Archive for November, 2012

Inchon (1981) Terrence Young

Posted in I on November 15, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $46 million

Domestic Gross: $5 million

When I first started doing this I had difficulty with some of the bigger ones due to the fact they were not given a proper release.  Some, like Hearts of Fire, I had to purchase my own VHS copy.  Some, like our film today,  I could not get at all. Thankfully someone transferred a television broadcast of this movie to YouTube and I had the pleasure of finally reviewing this movie.

Inchon was almost entirely funded by Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church.  Why make a movie about the battle of Inchon?  Well, it was apparently a choice between making a movie about Jesus or Elvis.  I’m not kidding.  Then a fortune teller advised Moon she spoke to MacArthur and he gave the personal go ahead for Inchon.  Still not kidding.  The end goal of Inchon was to be the start of a series of 10 or so movies about the Bible.  I’ve already stopped trying to grasp the logic of these people and I suggest you do the same if you want to avoid a headache.

Moon wanted Inchon to show a pivotal moment in South Korean history as well as show how Gen. MacArthur was a deeply spiritual man.  The production was an absolute debacle.  Moon wanted to keep his involvement a secret since the Unification Church is perceived as a giant cult.  All of the actors and crew were paid in cash, including Sir Lawrence Olivier who was paid $1 million in deposits of several briefcases full of dollar dollar bills.  Still not kidding.  Sets were destroyed by hurricanes, Olivier’s poor health meant some scenes had to be re-shot in other countries (costing millions), and there were several bouts of pure incompetence which pervaded the shoot.  The US military initially gave troops as extras, but when the cat was out of the bag about the Unification Church they pulled the troops out.  The producers struggled to find a distributor and when they did, the movie was savaged by critics and bombed at the box office.  When I say savaged by critics, I mean they not only call it the worst war movie of all time, but one of the worst movies of all time.  And when I say bombed, I mean adjusted for inflation they lost about $173 million dollars. (info by Wikipedia and IMDb)

So yeah, this one is big one.  But I am far enough away from the film’s production to give this movie a fair shake.  This is what I do after all; I cut through the irrelevant stuff and give my assessment independent of all that.  One final note before proceeding, I saw the TV cut which is about 140 minutes and not the 3 hour Cannes version which I think is lost forever.

I think I will start by saying this is nowhere near the worst movie I’ve seen or even the worst war movie I’ve seen.  Now part of that might be helped by the cut of the movie I’ve seen and how I’ve seen it.  I have heard the 3 hour cut had ludicrous scenes like a rumored scene where Jesus appears in a cloud to tell a pilot to bomb some North Koreans.  This is the edited television cut where some of the worst parts are on the cutting room floor.  I have also heard complaints that the special effects for the battle scenes are among the worst.  Now, keep in mind I saw Inchon on a YouTube transfer of a television copy on my tiny iPhone screen.  I could have been watching an Ed Wood movie and wouldn’t be able to see the strings so I will punt the ball on visual effects this time.

The plot is supposed to be primarily about MacArthur but it really follows three plots.  The first plot is about Maj. Hallsworth (Ben Gazzara).  He is having an affair with a Korean woman while his current wife Barbara (Jacqueline Bisset) is near the northern border buying furniture (I don’t get that either).  Hallsworth first is on a mission to get Barbara to safety and later in the film is leading a covert mission prior to the attack on Inchon.  The second plot is about Barbara as she tries to make her way south with five Korean children.  The third story is about MacArthur as he plans the attack.

I realize I said this was not among the worst movies ever but that certainly doesn’t make this movie good or even slightly less bad.  It really isn’t helped by the bad writing; both of the plot and the dialog.  One example is when MacArthur is told he will be commander of the armed forces in Korea.  He gets up from the dinner table and says matter of factly to his wife “Well, time for me to save the world again.“  It might not be so bad if we established MacArthur as having an ego the size of Jupiter or if he said that is some kind of joking tone, but it is said like he really is a superhero going to put on his tights.  Crap, now I put the image of 70-something year old Olivier in tights in my head.

Anyway, it doesn’t help that I don’t get to know any of these characters despite spending so much time with them.  Ben Gazzara is in this love triangle but he hardly spends any time with that problem.  Does he want to be with Barbara?  Does he want to be with the Korean woman?  I have no idea because we are given nothing to work with.  Ben Gazzara seems so bored with everything going on and he goes about his mission of finding Barbara with all the emotion of someone looking for a set of lost keys.  No screw that comparison.  At least with lost keys there is some tension the person won’t be able to go where he/she wants to go.  Ben Gazzara had a deeper love story for Jimmy in Road House then he does for either of these women.  That leads into the snoozefest which is Barbara’s story line.  Barbara takes five refugee children south to safety and encounters almost no resistance along the way.  Thank you for wasting a third of the movie on something so incredibly boring.

That leads to the befuddling plot involving MacArthur.  I say befuddling because it is an odd performance for an odd character.  This is a role that won Olivier a Razzie, but at the same time Olivier contends that is how the real MacArthur acted.  I am not so much concerned with the voice he used as how his character is portrayed.  I have perceived MacArthur much like Patton in that they are both larger than life figures.  MacArthur’s persona was probably such that he would say with a straight face he was out to save the world but in Inchon we see him as a feeble old man.  That is probably cause in real life Olivier was a sick man who could barely get on set.  But if that is the case you shouldn’t have hired him to begin with.  When he walks into a room, time should stop and he should be the focus of everyone’s attention.  Instead when he is in briefings he looks like he needs nurses on either side and all the generals are looking at each other as if to ask “Who let grandpa out of the nursing home?“  They try to throw in a line here and there about MacArthur questioning whether he still has what it takes in his old age, but it never amounts to anything.  MacArthur never goes through any struggles or challenges and we don’t see him really agonizing over this.

I am not going to forget to mention some of the other top billed actors despite the fact the writers seemed to forget them.  Richard Roundtree (Shaft) is in this movie and no he doesn’t do anything cool.  He drives a jeep for people.  That’s it.  He drives Ben Gazzara around and then Bisset and then Gazzara again.  Way to waste Shaft motherfuckers.  Toshiro Mifune is in this movie and this man absolutely cannot act in English.  It is simply a fact and he should not have been in this movie.  David Jansen is in this movie briefly simply to deliver a few lines about how badass MacArthur is and most of his scenes were cut out of the TV version.  Thanks again.

Now I can’t speak to the visual effects of the battle scenes but I can speak to how the battle scenes are done overall in the movie.  In the first half we aren’t really told what is going on in these battles and what is at stake.  So we are seeing footage of random tanks driving around and people running places followed up by explosions of things and random people dying.  I don’t know how the battles are going, what this battle means in the grand scheme, and again what the stakes are.

Believe me I could go on about this movie.  I could talk about how it is not historically accurate or how it only gives the pro American side of the conflict.  I could ramble more about how characters don’t have arcs or this story line leads nowhere and that is dumb but you get the point.  While this isn’t near the worst, this is still pretty awful.  I think that speaks more to the crap I’ve seen rather than the quality of this movie.  When all is said and done this movie bored me.  The dialog, while crap, is not bad enough to be laughably bad, the acting is phoned in/bad, the battle scenes are poorly done and uninteresting, the characters are dull, and nothing about the writing makes me care about anything.  I actually would have preferred if it was dumber because then I could recommend it in a ‘so bad its good‘ way.  Instead it is the kind of bad that bores you to tears.

The Keep (1983) Michael Mann

Posted in K on November 1, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $6 million

Gross: $3-4 million

The Keep is about a group of Nazi soldiers headed by Capt. Woermann (Jurgen Prochnow) who are ordered to secure an old keep.  The keep is an odd building with strange crosses and a groundskeeper who insists no one stay for the night.  Of course the Nazis stay and some even try looking the place of its ornate crosses.  Something is picking off Woermann’s soldiers and SS Major Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne) is sent in to take charge.  Woermann, who is concerned for his troops, asks for the only person who is knowledgeable of the keep to be brought there.  That man, Dr. Cuza (Ian McKellen), finds out a demon is responsible and considers allying himself with the demon to kill the Nazis.

Let’s get my positives for this movie out of the way.  This is a movie that I should absolutely love given all the individual pieces.  Michael Mann is as stylish as ever.  The keep is giant and ominous.  Mann plays around with light and darkness and the effects are very cool.  Tangerine Dream seems like an odd choice for the soundtrack, but the odd synth score actually works to great effect.  The visuals and the music combine to make a very dream like experience and I liked it.  The acting in this movie is very entertaining.  You have Jurgen Prochnow, Gabriel Byrne, Scott Glenn and Ian McKellen giving it their all in a movie about a golem killing Nazis.  They were all just fun to watch.  It should all just come together into one big bowl of awesome.

And yet something is missing.  I watched this movie and came away feeling that huge chunks were missing as we switched from plot thread to plot thread without a consistent tone.  In the first act it is pretty much a straight up horror film with something picking off the troops.  In the second act it is more about this Jewish scholar making a deal with a demonic golem because he sees the Nazis as the greater evil.  Then in the third act Scott Glenn’s character shows up with almost no explanation to fight the golem.  Then in reading up for the film I find that the original cut of the film was 3 hours and 30 minutes.  Keep in mind the only cut currently available is 96 minutes.  Holy fucking shit.  That is insane.  Look, I know producers were probably shitting their pants at the idea of releasing a 3 hr 30 minute horror film about a golem killing Nazis, but couldn’t there have been some middle ground between 3 hr and 30 minutes and freaking 96 minutes!  How in the world do you cut over half the film and think that you would have a coherent story?

I was going to complain about story elements not being fully developed.  There is an interesting idea with Cuzo debating which is truly the greater evil; man or this golem?  There was an attempt at an character arc with Woermann.  Scott Glenn’s character again, practically shows up out of nowhere to being the monster hunter.  I was going to complain, but how in the world can I do it now?  This movie was absolutely butchered and I almost have to give Mann credit that there is still a movie to watch even after over half the movie was cut.  This is studio meddling at its worst.  It is like what I brought up in saying I couldn’t honestly review Jonah Hex.  I realize Jonah Hex would probably never be a good film, but when you cut it to barely 70 minutes, it is no longer even a movie.  You have to sink or swim with the movie that was made, but cutting it that much doesn’t do it any favors.  Same thing generally applies here.  The Keep may not have been a masterpiece and I doubt at 3 hrs and 30 minutes people would have flocked to it, but at 96 minutes it is a mess.  It is a beautiful mess, but a mess all the same.

The Keep has not been released on DVD and can only currently be seen on Netflix streaming.  The lack of DVD release is partly blamed on rights over the Tangerine Dream soundtrack and partly on Michael Mann pleading with the studio not to release it.  I think it would be a real shame if this didn’t get a DVD release with an extended director’s cut.  There is so much to enjoy from what I have seen, that it is terrible I can’t see the movie as it was meant to.  I would still recommend you check it out if you have Netflix streaming.  Despite the plot being all over and the tone being inconsistent as a result, I think it is interesting enough to check it out at least once.  Despite the studio interference it is a pretty decent film, but I really wish I could see it prior to the lawnmower being brought into the editing room.

Omen III: The Final Conflict (Graham Baker) 1981

Posted in O on November 1, 2012 by moviemoses

Going against my usual protocol on this one.  Like my Warlock reviews I like to go through a series to have it all fresh in my head before tackling a sequel.  This is one of *those * movies I always saw as a kid and was interested by but never rented.  I mean come on, it is Sam Neill as the Antichrist all grown up.  He is not some kid protected by Satan anymore but fully grown evil dude who is going to be President of the United States.  I always wanted to know how the story ended.  This was a cinematic itch I needed to scratch.

The story for this movie is Damien (Sam Neill) is the head of Thorn Corporation and is on the fast track to a big political career.  He is about to be unstoppable but Damien sees a prediction that a child will come from England to destroy him.  Damien accepts an ambassadorship in England and sends his minions to kill all the recently born male boys.  Meanwhile, a group of monks find the seven daggers of Meggido (the only weapon that can kill Damien) and go on a mission to assassinate him.

Sounds like the potential for awesome for me.  Powerful Antichrist and his legions of minions killing people all over England and monks on a mission to kick ass for the Lord?  Sign me up.  Sadly, what is promised and what is delivered are two completely different things.  Where do I begin?

How about the decision to follow Damien as our lead character.  That’s odd.  I’m not quite sure why we are following the bad guy through the movie.  You might think the writers were trying to add some depth to the character or maybe make him a tragic figure.  You know, make him an unwilling pawn in a cosmic chess match between God and Satan.  But no, Damien is just evil.  He is either giving eeeeeevil prayers to Satan or ordering minions to do evil things.  I don’t even think it’s entertaining evil like Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate.  Neill is giving mass murder orders like he is in some corporate board room telling his subordinates he sent out an email about TPS reports.  Who would have thought Armageddon would be run more like Office Space?

Not like the killer monks story line would have been any more interesting.  I would think if you had one mission in life, that mission being kill the Antichrist or all life dies, you might train a bit.  I would personally move to Asia and only come back when I have in fact become a ninja like Batman.  That being said I do set high goals for myself.  But I would personally be happy if the assassins for Christ were not middle aged fat asses who have gorged on too many communion wafers.  These guys aren’t just out of shape, they are klutzes to boot.  Let me give you an example.  So Damien is getting interviewed on some news program and one of the monks has found a way onto the set.  For some reason the monk thinks he should go on the rafters above the set.  Why?  I guess a thirty foot leap off the balcony with a dagger was a better option than just running up and stabbing Damien but whatever.  While he is up there, he trips, gets his foot caught in some of the rigging and he swings from the rafters.  While this is happening he knocks over some stage lights which set the curtains on fire.  The monk swings around, wraps himself in plastic sheeting, swings over to the burning curtains, then sets himself on fire which simultaneously burns him and shrink wraps him to death.  That had nothing to do with Satan or evil forces; the dude was just a dumbass.  You can see why I don’t exactly have a lot of faith in these guys right?

I remember looking at the timer at one point to see how much longer I had and was surprised I only had ten minutes left.  That is not a testament to how good the writing is, it is because I was genuinely wondering when the climax would come.  It never felt like we were building to Armageddon at all.  Everyone is just going about their business and whole plot lines come and go without much point or resolution.  Let me again go to a few examples.

Damien gets appointed to Ambassador to England because he does the President a favor.  He provides intelligence about a conflict in the Middle East which saves the President media grief.  Later on it is discovered the intelligence was completely false.  Damien’s associates all agree the intel leak in the Middle East must be eliminated before it ties back to Damien but Damien can’t kill him because his powers are diminished.  There are several scenes where they discuss this and everyone is stressing out.  Does it ever get resolved?  Nope, let’s move on.

There is also this subplot where Damien romances a news reporter and makes her son an acolyte of Satan.  I realize this ultimately ties into the climax of the movie but it is a stretch because I don’t get why Damien bothers in the first place.  Why talk to the reporter?   Is it really for romance?  Why think of romance a few weeks away from Armaggeddon?  Why does he think Edward Cullen rape sex is romantic?  Does he romance her to get to the son?  Why?  Does he need a spy?  He’s got thousands of humans who will do his bidding.  Wouldn’t it be dangerous to open up to an investigative reporter when you are trying to keep the whole Antichrist thing a secret?  Wouldn’t making her son an acolyte of Satan make things even more awkward?  Going back to the whole rape thing did he think she wouldn’t take it personally?  Did he think she’d like it?  Why?  Why?  WHY?

This movie both confuses me and bores me.  Despite being a movie about the final conflict between Heaven and Hell it is all waaaaaay too tame.  The action is too slow paced, the writing is borderline laughable, the death scenes are huge steps down from the original Omen, and the plot is poorly paced with many cul de sacs.  On a postscript, I personally find it hilarious there is an Omen IV which is not some prequel but follows after the events of this movie.  I would think that is hard to do since at the end of Omen III Jesus returns, the final conflict between Heaven and Hell is over, and they flatly say peace reigns and no one will know death from that point on.  Kind of hard to hand waive away God coming and stopping death and all that!!!

The Devil’s Tomb (Jason Connery) 2009

Posted in D on November 1, 2012 by moviemoses

I seriously can’t explain Cuba Gooding Jr.‘s career.  I really can’t.  I don’t know if he picks these roles or if he, in fact, the worst agent in history.  But whoever it is, he needs to give that power to someone else.  I would seriously buy a justified homicide defense if he killed his agent for thinking Chill Factor was a good follow up project after Jerry Maguire.  I’m sure he could still land big roles if he wanted to, but every year you see a Norbit, or a Daddy Day Camp, or a Boat Trip.  I needed a reminder though of how bad his career is so I chose the horror film for Halloween.  I thought this DTV film might have more of a chance than others because it also had Ron Perlman, Ray Winstone, and Henry Motherfuckin Rollins (I’m pretty sure Motherfuckin is his middle name).

In the Devil’s Tomb you have an “elite“ group of soldiers which is led by Mack (Cuba Gooding Jr.) which is sent to an underground (aka cheap shooting location) lab in…Iraq?  Afganistan?  I don’t think they really say where.  Anyway, there is some ancient evil that is getting out and the squad has to find Wesley (Ron Perlman) to extract him.  Oh, and they run into a priest (Henry Motherfuckin Rollins) who likes to yell a lot.

It is bad when after only the first five minutes I sigh and say to myself “I think I made a big mistake“.  We are introduced to our squad which is our rip off of Aliens and we only need five minutes to know we are going to hate every one of them.  They are all dickheads who harass one another, who are rock stupid, and who don’t know how to follow orders if their lives depended on it.  Their lives did depend on it so they didn’t.

So, yeah, all the characters need to die.  But I’m watching The Devil’s Tomb.  I knew I was getting into Direct to Video schlock and not getting The Exorcist.  All I was expecting was some decent action, some good effects, and some cheesy lines from our all star cast.  I knew the movie would be shit, but I at least wanted it to be some entertaining shit.  But in the Devil’s Tomb there is no fun, and that is the most horrific thing of all.

For the most part, the film makers were too cheap to do any real special effects.  There are a few scenes where characters get massive cuts or skin legions when they turn evil, but that is it.  I want Event Horizon gore, and instead I get cheap Halloween scabs.  Instead of actual demons or spirits in this Devil’s Tomb, our characters are lured to the dark side by being tempted.  When they turn evil, they just have pale skin and have some legions on their face.  The action in this movie is just the characters standing out in the open and shooting the zombies wherever.  Strike three comes when you see the acting.  Ron Perlman makes the easiest money as all he has to do is make some Vlogs which play on the screens of the facility.  I didn’t even know Ray Winstone was in this movie till the last five minutes when he takes off all his military garb and they wash his face and even then he is only in the movie a few minutes.  Cuba Gooding is embarrassed to be there and grunts out bland orders to everyone.  Henry MF’n Rollins tries to ham it up but isn’t given enough material or screen time to make a difference.

So honestly four strikes and this movie is more than “out“ for me and that is even before getting to the completely shit story.  I absolutely love it when the characters point out the blaring plot holes.  The reason behind this mission was to get into the base and trigger a self destruct mechanism so basically a demon couldn’t escape.  One of the soldiers asks “So, why couldn’t we just bomb this facility from the air?“ to which I could swear I could hear one of the writers exclaim “Fuck!!!“ as he realizes the hole he dug himself into.  I also don’t know if these characters are being tempted to the dark side or if they are simply having their minds taken over.  Because if it is the former, then these people are beyond rock stupid.  I’ll give you two examples.  The first is when a female member of the team sees a little girl and she runs after it.  The squad member then sees the little girl turn into a demon and try to snack on her, but is saved at the last second.  No more than fifteen minutes later, the squad member sees THE SAME LITTLE GIRL and she runs after it again at which point she turns into a demon and snacks on the squad member.  Example #2  The horn dog macho dude is ordered to sit and protect the corridor.  Keep in mind all this guy has seen in this lab are horrifically mangled dead bodies and infected people.  He is sitting there when a completely naked woman comes out and basically orders him to have sex with her right then and there.  One would think and ordinary person might think that a tad peculiar.  You know, being in the middle of nowhere in the Middle East in an underground bunker  with no women and everyone is murdered he runs into a naked women who doesn’t even bother to say “Hello“ but wants to hump the shit out of him and he doesn’t find that the least bit odd.  Now is his mind being controlled or is he really THAT stupid.

With even my lowest expectations of Z grade schlock there is nothing to like about this movie.  The acting is non-existent, the action is nil, the effects are ten times worse than lame, the characters are annoying, and the writing is bad and not in a good way.  Everyone now is dumber for having witnessed what you have filmed.  I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Silent House (Chris Kentis, Laura Lau) 2011

Posted in S on November 1, 2012 by moviemoses

Silent House is a minimalistic horror film about young Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen).  She is helping to fix up a beach house with her father and uncle who are planning to sell it.  Sarah is soon trapped in the house and being hunted down by unknown intruders.

The first thing I will talk about is the thing everyone talks about which is the gimmick.  This movie is shown as one continuous shot even though in reality there are subtle edits every 10-15 minutes of the film.  Does it really add anything to the film?  I guess it makes you more aware that the events are happening in real time where edits can have you play around with time.  But that being said, this still didn’t need to be “one continuous shot“ and does come off as a cheap gimmick.

Much of this movie is carried by Elizabeth Olsen.  I truly mean carried as the camera is on her through the whole movie and she has to convey all the horror and fear and shock going through her character.  I’ve now seen her in this and Martha Marcy May Marlene and I definitely want to see her get more mainstream exposure.

If I have to give the directors credit, it is that they have confidence in what they are presenting.  Most of this movie could be dismissively boiled down to Elizabeth Olsen wandering around a dark house.  Really, that’s about it.  Sarah wanders around, we hear some bangs and creaks, and she runs away and cries some.  For the first thirty to forty minutes I was actually going along with it as I was appreciating the slow build.  But then the second act was more of the same and my anticipation to see how she eluded the killer turned to more annoyance as it seemed she was putzing around the house more to pad the run time than get away.

The third act things finally go off the rails and Sarah starts losing grip with reality.  This was a breath of fresh air although for me it was too late to start springing all that on us.  I’ve heard complaints about the ending although I guess I was in a good mood because I wasn’t as pissed off about it.  There is nothing about the twist which is particularly bullshit, but it is more uninspired than anything else.  It is a cliche that you can spot a mile away but the twist itself isn’t bullshit.

Silent House is a well made movie.  Elizabeth Olsen does a great job and to the directors credit, they almost make her wandering around an empty house interesting.  I can say I was mildly entertained watching this in the comfort of my home in the dark.  I would not want to ever watch it again and I don’t think I would recommend it either.  There isn’t enough in the story to get invested, the writing is so minimalistic it gets boring, and when we finally get to the horror elements you may have already given up on the movie.  It is a nice try, but everything in the movie comes up short.