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I love to read and write reviews mostly on my favorite genres, Sci-Fi and Horror. I grew up in the Drive-in and VHS era so I have seen the changing trends as time goes and how movie have evolved and, in many cases, devolved.
Fear the Walking Dead (2015)
Fear The Walking Dead needs to improve or else
This "Walking Dead" spin-off takes us to the early days of the zombie outbreak, before Rick, Michonne, the Governor and the fall of society as we know it. It's an interesting premise. Usually, zombie movies start when the world has been already overrun by the undead and not many of them focus on the systematic collapse of civilization. Not only Fear takes us to a different timeline, but it also introduces new characters and a new location. It takes place in the busy suburbs of L.A. and it takes us away from the wilderness settings of the original series. And although this show has an interesting premise, it has to be hard to fill out the shoes of the juggernaut The Walking dead has become. But one might think that having the people behind the TWD involved in this new zombie venture could secure a great TV pilot. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Fear the Walking Dead.
Fear fails in everything TWD succeeded in. TWD excels in its intensity, characters, terrifying atmosphere, special effects and raw action. Fear does not (so far). People argue that it's because the show has a different pacing, or that is just a pilot and eventually it will pick up the pace, and that might be true but when you are making a TV pilot, you need to grab your audience from the very get go or you will lose them. This pilot doesn't grabs you. It tries at the first 5 minutes but decides to let you go and it quickly becomes dull and generic.
It introduces characters that are hard to fall in love with. Their development is uninteresting and it takes too long to go anywhere. The relationships between the characters are not organic, there's no chemistry between the main married couple. The foreshadowing is laughable and full of clichés. There are several sense where they use cheap suspense buildups that lead to nothing. For example, the principal is sitting absolutely still and ominous music begins to plays just to show him listening to a radio. Also we have kids watching a zombie incident through their cellphones acting indifferent to what they are seeing. But my biggest complaint is that the show is way, way too slow. Although it pickups a bit at the last 30 minutes, is not enough to captivate you to wait for the next episode. In all, nothing truly significant happens in this episode.
Fortunately, not everything is lost. There are two characters that I found interesting. One is Nick (Played by Frank Dillane) he is a heroin addict who is the first one to witness a walker and is the only one who is trying to make sense of what he has seen. Although this character has issues with drugs and the horror he saw at the beginning of the show, he plays it very well and it is easy to identify with him. Also, Dillane is perhaps the best actor in the show so far. The other is Tobias (Played by Lincoln Castellanos). He is a high school student that, while everyone else seems to be oblivious of what is happening, he is pretty much aware of the imminent apocalypse due to his online research on the phenomenon. I really hope that we get to see more of these characters and that the upcoming episodes pick up the pace. Otherwise, it's to the back burner with Fear of the Walking Dead.
Furious 6 (2013)
This series just keeps getting better
This is one of those rare occasions when a franchise goes from being okay to being absolutely awesome. 12 years ago, I would have never expected this series to make it this far and not only that, to evolve into what it is today. Furious 6 does not pretend to be anything else but a high octane summer action movie and it does it better than any other movie this year so far.
In Furious 6 agent Hobbs request the help of Dominic and his crew to find a dangerous mercenary in exchange for full pardon, but also to find Dominic's believed deceased girlfriend, Letty.
This movie almost feels like a testosterone 007 movie. The series takes us to Spain and England. The chase sequences are just amazing, the stuns are great, and the cars, well; it's a Fast and Furious film. The acting it's what it is, but the thematic of family and friendship are believable and heartwarming. The main villain this time around is pretty solid and does feel like a true challenge for the protagonists. This movie was so well made and so fun to watch that after watching the surprise revelation at the ending credits I can't wait to see the next one. Furious 6 has it all, action, comedy, women, and a lot of insane cars. This is what true blockbuster movies are all about. I highly recommended.
Fun, Martial Arts, Retro VHS flick with notable actors
Oh, those good old days of the VHS, when movies, no matter their low-budget, had meaning. Back in the 80s martial arts films were so popular that any backdoor-garage-studio could produce a low budget film and make tons of money. After JCVM paved the way for tournament fighting style movies with his successful film, "Blood Sport," it was sure that many others clones would follow. Shootfighter followed on the same path but with a lower budget and less flare.
Shootfighter tells the story of two friends, Ruben (William Zabka) and Nick (Michael Bernardo), who are tricked to fight in a no-holds-barred tournament to the death by a blood hungry shootfighter named Mr. Lee (Martin Kove). Their master, Shingo (Bolo Yeung), has to save them from Lee and his cronies.
This movie was memorable because it had Zabka and Kove, both antagonists on Karate Kid (1984) and Yeung the main antagonist in Blood Sport. Now, the acting was average, photography was average, the plot was average, but the martial art choreography was top notch. That's one thing, no matter how cheap movies were back in the 80s and 90s they had some awesome fighting.
If you love old martial arts films, get a pizza, a case of beer, and watch this retro junk on a late Saturday night. You won't regret it.
The Divide (2011)
Dismal view of survival
This is not your typical post-apocalypse movie; in fact, this is more of an apocalyptic movie without the "post." In some way it is original because the movie takes place during the apocalyptic event and not years after, like some other movies like "The Road Warrior" or "Book of Eli" but instead, it focuses mainly on the actual event and how the survivors have to deal with the situation in the "here and now". It is interesting film; nevertheless it is not a complete movie due to the lack of characters' background development which, in my opining, would've complemented some of the characters motives.
The story opens up when New York, is being nuked by an unknown enemy. People in a building seek refuge in a bunker-like basement where the building super, has stocked the place with food and supplies, like he knew something like this was going to happen. The survivors soon start losing it as fast as they are running out of food and after a while, they turn on one another making them lose their moral and humanity in the process.
I liked the movie but it is not explained who the characters were or what they used do before the apocalypse, making it a little hard to identify with any of them. Many of the characters are unlikeable from the very beginning of the movie and down flat ungrateful. The only character that has some hinted background is the building super, Mickey played by Michael Biehn, which is phenomenal in this movie, but even his character comes out as an A-hole at times. Mickey was a firefighter and from what I can tell, he lost his family during 9/11, this might explain why he prepared this bunker.
The other thing I found a little odd was that in situations like this people tend to seek religious comfort, but in the movie this is never explored, God is never mentioned, not even as an expression.
Overall I did like who some of the characters turned from jerks to absolute psychopaths. This movie is gritty, gloomy, and downright ruthless. There are some scenes that will disturb you and will stay with you for quite some time. If you like post-apocalyptic or apocalyptic movies that explore the moral of men and the darkness in human nature then this one is right for you.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Blair will never let you go
I remember back in 1999, this film was marketed as a real event and that the events you were seeing were true and these people have actually disappeared. Of course, that wasn't the case but marketing it this way lured people to go see it, including me. Never have I seen such a film so original, that engaged me, and made me believe that what I was seeing was true since "Cannibal Holocaust."
It is set in 1994 when a group of three student filmmakers were filming a documentary on a legendary witch known as Blair in Burkittsville, Maryland. As they go deeper into the woods they get lost and every night they hear strange sounds coming from the woods but they can't make what it is or where it comes from. As the days go by, they succumb in desperation as they can't find a way out of the dense woods. But even more horrifying is that someone or something is hunting them.
After leaving the theater back in 1999, this movie would just not leave my mind for days. The acting was unbelievable, even more coming from unknown threesome of actors. It was shot in a first person point of view with the actors being the ones holding the camera giving it a new sense of realism, now this wasn't absolutely new style of filming. Cannibal Holocaust was filmed the same way but it hasn't been done in a long time. Also you never see what is hunting them; the movie forces the viewers to use their imagination and to fill in the gabs. Nowadays many movies try to copy the filming style of The Blair Witch but fall short. But what was even more amazing is that this little independent film, with a budget of nearly $30,000, earned over 240 million dollars at the box office. That is something you don't see every day.
This film don't have the eye candy and gore other horror films have or elaborate setting or big names, it is simple, creative and extremely effective and I would dare say it is up there with films such as "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby." This film is without a doubt a masterpiece of cinema and I strongly recommended it.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Action Packed Zombie Thrill Ride
Never did I imagine these movies to make it this long, but to my surprise they have and it looks like they will continue. I did like Extinction more than Apocalypse, but even I believed it was the end of the franchise. Then Afterlife comes and, although for me it is not as good as Extinction, it is quite entertaining and it blends a lot of elements and themes used in other zombie movies and media.
So Afterlife takes off where Extinction left our survivors on their search for Arcadia, the supposed haven located in Alaska. Alice, in an attempt to once and for all stop the evil Umbrella Corporation, gathers her clone army and attacks the Umbrella HQ in Japan. After losing all her clones in an Akira like nuclear explosion, Alice returns to Alaska in search for her friends and Arcadia, but she only manages to find Claire, which seems to be in a stage of amnesia and no Arcadia. Then she and Claire fly to LA where they find refuge in a large prison complex which is inhabited by other survivors. But outside the prison, there are thousands of zombies tirelessly trying to break in the prison. Alice and the survivor have to figure out a way to escape the prison and make their way to Arcadia before the prison is finally overrun by the living dead.
The Resident Evil movies are a far cry from the games or themselves. I did enjoy Afterlife prison idea and there's quite a good amount of zombie action and gore, but it falls flat in terms of story and screenplay. The characters seem too comic-book like and the story doesn't make much sense at times, but there's no denying that this movie is quite a ride and the zombies are ruthless, specially the one that carries a giant sledgehammer. Although Milla Jovovich character, Alice, is not from the game franchise, I think she carries these movies and they wouldn't be the same without her. To this point you can't compare the games and the movies, they are now two different entities that only share the same title. The F/Xs and visuals are great, the photography is excellent, and it has a killer soundtrack.
I recommend Resident Evil: Afterlife as what it is; a horror/action/pop-corn movie, nothing more, nothing less. So, if you love zombie movies or anything related to zombies, check it out.
Memorable in so many ways really!
When I first saw HoTLD, I was about 7 years old when my sister's boyfriend rented it on VHS, oh those good old days of the VCR era. So after watching it on a Friday night, I have to admit that it scared the living hell out of me. There was something about it that terrified me, maybe the grainy look or the ominous music or the gory zombie scenes, but whatever it was I couldn't sleep for days. Back in 1997 I found a copy on the now late Suncoast video store and without thinking it twice, I bought it. Has it ever happened to you that when you're a kid and you see a movie and you like it to the bone then you see the same movie as an adult and it's a total disappointment? Well, this is one of those cases, heck I even returned the movie. So I Haven't seen it since then until just a few weeks ago a friend of mine gave me his collection of cheap zombie flicks from the 80s and there it was "Hell of the Living Dead."
The story takes place somewhere in New Guinea where a research facility called "Hope" is developing some type of chemical that accidentally leaks out thanks to an infected rat turning most of the scientist into flesh eating zombies and the others into their happy meals. Meanwhile, somewhere else, a team of trigger happy commandos are sent to stop a group of environmental terrorist that have taken hostage an American Embassy, I think it was the American Embassy, and are demanding that all the Hope facilities be shutdown. The team storms the embassy eliminating the entire terrorists without much effort but not before the leader of the group says his last prophetic words about them being devoured or something like that. Then that same team of commandos is sent to New Guinea where they meet a group of reporters investigating, God knows what. There they find that the world has been overrun by zombies as they make their way to the Hope facility to find the answer of this Virus.
What makes this movie so memorable is not the story or the F/X nor the acting, but the amount of material they ripped-off from the much superior Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Director Bruno Mattei, who credited himself as Vincent Dawn, shamelessly used the same type of uniforms used by the SWAT team in DoTD for the team of commandos in HoTLD, and even the same gas masks. But if that wasn't enough, he used the exact same music composed by Goblin for DoTD without their permission. Also Mattei used a lot of old wildlife and news stock footage that didn't fit the scenes or the story. The script is incoherent at worst and the zombie scenes are totally illogical to idiotic. There's even a guy who dresses up in a tutu and starts dancing while a horde of zombies storms the room, but most idiotic is when the ultra slow zombies approach their victims, they just stand there screaming. Although I have to say, the beginning is gory and entertaining, but after the embassy scene, the movie pretty much goes downhill from there.
Okay, I'm not going to lie. It was a guilty pleasure to watch this retro junk again after so long and even with all its atrocities, it deserves some level of merit and it does delivers some horror value, well at least when it was released back in the 80s. Interesting note is that this movie has many different titles such as Virus, Night of the Zombies, Zombie Creeping Flesh and of course, the ultra generic title Hell of the Living Dead. So, if you haven't seen HoTLD and you don't mind the trashy story, the DoTD rip-off or the lame stock footage then you should check it out, at least for the gore.
Second in Command (2006)
Van Damme can still kick
I remember when JCVD was the MAN back in the late 80s and early 90. His name was synonymous with great action movies near to the level of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. But in the mid 90s his career went literally downhill and instead, most of his movies went straight to video and not many of them are even worth mentioning. Just recently I went to the DVD rental and decided to give good old Van Damage another chance by renting "Second in Command" and I have to say that I was pleasantly entertained by this film.
JCVD plays Commander Sam Keenan, a Navy Seal sent to defend the U.S. Embassy in Moldavia after a group of insurgents, loyal to the former dictator, plan to kill the new elected president and take over the city. Commander Keenan transports the new president to the Embassy just to be holed up in it and defend it until U.S. forces arrive. Unlike many of JCVD former movie, this film doesn't have much martial art in it, but it has a lot of war action scenes.
I would say that this is one of best straight to DVD movies and one of the most underrated. The acting is little above average, the story is interesting, the characters are good but not memorable, but the action is definitely the highlight of this flick. If you are a JCVD fan and you still haven't seen this one, definitely check it out.
Vanishing on 7th Street (2010)
First 10 minutes are great but the potential "Vanishes" as the movie goes on
For the past 10 to 15 years there have been a number of post-apocalyptic movies related with mankind's extinction. Whether it's from zombies, biological viruses, or aliens, these type of movies must have two important attributes: action with horror or adventure, or a social commentary that allows the audience to fill the gaps or both. Unfortunately, this movie has none.
The story revolves on four unrelated survivors who one day find out that people have vanished from the face of the earth without explanation. As the days go by they find out the only way to survive is to have a source of light and stay out of the shadows. They all find refuge in a small bar ironically called "Sonny's Bar" which has electricity due to an emergency generator. The first 10-15 minutes are pretty good and build the atmosphere but nothing much happens after. The problem with this film is that there's absolutely no explanation of what is happening or if the shadows are demons or aliens. There are some mild religious references but not enough to support the origin of this mysterious entity. The other problem is that, if the movie is not going to explain what is going on, it should have focused on the characters development, which is virtually unexciting. The characters focus more on how to keep the generator on, which it made sense but there's no conflict between them. There's no social commentary or any other type of subtext that would of have made it more memorable. It kind of leaves you with many unanswered questions like, is there are reason for this to take place at 7th Street? Are these spirits and why are they vanishing mankind? Is this movie an analogy to our present social issues? Etc. the only thing that was given in the film was when, Leguizamo character Paul, mentioned that he believed this was like when a computer reboots and earth was erasing its inhabitants to start over, but the question still remained! Why??
I have to admit that I did enjoy it to a certain extent but it is an easily forgettable movie experience. I just read that this film was a total flop at the box office making only 15% out of its production cost. Anyways, I recommend this as a rental.
The Terror (1963)
Nothing to fear here
I have wanted to see "The Terror" for quite some time. Perhaps I was intrigued with the notion to see Nicholson and Karloff together on screen. But after watching it on TV last week, The Terror didn't have much to offer other than big names and no substance.
The Terror takes place in the 1700s or 1800s when French soldier, Andre Duvalier (Nicholson) is lost and a mysterious woman, Ilsa (Knight) helps him, but she soon vanishes and Andre decides to search for her. Andre comes across an old castle owned by Baron Victor Frederic (Karloff) who is being haunted by the ghost of his dead wife, who died 20 years before. Coincidentally Ilsa looks like the Baron's dead wife and it appears that Ilsa is under the spell of an old witch who wants to torment the Baron.
The Terror is a collection of leftover sets from other movies, mismatch scenes, and an uninspiring script. The biggest problem with this film is that it had too many directors. Several shots were filmed by Roger Corman, Francis Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill and even Jack Nicholson resulting in a disparity of sequences and incoherent storyline to the point that it almost feel like an experimental student film. This movie doesn't compares to the much more superior Gothic horror productions of Hammer Films back in the day. The other problem was the acting. Nicholson and Karloff didn't have any on screen chemistry. The script was poor as well. According to several online sites, the script was written in four days. This film doesn't deliver any true sense of horror other than the title itself.
Although this film is old and many might know of it because of its big names, this film is far from being a classic. But if you are curious to see Karloff and Nicholson together on screen, well give it a try but don't expect much.