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Good for what it is.
That's to say that what it is happens to be a zero-budget fan film and not to be taken seriously as a legitimate Ft13th flick. Some entertaining moments pop up in this 7-part web series, but to much time (especially early on) is wasted on needlessly lengthy dialogue scenes.
Plot: A hardcore Friday the 13th fan (really, is there any other kind) has just broken up with her girlfriend when she meets a woman who is currently on the run from her abusive ex- boyfriend. Shortly after they begin sexual relationship which seemingly blossoms into true romantic feelings. Their new relationship becomes threatened when the ex-boyfriend reemerges and threatens the girls. Hardcore Fan begins to lose her grip on reality and she has visions of Jason committing violent murders, soon donning the mask for a murder spree of her own.
I came across this series (unsurprisingly) one Friday the 13th. I had just finished watching a marathon of the films (accompanied by more than a few beers) and I decided to look up any new info on a possible future film. Finding none, I instead found a link to this fan-made web series. Fan-fic or not, I needed some more Friday in my life so I checked it out. Was I pleased? Yes and no; kind of like eating Taco Bell when you really want some good Mexican food, it scratches the itch but doesn't leave you to really satisfied.
First off, what does it do right? Well, for one thing the makers clearly love the source material. From the movie posters that liter the walls of Fan's room, to the excellent use of the classic music from the series (I forgot what a great song 'Hard Rock Summer' was), to the loving homages to famous moments from the classic films, these guys and girls definitely know their Jason. They also know how to cater to their core audience (i.e. Friday fans); there is a fare amount of scantily clad (and utterly gorgeous) women, some T&A, and couple of rather lovely murders. Oh, and the fact that it is free to watch doesn't hurt either.
Sadly enthusiasm can't make up for everything, not matter how noble the designs. The biggest stumbling block is the writing; bottom line it isn't very good. Numerous side plots are introduced and then only vaguely developed and characters have a tendency to be simply dropped into the storyline without being organically introduced. Character motivation and progression also tends to be murky at best; for instance, we know that Super Fan is going crazy simply because she starts getting violent, not because we witness any kind of collapse of her grasp of reality. In other words, we don't see her mental breakdown, we are just supposed to know that it happened. Probably the hardest part of the film to get through is the relationship between the two girls. It simply is not well developed, nor are the actresses talented enough to make it justify the amount of screen time devoted to it. They have one date that ends in drunken sex and the next day they are already telling each other how "I've never felt this close to any one before." Seriously? You had one date, you don't now a damn thing about a person after only one date, as proved by the fact that Super Fan's new girlfriend has no idea that she is moments away from turning into a knife wielding maniac.
But I digress, ragging to harshly on the series makes it seem like I don't appreciate what they were trying to do and I really do commend them for putting this project together. It is a genuine labor of love and I salute all involved for their effort. After all, it's not like the studios have gotten off their butts lately and made a new film for us. So for that, I thank you.
A tad too slow in the first half, but with some fun pay off in the second half; serious Friday fans should check it out, but non-fans need not apply.
Piranha 3DD (2012)
Great gore-comedy, better than expected.
Given the deluge of bad reviews I read before hand, not to mention the low IMDb score, I almost skipped this sequel to a remake. I loved the first one (as many detractors proclaim) and they all seem to hate this one. Glad I ignored the bad buzz, P3DD is a wonderfully exploitive gore-comedy that never takes itself seriously.
The Plot: After the events of the first film, the infamous lake is sealed off and the titular piranhas are killed off, effectively turning the lake into a wasteland, but seemingly ending the threat. Months later, however, some fish that survived the extermination travel through an underground river and find a new home in the form of an adult-themed water park. Blood, guts, and oodles of nudity quickly ensue.
I will admit that even without the bad press, I was reticent about seeing this. When I heard that Alexandra Aja was not returning and was being replaced by John Gulager, my concern skyrocketed. Gulager directed "Feast", which was awesome, but he also directed "Feast 2" and "Feast 3", which are both just barely watchable (and that's being generous). Fortunately, P3DD falls more in line with the former.
What's done right? Quite a bit really, if you have a mind for silly gore-comedies that is. From the first scene in the move, there are blood and guts aplenty and it keeps coming at steady intervals all the way up to the limb-lopping climax. At just about equal amounts is nudity and sexual situations; this movie almost gleefully wears its perv-badge on its chest. Not that there is anything wrong with any of that (quite the contrary), just letting you know what you are in for. Compared to most films the movie is extremely gory, though judged against the first one it actually comes up a little short.
Most of the cast changes (ie, nearly everyone) work perfectly. The lovely Danielle Panabaker takes the lead role this time around and is immediately enjoyable in the role while David Koechner plays the same kind of slimy (yet oddly likable) jerk he often does in similar films. The rest of the cast are all pleasantly game for the shenanigans going on, but the two main standouts are the cameos by Ving Rhames and David Hasslehoff. Rhames (being only one of three returning actors) get a great scene involving hydrophobia and how he comes to deal with it, while the Hoff gets most of the best jokes in the movie.
Not everything is perfect. For one, the movie is really short; it clocks in at only 83 minutes and that's WITH a 13-minute credit sequence (make sure to not skip the blooper filled credits, they are hilarious). With only 70 actual minutes of story time in the film, you really don't every get around to caring about the fate of anyone in the film; good or bad, alive or dead, no one's fate leaves any real impression on you. Another issue connected to the running time is the bare-bones script; plotting happens VERY quickly and often with little explanation or elaboration. Characters are underdeveloped and are introduced and then killed off with nearly frightening frequency.
But then again, are those really things to complain about in a film like this? You don't go to see a movie called "Piranha 3DD" expecting deep plotting or award winning acting. You (should) go in expecting exactly what you get: blood, guts, and nudity.
And in that regard the movie succeeded marvelously.
How do I review this?
"Poolboy" is not a well made movie. It is not well acted, well written, nor well directed. You could call it crap and few could argue. And yet, underneath all that crap there is a bizarre kind of brilliance at work here. "Poolboy" is not a good movie, but I loved it.
The plot, what little there is, concerns a Vietnam vet coming home to find his wife and child murdered by an evil pool boy and LA over run by Mexicans (it's as racist as it sounds, but I'll get to that later). Overcome with grief, the Vet goes on a one man rampage against the evil Mexican pool boy cartel.
The story is utterly ridiculous and even less coherent than it sounds since half the film is made up of fake 'making-of' footage. It all congeals into a sloppy mess of rapid-fire (often vulgar) sight gags. Those easily offended by nudity, violence, blood, gore, and nearly non- stop racism need not apply. Those with a mind for it will find a frequently hilarious film that hearkens back to the glory days of old-school Troma movies (think "Toxic Avenger" or "Troma's War").
I said the film was not well acted before, but that is only half true. The actors act poorly, but they are clearly supposed to be acting poorly. The kind of over-dramatic, over-acted nonsense that is intended to compliment the ridiculous story. In that regard, they actually act pretty well. I'm a long time fan of Kevin Sorbo, but I surprised to see just how well he handled absurdist comedy. Danny Trejo also puts in an extremely funny performance as a kind of anti-thesis to his character from "Machete". The rest of the film is loaded with actors who deserve credit for going along with the ludicrous nature of the film.
The dialogue and filming are much the same as the plot and acting; they are poorly executed, but that is the point. The dialogue is often (though not always) hilarious and the direction has a rushed, film student quality to it that would seem amateurish if it wasn't clearly the intended look for the movie.
As much I liked the film, not everything worked for me. The biggest problem is that with many films of it's type, they rely on quantity over quality for the gags. About half the jokes fall flat, but at least the other half hit the mark. Also, the film is EXCEEDINGLY vulgar. Hardly 30 seconds can go by with some form of cursing, bloodshed, or racist material being shown. I'm not offended by explicit content, but after a while I wanted the movie start being more clever and stop being graphic just for the sake of being graphic.
All things considered, I thought "Poolboy" was a hilarious film, but definitely not one for most people; consider watching it with friends and a six-pack for maximum effect.
Kull the Conqueror (1997)
Enjoyable Fantasy Flick
On the scale of sword and sorcery flicks, this ranks below 'Conan The Barbarian', above the dreary 'Red Sonja', about on par with 'Conan The Destroyer'; which is to say that it's an energetic fantasy film that doesn't take itself seriously and can be a lot of fun if you let it be.
Kull of Atlantis seeks to join the army of Velusia, but instead, through an unexpected turn of events, he finds himself proclaimed king of the empire instead. Holding onto his new throne will be much harder than taking it, as the blood heirs to the empire make a deal with a wizard to revive a 3000 year-old demon who seeks to kill King Kull and claim the empire for herself.
'Kull the Conqueror' originally started out as 'Conan the Conqueror', but after Arnold refused to reprise the role, the script was changed to accommodate Howard's other barbarian hero, Kull. As such, much of the story is actually taken from the Conan stories ('The Hour of the Dragon' in particular). Interestingly, the first Conan movie took most of it's story material from the Kull tales. A little bit of irony for you.
As for the film itself, it does enough things right to entertain; Sorbo fits Kull role perfectly (actually truer to the source character than Arnold ever was), Griffith is an effectively grim villain and Tia Carrere hams it up nicely as the evil Akiavasia. The locations and sets have a wonderfully fantasy feel to them and the assorted fight scenes are well choreographed and fast paced. Given their age, the FX and make are good without ever looking terribly real. One thing I found very enjoyable in the film was the liberal dose of humor; not lame one-liners or goofy antics, but some solid humor that compliments the scenes rather than ruining them.
The biggest problem the movie has is the damn PG-13 rating; it keeps the movie from really delving into adult fantasy the way you want it too. Both 'Red Sonja' and 'Conan the Destroyer' suffered the same problem. Another issue is the generic butt-rock music that accompanies the fight scenes; the music for the rest of the film is epic and fits the period nature of the film, but the lame guitar riffs that get churned out during every fight is just annoying. Also, many of the supporting actors just aren't any damn good at acting and tend to injure many of the scenes. Lastly, the script is a little lean for an epic adventure film, clocking in at just 90 minutes, almost no time is spent getting to know the characters any better than is necessary to drive the plot.
All told, this is a fun, fast, fantasy film meant to be enjoyed rather than analyzed. It makes a decent entry in the Howard film canon (the best way to watch it is part 4 of a Howard marathon; Conan 1 & 2, Red Sonja, Kull). The film made no money in theaters, which is too bad, as we aren't likely to see any more of these any time soon.
Energetic, humorous, and full of action (though not without some issues), a solid sword and sorcery flick.
Saint Sinner (2002)
Barker delivers an enjoyable erotic horror flick.
Judged against the majority of Clive Barker adaptations, this one ranks as one of the better; not as good as 'Lord of Illusions', 'Hellraiser', or 'Midnight Meat Train', but far more enjoyable than the dismal Candyman/Hellraiser sequels, about on par with 'Night Breed', 'Book of Blood', or the original 'Candyman'.
In 1815, a curious monk accidentally unleashes a pair of lethally seductive succubi, who swiftly kill his brother and then flee through time. Wishing to atone for his sins, the monk follows the pair to the 20th century where he must slaw them with a magical dagger. He is arrested after arriving too late to one of their murder scenes and is forced to try to convince a female cop with no religion to believe him.
Produced for the SciFi channel (or now SyFy, how dorky), the movie has some of the problems connected with made for TV flicks; that is a few tacky sets, less-than-stunning visual effects, and some cheesy lines of dialogue.
On the plus side, the film has an excellent color pallet and a good sense of mood lighting. The lead protagonists (the monk and the cop) are a likable pair of heroes and the succubi sisters manage to be both desirable and repulsive in just about equal proportions.
As mentioned, this was intended for cable broadcast, so the movie has to conform to TV standards of content; meaning no nudity or graphic violence. That being said, the film is surprisingly sticky (even without excess blood, there are a couple noteworthy gross-out scenes) and there is a fair amount of sexual content. On a side not, the DVD has a couple of unrated scenes in the special features which contain some nudity for those that absolutely can't do without it.
Imperfect, yet still satisfying; worth a look.
Book of Blood (2009)
The Books of Blood finally come to screen.
I read Clive Barker's 'Books of Blood' years ago and instantly fell in love with them; they had a wonderful combination of horror and fantasy, fear and humor. I've been pinning for them to be filmed for years and I finally got my wish to marginally mixed results.
A parapsychology professor and her assistant have been trying to prove their theories about the afterlife and beyond when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a house with a long paranormal history and a university student who seems to be a psychic. They decide to use his abilities to try to tap into the house's energies, but things are not as they seem and the experiment goes in ways no one could have guessed.
First things first, I had a few issues with the film. First was the bookend story segments that surrounds the plot; the movie essentially spoils the best part of the story from the very first seen. The second (and bigger) problem the movie has is the running time; at 100 minutes the movie is too damn long. This is based on a short story (two actually) and there is just not enough driving plot to justify the length. A good 20 minutes needed to be trimmed off, as is the movie is gets pretty slow at parts. The last real problem I had was that the stories this is based on weren't the best stories from the books, they were just the first stories in them; the reason for this seems to be that a series of films based on the books is in the works and they wanted to start from the beginning, 'Pig Blood Blues' (great story) is apparently up next.
Having said all that I still enjoyed the film more than I was frustrated by it. Even though this wasn't the best story from the novels it is still an engaging tale of the macabre and features some occasional excellent horror imagery. The principal actors in the limited cast are all suited nicely to their respective rolls and the character dialogue has a pleasantly moody cadence to it.
The visual and gore effects are (relative to the genre) fairly limited, but what is on display packs quite a visceral punch. One particularly memorable moment involves a poor girl getting her face peeled like an orange. That being said, this is not a gore film, despite what the DVD box would have you believe.
The setting and location of the film (Scotland) fit the story well and provide a Gothic backdrop for the action. The house were most of the film takes place is a appropriately grim without feeling like a clique spook house.
Despite the some slow sections in the middle and the unfortunate story reveal early on, it manages to be a creepy tale about death and beyond.
The Strangers (2008)
From the trailers I was pretty stoked to see this one; it had all the markings of a good, scary time. Sadly it ends up being a series of clichéd horror movie items and second rate writing.
After a friend's wedding, a couple retires to a secluded home for a little get away and are shortly set upon by a trio of crazies bent on violence; generic plot devices ensue.
From the very start the movie cripples itself by announcing that things end badly for the couple; it's hard to get too in the film when you already know that the main characters are screwed from the outset. Instead of wondering if the characters will make it and rooting for their survival, I just sat back and waited for their inexorable conclusion.
That isn't the worst of the bad writing decisions though, not by a long shot. First of all the villains are, I swear to god, freaking ninjas; they appear, they disappear, they appear again, they make no noise when they move, they always know exactly where the victims are, they all seem to have spectacular night vision and are masters of the ancient art of stealth. It's impossible to take them seriously as human villains when they are basically supernaturally endowed.
But wait, there's more! The victims are, in a word, stupid. They keep coming up with improbable reasons to split up, they find and then quickly abandon good hiding places, they neither make a real effort to escape of stay put and they completely fail to work together to survive. On more than one occasion they mange to get a clear shot on the bad guys with a shot gun and always manage to shoot too damn late to hit anything. The damn girl even trips and falls at one point! Come on now, that gag is so over done it's satire by this point. The worst bit of bone headed decision making comes in the form of the character Mike, who arrives at the house and immediately gets his windshield bashed in. He idiotically shrugs that off and he casually strolls up the house. Upon finding it ransacked he just decides to stroll on inside quietly and start poking around without bothering to call the cops or even check to see if anyone is home. Needless to say, things don't work out very well for poor old Mike, but I barely knew him and his idiocy certainly warranted what he gets.
Speaking of of not knowing Mike very well, the film doesn't do a good job of introducing or developing any of it's characters. All of them (good and bad alike) are shallow and 2- dimensional, meaning it's neigh impossible to care what happens to them.
After all that grumbling you might be wondering why a 4 and not lower; well despite to horrid writing the film has a good look to it. Good color and lighting complement some effective steady cam work. And despite myself I still did find some the imagery genuinely creepy, even if only fleetingly.
All told the films fails to be the creep fest it so desperately wants to be.
Boll's first comedy really works.
I'm one of the seemingly very few Boll supporters out there, so of course I actually put some effort into watching his movies. I've never thought he is the hack that many reviewers have called him and he certainly is nowhere near the "worst living director" as some have said (if you really think that then I could recommend some truly unwatchable films to compare). Having said that, even as a fan I was caught off guard by "Postal", which is one of the most wildly offensive, vulgar and gut-splittingly funny movies I've had the pleasure of in some time.
Taking from the video game of the same name, "Postal" follows the exploits of a down on his luck guy known simply as the Postal Dude (Zack Ward, who seems to be having a blast) who decides to take up an offer from his uncle (Dave Foley, funnier and grosser than usual) to steal a load of children's toys for profit. Nothing goes right.
The plot description sounds far more contained than the film ever gets close to; it really is one step shy of celluloid lunacy. By the time the credits rolls you've seen a horrifically fat woman bed-down several men, a woman get juggled between cars in a bloody car accident, a whole bus load of children get shot to pieces at German themed ammusment park (complete with a Death Camp Land), and you'll see Minnie-Me himself get rapped to death by a thousand monkeys. All that is just a tiny portion of the craziness on hand.
Some people might read to above description and think the film is unrelenting offensive. It really isn't; it's obscene and vulgar, but everything is played for humor and it manages (just barely) to avoid falling into the realm of offensive. It's really nothing like any of Boll's other movies, which should make many people happy. Unfortunately a lot of people will avoid just due to the negative hype surrounding Boll's films.
If you want a stupidly funny time, check it out.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990)
Fixing nearly everything that was broken in part one, MG2:SS is the definition of what a sequel should be.
Several years after the Outer Heaven incident, Solid Snake is again called upon. World renowned scientist Dr. Marv has engineered an organism that refines crude oil, however he has been kidnapped during a terrorist revolt in Zanzibar Land. Snake must infiltrate the enemy compound and rescue him, though many surprises are in store for the legendary soldier.
The difference between the two MSX metal gears is astonishing. Judged against this sequel, the first game feels primitive. The graphics are more colorful with more fluidity in the movements, the controls are more responsive, and the sound is vastly improved, particularly the music, which was almost teeth grinding in the first MG. Other improvements include additional gear, more weapons, a refined alert system, and the god-sent ability to duck and crawl.
The most notable improvement in the game is the story telling. In the first game the plot was ill-developed; aside from the one major late game twist. Also, characters were devoid of personality and lacked meaningful bearing on the narrative. Not so with this (and all subsequent) entry. Snake is given much more to do and say this time, as opposed to his grunt like behavior in part one. The side characters get a lot more to do as well, enough that when something bad happens to one of them you feel it.
The game holds up amazing well given it's age. The design and complexity of the game are such that they remain almost unchanged throughout the rest of the series. The next game in sequence, Metal Gear Solid (PS1), is as much a remake in mechanics as it is a sequel in story.
A few small annoyances keep the game from retro-perfection. Enemies will occasionally spot you as soon as you enter/exit a door way and there is nothing you can do about it. The guns you are (eventually) equipped with fire bullets so slow that baddies will often out run them off screen. Also, while the card swapping shenanigans of the first game have been noticeably reduced, it's still tedious to cycle through several cards just to see which (if any) will open a door. Lastly, the game has a habit of throwing a complication at the play without providing any readily apparent solution; either get a walk-through or be prepared for LOTS of aimless wandering.
Despite the few grievances levied against the game, it is still a fantastic experience that all Metal Gear fans should check out.
Metal Gear (1987)
A solid start.
I should mention upfront that I beat this game about 20 years after it's initial release (on the MGS3: Substance bonus disc) and as such it was difficult to be wholly objective.
In the near future of 1995 (the game came out in 1987) a terrorist group has seized the Outer Heaven facility in order to acquire the newly developed super-weapon Metal Gear TX-55. Rookie operative Solid Snake is dispatched to defuse the situation, though the mission is not what it seems.
If the plot sounds like a hokey 80's action flick, that's because it's an 80's game based on hokey 80's action flicks. One of the game's bosses are a couple of cyborgs called 'the Arnolds' for god's sake. Compared to the rest of the games in the series, the plotting and story here are bare minimum. None of the long-winded speeches, none of the 20+ minute cut-scenes; for better or worse its all about the game play.
Judged strictly by modern standards, the game is woefully outdated. 8-bit color scheme, midi-style music and limited player functions. That being said the game has aged far better than most games of its era. Despite the technical limitations the title still holds up as a playable game even today, this is due to the obvious genius of the core mechanics. Many of the ideas set up in this entry will carry on throughout the series (stealth over force, inventive boss battles, big plot twists, huge assortment of items and weapons) and even some of the actual game play segments will survive (in updated form) all up to MSG2: SOL.
I can't really recommend this to casual gamers, as most will not put up with the dated structure and limited story/character development, but for fans of the series and retro-naughts, this is a must play.