Archive for the Movie Reviews Category

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.

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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.

Sinister (Scott Derrickson) 2012

Posted in S on October 31, 2012 by moviemoses

I tend to be a lot more generous in my reviews of any halfway decent modern horror movie.  It is because I consider modern horror to be, well not a dead genre but a deeply comatose one.  Despite many horror films that come out each year I can count on one or maybe two (if it’s a good year) to be good.  The rest are either PG-13 cash in schlock or uninspired garbage.  So when I see people going out and legitimately trying to make something compelling, I’m more than willing to forgive its flaws rather than films.  Is it fair?  Probably not, but I figure it is at least fair to tell you where I’m coming from.

Sinister is about true crime author Ellison (Ethan Hawke) who moves his family into the house of a horrific murder in order to write his latest book which will hopefully elevate him back to stardom.  He finds a box in the attic which has super 8 films of previous murders.  Ellison is trying to track down the killer but at the same time he is noticing strange events going on about the house.

Probably the thing that stands out and something other reviewers have noted is Hawke and his character.  Horror characters usually fall into the virtuous virgin or the baby kicking asshole so it is nice to have an almost noir like flawed hero.  Yes he does dickish things but he never seems malicious.  Rather he is misguided in both his attempts to be financially secure for his family and his lust for fame.  At the core he is a likable guy and you hope he sorts his crap out and comes out a better person.  Ethan Hawke does a great job in the main role.  I have said for a while Hawke is a woefully underrated actor.  He is never going to turn in an Oscar performance but he is always a solid character actor who certainly never detracts from your movie.

The movie also has a nice creepy atmosphere.  The super 8 footage is well done and suitably horrific.  The tone gets great near the end when it seems like the super 8 world is mixing with the real world.  The soundtrack takes on the sounds of the projector with the clicks and snaps and images are seemingly spliced into Ellison’s world.  It is at that point everything is coming together to show reality is pandripping away and the acting helps sell it.

Now there are flaws with the story.  I won’t spoil it since by the time of my writing it is still in theaters.  I say that, but it seems rather pointless since the trailers spoil most of the movie.  That is a shame because much of the joy would be in unraveling this mystery only to come in and have the cashier tell you Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time.  Aside from that there are flaws with the story.  Sure you can forgive some stupidity because otherwise you would never have a horror movie but it gets bad at times.  Some of the scares are a little laughable and you may be yelling at Hawke’s character by the end because he really needs to take a hint.

But like I said before I’m willing to forgive those things.  Sinister legitimately tries and for the most part succeeds in making a suspenseful little horror film.  The characters are compelling and you are interested in seeing what happens to them.  The direction is equally as good in bringing the audience in as voyeur and later merging the film world with the real world for a tense atmosphere.  The writing lets down the rest of the movie as you can be taken out of the experience by some silly stuff.  But if you want to see a horror movie in theaters this year, I don’t think you will be disappointed by Sinister.

Warlock III: The End of Innocence (Eric Freiser) 1999

Posted in W on October 22, 2012 by moviemoses

So we’ve finally hit direct to video schlock with the Warlock ending up in a bland slasher film.  I’m frankly surprised we haven’t had Warlock in Space or in da Hood but I don’t want to give Hollywood ideas.  It is also strange that after two films where the Warlock is travelling around America on these epic fetch quests we have gone smaller with the stories by having him pick off college students in a spooky old house.

The story is Kris (Ashley Laurence) discovers she is the long lost relative of some family she never heard of and she has inherited their ancestral house.  Kris did not know her parents and takes a weekend off from college (bringing her annoying college friends along of course) to go to the house to see if there are some clues to her past.  The Warlock (now played by Bruce Blue Lips Payne) needs to sacrifice Kris in order to gain more demonic powers.

You may think I would hate this movie more than the last one.  Despite being the third movie, we still aren’t continuing any of the plot threads from the previous two and in fact we are glossing over even more things.  Like can we please have even a token explanation for why the Warlock is alive!?  This guy gets thoroughly disintegrated and he just pops up at the house in this movie like ‘whatev‘.  It’s bad when you can’t even be bothered to come up with a bullshit excuse.  It’s also bad when Julian Sands is too good for your sequel and you have to get Bruce Payne to stand in for you.

But despite all that, I can’t hate this as much as The Armageddon.  This movie is shite don’t get me wrong, but it is still slightly better than II.  Why?  Cause stuff happens in this movie.  Yes, the scope of the plot is diminished by being a glorified boogeyman but there is at least some arc.  There is even a reason for why the Warlock has to pick off the students one at a time.  As part of the ritual of sacrificing Kris, the Warlock has to get her friends to betray her by corrupting them.  As much as I harp on overacting Payne, it was slightly entertaining to see him do smarmy Faustian deals.  The man is just funny when he is trying to be sleazy and here he is trying to get people to betray everyone else for the dumbest reasons.

This is still a dirt cheap horror film and it has all the trappings of a lazy cash in.  The characters are your stock unlikable douches who you are not supposed to like and are just fodder for the bad guy.  Even our main character is inconsistent and annoying.  She spends one night in the house alone prior to her friends showing up and she is practically seeing blood coming from the walls.  Later when Bruce Payne shows up acting like his character from Highlander Endgame one of Kris‘ friends tries to explain that he is a shady person and Kris just brushes it off.  I’m sorry, but not two seconds ago this place freaked you out enough that you almost ran back into town through a thunderstorm, but Bruce Payne acting like the son of Satan and causing everyone around him to be sick is perfectly normal?  Also, even though I somewhat praised this movie for having an explanation for the students getting picked off, of course the writing is inconsistent.  There is one friend who flatly says no to the Warlock’s offer and says she will never betray Kris?  What does he do?  He just kills her.  Don’t let a thing like writing yourself into a corner get you down writers of Warlock III.  Just plow straight through like the Kool Aid man.

There is still no reason to see Warlock III.  Bruce Payne, while slightly amusing, never chews enough scenery to make it entertaining and is in fact rather reserved from his usual schlock.  Of course, nothing is added or continued to the Warlock story line and is a disposable horror film.  The story is bland, the characters are annoying, the budget is minuscule  and the effects are non-existent.  While this movie didn’t piss me off like The Armageddon, that is still far away from me actually recommending this to anyone.  This is still a shitty sequel and hopefully there is never a fourth movie.

Warlock: The Armageddon (Anthony Hickox) 1993

Posted in W on October 22, 2012 by moviemoses

So for Halloween I am doing a horror marathon and I wanted to complete the Warlock series.  I saw the whole series including the first which I already reviewed because I wanted to refresh myself on the story and see if anything has changed.  Maybe time has made me appreciate it more or maybe I am retroactively appreciating it more due to how low the series eventually goes but I liked the original Warlock a lot more.  Now I said I liked it but I found the switches in tone (from comic to horror) rather jarring.  Really it is not that bad seeing it again.  This is a film by its very premise is rather ridiculous: a Scottish highlander travels through time to 1989 to battle an evil warlock.  The movie never takes itself too seriously and you honestly appreciate that.  The horror elements work to add that tension to drive the action along, but mostly we are having a good time following this odd couple on their adventure.  Its kind of that same blend which makes Gremlins work.

Going into the second movie I had a real bad feeling as to how it would turn out.  As I said, much of my enjoyment was with the Redferne story line and how that comedic plot line elevated this above a bland horror movie.  David Twohy returns to write part of the screenplay, however sequels usually do not do as well as the original and I had a bad feeling a lot of the charm would be lost in Armageddon.  I had no idea how right I actually would be.

Warlock: The Armageddon doesn’t mention anything that happened in the previous movie and instead almost reboots the story before people had a name for it.  Now the Warlock (Julian Sands) is not just some warlock in a world of magic looking to seek favor with Satan, but now he is The Warlock who is Satan’s son destined to do his bidding.  Every 600 years or so the Warlock is born during a lunar eclipse and he has around six days to collect six magic rune stones so he can use them to summon Satan to Earth during a solar eclipse.  Young Kenny (Chris Young) finds out from his father that is destined to be a mystical Druidic warrior with magical powers and that he is the only one that can kill The Warlock (again, despite what we learn in the previous movie).  Kenny must learn to control the Force and become a Jedi Knight in six days in order to kill the Sith Warlock blah blah blah.

Warlock: The Armageddon is one of the most boring movies I’ve seen lately.  Like I said before, I don’t just use the B word without justification and I will happily explain why.  It is because nearly half of this movie is entirely pointless and doesn’t need to be in the movie.  Okay, so the plot is Warlock has to track down these six rune stones which means travelling all across America to get them.  You may think this would prompt our protagonist into also tracking down the stones to either pursue the Warlock to kill him or to get the stones first in order to prevent the summoning.  Wrong.  Kenny and his father have one rune stone and their plan is to hold onto it, train Kenny’s powers in order to fight the Warlock, and when the Warlock comes to town to collect the stone, Kenny will fight him.  That’s fine, but the writers needed to realize that there is no point in following the Warlock on his stone quest because there is no tension, suspense, or interest in any of it.  We know that the Warlock cannot be killed or even harmed by ordinary humans.  We are all confident that he is going to show up in town like clockwork on the sixth day in order to fight Kenny.  Yet for half the movie we are following the Warlock as he kills anonymous asshole after anonymous asshole for the stones.  I don’t care!  All of the stone holders are unknown jerks so we don’t care that they are being killed and like I said before, there is no tension at all because we know nothing can stop him until he gets to our protagonist.  This movie should have just been about Kenny training his powers and occasionally cutting to the Warlock to remind the audience of the impending dread that is coming.  There is a difference between occasionally cutting to the Warlock, and spending half the movie with him.

I say that, but Kenny’s plot line is just as uninteresting as anything else in this movie.  We aren’t told the rules of this universe or what Kenny’s powers specifically are so we have no idea what Kenny has to do to train to prepare himself for the final fight.  I joked about him being a Jedi, but that is basically what he is.  We see him sitting around floating baseballs with absolutely horrible visual effects.  I don’t know how floating baseballs helps him out but that is the go to effect for the majority of this movie.  Kenny is not even an interesting character.  He is a blank slate with no personality in a town of blank slates.  Kenny has a relationship with his father who is also not interesting and their relationship is not put to the test.  There is also a romantic subplot which is also boring because they are already in love at the beginning of the film.  The thematic arc of this movie is as straight as a level.  The dialog isn’t interesting and the movie takes itself too seriously as I feared.

I know the original Warlock could have been picked apart with plot inconsistencies and holes, but you forgave it because of its sense of humor.  When you get rid of it, you are left to stew about all the bullshit of this movie.  For example, they imply that the Warlock can’t simply kill the owners to get the stones.  He has to make bargains with them to get the stones willingly.  Of course, these are all Faustian deals which means they all end badly.  Okay, that is at least somewhat interesting.  So you would expect the Warlock to try to make some deal with Kenny for the stone right?  No, he just tries to kill him.  So what the hell is it?  If you can just kill them, then why waste time and dick around with the others when you could just punch their face off and take the stone?  Why is Kenny the only one that can kill the Warlock?  In the previous movie the Warlock was powerful, but there were ways he could be hunted and two humans ended up killing him.

Warlock: The Armageddon is a dreadful sequel.  It doesn’t advance the story in any way from the original, the humor is removed leaving you with a blandly written horror/adventure film, and most of the movie is pointless as it is spinning its wheels until we get to the climax.  There characters are dull, the dialog is uninteresting, and there is nothing in the training or the characters that we find compelling enough to go along with.  I almost feel bad for admitting there were a few good effects shots and one halfway decent joke because that would imply there is SOME reason to watch this movie.  There isn’t.  There is no reason at all to recommend this movie to anyone; not even to the most die hard Warlock lover.  And the worst isn’t even over because there is another sequel to this franchise.

Bernie (Richard Linklater) 2011

Posted in B on October 22, 2012 by moviemoses

Bernie is based on the true life story about a small town Texas mortician who is known as Bernie (Jack Black) to everyone.  All the townspeople generally consider Bernie to be practically a saint.  He is kind and compassionate to everyone, he donates all his time and money to charity, and goes above and beyond in giving family the best funeral experience for their loved ones.  Bernie meets up with elderly widow Marjorie (Shirley MacLaine) who is generally considered by the townspeople to be the most bitter and hateful (but wealthy) person on the planet.  Eventually the bitterness is too much for nice Bernie who murders Marjorie and tries to hide the murder from the public.

Bernie is kind of like half mockumentary and half docudrama/comedy.  The mockumentary comes in with the story being broken up by talking head segments where the townspeople give their two cents on all the people involved, the trial, and general gossip.  The docudrama-ish part is actually seeing things unfold with Bernie, Marjorie and the subsequent murder trial.

Bernie is half an inspired movie which comes from the mockumentary angle.  I’m sorry to say that in this true crime story, the true crime isn’t all that interesting.  In this movie, the crime isn’t as important or as funny as everyone’s reactions to the crime.  Much of the satire is derived from these simple small town people trying to make sense and rationalize what is going on.  Some of them believe Bernie is railroaded because he is a living saint, and some believe anyone would have murdered Marjorie if they had to live with her.  It is funny to see the prosecutor (played by Matthew McConaughey) losing his mind as everyone in the town is praying for Bernie and asking if he could get probation for murder.  One of the funniest bits to me is when the fake interviewer asks if Bernie was gay and one woman responds by saying that Jesus too wore sandals all the time and hung out with men and if it didn’t make Jesus gay it was good enough for Bernie.  This crime blew the collective community’s mind and they are doing their best to make sense of it all.

The parts involving Bernie and Marjorie just aren’t as interesting despite the best efforts of all the good actors.  It is just that Linklater decides to play this rather straight instead of going full ahead into dark comedy territory.  All we have to entertain us is Black’s performance which is like a muted version of Zach Galifianikis‘ character in the Campaign.  In the end the murder of a rich woman in a small midwestern town ends up rather banal.  I would have preferred if Linklater had pushed the boundaries and made it a darker comedy about this patient loving saint brought to a murderous rage by the most annoying woman ever.

The best I can muster for Bernie is that it is an amusing movie.  It does not go far enough to be a funny movie but the faux documentary segments are the most entertaining part.  I saw this movie as a die hard Linklater fan and while this was an overall good movie, it is not good enough for me to recommend you go out and rent this.

Don’t Drink the Water (Woody Allen) 1994

Posted in D, Woody Allen Retrospective on September 12, 2012 by moviemoses

*sigh *

Okay I can’t have a review consisting of just an exasperated sigh but it seemed to come every ten minutes of this 1 hour and 30 minute television movie.

Don’t Drink the Water is Allen’s 1960’s stage play which was adapted again for television in 1994.  The movie is about the Hollander family (Woody Allen, Julie Kavner, and Mayim Bialik) who is on vacation in a Eastern European country and who have to flee to the American Embassy after being wrongly accused of being spies.  Their only hope of freedom relies on the son of the Ambassador who is a bumbling failure Axel (Michael J. Fox).

Now I’ll go ahead and say Don’t Drink the Water is not a bad film.  I’m not one of those people who say there is no such thing as a bad Woody Allen film (there are quite a few stinkers) but I recognize this is nowhere near the lowest.  Maybe I was admittedly not in the mood for such a wacky farce.  But so much of this movie is (excuse the unintentional pun) watered down Allen and lame bits.

I am going to jump a bit and talk about one member of the supporting cast.  I’ll straight up admit I flat out don’t get Dom DeLuise.  Seriously, I don’t get it.  I don’t get why people love him so much.  You know that tired joke about how French people think Jerry Lewis is a genius?  While I don’t think Americans consider Dom DeLuise a genius, I have no idea why everyone thinks he is so gut bustingly hilarious.  Maybe that is why the movie seemed to drag for me.  Every ten minutes, Allen decided we needed another “hilarious“ bit with Dom playing a priest who sucks at being a magician.  His bit sucks, Dom hams it up like he’s telling the greatest knock knock joke ever, and another part of me dies a slow painful death.

Moving on to the rest of the supporting cast, they are fine but underused.  Mayim Bialik, whom you may know as TV’s Blossom, is pleasant enough although she is delagated to love interest to Axel.  I would have liked to have seen more of her but she was pushed to the background.  Edward Herrmann is usually very charasmatic but his character is non-existant.  Julie Kavner was funny as Allen’s wife although it is still bizarre to hear Marge Simpson talking to Woody Allen.  Finally we get to Michael J. Fox.  Fox has always been a charming actor but he is constantly being overshadowed by the over the top Allen.  Whenever he gets scenes by himself, Fox is very funny, but he struggles when he has to yell over Allen’s nebbish stuttering.

Speaking of yelling, that was a big part of my frustration.  There were scenes that were absolute clusters of people fighting to get their line in or to have their character be the center of attention and I just wanted them to shut up.  I could not understand why the usually sharp Allen would have things be so aggressively annoying.  Reading up there were two points that stood out.  One was that the stage play did have sharper dialog and two was the fact this was a very rushed production.  And looking back those points are valid.  I would be frustrated watching it and all of a sudden get an exchange of dialog that was very funny and witty.  I’m sure looking at a better directed stage play I would be able to appreciate the dialog a lot better than this rushed production where you obviously aren’t getting the best take.  It is strange that we aren’t getting the best version of the play from the person who did the play.

Don’t Drink the Water is frustrating.  There are times when the play is very funny and you can see why people like it.  I think Allen is surprisingly the thing that hurts this movie as sometimes he can overshadow the other players in the film and his direction is substandard here.  All in all it is an okay movie but not one I would ultimately recommend.