushy reporter, etc. As long as you don't mind a film full of stock characters that never really transcend their stereotypes, it's fairly survivable. A few of them are well-spoken and even fairly well acted (I liked the crazy homeless guy), but most of the dialogue ends up being clichés, especially after the midpoint. Prior to that point, it seemed like they might be verging on something interesting or insightful, but then they just wander into hack screen writing 101 and never leave.

The plot is fairly traditional, and it holds no real surprises. It's the same film that you've seen time and time again, only this time its set underground. If you just want to see Danny Trejo act like a badass, this is a fair choice. If you want more than that, I'd say skip it. I like films about underground societies, but this one really didn't work very well. For an artsy, quirky take on the subject, try Kontroll, an amazing Hungarian film. For a more fantasy-based take, try Nail Gaiman's Neverwhere. I'm not a huge fan of Gaiman, but even the worst of his work is better than this.

Germ (2013)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
An uninspired zombie film set in central New York, 17 April 2014

The plot: After a satellite falls in central New York, the hapless townspeople are transformed into ravenous zombies.

As far as zombie film plots go, this is hardly an original one. I doubt most people watch direct-to-video zombie films for original ideas, so we can probably overlook this issue. Less forgivable is the acting and directing. After the first ten minutes, I was ready to turn this off, but I decided to give it a chance. After all, this was made not too far away from where I live, and I was curious what a Syracuse-area zombie film would look like.

I'm happy to report that the film does get better after the first excruciatingly bad minutes, but it's still an uphill battle. We're introduced to quite a few characters, none of whom are especially interesting or memorable. The acting is about what you'd expect for a direct-to-video zombie film, but it should be more-or-less tolerable for genre veterans used to lowering their standards.

Once the zombies appear, the pace quickens a bit, but the action scenes are really no more interesting or memorable than the characters. Zombies siege a house, zombies siege a car, zombies siege a police station -- these are not quite inspired scenarios. If you're just looking for a bit of zombie action and low budget gore, this will hold you over until the next direct-to-video zombie film arrives, but there's little recommend about this particular entry in that crowded arena.

For a film that I originally thought was unsalvageable and boring, it eventually did turn into a slightly more interesting film. The problem is that it never really peaked any higher than mediocre. I doubt anyone outside of the central New York area will be as amused by the novelty of its setting, and this is really the only reason why I finished it. If you really want to see New Yorkers terrorized by monsters in low budget horror films, Larry Fessenden, Jim Mickle, and Larry Cohen are better choices.

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